Miko's Heart, Beyond Lawful Good (Part 1)

I am named Miko Miyazaki, of the Sapphire Guard but paladin no more. In doing what I believed to be fulfilling my duty to the Twelve Gods, they have seen fit to strip me of my greater status in spite of the ultimate sacrifice. Only, not so ultimate. The resistance found and raised me, but the Twelve Gods saw fit to complicate the matter. Through no fault of the cleric’s, I am under atonement and a quest to understand why I was stripped of my higher status. To understand and truly atone for my actions leading me to destroy the Azure Gate.

While I find it distasteful, I have cleansed and had blessed armor scavenged from one of my many fallen brothers and sisters in Duty to complement my own. I am armed and provisioned once more, with a mount suitable for my needs. Against my will I am forced to leave the Resistance. I would die again in the service of the Twelve, and they deny me the chance to strike at our enemies, at the hated lich! My Duty to the Twelve is greater than my duty to Azure City, and so I must undertake this unfathomable quest, for it seems my folly is not as simple as I believe.

While preparing for my journey, I have overheard the talk of the Resistance that greatly disturbs me. I have always been acknowledged as one of the greatest paladins alive, and yet I am held in less regard than a katana of poorest craftsmanship. How can this be? Have I not fulfilled my missions and done my Duty? Was I not one of the finest paladins to serve the Guard? More disturbing still are the things I hear of the cursed Order of the Stick. They are regarded as heroes and held in reknown, and their leader paid the same price as I attempting to halt Xykon.

For this I find myself sad, as while often irritating we still had many enjoyable conversations. Perhaps this is but the first step in understanding, to understand why all respond so ill towards my person and yet so well to that attractively bald Roy? I pray, as always and constantly, to the Twelve for guidance on the roads away from Azure City. My prayer seems to have found an answer, as another of our number was inexplicably traveling the same road.

Matsumo Kamakura was always one of the few sparring partners I feel was always time well spent. He was always willing to learn and eager to train, although perhaps this has something to do with me. Can it be that despite my actions and startling reputation among my fellows, there are those drawn to me? I cannot define my unfamiliar emotions on this possibility, but they are warm and I seem to be unable to suppress them. I thank the Twelve that Matsumo has agreed to travel with me this day and camp this night, that we may part with the blessings of the Twelve in the morning.

It was perhaps unwise of me to be so blunt in our early conversation, but it was as though the Twelve themselves compelled me to be as blunt as possible. I asked Matsumo about the Resistance, how the Guard viewed me, and the Order. He hedged at first, which irritated me, so I ordered him to tell me the truth and stop dawdling. Perhaps I am no longer his superior, but through a hot blush and temporarily gritted teeth he informed me as I desired. Brusquely, before becoming silent as a clam.

I felt the urge to strike him for insolence and challenge his claim, but the proof had been before my own eyes and come through my own ears. I took many deep breaths and calmed myself so I could mull over his words after a bitten off, “Thank you.”

His obvious surprise that I would thank him for a task, when courtesy and custom clearly demanded such, struck me like an unholy crossbow bolt. Had I truly been so oblivious to the evidence of my senses and circumstances? I promised myself to pay more attention and at least hear others out in conversations from now on, and was only too happy when, after great length, Matsumo resumed idle conversation about the City, the Guard, our companions lost, and matters of immediate circumstance. I found myself laughing sadly at his happy memories with all the departed, realizing I had missed ever making such memories myself. What a treasure to have missed! Truly the Twelve Gods must have sent Matsumo to me for such painful insight.

Darkness fell too soon, so we made camp by the river. I took care of the horses while Matsumo set up camp and prepared to clean himself for the evening. I found my eyes drawn to him as the armor fell away, leaving his battle-hardened body in only his tunic and breeches under the moon. If only he would stretch so I might admire…by the Twelve, what am I thinking! Such thoughts are foreign to me, and yet the Guard does not proscribe against the carnal among its members. Anything that leads to trouble is discouraged and disciplined, but anything else is ignored…No! I cannot think this way!

I shook myself to my senses over our mounts, only to catch Matsumo walking away to the stream. Wearing nothing, leaving his well-turned thigh bare to the moon, and his…by the Twelve, had he no shame?! I was certainly NOT blushing as I tended the fire. Yes, that was certainly where the heat came from. Ye Twelve above, why do you tempt me so?

While Matsumo was gone I prepared my own bedroll so I could get clean and retire immediately without incident. Matsumo tended the fire and dinner as I moved into the trees to prepare myself for cleaning. Surely it would be better to be out of sight, unlike Matsumo! Yet the thought of his eyes…how would he look at me without the armor? Chasing the thought away, I finished stripping to my shift and entered the river, only removing it to keep it from getting wet.

Before returning to camp I made sure my shift was secure and was glad Matsumo was in his breeches again. The firelight played off his chiseled chest very well…oh, gods! I ate quietly by the firelight, realizing when we finished how amazingly cold it was. Did Matsumo have any extra blankets? He didn’t, and so I hurriedly got into my own and tried to chase sleep. It didn’t come swiftly enough, and Matsumo joined me, still in his breeches. I couldn’t protest standard field procedure for keeping the night’s chill away and preserving our healing. …besides, resting back against his body was warm and comforting in the night as the fire dwindled. It was his warm presence and strong arms that lulled me to sleep.

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