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Yamada Shirayuki

Hanyou physician- the doctor is in.

0 · 490 views · located in Ingloriously Normal Japan, 20XX

a character in “Bad Hands”, originally authored by Kurokiku, as played by Selene Durlan

Description

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Yamada Shirayuki: The Twice-Born




Rain | What the Water Gave Me.
Snow | Ice Symphony
Death and Rebirth | Heal My Wounds


BASICS
Name: Yamada Shirayuki
Age: 26. Presumably, her blood will keep her alive as long or longer than most youkai, but then she's never asked another half-blood to be sure. She hasn't aged much if at all since she hit about 23, though.
Race: Hanyou- her mother was a yuki-onna.
Faction: Her brother used to run with the Kyubei-kai. She’s had dealings with members of all three major players on Osaka, at varying levels of friendliness or hostility.
Role: As a medical student, she mostly serves as physician. Her own heritage has given her knowledge of both youkai and human anatomies, and she’s already performed more field surgeries than most military medics dream of. She’s the ideal yakuza doctor for several reasons: She’s efficient, adaptable, knowledgeable, and keeps quiet about her clientele. Living in the rather contentious eastern district means that she sees all kinds and doesn't currently have affiliation with any one group in particular.


APPEARANCE
Being a hanyou rather than a full-blooded youkai means that Shirayuki’s transformation capabilities are very limited, and her more supernatural characteristics only emerge in times of duress. Nonetheless, there are certain traits that match very well with her purported pedigree; her skin is alabaster-pale, unnaturally so even for a Japanese woman, and in places it seems near-translucent, the lilac and jade traceries of veins vaguely visible especially around her wrists and ankles. At times, she seems to fade at the edges, taking on a near-transparent aspect in the fingertips or the end of her nose, for instance. Her feet and legs are actually the first things to go, but given her wardrobe, it’s hard to notice.

Her most obvious feature is the fact that she is nearly always seen wearing a mask that fits over her neck and the lower half of her face, right up to the cheekbones. The fabric clings snugly to her profile, so those who look can tell that the face beneath is very delicately structured, almost doll-like. Large, glass-blue eyes are set under thin brows, though immediately after noticing them, it’s easy to forget that. The scars are just too obvious, too distracting in most cases. Four diagonal lines descend from her left temple, running across her forehead until they cross her eyes and disappear beneath the fabric of the mask.

The lower half of her face is a bit worse off still. Those gouges continue in whitish-pink, jagged lines until they exit at the right side of her jaw, but a few more slashes run across her lips and the lower end of her left cheek. They aren’t as disfiguring as burn scars might be, but there is no mistaking them for pretty. The rest of her was not spared what her face endured, and the damage indeed may be worse there. Her back, stomach, and throat seem to have suffered the brunt of it, but no continuous six inches of skin is unmarred. The wounds are all long healed over by now, but the marks remain permanently. She has to stretch regularly to keep them loose, else they impede her movement.

Yuki’s hair is a softly-curled blue-black. She’d truthfully keep it short if she could, but every time she accidentally manifests her powers, it grows a few feet, so she usually just trims it to a manageable length instead.

Complexion: Very pale, fades to translucent or ghostlike at times and places.

Body Type: Slender, almost to the point of being reedy. Not terribly well-endowed, but then it would look strange if she was, probably. Everything about her is long and thin: limbs, fingers, neck, strands of hair… you get the idea.

Height and Weight: She’s tallish for a woman at about 5’7”, but her willowy frame makes her seem smaller and more delicate than she actually is. She’d be lucky to weigh 115 pounds, and though that’s perhaps because she’s part ghost, virtually none of it is muscle.

Distinguishing marks: The scars are about as distinguishing as it gets, but few people have seen the entirety of them. Rather, she’s known for wearing the mask. Her only tattoo is a pink lotus blossom on her left wrist.

Apparent Temperament: Yuki’s demeanor should be tricky to pin down, but it isn’t. The woman is a functional mute, only able to speak in the softest of whispers, and not for very long at a time, due to extensive damage to her vocal cords. Despite that, and the fact that her face is half-covered at all times, it is not hard to tell that she’s a friendly, warm soul, with a generosity that probably would have gotten anyone else killed by now. It’s certainly rare in the yakuza world, and initially, she doesn’t seem to fit her surroundings. She almost appears to float rather than walk, and there’s an ethereal sort of fragility to her that better suits high society and tea ceremonies than back alleys and bloodied, brash men. It's not hard to discern that most of the time, she's smiling pleasantly beneath the cloth over her face. She moves deliberately, most often with unconscious elegance, though she can and does clip everything down to the barest of efficient motions when necessary.

Hair and eyes: Her hair is shoulderblade-length, unstyled and soft, the color of the sky just before true night hits. Her irises are bright blue, nearly teal, set relatively wide apart, and almost too large, framed by an absurdly-thick abundance of lashes.

Facial features: If not for the scars, her face would be what you expect of a spirit said to lure weary travelers to their deaths. As it is, the supernatural attractiveness is harshly mitigated, and thus she walks around with as little exposed as possible. She can't say whether she's ugly or simply unnerving, but either way, she can only take so much staring. At least now most simply assume she's eccentric or germaphobic or one of those weird kids that cosplays for no reason and has some kind of ninja fetish, whatever. Much easier to deal with.

Wardrobe: She likes girly things like dresses and kimonos, in the palettes of winter and spring, but most of the time, practicality wins out. Can’t kneel on the concrete and sew a man up in lace and frills, now can you? To this end, her usual attire is nothing more fancy than denims, tennis shoes, and turtlenecks. Also usually seen in a pair of thin gloves; which effectively means that there's not an inch of visible skin beneath her eyes most of the time. There are a large number of kimono, gothic-style dresses, and the like shoved into the back of her closet.


PERSONALITY
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Credit

Her brother, perhaps the person who knows her best, refers to her in his more reflective moments as an iron lady swathed in velvet. Indeed, her general personality is one of sweet warmth and softness, like smooth honey in tea. She is not at all confrontational,though that's not to say she doesn't have opinions. Rather, Shirayuki is the perfect listener, an attentive ear to even the most inane ramblings, but also a knowledgeable one should the topic be something of a more intellectual or philosophical nature. She is tolerant of a wide range of personalities, and has enough familiarity dealing with yakuza and their ilk that she is not bothered by harsh words or vile curses, though they do cause her displeasure in the sense that she would really rather you wouldn't.

You would perhaps expect such a person to be a doormat in the extreme, but 'tis not so. Being a doctor has stiffened her spine, so to speak, and though she knows enough to be afraid when she rightfully should, she's all but slain her flight instinct when faced with someone in need of her assistance. She has always been the kind of person who seizes onto her professed goals with a stubborn tenacity that few can match, and of late that goal is to be the best doctor she can. To that end, she treats anyone and everyone, regardless of their affiliations, for no other reason than because she believes it right to do so. In such situations, she will ignore risk to herself or even the patient's willingness to be treated and go about her business with a steely resolve you'd scarcely believe came from the same quiet mouse of a woman that stood in her place but moments before.

She is despite this not often hostile at all, and her insistence is tender, if unerring all the same. The one thing she truly takes exception to is threats to the children in her home, or children in general really. She has a strong mother/big sister instinct, and is affectionately referred to as "nee-san" by most of the under-twenties in the neighborhood. Most of these are in and out of her residence as necessary to eat and sleep somewhere relatively safe, but more than one live there on a semi-permanent basis. Shirayuki insists that they got to school however, so a few of the others stay as scarcely as possible. It can be difficult to say no to her, between the persistence and the rather impressive set of doe-eyes she's capable of making if the situation really calls for it, but there's nothing insidious about her persuasion at all, and the worst damage she's likely to do is get you to put out the cigarette while inside.

She takes delight in small things, and though it isn't expressed verbally, there is rarely too much reservation in it. She's simply quieter about how she feels than most, and perhaps more thoughtful and reflective. It's not a trait she always had, but then she was always told that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Considering how close she's been to death, she must be quite strong indeed.

Speech: Most of the time, she doesn't speak at all, and only at great effort can she force a breathy whisper past her mangled larynx and into the air for others to hear. She prefers to use paper and pencil or gestures and smiles to communicate what she means to say, and has a large set of pre-made index cards at home for diagnostic purposes. Yuki's face is very expressive, especially the eyes. She's never been heard to swear, and indeed addresses everyone (even in writing) more formally than most would. Her preferred personal pronoun is 'sessha,' meaning 'this one.'

Pet Peeves: Like all good doctors, she much prefers the cooperative patients, though she's surprisingly strong-willed and will essentially get all hundred and fifteen pounds of herself up in your business if you're walking around with an untreated injury or refusing her assistance. Doesn't matter who you are or how scared she is of you, either: an injury's and injury, and she's a doctor. She also dislikes it when people don't take care of themselves generally. Her biggest pet peeve, however, is when the strong pick on the weak. She can't stand bullies, and will often recklessly assert herself into such situations to defend the attacked.

Favorite color: White probably suits her personality- clean, innocent, and without stain, but she professes to be very fond of purple and pink.


EQUIPMENT
Specialty: Her specialty as such is really repairing the damage that other people do to each other when exercising their own particular capabilities. She isn't picky about who she helps, either.

Fighting Style: Yuki's not what anyone would call violent by nature, but she does live in a violent area. Seeing as how it's really tricky to get a firearms permit in Japan, she's learned a few things about projectiles to keep herself safe whenever possible. The woman's accurate and quickish, but definitely not strong by any means.

Preferred Weaponry: Throwing knives, light and easy to place. Also concealable.

Weaknesses: Where do we start?
Frailty- She's no stronger than the average human female of the same proportions, which is to say, can carry maybe thirty pounds. Has almost no musculature to speak of, and will break just as easily as a mortal would.
Naivety- It's already bitten her once, and how. Problem is, she does not seem to have learned much from the experience, and continues to find herself in dangerous places, tense situations, and the proximity of people who could kill her without all that much effort.
Readability- Like a book. An open, honest face and the capacity to care about people that aren't herself without concealing it are kind of problematic. At the moment, she only has one enemy (whose identity she does not know), but should she ever acquire more, figuring out what matters to her won't be all that difficult.
Self-Esteem- She was once quite the proud, vain creature, but all that remains of those traits is a kind of stubbornness. These days, she loses quite a few battles from the start by simply dismissing things as impossible- not generally, just for herself.
Bleeding Heart- She doesn't know you, but she cares about you, at least a bit. Which is a serious problem sometimes, particularly when the other party will not return her consideration and does not consider her existence intrinsically valuable.
Silent- There are times when things would be much easier were she able to speak... or scream, for example. Unfortunately, her decibel level can't go above "I'm sorry, what was that?" so she's SOL if she needs to say something in a crowd.

Inventory: At any given time, there are about ten small throwing knives stored upon her person. Other than that, she usually has a small first-aid kit on hand, though the more heavy-duty supplies are far too cumbersome to lug everywhere with her. Also has a shoulder bag, containing said kit, a cell phone, public transport card, petty cash, an epipen and a photo ID, carefully buried beneath everything else.

Minor Ability:
Snowborn- Yuki can manipulate small amounts of ice and water, and these abilities are augmented should it be raining or snowing, or if she happens to be standing in water. Usually, the amount she can control at one time is no bigger than her combined hand-span, so she has to be creative if she's going to do anything useful with it.
Vanishing Act- Yuki-onna are supposedly capable of turning themselves into snow and escaping danger when threatened. Shirayuki herself has only ever done this once, and under extreme duress; most of the time, her tangibility decreases, so that most objects can pass through her without harm, as though she were a ghost. Oddly, whenever she does this, she appears to be more like the conventional yuki-onna: her hair lengthens by a few feet, and the scars fade considerably. This is not a change she can bring about willingly- it just happens when she gets frightened enough.
Internal Thermometer- Her body temperature is cool at best, and she can actually lower it consciously if she chooses, which is of limited use.

Additional Guise: None


LIFE
Hobbies: Being both a student and a doctor with more patients than she knows what to do with sometimes, Shirayuki doesn't have a lot of free time. What little she does have is spent with the small horde of children that live with her and her brother (mostly helping them study or talking in swift gestures-- something else is going here when I figure out how I want this sentence construction to go), or else out walking. She considers the latter to be the single most soothing activity there is, and will be out and about at all hours should she be stressed out about something, which is almost invariably the case. She used to be quite fond of music and dance, but gave both up after the incident, at least for the most part.

Likes:
  • Voices- perhaps because she lost her own ability to do so, the sound of other people talking or singing is something she particularly enjoys.
  • Children- her house is over-capacity because of her tendency to take in strays and feed them. Some of them come in and out as they need to, but a few are permanent residents by this point.
  • Rain and Snow- There are the obvious reasons of course, but she actually just enjoys the sensation. Touch isn't something she experiences a lot, due to her self-imposed social pariah status. It's usually blood, guts, or the inside of her gloves. Rain on her face or snow on her tongue is enjoyable for this reason alone.
  • Sleeping in the Sun- Oddly-specific, but there you go.
  • Long Walks Anywhere- She requires no destination, only a place to put her feet.

Dislikes:
  • Non-cooperative patients, though perhaps 'dislike' is too strong a word. She becomes frustrated by such tendencies, but it doesn't usually negatively affect her opinion of someone.
  • Violence- The reasons are obvious, but extend beyond personal considerations. She understands that that's the kind of world she lives in, but that doesn't mean she has to like it.
  • Pickles- A finicky eater in general, actually.

Fears: She is nearly-pathologically afraid of dogs, especially large ones. Also doesn't like places without light, and will avoid dark alleys when out to walk at night. Allergic to strawberries and tree nuts, though only if consumed. She still carries an epipen, just in case.

Agenda: Once, she was a stupid girl: vain and proud and brash and beautiful. Shirayuki no longer believes herself to be any of these things, and has chosen to take the lessons learned to heart, and apply herself for the good of other people. She's tired of seeing people suffer for the agendas of the powerful, but she realizes she is far too weak to fight this in the usual way, if doing so wouldn't be a contradiction in terms in the first place. Instead, she simply aims to heal as many hurts and save as many lives as she can. Not like she has much else to live for anymore, anyway.

Where they hail from: Originally, her family was from the Hokkaido region, but they moved to Osaka shortly after Shirayuki was born.

Relations:
Father and Mother: Nobuyoshi and Keiko, respectively. Her mother is a full-blooded yuki-onna who left the family when her father discovered this particular fact. The man raised both of his children from the time they were very young, though he made sure they were both aware of their heritage. These days, he lives by himself in the countryside, having returned to his native Hokkaido in hopes of locating his estranged wife. He was a corporate officer for a pharmaceutical company by trade, which basically means that he made his living being an asshole and rarely saw his children. It didn't really suit him actually, hence his early retirement.
Brother: Daichi wasn't what one would call a particularly mindful sort, and never really did well in school. He was quite good-looking, though, and skilled in sports, which led him to overconfidence and the thought that he could become embroiled in gang warfare without serious repercussions. He's considerably more cautious these days, and though he still occasionally has contact with his old comrades, it's generally accepted that he's out of the business. He dislikes Shirayuki's tendency to offer medical care to thugs. Despite his failures as a brother, he still cares greatly for his sister's welfare, and feels an immense amount of guilt for her condition.

Notable Experiences: Shirayuki and her brother grew up in a single-parent household of impressive wealth. Both children, by virtue of their mother's exotic and preternaturally beautiful visage (not that their father was too bad himself), were also quite something to look at, and this combined with their wealth nurtured exactly the kind of arrogance and self-righteousness you would expect. The fact that neither parent was ever around much meant that Nobuyoshi also overcompensated by throwing money at them instead of time, and like so many children of privilege, they were never really happy with any of it. Both dealt with this in very different ways; Daichi became a delinquent pretty early in his teenage years, and Shirayuki threw herself into both school and her true love: ballet.

Perhaps unfortunately, both were quite talented at what they chose to do. Shortly after their father up and left, Daichi converted their expansive home into a hideout for the Kyubei-kai, and yakuza were in and out of the place all the time. They were not terribly discreet about this, and somehow both the house and Daichi himself drew the attention of the Wild Dogs.

Shirayuki herself does not remember too much about the night of the raid. The sensations that are clearest all center around great pain, the tearing of flesh and the crunching of bone. She was viciously mauled by something she could not resist, though trauma has blocked the terrifying sight from her recollection. All she knows is what Daichi has told her since: that she was alone when the raiders attacked, and one of them ritually tore her apart. They probably would have killed her had she not disintegrated into a floating cloud of snow. She woke up in a hospital, covered in bandages from head to toe, and knew her dreams had been ripped to shreds along with her face. Nobody was going to hire a horribly-mangled ballerina, and she knew it well enough. She'd also lost most of the capacity to speak. Her brother was worse off still, paralyzed from the waist down and missing an arm, having apparently returned home during the confrontation and gone rather berserk upon seeing his sister's condition.

The next year was perhaps the worst of it: both of them had to learn to live and function again. She's not proud of how difficult it was to accept the fact that she'd lost everything she'd once been too fond of, but the entire experience lent her some much needed perspective, and that's how she chooses to view it. Her mourning and self-pity burnt themselves out in that year, and though she would never dream of thanking whomever attacked her for doing it, she is glad of the change it has wrought in both herself and Daichi. They moved out of their father's house, which now serves as a base of operations for some of the Wild Dogs, and into a more contested part of the city. Shirayuki applied to medical school, and Daichi found himself a job working as a coach for a high school baseball team, which had always been his favorite sport.

Make no mistake: she still struggles with the implications of what happened to her, but when her vanity rears its head and she thinks to despair over her losses, she swiftly quells the feeling. For now, she's quite content where she is, and that's something entirely worth the price.

So begins...

Yamada Shirayuki's Story

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Osaka, where it's just too damn noisy.


ImageCallused fingers folded over the bowl of the pipe in parody of a lover’s embrace, lifting it from between two rows of slightly-oversharp teeth. A cloud of smoke swirled and eddied into the air after it, hanging there with stubbornness that lasted only a moment before it was carried away by a gust of winter wind. A girl somewhere to his left shrieked, her fancy parasol abducted by the deft fingers of the breeze. He could have sworn he heard it shout something on the way, but the sounds were too far beyond him for even his youkai ears to detect.

Tsubasa chuckled beneath his breath at the young woman’s put-out expression, an exaggerated pout chasing all loveliness from her face until she huffed and turned back to the gaggle of others she walked with, collectively voluminous enough to stop traffic in all the wrong ways. He’d never had to deal with crowds until he moved to this forsaken city, den of thieves, panoply of colors and veritable salad-bowl of sound. Folk bustled around here and there, but generally parted like water before the massive man, a river around the base of a still mountain. Or maybe a volcano, with how much he seemed to be smoking. Yes, that suited him just fine. Serene as you please, but with magma burning slowly in his veins where the blood should be.

From his vantage point six feet and some inches from the ground, he was easily a head taller than most in the crowd, and scanned the lot with affected disinterest, throwing a disdainful look onto his face for good measure. Inwardly, he was just about as excited as the little boy who tugged mercilessly at the hems of his mother’s yukata, urging her this way and that with the exuberance and needless fluttering of a sparrow. In all his years of life, he’d never once been to a festival, and the undercurrents of happiness that most of the participants bore seeped into his limbs, enlivening them and creating an unnatural buzz beneath his illusory skin.

But there was something else, and this was why Tsubasa had stopped his strolling and was now looking about- seemingly without anything more than generic distaste for the enthusiasm and tomfoolery of those about him. A clay bottle marked with the kanji for sake found its way to his mouth, and he tipped it back carelessly, causing a middle-aged housewife to shoot him a disapproving look as she passed, a nice compliment to the obvious envy on her husband’s visage. Joke was on them; the bottle contained nothing but simple water. The taste of smoke was cleansed from his tongue, and he tossed the empty vessel into a nearby receptacle, folding his hands into his distended sleeves. Yes, something ran even deeper than the happiness here, and it felt almost like… unease. It pricked the hairs on the back of his neck, and he cursed his useless empathy. It was like a thousand stinging ants, marching along his spine and taking a bite out of his nerves whenever they damn well felt like it. Hateful little bastards.

Mark his instinct, something was going to go down here. He didn’t know what, who, or when, which just annoyed him. Snorting and tossing his head slightly, he moved off into the crowd, ignoring it for the moment. Might as well enjoy the lights and glaring-bright colors while he still could. There had to be food around here somewhere, right?


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Osaka, a little more fun than yesterday.


Shirayuki stared at her reflection in the mirror for a long moment. This was something she was almost compelled to do every time she saw a reflective surface, but she had yet to decide what she felt about the image presented to her. Presently, her face was uncovered, her story written in white and pink lines across the canvas of her skin. She tilted her head to one side, an almost-curious gesture, and a too-long morass of curls fell over her shoulder. She blinked once, slowly, then pulled the elastic material up and over her mouth and nose, shoulders loosening in cast, and brushed at her fringe absently with thin fingers so that it obscured the majority of her forehead. Picking a piece of dust off the light-and-dark blue yukata, she sighed breathily and shrugged.

Descending the stairs, she sidestepped to avoid two seven-year-olds chasing each other up to the second floor, spotting her brother just entering the house. She smiled beneath the mask and signed a greeting, which he returned as well as he could with his singular arm. She hadn’t told him why she’d suddenly decided to go to the festival, but he’d volunteered to watch the young ones anyway, and for this she was grateful. Though in time his questions would cascade over her head faster than she could mime her answers to them, she for the moment was safe, since he saw this as ‘progress.’ It didn’t quite feel right to take advantage of that, but it was harmless enough.

Moving to a kitchen drawer with a lock, she pulled the key from her sleeve and opened it, tugging as the wood caught. Everything in this place was dreadfully old and only worked sometimes, but it was still worlds better than the big, empty mansion they’d once inhabited. Inside were several old-fashioned throwing knives, which she stowed carefully in her obi. The Minami area held many unfortunate reminiscences, and it would not do to go into any situation unprepared, no matter how innocuous it might seem. Daichi watched her wordlessly, then nodded solemnly, before catching himself and smiling instead. She appreciated the thought, and bade him farewell before stepping out into the cold, taking up a small satchel that sat near her door.

The walk was pleasant, if chill, and her spirits lifted. It had been such a long time since she’d actually done something purely for amusement, and when this realization had hit her during her conversation with the stranger (such as it was), she hadn’t had to think very hard about what to say to his offer. Sometimes, chance dealt you a strange hand, she knew that well enough. She also knew that such wild cards were only ever what you made of them, and so she took it as a sign, illogical as that may be, to take a break from the studying and the diligence for a while.

It wasn’t hard to find the place where the parade would be, festooned in gilt and glitter and color and light. It reminded her poignantly of her childhood, and for a moment, she was simply transfixed by the happenings around her, before she shook her head with a rueful smile and melded into the crowd, searching for someone who stood out rather more than she did. She passed a tall fellow with a raucous mane of hair and unusual footwear, but such oddities weren’t so unusual in places like this, so she scarcely paid him any heed. Time and guesswork placed her in the vicinity of a tinseled archway, and there was the curious stranger.

Shirayuki approached, dipping her head in greeting since he likely didn’t understand the elaborate system of gestures she used to convey meaning. She wasn’t even sure if he read proper Japanese, now that she came to think of it, and their earlier conversation had been a stumbling sort of affair that had nevertheless left her highly amused and rather enjoying herself. The young hanyou gestured towards the gate, asking if he was inclined to enter. She did feel bad for making him wait, and hoped it hadn’t been entirely too long. Without a good way to inquire, though, she’d have to risk being a little rude.

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Character Portrait: Sahen Character Portrait: Yamada Shirayuki Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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At the Forefront of the Locale, where it was suddenly a bit brighter if only in his own eyes.


One could swear the expression he then wore had a reminiscence of the cooing of pigeons. Pleasantly transfixed on the snow woman's approach, the sagging pipe slipped cleanly from his mouth (though he caught it deftly with his right hand, knocking it clear of ash on his other wrist and then tucking the object out of sight). Rather than taking the lead into the jungles of light or curiously facing the direction toward which she gestured; Sahen gingerly cupped her protruding fingers, leaning in to touch the very tip of his nose to her cheek and whispering little more than a quiet exhale: "You-are just too good to be true~ cannot take my eyes off of you."

He laughed then (which undoubtably murdered the notion of there being a marching band tromping through the masses to play accompanying instrumentals as he broke into proper accented song), in what some would suspect it was of a self-conscious sort. Who ever dared to utter Frankie Valli lyrics without a smudge of embarrassment tainting his soul? But mayhaps, mayhaps he was just happy to be where he was at that moment, and cared about little else. "You are prettier than every other maiden who has passed by these pillars, mae nang payaban," he informed her, in that suspiciously factual way one would think was meant to insult others more than to compliment the receiver. Though in truth, he did not consider the statement to be much of an exaggeration; appreciating her choice in modest garments, her subdued scent like that of a breeze, her fleet of eyelashes and pale lips. In the two weeks he'd spent in this region, he found this woman the most captivating. Possibly it was the mask, an accessory not so bad after all, reminding him of a great, oppressive sun and sand-skinned dancers; or just as possibly, it was her silence, which he had goofily presumed to be some sort of oath of chastity. He decided after admiring her a little longer, amid warm colors bathing the side of his face, to add in a contented murmur, "And... you honor me with your presence."

He brightened rather abruptly, glistening at the eyes and beaming at the mouth with a sincerity easily rivaling the Christian virgin. "Come! You will guide me, for I fear I would get us lost and hungry." Perhaps disturbingly, he did not once relinquish his grasp of her hand, but he was unaggressive, willing to let go should she deem his touch discomforting... though requesting even a little personal space would be too much to ask of the garuda, at the moment.

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Character Portrait: Chiba Tomoe Character Portrait: Amori Tsubasa Character Portrait: Sahen Character Portrait: Yamada Shirayuki Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Festival Grounds, and perhaps she can’t just melt into the ground after all...
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Contact. Perhaps she was silly not to have expected it, but all the same, the smooth motion with which her hand was grasped elicited enough surprise that the offending fingertips nearly lost all color, though they held onto their solidity by a thread of will. It was the same thread that Shirayuki’s inner self clasped onto when she realized that his face was in much greater proximity now than it had been the moment before, and she swallowed, throat suddenly dry and a doubtlessly unbecoming scarlet hue spreading over her face. She was unable to do much, and she definitely had not the wherewithal to move, but likewise she did not flinch in the slightest, the only betrayal of her feelings the nearly-comical widening of her eyes. The words were almost lost, so startled was she by the suddenness with which she was seized (though, she supposed, it was far too delicate to be truly construed so), but in the end they only confused her further. She glanced quickly this way and that, as if to confirm that the other people passing them were in fact ordinary enough, and not some form of grotesque monster that would lead him to say such things.

People had once willingly said such things to her, and she had accepted them as nothing more than her due. That had been years ago now, though, and as her embarrassment and shock faded, they gave way not to shame (as they might have were she inclined to think him making jests at her expense), but rather a particular kind of amusement. She found him so very strange, and this was perhaps just one more instance of it to cement the inclination with proof. She could not be insulted for the very same reason she could not consider it a true compliment: he had not the faintest idea what he was talking about. This was the whole point of walking around masked. So instead, she assumed the overwrought chivalry to be a jest of some kind, and a breathy chuckle passed into the air between them, shattering that most peculiar hold she could have sworn his presence had inflicted on her before.

For her, it was as if his last comment confirmed her suspicions, and she smiled broadly, stepping back a little and bowing deeply, as if to humbly acquiesce to his request. It doubtlessly looked amusing, the willow-branch of a woman still gently clasping one hand and bending at the waist with unnecessary flourish before the foreigner with twinkling eyes. Her own crinkled at the corners with the force of the invisible smile, and she winked, gently tugging him so that he might follow her without getting lost in the crowd. True, contact was not something she was much accustomed to any longer, but that did not make her at all averse to it.

She flowed through the crowd as though it were a river and she were a fish, born for nothing quite so much as navigating the treacherous streams of passerby and merrymaker. Shirayuki was trying to devise a way to ask him what he felt like eating or doing, as most people she encountered didn’t understand sign language. Though she would have used her reedy-soft voice if it would have made a difference, there were simply too many people and too much noise for her to make herself audible. Instead, she stopped in front of a row of food vendors before releasing his hand and about-facing, tilting her head to one side in the clearest pantomime of an inquiry she could affect without intricate gestures and an understanding conversationalist like her brother. The smells of tempura and takoyaki drifted towards them from the little grills installed in the bannered boxes of industry, each wrought with brighter colors and bolder slogans than the last.




Osaka, where remembering is harder than it should be.



Image The bushy, rebellious eyebrow ascended his forehead immediately upon the approach of the small person, though he did not cease eating the odango he'd purchased himself. Tsubasa found it entirely impossible to discern the person’s gender by virtue of the voice issuing from behind the plastic mask, and moreover, the fact that whomever they were clearly knew his name was disturbed him. The more he thought about it (and he was taking his sweet time, too, standing there like a dumb fish for the better part of ten seconds and chewing contemplatively, if with a hint of exaggerated arrogance), the more he was certain he knew the person from somewhere. He just couldn’t place it.

The former monk swallowed with an air of finality. “Do I know you, lady?” he asked, the question almost petulant. It probably would have been, were his lingering confusion not so evident in every word of it. Instead of the crass address that he had tried to make it, then, it sounded like a genuine inquiry, and he resisted the urge to smack himself for getting it wrong… again.

It was bothering him, though. He’d gone ahead and assumed the speaker was female, because in his experience, they didn’t make men that small, but there was something else, too. The vaguest inclination that he knew what the face underneath that mask looked like, and had had this particular internal debate with himself at some point in the not-so-distant past. For some reason, a peculiar, smoky scent was also called to mind, though no other associated impression leapt to the forefront of his boggled brain.

So, as he was convinced he ought to, he pretended that his confusion meant nothing to him, crossing his arms over his chest and staring around at the goings-on as though they held no particular interest to him, but then neither did the not-stranger. A sham, all of it: he was absolutely fascinated with the festival and all the people in it, the woman in front of him no less so than any of the rest and perhaps more. It was supposed to be rude to stare at women though, wasn’t it? Or did that very fact mean he should be doing so, as to appear more the lascivious drunkard sort?

Sometimes, all this pretending bamboozled the hell out of him.

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Various little Places, Various little Times; Enveloped in Bliss, Regardless.


Ah... human food, the delicacy of mice. He had little fondness for it, but held no unusual hatred--merely, it was that the portions were not filling, and the taste unremarkable. Still, he was far from disappointed that his companion, in her gently fervent way, lead him to a stand of mortally enticing scents (though he saw fit to tease her about it just a little). "Whatever you like," he said with flippant merriment in response to her gestures, surprisingly astute toward her (very obvious) indications. A meal, the way he understood it, provided ample excuse to be with someone without the effort of conjuring conversation about the (very nice) weather, and so Sahen saw no reason to turn down the notion. He did not refrain from making suggestions should she further hesitate to speak or flap her arms about, and he was particularly adamant about paying for the ordeal. Sahen had been very excited to finally figure out the inner workings of modern money (and gold) conversion, you see, and was no less than eager to take advantage of it. What was the loss of a few yen in exchange for a woman's meek grin?




The sprinkle of rain had delighted him, weak though it was; but Sahen was a good enough in the guise of a man to know that it was very few women who appreciated getting their hair (and food) wet. Laughing aloud, he'd tugged Shirayuki under a vague excuse of a shelter, before that using his arm as a makeshift umbrella for her pretty head. "Namtha ginnaree," he mused to himself, eying the endless ceiling with skepticism. "I wonder if they see me." Of course, even if "they" did decide to track his wingprints and spot him in the impressive crowd, he knew their being the cause of rain would be unlikely. Though the herds of swan women were unforgivingly jealous creatures, they did not shed tears at the slightest provocation, and they did not desperately stalk him in order to seethingly watch him attain new consorts.
*Tears of Ginnaree

They merely gossiped with great vigor.

In place of the pipe was currently a shrimp kabob, barely eaten even after the parade had begun and jutting from his mouth like a bare leg from a dark alleyway. Had he not had the stick pinched between his fingers, it would have fallen to the ground and become a grand shame, as well as too "dirty" to continue eating according to most mortals; for Sahen, indeed, had his breath stolen when the finely dressed women passed, swirling like fine china on an auction stand. He caught himself smiling, stopping lest he be asked what it was he found so amusing, and reluctantly averted his eyes. "Mae nang, puak nee man kongja mai..." he began, before changing his mind and swapping his mother tongue for a more limited palette of vocabulary, "What is it you are celebrating, I wonder? Would you tell me this?" Yes, remained certain in believing that she merely chose not to speak, and remained only minutely puzzled by her choice in silence. Beautiful women always had good reasons for doing things, and he's never doubted this in all his years. "It cannot be a rain dance--could it? Even my people don't have such beseeching skill. Amazing...!"

What eventually caught the bird's abrupt attention, tearing his thoughts from beautiful eyes and demure demeanors, was not the shapeshifters--grandly entertaining and cute though the furballs were, he had sensed non-human presences long before they were made known. The parade was littered with unnatural blood: it was blood that may not have been red, blood that has survived more than mortal years, blood that chose to prowl in both the dark and broad daylight. Even the dear woman beside him had a droplet held close and pulsating in her arms, though it was entirely possible she'd merely been bitten--or eaten the meat of monsters--rather than being a descendent of oddities... But there was something old here. Sahen took a stray step, hunching down at the shoulders as his flickering pupils studied the scene laid bare before him, searching, searching for the spirit that had scraped a coarse fingernail through his memory.

The monkey had been exhausted absolutely, reduced to crossed legs, hands clapping in prayer, and a stomach so small one could squeeze his waist with one fist. The monkey was as dutiful and loyal as one could ever expect a mystic servant to be, wasting all his strength and resources on fruitless ventures. Garuda would have felt ashamed, should he be inclined to compare himself to the once energetic and spry thing: that careless thing bounding on tree tops, that powerful thing hurling great boulders at giants, that tenacious thing who loved his missing master so dearly.
"Hanuman," greeted the Garuda with transparent pity, "I suppose you won't be headed out anytime soon?"
The monkey said nothing.
"Hanuman," repeated the Garuda with disgusted pity, "have you ever thought that maybe it's time to give up?"
The monkey said nothing, though he scratched at his protruding ribs. Plucking off some nuisance of a flea, perhaps.
"I know you enough to judge you, foolish beast. I know of your hate for losing, but I know of your love for freedom. Embrace this...! It might really be as they're all whispering, that Lord Rama is no longer--"
"
Never." Breathed the monkey, before flying into a devouring rage that would dot the minds of clairvoyants around the turning globe. For how can one forget such staring, with maddened, reddened eyes so filled with tormented sadness, such howling with a heart thoroughly absent from his chest?

It was in the little house that he felt it, and the object resembled the angel shrines he knew so well. Inside was the old presence, visibly shaking Sahen for a moment, for it was so akin to the one, lone soul he respected. It could not be him. It could not be him. Wavering, Sahen held his head, observing instead one of the demons that dwelled abnormally close to the angel shrine before letting it pass by. It was not a big demon, though it exuded the radiance of a dignified giant with its fine, bulky clothes.

Giants? Dignified...? Sahen soundlessly scoffed, supposing he truly was tired from past hauntings. It was all very curious, but surely none of his business. Surely the only familiar face in this foreign land would be that of his reflection. Sahen convinced himself of this through joining elbows with his lovely accompanying maiden; his twisting, snaking hand grasping her affectionately by the wrist. He was like a monstrously tall child that could not be torn from its nanny, nipping at her fingers with his own as naturally as one would reach for air when submerged in a lake. He smiled all the while.

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Festival Grounds, where she’s enjoying things more than she’d expected.
♫ ♫ ♫


She might have snorted softly (not terribly ladylike of her), and might have rolled her eyes at him, but in the end her good humor won the day. With a small shrug, she procured some shrimp and a daifuku, handing him the former with a nod of thanks for footing the bill. Admittedly, she hadn’t fought the suggestion overmuch; she wasn’t exactly as well-off as she’d been in her childhood, and medical school did tend to drain one’s resources, scholarship or not.

They ambled for a while after that, mostly in silence, which was kind of nice. It was hard to recall the last time she’d been to this particular festival. She had hazy memories of these colors and smells, and of course this general area had been her home for most of her life, but… hers had not been a duration particularly disposed to stopping and smelling the roses- or the assorted grilled goods, for that matter. There was, though, a vague inclination that if she looked skyward, she would see something that made her feel at ease: a great blue shape high above, watching over them all. Perhaps it was simply a childhood fantasy, that there was some powerful being out there who would deign to look benevolently upon the figures on the ground, and yet…

She felt the rain before it began to fall. Such was one of her many useless talents, a vaguely prescient feeling about the weather, at least if precipitation was at all involved. This was a good thing, without a doubt- she had never been averse to the rain. At first it was tiny droplets, the kind that would fall and only dampen with great time, but gradually they coalesced into something more substantial, and she relished in the rush of relief that such things always brought with them, tilting her head skyward and welcoming the feel of moisture. Gravity was not quite enough to pull them from her, and they fell slowly only when she relinquished them, to patter on the earth quietly. Another silly, symptomatic something, but scarcely noticeable or important.

They were cut off by something, and Shirayuki opened her eyes to see her companion’s arm hovering over her head, a makeshift shield against that which would do her no harm. Sweet, but wholly unnecessary. Nevertheless, she allowed herself to be guided beneath a canopy, where only the occasional drop found its way to the ground. He said something she did not understand, followed by a question that made only a bit more sense. Shirayuki did not know who “they” were, but it did not seem of too much importance from the way he said it.

She might have even asked, for no other reason than to be polite, but the parade began in earnest now, and she watched with something between reverence and amusement at the procession meandered, marched, and shuffled by. Like his, her eyes found the dancers almost immediately. Her reason was of course entirely different, and a trace of longing flitted its way across her face before she settled into looking a little bit wistful. She was never hard to read, and did not play at stoicism, having learned long ago that it was a game she would never win. Still, at the same time as it saddened her to remember what she had lost, she still appreciated the grace and poise of the art, and so it made her happy, too.

The shapeshifters were always entertaining. It was not so unusual for most youkai to be able to do such things, but she, having only half that strength, was not. Any alterations that she underwent were entirely involuntary, and usually associated with situations most unpleasant.

Diverting her thoughts from that unfortunate tangent, she tried to think of how best to answer his question. It was still too loud, though, what with the music and the crowd, and she rubbed her throat ineffectually. She had thought of pointing to the sky, but since he already wondered if it had something to do with the weather, that probably wouldn’t work. Pursing her lips, she looked around, at last raising her hand to point at the painted likeness of a dragon, borne by several marchers and some distance in front of the mikoshi. Technically, she was unsure that this was even the right answer, but it had always seemed so to her. She supposed he would understand how literal she was being, since he had seemed not at all surprised to see children turning into foxes or women into toads.

Looking at him, though, she noted his fascination with the mikoshi itself and wondered. There was something going on here that she did not understand, and she watched it trail past them. Shirayuki wasn’t sure if the reason for such intentness was wistfulness, confusion, or something else, but it seemed to be important. She only became further convinced of this when his arm twined around hers- that was, in her experience at least, a comfort-seeking gesture. Perhaps it was misplaced for her to project the attitudes of family members and children onto someone else, but nevertheless it was what she was inclined to do, and so she did it, lacing her fingers through his and nudging her shoulder into his arm with characteristic affectionate indulgence.

She tilted her head in the direction the mikoshi had gone, towards the Shirogane Shrine. If it was important to him, they would just have to go see.


Festival Grounds, and the whole thing is so damn confusing.



Image Tsubasa blinked a couple times, not initially rising to the bait the weird lady presented. She removed that mask she was wearing, and he was struck again with the sort of vague familiarity you have for the clerks at some store you visit maybe once a week.

"You'll have to stick to bars so I don't have to rescue you from the opium den again, if it affects your memory so."

For a second, he was pretty sure she’d just made that shit up, but then it all clicked into place, and he narrowed his eyes. “Bastard had it coming,” he replied a little too quickly, flinching internally when he felt the heat on his face and very well-aware that he was turning that slightly-red color he took on rather frequently. The tengu huffed impatiently and decided now was not a good time to stick around and have the conversation. In fact, he was pretty sure never would be the best time for it.

He only sort of remembered exactly what had happened in the opium den. Some guy he was working for at the time had mentioned it in passing as a rather good place to find the shady kind of folks who would hire a guy like him to muscle around like an idiot, and since that was basically the only thing anyone would hire him for, he’d decided to pay a visit. Well. When in Rome… Opium hadn’t been anything like tobacco, really, and he had this feeling that he’d overdone it. He vaguely recalled some fool picking a fight with him, which his drug-laced self was only too happy to oblige, and then… not much else until he was dragged out by a person much smaller than himself. Since it was a lady (albeit a slightly off-looking one), he hadn’t really the heart to protest.

He’d woken alone, sober, and at his own address, apparently having let himself in, though how he found the place was still a mystery. Now it made considerably more sense. His old instinct for politeness warred relentlessly with the constructed one he’d made for being an asshat, and in the end neither of them really won. “Right.” One syllable, neither a thanks nor a disparaging remark. He didn’t even really manage to make it sound dismissive, though he tried valiantly.

The rain started to patter down, and Tsubasa frowned with mild distaste. He’d always hated having wet feathers. Not that he had feathers right now, mind, but it would probably still make his damn head into a sopping mess of uncomfortable damp. He was about to excuse himself to find yet more food and a better spot from which to watch the proceedings when the lady bowed to some old guy and asked if the parade had started.

Correction: this was not just some old guy. Tsubasa shifted his weight from one foot to the other, an unconscious action that prepared him better for any number of defensive maneuvers. It wasn’t that he thought he was about to be attacked, merely that it had struck him subconsciously to be wary. It was much the same feeling he’d had around the abbot, but that had been tempered by years of near-familial connection, and this was not. They walked with the same deliberate, regal stride, and there was some similar kind of too-much-knowledge in their faces. It made him distinctly uncomfortable, though he refused to allow himself to show it.

It also forced him to reevaluate the woman next to him. He glanced between the two, feeling quite like he was intruding upon something and should leave, but he sharply negated this internally. He’d been here first, dammit, and he wasn’t going to leave just because some guy in a suit showed up. If they wanted to have their little conversation here, that was fine with him, but he wasn’t going to pretend he wasn’t listening or anything like that.

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It Can't Be...?


The garuda felt as if ants were crawling about his innards, and though the hand comforting his own did little to quell their hungry nipping, he was occasionally reminding himself of the fact that he appreciated this touch. Female company was never, never bad; particularly not when they were cooperatively staying by his side. Those who sought to leash him, walk with him only where they cared to go--those sorts would never see him again, perhaps catching a glimpse of a turned back and sprouting wings if they were lucky (and if he were that desperate to get away). This girl he'd discovered in what little time he spent in this land; she was not one of those controlling heathen women, and this was good. He might even feel inclined to visit her once in a while, after they part ways. At the moment, however, Sahen did not allow his gaze to be torn from the mikoshi--possessing avian eyes, it was not a difficult task. The task was maintaining an easy pace, rather than bolting into the heavens and watching the little house from a perch next to one of those fat dog-rat things with the drumming bellies.

He discovered, to his dismay, that the presence within the lifted shrine was not of his imagination. It was something old, and it was something powerful; a soul that would not be easily quelled by a mortal hand. How unfortunately familiar it was, in this respect. Will he be leashed again, if he allowed the one in the portable shrine to go unchecked? No, if anything, it would be his pursuit of it that would lead to a renewed life of servitude. Yet he must follow, he had little choice in the matter. After all, everyone had thought Lord Rama, almighty slayer of giant kings and reincarnation of an old god, was dead. Well, that is, everyone but that stupid monkey. Sahen did not look forward to informing that bastard of his findings (so maybe he won't).

The hordes of people relented as they progressed onwards after the thrum of clinking bells and sandals of heaving men (either they've been walking quite a ways, or whatever was in there weighed tons--the soul was sitting among gold bars, possibly?) It seemed dire emotions could not get enough of him, however, as he soon took note of another troubling detail. Shifting shadows. Determinedly averting faces. Hushed grunts into instruments of technology. They were not alone in trailing the soul. "Stay near." Sahen warned quietly, before balking, then halting his pace entirely. "Mae nang; inform me. How little do you know of the real stories? The sort that tell of people who truly do keep children safe in their beds, unabducted by the grotesque? For I may have brought you into one." And this was not something he appeared happy about. The garuda's features creased with an age foreign to him. Were it merely his own safety he had to worry over, he would scoff in the face of concern, box it in the ear for having the audacity to rear its head. The back of his neck was prickling--ah, because the skin in that area was giving way to a more feathery texture. His instincts would not allow him to hold his human guise for much longer, it seemed.

Sahen released Shirayuki's hand (she had such soft, tapering fingers...) while distancing himself from her by a step. "Would you still come with me? Or I could meet up with you in a little while. I am sorry." It was a little embarrassing actually, cutting a date short in this way. If fate didn't grab him by the elbows (which were getting fairly tight in the sleeves at the moment, damned overeager underarms). But what choice did he have? He did not wish anyone to unknowingly wander into danger beside him. The Gods were aware that's happened enough times for him to learn from it.

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Osaka, and irony tastes nothing like metal.

Shirayuki did not have a bird’s eyes, but she had all the empathy of the truest still-bleeding heart, and she learned more from watching him watch the mikoshi than the mobile shrine’s fluttering drapes could ever teach her. Perhaps she could not understand the tense line of his jaw, could not comprehend the reasons for such intense focus in one she’d thought as flighty as an August breeze between skyscrapers, but observation was not the same thing as comprehension.

“Stay near.” The words reverberated, sending a thrumming trill up her arm from the place they touched, rocketing through her limbs and up into her throat, down into the ground as though the command itself were growing her the roots she needed to do just that. Upon further consideration, it was not so much a physical thing, but a visceral one: the mandate, for it was no simple entreaty, rippled across the surface of her soul, if indeed she had such a thing in the first place.

Before she could scarcely register the impact of whatever it was that he’d just done (for surely, it had been something; she was meek, but not subservient by nature), time seemed to pick back up at its normal pace and he was speaking again, the words lighting a kind of mirthless amusement in her eyes, for oh, if only he knew.

Her understanding of such things was not grand. She would not pretend to be a power-player in a game where she barely registered as a piece on the board, the lowliest of pawns, if that- no, half a pawn, and half the unwitting victim of so much chess. Still, it was a reality that she knew, that she had come to know always through violence. When had she discovered it? Was it the first time she was elbow-deep in the blood of a dying tanuki, trying to sew him together enough that he might survive to fight another day? Was it even earlier, when some assailant she could not remember had torn out her throat with his or her teeth, leaving her forever bereft of whatever small gifts had been afforded her in the grand scheme of things?

Or, perhaps, was it simply when her mother had left, unable to live in a human’s world with a human’s rules, but unwilling to subject herself to ‘baser’ yokai? Sometime between then and her father’s desperate, lovestruck (after so much time!) pursuit, when at last the faces of his children had mocked him long enough?

But, though perhaps a few of these thoughts might have flickered in troubled frowns and downcast eyes across her face, she would not answer so, for it would require a rudeness not in her nature, to so thoroughly shut down the presumption that she still wore the whitewash of the innocent. And perhaps, perhaps she did not quite want him to know this of her, not just yet.

Shirayuki fixed Sahen with a look, furrowed of brow and gentle in reproach, lifting her chin stubbornly and stepping forward a few strides to draw even with him once more. If I am to endure this once more, let it be of my choosing, and for better reasons than before.