She is a warrior of pure passion, she is a warrior of deadly grace and precision, and she is the nightmare of every seafaring captain on the wrong side of the Jin border. She is Usami Maiko, of the Jin Clan.
|Character Quick Facts|
|Race||Human, Silverstari (Kingdom of Jin, Usami family)|
|Date of Birth||4th Late Autumn (May 2nd), 2115|
|Weapons of choice||Twin Sai or Hookswords|
|Religion||Jin, Spirit of Compassion|
|Current Location||Ruined Elven City|
|Role||Embodiment of Compassion. And stabbity too.|
Usami Maiko was always a strong youth, she knew what she wanted, and then she did whatever she could to make it happen. Once she set her mind to something, trying to stop her was like trying to stop the tides, always a dangerous trait. Despite this, she wasn't a selfish or spoiled child, and she was intelligent enough to know her boundaries, so whilst she could hardly be called an obedient child, she was definitely not unruly.
From a young age, she studied dance, before long it became obvious she could move with great grace, but she never liked dancing, mostly because of the other dancers. She found them to be empty headed, and quite boring, and frequently when she found the time, she would go exploring. Too many times, a girl of eight years could be found overlooking the training grounds of the Moshi Dueling School, although in time she became more proficient at finding a hidden spot to observe. At first, her wanderings worried her parents, but as she turned up more and more often in the same place, they decided to inform the school to keep an eye on her and leave at that.
As the grew older, she began practicing from her hidden observing spot with a stick, mimicking the movements of the young warriors training below. It would have been unnerving to watch, a nine year old girl performing complex fighting maneuvers that the sixteen year old warriors in training below struggled with, but one middle aged man simply found it amusing.
He strolled up to her hiding place one day, humming to himself as he carried his weight on a walking cane and simply stopped and watched her awhile. Maiko was so focused on performing the techniques that she hadn't even noticed him until he spoke up. "Terrible!" he's declared loudly. "I'm sorry girl, but your technique is terrible. Your center of balance is way off, your movements don't flow into each other and anyone would be ashamed to call themselves your teacher." He peered over the edge of the hiding place tot he training ground below. "However, you appear to be copying their movements flawlessly. You've got a lot of talent girl, if you're willing, I can help you polish your technique. I can't instruct by example, as you can see from my cane, but you appear to be a remarkably quick girl, so lets see if we can put that school to shame."
And so, Maiko learned from this strange old man. They met regularly in their secluded spot, and Maiko would work herself to the point of exhaustion under his gaze. By the age of twelve, she was already better than the graduates of the Dueling School. It was then he went to speak to her parents. Maiko didn't get to hear what was said, but when the man left, her mother was in tears. "Oh Maiko… oh little Maiko… I'm so proud of you… " she had said.
That night, her parents had explained that that man was Yoritomo Masaru. The Yoritomo Masaru, and he was offering to serve as her daimyo. Masaru hadn't taken on a student in years, and this was undoubtably a great honour, she accepted graciously. Life was hard as Masaru's student, if she had thought he had worked her to exhaustion before, she knew nothing of the limits of the human body. Still, with iron determination she endured, and she progressed nicely.
At age 13, she was given real weapons to train with, to replace the training ones she had used prior to then. She couldn't spar with Masaru, obviously, so he enlisted one of the other instructors at the school to spar with her, and usually proceeded to advise them both as they dueled. By 14, she was regularly beating the other instructors.
She not only trained her blade, but also her mind, and Masaru instructed her in everything from stealth, to diplomacy, to captaining a vessel and commanding a crew and she absorbed it all like a sponge. Maiko was quick to learn, and excelled in many areas, although she never managed to get the hang of "Go". For some reason, despite her obvious intelligence and flair for deception, she remained an average player at best. Even to this day, Maiko struggles to master the came, but it remains outside her grasp.
It was at the age of 15 that Maiko underwent her Gempukku, she had to fight her way past the entire Moshi Dueling school without them landing a single blow on her, to come back to face with Masaru and disarm him of his sword. Now, Masaru may have been crippled, unable to move around quickly and needed his left arm to support his weight, but his sword arm remained quick as ever.
She blazed her way past the students and sensei of the school four at a time, who were instructed not to give chase if she made it past them, working her way closer to Masaru, passing increasingly older and stronger pupils as she progressed. Lastly, she came to the last line, the instructors, and with a brilliant feint, she jerked three of them off balance and smoothly somersaulted under the last, to come up facing her sensei, sai ready, for the final test.
This test was not so much as test of skill as of intelligence, trying to face Masaru head-on would have resulted in defeat, his arm was still much faster than that of Maiko, and he knew what was coming at him as soon as she shifted her weight to strike. He was however, sufficiently handicapped that if she took advantage of his lack of mobility, she had a chance. Some would call it dishonourable, but Masaru had firmly taught that out on the open sea, with no one around but you and your opponent, honour came second to victory. "We Jin are expected to be dishonourable by the rest of the empire, no matter what we do, they'll not change their opinion of us, so we might as well take advantage of the situation" he used to say.
Words could not sum up how proud Yoritomo Masaru was when his sword fell from his grip, to bounce softly against the dirt below. He proclaimed the trial was over, and declared her an adult. When she received her Daisho, he also handed her two other gifts. "Take these, and use them. Your Daisho remains at home, for the Jin cannot afford the risk of losing them at sea, but these gifts are from me to you. These armguards always served me well, and these gloves always brought me luck, and I want you to have them." Maiko would not have dared refuse such a gift, she may have believed herself unworthy of such things, but she was not about to insult Masaru by refusing them. He was the great Yoritomo Masaru, hero of all the Jin clan.
The following has been discovered in a diary written by Usami Maiko:
"He was a scorpion. I met him in Phoenix lands, while I was serving aboard a ship for the first time. I was young, naïve, inexperienced, and I didn’t know what I was getting into.
I met him while I was on the night watch over our vessel. I didn’t really mind, I had never been a fan of the excessive drinking most of the crew seemed to need, especially because they never managed to keep their hands to themselves. I wasn’t the only woman aboard, but I was the youngest and by far the loveliest as well.
He had climbed over the side of the junk and had found himself face to face with a young woman holding a pair of the Sai, instead of the curved blades, like miniature scythes, that were the signature weapon of the Jin. I had always preferred them to the Kama, I liked their defensive nature.
After a moment of shock, the Scorpian quickly saw his chance; this was no hardened warrior before him, but a young lady who had not been treated like anything except an object by the other members of the crew. Respect had to be earned, and as could have been easily judged by the way the weapons trembled in my grip, I still had a way to go. Looking back now, I shouldn't have taken on that mission in the first place, I simply hadn't completed my training.
With soft words and a gentle voice, he told me he was hiding, that some people were after him over a simple misunderstanding, and he would be forever indebted if this young lady would protect him, for his pursuit was not stupid enough to pick a fight with a Jin blade master, especially not on one of their vessels.
He was good, he was very good, he knew exactly what buttons to press to reach me, and for the first time since I had left her home, I was treated like a person. He didn’t fawn too much about my beauty, and instead concentrated on her ability as a warrior and a sailor, hitting those gentle soft spots and entrancing me, a young fool. It wasn’t long before he was comfortably tucked away underdeck, safe from those who pursued him.
I was captivated by this young man; he was charming, witty and seemed genuinely interested in me. My past, my ambitions, my dreams. Within a very short amount of time, I already believed herself to be in love with him, but such is the way when you’re so young. He hid aboard the vessel for the remainder of the night, and all through the next day before leaving. As he left, he handed me a small ring, told me it would protect her and keep me safe, and then leapt over the side of the vessel. Within seconds he had disappeared off into the darkness.
The very next day, I had been traveling through the city on an errand for her vessel when I saw an alarming sight. My beloved scorpion, whom I then realised I still didn’t know the name of, was being marched through the city square by armed guards, headed towards the prison. My errand was immediately forgotten, and I began to ask questions about him. It appears this scorpion was a thief, and had been caught in the act of attempting to steal important official documents from the temple of the elemental masters. He would be imprisoned overnight, and face trial tomorrow morning, his execution was scheduled tomorrow afternoon.
I couldn’t leave him for dead… I had to help him…
I found myself infiltrating the prison that night. I never specialised in stealth movement, but I was at least proficient at it, and the guards were lazy, almost bored with their duties, and posed no challenge to me. A combination of stealth and when necessary quickly silencing one, non-lethally of course, allowed me to penetrate right through to his cell.
I handed him the key I had picked off one of the unconscious guards, and he was out of the cell, looking at me grimly. Something had changed with him, I don’t know why but he was not happy to see me. 'Follow me, this way' I called to him, and turned my back to lead him out. I felt blow to the back of my head, and everything went black…
I awoke in the cell, locked in and surrounded by Phoenix guards demanding to know where the scorpion had gone. He had betrayed me, left me for dead. And yet, upon my finger, his ring remained. Why? It was definitely a special ring, and he was right, it has helped keep me safe on numerous occasions, so why did he leave it behind if he left me for dead…
The Jin provided some political pressure, and I was released to return home, the Phoenix didn’t like it, but no one really cared what they thought. I never saw him again, and I never knew his name… I never understood why he left behind the ring… it still puzzles me to this day. "
Love and Loss
After that, she returned to Jin lands, and infuriated what had happened and how easily she had been manipulated, her heart turned to ice and she went into a fulltime training regime. She would spend hours aboard vessels at sea, dancing upon the decks, much to the confusion and enjoyment of the sailors. To many it seemed strange, and impractical, if she was going to be a warrior, why dance?
But the hours of dancing with the rhythm of the waves gave her amazing balance, if the ship took a sudden jolt, she learnt to roll with it, and before long nothing could disrupt her dance, and she moved with absolute grace and beauty even as the ship beneath her tossed and turned over the waves. It was then she began to perform her dance in the ship’s rigging rather than on the deck.
Her fame spread far and wide across Jin lands, her uncanny balance became akin to a local legend, and her skills with the dual sai she used were hardly anything to laugh at either. She refused to wear armour, claiming it got on her way, but already she was becoming one of the best warriors in the entire clan and no one could touch her in a fight.
Suitors came from far and wide to propose marriage to her, including many prestigious names that would have made her parents very happy, but she adamantly refused. “I will not marry a man who cannot best me in a dual” she stated, and reluctantly, her parents agreed to her demand. And so for the next year or so she remained undefeated, until one day… he came.
He was a young captain of his own vessel, and had travelled far and wide in search of adventure, one of those men who simply couldn’t remain at the status quo, and he loved a challenge. And according to local lore at this time, Usami Maiko was the greatest challenge available.
Tsuruchi Kanaye, captain of the ‘The Wandering Wasp” could almost be described as a paragon of the Jin clan. He was bold, daring, charming and a highly skilled warrior. But at the same time, he also had an exotic feel about him, for he had travelled fat and wide, and picked up many unusual things, amongst them his sword. He said it was a special duelling sword, designed to be agile and quick, to outmanoeuvre opponents and pierce through their defences, and Maiko immediately came to appreciate its design.
He called it Kanaye’s Sting, and Maiko found out firsthand how dangerous it could be in the hands of a skilled user. She was used to the broad blade of the Kama, and could deflect such attacks easily with her Sai, but the Sting passed right through her defences and for the first time, she was defeated in a dual.
She came to know Kanaye in the following months, and finally they were engaged to be wed in what would have been the happiest day of her life. But the tensions between Jin and Phoenix boiled over into war once more, and he was called away before they could be wed. Maiko had begged and pleaded to allow him to take her along, but he had adamantly refused, explaining if something happened to her, he would never be able to face himself, and he needed someone to come home to, he needed to know she was safe.
Finally, she agreed, and remained behind as he sailed off towards war. It would be the last time she ever saw him. She cried for days when she receieved word that the Wasp had been sunk in battle, and then once more her heart was turned to ice. Kanaye would be disgusted to have been engaged with her if she let her grief overwhelm her, she had to be strong. She was strong, and she would avenge his death no matter the cost.
As the fleets returned home, she was presented with Kanaye’s Sting, which was miraculously salvaged somehow, considering they never recovered her beloved’s body. Without a second thought, she took it up, and felt its power flow through her. She knew then and there, that Kanaye had never left her, and never would, because he lived on as her blade. She re-doubled her training, intent on mastering this new weapon and then going forth.
The Silver Serpent
Upon her 19th birthday, she was given the vessel “The Silver Serpent” by the clan, and rounded up a crew. The Serpent has long been a famous ship, both inside and outside the clan, and only the greatest of warriors were given the honour of being chosen to captain it, thus it was with great surprise that the ship was not given to a member of the Storm Legion, but to young Maiko. The Serpents reputation was mostly focused on the Phoenix, no other ship in the history of the Jin Clan had sunk, captured or plundered as many Phoenix ships as it had, and so with great pride she accepted.
And she never turned back. In the last three years, The Silver Serpent has been seen in Phoenix Waters frequently, although oddly enough, very few of the sightings were ever reported back to the Phoenix.
Proud - Maiko is a proud girl, she knows her capabilities and likes to think most other people know of them as well. She gets upset when her abilities are not recognized, or her fame is not known. She is confident in her abilities and on occasion believes certain tasks are beneath her. Thesedays, said tasks seem to be getting more and more frequently as she finds herself the bureaucratic lord of the island. Part of an institution she doesn't support, while having a system based on merit is a good thing, it clearly doesn't work that way as people of great talent can end up assigned to places beneath them. Furthermore, the system is designed to give more power to the Emperor and the Dragon Throne, which Maiko does not view as a good thing.
Reckless - Maiko frequently dives headfirst into danger with little regard to personal safety, especially when one of her friends or followers is threatened. She is confident in her abilities however, and never does anything she believes she cannot handle. Her recklessness is shifting somewhat, she's starting to be more and more careful off the battlefield although her need to act has created no shortage of problems.
Forceful - Maiko has a forceful presence, her approach towards most social situations involves quite a bit of intimidation unless the situation simple cannot call for such force. Maiko dislikes said situations. This is not saying she's not capable of subtle diplomacy, she's reasonably adept. It's just less fun.
Relentless - "If at first you don't succeed, try again with more force". Maiko does not give up easily on anything she does. If given a new problem, she will continue to try and solve it no matter how long it takes or how unsuited for solving it she is, probably with little to no outside help. She is not as opposed to outside help as she once was, Maiko no longer feels a need to prove herself at every turn, but she remains as relentless as ever.
Resentful - Maiko once had a cold hatred of the Phoenix, as well as an automatic hate of anything that threatens her or her ship. While she can no longer indulge such feelings in good conscience, this does not mean she wants to be around any Phoenix for any period of time.
Distant - While approachable and when she wants to be, quite charming, few people ever get to really know Maiko. She once distanced herself emotionally from people, for on the open seas, loss is common, and she doesn't deal with loss well. Now she cannot help but become attached to people due to Jin's influence, but still distances herself for other reasons, due to a need for a careful nature in dealing with things.
The remainder of what used to be a pair of Sai she was given upon completion of her Gempukku, it's twin lost beneath the waves. Blessed by the spirits of thunder, its defensive design always appealed to Maiko.
An exotic taste to a familiar design, Maiko has recently donned a pair of curved blades magically enchanted in a way to promote the neutralisation of foes in a non-lethal manner. She has taken to them remarkably quickly, although still has to polish her technique with them.
A holy symbol of power, this amulet is capable of great feats of healing and exorcism. Maiko is still unused to wielding such power, but is learning quickly. A deep part of her still wishes she had been granted a more mundane weapon as Hide Sang was, simply because it would be something she was more used to.
A small ring that was given to Maiko by a mysterious yet charming Scorpion. Is said to "help keep you safe."
The Silver Serpent
The infamous Silver Serpent, a notorious Jin vessel of unparalleled fame.
A pair of bracers given to Maiko by Yoritomo Masaru, a hero of the Jin clan.
Masaru's Lucky Gloves
A pair of gloves given to Maiko by Yoritomo Masaru, a hero of the Jin clan.
As a noble member of Silverstar society, Maiko has a set of daisho given to her upon completing her Gempukku. However, due to the Jin' shortage of such things, they remain at home at all times, never to be used. Maiko only has limited knowledge in wielding them, and especially dislikes her Katana, finding it too bulky and heavy for her to pull off her signature quick fighting moves.
Shayu - The Warlord of Wuhai. A horribly overqualified man who once sold himself to the darkness beyond blackest pitch for more power, he lost a wager that said Maiko and the expedition to cleanse the island would lead them all to their deaths. Having lost, he is now obliged to serve as the warlord under Maiko; and now with the cleansing of the taint within him, almost at the cost of his life, Maiko has forfilled her promise to him. She hopes that the process of setting up the island again isn't too tedious for him as she has plans of turning this place into somewhere worth visiting.
Maiko is by habit a rather private person, and whilst friendly and approachable, she seldom discusses her private life with others. As of such, there aren't many she can call friends. She maintains a strong relationship with her hero and mentor, Yoritomo Masaru.
Hida Sang - Maiko feels the recent struggles through the city have only brought the two of them closer. She's also willing to start admitting to herself that perhaps Sang is the better warrior of the two of them, divine granted weaponry aside, for Sang simple has had more experience. Ultimately, the two of them are masters of their respect styles of fighting and can compliment each other well in battle, providing they work together properly. Perhaps, next time the group is gathered for some important quest, Maiko will discuss tactics with her in more detail…
Typhenon - Lately, the Primarch is feeling more and more like a brother than anything else; although this may have a lot to do with the way their fates and souls have become entwined. Maiko is vaguely considering looking through the paperwork for adopting him into her family as her brother, after all the man grew up on the streets and officially has no family. Of course, he'd make a lousy Jin with his irrational fear of the sea, but perhaps with some time, training and help from Jin, this could be fixed as well. Usami Typhenon… hrm… doesn't sound too bad, I guess… maybe he could use a more silverstari name as well… Usami Hideaki… hmm…
Kukulkan - Stealth, reconnaisance, magic, combat power, is there anything he can't do? Maiko still doesn't know this shapeshifter well, but is certainly glad he's a dependable ally. Turns out he's also part of the solution to a number of problems faced on Wuhai, does his versitility know no bounds? The more I see, the more I appreciate how people can mistake him for a Kami, there's much more than a physical resemblance.
Theosteris - A noble hero to the very end. May his soul ascend to the heavens unmolested by the forces of darkness.
Adneil ('R') - Maiko finds it difficult to know where anyone stands with the elf. A selfish part of her wants him to return to Wuhai and advise her; another resents him for dragging them all into this. Ultimately, as long as he's under her protection, she'll defend him with her life but how much longer that will last is nebulous.
Maiko's person fighting style is one of defence and oportunity. By rendering herself an unassailable fortress, she strives to taunt, frustrate and otherwise provoke her opponents into providing oportunities of weakness she can take advantage of.
Her command style is altogether similar to this. Having spent a good deal of time studying the teachings of Sima Yi* she prefers to arrange her forces into a tight defensive network. She also strives to use whatever tricks and tactics she can to confuse and demoralise the enemy as per the teachings. Then, when the enemy is demoralised, their supplies or cut off or destroyed and their formations are in confusing is the oportune time to strike at the heart of the enemy, cutting off their command and throwing their army into a rout.
Of course, she's not all that experienced with leading large numbers of men and until she's had more experience, her true potential as a commander won't be realised.
- In-world name TBC. He was the Jin King during a crucial period of history however.