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28 September 2007 @ 05:02 am
You can tell.
 
 
28 April 2006 @ 02:31 am
Michita caught his breath.
It had been minuets that the young Shiba had struggled to maintain his focus enough to regulate his breathing. His mind was racing, the last 48 hours had taken years from him, taken away his ideals of the just, and true Empire. The world seemed empty to him now. The events of the last year had come into a sharp focus: the Kolat. That name, unspoken for decades in the empire. Now, returned, and with an apparent vengance, and a desire to save the Empire? Nothing made sense.
The young Pheonix sat on the side of the mountian, the rest of his party were still clearing out of the ruins of the keep.
The bodies of many fallen bandits, and Kolat agents, as well of thoes of deamons, and the young Mantis, and he former party member..."Takahiro"...the Shiba said absently to himself. Their deaths all still hung in the air about the Pheonix. In his 17 odd years he had never seen such death in so little a span of time; and the revelations of the last few hours chilled him beyond the cold winds of these acursed mountians.
He had seen ratlings, and he had been in the presence of deamons... He had been in battles fo frenzied and chaotic that he hadn't even noticed the deaths of warriors mere feet from him.
He had known that he, and his freinds were being pulled into a trap, and now that the trap was sprung, Michita began to wonder if it had at all.
The group of magistrates were "entrusted" to deliver the message to the Empire, so "warn" Rokugan.
Michita shivered with the thought. It didn't feel right.
Why? Why would the Kolat go to such ends to deliver a message? There had to be more to it.
Michita looked over his shoulder. His party were ready to move out. To deliver news of what had transpired, to tell the Empire what had happened, and to warn it of what might yet come.
Michita found himself not conserned with himself, nor the welfare of Ameko. No, Michita worried for the Empire, and what further damages these unseen forces might conspire to achive.
Could he even believe what the Shinjo woman said about Lord Sezaru?
"No", he said to himself.
"It cannot be true."
Michita looked down to his daisho. What did it really mean? What did it all mean?
The young Shiba hoped that he would be able to remove himself from this place soon, and that he would see his home again soon; perhaps visit the sea. How he missed the ocean.
A single tear ran across his cheek, Michita swept his palm across his face.
Michita longed to be home and far from the savage designs of the beast that had hunted him for so long now. He knew in his heart that it would be many hundreds of miles and hundreds of days before he would be able to leave the events of this day behind him.
Michita tunred and walked down the mountian side, back towards his fellows. As he looked them over he saw their deaths, their deaths at the hands of an invisible menace. He drew a ragged breath and fought back the visions that his imagination flooded his mind with. He knew his task would never be finished. He knew that he could never let down his guard again. He knew that the Kolat would never stop, he knew that they would keep hounding his friends, his compannions. He knew what his life would he would soon be called to do. He knew why the hunters, and trappers of villages sought out the deaths of the great cats. Then he knew, he knew why men feared the Tiger...
 
 
Current Location: the ruins of the Boar...
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: the winds in the mountians...
 
 
27 April 2006 @ 02:05 am
Waking up usually felt good to Nanashi. The start of a new day in service to the Empire filling his life with purpose and meaning, leaving him energized.

Today, it felt like dread. The sinking feeling in his stomach was only slightly abated after he checked his belongings carefully, noting that, for once, nothing was missing. A quiet sigh escaped his lips, and he thought to himself that perhaps the oddities were at an end. But he knew that such a hope was foolish. Listening to the others, watching their moods, he felt that they were all more or less in agreement that no one amongst their number was a traitor. To be certain, Doji Sakura had been acting strangely of late, and the Isawa preistess had always been somewhat aloof, but neither seemed to truly be capable of the magic that was afoot.

Thus far he had largely left the discussion to the others, listening to the opinions weighed in by his fellow magistrates. Their cares and worries were his too, and he shared much of their concern for both the Crab and their own honor. Soon however, they would find whatever it was they were being led to find. They had no real choice in the matter, other that turning back, which was no real option at all. Quietly he rose and stepped away from the others, beginning to stretch and meditate for the trials he knew must be coming. Morning rituals completed, Nanashi stepped back towards his belongings, briefly toying with the idea of opening up his tattooing kit. Thus far none of is companions had seen him work, but now was hardly the time. Focusing on the horizon, Nanashi began to strap on the brilliant green armor of both his clan and position, steeling his mind for the coming day.
 
 
03 April 2006 @ 01:55 am
The wind would not stop whispering in Rionaidasu's ears.

It's what I get for talking to them so much suddenly, Rionaidasu thought to himself as West Wind carred him a little more further ahead of the party. I only need so much, he thought as loud as he could, hoping the kami in his ear would listen.

They didn't.

She's looking again, the pretty bluebird, a high, hollow voice said again.

"I know!" he muttered in Senpet, hopefully low enough it would sound like a grunt. The wind giggled. Now the pretty firebird looks! Silly firebird and her winter love. Rionaidasu had no idea what that meant, but filed it away anyway.

He did not exactly distrust the Isawa. It was more he trusted her to be a young, sheltered girl who wanted to prove herself. Which was always dangerous. While not as oddly stubborn as the young man he still thought of only as Jyuji, who he admittedly had a great like for, mostly because of his immediate similarity to many of his childhood friends, the young Isawa was already meddling about in secret affairs. Which invariably ended badly in Rionaidasu's experience.

That only led back to Sakura though. He had thought she had been trained in some sort of covert skullduggery, but last night had proven it. His heart contracted unexpectedly at this, because he knew what that meant. This was Rokugan. Discovery of such a thing meant death. Failure in such a thing meant death. Kenji flew into the periphery of his vision, and the sadness of a hawk without a hunting partner seemed suddenly a very real thing.

He tried to bend his thoughts to the task at hand. Rionaidasu was not worried about the short term safety of him and his companions. Whoever was leading them wanted them to arrive alive and well. In and of itself, this was cause for concern though. This had implications for the long term. There was a plan here, a large one to invovle the Topaz Championship, and the ronin that had not been seen by anyone but the contestants in the field. One that involved a person of great skill shadowing the magistrates and letting them know there were being watched.

Rionaidasu could not help but think back to the walls of Ryoko Owari, the Imperial banner, the appearance of Sunetra for a few brief minutes a year ago, and the disappearance of the Emporer near the same time.

It could have all been coincidence. More likely, Rionaidasu thought they might somehow be related. For a moment a feeling came over him, the sense of a larger web of events and people moving around him, of being a player in what was suddenly a far larger game than he could percieve, one that not neccessarily, but might somehow involve the affairs of Emporers. He shivered involuntarily.

Rionaidasu was relieved from his thoughts as a rider to his rear came up.

"Are you sure you should be riding so far ahead, Rionaidasu-san?" Meikuko asked as she caught up with him.

"No ma'am, I will be fine. Besides, should an ambush occur, West Wind and I are possibly best ready for it."

Meikuko nodded her head and clucked for her horse to slow down to wait for the rest of the group. Rionaidasu didn't want to dislike her. She was not a bad woman. She was what she was, and that was respectable enough.

But he could not help it. He did not like being subordinate . . . well, to be fair, he corrected himself, that was the end of it. Some he could handle more than others. But Meikuko was a representation of all that was backwards in his life. She was his future Clan Champion. The fact that it was her was enough to make him wish to curse his lot. This was not his Champion. Or his Daimyo. She was much farther north, and beloved of the Wind. This woman was just a woman. A good one, but not the one his heart would wish to serve.

In all honestly, he preferred the Moshi. He was a good man, talented, straight forward, and dependable. He would take Meikuko's back in a fight, for she was a good samurai. The Moshi, he was a man whose spirit Rionaidasu trusted as well. And he was a bit crazy, after that jump into the river. Rionaidasu respected that, too.

That only leaves the Shiba, he thought. Only fair to reflect upon them all, he thought with a wry smile. He had always been told that although others practice it, only the Shiba truly lived Bushido. He understood that now. Long sufferance and compassion seemed to be the constitution of the young Shiba. "Good men are rarer than the blood of a god or the jewels of a dragon's hoard," his grandfather had always said. "Value them, and keep them near, for you may need their protection. Or they yours."

So it is, Rionaidasu thought. He dipped his hand into his saddlbag and pulled out his new book.

"The source of a noble man's strength comes from many places," ran the first line he found,"but none so precious as good friends and a simple heart."

So it is.
 
 
02 April 2006 @ 10:44 pm
At dawn, Ameko looked to the sky to see clouds forming around the sun that broke out of the horizon. A dark grey swirled with the pink of the sky to create a beautiful scene, beautiful, but unfortunate. Rain would be coming soon, and that would create a hard ride for the magistrates. The young shugenja had never understood why people had thought so ill of the rain until recently, but after facing days in the cold she understood why most people despised the rain. Her companions because haggard when drenched. The cold, wet days were a burden to the riders, and so Ameko tired not to proclaim how happy she was every time it rained.

Every important thing that had ever happened to Ameko had occurred either directly in water, or while it was raining. Even her Name, Ameko, was a tribute to the celestial water. On the day of her birth, there had been a downpour that the phoenix lands had not seen in ages, when she was sent to the Tensai temple, the air was thick with mist and drizzle covered everything, even the day of her mother's death and brother's birth, there were showers scattered about her home.

Maybe this day too, would be influential in her life.

Shadows.

The events of the night before still were fresh in the young Kaneka's mind. Someone toyed with the band of magistrates, and it was only a matter of time before such harassment worsened.

Yet they had not tried to kill anyone. At least to Ameko's knowledge. Yet the Jade fingers still made Ameko twitch.

The serpent had come again to Ameko in her dreams again. Warning her of what she was to face. It was the spirit who had caused her to wake and find the young crane perched not two feet fro her, taking three pure jade fingers from on top of her belly.

She was not entirely sure if she trusted Sakura. The young crane moved too swiftly for Ameko's liking, and why had the kami not shown Ameko who had entered the building? Whoever was causing such strife among the group must have been very clever to avoid the suspicion of the kami, because it was very rare for water kami to miss such an important detail as someone entering and exiting a room.

Ameko looked to the rest of her party. All of them seemed on edge.

She looked to the crane girl first, She did not seem to have the air of a saboteur, but her knowledge of explosive material was far beyond that of a regular Crane delegate. Ameko did not believe that Sakura was a traitor, She knew that whoever was behind the tricks, it was a man. The Kaneka could not also help but notice the connection between the Crane and her (former) Unicorn ally. They seemed to hold a deep emotional bond with each other. One that extended past the simple pleasantries of a group of companions. Curious.

Ameko then looked to the Mantis and Dragon. The journey had killed any hostility between the former Phoenix and the Mantis, she no longer saw an enemy of her clan, but an ally to her cause. The Dragon was also a bit of an anomaly. Ronin born, and supported by the mantis, only to become a jade magistrate within the Dragon clan? Lucky, indeed. Yet his nature was still that of a ronin, that much was clear. He was the first to suggest leaving the Crab behind, and while Ameko understood his feelings for self-preservation, she did not believe that it was right for a group of samurai to leave a companion behind, especially when their lives could be put in jeopardy.

Ameko sent a small prayer in the direction of the young Crab, hoping that he was still alive.

Her glance turned to Michita and the young Lion, Meikuko. Of all her companions, it was among these two that Ameko trusted most. Ameko could not recall every time that her yojimbo had come to her rescue, and she felt guilty for leaving him behind in the city of lies. She promised herself that she would not leave him behind again... unless absolutely necessary, of course.

The Lion too, held Ameko's trust. After helping the young Lion boy in the Topaz championship, she had found that the loyalty of the clan was astounding; from the beginning of the trip Meikuko helped Ameko adjust to constant travel on horseback, which was something Ameko was quite unaccustomed to.

Ameko looked forward to see the vast landscape in front of her, she knew that the road they were taking would lead them to places that Ameko had not even dreamed of in her blackest nightmares, and she knew that Maho would be everywhere. She had no idea if she would ever live to see this land again.

Rain began to fall as Ameko's mind drifted to the thoughts of what life had planned for her...

...She only hoped that life had plans for her.
 
 
 
02 April 2006 @ 09:03 pm
Sakura laughed at herself. Jealous…she was jealous. They’re so quiet, they leave no trail. She woke a Scorpion because he knew how she walked. The Akodo even forgave her for leaving her post. They would have given the group their “gifts” any way.

Kenji flew high above her. It seemed he may have been scorning her for what had happened the last few days. He was right to. “I’m nothing but a coward,” she whispered to herself. Her hand rose to the small cut on her neck. She couldn’t pierce her skin in the hot bath the blood would have left her body quickly. She couldn’t even just stop swimming. She was just getting over how sore she was. She shook the tears away. Something oddly freeing about that night; it kindled a lust she didn’t know she could harbor. Perhaps when she returned she’d force her husband to lay with her. They were married. She caught herself staring Rionaidasu. He did not seem fond of his wife… She gritted her teeth and tried to think of something else. She scanned the group until her eyes rested on the shugenja and her yojimbo.

The two Phoenix seemed to only trust one another. Perhaps after last night the Shogun shugenja will trust her now. She had much talent with the Kami. Sakura sighed and gazed around. She did not miss Crane lands. She fought herself to not think of her Rejiro-chan. How could she honestly give herself to him after what happened… The wind blew gently. Sakura felt herself slipping she steadied herself on top of the horse and took a deep breath. She popped her katana with the movement and that night came back in a flash.

The cold morning air…it was dark but she stood trembling with her katana popped enough to swiftly coming out. The door to Jun’s room slid open and an Imperial came out of the room. Sakura trembled putting her hand on the hilt. He turned and saw her. He feared her. He should she’s going to kill him. Jun’s dinner guests seemed to often end up in his bedroom. Jun opened the door to see the scene.

“Go,” he murmured. The man left in a hurry and Jun stood staring at Sakura. He just shut the door. Sakura’s legs were made of stone. Her heart was beating in her throat. She pushed her katana back into the sheath and went back to her room. A note was left on her bed. She rushed and lit a lantern. She cried reading the poem Rejiro wrote to her.

Something cold on her face pulled her back. She wiped the tear quickly glancing around to make sure no one saw. You’re useless if you can’t control your emotions, she thought. They all had a job to do, being led at the moment. Sakura had never seen anything tainted and the Twilight Mountains were close to the Shadowlands. She had to take control of herself. It was foolish to just run off to speak with the Magistrate. He knew something she was sure of it. She was just not well versed in the art of getting it out of him. His voice hadn’t left her mind. “Daidoji-san” echoed in her ears. The sound made her want to go on, to do something useful for once. She would. She was, after all, a Daidoji.
 
 
01 April 2006 @ 10:03 am
Michita winced as he stepped out of the barracks, the sun had risen swiftly on this the third day of his "forced march" through Scorpion lands. The last few days had been rather rough.
The Scorpion counter-attack the two days before had displaced the group of Emerald Magistrates he and Ameka had been travelling with, and their had been losses.
The young crab that had been attached to their group was caught up between the armies of the Matsu, and the Imperial and Scorpion legions. Stranded at the Shrine of Hida Kisada, fourtune of Persistance.
"I hope you found somthing you needed..." Michita said absent-mindedly to the clouds overhead.
That still bothered the young Pheonix; the Imperial standard alongside the Scorpion.
That young Samurai, Sunetra's child?
That was just another disturbing facet of the Shiba's life at the moment.
The fact that he, and his fellow magistrates were being lured into a trap, or the mechinations of some larger , more menacing force. They were seeemingly helpless, reguardless of their defences, their constantly shifting locations, and their watches. Michita had begun to suspect that their foe was not from the outside, but more disturbingly, that their "shadow" was one of the group itself.
Michita cast his gaze over the remaining members of the team, each blurry-eyed, staggering forth from their sleepless night. The revalation of the Jade Fingers in his pack had only hardened the young Shiba's resolve.
"We should get moving," The Young Lion said.
Michita simply noded, and looked to his charge. Ameka was already saddled up, he robes fluttered brightly in the growing daylight.
Indeed, it seemed to Michita that perhaps, all of these recent "displays" of their overseer's powers came from either their Lion commander, or the young Crane. He doubted that the Mantis would have the patience, or the mind to "play" such "games" with the group, and the Unicorn seemed too removed to even be a threat. The Dragon was out of the question. Michita just knew that whatever was taking them to the mountians of the Crab-lands was doing so for some reason, and that when they got there, that all bets would be off.
Michita thought again of the young Crab, surrounded by Scorpion, defending himself, hopeless.
He thought of his own flight from Scorpion lands.
He thought of his swords, in the hands of a Shinobi.
He shuttered.
The young Shiba mounted his horse, his Katana tied tight, and tucked into his pack.
His lone Wakizashi at his hip, he scanned the horizon.
"It's going to be a long ride home." Michita said to himself.
In his mind he thought: If I can go home after this, at all.
The Unicorn took the lead in their line, the Lion, Mantis, and Crane soon there after.
The Dragon looked to the pair of Pheonix and kicked his horse into action.
Ameka bowed slightly and gave her nervous little grin.
Michita bowed in response, and gave his horse the signal to go.
And the young magistrates headed south as the sun rose to grant them another day's failures.
...
The Hunter needs only to leed them to their deaths.
 
 
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Current Music: the hoof beats of fate...
 
 
18 February 2006 @ 02:17 pm
The room was tattered with blood.

Even before Ameko entered the room, she could feel the unrest among the Kami, the air shifted, the earth quaked, even the small amount of water and fire Kami shook with disgust in the ornate house. The effect was rather dizzying, and once, Ameko almost fell, before being immediately caught by her young yojimbo.

She looked back to Michita and smiled, as usual, his face remained calm, but if one were to look closer, they would notice a nuance of change around the young man’s eyes. In the past ten months, Ameko had become quite good at reading the face of her yojimbo, and while no real sign of friendship had emerged, Ameko was positive that under his guise of professionalism, all the young Shiba needed was a friend.

Ameko and Michita had been sent out by the magistrate to investigate the events that had led to the death of a young would-be courtier in the service of the Kaneka household. The young man was said to have been killed overnight in the small yet lavish townhouse he and his two companions had been renting for their trip to the city. The young courtier was of little importance to the Shogun’s retinue, and so he had been forced to live outside the castle walls until his appointment in court became of more value.

Ameko had only met the young man once, but there seemed little out of the ordinary about him. Besides an overly large forehead, and a slight stutter, nothing about the young man would have caught the young Kaneka’s eye.

When Ameko arrived at the house, she had been welcomed by the young man’s two companions, both looking slightly haggard and worn. They let the magistrate enter without more then a few polite words of discourse before showing them to the room where the incident had occurred.

Ameko studied the two young courtiers that had come with the deceased, one was a young woman, fair of face and was graced with a willowy figure. She appeared grounded despite the shocking news of her companion’s death, and refused to look either Michita or Ameko in the eyes. The other companion was another courtier, a small skittish man with darting eyes and the same large forehead as the murdered man. Ameko assumed that it was his brother.

Upon entering the room, Ameko’s entire body tensed up. The room was of neutral color, yet flashes for crimson, brighter then even the kimono she was wearing, were painted on the walls and floor, the swirls were crude, but it was clear that some sort of foul magic had been attempted in this room.

Ameko looked back to the two courtiers, scanning them to see if she could notice any traits of Maho-Tsukai either of them might possess. The brother jumped at her quick glance, yet the girl remained calm. Somber, yes, but still uncommonly calm.

A dark pit began to form into Ameko’s stomach. Since her appointment as a Jade Magistrate, she had seen the workings of Bloodspeakers dozens of times, but no matter how many times she saw such monstrosities, she still froze for a moment before being able to regain her composure.

She bit her lip and looked to the center of the room, the body of the young man had already been cleared away, yet the pools of his now cold blood still sat, stagnant as it started to dry all over the area.

Ameko once again turned her head, regarding the two courtiers, “Thank you for your assistance, if I may, I would like to investigate these quarters on my own, for just a few moments…”

The two nodded, leaving the room and sliding the door shut behind them. Michita stood steadfast at the door, she knew he would not move, or have her leave his sight. And for once, Ameko was glad of this fact.

She walked around the room, looking at the blood covered walls, she understood why the magistrates wanted one of their own to investigate such a murder, obviously after seeing the bloody decorations on the wall, the local authorities knew that this was the work of some dark force, and so some sort of inquisitor had to be sent out.

Halfway across the room, Ameko stopped walking. And stood, looking quizzically at the far end wall.

“My Lady, what is the matter?” Michita enquired.

“Michita, I know that both of us are young… and our experience with such blood magic is… limited at best…” Ameko moved her face closer to the blood splattered wall, “…I have this feeling…”

Ameko thought for a moment, looking at the traces of blood on the wall. “We almost always see a sort of pattern in the blood… I mean, with blood magic…. But this… this makes no sense… I did, up to a point, but then this wall…” the Shugenja waved her hand over the wall “…has no pattern.”

Michita moved from his sentinel position at the entrance of the room, walking next to Ameko and looking intently at the wall. Then, looking around the room before asking, “How do you see a pattern in blood?”

“It’s simple, really, Remember the two Maho-tsukai that attacked us in the tea house a few months back?”

Michita rubbed his shoulder where a one of the fanatics had stabbed him with a tanto, “Yes, Ameko, yes I remember quite clearly…”

“Well, after they killed that geisha… they smeared her blood in a pattern all around the floor… very circular if I remember correctly… and on the walls there appeared to be a bit of a jagged wave pattern… but here… in this room… there is no rhyme or reason to the entire event… There is a somewhat stripe-like pattern here… but then on this wall there is clearly a much more spotted approach…”

Michita frowned, “well, how do you know that is not part of the pattern? Maybe there is a non-sequential form to the entire blood spell?”

“…well, I don’t really know,” Ameko confided “but I just have this feeling… and look here…” Ameko walked to a corner near a small window to the snowy street outside. “This doesn’t even fit that pattern… in fact… it almost seems like this was an accident…” Ameko’s speech trailed off as she began to study the small blot of blood more closely.

“Ameko?”

After a few moments, Ameko stood, pulling from her obi the small green glass bottle of water she always kept with her, she splashed a bit of the liquid onto the bloody stain that appeared out of place.

“Blood is made with water… Michita… and water holds the answers we need.”

Ameko knelt by the watered down puddle of blood, and began to chant slightly as her eyes began to glaze over.

A small, red water Kami appeared before Ameko, and in a vacant, soft voice Ameko asked, “From whose body were you shed?”

The Kami thought for a moment before twisting its body, whirling like a small serpent before transforming into an exact replica of the young man who had let Ameko enter the house. Ameko’s eyes now glowed with the aquatic magic she possessed, and widened as her suspicions came to life. She asked the Kami another question,

“Tell me of how you were spilled…”

The Kami swirled again before turning into a pool on the floor. It then showed Michita and Ameko the scene which had taken place the night before.

The young courtier was undressing, getting ready for sleep when the door slid open to reveal his brother, clutching a wakazashi and running quickly to his brother’s bedside jabbing him three times in the stomach. His brother then instinctually grabbed his much smaller brother’s hand moving the knife away from his brother as blood began to gush out of his mouth.

The younger brother then lunged for his lost knife, only to accidentally land sideways onto the blade, both brother’s blood now mixing together on the floor. The elder brother, shocked that he had accidentally stabbed his younger brother, froze for a brief moment, which was all that his younger brother needed to grab the knife and slit his older sibling’s throat.

The scene shifted to show Ameko the younger brother smearing his older brother’s blood al over the walls, wildly and without any noticeable reason, he bumped into a corner in the process, which left a small stain of his own blood on the wall from the gash in his side.

The Kami’s scene faded and the water once again became unanimated. A simple pool of bloody water lay on the stained floor.

“Michita…”

“I know, I saw the Kami’s response”

“This isn’t blood magic… but why would his brother kill him?” Ameko asked.

“…Because,” A voice came from right outside the room. The door opened, and there stood the younger brother, holding Michita’s large Naginata that he had taken from the yojimbo as they had entered the house.

“I was better then him.” The crazed expression on the small man’s face was obviously twisted in rage, “he gained all the rights because he was older… but what use was he? He knew nothing of politics, or warfare! He was a useless clod, and I could not stand to be his simple servant!”

Ameko and Michita both stood backed into a corner where a very crazy man held a very large weapon.

“I thought that if I made it seem like some blood witch did the killing… no one would ever suspect me…” the courtier laughed maniacally “after all, I know nothing of magic…”

“But you...” he turned to Ameko “…you stupid whore, you ruined all of my plans! And I cannot allow that, now can I?”

The Madman charged at Ameko, naginata raised high above his head.

With a blur of clothing and steel, Michita tackled the crazed courtier only a few feet in front of Ameko, and struggled to regain control over his missing weapon. The struggle had both men rolling on the ground, both getting covered in the blood of the crime scene. Ameko quickly regained her composure and attempted to help Michita, but was almost cut in half by the flailing blade on the end of the sought after naginata.

After a few moments of struggle, Michita managed to get a firm grip on the naginata’s handle and with agility that Ameko had never seen from the Shiba, she curled his feet under the Courtier and kicked with all of his might, not only pushing the madman away from the naginata, but sending him straight through the window on the opposite side of the room.

After a loud crash and a violent scream, there came a wet thud that made Ameko wince slightly. She rushed over to Michita, putting her hand on his shoulder.

“Are you hurt?”

“No, I am fine…” Michita looked to the broken window, slightly dazed.

“I did not mean to…” Michita explained, yet Ameko cut him off “…I know...” She walked over to the window and looked down to the mangled body, which lay broken and bloody in the snowy courtyard two stories below, “… but what do we tell the rest of the magistrate?”
 
 
13 February 2006 @ 12:25 pm
Sleeping late is not something Juji often does, it's easier to not get picked up for loitering if you are awake and moving before the magistrates' men hit the streets.

So it's easy to understand why his sleep becomes fitful just before the sun ignites the clouds above the mountain city. At last, after nearly fifteen minutes of attempting to conquer his skittish urges, he rises from the mat and stretches before setting out to meditate. His new hakama hasn't been removed in a week, and he thinks about the ease of it's procurement on the way into the wood. All he had to do was ask. No need for trickery, sleight of hand, or violence. All he did was ask where he might find a garment to wear, while the forced washing of his travel kimono proceeded, and one was given. The skirt is made of dark, heavy cloth, certainly not expensive, but surely it has some value. The two swords he won in a duel are tucked into his obi, beside a flap of cloth with the Dragon and Tomori mon, and he lets his thoughts wander to them while he walks to the spot. Can a won daisho really represent his soul? Of course, it is foolish and greedy to want another set when one already has a working pair, but the desire is there. On the other hand, to fix his mind on such a desire is fruitless, since only his lord can grant a daisho.

Arriving at the spot, Juji settles himself onto a rock above the terminus of a waterfall, and clears his mind. Two hours pass in solitude, and he slowly raises and lets the thoughts that normally chatter away incessantly come flooding back. Upon arrival at his room, he puts on his freshley washed kimono, and tucks a Jade Magistrate mon into his obi. his first day of clan service begins without much fuss. He is assigned a bodyguard, a large man with very little learning, and even less respect for a former ronin. The large man is easily avoided, and Juji strolls out into the streets of the city alone, in search of a bloodspeaker rumored to have taken shelter in the market district.

It dosen't take long to attain several leads from loose-lipped vendors, and the first spot to check is a bathhouse. His mon gets him in the door, and the towel girl alerts him of a strange man in the cheapest bath. He slides the door aside enough to observe the occupant, and breathes a sigh of relief. This man is not his quarry. The man in the bath is a traveler Juji passed on the way into the city. They spoke for a while, but he revealed himself to be emigrating Lion lands over the emerging political climate. Juji slides the door shut silently, gives the towel girl a bu for her trouble and heads on to the next lead. The second possible bloodspeaker is a young woman who recently started turning up in the market district. He locates her from the description of her clothing, and sidles up beside.

"Good morning."

"Good m-morning." She is taken aback in mid sentience by the jitte hanging at his side.

"I'm new in town, would you mind telling me where I can find a good lunch?"

"Um, sure, there's a soba seller around the corner." The girl continues eying his jitte.

"Would you walk with me?"

"Uh, er, yes."

"You have nothing to fear from me, I am not looking for thieves" He says as they walk, eying her bulging sleeves. She blushes and shows him the shop. He buys her a bowl of noodles and departs for the last lead. This final tip is a gambler who seems to win all the time. Juji makes his way to a gambling house the man is rumored to frequent, checks his swords, and gets change for a few gold coins. He moves to the game with the highest stakes, easy to recognize because of the large number of observers, but the players can be counted on one hand. There is a merchant, probably gambling away the days earnings, a plant, the man in the employ of the dealer who plays in order to make the game seem accessible and a rail thin man with tousled hair. The merchant seems to loose slightly more than he wins, and the plant always breaks even, but the gaunt man has a large stack of winnings in front of him. Juji places his bet, slightly more than the average, gaining the attention of the other players. Over the course of a few games, he notices that the merchant can be tricked into betting a certain way, if Juji and the plant bet one way, but the gaunt man always keeps to his own decision. In a half an hour, the merchant is gone, and Juji has managed to break even, but he has also noticed that the gaunt man balls up one hand in a tight fist as the cup comes down. The man's fingernails are long and jagged, and they come back each time with a little of his blood on them. After another hour, Juji collects his remaining coins and leaves the gambling house. Instead of heading to the bed that has been provided him, though, he sinks into an alley along the road leading from the house to a group of inns. He waits for three hours and sure enough, the gaunt man can be heard coming down the road. Juji steps out of the alley, blacking the man's way.

"I see you were lucky today."

"I won fairly, and I don't need any trouble from you!" The man hisses.

"I mean you no harm, I thought perhaps you could accept a drink from a fellow gambler." Juji bubbles, putting on his most amiable smile.

"Huh, fine." The man concedes, noting a couple walking towards them.

At the inn, Juji orders up two bottles of sake, and begins to drink. the man drinks greedily, relishing the fact the he dosen't have to pay for his alcohol tonight. He finishes his first bottle, and juji orders another for him, as he nears the bottom of the second one, the magistrate speaks:

"I couldn't help but notice you had some wounds on your palms."

"That's not true at all!" The man says, much too loudly and quickly, and shows Juji his palms. They are clean and unmarked.

"Why, I could have sworn you were clenching so hard you could have drawn blood." The man seems to sober up immediately, and his eyes flick around the nearly empty room. It happens quickly, the gaunt man draws a knife from behind his obi and slashes downwards with it towards Juji's shoulder. The man is fast, but the magistrate is not even half as drunk and quickly catches the knife in the crook of his jitte, turning the blade inwards while standing up, causing the man's torso to be pressed into the table. A quick blast of green erupts from the magistrate's palm, and licks against the flesh of the man.

"Innkeeper! Put this man in a safe place and call the magistrate!"

Juji pays with his remaining money and leaves for his room.
 
 
11 February 2006 @ 03:49 pm
Arrows, everywhere, arrows, people screaming, explosions, inhuman roars… his mother.
And a lancing pain in his leg, he goes down, reaching for the face of the woman who bore him into this world. Darkness.
And so Hiruma Takeji woke, sweat streaming down his face, hand to the patch over one shoulder, panting as if having run for miles. He hadn’t had that dream in years. But the events of two nights ago… the arrows whistling through the air… the strange, fire lit faces, all had been too familiar, digging up long buried thoughts. His leg ached, but looking up, seeing that great stone helmet so near his head, he knew that this was not to be worried upon. He had a duty still, to his clan and his empire.
Waking fully and sitting cross-legged in his small hallow hollow, Takeji closed his eyes, and contemplated the last few days. Events were quickly spiraling out of control, not out of his, but out of that of the group. A letter with no leads, giving them the only option to follow the path it led. An absence of navel trade perhaps because of the continued unrest caused by the war, cutting off one route of travel. The only open path taking them through war. The attackers which none knew, and none could do a thing about. All of these completely out of their control, all of these leading them towards one place.
The Mountains of Twilight, a deeply haunted, horribly unlucky place. And entire clan had died in those jagged peaks. Many men who entered simply disappeared. Even on the edge, the peculiar Falcon Clan live, seeing spirits as shugenja see kami, such things should not be. But there, they are. Into these cursed lands we must walk, guided by forces out of our control. We should find a guide, one of the Toritaka. They would know the forces with which we might be dealing in these mountains. Yet I may only suggest, in the end, I have no power. But suggest I must. In the end, whether we live or do, it does not matter as long as we achieve our goal, to find answers. And we will.
 
 
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