Gatac 2018-03-08 13:23:43
"She is...my blood," Ikishi coughs. "Only she...can sustain me now."
MikeS 2018-03-10 23:56:20
{Sense Motive d20+27 = 31}

Takao musters Ikishi with suspicion. Is this yet another ploy of hers? So far, she had been nothing but a manipulator, and it would not be beyond her to fabricate a story like this.

"Perhaps you should have asked for Lady Kamura instead of myself. She has time and again extended mercy to villains that I would have judged with the sword," he says slowly.

"Convince us. Explain to us exactly how it would be that Himiko would not come to harm, yet help you. Your choice of words does not inspire confidence. And explain how this would keep the spirits at bay. If you are the key to releasing the king and his spirits from the swamp, why is it not easier to return you to the swamp?"
Gatac 2018-03-13 12:39:47
What Ikishi says rings true to Takao. Incomplete and carefully phrased, maybe, but it does not sound like a lie.

"Yet I am...asking you," she coughs.

"She would...sleep," Ikishi continues. "Just like when...you took her from me. With her qi...I can sustain this body...long enough to discard...the yokai. With Yu Lee...and the madman from the swamp...there is a chance. More than I can...I can...do...by myself..."

Finally, her cough breaks free, and you see her spew a little cloud of greenish miasma. It hardly floats before settling onto the table like heavy smoke; as it touches a basket of fruit, the fruit seems to suck up the miasma and rot away before your very eyes. As Ikishi continues coughing, a team of servants arrives to pick up her norimono and carry her inside.

"Many apologies," one of them says to Takao and Toshiba as he quickly picks up the fruit basket and moves to discard it. "Milady is not well today and needs to rest now. You are of course welcome to stay and enjoy the lunch. Please do consider her offer."

Unseen by the servants, Kagemaru darts from the shade of the courtyard tent into the shadow cast by Ikishi's norimono, sneaking himself into the "mansion".
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-03-13 15:10:01
Toshiba doesn't look like he likes any of this, least of all the entropic cough Ikishi's developed.

"I appreciate the offer, but I have dined previously. We shall take her proposal back to those best able to help."
MikeS 2018-03-13 23:49:22
As they leave the courtyard, Takao echoes Toshiba's thoughts: "I don't like this one bit. She makes the dramatic plea, appealing to our better nature, sets an ultimatum, and then leaves us. I'm no expert, but I think that's how a con is set up. Call me a cynic."

"Maybe Copperhead could plan this all out logically, but my heart is telling me not to give her what she asks. Seeing Himiko in this deathlike trance was already unbearable last time, and we'd be risking the other two as well. I say let the demons come. We have fought them before, and they fell before our blades like wheat."

He sticks his thumbs into his obi as they walk, then pauses a few steps away from the gate to look at the building. He looks back to Toshiba, now deliberately facing away from Ikishi's abode, and asks quietly: "Are we waiting for our shadowy friend?"

Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-03-14 11:45:53
Toshiba nods at Takao's question. "We will at least take our time returning. If there is a way to acquire Shira's heart without entertaining her schemes, I agree with you. I am no father, but restoring Lord Shira only to have him discover the price was his daughter seems... counterproductive at best, and excessively harmful to everyone around him at worst. He would likely rather not outlive his child."

"But I admit, there is part of me that believes that she may be doing this out of pure survival. It may be as bad as she says. If there is no recourse, if Ikishi can be freed of the yokai safely... she will be human, and greatly weakened. Easier to kill."
Gatac 2018-04-03 12:09:10
Take your time you do, pondering the various approaches to the Ikishi issue. Perhaps entertaining her offer is the road to a peaceable conclusion to this whole mess; haven't enough people suffered and died for this? On the other hand, most of that suffering and death has been firmly on Ikishi's orders; no matter how contrite she appears now, she's the architect of all this misery, and it just feels viscerally wrong to work into whatever her latest scheme is. Then again, considering the effort it took to fend off some minor yokai in the swamp...and what of Kagemaru's attempt to steal the heart back? What repercussions will unfold from that? As ever, you find yourself long on questions and short on answers, certain only of one thing: it's all coming to a head, and soon.


Just long enough after everyone’s been seated again for Yukio’s hold on Kirika’s hand to reach maximum pressure, Omo and the scribes emerge from the chambers and take their places again. Omo looks at the small crowd, paying special attention to the now somewhat better behaved Kaede, then clears his throat.

“Court is back in session,” he pronounces. “All rise.”

After everyone rises (and Kaede floats up a bit), he continues.

“The court’s findings are as follows,” Omo says. “The court finds that Lady Matsumoto, also known as Mohime Yukio, is eligible to be tried as samurai without prejudice to whatever other station she may or may not hold. The court further finds that Lady Matsumoto’s actions with regards to Lady Yakuta constitute one count of simple battery. The court finds Lady Matsumoto guilty of the same, in absence of either evidence or argument to the contrary.” He pauses. “The court hereby sentences Lady Matsumoto to make restitution to Lady Yakuta for the injury, to be paid no later than one month - to consist of thirty days - from today. Upon certification of this payment, the case shall be considered closed.” Omo waits for the scribes to catch up, then takes the scroll from them, reads it over, and finally applies his signet ring to the way on it. “Lady Matsumoto, the clerk shall provide to you a letter of release. Please present it to Lady Ishikawa to retrieve your weapons.”
Yukio bows her head. “Thank you, Judge Omo.”
“Court dismissed,” Omo says.

Kirika bows with everyone else, and waits for Omo to clear the room before sweeping Yukio up in her arms - barely beating her to the punch. “Never had any doubt,” she whispers to her.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Yukio says, trying to embrace Kirika. “Glad you’re here, dearest.”
Kirika presses her forehead against Yukio's. “Like I would be anywhere else, love.”

Kaede watches the embrace for a few seconds, then clears her non-existent throat. “Oh, just kiss her already,” she says. “Come on. You just got out of a trial without drawing a blade. I wanna see some action, girls.”
“Well, if she insists,” Kirika says, and kisses Yukio for a good few seconds. “And we're not out of the building yet,” she whispers playfully to Yukio. “Still time for a fight to break out.”
“I’d prefer to save my energy for...later,” Yukio says. “You look like you could use some rest, dearest.”
“I feel fine,” Kirika says. “I feel wide awake and...warm and safe. No telling how much of that is my ancestors and how much is you, love.”
Yukio looks to Kaede, who shrugs. “She’s been going all night,” Kaede observes. “If you can’t talk her down, I don’t know who can.”
“Pardon me,” Hetechi cuts in. “I hate to impose, but I think I have to insist that you at least join me for lunch after all this.”
Yukio kisses Kirika on the cheek. “I could eat,” she says.
“Same,” Kirika says. “I'm famished. Kaede, I apologise, but would you mind -”
“I’m in,” Kaede says, ogling Hetechi.
“Excellent,” Hetechi says. “Yakiniku? I know a place.”
Kaede floats up a bit at that. “Too bad he’s gay,” she says. “And taken. And I’m dead. Otherwise…”
“Kamura women find a way,” Kirika replies, and snogs Yukio again. “Isn't that right, love?”
“That they do,” Yukio says.
MikeS 2018-04-05 00:38:20
"We should head back and discuss with the others, in particular see what our madman from the swamp has to say about all this. I don't know how these spirit things work, but... wait.. doesn't Kirika have a close bond with her ancestor spirits? Perhaps they can shed some light on this."
Gatac 2018-04-23 10:40:56
What of the other lunch, then? Well, this one's a much more jovial affair, between Hetechi fronting the bill and not being at the same table with Lady Ikishi. Still, the poisonous rose is not far from Kirika's thoughts. This is such a happy moment - such a perfect time to drop yet more misery on them, some clever scheme, some new bit of bad news. But as Yukio leans her head on Kirika's shoulder and closes her eyes, Kirika feels a sort of contentment, a notion that just for now, just for this moment, things will be all right. But eventually the moment does pass, the mind turns back to to all the grisly business yet ahead, and lunch - like all lunches - must end. A bit more somber but still in good spirits, Yukio and Kirika arr-tee-bee, only to find Takao and Toshiba relaying the story of their lunch to Copperhead. As the tale is spun, Yukio's hand tightens around Kirika's and Copperhead looks toward her.

"I should wish to spend a day without hearing the name Ikishi," he says and sighs. "We are not accepting this deal, are we?" he says. It seems strange to have him speak so...emotionally, but clearly he's developed a bit of a soft spot for Himiko.
"Of course not," Kirika says. "If it comes to it, we will find a way to stop whatever comes next. Has Kagemaru returned?"
"He has not," Copperhead says.
"Then we move on to this new issue of the yokai," Kirika says. "Has Yu been informed?"
"I have indeed," Yu says, joining the conversation. The wounds around her lips have closed up enough that she's foregone her veil, but it's still not a pretty sight. However, hanging onto her sleeve is Himiko. "Is it true?" she asks. "My mother is dying?"
"We have no specific reason to doubt her," Kirika says. "Yet."
"Then I could sustain her and free my father from the curse of the stone heart in the trade?" Himiko asks.
"And likely be turned into the conduit through which she consolidates her power," Kirika points out. "With the cost of her deal passed on to you, who knows what you would lose, Himiko. She already took your eyesight and your father's heart. I would ask you to think what she will take next."
"All I know is that I will lose my mother, and my father, too, if I sit here and do nothing." Himiko shakes her head. "I want you to take me back to her. I need to hear what she has to say with my own ears."
"And if she asks you to be a mere tool for her power?" Kirika asks. "Or if she does not ask? Yu or I can tell you that Ikishi does not ask when someone else's will stands in her way." Kirika takes a knee and Himiko's free hand. "I know you want to help, and it is a brave thing. But we must be careful now. She is desperate, either through the poisonous influence of the yokai or the havok we have brought to her plans. I do not want to walk into a situation where we cannot find our way out again with you." She looks to Yu. "Is there any protection you or the High Lord can give to her?"
"If nothing else, I can buy you some time to escape," Yu says grimly. She taps her hand on top of Himiko's. "It would be wiser not to take this chance at all, as is Kirika's counsel."
"It would be," Himiko says. "But..." She sighs. "All the wisdom in the world does not make my heart any lighter. And there are things a daughter must do." She turns to face Kirika before her. "I shall go to her. Whatever happens then shall be on her conscience, not mine."
"And ours," Kirika adds.
"Will you take me to her, or not?" Himiko asks.
"I know that look," Kirika says. "I'd rather you go with our protection than alone. And it seems time that we...resolved this once and for all."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-04-23 11:04:40
"Where is Lord Nikochi?" Toshiba asks. "If we are to battle a yokai, I would have us prepared as best we can. Do not let reason obscure any strategem, no matter how outlandish."
Gatac 2018-04-26 15:26:45
"He is...communing with the spirits," Yu offers. "I'll go fetch another bucket of water."


"Of course we must go to her!" Lord Nikochi says, all but ignoring the cold water still dripping from his unkempt beard. "If we can catch a glimpse of the method she has used to bind the yokai, we may be able to use this insight to restore balance."
"...and save her?" Himiko asks.
"Possibly," Nikochi says, then looks to Yu. "One thing is certain: it represents the best chance your mother has."
"I advise against it," Copperhead says, putting a hand on Himiko's shoulder. "There is altogether too little observation and entirely too much risk inherent in this course of action. And - forgive me - we are not in the business of saving Lady Ikishi's life. She would hardly extend us the same courtesy, were our fortunes reversed."
"What kind of odious blackguard are you?" Nikochi asks. "Have you never done anything for anyone out of the goodness of your heart?"
"I am quite certain I have not, for there is no goodness in my heart," Copperhead replies. "I see well the advantage of gaining access to Ikishi's lair in this way, but we are in dire need of a strategy beyond blind faith."
"Such as?"
"We need to be ready to slay her and the yokai within her in as expedient a manner as possible. Given the consequences of either escaping our grasp, it is simply the only practical approach."
"Oh, of course," Nikochi says. "How well I recall the legends of practical men! Rouse yourself, shinobi; see to it that you are remembered for at least one unselfish act! Or you shall most assuredly find yourself in one of the hells after you shuffle loose this mortal coil."
"I shall not be lectured on selfishness by the likes of a vagrant such as you," Copperhead snaps.
"Call me a vagrant one more time, you ruffian!"
"I will be happy to repeat it as many times as necessary!"

"HEY!" Toshi shouts, breaking up the verbal sparring; Ueki trails behind him, as if to check in on all the commotion. "What the hells has gotten into you?" Copperhead hangs his head. "It is entirely up to Himiko whether we go see Ikishi with her and what we do there. Okay? We are not the main event here. She is. And we are not doing a damn thing that she doesn't want us to do. If she wants us to try whatever we can to save Lady Ikishi, then by the Heavens that is what we are going to do." His look sweeps the assembled gang. "Because we are here to do the right thing."
"Bravo!" Nikochi says. "Well put! I say, it heartens me that you and I are in such a degree of agreement on -"
"Shut up," Toshi snaps back. "I've heard enough of your preaching about nature and balance. You helped us get to the bottom of Shira's condition; I won't soon forget this. But I don't need you stirring up shit with a man who has devoted every fiber of his being to doing good utterly despite himself" - he nods to Copperhead - "nor with the only woman besides my wife who I would trust with my life" - he looks to Kirika - "or anyone else, really. And your cryptic spiritual bullshit can fuck right off, too. We're trying to save an empire here. Either get with it or get out of our way."
"...I see," Nikochi says, then bows his head. "My apologies."
Toshi looks around. "And I'm coming, too," he says. "If we have a chance to end this, then I need to be there. End of discussion."
"So, uh," Ueki chimes in. "...Gungnir's ready. Like, ready ready. Pret-ty good work if I do say so myself. Took some time." He looks around. "Just, uh, wanted to let you know. It's done. Use it whenever. I'm gonna sleep."
punkey 2018-04-29 01:23:37
Kirika nods. "Of course, Prince." She bows to Ueki. "You deserve your rest. And if I find out that you did anything other than sleep, I will lock you in your room myself."
Gatac 2018-05-05 13:10:27
It was a dark and stormy night...wait. No, actually it's a warm, cloudy afternoon when you make your way back to Lady Ikishi's island/mansion/deathtrap, finding things arranged much like earlier. Whether that means that nobody thought to take down the lunch ensemble or Ikishi knew you'd be back, you cannot say, but the cold chill running down your spines seeing it is very real. Still, with the whole team assembled - Kiara watching from the skies and Kagemaru presumably ready to pounce from the shadows - there's an air of finally taking the fight where it belongs. But for now? For now, blades stay sheathed, pleasantries are exchanged with the servants, and Ikishi is carried out of her mansion again, seemingly nestled still deeper in her palanquin. With Copperhead at her side, Himiko takes the first step forward.

"So...you have arrived," Ikishi croaks from out the shadow. "Come now, child...we must not...dawdle."
Himiko is quiet for a moment. Years of being raised as a noble's daughter, to be seen but not heard; but also years of apprenticeship to Lady Ishikawa. You can all but see the silk slide off the steel as she raises her voice. "Do you love me, mother?" she asks.
"...of course...Himiko," Ikishi coughs.
Himiko touches her hand on Copperhead's arm, and he gently releases her. Haltingly, she takes a step towards Ikishi. "If it is so easy for you to say, oka-san - then why was it so hard to show?" She sucks in a breath. "Years, mother. Years with the truth being kept from me. Years where I imagined all sorts of horrible fates that could have befallen you, to explain to myself why you were not there."
"What was I to do?" Himiko cries. "Father would not speak of you! I only had my imagination to go on. Can you even begin to understand how much this secret hurt me? And then, to finally learn the truth - that there was no horrible fate involved at all. You were here, all along, an hour's ride from the only home I knew. If I had had the merest hint of that - do you even know what I would have done to seek you out?"
"Yes," Ikishi says. "Do not imagine...that I don't know you. You were raised...and taught...well. But I could not...risk your interference."
"INTERFERENCE?" Himiko shouts. "Mother, all I - all I wanted was to - hold your hand, to - to feel the contours of your smile, to hear you - to hear you say my name. And when I came to you, all you wanted was to use me. You still want to now. Did it ever occur to you that I might want to speak to you as a daughter to her dying mother, not as a playing piece to a strategist? You say you know me, but you only ever knew me as an ingredient in your plans. As a threat to them."
"Himiko..." Ikishi wheezes. "You are."

The sunlight of afternoon glances off the tears running from Himiko's sightless eyes.

"I look at...your allies," Ikishi says. "No doubt they...told you not to come. But you did. You came to see me. But you are not...here to gain my affection. You cry...but...you are not that selfish."
"I came to save you," Himiko whispers.
"Of course you did...Himiko," Ikishi says. "And if you had come...earlier...you might have...pulled me from my path. Destroyed...my life's work."
"What work?" Himiko replies, fury rising in her voice. "My friends already told me everything. How you lied, cheated and killed your way to the top. And how you intend to subjugate everything and everyone to your will, for your benefit!"
"I never said...it would be entirely selfless," Ikishi says, waving her jittery hand. "But you must see...the bigger picture -"
"The bigger picture is nothing," Himiko says. "All it does is serve as an excuse for whatever cruel thing you wish to commit in its name! You pretend to be so much wiser than everyone, but you're just following the easy logic of tyrants from past ages. You cannot build a golden palace on a foundation of corpses!"
"And what do you...think...Empire is?" Ikishi spits back. "Now...cease your prattle, Himiko. You're not...here to lecture me. Another habit you...picked up from your friends? You speak as if...you're better than me. You've come...to prove it. So approach me...and we will...settle this business."
"- yes," Himiko sobs quietly.

Step by careful step, she starts her walk towards Lady Ikishi and an uncertain fate.
punkey 2018-05-05 15:47:56
"Himiko, stop," Kirika says.
Himiko does stop, but Ikishi clears her throat. "And what can you...tell her...that you have not said already?" She hacks up...something. "Do not pretend...that you can still change...her mind."
"Why do you feel you must do this?" Kirika asks softly. "You obviously do not want to, you never did. Tell me, why?"
Himiko sucks in a breath. "If you had a chance - the slightest chance - to save your parents," she asks, "would you - would you not take it?"
Kirika looks away. That question hits her hard, but after a moment, she takes a breath and responds. "Makoto Kamura was born to a Lord and his adventurer wife," Kirika starts. "He said he loved them very much - even when he imprisoned both she and her mother to force them to train his soldiers so that they may oppress his people. That Lord killed her mother when she refused - and Makoto killed him with her mother's sword in return."

Kirika shakes her head. "We owe our parents many things, Himiko. We do not owe them absolute obedience, and sometimes...a parent is beyond saving."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-05-06 10:47:27
"Sometimes you cannot know a truth until you attempt it yourself." The Blue Oni nods to Himiko. "Some mistakes are meant to be repeated."
MikeS 2018-05-07 00:33:23
Takao only nods. His friends were not raised samurai. They wouldn't understand.

Himiko is not making a mistake. That would imply having a choice. She has none.


Those are the way of the samurai, whether they are sword-wielding bushi or daughters of lords.

He has to let Himiko go. But not alone.

He falls in step with her, to her left and two steps behind, like a second int a duel. For a duel this is, unlike any Takao has fought before, and if his draw is slow, someone else will die in his stead.

He locks eyes with Ikishi, and his right hand rests on Mizu's tsuka, ready to strike down the demon summoner as soon as her treachery is revealed.

(In case it matters: Sense Motive: 1d20+27 = 31. urgh. add action die: 3; total 34)
Gatac 2018-06-18 18:33:01
(1d20 + 25 = (17)+25 = 42)

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.

Takao's sharp eyes are ready for a thousand treacheries from Lady Ikishi, every step along the way. He watches as Himiko steps close to her mother, withdraws her sleeve and offers up her wrist to her mother. Takao's breath stills; one need not be an assassin to see the dozen deadly strikes that could be done to such a delicate target with the slightest of movements. But what he sees from Ikishi is slowness and precision, her shaky hand steadying long enough to poke a few needles into the milky skin of her daughter. No blood is drawn, but Takao hears her gasp softly. Ikishi withdraws, but with Takao's eyes on her hand, he can see how the bones showing through her skin recede underneath flesh again. The rasping breath of Lady Ikishi grows calmer and stronger, while Himiko stumbles backwards, finally losing her balance and tumbling into Takao's arms.

Then the palanquin bursts apart in a shower of lacquered wood and fine silks; it's all Takao can do do a half-turn and shield Himiko with his back. When he opens his eyes again, he finds her staring right back at him, looking...looking like she has aged years, but with the clouding gone from her eyes.

"Takao...Takao-senshi?" she breathes. "You look..."

Just then, the cloud of fine wood dust blows away, revealing Lady Ikishi back on her own two feet, struggling to rip open her kimono. As she tears off the sleeve of her right arm, you can make out a series of rings built from needles, like an intricate little labyrinth, and...something...black snaking its way up her arm through the rings, as if to suck up the new life infused into her body there. With surprising speed, Ikishi rips out a few of the needles and repositions them, completing two of the rings. As her arm twitches and twists with the blackness, she thrusts it out away from her - and towards you.

"Now, you fools!" she cries. "Cut!"
punkey 2018-06-18 18:53:15
Kirika would have been twitchy all on her own with Himiko offering her arm up, but her tattoos had been squirming in anxiety ever since approaching Ikishi. She - and her ancestors - held their breath as Himiko offered her arm up, but after the litter exploded, Crane's Dance was in her hands instantly as blue fire licked from her arms and up her back. As Ikishi shoved her arm forward, Kirika's flaming arms were there to meet it with her blade, slicing upwards and through it without a pause.
Gatac 2018-06-18 19:10:43
(Black screen flashing with a white diagonal line because of course)

There is neither cry nor blood as Crane's Dance slices cleanly through withered flesh and brittle bone, dropping the twisted arm to the ground. Kirika's sword stops just short of Ikishi's throat as the fire in her rages on. But her ancestors do not cheer for murder, and so Kirika eases her blade off just an inch or so.

Then the lopped-off arm begins to smolder.

"Don't breathe it!" Ikishi cries, throwing herself against Kirika with surprising power and dragging her two steps away from where the arm had fallen. As she does so, wisps of green-yellowish smoke escape the arm while it withers before your eyes.
punkey 2018-06-18 19:12:52
Kirika moves with Ikishi's shove, rolling her off her shoulders and onto the ground, where Kirika keeps her sword and her eyes pointed at her.