22nd of Patchwall 2am, Meagers Room, Eiradun
“A… defensive technique. But effective. Use it if you do not wish to be hit, or if you are facing many opponents with ranged expertise. With a Waylen Blade and enough skill in deflection, it is an excellent offense against Ranged Weapons, but in other situations, it merely delays the inevitable.”
―Guard Mouse Kiera
Meager Looked at the sketches and tried to assimilate the information. Learning to become a sword master was difficult, particularly when one tried to learn it from a book. He took a deep breath and reread the previous page
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For the Soresu opening stance, the duelist held the blade back in a one-handed grip, angled forwards with the left arm held parallel, the off-hand held up in a challenge. The dominant foot was positioned back. The brace-ready stance had much in common with the “Ataru guard,” with the hilt held at waist height on the dominant side in a two-handed grip for greater control, extended vertically upwards. The dominant foot was placed back while the other was extended forwards and to the side in a brace-position. A variation on this stance featured the blade held high in a drop-parry position, though the foot positions were the same.
Against individual ranged attackers, Form III duelists were encouraged to apply the “deflecting slash”. This move served the dual purposes of allowing a Guard Mouse to redirect the momentum generated by deflecting an enemy projectile into a slashing attack at an adjacent target, and allowing the Guard Mouse to advance and close the distance before the attacker could fire off another shot. A careful application can allow a Guard Mouse to redirect the shot back at the attacker, though this skill is more commonly applied by Shien practitioners. Against multiple bow-wielding attackers, the “circle of shelter” was advised. This technique could allow a Soresu practitioner to hold off as many as twenty shooters by dropping into a moving meditation, relying on the Weave to perceive the various positions of the attackers and the necessary movements to evade or deflect their shots. As this maneuver was executed while in a meditative state, prolonged use may open a weave-adepts mind to visions of the future.
Meager scratched his head bemoaning “what does this mean?”
“It means, young Meagar, Z’at you must learn with ze blade in hand, not ze book in hand,” Meager sat up, seeing the ghost of Benjie walk into the room and sit down.
“Can you help me Benjie, sometimes I feel like I am starting to grasp this, and other times it all seems like a mess” Benjie smiled at the young Waylen, it had been a long time since he had had an apprentice and the old ghostly guard mouse had forgotten how much he enjoyed these talks
“Meagar, one must remember ze weave, and ze power of it when learning Zurezu. Zurezu is about caring, caring and loving otherz, loving z’em enough to put yourself between z’em and harmz way. You must love to practice this form, as it is a form for ze loverz… allow me to explain.
You see ze Zorezu form was devised to counter ze wide-spread emergence of Ranged Weapons amongst ze Elves and Pixies, many many thousandz of yearz ago.The previous Makashi form wasn’t equipped to combat ze bows you see. Ze efficiency of Form III became ze most defensive of ze seven forms, and utilizes tight moves, consisting of subtle dodges and efficient parries, intended to provide maximum defensive coverage, and minimize exposure to ranged attack. Over time, Form III came to transcend this basic and pragmatic origin, and became an expression of non-aggressive Waylen philosophy, of Love, of Caring and of selflessness… these Meager are the true roots of Form III and you will need to tap into ze emotions of Form III if you ever truly wish to master it…”
Meager listened and let the silence hang for a few moments before nodding his understanding, “But Master Benjie, how does it work, what do these drawings actually mean”
“Z’ey mean Megar, Z’at Zorezu utilizes tight motions, Ze Waylen Blade moving every second in an attempt to achieve near-total protection, and expend as little energy in ze process as possible. Form III stressez quick reflexes and fast positional transition, in order to overcome ze rapidity with which ze bow can be fired. This technique minimizez ze body’s exposure, making a well-trained practitioner practically invincible, which allowez Zorezu to be effective against both single enemies and multiple opponents, as well as Ranged Weapons and Waylen Blades. Form III involvez preparation for prolonged battles where the user observez and learns as much as possible about z’eir adversary’s technique while engaged in combat. Also, being more optimized for lengthy battles, a zorezu user had the ability to gain control of a combat situation, creating multiple options for the Guard Mouse employing the Form. A Form III user could choose to kill, disarm, or even reason with z’eir opponent. And thus it is also ze form of mercy, not an eazy emotion to harness while in battle, you will need to know better yourself Meager, to truly know if Zorezu if for you…”
Meager nodded starting to gain some understanding from the talks.
“So, Master Benjie, as a Soresu user, I should stay on the edge of combat? Away from the core of the fight? That seems at odds with what I have read of the Guard Mouse order so far” Benjie laughed before responding
“…Ze core tenets of zorezu encourage duelists to place z’emselves ‘within ze eye of ze storm’ to maintain a calm center, undistracted and undisturbed by ze conflict around z’em. In keeping with this idea, zorezu incorporatez powerful defensive techniques z’at are flexible enough to adapt to almost any circumstance, at ze cost of never reaching past ze “eye of ze storm.” In other words, zorezu focusez almost entirely on defence, often at the expense of offensive capabilities. Ze tactics encouraged by ze style involve ze reliance on pure defense while waiting out ze opponent, holding back until ‘is frustration or fatigue inevitably causes ‘is defense to lapse, z’en employing an alternate, more aggressive attack to take advantage of this. Overall, ze whole point of Zorezu is to deflect bow fire out of harm’s way and safely prolong a Waylen Blade fight in hopes of wearing an opponent down. Truly focused masters of Zorezu are extremely formidable due to z’eir strong defensive technique, as well as ze well-rounded nature of ze form itzelf, effective against both Ranged Weapons and Waylen Blades. However, it should be noted z’at Form III facilitates survival and mercy rather z’an victor. Zorezu possessez no dedicated offensive sequences of its own. Form III initiates are more z’an capable of defending z’emselves from attack, but z’ey need a considerable amount of experience to learn how to effectively counter-attack and entrap opponents. Masters have to maintain an incredibly strong focus on ze center of ze combat circle, since ze defensive tactics of the form includes guards and parries z’at engage very close to the body. Guard Mice with small lapses in z’eir otherwise strong defense leave little room to avoid injury. As a result of this defensive mindset, Zorezu practitioners often have a great deal of difficulty in seizing ze offensive initiative in combat situations. Also, the goal of many zorezu practitioners has been to prolong ze fight, ze idea being to cause ze enemy to become fatigued or frustrated as z’ey attempted to keep up their offense. However, z’is tactic runs the risk of fatiguing ze user, if said user was to face an adversary who could maintain an aggressive but cautious offense… such as for example… Lord Shepard.”
Meager nodded at his masters words, it was a lot to take in.
“Finish ze book young Meager, but z’en, you must look to practice both with ze blade, and knowing yourself, z’at will lead you to greater success.” Meager nodded again glancing at the book preparing his next question, but when he looked up again, he found Benjie was gone, and he was left alone with the next few chapters
They read as follows:
Applications and History
“You lack the physical strength required for the powerful attacking strikes of Djem So or the other aggressive forms. You must rely on quickness, cunning and, most of all, patience to best your enemies.”
―Guard Mouse Shepard
“This Form [Soresu] maximizes defensive protection in a style characterized by tight, efficient movements that expose minimal target areas when compared with the relatively open styles of some other forms.”
―Guard Mouse Drallig
When the devil Blazeil first began training Zannah the fallen as his apprentice, he pragmatically judged that her small size and light build removed the more aggressive Waylen Blade forms from her potential repertoire. Teaching her to wield a Waylenstaff, he trained her to redirect an opponent’s attacks rather than directly blocking in order to maintain her own energy. She took to twirling her weapon in order to maintain momentum and to set up a defensive shield against enemy attacks.
In combat, Zannah also relied just as much on tactical know-how as Waylen Blade skills. As evidenced during the Duel on Tython, Zannah sought out strategically advantageous positions on the field, able to make do with a simple room corner, using the two walls to cover her flanks. Also, she was skilled at playing her opponents against one another, allowing lesser combatants to continue fighting in order to inadvertently hinder their fighting partners, as when she played Wyzal Othone against the Pixie Xaj. However, Zannah was not without her weaknesses; her defense was designed to counter against all-out assaults, a method devised from her experience sparring with Blaziel. Xaj’s powerful attacks were tempered by caution, and Zannah was forced to expend huge amounts of energy to fend him off without finding any openings for her to exploit. She only succeeded in killing her opponent because he was momentarily distracted.
Guard Mouse Benjie originally specialized in Form IV, trained in the form by Guard Mouse Jinn. However, upon witnessing his master’s death due to Ataru’s lack of defensive capabilities, Benjie decided to switch his focus to Soresu in order to eliminate this weakness in his own technique. Benjie’s resulting skill in Form III stood him in good stead against masterful Bowmen such as Althera, or during the chaotic firefight on Hills of MacinDaw. His tight defense and energy-efficient moves enabled him to pull through and survive where most of the Guard Mouse strike team could not. However, when confronting Shepard, Benjie’s skill in Soresu was insufficient to effectively counter Shepards mastery of Form II Waylen Blade combat. Though Benjie was a skilled Soresu practitioner, he was unable to match Shepards precision and economy of motion. During their duel, many of Benjie’s cutting parries outright missed Shepards blade, forcing Benjie into numerous scramble situations and rapidly fatiguing him. Benjie was ultimately brought down by light, incapacitating cuts across his left arm and leg.
Over the course of the Fey Wars, Benjie continued to develop his skills. His arrow-deflection technique advanced to the point where Benjie could walk “unscathed through hornet-swarms of bowfire.” Benjie’s skill as a Waylen Blade duelist also improved considerably, developed by thousands of hours in Waylen Blade sparring with Shepard and others, and hardened by numerous engagements with enemy duelists, such as Thien Gotava, Elenor Drethic, and even Shepard himself. Even unarmed, Benjie was a formidable opponent, evading enemy attacks and working his way inside an opponent’s defense to physically assault them, demonstrating this tactic against the likes of Drethic.
By the end of the war, Benjie’s mastery of Soresu had developed to the point where he could compete with Shepard. In his second to final duel with Shepard, Benjie initially utilized basic Waylen Blade techniques and strategies, aiming to lull Shepard into a false sense of confidence. When he suddenly shifted to the advanced fighting methods they had practiced and developed during the interim, Benjie displayed his full mastery of Soresu. In his final duel with the eight armed devil Thien Gotava, Benjie provided one of his purest demonstrations of Soresu. His blade’s intricate pattern of blocks and parries moved just fast enough to subtly interfere with Thien Gotava’ multiple strikes, while his slight dodges and shifts of stance facilitated his evasion of the rest. As a frustrated Thien Gotava ramped up the intensity of his assault, Benjie countered by altering the angle of his parries, clipping off two of Thien Gotava’ wrists. However, it should be noted that Thien Gotava had been badly injured by Guard Mouse Marcel during the Battle of Concordia and had had virtually no time to recuperate before facing Benjie, which may have contributed to Benjie’s victory.
During his long isolation in the Winter of Solace Benjie’s skills as a swordsman atrophied, as he engaged in only one Waylen Blade duel during this entire period. Despite this, he remained a formidable Form III practitioner, and he was able to hold off Shepard for a short time during their final duel. However, unlike their previous bout, Shepard maintained a cautious, controlled offense instead of a reckless onslaught, and Benjie was unable to find any openings to exploit. As a result of Shepard’s alterations to his technique and his own atrophied skills, Benjie tired rapidly, and ultimately lost that engagement and his life
The key to truly mastering Soresu seemed to come from grasping the concepts and philosophy of the form rather than adhering to its tactics and maneuvers. While Benjie displayed a strong preference for Soresu, he continued to apply elements of the relentlessly dogged Form I as well as the erratic strokes and acrobatics of Ataru. At one point Guard Mouse Marcel acknowledged Benjie as “the master of Soresu.”
“Ze road is long, but it is worth ze journey, for a true master of Form Three is invincible.”
―Guard Mouse Benjie
Developed to combat Ranged Weapons, Form III was in existence for thousands of years. One of the older practitioners of the form was Guard Mouse Surik. Her tutor during her rehabilitation, Guard Mouse Kreia, also possessed knowledge of Soresu.
By the time of the Devil Invasion, the Devil Blademaster Kas’im had mastered Form III as well as the six other forms. Kas’im trained several apprentices in the style, including Fohargh, who used it against Blaziel’s Form V. Blaziel himself possessed considerable skill in the Form, training his apprentice, Zannah, in it.
Soresu was mastered by the Guard Mouse battlemaster Drallig, who in turn trained many in its use. In fact, towards the end of the Fey Wars, Soresu was the most common Waylen Blade form in the Guard Mouse Order. Guard Mouse Master Duval was also proficient in Soresu, as was Council member Othaol whose focus on the purely defensive form ironically proved to be his undoing when pitted against the gunslinging skills of Althera. Shepard maintained a working knowledge of Soresu, sufficient to train Thien Gotava and his Wyzal Guards in it. During this period, one of the highest masters of Soresu was Guard Mouse Benjie.
End of Chapter