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Sengoku Alliance

Sengoku Alliance

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Private roleplay between SarcasticZombie and Kato. Common enemies forge unlikely allies...

1,284 readers have visited Sengoku Alliance since Kato created it.

SarcasticZombie are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

Introduction

"One Nation United Under the Sword"


Ono Tadatsugi, a damiyo of fierce ambition is no longer content with territory he rules, and that he has taken by force from his neighbouring domains. Instead, he wishes to unite Japan by conquest and emerge as the supreme ruler of the country. Tadatsugu's forces rampage across the country, absorbing lesser lords by forcing submission, and conquering those who refuse to obey.

He encroaches ever closer to the domain of Sugahara, a mostly peaceful land held by the Mizutani clan, that lies in between ranges of forested mountains.

Rumour has it that Tadatsugu has made a pact with Oni for power, and that monsters fill the ranks of his army alongside his human warriors. Monsters or not (and who believes that?) the Mizutani are not going to suffer themselves to be taken over by this over-ambitious warlord. Only by making alliances with the likes of the mysterious Hanzo shinobi clan, might they stand a chance of defending their land and defeating Ono Tadatsugu.

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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

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Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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Evening was beginning to settle in on the town, however the town wasn't about to slow down. The market may have been closing up for the day, but the places that functioned at night were just beginning to flourish. Some questionable characters were beginning to roam the streets along with men who were looking for a good drink and maybe some company to keep them distracted from going home to their aging wives.

The yukaku district was really beginning to come to life as some courtesans were out conversing with some of the men, trying to get them to come into their establishment so they could make their money for the night. In one such establishment there was a strange silver eyed woman dressed much like the other courtesans, though she was not eagerly grabbing at some of the men who came in. In fact she seemed to be searching, scanning for someone and as one man approached her trying to buy her “services” she smiled and shook her head. She explained how we was waiting on an appointment. When he wouldn't give up she gave him a fierce look, her silver eyes piercing as he took notice of them for the first time. A look of fright crossed over him as he quickly turned away.

She noticed the mistress of the house giving Suki a stern look to tell her not to frighten her customers. Suki could only shrug, but that was as much of an apology in her eyes. She knew she would probably hear it later from her father as the mistress was a part of the Hanzo shinobi clan. There was nothing Suki could do about it and refused to fret over it.

Now what was Suki doing posing as a courtesan? She was acting as the liaison of her clan and meeting with someone in secret. Now who was she meeting? Well the liaison of the Mizutani clan of course. As to why? To discuss forming an alliance between their clans. Ono Tadatsugi was on the move and his sights were set on the Mizutani clan’s land. If he conquered their land then the Hanzo clan’s land would be next. So it only made sense to form an alliance. However Suki found it strange that her father sent her as she was not the most diplomatic of their clan. Her brother or uncle would have been better suited for this. She figured it was just in case it was a trap and if it was she could take care of it. Plus she was disposable in her clan's eyes, after all she was viewed as a monster. Nothing more than a weapon they could use.

Suki sighed as she unfolded her fan and began fanning herself. The massive influx of people had made the place quite a bit warmer and the kimono she wore was not the coolest. Then the hidden weapons she had strapped to her body didn't help either. She only hoped this person she was to meet with would show up soon. They had given instructions for him to approach the mistress when he came in and let her know he had an “appointment” as there were no others with appointments that night.

She took notice of a strange looking man watching her. He was rather suspicious looking, however she gave him a flirtatious smile. He smirked back at her, but in a way that said he was going to eat her alive. She decided she'd keep a watchful eye on him just in case, hoping that the man from the Mizutani clan would get there soon so they could get this over with.

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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#, as written by Kato
It wasn't every day that the head of the clan was contacted by somebody claiming to be the leader of a group of ninjas, and even rarer for those ninjas to be suggesting an alliance. Lord Mizutani Munetaka’s council of advisors had gathered in his audience chamber to hear this news, and many were affronted, even repulsed by the very idea of it. Assassins that skulked around in the dark, saboteurs, poisoners – why would any noble samurai even consider working with ninjas? Even those who agreed it could be useful to employ shinobi for some of the less savoury aspects of warfare thought it far too much to make an alliance with them – as though they were equals.

Then again, it wasn't every day that the quiet and relative peace of Sugahara was threatened by someone far beyond the usual skirmishes and battles between the local clans, and Ono Tadatsugu’s ambition sounded preposterous - a warlord intent on taking over the whole of Japan. When he was far away, it had been easy to scoff at such arrogance, but now, according to the shinobi leader’s message, Tadatsugu had his sights set on this very land.

The message had definitely thrown the cat among the pigeons, and Seijuro watched and listened quietly from his place around halfway down the side of the room from Lord Mizutani’s raised platform. His interest was definitely piqued. If this was a very unusual threat, perhaps it would take some unusual tactics to counter it. Lord Ono was rumoured to have demons fighting in his armies alongside his human soldiers – ninjas were reputed to have magical powers. He wasn’t sure quite how much he believed of either story, but given how fast other domains had fallen to Tadatsugu, maybe it was worth finding out what the ninja could do, if indeed they had a common goal. Once his elders had had their say, and the room had lapsed into a tense and silent impasse, he decided to speak up. “Tono-sama, may I speak?” Permission was granted by a laconic grunt from Lord Munetaka. He felt his father’s eyes from Munetaka’s side watching him. “I understand that it would be somewhat unconventional, but it couldn’t do any harm to find out what this Hanzo has to say. They must feel the threat is real enough if they are willing to contact us. If they have information that’s of use, maybe it would be best to know what it is, before any final decision is made on whether to work with them or not. Obviously we shouldn’t risk anyone important going to this meeting, it would most likely be dangerous, and quite possibily a trap. If Lord Munetaka thinks it would be appropriate, I would put myself forward to undertake this service, if that isn’t impertinent.” He bowed, hearing the small rustles as positions were shifted and looks exchanged among the others in the room. An unseen smile fought to keep itself from his face, although a light he couldn't repress shone in his eyes. He couldn’t deny that the idea of it appealed to him immensely. This was a chance to bring something entirely new into the clan’s arsenal. He knew it was unlikely anyone else present would wish to go in his place. Aside from the risk, none of the elders or generals would want to risk their reputation if it was found out they were meeting with a ninja. The only question was whether Lord Mizutani and his generals would allow something like this at all.


Eventually it was decided that the meeting would go ahead, and on this particularly evening, warm for the time of year, with a stillness in the air, Seijuro found himself in the red light district in Kinokita just as the sun was descending below the horizon. He was dressed like any other off duty samurai who might be visiting a brothel, with a basket hat that concealed most of his face – although for different reasons than most incognito brothel visitors – and a dark blue haori with no crests over a simple blue and grey outfit. The disguise felt a bit silly, but he’d been convinced it was necessary. The two men accompanying him were two samurai he knew well, they could be relied upon to spot any trouble and take care of it quickly. They passed through the streets packed with excitable menfolk and beckoning ladies of the night. The atmosphere was heady, almost festive, and it was difficult not to get caught up in it. Seijuro found himself politely declining offers from ladies of the night and brothel owners, as the three made their way towards the establishment where they were to meet the Hanzo clan contact. Before they went in he spoke quietly to his two guards. “Yahiko-san, wait out out here and keep an eye on the door. Ganzaemon-san, take the room next door – but keep alert.” Yahiko split smoothly off from the party and Seijuro and Ganzaemon slipped inside the ageya.

The madam scurried to the door as soon as she saw them, and bowed obsequiously as they entered, bidding them welcome in rather a theatrical style. Seijuro took off the hat as soon as he was indoors. “I … er… have an appointment,” he said, the coded delivery not exactly slipping off his tongue. Sneaking around was hardly his forte, but the woman apparently knew exactly what he meant, as her smile grew even wider, as she ushered him in with a wave of her long sleeve, “This way young master,” she crooned, taking Seijuro off down a long, red painted corridor with doors either side. He hoped Ganzaemon, who was left waiting in the lobby with a selection of beautiful women would have the presence of mind to notice where he was being taken and get an adjacent room. “Wait here, young master,” the madam said, leaving Seijuro in one of the private rooms alone while she scurried off, presumably to fetch his ninja contact. Holding the basket hat in his hands, he walked around, looking at the furnishings. The room had been decorated to create a feel of opulence and intimacy, with low subdued lighting, and flowers in an alcove chosen for their rich colours and undoubtedly some kind of meaning. He noticed an empty sword stand presumably for customers’ use. A subtle spicy aroma flowed through the air. This wasn’t much like the usual dry antechambers he was used to for discussing politics, and gave the prospective meeting even more of a sense of drama. He was more curious than ever about this Hanzo clan representative he was about to meet.

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Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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Suki was normally a patient woman, one would have to be when often sent on missions to eliminate a person. This was no normal mission and her nerves were on edge making her patience thin. So when her ears picked up on a word, the word "appointment". Her eyes flicked to the man who had walked in, watching him in silence as the madam took him back to a room. Minutes later she was approaching Suki. "He's here and it appears there's at least one other with him. Be weary Suki, I'll keep my eye out best I can for any threats." She whispered to the girl before heading off to her duties once more, this time approaching the man's companion.

Suki didn't say a word as she stood up, her right hand subconsciously touching her right thigh to make sure the kunai she had strapped to her leg earlier was still there. It was hard to tell through the layers of fabric, but she felt the comfort of the weapon press against her leg. She knew, too, that her other weapons were hidden throughout the room in case she'd need them. Her father had warned her not to take any chances and so she'd prepared herself for a possible attack.

There was a tray waiting for her outside with hot tea and two cups on it. She gently picked it up and took a breath before walking into the room. She kept her gaze low, hiding her eyes as she often did when meeting a person she was not familiar with. It had become a subconscious thing she did as her silver eyes had frightened many superstitious folk and if this man happened to be superstitious it would not help her task of convincing him to form an alliance with her clan. So she kept her eyes subtly hidden, yet examined the man in front of her through her lashes.

He was a young man not much older than herself. He had a handsome face, though the scar on the side of his neck indicated to her he has had his fair share of fights. He was quite a bit taller than herself, though that wasn't an uncommon thing given she often was smaller than everyone. She watched closely for his reaction to her as she set the tray of tea down before sitting on some of the cushions on the floor.

"Come, sit with me young master." She purred as she began pouring some tea for the both of them. She knew she was only trying to play her part, but using the term "young master" almost made her want to gag. How did these women do it from day to day? She could not quite understand how these women could allow some men to treat them as lesser beings. She had to remind herself that women were treated very differently in her clan, that she was the abnormal one.

"We have much to discuss. You appear to have a problem arising. I believe I can help you." She continued as she held out the cup of tea to him. She was careful with her words because though she hadn't detected anyone listening in she was always extra cautious. She also didn't want to reveal too much until she could get to know this man a little more. In order to do that she needed to study him a bit more, get him speaking as well. Only then could she determine how to approach the topic. So she took a sip of her tea as she waited on him to make a move.

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Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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#, as written by Kato
Seijuro stopped his tour of the room and turned towards the door as he heard it slide gently open accompanied by the swish of multi-layered fabric. The woman was dressed in all the layers of finery that showed her to be a courtesan of high rank, and she kept her eyes demurely lowered. The long dark hair that shone in the lamplight concealed her features still further. Not that Seijuro was a habitual visitor in the yukaku district, but there was nothing to differentiate the woman before him who he knew to be a Hanzo clan ninja from a real courtesan. He shouldn’t have been remotely surprised, that was … kind of the point about ninjas after all. He inclined his head towards her in the smallest of bows as she entered. While the woman took care setting out the tea, he walked to the end of the room and removed his sheathed sword from his belt to place it carefully in the sword rack. He made sure to do so both slowly and in her full view, so that it was clear he wasn’t attempting to attack. He wasn’t too concerned about leaving his sword – if this were some kind of ambush, flailing around with a long sword in a small room wouldn’t be much use anyway.

"Come, sit with me young master," she said, causing a corner of Seijuro’s mouth to twitch up at her turn of phrase. He sat down opposite her, settling himself on another of the cushions. “Please, I don’t think we need to keep up the ‘young master’ and ‘little sister’ thing now,” he said, with a slightly embarrassed smile. They were alone, and they both knew why they were there. “My name is Akizawa Seijuro, from the Mizutani of Sugahara. You must be Hanzo-san, is that right?” Under his haori the Mizutani crest of a circle containing three waves, was visible on his kimono. It served as proof of some kind that he was who he claimed to be.

He accepted the cup of tea, reaching out to take it from her hands, and nodded, “thank you.” He appeared to become more serious as the woman began to talk in oblique terms about the “problem” that was arising. “I hope that we can both help each other,” he replied. Despite going ahead and talking more openly than Suki was, he kept his voice low and measured, so that casual listeners would be unlikely to know the purpose of their conversation. Walls were thin, even in places like this. “From what I’ve learned, this is more of a problem that effects both of our people, which is why Hanzo-dono sought an alliance. But please correct me if I’ve misunderstood.

“I confess, I know very little about your people, and I understand that there may be little you can tell me, but Mizutani-dono would like to know what manner of assistance you can offer. Before that, though,” he added, “How much do we know of Tadatsugu’s plans and how much of a threat he really presents? In order to forge an alliance, Mizutani-dono would need to be satisfied that the situation warrants such an unorthodox measure.” He took a sip of the tea that she had offered, while awaiting her reply.

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Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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Suki had not been concerned in the slightest as Seijuro placed his sword in the sword rack. She hadn't let her guard down by any means, however she knew if he tried to move to attack she may possibly be quicker. He himself seemed quick, but she knew she had a slight advantage. A gift from her yokai mother, agility and speed. She wondered what rumors he had heard of her clan, of herself. She knew the rumors of ninjas having mystical powers. She knew others claimed them to be yokai in desguise. If he had heard these rumors did he believe them?

A smirk tugged at her lips as she noticed his embarrassed smile. She was glad he had dismissed playing the act she had started. She had only played that in the beginning because those were her orders. He then introduced himself and asked to confirm if she was Hanzo-san. Her years of training screamed at her to keep her real name a secret yet her instincts told her to tell the truth. "Hanzo Suki at your service." She finally replied with a smile dancing across her lips as she bowed her head in greeting, still careful to keep her eyes hidden.

It was time to move on to the more pressing matters. Now she had to think, play her cards carefully. She needed this man on their side. She carefully calculated his words as she sipped on her tea. Even after he stopped speaking she remained silent, but only for a moment. "Let me ask you Akizawa-san, what do you know about yokai? Do you believe that they really exist?" She paused for a moment, taking another sip of her tea and allowing the questions to sink in for a moment. "I believe they exist and the reports from our men only strengthen my belief. They report that Tadatsugu has an army made up of men yet not men. They claim that one of these men can take out four samurai at once without even batting an eyelash.

"As for what we know of his plans is this. He has almost conquered the Adachi clan's lands and will end on the border of Sugahara. His next goal are these lands here and he figures if he can take out your clan first the rest of us will be a breeze. He doesn't suspect your clan to form an alliance of any sort, thinking your clan to be too proud to do so. These lands are our home as well and we will fight to protect them, even if it means making an unlikely alliance." She kept her voice low as she spoke so as not to be overheard. This was her best explanation of why they wished to form the alliance. Now she needed to explain what her clan could offer the Mizutani.

Suki began to open her mouth to speak again, but something caught her attention. Her head snapped up as she listened closer. The sound was unmistakable, the sound for breathing right outside the door. How could she have been so stupid as to not notice earlier? Did he overhear the conversation? The fact that he hadn't made a move yet tipped Suki off to him not having heard much at all. She needed to know what he had heard though. Even the slightest bit of information could ruin them.

"Oh Akizawa-sama you flatter me too much. Why don't you let me repay you for your flattery." She allowed her voice to return to a normal volume as she began to move uncomfortably close to the man in front of her. She placed a hand gently on his chest as almost to indicate she wanted to push him backwards, her face now inches from his as she locked her silver gaze with his bright brown gaze for the first time. "There is a man outside this room listening in to our conversation. We need to know what he has overheard and who he works for. So please play along with me for a second." She whispered to him as she slowly began to press on his chest more in order to try and push him back.

Suki kept her one hand on his chest while her right hand began moving under the skirts of her kimono seeking the kunai strapped to her leg. At this point she had moved even closer and was basically sitting on Seijuro's lap. "In a moment I'm going to move off of you. When I do you should grab your weapon and then help me retrieve the man outside." Without further explanation Suki moved swiftly, the next few moments happening so fast. She spun and released the kunai at her invisible mark through the rice paper door. The satisfying yelp of pain told her she hit her target. The sound was followed by footsteps...one...two...three...then there was a thud of someone falling. Suki's grin turned feline as she made her way towards the door, a swagger to her step like that of a cat stalking it's prey.

She opened the door and glanced out down the hallway as she watched the man trying to pull himself down the hallway. The poison coating her kunai was taking its effect, causing the man's limbs to be paralyzed. He wouldn't be in a state of paralysis for long, but it would be long enough for her to get him into the room and tie him up. "Akizawa-san I believe our guest needs help into the room here. Could you perhaps help him with that?" She asked as she turned to look for something in the room to tie the man up with. She settled on some thin cloth that was mixed in with the cushions. She tore strips to make it more manageable to tie as she waited to see if Seijuro would actually bring the man into the room for her.

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Character Portrait: Seijuro Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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#, as written by Kato
Seijuro waited as Hanzo-san - Hanzo Suki, as she had introduced herself - thought a while before responding to his words. They both sipped their tea in silence for a moment before Suki replied with a question of her own. Did he believe yokai really existed? An odd one to start with, but it certainly piqued his interest. “Yes, I do,” he said with some certainty, “although, I’m inclined to think much that is attributed to yokai is more human in origin.” Humans, after all, liked to blame yokai for anything from supposedly accidental deaths to losing their socks. If he hadn’t seen things himself that had no real explanation … maybe he would have answered differently. Although his experiences with yokai had been rare, they had certainly been memorable. “As to what I know about them – no more or less than anyone else, I suppose,” he hedged politely, hoping the meaning behind her questions would become clear.

“Only four?” he laughed, amused rather than mocking. The number was so low, it had the ring of truth about it. “We’ve heard rumours. Oni that can take a hundred men with one swing of a tetsubo. The usual kind of whispers that spring up around the reputation of powerful warriors. If you have intelligence that Tadatsugu literally has an army of demons under his command then that puts things in quite a different light.”

He nodded as she talked about the movements of Tadatsugu’s troops, his mind racing through the possibilities. They were nearer than anyone in the Mizutani had thought, then, if the Adachi were already under attack. Sugahara held a strategic position. To get through the mountain ranges that stretched nearly from sea to sea, and have access to the lands beyond, they would have to pass through Sugahara and through the mountains where the Hanzo, unofficially, kept their bases. Tadatsugu was right, Lord Mizutani would never agree to an alliance with him, to be kept as a vassal daimyo under the yoke of a stronger, more powerful lord. He would fight no matter what. But as for those clans behind the mountain range, allies and enemies at various times and in various combinations, if the Mizutani could hold off Tadatsugu’s advance, then it might give time for those clans to muster a collective force and catch Tadatsugu’s army off guard once they finally broke through. It wasn’t ideal. The best thing would be to destroy Tadatsugu’s forces before then, but how? Her reasoning made sense, to a point, although … what would the Hanzo have to lose by pledging themselves to Ono Tadatsugu in exchange for being allowed to keep their homeland?

He saw Suki tense suddenly, completely alert, listening. He looked towards the door, though he heard nothing. He gave her a questioning look, but kept silent. Instantly she was back in character as the courtesan, moving towards him and putting her hand on his chest as she spoke honeyed words. She was very close to him, as she lifted her gaze to his and he looked into beautiful, startling eyes the colour of silver. He became acutely aware of the warmth of her hand on his chest, her closeness, her physical presence, and felt a wave of desire wash over him. He could barely concentrate on the words she was whispering to him as she moved closer still, practically on top of him. He forced himself to look away from those silver eyes. She’s not a courtesan, she’s a ninja, this is a negotiation, he told himself firmly, and she’s acting. It’s just an act.

Somehow her words sunk in, a man outside listening, instantly he thought of Ganzaemon, and the wider world pulled itself back into sharp focus. If that were him outside then… “Wait—“ he hissed, but the tiny blade had already left her hand with an astonishing speed and embedded itself into something that gave a yelp. She wasn’t to know he had a man outside, but she hadn’t exactly made sure to check either – and people told him he acted too impulsively. He was on his feet and at the door at the moment she slid it open, half expecting to see Ganzaemon dead in the corridor outside. Luckily the man pulling himself along the ground was someone entirely different and he breathed a sigh of relief.

Her suggestion was more than reasonable and he didn’t even hesitate leaving the room to retrieve the man that Suki had somehow heard listening at the door. The man was face down on the floor a few steps from the room. Stocky, thick limbed, and hairy, he seemed to be wearing rather nondescript clothes that many men wore in the yukaku district so as not to draw attention to themselves. The kunai seemed to not have hit the man in a vital point, he noticed, and yet it had brought him down in only a second or two. The door of the next room clattered open, and Ganzaemon appeared in the entrance, his sword in his hand. A way behind him, Seijuro caught a glimpse of a slightly unwrapped courtesan. Ganzaemon was looking about him for trouble, but seemed to relax seeing Seijuro was right there and unharmed. They spoke furtively. “What happened?” Ganzaemon asked. “A spy,” Seijuro replied calmly, and crouched next to the body. He was still breathing, his eyes were open, but apparently he couldn’t move. He leaned down to gather the inert man from the floor, heaving him over his shoulder. He was as heavy as he looked. “Too much to drink again, eh, Gorobei?” he said in cheerful voice as he hefted the man to his feet. “Ganzaemon, check around for any others,” Seijuro ordered and Ganzaemon sheathed his sword, and went off to comply.

He had barely taken a step back towards the room, when all of a sudden the inert man began to move. One hairy arm shot up and grabbed Seijuro around the throat, shoving him against the wall as the spy regained his footing. He was as strong as he looked, and more. Seijuro, taken by surprise at the sudden speed of the man’s recovery, found he couldn’t breathe as both of the spy’s hands took purchase on his throat. By the look in the man’s eyes, he didn’t intend him to take another breath at all. “You can’t poison that which is poison, fool,” the spy hissed cryptically. This was no time for deciphering riddles though. Seijuro’s right hand went for the tanto at his belt, while his left instinctively tried to grab at the man’s arm and release his iron grip. It had no effect, he could barely get any purchase, and the spy was so strong that even if his hand would still work properly, it wouldn’t have made a difference. His body tried desperately to gasp in air that wasn’t there, as he looked directly into the spy’s unreadable black eyes. He drew back the tanto as far as he could, and plunged the blade into the man’s body, up under the sternum towards the heart. It should have killed him, but he didn’t even give a grunt of pain, and his grip didn’t waver. Seijuro stabbed him again, and a third time – he felt the blade go in, why didn’t he die? His vision started to darken at the edges.

Ganzaemon hadn’t got far, heard the thump as Seijuro was thrown against the wall, and turned back, sliding his sword out of the scabbard as he ran, and drawing it downwards in an executioner’s arc. His sword sliced through the man’s forearms, severing them both cleanly and releasing Seijuro from the death grip he had around his neck. As he watched, the severed hands turned to a black ashy, oily liquid, and the wounds on his torso appeared to be leaking the same black stuff, rather than anything normal, like blood. He took one look down at his missing hands, and then ran. Bolting down the corridor and barrelling over a serving girl as went. Seijuro sank to his knees, coughing and gasping for air. “Seijuro-san!” Ganzaemon was at his side. They exchanged a glance that told them they had both seen the same inhumanity in the spy. “After him,” Seijuro gasped out, “Don’t let him get away!” Ganzaemon ran, and after a moment Seijuro got to his feet, still coughing and ran after him. Seijuro was fast, and it was easy enough to catch up to Ganzaemon, following the trail of destruction as the spy had bulldozed his way through the brothel. Ganzaemon was outside the back of the building, where an alleyway ran past the courtyard gardens, his sword was still in his hand, and he was pacing back and forth, looking up at the neighbouring rooftops. A large black shadowy form was galloping away across the roofs, its gait not like a human run, but unmistakeably, it was the spy. Seijuro came to a halt, as Ganzaemon had discovered, there was no way up, no way of following him, and yet, there was no way Seijuro was going to let him get away.

Acting purely by instinct, he focused on the retreating back of the spy, drew back the tanto in his hand and threw it at the dark figure. As the blade sailed through the still night air, it seemed to catch some ambient light and glow briefly blue, before it thudded into the back of the spy’s neck. The spy fell, stumbling from the edge of the rooftop. Not only had he hit, but actually taken the man down. No one was as surprised as he was. He and Ganzaemon ran down the alley to find where the man had fallen. Should he still be alive, it was going to be down to Ganzaemon to finish him off, since Seijuro had thrown away his only weapon. He saw the tanto glinting, standing upright on the ground, but as they came closer, it became clear that it was not sticking out of a man’s body but that of a huge, black, hairy spider, the size of a small dog. It lay dead, six legs curled upward and inward, the front pair of limbs cut off halfway, sticking out sadly.

Hanzo Suki's words seemed to echo around in Seijuro's head. ”Let me ask you Akizawa-san, what do you know about yokai? Do you believe that they really exist?”

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Suki hadn't gotten too far in her task when she heard something or maybe someone get slammed against the wall. She turned towards the door startled and began making her way back to it when she heard ”You can't poison what is poison.” Her eyes widened as realization hit her on what those cryptic words meant. Suki came sliding out of the room, a kunai in her hand once more intending to hit the man in a more vital spot even if it proved to only cause a distraction. She didn't get the cancellation to use it as she watched a man sever to spy arms.

When the man ran Suki decided it was time for more effective weapons so she quickly made her way back in the room to retrieve such. She grumbled at the lack of movement the kimono she wore allowed and quickly began taking it off. The fabric was on the floor in seconds as she made it to the sword rack. She dropped to her knees and pushed the sword rack back, revealing a hidden door in the floor. She flung it open to reveal her equipment and first grabbed her regular clothes, putting them on quickly. She grabbed her ninjato and a pouch she strapped on for sake of time as she stood up ready to leave. She was about to turn around when her eyes caught sight of something. There on the sword rack was Seijuro’s sword. She blinked at it in disbelief for a split second before grabbing it and running out of the room.

She followed a trail of thick, black oily liquid and emerged out the back just in time to see Seijuro throw his tanto at the figure on the building. There was something strange about how it seemed for a brief moment to glow blue. She wondered if her eyes were just playing tricks on her as she made her way towards the men, habit keeping her hidden in the shadows. Only when she was next to Seijuro did she leave the shadows not realizing to them it would almost seem as if she appeared out of nowhere. “What kind of samurai pursues an enemy without his weapon?” She questioned, sass lacing her words as she held out his sword to him. If one looked close enough they'd notice the faintest hint of a smile on her lips, giving away that she wasn't judging him too harshly for it.

She was about to examine the spider creature when the faintest noise behind them caught her attention. She turned in time to see another large hairy man about to bring a sword down on Seijuro. “Look out!” She yelled as she moved, pushing Seijuro out of the way. She then turned and as she did silver flames erupted from one of her hands and hit the hairy man in the chest. He screamed in shock and pain as he stared hatefully at Suki. She didn't allow shock of what had happened just the to overtake her as she drew her sword, using the creatures shock to her advantage to behead him. The man fell and as he did so reverted into a similar spider form. Their blood smelt foul and almost made Suki wrinkle her nose, but she caught another scent. It was a familiar, metallic scent. As it dawned on her what it was she felt the stinging pain in her leg. She held her ninjato in her left hand as her right crossed over her abdomen to touch the top of her left thigh. She was greeted with a warm sticky liquid and she glanced down as she pulled her blood covered hand away to see a decent sized cut. It wasn't immediately life threatening, but it would need to get bandaged up fairly soon.

“There may be more of them. We need a plan if they try to attack again.” She began as she turned to face them. She winced in pain as her leg gave out slightly, causing her to lose her balance as she fell towards Seijuro.

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#, as written by Kato
Seijuro and Ganzaemon approached the body of the spider and exchanged a wary look. “What is it?” asked Ganzaemon. Seijuro, still trying to get his breath back, rubbed at his bruised throat and shook his head. “A yokai, I suppose,” he said quietly, not wanting to put a name to it in case that summoned more of them. Was this what Hanzo-san had been talking about? He looked at his hand to find the black oily substance coating it, then noticed the front of his kimono was covered in it too, from their brief skirmish earlier. Whatever it was, it wasn’t blood. He wiped his hand off on his shirt front, seeing as it was already blackened with spider ichor, then crouched to retrieve his tanto from the spider corpse, half expecting it to get up and run away. The heat in the air seemed to become more oppressive, and all around took on an eerie quiet.

He heard a sound right next to him and saw a dark shape move out of the shadows. Instantly he had spun towards it, with an almost unnatural reflexive speed, the tanto in his hand, a killing intent in his eyes as the dagger moved towards her throat, and, just as swiftly stopped mere centimetres away. Silver eyes … only catching that glimpse as he turned made Seijuro stop in time. His face softened a little and he lowered his weapon. “Hanzo-san. Probably not a good idea to sneak up on someone like that,” he said, relieved that he hadn’t accidentally killed her. That would have put an end to the negotiations quickly. Apparently Suki had an admonition of her own, as she told him off for having left his sword behind. He laughed, as he accepted the weapon back from her, as well as accepting her words. There wasn’t really any good excuse, except that he had been caught up in the moment. “Thank you,” he said politely as he sheathed the tanto and switched to the sword. There was more space out here to fight, and more likely to be other adversaries. “Ganzaemon, go find Yahiko – if he’s still alive wait there and be on your guard. Tell him what happened.” The guard made a grunt of assent and a nod, and headed off the way he had come down the alley.

The next attack came quickly, from out of nowhere. He turned, raised his sword to intercept the hairy man’s attack, but Suki bundled him out of the way, and as he watched in silent awe, a ball of silver-white fire erupted from her hands and slammed into the man’s chest. What was that? Onibi? Something else? He felt cold run right through him. “What are these things? Who sent them?” he asked, his tone far more direct and serious than before. His suspicion being that if Suki was some kind of yokai then it followed her clan might contain some onmitsu spiders sent to sabotage their negotiations. Equally, they could have been from Ono Tadatsugu. “Someone definitely doesn’t want this alliance to go ahead… all the more reason that it should,” he decided aloud. If the spiders were from her clan, they definitely weren’t on her side. Suki’s leg gave way and she fell towards him. He reached out his left arm to steady her, catching her in the crook of his arm as he couldn’t grab hold of her. “Careful!” he said, catching a glimpse of the cut on her leg. The spider had mentioned something about poison. If they’d used poison weapons, even a cut like that could be fatal.

They definitely needed a plan, but since they knew nothing at all about their enemy – their abilities, numbers, or even their purpose or motive, that wasn’t going to be easy. “We need a small space that’s easily defendable,” he suggested. “Somewhere away from all these people.” There was no reason that everyone’s night out needed to be disrupted, and no reason for civilians to get killed.

“The shrine garden,” he suggested. Not far, was a city shrine that sat within a high walled garden – especially for creating a space separated from the hustle and bustle of the city. Prostitutes and other townsfolk would leave offerings there for fortune and wealth, and on festivals it was busy, but now – at night and with no holidays in sight, it should have been deserted. Maybe bringing a fight onto sanctified ground would be frowned upon, but if their opponents had evil intent, maybe the gods would help out and protect them. “Can you run? Its not far.” Better they could get there as quick as possible before more spiders or their friends showed up.

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Character Portrait: Suki Hanzo
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It was a calculated risk...

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