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Kurosawa Tsubaki

"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."

0 · 145 views · located in sengoku period, japan

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

So begins...

Kurosawa Tsubaki's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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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.


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: Shiori Miyamoto Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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The Demon Realm had a unique sort of feel to it, one she could not fully describe as impressing any of the mundane five senses. She supposed that had she not been attuned to anything outside of those, she would not have felt much different at all. But, being what she was, Amaya was aware of it, and it grated a little. This was belied by the way she kept flexing her hands more than anything, though she didn’t bother to hide the traces of irritation on her face, either. With the negotiations complete and no longer distracting her, she had more attention to devote to this unnamable itch, the strange crawling sensation under her skin. The distinctive makeup of this world was trying to expel her spirit from her flesh, to leave behind the husk, and she was forced to suppress it. She needed the husk, back in the human world. It would not do to leave it here.

Glancing to her side, she noted that her companion was still silent. This didn’t bother her at all, though she was still a little off-put by the ease with which the woman’s father had bartered her away as part of this deal, as though he’d been eager to do it the whole time. Well, it worked fine for Amaya’s purposes—her lord’s army could use another yōkai, especially one trained to combat. It was no challenge to see that Miyamoto-san had this attribute—it was in the fluid way she moved.

Amaya wasn’t sure what experience the hebi woman had with inter-world travel, so she took a moment to explain, her footsteps drawing to a stop once they reached a clearing. It was formerly a grassy knoll of some sort, slightly raised above the surrounding forest, but whatever grasses had grown here were long since singed away, a ring of perhaps ten feet in any direction scorched and blackened to barrenness by the very rare event of world-shifting. It was not an easy thing to do, and required a certain kind of knowledge as well as the right ki-based powers, and that was merely to open a gate. Stabilizing one, or aiming the exit, were even more difficult tasks. Thankfully, the old knowledge was not lost to everyone.

“This is the spot we’ll be going through. Once I open the gate, you’ll have to enter first. If I’m doing this properly, it should open just behind Yousuke-dono’s estate. Wait for me when you land, and I’ll take you to him.” Pursing her lips together, Amaya frowned, seemingly at nothing but the air, for several slow seconds. She didn’t wave her hands or incant anything or any such nonsense as that, and indeed the only hint that anything was about to happen was that her eyes slipped into the middle distance a little, as though she were somehow looking beyond what was right in front of them.

A small breeze picked up from behind them, stirring the unbound little hairs at the sides of her head like so many stalks of rice in the paddies, and slowly, the air in front of them began to shimmer, almost as if heat were radiating from the ground. Their visual fields warped, curving as though there were a giant telescopic lens in front of them, and then, slowly, space tore apart. The rift appeared to be entirely two-dimensional, open before them like an elliptical mirror, only they could see through it, to what looked to be an expansive garden. The smell of wisteria filtered through, something not present on their side of the gate.

Flicking black eyes to Shiori, Amaya nodded slightly, to indicate that the other woman could pass through first. As she did, the diminutive strategist regulated her breathing, watching the edges of the gate waver—perhaps alarming, but ultimately harmless. When the masked woman was through, Amaya followed, letting the gate shut behind her when she was sure all of her important body parts and articles of clothing were through, plus of course the satchel she was carrying, the terms of the treaty inside laid out in neat, crisp handwriting and signed by both herself, as relevant proxy to Yousuke-dono, and Miyamoto Makiri.

A quick ki sweep of the area revealed that most of Yousuke’s shinobi and kunoichi were either with him or on their way there, and she could only assume he had called for a meeting of some kind. Either her timing was exceptionally good, or his was. Upon feeling something wet sliding down her face, Amaya reached her free hand up to her nose, thin fingers coming away with red droplets at their tips. Damned gates. Reaching into the space between her gi and kosode, she tugged out a scrap of cloth and used it to blot away the blood, the wound it came from already healing, doubtlessly. “It’s this way. I suspect you’ll be introduced, then given the opportunity to settle in and rest, if you need it. Someone should explain everything you need to know, which honestly isn’t much. Don’t worry too much about being formal with Yousuke-dono; he doesn’t really care for all that.” It went without saying, of course, that formality or not, some amount of respect was expected.

The gate had spit them out a little closer to the house than planned, but that wasn’t at all a problem, and Amaya entered, occasionally nodding to acknowledge the shallow bows of passing servants and the like. Very few people here were much for standing on all the ceremony, which was something she appreciated. Less wasted time that way.

She knocked sharply on the door before pushing it aside to admit herself and her charge. “Yousuke-dono. I have returned from the demon world, as promised.” He’d expect a fuller report later, of course, and she would give it, but not presently. Kurosawa-san was already in the room, her face a mask of neutrality, though she wasn’t especially inclined to hide her disdain for being here most of the time. The fox-woman’s brows drew together slightly as she spotted their new guest over Amaya’s shoulder, but she was otherwise unreactive.

“This is Miyamoto Shiori. I’ll let her explain why she’s here.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shiori Miyamoto Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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#, as written by Clarent


"The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight and the only reason a warrior fights is to win."

Five strokes... each one so delicate and filled with precision one could assume the action had been practiced. This was all it took to sign away her very soul. Shiori had watched the event transpire as she had sat at the very table were her life would be bartered off like some good that were to be sold in a marketplace. Silence had reigned only for a moment after that before Shiori was dismissed by her father to collect her things and go from the house of her childhood. To the hebi who even knew this day would come this would rend her in two, damaging her more than any blade ever could.

The woman however held her tongue as she was taught to do so long ago, pushing the sadness, the rage and the hatred to the farthest reaches of her mind were they would trouble her no more. It would take only a moment to retrieve her belongings from the small empty space she had called a room for the past few years though in reality the walk there felt like an eternity, her legs acting more so like lead blocks than anything else. The hallway finally would come to an end in front of a small sliding door, its surface decorated with the waves of the ocean crashing against a harbor. The woman reached out with a gentle grip and slid the door open to reveal the space beyond. The room was a blank space other than the cot on the floor on which she had slept on, and what was left of her things were all neatly packed the foot of her sleeping area along with the small bonsai tree in its little pot.

The woman allowed her eyes to sweep over the room from behind the blank featureless mask one last time before she knelt down to begin collecting what little she had. The task was done in silence as once done she stood gasping a package of what looked to be letters and stuffing them in the small sack she would carry her belongings in. With that she picked up her potted plant and with a quick turn of the heel began to leave the room before pausing as if to take on last look at the place she had grown up in. The room seemed almost peaceful as the light from its one window drifted down to stretch across the floor letting the shadows of the place begin to slither across the floor. Shiori seemed to take in this view before slowly she exited, sliding shut the painted door behind her as the light in the room seemed to fade.

The start of trip to the human world was accompanied by a veil of silence, as neither traveler seemed to be in any true hurry to speak to one another as they went on their way. The journey would not be long however as they would come to the stop in clearing in which the other woman who had introduced herself as "Amaya" from earlier turned to her. Shiori look at the woman as if waiting to hear what she had to say, her serpentine eyes finding a focus on the one who stood before her. The tactician began to explain what she was about to do, her words flowing forth on how she was to create a portal to the human world.

“This is the spot we’ll be going through. Once I open the gate, you’ll have to enter first. If I’m doing this properly, it should open just behind Yousuke-dono’s estate. Wait for me when you land, and I’ll take you to him.”

To this Shiori simply gave her a curt nod before moving into position to await the portal to be opened. She had been to this human world twice before though neither visit was exactly a peaceful pleasure trip though that in her mind was a story for another day. The sounds of the ritual brought Shiori back to reality as right before her eyes the rift between the demon world and the human world began to take shape. Shiori moved closer to the portal eyeing the edges as they expanded outwards to form the almost human size hole in the fabric of the two worlds they'd have to travel through.

The view at the end of this tunnel seemed to take is form in a swirling mass of color before finally it came into focus for what it truly was. On the other side of the rift lay what appeared to be some sort of lavish garden, it's scents drifting through as if carried on the spring breeze. The woman watched the scene with great interest as she almost sub-consciously slide her pack of item's strap up on her shoulder to prevent it from falling off with a free hand. The was a brief silence as Amaya seemed to check the portal for stability before with a slight nod the other woman signaled the portal was ready for use.

The hebi seemed to take a slight breath as her fingers wrapped tightly around the small bonsai tree she held in a death grip that suggested she feared losing the plant. With that small preparation being done the youkai took as step into the void as the scenery that awaited her grew nearer with every step. Finally she breached the other side of the gate, her feet coming down hard on the ground that awaited her. She soon as expect began to slowly but surely began to regain her bearings as she gave herself a once over with her eyes to make sure the gate did not leave anything behind, as it would be humiliating to her to arrive in the company of her new Lord in the nude.

Luckily however the gate had seemed to do its job without fault and soon after Amaya was through the fissure sealing it behind her. Shiori took the moment of silence as her companion seemed to do the thing she had done only a few seconds earlier to get any idea of were she was allowing her eyes to scan the world around her. The gardens were a sight to behold, their radiant colors and the ever pleasant smell of the flowers in bloom almost hid the foul human stench that hung in the air.

Around the gardens sat the Castle which she could only suppose was owned by Warlord Yousuke, its towering structure like the many other castles in the province being some of the only things Shiori about this world she had entered was genuinely impressed by these days as otherwise the human world was nothing new to her. It was the scent of blood hitting the air however that caused Shiori to turn as her eyes focused on Amaya as the human seemed to be dealing with a slight nose bleed though she dealt with it in a quick and professional manner. Then with that Shiori's attention was once again grabbed by the woman who began to give out the rest of the briefing that the serpent woman could only nod to.

“It’s this way. I suspect you’ll be introduced, then given the opportunity to settle in and rest, if you need it. Someone should explain everything you need to know, which honestly isn’t much. Don’t worry too much about being formal with Yousuke-dono; he doesn’t really care for all that.”

Soon however she would find herself standing in the shadow of the doors that had look since tormented her dreams. This was were her last bit of freedom would now truly wither and die. The woman grimaced slightly under her mask as the Tactician pushed open the doors to the room to enter giving her a clear view of what awaited her. There in the room sat the man who she was now subservient to. The woman said nothing as she followed Amaya inside, her yellow irises darting around the room as if to take in all the figures who now stood in it, her eyes settling strangely not on the Warlord but on the one next to him as if she was straining to put a name to the woman's face.

The silence afterwards seemed to hang in the air like a suspended blade before it was dispersed once again by Amaya who gave a greeting before promptly turning things over to Shiori who promptly gave a seemingly practiced bow of greeting to both the Warlord and one she could only assume was one of his Shinobi. "It is an honor Yousuke-dono." She mustered in a quiet greeting though her voice left no hint of emotion as she rose from her bow setting the bonsai tree along with her things to the side as she slowly lowered herself down to kneel in front of the Warlord, lowering herself in another bow as if to address him on a matter of importance. "I as the daughter of Mikiri Miyamoto send you his best regards and wishes on your endeavors as well as offer you myself in service. I am but your blade, use me as you wish." Shiori finished before rising up out of the bow and locking her eyes on him, the yellow irises cutting at the man who sat before them as if awaiting some sort of reaction out of him to this.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shiori Miyamoto Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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Yousuke did not bother to budge as Tsubaki entered the room. As far as the youkai under his enslavement went she was by far his most useful, she was as comfortable being charming as she was slitting a throat.Tsubaki was responsible for all of the youkai he owned. And he knew that was a harsh way of putting it, owning another being, but it was very accurate and Yousuke at the very least didn't want to make light of what it was he was doing. It was an evil, a necessary one, but at least he would not mask it as something else.

She had a great deal of quiet dignity this one, even in the face of hardship. She made her displeasure known in subtle ways, which was highly amusing to observe. Today he was not in the best of moods however, and her silence was her saving grace from being told to shut up. Anyone that knew Yousuke would know he was anxious, while he exuded calm he was unable to get comfortable and his lack of movement or eating attested to his tense state of mind.

The rest of the Shinobi gathered, he didn't shift until he felt a relieving presence. He had expected to send them off himself but now that Amaya was finally back she could take care of the matter herself. Yousuke let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, he groaned, cracking neck and stretching his tense shoulders. Damn her, he remembered a time when he had no one to worry about. It was easier on him certainly, but lonely.

His body was more relaxed by the time she arrived, a youkai trailing after her. Unexpected as far as company went, he nodded at her as she gave way to this newcomer, Miyamoto Shiori. He would speak more with Amaya later, and ask why it was she smelled like blood.

Such formality, from what he had been told the house of the sea was extremely concerned with it, and this poor youkai, he met her cutting gaze with ease, had formality beaten into her very bones, he could tell.

Yousuke threw his head back into a booming laugh, "Of all the unexpected things, the house of the sea sends me one of its people as though it were nothing. Tell me Shiori, who did you piss off to get sent here?" Yousuke began his debriefing, a process he went through with every youkai he took into his service. He needed to assess them, get them to speak, get them both comfortable and uncomfortable, and then he made clear what it was he expected of them.

Yousuke nodded to Amaya, holding out Inoue's letter for her to take.

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Character Portrait: Shiori Miyamoto Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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While Yousuke-dono conducted his debriefing of the new agent, Amaya read over the documents he had handed to her. She didn’t need to ask to understand what was expected of her here—if he was drawing this matter to her attention, that meant he wanted her to design and implement a strategy to deal with it. Inoue, their embedded agent in Edo, had ties to a member of Kobayashi-ue’s household, ties that she was clearly putting to very effective use. Whomever she’d found must have been remarkably loose-lipped; either that, or Inoue-san was better than Amaya had initially assessed. Either option was interesting, but ultimately inconsequential at present.

Settling in front of the assembled shinobi without looking up from her reading, Amaya finished the rest, a small furrow forming in her brow. Hiring ronin for a vengeance quest, was it? Well, it wasn’t exactly unexpected, but Amaya could hardly formulate an accurate strategy knowing only that they were ronin. Such people came in many types, with many different levels of skill and character, and though it arguably took a certain amount of stupidity to want to take on Yousuke-dono, intelligence and skill at warfare were unfortunately not always directly correlated. Worst case scenario, Kobayashi-ue would manage to secure herself a small army of very talented idiots. It was certainly not impossible.

Fortunately, the means to gather the information she now required sat silently assembled in front of her at this very moment, and she waited for Miyamoto-san to join the lot before she spoke. Doubtless, her lord’s idea of appropriate response would be something along the lines of just go kill them already, but Amaya wasn’t going to do that without more detailed intelligence. Some things required the needle rather than the hammer.

“Kurosawa-san. Take Miyamoto-san and three others—I want you to go to Edo and locate one Kohaku Souji-san. Inoue says he is gathering a rebel force on behalf of the Kobayashi. Discover how many number in this force, and how strong they are. Do not engage if you can avoid it. We are after information here, nothing more. It goes without saying that you should go undetected if you can, undercover if you can’t. Make contact with Inoue—I will write a new set of orders for her that you will deliver. You should leave tonight, at dusk.”

She paused a moment, letting the words settle, and in that time, Kurosawa-san inclined her head slightly, an indication that the orders were received, though she did not bow, as most subordinates would have. Amaya simply didn’t care. “Understood, Amaya-san.” There was usually a slightly awkward hitch in the speech of people who addressed the strategist by name—even if they didn’t particularly respect her, it was still odd to refer to another by what was clearly a given name. But the monk who raised Amaya had given her none, and she saw no need for one. Amaya was all she was, and it was enough. Kurosawa seemed to be used to it, anyway.

Their orders delivered, the assembled shinobi stood, bowed, and departed, leaving Amaya alone with her thoughts. Well, and Yousuke-dono, but that wasn’t terribly unusual. It wasn’t like his so-called ‘bodyguard’ actually cared for the duty, and really, the idea that he needed one was laughable. She actually may have laughed, when he mentioned to what use he intended to put Muga.

“I think we should start assembling a strike squad,” she mused, partly to him, and partly just to herself. He gave her a great deal of leeway when it came to planning—really, the fact that she couched her strategies as suggestions still was more an idiosyncrasy of her own preference than any demand of his. “Which means, of course, that I’ll have to spend the rest of the afternoon combat testing some of the soldiers…” She arched an eyebrow at him. Watching her do that seemed to be a particularly-amusing pastime, for him. She didn’t really understand why, though perhaps there was some entertainment value to watching her spar with people nearly half again her size.