The First Empress

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by AkikoYukito, Jul 27, 2015.

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  1. Bright light rose over the hills in the east, glowing so deep a fiery red that the hills became but a black silhouette. Slowly, the sun poked its head over the edge of the earth, throwing beams of golden light down onto the darkened world. On the west, a streak of dark blue dotted with stars, an almost black color transitioning into a purple, pink, peach, and orange sky. Trees in the forests breathed to life, stretching their branches up and out as the sunlight poured down on their leaves. Amongst the clouds, towering into the blue sky, was the blue roof of the imperial palace, a place which was hustling and bustling already even at sunrise.

    "I don't understand what he was thinking, naming her heir!" The crown princess Inari growled to her mother as they walked the corridor. "What could father possibly mean by this?!" She seethed through clenched teeth, her red lips pursed and puckered as if she'd tasted something sour.

    "I don't know, darling, but rest assured that this is only temporary. You will succeed if I have any say in it." Her mother, the Empress Consort, said in a curt voice, eyes narrowed on the path ahead as if intent on a goal. She was clearly contemplating on how to change her husband's, the Emperor's, mind. If the situation was typical, the eldest crown prince would take the throne after the emperor. However, the situation wasn't typical in the least. There were no crown princes, only princesses. It was highly unusual for even the youngest son to succeed the throne, let alone the youngest princess. Yet the emperor had named his youngest daughter heir when he took ill, not his first born. Both she and her mother were furious and it had been days already since the decision was made.

    "Good morning." A soft voice came from their right and they stopped to see a young woman approaching. It was the second eldest princess, Miwa. She had heard their conversation but didn't let on to this. Out of courtesy, the two greeted her, annoyed that they couldn't properly continue their conversation due to her presence. Miwa took up pace just behind them as they resumed their walk; she brushed the two loose locks of black hair that framed her face behind her shoulders to partially blend with her long low ponytail. Around the corner was two of their sisters, Chiyo and Ayame, who stood chattering amongst themselves.

    "Oh, look who crawled out from under her rock~." Chiyo teased at the sight of Inari, who curled her lip in disgust and rage. "Chiyo! Don't make things worse." Miwa scolded lightly, which only earned her a grin from her younger sister. The young woman opened her fan and waved it in front of her face. "Calm down, Miwa. It's only playful banter... mostly." She said the last two syllables under her breath behind her fan, rousing a snort of laughter from Ayame.

    "You really should be careful, lest she starts spitting fire and pulling hair." The redhead giggled. It was when the Empress Consort sniffed at them that their smiles and snickers ceased. She barged past them, Inari in tow. Chiyo and Ayame both started giggling again when they were gone. Miwa shook her head and kept walking. Along the way, they met up with their sister Hanako. She was not the youngest, but she was close. It was as they approached the throne room that they encountered their youngest sister, the sister at the center of the controversy, Harue.

    "Good morning, Haru-chan - Oh, excuse me! I meant: Good morning, Your Majesty." Chiyo bowed dramatically as her sister stood. "Chiyo, you carry on jokes too far." Harue shook her head, an amused smile played on her lips.

    "Have you been to see father this morning?" Miwa asked, to which Harue nodded. "I have. He is... the same. I wouldn't say he is worse, but he is not better. The physician said not to bother him too much today." The girls all frowned at her explanation, concern written on their faces. "I am going to see about travel arrangements for some business in father's stead." Her sisters grew wide-eyed and all began objecting at once.

    "It is too late to cancel. Word was already sent that someone would be there." Harue said, silencing her sisters and their concerns. When no one said anything more, she dismissed herself and went on her way, leaving them to discuss her decision.
    #1 AkikoYukito, Jul 27, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
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  2. [BCOLOR=transparent]Summer, 1103[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]For over 600 years, the Empire of Kaidan, under the rule of the Imperial Court, has existed; remaining strong and maintaining relative stability. While control over the Imperial Court has shifted between various clans over the centuries, its authority has remained unwavered. For two centuries, the Nakashima Clan has ruled over the court, cementing themselves as the longest ruling dynasty in history thus far. However, as of late, the stability of their rule has been shaken. The current Emperor is ailing and with no sons, he names his young, unwed daughter the heir to the throne. If she does ascend the throne, she would be the first Empress in history, to the discontent of the clans who have a claim on the throne and even to some within the Nakashima Clan.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Another tranquil sunrise in the the capital city Fukuhara-kyo, as with any normal summer morning. Although an aura of tension filled the imperial palace. It had been a few days after Emperor Hifumi’s surprising announcement. To say the least, it has started thoughts of uncertainty for the future of the Nakashima rule over the court. One man who feared for the future was Date Kohei. An elderly man, Kohei was the Daijin of Justice and has been serving the Imperial Court for over four decades. Also having served since he ascended to the throne, Kohei was a close friend to Hifumi.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]As Kohei casually walked through one of the large corridors of the beautifully adorned palace, quietly contemplating through his thoughts, he was interrupted by someone walking towards him. He narrowed his gaze, but his old eyes couldn’t identify the person from afar. Once he recognized who it was when they were close enough, Kohei was displeased to say the least. “Good morning, Daijin Kakka” Kobayashi Ken said warmly, giving a courteous bow as he did so. Kohei gave a bow in return, though in a reluctant manner, not responding to his greeting. “You’ve just come from the Emperor’s chambers, haven’t you? His health isn’t improving, is it?” Ken asked in a concerned turn. Kohei continued not to respond, keeping a stern expression on his face as he stared at him. Ken resumed talking about his worried feeling for the Emperor’s health for about a minute before Kohei interjected. “What is it you want?” Kohei asked curtly. “I’m just merely expressing my concerns” Ken responded with a confused expression on his face. “The Emperor may die soon and with no heir to- “ his sentence was interrupted by Kohei loud and abrupt comment. “There is an heir!" Kohei yelled, giving Ken a cold stare. Feigning ignorance, Ken gave a friendly expression. "Ah, yes. The young princess. Well, with the current situation it will be difficult to..." Ken slowly paused in his sentence as Kohei walked around him, ignoring what he had to say. As Kohei walked by, he stopped right behind Ken. "Don't waste my time. Your reputation may be one of a peaceful man, but I'm one of the few who know you're nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. You shouldn't test the patience of a man who owns a pair of shears" he said, keeping his back turned toward Ken as he continued walking. A slight devilish grin came across Ken's face as he watched Kohei walk away. "True, but a wolf never attacks alone when hunting a stronger prey" he said with a darker, threatening tone, just loud enough for Kohei to hear before turning to walk in the opposite direction.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Ken was the taisho of the Kobayashi clan who was invited to the palace, among the other clan taisho and their sons who were married to the Emperor's daughters, for the announcement. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Although he didn't respond, Kohei was concerned by that last comment, but not entirely shocked. Knowing Ken, he would expect him to attempt to plot something, but what worried him were the others. The men who were married to the other princess all come from powerful clans and only a fool would think none of them wouldn't try to exert their claim on the throne at some point. While Kohei's duty was to the Imperial Court, he was very loyal to the Nakashima clan and would hate to see the legacy of his close friend cut short. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]As he pondered on these stressful thoughts, still quietly strolling through the corridor, he came close to the throne room. He spotted Harue coming from it, giving her a wave as he approached her. "Heika" he said politely, giving a deep bow. "How is your morning so far?"[/BCOLOR]
    #2 WizDom, Aug 3, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2015
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  3. "I don't understand her. What is she thinking? To travel in times of such uncertainty is dangerous, especially with the tension surrounding the announcement." Miwa worried aloud, her soft voice full of anxiety. She looked round at her sisters who all wore similar looks of uncertainty, all except Inari. They sat in a regally decorated room around a wooden table, cups of tea in front of them.

    "I say let her go. Perhaps something will come of it." Inari growled around a sip of tea. Her sisters all shot her disapproving looks, but she paid them no mind. Of course, such comments were to be expected from her, knowing her mother.

    "You should be ashamed of yourself, wishing something so terrible on another person - much less your sister!" Miwa scolded, despite she knew that Inari wasn't inclined to listen to her.

    "I don't know why you bother, Miwa-nee. You know that if you were appointed heir, she'd wish horrible things on you, too." Chiyo put in, her tone flat and bitter as she looked in Inari's direction. Inari scoffed and turned her nose up.

    "Now, you girls stop this. I'm sure the men won't want to listen to bickering when they come to tea." Amongst the princesses sat Miyoko, Chiyo's mother. Although her words were stern, she wore a calm look on her face, which was framed by her brownish hair. Chiyo grimaced and turned her face away from her mother, knowing that it was really she who was being reprimanded.

    "I don't know why. It's just the same for them as it is for our girls: a disappointment. And not only should the girls be disappointed for themselves, but for their new husbands." Miwa's mother, Hitomi, spoke over the chattering whilst moving a stray black-brown hair from her face. "Mother, please." Miwa groaned, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment, to which her mother replied, "What? Is it not true?"

    "My disappointment lies with the Emperor himself." Ayame's mother, Akane, chided around a sip of tea. Ayame was too busy playing with her hair and looking at her reflection in her tea to notice or care about the conversation happening around her. It was obvious that the two were mother and daughter due to their bright red hair.

    "As unfortunate as the circumstances may be, we should use this as an opportunity. The girls can try to win favor for themselves and their husbands. Perhaps Hifumi will change his mind." Hanako's mother, Kaiya, cut in. She was sitting next to her daughter, periodically reaching over to fix something about her hair or clothes. They both had raven-colored hair with an almost violet shine to it, though Hanako's hair was not as dark as her mother's.

    The large, regally decorated doors of the throne room closed with little more than a soft thud and a swoosh of air, tossing Harue's long hair. She did not go on to tea with her sisters, mostly because she knew she would be a target for conversation and insult. She was not two steps from the door when she spotted Kohei. She smiled as he waved to her, bowing also.

    "Yours is a face I am always happy to see, Kohei." Harue said as she straightened up. She was indeed genuinely glad to see him; he was the singular person that everyone in the family liked at least a little bit. To the girls, he was thought of almost like an uncle. As such, she did not use a title with his name. "It's fine despite the uproar over father's decision hasn't settled down yet." She answered, her smile fading a little. "Speaking of father.. this diplomatic business that he was supposed to see about.. I should like to see about it myself. Someone must go, it might as well be me. I could use the experience, I think."
    #3 AkikoYukito, Aug 5, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
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  4. [Collaborative Post]

    Harue's expression slightly worried Kohei as her glowing smile slowly faded with her last comments. "You think? Are you uncertain if you want to go?" he asked as he took a step closer

    "What choice do I have, really? Someone must go. Why not the heir? Is that not what will be expected?" Harue tilted her head slightly to one side as if considering what she was saying, as if her words were not her own.

    Kohei lightly chuckled at her expression. Before he formulated a response, faint chatter from behind the doors of the throne room reached his hears. Recognizing the voices, he began to walk away from the doors and paced down the corridor, gesturing Harue to accompany him. "I know these past few days have been very stressful for you. Please don't misunderstand me when I say this, but you must act with more confidence. While I will never be in your position to be able to relate, considering the role you are about to inherit, you must assert more dominance. Even when you are uncertain, you must not appear that way.. well atleast not publically." He spoke with a soft tone. Kohei waned to get his point across without disheartning her.

    With a glance over her shoulder towards the doors, Harue took up a steady pace beside Kohei. For a moment, she was silent, watching the floor pass below. "Dominance? Except for in Inari's case, I feel no need to exert dominance over my sisters. Perhaps I.. I fear making them resent me more than they do already for taking away any chance they may have had at the rule. As for our guests, I've been trying to put in some practice on that already. Whether or not they listen is another story." A bemused smile softened her features.

    Kohei sighed, but didn't give an immediate response. He kept walking through the corridor, remaining silent, before turining to enter a small, lavishly garderned courtyard; one of many in the palace. "It seemed like just yesterday, you were just a little girl playing in these courtyards" he said as he paused in his steps before completely turning to Harue. "Now you are about to be the first empress in history" A bright smile came on his face. "What unexpected moments life presents." he said, almost as if he was talking to himself, as his smile began to fade. "Listen, family and politics often don't blend nor complement each other. Yes, Inari will more than likely always present a problem for you, but do not exclude your other sisters. I understand your fear, but you must now see thing from a political stand point. Considering the political standing of their spouses, your sisters are potential rivals and if they do hold some resentment towards you over your father's decision, then you must always be aware of them. Doubly so cosidering that their spouses might use them against you, even if they themselves are unwilling to do so. I'm sorry, but this is just the reality of it. While this may not happen, you mustn't think it won't. You understand?"

    Harue stepped into the courtyard with a sigh of nostalgia, unable to help the blush that brightened her cheeks. "It doesn't seem like it was that long ago, does it?" She agreed softly, trying to prevent the longing for those days long past from creeping into her voice. She could not; however, keep it from showing in her eyes. "I understand, even if I don't want to." The longing became something ambiguous, between fear and sadness. She changed the subject before the feelings could overtake her. "What arrangements need to be made?"

    "For now, focus on your current task. Complete your diplomatic mission at Shojo in the Unori province and return. When you come back, we can focus on securing your authority in the court before you actually take the throne. I spoke to your father before hand and changed your escort detail. I've assigned 30 trustworthy guards for your trip. I would've assigned more, but I didn't want to raise too much attention. Besides, having an oversized escort on a diplomatic mission would have made other smaller clans uneasy." He took a small pause when he took notice to her appearance. While she was trying as best she could, it was somewhat evident by the look in her eyes that she was containing herself. "One step at a time, yes?" He paced his hand on her shoulder, attempting to reassure her.

    "Yes. One at a time." With a sigh, Harue nodded. At least she could relax knowing that the arrangements for the trip were made. She decided then that she would focus on that instead of everything all at once. Perhaps then it would be less overwhelming. "About how long will this mission take do you think? Just a day? Overnight? So I can prepare."

    "Good" He removed his hand from her shoulder. "From here to Shojo, with an escort travellng at a steady pace, if there aren't too many interruptions on the road, at the most it will tke two days. As for how long the mission will take, well, that depends on how you perform." Kohei turned his gaze to the sky, noticing the sun slowly rise even higher. "I'm suppose to have an assembly with my ministry soon." He gazed back at Harue. "Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?"

    "Right then, I best go." Harue turned and started for the door, pausing momentarily to look back. "I think I'm set. Thank you, ojisan." She smiled, an almost child-like playfulness to her words. With that she made her way to her room to make last minute preparations.

    "My pleasure, Harue-chan" he responded warmly. "Your escort is waiting at the royal stables, ready to depart when you are. Please take care." he spoke as she walked away
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  5. Bright light shone over the hills in the east, glowing so deep a fiery red that the hills became but a black silhouette. Slowly, the sun sank behind the edge of the earth, throwing beams of its dying golden light across the shadowy landscape. The eastern sky was streaked dark blue and dotted with stars, transitioning into a wisteria and pink and peachy-orange sky. The day had passed more quickly than Harue might have liked. From the courtyard she went to her room to make a few personal arrangements; and from her room, she went to the stables to meet her escort. The horses were ready and waiting to travel. The only thing left to do was say good-bye to the family. Alas, Harue simply sent a maid to tell them, as they were losing daylight.

    Hooves thundered on the dirt road, the noise echoing slightly before being absorbed by the buzzing of the cicadas and the chirping of crickets. Taking up the width of the well-trodden road was a train of guards. Some were on horseback while the others walked. They wore armor with weapons at their sides. In the middle of the group was the heiress. Despite what Kohei told her, the princess couldn't completely hide her angst. Perhaps if the trip wasn't so quiet, so awkward, she wouldn't have looked so distressed. Trying not to focus on the overwhelming silence and tension that surrounded her, Harue focused her attention on the landscape. This did not keep her from getting lost in her thoughts.

    "Heika?" A voice roused Harue from her daze. She glanced around a moment before she realized that her horse was no longer moving, that the train had stopped, and that one of the guards stood looking up at her expectantly. "Y-yes?" She blinked, collecting herself.

    "Begging your pardon, but daylight is almost completely gone. It is best if we stop here for the night and continue in the morning." The guard said somewhat uncertainly. Harue glanced about one more time, noticing that the sky was mostly dark and that the moon had risen a great deal. The sun was but a pale sliver almost completely hidden behind distant tree tops.

    "Right. Let's stop then and rest." With her word, they set up camp. Rather than eat, Harue retired, saying she wasn't hungry; however, she did not go right to sleep due to her racing thoughts. She didn't even remember falling asleep when she later woke, the warm firelight gone.
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  6. It was mild and slightly humid, as any average summer night. A myriad of stars can be seen through the mostly clear sky, only a few small clouds disturbed the view of moon's illuminated face. The sound of tree leaves and grass stems rustling as an occasional breeze pulled through slightly filled the air. Accompanied with buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets, it gave soothing ambiance.

    The camp was established just off the highway, the area was hilly and slightly forested. Several tents were set up in an organized fashion; the largest being Harue's in the center of the camp. A small, temporary horse pen was constructed to gather the horses. A few banners, stamped with the seal of the Imperial Court, were erected to be seen publicly by those who could potentially pass by. It was to indicate the camp as under Imperial protection. A makeshift wall of wooden spikes was evenly placed around the camp. Several sentries, garbed in red clothing under their armor, patrolled in and around the camp. While it was rare that anyone has ever dared to attack a party of the Imperial Court, this was just standard security procedure.

    The camp was mostly quiet. Several torch stands were placed where the moon's reflective surface couldn't brighten. Light chatter could be heard among the guards who weren't on sentry duty. Then, for a moment, it was completely quiet. The silence was broken by the sound of clanging metal in the background. At first it was very subtle and sounded very similar to chimes. Though in seconds, it escalated, as it could be heard in the entire camp. Aggressive yelling echoed through the air. It was clear a melee had begun, although it wasn't initiated by outside intruders, but from within the camp itself. The Imperial Guards were fighting among themselves, violently killing each other. In this situation, the priority would be to secure the safety of Harue, but it was difficult for the loyal guards to distinguish who was an ally or foe among themselves. What was certain was that the guards who initiated the brawl knew how to identify each other, leaving the rest in confusion.

    One of the lieutenants, accompanied by 3 other guards, rushed into Harue's tent a minute after the fight ensued. "Heika, we must leave now!" he demanded with concern. Their weapons wore drawn, with hints of blood splattered on armor and swords. They were on complete alert as the fighting continued outside.
    #6 WizDom, Aug 26, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2015
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  7. A gentle wind swept over the treetops, rustling the leaves and grass with a soft hush. The sides of the tent fluttered in the breeze, only just covering the sound of the murmurs of the guards talking amongst themselves. Harue opened her eyes and blinked, staring up at the peak of the tent overhead. The muddled voices caught her ears but she paid them little mind. She was lost in thought, going over the mission in her head over and over again. It had to go well; there was no room for error, especially after what Kohei told her that morning. Harue groaned and pulled the covers up over her face, wishing she could hide beneath them instead of having to worry about some diplomats she didn't even know.

    The clang of the swords didn't register as anything significant at first, due to their subtlety. But the noise grew louder, followed by quite the commotion. Harue was willing to bet the noise would wake up the surrounding villages, which were miles away at best. Her brows furrowed and she slowly leaned up, propped up on her forearms. She thought briefly of calling out when a lieutenant and a few guards burst into her tent. They held their weapons at the ready, which bore blood along with their armor. With a nod, the princess scrambled to her feet and pulled on one of the layers of her kimono. The one possession she grabbed was her hair pin, which she forked into her messy bun as she stepped into her shoes.

    "Ready!" Harue confirmed, ready to make a run for it.
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  8. The lieutenant and his escort formed a diamond around Harue, with the lieutenant taking the lead. While it wasn't ideal, it as the best they could do to ensure she would be protected on all sides as they would have to run through the fighting in the camp. The lieutenant took a quick moment to compose himself before gesturing for everyone to follow him. The camp was still in disarray and a few of the other tents were set ablaze. A light fog of smoke begun to spread through the area. As soon as they exited the tent, a stray arrow pierced the neck of one the guards who luckily, though unexpectedly, happen to be between Harue and its path. The guard collapsed immediately on impact and bled profusely from the wound.

    The lieutenant grabbed Harue by her wrist and started to sprint toward the closest camp exit, along with the two remaining escorting guards right behind them. He would have rather preferred to escape on horseback, but the pen was on the other side of the camp and he didn't want to risk putting Harue in any more danger. As they made their closer to the exit, bypassing and avoiding any small skirmishes they came across, as well as a few scattered bodies, it almost seemed that they would leave uncontested. Suddenly, "She's over here" a soldier yelled as a group of about two dozen hostile guards quickly approached from behind. Reaching the exit, the lieutenant pointed Harue in the direction of the highway, "Keep running. Don't stop!" he instructed. He and the two other guards stood their ground to stall the pursuers. It was obvious that they would not be able to stop them, but atleast their sacrifice would help Harue's escape.
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  9. Harue mustered as much bravado as she could as she and the guards prepared to exit her tent. The men formed a protective barrier around her as best they could, the only sure way of keeping her safe even if it wasn't certain that it would work. They exited hastily and quietly, making their way through the chaos-strewn camp in hopes of not being noticed. Harue wished that there were a few more men, just so she didn't have to see the ensuing disaster. But she could see everything from the burning tents to the swords piercing bodies. The smoke from the flames did make it difficult to see; although, it seemed only to block her vision when she needed to see where she was going. It did nothing to shield her from the surrounding carnage.

    The soldier to her right went down as an arrow struck his neck, a few spots of his blood finding its way onto Harue's kimono. Her eyes were still on him even as the lieutenant took her wrist and started to run. She might have screamed if she wasn't in such shock. It was too bad that the horses were too far to reach, for they would have made escaping so much easier. There wasn't time for wishful thinking. Her attention was forcefully dragged back onto the man in front of her at the sudden outcry of her location. He led her to the exit and bid her to keep running. Harue looked at him incredulously, knowing what would become of him; though as much as she willed it to be different, there was no other choice. The princess took off running down the dirt road in the direction the party had been headed. Perhaps she could make it to a village and ask for help.
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  10. [BCOLOR=transparent]Though outnumbered, the lieutenant and his guards repelled the hostiles, even managing to kill a few, for several seconds before being brutally slain, allowing Harue to gain some distance. The remaining seven hostile guards begun to pursue her with haste. Although there was a fairly sizable gap between them, she was still within visual range. In an unorganized formation they continued to chase her, steadily closing the gap.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The elevation of the road begun to rise as they came closer to the sprawling foothills near Mount Goyohan, one of the several mounts of the Yoro Mountains. With the exception of a few clear areas and settlements, the terrain in the foothills of these were entirely forested. It was completely visible, being that it was elevated ground. In the direction the road was taking her, Harue would eventually have to enter this forest as she came closer to the edge of it.[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]The air within the forest was still. The moon's bright luminous reflection pierced through the tiny, multiple openings of the dark, dense forest, glowing random patterns on the grassy ground and slightly brightened the forest. With the wooing of owls and the sporadic sounds of various insects, it was almost eerie.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]A small group of deer rested idly in a tiny secluded spot. Several yards away with a decently clear view of them was a young man, Okitsugu. Attired in a kimono shirt that stopped just below his waist, baji pants, hwa boots, and a sheathed dagger tied to his hip, he stood silently within the shadow of a tree beside him. With his clothing being black, he camouflaged quite well with the darkness. As slowly as possible, he raised the bamboo recurve bow in his left hand and pulled an arrow from the quiver tied across his back with his right hand. Holding the arrow between his thumb and index finger, he notched it onto the bowstring. While steadying his breathing, he slowly pulled the string back until the arrow was just beside his cheek and lined up for a shot. He slightly narrowed his dark gray eyes, concentrating his aim at one of the deer. Just as he was about to loose his arrow, a weird sound slightly reverberated through the forest. At first, he ignored it, believing it to just another animal in the distance. Again, the same sound, though slightly louder, echoed through. When he focused on it, it faintly sounded as if people were yelling. Whatever it was, it also put the deer on alert as they stood up and faced the direction of where the noise came from. Although they weren't aware of Okitsugu presence, he decided not to take a shot. Instead, he placed the arrow back into his quiver and decided to investigate the noise.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]As he followed the sound downhill with concerned pace, he realized he going in the direction toward the main road that goes through the forest. As he continued on, it was clear someone was yelling. Okitsugu had no idea as to what was happening. The only sensible thought that came to mind was maybe a gang of brigands were harassing a passing group. Although that type of activity wasn't too common, atleast at this part of the forest. Coming closer to the main road and the edge of the forest, smoke could be seen rising, though it wasn't entirely clear from where.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Once he reached near the edge of the forest, at a higher elevation, the grassy plain was mostly visible. Flames could seen at a far location near the road. Although, he couldn't make out as to what was burning. What immediately caught his attention just seconds later was a woman speedily running up the road towards the forest with several armed swordsmen close behind. It wasn't entirely clear, but the swordsmen looked to be wearing Imperial armor.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Without wasting another moment on this thought, he quickly pulled an arrow from his quiver and nocked on his bowstring. He was only equipped with a dozen arrows, so every shot counts. He roughly estimated they were about 200 yards away. Being on higher ground made aiming much easier. He positioned himself in a stable stance and lined up his first shot for the closest swordsman to the woman. He waited until they were at about 110 yards before loosing his arrow, aiming it in the path of the leading soldier. It was a direct hit to the chest, penetrating his armor and knocking him to the ground, though it more than likely wasn't fatal. The other six troops immediately stopped in confusion at what just happened. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Okitsugu quickly loosed another arrow, this one aimed at the feet of another swordsman. "Archers in forest!", one of them yelled. They all dropped to ground to avoid being an open target, but they were all still in Okitsugu's vision. Okitsugu quickly loosed 4 more arrows, although he wasn't aiming to kill them, but to prevent them from advancing They blindly peered at the forest, but Okitsugu was well hidden in the darkness of the trees. Holding his hand around the arrow sticking out of his chest, the leading soldier slowly recovered to his feet. Keeping a quick pace, Okitsugu fired another arrow at him, this one aimed at his feet which startled him when it landed. "Fall back. It could be an ambush. Whoever is in there will probably kill her. Even if they don't, she won't last by herself", the soldier said, gesturing to the other swordsmen to retreat. Okitsugu loosed one last arrow as they swiftly turned around to flee.[/BCOLOR]
    #10 WizDom, Sep 14, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2015
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  11. It was uncertain to Harue how far she actually managed to get before her assailants started running after her. It seemed to her more like, one second they weren't there, the next they were gaining on her. No matter how desperately she searched the surrounding land for any sign of a house or a village, there was nothing but the open grassy plains on either side of the dirt road and the towering trees that grew ever closer. Perhaps she stood a chance of losing them in the woods if she could make it there.

    Luckily enough, Harue was able to increase the distance between her and the supposed Imperial guards by kicking off her sandals; however, running became increasingly tiring as the rode started uphill. As she neared the edge of the forest, a shout from behind caught her attention. She glanced back over her shoulder in time to see the man that was nearest her fall with an arrow piercing his armor. Now there was two parties with weapons to worry about?

    The princess kept running until all that surrounded her was trees. She stopped, squinting into the darkness to see past the shadows of shadows of tree trunks. There didn't appear to be anyone still following her, of course it was easy enough to hide in the dark. She tried to listen, but could hear little over her pulse thudding loudly in her ears. Gasping for breath, Harue sank down against a tree, praying that she was indeed safely alone.
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  12. Okitsugu lowered his bow as he watched the troops retreat. He waited until they were just out of range before he moved from his location. He sighed in relief as he rubbed his right hand through his short white hair, as they decided to turn away. At the closer distance, he did confirm that they were indeed Imperial soldiers and he didn't want to have to kill them. It would bring too much attention to the area if Imperial troops were missing or found dead and would give cause for both Imperial and local magistrates to search around for him, which was the last thing he wanted. That being said, it made him extremely curious as to who this woman they were chasing was. It is not wise to interfere with Imperial authorities and normally he wouldn't, but in the case of a defenseless woman against armed men, it only seemed right to jump in.

    He walked more downhill, towards where he saw the woman run. He kept his footsteps silent to not alarm her, or make her think he was some type of wild animal. She wasn't too far away, as he could hear her heavy gasping within seconds of walking down. She was seating against a tree, though he couldn't see her face because he was approaching from behind. However, he could see part of her kimono sticking out from the side. The bottom of it appeared to be dirtied from the grass. At first, he didn't know how to approach her. He didn't want to startle her or appear to be hostile. He assumed that she might be in some state of shock and didn't want to make it worse

    Okitsugu stood as best as he could in the moonlight that managed to pierce into the darkness. With a friendly smirk and a very calm tone, he spoke to get her attention. "Excuse me"
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  13. "Maybe they didn't follow me here, maybe I'm safe. The only matter is finding my way out. It might not be wise to go back to the road, just in case they're still looking. But I don't know anything about the woods and I don't know the way to Shojo.." Harue thought to herself, trying to formulate a plan. She didn't hear Okitsugu approach and to suddenly hear a voice gave her more of a fright than it initially would have if she hadn't just had a band of traitorous murderers chase after her.

    "Ah!" The Princess shrieked, scrambling to her feet. Her first thought was that it was her pursuers come to get her after all; it didn't even register what the man had said. "Get away from me! Bastards!" She nearly screamed, saying what she might have said if she hadn't had to run. "If it's the Crest you want, you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands! If it's money or goods you want, well the joke's on you because you burned it all! You - you barbarians! Murderers!" Harue picked up a rock and threw it as hard as she could in Okitsugu's direction. It wasn't likely to hit him, as she wasn't even looking when she threw it. Rather she was fighting back tears, clearly in a mixed emotional state.

    "Go jump in the fire you started and burn!"
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  14. Okitsugu eyes widened when the woman shrieked. It almost shocked him on how loud she could scream. He slightly raised his right hand as she stumbled to her feet, gesturing for her to relax. "Whoa, relax. I'm not-" he said calmly before being interrupted by the woman's fearful statement. A bewildered expression appeared on his face as he raised a brow at her following comment. "Wh-" he barely uttered a word before she tossed a rock at him, though it completely missed him. "Go jump in the fire you started and burn!" she shouted at him, just as he was about to take a step towards her, but decided not to.

    At first, he somewhat wanted to laugh at her. It was almost amusing how she of accused him of several outlandish actions in such a short moment. When he first approached her, he did expect the woman to be in some shock, but not to this extent. The fact that she was being pursued by the guards of the Imperial Army, he assumed that this woman had to be somewhat dangerous or has committed some serious crime. This was the reason he approached silently and kept reasonable space from her before he caught her attention because if she did happen to be hostile, he could quickly fire an arrow at close range before she could get too close. However, after taking a good at her, his assumption was completely wrong. She was trembling uncontrollably and blood was splattered across her face as well as her kimono. She didn't appear to have any wounds, so it more than likely wasn't hers. The fact she mentioned a fire made him assume she must of ran from where he had saw the flames earlier. Her reaction was recognizable to Okitsugu. It was the reaction of extreme fear. It was clear to him that whatever happened almost took her life. Although she was a stranger, he felt some empathy for her as what she was probably feeling he could certainly relate to.

    Okitsugu gently rested his bow on a tree beside him. He untied his quiver and placed it beside his bow following after he did the same with his dagger. Turning back to the woman, he put his hands up as if he was surrendering. He had a relaxed expression and kept his calm tone. "Look, whatever happened to you, I'm sorry. But I'm not going to hurt you. I'm unarmed and I mean you no harm. Are you injured?"
    #14 WizDom, Sep 16, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2015
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  15. "Vile traitor--!" Harue spat one last angry insult before the tears blurring her vision finally fell. Only when she blinked did Okitsugu become clear, as well as the realization that she was screaming unnecessarily at a stranger for things he took no part in. At first her expression was that of surprise. She opened her mouth as if to speak only to close it again, her mind blank. Her gray eyes bounced between him and his weapons, placed aside in a gesture of surrender. A hint of confusion showed in the way she furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes, which then gave way to an expression of shock and embarrassment.

    "O-Oh... Oh, my..." The Princess stammered and bit her lip. "I-I'm so--! I didn't mean--!" Her words hitched in her throat and choked her into brief instances of silence. She gripped the sleeves of her kimono, her knuckles white. For a long moment, she merely stared at Okitsugu. It was almost phantom-like the way he came out of nowhere, without making a sound. Perhaps he wasn't really there, a figment of her sleep-deprived, frightened and bewildered mind. No, that couldn't possibly be. He was the one, or at she was sure that he was, who shot that arrow at the edge of the woods. To have screamed like a banshee at the man who saved her life left her even more mortified.

    "No, I'm not." Harue finally answered in a thin, shaky treble more akin to a whisper. Her eyes drifted downward to the space of grass between them, filled with sorrow. "I apologize for screaming at you. Thank you for saving me." She bowed deeply at her waist. Loose locks of her pale hair tumbled over her shoulders with the motion. The glass flower pin in her hair caught the light and glistened.
    #15 AkikoYukito, Sep 16, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
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  16. A slight expression of concern came across his face as she started to tear. Between her confused look and the stammering of her words it was clear she was still processing the situation. Okitsugu kept his hands up until she seemed relaxed enough. He wanted to say something comforting, but he couldn't think of anything that could of been. Instead, he remained silent, allowing her to take her time. When she answered his question, he dropped his hands to his sides.

    "Ah, good." he said with a sigh of relief. It was also good to see she had managed to calm down a bit. He was concerned that she might faint or decide to run off. Although she was slightly cooled, she still was very much distressed. Ofcourse he didn't expect her to be completely at ease, but her response was a start.

    Okitsugu felt somewhat uncomfortable when she bowed to him. Even though it was out of gratitude, he felt like it wasn't necessary. "Please raise your head. There is no need to bow." he responded kindly. Though he immediately regretted saying that. He didn't want to appear rude by declining her thanks. "I- I saw a woman in danger and I did what I thought was right. A thanks is not necessary." he responded, giving a small humble bow in return
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  17. As Harue bowed, her eyes caught the bottom hem of her kimono and the bottoms of the sleeves. They were dirty from the dirt road and the grassy forest floor, as were her tabi since she kicked off her zōri. She frowned at this, her eyes traveling upward. Despite the red color, there were evident, obvious blood stains, which would undoubtedly raise alert in any who saw the garment. At Okitsugu's response, Harue stood straight, her expression quite displeased albeit not due to any fault of his. As he bowed, her expression softened and she heaved a sigh like she'd been holding her breath.

    "But now what? I have nowhere to go, not that I can go anywhere looking as I do, especially not Shojo." The Princess lamented. "I have no idea what to do. The possibility that something like this could happen wasn't even thought of much less discussed." She started to pace about the small area the moonlight touched through the treetops, wringing her hands and making slight flailing gestures with them. "I'm sure there's nothing left of camp, no clothes or money or horses. What do I do about the mission? I can't even send word home or to the diplomats. There's no parchment or quill or ink or.." Harue stopped, bracing herself against the trunk of the tree with one hand.

    "It's my own fault. If I hadn't insisted on going, this never would have happened." Harue sighed with finality, shaking her head. She turned her head to look at Okitsugu, eyes searching his face as if she might find answers there. Briefly she tried to come up with an upside to the situation; although, all she could think of was that, at least she wasn't cold or all that hungry. However, she was exhausted and didn't like the idea of staying in the woods all night alone.

    "I don't like to be a bother, but might you show me to the nearest village?"
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  18. After raising from his bow, Okitsugu turned back to the tree where he put his weapons down. He felt it wouldn't alarm her now that she sees he wasn't a threat, at least not to her. As he re-equipped, he listened to her talk to herself as she paced around. Her comments added more to his curiosity of who she was. I thing he could say for certain was she wasn't a commoner. Her attire and way of speech proved that much. While it was just a single layer of a kimono, smeared with dirt and blood, it was very well-tailored. Also her accent was more proper than the average person.

    He tried to piece together a conclusion based on vague details she spoke. What he cared about the least was Shojo. Although he's never been there, he knew it was a large, commerce-based, port city just north of Atsuki Bay. He primarily payed attention to the details about her. She confirmed that it was a camp she came from and thought he saw set ablaze earlier. He also deduced that she is probably from, or in service to, a noble family conducting diplomacy with one or several families in Shojo. What he couldn't understand is why would the Imperial Army ambush her camp. Okitsugu became uncontrollably curious about who she is and whom she serves.

    Okitsugu was deep in he thoughts when she asked him a question. He took a short pause before answering it. The closest village was one where he was currently staying. He didn't mind telling, but first he wanted to know who she was.

    "There is a village further in the forest, going up towards the mountain." He didn't point a direction out to her. "But, might I ask, who are you?" he asked as a slight bewildered, yet serious, expression appeared on his face.
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  19. "Ah, music to my ears!" Harue sighed dramatically upon being told there was a village. It was a great relief to know that there was someplace she could seek refuge. It was like the men said, she wouldn't make it in the woods on her own. Of course, before that night, Harue had never even been in a forest. The closest she got to the outdoors was the outdoor garden back at home, which was larger than the many indoor courtyards all put together. Hell, she had never even been farther than the outskirts of the Imperial City and never once even left the castle without an escort.

    "Oh! How rude of me. I completely forgot to introduce myself." If for a moment, Harue's expression was completely calm. "I am Nakashima Harue of the Imperial family. I am most pleased to make your acquaintance." Harue gave a proper bow, another indicator of her upbringing. As she stood straight, she reached behind her towards her hair. From it she pulled her hairpin, then the braided cord that kept her hair tied back in the loose bun. Her hair tumbled down around her in every which direction as she extended her hand to Okitsugu, so he could look at the medallion fastened to that braided cord which bore the symbol of the Nakashima Clan - the Crest.
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  20. When Harue stated she was a Nakashima, let alone an Imperial family member, Okitsugu's expression went completely blank. He stepped closer to her to get a clearer look at the medallion she pulled out. It was inscribed with the combined crest of both the Nakashima and the Imperial Court, confirming she was both. Also the intricate design of it appeared to be a lavish mix of jade, gold, and silver.

    Okitsugu stood frozen, shifting his eyes between the exposed medallion and Harue calm face, for a short moment. Bewildered would be an understated description of him in this situation. It was extremely rare for the Imperial Family to be outside the capital for any reason. What was so urgent in Shojo that merited a visit from them? Furthermore, why would the Imperial Army commit treason by attacking her? It made him nervous to even want to know why, but it still wouldn't stop his curiosity.

    Okitsugu opened his mouth to talk, but didn't say a word. There were a number of questions he wanted to ask, but he held his tongue thinking it wouldn't be appropriate at this time. Instead, he took a step back and gave a bow in return. "Obi Okitsugu. Pleased to meet you, Heika" he replied with a humble tone. He turned and pointed in the direction of the village. "The village isn't too far. There is a path that goes straight towards it." He turned his head back to her. "Although, it's not wise to walk through the forest without footwear." he said, noticing she was only wearing tabi.
    #20 WizDom, Sep 27, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2015
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