Hidden 5 mos ago Post by PKMNB0Y
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Amami Yoshitatsu
Mifu Province — Tokushi Village

With a wide-brimmed bamboo hat resting comfortably on his head, a certain young man took a deep breath and stretched his arms. He had stayed the night at a local inn, and as pleasant as the nights here had been (or as least as pleasant as a small place far away from major towns or cities could be), there was no good reason to linger too long here.

After all, he was still 'traveling' the province; staying too long might arouse some suspicions about himself, and the last thing he wanted right now was to have to throw his name around to get out of any trouble.

Thus was the thought process of one Amami Yoshitatsu, the third son of the lord of this domain.

Honestly speaking, Yoshitatsu would have loved to simply go back home and spend his days as he had his youth—simply, without worrying about any sort of political infighting. But with that option no longer on the table, moving about the area as a ronin might was the next best thing he could hope for.

And even that would only last for so long.

With a sigh, the young man—no, young lord—began to walk around to get a better feel for the village's current state of affairs. There seemed to be no real problems as far as livelihood was concerned; there was food lined up for sale at stalls scattered about, and even a few craftsmen peddling their wares for other villagers and the stray wanderer who might be interested. Located near the ocean as it was, though, one might have expected a stray merchant ship or two by the docks—but no such thing. Fishermen, though? Those were hauling in their catches for the day to sell for dinner.

Thankfully, with his identity yet to be revealed, there was no chance of Yoshitatsu's mulling about causing any sort of a stir within the populace. A convenient thing for him, them, as he watched everyone go about their day. By evening, though, he would be gone, pack full of provisions and on his way to the next town over.

Hopefully this serenity would last longer than it had last time; having to fend off petty thieves was never pleasant.
Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Zeroth
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Haruki (春樹) Province
Beginning of A Long Road




A region that truly embodied the bounty of the land, forests and fertile ground filled Haruki Province. Such abundance meant that they supplied many of the other regions with food as the "Rice Bowl of Tenkai." Their abundance also allowed them to invest in luxuries, leaving its people better off than most--or, at least, that was what the tiny brush strokes in the corner of the map said. Truth be told, such abundance brought problems of its own to this lush land--such as the unscrupulous sorts who would gorge themselves on Haruki's horn of plenty.

"Hmmm...I must've walked several more miles by this point. Am I on the right road?" The young man--tall, handsome in feature, wearing robes and, most telling of his status, a sword--folded the map and placed it back into the inner lining of his kimono. His eyes were sharp, but bright, both young and intelligent. Despite his doubts he continued along the path.

"Too far to turn back now, I suppose..."

Yet not long after he said this, he rounded a bend in the path. On the other side of a steep hill, thick with trees and underbrush, the dirt road came to a sudden obstruction--a fallen tree, still clinging to its stump by a splintered sliver of trunk. The young man narrowed his eyes even further, for this was no misfortune of weather or age. The axe embedded in the stump had an edge that still gleamed.

"Ahh, sorry bout that, Young Master!" A rough voice guffawed. Atop the tree sat a large man, his plain robes girded up around his fat, hairy legs. His forearms bristled equally with muscle as well as fuzz, and his balding head held a smile minus a few teeth. "But the road's closed! Ya can't come this way!"

"It's no problem." The youth's hands dropped to his sides--the boor reached for the handle of his axe. But the noble-faced lad didn't touch his own weapon after all, and the thug relaxed. "I can simply go around."

"Gehahaha!" The ruffian dropped down from his perch and pulled the axe free, tapping its shaft across his shoulders. "'Fraid not, brat."

At that, more men appeared. One from either side of the fallen tree, blocking the roundabout. Two more stepped out onto the road behind their target, and yet another closed in from his left. The youth did not look at any of them--instead, he glanced up toward the hill on his right, and sniffed the air.

"Pretty smart, ain'tcha? Yep, we got an archer or three up there." The first bandit stepped forward and hacked a glob of phlegm into the dust. "An' forgive my rudeness, young master, but you don't look like one o' them prodigies what can take ten men without a scratch. So why don't ya lay down that sword...and yer purse...and them clothes, too?" With every moment the group closed in, until one of the two at his flank made to grab the young man's arm and pull him down--

"Wh...what the hell?" The bandit grabbed him with the other hand as well, and yanked as hard as he could. The youth didn't budge. "H-he's s'damn heavy, what gives!?"

"Are you guys the ones calling themselves the Bloody Wolves Gang?" asked the cool youth. But those sharp, bright eyes had changed--their corners perked with glee, just like the smirk on his face that grew wider every moment. The leader froze for a half-moment, then raised his axe.

"Kill 'em!"

A club, a heavy butcher's knife, and a stolen sword all swung at one time. The young man burst into laughter--and flame. A purple, magical blaze sprang from his skin, consuming his entire form in seconds. The clash of steel rang out. As the smoke cleared, the bandits saw their weapons caught among rows of spiked iron studs...and with ever mounting horror, craned their necks as the muscular, black-and-white skinned arm flexed its clawed grip on a red, cloth-wrapped haft.

"I'm hungry, so if you let me have one of those cows you've been rustling, I might let one of you sorry bastards live!" roared the Demon. With three whistle-thumps, three feathered shafts seemed to sprout from one alabaster shoulder. The Oni let out an enraged shout and brought his enormous club down right on top of an assailant. The other two jumped back, but as their companion's body was driven to the ground, his head no longer resembled anything recognizable as a human. The crimson spray spattered the Oni's pale face, and a long tongue snaked out to lap it up.

"Make that two cows."

Screams and bestial roars echoed through the forest...
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Kitagaki Terumori

Mifu Province


Terumori stood in place next to a fabric merchant's stall, eyeing anyone who approached it. Every so often he would glance at either the position of the sun in the sky or the shadows that it cast, waiting for the day to be over. The town they were in was a small inland trading stop in the Mifu province, with several roads leading to local fishing villages and one leading further inland, surrounded by a few outlying farms.

Standing around and minding a market wasn't exactly what he had agreed to do. When he had taken this job, he had agreed in advance to provide protection for the anticipated duration of the trip, however, because they had managed to arrive at their destination a day ahead of schedule, Terumori found himself ending the last day of his hired service standing around keeping an eye out for thieves. He didn't expect to run into any trouble- the ashigaru militia patrolling the roads and palisades appeared adequate to keep this little town secure and orderly.

The end of this day can't come soon enough...

Some samurai would consider it demeaning to find take such a position, answering to a mere peddler. His own brother, in particular, would be deeply ashamed at the notion of deigning taking such a job. It wasn't so bad when they were on the road, only crossing paths with the occasional traveler, but Terumori found it somewhat embarrassing to be standing around the market for everyone to see, playing security for a lowly (albeit well-off) craftsman. If he had been wearing his armor, he'd at least be able to take comfort in the fact that nobody would see his full face, but his employer requested that he try to be suitably subtle while he was here.

Besides, he had been paid to protect the man's wares for one more day, and he wasn't going to sully his honor by failing to fulfil his end of the deal.

The day so far had proved to be uneventful. Locals came and went, a few people came to the stall, watched like a hawk by Terumori, and there was no trouble. Then, in the late afternoon, just as his agreed-upon service was about to conclude, they were approached by a well-dressed man.

"Shigetane, my friend!" joyously shouted Terumori's employer. "I didn't think I'd see you here. What are you still doing here in Mifu?"

"Trying to reverse my misfortune," the stranger replied, speaking much more softly than his friend. "In my foolishness I have slighted a youkai, and am trying to make amends to it."

"That sounds serious, Shigetane," the merchant replied, noticeably worried. "What happened?"

"It all started a few days ago," the man began, briefly glancing at Terumori. "I had just picked up my goods delivered from the ship, and was beginning my usual route to Hakkou. While I was just outside the village, the wheel of my cart broke, spilling my goods into the road. Just then a terrific wind blew, sending some...very important sale records flying. I managed to recover them, but in my anger and frustration, I cursed the name of a local Tengu. He evidently heard me because whenever I try to pass through this area I am constantly assailed by gale winds. Every time I try to leave town, my cart is blown over!"

"Yes, I've heard of this Tengu," the merchant remarked. "The locals claim he is easily offended, but not unreasonable. He has a shrine in the hills for those who wish to pay their respect. I would suggest you make amends quickly."

"That is what I am working on," this Shigetane fellow replied, reaching into his kimono and pulling out a pouch. "At the advice of the local farmers, I have obtained rice cakes and fish, to make an offering at the Tengu's shrine. I need to make the offering while they are still fresh, but unfortunately the path to the shrine isn't safe. The farmers tell me that a large, aggressive boar has moved into that area, occasionally coming down to feed on the rice crops. He hasn't hurt anyone yet, but he aggressively chases away anyone unlucky enough to be in the paddies when he's hungry, and the militia refuse to tangle with him."

"That is a dilemma, but I think I have a solution," the merchant spoke, gesturing at Terumori. "This is Terumori, a young ronin whom I hired a few days ago to protect my merchandise, and his service to me is at its end. I recommend you hire him to escort you to the shrine."

Shigetane walked over to Terumori, carefully and silently scrutinizing the samurai. His face suggested he was unimpressed.

"I don't know anything about him, but if you trust him, then so will I," Shigetane spoke to the merchant. He then turned back to Terumori.
"My job for you is simple. I need you to escort me to the Tengu's shrine and do not allow any harm to come to me. Once the offering has been made and we have returned here, you will be paid. Do you agree to this?"

Terumori, having said nothing for almost the entire day, gave his reply.

"Yes, I agree. I can leave when you're ready."
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Yuuki Kiyomasa

Haruki Province


Not too far from the road, a few rice carts rolled through the dense forest, pulled by a few horses in front. A rather common sight around Haruki if not for the few armed soldiers on horseback riding ahead of the merchants. And these weren't ronins on payrolls of some merchants. Banners of red and gold familiar to many in the area would be enough to deter anyone from having fancy ideas. And if that wasn't enough to stop the gold-hungry or the desperate, these horsemen and horsewomen would. Legends say Tsuchimaru soldiers were born on the saddles themselves. While they were certainly not so, and they were mostly light horses, they were still very much capable of wiping out any ragtag bandit groups.

At the lead of the horse group was a rather short and round-faced man. He looked a little silly being on top of a much taller and towering equine partner, wearing the red armor of the clan, gold ornaments on his kabuto, a sword, or rather specifically a tachi, wrapped by his hips, the blade curving upward. His feet occasionally tapped the horse on its side and it would go forward as commanded, a reinless horse-riding style that allowed both his hands to hold onto a long straight spear that gave his unit a menacing reputation. But his unit wasn't here, or most of them weren't.

Haruki was under the control of the powerful Rinka clan, who had long trading relations with the Tsuchimaru, having provided a sizable amount of rations for the clan's last skirmish against the Shirogane. While never technically allied with one another due to fear of retribution from other clans who also had trading relations with the Rinka, preferring to make themselves seem like neutral benefactors rather than leaning one way, they still secretly gave the Tsuchimaru some leeway with military access. And the recent rise of certain crooked behaviors in the province made this privilege quite useful. Cavalry life under the Tsuchimaru was never boring this way. Even famed lancers still had to toil in front of a moving cart like any lowly peasants. But all was fine for Yuuki, for he found the brotherhood he made with the others worth the labor

"Did you hear that?" A horseman next to him whispered.

Tree rustling noises were heard from above. The branch shook up and down, as Yuuki swiftly looked up, his grips on the yari tightened. From the leaves revealed...a fox, agilely running down the tree and disappeared into the woods.

"Whew..." His grips relaxed considerably as Yuuki let out a sigh.

"Have chickens in your armor or something Yuu?" A horsewoman asked with a giggle, a lancer along with him and also a friend of his.

"I wish." Yuuki replied with a chuckle. "I thought there were ninjas around."

"I mean not impossible, but I doubt anyone really would want to pick a fight with us." She replied. "We're no important target."

"Uh-huh..." The young man gave his friend a smirk. "That sounds like a phrase in certain haikus."

"Yuu, you don't know anything about haiku." She shook her head in disapproval. "That's not how that works."

He giggled in response, as the uneventful escort continued, though not for long. All of a sudden, they felt the ground below shake lightly briefly, a pre-warning to a series of mighty roars echoing through the area, roars of some...creature. Not long after would screams be thrown into the mix, human screams. Someone appears to be in trouble.

"Where did that come from?" The horsewoman asked, her weapon swapped to her dominant hand, getting ready.

"Over that hill." Yuuki pointed ahead. It seemed like they were on a path to it. Even if they weren't going to leave to help whoever's in trouble, they'd run into it eventually.

"Stay here, we will check what is going on." She gestured to the other mounted soldiers to stay put and guard the rice cart, as she, Yuuki, and two horse archers continued forward.

A man eventually stumbled on the road in the opposite direction the horses were traveling. He was petrified with horror, struggling to balance himself as his fears kept forcing him to look behind while his body limped forward. Blood splatters could be found on his clothes. However, he also had with him a sword, something peasants shouldn't have, and the dirt-stained robe didn't give the impression that he was anywhere affiliated with the samurai or ronin class.

"P-P-Please!" He fell to his knees the moment he found the bannered men and women, his weapon dropped onto the dirt. "He's a predator!"

"He?" Yuuki asked, but the man couldn't respond. Horror was all over his face, soon taking over him again.

"I'm dead meat..." He swung his head to where he came from, his hands and lips trembled as he uttered. "I'm dead meat!" He took off, running for his life.

Yuuki looked at the other three in concern. That poor man did say he. Yet the roar wasn't human. He gulped back his fear of a possible youkai nearby. He had heard of youkai stories throughout his life: the powerful beings, capable of imaginary feats using powers beyond his capability, yet he never once faced one in his life. People have subdued and hunted youkais for long, but for Yuuki, it was still somewhat terrifying to come face to face with one, especially one seemingly on a rampage at the very moment.

He nevertheless urged his horse forward, following the other three as they cautiously rounded the bend to the scene of carnage that the Demon caused.

@Zeroth
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Haruki (春樹) Province
A Roadside Brawl



"He's an Oni!" "Watch his club!" "Shoot him! SHOOT HIM!"

Kyo stopped the bandit's wooden club with his bare hand, and his claws dug furrows in the heavy oak as his grip tightened. His supernatural senses picked up the creak of bowstrings, and he jerked the human around to serve as a living shield. The shafts sank into the man's gut as the Oni lifted him clear of the ground, and he screamed again. A third bandit, maybe the smartest one of the group, turned and sprinted into the forest with sword in hand.

"I'll cut ya down, big bastard!" roared the leader, as he charged at Kyo's backside with that great wood cutting axe. The youkai lashed out with his club, but the ruffian actually rolled under it! Kyo stepped back as that thick blade almost cracked his shin--he was big and strong, but not invincible. Then something heavy hit him in the small of the back, and he stumbled forward. One of the other thugs had a fist sized iron ball at the end of a chain, which jerked back and began to loop in preparation for another attack. He barely got the slowly dying man in between him and the leader's next swing of the axe--the poor wretch finally died this time, after all that howling. Then the Oni planted his big foot in the corpse's back and kicked both of them clear across the road! The bandit leader lost his weapon, and hit the broad side of a tree hard enough to drive the breath from his lungs. As Kyo turned to the others, he swung his club to keep them at bay--that chain shot out again, and wrapped around the spiked iron rod.

"I'll hold 'em, get in there!" The remaining humans charged in with desperate shouts, and Kyo grinned.

"You're cute!" He flexed his muscles and roared, and yanked the human--not a small man by any stretch of the senses--bodily from the earth. The man arced through the air at hair raising speed. He barely had time to gasp as the forest around him blurred--and then he crunched against another tree. But Kyo couldn't revel in it--another arrow hit him, this time in the side, and he let out a pained bellow as he slammed his club into the ground. With one arm covering the wound he fended off his attackers with the other. A wild swing of his forearm snapped off a spear's haft, but a chipped sword left a wound across his chest. Shallow but ragged, it bled bright red over his pearl-white hide, and again he snarled.

"What'sa matter, you WEAKLINGS!?" the Demon screamed, hefting his weapon again and half-circling. Two more arrows hit the ground where he'd been, but the third snagged one his robes and took a chunk of the material with it. "Ain't no problem stealin' and killin' when it's peasants, but a li'l ol' Demon has you pissin' your pants?! C'MON!" It was half-bravado, but they didn't know that--he had underestimated the archers, hadn't even expected simple cattle rustlers and highwaymen to be that smart. His head snapped from side to side, fangs bared.

@Conscripts Then he saw the horses. More bandits?! Or--wait. These guys had actual armor and weapons? Who were they with? Youkai hunters?! Too many thoughts, too many enemies--!

"RAAAAAAGH!" Another roar, but it wasn't Kyo's. The bandit leader was back up, and with both hands on that axe he tried to carve out the Oni's spine. Kyo spun and blocked with both hands on his kanabo, and the two chunks of iron threw sparks against each other.

"SHADDUP!" His four black horns came down like a hammer. Kyo stood more than head and shoulders above the bandit; his skull slammed the man into the ground hard enough that a circle of dust actually blew outward around them when the bandit hit the forest floor. But now the rest of the Bloody Wolves Gang looked around in confusion--they too, had no idea who these newcomers were, and the archers hesitated to choose their targets while the other men faltered without their leader...
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