Disclaimer: Bioware owns Jade Empire characters and main story lines. I just had some ideas to help flesh out the romance between Wu and Sky. Critiques and suggestions are welcome!
This takes place outside of Tien's Landing, after the Pirate's Lair. The characters are currently in the Great Southern Forest, specifically at the Temple of the Forest Shadow. A continuation of Chapter 1.
Supper was a raucous affair, with Whirlwind and Hou continuing with their story telling. When Wu questioned what the "Arena" was that they kept mentioning, Whirlwind and Hou looked at her in disbelief. It didn't take long for them to get sidetracked from describing the Arena to stories of more fights that happened there.
Sky kept quiet during most of the discussion. He found himself more entertained with watching Wu. She was engrossed with the conversation, her face alternating between serious with concentration when fighting styles were described and shining with laughter when Whirlwind and Hou recounted behind the scenes pranks.
Sky thought back to their first meeting. His hopes had sunk at the realization that four pirates ran down to stop him. He was bracing himself for possible failure when a flash of plum armor caught his eye. It was obvious that she wasn't with the pirates- she was too well dressed to be a pirate and she wasn't a buyer since they stuck to the upper levels. Her staff and her companion's sword looked used and were held comfortably, so he guessed they were mercenaries or perhaps had been personally affected by the traders also.
Sky had caught the amusement in Wu's eyes when he pointed her out to the pirates. It didn't take him long to realize the truth to his words about her beauty, grace, and deadliness. Wu and Dawn Star had fought together smoothly, watching each other's backs and setting up their foes for the other to take down. He had automatically flirted with her once the pirates were taken care of, but he usually flirted with attractive women. What he was realizing was that Wu's beauty was more than skin deep. She had a sense of humor and wasn't afraid to laugh at herself. She cared deeply for her companions and strove to keep the peace between their various personalities. She was also one of the best fighters that he had seen, but she didn't pick fights. Sky found that her inner beauty made her even more attractive.
Night had fallen by the time they had all finished eating. Wu praised Hou's cooking skills and Sky agreed, even though he had been thinking so much, he didn't really taste anything. Hou and Whirlwind settled down near one of the furnaces while Sky and Wu walked out to the larger courtyard, just below the Temple. Sky sat down to continue his stretches and Wu poked around the grass just beyond the courtyard. He was just about to ask her what she was doing when she turned and approached him, carrying several long branches.
"Care for some sparring?" Wu asked, her face and voice hopeful. "I need some more practice against dual weapons."
"How could I say no?" Sky laughed. Wu handed him two branches, about as long as his sabers. She kept a single longer stick and turned it in her hands, looking for a good grip. Sky did the same and moved into the center of the courtyard. "Shall we start at about one quarter speed?" Wu nodded in reply and slowly began to attack.
In return, Sky slowly deflected attacks with one stick while attacking with the other. Wu spun her branch, using a small branch off of one end to designate the blade. Her face wore a frown of concentration at first, and then a grin slowly crept across her face. Sky couldn't help it; he also had a broad smile across his face. He had forgotten the pleasure of practicing with another experienced person. It was a joy to spar for fun.
Sky managed to tap Wu. Once. Her eyes widened when she realized he would get through her defense, but she managed to keep her movements slow until he made contact. "Do you want to go through that again?" Sky asked. Wu nodded, her face once again a concentrated frown. They resumed their positions and slowly went back through their motions. Her face cleared as she realized her error.
"Want to speed up a little?" Wu asked, her grin back in place. Sky smiled back and readied himself. They went back and forth for a while, their speed gradually creeping faster until Wu's branch broke. Sky laughed again at the look of disappointment on Wu's face. She tossed her sticks to the side of the courtyard. "I guess it's just as well. This area isn't exactly the best lit." Sky glanced around and agreed. With night fallen, the moon and the various fireplaces scattered around the area created some illumination, but definitely not the best for sparring. "And I better quit now or I'll be too riled up to sleep when it's our turn." Several replies immediately came to Sky's mind, but he couldn't decide how naughty to be before Wu was walking away.
After setting aside his sticks, Sky followed Wu back to the fire that they had eaten supper near. Whirlwind's snores reverberated from the fire he was sleeping by. Sky and Wu exchanged amused glances. "Maybe Hou decided to go back to Tien's Landing to get some sleep," Wu told Sky.
"Maybe he went down to the river to stuff his ears with clay," Sky countered.
Wu grinned as she handed Sky a mug of tea, poured from the pot that had been warming by the fire. "Perhaps he's curled in a ball nearby, overcome by the sound."
They grinned at each other and sat near their fire. It didn't take long for the cool and damp forest air to chill them, despite their recent exertions. The hot tea tasted refreshing and warmed them from the inside. They sat in a comfortable silence, sipping their tea and watching the forest. It didn't take long for them to start yawning; the busy day of wandering the forest paths, fighting the cannibals at the inn, and finding the temple were enough to exhaust them, even without their sparring. After several minutes of them yawning back and forth, Sky stood up.
"All right, that's enough. It's time for them to keep an eye out. We can barely keep ours open anymore," Sky announced. He turned and walked over to the fire that Whirlwind and Hou had camped at. To his surprise, Hou was managing to sleep soundly through the racket that Whirlwind produced. Sky gently shook Hou's shoulder and then moved to Whirlwind. Sky debated getting a stick to poke him awake, but Hou had a different plan for waking him. Grabbing a wine flask, Hou sloshed it near Whirlwind's ear. The familiar sound woke Whirlwind enough that a quick shoulder shake finished waking him. The two grumbled a bit about being woken up, but the promise of hot tea and mulled wine was enough to quiet them. They were soon sitting at the fire, keeping a bleary eye on the surroundings.
Sky and Wu quickly stretched their blankets out by their fire. Wu set her boots to the side and wrapped herself up, her staff near her boots. Sky settled into his blanket with his sabers within easy grabbing distance. As tired as he was, he had difficulty falling asleep. He heard Wu's slow breathing and turned to look at her. She lay on her side, facing towards him. Her eyes moved slowly under her eyelids and a small smile sat on her lips. As he watched, her smile grew and she chuckled in her sleep.
Sky felt a stab through his chest and caught his breath. In spite of everything that she had gone through, Wu didn't allow herself to be broken. Sky thought back to Dawn Star telling him of the destruction of Two Rivers, the slaughter of the students and villagers, and their escape. He remembered how she and Dawn Star had destroyed the pirate lair where he had first met them. He thought of the look on her face when she came to the realization of the horror that happened at the Pilgrim's Rest. Her patience with Dawn Star's doubts, her willingness to try to understand Zu's pain, and her empathy for his own loss. Sky felt an admiration for Wu's strength, physical and mental. Not many people could go through her experiences and retain their humor, their humanity.
As he watched Wu, a slight breeze blew a lock of hair across her face. Sky hesitated, then reached out and brushed her hair behind her ear. He slowly trailed his fingers along her cheek, enjoying the feel of her soft skin. Sky ran his thumb across her chin and watched her slight smile widen. Sky brought his hand back with a sigh. He already knew that it would be all too easy to fall in love with her.
Personal note- Class is starting up, so I'm not sure when I'll be posting more stories. I have several more brewing in my head, so they'll come eventually.
Thanks for the kind reviews!