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Fujimaki Taro

"Someone brought a cat...Looks like we're having stew tonight."

0 · 510 views · located in sengoku period, japan

a character in “The Ways of Samurai”, originally authored by Quakernuts, as played by RolePlayGateway


Fujimaki Taro

Honor is just another set of rules, and I don’t need the limitations.]


Age: ]

Taro has the ability to pull off both a roguish charm and an oppressive warrior aura with all but a simple grin or scowl. His body, well honed with years of fighting and training, is taut with muscle that does not adequately convey the strength that he tends to surprise his enemies with. Standing at roughly 5'10, he towers over most other men within eyesight, adding a sense of authority to his growing repertoire of presence. A scar coming up from the left of his jaw and stopping halfway up his cheek is a sharp reminder of a battle that nearly cost him his life, mixing with his brown eyes and hardened features, Taro couldn't be mistaken for anything less than a seasoned warrior.

His armor is actually a mix of two different sets. His chest piece attached with thigh guards belonged to his father before him, a light crimson with standard thatching as a legitimate Samurai would don in times of war. His gauntlets and leggings, differing in color to his chest piece, are the trophies of war. Ripped from the hands and feet of his dead brother, Fujimaki Konyo. Scratches and scars of battle mar the surface of their emerald sheen, despite evidence of high maintenance. His trademark open form coat is a durable thing despite initial appearances. A high weave in the fabric prevents common tears from taking place, although offering no protection from weapons such as swords.



Jacket- Taro is very attached to his jacket to an almost inane degree. While he normally isn't opposed to people touching him or any other form of social contact, should someone attempt to tug on his jacket or intentionally spill something on it, they are inviting the wrath of hell down on their doorstep.

Fire- His odd fascination with fire comes from a deep belief on one's nature. Just because fire is destructive doesn't mean that that's its only purpose. It can be used to heat, to cook, and in extreme situations, seal wounds and save lives. Whether the fire is burning a house to the ground or cooking a rabbit, it's not odd to see Taro staring into it much like an astronomer stares into the sky.

Noodles- Despite being a very common dish made everywhere, if given the choice between noodles and any other type of food, Taro will always choose noodles. He loves the texture, the taste, and the fact that he can add practically anything to them and they'll only be more amazing than they were before. The ultimate 'any man's' food.

Challenges- This applies to a variety of things, not just war. A battle of wits? Observation? Maybe even Shogi? Taro craves someone or something that forces him to overcome and adapt, be it a person or inanimate object. This can sometimes lead to Taro taking too long to accomplish a certain goal due to his inability to simply give up and let someone else do it. This is dangerous when it comes to battles as well, as Taro will more than likely refuse to lose a battle until he's either dead or unconscious.

Music- Naturally a wandering sell sword loves music. He's even taken to carrying around a Nohkan, a bamboo flute, wherever he goes. He can sometimes be heard playing late into the night if he has the time to practice. While he's no prodigy, he's not half bad.

Honor- An unwritten code that many samurai of the day live by. An unspoken rule book that Taro has never found a need or a want for. People who live by these laws are naive and fail to see what the world really is. It’s a cold and unforgiving place where sometimes one has to compromise their moral authority in order to survive. Anyone who fails to see that...needs to be educated.

Cats- Doesn't matter whose cat it is, what kind, or where it is. If he can hear a single meow, they are in danger of being hunted, killed, and cooked. His deep hatred comes from a somewhat comical history involving several cats in a row using his legs, and in one occasion, his face as a scratching post.

Fairy Tales- Taro doesn't mind legends, myths, or even stories of greatness. It's where these tales get twisted into child fantasies that he gets irritated. Nothing ever works out like one of these stories, and he hates when parents are clouding a child's view of the past with pictures of flowers and rainbows.

The Abuse of Women- A very simple thing with Taro. He hates seeing women mishandled by anyone, including very powerful political figures. If he has the ability to do so, he will step in and 'rectify' the situation. Otherwise he will simply excuse himself, not wanting to be witness to the scene happening in front of him.

"Just" Causes- There is no such thing as a Just or Righteous cause. There are goals, things to strive for, the end of the road so to speak. To claim that your actions are 'Justified because your goal is Righteous' or any other variation of that fact makes Taro want to puke. Everyone has a reason for doing what they do, but none are more right than the next.

Taro is somewhat of an odd person, often varying in personalities depending on who you talk to. To some people, he's a chivalrous sell sword with a fairly decent sense of humor. To others, he is the epitome of evil, someone who would choke the life out of his own new born baby given the chance. In reality, Taro often seems to switch his personality to fit the situation at hand. Despite lacking in a higher education such as advanced mathematics, politics, or history, Taro has an uncanny ability to read people. That being said, sometimes he'll act the opposite of what someone would want in order to get a reaction and gauge them even more, but more because he thinks that it would be funny. His humor is one of the few things that tends to stay with him regardless of the type of person he runs into, and as such it also varies wildly. He can be crude, immature, dark, subtle, and witty all within the span of a conversation. Sometimes it's his only way to deal with some of the situations he runs into.

Very few claim to really know Taro as he often hides what he's truly feeling from prying eyes. He can protect even a complete mental breakdown from the outside world, showcasing someone stoic and rock solid while screaming and cowering like a child in his mind. Some might say he's mastered the art of emotional manipulation, but Taro would never claim such a thing. He's simply learned as he's traveled, gaining knowledge and experience through adventures both good and bad. He has a mindset that no one can truly be a 'master' of anything, as there will always be someone better than you regardless of who you are. He doesn't hate people who call themselves a 'master', but does believe them to be disillusioned.

Contrary to this, almost hypocritically, Taro is extremely confident in his ability as a swordsman. He's been known to goad his opponents in extreme situations, including life or death. Some say he's using it to rile his opponent up, make them angry and eventually cause a mistake. He would partially agree, but also state that he's also that confident in his skills. Due to his tendency to view everything as a challenge, he tends to very rarely ask for help. When he does, it's either because he believes that the task or problem is too important for him to waste his time trying to do or solve it, or because he's already tried a number of times and has failed on each attempt. If it's the latter, it's not uncommon for Taro to be in an extremely sour mood, one that is best left untouched. On the flip side, if someone gives their aid willingly without his request, he does appreciate instead of condone it.

At his core, one could say Taro was a broken man. His ability to match personality types to the people around him, while useful, is due to his inability to find a place for himself in the world. His constant tendency to view everything as a challenge, push himself to the brink and beyond for what other people would consider to be simple pride is a subconscious effort to find a stopping point in his life. He marches forward, unable to stop because he doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel complete, and he never will until someone forces him to be. The death of his brother caused this particular trait to appear in Taro, but if one were to try and use the guilt of his brother’s murder on him, they would find him remarkably unphased. The guilt associated with ending Kyono’s life actually has a calming effect on Taro, bringing his mind to peace rather than shattering it with ‘what ifs’. This could be due to a psychological break, simply an over rationalization that it needed to be done, or a combination of both that has left Taro’s moral compass all but shattered. He didn’t see his brother’s death as wrong but necessary, at least, now he does. Regardless, if someone tries to use his family’s death against him, they will be severely disappointed.

In the end, one word that could be used to describe Taro's personality would be Adaptable.

Many of Taro's relationships are on a professional level, keeping few to no friends around. His immediate family is all dead. His mother was killed by his father, and his father and brother were killed by his own hand. The few that he has called 'close friends' over the years have either died or traveled to parts unknown. He wasn't with Yousuke when they uprooted the Chinatsu-dono's family, but has been with his forces for a couple years now under a signed contract of employment and loyalty. While he's not in the upper tier echelon of the man's retainer, he has managed to gain a reputation among his forces as a respected swordsman.


オープンパーム (Opunpamu) "Open Palm" - One of the two swords that Taro keeps attached to his hip. The Open Palm is the one that you want to see when you face him. A light gold sheen can be see from the hilt accompanying a black handle, while the blade itself is almost immaculate tempered steel, disguising the amount of use the sword has actually seen. Unknown to most, this sword used to be his brother's, and despite it's sturdy materials and near immaculate condition, it is a standard Katana.

クローズド拳 (Kurozudo Zen)"Closed Fist" - The second sword that Taro wields. This sword, as you could have guessed from the naming scheme, is the opposite of the Open Palm. The hilt shares the same gold sheen as the Open Palm, save that the handle is covered in white tape. The blade is made of the same material as his other sword, but it has been died black and purposely modified by Taro himself, with the aid of a couple of blacksmiths. Unlike a standard Katana, which has only one bladed side, the Closed Fist is twin edged, allowing for backward strikes and slashes. This is the weapon that Taro will wield when he intends to kill whoever is standing in front of him. It is also the sword that he used to kill both his father and his brother.

Swordsmanship- While his ability with a Katana isn't legend yet, or so he likes to say, you would be hard pressed to find someone who can match his skill one on one. Despite having two swords, Taro never uses both at the same time. That being said, his style with a sword can change on the fly rapidly and often without warning. Most of the time, one would say that his preferred style of fighting would be Akido, as his movements and general stance mimic it. However, there are others who would say that his preferred style is Iaido, and yet more Iaijutsu. Then, there are the people who say he doesn't have a style that is commonly known at all, incorporating punches, kicks, and flying tackles into his ability set. While some claim to have seen him use the style of Zatoichi, the art of the reverse grip. Needless to say, his ability with a sword can not be summed up in a single style as he is proficient in many.

Battlefield Manipulation- His ability to read people can come into play in a fight as well. He reads people like a book, allowing him to do things such as goading them into a unfavorable attack by saying the right thing, or even predicting their next move. It's not a precise art, and doesn't work against the highly disciplined or emotionally repressed, but a tool none the less.

A Challenge's Strength- Everything in life is a challenge, and to give up is to admit defeat. Taro is only human, and as such his body is limited to the amount of punishment it can take. That being said, Taro sometimes showcases an almost super natural resistance to pain in order to win or achieve his goal. He won't stop, can't stop, until he's victorious.


A Challenge's Weakness- The flip side to pushing one's self so hard to achieve something is the added punishment one is liable to incur. Given enough incentive, Taro will force himself forward or to keep fighting when the most rational move might be to retreat and live to fight another day. He'll sometimes incur injuries that were entirely avoidable, and often times will put himself in needlessly dangerous situations in order to prove himself to someone or something.

Moral Apathy- Due to the events that transpired in acquiring his ‘Open Palm’ sword, Taro has difficulty in differentiating right from wrong, black from white, etc. Despite the names of his swords, and the obvious moral title connections, he never meant them to be either good or evil. Taro doesn’t see anything wrong with murdering a bunch of children or setting a mass murderer free if it fulfills his goals. The children grow up into men and women who could be a threat, the mass murderer could end up killing a bunch of enemy soldiers or personnel. He disguises his inability to differentiate between good and evil with rationalization, and as such could technically be declared a sociopath.

Lack of Higher Education- Taro knows basic math and history, but aside from that actually hasn't had a full formal education. Most of his years have been spent on the road, learning from life experiences rather than books and teachers. As such, while his skill on the battlefield is well known, he's not the brightest tool in the shed when it comes to intelligent matters or political maneuvering.


Normally Taro makes a home near where his current contracted employer requires him to be. As such, he resides in a small hut in a village just a small ways from Kobayashi castle.

Fujimaki Taro's life has not been an easy one. While he can't claim to have been trained from birth to be what he is today, he will say that he did start early. By the time he was old enough to learn how to wield a sword though, his father literally beat him until he could hold it right. His father, Fujimaki Norinaga, was not someone to be taken lightly. The Fujimaki clan, a small and proud family barely worth a footnote in the history of Japan based out of a small village near Hakataka, had a long history of raising some of the best swordsmen to ever grace their Daimyo's halls. As such, Taro was never given the chance to properly be a child.

The one saving grace of this was, of course, his mother. Fujimaki Matsumune was the polar opposite to Taro's father. She gave off a caring and understanding nature, working both as the caregiver and nurse whenever Taro came back from training with cuts and bruises, which was all the time. His father often complained that she was too gentle with him, but she would only agree in a soft spoken voice and continue with patching up Taro's wounds. She was one of the good things in Taro's life.

He was given his very own sword at the age of 8, the one that he still wields to this day. With it, his father trained him in the art of killing for one's Daimyo, along with how much a backhand hurts, or a wooden stick, or the ground. His brother, Fujimaki Konyo was born the same year. The birth of his brother lessened the training sessions somewhat from his father, who seemed to show a legitimate concern for his new born child. Taro welcomed the change of pace, but it wasn't long before it was back to normal. For the most part, this was Taro's life. Training and living with his family. He was destined to join their Daimyo's military service when he came to age, but that never happened.

As Taro entered his teenage years, his father's attitude changed. It was subtle at first, the beatings for failing to block an attack were harsher than usual, or the curses uttered for missing a step were even more barbaric. Due to a near lifetime of this though, Taro didn't recognize the signs of what was coming until much later. Taro was training with his father, when he saw an opening and seized it. The result ended up with Norinaga on his back, but instead of praise, Taro got an intense beating. He wasn't respecting his father enough, he should know better than to strike his betters like that, he should show subservience! Taro was, naturally, confused at this outcome. All his years of training had been leading up to a point of being able to beat his father in a sparring match, but instead of congratulations he was met with scorn. It only got worse, as Norinaga would simply bypass the training altogether to beat on Taro instead. His brother, Kyono managed to avoid it somehow, most likely due to his mother who saw that she would only be able to save one of them from this harsh treatment.

It took a couple years for all of this to come to fruition, of which Taro was 16 at the time. Taro was sparring with his father once more, but this time it was inside the family Dojo. Wooden swords clacked together as Taro and Norinaga fought with all the years of practice that they had gone through. Taro's mother was present, but Kyono was actually with his uncle who was lacking a son of his own to train. As such, they were actually trained apart. The following sparring match ended rather abruptly when Norinaga left himself surprisingly open. Taro, once again, seized the opportunity. He struck his father with enough force to send him to the ground. His mother smiled and immediately started clapping softly only to be interrupted by the ferocious yell of Norinaga.

Taro couldn't tell you what caused his father to snap. A logical assumption would be an addiction to sake or some type of alcohol, but the more likely option would be some kind of sickness that went untreated. Regardless, Taro never found the reason why his father screamed at him, beating him nearly within an inch of his life before grabbing his own sword off the wall and standing over Taro. When Taro managed to look up from the beatings, he saw that his mother had tried to intervene, only for Norinaga to whip around too quickly with his sword arm raised. His Katana sliced cleanly through her throat, and collapsed to the floor.

His last images of his mother were of her...dying...gasping.

His last images of his father was of him grabbing his sword from the wall and piercing it upwards through Norinaga’s throat and out the back of his skull.

If anything, his father taught him how to use a sword and how to deal with pain in equal measure. His mind raced as he contemplated going to the family elders, only to look upon the vision of his parents. They would never believe him, not with a bloodied blade. Instead, he made the possibly irrational decision to run. Adrenaline was pumping through his veins so hard that by the time he was several miles away, he hadn't even realized he had grabbed his sword and taken his father's armor from his stand. The shock of the event had forced his body to do things that he hadn't been consciously aware of, and he contemplated throwing it in a ditch somewhere. Eventually, he decided that it served better as a reminder than a piece of trash, and he set out into the world.

Taro knew he was labeled a murderer and an outcast by his family without ever having to hear from them, it was the only thing they could possibly do. Despite this, he refused to change his name and essentially who he really was, and forced his way through the world sometimes by his own willpower alone. He came close to dying from starvation and cold several times, but managed to persevere. He had no other skills aside from what his father gave him, and so early on he started hiring himself out as a Ronin, faking his age in order to gain the somewhat tenuous trust of the traders that pocketed Japan.

It wasn't until Taro was 24, 8 years later, that his past finally came back to haunt him. He had a small reputation by that point, his swordsmanship honed from years of work and his innate ability to not die like most Ronin. He was nearly on the other side of the country, near the castle town of Yamagata when a familiar face caught up to him.

His brother, donned in armor, held his sword to Taro's throat. His reason for being there was clear cut, pure and simple revenge. Konyo was only 16, and he had made a trek that Taro had been progressively making for 8 years. Taro was impressed to say the least, and even attempted to say so. Konyo was hearing none of it, including Taro's explanation and story of their father's death. Konyo had been raised by Taro's uncle and Norinaga's brother, who whispered vile poison into his ear. Konyo wouldn't be satisfied until Taro was dead, their father avenged, and their uncle sated with the blood of his brother's killer. With a great amount of hesitation, Taro accepted his challenge.

It wasn't much of a fight. Konyo was trained well, his form was amazing and his skills most likely would have surpassed others of his age, but Taro had real life experience. He no longer believed in the formal code of the Samurai, and within minutes the fight was over. Konyo was bleeding on the ground, but not mortally wounded. Taro attempted once more to sway him, to convince him of the events that transpired 8 years ago only for Konyo to literally and figuratively spit in his face. So long as he lived, Konyo stated, he would hunt Taro and would never stop. Taro kept trying for what felt like an eternity, but when nothing was appearing to work, Taro did what had to be done.

He slid his blade through Konyo's throat, ending the threat before it could become a reality. Taro changed that day as he took Konyo's armor and sword. He wore it on his belt, next to the one that killed both him and Norinaga, and he traveled forward with a new found darkness in his heart.

So began the path of Kontora Kenshi (コントラ剣士), the Contra Swordsman.

From that point on, Taro racked up points on the reputation scale as a very skilled Ronin with dual swords named after his two main methods of dealing with life. However, despite the name of his one sword 'The Open Palm', many seem to remember him resorting to violence in nearly every occasion. Soon his reputation was adjusted to allow people to realize that the sword that he uses is his indication of whether he wants to kill you or not.

The rest of his life from that point on was filled with travel and jobs ranging from boring and mediocre to extravagant and extraordinary. He wasn't around when Warlord Yousuke killed the ruling family and declared himself Daimyo, but he did happen to be near the Castle about a year later. By that point, there were a few people who knew his face, and as such he was hired by the Warlord for an indeterminate amount of time. Taro was known to be loyal to his employer for as long as the job lasted, and no amount of bribing or other form of deterrence would shake him away from that agreement. The pay was good and he was gifted lodgings for as long as he was under the employ of Yousuke. Taro can't complain, and as long as Yousuke is willing to foot his bill, Taro will hunt and kill his enemies with a relentless determination.

So begins...

Fujimaki Taro's Story

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“Kawai! Your form is off...again! Widen your stance! Press forward and strike with confidence!” The yelling from their squad captain pierced through the otherwise noisy military encampment. Soldiers of every level of skill fought each other in sparring matches, went about their duties, and otherwise showcased activities that any army worth their salt should have been doing. Unfortunately, if one were to look closely, you could see that this army wasn’t exactly completely unified aside from their dedication to the Warlord Yousuke. Every soldier had their own level of skill, and while that could be said about any military unit, it was more evident within this one due to the relatively small size of Yousuke’s forces.

Squad Captain Tsukehara Shoda walked briskly up to the soldier he identified as Kawai, slapping a hand on his thigh as he adjusted his footing, gripping his hand and moving the wooden practice sword into a better position. “You allow yourself to become open to enemy strikes if don’t have proper footing! Your sword is too low. Keep it level!” Kawai nodded as Tsukehara nodded and continued with his practice strikes. Shoda walked back over to a man sitting on a crate, watching the rest practice. He stopped, standing next to Taro with a hand on the hilt of his sword as he gave a slight sigh. Taro simply smiled as he grabbed a skin of water next to him and handing it to the captain, who took it without a word. A swig was all he needed as he tossed it back to Taro, who placed it back on the ground. “They need a lot of work.” He said while Taro rested his chin on his hand and watched the rest of his squad practice.

“Well yeah, that’s why they’re training.” Taro replied to the squad captain. Shoda simply grimaced and Taro couldn’t help but snicker slightly. Over the years that Taro had been with Yousuke, he and Shoda had formed a mutually agreeable respect for each other that allowed for casual banter between the two. There wasn’t much said as they continued to watch the soldiers train, both of them content to simply stand or sit and observe. It wasn’t until they witnessed recruit Kawai drop his form again, allowing for a blatant opening that either of them really moved. Taro looked up up at Shoda, who was holding a hand to his face.

“Taro, do you mind?” Taro slapped himself lightly on the cheek, before grabbing the wooden training sword beside him and walking towards Kawai.

“Sorai…hold a moment.” Taro stated as Kawai Sorai looked at him, his face starting to bear beads of sweat as Taro took a position in front of him. Taro held out the wooden practice sword with one arm, placing the other behind his back and assuming a combative stance. “Using what you’ve learned, try to disarm me.” Sorai was still, his eyes darting from Taro to Shoda and back. The last time he had helped Kawai ‘practice’, he had sent him to a healer with a black eye among other bruised portions of his body. Taro gave a slight sigh. “I will attempt to hold back my aggressive tendencies, now come on.” Kawai seemed to give it a moment’s thought, before pressing forward. He had only taken two steps before Taro’s sword was already moving, and came down hard on the man’s hand with a hard snap, making Kawai cry out in pain.

“Weapon’s too low.” Taro stated in a bored tone as Kawai dropped the weapon from the force of the impact. With a quick spin Taro launched a broad attack to Kawai’s chest, throwing him to the ground. “And your stance is too narrow, you don’t have any way to regain your footing in the event of an attack.” Taro pointed the sword at Sorai’s face as he looked at him laying on the ground. “When the Captain gives you advice, take to it like a fish to water...or you’ll find your hands missing and your chest without a heart.” Taro stated, poking at the man’s ribs with the sword as Sorai flinched slightly with each prod. Taro rested the sword on his shoulder as he made his way to his box. “Good enough?” Taro asked the Squad captain as he returned to his sitting position.

“Anyone else want a personalized lesson?” Shoda asked, to which the rest of the squad doubled their practice routine. Taro had gone surprisingly light on Kawai, as he had a reputation around the camp for not holding back on his sparring partners. Shoda gave a small nod to Taro before stepping back into the fold with the rest of the squad. Despite being part of this humble little unit, Taro was exempt from most of the basic training that these men were forced to do as part of their daily routine. He had his own exercise regime, and Shoda had long ago learned to let him do it and have Taro act more as a teacher than a squad mate when it came to most matters concerning techniques and combat.

As Shoda yelled at the squad some more, Taro’s mind drifted. He was bored, that was for certain. In the time that he had been hired on with the Warlord Yousuke, he hadn’t done much outside of standard grunt work. The pay was alright, and with it he managed to afford a small place just a little ways from the castle so that he didn’t have to bunk with all the men here, but he hadn’t really adjusted to the ‘army’ lifestyle. He was still so used to be able to act on his own, being given a goal and allowed to reach it of his own volition that sometimes he still managed to rub the commanding officers the wrong way even after a couple years with them.

It wasn’t all bad though, as many within Yousuke’s army came to know of Taro, and he had more than his fair share of challengers testing their skills. He hadn’t been defeated by any of the grunts to date, but he knew that the real challengers would be from the personal retainer of the Warlord himself, so he was trying to be patient until he got a chance to gauge their skills himself. So one had to ask...why was he just a lowly grunt? He was offered a position to be a squad captain, but he declined. He didn’t want to lead others around if he didn’t have to, having other people’s lives tied to his decisions. He wasn’t so worried about them getting killed on their watch so much as having to act as their babysitter. Another position was with the local policing force within the village, which he also declined. He more often than not broke the law rather than kept it, and he could only feel so hypocritical at a time.

To be perfectly honest, the job itself was one of the more boring ones he had ever come across, yet the most stable he had been able to procure. He had managed to hook onto Yousuke’s forces after their occupation of Kobayashi Castle, and more than a part of him wished he had been with them when that happened. There was no challenge in sitting around, watching soldiers train and better themselves for their Daimyo, even when they voluntarily tried to fight him. For the most part, they were competently trained and disciplined, but they were not used to fighting someone of Taro’s caliber and as such, most of these match ups only served to increase his reputation as a skilled swordsman throughout the ranks. If Taro had his way, he would be challenging Warlord Yousuke himself in a sparring match if he could, but it was never a good idea to beat down the man paying you to work for him.

So here he sat, waiting for an opportunity to arise such as a surprise attack or order to move to a battlefield, passing the time beating Yousuke soldiers into the dirt under the pretense of ‘training’. As his mind wandered, he was perked back up by a sound coming from farther within the encampment. His head twisted as he looked around, his hand on the hilt of his sword as tension overtook his body. Shoda must have noticed this, as he walked over to Taro who was barely registering his presence at this point.

“Something the matter Fujimaki?” Shoda stated, before being quieted by a raised hand from Taro.

“You don’t hear it?” Taro stated, slowly standing from his position on the box. Shoda took a moment to listen and observe, but simply looked back to Taro.

“I don’t hear anything but the sounds of training.” Taro’s head picked up suddenly as he quickly looked in another direction.

“There it is again!” Taro stated as he unlocked his sword from his scabbard.

“What are you hearing Fujimaki?” Shoda asked, impatience more than a little evident in his voice as Taro started taking off at a light jog into the rest of the encampment. Taro simply looked back at the man with a scowl.

“We have been infiltrated…” Taro stated, before slowly adding; “By a cat.” Taro disappeared behind several buildings, leaving Shoda much with the same look that he gave Kawai, his face in his hand as he turned back to the rest of the squad.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Fujimaki Taro Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya
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The encampment was still a bustle of activity as soldiers from all makes of life made their way to and from their respective duties. For the most part, there wasn’t a single one of them that wasn’t busy, or so it seemed. In the middle of it all, sitting cross legged by a small fire and tending to a pot was Taro. His hand rhythmically moved the spoon in the pot, drool practically dropping out of his mouth as another man came up behind him. Shoda’s hands were crossed, his eyes glaring down at the apparently oblivious Taro. “Everyone else is performing their duties.” Shoda started. “And I find you here...making...what?”

“Stew.” Taro answered quite matter of factly. Shoda waited for a further answer that didn’t seem to come.

“And…? Why are you making stew at this particular moment in time?” Shoda asked, exasperation already starting to show on his face.

“I think the answer would be obvious.” Taro stated as he pulled the spoon out for a taste test. With a tiny sip, he licked his lips and handed it to Shoda. The man gave a sigh, knowing that arguing with a man who could literally out-fight everyone in his squad was fruitless. With a bit of hesitation, he lifted the spoon to his lips and took a taste. After a moment, he gave a nod.

“That’s actually not half bad…” Shoda stated, looking at Taro. “What kind of meat is in that?” Taro took the spoon, and pointed to a rack just off to the side. Shado glanced over, and his face was immediately covered in a stupor as he stared at the cat skin hanging off of it. “Ok, I knew you hated cats...but I thought you were just kidding.” Taro waved the spoon around, turning slightly to point it at Shado.

“I never kid about eating pussy cat.” Taro stated, putting the lid on the pot as he poked the fire with a stick for a moment. Shado simply stared at him, a look of incredulousness plastered on his face. Taro was already continuing. “If you do it right, you treat the meat, it becomes a treat for me to eat.” Shado just shook his head.

“How long has that one been in your head?” Taro gave a smile as he stared off into the camp.

“Way longer than you’ll ever get me to admit to.” Taro stood up, stretching slightly as he turned to face his squad captain. “But, you didn’t come here to question me on my diet, so, mind telling me what’s on your mind Captain?” Shado paused for a moment, before snapping his fingers a couple times.

“Right, got a request from the top. Yousuke-dono is setting up some kind of challenge to the masses. Anyone can step forward and try to beat his chosen warrior, and if they do, there’s a massive prize that goes with it. Money, fame, women, who knows.” Taro paused for a moment as his eyes widened slightly.

“So you’re telling me...they’re giving us a free shot at one of his personal retainer?” Taro asked, and Shado simply nodded.

“I wouldn’t say a free shot, but sure you can fight them.” Taro was practically jumping around on the inside, but he managed to bring his outside demeanor back under control slightly as he simply smiled rather than broadcast a childish display of anticipation.

“So, do we know who this warrior is then?” Shado gave a smile in return, which worried Taro more than the actual fight did.

“It’s Amaya-san.” Taro cocked an eyebrow at this as he stomped out the small fire.

“She’s Yousuke-dono’s strategist and analyst, isn’t she?” Taro asked as Shado turned and started walking, to which he in turn moved to keep up.

“Among other things, I would say that’s the main one yeah. Have you talked to her at all?” Taro gave a slight shrug.

“She was there when I was first hired, also a couple times around the camp. She fits her role very well and seems like a nice enough girl.” Taro nodded once. “Kind of makes me question how she got to the role she is today, but that’s none of my business so I don’t bother to pry.”

“Probably for the best.” Shado stated as they continued their trek through the encampment. “I will say this though, she’s a rather accomplished fighter from what I’ve been able to see.”

“I’d rather gauge that for myself.” Taro stated, while also mentally adding; and I wish they had picked a male opponent.

It wasn’t long before the duo managed to get to the fairly large opening that had been cleared for where the trials were taking place. Shado and Taro managed to push themselves through the crowding soldiers to the front, and were graced with the sight of a man landing face first into the dirt hard enough to make more than half of the men in the crowd wince in sympathetic pain. Taro looked at the soldier who was barely moving on the ground, several cuts and bruises were already evident on his face as a couple of other soldiers moved to get him off of the ground.

“I tried to tell you.” Shado stated, making Taro shrug his shoulders once more.

“I’ve been beating these troops into shape myself for the better part of a couple years now, that doesn’t really frighten me much.” Taro stated as he got a look at Amaya herself, who was standing confidently in the center of the makeshift arena. Her arms were folded, matching the serious expression on her face and giving a somewhat comical ‘guard’ stance that Taro wanted to laugh at but knew would not be appreciated. Behind her and in a space all of his own was the very man he worked for. Yousuke-dono sat on his horse, allowing him a prime vantage spot to witness the carnage that his retainer was doing to the masses. Taro looked off to the side and saw that, including the man he just saw fall, there were a couple of others looking rather defeated as well. Yet despite the fact that she had obviously fought several people already, she showed no signs of combat, which was impressive for someone of her stature. Taro wanted to challenge the Warlord’s retainers, but he also didn’t want to fight a woman. He put a hand to his chin as he weighed his options.

She was obviously a warrior, otherwise she wouldn’t be here. She was not only capable of taking damage, but expected it as stated by the previous reason. Still, he felt like his hand might be somewhat stayed instinctually because of her gender. A challenge was a challenge right? He had hoped that he would fight some of Yousuke’s personal guard, and this was about as close as he was going to get without moving up the man’s military ladder. In the middle of his reverie, a hand dropped on his shoulder, forcing him back into reality.

“Are you rethinking fighting her?” Shoda stated, a sly smile on his face. “No one here would think any less of you if you did, obviously they’re not stepping forward.” His words were correct, but his tone was pushing Taro on, as if he needed the extra nudge. Taro brushed the man’s hand off and gave a smile.

“Stand back and watch how it’s done.” Taro said, his tone slightly more serious and dangerous as his mind already started adapting to the battle conditions that he was expecting. He stepped forward into the circle, his left hand resting on the hilt of one of his swords as he took up a spot opposite of Amaya. He turned to face Yousuke, bowing deeply.

“Yousuke-dono”. He stated, his voice void of all previous humor that was lacing his words just seconds before, his face as stoic as stone. He turned to Amaya next, and gave a small genuine smile before giving another bow. This one wasn’t as formal, his arm sweeping out slightly as he did so with a bit of flourish. “Amaya-san, a pleasure as always.” The difference in tone between the two people was almost light and dark as he straightened from his stance, a touch of levity gracing the air between them.

“If you would have me, I will be your next opponent.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Fujimaki Taro Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya
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To say that the past month had been an adventure would be an extreme understatement. Not only had Jiu traveled across the sea as a stowaway, which had been a terrifying ordeal in and of itself, but he finally accomplished a lifelong dream of setting foot in his beloved Japan. He'd spent the past month simply traveling the country side looking for clue's about his master's whereabouts and soaking in the scenery. Best of all, every new tea house was an excuse to stop and experience life. It also just might have been an excuse to drink his sorrows away in some sort of home away from home.

Unfortunately for Jiu, alcohol was not free and there was the pesky need for food and lodging; a fact he grumbled over as he had stumbled into town the previous day. He could only make so much money with his wooden pipa and he had yet to meet someone willing to take the chance of hiring on a drunken swordsmen. His coin purse was getting lighter and lighter and he was soon going to need a more permanent solution to his constant money problems.

'Oh well.' Jiu thought as he walked through the well kept and bustling streets. He firmly believed things would work themselves out the way they were meant to, even if that meant him begging with a hungry stomach.

Hopefully it wouldn't end with a hungry stomach.

It wasn't long before Jiu had made his way to a rather busy tea house. He couldn't explain it but he never really had to look for them, it was like he was magnetically drawn to the chaotic laughter and merriment that existed in all drinking houses. This particular tea house was exceptionally loud and Jiu felt his usual smile grow even larger as he entered, eager to see the cause of such joyous uproar.

He was somewhat surprised to see what he assumed were a group of samurai, or simple soldiers more likely due to their more simple looking demeanor, irregardless of rank however they had been in the midst of a particularly loud song praising a 'Lord Yousuke'. It was immediately clear to him that these men were extremely inebriated, a fact that made it all the easier for him to slip into the middle of the group.

At first he was greeted with suspicion, one man even reached for a blade. But a quick round of drinks for everyone, followed by another, and then another, and Jiu had made life long friends. Or at least that's what one particularly loud square faced soldier was barking at Jiu before he flat out passed out at the table.

Not only was Jiu genuinely enjoying the company of the soldiers, who had taken it upon themselves to explain how their “Great and powerful Lord”, had improved life for everyone, but he felt he had learned quite a bit of information. His ears particularly perked up when they began speaking of a tournament of sorts, they made it sound like an opportunity where anyone could prove their merit in a fight against one of Yousuke's personal warriors.

“Any one, you say?” Jiu asked before downing a final cup of sake, a mischievous grin on his lips as he thanked fate. Perhaps he could finally prove his blade was worth purchasing. At the very least he hoped he'd be drinking tonight, having just spent just spent the last of his coin.

The next day Jiu awoke sometime before noon, wasting no time he hurried off following the directions the old soldiers had given him the previous night. They told him they looked forward to him getting torn apart. Surprisingly for as drunk as his drinking companions had been their directions were amazingly accurate. It hadn't taken him long at all to find the large clearing that was the makeshift arena, the large circle of shuffling men a clear sign that fights were indeed already taking place.

Jiu made his way to the front of the crowd just in time to see a would be opponent literally flying through the air before colliding with the ground in a cloud of dust. The sound the man made on impact caused Jiu to slightly wince, an act he exaggerated by cringing his whole body. It was time to start acting like an idiot.

He watched for another moment as a new man entered the ring carrying himself with all the poise of a true warrior. First the newcomer spoke in regards to a man on horseback, a man he had called Yousuke.

'The Lord Yousuke?!' Jiu thought to himself excitedly, adrenaline surging through his veins at the realization that the highly spoken of lord was attending the event. Perhaps fate truly was smiling on him.

Realizing he was in desperate need of a drink Jiu quickly untied the small black gourd at his waist. It had the kanji of 'Ox' on it and he wasted no time lifting the hard hollow gourd to his lips, three long swigs later and a wipe of his chin and he was ready to go.

Turning his attention back to the scene unfolding, Jiu watched as the man began to speak to the woman. She was obviously far more dangerous then Jiu would have thought, had he not seen her display of sheer strength. The man asked if she'd have him for her next opponent.

“Wait! Wait! Me first!” Jiu's sharp voice squawked as he bumbled into the arena. Immediately he caught many eyes as he swayed to and fro in a strange jog of sorts, the only thing seemingly keeping him from toppling over was the white staff he clutched in his right hand. Whenever it seemed like he was finally going to fall the staff would keep him ajar at the very last moment.

“Oh high and mighty lord of lords.” Jiu began towards Yousuke's direction in his barely passable Japanese, his words slightly slurring together and borderline sarcastic. He didn't mean to come off sounding so insulting but he honestly didn't know how to properly address a Lord. That fact combined with his strange accent made him come off as quite a strange sight. Of course his odd clothes and toothy grin weren't helping matters either.

Not knowing how to be proper, he did the next best thing by copying Taro's bowing moves and gestures while stringing together all the flowery flattering words he could come up with. “It is my humblest-est of honors to prove my worth before one of your stature.”

He finished with another of Taro's bows, although this one was much more flamboyant and nearly resulted in him falling over his feet-at least that's how it appeared to those with an untrained eye.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Fujimaki Taro Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Shimamoto "Jiu" Ni  Zi Character Portrait: Amaya
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Cowritten with blackrider and Quakernuts

It would appear that her next challenger was Fujimaki-san. An unusual fellow, in some respects; Amaya had spoken with him a few times, which was true for most of those ranked officers in the army. His position was irregular as it was, which, should he prove adequate to the task, would make for a good candidate to the squad she was trying to assemble. It was fortunate, then, that he’d decided to challenge. Her eyes flickered for a moment to Yousuke-dono, who seemed as amused as ever by the spectacle of soldiers fighting a strategist, and her lips twitched into a smile at Sasuke. He’d had a little too much sake, perhaps.

“Your challenge is accepted, Fujimaki-san. You are permitted to use whatever weapons or implements you should wish. I encourage you not to worry about harming me. There will be enough other concerns to occupy you shortly.” It was a warning, of sorts, but delivered without a shred of arrogance. Amaya was good at what she did—it was why she held the rank she did. Some tended to forget this fact upon looking at her, because she was small and female. She didn’t resent it, but neither would she fail to punish someone for it if they held back out of some misapplied notion of mercy.

She was stepping forward to bow in the traditional manner before a bout when another voice carried over the din, and the owner of it came flailing after. Amaya’s brows drew together over her eyes for just a moment, and she snorted softly, the sound escaping as a little huff of air. She raised a brow at Yousuke-dono, but these matches were hers to conduct and therefore hers to construct.

“No need for turns. I will fight you both simultaneously. Teamwork is, after all, just as vital a skill as solitary combat. If you should best me, you can face each other.” That should assuage any concerns about credit going where it was due.

The whole time Amaya had been speaking Jiu had been doing his best to stretch out his body, a process that looked quite comical as he flailed his arms around and did a couple squats. It was as if despite what was going on Jiu couldn't keep his body still for more then the span of a few seconds. Suddenly his last attempt to stretch out his legs resulted in him literally crashing to the floor in a painful looking heap, instead of picking himself up though, he simply lay there. He was hoping to lull Amaya into thinking he wasn't worth her attention.

This woman truly wanted to fight them both at once? And with their choice of weapons no less. Jiu thought she had to be extremely skilled or foolish, or perhaps just the perfect mixture of both? He wasn't sure but regardless he was determined to do his best to catch the eye of Lord Yousuke, or more importantly, gain access to the man's coin. So that meant now was no time to hold back.

As Amaya finished up her comments on teamwork and explaining how the victors could fight each other Jiu slightly sat up, quickly piling most of his belongings together that he had no intention on bringing into the fight. In moments his staff, sword, and pear shaped musical instrument all sat a good foot away and the only "weapon" he still clutched in his hand was one of his signature hollowed out gourds. Unlike the black 'Ox' gourd Jui had drank from moments ago this one was more redish in color and bore the kanji for 'Dragon'.

“Before we begin perhaps I could offer a drink to my new found friends, yes?” Jiu asked before he himself took an exceptionally large swig. He'd spoken with all the sincerity he could muster before offering the hollowed out gourd to both Taro and Amaya, all the while trying his best to hide the mischievous grin curling across his face.

Well, this one was a weirdo. Fortunately, Amaya was rather accustomed to dealing with those. Yousuke’s army took people who could fight or had other valuable skills, and the reason many of them were available in the first place was because they would never fit in with a conventional army. If they were ronin, they were either not good at following conventional rules, not of noble enough blood to become samurai like they wanted to, the wrong gender, or whatever. This one looked like a lush, and acted like one too, though she could detect that there was something else there as well, from the way he never quite faceplanted or hurt himself, however precariously close he seemed to get.

She was almost a little insulted when he chose to stow his sword with the rest of his extraneous belongings, and she decided right off the bat that this one was not already part of the troops, from how much he was carrying. He was probably looking for a way in, then. Fine by her—she neglected to tell him that there were much easier ways to join up.

“No, thank you.” Her reply to the newcomer was simple, blunt, casual—as though she regularly received the offer of alcohol before a match and thought nothing strange of it. Deciding, however, that it was high time to get on with it, she curled one hand into a fist, placed it against the opposite palm, and bowed, coming back up and settling into a relaxed stance.

“Whenever you are quite ready, gentlemen?” Threaded in the manner of address was a subtle note of irony; perhaps only she would address these particular people as such. But for all the lightness of tone, her face was impassive. She intended to take the challenge as seriously as any other, no matter how bizarre it would seem to anyone else.

Taro was in the process of analyzing Amaya as an opponent, his thoughts mixing to what type of style, speed, strength, and weapon she would be using. When it became clear that her lack of a weapon came from the purpose of not using one, Taro nearly gave a smile in amusement. He moved to take his swords off of his hip when another new comer had entered the field. Taro stared over at the man, irritation bubbling beneath the surface even though he refused to let it show. The way he carried himself, with a stumbling befit of only the most drunken fools was enough to make Taro groan inwardly. Enough, stop embarrassing yourself and walk away Taro thought to himself as the man continued to address Amaya.

Taro's hands stopped disentangling his swords from his hip for a moment as the man asked to test himself against the lord's strategist. Taro had already opened his mouth to let the man know that the fight was already his, and that if he planned on battling anyone he should do it sober. Instead, Amaya beat him to the punch and nearly left him speechless. Fighting? Together? Teamwork? I don't even know this man's name, let alone what he could possibly bring to the table in a fight? I wanted to test myself against you! That was supposed to be the deal! WHY?!

"If you would feel that to be the best option Amaya-san, I will comply." Taro stated, gently inclining his head towards her. She was part of Yousuke's personal retainer, and as such held almost equal rank in Taro's mind. Due to that reason, none of his personal concerns about the clumsy swordsman made it past his thoughts. He removed his blades from his hip. "Tsukehara-san, do you mind?" Taro stated, his tone respectful as he handed his blades to his Squad Captain. He then removed his jacket and placed it on top of the swords as well. This revealed that his gauntlets did not go all the way up his arms, instead stopping at the elbow and revealing scarred skin as a result. Before returning to the field, he stopped at a rack of weapons, and grabbed a wooden training sword, testing it's weight before walking back to the man and standing beside him.

"I am Fujimaki Taro." Taro stated, grabbing the gourd from the man. "And I would suggest grabbing something...even if it's just a stick." Taro stated, having grabbed the training sword for the simple fact of being able to unleash his full ability without having to worry about serious injury on Amaya's side. He took a swig from the gourd, his eyes went wide, and immediately started coughing and spitting into the dirt.

"That...That's pretty strong." Taro's voice came out raspy and weak as he handed the gourd back. He pounded his chest a couple of times, straightening up and letting out a breath. "Alright...let us begin." Taro stated once he got his voice back, holding the sword out in front of him with two hands in a combat stance.

And then you drunken fool, if we win this, I will beat your face into the dirt for disrupting my solo chance at this!

Taro launched forward, his speed surprising for his size as he brought the sword down in a standard straight arc.

Watching Taro down a decent sized gulp of the awamori made Jiu immediately like the man. Regardless, he refused the man's sound advice to grab a weapon, a fact he would surely soon regret.

Jiu wasted no time with responding to Taro, his mind solely focused on the fight now. Although in all honesty he couldn't have responded if he wanted to, his mouth still full of the same foul tasting liquid he had offered to Taro and Amaya moments ago. Quickly springing to his feet far faster then any drunken man should have been able to Jiu did his best to take advantage of the momentary distraction from Taro's attack.

Quickly making his way to the left side of Amaya, Jiu started his own assault, an act that consisted of a disgusting display that had him actually spitting out all the alcohol he had been storing behind his drunken grin. If he was lucky some would get in Amaya's eyes, if he was unlucky he'd cover Taro in a fine mist of spit and alcohol. Deciding it was well worth the risk he followed the dishonorable act with a particularly well timed attempt at a leg sweep.

Amaya was extremely quick on her feet—it was, in fact, one of her primary advantages as a combatant. As she’d chosen to forgo weaponry in this instance, she was going to be making heavy use of the fact, since she would need a way to work distance to her advantage without the ability to stave anyone off with her naginata’s length.

Fujimaki’s first blow was a standard-enough starter, meant likely to test more than to actually hit, and she didn’t have any trouble avoiding it, simply smoothly stepping just far enough to the side that adjusting to hit her would overextend him more than he should be willing. It was no sooner than she had done so that the other man stepped in close, spitting his alcohol at her in one of the most unconventional opening maneuvers she’d ever seen. She ducked it, rolling sideways towards him and away from the leg sweep, coming up well under his guard. Surging back to her feet, she aimed a punishing strike with the heel of her hand for the underside of his chin.

The attack was one that Taro would have been extremely disappointed if it had connected. Within that small instance though, he got a small feel for just how fast Amaya was going to be. If anything, he was pleasantly surprised. Well, at least he was until he felt something wet cover his face and a portion of his upper arm. He slid away, wiping his face as he looked over at Jiu and figured out immediately what it was he was cleaning off. He just spit at her? Great, now we're adding bodily fluids to a list of possible attacks. Taro thought to himself as he watched Amaya expertly dodge Jiu's attacks and deliver a punishing blow to his chin. Serves you right. Taro thought as he readied his sword for another strike.

He pushed forward, his sword held low at his side as a straight slash cross wise seemed like the most logical choice, but right before it would have connected, Taro stamped his foot down, stopping his movement. His left hand reached out into a direct palm strike meant to impact center mass.

Jiu suddenly realised that not only was this woman strong but she was exceptionally quick, a fact painfully obvious as Amaya's responding strike exploded across the bottom of his chin. His eye's widened in a moment of sobriety as the blow briefly lifted him from his feet. An average man probably would have been sprawled across the ground from the sheer force of the strike, but luckily for Jui years of constant beatings had taught him how to take a punch like a pro. In his mind simply still standing was testament enough that he was worth the brief attention of Lord Yousuke.

Clacking his now-sore jaw up and down while shaking the stars from his eyes, Jiu immediately regained his composure, his body swaying to and fro in an erratic unreadable pattern. Tossing his dragon gourd towards his pile of worldly supplies, he assumed a more proper stance. Turning to his side with his left leg pointed towards Amaya he let his left arm follow suit as it extended outwards in Amaya's direction, oddly instead of fists or open palms both his hands were curled together as if they held invisible cups of sake. Keeping his right hand close to his chest he began to circle Amaya while he continued his drunken sway, his body ready to bend or fall an any direction needed to dodge a blow.

Standing nearly a full foot taller then Amaya, Jiu was doing his best to use his longer reach to his advantage, staying just out of her range as he waited for Taro to present him with another opening for attack. “Sorry about that!” Jiu hollered over towards Taro, a wide grin still spread on his face betraying any true feelings of regret. “I'll get you a drink later!”

Almost at the exact moment Jiu finished speaking Taro had struck yet again, feigning an attack only to follow up with a quick open palm strike to Amaya's chest. Not hesitating for a second Jiu literally threw himself at his opponent from behind with a fierce spinning kick towards Amaya's back left leg.

Caught in something that was roughly a scissor formation and well aware of it, Amaya made note of the fact that both had proven adaptable enough to the other’s strategy to get her into such a disadvantageous predicament. This was not to say, however, that she had no way out—merely to acknowledge that they had done much better than one might have expected.

Being in the middle of a scissor formation was unwise, and so the logical thing to do was get out of it. Knowing that Fujimaki was coming in behind her but unsure of exactly what he was doing, she made a judgement call, jumping to avoid the spinning kick to her leg, torqueing her body to land facing him. The sword slash she’d expected was aborted, and the follow up blow landed, if only just, so she bent backwards like a reed when the blow connected, taking away most of the force. Rather than snapping back up from the bend, however, she turned it into a short, efficient flip, landing slightly to the left of the stranger.

Taking advantage of the fact that he was still not as steady on his feet as he could have been after his low kick, she grabbed one of his wrists and twisted it behind his back with a spin, grabbing with her free hand onto the fabric of the back of his shirt, then shoving him forward and towards Fujimaki with surprising strength, releasing her grip on both.

A surprisingly deft move, not expecting that one. Good work. Taro thought in response to Amaya's movements. He had hit her, of that he was sure, but it wasn't enough. She quickly adapted, moving in such a way Taro had to wonder if her body was made of water as she landed and pressed the attack. She immediately went after the Drunk, grabbing his wrist and twisting it back in a standard arm lock. By the time she had launched him as a human arrow towards Taro, he was already moving out of the way. He sidestepped to his right, grabbing the man by the collar and whipping him around so that he was facing Amaya once again, preventing him from falling to the ground. Taro stood there a moment, wiping his own face more for the expression than the need. "You know...if I was wearing my jacket when you did that...I would be more than a little unpleasant towards you." Taro stated, but gave a wicked smirk afterward. "Instead, try to hit her at least once? That could help both of us."

With that, Taro was launching forward again, jumping in the air slightly as he reared his sword back for a very powerful one handed thrust.

It was easy to tell Jiu was slightly embarrassed by the way things had been going for him in this fight, his usual rosy cheeks an even deeper shade of scarlet as Taro redirected his flight path. He tried to play off the scene with a friendly quip back at Taro. “I was just saving my real skills for you, but if you insist.”

Back on his feet and determined to prove he was worth something, Jiu's smile had turned from friendly to fed up. Well, in all honesty his signature big goofy grin remained unchanged and genuinely kind looking. But he was fed up damn it!

Jiu threw himself (quite literally) back at Amaya with the renewed vigor of a madman. He'd closed the distance to Amaya in two quick leaps, landing beside her in an odd imitation of a frog. Locking eyes with her he let out a loud almost convincing ““Ribbit”.

Springing to his feat in the blink of an eye he pressed his attack. For what seemed like hours (but was probably only a few short moments) they went blow after blow. At first Jiu had been doing extremely well dodging her attacks, his body bending and contorting in ways that looked rather surreal and impossible to the human eye. It was actually a rather impressive sight watching the man whose body seemed to have a mind of its own.

The blows that did connect were extremely painful but watching with an expert eye it was obvious to see the way he leaned into or guided the strikes to lessen the impact of the hits on his body, one occasion he even headbutted Amaya's incoming palm with nothing more then a laugh and a 'tsk tsk' sound.

Despite his combat style looking completely random and made up on the fly, there was an actual method to his madness, a fact that became apparent as Taro was closing in on the hopefully distracted Amaya.

He wasn't sure if what had happened next Amaya had allowed or his plan was working perfectly, either way mere seconds before Taro's attack connected Jiu had snaked his left arm around Amaya's right in a successful yet strange looking arm lock. Now all he had to do was use his superior strength to hold the poor girl in place. And being a man that was a simple task, it was not like Jiu was fighting a demon or something here.

Given that this was an assessment, Amaya was, to a point, willing to play into various gambits and allow herself to be, in some ways, maneuvered and steered into situations that were disadvantageous for her. The strategy that was her primary strength, she eased back on, keeping track of how she believed they were thinking, but primarily just defending, rarely becoming aggressive unless someone pressed, and in this way drawing out the confrontation so she could get a sense of what their skills were like.

After a particularly rapid exchange with the stranger, she found herself in an armlock, and she conceded that the newcomer had done quite well to get her there. Not bothering to struggle in his grip, she instead devoted the seconds she had before Fujimaki got there to escape in a different fashion—first, she stomped hard on his foot, a strike that could look ill-aimed, but actually hit one of the pressure points on the foot. His resistance to the pain of the strike seemed to be greater than she had expected, but it was either painful or surprising enough to loosen his grip just enough, and she slipped out of the hold like a fish—just in time to avoid what Taro had aimed at her.

One minute Amaya was there and the next she was gone, leaving Jiu with one extremely sore foot and a wooden sword in his chest. With practically no time to respond he had received the full force of Taro's attack, a sickeningly loud crack sounding from Jiu's ribs as white hot pain shot through his head. Clutching at his chest with a look of actual surprise on his face he staggered for a moment, gritting his teeth in an attempt to stay up. For the first time since ariving in the arena his smile was gone. Finally opening his mouth to speak all that came out was “Jacket”, and with that he collapsed to the ground in a motionless heap.

Well...unintentional but not entirely upsetting. Taro thought to himself as he looked at the crumpled pile of drunken swordsman on the ground. Taro simply walked around him, twirling his sword in his hand as he came face to face with Amaya once more. This time, it was how it was supposed to be. Just him and her, and already she was proving to be a challenge worthy of his attention. He held out his left forearm, taking the wooden sword and slowly scraping it against his gauntlet until just the tip was resting on his armor. With a slight smirk, he bolted forward once more, increasing his speed until she was right in front of him.

Several slashes filled the air as Taro swung in multiple directions to try and catch Amaya off guard, each attempt countered by either a side step or a deft redirection with the palms of her hands. Finally, on a downward stroke, Amaya took the extra step forward inside Taro's guard, clamping down on his right wrist with both hands. With a slight twirl akin to a dance, She twisted and brought Taro's arm along with his sword behind his back. He grunted slightly from the awkward position, but didn't waste any time countering. He bent forward, releasing his grip on the sword and allowing it to slide off his back into his left hand. Rolling forward, he forced Amaya to let go or be dragged down with him, ending with him slightly dusty and less than a couple feet from her.

No time should be wasted in a battle, so again Taro pressed the attack, but instead of his standard strokes, he reversed the direction of his blade so it curved along his forearm. This time, he took that extra step forward, forcing himself inside her guard and swiping every which direction. There was no room to move nor redirect as Amaya was forced to bring up her arms and bear a punishing barrage of attacks that finally ended with a kick to her opened palms, having placed them exactly where they needed to be in order to minimize the damage done.

Amaya flared her arms slightly, most likely to get rid of the slightly numb feeling, but Taro didn't give her long as he rushed forward once more, his sword back into the standard fighting style of slashes and thrusts. Instead of trying to dodge for awhile before pressing an attack, Amaya reached out, grabbing Taro's free hand and spinning around to his back before he could react. She was learning, as she didn't bother to even try to draw out the hold. She twisted hard, hard enough to snap bones, something she must have known Taro would have been able to counter or at the very least, she had to be hoping as Taro forced himself into a very awkward frontal roll to avoid snapping his wrist.

He landed hard on his back, feeling his breath leave him for a moment before returning and rolling to his side, scrambling to his feet. He stood there for a moment, his weapon in hand as he looked at the girl that was giving him so much trouble. She wasn't breathing heavy, but Taro could swear there was at least one bead of sweat on her person. Even as he thought this, a salty sensation entered his eye as well, and he nearly laughed. Obviously he was in the same position. He twirled the sword slightly again before bringing it up beside his face, the palm resting on the butt of the handle as the blade was pointed forward, ready for a thrust. She was good, he would admit that much, but no one was perfect.

With that in mind, he pressed forward once more.

Amaya was entirely still as Fujimaki approached, her facial expression having deviated little, if at all, in their entire exchange. She still seemed to be, more than anything, observing. As her remaining opponent rushed her, she settled back into a loose stance, knees slightly bent and arms partly in front of her, almost as though she simply intended to take the hit.

What she did do was something considerably different. Her timing had to be perfect, and fortunately, in this instance it was. When Fujimaki’s sword moved to strike, her hands lashed out, viper-quick, her palms catching the blade mid-stroke. Rather than absorbing all of that force herself, however, which would almost certainly have knocked her off her feet, she turned it into motion, letting the loose positioning of her form flow naturally into a twist, applying Taro’s own momentum in a way that ultimately worked against him, forcing him to give up the blade or fall, much too close to her to be safe in the seconds afterwards.

The bokken was hers, and she smoothly gripped it completing her spin with a strike not to anywhere especially vital, but rather to his arm. An innocuous hit, or so it would seem, at least until his arm went numb. Now she had both the weapon and one more useable arm than he did—though she had to admit to some surprise when he recovered quickly and attempted to use the dead limb as some sort of bludgeoning instrument. Her brows drew together, a spark of amusement lighting in her eyes, but the match was done now. She knew what she needed to know.

Ducking under the swing of his arm, she came up on the other side, hopping into a seemingly-effortless roundhouse kick. With his defending side missing a working limb, she connected with the side of his head, dropping him.

Rolling her shoulders out and cracking her neck to either side, she finally allowed the spark in her eyes to be reflected in the rest of her, a grin blossoming over her face. Bowing to both of them—though the stranger was out cold and Fujimaki’s consciousness was debatable—she turned to Yousuke and lofted one dark brow. “I think I like these two.” In her usual brisk manner, she pointed out a few of the other fighters she’d sparred with thus far that day, assembling her new strike squad in an efficient manner, and then calling for medical to come attend to those too injured to leave the area on their own power.