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Morgenstern

[PP-F19] Sword of Atonement

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Jonathan stood on the nineteenth floor, standing int he direct center of the rocky boss room that once belonged to Tanos. He had found a new sense of purpose recently, and wanted to fight harder than ever. He was ready to become the symbol of protection that everyone once looked up to him as. He would protect everyone that he could, no matter the cost. In the center of the boss room stood Tanos's head, basically a large rock now. Jonathan's goal was to cut through this rock, becoming comfortable with the Katana while he was at it. He had struck relentlessly for several days, working on his own form. He had done fine in the Event boss fight, but he needed to become better. The katana was uncomfortable. "This is my blade of atonement. I have to master it" he told himself. 'For them. Itzal, Hikoru, Kasier, Hestia, Penelo and Rin. I have something to protect, and If I can't swing this sword, how am I supposed to carve the way out of here for them?' 

@Baldur

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It was petty, and Baldur knew it. He needed to get to floor 19 to complete a quest, but a certain someone was currently on floor 19 in the settlement, and so to avoid said person, Baldur was taking the stairs.

Who on earth takes the stairs to get from floor to floor other than PKers?

With a sigh, Baldur descended slowly into the boss room of Tanos. He had meant to be at that boss fight, but events had conspired against him. All that remained of the giant they had destroyed was a giant trophy, the head. The massive stone form was bigger than any player was tall, though at the moment, there was the sounds of combat surrounding it.

Kuso. Of course there's a PvP fight here.

Whatever was happening appeared to be intense and just out of Baldur's sight on the far side of the massive boulder. He could see the colors arcs of light from sword arts, and heard the noise of the blade clashing with a target, but Baldur could only make out a single orange crystal. Was the other player smaller and pinned against the head of Tanos? Who would even come here to be ambushed?

Baldur sorted through his things to make sure he had a teleport crystal and a safeguard available. There weren't many people who were Baldur's equal or better, but he didn't know the situation he was walking into, either.

Sneaking down the stairs, Baldur came up on the fight in the attacking orange player's blind spot, then suddenly leapt to the top of the head, drawing the fearsome <<Muramasa>> and pointing it downward, prepared to tell off the orange player and protect whoever the downtrodden had been.

"Jonathan?" Baldur asked perplexed, watching as the player had attacked the very boulder than Baldur stood upon. He wasn't fighting anyone, he was hacking away at the skull of Tanos.

With a practiced, ritualized motion, Baldur swept the blade around him and then sheathed it, sliding his hand down the handle and then finally releasing it with a gesture as if he were throwing something away. The gaijin samurai then knelt down to be closer to the knight.

"What are you doing here?"

 

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OOC: Sorry, thought it was you that Liked the 19th floor

A bead of virtual sweat rolled down the side of his face as he endlessly attacked the skull, trying to work on his form. Taking a second, he would stand breathing heavily. He stared at his target for a moment, the head of Tanos barely cracked after his work. It had very high durability, but it did not bring up the immortal object sign so he knew that it had some limit to its health. Sucking in another breath through his nose, he would activate <<San Ge>> on his target once more, a storm of yellow light effects coming to life as the game processed his attack. His blade struck his target several times until he prepared for the last blow, a single forceful slash. As he finished he took another breath. 'How can I make this better? What can I do?' A blur of movement from the rock caught his attention and he leapt several feet backward, entering a defensive stance. 

Staring back at him was man with a Katana pointed offensively at him. Jonathan's eyes trailed up the blade until they met Baldur's. "Jonathan?" the man asked, confused. The man crouched on his rock and looked down to ask him, "What are you doing here?" The blonde took his own katana, Raikiri, and slowly sheathed it on his hip. He placed his left hand on the hilt, looking back at the samurai. "Trying to figure things out. The Katana is a little bit different than the One-handed Curved Sword and the Two-handed-straight sword." he would reply to the man's question casually. "Better question, what are you doing on my rock?" he asked, a lighter-tone to his voice. 

It had been a while since he had actually spoken with Baldur, the man that reached out to him personally and requested that the joined the frontlines. Well, it had been a while since he talked to just about anyone on the frontlines. 

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"Oho, your rock is it?" Baldur said with a smile and a slight chuckle before sitting down on the edge of the giant head, looking down at the blond swordsman.

"I thought Macradon was the one who finished this thing off?" He patted the giant stone, bits of moss covering it, either from before the fight or after was no different to Baldur. The gaijin samurai was dressed as he always was, his twin katana at his left hip, and the traditional japanese haori about his shoulders, trailing down over his hakama pants, and little bits of armor covering his chest and shins and arms.

"I noticed at the zombie halloween event that you had switched the Katana. Is there a reason you made the change? You've come a winding way from when I thought you were going to be a tank."

How long had it been? Baldur vaguely remembered meeting Jonathan on the side of the Volcano, and then he had had a meteoric rise to become a tank from the frontline, but then all Baldur remembered was some kind of animosity between he and Shield. There was often competition between tanks. Everyone wanted to be the MAIN tank, and tanks were not something parties tended to need more than 1 or 2 of.

The steel blue eyes of the gaijin samurai watched the blond knight, evaluating him and his headspace. Baldur didn't remember him being orange, but when he had shown up at the event, the former Paladin had born the crystal. What would have caused him to go orange? Baldur trusted Jonathan, but there was just enough caution in Baldur to be wary of what might have changed in the man.

Edited by Baldur

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Baldur offered him a chuckle, noting that he had said that it was Jon's rock. "I've been whacking it long enough that it and I have a very... intimate relationship". Jonathan returned with a smile and shifting his weight to his left hip. He stepped closer to the rock, knowing that he wasn't in any danger. "I thought Macradon was the one who finished this thing off?" Baldur asked as he patted the large skull. "hmm if I recall. It was either him or the Knights of the Blood Oath Leader, Heathcliff." Jonathan stated plainly. He really thought it was Heathcliff, and the man just gave the weapon to his subordinate. The blonde haired player stepped forward, fixing the yellow Haori so that it stayed on him straight. His offered no enhancements, but it made the Katana look better and covered most of his armor. His armor was a grayish color with fleks of orange inside of the color. When he was hit in just the right way, a burst of electricity would conduct into the surrounding area, zapping the enemy that hit him. It was a quick flash, almost too fast to see if one was not paying attention. 

Jonathan looked up to Baldur, who's eyes seemed to be going over him in detail. "I noticed at the zombie halloween event that you had switched the Katana. Is there a reason you made the change? You've come a winding way from when I thought you were going to be a tank." Jonathan blinked, offering a sigh to the samurai. "I have never seen Calrex using a shield in the boss raids. Would you still consider him to be a tank? I still have all of the tanking skills, my mitigation has slightly suffered so that my damage would boost dramatically. I carried around a Two-handed straight sword for a while, but things happen and I hate to see one in my hands anymore. I switched to the katana to try to change what I had become." 

A short time of silence would ensue as Baldur seemed to evaluate him and Jonathan let it happen. a lot of people had to get a look at him after a drastic change. Most of them didn't see him in the all black armor though. "What brings you here?" Jonathan asked, questioning the man's reasons. "I am having doubts that its to hit my rock for practice" the blonde would say sarcastically. 

@Baldur

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Baldur listened to Jonathan's comments with a curious ear, but found nothing that would give him cause to be on edge. The way the man had been attacking the stone was not normal. In fact, it reminded Baldur of something that had happened to him in his childhood, when he had first started to study the katana. He had not yet been trusted with a blade, though he probably close to Jonathan's age at the time, and his sensei had laid out exercise mats in a long row up until they were chest high. The practice was simple, to learn to strike through the opponent, since so often with a partner you stopped before you hit them. Baldur, for reasons that were lost to time, had struck the mats with his bokken with everything he had, and so quickly you might have thought he was using a sword art in real life. So ferocious were his blows, that the people around him had become frightened, and the Sensei had to intervene.

Baldur had kept the bokken, broken as it was, as a reminder. It seemed to the gaijin samurai, that Jon was doing something similar here now.

"Well, Calrex doesn't consider himself a tank either." Baldur and Jon would let the conversation lapse, while Jon left the sentence hanging in the air, and the samurai pondered the mans words.

I switched to the katana to try and change what I had become.

Baldur opened his mouth to retort, something sage and witty at the same time, when Jon asked him another question.

"Me? Well, I just happened to be in the neighborhood." At this, Baldur finally pushed off from the rock and dropped down to where Jonathan stood, no longer forcing the younger man to crane his neck up to look at the samurai.

"How satisfying has it been to attack the rock? I can't imagine it's much for witty repartee." Baldur took a few steps past Jonathan, but paused once again and turned around.

"Hey Jon... are you... doing ok?"

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"Well, Calrex doesn't consider himself a tank either." Jonathan frowned. Calrex was the best tank in Aincrad according to literally everyone within Aincrad. His Unique skill was so powerful as it negated most of the physical damage that came his way. The lack of magic within Aincrad made him almost invincible as players had to rely on luck from status effects. He watched as the samurai hopped down from Tanos's head and looked back at it, asking him if he enjoyed repeatedly attacking the rock over and over. "Hmmm, the rock doesn't provide much when it comes to mental stipulation, but If I am even getting a little bit better than I think that is what counts." He sighed, watching as Baldur walked towards him until he atually moved past the blonde. 

"Hey Jon... are you... doing ok?"

Morgenstern sucked in a sharp breath of air as he turned to look at Baldur. 'I could lie and avoid the question, or I could just give in to it'. He looked at Baldur, gritting his teeth. "I will admit, its been hard and being okay isn't exactly the normal with all that has happened. However, I decided that I can't just sit back and mope in my sadness. I have done some things that I need to repent for, and every day I am working hard to make it up. At least the last few days." 

He looked back to Baldur, hoping the man didn't ask him to explain what exactly he did. He really had hoped the man was aware of the Ascendants fate at least. Jonathan would look back to the skull of the fallen boss.

@Baldur

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Baldur listened to Jonathan's expression of his emotions. Part of the gaijin samurai was surprised that Jon opened up to him, even just this little bit, as most believe that stoic masculinity meant hiding your feeling. Such a lack of bravado was refreshing coming from the new samurai. Baldur took a quarter step to turn towards Jonathan, turning his head the rest of the way so that he was almost looking at over his shoulder at Jon. There was a... tenderness in Baldur's normally steel blue eyes. Now, in stead of the steel, they were a serene ocean blue that almost no one ever saw in the samurai. A vulnerability.

"None of what we're going through is normal, we're all struggling to be okay."

He turned the rest of the way, and put both of his hands on Jonathan's shoulders, "Happy shared, is happiness multiplied. Pain shared, is pain divided." He gave the man a kind of sappy smile, even though Baldur was many years his senior, he only stood slightly taller than Jonathan. Sometimes the breath and... scars of that life experience caused him to seem taller than he was, and sometimes the weight of it shrank him. The wanna-be samurai's recent struggles seemed to have weighed him down more recently, but he hoped that perhaps he could help the boy before him find peace in some way.

"I'm glad you've found the strength to push forward. A wise oji-san once said, 'In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.' and it is some of the best advice I've ever heard."

Baldur gently released the man from his grasp, but didn't break eye contact.

"I was going through a very difficult time in life once, perhaps one of the lowest points I've ever had. I didn't like what I had to do, I didn't like my options, and I didn't like myself. At the time, my wise older friend said to me...

"You are currently crossing a river of [censored], and on the opposite bank, you see your future self. Do what you need to do to enable THAT person, to give your future self the tools and things they need so that you'll go on and prosper. Today is just a stepping stone so to enable that person to be anything."

He pat the young man on the shoulder.

"We are all works in progress, even me, though I have less time left to make progress than you. Repent. Repentance is good, we all need it. Nobility of character isn't being better than someone else, it's being better than we were yesterday. It's never being satisfied with the progress we have made. It is always striving to be a better man."

Baldur took a few steps away, and then drew his sword, <<Shukketsu>>, the wicked looking serrated hamon pattern on the blade gave away its bleed enhancement.

"If you'd like, I can show you a few tricks I've picked up with the Katana. I'm sure you'd figure them out eventually, but there's no reason to do things the hard way." Alone.

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He watched as Baldur would turn back towards him, the look i his eyes soft and tender. "None of what we're going through is normal, we're all struggling to be okay." The blond was more than happy to hear that Baldur understood what he meant and wasn't telling him to man up or something of that sort. The man would turn and place his hands on Jonathan's shoulders, his eye contact unbreaking. "Happy shared, is happiness multiplied. Pain shared, is pain divided." Jonathan would look back to Baldur's smile, finding his meaning within the words. Both pain and joy were things to be shared. When it came to the weight he carried, he could share ti instead of taking it on alone. A small smile would form on the blondes lips.

"I'm glad you've found the strength to push forward. A wise oji-san once said, 'In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.' and it is some of the best advice I've ever heard." He wasn't actually sure what an oji-san was but it sounded as if Baldur respected him. 'If inner strength is what I'v found than it took me a long time to find it. It took plunging myself further into my own darkness and to lose absolutely everything. Why is that it takes so much pain to find it?'  Baldur would release his shoulders, though the eye contact would remain. 

"You are currently crossing a river of [censored], and on the opposite bank, you see your future self. Do what you need to do to enable THAT person, to give your future self the tools and things they need so that you'll go on and prosper. Today is just a stepping stone so to enable that person to be anything." He stifled a laugh as Baldur seemed to take a break from his seriousness. As he mentioned looking at himself from the opposite bank, he said that was the person he needed to help. "There is no helping the person on the previous bank"  he would state simply. He felt as the person on the previous bank is the one who needed the help most. 

"We are all works in progress, even me, though I have less time left to make progress than you. Repent. Repentance is good, we all need it. Nobility of character isn't being better than someone else, it's being better than we were yesterday. It's never being satisfied with the progress we have made. It is always striving to be a better man." It was interesting to Jonathan that the man considered himself incomplete, that he could always do better.

He watched as the man stood back, pulling out a serrated katana from his inventory. "If you'd like, I can show you a few tricks I've picked up with the Katana. I'm sure you'd figure them out eventually, but there's no reason to do things the hard way."

The blonde's eyes closed, smiling a good smile for the second time in the last few hard weeks. He brought his left hand to hold his katana's sheath, while his right rested on his hilt. Jonathan's own style came from a single, powerful attack at high speeds. With Baldur's help, he might be able to figure something else out as well. "I suppose I'm ready when you are. Try not to get jealous if I eventually surpass you" the former Paladin would say confidently. "Show me what to do"  

'Glassy Sky above. As long as I'm alive, you will be part of me.' 

 

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Baldur smiled when Jonathan took a familiar stance. It seemed the man had gravitated towards Baldur's own style, but instead, Baldur waved the tip of katana at Jon dismissively.

"Don't worry, we'll get to that. But for now, it's more important to know what to do after that, since most of our time will be spent with the sword already out and in the midst of battle."

Baldur took up a stance in front of Jon, raising the katana high above his head, and the blade slightly curving back almost like a shark fin raised above his head.

"In traditional katana fighting, there are three basic stances. This is called Jodan, and in European I believe it's called high guard. Normally, these stances are used for power generation, because we have to rely on momentum and inertia and torsion of the body to generate power. Then you also have Gedan, or Fool's guard."

Baldur lowered the tip of his point till it was aimed at the ground, still held with two hands in front of him. His right foot forward.

"I usually think of this as a baiting stance, which I like to believe is why it's called Fool's guard." Baldur flashed an amused smile to the blond, "but since we're in sword art online, we don't rely on power generation for the strength of our attacks, we rely on the system assist for the sword arts." Baldur raises the tip of the blade to be almost level with his eyes, but with the sword pointing out towards Jon, creating a lot of space between them.

"This is the most neutral guard, the most natural stance, and is called Chudan, or Longpoint guard. This creates space, and gives you the most defensible position because you can move into any other stands easily. It is also, for our intents and purposes, the easiest position to move from into any of our sword arts."

Baldur demonstrated by moving swiftly, and with no wasted effort, into the pre-motion of the sword arts, the blade beginning to hum with color before he disengaged the art before it would fire. As he moved from San Ge, to Amatsu no Homura, no an unsheathed Iai, he didn't move a muscle that didn't need to be moved. His movements were quick, but precise. He has obviously memorized and rehearsed these movements thousands of times, until they had becomes second nature to him.

"The other stances are really just there if you want to play head games with your opponent, which would be mostly for PvP. You can trip up the AI by using the other stances, because it is continuously trying to learn our fighting style until we kill the NPC, but it takes a lot of practice to move from one stance into the premotion quickly and by muscle memory. Rather than striking the rock, I find it better to practice flowing between Arts. Learning to feel that pull of system, but also how to not engage it unless you want. Riding that line can give you the advantage. Waiting for your opponent to have an opening, and then letting the system snap you into motion."

Edited by Baldur

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As he stood, waiting for the right time to draw his weapon with an attack. However, Baldur waved his katana at Jonathan and asked him to just focus with the main portion of the battle instead of the beginning of it. The blonde would give a confident nod, acknowledging the samurai's words. He would pull the weapon from its sheathe, a satisfying metal hiss accompanying the action. Baldur brought his own katana above his head, as if he were prepared to smite down onto a target. Baldur would introduce it as the high guard and noted that it was normal for someone to enter this stance for the extra power. The blonde would bring his own katana

He watched as Baldur lowered his point to the ground in a stance that he called the Fool's Guard, which was more of a baiting trick. When he mentioned power generation, Jonathan's face would become one of confusion. "So, does that mean its pointless? If there is something better, is the fool guard actually a good technique within Sword Art Online?"

He watched as Baldur entered a third and final stance, pointing the sword directly at him. "This is the most neutral guard, the most natural stance, and is called Chudan, or Longpoint guard. This creates space, and gives you the most defensible position because you can move into any other stands easily. It is also, for our intents and purposes, the easiest position to move from into any of our sword arts." this seemed to be the most important to Jonathan. He watched as the man would shift from the Longpoint position into a sword art and then suggested practicing coming out of that instead of constantly striking a rock. 

The blonde would enter a rudimentary Longpoint stance and quickly make the motion to activate the San Ge sword art. After the attack finished, he would return to his stance. With what Baldur had said, he beleived he could make progress, but it would take some time to perfect. "Hmm.... What am I gonna do with my rock then?" he would ask half-jokingly. 

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"The stances become more useful the more you are used to moving from position to sword art. The faster and more precise you can be, the more  you can throw off your opponent. Even the AI, the longer you fight it, will begin to understand your patterns. At least, until you kill it, then the next one learns from scratch. So the longer the fight goes, the more alternate stances will help you create openings. However, against trash mobs, chudan is the most useful, since we can kill most things in a hit or two."

Baldur assumed the jodan stance, the most aggressive stance as if inviting an invisible enemy to strike at his exposed midsection, and then the samurai, rather than bringing the blade down in a powerful slash from on high, he took a step back, moving the sword into <<San Ge>>. Such an imaginary foe would have attacked empty space where the samurai had been, only to find themselves faced with his flurry of attacks, the most devastating x15 sword art. Immediately following the end of the system assisted motion, Baldur was held helpless for a moment, until the system released him, however he had the ending position of San Ge memorize,d and quickly moved his sword directly into an unsheathed <<Iai>>, keeping the time between the two sword arts to the shortest time humanly possible, almost appearing to have chained the two sword arts into one, except for that heartbeat pause before the system disengaged him.

"Because of the raw damage difference, and the energy costs, there really aren't a whole lot of options for us. We do have one of the highest damage stuns of any weapon, however the loss in damage between <<Iai>> and <<San Ge>> means that unfortunately it's almost never worth opening with Iai, especially when you consider the accuracy penalty of <<charge>>. So it really falls down to being able to alternate from the tail end of San Ge into whatever strike you want to follow up with." remBaldur smiles, and then relaxes his stance, sheathing his sword once more.

"The lock on target and system assist of SAO removes a lot of the skill necessary for successfully attacking a foe, which helps players who don't have a black belt be able to compete with someone like me. However, that means we have to find other ways to be more accurate. If accuracy in attacking the foe is resolved by the system, then we should focus on what is within our control."

Baldur slowly sits down in seiza, the traditional sitting position of a samurai and gestures for Jonathan to do as he does.

"Shifting from stance to stance to stance as quickly and accurately as possible is something that comes with time and effort. It will set you apart from the average player who hesitates, or someone who has only recently mastered the katana. What will set you at the pinnacle is the sharpness and accuracy of your mind. Your will. Western traditions often have heroes wielding magic swords. Excalibur. Durandal. Gram. The hero gets a sword with power. In the eastern tradition, any weapon became magical in the hands of a master. Sure there are swords like Kusanagi, Muramasa, and the Masamune, but Musashi won his most famous fights with a bokken, a wooden sword. The idea is that one who has trained his mind as a weapon makes any sword magical."

Baldur slowly arranged his hands in a specific way, right hand under left, both palms facing up, but with his thumbs touching, making a circular shape.

"To really master the sword, you have to master yourself. If you're interested, I will teach you what I taught Calrex. How to master your mind, and your emotions. If you can do it, then you have gained the ultimate weapon of a samurai, which is just as important in SAO as it is in real life."

The calm ocean blue eyes once again steeled, and looked up at Jonathan. The look was a challenge.

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He would watch carefully as Baldur demonstrated a summary of what he knew. Explaining how an understanding of each stance was important, and even go into depth of how they differed within the game and their uses. His demonstrations were quick and hard to follow, but the samurai displayed his ability to chain his attacks rather fast. His teachings were fast and brisk and he felt like he was within a classroom, desperately trying to absorb what the teacher had to say. He watched as the man sat on his knees in the traditional Japanese seiza, something he had heard of when studying the country of Japan and learning the Japanese language. When the man gestured for him to follow suit, he did so, taking a rudimentary seiza. 

"Shifting from stance to stance to stance as quickly and accurately as possible is something that comes with time and effort. It will set you apart from the average player who hesitates, or someone who has only recently mastered the katana. What will set you at the pinnacle is the sharpness and accuracy of your mind. Your will. Western traditions often have heroes wielding magic swords. Excalibur. Durandal. Gram. The hero gets a sword with power. In the eastern tradition, any weapon became magical in the hands of a master. Sure there are swords like Kusanagi, Muramasa, and the Masamune, but Musashi won his most famous fights with a bokken, a wooden sword. The idea is that one who has trained his mind as a weapon makes any sword magical."

He would take in his words. His meaning was that strength came from the user, not the weapon. Within the world of Aincrad, he wasn't sure if said notion was true but the man's point was clear. "Mastering the mind and emotions is something I have tried working on for a very long time. Everytime I think I've got it, I lose control" he hated to admit it but it was true. Everytime he put forth effort to control himself, some twisted event found itself in his life. He would watch as the man would face him, his eyes daring with their ocean blue color. 'Is this a no word challenge? I don't know whats proper for samurai's to duel. I think I have to... bow?' He brought his top end down to the ground, showing his respect. Leaping off the ground, he would bring his hand to his hilt once more, staring back at the man. "This... is what you wanted right? Sorry if I took your expression the wrong way".

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