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

0 · 345 views · located in Edo Japan

a character in “The Nascent Shinsengumi”, as played by >Marionette<



One Republic || Stop and Stare


"You can have all of Nihon if you like, I don't really care, but you can't have these people's peace of mind or happiness, I won't allow that."

Name: Kou, just Kou.
Nickname: Asshole, Pretty Boy, Jackass, Motherfucker, Bastard, Loafer, she's been called plenty of things, most of which aren't pleasant or cute nicknames. Besides her name is short enough anyway. She remembers long ago that she used to be called The Bloodthirsty Monk in Daizō's army, but that was forever ago.
Age: She is 48, though looks to be in her 20's at most.
Gender: Female, to the surprise of many.
Species: Honestly it's difficult to tell if being a Hanyō is a blessing or a curse. She supposes both at the end of the day.

Height: An entirely average five feet and seven inches.
Weight: A clearly malnourished 108 pounds of wiry muscle.
Hair Color: Most people have inky black hair, but some have been known to sport a barely different dark brown, Kou is one of those people.
Eye Color: A standard brown colour of no notoriety or beauty, at least in most opinions.

Physical Description: Kou doesn't exactly stick out in a crowd, average would be the best word to go about describing her, especially considering her gender. In a positive light her appearance is that of a boy nearing adulthood who has the benefit of youth to appear slightly handsome. Her garb however doesn't exactly make her appear as any sort of bachelor that a young lady in search of a sweetheart would want to set her sights upon. Her gi isn't too shabby all things considered but it is clearly patched in a few places and old, she's a weary traveler with few funds to spare, and looks the part. A long time ago Kou pretended to be male and sported a shaved head, however that life is behind her. And while she by no means goes out of her way to mask her gender anymore she is none the less more often than not confused as male. This misconception can help her get a job sometimes and really doesn't do any harm so she sees no need to correct anyone on the matter, usually anyway. She supposes she could dress up in a more traditionally feminine way, but that sort of thing seems unnecessary and too much of a hassle, she doesn't really know her way around femininity. A woman's clothes are much too restrictive anyway, it'd be a pain all around. In lieu of a shaved head Kou's mane now reaches pretty far, and she keeps it tied back in a simple manner, sporting fringe in a style common with young men of the era, furthering the illusion of her gender. One unique thing she does wear on her person is a string of monk's beads, either worn under her collar around her neck or wrapped around her wrist. They used to belong to the head nun of the temple Kou grew up in.

Kou's skin is on the lighter side of the spectrum, but slightly tanned in appropriate places exposed to the sun, she's frequently seen with a hat in the summer but when you walk everywhere getting a farmer's tan around your arms is pretty unavoidable. Not that she'd bother to avoid it, being pale and having flawless skin doesn't concern Kou all that much. Her height is that of an average man, which would be considered on the tall spectrum for a woman, with a knobbly skinny build with narrow hips and nearly flat chest. Depending on the amount of work she can get she is well fed, and can have a reasonably attractive toned androgynous appeal, but if work is scarce her ribs and other angles start protruding; and unless you're some sort of weirdo no one likes looking at something like that. Her face is angled and heart shaped, and again can have some fullness to it when well fed that is mistaken as lingering babyfat, honestly she's old enough to be a grandmother, if she doesn't mind people mistaking her gender she does mind them mistaking her age. The sheer disrespect of being treated like a kid! Anyway, her eyes are the usual almond shape that most can claim and sport a warm brown colour familiar with those around her. Her lips are neither full nor supple, but don't appear as harsh lines that men can have either, they are as unnoticeable as the rest of her features really.

Praise could be said about the sheer amount of expressions Kou can sport though, she's an expressive character, when in the mood anyway. If she's tired or bored you'll get nothing but a dead fish look from her, but that's the thing, her expression always betrays what she's feeling. It can end up rather comical if Kou is trying to lie or is perhaps embarrassed or surprised, her heart's on her sleeve what can she say? That's about it. One could go on and on about Kou but illustrious words are generously wasted on her, she blends in with the crowd as an unassuming young man, nothing more and nothing less.

Amorous View: Ahhhh romance, Kou is a sucker for it, truth be told she's a sucker for a lot of things but love especially is a thing she admires in people. If two people are lucky enough to find something like love in this world then who is anyone to stand in their way? Kou will always be an advocate for following your heart. It's not just romantic love either, but the sort of love between friends and family too. Unfortunately love of any sort has always seemed like a thing for other people, not Kou. Once when she was young she had a crush on an older man, but he was in love with a beautiful woman, and Kou felt a tinge of bitterness at that, but in the end couldn't deny she was also very happy for the couple. Love is for other people, and Kou has internalized that fully now. The nuns would take a vow to never marry, and at least in that regard Kou is still one. Besides its not as though she isn't aware that her personality and appearance aren't exactly desirable, but her way of life is her conscious choice, and she'd much rather be alone than change herself to suit someone else. Besides, being alone isn't so bad, not when you're so used to it.

I’ll Kick Anyone’s Ass. I’ll Kick Your Ass. I’ll Kick Your Dog’s Ass. I’ll Kick My Own Ass. She might not actually kick your dog's ass, she likes dogs, they are loyal and loving and do not deserve that. But it's to be noted that Kou can indeed kick quite a bit of ass, it's been in her job description since she was 14 years old. When she first joined Gōda Daizō's yakuza she was taught both swordsmanship and martial arts by Nagamoto Makoto, a man she eagerly took very seriously and worked herself to the bone under. She remembers respecting this man, her sensei, quite a bit, more so than even her later commander, Toshirō himself, who had kept her close. Though this is probably due to the fact that her sensei was a more direct conduit to her goals while her commander was someone she had to obey in order to earn her keep. He more or less seemed to keep her around for a reason, probably intimidation. Her mad dog reputation served the yakuza in more ways than one. Kou did not earn the nickname of a bloodthirsty monk by exercising mercy or holding back, she has a dangerous propensity for killing. Kou does not spar and has only recently learned how to hold back a little, if she draws her sword someone is going to be cut, it's difficult to stop her once she's feeling the rush.

Ever Met An Alcoholic? Kou can probably drink you under the table, be you human or yōkai.

Handy With My Hands Turns out there aren't nearly as many temporary jobs for swordsman as you might think! And in fact there are more than a few times during the year when Kou is deadbeat broke. As a result, she takes on other jobs that include weed pulling and fixing various broken things, something she has gotten better at with time. She also has some, but not a lot, of experience dealing with injuries. Not her own, as she's never been in need of a healer due to her own natural regenerative capabilities, but of patching up and caring for others. She never practiced this as a yakuza, but picked it back up as a wanderer.

Shōgi A fun tactical game that Kou is quite good at, she likes it much better when people beat her at it however, because the thrill of the struggle is much more fun than an actual victory.

Natural Aptitude
Nine Lives Due to Kou's heritage as a hanyō, a half yōkai, she has certain abilities that no other humans posses. Her yōkai half is bakeneko, something she's only vaguely aware of. Her body is as fragile as a humans, but she has a regenerative ability that far surpasses the normal human healing rate. If she is well fed she can even heal during battle. However this all depends on things like her energy levels and food intake, healing is tiring business! It used to be in her younger days that she would not bother with defense in combat and would often emerge from battle with her gi torn to shreds, but she is not provided for now as she was back then. She can not afford new gi every other battle, nor can she count on eating every single day, as such her fighting style has adjusted out of pure frugality.

Quick as a Cat Though Kou's strength is a little more than that of an average human male's, it's her speed that will truly shock you. She's always been an agile, balanced, and quick little thing, and now at her adult age it's been honed, with any clumsiness or hesitation chiseled away. While yōkai have transformations and other abilities Kou has only one form, her human one, and so any inherited yōkai traits are out in the open. Luckily she does not look like a yōkai in any way shape or form, but she can sure move like one.

Prodigy Kou never stops learning new technique, and doesn't plan to ever do something like call herself a master, there's too much to learn for her to ever feel comfortable with the title. The number of ways people can fight with a blade are nigh limitless it seems to her, something which gives her joy. Kou has always been one with the sword, has always understood better than most at its core how to make it work with you. It's always been something better felt than explained or said to her, and she'd make a poor teacher for it, she makes and excellent student however. Kou is quick to learn when it comes to combat, swordsmanship especially. When she was younger it was her vicious drive that sped her into notoriety, but now that she is older and a whole lot more calm it seems to be a steady learning experience.

Lazy Idiosyncratic Warm Thoughtful
Kou is a peculiar person, and a normal life both would and wouldn't seem to suit her. On one hand she seems to operate simply, a rather lax and unconcerned common person with few regards and contented with life. Someone who doesn't really plan ahead and or concern themselves with big picture matters. On the other hand it soon becomes clear that Kou is unable to fit in with hierarchy and the natural order of things. She comes from a Buddhist background, and the nuns she was raised by treat everyone as an equal, so it is with Kou. If you're a shitty person, and most people born with authority are, Kou will call you on it. And no, she won't fall to the ground in a respectful bow either, you'll get a regular bow like every other person in the street. Bosses don't generally like her attitude and neither do any nobles she's been unlucky enough to pass on the road. Despite how much she doesn't like troublesome circumstances this sort of attitude is going to cause trouble wherever she goes eventually. She much too stubborn to answer to anybody, so she must make her own way.

With equality however does come a nice nonjudgmental view from Kou. People are weird, and in fact it's more weird for someone to not be weird, so whatever weirdo traits you have Kou is cool with. She has an ease in understanding people and their motivations that is uncanny and would be highly useful had she become a nun. Kou makes an excellent listener, and people tend to open up to her regardless of familiarity, her lack of judgement and genuine interest in what you have to say makes her a good soundboard. Kou is a calm and warm person that people generally like, and you can tell she likes you if there's a little mischievous teasing. She wouldn't really call herself a philosopher, and really wouldn't think to deserve the title, but it's what she is, and can end up offering humble advice and insight here and there. This brand of philosophy can be called wise by some and weird by others though, as the way she explains things can be construed as odd and counter to the current culture.

It's pretty clear by now that Kou definitely has a mouth and makes use of it, and when not philosophizing can often end up running it with witty jokes or sass depending on her happy or sour mood. The sass was more common with her younger self but the cheery joking and teasing more suits her older self, as it is often common people she interacts with now. If you're unlucky enough to land on Kou's bad side, something not easy to do (and something not achieved in years), you'll get the full brunt of her ruthless tongue lashing, as well as the more violent side of her personality.

There is a darker and considerably sadder layer to Kou than the easy friendliness (if generally lazy) exterior she exudes. Her past is a violent one, she pursued bloody revenge and got it, going against everything she was ever taught and smearing her conscience and hands with red. It's a stain that won't come out despite her attempts to free herself of it. She isn't even over the initial loss of her sisters and mothers, the added stain to their memory only adds to the pain. Revenge felt empty, and all the things she did leading up to that revenge wasn't worth it, but it molded her into a person she has to live with being now. Her skills include killing and violence, she's especially good at it, and what's more she feels a rush doing it. She shouldn't. The adrenaline is a rush that makes you feel alive, especially when you're feeling pretty empty and lonely, but it shouldn't be that way. What else is there though? A lack of close human relationships for so long has made her forget what it was like to really enjoy people on a personal level rather than from an objective or outside viewpoint. Or how even when you lose relationships you can develop new ones. For Kou she stopped that process back when she was young, pushed people away and stuck to a singular goal, and after meeting it was left with nothing. Nothingness scares Kou, but it's what she feels often. Sleeping fills the nothing with dreams, alcohol makes the nothing whimsical, and violence chases away the nothing all together. And so you have her three big addictions, sleep, alcohol, and violence. She's pretty good about avoiding fights out of sheer principle, but sleep and alcohol she takes in gratuitous amounts. Perhaps Kou could settle down in a nice village and make friends, but somehow she's got it in her head that she doesn't really deserve to. Her opinion of herself is pretty low, and even beginning to make friends or having people be kind to her hurts rather than having the desired effect. She takes other people's kindness very seriously, but can't really take compliments in a way people should, it just hurts, all of it does. You can imagine a person tries to avoid hurt, and this is true with Kou's behavior. Maybe she can just avoid it all if she travels far enough, maybe she can find something to make it all better, who knows. Either way Kou will restlessly trudge on town to town, doing what good she can in whatever small way to atone for her perceived sins.

Reminiscence: Kou doesn't know too much about her heritage, she knows she was left on the doorstep of a Buddhist temple by a woman in white, and that one of her parents was not human. This is all, and honestly she's made her peace with this information, she remembers fretting over it when she was younger but understands now that it's useless wondering over such matters. She hopes that the woman who left her had better luck in her life after freeing herself of the burden of raising a child. Kou remembers fondly that the nuns never made her feel unwanted, at least the woman had the good sense to put her where she would be loved and cared for.

For the first fourteen years of Kou's life, she was bald, like the nuns of the temple. She did chores, meditated, and was taught medicine. The nuns were kind and wise, understanding of everyone and welcoming of hurts and pain. People came to them with hurts physical and emotional alike, and the nuns turned no one away. It was here that Kou learned to treat everyone as an equal, it was here that Kou learned kindness and generosity. Kou was proud that she was to become one of them, the path of Buddha suited her well, and already she was turning into the temple's most notorious nun. Unfortunately the path of Buddha was never Kou's destiny, as war ravages the many provinces of Nihon it ravaged her's as well. One night, some men from an invading army attacked the temple, desecrating it and the nuns inside. The soldiers played with them for days, and from her hiding spot Kou heard it all, those prayers the brave nuns chanted to get through it are forever seared into her memory, as are the screams of pain. Eventually the soldiers were done, and they left nothing but a burning temple and dead nuns behind them, that, and a lone child who would later become their doom. Vicious fury, running both hot and cold took over Kou's personality. She swore revenge, it was not the way of the Buddha, but it would be her way now. Kou was too bloodthirsty to see reason or be grateful that she was left alive, she was now too filled with hate to rebuild the temple and honor the memories of her sisters and mothers. Something she regrets now that it is too late to turn back.

If Kou wanted revenge, she would need to learn the way of the sword, Dōjō did not accept bald orphans, at least none of the ones she begged would, so Kou found another way. Gōda Daizō and his yakuza took her in, she had to lie about her gender and age to train as a swordsman, but that was not too difficult to do since she had only some fuzz on her head and was boyishly skinny and tall to begin with. Daizō gave people like her a second chance and life, she could have rebuilt herself anew there, but instead she trained and fought like a demon. Kou kept her head bald, to remind herself of her goal, getting stronger was her only concern, which was why she frequently pushed people away and ignored them. Several times she got into trouble for speaking against authority with a sassy mouth, but the punishments did little to phase her. Kou would come alive in battle, it was where she let out her anger and anguish, which was vast, and thus she earned her nickname The Bloodthirsty Monk. Had she been of average strength Kou might have never even gotten a nickname, but Kou's ability with a sword was anything but ordinary. She learned at an alarming rate, and applied all she learned with frightening precision. It was not all talent, certainly some of it must be attributed to her constant and devoted practice, but the speed with which she learned would not have been possible if she were not a natural. Daizō was her master, but Kou only met him a handful of times, but knew his heir Toshirō personally, even served in his unit frequently. The gang's policy altogether wasn't bad. Distributing money and supplies to the poor was satisfying, and almost reminded her of where she came from, almost.

Later, around age 18, Kou learned who the men that attacked her temple called master and why it is they did what they did. It was to make a point, it was for intimidation. It was to get at the Daimyō who resided over the territory at the time. It was political. It was not a good enough reason. In her fury Kou decided that the Daimyō Tatsumaki would suffer death as well, he had succeeded in taking over the territory but he would not live long enough to enjoy it. Kou deserted Daizō's yakuza to finally realize her revenge. She succeeded too. It was quite the thing, a feat of both stealth and strength, but in the end it wasn't nearly as satisfying as Kou had thought it would be. In fact it was utterly disappointing. Kou regretted the act almost as soon as she finished it, she could feel the souls of the nuns cry for her. She could see herself clearly now, the blood on her hands and malice in her heart, it was a gruesome taint.

Kou has not stopped wandering since, never staying in one place for too long, running away from her memories and regrets. Or trying to anyway. Her hair grew long and she grew up. With Kou's fury, which had defined her for so long, gone, all that was left was emptiness and lack of purpose. Wandering soon became her way and with it she began to find herself again. It was not easy climbing out of the deep depression she was in but protecting the innocent sure helped. That's what Kou did now, she set herself on helping villages and doling out justice to the vile. Money is hard to come by, especially since a good portion of the people she helps are poor, leaving her unable to ask for payment without feeling unbearably guilty. Mostly Kou gets by hard times by asking only for a good meal. When she does have money it is usually invested in sake. She lives a ridiculously simple life now, and would probably continue to do so if she had not gotten wind of the fate of Gōda Daizō's yakuza. The Toshirō she hears of now doesn't sound like the Toshirō she knew, and instead of ignoring that or running away again Kou has decided to see what she can do to remedy the situation.


So begins...

Kou-san's Story


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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.


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


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.