Drip. Drip. Drip. The world echoed with the sounds of a thousand rain drops, the pitter patter washing out the sounds of the land surrounding a man with long raven hair. He walked through the valley of Bamalam Island, a spring island that sat upon the depths of the New World. A Spring Island, the island was intensely alive with flora and fauna of all kinds. Normally the sounds of the birds, the sounds of the leaves, the sounds of the nearly seven thousand people who called this island home would be the sound of the world surround. But today, today was the day of the rain.
As I Walk...Edit
Bimore O. Jack found this fitting, as today wasn't one for revelry and sunshine, as he was a man who today would being to resume upon the journey that had taken him more than fifteen years and almost around the entire world. His feet sunk into the mud of the hard packed dirt below him, threatening to steal his shoes with every single squelch. The rain soaked his hair and body, something that would make most men shiver, but Jack wasn't a normal man. He was one of the Seven Warlords, dogs of the World Government. To many, a bought man. But himself, he was just a man who did his duty, beyond all else.
A duty that would bring blood to this peaceful island. An order of warriors called this island home, as they had done for many years. But they had grown weak, complacent in their training, ignoring their duty to be ready whenever they were needed. A complacency that Jack was honor-bound to punish.
“What’re we doing here, love?” Jacky asked, squeezing behind his wide shoulders. He stood with an air of tranquility, a man whose entire life had changed in the course of a year. Salazar seemed different from the warrior she had met on her home island. He appeared...enlightened or determined.
“If we’re gonna reach our goal, we need to become stronger both individually and as a crew. On this island, there are a famous circle of brothers known for their focus on swordsmanship.” Salazar scratched the stubble on his chin. “Either I’m training or recruiting new members. A win-win. Love, stay with the rest of the crew. You guys deserve some rest and relaxation.”
Salazar leapt off the ship and landed gently on the wet grass. He hated rain when it came to crowded towns. But the chilling sensation of water streaming down his skin was refreshing. He started towards the dojo.
Upon a hill atop the valley of death, a monastery stood silent. Just a day earlier it had bustled with the men and woman who called it home. For four hundred years it had stood upon this hill, home to an order of warriors, supposedly the best in the land. Supposedly. Now it just stood silent, as there was no one in the belltower, there was no one in the mess hall, there was nobody in the dorms. Everyone had come out to the training field, underneath the Mark of the Widow, and no one had left.
Laughter, Joy. Sweat and Blood. These were the things that had bonded those that had studied here, been forged here. Now there was just blood. Drip... Drip... Drip...
Jack did not gloat over the death of the weak, did not revel in the carnage that surrounded him. Each death was a tragedy, but one he did to satisfy the duty he had been entrusted. They had forsaken the duty to which their order had forsworn, and had refused to yield. They had all professed their beliefs in themselves and the goddess who watched this island from far off Wano, and despite all the evidence of the contrary, refused to put stock in the outsider who had just wiped the floor with their champion. They had fought back, and they had fell where they stood, as they had grown frail and weak, though they grow no longer.
So stood there Jack, somber looking in the incessant rain, the field around him stained crimson. He stared up to the sky, as the rain washed the life from his sword away, just wondering why this never became any easier. He crouched down, before closing the unseeing eyes of the woman below him, as they would never see anything again.
Salazar stopped. The bottom of the hill was surrounded in a mist of a bloody scent, as if he had walked into a crimson cloud of carnage. He looked down and saw a small trail of blood float beneath his sandal. This was an omen sent by the gods above.
Salazar rubbed his temple and continued upwards. The wind pushed back his cloak, revealing the silver guard of Colada - a sword that represented the light of the world. Strangely, the swordsman felt neither resentment or anger. His blood actually boiled with curiosity and excitement. He’d suffer two major losses, back to back, in a single year. Perhaps this was the turning point. Eventually, Salazar appeared through a burst of fog. Splash. Blood splattered across his white cloak. He scanned the area, carefully analyzing each body. Not a single soul in sight.
But he knew this. He saw the massacre before they docked the ship. His third eye watched every strike and witnessed the final seconds of each heart. Salazar thought back to Jacky. I hate lying to you...but, there’s someone I just have to meet.
“I’m not a fan of massacres.”
"Neither am I, they are regretful, but sometimes necessary. What a twisted man this journey had lead me to become." Jack responded to the newcomer as he rose to face him. He had known the darker man was coming, but had chosen to remain waiting for the young man to arrive.
“Philosophy doesn’t excuse senseless killing. The only thing that separates you from a wild animal is your ability to think.” Salazar took a few steps closer, keeping a careful eye on the measure between the two combatants. Anyone who could defeat such skilled swordsman warranted caution. “Let’s get this over with. I’d offer you a place on my crew but I simply can’t trust your intentions.”
"It's not senseless, I gave them every chance to lay down their arms. But like so many, they chose to fight, knowing that they would never succeed. They threw away their duty and honor, yet wouldn't throw away their pride, leading them to throw away their lives." Jack responded as he settled back slightly, leaving the bulk his weight on the ball of his left foot, his feet about shoulder with apart. Nidai Kitetsu remained pointed at the ground to his right, though the light blade was ready to spring up at a moment's notice. It was a defensive stance, ready for him to spring into action as he needed to. He overall ignored the comment about the young man's crew.
“Those who die holding their swords will forever possess their pride. For abandoning the sword for life is the ultimate disgrace as a swordsman.” Salazar’s left foot pointed outwards, creating a ninety degree angle between his ankles. His right hand hovered over his hip in preparation. The rain fell harder, slamming against the blades of grass with impressive force. Unfortunately sending a wave of death spiraling further outwards. The smell of flesh was intoxicating, one he knew all too well - a sense of power and understanding. His hand hovered over Colada yet Salazar's eyes were kept on Jack's existence. "Don't tell me they were killed by a coward."
"Very few men have ever called me a coward, and fewer still yet live." Jack responded, "Life is not so un-precious that one should throw it away over foolish pride. That was the very first lesson my master taught me, over thirty years ago. Loss against a worthy opponent is not weakness, as they have trained just as hard as you have. Throwing your life away for nothing though... that is just disrespectful to your own achievements, your own sweat, your own blood."
"Live by the sword, die by the sword. A warrior's sacred duty. There are some whose blood is bound by this philosophy," Jack said before pausing, "Unfortunately, there are some who just pretend at it."
“Did I strike a chord?” Salazar teased. He looked around the makeshift graveyard and smiled. “These men followed that principle to the grave and such, earned their titles as swordsmen.” He took a small step forward, hoping to reach perfect measure for a riposte. “There’s only one way to find out whether you’re truly following your master’s principle...And that is by facing death in the eyes. Only when you give every ounce of power, every last breath in your body can you truly call yourself a swordsman. Anything else is just child's play.” Salazar’s slim eyes sharpened as he met Jack’s gaze. Suddenly an intense wave of wrath shot outwards from the mountains, sending shockwaves of pure might rippling through the air. His spirit was strong. One who reached for the tallest mountain and survived. “If you’re done debating philosophy, come strike me down, child!”
"Willpower alone won't be enough, for the wind bends to mine..." Jack calmly said as a gentle breeze circled around him, caressing the two combatants despite the heavy rains pounding on them from above. Nidai Kitetsu rose, as Jack brought to the blade into two hands, watching his ever approaching opponent. The blade was held in a loose grip, the weapon merely resting on the tips of his fingers. Then for an instant, the sword slipped from his fingers, almost as if Jack was intent on defying the challenge that the man in front of him had given. Then his left wrist flipped, deftly catching the handle of the blade as Jack spun, away from Salazar's sheathed blade to take advantage of his weapon's over-sized reach, the blade whistling from the the force of its passage. Jack's clothes and hair rose in sympathy, spinning with him as he brought his blade to his opponent. As Nidai Kitetsu raced through the sky, it struck the rain, each droplet being cleanly sliced by the impeccable blade. But this introduced a wobble to the light sword, concealing the exact point of his strike as a halo of rain formed behind it, as it aimed to slice Salazar in half through the center of his chest.