Tales of the Dying Earth
Pao Li, The Boulder
The mid-day sun hung high over head, casting soft rays of warmth through the gaps of the large Yew trees. A young girl, whistling into a small pan flute, sat upon the stone steps of a quiet monastery. The whistling of the wind seemed to coincide with the peaceful melody of the wooden pipes. A large figure approached from the archway behind her holding two steaming bowls of rice and a wooden pitcher of warm tea. A lengthy polearm was tightly secured to the mans back, a leather cover concealed its large blade. “You’re getting rather good at Arethusa’s Lullaby, Pao. But you should really learn some more songs.” The stocky man smiled, sitting next to the much smaller monk as he unstrapped the hefty weapon from his shoulder. “Shut up, dad. You know it’s your favorite.” Wrinkling her nose, the girl swatted out towards the man but missed by quite a margin. A hearty laugh echoed through the forest as the girls father retorted. “And you definitely need to work on your aim!” — “Sure, tease the blind girl about missing.” A large hand patted her twice on the head before handing her a bowl of rice. “I’m only teasing Pao-Pao. Now eat up, before it gets cold.” Pao Li merely eyed the rice for a moment, but she hadn’t eaten all day.. Cautious hands reached forward, feeling for the warmth of the bowl. “Hmph!” She snatched it swiftly. “Here, I thought you might like some tea too.” Pao’s father poured the amber liquid into a small cup and offered it to the girl. As Pao took the beverage the soft aroma of jasmine filled her senses. “You put jasmine in here again? Why not ginger? I saw four whole roots in the pantry.” — “Don’t complain, Pao-Pao. You know it’s your favorite.”
Their peaceful lunch was abruptly cut short by the shouts of approaching figures. A tall man, wielding a long, needle like blade and his two companions. They hadn’t had visitors at the monastery in many moons, and the last travelers to bother them ended up in an early grave. “Hey old monk! I hear there’s something in this here temple that I would very much like to have!” The slender warrior stepped with confidence towards Pao and her father. His companions, a rather stocky woman holding a large mace-like greatclub over her shoulder with ease, and a short man resting his palms upon two daggers, held back. Pao hastily patted the ground around her until her fingers met with a thin wooden stick. Clutching it close to her, she felt for her fathers arm. As he reassured the young girl with a pat on the back, her father stood to confront the three figures. “Go inside, Pao-Pao. I’ll be right in.” The little monk frowned up at her father. “But I’m stronger than before! I can help!” — “Go inside Pao. Now.” She tapped at the ground around her angrily as she hobbled towards the archway leading inside. Pausing around the corner, she listened…
“There is nothing here that would interest you, traveler! It is just my daughter and I in this quiet temple! We do not ask for trouble!” Pao’s father stood firm between the monastery entrance and the figures before him. The sword wielding warrior chuckled softly, shooting a glance at his companions as they did the same. “We know it’s here old man, now get out of the way or you and the little girl will have trouble!” A soft sigh escaped her fathers lips as he raised his polearm, tugging at the strings lining the blades cover. Gleaming in the sun, the thick silver blade was revealed. Turning it towards the travelers he made it clear he would not stand down. Eager to the challenge the tall man raised his rapier and dashed forward. The sound of clashing metal hummed through the forest. The fight seemed to be an even match, if for a moment, but with a mere sweep of his leg her father tripped the man and planted the blade of his pole-arm into his skull. Ripping it from the now lifeless body, Pao’s father faced the two remaining warriors. Frowning, the man with the daggers drew his blades and rushed her father as well. Dodging most of her fathers strikes the man managed to get in close and slash at his forearm. Her father took the chance to sweep his spear and slice deep into the rogues torso, killing him instantly. Once again, he pulled his weapon from his victim and now faced the last traveler.
The woman grinned with little remorse for her allies and approached Pao’s father. “Why do you smile, woman? You are next if you do not back dow-..!” Her father winced as his words were cut short. Staggering slightly, his vision began to blur. The small cut on his arm began to foam unnaturally. “You old fool, you put up a good fight but this seems to be the way you go.” The woman approached her father, who had now fallen to his knees. His polearm fell to his side as his strength withered. “R-run Pao! Grab it and run!” The large weight at the end of the travelers greatclub swung down upon Pao’s father, crushing his skull. Pao froze in horror, tears streaming down her face as she listened to her fathers last words. Without a moment to mourn, she grasped her walking stick and furiously tapped at the stone floor as she ran towards the temple shrine. Knowing the layout of the monastery like the back of her hand, Pao had little trouble navigating its rocky hallways. “Hey little girl! That’s right! Lead me right to it!” Screaming into the temple, the woman who had just murdered her father pursued young Pao. As Pao approached the shrine door she took no time to slow down and bashed the door open with all her might, continuing to the back of the room. Pressing herself to the moss covered wall she frantically felt up and down until she found what she was looking for. A small piece of a golden talisman that had been fixed to the center of the wall. As she desperately tugged at the relic, it wouldn’t leave its socket. “There you are, little brat!” The club wielding woman stood in the doorway of the shrine. Pao threw her walking stick aside as she grabbed the relic with both hands. Pulling with all her strength, it came loose in a bright flash of light.
As Pao stumbled backwards and the light faded, she swiftly whipped around to face the warrior, but paused for a moment. Her breathing had steadied and it seemed that everything, even time itself, was standing still for a moment. The room around her was.. she could see the line of benches to her right.. As the woman in front of her approached Pao, she could see her movements… She could see in a way like never before. Every step seemed to vibrate through the earth and echo up into Pao’s body, she could see exactly where the large woman was. It’s as if the ground beneath her was telling her everything. “Hand it over little shit!” The woman swung her club down upon Pao without hesitation, but as it neared, the young girl gracefully stepped aside, allowing it to crash into the stone tile. Arching a brow in confusion, the warrior grimaced and swung the club at Pao once more. Dodging her strikes with unnatural grace, young Pao instinctively threw a fist towards the center of the woman’s torso. Her father had always trained her to defend herself, but with this new-found vision, the techniques could be executed flawlessly. But the relic seemed to have granted more than just that. Pao’s fist flew towards the woman but stopped just short of its mark, yet a large blast of Ki energy erupted from her fist, sending the woman hurling into the wall behind. Sensing the vibrations of the ground with her feet she confidently grabbed the greatclub the woman had dropped and walked towards her. Pao lifted it with ease above her head, tears still set upon her face. “Fuckin’ brat, how the he-” Pao cut the womans words short as she swung the greatclub down into her skull.
Two years have past since the day her father died. Pao now travels as a bodyguard or hireling, avoiding treasure hunters who would seek to claim her father’s talisman, and searching for its two missing pieces. She knows nothing of this relics origins, or why her father dedicated his life to protecting it. It seemed to only react to her touch. But.. why would her father die for it? Why would he leave her for it? Why wouldn’t he have informed her of its strange power earlier? She wanted nothing but answers and would do anything to find them.
Pao’s Notable Conquests
- Putting Ichiga in his place as soon as she was introduced to the party.
- Guiding the party through their first quest together.
- Punching things to death.
Pao’s Notable Failures
- Being blind.
- Walking into a Wall of Force because she is BLIND.