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The Ways of Samurai

sengoku period, japan

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a part of The Ways of Samurai, by Skittle_Overlord.

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Skittle_Overlord holds sovereignty over sengoku period, japan, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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sengoku period, japan is a part of The Ways of Samurai.

12 Characters Here

Kurosawa Ryūnosuke [11] "Hate is an emotion without a purpose. Some say it makes killing easier. But killing should never be easy."
Alexander Ornstein III [11] A young noble from a far away land has come to hunt true monsters.
Fumio Hajime [11] "Ningen... Youkai... Both pay handsomely. Both bleed red. Hard for me to have bias."
Yousuke Haru [9] The price of love between a youkia and a human is the life of an innocent. You tell me if that sounds fair.[still WIP]
Haru Katsuro [9] From soldier to Samurai to cripple to Ronin... Do try to keep up.
Amaya [7] "It is what you do, not what you are, that matters."
Kurosawa Tsubaki [5] "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."
Fujimaki Taro [4] "Someone brought a cat...Looks like we're having stew tonight."

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Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru
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Daimyo Yousuke, current holder of the Kobayashi domains, sat in much the same manner he had been sitting for days on end. His legs were folded, elbow resting on his knee, chin in his palm, other hand propped on his other knee, this was his thinking position. Anyone regarding him would think this man to be some sort of simple ronin, his clothing was plain and he had a bit of a wild demeanor to him, that of a sleeping beast. To be honest he was a simple man with simple needs, having no need for extravagance. He had full view of the courtyard from the room he chose as his office, the beautiful cherry blossom trees would be blooming soon. He had to admit the Kobayashi family were rather good at making their home pleasing to the eye, it looked so nice he even decided to have gardeners maintain it, whereas normally he wouldn't give a damn. Speaking of the Kobayashi, he was rather surprised when he learned that he did not succeed in killing all of them, one got away. To be specific, three got away, the lady of the house and her bodyguard and his daughter. He didn't see them as a threat or future problem, according to the Shinobi he had tail them to Edo, the former Daimyo's wife had gone mad with grief. He could easily have had her killed, but the Shinobi stationed in Edo was there to watch more than just her, he had bigger fish to cook. Killing her seemed of little importance and slipped out of his mind a long time ago.

He watched the men within his eyesight work, but he heard and smelled much more than what he saw around him. His small army was compromised of misfits and the desperate, of youkai he had ensnared in his employ and the rare hanyou that had been turned away from society. There were men who had refused to obey the oppressive laws set up by the class separation in Japan, women who refused to be called weak and subservient, deformed individuals called ugly by those who looked at them. All he welcomed, so long as they were strong enough to fight or learn how, and even if they were not there was usually something to be done around the place, he'd have his commanders find something for them to do. In this way Yousuke was a generous person who many owed a great deal to. He had not abused his position as Daimyo, not terrorized anyone who lived in his lands before he took over, in fact they thrived as they ever had. Yousuke was not a terrible leader at all. He treated those under him fairly, even if a certain few were not under his employ by their own will. He had a code of conduct which stated that those under him were to treat each other with respect and kinship. They were allowed to question their commanding authority even, so long as there was good reason and they were strong enough to challenge that authority. Yousuke was not cruel and chaotically bloodthirsty, he was an opportunist with a clear goal. He wanted to rule, and so far the lands he had gained were not complaining about it.

"Sir! This letter came in. Ah, sir what are you doing sitting in the dark? I'll light some candles." Sasuke, his page, showed up with a letter.

Yousuke looked around, it had indeed gotten dark on him, he hadn't noticed. "Mmmm, you fuss around too much." Yousuke mumbled as Sasuke set about lighting candles.

"And you spend you days thinking too much, honestly, did you even eat?! You haven't have you." Sasuke handed Yousuke the letter, "I'll go get something, I think Nadeshiko made pork buns too, you like those don't you?"

"Wait you fussy hen, more importantly, bring me Yamata.... And Tsubaki..." Yousuke said as he read the letter through.

"How am I supposed to find those two, they specialize in hiding!?" Sasuke stressed, finding the shinobi and kunoichi under Yousuke's employ was always a difficult task for Sasuke, they liked to tease him relentlessly, and the youkai took this as a game especially. It wasn't Yousuke's fault, they just hated their captor, and usually took it out on whomever they could. Yousuke of course couldn't tell Sasuke that it wasn't his fault, the knowledge of the existence of youkai was on a need to know basis.

"Not my problem." Yousuke shot back childishly. "Try the roofs." Damn shinobu loved to lounge on the roofs for some reason. He gave an unrefined snort as Sasuke mumbled to himself, off to do what was asked of him.

Yousuke dropped the letter, which was was from Inoue; the kunoichi he had stationed in Edo, in front of him, eyeing it wearily. He didn't need this shit this early in the day, best to nip this in the bud as early as possible- this, whatever little thing it was.

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Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke
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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: 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.




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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.

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Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Yesterday.
It was around this time that Hajime wondered if he ought to invest in a horse of some kind; be it a beast of labor or a war animal, it would be faster than travelling on foot. On the other hand, the same "damned animal will not be able to protect itself" logic applies to why he can't own a dog. "You'll be the closest thing I have to a pet for today, Tatsu-kun," he crooned despondently to the weighted sack in his left hand. Splotches of red were still blooming and seeping through the patches of fiber, and the sack swung like a careful pendulum.

His clients, lowly gang members sent to represent their aniki, determined they would meet him at the outskirts of the city, which he found agreeable because he had other business within the depths of town. They would not wait past sunset, they said, and he was quickly losing daylight. Yet he was in no hurry. He knew they would wait, lest they find the head rolled like a bowling ball through the door of their employer's bedroom. And there they were, the party of three, sitting in an impatient little circle. They looked up expectantly.

"Good news and bad news, men," Hajime grunted as he hurled the sack in the middle of the crew. A fat one had some trouble scrambling to his feet to avoid the sick splack as the object hit the ground, disembodied neck first. Hajime pointed at the sack; his forefinger looked like it could crack skulls. "I got the bastard's stepbrother. Man himself will cost another thousand."

Hajime was proud of himself for not staining his billowing sleeves, though he noticed constellation blood spots on his tabi socks as he came to a halt. Damn. Those won't be coming out anytime soon. After a while of heavy negotiation (during which he unfurled the drawn wanted poster and emptied the contents of the sack, insisting that in the future, good clients informed him when there was another man who looked a helluva lot like the man they wanted dead), the thugs decided they were satisfied with the one they had murdered, thank you for going out of your way for us, Fumio-san, no really it's okay, we'll talk aniki into settling things with his brother-in-law peacefully, Fumio-san, honest, thank you SO MUCH!

He walked away from the exchange with his coin purse jingling not as loudly as he liked. Young people these days... no balls. Scared of everything that looked at them with dead eyes. Or maybe he's lost his bartering touch? He's going to blame it, he decided, on having spent too much time in Europe twenty years ago. Hajime paid a quick visit to the public bathhouse to get himself cleaned up and socially acceptable, then located an inn where he can get some rest and flirt with the innkeeper's wife.




Today.
He opened his eyes and realized he was fifty years old. Fifty goddamn years of walking, eating and shitting. What has he accomplished?

Quite a lot, actually. He'd been a hard, diligent worker, and he wondered if that was why he was being followed. He was a little surprised he wasn't jumped during the night, but saw little need to dwell on the oddity. Before he headed to the dojo (as instructed in the parchment he'd ripped off a wall), he surmised it would be tactful to first take care of whatever personal business he'd had. Hajime kicked on his sandals, picked up his good katana from his bedside, and stepped outside with his hand on his hilt.


What awaited him caused Hajime's brows to furl together into what felt like a celtic knot. There stood, unmistakably, a blonde citizen of Central Europe who Hajime was a quite wary of recognizing. "What are you doing her--Whattu ale yu doing here, bozu?" This was not asked in a kind, pensive manner one might expect of a loving sensei.

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Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama 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: 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: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke
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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: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke
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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: Shiori Miyamoto Character Portrait: Yousuke Haru Character Portrait: Amaya Character Portrait: Kurosawa Tsubaki
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#, as written by Clarent


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"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.

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke
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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.

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Character Portrait: Haru Katsuro Character Portrait: Fumio Hajime Character Portrait: Kohaku Souji-sama Character Portrait: Honda Shizuka Character Portrait: Kurosawa Ryūnosuke
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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Character Portrait: Muga Akumu
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WRETCHED...

HATEFUL...

FILTHY...

UGLY...

BORED...

All of these descriptions, adjectives, or better yet emotions had been culminated inside one individual and that was none other than the infamous Muga Akumu. This person had made a reputation for being completely unstable and much like a wild beast, he has no loyalty for the cause or for the master who holds him. The only allegiance he recognizes is to himself. He was not even hampered by manners or the workings of society as he will without doubt act out his desires may it be acceptable or not. This had often caused volatile situations especially when a certain warlord and his kunoichi are involved. He would not hesitate to show his obvious displeasure, always speaking against the man, baring his fangs, more often than the warlord's adviser would. As such, this had caused many rumors within the small-sized army as to how he came to be under the employment of someone he greatly resents.

Of course, the true nature of things is shrouded in a mist. The underlings are kept in the shadows and the question never answered for those who are curious. The said man was even appointed to be the Warlord's personal protector tasked to ensure safety and to be a shield. It was a very ironic role. Perhaps the saying, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer perfectly covers the situation of these two individuals. The people were only permitted to concoct various possibilities as the dangerous enigma that is Akumu remained unsolved. Whatever the case, he will not fail to deliver the unexpected which is wrapped in a violent and bloody manner. He is indeed a threat to everyone around him, though, controlled by the warlord. This only added another notch to that ingrate of a hanyō's reputation at his own cost. It only infuriates him more.

For now, this beast of a man was currently lounging in a very lazy manner beside the window within a very spacious tatami room, his private space. This was the one place he could find a sense of calming separation from all of the irritating things that surrounded him. Truthfully, he needed it moreover, when he could not act on it as he had always done in the past. As such, he lazes as he pleases. A knee is raised while the other lowered for comfort. An arm removed from the sleeve of his rather loose-fitting yukata designed with golden butterflies which teasingly revealed his chiseled physique (overly thin in his opinion) to the public's eyes. His said arm hanged aptly upon his abdomen while the other rested on the window's ledge as it held his kiseru. This position would render anyone who sees it taken aback for it possessed a feline elegance that should never be attached to someone such as him.

Other than the room's occupant, there are certain things inside which would make anyone miss a step or be immersed in disbelief. The room was a horrid mess as if it had been left unmanned for a week or even a month. When, it has only been a day. Bottles of sake, not just some, piles and piles scattered about. Ashes from his smoking could also be seen strewed across the room. It goes without saying that the scent of alcohol and smoke dominated the air with such an overwhelming strength. However to him, this was very welcomed as he did not like taking in the scent of those filthy hanyō and traitorous yōkai. It only makes him very deluded with anger especially with the humiliation they had put him through (his human form and forced contract). As if to ease such nerves, he placed his kiseru to his lips and inhaled quite a good amount of its euphoric smoke. After a while, he pulled it away and exhaled quite a hefty amount enough to obscure one's vision inside his room.

He scanned the scenery presented before him through the window. Well, his right eye was practically useless. It is why a bandage was over it. A mistake, he intends to correct in the foreseeable future. His left eye was the only thing providing him any visual and that would suffice. From his position, he could see those pathetic louts who had coined themselves as humans trained themselves in efforts of becoming better than what they are. That thought caused him to smile which surely turned into laughter as it echoed within the room. It was funny he must say. This was like watching a fire yōsei trying to swim. The ningen can never improve, the only merit they have is to be meals, specifically his. His laughter stilled at that idea as that citrine green eye of his illuminated such a predatory gaze. There was actually quite a selection. That human at the right corner has a good amount of fats. It would be a pleasant thing to roast. The other one had nice pectorals, perfect for something fried.

His expression was of sublime lust. Anyone who would chance upon him will wonder if his preference in terms of companionship leans towards the males. However, they will be completely wrong on that assumption. He licked his lips in delight of the various meals in which his head was brewing. Still, his favorite would be to devour them raw. The glitter in his eye was much like that of a child with his favorite toy. Well, it would not be bad to have himself gorge in a few human flesh. After all, they are like bugs filling every corners of this realm with their inferior ranks. They will not be missed by anyone. That was actually the same logic he had applied to himself when he ventured to the human realm for his so-called culinary trips. Ah yes, those were the good times indeed until that day.

A hand of his reached for the bandaged eye. It was the start of his bad luck as he would have stated. True, he had offended some beautiful yōkai who are known to cause bad fortune. Well, it was not his fault that he was not looking for a long-term relationship. That was why the term one-night stand was created for such purposes. Stupid nymphs. Once, he manages to wrest himself out of this humiliating position that he is in. He would be certain to slaughter those bad-luck causing yōkai. Of course, he would tend to the ones here first. He would enjoy killing those heresies of hanyō and that back-stabbing wench of a yōkai. Ah, so many people need killing. He allowed his hand to slowly fall from his right eye to his lips as he traced them. When that is all done and over with, he would allow himself the luxury of eating that butterfly which he highly covets. A wicked smile made to his face, but then again, thinking about it hungers him as he continued watching those ningen train, a fruitless endeavor.

It should be better to just eat them all. In that way, they can be of some use. Continuing that line of of thought, of all the rooms in this place, he was given the one with the view of the training grounds filled with those humans. He could only assume it was to annoy him further. It was only now that he seemed to convey the reasoning behind his room and it had been quite a long since he had been given this quarter. They were baiting him like a dog, and he is not one, even if he belonged to the House of Earth. Those good-for-nothing hanyō will know their place once he is free of these invisible infernal chains of his. Standing from his position, he will descend on that army like a plague. His patience had always been thinned when it comes to his desires. Though, it is certainly to be a bad idea especially with his soul in the hands of that filthy hanyō who dabbles himself as a warlord. How putridly childish in his opinion. Gritting his teeth in annoyance of his own captive position, the oppressive stillness of the room was cut through by another visitor who announced its presence with the sound of a meow.

Akumu looked at the source and saw it to be a cat that managed to enter his room from the open window. It now stood before him with those big eyes looking at him. Apparently, it was not fearful of the giant before it. There was a tense silence as the two seemed to stare each other down. He took this moment to take in some of his fumes and then exhale it with pleasure. One would wonder if his anger would be vented out on the unknowing cat. It was quite a period of time before he finally spoke. "How do you call a cat anyway? Hmm.." He lowered himself to the ground and extended his free hand towards it. "Kasha... kasha... kasha..?" Well, that is how he called those corpse demon cats back at his realm. They responded to that. It should work the same way.

In any case, this was just yet another day in the life of Muga Akumu.

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Character Portrait: Kohaku Kana Character Portrait: Kashou Honeshiro
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Lady Chinatsu had been eerily quiet, a crazed calm tingling under her skin, visible in her half lidded eyes. She allowed Kana to comb her hair, her head leaning this way or that with the gentle strokes. This activity kept her calmer these days. The morning was spent this way until the honorable lady spoke. "Bring me his head Kana-chan, won't you? His head." She sounded like a little girl almost, the request so simple and innocent, as though she were simply asking Kana to go to the store and get her some sweets. It almost made Kana wince. Sake made Lady Chinatsu more agreeable, but she took it like medicine. It was not up to Kana on whether or not she should have it though.

"Of course Chinatsu-dono." came her reply, her voice strained with the force of sounding chipper, her smile offset by the worried furrow of her brow. She did not like what the Lady had become, but it was not her place to judge. "Today I am meeting a few men- Ah. My father is meeting a few men who will accompany us." Kana finished Lady Chinatsu's hair.

"Tsk tsk kana, you're doing something your father doesn't know about aren't you." It was a statement, not a question, an amused one. "You were always so very willful, but well meaning. It's going to get you into trouble... but not from me." She raised a finger to her mouth childishly, smiling at her new secret. This left Kana to smile and excuse herself, the Lady Chinatsu was laughing her out, finding something else she had thought of entirely hilarious. The laughter was loud and unabashed, unrestrained, unlike the Lady Chinatsu from three years ago.

"What mood is she in today?" Lady Chinatsu's mother asked as she passed by Kana in the hall.

"The Sake is working. So she might throw a tantrum today but otherwise she won't get angry." This was one of Lady Chinatsu's better moods. Other days she would be in a rage all day, over the smallest things.

With a sigh Lady Chinatsu's mother handed her the bundle she was carrying and turned away from Kana, off to see her daughter, "Do yourself a favor and find yourself a husband dear, one that will take you away from here and this nonsense. And if you'd stop playing with swords and put your hair up properly you'd find one much quicker...
you look like a peasant with your hair like that." Kana silently watched her leave for a moment before continuing on her way out. She unwrapped the bundle a bit, already knowing what it was, Lady Chinatsu's mother may talk harsh sometimes but she was kind and knew her affinity for dumplings.

Kana had been getting up early to come over and do Lady Chinatsu's hair every morning, to establish a pattern of behavior that her father could expect from her. He wouldn't be expecting her for another while since she was always sure to stay until a little after noon. And this particular day is when her father would be recruiting ronin for their trip. She would take this time to visit a couple of promising ronin that her various contacts had been recommending to her. She wanted to hand pick a few very strong ones to show to her father, to surprise him with her initiative. She wanted him to take her role in this seriously. Kana had her suspicions that although he would allow her to come along he wouldn't allow her to participate in any way. She knew she could prove to him otherwise, he'd have to see.

"Kana-chan!" Kana whirled around, her friend Inoue had been the one to tell her about a few who were in Edo. Inoue was one of the ladies of the Daimyo's wife and she heard talk of all sorts about the political on-goings of the district. "I'm so lucky I found you, please come quickly, he was about to leave, but I convinced him to stay." Inoue hurried Kana along. "He likes pretty women so you're in luck! You're beautiful friend was able to convince him to wait around for a bit." Kana laughed at her friend's ruthless flirtations as they hurried along.



Ravenous green eyes trailed after unwitting passerby. The foot traffic consisted of floral patterns, of ladies and men with their easy smiles and clean, dust free tabi. Smooth hands. White skin. His hungry gaze pawed and tore into their loosely clutched baskets and packages. A bolt of cloth here, a bundle of rice there.

Today’s shoppers were practically gleaming. As expected.

This shining crowd avoided him and his sort, like fish in the river coasting away from a lurking shadow. It seemed to happen automatically and naturally, as though the people were programmed to move with one another in some unseen and seamless fashion. Unspoken social cues, shoulders that tilted away from the offset alcove the beggar huddled in.

It was important to avoid meeting such a starved expression. Honeshiro’s face, lean and gaunt, was lined with bandages around his jaw and forehead. If you could call those ragged scraps of cloth “bandages”, of course. The hanyou wasn’t injured, but somehow he doubted anyone would care to see the places where his skull had eaten through skin.

His hands, carefully tucked into ragged sleeves, clacked and clattered as skeletal fingers twitched and flexed. Today wasn’t a good day. Today, in fact, was the most recent in an unbroken chain of bad days. He didn’t mind. Misfortune bled into misfortune until the world dripped with colorless, bleak melancholia. After a certain point it grew difficult to make the distinction from one sorrow to the next.

Hunger. His teeth ate at the insides of his gums, at his lips and jaw. The ridges of his spine dug into the back of his neck, stretching and straining against Honeshiro's wearied skin. A sense of failing urgency tugged and tugged. Too many people. Too many bits of bone had eaten their starving way through his flesh. And too many eyes capable of seeing them.

But, crumbled off to the side, Honeshiro’s filthy form sat obscured by the shade. His kind remained avoided by the pedestrians, and their careless eyes skated right over the outlier in the shadows.

One didn’t necessarily need to become invisible to remain unseen.

Inoue and Kana weaved through the crowd, "Inoue slow down, I am holding delicate dumplings you know!" Inoue did not slow down. Kana hurried to keep up but was compelled to stop suddenly. Her head tilted, her face took a look of confusion, and then she looked to her right. A man under a tree, or rather a bunch of rags under a tree, the man was so obscured by them. Kana's feet took her straight to him. Upon getting a good look at him the reason for knowing he was there before seeing him was no longer important.

"Do you like dumplings by any chance? They're fresh, and there's plenty of them." Kana said, realizing she was staring.

"Kana what are you doing?! Hurry up!" Inoue yelled, keeping her distance.

"Here just take the whole thing." Kana had no more time to spare, she hurriedly shoved the bundle into his arms and started to hurry toward Inoue. "Oh and, eat something else too!" Kana tossed her entire coin purse to the vagabond, not having the opportunity to politely give him a set amount of spare change as Inoue was dragging her away now, giving her a look.

Honeshiro coughed, sputtering as the young girl began to vanish in the colorful swirl of human traffic. Now, where had that come from!? Hadn't he just been musing on the apathy of the masses, the need to blend in with the rest of the species? Despairing upon the bleakness of his general existence?

Screw all that crap; this was the best day ever!!!

'Free food, huh?' The warmth from the package bundled in his arms seeped into the halfbreed's very core. The scent of the dust and the passing rabble subsided in the face of the overpowering aroma of... dough and cooked poultry. She really had given him dumplings. Given. All on her own. He hadn't even seen her com--!


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His bones reverberated, burning under his skin. A single voice drove itself, as piercing as any blade, straight through Honeshiro's thick skull. Image Had to eat. Had to eat. Had to....

Kashou looked down, leveling his gaze slowly. In his lap, a mess of torn fabric was all that remained of the serendipitous girl's gift. He had devoured them all, so quickly? Not surprising. Hadn't eaten in days. Still. Honeshiro didn't remember how many dumplings had been in the package, didn't even remember opening the damn thing. "What did they... taste like?" The beggar's mouth went dry. He didn't know.

A moment of silence.

The half demon groaned, the flesh of his face twisting and twining back over the exposed bone of his jaw and cheek. Bandaged, skeletal fingertips reached up, inspecting the tender new skin. Huh. It seemed like he would no longer need to cover his face. 'This makes things easier.' Honeshiro wasted no time peeling the worn rags from his person, flexing his jaw testily.

"Best damn day ever," the half demon concluded once more, muttering to himself as he stowed the cloth and the girl's wallet up a haggard sleeve. Sure as hell wasn't gonna give any of this shit back. But it wasn't as though Honeshiro was ungrateful.

Far from it, in fact. The man rose to his feet, pointedly ignoring a handful of stares as he stretched luxuriously. He twisted, bones and joints popping and cracking. 'That girl... where did she go?' She was an interesting one, that was for sure. Though the flavor of the dumplings evaded him, the image of her rushed and hurried expression had burned itself behind Honeshiro's eyes.

She had gone... left, yeah? Dragged off by her friend. Hmph. No matter. Her smell had been rather distinct.

He'd find her.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Character Portrait: Alexander Ornstein III
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Despite being at an Inn, Alexander found a hard time sleeping. It was dark outside, and the sounds of cicada’s, and loud patrons were almost as bad as the uncomfortable bedding which the foreigner was forced to call a bed. There were millions of things on the young man’s mind at this time, everything from the fact that he would soon be fighting an army, to the thought of spending his free time with his master! There was undoubtedly a lot of excitement in the air. Alexander’s sensei had decided to sleep in a different room. Yet, despite this request, Alex was positive Fumio wouldn’t be running away. But, in order to secure the place of his sensei, Alex would need to prepare. This was a difficult undertaking.

“UGH! I give up! Sweet mistress of sleep, will you not welcome me into your warm embrace!” Sitting up from his uncomfortable floor was a welcome relief, and Alexander meandered towards a desk in the room. Upon It was perched a candle (one could only assume this was to be used in a lantern.) A piece of parchment would be procured from the meager surroundings of the room. Inns in this country were a far cry away from luxury than the boy would have liked, but there was something charming about them. Though, if anyone were to ask Alex, he’d say there was something charming about the whole country.

“If master was telling the truth, we’ll be fighting a whole army! We’ll be like the Spartans!” There was something else too. Something else which tickled Alex’s thoughts. At the time, the young man had just brushed them aside but now in the empty darkness of the room Alexander found himself thinking about that other thing Sensei had mentioned. “Demons. Real demons.” Soon, the boy would be faced to face with the reason he came to this country. Alexander’s fingers tugged beneath the collar of his long pajamas. Beneath them he revealed a silver crucifix. It would be a surprise to no one, that a noble family like the Ornstein’s were devout Catholics. Even Alex believed earnestly in the faith of his family. “Master said we’d be facing demons. If that’s the case, I’ll need your protection.”

Western religious doctrine was pretty thorough on how to deal with demons. There was holy water, crucifixes, and silver. Finding a small piece of flint among his traveling gear, Alexander struck the stone against a hard surface, and struck the candle to light. This would serve a dual purpose. Among the things he carried with him, the boy always had a musket ball maker. These were small devices which had a hand ratcheting system. With a hot enough fire (those of a candle did well) metal could be melted into an iron mold, and come out as a musket ball. The parchment on the desk would serve as a paper cartridge. All Alex had to do was rip out strips, roll them into long tubes, and seal them with wax, or animal fat. As parchment in Japan was different than the type the blonde found back home, he’d easily be able to tell which ones had the ammunition he was making tonight.

With nothing more than brute force, the young man took off his crucifix, and smashed it against the desk. From here, he placed the pieces, and chain, into the hand mold, in total he would get five musket balls. When they were cooled, he plopped them into the paper cartridges, and sealed them with some of the melted candle wax. Now that the hard stuff was out of the way, there was one more agenda for tonight. Writing the financer.

As Alexander was the third in line of succession, this meant that by now (as an adult) the male would have been cut off in most cases. However, as he was unmarried and arguably his mother’s favorite son, Alexander found no recourse in sending her a letter asking for money. His father, and two older brothers would undoubtedly hate him for it, but what they didn’t know didn’t have to hurt them. Taking a second piece of parchment, and a quill pen from his bag, and ink from the desk the young man decided to scrawl his thoughts.

Dearest Mother,
Domo! Or rather Konbonwa! Greetings from the land of Japan.
I have come to this land, in ardent search for my master. When I arrived in this strange place I could feel it in my bones mother, real monsters are here. The people here are quaint, albeit interesting in their own ways. There were some helpful people, marred by tattoos which helped me find my master. When they did, I discovered something horrible! Master Fumio is sick. A sickness had ravaged his small village, and master obtained it as even though all of the children in the village were sick he refused to let them slip on their lessons.

I come to you at urgent request, to send supplies and aid. I believe it will take nothing short of 1000 gold coins to heal my master’s body. If it isn’t done quick enough, he might lose his sight. As it is he’s already lost his left ring finger.
However mother, all is not lost for me here. In these lands where plague can so easily riddle a man’s body, a beauty has struck my soul. And this is the second reason for the request I am sending. A woman whose beauty is beyond compare is the matron of the village here. In this society women are the overseers of all. I believe this to be the reason for Master Fumio’s politeness. She has offered herself as a reward to anyone who can cure the sickness of the village. Any man who can do so, will become a potential suitor. Of course, then they’d just have to fend off the honorable samurai, and show that they have wealth enough to keep a princess enchanted.

I believe the cause of this sickness to be a mystical monster. It is a small devil, one no more larger than a peacock. And in fact they would look similar stood next to one another. Only this one’s feathers are white as fallen snow, and red at the center. I will go to great lengths to hunt this creature, I will stake my fame, my fortune, and my life upon it.
Mother, you’ve always been my first and last hope. My alpha, and omega. It is for this reason which I write to you, requesting 1000 gold coins (any nations will do, we will simply melt down the coins for their raw value) some supplies such as medicines, and as always your love. I am here alone, but I know you are here in spirit.
Your son
Alexander Ornstein III


Alexander finished his letter, and sealed it with wax as well as his family’s crest. This would serve as a legal notification. Afterwards he placed it on the center of the table, blew out the candle, and wandered back to his cot. Stretching out his arms, the boy only hoped he knew what he was getting into. It was hard speaking the language here, so he was sure most of what he said was glanced over. Yet, he did have a desire to prove his manhood, and test his mettle. Tomorrow he’d be the first to arrive, and he’d bring his master with him. Whenever he found a trader, Alexander would send the letter back home.

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After Yousuke was satisfied he released Shiori to Amaya, who promptly gave her the first orders of her employ. No rest for the wicked.

Yousuke looked up from his sitting position at Amaya when she mentioned a squad, "I don't see anything wrong with just making the Shinobi take care of it. Not like Tsubaki or Shiori can't do it on their own. But if you insist." Yousuke got a huge grin on his face when she mentioned matches.

"SASUKE, GET THE SAKE." Yousuke yelled, not sure where his damn Paige was but sure that he heard him. Watching Amaya put grown egotistical men on their ass was a favorite pass time for him and Sasuke both. It was more entertaining than just about anything else that happened around here.



Sitting atop his warhorse, an especially ugly one from what people told him; not that he cared this horse had served him well, Yousuke servayed the fights. Jeering and whooping occasionally, Sasuke making a ruckus next to him, tipsy because Yousuke allowed the lightweight to drink. Amaya went very easy on the men, allowing them to do most of the attacking, but whenever she had seen enough or one of them got rude she dealt her inconpacitating blows and sent them off to have their bruises tended.

There came a time, inevitably, when all of the men became disheartened and weary of stepping into the ring with Amaya. No one wanted a free beating, not that Yousuke could blame them. But he didn't want it to be over just yet, and as if to answer his whim there stepped forward another bold man. He bowed, Yousuke grinned, teeth and all. He challenged Amaya, Yousuke nudged Sasuke.

"Kick his ass Amaya-sama!" Sasuke hiccupped, fist in the air.

Yousuke chuckled, "Let's see what you'be got soldier!"