A/N: Alright, I had promised that I'd upload it by the 27th so here you go.
Oh and Nexy, you wanted some romance so I tried my best to make something work. Fingers crossed that you don't end up disappointed and come chase me around with a chainsaw.
Anyway, on with the fic...
The Land of Dragons looked beautiful at night. Sure, it looked magnificent all day, but it looked dazzling in the dark; quite literally with all the paper lanterns lined along the streets and on the roofs and windows of the houses. It was the Emperor's birthday and it was a special night. And special events here meant lots of light and good food and music. A day of fun where people forget all the negativity in the world and drink until their smiles become permanent for the day.
During the day the Emperor would ride a chariot in the middle of a parade and visit every street in every village. The paraders would present the children with many gifts. The little boys would recieve toy swords and shields, the little girls toy combs and mirrors. By the time the Emperor got back to the palace, the place would already be set up for the birthday feast; a table as long as the hall being able to easily fit more than five hundred people. The invited who were not lucky enough to get a seat at the table were lucky enough to sit on one of the balconies looking down at the table. Everyone got their fill of food, drink and 'extras' no matter where they sat or when they got there. It was the only day that the soldiers of the imperial army got a break from their duties and got a chance to sit down and relax. The Emperor saw to it that everyone had a smile on their face before retiring himself to his chambers. The guests were allowed to do as they desired, as long as it was in the law, until early dawn after which the palace servants would have to clean the mess up and prepare the hall for the upcoming day.
So tonight was the same. The Emperor sat proud at the head of the table, with both sides of his table lined with rows of people's faces and food and drink in their reach. The balconies were teeming with children and people who couldn't afford the table. The imperial soldiers and palace servants were seated on the steps leading up to the gates to other rooms and chambers. Eveyone was silent and had their goblets held up in front of them.
The Emperor cleared his throat and began his speech with a question: "Can I have Isaac and Captain Li Shang up here?"
Two people stood up from either side of the steps. The one who rose from the soldiers side was a tall muscular man with tidy jet-black hair and a handsome but stern face. He strode proudly up to the Emperor and kneeled next to him in respect.
The one who rose from the other side was a boy, and by his appearance looked like an outsider. He looked to be about fifteen and had a slim build and dirty sandy blond hair. His eyes were dark blue and in the heat of the situation, a tinge of nervousness sparked in them. Hesitating, he finally walked up beside the Captain and copied his poise.
After motioning for them to rise, the Emperor continued. "Captain, I would like for you to look at this boy." Li Shang obeyed and looked Isaac up and down. The boy shifted around nervously trying to fight the urge to turn and walk back to his seat. The Captain looked back at the Emperor for further orders. "Now, answer me honestly: do you see him as an able soldier for your army?"
Both of them looked taken aback at the question and they both exchanged confused and shocked glances with each other. Hesitating, the Captain nodded as an answer. "Yes", he said, "although I would like to see his abilities before I finalize my decision."
Isaac looked at him in utter dsbelief. He was about to protest when the Emperor said, "Very well", and clapped his hands. A group of servants ran across the hall clearing the area of people until there was ample space for an elephant to give birth. Two of the female servants quickly ran across the hall and fetched weapons and armour. The Captain was already in armour so all he had to do was to pick a sword. He chose the longest and thickest of them all and swung it around effortlessly in one hand and then the other. Isaac began to shuffle through the racks of mail and weapons, sweat trickling down his face. I'm dead, he thought. The Emperor has power and the right to get what he wants. Sure, I'm okay with it. But having me fight as entertainment? Not cool, man. Not cool at all.
He was so lost in looking for the right thing, as well as in thought, that he didn't notice the maid come behind him. "You haven't fought before, have you?" Isaac almost jumped hearing her voice. He was about to yell at her for sneaking up on him but stopped when he got a glance of her. She was dressed in simple blue clothes that usually hides the figure, but hers were tighter around the waist. She had an impossibly slender body that made his cheeks flush when he looked. What bothered him more than her figure was her face. Her hair was of an odd hue of green and was styled in an updo on the upper back of her head with bangs going down the side of her face. Her hair really made the colour of her eyes stand out which were bright purple. Her features seemed to glow in the light of the lanterns, making her look absolutely stunning. Isaac found himself staring and quickly looked away, failing to hide his reddened cheeks. He knew she was out of his league but he couldn't help it. He felt her frown and sigh.
"Have you?" she repeated. Isaac kept his eyes down. "I...I have", he stammered. "I have...fought before. Just...just not...not in front of an audience."
"Well, you better get ready or..." she started then saw the look on his face. "You have no idea what to choose, do you?" she asked. Isaac felt his cheeks blush even more as he shook his head as a response. The maid rolled her eyes and walked up to the rack of equipment. "Come on, kid", she said, "I'll help you." She picked out a medium sized chainmail vest and held it up against his torso, and smiled when she saw it fit. She helped him put it on over his clothes. Then she pulled him over to the swords section. She kept icking out swords and handing them to Isaac but he had difficulty swinging them around without dropping them or risking cutting himself or the maid. She didn't tell me her name, did she? he thought. He was about to ask her when he handed him a sword and said, "Try this. It should be light enough for you." He took it and swung it around and smiled when he was able to swing it around smoothly without cutting himself. He turned to thank the maid but she was already back on the steps seating with the other maids. Even among a group of other women wearing the same thing, she still stood out to him.
He found her looking in his way and gave her a smile before walking up to meet the Captain. He bowed his head in respect before getting in a battle stance. The Emperor looked at Isaac then the Captain, then nodded. The crowd around them went wild with drunk cheers and howls. Isaac found himself charging at the Captain and before he knew it he was slashing and hacking at the Captain as fast as a praying mantis. The Captain swiftly blocked his attacks and delivered a kick to his thigh. Isaac groaned in pain but kept on going. The Captain charged at him with a flurry of slashes and kicks. Isaac blocked most of his strikes with his sword but a kick caught him in his thigh again and his knees buckled before he fell down.
The Captain walked up to him and extended a hand. "I do not strike a kneeling man", he said. Isaac groaned and managed to get up but he limped when he tried to move. The Captain rested his sword and sighed. "You are wounded. I do not continue fights with the wounded, especially if they are as inexperienced as you." He finished and turned back just in time to parry an overhead blow from Isaac. The blow seemed to have stunned him because it was fairly easy for Isaac to push him over with the hilt of his sword. By the time the Captain recovered and stood up Isaac had closed the distance between them and he had the end of his sword pointed at the Captain's throat. The crowd was deadly silent, unless one counted the hiccups and burps from the drunk folk. The Emperor had his eyes and mouth open wide in shock. The Captain dropped his sword and Isaac helped him up. They bowed to each other and strode up to the Emperor.
"Has this helped make your decision any easier?" he asked. The Captain nodded. He glanced at Isaac and smiled. "The batallion - no, the army - would be proud to have a hand such as him", he said. Isaac looked at him and beamed. The Captain patted his shoulder with a proud smile on his face.
"So how about it, Isaac?" the Emperor asked. "Are you going to join Captan Li Shang's battalion?"
Isaac looked at the Captain, then at the soldiers on the steps, the at his fellow servants and maids. He looked at the maid who helped him and he saw her looking a him with a smile on her face. He found it hard not to stare. After a few seconds he shook his head. The Captain dropped his smile but the Emperor kept his up. "But it is a great honour to fight for your land. Do you disagree?"
"No, your highness", said Isaac. "It is a great deal of honour. But with all due respect, your highness, I don't think I'm ready." He felt everyone's eyes on him. She was looking at him too. "I mean", he continued, "I couldn't even choose my weapons properly. I'm not ready for war and I work better off alone. So, your highness, I'm sorry, but I decline your offer."
The Emperor considered this. "Well", he said, stroking his beard, "You have proved yourself in a fight putting the Captain to shame." The Captain crossed his arms and looked away. "And I certainly can't have you working under the same roof as poor Naomi", The Emeror continued. Isaac's face fell and turned bright red as he looked at Naomi, the girl with the green hair, looking away as she blushed. He looked back as the Emperor continued. "Why, let things go on like this and you're going to end up breaking something. And to ensure it is not your young hearts, I free you both from my service."
Isaac couldn't believe it. He stood there with his jaw dropped and his shocked eyes wide. "But...but", he managed to utter, "your highness. I can't."
"Nonsense", the Emperor laughed. "I won't have it any other way. Consider this my present from you: your freedom."
Isaac tried to protest but a quick intimidating shake of the head from the Captain stopped him. He instead kneeled down in front of the Emperor. The crowd around them erupted into claps and cheers.
It was almost dawn when Isaac decided to go fetch his stuff. He felt so proud. I'm not one of you losers anymore, he imagined himself saying to his fellow palace servant friends. Tomorrow, I'm gonna be out there fixing the villages Shan Yu destroyed. Don't worry I'll come back alive. Hopefully, I'll bring you souvinirs.
The way to the servants' quarters was through the left passage through the Palace walls. The maids' rooms were the first door on the way. He had to go to the next door which led to te men's rooms. While he passed the maids' chamber he heard voices, but he was too busy thinking to notice some of them were male voices. What made him come to his senses and stop was Naomi's voice. She sounded pissed.
"Get the hell out of here!" he heard Naomi say. One of the male voices laughed and said, "We just want a peek, sugar." "Yeah, we won't bite", said the other male. Isaac gritted his teeth. What's going on?
"Don't you touch her!" yelled a female voice, probably from an old lady. Isaac could hear her old lady feet shuffle across the wooden floor. "Buzz off, hag!" said the first man. Isaac heard what sounded like something picked up and thrown. A loud crash resounded resounded from a wall before a choked up scream of pain from the old lady. "Come here", said the second man and his feet stomped towards Naomi. Soon followed a shrill scream in her voice.
Isaac couldn't take this any more. He slid the wooden door open and barged in. "Hey, pick on someone your own-" but he stopped himself. If he finished the sentence with 'size' it would be ridiculously ironic. The two men in front of him were built with bodies like gorillas, their faces even more so.
The first man had his back to Isaac. He was looking at an old lady who lay bleeding and twitching on the floor in front of him. Isaac looked up disgusted at the second man. He stood there with a beefy hand holding Naomi's arms back, the other hand held in front of her her barely-covered breasts. He was looking straight at Isaac.
"Buzz off, kid", said the first man. Isaac held firm, his eyes fixed on the man holding Naomi. Her clothes were almost torn off and she had tears streaming down her face. "Get away you idiot!"she yelled at Isaac. He shook his head.
"Better listen to her", said the first man uncapped the sword at his side. Isaac realised the second man was armed too, but with his hands full he couldn't reach his weapon. In one swift movement, dodging a slash from the first man, he pulled the sword out of the man's scabbard and kicked him in the legs, making his knees buckle and release Naomi. Getting her chance she elbowed the man in the neck, making him faint, before running further down the chamber into another room.
"Naomi!" cried Isaac before turning to block a slash from the armed man, their faces inches from each other. The man flashed a crooked grin. "You're the lad who beat the Captain!" Isaac flashed a clean grin. "Scared?" he spat. The man frowned at this and attemped a kick. Isaac dropped the angle of his sword so that it made the man's sword jump up, and he jumped under the sword and brought his feet down hard onto the man's outstretched leg, loudly cracking the bones as it crashed into the floor. He screamed hysterically and flailed around. "You little punk!" he yelled, "Do you know who I am?"
Isaac was about to say no but then he noticed a mark on the man's arm: a tattoo of a hawk's head with a jagged scar across the eye. Isaac mouthed the word Shan Yu. The man nodded and fainted from the pain.
He just stood there when he heard movement from the rooms. He dropped the sword and quickly ran away, paying no heed to where the road was taking him.
By the time he realised there was nobody behind him he was standing in front of the palace lily pond. Looking at the water, the surface reflecting the moon, and the lily pads really helped him calm down. His breath steadied and he managed to sit on the edge of the water without disturbing the still of the water.
He heard movement behid him. By the time he turned around there was a knife blade pointed at his throat. The hand holding the hilt had colour changing nails. He didn't have to look up to see who it was.
"Why?" asked Naomi. She had a change of clothes. She wore plain blue clothes with bright gold buttons and collars.
"Why what?" Isaac asked back. Naomi crouched down and brought the blade closer to his neck. Isaac looked her in the face and almost frowned. Her eyes and nose were red from crying, her purple irises looking manic in the middle of her reddish eyes. "You know what I mean. Now talk."
Isaac tried to explain as best as he could what happened after she left. She lowered her knife and listened. When he finished her expression had softened. They sat there looking at the lily pond.
"Thank you", Naomi said finally. Isaac sighed and dipped his fingers in the chilly waters. He turned away to hide his blushing cheeks. "It was nothing."
"Men are such pigs", said Naomi. "I hate them so much, I..." she couldn't finish. Her voice was cracking up. Isaac didn't know what to say or do so he just sat there playing with the water...quite literally. He formed a ball of water and juggled it from hand to hand without getting them wet. Naomi stared in awe. "How did you do that?"
Isaac looked down but couldn't answer her because he saw a figure behind them in the reflection. It was tall and wearing black clothes so he couldn't tell its gender.
"You both have strong hearts", said the figure. It was a man, Isaac could tell that much. "Sorry", he said, "but our hearts are occupied." Naomi looked at him with endearing eyes and smiled.
"That's fine", said the man, "I just want your bodies." At this he shook his hood off, revealing long blue hair and a scarred face. He lunged for Naomi and caught her wih a punch in the side. She recovered quickly and kicked the man in the ribs. The man didn't slow down and continued attacking. Isaac picked up the stray knife and slashed at the man, but he missed and it got stuck in tree bark. While he was comig after the man, he waved a finger at Isaac and before he knew it he was pinned to the ground by two little black monsters. He easily shook himself free just in time to see more of the monsters going for Naomi.
He closed his eyes and his temples pulsated. He raised an arm and brought it down quick. When he opened his eyes the monstes were gone and everything, including Naomi and the blue haired man, was wet five metres in every direction. While he man looked at Isaac Naomi slapped her hands from behind him onto his eyes and he let out a choked scream before he fell to his knees. In triumph she fist pumped but stopped halfway down. She looked down to see a black hand protruding from her chest.
Isaac stared in horror as Naomi fell motionless on the ground. The man stood up and blinked hs eyes, which were completey bloodshot orange. He looked here and there like he was blind before he motioned for the monsters to follow him. Along with the monsters Naomi stood up and followed the man into a black portal.
It was over that quick. Isaac stood there ghostly still. Tears ran down from his eyes and alog his face. After a few minutes he began to walk back to the chambers. The morning sun rose behind him and painted the pond red with its light.
A/N: Longest chapter yet? I know, I surprised myself too. Nexy, hope you're happy. Hawk, Isaac's on the set. And Casaric, I accept your apology, though I don't really see why you should apologise. Anyway, nice OC. I'm using it.
Oh yeah, I'm still accepting OC's people. Deets at the end of chapter 3. It's been 20 chapters, man. Give me some Nobodies!