New Hero: Jishu, the Burning BrushMay 21, 2019
Damn this place.
He had been walking, stumbling in the half-light, for what felt like weeks. His lips had blistered, and his throat had swollen so badly that he could not speak. Around him, the Shadow boiled and writhed with delight.
We were sent to find something… or… someone? His thoughts were confused. The mist curled around his head, caressing his temples. Panting, he took another step forward.
This wasteland must have an end…
Cicadas whined in the lazy, late-day heat as Jishu wrote. Outside the window of her small room, Shingane buzzed with activity. The city had always been a hub for weaponsmiths, armorers, and other artists, and these days their crafts were in high demand. The Silent Wastes were expanding, and as they crept toward oni settlements, dark creatures threatened the borders. In response, the Shugo had declared that the oni would burn back the darkness with steel and flame. Any soldier who fell in this battle would be remembered as a true warrior. And those who survived to return home all had stories to tell. There were always stories.
The clamor of the city did not reach Jishu. Her eyes barely moved from the page in front of her as her brush danced across it, leaving a line of burning ink behind. To the oni, bards and orators were as important as warriors. Songs and epics inspired soldiers to greater and greater feats of battle, and without chroniclers and eulogists even the most heroic warrior would one day be forgotten. Poets like Jishu were revered alongside forgemasters and famed fighters because she kept their deeds alive, preserved in ink and verse.
As Jishu dipped her brush in a small bowl of molten, glowing ink, there was a heavy knock on the wall outside her room. She looked up from her low writing table and frowned at the shadow on the other side of the door.
“I left clear instruction to be left alone,” she called. “The Shugo has requested a poem for the Solstice festival, and I will not be distracted.”
There was an amused snort from the hall, and a gruff voice replied, “Not even for family?”
Jishu’s face broke into a smile, and she leapt up, running across the room to shove the door open. As soon as she did, a tall, bulky oni in leather armor bulled through the doorway, picking Jishu up in a tight hug.
“Akko! I thought you were still commanding the city’s forces at the Wastes,” Jishu said, laughing. “Are you here to stay? We could see the festival together!”
“Sadly, no,” Akko chuckled, putting her younger sister down and straightening a pauldron. “I’m back on business. And I have something for you.” She jerked her head, pulling Jishu to the side as two oni entered bearing a stretcher. A human in tarnished armor lay on it, unconscious and badly sunburnt. His skin was cracked, and the darkness around his eyes was deep. Behind them, Akko’s lieutenant entered, scowling. There was a bruise around one of his eyes, and Jishu thought she saw a broken fang beneath his curled lip.
“This one,” Akko said, nodding at the body, “came through the Wastes.”
Jishu raised an eyebrow, her ink-stained hands leaving smudges as she chewed on a knuckle. “Through them? I thought—”
“That they held nothing but monsters?” Akko continued, nodding. “I thought so too, until…” she looked over at the soldier. “He was raving when he emerged, delirious. Quite the fighter, too! Charged us with just his fists. Even got a hit or two in before we took him down, isn’t that right, Ravat?”
The lieutenant’s scowl deepened, and his grip tightened on the handle of his flail. “It was a lucky blow, nothing more,” he growled.
Akko laughed, and clapped Ravat on the back hard enough to send him lurching into the wall. His impact shook an ornate, ceremonial katana that hung next to Jishu’s table.
“Why bring him here?” Jishu asked, straightening the blade as Akko’s men set the stretcher down along the far wall.
“I want to know how he did it,” her sister said bluntly. “This man, whoever he is, survived the Silent Wastes. I need to know his story.” Akko grinned. “And you’re the best chronicler in Shingane. Tend to his wounds, learn what he knows, and pass it on to me. He’s too weak to be trouble, but just in case, Ravat is stuck in town for a few days while the bruises fade. Isn’t that right?”
The two soldiers tried to hide their smiles as they exited the room. Jishu didn’t miss the look of rage that crossed the lieutenant’s face as he muttered something inaudible and bowed, first to Jishu, then to Akko, and left.
“Are you sure?” Jishu asked, frowning at the body. She could see the man’s chestplate rising and falling in shallow, pained breaths.
“Yes,” Akko nodded. “And since I am a captain and the elder sister, that is an order.”
Jishu rolled her eyes. “Fine. Then leave. He won’t recover with you hanging about.”
Once they left, Jishu turned her attention to the ravaged man. After wiping the worst of the blood and grime from his face and hands, she knelt by his head and began to observe, making precise notes as she did. The soldier’s armor was well made, coated in white enamel save for the bronze ridges. Though—she noted —a little too clumsy to be oni-made.
He had a scabbard as well, though the sword it belonged to was long gone. Setting down her brush, Jishu leaned forward. As if he sensed the motion, the man turned towards her with a ragged cough. Jishu froze, one hand stretching towards the katana on the wall above. But he was still unconscious, his eyes rolled back beneath cracked and burnt lids.
The horrors of the Wastes have been known to instill nightmare, Jishu wrote, wetting her brush from the small bowl of ink. He must have some personal belongings. I wonder… Slowly, Jishu used the end of her brush to pull the man’s tensed arm away from his side. As she did, he groaned, gasping around his swollen tongue,
Jishu winced, and reached for the damp cloth. Carefully, she twisted it over his half-open mouth until water dripped onto his lips and tongue. A shudder wracked the man’s body, and he sighed, relaxing. As he did, his arm fell away from his side, and Jishu saw a small leather pouch on his belt. Aha!
The survivor has a handful of gold coins, stamped with a design I do not recognize, Jishu wrote, sorting through the contents of the purse by lantern light. Outside, the crickets sang, and she could hear the faint sounds of the forges working tirelessly into the night. Beside the pile of coins, Jishu placed two brass-encased bullets, their tips glowing in the faint light of evening. The poet grimaced, wrinkling her nose in disgust. The survivor also carries stonepowder. Akko said that he was an impressive fighter, but if he wields such inelegant weapons, I have my doubts.
Lastly, Jishu used the tips of two brushes to pull a small, thin scroll from the purse. Holding her breath, she unrolled it. The ink was faint, a jagged scrawl that Jishu held up to the lantern. To her surprise, she was unable to read the message, though the script did seem vaguely familiar.
He is from a land far beyond the Wastes. Far enough away that I do not recognize their language, or their sigils, or know of their songs and stories. They must be—
A sound broke Jishu’s concentration. Glass shattering in the hall outside. Frowning, the young oni stood and crossed the room, careful to keep her bare feet on the rug. Her steps were muffled as she reached the door, sliding it open just enough to peek out.
A shadow loomed out of the darkness, and Jishu saw shards of glass from the hallway’s only lantern glinting on the wood floor behind it.
“Hello, poet,” Ravat breathed, his yellow eyes gleaming. Jishu yelped and fell back from the doorway, stumbling over the edge of the rug as she backpedaled. Her sister’s lieutenant slid the door open, stepped through, and closed it behind him, all without taking his eyes off Jishu.
“Warrior Ravat,” Jishu said, scrambling to her feet and moving to put the low writing table between her and the larger oni. “Why have you returned?”
The warrior’s eyes flicked from her to the unconscious man. “Him,” he rumbled, and took another step into the room.
“I don’t understand,” Jishu said, backing away until her shoulder hit a wall.
“He’s dangerous, corrupted by the Wastes,” Ravat slurred over his broken fang. Slowly, he lowered a hand to the flail coiled at his hip.
“He’s not a threat, he’s unconscious,” Jishu replied, bristling. “Ak—I mean, your captain gave an order. To learn how he, how we can defy the Silent Wastes!” She was stammering now, she knew it. Fear was seeping into her arms and legs, making them leaden and slow.
Ravat shook his head, drawing his flail. The chain rasped and Jishu flinched as the barbed weight at the end gouged the rug. “Should’ve killed him when the patrol first caught him.”
“I’m sorry,” Jishu said, reaching up and pulling the ornate katana from the wall. Hoping that she sounded braver than she felt, she positioned herself between the flail and the unconscious man. “I can’t let you do that.”
Ravat chuckled, and spat on the ground. “You are no warrior.”
Jishu drew herself up to her full height. “I am a poet and a chronicler, commissioned by the Shugo himself. I have told tales of warriors far greater than you, and my words will inspire more victories than you could ever achieve. Try me, coward.”
Ravat roared, and whipped his flail forward. Jishu danced to the side as the table next to her shattered, sending splinters flying. Behind her, she heard the human cry out in shock as the flail whistled overhead.
As Ravat pulled the flail back for another blow, Jishu dashed towards him, the katana’s blade reflecting moonlight from the open window as she thrust it forward. The warrior snarled, twisting his shoulder and ensnaring the blade with a loop of chain. Jishu stumbled, and Ravat backhanded her, sending the poet spinning to the ground.
Ravat looked between Jishu and the soldier, and turned to face the young oni.
“You first. Then the human.”
As Ravat took a step toward Jishu, the soldier’s eyes shot open, and he twisted, an armored boot kicking Ravat’s leg out from beneath him. The oni warrior went down hard, his jaw hitting the floor with a heavy sound. From the floor, Jishu looked into the soldier’s sunken eyes.
The man uttered what was surely an expletive at the unconscious oni, and collapsed back to the floor in exhaustion.
Ravat awoke with a fresh pain in his jaw, and the feeling of cold, Shingane steel prodding his chest.
“Wake up,” Jishu commanded, holding the katana. Ravat took stock of the situation. Dawn was beginning to creep through the curtains, and he was tied tightly to a chair by a long silk scarf. The human was sitting propped up in the corner, holding his flail. Ravat growled.
“Quiet,” Jishu barked. “He is not your foe here. You have to contend with me.”
“Ha,” Ravat coughed. “What are you going to do, girl? Kill me?”
Jishu shook her head. “No. But I can make you wish I had. I will ruin you without ever drawing a blade.”
Ravat sneered. “How?”
Jishu smiled sweetly. “The Solstice festival this month. I am to present a new poem to the Shugo.” Ravat’s grin began to falter as she continued. “And do you know who will appear in my tale? The coward Ravat, who struck a poor, unarmed poet.”
“Unarmed?” Ravat spluttered, “you had a sw—”
“Who struck an unarmed poet,” Jishu said, speaking over him. “You were bested by a weakened human, and your honor was so damaged that you sought to kill him in his sleep.” Jishu’s eyes flashed. “Everyone will know exactly who you are. You will be cast out, Ravat. And I will tell the story of your fall.”
Once the city guard had taken the disgraced warrior away, Jishu turned to the human. He had helped tie Ravat up as best he could, but it was clear that his strength had not yet returned.
“Thank you,” she said, ducking her head. “I apologize, but I have not yet asked your name.”
The man raised an eyebrow and shook his head, then said something in a language she didn’t understand, waving an arm vaguely toward the window. His voice was still a raw croak.
Jishu pointed at the window as she picked up her brush, and said “Shingane.” The man blinked, nodding and repeated, “Shingane.”
Jishu pointed at him, and then the window, “Where are you from?”
The man gestured toward himself and back again to the window, “Argenport.”
Jishu’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
The man began to talk, gesticulating for emphasis. Then he paused, pointing toward Jishu and said, “Oni,” followed by a string of words she didn’t understand, finally punctuated by a phrase in her own oni tongue: “The Silent Wastes.” Then again, “Argenport.”
“You… you are mistaken,” Jishu said, her heart pounding. Before he could respond, she turned to her table, and began writing notes furiously.
The soldier shook his head, frowning, and began to speak again, before she interrupted by raising her hand.
Jishu began to talk, even though she knew he couldn’t understand. “There was a kingdom called Argenport …” she said slowly, her mind racing. “But it’s gone now. Destroyed long ago, and remembered now only in song.”
She stared intently at the battered soldier, and asked, “Who are you? I must know your story.”
Jishu, the Burning Brush Promo Quest
- The Jishu, the Burning Brush promo quest begins today and will run until Tuesday, May 28.
- During the quest period, your first PvP win of the day will reward you with a copy of Jishu.
- Once the promo period is over, you’ll be able to craft Jishu using Shiftstone as normal.
- The Jishu, the Burning Brush premium Avatar will be available in the store for 300 Gems for a limited time.
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