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Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:03 pm

Sajaa stood at the windowsill of the small shack they called a home and watched the people of Nariin advance slowly in the line. It extended down the entire street, effectively clogging traffic. The file contained the young and the old, the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich. They were all scared, some quivering in their spots. The only thing they all had in common was fear. Sajaa did not know much of this new disease, but she knew she didn’t have it. She felt fine. She ran every day, helped her brother with his tasks, ate the right food, drank lots of water. Illness was not a possibility.

“Leave them be, sister,” came a voice from behind her. Sajaa did not heed it. She looked on, watching as the white robed man beckoned for the next person to come and disappear into his tent. Sometimes they didn’t come out. A young boy, likely her age, was guided by the man in white into the safety of his clinic.

“You should be in line with them,” the voice came again, closer this time. It was Zufar, her brother. Being ten years older, he towered over her. She met his friendly smile with a stubborn frown.

“I’m fine,” she said, crossing her arms, leaning into the wall. “I’m not sick.”

“Are you a doctor?” Zufar asked, hands on his hips. “Do you know medicine?”


“They you don’t know. They know. They are doctors, they are smart. I went in the other day. Friendly folk.”

“I’m not sick.”

Zufar looked at her hard for a moment and then let out a sigh. He ruffled her hair as he passed by and exited the shack. Sajaa followed him out, hoping to get the chance to hit him in the back of the head before he took off. Outside, the line had stagnated. The boy’s entry from before had halted all progress. Some were raising their voices. Workers at the clinic, some from Nariin, diffused the situation as best as they could, offering reassurance. Not seeing her brother in the street, Sajaa went to the backyard. Zufar stood in the open stable strapping a saddle to Sufya. The creature’s eyes followed Sajaa as she moved forward and it let out a friendly grunt.

“Where are you going?” Sajaa asked Zufar as she unstrapped the other side of the saddle, causing it to fall into his arms. “What are you doing?”

“Sajaa, please,” Zufar threw the saddle over once more, shaking his head. “Why do you treat me this way?”


“I told you the doctors were nice, Sajaa,” Zufar said, tightening Sufya’s straps on each side. “They offered me a job. Can you believe it?”

“What kind of job?” Sajaa asked, impatient. “Are you going to kill for them, too?”

“Sajaa,” Zufar walked over to her and squatted down to her level. “Never that. Never again. Okay?”

“Then what do they want you to do?”

“Delivery!” Zufar smiled. “Honest work. They gave me a message to send to their other clinic, in Flamelle. When I get there, I’ll get another message to deliver. It’s steady work, good pay. I’ll send you everything I don’t spend on food.”


“People are suffering all over, Sajaa. That’s what the doctor told me. I’ll be helping people for once. Doesn’t that make you happy?”

Sajaa did not respond, but tears began to well in her eyes. Zufar embraced her quickly, not wanting to see his sister cry. After a long moment, he released her and put the rest of his supplies in Sufya’s pack. The beast leaned forward and licked Sajaa’s neck, but it did not make her smile.

“Your sister will take care of you, okay?” Zufar said to her as he mounted Sufya. “I told her to make you a big meal after she is done working.”

Zufar looked at her for a long while before riding off. He never said goodbye to her, couldn’t bear to. When Sajaa was a child he promised her that he’d always come back, no matter what. It didn’t matter what kind of job he was on, what part of the world he had to go to, he’d always come back.

Sajaa took her seat back at the windowsill, watching her brother’s figure grow smaller and smaller in the distance. When she could see him no more, her eyes shifted back at the clinic. The line was now advancing once more. When this occurred, someone would always come out of the tent, all smiles, happy that they had successfully avoided the horrible disease. The young boy did not emerge.
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:05 pm

Aya woke up early with a yawn and a stretch, much like every morning of her relatively short eighteen years of life. Crawling out from the warm covers of her futon, she stood by her window, opening the wood shutters with a slight creak to peer outside. The village was already waking up, though the sun had only just risen from its slumber. Squinting against the twilight, she could see the shapes of figures, stooped over as they slowly moved in neat lines through the shallow water of the rice paddies.

Izu village was the place she had been born and raised in, and had thus spent every day of her life there. She ate the local crops, spoke to the local people, and smelt all the local smells—of which there were many to be sure. Nature surrounded the small village, giving it such character. As a child, she always looked with wonder at everything within her little bubble of a world—the gnarled limbs of cypress and cherry trees, the pink blossoms that fell every year; such a short time after they’ve only just bloomed. The curved, thatched straw rooflines, and tall spruce trees covered in feet of snow; the warm glow of candlelight and lanterns hanging by doorways during the winter. The snow-capped peaks of the small mountain range to their north, and the glimmering fresh water of the rivers and brooks.

Yes. Izu Village was the only world that Sasaki Aya knew. And until recently, she had been convinced that would be the case her whole life.

But there was a new smell in the air—not the musk of cattle that usually roamed the dirt streets, nor the smell of freshly caught fish by the docks.

No. This was the smell of adventure. The beginning of something new.

And so, as Aya watched the first of autumn’s leaves fall from the trees, its once vibrant reds and oranges and yellows now dulled as if in preparation for a long winter, she knew that her time had come to finally strike out on her own.

She wouldn’t be the first to do it. In Izu, it was almost a custom that folk leave the village at eighteen to discover a bit more of the world, and of themselves in the process. She’d heard stories as a child of some never returning to the village; news of them finding love, or a new path in life in one of the big cities. Most often, they returned though, and just stayed in the village. Some only went so far as one of the towns to the north or south of their island of Hekkaido.

Aya had never even seen a big city. Not once!

Izu was great and all, but as far as she was concerned, the world was her oyster. And she was in the mood for seafood.

As an only child, she only had her parents to confide in; and nevertheless, Aya had a feeling they had been preparing for this moment their whole lives. She had always been a rambunctious child. She liked to climb trees, and fish with her father. She enjoyed skipping rocks along the Sendai River that flowed through their village. Aya couldn’t count how many hours she spent throughout her childhood, laying in the fields nearby and watching the stars pass overhead—daydreaming of all the adventures she would surely have one day.

The nearest thing to a city was the town of Sendai to the north, in whose province Izu was located. Though there were certainly more people there, and much more commotion than in a sleepy little village like Izu, it couldn’t be compared to the places she had heard about. Yukijima to the south was little better, though with its ports and ships coming in with trade from the mainland, stories of wild and wondrous things once and a while came to Hekkaido.

Places with tall buildings, and palaces, and great towering walls. Places with thousands, perhaps millions of people walking around, busy with their interesting, everyday lives. Places that don’t smell like fish all the time!

Aya sighed as she daydreamed, until she felt her chin slipping from the palm of her hand on which it was resting. She glanced back into her room—a patchy rucksack was already sitting half-packed in the corner of her room. Heading for a small wooden trunk, she packed what remaining clothes she had to her name, and carefully packed them, along with an unmarked journal, an inkwell, and her set of brushes. 

Sliding the door open from her room, she quietly stepped into the nearby pantry and grabbed a few small things to pack as well—a couple of onions, a potato, a small sack of rice, and a strand of burdock root. A creak behind her prompted her to jump.

“Congratulations.” A stern voice stated behind her. “You’ve turned eighteen today, haven’t you?”

Aya turned to spot her mother, standing behind her with arms folded. She had obviously been in the fields digging for vegetables as her clothes already looked dirty. Despite the flatness in her voice, her eyes betrayed her feelings of apprehension and worry. “You need a pot you know.”

“A wha—“

“A pot. For the rice.” Her mother sighed, shaking her head. “How do you expect to cook any rice without a pot?”

Aya said nothing for she could feel something closing in on her throat; choked by her own emotions.

“Were you at least going to bid us farewell? You’re still in your night robes.”

“Of course! I just wanted to finish packing.” Aya managed after a moment. “I… think I have everything I’ll need.”

Her mother said nothing. The silence was overbearing. Oppressive. Aya felt her throat start to tighten again, and her eyes start to water.

 “Leave the bag there. I may have some things you could use.” Aya’s mother finally said. “Go wash up and get dressed.”

Aya left, doing as she was told. She shivered as she dumped a wood bucket filled with cold water over her bear skin after stripping from her night robes. She scrubbed and rinsed as quickly as she could, dumping a final bucket over her head as she grit her teeth against the chill. Aya watched as the soap suds vanished under a iron grate in the floor. She always hated the late fall, as their water would always be cold unless they took the time to heat it.

Wrapping an old towel around herself to dry off, she wondered how often she would be able to take a bath or clean herself on the road. It hadn’t occurred to her at all, but something as basic as hygiene could be easily taken for granted. Suddenly she was grateful for that cold bath.

Brushing out her hair, she padded back to her room to change into a cleaner pair of robes, finishing off her morning’s ritual after securing a cloth sash about her waist. Heading toward the common area, something was already bubbling in a cast iron pot over the cooking fire. Her mother knelt by the pot, stirring methodically and humming a tune she often sung to Aya as a child to calm her down.

“Your father will be home for breakfast at any moment. You’ll stay to eat at least, won’t you?”

“Usually you go without breakfast…” Aya spotted her bag, sitting nearby the door. A freshly carved walking stick leaned against the threshold nearby. The bag looked more plump than it did earlier.

“I only took what I needed. Nothing more.” Aya said, looking to her mother. “But you added so much more.”

Aya’s mother offered a coy smile. “It’s fine. You need to eat well, you know. The world is a big place, and I won’t let my only daughter walk out of my home without enough to get by on.”

Aya couldn’t hold back the tears, wiping them away with the back of her hand. “You… you don’t have much, mama…”

Sinking to the floor, she sobbed quietly. Her mother’s arms fell around her, wrapping her into an embrace she knew she would miss greatly in the days to come.

“It’s fine. It’s fine.” Her mother told her as her hand rubbed her back consolingly. “We have enough, and the harvest isn’t finished yet, this year.”

Aya nodded her head, still sobbing, even as she heard the footsteps approach their front door, and her father enter into the house.

“Never thought I’d see the day our Aya would be whimpering like a pup on the floor.” He said, hanging his patched straw hat on a hook by the door. He passed by the two of them and sat by the fire, scooping out some of the contents from the boiling pot into each of the stoneware bowls in turn. “Sit now. Come and eat.”

Aya sniffed, her eyes stinging from the tears, and again did as she was told. The three sat by the fire, gave their thanks to the gods for a bountiful harvest and for the food they were about to eat, then dug in. Her mother had prepared a warm rice porridge with slices of onion, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms.

“We should have enough grain for the winter.” Her father suddenly commented, still looking at the flickering flames dancing beneath the pot. “The harvest has been good this year. Thank the gods.”

“I… see.” Aya managed. Though her stomach was in knots, she forced herself to eat every drop from her bowl. The porridge was delicious; it always was when her mother made it.

She’d miss her cooking. She’d miss her mother’s warmth, and her smile.

She’d miss her father’s jokes, and the way he always seemed to cheer her on, in his own way. She would miss fishing with him, and hunting in the forests with him. 

When they all finished with their meal, they again thanked the gods above and cleaned their bowls in a vessel of soapy water. Wordlessly, the three of them walked to the front door, her father grabbing her bag and walking stick for her. Standing in front of the only home she had ever known, she looked around at the world in front of her.

“I guess this is where we part ways.” Aya heard herself say. 

Her mother looked longingly to her for a moment before giving her a final embrace and a kiss to the cheek. Her father handed Aya her rucksack and stick before embracing her as well.

“Take these, Aya. They should help on your travels, I think.” He finally said. From inside his robes, he withdrew a short dagger in a worn, curved sheath. Heading back into the house, he came out with a bundle of cloth, which turned out to be an old cloak with hood, as well as his recurve bow and a quiver of arrows.

“I-I can’t take these… father, please. You need these, don’t you? You hunt with this bow.” Aya pleaded. She couldn’t bare the thought of taking more than she should from her family. 

“I can make a new one in no time at all. It’s fine.” Her father replied, waving a hand dismissively. “You need it now, more than I do. Take it.”

There was a long period of silence before Aya took a deep breath and closed her eyes. 

“I’ll be back. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’ll return and tell you of the world. I’ll see what’s beyond this island.” Her voice shuttered, but it ended with a resoluteness she hand’t felt only moments before. Perhaps her mother and father gave her the courage she finally needed to say goodbye them.

She turned about after stuffing her cloak into her bag, and slung the bow and quiver across her back, and ran to their arms, giving them both a final, lasting embrace.

“Return safely, Aya.” Her mother said, holding her face in her hands and looking her deeply in the eyes. “Come home to us, so you can tell us what the world out there is like.”

“I will!”

Aya turned in step, and willed herself to ignore the heartache and pain that welled up inside. She knew it would eventually disappear after a while, at least somewhat. Heading down the main street in her village, she knew everyone knew what was happening. The waves she received were unlike the typical greetings and farewells given by the folk of Izu Village; they were different.

Gods speed. May the Gods watch over you. Good luck. Return to Izu safely. 

She willed herself to continue ever forward and away from her childhood. From the safety of the bubble she had lived in for eighteen years, and everything she knew. Aya recalled that she had once read in school a famous Kyokan proverb: 

‘The greatest of journeys begin with a single step.’ 

She breathed. And took a step.

Last edited by Kamikaze_X on Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:09 pm
Kumano | Kyokai

The beast cocked its head to the side, motion from the nearby brush grabbing its attention. The woods seemed to quiet at its movement, as if to anticipate whatever was about to occur. It had already made the decision to bolt, it just didn’t know if it was the moment yet. Something was threatening its vicinity, a nearby predator. The beast was still as a statue, its entire body tensing up like a slingshot. Seconds pass, and a missile flew through the sky. It passed between its massive rack of horns, crashing harmlessly into the foliage.

The deer ran away.

“Shit,” Mayu muttered under her breath, lowering her successive arrow in disappointment. She stood up from her prone position, brushing off the dead leaves from her tunic. It was an easy shot, a fact that was already bothering her. Nerves had gotten the best of her once more. Or I’m just getting worse at this, she thought miserably. I have to remember they aren’t targets. They move, after all. Stupid, stupid woman.

Still muttering to herself, Mayu stepped forward in search of her lost arrow. She knew the trajectory, fortunately, but the forest floor was thick with weeds, grass, and dead leaves. Ten minutes passed as she walked back and forth along the arrow’s path, feet crunching against the forest floor. Eventually, her foot grazed over the shaft, ending her search. Recovering the failed missile did not feel satisfying in any way. It was only evidence of a missed shot, and a reminder that she’d have to return to the hunt-master with empty hands once more.

“Curse your luck, Mayu,” she said, wiping the sweat from her brow. “What will Kaz say?”

It’s no big deal, Mayu! We have enough bread crumbs to last us until the end of the week! Even thinking of his response caused her to roll her eyes. Such an optimist, her husband was, even in the worst of times. She began her journey back to the hunter’s camp, a necessary pitstop before making it home. Smoke billowed from the central fire and several tents circled it. Hunters finished with the day were already getting started on the drinking, laughing as they spilled their alcohol over each other.

“No kill today, Mayu?” a grating voice came from behind her, far too high pitched and merry to fit her abysmal mood. Jiro, a younger man with a patchy beard and crooked teeth shot a grin at her.

“No kill,” she responded, attempting to end the conversation there by walking right past him. Acting offended, the kid started to walk with her, matching her step.

“It’s not your fault, you know,” he shrugged. “It’s pretty dead out there, lately. I think we took too many of them out last year.”

“I don’t need you to console me, Jiro, I’m just fine,” she said, shaking her head.

“Maybe we could start hunting together,” Jiro said amiably, stepping in front of her. “It’d make the hunt less of a bore.”

“You really need to open your ears, Jiro,” Mayu grinned, pushing him aside lightly and continuing her stroll. “Maybe that’s why these girls forget about you so quickly. You don’t listen.”

“Low blow, Mayu,” Jiro said, feigning sadness.

“You were begging for it.”

“Anything to get the attention of the great Mayu.”


To Mayu’s relief, the boy left when she reached the hunt-master’s cabin. It wasn’t a grand structure, but it was covered in racks, a dangerous obstacle if one wasn’t paying attention. She pushed open the door and was immediately greeted with the warmth of a fire.

“Mayu!” the gravelly voice of Taichi, the hunt-master, met her from across the room. He was a massive man, an equally massive beard stretching down his chest. She’d known him long enough that she had witnessed it turn from a fine black to a ratty grey. “Pleasure to see you.”

“And you, Taichi,” Mayu said, bowing slightly. Whatever was coming from the pot at the fireplace smelled heavenly to her, as usual. She was tempted to ask for a taste, but couldn’t bring herself to stoop that low. Whatever happened, no matter how tight money was, she refused to become a beggar.

“What can I do for you today?” Taichi said, walking to her and taking a peek into the boiling pot. A sudden look of concern washed over him as he came closer to her. “Say, Mayu, are you well?”

“I am, hunt-master,” she said, averting her eyes for a moment. His response was not the first she had heard. Earlier in the day, Jiro had asked the same thing. Though she had always been known for her sharp features, Mayu was looking more gaunt than usual, a sickly appearance that was made worse by her graying hair. “Listen, I just came to tell you that I may be looking elsewhere for work.”

“Elsewhere?” he wasn’t surprised, but he at least pretended to be.

“Only for a while, at least. I’ve had rotten luck lately, and it seems I can’t escape it. I need something that is more consistent with pay. Just so I can get back on both feet again, you know?”

“I understand, Mayu.”

“Thank you,” she bowed once more and turned for the door.


“It exists, I know it exists.”

Trinkets of all kinds of sizes and material flew across the wagon, clattering, and sometimes shattering, on the wooden planks. Kaz, barely balancing on a step stool, reached to the highest shelves, shoving objects aside in desperation, praying to hear the distinct noise of jingling coins.

Occasionally he would stop to rest and curse his predicament at a volume far too loud to be neighborly. Eventually, however, he would take a deep breath and continue the search. The wagon was full of merchandise, memorabilia, and junk that hardly had any worth anymore.

Rifles were stacked together in a massive pile, along with a large amount of powder. Money could easily be gained by selling these objects, of course, but the issue was finding a buyer. No one could afford his merchandise unless he provided an enormous discount. Not gonna happen, Kaz thought to himself. There is a buyer out there, I know it! This was a massive investment. I’m going to sell my stock and eventually move on to better avenues. This just comes with the business. Highs and lows, it’s part of life.

“Now, if I could only find what I’m looking for and move on,” Kaz grumbled to himself. His hands reached onto the next shelf, causing more items to cascade below. Eventually, his fingers tapped the edges of a bottles. Oh, that sounds beautiful. Carefully, he lifted it from the shelf and brought himself back down to the floor. Inside was a collection of coins. A rather disappointing collection, but a collection nonetheless.

“Could’ve sworn there was more,” Kaz said to himself. “It may be enough to last the week if we keep rationing everything out. It’s not luxury, but it's something.”

Happy with himself, but unwilling to even glance at the disaster he created, Kaz left the wagon and quickly locked it up. The day was close to its end and he was already feeling the call for sleep. He walked directly to their home, a small but cozy cottage. With each passing year, however, it was starting to look less and less like their home. Most of their personal belongings were disappearing with each passing month, more and more being pawned off for money. This month the painting of Kaz’s home village was now gone, leaving a vast, empty space in the hallway.

Coins jingling in the jar, Kaz walked through the barren hallway. Entering their home always produced an odd feeling. Disturbing as it was, with each possession lost, the memories faded with them. They’d inhabited the house for nearly a decade, a lengthy time to get to know the structure. They dressed it, spoke to it, lived with it. Years were spent in this home. It was frightening that their lengthy investment seemed to be disappearing right in his hands. It made him all more eager to hit the road once more, seek different avenues, and hopefully discover a new life. It was what his father would have done.

“Mayu?” Kaz called, voice echoing through the barren interior. Nothing, but he knew she was there. Privacy was no longer possible. Everything seemed to carry within the home. The house wore their emotions the same way it used to wear their possessions. Today, the house was crying.


“We have to leave, Mayu.”

They sat at the table, eating what was left of their rationed rice and dried venison. A fire lit the room, filled it with a comforting noise to fill the silence between their breaks in dialogue. Mayu wasn’t hungry that night and was very tempted to scold her husband for making too much for them.

“It could be fun,” Kaz shrugged, taking the last bite of his rice.

“You’re an idiot,” Mayu broke into a brief chuckle. “Only you would look at a situation like this and think about how much fun we can have.”

“I’m serious!” Kaz laughed, scooting closer to her. “It’ll be like the old times, right? Two young vagabonds, venturing to find the top buyer--”

“We were hardly young then,” Mayu shook her head. “Hardly young now.”

“I think you’re overthinking things. You like to do that. For once, let me do the thinking, alright? I’ve got a plan.”

“Oh, do you?”


“Let’s hear it.”

“We just… go.”

Looking at her husband, she could tell he was serious. Kaz, even with his bum leg, was quick to get around, and recently he had been jumping all over the place, checking high and low for things that no longer existed in their home. There was an energy that was pent up inside a man who was never meant to reside in a single location. Adventure still existed in Kaz’s heart, even if it was only slightly beating in hers. He was so sure of himself, so eager for her to say something positive, to respond in any way that could be interpreted as a yes.

“Go?” she said, after a moment’s silence. “Just go?”

“Yes, Mayu,” Kaz said. “Just go.”

They locked eyes for a moment, each gaining a quick reminder that though the memories of their home were fading quickly, everything else existed within themselves. Mayu was afraid to smile. It felt like a childish instinct, a sin, but she couldn’t help it. Kaz’s smile was infectious.

“Okay,” she said.

Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:12 pm

Aereth lay awake in bed, her deep brown eyes transfixed on a large portrait of an old man and woman across the room, hanging on the wall over the bedroom door. A long, drawn out snore broke the silence beside her, coming from the figure of a man lying facedown into his pillow. She sighed, running a hand through her long dark hair.

Another snore. She glanced at the night table that stood nearby the bed. Two wine glasses sat on a silver platter, a small bowl of red grapes and pine nuts next to that. One of the glasses was entirely empty, drained by its voracious drinker. The other still looked full.

Well, I suppose it’s time. She looked again to the man next to her, running a finger down his bare back. I don’t think I ever got his name, come to think of it.

Leaving the covers, she was almost entirely naked, aside from her undergarments. She looked once more to the portrait and made a grimace. Padding over toward the door, she reached up on the tips of her toes and grabbed the painting from the wall, turning it the other way and sliding it behind the nearby bureau. Sighing once more, she felt better.

Picking her clothing up off the floor, she was certain to leave no traces behind as she got dressed. She even took the time to carefully wash the glass she took a sip from and place it back onto its shelf. She didn’t mind making any noise, as she knew the man wouldn’t wake up from it.

In fact, he wouldn’t stir at all until sometime the next morning or afternoon. She was absolutely certain.

Stretching lazily, she walked about the house, taking everything in before retracing her steps back into the bedroom.

Time to get to work.

Her red dress fluttered quietly behind her as she headed for the man’s study. The door was locked, of course, but that posed no real issue. From a small hidden pouch within her dress, she pulled out a pair of lock-picking tools and quickly got to work on the bolt. It was opened in less than a minute. 

Edging inside, Aereth found rows upon rows of bookcases, lined from top to bottom in prose. She was sure that some of those books would be worth something—a testament to the man’s obvious wealth, which he had no problems flaunting in public—however she wasn’t learned in the value of such things. No. She had something else on her mind entirely.

Aereth headed for the desk, a piece of ornate dark wood and intricate chiseling. The workmanship was exquisite, and must have taken the craftsman months to complete. A globe of the known world sat on top, a tiny flag planted on their own country of Flamelle. She brushed aside notes and stood, pondering the desk and all of its contents.

Reaching beneath the desktop, she found that there was a thin center drawer just above where one would sit. Sliding it out, she found what looked to be important financial paperwork, and a single golden key. She grinned, finding exactly what she was looking for.

Heading back for the bedroom, she found the man in the exactly place she had left him earlier that night. Standing in the doorway, casually spinning the gold key on a chain around her index finger, she thought back to the last evening.

She had been out, with no real intention of doing work—merely to have a glass of wine and enjoy some fine cuisine. Being early Autumn, it was the perfect time of year to sit out at a restaurant and enjoy the fresh air, while being able to curiously people watch and adore the fall colors of the trees, the view of the snow-peaked mountains not too far away, and hear the gurgling of fountains with ornate sculpture sitting in Flamellen courtyards.

And so, as she sat to enjoy her meal, the man approached her from the street. She had hardly listened to the twit’s mind-numbing coo’ing—something about beauty, and fate, she thought she heard. He wasn’t her type at all… at least until she took note of his appearance. He was richly dressed, well manicured for an oaf, and held himself in obvious superiority over most others on the street.

She decided not to complain when he barked at a nearby waiter to bring a seat for him to sit at her table. Calculatedly, she batted her eyelashes and gave him a seductive smile, then introduced herself as one Sonya Du Léon.

They had a decent enough conversation that evening, and when she suggested that they take a walk to see the lights, he couldn’t refuse. Naturally with other things on his mind, he offered that they extend their night at his villa, which he described as ‘having a view to rival the King’s’. She supplied him with enough girlish giggling and banter that he must’ve thought that she was as good as his for that night.

Indeed, right up until they got into bed, and he got her to take her dress off for him, he likely felt as though he truly did stand above everything and everyone in the vast Kingdom of Flamelle. One more woman he was able to conquer!

But alas, he shouldn’t have allowed her to pour his wine.

He hardly paid attention to her hands, as his eyes were trained elsewhere on her person. Slipping in her own personal mixture was a simple task—evidently as simple as seduction for her. She graced him with a final smile and a little sip of her own wine—delicious vintage, of course—while he went ahead and drained his glass entirely.

It was doubtful he even heard her say ‘sweet dreams’ before falling face-first into his pillow.

Lights out. And lucky for her, he wouldn’t have any memory of the events leading up to their evening jaunt. She leaned over his side of the bed and looked at the man’s face.

A shame. He’d probably be somewhat attractive if he wasn’t a pig.

He snored again, as long and drawn out as his pompous blathering about his wealth. She rolled her eyes.

Opening the doors to his walk-in closet, she looked about until she found a large iron safe situated at the far end. Found you. Sliding the golden key she found into its lock, she placed her ear onto the safe, and her hand onto its side. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the locking mechanism within the safe, and reformed it into its unlocked position. Breathing deep, she pulled the level on the safe and it swung open without issue. Nothing a bit of clever alchemy can’t take care of.

Neat stacks of gold coins filled the interior of the safe. Precious jewels sat off to one side.


She headed back into the man’s closet and found a bag that she thought would be able to fit everything. Back at the safe, she scooped everything into the bag and threw it around her shoulder. Closing the safe, now completely empty aside from some bank documents that meant little to her, she made certain to re-lock everything before leaving.

Before gathering the last of her things, and throwing a cloak over herself and the bag, she bid the man a fond farewell and thanked him for his generosity. Just as she was about to head out the door, her feet stopped by the threshold. Turning in step, she headed back to the room. From behind the bureau, she grabbed the painting from where she placed it and hung it back over the door. Seeing their judgmental looks made her grimace once again.

There, like nothing ever happened.

Without wasting another moment, she left the man’s villa with a view to rival the King’s, and headed back into Sainté Bourdeaux, just as the sun was starting to rise.

Aereth sighed happily, finding a new spring in her step.

“I think today will be a good day.”
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:13 pm
Somewhere near Maqae, Castinis . . .

Shifting sands whipped across the shack, slipping through every microscopic crevice they could find. A thick atmosphere of dust covered the waning sun, leaving the desert alone in its darkness. Boards creaked as Taliq walked across the room. He stopped at the window, parting the curtain just enough to see the wasteland the country had become. The curtain was nailed tight to the corners of the window, only loose enough to allow the men to peek out and keep watch. Hakam sat in his seat, watching his brother. He pulled his facial scarf down just enough to spit dusty phlegm on the floor.

“Disgusting,” Taliq said, observing the snotty goo from afar.

“Where else do you want me to do it?” Hakam snorted. “Outside?”

“Sure. Maybe if I’m lucky the winds will take you away too.”

The girl stirred. Both of them froze, cutting off their time-wasting drivel, and stared at the near lifeless body of their captive. She was tied to a chair, wrists tied behind her back. Her legs were sprawled out in front of her, limp and dead. The girl was a corpse, or so they thought. For the past hour they hadn’t heard as much as a breath come from her. Hakam walked towards her slowly, stopping when he was face to face with the blood-soaked face of the woman. For a good minute he stood there, waiting for the cool, stinky breeze of the dead girl’s breath, but nothing came. He turned around, shrugging to his brother.

“It’s nothing,” he said, starting to walk. “You know, a doctor-friend of mine used to say--”

Before he could finish his sentence, he felt a tight grip on his ankles. The woman’s legs shot forward, feet crossing over his. Hakam did not have time to process this movement. When she pulled her legs back, he toppled over, smashing face-first into the planks. He screamed in a mixture of agony and fury. Hakam leapt to his feet and pummeled her in the face, knocking her unconscious once more. Taliq couldn’t get enough of this. He sat at the window-sill, hardly able to contain his laughter.

“Why the hell did we not tie her feet?” Hakam shrieked. His nose was throbbing, surely broken, and splinters covered his face. “Tie her legs, Taliq. Tie them.”

They switched places, Taliq grabbing what was left of the rope and attempting to secure the lady’s unpredictable legs. One of their comrades from the cellar below came upstairs to see what the commotion was, but Hakam waved him away.

“Don’t half-ass it,” Hakam said to Taliq, arms crossed. “She’ll bite you in the ass next if you’re careless.”

“There won’t be a next time by the looks of it,” Taliq chuckled, looking at the woman’s battered face. “You did a number on her, Hakam. Hakam?”

The brother’s silence was unnatural. All conversations ended with his say. Taliq, feeling as if the atmosphere had suddenly turned a shade darker, turned quickly. A spear protruded through the window, its blade going through one temple out the other. Hakam tried to move his mouth to scream, but his life left him so quickly he could not give a response. His brother’s body toppled over and a man leapt through the window, far more agile than his large stature would suggest. Blade in one hand and a shield covering his back, the man charged at Taliq without hesitation. Taliq reached for his weapon but the man was quicker. The razor severed most of his finger’s before they even met the hilt. He attempted to scream in agony due to his severed hand, but the man quickly rushed him, covering his mouth. The man slammed him into a nearby table.

“Where is--” the man’s first words were cut off quickly. His gaze lingered on the battered body of the woman. Taliq could see a change in this man’s eyes. When he had first entered they were steel, unwavering, professional. Now he could see them boiling in his sockets, see the red rage overwhelming his senses.

“You…” he said, trailing off. Taliq had no time to respond. The man’s blade slid through his ribcage, piercing his heart. His life ebbed away within a minute. The man watched him as he died, releasing the limp body and letting it fall to the floor. Not hesitating, he rushed to the woman’s side, feeling her neck for a pulse, any sign of life. It was faint, but it was there.

“Please don’t die on me,” he said, frantic, attempting to wipe whatever blood he could from her face. “It was my fault, I know it. It’s on me. Just… stay alive a little longer. Please.”

Alric held Scratch’s face in his hands, waiting for a sign of life. He’d already loosened her bindings, which had been on long enough to cut into her wrists and ankles. She would need the help of a healer or infection would set in. A painful death, one she didn’t deserve for helping him.

“You didn’t know what you were getting into,” Alric said, nearly weeping. “I didn’t either. If I’d known… I would’ve wandered off to die on my own.”

Suddenly, he began to feel movement. Scratch was stirring, but her eyes were still glued shut. She was barely on the edge of consciousness. Overjoyed, Alric began to speak with her, attempting to draw her out, to bring her back into the land of the living. Expecting her to meet him with open arms, Alric was hit with surprise when she spat in his face. Bloody spittle dripped off of him.

“I’ll kill both of you assholes…” she mumbled, her words slurred.

“Scratch, open your eyes!” Alric wiped his face, laughing. “It’s me, Alric. I came back. I came to save you.”

Her eyes slowly parted. She jumped in her seat, immediately sitting upright, glancing around her surroundings. Quickly, she felt the pain of her movement, slumping low in the chair. Alric attempted to support her, but she pushed him away.

“You need to take it slow,” he said to her. “I don’t know what they did to you, but they… they did enough.”

“Gabriel,” she said, eyes still wandering about the shack. “Is he okay?”

“Gabriel? He’s here too?”

She nodded slowly, pointing her finger to the ground. Alric understood. The cellar. When they both silenced their tongues they could hear quiet murmurs coming from below. Every so often there was scattered laughing. Alric walked to the fallen body of one of the guards, ripping the spearhead from his skull. He looked to Scratch, seeing that she had every intention to come. He shook his head, gesturing for her to stay behind. Wincing from the pain of her movement, Scratch nodded. Her range of motion was compromised. Scratch got to her feet, leaning hard into the walls of the shack. Alric nearly ran across the room to catch her, but she held her hand up.

“I just want to get my bearings,” she said to him lowly. “Go. Find Gabriel.”

Alric approached the cellar door, opening it as quietly as possible. The pained screech of the hinges, nearly gave him away, but the guards within gave no indication that they had noticed. From the sounds of their voices, Alric could tell they were drunk. Three, playing cards. He could see their shadows dancing in the lantern light as he descended the stairs. The floor was dirt and the walls were cracked brick. Whatever this place used to be, it clearly wasn’t designed to uphold a garrison.

The guards played at a table that was severely unbalanced. Each time one of them played a hand the table shook violently, coins clattering against each other. They were complaining about the absence of their two friends, Taliq and Hakam. Evidently they had promised a game of cards later on. It’s going to have to wait, Alric thought, lifting his spear slowly. As the dealer began to shuffle the next deck, the spear shot across the table and plunged itself deep into his chest. There was a pause of surprise as they two shot their eyes towards Alric’s direction. Pulling out his curved sword and charging the two remaining soldiers, he went to work.

Though drunk, they were far more prepared for a fight than the other two. They pulled out their weapons in time, one of them flipping the table into Alric, immediately stopping his assault. Alric backed into the stairwell, choosing the narrow corridor over the wide open space. With a shield in hand, he had a distinct advantage. They charged at him with their scimitars, Alric easily deflected the curved blades with his shield. With a quick riposte, Alric managed to bash one of the guards in the face with his shield, dazzling him. A quick slice to the throat sent the man to the ground, clutching his neck and choking on his own blood. Alric leapt over the body and began the offense. The last man was weakening, panic starting to set in. There were clear indications that he meant to give up. Alric ignored them. The glory of battle was setting in. Alric was becoming a monster, his movements becoming rapid and more reckless. With a shattering blow, the guard’s sword was sent flying into the dirt.

Before the losing guard could even raise his hands to surrender, Alric’s sword went through his gut. He ripped it out, leaving the guard in a pool of his own gore.

Breathing heavily, the adrenaline of battle began to fade. Alric’s senses returned to him, allowing him to witness the carnage he created. What will they think this time? Alric thought to himself. Gods, is this why you curse me? He let his weapons fall to the floor. Feeling his knees start to buckle, Alric caught himself on one of the support poles. Before his self-loathing grew too powerful, Alric noticed a distinct shape in the background, barely illuminated by light.

“Gabriel?” Alric grabbed the lantern and began walking towards the seated figure in the corner of the basement. At first, Alric was beginning to smile, as his bloodlust may have caused something positive to occur. Gabriel was one of their companions, another he had dragged into this mess. If he had managed to save both of them, the gods could possibly forgive his violence. As he walked closer, the smile slowly faded from his face. It was Gabriel, he knew it had to be, but there were no recognizable features other than his golden hair, much of it matted with blood.

“Please,” Alric said, reaching out to see if there could possibly be life left in the corpse. The body was cold, stiff. He was long dead. “Gods,” Alric muttered to himself.

“First you give me this curse… now this. What do you want from me?”

His eyes shot towards the stairs. Scratch was struggling down the steps. Before he could tell her to stop, her eyes caught the figure of her dead friend in the lantern light. She paused for a long moment, gaze unwavering, then began to move forward, faster than before.

“Scratch, I’m sorry,” Alric said to her, reaching out. “He’s gone.” As she moved past him, he grabbed her shoulder. “Don’t. There’s nothing you can do for him.”

“Get your hands off me,” she said, shaking free. He saw the knife in her hand, the cruel dagger she reserved for the worst of her enemies.

“Scratch,” Alric watched her in shock, but made no move to stop her. “What are you doing? Are you mad?”

She ignored him, continuing towards her friend. When she reached his bloody corpse, she knelt to the earth, wincing in pain as she lowered herself. She moved the dagger towards his chest, causing Alric to look away, afraid of what the woman’s crazed intentions were. Hearing nothing other than a quick snip, he turned his gaze back to her. She was already on her feet, walking towards the stairway. In her hands, she held a sizable purse.

“Let’s go,” she said to him. “Let’s go far away from here.”


“Now. I’m done with this place.”


The storm was at its end when they emerged. From the stables they retrieved their stolen horses and resumed their journey across the desert. When they stopped to rest for the night, neither of them could sleep. Fatigue plagued their bodies, but it was not enough to ease their minds of recent events. They made camp beneath a lone tree, long dead, eating whatever was left of their rations. It wasn’t much, but neither of them were hungry.

“You didn’t want to do it,” Alric said, breaking a long silence.

“What?” Scratch said, not lifting her eyes from the waning fire.

“It’s okay to feel sorrow for your friend,” Alric said, looking to her. “You cared for him. I know you did.”

“He’s dead, Alric.”

The silence between them became even more menacing. Alric did not want to let it go, however. His blood was boiling. Though he had no respect for his career of choice, he had treated Gabriel as an equal. Leaving the body behind was a mistake, in his eyes. Robbing it was an even graver one.

“You know what you did was wrong,” Alric said, his voice growing darker.

“I didn’t do anything,” Scratch looked away from the fire for the first time, sharp eyes locking with Alric. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You looted his corpse like a common criminal.”

“He was a common criminal. This is what he would’ve wanted.”

“You can still ask for forgiveness,” Alric’s voice was raising in volume. “The gods are watching.”

Howling wind interrupted them, gave them a much needed pause. Neither broke eye contact. Both were watching for the first display of weakness, the first flinching movement. It never came. When the wind died down, the quarrel began once more.

“I saw the bodies, Alric,” Scratch’s face growing into a cruel smile. She’d travelled with him long enough to know of his weaknesses. “They were young, weren’t they?”

For a moment, she thought he was going to leap at her and wring her neck. The fury that boiled in his eyes was strong. With every fiber of his being, Alric fought the urge to kill the woman before him. The rage slowly subsided as he realized the folly of such a decision. Scratch was young. She wasn’t in control of this conversation. He knew her guilt. Even if she wouldn’t show it, she knew Gabriel’s death was bearing down on her.

“Fine,” Alric said, eventually. “I’ll leave you be.”

Late in the night, both lay in their bedrolls, each on either side of the camp. Alric thought of the curse the gods had planted deep within him, a plague of spirit that threatened to destroy any semblance of peace around him. Each night he attempted to understand it, to justify it. Maybe the gods are mistaken? he thought to himself. Do they seek to avenge the death of the Fifth like everyone else? I didn’t kill her. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. IT WASN’T--

Before Alric’s thoughts tore him apart, he heard the muffled sound of sobbing coming from across the camp. He did not dare move an inch, for the source was obvious. All of his thoughts faded as he focused on this single, pitiful sound. She sounded like a wounded animal, a young girl, a vulnerable woman. Scratch was none of these things. In the moment she had transformed into someone else, a person that Alric desperately wanted to comfort. He fought every urge to rise, knowing that doing so would only spoil her sorrow.

Scratch… he thought. If the gods are watching, they feel your sorrow. I hope you can take comfort in that. With nothing but the howling wind and Scratch’s sorrow to break the silence of the night, Alric found himself slowly drifting off to sleep. The world became black, a dreamless state where not a single speck of thought exists. Alric found distinct peace in this abyss. He let his mind travel far away from his body, let it relieve itself from his endless questions for concern. There was peace here, a peace that he gravely needed. To him, it was beautiful.

Then he woke up.
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:16 pm

The pond was still.

Surrounded by gnarled juniper, with their boughs curled every which way, a lone pond sat at the edge of a large manor. Flat stones led in a curling path from the manor to a small sitting area at the edge of the water. Lily pads dotted the surface of the still pond, along with white orchids, tall pond grass, and a few koi fish that swam to and fro near the surface of the water.

A small stone bridge spanned across one of the narrower sections of the pond, upon which sat  the still figure of a man in meditation, his face as calm as the water, and his eyes closed. Laying across his lap was a sheathed curved sword. 

At the side of the pond, there sat a small stream which fed its waters, ending in a small rocky waterfall. A shishi-odoshi sat by the slowly running water, giving a hollow ‘tap’ every few minutes once it filled to its brim and let loose its contents into the pond. 

Overhead, the sky turned hues of crimson and gold as the sun had started to set—already the moon and stars started to show on the surface of the pond, speckled brilliantly and partially covered in a vast array of thin clouds. The man’s eyes opened then, gazing fixedly at the reflection in the water and sighing contentedly.

His gaze shifted only when the sliding shoji doors of his manor slid open with only the faintest of noises, and a warrior in robes, resting on his knees, bowed to him.

“Moriyama-kyaka, many apologies for disturbing your meditation. You’ve a message awaiting in your chambers.” The warrior said. “It seems urgent.”

“I see. I’ll be in shortly to receive this message. Oerbitos na.” The man named Moriyama Kojuro replied, nodding to dismiss the guard.

Grasping his sword from his lap in one hand, the man silently rose from the stone bridge and strode around the pond and back to the manor, careful to remove his sandals before entering.  

Kojuro’s estate was sprawling and ornate. It’s rooflines slopped gracefully with polished tiles. A grand entrance stood with a wide porch that surrounded the entirety of the manor, bordered on both ends by a pair of full-time warriors who guarded his estate. Gardens surrounded the home, set apart by a narrow line of small pond stones before transitioning to a trimmed grass lawn dotted with juniper trees and evergreen. An outer wall separated the manor from the street outside, a single main entrance with double doors barring entrance from the outside—always well-guarded, as befit a man of Kojuro’s status.

The manor at which he lived was lavishly furnished in the traditional Kyokan style. Long hallways of dark polished wood surrounded partitioned rooms with tatami mat floors of woven bamboo threads. Scrollwork and ink paintings hung in alcoves, lit with small candles whose light danced in the semi-darkness. At the center of the manor sat a dining hall containing a large square stone fire pit, which burned most of the day. Its smoke rose to the high ceilings and gave the open rafters a darkened hue and a rich earthy scent.

Kojuro padded his way down the hall, his robes flowing behind him as he walked swiftly toward the main entrance. Rounding a corner, he stopped as he noticed his wife, Haruka, standing by the doorway. Alongside her stood the warrior who fetched him, one of Kojuro’s childhood friends—Takayama Yukichi—who had sworn their blade to his clan, and the messenger, who knelt by the entranceway holding a sealed scroll in his hand.

“Gratta aeturo, messenger-jaan. Why have you come, so late into the evening?” Kojuro asked curiously. He noticed the wave seal upon the scroll as soon as the messenger lifted it to him. Kojuro's gaze grew stoney.

“Our Lord summons you, Moriyama-kyaka.” The messenger relayed, handing off his message.

Kojuro broke the seal, which bore the White Orchid of the Moriyama Clan. Unfurling the scroll, his eyes quickly scanned the message from his Lord, Moriyama Sanousuke. He looked back to the messenger and nodded.

“Good. You may leave, thank you for delivering this.”

The messenger bowed back quickly and backed into the genkan entranceway of Kojuro’s manor, slipping his sandals back on. He bowed one final time before sliding open the shoji and disappearing into the night. Yukichi gave a quick nod to Kojuro before exiting the manor himself to resume his duties as guard, leaving he and Haruka alone in the hall.

“Kojuro… what does our Lord seek of you.” Haruka asked, looking to her husband. Her eyes were filled with worry and anxiety—a look that happened far too often, of which Kojuro could never get used to.

Haruka, his wife of five years, was his closest confidant, his best friend, and the love of his life. He had known her since being lifted out of poverty by His Lord; the daughter of a nearby provincial lord herself, she was often at Lord Moriyama’s estate whenever her father did business in the area. He and she had grown close, playing together and slowly, over the years, realizing their love for one another. At first, her father was determined to have Haruka marry someone with greater status, however even as a child, she was rebellious and obstinate. She had already made her choice, and was hardly afraid to let her intentions be known in front of her entire family.

Kojuro always knew she carried a roaring flame within her, worthy of the title of samurai that she carried just as proudly as he.

“Lord Moriyama bids me to travel to his estate tomorrow. He does not mention the reason why I must go, but says it is indeed of urgent matters. No mention of his health, but…” Kojuro paused, sighing as his eyes scanned the note once more. “But his hand falters. I can see it in his writing. I worry for him.”

Haruka wrapped her arms around her husband, her head resting against his broad back.

“This doesn’t seem good, Kojuro.” She said softly. “I fear for him. And you.”

“Don’t fear, Haruka.” Kojuro replied. “Whatever the Divines have planned for us, Inari watches over us all. Fate will decide what is to become of us in the end—it is not up to us mortals to worry and fear over the future.”

Not particularly calmed by Kojuro’s somewhat fatalist beliefs, she embraced him tighter. “I won’t give you to the Gods anytime soon.”

Kojuro smiled, turning about and kissing her. “The Gods should fear your wrath, for I certainly do.” Kojuro smirked, and she made a face. “Nevertheless, I cannot keep our Lord waiting. If I’m to be there tomorrow, I should make this an early night and rest while I can.”

“At least have some supper. I’ve been told our meal is prepared at the hearth.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Not long after finishing supper, Kojuro retired to their chambers. The journey into Eidou from the countryside on which his manor sat took a few hours by horse. Even one that was as swift as his own steed.

Washing his face, he tried to freshen up a bit before donning a pair of night robes and retiring for the evening. Haruka walked into the room soon after, already clad in her own night robes, colored an off white with small pink and teal cranes adorning the hems of her long sleeves. They sat for a while, looking outside from their bedroom windows and chatting before tiredness got the better of them.

With their futons already laid out, the two slipped under their covers and soon fell asleep, allowing the nearby candle to snuff itself out long into the night.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kojuro awoke an hour before dawn, as if his internal clock set itself earlier because of his trip that day. Turning under his futon’s covers, he spotted Haruka next to him, her face peaceful as she soundly slumbered. He watched her for a long while, brushing away a few strands of hair that had fallen over her face. Eventually, he knew he had to tear himself away; never a task he found easy.

Managing to do so, however, he quickly left their quarters to fill a tub for his bath, making certain a fire was lit to warm the water before getting in—especially needed during such a particularly cool Autumn morning.

Briskly he washed up, and then dressed in his best robes; garments specifically meant for visiting Lords and Ladies of a higher status than himself. After tying back the length of his dark hair into a high ponytail, he trimmed his beard until his appearance befitted that of a samurai. Finishing his preparations, he entered a closed room nearby the entrance to his manor. It was a large open room with polished wood floors, rather than tatami mats. At the far end sat a suit of armor, lacquered black with teal and red ornamentation. A lofty helm with a pair of gnarled horns sat atop a demon-masked face.

At the suit of armor’s side sat a sword stand with four different blades situated on tiered shelfs—Kojuro grasped the top two by their sheaths; one long sword and the other short. Both were richly detailed, finely crafted with sheaths of red with black and gold inlaid ornamentation. Both sword guards were equally detailed with intricate design work, and were in the shape of concave diamonds. Kojuro slid the two swords into his obi sash, then headed for the door.

Sliding open the shoji, he was greeted by the rising sun of the morning. Squinting against the light, the guard standing nearby the entrance greeted him with a silent nod and a quiet murmur of ‘gratta manturo’. His horse was quickly brought to him, already brushed and bridled; prepared for the journey ahead. Bidding his guards goodbye, he left them instructions to keep his manor under guard for the duration of his trip.

Sliding into the saddle, he waited until the double doors of his walled exterior entrance were opened before quickly trotting away, leaving his home well behind him.

Last edited by Kamikaze_X on Sun Aug 26, 2018 7:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 457
Join date : 2009-12-29
Age : 35
Location : Perth, Western Australia

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:18 pm
Off the coast of Mibu, in the Shogunate of Kyokai.

Somewhere in deep water, not too far off the coast of Mibu, nestled within Fuyuzuki Bay in the Shogunate of Kyokai, a small fleet of fishing vessels congregated. Such was the life of those aboard these fishing vessels that each morning, they would set out to the bay to cast their nets, working through the day as the tides dictated for what was their livelihood and their identity as fishermen.

Most of those in the ad hoc fleet had known one another since early childhood, having been taught their trade by either a parent or some other member of the immediate local community, inheriting their way of life from a young age, and most being collectively born of one of the various settlements lining the bay. There were some exceptions, of course; A few various immigrants from elsewhere on the Kyokan island of Joushu that became members of the local community in search of a quieter life than would have otherwise been impossible from where they came. The most noticeable exception of all though, would be Kaie; A single individual born from outside of Kyokai entirely, and a single toshkhat within a group that otherwise comprised entirely of humans; humans specifically of Kyokan descent.

Most of them had their favourite places to seek their bounty, each humbly tending to their own work independently, at their own pace, in their own space. Today's routine, however, was a little different; One of them had just turned 40, and such things were cause for celebration. A birthday on the bay.

Though working indepedently most of the time, there were times that they would occasionally all work together, and in either case, they remained a tight-knit community. In addition to the times that they would all work together, they would also often come together at times such as these, as such milestones were rare, and a thing that ought to be celebrated, often with food and drink, and other simple revelry shared.

The small fleet had been gathered together for the better part of a few hours. Some of those onboard had brought an instrument or two, a gentle folk twang permeating the background noise above the gentle water's surface. One of the fishermen had brought along some homebrew sake and low-end moonshine that had recently come to maturity, appreciatively shared among the those in the ad hoc fleet, putting further emphasis on the overall mood. Most of the food of that day had been sourced from that day's catch, primarily fish, as well as some small amounts of crab and squid, and onigiri prepared from earlier in the day, before they'd set out from their various villages and towns. Despite the subtle, ubiquitous chill in the air, owing to it being the peak of autumn, the weather, as well as the overall mood, was good. The sky was clear, and the water was fairly still, with no indications of any impending storms approaching the bay from the ever-turbulent Arashi; the sea of storms.

For the most part, conversation tended towards shared memories, with particular focus on memories involving the birthday boy, Hiroyuki; Sometimes pleasant, sometimes embarrassing. They would talk about the good years, as well as the bad, which years had the best catch, the times when strange things happened, or when rare changes occurred in the lives of their quiet villages and towns. Many jokes were told, with many laughs followed.

Eventually, after enough drinks and memories were shared, the conversation invariably shifted towards dare and bravado. "Ha! That's nothing! Remember that really big storm, several years back? The one that wiped out that village.. you know.. the one that nobody talks about anymore.. and may their spirits find eternal peace. I was out here that day, hauling in my catch! And it was a BIG catch! And nobody would help me that day, because of the storm, so, I was out here by myself. At the peak of the storm, when I hauled in my net, it must've been four times the size of yours! So by far, I think I've hauled the biggest, most dangerous catch of anyone here."

"Pfft.. You can't prove that, Goro. If nobody was with you, nobody can verify your claim! Why would you use a net that size in the middle of a storm, by yourself, anyway? That's silly! Why not just use smaller nets? Or better yet.. Not go out in the middle of a storm like that. Like everyone else."

Some background chuckles. "Are you calling me a liar?! Since when have I ever lied about the size of my haul?!"

Momentarily silence, shortly broken by someone else. "Well.. I can't claim to have hauled a net that large by myself, but I did haul something almost that large a few years back, about a year after that storm. Eijiro and Hitoshi were with me that day, so they can verify it. Not quite as impressive, but probably about the largest verifiable haul that I know about personally."

'Goro' wasn't about to let up, however. "Excuse me, but verifiable or not, mine was still the biggest!"

Another from the group then interjected, changing the course of conversation. "Ahem.. I'm curious.. Have many of you have tried spearfishing before? I tend to stick with lines and nets, but I've heard they prefer spearfishing on some of the outer islands, and along some of the river communities, where the water is shallow and they can't use boats."

Some shook their heads, indicating a "no", while others nodded, indicating or saying "yes". Daisuke, a particularly tough, tall-looking fisherman in his mid-30s, perhaps somewhat intimidating in stature to those that didn't know him better, but in reality, a jovial and friendly character that cared about his fellow fishermen, answered in more detail. "It's not exactly difficult to do, but it takes a long time, and it's less efficient than using lines or nets. If you're fishing somewhere where you can't use boats, traps are always an option, too. A good, well-placed fish trap can sometimes catch as much as a medium-sized net, and often with less work involved. Still need to know what you're doing though. I've heard some spearfisher's will do what they call 'sea walking', too, where they hold their breath, sink to the ocean floor, and walk with spears, to catch fish. I've never seen it though, so I don't know whether there's any truth to it, or whether it's just fable."

A much smaller, scrawnier-looking fishermen, also in his mid-30s, spoke up next. "Hey.. How long do you all think you could hold your breath for underwater?"

Various others then added their quips. "Probably longer than you! I managed to go a whole 5 minutes underwater once before, haha."

"Bahaha! Only 5? My daughter can easily go for 8! I went for about 12 minutes before, once."

"Shinjimasen! There's no way you could do it for 12!"

It was at that point, that the fisherman known as Eijiro, had an idea to lead to their next order of activity. "How about a bet? Whoever thinks they can hold their breath underwater the longest, we put it to the test, right here. Whoever can jump in, dive under, and stay under the longest, wins. As for the stakes.. Hmmm.. How about..."

At that point, 'Goro' interrupted. "Screw your stakes! I'll take the bet anyway, just to prove the point!"

"Birthday boy better join in too! I'd like to see how long he could do it for!"

Hiroyuki, the birthday boy, laughed. "Haha. Yeah, alright. I'll bite. May as well anyway, while the water's still calm and steady."

Daisuke shook his head. "I'm quite happy to stay dry on my boat, thank you, and I don't care much for proving points, haha."

Several others joined in with his laugh, also not so interesting in joining in with this 'bet'. There were others though, that seemed eager. Within minutes, seven people all up had lunged into the water, including Hiroyuki, having lunged from the highest point of his sleak, dark-wood, medium-sized boat, the Shizukesa.

Kaie, the one toshkhat in the otherwise entirely human group, didn't join in. The idea seemed fun, and somewhat appealing, but he'd worked hard at developing a good rapport with the community since his arrival to Mibu half a year earlier; He'd worked hard at learning the language, picking up enough of it that he understood about 90% of what everyone said when they spoke, though possibly somewhat less when they spoke under the influence of alcohol, which is one of the reasons he contributed very little during the course of their semi-drunken banter; He'd worked hard at gaining their trust and at being 'likable', despite being of a different species, of an intimidating stature, and hailing from a nation that none of them had ever even heard of before. His rapport, at that point, was good, but he didn't yet venture risking it by upsetting egos or by being brash and reckless. His close friend Ichiro, the one that had warmly welcomed him to Kyokai when he'd first washed up six months earlier, stood beside him on Ichiro's own somewhat weathered, but well-loved, reliable, sturdy, and well-maintained vessel, the Arashihime, the two of them watching from the stern as their comrades of the bay began their dive.

Those that had remained on the boats watched closely.

The first surfaced again after two minutes. "Only two minutes?! Haha.. Better luck next time!"

Over the course of the next several minutes, one after another resurfaced. By the eighth minute, only two remained under the water: Goro, and Hiroyuki.

The water remained calm, but Kaie briefly looked a little further out, away from the dive point; Something felt slightly wrong. A dark shadow, not belonging to either of the two remaining divers, and far too large to belong to any human, slowly rose from the depths, approaching the dive point. The bristles of his fur stood up on end and his eyes locked onto the shadow. He didn't know what was in the water, but he could feel instinct quickly kicking in; A sense of danger, balanced against the aeons of Sudai tradition of hunting in shallow waterways and rivers, and a desire to overcome whatever was rising up from the depths. The time spanning the moment of first feeling that something was wrong to the point of instinct kicking was perhaps only a few seconds, but it was enough, as Kaie quickly darted from the position where he stood, grabbing two particularly large, menacing-looking and very sharp fishing spears from where they'd been tied on the boat, leaping over the railing of the Arashihime onto the deck of an adjascent boat, darting within seconds from that boat to another, making his way to flank the rising shadow as stepping one foot onto the railing of the closest boat, he leaped over the edge, drawing both spears back to thrust them down onto the unsuspecting shadow.

The few seconds that had passed weren't enough for anyone else present to immediately recognise what was happening, but as Kaie approached the shadow from above, Daisuke, who'd always had a good sense for danger and had been watching everything closely from the start, noticed, and furthermore, as the shadow approached within a few mere meters of the dive point, noticed what the shadow belonged to. In alarm, Daisuke yelled out, loudly enough to draw the attention of everyone within earshot. "DEVIL SHARK! OUT OF THE WATER, NOW!"

Devil sharks, and an extraordinarily rare but notorious species of shark, similar in size to tiger sharks, and so named for being known to possess magic and being capable of wielding it, an otherwise entirely unknown phenomena among shark species. Far more unpredictable and ruthless than any other known species of shark, they'd also been known to hunt in packs and occasionally ram fishing boats.

Aside from Kaie, nobody dared enter the water, though everyone looked intently without exception for where Goro and Hiroyuki were expected to surface. Goro, having heard the commotion on the surface from under the water, immediately rose, saw the shadow behind him, and swearing under his breath, quickly grabbed the side of his boat and darted up and over its railing to safety. Hiroyuki, however, had evidently not heard the warning.

Just as the devil shark moved onto Hiroyuki's position, a few mere feet from where he remained underwater and with its maw open and ready to attack, Kaie landed, extending the sharp, retractable claws of both his feet, digging into the soft back of the shark as he rammed both fishing spears deeply into either side of the shark's flank. Immediately thrashing around in the water in reponse, to seek the source of the sudden biting pain the shark could feel on both its sides and its back, it was distracted from its impending attack on Hiroyuki. Hiroyuki, meanwhile, having felt and been startled by the sudden turbulence in the water caused by the thrashing, panicked, lost his breath, and quickly rose to the surface.

Kaie wasn't about to become a substitute meal for the shark though. With his tightly held grip on both fishing spears and his claws not letting go, as the shark thrashed around, Kaie's own movements and his hold on the shark remained locked, and the shark, being unable to shake Kaie from its back and being unable to reach its own back due to its anatomy, continued thrashing. Kaie twisted sharply on the spears, digging in further. Enraged, the shark dove back down into the water, dragging Kaie along with it - or perhaps hoping to use the depths to shake him loose, though it didn't happen.

Twisting and turning in the water, Kaie became lightheaded and momentarily disorientated, though held on, and remained focused on his objective. Realising it couldn't break Kaie off its back, the shark began to glow, slowly at first, then gradually brighter, preparing to use magic to shake loose its assailant. Unforunately for Kaie, though he knew the signs of magic, and knew what it looked like, he'd never personally learned any magics growing up, and had no immediate, appropriate recourse for such things. Taking a risky, but calculated chance, as one twist levelled out, Kaie pulled one of the two spears - the spear on his left - and aimed it at the shark's head, and thrusted with all his strength into its left eye. A successful hit, Kaie twisted and dug in, the shark suddenly stiffening in the water, then growing limp.

The glowing faded as quickly as it had appeared, and Kaie's vision become clouded as the water rapidly turned a deep, crimson red, permeating in all directions. As the shark slowly turned belly up, Kaie remaining on its back and now facing downward to the ocean floor, he struggled to find his orientation to gravity.

After a few minutes, and almost running out of breath, he rediscovered gravity, loosened his claws, and positioned himself to begin the ascent to the surface. His left arm continuing to hold tightly to the spear attached to the shark's eye socket, his right arm reached for the surface as he kicked upward with both his now free feet.

Daisuke had already reached down and pulled Hiroyuki out of the water the moment that Kaie had descended, attached to back of the shark. By the time he'd resurfaced, the surface now painted red, everyone else had moved about the railing of their various vessels, trying to spot some sign of either he or the shark from their boats. Eijiro happened to be looking at Kaie's particular patch of water as he'd resurfaced, and wasted no time letting everyone else know the moment he saw Kaie appear, with the now dead devil shark in tow, pointing to the water and yelling out. "He's over here! Over here!"

The moment over, instinct and adrenaline faded, Kaie looked sheepishly to those watching from above. "So.. Who here likes shark..?"
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:45 pm

She had left early in the morning, on that cool Autumn day. As the sun rose higher in the sky, she felt the sweat bead down her bare neck as her long dark hair clung limply to her skin. Although Autumn had just begun, and the colors of the trees had started to shift, the sun still managed to cling to a bit of its summer strength. Even so far north as she was.

Aya headed onto the main road out from Izu, bearing east through the mountains. High grassy slopes rose on either side of the dirt road—or perhaps it was more of a rough dirt path—and the trees grew tall and thick. All about her, a cacophony of nature called out; the tweeting melodies of birds, the long drawn out chirrups of cicadas, and the slight scurrying of ground squirrels and chipmunks moving through the dense underbrush.

Deeper into the forest, the branches of evergreen and deciduous trees formed a canopy just thick enough to shelter her from most of the sun’s rays. She sighed deeply as she continued to walk, allowing the shade to cool her down. Every so often, she would stop at the edge of the path, choosing a large boulder or mossy hillock on which to sit and rest. Closing her eyes and humming a tune, she couldn’t help but feel as though she were walking through a dream.

Did I truly just leave Izu? I was there for eighteen years. Everything I know is there, and yet here I am… walking through the woods like some folk story fairy, my feet leading me ever further away.

Her eyes watched, transfixed on the great spruce tree above her, swaying with the wind.

I could go back if I wanted. I could go back and live a perfectly ordinary life. I could see my mama and papa once more, and just till the soil and harvest rice. I could go back…

Aya smiled, shaking her head to herself.

I already said my goodbyes. Now its time to see the world.

She had already taken several drinks from her waterskin. The gurgling of a brook nearby allowed her to fill it back up, and start back on her journey refreshed and ready to go. Brushing herself off from where she had sat, she made her way back down the road, eager to reach the small port town of Miwa by the next day.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

After walking for much of the day, and watching as the sun sank down below the trees, she found herself walking a bit quicker than earlier. Although she wasn’t exactly afraid of the dark, she knew better than to stay in the woods through the night, as all manner of creatures prowled through the darkness as they slept through the light of day. Though it was uncommon, folk from Izu and the neighboring towns had been attacked by wolves in the night before. All of them had remained in the woods for the night, rather than heading to a clearing.

Luckily, as she trekked throughout that day, she kept up a good pace. It wasn’t long before she found herself at the edge of the woods, just as the moon and stars began to light her way. The road ahead led to a steep slope, after which opened up a large valley. The land came to a sharp point, far ahead, from which the waters of the Hagane Ocean, and the inland Strait of Sankatsugawa gleamed in the moonlight.

Long grass swayed with the wind in an open field bordering both ends of the road. Aya made her way down the slope, entering the valley below. She gazed for a while upon the twinkling lights of the town of Miwa far on the road ahead—despite how inviting the scene was, she had not the coin to buy a room at the local inn while still affording passage across the water. No, that night she would camp out in full view of the moon and stars. Something about the prospect of camping out alone gave her goosebumps.

Walking off the path, she decided to make camp near the eves of the forest. Finding a small clearing she cleared a bit of underbrush from the trees that towered ahead and positioned some rocks she had found into a rough circle. Hunting for loose twigs seemed a simple task as they littered the ground about her. Once she arranged her wood and stuck some dry grass into the fire pit as kindling, she placed her palm above and closed her eyes.

“Hoka no Kamote o araetai yo.”1 Aya muttered an incantation beneath her breath. A spark ignited eventually, under her deep concentration. Blowing slowly into the kindling, she waited patiently for her magic-created flames to spread before sitting back and relaxing. She always found the effort to use even the simplest magic a strain, however it was a gift she was happy to have.

Though her stomach growled, she was determined to keep her food for the following morning. Arms around her knees, she watched the flames as though transfixed. The sounds of leaves rustling in the wind and crickets chirping in the high-grasses of the valley mixed into a wondrous ballad which conspired to make her eyelids fall even quicker. 

Aya yawned tiredly as she curled up nearby the fire, letting its warmth slowly lull her into a restful slumber.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

The following morning, as soon as the sun started to climb over the mountains to her west, Aya was up. The fire had died to embers sometime long into the night and now sat as blackened coals. Stretching lazily, she watched as the world around her slowly came to life for another full day. Even at dawn, the suns rays foretold of another hot day, though she knew that the hours spent onboard Miwa’s ferry to the mainland would certainly help to cool the temperature.

Without delay, Aya packed what belongings she carried and eagerly made her way into the valley and back onto the road. With every step she took, Miwa drew closer, and the sounds of the ocean grew more distinct.

A cry of seagulls. The lapping of waves against moored boats along Miwa’s docks. The swearing of sailors trying to get their adjutants to move faster so they could set out earlier and get to the best fishing spots around the island. Aya’s face wore a grin as she made her way into the town and toward the pier and all its noises.

Posted on a public notice board were the day’s prices for passage across the Strait of Sankatsugawa to the main island of Joushu. She approached, and ran her finger down the long list of port names.

“Aikaze, Tsukishima, Fushima, Yukigawa, Onozaki…” Aya read aloud to no one in particular. She pondered the names for a while, thinking back to all the time she gazed at a map of Kyokai. “I think Fushima’s the closest.”

“It’s also the cheapest fare.” A voice stated behind her.

Aya jumped, surprised as she was ripped from her thoughts. She looked back and saw a grizzled man wearing a cloak, with a thick coil of hempen rope slung around a shoulder.

Sumanyo.2 I couldn’t help but notice your contemplation—I take it you’re from around here?” The man asked, his expression not unkind.

“Ah… yes, from Izu.”

“Izu, huh? What’re you doing here in Miwa, if you don’t mind me asking? It’s rare to see anyone from your village seeking passage across the sea.”

Aya gave an embarrassed smile, fidgeting idly with her hair. “I’m on an adventure, sir. To see the world.”

The old man’s eyebrows raised, though his expression remained otherwise stoic.

“Can’t say I’ve heard that one before.” He finally said with a short laugh. “An adventure, huh.”

Aya blushed and looked down at her feet as she felt her ears grow hot from embarrassment. Just as she was almost ready to turn about and walk away from the man, he called back out to her.

“Do you have the coin to get to Fushima, Adventurer-hana.” The man asked with a smile.

“It’s Aya. And I think I do.” She looked back at the price. 200 En. “I should.”

“Well, Aya-hana, it’s a pleasure. Listen, I sail that ferry over there.” He pointed at a small vessel with two red triangular sails named the Miwa no Tenshi. “I already have a few passengers lined up, but there’s room for one more. If you have the coin, I have your boat.”

Aya picked out two 50 and then ten 10 En coins, then opened her palm out toward the man. “200 En, right?”

When he only took half of what she produced, she looked back at her money confused. “But the sign…”

“Forget about the sign, Aya-hana.” The captain of the Miwa no Tenshi said with a grin. Walking off toward his boat, he motioned for her to follow. “Come now, it’ll be a windy day—can’t let that go to waste, now can we?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Aya leaned over the edge of the boat, letting her fingers glide along the surface of the water. The Strait of Sankatsugawa was still for the moment, but with hours to go before hitting the shores of Joushu, and the wind distinctly picking up, the captain of the Miwa no Tenshi seemed to think that the waters would become rough in only a matter of time. Sliding back into her seat along the starboard side of the small sailing vessel, she watched the other passengers curiously.

She wondered why they all traveled that day, across the waters. How many people, she wondered, made this trip every day? A voyage such as this was a large endeavor for the villagers of Izu. In fact, most of the people from her village had never left Izu, let alone the island. Glancing to the Miwa no Tenshi’s other passengers, however, Aya couldn’t help but wonder what their lives were like.

A younger woman held her baby to her breast, shielding him from the chill winds and the salt spray. Aya figured she was likely leaving to see her husband, or perhaps family members on the mainland. An older gentleman, stooped with a cane and a long beard wrapped himself tightly in his cloak. She wondered if he was a traveling monk or an elderly scholar on his own adventure.

Until she felt the waves start to get choppy, and the winds pick up, she had given every other passenger a story of their own. Daydreaming certainly helped to pass the time on her voyage.

The Captain of the Miwa no Tenshi asked that everyone go below-deck as the waters became rougher. They still had another few hours to go before reaching the coast. They did so, though Aya was careful to remain as close to a window or opening as she could. She wanted to be the first to see land as they approached. Before she climbed belowdeck, she noticed the sky growing dark under a blanket of gray.

She felt the ship creak from below deck, and the vessel rocked to and fro as the waves tossed it about. Sitting against a bulkhead, with one hand clamped around a post, Aya willed herself not to get seasick. Though she had been out to sea plenty of time, she had always taken caution not to go out in rougher waters. Looking to the other passengers, she obviously wasn’t the only one feeling the bile rising to her throat.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

The hours crept by with little respite from the rough seas, which only seemed to get rougher as time crept onward. She could hear the ship’s crew yelling to each other above deck, and the captain barking orders as he steered the vessel through what felt to be a storm. Aya was nauseous, but felt she had nothing in her stomach to wretch up. Perhaps then it was good that she hadn’t eaten anything in over twenty four hours.

Whatever storm the gods threw at their tiny ship—if it indeed could even be considered a storm—it made Aya wonder if the divines had it out for its captain. Nevertheless, as the maelstrom outside seemed to reach its peak, she could hear some of its passengers pleading with the God of the Sea, Soumei, for safe deliverance across the strait. 

The boat lurched ferociously, and the sounds of creaking wood and strained rope mixed with the yells of the crew on deck. Aya realized she was shaking violently—perhaps due to the cold, or her terror, she wasn’t quite sure. She closed her eyes tightly and wished there was a spell of calming that she knew—none came to mind. So instead, like the other frightened passengers, she gave a desperate prayer to the divines above to have mercy on their ship and spare their lives.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

After some time, she felt the ship start to steady. Her knuckles were white from gripping the edge of the bulkhead so tightly; she found it difficult even then to let go. Attempting to stand, her legs felt like jelly. Aya noticed then that the yells had calmed from above deck, and it seemed as though the sounds of the wind had died off as well.

Unsteadily, she ascended the steps to the top deck, squinting as the light of day met her eyes. When her vision cleared, she audibly gasped.

The deck was a mess of sea salt and debris from loose bits of wood and rigging. One of the sails was ripped, but still functioning. Looking to the sky, its hue was a deep unhappy gray all around, though directly overhead she could see blue. Further down the strait, the clouds were as dark as pitch, and a misty haze enveloped the sea where she knew torrential rain was falling.

They were in the eye of a storm.

“A squall.” The captain said, his voice gravely as he approached the curious passengers who emerged from below deck. “We’re at its center. But it’ll hit us again soon enough, though it’s most likely we’ll be moored nearby Fushima by then.”

“A squall?” Aya asked, her voice sounding hollow to her own ears.

“Aye. A quickly passing storm. Sometimes they can be quite destructive, though.” The captain explained, wiping his brow to clear the saltwater from his hair and eyes. “Apologies everyone, for what happened there. We saw the ox-eye clouds off to the distance of Miwa, but didn’t expect it to turn this way.”

The passengers looked shaken from the whole ordeal. The captain gave a small understanding smile. “If anything, we’re already close to shore. The storm may have tossed us about, but it tossed us in the right direction.”

Aya looked toward the bow of the ship and her eyes widened.

The rugged coastline of Joushu loomed far ahead, and despite the misted fog that lay over the land and sea, she could see the jagged peaks of mountain ranges, the high cliffs and rolling hills, and the rocky coastline. Her heart started to beat with renewed anticipation. Despite the trials she had to face, so soon after beginning her journey, the scene ahead of her, and the promise of a grand adventure seemed so very promising.

Kyokai lay ahead, in all its splendid grandeur. In all its newness and mystery, for the girl from Izu Village.

And yet, she knew her trials were only half complete. They lay in the eye of a storm, and were still a ways from the port of Fushima. Their boat carried them ever closer, however, and despite the sky darkening once more, they eventually made it to their destination; just as the wind started to pick back up.

“Come now, everyone off board. We need to get this ship away from the pier before the storm comes back. And you all need to get somewhere safe, with a roof overhead and a fire to keep you warm.” The captain urged as the boat’s plank was dropped from the ship to the dock.

Everyone off-boarded as quickly as they could, clutching their belongings as their shaky legs brought them back to solid land. Aya was the last to leave the ship, and before her feet hit the gangplank, the captain stopped her and grabbed her hand. He dropped 100 En into her hand.

She looked up to his weary face with confusion. The man offered a smile and nudged her toward the plank gently. “This was no way to start on one’s adventure. May the rest of your journey bring you great fortune, happiness, and clearer skies, Aya-hana.”

Before she could say much of anything, the crew of the Miwa no Tenshi, bringing supplies and cargo off board onto the pier—all quite in a hurry to finish the job—forced her off the ship and onto the docks. When she spotted the captain watching her from the deck of his ship, all she could muster was a grateful bow as she felt no words could sum up the gratitude she felt then.

With something of a heavy heart, she looked to the vast city ahead of her. 

Fushima awaited.


1 - Hoka no Kamote o kuraetai yo - Aya's Kyokan incantation, likely developed locally in Izu, to conjure a flame. This statement's rough translation would be "I want to create a divine flame."

2 - Sumanyo - Kyokan for "Excuse me." or "I'm sorry."

Last edited by Kamikaze_X on Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:25 pm; edited 3 times in total
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:32 pm
Bariis | Flamelle-Castinis Border

“There’s truly nothing you can do for him?”

Jeanne knelt beside the bloodied corpse, mangled beyond comprehension. A horse drawn cart had flown down the street, trampling this man before slamming into the side of a building. The horse and the driver would never walk again, but they would both live. This man, however, was less fortunate. He’d been dead for a while before she’d gotten there. His limbs were already becoming rigid, a surefire sign that he was beyond the point of being saved.

“Well?” the voice came again, more irritating than before. The villager had his arms crossed, glaring down at Jeanne as if she were responsible for the horrific accident. “Aren’t you going to do anything?”

“Look,” Jeanne stood, squaring up with the man, “when I saw you running down the street, calling for help, I assumed that your friend here was still alive. It’s been long enough that he’s already getting cold. There’s nothing to be done here.”

“Cast a spell on him, or whatever it is you monks do,” the man was shouting now, attracting even more attention to the scene. A crowd was forming around them. “I’ve seen others with that magic book come through here. They helped people. Why carry that book of miracles when you refuse to use them?”

“I can’t bring your man back to life,” Jeanne said, “and I’m not going to waste paper trying. I’m sorry, truly. If there was something I could do, I would do it. I’m no beast.”

Jeanne turned to walk away, but felt a hand grip her forearm. Initially, she was expecting to have to defend herself from this hysterical man, but the hand felt far too small to belong to him. She turned to see a young boy, tears rolling down his cheeks. His eyes glanced towards the destroyed body and then back to her. Was the dead man a father to this boy? Uncle? Guardian? It didn’t matter. She knelt down in front of the boy and embraced him.

“I am sorry,” she said to him. “I am so sorry.”


Jeanne sat at the open windowsill, enjoying some evening wind. It’d been a long day. Two had died, not counting the man from the accident. Some were bloodied, others were sick. For the sick, there was little they could do. Modern medicine was preventative. Too many would walk into the clinic when it was far too late to reverse their conditions. More often than not, all they could offer was a room for a night, a temporary quarantine to keep them away from their healthy families.

“You okay?” the voice came behind her, followed by the lingering smell of pipe smoke.

“Yeah, Ed,” Jeanne said, turning to the thin man. “I’m okay.”

“Long day, huh,” he said, joining her at the windowsill. Though the smoke that followed him was nearly putrid, she was okay with accepting his company.

“Long day,” she repeated, shrugging. “Comes with the territory. How about you? You okay?”

“Not really,” he chuckled, quivering a little at the question. “Could use a drink. Care to join me?”

Jeanne smiled coyly. “I don’t want to get too comfortable here.”

“You could’ve just said no, heartbreaker.”

“Oh, please.”

They looked out on the streets for a while, darkness slowly overtaking the area. Torches were lit outside, illuminating a nearby clinic. It was smaller, a makeshift contraption of tents that looked like a hasty version of the aid stations Jeanne had once worked at. Men garbed in white worked there, drawing in civilians to test them for a strange disease. Jeanne knew nothing of it, but it was beginning to cause incredibly anxiety in the district. If a disease was erupting, that would mean great danger for the entire populace. Past outbreaks were evidence enough of the devastation they could cause. Whoever these men in white were, it appeared they were at least trying to prevent something terrible from occurring. Not eager to think more of the subject, Jeanne turned her attention to Ed. He was young, younger than her at least, with only a few strands of grey in his fiery red hair. Grey hair was the true mark of the medical profession. None could escape it. It always caught you.

“We really appreciate what you’ve done for us today,” Ed said to her, breaking the flow of her thoughts. “It’s not often we see strangers who are willing to help. You really are something else.”

“It’s my job,” Jeanne said, shrugging. “Even though I’m far away from home I’m not going to stop doing it. I’m not going to waste what was taught to me. That’s just stupid.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Ed laughed. “Surely you know most people don’t think that way. They see danger and blood and they just want to walk away. You stayed. I respect that. In fact, I talked with the staff here and they all feel the same way.”

“You don’t need to keep complimenting me. I already turned you down, you know.”

“And you don’t need to remind me. Look, I’m not asking you for a drink this time. I’m asking you to stay. For all of us. The hospital could use another pair of hands.”

“Ed, please.”

“We’d offer you room and board. Food, cleaning, an allowance, they’d all be provided for. You could make a big difference here.”

Jeanne bit her lip. The man was infatuated with respect for her, that was certain. In the hospital, most had treated her well, though she could not help but notice the odd looks she got from some civilians. Some feared the book at her side, as legends of their practices had crawled across the globe slowly. Most of them were truths twisted to become black and foul. Sometimes, as with the incident in the morning, they even expected her to perform far beyond her capabilities. As much as it pained her, Jeanne had to use her pages sparingly. Once an offering was put forth, it could never be used again. Only those who truly needed miraculous treatment were offered a page. Sometimes, if Jeanne believed she would only be prolonging the inevitable for a few more days, she would refrain from spending an offering. It hurt her, but it was necessary. She was far from home, and far from acquiring another grimoire.

“I can’t stay here,” she said softly, touching his hand. “Your hospital is a fine facility and your employees are more than competent. Like you said, I was only an extra pair of hands today. Your doctors know far more about medicine than I. My book can only do so much, despite what some may tell you. These people… someday they’ll come asking for more. I won’t be able to give it to them.”

“You don’t have to,” Ed said, gripping her hand. “They’ll understand. You just have to show them.”

“You’re far too optimistic, you know that?”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Jeanne stood up and released his hand. “I’m glad I was able to help today,” she said, her back to him. “I’m glad I was able to meet everybody here, to meet you. But I really can’t stay. I have to keep moving. What I’m looking for… it just isn’t here.”

Ed sat at the window, a colder breeze rolling through the room and chilling them both to the bone. Jeanne walked for the door, hand lingering on it for a second before opening. She turned to him, hoping to find fitting words for her exit. He looked to her, expecting anything, hoping for her to change her mind. She said nothing.

Jeanne left the hospital. She never came back.
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Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:34 pm

The people in white cloaks were more abundant than in the days past. Aereth wasn’t sure when she first started seeing them in Léon, but judging by their accents and their overall demeanor toward the people of Flamelle, they were certainly foreign. As she sat at a cafe that morning, one leg casually crossed over another, sipping a cup of tea, she watched one such character with curiosity.

“I beseech you, good people of Flamelle, to heed my words!” The white-cloaked man shouted from atop a wooden crate. 

He stood within a small circular stone courtyard, surrounded on all ends by small cafes and local restaurants. Though she had only arrived for a relaxing cup of tea and a pastry that morning, she knew at once the man had been there for hours already. He looked weary and worn down—perhaps he’d gained no one’s attention in all the time he had been standing there.

“A great plague torments the land! It’s only a matter of time before it comes here, if it hasn’t already. Please, good people, visit our clinics to be checked for this foul disease! Before it’s too late!”

Aereth rolled her eyes. Flamelle was a relatively clean country—at least within her own stomping grounds—such a disease would be unheard of. And being a proverbial gem of the world, Flamelle was likely far better off than other developing nations. Whatever disease that ‘plague prophet’ was yammering on about would find no home in the likes of her country.

Finishing her tea, she set her cup down and gave a contented sigh, tuning out the preaching zealot. It had already started to grate on her nerves.

With no real plans that day, she had considered simply heading out about Léon, or perhaps heading to the lakeside district of the city to relax for a while, allowing the soft waves of the lake to soak her feet.

“Miss, yes you, miss! With the tea, over there!”

Aereth found her wandering mind yanked back into reality. Her eyes found the plague prophet, who looked pointedly in her direction. She raised her eyebrows, pointing to herself questioningly.

“Yes, you! Do you not care for your wellbeing? Or that of your parents? Your husband? Your children!?

Aereth smirked, placing some Loréin down on her table to pay for the bill, then stood up to leave the cafe. Hands on her hips, she strolled over to the white-robed prophet.

“This plague of yours, I haven’t heard about it until you started going on and on. I don’t see anyone ill around here, and I’m around people all day.” Aereth stated flatly, casually gesturing toward the groups of other citizens milling about.

“Perhaps it hasn’t come here yet, but I assure you it shall if your people do nothing.” The prophet responded. “I’m a doctor, so I know this for sure.”

Aereth matched the man up against the Flamellen doctors she had known—by comparison, this prophet seemed more akin to a beggar than a physician. He wore tattered robes and a pair of worn sandals. His hair was unkempt and dirty—he looked unwashed, and smelled like it too. Giving him a distasteful look, she started to turn to leave.

“Will you be checked, Miss?” The prophet asked.

“I’d sooner drown myself in Lake Bourdeaux.” Aereth answered with a short laugh.

“You’d take those words back if you find yourself burying your children—you whole family!” The prophet shouted back, obviously frustrated by Aereth’s carefree attitude.

Aereth walked out from the courtyard and away from the shouting prophet. 

Then I suppose it’s good that no disease can infect ashes.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Lake glistened invitingly in the sunlight that afternoon. Sporadic clouds hung over the water, slowing, lackadaisically moving past as minutes turned to hours. Although Lake Bourdeaux was indeed enclosed on all sides—but for the Rivers Sein and Rein which flowed in from the north, and the River Somme from the south—its body was large enough that one would swear they were looking out to a vast sea with no discernible end in sight.

Although comparably cooler than the summer, the last few days had been unusually warm—enough to be able to lounge outdoors without the need for any heavier clothing. Taking full advantage of this lapse in seasonal coolness, and eager to rid her mind of the foreign ‘plague prophet’, she promptly headed for the lakeside of Léon.

Hours later, Aereth sighed as she lay on her back in the warm sand, soaking in the rays of the high Autumn sun. Bare-chested, like many others on the beach, she closed her eyes and found herself dozing—she decided to ignore the men who walked by, gawking so very obviously. As though they’d never seen a woman’s body before. 

Let them stare. Aereth thought with the hint of a smile playing on her lips. Perhaps one of them will entertain me tonight, if any have the backbone to approach.

Beyond spending and earning money, leisure was always Aereth’s favorite activity. It was something she hardly remembered from her youth—much of that was spent running, or scrounging for food, or groveling for scraps like a dog. But now? She had found her talent, and used it to make a life for herself. A life of self-meaning, and self-worth.

She didn’t need anything else. Even if anyone else would consider her ‘talents’ immoral, and her worldview perhaps a bit jaded and narcissistic.

Yes, leisure is what she desired. The lake offered that for her, in that moment. Just as seduction, thievery, and manipulation offered her a purpose in life.

She opened her eyes and spotted another man slowly walking by—his pointed staring at her obvious. Sighing, she expertly batted her eyelashes and rolled over onto her stomach facing away from him, casually lifting a leg and glancing over her shoulder back at the man, who had momentarily stopped in his tracks.

Hooked him, did I? Aereth thought, chuckling to herself.

He had started to make his way towards her until he stopped dead in his tracks. Aereth lifted her eyebrows when the man quickly turned in step and headed back along the water.

Well, that’s never happened before.

Turning away from the water, she almost jumped from her beach towel—inhaling sharply with a noise that sounded more like a hiss. Right in front of where she lay, a pair of black boots stood, belonging to a cloaked figure. Their face, hidden in the shadow of their hood, looked directly down at her.

“I see you’re still trying to fuck your way through the entire male population of Léon.” The masked figure said bluntly. The voice was female.

Aereth immediately recognized who’s voice it belonged to. Her eyes narrowed.

“Can I help you, Fiona?” Aereth answered with as bored a tone as she could muster. “You’re blocking the sun. Move.”

Fiona sidestepped after a moment. “The Guild has need of you.”

“I don’t answer to the Guild. You of all people should know that.”

“Indeed. However do remember that just as you scratch our backs from time to time, we scratch yours.” Fiona answered. “That last job you did in Sainté Bourdeaux—after a week, the man realized he was robbed when he went to the safe. You covered your tracks just fine, Aereth, but that didn’t stop him from going off to the authorities, pinning blame on the Guild.”

“And? Who cares?” Aereth answered after a moment. “It’s just one dullard with some money and a title. Sainté Bourdeaux doesn’t know where the Guild is located.”


“Fiona. There’s not a chance that they know where the Guild is. They’d be chasing shadows.”

“Ordinarily, you’d be correct. However, our sanctuary is now threatened. We scratched your back by not informing our moles in the city guard to rat you out,” Fiona answered, bending down until her hooded face was close to Aereth’s from where she still lay. “It’s your turn now to scratch ours.”
Posts : 974
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Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:39 pm
Bagrada, Maqae | Castinis

“You have to help her. You’re the only one who can.”

Wadha looked at the two with her arms crossed. They were dirty, tired, desperate. Scratch could barely support herself. Bandages covered her body, filthy with old blood. It didn’t look good for her. Alric stepped forward, a small bag of qa in his hand. His eyes were red and wild, the look of a crazed man.

“Please,” Alric said, attempting to place it in her hands. “We don’t know where else to go.”

“Just take the money and fix me up already,” Scratch said, her voice raspy.

Wadha sighed, eyes trailing to the slotted window as a few children ran past. Commotion could be heard outside, a usual sound for the apartment. Her home was deep within the city, a hole in an alleyway off of the main market road. Quarters were tight and confined, but it was clean. It wasn’t the slums, though the amount of murder sometimes made one forget that. In the center of Bagrada, crime was more organized, more professional. If someone was killed you knew it was for a reason. Wadha took comfort in that.

“I thought you two were leaving for good,” Wadha said, taking the bag of coin and sifting through it quickly. “People are already looking to replace you, Scratch. You ran business better than anyone else. A lot of people are upset about you leaving. Everybody loses.”

“It wasn’t my choice,” Scratch said, stumbling towards the table to lean on it. “The Teeth kicked me out. According to them, I was making too much.”

“This isn’t about business,” Alric said, shaking his head. “Can’t you see? This is about a human life. Scratch needs help. Now.”

Wadha looked from Alric’s hard eyes to Scratch and smirked. “He really hasn’t been in this world long, has he? Fine. We’ll get her looked at.”

Alric looked at her for a few moments, confirmed that she meant what she had said, and backed down. Life in Maqae was foreign to him, far different than what he experienced in Bikhari. In its capital, Madrigal, men were appreciated for how hard they worked. In Bagrada, men who worked were seen as foolish. The only way to come out on top in the cursed city was to step on the head of another, hard enough to bury them in the dirt. Liars and cheaters prospered here. It was not a life he was used to. Alric walked to a seat at the table and pulled it out. Before he sat, Wadha got his attention.

“I don’t think so,” she said, stepping forward. “I don’t want you hovering around here when the doctors arrive. You’ll make them nervous.”

“Are they really that fragile?” Alric said.

“Leave. Let her be for a while. Take a break, find a whore, do something to get your mind off of this. She will be fine and, trust me, she will find you later. She’s working for your money, after all. Gabriel is bound to have something to keep your mind busy. Where is he?”

“Let’s not talk about Gabriel,” Scratch said, voice weak. “One thing at a time. Please.”

“Fine,” Wadha said. She beckoned for one of the silent shadows in her room to step forward. Whispering a few words in the man’s ear, he nodded and quickly left the building. “You do the same, Alric. Leave. Wait in the plaza. We will come to you tonight.”

“Very well,” Alric said, hesitantly. “This treatment better be worth our time. Neither of us wanted to come back here.”

“Fortunately for you,” Wadha said with a smile, jingling the bag of qa in her hand, “you get what you pay for.”
Posts : 2509
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[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:42 pm

It was likely that Fushima would have been a beautiful city, filled with charm and character. After all, it sat as a port city, looking out to the greenish-blue glacial waters of the Sankatsugawa Strait, and the northern Hagane Ocean. Cultures from around the world came at a crossroads there with merchants touting their wares at the marketplaces; many selling exotic trinkets, foreign spices, or expensive treasures to the perceptive shop-goers of Kyokai. Fushima was a city of wealth, beauty, and intrigue. Aya had entered with wide eyes, filled with curiosity and anticipation of her adventure’s grand beginning.

Intrigue turned to dismay and loneliness however, as Aya stood alone in a city of many thousands.

The winds of the storm had started to howl through the city as its eye had started to move. As she stood in a cobbled square with large buildings surrounding on all sides, Aya felt the first drops of rain start to fall. Drawing her cloak tightly about her, she felt as though she was to be blown about by the wind as it grew in intensity.

When she noticed that everyone who had been out and about quickly heading for their homes, Aya made her way down the main street to look for an available inn to take refuge. The streets cleared quickly of people seeking shelter. So quick that many of the nearby inns lost any and all vacancies.

As the rain started to fall as larger and larger drops, Aya knew the storm would be ferocious. She felt the panic inside her starting to grow with each passing minute. Passing one inn after another, her eyes caught the signs hanging from posts nearby their sliding doors—stating either “NO VACANCIES”, or pricing that far exceeded anything she carried from Izu.

Biting her bottom lip, she came to the entrance of the last inn within the large courtyard nearby the pier. Its owner had just greeted a party of three into its busy entranceway and gave Aya a look of pity before turning over the sign near the door.


Aya stood watching, helpless, as the sliding door was shut in front of her. The rain fell in earnest as the storm approached. The wind howled as it rushed through the city. Even from where she was, she could hear the waves smashing against the pier.

Despite the patchy cloak that was wrapped about her, she was quickly becoming thoroughly soaked to the bone. Utterly miserable, and finding her situation helpless, Aya aimlessly walked about the main street until she found a narrow alleyway between buildings. Though slightly ashamed of the thought, Aya saw no other option than to wait out the storm there in the alley. Though she’d have no refuge from the rain, perhaps the buildings would dampen the force of the wind blowing through.

Sitting alongside a large wooden crate that sat alongside one of the alley walls, she hugged her knees, drawing them in close. It was only then that she realized how badly she had been shivering. 

Thunder rolled in, loud and hard. Lightning flashed in the sky as everything became quite dark, with the only light coming from the buildings outside the alley. She was left in darkness. A long cracking noise made her jump, frightened, though she knew not where it came from. More thunder. More lightning. More rain and more wind.

And the loneliness truly crept in. Her thoughts went back to Izu, her warm little home, and her loving parents. She wondered how the village was doing, and whether everyone was still out in the fields that day. Every thought of home made her heart sink just a little bit more, and the consideration of forgetting about her grand adventure and simply returning to Hekkaido became more real. Certainly, no one would think any less of her for returning so soon.

Tears fell down her cheeks, easily mistaken for rainwater. Shivering from the cold and utterly soaked from the driving rain, she weeped silently there in the alley of Fushima.

A city of many thousands. And one.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When she woke the following morning, Aya was curled in a ball next to the crate. Her clothing was drenched, though having laid in a puddle for the duration of the night certainly didn’t help. 

Peering down at her reflection in the water from where she lay, her eyes were tired and bloodshot. Her dark hair was matted and wet with bits of debris from whatever flew through the alley during the storm.

Sitting up straight Aya wordlessly gathered up her cloak and rucksack and headed out from the alley. She immediately met the hustle and bustle of the city, however its vibrance and activity somehow lost its luster for her.

When passersby started to gaze at her disheveled appearance, she averted her eyes with shame. For a moment, she looked toward the pier, at all the ships being prepared for departure, but something deep within forced her feet to turn away. Walking down an adjacent street and away from the portside, she noticed several trees that had been ripped from the ground, roots and all—she figured that was the ripping sound she heard the night before from the alley. With measured interest, she watched as people helped to pick up litter and debris that was thrown around during the storm.

Hugging her cloak about her, she made her way south through Fushima, following the signs pointing anywhere else but where she was. If any happiness was to be gleaned from her current situation, it was that the sun was out, and would eventually help to dry her clothing.

After a long time of walking, the outer walls of Fushima rose in front of her. A massive gate towered ahead, guarded on both sides by two warriors bearing long pole-blades. She noticed other soldiers walking the walls. No one bothered to stop the miserable looking peasant girl when she passed beneath the gates—not even a “good day” or “safe travels”, which would have been expected in Izu.

Are all city folk like this? Aya wondered dejectedly. 

As she faced the coming wilderness, which seemed to stretch far into the southern horizon in front of her, she felt her spirits finally start to rise once more. Outside the walls of Fushima, farmland spread across a vast plain to her east. The main road ran along the coast, granting full views of the rocky Kyokan coastline and the rushing waters of the Strait of Sankatsugawa. Though the day was sunny, clouds blanketed the area in which her island of Hekkaido lay.

With afternoon fast approaching, and very little in her grumbling stomach, Aya moved off the road and on the grassy ledge overlooking the ocean. Far enough from the walls of Fushima, as well as the farmland that lay just outside, she decided to strip down to her undergarments to give her soaked clothing time to dry in the sun. Careful to place some rocks on top of the clothing so as to not have them blow away in the wind, Aya hummed to herself as she lay out on the grassy slope and opened her pack to take stock of her food.

Though her bag was soaked through as well, her food had been wrapped in large leaves to keep everything dry. Pulling out a rice cake and unwrapping it, she felt her mouth start to water. Her hunger had been intense, having not eaten a thing since she was onboard the Tenshi no Miwa. Nevertheless, she took care to thank the Gods for her meal, and appropriately rationed any leftovers to add to her stock. Though she was ravenous, she hardly wanted to run through her meager food supplies on only day three of her adventure.

Upon eating her fill, Aya spent some time simply watching the waves and listening to the wildlife of the plains. Eventually, however, she sighed and picked herself from the ground and brushed leaves of grass from her undergarments. Stretching, she bent down and felt to see if her clothes were any dryer. Making a face, she picked everything up from the ground.

“Still damp… oh well.”

Ahead, a vast woodlands stretched out on the side of the road opposite the coast. Once she finished dressing, she hiked up her pack once more and set off down the road. Hearing the sounds of nature helped to further brighten her spirits as she tried to forget all about the night before. Birds flittered overhead, tweeting and chirping as they chased each other into the trees. Butterflies danced about the wildflowers growing in the fields at the edge of the road near the eves of the woodlands, their colors already muted as if in preparation for the coming winter’s hibernation.

A brisk Autumn wind rushed along the coast, rustling the leaves in the trees. It felt liberating, for Aya as she breathed in the fresh air deeply. The sun rose and started to fall in the blue sky overhead; the day waned and the sun had started to set.

Off the road, Aya made her camp. Finding a clearing she set stones in a circle once more and prepared another fire, uttering the magic words she had been taught so long ago by her mother. Luckily, she had plenty of dead branches and kindling nearby, so she needn’t fear for her fire going out with nothing to keep it going. Sitting by the flames, her eyes were drawn to its burning embers, the peaceful snapping and popping helping her to all but forget the dismal start to her adventure.

Nevertheless, she peered across the fire and sighed.

How nice it would be for someone else to be sitting there. To have someone, anyone to talk to would be a wonderful treat.

Using her pack as a pillow, she let her still damp clothing dry nearby the fire as she wrapped herself in a hand-sewn blanket her mother had given her for her journey. She found that she quickly drifted off to sleep, as though blanketed in her parents’ warm embrace.
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:04 pm

Aya spent the following three-and-a-half days journeying south, eventually following the signs to a town named Kumano. Sitting by her campfire during the nights before her arrival there, she wondered if she would stumble into any bears there.

What she found instead, however, was a town centered within an evergreen paradise. Rolling hills topped by spruce and cedar dominated the area, surrounded by a dense woodland. Turning on the main road toward the town, however, she was greeted by a series of breathtakingly blue lakes, and a bustling town nestled on the edge of the largest body of water, which she came to find out was named Kuma Lake.

Travelers of all kinds made their way through Kumano, either on foot, by horse, or onboard a convoy of wagons. A large area seemed to be dedicated to merchants of all kinds as well, with many outdoor stalls and permanent shops lying in a large semi-circle just off the dirt road. Unlike Fushima, much to Aya’s surprise, the people in Kumano seemed a friendlier sort.

For a start, she was greeted almost immediately upon entering the town by a few lazy looking town guards. Though, the look in their eyes suggested something more than simply being friendly toward her. As she walked past, she couldn’t help but feel their eyes lingering on her for a while before turning back to their posts.

Walking without any real purpose, she took in the small town and all it had to offer. The architecture of the buildings in particular interested her—homes and buildings were a mishmash of different sizes and shapes, with sloping curved roofs of both traditional Kyokan tilework, or even hay thatch. Many were made of darker colored woods, and boasted interesting personal gardens that surrounded their exterior. A few of the older looking homes had moss or vines growing up their sides, adding a wonderful contrast against the deep blue color of Kuma Lake. Buildings sitting directly at the edge of the water had their own boardwalk and docks. Several smaller dinghies and fishing boats sat out in the water, their owners hanging over the edge with nets or fishing lines.

Between small homes, clothing lines ran along poles, colorfully vibrant kimono and robes fluttered in a breeze while two housewives spoke candidly nearby. Aya spotted a few hunters come out from the forest, some holding sacks of what she assumed their recent kills, other dragging small deer behind them on a tarp to get ready for a butcher. Children ran about in bare feet on the dirt streets, laughing happily and enjoying the time they had together before they returned home for their suppers.

Watching the vivacious attitudes of Kumano’s people, Aya couldn't help but smile slightly as she took everything in. This was certainly what she thought of when she dreamed of traveling through Kyokai.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The cart was moving. With a few diplomatic trades, Kaz managed to supply himself with a couple oxen. They did not possess the typical vitality of a normally well-fed beast, but they seemed to respond well to direction. One of the oxen was noticeably thinner than the other, causing the cart to drift on occasion. Correcting it constantly was bound to get on Kaz's nerves, but they had no other choice but to deal with it.

"I broke my rule about selling rifles to locals," Kaz said to Mayu, finally acknowledging the slew of questions she had that morning. "The bumpkin doesn't have the powder or the know how to get the thing working, but he knew it would be the perfect mantelpiece.”

"If it's that easy, maybe you should start handing the guns out more often," Mayu said. "Not like we're going to use them.”

"That's not how you treat an investment, my dear. This was an emergency situation. Once the villagers start showing more coin and less half-dead oxen, I might be willing to put on a few more dramatic displays of weaponry.”

The streets were fairly active, a feature that Kaz had always been fond of. So many moving to and fro almost gave him the illusion he was on the move himself. Different faces, different products, and numerous failed and successful investments created a vast history for the modest streets. He felt Mayu's hand grip his arm as they slowly made their way past the various trade stalls she had worked at herself. A few wayward glances from a few of the workers, workers she recognized, gave her great pain.

"They understand," Kaz said to her. "They do. They're good people. You know that.”

"Yeah," she said, clearly unconvinced. As they rode along, they each became increasingly aware of a unique figure they were gaining on. Amidst the hustle of street traffic, a girl stood out from the rest, and not in a good way. She was covered in the filth of travel, perhaps another wayward soul lost in the traffic of life. It was a rare sight, but still far too common than it should have been.

The cart kept moving, the pace picking up. They passed the girl, others in the crowd weaving around the cart as they pushed through. Far ahead, Kaz could see the road beyond beckoning him towards adventure. That road held a promise. It would bring change, great success, and happiness for him and his wife. The possibilities would be endless. Once their stock was sold, they could move on and do whatever they wanted wherever they wanted. Kaz could barely contain his smile.

It quickly disappeared when he felt the wagon buckle beneath him. The front right wheel broke loose, causing the wagon to tip forward at an awkward angle and smash into the dirt road.

"Shit," Kaz said, voice rising. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…"

The oxen complained in unison, both stopping once they realized the cart would no longer move. Kaz carefully lowered himself off the side, caring for his crippled limb. The spokes on one half of the wheel had been snapped, compromised. Kaz's faces was pure white, the surprise agony spreading over his face.

"Kaz..." Mayu said, dropping down to investigate with him. "Are you okay?”

"The wagon sure isn't..." Kaz trailing off into a stream of curses under his breath.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Aya had moved aside to allow a man and woman to ride past in their wagon, a pair of malnourished oxen cautiously heading up their entourage. Just as she was about to continue down the street to find an inn to spend the night, however, the sounds of splitting wood and cursing prompted her to turn back around.

The cart that had just passed had broken down, its drivers making a racket in the middle of the road while their oxen kicked the ground in aggravation. Aya took a step forward, looking to the other citizens, some of whom had already walked off, ignoring the scene around them. Many looked prepared to help, but hadn’t made a move yet.

Aya thought back to her time, only a few days before, sitting miserably in an alleyway in Fushima to wait out a storm. Though she blamed no one in particular, she had wished at the time that someone—anyone—would have taken a moment to lend her a hand. Breathing in, she just hoped these two would be friendly…

She approached awkwardly, sidestepping around the wagon to try and gain their attention.

“Um… uh…. wo-would you maybe need some help?” She asked, her hands fidgeting somewhat nervously.

She never believed, back in Izu, that she could be bad around other people, but perhaps her short time spent in Fushima truly did leave a lasting impression. She felt out of place and awkward, even in so lovely a place as Kumano. Even moreso, she felt filthy—likely because she truthfully was still disheveled mess since the storm, and camping out at night every night.

They must think I’m some sort of vagabond peasant girl.

Kaz, still experiencing a wide wariety of emotions, flipped around the moment he heard a voice, fully prepared to fend off complaining travelers. He took a comically deep breath as he turned, as if he intended to blow away whoever was interrupting his intense examination of a clearly broken wheel. His eyes opened wide when he discovered the voice was coming from none other than the wanderer he had observed from before.

"I..." Kaz's face went red for a moment, filled with shame at the anger that had flown through his body like a bullet. Before, he hadn't noticed much about the girl other than that she was covered head to toe and filth. Now, close up, he knew that this was not a girl who had been living in misery for long. She was in fairly good health and shape, a figure that you do not see on those who are born in poverty. The woman appeared to be quite anxious, or maybe even frightened. Kaz's shame grew even more. Very quickly and adeptly, the formerly frightening face he had been wearing slowly morphed into the kind, smiling disguise of a seasoned trader.

"Well, it appears I've hit an impasse within the first five minutes of my journey," Kaz explained to her. "The wheel is broken, yes. We have a spare. We can swap it out. It's nothing to worry about, girl. We can handle it.”

"Kaz," Mayu's voice was sharp enough to make him flinch. "If we don't get help we'll be out here for the rest of the day.”

"We work hard, that we do," Kaz said, turning back to the wheel. Mayu shook her head, focusing her full attention on the girl. She made no attempts to appear friendly, as she was still unaware of her often imposing presence. Standing taller than most women and possessing a voice that could cause a tree to shiver, it was difficult for her to say anything without it sounding like an order.

"Help us," she said, simply. "Kaz is stubborn. Even after a decade he still doesn't know his limits. We'd gladly accept your help.”

Aya looked to the broken wheel for a moment. “I’ll help however you need me to. Looks like you’d need to tip the wagon the other way to get that wheel off.” Aya suggested, happy that the couple seemed friendly enough, if a bit frustrated.

Kaz looked up from the broken wheel and to Aya, hopeless frustration departing from his face. For the moment, his smile seemed rather genuine and appreciative. Even Mayu had a weakness to that smile, as much as she hated to admit it. It was the expression of a man you could trust, the expression of someone who you could become friends with in moments.

"You're a smart girl," he said to Aya, chuckling. "A genius, perhaps? Maybe. Mayu, let's follow the girl's advice."

"Yes," Mayu let a small smile break on her face. "Let's."

Pulling out a ring with several keys on it, he flipped them around for a moment before finding the one that would open the back doors of the wagon. The padlock, old as it was, took a few shakes before it would unlock. Swinging the doors open, he stepped back and let the hinged ramp fall to the ground.
"Watch your step," Kaz said, "and your head, Mayu."

"Yeah, yeah," Mayu grumbled, slouching as she entered. "You don't have to remind me every time."

The wagon was filled to the brim with crates of all sizes. Some were closed up with locks, others had open tops. Barrels of black powder lined the front of the wagon. Several of the open crates held stacks of rifles, others had an assortment of ammunition and bayonets, an attachment that Kaz was working on popularizing.

"I don't know if my back is ready for this," Kaz sighed, chuckling in spite of it. "Luckily we have some young blood to help out us old timers. Girl, I do hope this idea of yours works–"

"Maybe instead of calling her 'girl,' we could ask if she actually has a name," Mayu crossed her arms, glancing at Kaz expectantly.

"My, you're right, Mayu, as ever," Kaz scratched his head, embarassed at his readiness to employ the help of a stranger without a name. "I completely forgot to even ask, which was certainly rude of me. May I ask for a name before we start? Mayu is right. Calling you 'girl' constantly is a bit demeaning."

Aya gave her most pleasant smile and bowed low, as if to a provincial lord—as peasants from the countryside were accustomed toward doing toward those of higher status.

"My apologies, I should've introduced myself earlier. My name is Aya. Sasaki Aya."

"Pleasure to meet you, Aya," Kaz said, bowing slightly. "You may have already picked up on it, but my name is Nakano Kazuki. This is my wife–"

"Mayu," his wife said, smiling thinly. "I have this incredible ability of introducing myself. It's great."

"Yes, she can speak," Kaz chuckled, shaking his head. "She calls me stubborn, but it's a two way road."

"Now we all know each other," Mayu said, ignoring her husband and clapping her hands together. "We should probably get to work. At this rate, we won't have much of the day left to travel."

"If you don't mind, Aya," Kaz said to the girl, motioning her towards a crate filled to the brim with weapons. "We should probably get the rifles out of the way, first. They're heavy, mind you. Don't underestimate them."

Aya looked toward the crates that Kaz had motioned toward, her eyes settling on the products that lay within. “R-rifles..? Are they tools of some sort?”

For Aya, who had never ventured from the remote village of Izu, firearms were a foreign concept to her. She looked to the intricate metal work and inlaid wooden designs that spanned across the rifles with wonder and curiosity. Nevertheless, she attempted to lift the crate herself, learning just how heavy a stack of firearms could be. With some bit of struggling, she set the crate down on the ground alongside the broken cart, away from the road.

“They’re so heavy!” Aya exclaimed once she set the crate down, rubbing her arms with surprise.

"Tools," Mayu said to Aya, grunting as she lifted a seperate crate. "Sure."

"I wasn't kidding, Aya," Kaz laughed as they worked. "Heavy duty! Nothing to scoff at."

They toiled for some time, each of them getting sweaty in the enclosed space of the wagon. With each crate and barrel, they felt the cart slowly leaning back. Periodically, Kaz would walk out and examine the wheel to see if it was up far enough. After about an hour of work, he determined that they were ready for the change.

"Now, time for the new wheel," Kaz said, sifting around some of the junk in the wagon until he came upon his desired object. Eventually, he lifted a hefty wooden wheel up, a smile on his face. It was far from being new, but, at the very least, it wasn't broken. The wheel had likely been with the wagon since they'd first purchased it. Kaz was hoping that all this work wouldn't just lead to the second wheel busting immediately after, but it was the only chance they had.

"Aya, if I could have you carry this while I get the old wheel off, that'd be great," Kaz didn't wait for much of a response, passing the wheel on as he walked by the girl. Outside, the broken wheel was lifted a few inches off the ground–just enough for them to get to work. He worked behind the wheel, pulling out a few bits of iron until the wheel started to become wobbly. Mayu was quick to pull the old wheel off, tossing it in the back of the wagon.

"Alright, Aya, just stick that sucker on and we'll be almost ready to roll," Kaz said, holding the wheel locks in his calloused hands.

Aya grunted as she lifted the new wheel into place on the axel, her arms shaking from the exertion. “Almost…. there….” After some effort, the wheel slid onto the axel, and was firmly locked into place by Kaz.

Sighing, Aya wiped her brow of sweat, taking a moment to admire the work she had helped with. Looking to her hands, however, she couldn’t help but grimace when she noticed how dirty she had become. Likely even more dirty and unkempt than when she had entered Kumano.

Though she was certainly used to being somewhat dirty, having worked in rice fields and pastures for most of her life, she felt embarrassed around people who perhaps were not accustomed to such a lifestyle.

If I have the coin, I’ll spend some time at the local bathhouse, perhaps. I’m sure Kumano has one. Aya thought. Though I might not have anymore to use for lodging. I suppose I can find a spot to camp nearby…

With the wheel secured, the wagon was fully operational. Kaz sighed with relief as he stood back to examine their effort. It didn't take them much more than an hour to fix it up. They received plenty of complaints from people passing by with their own carts, but he paid them no mind. Kaz was happy enough that they managed to avoid another catastrophe.

"Thank you for the help, Aya," Mayu said to the girl, smiling. "It was thoughtful for someone your age to even stop by. Most would keep walking, as you can tell."

"You are truly a paragon for your generation," Kaz laughed, joining them. "I'm a bit of an old timer, so maybe I can help instill some advice. Hard work pays off, Aya. I don't want you to ever doubt that. In fact, I'm going to prove it to you right now. It's nearly lunchtime, and I'm in the mood for some dumplings. Do you like dumplings, Aya?"

Aya perked up immediately, only realizing how hungry she had been once reminded by the mention of dumplings. “I do! However… I don’t have much coin, and I had planned on using what I do have at the local bathhouse.” Aya confessed, her cheeks blushing slightly. “I did pack some rations from home too… so, I think I can manage.”

"You already paid for your lunch, Aya," Kaz said, stabbing his thumb towards the fresh wheel on the wagon. "I'm a businessman, money is no issue. It's my treat."

Kaz felt the look from Mayu as he said this. It was a glance of slight disapproval. Money was tight, after all, but selling the 'mantelpiece' to that farmer had yielded a fair amount of coin. Treating the girl to a meal wouldn’t be frugal of him, but he had to repay her somehow. Dumplings was a good place to start.

“Trust me, I know just the guy,” Kaz said. “He runs a stand by the lake. It’d be a good way for us to say goodbye to this place. Seriously. I insist. Come with us!”
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:17 pm

Ichiro was born for the open water—to the point his wife swore the Sea God, Soumei, must have raised him from the depths of the sea at birth. Though he spent a fair amount of his time on dry land, his legs could never get used to the feeling of such stillness. Indeed, though his home was the small fishing village of Mibu, off the southern coast of Joushu, his ship—the Arashihime—felt more like his sanctuary than anywhere else.

After Hiroyuki’s birthday celebration ended, and each of the ships and their crews took their leave of the ad hoc fleet, Ichiro took the helm of his Arashihime and pointed her due south east, further from land and toward the best fishing spots he knew. His crew, eager for the catch, quickly headed for their stations on board the ship.

As minutes turned to hours and their work went on, Ichiro found himself absentmindedly steering the ship. The routine was so ingrained, he hardly had to think anymore when behind the wheel of his ship, leaving every motion to muscle memory. He simply let his mind wander.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The memories of their fateful meeting was as vivid as though it happened just a day ago, though it had been six months since. It was a routine day out on the sea, though only just after a tremendous storm tore through the Arashi Sea. It was always just after a major storm that the best fishing could be done, and knowing this, the crew of the Arashihime prepared themselves to head out extra early that morning.

As the ship slowly cut through the water to a stop amidst the choppy waves of the Arashi Sea, Ichiro had his crew drop anchor and prepare the nets. Heading down his starboard side, something farther out in the water caught his eyes. Debris floated along the surface of the ocean, rising and falling fitfully with each wave. Ichiro shielded his eyes from the morning sun, squinting to try and decipher what the flotsam exactly was. 

Despite the waves, he could just make out the long wooden plank, and what desperately grasped onto the top of it. His mind had started to race, wondering if someone had capsized in the storm and managed to survive.

What kind of foolish person would go out in a storm like that?! Ichiro thought incredulously. “Souji, lower the rowboat! Someone’s in the water out there.”

Souji, his deckhand, immediately spotted the figure Ichiro pointed at and lowered the small rowboat into the water from where it hung on the side of their ship. Getting in with Ichiro, the two rowed through the waves, passing smaller pieces of debris on the way.

“What in the world…” Souji started as they approached the figure clinging to the plank. He looked with understandable concern to Ichiro. “What is it? What do we do?”

Ichiro looked at the figure long and hard. He assumed whoever they found would be human, however to their surprise, what they found was most certainly non-human. He had never seen anything like it before in his life—it was humanoid at first glance, however bore strikingly feline features. It’s stature was also quite large, compared to a human.

“Well, we can’t leave ‘em floating in the water, now can we?” Ichiro finally responded. “Help me lift ‘em. We’re bringing it back to the ship.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When the cat-man woke, the ship had already started for home. Their catch was finished early so they could return to the coast before the sun set. Ichiro recalled the cat man, whom they found out after some probing, that his name was Kaie—despite a fairly high language barrier. Kaie likely tried to explain more of his situation to him, however his strange tongue bore no resemblance to any other language the Kyokans had ever heard before.

Ichiro recalled watching Kaie’s expression turn to wonder as they approached the outlying southernmost Islands of Yamato, heading west along the coast of Kyokai. Kaie’s eyes gleamed eagerly, perhaps with building apprehension, as he beheld what seemed to be a totally foreign land pass him by—the high grassy cliffs, the windswept and gnarled evergreens, cherry, and juniper trees, the high jagged chains of mountains that dominated the islands of Kyokai.

Slipping around the finger-like Cape of Genma, their ship headed due north into a vast bay. When they finally approached the tiny twinkling lights of the sleepy village of Mibu, Ichiro could see how overwhelmed the poor shipwreck survivor seemed to be. He offered Kaie a place to stay with his family—in fact, he insisted—even knowing the risk it brought to his wife and children, and truly the whole village of Mibu.

Nevertheless, for the following months, Ichiro attempted to bring Kaie into the village’s embrace. It took surprisingly little time before he seemed to gain a grasp on the Kyokan language, slowly but surely becoming more and more conversational with Ichiro and his family.

His wife, Yui, warmed up to Kaie quickly enough. And his two children—his eldest Satoru who was fifteen years of age and already eager to work alongside his father on the seas, and his daughter Kana, who at ten years of age was content to pick flowers in the meadows nearby, and help her mother pick rice and wheat from the fields—found a new friend in Kaie.

Ichiro took as much time as he could to teach Kaie of Kyokan ways, and to slowly introduce him to the village, and get the people there used to seeing such a strange Ryoku-jin1 in their midst. Like his family, it took little time for their acceptance as well. In four months, Kaie became as much a part of the village as anyone else. And though he was still learning the language, and Kyokan customs, he worked hard alongside Ichiro, and earned his keep.

As time passed, and with every samurai who traveled through the village, Ichiro was forced to hide Kaie, it became apparent that they could not keep living in such a manner for the rest of their lives. One day, a month before the present, Ichiro suggested that Kaie and he travel to their provincial capital, Fuyuzuki. 

The mid-sized coastal city lay on a peninsula that jutted out at the far western end of the bay on which Mibu sat. It took a few days of travel, but the two made it through their journey, and found their way in front of the Lord of Fuyuzuki, Oda Nobuhiro. Though Ichiro had heard the man was harsh; a military-bred samurai, it seemed that karma was on their side for the moment.

Evidently, Nobuhiro was far more curious of the world than he initially let on. It took little to gain Kaie’s citizenship—and the correct paperwork was filed with the Ministry of both Foreign and Domestic Affairs. They were able to leave that same day, back for Mibu, with the understanding that government officials would be checking up on them from time to time.

Naturally. It wasn’t every day that a foreign immigrant of a nation and species that none had ever seen nor heard of came to Kyokai. Leaving Fuyuzuki behind, Ichiro was certain that it wouldn’t be the last time they’d have to deal with the Kyokan government. His only worry was that someone as understanding and welcoming as Nobuhiro Oda wouldn’t be the one to deal with them in the future.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

His mind snapped back to the present as his ship rocked amongst the waves. Kaie sat next to where Ichiro steered the ship on a tall barrel, sharpening the tip of one of their gaffing hooks. Ichiro couldn’t help but smile, proud of how far the Toshkhat had come in such a short time. Once and a while, he worried that Kaie didn’t feel quite at home, or felt the sting of homesickness. Nevertheless, he did his best to make Kaie feel welcomed.

After a few final hours of sailing, their ship slipped into Mibu’s dock, the side of the Arashihime bumping gently against the edge of the pier as his crew tied her up and dropped anchor, Ichiro and Kaie set about emptying their nets and offloading their catch for the day.

“Another good catch, eh Kaie-jaan2?” Ichiro commented, clapping him on the back. “I didn’t get a chance to say it before, but what you did before with that Akumazame3… I was shocked! Thank you for saving Hiroyuki.” Ichiro laughed, scratching the back of his head. “Just glad his fortieth wasn’t his last birthday—and even more relieved you made it out of the water unharmed.”


1 - Ryoku-jin - Kyokan for "foreigner" formed of the words Ryokai for "Foreign Land" and ~jin for "Person of..." (denotes nationality).

2 - Jaan - Kyokan honorific used when speaking politely with another male. It's equivalent in Common would be to address someone as a "Mister".

3 - Akumazame - Kyokan for "Demon / Devil Shark", formed of the words Akuma for "Demon / Devil / Hellspawn" and Same / Zame for "Shark".

Last edited by Kamikaze_X on Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:57 am; edited 4 times in total
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:59 pm

The lake was serene, untouched by strife, sadness, anger, or any other emotion humanity tended to taint beautiful things with. The village was built around this body of water, a sort of anchor to reality everyone could rely on. Even when work was hard and food was scarce, the lake remained as a constant, one of the only things they could count on not changing for the worse. As one would expect, shopkeepers delighted in setting up their establishments around it. Locals and visitors alike never got tired of the sight. It inspired natural happiness.

"Happy people," Kaz said to himself, taking a sip of hot tea. "They love spending money."

"Is this another one of your epiphanies?" Mayu glanced at him, weariness evident in her voice. "Not at dinner."

"I'm just talking to talk," Kaz shook his head, grinning. "Just thinking about what makes this town great. This lake is a part of it."

Seating was arranged all along the lakeside, tables covered by just enough shade to avoid getting burnt by the sun. Conversation, laughter, and general merriment could be witnessed at all angles. Waitresses ran to and fro, collecting dumplings from the cooking shack and delivering them to hungry customers. Their table had been serviced quickly with plenty of food, enough to hopefully sate the young girl's hunger.

"Aya, how is it?" Mayu asked the girl. "Is the food to your liking?"

Between mouthfuls, Aya washed down the delicious food she had been served with water. It must have come from a river nearby, as it tasted crystal clear, reminding her of how similarly untainted Izu was. Kumano was completely different, offering a different sort of beauty from the pastoral farmland and terraced rice paddies of Izu. It wasn’t quite so hilly, and covered on all sides by dense forestation and the lake. The smells, the sights, the sounds—everything was different, yet at the same time, comfortingly similar. Even so far as the people that milled about.

The food held a taste like home. They reminded her of her mother’s dumplings, whenever the family would have the ingredients or the coin to afford such a luxury. She couldn’t remember the last time she had had any, so she savored every bite while she had the chance.

“It’s delicious!” Aya exclaimed, ending with a pleased sigh. “I can’t remember when the last time I had a dumpling was.” She gave the two a deep bow, her nose nearly dipping into her bowl of miso soup. “Many thanks for treating me like this.”

"I think it's a proper reward for a hard day of work," Kaz said, chuckling. "You really helped us out back there. With our old bodies the work would've taken twice as long without you."

"Where are you from, Aya?" Mayu said, smiling as pleasantly as she could manage. "From the looks of you, you've been on a long road."

For the first time since meeting Kaz and Mayu, Aya had remembered how disheveled she looked. Blushing, she ran a hand through her greasy, unkempt hair with some amount of embarrassment.

“It’s that obvious, huh?” Aya asked. “I’m from Izu, of Sendai Province. It’s a small little village to the north, on Hekkaido.”

"No need to be ashamed of your appearance," Mayu chuckled. "It makes you look like a soldier."

"We'll get you cleaned up," Kaz said, nodding. "I know the guy who runs bathhouse. We'll get you in, free of charge. I'll just tell him you're our long lost daughter or something. He's stupid enough to buy it."

"Regardless, I'm interested in why you're so far from home," Mayu said in a serious tone. "It's unusual for a girl to travel alone in these parts. Dangerous, too. Your parents, are they well?"

“My parents are well, yes. Probably still tending the fields, even at this time of evening, but well nonetheless.” Aya answered after a moment. “This might sound a little strange, coming from a girl—a peasant—like me, but I wanted to see the world around me.”

For the first time since leaving home, the glimmer of adventure, excitement, and anticipation shown once more in her eyes. Aya laughed unabashedly.

“I’m eighteen now, and I wanted to see the world outside of Izu. I love my village, and I love my parents, but I’ve wanted to go on this trip since I was old enough to know I could leave Hekkaido and see something new.” Aya said.

Mayu and Kaz looked at each other, amusement easily spotted in both their eyes. Typically, reaching the age of adulthood, people tend to seek a trade–something they can settle into, raise a family with. It was heartening to see someone so full of youth, full of fire.

"Well aren't you something," Kaz laughed. "Your generation may have some hope after all."

"Most travelers seem to be escaping from something," Mayu smiled. "It's good that you seek to understand the world around you. Do you think you will return one day?"

“Of course, Izu is my home after all! But I won’t return until I’ve at least seen all that this land has to offer.” Aya took another sip of her drink and looked out to Lake Kuma. Even with the setting sun, its waters glittered brilliantly. “What about Mayu-haan and Kaz-jaan? Are the two of you from Kumano?”

"We've lived here for some time now," Mayu said, "but neither of us were born in Kumano."

"We're from everywhere," Kaz said, taking another sip of tea. "I, like my father, am a traveling merchant. I dragged her around for as long as I could before she made us weigh ancor. We were hoping to settle down–"

"But, obviously, we've decided to move on once more," Mayu interjected. "It's time for a change. For both of us."

"Look at us," Kaz chuckled. "A bunch of traveling souls, gathered together, discussing our love of adventure. Say, Aya, do you have a set course for your journey?"

Aya thought for a moment before answering. “Not really. There are a few places I’ve heard of that I’d like to see… but I have no set course.” She laughed for a moment. “I guess I’ll go wherever the wind blows me.”

"What if I offered you a job?" Kaz said, slapping his hand on the table dramatically.

"What kind of job?" Maya asked, crossing her arms.

"An unofficial apprenticeship of sorts," Kaz grinned. "Little tasks, like guarding the wagon, performing maintenance, helping Maya hunt when the need arises. Once and a while I may even be able to show you how business is done!"

"Feel free to say no," Maya sighed, shaking her head. "He gets excited sometimes. No, a lot of times."

"I'm serious," Kaz said, laughing. "I think it's a good opportunity. We're traveling aimlessly, you're traveling aimlessly. Why not make a bit of money and learn a thing or two while you're at it?"

Aya had thought for sure that she would politely decline such an offer—and yet, she found herself hesitating. As she reflected on the days she had thus far been traveling, she wondered just how many times her thoughts strayed back toward home. How many times had she yearned for company—someone to talk to, or to simply listen to—beyond that of chirping crickets or the quiet breeze?

She had felt loneliness, and although not enough to force her to turn back to Izu, she certainly wasn't compelled to continue her whole journey alone.
Aya looked to her two new acquaintances and offered a shy smile. "If you're okay with my company... I don't see why not."

Kaz responded with a wild grin, raising a celebratory fist in the air and proclaiming his excitement. Mayu looked away from her husband in embarrassment, desperately hoping he would calm down quickly. Almost instantly, Kaz dug around in his pockets until he came across a wrinkled sheet of paper. He slapped it on the table and produced a quill with ink. He moves quickly, Mayu thought to herself, covering her eyes with a palm.

"It's settled then!" he said, laughing loudly. "Aya, I hereby name you as an employee of my company, Kazco. If you'll just sign at the dotted line here we can get your apprenticeship underway and begin the journey of a lifetime!"

Aya couldn’t help but laugh. She hadn’t spoken very much with merchants, even the rare peddler that would occasionally venture through Izu—she wondered if all of them were as showy and animated as Kaz seemed to be.

Taking the quill from him, she wrote the characters for her name. Her hand moved effortlessly over the paper as she finished each stroke with a graceful flourish, not too far off from a practiced calligrapher’s hand. Though she certainly couldn't consider herself 'learned' like those born into more means, she always took great pride in her penmanship. Handing the paper back to his hand, she gave Kaz and Mayu an excited grin.

“Where do you think we should head first?”

"I certainly hope you read the fine print," Mayu groaned, shaking her head at her husband as he stuffed the paper in his shirt-pocket. Though she was sometimes worried about her husband's enthusiasm, as it often led him to making some rash decisions, it was good to see him in such high spirits. Negativity did not easily come from Kaz's mouth, but the recent years had taken a toll on him. Even though he sounded hearty and joyous as ever, she could see the fatigue on his face. The excitement he was showing at the moment, however, was no act. Because of that, Mayu allowed a smile.

"Oh, please, there's nothing to worry about," Kaz laughed heartily. "I am an honest businessman, Aya. In fact, I take pride in honesty. I'll take a loss in my business for the sake of honesty. That's your first lesson for today as my apprentice, so I hope you remember it well. Honesty over everything."

"Kaz, she asked you a question," Mayu said, sighing. "I think she wanted an answer, not a lecture."

"Yes, of course," Kaz scratched his chin. "Where to? It's a good question. What do you think, Aya? Where in Kyokai have you always dreamed of visiting?"

Aya ran a hand through her long hair as she thought back to everything she had learned of the mainland, whether through her schooling back in Izu, or through word of mouth from the rare travelers she had met.

“I’d love to eventually see the capital city—I’ve heard it’s quite beautiful—but from what I know, it isn’t near here.” She tried to visualize the old maps of Kyokai she had seen long ago. “What about the city of Tsukishima, is that closer? I heard it was in this region.” Aya found herself blushing as she considered how elementary such questions might seem to other people. “Sorry… I don’t really know much about anything outside my own island.”

"No apology necessary," Kaz said, smiling. "Tsukishima is a wonderful city, only a few days away. We'll keep good company during travel, I'm sure of it."

"Just don't be afraid to tell him to shut up," Mayu said, rolling her eyes. "Sometimes he doesn't know when to quit."

"We'll let the girl decide for herself whether or not she wants to hear my wisdom," Kaz said, suddenly lifting from his seat. "But now is not the time for words. It's the time... for adventure. Mayu and I will get the wagon ready and do another thorough inspection before taking off. While we're doing that, you can get yourself cleaned up." With a swift action, Kaz gathered some coin from a pouch by his side and put it on the table. "Coming out of your first paycheck, of course. Honesty, Aya. Remember?"

"He's kidding," Mayu said. "Right, Kaz?"

"Oh, I'm not that cruel."

They all stood from the table, each with a set purpose in mind. With luck, the wagon would take them to their destination and hopefully survive the rest of their largely unplanned evening. With Kazco finding a new employee, the future was hopeful. Even if their course was rocky, fine company would easily remedy any dips in the journey.

Tsukishima, no doubt, eagerly awaited for their arrival.
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:58 pm

Haruka was out of bed before Kojuro left the manor, quietly putting her futon away and heading for the washroom. The water he had used for bathing was, at that point, cold. Laying her palm over the basin, she muttered a shortened incantation, and the water immediately began to steam. As she sat in their tub, already having cleaned herself with scented shampoos and soaps, she leaned back and considered her plan for that day.

Naturally, she had no intention to sit at home and wait for Kojuro’s return. It wasn’t in her DNA to sit and wait. Ever. With a wry grin, she supposed she was quite a bit different from other Kyokan wives who did exactly that. Ordinarily, if she hadn’t already found love, it would’ve likely been hard for her family to find her a suitor. Thankfully she didn’t have to worry over that anymore. By the grace of the divines, Kojuro seemed to put up with her antics. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have asked her hand in marriage.

I am a lucky girl, aren’t I? She thought, stretching in the water before standing and muttering another incantation, a sudden warm gust driving every water droplet from her skin until she was as dry as the moment before stepping into the bath.

Entering their bedroom, she opened a locked chest that sat in an alcove, retrieving a set of robes and pieces of leather armor, specifically tailored and fitted to her eclectic style. Her robes—mostly black with white and red trim and a golden flower motif—flowed about her, tied at her shoulders to keep her sleeves from getting in the way. A red obi sash was bound about her waste, tied with a braid of white and black and an ornamented clasp of gold. Not even her persistent brushing could keep her hair in check, always seeming to appear windswept and chaotic—perhaps complimenting her personality and unconventional beauty.

She finished her attire with a set of small glass earrings, shaped like small baubles or bulbs—both glowing a faint orange; like a small contained flame, dancing and flickering in the dim light of their manor.

“I think I’m almost ready then.” Haruka said to no one in particular, satisfied with her appearance as she ran her fingers through her hair.

“Chasing after Kojuro again, Moriyama-Hana?” Haruka spun about, startled by the sudden answer she received.

“Yukichi…” Haruka started. Many excuses ran through her mind, but none made it past her lips. “This isn’t anything new, you know.”

Yukichi laughed, folding his arms as he leaned against the doorway.

“Indeed, Kojuro did find himself a troublesome wife when he chose you.” He grinned, jokingly. “How many times does this make in the past year; you following after him like a shadow?”

“I don’t bother counting.” Haruka answered flatly, waving a dismissive hand. “This time won’t count either.”

“Well, nevertheless, I knew this would happen. Your horse is already groomed and saddled.” When Haruka cocked an eyebrow, he laughed again. “It’s not in my place to stop you, you know. My mind would be put at ease if someone else went with him, since he always tends to go it alone.”

“What about concern for me, hmm?” Haruka asked, leaning forward with a smirk on her face. “After all, I’m but a helpless maiden.”

Yukichi rolled his eyes. “Indeed. About as helpless as a charging Fiend.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Haruka gave Yukichi a pat on the shoulder as she breezed past him toward the training room that sat off the main entrance. 

The two swords that sat along on the four-tiered stand were evidently her own, black and red and ornamented with rich gold inlay to match her attire. She slipped the two into her obi, then grabbed a naginata pole blade that sat on its own rack nearby the suit of samurai armor.

“Don’t forget your hat. It might be autumn, but the sun is still hot.” Yukichi suggested. Tossing her the conical straw hat, the bells that hung about its rim jingled softly as she caught it in one hand, placing it atop her head.

“I’m off then. I’ve already packed some provisions for the road—should I catch up with Kojuro along the way, I’ll let him know you sent me off well-prepared.”

“I fear that won’t satisfy his frustration over your following him.” Yukichi replied with a shrug. “Not that he’ll be surprised.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

She spent most of the day on the road, not spotting Kojuro once, though visibility was perfect that day. When day turned to night, she pulled off the road, making camp. Setting up her sleeping roll at the edge of the woods, the boughs of massive conifer trees hung over her like a thick blanket. Thousands of stars twinkled overhead, and the moon glowed in the sky as a thin crescent, ghostly in the midst of wispy clouds that passed by. Finding plenty of dried branches and kindling, she quickly lit a fire to stave off the cold of the night. Despite how warm the sun had been during the day, she knew Autumn had truly arrived when she could see her breath shimmering in the chilled air.

Winter is on its way, huh…

Leaning back against a tree, she watched the stars and the swaying limbs of trees blowing in the wind. Haruka recalled hearing tales of beasts in the woods she traveled alongside. Certainly wolves and bears wandered the forest, however these stories spoke of far worse things that prowled amongst the trees—giant Fiends and roving bands of feral Imps, and most horrific of all—Leshens

She kept her weapons near at hand, just in case. Monsters or no monsters, one would have to be a fool to stay out in the wilderness without anything to protect themselves with. Man or woman. Soon enough, she fell into a dreamless slumber, only waking now and again to feed the fire and make sure her horse was still resting nearby.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

She woke early the next morning without incident. The night had been peaceful, though every noise threatened to end her sleep or startle her horse. Packing her things after a quick breakfast, she mounted her steed and spurred her forward onto the road with a cloud of dust trailing behind. 

The road between their manor; which lay at the northern end of Lake Biwa, and the region’s premier city of Tsukishima—for which her husband was bound— was long. Forests afforded no straight path, for if there was a straight path, it’d likely have taken half the time to travel there. Nevertheless, she knew she had arrived in the outer limits of the city, as the amount of people she crossed on the road increased. Soon, the woods opened up on both ends of the road to fertile fields of rice, terraced and glimmering in the sun as it reflected off the shallow water. Homes stood in clusters alongside farmland as she neared the city.

The land rose unto a mighty hill, on which a vast white-walled city sat. Far to its north, the land came to a sudden stop, falling steeply as a sheer cliff that opened up to the Bay of Senkei and the expansive Hagane Ocean. As she trotted ever closer, her neck craned to view the top of the massive walls—crenellations crowned the top, with tall sloping-peaked towers sat at intervals along the battlements. At every roof peak, a golden carp sat as a figurehead, harkening to the waterfront and history as a major port city. Massive banners bearing the mon1 of the Moriyama Clan hung from the walls nearby every main gate allowing entrance to the city.

Trotting to the main gates, which held gargantuan doors of wood and steel, she stopped to allow the guards to allow her through. Though she had only been to Tsukishima a handful of times, the soldiers immediately let her through, evidently knowing who she was, and recognizing their own sigil adorning her robes. Once through the gates, she passed beneath the wall, which sat at nearly thirty feet thick as mortar and stone. It was no wonder to Haruka that throughout history, none had ever successfully sieged the city, even through hundreds of years of civil war.

Tsukishima opened up to her in all its expansive vastness, climbing high onto the hill, every street on a gradual incline. Thousands of people were out and about, opening shop for the day, going about their own business, or eating outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. Unlike many other cities Haruka had been to throughout Kyokai, this one seemed to have the most personality—it’s people known for their courtesy and welcoming nature. Despite how large it was, it somehow managed to keep a small community feel, a reason why so many families decided to settle down within its walls or its province, no doubt.

She headed directly for the Eyuele’s2 manor; hard to miss, being the monstrous castle at the very top of the hill. Along the way, she took in the classic Kyokan architecture, the cobbled streets and brick sidewalks, all the greenery and small shrines nestled between buildings—their torii gates marking the boundary between the mortal and the divine. Early enough in the morning, Haruka spotted school children hurriedly making for school, scrolls and textbooks nestled in their arms as they ran.

Haruka dismounted her steed as she approached the gates to Tsukishima Castle, the Moriyama Clan’s pride and joy. The castle was ancient; more ancient than the city that grew around it. Moss and lichen grew up the stone foundations of the castle, ivy overtaking the shaded sides of the massive structure. Above its great stone foundation, white walls rose to tiered, pagoda-style rooflines that curved gracefully with colorful tiles. Like the city’s towers which sat along the outer walls, every roof peak held a large golden carp, sitting like gargoyles defending the castle from above. Latched windows allowed light into the castle, and served as arrow slits during times of war.

The soldiers who stood at the castle gates were heavily armored and well-armed, both carrying heavy pole-blades in addition to their swords. Their faces were masked with nothing but their eyes visible.

“Welcome to Tsukishima, my lady.” One of the guards greeted in a gravely voice as he took a step forward from his post, holding the reigns of her horse so she could dismount.

“I have business with Lord Moriyama. Is he available…” Haruka asked. “I’m aware he is gravely ill at the moment.”

“Indeed, our Lord is not well.” The second guard responded gravely. “But I’m sure he would see you without issue, my lady. After all, your Honorable Husband was here not a few hours ago.”

The first guard crossed his arms, tilting his helmeted head inquisitively as he looked to Haruka. “Followed him here without his knowledge again, huh?”

Haruka gave a telling smile. “Am I allowed in then?”

“Naturally. I trust you remember the way? If not, I can summon someone to lead you to our Lord’s chambers.”

“No need. I know my way.”

Up a few floors and through a series of hallways, she quickly made her way to the Lord’s chambers. As the doors opened, the smell of spices and herbs immediately permeated her nostrils, though that wasn’t the only thing.

Decay hung in the air, only barely, masked by everything else. Death and decay.

The old man, withered away under the covers of his futon, looked nothing like he did only a few years ago. Her heart sank as she beheld the Lord of Tsukishima. Once a proud samurai, now frail and weak.

A hollow voice came to her from across the room as the old man waved her over. A fit of coughing followed soon after—even in the low lighting within the chamber, the hue of red on the handkerchief with which he covered his mouth with was unmistakable.

“My Lady Haruka, I was expecting you."


1 - Mon - Kyokan for "family crest" or "sigil"

2 - Eyuele - Kyokan for "(Feudal) Lord", also used as an honorific when addressing such figures.

Last edited by Kamikaze_X on Mon Aug 27, 2018 12:26 pm; edited 2 times in total
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sun Apr 08, 2018 5:08 pm
Outskirts of Nariin | Castinis

“It’s been a while,” Jeanne said, smiling stupidly.

“I can’t tell,” the toothless man laughed, sucking down more vodka. He took off his straw hat and began to fan Jeanne’s sweaty face. Though it smelled of old perspiration, the cool air felt good. It was late evening, the sun finally setting over the dunes. Sitting in a circle of freaks, Jeanne sipped from a clay cup filled with fiery vodka.

An assortment of performers sat around the ever growing fire, their pinstriped tents and covered wagons forming a protective circle around their makeshift settlement. To Jeanne it felt as if she entered a village one could only find in the tales. Men who breathed fire, pixies who grew no taller than children, enormous hulks of infinite muscle, women who swallowed swords; Jeanne knew she must’ve slipped away from reality at some point during the night.

“Catch her before she topples over!” the bearded lady shouted, urging Toothless to catch Jeanne before she crashed into the grass. Jeanne steadied herself back on the barrel and grinned, happy that she hadn’t spilled a drop of the precious alcohol in the process. She held the cup up towards the heavens, her face suddenly turning rather serious, and made her toast:

“To all ye fairies, you have my thanks,” she declared, voice taking a dramatic tone. “Your hospitality is unmatched, far superior to that of the casual folk of the city. May your bellies stay full of fire and your swords slide down easy.”

With her final words the entire circle shouted “hear, hear” and drowned themselves in vodka.

* * *

Jeanne’s eyes cracked open. Oppressive sunlight snuck through the numerous holes in the tent. It was impossible to tell when she had fallen asleep and even harder to determine what time of day it was. If the sun was already out, however, Jeanne knew she had slept too long. Fortunately for her, it seemed the traveling company had not yet moved on. Jeanne was not the only one nursing a hangover.

For the first time in years, Jeanne felt old.

It took a few moments to acclimate to her surroundings. To her satisfaction, she had at least made it to a proper bed (if a paper thin cot qualified as such). When she sat up an immense headache followed, causing her to curse and clutch her forehead. Doubled over, her eyes suddenly turned wide. Looking down at her belt, she noticed an incredibly important item was missing.

The book. The book was gone.

The sensation of panic was quite sobering, immediately causing her to jump out of bed. She flipped the cot over, desperately searching under and over and around it for any signs of the sacred grimoire. Jeanne was on the verge of screaming out when her eyes landed on a figure sitting across from her at the other side of the tent.

Toothless stared at her wide eyed, book open at his lap. Jeanne stormed over, pulling the book away and snapping it shut loudly. The man looked confused, worried, like a child who had yet to embrace the concept of right and wrong.

“I didn’t know,” he said, grimacing. “Please don’t be angry.”

“I’m… I’m not angry,” Jeanne said, slowly deescalating. “You worried me, is all. This book is important.”

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

“It’s not written in your tongue, Toothless.”

“Ah, well. I can’t read anyway. The letters are pretty, though.”

Jeanne closed her eyes and sighed, clutching the book to her chest. It was a lesson learned. Being cooped up at the monastery for a couple decades had softened her up. The world hadn't changed since she had left it. It was still dangerous, still filled with thieves. In different circumstances she would’ve never seen the text again. The last thing she wanted to do was crawl back to Cyrille and explain herself. They were both far too old for that conversation. Cyrille was bedridden herself, being close to two-hundred years old. She did not need to hear of anything as distressing as a Le Muret grimoire floating around the black market.

“I’m surprised you’re not helping pack up yet,” Jeanne said, changing the subject. “In fact, it doesn’t seem like anyone is packing up yet.”

“Most aren’t even up,” Toothless laughed, scratching the back of his neck. “You passed out early. They have an extra hour or two of drinking on you.”

“Really?” Jeanne smiled, tension breaking. “It really has been a while, you know.”

“Yes, you said that.”

Jeanne stretched her limbs and stepped outside. The sunlight was painful, but she’d just have to bear it. She began her calisthenics, Toothless watching curiously as she moved about. Prepared for her morning run, she turned to Toothless.

“Find me when everyone is ready to get things moving,” she said, about to step off. “And please, Toothless, don’t touch my book again.”

“Promise,” Toothless said, performing a mock salute. Grinning, Jeanne set off, beginning a light jog around the perimeter. Though it required far more effort thanks to the lasting effects of alcohol, Jeanne kept her usual stride. As she ran, her eyes occasionally glanced towards the dunes, hoping to see a familiar structure, a sign, anything. Instead, there was only sand.

* * *

“Why are you with us, Jeanne?”

The sun beat down on the troupe as they gathered their supplies for the road. Sleeping in was a blessing, of course, but now they were forced to back during the hottest part of the day. Massive wagons were being packed to the brim with tarpaulin, cloth, and various securing instruments. Given the massive amounts of liquor consumed the previous day, their load was slightly lighter. Jeanne gave Toothless a wayward glance as she tossed a bundle of stakes into a nearby wagon.

“You don’t have to answer,” Toothless considered, smiling. “I’m just curious, is all. Most who join the troupe don’t want to talk about their past. They come here for a change. They come to run away.”

“I’m not running away from anyone, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Jeanne grunted as she continued her work, rolling up a leather sheet alongside Toothless. “I enjoy the company, is all. That, and we’re both travelling in the same direction.”

“What do you hope to find?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t expect it to still be standing out here. I still have to look. I can’t think of anything else to do with myself at the moment.”

“Well, Jeanne,” Toothless said, tossing in the remnants of Jeanne’s tent into the wagon, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“Me too, Toothless. Me too.”

* * *

Jeanne slipped away without much of a goodbye. Toothless, inevitably, embraced her before she departed, but she otherwise stealthily broke off from the group. Though she had no mount, her pack was light enough to make the trek bearable. If the need for more water or food arose, it was possible to expend a page of her grimoire. Jeanne was hoping there would be no need for that.

Though sand has shifted and covered much of it over the years, remnants of the road still existed. Additionally, in case she became entirely separated from it, wooden posts were staked alongside it, red cloth flags whipping in the wind. It was surprising to see anything still standing in the area, as it’d been decades since she’d last ventured to these parts.

“It can’t be much further,” Jeanne said to herself, gripping her cloak tightly as the wind threatened to rip it off her shoulders. “It has to be here. I can feel it.”

Fortunately, wind died down and the sand became static. The sky, above, was a solid mass of blue, a lone sun breaking its monotony. The road began to descend into a valley. Now, the surroundings were becoming far more familiar than before. At the lowest point of the valley, clearly in sight, was the clinic. The adobe structure had seen better days, but it was still, surprisingly, structurally sound. It was still a ruin, however, as large sections of brick had become eroded by the elements. The watchtower, a short defensive structure, still stood. She had assisted in its construction, as it was built directly into the side of the clinic to get a better view of the surroundings around the valley. Nearby was the well, their only source of water. Beside it, a shajala, a life tree, stood far taller than she remembered, almost rivaling the tower. An abundance of glowgrass had overcome the clinic, some of it growing within its walls.

Jeanne approached it carefully, worried that her mind would be overcome by memories of the war, of the screams and blood. When she touched the dusty surface of the clinic’s walls, she felt nothing. Walking inside, feet crunching on the pebbles that layered the floor, it quickly became evident that the place had been looted long ago. Cabinets were emptied, chairs were overturned, and various words were written on the walls in Castinian, a language she could only decipher orally.

She approached the stairs to the watchtower, ascending carefully. Each step creaked uncomfortably, but she continued until she arrived at its peak. There, Daher’s chair was still set up. She could tell it was his, as the back legs of the chair were incredibly worn due to his habit of leaning back on it as he napped in the tower. The table, a popular place for dice poker, had remained, as it had evidently been nailed down. Taking it slow, Jeanne sat down, leaning back the same way Daher had.

Surprisingly, her mind was blank. Jeanne had been expecting a revelation, a final conclusion of thought that would kick of her ultimate quest. Unfortunately, nothing came back. Wisps of memories swept past her, some even making her smile a bit, but she was not hit by the lightning bolt she was expecting. Regardless, there was serenity in this moment. Leaning back in the chair, relaxing in the dusty shade of the tower, she slowly drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Jeanne woke with a spear aimed at her throat. Two women stood before her, both Castinian as evidenced by their dark skin. The taller one, an athletic figure, held the spear, while the other seemed to cower behind her. They both wore balaclavas, hiding a majority of their features.

“Who sent you?” the tall woman’s voice came, a powerful bark that caused Jeanne to shudder. She raised her arms, defenseless, unsure of what she had done to these people.

“No one,” she insisted, attempting to indicate that she carried no weapons. “I’m not even from here. Just a visitor.”

The two women spoke together in a tongue Jeanne had never heard before. It had similarities to the Castinian language, but she quickly lost track of what they were saying. After a few sharp words together, the tall woman drew her weapon back to strike. Before she killed Jeanne right there, the smaller woman pulled back on the weapon, forcing the spearhead to plunge into the brick next to Jeanne’s head. Their argument began anew, voices raising louder. For a few moments, Jeanne felt irrelevant to the conflict.

Eyes flashing, the taller woman lower her spear, handing it off to the smaller girl. “Turn around,” she order Jeanne. Not arguing, Jeanne faced the wall. Roughly, she felt both of her hands pulled behind her. The tall woman bound them together with a tight rope that she attached to her own belt.

“I am sorry,” the smaller one said, her voice surprisingly gentle. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I don’t understand,” Jeanne said, attempting to hide the panic in her voice. “I have done nothing to either of you!”

“We will soon find out what you were up to, spy,” the tall one said. “Move. We speak downstairs.”

“No harm will come to you,” the small one said, offering a smile. “Just answer our questions honestly. That’s all.”

Before Jeanne could react, the tall one was practically shoving her down the stairs. It was impossible to tell what the two wanted, but it was clear they suspected her of something. Who these two were, she did not know. One thing stuck out to Jeanne, however. The small one, the young Castinian, had not hid her characteristics well enough. From the top of her balaclava, Jeanne had noticed hair, a silvery white. It had a glow to it, a glow that did not seem natural. Whoever she had accidentally stumbled upon, it was clear they were attempting to hide something--or someone.

Without much option, Jeanne complied to their orders and stumbled down the stairs. The questioning began.
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
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[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:08 pm

As he stood before his mentor, it was only at that moment that it dawned on Kojuro just how mortal the old man was. Moriyama Sanousuke, the Lord of Tsukishima, from whom Kojuro was bestowed the honor of taking his clan’s name, was far from the titan he had grown up knowing. He came into Kojuro’s life as a warlord of intense honor and skill, with great bearing and an aura of someone larger than life. It was this man to whom he had dedicated his life toward serving—a Lord of immense value and prestige.

Illness wore him down, slowly, like the waves of the sea eroding a rocky coastline. Kojuro stood before his bedridden master, barely able to swallow the grief he felt. Lord Moriyama was withered and frail, thin and sallow. And yet, despite everything, the man greeted Kojuro into his presence with the same magnanimity and kindness that he had known since his childhood.

“Look not onto me with pity, Kojuro.” Lord Moriyama said, sitting up with some effort in his bed. “I may be weak, but I am still Lord of this domain and expect the same amount of respect that is afforded to one of my station.”

“My Lord, I…”

Lord Moriyama raised a hand to silence him. Kojuro immediately held his words.

“I’ve not called you here to speak over my condition, nor for idle pleasantries. We’ll have time enough for such conversation, but presently, I’ve need of your services. The Lord Shogun requires our aid in a matter of dire importance.”

Kojuro raised his eyebrows, nevertheless straightening his posture at attention from where he knelt on a mat nearby Lord Moriyama’s futon.

“At a small inn of little noteworthiness in a township outside Eidou, it appears that dissent against our government is brewing in the shadows.” Lord Moriyama continued after a few fitful coughs into his handkerchief. “According to our informants, a group of nobles have been gathering with several of their followers at this inn for the past week, always around the same time, and always from different directions. The master of the inn says that she had been bringing them drinks and pleasantries when she heard strings of their conversation from outside their room. Much seems incriminating—I’m sure you can appreciate how damning any talk over toppling the Shogunate, or assassinating his family is, whether genuine or not.”

Kojuro’s jaw tightened as he listened. It had been decades since the last conflict had rocked their nation. Civil war was a thing of the past, almost forgotten in the minds of its people. His job, although in a state of peacetime, was to keep such things a memory of the past.

“Moriyama Kojuro, I, Lord of Tsukishima, command you to make way—with a task force of your choosing—to Eidou. Quash whatever malevolent force aims to threaten Kyokai and its people. Let none of these miscreants escape that inn with their heads.”

Kojuro, wordless, saluted in Kyokan military fashion, bowed low, and backed out from his master’s room. Just as the doors to Lord Moriyama’s room closed shut, he could hear the man descend into a long fit of coughing, fading little by little as he made his way down the hall and out of Tsukishima Castle. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tsukishima slowly sank away behind mist as Kojuro rode away at full gallop, followed in tow by six other warriors, all of whom Kojuro had served with in the past. Indeed, the warriors knew each other quite well, all having fought back to back in the last war ten years ago—Flamelle's war against Castinis—in an elite samurai unit called the Kagerougumi1 which specialized in the routing and destruction of enemy assassins. In support of one side over the other, Kyokai sent a few of its own units to aid their Flamellen neighbors.

They were assassin killers.

As their unit’s name suggested, each of them were uniquely skilled warriors who preferred to work in the shadows against an enemy who also functioned in the dark. Many were peerless in their mastery of the arts of war, and so they gained the reputation of forcing every enemy they encountered into submission—either through the blade, or by their mere presence on the battlefield.

Their uniform all resembled each other’s, though with slight alterations and unique touches added in. At its base, the Kagerougumi uniform consisted however, of flowing warriors robes—typically of muted colors such as dark blues, browns, grays, or blacks—with a black haori2 outer coat worn over the top with deep red mountain-like designs along the hems. Many of the members wore chest-armor over their robes, leg and arm braces—some completed the set with shoulder armor as well. The main focus was for protection with excellent mobility. Wearing a suit of full armor would out of the question for this squad, and none would have likely felt comfortable in such stifling conditions either way.

First of his six companions, a man named Shima Hayate, lifted the brim of his conical straw hat, looking sidelong to Kojuro as they rode.

“It’s been a few years, hasn’t it Kojuro?”

“Indeed. Since the Jin-sei Bandit Uprising, I believe.” Kojuro responded.

“We all believed that would be the end of this kind of unrest,” His second companion, a younger woman in matching uniform sighed.

“Asuna, you should know better than to believe in that.” A third warrior, an older, dour-looking man named Omaeda Keiji responded to the woman with a sad sort of laugh. “As long as there are people in this world, there will always be conflict.”

“Indeed. Though we are the ones who’re supposed to keep chaos at bay.” Added another of their comrades—the archer, Tachibana Erina—with a sigh. Her cool gray eyes scanned the horizon ahead, perhaps looking for the first glimpses of Eidou, though at that moment it would be many miles ahead. Her long ponytail flowed behind her with the wind.

“We’ve managed thus far, right?” Their healer—a young girl named Yukikaze Hotaru—said from atop her garron. She smiled in her typical carefree, disarming way. “Right?”

“True… though if I had my way, we’d live in a world in which such strife simply didn’t exist.” Kojuro responded shortly after. “Sadly, it seems that’s wishful thinking.”

“Nevertheless, we should focus on the mission ahead, rather than continuing to ponder philosophy.” The last of their party—a swordsman named Mototori Nobuhiro, nicknamed 'Nobu'—finally commented from atop his black speckled roan. “Moriyama-san, what do you think of this latest quest? Are we truly needed, or could this have been handled by the city guard?”

“It is not within our station to question the orders of our Lord.” Kojuro answered simply, pausing for a long moment before continuing. “Though to call on the aid of the Kagerougumi, it should be assumed this is truly a serious matter.

The seven members of Squad 4 continued down the path, dust being kicked up by the hooves of their steeds. The weather was clear that evening, luckily for them, otherwise their pace toward Eidou likely would have slowed considerably. All that could be heard, beyond the steady beat of hooves on the ground, was the clinking of their equipment moving about, and the sounds of birds flitting overhead between the trees that lined both ends of the road.

To their north, the Bay of Senkei emptied out to the vast jewel of the Hagane Ocean—though from their road, they could only see glimpses of blue, as trees blanketed both sides, and soon the earth rose unto steep, rocky cliffs and crags on both ends, forcing the path to twist and turn. At times, the riders had to dismount and lead their horses on foot, finding the path too precarious to trod on horseback—loose rocks and protruding roots littered the dirt path, just as it also grew narrow at points. When the path climbed steeply, the group had to stay close to the southern edge, as the north opened up to a sheer drop.

“You’d think the townships around here would want to build some rails or something.” Asuna mumbled as she urged her steed to follow, tugging gently on its reigns.

“That’s the thing, there are few townships around here.” Hayate stated, wiping his brow of sweat with a free hand. “The Kamiyama Mountains climb high around here, and the forests dense. You’d be hard-pressed to try and find a decent bit of space to set a village in these parts.”

When the path became steadier, and less perilous to ride upon, the riders re-mounted and continued their journey at a quicker pace. It was only once the moon had climbed high in the sky, blocked only occasionally by wispy gray clouds, that Kojuro called the squad to halt their progress and find a place to set up camp. Locating a perfect spot atop a high hill, they tied their horses up along a ridge-line, and started a campfire. Sitting around it, the seven ate a light meal and relaxed, leaning back against a few tree stumps and boulders around which they situated their camp. Trading stories, it was well into the night before Kojuro found his eyelids starting to grow heavy.

“Alright, I think it’s time to call it tonight. Nobu, you’re on first watch, Hotaru will take second, and I’ll finish us off with third. Let’s get some rest—tomorrow will be a long day of riding. In the morning, I’ll give you the details of our mission.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Squad 4, travel-weary and filthy from the road’s dust and the foul weather of the last few days finally arrived in the small township of Uji, which sat alongside the eastern stretch of the Nakane River, just south west of the main sprawl of Eidou. Even from outside the city, the seven could see the capital city in all its immense magnificence. The Capital extended far outside the boundaries of its own outer walls, buildings and temples and businesses fanning out into the planes that extended out on all sides of the massive metropolis. 

Just south sat the expansive Kamiyama Mountain range, through which the seven had crossed to arrive where they were, though only the hilly feet of the mountains. Snow capped and glistening with rolling clouds, the sight would take anyone’s breath away. Even as far away as they were from the walls surrounding the capital, it was easy to see that they dwarfed the defenses of Tsukishima—or rather, every city in the rest of Kyokai.

“A shame we aren’t going to take some time to poke around Eidou.” Asuna lamented with a sigh. “I’ve only been a handful of times.”

“Every city is the same.” Keiji responded flatly. “Cramped and loud.”

“Spoilsport. I’m sure you’d loosen up if you threw about some dice or knocked back a few drinks, Keiji-jaan.” Hayate laughed, giving Keiji’s shoulder a slap.


“Look! You can see the buildings of the Shogunate! Waaaaay beyond the walls, with the glimmering roof tiles. They certainly stick out among all the other tall buildings there.”Hotaru said with wonder, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looked off toward the capital.

“We can take our time gawking like a bunch of hill folk later. Let’s stow our belongings at our inn and begin the operation.” Nobu suggested, nodding to Kojuro. “Kantaiko3, do you agree?”

“Indeed. Let’s begin.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

They waited for the sun to set, watching it slowly descend behind the clouds as evening approached. Asuna watched out the window as the people below made their way on the busy streets of Uji. One by one, street lamps were lit by the town’s guards.

The seven of them sat silently in the inn room they had rented. Asuna kept watch at the window, while the rest tended to their weapons, preparing for the fight that was inevitable. Kojuro sat at a small circular wooden table along one wall, a scroll furled out in front of him bearing what appeared to be a sketch of the town of Uji. Hayate and Erina stood near him at the table, looking over the map.

“So there are four streets that lead to the Ikedoya. The building is bordered on two sides by other businesses, but there’s an alleyway along the back side of the inn. A possible escape route, I’d think.” Hayate pondered, scratching his head.”

“Three of the roads lead to the front of the Ikedoya, and from any of those, enemy scouts or reinforcements could be lying in wait.”

“It isn’t as though they are expecting us.” Nobu commented from where he sat nearby, running a whetstone down the length of his blade.

“They would be smart if they expected something.” Kojuro responded, not looking away from the map. “We shouldn’t assume there aren’t more lying in wait in the event their meeting went awry.”

“Indeed. If I may, I’d suggest placing three of us outside of the Ikedoya, two in the front, and one to watch over the alleyway in back. The rest will commence with the raid inside the inn.”

“I agree. We can’t spare anymore outside, but it’s important we have the roads covered in case the enemy calls for aid.” Kojuro said. “It appears that the Ikedoya is a two-floored inn. According to our informant, the rebels have been only taking the rooms upstairs.”

“Rooms? As in multiple?” Erina asked.

“Yes. It appears the leaders of this rebel group gather in one room, while the neighboring room is covered with their own samurai. Probably to make sure none can eavesdrop from there. They also tend to keep one of their own in the hallway to block the door in.”

“It’s amazing our informant was able to get this information to us without being spotted.” Hayate said.

“Apparently she was, but she feigned ignorance when they questioned her. She covered herself by explaining that she was bringing them more drinks and food.”

“This won’t be easy.” Erina said after a time. “There are too many unknowns.”

“We’ve no choice but to move forward.” Kojuro replied with a hint of frustration. “We’ll just have to be smart. Every move we make must be calculated.”

He looked to his comrades. “Alright, here are my orders. Listen well.”

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The raid began that night, around ten-thirty. Moving swiftly down side streets, the seven of them only split when they arrived at the main road. Erina and Nobu formed one strike-team, moving swiftly down one side-street before coming into view with the Ikedoya. Hayate and Kojuro formed the second strike-force, approaching from the opposite street. The rest of the team would secure the perimeter, making sure that no enemies would get in or out from the Ikedoya without them noticing. Each took up positions close to, and in view of the inn, but remained hidden in the shadows of the night.

As the strike forces approached the entrance to the inn, its keeper—their informant—gave them the signal that all was normal, and allowed them quietly into the busy inn. Their approach went largely unnoticed and unheard by the Ikedoya’s regular patrons, as the sounds of merrymaking covered what slight sounds they made. 

Nobu stood by at the foot of the stairs up to the second floor, allowing his three comrades to ascend before him. Hand close to the hilts of his blades, his eyes watched for any signs of movement from the first-floor rooms. Erina, Kojuro, and Hayate climbed to the second floor. Here things seemed much quieter, though just as reported, one of the rebels stood outside one of the rooms at the far end of the hall, his hand lazily resting against the leather-wrapped handle of a steel-spiked truncheon.

Kojuro could feel his adrenaline start to pulse through his veins, a cold sweat overtaking his body. It felt as though every hair on his body stood on end, his whole being preparing for the attack that was to come. The three calmly made their way down the hall, gaining the guards’ attention.

“Hail friend, why do you not take part in the festivities?” Hayate asked the man with a smirk.

“Walk away.” The guard grunted, casting a glare ugly enough to curdle milk. 

“I’m afraid that isn’t an option.” Kojuro stated, narrowing his eyes. Easing his cloak open, he presented the hilt of his blade to the enemy, his hand already closed around it. “Submit peacefully or die.”

The guards eyes widened. Just as his arm twitched, readying to swing his truncheon, and his jaw clenched just as he likely made to call for his comrades, Kojuro’s blade was out of its scabbard and sliced through his neck faster than he could react to their threat. A spray of red washed over the shoji door’s paper-like surface as his body twisted and fell with a thump. The only noise the guard could make was to gurgle helplessly as his life drained from him.

The room inside was quiet now. Party’s over, I guess, Kojuro thought as he slid open the shoji and sidestepped, just as two arrows whizzed past and imbedded in the hallway's wall opposite the room.

“We are the Kagerougumi! Lay down your arms in the name of the Shogun and submit, or perish.” Kojiro yelled fiercely as the three of them entered the room, stepping over the body of the dead guard. As expected, none of them did as ordered.

And then the Ikedoya inn descended into chaos.


For visual references:

Kyokan cities | Nightlife, Kyokan township | Main thoroughfare, Deeper in the Kamiyama Mountain Range, Eidou's government buildings


1 - Kagerougumi - Kyokan 'secret police'; essentially a special operations group serving the Shogun. Kyokan translation of the word roughly means 'Shadow Unit' or 'Unit within the Shadows'.

2 - Haori - Kyokan term for a sort of overcoat or cloak, many times worn over armor or robes. Typically reserved as a piece of clothing for higher-ranking samurai, or elite battle units.

3 - Kantaiko - Kyokan military term for the rank of 'Captain' or 'Commander'.
Posts : 974
Join date : 2010-01-07
Age : 29

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Tue May 08, 2018 12:18 am
Bagrada, Maqae | Castinis

“She lives,” the voice came as a whisper. The wizened hag held Alric’s hand gingerly, tracing each indent with a wrinkled finger. Her eyes were closed, form relaxed. Alric watched every movement, eyes twitching at each gesture. They sat on the dusty floor, a small tent shielding them from the sun. Outside, traffic raged on. Carts rolled past, children played, thieves sprinted by. In Bagrada in was impossible for Alric to find peace. Visiting the hag was a moment of vulnerability. Regret was setting in, but she had his qa.

“Yes, she does,” Alric said quickly. When he attempted to withdraw his hand, she grabbed his wrist, eyes opening wide.

“You misunderstand,” she said.

“Release me,” he said. “Now.”

“She lives, Alric. Listen. She lives.”

Alric stood up, breaking free of the fortune teller’s grasp. The small woman stood up with him, refusing to break eye contact. She drew closer to him, forcing Alric to back up until the edge of the tent met his back.

“The one you’ve been looking for,” the hag said, smiling, “she’s been here.”

Alric looked at her for a few moments, eyes piercing her skull for evidence of deception. “I have to go,” he said.

“Your paths will cross,” she said. “You will see.”

Alric left the woman. Halfway through the reading he had intended to ask for his qa back. Now, he only wanted to run. Old memories were resurfacing, memories of a burned castle, devoid of all life. Alric blended into the crowd once more, heading back to the back alley clinic Scratch had been transported to. How could she know? Alric thought to himself. How could she possibly know? Alric walked the streets of Bagrada, praying that he’d cross paths with the silver haired woman, the one he had, years ago, vowed to protect with his life.

Last edited by Chef on Sat May 19, 2018 7:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 2509
Join date : 2009-09-27
Age : 31
Location : Connecticut

[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

Sat May 19, 2018 2:53 pm

The innkeeper of the Ikedoya, her face pale and hard as stone, stood alongside Nobu who kept watch at the foot of the stairs to the second floor. With every scream, and every violent commotion that sounded off the floor above, she shook with terror. Nobu gave her a glance from the side, noticing the tears streaming down her cheeks, and the way she bit her bottom lip. No consoling words would come to him; all he could do was stand nearby and keep watch over the first floor, and ensure their informant was kept safe.

The floor above was already awash with blood as the carnage of battle unfolded. Erina, wielding a short recurve bow knocked arrows one after another, every shot being aimed true. She never missed her mark, first taking out the rebel archers, and then aiming for any who dared to approach her. Hayate and Kojuro had charged into the room, blades drawn, and a cold fury urging them forward into chaos.

Despite their warnings from the beginning, not one of the rebels chose to submit. After all, they greatly outnumbered the authorities. Nevertheless, as time ticked by, and each of their comrades fell slashed, impaled, or broken, the rumors of the Kagerougumi seemed to ring true.

Kojuro took a deft step forward, his blade slicing in a graceful, horrible silver arch through the air, easily cleaving one samurai’s unprotected head from his shoulders. Hayate, using both katana and wakizashi cross-sliced another along their chest and stomach, the enemy falling backward in a fit of terror as his belly opened up. Another samurai charged headlong at Kojuro, swinging his blade horizontally for his neck—Kojuro nimbly stepped back, avoiding their steel, and immediately retaliating with an opposing leap forward, blade thrust forward, biting through chainmail and leather as though it were paper. 

Another samurai leapt forward to attack Kojuro as his comrade was stabbed. In one one fluid motion, Kojuro turned his blade and sliced out from the side of his first victim and into the next, carving open a sizable gash in the next attacker’s abdomen. As he fell to the ground, clutching his wound, Kojuro’s blade already arched downward, cleaving through neck and spine.

The dull thrum of Erina’s bowstring releasing sounded a beat to their battle. Every beat urging her comrades forward, and forcing the unprepared and outmatched rebels to reconsider their own attacks. The two inn rooms were awash in red and blood soaked through the tatami mat floors. Bodies of the dead littered the floor; at least fourteen of the rebels had fallen since the raid began, merely a few minutes before.

And not one of the Kagerougumi had taken even a scratch.

A sizable group of rebels remained—it was obvious who the main culprits of the would-be uprising were, simply due to their appearance as noble samurai lords. Three of them stood back to back, blades drawn, yet to even engage in their enemies as their vassals took the lead in defending them. One in particular caught Kojuro’s eye; the mon adorning the samurai’s coat was familiar to him. The warrior was of one of the clans boasting one of the realm’s most powerful martial schools. A few of the others also seemed a cut above the warriors who had attacked them first—their demeanor calm and collected, despite how the odds seemed to be increasingly stacked against them.

We might need Nobu after all, Kojuro thought, a wry smile playing at his lips.

“What stops you, government dogs?” The rebel with the clan symbol barked from across the room. “You’ve shown little trouble cutting down our comrades thus far.”

“There’s plenty of time to finish the job, traitor.” Kojuro coldly replied, eyes narrowing. “Should you submit now, we shall show mercy on you poor, wretched fools.”

The samurai was quiet for a time, a tense standoff lingering between the two sides. “Even if I did submit now, we’d be shown no mercy from this regime.” He started to answer, calculated and slow. “And besides, another shall take my place. Our work won’t be finished here.”

Suddenly, the samurai placed two fingers to his mouth and produced a shrill whistle. The last of the rebels in the room launched forward into another frenzied attack, though more controlled and careful than before. Hayate and Kojuro countered, and though they continued to slay their opponents, the samurai put up more of a defense than before. Their own attacks began to be blocked and deflected.

That whistle seemed an ill omen to Kojuro. His misgivings began to seem more and more well-founded as several rebels attempted to make it around their defenses and scramble for an exit. Kojuro whistled his own signal, warning Nobu to prepare for an attempted enemy scramble for the exits. Yells of panic and dismay from downstairs reached their ears, and quickly it seemed that the situation seemed to descend into confusion. From outside the glow of fires could be seen, at first only dim specks against a dark skyline, but grew in intensity.

Kojuro’s eyes widened as he swore aloud, beckoning Hayate and Erina to push forward.

They’re attempting to burn the town to ashes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Haruka stood atop a hill overlooking Uji from a distance. Even in the dark, its twinkling lights separated its population from the hills and sea that surrounded it. The monstrously large dull glow set far behind it was no doubt the Capital City, Eidou. She only took a moment to admire the sight before beckoning her steed to continue their trot into the town.

As the twinkling lights of Uji transformed into growing flames and columns of black smoke rose into the night sky, Haruka urged her horse into a full tilt, her hand clenching the haft of her naginata until her knuckles turned white. Confusion reigned in her mind—she never knew the Kagerougumi to let things get this out of hand, nor her husband’s meticulous planning to ever go awry. Either way, worry and despair gnawed at the pit of her stomach.

As she entered town, the sounds of people screaming in terror and the crackling of burning buildings met her ears. Civilians ran for the outskirts of town, helpless and frightened. Haruka noticed warriors holding torches, spreading into alleyways and kicking in building doors. Gritting her teeth, she kicked into her horse’s sides, spurring it forward into a gallop.

Before they anticipated another enemy, her naginata’s curved blade bit through them, driven with the speed of a galloping beast. Haruka’s eyes reflected the flames around her, giving herself entirely to battle and the hope of protecting Kojuro, wherever in the town he might be.

The warriors with torches stopped in their tracks as the samurai girl rode at them, swinging her pole blade with horrifying grace and skill. None had the time to toss their torches, nor prepare to meet her in battle before their were hewn asunder in her wrath.

When the last feel beneath her and her steed, she yelled for the townspeople to hear her cries.

“If you wish to save your homes and livelihoods, fetch water! Your town is yours, and yours alone!”

Those who didn’t cower on the town’s outskirts and continue to flee from the searing flames, seemed to take heed, instead running from the town wells or the rivers and brooks nearby with anything that could carry water. Though Haruka wanted to stay and lend her aid, she knew she had to move forward. She had to get to the inn.

Haruka pushed further into town and soon the Ikedoya came into view. Two of her husband’s comrades struggled against a group of warriors in front of the inn. Several lay dead in front of them, but slowly they were being pushed back toward the entrance of the inn. Haruka charged once more, her naginata spinning in her hands above her before swinging it downward, cleaving one warrior’s skull vertically in two while her steed’s hooves trampled into and over several others, breaking up the crowd that had started to back the Kagerougumi into a corner.

Her husband’s comrades recognized her at once, using her initiative as a call to re-muster their own strength and push back with greater force.

Hotaru and Keiji mercilessly cut through much of the remaining warriors with Haruka aiding them from behind, slaying any who managed to come near. The group of rebel warriors grew smaller and smaller, until one gave a cry to retreat. Before they could scramble and make a run for it, Haruka’s steed reared and snarled—Keiji thrust an open palm at the remaining group of rebels, roaring a spell that Haruka did not understand.

Junsei-o-mikame no Sho-kan—Agare!”1

The rebel’s eyes, all at once, went vacant and lifeless. None moved from where they stood, remaining rigid and still as though turned to stone. Haruka dismounted, leaving her naginata hooked to the saddle.

“We have it covered here, Haruka-oele. Go to the inn, Kojuro may still need some aid!” Hotaru said. “I don’t think more will be coming.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Springing through the doorway to the inn, Nobu hadn’t the time to react before Haruka bound up the stairs for the second floor. She noticed a few dead rebels laying by his feet. Drawing her blade, she entered the room just besides Erina, who almost attacked her out of surprise.

“My lady, Haruka!” She exclaimed. “What’re you—“

“I’m here to help!”

Kojuro, unlike his comrades, didn’t seem all too surprised to see his wife appear. She could’ve sworn she saw a small smile on his lips, in fact. With renewed vigor, he pushed forward in an attack alongside Hayate. Haruka joined seconds after, with Erina supporting their rear with well-aimed arrows. Haruka moved fluidly, like water, easily swaying out of the way of her first enemy’s attacks. Her shortsword struck deep, piercing through her adversary’s chest armor and into his heart. After he collapsed, she moved onto the next.

Soon, only two rebel leaders remained, backed into a corner. One had evidently fled earlier, but undoubtedly had nowhere left to run, and was hopefully captured by one of Kojuro’s comrades on the first floor or outside the inn. The dead lay around the samurai lords’ feet, their armor soaked through with their comrades’ blood. Despite impending defeat, they stood proudly, resigned to their fate.

The first samurai lord glanced out the window, noticing the flames dying down and the smoke beginning to dissipate. His gaze was cast downward for a moment before looking back to the Kagerougumi.

“It appears… we were thoroughly defeated. Our plans lay in ruins about us, like our comrades who believed in our goal.” He lamented aloud, his voice strangely hollow and mournful. “We should’ve never went with his plans. It was too direct.”

“His plans… whose? Whose plans?” Kojuro questioned, not dropping his guard.

“What does it matter?” The samurai replied. “I’m sure they’re no longer in Kyokai either way. They left us to die with our aspirations.”

Questions ran through Haruka’s mind—she noticed the look of confusion flash through her husband’s eyes and knew he likely knew not of what the man was speaking of. One thing sounded certain however—this rebellion had been orchestrated, and these warriors were all used and discarded by someone else.

“You, government dog,” The warrior stated, pointing his blade at Kojuro. “Let me die in battle and at least keep my honor. I’ve nothing more to say, and shall not endure being a prisoner.”

Kojuro was quiet. Haruka had a feeling the warrior was true to his word—before divulging any information, he’d likely take his own life. 

“Very well. Come at me with everything you have left, traitor.” Kojuro said.

“Then allow me to fight your comrade there.” Haruka boldly stated, pointing to the second of the samurai lords.

“You dishonor me, woman.” The second warrior spat. “There’s no glory gained in fighting a woman such as you.”

Haruka’s eyes smoldered like burning coals. Kojuro looked to the warrior.

“You shouldn’t spurn my wife like that. She’s not as merciful as I am. Don’t underestimate any opponent, no matter the sex.”

“Your wife, eh? I’ll take what final joy I can find in cutting her down in front of you then!” Yelled the second warrior as he launched forward. Kojuro barely flinched, knowing Haruka could handle herself.

“You’ve made a grave mistake letting your wife fight with you.” His own opponent said, getting into a combat stance.

“I should be saying the same to you. Your partner won’t have a chance to even cut her.”

Kojuro and Haruka both engaged in their own personal duels, the inn erupting into a cacophony of clashing steel. Haruka’s opponent was certainly confident at the start of their duel, launching a flurry of slashes at Haruka, though was utterly bewildered when they were all seemingly pushed out of the way—expertly parried and directed away. There were several moments when the rebel realized he was mere inches away from certain death, each time Haruka’s attacks coming closer and closer to flaying him like a fish.

She was untouchable. Haruka moved about him like a phantom, her eyes never straying far from her enemy, every move she made planned well in advance, and with a precision akin to a surgeon with a scalpel. She drew first blood, her blade slashing through his back; her blade severed the straps to his leather armor, rendering it useless as it fell to the ground. The rebel’s movements became sluggish as exhaustion started to gnaw at his muscles. Every forceful swing of his blade, every tense movement as he clambered to escape her steel, drew his strength away from him.

“I don’t understand…” The rebel panted, staggering backward.

“And you never will.” Haruka answered. “If you took me more seriously from the start, perhaps this would’ve been the duel you had wished for.”

The rebel lunged with a roar, a last-ditch effort to stab through his enemy once and for all. His blade found air, Haruka vanishing from his vision. His body started to go cold, all the warmth starting to drain away all within a few seconds. He looked down, finding the red point of a blade jutting out through his chest. Just as he took a strained, hollow breath, he felt her hand push against his push. He fell forward onto the floor, her blade slipping away from view as he collapsed, bleeding out onto the already blood-soaked floor. The last image his eyes beheld were the bodies of his comrades littered about him, and his final adversary, standing above him, bowing. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kojuro’s duel had been similarly drawn-out and tiresome. The rebel samurai lord was skillful, displaying his prowess, even when he knew defeat drew ever closer. Even as his last comrade fell before him to Haruka, he fought with honor, finesse, and assurance in his own martial skill. When he fell, clutching his abdomen to keep his guts from falling out, he looked to Kojuro with fierce eyes, still clutching the hilt of his sword.

Blood gushed from his mouth between his teeth. “Before you finish this, tell me your name, warrior.” The rebel lord requested in a strained voice. “I want to know… who bested me in battle.”

“Moriyama Kojuro. Commander of the Kagerougumi’s forth squad.” Kojuro answered.

The rebel lord’s eyes started to become cloudy. His mouth twisted into a grin. “I see. It appears you weren’t a dog, but a fierce wolf.” He paused for a long moment, groaning as he leaned forward where he knelt on the ground. “End me, Moriyama Kojuro.”

Kojuro raised his blade in both hands above his head, standing to the side of the rebel lord. In a shimmering arc, his sword cut true, severing the man’s head from his neck and ending his life immediately. Bowing, Kojuro paid what respect he could muster for a traitorous rebel. No matter his motives, he was a true warrior who deserved at least an honorable death.

Wiping his blade clean with a white cloth, he slid it back into its scabbard, sighing heavily as he took in the carnage that surrounded them. All was silent, hinting that whatever happened outside and on the first floor had come to an end as well.

“It’s over.” Kojuro said wearily, looking to Erina, Hayate, and Haruka. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Out front of the battle-torn Ikedoya, the Kagerougumi reunited. Keiji still had a group of rebels seemingly under some sort of trance. Asuna had left the alleyway behind the inn with the third of the rebel lords who had attempted to escape the carnage through the back. He was wounded, though only lightly, and already tied up.

“It appears we are victorious.” Nobu said, walking over to the group alongside the innkeeper, who still looked as pale and terrified as she had at the very beginning of their operation.

“And at quite the cost.” Kojuro stated sadly. “So many lives thrown away out of some foolish notion of overthrowing our government.”

“There would’ve been countless more if we didn’t do what we did.” Erina reminded him.

“Indeed. I agree.” Kojuro answered. He looked to the captured rebel lord and the mesmerized samurai. “At least we managed to capture some of them. Perhaps we’ll get some answers.”

He looked to the innkeeper. “I apologize deeply for what occurred at your inn. We gave them the option to fight or surrender. They chose the former.”

She nodded sheepishly. Naturally she hadn’t been prepared for such bloodshed to occur in her inn.

“The government will pay for all damages and take responsibility.” Kojuro said sympathetically. “… it is in your best interests that you close your inn for the time being. Let our people deal with the… clean up. Please.”

“O-of course. Yes. I have family in Eidou, perhaps I’ll go stay with them…”

“An agent will come by soon to compensate you for your cooperation. Should you wish to open an inn elsewhere… away from Uji…there should be enough.”

All the innkeeper could do was bow. She had been through enough. Kojuro had Asuna escort her to her relatives in Eidou. The rest of them returned to the accommodations they had paid for before their operations there in Uji had begun. As his comrades rode on ahead, he and Haruka were left alone.

“You know how I feel about you following me when I leave for business.” He said plainly, not quite a reprimand.

“You know how I feel about you leaving me behind.” Haruka answered with a smirk. “I’ll always be close behind; you should know that by now.”

After a moment, Kojuro allowed himself to give a small grin.

“I know.”


1 - Junsei-o-mikame no Sho-kan—Agare - A Kyokan short-hand incantation within the school of Illusionary Magics. Literally translating to "Third Eye of the God of Order - Stop!", which casts the command to those under the caster's illusion to stop in their tracks.
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[ARC 1] Tales from the East Empty Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

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