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Diolnaga did not sit on his throne, like so many would, in that barren camp. After moments of deliberation with mother, Diolnaga dispatched three of the four guardsmen who remained to find and return his fleeing subjects, explaining that Diolnaga would be kind to any who returned. The fourth, he questioned:
"Zebu, where did he learn to fight?"
The guard stuttered, "Zebu learned from scroll."
"A scroll?" Diolnaga stared at the Oni for a moment. "Can you bring this to me?"
Diolnaga groaned, "You mean I will, or just yes..."
"Yes, my Lord."
At that the Oni King smirked, "Excellent, actually though...bring me to it."
So the guard, whose name is Diolnaga, discerned along the way as Berron, led Diolnaga to a pile of bones in the corner of the village. The bones were not so much piled upon closer inspection, as they were tied together and laid out carefully. They were easily lifted as a single sheet though, and below Diolnaga found a makeshift chest containing four scrolls. The Oni King picked up the first scroll, and made to read it, but found some difficulty in this, as he and his tribe had hardly dealt with the written word. In fact, most Onis had not. He set this aside and drew out the next scroll, which again proved troublesome as it bore mostly words, however, there were also several depictions of what seemed to be the attacks Zebu had used before, being performed by an Oni.
Diolnaga frowned as he tried to make sense of the jumble of letters scribbled across the page. "What was this called?"
"Zebu called it Chief's Style," Berron answered.
Diolnaga only nodded. "It seemed too weak for the style of a chief. It is slow and without threat."
Despite his negative opinion, Diolnaga heaved the chest from the ground and carried it to the hut of bone that served as his new home. There he sat and unraveled the four scrolls in a corner and called to Berron. "Learn it, see if you might improve upon it."
"My Lord," Berron stuttered, "It is nothing but pictures."
"Then imitate them," Diolnaga stated simply, sweeping his broad arms across the scrolls. With that he left, beginning the process of moving the remains of his probusci hunt into his residence. Carefully laying out the bones and skins in as organized a fashion as he might. This was followed by further improvements on his sled, using the skins to wall off the sides and reinforcing the ropes of skin used to tow it. Soon the Oni King's work was interrupted by a thousand thudding footsteps as his people returned to him.
Diolnaga looked up from his sled of bone and skin to find a dozen or more Oni, alongside one of the guardsmen he had dispatched, and a man, bound by his hands and feet, slung over the guard's shoulder.
"My people," Diolnaga nodded toward them as he stood and dusted his hands, "I welcome you back to your village, and to my kingdom." He approached them slowly. "There was, misunderstanding, upon my defeat of Zebu, that I might be a cruel ruler, or even that I would kill you since you are not my native tribe," Diolnaga shook his head, "Understand that I am not some chieftain of Onis, I am the one true king of all Oni-kind, and I will treat all in my kingdom with a kind heart, and all who oppose us shall be reigned in, or...dispatched."
The guardsman responded with a shout of pride, which was taken up by the rest of the Oni King's new subjects. Diolnaga approached the guard. "Your name?"
"Sedu," the Oni answered.
"And what is this?"
Sedu unloaded his cargo, which grunted as it hit the ground. A young man with tan skin, whose thick brown hair was drawn back in a pony-tail. "My name is Ren Ki-," he was interrupted by a swift kick from the guard.
"He is a swordsman from the East," Sedu stated. "He was hunting sand cats."
Diolnaga peered around at his subjects for a moment. "Bring him into my hut."
Diolnaga sat on the mat where Zebu had once sat, cross-legged. The easterner sat across from him, his hands bound, his sword at Diolnaga's side. The two stared at each other for a moment, before Diolnaga took the human's sword and cut the bindings on his hands. "Tell me who you are."
"Well, I tried," the swordsman stated as he rolled his eyes. "I am Ren Kisabari, a samurai...or at least I was, until I was stripped of my point and released to a pride of Rath'nini."
Diolnaga gave Ren a considering look. "You survived a pride of Rath'nini?"
"I have fought the man-sized serpents of the West, and I have slain a dozen lions," Ren stated with no disillusion of modesty. "What challenge might the two combined give me?"
"None more than a herd of probusci might give the king of Onis," Diolnaga stated, sharing in the ronin's arrogance. "My guard says you were hunting Pride Stalkers..."
Ren nodded. "They're good meat, if you can catch them."
"It's tricky though," Diolnaga remarked, stroking his chin, "Stalking something that blends into the desert sands."
The ronin smirked, "You know, they don't really blend into the sand. In my country they are as vibrant as bamboo stalks, and in the mountains they are as dull as stone, they appear as whatever they wish."
The Oni King nodded, "Of course, enough idle chatter, ronin, you are not alive because I wish to share hunting stories and beast knowledge, though it is a pleasure, you are alive because you are human."
The swordsman quirked a brow. "I could say the same for your survival..."
"Not your survival, your life," Diolnaga nodded to the blade in his hand before passing it to the ronin. "Any other Oni chief would give little consideration to your life, why do you think I have?"
Ren pondered this for a moment, then gave Diolnaga a broad smile. "You are not a chief, you are the Oni King."
Now Diolnaga smiled, a wide toothy look that bore his threatening fangs, "Right you are, but more specifically, I need your assistance."
Ren nodded. "I suppose I owe you my life...you have spared me...and your guard did fend off the Pride Stalkers."
"I'm sorry?" Diolnaga questioned, cutting his eyes at the swordsman.
"Oh nothing, so what can I do for you, oh great Oni King, Diolnaga?"
Diolnaga pointed to the corner of the hut where Berron had left the scrolls, "Read those."
It took the pair two hours to read the first document, which served as only a brief summary of what Ren read as The Oni King's Triumvirate Style.
"So, from what I gather here, the Oni King was an ancient ruler of all of the Oni clans, a feat only he has accomplished in the twenty-thousand years of the reign of men. He developed this style to optimize on the Oni's innate strength and brutality, while also taking in elements of human martial arts and training himself to act and think faster than the normal Oni. Says here he trained four elite guardsmen to use The Oni King's Strike and The Oni King's Blade to protect him as he perched on his throne."
Diolnaga sat and listened patiently as Ren read over the scroll, occasionally he caught himself salivating at the ideas presented within the text, but he was particularly drawn in by The Oni King's Power.
"The third part of the triumvirate is The Oni King's Power, apparently the Oni King was able to draw upon latent parts of the Oni anatomy to perform supernatural feats. The author lists improved strength, stone spit, and energy channeling as examples."
"Energy channeling?" Diolnaga questioned, peering over Ren's shoulder.
Ren nodded. "Right, I assume it's similar to the Eastern art of Qi conjuring. But...it may also be like the ancient Dwarves' stone magic."
"Anyway, it says only through perfection and mastery of the Oni King's body could he perform these feats, and even then he knew the Oni race's latent potential would never be within his reach."
Diolnaga nodded. "Then I must reach this potential, so that I can usher in a new age of prosperity for the Oni."
"Sounds good, King Diolnaga, but maybe we should first see to it that your people know that they're your people."
"What do you mean?"
"Well..." Kisabari started, tucking away his smile, "There are Oni tribes in the East and the West, in the mountains to the north, and even in the Central Highlands, your best bet for communicating with them and letting them know that the true Oni King has returned...would be to seek help from the Emperor."
"Seek help from the Emperor..." Diolnaga shook his head. "I cannot just seek help from a human, in private that is fine, but the Oni King must make demands of humanity."
"My thoughts exactly," Ren nearly burst into laughter, but held himself together. "So, let us infiltrate the capital, and intimidate the Emperor into helping spread the word of your majesty."
"Us?" Diolnaga chuckled, "What makes you think I would bring you? I have Onis!"
Ren's heart sank for just a moment, but he was not defeated. "Yes, but my Lord Diolnaga, truly the greatest rulers understand that brute force is not the only method, first we must access the throne through deception...to...spare the blood of the few Oni who might be harmed in our intrusion."
The Oni King stroked his chin. "A valid point, samurai, what did you have in mind?"
"I told you, your majesty, I am no longer a samurai...I have lost my master."
"Ah, but you are a samurai, Kisabari, you are the first samurai of the Diolnaga Kingdom."
Ren's eyes gleamed. "Well...in that case my Lord, I haven't a plan yet, we'll come up with one once we get there!"