Loyalty [AceSorcerer & Nemopedia]

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Nemopedia

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@AceSorcerer


Zao Gao


With a jolt the young boy was startled awake, head thumping in a dull pain. Stiff from the uncomfortable sleeping position the boy stretched, feeling hay pricking through the rags of his clothes. Looking down at his heavy hands he noticed that they were shackled, just like his ankles were, chaining him together with a bunch of other fellows that were keeping him company in his cage.

“Finally awake, heh?” the gang leader spoke up, his long dark hair hanging around limply and making the man look at least a decade older. The boy didn’t speak up, still trying to process what had happened and what was going on. A heavy mood of shame and hopelessness was hanging around. It matched the jail they were in, dark and humid, with cries in the distance of prisoners being tortured. The realisation of what was happening caught up onto the boy, his eyes falling over the rest of the street ruffians he had lived and worked with for so long. Was this their end?

The man had no patience for reminiscing their failures, however, straightening himself up as he stared the boy down with stern eyes. “Zao,” he spoke solemnly, calling the boy by the name he had given himself. A name inspired by a temper that so often got them in trouble. “This is the end of our journey,” the words were heavy as the boy tried not to cry. Men didn’t cry. He couldn’t show his respected leader and father-figure a moment of weakness. However, the boy also knew better than to speak up and try to comfort the situation. Nothing was fine now, nothing would turn out fine. It was game over, their gig had been caught. No more running around and stealing, no more distracting the auntie on the market while snatching away her income from the back.

Turning to the rest of the gang present the eyes of their leader were blank as he addressed everyone for a last time. “I want you guys to live on, don’t live like I do, don’t die without honour. You are all so young, there is so much more you guys can do,” his voice was solemn, filled with regret, and for a moment Zao was positive that he saw a tear in his eyes. A moment of weakness that the old man allowed himself as his end was nearing. Voices of disagreement came from the other boys, everyone already knew what the old man was about to say, but none dared to interrupt. With a deep sigh the man lowered his head towards the wooden surface, bowing towards the lot of them. “Enter the service, serve your country, make a name.”

Zao was stunned into silence at the statement, unsure of how to react, but his peers filled in the silence he left. Most of them trying to show one last sign of loyalty towards the man, all of them claiming that they couldn’t and wouldn’t. Zao, however, knew that there was no other option. They had to if they wished to stay alive, and he knew that he wanted to stay alive just like any other.

As soon as the trial came to judge their misdeeds Zao had pledged that he would throw his life away in the army. That he would serve his country until he drew his last breath, just like the old man had wanted. A few of his friends had called him a traitor for doing so, for giving up so quickly, but they all had followed soon after as they saw Zao being pardoned. The old man, however, was sentenced to death. His face blank as they flashed the blade, and his expression peaceful as his head rolled over the floor. The boys then knew they had all made the right decision. The old man had wanted for them to be spared and now they were.

Entering the camp chained up while clothed in rags was bound to catch attention. Zao and his friends wordlessly followed the officer that was pulling them forward towards the center of the camp. More young boys were gathered there. Some were nervous, others had a smug look and an air of confidence surrounding them. All of them were from different backgrounds, and held different purposes in mind. Sons of nobles who were hoping to bring back honour and fame, sons of farmers who were hoping to fulfill their mandatory service and head back home as a man, and then there was them. Criminals who had escaped death by pledging their life to the army. The group no one expected to rise up anywhere higher than a footmen and would die the first.

“Don’t cause any trouble and you guys should fit in just fine,” the officer grunted as he released them from their chains. Rolling his wrist around Zao knew that it was a lie. They stuck out like a sore thumb with their entrance and clothes. Everyone knew that they were less than the dirt on the road. Everyone would treat them like it as well. However, again he kept silent, eyes glaring at anyone who dared to stare for too long. Challenging them to come and kick the dog and see if it would bite. Which he would, he certainly would.
 
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AceSorcerer

Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici
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[fieldbox=Shun Xiao-Li, red, solid, 8, book antiqua]
[bimg=fright|no-lightbox]
aph_wang_yao_by_mano_chan-d9lf278.png
[/bimg]
"The Xiao-Li family!"

The time had come- one of the many agents in the service in the emperor, a magistrate tasked with spreading the imperial mandates for a son of each household. Now came time for the firstborn of his family, Shun, to take up his family's sword and serve the emperor. His father had served many times before, a veteran of the war that now forced him to walk with a cane, the man now a scribe and historian for the local judiciary.

Taking the scroll from the man on horseback and bowing deeply out of respect, the average-size man looking about with his hazel eyes. He wore primarily red and black regalia, his black hair in a low ponytail. His form was fairly thin, although it had some lean muscle fom doing various work and practicing dragon kung fu with the local masters from a young age along with a number of other children his age, as well as some sparring and swordsmanship with his father- a common practice in the larger villages like this one. Other than that, the young man had been a recipient of a decent education and had a horse to his name, everything required of a young man before they were to be sent off to fight in the Imperial Army.

Heading inside, Shun took the scroll, setting it on the dinner table and opening it so that he could read it.

By Order of the Emperor,

One noble son of each house of the villages on the Zhenshu Valley is called into the service of the Imperial Army. All conscripted sons shall make their way to the warcamp at the Xisu Ridge for training and assignment under Captain Yi Zhao. Upon arrival, the conscriptees will present these summons to Lieutenant Yan Shi, and will be given their assignment.

Han Ogawa,
Magistrate of the Tenth Province.

Then, with heaviness in his heart, Shun moved to pack his things.

First, he packed what clothes he would take along with some of his personal affects, including some books and some general supplies. Next he packed equipment such as his tent and various pieces used to care for weapons and armor, such as grinding and whetting stones along with cleansing oils. When all that was said and done, he moved the filled bags into the family stable, walking into the family shrine afterwards to light a few sticks of incense and offer a quick prayer in hopes that he may see his family again when the time was right.

Then it came time for the final preparations.

Meeting with his father, the young man soon donned the red-stained armor and received the most treasured heirloom in his family: the ancestral sword.

[bimg=fleft|no-lightbox] jian.jpg [/bimg]
The blade looked as if it had recently forged, the steel shining in the light that came in through the windows while the black oaken sheath kept its own dull majesty. It was well balanced, with the molds of animal guardian spirits present on the hilt along with the symbols for the family name engraved on the pommel. Swinging the jian around slightly, the one-and-a-half sword felling natural in his grip. And, after a brief exchange of words, the father and son bowed to one another, the latter soon mounting his saddled horse and passing through the family gates.

In a few day's time, the young soldier had made his way the warcamp at Xisu Ridge, which was flanked on two sides by a gentle river. Presenting his summons, the soldier was processed by the minister sent to supervise on behalf of the imperial government and allocated a plot to set up his tent in. After he had done so and removed his armor, changing into the a set of the grey clothes he had been given that would act the company's training uniform.

[bimg=fright|no-lightbox]https://www.dragonsports.eu/118301-verylarge_default/shaolin-uniform-grey-cotton.jpg[/bimg]
Attaching his jian to his sash, as many others had done, Shun soon began to investigate the camp, learning the layout and seeing what there was to be seen when the group of criminals were brought in. Deciding not to make a scene, the young man soon looked around and eventually was called out by the officer who had released the criminal to the registration tent. Bowing with some annoyance, he motioned for the criminals to follow him, eventually speaking up in his calm baritone.

"Well... welcome to the Xisu Ridge warcamp. My name in Shun Xiao-Li, I arrived not to long ago. First the minister will register you, then you guys will get issued supplies since you didn't bring any of your own."
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Nemopedia

Chaotic Lawful
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Zao Gao

A young male by the name of Shun approached the group. A look of disgust over his face as he paid his respects to his peers. Pretentious, the boy thought it all to be. Zao didn’t return any of the salutations, cold eyes taking in the noble’s figure. He had no intention of replying to this male, nor did any of Zao's friend acknowledge this Shun.

Zao and the gang knew of his kind. The sort that were always well-fed and enjoyed a proper education. Someone who was literate and who had only been set up in fights for the purpose of training. It was someone who didn’t had to survive like the rats they were, someone who stood miles apart from Zao and his friends. The kind that judged them for living a dishonourable life, and who Zao and the gang all judged for pretending they were so much better.

As the male had announced the minister soon came to register their arrival on the camp. With a familiar condescending look the man eyed them suspiciously, parchment ready to note their names. “Announce your name!” he commanded them, and if Zao didn’t already lay down his life he would have spat the minister in the face. What was it with authority and demanding things?

Instead the male smirked, a snicker running across the group as they were preparing themselves for a wake-up call for most of the camp. They wanted a name? The group scoffed at the thought. They had long given up on one when they were abandoned by all and only had each other.

“They call me Zao. Zao Gao, as is my temper,” Zao replied, his voice smug, but also demanding his own respect. He wouldn’t allow anyone to make fun of the name given to him by the boss. No, Zao Gao carried the name he was given with pride. A pride that only his kind could carry, a pride of someone that had nothing, utterly nothing to themselves, not even a name.

His eyes wandered over to the noble again, his expression aggressive this time. Provoking and challenging the other to say something. “We don’t have the privilege of owning a name,” the male spoke again. Was there a remark to come? Perhaps an insult from the noble, or even the minister. Zao was used to being treated like filth, but that meant nothing once they were out on the battlefield.


@AceSorcerer
 

AceSorcerer

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[fieldbox=Shun Xiao-Li, red, solid, 8, book antiqua]
[bimg=fright|no-lightbox]http://img02.deviantart.net/4159/i/2015/359/6/d/aph_wang_yao_by_mano_chan-d9lf278.png[/bimg]
"Well, Zao, it's a pleasure to meet you."

Shun was one who followed Confucism as it had been taught to him- to show respect to his peers until they proved unworthy of such. Although being of a higher social class than theives and commoners, farmers weren't all too much better. In reality, farmers just had better chance of eventually becoming officials given the importance that had been laid upon them by Confucian beliefs. Regardless, the farm-boy soon made his way down the gravel road, passing the yurt used as a meeting room and the even larger yurts used to house the movable kitchen, storehouse, and armory, among other things. Across the ridge could be seen a large stone structure, undoubtedly the main fort that defended the area in case of invasion or insurrection. The training camps were always temporary and close to major fortifications so that new troops could be easily deployed.

As they made their way to the minister's tent, one of the hooligans tried to take a swing at the farmer after he turned around, to which the farmer responded by grabbing the brute's wrist and pulling forward before applying downwards pressure just above the attacker's elbow, forcing him downwards before releasing him and standing up.

"Most of the people here already know how to fight in one way or another. Some know how to street brawl like your friend, some know one or two forms of kung fu like I do, others are strong wrestlers and grapplists. Either way, if one of the guards catch you trying to fight it'll screw all of the soldiers over, and I don't feel like running ten miles on the first day. Either way, you'll be processed here and given some fresh clothes. From what I understand, ranks are stated through our sashes. Other than that, I'm supposed to help you get your tents set up."

The ex-convicts would be given red sashes, marking them as probationary soldiers for the time being until the officers were certain that the group. Later on those assigned to be assistants to the senior soldiers in the armory and so on would be given green sashes,, and they were outranked by those who would eventually be made camp prefects among the recruits. Those with black sashes were, well, everyone else. It didn't necessarily translate to their rank when they became full soldiers, but it did play a part in determining what their jobs would be.
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@Nemopedia
 

Nemopedia

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Tragedy, Psychological, Historical, Steampunk, Mystery, Thriller, Sci-fi, see tag list for more...

Zao Gao

One of the younger boys tried to strike Shun, an action disapproved of by Zao, especially as nothing had lead up towards it. It was obvious that the lad only did it in an act to gain recognition and extra points in toughness.

However, it had the opposite effect. The plan quickly backfired as Shun grabbed hold of the boy deftly and blocked the attack. Zao was impressed, but showed and said none that resembled praise. Only an amused scoff escaped him. Served the boy right, he so believed. Ignoring the rascal Zao went on his way to get his clothes without another word. Shun had reprimanded the lad enough as it is. With a look to the rest he bid them to do the same and not to cause any more trouble. Hot tempered was his name, but Zao also knew his place when his mind wasn’t set in anger.

Getting the red sashes Zao was quick to realise that many of the training soldiers eyed them with a strange glint in their eyes. As if anticipating something while they were getting ready in their attire. The male assumed that it was the sash’s doing, as Shun had explained that they signified ranks. Only the newly arrived group had received the red band, as most, including Shun all wore black. Another sign of difference between them and the rest. Which makes sense, they were different from the rest and probably had to work thrice as hard to earn the smallest amount of respect.

“Unless you’re sleeping with us we can set up our tents ourselves. There are many of us after all,” Zao finally decided to address Shun. Nodding towards his brethren he made clear that there was no need for this young man to stick so close to them. It would hurt the farmer’s reputation, as well as face resistance from the rest of the gang who weren’t so keen on accepting this man into their ranks. “We are no one, without etiquette, and you are no brother of ours,” Zao continued, his voice clear for all to hear. In case any of the other soldiers had any funny ideas in commandeering them. They weren’t equals, Zao and his group were aware of that.
 

AceSorcerer

Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici
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Preferred Character Gender
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  2. Primarily Prefer Male
[fieldbox=Shun Xiao-Li, red, solid, 8, book antiqua]
[bimg=fright|no-lightbox]http://img02.deviantart.net/4159/i/2015/359/6/d/aph_wang_yao_by_mano_chan-d9lf278.png[/bimg]
Shun raised an eyebrow, curious about the odd, familial dynamics within that group of theirs. Popping his neck, the Chinaman sighed, looking to them with a curious expression. "If you say so. Regardless, we're all going to be busy. Either way, the kitchen is already serving up lunch so feel free to grab a bowl. Soon enough, the officers are going to round everyone up to start training this afternoon. So if you have any questions, I'm going to be in the mess tent." Shun then gave a quick, shallow bow out of courtesy, heading into his own tent to grab a manuscript before heading into the mess tent, getting the bowl of rice, water, as well as some beef and chow mein. All and all, delicious food to read with.

As he ate, he began to hear various rumors about the group that had just entered. Apparently Shun had been talking with a rather infamous band of criminals who decided to choose to be drafted into the army over being hanged at the gallows. To some extent, Shun wasn't surpised- the Chinese army and navy drew a wide variety of characters, some seeking glory, some seeking redemption, and some with nowhere else to go. And there also military families and those who used a military career as a means to get close to the Imperial Family. When it came to all this, the Xiao-Li family... didn't really fit into any of them. They were just a family who took honor in their service to the emperor when they weren't minding their fields, to say the very least. At the very most, they were semi-scholars and swordsmen.
[/fieldbox]

@Nemopedia
 

Nemopedia

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Genres
Tragedy, Psychological, Historical, Steampunk, Mystery, Thriller, Sci-fi, see tag list for more...

Zao Gao

Just as Zao had turned away Shun from the group the boy noticed something strange going on. His brothers were distant, keeping away from him as none dared to meet his eyes. “What is wrong?” he asked, a faint inkling rising up on what the meaning was of their attitude. None dared to answer, until the oldest of the group peeled away.

Lao was presumed to be of the same age of Zao, but had been around with the gang for longer than he had. As such he had earned the name ‘Lao’, to signify his position as the biggest brother. Despite that the male had never been considered a leader of the group, as he just wasn’t as quick and strong as Zao was. Yet, today Lao stood representative for the rest of his brothers. Zao could see how his brother’s hands were balled into fists, willing them not to shake as he tried to make himself bigger and stronger than he actually was.

“You are no brother of ours,” Lao spat out, his words slapping into the male’s face. Grabbing hold of Lao’s collar Zao pulled the boy closer, eyes fuming. “What?” he growled, temper edging dangerously close to lashing out. He knew what this was about. The gang felt betrayed by Zao’s eagerness to join the army. However, they all knew that they were being irrational. The old man had asked this of them, it was a dying wish. There was no sense in making a scapegoat out of him.

One of the younger members walked out with his sleeping bag, throwing it at his feet before turning away. Under other circumstances the male would have gone into a rage, challenged Lao into a fight to battle out their leadership. He would have done it, wasn’t it for Lao hinting at the rest of the camp. Zao wanted to break something, punch until his knuckles bled and he couldn’t feel the tears in his pride anymore. Instead he pushed his former brother and friend away, a glare on his face as he picked up the bag.

He didn’t suppose anyone was willing to share a tent with a convict, and Zao wasn’t about to approach anyone either out of pride. While his former brothers set up their tents, Zao decided to eat first before looking for a place to sleep. With his sleeping bag under his arm he thus balanced the bowls of food in his hands. With a scowl on his face the boy then went to look for some quiet space where he plopped down on the ground, uncaring for the looks and stares that he was getting. If anyone had any business with him he would gladly fight it out right now.


@AceSorcerer