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The Nascent Shinsengumi

Introduction

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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 4 authors

Setting

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Itō Yukina
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#, as written by Eris


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The room was brightly illuminated, leaving no room for a shadow to hide. Paranoia planted itself deeply in Toshirō's mind as his crimson gaze flickered around the room every few seconds. It was as if he were silently reassuring himself that it was only Makoto and himself occupying the room. The kitsune, however, merely remained quiet, watching Toshirō as the man continued the quick and fluid motions of his wrist. Satisfied once more, Toshirō stared down at the note before him, reading over the contents before folding the paper and sealing it.

"Take this to Kitamura and have him deliver it back to Kyoto," was the only sentence out of Toshirō's mouth. Makoto stared at the man, holding Toshirō's gaze before simply taking the paper. They continued staring at each other for a moment longer before Makoto stood from his position, bowing softly and exiting the room. Closing the shoji door behind him, he turned with mild surprise, bumping into a smaller frame. He blinked down as he started at Yukina, watching as she stumbled backwards a bit. He offered a hand to balance her back into place, and to keep her from falling over.

"My apologies, Nagamoto-sama," she spoke, her voice soft and timid as usual. Makoto merely frowned at her choice of words, but only made his discomfort known through the soft sigh that passed through his nostrils. Yukina glanced up at him—being of a much smaller stature than her kitsune bodyguard—and smiled brightly. He knew she was here to see her father, to speak with him about small things, however; it was his job to protect her from everything. And Toshirō made it very clear to Makoto that everything included himself as well. "Are you here to visit otou-san, too?" she questioned.

"I was just leaving," was his curt reply. If it bothered her, she did not make it known, however; she merely continued smiling at him, and made to move past him. Instead of moving, though, as he knew he should have, he remained. "He does not wish to be disturbed, Yukina-sama," he spoke, his voice dry and bitter with each word. He could see her visibly flinch, and closed his eyes for a moment. "Wasn't there something you need from the village, today? If you are not adverse to it, I shall accompany you into town after my task is finished here," he spoke, watching as a light grew behind her eyes.

"Actually, there was. Thank you for reminding me, Nagamoto-sama. Since otou-san is busy, I'll wait for you to finish before we head out today," she replied happily. He wondered, just for a moment, how a creature such as herself could be as she was. He had expected her to grow into a hardened woman, living under her father's care, but he supposed the hand Hana had in raising the child might have had some affect. "I'll be waiting in the front," she continued, bowing before making her way back towards the front of the home. Makoto shook his head softly, allowing his muscles to relax before pushing his feet forward.

It was only a matter of minutes, and Makoto was finished delivering the letter to the Kitamura man. What the contents of that letter held, was something Makoto wanted to find out. He didn't have enough time, though, to open it—nor to reseal it if he did open it—and sulked somewhat. "Nagamoto-sama, this way," he lifted his head up to spot Yukina waving at him. A frown marred his face as he realized his feet had led him to where he was needed. He made his way towards her, stopping a few feet from her, and merely stared down.

"Are you prepared?" he questioned, watching as she nodded her head before leading her out of the old Itō compound. The village of Edo had once been a prosperous village, the streets lined with vendors of all kinds, and people walked around freely. Today, though, the streets seemed dark. There was only a handful of vendors out, and most of them looked ready to leave. He couldn't blame them for feeling that way. Things had been different under the Itō, but now that Yukimura was leading it...

"Nagamoto-sama, is something bothering you?" her voice pulled him from his thoughts as he turned towards his mistress. She had a look of slight concern, and her hands were unfolding just slightly before one laid itself upon his arm. It stopped him from moving further, and contemplated her words for a moment. The frown on her face deepened as he remained quiet, but softened when he shook his head and continued walking. "Oh, look, Mako!" she spoke minutes after silencing. Makoto turned to see what had caused the slight curiosity from Yukina—she only ever called him Mako when she was excited about something.

"It's a bird," he stated as he watched her grasp a phoenix-shaped pendant. It was jade, from what he could tell, with sapphire colored eyes. She held it gingerly, inspecting it for its authenticity, he supposed. "What about this one. It would suit you better," he suggested, reaching down for a necklace with a single onyx ball. Yukina scoffed slightly, not attempting to hide her amusement as she placed the pendant down, and took the one Makoto held. She glanced at it for a moment, pondering, it seemed, if she wanted it.

"If you say so, then it must be true," she responded, taking the necklace to the vendor to pay for it. Makoto only shook his head and sighed for the umpteenth time that day.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Kou-san Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
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Aaaaaah spring, the cherry blossoms would be blooming all around soon! It was still a bit nippy, but the sun was up more now and the snow nearly completely melted away. Winter was rough, on fugitives anyway, hard to hide your tracks in snow. Kou made do through winter with a few bounties that she was tipped off on, particularly destructive and nasty individuals who were not too difficult to track down, which was good because Kou didn't have much skill in that area, but were too strong for your average sellsword to bring in. One even had guns from overseas, which make a lot of noise and hurt like hell if their bullets connect, but took a fatal amount of time to reload. She could see why no one would go near that particular one, the noise alone would be enough to scare off anyone. Winter was a bad time to be broke and end up sleeping outside, but each year Kou made due one way or another, scraped by with inns or worked for board. Kou sat at her table at Genishirou's Teahouse, contented but thoughtful look on her face while she drank sake.

Edo, it was not familiar, but it was where familiar people were, or at least one, Yukimura Toshirō. She had heard, vaguely, what had happened about ten years ago, but wasn't interested or dumb enough to go poking in the business. Or more accurately wasn't ready to be interested and dumb enough, now however, now was the time. She had fished more information about Edo and what people said was disturbing. There was a careful tension in the city, a clear hierarchy, an oppression. This was nothing like the yakuza she remembered. Toshi-san, as he had insisted she call him back then, was two-faced to be sure, but he was not a mad man. She wasn't sure what he wanted out of life or if anything would even be enough but he had always had a clear head about it. He was never cruel, that adjective had more or less belonged to Kou instead back then. And to be honest Kou wasn't entirely sure what she would or could do now, here in Edo, maybe ask to speak with him? Would she even be well received? She had left without so much as a word, deserted. That couldn't be let go lightly, or maybe it could? She had enjoyed some leeway with her reputation and position within the small army. What happened when she found Toshi-san to be an unreasonable person as she was likely to find? If any account of him was true and if he had let things get this bad then he clearly wasn't anything like she remembered him to be. Kou's face changed from contented to troubled and soon thereafter to downright grumpy looking. All of this analyzing and planning scenarios, it had been a very long time since Kou had dealt with anything so troublesome, most of the problems she encountered were not solved with the brain but rather her sword. But even she couldn't possibly take on an entire army by herself. Maybe if she could gain an audience with Toshi she could kill him then and there. But who's to say someone else wouldn't just take his place? This particular small army wasn't just made up of humans either, there were yokai to deal with, and a few other hanyo like her. Was she really considering killing this man upon meeting him so casually? What was wrong with her?

"Kou-san, would you like any more?" Kaede, the smiling but prickly daughter of the teahouse's owner and one of the serving girls seemed to sneak up on Kou, prompting her out of her grouchy looking focused contemplation. "Though, one would think that you're a lush, drinking so much while it's still light out." How did such a pretty smile speak such cutting words?!

Kou laughed ashamedly and rubbed the back of her head, "Well you know! Might as well not deny it, I promise I probably won't get drunk though, you'd be surprised how much a practiced veteran like me can pack away." Kou bragged.

"Should you be bragging about that Kou-san? How shameless." Kaede quipped back without mercy or hesitation, prompting another chuckle from Kou.

Kaede collected Kou's empty flask and moved on to another table further up the room, occupied by people Kaede hadn't noticed before, probably because she wasn't paying attention to her surroundings in the least bit. It was a group of men, one of which had distinctive white hair. They were pretty loud, Kou leaned back, folding her hands on her stomach, observing them lazily. Could the white haired one be who she thought? Well, how many people walked around with white hair; were he a yokai that hair would be black in their human form. A hanyo only had one form, sometimes unfortunately, and could not hide any traits inherited from their yokai heritage. Their parents could protect them as a kid, but eventually a hanyo would have to deal with society as a whole, and deal with being shunned. They either had to make their own lonely way in life or find some place to accept them, the yakuza under Goda Daizo accepted hanyo without qualm. Kou remembered a hanyo with white hair within the group, he, like Kou, had a chip on his shoulder as well. Unsurprising behavior for hanyo in general, she remembered that he hadn't had the benefit of people to raise him like she did, he'd been utterly alone until he was found. He was too young to fight, they had made him do chores instead. Looks like he had grown up, and was a money collector.

Kaede was a smart girl with a strong spine, but someone in her family was addicted to that poison, Kou guessed it must be the father, since he was all but absent the entire day and Kou had derived from speaking to Kaede that there was no living mother. Kaede was probably struggling to keep up both taxes to the yakuza for "protection" and payments for her father's steady supply of drug. Entrapping the downtrodden and then bullying them for money, was this really the nobility of the yakuza now? The organization had utterly fallen into greed. Kou was gripping her sword by the sheath now and leant forward subconsciously, listening intently. Chore boy had his hand on Kaede's ass now, Kou had the strong urge to cut that hand off.

Kou let out a puff of air from her nose, cutting off the hands of Toshi's people wouldn't be wise, she would keep it sheathed if it came to that. She approached with her cup and fixed a smile on her face, "Momoshi-kun is that you?!" Kou gave him a jab in the back with the hilt of her katana before plopping down next to him, this jab hurt apparently, which was enough for Kaede to get out of his grip and make her departure. "Don't hurry back Kaede-chan we've got catching up to do!" Kou called after her, waving.

"Who in the living hell of motherfuck are you?" Momoshi spat, the table was momentarily stunned at the display of intrusive gall Kou exhibited, but they soon moved their hands to their katana.

"Aaaaaah you probably don't recognize me right? You knew me back when I was bald, you know, monk-like. You were still doing chores by the time I left." Kou helped herself to the table's sake while Momoshi stared are her with a bemused look on his face, the cogs in his head slowly clicking into place.

"Noooooo, it couldn't be you?! If you're him..." Kou held up her katana while she sipped, the same one everyone back then was issued, though she could see from everyone else's that since then different forgers had been employed, they even changed the sheath colours, which was a shame because Kou quite liked the classical sea green Goda had chosen.

"Bullshit, I don't believe it, they said he kept monk's beads on him, and why would you grow your hair out? If it was to hide why come back? You're a deserter you know, old man Goda rest his soul he let you go, but our new master? He'd have you hunted down and made an example of. Momoshi spoke as though he were important, it made Kou highly amused. She had his intrigue though, that much was clear, it had put the three others at the table at ease.

"Good thing I left while Goda-dono was still in charge then. And I never shaved my head because I was a monk. That was just a name you all gave me." Kou fished out her beads from inside her collar, pulling them out enough to be seen before tucking them back in carefully. "By the way, Momoshi-kun wet his tatami in the middle of the night until he was at least eleven." Kous shared with the group, earning smiles and sly looks over at Momoshi.

"Oi! Ok ok I believe you no need to make me look bad by spinning tales. You're Kou the bloody monk after all." Momoshi saved face.

"Wasn't it bloodthirsty monk?" One of the other men quipped.

"Nah it's the blood red monk." Another corrected.

"It's protector of Kaede-chan now actually." Kou said suddenly, voice firm and serious. She twirled her cup softly on the table. "I couldn't help but notice you were bothering her, really scummy behavior if you ask me. Not at all how men should act. Stealing money from hard working honest people. Used to be we took from the rich, never the poor."

The atmosphere became tense once more, "Look, Kou-san, I have a great deal of respect for you, and would gladly share my table with you, but understand, things are different now, it might not be pretty but it's just how we do things. And not only me, we have a whole operation we each do our part in running."

It's just how we do things? How was that even an answer? "I don't much care how you do things now Momoshi-kun, you'll leave Kaede-chan and her father alone from now on. Understood?" Kou stated, an absurdly simple command for a more complicated situation she knew, but she had to start somewhere.

Momoshi gave an uncomfortable laugh, the tension in the room built steadily, it was suddenly quiet in the teahouse. Momoshi reached for his katana.

He didn't even get to touch it before a sake cup smashed in his face. Kou elbowed the man to her right in the nose, breaking it. She had two more, and they were already drawing their swords. Kou stood, flipping the table on them as she did, Momoshi had recovered, but was finished off by a sharp jab to the skull with the butt of her her sheath. She turned and stopped the man with the broken nose from drawing his katana, forcing his arm back to re-sheath it and nicking his thumb in the procress, he got a kick to the groin to floor him while she made quick work of the other two who had recovered from having a table flipped on top of them. In the end she left all four of them unconscious.

Her eyes darted between the four of them, tense and clearly disappointed, fists clenched, heart beating fast. It was so quick, too quick, she had to calm down now. She shook her hands out and picked up the broken bottle of sake, "What a waste..." She let it fall with an annoyed look on her face, fastening her katana in her belt. She looked up at the teahouse, empty now, probably for the best. All except for one man? Was that? No.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kou-san Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
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#, as written by Taunbon


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Quiet. Yes, that was Edo. For a village of its size, one would expect a certain level of sound, the normal bustle of activity as people went about their day, the slight buzz of conversation behind thin walls, not loud enough to be made out, but just audible enough for the noise to drift into the streets. The abnormal silence was almost palpable, no doubt brought upon by the villages ‘protectors’, the Yakuza. Of course, it was not completely silent; such a thing was beyond the scope of human ability as there was always the soft scuffling of feet as people moved about, shoulders hunched in the desperate hope to avoid attention, children being shushed and ushered inside to the relative safety of their small homes, and the soft murmuring wafting from the dark corners from the alleys and homes. The village reminded him of some he had been through on his journeys, those preyed upon by bandits or over-indulgent lords. If the Yakuza was not present, Matsuo would almost feel comfortable. Such a village would, normally, hold numerous business opportunities for one such as him, but he had no real desire to be tangled up in the Yakuza, the only thing worse than the spoiled brat was the hypocritical idealist.

Matsuo tilted back his worn conical hat, dark bangs slipping down to hang above his grey eye as it roamed the street and the few people walking along it. If things had turned out differently, he would have been more apprehensive upon entering the small community, but his quarry had perished on the way to Edo. Matsuo’s jaw clenched in annoyance at the memory, his teeth biting into the soft, worn wood tucked between them as the pipe produced a soft clack. A common horse thief, but a foolish one having stolen a favored stud, the boy had not made it far before his poor horsemanship had caused the beast’s hoofs to misjudge the depth of the snow, maiming the horse and flinging him from its back. Matsuo had tracked them to the spot a few days later, the horse was still clinging on to its pained existence while the boy had passed away the night before, huddled for warmth in a small outcropping. He wasn’t sure if infection from his broken arm or the cold had gotten him first, didn't truly matter. The job had been for the return of the horse thief and the stud, alive. It hadn’t taken an expert tracker to figure out where the boy was going, Edo, most likely to sell the horse, and perhaps his services using the horse as a sponsor, to the Yakuza. The job was a failure, he wouldn’t be paid for a dead horse thief, and the stable master would have put down the stud the second he saw him. Matsuo had shown mercy and ended the horse’s pain rather than force it to limp the three day journey just to be put down there. With no reason to return, Matsuo finished the journey the boy had started, to Edo.

Leaning his head up, Matsuo took in the blue sky. The air still cold and crisp enough to make him prefer short, shallower breathes, but with the changing of the seasons and the warming sun, it looked like the afternoon would border on pleasant, well, it would have if it affected the citizens of Edo as well. It was odd to think that, with the snow melting away, if the boy had stolen the horse just a few days later, he would likely have made it and lived, more to the point; Matsuo would still have a paying job even if achieving it would have become a tad bit more difficult. His sharp grey eyes fell to the right arm of his kimono, to the long tear that slid from the shoulder to the hem, his teeth gnawing on the shaft of the pipe hanging from his lips in annoyance. It had snagged and torn when he fished out the boy’s body, this job had cost him money. He would have to mend it with what fabrics he had on hand as he had no desire to pay the, likely, exuberant fees of Edo as traders sought extra coin to feed their families and satisfy the demands of their protectors.

Matsuo was hardly going to mend the cloth in the middle of the village, on the side of the street. He had no desire to remove his haori and suffer the crisp air worming its way in, not when warmer alternatives existed such as… a teahouse. His eye ran over it once, it was small, but that was to be expected, it was simply a village, after all, but it looked maintained enough. Striding towards the door, Matsuo halted at the sounds of combat. Grunts of pain and exertion, of a table slamming against a wood floor telling anyone nearby exactly what was going on within its walls. If he wasn’t near the door, he had no doubt some of the ‘neighbors’ would have flocked nearby to peak at what was going on, but one look at his large bulk and scarred face was enough to dissuade even the bravest of Edo citizens from venturing too close to the teahouse, and in turn, to him.

Pushing his conical hat off to dangle by its thin thread across his thick throat, Matsuo pushed the door curtain aside and stepped into the teahouse. Well, no, he had to bend down and then step in as his height and yari made walking through doors a challenge unless one angled their bodies. Righting himself up, he took in the scene of the teahouse, his grey eye darting around the room: four unconscious men, the knocked over table he had heard outside, liquid staining the floor and some of the robes of the sleeping men and the thin man holding the rest of the jar, that no doubt once held the fallen liquid, sake, if he were to hazard a wager, in his hands before his eye slide up to his face, Kou. Matsuo’s teeth bit down like a vice on the pipe in his mouth, producing a small crack, but if it was from his teeth or the wood, he did not know.

His large hand reflexively went to his sash to wrap around the hilt of his Yoroidōshi, “Another one of your pauper jobs for the misery?” Matsuo bit off from around the pipe.

This guy again, "Nah, I just didn't like their faces, I mean look at this one his nose is all fucked up." Kou bent down and picked up the unconscious man's head, his nose a bloody wreck, to show Matsuo what was clearly her fault anyway. "Why are you here anyway? Miss me?" Kou almost laughed at her own joke. Matsuo and Kou always ended up running across each other at the strangest of times, though the times could be counted on one hand. None the less each time was memorable and peculiar, as Matsuo was a peculiar person.

Matsuo didn’t miss that he, just so happened to pick the man whose nose had broken very recently if the blood running down his unconscious face was any indication, or that he had an issue with his ‘fucked up nose’ and said so to him, a man whose nose no longer quite sat right thanks to numerous breakings and resetting, the scar running across the bride certainly didn’t help. Normally, such talk wouldn’t phase him, but coming from the scrawny Kou, it became something else entirely. His eyes narrowed at the thinly veiled, perceived insult, but he let it go with a roll of the... eye.

Miss him? If possible, his teeth clenched harder on the pipe, “I find I often miss many things,” Matsuo said from around the pipe, “Disease, poverty, sleet and you are fairly low on that list. In that order, if I think about it.”

Oh ho ho ho ho ho, he was saucey as ever, but not nearly as cute as Kaede-chan to warrant getting away with it. Kou shut her trap though, she didn't want to start yet another fight within the poor teahouse, causing Kaede more trouble than she already had. And maybe just maybe Kou was inclined to not respond too much to Matsuo's mouthiness. Her mouth formed a blank line as she stopped herself from speaking. This guy.

Matsuo waited for the inevitable retort… but it did not come. His eye narrowed at Kou, what was he up to? He never thought the scrawny do-gooder was incredibly devious, but he always had a mouth that was three sizes too big for his body. He had to be up to something. There was no other explanation for his sudden fondness for silence.

She knew it annoyed him, and she knew he didn't know why. Though it wasn't because of any deviousness he percieved.

Kou set the head down and straighted up, moving to clear the table out of the way, she had to get these guys outside. "Well are you just gonna stand there staring at me? There are much more pleasant things to stare at Matsu-kun." Kou picked up Momoshi and slung him over her back, an odd sight for someone of her lack of stature.

Matsuo wasn’t sure if he should be happy the mystery was solved, as it seemed the silence was Kou thinking of a retort, and, possibly or, working out how to clean up the mess he had made with his self-righteousness or annoyed that Kou had, indeed, found his oversized mouth again.

“I considered it,” Matsuo said, pulling the pipe from between his teeth before he ended up chomping straight through it, “But I was trying to name all the things that were more pleasant then you to stare at, and I am afraid I got lost in the sheer, staggering, amount there was. I could have been standing here for days if you had not stopped me.”

Matsuo's massive ass was blocking the doorway, as usual, god who gave birth to this oversized man? "Move move." Kou waved her hand at him, as though she were a parent shooing a child out of the way.

Stepping to the side, Matsuo made a motion towards the door with his free hand. He wasn’t as surprised as others would be at the sight of the scrawny man lifting the unconscious body, he knew from experience that Kou was stronger than he looked, although, that wasn’t a hard achievement.

Kou plopped Momoshi down on the frosty ground without much ceremony or concern to his well being, hanyo were tougher than humans anyway, and Kou never claimed to be the gentle sort despite her friendliness.

"You never did answer me by the way, why in the world are you here of all places." She passed him again in the doorway, having to crane her neck to look him in the single eye. The comments to Kou's appearance were rather usual and didn't phase her at all, it was more or less Matsuo's way of saying 'hello' so to speak. And much more pressingly his presence in this town would be... troublesome. Kou's intentions were to cause ruckus that Matsuo had been in before. Long ago. It'd be better if he wasn't here.

“When the reasoning behind my presence ever becomes your business, I will be sure to let you know,” Matsuo replied, having to heavily incline his head forward to meet his eyes. It was odd that he was so curious. He assumed the initial question had been meant as an offhand comment, was there a reason he wasn’t supposed to be here? If there wasn’t, it seemed all the more pertinent he remained.

Moving to a table tucked in the corner, he untied the string around his throat, letting his conical hat fall to the floor, his bag following suit before finally laying his spear down, but not before losing the draw strings around the cloth around the blade should he need to use it for whatever reason, although its use in the small teahouse would be dubious at best. He lowered, or tried to, himself to the ground, having to angle his legs oddly to get them under the low table.

She picked up another man, considering her next words carefully, if she sounded like she was teasing or goading him he'd definitly stay, out of sheer competitive nature damn him. Was there any way to phrase this without telling him outright what she was doing while not intriguing him at the same time? Her brows furrowed in worry. Ah, her extended silence would be seen as odd right about now shit she better say something.

Kou stopped at the doorway and turned slightly, not able to see Matsuo except out of peripheral vision, "The jobs around here will cause you more trouble than it's worth." She rubbed her fingers together and extended her arm, made slightly awkward because of the weight she was carrying. He'd better get the damn point anyway, if anything would deter this man it was money, more specifically the lack of it to be made. She shifted the man on her back around and carried him outside, plopping him on top of Momoshi with about as much grace as she plopped the former down.

Matsuo shrugged off his haori, bringing the large cloth around to sit in his lap as he dug in his kit for his mending supplies. It wouldn’t take long as this was far from his first time. His attention on the dirty, patched cloth in his lap, he didn’t get to see Kou fidgeting in his thoughts. The talk of work did draw his attention back up to him and away from the pitiful cloth, “I have no doubt that you are correct,” Matsuo said evenly, “But we don’t always have the luxury of choice.”

He had never planned on taking a job in Edo. The Yakuza made such a thing… touchy and that was putting it mildly. They would likely have issues with someone like him moving in on their ‘turf’, and while he did not fear having to smash aside a few, he did fear for mended clothing. That didn’t answer what Kou was here then. Unless the scrawny boy intended to join the Yakuza? But that seemed unlikely. He didn’t have it in him to do what they did. He was too kind. Perhaps he was passing through as Matsuo was?

Ha! Kou thought it was funny how Matsuo pretended like he was some sort of poor vagabond struggling to scrape by, that rat bastard only looked the part because he was stingy. In truth if it came down to it and one compared Kou and Matsuo side by side in terms of their synonymous jobs, Matsuo was considerably more notorious and successful. He had to be swimming in it at this point in life. Enough that he could actualy buy land and settle down probably. Though that wouldn't suit him at all, he was as restless as Kou herself, and unfortunately she was fully aware of why. Kou finished in silence, the unconscious men piled up one on top of the other outside, a rude and sore awakening they'd have.

Kaede came out with another bottle of sake once the bodies were cleared, she'd been watching the two odd sellswords from behind a wall.

"Ahhhh Kaede-chan, sorry about the mess." Kou plopped down. At. Matsuo's. Table. Which was actually her table, that he had so happened to choose to sit at. "Oi why are you so big Matsu-kun move." Kou bumped knees with him, trying to get comfortable again. He was even sitting in the same place she had before, she had to be outcast to the other side of the damn table. Honestly he really did go out of his way to be troublesome this guy.

“It is called eating,” Matsuo said, giving Kou’s scrawny body a once over, “You should consider trying it.”

His lips pursued into a line when Kou's knobby knee prodded into his considerably larger one under the table. Why did he want to sit with him? There was barely room under the table for him, much less Kou as well, and he had no intention of buying Kou a drink much less share his table with him.

"Kou-san..." Kaede seemed at a loss for words, but also weirded out by the characters in front of her, she couldn't tell if they were friends or not.

"Bastard I'm not rich like you, I can barely afford sake." Kou quipped back, annoyed.

The corner of Matsou’s lip lifted slightly, the barest hint of a smile, “It is called working,” he said copying the tone he just used moments ago, “You should consider trying it.”

"Why did you have to sit at my table geez, first you stalk me here and now you want to sit with me Matsu-KUN." Kou's use of Matsuo's first name with the additive of the suffix -kun never seemed to have the desired effect on Matsuo but Kou enjoyed the joke and kept it going. It also gave people the wrong impression, which served only to better tease him with.

“This is my table. I was here, you were not, so it is mine. I don’t feed paupers, so you may go and beg for work from whatever poor girl bats her eyes at you.” Matsuo said with a dismissive wave. While this could have been Kou’s table, he wasn’t sure, he refused to move now. It was a matter of…. Well, he wasn’t sure what, but it was simply a matter that he could not abide to lose in.

"I was here first wasn't I Kaede-chan?" Kou turned to the silently staring and dumbfounded Kaede, who regained herself quickly.

"Kou-san had use of the table before he caused an uncalled for ruckus in our honorable establishment indeed. However we have many tables..." Kaede said as diplomatically as she could.

Ouch, "Well there you have it Mastu-kun, but don't worry I don't mind sharing, or treating you to some of my sake because I'm just that nice of a person." Kou insisted, saving face from Kaede's acusations.

Matsuo turned his attention to the slip of a girl standing nearby with a jug, his dead white eye trained on her. He stared for a few moments, just long enough until he assumed she would become decidedly uncomfortable, “And he left the table taking his drink,” he motioned to the jug she held in her hands, “With him therefor, he vacated the table and no longer had claim to it. I claimed it, it is now mine.”

Kaede was indeed already quite uncomfortable, but she sure put on a brave face. "It's my father's actually ronin-san. Why don't you two work this out between yourselves... since you both seem to be grown-ups after all." Kaede turned and left towards the kitchen.

"No wait! The sakeeeee." Kou reached out after Kaede but didn't get up. Like hell she would be getting up. She was not moving, she already had to give up her seat she wasn't about to give up her table.

“They say sake stunts one’s growth,” Matsuo said easily, as if the girl hadn’t said his title, false as it was, with a hint of disdain, “I didn’t think it true until now. Perhaps you would grow larger with more food and less sake?”

"For the last time, everyone around you is not small, you're just huge." Kou whipped and around and patted the table in emphasis. "... I do eat geez what are you my mother? I just need to save enough for sake. Something you'd do well to enjoy rather than just walk around Nippon miserable all the time." Kou sneered smuggly, it was always her opinion that this man desperately needed sake, wasn't it tiring being so intense all the damn time?

As if to emphasize Matsuo's point however, Kou's stomach growled rather loudly, embarrassing Kou. "Whose side are you on." She pat her stomach.

Matsuo's hands had a certain rhythm of practiced ease as he mended the cloth on his lap, each pull and tug slowly closing the tear in the sleeve. The corner of his lips twitched at her reaction, lifting even higher when his stomach grumbled. He was well aware he was far larger than average, but it amused him to no end on how animated it made Kou, “Apparently, you don’t eat enough. Scrawny as you are. I fully expect that, one day, I shall walk along the road just in time to see a thin skeleton with a large mouth be swept up in the wind.”

Was he miserable? He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t happy, but was he miserable? His hands paused in their rhythmic motion. An odd thought and one he had no time for as he turned his attention back to mending the cloth, “I thank all the kami and spirits that listen that I am not your father.”

Kaede and three other women filed in, two of them moving to better clean up the area with spilled sake around it and the other with Kaede, carrying two generous bowls of steaming rice and cups. "Consider this on the house, however once your meal is complete it'd be best if you made yourself scarce. Thank you." Kaede bowed and left them abruptly.

Kou was a little stunned, she wasn't expecting free food, and she definitely wasn't expecting for it to be served in the... manner it was. What was this? Ah, it looked like Kaede wanted the both of them out of the teahouse. Well, Kou couldn't blame her in retrospect. Kou had made a mess and Matsuo would probably intimidate other customers, not that he didn't look almost cute mending his gi himself just now.

Matsuo eyed the rice before him critically, his mind turning it over in his head. It was far from the first time a shopkeeper had attempted to usher him out the door. He tended to drive out other customers even if he did not say anything and kept to himself and, more than a few times, he has overheard people talking about how his appearance had made them lose their appetite. Not that it was his problem, but this was far from unusual. That she was so forthcoming was surprising. He doubted she would have been such if Kou were not there, but in his experience, they tended to constantly pester him about ‘needing anything else?’ in an attempt to get him to leave of his own will.

But free food? He never trusted anything that was free. Nothing was free. Everyone wanted something, for this, it was her making an offer for him leaving. If he did not take it, he would be rejecting her request, she could not force him to leave even if she desired to. The mere idea that she could try and control his actions only made him bristle. He gently pushed the bowl aside towards Kou who had caused the disturbance.

"Well..." Kou didn't have time to thank Kaede nor did she really know what to say about it or Matsuo's decision to give her his portion. Was he going soft!? She decided not to question it but to ignore the exchange in favor of a more jovial comment. "You know if I didn't know any better Matsu-kun I'd think you were a housewife." Kou picked up her pair of chopsticks and pointed at his handywork with them, wasting no time in digging in. She really was hungry.

His hands continuing in their work, Matsuo paused, his face lifting as she called him a housewife. Him. He couldn’t imagine any man brave enough to wed a woman that looked like him. Was there any woman with such ill-fate as to be born with his physique? He rather hoped not, for her sake. Many women liked men his size, they loved the savagery and barbarity of it. But he could not imagine a man who would love that in a woman.

“It is a good thing you know better as, between the two of us, you would be the lazy housewife while, I, the dominate husband wishing he had chosen better,” he said mildly, his hand reaching out to bring back the rice he had pushed towards Kou earlier. He had not ‘given’ it to him to be kind, but he knew well enough that taking it back would be better than any insult or barbed word he could possibly say.

Kou watched in prickly despair as the bowl was retracted, cheeks full of rice she was chewing, eyes indignantly wide. Her chewing sped up so she could retort, how dare???

She swallowed painfully, not entirely done chewing, "First of all! You found me asleep two times tops. Second and most importantly, I refuse your offer of marriage Matsuo-kun I'm sorry. I just don't think things would work out between us." Kou grinned evilly while staring Matsuo down, well tried to, as she shoved more rice in her mouth. As if to say, ha ha, now you look like a homo. Not that Kou had anything against men who liked other men, but everyone else sure as hell seemed to, well, unless you were a samurai anyway. Then it took the special name shudo and you got poetry written about you. Those bastards could get away with anything meanwhile the rest of us...

Matsuo would have been lying to say he didn’t enjoy watching Kou swallow and chew as fast as he was able to in order to get the retort that was on the tip of his tongue out. Perhaps that was part of the reason Matsuo had no desire to eat in his presence?
Two times? Out of five? That wasn’t noteworthy? He mused as he enjoyed his rant on how he would be a very good housewife. His left eyebrow quirked up as he rejected his apparent offer to marriage, not that he was aware he had made one, with gusto.

“Just as well,” Matsuo said, setting the finished cloth aside, “A husband of my size? Far too big for a housewife of,” He glanced over him dismissively, “Your size.”

Lifting the bowl of rice and his chopsticks with his now free hand, he started to eat, but paused as the rice was inches from his lips. Did… Did he just say he was too ‘well-equipped’ to fit inside Kou?... He did. But it didn’t seem to be wrong, and that confused and irritated him more than anything. Deciding silence was best and using the rice to distract his incredibly befuddled thoughts, he ate.

"Matsuo if I am too small then all the women of Nippon are too small for you! WHY ARE YOU SO BIG." Kou burst out, covering her mouth and whipping around, well, the teahouse was empty so there was no one to disturb with her yelling. She whipped back around and glared at Matsuo, deciding her rice was much more interesting to look at. Wait. Didn't Matsuo just kind of imply? An understanding clicked in her head, oh, was Matsuo of that inclination? Oh my how embarassing she had better not tease him about that from now on. How hard his life must be. She silently assured him in her head that she'd keep his secret for him while she ate more calmly.

Matsuo stopped eating, not sure how to process what Kou just said, or rather, screamed at him. As if he was angry at him being too large to likely comfortably fit in him which was an entirely uncomfortable topic. Once again his mouth moved faster than his mind, “There are women out there willing to give it a go,” He said, his face not revealing his befuddled thoughts, “Perhaps you will understand when you start to eat more.”

His chopsticks went back down to the rice, this… conversation had taken a decidedly odd turn. A natural disaster that he could do nothing else but watch as it approached the coastline.

"Women huh..." Kami didn't Kou just decide she wouldn't tease him? She immediately regretted what she said as she chewed more deliberated, nearly done with her bowl. The atmosphere was growing more awkward by the second.

Matsuo saw a chance to make Kou understand that this would never… be whatever it was. “Yes, women,” he said sternly, “So do not bother waiting for that marriage proposal.”

"Whatever you say Matsuo-kun I agree." Kou looked to the side, so uncomfortable and refusing to make eye contact. The only way to save the situation was to just agree and nod.

That didn’t sound as comforting or reassuring as he had hoped, but the faster the matter was dropped, the quicker he could return to the, relatively, sane world.

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ren
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ImageKurosawa Ren
Noon
Yukimura Toshirō's Estate, Edo
Springish




Every single movement the Crow made was meticulous and practiced. It was learned. It was repeated until they flowed from his fingertips in impeccable strokes, as if magic could truly come from the tip of a quill. Kurosawa Ren was no painter. He did not recreate scenes from bygone days, nor did he address any such beauties he might have seen. Instead, the moulted feather pecked into the ink bottle and scrawled out secrets. Precious information that could be rightfully equated to pure, profitable gold. He sat cross-legged on pristine tatami mats, writing on an equally fabulous chabudai table. He paused in his scrawling and raked his fingernails across the wooden surface, mouth set into a hard line. Yukimura Toshirō's commandeered hovel reminded him too much of his own estate. So pure, and so seemingly virtuous, that it turned his stomach.

He continued scritch-scratching at the parchment paper: undisturbed. His only request had been absolute solitude. Having no one bother him while he wrote out his reports was imperative. Not for any conventional means, Ren could work very well with distractions, but he simply did not want to see anyone. In those moments, only the sound of the quill scrapping over parchment paper accompanied him. Forming curt letters, swirls that never strayed into frivolousness. Concise words, cleaving like a sword in the night. He did not mince words, and that was one reason why Yukimura had been so taken with his abilities, his connections. He did not ask questions. He did not speak out of turn. And he always delivered. Punctuality remained a high priority in his line of business, and besides, Yukimaru had never been a patient man.

A soft sigh puffed from between his lips as he finished writing the final word. He rubbed at his forehead, as if to ward away a creeping headache. The worst part would come next. He would conclude his business and return back to his estate, all in one piece. From what rumors he'd heard in the villages, leaving Yukimura's home was a victory in itself. At times, if he was lucky, he could simply pass off the letter to one of Yukimaru's assistants and have it all finished that way. Unfortunately, he liked being present when handling business. Never one for small talk or philosophical drabble, Ren often felt uncomfortable in whatever exchanges they had. He settled his ink back into its proper case, covered the ink bottle up and placed it in as well.

Any efforts to smooth the pinched expression from his face was met with abysmal annoyance. Yukimaru was often prone to bouts of angry paranoia. Fortunately, not directed towards him. But when one was in the line of business of discovering future betrayals, liars, and secrets, Ren could not afford to be too cautious. He was useful now, but everyone was disposable. A simple truth he'd learned as a child. At least he was appropriately attired. As always. Wearing his trademark black and red-accented kimono, parchment paper nestled safely in his sleeve. Of course, he wore no weapons here. He approached the sliding doors, and poised his hand across the handle. Voices coming from the hallway halted his movements, and it only took him a few moments to gather who, exactly, was speaking.

Itō and Nagamoto. A foolish girl and her hapless hound. Not so unlike the colorful koi fish swimming in their ponds, oblivious to what was happening around them. Tethered to a family she had no control of being born into, just like he was. Though her circumstances were far more dire. Eventually, he didn't doubt that Yukimura would tire of her presence. Either force her into some new type of torture that would smudge the innocence from her cheeks. Make her less than what she was: a purity circled by vultures. Perhaps, a worse fate. He wasn't sure what the kinder outcome would be. If he hadn't the better sense to feel guilty over her situation, he would have. Unfortunately for them both, Ren had little to say in the matter. And the hound who shadowed her steps? A pawn shuffling across the boards, just as he was. He stood in front of the doors, holding his breath lest he draw any attention to himself.

So, they were headed to the village on some sort of errand. Ren's fingers only closed around the handle when he heard the retreating footsteps plodding in the opposite direction. Confident that they had gone far enough to avoid bumping into him, he opened the door and took a few tentative steps into the hallway. Even though he had a reason to be here, he didn't want to explain himself. Nagamoto understood what his presence meant, but he doubted that Itō did. He was not a simple acquaintance visiting from another village. He did not regularly have tea with her father, either. Little lies kept him above the surface and away from those doe eyes of hers. What would he do if she confronted him about all the awful things he frequently did? It would be an awkward situation, at best. One he'd rather avoid entirely.

He walked down the hallway. Purposeful in his steps, already slipping the letter from in his sleeve. Ren paused in front of the sliding doors, and slowly hunkered down until he was on his knees, reaching up to draw one of the doors open. Just enough to reveal whom was announcing his presence. His bow was a low, practiced movement. One that basked and respected. Eyes down—because he was only worth his weight in competence, disposable. The same shrilling sickness twisted in his stomach. Disposable. Kurosawa Ren? Hardly.

“I've some information for you, Oyabun.”

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Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ren
1 sightings Kurosawa Ren played by Yonbibuns
"I'd like to ask you one question. Do I have your attention?"

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Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
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Kou-san

"Is anyone else hungry or is that just me?"

Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
Hisashi Matsuo

"A long journey with people I can barely tolerate against a foe that is likely to leave most, if not all, of our charming little band dead... I am not getting paid enough."

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Character Portrait: Kou-san
Kou-san

"Is anyone else hungry or is that just me?"

Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
Hisashi Matsuo

"A long journey with people I can barely tolerate against a foe that is likely to leave most, if not all, of our charming little band dead... I am not getting paid enough."

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Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo
Hisashi Matsuo

"A long journey with people I can barely tolerate against a foe that is likely to leave most, if not all, of our charming little band dead... I am not getting paid enough."

Character Portrait: Kou-san
Kou-san

"Is anyone else hungry or is that just me?"


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