A Study in Seeking
'The sword is mightier than the... oh, wait...'
It was supposed to be a simple expedition, though she supposed she should have predicted what now took place before her. A battle of immense proportions, between Neopians of all levels of power, each scrambling for their own great reasons to reach the obelisk that had been unearthed.
As a member of the Seekers, the had admittedly not trained in such skills too much. Unlike the 'Brute Squad', or the 'Order of the Red Erisim', she had no great strength or magic at her aid or so it seemed. She was not willing to slide into the shadows as the Thieves or Sway were, and as for the matter of the 'Awakened' she could not even bring herself to draw comparison.
She was 'Yuume' of the Seekers, nothing more nothing less. A student, and a scholar in the making, a young Acara whose roots appeared to be at first glance from the deserts of Sakhmet. She always corrected them of course- 'I was raised in the Brightvale area,' she would explain, despite having adopted the more refined tastes of wear that she felt belonged to those among the Seekers. Others still would occasionally connect her name instead to her apparent heritage, asking if she had thus instead hailed from Shenkuu in early life. Yet again, to this, she would reply the negative- she had not, she would insist, and quite swiftly she would leave it at that. A number of the particularly keen among her studious fellows would often question this, if not mentally- however they were made of more tactful stuffs, bearing the knowledge of what could be pressed and what could not.
This, as it seemed, was a matter that could not. Yuume was a quiet Acara; she preferred to remain in the halls of the libraries, quietly reading what she could or scribing for further use papers which expanded upon the ideals she found. She held knowledge in runes of many kinds, of languages considered written, or even pictorial.
It was for that reason that she had been taken on the great airship which carried the Seekers to their destination, and it was for this reason that she carried her load with great unease. They could expect battle, they had been warned, of that they could be certain. The Professor would not blame them if they chose to remain behind- for after all, the truly wise knew when to hold their place, and when the moment was right for them.
However Yuume had come nonetheless, jaw clenched as it was. She searched through small boxes of relics and tools that she had taken with her from her previous home through to the study halls of Brightvale, arming herself with devices she had likely never held more than once before in her life. The pack had been made, and she had stepped upon the barge, keeping to her books as always whilst they sailed over the air...
Now that they were there, they could not ignore these events, even if they had so briefly considered the effort. Who had started the attack? No one quite knew; the six factions that had gathered in groups were almost blended with the scenery when they arrived, a quiet silence preceding the storm that transpired before them. 'This battle is starting out rather well for us,' the Professor had remarked as they looked to the chaos below, glancing briefly at his pocket watch before giving an encouraging smile toward the others. 'I expected better of our opponents. Ah, well! Go, take advantage of their disarray.'
She intended to, Yuume thought to herself with that. Fully and truly she intended to, trembling breaths shaking her body as she clasped armor into place. It was thick, and heavy, and she felt as though she could scarcely move, but she forced herself to adapt. For the expedition, she told herself, bringing a blade to one hand and a shield in the other. She was a scholar, not a chemist. A researcher of historic fact, not of mechanical parts, and as to magic ability (though despite evidence to the fact, there were yet those among their ranks who scoffed at the idea), she seemed to have none.
Or at least, this was what she told them.
"Do you truly intend to fight?" one of the mechanics asked her skeptically, the Acara responding with a steely, and quite impersonal tone whilst keeping her gaze away from the Hissi.
"I do." Perhaps moments before she would have responded differently, but the words of the Professor spurred her on, if at least for a greater cause.
The Hissi adjusted his goggle-like spectacles, jaw hanging open for a small moment. "You- Have you even used such weaponry before?" he protested, and yet he was ignored. The Acara rushed down to the dug-up lands surrounding the obelisk, and with her blade held at the ready, charged.
Blades clashed on the fields below and the Hissi looked on with magnified lens, eyes widening before he turned to an approaching other. "P-Professor Lambert!" he choked, the Gnorbu nodding just slightly as he acknowledged the mechanic.
"Oh yes- Samuel, correct?" he started, pausing only briefly to ponder the boy's name. "We have high hopes for your mechanic skill here," the professor went on. "I quite look forward to seeing it at work."
Briefly the Hissi flushed in embarrassment, nodding and coughing all at once. However with he sounds of war echoing over the air he was quickly pulled back to the present, directing the Professor's gaze to the matter below. "Yuume has joined the battle!" he started, shrill cries sounding below as a dagger wielding Kyrii knocked their opponent back. In the time it took for the Acara to stumble to her feet he had escaped, Yuume growling lowly at her failure. "I'm almost certain that she's never fought before," Samuel continued worriedly, "You must convince her to at least wait for the battle to subside! Surely!" he protested, watching as the professor's eyes narrowed momentarily at the sight below.
The sounds of battle did nothing to hide the presence of she whom the Hissi spoke of after all, so obviously did her faltered form reveal herself. As a mummified corpse allied with the Awakened faction stumbled toward her she fought frantically, as though possessed- her shield was forgotten and she charged without pause, the two seeming almost equal in power for an instant. It was curious, the Professor noted- and assuredly not something to be ignored, particularly not when, as Yuume collapsed in momentary exhaustion from the effort, the supposedly mindless and enraged mummy moved to strike someone else instead. As though there were something between them, one could think, however he did not have long to do so.
"There is something hidden in her," he instead explained, not looking away from the battle. "An untapped potential she has yet to awaken."
"Er... Professor?" Samuel questioned, only for a sudden shriek to cut out below.
Even the Professor, so typically unfazed as he was, widened his eyes a moment at the sight. It had seemed Yuume finally adapted to her weaponry after all, blade in hand and shield held upward yet again. She charged and ducked beneath the thick arms of the brute she faced, striking and poking at what weaknesses she spied. "NGH- Hold still while I crush you!" the Yurble snarled, before he at last landed a solid blow against his opponent's middle.
"G-OH!" The Acara was sent flying backward, rolling over herself until she finally crashed into a set of stone.
At which point it seemed, she brought her own end. Darkness- Pure 'darkness', if it could bear such a form, seemed to bleed out from the cracks of her armor, wisping into the air around her. For an instant the brute across from her stared, confused, however that instant was all he had- the shadowed form of Yuume charged, no warning given, no sign of previous folly evident in her actions. As though she had held the blade all her life she moved, cutting her foe backward without pause. "Ngh-! You think that's all it takes?" the brute countered, despite the pain that seared as a result. He struggled to stand and still the Acara charged, the Yurble bringing his hands out in an instant. "HHHHAAAAAHHHH! YOU'LL BE THINKING TWICE BEFORE ATTACKING ME, 'SHADOW'!"
The blade was caught between his hands, shaking under the contact. With the words on the air that was all it took for the shadows to receded. For Yuume's eyes to widen with horror as she looked upon her opponent and the sword both, still holding it despite her obvious terror. That was all it took, before she choked upon her realization, upon the words which refused to pass her lips. "No..." There were tears gathering in her eyes, not that her opponent could care- if anything it were merely a matter of further confusion, a brief ruse to bring him to stop. "No, no, NO!" she screamed, and with the sound the Yurble brute acted. Lifting the Acara up by the blade he threw, as hard and as far as he could possibly manage, leaving no room in his heart to take pity on what had nearly brought his end.
Her body cracked against stone yet again, and this time she did not move. 'Yuume!' she thought she heard someone cry, the shadowed form of a flying serpent hovering over her vision. 'Yuume! Hang on!'
It was dark.
Her eyes closed over and it was dark, oh so dark, just as it always was in the worst of nightmares. She could hear the voice of a kindly figure singing to her some ancient song, a lullaby of times long past whilst hairless fingers brushed over her face. As violet tinged hands charmed magics unknown over her frail body, dark lips whispering- 'I bless-'
Her eyes shot open, Yuume awaking with a violent start. "Hahhh... Hah... Hah..." Such a nightmare, she thought to herself, laying back on the cot with ragged breaths. Such a terrible, horrible...
"I see you have awakened," a calm voice observed, Yuume jumping at the sound.
"Mn-!" She quickly calmed, staring to the Gnorbu in her presence. "Professor-! I thought..." Her eyes took in the decor of the tent, medical equipment neatly lined upon a nearby tray and a large neon green cross faintly visible through the painted fabric of the front. Her surprise faded, replaced by shame. "...I apologize," she began quietly, realizing where she was. "I..." The Acara swallowed, her head bowed as her jaw tightened in the struggle to speak. "...I was foolish!" she started, forcing herself to speak clearly. She could not cause yet more problems here, she simply couldn't- it would not do, to allow her own inadequacy to pull the efforts of the expedition back! "I assumed too much of myself," Yuume whispered. "When in actuality, I am worthless in these efforts."
"Worthless?" There was a click in the air, the sound of a closing pocket watch merely causing Yuume to persist in holding her eyes to the ground. The shadows had made something clear to him, in that battle between the scribe and the brute; there was something more to this student of his, and it seemed more than ever that perhaps those secrets and topics which had been tactfully ignored would pose an issue if simply ignored. And yet- "You are anything, dear Yuume, but worthless."
The Acara slowly lifted her head, and as she did so, Professor Lambert turned to retrieve something from the side. A simple box, light, and carved of wood, meant to carefully preserve whatever was inside.
He picked it up in his hands and with his back toward her, continued. "There is a saying," he began, "A certain phrase of which I'm quite certain you will recognize; 'the pen is mightier than the sword'," the Professor stated, Yuume again bowing her head.
"...I understand," she replied quietly. "...I'll return to my work with translations, and-" The Acara froze, the presence of Professor Lambert's shadow prompting her to again look upward as the wooden case was held before her. "...Professor?"
The box was opened, and as Yuume looked to the box with wide eyes, he continued still on. "Swords and shields... For some, they are able to easily match their tactics to those ways. We are not the fighting sort," Professor Lambert explained, "No, but we are able to adapt. We study our opponents, and we learn from their battles what will be reflected, and what will not. Perhaps for others, the weapons you have carried are the best choice. However for you," he finished, watching his student carefully remove from the box what looked to be a quill coated entirely with the steel typical of a blade, "I believe the /pen/ is the better."
She held the quill close, and stared at it for some time in silence, willing herself to keep tears from escaping her eyes. At last however she nodded, renewing her resolve. "Understood!" she told him, gripping the quill tight. "I won't fail you!"
Used to such remarks and phrases from the linguist and scribe, Professor Lambert nodded, moving to take his leave. "Indeed you will," he responded, leaving Yuume to her thoughts. "Of that, I am quite certain."
It was a delicate blade at first glance; bending and curving as the feather of a quill would, folding back and locking into what could have been a dagger. If the tip of the quill worked, she did not know; there was no ink to test such a thing, and no parchment upon which she would write.
Nonetheless it was with the quill in hand that she would soon afterward leave the tent, a few hours rest and the work of a simple healing potion bringing her back to her feet quickly enough. Move carefully, she told herself, holding the quill as she would at her desks in Brightvale. Move carefully, and leave the eyes open, she thought to herself, watching as others among their expedition passed.
...Yet who was that, she realized, noting the strange behavior of a nearby Xweetok. Who was that, lurking in the shadows of the tents, clutching a purse close? Yuume moved just as silently, making certain that all she saw of the target was the back. She moved almost deliberately away and then toward the Xweetok, creeping silently as she gripped the quill in her hand.
Until finally, she struck. "Hn-!"
"HaaAAH-AH!" The Xweetok cried out in shock as the whip-like quill blade latched around her arm, pulling her nearer to Yuume before the blades released their grip. Initially she looked up to the Acara in shock, as though betrayed. "You..." She shook her head, broken laughter escaping her. "You can't possibly mean to face me, your ally, right-"
"Save your words for more gullible sorts," Yuume cut in coolly, quill blade at the ready. "However the eyes of Seekers are not fooled by such pathetic squatting."
Her opponent merely swallowed, readying herself as her character seemed to change entirely. "Is that really your decision?" she purred, fingering the dagger within her purse.
And Yuume, not even flinching, merely charged. "I do."