[Rokugan] Mountain Pool

Chiyome shifted her backpack. She'd put her head there. Quarterstaff between her and the wall of the cave. Loaded crossbow under the backpack. Spell component pouch next to the backpack between it and the wall. She came across the berries she'd picked on her way to the pool, unwrapping it from the piece of cloth she'd placed them in after she pulled the piece of frayed rope she'd used to tie the makeshift bag free. Interestingly enough, she didn't light a fire.

It was difficult to hear anything over the lightning and the rain but she quickly readied a spell at the sight of a man (or a very big woman). She relaxed her guard when she realized who it was. "You know we have to stop meeting like this," she replied, popping a berry into her mouth. She smirked. "It looked like you took two baths today."
He dropped to his knees and extracted the bow from from the cloth setting it to one side. "Well you could stop somehow ending up exactly where I'm going and wanting to attack me when I show up but then what would I have to look forwards to?" He bumped his wet, but thankfully waterproof bag down and sat on the cave floor.

"Though it looks like we'll be sharing at least until the storm passes." he said reaching into his bag and pulling out a bundle of dried fruit. She looked different with her clothes on but he didn't comment only wondered why she hadn't started a fire. Was she hiding from someone? She was certainly less lavishly equipped then he was and even her bag looked like she had made herself.. and he wasn't exactly swimming in gold and supplies. "Do you need a blanket?
"It's taken care of," she replied, eating another berry. It was a bit tart but juicy. Just the way she liked it. She watched as he made himself comfortable and started eating his own supplies. She suppressed the urge to yawn because she didn't want him to see it. He was still a stranger and she couldn't trust him enough to sleep. She could probably wait him out. Chances were, he wanted to sleep. As soon as he drifted off, she'd be able to close her eyes. She ate another berry to wake herself up.
A piece of fruit between his teeth be unstrapped the bedroll from his bag and unrolled it wet side down before pulling a blanket from his bag and spreading it over his bed then sitting on it chewing on his meal. "If you're sure." he put a waterskin t his lips and drank deep before looking over to his 'companion' she seemed to be watching him like a hawk or like... a cat watching a bird. Not the trusting type then. He sighed inwardly, he would have liked some conversation.

"I can see you're preoccupied." he said "So good night." he pulled off his boots and rolled over pulling the blanket over himself facing away from her. He always fell asleep quickly, mainly because he was such a light sleeper. He needed to hear people coming since most of the time there was noone else around to keep watch.
"Restful sleep." Ah, good. She didn't have to wait long at all. Chiyome was still suspicious as he said good night. There were a good many things he could have been up to. But as she waited and listened ... No snoring. Was he feigning sleep then? Or perhaps a light sleeper ... She wanted to test out just how prepared he was and yet, she didn't move from her spot. She needed sleep. A little nap and then she'd be gone. Perhaps this time she wouldn't bump into him. He didn't seem half bad ... but looks could be deceiving.

Chiyome lay on her back with one hand over the spear at her side. The other was under her pillow over the crossbow handle. Just in case ...

Hours later, she awoke to silence. No rain, no lightning. She could smell the wet earth outside.. Fresh and revitalized. She looked across the cave and found Kuzan gone. Good. Hmm ... Most of his things were still here. She sat up. She needed to prepare her spells but she couldn't do it when chances of her being interrupted were likely. She quietly shouldered her backpack, grabbing her crossbow in one hand and her spear in the other. That meant he was bound to return and she was eager to put distance between her and him.

She paused at the opening. The sky was beginning to lighten. Dawn was approaching. She glanced back at his things one more time and then started to walk away. She decided to head back to the mountain pool one more time before travelling out of the area. It would be weeks before she came this way again and she was going to miss it. She had promised herself that if she was ever to settle in one place, it would be somewhere close to this pool.

Chiyome looked around and then knelt at the water's edge. She pulled her spellbook out of her backpack and began preparing a few spells. When she was done, she took a deep breath and leaned forward to drink when ...


She whirled around and her eyes locked with an archer. An inhuman growl formed at the back of her throat. "Elemental burst, WATER!" A pillar of water shot out from the pool behind her and hurled itself at the archer. Chiyome didn't even wait for the water to subside before she lifted her crossbow to fire!
The arrow in the archer's bow was already useless when Chiyome turned having been cleaved off by a thrown axe that had made the sound she heard imbedding itself in a tree. The archer dodged behind the same tree cursing and looking for whoever had thrown the axe.

The first thing he felt was the cold press of a blade against his throat. It wasn't just any blade but Kuzan's wakizashi held expertly like a hunting knife about to slit open a kill's throat. "Still chasing woman Muzai." he said before removing the blade and helping the bandit to his feet in a display that could only confuse those unaware of their history.

"Great wanderer, you have returned" came the sarcastic reply as Chiyome was all but forgotten the two friends embracing eacother until Kuzan spoke again.

"You're lucky I broke your arrow Muzai, this ones feisty and shes with me, bounty or not."
For a moment, Chiyome wasn't sure what to be more mad about: being attacked, being rescued, or being spied on. She decided she'd just be angry, frustrated, pissed beyond reason and leave the two men to bond. She grabbed her backpack and stalked away. She'd wasted one perfectly good spell for the day which meant she'd have to be extra careful.

Had she been in a better mood, she would have bothered to hear Kuzan and his friend explain themselves. As it was, she just wanted to kill both of them and that would have gotten her into more trouble than she was now. ... Damn, why *was* she in trouble! She was too mad to follow the wisdom of going back to find out.

She pushed through bushes and ducked under branches. She never wanted to see Kuzan again and dreaded hearing someone follow her. Privacy. She needed privacy. Was that too much for a woman to ask for?! If not for her pride, she would have run instead.
"So who is she?" Muzai asked looking to the lake then noticing Chiyome was gone. Kuzan shrugged and that brought another smile "Don't tell shes on the the damsels you rescued, by the way where is your girlfriend?"

Kuzan looked and saw Chiyome heading down the slope disappearing between the trees. "Just met her last night." he said dashing after her sure Muzai hadn't come alone.

"Son of a Naga Kuzan." the bandit ronin said dashing ofter him "Wait until your brother hears you're sleeping with the bounty."

Kuzan has too busy running to reply and knew Muzai would only think hes being coy anyway. For some reason it seemed the bandit had taken Kuzan's leaving the band to travel alone to mean be a big hero and sew wild oats.
With every step, Chiyome was becoming a bit more calm, a bit more rational. Control. She needed to reassert her control over her life. Once she did that, she'd feel so much better. Men always ruined everything. If she had a coin for everytime one of them had caused her headache, she could have--

The sound of something whirrling in the air snapped her out of her thoughts. She saw the blur of rope and stone--bolos!--that slammed her arms to her sides and forced her backwards. The wind knocked out of her, she let out a frustrated cry of confusion and anger! Forget living a "good" life, she was going to kill someone and to the Shadowlands with the consequences! She struggled to get to her feet even while she was locating her crossbow and spear feet away and trying to free her arms.

The bandit who had thrown the bolos quickly nodded and gave the silent signal. Bounty caught.
From the tress the band emerged and one of them in particular lead the way. Mairu, their leader was pleased they had captured the bounty with so little fuss. But what he didn't expect was who who came running out of the trees from the same direction Chiyome had come. If had been years since he had seen Kuzan but he'd always recognize his own brother.

"KUZAN!" he called out in disbelief as Kuzan reached Chiyome then looked at the source of the voice.

"Brother! Why does it seem every time we meet I'm interuting your.. business."

Kuzan knelt next to Choyome and before anyone could stop him drew a knife and cut the bolas that bound her arms. "Sorry Mairu. Shes with me as tempting as a share in the bounty sounds."
Chiyome's body shook with what some might have mistaken for fear but was in reality from the growling at the back of her throat. She fixed the leader with a deadly gaze. "Brother ... BOUNTY?!" As soon as she was free, she cast her spell. "Elemental burst, stone!" The bandits found themselves pelted with pebbles and rocks, giving her just enough time to change into her hybrid form. She basically looked like a black cat, still her height and weight but with black fur and a cat's head and tail and her hands had turned into claws. She launched herself at Mairu, claws out, intent on ripping him to shreds!
Before Kuzan knew what was going on he launched himself at that thing that was attacking his brother. He grapples it and bare it to the ground under his weight as Mairu went pale. "By the great Kami. Spirit demon!" most of the bandits had already been sent scrambling to cover by her spell and as the news that it was a spirit creature they took to their heels Mairu following. Some bounties just weren't worth it.

Kuzan rolled off of her his daisho rattling free as he came to his feet and entered a combat stance. "Chiyome?" he uttered disbelieving. He had been duped by a demon woman. She had put something on his arms, he had slept in her presence.... shat could she have done to him with her magic.
Her prey was getting away! She swiped at Kuzan but he was already rolling off of her. Curses! Then she shifted so she was on all fours, her body tense, ready to pounce or flee. Her green eyes narrowed at him. Brother. The bandit leader was his brother! It seemed logical that they had been in it together, that he'd been playing her all this time. But he'd been genuinely surprised to see him. And if he'd wanted to, he could have attempted to capture her hours ago or not set her free.

She growled. She'd used up her second spell for the day and transformed once! Idiots. They were making her waste her magic and for what! from the corner of her eye, she spotted her crossbow and her spear. "Go. Flee." Curses! Why did he have to look at her that way?! She hated that look! She jumped over to her things with one fluid motion and gathered up her things.
It spoke and it took him a second to realize that. SHe was fast and when she bashed for her stuff he hesitated. What was she? She who swam naked in pool, she who seemed to heal. She who had a bounty and didn't seem to want to attack him. "Chiyome! Wait!" he sprang after her knowing he wouldn't be able to let it go until he got answers.

He sheathed his weapons and planted his foot squarely on the shaft of her spear his hand still on the hilt of his katana. "Chiyome." he said again because not it seemed to be the only think about her that was the same. "Whats going on here?" his face was calmer but his eyes were still questioning.
Chiyome felt like she was nearly free--until a foot planted itself on her spear. She looked up at him and growled. She wasn't sure what to be more mad about: his foot on her spear (the nerve!) or that look he was giving her that was different from the last look but still pretty irritating. She watned to rip that look off of his face so badly! "Get off of my spear," she warned. She was through with playing around. She was going to get her things and leave and put this behind her.
He didn't move his foot nor did he move to draw his weapons. His experience told him to strike, his self preservation to run but he held back. "What are you?" he asked still the lingering trace of fear in his voice but steeled by curiosity and something else. Kuzan searched his feelings for why he stayed and there was one he could think of. The same thing that make him leave the first time. Compassion.

He knew his brother would be back and would use lethal force. Chiyome had fallen into their hands before and next time would mean her death, bounty of no. And thy wouldn't be alone. Whoever was paying them would most likely join in the hunt.

"You need someone who knows how they think, I'm not letting you kill any of them or them kill you but first I need answers."
Death was far too merciful a reward for Kuzan, Chiyome decided. She stiffened when he said "need." She jerked her spear forward, trying to free it. "I just turned into a cat-human creature. It should be pretty obvious," she growled. Curses, he was too heavy! She would most likely break her spear than be able to knock him off. "I'm a cat hengeyokai. Get off of my spear." Stubborn man! Well, she could be just as stubborn and she was determined to prove to herself she didn't need anyone!
"You mean Bakaneko." he said. He wasn't one to believe superstitions surrounding the creatures of the land. And she could have killed him already numerous times. He was curious as to why she hadn't. "Never actually seen one that talks, though they're usually either running or trying to kill me." He kept his foot on her weapon hoping to force her to react. 'Which is it going to be?' he thought as if she could hear it. 'Attack or run away.' he already knew she wasn't going to let him go with her willingly but he was the stubborn kind.
She was getting impatient. She tried one more time to free the spear but with no success. So that was the way it was going to be then! "You sound so disbelieving. You're wandering, aren't you? Don't tell me you were so blind to see the other non-human inhabitants of this land." Curses! He was going to stay on her spear and it looked like he was waiting for her to react. Oh, she'll react ... She lifted one claw and the nails slid out. Let it never be said she hadn't warned him. She'd told him to get off of her spear twice already! "Have it your way," she growled and swiped. But the slash was half-hearted at best and she wasn't looking to purposely harm him. She wanted him to dodge so she could grab her spear and begone!
He raised his arm to protect himself the tough leather bracer absorbing the blow easily. But he lifted his foot getting the message. "Usually when I meet the they're trying to kill me." he said truthfully enough. Its not like any of them are willing to give a ronin a second look. "Yes he'd said it, he was a ronin but through no act of dishonor merely because his family was not a member of any of the clans.

He stayed with her not willing to let her out of his sight, there were still other ronin and mercenaries about.