Seven Devils

Gatac 2015-07-15 14:20:18
IC Thread 27 - Reunited, and it feels so good!
Gatac 2015-07-15 14:55:28
Though technically the newest addition to the team, Konoko the hawk-eagle has already well-established her abilities and proclivities with the group, and with the Shadowwatch on one end and the ninjas on the other, it's little surprise that Kirika - in between running around the capital juggling half a dozen little conspiracies - left explicit instructions with Ueki on what to do if Konoko shows up at the factory slash new super-secret Shadowwatch base of operations.

"Ueki," she said, "in case a big hawk-eagle comes, tell her where we are, and give her a piece of fish - and a bit of cake."

Which was well-meaning advice, really, only it presupposed that Ueki would easily be able to acquire a piece of fish and a bit of cake, but try walking to a fishmonger and buying a single fish head, or stepping into a patisserie for a box of crumb sweeps. Accordingly, when Konoko did show up and refused to let Ueki retrieve the message from her leg, he had to improvise a bit.

Which is why, when Kirika returns from her discussion with Ryu Sai at the docks, she finds a table set outside on the factory yard, with a very large hawk-eagle messily digging into a cake while still holding on to a half-shredded salmon in her right claw. Konoko emits the occasional "Kii!" between bites.

"So, uh," Ueki tries to explain. "About that bit of cake..."
Kirika sighs and shakes her head. "There's a reason I said give her a bit of cake, not let her eat some cake, Ueki."
Ueki puffs himself up. "Oh, okay," he says. "You want to argue with that bird, go right ahead."
Konoko reinforces that with a short, sharp "Kiiii!"
"I meant no such thing," Kirika says, offering an appeasing nod to Konoko. "He gave it to you fair and square, yes?"
Konoko gives a bright cry in response, then goes back to eating cake.
"See, it's her cake, Ueki," Kirika concludes.
"So," Ueki says, "what you're saying is that I need to get my own cake."
Kirika nods. "Pretty much."
Ueki sighs, then hands over the dearly-bought message from Toshiba. "Here," he says. "See if you can figure out what he's saying."


Thirty minutes (that is, one parted-out spring hare torch-grilled over the Oni's flaming boots) later, Konoko returns with a message from Kirika, though she seems visibly burdened by her round belly. Perhaps more importantly, soaring behind her are Kiara and RZA on her back. While Konoko lands on Toshiba's outstretched arm without further prodding and seems to have actually reached the limits of her gluttony for now, RZA's relationship with his last meal is rather less amiable, which is to say he stumbles away from Kiara shortly after landing and hurls in the bushes. Well, it's not like that swampy bog is getting any dirtier...

"You guys!" Kiara says, sounding a little indignant. "Leaving me behind without a word? That was not cool."
"It was kind of a tricky situation," Kagemaru replies.
"I thought you were still sneaking around inside," Kiara says. "There were guards all over the place and I had to hide from them."
"Well, you're a ninja," Kagemaru offers.
"I. Had. To. Hide," Kiara replies. "The boss bitch was there, too. I could have stabbed her through the neck, but noooo, sneaking mission..."
"I'm not sure that would have gone very well," Kagemaru says, leaving it at that when Nikochi barges into the conversation.
"Woah, friend!" he offers. "How did you come upon a soulspliced dragon spirit?"
"Killed a guy," Kiara explains. "And you are?"
"Long story," Kagemaru says. "We have places to be, though." He looks to Toshiba and the return message on Konoko's leg. "Right?"
punkey 2015-07-25 14:55:04
"Itanu departing shortly / House compromised / New place found, Konoko knows where / Next is Tsukareta"
Gatac 2015-07-30 14:01:31
We live in a world where we can gloss over century-old birds and flying ninjas for a scene transition. Just savor that for a moment.


Herr Maseo’s factory might not look very welcoming from the outside, but that’s kind of the point: less snooping around. With one gate guard hastily reinstated and the workers sworn to renewed secrecy, the printing room of the factory once again houses the nexus of a conspiracy for the throne, only this time it’s you guys and there’s rather a lot of you to cram into a small space, but somehow it all works out. Standing room only, though, except for Hiro Homi, who is provided with a chair (fresh off the assembly line, even!) to rest his aging ninja bones.

“So, in summary,” Homi says, “Fukuo Ishikawa is on our side, Boota is cowed, Itanu’s about to make his escape from the city with our ‘help’ and will not be bothering us in the future, Shira-dono has turned against Ikishi and will also support us, and I’ve received word from Hetechi that he has been reunited with his Kichirou and couldn’t be happier to back us in any way he can - he offered to host us, even, an offer we should consider as we suffered the loss of the safehouse today and are running low on Shadowwatch quarters that can accommodate us all. Newly joining us is Nikochi-dono, High Lord of Spiritual Matters. Who, I should add, was presumed dead but never officially stricken from council records, so his office technically still stands.”
“As does the stipend for these years,” Nikochi. “The first round is on me, my friends.”
“Which leaves just Tsukareta firmly on Ikishi’s side,” Homi adds. “But he’ll be hard-pressed to argue against granting Itanu’s office to Shintaro, putting that office in our corner as well. With Nikochi-dono on our side, we would - again, technically - have the seven High Lords we need to back Prince Toshiro’s confirmation.” He takes a deep breath. “It is too early to celebrate. But we are closer to victory than at any other point during the last decade, my friends. Our hard work - your hard work, and perseverance - are about to be rewarded.”
Kirika raises her hand. “Am I the only one confused as to who Nikochi-sama is? Or...anything about what he’s said so far?”

The general murmur around the room rises to agree with Kirika: who is this guy, and why didn’t he take a bath before joining them?

“Why, friend, it’s just like Hiro said,” the swamp mystic says. “Many years ago, Emperor Yoshihiro himself asked me to serve as his High Lord for all dealings spiritual, mystical and supernatural. I only had the privilege to execute my office for a few months before that Yokai Ikishi -”
“Well, Yokai power-stealer,” Kagemaru throws in.
“If the Yokai are to be trusted about this,” Yu cautions.
“You conversed with demons?” Copperhead says. “I find that highly improbable.”
“Oh, they are real, my skeptical friend,” Nikochi says. “But since Yoshihiro’s death and my being chased into exile, the human world has lost touch with the spirits. Except some.” He turns to look at Kirika.

"In any event," Hiro says, picking up the conversation before it can turn awkward. "I think it is time to rest and come up with a plan for what lies ahead. I will help where I can." He smiles as his look sweeps the room, but the smile fades when he sees Yu and Copperhead in a terse discussion over Himiko's unconscious form. "Should I send for a doctor?" Hiro asks.
"Your concern honors you," Yu says, "but I do not think medicine will help her while her chi is corrupted like this. I do not even understand what Ikishi's handiwork here does, never mind how to undo it."
"Copperhead?" Hiro asks, but the tall ninja simply shakes his head.
"Well," Hiro concludes, "if you think of anything that might help, let me know."
MikeS 2015-08-05 01:07:57
"So what you are saying, Yu, is that we need to get Ikishi to undo what she did to Himiko?" Takao asks.

"I also don't think we have long to plan. When we last saw her, Ikishi was contemplating the possibility that she might lose control of the High Lords, and was talking about a military option."
punkey 2015-08-05 11:48:46
"Who is that general that Ikishi has in her pocket?" Kirika asks, turning to Homi. "Noronu?"
Gatac 2015-08-05 12:58:24
Copperhead murmurs at Takao's question to Yu, fixing the ronin with a curious look, but neither he nor Yu seem willing to commit to an answer.

Which leaves the stage to Hiro Homi and his take on Kirika's question. "A man who has, frankly, escaped most of my attention, with our focus squarely occupied by Ikishi's much more pervasive schemes," he admits. "Norono Kira-san was one of Yoshihiro's military advisors in the Unity Wars twenty years ago. Under his leadership, the Emperor's men fought the rebels through the marshes around Emerald City and dealt them a crushing defeat. I heard whispers around this time that Noronu wanted to push further, put to sea with the Imperial Fleet and sack Shinju, the Southern Pearl of Sin'an, but Yoshihiro - wisely, I dare say - reined him in, and the war ended on our shores. At the time, we knew Sin'an was probably sponsoring the rebels, but to sail against them would have been risking dozens of ships and thousands of sailors on a few splotches of land whose only power lies in their free trade - trade that would cease, along with their taxes, if they were to be invaded." Homi's shoulders droop. "Noronu left the court a few months later, at a time when his departure would no longer be seen as the Emperor punishing him for his fervor. Throughout, he never acted with anything less than utter professionalism and courtesy towards Yoshihiro and his court - and in doing so, he was struck from my list of people requiring Blade surveillance in favor of more pressing concerns. What became of him in the intervening decades, I cannot say."
MikeS 2015-08-15 21:35:49
"When we saw her in her faux-throne room, Ikishi was talking to someone she called 'General'. Perhaps that was Noronu?" Takao quickly describes the man.

"You should have seen that place, by the way. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Ikishi and the General left with a boat that was 'fueled up', whatever that means. Maybe it was like the boat that they used to take me to Ikishi's little prison - it had smoke coming out of a big oven. They haven't been gone for long - as far as I can tell. This whole spirit travel and dreaming has left me a bit disoriented."

"The General didn't seem to like the idea of a military coup, but Ikishi has made it clear that a bloodless seizing of power will only happen if it is convenient. She is settling into a chess game for the favor of the High Lords, but she also thinks that this will paralyze the government to a degree that it will lose the faith of the people. Then would be her moment to strike."
punkey 2015-08-16 11:21:32
"Just another pawn, then, it sounds like," Kirika says. "Something to keep in mind when we come across him." She turns back to Hiro and the old, creepy, somewhat foul-smelling old man. "What of Tsukareta?"
Gatac 2015-08-16 14:22:34
Homi looks increasingly grim as Takao unfolds his tale.

"I still can't believe Noronu-san would stoop to this," Homi says. "He always seemed so...professional, and he left the court in good standing. To feel slighted by Yoshihiro's command to spare San'in would be...a stretch." He sighs and shakes his head. "But I'm afraid we simply don't know enough. Even when he was mine to keep an eye on, he never rated my full attention. Now we are paying for this. It is good that you managed to hear them in an unguarded moment, then. If Ikishi truly is prepared for the eventuality that we might sway a majority of the High Lords to our cause and plans to tie up the process for as long as she can, then that makes it much more critical that we do our best to ensure the vote is swift - which requires the expedient removal of Itanu. With the help of Nikochi-san, the council would still number seven while they evaluate Itanu's successor at their leisure."

"Which brings us to your question," Homi says to Kirika. "While Noronu might just seem another pawn in Ikishi's game, I think we should not underestimate him until we learn more about the forces he could command in the eventuality of an insurrection. I doubt Lee's men were the whole of it. But to prevent this, we need an unanimous vote, and Tsukareta on our side. How this can be done, though -"
"How long do you need him?" Nikochi interrupts. "Just one council session?"
"...I suppose so," Homi says. "Do you have an idea?"
"Of course," Nikochi says with a sly grin. "I know a kitsune who still owes me. She could play him for a few hours. All we'd have to do is keep the real boy away from the council chambers." He considers. "Or she could possess him, that takes care of the double problem, but it wouldn't be perfect."
"---perfect?" Homi almost doesn't ask.
"Oh, you know, twitchy, prone to weird outbursts, might have a seizing fit if he really fights back hard," Nikochi explains. "You just get him good and drunk first, though, and that'll make everything go smooth."
"Possession by kitsune," Copperhead throws in. "I find this plan...incredible."
"I know!" Nikochi replies. "You'll be glad to have me on your side, friends. Ten years in a swamp really gives you time to think. I've got a kan of great ideas."
"Not that kind of incredible," Copperhead mutters.
punkey 2015-08-16 22:41:16
"Or," Kirika interrupts, glowering at Nikochi, "we could try to simply sway him to our side, and skip demons masquerading or..." Kirika shivers at the thought, "forcibly possessing a young man who is quite possibly just helping out the one person who has given him the attention he needed to grow. We fought and killed in Sarano's castle to keep dozens from suffering a similar fate, I will not be involved with a scheme that does the same here. I spoke to him when we arrived in the capitol, and he seemed not to grasp the depth and menace of what he is involved with. And anyway, what are the possible side effects of this...coersion? In the best case?"
Gatac 2015-08-18 01:19:24
Nikochi's smile fades and he turns to Homi. "What happened at Sarano's castle?" he mutters.
"Dozens of nobles and hundreds of others were exposed to an addictive drug to enslave their minds," Homi summarizes. "I'm sure you understand why using the methods of our enemies is anathema to us, having witnessed the despicable results."
"Oh," Nikochi says, "but it's not like we're enslaving everyone, it's more of a...joyride, he'll be perfectly fine after. It's absolutely not the same thing."
"I reckon it's close enough," Sidewinder pipes up. "I may be low as a snake when the situation calls for it, but that ain't right."
"Exactly!" Yukio chimes in, squeezing Kirika's hand. "It was terrible and I'm glad we put an end to it. I won't stand for these methods."
"Ethical calculus aside," Copperhead says, "your scheme is contingent on a) kitsune actually existing, b) -"
"Of course they do!" Nikochi cuts in.
"b)," Copperhead continues, "on the actually existing kitsune having traits in line with their folkloric depiction, c) being able to secure their cooperation and d) nobody seeing through the deception. None of these strike me as anywhere near certain, so when taken in aggregate..."
"It's not happening," Toshi says. "That's not how I'm going to claim the throne. Period."
"...of course," Nikochi says, raising his hands in mock surrender. "Maybe I can help in another way?"
"Your insight would be valuable in examining Shira's daughter," Copperhead says, earning a nod from Yu.
"And I reckon if there are spirits in town," Sidewinder says, "they might be able to tell us a few secrets Shadowwatch missed."

Just then, a throwing knife drops into the room, clanking first on a table then onto the floor. Hands reach for weapons and fighting stances are assumed before a familiar voice pipes up from the rafters.

"Oops," Bumi says, then balances her way into the light. "Er...hi? Anyone need a ninja?" She looks down to Toshi and mouths a 'Sorry' at him.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-08-18 08:38:57
"Yes. If you see one, let us know," Toshiba says dryly, waving her down from above.

"What is our plan for when Ikishi wins back Shira with the promise to cure his incurable daughter? Or worse, dangles some power to kill her from afar in front of him? Unless we can aid her, she is still Ikishi's hostage as surely as if she was in that fortress."
punkey 2015-08-19 13:41:31
"We need to give him confidence that we are capable of rescuing his daughter from Ikishi's clutches," Kirika replies. "Which means we must show some kind of progress in curing her."
Gatac 2015-08-20 12:16:43
"I've never seen the way she shifted Himiko's chi before," Yu says, mouth still veiled. "I can't make any progress if I don't even know where to start."
"Then experimental procedure suggests picking a random needle and removing it, then observing the results," Copperhead says.
"What if that kills her?" Yu counters.
"I think sudden, irreversible death is unlikely," Copperhead counters. "More likely is that we can control whatever side effects it might have and gain new insight into her methods. If it is indeed true that her skills derive from watching you, then it stands to reason that if we dig deep enough, we should find something you will recognize and be able to resolve."
"You speak confidently of things you do not understand," Yu says.
Copperhead shakes his head. "No, I speak confidently of the methods I use to conquer the things I do not understand."
"Still," Yu says, "there's only one person who knows how to revive Himiko safely, and that is Lady Ikishi. We need to press her for it. Perhaps we can convince her that her mad scheme has gone too far when it includes bringing harm to her own daughter."
"Oh! Oh!" Nikochi pipes up. "How about the Oracle?"
"The Oracle?" Toshi asks.
"The Oracle," Nikochi confirms. "The wisest of the dragon spirits. He'll know what to do."
"And where is this wisest of the dragon spirits?" Copperhead asks warily.
"Oh, his temple is on an island to the East, about a day's travel with following winds," Nikochi says. "We could charter a ship -"
"- or take out the Gungnir -" Ueki says.
"Or fly there," Kiara throws in. "Is it heavily guarded? Impossible to penetrate? Built on the bones of those foolish enough to dare and try to enter?"
"It's not guarded at all," Nikochi replies.
"Phooey," Kiara mutters.
"Or we could lie," Bumi says, quieting the room and gathering looks. She shrugs. "Dude. Just tell daddy that we got her, we know what's up with her and it'll take a week to heal her. Bam, no more Ikishi leverage. We can sort this chi shit out after we get his vote. Right?"
"Hrm," Homi says.
punkey 2015-08-20 12:23:35
"I think that Shira's allegiance is tenuous as is, and lying to him about his daughter's health is the kind of thing that would send him over the edge," Kirika replies, and looks to Nikochi. "What is the catch with this Oracle?"
Gatac 2015-08-20 12:30:48
"Catch?" Nikochi says. "There's no catch. Well, the monks are a little weird and there might be a line, but the Oracle's a swell fellow. Um, in terms of an immortal dragon spirit. You'll see."
"I find this difficult to believe," Copperhead says.
"And I find your pretentious skepticism tiring, but I don't bring it up every time you say something, now do I?" Nikochi spits back, showing a short flash of anger, before turning his smile back to Kirika. "The Oracle can help. He'll answer any one question you ask him."
Gatac 2015-08-20 12:37:59
"Uh, individually...I think," Nikochi says. "I asked mine years ago, but I was there alone, so..."
"What question did you ask, if I may?" Homi says.
"Oh, I was a young romantic fool," Nikochi reminiscences. "I asked where I would find my true love. He told me it would be in another life." He shrugs. "I mean, at first, that kind of hurt, but it was also liberating, you know? Knowing that anyone I might meet would not be my soulmate anyway, I could put all that behind me and focus on my true vocation."

Copperhead says nothing, but he so clearly, dearly wants to.