Swamp Things

Gatac 2015-04-18 06:56:19
Well, RZA eventually takes the chance of flying Blue Oni Air, becoming history's first hostile flying object that can be properly termed "Bandit", while Kiara hooks Takao's armpits and takes the ronin for a ride. Following Ikishi's carriage proves fairly easy; most everyone who was rushing downtown to gawk at the flaming wreckage of the clock tower is now gawking, while those fleeing the chaos have mostly fled, and so the streets are reasonably clear. In any event, it's hard to lose track of a carriage as ostentatious as Ikishi's.

The carriage winds its way to the eastern waterfront where it ends up in a walled compound that houses the personal watercraft of the city's movers and shakers; you gotta hand it to Ikishi, she's not shy about her brand, as her private junk is styled in the same colors as her carriage. Ikishi, her unconscious daughter and a few servants make the switch, and soon they're off with the soft seaward breeze that blows the junk out into Noble's Lagoon. Ikishi's island isn't as big as Lord Hetechi's, but her mansion takes up more of it; there seems to be some unspoken rule in play about how high your house is allowed to be relative to your social station, and Ikishi's two-decker is clearly knocking against those limits.

(Toshiba's Notice: 1d20+18 = 19 ERROR'D!)

Sadly, the night and the lack of illumination make it very hard to spot anything but the vague shape of the mansion from so far up; while other mansions are brightly lit against the night sky, Ikishi's house is just about entirely dark save for some fancy gaslights that illuminate the landing bridge for her junk. Even several circles from above don't lead to a more confident assessment than that there's a roof to land on...probably.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-04-22 11:12:17
Toshiba waves Kiara to land and descends himself, ungainly and awkward under RZA's weight. He hits the roof a little harder than he wants, slipping on the slope, but it's not Toshiba's first time on a perch and he quickly and quietly catches himself.

Once everyone's down and gathered, Toshiba whispers, "Forget the old plan. We need to consider Himiko Ikishi's hostage and get her out, lest she be used to sway Shira against us once again. Takao-san, what does bushido say of this? I only know it as a burden to be cast aside, but I would not enter this place until we are all of one mind. We can ill afford mistakes and we must commit to our path once we set foot upon it."
MikeS 2015-04-25 16:34:10
"Hmmm... Courage, Respect, Sincerity, no problem there. Honour is a bit iffy. Benevolence might be slightly in favor of going in, and Righteousness and Loyalty demand that we do it right now.

"All in all, I think bushido would be violated more if I lied to Ikishi or disrespected her while we break into her abode than just by breaking into her abode. Especially since we're going in to rescue someone!"

"Alright, enough talk! Let's go in!" The usually calm ronin seems agitated, and eager to do something.

Gatac 2015-04-26 07:42:15
As a quick trip across the roofs shows, Ikishi's mansion bears several unusual signs of anti-ninja construction: no rooftop hatches of any sort, for starters, and the chimneys are roofed with a metal box that reaches underneath the roof layer and is only covered in a wooden veneer. What's more, the openings are further covered with metal grates, making it impossible to throw tools, weapons or distractions into them; even Kagemaru's shadow body cannot twist itself through, though there is a mighty draft blowing out of them. Kagemaru goes on a swift tour of the outer walls, and brings back further grim news: there are no windows on the second floor, or the first floor for that matter. There are wooden shutters attached to the outer walls where one would expect windows, but there is only bare rock behind them. Which is not to say that there are no openings in the outer walls, though: just above the waterline, grated openings disgorge a steady stream of seawater.

This abode may be shaped like a mansion, but underneath that shell beats a very different heart.

"I could go look underwater," Kagemaru suggests, "but it's looking pretty tight so far."
"Pft," Kiara says. "Nobody expects ninja coming through the front door."
"I can't see a disguise working," Kagemaru says. "We don't exactly have a lot of clothes to work with, and we don't even know who to impersonate to get past the guards."
Kiara draws Dragon's Will out of its sheath for an inch. "That's not what I meant," she says.
Kagemaru sighs. "Absolute Shadow," he mutters, "with a bell around his neck and a lantern in each hand."
"Right, lads, so..." RZA begins, looking to Kiara, and then she looks back at him. "I will...stay on the roof...and look out for any ships coming in?"
"All the fun stuff for me?" Kiara says. "You're too kind."

To use the vernacular, the situation shortly becomes dynamic and/or kinetic as Kiara launches off the roof, circles around the the dockward entryway and dives down on the pair of unsuspecting minimum-wage guards, driving Dragon's Will all the way from the top of the first one's skull through to a structurally superfluous new behind, while the other guy gets punted aside by her wing and has a rather unfortunate rendezvous with the lagoon. As the rest of the team descends to ground level, Kiara forces the corpse before her onto its knees and raises her foot to its shoulder with the goal of pulling Dragon's Will free.

"Go," she hisses. "I'll cover your exit."


The first thing you notice on entering the mansion is the incessant thrumming coming from deep inside the building. Well, okay, the first you notice is that the walls are all built from stones mortared into place, with only the floors wooden. Without windows, the only illumination are gaslights, though you detect none of the faintly sweet drug smell from Sarano's mansion in this. A strong draft blows through the hallway and out to the exit, carrying with it a strange, chirping noise from further down the maze of hallways that no doubt awaits. Kagemaru bows down and carefully puts pressure on the wood below, eliciting a light chirping sound of his own.

"Nightingale floors," he says. "That'll slow us down - or deliver everyone in this building to our blades." He taps the side of his masked head. "But at least we can hear their movement, too."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-04-28 15:13:11
"Why cast aside silence when it has yet to fail us?" the Oni muses. "There shall be time enough for noise - and speed - should we step falsely."
MikeS 2015-05-03 01:29:16
"How are we going to prevent them from hearing us? Only walk one at a time?" Takao looks doubtful at the floor.

"What if we go along the edges? Does it still chirp?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-05-03 14:41:47
Toshiba smirks, then gets down, back presented to Takao. "In a manner of speaking, yes. Only one of us shall walk at a time. Do not tell me thou never wished to traipse through the silent halls of an evil noblewoman riding piggyback on a notorious bandit?"
MikeS 2015-05-03 17:24:16
Takao shrugs. "At least we won't have to worry about fighting the guards. They will likely die of laughter.Let's do it."
Gatac 2015-05-05 15:21:18
(Toshiba's Sneak Check, at -2 for carrying a Heavy Load and -2 discretionary due to the flooring: 1d20+21-2-2 = 24)

It's a picture for the ages as Takao climbs on Toshiba's back, and then the traipsing begins. Oh Gods, that traipsing. Just be glad that there are no security cameras to capture any of this.

(Fun history fact: closed-circuit TV was first used by the Nazis at Peenemuende to observe rocket launches.)

The hallway continues to twist and snake through multiple turns, and you get the distinct impression that it's essentially just trying to create the longest path possible while keeping straight segments, without any junctions or even rooms to disturb the stone walls. Whatever the intent here is, it can't be good news for intruders. The other thing that jumps out is, well, that nobody jumps out - the hallway is empty, save for the echo of chirping echoing down from the way you're headed. After four turns and way too many strenuously careful steps, you finally make it to the center of the "mansion", where the architecture opens up with a vengeance: a large atrium stretches before you, looking down several levels - in fact, definitely beneath ground level. The thrumming is even louder here, though there still seems to be no obvious source of the machine-like hum. But enough about vaguely ominous sounds, let's talk interior decoration, because this is a doozy: Ikishi has her own Imperial throne room down there. Like, seriously, 1:1 scale replica. You shudder to think of what perverse thrill it must give her to sit on the throne down there and imagine herself on the real one.

At the moment, though, it seems like the room is used for a kind of audience; you hear several voices below, and when you creep up to the railing on your top level walkway, you find that there are four people down there: Ikishi, who is placing the still unconscious Himiko on the smaller "Empress" throne besides her own main one, while a man in seriously blinged.out armor taps the handle of his ceremonial daishō to the overall indifference of an austere-looking mainlander woman with a wooden staff.

"Your patience for setbacks exceeds mine, Sumiko," the man says. "You're letting Yoshihiro's brat and his allies walk all over you."
"Patience, my dear General," Ikishi says, fretting about one thing or another with Himiko's hair and pose until she sits on the throne just so. "What they bring is an opportunity to get rid of some of our less convenient allies - and chaos can be a good thing."
"Hardly," the man - General Noronu? - says. "Our plan to compel Toshiro into marriage and have his heritage recognized will not work if we cannot control the High Lords."
"And that is the strategy within the strategy," Ikishi says. "See, while they squabble with me over who can bring a critical number of High Lords under their sway, the Empire is paralyzed, and the people have already lost faith in the system. Just the right moment for a new daimyo to sweep the whole dynasty off the table and make this Empire his own. Sure, it'll be a bit more...bloody than our first plan, but -"
"No but, Sumiko!" the General snarls. "That is exactly what you promised we would not have to do!"
"I said I had an alternative," Ikishi answers. "I never said we would cling to it to the point of foolishness. What does it matter? One way or another, we will rule this Empire and grow it immeasurably. With your martial talents and my strategies -"
"Hrm," the General answers. "So many years wasted. I could have marched on the capital days after Yoshihiro's fall."
"To face the full might of the Imperial Army, and a retinue of High Lords united in grief?" Ikishi shoots back. "You would have failed."
"At least I would have failed on my own terms!" the General sneers.
Ikishi shakes her head. "Such pride," she says. "No matter. Is Ryūjin ready to depart?"
"Fueled up and restocked," the General says. "We can depart at once."
"Good," Ikishi says. "Then let's stop wasting time." She turns to the mainlander woman. "Attend to my daughter, Yu. See that her rest is not disturbed."

The woman nods in silent reply, then walks towards Himiko to inspect her. Ikishi and the General move to depart the ersatz throne room, no doubt into some underground passage.

"Well," Kagemaru says, "just a servant to guard Himiko. I don't think it'll get any easier than this."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-05-08 13:49:39
"Noone here is what they seem," Toshiba whispers. "But thou speakest true. We must strike first and strike hard." The third part of the old Ayami adage passes silently between the oni and the shadow: No mercy.
Gatac 2015-05-09 03:33:44
(We'll assume you guys draw whatever weapons you want to use before the fight proper begins.)

Kagemaru's Tactics: 1d20+15 = 24
Yu's Notice: 1d20+7 = 10

Ambush succeeds! You gain a surprise round.


(Yu: 2d20.hi+15 = 34)
Takao: 2d20.hi+13 = 25
Kagemaru: 1d20+15 = 24
Toshiba: 2d20.hi+18 = 22)

Mind if we...drop in?

Breathtaking view aside, the atrium provides another important benefit to our heroes: a direct vertical descent to the bottom, where Yu attends to Himiko in the throne room replica. It's a bit of a leap of faith for Takao as he clings to Toshiba's back once more, but the armored rogue lands with surprising grace and quietness just a few feet behind the distracted Yu, even managing to drop Takao to his feet without disturbing Yu. The ronin's grip on his sword tightens as his stance shifts according to long years of training, but he still stays his hand for a moment - bringing down his blade on the back of the woman who helped him escape Ikishi's prison seems low, even if it must be done to rescue Himiko...

(Takao assumes Martial Spirit stance.)

Kagemaru, the Absolute Shadow, is less hesitant in such matters - Yu is just an obstacle to him, after all. Using his full speed, he leaps at her, unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks at her!

(Kagemaru tries to Pummel a flat-footed Yu.

Kagemaru's Attack: 1d20+14 = 23 HIT! Actually should be at +18 because of his Heartseeker ability - but what the hell, it hit anyway.
Kagemaru's subdual damage: 3d6+15+3d6 = 37
Yu's Fort save vs DC 28: 2d20.hi+16 = 22 FAILED!

Yu gains Fatigued I and remains flat-footed due to Kagemaru's Ambush Mastery feat.)

Yu grunts and stumbles away from Himiko as Kagemaru's assault knocks the wind out of her. Still, those were some pretty painful hits - you'd expect at least a short cry of pain...

(Toshiba blade flurries all day, every day.

Toshiba's Attack: 1d20+10 = 22 HIT! But not enough to trigger additional damage, let's throw an AD on that: 1d8.open = 6
Toshiba's Damage: 2d6+2+2d4+3d6 = 21
Yu's Fort save vs DC 21: 2d20.hi+16 = 31 SUCCESS!

Yu is no longer flat-footed.)

...as you would from the two slashes Toshiba plants on her arms as she still seems a step behind the fight. Finally, though, she manages to arc her staff at Toshiba, gaining just enough room from the three to whirl into a ready stance and face them. The view isn't pretty: the rings under her eyes blend in with bruises on her cheeks. Something glimmers in the light, and in a flash you realize that her lips have been sewn together with a thin metal wire.

But still she stands, hands sure on her staff, ready to face you.
MikeS 2015-05-10 01:59:49
"WAIT!" Takao calls out as he resheathes his blade.

The ninjas had reacted before Takao had a chance to say anything.

"This is the woman who let Kichirou and me go. She does not work with Ikishi willingly, but is coerced!"

Nevertheless, he steps between Himiko and Yu, not knowing how far the woman will go due to the pressure of blackmail.
Gatac 2015-05-11 13:40:28
Takao's progress towards Himiko is stopped when Yu snaps up her staff and holds it out to block Takao - he could push through, but the way she frowns and shakes her head makes it very clear that she would not approve. Instead, she uses her free hand to point back up towards the top of the atrium, beckoning you to leave the same way you came.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-05-11 13:56:16
Sorry, Lord Shira, we set eyes upon your daughter but a woman with her mouth sewed shut told us to leave, so we did.

No, that's not going to fly.

The Blue Oni rummages for the paper and ink upon which he sometimes captures snippets of haiku. It's been a while since he had time to do so, but the writing implements are still there, waiting dutifully. He holds out quill and parchment to the woman. "Write. Tell us what is going here and why we cannot simply kill you and leave with Himiko."
MikeS 2015-05-11 13:56:58
"Ikishi holds hostages to enforce her cooperation," Takao says to the ninjas without taking her eyes off Yu. "She wouldn't tell me who they are, though."

"Her current condition was likely a punishment for letting us escape. Who knows what Ikishi has threatened to do this time, to her or to the hostages?"
Gatac 2015-05-11 14:10:16
Yu scorns the parchment, but nods to Takao. Her staff gently pushes him back towards the ninjas, while she points up again, her eyes narrowing.

"Yu Lee," Kagemaru says. "Her brother Rock is with us, and so is every able-bodied man and woman of their people from the mainland. Ikishi's mercenary troops remain home with their children, the elderly and the sick - just waiting for word from Ikishi to slaughter them all."

Yu's eyes widen at Kagemaru's mention of Rock, but finally she nods.

"Okay, listen," Kagemaru says. "if you come with us and we take Himiko, we can end all this. We'll find a way to save your people." He turns to his companions. "Right?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-05-11 14:24:40
"Right," the Oni agrees. "Returning Himiko safely gets us Shira. Our allies have already secured the assistance of the other High Lords. Only Noronu and Ikishi herself remain after this. We can stop her, with your aid," he continues. "Do not let this monster continue her reign - and it IS a reign, look at this mockery of the Empire before you - of terror and dishonor."
Gatac 2015-05-18 13:10:07
Yu snorts through her nose as her eyes wander across the group before her. Then, she closes her eyes and scrunches her lips together just enough that she can pull it between her fingernails and pinch it. In a sight both wondrous and horrifying, the wire starts to glow brightly before finally splitting, allowing her to unthread it from her lips, but not without turning her mouth into a raw, bloody mess - good thing Himiko is both unconscious and blind already, or else she'd probably become both on the spot. But then, you weren't planning to sleep anytime soon, were you? Ever compassionate, Yu quickly rips a strip of wide fabric from the sleeve of her clothes and binds it around the lower half of her face, obscuring the wounds even as they drip crimson on the rest of her clothes.

"My path was always fixed," Yu says. "I just didn't realize my betrayal was a part of it. You say you can bring down Lady Ikishi, and I pray you're right. What is your plan?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2015-05-18 13:32:52
The Oni's smarmy, carefree grin comes more easily to Toshiba than it did in weeks past. "Right now, the plan is to return Himiko to her father. I doubt the future shall remain so unchanging as to allow for plans beyond that."

"What do you know of Ikishi, physically, magically? What prevents an assassin's blade from simply ending the problem here?"
Gatac 2015-05-18 13:50:01
"I know she's broken our agreement," Yu says, stepping closer to Himiko and pulling back the collar of her kimono to reveal a few needles stabbed into her neck. "She bargained for my services, but I never agreed to show her how to work the chakra. It used to be that she needed me to help her reinforce and moderate her poisons, but obviously she's learned something very dangerous from studying my work. What's worse is that she's using patterns I don't even recognize."

Yu looks at Kagemaru. "You," she says. "I smell her poison on you." At this prompting, Kagemaru produces the small vial that was entrusted to him at the beginning of his journey, which he has kept safe in the many months since. "This form you hold is beyond even my skills to heal - perhaps even hers to control. But she can draw many other forms of it from the elements and her own body, to weaken, confuse and dominate others. Her chakras are faint and divided. I've not seen her fight, but I've seen her move, perhaps more than anyone else - and it is not how people move, even if it looks that way. Her shape is...faint and divided, too. Her light and dark chi are in almost perfect balance, which makes it very difficult to sense her when she does not want to be sensed."
"Is she a shadow like me?" Kagemaru asks.
"No," Yu answers. "You have become one with a kamui, but it was from the outside in - you still have a soul, and a soul can't be cut. But Ikishi, she is poison." She looks down at the unconscious Himiko. "And this is what's left of her soul."