Oriental Adventures - Shadow over Rokugan

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Boss Frost

Original poster
Samurai Shadows

The clouds twirled overhead with a dark thunder, the sky alight with purple as rain fell upon the ruins of Renga Murai, the once-Brick Village. With the many deaths that were tallied, including that of the tea shop owner and the innkeeper, none are felt so hard as the death of the Shugenja, Kitsu Hisake - one of the few with skill in the art of healing. As it were, those who knew even the smallest bit about the art of healing plied their trades, keeping anyone they can alive... the fatal wounds applied by the bandit's thundersticks were far too many for some, however. The tragedy would not go unnoticed by the Lion Clan, who had this happen right under their very noses.

Improvised tents house the survivors, the corpses of the bandits nearby acting as a macabre sort of buffer to the morale of the men and women who came out alive. Many prayed for the souls of the departed, asking the spirits to guide them to the place of their ancestors. In particular, a Lion samurai - Akodo Toyoaki - who had fought with the fury and honor of te Lion clan was prayed for, his sacrifice allowing more survivors than any other effort to survive - he had run into the fire of the thundersticks, deflecting them and acting as a distraction until he, too, fell before the cruel onslaught.

Many of the survivors were fearful to leave, that many of the bandits were still out there - many had retreated - and several had gone in groups, walking towards the next settlement for shelter and assistance. Four had ridden ahead on horses in each direction, going to warn the other Lion cities of what had happened that day...


In one tent, an uneasy silence lay thick like a blanket over a few survivors, as the nezumi known as Roppu worked to save the lives of those within the tent. Though dressed as a slave, she held herself with an important demeanor, and was soon yipping orders for assistance, at least one cowed peasant doing as he was told in order to aid the effort. While many were displeased at the ratling's actions - and that a ratling had been living in their city at the time, many kept their mouth shut out of gratitude for her skill...

Outside the tent, quite a few blamed the nezumi's presence for the misfortune that had fallen on their village. Many plotted her destruction.

However, the ratling continued on, until she arose, "K-k-keep pressure on that," she stuttered, pointing to one of the peasants that was aiding her. "If y-y-you all followed th... the instructions, everyone here sh-should live." She then turned, exiting the tent. She didn't want to die - she had to get away from everything here - they'd surely blame her for the misfortune and attempt to hunt her down, but... she didn't want to die!

Stopping by the corpses of the deceased bandits, out of sight of the campfires, she knelt down to change her clothes from the slaves' outfit she wore to the colorful performer's garb she was used to, fixing the order of a few of the items in her pack to better accommodate their weight. That is... until a shimmer caught her eye, thinking it to be another of her items - possibly have fallen out - she reached for it and picked it up.

...It felt different than anything she had. Looking at it, she nearly dropped the thing in shock - a spider! ...Though it was cold, and unmoving. Inspecting it further, it was clearly made out of something else... obsidian, and covered in the shadowlands taint, at that.

Not fearing the taint that so corrupted humanity, she picked it up... it was a seal, wrapped around a document that had become wet with the rain. Pulling off the seal and opening the note... she hissed, dropping it and covering her eyes. "HURT!" her mind screamed, until she shook it off... gingerly picking up the note, she squinted, reading it fully... with a gasp at the note's signature, she sprung to her feet.

"I... I h-have to run..." Turning as if to run... an idea popped in her head. "...Wait." Her ears flick, and she got an idea. "They'd hunt down my down anyway... though as something else, I might have a chance... those samurai from the tea house..." She smiled, "If I show them this, they'll leave, and I can go with them... then I can make my escape!" Praising herself for her cleverness, she called upon the spirits of trickery...

...With their aid, she became the brown-haired youth - her human form. Slinging the bag on her back, she ran back to the camp... looking around for a bit, she came spot the human samurai, Kiyoshi. Running forward to him, she knelt down, "Hon-honorable samurai..." She rose the note, holding it aloft in her dainty, human hands, "...I've f-found this..." Next to it lay the obsidian spider seal, still glowing with evil taint... the girl holding it shivering, partly from fear, partly from the cold... the rain clinging to her hair, hiding her attractive face from view.
Kiyoshi was sitting on a small mat, the large brim of his helmet sheltering him from the rain. He had lost a friend, and one-time mentor, the old Hisake, and a comrade Toyoaki. If given the choice he would have died by the latter's side, but that spirit creature that wore the garb of a monk had stopped him. He would honor the memories of those who had died here today.

His brooding was interrupted by a young girl who ran up to him and knelt in the mud holding a page. The seal on the page writhed with darkness, and it took him a second to notice the crest of the obsidian spider. A spider! His mind flashed to the webs discovered on the bodies of the fallen when his home had been attacked and he immediately took the document from the hands of the girl. His heart seethed with thoughts of vengeance as he opened the page and cried out. "AAAH!" His hand came up shielding his eyes which watered furiously as if something unpleasant had been thrown into them. The only part of the page visible below his finders was a name.

"Fu Leng." he breather quickly closing the page and hiding its evil taint. "Thank you." he said blinking his eyes clear and looking at the disguised ratling. "You did the right thing bringing this to me."

He rose to his feet and gestured for the girl to stand as well. "Can you show me where you found it?"
Roppu nods, standing with her head down politely, "Y-yes, My Lord Samurai, please... th-this way." She points towards the bloodstained fields that the bodies of the dead bandits resided in, her squeaky voice yammering slightly as she turned and hurried towards the area. Scrounging around in the mud a bit, she flips over the corpse she had found it on - that of the bandit leader. "Th-this is the one I f-found it on... I... didn't look around m-much after that, M-Master." She stuttered, refraining from looking in the samurai's face. What if he knew? What if he could sense it? She didn't know much about the samurai, even after meeting the gaijin samurai from earlier. She feared them - even as an entertainer instead of a ratling, she was so far below them in status that the man before her could simply kill her on a whim with no real repercussions...

She did, however, brush the hair away from her face, allowing her to see easier. She stayed silent, watching the man for sudden movements, clearly nervous.
As the rain washed the mud from the dead man's face Kiyoshi recognized him, he had been on the horse Ryoko had taken possession of, the bandit leader. The samurai spat on the ground next to the body. He turned back to the girl, her face now clear of hair, averted but still visible enough to recognize her from the inn and while it was natural to show respect to a samurai fear for not something Kiyoshi liked to see on the faces of those helping him "Again thank you, please be my guest for the rest of the night, I don't have much left but I must show my gratitude." He nodded his head in a small bow. "I am Matsu Kiyoshi and you have helped me with more than just tonight's events now if you don't mind I need to find someone, if you would come with me I believe she may have further clues."

He back to the camp and scanned it for Rokyo's horse and seeing it tethered out side a tent started towards it.
Roppu's head tilted back in shock, and she looked up slightly at the samurai... "Show me his gratitude? He didn't mean..." Shaking her mind from the gutter, she stand there for a bit, kneeling down as his back was turned and sniffing at the body - something odd for a human to do, but she was fairly certain he was distracted enough to not notice the odd action. The smell of blood was incredible, but she managed to make a note of the man's scent... it might come in handy later on.

Catching up to the man, she kept her step behind and to the left of him, as was proper, "...My name is Roppu, M-master." She stated, still stuttering somewhat - it appeared to be from the cold, but it was in truth her own speech impediment. She did not name a clan - though as a peasant, that wasn't surprising. "I'm... a performer, normally... b-but I've p-p-practiced enough in first a... aid and me... medicine that I was a-able to aid in the care of some of the people in the t-tents..." Half true. She was mostly a thief, but she had aided in the tents... as a nezumi than a human girl, but there had been a few aiding, and she had changed out of her slaves' clothes, so that wasn't too far from the truth to be a lie.
Ryoko was many things, but she was not the type to let her horse stay by itself in the rain. Especially since she knew any number of people might be after a trustworthy mount such as this one. She was wearing a thick hooded cloak, feeling the rain platter! against the material. She happened to glance in the direction Kiyoshi was arriving at. "You had better have a good reason for coming here, samurai," she muttered, loud enough. The rain was not helping her mood nor her sense of cooperation. But his eyes weren't on her so when she realized what he was looking at, she stood between him and the horse. "Besides adding 'horse thief' to your list of accomplishments."
Kiyosho bit back a snarl but his teeth showed for an instant. "I have no interest with the horse. Just everything else...." he pointed at the saddlebags and other equipment that Rokyo had stripped from the animal. This is an investigation in the attack on the lion clan and the murder of one of its lords." He said voice grating. "Many warriors are dead not just today and their honor demands I search those bags"
Roppu stands off to the side, shifting uncomfortably, arms wrapped around herself. Her teeth clattered slightly and she looked up at the sky for a moment, "I should have stayed in the slaves' clothes - at least they'd cover my body." Looking down at her bare midriff, she frowned. "...Odd th-that's it's raining here. Doesn't... doesn't normally, d-does it?" She notes with a shiver, "As if th-the sky itself is weeping." She spoke mostly to herself, though it was audible.

At the words 'horse thief' she had startled, backing up in a very suspicious manner... though when she noticed it was not directed at her, she blushed - but stayed where she was. She was uncomfortable around the two samurai, and was considering that maybe there was some faults in her plan... "I should have walked off with the monk and the dragon-woman when I had the chance... damn my sympathy for the wounded, anyway."
Ryoko smirked when he bared his teeth at her. "Awh, so the disgraced Lion shows his teeth. No greetings, no asking how I am ... You just stalk over here and demand things. Unrefined clout! Come back when you learn some manners!" She flicked her cloak over one shoulder to grant her better freedom. He was going to pay for being rude and disrespectful. Everyone had been through a lot but this idiot was crossing the line!
"And perhaps he can have tea while my people are being killed my an unknown enemy!" This had gone far enough "You want to know why I'm here. Here look!" he held out the folded paper. "My guest Roppu, who has also been healing my people, found this. Shes been helping instead of looting horses."
Roppu winces - she had been perfectly happy remaining anonymous to the conversation, and shrunk from any gaze that went her way. Stuttering out a, "I m-meant no harm, Master Samurai..." She bows to Kiyoshi, "And M-master Samurai." She bows to Ryoko. "I j-just thought it should c-come to the attention of those capable of d-d-doing something ab... about it." Clearly afraid for her life, she took a few steps back, trembling. An angered samurai was bad. An angered samurai NEAR her was worse, and her imagination run wild at the samurai and their weapons cutting her down in anger. It was not a good thought, and she did her best to stay as far out of range as she could...
"Looting horses, eh?" Ryoko spat at Kiyoshi's feet, not even bothering to take the paper. He could dig his ass with it for all she cared. He'd insulted her and such offenses would not be taken lightly! "Uptight mongrel! Let's have at it here and now!" No one accused her of looting horses and not doing her part and got away with it! Especially some high strung, idiotic bastard so stuck in his self-righteous state to see past his head, which was clearly hiding in his ass!
"You insult me, disrespect my lands and my clan, take our hospitality for granted and the challenge my to fight?" Kiyosho half shouted, his voice rising higher still near the end on the sentence in indignation. "If you weren't so barbaric as to actually have a Daisho I would accept."

He snarled blood rising and his offhand actually went to grip the handle of his wakizashi but instead he raised the paper and let it fall open in front of her eyes.
By all rights and status, Roppu had no place to go into their fight. Culturally, if two samurai wanted to duel to the death, that was the business of Lord and Samurai. However, it certainly wasn't doing much for time... so... "Th... this is getting both of y-you nowhere!" She protests, waving her arms wildly. "This is g-g-getting no one anywhere! Not you, n-nor your lords, all you are d-d-doing right now is aiding the tension that... that you are all t-t-too blind to see. You continue t-t-to fight each other, while other b-b-being amass, waiting to strike us all down..." Shivering with fear at her boldness, tears of frustration and terror thankfully masked by the rain, she shakes her head.

"...B-b-but you won't listen. You never will..." With that, she names off the virtues: "Honesty... Courage... Sincerity... Duty... Honor... Compassion... Courtesy." Stuttering out, "C-can you hon... honestly say that you are following th... the last two? Strike me down if... if you must..." She kneels in the mud, closing her eyes and clenching her teeth. "...But... but it will n-n-ot make my words any less t-t-true!" With that, she fearfully waits for any strike to fall, hoping that she judged the two correctly...
Kiyoshi turned a fierce gaze on Roppu seemingly about to strike her for speaking out of turn. Then the fire left his eyes and his face slackened. She was right.

"I see no reason to punish honesty." he said voices soft, he had lost control, forgotten the lessons of his childhood.

"I apologize to both of you, Samurai Ryoko, Roppu. Please forgive a shamed warrior who has lost an old friend this day."

He bowed to each as after their name, a small bend of the neck to Roppu and a deeper bow to Rokyo then looked down at the paper in his hands. "Roppu I would prefer if you would hold onto this, it has an evil aura. Samurai Rokyo, I humbly ask you if you found anything that points to the identity of the bandits. I must find where they came from to fulfill my masters.... dieing... wishes."
Ryoko was ready to strike Kiyoshi and his forked tongue down! But then the girl with him intervened ... She relaxed at Kiyoshi's response and then she smiled. "See, that wasn't so hard now was it." She gave him a sideways glance. "Anyways, it wouldn't have done you any good to go looking through my horse's gear in the first place." She reached behind her to pull something out and offered it to Kiyoshi. "It's a map of Rokugan. You'll notice there's an X on the capital cities and then three places are circled on it." It was the only thing she had found that could be useful. The other things she had discovered were a brush for the horse, some coins, and jerky for rations.
Roppu sighed in relief at a crisis averted, her entire body slumping slightly. "I'd be likely to die if I experienced that on a daily basis... from stress alone!" However, she nodded, reaching her hand towards the note, allowing it to be deposited in her hands. She took out the glowing evil spider seal (still quite unaffected by it), and rolled up the paper, putting it within the seal again and depositing it in her pack.

She leaned forward a bit, gazing at the map, even from the slight distance. "...S-say... isn't th... that circle here Renga Murai?" She indicated the circle on Lion lands. "...So that one is..." She looked to he chaos and destruction that was once Renga Murai. "...Those c-c-cir... circles must be... attack sites..." She looks on it for a bit. "...One m-m-more in... Scorpion lands, I think... and another to... t-t-to the north." She indicates a circle on the northern part of the map...

Ryoko can identify the location. Egami Mura. The village specializes in breeding tough ponies and horses for the Emperor, and the prized horses of the Unicorn clan.
Kiyoshi was surprised at her reaction but accepted the map in both hands and inspecting it. His heart paled at the implications: whatever plan this attack served it was aimed at the entire empire. He traced the familiar lines of his clans lands and his finger came to rest on Renga Murai, the town they were in. "By the Kami.." he breathed taking note of the other two towns realizing they shared the same fate. But why these three? Renga Murai's importance lay in its wood production, the other two he could only guess at.

"Samurai Ryoko I will need your help we must warn them... unless its too late." He felt no loss for the Scorpion or Unicorn clan, but... his eyes shot to Ryoko's face. "Ryoko, I think Egami Mura has bee attacked as well." he said showing her the circled town in unicorn lands.
Ryoko took one look at the map and then she was turning. Her heart was frozen, her mind was filled with fear. Attacked or not, she had to go. Egami Mura was important to her, far more important than it would be a Lion samurai or a peasant girl. She started putting the saddle on the horse, its reins and harness. "I have to go." The last thing she did was take that map from Kiyoshi and mounted her horse. She was going to ride for Egami Mura.
Roppu looks up at the samurai-ko with as much good intent as she can muster, "P-please!" She ran forward, bowing to Ryoko. "...I w-w-wish to come, as well... I... I am not as s-s-skilled in battle as a samurai, though... I have some skill. Also... I'm a splendid healer which..." She turns to the ruins of Renga Murai. "...M-m-might be useful." She dared not imply that the unicorn village had shared the same fate, but... it was likely.

...That, and her original plan to leave alongside the samurai was working out perfectly. Already, talk of a search party to destroy the 'accursed ratling' could be heard.

"I'm no doctor, but... I am kn-kn-knowledgeable in some things... and... any extra s-s-steel is useful against the swarms we saw earlier, r-r-right?" She pats the dagger at her side, and then began to trot slightly in the direction of the north, still looking at them. "...If we take the roads, w-w-we should get there in three days, even with t-t-two of us walking..." She daren't ride a horse. Not the way they reacted to Nezumi, and her spell won't last forever...