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File 138511839084.png - (7.91KB , 800x600 , New Canvas.png )
549461 No. 549461 ID: 3bf280

The Tyrant Star slips through the skies of Daranarache, and in the wake of its thrashing spines the air is razor and dark.

In its twisted steel gullet, its crew drinks and spars and sings and watches the night.

It hunts for prey-vessels, merchants or refugees or anyone it can.

The Tyrant Star is the top of the predatory chain! And tonight The Tyrant Star is hungry!
Expand all images
>>
No. 549462 ID: 3bf280
File 138511843428.png - (11.77KB , 800x600 , 2.png )
549462

And in the Pupa-walled practice room, I have been made an ass of.

Again.
>>
No. 549463 ID: 3bf280
File 138511851930.png - (10.53KB , 800x600 , 1.png )
549463

"You're boring me, Stryza!"

Growen lords above his victory like a big black asshole crow.

"One more win, and your hand in marriage is mine. By right!"
>>
No. 549465 ID: 53ba34

what a jerk. is he like, the best fighter around or something? training montage so you can kick his ass.
>>
No. 549471 ID: 64dd23

why are you fighting that douche when loss means marriage and possibly sex with the fucker?
>>
No. 549472 ID: 53ba34

>>549471
don't even need to ask that, is probably a law of whatever they are. if a man challenges a woman to a duel for her hand she cannot refuse other then by beating him.
>>
No. 549478 ID: fc937d

Well then, time to turn this around.

By the rules, he has to win. All you have to do is not lose. Some technical disqualification or tie would also save you from matrimony. (Set up a stalemate, or goad him into breaking the rules, somehow).
>>
No. 549491 ID: 9ddf68

so what can you do and what can he do?
>>
No. 549504 ID: e5f14b
File 138516086939.png - (13.11KB , 800x600 , 3.png )
549504

"Damn your black eyes, Growen!" I hiss.

"Many have." Growen gives his spear a light twirl and drops it to his side. "You want to start practicing your vows now, or should we wait until I've trounced you again?"

"You will not trounce me again." I pull myself to my feet. "And even if you did my vows would be ten times ten again more poetical than yours. With no practice!"
"Oh?"
"Not that I'm going to practice."
"Right."
"Because I hate you. And I'm going to win. And then kill you."

"Why must it always be such a competition, Stryza?"

"Says the man duelling me up the aisle!"

"As Tyrant tradition demands." Growen smirks. "It also demands that you set the date of our next little song-and-dance."

"I know that. I'm not a baby."

"Then name your time and place, baby."

[a] "Here and now."
[b] "Tomorrow."
[c] "One week's time, Growen."
[d] "Twenty years."
[e] ____________
>>
No. 549505 ID: 53ba34

c, a week, too long and he will look for a loophole. but too short and you can't do any training. but a week seems good enough.
>>
No. 549506 ID: 7bbaae

>>549504
C! You need to practice, but you can't wait 20 years to kill him either.
>>
No. 549508 ID: fc937d

c. Gives us time to plan. I'm sure if you tried to use d to avoid having to finish this, there would be other problems.
>>
No. 549535 ID: e5f14b
File 138517655180.png - (8.17KB , 800x600 , 4.png )
549535

"One week, Growen."
"Same ass-whooping time, same ass-whooping place?"
"Fine." I drop my spear to the padded floor and stretch my back where it banged into the wall.
I can already picture the bruise.

"Toodles." Growen knocks on the wall to summon the door, and sashays out of the room. "See you in a week, hon."
"Stuff your hon up your ass, you preening excuse for a corsair," I shoot back, but the door's already slammed shut.

Hoof. I think I broke my ass.
I need to spend the week preparing. Growen cannot beat me.

[a] I'll seek out a senior corsair to train me in spear-sparring; with a week of intense training, there's no way I can lose!
[b] I'll shadow Growen this week and push him out a fucking airlock.
[c] I'll go to the fleshsculptors along the thorned bow. They'll make me unbeatable, for a price. And also make me pug-ugly, but sacrifices must be made.
[d] I'll just challenge some weaker male, marry him, wait a week until the challenge expires, then kill him or something.
>>
No. 549539 ID: beeca1

>>549535
Both B and D.
>>
No. 549540 ID: fc937d

A. This is about proving you're better than him, not that you can murder him in the dark (anyone can do that), that you can pay off flesh sculptures (anyone with money can do that), or that you can lower your standard (anyone can- but you won't).
>>
No. 549541 ID: beeca1

>>549540
I could have sworn that this was about not marrying him.
>>
No. 549550 ID: 7bbaae

>>549535
A!
>>
No. 549554 ID: 51ead5

B&D combined seem like a potential way out of it, but I'm betting you've got something to prove, you desire to be GREAT, and for that, you take the path of A!
Pick A and be great!
>>
No. 549557 ID: 9ddf68

A
you can always try B if A fails
>>
No. 549561 ID: e5f14b
File 138518651693.png - (12.12KB , 800x600 , 5.png )
549561

There are two experienced corsairs who might train me:

Aeschu is a fierce, wicked warrior with many scars and few words. She took a Magnian's gavel to the face long ago and has worn a thick carapace helmet as long as I've known her.
She is certainly not my friend, and she is a hard, vicious mistress, even if she is one of the finest spearmen on the Tyrant Star.

In combat she is an iron wall, unshakable and unfazeable, and any mistake you make in front of her she sees and punishes, instantly.

Ilerith is a grinning, flashy, and incredibly handsome corsair with a quick spear and a quicker wit. His lessons in combat are selective but well-attended, especially by the woman warriors on the crew. He has a... reputation among them that I have been eager to verify.

And look at those horns!

Ilerith is a master of footwork, evasion, the flurry, and the sting. His momentum and drive are as merciless as his speartip.

[a] Aeschu!
[b] Ilerith!
>>
No. 549564 ID: 9ddf68

B
simply because he seems like he'd actually teach you something while Aeschu would just beat the crap out of you until you learned how to stand against her, while useful usually takes more of then a week to get right.
>>
No. 549566 ID: 7bbaae

Yeah go with B.
>>
No. 549584 ID: 53ba34

A, being good isn't good enough, you need to be perfect to beat this guy.
>>
No. 549588 ID: fc937d

A. No time for flashy distractions, or someone else trying to woo you. And you certainly don't want other people competing for your instruction time.

And well, if the instruction ends up hard or unpleasant, just remember what it is you're trying to avoid.
>>
No. 549602 ID: f3bb85

>>549561
A. We have no time for glory or pleasure, we must have VICTORY.
>>
No. 549631 ID: 256d52

A. Seems to me she'd be easier to convince of your sincerity in wanting to learn to spear better good.
>>
No. 550696 ID: 2a30f2
File 138614810685.png - (90.56KB , 800x600 , 6.png )
550696

I fall flat on my ass, for the fifth time in as many minutes.

It is my first day training with Aeschu, and my tailbone is already paying the price.

Every fresh bruise lets me know this was a stupid idea!

I start to pull myself off the ground again. Aeschu sticks the point of her spear a few inches from my face.

"You are doing terribly," she says. Her voice is a flat, emotionless statement of fact.
"Then teach me how to be better," I say, but I know she's right. I'm off my game.

My spear tip is sluggish. My footwork is shaky.

I can't get that damn Growen off my mind! Every time I close my eyes I can see that infuriating fucking smirk, and every time I reopen them my hands are trembling with anger.

Damn him!
Damn Aeschu!

"You are distracted, woman." Aeschu steps back and allows me to stand. "Something's bothering you."
"Maybe it's the bones you've been breaking," I say.
She shakes her head. "You need to focus. You're already a difficult case when I have your attention."
"Blow it out your airlock, Aeschu."
"What's your damage, Stryza?"

[a] I can't stop thinking about Growen.
[b] I can't stop thinking about how much I hate Growen.
[c] I can't stop thinking about what might happen if I fail.
[d] I can't stop thinking about how I should have picked Ilerith.
[e] You caught me. I've been checking out your ass this whole time.
>>
No. 550697 ID: 256d52

A.
See how Aeschu interprets that. A clever warrior can learn much by watching carefully!
>>
No. 550699 ID: 150992

>>550696
I'm gonna go with [c], let's face it, his smirk is likely to be the most enjoyable part of him.
>>
No. 550704 ID: 7bbaae

>>550696
Well, you should say [b], because it's the truth.
>>
No. 550707 ID: 7fea89

b sounds the most exact to your feelings, so yeah, say that.
>>
No. 550710 ID: fd6ae9

b.

If your enemy is inside your head, he's already won a good part of the battle. You might as well let your instructor know that's what's going on. Perhaps she can advise you on how to deal with that as well.

Because if you don't resolve that, you are going to lose.
>>
No. 550719 ID: 9ddf68

B
>>
No. 550915 ID: 9b33d9
File 138632471919.png - (64.60KB , 800x600 , 7.png )
550915

"I can't stop thinking about Growen. He infuriates me."
"Your betrothed."
"Yes. I hate him. Don't call him that."

"You know him?"

"I grew up with the bastard. We were in the same creche, the top two initiates. But I was always stronger than him, faster than him. Better than him, basically."

"Basically," says Aeschu.

"But now with the spear thing. He's been training his duel constantly. He never plunders, he never drinks, his marksmanship's probably in the toilet, but that doesn't matter, because the only thing he cares about is getting better at dueling me so he can finally beat me at something. For once in his miserable life."

"He doesn't have to marry you to duel you. Just duel you to marry you."
"I know! But he is!"
"Why does he want to marry you? How large is your dowry?"

"I don't know! To add ruinous insult to terrible injury. My horde is tiny and he could trounce Rivia at this point. She has fifteen thousand Talons squirreled away he could take. It makes no sense."
"Is that why you hate him?"
"Is that not reason enough?"
>>
No. 550916 ID: 9b33d9
File 138632473371.png - (29.27KB , 800x600 , 8.png )
550916

"If it is, really," says Aeschu, "take this."

She pulls from her hip satchel a red, twisted chunk of crystal.

A Berzerker rock. The kind they give the shock troopers.

"This won't be enough, on its own," she says. "But with it and with my training, you'll win. Crush this between your fingers, and you will not stop until he's dead. No question."

"That's cheating."

"There are no rules in a marriage-duel." Aeschu swings the chain around. "What would it prove if there were?"

[a] I'll take it.
[b] It's still cheating. It's dishonorable.
[c] I don't want to kill him, Aeschu. I just want to beat him.
>>
No. 550918 ID: 36c336

Fuckin' A!
The only reason not to take the amulet it is if Stryza really does want to marry Growen. And if we don't take the help being offered here we've probably just flunked out of this class.
>>
No. 550926 ID: 7bbaae

>>550916
B.

Don't take it, but not just because it's dishonorable- you want to be better than him, like you were before. You want to be better than him, enough to want to kill him for beating you. This stone doesn't make you better, it's the stone that would be doing the work.
>>
No. 550929 ID: 7fea89

>>550926
THat sounds like C, and C I think is what we REALLY want. It's the competition that's been going between us for some time now, that drives us both.
To bring in the berzerker rock, would be to ramp the stakes up to our lives. We might be corsairs, but while that thing would grant us victory, it could have consequences we are not ready to bear.
>>
No. 550931 ID: fce8ce

>>550916
b.

if you don't prove beyond a doubt that you're better than him in your own right he will always return.
>>
No. 550934 ID: 53ba34

with that backstory tidbit i think... he actually loves you. but has no idea how to express it properly.
if love is not something your race does you could bring it up with him at the duel to throw him off.
>>
No. 550937 ID: ed5a38

I'm going with C. We can always kill him later if he needs killing, who knows maybe we can make use of him later.
>>
No. 551037 ID: 9b33d9
File 138641221651.png - (10.01KB , 800x600 , 9a.png )
551037

"I'm not taking that." I shake my head. "It's dishonorable."
"And?"
"And what, Aeschu?"
"It doesn't sound like you've enough reason to hate him. But he's distracting you. Why?"
"Well, I don't want to kill him."

"Perhaps he loves you."
"Like a shore-rat?"
"Do you love him?"
"Corsairs do not love, Aeschu. Corsairs--"
"Corsairs Conquer in All." Aeschu finishes the Mantra, the First Law. "A pretty phrase." She turns and walks out into the hallway, to the window-decks.

I follow her. "You're talking out of your ass."
"It would explain why he is training, when he should be plundering."
"It explains nothing but that he is sick-minded," I say. "I'll not have him. The Raid is All." The second law.

"You've a good memory for the books," says Aeschu.
"All corsairs do. You've got the second-highest kill total in the Shockwaves. And hundreds of thousands of talons. You didn't get there with marrying or, or loving."
>>
No. 551038 ID: 9b33d9
File 138641223874.png - (13.59KB , 800x600 , 10.png )
551038

"No."
Aeschu removes her helmet, with a pneumatic hiss.
She turns from the window.
"No. I didn't."
>>
No. 551039 ID: 9b33d9
File 138641224940.png - (47.72KB , 800x600 , 9.png )
551039

Then, from the starboard side, a merchant schooner trawls out across the heavens, like a nervous, weaving cloud in the evening.
A Corsair's favorite prey.
But a Corsair gets from the prey only what the Corsair takes from the prey, and I already hear the low metallic rumble of a horde of hopeful hellions stampeding to their battlestations.

Aeschu turns out to it and replaces her helmet.
"Perhaps you could take a lesson from your opponent, tonight," she says. "He'll be training. If you'll refuse the Crystal, you'll need to train harder."

[a] It's just one vessel, Aeschu. I have plenty of time and it has plenty of loot.
[b] Then I suppose it's back to the practice room.
>>
No. 551040 ID: 53ba34

she showed you her face as a lesson, even victory has a price. how much are you willing to give up to beat him? your entire horde? your arm? your face?

B. the only way to beat him is to play his game.
>>
No. 551042 ID: 7bbaae

She showed you her face to tell you that not everyone has someone willing to duel them into marriage. She is far better in combat than you, but she has noone pursuing her. No one wants her.

Let's go with A, and earn some cash while also getting some kills. Some live combat practice can also help you win, after all...

(okay I just want to see some raiding)
>>
No. 551043 ID: 584efb

It seems that, in a way, the first and second laws are at odds. To conquer this challenge, we must forsake this raid. To raid, we risk being conquered.

Back to the practice room it is then. There will be other raids, likely more valuable then a single ship. But to lose this duel will have long lasting consequences.
>>
No. 551044 ID: 828582

B, then. Back to practice.
He hasn't been raiding, I'll have to do the same to beat him.
>>
No. 551045 ID: 32e1d9

practice makes perfect, b
>>
No. 551048 ID: fd6ae9

B. First law trumps second, I suppose. And you'll have ample time to raid when this is over.
>>
No. 551057 ID: 36c336

B
"It burns me to forsake this opportunity, but I must prevail."
>>
No. 551058 ID: 9b33d9
File 138645697214.png - (26.55KB , 800x600 , 11.png )
551058

As the Tyrant Star sluices its way from behind a dark cloud bank, the schooner realizes its mistake.
Its guidance spines flail to turn course or pick up speed. The rusty old civilian ligaments screech and grind.
But it's too late for them to do anything about it.

And it's too late for me to do anything about it.
Though it burns my black blood and sets my teeth to grit, I practice all night, listening to the warhowls of my comrades echo through the Tyrant Star's hull.

And I practice the next night, when we ambush the Scrap Freighter.
And the next night, when the Star coasts into port and spills five hundred or more Corsairs to drink and party and spend their hard-won loot.
I'm sharing my evening with a spear and a practice dummy.
>>
No. 551059 ID: 9b33d9
File 138645697917.png - (10.25KB , 800x600 , 12.png )
551059

It's three days now until the duel, and my stabs and cuts have never been this polished.
The spear feels like a scorpion's tail, now. The effort and concentration I needed in the past to slice and sever is couched in a flowing serenity in the back of my brain. My focus is knife-sharp.

I wonder if this is how Growen feels when he duels.

A sudden noise from the observation balcony breaks my reverie. Someone is clapping.
>>
No. 551060 ID: 9b33d9
File 138645698563.png - (7.91KB , 800x600 , 13.png )
551060

"Slick moves, Stryza."
Growen leans on a pillar and offers sardonic applause.
"They won't be enough, of course, but you look good doing them."

[a]Ignore him. Keep practicing.
[b] What do you want, Growen?
[c] Fuck off, Growen.
>>
No. 551061 ID: 2fc3e9

A.
>>
No. 551062 ID: 828582

A
chances are he wants your attention. And if he presses the point, press your own at him-if using a Berzerker's Stone is fair, so is catching him when he doesn't have a weapon at the ready.
>>
No. 551063 ID: cad45e

Hey, at least i'm not training my entire life just because i was pussy whipped by your future wife.

Idiot.
>>
No. 551064 ID: 36c336

Letting him watch us practice means that any surprise we might have given him is out of the question. Of course he may have already been watching for long enough if we weren't paying attention.
If we want a witty retort though, here's what I've got:
"Tell you what, I dare you to beat Aeschu and force her to marry you. Bet you a thousand talons versus ten of yours you can't do it."
>>
No. 551066 ID: 7bbaae

>>551060
B. You don't understand him, this is a chance to fix that.
>>
No. 551069 ID: 53ba34

B. will make him go away soonest. ignoring him may make him get more annoying. and C may do it too.
>>
No. 551071 ID: fd6ae9

B. Information of insight will aid us in the coming battle. And it would be nice if we could get in his head, instead of vice versa.
>>
No. 551073 ID: 32e1d9

c, then continue practicing
>>
No. 551099 ID: d287dd

B
>>
No. 551135 ID: f62825
File 138649984910.png - (8.77KB , 800x600 , 14.png )
551135

"Fuck off, Growen."
"Cute."
I twirl my spear to my side and look up to him. "What do you want?"
"Just seeing what Aeschu taught you."
"Duel her. I'll lay you ten thousand talons to ten on the odds."
"I prefer my ladies with a little more face and a little less murderous skill."
"Watch your tongue."
"A little."
"You don't have to marry to duel. Just duel to marry."
"Why would I want to do that?" asks Growen. I turn away from him and pick up the practice dummy's arm.

"Stryza." Growen's voice gets weirdly quiet.
>>
No. 551136 ID: f62825
File 138649987943.png - (7.35KB , 800x600 , 15.png )
551136

"Would it be that bad?"
I look back. He's deflated. I've rarely seen him without that smirk on his lips.
"Being with me. Would it really be all that bad?"
[a] Yes.
[b] No.
[c] No. But losing would be.
>>
No. 551137 ID: 53ba34

let's be honest here dear, you didn't start hating him until he beat you in that first duel however long ago. your reasons for hating him are ALL duel related.
so, C.
>>
No. 551138 ID: 7bbaae

>>551136
A. You said you hated him. Did he think you were joking? Were you joking?

What bothers you about him? Is it just that he was beating you? Did you and he get along when you were better than him? In that case, the answer really should be C.
>>
No. 551141 ID: 828582

C.
Frankly, it's the whole getting a ring duelled onto my finger that sucks...
But if we're to be together, we should do so as PROPER Corsiars! You haven't been plundering, drinking, or working on your marksmanship!
>>
No. 551142 ID: f44ca3

C. Having him practice at this constantly just to go after you confuses you horribly. But you did not hate him until after he beat you.
>>
No. 551143 ID: cad45e

b.

Considering that his ulterior goal might just be "Lol, you now have to feel the humility i did." honestly we should just explain it like we just want to at least give him a chance.
>>
No. 551146 ID: 2fc3e9

Sounds like it's C.

What happens if you win the next duel? Can you decide to marry him anyway, preferably some time in the future?
>>
No. 551148 ID: fd6ae9

Modified C. Losing would be.

Seems like we've found a chink in his armor. He does seem to show actual feeling for you. Question is, can we exploit that to win?

I mean, one obvious approach would be to crush him heart and hope that makes him lose interest, or drop it, but hearts die in unpredictable ways. Someone with nothing to lose is sometimes more dangerous. Finding a way to use his feeling reliably against him is tricky.
>>
No. 551187 ID: 36c336

Well now, I think that's pretty much an admission of what's going on. He has fixated on you in the most idiotic way possible. I've seen love before and it doesn't mean forcing someone to be with you.

So, let's itemize his complete unsuitability as a mate: He's a poor loser with no horde worth speaking of and few kills in raiding. His emotions are so out of control he thinks he feels love and is even wrong about that. He's a creepy stalker who is openly avoiding reasonable behaviour to fixate on you.

You can do better, you must do better, even if you did favour emotions like love he does not love you. Eventually he will figure this out, and the closer you are to him at the time the worse it will be for you.
>>
No. 551188 ID: 53ba34

>>551187
what are you talking about? love MAKES you an idiot.
and in this society it looks like marriage duels are the ONLY means of getting a marriage. so if you want someone you MUST duel them. let me break it down

>i want to be with her
>to do that i must marry her
>to do that must defeat her in the duels
>to do that i must become stronger
and so he stopped doing anything else except train his ass off.
>>
No. 551191 ID: 36c336

>>551188

>"I've seen love before and it doesn't mean forcing someone to be with you."

It didn't even occur to him to ask what we want until just now. Therefore he does not love us. It doesn't get simpler.
>>
No. 551192 ID: 53ba34

you guys aren't even TRYING to see it through the societal lens are you? they were raised with the precept of "if you want something, TAKE IT." and he wanted us, BADLY. so he did what the law says, and tried to take us. if he wanted us for any other reason he would not have asked EVER. he would not care AT ALL what we wanted if he just wanted us as a trophy.
>>
No. 551219 ID: 36c336

>>551192
I am looking at it through the social lens: He's a dumbass, broke loser obsessing over us. He obsessively developed one skill that has social power in mate acquisition far beyond its use outside of that context, and this makes him a social threat. Even if he does take us he'll still be a broke loser with no money or status beyond what he's leeched off of us by taking us. That's a pretty bad ending no matter how much romantic-glurge is simmering under the surface. Exercise a little imagination and score on the scale of Romeo and Juliet to Radam├Ęs and Aida how well romance works out here.
>>
No. 551220 ID: 53ba34

>>551219
i would like to quote
>We were in the same creche, the top two initiates. But I was always stronger than him, faster than him. Better than him, basically.

we were THE BEST. he was second best. he has great skills, we were just better then him. the "social leeching" you are worried about would only work if he had no skills at all other then dueling. against any other person from the same creche he would win.
>>
No. 551223 ID: f8e689

modified c, replace no with "I don't know"
>>
No. 551226 ID: e73b69

c
>>
No. 551243 ID: f62825
File 138657797076.png - (10.17KB , 800x600 , 16.png )
551243

"Yes. No. I don't know." I don't know how to talk to him like this. "Maybe not. But losing to you would be. You haven't been plundering, Growen. Or shooting, or drinking. What does that mean?"
"It means you're going to lose." The edge is back in his voice. "Plunder can wait until after."

"Drop the jerk-off schtick for a second, Growen," I say. I look at him very hard. He's not as lanky as he was, when we were in creche. "What's going on here?"

Growen clears his throat. He doesn't say anything for a few seconds.
I go back to the dummy.

"I find you very, uh, very. You know. You're pretty, Stryza."
"Careful you don't make me swoon while I'm holding a weapon."

"I'd be a good husband," he says. "I've still got a horde, even if I haven't been raiding. And with you, we'd be some of the best frontliners on the vessel. We've always been a good team. And, uh." He drums his fingers on the banister. "My cabin's in a good spot. The view."

"It doesn't matter how good a husband you'd be." I pick up the straw-stuffed arm. "You wouldn't be my husband. I'd be your wife." I shove it awkwardly into the crack in the dummy's side.

"Well." Growen turns on his heels and heads for the exit. He lingers in the doorway. I wonder if I should be doing something with my hands. "That's how it has to be."
I don't look back at him. The door closes behind him.
>>
No. 551244 ID: f62825
File 138657799124.png - (6.71KB , 800x600 , 17.png )
551244

Damn him!

I was living a very comfortable existence, rising through the ranks and rampaging through the preyships without a care in the world or a thought to this whole marriage business, and here comes Growen.

When I did spare a thought to finding a mate, I always thought I'd be the one making the challenge, and he wouldn't be near as good a fighter. Maybe one of the back line. A dartgunner. Someone with an all right kill tally and a weak spear-arm. Any man would be lucky I chose them. I've got good, strong hips and a passable horde. And so what if I'm not one of those perfumed Engineer-women who can let their bodies get soft and round and don't pick up scars and haven't grown into my nose in quite the same way Growen has? So what?

Killing people makes sense. Stealing things makes sense. Growen does not make sense. Growen is digging a massive hole in the desert to get at a cupful of water, when there are oases all over the place, ripe for the taking! All just to beat me and humiliate me!

Corsair Marriage is not about love. Corsairs do not love. It's about conquering! Possessing! That's what we do!

My spear goes through the dummy's face with such force and intensity that I have to plant a foot on it to get it back out.

I grit my teeth.

[a] Keep practicing. Feed the anger. Let it transform from distraction to motivation to viciousness. If Growen wants to show this weakness, he's all the easier crushed.
[b] Take the evening now to sit and meditate and clear your head. Push everything else from your brain. Focus, breathe, and move. Do not think of it as Growen. Think of it as Foe.
[c] Find Aeschu. I need to talk to Aeschu.
[d] Catch up with Growen. I'm not through with him.
>>
No. 551245 ID: 53ba34

look at who you just said you would take as first pick, not growen. he's doing this because he knows you, knows you would never have challenged him to the marriage duel, so he challenged you first.

C
>>
No. 551247 ID: 7bbaae

>>551244
D. If his explanation still doesn't make sense, get him to give you a better one.
>>
No. 551251 ID: 828582

B- the foe is trying to doom you to an unhappy life.
Do not allow him to claim his prize.
>>
No. 551260 ID: beeca1

D, then C.
>>
No. 551261 ID: fd6ae9

I don't like any of those options. I want to think on this, but not in the manner described in b. You're better off trying to understand him than abstracting him into less than he is.

>Corsair Marriage is not about love. Corsairs do not love. It's about conquering! Possessing! That's what we do!
Then there is obviously a problem for a Corsair who wants to do differently. He is left with little recourse but to express such feelings via conquest, and possession.

...what do Corsairs think of one who makes their own way? You say Corsairs do not love, but what would you think of one who decides their own wishes are more important than convention? Who decides to become strong enough to take what he wants, and to hell with the consequences? Who finds a way to succeed where he should not?

Isn't that the embodiment of the first law?
>>
No. 551264 ID: 5a693b

keep calm and b
>>
No. 551310 ID: e73b69

b
>>
No. 551353 ID: 256d52

B. Find Aeschu. You need to talk to someone to get your thoughts straightened out.
>>
No. 551357 ID: beeca1

>>551353
Was that a vote for B, C, or both?
>>
No. 551365 ID: f62825
File 138666952271.png - (9.23KB , 800x600 , 18.png )
551365

I get halfway through my next cut and throw my spear down.
I dash from the practice room. I half-want to find Growen, but I don't know why I want to find Growen. I think maybe I want to kick his face in, but I realize it's not anger that I'm feeling. It's something weird and messy and dizzy, lodged right around my chest where the hate should be.
I realize I don't know where Growen went or what I'd even want to do with him when I found him except grab him by the shoulders and shake him until he made sense.
Aeschu's on patrol in the Gundeck right now. I need to talk to Aeschu. I don't know why.

"Aeschu!"
I've finally found her. I pound down the gunnery hall toward her.
She stops walking.
"What?"

"You're right." I catch my breath and reel in my fraying thoughts. "You were right. I think Growen loves me. I think the fucking idiot loves me."

Aeschu half-turns back to me. "Do you love him?"

[a] Of course not.
[b] I think I might, Aeschu.
>>
No. 551366 ID: 71be36

[c] Honestly you don't know, at the very least you want to talk or smack some sense into him.
>>
No. 551367 ID: 53ba34

B!
>>
No. 551368 ID: 7bbaae

>>551365
I'm thinking B at this point.
>>
No. 551370 ID: fce8ce

>>551365
c. probably not, but even if you do it doesn't matter. you will not be taken and be made into his.
>>
No. 551372 ID: 36c336

A)

Even if it's not the truth this is the only *safe* answer.
>>
No. 551373 ID: 828582

B-If it isn't hatred then it sounds like it just might be...
>>
No. 551377 ID: 584efb

A.

B is just so silly, going from hating to loving someone in a day when almost nothing has happened
>>
No. 551378 ID: f44ca3

C. I am horribly confused and have strong emotions involving him that are not hate.

You are not in love with him yet. But you have never had anyone want you so badly just for who you are. You never saw yourself as some great prize but he has sacrificed much in a attempt to have you.

Who knows where these emotions could lead you but for the moment you are confused as can be.
>>
No. 551380 ID: fd6ae9

Cccc.
>>
No. 551388 ID: ed5a38

Gotta go with C) I haven't thought about it, and don't have a clue. So confused!

Although maybe D) We sure would make a good team whether or not I love him...
>>
No. 551484 ID: f62825
File 138676257897.png - (8.34KB , 800x600 , 19.png )
551484

"I don't know."
"Come on."
"I don't know how to feel. Or what I feel."

"In three days, you'll have to." Aeschu leans back on a wall. The spongy dark flesh of it gives a little beneath her carapace pauldron. "Either you lose, and you marry him, or you win, and kill him or scar him."
"What if I were to stay my spear?"
"Then someone else wouldn't. Scars aren't the end of the world. He would never be able to challenge you for your hand again."
"Could I challenge him? For his?"
Aeschu rasps and gargles. It takes me a moment to realize she is laughing at me. "You are a weird one, Stryza."
"Shut the fuck up and help me. What if we just had a, a rematch?"
"No one has ever done it."
"What if I did?"
"The rules say 'And they shall never be as one'. Or something like that." Aeschu folds her arms. "If he doesn't win you, you'll never be his. In any way. You beat him down or you marry him. One or the other is happening in three days. You have that long to decide. You want my advice?"

"Yes."

"If you want to be a great Corsair, and rise through the ranks, then you'll go into that fight aiming to kill Growen. It will prevent any more challengers before you've had your pick. You'll prove your prowess by taking an accomplished duelist. And if he's getting on your mind this badly, it would help get him off it. It'll also be easier. If he's fighting to disable and you're fighting to kill, you have the upper hand. Move without lethality, and you lose your biggest advantage on him. It will be much harder."

"Is that your advice, then?"

Aeschu shrugs. "No. How should I know what you want? You don't know what you want. I'll give you three more days of training. And nothing more."

[a] If you say I should kill him, then I should kill him. Show me how to.
[b] I can't. Teach me how to take him down. Maybe I can decide what to do after he's on the floor.
>>
No. 551486 ID: 53ba34

beating him will make you ONE great corsair. but if he wins you can be two great corsairs. you can show him your back and he will show you his, and with both of your weak points protected, you can focus everything into attack. your combined horde would be greater then ether of you could ever get alone.
>>
No. 551487 ID: 7bbaae

>>551484
B. Killing requires conviction, which you don't have.
>>
No. 551489 ID: 961fd8

B-If this is not hatred, I should not act like I hate him...
Maybe he wouldn't be such a bad mate...
>>
No. 551490 ID: 36c336

A
Do you really want to be property?
>>
No. 551496 ID: f44ca3

B. If you kill him you might solve one problem but your confused feelings will remain with you.

Also if you go in intending to kill him without truly wanting him to die you will just ending up hesitating at a critical junction.

Tyrant tradition demands wedding duels and such but is there any social stigma to being the loser in a wedding duel? For instance if the best marksman in the fleet lost a duel to the best spear fighter in the fleet would people think less of them?

Aeschu is one of the strongest single warriors but there must be examples of couples that are very successful.

I would find some time to talk to Growen before the duel. A few hours in between practice sessions and you might be able to stabilize your feelings one way or another. If you go in confused no matter what happens you will not be happy with the results.
>>
No. 551499 ID: ed5a38

B works.
>>
No. 551503 ID: 8919b9

b
>>
No. 551511 ID: 7bbaae

Oh, and mention that she's tried to get you to kill him twice now. Does she have some sort of ulterior motive?
>>
No. 551512 ID: fd6ae9

B

>You don't know what you want.
How am I supposed to know that? I never expected this, or thought about anything like it.
>>
No. 551520 ID: 2f4b71

>Maybe I can decide what to do after he's on the floor.

B is not an option. If you cannot decide now, then you will not decide in the heat of the moment either.

A.
>>
No. 551523 ID: 36c336

>>551511
> Oh, and mention that she's tried to get you to kill him twice now. Does she have some sort of ulterior motive?

Yes, we are her client that is paying her for training. If we lose it looks really bad for her and fewer people will seek out her training.

It's depressing how we have so many voices that favour us becoming a slave.
>>
No. 552127 ID: ebe087
File 138710441480.png - (9.81KB , 800x600 , 20.png )
552127

>>551523
>>551490
Property? Slavery?
You have some dim views on marriage.
No, a Corsair is a Corsair. No one enslaves a Corsair. You can beat the shit out of a Corsair and humiliate them for the rest of their lives and force them into marriage, but once you're in that marriage, there are no rites of property to corral them.
That is why we fight: to prove that we are strong enough to have one another in the first place, without chains or whips.
Unless you're into that, I guess. I wonder if Growen is.
But not too hard.

The fight is tomorrow, now. Am I ready? I'm not sure.

But as I go through my morning spars with Aeschu, I feel different. Better. I read her minute movements now, her tells, and prepare for the attack before the attack.
Corsairs are never much for defense. It's almost surreal to see the way my spear can catch and turn aside hers, not that I don't take a few good contusions. Aeschu is Aeschu.

"You're improving," she says.
"You're damn right."
"Careful." She feints left and bonks me on the side of the head. "Don't let yourself be your own worst enemy." She backs away and stands up from her crouch. "That's morning practice. Get out of here and eat something."
"I'm rearing to go."
"You're twitching, Twitchy. Go."
>>
No. 552128 ID: ebe087
File 138710442915.png - (10.71KB , 800x600 , 21.png )
552128

"Stryza."

I pass Growen on the way to Mess. He's coming in the opposite direction, to train at the practice rooms.

"Haven't seen you in a few."
"I'm walking here, Growen."
"I can see that. Lunch?"
"Breakfast."
He whistles. "Dedication. Hey, listen. Stryza."
"I'm hungry, Growen."
"You know what one of the saddest parts of this whole affair is?"
"Your feeble attempts to distract me?"
"We used to spar all the time just for fun. Remember that?"
"The whole forced marriage thing is a bit of a wet blanket."

"Yeah, well." Growen steps aside to let me pass. "What if after brunch we tussle for a bit? Yeah? Practice Room Three? With the growths all over?"
"Can you not keep it in your pants another day?"
Growen shrugs. "I miss casual bouts."
"You torpedoed that tug yourself."
"Come on, Stryza. One more without the sexual tension?"

[a] No. It'll cut into valuable training time with Aeschu and let him see what he's up against.
[b] Yes. It'll give me the chance to figure out Growen's offense (and maybe my feelings for him).
[c] Yes. It'll give me the chance to "accidentally" hurt him now when no one is watching so that he's hamstrung during the actual fight.
>>
No. 552129 ID: 7bbaae

>>552128
B. B B B.
>>
No. 552130 ID: 53ba34

B. it would be nice to fight without anything on the line.
>>
No. 552145 ID: beeca1

Go with B.
>>
No. 552149 ID: fd6ae9

Yeah, B.

You've been too stubborn about honor to resort to c now, and a means you're acknowledging he's better than you- that you expect him to get more information out of this on you than you could get out on him.
>>
No. 552180 ID: 426c66

>>552128
see if you can kick his ass flat.
if you're able, suggest that he postpones the duel so you can think things through. if you decide you love him you can always propose to him. make it clear that you will not lose your duels, and if you win when he's challenging you he will never marry you - so his only hope is to call it off and convince you to want him.
>>
No. 552395 ID: ebe087
File 138727288847.png - (8.41KB , 800x600 , 22a.png )
552395

I sit uncomfortably on the hardwood Messhall pew, watching the flatgore worm squall and writhe on my spit.

My stomach turns over and undulates with its wounded flapping. I can't bring it to my lips.
This is a problem.
Usually I love these little fuckers.
Like them. A lot.

There's a curious whiff of foreboding tying my gut in knots. It has been nearly a week since Growen and I clashed blades.
Am I afraid he'll be too good?
Am I excited to show him my new moves?
Am I looking forward to fighting him again?
Am I just looking forward to seeing him again?

I know how to fight. It's easy. I fight all the time.
What makes him different?
>>
No. 552396 ID: ebe087
File 138727290562.png - (11.12KB , 800x600 , 22.png )
552396

"You have gotten better!"
Growen pulls back as I tuck my spear blade inside of his and whirl his jab harmlessly past my head.
I step into the attack and gut-check him with the backend of the pole.

His attacks are very strong, and he's incredibly fast. The touches are at his 8 to my 6. But he's relying on muscle too much, and the muscle is giving away the speartip's motion. I'm getting better at reading it, even if the kinetic crash of blocking his swipes are starting to make me lose feeling in my forearms.

He staggers backward, and turns it into a crazy rebalancing jig, two-stepping like when we were carefree trainees.
I catch myself about to laugh and smother it in the crib.
Growen straightens a little and bounces on his knees to get back into form. "Aeschu knows her business."

"Aeschu could be a meat tenderizer, if her business ever dried up," I say. "She's whipped my ass hard enough she might have left her signature."
"I could check for you."
"Careful." I spin my speartip back toward his face.

He shrugs and gives me his Growen smirk, dropping into dueling position.

[a] If I just keep this up, I'll learn more about his technique, even if it does wear me down.
[b] But some part of me wants to stop with the yelling and the crashing and talk to him. What about, I'm not sure.
>>
No. 552399 ID: 53ba34

ask if he wants to just have fun with thus. and just start half fighting half talking.
you want to know what he would even do with you afterwards.
>>
No. 552404 ID: 7bbaae

>>552399
Yeah. That's mostly B.

Remember, you need to find out if you want to marry this guy ever. Tomorrow, if you win, you will NEVER be married. If you lose, you WILL get married.

You must be sure what you want when you fight. If you aren't and win you may still lose in the end.
>>
No. 552416 ID: fd6ae9

b, I think.
>>
No. 553481 ID: df41f8
File 138791475991.png - (7.30KB , 800x600 , 23a.png )
553481

I try to slow the pace of the fighting a little. I ease up so I can get a word in edgewise.
He doesn't really get the message. I let a swipe through that nearly gives me an unwanted nose piercing.
"Wow. Ease up, Growen."
"My bad." Growen finally gets the message and gives over from his whirlwind of spearpoints. It looks a little ridiculous, but it's undeniably effective.
"You could have taken my nose off."
"Can you blame me? Such a large target of opportunity."
"Do you remember Bridigast? From Jump Training?"
"That was an impressive honker."
"What ever happened to him? I don't see him around."
"He died, Stryza."
"Really?"
"Bolt to the neck on a Prelagari freighter."
"Good. He had it coming. With the neckerchief."
"Oh, god. The neckerchief."
>>
No. 553482 ID: df41f8
File 138791483727.png - (12.02KB , 800x600 , 23.png )
553482

"Mine's smaller than that, right?" We lock spears and I pivot my head to the side. "Maybe a little?"
"Are you going to be this distracting tomorrow?"
"You're going to tell me you've been looking at my nose the entire time?"
Growen fakes low and strikes high. "Nine-Six."
"Fuck you."
"What, after the practice round?"
I will not laugh.
"Damn your black eyes, Growen."
"Many have."
"I have a question. Put the spear down for a second."

He steps out of combat distance. "Is it about tomorrow?"
"It is."
"Could we not? I was having a good time not thinking about it."
"It decides the course of the rest of both our lives, you fucking idiot. Of course you have to think about it."
"You got me there." He sighs. "I don't know. What's the question?"
"Are you duelling me because you want to marry me or because you want to humiliate me?"
"What?"
"You heard me." I take a step away. The confrontation is back in my stance.
"I don't want to humiliate you--"
"You just want to be better than me."
"That's--" He screws up his face. He's wrestling with himself. "That's how it's done."
"Does that mean I have to be okay with it?"
"I don't-- I just want to impress you."

[a] Shut up. You don't have to impress me.
[b] Shut up. You've already impressed me.
[c] Shut up. You'll never impress me.
[d] Shut up. You love me, idiot.
>>
No. 553483 ID: 53ba34

d.

he admitted he wants to marry you, and beating you is the only way to do it. he probably looked for loopholes. but with none he became a practice crazy mofo
>>
No. 553488 ID: 40c3d1

D.
And idiot I am, I love you too.
>>
No. 553505 ID: 9b57d3

>>553482
D.

As it is now, he won't humiliate you. It'll be a close fight. You've succeeded. He's a worthy foe and so are you.
>>
No. 553516 ID: cad45e

D
Then smooch him, we must reach maximum cheesy romance levels.
>>
No. 553552 ID: cf49fc

>>553482
D.

Then, tomorrow, kick his ass and rape him in celebration.
>>
No. 554101 ID: df41f8
File 138830980387.png - (7.52KB , 800x600 , 24.png )
554101

"Shut the fuck up, Growen." I raise my spear. "You love me, idiot."
"What?"
Growen takes a step forward and I sweep his legs out from under him, sending him painfully to the floor.
I rest the tip of my spear on his face. "Admit it."

"What the fuck do you mean, love?"

"You love me or you're an insane moron. I think it's the former." I push the spear up to his nose. He cranes his face away.

"Corsairs don't love! That's not what we do!"
"Then you're a pretty lousy corsair, Growen." I plant a foot on his stomach. "Admit it."
"Damn it, Stryza! Let me up!"
"That's why you want to marry me. Holy shit. It's because you love me, isn't it? You've been skipping raids because you love me. And I-"
My voice catches. What was I about to say?

"You're the insane moron." Growen flinches as my speartip nears his eye. "A corsair loves conquest. Corsairs Conquer In All. So-" He swallows.
"So?" I dig my heel into his gut.
"So even if I did, it wouldn't change anything! A fight is a fight. Even if I did love you, I have to kick your ass." He tries to kick out from under my foot. I lean on my leg. "If this is you trying to get me to keep your fucking ego intact by throwing the towel in over a bleeding heart land-dweller fable, it's not going to work. Get off."

[a] Tell him you're going to throw the fight.
[b] Give him a debilitating wound. Make sure the fight goes how you want it.
[c] Let him up and leave.
[d] Start hurting him until he admits it.
>>
No. 554102 ID: f44ca3

C. But help him up.

Tell him he can keep his secrets if he wants but it would help you decide how to treat the duel tomorrow if you knew.
>>
No. 554119 ID: 53ba34

if it wasn't true he would not have been as distracted as he was.
C
>>
No. 554121 ID: 9b57d3

D. Since when have you backed down about anything?
>>
No. 554123 ID: 7b3268

C- but say "We'll see who's the true Corsair when the duel arrives!"
>>
No. 554125 ID: fd6ae9

C. Refusing to admit it changes nothing.
>>
No. 554288 ID: df41f8
File 138839009802.png - (6.83KB , 800x600 , 25.png )
554288

I back off, leaving him gasping on the floor.
"Fine. We'll see who the true Corsair is tomorrow."
He gets shakily to his feet and strides to the far wall. "You're goddamn right we will." He raps his knuckles on the membranous wall and the door starts to suck and pull itself into existence.
"Growen."
"What?"
"Refusing to admit it changes nothing."
"It doesn't," he says. "Because I'm going to win no matter what."
>>
No. 554289 ID: df41f8
File 138839010352.png - (6.36KB , 800x600 , 26.png )
554289

He leaves, and in a moment or two the door closes with a suctiony gulping sound.

My hands are trembling. I put one on my hip and one on my spear and force them to hold still.
What am I going to do?
>>
No. 554312 ID: 53ba34

we fight him tomorrow. he can't be halfway about this. if he refuses to admit it to even you, maybe he doesn't deserve you. call him a coward for it when you are fighting. he isn't scared of you, oh no, he is scared of everyone else, of what they think of him. so he lies to himself to make think he isn't a lover.
>>
No. 554323 ID: 9b57d3

>>554289
You're gonna fight, and you're gonna lose, because Growen is more skilled than you at this juncture.

If it looks like you will win, throw the fight. You know you have SOME feelings for him, and by now you should at least respect his drive. Marrying him should be something you WANT to happen.
>>
No. 554326 ID: 0f1482

...you're going to fight. You don't know what the outcome will be, but you're going to do your best. You can't allow any different from yourself.

Do you have a place you can go to to find some peace tonight? Someplace quiet, or special to you, where you can calm yourself or meditate on what's coming?
>>
No. 555265 ID: df41f8
File 138891608663.png - (52.18KB , 800x600 , 27.png )
555265

I return to my cabin, strip my armor off, and hang it back on the wall. I sit cross-legged on the bed, staring at it. I see my reflection, pale and naked, distorted in the dark, swirling metal.
I look so vulnerable. So soft and... un-spiky. Besides the nose. Am I ready to show this to someone else?
I imagine Growen looking at me right now. A prickling heat runs up my limbs and into my spine. My back arches a little.
Ugh. I'm blushing.
I breathe deeply, and banish the thought from my mind. In its place comes a thick, encompassing lethargy. I'm bone-tired.

Thank God for Aeschu's brutalizing training.

I feared that I might not get any sleep, but as soon as I close my eyes my brain snaps off.
>>
No. 555266 ID: df41f8
File 138891609129.png - (13.53KB , 800x600 , 28.png )
555266

"Corsairs."

The High Matchmaker wears heavy, slick leathers and a black iron helmet. I don't think anyone knows if they are a man or a woman. Their voice is a low, sonorous peal. It echoes across the arena. Everyone I know is here. Ryxis. Pescin. Yruli.

Aeschu leans on a wall near the back, unmoving.

"This is the deciding duel between the Warrior Growen and the Warrior Stryza," the Matchmaker says. "Should Growen win, they are to be joined in marriage. Should Stryza win, Growen shall never in his life have her, and she will scar him as she chooses.

Should either of them die, the point is moot."
>>
No. 555268 ID: df41f8
File 138891631266.png - (6.83KB , 800x600 , 29.png )
555268

"Growen. To win your bride, you must draw bloodflow thrice, bring her to the floor six times, or force her to submit.

"Stryza. To rebuff your suitor, you must do the same, or kill him.

"You will be armed with nothing but your spear and yourself. You will not leave the arena until the duel is decided. These are the only rules.

"Do you understand, Growen?"
"Aye."

"Do you understand, Stryza?"

[a] Aye.
[b] Wait. I have a question.
[c] Growen wins. I submit.
>>
No. 555272 ID: cad45e

Seems pretty straightforward
A
Let's beat that pussy up.
>>
No. 555298 ID: 1e9bd6

Just to head off any unnecessary drama, what happens if we're stupid enough to draw blood from each other the third time at the same time or something?
>>
No. 555311 ID: f44ca3

B. Ask for clarification on the whole "never in his live shall have her" part. The question is if you win can you still have him if he can not have you.

Also as a Corsair you take what you want right? So if you win you can scar him by making him your husband.

Whatever you do do not submit right off. If you want to go that route do it after you have shown your skill in the ring. If he wants you so bad make him work for it.
>>
No. 555320 ID: 7bbaae

>>555268
B. What happens if it's a draw?
>>
No. 555325 ID: cf49fc

>>555268
"If I draw HIS blood thrice and knock him to the floor six times, can I have him?"
>>
No. 555334 ID: 53ba34

A
>>
No. 555341 ID: 7bbaae

>>555325
This could be better phrased as "Shouldn't I get to choose if we marry or not, if I win?"
>>
No. 555478 ID: cad45e

Does it really matter if we marry him or not?

I mean we can still beat the living shit out of him, drag him to bed, fuck him and live our life with him. Because i seriously don't think they follow the good christian way of marriage where you do it not to be A) shunned for being a bit of an slut and B)Get a bonus for child care and such.

I mean sure, a preggers woman can't probably fight that well but what do we expect if pussy ass Mcduel over there is gonna do when he realises that flinging a staff around isn't really gonna help against in not-duels.

So really, what is the problem here. Here a marriage is just a title of who's got the bigger ego to show off on.
>>
No. 555683 ID: df41f8
File 138908551219.png - (11.86KB , 800x600 , 30.png )
555683

"I have some questions."

The crowd murmurs. Growen narrows his eyes.

"What?" I hiss at him. "I do."

"Ask, Stryza." The Matchmaker seems entirely unperturbed.

"What if we both draw third blood at once?"
"Then the next is determinant."
"So there's no way for, say, a draw? Or for me to marry him even if I win?"
"No."
"You're sure that-"
"Your opponent awaits, Corsair. Will you fight?"

Growen hasn't moved. His knees are locked in a half-kneel. He drums his fingers on his spear.
I recognize this as the ready position for a gut thrust. He likes to hold like this when he's waiting for his opponent. He has a way of switching it into a low sweep at the last second that always catches me.

[a] Say "Aye". Start circling him to get him off his footwork, then flurry to attack.
[b] Say "Aye". Stay on the defensive and wait for him to crack. He's on-edge.
[c] Keep questioning the Matchmaker.
[d] Surprise attack Growen before you say "Aye."
[e] ___________
>>
No. 555690 ID: 1e6280

A, aye, attack!
>>
No. 555719 ID: 7bbaae

>>555683
A.
>>
No. 555723 ID: 937723

A. Also might want to taunt him a bit. If you can make him reveal his true feelings even in front of everyone it would help.
>>
No. 555724 ID: 627d94

B. Drawing this out gives you more time, and forcing him to come to you means you're not falling for his trap.
>>
No. 555802 ID: df41f8
File 138916994505.png - (13.61KB , 800x600 , 31.png )
555802

"Aye," I say.

I drop into the same low, predatory gait Growen has, circling him slowly around the skirt of the arena.
His lips thin as he swivels his head to follow my motion--
There.

A foot shifted thoughtlessly out of place and I see my opening.
I charge, swinging for his nondominant arm.

In a split second our spears meet, sing, and find marks.
I see a fleck of scarlet as I draw first blood, slicing a shallow cut into his bicep.

Then he knocks me flat on my ass.

His spear whistles downward, looking to bleed me.

[a] Roll out of the way, disorienting yourself but neatly avoiding the strike and increasing the distance between you.
[b] Kip up and be aggressive. Meet force with force.
[c] Aeschu trained you for this. If you can see the strike coming, you can turn the strike aside, even on the ground.
[d] Take the hit.
>>
No. 555832 ID: 53ba34

C
>>
No. 555849 ID: 0c2931

C
>>
No. 555853 ID: 627d94

1/3 blood versus 1/6 falls.

C.
>>
No. 555860 ID: 7bbaae

I think that the optimal end result here is us losing but only barely or to a tiebreaker, and a slightly less optimal result is coming extremely close to victory then forfeiting.

Focusing on defense is fine for that end result, so C is a good choice.
>>
No. 556099 ID: df41f8
File 138925847979.png - (9.74KB , 800x600 , 32.png )
556099

I swing my spear around and use the momentum from the spear-on-spear strike to spin my legs round into a graceful return to my feet.

As it turns Growen's strike aside, the butt-end of my spear is supposed to sweep his legs out from under him.

That is not what happens. The place it hits instead knocks him to the ground all the same, gasping and curling up.

There is an uncomfortable groan of sympathy from the male members of the audience. A couple of them cross their legs, involuntarily.

Growen has been brought to the floor handily, and it looks like he's focused more on the pain than his spearplay.

[a] Then he won't notice if you stick him. Get more blood.
[b] He's down, but Growen has a history of quick recovery and attack. Maybe he's not as hurt as he seems. Back away, ready.
[c] Awww, you hit him in the dick. That's not kosher. Tell him it was a mistake and give him a moment to recover.
>>
No. 556100 ID: 53ba34

b and c. back up to be safe but apologize. and comment this can all end if he just ells the truth.
>>
No. 556133 ID: db7998

1 blood 1 fall to 1 fall

b. I'm more inclined to believe he's trying to draw you in than that you got lucky. And if you did, no need to push that luck.

Don't bother apologizing, for now. The only apology he needs at the moment is that you didn't take the chance to run him through.
>>
No. 556141 ID: 7bbaae

>>556099
Dammit Growen stop losing!

B, but with the mindset of C.
>>
No. 556142 ID: fe4bfc

B and C.

Back away slowly and apologize for the accidental crotch shot.

Mention if he admits how he really feels then you would do the same.
>>
No. 556211 ID: df41f8
File 138930803254.png - (11.36KB , 800x600 , 33.png )
556211

"I didn't mean to do that." I stand all the way up and back away.
"Uhhhhgmgg." Growen rolls over.
"But they invented cups for a reason," I say, "and I don't think you're as hurt as you look."

"Aw, fuck you, Corsair." Growen pushes from the floor, plants his spear, and flows like black ink into an acrobatic polevaulting kick.

It's fancy and everything, but my spear's already coming up to meet him.
"Yes! Stryza!" I can hear Aeschu screeching in the crowd. "That's the way!"

[a] Try to get his leg with the hook-edge and bleed him.
[b] Try to hook his leg and send him crashing back to the floor.
[c] Try to sidestep his kick then attack when he's out of position.
>>
No. 556212 ID: 7bbaae

>>556211
The fucking comes later, Growen!

B.
>>
No. 556214 ID: fe4bfc

A or B. Go for which ever one has the best chance of success.

Taunt him a bit. Ask if he is ready to admit his true feelings or if he is to afraid to.
>>
No. 556215 ID: 070f9e

I want to say a D of smack dat spear out from under him. Leave him REALLY helpless before you.
But as that sadly is not an option?
C-he's already in motion, he won't be able to stop himself I think.
>>
No. 556220 ID: cee89f

>>556211
"You wish."
A
>>
No. 556222 ID: 03e747

A
>>
No. 556223 ID: df41f8
File 138931234997.png - (11.66KB , 800x600 , 34.png )
556223

"Not before you've earned it!"
I catch the leg between the hook-blade and the pommel and twist.
The edge rakes a long gash along his leg, and I'm rewarded with the sight of blood

a split second before his foot hits my face. Ow.

Growen hits the floor as I stagger backward, a hand to my lip. It comes away red.
We've both drawn blood.
My head is spinning. If Growen's chipped a tooth his ass is grass.

"My plan all along." Growen gets shakily to his feet. "Hah. Oof."

[a] You've got the advantage in footwork now. Move quick and keep him on his toes.
[b] But you've also cut his arm. His upper body's weakened. Go all-out and overpower him.
[c] You're stunned and dizzy. Stay back and on your proven defense while your head clears.
[d] _______
>>
No. 556224 ID: 53ba34

c
"tell the truth or i will end this, and your dream dies."
>>
No. 556229 ID: 7bbaae

Hey, no psychological warfare.
Score is
Growen: 1/3 bled, 1/6 down.
Stryza: 2/3 bled, 2/6 down.

Warn him that you're one bleed away from winning. Consider using the blunt side of your spear from here on and staying away from anywhere that could draw blood from blunt force. Alternatively, consider forfeiting the fight right here and now to be safe. That would be option D.

Hey, does anything in your laws say "to the victor go the spoils" or something?
>>
No. 556238 ID: df41f8
File 138931887873.png - (61.97KB , 800x600 , 35.png )
556238

"You're one bleed away." I step away, grounding myself and trying to clear out the stars around my head. "Tell the truth, and admit you love me, or I'm ending this."

"No!"
Growen is on his feet again in an instant. He attacks like a man possessed.
I've never seen him move this fast. Even with all of Aeschu's training, I can barely keep up with him.
"I did not--" says Growen. "Work for years--" His spear slams past my guard and carves a gash into my cheek. "To lose you now!"

[a] Focus. Block and riposte. Aeschu has taught you how to deal with this.
[b] Sweep his legs out. He's distraught. He'll never notice you.
[c] Give in and take another hit.
[d] Try to disengage and get some distance on him.
[e] Tell him you love him.
[f] __________
>>
No. 556242 ID: 53ba34

a

"a liar doesn't deserve me"
>>
No. 556248 ID: 7bbaae

>>556238
Ha! That's more like it! 2/3 bleeds for him now! I'm interested in A or B, but just be careful you don't bleed him.

Point out that it doesn't matter what drives him in his conquest. Can you not seek to possess that which you love?
>>
No. 556258 ID: f44ca3

A. You trained hard for this and he is wildly lashing out now. Focus and get him on the defensive.

You could have had me already if you would just admit why you wanted me. But I am not going to lose to a coward who does not even have the strength to tell me how he feels.
>>
No. 556262 ID: 256d52

A. & E. 'But I love you.'
>>
No. 556320 ID: df41f8
File 138933535956.png - (5.22KB , 800x600 , 36.png )
556320

I lock eye contact with Aeschu for a moment.

She's up in the balcony, her arms crossed.

I think of her face under the helmet, the long strips of flesh peeled away and the pale bone underneath.
>>
No. 556321 ID: df41f8
File 138933537261.png - (10.76KB , 800x600 , 37.png )
556321

I catch one of Growen's lashing stabs and twist, hard.
The spears clash, grind, and tighten together. I pull on mine, hard, and his comes with it, propelled by his momentum.
The spear-arm comes a split second later, and I grab it and bend it back, hard enough that the bone nearly comes out the socket. My foot sweeps out and slam's Growen's off the ground.

He hits the floor. His spear hits about ten feet away from us.
>>
No. 556322 ID: df41f8
File 138933537803.png - (8.11KB , 800x600 , 38.png )
556322

"Say it now."

It's like we're in the practice room, again, but there's no escaping it now for either of us.

My spear is inches from his eye. "Tell me you love me. Or I'll fucking kill you."

"Okay! Yes! I love you! Okay?" Growen spits the word out of his mouth like a hot coal. "Of course I love you. I've idolized you since creche. All I've ever done was to impress you enough that you'd take me! And then when it was clear you wouldn't, I spent half a decade getting good enough to take you! I love love love love love you, Stryza! Fuck!"


The arena is entirely silent. Two-score corsairs watch and say not a word. You could hear a bubble-polyp burst.


[a] Kill him.
[b] Take his eye.
[c] Draw blood again and win.
[d] Cut your own thumb.
>>
No. 556325 ID: 5ce288

A or C
>>
No. 556326 ID: 256d52

D! D! D! Reverse your spear, let him take grab the end and D!
>>
No. 556327 ID: 53ba34

d
"i won the fight, being honest won me"
>>
No. 556331 ID: d6c045

"I am a Corsair. And I will not be bested by you, nor by tradition."

[D]

"Did you try just ASKING?"
>>
No. 556332 ID: db7998

"Idiot."

D.
>>
No. 556334 ID: f44ca3

Ask him if it was so hard to admit. Tell him although it took awhile he did manage to impress you.

C or D. I think he would make you a nice husband if you want him. If you throw the fight he gets you but it was your decision in the end and no one will look down on you for it.

Up to you though. At this point if you take the fall your pride is intact. So ask yourself one last time what you want. Its your heart and your life on the line.
>>
No. 556339 ID: cee89f

>>556331
Agreed. But add in 'dumbass'.
>>
No. 556340 ID: df41f8
File 138933818844.png - (7.94KB , 800x600 , 39.png )
556340

"Idiot."
I plant my spear on the ground.
"You have never beaten me, and you'll never beat me. Ever. Not in speed, or in looks, or at raiding, or at drinking, and never, ever, ever in combat. Why do you think I'd let you beat me in something so simple as making me bleed, worm?"

I flick my forefinger up and slice it open on the hookblade.
>>
No. 556341 ID: df41f8
File 138933820185.png - (9.31KB , 800x600 , 40.png )
556341

"Oops," I say. Growen's eyes widen. "Clumsy fuckin' me."
>>
No. 556342 ID: df41f8
File 138933823578.png - (6.55KB , 800x600 , 41.png )
556342

"Enough."
The Matchmaker's smooth, deep voice overpowers the suddenly raucous crowd. I can't tell if they're pissed off or loving it or what.
"The duel is over. Stryza has bled three times. Growen has won his claim. He and Stryza are married."

The arena's quiet all over again.

"And now, if I may be so bold as to depart from protocol, Stryza," says the Matchmaker. Their emotions remain entirely unreadable. "Have you anything to say for yourself?"
>>
No. 556343 ID: 53ba34

"i love this big galoot too, and we will get the biggest horde anyone has ever seen."
>>
No. 556344 ID: db7998

I did not let myself be defeated, and I took what I wanted. What else is there for a corsair to say?
>>
No. 556345 ID: 53ba34

i suppose you could say "i wanted him too, but he challenged me first, so the only way to have him was to lose, but it would be on my terms."
>>
No. 556346 ID: cee89f

>>556342
"More than one way to get what you want."
>>
No. 556355 ID: df41f8
File 138934471263.png - (8.51KB , 800x600 , 42.png )
556355

"Corsairs take what they want," I say. "And I want him. We are going to have a massive hoard and a brace of incredibly strong and savage kids."
>>
No. 556356 ID: df41f8
File 138934472466.png - (8.05KB , 800x600 , 43.png )
556356

>>
No. 556357 ID: df41f8
File 138934473524.png - (11.18KB , 800x600 , 44.png )
556357

"--So fuck tradition, fuck matchmaking, and fuck whoever says otherwise. I didn't lose and I got what I wanted. What else is there for a corsair to say?"

"That is... an unimpeachable sentiment," says the Matchmaker, sounding for the first time vaguely impressed. "Has anyone complaint enough to face Stryza? Speak now or forever hold your cowardly tongue."

Everyone watches expectantly. No one dares to say anything.

"Then I believe this ceremonial duel is finished." The Matchmaker pushes themself from the banister and straightens.
The ship suddenly groans and rocks to the left.
"And unless I am very much mistaken," says the Matchmaker, "the Tyrant Star hunts again."
>>
No. 556358 ID: df41f8
File 138934475573.png - (7.96KB , 800x600 , 45.png )
556358

A ragged cheer goes up from the crowd as Corsairs take to their feet and stampede from the arena, ready for conflict and conquest.

The Tyrant Star is tearing its wicked way across the razor skies of Daranarache again, chasing another doomed schooner or hamstrung frigate.

As people leave, I'm given several handshakes, one hug, and a death stare from a fat corsair named Rivia, which I return twice as hard and send her scurrying away to the gunwales.

"You impressed me there, Growen." I pull Growen to his feet. "If it's any consolation."
"It is."
"And I love you too, dumbass."
"You do?"
"I do."
"Really?"
"Yes, really, Growen, what do you want? I'm a Corsair, not a poet."
"You're one screaming black hell of a corsair, Stryza."
"You know it. Stick with me, boy." I kiss him again. "We'll conquer the world and look beautiful doing it."
"Well, maybe I will. You can knock them over with your nose."
"Shut the fuck up, darling."

I look toward the door. It widens and warps before the outpouring of black-clad hellions.

[a] Drag your husband along and join the raid.
[b] Both of you are war-wounded and tired. Skipping one more raid won't kill you. It's time to get some rest and enjoy your prize.
>>
No. 556359 ID: 256d52

A. What better start for your wedding night?
>>
No. 556363 ID: 480af5

B. You've both done enough fighting today to earn some sexytime with the hubby
>>
No. 556367 ID: 8ea63b

>>556358
a. fight as a pair!
>>
No. 556387 ID: db7998

A. It has been entirely too long since either of you went raiding.
>>
No. 556394 ID: 8ea63b

wait didn't you dislocate his shoulder?
>>
No. 556405 ID: b50bd5

B. You're both already hurt and need time to recover. Taking time to regain your balance worked for you in the fight just now, right?
>>
No. 556406 ID: 53ba34

a. it's time he started getting that hoard going again.
>>
No. 556422 ID: df41f8
File 138938487628.png - (4.97KB , 800x600 , 46.png )
556422

I pick up Growen's spear and throw it to him.
"Come on, Lover Boy. Time to prove you still remember how to raid."
"I've forgotten more than you'll ever know."
"Good. Well then remember it, watch my ass when we're fighting, and we'll get a shitton of loot as Corsairs should, and we'll kill like twenty people, and then when it's over I am taking the longest shower of my life, and then we're going back to my cabin." I lean in and whisper in his ear. "And then you can do anything you want to me."
"Anything?"
"Anything."
>>
No. 556423 ID: df41f8
File 138938489189.png - (8.37KB , 800x600 , 47.png )
556423

"You fought like a warrior, Stryza," says Aeschu, finally coming down from the balcony.
I turn from the groom and give her a short bow. "You taught me how."
"Maybe I did." A hint of pride crawls its way into Aeschu's voice. "You didn't have it in you the whole time, is for sure."
"If you badmouth my wife too much, I'll have to kill you, Aeschu," says Growen. "I think that's a rule."
"We're Corsairs," says Aeschu. "Stryza just demonstrated we have no rules." She stalks from the room. "I'll see you two in the breach. Good hunting."

"How's your speararm feel?" I ask Growen.
"Hungry," says Growen. "I've had it with trying to stab things that can defend themselves well."
"Then let's get out there and you can show me if you raid as good as you kiss."
>>
No. 556424 ID: df41f8
File 138938489764.png - (6.70KB , 800x600 , 48.png )
556424

With the crack and groan of metallic tendons, the Tyrant Star's jaws close around its prey.
The panicking defenders marshal a resistance on their vessel's bloodslick deck. They try to pry the thickening bridges of ichor and steel from their gunwales.

But it's too late.

From within the Tyrant Star's guts, a piercing, joyous cry of battle thrills through the night.
>>
No. 556425 ID: df41f8
File 138938491170.png - (21.75KB , 800x600 , 49.png )
556425

And in the center of the first wave, carving and screeching our way through the disintegrating defenses, moving like shadows and killing like poetry, my husband and I begin our honeymoon.
>>
No. 556428 ID: beeca1

Can you afford a nosejob yet?
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