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10 days ago
1 mo ago
omg it's been a very long time since I've been on here...
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2 yrs ago
"A creepy old man cut my hair off!" - Thor
3 likes
2 yrs ago
My OOC is complete. I will now go outside and enjoy the beautiful sun, until it gets too hot, then scuttle back inside where Horizon Zero Dawn awaits me. Finally, I get to play you!
4 likes
2 yrs ago
It has been a weird/chaotic/hilarious Monday at the hospital and I'm only halfway through my shift.
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Bio

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Farewell, Home Sweet Home...




“Vayra’s light has left us, hasn’t it?” The soldier said, parroting what many survivors have asked since the collapse. Survivors? Months ago, they were soldiers, not survivors, ready to go on an epic crusade for the sake of Lord Vayra's holy sustenance, to bring warmth to the cold and cruel lands of the east. Now, they are candles in a blizzard. Does anyone even know they're here? Does anyone even care?

Father Solim was as motionless as the ark below their perch. His eyes, however, looked left and right, up and down, drawn to something the soldier couldn't see, and that worried him.

“What are you looking at, Father?” A tinge of panic was heard in his sore throat. The soldier squinted, moving around the cramped crow's nest to survey the landscape, but couldn’t make out a discernible object beyond the ice wall.

“T-Those damned things aren’t back again, are they?” He said in between coughs.

Though ice barren, energy peels throughout the layers of the environment like festive ribbons, driven by unseen currents in the ticker tape parade that celebrates life. Here, even in this dull wasteland, energy exists, moving before Solim’s eyes like bright floating rivers. This was one of the Omestrian’s gifts: Sight beyond sight, as if he were looking through a special lens, one that reveals ether still tethered to this world.

“Vayra’s light, Lt. Bixley,” Solim began, giving the soldier his full attention, “Might feel dim, and even absent in such trying times, but it’s always here. That will never change, and when we die? Our bodies will freeze, but our ether will bathe in the eternal light, like all things do.”

“As for the Icekin? Well,” Father Solim shrugged, “They’re probably sleeping. Something you ought to be doing right about now.”

The soldier was visibly relieved to know another Icekin attack wasn’t happening. He rubbed the feverish sweat off his brow.

“I’m fine, Father. A cold is all I have, unless my company displeases you?”

“Don’t be so dramatic, Lieutenant! I very much enjoy your stories about home, your nagging wife, your six demon children, and all of the things that need fixing around your dilapidated two-story flat, but your temperature is rising, and all of that talking isn’t helping the sickness in your throat.”

Lt. Bixley was surprised the Inquistor even remembered any of that.

“Go, my friend.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very much so."

“Thank you, Father Solim."

"Drink some warm tea and rest near the aegis engine. I'll wake you when the hunting party arrives.”

"You know, you're too kind for this world.”

“Oh, I’d say I’m the right amount, but if your snoring gets any louder, I’m blaming you if the Icekin attack.” Father Solim grinned.

The soldier rolled his eyes, gave a firm salute, then made his sluggish decent from the crow’s nest ladder. Solim watched as the man’s ether tailed behind, the lethargic swath of velvet, now waning and translucent. Such was the case for many survivors of the collapse. Immobilized by chunks of displaced ice from Vayra’s war machine, the brave few that are left, are held at an impasse between surviving the cold, and the ice beasts that yearn for their warm flesh.

“Lieutenant?” Father Solim called out, sensing a rift. He peered over the rails to find Bixley on his knees. The soldier tried to prop himself up with his arms, but his strength had left him. Father Solim gasped as the lieutenant collapsed face down, his ether, dimming upon impact.

“Hang on, Bixley!”

***


Lt. Bixley was as pale white as the sheets he was wrapped in. Despite the many layers pooled from those willing to give away their blankets, Solim included, the soldier was still quivering, his lips now bruised to a bluish-purple.

“It's probably pneumonia, septicemia, or both.” The medic told Father Solim.

Bixley groaned. At first, he called out the names of his wife and children, but now, he wasn't making any sense.

"Tale's...End."

“He shouldn’t have been out there in the first place.”

“Stubborn as he was, the heating barrier's radius must be dwindling. I should have sensed this, but I was...distracted.”

“Hell, Father, we’re all distracted in this fu-” The medic stopped herself, took a deep breath, then apologized. “Sorry. This infirmary, if you even want to call it that, has had its fair share of distractions."

“Don’t apologize for my sake, Staff Sergeant,” Solim said, glancing at the bunks crammed with the sick and wounded. “I’m actually surprised you lasted this long without cursing, and even then, you showed restraint! That’s far more pious than some clergymen I know.”

“Don’t you go fixing me up as some kind of saint, Father; I scream all the profanities in the world into my pillow --- when everyone’s asleep, of course.” A smile was all he needed, and she gave him that much. Lt. Bixley’s moans grew louder, forcing them back to the reality of the situation.

“We’re low on meds,” The medic whispered, “Whatever infection the Lieutenant’s fighting, it’s not pulling any punches, that’s for sure.”

She chose her next words carefully.

“He won’t make it through the night, and without a healer, I can’t ration out anymore antibiotics, or painkillers. As much as I’d want to send him off in peace, Father, I’ve got people in far worse condition-”

“Don’t worry.” Father Solim put a hand on her shoulder. He felt the stress weighing heavily on the medic's conscious, so he offered to carry some of that burden.

"No, Father. You should help the Aegisbearer." She insisted, but Father Solim wouldn't budge.

“I’ll make sure he gets home.”

***


Solim stared in awe at the dapper man, who tap danced to his heart's content. He wore a dark brown, three-piece suit, his hair was combed and parted with slick oils, and the ends of his waxed mustache were twirled to perfection.

“I’ll say this, Kyle Bixley, you sure do clean up nice.”

“And I’ll say this, Father Solim. I'm loving those bright threads over your usual gloom and doom.” Kyle said, finger-gun pointing at Solim’s attire. The Inquisitor was still wearing his traditional turbankaut garb, but this one was hued in vibrant whites, blues, and reds. It even had trinkets attached to the headpiece, chiming in the slight breeze as they strolled down the sidewalk.

“Is this it?” Solim asked, stopping at the Queen Anne-style, two-story building. Its overhanging roofs were propped up by decorative support brackets, blending into the grey brick walls stacked around stain glass windows, framed throughout its asymmetrical architecture.

“You betcha.” Kyle said, affectionately. “My great grandfather built it with his own two hands, all from the ground up. This was before Tale’s End added a Slum at the end of it, back when Magnagrad provided for anyone who was willing to work for it.”

“You want to come in?” Kyle asked.

“I’m afraid I can’t just yet, lieutenant.”

Before he could ask Solim why, the pearly white front door of the house flew open. Out came six dark-haired children, all racing down the steps to try and reach Kyle first. The father hugged each kid, kissing their cheeks and foreheads, as they screamed for his attention.

“Daddy!”

“You’re back! You’re back!”

“Play marbles with us, pop!”

“You bring back anymore doodads, dad-dad?”

“Dad, fix my ark toy, will you? Dudley broke it trying to be an Ice monster.”

“No I didn’t!”

“Hold your horses, you little demons!" They laughed at their given nickname. "I just got home, for crying out loud! Can I kiss my wife before you tear me apart? In fact, where is sh-“

Kyle’s jaw nearly dropped to his suede shoes. A thin and cheery lady waltzed out the door, her curly brown hair, bouncing along her exposed shoulders. She wore an extravagant dress that looked as though it were made out of sun-kissed clouds. His obnoxious children were drowned out by a saxophone, playing Kyle’s favorite song. It was coming from inside the house, most likely from his old record player in the living room. Kyle ran up to his wife, spun her around, then drew her in close for a kiss.

“Welcome home, darling.” She said.

He glanced back at the Inquisitor. Father Solim was in black and red again, damp from the melted snow. In this surreal moment, he suddenly realized why the Omestrian declined his invitation. Kyle was dying. The lieutenant started to cry, but his family was there to wipe away his tears.

“Go, my friend.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very much so.”

***


Father Solim Vimat slowly exited the fortress of his mind, severing his ethereal link with Lt. Bixley. As he did, the Inquisitor caught a glimpse of his final moments.

Lieutenant Kyle Bixley was submerged in love; His love for his six children, which was as strong as when he held them in his arms for the first time, and the love for his wife, the same kind of love he had like when he first laid eyes on her. His family disappeared into the house, igniting a bright, but soothing light. He bathed in its warmth, looked back one last time at Father Solim, then closed the door behind him. The saxophone’s tune was faint now, but it echoed within Father Solim's mind, until everything went silent.

The Inquistor was jolted back into the physical realm. What felt like hours was actually minutes in the real world. He opened his amber eyes to a smile chiseled on Bixley’s face and couldn't help but smile back. He let go of the soldier's frozen hands, noting the absence of his ether, then rose to face the medic and her bedridden patients.

"Now, who else needs to find their way home?”
“Step away from the ledge, sir!” The guard’s yell was amplified by the cavern’s acoustics.

“Kid, I’m not trying to off myself.” Vardi didn’t bother to face the man. He just stood there, bare assed, looking at the blue water swirling at the bottom of a 50 foot drop. “I was in the sun all god damned day. I just want to go in for a quick dip, that’s all.”

“This is the drinking reserve! We can’t have your filth contaminating it! The bathhouses are south from here on-”

“Those bathhouses can kiss my sunburnt ass. I ain’t divin’ in no armpit juice. Plus, none of em places got a drop like this here, boy.”

“If you don’t step back from that ledge, I’ll cut you down myself!”

Vardi finally turned, the scarred side of his face looking over his shoulder at the guard, who took a step back at Vardi’s attempt to form a smile.

“N-no!” Just as the word left the guard’s lips, Vardi cannonballed off the ledge. He yelled from the top of his lungs, his battle cry, echoing throughout the caverns of Sando.

“DRINK THIS!!!”

And that is how Vardi Zaitsev of the Sunrunner’s guild ended up in jail, yet again.







“Give us the boy!” The man lunged forward, moving from side-to-side, narrowly dodging Ishawari’s spear thrusts.

The slender female assassin grew impatient; seemingly blocked off by her partner’s movement, which gave little room for her to pass.

“For the good of Majima!” She screamed, now leaping from wall-to-wall. Ishawari’s eyes widened as she flipped onto the ceiling, defying the laws of gravity by running at him, upside down. This was no doubt the product of some magical enchantment; not even Jin could perform such an acrobatic feat. The male assassin lunged forward, and grabbed ahold of Ishawari’s spear.

“The Yomiyawa will die with the old world! Long live the Iron Fangs!” The female roared, Sai raised to strike down Ishawari, who struggled to pull his weapon free from the man’s grip.

“There!”

Ishawari barely heard Jin as the trap mechanism spurred to life from above. Was it projectiles? Spikes? Another blasted axe? Whatever it was, he gambled on it coming down in a straight line. He released his spear, then tumbled off to the side, the violent whirl of metal cleaving air, rang in his ears.

“Argh!”

While the blue-masked female was quick enough to evade the axe, the male was not. After getting caught off balance from pulling the spear from Ishawari, he had no time to evade.

“Guanjo!” The female dropped down from the ceiling, ready to strike Ishawari.

“Go, Asana!” He lurched, pulling himself free from the axe blade jammed into his shoulder. “Never mind this pawn! Kill the boy, now!”

Before Ishawari got onto his feet, Asana was already bolting toward the exit.

“Damn it!” He said, glaring back at the wounded man. Blood was streaming out from the breathing holes of his red demon mask, but he puffed his chest, defiantly.

“You cannot outrun us. Even if you make it out here alive, you’ll live the rest of your days looking over your shoulder. Why go through such a hassle? Just give us-“

Ishawari picked up his spear and struck the assassin down. There was no time for discussion. He turned and ran as hard as he could, making his way to Jin.

***


Though most of the scenery was shrouded in darkness, the moon did well to emblazon the high ledge. The sound of rushing waters from down below, echo throughout the cold Yga mountains. Jin makes her way across the narrow ledge, carrying Hotaru towards the far end where a dirt path awaits. She has but 50 yards left of ledge left to scale, to which the path will then guide her down into the ravine. However, the assassin, Asana, has made her way out of the corridor.

“Hmm... did the divines grant us mercy?” In the moonlight, Asana’s black garbs sparkled with ethereal magic, shifting and spiraling towards her hands and feet. The blue mask tilted down, then left, and right, until she heard rubble tumbling off in the distance. “Perhaps not!”

Like a spider, she scaled the side of the mountain on all fours. Fortunately, Asana did not spot Jin, but was fast approaching in her direction.

“Oh, Little Prince, where are you!?!” Asana screamed.




Character Name: Father Solim Vimat

Age: 19

Height/Weight: 5’10” (178 cm)/160 lbs (73 kg)

Gender: Male

Race: Omestrian

Physical Description:

The most striking thing about Solim are his light amber eyes. Aside from their irregular chroma, they can at times elicit emotion that doesn’t require words. His lanky build and gaunt facial features are accentuated by taut, brown skin. Save the clean shaven face, his entire body is covered in scars. The sandy brown hair on his head is long and curly on top, and kept shaved close to the skin at the sides. While his eyes are clear identifiers of his ethnic background, the turbaned cloak he dons over his Inquisitor uniform punctuates it rather boldly. This garment matches his outfit’s black and red color scheme, symbolizing the union between Lord Vayra and Omestris.

The more traditional version is only worn off duty. The patterns and choice colors symbolize many things: The base, parchment color represents the white sands of the afterlife, with the layered blues and reds signifying the ancient battle between fire and ice. Lastly, the waves patterned from the left shoulder and down, is water that trickles to The Left Hand, an homage to the Omestrian-Vimat tribe’s beliefs. The beads stringed from the collar are a representation of Solim’s family tree. The string of beads and trinkets snaking around the turban piece, represent his life’s journey up to this point.

The garment worn with the inquisitor uniform is simpler by comparison. It isn’t accessorized with beads and trinkets, or intricately patterned, like the traditional version. Its basic design matches the uniform with its black base color, mildly accentuated by a red trim. The front side of the turbaned cloak is kept draped away, making his inquisitor attire more visible, and identifying him as a proper authority.

Personality:

Neither the icy hell of our world, nor the cruelty of man like The Great Bear himself, can dilute the kindness in Solim's heart. He is a lantern in the void that burns with spirit, curiosity, and child-like wonder. Unlike the truth seekers and pursuers of knowledge spurred by status or elitism, Solim is motivated by simply absorbing, analyzing, and reflecting all things within the ether.

Yet, underneath all of his zen-like sanctity exists a fun-loving goofball. A good prank or two (or three) is never beneath him, befitting of a humble (if not peculiar) mystic, one who’d never claim to be holier-than-thou (unless it’s on the topic of making animal sounds, for which he is the self-proclaimed, undisputed master).

Solim is passable when socializing within the Inquisition hierarchy. His genuine charm can be mistaken for ignorance or cultural misunderstanding, and his peculiar ether gifts, though useful, tends to keep cohorts at arm's length. Despite the reservations his peers and colleagues might have, Solim's ability as a teammate within the Goliath Warband is recognized as a valuable asset.

He is guided by an open minded belief system, one that is adopted from an old philosophy of his origin tribe. He acknowledges Lord Vayra as a deity, but viewed more as an integral piece in the grander picture. While this is can be debated as a heretical way of thinking, Solim doesn’t believe another figure is higher in authority. It is a nebulous loop hole that the church doesn’t bother exploiting, mostly because of his asset value within the Inquisition, further vouched for by the likes of Father Gregoroth and Father Antonin.

Background:

My people, disenfranchised and shackled, are the life force of this world; A drop of our blood grants reprieve from the endless cold, a vaccination to sustain life. They say we our tainted, an abomination, yet the ancient feud that gave us our cursed blood is what turns civilization’s wheel. Whether as slaves or lab rats, our free will is dust at the feet of our ancestors, dust to which you use to keep warm at night. I speak on this so that you may understand an Omestrian’s pain, anger, and frustration, but to also understand that he is not like us. In fact, he is not like us in many ways, but at the same time, he represents the very best of us. How this came to be, I will never understand - not with what he’s been through, how he’s suffered.

He was birthed from the commune breeding pools of a T’sarae research facility. His mother cried as he cooed in peace, then quickly sang one song, and one song only. When she finished, they pried her away from her seed. She tried to kiss his forehead as they did, but they yanked her away before she had the chance. So she prayed for their reunion in the afterlife, said her last good byes, then disappeared to the breeding camps, never to be seen again.

The child was meant to be a battery, hooked to T’sarae devices that powered steam experiments and nothing more. Yet, the ether called to him in ways not seen before. Drawn to its many frequencies, the boy could sense when someone overflowed with ether, or was on their very last drops. The T’sarae lab coats jumped at this opportunity and made him their bloodhound; a child on a leash, searching for test subjects with high ether potential. Through trial-and-error, one which I do not have the heart to detail, the T’sarae soon discovered that the bloodhound can also absorb and redistribute ether to another source. Again, hooked to devices like a piece of the cog’s machinery, made to fulfill... research quotas. And when that piece malfunctioned, damaging precious T’sarae research beyond repair, the bloodhound was scheduled to be put down.

I couldn't let this happen. He was loved, not just by me, or the prisoners, but by some of our T’sarae captors as well. Despite the treatment he received, the boy’s kindness never waned. It was like he saw through us, no, saw deep inside of us, and found something worth the warmth and affection he gave so willingly. In a bleak prison camp, the boy reminded us of something we’ve all forgotten about: Happiness...The boy was too special...pure...and he had to be protected, no matter the cost.

So we staged a coup.

The boy slipped away with one of the T’sarae as we rioted. She housed him for a short time, preparing his documents for the Red Seminary, where he eventually joined the Goliath Warband. There was much concern about this. Their Warleader, Father Gregoroth, is known to be a sadistic man. It pained me that he wouldn’t have peace like I hoped, but I knew he would be okay. The boy survived far worse things than a man claiming to be some Great Bear. Earning the respect of someone like him speaks volumes. Even the White Necromancer has taken him under his wing, who no doubt guides his path along the ether.

The boy eventually became an investigator. I believe this a more fancier title than bloodhound, though instead of a leash, he now wears a black and red uniform. The T’sarae woman who aided in his escape tells me he’s doing well, solving puzzles the Vayra otherwise scratched their heads at. This fills me with pride. To know that he’s risen to such a status is one thing, but the true joy that overwhelms my heart is that he is given a name. Solim Vimat.

This....this brings tears of happiness, because it is the native name we gave him in secret. Solim, the peaceful, and Vimat, the tribe of my people.

I will die in peace knowing he carries on our legacy, free from this wretched place. My son, if you ever find this, know that your mother and I will embrace you again. We will walk together, hand-in-hand, across the white oasis, and etch our footprints into eternity. All that I ask is that you never forget who you are, and where you come from...

- OV


Talents:
  • Gift of Gab: Solim has the ability to speak with confidence, to the point of persuasion. Part of what makes him effective is that he also has good listening skills, and knows how to make people feel welcomed.
  • Close Quarter Disarmament: This is a skill he learned under the brutal tutelage of Father Gregoroth. While not great with firearms, or even melee weapons that aren't pole arms or staffs, Solim is a wizard when it comes to redirecting and neutralizing an attacker's momentum in close quarters.
  • Animal Onomatopoeia: Making animal sounds is an odd skill that Solim takes pride in. He mainly uses it as a distraction, or a clever signal to communicate to his Warband on the field. It also makes for a very amusing sound effect for storytelling.

Ethereal Abilities:
  • The Ether's Guide: Solim hears, sees, smells, and touches varying wavelengths across the ethereal spectrum; interpreting the residual ether of an ability used in an area, the lingering essence of the dead, or the quantity of ether a person has, to name a few. The ether itself has been known to speak to him, though it isn't made clear as to whether that is his interpretation, or if he's actually interacting with ghostly apparitions.
  • Fortress of the Mind: Through deep meditation, he can visualize the finer details of the ether he interprets with his senses. This brings much clarity as he's able to organize the clutter of energies the world gives off. On rare occasions, he can meld with others who are open minded to the experience. By joining hands in meditation he can emit what he visualizes into their thoughts.
  • The Ether Phantom: During his meditative state, he can transcend his body in the form of an astral projection. In this form he is even more susceptible to the ether around him, and can even roam within a 100 yard radius uninhibited by physical walls or obstacles. However, he can only be an observer in this form, and cannot manipulate anything in the physical realm while in this state.
  • The Funnel: Residual ether that lingers in the environment can be absorbed to refortify another person's abilities, amplifying their powers for a short time. This is an unstable ability best used as a last resort. The after effects can place harm on both Solim, and whoever he funnels ether to.


Personal Seal:



Character Relationships:

Mother Indira: For better or worse, Indira assisted with Solim’s transition into the Red Seminary. In the beginning, Solim was obedient. He absorbed most of her strict instruction without fail, but proved to be a slippery slope when it came to complete Vayra subjugation, and suppressing his Omestrian heritage. This wasn’t driven by rebelliousness, or oppressed anger; Solim’s motivations were based entirely on a pacifist’s view, one that focused on the grander scheme of things. This became a source of conflict she couldn’t rein in. And when Father Gregoroth and Father Antonin started granting him leniencies, Solim’s relationship with Mother Indira quickly went from sour, to hostile. He openly represents his heritage by wearing traditional garbs in public, even with an Inquisitor uniform on. Because of this, Indira views Solim as a selfish fool, one who puts other Omestrians at risk by bringing attention onto himself. This is a growing dilemma for her Omestrian students, who have a hard time figuring out their own identity within the Seminary. Indira regrets ever helping Solim, and goes to great lengths to disassociate herself from him. Solim is saddened by their fallout, but while he understands her views, he cannot go against his spirit and change who he is.

Father Antonin: Solim owes a great deal to Antonin, a man who nurtured his development, and truly cared for his wellbeing. The two shared an affinity with the ether that most couldn’t understand, and it opened up realms of learning between master and apprentice. Antonin’s scholarly enthusiasm pushed Solim’s mind like never before, unlocking potential he never knew existed. While Solim feels indebted for Father Antonin’s teachings, it was his kindness that he appreciated the most, especially after his grueling sessions with Father Gregoroth.

Father Gregoroth: While Father Antonin has a special place in his heart, Solim would say he keeps Father Gregoroth as the heart’s outer surface, a scarred, protective layer. At first, Gregoroth felt no different than the T’sarae oppressors, who seemed to relish in his pain and misfortune. It’s natural to harbor resentment, or even hatred for this kind of behavior, but Solim had faith in the process. Every beating was taken in peaceful silence, every insult was acknowledged with a humble nod. You see, Solim saw the ether in Father Gregoroth, the same way he saw Father Antonin and Mother Indira’s, and the same way he saw the T’sarae that tortured him. Their ether were varying and different, but they oscillate with life that’s meant to endure and improve. “Iron sharpens iron,” is what Gregoroth always barked, and Solim believed it true. While Gregoroth is known to be feared, Solim respects The Great Bear for teaching him a valuable lesson: To endure pain, even past trauma, and wear it as armor branded onto the soul, so that nothing can truly hurt you.

Theme Song

NPC

Age: 20
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 145lbs
Basic Info: A recent grad from the Shinsengumi academy, acing both theory and simulated training. There’s concern as to how he’ll fare out in the field, as he’s known to be rather clumsy. He was recommended to data farm work in The Kairo, but he wanted to prove himself out in the real world. Using his strong family connections, Issoji was given his chance, though now feet first into a dangerous first mission, he’s starting to regret passing up the Kairo assignment.




2128 AB - EDO - TOKYO



The perpetual grey that blots the earth are like blinds that shield Japan from Ameratsu, the sun. The kami rarely peaks through the dense, polluted cloud system, so the sky towers made by man bless us in her stead. LED fixtures swirl and dance in holographic ads and billboards, coalescing with accented colors that reflect against building windows, and sleek cars in aerial transit.

The mega city of Edo Tokyo stands like a bioluminescent mountain, and at the very top, is the massive Shogun Conglomerate Fortress, rivaled only by Mt. Fuji. This massive structure is an ancient design, a gargantuan relic amongst a futuristic landscape. Like many other buildings, shrines, and gardens littered throughout the country, it serves as a friendly, but bold reminder: preserve tradition.

Another entity serves as such. The Shinsengumi, the Shogun’s special police, have been dispatched from their Sky Tower headquarters in central Edo, to remind those who’ve forgotten how things are run.

***

Hmph! Tatsuya hammer fisted the portable heater, burying it deep into the middle compartment. If he wasn’t in vector traffic, 3,000 ft up rainy skies, he would’ve chucked the useless thing out the window of his Hamlet Impala. Never mind the loitering citation that would instantly ping from surveying traffic drones; with his luck, it would most likely land on top of the head of an unknowing pedestrian down below. That wasn’t polite. Nobody else should be inconvenienced by this piece of shit product.

“Uzai!” He sneered, giving it another whack, shaking it with frustration, then doubled the intensity after hearing loose, tiny pieces juggle around its insides.

If it wasn’t broken before, it definitely is now. This marks the third heating appliance from Ichigan products he’s used. Third times a charm! The family owner pleaded, bowing in spasm, making promises the stupid thing couldn’t even keep for a week. No more chances. After this job is done, he’s going to submit a very harsh review online. Such a critique from a Shinsengumi officer, one who is ranked high on the social pyramid, will no doubt bring dishonor to the Ichigan family. There was no remorse left to give. They had to learn, like his family, the Mashiba’s, had to learn...

WARNING! Please maintain flight path. If you’d like to reroute onto a different flight path, please engage new coordinates via autopilot. Thank you!


“Shut up!” Tatsuya punched the dashboard console with one hand, white knuckling the wheel with the other as he course corrected his trajectory.

The black Hamlet classic fell back in line with the rest of the commuters. He let out a sigh and began to inhale and exhale, slow and smooth, just like his automated therapist prescribed.

Tatsuya rubbed the dashboard, quietly apologizing to his beloved car. She was a very old model, a foreign import in fact, that dated all the way back to the early generations of cars with flight capabilities. The Hamlet Impala has a timeless look to it, but unfortunately, its rare parts, made even rarer 70 years after its production, makes it a pain in the ass to upkeep.

Hence the broken heater, and the chore of having to buy second hand alternatives to compensate for a problem he doesn’t have time to fix.

“Gomen.” Tatsuya said aloud.

“N-no worries, Tatsuya-sama!” Issoji said.

“What?” Tatsuya frowned at the new recruit through his rear view mirror, still rubbing the dashboard with his hand as if soothing a frightened dog.

When Issoji realized his mentor wasn’t who he directed his apology to, he broke away from Tatsuya’s intense gaze, and stared out the passenger window.

“Nothing.” The young man was sweating bullets. Never mind the car ride from hell. Heading towards a hostile situation in the Kenshin District, on his first day, was triggering his anti-anxiety stimulants.

The Kenshin District in Edo Tokyo wasn’t technically owned by The Kenshin Corporation; they had their own piece of land up north in Echigo-Niigata province. In fact, all of the districts named after the major Daimyo corporations in this city served as a secondary base of operations. While they didn’t own these districts, the Daimyo Corporations still had to govern them. And with Chairman Ueseugi Kenshin’s priorities focused on business affairs within The Kairo, Japan’s regulated cyberspace, he’s allowed The Skullfire Gang to run amuck.

Issoji cleared his throat at the thought of being face-to-face with those maniacal cultists. He’s read articles about their savagery, watched live feeds of them wreaking havoc in Hannya masks, a symbolic honor meant to appease their Serpentine Goddess. I should’ve taken that assignment in The Kairo. Damn it! What the hell was I thinking?

Tatsuya shrugged at the greenhorn, then turned the radio on. The sounds of Smiling Fox, a female folk artist, filled the stuffy cabin with her beautiful voice, and melodic strums from a shamisen.

“Oh!” At the flip of a switch, the middle-aged man went from stern-faced and grumpy, to grinning foolishly with content. He turned to his partner, Reika.

“A classic! I danced with my wife to this very song on our wedding night. We were poor back then, but still very much in love. All we had was each other, you know? Ha! I still remember bumping into the furniture trying to do the tango. You see, we couldn’t afford a venue, so we just had the ceremony in our crammed village apartment.”

A stream of memories lapsed into his mind about the good old days, before his marriage ended up in shambles, back when the Mashiba family clan still believed in pride and honor.



The unspoken interaction between Jin and Ishawari was instant. Even the tilt of her head wasn't needed, for their collaborative years prompted an almost automatic understanding of each other's nuances; from just the slightest twitch in her eyes, he knew her answer.

Ishawari pointed his spear forward, then circled the bladed edge as a distraction, while Jin shifted her momentum, and said:

"Sorry, we're not interested in your offer."

Her first steps toward the exit ignited the assassins in a frenzy. The female was the quickest, whipping after Jin with a Sai in each hand as the male threw a dagger in Ishawari's direction. An unskilled warrior would've lost focus, likely stabbed by the flying blade for trying to stop the female's advance, but not Ishawari. Springing traps was not his forte, but he was in his wheelhouse now.

Ishawari back stepped, rose the pole arm of his spear to parry the incoming blade, sending it ricocheting off with a loud pang! back at the man. The blade lodged into the assassin's arm, stifling him momentarily, before giving chase. From the parry, he immediately thrust the spear in front of the female assassin, cutting off her trajectory, hesitating her advance at Jin. Amateur. The hesitation was enough for Ishawari to regain an advantageous position, back stepping until he put himself more comfortably wedged in front of the assassins.

By now, Jin carried Hotaru out of the large room. As Ishawari followed suit, he kept his stance engaged with their attackers. In such a narrow corridor, it was much easier to control both of their advances, and began putting more and more distance between them, and Jin and Hotaru. With his back turned, he couldn't make out how far off they were. He only hoped the exit was close.







Name: Tatsuya Mashiba

Age: 41

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 185 lbs

Enhancements:

  • Diogenes-Enlistment Booster - Standard gene therapy cocktail that maximizes full potential of the human anatomy. Like many soldiers during The Bidding Wars, he was given these treatments to perform to the best of his abilities. 20 years later, the after effects of these unvetted experiments have taken a toll on many veterans, Tatsuya included. While his body still functions at an Olympic-level, he is prone to migraines, and has developed an abnormal cardiovascular disease from pumping hyper accelerants through his blood stream.
  • Drop-Socket - The minimal alternative compared to a fully cyberized netbrain. The Drop-Socket is a basic input jack surgically implanted on the back of the neck, serving as a buffer for hardwired entries into the kairo. While it’s a primitive technology, its less invasive approach is the ideal scenario for his more conservative lifestyle.


Basic Info:

Tatsuya Mashiba came from a poor family business on the verge of bankruptcy. This Bidding War veteran became an unlikely hero, and as a result, accelerated his family status along the social pyramid.

He is known for holding off enemy forces from advancing Koromogawa bridge, which lead to a vital data hub, the place where legendary Yoshitsune Minamoto committed Seppuku (more specifically, sacrificed his body to merge with the network and super hack enemy forces, effectively turning the tide of the war in Tokugawa’s favor before the Emperor overrode him out of existence).





What if the bird will not sing?

Nobunaga answers, “Kill it!”
Hideyoshi answers, “Make it want to sing.”
Ieyasu answers, “Wait.”
_____ answers, “Give it a new nest.”



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