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Feast of Swords 2011
| It's that time of year again when denizens all across the realm partake in grandiose festivities so their sons may mature into staunch, hardy men. Yes, the Feast of Swords is upon us once again, kupo! This year, the blacksmiths of the Far East have trekked across vast oceans in order to share their knowledge with their comrades in the Middle Lands--and one of them was kind enough to grace us with a display of his longsword skills, kupo.
The Far Eastern blacksmith Shino was so taken aback by Cid's sudden question of, "So, you're a samurai too, are ya?" that he unconsciously nodded in assent. The other sword artisans who accompanied him had been so magnanimous as to boast that in addition to making swords that cleave bone as if it were tofu, he could also fell an emperor's whole army with but a stick of charcoal.
I can just feel my grave being dug, he thought. Sure enough, not a moment later Cid asked if Shino could demonstrate his skills.
I just came here to exchange tips of the trade with my fellow craftsmen, Shino silently lamented.
And so the inaugural day of festivities began with a veritable mountain of spectators filling the open area between the Blacksmiths' Guild and the two elevators that lie within the Metalworks.
"Y-you expect me to show e-everyone here my skills?" Shino managed to stutter. Rings upon rings of anxious onlookers—a gallery greater than the total population of his home village—engulfed him. Shino was confident he could forge a sword that cut cleaner than any challenger could produce. When it came to wielding one, however...
"And you say this one will be adequate?" an attendant queried incredulously. Nodding, Shino accepted the wooden training sword; he'd keep the steel one that hung from his waist sheathed outside of a true battlefield. Meanwhile, the crowd's stares were so palpable he could feel each one stabbing his flesh. Men, women, and children of all ages were present at this event, and Shino knew that a poor performance could sully the reputation of all Far Eastern blacksmiths in their eyes.
Shino began by clearing his mind of all thoughts, and his senses seemed almost to hone themselves the more his body moved. From Enpi to Hobaku to Goten, he smoothly transitioned from one tachi to the next.
Suddenly, a commotion rippled through the crowd, right as Shino was to perform his last technique. Someone cried out, "Brother, don't!" and within moments, a Hume girl—no older than seven or eight—fell into view as a high-pitched scream tumbled from her lips. Something rained down from the sky behind her, almost as if it were in pursuit of the girl. Shino identified the culprit straight away—rotating fireworks called meifu goma, and a good dozen of them. They landed all around her, springing about as soon as they touched down.
Behind her stood a young boy, pale and paralyzed with fear, and about to get singed. Shino's body reacted before his mind even had time to grasp the situation; he threw aside the wooden stick and reached for the sword hanging from his side. He released a bestial roar that had lain dormant deep within his lungs and thrust himself into the fray. Echoes of terror resonated throughout the crowd at the thought that a grown man would smite a defenseless young maiden—but those fearful screams soon turned to shouts of joy.
The myriad fireworks darted about with uncanny speed, yet none could escape the pinpoint accuracy of Shino and his blade, which he maneuvered so adroitly that one would think he had been Hastened. The flames sputtered and fizzled out, and the whirling of the meifu goma themselves came to a halt soon after. Water droplets dripped from Shino's blade. Its name, Murasame, conjures images of a sudden downpour and hints at the water-based power it harbors within. Furthermore, its steel blue surface illuminated the entire hall. The spectators' murmurs of shock and awe morphed into an ovation as they realized Shino had extinguished every last ember from the fireworks in a mere instant.
The pallid youth broke down in tears as Shino lifted up his sister. He hadn't meant to harm anyone—it was supposed to be a simple prank. He apologized profusely, saying all he planned to do was throw one in Shino's general direction. Shino then bent down on one knee, looked the boy right in the eyes, and said, "You need not apologize to me. Your sister is the one from whom you should ask forgiveness." The samurai's eyes—focused and sharpened by intensity—helped thrust his point home to the hilt.
The two siblings embraced, rivulets of tears streaming down their faces unchecked.
"Only by first admitting his mistakes can one embark on the path toward bushido," Shino opined.
Just then, a cheerful voice sliced through the tension in the room. "Behold! The finest culinary delights from the Craftsmen's Eatery! Get 'em before there's nothing left but crumbs!" chimed Naji from the Mythril Musketeers. He was carrying a massive chest, and upon opening it, the crowd was met with rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves and a plethora of delicacies prepared in the Far Eastern tradition.
"From doorboy to pack mule!" a few of the musketeers jeered. Yet upon seeing Naji's expression change from one of jovial expectation to utter dejection, an infectious laughter spread throughout the crowd. Shino took two of the rice cakes and handed them to the boy. His face instantaneously lit up with a smile, and then he noticed his little sister was looking at him. The boy passed one of the cakes to his sister with an almost inaudible "Here," and her ensuing smile told everyone that nothing could have made her day any better.
"That's the spirit!" Shino nodded in approval.
And thus the curtain was drawn on this year's Feast of Swords.
Story: Miyabi Hasegawa
Illustration: Mitsuhiro Arita
How to Partake of the Feast
1. Firstly, converse with one of the event moogles stationed in the following locations to procure an ibushi shinai:
2. Having equipped said ceremonial arm, proceed to have it imbued with a dose of moogle magic by one of the friendly neighborhood M.H.M.U. representatives in the areas below. West Ronfaure (I-6) / East Ronfaure (G-6) / La Theine Plateau (J-8) / Jugner Forest (I-8) / Batallia Downs (K-8) / North Gustaberg (L-8) / South Gustaberg (L-8) / Konschtat Highlands (I-6) / Pashhow Marshlands (K-6) / Rolanberry Fields (K-5) / West Sarutabaruta (J-8) / East Sarutabaruta (G-11) / Tahrongi Canyon (I-6) / Meriphataud Mountains (E-5) / Sauromugue Champaign (E-5)
3. Join forces with your comrades to seek out the armor-thieving brigands and put an end to their vice and villainy! Word has it that successfully fending off your enemies' special attacks with your enchanted shinai will reap you considerable rewards...
4. When the battle has been won, trade your shinai to the ??? that has appeared in place of your vanquished foe. You just might be awarded a fabled blade for your feats of valor!
Mind The Three Maxims of Moogle Magic
#1: The moogle-magicked hero will be fleet of foot, but feeble of body. (Level will be restricted to 1, but movement speed will be increased in its stead.)
The Feast of Swords will come whirling into the three nations at 1:00 a.m. (PDT) on Thursday, April 28, 2011, and return to its sheath on Tuesday, May 10 at the same hour.