Empire

Gatac 2018-12-16 14:56:59
(Real quick housekeeping: Technically Toshiba might have still been under the effects of Sickened but the talky bit has gone on long enough by this point that I'm ruling he's over it. Makes the math easier, too. Anyway, on to...

INITIATIVE!

Toshiba: 34
Takao: 28
Yo: 25

Toshiba delays to let the better grappler Takao go first.

Takao's Athletics = (11)+19 = 30
Yo's Athletics = (3)+13 = 16

Yo is Held.)

"Tie me up? Hardly!" Yo cries, surging forward - his kick is too fast for him to stop when Takao dodges it at the last moment, instead letting a small rope noose slip from his sleeve. In a flash, he's got Yo's leg bound up. Sad, really.

(Toshiba's not that good at Athletics. But he's got Sneak Attack dice. And the Wicked Dance stance...oh boy.

Toshiba's Attack = (17)+10 = 27
Toshiba's Damage + 3d6 Sneak Attack + 2d6 Wicked Dance Sneak Attack + 1d6 Knife Sneak Attack = (5)+1+(1)+(5+5+6)+(4+4)+(4) = 35
Yo's Fortitude save vs Bleeding = (17)+8 = 25 nope
Yo's Fortitude save vs Critical Damage: Yo's Fortitude save also nope.

In addition to the damage, Yo is now Bleeding. Plus he gets a Critical Injury. Let us consult the Table of Ouch: oh, that just says Bleeding again. By RAW this does nothing but that's lame, so I'm gonna rule he takes twice the Bleeding damage due to this.)

"Then I will have to take you down myself," Toshiba sighs as he draws his...knife.
"You will do nothing of the -" Yo shouts, flailing a fist at Toshiba. What that earns him are a few cuts across his arm and chest. "DAMN YOU!" Yo cries as Toshiba dances away from his counterstrike.
"I thought the plan was grappling," Takao remarks dryly, dodging a jump kick from Yo's free leg.
"You're grappling him, aren't you," Toshiba replies. "Just a bit of blood loss. Nothing permanent."

(Yo does not have much choice but the attempt to free himself.

Yo's Athletics = (12)+13 = 25
Takao's Athletics = (5)+19 = 24

Yo is no longer Held! Yo uses Quake Strike!

Yo's Trip = (11)+16+4 = 31
Toshiba's Acrobatics = (14)+15 = 29
Takao's Acrobatics = (3)+6 = 9

Both Toshiba and Takao become Sprawled!

Yo uses Master's Touch I to make an attack using both the Knife Hand and the Guillotine Kick trick. And no, don't ask me how you make a knife hand with your foot. Yo's just that good at kicking people, apparently.

Yo's Attack vs Toshiba = (9)+18 = 27 HIT!
Yo's unarmed damage x2 = (2+2)+8+10 = 22 with an effective AP of 6, so reduced to 19 by Toshiba's armor.)

It should be taken as a given that Toshiba carries rather a lot of knives on him at all times. Usually, this is good. You never know when you need a knife. However, in this instance, it's more like you never know when Yo needs a knife. Toshiba catches the glint in his fingers too late, realizing that the nimble ghost assassin / assassin ghost stole one of Toshiba's own throwing knives from his arm sheath when Toshiba cut him. Toshiba whips his upper body away as Yo kicks up into the air one more time, but his target is neither of the two Shinobi: instead, it's the loop holding his ankle, and the knife cuts true before embedding itself into the far wall of the mill. Not content to leave it at one party trick, Yo comes down hard onto the ground, ramming his fist into ground. Spirit-augmented strength ripples through the floorboards and throws both Toshiba and Takao to the ground. As if to punctuate his point, Yo brings down his heel on Toshiba's chest. That hurts a lot more than a kick should, even through the Blue Oni's suit.

"Fine!" Yo crows. "Anyone who gets in my way shall be -"

Hiro's response is to throw one of his sticks at Yo. With unnatural speed, Yo snatches the weapon from the air - and returns it posthaste, striking the unprepared Hiro in his guts! As the ninja master bowls over from the burst of pain, Yo gives him a bitter laugh.

"Wait your turn, old man!" he snarls. "Your lackeys lined up to die first."

(Oh, almost forgot the Bleeding damage.

Yo's Double Bleeding = (1+4) = 5)

---

It's only a few minutes across the harbor to the dock where Ueki is waiting, having taken his shirt off and trying to wring the salt water out. Kirika and Yukio, after a minute of holding onto each other for dear life and exchanging a few reassuring kisses, managed to reposition themselves back to a seated position on the row boat - not that they've let each other go, just that they're now sitting upright and holding onto each other in more of a "I'd prefer you to stay right here" hug.

As Yukio tosses the line to Ueki with her free hand, the latest rumble and crash from Ikishi's private island and palace sounds out. Everyone turns to look in time to see one of the last standing parts of the main body of the crypt/mansion fall over as another geyser of water shoots from the underground complex as another chamber collapses. The entrance is still standing, but the rest is either crumbling or has already fallen over as water pours from underground, rushing over the rubble like a river to either side.
"Good riddance," Yukio says.
"Where's Kaede?" Ueki asks.
"Returned to her side with the rest of my ancestors," Kirika replies, giving Yukio another squeeze.
"Okay," Ueki says, clearly over the supernatural events he just witnessed. "So...we just killed General Noronu. That's a thing. I guess Ishikawa won't be happy." He looks at the collapsed mansion in the distance. "Man, those machines - and people said I was crazy."
"Hold off on building a secret workshop under the pier until we win, if you could," Kirika jokes as Ueki ties the rowboat off.
"Yeah, no," Ueki says. "I'm keeping my future activities above sea level, thank you very much."
"Had enough adventure for today?" Kirika asks.
"Yep!" Ueki says. "Definitely. I'm good on adventure. Who's good on adventure for today and the rest of the week and maybe forever? This guy!"
"But you were very important today," Kirika says. "You need to let go so I can get out of the boat," she whispers to Yukio.
"And you need to let go so I can get out of the boat," Yukio whispers back.
"You first," Kirika replies with another peck on the cheek.

Yukio's response is to sweep up Kirika into her arms and carry her out of the boat, bridal style. Impressive strength and balance.

"Ooh! I'll get you for this later," Kirika protests.
"I look forward to it, dearest," Yukio says.
"Ahem," Kagemaru says. "I hate to be Daimyo Downer but there's a loose end that wasn't just buried under thousands of tons of rock. What happened to General Noronu's body?"
"Went down with the ship," Kirika replies as Yukio sets her down. "If it would not be too much trouble..." She looks at Kagemaru. "I think we all want to be sure he's dead and find out exactly...what Noronu was."
"I'll go after it in a moment, but I do have one piece of the puzzle right now," Kagemaru says. "He was Master Sinan, somehow. Or at least he told me he was. Said that's how he knew about me and how to trap me."
"Uh..." Yukio says.
"Oh, right, you don't know him," Kagemaru says. "Head of the Ayami clan I...I guess I'm still one of them. Haven't had the opportunity to sort that out yet."
"Actually, I know who he was," Yukio says. "He sacrificed himself to banish the demon inside Ikishi's arm after Kirika cut it off."
Kagemaru doesn't have visible eyes but he does stare right through Yukio. "...okay, more after I get the body," he says, then dives into the water without making any splash whatsoever.
Ueki looks to Kirika. "...I have a really bad feeling about this," he says.
"Which part?" Kirika asks. "The way Noronu was controlling an entire ninja clan? How he managed to swap bodies? That he was animated by powerful magic? Or that he seemed to...be some kind of magical construct and not really a person at all?"
"E) All of those," Ueki says. "I mean, not to fault your swordsmanship, but didn't he....kinda go down a bit easy? Not for a human, not even for a General, but if he had all those woo-woo mystical powers and he impersonated a ninja clan head for years then...uh...what I'm saying is, I've read enough stories to know that nobody's dead until I see a body." He pauses. "And with these guys? I wanna see two bodies, minimum."
"Fair enough," Kirika says. "But right now, I'll settle for one."

Minutes pass as you wait for Kagemaru to scour the bottom of the bay for the sunken boat and return. There's no doubt that he can endure down there, and the crowd that is coming to gape at the spectacle is smart enough to keep their distance from you, but still...Yukio draws Kirika tighter, while Ueki makes a show of racking through the mechanism of his gonne, showing that a little water won't keep it from working insofar as it may need to work.

Finally, Kagemaru steps out of Ueki's shadow. Not on his shoulders is General Noronu's body. Instead, he quietly holds out a stone in his hand, intricately carved with mystical runes but utterly inert even to Kirika's touch.

"...fuck," Ueki says.
"The boat was ripped apart on impact," Kagemaru says. "It's possible the body was flung away too far - even I can't see a lot down there - but I'm not holding my breath." He looks around. "Because I don't breathe anymore?" Ueki coughs. "Tough crowd," Kagemaru concludes.
"We should take this to Nikochi," Kirika says. "Hopefully he can make sense of it."
"And that's where our dry clothes are," Yukio adds.
"Gods yes, dry clothes," Ueki says.
"I'm all clothes," Kagemaru says. "How do you think I feel?"
"...are you asking us to...wring you out?" Kirika asks.
"No," Kagemaru says. "I need to soak in some warm soapy water first. Get all the dirt and salt out, you know?"
"...well, I guess Nikochi can meet us in the laundry, then," Kirika says.
Gatac 2018-12-29 21:13:25
(Round 2!

Toshiba returns to Plan A and grapples Yo!Kichirou.

Toshiba's Athletics = (19)+14 = 33
Yo's Athletics = (1)+13 = 14 womp-womp

That worked! Yo is held.

Takao's had enough of this shit. Time to draw his katana, All-Out Attack for -4 and attack using his Think Ahead trick...

Takao's Attack = (7)+27-4 = 30 HIT!
Takao's Damage = (2)+5+8+5 = 20
Takao's Attack = (8)+27-4 = 31 HIT!
Takao's Damage = (3)+5+8+5 = 21)

"And now!" Yo crows, "I will -"

That's when Toshiba sticks a knife through his pants, pinning Yo's kicking leg to the floor.

"The plan is still grappling," he coughs.
"I see," Takao replies. In the time it took him to say that, his quote-unquote "lesser" blade flashes twice, drawing two fine crimson lines across Yo!Kichirou's chest. "Just a bit of blood loss," he echoes.

(Again, Yo begins his initiative count by trying to free himself.

Yo's Athletics = (7)+13 = 20
Toshiba's Athletics = (19)+14 = 33 PERMISSION DENIED

Except, this time, it does not work. Toshiba chooses the Injure grapple benefit because hey look here's a knife...also you're flat-footed so SNEAK ATTACK

Toshiba's Damage + 3d6 Sneak Attack + 1d6 Knife Sneak Attack = (4)+1+(4)+(2+2+3)+(6) = 22 DONEZO)

"I will -" Yo protests, but then Toshiba finishes immobilizing him by simply sticking the next knife right through his foot. Yo simply screams.
"Verily, the Blue Oni has grown tired of your, um, shtick," Toshiba says.

Yo keeps screaming, though. Takao helps Toshiba to his feet and the two of them back away as strange shadows dance over Kichirou's body. Thunder falls heavy outside as more lightning approaches.

"Takao-senshi," Yu Lee asks quietly, "I promised a boon earlier. Perhaps this is an opportune moment?"
"If you please," Takao replies.

Yu Lee rises to her feet, leaving Homi to tend to the falling Copperhead. Swinging her staff upwards and twirling it, Yu then brings it down again, drawing a circle and symbols onto the dusty floor with blinding speed. "Rin, pyou, tou, sha, kai, jin, retsu, sai, zen!" she counts down, and the mill fills with a howling wind - "AKURYO TAISAN!"

It was the lightning outside. That's the only explanation for the bright light that floods the mill and hurts everyone's eyes. Once vision clears, the first thing visible is Yu Lee in her starch-white clothes, holding her staff up into the air and swirling its tip slightly. Where it points, a vague, bubbly mass of darkness floats in mid-air, with more being drawn from Kichirou's mouth and nose. He looks just freaked out enough about it to tell you that it's him again in charge, not the yokai. Lucky for him, the process only takes a few seconds.

"Takao!" he gasps as he looks around. "What...why are we here? What happened?" He looks down at his foot. "What -"
"'tis but a scratch, in truth," Toshiba reassures him. "That part of the foot heals quickly."
"...okay," Kichirou says.
"DAMNABLE APES!" the darkness-cloud shouts. "YOU WILL NOT KEEP ME FROM -"

Yu's response is to whip her staff from side the side, slamming the yokai against the mill's roofing for a bit until it pipes down.

"You will be banished soon enough," Yu says. "But first...I think we have some questions."

---

"So, High Lord, what do you make of it?" Kirika asks as she dunks Kagemaru back into the wash tub.
Nikochi regards the inert stone recovered from Noronu's body with consternation. "I've not seen the likes of it in my travels," Nikochi says. "But I think we can deduce a few things. One, it was obviously made with great care and skill. Two, it must be uncommonly specialized, advanced art if I have not seen it. Three, it seemed vital to the....presence you fought. And four...we know there is a dark magic within Shira-dono that lets his body be controlled by another. It stands to reason that this is a similar contrivance."
The fabric that makes up Kagemaru's remaining corporeal form keeps slipping through Kirika's fingers, and every good scrub on the washboard wrings more grey and brown water from him. "You were starting to get a bit...fragrant," Kirika says to him.
"I prefer 'well-travelled'," Kagemaru replies. "But yeah, it looks similar to the stone inside Shira's body."
"And there is no indication what language those marks are?" Kirika asks. "No hint as to the origin of the power?"
"I cannot answer this question," Nikochi says. "But, perhaps one of my friends can." He reaches into his satchel - which releases another cloud of funk to make up for Kagemaru's cleanliness and procures from within a mask painted in fiery red, with a painted-on white beard and a long stick for a nose. "Be on your guard. Shihon Dongen is an old and terrible tengu, but the yokai of the swamps are his sworn enemies. I am certain you can parlay that to our advantage."
"...yes," Kirika replies, and looks to Yukio.
"If anyone can, it's you," Yukio says.
"Capital!" Nikochi says. "Fetch me my wine and put out the lights - but keep a flint handy. The mountain tengu are deathly afraid of fire, you should know."
"Ueki, if you could take over here?" Kirika asks.
Ueki gives Kirika an "All right, bro, but you'll owe me a solid" look and gets to work on scrubbing Kagemaru.

A dark room has been arranged for the negotiations, and Nikochi is, to put it mildly, drunk off his ass, either talking in tongues or slurring them so badly that Kirika can hardly understand a thing. The ridiculous mask isn't helping; he slides it up a bit to take another swig from the jug, then shouts something - and falls over, flat on his back. As you wonder if you should help him up - or roll him on his side, even - the mask erupts with a sickly green glow. Nikochi's body rises onto his feet as if being pushed up from the ground, while his feet hover slightly above the floorboards. Before Kirika can even begin to question him, however, Nikochi surges forward with speed beyond mortal eyes, seizing her by the neck and slamming her into the wall behind them.

"WHO DARES?" a voice from within him bellows. "PLEAD QUICKLY, APE. I'VE LITTLE PATIENCE FOR GAMES."
"Kirika Kamura, Shadowguard," Kirika replikes, staring back into the glowing green eye holes of the mask. "And I battle a mighty yokai." She holds the stone up. "This was inside a corpse, animated by light and ice. What can you tell me?"
"PAH!" the voice - Shihon Dongen? - scoffs, but Nikochi does release Kirika. "MIGHTY TO YOU, PERHAPS. THIS IS BEYOND THE KEN OF THE ROTBEASTS." He snatches the stone from her hand. "WHAT WOULD YOU TRADE FOR MY KNOWLEDGE?"
Kirika's mind races back to childhood stories of tengu. "...we have food, or drink, if you desire?"
"THIS VESSEL IS ALREADY FULL," Shihon Dongen says, then sniffs. "SHADOWGUARD - MASTER OF SECRETS. TELL YOU WHAT, APE...SHARE WITH ME A SECRET YOU HAVE NEVER TOLD ANYONE."
"I...I knew of drugged women in bondage before Sarano's palace," Kirika replies. "A lord I was ripping off had brought a...consort that seemed...disconnected. I took what I could and left that night, but...I did not attempt to free her."
Shihon Dongen is quiet for a moment. "ACCEPTABLE," he says. "HEAR THIS: WHAT YOU HAVE BROUGHT ME WAS NOT MADE IN THIS WORLD. SUCH ART IS ONLY KNOWN IN THE HEAVENS AND THE HELLS." He pauses. "BEFORE APES DWELLED ON THIS BAY, I SENT A ROTBEAST TO THE HELL OF WINTER'S UNCARING CRUELTY. IT IS CONCEIVABLE THAT IT MAY HAVE CLAWED ITS WAY BACK UP. I GREW TIRED OF WARRING ON THEM LONG AGO, SINCE YOU APES HAVE KEPT THEM IN THEIR SWAMPS AND AWAY FROM MY DOMAIN."
"This one seeks to not only return, but rule," Kirika replies.
"SPEAK PLAINLY, APE."
"It has reached a pact with a powerful woman, and has taught her magic and given her power in return for opening the door for its kind to return and prey on others again," Kirika says. "Plain enough?"
"IT IS THE WAY OF APES TO SPEAK OF DANGER, TO WANT ME TO HEAR PACT BUT TO MEAN A USE OF MY STRENGTH TO THEIR ENDS," Shihon Dongen says. "YOUR FATES AND AFFAIRS DO NOT MOVE ME, APE. IF A ROTBEAST SHOULD TROUBLE ME, I WILL DEAL WITH IT THEN." He laughs. "WE HAVE MADE CUSTOM; LET THAT BE THE BRIGHTEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. BUT DO NOT PRESUME TO SUMMON ME AGAIN."

Just like that, the glow from Nikochi's mask goes out and the High Lord of Spirits - full of spirits as he is - topples over again.

"Is it just me," Ueki says from the next room over, "or are all spirits kind of huge assholes? Uh, Kamura family excepted, of course."
Kirika pulls the mask off Nikochi and rolls him onto his side so he doesn't drown in his sleep. "So far, yes," she replies as she walks back into the laundry. "How goes the cleaning?"
"I think we need some more water," Ueki remarks, pulling his hands out of the brown-reddish liquid underneath the soapy bubbles. "My auntie used to say, don't clean dishes in slop. And this is slop." He pauses. "Though I'm pretty sure Kagemaru isn't a dish. I mean, under that shadowcloth, who knows, but..."
"You're a pretty good blacksmith, Ueki," Kagemaru says.
"Uh...thanks?" Ueki replies.
"Stick to that," Kagemaru says.
"I can ask for more, but that depends on Kagemaru's desires," Kirika says.
"Oh, I'm still all kinds of dirty, really," Kagemaru says. "That salt doesn't come out easy. Maybe Yukio would like a turn?"
Ueki looks to Yukio, but Yukio nods back to him. "I'll have them draw us a new tub," she says, then grins. "Dearest, would you go ask if they have a washboard for us?"

Kirika nods and walks out into the larger "cleaning and maintenance" area of the docks and looks for the first helper she can find.

"Excuse me, do we have a washboard for my friend?" she asks.
"Two silver," the rotund man says. "Don't break it, don't pawn it, don't come crying to me that you ripped up your clothes. Deal?"
"Uh, okay," Kirika replies, fishing two silver out of the pouch on her hip.
The man leads her to an equipment shed, unlocks it and brings her inside. Among various shelves with rental gear for just about anything a traveling sailor might need, there's one for washing utensils. The man fishes out a big, hardwood washboard with a worn embossed plate reading "7" on it and hands it to Kirika. "Bring it back when you're done."
"Right," Kirika says, and returns to the laundry. "I suppose it's good that our cover here remains intact..."
Yukio takes the washboard without further ado, sets it in the tub with the hot, clean water, then grabs Kagemaru from the other tub and starts giving him a vigorous scrubdown.
"...talk to you outside?" Ueki says.
"Sure," Kirika says and follows Ueki outside. "What's up?" she asks.
"Did I do something I shouldn't have done?" Ueki asks. "On our...mission, I mean."
"No, you did well," Kirika replies. "Why do you ask?"
"I..." Ueki says. "I've been doing all this messing around with the Gungnir, keeping everyone busy and not sleeping and almost blowing the docks up a few times, and....I just feel like I wasted everyone's time with it. I wanted to make myself useful and I didn't. I wanted the same thing today, so...I just wanna know if I did okay. No stupid 'genius moments', nothing too rash, not too timid, either, just...useful."
"You did more than fine," Kirika says, resisting the urge to hug him once more. "You were the reason we got out of there alive. And this story isn't written yet - and I feel much better knowing that we have a fast, armored ship that can blow up anything that gets in it's way." She smiles down at him. "Useful is not something you measure before you finish, Ueki."
Ueki brightens up. "Thanks," he says. Then he keeps looking at Kirika.
"...what?" Kirika cautiously asks, returning Ueki's small smile.
"I knew you'd make it out," Ueki says. "Somehow, when everything went wrong, I was scared, but...I knew you'd make it somehow, and that meant we'd be fine because there's no way in heavens or hells that you leave anyone behind, and...I don't know if I've ever had that before. That feeling. So, thank you for that." He leans in and gives her a quick peck on the cheek.
Kirika blushes. "It's...it's not a problem," she says.
"No, it isn't," Ueki says. Then he rubs the back of his head. "So, I'm gonna...go oil my gonne now. Saltwater's not so good. You should probably clean your sword, too." He looks back to her briefly, then turns away. "So, uh, come get me when you're done with things, okay?"
Kirika nods. "And get some rest, Ueki."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2019-01-07 18:48:58
"Such as 'what did you think was going to happen here'?", Toshiba asks. "And 'how many more of you must we dispose of today'?"