Ten Miles of Autumn Leaves 十里秋叶 (Hana ✗ Sen)

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by Sen, Jun 15, 2016.




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    romance // eastern // feudal // mxf // religious themes @Hana and @Sen]
    ALTERNATE UNIVERSE: Hakumei Kaishi


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    Unease stirs throughout the country of Yamato. East and West are torn apart by a war among the lords who desire the fertile and untouched lands, while the kami grow restless as more and more destruction is wrought upon the forests and the rivers.

    Far to the West lies the weak yet still unconquered village of Ochiba-mura. Hidden in a deep valley where mountains stand strong, a small yet troubled community struggles to make ends meet. Facing the threat of the samurai who march forward to take their lands either by force or by compliance, and the wrath of the old gods who yet remain in the hushed deep woods where danger still lurks, Ochiba-mura is a dying village. Men are few, a tragedy having torn beloved sons and husbands from the arms of their wives and mothers in the past ten years. By all accounts, Ochiba-mura is a ghost village.

    And in this village lives a girl that everyone fears. A seemingly frail figure shrouded in rumors and fearful or hateful whispers, Kiyoko just wants to protect the lands her family has guarded for generations, even as the village hates her for it. Separated from the rest of the village is a land of verdant green fields and plains, and an old shrine on a hill. A cold and forgotten forest lies behind it, where the forests are old and filled with beasts of fearsome intellect and power. The only figure standing between these beasts and the forgotten gods, as well as the greed of the samurai, is Kiyoko herself. Content to be feared as an evil 'witch', the miko lived her days as the only protector of her home.

    Until one day, a stranger burst out from the woods and into her life. An angry stranger who has been living with his hatred of humans for longer than she had been alive, Kiyoko did not expect to meet the god she was supposed to worship. Nishibyakko was a fearful character, a god who caused famine and rot everywhere he went and turned hearts into hating him in his wake. The Hayashi certainly knew of his crimes and violent acts, but they were one of the few who didn't turn their backs on this god, hoping that one day the kind god that once blessed humans would come back.

    The god that she met was injured; and how could she turn her back on him? A chance meeting of a god who turned away from his old self and one of his last remaining followers. A hostile confrontation from whence the follower would have to use her wits and tricks about her to save herself, ending in keeping a god as tame as she possibly could - if he could even be tamed. And this is the least of their worries, as more and more people come to the once almost-forgotten village of Ochiba-mura after hearing of the tiger god… And Ochiba-mura is once again in the eyes of the rest of the country. The lands with all its riches, catching the eyes of those who covet the tiger's treasures. What place and what force did one lone shrine maiden and her old shrine have against the forces of god hunters, samurai, and other gods themselves?

    If she was to survive and protect everything she held dear, she would have to learn how to live with her own god...


     
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  2. " you know, you should thank me. after all, living hurts more than dying. "

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    6'0 or 182cm | 70kg | black hair | pale violet eyes

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    names
    ♢ nishibyakko okami
    西白虎大神 "west white tiger great god"


    ♦ kinzoku-aki-no-koshin
    金属秋の虎神 "tiger god of metal autumns"


    ♢ fuhai-no-kami
    腐敗の神 "the god of rot and rust"


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    personality
    arrogant & brutal
    Nishibyakko is a prideful god who sees himself as the best of the best, often flaunting his position as one of the Four Symbols and grinning at the fact that he is a god that other immortals like himself and little mortals fear. His huge ego is incredibly inflated, seeing himself as a perfect god without any flaws. That said, he is not used to being told what to do and is prone to being confused when he does not get the reaction he expected. Nishibyakko especially loves hearing tales of his cruel achievement, hearing farmers speak of the famine and when it would possibly end. Exaggeration is music to his ears, he knows it is true and he relishes in it. In his quest to prove himself as better than all, he is willing to do anything to show the world of his power. Destroying the palaces, stealing the women to gobble them alive, killing all the livestock and leaving their rotting carcasses behind so that not even humans can benefit from their deaths. He loves the taste of blood on his lips and the sound of their screams as opposed to the long-gone voices of their mantras and chants and the sound of the bell ringing in his honor. It pains him to see the remnants of a shrine that was once his, crushed and burnt beyond recognition.

    misanthropist & disrespectful
    Despite his history as a benevolent god who was once one of the most popular gods worshiped both by the lower class and the upper class members of society, his experience with humans and other gods like have dulled his regard for them. He laughs in the face those who are suffering and makes it his life mission to make the lives of those who made him out to be the antagonist a horrible mess. Unfriendly but uncaring, the interest in what others once viewed him as dissipated and instead replaced with the thirst of vengeance. He loves to insult others for the fun of it, to provoke others to attacking him. He knows they cannot win and that he can always escape from their grasp as he had done so for many centuries under Emperor Seijin and his sons and daughters. The violent god simply cannot help but spit on another god's offerings or shrine whenever he passes one on his travels, grinning up at the clouds as those that fear him cower. Even in the face of the great mother herself, Amaterasu, he slanders her - unafraid of her burning wrath.

    misunderstood & devoted
    He can never understand humans. Perhaps he had once thought that they were understanding creatures, one willing to look past mistakes. He wondered if the Emperor would stop being an idiot, and one day the crops would grow back plentiful and he could make way to the next seasons. Nishibyakko was wrong. Fingers were pointed at him, they all blamed him for what had happened to their beautiful lands. That despite him being a god, his powers could never restore their lands. A traitor god, they called him, a monster that they were mindlessly worshiping, what good was he? They even began to hurt those who remained loyal to him as the god he once was. Those were the only humans he even bothered to take care of, weapons that were brought against them shattering like glass. And when they passed and he had no more burdens, he could finally be a nuisance at peace.

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    biography
    One of the Four Symbols of Japan, Nishibyakko was a powerful and highly worshiped member of the group. As the White Tiger of the West, he is the bringer of the autumn season and the guardians of forges, overseeing the construction of metal work, as he is the master of the element himself. He was a benevolent and patient god, even calmer and stoical than the finest of blacksmiths in their craft. Humans were safe on his lands, those who worshiped him were blessed with fine riches from deep within the earth, rare ores and minerals gathered and fashioned into the finest of wares. Nishibyakko held his head high, blessing those who showed him respect. He was a laidback god with only one law under his name - that his domain, his land be untouched. It was a huge and beautiful plain with rich soil, abundant with jewels and ore. It was his world, and so Nishibyakko slept in his own domain, resting after so many centuries of heeding human calls.

    When he woke at last, the Emperors' line was lengthening year by year. Assassinations were common, death rates were high. Heirs rose again and again and the god watched with his eyes. He rewarded his worshiper as usual and chased away thieves out for his treasure. The White Tiger's Treasure, they called it, his land still plentiful with things that could make a man rich. The Emperor, a foolish man named Seijin, threatened the god for what he owned. When the god refused, Emperor Seijin sent his army, hoards of armored soldiers gathering with their spears aimed at the god, demanding for the White Tiger's Treasure, all under the man who called himself second to the great gods. Angered, Nishibyakko lashed out, decimating the army with a single sweep of his paw. The Emperor sent more and more men, their fleeting lives ending short. Desperate, Emperor Seijin placed a bounty on his head, for the head of Nishibyakko, half the empire would belong to them. God Hunters and even minor gods stood up against him, and somewhere the anger and the frustration was too much for the once-patient god.

    One day, he simply became the God of Rot. The autumn season was a symbol of maturity and of time passing. But now, the world around the empire wilted without reason. Plants died, crops perished, Nishibyakko brought an age of starvation and famine. Any mortals - or immortals - who tried to stand up against him with their tiny metal sticks, they rusted and crumbled before they could even touch his skin. Now bearing the mark of Emperor's target, Nishibyakko fled. With his bountiful land cursed, the Emperor and his descendants had no use for it anymore. It was the Tiger's head or nothing, and so they chased and so he ran. But what fool could ever hope to outrun a tiger?

    Original Coding: FieryCold
     
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  3. " no one is going to touch the lands surrounding this shrine so long as this half-blood miko lives, you hear me? "

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    5'2" or 158 cm | 57 kg | brown hair | red eyes

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    names
    ♢ hayashi kiyoko
    清子

    (hayashi - forest; kiyo - pure/clear/clean ko - child)

    titles
    ♢ Priestess of Ochibagami Jinja
    ♢ The Witch of Ochiba-mura


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    personality
    cheerful & hardworking
    Even, or perhaps even in spite of her lonely life and status in the village, Kiyoko for all intents and purposes seems rather cheerful in her every day life. With only her cat Yuuta as a companion, the young shrine maiden goes about her day to day tasks and her part-time job in the village with a brisk, unrelenting pace. Taking her job as the sole shrine maiden and protector of her shrine with the utmost seriousness, Kiyoko takes it upon herself to do almost all of the upkeep of the shrine, only conceding to help from the few villagers who still respect her and the shrine. She hardly lets the insults and the attacks thrown at her faze her, even if the attacks turn from the verbal to the physical - so long as the honor of her shrine and the ancestral lands of the Hayashi family, one of the last strongholds to the fallen god, Nishibyakko Okami. The fertile lands and forests falling under the boundaries of her family, and of the angered god, are the things she fights for, even if she herself has not seen anything of the god she is to serve and worship.

    secretive & troubled
    She has lived a hard life, growing up alone as the only one to maintain the shrine after her adoptive parents died. In the face of the villagers' hate, a part of Kiyoko's former openly laidback and honest personality died as she grew a harder bearing. Even as cheerful as she allows herself to be, it is clear that she doesn't like divulging any of her secrets of problems, often turning closed-off and defensive in the face of any questioning or interrogation. She would sooner die than give up the secrets she holds close to her heart, especially regarding her past and her parents' biological daughter. Kiyoko has a troubled outlook that she hardly ever talks about, upon having learned that her adoptive parents once had the perfect shrine maiden for a daughter, before this daughter died. Seeing herself as a replacement, this hurt the young girl's feelings though she never outwardly showed it, only driven further to her determination to prove herself as a worthy protector and priestess. This, in turn, causes further conflict with others and within herself... And further worsens a slow-growing corruption which was left on her in the aftermath of her initiation ritual, a challenge she completed when she was twelve that left a mark on her due to a malicious spirit.

    hot-tempered & obstinate
    Kiyoko may not look like it, but she has a sharp temper only hidden by her desire not to cause any trouble for her shrine. She's cheerful, but she's not a pushover, and it shows when villagers overstep the boundaries. Having gotten involved in some violent scuffles with the villagers, the shrine maiden isn't afraid to come to blows if they try to trespass into the shrine and its surrounding land, taking up arms against groups of angry men and women if she has to. As it is, the people of the village are still afraid of her and haven't tested her that far yet... But within the village itself Kiyoko herself has become fair game, a fact she is well aware of. Despite this, she's still a stubborn presence that the village can never rid itself of, particularly when it comes to her coming to the village to restock her supplies or trade with the few people and families willing to trade with her. Once her mind is set on something, it is hard to redirect or divert the young priestess from her intentions, even if threatened or attacked. This only prompts her to react heatedly or violently in response, a thing that her adoptive parents once noted when they were still alive. She tries to hide her temper, or contain herself, but when push comes to shove, she isn't afraid to shove back with thrice the force or more. Her obstinacy is second to none, making her almost like an immovable rock, and it shows in how she stands by the shrine and would fight for it to the death due to her devotion to her deceased parents.

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    biography
    For the past seven years, Kiyoko has been the sole inhabitant and keeper of the old Ochibagami Shrine. The Ochibagami Shrine was a very old shrine dedicated to the kami of the forests and mountains, and the Hayashi family were its long line of shrine warriors and maidens. Running within their blood was the ability to summon the power to fight, and the power to call the spirits and nature to protect what is theirs. Until tragedy struck and she lost her adoptive parents, the shrine warrior and his miko wife. At the age of ten, Kiyoko had to learn to live alone and to continue on practicing her parents' old ways.

    But not everything is easy when one is a half-blood. Born as a half-blood Hayashi, the other relatives rejected her when her mother died, and Kiyoko had to fend for herself when she was a small child. Only that day when the shrine warrior Kagami and the priestess Kanon took her hand and led her out of the dark into the light did she become recognized as a child of the family. And even then, this couple, her new parents, had once lost a child to tragedy.

    Kiyoko loved her parents still, and sought to honor them after the mysterious circumstances of their deaths. Even if her training as either a warrior or a priestess still hadn't gone very far, the forms her father taught her and the rituals and mantras her mother taught her still not complete, she took up the role of both protector and shrine maiden. Further driving her was her desire to prove herself just as worthy of the shrine as the first daughter, and it became her motive for living to complete the initiation ritual that the girl before her took, even if that led to the latter's demise. It was a dangerous ritual, a ceremony that required the shrine maiden to venture to a deep and cavernous cave where beasts that only a capable Hayashi could hope to face, before finally retrieving part of a precious metal that was supposedly blessed by Nishibyakko Okami to the people who followed him. Upon undertaking this ritual, did Kiyoko discover what had killed the first daughter - a malicious spirit who killed the girl from inside out. And he was out to also take her life. But something - perhaps it was the spirit of the first daughter - intervened and saved the miko's life that day, though it left a lasting scar in her heart and a mark on her that throbbed with hate and malice. Kiyoko had been cursed.

    The miko's eyes had turned from a normal clear brown to a bloody red that day, and she quickly noticed a change in herself. A pain that started in her mark that grew and grew on her body if she ever felt angry and bitter, a moment of weakness that she quickly learned she could never allow herself to have after the encounter, unless she wanted to be overtaken by the curse and lose herself. The girl was terrified, but with no one to turn to and the unkind gazes of the villagers upon her, she had to learn how to help herself. She was bitter, but who was there to help her?

    The villagers had also noticed her change, or at least started feeling uneasy around the girl as she made her appearances in the village. Kiyoko had become more violent and defensive, and even almost threatening, her red eyes unsettling for all to see. Rumors quickly grew that the only shrine maiden left to the village had grown mad with the call of demons, and had turned into a witch. She remained silent in the face of these claims, only continuing her work and threatening or chasing off anyone who tried to trespass or break into the shrine. She even encouraged some rumors about her as a witch who caused ailments and calamities on a whim, if only to cause the village to fear even approaching. Better to be feared and avoided than to have Ochibagami Jinja and what her family left her threatened by the greed of the people. Even if her powers hadn't yet decided what they wanted to be - shrine warrior or shrine maiden? Even if she was vulnerable and weak to the corruption eating away at her - she had been left with a legacy she would die to protect. She owed that much to the people who gave her a home.

    Original Coding: FieryCold
     
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    The Village of Fallen Leaves
    Ochiba-mura was the kind of village that you only ever heard about in passing, and it was hardly ever spoken of in passing, too. The village had hardly any special qualities that made it stand out from the rest of the much more tempting options the land to the west offered, with all its lush and unclaimed territory, though that much was changing as the lords and their men tried to expand. And the people of the village, too, had hardly any desire to do so, unless it somehow did put more food on the table and warmed them in the colder months of the year.

    Perhaps its only admirable quality was the natural beauty it had for the season it was most likely, with common assumption, named for. Autumn lent the village shades of gold and rust in the form of piles of fallen leaves blown across the dusty and old stone paths. If one were also to look at the surrounding forest from the edges, the trees were all bedecked in the same lovely autumnal colors.

    Autumn was also the season of harvest, and probably the only season the people truly looked forward to. The past decade and more had not been kind on them, as hard as they put themselves to work on their small fields and gardens. May the god of harvest have mercy on them, but then again, that god had also been the one causing the problems of the land. Even in what was supposed to be a village on land that was claimed by this god, even they still had to endure through the seasons on a meager harvest. They weren't quite as badly affected as other places, considering their small population, but that didn't mean they didn't feel the pangs.

    Hayato supposed that there was nothing else that could be done but continue with what the land would yield to them, by any means. He and his family still had a roof over their heads and rice in their bowls, what else had he to complain about? His youngest was old enough to help out in the field, if only little Kojiro actually cared to help his old man. And he was able to get some of the things his wife asked for by simply trading with other people.

    "What have ye got for me this time, girl?"

    He peered up at the girl standing in front of him, then at the vegetables she had put down, all neatly piled up on a shallow basket. They were rather pretty vegetables at that, but considering who this girl was, it wasn't a surprise. Her home stood on land the others in this village could never hope to understand, yielding a healthy harvest, the healthiest in the place. He could have sworn farmer Goro's own eggplants weren't this plump and purple, the eggplant resting on top of the pile seeming too fresh, almost. At least his wife would be happy with this trade.

    "That would be enough for a small sack of rice, yes, Hayato-ojiisan?" As if on cue, the middle-aged man directed an acrid look at the speaker at the jab to his age, but shook his head. She grinned at him lightly, cocking her head. Really, there was no use in arguing when the girl was so chipper at this point of the day, when no one had still gotten into an argument with her as she made her way across the village. Never mind that only he himself and a few other villagers remained somewhat civil with her. The farmer never saw the point in attacking a girl over something that he never did see, he was one of the more recent settlers in Ochiba, after all.

    Hayashi Kiyoko had always been the village pariah, that much was clear to Hayato and his family when they had first come to Ochiba-mura after fleeing from their last village. What made her being a pariah such an oddity was that he had never quite seen a miko being so degraded upon by villagers. He was quite sure that a priestess was supposed to be a well-respected figure, at the very least. It was actually a bit surprising that such a backwater village as this had a large shrine. And a kind miko, at that. His wife Misaki had been rather upset to hear that Hayashi-sama had been kicked and spit upon, bless her poor kind soul, when they actually met the girl where all the rumors in the village seemed to center upon. And that was more out of an accident than anything, it was glaringly obvious to spot out a priestess walking in the village. The only priestess.

    She looked harmless. What was there to fear about a girl of average height, a slight figure, and wearing those roomy robes that made her look smaller than she actually was? Misaki had muttered to him in a slight huff of dismay about the priestess being quite a lovely girl. Long brown hair, the longest in the village as it trailed to her calves, hung luxuriously down her back. And if it weren't for the strange shade of her eyes, her eyes would have reminded anyone of a doe's. It was a pity that her eyes were red. A sign of her being possessed by a demon, they said. But no girl ever possessed by a demon could have smiled so warmly at his son that day after she had led him back to his parents after he had wandered closer to the edges of what was considered 'off-limits' land.

    "Guess this is enough fer one sack," he finally said, moving to stand up from the edge of the slid open door. "Ye should head on back home soon, it's quickly gettin' dark out. Doing the same old thing of cleaning up that big ol' shrine aren't ye?" That was pretty much all the girl did, from what Misaki told him. Misaki who made sure to go to that place so early in the morning twice a week, if only to see if she could do anything to help her. Hayashi-sama had quickly assured them that she could do it, and yes, she did have one temple helper who also came every week to help her. They could help if they attend to pay their respects to Nishibyakko Okami instead, but then again, who wanted to pay their respects to that bastard these days?

    The girl bowed her head politely as she received the sack of rice from him. "There are a lot of leaves to be swept and cleaned up, but I can do it all myself, Hayato-ojiisan. Misaki-san doesn't have to worry about me," the girl shrugged with a half-smile as she looked up. "And I'm heading back home after this, don't you worry either. I just need to light up the candles and lanterns around the shrine before preparing dinner." She grinned at the roll of his eyes. "Tell Kojiro-kun that I'd come to play with him soon, please? I'll go before Misaki-san makes me stay over for dinner again, but thank you for your care. It's appreciated, really."

    And just like that, she was walking away from his house. It was a good thing that most of the others around here weren't walking by his home that often, but his house was built a little farther out and out of the way. That only did make walking back home take longer for Kiyoko, and it was already getting darker outside. He continued to watch her until she was finally out of sight, her signature long brown hair disappearing from view. A sudden breeze suddenly blew past him and down the street, and the man drew back with a shiver. Where did that cold wind come from? Hayato suddenly had a feeling of foreboding, if he could only know what.

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    Out of all the seasons, Kiyoko wasn't sure of she hated or liked autumn the best. There were too many damn leaves to sweep from the paths to the shrine! It made cleaning duties a pain, more than in any other season aside from winter, maybe. And then she had to clean the paths of snow. Ochiba-mura didn't even get a lot of snow during winter, it was only at most a light snowfall but it still left those white lumps on the stone pavements and then it left puddles. Yet she still probably liked winter better because at least the people didn't bother her as much. Autumn was just a mess of red and brown leaves all over the place. It was only during evenings and days like this that she started to think autumn had its virtues. The shrine did look somewhat pretty with the surrounding forest behind it. And it was somewhat peaceful.

    She liked it best when she would walk back to the shrine alone during sundown, when most of the villagers had already retreated into their cozy houses and couldn't bear down on her except for the occasional man or woman. And it also let her walk at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the sight of the red and gold along the streets and in the trees. She was also looking forward to dinner. A soup of wild mushrooms that she had picked up just a little into the forest, fresh vegetables she had worked hard to grow and reap in her own little garden, and rice. Maybe even some wild berries that she had also foraged deeper into the woods. Ah, dinner by herself and with her cat was the best. Even if Yuta demanded meat more than she even ate.

    "I'm home," the miko called out as she took off her sandals after having stepped foot inside the threshold. Her home was situated behind the temple, having been the home her family had lived in. Her parents were the main caretakers of the shrine when they were alive, the head shrine warrior and the head priestess, yet their home was still simple in design, though perhaps more expansive than the other abandoned houses on the family's land and the compound which was situated out of the way of the temple. She shook her head as she heard a corresponding loud nya from somewhere inside the house, making her way around the smooth wooden floor of the hallway to head to the kitchen. After she had stored away the rice she had traded a part of her vegetables from the garden for, the girl sang, "Yuta~ Do you want to come with me to light up the candles in the temple?" She had lit up the lanterns in the rooms she frequented at the house already. They were only the kitchen, the porch, the hallway, and her bedroom, anyway.

    There was another soft mewl before a small and furry form rubbed against the fabric of her hakama, and Kiyoko smiled down at the cat. "Where have you been? You didn't come with me to visit Hayato-ojiisan earlier." She crouched down slightly as the cat purred at her, coaxing it to walk in front of her as she scratched behind its head. Pretty green eyes blinked lazily at her as Yuta licked at her hand, and she patted him one more time before straightening. "Well, come on." Grabbing a handheld paper lantern she had set down by the entrance to her home, she took a few seconds to light it up, before holding it in one hand.

    She sighed as she exited the house again, leaving the shoji door open. Not much point in closing it when she was the only one living in the area, after all. The girl shivered and blinked at the cooler temperature outside the house. "When did it get this cold?" She muttered, tucking her arms around her middle before walking the path towards the temple. It was nearly almost dark out, and she needed to hurry on to light up the lights around the temple anyway.​
     
    • Love Love x 1
  5. Another arrow whistled dangerously across the forest, embedding itself into a thick tree trunk just inches away from where he was just a few milliseconds ago. A lone figure stealthily weaved in and out in between the autumn trees, his feet avoiding the roots that snaked across the forest floor. He was out of breath, each time he drew air it was ragged and broken, but he could not afford to make a sound with them chasing him. It didn't matter that there was a yellow-plumed arrow sticking out of his back, the metal arrowhead half absorbed into his body. It was useless to use those weapons against him, but it still hurt, and he was hurting a lot. Golden ichor seeped into his clothing, trailing down his ridged muscle-bound back to the back of his legs. Piercing violet eyes didn't dare to glance behind him for more than a second long, not when he was beginning to slow down with his injuries. He laughed to himself knowing that he was in pain and clearly wounded, but was still able to outpace those foolish hunters ten fold.

    One more soared through the air, disappearing through the bushes at his feet, rustling at the disturbance. He threw his head back and laughed, the cackle resonating through the forest as he continued to run. "Nice shot! Since when were rubbish archers affiliated with the almighty Emperor?" the man mocked, a sneer on his face and the contempt so obvious in his voice. Sensing another one flying in his direction, this time charged with seething anger and rage, the man made a sharp left turn, the arrow thunking uselessly onto another tree. Yes, all he had to do was make them angry enough to not be able to shoot properly. He licked his dry and cracked lips. It had been a while since he had feasted on proper offerings. They were the most filling, after all. Gods could never die of starvation, but it was sickening to see other mortals offering fruits to their precious 'gods of fortunes'. The best part was making their fruit rot whenever he passed a basket.

    He was not far from home, he could sense its calls. It beckoned him forward, and once he was there those God Hunters could never hope to trespass. Their arrows would be rendered useless, rusting and crumbling. The earth would not accept mortals who did not show him any respect. The the lowest grade of respect was if your life rotated around killing a god. And a powerful god out of all things. The forests around these parts were either dead or sitting through the autumn season. It was almost always autumn here, it was what he used to be after all. Soon, those archers were going to be scared. Humans were born selfish, they only care about their wellbeing. Just hunting him was proof of that, they wouldn't want to kill themselves.

    There it was, two giant oaks that marked the beginning of his land. With glee and a laugh he passed through, turning to stick his tongue out at the archers. There was a man with a sharp goatee and a young man with red cheeks. They were winded, out of breath and clearly angry. Nishibyakko didn't bother to take a step to avoid the arrow when the goatee-man shot one point blank. It would have been the perfect shot if not for the arrow crumbling as soon as it passed into his lands, falling short of the god. He laughed as they took a step back, eyes showing defeat and their bodies taut with caution and fear. "Where is your bravado now?" the god grinned, bringing his hand up. A swirling, formless ball of silver liquid materialized. It was almost like an self-shaping crystal ball, floating beside the figure as if waiting for a command. The two archers took a step back, almost read to flee. And so they did when the figure unleashed a volley of metal arrows, piercing into the trees, into the ground, one managing to find itself in the foot of the young man, some disappearing into the forest. He laughed again at their cowardice, at their selfishness and will to save their own skin, before choking and coughing. The god hacked up a bright golden liquid, ichor splattering against the ground. Groaning, he held himself up with a nearby tree.

    The man closed is eyes, tasting the sweet blood of the gods on his lips. He could already see it, Minamisuzaku laughing at him, Azumeseiryuu shaking his head. But since when did he care what they thought? One was an idiotic oversized chicken, and the other one was a human-loving lizard, the last thing he wanted was to be associated with them. He took a deep breath. At least he was home at last. It had been a while since he had stepped foot here, on the fertile soil that was poison to the Emperor. The treasure underneath the soil was still there, still untouched, as it should be. It was his and nobody else's, he didn't intend on giving it away - especially not to that nincompoop of an Emperor and his sons.

    Nishibyakko looked at his bloody and bruised hand. There were random cuts in his skin, ichor threatening to ooze out. He could rest and recover here, maybe go and visit a shrine or two... the god sighed as he remembered something he found out a long time ago. There were no shrines, there were definitely none out here in this place, where every human considered it to be a dead man's land. But he was still alive, so it could only mean there were a handful of people who still worshiped him, whether it be out of fear or respect. But he wouldn't even care if he became a Forgotten God. He groaned once more before his vision faded, his body falling forward face first into the golden leaves of the oaks.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  6. "And that's the last of them for the temple." Sweeping back a few stray locks from her face, Kiyoko sighed as she smiled at the sight of the temple, lit up by the warm hues of the lanterns and candles she had taken steps to light up each night. It was surely a longer task when done alone than it would have been if she had someone with her, but she had gotten used to it over the years. She liked how it made the temple look warm and welcoming, as empty as it was. The dark temple at night was not a welcoming sight, at all. It was most likely one of the reasons the idiot villagers from Ochiba-mura didn't dare step foot to commit theft in her home. The tiger sculptures on the main pathway to leading from the tall red temple gates tended to bore at you with their empty and soulless gazes. Even the priestess was a little discomfited by them, not that she would ever admit that. And along with the strange sounds from the woods, sounds that she had overheard villagers saying weren't the signs of a normal forest at all, the forest and the temple, along with her house, tended to be left alone by the occasional trespasser.

    But really, who had anything to fear from a kodama, of all things? Those little ones were quite adorable, in her own opinion, and if Yuta didn't bat an eye at them, why should she? She trusted her cat to know danger when it was there. What there was to actually worry about in the areas surrounding the temple, and still belonging to her family, were the actual beasts who turned up every now and then. Her house and the temple were well-protected by paper charms that her parents and their parents, and so on, had continued on adding to each year, through the generations. Ochibagami Jinja was ridiculously well prepared against demons, not that it really found use for those protections these days. Even the inhuman beings found Ochiba boring and forgettable. Kiyoko still had to do the duty of protecting the village from the demons and malicious beings that somehow did bother them, and no one really thanked her for it.

    Another cold breeze swept past, bringing with it the few stray leaves as it seemed to make its way to nearer and nearer to the shrine. Kiyoko shivered again and frowned at the leaves the wind blew into places she had already swept in the afternoon, letting out a huff. She had already swept lots and lots of autumn leaves earlier, but this place was almost always ridden with fallen leaves. Long autumns, almost as if Ochiba stubbornly wanted to remain in one season. She knew it was the god's doing, but it wasn't as if she could just walk up to the god and tell him to stop it. She had actually prayed to him lots of times to help Ochiba-mura recover and prosper, for the lands where the farmers worked to flourish once again, when she was younger. It didn't do her or the villagers a whole lot of good, and if anything it irritated the tense relations between them further as they saw how the Hayashi family's land still yielded food that was just perfect.

    "Yuta?" She heard a low, almost angry sound, looking down at the cat who circled around her feet and blinking. Yuta didn't turn to look at her, bright green eyes narrowed and the cat's fur seeming to stand up on end. The cat was hissing, but not in anger. Urgency. Kiyoko pursed her lips and cautiously looked in the direction where the cat was staring. Her pet only ever acted like this when he sensed or spotted something off, and he had better sight than her. Better senses. She couldn't see anything more than the empty and untouched fields past the exit of the temple. Suddenly, the cat bolted. Kiyoko yelped, startled, as a dark grey blur shot past her and out past the gate. "Hey! Yuta! Where are you going-" She hastily grabbed the lantern she had been using and hurried after the cat, and it was one hell of a challenge when the cat was a dark grey blur.

    [​IMG]
    Kiyoko panted, her own breaths coming out strained from exertion as she braced one hand against one of those two big oak trees. She knew this area, it was one of the boundaries that her parents spoke of. Growing up, she had come to see the land beyond the two great oaks as 'their' land, while the land within the boundaries, as 'our' land. The lamp light swiveled haphazardly as she once again straightened after taking one or two deep gulps of air, blinking her reddish eyes at the area her cat had led her to. It was already past sundown, there was barely any natural light outside and she frowned as she spotted two glowing green eyes blink at her from the dimness of their surroundings. "What?" The cat seemed to flick one ear at her, tail waving around idly before he stalked forward past her. Arching a brow, the miko watched as the cat steadily picked his way towards something on the ground.

    The cat stopped by a motionless figure on the ground that she hadn't noticed earlier. Letting out a gasp, Kiyoko hurried forward. Kneeling down right beside the fallen figure, she held the lantern up over the body and gaped. "Why is there a man in this part of the land?" An injured man at that. Her eyes roamed over the arrow stuck into the stranger's back. He had fallen face forward, and the ground was not soft, unless the many layers of fallen leaves from the trees above them had cushioned his fall. But what was stranger was the golden blood that seeped from the cuts and injuries. Hesitantly, she reached and poked at the man's shoulder with one finger. He was wearing strange clothing in this part of the country, too.

    When the man didn't move, Yuta made a pleading noise at her, pawing at her hand as he stepped up beside the priestess. "You want me to help him?" Kiyoko bit her lip, looking down at the supernatural creature they had found. Just the sight of that golden blood told her this was no mere man, but what he was, she wouldn't be able to discern until she had a proper look at him. She already knew she would be helping him. There was still a shallow rise and fall to his back, as if he was still breathing. He was still alive. As much as she didn't like seeing people poke their noses into her business, and her business was this land, she wouldn't leave an injured man out in the open like this. And something was telling her she had to help him.

    Gripping the fur on the back of his clothes, she cocked her head and pondered on how to carry him. She wouldn't be strong enough to carry him by herself, but there was no one else she could ask for help. She sighed and shifted position in front of the person, gripping onto his arms and fumbling with pulling him up. How heavy was this man and his clothing? After a few failed attempts, she managed to finally hook her arms under his, his back pressed to her front as she heaved him up. "Ugh. You're heavy, stranger." Yuta picked up the lamp from the ground by the handle, taking it between his teeth as he blinked at her. "Oh. Yes, you can carry that for me." With difficulty, she stood and rearranged the stranger's body so that his arm rested over her shoulder, and her arm was wound across his back, holding him up. That was further complicated since the stranger was apparently one of those abnormally tall men. His legs would drag on the ground even if she did manage to carry him. "Bah, who cares. Let's go, Yuta. And stranger."
    [​IMG]
    After the long and incredibly arduous task of dragging a heavy, injured man back to her house behind the temple, Kiyoko slumped back with a small groan. The man was heavy. What was he even wearing in this chilly evening? She looked at the man she had dumped - carefully, alright - on a spare futon in one of the unused rooms in the house. Over the futon was spare cloth, she wasn't about to let him stain more of her things with his blood. His clothes, she had stripped him of, to get a better look at the injuries that riddled his body. Cuts and slashes, and of course that arrow in his back. She had positioned him to be lying on his back just because of that arrow. Her face was twisted into a worried, troubled frown as she looked down at him, before standing up. The dark grey cat mewled at her, looking up with an almost worried look if that was possible on a cat. "Yuta, watch him for me. I'll go and get my stuff." By stuff, she meant the salves and ointments she had made herself. And a basin of water to soak cloth in as she cleaned the stranger of his injuries. Maybe she should heat some water infused with medicinal herbs first and use that? She could do that.

    When she had grabbed the stuff she needed and brought them all to the room, the miko knelt at the man's side and sighed. "Here goes trying to get that arrowhead and shaft out." The arrow poked out from the man's already injured back, that strange golden blood seeping from the wounds. Kiyoko had already gotten that golden blood on her priestess robes, too. She wondered if she should burn these robes, but maybe she could still wash it out of the clothing? Sighing, she shook her head and bent over the man's prone form, eyes flickering over his appearance once again. He was paler than most people, his skin whiter than most she had seen, contrasting sharply with the dark, purplish hair messily crowning his head. The man's muscular form would have been threatening in appearance if it wasn't so injured. She tentatively touched the shaft of the arrow, testing out if it was lodged in a way that she would have to cut an incision into his back to remove the head. It wasn't buried too deep in his back, which was strange. She had seen arrow injuries before on some people in the village, there were a few hunters there who brought in meat.

    The young priestess muttered to herself as she started her work, using a small yet sharp knife to carefully cut an incision around the wound. This was disgusting work to some, but she had to get out that arrowhead from his wound by hand, otherwise it would just continue on hurting him and even cause the wound to fester. Thankfully, this man's injury didn't look as bad as the rest of him seemed to imply. She hissed in sympathy as she finally carefully, painstakingly got the arrowhead out, as well as the shaft, casting a glance at the man's unconscious form. How was he not conscious after she had just treated this wound? That must have hurt. Shaking her head, she quickly went about putting pressure on the wound after it started bleeding anew again, soaking the spare cloth in more of that golden blood. It quickly soaked through the fabric, but she only pressed on it and then pulled back with a sigh. Grabbing a new length of cloth she soaked it in a basin of the herb-infused water she had heated. After squeezing the cloth a little to get out excess water, she started cleaning the man's wound in gentle swipes. Yuta watched her attentively in one corner of the room, and she smiled at him quietly. "Looks like we've got a guest now, Yuta. I wonder who he pissed off to get these."

    And that was another thing to worry about. But no one had followed them into the temple grounds, no one had followed or chased after her as she trudged back with a man slumped over her like some sort of heavy, oversized sack. Kiyoko turned back to the task on hand, the man's back now looked much cleaner after she had cleaned him up with the wet cloth. Dipping it into the water once again, she looked at the lengths of spare white cloth she could use to bandage him. The temple had a lot of medicinal items left over from her family, when people still did come to them for help. It was rarely ever used. Until now.​
     
    • Love Love x 1
  7. Nishibyakko could see nothing but darkness. He floated hopelessly in it, drowning in the void of his memories while golden ichor floated around him like the smoke of a dying candle. He could see the shadowy figure of a red bird in flight, soaring over the South, raining fire down as it flapped its majestic wings. A rising blue snake in the East, trees growing and sprouting to life as it dove towards the ground at frightening speeds, before coming back up at the last second. To the North was a silent but watchful turtle with three heads, water swirling around it like a whirlpool, deterring all life from the creature. And to the West was a white beast with fangs and claws as powerful as metal and gleaming eyes. Each roar brought forth thunder and a shudder in the earth as it wielded its weapons with mastery. The creatures swirled together as one, before in a split second the scenery changed into a picture of horror and despair.

    He watched as faceless humans carrying torches raised them to the gods, burning the undersides of the four beasts. The bird batted them away with a screech, the serpent swirled and twirled higher into the air, the turtle shrunk inside its home - but the white beast's eyes gleamed with anger and hatred, it raised a giant paw and struck them, metal tearing through their flesh like humans without remorse. They dropped their flames and eyed him with horror, fleeing for their lives. But the white beast would have none of it and gave chase, tearing down buildings and attacking the small mortals.

    He blinked. Everything in his body ached, dull and throbbing, from fatigue and pain. The sharp bite of the arrow was gone, but he could feel his open wounds pulsating angrily, spewing more blood. He didn't know what had happened, but he could only guess his body was starting to recover, the earth that belonged to him accepting the god once more. Nishibyakko sighed. He had seen the dream many times, too many to count. It was common and something he knew the events of like the back of his hands. A constant reminder to his past, it was a laughable attempt to make him feel guilty, as he expected it to be the work of the Yellow Dragon. He painfully raised his arms to stretch, relaxing in the darkness he was beginning to call home when he realized it was wrapped in clean bandages. A white strip of cloth was bound around his arms, and when he looked down he realized his chest had undergone the same treatment. The god raised his arms and stared, turning them to look at all angles. He could smell human on him, someone had touched his unconscious body. A deep, throaty growl rose from his throat in anger. What foolish little mortal dared to touch a fainted god? He would have their head.

    And so, he forced himself to open his eyes. No one was going to be spared.

    [​IMG]

    The man's eyes snapped open, pale violet eyes locking onto a small girl with a small face and long brown hair. His eyes traveled down to see the clothing only a miko or a full fledged priestess would wear in shrines and temples. He narrowed his eyes slightly, his growl emerging from his subconsciousness to the real world. A priestess-in-training on his sacred land? Humans were becoming more and more bolder, he could see that they never ever grew up from their selfishness and lack of respect for beings that were far higher than them. Better than them, stronger than they could ever be. The Emperor and his deeds always made him want to laugh, oh, how the people saw him as the son of the heavens! What a shame Amaterasu let it go, if it were him, the man would have been smited a long time ago. The goddess of the sun was simply too kind for her own good.

    Without warning, he leapt from the bed, tackling the woman to the tatami mat floor and pinning her down with arms out on either side of her. His eyes flared, teeth bared. Joints and muscles taut and rapidly healing from the influence of the earth around him. Tendrils of energy seeped into his body, rejuvenating him and regenerating him. He always came back here if he was seriously injured. No poison or disease stood a chance when he returned to the place that belonged to him. "You, little mortal miko." He hissed at her, noticing her clothes were covered and stained with dirt, leaves from the autumn trees and splashes of his golden blood. "Who in this universe says you can have temples in my sacred land? You humans have no respect. Begone!" Nishibyakko snapped.

    His frown widened to a nasty grin, his pupils turning into a feline's slit. "I heard innocent little miko taste absolutely divine, you will make a good meal, once you offer yourself to me!"
     
    • Love Love x 1
  8. The feeling of taking care of someone like this, even as a miko, felt almost surreal to Kiyoko. She had taken care of injured villagers before, though it would only be scarce occasions every passing season and year. No one really wanted to come and ask it of the village witch, after all, she remembered bitterly. People only thought she made them fall ill or even made mysterious and malicious poisons and elixirs out of the herbs she gathered. How was she supposed to make those out of herbs she used for medicine? Medicine that she had to trade once a month in secret to the known 'medicine-man' of this god forsaken place, just to make a living. No one wanted to offer anything to the shrine out of the kindness of their hearts.

    Shaking herself free of such thoughts, she lost herself in her work, turning the man over on his back after his wounds had been carefully wrapped. There were still slashes and cuts, some deep, gouged into the man's broad chest, the strange golden blood flowing thickly and glinting on his pale skin. She swallowed nervously, glancing at the flickering lamplight she had positioned close to her to see him well. It was admittedly a little creepy. He slept like the dead, this man, as she wiped a warm wet cloth against his bloodied body. Glancing at his face, she was a little taken aback at the harshness that seemed to emanate from every inch of his face.

    The girl, who had never really stepped foot out of her family's land or away from the village, had never seen a face quite like his. It wasn't a face you would easily forget, he reminded her of the sharp and unrefined gems that her adoptive father once had shown her. As if even the very angles and planes of his face was meant to cut you... It made her a little nervous, and she avoided looking at his face afterwards, taking care to gently wipe his wounds clean and wrapping him up in more bandages.

    "There." Kiyoko finally leaned back and huffed, a puff of air escaping her lips and pushing away the stray locks of hair that had once again fallen in her face. "All nicely wrapped up and all. My work here is done." She arched a brow, seeking out the grey silhouette of her cat in the room. "Happy he's okay?" The cat was oddly silent, making her blink and send him a confused look. Her brow furrowed slightly as the cat unblinkingly stared at the unconscious man they had rescued from the forest. "I'll go and get maybe some water and food for him when he wakes up-" She was talking more to herself now, realizing that Yuta wasn't going to answer in his own special way. For some reason, that was making her uneasy, and she shifted a little, feeling her slightly numb legs underneath her. How long had she been sitting here, tending to this man's wounds? She sighed heavily, cocking her head and turning once more to look down at the man when a sudden growl caused her to go still in surprise.

    "Eee!" All of a sudden, two pale and very, very angry violet irises were boring into her face. Kiyoko couldn't help the sudden squeak in shock as her own gaze locked with the man's. The way his eyes bore into her caused her to flinch back. Since when had he woken up? He was sleeping like the dead earlier! He was supposed to be very sluggish and very weak from all that blood loss and all those injuries! Heck, maybe he wasn't human, but no one should look that focused and that angry. Opening her mouth to speak, the miko started to ask the man how he was feeling. "How are you-" She heard a shocked hiss coming from her small grey cat, turning to look and seeing the defensive appearance her pet took on a second too late.

    Oh shit. Oh shiiiiit. "WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE FUCKING GREAT WHITE TIGER-" A feminine shriek rang throughout the room, cut off as a blur shot towards her and something heavy slammed her into the tatami mats. Kiyoko's scream cut off in an odd choked half-gasp before she froze on her back as the man loomed over her. Oh gods am I going to get assaulted on my very first altruistic attempt in nearly a year- Fuck, that hurt! Her sacred and pure backside was going to be so sore later on, she could practically feel the bruises already! Those thoughts ran in manic, pointless circles in her head as she saw the sheer bloody malice the man had in his eyes. Were his canines always that sharp? She squeaked again, this time in utter terror as the man addressed her. Oh gods. Oh gods. He was beginning to glow, some tendrils of energy or glowing lights seeping into his form.

    Something cut through the fear as she heard him continue to talk, though his deep and terrifying voice still caused her to shake underneath him. But what he said, the later words that is, caused something in her to snap. "Your land? Who the fuck died and made you the west tiger god?" She snapped back, before she grabbed at something she hid tucked up in her sleeves. Out came two hands holding two very, very potent sacred seals that she hastily slammed against his chest, something about the way he addressed her as if she was some lowlife who never did anything for this place finally causing her to crumble. "DEMON! HOW DARE YOU STEP INTO SACRED TEMPLE GROUND!" The girl practically screamed the sacred mantras as the seals glowed white against her hands, sparks suddenly flying from the white papers before a violent force threw the two away from each other to opposite sides of the room.

    The girl slammed into the sliding screen doors behind her, the wood and screen rustling and shuddering almost worryingly from the force. She panted as she steadied herself, ace flushed from panic and anger and all sorts of emotions that his words suddenly caused to blossom inside her. Kiyoko could feel the telltale spark of pain in her right hand, staring back at the man on the other side of the room. The seals should hold him back, and if he wasn't going to listen, she was going to make him listen. Was he even a demon? He didn't feel like a demon, or a monster, or a malicious spirit. If he was, he would have reacted to the sacred seals warding off and harming demons who stepped foot on the temple grounds. Her heart still beat wildly with fear and fury both.

    From her right hand, a sudden cut opened, dripping some red droplets onto the tatami before a glint of steel peeked out, and then - a shining blade. A tachi, passed down from her family line, warrior to warrior, slid out of her arm as if summoned. the wound on her palm closed as if it was never there before she gripped the sword in her hand. Her hands felt almost clammy, but she tightened her fingers in the correct position on the grip, raising it. The steel winked at her in the low lighting. "Who the hell are you," the girl breathed out, taking an unsteady step forward as she positioned the sword, "To ask a priestess of the Hayashi bloodline, servants to Nishibyakko Okami, to leave the temple?"
     
    • Love Love x 1
  9. The man was wrenched away from the girl, flying across the room as the seal in her hand flashed with holy light. He let out a roar as his injured back slammed against the wooden panels, groaning as he hauled himself up by holding onto the bed. He coughed, fresh blood splattering the tatami mat, shining in the light of the room. His growl deepened, his gaze on her unforgiving. "Demon?" he laughed aloud, clutching his bandaged stomach, as if he had just heard the funniest joke. "A demon, you say? Aah~ it sounds even funnier coming from a miko that swears like a sailor." He hissed at her like a cat, standing up with shaking legs. There was something about the way the miko was looking at him with those wide eyes, the seal in her hands, the paper wilted after use, that made him smile even wider. He remembered the priestesses that once served him a long time ago, where they would offer him the finest fruit with the best brewed sake. "I am no demon, foolish girl. This is my home, my land! You are the trespasser!" the man roared at her, his body coiled up like a spring ready to jump at her again.

    He was just about to lunge when his eyes widened at the sight of a finely made sword emerging from the girl's body. That wasn't something you would see everyday. He took a step back and eyed the blade cautiously. It was a magical blade for sure, if it could be inserted in a human body. Violet eyes flickered to meet the startling red eyes of the girl. "Red eyes. Are you sure you are not a demon yourself?" he asked her, his grin widening even more. A demon on holy ground was a suicidal demon, and out of all the lands it could have traversed to - it was his.

    "The Hayashi family?" Nishibyakko stared at her. "Impossible," he said. "The Hayashi family is no more, they have perished at the hands of a spirit. You are no Hayashi," he snarled at her. "You imposter. You dare incur the wrath of Nishibyakko Okami? The great god of the West?" The tendrils of light grew around him like vines, wrapping around his arms and his legs, swirling around his torso, grabbing at the god. "I am the God of Rot and Rust, and that sword-" he reached his hand out, and with the shudder the sword burst forth from the girl's hand and hovered blade down in the air between them. He remembered now, he remembered the Hayashi clan. Wonderful men and women who worshiped him since the beginning of time. He remembered an old man who rung the sacred bell every morning and swept the temple grounds. The men in the family were talented warriors, but their weapons were only on par with the rest of the mortals in the world.

    It was his duty as a god to help them, and so he did. A sword crafted from living metal - his specialty - solidified as a sword capable of hurting even the gods. He bestow them the weapon as a family heirloom and that they protect it with their life. Only the warriors of the clan could wield it, it never rusted, never dulled - it was the perfect sword and the finest he had ever created. "That sword belongs to me, not a stupid little miko girl who dares to use a seal against a god."
     
    • Love Love x 1
  10. The girl exhaled noisily, breath hissing out between clenched teeth as she held the blade steady. Gripping it with both hands, she glared back at the ungrateful beast of a man from across the room, red eyes flashing with unclouded anger. Who the hell was he to attack someone who had been painstakingly taking care of him for the past hour? Was this how people reacted to simple help or kindness these days? Tilting her head, she stiffened as the creature spoke again, before growling under her breath. His words were something that would have stabbed at her more vulnerable parts if this weren't such a tense and hostile situation, but the miko had built up guards around herself in the past years of hearing similar words. It was no use refuting such things when people were determined to believe what they believed. In fact, why not use it as more protection to ward off the greedy hands of the people off of the temple and the land? "No demon would have been able to step foot on this temple's land considering my family put up seals around it. Watch who you're calling a demon," she snarled back lowly, once quaint and seemingly harmless face twisted in as menacing a glare she could manage.

    She flinched, almost losing the proper position to strike with the blade when he suddenly spoke of her family. Confusion filled her eyes once again and she breathed in a startled gasp. How did he know of the Hayashi family? Who was this stranger? Uncertainty was quickly followed by shock as the man's words sunk in. Kiyoko could feel the color drain from her face, a familiar hole opening in her chest, an old pain that no one in the village had yet exploited. Because as far as the rest of the villagers knew, she was the last of the family bloodline. No one could have known that it was more than just that, and she wasn't as pureblooded as the rightful owners of the temple. "Ah-!" The blade was ripped from her hands, and she staggered backwards with wide eyes, watching as it hovered in the air between them. Just who or what was this man?

    The God of Rot and Rust. Nishibyakko Okami... It was as if all the air had left her body at that statement, the statement causing her to fall into silence, staring at him with disbelief. The glowing tendrils surrounding him, the way he was so strong even when he was injured, and the feeling of power - How could she believe this if it weren't for the way he took the weapon from her so easily? Only the god or another Hayashi could do that, and he wasn't a Hayashi.

    Her hands slipped underneath her sleeves as she braced herself, clamoring for anything to distract her from the sudden gaping emptiness in her. It felt wrong. The sword had been a part of her body for years, that getting it separated from her was very nearly like taking away an actual living limb. She shivered, feeling a sudden curl of heat start spreading from that place on her chest. Shaking her head, she pushed the feeling away. No, not now... She wasn't an imposter. Just like any other past warrior or shrine maiden, she had worked hard to get to this point and no one was going to take that away from her. "I'm not an imposter-" she shook her head rapidly, clearing herself of the earlier feelings, or trying. What he said had opened up things she would rather not think of. "Damn it."

    Kiyoko, focus! Something called out to her, a voice she didn't recognize. It was the voice of an elder, an old man, raspy and creaking with age. And the voice was sharp. It shook her from the slump she was feeling. Use your other seals and mantras. If not, this god will not hesitate to cut you down. Use the most powerful ones you can. There was another growl in the room, the miko almost failing to notice as a familiar small grey form stalked and placed himself in between the two opposing figures. Yuta's fur bristled straight from his spine, the cat hissing as he faced towards a god.

    That snapped her out of her daze better than anything, her cat was going to get hurt if she didn't do anything. "O Minamisuzaku, lord of fire and all things that burn eternal, o Azumeseiryuu, lord of the skies and the ephemeral winds..." The mantras fell easily from her lips, picking up pace as she hurried, pulling out a long string from each of her sleeves that was strung up with the strongest seals she had. Unlike the paper seals, these ones were painted on smooth wooden beads. The seals began glowing as the chant caused tendrils of magic to gather from the very earth and wood itself, and it suddenly shot out towards the dangerous man - "Bind this entity to an oath of submission, I pray!" This man, no matter who he was, was still injured and in this very moment she was prepared to prey on that. She had to survive, no matter what, because that was what they would have wanted. And even if he was her god... She'd figure something out.
     
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  11. The man twirled the sword about in midair, watching the weapon spin around and around as he amused himself. He noticed it had been spiritually tethered to the miko, he could not bring it closer to him. The only way for that sort of bond to freeze - although only momentarily - was for him to grab onto the hilt himself. But what was the fun in that? Her expression of shock and surprise was enough for the god, poor priestesses these days never ever got the chance to see the very being they worshiped. It was an honor, that was for sure. Nishibyakko was surprised she did not fall on her knees and beg for mercy even after hearing his name and his title. Many other mortals cowered in fear in his presence and were willing to do anything to spare their lives. What little they could offer they would to save their skins. The god had even seen fathers give their daughters to him in order to get away safely.

    He wondered if she would be terrified out of her wits if he did make a move to grab the weapon. He took a step forward, testing her, when a ball of movement stepped in between them. Nishibyakko looked down, his pale violet eyes locking with the feline's ones. The grin on his face faltered as they blinked at each other, almost as if they were having a silent conversation. "A temple cat...?" he tilted his head at it. They weren't common sights anymore, others preferred dogs. Old shrines under his name had temple cats as well, before they were chased away or killed during the raids. There was something touching about the way they adopted cats under the White Tiger shrines, to keep the 'big cat' company - plus, they were more likable than humans. The man knelt down, his arms reaching out for the cat when what looked to be a string of wooden beads snaked towards him with lightning speed, wrapping around his torso.

    For a second he was surprised as they tightened around him, he could feel the force of the gods pushing down on him. He clenched his fists, eyes flashing silver, taking control of the force himself and turning it in the other direction. The beads fell loose around him, they would have landed on the floor with a bounce if they had not hooked onto his arms. "Nice try, little miko." He scoffed, rolling his eyes at the girl. "You choose to fight one of the Four Symbols with other Symbols?" Nishibyakko laughed a short laugh, a cackling noise resonating through the building. "Minamisuzaku is the only one who would lift a finger to help you here, and he is just an oversized chicken."

    Nishibyakko began swaying in the spot. The phoenix of the South may be the passionate, fiery one with a grudge against him - may be the only one who would want to hurt him, the dragon of the East was the pacifist. Nishibyakko groaned, clutching at his head as a soothing, cold calm washed over him. He was good at that, it was always Azumeseiryuu who calmed down the fights and squabbles between the members, and the one who listened to the pleas of humans the post. He flung the beads back at the girl, teeth bared as he snarled. "Have your beads back, girl. Considered yourself lucky that blue snake heard your prayers." Without a word, he dashed out of the room, leaping past the broken screen doors and disappearing into the darkness of the hallways.
     
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  12. On your feet, girl! Don't take your eyes off of him! The voice barked at her, resounding off in her head as Kiyoko watched, her heart leaping in her throat. The beads snaked towards the angered god in a flash, whipping about around the man's torso and binding him. She remembered thinking he wasn't threatening at all injured, but gulped quietly as his eyes flickered towards her. Almost taking another step back, she caught herself and crossed her arms, digging her hands deep under her sleeves again. Her legs shook slightly as she nearly cowered underneath his grin, which looked all teeth and less like a smile. The seals she had snuck up under the wide sleeves were the only reassurance she had, before she blinked in shock as the god... Didn't tear her to pieces. What was he doing, she realized, kneeling down in front of Yuta? Did her prayer beads just work on a god?

    She flinched once again, stomach dropping in dread as the beads stopped glowing and loosened around... Around... Nishibyakko. Just the thought of a god was plain unbelievable to her, but there was no denying how he had just plucked her weapon from her hands when no one human ever could. Feeling braver, she scoffed at his words. "Four Symbols, yeah right. How am I supposed to believe that the god who has forsaken my family and this temple is here, in the flesh?" The words escaped her in a rush, her eyes flying up to meet his. There was so much scorn in there, that she felt the sting of anger somewhere deep amidst the tingling fear she felt in his presence. You're still standing, child. I don't think a usual priestess would have done that. A muscle clenched in her jaw as she started to say more, before she stopped as she noticed him sway on the spot.

    Kiyoko almost moved towards him to steady him, before stopping as she realized the stupidity of the action. He had just tried to attack her, maybe worse moments ago. Why was she feeling obligated to help him? Even if he was the god of the temple, his followers had known what sort of god he had turned into. Despite wanting to still believe in him, how could they fail to notice? Nishibyakko was never the good god he had once been praised as in the olden times, when the name God of Rot and Rust hadn't been attached to him. Hearing him groan, she shifted uneasily on the spot.

    "Wait!" Scrambling with the beads he threw at her, Kiyoko leaped away from his trajectory as he shot out of the room, before nearly running out after him himself. She only stopped when she heard a large and plaintive mewl, a cat suddenly leaping up at her. "Whoa-!" She caught Yuta in her arms, noticing how his fur bristled and he still looked spooked. Just as spooked as she was. The cat... All her breath left her in a rush as it dawned on her what she had just survived. If that was a god... It took a few seconds, before she sank down to her knees, the cat still in her arms. Kiyoko realized that she was shivering, and clutched her cat closer to her. A worried mewl followed, before he batted one paw against her chest.

    Her heart still thumped heavily against her chest as she took in the rest of the room, the disarray not doing anything to calm her thoughts. It was a wonder the lamp hadn't fallen over on its side and caught fire, the sheets had been messy right from the very beginning and had some stains of golden blood, and the sliding doors were torn open in some places. The spot where she had been thrown at had a tear in it. "I'm not dreaming at all, am I?" She whispered, before leaning forward and pressing her face against the soft fur in her hands. Her cat shifted against her, his warm weight pressed against her cheek as she stroked the dark grey fur with one hand. "If that is Nishibyakko Okami-sama..."

    Leave him be. He won't be able to leave the temple grounds just yet, girl. This time, when the strange voice out of nowhere suddenly spoke once again, Kiyoko simply scooted back on the tatami floor until her back met one of the broken wall panels. She clung to her cat for what felt like a long time, simply staring off into space listlessly, until her legs felt steady enough to stand on. When that time came, she stood up and left the room, ignoring the tracks of golden blood left on the wooden floors in the hallway and running straight for her own room.
     
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  13. The man stumbled down the next hallway, his hand holding the wall for support. Most shrine layouts were the same, and if the girl was telling the truth... then there was something waiting for him near the outer chambers. This was where the priestess and the public offered food for their gods, presenting them whatever was possible whether it be the latest harvest to freshly brewed sake. It was the easiest room to access, but despite this never needed much security. Thieves, despite how low they were, never dared to rob the house of a god. It meant being struck by lightning, as rumors go.

    By now, Nishibyakko was finding it more and more difficult to breathe. He clutched at his chest, taking deep and collected breaths to calm himself down even further. The dragon of the East had soothed his anger away, but he was tired and he was hungry. Now that he was on holy ground the effects of healing were somewhat faster, but the call for his past duties was strong. He growled, trying to get a good grasp on the situation behind the situation of the Hayashi clan and that miko girl. He looked behind him, but the woman was not there and neither was the temple cat. "The Hayashi clan have perished years ago," he muttered under his breath. "And I sensed no blood of the Hayashi in her. She isn't a direct descendant." Nishibyakko coughed, if she was not then why was she in charge of the temple?

    He pushed down one of the screen doors, the sliding door crashing to the ground from he weight as he slammed against it. It was a large room, he could tell there used to be more furniture in the room, though now it was sparse room with wooden panels set into the floor instead of indoor tatami mats. A worn cushion was laid out in front of the small table sitting in front a large statue of a tiger, standing proudly with his head held high and a paw on a rock. The god stared. Impossible. There should be no more shrines of him left in the world. Maybe he was mistaken? Glancing at the food that had been offered, he spotted a generous stack of fruit. He licked his lips, hearing his stomach grumble with protest. He had not eaten the food of the gods in many years. If this truly was his temple...

    Bravely, he reached out with a shuddering hand to grasp around a nashi pear, blinking as his fingers closed around the round fruit. He sucked in his breath as he drew it closer, admiring the plumpness of the fruit, it had to be juicy and filling. Crossing his legs, he dug into the fruit, sharp canines sinking into the crunchy flesh of the pear as he took big bites and swallowed the sweet juice that flowed out. He could taste the earth where its tree had been planted on, his earth. Nishibyakko closed his eyes as he devoured the pear, reaching out for a bright orange persimmon and gobbling that down as well. Before long, cores of apples and pears laid littered on the plate beside persimmon leaves and the stalks of grapes. "Gochisousama," the man murmured, for once full of respect, as he brought his hands together and bowed his head.
     
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  14. The door slid open, small feet clad in stained white socks stumbling as it carried its owner inside. Afterwards, the door was slid shut, and the miko blinked owlishly at the mundane, mundane familiarity of her room. It seemed so normal in comparison to the havoc their guest had wrought earlier in that other room, the room where splashes of his golden blood still glinted off of the battered tatami and the sliding doors. Her futon was neatly rolled up and stowed away, a low table being the only furnishing in the room. She hardly stayed in her room anyway, only using it for sleeping. What was she planning on doing, again? She did have an alternate set of attire aside from the stained ones she wore now. Change clothes, and then... Kiyoko stood in her room in numb silence, holding her cat in her arms until it let out an exasperated growl and jumped off.

    She laughed helplessly as annoyed green eyes blinked up at her. Yuta was more competent than her in situations like these, it seemed. "Alright, alright. I'm fine, believe me." Shaking her head, she quietly began peeling off her clothes. Yes, first, first the red hakama, and then her top. The priestess determinedly didn't think about the man that had run out from her earlier, after attacking her. Just the words he said... Gripping her rumpled clothes to her chest suddenly, she shook her head once, twice. There was pain, that gaping, yawning void she hadn't been able to pray away opening wider. It hurt. The color had drained from her face once again, not that she noticed. "I didn't think my own god would reject me like that," she murmured, blinking quickly and forcing a smile on her face.

    It didn't take long for her to get cleaned up, though the miko kept on getting almost distracted. Her hands twitched and fiddled with agitation, making her nearly miss putting her leg in the right pant leg of her hakama or tie up her clothes completely wrong. It was annoying, and even in the wake of what happened, Kiyoko felt a pang of annoyance at herself. She liked being competent, thank you very much. It was after some consideration that she had found herself in another identical miko attire again, running her hands cautiously over the red and white fabric. She only had a limited number of these, and while her mother had attire that could fit her, Kiyoko never felt comfortable looking at her parents' old things.

    Where could he have gone? Her legs still felt wobbly just remembering the glare, but she couldn't ignore it. He could be prowling just around anywhere in the temple, or the shrine, or even in the very next room. Kiyoko had never been more aware of the silence in her house, than now. No footsteps sounding near her room was a good thing. A very good thing. Shaking herself, she blinked as she realized her cat had been scratching at the shoji, and sighed. "Yes, I know." She left the room, but not without reassuring herself with a few sacred seals she had left with her under her sleeves. "I need to make more eventually. Huh." Making ofuda was something that needed a lot of focus, too. She realized that she could just simply follow his - Nishibyakko Okami's - tracks just by looking at the trail of golden droplets left on the floor, eyes tracking it intently until it led her to the exit of her home.

    The lantern light outside the house flickered curiously, lighting up the stone path where flecks of gold shone splattered. Kiyoko frowned. She hadn't done that sloppy of a job drssing his wounds, he must have reopened them in the... struggle. Then she gasped, eyes flying wide open. "Could it be-?" Breaking off into a run, she went right for the temple. The tracks were scarcer, but maybe that was for the better when she was the one who would have to clean all the floors anyway. That was going to be a pain to clean, she just knew. With some amount of trepidation, she slowly followed his path... To that room. Yuta went on ahead of her, but she immediately crouched and swiped him from the floor and into her arms, ignoring his struggles.

    Her eyes flattened in anger as she saw the sliding door, flat on the ground, before she trailed up to the bandaged man. "Did you just-" She cut herself off, eyes flickering to the fruit cores and leaves, all that remained off the harvest she had offered up. Her voice felt like it had died in her throat as she continued looking at him, holding her cat until it leaped out from her arms. She opened and closed her mouth a few time, crimson eyes wide, before forcing out, "You really are him." No one should have been able to take those offerings, if he was really the god he claimed he was, only he could have eaten that ripe and fleshy fruit. Kiyoko felt frozen, rooted on the spot, at the confirmation.
     
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  15. He turned his head around to look at the miko and her cat just moments after he had thanked for the food. Now seeing her with a rational mind, his eyebrows cocked at her change of clothing - which is identical to what he had saw her in before - it was the proper clothing for a miko, tied up properly and tightly around the body with only the sleeves loose. He could only guess she was in training, but the girl was being trained well. Nishibyakko had not visited one of his shrines in many years, so he had never seen his own people in action. The men who swept the floors and rang the bells, the miko girls that danced under his name. Though her mouth could use a filter, she seemed to have the right equipment, it looked like she lived alone here by herself in the shrine.

    Still wary, he turned back to the plate. "What did you expect? A robber foolish enough to rob a shrine?" he laughed. "Even if I wanted to pretend I was a god, who in their right mind would choose the God of Rot and Rust?" the man shrugged and stood himself up, brushing the excess leaves and cores away from his body. They fell onto the floor with a light thud as he stretched, groaning as he stretched out his muscle. "I appreciate the offering, but it was mine in the first place." He jabbed a finger towards the entrance, "You grew them on these lands, so they are mine." Anything that grew on his lands by people that didn't target him always came out plentiful and rich. The Curse f the White Tiger only applied to men who had hearts of darkness, who sought out his head for gold and money and treasure beyond their petty minds. He remembered cackling as the Emperor's soldiers stepped foot on his plot of land, the soles of their shoes beginning to melt and burn. Whenever they mined, only useless rocks would turn up while villagers that once supported him dug up gold. Even when the Emperor launched out a raid to rob all of the villagers of their newfound riches, in his hands they crumbled into worthless dust. Their vegetables wilted and rotted away as soon as they sprouted, or the crows would peck away at their seeds. But for the Hayashi family, here a long time ago, the crows always left them alone, and even attacked thieves out for the rich and juicy fruit and vegetables. The miko had better be grateful.
     
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  16. Something in her seized up as those pale violet eyes flicked towards her again, the miko making a conscious effort not to step back under his scrutiny. Kiyoko squirmed a little in place, her loose sleeves hiding her hands, which were clenched, knuckles white. The stranger had gone from a curiosity and someone in need of helping to a god she had to watch. He was the god of this temple, the place she had called home in the last ten years. It made her more than just a little bit wary, the earlier fright from his attack not quite leaving. He had already attacked her in the first place, showing he wasn't above attacking helpless humans. She stared back at him, not daring to look away. In the time he took looking her over, the miko returned the gesture with the same wary expression. Earlier, she had been unable to take a good look at him aside from his injuries.

    He looked better now, if that was possible in the span of the few hours after she had found him, out cold and bleeding on the golden and red leaves. She inwardly sighed at the sight of her work, dressing his wounds, already nearly undone. The bandages were wrapped tightly around his stomach and around his shoulders, made of the spare white and absorbent fabric that were in plenty of stock in the temple. She still found it hard to look back into his eyes, the violet irises like pale chips of ice. Kiyoko could feel them boring into her.

    She bit her tongue at his remark, withholding the look of irritation from blooming across her face. He was an arrogant, arrogant being. Perhaps it was because he was a god, a powerful one, but she was beginning to find that laughter to be annoying. Raising her head, eyes still cautiously set on him, she stepped further into the room. "You're right. Who would want to impersonate someone like you?" The miko muttered to herself, before biting her lip. Now was not the time to rile up a dangerous god once again. "I'm glad you like it, then. It's hard to make a good harvest by myself." Atop her usual training and duties of sweeping and cleaning the temple grounds, she also had to grow her own food. Kiyoko narrowed her eyes at his words. "And you know why." Anyone who tried to grow anything on this land ended up being unsuccessful. Taking a deep breath, she forced her expression into one of neutrality. "Nishibyakko Okami-sama, why did you come here injured?"
     
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  17. The god laughed again, slapping his knee as he listened to the miko. "Hard, you say? You must be stupid, girl!" He waved his hand over the girl, then brandishing it over the expanse of the room and the temple. "It is not hard. Just you standing there unhurt is proof of that, miko. Do not lie to me, girl, every single one of your harvests have been successful. I bet the people that live outside the borders are jealous, aren't they?" Nishibyakko sneered at her, baring teeth. All she really needed to do was water the seeds once a day and the end product would always be plump fruits and vegetables. "Those who do not respect me do not get the profits of the land. Those heretics will always get wilted and dead plants while those whose hearts have never wavered will be able to reap from the blessed earth."

    His eyes bored into hers. The god could only guess everything she had came from the earth. Silkworms bred here on his land to craft her clothing, her food harvested from his lands, even those beads carved from the autumn trees that grew here. And that sword, well, he had crafted it himself with the fires of the Heavens. Only the worthy could ever hope to even carry it, much less use it. He wasn't particularly sure why it had been hidden inside the girl's body, that was the first odd thing. The second was that women in this shrine - the Hayashi's shrine - didn't carry swords. They were miko with more magical and spiritual prowess whilst the men had more physical strength and the ability to wield the sword he crafted. Why did she have it?

    He tugged at his bandages, the bleeding has slowed considerably after eating, much to his pleasure. "Why do you think? The Emperor sent his puppies after me, of course." He scoffed and spat out the Emperor's name like it was poison to him, searing his throat. "Men and women who simply don't want to live anymore if they cannot get hold of precious gold. You humans are so sentimental."
     
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  18. The laughter caused her to clench her jaw, teeth grinding as she bit back a hasty retort to his words. "It's not easy when you're alone," she ground out, eyes flashing. Who did he think he was? He wasn't the one who had to clean and maintain the temple all alone. Even if the lands were so rich with ore and treasure, she couldn't do anything about it. She was not trained in the work of mining for precious metals, she wasn't even a farmer. She was just a miko, but she had to provide for herself in some way. No one supported the temple anymore, and there was no other Hayashi to share the burden with. No one to weave new clothes out of silk or fiber. Her mother had died before she could even ask how to weave, and that wasn't a miko's job. Back when the others were still here, still alive, they had been able to cooperate and work with each other.

    She took a deep breath, trying to quell the urge to do something foolish. It was only her healthy fear of getting killed by him that kept her from saying anything further. "Gold? The people outside would be lucky to just get anything to eat, from what I have heard," she pointed out cautiously. "Even the people in the village have it hard." Of course they hated the fact that she was able to get something from the earth. But since when did they lower their damn pride to respect the temple once again? They clung on to old grudges and hatred, even when they were scraping by like this. "I'd dare say the people have no use for any of your precious metals." She sniffed. "You can't exactly eat gold, can you?"

    Kiyoko took a step forward again, looking at him with her lips curved downwards in a frown. "So the Emperor had them chase you into this part of the country." She paused, red eyes narrowing in alarm. "They're not going to attack the village just to search for you, are they?" If they were aware of the existence of a temple, would they try to destroy it? She gulped at the thought. "What are you going to do now?" The better question was, what did he intend to do now that he was here? Kill her? Leave? "You're not yet fully recovered." Even if he was... Himself, she couldn't turn him away. Or turn him down. But if he stayed... No, gods didn't usually stay and make themselves at home at temples these days. Or at least, this god didn't.
     
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  19. "No use for precious gold?" he said incredulously. "Tell that to your beloved Emperor, girl. And perhaps he can give me a moment's peace." His voice had turned into a low hiss, violet eyes flashing dangerously at the miko girl. He took a step forward, baring sharp white canines at her. "I have never heard of humans who are selfless enough to not sell gold, girl. They all want to be rich and famous, all to make their mortal lives somewhat better and worth living." He was so sick of hearing of what men wanted to do with the treasure of the lands. Become a fancy aristocrat, some wanted, so they could live their lives surrounded by the finest of silks and around beautiful women. Some wanted it so they could buy the best weapons of the land to cause even more destruction. Some wanted it to make an amulet, proof of the White Tiger's death so gods could cower in their presence. "You humans disgust me, for beings descended from Ugayafukiaezu-no-Mikoto."

    He stepped outside into the hallway, judging his surroundings. The temple was quite clean for a place managed by one girl and a cat, he could give her that. He was used to seeing temples managed by at least three people, even then it looked like hard work, especially with one always being busy greeting the villagers and townspeople that frequently visited him when he was what he was before, offering food and sake. "I do not care what your Emperor does, miko. They spit on my temple anyway."

    Nishibyakko turned to peer into the girl's face. He towered over her, he was a tall man in his mortal form - even bigger if he truly showed himself. "Show me to your finest room. I shall be staying the night. If you happen to have more food, I would appreciate it being offered."
     
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  20. His mood had whiplashed from one extreme to the other. Her throat tightened once again as she was lost for words, rearing back and raising her shoulders almost defensively as he cast a long shadow over her. Her eyes were set on the tatami floor, the distance between them barely an assurance to her racing heart. She could see how tall his shadow was, even if he was looming directly over her. Kiyoko raised her head to meet his gaze and swallowed, the sound loud in the room, before looking away in defeat. For the moment, she was once again cowed into agreeing to whatever this arrogant god wanted. Even if she wanted to refuse, he would and could lash out at her. And even if she... Why was it that she could never have one constant in her life aside from a cat? No human she could understand who wouldn't suddenly lash out at her. Even the gods, it seemed, she would never be able to read or understand. Nishibyakko least of all, his moods swinging all over the place, from mocking to suddenly threatening.

    She wanted to protest at his words from earlier. How could he put all humans into one category? Not all of them were greedy, surely. Stupid and prone to long grudges, yes, but she had seen how villagers at Ochiba were once happy just to have food on their table and a family to share it with. Once, she had longed for it. As an orphaned half-Hayashi, no one had been willing to take her in. Kana and her husband had been the world to her. Not gold, not the house they gave her to live in, not even the food.

    Feeling his eyes still boring down into her face, she sighed and stepped back to put more space between her and this god. Part of her violently protested at the idea of agreeing to anything to him, to someone who sneered and spat and hated like nobody's business. But he was still a god. And if he was leaving after this night, he wouldn't bring whoever was after him on the temple. She would serve him for now. Her fists clenched. And ask him for answers before he left. "Yes, alright," she conceded, avoiding his eyes and looking around the room anxiously. Where was Yuta? "Before I go and prepare your room... Are your wounds recovering alright? I dressed them while you were unconscious." Her eyes flickered once in his direction. "I'll give you more offerings."
     
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