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Kohaku Souji-sama

Nobility and Honour has less to do with birth and more to do with character.

0 · 249 views · located in sengoku period, japan

a character in “The Ways of Samurai”, as played by Skittle_Overlord

Description

Kohaku Souji
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Half an hour in spring evening is worth a thousand gold pieces



Age
39

Appearance
ImageSouji has a face that managed to charm the heart of spring fae, and that was just in his youth, now he is a full grown man on the brink of middle age. His looks have turned from charmingly boyish to strikingly handsome. Angular are his features and smooth is his skin, though now worrisome lines near his eyebrows have begun to appear, evidence of the many hours a day his face spends stern. He has long eyelashes that many women have spent time admiring and honey brown eyes that now lack the warmth they used to have. His silky hair runs past his shoulders and is kept up in a ponytail, the same style many samurai share, he lets Kana put it up every morning now, a ritual she instigated. She seems to enjoy brushing his hair and he appreciates it, he remembers that when she was a little girl he would have to find something for her to stand on so she could reach him. And he is taller than your average man in japan but not by much, standing at a solid five feet and nine inches. As a veteran samurai his body is rock solid but not bulky, and the scar he does have are all on his arms on torso, never his back. Souji's sword technique is one passed down to him from his father, a technique that focuses more of defense than offense, never has an opponent gotten anything more than a superficial flesh wound on Souji.

Likes
+ Spring
+ Dumplings: another ritual he and his daughter share is their love for dumplings, he would bring some for her often from town
+ Poetry: He is a bit of a poet, has a book that he write his haiku in, he thinks this to be a secret activity he keeps to himself but a certain someone has taken the book to lady Chinatsu more than once and read it to her, the ladies had themselves a good laugh, and sometimes a sentimental cry
+ Kana: It's no secret that Souji's daughter is the apple of his eye, he still sees her as a little girl.
+ Stories: Souji would tell Kana stories of great heroes and youkai alike, most of them made up. Though he knows that youkai exist he gives his daughter the impression that all his stories are entirely fictional. For such a stern looking man he can can come up with such silly things to say sometimes.
+ Biwa: Played while telling his stories, he's quite good
+ Kabuki

Dislikes
- Dishonorable Dogs: Though not quick to judge a man, nor arrogant enough to presume himself to be the final judge, Souji is usually right when it comes to people and whether or not they can be trusted. He is a man of poise and honor and those who dishonor the name samurai are no friends of his.
- Dishonesty: Souji is an honest man, and those who are not upfront with their intentions or go back on their word lose his respect.
- Cruelty: When Souji needs to kill he does so swiftly, he never jeers or bullies and certainly never treats people with disrespect, even the ones he does not respect. If he sees someone being treated unfairly he steps in.
- Bean curd: He's just never been one for bean curd
- Threats to his kin: He doesn't tolerate people smearing the name of the house he serves and definitely won't abide anyone threatening his daughter. Those that dare earn his contempt and blade.
- People who disrespect their elders

Personality
During these turbulent and warring times those that are low born are capable of picking up a sword and making a name for themselves as a Samurai. Souji is not one of those men, he was born into a noble Samurai family that has served the Kobayashi household for as long as they have reigned. His bloodline has set before him expectations since he was born, including but not limited to following the bushido code. A code which he readily follows and believes in to the very core of his being. Not everyone with a katana these days follows the bushi way, the old ways, but Souji is a shinning example to the true born samurai. Bushido teaches rectitude, to keep one's existence a respectable example for your family and those around you. You must have courage to face any task or enemy you are given no matter how big or small. You must have benevolence to those in need. You must have respect for all living things. You must be honest to yourself and others. Honor must be present in your character and life. Filial piety for your elders and ancestors is necessary, for they always watch over you. You must have wisdom to guide your life and blade. And you must have undying loyalty to the master you serve.

Although Souji did not always possess wisdom in his youth it has come to him with age, along with a considerable amount of maturity and leadership skills. His father before him ran the Kobayashi household's men and after his retirement Souji took over. His life has always been one of duty, and he has always taken his duties gladly and with vigor. When he was younger he also struggled with respecting those he did not view as deserving of respect. In time however he began to see the wisdom in this and no long bothers with petty quarrels that can never be settled and people's character which he can not control. He can only control his own character, and strives to keep it virtuous. No less can be expected of a man who is considered the Kobayoshi household's strongest samurai, a family that used to uphold a thriving province.

When performing his duties and to the regular person Souji is stern, dutiful, and on his best behavior, entirely guarded. He is not necessarily cold however, as he is well liked by most, he did after all inspire great loyalty in his men. He is capable of humor and good conversation. The side Souji shows to his only daughter however is considerably more relaxed, relaxed for Souji anyway, he humors her whimsical nature and enjoys himself with his little family. He intended to raise her more strictly, and sometimes ventures to think that he has allowed her to become entirely too unruly, especially when she stubbornly refuses to obey, but she is a child of a good heart, so he must have done something right. He does not regret that he has no male heir, and never lets Kana think so, his family may be unorthodox but it is his and he loves it.

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Relationships
Many colleagues and friends of Souji's died two years ago during Warlod Yousuke's attack. Since then he has made a few in Edo. Souji has a once, or once did depending on how you view it, and the result of this marriage was Kana, his daughter. He is sworn to protect Lady Kobayashi Chinatsu, he is her royal retainer.

Equipment
Katana
Wakazashi
Kusari-fundo

Strengths
Among humans Souji is considered an extremely skilled combatant, his technique has been honed since we was a young child, and his discipline is nigh unmatched in it. His dedication to his craft and to bushido has earned him a great deal of respect, he inspires trust and loyalty in people. He is readily capable of leading a group of people, as he has done for over fifteen years.

Weaknesses
More than one man has died from an excess of honor, honor being something he will never abandon, he is prepared to die for it. His high morals bind him. This righteousness can rub some people the wrong way, he has been called high and mighty or on a high horse before. He considers this no better than the petty squabbling of birds. In addition to this it is no secret that Kana is a weakness of his. He has a difficult time telling her no and she seems to be able to yank him around on a leash. He excuses this lack of discipline in her and himself concerning her because of the matter of her birth. A youkai could come across them and sense what Kana is at any point in time, and decide to end her and him. That added to the fact that Kana has no mother relaxes his expectations greatly. He knows she is not entirely human anyway, how can he expect her to act like it? It is not necessarily a weakness that he is shy about his poetry, but is worth mentioning.


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Home
Edo, a small house near Lady Chinatsu's abode

History
Souji was born into the Kohaku family with a purpose, destined to be raised to do the very same thing his father did, serve the Kobayashi household as a loyal samurai. He was the first born of two sons, and much of the responsibility to make the family proud was put onto him, while the second son struggled in his shadow. Believe it or not, the well disciplined Souji was once reckless and eager to prove himself. Even though the two brothers were close and loved one another, it would come to pass that eventually the two would part ways. Souji's brother left in order to make a name for himself, to find another path that he could make his own. Souji's father condemned this but Souji did not, he understood his brother well enough to know that he needed to do this for himself, inner peace would not be achievable otherwise. It was like it was never a contest between the two because his brother could never get in his father's eyes, too busy with Souji. Souji knew this but never did anything about it, too eager to prove himself and make himself look good. He wishes he could somehow apologize for it, but he hasn't seen his brother since he left, when Souji was sixteen. By the time Souji turned twenty his father decided to retire after retaining a leg injury, the fact that his wife, Souji's mother had fallen ill probably had much to do with it as well. The doctors said that she wouldn't likely last the year. This sobered Souji up quite a bit, understandably he was upset, but he did his best to take on his duties without letting it effect him.

A year in to his new position Souji met the love of his life. It was a rather sudden shock of an experience. It happened in spring, while he was admiring the cherry blossoms, she was right behind the tree, on the Kobayashi property as though she belonged there. She was so peculiar, as if she found everything endlessly amusing and interesting. She didn't seem to know anything about where she was. She had green eyes, like he had never seen before. When asked what her name was she took a while to answer, thinking it through before she came up with the simple name "Sakura", she said she didn't have a last name and Sakura was all he ever came to know her by. Her last name didn't matter to him much because it didn't take them very long to become completely enamored with each other. They fit each other like a glove, made each other happy. But though the circumstance of her mysterious appearance and no last name didn't bother him it did bother his family. But since his mother was sick and wanted to see him married before she died she managed to convince Souji's father to let them be wed.

The happiness of this seemed to strengthen his mother, and she gradually became healthier the more time Souji and Sakura spent around her. People couldn't help but love Sakura, it was if her presence alone was life giving. It was all a haze of happiness, meeting Sakura, marrying her, when she became pregnant and then gave birth to a beautiful little girl, his mother being alive and well enough to enjoy her granddaughter. Souji never imagined it could all end so suddenly, that he would lose Sakura in the course of one night. She came to him while he was dreaming, a pleasant dream full of cherry blossom petals in a field. She explained to him what she was, a yosei, a Spring fae, that she had come to the human realm only to visit and that she was needed back in the youkai realm. Souji tried to convince her to stay but she could not, she assured him that she had healed his mother, and that their daughter would be healthy, but that he needed to keep this all a secret lest anyone find out and try to kill her. Hanyou were not looked upon kindly by either youkai or humans. Sakura had to leave for that reason also, to ensure none would come looking for her and find a little hanyou in her arms. Souji's heart became heavy, but he agreed that it was for the best. They spent a little more time in that dream together before he woke the next morning, Sakura no longer with him. His heart never lost that heavy feeling. He would never stop thinking of his spring wife.

So begins...

Kohaku Souji-sama's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka
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Souji had woken up to an empty house. Kana must have decided to visit the honorable lady Kobayashi early once more, she had been making a habit of it lately. It was a thoughtful thing for her to do, especially since Kana wasn't exactly her lady in waiting. But he would be lying if he said he didn't find it a bit lonely, despite the bustling of a city like Edo. He was forced to brush his own hair, eat breakfast alone, all things he would have otherwise done with Kana, it all added to the loneliness he felt. As his morning had passed quietly he had decided to get in some practice before he had to meet those who answered the ads he put out. Various signs and ads had been put up around town and at both entrances, he expected a good turn out. When it came time Souji washed up. Lady Kobayashi's parents had not only given he and Kana a house on their grounds to live in but was also allowing them the use of the dojo to hold the meeting. Without them a difficult matter could have been made much worse, he was grateful for them.

Souji arrived at the dojo, hearing quite a bit of chatter going on. He opened the door loudly and stepping inside, commanding attention to those who heard. He stepped out into the middle of the floor, which was cleared, people occupying floor space all around it. He waited until he had the attention of everyone in the room. "The task which you will be charged with is not an easy one. There is a chance we may not succeed, and if we do not, you have no way of getting paid... " Souji spoke in a clear and cold tone, focusing his eyes on no one in particular, but casually scanning the room. "This is not a body guard job I am hiring you for, nor a debt collection, nothing so trivial. I require ronin who are ready to kill in the name of the Kobayashi household's honor. If you stay you will see blood, there will be no avoiding it, if that is not something you have not bargained for you may leave now. But if you stay and we succeed, I can promise you two things. The first being riches, and the second being a position as a Samurai in service to the Kobayashi household, of you want it. That means a title as a nobleman, not something that is granted lightly these days." Souji's jaw twitched slightly as he saw many of the men leave. They had begun looking uncomfortable at the mention of the name 'Kobayashi'. It was known to some who followed that sort of information that the Kobayashi household had been all but massacred by a Warlord, their lands taken over by him. It didn't take much to figure that they were being hired to take back those lands, and exact revenge. There weren't many who were crazy enough for that task. In the end, only five ronin stayed. The weak willed ones had been weeded out, he had hoped for more, but he could make do.

"..." He regarded them, studying each in turn. "Now that we have gotten rid of those not suited for this task, allow me to explain further." His tone now was softer, more conversational. "My name is Kohaku Souji, I am royal retainer to the honorable Lady Kobayashi." He bowed in respect, even though etiquette did not dictate that he had to bow to masterless ronin, nevertheless he formally introducing himself. "Two years ago the Kobayashi household was usurped by the Warlord Yousuke, the honorable lady Kobayashi's husband and sons were all killed, along with everyone else who served them. I managed to get the honorable lady out, along with my daughter, who should be joining us shortly. Our task is to exact vengeance and slay the Daimyo Yousuke, to retake the lands that once belonged to the honorable lady Kobayashi and restore them in her name. Should we succeed your monetary reward will be hefty, as I mentioned before." He allowed pause for commentary and questioning.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru
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The small town in which he’d been making his home for the past decade or so always rose even before the sun. Ryūnosuke, nocturnal by nature, had encountered some trouble adjusting to this at first, but with time and the application of his will to the task, he had trained himself to waken in the hours before dawn. As he couldn’t quite give up the sight of the moon high in the sky, however, he was yet glad he did not require so much sleep as the average ningen seemed to.

The bamboo pole over his shoulders bowed only slightly under the weight of the water-laden buckets dangling from either end of it, and his footsteps made little noise along the dirt road. They were about a day’s travel outside of Edo, here, and hardly ever received visitors of the well-intentioned kind. Though he had found that the blossoms were of a most remarkable shade here in spring, sadly the only folk who ever seemed to deign to visit the little place were bandits, and those soon found themselves most unceremoniously… dead. Or at least chased well away.

The ronin reached the house he was looking for, knocking politely on the door and stepping over the threshold only when bidden to enter. This humble dwelling, constructed as it was of wood and thatch, was well made, as were most of those that had been erected in the last ten years. Even so, there was only so much one person (or even a whole village) could do to alleviate the pain of poverty, as evidenced by the interior, clean but spare. The young woman within had two small children at her feet and another harnessed to her back, looking just about as overburdened as one would expect of a lady whose husband had left for the fortunes of the city and abandoned his family to get by without him. He personally found it despicable, but there was little to be done about it now, except perhaps help the woman in some small way.

“Ah, Kurosawa-san,” she greeted, dipping into a small bow as the little one on her back allowed. He smiled slightly and returned the gesture.

“Enemoto-san. You look well.” She shook her head slightly and rested a hand on the crown of her oldest son, just now four years old. The boy looked up (quite far up) at him with wide brown eyes, but then, he was usually like that. A soft-spoken, patient child. His three-year-old sister, on the other hand, at once attached herself to his hakama-clad leg, wrapping the limb in her tiny arms in a hug.

“Kuro-chan!” she said, though the ‘ro’ sounded more as a ‘wo’ in the way children sometimes had. Setting down the buckets of well-water, he crouched beside her and held out his arms, which the child interpreted correctly as permission to crawl her way onto his back. “Up!” she demanded with all the imperiousness of a queen, and he chuckled quietly, obliging the order.

“Of course, Sachiko-hime,” he replied gravely, “your loyal samurai can only obey.” Her too-thin arms wound round his neck, and Ryūnosuke’s smile disappeared entirely. He hated that, what he couldn’t do for them. He glanced back over at their mother, Enemoto Mariko, and there was something in her expression that he was instinctively wary of.

“I remember when you did that for me,” she said quietly, and he averted his eyes, choosing to survey the small interior of the home as though he had not seen it before. He really had been here too long; when he’d arrived, Enemoto-san had been a child of no more than eight or nine, and he knew that he hadn’t changed a bit in all that time. For now, it was simple enough to pass off as good health, but soon, people would begin to suspect something. Good people, who had no business knowing about such unworthy things as yōkai and the burden of centuries.

“You’ve always been there for me, haven’t you, Kurosawa-san?” she asked, though it was more to the air than to himself, and he sighed. Over the many years he’d spent wandering the human world, this occasionally happened. He could understand; it was difficult for a ningen woman to make her way in the world without the support of a husband, especially if she happened to have children already. He was no wealthy daimyo, but he did have a steady income, a valuable skill, and a proclivity to look after people. He had no illusions that any of these few women were in love with him—they didn’t even know who he was, not really. They simply sought security, as well they had a right to. This world was not kind to them, as a rule. But it was distressing to have this conversation over and over again.

“The past and the future are often different, Enemoto-san,” he replied, tone heavy with regret. He truly did need to leave, he decided. Sooner rather than later. Sensing the change in atmosphere, Sachiko squirmed, and he gently let her down back onto the floor, tousling her raven-colored hair with a hand before regaining his full height. "Your forgiveness, Enemoto-san, but I should not linger.” He continued. “Yamato-ojīsama needs his garden weeded.” The old man was hardly well enough to be doing so on his own, village headman or no. With a deep bow, half apology and half farewell, he exited the home through the same doorway he’d used to enter.

He would leave tonight. He had to.




A day’s leisurely walk after leaving the village he’d called home for the last ten years, Ryūnosuke came at last to Edo, his temporary destination. The leaving had been rather simple—though he grew to care deeply for the people at each new place he lived, he was simply a transient being by necessity. When one lived as long as he had, one learned not to put down too many roots, not to place too much value in the bonds one formed—never to get too close to tear yourself away. It was a sad thing, and lonely, but born from need and inescapable.

The day was dawning warm and sunny, the scents of early spring pungent on the light breeze. It teased gently at the ends of his hair and the edges of his dark clothing, creating a picture of serenity that was somewhat at odds with the permanent disquiet in his heart. Across his back, he carried only the barest necessities of life, plus two scrolls, sealed in waterproof containers, upon which he had painted his latest pair of works. He had been meaning to make a trip into the city to sell them, anyway, so it had seemed the most natural destination upon his departure. The ronin’s geta made only the softest of scuffling sounds on the dirt road before him, for he knew that to pass utterly in silence was suspicious, and had no wish to draw such unwelcome feelings upon himself. It was better to be thought humble and left be than to be thought mighty and constantly forced to prove it one more time.

Gradually, the road led into the city itself, the cultivated landscapes of rice paddies transitioning into the wooden buildings of residences, and then of a large marketplace. Edo was as bustling as ever, and he supposed it would never be otherwise, unless it met with some great calamity that even he could not foresee. He found himself hoping that it would not—for all their imperfections and cruelties, humans were generally worthy beings. Fragile, yes, and ephemeral, but for all that worthy.

His steps carried him eventually to his art dealer, a middle-aged man who seemed to be perpetually smoking a pipe, and after a few moments of admiring the scrolls and bargaining over the price they would fetch, Ryūnosuke left rather enriched, tucking the new purse of ryo into the space between his gi and his kosode. It was at this point that something caught his attention: affixed to the front wall of a tavern was a notice. Diverting from his arrow-straight course, the violet-eyed fellow approached it, tilting his head slightly to one side as he read the script thereupon. An open meeting for ronin? Apparently with the ultimate aim of selecting them for a dangerous job.

It was the family name of the requestor that drew his attention, however. Kobayashi. Not on the advertisement itself, but discoverable with a few additional questions to people who looked like they kept their ears to the ground. It was a name he’d heard before, on a few sparse occasions. More than that, however, he had known a Kobayashi, several centuries ago now. To suppose that this Kobayashi might be a descendant of his was a bit improbable, but he owed the name enough to check and see if the cause for which they were assembling so many men was something he could stand behind. Apparently, there were no few people who were leery of it, for reasons he had no background with which to understand, and he did not press it in conversation. He'd much rather see for himself.

Acquiring directions to the dojo from a passerby, he walked for another twenty or so minutes, finding himself at last where he sought to be. The locale was not one he knew, and he surmised it probably belonged to the Kobayashi in question, as he was aware of the family having attained the status necessary to procure such a homestead. But perhaps they were yet vassals to some noble house, and this property belonged to such as was their lord or lady.

Between twenty and twenty-five other people were assembled, and the dojo floor was filled already with the cacophony of many voices. He selected a spot somewhat out of the way and lowered himself to the floor, sitting seiza with a by now ingrained flawless posture. Casting his glance about the room, Ryūnosuke occupied himself with feeling out the ki signatures in the room with his magic. There were a few of considerable strength, which he supposed would be heartening to the assessor, but from the looks of things the majority were poorly-suited, and nothing was yet properly underway regardless.

It was then that a man perhaps approaching the latter part of his life entered, though for all that, he yet retained many of the aspects of human youth. His health was good, then. The tale he told, such as it was, was rather dire, and it did not take a prodigy to figure out what they were really being asked to do here, even for someone who did not know the full story. This was a revenge quest, an honor quest, and it would be nothing easy. Ryūnosuke did not leave when the majority of the rest did, but that did not mean he had by then decided, either. His eyes flickered over the others present, and he spent some moments in contemplation.

Finally, he spoke. “And when the Kobayashi rule again, what will they do, Kohaku-sama?” His tone was quiet, measured, and carried with it a certain sense of cultivated restraint. He did not introduce himself, perhaps a slight breach of courtesy, but at the moment it seemed the more informal atmosphere was the order of the day, and it seemed just as impolite to violate the tone that their potential employer had set.




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Another day, another pointless exercise in the futility of struggle. And yet here she was, prepared to struggle all the same. She blamed him, and his seemingly perennial ability to convince her of things she knew to be false. But believe him she did, and she knew without having to ask that he would fight his fate, would fight this damnable man that held her in chains, tooth and claw… though perhaps not literally. That option was closed to her for the moment, and everyone involved was well aware of this. Her power was to be exercised at his leisure, and in the meantime, she was reduced to what this frail human-shape could do for her.

It was nothing, she was nothing, compared to what she could be in the full glory of her existence, and this rankled her. The warlord knew that too, and she suspected it amused him.

Tsubaki’s nostrils flared just slightly, the only sign of her discomfort, and a muscle in her jaw ticked. The shinobi that had taken her in, so long ago now, had advocated daily meditations as a way to begin one’s tasks with a clear mind and a solid foundation, but she had ever preferred skating by on the agility of her wit and adaptability. She was too fluid to be solid, and that was just her nature. So she abandoned the effort to be other than she was, and stood instead, crossing to the armoire standing in the corner of her room. The simple sleeping yukata she wore slid to the ground in a whisper of blue silk, and instead, she donned the typical vestments of her work. To her knowledge, she wouldn’t be needing these more mobile clothes, at least not today, but she refused not to wear them.

Her present lack of assignment likely meant she would be forced to wander about as a useless ornament to this palatial estate, commanded as ever by a base creature that she despised. Tsubaki knew quite well that the warlord thought of her as his very own particularly exotic pet, and some of his hirelings were not so different. Had she her strength, she would show them all exactly who deserved to bow to whom in this relationship, but presently her soul lay tied to the damnable man’s neck, and she therefore held by the thinnest, most unbreakable of tethers, a red thread binding their fates together for as long as he willed it.

The woman pinned her hair up into a simple mage ornamented only with a pair of inlaid sticks. It was far from the most expensive ensemble she could have donned, but she was not the kind of woman that preferred nor needed excessive decoration. Also, she detested that none of the things she was granted were hers, and this was a small, subtle showing of her disapproval. Sliding open the painted shoji screen that led out into the main hallway, she wended her way down the labyrinthine corridors to the garden, which tended to be her preferred dwelling place. It was close enough that she did not feel the ache of separation from her star ball, but distant enough that she usually didn’t have to see Yousuke Haru, much less interact with him.

It was too early in the year for cherry blossoms, but the garden was lovely anyway, and she settled with as much contentment as she ever felt anymore into seiza, enjoying the fragrance and the colors. If she stayed like this long enough, her thoughts would eventually quiet, as her long-lived mind drifted back over the spans she had already occupied, and tried to avoid thinking of the millennia that yet lay before her. There were mistakes to be found there, certainly, but also happiness, and it was to this that she held most dearly. Tsubaki held no faith that she would find any in the near future, and so she found it in the past instead.

…Or at least, she would have, had she not been interrupted by Yosuke’s attendant boy. Sasuke, his name was, though she would never admit to knowing it, and she certainly would not use it. She was not oblivious to the fact that the warlord actually commanded a fair amount of loyalty from some of the others who served him, and there was a certain logic to it. The yōkai excepted (many of whom she’d been forced to trick into his service), he was a relatively fair person to those that served him. She could hardly be bothered to consider this a redeeming feature when her soul rested in his hands and he showed no inclination to give it back.

Nevertheless, she was bound to answer summonses, and this one was no exception. Waving the boy off to find the next of his assigned targets, Tsubaki flowed into a stand and made her way through several side corridors before she found the room she was looking for. Even if she had not been told where he was, she would have been able to find him without anything but the call of her essence to her body. A subtle twitch to the muscle in the right side of her jaw was smoothed out, and the face she wore today was a vaguely-disdainful neutrality. She did not announce her presence—he would know of her nearness just as surely as she knew of his. Instead she entered, apparently the first to do so, and utterly silent.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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#, as written by Gray
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Three months, two days, and eleven hours. This was the time required to sail from Portugal to Japan. This time did not count stops in China for supplies. Seasickness happened to everyone on a voyage such as this, and even Alexander, who thought he had earned his sea-legs long ago, had felt its cold bite. Yet, as the winds carried the galleon closer, the blonde had begun to move closer to top-side, eager to hear the words he had longed for, for so long. “Land Ho! It’s Japan.” Japan, the fantastic place his master had long ago spoke of. A place of monsters, glory, and the true test of a man’s worth. Here the inhabitants were always on edge, looking for their next battle. Here, the men hunted ogres for sport. Here, Alex could finally find his true calling.

The ship anchored down in a tiny port. Apparently this city was just one of the stops on the list today. Alex however, had seen enough of the inside of a Galleon to last him a lifetime. Moving from his bunk, the blonde gathered all the supplies he had brought with him for the journey. Gold, not in coin form, bullets and powder, his weapons, and a traveling cloak. He had to admit, to himself if to no-one else, there were some tough choices ahead of him. Namely; what to do first in the land he had dreamed of for so long? Did he haul off and buy a katana? Or did he try the grilled Unagi? Or, did he find his master. The man who had taught him everything he had ever learned about this place, as well as given him a comprehensive (well in Alexander’s mind anyways) knowledge of Japanese.

Of course, he decided on the sword.

Leaving the ship, the young man finally saw his first glimpses of Japan. There were no monsters. Strangely, the town was smaller than he suspected it would be. No walls to speak of, and no keep in sight, this was not a place which was besieged nightly by Oni, or attacked mercilessly from the sea by all manner of creatures unholy. In fact, this looked like a simple trading port. “Of course! Why would monsters attack such a simple place?” Master had spoken truth all those years ago. The monsters would be closer inland.

Sword shops in a port town are on the downside of quality. Here, merchants and blacksmiths, pump out many weapons and do not care one iota about quality. They sell to eager merchants from abroad, and make a quick turn around. Of course, Alexander could read all the signs of poor quality as his gaze scanned stall after stall looking for that perfect weapon. Another issue was his form of payment. Many places in the world would take raw gold. However, Japan was a bit fickle, most likely given the purchaser and not his form of payment. It was easy to see, he didn't belong in this country. This however was in no way a deterrent. Eventually Alex found his way to a lonely shop, it sat removed from many of the merchant stalls, the chimney puffing out a steady stream of smoke.

The shop looked to be in decent shape, despite missing a few shingles. The inside assaulted any who entered with the smells of burnt charcoal, and steal. This was it. The mecca the boy had dreamed of. A variety of swords lie around the place. Almost all in pristine condition. However, the one that caught the boys eye was a worn weapon. The sheath was black, but missing paint where it would have hit a belt for years. When examining the blade there was no sign of rust, but there was a certain character to it. This sword had seen combat. Energetically, the young man snatched up the sword, and presented the forge-man with enough gold that Alexander could sleep at night.

Now... where had that master gone off to?

Alexander had a long time to think of exactly how he would find his missing Sensei. Three months, two days, and eleven hours; to be precise. Initially, he had sketched his master’s tattoo from memory, believing this to be sufficient. However, after some deliberation, Alexander had just decided to ask around. Perhaps, he believed, it would be best to ask anyone else he saw with tattoos.

Here in port, Alexander’s looks were starting to gain attention. This port was used to seeing the darker skinned, and hair of Portuguese traders. The likelihood of them seeing an Austrian noble would have been incredibly slim. Thankfully, the notoriety had managed to draw a few fellows with tattoos. While they didn’t look friendly in the Western sense, Alexander knew that customs must be different here. After all his master hadn’t looked happy a day Alex saw him, but he knew that he was a happy guy. Japanese men must not smile… that was all.

“DOH-MO! I… AM… WATCHING FOR HAJIME FUMIO” A large smile grew on Alexander’s face. He thought that introduction went really well. Incredibly well. He could tell, because the men’s features got uncomfortable. “Fumio. I wouldn’t go near that piece of shit. Why don’t you go enjoy a lovely brothel like every other Westerner around here.” These words, well Alex only caught a handful but it did seem like they knew his sensei. The man’s accomplice immediately retorted “Don’t talk about Fumio like that, he’ll hear you.” While the men talked Alex managed to get a good look at them. Both were shorter than him, and both had Katana on their side. It only went to confirm the old tales Master had spoken. Here, in lawless Japan, a man’s worth was governed by his skill with a blade.

Eventually, when the men stopped arguing amongst themselves, they pointed towards a tall mountain. “Go there instead, have fun.” Alex smiled! He couldn’t believe his luck. These two tattooed strangers not only knew his master, but knew his location! Long distance trekking had long been considered a staple of monster hunting. To get to that mountain would easily take a day. But a day was nothing to a man who had spent his entire life, waiting to get a chance in Japan.

Near the mountain, Alexander would continue his search! Here, a waitress at a local restaurant seemed to know exactly who Hajime Fumio was. With each passing person, Alex was coming closer. Deep into the woods, Alex caught a familiar scent. “This… this is definitely master’s smell, but it’s mixed with something, brimstone?” Hunting takes a great deal of skill, and many different skills to perfect. Tracking by scent, was just one of the ways he’d use to find his prey. Another, was footprints. Near where the dirt path ended, the young blonde could see heavy tracks of an estimated two-hundred pound man. The sandal tracks were heavier than the typical lighter Japanese man, and there was something else different about these tracks, they had blood droplets around them.

The male bent down close to the ground, his fingers touched the soft well-treaded dirt. The blood was fresh, still wet, and warm. His master had been here recently. No longer than an hour. “Sensei… he’s in trouble!” With haste the male sprinted through the forest. This was truly his domain. Broken twigs, and branches told a tale. They all spoke “Fumio”. His eyes gazed around, eager for the next clue, and it wouldn’t take him long to come to the top of a hill. His natural instincts always took him to higher ground. Here, he heard voices. A fallen tree would secure cover, from the sounds of the voices, they must be close to 100 yards away.

Alex slid close to the fallen tree. His body tucked tightly into the earth, and next to the solid log. Near the bottom of the hill, three men stood before Alex’s Sensei. His fingers gracefully searched for his long rifle. The musket was already loaded. Effortlessly, they handled the nearly eleven pound weapon, and placed it into position. The stock tucked tightly against his shoulder, the weight of the weapon balanced mostly on the log. With quick, but deliberate, movements Alex’s thumb slowly cocked the hammer into place. His breath steadied. He’d only get one shot, so if these men so much as touched his master, he’d be ready.

But then, the unexpected happened.

Hajime threw an object at their feet. The men looked happy! Overjoyed even. From the sounds of their expression, they must have been given a precious gift from Alex’s master. Another smile came upon Alex, he was right about his master, he was truly a kind man. “Master just returned to them a lost item. He’s really become a great man.” Slowly, Alexander un-cocked the weapon. He was wrong at his gauge of the situation, thankfully. “Now...” he spoke, whisper quiet, beneath his breath. “How do I go meet him!? I mean, it’s only been twenty years.”

The three men left, after about an hour. They had exchanged something in bamboo tubes, probably alcohol. Before stumbling into the woods. Later still, Fumio began to move. Based on his steps, and him being on a beaten path; he’d probably go towards the nearest town. Towns too had their own scents. Blacksmiths, baths, whore-houses. It was possible to guess that they were close. With only a few moments travel, the outer walls of a town came into focus. Alexander stayed behind his master, only by a few hundred yards. The thought of meeting him was almost too much to bear. He could see Hajime enter into some kind of establishment, and could barely make out the words. But, it smelled of water, and steam when Alexander got closer.

Deciding this was probably not the best place to make a second impression, Alexander began to meander around town. He’d need a room for the night, and he hoped the clerk accepted gold.

He had found one, but it took nearly all night. Most inns in this town were reluctant to accept raw gold, in fear that it could be somehow faked, especially coming from an outsider. However, Alexander had managed to spy which inn his master had stayed, and managed to wake up at the crack of dawn to wait outside of it. Like a lost puppy finding his owner after a period of absence. There was a sense of longing here for the youth.

“What are you doing here boy?” Eyes widened. If Alex’s smile were any wider, it couldn’t fit in the tiny island nation. Sensei recognized me! “Master! I can speak Japanese, after all I learned it from the best! It took me ten years to get here master. But I’m finally strong enough. Strong enough to kill monsters at your side. While I haven’t seen any monsters, I think they must be cleverer than I gave them credit for.” This paragraph of words came bumbling out, at a higher rate of speed than his bullets. On top of that, it would have been a garbled mess.

“So, are you ready master? Let’s go hunt some monsters!” This part though, this had been the part he had prepared over and over again. For three months, two days, and eleven hours. This one phrase in Japanese.



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Fumio dragged his large palm over his eye, down towards his jawline. "I don't got time for this..." But he was slowly recalling the face. Of all the little brats from that Westerner's house to follow him to Japan, it had to be the excitable, energetic one. Still wanting to hunt monsters. "Bozu. I got somewhere to be right now. Got an appointment. Did I teach you that shit--? App-point-tu-ment."

The boy only looked surprised, inquisitive, and somehow a little more enthused.

"Right. This isn't a fight I woke up for." Hajime watched at the boy with unease, young bastard practically bouncing off of his damn heels, and then spoke up from his low grumble: "You may follow me FOR A WHILE. Then monsters. Then you go home."

Happy fuckin' birthday, Hajime, happy fuckin' birthday.

Funny story, they had to fight an exiting crowd of warriors to get into the dojo. He didn't know what that was about, but he knew his exchange with Aleksanderu had made him late. No matter. If they wished to bitch, he'll be taking their complaints forthwith. "Yo," greeted Hajime simply, lowering himself onto the hardwood. "Got caught up in something. Caught the jist of it." One of the participants had asked something quaint about what the good lady will do after the job is done, which was an interesting thought. Hajime's only concern was this;

"Kohaku, was it?" He felt like he might have known that face before, when it was much, much younger. "Say the job is done. How much is 'hefty', exactly?"



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Now this is what the boy had been WAITING for. Monsters, check, a mission, probably check, time to pal around the entire country of Japan with his master definitely check. The world was looking grand and everything was coming up Alexander… or as master had always called him Aleksanderu. On Fumio’s heels, Alex watched as they began to enter a small one-story building. A crowd of people were leaving, and there had been talk about something –none of which was important enough for Alex to ask about. What was important was that he was here, and around him more people with swords. The youth might not know where in Japan he was, but he knew he was exactly where he wanted to be.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Everything was still and silent in her world. Shizuka stood in all the glory she could muster before a small store by the side of the road. Her eyes had an intense presence about them as she remained static resembling that of a carved rock statue as her interest was plainly placed on that small food shack in which some of its customers felt apprehension due to her attendance and unlikely quiet manner. Another thing which factored to such reception was her preference for dark-colored clothing often connected to somber meanings and the sword she carries on her waist. With one false move, this peaceful scenery would become bloody in a second. Though, it would be not be that far-off a prospect for her. It was all due to the low grumbling sound coming from her bottomless pits or accurately, her stomach.

She was hungry and when a person is hungry, they are susceptible to many decisions often dubbed as downright insane. She averted her eyes for a moment and took out a small pouch. It was completely light and when opened, there was not even a lint in sight within. This was actually her coin purse who had lost its purpose when she had blown away her earnings from her last job because of those buffet meals, especially, when she could hardly see any difference on her physique even when those meals had the advertising lines of giving a person big muscles. It was rather frustrating. She was actually inclined to slash the owner of that restaurant to pieces when given a chance.

Nevertheless, it was a thought she would put aside for now. She must find a way to feed herself. It was her priority at this very moment. She could find a job where she could get a payment advance, but those are rare. What a dilemma indeed. She kept her empty coin pouch and took a look at the small food shack once more. That was when a parchment of paper passed by her face. The one thing which took her attention was the words 'hefty amount of money'. She aimed to grab hold of the document but it escaped her fingertips. Still, fate was on her side as it landed on the nearby ground. This enabled her to move from her position to pick it up. However, the wheels were still in motion as a ruckus emanated inside the small store which was followed by the screaming word 'thief!'.

Paying it no mind, she lowered herself to the ground unaware of her current placement. The so-called thief who was running much like a headless chicken did not notice her as she was picking up the parcel. There was a collision where the said felon tripped over her bent form and fell flat on his face. She stood up unperturbed by the turn of events with her goal in her hand which was the paper. Her eyes looked at the blundering fool who tripped over her as men quickly gathered around. How careless truly. The perople hauled the felon away while the one who had created the shrieking scream approached her. "Oh thank you very much, kind sir! If weren't for you, the earnings of our store would be taken away." Taking a moment to look at the one speaking, she determined it to be an elderly male and apparently the owner of the store from the meaning of those words.

The man's identification of her as a 'Sir' did not strike her in a rude manner. It was an implication she welcomed as she had condoned her natural gender to another more acceptable for this era and for her life's purpose. What irritated her bit was the connotation; she was a person doing good deeds. It was not in her nature to give aid no matter what kind it might be without any sort of return. That is why her eyes narrowed to a slight degree which made the elderly man stepped away a bit and quickly continued his sentences. "As a token of my appreciation, let me treat you to a meal. It is on the house! Please, sir!" Hearing that, her face softened. It seemed that this day was not as unlucky as she had thought it to be initially. She gave a firm nod as the man lead the way inside to the store. This will be an opportunity she will not waste as she followed inside with the parchment still in her hand.
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After a few hours, Shizuka had finally arrived at the town proper of Edo. She had taken her time to read the parchment. It was for the recruitment of ronins. There was only the time and the place of meeting written. No other explanations. She was not certain what the job is exactly but to require such ads meant that whatever it could be shall be quite a herculean task or these people are desperate. It intrigued her though; the primary motivation is the money. In any case, she navigated herself through the streets of Edo and finally found the place. She had expected a lot of people, but they all appear to be leaving. Was the recruitment finished already? That would not do. Her eyes narrowed distinctively as she made her way through the throng of ronins departing.

One curious soul, took noticed of her as she felt a large hand placed on her shoulder stopping her advancement. "Oi! Bozu! Ya better steer clear of this one. It's the Kobayashi. It's a suicide mission! I tell ya!" Her eyes took a sharper degree as it hardened into steel daggers. She looked at the man as she slapped the hand away from her form. That reaction of hers took the older male by surprise. It might be a helpful advice from the clearly older ronin's perspective. However, she does not take lightly being called a boy or better yet being underestimated of something so quickly. "Tsk! Fine, don't say I didn't warn ya!" She turned her back on that man and went on her way. Her time would not be wasted towards cowards and moreover, the moment she heard Kobayashi, she now has a conclusion what this job could entail, it would entail her chance. There was no way she would not participate in it.

Entering the dojo, she took stock of the individuals present inside. There were quite a handful of people left, interesting in their own way as well. That was good, less competition for her. She had managed to hear the ending portion where the name Yousuke had been mentioned. Clearly, her face twisted in anger while her hands turned into fists as she clenched it tightly. The parchment which she still held was all but a crumpled mess. Even the mention of the hefty reward did not abolish her rage as one should expect. The pensive silence was broken by two, one who asked what would be done when it is all over, the other, the extent of the monetary compensation. As for her, she walked with a brisk and determined purpose, cutting across the others, towards the man who she believed is in charge of the recruitment. She does not need such answers nor to communicate any questions. This was the moment she had been waiting for so long, she will not let it slip away from her grasp.

Without a wasted motion, she removed her katana confined within its scabbard from her waist and presented it to the said man. She was not clearly acquainted with the manner of proper conduct a samurai should do when presenting one's service. Why would she? For one, she was never a samurai to begin with. This was the best gesture she could do along with those deep blue eyes of hers resembling that of cold molten blades. They were filled with an unyielding resolve and a flaming rage unhinged. This for one was definitely a personal matter to her. She was going to do this job even if it would be the last thing she does in her life. Her vengeance will be finally realized and that at this moment is her primary motivation.

Well, as it would appear, her day was truly a lucky one in various means.Image

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Haru Katsuro

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With a sudden gasp, Katsuro sat up in the pile of hides, blankets and cloths he called a bed in a hot sweat, panting lightly. After a minute of heavy breathing he finally calmed down and his breathing evened out. He stood up, pulled on the only set of clothes he could legally call his own as well as the remnants of his armor. He frowned, feeling something uncomfortable against his chest. After a moment of digging he pulled out a very wrinkled scrap of paper, an ad meant to recruit ronin such as himself. "Oh yeah... That was today. Hmph." Well if he was going to meet a lord he might as well attempt to look good. He turned to the broken piece of bronze he used as a mirror and did his best to comb the knots and dirt out of his hair. Unfortunately the comb was not up to the task, and snapped in half before the job was complete. Cursing his luck and his poverty, he completed the job to the best of his abilities with half of a comb and called it good. He then washed his face and neck in the cracked basin just below the mirror and stared into his distorted reflection. Almost fortunately, he'd always had problems growing facial hair so he appeared to be quite clean shaven, and his face was as clean as he could get it without soap and a clean rag. He nodded to his reflection, made his clothes look as presentable as possible, which still made him look homeless, but like a homeless man with some measure of dignity at least. Looking around the shack he'd called home for the past few months and the meager belongings therein, he quickly arrived at the conclusion that he would never be returning to this hovel. He gathered the few things he owned into a piece of hide; a now broken comb, a set of clean bandages, a pakage of dried meats, and a sealed envelope containing the only proof that he was indeed of noble birth. His only other belongings were the clothes and armor upon his back, his sword which he kept at his side, and the piece of hide in which his belongings were kept. With all his belongings in tow, he slipped out the door of his small shed and into the bustling streets of the slums where he'd taken residence.

The hard packed dirt of the slum streets kicked up dust with every step, and there were many people taking many steps, leaving a heavily condensed cloud of dust in the air at almost every moment. Most people moved quickly out of his way, anyone openly carrying a sword in the slums was a man most people wanted to avoid, and those who did not required only a glance to be cowed out of his way. They disgusted him, the hundreds of thugs who patrolled this area like vultures, all looking for a mouthful of the still rotting carcass of what was once part of the city. Many of them he'd encountered before, those men were wise enough to avoid a second confrontation, some still bore the wounds of said engagement. Others however eyed him with open contempt and an air of arrogance, others even openly laughing. "A one armed man, clinging to his broken pride as a Samurai! Ha!" He chose to ignore these snide remarks, he had more important business today than to beat some sense into a bunch of thugs and lowlifes.

After entering the city proper, he made his way into the grounds of the Kobayashi family and into the dojo. There were alot of men in here, likely seeking a quick shot into fame or wealth... many of them wouldn't survive an actual encounter with the warlord they were going against. Then again, he might not survive a second encounter himself. He chuckled and took a seat not far from the front, a few men made room for him, giving him odd looks.

His hunch proved to be correct, for as soon as the man in charge, his name was Kohaku Souji if he recalled, told the men his name, all but one other ronin left. They knew that the Daimyo Yousuke had attacked the Kohaku family, and that this would be a mission of revenge. Though just as they had left, three more stumbled in quite late. One man was nearly as wide as he was tall, appearing to be chiseled from stone as opposed to flesh. The second appeared to be not but a fair skinned boy with hair the color of straw, a foreigner obviously. The last was perhaps the strangest, most easily described as both beautiful and handsome. An interesting crowed had gathered here. He wondered how it would go.

The man who had been here longest, near the back of the room, inquired as to the Kobayashi family's intentions after the missions completion. Katsuro had also been curious on this matter, but quickly dismissed it. His priority lied in the dethroning of the warlord, if the Kobayashi family had dishonest intentions he would dispose of them afterwards.
Next, the large man inquired as to the size of their reward. While this was a great bonus for him, this was of little concern. His reward would be the head of one dead warlord.

The most surprising thing though, was the handsome man blatantly and boldly walking up to their host and, unsheathing his blade, presented it to the man. This certainly piqued his curiosty, for it showed the man was concerned with neither the reward nor the severity of their situation, only that they were a part of it. He couldn't help but grin at this point and had to fight back a chuckle.
"It seems you've gathered quite an interesting force to your cause, Kohaku-dono."
He turned and motioned to each member of the new rag-tag team of discarded warriors as he mentioned them.
"A calculating samurai, a mercenary for hire, a blonde haired foreigner and what is certainly one of the boldest ronin I've seen in a few years." At this point he let out a small chuckle as he allowed himself to relax, his muscles slowly untensing. He'd been unsure of how the situation was going to develop, but so far he saw no reason to keep his guard up so high. "I suppose you can add a one armed veteran to that roster as well. Haru Katsuro at your service. I look forward to our time working together."
After introducing himself, he straightened and looked straight ahead, the normally dull fire in his eyes now burned brightly, though he remained composed and dignified in the presence of the man he would now serve.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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It was disheartening to say the least that only five men stayed behind, interested in the job, but not unsurprising. This mission they were to embark on was no mere task, and suicidal, even given the reward. The men that stayed were either unaware of who Daimyo Yousuke was or particularly bold. Most did not seem bold, but one did, with the air of a trained and controlled individual, which was promising. He could, and would soon, settle for worse. That same ronin asked the first question.

Souji was taken aback by it, not expecting anyone to ask such a thing, what will the Kobayashi do when they rule again? Not the question of a man merely interested in money. Maybe even if for money this person did not wish to work for a tyrant. Souji didn't want to assume that the man was implying the Kobayashi were tyrants but the implication irked him slightly. He paused before answering, looking the ronin before him square in the eye. "It isn't my place to question such matters, but I am told Lady Kobayashi's parents will-" Souji's eyes widened slightly as he turned his head. He was interrupted rather rudely, but that wasn't what had surprised him. Some sort of foreigner, made obvious by his hair and garb, entered, or rather bounced, in with an older bushi.

Souji did not recognize this bushi in the slightest, though they had indeed met before, but didn’t intend to reward his rudeness either way. He turned back to finish speaking to the ronin who had asked the first question, “They are an honorable people, the province flourished in their reign and will do so again I expect. As for the reward...” Souji turned his head to the older bushi, “And the reward will be more than any here have been paid for any one task certainly, there are also titles and land you will be offered.”

A rather young looking ronin seemed to make up their mind at this. Souji could hear the familiar sound of a katana being unsheathed, it made him unconsciously place his hand on the hilt of his own, carefully and casually, not inviting conflict. He turned to view what looked to him like a young boy offering him his unsheathed sword, a look of passionate determination etched into every inch of their face, especially their eyes. He felt compelled to meet them with his full attention. “In the future, the way to present your sword in service is sheathed.” He coolly lowered their blade with two of his fingers, “But you are accepted none the less.” Not that refusing them would deter them, so he suspected. Did the offer of a family title mean so much to them?

A voice broke Souji away from their intense gaze, one of the ronin who stayed. The man had only one arm, but held himself with all the surety of someone that could hold their own regardless. “Interesting indeed.” He agreed. “Though I have only two confirmed. Is the foreigner just here for sight seeing?” Souji turned slightly, asking over his shoulder. Foreigners here for trade and exotic distractions didn’t belong entangled in political matters, he wouldn’t be surprised if the foreigner didn’t even speak their language. This other bushi was likely some sort of guide or translator for them and was about to drag them into a mess they didn’t ask for.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime
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#, as written by Gray
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Now that the youth was getting a look around the room he could notice the subtle details that reminded him, he truly was in a land far away. The mats beneath their feet were made of what appeared to be tightly knitted straw, woven into a floor which was both durable and infinitely reusable. There were minimal decorations strewn about as well, some wooden katana, and some real ones. This might have been a place to train soldiers. The garbs of all of those around the boy were mostly darker colors, and they looked rather rough. Yet, despite all of these unfamiliar trappings, the boy felt as if he had been here before. All of these had been parts of the stories the older man had told Alexander when he was a boy. The smells, albeit different than Alex Imagined, were mostly pleasant. No matter what country it was, chamber pots, or latrines were par for the course, but despite that the country air was cleaner than most cities around Europe, and the men here all seemed to have bathed which was a far cry different than what modern science spoke of back home.

Speaking of the men, they too were different than Alexander expected to see. Most were around his height, a few taller. They were all largely different from one another as well. Despite the long haircuts, and katanas at their sides. One man smelled like master, the smell was similar to gunpowder, but it was richer, it tickled the senses, and gave Alexander a feeling of weariness. But he was handsome enough. There was enough ruggedness to his features, that it looked as if he had seen combat. Yet, a softness, something rarely seen in Europeans. There was another, too, he was missing an arm, and seemed more grizzled. And yet a third offering their blade to the man in charge. While it might have been hard to see Alexander’s eyes were lighting up with Joy! He was in the center of another of his sensei’s stories, he could feel it. Alexander tugged on Fumio’s long, flowing, coat, to bug him about how true to his word he was. His master swatted his hand away. This shocked the young man, his master was so stoic, so stalwart… he was truly a samurai! Out of all the men in his room, Alexander guessed, no! He knew! His master was truly a man without equal.

Eventually, however the man in the center spoke directly about Alexander. His Japanese was perfect, his speech was exactly like that which Alexander had been dreaming of for so long. Oh! How he longed to speak such pretty sentences, and have the skills to utilize the weapon at this man’s side. The old man looked tough, and withered, a man who had seen a lifetimes worth of ordeals. When he addressed Alexander, he must have been uncertain of the young man's speaking capabilities. Alexander knew why he could be hesitant, but the the blonde had been trained by the best Japanese teacher any man could ask for. “I SPEAK JAPANESE! KOH-NI-CHI-WA! My name is Alexander Ornstein III, and I hail from the land of Austria. I come here to be with Master, and be Samurai!” Alexander was trying to hold his composure, amidst a group of such mighty warriors, he tried… he really did, yet his features betrayed his thoughts. He was happy! Extremely overjoyed to be in the presence of these fabled warriors. ”I will stay by Master Hajime Fumio’s side, until his task is done. Then maybe I will be Samurai? And I can hunt monsters and go home.” There was a small problem. Now that someone had given the young man the chance to speak Japanese, it would take quite a lot to shut him up.

”I promise, I won’t get in the way. I am a skilled hunter, and forest man.” If there was any place Alexander wanted to be most in this world, it was right here. He was trying his best to make certain that he would be staying by his master’s side till the very end of this mission.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Hah, that Kohaku guy was making inappropriate eyes at Hajime. Does he like what he sees?! Hajime would have to turn down his charm sooner than he planned; he doesn't swing that way, bastard.

Truth be told, Hajime was hoping that kid would get lost in the crowd, or get distracted by something shiny and wander off. He realized the chance was slim, but took some comfort in the chance being there. Yet, the comfort came to pass, and his good tidings failed him. It was irksome in a sort of inevitable way that Kohaku came to address the golden elephant that had toddled into the room.

It took damn near every kiloliter of sheer temperence to keep his spine rigid, his teeth locked together, and his eyes fastened shut. As if in meditation, he spared no reaction, no trace of a loss in composure he listened to Alexander rattle off in what was practically a language all of his own; not to say that his accent was unsalvagable, but the contents of which he spoke... It was like Hajime had dragged in a washed up stage comedian who was trying a new routine. In a foreign goddamn country. Hajime was going to let the comedian play his role, say what he wanted.

But they never discussed this "becoming samurai" part of the speech. "What are you going on about..." muttered Hajime under his breath, still avoiding eye contact. He couldn't say the kid was a full-on lunatic though; it was clear that he'd earnestly thought through what he wanted to say, though not necessarily how best to say it. After an extensive sigh and display of patience that rivalled Buddha, Hajime spoke. "Pay him no heed, I'll talk to him later. Personal matter, you understand."




Alexander listened as his master spoke. Deep down inside he knew that Samurai were supposed to be firm, and stoic. The young man realized this must be what Sensei Fumio wanted from him. Now the only problem would be to try to keep his eyes from welling from sheer joy. Well, baby steps.




That seemed to placate the boy, for some reason. At least he remembered how to be respectful when the adults were speaking. Now that that was over with...

Of those remaining in the room, he found it difficult to determine their cause for being there. Not that his own reasons were black and white, but it was a tricky situation--no one sane would want to be present. Two were fueled by personal vendetta, judging from their eager dispositions. One even drew his damn sword to illustrate a point. If Hajime tried that, people would think he was an asshole. The unfairness of it all. The other one... one... hmm. Well, he had one of something. Hajime would like to see how he fared in a fight. He cracked his neck, loudly, and slowly began what prefaced all his business transactions: negotiation.

"Listen, I grace this here dojo with my presence today 'cause the job sounds interesting. When you get to my age that's what keeps you alive, yeah?" He resisted the urge to agree with himself with a fuck yeah. Normally he had little restraint and self-censorship, but they were in a dojo. Hajime could stand to behave, if only a little. He visibly glanced around the room, corner to corner: "From the looks of it, royal retainer, it looks like you'll need all the people you can get. Warlord Yousuke, right? Bands upon bands of bastards and demons at his beck and call. Comes with bein' a warlord. Lotta shit to wade through. Lotta effort for... two people. Three, countin' you. Maybe four if you can get that handsome face over there to swear fealty, too."

"Now, me? I do this for a living, daily basis. Like to think I'm good at it. Ask anyone on the street and they can give you my success rate. You get me on board, you have a fighting chance even against demons. If you don't... technically you didn't lose a thing 'cause you never had me in the first place, eh? But I can't promise you'd be better off."

Then he leaned forward, his tensing, taut arms like tree trunks supporting the weight of his massive torso. The very air grew heavier. "You wanna make it really interesting, talk to your lady. From the sounds of it, money is no object to her. Forget the title and the land. Start up a base pay that increases with each key figure we butcher, and I can tell you now she'll be sitting pretty on a throne of a thousand heads."

He sat upright once more, as if suddenly disinterested, glancing at the door. "But that's just my suggestion. 'Course nobody ought to get paid if Yousuke ain't dead along with them, but if you want warriors, you gotta give 'em some incentive."

And then he let the dead dog lay in the street, as it were, and he would be indisposed until someone came to touch it first.

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Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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At best the attempt made to speak ningen could be seen as endearing, and it was more than many of his kind even bothered to learn. Souji could see the honor in that, in the attempt and good intention. At worst the foreigner boy was rude and grossly presumptive. Becoming a Samurai was no hobby for a foreigner to take up or skill to obtain for temporary consumption and bragging rights. Being Samurai was a way to live one's life, and training began when one was much younger than the boy in front of him. Souji couldn't help but feel irked by the insult, but if the older ronin was his master he couldn't blame the boy for his rudeness or ignorance. In fact it would explain the behavior quite well. So Souji kept his expression even, listening politely as this Alexander O-renshtin three individual tumbled through an explanation of why he was here. At the very least the boy was a forest man, which could be useful in theory. What was that about monsters?

Souji wanted to smirk at the expression on the older ronin's face, as his student's voice was entirely his fault. It made having to hear Alexander speak worth it. He wanted to, but didn't, his face rarely made such expressions at all. Souji nodded when the older ronin said he would deal with the boy later, Alexander quelled himself, something that seemed to take quite a bit of willpower on his part.

The older ronin continued on in a speech that was much more eloquent in grammar but no less rude, how astounding. His points however, rang truthful. Going against a notorious warlord was a tall order, and with so few, the tactics to be successful would need to be creative to put it lightly. Demons however, youkai, did this old man really mean that, or was that a mataphor for the level of skill Yousuke's warriors held. Souji decided it was most likely the later. He continued to insist he would be the deciding factor of success, this man was as humble and he was gracious, and demand for a flat rate per head. Souji's eyes became darker when he referred to Lady Kobayashi as 'that lady', his cool openness turning to ice. He had to remind himself that it was for his mistress's sake he was here, and for her sake that he would not throw this man out immediately.

"The Honorable Lady Kobayashi's terms are not negotiable." He emphasized her proper title, his voice unfriendly and cold. "For those coming, we meet at the northeastern gate at dawn tomorrow. You have until then to get your affairs in order. You are all welcome to join this mission. I will assume that those who are not there are not interested, in which case I, Kohaku Souji, thank you for your time. Dismissed." Souji addressed everyone in the room with a clear voice, quickly ending the meeting, he found he no longer had the patience for the direction this meeting turned. He opened the sliding door indicating for people to leave, they had imposed upon the Kobayashi abode for longer than necessary in his opinion.



ImageKana hurried to the dojo, arriving just as people dwindled out, when she saw such small numbers she stopped, her look of hope leaving her face for a moment, she stopped. Oh. This hadn't gone so well. Neither had her own ventures to be honest, which was disheartening too. She mustered up a smile anyway, nodding a bow to a few as she passed, walking more slowly to her where her father stood. She got a strange feeling from one of the men, he was extremely tall, and familiar? She didn't know, but the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She stared slightly as she passed him, looking away when she realized that she was being rude. How peculiar, she had felt the same way earlier today when she met that one vagabond.

She reached her father and stood at the base of the steps patiently, "Father, was that a foreigner? He had straw colored hair, I've never seen that before. And how strange his clothes are too, he's wearing a blanket on his shoulders." She could see her father was not happy with the way things had gone immediately, he was tense. Well, more tense than usual. They would get through this somehow, she didn't know how, but they had to. It was her father's duty as Samurai to take back the honor taken from the Lady Kobayashi. Kana could feel her heart tighten.



"Ah, Kana, I didn't see you this morning. Why don't we have lunch at that place you like and you can ask me all the questions you wish." The sight of his daughter was like a wave of warmth over the cold Souji, he even smiled.

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Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Admittedly, Ryūnosuke was not fully devoted to keeping track of all the discussion after his query was answered. He honestly cared little for the money, if only because he’d never seen the need for it, especially, and even less for the title promised in the event of their success, which would be more hindrance than help. It was already hard enough to explain to a small village full of people that he must just be terribly lucky not to age a day in ten years—he didn’t want to imagine trying to figure out how to explain it to a household or anything like that. While not every yōkai took it seriously, it was still incumbent upon them not to make the existence of their kind obvious to ningen.

The sound of a sword being drawn did demand his attention, but when it proved to be a seemingly-earnest gesture rather than a hostile one, he chose to keep his piece.

Being already placed near the back of the room, he seemed to mostly escape notice, minus a few cursory glances, usually just part of surveys of the general room, he supposed. He counted himself lucky that his appearance was not especially eye-catching; he’d had enough of that for more than one lifetime. As the conversation carried on, he folded his hands into his sleeves and took up a faintly meditative posture, fixing his eyes somewhat listlessly on a random spot on the floor in front of him. It looked like every other dojo floor he’d ever seen, but that was not what held his interest.

He let his thoughts occur as they would, not bothering to filter them yet, nor make judgements about their relative merits. That was for later. Or rather, if he ever got there; he was quite suddenly snapped from his reverie by the exuberant outburst of the yellow-haired man, a foreigner rather than a yōkai by the accent and the smell (when was the last time he’d bathed, anyway?). Ryūnosuke’s brows drew together slightly as he processed the oddly-inflected words, trying to remember which way European names were supposed to be understood. Was it family name first or given name? What was the ‘three’ supposed to mean? Was Austria even in Europe? He should have paid more attention to his lessons instead of constantly trying to escape them, perhaps.

He shook himself slightly as the exchange moved on, the older man stepping in seemingly… somewhat on the youth’s behalf, and Ryūnosuke went back to his practice of laying out all the available information and cataloging his own impressions of it. Such a decision was a delicate thing to make, and there were a number of important factors to be considered—

And it would seem that they had to make it by tomorrow. Tomorrow? As someone who was used to having weeks to think over something relatively trivial, like whether to settle the guests on the east or west side of the estate, the fact that he had a deadline that soon for a decision of this magnitude was decidedly off-putting. Then again… not everyone had an interminable number of years to live. Still, were even humans normally this hasty, or was time just that much of the essence?

Exhaling through his nose, but not sighing, he told himself, he stood and left the building with the others, ushered out by a host seemingly grown impatient with them. Perhaps he should have paid more attention to what was being said, and thus given himself some idea of why. On his way out, arms still folded together, he passed a young lady, more noticeable, honestly, because she smelled slightly out-of-season than for anything else. Actually, that… he discreetly sniffed. Ah. Well, that was unexpected.

He only turned his head in the right direction as they were about to pass, catching her eyes entirely by mistake, but inclining his head anyway. From the snippet of conversation he caught a few seconds later, she was Kohaku-sama’s daughter.

Pursing his lips and not-sighing again, he found himself standing in relative proximity of both the youth who had offered his sword unsheathed, and the man with but one arm. These two, he had gathered, were already committed to the cause. Perhaps, if he inquired of them, they would be willing to tell him why, something that might help his own decision.

“A most unusual set of circumstances,” he ventured, his voice pitched quietly, but not hesitantly. “I fear I know little of them. Had either of yourselves prior knowledge of this Yousuke-san?”

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Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Shizuka fought every natural reflex within her body that commanded her to look for the source of that booming yet humane sound. This was due to the laughter which echoed through the room. She was certain that she was not the only one rattled by such a sound of merriment and interest. Though, this did not deter her from the gesture of her resolve towards the man she believed to be the one in command. His answer in regards to the aftermath of this mission had no effect on her. Empires, regimes, and governments fall all the time. It will stay true no matter who are fighting on the opposing sides of the quadrants. That is simply how this world revolutionizes itself, how life enters a cycle. As for the physical reward, it did give a pleasant music to her ears. There was no need for title on her part, just the jiggling sound of coins would be enough. She did at first arrived to this recruitment for that purpose. But at this moment, it is considered a bonus. For her main reward, the opportunity to kill the infamous Warlord Haru Yousuke is what truly drives her to be a part of this dangerous enterprise.

No matter the case, her gesture was answered. Those deep blue eyes of hers were soon met by honey brown ones. She could see that this man was reflecting her seriousness at equal lengths. There was no humor in it. That made this person agreeable to her despite being corrected about presenting one's sword in regards to service. She did not find any offense on that as she does not have any idea of such conduct. Instead, she presented a look of slight apology with a shrug of her shoulders to imply her nonchalant ignorance of it. She then took a step back as if to say, it will not happen again. With her katana in hand, she proceeded in returning the ebony blade back into its scabbard. Her burst of rage had been extinguished by the conversations being thrown within the room. As far as she could tell, there are only two who had been enlisted to the cause who included her and the man who had expressed joviality of the people gathered here today.

Her eyes traveled to the said man who stood out due to what he is missing and that would be an arm. Most people would have wallowed in self-pity of being relieved of an arm or be consumed by fear. This one is of strong spirit. Well, it was the only compliment she would give in repayment for the man calling her 'boldest ronin'. Unfortunately, she will not be able to voice that. In any case, the attention inside the room shifted to another or more specifically, a foreigner. It was a boy with hair like that of wild wheat and the oddest set of clothes she had ever seen as of now. Curious as she is, her head tilted to the side. It was a habitual quirk of hers when something had caught her interest which is a rarity these days. Unknown to her, she did exude a minor childlike innocent demeanor, but for a minute amount. The boy was asked if he was a tourist. Yet, the question which could be answered by a simple yes or no was reciprocated with an enthusiastic chatter of the foreigner. There was no doubt in Shizuka's mind that the boy was enamored by the ideas of samurai and was it mentioned, monsters?

Apparently, the stories of people living beyond the seas are true. They are delusional when factors are considered. What did this gaijin expect to do in this country? This place is not for theatrical plays of the naive and incredibly foolish people, a prime example, the foreigner. But then again, it would probably be good to crush such annoying traits into bits. The world is not a playful hunt drummed by excitement. It is very cruel for everyone including her. In the end, they are nothing more but preys being consistently hunted whether what it could be, that entirely depends on the specific individual. She could tell from the start that interaction with the gaijin would be limited by her at a distance. Her dislike for naivety has been set in stone. Though, the ideas being spouted by the foreigner seemed to come from this master the boy spoke.

She believed that would be the older man nearby. Well, the man certainly radiates a presence of a seasoned warrior, expected from the age she could perceive him to be. At the same time, he is a person who had adapted well to the harsh wilderness that is of Nippon from the manner he speaks. She did not find anything offending in his suggestions though, the bit underlining of his words in which measuring her ability against that scum of a warlord without even being specific, irks her. This was reflected with her eyes narrowing to a noticeable degree. Her and this man will not get along. She could tell that much. Though, she does not mind earning an incentive through decapitated heads. That however was rebuked by their employer outright. How sad. She slightly shrugged her shoulders and then allowed her gaze to travel on the other side of the dojo where an individual described as calculating stood by.

Those eyes of hers quickly narrowed and her lips pressed together in contemplation. It would seem that this job had assembled men with skill and if she is mistaken, then a death wish perhaps. In any case, there was another thing which bothered her immensely. She was obviously the shortest of everyone here and not by a simple inch or two. All of these males towered her. Her complex about her height began to rear its ugly head on her confidence. It made her wonder if there is a drug that would make her taller overnight. She had already tried drinking milk. It had not served her well as much as she could tell. Furthermore, these giants will not be good for her neck as she would need to constantly look up when in conversation. Well, she could do away with that by keeping to herself which she had always done before.

Removing her eyes from the calculating man, her eyes returned to their employer. The man spoke of meeting at the northwestern gate by dawn tomorrow. She would have wanted to start now. It would mean she would have to worry about her living necessities for a while until then. This made her pursed her lips in thought with her arms cross over her chest. She would need to entertain herself a bit more. With that, she made herself to the exit where they were being pushed towards to. It was much she could tell from the one in-charge. She would not blame him for she would do the exact thing. No further actions on her part, she let herself out of the dojo without bothering with the others. Ronin like them had always been alone; they make acquaintances, purely professional links, nothing more.

It was still uncertain if all of them would be together for this job. So, she sees no need for any interactions from her part. Though, she did notice someone coming towards them. It was a girl and another stab to her complex, the female was still taller than her. Why does everyone just towered over her? Is she a midget by nature? This was really frustrating as she closed her eyes briefly at this. She would need to increase her intake of that milk. When she did open her eyes, she saw the girl bowing her head, a polite gesture. There was no doubt the girl was still young. It reminded her something or rather someone. She then looked over her shoulder following the female who went towards her employer. Not stopping from her stride, she had managed to hear the word father. So, that is the connection, family. There was a haze of sadness in those eyes of hers, but only for a moment.

Returning her eyes to the front, she noticed the one described earlier as calculating spoke of their situation as a set of unlikely matters. To an outsider and unfamiliar one, it would seem just as that. However for her, that bastard Yousuke he speaks of should see this coming. This was but preordained. People who enact bloodshed must be prepared to receive such equal payment, though she would not mind giving an incentive of additional blood in regards to the targeted warlord.

Stopping from her tracks, she was also able to halt her mind from creating very realistic images of torture for the warlord in question. For now, her attention was taken. Her eyes gauged the man at a closer proximity and she could already tell that a green-eyed monster was starting to have a grip on her. Why could she not look like him instead? Tall, handsome, and cool-looking, something one would expect of a samurai or ronin. That is it, this man is a rival, a threat. Her eyes narrowed as she took a step back to keep distance. Then, she rolled her eyes in a manner to imply that she believed him to be an idiot. Actually, she was actually feeling pretty good about herself. She knows something that this man does not. One point for her. Not wanting to waste her time and to flaunt her self-proclaimed victory, she glanced at the one-armed man. This one should be sociable enough to provide as a conversation partner.

With that, she dismissed her presence before them by making her way to the town. Whether they meet later or tomorrow, she does not care. For now, she would need to pass time in which she could secure a lodging for the night. And that is the only thing on her mind right now as she silently contemplated her choices, placing her sandogasa back on her head.
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Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Haru Katsuro


After he had made his introduction there was quite a lot of debate flying about the room, and soon attention was brought to the... well quite frankly the elephant in the room. The enthusiastic, blonde, squeaky elephant with horrible Japanese. Really, it was awful. An assault on their language would be an understatement. Despite the foreigner's horrid attempt at speech, he somehow managed to convey his reasons for being here, he could only assume that his master was the rather large, and extremely rude, man beside him. As for the part about becoming samurai... That was decidedly odd. True many foreigners were fascinated with their culture and the ways of Bushido, he'd had to deal with a few himself during his military service, but he'd never met any truly desiring to become samurai. It was both parts amusing and disturbing, especially how enthusiastic he was about it. There was also something in there about hunting monsters, which brought up some rather unpleasant memories.

He reached over and gently massaged his nub of a shoulder as the discussions continued, the majority of which simply sounded like empty bragging on the larger man's part, as well as the request for more pay. Well, he couldn't blame the man for such a request, they were going after one of the deadliest men in Japan, and possibly even on earth. To ask great compensation for such, while extremely rude in this case, was not particularly uncalled for. Still, this man irked him to no end, he could practically feel his ego swelling as he spoke. He refrained from saying anything, simply in order to avoid causing any more tension than was already in the room. However their host obviously felt that enough was enough, and who could blame him, denying the man's request and calling an end to their meeting. Any interested parties were to meet tomorrow at dawn by the northeastern gate.

Picking up his bundle and slinging it over his shoulder as he stood up, his brow furrowed for a moment. He had already decided he would not be returning to the shack in the slums which he had previously stayed in, so where would he go? Plagued by this oversight in his plans, he stepped out of the dojo, though before he left he turned and bowed to Kohaku.
Thank you for your hospitality. I shall see you tomorrow as ordained. Good day." And with that he left, though not before seeing a young lady running up to the dojo, straight towards Kohaku. He didn't catch much of their conversation as he was walking away, just next to the bold yet silent ronin from before, but he did catch "Father". Content for now to walk in silence while he determined where he would spend the coming night, when the pair was approached by the rather tall, actually extremely tall now that he sees the man standing, samurai who had sat towards the back of the room. Katsuro bowed his head in quiet greeting, hoping that the two of them could start out on the right foot, they would hopefully be comrades after all. He then inquired as to their knowledge of the warlord, claiming he had very little understanding of the subject. Katsuro very nearly cringed at the subject, but it was a fair question given the circumstances. The quiet man merely seemed to dismiss the two of them and wandered off into town, piquing his curiosity slightly. There was definitely a story to be told there, if the man would ever open his mouth.

After quietly debating how much he should tell the man, he decided there was no reason to hide anything, hiding things this early could sow distrust later.
"I do in fact know a bit of the man, on a bit of a personal level. The rumors about him are, unfortunately, not an exaggeration. If they were, I might still have an arm."
Even Katsuro couldn't completely mask the shame he felt at that moment, having lost not only the fight but his arm and a great deal of his honor in a single night. A deep breath and a small grunt brought him back to his norm and the conversation at hand.
"If you're seriously considering this venture, then I suggest you not underestimate this opponent, nor those he employs." Feeling he'd said all that needed saying, he bowed politely and turned to leave, but he suddenly felt an urge, no more like an instinct to turn his head and say "I'll see you tomorrow morning, stranger." before he walked off into town in search of an Inn that would take him in. He then realized he still had that coin-purse from yesterdays thugs. With a light grin, he picked up his step, visions of tempura and a soft bed dancing in his head.