The Outlander - Birth of a Princess
“*uh.. your highness.. we appear to have some more company?...*”
He sounds scared?
This can’t be part of his little traitor plan.
“Well that’s not good...”
The driver gasped and swung his eyes around to stare at me in shock.
...oh yeah... Princess Tachibana can’t speak English, can she?..
Before he could get a word off there was a slight whistling sound followed closely by shattering glass.
His pain filled yell cut off almost the moment it started as his body collapsed to the side out of sight.
“Oh, what NOW?!”
I barely managed to stagger to my feet in an attempt to go check on him before the tank jerked violently to the side throwing me into the wall with painful force.
...if he’s not steering then who’s...
The tank gave another violent jerk and without any further warning everything started spinning.
I was thrown around like a rag doll bouncing off every hard surface I could find until my head hit something metal and the world went blissfully dar—
“Fin said we’s ‘upposed to leave ‘er be befores an...”
The world snapped into focus as two bodies, soon to be corpses, moved towards me. My eyes blinked open taking in the run-down building around us in one sweep.
Even as my mind was catching up with what happened and extrapolating eventual outcomes, my body was already moving, my mind flying faster than I thought humanly possible as I processed EVERYTHING at once!
My eyes cut up from the loose pole behind the large scruffy pair of idiots in front of me to the small gas lamp hanging above us and then back down to the knives they both have strapped to their sides before settling on their faces which were slowly drawing back in surprise.
A momentary shift of my feet was all I needed, both to test the floor texture and assess my own status all in one go. Without even glancing down I could tell that, annoyingly, someone had taken both my shoes and my Kimono at some point while I was unconscious which will make this a lot easier to pull off but also raises some more questions for whichever one of them survives.
With a full body roll I was up and past the pair of them, a two-handed grasp and light kick from my bare feet had the pole free fast enough that they hadn’t even turned around by the time I swung it out to hit them both around the back of their heads at full force.
The pair of them collapsed to the dirty floor with groans but I didn’t pause to assess them, already knowing precisely where they would fall before I even moved an inch to start with. The pole swung up and smashed the gas lamps glass surround, showering loose shards down around the pair while putting out the only light-source in the room at the same time.
My eyes trailed the falling glass just long enough to judge their trajectories before snapping shut as I pushed myself into another forward roll, my left leg hitting the bigger of the pair with a devastating blow to the face while my right knee broke the nose of his partner and my hands were busy snagging their knives in one smooth motion.
I came to a stop practically kneeling on the loose pile of material I think was intended to be a bed of some kind which I woke up on a few moments ago and let off one long calming breath as the world calmed down with blissful darkness.
As I knelt in front of the blind pair with their own blades ready to kill the first one who made a move towards me a silence stretched out across the now pitch-black room, only interrupted by the pitiful whimpers from the goons on the floor every once in a while.
I let my senses stretch out around me, taking in the sounds and smells outside this room with worrying clarity.
These two were just the appetizer. I can hear several more male voices outside, judging by tone and intonation they are all more brawn than brain which suits me fine but the numbers game is against me so stealth is my best option for getting out of here.
Finally after an eternity of obliviousness someone outside questioned what had happened to the two goons on the floor, a few moments later there were some mild protests followed by two distinctive sets of footsteps leading towards me at long last.
I eased myself back up to my feet and, using the goons as stepping stones to avoid the glass, made my way over to the door where I tucked myself into the shadows beside it with my new knifes at the ready.
The door opened allowing a shaft of flickering light to stream into the room, illuminating the two seemingly unconscious guards perfectly and making the new pair freeze momentarily in surprise. That moment was all I needed to swing myself around the doorframe, landing a solid kick to the chest nearest to me while using my momentum to roll forward again and slice at the calves of his companion before either of them knew what was happening.
I finished the motion by throwing myself behind a conveniently placed pile of boxes against the wall opposite and letting out one calming breath as my senses kicked in again in search for my next prey.
It took longer than I was expecting for someone to notice the screams of the man I’d cut, barely seconds really but still much longer then I’d anticipated. Before long a large group of men, practically all of the ones I heard earlier who’d been hanging around some kind of fire further up the corridor were sprinting towards the sound of their injured friend.
Just as the last of them turned the corner, the first slid to a stop on his knees before the screaming man.
He tried his best to warn them all, I could see it as his eyes stared directly at me despite the darkness hiding my form perfectly, but it was useless in the end. The blade rolled between my fingers as the decision was made and just as the bulk of the men reached the slowly turning first man I moved.
The hilt of the blades I’d stolen worked well for my needs this time, trying to go for the kill in a crowd is always a bad idea. Much better to hit nerve clusters or pressure points to incapacitate first then evaluate the situation once the melee thins down to just a few stragglers most of the time.
The first man went down to a heavy blow to the back of his head, so did the man beside him. I turned and used the body closest to me as a spring board to launch myself forward, slashing small but painful cuts into any limb that came within range as I flew right into the middle of the now panicked and confused group.
From the floor, a few more slashes helped sow confusion as I got in position to strike out at several knee-caps which all buckled one after the other allowing me to frantically swing out and strike each of their owners into unconsciousness as they fell.
Of the remaining three men, one tried to approach the pile around me while the other two made to run away.
My body threw itself into a sudden dive, tackling the approaching man at knee height and sending him to the floor while freeing up the space I needed to launch both blades ahead of me, one after the other.
The blades flew true, one catching the furthest runner in the knee just a little lower than I’d intended while the other clipped the man behind him in the side sending him veering off course into the wall moments later.
The man I’d tripped tried to reach for me but a negligent wave of my open palm brushed his grasping fists aside long enough for my fist to come in and knock him out in one blow. From there I launched myself into a crouched run, just getting to the final conscious pair in time to swing out my foot for the nearest man before pivoting and knocking out the other in that same step.
The hallway was finally silent at long last
The light in front of me, pouring in to the hallway from outside seemed to pulse for a few seconds and my hand flew up to support myself automatically as my balance suddenly faltered for some reason.
For the briefest of moments the world turned upside down and I couldn’t honestly tell what was going on. In my disorientated state I couldn’t help but practically fall forwards as I moved towards the pulsing light with an outstretched hand that I’m honestly not sure what the purpose of was supposed to be at the time.
Finally after stumbling onwards for far longer than felt right I came to the mouth of the hallway and collapsed sideways into the wall on my right as my bleary eyes tried to take in everything before me as they had just minutes ago but failing to come up with any useful information.
The room outside the hall was massive! Truly bigger and more open than anything I’d ever seen before.
Some part of my brain tried to tell me that it was once obviously a ‘football stadium’ but the words felt foreign to my tongue and the images they brought up didn’t match fully with the string of mismatched buildings in front of me, nor the worryingly large sheet of stitched animal hide draped across the exposed roof, despite the round basin-like structure surrounding them all being a match, if nothing else.
“Well, well... look who’s finally awake—”
I turned at the sudden voice above me and that same painfully loud part of my brain started shouting at me for being stupid as my eyes focused on one smiling man standing on the ‘roof’ of the hallway, peering down at me, surrounded by far more men then even I could hope to handle in my current state.
“—‘ello Princess, hope you didn’t kill everyone in there... some of those men owed me money after all...”
The group behind him started laughing heartily and the man offered me a grin that a softer, almost silent part of my brain informed me was intended to be flirtatious.
Before I could do anything in response to it or even try to think of my next plan of action the world tipped sideways. I belatedly realized that everything from the pulsing lights to the mild pain in my head and my sudden disorientation were all indicating towards one unquestionable fact... I’ve got a concussion...
“Watch out! Someone catch h—”
The grinning man’s sudden cry of surprised worry brought a smile to my lips for however briefly it lasted as I finally hit the dirt with a heavy thud.
He doesn’t want me injured.
Whether that’s because he’s a gentleman as one part of my mind is telling me, a moron as the other part is stating or just a very confusing man as the final part insists, it all doesn’t matter in the end because what it REALLY means is that he’s shown his hand already.
They may have been ready for me this time but next time I’ll get free!
There are only two types of people living here in the outlands after all...
The first are the Outlanders, cruel heartless killers obsessed with their own gain and nothing else, lacking morals, a conscience or anything else that you would expect from a respectable human being.
The second are Bandits, groups that are loosely affiliated with one of the large companies that rule the world when they can be of use, who provide services even the worst slum-scum wouldn’t dare attempt to provide beyond the citadels walls, for a price.
He wants me alive and relatively unhurt, while Outlanders HAVE no mercy, so…
“*...I must have the luck of Benzaiten-sama on my side to be picked up by a group of mercenaries.*”
The words were barely half-formed and even then they sounded muffled as my head throbbed painfully in response to my own voice but, they just kind of ‘came out’ from m—
I woke up slowly with several groans which really aren’t to be considered ladylike in most circles, but I ache, so Grandmother Amaterasu be damned and I’ll groan all I like while in the privacy of my own bed-chambers!
Eventually the throbbing in my head eased enough that even I could face rising at long last which I did with a more than slightly reluctant push of my arms to settle into a seated position as a yawn pulled itself from my lips.
My eyes still shut in the blissful hope of holding on to sleep for just a few moments more I held my hands out ahead of me in wait for the maids to fit me for my morning robe.
After almost ten seconds without action someone ahead of me let off a poorly held snigger. The masculine tone to that annoyingly low-born sound was more than enough encouragement for me to snap my eyes open.
The moment I achieved the seemingly impossible task of opening my eyes, a gasp left my lips. My hands flew back towards my chest and I pulled the oddly rough covers of my bed up to cover myself as best I could from the horrid leers surrounding me from a disgusting line of the unwashed masses!
Panic set in and I started to hyperventilate, becoming faint as my head swam and the light above us pulsed horribly around us all, not that the ‘men’ seemed to notice it as they leered on.
Slowly the room and its contents began to sink into my mind at long last but they did nothing to help my rising panic because we are NOT in my bed-chambers at all!
The unwashed were now laughing to themselves, sharing knowing looks with their amusement obvious for all to see as they stared at me in a way that would have better men killed outright in any other circumstance.
“Out the way Jungo, what’s all the noise about?”
A man pushed his way past the large form which practically blocked out the doorway into the room and my breath caught in my throat slightly.
As he straightened his jacket out slightly with an air of grace and nobility about him I felt my cheeks light aflame as I took him in all at once.
A pretty face, far too pretty for the life of a commoner, attached to a muscular body worthy of the shogun themselves covered loosely in an admittedly ill-fitted but never-the-less impressive silk formal jacket of the deepest jade.
Our eyes connected and he offered me the most devilish of grins, which made my insides squirm in delight even as I let off a tiny ‘eep’ of fright and dived my head underneath the disgusting covers of my supposed ‘bedding’ to hide from a gentleman who may see me in such a state!
“Oi f’ink she’s taken w’it yeh, eh Fin-lad!”
Something meaty slapped into something else and the men outside my covers started laughing uproariously. All I could do in response was shiver and tuck myself into an even smaller ball once more.
It is not ladylike to cower, especially for one of my station to do so, but I did it anyway because I don’t know where I am or what happened and the guards aren’t coming, and there are men here and—
My breathing worsened until I was panting like I did my first time in a corset as a child. I didn’t have to suffer that problem long before spots started forming in my vision and finally I felt myself swoon backwards to fall heavily against the bedding once more, for the brief moment it took for my body to finish passing out.
“Third times a charm, eh?”
“Let’s hope lad...”
A slight ‘pop’ in front of my face followed by a horrible stench a few moments later made me sit up and jerk violently away from its source in sleep addled confusion.
It took my eyes a few seconds to focus but when they did I found myself in a darkened room which I can only imagine is perhaps the tiniest of steps above how the slum-scum live, due to a noticeable lack of mud everywhere if nothing else.
My head jerked up from the floor to stare in open mouthed confusion at the man standing almost nervously before me while another, older, man moved back out of the room holding a jar of some sort while trying to not look too conspicuous while doing so.
“You ARE Princess Tamayu of the So-Ny Rising sun dynasty, are you not?”
Slowly my mouth closed and set itself into a thoughtful frown as I tried to work out what was going on.
The last thing I remember clearly is being in the back of a big ‘car’ and watching an ‘arrow’ pierce clean through the front, killing the traitorous ‘driver’ before throwing me into a wild tumbling nightmare of pain a few moments later.
That isn’t the LAST thing I remember though, just the last clear memory?
I remember... fighting?... fighting men in the dark with a downright evil smile on my face as I did it and... crying?... whimpering really, hiding myself under rough bedding like a new-born being dragged away by an enforcer.
How very odd?
I can remember doing things, thinking things, which don’t make sense to me at all and yet... and yet they DO make sense; words, images, phrases!
Years upon years of experiences, information imparted by word of mouth, taught by a long suffering teacher, or seemingly just dumped in as pure data rolling around inside my head like some kind of large horned beast I don’t know the name of in a shop full of fine heirloom teacups.
Bull! A Bull, that’s what the horned beast is called!
My eyes snapped up to the speaking man again but my brain couldn’t make up its mind on what I thought about him.
Part of me found him attractive, another part considered him to be some kind of threat I must defeat... I must seduce?... and then there seemed to be me, the me that I consider ‘me’ at least who just wants the world calm down a little so I can catch my breath an—
“Please say something, just so I know you’ve not got brain damage because your father is known for very happily ‘shooting the messenger’ and if I have to go back to him with a root-vegetable in place of his precious daughter I might as well end myself now and save us both the effort, honestly.”
His smile was nice, all the conflicted parts of me could agree on that if nothing else. I found myself laughing lightly at his joke which the louder side of me considered ‘gallows humor’, whatever that is.
He really did seem relieved to hear me laughing and that pleased all my ‘parts’ to some degree. The loud side wanted to ‘capitalize’ on our ‘unexpected rapport’.
The softer part wanted to reward his kindness and possibly ‘enlist his aid’ in finally getting free somehow.
I considered my options, flashes of another man with an equally kind seeming demeanor who offered me a glass of warm orange liquid despite knowing what was to come from the ‘new job’ they had lined up for me adding caution to both the more devious manipulations of the loud voice and the far too accepting instincts of the soft voice at once.
“T... Ten-Ten, they called me Ten-Ten?”
The soft voices awkward tone and general shyness worked wonderfully for my attempt at sounding innocent while the loud voice went suddenly wild, throwing out details and facts to flesh out the ‘cover story’ she wished me to build.
“I am not the Princess, I am her maid, a... a body double?... for when we leave home.”
The man leaned back slightly in surprise, his eyes scanning what he could see of me almost suspiciously but with far too much confusion to be angry, or so the loud voice informed me as we looked back up at him with wide enticing eyes.
“There was another car following us, she was on-board... do you know what happened to her?”
“We found what was left of the other tank, if that’s what you mean?... it was empty, burnt out by the time we got there.”
He shifted his feet nervously and glanced away from my lingering stare for a moment before continuing.
“If she actually existed, and I’m still not convinced you’re not just lying for some unfathomable reason, then from what we could see she must have been taken by the Bone-kin along with whoever bled all over the place.”
Even as the words left my lips the loud voice was providing information on them seemingly ripped straight from the pure information part of my confusing new knowledge.
The Outlanders don’t call themselves Outlanders.
They have clans, names they call themselves collectively, like the enforcers back at the citadel but more primitive and violent.
“That term is kind of outdated? The last time I heard someone call them ‘Outlanders’ it was one of those old guys at the Imperial spire...”
He turned his eyes back over to me with renewed suspicion again.
The loud voice cursed in the same way as the shouting woman used to do constantly back while I was being prepared for my ‘new job’.
Apparently I need to be more careful with what words I use because they can give things away. In this case they told him, incorrectly, that I’ve had contact with the ‘old guys’ at the ‘Imperial spire’. Assuming that ‘Imperial’ is some different mercenary pronunciation of ‘empirical’ then that means my work to distance myself from the Princess slightly has just taken a step backwards once again.
My eyes drifted down to my lap guiltily before snapping back up as the loud voice told me off for doing just that while demanding I change the subject quickly before he has time to ‘stew’ over what I said.
“Where are these ‘Bone-kin’? Can we fight them, rescue her somehow?”
That apparently wasn’t the right question to ask either, judging by the suddenly wide-eyed shock on the man’s face.
After a few seconds of stunned pause his lips broke out into yet another wide grin and he started openly laughing at me!
“Fight the Bone-kin... f-fight the Bone—”
His words broke off into sniggers as he brought a hand up to his ribs as if they hurt in some way. The loud voice stated that he was mocking me, the soft one felt angry at being treated in such a way. I sat there and watched him as he laughed himself out, waiting to see what would come of this latest misstep in our conversation when his bout of amusement finally blew over.
“You don’t FIGHT the Bone-kin, Princess, you run from them!”
He finally straightened himself up and fixed me with an oddly serious look which really didn’t seem to suit him after having watched him fall about laughing only moments before.
“They’re cannibals of the worst sort, wasteland scum from down south looking for new turf up here...If your supposed ‘other Princess’ exists and they haven’t killed her already then you don’t WANT her back, trust me, the Bone-kin aren’t kind to their prisoners and even the ones they keep for more than just a delayed snack are left wishing for death most of th—”
My hand came up to silence him in a move that the now enraged softer voice knew would work as it always did on mouthy courtiers ‘back home’.
“If you’re not going to help me then show me the exit, I’ll find them myself, kill them myself and rescue her myself!”
Once again his eyes widened in surprise, but this time the motion came without even a trace of amusement and showed no signs of stopping any time soon.
Eventually he let out a sigh and dipped his head down to stare at his hands for a moment before looking back up at me with worry obvious on his face.
“There’s not much I can do for you there, you’d have to petition the group and while you’d reluctantly have my vote at this point I really doubt you can convince the other leaders to vote with you... I’m sorry...”
The information came pouring in yet again.
A corrupted, antiquated system where the rich and powerful manipulated the downtrodden masses into believing they actually had a choice in their positions in life, or so the loud voice stated with a cold tinge to her mental ‘voice’.
Voting sounds terrible, no wonder he doesn’t seem happy about even suggesting it at all!
“Is there another way to win without this... voting?”
This time he pulled back from me slightly and blinked a few times in confusion.
“Well... I guess you could challenge them all to a fight in the ring of death?”
Even as he suggested it he couldn’t help but smile a little in amusement for some reason.
“They’d nominate a champion and if you defeat him then you get your way on the point raised but it’s really not a good idea an—”
“Perfect! How long will it take to sort things out? The faster we can leave, the better.”
From that point on he just kind of devolved into stuttered protests for a few minutes but I wouldn’t have any of it.
The loud voice stated plainly that if we had to take the Princesses place then we were going on a killing spree, surprisingly the soft voice agreed with her, stating something about ‘it was boring enough the first time’ that I missed slightly due to the man protesting a bit louder than previously at a rather crucial moment.
For my side of things I just feel kind of guilty and responsible for her.
If it wasn’t for me she’d be home by now. I took her place, I fought back, I basically left her in a ruined car by the roadside for these ‘Bone-kin’ to find. I’m slowly coming to realize that my life until recently has not exactly been one full of choices, options or even my own opinions on things in general... and I’M deciding right now that I CARE about this Princess!
I’ve never met her aside from one slightly heart-breaking moment of horror we shared in the citadels car, yet it feels like I know everything there is possible to know about her.
I know that she enjoyed being a Princess, not because of the power or the god-like reverence it gives her from her people, but because of the luxuries she gets to enjoy and the naughty feeling she gets whenever she does something inappropriate without getting caught. I know that she loved her father no matter how annoying his clingy, overbearing ‘love’ for her in return got on her nerves... almost as much as his reluctant endorsement of her brother as his ‘successor’ despite the boy being obviously dropped on his head far too many times to be healthy at some point.
I know EVERYTHING there is to know about her and that’s PRECISELY why I’m not letting her be killed by a bunch of crazy cannibals just to give myself an easy way to explain my own existence! I never had a sister, neither did she, despite the few times she managed to dress her brother up and enjoy a few hours of pseudo-sister bonding before he got too full of himself to ‘bother playing with his waste of a sister’ anymore... but there’s a connection between us now, like she always imagined a sister would be?
I don’t know if she feels it too, I don’t know if it matters at all or it’s all in my head at this point but I care about her now in a way I’ve not cared for someone else in a LONG time and I am NOT losing that feeling again!
“*By Grandmother Amaterasu’s left breast—*”
He paused as the Japanese words grumbled past my lips.
“—will you PLEASE just shut up and go prepare this ‘group’ already so I can rescue the Princess?”
I’m not sure if it was the cold, almost bored dismissive drawl that entered my voice courtesy of the loud voice’s input or the fact that my eyes cut down to the knife he’s got hidden down the back of his trousers before jumping up to the broom near the open door behind him and up to the gas lamp hanging above us with obvious intent behind each movement, but something finally got through to him at long last.
He left me at a near sprint, obviously unsure of his current actions but also not willing to hang around and become the first victim to my next ‘loud voice’ moment of violence either. As his footsteps faded away into the distance, the guards outside the room shifted slightly with his passing which gave their positions away completely, much to my amusement.
Slowly I settled myself down into the same kneeling pose my legs had naturally taken to back in the dark room from my distorted memories, which the soft voice helpfully informed me is typically called a ‘seiza’ pose, in her culture.
A small smile played across my lips as all the different parts of my head seemed to finally come to a sort of peace at last and our senses expanded out once more to take in the world around us with near superhuman clarity.
“*Fight in the ring of death, huh?... their funeral...*”
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