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Abe no Seimei

NPC

0 · 816 views · located in Japan

a character in “Onikiri - The Demon Slayers”, as played by Kato

Description

ABE NO SEIMEI


Image


{Name} Abe no Seimei, goes by Seishuu to most, except to those in the know of his true identity.
{Age} Unknown, at least 700 years old. Effectively immortal.
{Race} Kitsune
{Gender} Male, although can also appear as female.
{Character Concept} Onmyouji

Abe no Seimei is a kitsune, a fox spirit who serves the nature kami. He can see and communicate with spirits, as well as walk in the human world. He gives guidance through dreams and visions. He has served the emperors of Japan on and off over the centuries, keeping an eye on humankind and a close watch on the humans’ kami-descended ruler. As an onmyouji he works the magics of yin and yang and the five elements. He is highly skilled in divination, illusions and healing magic, as well as being able to work rituals to appease the gods and dispel evil. His magic is by no means infallible, and fighting the darkness that seeks to destroy is no easy task. Indeed, it isn’t one that he would dare to take on alone.

Abe no Seimei was the mentor of the Guardians when they walked the earth during the Heian era. He fostered their talents and outlived them all. In between times he has travelled all over the country, to China and Korea, and returned to Japan. Now he is the one gathering them again as his divinations and conversations with spirits reveal that the Oni races are rising once again.

Seimei’s true form is that of a white fox with six tails. When in human form he appears as a white-haired young priest dressed in a Chinese robe or as a Shinto priest in garments just like he wore in the Heian era, with a tall black hat (as above). Whether he appears old, young or somewhere in between depends on who he is talking to and what image he wishes to project. By default, he looks around 40 years old.

Seimei keeps himself surrounded in mystery, but what is apparent is his commitment to the good of humanity and the Emperor, and his deep care for the Five Guardians, who he serves as an advisor and mentor. Even when in a young form, his manner is often that of a kindly grandfather.

So begins...

Abe no Seimei's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori
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#, as written by Kato
Ozawa

It was the middle of May in Ozawa. A hazy afternoon sunshine filtered down through the leaves of the trees, and rhododendron bushes bloomed in many colours. Their hunt successfully completed, Kiyoyori rode with a few men back towards the castle. Lord Tadatsugu was too busy planning his next campaign to indulge in such frivolities himself, but he would always enjoy the meat that was brought back. They had wasted little time on the hunt itself, but Kiyoyori was not exactly in a hurry to return to the province’s seat of power. It was a beautiful day, he was feeling mildly pleased with himself for the day’s work, and on his return he was bound to be co-opted into something rather less pleasant than a ride through the woods. Not that his company was especially good, they were followed by a few assistants and servants, and riding on his left side was his father's the taciturn and miserable hunt master Masahiro. Kiyoyori had long since given up making conversation as it seemed to put Masahiro in an even worse mood and did nothing to improve Kiyoyori's either.

Nevertheless, the company was about to improve. As the hunting party made their way down the earth and stone road, farmers, gatherers and travellers would stop and kneel with their heads in the dirt, as was traditional. Supposedly out of respect but often usually from fear, when ones overlords had the right to kill on a whim and were bristling with weapons in peace time or war. Kiyoyori passed them without taking much note, although Masajiro gave one or two a glare that could cut through rock, just to keep them in their place. However, some way along, he noticed something unusual. One of those people awaiting the party to pass by looked far too well-dressed to be a farmer, and there was something in his demeanour that marked him out differently, helped by the tall black hat and archaic attire of a Shinto priest.

Gradually, he recognised the man, and a smile spread across his face. He quickly dismounted, much to Masahiro’s annoyance and approached the kneeling man on foot. “Master Seishuu!” he greeted him with a warm grin, and the man’s head inclined a little, yet out of propriety he didn’t move. Kiyoyori saw his eyes slide subtly to the side. “There's no need for you to kneel to me, get up!“ “As you say,” replied Seishuu, and got to his feet with a languid slowness. He looked at Kiyoyori with a glint in his eye. “Why if it isn't Yukimaru. You look taller, but it's definitely you. You still have that scar on your head from when you fell off that cliff.” Kiyoyori laughed in surprise at being addressed by his childhood name, blushed a little and rubbed at his forehead. “It's Kiyoyori now.” Seishuu and Kiyoyori grinned at each other. Although it had been eight years, Seishuu looked exactly the same, younger than his father and radiating a kind of benevolence. Just then, Masahiro stalked over, obviously sensing some fun being had and wanting to put a stop to it immediately. “Who is this?” his intimidating eyes flashed between the two of them. “This is Master Seishuu, he saved my life once,” Kiyoyori introduced him and Seishuu bowed, “My lord.” Masahiro gave a grunt by way of a reply. “What are you doing here in Ozawa?” Kiyoyori asked Seishuu. He gave the young man a sidewise glance. “I'm here to see you of course, Kiyoyori. And your father too. It is, you might say, a pressing matter.”


They sat in Lord Tadatsugu's audience chamber. On Seishuu's insistence, it was only the three of them, making the room seem huge and empty. Tadatsugu sat on the small dais with Seishuu and Kiyoyori on the main floor to the side. Seishuu had surprised them both when he pulled out a document with the Imperial Seal, but that golden symbol was enough to receive Seishuu with high honours, rather than ask him to take a hike. “So you wish to take my son back with you to Kyoto?” Tadatsugu was annoyed, and Kiyoyori suspected it was for two different reasons. One, that someone would have the effrontery to order him to do anything – even if it was the Shogun – and two, that he would have one of his useful game pieces taken off the board. Nevertheless, Tadatsugu was more than a little intrigued that Kiyoyori might be useful to someone else, and he would not dismiss the request out of hand, because of what he might gain in return. “I have a campaign to fight next year. It is quite a large request to expect me to give up one of my most skilled warriors. Does the Shogun not have enough archers?”

“With respect, my lord, this request is not from Yoshiharu-sama, but from the Divine Emperor himself,” Seishuu replied. Tadatsugu's eyes bulged a little, and Kiyoyori sat up a little straighter and listened harder. “Yes. I am one of the emperor's advisors,” said Seishuu, talking in a low and rhythmical voice. “I am not a priest, but an onmyouji, and my name is not Seishuu but Seimei. Abe no Seimei. You see, the truth of it is that His Majesty requires the presence of your son Kiyoyori for a specific reason. Your ancestors are Minamoto, are they not, Lord Mori?”

Tadatsugu described a little of their lineage, confirming Seimei's statement, and Seimei continued, “You are aware of the legendary hero Minamoto no Yorimitsu, some distant relative of yours no doubt.. It so happens that your son Kiyoyori is the reincarnation of Yorimitsu's soul. In effect, he is Yorimitsu, and His Majesty requires that your son resume his duty destroying the forces of Oni that threaten humankind, and in particular, they threaten our beloved Capital City and the Imperial Palace itself. Thus, he is needed.”

Kiyoyori and Tadatsugu both placed their sceptical eyes upon Seimei. Kiyoyori fought the urge to laugh. “You are aware of whom I am speaking, are you not?” Seimei asked Kiyoyori directly, and Kiyoyori racked his brains. “He was the one who was trained by Tengu on Mount Kurama,” he stated, but Seimei only frowned at him. “That's Yoshitsune.”

“The one who fought that monk on the bridge, with the huge tetsubo!” Kiyoyori knew he must have got the right one this time. Seimei sighed, “that's also Yoshitsune. I'm talking of Yorimitsu, Yorimitsu! Raiko!”

“Minamoto no Raiko. The hero who fought Oni along with the Four Guardian Kings. He was a great general,” Tadatsugu snapped irritatedly at Kiyoyori. “Are you certain this idiot of a son has anything to do with this?” he asked Seimei.

Seimei reached inside his robe and pulled out a long scroll, upon it were painted all kind of arcane symbols in black and red, along with Chinese characters and lettering that Kiyoyori didn't recognise at all. “I have tracked the transmigration of his soul, and Mori Kiyoyori is most definitely the reincarnation of Minamoto no Raiko.” Apparently the document provided some evidence of this, and while it incomprehensible to the layperson it certainly looked impressive. Seimei rolled it away and stuffed it back inside his sleeve before they could analyse it too closely. “As it happens, I am also assembling those Four Guardian Kings. Dark forces are rising that threaten to destroy us all. It is no coincidence that all of them have been incarnated here and now, I assure you. But there presence will mean nothing at all without their leader, Raiko.”

Kiyoyori certainly didn't think of himself as anything particularly special, and wondered how he was supposed to lead a group of legendary warriors in a fight against legendary monsters. If it wasn’t Seishuu – Seimei – who had suggested it, he would have died laughing. But the onmyouji was deadly serious. He waited for his father to say something. A calculating look was on Tadatsugu's face, and Kiyoyori did not want to interrupt him while he was thinking. Lord Mori pressed Seimei for more details, which Seimei matter-of-factly provided. “Very well,” said Tadatsugu at length, “Since this is a request I can hardly refuse, you may have my son to take to Kyoto. I will arrange an escort.” Clearly he had divined that lending his son to the Emperor would have more benefits than deficits in the long run.

“That's hardly necessary, Lord Mori,” Seimei replied, with an equally calculating look, “It will be faster to travel alone, there is no need for you to lose more men at this pressing time, and at any rate, things will progress a little easier if we aren't seen to be on any official business.”

On the Road

The next day Kiyoyori and Seimei set off through the countryside towards the Capital. Kiyoyori had said farewell to his mother, to the girl he liked in the teahouse in town, to his few old friends like Ryutaro. He could not help thinking of his father's last words to him. After Seimei had left, Lord Mori had had a number of other things to say to Kiyoyori, not least of all his parting words. “You may be working for the Emperor, but never forget your father and your clan.” A reminder of where his loyalties should lie, and Kiyoyori had answered with a cold smile, “Of course, my Lord.” He tried not to dwell on their last meeting, but occasionally he caught Seimei looking at his questioningly and decided he wasn't exactly being subtle.

“Why did you really refuse an escort?” he asked Seimei. Seimei chuckled, “Were my three reasons not sufficient? It gives us some time to talk, and there are perhaps things that it is better Lord Mori doesn't know about.”

“You don't trust him?” Kiyoyori prodded. Seimei snorted in reply and then said nothing for a little while as they rode on through the woods and into farmland. “Tell me, Kiyoyori, have you recently manifested any unusual abilities, something in addition to your uncommon talent with archery?”

Kiyoyori felt it was safe to confide in Seimei about such things, even though he hadn't spoken to anyone else about them. In a quiet voice so they weren't overheard he told Seimei of the lightning bolt that had shot from his bow, and at being able to move at a great speed that confused those who witnessed it. Seimei nodded, “Yes, it makes sense. You are Raiko after all. Does your father know about these unusual powers?”

“No,” said Kiyoyori, seeing Seimei’s point. Ultimately, what Tadatsugu knew about he would use. Kiyoyori couldn’t have said exactly why he hadn’t attempted to gain more prestige in his clan by telling Lord Mori about his powers, just that, he had the feeling that they weren’t his to use. In a way it was extremely selfish, but he couldn’t say he regretted it. “The situation in Kyoto is bad,” Seimei explained, “While your father is ignorant of that, he can’t exploit it. There are plenty of other directions in which he can make war if he chooses.”

They rode on their way for some days, leaving behind the borders of Ozawa and crossing into a neighbouring province. They talked as they went, about the intervening eight years, about Kiyoyori’s powers and how they tallied with what Seimei knew about Raiko, but overall the onmyouji was quite cagey about the whole thing and adept at avoiding questions. Kiyoyori was happy to go along with it. The idea of going to Kyoto was exciting, and the prospect of fighting demons who wished to destroy humanity certainly felt more worth getting killed for than expanding his father’s personal territory. One night after they had slept out by the side of the road, miles from anywhere, Seimei was up and about a little while before dawn. Kiyoyori opened one eye to see him standing and looking off into the wooded hills with the manner of an animal that had scented something on the breeze. “Kiyoyori, our ways must part here for a while. You can make your way to Kyoto on your own.” “Hm? What is it?” “My attention is needed with one of your companions. I shall see you at the Hana no Gosho… on the 7th June.” And with that he was gone.

Kyoto

Kiyoyori rode on alone for the second half of his journey, but although he lacked company except for his horse, it was never boring. Eventually he found himself on the outskirts of the city. The Imperial Capital sat in a natural bowl between the seven mountains that ringed it on all sides, and because it was protected on all sides from wind, the air was very still and close. Many buildings that had been visible from the ridge from which he overlooked the city he now saw were derelict. Fire had taken hold in places, and where it hadn’t, houses were often abandoned and falling down. There didn’t seem to be many people, except an occasional grubby-faced child staring from behind a half burned beam. Flies buzzed through the air ominously. This was the capital city? He had expected something else. Grandeur, perhaps, or at least life. Shrines and temples seemed neglected too, the smaller ones lifeless, the larger with their gates firmly closed. Much of the city was the same, but as he headed on towards the Hana no Gosho, the Shogun’s Palace of Flowers, he entered a part of the city that seemed more like the towns he was used to. Ordinary people of all sort went about their business, although there was a sense of melancholy that seemed to pervade even the cheeriest of street scenes. “The situation in Kyoto is bad,” Seimei had said, and he saw it for the understatement it was, and continued on to his destination.

The Hana no Gosho, in the middle of the aristocratic district, was doing its best to ignore the sorry state of the city around it. As the name “Palace of Flowers” suggested, it was beautiful, with lush trees visible above the serene walls and the scent of early summer flowers in the air. It was a huge complex, with people coming and going through the main gate, with armour clad guards controlling their passage. Kiyoyori handed one of them the document he had been given by Seimei, the pass that was stamped with the Imperial Seal, a gold-embossed chrysanthemum, and was welcomed in. He looked about him curiously as his horse was taken to the stables and a high-ranking servant lead him into one of the many buildings, into a smallish room far away from the hustle and bustle of the main entrance. A subtle painting of birds and flowers filled one wall, and there was a pleasant smell of polished wood and tatami mats. “Please make yourself comfortable, Lord Kiyoyori,” she said. “Refresh yourself from your journey. You will meet with your companions later, once all have arrived. If you wish anything, you only need ask,” she finished, with utmost politeness. He thanked her, and she glided from the room in her long robes. He had a bath, and a change of clothes, and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains. It had certainly been an interesting day, in fact, there was so much happening and so many questions in his mind he just decided to forget them all and let the answers come as they may. Some time later Kiyoyori was sent for, and another servant took him from his room down long corridors, some panelled in wood, some with embellishments and decorations. While everything here was of the highest quality, there was a slight patina of age about it all, an element of faded glory. Kiyoyori was impressed nevertheless. This was the Shogun’s palace, and it was far and away the grandest building he had ever been in. A room was laid out with cushions and individual dining tables, in two rows of two facing each other. The dais at the top of the room was empty, but behind it was a huge screen painting showing tigers pacing with fierce majesty through a bamboo grove. The background was gold, which shone in the lamplight and cast its own glow over the room. As he was the first one into the room, Kiyoyori took one of the seats and waited. There was one of the Four Guardians that Seimei couldn’t find, which meant that the other three seats were probably for the rest of them…

The meeting is on June 7th, at the Hana no Gosho, the Shogun’s Palace. Everyone will have a document with the Imperial Seal given to them by Seimei. The Guardians will be shown into this very room after being received at the palace.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin
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#, as written by KameJLa
KENSHIN


It was a hot day already in the morning hours. The birds were chirping away, talking about whatever birds talked about. The Shishi-Doshi was doing its usual routine with the bamboo arm smacking the rock once it was full of water. People were up and about doing their morning work around the house, rushing past his open doors.

Kenshin laid on his side, his head propped up by his right hand. Black hair pooled on the floor, long bangs tied back with a blue-green ribbon. His left leg was bent, a yawn escaping his lips while the right hand held the fan that moved back and forth repeatedly. A small table with some paper and ink sat in the corner. Kenshin hadn’t been getting much sleep due to the little white fox. He had been keeping Kenshin quite busy during the nights as of late, and wouldn’t be getting to catch up on sleep today. Today was an important day.

It all started when Kenshin became the new dream walker. Without Yumeki, the previous dream walker to guide him in his dreams, he had only what he was taught to go on. Usually, the person to inherit the position would be trained inside dreams by the Dream Walker. Since Yumeki died before choosing a successor to train with, he has no choice but to pass his powers to Kenshin. It was to be 3 years before he first encountered the fox.

Over the course of a few years, the white fox would appear off and on while he dreamt, pushing Kenshin to practice and learn what he himself is capable of as the Dream Walker. It was exciting as it was intoxicating. Kenshin would spend hours upon hours in the dream world, creating dreams to entertain himself, and even going so far as to hop into other’s dreams, seeing their most private secrets, fears, hopes, and dreams. Dreams spoke on so many levels so long as one paid attention. Kenshin went as far as sleeping for three days and three nights, refusing to wake because of how just intoxicating it was.

One thing Kenshin enjoyed was being able to visit the past. The paths of the past have been set in stone. The choices were made and can not be reversed. The future one could not dream of. There are too many possibilities at any given second. One could chose to go one of many ways, and on that choice, one of many ways, and so on. Even if one could dream of the future, it is not a certain future, but would be one of a vast amount of possibilities, and there fore would not be reliable.

Kenshin also enjoyed toying with Junpei, his little brother, while learning to give other’s dreams, and hearing it upon waking. There were a few times he got caught by revealing himself, but for the most part he stayed hidden. There was this one time Kenshin gave Junpei a dream about the slit mouth woman, and he refused to sleep alone for an entire month.

It had been 6 years since Kenshin had seen the fox. He didn’t have the intention at first to start dream walking, but something urged him too. Closing his eyes, he relaxed himself, and soon drifted off. His surroundings were completely black, himself a transparent projection of his physical form that floated in the blackness. With staff in hand, he lifted it up into the air a foot, a blue ball of energy forming in the center. He went from transparent to a solid physical form.

A green field soon appeared with hills, trees, and bushes. The biggest tree, a Sakura, was beside Kenshin. He turned to sit down, but was knocked off balance and right onto his rear by a white streak flying right at him and an inch past his head. “What the hell?!” Turning his head, the white fox stared at him with intensity before turning it’s back to Kenshin and flying off. He hadn’t been expecting to see his old mentor, and once he ran to catch up, he disappeared and didn’t come back. This happened a few times over the course of a few months. And then that is when Kenshin’s dream started.

His chest heaved, sweat pouring from the top of his brow. He was not expecting him to be so strong. This wasn’t good. He knew it wasn’t good. They all knew it wasn’t good. He could sense the others where having trouble as well. They had fought tough ones before, but there was just something about this particular one. The one with the katana lost his haori coat, blocking a vicious blow. Screams came from one that got shoved forcefully back, flying through the air while dropping their bow, just barely missing the tree trunk and hit the ground, rolling until they stopped. Opening his mouth, he screamed their name.

While the dream was happening, Kenshin knew he had to be dreaming of the past. When the figures spoke, it was muffled, and he couldn’t clearly make out the faces that stood beside him. This dream was different. He had not had a dream like this before, in this way. Unlike the way where he stood and just observed those of the past, it was like he was a part of it, almost like he was reliving something from his own past. It would explain why the point of view was different. Being one’s own memories, one would see it from a first person point of view. If you were an observer, you would see it from an outsider’s view. And the intense feelings that came with it.

The reflection from the tip of the sword blinded him for a moment when it pierced the body of the giant, pushing down to cut it in half. A lighting bolt like arrow pierced its skin, the beast howling madly. A spear deflected its attacks, and a wolf child bit ferociously at its leg trying to tip it over. Blood few everywhere, hitting him in the face and splashing on the clothes. Lifting the staff up high, it made a jingling sound, metal hitting metal as he brought it back down quickly.

While Kenshin was conscious of what was going on, he could not change his actions in the dream. He had his own thoughts, but history played out like it did. The battle continued for what felt like hours, his body weaving, jumping, blocking, chanting. Just before what seemed would be the final blow, a white fox appeared, floating around each individual, freezing each one in place with its trail of white glow as if to tell him ‘These people. Important. Remember.’ Five in total. It was then Kenshin woke from the dream, and would continue to have for weeks. No matter how hard he called to his mentor while he slept, he did not come until a few months later.

Kenshin floated a few feet in the air, his dream taking him to an unknown forest, watching a child no older than 10 run through the thick tree line, branches scratching and cutting his skin. His skin was covered in dirt, his face screaming fatigue, having noticeably been on the run for quite a while now. It was unclear if the child was male or female, but there was something familiar about them. Kenshin knew who it was, but he didn’t know who it was. They had never personally met, but Kenshin felt he knew all about who it was. A dark black mass shadow chased the child, and Kenshin felt his heart speeding up, wishing for his escape. Kenshin knew the child could run, and run fast, and grew anxious when the mass began closing the gap. He could clearly see the trees disappearing into sky, and knew a cliff was next. His heart skipped a beat, a lump in his throat. ‘No..’

The child skidded to a stop just in time, looking back at the shadow with a low growl. Kenshin tried to reach them, but before he did, the child was pushed over the edge by the shadow. Kenshin screamed, racing to the bottom of the cliff, but did not make it in time. The child laid there unconscious, blood running from the wounds received while laying among the bracken and moss. There was also a man there, dressed in very elegant clothing with a crisp white top from the Heian period. A priest? Kenshin thought.

The man gently laid his hand on the child’s back, a soft white glow emanating from his hand. “Soon..” He spoke softly. “Soon you won’t need to run from it.” The man was so occupied with the child that Kenshin knelt down on the opposite side, watching, hoping, and wishing the child wakes. “Oh, It’s you Kenshin.” The man spoke with a smile. Kenshin’s eyes widened, and he stood quickly, taking a few steps back and lifting his staff to prepare to defend himself. “Who are you? How do you know my name and how can you see me?” Kenshin was not showing his physical form. He was in his transparent form, which no one should be able to see.

The man smiled at Kenshin, standing slowly. “Is that anyway to speak to your Mentor?” Kenshin blinked, not grasping what he was trying to say. His mentor was a white fox, not some person dressed up in old priest attire. “Sorry, but you are not my mentor..”

“Oh?” the stranger said, a mischievous smile forming on his face. “Then should I remind you of the time you wet the bed when you were 11, or the time you ate some funky mushrooms and was up all night howling at the moon? Or how about-“

“Alright that is quite enough!” Kenshin said, irritated about the trip down memory lane. “I know you’ve been having the dreams. You had one just now?” Kenshin looked at the stranger like he grew another head. He is the dream walker, so of course he has dreams. The statement wasn’t very convincing of anything. “Right. I am the Dream Walker so of course I have dreams.” He still wasn’t completely sold on him being his old mentor ‘Seishuu’.

“Yes that is true. But those last ones were different, weren’t they? In the dream, instead of observing from the outside, you were observing from their point of view. You’re point of view, or rather your past lives point of view.” Kenshin stood, listening. He knew what the stranger spoke of was true. It was a dream of his past, but why was it so far back? He had never gone so far before. Even this one wasn’t that far back.

“There is a fierce battle coming. The Oni are almost free. We must act quickly and find the other guardians. Kenshin, your help is needed.”


And needed it was. For the next week his mentor, whom was actually Abe no Seimei, and him spent every night searching and looking for the others, sending them a message with a gold embossed chrysanthemum with the Imperial stamp. ‘Meet in Kyoto at the Hana no Gosho on the 7th day of June’

Kenshin rose from his spot on the floor, stretching his arms high into the air to stretch his muscles before letting them fall back down to his sides. “Well It’s about time I head off..” he spoke softly, grabbing his staff from the corner, then making his way from his room to the front gate, passing by the servants and maids while he traveled. They were busy packing up for the trip home, while Kenshin would be staying behind in Kyoto. They had come a few days prior to Kyoto. His brother and his retainers had some dealings with Umehara Clan, who had control over Kyoto and the surrounding region. Kenshin didn’t care for politics, and was thankful he was a Dream Walker at times like these.

“Kenshin-san.”

There it is.. Kenshin stopped a few feet from the gate, turning around to look at Yoko, his brother’s wife. “Are you not coming to Nagasaki with us? It’s the last stop before home” she said softly. He flipped open his fan, bringing it up to cover the bottom half of his face, while giving a small breeze to his face. “No, Yoko-san. I am needed else where.” He bowed in respect, turning to leave.

“How long will you continue to pretend that it didn’t happen?” Yoko hissed, irritation seeping through her teeth. Kenshin turned, walking the few steps until he was side by side with Yoko. Close enough so no one else would hear. “Just because we all grew up together and you have married my brother doesn’t mean you know him. If you value your life you will do the same. Especially now that you are with child, no?”Yoko took a sharp breath in, Kenshin turning around, and this time, taking his leave, closing the gate behind him.

The walk was relatively short, Kenshin pausing at a few stalls to grab a few snacks. He had skipped breakfast, and needed something to fill him until later. The streets were packed with people, making it seem even hotter than it needed to be on an already hot day. The guards looked tired already from the heat as he stopped at the gate. The Hana no Gosho. The Palace of flowers. Kenshin didn’t mind it once he passed through after presenting his chrysanthemum. The gardens were full of all kinds of colors, and everywhere you went in the palace it seemed to smell like flowers. It was relaxing to be able to smell so many different flowers. A servant quickly ran up to Kenshin, escorting him to the meeting room. It seems Kenshin had arrived just on time. They were beginning to gather. Through long corridors and a few sliding doors, the servant opened up the last one, and Kenshin stepped in. One individual was already present, Kenshin taking a glace at the man, and didn’t stop.

HAJIME


Hajime ran after a giant rice ball with plum eyes while laughing. He was surrounded by all his favorites. Soba, Ohagi, Takoyaki, Onigiri, and Grilled Fish on top of many others. They were such big portions that it would take him all day to eat them all. He was in complete heaven as he caught the runaway onigiri. “Gotcha!” he laughed, opening wide and taking a huge chomp.

“ITAI!” a voice screamed. Hajime let go the mouthful he had, looking up. In place of his Onigiri was a tall man with long black hair tied back in a black Kimono with a blue green obi sash. His dark blue eyes reminded Hajime of the deepest blue of the ocean. “Huh? You’re not my Onigiri?”

He heard a light chuckle, and an oddly dressed man came forth from behind the ‘onigiri’, his old-fashioned clothing resembling that of a Shinto priest or exorcist. “No. The Onigiri is Hando Kenshin, the Dream Walker. And I am Abe no Seimei.” He smiled kindly at the boy. Dreams were such fascinating things. Unbeknownst to his conscious mind, his spiritual awareness had made the connection between onigiri and onikiri. Seimei hadn't yet even mentioned this word to his young recruits.

Kenshin freed himself from Hajime’s clutches, rubbing his arm where he was bit. “Are you certain it’s him?” He asked, slightly annoyed. Seimei looked at Kenshin from the side while offering Hajime a dream meat bun, which he gladly took with a happy smile. “You are the one who lead us here, dream walker.” Seimei answered. "Have some more faith in your abilities. Besides, I think you know he is the one we are looking for."

“Hmph.” Kenshin took out his fan held in his obi, flipping it opening and fanning himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t have faith in his powers, it was more that the boy tried to eat Kenshin himself. He wasn’t completely sure the boy was all their upstairs. He could tell already this was going to be one, long, journey.

Seimei turned his attention to Hajime, and bent down to his level, resting his arms on the tops of his knees. “We’ve been looking for you for a while. We need your help.In return, we can help you.”

“What with?” Hajime asked with a mouth full of food. “Dark forces are rising once again. You can feel it in the roots of the forest, can you not?” Seimei asked. Hajime nodded. He had been sensing that something was off. Strange disappearances and weird talk of demon sightings. “I can also teach you more about your gift Hajime..” Seimei had his attention now. Hajime had no one except the doctor to talk to about it. For 7 years he kept his power hidden in fear. The kids bullied him, calling him a demon. “Meet us in Kyoto on June 7, when the sun is at it’s highest in the sky.” Seimei looked about him, noting the position of every blade of grass and even the quality of light in the sky. He noted the Sakura trees lining both sides of a path. He recognized it instantly as a part of the outskirts of Kyoto. Seimei laughed to himself, then focused a piercing gaze on Kenshin and beamed. "Under my nose all the time, yet without you, dream walker, I would not have found him."


The dream set everything into motion. It completely changed his life. He finally got to meet someone who was like him. Different. Able to use power like him. Hajime, since then, hasn’t felt so alone. The kids often picked on him because he was different. But now.. could Hajime finally have found friends?

“Hajime..are you awake? It’s time to get up.” an old mans voice came through the door, the door sliding open to reveal Futaki, a very old man with a hump on his back, his skin wrinkled from time. His white hair was thin and balding. Hajime sat up, throwing the covers off of him with a yawn. “Mm.” The old man smiled, reaching behind him, presenting Hajime with brand new set of clothes. The top was a golden yellow, just like the color produced by his healing power, his pants grey. “Today is the big day isn’t it? You’ll be leaving this clinic and making your mark on the world. These were my sons at your age. Please take them.”

Hajime was beyond thrilled, bowing to Futoki in thanks. “Arigatou!” He took the clothes carefully, not wanting to get even a spec of dirt on them. He had told Futoki-sensei about the dream the day after it happened. He didn’t seem too surprised, telling Hajime that ‘He knew he was destined for something great’. It wasn’t long after that a visitor came to the house, and he instantly recognized him as the man from his dream.

“Priest-san!” He yelled, running over to the formally dressed man. He held in his hands a gold-embossed chrysanthemum that he offered to Hajime. Living with Futoki-sensei, Hajime learned that there were some flowers that were edible. Was this one? He took it from the Priest, and stuck one end in his mouth trying to rip it off. Seimei swiftly and efficiently snatched the document back from Hajime with the skill of a pickpocket. "Hajime, this is not for eating," he said with great gravitas, although there was a glint in his eye. He crouched down and tucked the paper with its embossed chrysanthemum into the overlap of Hajime's kimono top and looked him in the eyes. "This is very important. You must keep this safe until you get to the Palace. Do you understand?"
Hajime blinked in surprise, his meal now gone. "Oi!" He snapped, looking at Semei with a murderous intent. No one got between him and his food. A few learned that one the hard way, but when the priest said it was important, and too keep it safe until he reaches the palace, he looked down at his feet. It wasn't food. "Hai~" He said reluctantly, a loud growl coming from his stomach. "I'm hungry..." Hajime mumbled, disappointed he couldn't eat the chrysanthemum.

Seimei pulled out a huge onigiri as if from nowhere, holding it up in front of Hajime's face. "I wouldn't forget a little thing like that," he said, smiling. "Now, I must go. I have some things to check on..." Hajime's eyes grew wide with happiness. "ARIGATOU!" he yelled, snatching the Onigiri from Semei with an added bow. "My favorite!" He took a huge chomp, tasting the plum that was hidden in the center. "Mm. See you later Priest-san!" Hajime said with a mouthful.

After he was done the giant Onigiri, he said his good bye’s to Futoki-sensei, turning down a dirt road lined on both sides by a long trail of Sakura Trees. Hajime remembered that when the doctor and he were out of green tea, they would add Sakura blossoms. It gave it a sweet flavour. Hajime entered Kyoto on the north side, closest to the Hana no Gosho. The streets were packed for this time of day, and Hajime had to duck and weave to fit through. Thank goodness he was small. It wasn’t too long until he reached the gate with the imperial guards. “Hault kid. You can’t pass unless you have an imperial seal.”

Imperial Seal… Imperial Seal… oh right! The chrysanthemum that’s not edible! Hajime dug into his bag, taking out the imperial stamped flower, as well as an Onigiri, handing the flower to the guards. They both seemed surprised that a kid would have such an important document, but knew better than to say otherwise with ‘this’ document. “V-very well.. Straight a head and a servant will take you where you need to go.”

Hajime smiled, thanking the guards, and going where they said, a high-ranking servant taking him to the meeting room. “They’ve begun to gather in the room. Please hurry..” The servant urged. Hajime kept getting distracted by the gardens. There were so many different types of flowers, some that Hajime didn’t even know the names of. He had to keep running to catch up a few times, and the last time he ran to catch up, he ran right smack into the back of someone, making them both tumble forward. “Oi!” Hajime yelled, rubbing his sore butt while looking at the one he ran into, and his eyes went wide. “Onigiri!”

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Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Sasayaku Soyokaze
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#, as written by luft
Soyokaze


Something nudged at his awareness, something distant and muffled, more a thought than a feeling but persistent like it had a force of will behind it. Persistent enough to bring Sasayaku Soyokaze to a slow awakening, he gently opened his eyes with all the caution that one would have when dealing with a wild beast but unexpectedly his surroundings didn't explode into a headache inducing cacophony.

With no intention to push his luck he gingerly moved around to try and spot his drink, only to find that neither his Nigori nor himself for that matter, were where he last saw them. This was a odd occurrence but it seldom happen that his inebriated mind would wonder along with his body after drinking his way into silence but he always took his drink with him. Something else was odd too, he couldn't hear a thing which to Soyokaze was a small joy but disconcerting nonetheless. Weighing his options he decided to have a look around and see if his wits came back to him.

The first thing he noted was the state of the room he was in, which meant one of the dilapidated houses in the poor side of the capital, outside the room he woke on a table was the objective of his search " There you are friend" he said while picking the bottle, or tried to as the only thing to disrupt the silence was a soft sound barely a mere series of breath "...Oh right" his still muddled mind thought.

Becoming a more and more common occurrence Soyokaze was waking up not long after falling asleep with the silence still enveloping him, a weird and annoying event but nothing compared with the man's voice, the guttural breathing or any of the other bizarre things he had heard lately. With alcohol in hand he made his way back to his, a heavy sigh escaping his lips with the prospect of concentrating and forcing his cursed hearing into silence once more but it was almost his only option if he wanted to have his cherished continuous rest.

A few days later found Soyokaze playing his Nohkan in a small show with some performing friends in the market, his mind so focused and relaxed while playing that hearing the voice caught him off guard and almost made him miss the next notes."It never fails to surprise me when you play, how delicate you look Taishō" the mocking tone appeared causing the same pattern as always, at first it was like someone had spoken right in the back of his head but then disregarding what the voice had said his body would resonate like a plucked string, filling Soyokaze with a sense of familiarity, belonging and tricking his body into the believe that it was him who spoke, but his ears would always note the slight difference in the tone, younger and controlled.


He felt relaxed and with a wondering mind so he paced through the streets, absentmindedly walking towards the outside of the capital, he found his wandering to lead them to a small river in the hills "I'll never leave them" he found himself saying mirroring the sudden scream that embraced him, a moment before he was deep in thought and now the sound of metal against metal, of people screaming and a battle taking place was all around him "No! Sadamitsu" someone said behind him and them he was covering his ears and forcing himself to silence but his curse was in control. Everything was drawn by a beastly roar that approached Soyokaze "Just calm yourself Soyokaze, it´s not real, just bring the silence come on... come on" he muttered to himself while searching his clothes for the bottle of sake he always carried with him, he down it as fast as possible, enjoying the flavor and waiting for the alcohol to affect his body and muffle his curse.

"agh... I'm sure I could make a lot of money with that crazy performance, if it weren't so annoying to have people and things screaming on my ears" he joke to himself while making his stumbling way back home after refilling his sake and getting some rice on his stomach, "Maybe this month is my last as a sane person, I wonder if I would still play music when mad..." he calmly wondered aloud and then as a though invaded him, he turned his gaze to the skies and in a more troubled voice
" Oh Kami-sama I know we are not the best of friends and believe me when I say that if it weren't for that snake faced lying priest I would be there praying instead of just talking here but no no no a man can't simply wake up in the temple without any memory of how, no a man can't do that and not cause the priests to accused him of trying to steal... Sigh" bumping through the crowd of people maintaining his feet by an unseemly force he continued with his rant

"But they are lying I tell you I'm sure that priest is actually an Tsuchinoko in disguise ... Hiccup... as I was saying Kami-sama I would be there praying but I can't so I tell you here in front of your errr beautiful capital of Kyoto that I'll do anything if you allow me to please when I finally lose my mind, please to remember my precious alcohol!" ending his speech with a solemn bow he turned to go back to drink some more only to bump into a man with enough force to send the stranger to the ground, slightly confused he bent to help the man up when he saw the clothes the stranger was wearing were a somewhat old fashioned styled shinto priest robe and hat, slapping his forehead with his palm he cursed to himself "Excellently done Soyokaze It´s probably the high priest you just throw to the floor, well on the good side maybe I won't live to see myself go fully mad" he was laughing in his mind while going to the floor on a full bow "My deepest apologies my lord I hope you are okay.

Soyokaze heard the people around him, a group of children running a few blocks away, someone drinking tea on their house and the man getting up saying something but the words were lost to him, he was more concern with the fact that even if his cursed hearing was going off again, there was a clear sentence repeated in his ears clear as day ‘Meet in Kyoto at the Hana no Gosho on the 7th day of June’ what seemed to be like three men and a child where echoing this phrase, one of them had an old but strong voice too similar to the one from the stranger standing in front of him.

He hadn't noticed that he had been repeating the phrase himself, until the stranger placed a hand on his shoulder and calmly but firmly told him to stop. Looking up he saw to priest was smiling a fond smile "There you are after all that searching, it's you who found me, walked right in front of me and at the required time if not a moment late since the others must be waiting" there was kindness and sincerity in the strangers tone but what he was saying was confusing Soyokaze."I´m sorry... I don't understand, do I know you?".

"My name is Abe no Seimei" the priest followed his introduction with a fond and quizzical look "Tell me child when did you heard my request for you to meet at the palace of flowers on the 7th? Are the voices fully back?" the was clear amusement at the dumbfounded look that those question planted on Soyokaze´s face "The men and the child just told me old man.. but wait oh no! how do you know about the voices" before he could flee the old priest placed a hand on the shoulder of the young musician "Come... I'll show you to the entrance and we will clear some of your doubts on the way and the rest we will speak when the group is reunited but now tell me what do you know of the stories about Minamoto no Raiko and his four retainers?"...

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Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari
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#, as written by Kato
It was an offer of work that Ikari didn’t feel she could refuse. It was O-Hana. Over a year ago she had rescued the girl from some bandits, and now she had met O-Hana again, who had come to her in Kanazawa asking for her help. This time O-Hana was far more composed. The girl Ikari remembered with tear tracks down her face seemed more mature and calm as she pulled back the veil from her hat and sat opposite Ikari in the bar room of the inn. She still looked round-faced, young and to Ikari’s eyes small and delicate. “Shimoto-san,” O-Hana addressed her with her eyes shining in the dim light, “Please, I need your help. I need to go to Kyoto, my business owes money to a merchant there and I need to go personally. But I can’t travel alone. I can’t trust anyone else to guard me on the road. It has to be you, Shimoto-san!” Ikari herself rarely had trouble with men, she was well able to match most in strength and her skill with a sword meant she was left alone by all but the most unwary. But for a merchant girl like O-Hana, travelling was difficult and dangerous, and any of the men she could potentially hire would be a threat too. She could understand why O-Hana was scared. Ikari nodded. “Of course.”

The two women travelled to the capital with scarcely much event. There were a couple of robbers Ikari had to make a swift end to, and a fire at an inn on the route where she had helped evacuate the customers and catch the arsonist, but these were all in a day’s work for the ronin, who found herself often caught up in the everyday disasters of small people. For his part Abe no Seimei, in the guise of O-Hana, watched Ikari carefully and was once again very pleased with her. She had been one of the easiest of the Guardians to locate, given her distinctive look and her reputation. However, Seimei had an instinct that she would be the hardest one to convince to come to the capital, and that she may well get distracted on the way – she was a soft touch for helping out others - hence the slight deception to keep her focused.

They were about to walk through the city gates, at the very end of their journey, when Ikari stopped suddenly. Her vision suddenly blurred and took a lurch to the right, the scene of the present day shoved out of view by a memory of the past. That town gate filled her with a sense of unexpected fear. She was running, across the roof of the gate, every footfall heavy on the tiles, her breath loud in her own ears. There was someone else ahead, a leaping jumping figure. She heard a voice coming from her throat though it wasn’t her own. “Stop! Stop, demon!” The figure turned, white hair stood out all around her face in a mane, her mouth bore curved fangs above and below and her eyes glowed red. At the end of her fingers were claws at least half a foot long, sharp like knives, and in the blink of an eye, those claws were slashing at Ikari’s throat, the distance between the two of them closed in an instant. Ikari jumped back and slashed at the figure with a sword – longer than she was used to, heavier, more sharply curved. The demon danced away. They circled each other across the rooftops, slashing out with claws and blade, until Ikari reached her left hand back over her shoulder, and pulled out a second sword. As the demon dodged the first of Ikari’s blades, the second bit into her flesh, severing her arm in a gout of hot blood which flew off, down, down onto the street below.

Right to the place where Ikari now crouched, huddled as the memory of the past drowned out the present. “TSUNAAAAAAA!” she heard the demon’s voice crying out in rage and agony as it flew away. O-Hana’s hand was on her shoulder. “Are you alright …. Shimoto-san?” she asked in concern. Ikari, having no idea whether she was or not, turned and looked up into the eyes of the girl, and yet … not the girl. The man standing there carried the same expression, but was most certainly not O-Hana, in fact, Ikari, still caught in her memories of the past recognised him instantly. “Abe no Seimei…!”

Later, at a tea house they were stopped, Ikari with a sake cup in hand, steadying her nerve, Seimei sitting opposite, no longer bothering with his O-Hana disguise. “And that’s why I brought you here,” he finished. Ikari frowned a little. “It makes sense. Those visions, they’re from my past life? I always knew … I felt like I had been here before.” Those training sessions with her father were brought to mind, where Ikari had known what he was going to teach before he said it, and had a natural aptitude and confidence with weapons. “But there was no reason to deceive me over it!” she said, bashing the table with a fist. “You don’t think I would want to join your Guardians group?” Seimei sighed, “Who can say? I’m sorry, for what its worth. But you must understand the need for secrecy? And I’m afraid you’re too honest to keep this to yourself.” Ikari looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Next time, just tell me.” Seimei laughed, “Of course, of course,” he replied. “Now, take this. It will get you into the Hana no Gosho. Your other noble Guardians, at least, the ones I could find, are there already and waiting for us both.” He passed the Imperial Seal across the table. Ikari looked at it like it was a snake. She was just a ronin, and the idea of strolling up to the Shogun’s Palace seemed insane. “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you,” said Seimei.

As it turned out, they were no sooner back in the streets of Kyoto that Seimei started acting more suspiciously than usual. He kept stopping and sniffing the air. At one point he stopped, seemed to whisper something to himself, and Ikari turned round. “What is it?” she asked with not a little impatience. “Nothing, nothing,” he mumbled distractedly. “Ah, listen, Ikari-san. You go ahead to the palace now! I have … something to take care of! Send my apologies to the others!” and with that he disappeared off into the crowds. She ran after him a little way then stopped, unable to tell where he had gone. “ ‘Don’t worry I’ll be with you’, so much for that,” she said to herself. Now Seimei was gone, her only choices were to turn and leave or make her way to the Palace on her own. That was no choice at all. If the guards turned her away then that would be Seimei’s problem, but she would present herself at the palace as planned. She was used to doing things alone, anyway.

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Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari
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#, as written by Kato
The group were left to finish their meal. Kiyoyori pretended to be intent on his food, as the presence of Ikari made him feel all manner of things he didn’t understand, forcing down each mouthful, and occasionally looking up in Ikari’s direction when he thought she wasn’t looking, only to then knock back a cup of sake to bolster his nerves. There had been women in his life before, he was no innocent, but he had never felt anything close to how he did now about Ikari. On glancing at her, she was a stunning woman, not pretty as such, but handsome on a way, but by no means the type that Kiyoyori normally found himself attracted to, those graceful, small girls with long, dark, infinitely soft hair, and smiles full of flirtatious mischief. Was it love? But why would love feel so uncomfortable, wasn’t it supposed to make you happy? He looked sideways at Kenshin. Maybe he would know more about these things, but Kiyoyori didn’t want to ask. Not now at any rate, with Ikari and Hajime here, and that dark look on Kenshin’s face, as though he had remembered someone who owed him money.

Ikari ate in silence, trying to be ladylike as she lifted her bowl of rice and took small bites from her chopsticks. The atmosphere, so welcoming at first, had grown a little tense. She hoped that it wasn’t her presence that had caused it – the three had been having fun before she arrived, now that seemed a little stilted. She caught Kiyoyori glancing at her once or twice, but after he looked away when she caught his gaze the first time, she decided to ignore it. I suppose the situation is a little strange,[i] she thought. [i]No one knows what to make of it.

Shortly, the maids returned, and cleared away all the dinner plates and trays, regardless of who had and hadn’t finished eating and drinking. Everything that had been spilled was tidied away, and the room was left looking spotless. The maids retreated through the door they had entered through, and not a moment later, a male voice called out from somewhere outside the opposite side of the room, in a pompous voice, “His excellency the Shogun, supreme general of his Imperial Majesty, Ashikaga Yoshiharu!” At the sound of that name Ikari and Kiyoyori both bowed to the ground, facing the dais, and the others would be expected to do the same. If Hajime was unsure what to do, Kiyoyori made sure to manhandle him into a position of obeisance. The sliding door opened, to the side of the dais with its tiger paintings, and a middle aged man in fine silk court clothing, a small moustache and receding hair topped by a small black hat strode in, followed by a page. He went to the dais, and sat down atop a cushion in the centre, facing the room. Abe no Seimei followed the page in, and took a seat on the dais to the Shogun’s right. A choice bodyguard of armed retainers sat behind and to the side.

The Shogun’s gaze passed over the four of them, and the conspicuously empty fifth place on the floor. “I have had a little difficulty locating the last member, Your Excellency,” came the quiet whispered voice of Seimei, a touch of exasperation present in his voice as he explained the situation to Yoshiharu. Yoshiharu nodded. “I see. Guardians, please raise your heads,” the Shogun commanded them. “I thank you for accepting my hospitality, it is a great honour.” The Shogun bowed to them solemnly, leaving Kiyoyori wide-eyed. “You four, and one other, are the Five Legendary Guardians. You need not think of me as your lord, but only as your host. I am receiving you on behalf of his Imperial Majesty, but you will answer only to the Emperor, and to Lord Seimei as his intimate advisor.” Seimei bowed to the room too, although a little fox-like smile was on his face, and the bow seemed perhaps a little sardonic. “I welcome you formally to the Capital, guardians of Kyoto, and members of the new Imperial Guard, bound to destroy those enemies of the Emperor and the people, the demons and monstrous creatures who seek us harm, but which cannot be slain by normal means and ordinary men. Minamoto no Raiko-sama, Watanabe no Tsuna-sama, Sakata no Kintoki-sama, Urabe no Suetake-sama. I would like to present you with these items, that have lain in the Imperial Vault for just such an occasion as this. Think of them not as gifts, for they are yours. They have been kept for you for just such an occasion by His Majesty, and now I return them to your custody.”

Four samurai entered the room each carrying a wrapped bundle. The Shogun called the first one in. “Mori no Kiyoyori, Minamoto no Raiko-sama,” he addressed Kiyoyori, who approached right to the foot of the dais and bowed again. “A shame you weren’t here for my archery contest. It may have turned out differently,” said the Shogun to Kiyoyori, “You would have been too young, I suppose.” Yoshiharu had a particular liking of archery and the contest he referred to had taken place twenty years ago, when all manner of great archers from across the country came to Kyoto to compete, and was still talked about today. “Yes, my lord, thank you,” said Kiyoyori, rather quieted by the presence of the great man and the compliment he was offering him. The samurai unwrapped the bundle, revealing a longbow of dark wood, banded with golden rattan, a simple looking but beautiful instrument. The Shogun took it from him and handed it out to Kiyoyori in the manner of bestowing a valuable gift. Such a beautiful bow, and well kept, though it had the patina of age about it. Undoubtedly it was ancient. Kiyoyori’s eyes rose and he held out both hands to receive the bow. The Shogun placed it there, and he bowed once again, feeling his fingers curl over the smooth, cool lacquer. There was life in it, he could sense it, and more, he recognised it, it fitted into his hands exactly and completely. He felt as though a part of him he hadn’t realised was missing had just locked back into place. He could remember drawing it, the exact sensation in his muscles of holding back the string, and the release as the arrow would fly towards his enemy. The Shogun returned his bow, and he retreated back to his place.

Next, the Shogun called Ikari, using both her current name and the name by which she had been known in her past life. She was presented with two swords, a matched pair, with old fashioned tachi-style mounts, the scabbards bronze-laquered, with dark vermillion cords, and the sheaths covered in bearskin, as swords used to be ancient times. The curve of the blade was deeper than the katanas she was used to, and the swords heavier. Ikari knew these two swords, she had held them in dreams, and it did not surprise her to have them in her hands once again. Ikari bowed and returned to her place.

The Shogun next called Urabe no Suetake, then Sakata no Kintoki, to receive their weapons too.

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Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Ida Tsume
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COLLAB POST WITH TSUME AND SEIMEI

Rain. That's all as far as the eye could see. Some days it became hard to tell if it was day or night with the storm clouds over head. The rainy season just started and it already felt never ending. There were tiny pools of water in the road and in the grass, trees leaves dripped waterfalls of water, while some held a bit inside.Anyone who was outside was hiding underneath an umbrella.

Under the shadows of the rainclouds and behind a veil of downpour, a being of perception may have noticed a swift black cat making its way down a emptied cobbled path. An even keener eye would have spotted twin tails following the shadow, and bright green eyes.
Tsume hissed as she ran through the rain, feeling it cut right through her cold skin to freeze her insides. The band around her neck thumped agaisnt her chest in time with her quick paws as she ran through squall.
"Why would Master Seimei summon me anywhere in this weather," she thought bitterly. He better have a good reason."

Under some soggy bushes that dripped rain, Seimei was waiting, standing with great elegance underneath a giant butterbur leaf, as though it were a parasol. He stood upright and wore kimono, but otherwise, he was in the form of a silver fox. Keen eyes penetrated through the rain, and his six tails waved behind him, Under the dryness of the leaves, his tails and fur retained a shimmering fluffiness, that made the rain-bedraggled cat look even wetter in comparison. "Tsume," he greeted her, without stepping out from the bushes, and beckoned her forward. "Enter my palace," he said with a sly smile, stepping aside so that the cat could pass into the safety of the bushes without her wet fur brushing against him. "Really, in your human form, you could carry an umbrella," he suggested with a raised eyebrow.

Upon seeing her master, Tsume doubled her speed towards the bush. Upon reaching the shelter, she shook as much of the water cling to her fur off, before changing to her human form and squeezing rain our her sodden, shoulder length hair. Seeing her Master edge away from the water, she nonchalantly flicked a wet hand in his direction. Once she was satisfied that she wasn't going to make a puddle where she stood, she gave a pointed look to Seimei; one of her fine eyebrows raised in return. "You fully well know why. My cat paws are much faster and lighter than these big flat things humans call feet." She looked at her feet in distaste, now wrapped in tight black fabric around the middle and her ankle, leaving as much of her soles in contact with the ground as sensibility would allow.
Suddenly feeling uncomfortable in her human form, and wishing to be back in cat form as soon as she could, she got right to the point. "So, what did you summon me through this rainy season for. It had better be good or I'm taking a piece of your silver fur with me back to my nice dry home." The threat was that, only a threat, as both of them knew that she could never hurt those whom she was honour bound to serve, but that didn't stop her saying it with an incredibly feral grin.

Seimei lowered the butterbur leaf to fend off her playful water flick, which not only shielded him, but sent a trickle of water from the leaf's surface pouring directly down at the cat. Seimei acted like he hadn't noticed the water pouring in her direction, but he gave a brief snicker as she flicked him. She had never acted upon any of her idle threats and Seimei didn't think she would now, he just smiled a cold, fox like smile at her, as though indulging her antics. Reaching behind him he pulled out a simple kimono which he draped over her shoulders in case she was cold from the weather and her sudden lack of fur. "Yes, I find it disagreeable as well... however, we need to talk, as no doubt my shikigami mentioned."

"Tsume, I have a mission for you. It's very important. I need you as a scout. To use that whiskery little nose of yours to root out some oni... you;ll be working on a team. A team of humans," he added significantly, watching for her reaction.

Suprised by the act of thoughtfulness, Tsume decided against changing back into a cat and rubbing her damp fur all across his shins.
She was onboard for hunting down oni until her master mentioned humans. Her green eyes narrowed. She wanted to protest, but partly because she didn't to sound like a whining kit, and partly because she owed her life to this man, she just settled with a hiss of displeasure.

"It had to be humans" she thought bitterly. "Now I will have to spend even more time in this unbecoming form."
She fidgeted within the kimono, thankful for the extra layer, even though she didn't say so. Another weakeness of these silly humans. They are naked! Not extra layers or fur or anything!

"Yes, you will," replied Seimei. "It will be good practice for you. I think you will find these humans a little more interesting than the usual kind, anyway." If Sadamitsu wasn't so elusive, he would have no reason to order Tsume in to assist the guardians. "They lack in a certain specific area ... stealth." Seimei sighed. "Which is where you come in. You can not only walk the old paths of our kind, but you can help to find oni and gather information. Your native form will no doubt come in handy for that. But you will need your human voice too."

While she was still irked at the thought of spending her next portion of her life with a group of loud humans, she still enjoyed feeling valued. "I can guide them, yes; and I owe a few oni some claw marks or two." she sneered, picking at her nails, wishing they were claws.
Suddenly she was done with being a human. She cast off the kimono, letting it fall gracelessly around her feet, as she turned back into her original form. Satisfied and comfortable on the kimono, she sat washing herself, while waiting for her Master to continue giving details.

"Would you mind?" he sighed, tapping a foxy finger on to her upraised back leg. "It seems you still have a few matters of etiquette that need to be dealt with. Namely that it is considered impolite to start licking your parts mid-conversation. You'll notice I am refraining from such behaviour. Please try to pay attention, young cat." Seimei held out a hand into the air, it seemed the rain was slackening off. "You will come with me, as my page. My human page," he raised an eyebrow, and gave her a significant look, "to the Hana no Gosho, it's the residence of the second highest human in the land, so if you can't be absolutely trusted to be on your very best behaviour this may prove difficult. There you will meet the four Guardians, humans who have abilities rather above and beyond what a normal human can do, and you will be required to do nothing but observe for the time being, and to refrain from acting like a cat. And when I say observe I do expect you to be taking note, not just thinking of where your next portion of fish scraps is coming from."

Tsume spluttered indignantly at the mention of her craving fish scraps and quickly changed back to human just to protest. "I am far above fish scraps! I will do as you wish, as accompany you in this- " She shuddered, "-form, and behave as I know you want me to. I can observe as you ask, but I can't make any promises about denying my true nature." She teasingly suck out a tongue and ran the back of her hand across her face, then back along where her ears felt like they should be.

"I guess I will be traveling with you to Hana no Gosho then? Do I have to spend the entire journey as your 'human' page."?
She re-wrapped the kimono around herself, feeling the cold just that little bit too much through the tight black fabric of her mid wrap.

"Of course you are," he said with a kind tone and a grin. "No one is asking you to deny your nature, far from it. Your nature will be your best asset I'm sure. But in the humans' houses, in human form, just try to act human for politeness's sake." When asked if she would have to journey in her human form, Seimei replied, "you may go as either human or cat. It is not far. Just remember to be one or the other."

"Tsume," he said, in all seriousness, "It isn't just at the meeting that I want you to observe my human Guardians. Since I cannot be with them on their missions and must stay close to the Emperor, you will be my eyes and ears. Keep watch on them closely, little cat," he said, before dropping his giant butterbur leaf, and shifting his form, transforming into the shape of a silver fox. He too found the animal form better for swiftness and stealth.

Tsume readily copied her Master and turned back into her cat form. She nodded sincerely, understanding the seriousness of her mission. She enjoyed the silence as eight paws drummed along the wet path. The rain was easing up, just a little now, it seamed; and visibility was gradually improving as light filtered through the semi-dense mist and reflected interestingly off the puddles.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari Character Portrait: Ida Tsume
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Tsume followed Seimei and the Shogun as they filed in after the pageboy into the room where her travel companions for the next few weeks were waiting. She felt the fabric of the dark blue kimono her master had lent her itch a little on her human skin, but resisted the urge to scratch it, fearing the action would come across too feline. Instead,she just knelt next to Seimei and folded her hands neatly on her lap. Although her head was bowed, she was carefully watching the four.

Although all four of them were sitting perfectly calm, the one with black hair tied up, the emperor had called him "Kiyoyori",seemed to be the most at ease, like he was familiar with this sort of scenario. As he rose to collect his weapon, a bow, she could see he walked with the grace and control of a trained fighter. "Serious,focused and respectful... he doesn't seem too bad." she thought to herself, silently judging them. On the contrary, the one sat next to him,the child, was struggling to stay still as it was. She could practically feel his uncontrolled energy and curiosity rolling off him in waves. She cringed at the thought of spending the next few weeks with him. Human children were the worst, loud, irritating and inexperienced,and she couldn't even relate because human adults are so overprotective if their young! If he were a kitten, she'd be able to teach him how to behave properly with a well timed and well deserved thump.

The white haired woman, who rose to the name"Ikari" felt standoffish. There was something about her that put heart an instant distaste in Tsume's opinion. She wasn't even sure where it came from, and was even a little surprised that someone could rub her up the wrong way just with their presence. As she stepped closer to receive her weapons, two swords, Tsume was sure that if she had hackles in this form, they would be raised.

Last in her judging was the other black haired male with enchanting eyes, that she could tell saw more than what was of simply this world. From his appearance,even though it was as fine as Kiyoyori's, she deduced that he was more finicky about his appearance. This, she admired. Far too often, humans were just happy to prance about however they happened to wake up that day. Any cat would hold themselves with more pride in spirit and appearance than most humans, although she bet this "Kenshin" could give even her a run for her money in that department. He carried himself with confidence and Tsume decided that he would be tolerable company. Then she sensed a layer of uncertainty,or unhappiness under his outer shell of emotions as he got closer to receive his weapon, a staff, and vaguely wondered what it was he was unhappy with.

All in all, she mentally concluded, she was going to spending the next few weeks with a two humans just about worthy of her company, a little brat and some woman who managed to raise her hackles every time she saw her. Although resigned to her fate, as her Master had ordered it, she made her mind up to get this quest over and done with as soon as possible so she could go back to her nice, soft abode and never have to take this itchy human form again. At least til Seimei summoned her again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari
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#, as written by KameJLa
HAJIME AND KENSHIN

A servant had sat tea down in front of Kenshin once the new comer Ikari had been given her portion of the food that Hajime was forced to leave behind. Honestly, he had never met anyone who could pack away so much food, and it hasn’t stopped surprising him since they first met just an hour prior. Ikari was not hard on the eyes. Ikari was more ‘rougher’ looking that the girls usually found around here, and with Kenshin, just due to her physical state. But it also made her more noticeable. She had her good points, and Kenshin made note.

Hajime was engaging in small talk with one of the servants that filled his glass with sake, his cheeks red. It didn’t taste good, and it made him feel strange and loopy, but in a good way. Just as quickly as Hajime was getting drunk, the servants came and cleared everything away, tidying up any remaining mess from the spectacle Kenshin and himself had put on. “Eh?” Hajime said, slightly confused, until the announcement of the Shogun.

“His excellency the Shogun, supreme general of his Imperial Majesty, Ashikaga Yoshiharu!”

Hajime’s heart pounded loudly in his chest, his nerves on edge. For a few moments, he had forgotten that he was here to see -the- Shogun. He gulped loudly, following Kiyoyori, Ikari, and Kenshin who snapped his fan closed and gave a calm, fluid bow, in giving a bow of his own. Even for a 12-year-old boy, he was scared at the presence the Shogun brought once he entered the room.

Both Hajime and Kenshin lifted their heads once allowed to. Hajime was shocked when the Shogun bowed to them, and had a momentary reality check. The Guardians were -that- important. Hajime did understand and knew it was real when Seimei came by, and when they appeared in his dreams. But to have the Shogun himself bow, just solidified how serious this was.

Kenshin just stayed still, and showed little emotion on his face in the Shogun’s presence, giving a gracious bow at the shoguns own. Once the weapons were brought forth, Kenshin was able to tell exactly who was who just based on their weapons. The Bow, just as the shogun said, was Raiko. The twin swords were Tsuna, and now the staff.

Kenshin stood, leaving his dream walker staff behind. Kenshin had every intention of refusing the staff, but to do so would make him look ungrateful for the generosity of the Shogun, and the Emperor for guarding his past lives weapon. Urabe no Suetake’s weapon. He recognized it immediately when the samurai removed the fine silk cloth over top. The metal rings that hung on either side jangled once Kenshin lifted the staff from his hands. A familiar sound that he heard many times. The Staff was taller than him by only a few inches, and the small designs within the middle ring were worn from age. But the Dream Walker needed the Dream Walker staff. There was no other staff that would allow him to walk through dreams. He would have to send the staff back to Nagasaki to his home, but he would do so once they set off the next morning.

“Hando Kenshin, Urabe no Suetake-sama, your staff. May it protect you now, just as it did then.” The Shogun said, adding “Your dream walking has surpassed even that of your predecessor, Yumeki. May you walk for me one night after this battle is all over.” Kenshin gave Seimei a quick millisecond glance while clenching his teeth together, and proceeded to give the Shogun a grateful, low bow. “Arigatou Ashikaga-tono.” Returning to his seat, he placed the staff beside him carefully, right beside the Dream Walker staff.

Hajime was called next, and he was eager to find out what his weapon was. Standing, he made his way to the next samurai who unwrapped an axe from the gold silk cloth. “Sakataa no Kintoki-sama. Samaki Hajime. This may not be a weapon befitting of a healer, but I hope it will protect you on your journey. Futoki-sensei spoke quite highly of you and your potential. I’ll have you know that just a little over 20 years ago, Futoki-sensei tended to me when I fought a battle. I barely survived, and would have perished if it wasn’t for him. The Guardians couldn’t be in more safer hands than yours young one.”

The axe had two skulls on either side with the blade of the ax coming from the mouth of one of them. A Metal point off the tip, and a red jewel at the bottom that seemed slightly dirty. The skulls looked identical. Twin skulls? They look like they could devour my size in 3 bites, maybe 4. Hajime thought. Giving a smile to the Shogun, and gave an honest bow. He was forever grateful for the story he told, and for the kind words he gave. It gave him courage, but it also oddly gave him stomach flip flops. “Thank you!” Returning to his seat, he continued to examine the axe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari Character Portrait: Ida Tsume
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#, as written by Kato
Kiyoyori watched the others receive their weapons, each one giving him a small flash of recognition as they were put into the hands of his companions. His and Kenshin’s guesses were confirmed as the Shogun revealed their identities to each other and in some cases, to themselves. Holding the bow in his hands somehow anchored him to the reality of their position, a physical link to the past life he had been so sceptical of. Ah, so I really have to lead them to battle, he thought to himself as he passed his gaze over the group of guardians and the one empty seat that was yet to be filled. Lucky them.

Ikari’s vision blurred and a new scene overlaid itself on to the one in front of her eyes. Where the Shogun Yoshiharu sat, another figure took form. An old man, in court robes, his hair grey, his beard and moustache pointed, which added to the gravitas of his features, looking like nothing moreso than a civilised wolf, dressed in clothing too large for him. Sleeves draped over the hands, as was the style for nobles in those days. A tall black hat sat upon his head. The Minister of the Right, Fujiwara no Morotada, Tsuna recognised him, and though she tried to follow the words she saw forming on his lips, she couldn’t hear him. The others, Ikari saw clearly now, as they retrieved their weapons. Urabe, the shaven-headed monk, superimposed over the long-haired Kenshin, the wild boy Sakata almost exactly mirrored his counterpart in Hajime, as he took hold of the skull-bedecked axe. As for Kiyoyori, she saw Raiko’s form only vaguely – so feint as to be like smoke, the large-eyed yet determined looking girl warrior dressed as a man. While the pages and assistants seemed to fade into the background, Seimei stood out as much as any of them, the ghostly image of himself was exactly the same as the man she saw before her. In five hundred years he hasn’t changed.He seemed to smile knowingly at her as though he realised what she was seeing. Some other time when the guardians had been gathered, briefed, taking their orders from Morotada, on behalf of the Emperor, while Seimei subtly nudged him in the right direction. This Shogun was specifically not giving them orders, and Tsuna understood that Seimei had managed to find a way to cut out the middle man this time. Good, she thought, although she felt this came from Tsuna rather than herself, Fewer politicians, fewer lies.

The Shogun had one last item he needed to bestow, and summoned Kiyoyori once more. “There is one more artefact that belonged to you in your former life, Raiko-sama,” said Yoshiharu, and with a small gesture summoned forth one of his samurai who passed a long black lacquer box to Kiyoyori. Inside was a brocade bag with Minamoto crests woven into it in gold. He loosened the ancient drawstring and gave an audible sharp intake of breath as he took out the item inside. A bamboo flute, a komabue, wrapped in cherry bark and lacquered in black with the subtlest of gold bands at both ends and between the mouth and finger holes. Once again, he felt close to tears, a strange pulling at his heart, as he had when he laid eyes upon Ikari. An expression of deep gratitude crossed his face that the Shogun nodded to, and Seimei smiled at softly, and he bowed once again to the floor and said in a voice thick with emotion, “thank you.” He stayed for a few moments with his face on the floor, not daring to move until he had mastered himself. Kiyoyori had never played the flute, nor had any aptitude or particular interest in music, but then … he had never held this flute.

Seimei took the opportunity to quietly whisper, “It would be proper for you to address your companions.” Eventually he sat back up, and turned to face his companions. “I realise perhaps I’m not what you expected or wanted in a leader. Maybe to some of you, I’m even an enemy. I hadn’t thought I’d be capable of such a thing, it’s rather big boots to fill. Maybe I won’t even come close to doing this well – that’s what I thought until just now. But I know, I can feel, the spirit of Raiko-sama is with me, and that her wisdom will guide me, even though it will have to fight all the way against my foolishness. I am not your lord, and you aren’t my vassals. I have no right to expect you to follow me or do my bidding. But I hope you’ll accept me as your leader, and will be my valued comrades and brothers in arms. Will you all join me?”

The evening inevitably wound down, and the Guardians were taken to their sleeping quarters to spend the night. Their rooms were in a small building which was to be theirs alone for the time they would stay here, separated from the main palace by a covered walkway. The building looked out one way onto a small courtyard, and to the other onto a large open area used for training in martial arts and archery. While Kenshin, Hajime and Kiyoyori were to sleep together in one room, Ikari was surprised to learn that she would be sharing a room with Seimei’s page, the black haired girl who had sat beside him and looked over them all with great intensity during their meeting with Yoshiharu. She attempted to ask the girl a few friendly questions about herself, but ended up falling asleep rather quickly. It had been an extremely eventful day.

During the night, the summer rains started in earnest, and in the morning sheets of water poured from the grey sky as though the gods were throwing out their bath water. The air was humid and sticky. The Guardians were all made sure to be properly equipped, with the Shogun’s men providing them with armour and clothing, all with a special crest for their new unit. Five tomoe that circled clockwise, in a gold colour. Abe no Seimei strode across the walkway from the main house at mid-morning, carrying an umbrella, and asking the Guardians if they liked the new crest, explaining that he had designed it especially for them, with a rather self-satisfied and knowing smile. By midday the rains still hadn’t stopped and Kiyoyori sat on the veranda, looking over at the practice field at the archery targets wistfully as he waited. Even if he didn’t mind getting soaked, there was no way to keep a bowstring dry in this weather. From time to time he pulled the flute out from the inside of his kimono and turned it over in his fingers, before putting it bak again. Ikari came out and sat down, dressed in impressive set of armour, silver grey plates and lacing, with the cloth sleeves and trousers in dark red with silver figured dragons. She gave Kiyoyori a nod, still not really sure what to make of him, and Kiyoyori acknowledged her greeting. Then they sat in silence, the rain making more than enough noise as it turned the practice field into a muddy lake. Kiyoyori had many things he wanted to ask her, he needed to talk to her, but found that he couldn’t. Instead Ikari could feel him staring at her from time to time. She tried to ignore it but eventually she turned around to glare at him, and snapped roughly, “What is it?”

It was unusual for him to feel tongue tied around anyone, but even when she confronted him, he had no idea what to say. “Um, Ikari-san, do you – I mean –“ his expression took on a sort of intensity as he turned towards her to meet her gaze, his black eyes searching hers, as her expression turned from a frown of annoyance to one of mere confusion. “Do you remember –? “

Whatever his question was, it was cut off by the voice of Seimei, as the onmyouji poked his head around the door frame. “Anyone would think you two didn’t want to receive your first mission! Aren’t you coming?” he said, disappearing mysteriously and expecting them to follow. The rain continued to clatter down on the roof as the group were assembled in one of the small rooms. “First I should introduce you to Tsume. She will be your scout. Her eyes and ears are very sharp, her claws too. She is my servant, which means no using her for odd jobs, fetching you new sandals or making tea. She will be able to help you sniff out the Oni, and find information you need.”

“As for this mission,” he said, folding his long sleeves into his lap, and taking on a rather more serious demeanour. “The summer rains often bring sickness to the city, but this year it has begun in earnest more quickly than usual. It makes me suspect, more than suspect for I am almost certain of it, that this illness is not of a natural origin, and that Oni are responsible. Some nobles in the palace have already fallen gravely ill, and I suspect his Majesty the Emperor is the true target. I am doing all I can with my magic to protect him, but the source must be removed. This is where you come in, Guardians.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari Character Portrait: Ida Tsume
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Tsume wanted to fidget. She had an itch right by her ear, and another on her side, and was beggining to think that seimei asked Kiyoyori to adress his new comrades just to test her patience.
Having decided that she had judged the group sufficiently, she specifically made a point to let her mind wander to her next meal. She sniffed haughtily- Fish scraps indeed! No, she would dine in luxury. Fish itself could be rather slimy and had a very pungent and overbearing taste, but if it was prepared in some well prepared garnish by a seasoned cook, it could be delicious. Pork, lamb, beef; a little chewy and plain if unaccompanied by something else but delicious when roasted. But Chicken! That was the meat she was made to eat. So perfectly textured, could be enjoyed hot or cold.
She hoped that Seimei hadn't spotted her licking her lips.

At last, the meeting and greeting came to an end, and Tsume couldn't wait to dissapear, get out of this body and go find a warm, shadowed corner to spend the night, but her master, as quick as ever, struck her with a look that she knew that wouldn't be happeneing. She sighed inwardly, as she dutifuly followed Seimei, as a human page would.
The building she and the group were led to by some castle servants was a comfortable distance from the noise of the main palace. There was room for weapon practice and when Tsume found she would be sharing a room with the white haired girl, she decided that one of the well kept trees she saw on the way here would make for a comfy bed, with her black fur to keep her warm. As if he could read her mind, Seimei shot her a look.
Fine. Futons and night clothes it was then.

Much to her annoyance, the feeling of hate towards Ikari didn't decrease one bit, and Tsume sat and sulked till she stopped making sounds with her vocal chords and started breathing deeply and evenly. After checking Ikari was truly sleeping, Tsume stepped to the window, light as a feather and shivered a sigh of relief as she turn back to her feline form. She sat on the window ledge, looking up at the currently clear skies, admiring the way the moonlight shone on her silky black fur. Grateful for her keen vision, she navigated her way to ground level down the outside of the building.

The following morning, Tsume sourly regretted her choice to sleep outside under the stars in the safe cradle of an Ume tree, as she woke in the pre-dawn grey light to rainfall. She jumped down from her temporary bed and streaked across the courtyard, back up to her room through the window, where she shook off the loose droplets and crawled beneath her discarded blankets to warm up and dry off.

When Tsume woke again, she yawned and stretched, feeling warm and satisfied. Grey daylight lit the room, with a background chorus of rainfall on tiles, and thankfully, no white haired females to bother her. There was, however, some new clothes, folded neatly at the foot of her futon, <i>human</i> clothes. Sighing, she understood Seimei's message and guessed she should be grateful he let her sleep in till whatever time it was.
Changing back into her human form, Tsume quickly donned the new clothes, noting the new gold crest that was emblazoned on the cloth. Once dressed, she scented the air for food, thankfully her feline sense of smell carried over to her human form.
Following her nose, she found her way to the kitchen, where she politely requested for some dried meats and fruit. A few minuets later, she was happily walking back to her room holding a plate of brunch. She heard Kiyoyori and Ikari's voices float up through the window but chose to ignore what was being said in favor of munching happily. Though humble in choice, the quality of food was certainly fit for the emperor. What Obaasama would have done if she could taste this...
Before she could loose herself in memories of a time long gone, Seimei knocked politely before entereing. Tsume nodded at him and lowered her eyes respectfully. "Follow me, we have important things to discuss with the Guardians".
Tsume nodded and quickly stuffed the last morsel in her mouth and followed Seimei out the room. After a brief walk, they entered one of the small rooms and Tsume dutifully took a seat to the side of Seimei.

The meeting started once Seimei had collected the two outside. Even Tsume had to admit they looked quite orderly in matching armour. He started by introducing her as his servant and their scout. She pulled a sly feral grin when he mentioned her claws, and noted a small look of disappointment on Kenshin's face when her master said she wasn't for petty tasks. She didn't say anything but she felt eyes on her as Seimei continued.
Her eyes narrowed sightly at the mention of Oni, particularly sickness and rain ones. They were always tricky, as their scent would be everywhere, in every rain cloud, every sick persons cough. She usually avoided both if possible; being soaked was not fun, but this time, she guessed she's be tracking one, or more, down.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari Character Portrait: Ida Tsume Character Portrait: Midori
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#, as written by KameJLa
MIDORI


The clouds were overhead before Midori reached the outer parts of the Hana no Gosho. This part seemed almost abandoned with the limited activity that went on within the walls. Perhaps it was reserved for only those of extreme high importance, leaving it rarely used if ever. This place was where the voice screamed from the loudest, and Midori was exhausted from pushing herself to the limits with the screamer and the eyes.

Midori found herself drawn by the faint smell of food. Climbing over the wall with the help of a tree, she used her hearing to pin point where people were so she could maneuver through the halls undetected. What seemed like an hour, Midori found herself just outside the kitchens were some servants were bringing back trays of finished food, and what appeared to be a tray of food that was spilled. It smelt good. Really good. It had been a long time since Midori had anything but the food she hunted, or occasionally stole to pass the winter months.

“Those two were really going at it, pulling at each other’s collars.”
“That long haired guy is pretty handsome huh?”
“Yeah and that guy with the black looking eyes. He looks especially fun!”


While the girls continued to discuss which of the men they believed were the most handsome, and the boy who clearly liked to cause a scene, they made their way out of the kitchen and onto their next duties, leaving the food to sit out for the servants dinner. Midori slipped through the door, and grabbed a basin of rice, filling it up with left overs before slipping right back out, sliding under the floors and in the dirt outside to stay hidden so she could eat to her fill.

Once her stomach was full, Midori found that she had drifted off to sleep. It wasn’t clear how much time passed, but she was awakened by voices extremely close by. They were headed the way Midori came into the Hana no Gosho. Servants, and those that were in a secret meeting with the Shogun. Those that were called for. The reborn guardians. It peaked Midori’s interest, so she listened, and waited. When the familiar voice from before spoke, she kept her ears tuned into the voices location, while moving swiftly through the halls, using the roof, and even hiding to not be seen. Once the voice holder was on his own, Midori rolled off the roof, hung on with her right hand, and using all her weight to swing towards the inside of the Gosho, letting go and landing right in front of Seimei himself, who seemed a little surprised. The rain had drenched her, her hair stuck to her face in all sorts of weird patterns, the rain running clean streaks down her skin through the caked on dirt, her worn and torn kimono stuck to her skin. “Seimei Loud. Too Loud.” Midori narrowed her eyes at him. “No more screaming. Hurts.” Midori pointed to her ears when she said ‘hurts’.

Seimei was indeed surprised, and more than a little. He wasn't sure if he was irked by this or pleased, since he liked to think he was on top of things at all times. His eyes narrowed as a fox-like grin spread over his face. "Oh," he raised an eyebrow, "Perhaps I am too loud, or perhaps it is you who is too quiet. How did you get in without my noticing? Please, why don't you sit," he said lowering his voice to a whisper and pointing with a closed fan at the tatami mat directly facing him. Through the mud and dirt it was hard to see what the woman looked like ... if anything she looked more like a vengeful ghost than a living human, but Seimei could sense what she really was, and she was no more a ghost than he was. "Are you hungry? Thirsty?" he asked her, tipping his head a little to the side.

Withthe way he responded, Midori guessed that Seimei was his name. What identified him. How did I know that? The thought was only a mere moment, shaking her head back and forth to say no when he asked about food and drink. She had eaten only a few hours prior. She didn’t take his offer to sit. “What want?”Midori asked, using a hand to flip the wet strands of hair back behind her head. “You been screaming since Hokkaido. Why have you been looking for Midori?What is special about Midori and Usui no Sadamitsu?” She outright asked,throwing caution to the wind. Midori made sure to keep a bit of a distance between Seimei and herself. Just enough so that she could react if he came at her.

"Ah, Sadamitsu. Did you know I've been trying to track you down for months, if not years, then you turn up here, just late enough to be a nuisance, but early enough that you're still technically on time. You really have more in common with your former incarnation than you're probably aware." Seimei asked her to sit down again, and explained to her about the Guardians and their special role whether she did or not. "If you heard me all this time, then why didn't you respond?" he asked.

“Che.” Midori clicked her tongue in a displeased manner. “Seimei forget I arrive on time. Always.” Midori spoke, but it was like Usui was speaking. Subconsciously, Midori knew things she shouldn’t. Knew things about the past but didn’t understand. This time, she took his offer to sit, but stillkept a bit of distance. Midori knew who Seimei was, but didn’t. This frightened her. She enjoyed being in a familiar presence, but it was not one thatshe knew. It was one that Usui knew. “Many came for Midori.” She began, “People,Samurai, and Oni. Midori used power to survive. Midori fled into the Hokkaido Forest. One was very annoying. The voice was soft at first, then louder and louder. More that Midori went south, the louder it got. Midori hear this voice before.Then eyes came. Looked for Midori at night. Midori stayed up, running from the eyes that looked for her.”

Seimei listened. "The auguries were imprecise," he said, with a small frown. What was the point in learning such arts a reading the future and mapping the transmigration of souls if such obvious information went awry. He liked to have his net cast wide and to know everything - impossible as this was even for him - and it vexed him when there were blind spots. "I sent shikigami after you. They did not return. I expect you destroyed them." He leaned closer. "Who's eyes were these? Were they mine? The dreamwalkers? Or an Oni's?" He sat back. "Midori, please tell me about what happened, and how much you remember of your former life."
Midori nodded, finally taking a seat directly in front of Seimei, but keeping a small amount of distance between the two. Lightening lit up the night sky, the thunder booming life into the sky, the rains falling harder. “Midori did.” She said in reply. Midori instinctively leaned back when he leaned closer asking about the eyes. When he mentioned dream walker, Midori nodded. “Makes sense.Midori hear you talking to him..K-Ke-nn-tin? Ki-n-she?..” Midori tilted her head in thought at her own words, unsure of the actual name.
Midori shrugged her shoulders at his next question about her former life. “Don’t know. Midori never seen Seimei before, but knew his name when Midori hear it.”Then she added, “Midori want to smack you for being loud.” She narrowed her eyes at him. It was hard to sleep when she could when he screamed so loud inher ears for months. Now, it was quiet, except for the faint sounds of servants in the distance helping, and cleaning up after a boy who kept getting sick from too much sake.



KENSHIN, HAJIME AND MIDORI


During Kiyoyori’s speech, Kenshin just gave a bow with a tilt of his head to the leader of the mission. Of course Kenshin would stand together with Kiyoyori, because it was expected of him. Of course Kenshin would stand together with Kiyoyori, because it was what was needed. He knew the threat of the Oni was real, and not fake. There wasn’t much that a dream gazer couldn’t do aside of dream of the future if he wanted to know what was going on in Japan. Kenshin was privy to all sorts of information. Hajime, with much vigor and eagerness nodded his head up and down multiple times and so fast, Kenshin thought his head would pop off. “I’m with Yoyo! Hic!” The hiccup was loud, and Kenshin knew what was going to come next. After all, the boy did down almost an entire bottle of sake.

Once Kenshin and Hajime were able to leave the room, Hajime ran as fast as he could to the outer door, sliding it open in haste and letting his supper go. The nerves from the Shogun meeting, and the sake didn’t mix well with Hajime, his body letting him know this. Kenshin gave a clear ‘I knew that would happen,’ laugh, making his way past the boy without a single thought. He had the dream walker staff in one hand, and Suetake’s staff in the other. Once he had both in hand, both hands got extremely warm. Kenshin chalked it up to nothing more than coincidence, before giving orders to the servants to draw him a bath, and to have another brush out his hair during, and after. Tonight, he would not try to find the other missing guardian. Tonight, he wanted sleep. Once Kenshin and Hajime were shown to the room they would share with Kiyoyori, Kenshin placed both staffs in the same corner of the room, leaning up against the wooden post.

The bath was relaxing for Kenshin, and it was even more relaxing to have his hair taken care of. It was embarrassing for him to be present in front of the others with small remnants of food caught in his hair, and his robes wrinkled. Honestly that boy was going to try his patience at every turn.

Hajime, after emptying his supper he fought so hard to eat, was scrubbed down by a few servants in his own bath, and put right to bed ahead of everyone else. At least the evening would be peaceful. Once Kenshins hair was done, his night time kimono on, Kenshin settled down into the futon, falling asleep rather fast.

The rain continued into the morning, and it seemed like the rainy season was going to start. Hajime was up before the others, and down in the kitchen where he was eating his fill with his ax straped to his back. He wore a red top with the crest sewn into the left sleeve. The servants had learned after last night to make the boy a five course meal. Kenshin was the last to wake up, his eyes blurry and clouded over. A figure loomed over him, which he assumed was Hajime. “Go bother Kiyoyori. I’m not done sleeping yet.”

“Eyes looking. You.” A female voice said. Kenshin didn’t recognize the voice, and sat up a little startled using a hand to rub the sleepiness from his eyes so he could get a better picture on who was speaking to him. Kenshin knew of every one of his actions last night, so he would have remembered bringing a woman into the bed with him. A small womans face became clear with green eyes, and long black hair that seemed to shine in the morning rays. “And? You are?” Kenshin asked, surprised that he was being glared at by someone who he didn’t even know. Midori lifted her hand, and used her middle finger to flick Kenshin square between the eyes. “Fly annoying.” Kenshin landed right back laying down, a red mark beginning to make its appearance where he was flicked. “Itai! What the hell was that for?!”

“So you two finally met? Good. Kenshin, this is Midori, Usui no Sadamitsu’s current vassal.” Seimei’s voice came through the open shobi door. “Hurry up and get dressed. At mid-day we have our first meeting, and it’s well past dawn already.”

“Che..” Kenshin gave a sound of disproval, rubbing the sore spot between his eyes. “Damn woman..” He muttered very low so no one could hear, only to have that woman throw his staff at him. “Hear you I can.” Kenshin stretched out his arm, catching the staff before it could belt him in the face. Kenshin was going to yell back at the woman, until the look of the staff came into view. The Dream Walker Staff was a simple staff with a hole between the wood, separating the colors where the blue circle would appear if he was walking in dreams. Urabe no Suetake’s staff was clearly a monk’s staff with three rings on either side each, and either shrines or bosatsu figures inside. This staff was completely different. The brown and black of his old staff seemed to have wrapped around Suetake’s staff like an outer layer, merging and melting and reshaping the look of both staffs into one. Is this because I am the dream walker in this life? Kenshin thought, trying to figure out why the staffs merged. The golden brown twisted around the staff until to came up to the top where it merged and completely made a new staff head. The blue jewel in the center of the staff head pulsed the blue color like it would, recognizing it’s owner. Gone were the three rings, and it’s its place a circular pattern wrapping around the single ring while holding the blue jewel in place. Along the inner part of the circular pattern was dream walker symbols. The staff in height was the exact same as Suetake’s staff was.

“Oi Onigiri hurry it up!” Hajime’s voice came from behind the closed door. “Hai Hai!” Kenshin replied in an annoyed tone. He knew better than to keep Seimei waiting for long. He signaled the servants to begin his morning routine of hair being brushed and well dressed. Kenshin was offered a grey kimono in place of his black one, the grey one having the special crest sewn onto the sleeve. His obi sash was the same as before as was his hair tie. After about 30 minutes, Kenshin made his way to the designated meeting place, running into Hajime and Midori outside. “Where’d you get the new staff Onigiri?” Hajime asked curiously. Kenshin sighed, not really knowing the answer himself. “That…I can’t say..”

“On..i..giri..” Midori repeated slowly, tilting her head to the side with a confused look at Hajime. “Hai! Onigiri!” Hajime said, beginning to tell Midori the story.

Hajime and Midori met in the early morning hours while he was stuffing his face. Hajime’s head pulsed loudly but that didn’t stop him from feeding his hunger. Seimei had come in and introduced them, leaving Hajime and Midori alone in the kitchen for breakfast. Midori didn’t say much but a few words, and it was hard to understand what she was saying when it was backwards, but the subject was there. Midori had on a colorful Kimono of greens and blues and pinks with a long green haori coat. The crest was sewn into the back side instead of the sleeve. It clashed with her kimono look, but Midori liked the look of it, and she could curl up inside with her small body. Very useful for when it’s cold.

Kenshin and Hajime gave nodded greetings to the others as they entered the room and took their seats, while Midori just strode right on it and took the seat beside Ikari, ignoring the whispers of servants on her manners. She placed the Naginata she received from Seimei just this morning down behind her with a low, but vibrating thud on the tatami mat. It definitely had some weight to it. Midori looked over at Kiyoyori and Ikari, blinked a few times, then looked back straight ahead at Seimei and the young Tsume. Midori had yet to meet these two.

“First I should introduce you to Tsume. She will be your scout. Her eyes and ears are very sharp, her claws too. She is my servant, which means no using her for odd jobs, fetching you new sandals or making tea. She will be able to help you sniff out the Oni, and find information you need.”

Kenshin snapped open his fan, giving a small throat hmph when Seimei looked directly at him when he spoke his sentence of Tsume. There goes his fun, and someone to permanently look after his hair. Perhaps he could talk one of the other members into it.

What Seimei was saying about the rain was true. It had started much sooner than expected. And for an Oni to be behind it, well that just made matters worse. Hajime didn’t like what he was hearing one bit. People often got sick when the weather turned colder. The elderly and young children were at the highest risk from his experience at Futoki-sensei’s clinic. “Where do we start Seimei?”

(OOC NOTE – For Naginata picture, omit the brown string part hanging from the blade.)

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Abe no Seimei Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari Character Portrait: Ida Tsume Character Portrait: Midori
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#, as written by Kato
Tsume sniffed as a new scent entered the room, accompanied by a new girl. From Seimei's lack of alarm, she deduced that this new girl was meant to be here, and was probably the final guardian that he mentioned was absent at the initial meeting in the shoguns palace. She looked presentable enough, but Tsume could sense something feral, untamed, inside. She decided that this new person could be tolerated.


Kiyoyori entered the room along with Ikari, both having taken the opportunity to follow Seimei without hesitation, glad to have the awkward moment bewteen them ended. Like Ikari, he was dressed in new armour bearing the five tomoe crest, but unlike the full suit that made Ikari's entrance to the room most impressive, Kiyorori's was more similar to an ashigaru's in style, though of the same high quality, discarding any“unnecessary” pieces and stripped down to just a cuirass, armoured sleeves and leg guards. The plates were lacquered black, and the lacing was blue and pale wheat yellow. The cloth parts dark and light blue figured with a carp pattern in gold. He took a seat next to Kenshin. So, Seimei's page was coming with them. Obviously she was more than she seemed, which wasn't unusual for something connected toSeimei. On hearing the little “hmph” from Kenshin on Seimei's forbidding the group to use her as a servant, Kiyoyori smirked and suppressed a laugh. “Looks like you'll have to train Hajime for that,” he said, his eyes narrowing mischievously as he passed a glance to Kenshin.

Kenshin flipped open his fan, fanning himself rather quickly as he pondered the thought. Hajime was annoying and a brat, ignorant and ill mannered, but Kiyoyori had a point. Kenshin could bribe Hajime with food, and the kid would most likely do it. But would it be worth the complaints Hajime would say, while doing it? Kenshin was weighing the pros and cons.

Kiyoyori smirked, watching Kenshin actually taking his suggestion seriously. The thought that people might be taking him more seriously than usual, now he was the leader of the Guardians, never really occurred to him. “So, that accountsfor the one new face here,” Kiyoyori spoke up to Seimei. “Butwhat about this person -” he nodded towards Midori, who frankly looked like she had been dredged up from a swamp. “Or are you goingto introduce yourself? At a guess I'd say … Sadamitsu.”

Midori glanced to Kiyoyori with a blank expression, tilting her head to the side at his guess. “Introduce? Why? You know already who Midori is.” She stated the obvious from his guess. After all, she was the last to arrive.

"Not necessarily. You could be another of Seimei's assistants," he replied."But if you are Sadamitsu, you have a lot to catch up on even just from last night. You missed some truly great entertainment." He passed a sidelong look at Kenshin and Hajime.

Ikari was a little astonished at the new woman who took a seat beside her. Trying not to look too hard at her, she couldn't help but wonder at her story, and how she came to be here. Hoping they would get a moment to talk later, Ikari greeted her quietly. “I'm Shimoto Ikari, how do you do.” Although Ikari had spent a lot of time among men, and could handle them well enough, she was glad of another female face in the group, and one that was potential less hostile than Tsume. Ikari didn't understand why the girl had taken a dislike to her, despite her trying to to befriend her, and she felt a little hurt by it despite herself.

Midori turned her attention to Ikari, and finally noticed the girls hair for the first time. Amazed at it, Midori probably stared at it longer than Ikari was comfortable with. “White.” She stated the complete obvious. Kenshin resisted slapping his forehead with his palm. “Are you sure it’s her?” he muttered under his breath,glancing over at Seimei. It was the exact same thing he said when they first saw Hajime. And just like then, Kenshin already knew the answer. Midori shot Kenshin a glare, and muttered something under her breath. Using her power, she enhanced it so only Kenshin could hear, but with Tsume here, might have picked up on it.Kenshin cleared his throat.

Humans didn't like others speaking over them, and since no-one else was speaking, Tsume assumed it wouldn't be rude if she started now. "Rain and sickness onis... I have... encountered these before. They can be tricky as every breeze, every squall and cough carreis their scent, but we can try and use this to our advantage. Even though the chance of them being in the city itself is low, their scent will be all over it, and once I have that, I can try to track it to where it is the densest. You can just follow and do the actual fighting though, when I find them. That's your job right?" She raised an eyebrow, challenging anyone to deny it. She was clothed in the comfortable fabrics Seimei had managed to secure for her, matt black in colour, and made from a thick, but breathable material. He had even taken into account her general disliking for being unable to feel the air and floor, as her attire consisted of a tight mid wrap with folded fabric over her shoulders for modesty. Her legs were covered up to her knees, first by practical tight shorts, then a shorter wrap skirt, for appearances. Her calfs, forearms and ankles were similarly wrapped in the fabric, and the bridge of her human feet were wrapped, but not the important toes or heels. The design Seimei had been so proud of was sat neatly in the centre of the chest wrap but other than that, they were plain black, with a prestigious white gold trim.

Kiyoyori's expression had seemed to darken as Seimei spoke of the sickness that had begun to take an insidious grip on the city. “I have too,” he spoke up after Tsume said she had encountered them before. He exchanged a quick glance with Seimei. “If you can track them down, I'll be gladto meet them face to face. The very nature of them is that they don't like to show themselves, if they did, they'd fight properly not like this … cowardice.”

Ikari nodded. She had been through many towns and villages where a sickness had taken hold and ravaged the people, always feeling powerless to help, as well as fear of infection herself. “Indeed, it's difficult to protect a city from illness normally, but if there's an oni causing it, at least that makes it possible.”

Kenshin snapped his fan closed, looking directly at Tsume. “You won’t be much help on this one will you? With the rain everywhere, are you sure you can pickup the scent?” He challenged, slightly irritated at the events that were unfolding that were out of his control, something he didn’t run into very often. “I propose that we should lure the oni out of hiding by using Hajime’s healing powers. If he is an evil oni, seeing his powers have no effect may drive him out.”

Hajime nodded. The idea in it self didn’t sound to bad. “We could try it that way.Actually,” Hajime began. “Either way I want- no, I need to go out there and help them heal. It will take a long time, and if he go that route, we will need to bring a huge supply of food with us.”

Andjust when I thought he was maturing through his speech, he went right back to being a glutton. Kenshin thought. He wasn’t aware of the real reason Hajime needed all that food.

"From my experience, an oni won't give up so easily," said Kiyoyori. "But if Hajime uses his healing powers on someone afflicted, maybe he can fnd out something about the Oni that did it. And perhaps Kenshin ... could go and look at that person's dreams. Sometimes in a fever you see the demons that cause the illness. It might give us some clues anyway."

Tsume narrowed her eyes at Kenshin. To think she might have been able to tolerate this one. "With the rain everywhere, how could I not pick up the scent? It's just a case of finding where it is strongest. You can do your healing things anyway, while I do the real tracking down."

A little disgruntled at having her skills put down, she turned back into a cat there and then. Her human clothes fell to the seat and nestled around her feline form. She curled up and closed her eyes, giving the appearance of ignoring everyone and going to sleep. She was still listening sharply to the discussion though.

Ikari suddenly stood up and pointed at Tsume. "A cat!" she exclaimed rather stating the obvious. "She's a bakeneko, or a nekomata, or some kind of Oni, right here among us." Tsume being some kind of Oni made sense given how hostile the girl had been. "It seems you have been decieved, Master Seimei!" She looked to Seimei as if to get his go ahead to draw her sword and kill it.

Seimei sighed, waved his hand at Ikari. "No, no, no. You can sit down. Please. Shimoto-san." All he asked was that Tsume acted like a human in human form, a cat in cat form, and didn't switch between the two in public. Three simple rules, but of course a cat had no concern for such things. He found himself a little irritated, and Ikari, sitting back down, blushed a little, thinking that irritation was aimed at her. "Yes, Tsume is a cat. But she is not any more an Oni than I am. There is no evil in her, though there is more of quantity of willfull selfishness. Still, she will assist you all, in her own way."

“Dream walking is an option.” Kenshin replied to Kiyoyori.“But depending on the type of sickness inflicted I could..affect the brain.”Kenshin had paused momentarily, almost like he didn’t want to admit that his power had limits. “This could affect what I see. It may take longer to sortthrough all the images and scenarios.” Kenshin let go of a deep breath. That was too easy.. he thought on Tsume’s easy back down. When Tsume turned backinto a cat, Kenshin was entertained. The squeaks that came from Ikari were amusing, while Hajime was talking about wanting to keep Tsume as a pet was predictable.

Midori on the other hand, readied her weapon. An oni was present. It rubbed herthe wrong way. She had been running from Oni now for 2 years, and Seimei expected her to work along side one? Midori was fuming. How dare he do this toher of all people. But something inside was pushing her to go despite thebetrayal, like a mental pull in a different direction. Despite her anger, her arm lowered her weapon as if ordered to do so, and Midori sat back down slowly,a free hand moving up to rub her temples.

Tsume cracked open one of her bright green eyes, half hidden by her tail as it was curled round her front. Seimei expected her to work with these closed minded fools... The hostility from the two girls was slightly amusing, but the wary confusion mixed with a burst of victorious amusement from the dream walker was even more so. Were she in human form, she would have cracked a crooked smile that promised nothing but suggested everything.

Half of her was tempted to ignite her tail, just to mess with the girls who were still jumpy despite her Master's assurances, but she decided that she didn't feel like dodging blades and let the mood settle into an uneasy mist that clouded the room.