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A Ghost with No Name, and its sword. WiP, feedback appreciated!

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  • A Ghost with No Name, and its sword. WiP, feedback appreciated!

    A few days ago, I had an idea for an elder ghost. I wrote it up over a few days and, while I really like the concept, I am not sure if it's really balanced. The character is all about dueling warriors famed for their skill. It doesn't remember why, though -- it has forgotten why it fights all the time as it lost bits of itself as battle wounds, along with other identity-stuff like a face, a name, et cetera. The ghost's unique Charms are mostly about Clashing, as it likes to cross swords, not exchange slashes.

    Its sword also has Evocations that are all about Clashing, but it does that in a different fashion. Also, it's incomplete and its final Evocation will only awaken once the owner finds some kind of resolution.

    ---

    Mu-Myeong, the Faceless Ghost

    Among the ruins of nostalgia and wreckage of memories, a ghost wanders. It is older than cradlesongs passed from mothers to mothers. Folks of the frozen north and nomads of the burning south had each their own rhymes about it, about a faceless ghost that walked among shadowy trees of the east and upon misty isles of the west. Legends said its name was forgotten and called it Mu-Myeong for convenience. Now those legends in turn have become forgotten, crushed beneath the power of time. Yet, the ghost still wanders aimlessly in the Underworld.

    The faceless ghost carries an elegant sword aside him. Some call it Six Fates Blade, the Edge of Eternity, the Weeping Crane, or some other fanciful name befitting a dread weapon that has cut down so many champions and heroes. These imaginations are wrong. Only the faceless ghost knows what its sword is called, but it never says much and none might learn the name. Mu-Myeong speaks to issue a challenge so that its opponent may prepare for a fair fight, and little beyond that.

    Nephwracks tempt it to join their madness. The faceless ghost always refuses, seeing no strength in ones that rely on the strength of others. Deathlords send their emissaries and assassins, seeking its service. The faceless ghost always cuts them down, seeing no strength in ones that take strength from others. Mu-Myeong walked for centuries or perhaps millennia, exposed to the deranged elements of the Underworld and the Neverborn, but its mind is clear and its resolve is unbroken.

    The faceless ghost wants only one thing: a worthy opponent to cross blades with. This pure desire has shielded his soul from the weight of centuries. Mu-Myeong’s convictions and skill at arms remain unconquered – but the ghost wonders: why? It does not know the reason for this self-chosen eternity of violence. But as much as it saves its words, it saves its thoughts. The rare occasions of insight soon end and Mu-Myeong sets its mind back on searching for a fellow warrior whose worth it must test.

    The faceless ghost still walks aimlessly with a hand on the hilt, as it has for countless eons.

    Essence: 5; Willpower: 10; Join Battle: 10 dice
    Personal Motes: 94 (6m committed to Eternal Rose of Sharon)
    Health Levels: -0x4 / -1x8 / -2x8 / -4x4 / Incap.

    Sample Intimacies
    • Defining Principle: “To become stronger is the only reason to exist.”
    • Defining Tie: Flowers (Nostalgia)
    • Major Principle: “Weakness is temporary.”
    • Major Tie: Those who fight to death (Respect)
    • Minor Tie: Innocents (Protective urge)

    Actions: Underworld Lore: 11 dice; Feats of Strength: 10 dice (may attempt Strength 5 feats); Read Intention: 8 dice; Social Influence: 11 dice; Resist Poison/Illness: 14 dice; Senses: 10 dice; Stealth: 5 dice; Tracking: 12 dice
    Appearance 2, Resolve 6, Guile 2

    Combat
    Attack (Forsythia, the Soulsteel Daiklave): 14 dice (Damage 17, minimum 5)
    Attack (Unarmed): 9 dice (Damage 12)
    Combat Movement: 10 dice
    Evasion 5, Parry 6
    Soak/Hardness: 10/4 or 13/7 or 16/10 (See Eternal Rose of Sharon)


    Merits

    Void-Defying Soul: Mu-Myeong has refused the call of the Neverborn for millennia and is unlikely to change its mind. Any social influence that would convert it to their cause is unacceptable unless empowered by magic of any others, in which case Mu-Myeong’s Resolve receives a +3 bonus as if it had already set its mind against it. Further, its clarity makes it immune to Derangements that would arise due to the nature of the Underworld.

    Wisdom of Aeons: Though it has little use for secrets that will not help its dedication to battle ways, Mu-Myeong still hears and remembers things. If one were to earn his tutelage or gain its service, they will discover that Mu-Myeong is a treasure trove of lost wisdom. What it knows is not quite up to date, but what it knows is knowledge few still remember. Its memories seem to reach as far back as the War of the Gods, though this requires confirmation. For Mu-Myeong itself, it provides +3 bonus on the Underworld Lore action.


    Evocations of Forsythia

    Mu-Myeong calls its sword Forsythia. It does not know why – Forsythia felt to the ghost a name suitable for a cherished thing. The sword is approximately four feet long and its color is black with silvery sheen. Its material resembles soulsteel, but it was never soulforged. Thousands of years ago, the faceless ghost came upon a shard of Labyrinth-stuff. It saw a sword in it and, over millennia, polished the blade out of the crude ore. It has slashed the souls of both the living and the dead and slowly they seeped into it. But Forsythia is not yet complete.

    Attuning to Forsythia allows one to delay their turn without wasting Initiative, as long as the intent is to Clash an incoming attack. Waiting for any other purpose still drops Initiative by 2. Further, Forsythia has a special effect on Mu-Myeong’s psyche – if it is defeated in single combat while wielding Forsythia, it is no longer able to defy the voice of the Neverborn, nullifying the protective effect of the Void-Defying Soul merit.

    Mu-Myeong is able to use all Evocations of Forsythia, except for the ultimate Evocations. In fact, the final Evocations are not yet available – the fate of Mu-Myeong’s soul will determine which Evocation Forsythia realizes.

    Mu-Myeong is neither Resonant nor Dissonant with Forsythia. It has awakened the following Evocations and may use them in the following manner:

    Eyes on the Western Horizon (--; Permanent; Permanent): Mu-Myeong’s Clash attacks with Forsythia receives a +2 bonus as if it were a Two-Handed weapon.

    Evening Star Shining (1m/i; Reflexive; Clash, Perilous, Uniform; Instant): Mu-Myeong may pay a mote of Essence to receive a virtual point of Initiative, in order to Clash an attack before its turn. The ghost may spend up to 5 motes on this Evocation.

    Night Falls (4m; Simple; Clash, Perilous, Withering-only; Until next turn): Mu-Myeong reflexively Clashes all incoming attacks with a withering attack. This Evocation can be used only once per scene, but Clashing with an unmodified decisive attack and inflicting damage resets it.

    Horizon-Burning Duskfire (6m, 1wp; Permanent; Permanent): Paying a surcharge of 6m, 1wp enhances Night Falls so that a successful withering Clash creates a reflexive decisiveattack against the same target. Initiative gained from the initial Clash attack is rolled as damage and Mu-Myeong’s Initiative does not reset.

    Red Stars Upon the Horizon (3m/attack; Permanent; Withering-only; Permanent): If a withering Clash attack provided by Night Falls succeeds, 3 motes may be spent for an additional withering attack. If the second succeeds, the cost may be paid again for yet another withering attack. Mu-Myeong receives Initiative only from the most damaging attack, but the target loses Initiative from all attacks.

    Details on Forsythia and its potential final Evocations are described at the end of the character block.


    Offensive Charms

    Trembling Acacia Gambit (8m, 1wp; Supplemental; Instant; Decisive-only; Essence 5): A warrior lives for a single moment. The rest is waiting. As such, a duel must be as quick as a petal falling off the withered flower. This Charm supplements a decisive attack. Should the attack succeed, the enemy’s Hardness is ignored and damage roll receives 4 automatic successes (as provided by Mu-Myeong’s Defining Principle). However, Mu-Myeong’s opponent receives the same bonus – the first decisive attack against Mu-Myeong ignores Hardness and the damage roll receives a number of automatic successes determined by their Intimacy for battle and strength. This Charm can be used only once per enemy per scene.

    Mournful Morning Glory Gambit(10m, 1wp; Supplemental; Instant; Decisive-only; Essence 5): A warrior dies for a single moment. The rest is waiting. With this technique, Mu-Myeong ensures that a battle lasts for only a brief second. This Charm supplements a decisive attack, so that it can be neither evaded nor parried – the only permissible defense is to Clash it. Incidentally this grants the opponent a reflexive attack of the same kind to Clash, though it counts as a combat action if they have not acted yet. This Charm can be used only once per enemy per scene.

    Proud Cosmos Gambit (8m, 1wp; Supplemental; Instant; Decisive-only; Essence 5): A warrior is reborn for a single moment. The rest is waiting. This Charm allows a reversal of fates, given that one has the skills for it. This Charm enhances Mournful Morning Glory Gambit; after resolving the Clash attacks, Initiative does not reset and health level damage is not yet reflected. Instead, each combatant rolls attack for yet another Clash – success rolls initiative as damage as usual, but each success also subtracts a level of damage received from the first exchange, if there is any. If Trembling Acacia Gambit is used to supplement the initial decisive attack, it applies to the second Clash as well without additional cost. This Charm can be used only once per enemy per scene.


    Defensive Charms

    Lone Narcissus Attitude (4m; Reflexive; Instant; Clash, Perilous, Psyche, Withering-only; Essence 2): Mu-Myeong exists to compare wits and skill with those it sees as worthy foes. It would prefer that lessers not interfere in its honorable duels. This Charm can only be used against attacks from non-participants in a duel. It creates a reflexive withering Clash attack that does not count as Mu-Myeong’s combat action. The damage roll enjoys double 7, but Mu-Myeong does not gain Initiative, even if it had crashed them. Should this put the interferer in Initiative crash, they are compelled to sit by and watch. Breaking out of this mental influence requires 2 Willpower points.

    Withering Mist-Flower (1wp+; Reflexive; Instant; Psyche; Essence 5): This Charm allows Mu-Myeong to withstand a spirit-destroying attack such as Ghost-Eating Technique. To activate it, however, it must expend (attacker’s Essence) points of Willpower. If it cannot afford the Willpower cost, it may discard one of its Intimacies – shedding a Minor Intimacy discounts one point, while shedding a Major Intimacy discounts three points. Defining Intimacies may never be shed through this Charm. Upon usage, Mu-Myeong dissipates as if destroyed by normal means, but the attacker learns of the Intimacy that Mu-Myeong sacrificed. Mu-Myeong does not use this power consciously – it does not remember that its identity has withered over centuries by this Charm. Revealing this fact and telling Mu-Myeong its old beliefs and attachments as proof disallows the ghost from using this Charm during that specific battle.

    Beating Azalea Heart (--; Permanent; Permanent; Essence 3): Mu-Myeong finds gladness in discovering a powerful enemy. Upon losing more than 3 health levels in a single decisive attack, the ghost restores a point of Willpower.

    Eternal Rose of Sharon (6m; Simple; Indefinite; Essence 4): Mu-Myeong appears to wear no armor, but it is protected by its desire to fight forever. The ghost is always considered to have equipped light artifact armor (the Charm’s commitment is already reflected in the statistics.) If Beating Azalea Heart is activated, protection offered by Eternal Rose of Sharon may improve to that of medium artifact armor, in lieu of the Willpower point. Should Beating Azalea Heart activate again, Eternal Rose of Sharon may provide the protection of heavy artifact armor, in lieu of the Willpower point. Though this Charm provides the protection of armor, it causes no mobility penalty.

    Cherry Petals Carried in the Wind (8m; Reflexive; Instant; Clash, Uniform; Essence 3): Though Mu-Myeong wields the sword, it is willing to ask brave archers for a duel. This Charm permits such to be conducted honorably. This Charm allows Mu-Myeong to Clash an incoming ranged attack from up to medium range. Should Mu-Myeong succeed, its ghostly form appears briefly next to the target and dissipates after a deft cut.


    Mobility Charms

    Lingering Fragrance of Lavenders (3m; Supplemental; Instant; Essence 3): Mu-Myeong will not permit its foe to escape until the conditions of the duel are met. This Charm supplements a roll to oppose an enemy’s attempt to Withdraw. If Mu-Myeong succeeds, it appears instantaneously in close range of the fleeing foe and is considered to have Rushed them successfully. Enemies that have formally surrendered are immune to this Charm.


    Social Charms

    Dandelion Finds Its Way (1wp; Reflexive; Instant; Essence 3): When an aspirant of battle ways seeks to test themselves, their wish resonates in Mu-Myeong’s dead heart. The ghost can activate this Charm when someone in the Underworld or Creation seeks a mighty foe to test their worth against. It allows Mu-Myeong to Read their Intention from distance, with 4 automatic successes on the roll (based on its Defining Principle). On success, however, Mu-Myeong can only learn one of these things: whether the challenger is willing to put their life on the line; whether the challenger is pure and chaste in warrior’s desire; or whether the challenger possesses an Intimacy for might and martial skill. Based on this information, Mu-Myeong decides whether it should visit the challenger.

    Other Charms

    Serene Cornflower Meditation (--; Simple; Instant; Essence 3): Long and drawn combat is distasteful to Mu-Myeong. It prefers to test the enemy’s worth with a single blow. Use of this Charm allows Mu-Myeong to roll Join Battle and add the successes to its Initiative. The opponent of its duel may receive the same bonus, rolling Join Battle to add to their Initiative on their turn – however, breaking this serenity by taking a combat action allows Mu-Myeong to attack them reflexively. This Charm can be used only before the first attack from either side.

    Allure of the Unpainted Orchid (--; Reflexive; One month; Essence 5): This Charm can be activated when Mu-Myeong’s decisive attack would kill a foe. Mu-Myeong must ask if the opponent will accept destruction or promise to become a stronger foe. If the opponent accepts destruction, a living foe is slain and a ghostly rival is forever destroyed. However, should the opponent promise to train, the blow does not take their life. Instead, the attack cuts away hesitation within the target’s heart that is holding them back. For the next month, the target halves all training time if they are training to become a better combatant. If this effect is enjoyed to the full extent, they develop a Defining Principle of “I must defeat Mu-Myeong”. This Charm can benefit a defeated foe only once.

    Hurry Home (10m, 1wp; Simple; Instant; Essence 2): Mu-Myeong’s soul appears to dissipate like mist against strong wind. On the next turn, it appears somewhere in the wastes of the Underworld, where the next worthy foe can be found in five days’ journey. It does not know where they are; it knows simply that a challenger is nearby.

    Materialize (50m, 1wp; Simple; Instant; Essence 2): Mu-Myeong slashes the boundary between the spiritual and the physical with its blade. From the cut, it walks into Creation with a hand on the hilt.


    Evocations of Forsythia, the Soulsteel Daiklave

    Attunement Bonus: Forsythia allows the wielder to delay their action without the cost of 2 Initiative points, as long as it is done to Clash an incoming attack.

    Eyes on the Western Horizon
    Cost: --; Mins: Essence 1
    Type: Permanent
    Keywords: Resonant
    Duration: Permanent
    Prerequisites: None

    With a hand on the hilt, Forsythia’s wielder waits for the perfect moment to strike. As the chosen enemy moves to attack, Forsythia flutters in excitement and signals its owner. Though Forsythia is a lone one-handed daiklave, with this Evocation it gains a +2 bonus to Clash attacks as if it had the Two-Handed tag.

    Resonant: The bonus to Clash becomes non-Charm automatic successes.


    Evening Star Shining
    Cost: 1m per Initiative disparity; Mins: Essence 1
    Type: Reflexive
    Keywords: Clash, Perilous, Resonant, Uniform
    Duration: Instant
    Prerequisites: None

    Forsythia wishes to cross blades so that it may drink blood. So eager, that it seems to move on its own to intercept a coming blow. Using this Evocation, the wielder may Clash an attack even before their turn has come yet. However, it requires them to buy Initiative to catch up, paying a mote of Essence per Initiative disparity. Up to (Wits) motes can be spent. This does not actually provide Initiative – it only allows them to act quickly. Clashing an attack with this Evocation counts as a combat action.

    Resonant: The wielder may pay a flat 3m if the disparity is more than 3 ticks or pay a 3m surcharge to preserve their turn.


    Night Falls
    Cost: 4m (+ 1wp); Mins: Essence 2
    Type: Simple
    Keywords: Clash, Dissonant, Perilous, Withering-only
    Duration: Until next turn
    Prerequisites: Eyes on the Western Horizon, Evening Star Shining

    Mu-Myeong prefers honorable single combat and wishes its sword would feel the same. Forsythia disagrees – it would much prefer that it would ring against as many weapons as possible. With this Evocation, Forsythia’s wielder takes a firm stance and prepares to strike down hordes. Until next turn, the wielder may Clash all incoming attacks with reflexive withering slashes.

    This Evocation forbids movement actions for the duration and is interrupted if forcibly moved, but paying a surcharge of 1 Willpower allows the wielder to take reflexive movement actions. Night Falls can be used only once per scene, but it may be reset by making a successful decisive Clash attack that is not modified by magic.

    Dissonant: Those who cannot tame Soulsteel are unable to pay the Willpower surcharge. Further, Night Falls is active only until the end of the round.


    Horizon-Burning Duskfire
    Cost: -- (6m, 1wp); Mins: Essence 3
    Type: Permanent
    Keywords: Dissonant
    Duration: Permanent
    Prerequisites: Night Falls

    Forsythia enters a battle frenzy, seeking challengers to cut. This Evocation enhances Night Falls. Paying 6 motes and 1 Willpower in addition to Night Falls’s activation cost, the reflexive Clash actions are enhanced. If the withering Clash attack succeeds, Forsythia reflexively slashes with a decisive attack – it uses the Initiative gained from the first blow as damage and the wielder’s Initiative is untouched. The second attack does not count as a Clash attack, however.

    Dissonant: Without the mastery over Soulsteel, the wielder must use this Evocation when activating Night Falls. Further, having made a decisive attack resets the wielder’s Initiative at the end of the round.


    Red Stars Upon the Horizon
    Cost: -- (3m per additional attack); Mins: Essence 4
    Type: Permanent
    Keywords: Resonant, Withering-only
    Duration: Permanent
    Prerequisites: Night Falls

    Once the enemy shows their weakness, Forsythia strikes relentlessly. The Soulsteel blade brandishes itself with such speed that not even its wielder can track with eyes. Learning this Evocation enhances Night Falls. If a withering Clash attack provided by Night Falls succeeds, the wielder may expend 3 motes to create a reflexive withering attack at the same target. If this follow-up attack succeeds, 3 motes may be spent again to create another reflexive withering attack. Up to three withering attacks may be made against a single target and only the most damaging attack gives the wielder Initiative (the target, however, loses Initiative from all attacks.)

    Resonant: If the sequence of withering attacks provided by Red Stars Upon the Horizon causes an Initiative crash, Forsythia’s wielder may elect to make a reflexive decisive attack instead. This only uses Initiative gained from the chain of withering attacks, however.


    The following are potential final Evocations that Forsythia might awaken. Whether or not it realizes them depends on how Mu-Myeong finds resolution. Will it accept the bloodlust of the sword and give thought to the Neverborn? Will it bind itself to the sword to tame it? Or will it let go of its obsessions and pass onto Lethe?


    Sky of Bloody Stars
    Cost: 15m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 5
    Type: Simple
    Keywords: Clash, Decisive-only
    Duration: Instant
    Prerequisites: Horizon-Burning Duskfire, Red Stars Upon the Horizon

    This is the final Evocation Forsythia will awaken, if Mu-Myeong gives in to the voice of the Neverborn.

    Forsythia Watered with Blood seeks out killing intent and strikes against mere thought alone. Activating this Evocation allows the wielder to attack all targets within medium range who oppose the wielder. The attack can be neither parried nor evaded – the only permissible defense is to Clash it. As such, Sky of Bloody Stars can be made deadlier by Clash-enhancing magic.


    Truth in a Slash
    Cost: 3wp; Mins: Essence 5
    Type: Supplemental
    Keywords: Clash, Decisive-only
    Duration: Instant
    Prerequisites: Horizon-Burning Duskfire, Red Stars Upon the Horizon

    This is the final Evocation Forsythia will awaken, if Mu-Myeong enters the blade to tame it.

    Forsythia-Dreamer allows duelists to wager their honor and destiny. Before activating this Evocation, Forsythia-Dreamer’s wielder and her opponent must negotiate the conditions of the duel, which may not be enhanced by magical influence. Terms of negotiation may include:
    • The defeated must swear to uphold a conviction of the victor’s choice, accepting a Major Principle.
    • The defeated must learn the nobility of a concept of the victor’s choice, accepting a Major Tie.
    • The defeated must seek out the true shape of things, accepting a physical or emotional pilgrimage of the victor’s choice.
    • The defeated must otherwise promise to follow the spirit of the victor’s request.
    Once the duelists agree upon the terms, Forsythia-Dreamer’s wielder may begin the duel. It must start and end with a single Clash attack which is supplemented by this Evocation. The duelist who manages to land a blow becomes the victor and no damage is inflicted. From that point on, the defeated must accept the victor’s demand. Defying the demand or distorting the spirit of the request causes a disastrous result akin to breaking an oath sanctified by the Eclipse Caste of the Solar Exalted.


    Releasing Cut
    Cost: 15m, 3wp; Mins: Essence 5
    Type: Supplemental
    Keywords: Clash, Decisive-only, Psyche
    Duration: Instant
    Prerequisites: Horizon-Burning Duskfire, Red Stars Upon the Horizon

    This is the final Evocation Forsythia will awaken, if Mu-Myeong chooses Lethe.

    With this magic, Spring Forsythia cuts the soul. But it does not rend – in fact, it cuts away the cancer that has taken root in one’s soul. The effect of this Evocation is narrative. If the decisive Clash attack enhanced by Releasing Cut inflicts mortal damage and the target is suffering from an emotional or spiritual trauma which has storytelling importance, the attack allows the target to begin resolving it. Avoiding the issue is no longer an option, but the experience is not painful – in fact, the target feels overwhelming, almost paralyzing peace. But there are some things even this attack cannot cut out, such as the Great Curse or the cosmic madness of the Yozis. The exact effect of this Evocation is up to the players and the Storyteller.
    Last edited by szp; 04-10-2017, 12:59 AM. Reason: Formatting still jacked up.

  • #2
    I apologize for bumping thread so soon, but I'm still hoping for feedback. D: I wrote up this material too quick and I'm at a loss how to improve/fix it myself. Further, high-power 3e Charms are still elusive for me.

    Either fluff or crunch feedback would be awesome. Thanks in advance!

    Comment


    • #3
      I find the fluff and crunch on this to be very cool, but I haven't had the time yet to appropriately respond and won't until tomorrow afternoon; but a heavy duty reading / P.E.A.C.H.(Ing?) is in my calendar for tomorrow afternoon.

      But! I'm pretty sure I'll be stealing this guy as a nemesis for our Circles E3 Single Point Master. Looking forward to putting your Nameless ghost in my game.


      Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it.
      - Mark Twain, a Biography

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Janissary87 View Post
        I find the fluff and crunch on this to be very cool, but I haven't had the time yet to appropriately respond and won't until tomorrow afternoon; but a heavy duty reading / P.E.A.C.H.(Ing?) is in my calendar for tomorrow afternoon.

        But! I'm pretty sure I'll be stealing this guy as a nemesis for our Circles E3 Single Point Master. Looking forward to putting your Nameless ghost in my game.
        Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad the concept got across, as my intention was on that specifically. Mechanics may have suffered for it... So more mechanical feedback would be appreciated, if you feel like giving it!

        ---

        Also, wrote up a backstory for the ghost. It's long-winded and poorly written. It's divided into parts, so what fits can be chosen for each game's needs. I myself am planning to use only a few parts for my own game.

        PART 3

        The faceless ghost walked the ash-dunes of the southern deserts, lost in thought. The half-living man, claiming to be its son, asked why it would not act. He said his mother’s soul screamed from within the foul creation of the Deathlord and he could hear it, always, and it must hear the same thing. The screams of the woman it said it would love forever. Mu-Myeong replied coldly. It said it would test the ghost-god’s worth if that’s what he wanted, but it would not do it for something as transient as emotional attachment. The man declined the offer and left, swearing curses upon the ghost and exclaiming that he no longer had any parents to call his own.

        The faceless ghost walked away from their meeting place. White ash crumbled beneath its steps and a trail of fallen teardrops followed the ghost. Beyond the scorched dunes soared the Deathlord’s fortress into the gray sky of the Underworld. It did not know why it knew how to get there, or why it found itself heading that direction again. Mu-Myeong did not understand why it was preparing its heart for one last fight. It wanted to know why, but only pain answered its questions.



        PART 2

        War ghosts and corpse-warriors hurled themselves at Mu-Myeong. The ghost slashed them with the sword Forysthia and they turned to mist and blood. The battlefield was evidence to great violence that Mu-Myeong had inflicted upon the Deathlord’s army – an act that the ghost found beneath it, but still an act that was necessary. The ghost-god answered its challenge, saying he would only cross blades with it if it can defeat his champions. The faceless ghost would have walked away at such a dishonorable display of cowardice… but no. Not today.

        That monster murdered one thing Mu-Myeong cherished. The ghost came here not to test his strength or that of his opponent – it came for vengeance. For one day, it was willing to disregard its convictions, as long as it could cut the monster.

        Dozens of ghosts trained in war ways and cursed with deathly power charged at Mu-Myeong. Forsythia drew arcs in the still air as surely as it had always. With a breath’s moment, they all disappeared as if smoke swept up in gale. Once their corpus dissipated, however, Mu-Myeong noticed that the Deathlord’s true champion was coming to greet it. She was a half-living thing (and that reminded the faceless ghost of its child with Ain) with a fearsome sword that dripped mist and a mark upon the brows that bled.

        The Deathknight was the last thing that kept Mu-Myeong from cutting the Deathlord down. The ghost recalled Ain’s smile and raised Forsythia to accept the greeting. A single, careful slash was all that it needed.



        Their swords flashed. Blades rang as they clashed. Both fencers walked for a pace after that single moment of truth.

        Mu-Myeong touched the wound on his chest. Were a ghost to do such thing, it would have bled. It was a deep and honest testament to the woman’s skill.

        “I have lost,” the faceless ghost admitted and sheathed Forsythia. “As promised, I will listen to your demand.”

        And before it could turn back to face her, Ain asked for her lifelong wish.

        “Love me. Forever.”



        The faceless ghost sheathed Forsythia and turned back to face the challenger. Ain stabbed the ground with her broken sword and clenched the gash on her shoulder.

        “It appears I have won,” Mu-myeong declared. “As the victor, I demand yo—“

        “Train harder, I know,” The woman interrupted. “Next Calibration. The same day. Here. I will return.”

        ….

        The faceless ghost sheathed Forsythia and turned back to face the challenger. Ain had lost balance and tumbled on dusty ground. She struggled to regain her stance, but Mu-Myeong’s cut was deep.

        “It appears I have won,” Mu-Myeong declared. “As the victor, I demand you train—“

        “No, I will train even harder.” The woman interrupted. “Next Calibration. The same day. Here. I will return.”



        The faceless ghost sheathed Forsythia and turned back to face the challenger. The girl coughed blood – the freshness of which was so rare in the Underworld. Ain wiped the blood off her lips and smiled.

        “It appears I have won,” Mu-Myeong declared. “As the victor, I demand you train harder.”

        “And I will, as always,” answered the girl. “Next Calibration. The same day. Here. I will return.”



        “My name is Ain. I have come to test my skill.”

        The faceless ghost listened. A new challenger. A living one, even. Her youth was apparent, both in stature and in recklessness. Yet it could still see that her challenge was honest and dear. It noticed she was aware she could die.

        “As you wish,” answered Mu-Myeong as he readied to draw Forsythia. A single slash would teach her to value her life more.


        PART 1

        The faceless ghost wandered the Underworld. A faceless, nameless, self-less ghost. It sought foes to cross swords with.

        Many heroes fell down against his mighty sword, Forsythia, and asked for the name of one who defeated them.

        “I do not know,” the faceless ghost answered always. “Names do not have a blade to cut with, after all.”



        The ghost collapsed onto the unbroken snow. His new sword Forsythia was strong but his own skills could not control it yet. He coughed – he would have spat out blood and foggy breath. He grimaced and wept, not because of shame at defeat. He felt sorrow because he could not recall his own name, upon which he swore. The ghost wondered if his journey to perfect himself as a warrior was now meaningless.

        Snowy ground cracked and crumbled gently as the Deathlord approached him. Though they were renowned for cruelty and brutality, the ghost-god instead grasped the defeated ghost’s arm and helped him to regain his stance and composure. Then he said “I know your pain. I can end it for you.”

        “Do you intend to forge a weapon out of me? Promise me that it cuts well and it cuts many,” the ghost demanded.

        But the Deathlord’s reply was different. “No, I believe you will be a much better weapon for me otherwise.”

        The ghost hesitated.

        “I can end your pain. I will teach you a trick. I will teach you brandish to use your sword, and to brandish it forever. I will help you become a stronger warrior,” the ghost-god said with gentleness and sweetness. “The only price I demand is that you throw away your name.”



        The last thing Wion remembered was meditating before a battle. One that he thought was just going to be yet another challenge. Perhaps this is death, Wion thought, perhaps all the fighting was pointless.

        He wanted to cry, but for some reason it was so difficult to do. Giving up on such a simple task, he wandered the wastes and wondered what he were to do.

        Wion found himself in a strange – stranger – place. There, he came across a sword. It was still hidden within crude ore, but as a lifelong swordsman, he could feel it. Some work would be necessary to bring it to its true shape, but having died had freed himself of many duties. He had more time than ever before.

        He decided to name it Forsythia. But he did not know why. But what he knew was that it would help him continue his battle ways.



        He charged toward the enemy formation. Others in his rank screamed – some for courage, some out of fear. But Wion was quiet.

        This was just another day among many. It was strange, however. He distantly remembered feeling something before battle. But Wion tried not to think too much, lest it disrupt his focus.



        It kept getting easier. The more Wion practiced, the better he cut. Being a soldier fed him, but being a warrior led him. Other soldiers he cut down, but other warriors he crossed swords with. Sometimes duels were to first blood, sometimes to the death.

        Duels to the death kept getting easier, as well. Perhaps he was always meant to do this.


        PART 0

        Wion could not even scream. Warm blood flowed down along the knife and then his hands. His brother’s dying breath fluttered by his ear. The boy did not mean to kill him; he simply wanted to stop him. Wion was scared of another beating, of another day bound. But now he knew what he was more afraid of – having killed someone.

        The boy dragged his brother’s corpse at night to the brooks. He dug a poor grave for the body and buried it before sunrise. The dawn’s light and the water’s reflection showed Wion what he thought would see – a murderer covered in dirt and blood. The boy had no strength left to wash it off.

        He laid down on a grassy hill out of fatigue. Kind spring breeze swept past him. Thoughtless, Wion paid little much attention to it. But something shook at the corner of his eyes. By reflex his gaze turned to it.

        Forsythias had bloomed.

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