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Atago Sora

"Tell me, stranger: are you feeling lucky?"

0 · 333 views · located in Human Realm

a character in “The Way of The Ronin”, as played by Verdandi




Some believe that what is profound is found in seclusion, in peace and indolence. The only enlightenment I have ever found is in violence.

A number with no meaning. To look at him is to see someone perhaps in his early twenties, though he somehow conveys more age than that.

The first thing nearly anyone will notice about Sora is that he is painted with a very unusual palette, for basically anywhere in the world, though it’s especially odd in homogeonous Japan, with its only infrequent contact with foreigners. From the way he’s dressed, one might suppose him Chinese, but in all honesty, they don’t look like him either. It’s hard to decide which is more unusual, his hair or his eyes.

The former is a bright red color, some of the strands closer to coral than anything, the mix of those, more orange threads, and the predominant ruby-red giving it the same blend of colors one might see in a sunrise. Or sunset, whichever. It glimmers quite brightly when struck by sunlight, the effect not unlike the flicker of a live fire. On the long side, he generally keeps the soft-textured strands braided into a neat plait, which hangs either at his back or over one of his shoulders.

His eyes, on the other hand, are a clear, crystalline aquamarine, bright enough to be discernible as such from a distance. This is partially due to the fact that they are offset by long lashes the same color as his hair, which contrast quite obviously with their shade. They have an almond shape to them, and are rather larger than one might expect of a man’s. His whole face, actually, has a slightly androgynous aesthetic to it, and were it not for the shape of his body, he might be mistaken for female at a distance.

As it is, however loose his clothing is, it does a poor job of concealing the fact that he’s in excellent physical shape, bereft of most any spare fat, composed of ropy, lean muscle from head to toe. His motion has a certain predatory smoothness, matched by the keenness of his wary eyes, present when he fails to remember he’s supposed to be hiding it, which to be fair isn’t that often anymore. Mostly, then, this translates as a grace every bit as gender-neutral as his facial structure.

Though he goes to some lengths to conceal most of his flesh from sight, little traces of his history are visible here and there. For one, he’s missing the last two digits of his right ring finger, though the injury appears to be old, and healed over long ago. There are also some pretty magnificent tattoos on him, the edges of which can occasionally be seen when his garments shift.

He’s usually smiling like he knows a secret—probably yours.

What motivates a man like Sora? Well, to begin with, it might help to know what kind of man he is. Though he is to all appearances human enough, the truth of the matter is that, whatever his physicality might suggest, he is entirely a yōkai, and it is a mistake to assume that a yōkai will be like a ningen. Their societies are completely different, as are their instincts. Much of what is true of him is true of his kind generally, or perhaps it’s the other way around: being what he is has shaped him, in ways he is more or less aware of.

The tengu of the House of the Sun are its sovereigns, rulers over the classes of yōkai most inclined to the magical arts. Among these, the white-winged Hino clan are elevated further still, the lords and ladies of the realm of everlasting daylight. Human lore attributes three primary traits to the “mythical” tengu race: pride, violence, and magical might. They are rumored to be the natural predators of other yōkai species as well as humans, “demon-eaters,” to put it in the most crude way (though truthfully only rare specimens are this way). Their lofty realm in the sky places them physically above others, and their cultural heritage ensures that most of them put themselves figuratively in a superior class as well.

Sora is a deeply-polarized being, and what kind of person one is dealing with will depend heavily on which of three mental categories one falls into with respect to him. The first and largest category includes people and things he doesn’t care about. To these, he is polite, good-humored, and apparently quite warm, with a distinctly-goofy persona. He’s a tea seller from China, and yes, he was born with hair that color, isn’t it funny? Ha-ha, excuse him while he trips over his own feet and pratfalls hilariously, the most harmless milquetoast you’ve ever laid eyes upon. Appearance or not, he couldn’t be more nonthreatening, on a general basis, though the particularly astute might wonder if he’s really as hapless as he seems…

To those he considers his enemies, he could not be more different. He is not a “demon-eater” for nothing, and such fearsome creatures as those who devour other yōkai species must and do have the predatory instinct to match. Sora is fundamentally a violent, aggressive creature, one for whom hunger is a constant, annoying companion. Should he find cause to wade onto the field of battle, he does so as little more than a savage animal, albeit one with a keen, cunning intelligence. He tears his enemies apart with his hands, his internal malice made manifest. He is not so discomposed as to be berserk—his violence is much colder than that, and much more brutal, making it all the more terrifying for the fact that it is clever.

Needless to say, he has few enemies, since they seem to have short life expectancies, for some reason.

He does not easily move anyone from either of these categories to the last and smallest: friends. When he does, however, he shows a side of himself that can surprise. While his politesse fades in favor of more directness and honesty, his warmth does not abate, and his protectiveness carries every bit of his fierce violence in it, merely contained. For those he would give anything, it is fair to suppose he would give everything, with little thought for himself. He can be intense like this, attentive in a way that would previously have seemed beyond him, inquisitive, and almost childlike in his expressions of affection, whatever form they take. Indeed, he has had very few friends, and so there’s an element of awkwardness there when he’s trying to feel out what the other person expects of him, a task he doesn’t usually care enough to undertake with respect to others.

And what use are those? No, he long ago left behind the notion of significant attachment. If one thing has been made clear to him since his birth, it is that he always has been and always will be alone and apart. It is a lesson he has taken to heart, and he no longer attempts to find balm to his loneliness, though it stings him still. He knows he is capable of such things, but he also knows how much they hurt, and why would he voluntarily subject himself to pain that cannot simply be fought away? It is the height of folly, to love in any form.

While he can use blades, generally he doesn't, and if he's to be found carrying any armament at all, it's usually for show. Honestly, he much prefers to fight barehanded, especially against people with swords and armor and the like, because it's more challenging that way. Other than basic travel supplies, his merchandise, an old parasol, and a fan made of white feathers, he is unburdened by material property.

Sora is yōkai, with all the strengths that entails. But in addition to his powers and abilities, he is quite flexible and quick, making him extremely difficult to hit. As far as personality strengths or matters of mental resilience, notable is his iron willpower and ability to withstand or ignore pain, as well as his personal discipline and work ethic… assuming he’s properly motivated, anyway.

Well, he’s not human, and so he sometimes has difficulty making sense of them. The ningen notion of honor, for one, makes no sense to him. Why would voluntarily subordinating oneself to someone else be praiseworthy? Why would anyone continue to serve a fool until death or kill themselves after suffering a defeat? Defeat is to be overcome and learned from, not succumbed to, and idiots are to be ignored, not obeyed because their grandfathers owned a large piece of land or something dumb like that. Also, outside of things that have specific interest to him, he is extremely lazy, and unlikely to help of his own volition unless he believes there’s something in it for him. Selfish, extremely so. And, well… violent, if stirred to it.

Sora’s home is where he lays his head. While once he lived in the realm of his father, he currently has no place there, or really anywhere else. So he wanders, seeing as how that’s a pretty good excuse for not having a more permanent abode.

Well, his folks aren’t dead, if you were wondering. Actually, he has a pretty big family, and as far as he knows, all of them are still kicking somewhere. The problem is that he’s a bastard, rather than, you know, the trueborn child of a house the way he should be.

The Hino clan, ruling group of the tengu and therefore the house of the Sun generally, is currently run by the ancient Sōjōbō, whose heir is a man by the name of Tarōbō. That particular tengu, being the heir, is himself married to a respectable tengu woman who has in turn given birth to six sons and three daughters—rather secure, as far as lines of succession go.

Nobody talks, then, about the time that Tarōbō bedded a visiting cousin of the ruling clan of the House of the Earth, an ōkamiyōkai named Shizune, nor do they care to mention the fact that Shizune subsequently had his child, who, in the general manner of crossblooded yōkai, was born a member of his father’s kind, if with a few residual traits of his mother’s. And indeed, nobody talks about the fact that the child in question was raised just outside the inner circle of realm politics that his father and half-siblings occupied, generally ignored by all, since that was the precedent set by his grandfather. It wasn’t terrible honestly, though it did keep him pretty socially isolated, something which has certainly contributed to his current ineptitude in that area.

They definitely don’t say that he grew close with only one person in the whole of his early life: his uncle Jirōbō. There are no whisperings of Sora’s taking his uncle’s training to heart, learning to wield magic and his body alike with the customary might and finesse of his people. No one says that he proved himself an exemplar of his kind, at least as good as any of his brothers. They wouldn’t dare mention the work he did for the House; the work of a true demon-eater within the tengu hierarchy.

What they do tell one another is that raising him and employing him in this way was an attempt at a coup on Jirōbō’s part. After all, a demon-eater was a legitimate threat to the line of succession, and a challenge might have been successful, had it not been preempted. It all ended as well as the traitor deserved, they say, and the boy was exiled to the realms of the ningen, his stain expunged from the record of the illustrious Hino. They do not know that his uncle left the young Sora with much more than some skills: there is a hunger in him now, a hunger for recognition, for acknowledgement, for someone, anyone, to see what he is and has become, and find it worthy of something more than he has been given. Of course, there is also the literal hunger, but not even Sora himself talks about that, as it’s a rather taboo subject among his kind.

And so he strives, ever forward, ever upwards, with the hope that one day, his wings will stretch wide enough to blot out the sun, and none of them will have a choice but to see him.


So begins...

Atago Sora's Story


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kagami Koharu Character Portrait: Atago Sora Character Portrait: Tenshi
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#, as written by Unicron
Kohaku Kana

The cool spring air rustled the hair of three individuals waiting on horseback at the edge of Edo, swords at their hips. Gaining upon their location at a canter rode up four more individuals, when there were only supposed to be three. Kana was particularly proud of herself for finding another ronin, or rather strangely strong foreign medicine man as it were, for their journey. She and Kousaka had been at a tea shop, on their way to find pick up the Saburuko they needed when a skirmish happened just outside. Kana couldn’t see how it all had started or anything, though the man was thrown out of an establishment - or kicked by her knew find and before she knew it this foreign medicine man was taking on three armed men with nothing but his hands and feet. Kousaka and she were glued to the scene, they even cheered him on, and afterwards Kana simply had to recruit him. His name was Atago Sora, and he was extremely odd, or rather Kana felt odd around him, she could sense him even when he wasn’t in her sight, as though she were hyper-attuned to his presence. She wondered if it was fear she felt, could that be because of fear? Well it was a good thing he was working with her and not against her in any case. She had asked Kousaka if he felt the same but apparently it was all in her head. Ah well.

And so the party of three traveled together to the ochaya of Seven Pleasures and picked out a suitable Saburuko after informing the madame of who had sent them. They had five women to choose from, each lovelier than the last, but in the end it was decided that the girl with foreigner blood in her would suit them best, as she looked the least like Kana out of the five and held an exotic look that men in Japan would be drawn to. Kana thought her best feature was that flowing fair hair, she had never actually seen anyone with hair the colour of straw, but had heard about foreigners from far west who looked like that, yellow like the sun. And she had nice big breasts too, best to cover their bases, Kana was lacking in that area after all. What Kana did for her mistress Lady Kobayashi could be considered the work of a Saburuko, but to meet actual professionals was something else, it had left Kana impressed and with a high respect for the group of women. They had even helped advise her on who to pick in the end, according to what they needed to do, which was helpful since at the beginning the three of them more or less were just left complementing and staring at the elegant women, unsure what to ask or do. Kana was glad to have experienced an establishment like that. If only she were a man, she’d go there all the time just to sit with those women.

Hara Noa was her name, and she made their group four, the four that was supposed to be three, if only that were the only thing wrong with the party Kana had picked up. Kana adjusted the collar of her riding kimono, it was still slightly chilly. “Here they are.” She said to her party when they got within comfortable hearing distance of Kojuro and his men. "Look what I picked up Kojuro!" She was smiling as she pointed at whom she thought was supposed to be his best friend. "Kousaka-kun you already know, but I also found this really strong man from China, his name is Atago Sora-san, and behind me over here is our Saburuko, the famed Hara Noa." Kana introduced each of her party in quick succession. "I know I wasn't tasked by Natsu-sama with picking up another ronin but Sora-san isn't actually a ronin, he's just really strong. Isn't he Kousaka-kun?" Kana looked expectantly over at Kousaka, expecting a happy reunion between friends and fun banter to ensue.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kagami Koharu Character Portrait: Ikeda Kojuro Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Atago Sora Character Portrait: Hara Noa
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"Ani-ue." A petulant, almost whining tone.

"Yes, Koharu? What is it?"

The Kagami siblings were outside of their modest home in Odawara, tucked away in a secluded room. This had been where they lived since being cast away from Lady Kobayashi's service, and despite everything, Koharu's been met with some success in providing enough money for them both to live on. As a ronin disguised as a man, Koharu slowly mastered the arts of deception and trickery. Yet, still-

"Ani-ue, do you really think it's okay?" Koharu asked, staring needily at her once capable - now disabled older brother. Her cheeks were puffed up in a slight pout. "Going back and helping Chinatsu- " She quickly shook her head, correcting herself at Kousaka's disapproving frown. "Lady Kobayashi after what she did to you? Why not simply remain as we are? I don't want to part ways with you!"

Kousaka just gave her a sage little smile, slight mischief playing in the corner of his eyes. He was definitely plotting something, and Koharu wasn't sure she was a fan of it at all. She knew that look - but she also knew that no amount of prodding would make him tell her his schemes. Before the crippling injury, Kousaka has been an individual full of wonder and excitement - always going on crazy adventures with another one of the Kobayashi retainers - a certain Ikeda Kojuro - doing things Koharu felt almost excluded from. The little sparkle had been gone from his eyes in the two years since his discharge and the fall of the clan - Kousaka almost falling into what could be called a depression.

It was odd. While Kousaka always seemed to place emphasis on honor and being a samurai, Koharu never really had it stuck in her head the way most children around her had. Sure, she was okay with being loyal and all, but it wasn't as if she truly understood her brother's struggles as he adjusted to his new life in Odawara. He would always be her top priority - he was the only family she truly had left. If there was anyone she could count on, it was him, disabled leg and all.

"Yes." Kousaka gave one look over Koharu's disguise. While anyone who knew Kousaka from before would never have been fooled, she still did look the role of a young, slender man. As long as she was careful, no one would ever find out her true gender. "I believe you should accept Kana-hime's offer."

Koharu was loathe to separate from Kousaka, especially on such a long quest as this one seemed it would be. Yet she couldn't bring herself to deny his almost excited look - the gleam of youthful adventure that had once been his entire life. After being sad for years, she couldn't simply take that away from him. It was her job to protect his smile now, no matter what.

"...Then I shall travel to Edo in your stead, Ani-ue.! It'll be fun!"

Then Kousaka cracked a boyish grin that hadn't been on his face for the longest time. It looked both nostalgic and excited at the same time.

"If you can, see if you can meet up with Kojuro again. And punch him for me for being unable to assassinate Yousuke on his own." Kousaka sported a crafty grin. "Weakling."

And so, Koharu set off, leaving behind her brother for this quest.

Kana-hime was certainly a beauty to behold. The two spoke idly - Koharu certainly didn't know her all that well, given she only saw her face once ever before. Still, it was always nice to travel with someone so attractive, yet somewhat familiar - they were both from Katsunuma, after all, so surely with time, they could form some kind of bond.

Their duo became three when Kana-hime happened upon someone who wasn't meant to have joined them in the first place. She couldn't help but cheer him on as the lone man easily dispatched the three assailants with naught but his own body as a weapon. Surely, Atago-san gave her a strange vibe - how many people were skilled enough to win a fight, outnumbered, weaponless? Kana-hime had asked her, but Koharu denied any oddity - it' be best not to let her inner suspicions leak out for the time being. Whatever the case, she'd keep an eye on the man who was now apparently an ally.

The Ochaya of Seven Pleasures was certainly filled with many pleasures - Koharu had to really focus to keep a blush from her appearing on her cheeks. While Kana-hime was choosing which girl to bring, Koharu could feel the eyes of some of the resident saburako on her, as if boring into her soul. It made her feel a confusing combination of excitement and anxiety that she wasn't sure how to process. Koharu could only hope the Atago-san could feel at least some of the scrutiny. The Saburako they ended up enlisting was said to be the best of Edo, and her reputation didn't do her beauty justice. She held an enigmatic, mysterious sort of aura that Koharu couldn't tear her eyes from. Still, hiding these thoughts, Koharu quickly chirped a friendly welcome, wanting Hara Noa-san to feel at ease with their team. It was almost a shame that Koharu couldn't go and visit the establishment more often - she wasn't really a man, after all.

Yet as she was making these mental notes, Koharu was intent on giving everyone a friendly face - telling jokes that ranged from hilarious to petty, smiling more than necessary, and generally being easy to get along with. Her light hearted grins and calculated laughs were easy to fake, though she subtly wondered if Kana-hime or Noa might've seen through it.

Once they eventually reached Edo, Koharu knew what she had to do. She grinned cheerfully at the tall samurai who said something about honor for a few moments before turning her attention to her old friend. Clearly, he'd been expecting Kousaka. Koharu knew she couldn't let him blow her cover so easily so she took quick steps to her old friend (he seems taller?) and delivered a playful punch to the shoulder.

"Kojuro!" Koharu mimicked the deeper voice of her brother while maintaining the way he'd have inserted excitement and boyish pleasure at seeing such a close friend after so long. "It's good to see you again! You remember me, Kousaka, don't you? You better not have been slacking in your training, else Atago-san will surely outdo you."

Koharu offered Kojuro an almost threateningly venomous wink before returning to a benign playful smirk.

"Of course, I'll also perform better than you." She then clapped her old friend on the back, giving him a bedazzling expression. "Let's have an adventure like we used to, Kojuro!"


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kagami Koharu Character Portrait: Ikeda Kojuro Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Atago Sora Character Portrait: Hamasoki Hiroshi Character Portrait: Hara Noa
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It was nothing but a routine. That is how a certain Saburuko saw each rising sun and moon for the lost moments of her life. And this specific entertainer of the arts, displayed herself upon the balcony, draped with such fine robes of silk while her hair often compared to that golden threads, hanged like a curtain around her, delivering a silhouette both enticing and mysterious. Her eyes sparkling in amber hues gazed at the people passing by the okiya, and all of them could not help but gaze at her presence. Some pray for their deity to be granted protection from her heretic existence. It was but a normal reaction for someone like her. Yet, one thing was clear. Those eyes of hers endears people to her, as if she has a secret needed to be unfold.

The truth, she was being embroiled in the grassy fields of envy. People would think she was but acting or simply a show of humility. That was not the case as it lays deep within her deepest intentions. She was jealous of how they find mundane things to be relatively worth dying for. She has none of that. There was no difference in her motives or her aspirations. All that made sense to her from the beginning was to strive for her continued existence. Until now, that has not changed and for all the things she had done, there was not even an inkling inside of her to regret or to feel what they call guilt. She had already accepted the act and what would come after it. It is a job, do her part, get paid, then live for another day. That was enough, yes for her.

"Noa-sama." Hearing the name, she raised her body to a straight form as she was leaning at a nearby wooden pillar as she watched the little events on streets beyond the confinements of her room. "I am coming in." That would be her minarai It meant that she has to prepare for this day. She pulled away from the spring air blowing through her opened balcony windows as she closed them, retreating to her world covered in the blissful plays of sweet lies. That indeed reminded her, the Madame had spoke of a job that would require all of the skills which are possessed by the Saburuko of 7 Pleasures. The client would be coming in today and would choose among five of them which included her. She has no complaints and whatever the choice will be. It will simply meant that she would be hired or not.

Just like so, Noa prepared herself with the help of her minarai and was soon escorted to the ochaya where the other four Saburuko were already present. She greeted them with her gentle and cheerful self, a personality they all seemed to be fond of. After a while, the Madame arrived instructing the five of them about the basic sensibilities of the contract. It seemed to be a trip, not the usual ones where they operate within their quaint town. There was also the mention of the client's name, Lady Kobayashi. Her fellow Saburuko seemed to pale at that name and did express their apprehensions. She did not have any and listened as to how the Madame shot down all debilitating queries.

Once, they were all settled. They came in a group of three, Lady Kobayashi's representatives. One of a clear affluent background and pedigree befitting of who Noa had identified as the Lady's famed ward, Kohaku Kana. Her beauty was indeed enchanting, in a different manner. Second, a boy judging by the attire yet has a face of softness like that of a girl, Kagami Kousuka. Three, a sunset-colored man appearing to be of Chinese descent, Atago Sora. The said group indeed comprised of striking personalities on different accords. And by will, she had been hired to be a part of it. She of course accepted it without any resistance. People might say, it was a smooth interaction which also related as they departed for their next location.

Kagami as he is started conversation. That was a chatter seemed welcome by the Lady Kohaku. She obliged as well in an exchange of words aout simple casual and light-hearted matters. A smile, a soft laughter, and the elegant prose of manners awere used by her. She showed enjoyment and then again, she is an experienced conversationalist. Though what could earn her sparkle of interest was a bit of a crack in the atmosphere that Kagami wanted to employ around them. This was not of course influenced by outside factors, more like be the said person's disposition. Yet, it was not her business and was not something vital for her job's parameters. Her course of action, ignore it.

But the one she is now, it would not be an option. They seemed to have met with people that have a degree of familiar relationship with the Lady Kohaku. As the dialogues continued, Noa clarified that they would be working together with these people. That was of course was not a wonderful idea for some people who voiced out opinions. There were clear words of disagreement heard in those statements. Her eyes then glanced at Atago as the Lady Kohaku praised his strength which seemed to a confirmed factor from Kagami. That was an interesting detail to be seen in action, that however is not now.

Next, Noa lifted her attention towards the new individuals she was meeting. There was this man she knew to be a Samurai who has yet to be absent of a Master. He must be a vassal of Lady Kobayashi which explains the Lady Kohaku's familiarity. Then, there was also another one. It was a man with a complexion and features not reminiscent of the predominant populace of this country. From that, she was assured that this person also has foreign blood within, just like her. Last, but not the least, a man hiding his appearance. She has nothing against such things. After all, anonymity would serve one well, moreover for her line of work. Yet, it does go without saying, that these three individuals were more peculiar than the people she had met earlier.

For now, she must let her thoughts be still and introduce herself. That was but a common show of courtesy and manners. Furthermore, she is also a Saburuko and will act as one. She is after all working on the clock. "Good day, I am Hara Noa. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Her voice pilfered with a harmony resembling that of divine lullaby. She then followed that with a preordained bow and an elegant and innocent smile. Everything she had done was inevitably laced with grace and a sophistication despite how trivial her actions could be or is. indeed, she is worthy for her reputation as one of the best Saburuko of Edo.