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Shimoto Ikari

[NPC] Honor cannot ease loss, or keep someone fed.

0 · 464 views · located in Japan

a character in “Onikiri - The Demon Slayers”, as played by ValaunDae'Voth

Description

Shimoto Ikari


Image


{Name} Shimoto Ikari
{Age}26
{Gender} Female
{Character Concept} Swordsman

{Main Weapon} Katana
{Secondary Weapon} Katana
{Fighting Style} Her style focuses on wielding a sword in each hand and remaining fluid, but aggressive during battle.

{Guardian Ability} Death Frenzy: Ikari can enter a state of enhanced speed and strength, appearing as a blur for a time and becoming a veritable whirlwind of blades. Once ended, she is fatigued and further uses take a more extreme toll, possibly resulting in death.

{Special Skills} She is skilled at archery, swordsmanship, fairly perceptive and calculating, and has a deep love for calligraphy and painting. She is also rather self-sufficient, and has a good mind for strategy.

{Appearance} Ikari is a tall woman by any standards, especially those of her native land. She stands around 6 feet in height, making her a fair bit taller than most men, and towering over her female peers.
She is surprisingly well muscled and endeavors to keep her physique well maintained. Upon her back is a tattoo depicting a man wrestling a demon beneath a setting sun.
She also takes great pride in her striking, white hair, refusing to adopt the typical shaved head and topknot of many warriors, and has been known to react violently to those attempting to touch it.


{Personality} Ikari is often described as a woman of extremes. When she laughs and smiles, she means it and the feelings are true and genuine. When she is angry, gods help the creature that invoked her fury. She has been known to leave men and woman broken and bleeding after losing her temper.

Despite the intensity with which she feels her emotions, she is a rather compassionate human being who would never turn down the chance to aid someone in need. She sometimes displays an almost carefree naivety when helping people, which has led to a fight or two along the way.

In truth, she is a woman that loves drink, humor, and combat above all things. She is a poor gambler, and a hard haggler, and never denies herself the chance to enjoy life and take what it has to offer.

She also hates horses, and refuses to ride them unless she has to.


{Bio} Ikari was born the only child to a lower class samurai, her mother having died in childbirth. Several of his retainers and relatives saw her as a curse, something to be reviled. After all, she was responsible for her mother's death.

Her father would hear nothing of it, she was the only thing he still had to remember his departed wife and he treasured her.

As he was without son, and wife, he began focusing his attention on training Ikari in the ways of the samurai and was impressed, and surprised to find how quickly she took to things. He once asked her how she knew the things that she did, and how she could possibly grasp the ways of combat so easily, she would simply shrug and say, "I have learned these things before."
Though she could not explain why, nor how, and her father would simply shake his head and continue with their lessons.

In time, she joined her father on the field and served he, and their lord extremely well, even shrugging of the stigma of being a woman on the battlefield.

This was not to last however, in a relatively minor battle, her lord was slain, as were most of his men. Her father forbade her from giving in and letting herself die, and as he died, she told him she would live on.

It has been two years since that dark day, and she has been a wandering ronin and sometimes sword for hire ever since.

Throughout her life, mostly during times of conflict, or extreme stress, she has received flashbacks of her old life. With the death of her father, and her current wayward existence, she has been getting them more and more.



PAST LIFE

Image


{Name} Watanabe no Tsuna

{Gender} Male

{Appearance} He was a tall, and lean figure, surprisingly imposing when on the field of battle, but in private company, he was always quick with a smile and a happy gesture.
He was of understated, yet powerful physique, with a handsome, if youthful face, and held himself with the relaxed air of a man of self confidence.


{Personality} When in combat or pursuing his duties, Tsuna was a man with little patience and a dedicated mind. When going about his day to day life, he made it his mission to fill his friends' lives with joy and help those he could, when he could.

He was a bit of a naive man, always hoping to find the good in those he interacted with. He would often help the downtrodden and try to make their lives better and get them back on track, but due to his naivety, he was often taken advantage of. He was also subject to pranks and the unwitting butt of jokes for these same reasons, but he took it all in stride and made the most out of everything.


{Relationships} To be determined.

So begins...

Shimoto Ikari's Story

Setting

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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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari
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#, as written by Kato
Ikari headed up to the Shogun’s Palace. She walked at her full height, catching eyes as she was used to from her white hair and large frame. She’d learned long ago that the only way to have people accept her difference was just to ride it out with complete confidence. It was hardly what she felt inside though, as she passed her paper to the guard with only a minimal bow. The surprise on his face washed over her, she was used to it. “Please, this way,” he said, and she was led into the palace. It was a more opulent building than she had ever seen, never mind been inside. A servant led her somewhere to get changed. “Shimoto-sama, your fellow Imperial Guardians are already gathered. Please join them when you are ready,” the lady said, and bowed out, lower than anyone ever usually bowed, leaving her alone to get cleaned up, changed and deposit her dual katanas. She had been left a beautiful sage green kimono with embroidered water lilies along the hem, and picked it up, surprised to find that this garment looked like it might fit her properly, when almost all ladies’ clothes were too small for her. They must have had it made specially.

Ikari was awed. It was like stepping into another world. Her life, she realised now, would be completely different. From travelling at random around the country righting wrongs and protecting the innocent, a lowly ronin of no rank and station, she was about to become an Imperial Retainer that would answer to none but the Guardians’ leader and the Emperor himself. A young maid helped her tie her obi, a rich emerald silk, and then left her so that she could make her way to meet her new comrades. Hopefully her manners and appearance wouldn’t seem too coarse and vulgar to them. Taking a deep breath, she slid open the door to the meeting room to be met by an unexpected sight.

A young man was crawling across another one to grab a bowl of food out of the hands of a scruffy boy, who was holding it just out of reach of his flailing hand. “Kenshin-san! You’re not setting a good example!” the man on the floor laughed and grabbed the back of Kenshin’s obi, to try and pull him back away from the boy. “And I thought you were some kind of Zen master!” The trays of food looked in danger of tipping over. The young boy’s contained about a dozen empty bowls… “Um…” she began, “Excuse me, I think I have the wrong room.”

“Ken-“ Kiyoyori, mid protest, suddenly went silent, and his smile faded. His eyes were drawn to the woman in the doorway, transfixed. Hers were staring back at him, a small frown between her brows. She was an impressive figure, and beautiful though, that wasn’t the reason he couldn’t take his eyes off her. A strange feeling welled up in his chest, and he found his eyes becoming wet as though he were about to cry. He recognised her. Though he knew he’d never seen her before as Kiyoyori, deep in his soul he remembered her, and he wasn’t sure if those tears were of sadness or of joy. He found his voice, which emerged hoarsely and rather quiet, “No… no, you’re in the right place,” Kiyoyori said, grabbing hold of Kenshin and rather roughly tipping him off his lap, back towards his place, so that Kiyoyori could sit up. Still, though he kept his eyes upon the woman. “Please, come in. I’m sorry for these idiots.”

Ikari stepped forward with a small bow, cautiously. “Pleased to meet you all,” she said, trying out formal language that she never usually used or needed. “My name is Shimoto Ikari, but I was formerly known as Watanabe no Tsuna.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kiyoyori Character Portrait: Hajime Character Portrait: Kenshin Character Portrait: Shimoto Ikari
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#, as written by KameJLa
COLLAB POST FOR KIYOYORI, KENSHIN, HAJIME AND IKARI

Hajime laughed while moving the bowl out of Kenshin’s reach every time Kenshin just about got the bowl. Hajime knew he was teasing Kenshin, especially when he got mad over his carrots. Hajime was thrilled. He was having a blast, like a younger brother teasing his older brother. Kenshin’s fingers would just brush the bowl, and Hajime would move it to the other side, laughing when Kenshin got more frustrated.

Kenshin was different from usual. Perhaps it was from hanging around old, but new friends. The familiarity that came with them made him drop his guard down unexpectedly. Crawling over someone to get to a bratty child was not something Kenshin normally did, if ever. And now, another person had to hold Kenshin back, who was clearly not making a good impression, just as Kiyoyori stated. "Who cares? The little brat needs a lesson in manners!" Kenshin hissed, grabbing hold of Hajime's shirt and pulling him forward. The bowl spilt its contents onto the floor, and Hajime was now nose to nose with a glaring Kenshin. Hajime laughed nervously, placing both hands on Kenshin's balled up fist.

"I think I have the wrong room.." A female voice said.
Kenshin and Hajime both froze, Kenshin still over Kiyoyori who tugged on his Obi to pull him back, and Hajime who tried to pry himself free from Kenshin's grip. Kenshin let Hajime's shirt go, a weird feeling welling up inside. Annoyance, and slight anger towards the white haired girl. He didn't understand why. Obviously, she was one of the fellow guardians, and one present from his past life, but why the anger? There was also an overwhelming sense of trust, like with the others.

Hajime's eyes widened, having never seen anyone with white hair before. At least, not someone so young. "Wow!" Hajime exclaimed, jumping up from his spot to run over to the woman. "Your hair is so white it's like snow!" Hajime laughed, reaching out to touch it, wondering if it was as cold as snow as well. "Yuki! Onigiri, Yoyo, and Yuki!" Hajime laughed. Now everyone had new names.

"Hajime!" Kiyoyori's voice called out in a low and commanding tone that seemed to come from a very different place to the way he normally spoke. Now Kiyoyori was taking issue with his behaviour too, and he stalked over to Hajime, grabbing hold of the back of his collar as he reached up to play with Ikari's hair (which fortunately was out of his reach.) "It's polite to give your own name to a stranger, not to give them a new one, piglet," he frowned, pulling Hajime back to the direction of his seat. Hajime puffed his cheeks out. "Che. Stingy." Deep down, Hajime knew Kiyoyori was right. Hajime was probably pushing the limits, but he was acting on the sense of familiarity. Ikari had a look of stunned bemusement, and found her hand unconsciously going to her hair. She wouldn't have a problem if the boy wanted to touch it.... but this was the Shogun's palace, and while it seemed that sprawling around in a heap grabbing at each other's clothing was OK, apparently touching people's hair wasn't. "I don't mind it," she said.

Kiyoyori gave a short bow, and said, "I am Mori Kiyoyori from the Mori clan of Ozawa, this is Hando Kenshin of the Torizuchi, and the piglet's name is Hajime though I have no idea where he comes from." It seemed strange to be introducing himself formally to her, when his urge was to take her into his arms and tearfully berate her for not having been present in his life until now. The feeling was so overwhelming he couldn't bring himself to say anything more than, "Please, take a seat." Ikari went to sit down, kneeling opposite to the three places that had already been set out. Her eyes ran over the three of them. Kenshin who looked if not angry then at least annoyed, Kiyoyori who had sat back down and was avoiding eye contact, and Hajime the wild child. What strange people. She sighed, as though finally relaxing. All her life she had been treated as strange and different, yet these people made her feel oddly part of something, even if it was a shared weirdness. After all, she supposed, they were her comrades from long ago, or some part of them anyway.

The maids came back into the room to clear away the mess that Hajime and Kenshin's tussle had created, and to serve Ikari, who accepted both food and sake.

Kenshin cleared his throat, sitting back down in his seat properly, his teeth clenched. That could have been bad if that was the Shogun himself.... he thought, mentally giving himself a talk over the way he acted with Hajime. But that didn't stop him from whacking the boy on the top of his head with his fan when Hajime grabbed his chopsticks, and made a move to get to Ikari's food. Kenshin flipped open his fan, and held it down near his waist, and fanned towards his other hand that was open, letting the wind hit his face in a different manner that helped one cool down much, much faster.

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 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.

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.