Seven Devils

MikeS 2016-07-31 01:50:18
Takao scratches the stubble on his chin with a thoughtful expression.

"They were bled to death," he begins. "And there is something strange. See how they are all loose? They should be stiff by now. Or decomposing. But they aren't either."

Takao takes a stronger whiff of the chemical smell.

"There is a weird smell in the air. Perhaps the bodies were treated with some manner of concoction, to keep them in their current state. Or perhaps..." He shakes his head.

"Perhaps there is magic in play. I wouldn't even have brought this up a month ago, but we have seen stranger things since. But I know little of these things. Perhaps there is an oni, or a foul spell, that steals souls and leaves bodies behind like this?"
Gatac 2016-08-07 01:27:39
"We have an expert in supernatural matters at our disposal," Homi says, "but I find my confidence in his ability to keep a secret lacking." He turns to Toshiba. "Has your examination turned up anything else?"

"Takao has the right of it," Toshiba comments. "Cheong-Sin Ishikawa I am not, and so I can cast no further light on the evidence. However, come to speak of Ishikawa, we ought to ask ourselves to whom this scene was made out."

"Ah!" Homi says. "Indeed. I have little doubt that someone was supposed to find this, but as to who, that is a weighty question. As is the intended message."

"Well, whatever's happening here," Nagani weighs in, "we can't let anybody else find us here. Or find any of this, really."

"Quite right," Homi says. "And you two require secure shelter, too. Which will be difficult to arrange in this city where our enemies have compromised so many of our secrets already." He turns to Toshiba. "I feel there might be a common solution to both issues. Is there by any chance a sailor underneath the Oni's mask?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-08-09 14:26:26
"Not a sailor, but I am known to a particular captain of a most peculiar vessel," Toshiba replies. "Getting there will not be easy, but if we sail swiftly we can catch her. This craft can submerge itself safely - a most cunning hiding spot."
Gatac 2016-08-22 07:02:07
Toshiba's suggestion finds no opposition from anyone aboard - or alternative, even. With all due haste and care, the ninja - and Takao - set to bringing the Soft Breeze out of its moorings. Without the tide to help them at this hour, there's only the hard way to do so: while the ninjas set to checking the sails and preparing to unmoor, Toshiba and Takao enlist the steam-boat to help with kedging the ship free. Takao maneuvers the boat in place underneath the Soft Breeze's aft, where Toshiba gently lowers one of the ship's kedging anchors onto the boat. Takao then gently pilots the steam-boat out into the harbor basin until he's out of line to run with, whereupon he kicks the anchor overboard and stays to observe.

At the ship, all moorings are cut, and then it's every man to the capstan. With a lot of grunting, the Soft Breeze is hauled from its pier and into the harbor basin proper, while Nagani monkeys about in the rigging to deploy sails as Toshiba calls them out. Soon, the Soft Breeze is caught in a soft breeze and begins to roll to its side for an achingly slow turn.

Which brings the sparse lights on the rigging of the harbor defense ships into perfect view. Not that they've caught on to what you're doing quite yet - they're still moored close to the harbor exit, about a half mile away, and running quietly with no lights, you will be hard to spot - but if they do spot you, you may have a bit of a problem facing them with an unarmed merchant ship.

"I can't say I've ever snuck past somebody with a ship," Homi comments in hushed tones, "but I look forward to expanding my repertoire."


Availing themselves of the Shadowwatch rickshaw, Kirika, Yukio and Himiko return to the factory hideout. Instead of the natural calm and quiet of a hard day's night, they find the factory still lit and hard at work. There's Ueki inside the factory proper overseeing the late shift of workers racking up some sweet, sweet overtime, while the offices are still lit, too. It's not too difficult to guess from the noises emanating from an open window that Copperhead is trying to talk someone into holding still for bandaging his wounds, while that someone - to judge from voice and volume - is a quite drunk RZA. The absence of Homi-dono keeping everything quiet and smooth is sorely felt.

Kirika leads the way into the room. "Was it you that burned down High Lord Shira's manor?" she asks.
"Hardly, luv!" RZA hicups, toasting the new arrivals with an almost empty bottle of sake. "My ass-steamed brothers and sisters of the Killer Sneeze did, oh verily, try to snuff me in the process."
"I apologize for his condition," Copperhead says as he fixes an ointment-soaked pad over a gnarly burn on RZA's thigh. "He was quite insistent on his own form of analgesia."
"And why would they do that?" Kirika asks.
"Why do we do anything?" RZA says. "Money, money, money."
"RZA-san," Himiko says, "I must know what happened to Takao-senshi."
"Oh, he's fine, he's fine," RZA insists. "Little crispy, but not to worry, luv!" He takes another swig. "At least he was when he left with the old man."
Kirika looks to Copperhead. "To do?"
"To follow the Blue Oni's trail," Copperhead says. "I assume they've met up by now." He looks the three of them up and down. "Your evening seems similarly eventful, to judge from your appearance. I've prepared a few rooms upstairs as quarters, if you wish to retire."
Kirika turns to Yukio. "Should we follow them?" she whispers into her ear.
"Konoko seemed insistent that we do not," Yukio replies. "And a warm bed sounds good at this hour."
Kirika hums to herself. "But -"
"Dearest," Yukio says, "we need some rest. All of us."
"I feel fine, love," Kirika insists.
"Need I resort to bribery?" Yukio says. "Perhaps you wish me to beg?"
"...I will find my way upstairs," Himiko says. "And take whatever room is at the end of the hall. I do not want a bother to anyone."
"You are not a bother," Kirika insists. "Take whatever room you want."
Himiko nods and bows slightly. "Kamura-kensei, Matsumoto-senshi, RZA-san," she says, "I bid you all good night."

Feeling her way along the walls, she gingerly makes her way outside and onto the staircase, then ascends the steps.

"A brave young woman," Yukio says.
"And a fine arse!" RZA adds.
Kirika slaps RZA on the shoulder. "Watch your mouth."
"Ow!" RZA comments, taking another swig. "Don't be jealous! Your arse is quite fine, too!"
Kirika narrows her eyes. "Come, love. If you insist, I will retire with you to bed."
"Oh, I do insist," Yukio says, taking Kirika's arm and all but dragging her away.
"Perhaps," Copperhead interrupts their exit, "you might see fit to work your powers of persuasion on young Ueki, too? I think he is also well past the point where he should be resting."
"Yes, stop that bleedin' racket!" RZA agrees. "How's a fellow supposed to recoupe...raycout...get some fucking sleep with all that hammering and sawing?"

Kirika turns to Yukio. "You have five minutes," Yukio says sternly, but lets go of Kirika's arm. Kirika nods - and leaves Yukio with a kiss before running off towards the sound of a running press.


The blush on Yukio's cheek stays behind as Kirika hastens out of the office building and towards the manufacture, where the gaslamps inside cast a bevvy of flickering shadows from the movement inside through the front doors. Inside, about a dozen men and women with bleary eyes are still giving it their all at various work stations, crafting parts that Ueki and two other workers are assembling in the center of the factory floor with the help of an overhead winch.

"Easy now!" Ueki calls as the latest component is lowered in place and promptly tensioned into place. "Where's my mallet?" Ueki calls. "Has anybody seen my mallet?" He turns to look at Kirika, his face dominated more by dark circles than the eyes within. "Heeeeeeey!" he calls. "Back so soon?"
"...what is going on?" Kirika cautiously asks.
"A revolution in naval warfare," Ueki says, looking around, "as soon as somebody finds my damn mallet."

Kirika looks...whatever it is over. Well, it sure is a big, complicated-looking wooden something. Exquisite worksmanship at that, but it looks like nothing she's ever seen before. The only thing she dares to guess at is that it's supposed to rotate around a base. And the top kind of looks like a rack for something? Toshiba might know, but he's off cheating on the Gungnir with another ship, to tell from Konoko's slightly inebriated gesture theater.

"What...does it do?" Kirika asks.
"Right now, nothing!" Ueki says. "When it's installed...well, I hope it's an adjustable catapult for explosive charges!" He points a finger at some barrels standing conspicuously clear of anything else in a corner far away from the action. "Also, I made explosive charges! They'll sink within seconds and explode at a depth of twenty fathoms...give or take five fathoms. Still calibrating the glass flasks for the detonator acids."
"...and this is important to work on in the middle of the night, keeping so many people awake, because..." Kirika asks.

Ueki stops.
Then he looks at Kirika.
Then at the workers, who look back at him.
Then at the contraption.
Then at the mallet, which had cleverly hidden underneath a rag at his feet.

"...well, no sense stopping now!" Ueki says. "We just have to finish the cradle, remove some planking on the forecastle, bolt the mounts in and connect her to the keel for stability! That's two, three...okay, maybe four hours, tops."
Kirika looks at the water clock by the entrance. "There are only five hours until sunup, Ueki."
" we'd be just in time to set up a test firing to calibrate the sights?" Ueki tries.
"How long since you have slept?" Kirika asks.
Ueki thinks about this. Then he thinks about it some more. "...when did we move in?" he asks.
"A few days ago," Kirika says. "Perhaps maybe a break - both for you and for the nice people that work here - would be a good idea."
"Maybe," Ueki concedes. As he stands up, he notices the stiffness in his knees and back and winces at the pain. "Hooooo-kay," he calls. "Everybody secure your workstations and tools, we're closing down. I'll see you tomorrow to wrap this up!" After a moment, he adds "Triple incentive pay! Thank you."
Kirika nods to the workers as they leave, walking up behind Ueki and putting an arm around his shoulders. "Ready to go to bed?" she asks.
"Help me down, please," Ueki whimpers. "Think my right leg is already asleep."
"Okay, hold on," Kirika says, moving her arm to support him. "Good to move?"
"Ow ow ow ow," Ueki says as he takes a few ginger steps. "I'm fine, I'm fine, keep going. Ow ow ow." He smiles a bit as they keep walking. "Ow ah. Ah. Okay. Better."
"Come on then," Kirika says. "You know, most boys your age are getting ready to go to secondary school."
"And learn to make pretty strokes of ink on paper?" Ueki says. "Five traditional dances? The wisdom of Hao-Ri Buh-L-Shid?" He keeps smiling. "I'll stay freelance inventor and business mogul, thank you."
"I'm just saying, you might want to take it easy," Kirika says. "Don't want you wearing yourself out."
"I've already wasted too much of my life," Ueki says. "Concern appreciated, of course."
"Of course," Kirika says, helping Ueki over the threshold. "Which room is yours?"
"...we have rooms?" Ueki asks.
"Okay, let's go," Kirika says.


After getting Ueki the rest he deserves, Kirika slinks towards the room with the invitingly open door, where Yukio's already waiting under the sheets in a nice bed. "I thought I said five minutes," she says.
"Turns out, Ueki hasn't slept since we got here," Kirika replies.
"That doesn't surprise me at all," Yukio says. "But that is probably why you get along so well with him, dearest. He's got that That desire to be all he can be."
"The desire to work himself until his legs fall off," Kirika replies, taking a seat on the bed next to her.
"He's got you to take care of him," Yukio says. She sits up and grasps Kirika's hand. "And you have me, dearest."
"I really do feel fine, love," Kirika says. "Like I just woke up. I think it might be my family, keeping me going. There's too much left to do."
"There always is," Yukio says. "There's no end to it. But even Kamura-kensei deserves her rest." She sighs. "The others are fine, dearest. We will do more tomorrow. For now...let the world take care of itself for a few hours."
Kirika sighs. She looks longingly out the door, the worry plain on her face. Then, she feels the gentle caress of Yukio's thumb on the back of her hand, turns back to her love, and smiles. "Perhaps." She scoots closer, and eases them both down. "Hold me, love."
"Always," Yukio whispers.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-08-24 15:07:23
"Old dogs and new tricks can sometimes walk hand in hand," Toshiba butchers the saying. "As for the dead below, I have been thinking. If the victims were Shadowwatch killed by Ayami, it seems a ploy meant to set Toshiro's retinue against each other. Several of us were Ayami ourselves. That would seem to speak to Ikishi, except I don't believe she operates on such a crass level. But then despite the predicaments we find ourselves in, not everything is Ikishi's fault either," he continues. "I don't know why these bodies have been doctored. To preserve their recently-killed appearance to untrained eyes? For use in arcane experiments? It seems a strange length to go to. What if it is simply the Ayami killing Shadowwatch? That would indicate Sinan has taken overt steps against you - and now, us."
MikeS 2016-08-29 22:50:12
"I don't think we have enough information to solve this puzzle yet. The modification of the bodies is indeed the primary riddle. What could its purpose be? Clearly, the bodies are meant to be identifiable by the sashes, so the killers didn't seek to preserve the faces. Perhaps we were not supposed to be able to discern the time of death? Some of these bodies could be days, maybe weeks old, for all we know about this strange preservation," Takao suggests. "Does you recognize any of the bodies?" he asks Homi and the Ayamis?
Gatac 2016-09-10 09:40:07
The Ayami ninjas demur, but Homi lingers on the topic. "...a few," he says. "Alas, I don't know if there is any one man or woman who can say for sure about the others; Shadowwatch has slipped from my grasp more and more over the last few years as it has gone underground and tried to grow more resilient to extermination. Fate would seem to favor irony, then, that this is stunting our chances of fighting back against whoever might be responsible. Whether that is Sinan, or Ikishi, or - Gods preserve us - yet another villain..."

He takes a deep breath.

"For now, I suggest we pause the discussion and focus on our exit. Squeezing past the patrol boats at the harbor exit will not come easy; who of you will take the wheel?"
Gatac 2016-09-27 15:02:12
With volunteers being in short supply, Homi wanders off to take over the wheel himself. After a short introduction to Shadowwatch tactical whistle-signs, Nagani and Sadatsugu return to the rigging to adjust the sail tack, while Toshiba and Takao by default are on "get us out of the harbor without anyone noticing" duty. They only have one good course, really...stay quiet and hope they pass at the right moment. Toshiba climbs onto the bow, gazes through the dark and raises his hand as he silently signs for them to haul ass now.

(Toshiba's Sneak, at -8 because he's on a motherfucking boat: 1d20+22-8 = 30)


It gets a bit chilly on the aft deck of the Stalwart Rider, a harbor defense ship that has spent most of winter anchored inside the harbor and is now anchored slightly outside it. Seaman Second Class Gorou draws the blanket over his shoulders a bit tighter, pushing out a breath. At least it no longer fogs up from the cold night air they had last week, but that still doesn't make this his favorite watch. Good thing that he sees Seaman Second Class Hiraku approach, carrying with him a metal cup of something hot enough to steam vigorously.

"Thanks, bro," Gorou says, taking the cup into quivering hands and sipping on the hot soup inside. Ah!
"No biggie, bro," Hiraku returns. "So," he asks with a grin, "see anything?"
"Ha ha ha," Gorou says, switching from sips to mouthfuls.
"Good evening, sweethearts," Midshipman Kenji opines as he strides past them. "Are you gonna kiss or is that not in the free show?"
"Oh fuck off, Ken," Gorou says.
"Yeah, fuck off, Ken," Hiraku adds.
"Is that any way to talk to your superior officer?" Kenji asks.
"Why, you see one?" Gorou says.
"Figures we have the blind guy standing watch," Kenji says.
"Well," Gorou says, "I wanted to be Captain but they said my dick was too long."
"And who exactly said that?" Kenji asks. "Your sister or your mom?"
"Ohhhhhh!" Hiraku says.
"Nice," Gorou admits, then takes another sip of soup.
"You boys don't get in trouble now, alright?" Kenji says, then smirks and turns away to continue his deck patrol.
"Sure thing, Ken," Gorou says, then finishes the cup. "What's the action on the fireworks, bro? Any word?"
"Pot's still open," Hiraku says. "But I'm telling you, bro, it's another rebel attack."
"You in on that?" Gorou asks.
"Thirty silver," Hiraku says.
"Shit!" Gorou says. "You crazy, bro."
"I'm confident," Hiraku says. "Better get a piece of that, bro. You don't wanna be the last guy holding his overly-long dick with nothing in the pot."
"Yeah, yeah," Gorou says, fishing for his purse. "Shit, bro, this Navy's ruining me. Dick jokes, bad diet, gambling..."
"It's making a real man out of you," Hiraku says. "Go on, I got you."
"Thanks, bro," Gorou says.


Fifteen minutes later, the Soft Breeze is definitely clear of the harbor, even out of range of the coastal artillery, and everyone aboard can breathe a little easier. With the help of a few conveniently present navigational charts, a possible course for the diving ship from where Toshiba last saw it to their final destination of Shinju is plotted, along with an aggressive intercept. With following winds, you might catch the submariners by dawn.

"On to the business of sailing this ship for the next few hours," Homi comments. "Shall I assume that your enthusiasm for first watch is limited?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-09-28 11:47:51
"If you're offering, I'll not refuse," Toshiba yawns, the stress of the previous day and the tension from the low-speed harbor escape catching up to him.
Gatac 2016-10-06 14:44:54
"I think that I shall manage it on my own," Homi says. "But I will be sure to rouse you if I spot any more ships that need to be snuck past."

Alright, so #realtalk about the Soft Breeze's sleeping accommodations: the crew's quarters down in the hold are, of course, empty and offer plenty of mostly lice-free hammocks to rest in. But they also happen to be across the cargo hold from the pile of supernaturally-preserved corpses and this is not the kind of thing you necessarily want to be sleeping next to, even if you can kinda cover them back up with the tarp. Fortunately, the Captain's quarters are similarly unused, and although three ninja and a ronin make for a bit of a tight fit, you manage to catch a couple hours of rest.

(Also, look out and stay tuned for the new dramedy everyone's talking about! "Three Ninja and a Ronin", coming this fall - only on Shinobi Broadcasting Network!)





Despite a comfortable night at their new hideout in the factory, Kirika is roused to an early awakening by the renewed din of activity in the workshop. With both Ueki and Copperhead pooling their technical know-how and pursueing their many interests, the factory has taken on a frenzied, all day and all night level of activity, and while Ueki's still fast asleep in his room, Copperhead's using the opportunity to occupy the morning shift with his projects. (Fun History Fact: the first national noise control law was actually passed in Japan, although not until 1968.) Still, not every part of the factory grounds is in active use - well, not the same active use, in any event. Such is the fate of Material Shed #8, which beckons to Kirika simply by the fact that there is hardly any noise coming out of it. However, hardly any is not the same as none, and she finds the source of that noise inside, where Junior Ninja Apprentice Bumi is hanging upside down from the rafters, hooked around the wooden beams by the crook of her knees, while tossing and retrieving her wire-daggers into a crudely human-shaped wooden target. Kirika finds most of the knife marks well within the circle, if still a little wild and off-center.

"Heeeey," Bumi says. "What's up?"

THWACK! goes the knife as it buries into the wood, and HISSSSSSSS! snarl the Copperhead-built gauntlets on Bumi's arms as the wire mechanism snaps and reels the knife back into her hand.

"Figure out how to make those work?" Kirika asks.
"Mostly," Bumi comments. "It's easier when you're not upside down, but that's like, so basic."
"I have a question, and I hope it's not too personal," Kirika says. "But what do you hope to accomplish here? With us, that is."
"See some fucking action, that's what," Bumi says. THWACK! HISSSSS! "I'm done sitting on a mountain with old guys telling me I'm not ready, I'm not good enough, patience is a ninja's greatest weapon, BLAH BLAH BLAH." THWACK! HISSSSS! "Gonna show these old farts how we do."
"What have you done that makes you think you're ready?" Kirika asks. "Infiltrated any fortresses, fought any master warriors?"
"Hey, I was with Kage and Kiara when we went down into the Secret Caverns to find Lee's Army!" Bumi protests. "That was...that's totally a hidden fortress." THWACK! HISSSSSSS! "And I can't fight any master warriors if I'm benched all the fucking time."
"Fair enough," Kirika says. "Well, I have an...appointment of sorts at a dojo. Perhaps they would be willing to give you a bit of a challenge, see how you do."


Bumi thinks for a moment, then flips down from the rafters. "Yeah, sure," she says. "As long as I don't have to ride with you. No offense, Kirika, but the back of a rickshaw, that is super-lame and so not ninja." As she talks, Bumi twirls the knife in her hand around for another toss.

(Kirika's Reflex save 1d20+6 = 17

Kirika tosses a plank in Bumi's path, but she manages to throw the dagger around the board. "Too slow, you know?" Bumi says. "I'm a rooftops kinda girl."
"Tell you what - so am I," Kirika says. She smirks at Bumi.
"Oh yeah?" Bumi says, returning the smirk. HISSSSSSS! "Then try to keep up, grandma." With a burst of speed, she scrambles up a nearby wall, pushing off to reach for the rafters, mounting the beam in one elegant swing. She's almost out of the rooftop hatch when she turns back to Kirika. " is that dojo, again?"

(Kirika's Athletics: 1d20+16 = 35)

Kirika has no need for fancy acrobatics - she simply bends her knees and jumps up, easily reaching the rafter beam and pulling herself up through raw grunt.
"Uh..." Bumi says. "...okay, that is awesome."
"Follow me," Kirika smirks.


It's been a while since Toshiba has slept on a roiling ship, but the rhythmic swaying of the waves, the whistling wind and most of all the exhaustion have a way of deepening one's sleep. Consequently, by the time the shouting outside wakes him up, the sunlight's already way on its way to his face as the morning sun shines through one of the small portholes of the captain's cabin.

"Avast, ye devils!" laughs the unmistakable voice of Captain Okita, and as Toshiba strolls up to the gunwale, he sees the man - and his very nice hat - standing atop the half-surfaced Devilfish, one hand on the safety line. "Have strange winds joined our fates once more, or is this the course you laid, Oni?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-10-07 13:55:46
"Captain Okita!" Toshiba calls. "No strange winds this time - I come asking for shelter for two allies. They shall do what's needed and stay out of thine way. Canst thou assist?"
MikeS 2016-10-09 14:41:59
While he didn't get seasick, Takao did not enjoy large bodies of water. Or at least he didn't enjoy being on them, deep water being a natural enemy of people who wear heavy pieces of metal.

Most people would have marveled at the strange boat that lay before them now. Takao, leaning on the gunwale, was unimpressed; the boat would have to get in line with flooding buildings, mystical spirit appearances, and soul-stealing accupuncture techniques.

Toshiba seemed to have this one well in hand, and Takao was content to watch for now.
Gatac 2016-10-19 11:24:53
"A debt gladly repaid, Oni!" Okita replies. He eyes the Soft Breeze. "Pray tell, what waters await your vessel? You seem ill-equipped for whatever journey you have found yourself on."


(Kirika's Athletics: 1d20+16 = 32
Kirika's Acrobatics: 1d20+10 = 26)

There are two ways to move about the rooftops of the city. One, which Bumi has chosen, is to look awesome doing it. Her ninja training affords her the needed grace (and desire for showboating) that sees the lithe little lady zip from precipice to foothold while including a wide variety of rolls, flips and twists to wow the (mostly nonexistent) audience.

Or you could be like Kirika and just beast your way forward. She might not know what a backwards diving dismount is, but she knows how fast she can run and how far she can jump and how much a beam has to stick out to be a viable footstep, and that's what she sticks to as she cuts a swathe across the rooftops, quickly gaining the lead with her superior conditioning. Which is not to say that it looks clumsy; there's elegance in straight lines, and while Kirika's display is arguably less technical, the way she just pushes off into jumps across narrow alleys and wrecks ceiling tiles with her hard landings without losing speed is impressive to say the least. (Fun history fact: property insurance can be traced to the 1666 London fire.) Bumi would never admit it, but by the time they reach the dojo, she's huffing and puffing and holding her sides pretty hard just from trying to keep up.

The Urushi dojo is...well, let's not mince words, it's not glamorous. For one, it actually still bears Kamura family colors, though they have dulled from exposure to the elements, and the placard pronouncing the Urushi name at the entrance is a wooden board - a neatly painted wooden board, but still a wooden board - simply strung over the stone marker that used to declare it a Kamura site. Kirika can't quite tell if it's laziness or reverence for what the building used to be, but given Bumi's rapidly falling facial expression, she can't imagine that this dojo draws many students. Urushi Danzo, the young swordfighter, stands at the entrance, trying to force some dignity into his stance despite the white kimono he is wearing.

Kirika's face soured the instant she first laid eyes on the so-called Urushi dojo, and even though she's not aware of it, it's hard to imagine a more intimidatingly upset glare than the one she levels at Urushi Danzo. "What are yo - we doing here?"
Urushi Jr. bows, fist in hand. "Thank you for coming, Kamura-kensei," he says. "Please...please excuse our humble circumstances. I have prepared some tea, if you would come inside."
Kirika takes a deep, slow breath. "Yes. Let's. Come, Bumi."
"Yep," Bumi gasps, still catching her breath. "Right - right behind you."


If the exterior view of the dojo was unimpressive, the interior seems positively bare. The walls still bear witness to the large scrolls once hung upon them, and save for a few wooden poles and two bokken, the weapon stands to the sides are empty. Even the mats on the floor look vintage and worn, and the wooden beams that carry the roof show signs of a wetness, as if the building had not been heated at all in the winter. In the center of the main hall sits an old man who must be Urushi Kaito, Danzo's father. He, too, is wearing a white kimono, and seems to be sunk deep in meditation. Kirika can't help but notice a bowl of water next to the old man, and a sword and dagger laid before him.

The garb of the elder Urushi sends Kirika's gut into knots. "Urushi-san...what is going on?"
"My father..." Urushi Jr. tries to begin. "My father...sees no reason to appear before the court. In his mind, the...sentence is already known."
"Holy shit," Bumi mutters.
Kirika's hand, already on her sword, tightens. Her ancestors, usually at least detectable at the edges of her senses, are completely silent. "What has your father done?" Kirika asks, unable to keep the sharp edge of anger out of her voice.
Urushi Jr. takes a deep breath. "He...he struck an oiran after she refused him," he whispers. "His anger was fueled by much wine, and...she fell to the ground and hit her head. A doctor was summoned, but could not save her."
Kirika wants to shout, wants to grab the old man by his shoulders and demand that he explain what his name is doing on her family's dojo, but she manages to wrestle that down until all that comes out is an annoyed grunt. " this what he wants to do? What you want him to do?"
Urushi Jr. sighs. "Our name," he whispers, "our name is not a good one. It has not been for a long time. We have more to atone for than one death. My father has chosen to take this on him; he could not bear the shame of being imprisoned or executed. In this, he seeks...liberation, for himself and for me."
Kirika is shaking as she replies. "Speaking as one of those your family has wronged, taking the secrets of what you have done to the grave is not atonement for anything. Do you know how much honor a dead man has, Urushi-san?"
"Only that of knowing that he will make no more mistakes and cause no more trouble," Urushi Jr. answers. "Kamura-kensei, I can do nothing but ask your forgiveness. It is my father' is our wish that you receive this building and the land it stands on. I am sorry that we could not...could not be better stewards of it."
Kirika turns to the younger Urushi. "None. A dead man has no honor, because he is dead. Just like how a rock or a log has no honor. Objects do not have honor, Urushi-san. Actions do." She turns back to the elder Urushi, and takes a knee in front of him. "And what honor is there is not giving those that have been wronged, and those that cared for them, the certainty of knowing what happened to them and their loved ones? What honor is there in abandoning those you love, love to the point of giving your own life for their sake?" Kirika's hand moves slowly from Crane's Dance as she wipes her eyes. "What honor is there in running from your actions to the one place that consequence cannot follow, where you will be unable to aid, to make amends, to change for the better?"
"Kamura-kensei, please," Urushi Jr. says. "My father -"
"I can speak for myself," Urushi Sr. says, opening his eyes. He fixes Kirika with a stare. "And I knew it was a mistake to let you see this. My son tried to convince me that having you witness would serve to show that the past is past and the quarrel between our families ends with me, but I recognized it for the foolish ploy to dissuade me that it is."
"I think the current circumstances are more than enough to convince me of that," Kirika says, matching the elder Urushi's glare. "But you know as well as I how my father took his own life." She looks back to the son. "Ask me how much peace and comfort his honorable sacrifice has brought me. How much better my life has been without him by my side." She returns her glare to the father. "I do not want blood, if blood is not demanded in turn. I want amends. I want you to prove that you are better than you were. Blood only begets more blood. Ask your son if he would rather face the accusations and scorn your family faces with your help - or alone."

No reaction.

Kirika slams her fist against the floor. "Ask him!"
Urushi Sr. scoffs. "You do not command me, and our world does not work like yours," he says. "The name on the scroll is enough to convict us in the eyes of everyone. The great Kamura hero and the foul Urushi weakling...who does not know this story? Like it or not, in my world, if a man sheds his own blood to atone for his wrongs, he must be accorded respect. That is the only road. Do you wish to save an old drunkard's life? Then go out there and make the people forget the name Urushi! And when you have accomplished that, bring the whore back to life!"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-10-26 14:19:07
"Hopefully calm seas await us all soon, captain - sailing is not mine forte, but however else dost one learn?" Toshiba answers. "We are back to it once our companions are disembarked, and I thank thee once again for thine hospitality."
Gatac 2016-10-31 12:24:00
"Think nothing of it," Okita replies.

Soon things are taken care of. Nagani and Sadatsugu pay their goodbyes to the team - Nagani, in particular, hugs Toshiba, though not without swearing everyone to secrecy about it.


Soon the Soft Breeze and the Devilfish part courses again, leaving the three remaining men on the ship staring at Okita waving his nice hat through the air for a goodbye before he climbs back into the Devilfish and seals its hatch. Then, almost soundless from the distance, the Devilfish blows air like a surfaced whale and swiftly sinks beneath the waves, leaving only a trail of bubbles behind.

"I can put her on a course to Olafsen's hideout," Homi suggests. "I am quite confident I shall find the right means to scuttle her there. If you could pick me up there in three days time, I would much appreciate it. For now, I do suggest you two hurry back to the city."


Kirika looks back to the younger Urushi.

(Kirika's Sense Motive: 1d20+18 = 29)

It's easy to see on Urushi Jr.'s face what he was sure he wanted two minutes ago: for his father to die with dignity, for everyone to accept that, for him to be able to make a new start. But being faced with the realization that this means his father will die...and that Kirika won't accept it...and that, maybe, just maybe, there's a chance all of this could be solved, somehow...he's no longer sure what he wants to happen, what the right thing to do here is, and it's killing him.

"What do you want?" she asks him. "Do you want your name to be forgotten, as mine was? Or do you want to see it redeemed, to fight for it? What about was planned here today will help with that? Your father will be dead, but the actions your family has done will remain. His death will not undo what has been done, but if he admits the truth of what he and his family have done, then together you can both begin to make amends and plot a new path forward." She looks back to the elder Urushi. "You know as well as I do that there is no such thing as an honorable death, Urushi-san. Do not think that yours will be any different."
Urushi Sr. shakes his head. "I killed her," he says. "I killed her, and no forgiveness can change that. I don't...I don't want to live like this." He looks to his son. "I am so sorry, Danzo. But your father...has always been a coward." He reaches for the dagger in front of him.

(Kirika must make a Reflex save to stop him! She uses her Cagey ability to automatically succeed.)

Urushi Sr.'s hand shrinks back when Kirika reflexively moves forward, stepping on the dagger's blade to keep it pinned to the ground. Tears well up in his eyes as he stares at the blade, then he stands up, showing himself a whole head shorter than Kirika. "You...dare," he says.
Kirika slides the dagger away, clear across the room. "To stop you from running away from responsibility? To give you the chance to make amends instead of leaving those you have wronged without answers? To give your son a father when he will need him most?" She stands up, and looks down at him. "I do dare, Urushi-san."
"Uh, Kirika?" Bumi says. "There's like, a half dozen cops heading down the street and Mask Lady is leading them. You wanna stick around for that? 'cause I think that might be...less than awesome."
"On the contrary, Bumi," Kirika says. "I very much want to stick around for that." She smirks. "Sorry we couldn't get you a challenge, but, well...stick around and I'll see if we can figure something out."
"Yeeeeeeeah," Bumi says. "I think I'll stick to watching." With a few quick steps, she scrambles up the next wall and launches up into the rafters, scrambling into a particularly shadowy spot just as Ishikawa and her men enter the premises. Ishikawa's mask obviously cannot raise an eyebrow, but the way the light shines through a hole in the roof, it sure looks like it. "Well then," she says. "Looks like getting here early paid off."
"Urushi-san has something to say," Kirika says, standing aside.
"He'll have to say it in court," Ishikawa says. "We just got the arrest warrant - by special courier. And, you know, the way all this looks...I'm starting to think we were supposed to find a corpse here."
"Then remove this...crazy woman!" Urushi Sr. shouts. "She's...she's interfering! I am the 66th sword of the Dragon's Claw, and I have the honorable duty to -"
Ishikawa raises her hand. "Urushi-senshi," she says, "I understand your position, and that as a samurai, the old code affords you certain privileges. But I am here to serve and execute a warrant for your arrest, not watch you kill yourself - and it is not a crime to save somebody's life."
"You are in league!" Urushi Sr. cries, more tears in his eyes. " seek to ridicule me!"
"On the contrary, Urushi-san," Kirika replies. "We seek to give you the real honor of being an upstanding man to those you have wronged -" she looks Urushi Jr.'s way, "- and to show your son a better way to live."
"How did you come to be here, Lady Kamura?" Ishikawa asks.
"I...I invited" Urushi Jr. mumbles.
"I hope you were about to say 'have her remove you from the building'," Ishikawa says. "You are all aware that we frown on assisted seppuku, yes? Especially when it involves...questions of motive."
"He invited me to convince his father to do the right thing," Kirika says, looking at the younger Urushi.
"That's what I thought," Ishikawa says. "Urushi-senshi, if you would please come with us now."

The elder Urushi says nothing, instead slowly backing away deeper into the dojo.

"Urushi-san," Kirika says, still looking at the son. "You have a choice. I hope you make the right one."

(Kirika's Impress: 1d20+20 = 29)

Urushi Jr. nods to Kirika, then looks past her to Urushi Sr. "Father, please, see reason!" he says. "She speaks sense. You can choose be brave. To tell the truth of what happened for all to hear, to show them that we are bigger than our mistakes. Show that you are humble enough to accept the wisdom of the justices. And if after all this there is an executioner to meet - you can still meet him with your head held high. Is there no honor in bravery?"

Kirika nods, and stands aside to let the son approach the father - but stays close just in case.

"I can't," Urushi Sr. whispers. "I can' can I...look them in the eyes?" But as he looks up at his son, there's another pair of eyes he must meet, and so he collapses into the waiting arms of Urushi Jr. "I'm so sorry," Urushi Sr. weeps. "I' could I..."
"I know, father," Urushi Jr. says. With a nod from Ishikawa, he leads his father past Kirika and towards the exit, with the policemen falling in behind them to escort them to the Hall of Justice.
"Tell me," Ishikawa says. "Is there a world in which you would sit by and let an old man believe what he wants to believe in his last moments? It seems like that might be easier, for some."
"Would it do any good?" Kirika asks Ishikawa. "Here, it did not."
“No, it didn’t,” Ishikawa comments. “And after last night, I think we’re both a bit tired of cleaning up after samurai and their codes. In any event, I don’t think he deserves the charges of Murder Most Foul. His mind was addled by drink. He attacked her, but he never meant to kill her. His remorse is obvious.” She sighs. “That might be all that is needed to get him leniency. After all, he’s a samurai striking down a commoner. And the courts have a tendency to...go easy in such cases.”
“As distasteful as that truth might be,” Kirika adds.
“Oh, believe me, it’s very distasteful,” Ishikawa says. “But I’m not going to stand on principle when that double standard might help a man who doesn’t deserve to be put to death, in my view. What do you think?”
“I think that he -” Kirika turns her eyes temporarily back to Urushi Jr., “- and his family deserve another chance.” She looks back to Ishikawa. “But you know me and second chances.”
“Indeed,” Ishikawa says, and smiles behind her mask. “For what it's worth - I’m glad you were here to do what you thought was right, rather than what was demanded of you.”
Kirika opens her mouth, then closes it and thinks for a moment before speaking. “You know what, so was I.” She looks around. “This used to be one of my family’s dojos, you know.”
“So I heard,” Ishikawa says. "It feels particularly...untimely to congratulate you on the reinstatement of your family's register at this time, but congratulations nonetheless." She looks to Kirika. "I am not sure how much good it will do, but perhaps you could explain your point of view in a more public manner. It seems like many people do not understand the damage done to real people by age-old stories."
“Perhaps...I could do so here?” Kirika asks. “Urushi-san admitted that this was illegally obtained Kamura property, and I have friends that could help restore it to its former glory.”
“Reopen the dojo in the name of your family?” Ishikawa asks. “And what of the Urushi clan?”

Kirika looks back at the younger Urushi. “I have an idea.” She nods to Urushi Jr. “Urushi-san, if I may trouble you for a moment of your time?”
Urushi Jr. touches his father one last time on the shoulder and whispers to him, then walks over to meet Ishikawa and Kirika, bowing deeply to them.
“Ishikawa-dono, Kamura-kensei,” he says. “How may I be of service to you?”
“I see you still have many of the bokken that belonged to my family’s dojo,” Kirika says, nodding to the wall. “Are you practiced in the Kamura style?”
Urushi straightens out a bit, but keeps his head bowed. “I am,” he says. “It is a style some of our students wish to learn, and we are not in the position to turn their coin away.” He pauses. “Were not. I suppose it is better that you take over their instruction now, Kamura-kensei. What I taught them was a mere shadow of your family’s style. They are good students, and eager to learn.”
“And how about you?” Kirika asks. “How are you as a student? I would rather return this dojo to its rightful heritage - but I see no reason that you and those in your employ can not continue your instruction - after some training, of course.”
“I…” Urushi says. “I would be honored to study under you and assist you with the instruction of students here, if you would have me.”
“Of course,” Kirika says. She looks back to the bokken. “In fact...Lady Ishikawa, if you have no further business here?”
“I will leave you to it, Lady Kamura,” Ishikawa says, nodding to Urushi Jr. “Urushi-senshi.”
“Ishikawa-dono,” Urushi says, bowing to her again as she leaves.

“Kamura-kensei,” he says, “the students will be arriving within the hour. With your permission, I will...inform them of the changes, and enlist them to clean up the dojo to the best of our ability. If you would honor us with your presence for an inspection in the afternoon, that would be most agreeable to me.”
“Of course,” Kirika replies. “But first…” She leans around the edge of the door to make sure Ishikawa has left. “Bumi? Perhaps a bit of sparring before we go?”
“Ninja don’t spar,” Bumi says, doing a corny tough-girl voice from her hiding place in the rafters. “They only strike to kill.”
“...who is there?” Urushi says, turning away from Kirika to look into the rafters. "Your a ninja?"
“I can tell you that Hiro Homi and I have sparred many a time,” Kirika replies to Bumi. “You want to be as badass as Homi-sama, right?”

In response, there’s a clang as a hurled knife digs into wood, and then Bumi falls out of the shadows, swinging on the wire and using it to arc off one of the beams. As she nears the apex of her swing, the knife releases and whiiiiiirs back towards her; after a roll in the air, she drops to the ground in a three-point landing, knife in her outstretched right hand.

“Do I look like I need help?” Bumi says, grinning as she slowly rises up from the ground.
“...remarkable,” Urushi mutters.
“You’ve got the looking cool part down,” Kirika admits, pulls a bokken off the wall, and strikes her fighting stance. “But I want to see how you fight.”
Bumi grins. “Stand back and watch, son,” she tells Urushi. “You might learn a thing or two.”

And then Bumi launches into her assault. The first few attacks are straight launches of her knives, which Kirika manages to swat aside with the bokken, but then Bumi starts twirling around and even kick just-hurled knives to alter their trajectory, an intricate dance that leaves Kirika scrambling to keep up - and actually get rapped on the back of the head by the handle of one of the knives as it reels back into Bumi’s hand. It’s a showy, incredibly fast and almost impossible to follow sequence of attacks - for about twenty seconds. After one final launch where she has visibly slowed down, Bumi reels both knives back to about an arm’s length of wire, then spins and twirls them around her in one final display of coordination before letting them snap back into her bracers.

“Yeah,” she says between heavy breaths. “Peep the...the technique.”
“Impressive,” Kirika says, and tightens her grip. “Peep this.”

Kirika opens with a traditional shoulder-to-hip slash, but when Bumi ducks underneath it as expected, it just puts her in a position to meet the sword as Kirika arcs the wooden practice blade back across at waist level, rapping it against Bumi’s shoulder.
Bumi leaps and spins over the blade, and tries to roll back into a position where she can regain a defensive stance, but Kirika’s already rushed forward to close the gap, blade held forward and low and passing straight through the crook of Bumi’s left arm.
Bumi lets out a little growl of frustration and tries something truly radical - she leaps straight up, vaulting off of Kirika’s outstretched arms and over her head in another attempt to gain some distance. Kirika’s response seems counter-intuitive: she swings the sword counter to the direction Bumi has landed as hard as she can - but the momentum of the swing is enough that it lets her tuck and forward roll at the peak of the swing and land exactly 180 degrees from where she started. A quick dashing slash at Bumi’s ankles - “Hit, hit” - and Bumi is down on the ground. Kirika raises her bokken high, and stabs straight down - stopping inches from Bumi’s chest.

“How is my technique?” Kirika asks, smiling.
“...legit,” Bumi coughs.

The moment is destroyed when Urushi starts clapping, a genuine smile on his face. “Wonderful!” he says. “Such...such grace! Such flexibility! For a style to stand up to such powerful ninjitsu - that is tremendous. But what fool would doubt Kamura-kensei?”
“Thank you very much,” Kirika says, snapping the bokken to her side with a flourish and bowing to Urushi Jr. “Please take your time to practice before our meeting this afternoon - I will wish to spar with my new instructor.”
“Of course,” Urushi says. “...without the jumping, I hope.”
“Whatevs,” Bumi says as she gets up. “We done here?” she asks Kirika.
“Need to have Ueki and Copperhead come by and see what the place needs to spruce it up,” Kirika replies. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Bumi shrugs. “So, this still counts as a mission, right? I mean, I was...I was ready. You know, that whole time, while you did your talky thing? I was ready, you know. flip out.”
“I’m sure,” Kirika says. “Lunch?”
“Oh yeah!” Bumi says. “Oh, for sure.”
“Good,” Kirika says. “First one there pays.” And with that, she bolts for the door, bokken left standing on end on the floor.
“Hey!” Bumi shouts after her, then looks to Urushi. “Geishas, man. Always gotta show you up.”
“...yes,” Urushi says.
“It’s been real,” Bumi says. With that, she takes a bit of a running start and vaults back up into the rafters before slipping out of the roof hatch to pursue Kirika on a higher level.

Urushi’s left standing, alone.

“Well then,” he says to himself. “I guess...we start by finding a broom.”
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-12-06 11:45:20
"The mystery of the corpses below decks will grant me little peace," Toshiba tells Homi, "but we must stay our course regardless. Hopefully we will realize how it fits into the puzzle before it is too late. I do believe Nagani is right, however - we cannot let the Ayami grow unchecked either."

They say their goodbyes and with a final "See you in three days' time," Toshiba and Takao rocket skyward - ever a disconcerting sensation.

Toshiba's been away for a while. Time to get back to the others and find out where they were on the whole High Lords thing.
Gatac 2016-12-10 13:04:15
Toshiba's flight back with Takao is a quiet one, and the roar of the flames that propel them - once so loud and brash that they crowded out everything else - now seem to have faded into the background, much like the endless waves beneath that once took him - too the Oni - took them?

What's the difference?

Toshiba doesn't need to ponder that very long; he could, but that's not his style. He's made his choices, chosen his path, just by continuing to wear the armor, by continuing to pretend to be the Blue Oni, and in the process becoming him. He doesn't know how it was for those who wore the armor before him, how they came into it and what they knew and how they built on the Oni's legacy, but that doesn't matter. There must have been plenty who came into it like he did - the armor feels comfortably like that must be true - and they didn't muck it up, so what does he stand to fear? And it's not like it's changed him, other than cleaning up the looks department, navel gazing necessary.

Really. Aren't you curious?

"What...who are you?"

Exactly. Who am I? Nobody seems to know where this armor comes from, do they. Isn't it time you learned the truth?

"You've been content with vague images and memory flashes so far, why speak up now?"

Right now? It's kind of a long flight back. But I think you mean "Why not earlier?"

"So you're a pedant, is that the first clue?"

Fine. Storytime. Hope you like shadowplays.


The Blue Oni - Act One

A hundred generations ago, it all began with a prince, who dreamt of uniting the lands around him into one empire.

[Fade into white. The black shadows of mountains pass in the background as a human shape with fine armor strides through the scene.]

Here comes the prince! Look at him, at his noble stature and grand stride.

[The prince moves from right to left across the screen, but then - another shape rises behind him!]

Wherever the prince turned his back, a knife seemed at the ready. Each time he ventured outside, he gambled his life.

[The prince flips around and raises his sword, doing battle with the ninja shape. The ninja is struck and slides into the ground, but reappears behind the prince. Before he can strike, an arrow flies across the screen and kills the ninja.]

But on this day, the prince had help.

[Another figure appaears, hooded and wielding a bow.]

Who are you, that you would raise a hand to vanquish my foe, the prince asked. Ah, I am but a humble bandit, the bandit said. I came but to hunt, but have no fear, prince; I will take a meager wolf over a ferocious bear for my trophy. All the same I could strike you down like the criminal you are, the prince said, so why reveal yourself? Because you are my better, good prince, the bandit said, and a bandit is well-served earning the gratitude of his betters.

[The prince sheathes his sword as the bandit lowers his bow.]

Your words are well-spoken and may earn you a respite, the prince said, but I could not be grateful to a man without honor. Ah, the bandit said, I've no use for honor, but I recognize profit where I see it; you have enemies, good prince, that approach with honeyed words and yet seek your death. But I, the bandit continued, am a rogue and a villain and I tell you so without falsehood, for while I may not have honor, I have honesty; take me into your service and for but a fraction of your wealth, I will continue to be honest to you and continue to take wolves for my own pleasure, that they may not bother you any longer.

[The prince and the bandit approach and shake hands.]

So be it agreed, the prince said, that you will ever be my shadow, clever bandit, and hunt for my cause, and I shall keep you in baubles and coin such as your heart desires. The deal is struck, the bandit said, and my arrows shall strike true in your name henceforth.


"Okay, so this prince guy became emperor and you were the first Shadowguard?"


"Seems like you could have just told me that."

Everyone's a critic.


The Blue Oni - Act Two

Years passed and the bandit stayed true to the deal struck with the prince; many men coveted the prince's life, and the bandit slew them all.

[The bandit shooting arrows into one ninja, then another. He is now wearing fine armor himself.]

Such was the bandit's prowess that the prince soon created an empire, with the bandit's help. But not all would recognize their new emperor, and they hatched a scheme.

[As the bandit turns away, a third ninja appears behind him, but rather than attack him, he retrieves an arrow from one of the corpses.]

And so it came to pass that one day, the emperor traveled the lands, when he was struck from afar by an arrow all too familar!

[The emperor walks in front of the mountains, when an arrow flies and hits him in the leg. The bandit rushes to his side.]

What fool I was to believe a bandit, the emperor said, for now that I have an empire, you covet it, and have struck for your own profit. My lord, the bandit said, I have done no such thing; your enemies have done it in my stead, to shame my years of faithful service to you. Your service was never faithful, the emperor replied, you were always seeking your own fortune, and now I have reached the ends of your so-called honesty. Stand your ground or run for your life, it is all the same to me now!

[The bandit turns to flee. The emperor draws his sword, but can only hobble after the bandit, who soon escapes.]

The bandit fled in despair, for while he had thought himself without honor, he found the emperor's words cutting him deeply; he had learned to be a better man through his service, and to see the emperor turned against him broke his heart. But in serving the emperor, the bandit had learned other things, and sought out the one who might help him - an oracle. He knew that whatever he might hear there would be the truth.

[Black background with a little white cutout, a cave. The bandit slowly walks in from the shadows, where he meets an old man standing crooked and leaning onto a staff.]

Wisest of wise men, I beg your help, the bandit said, my lord has cast me out and yet I cannot leave him, so I put to you this riddle: how can I serve a man that will not take me as his servant? You must serve him from afar, the oracle said, as you did once so long ago; his mind cannot be changed by words, but you can still strike at his enemies even if you no longer stand at his side, so go and serve him from afar, for that is the whole truth I shall reveal. And so the bandit left the oracle and ventured forth to fight the enemies of his lord.


"Honestly, that first emperor sounds like kind of a dick."

That's how nobles were back in those days. Trust me, he had his good sides, too.

"Well, let's see that third act, then."


The Blue Oni - Act Three

The bandit hurried back to the emperor's palace, where an important meeting was taking place. The noble who had opposed the emperor for so long had arrived to negotiate a peace with him.

[A table in the courtyard of the palace. The emperor sits across from a noble, as the bandit climbs onto the roof above them.]

But this was the noble who had hired the ninja to drive the bandit and the emperor apart, and sitting across from the emperor, he saw his chance to strike. What he did not know was that the bandit, risking his own capture and death, had snuck into the palace.

[The noble pulls a knife and lunges across the table, but the bandit shoots an arrow through his arm. As the bandit clambers down, the emperor jumps back and draws his sword, but lowers it as he understands what happened.]

Honorless swine, the emperor said to the noble, your fine words and talk of peace, put to shame by your own actions. And you, the emperor told the bandit, you return despite all; what profit do you seek now? Lord, the bandit said, I seek only to be known by my honesty once more, and to see you safe from wolves and snakes alike; allow me to dispose of this snake for you.

[The bandit aims his bow at the noble.]

Do it, the noble cried out, and know that with my death there will never be peace; for we all fear this bandit who answers to no law but serves you so faithfully above all, and despite our best efforts we could not be rid of him when it mattered. My lord, the bandit said, do not listen to this man; he means you ill. So he does, the emperor said, but I fear the truth in his words; truly I have let a criminal be my right hand, and such is the stain on my throne that men like him may never yield, so while I have gladly paid much for your service, this price may yet prove too steep. My lord, the bandit said, I am yours to command and seek no more profit but yours; tell me what shall be done and it will be so. And the emperor thought, and finally said, I can only answer injury with injury and pray that the next man at this table will speak of a true peace, but I must make right my own mistakes as well; by the morrow there shall be two executions, one assassin and one bandit. And the bandit and the noble bowed their heads, accepting this judgment.

(The courtyard is empty except for the Emperor with his sword; the noble marches in and kneels before the Emperor, who chops off his head. As the bandit walks in to face his own death, he is stopped by the oracle.)

Bandit, the oracle said, I have not been honest with your riddle, and I came to tell you that there is more to reveal; but be warned, if this truth be revealed, you shall not find peace at the edge of your lord's blade. There is no peace without truth, the bandit said, tell me the truth and all of it. There will be others by the throne's side who will do what you have done, the oracle said, but they will not be enough; you must continue your vigil and strike from afar when it is needed, for a hundred generations and more, for there must always be a bandit who will serve a prince. Wisest of wise men, the bandit said, how can I serve beyond death? From afar, the oracle said.

[The oracle disappears. The bandit steps forward, kneels and is decapitated. As the emperor walks away, another man enters the courtyard to drag away the bodies. He pauses over the bandit's body, pulls the armor off him and slips it over his own shoulders.]

There must always be a bandit. And there always will be.


Toshiba's still digesting the story when he hears a loud "KIIII!" at his side. Turning his head, he spots his loyal companion Konoko soaring on the winds beside him. The story did not tell of her origin - or even where the name "Blue Oni" came from - but perhaps not all questions are there to be answered. Flying closer to her, Toshiba spots a ship beneath that is just slipping from the capital's harbor - one that is flying Ikishi's flag.
MikeS 2016-12-16 00:31:33
"Hey," Takao calls to Toshiba, "is that the ship that Ikishi used to escape her palace when she flooded us in there? Should we drop in?"

Toshiba can tell that Takao is very pleased with himself at putting the pun together.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-12-19 10:02:49
As they descend, Toshiba reflects on the Oni's visions and feels a peace of sorts. Since he had taken up the mantle of the Blue Oni, Toshiba had worried that there was something darker hiding beneath, but the spirit(s) of Onis past seemed to say keep doing what you're doing. Toshiba feels that anxiety lift away and purpose floods in behind it.