Without Heaven - Book 1: The Battle of Osaka Bay

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  1. "Ah, it feels good to step out of the temple once in a while..." mused Haruhito, opening the window of his palanquin and filling his lungs with the fresh countryside air. Tsubaki-maru is celebrating its annual harvest festival and Hirohito elected to join the festivities despite the protest of his advisers. Mana tradition dictates that the reverend must offer prayers to the Mother shrine in the village to warrant a bountiful harvest next year.

    "But, reverend... With the recent murders happening all over Ritenkyo, wouldn't it be safer for you to stay in Guiyun Temple? I'm sure the people of Tsubaki-maru would understand if you missed this year's crop blessing" insisted one of his templars. "I believe that Brother Asou is near the village today. I can easily send a messenger to have him perform the blessing on your stead. It's not too late to turn back, reverend."

    "Oh hush, you" pouted the cleric. "Death walks among us everyday. There are a million ways we should've died yesterday and a million more ways we can die before tomorrow. One must not let fear of death cage him from fulfilling his duty" lectured Haruhito.

    "O-Of course, reverend" uttered the templar, knowing better than to contradict the holy man's words. He was only concerned for the great teacher's well-being. The murders he spoke of earlier were not of the ordinary kind. There was a pattern, it seems, as the victims were either members of the Mana cult or members of Kirose's task force. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the killers were targeting minions of the Three Blades of Dominion. The templar frowned with disgust at the idea that someone dared to oppose the reverend. Those who refused to embrace their beliefs refused salvation itself.

    The reverend poked his head out of his palanquin once more when he heard the sound of song and drums in the distance. His gray eyes gleamed with excitement as they approached the village. For a man with such a high social status, the reverend is prone to acting like a child around people. It was part of his charms perhaps and quite possibly the reason why people feel at ease around him. The reverend's escort continued through the streets and a flock of children began tailing the reverend's palanquin, merrily singing the celebratory hymns of Mana.

    "Good day, everyone! Good day to you!" greeted Haruhito cheerfully to his adoring public.
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  2. ((Collaboration between Vonghese and Solar✹Blitzfang43))

    Aito loved his village, but there was no escaping the lingering odor of fish guts. You could dump them out to sea as far as you wished, but the tide always brought the scent back. He sat cross-legged, mending a net with the help of one of the local wives, his naginata leaning on a tree nearby. Most samurai wouldn't even spare the idea of such work, it would be beneath them. If only my father could see me now. Stripped to the waist, tattooed to the neck, surrounded by commoners, laughing and joking and listening to their small talk. Only barely noticing the scent of fish guts, and that's only because I thought to look for it.

    The simple life. Simple and free. Father, if only I'd known, I might have come here sooner.

    No, no he wouldn't have. The love of battle thrummed in his veins, that was for certain. The only reason he was content to stay in one place was that all the adventure a samurai could desire inevitably found its way here, to the home of the Laughing Spearman.

    He knew everyone here. He knew the gossip, the small rumors, the truth behind those rumors. He knew the men, their women, and their children. It was so intimate, on a level he'd never thought of as a traditional samurai. It was as if the entire village was his family.

    And speaking of family... here came someone who wasn't. Aito could tell. He couldn't have named the village inhabitates, but he had been there long enough to note the outsiders. The man was young, still with the arrogant stride of a young man who believed himsef invincible. There was a feeling... and there it was.

    "I am in search of a great warrior," the young man said. "He is known as the Laughing Spearman, a prior samurai, survivor of the great war. I am told he makes his home here."

    "I am the Laughing Spearman," Aito replied, well aware of how ridiculous that must have sounded. He was a small man, tattooed like a criminal, sitting half-naked and mending a net like a commoner. More fool him. He stood, brushing the hair from his eyes, squinting at the speaker. A new man, young, not someone Aito had ever seen before. Another challenge? In truth, I'd rather finish mending this net so it can go out tomorrow.

    He stood and stretched his sore back, never taking his eyes from the other man. "I am Morumoto Aito, samurai, ronin, outcast, and Master of the Three Stones Dojo. Who am I adressing?"

    "Sorry I have forgotten my manners my name is Tachibana Shigane glad to meet a fellow samurai/ ronin," The stranger greeted with a smile. He pointed towards his blade, "I came today in hopes of asking for a sparring match between the two of us. I'm afraid I'm still not too well acquainted with my blade as of yet." He gave a bit of a laugh at that statement, seeming like a novice.

    Aito frowned. "A sparring match? My dojo is open as we speak. If you would a sparring match, best one of my pupils. Then I may consider you worth my effort." What an upstart. Back in my day, boys knew better than to issue such challenges. The thought made him feel old, though he did not suppose himself to be more than six or seven years the young man's senior. Yet how much more war and death have I seen? Had he fought in the latest war, I would be foolish indeed to think myself the greater in experience, and he is still old enough for that.

    The young man's eyes narrowed at his words, but he simply nodded his head at his comment, "Apologies. It has been so long since I've been so long since I've set foot in a dojo. I meant to say duel, I meant no disrespect at all sir." He bowed in sincere apology.

    Another young, brash samurai. A pity, really.

    Untying his belt didn't take as long as he made it, but Aito was in no mood to hurry. He let it fall, and his kilted shirt with it, standing in pants and nothing else, his toes gripping the sandy ground lightly. A step to the tree. The scarred, familiar shaft in his hand, as intimate as the body of a lover and infinity more cherished. He took his time unbinding the sheath as well. "A duel may well be to the death," he said. "I take no pleasure in the taking of your life. We do not wield the same weapon regardless, so there will only be so much honor in the shedding of my life's blood."

    Upon hearing Aito's words, Shigane hesitated for a fraction of a second before replying, his words as smooth and deliberate as ever. "Yes I know that quite well, but I fear you'll find that the only thing I shall grant you this day are a few bruises." As he spoke, he drew his blade. A turn of the wrist showed that it was indeed a sakabato, which meant he wouldn't be doing much in the way of cutting. He placed his blade back into its home as he took a ready stance, prepared to strike fast and hard. That was the only way to counter the naginata, closing the distance fast and striking hard. The boy had some semblence of training, if incomplete.

    Aito sighed. "If you only intend to leave me bruised, then you do both of us great dishonor. In the future, either get yourself a man's sword, or learn to fight to kill."
    He pulled the sheath from the blade, and stepped to better ground clear of the tree before taking his own stance, blade towards his enemy, weight evenly balanced in seisan dachi on the angle. His mouth split wide, and his mirthless laugh spilled forth as he faced his opponent. "I assure you that I shall bring my utmost against you today."

    Shigane simply nodded at Aito's words. His eyes flickered around the beach as a proper samurai, measuring the terrain, gauging distances, planning responnses He wouldn't be able to accelerate as quickly as he would like to out here in the loose soil. Deciding that it would be best if he took the first strike he dashed in as fast as he could aiming to finish this battle in one strike if at all possible. He made sure to take into account the slow draw of his blade, whipping it forth early in order to bring his full weight, leverage, and focus into a straightforward horizontal slash.

    Fancy weapons are no match for training.

    A slow draw meant plenty of time to see it coming. Aito flickered his blade, dipping underneath his opponent's strike. He parried up ever so slightly, and used his left hand to catch at the dull edge, slapping it a little higher, and giving it a slight twist. He ducked under what was left of the stroke, his left hand shooting down the blade to catch the hilt and match Shigane strength for strength to neutralize the blade. His right hand twisted in an unexpected act of mercy, and instead of hamstringing the upstart ronin he slipped the flat of the naginata between Shigane's feet.

    According to the fisherwives bearing witness, there was a flashing blur before Shigane was flat on his back, unharmed but winded. He lay there, there looking up at the sky, wondering at the speed and precision of his opponent.
    "Well, I will surmise my defeat?" He sat up a bit but remained upon the ground looking at Aito to see just what he would do next since these were usually done to the death.

    Aito didn't relinquish his grip on the sword hilt and Shigane's hand, instead using his advantage to twist his opponent's wrist cruelly hard. His mirthless laugh sounded again, evil and mocking in the heavy air. The naginata flickered in and out like a serpent's tongue, retreating from the binding of the upstart's legs, and flashing in to touch his throat.

    "Mercy is not a creature I know well," he said coldly. " I give you your life, boy. Come here again, and I will cleave your head from its shoulders."

    There was quite the crowd gathered at this point. The men were all still out to sea, and doubtless furious upon their arrival that they'd missed such a fine duel. Aito would never have admitted it, but that first strike had been as fine as any he could have asked for. The boy certainly had training, if not the will or courtesy to drive it. It was a stroke that would have ripped a man in half if delivered by a man's blade, by a man's will. One day, the boy would be as fearsome a warrior as any Aito had ever known.

    "Noted," Shigane replied, standing up while taking his arm back having to roll his wrist around, soothing the pain a bit after the twisting. He took his blade back after dusting himself off a bit and placed it back into its sheath, moving with proper grace and humility, but seemingly unaware of just how close he'd come to death. His words, at least, were courteous.

    "Oh and sir, as for your earlier statement, my blade is a man's weapon for my master always said any beast can be a killer, but only a man can spare a life in the heat of battle." With that done he simply bowed in respect and thanked him for the duel before turning to walk away.

    The strange laugh kept coming. Aito didn't bother trying to control it, merely leaning on his naginata and letting it out. The boy had grace, that was promising, but he also had a bit of a mouth, and that was something either curbed or killed. A life spared was a katana in the back in the melee. In the duel? There was nothing to gain by killing the boy.

    There I go again calling him that. Why? I am no more than one war and six years his senior. Does war truly age a man so much? Or is it his efforts to learn a new weapon and a new style? No, he would not be so foolish as to challenge me when he did not have full faith in his mastery of the weapon.

    "A word of advice, freely given," he called after the young man. "All the samurai exiled here are war veterans such as myself. Few are as merciful. Be very sure in your abilities before your next duel, for they may well render you in two parts and not think twice of it."

    "Of course besides if I aim to take on the Black Shadow I must become stronger right?" Shigane's response was unexpected, but dignified and fully composed. He seemed to take the experience as a lesson, which was promising, and walked proudly away. For surely there was no dishonor in defeat from the greatest was there?

    And yet his words were truly amusing. Aito's strange laugh turned genuine at the idea of the young man attempting to challenge the Black Shadow. Even Aito had no interest in such a conflict. He had no doubt that he could kill the man known as the Black Shadow, but what was such a victory worth next to his own life? When two tigers meet in battle, one dies and the other lies near death.

    Fire blossomed across his palm as if he'd picked up a nettle, and he looked down to see a beautifully fine gash across the base of his thumb, from where the reversed edge had cut him when he slipped his hand down the blade to catch the hilt. A very fine edge to only be felt now. I should work on my sword catching more often. He bound the sheath back onto his naginata, still shaking with his dark humor. The crowd dispersed. All Aito wanted to discuss was the next piece of gossip, but all the fisherwives wanted to discuss was the exact technique of the sword hilt catch. In truth, half of that had been to luck, but Aito didn't want to admit that. While one of the local Shino priests wrapped half a garden onto his cut hand, he was forced to regale the wives with a blow-by-blow recounting of the duel, though in truth most of it went far over their heads. Fortunately several of his students were present, so his telling wasn't completely wasted.
  3. Aimatsu lay on her side, gazing at the window screen and enjoying the occasional cool breeze that crept in around its edges. She could still hear the man beside her snoring, and wondered if she should bother with her usual morning tea while he was still here. Nobu wasn't the type for tea ceremonies, or spending time with a woman once he'd gotten what he paid for. Frankly she was surprised he was sleeping in so late. Then again, he'd arrived late--nearly at midnight, in fact.

    The whole evening had been strange. She'd just escorted her previous customer out and was considering going to bed when Nobu arrived. Although the man was rarely talkative, he'd barely even bothered with a greeting this time, just taken her by the arm and led her inside. Not something she'd normally have allowed, but he was a regular customer and she knew he could pay. That was also the reason she ignored the blood speckling his arms and clothing. He was, after all, a warrior in the service of the Three Blades of Dominion, sometimes he had to kill people. Even so, he wasn't usually so shaken up afterwards. She'd tried to ask what was wrong, and had been curtly told it was none of her concern, so she just focused on more physical methods of soothing her guest. Still, it nagged at her. Strange things had been happening all over the island--well, stranger than usual. Mysterious disappearances and killings, mostly.

    Aimatsu was roused from her reverie by Nobu stirring. She rolled over to see his eyes open. He rolled out of bed without looking at her and started collecting his clothing. Deciding to give it one more try, she sat up.

    "How is my lord this morning? Better, I trust?"

    Nobu grunted in assent.

    "Whatever happened last night must have been difficult."

    Nobu glanced back at her, his thick brows furrowed. "Believe me, little peony, you don't want to know what goes on out there."

    Aimatsu bowed slightly, using the move to conceal the look of frustration. "I will accept your word for it, my lord."

    He fished around in his pouch and dumped a handful of coins on the table. Well, at least he was being generous today. "Good day, Peony."

    "And to you." Aimatsu watched him go, rising as he closed the door. Throwing her own robe around herself she started a pot of tea and began her morning routine. She'd have to work in the evening, probably, but there was a harvest festival and she was going to enjoy the day, at least.
    #3 Michelle the Editor, Jun 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  4. Fujiko's topaz eyes glanced towards the streets, her black hair flowing graciously around her back with wisteria flowers pinned here and there, her tight kimono accentuating her curves. She was walking around the town to see if there is something interesting and looking for something fun to do until her eyes settled on a palanquin.

    A rather childish man was inside the said palanquin, followed by a number of people who seems like his followers. Fujiko caught slight slips of words from the people. "A reverend, huh?" Fujiko said, a scowl forming on her doll-like face. She is certain that with the reverend around the area, visitors from other places will flock the Street of Flowers and there will be chaos. She hated chaos and violence but it seems like it can't be avoided, especially with the upcoming festival.

    "Tell me, young man. Where is this...reverend headed to?" she asked, tapping the shoulder of a young man who immediately blushed as soon as he saw her face, a sweet smile forming into her perfectly plump red lips. She needed to somehow talk to the reverend for the chaos he was about to cause and because the reverend somewhat interests her greatly for she is certain that he holds so many secrets.

    "U-Uhm... w-well, he's... h-heading to the annual harvest festival miss...” the boy answered, stuttering a little.

    "Of course, he is" she mused, staring at the reverend and making sure that their eyes meet before smiling sweetly and walking away. It would be impossible for Fujiko to not attend the harvest festival for she had already received an invitation to the said event a week before. "Odd isn't it? A reverend coming out of his temple with all the murders happening around the area." she mumbled, twirling her plum umbrella as she walked down the streets. "I better get the girls ready. There will be murder and mayhem starting tomorrow"

  5. "You speak as if murder and mayhem are somehow abnormal on this island," came a voice from above.

    crouched barefoot a top a street lamp directly over where the geisha was walking was none other than the mad smith himself, Nikuya no Kama dangling idly from his grip, and a second sword sheathed at his waist in a bone saya (scabbard). He looked down at the geisha with a soft smile, but his face was darkened due to the sun being nearly directly behind him making his features harder to distinguish, save for his eyes. he was standing at just the right angle that the light reflecting upwards from the lamp post's metal hat was hitting his crimson rises and reflecting back to the woman down below as if they were illuminated by their own malice. At least, how else would one explain the crimson stare that pierced through the darkness that shadowed the rest of his face?

    "Has the beauty of the alley's petals made you forget the rotten ground it sinks its roots in, painted wisteria?" continued the smith with a silken but mocking tone before hopping off his perch and landing a few feet behind her. "You aren't wrong though. I expect to see many roses bloom in your alley this time around. Crimson accents will paint this island like wildfire soon. I wonder what kind of arrangement you'll try to make out of that. I do hope you of all people can provide something beautiful to watch." He gave a small, chilling chuckle and then turned around without explanation, walking towards the crowd gathered around the palanquin.
  6. "How could anyone forget the rotten grounds where flowers bloom?...to be watered by the blood of men and be trampled by criminals. Who could forget that? " she asked back, her topaz eyes staring at his crimson ones. The mad smith doesn't faze nor scare her for there is nothing to be afraid of. Of course Fujiko heard about the rumors circulating around him but it didn't matter to her. Why should it? She sees all men as customers and nothing beyond that.

    "But you must remember that the duty of the street of Flowers is to create a land of fantasy where there seems to be no problems and worries." Fujiko said, smiling softly towards the mad smith. "I assure you that you'll find everything fulfilling. Besides, have I ever let you down?" she purred with a cat-like smile, walking away from him and didn't even bother to look where he was going. She had important matters to do and preparations to plan. The festival is coming near and she needed the girls to be prepared for anything.
  7. "That man is an oddity...and I hate oddities," Kirose thought looking at smith wander off to go mess with some girl who looked familar to him. But he barely paid attention to their conversation as he stalked behind palanquin that carried Haruhito. He was only doing this because he had been asked to provide support for him after the many attacks going on within the area, but he wasn't simply doing this out of worry for the mad priest well being. His true intentions were to provoke an attack from these clearly Shogunate assassins in hopes of killing off a few while keeping one alive for questioning later. A few children walked up to him asking him questions about what it was like to be a samurai and about all the cool moves he had learned through many battles. Kirose for once actually smiled liking the fact that these kids were brave enough to walk up to him even knowing who he was which at the very least warrented a response. "Well being a samurai is no easy life to live so just remember that once you commit yourself to the art it must become your life." After that little bit of advice he sent them on back towards their parents happy to see the youth of today still interested in the way of the sword. "Seeing such bright-eyed children remind me of those old days...Shigane I wonder if my words ever got through to you after all."
  8. Aimatsu finally finished her toilette and emerged into the street, mingling with the already-growing crowds behind a palanquin. She wasn't sure who was riding in it, but whispers and a careful look at the guards led her to guess it was the Reverend Haruhito. Not someone she knew personally--unlike a lot of priests--but she knew his reputation, and quietly steered away. She preferred to be the most manipulative person in her immediate radius, thank you very much.

    There were a lot of children about, and the town was just starting to open up and ready for the festival itself. There weren't a lot of booths ready yet, so Aimatsu went to make conversation with some of the other girls from the Street of Flowers. Mostly independent workers, like herself, though there were a few girls from the bigger brothels that had managed to befriend them.
  9. Grrrr. Festivals were... well. Boring.

    Aito didn't want to go. He wanted to stay, mend nets, work with his students, and in general enjoy his semi-retirement. But as one of the village leaders, he had to go make an appearance at the festival, to listen to the winds and hear any important rumors. Besides, as a samurai, it was good to go see the other outlaw samurai and see what they were up to.

    He packed his armor and a few other items onto the young green colt, and mounted the mare. His village only had a few horses to spare, but they were proud of their resident samurai, and liked to see him represent them, so he rode on the best of the horses. Not that this mare was anything like the war-horses he'd grown up riding. She was a much gentler and easier ride than a war-horse, but still had enough of her own personality to make the ride enjoyable. One of his girls, the princess, elected to accompany him. She rode an old war-horse whose shaggy coat was marked with several scars, and really just wanted to be left alone to eat grass and live out the rest of his days. Not unlike me. The princess was a featherweight, though, and the old horse barely noticed her at all as he clopped along behind Aito.

    Aito closed his eyes and leaned back in the saddle, enjoying the sunlight. The island wasn't too large, they'd be at their destination by evening, and the island was certainly beautiful. Several peasants left their plows to run to the roadside and bow deeply as he passed. Aito wished they wouldn't, he wasn't an official samurai anymore, just another man who wanted to be left alone, but they knew of his reputation and the ferocity with which he protected his people, and wished to show their respect. He understood that. Didn't mean he had to enjoy it, though.

    The shadows shortened, and they ate in the saddle. He sang snatches of old songs, trying to remember the words as a mental exercise. He did empty-hand, sword, and naginata forms in the saddle, motionless from the waist down, his torso and arms twisting through the motions as he drilled himself, using a short stick as a makeshift hilt and handle. He quizzed his student on the Bushido code. He napped.

    And then the trees parted, and the town stretched out before them. They walked the horses down the streets, weaving in and out of traffic. Aito didn't look like a samurai at first, second, or third glance, his powerful body obscured in simple garments, his hair roughly cropped, his armor hidden under an old blanket. The naginata looked like a fairly common weapon, the shaft scarred and stained with a war's use. His girl got more looks than he did. And he was fine with that.
  10. A New Day

    Tap tap tap. Crack.

    Tap tap tap. Crack.

    Over and over again, Gin broke the eggs and emptied the contents into the massive bowl in front of him. The bowl could easily be described as such since he could put half of his friends into it [not all at once though] but in front of him, it looked like a normal dish. The scarred giant lifted the bowl into his arm like one holds an infant and turned looking about for his whisking fork. It was really just a fork with a bunch of stiff heavy gauge wires attached to the end but it made for wonderful omelets. “A-ha!” The big man reached over to where several utensils were stashed inside a tall, slender crock and removed the one he desired. He began to briskly whip the eggs into a lather. Every forty or fifty turns, he would add a bit of clear water to increase the smoothness of texture. Gin wasn’t the best cook, in fact, he was somewhat poor in the kitchen but nobody made better eggs than he did; nobody.

    He rounded the corner and peered out into the bar. The gang was all over the place these days and so far, things had been rather quiet but that could change in a heartbeat. He wondered if Shiro would make an appearance today. Gin moved back towards the coal-fueled stove and closed his eyes. His hands idly whipped the eggs while he enjoyed the warmth wash over him like a fog that rolls in after the spring rains.

    Gin set the fork aside and poured the eggs into the pan. The sizzle said it all. Gin began to add the chopped up onions, beansprouts and fish to the mix. There was an art to everything, especially cooking. Yuki had taught him that. He was methodical yet the tedious task of spreading ingredients seemed to bring him joy. He continued to add spices and such with one hand while gently swirling the pan to prevent the eggs from sticking to the bottom. A smile spread over his face. For a fourth chance at life, this was not bad. Not bad at all.

  11. The streets were packed to the gills with festival goers and Haruhito's arrival only made the congestion worse. The songs and scream of the people grew louder at the sight of the reverend's palanquin. It was expected that Tsubaki-maru had such a warm reception to Haruhito's arrival. After all, almost everyone in town has embraced the Mana religion. Eventually, Haruhito's convoy ground into a halt when they reached a terribly narrow street leading up to the Mother shrine. The delay didn't dampen the reverend's good mood though and he continued on his merry meet and greet with people of Tsubaki-maru.

    His dim great eyes caught sight of a particularly beguiling young woman who was flashing a radiant smile his way. The reverend responded with a smile of his own and a nod of acknowledgment. One would think that Ritenkyo was a godless land where only the strong and crass survive. The most beautiful flowers grow in the harshest of lands...

    "Ready... FIREEEEE!"

    The loud masculine scream seemed to slice through the hustle and bustle of the festival. The scream was soon followed by several wails of muskets going off one after another.

    "PROTECT THE REVEREND!" yelled one of Haruhito's templars as the rest of his escort converged around his palanquin and formed a human shield. Their pristine white robes were soon riddled with countless bullet holes and blood spatters yet their bodies refuse to yield.

    Chaos descended on the streets of Tsubaki-maru as everyone tried to scramble to safety. Some unfortunate villagers were caught on the crossfire while others were trampled on by the stampeding townsfolk. The children following the reverend's palanquin were perhaps the most unfortunate, their little bodies in the immediate line of sight of the assailants' muskets. After what seemed like an eternity, the gunfire ceased - a deafening silence descending upon the once festive village.

    "R-reverend... are you, unharmed...?" gurgled one of the templars who still drew breath.

    "Thanks to your heroic sacrifice, yes. Mother will reward your valiance greatly in the afterlife" assured Haruhito before letting out a sigh. It's such a shame that he had to lose such valuable followers but their sacrifice was not for naught. The reverend opened the door of his palanquin and stepped out, his robe soaked with the blood of his faithful guards. He gazed up the rooftops and saw a group of unfamiliar men and a bunch of muskets pointed his way. "Hmm... I'm assuming you're the ones who've been stirring up trouble in this island?" cooed the reverend.

    "Disgusting priest! You're life ends today!" roared one of the gunmen in defiance.

    "You sound so sure about that..." chuckled the reverend, completely unfazed by the threats. "You will soon feel Mother's wrath for harming her people..."
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  12. As soon as Fujiko entered her okiya, loud gunshots can be heard which immediately startled the Wisteria and her flowers who were dressing themselves for the day.

    These girls are like her flowers and her sisters, someone she saved from their dreadful nightmares and gave them a new life as geishas. Most of the girls are young and around their teenage years, abused and robbed of their dreams of becoming someone who they want to be. Fujiko cared so much for these girls that she even trained them how to protect themselves and shared some of her secrets on how to gather their needed information. Of course, these girls are in debt to her and wouldn't dare to betray her. Their loyalty is something she's amused of. Even if it cost their lives, they wouldn't sell nor tell the secrets of their beloved Fujiko-sama and their beloved okiya.

    With a deep sigh, she looked over the girls and smiled sweetly "Girls, don't be frightened. This okiya is your safe haven. No harm will come to you as long as I'm here" Fujiko said in a soft, caring voice. She can see the fear in their eyes, their painful memories coming back to their minds which pained her. Fujiko knew what they're feeling right now for she felt that same way too.

    "Sayuri..." she called one of her maiko, one of her apprentices and ordered "please prepare some lavender tea for the girls to calm their nerves. Also, can someone play something cheery and loud? I do not want the girls to hear the gunshots."

    "Yes, Fujiko-sama" her maiko answered before scurrying off to make the tea.

    She then gave the girls a small courtesy which they returned before she headed to her room to check the commotion. Her bright topaz eyes dimmed when she saw men on the roof, a few houses away from her okiya. She also saw the dead children and the crimson color painting the streets which made her blood boil.

    "This is not your fight, Fujiko" she told herself before closing her window but abruptly stopped, her curiosity getting the best of her. Sighing, she opened her window wide and climbed out, jumping and standing on her a roof far from her okiya with her kiseru in hand, watching the events unfold. She knew what she's doing is dangerous and could get her in trouble but who cares? Men are something she's capable of handling, especially those who has the intention to kill.
  13. What new noise was this?

    Aito had been riding along the street, minding his own business and enjoying the sights when the shout erupted, and the volley commenced, the shooters picking up loaded muskets and firing them as fast as they could. Fools. Vainglorious fashion-bound trend-slaves. A yumi would have done the job in the first shot.

    The irony was that he hadn't brought his. Had he done so, he could have dispatched the assailants with an easy dozen shots, and been unruffled as the clumsy, inaccurate weapons thundered about his ears. As it was, he had to turn his horse's head and make a dash back up the street. Because damn that priest, his wonderful god or mother or whoever could look after him herself. Aito had visited the little shrine in the mountains, where exiled Shinto priests had packed into makeshift hovels in their flight from villages that had left their steadfast devotion for a whore's fleeting embrace.

    And then, over the din and the ringing in his ears, he heard the child scream.

    Well, that settles that.

    Instead of turning his mare's head, Aito clapped heels to her side and brought his free hand down hard on her rump. The already terrified animal bolted forward into the teeth of the storm. Aito slid off the saddle as he did so, clinging with one hand and one foot, using the mare's broad body to shield himself. He felt several impacts. The mare screamed and stumbled. Aito released his grip on the animal as she fell, and rolled clear, managing to keep the bulk of the thrashing horse between himself and the assailants. He swept three of the stunned, confused children into his arms and dragged them with him up against the horse's flank.

    "Stay here!" he snapped at them, then glanced up. A little girl and her brother, they couldn't have had ten years between them, stood exposed in the middle of the street. Aito swore, and lashed out with his naginata, knocking them from their feet into a smaller target. The girl stayed put, the boy jumped up as if to flee. Then a bullet tore the child in half, splattering his sister with his insides.

    Aito ducked his head, feeling hot tears sting his eyes. No. Time for tears later. Right now you've got three children to protect. Do that. Don't try to do more than you can.

    He held them safe as men and women and horses screamed and died around them. True hell. This was much worse than the battle-fields, where the men and women went more or less willingly, armed and ready. This was a slaughter. A massacre. A brutal mass murder.

    As soon as the barrage halted, he knew the men had run out of loaded guns. Rising, he dragged the three children along with him as he sprinted for the nearest building, away from the scene of the attack. The holyish man was talking casually with the attackers, as if they'd done nothing more than ruffle his clothing. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw the simpering man standing among the bodies of his devotees, not sparing so much as a glance for those who'd died for him. Damn him.

    And then he was around the corner, and out of sight. Setting the children down, he ordered them, "Get home, now!" and they didn't need telling twice.

    Then the rage and grief crashed over him like a tsunami, and he let it. He stood for a few moments, head bowed, leaning on his naginata. His shoulders shook. He threw back his head and roared a curse.

    His princess came cantering up out of the din. She'd wisely stayed back when he'd dashed forward. She'd even caught the reins of his pack animal. He shook his head when she pointed to the armor, it would slow him down and not protect him from bullets. He unbound the sheath on his naginata, and started forward, towards an alley that he figured would take him around the attackers. After a moment, his princess dismounted and followed him, her own naginata already ready to go. As he walked, Aito stripped out of his shirt, deciding that full manuverability was his best defense, and not liking the heat of the day anyway. The sun was warm on his tattooed skin, but it was nothing to the rage that burned in his heart.
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  14. Aimatsu was just nearing the edge of the crowd when she heard the shooting start. The crowd surged with panic, and Aimatsu had to gather up her skirts and dash into the shelter of an alley to avoid being trampled. The alarm caused as much damage as the wild gunfire, people stampeding like panicked animals in an attempt to escape the crowded plaza. Panting, Aimatsu tried to calm down, make herself think.

    The bullets were all striking the area of the palanquin--and doing a very messy job if they weren't trying to hurt everyone around it. So whoever the shooters were, they weren't trying to kill anyone in their path, they had a goal. A child went down with a scream and Aimatsu had to look away. This must have been what Nobu was talking about. These gunmen, whoever they were and whoever they worked for.

    Aimatsu didn't want trouble, she wasn't much of a fighter, but she also hated being helpless. There was a ladder propped up nearby, probably being used to hang banners before the shooting began. Aimatsu hiked up her skirts, tucking them into her sash so they wouldn't impede her (even if her legs were now rather shamefully exposed) and began to climb. She wanted a look at the shooters, long enough to be able to identify something about them which she--or one of her clients--could use.
  15. It was in a single moment that all the peace and happiness was destroyed as gunshots filled the air around the palanquin. Kirose had expected something like this to happen so unlike most of the others he was prepared and was able to avoid the gunfire by ducking out of the way of fire. When it sounded like they were out of ammunition he poked his head out back towards the streets and saw plenty of dead bodies, but the ones that got to him the most were the bodies of the children he had spoken to just a dew seconds before. For the first time in ages Kirose felt anger throughout his entire being at these bastards who would dare place those that did not even belong on the battlefield in harms way. "It seems that the Shogunate really will do whatever it takes to ensure a victory for them...well that victory shall not be on this day I swear it." After taking a quick pause to center himself for the battle ahead he stepped out and walked over to stand beside Haruhito.

    He saw the men flinch a little at his arrival as he just stood there looking at them. "Your first mistake here was the fact that you didn't kill us while you had the bullets to do so." As he said this he began to began to draw his blade before going on, "Your second was the fact that you actually managed to raise my ire which hasn't been done in a long time." After that sentence he began walking forward watching as they all began to group together to take him on. ''And finally your third mistake...not running when you saw me approach." As he said the final line he stopped just a few feet short of them wanting them to rush him instead.
  16. Masamune may have been a swordsmith personally, but as leader of the workshop he had supervised the crafting of all manner of fine tools for death-making. The scent of gunpowder on the wind was as familiar and as unmissable as the scent of his own forge to him, and Masamune had picked it up back when the men were still loading their weapons, positioning themselves for the ambush. After the talk with the wallflower he had made his way to his own vantage point, overlooking the would-be assassins and quietly observing how they proceeded. They were as plain and boring as he had pegged them to be, and everything that unfolded from them was equally plain and boring.

    Thunderous shots fired, the bodies of devouted soldier fallen (fulfilling the only real purpose they ever had) innocents caught in the crossfire and scattering in panic, a valiant hero riding in and saving some of the most innocents, but losing one, the attackers then proclaiming their valour and justice. Oh it was all so terribly boooring, a pathetic excuse for 'chaos' brought by the most stereotypical of zealotous assassins. To add insult to injury, they had to have been using some of the most shoddily made rifles in japan. Saika Magoichi himself wouldn't have hit the broad side of a dojo firing one of those. With a heavy sigh the mad smith stood up from his seat at the rooftop's edge.

    "Alright then, time to get rid of some useless actors crowding the stage."

    He jumped down and landed on a lower rooftop across the street, halfway down from where he was to where the failures calling themselves assassins were boasting. He ran across it swiftly in his bare feet and made a running jump off the opposite end, leaping all the way to their rooftop. His aim was for the one standing at the farthest back of the group, the trajectory of his landing allowed him to dive-kick the assassin from behind, his foot connecting with the man's neck and forcing him to topple forward. Letting out a sharp yelp as he tumbled into empty space the gunman hit the ground face-first and in the next instant had his neck completely pulverized by the weight of Muramasa using it as a landing pad. As the others were turning around to look at what had just happened, Muramasa used the momentum of his landing to kick back off the ground, closing the distance between himself and the next nearest assassin almost instantly. He stopped with his grin only inches away from the man's face and whispered.


    The assassin yelled and stepped back instinctively in surprise. However, having been so focused on muramasa's unsetteling face, he hadn't noticed the smith's hand slipping to his side and griping the hilt of his wakizashi. So when he pulled back, muramasa smoothly drew the blade out of it's sheath and swung, slicing the stunned man's throat open with a swift motion.

    He turned to the rest of the group as the second assassin fell and his smile faded to a bored expression. "You pathetic bit-characters aren't even worth feeding to Nikuya no Kama," he said. the evil-looking blade still dangling idly from his left hand "Come, die nameless, but at least die beautifully."
    #16 Buio, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
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  17. Aimatsu froze halfway up the ladder as she saw a man she recognized purely from description vault past, attacking the assassins. His movements somehow made the brutal deaths almost elegant. Almost. The smell of blood was nearly enough to change her mind. Regardless, she quickly realized that it wasn't likely any of these men were going to escape. There wasn't much use in trying to identify them--assuming none lived to be questioned. Of course, they were almost certainly from the Shogunate. To people like that, there were no true innocents on the island, they could all be killed without a twinge of guilt.

    That was when she noticed the silk pouch lying on the roof, where its owner had dropped it. That could be important--but she didn't dare climb back up to retrieve it, not with the samurai in the midst of a battle. So she waited, watching to see whether someone else would notice it or if the combat would move elsewhere so she could grab it herself.
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  18. After what seemed like forever the men finally gathered the courage to move against Kirose, but didn't charge at him outright and instead began to surround him.He counted 5 as they finally took their stances, "Well at least their smart enough to take advantage the number game," he thought watching their slow paced movement to encircle him. Seeing that mabye he would actually need to try in this battle he slid his sword back into its sheath taking his stance closing his eyes as well. In a fight he preferred to not use his eyes that couldn't keep up with every single movement, but instead uses his other senses to keep track of his opponents movements. This was better that he actually thought it would be since when they rushed him they were all but silent as they cursed his name and ran full speed. His only response was a smile as he charged at he nearest one and cut him down quickly while also using the now dead body to defened against 3 other attacks parrying the last attack with his blade.

    Using the body as a distraction as he shoved it at the other three slowing their movements while using his blade to disarm the poor man that was within his range then shoved his blade straight through his body, but just as quickly removed it showing no blood stains upon his blade. "I'll let you all run away now if you wish, but know that I shall not have any mercy for those that stay." He waited to see their answer which was two of them running while one of them stood his ground. "A noble last stand didn't think that many of our types were still left in the shogunate." As the man ran forward to cut him down Kirose simply stepped in changing the path of the blade by knocking his arm to the side while also ramming the back of his into his chest hard enough to knock him out. "Sorry about this but I did plan on keeping one of you as a prisoner."
  19. Pat, pat, pat. Feet smacked the ground, as a figure swiveled through the crowd of people. The figure was in an odd outfit to be in the ground, her black hair pulled up into a bun, sticks in bells in her hair to hold it up. She wore a kimono that only went down to her mid-thighs. The kimono was purple and black, to match her hair and eyes. She was bare footed, and running to the local bar. That of which the young girl worked. She reached the bar, and tripped over the first step, to stumble over the last two, and stumble into the bar to regain her balance. She looked around at all the people in the bar, and sighed with exhaustion already. She went to the counter, and started grabbing items to serve, asking the bar tender which table they went to.

    The female started running about the place, her bells ringing wherever she went. She was in such a rush this morning, haven woken up late, she just threw on something and picked an easy hair style. She was in such a rush, she had forgotten shoes. This was more like an everyday thing. She would wakeup late, rush to get ready, then run to work without shoes on her feet.

    When she finally managed to get everything in order once again, she rushed to the back of the bar, to the kitchen. For a lazy person, when things got busy, she forced herself to do work. She walked into the back and sighed softly, "Gin...I forgot my shoes again, do you remember if I wore the back up pair home yesterday? I can't seem to remember myself." She flopped herself down in the chair that was close by. She rubbed her feet and settled into the chair, now not wanting to get up. She stretched with a yawn, then felt to make sue her hair was still up from all the chaos.

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  20. Couple Hours Ago
    Haruki was forced to attend the festival and interrupted in her morning practices to do so. She was found hiding from a child of Aoi punching a wooden block covered in paper. The child lead Haruki to Aoi where they discussed the festival in the living room. The living room was a large room that, for now, was empty with the exception of a few decorative weapons. Haruki was never one to respect Japanese tradition and did not sit like a "lady when speaking to her sister. Her posture was disrespectful to say the least.

    "I don't want to go. I'm busy today." Haruki snorted at her sister.

    "Yes, my son told me about your training. You were punching that wooden bag yes?" Aoi answered back attempting to hide her annoyance.

    "Yeah. I have to stay in shape."

    "Grandmaster Shino-"

    "Haruki." Haruki glared at her sister when she attempted to call her by that name.

    "Haruki. As a respected native to the island you must go. Even if it is a small event your represent our father's dojo." Aoi had reached behind her back making Haruki raise a brow.

    "My answer is still no. If there is nothing else I suggest you get ready for the day's training." Haruki leaned on one knee getting ready to stand.

    "There is no training today. It's the day of the festival." Aoi's head bowed and Haruki stopped.

    "I see. You've wasted my time Aoi, I need to get ready." Haruki stood up and casually walked out of the room slumped over with her hands at her side. Aoi chucked the kunai behind her back at a target just outside the sliding door.

    "Calm." Aoi sat breathing in and out for a minute before finding her child and dragging him to get ready as well.

    "Why are you dressed like that sister?!"

    "More maneuverability. Look there's some squid over there." Haruki pointed towards the shop in an attempt to dodge the remarks about her clothing.

    Haruki's clothing wasn't like a typical kimono. It resembled a Chinese Dress if anything. It was sleeveless, but she wore separate sleeves with it and the skirt exposed plenty of leg. The attire was colored azure with black and white decals. Her feet were shielded by tabi boots, lightweight material used by shinobi. For those that knew Haruki this was her basic attire.

    "Honestly." Aoi took hold of her child's hand before he wandered off and followed Haruki. "We have to meet up with Manamusa. Behave yourself."

    How'd I become family head.

    "Bye." Aoi walked off with her son and Haruki waved once before turning back to face the various restaurants and bars open.

    Haruki then felt around in the pouch that resided on her arm and sighed. There was nothing, but a Kunai blade inside it. "I really don't even want to be here. I hate this world... My tavern is not far from here, but if my sister happened to see me she would be greatly disappointed."

    Haruki walked on viewing the various things on sale and plays being acted. She kept walking until she reached a bar where she was about to take off her shoe, but the sound of a gun caught her ear and she rolled over the counter. The bullets bombarded a nearby building Haruki counted off each one as they were fired and connected with wood or bodies. One went off, but gave no connection sound afterward.

    "A child was hit." Haruki looked over to the bartender who cowered in fear and asked him to leave. When she looked over there appeared to be some riflemen on a roof and three others had taken action. A man of great importance it would seem stood in the middle of a pile of bodies. The scene was none she care much for. Haruki was prepared to take action, but stopped when she noticed viles and sake. "Forgive me." Haruki took two of the viles and filled them with the warm sake. "Disgusting." after dropping them in the purse she vaulted over the counter with her Kunai in her mouth. Haruki zig zagged across the market strip looking for a way onto the rooves. She noticed a palaquin with a perfect view of the rooves and a woman recently closing its windows. As Haruki got closer she could see the riflemen better. They appeared to be shinobi of the Shogunate. Haruki's blood boiled and her steady paced quickly picked up as she stepped into the palaquin. The building was not hard to transverse and she bolted out a woman's shudder's onto the neighboring roof throwing her Kunai into the thigh of one of the shinobi. She ran and blocked the incoming attacks of his allies forcing her back. Haruki knew they couldn't load those weapons fast enough to stop her at this range. Haruki noticed the shadow of another figure and flipped over the man in front of her knocking him back into the shadow's path. Haruki didn't know who it was, but they seemed to be on the good side because they killed two of them.

    Haruki switched into a defensive stance and kept an eye on the new fighter. "What's so special about that blade, Nikuya no Kama?"

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