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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."

0 · 236 views · located in Edo Japan

a character in “The Nascent Shinsengumi”, as played by Taunbon

Description



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"Yes, I am sure your family was incredibly important, and, I have no doubt, you can list every pathetic member of your wretched lineage, and if I wasn't so hungry, I could even pretend to be impressed or care, so I am going to go over there and eat, you can stand here and pretend that I oohed and awed at your impressive blood line and was suitably impressed and chastened at the same time. Oh, and don't worry about buying me dinner, I will add it to your bill."


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Name: Hisashi Matsuo
Nickname: Most of his 'nicknames', if one can call them that, revolve around his job or, at times, lack there of such as 'Man Hunter', 'Mercenary', 'Vagrant', 'Ronin' (which he isn't, but people tend to pay more if they think he used to belong to the warrior caste and who is he to deny them that right?) and other... less than pleasant names.
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Species: Human

Height: 5'11
Weight: 181 lbs
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Sterling Gray

Physical Description: Brutish, hard and rugged. There are, perhaps, no better words in which to better describe Matsuo. He is not an elegant, refined noble who has grown fat and soft in his position or one of those 'willowy tough' member of the warrior caste, no, Matsuo has a laborer's body. His lightly haired chest is broad with thick corded muscles that flex and bend with every movement, his skin is darkened from the sun, his hands are deeply calloused and his grip is stone crushing. His arms are large and powerful and his legs are akin to tree trunks, coupled with his large size, especially for his time and location, and Matsuo has a very intimidating appearance. He has often been referred to as a 'brute' by his employers or those facing down his spear, and they are right, but it is hardly his fault that others are soft or, as he often finds amusing, claiming to be 'lanky but strong', but if they had only faced other 'lanky but strong' brats then he can hardly be faulted when they run into people who have truly labored and have true bodily strength.

Besides his large, well, bulk, the first thing people tend to notice is the array of scars littering his body, especially, those on his face. He has two large scars that span his forehead and bridge of his nose that are connected by one that runs down his right eye. While he still has a right eye, it is hard for people to look at as his eye has turned white in its blindness. He makes no effort to hide his eye, and some of his past employers have attempted to purchase eye patches or silk clothe for him to cover his eye with, as his eye defines who he is. It is his constant reminder of his failure, a warning to others and it forces the weak-stomached to leave him in peace. It tends to be rather useful in negotiating payment as most assume he got it in battle and why would he ever correct as most are willing to pay more for a man who can take such wounds and still cling, almost pitifully so, to life? His face, however, is not the only thing that is scarred. His arms and legs are littered with small scars almost as if he had stuck his limbs into a giant blender. On his chest, is a large X that has been carved in, the scars are deep and, at the center of the X is a large brand, 囚, marking him to all as a prisoner. His back is, perhaps, the worst of all as numerous lash marks mar its surface in layers as if his skin had started to heal only to be laid open once again by a new whip.

In another life, Matsuo could have passed as a 'ruggedly handsome', but not in this life. While his eye is a remarkable sterling gray, like the cloudy sky on a rainy day, and his jaw is proud and strong, they are undercut by his long nose that is slightly off center from having been broken and reset more times then he cares to remember, thin lips that are often pursed together in a grimace or frown hiding his clean, white teeth that give him a hard, unforgiving visage. His long black hair is, often, pulled back into a long ponytail, but much to his frustration, his bangs always seem to slip out to hang above his eyes, obscuring his thick arching eyebrows. While his hair is a lovely shade of black, almost onyx, it tends to be jaggedly cut, as he tends to do that with his dagger when it starts to irk him, and unkempt. As he often doesn't have the time, or inclination, he will have a thin, shadow of stubble stretching across his jaw. Matsuo has a earthy scent that seems to follow him around, some of likened it to burning hickory which is a very pleasant smell which he has always found amusing.

His kimonos tend to be in bad shape as he sees no point in buying new kimonos simply because his are getting worn, well, worn is a nice way to say it as 'patched' or 'mismatched' could be better as he will often stich and sow other fabrics into it, especially, those he has looted or 'acquired' elsewhere to make the kimono last longer. He does tend to favor more earthy tones such as browns, dark greens and grays. Due to having to travel often, in the hot sun more often then not, Matsuo is very fond of his conical hat that he made himself a long, long time ago, and he is rather protective and, almost, sentimental about it. While he doesn't always have it on him, he does enjoy using a pipe, while he doesn't smoke as he doesn't enjoy the taste or the feeling in his lungs, he has a fondness for 'gnawing' on the end, enjoying how it feels on his teeth. When he doesn't want to pull it out of his pack, he will pluck a piece of straw or grass to gnaw on when walking. Brutish, hard and rugged... that is Matsuo. Even if he were to try and keep up with his appearance, it would do little to alleviate that, and more importantly, he has no desire to try.



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Amorous View: Love is not something Matsuo allows himself to dwell on, and he has plenty of excuses to ward off such thoughts. The largest reason is that love is a sickness. A weakness of the soul. If he were to allow himself to fall in love with someone, he would be opening up vulnerabilities that could be easily exploited. He knows what it is like to live with love, to have a family, to be happy, and he knows what it is like to have that torn away. He can't do that again, can't love then have it torn away. He wouldn't survive it, not again. The other reason is what would he even have to offer a woman? He doesn't have a home. Doesn't have steady employment. He has nothing. Nor is he disillusioned enough to believe he has good looks, not with his blind eye, or a winning personality. He could offer a woman nothing but dust and blood, and even if he met someone foolish enough to want that, he could never force someone he loved to endure that. In the back of his mind, he knows this isn't as large a problem as he likes to believe. He has a tidy sum saved up, he could buy a small house, perhaps take up farming and set down his blade, or that, with his skill set, he could become a retainer of some spoiled lord, but he would prefer to live in his world of can'ts. It is safer.

Capability
Martial Prowess Matsuo is an experienced warrior and so a very formidable fighter in his own right. While he lacks the 'elegance' and refined fighting style of those of warrior birth, he makes up for it in efficiency and brutality. Despite what some poets like to think, a battle is a brutal and bloody thing, there is no honor there is merely the dead and those that survived, and he intends to be the one that survives, to this end, Matsuo has no qualms in resorting to underhanded tactics to win a fight, deception, a strong kick to the fork of a man's legs or even throwing something to obscure their vision, however he must do it, he will win, no matter the cost.

Matsuo's preferred weaponry is a nice, thick yoroidōshi for close quarters which he keeps in his sash, and he is a superb knife fighter and his Yari spear as it is far cheaper than a Katana or other blade, is a sturdy weapon and is incredibly effective at killing. While he is a passable swordsmen, something his father always prided his family on, Matsuo is far too cheap to ever consider trying to obtain a Katana as such a blade cost a small fortune, and more than that, there are cheaper, just as effective, weaponry readily available. He does have a ono meant for acquiring firewood, but it works as a weapon in a pinch, and he is very good at throwing it.

Hunter As a member of the lower class (Although, he will often claim to be a Ronin so others will pay more), and a wandering sellsword, he doesn't always have the luxury of purchasing food, as such, Matsuo is a very skilled hunter out of necessity. Due to the loss of his right eye, and a good sense of his depth perception, Matsuo has to rely on his spear and traps to bring down game. Having spent a good portion of his life in a small mountain community, he feels at home in the deep forest of Nippon and is a very gifted field dresser, often, trying to save the coat to earn a few coins in the next town. Thanks to having to constantly look for tracks and signs to set down traps, Matsuo is an experienced tracker able to chase down an animal, or man, and how to conceal the evidence of his goings.

Investigation/Interrogation Besides acting as hired muscle, bounty hunting tends to be a very lucrative occupation. People trying to skip out on dept, fathers who want their daughters returned or a family enemy removed, or the local lord trying to chase a fleeing criminal, all present business opportunities if someone has the skill to capitalize on it. With his sharp eye and tracking skills, Matsuo is very skilled at finding small details and signs to where the mark has gone or why they fled in the first place, it lets him read into their character and anticipate their actions, and Matsuo is a hard man to lie to. He has no qualms doing what is necessary to get information, be it with honey or a very large stick, he will get the answers he needs. He has considerable skill in this area as Matsuo has built up a very strong reputation as a Man Hunter having yet to fail to return with his mark, they may not always be alive, but he always finds them.

Mercantile Few appreciate wealth more then those that don't have it. Matsuo knows what it is like to go without and so is extremely light with his purse, downright cutthroat really. He will negotiate and haggle until the sun goes down just to save, or earn, a few more coins and, to him, it will have been a valuable use of his time. To earn extra coin, Matsuo tends to horde small items he finds or loots from the dead as, he is sure, he will find someone, eventually, who will want it and, as they say, it is better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it. He is a very good judge of value, able to hazard a fairly accurate guess of how much something is really worth and he has no time for frauds or cheats and will go out of his way to make sure everyone around knows it.

Survivalist As a wandering sellsword, Matsuo has always fended for himself, and his origins from a small mountain village help him considerably in this regard. He knows far more about living off the land and taking care of himself then most other warriors do. Having grown up among mountains and forest, and often being injured, Matsuo has picked up a decent amount of knowledge of the local fauna and herbs. He knows which roots to chew to ease pain, which leaves to grind up into paste to staunch bleeding and prevent infection as well as what fungus and plants are toxic. While he is not, by any means, a master nor can he create a complex poultice, he knows enough to act almost as a 'field surgeon'.

This knowledge of plants helps greatly in his hunting and forging efforts as well as aiding him in making food dishes when in the wilds. He is not an accomplished cook, but he does know how, and where, to find local herbs and grasses that can improve the flavor of rations and basic dishes, as well as, how to dry out and preserve meat and other foods he scrounges up to let him draw out his food supplies (and so not have to pay for more). As someone how hates to leave things behind which can, potentially, be used or sold, Matsuo has a knack for scavenging. He always seems to know where to look for goods, which pockets to search and what items can be of marginal use, and it also helps him maintain his equipment as he can, and has, 'repaired' his own gear with the scavenged and gathered bits and pieces of other people's equipment.

Natural Aptitude
Eagle Eye While Matsuo only has one eye left, his remaining eye is extremely acute. While the lack of two does cause him to suffer in the depth perception department, his left eye picks up small details and movements often unseen by the rest of the world. A rustle of a branch, a twitch of the lip, quick fingers; he sees them all. While he doesn't always know what to make of what he has seen, nor does he always correctly interpret what his eye takes in, Matsuo takes immense pride in his sharp eye.

Hunter's Intuition A man in his occupation has to have good instincts if he wants to survive and that is exactly what Matsuo has. The first impression, to Matsuo, will decide everything from how he treats the person, how willing he is to work for them and if he should be sleeping with a knife under his mat (which he does anyways, but the point remains). While it is far from perfect, and he has been wrong before, it tends to be correct, and his judgement of their intentions and character, more often than not, is spot on. This intuition has saved his life before by acting akin to a '6th' sense, and this sense has helped him avoid an ambush or assassination attempt more than once as the hairs on the back of his neck rise or the back of his hand itches to alert him of the danger. While, many would claim it is likely just his paranoia, and it is, indeed, a strong part of it, Matsuo knows better then to not trust his instincts.


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Sardonic Pragmatic Independent Reliable
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Disposition:

Matsuo is an... acquired taste. The first impressions he leaves on people tend to be rather poor thanks to his quick, and very sharp, tongue. He has no problem with letting his, often dour, humor out or making a mockery of whoever happens to be closest to him giving little thought to things like gender, age or station. As he often muses, after he has crossed some line he didn't know was there, that, perhaps, he should practice a bit of diplomacy, but he has yet to make the effort. This dry, blunt sarcasm makes him especially disliked by nobility or those of a upper class, and he has had to flee a town or city to avoid such men in the past, but when people are willing to pay his fees, they tend to need him more then they can afford to kill him because he hurt their feelings, or, the clever ones, wait until he has done what they needed then attempt to kill him or withhold his payment. It is fair to say his blunt, sardonic. abrasive nature has earned him very few friends and that is exactly how he likes it. When he was younger, he would use sharp and biting comments to hurt the feelings of others to force them to keep their distance, when people are burned by fire, after all, they rarely reach for it again. Better he give them a small amount of pain and embarrassment now then one of them utterly crush and betray each other down the line, and as he got older, it became automatic. He cannot seem to control it anymore, and much of the time, he doesn't realize what he said until after the words have left his mouth making any efforts to control it doomed from the start. While, at the moment, he would have no desire to control his scathing tongue, he isn't sure he would even be able to as it has become ingrained into his very being.

While forcing isolation on oneself can be seen as a lonely existence, which it is, it is also, from Matsuo's perspective, a very pragmatic decision. If he doesn't trust anyone, keeps his guard up and always expects a betrayal or double cross then he can be prepared for it as nothing is worse than being taken by surprise by the people that one trusts or claims to love. When someone makes themselves open, they make themselves vulnerable. The world is a dark, bitter place underneath all the false platitudes and smiles. The only thing a man can trust is the material. Gold, silver, jewels... these things cannot betray a man, a man may become foolish or consumed by their acquisition, but at least, that is a betrayal of the self. Some people find value in their lives by family, Matsuo validates his purpose through his work and payment, to this end, he is loath to give up even a single coin because, in a small way, it means he is becoming less then he was. Less important, less valuable, less... human. It is an odd thing, to place one's self-worth on wealth, especially, when he doesn't, truly, wish to gather a large fortune. If he were ever to do so, it would mean he would no longer have a purpose anymore. An odd, delicate balance. He needs to gather coins to feel like his life has meaning, he loathes to give any away as it feels like he is losing that, but if he were ever to truly succeed in his endeavors he would be left with nothing. Pursuing and hording something that, deep down, he is terrified to obtain.

His sardonic attitude and his pragmatic distrust of others acts like a self-imposed exile. Even in a crowd, Matsuo is alone and that is the way he likes it. He hates relying on others and will, often, refuse to do it even if it puts him in a brutal, hopeless situation because if he has to rely on others it means that, in a way, he was too weak to stand on his own and that is not something he can allow. This intense inability to display his own weakness does not spread to others. While he may mock someone else for a perceived vulnerability, he does not dislike it in them nor does it bother him, it is only his own weakness that he despises. To keep himself from relying on others, to build trust in them; he keeps himself emotionally detached from others. It is a skill he has mastered, he can drink with someone, eat with someone, mock them or laugh with them, but there will always be a barrier, a distance between them, and this barrier, this distance, is Matsuo's safety net. Keeps him strong, secure and alone. This forced separation has made him emotionally stunned, however, as should something ever breech that barrier; he wouldn't know how to handle it. His emotions have been chained, pushed to the back of his mind for so long, that he wouldn't be able to properly handle them should they ever get out.

Despite his abrasive and detached tendencies, Matsuo is a reliable man. His word is his bond, and once given, he will do as he has sworn to do. In his line of work, reputation is everything. The second someone loses it, they are done. A reputation takes a lifetime to build but only a moment to destroy. If word were to ever get around that he went back on his word, his contract, he would never be able to recover his reputation from such a deathblow. He would have to scrape along the bottom, taking work from whatever scum offered it. There have been times when his word has gotten him into jobs he did not want, often, when offering protection or acting as a bodyguard, something he now loathes to do. In such cases, he will stick to the exact wording of his contract and will utterly refuse to lift a single finger more hoping to irk them enough to cancel, but no matter the situation, he will never directly go against it. He has often done things he regrets, things he would rather forget, but he does it because that is his job. He bears the burden of his actions as they are his burden alone.



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Reminiscence:

~Childhood~

Matsuo was born in a small northern village, Shigata, tucked away in the mountains. There was barely a hundred people in the village, and their main source of income was in timber and furs as the land was unsuitable to keep a family going through farming. His grandfather was the village elder, their leader, and it was a position his father would take when he was old enough, and if things had turned out differently, it would have been a position Matsuo would have occupied. The only thing truly remarkable about the village was how utterly unremarkable it was. Besides keeping an eye on the village, taking in orphans, the village elder was in charge of the villages militia, while the village was too remote to be a target for brigands, it didn't stop the local lord from mustering up the village men when war was being waged or a small skirmish was being fought. The idea to bring the men together to train as a unit was thought up a few generations ago, through training and sticking together, more men could come back to their families. While they weren't as well equipped as true Ashigaru of more populace or powerful lords, their training was quite advanced for villagers.

As a whole, his childhood was pleasant and entirely uneventful. Their provincial liege, Lord Kagami, never took much interest in their small village on the border of his lands which, as any normal man, or woman, will say, the less a noble looks in your direction, the better. Most of Matsuo's childhood was filled with games with the other boys, and girls, of the village, going hunting with his father, helping his mother and little sister around the house and, when he was older, taking part in the village training, learning how to wield Yari and Yumi. But as Matsuo would later learn, the world delights in kicking someone in the teeth.

~Adolescence~

It wasn't long before his grandfather passed away and his father rose to the position of Village Elder. With the added responsibilities, Matsuo had to start taking over more and more of his father's old responsibilities especially in hunting and ensuring ample food was always at hand. At fourteen, he entered his first battle, nothing more then a Yari wielder in a small border skirmish, and he did terribly. While he had not fled from the battlefield, Matsuo had clambered up in fear at the blood and chaos of battle. Luck was on their side and they were able to route the enemy fairly quickly, but the young 'warrior' had to endure the long walk home under the shame filled eyes of the other soldiers. His father tried to console him, telling him how fear effected them all, and he was young and shouldn't be too hard on himself, but the sympathy only pushed Matsuo's spirits further down as his father should never have had to console him. His father should have been glowing with pride, not watching the looks the others threw at his unworthy son. Matsuo swore to himself that he would never again be paralyzed and controlled by his fear, next time, he would make his father proud. Of course, in the next skirmish a few months later, Matsuo did quite the opposite of what he should have done. Instead of being paralyzed, he was brazen, dangerously so, and his antics and rash glory seeking had nearly gotten them killed. Once more, he had to endure the shame filled looks and mutterings of how silly a boy he was, playing at war. This time, his father did not console him and, instead, pulled him aside by his ear and laid into him about his foolhardy nature and how he had endangered not only his own life, but the lives of every man around them. It was good to be brave, but he was to never be foolish. A brave fool doesn't get a larger grave then the coward. Being young, and sulking over a bruised ego, Matsuo threw a fit, he could never seem to do it correctly. But, despite his tantrum, he did learn, and in the following skirmish, he fought side-by-side with his comrades and, for once, walked home with his chin held high and glare free.

As a young, proud boy, he had his share of infatuations such as the daughter of the pig farmer, the mature widow who lived next to them who had a tendency to leave her window unblocked when she was changing, and whatever other girl happened to capture his over imaginative mind at the time. His 'love' life was little more then a few stolen kisses, clumsy caresses and more then a few slaps. At sixteen, Matsuo saw his first true battle. Their lord had gathered every able bodied man he could in order to face one of their neighbors, a dispute over a local stone quarry and who it belonged to. Their forces met on a rainy fall day, the gray clouds casting a gloomy atmosphere as, to Matsuo's astonishment, thousands of men had mustered on the field. He had never seen so many people gathered in one place, and while he knew that much larger towns and cities then his humble village existed, it was another thing, entirely, to see so many... and it was far worse when those thousands of men started to kill each other. The blood, fear, human feces and screams were far beyond his imagination or nightmares. The sight of hundreds of arrows descending upon him, the panicked pattering of his body to remind himself that he hadn't been hit even as men around him fell to the ground impaled and screaming, and it was an arrow that brought upon the great change in Matsuo's life. A single arrow that brought his life crumbling down around him, an arrow that had pierced Lord Kagami's throat. With their Lord down, their forces pulled back and quit the field. Lord Kagami, despite the apothecaries best efforts, died shortly after hitting the ground and, although Matsuo did not know it yet, Lord Kagami's last breath was the only harbinger of the reckoning that was coming.

The new Lord Kagami was a deviant. He enjoyed using his position and power to 'convince' young girls to please him. When his father was alive, this was curbed, but as the new lord with all the power at his disposal, even after their recent defeat and the loss of the quarry, he was free to engage in his long repressed desires. News of his... desires even reached their small, isolated village, but no one truly gave it much thought. Their village was small, isolated and unimportant, hardly worth a second look or, gods forbid, a visit. For almost an entire year, they were able to escape notice, but the fates were conspiring against them as the young lord had decided to take a 'tour' of his lands to 'examine' his subjects. When his entourage approached their village, Matsuo's mother, and many other mothers, went out of their way to hide their daughter's looks, a small amount of dirt here, a snip of hair there, covered in a dirty, unflattering, kimono all in the vain hopes of escaping the lord's notice.

The young Lord Kagami had the men, women, and children of the village lined up, so he could examine them like horses. He would, occasionally, stop to examine a woman or girl, turn their heads, brush his hands against their curves, measuring them in his mind, before his eyes settled on Matsuo's sister, Akiko. No amount of dirt could hide her startling steel grey eyes or the luxurious dark hair that seemed to shine even under the coat of dirt. In a whirlwind of despair, the young Lord offered her a 'respected position' in his hold and hinted at what would happen should she refuse, how easily it would be to cut their village off from the rest of the world, how easily it would be to remove their tiny dot from the local maps... how terrible it would be if the village was to be attacked by 'bandits', their homes burned, their families slaughtered all because their devoted lord couldn't spare the troops to patrol the mountain passes. Akiko, seeking to protect her home and family, accepted and despite Matsuo's outraged pleas, his father silenced him. Matsuo watched as his sister was dragged off, easily sacrificed and how quickly the other people of the village turned their eyes away from the plight of their neighbor glad it was not their wife, sister or daughter that had been taken. When they returned home, Matsuo tore into his father, only to be struck by the older, stronger man. Even after all his lessons, Matsuo was still thinking only with his heart and not with his mind. They were lowborn peasants, little better than the livestock they raised in the eyes of the nobility, if they fought, and fight they would, they would do so intelligently, striking from the shadows, otherwise, they would easily be crushed, their homes destroyed and their families killed. That night, his fathered gathered a few like minded men, and the small group set off into the mountains to fight in the only way the could, as bandits.

Over the next few months, they ambushed traders, assaulted troop patrols and raided warehouses owned by the Kagami family. It was going well, stories of the Lord's tantrums were always welcomed, how he ordered the seppuku of the samurai in charge of putting them down for his failures, but their success wasn't to last. Lord Kagami's investigators were able to weasel the information out through bribes, the local butcher, Katashi, betrayed the names of the 'bandits', their location and hideouts as well as the village they come from in return for a position as an official of Kagami's court, the safeguard of his family, and a very large reward of Ryō. Matsuo, his father, and their small group of 'bandits' returned to smoke, ash and death. Their village had been burnt to the ground, their families and friends put to the sword for their crimes of aiding and abetting outlaws. As they searched the ruins, they were set upon by men of Lord Kagami who had been lying in wait for them to return. They did their best to resist, to fight back, their anger blinding them and robbing the notion of retreat from their minds as many were slain, but a few, such as Matsuo and his father, were captured.

They were paraded through the streets, the 'bandits' that had endangered the lives of the people, that raped and pillaged through the countryside. They were spat on, beaten and rotten food was flung at them. No matter the intention, it took only one word at the right place and time to turn those noble intentions into a noose around the neck. a lesson Matsuo learned well and to heart. Kagami made a great show of giving them 'fair consideration', but the gleam in the young man's eye was anything but fair. He recognized Matsuo, from his outbreak on his sister's abduction, and made effort to talk about his newest, and loveliest, concubine as he made it clear that Matsuo and his father would be dealt with separately from the other captives who were quickly put to death, dismembered so they would never truly find peace on the other side.

Taken to the training yard, tied, beaten and forced to prostrate themselves before the young lord as he waved his katana around, freshly forged, but yet to be tested. A child with a new toy and eager to play with it. His 'kindness' had him bring out Akiko, to let them see her one more time before they were taken from this world, to see just how well he had been taking care of her. The bruises covering her face told a different story, a story that no amount of the pale cosmetics that coated her face could hide. Matsuo's father, brave to the end, spat at the lord's feet and cursed the man for being half the man his father was, he faced his death nobly, his head held up high, his eyes defiant even as the sword lowered on his neck. He can still remember the scream that ripped from his sister's throat, the cry of outrage from his own, the sick ecstatic look on the lord's face as the blade easily parted his father's flesh and... how his father head had bounced and rolled in the dirt.

Not bothering to waste time cleaning his blade, Lord Kagami moved to Matsuo, and Matsuo was determined to face his death as bravely as his father. He lifted his chin, met the Lord's gaze and willed his body to stop trembling. As the sword fell, Matsuo failed his father once again. He lost his courage, he lost his pride for a selfish desire to live at any cost. He threw himself to the side, the descending blade his body fought to get away from was the last thing his right eye saw as the blade sliced through the side of his face. The last thing Matsuo saw before darkness claimed him was the smile that slid across the lord's face.

Matsu woke up in a cell a few days later, his face coated in dried blood and bloated from infection. The Lord had spared the coward, but not after getting his sister to fully submit to him, to no longer fight him. Her will and body for Matsu's life. She scarified herself for her coward of a brother who could not die with honor as their father did. For the next few months, as he healed, Matsu was tortured, but it didn't matter anymore. The pain of his body, the loss of his sight... it was pale in the comparison to the shattering of his soul. To his shame and anger, he survived the infection. Not even the gods would let him die now. He had made his choice, had thought his pathetic life worth saving, and it seemed, they were going to humor him. Lord Kagami visited only once, the day before he was tossed out of the castle, with his sister. The fire that was in Akiko's eyes were gone. While she may be breathing, on the inside, she was just as dead as their father and mother. Beaten and bloody, Matsu picked himself up from the dirt and walked. He didn't know where he was going, why he was going, his body just moved itself as the cowardly man of a brave father and a loving sister fled like a whipped dog.

~Adult~

For the next few years, Matsu wandered aimlessly. More dead then alive, taking jobs wherever he could, hoping for death but clinging to life. Slowly, his life became consumed with self-hatred and his work. The past still haunted him, but he became adept at forgetting it, at putting the memories behind a mental block and while he did not sleep any better; he was able to be more then a walking specter. Wandering and working, that became his life for the next decade. He did not hear anything about his sister, of the lord, of the traitor Katashi, and he didn't ask.

Matsuo had numerous jobs, numerous employers and had preformed more then his fair share of... work, some more shameful than others. He protected tax collectors, acted as an enforcer for outlaws and gambling den owners, bodyguard for officials and the wealthy and even, at times, a hitman and assassin. It all blended together, just work that he could detach himself from. To become numb, to lash out with barbed words as his only outlet, to live... well, try to, deep down, he knows the only parts of his soul that were worth having died with his father and sister. Of course, being in his line of work, he heard of the Yakuza and waved it off as a childish fantasy. A 'second chance' for people like him didn't exist, if something was too good to be true, then it likely was, but more than that, people like him didn't deserve a second chance and more fool on others for thinking they did. With the raise of Toshirō, Matsuo felt validated. As always, his pessimistic nature had called out the false promise for what it was without having been drawn in. If it hadn't been Toshirō, it would have been someone else to cast off their thin shell of idealism, and Matsuo is just glad he was wise enough to not fall for their tricks, he would hate to be working for a man like Toshirō. Matsuo is fond of gold, not corrupted idealism fueling egomania, and more then that, being stuck in the same job making less money then he did now? Terrible fate.



So begins...

Hisashi Matsuo's Story

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Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo Character Portrait: Kou-san
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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.

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Character Portrait: Hisashi Matsuo Character Portrait: Kou-san
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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.