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Dark Side Demon: Act 2

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ACT II: MASTER

 

In the back of his mind, Buwaro almost felt as though he was being lazy about his training regiment with Kieri. After all, he only spent about a year working with her on the use of the Force and the meditative techniques, while Sepith had spent almost eleven on him. The only things that made it even remotely fair in his mind were that A: Kieri had already been trained in combat and more, and B: Buwaro had had to be raised as well.

While her prior training and knowledge made it easier to dive into the basics of the Force with her, it did make it harder to teach her, in a way. In a short time, Buwaro began to understand why Jedi were trained so young – Kieri had mood problems, swinging from terror and defensiveness to reckless, raging assault, or vice versa, at the drop of a credit chip. To add to her dichotomy, she had a distinct talent for the ability to influence and even assault minds with the Force, not the ability to enhance or some other, more physical power.

It baffled the young Fire Demon, and he hardly knew how to help her.

Still, he had plenty of time after training to work on a new project: armorcrafting. His craftsmanship had produced a couple complete flops, and the rest of his creations weren't very impressive, but eventually he was able to create an armored set of battle robes he'd managed to fit for himself. He never wore them while training Kieri to fight, but they were invaluable in fighting his own master.

Especially when he finally got his own lightsaber. Darth Imperius had said that Medius and Hell had been a successful trial for the Demon apprentice.

Buwaro had spent a full two days just working on his blade. When he finally activated it for the first time, the kyber crystal his master brought him, all the way from Ilum, filled the blade with a beautiful green hue. He smiled at the color, pleased with the brilliant glow and the soft hum of the blade. A few test swings showed him that it was working as it should, cutting the pipe he'd erected for just this purpose, so he deactivated it for later use.

Both he and Kieri took to the elegant weapon with ease, though he suspected Kieri somehow understood the weapon a little quicker than he. To be fair, she had learned in the ways of the sword already, but for most students, that would actually hinder them. He wondered how talented she really was, but put his thoughts aside to teach her.

Kieri was a Sith Warrior at heart, just as he was a Sith Inquisitor. Despite her conditioning and her eager mind, however, the Angel girl was not very confident in a fight until she was really being pushed, at which point she practically lost her ability to think in terms of self-preservation. This realization made Buwaro wonder how deep the girl's mental scars ran, but he never pried into her mind for the answer.

It also didn't help him when he began to see Kieri in a different set of eyes than merely a teacher – but also the eyes of a young, healthy, hot-blooded male. He was surprised that it was so hard to resist watching her, to enjoy the view – her grace in battle was something to behold, even before she began studying Soresu.

Ashara had kept him on point, however. The ex-Jedi had been training with Nikkei during this time – she was mostly a meditative type, surprisingly enough, and easily able to clear her thoughts, perhaps in small part due to the inability to perceive her surroundings when her eyes were closed. With Hakka teaching Ashara the basics of Lingo signs, and the Togruta teaching her student how to read Aurebesh as well as Lingo, the Fire Demon woman had progressed admirably, and regularly duelled Kieri to a draw with Lightsabers and fists alike. She'd even learned to heal with the Force, so that they would be mostly patched up after a fight.

To everyone's surprise, Nikkei had another talent – meditative self-healing. By bringing her power in the Force into her body, she learned how to recover from injuries at a rate that anyone else would consider outright regeneration. Between these talents, she slowly began to "heal" her hearing organs, developing them enough to begin hearing sounds at about half the perceptive ability of an average human with a bit of concentration. It took the full year of training to get that far, but she assured them that it took ten months to get from "understanding the power" to "able to hear dull sounds" portion, so she hoped it would speed up from there.

She had been fascinated at the world of sound, and enjoyed listening to Hakka's voice. Buwaro was sure she was enjoying the moans at night, too, much to his and Kieri's embarrassment.

 

Another month passed on Tatooine before Sepith announced that his planning for Medius was complete. He was going to have a small citadel built on Medius to showcase his power, and to act as an embassy of sorts for Medians and the Empire to interact with each other. He had already chosen a location and was already in the process of moving a small fleet to the system. He was even preparing to announce to Medius's governments during an annual meeting held each summer on the Dragon Archipelago. Though it wasn't a full council of all the system's governors and leaders, it was a time for those in what was known as the Jaunting Sea Alliance to all catch up and exchange information. There were twelve nations involved in the JSA, and while they were mostly fairly small, it was a good place to start.

The island they met on was private and for governmental use only. In addition, it was heavily guarded, nigh impregnable by Median standards. It was with this in mind that Buwaro felt a sort of satisfaction at the shocked faces of the guards when the Fury landed, about fifty Imperial fighters screaming through the sky above them.

In fact, Buwaro was the first to step off the ship, as he had come up with a quip on the trip over. "Greetings," he smiled broadly, spreading his arms wide as he stepped off the ramp entirely. "These are the docks for ships, right? What's the fee to tie up here?" The guards looked, in varied measures, amused, unlistening, and frustrated at the jovial ribbing, but they didn't retaliate, and simply escorted Sepith, Ashara, Hakka, Nikkei, Buwaro, and Kieri to the meeting hall, sending a messenger ahead on horseback.

Ashara asked the guards to help them by carrying a folding table for Sepith to sit at, while she herself carried a similar chair. They complied, concerned about her appearance. "No offense, ma'am, but what are you?" one of the younger guardswomen asked.

"I'm a Togruta," she smiled. "We're from another star system than yours."

"An...an alien?" the young lady had asked, looking not afraid but star-struck. "Oh wow, my sci-fi novels have nothing on this!"

Ashara giggled good-naturedly. "Ask away. I'm not the only species in the galaxy either." The young woman wasted no time in doing so.

When they arrived at the auditorium of the meeting hall, Sepith quietly set up the impromptu desk with the Force, telekinetically lifting it from the guards before they could even ask where he wanted it – much to the shock of the Medians watching. Ashara plopped the chair down for her master, and Sepith sat with a nod and a smile to his Kaleesh apprentice. "Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen," he nodded to the gathered leaders of this corner of Medius, steepling his fingers as he leaned onto the desk.

"What is the meaning of this?" a Khamega man asked, obviously terrified. Buwaro saw the scars along his exposed body and shell, and wondered if the man had once been a pirate – or perhaps had fought them. "Who are you?"

"I am Darth Imperius, Dark Lord of the Sith, Keeper of the Pyramid of Ancient Knowledge, and your best chance of a peaceful integration with the Sith Empire," the Sith explained. "I am here with a fleet of fifty Imperial starfighters, and that's just in your airspace. Above this planet lies three capital ships, armed with orbital weapons and many, many more fighters, along with enough ground troops to lay siege to each nation represented here. In short, I am offering you a treaty before I unleash the big guns – literally." The leaders paled, shivered, glancing at each other in fear. "However, this show of force is merely to show you what I can bring to bear – I will not unleash it, so long as you accept the treaty," Sepith explained.

One leader, an older Jakkai, stormed forward. "Then why come here with a treaty at all, if you can conquer us so easily?" she demanded suspiciously.

"Because unlike most Sith," Sepith replied, "I am not interested in slave labor or conquest by force of arms. I believe it is easier to allow people to live mostly unmolested. To that extent, my treaty is simple.

"One: You owe your fealty to the Sith Empire, and not to any other galactic government, nor one of Medius. Your national governments may run as before, with no Imperial interference, but you must make tribute, valued at no less than the value of ten gold coins every five years. The tribute must take the form of goods rather than coins, and you may not attack Imperial officials or soldiers. Those of the Empire who are stationed here will be easily identified," he smiled, pressing a button on the desk to display a holovid of several Imperials in uniform. It was even in color for the Medians to properly view the dress code.

"Two: In return for your cooperation, we will maintain a hands-off approach unless specifically asked to handle certain issues you are confronting, be it pirates in the seas or a similar problem. Such issues are to be paid for in the form of tribute, based on the danger and the complexity of the task being asked.

"Three: the treaty may be renegotiated with specific parties as they desire. Some might wish to learn more of our technology, and be willing to pay more tribute for our knowledge and efforts. Others might be willing to send the occasional recruit instead of goods. The updated terms may be asked for by any, all, or none of the nations accepting our treaty, but Imperial approval will be the final rubber stamp for any negotiations.

"Four: I ask for a specific island in the Archipelago to be used as an embassy for the Sith Empire here on Medius. I will supply the building; I only ask for the island and the rights to clear it as needed. The embassy will also be a seat of Imperial power, and will have a mailing address for any concerns that cannot be expressed in person.

"And finally, five: we ask, though we do not demand, a willingness to open trade." This one shocked the gathered governors, and they took to murmuring amongst each other. "This may be a hostile takeover from the stars," the Darth smirked, "but there's a limit to the level of asinine behavior I'm willing to engage in. Many Sith would not agree with my methods, but they tend to not see the same results I do."

Buwaro smiled lightly, trying to school his expression as he stood at Sepith's left side. Kieri was to his master's right, obviously tense. He winked at her, and spoke in Angelic so that the Medians wouldn't understand. {It's alright, Kieri,} he said. {It's a fairly loose grip, this treaty. I doubt they'll think they have less to lose than they have to gain by fighting back.}

{True,} she replied, {but I still feel nervous in front of so many.}

{Ah,} Buwaro said, understanding now. {Stage fright, then.}

{Yes,} she replied.

"Ashara," he said quietly, "would you mind trading spots with Kieri? She's a bit nervous."

Ashara nodded. "Of course," he said, her words equally quiet. She quickly stepped to the right so that Kieri could slip in behind Sepith, then stepping into the Togruta's old spot. With that, Kieri could relax a bit, as fewer eyes were on her.

Finally, the leaders came to a concensus. "We accept," the Jakkai woman from before said, though Buwaro was sure it was only grudgingly.

"Thank you," Sepith replied. "I'll have it in writing for you before the sun goes down today."

 

The treaty went smoothly, and the signatures were scribed onto the contract. Buwaro sighed softly as they left for Sepith's base on Tatooine. As he rested, listening to the Fury's engines, he took a moment to relax. He was surprised at how tense he himself had been. Kieri had been somewhat worse off, however – in fact, she needed someone to cuddle with during that time, much to his surprise and embarrassment. "Adorable," Xalek had smirked, to the blushes of both Kieri and Buwaro, before walking away with a chuckle.

However, after her embarrassment faded, Kieri began to look glum. Buwaro was starting to wonder if he would have to act. He then perked up as he heard Ashara's voice on the holocom in the central room. "So, the Imperial engineers are clearing your island," she said. "The blueprints should be easy to do, they say. They even think there's some mineral deposits they can use.

"Wonderful," Sepith replied. "How are Nikkei and Hakka doing?"

"Good," Ashara replied. "Nikkei's hearing is basically at human level right now." She paused.

"Is something wrong?" Darth Imperius asked.

"No. I was just worried someone would get hurt, and that there would be some crossfire, honestly," she admitted. "I'm glad there wasn't."

"I was concerned too, but I think they handled it well. It might have helped that I was being so gentle about the treaty. Blunt in the power I held, but still."

"Fear and respect both, huh?" Ashara almost snorted. "At least no one got maimed or dismembered."

"Actually," Buwaro called out, "after you left for the island, there was this one Khamega guard. He charged at me with a greatsword – it was so big, I don't think you could have hefted it without the Force. Kieri freaked out and cut his sword into bits, but in her ah, exuberance she kinda nailed the guy in the crotch." He paused for a moment, while Sepith frowned, his confusion easily felt in the Force. "He wants to sue, says he wants some of our cybernetics to fix it. Or, better yet, improve on it – he said he wanted a third one. I was confused for a moment but, y'know, Khamega are reptiles, so apparently they already have two."

A stunned silence met his ears as Kieri stared at him, jaw dropped. Buwaro could sense that Sepith was massaging his sinuses, trying not blush, or groan, at Buwaro's raunchy joke. Suddenly, the Togruta woman erupted into a belly laugh. "Buwaro's having a run at you, huh?" Ashara guffawed. "Oh wow, that was...wow." Buwaro even heard some Imperials laughing on the other end of the call as she got her laughs under control.

"You're training with extra suppressors for the next week," Sepith snapped as he leaned into view, though Buwaro could see the smirk on his face.

"Long as they're not the ones that are spiked on the inside," Buwaro teased back.

"They're spiked and I'm even going to slather them in poison," Sepith grinned.

"Oh no!" Buwaro mock-groaned.

"You clowns done yet?" Andronikos shouted back from the cockpit. "Twovee's half-panicked that he'll have more blood to clean up."

"You're sure they're just joking?" the permanently-frazzled droid asked their pilot. "I really wish I could understand such dark humor for what it is, if so. It would save my circuits so much stress!"

"Sorry, Twovee," Buwaro called back.

"There, ya see?" Andronikos grinned. "Hey, maybe Buwaro could update your core. You need the motivator redone, right?"

"I...I'm not sure I trust his claws to my capacitors yet," Twovee replied hesitantly. "I do not mean to insult his skill, just that I wish his 'fingers' could actually, you know, flex a bit. It would make handling the tools so much easier for him, and...well, I wouldn't have a server attack just thinking about him clipping a vital wire with his claws."

Buwaro chuckled, then noticed that Kieri had begun to cheer up, as she was giggling at the crew's antics. 'Mission accomplished,' he thought, smiling broadly. He felt so much better when she wasn't brooding, and he knew that she enjoyed it too.

 

That evening, in their bunks on the Fury, still hurtling through hyperspace, Buwaro was lying on his bed, slowly getting ready to fall asleep. His eyelids were just getting heavy when he heard a gentle, "Buwaro?"

"Yeah?" he responded to Kieri, eyes not opening yet.

"I...I'm sorry," she muttered, clambering down from her bunk and sitting on his bed, which got him to glance at her. "I can't sleep. I feel like I'll have another nightmare." Buwaro blinked a few times – he wasn't aware that she'd been having nightmares, and was surprised at how she'd kept it silent. "May I sleep...I mean...with you?"

Buwaro blushed, but slid over to make room for her. "What are the nightmares about?"

She hesitated as she lay down, facing away from him. "Lately, they've been about my mother. She's judging me, telling me how I've failed to be anything and everything an Angel should be, and then...then she's about to kill me. Sometimes in a fight, sometimes an execution. But...then I die. I always die...and then I wake up."

Buwaro sighed. "Would she do something like that?" he asked, unsure if the dreams were just that...or something more.

"I don't know," she admitted. The Fire Demon grimaced. "I'm just...I'm still worried. Worried that I'll fail you."

"If you do," Buwaro said, rolling to stare at the bunk above him, "it'll be my fault for not teaching you properly, or sending you in over your head."

She turned to stare at him. "...I don't believe that," she murmured. "Though, now I'm thinking," she added quietly. "I've been treated with a gentler hand than I've ever imagined. Are...are all Sith this nice?"

"Darth Imperius and I are the exception," Buwaro admitted. "Most Sith are more barbaric than you want to know."

"...I'm glad I got you, then," she smiled. They soon fell asleep, their breathing soothing the two into a restful sleep. Buwaro knew they'd get teased in the morning, but he didn't much care now. All that mattered was that Kieri was comfortable that night.

 

The trip to Tatooine didn't take too long – Andronikos had seriously beefed up the hyperdrive just before they left for Medius, and with the new astrogation coordinates for Medius on the Empire's public map, the trip took only a week instead of the previous time of two and a half weeks. During this time, Buwaro mostly just relaxed.

Much to his relief, Kieri didn't have any nightmares during the trip, likely due to his comforting presence each night – safely tucked into his arms. He wondered if she actually enjoyed cuddling with her master more than the nightmare-free sleep, and became concerned that their behavior was somehow inappropriate. After all, it could easily become a conflict of interests to develop that close of a relationship with his apprentice.

Finally, as they approached the system on the seventh day, he decided he would not talk to her about it yet. If she decided to snuggle with him after they landed, he'd bring it up.

The binary stars were just rising over the horizon as they landed. Talos had stayed behind with a few guards and Khem Val to oversee the place while Sepith was gone – much to the disappointment of the Reclaimation Service agent's, and only with the promise that they'd bring him a few of the Elemental crystals he'd heard so much about.

In fact, Buwaro realized, they'd completely forgotten about the request. However, as they landed, Ashara called to give an update on the citadel, and mentioned to Buwaro that she'd asked the Imperial agents to acquire three of each type, of low-to-moderate quality, as part of the nations' initial tribute.

"So it's not a total disappointment," Talos sighed melodramatically. "I'll just have to wait a while."

"We'll probably be back sometime soon, anyway," Buwaro smiled. "Darth Imperius is looking at getting some more training for me, specifically as a pilot. He wants me to be able to run my own errands on occasion."

"He's hiring someone else?" Andronikos asked, surprised and almost offended.

"He's getting me some flight manuals and getting me to a flight simulator center," Buwaro clarified. "He says I should have all the basics down before I train any more with you."

"Yeah, that's fair," the pilot grinned. "I'd hate to see you crash into another asteroid out in the middle of nowhere."

"Yeah, yeah," Buwaro snorted, rolling his eyes. "At least fixed the damage myself." Kieri giggled at her pouting master – she'd heard the tale of how Buwaro's first real foray in space piloting had bashed up the Fury pretty heavily. Apparently he'd overestimated the toughness of the shields, and underestimated the solidity of the asteroids. Twovee had nearly exploded at the sight of the chunks of rock poking out of the hull – literally, he'd nearly exploded from overheating. Andronikos hadn't spoken to the boy for a full day after that incident, but began tutoring the boy in planetary piloting after the day of silent treatment was over with. Still, it was good that Buwaro was getting some training. Perhaps in time, he'd have his own crew.

She wouldn't mind being part of that crew – not at all.