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IC: L5R: Blood and Jade - With A Single Step

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8 hours ago, Mirumoto Rin said:

Rin relaxed but did not drop her guard. She cocked her head to the side a slight smile upon her lip. "I do not waste time. You have answers, I sought you. Here you are."

"I have answers, but do you have the questions that match them?" the tattooed man asked.

 

8 hours ago, Mirumoto Rin said:

"Why is the Oni or it's master after the blade, and can it be used to kill the monster?"

"Would not the tree take the lumberjack's axe, if it could?" he replied.

"You and your friends seek a sword. Another in this city desperately seeks hope this night. If you find one, then you will find the other." he said, holding out one hand and the other, finally placing them together, hand in hand.

"I owed a debt and therefore provided what hope I could, but you and your friends can offer far more hope than I." he explained as he crouched there, balancing perfectly on the narrow wall.

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Rin ponders the monks words for but a moment. "This is truth, spoken with great wisdom. I am Mirumoto Rin and I...hope...that I am part of that which you have supplied and would be so kind as to direct me to either one or the other"

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"You know your destination, but not how to get there. You are wise to ask for directions, for if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." the man said with a grin.

The tattooed man certainly sounded like an Ise Zumi, and looked the part as well. Thought his clothing, a simple vest and pants, made it difficult to make out some of his tattoos in the moonlight, a large tattoo of a monkey was visible on his chest. Rin's trained eye could discern an exquisite amount of detail in the tattoo, making the fur appear almost real. 

"I will tell you this, Mirumoto-san; when you find one, then you will find the other." he explained as he sat there, crouched and balancing perfectly on the narrow wall.

"Monk's Edge Avenue and Diamond Street." he finally said almost curtly, "Though it may not be your final destination this night, consider it a waystation on the way there." he offered.

"I would advise you make haste though, for time and tide wait for nobody." the tattooed man added and looked up at the moon as a firework exploded overhead.

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Rin cocked her head to the side as the Ise Zumi spoke. She hung on his every word seeking the hidden meaning for having grown up among such as he and in fact even her own father , she knew that even the most plain and simple statement a Tattooed monk made was often hiding some other truth.

"Then I should fly." with a small bow she turned on her heel and left quickly in the same direction she had been going before the monk appeared. "Domo!" she called back at him over her shoulder.

In time she spotted a young man and called to him. "You! do you know the way to Monk's Edge Avenue and Diamond Street?"

He bowed and affirmed that he did. Rin brandished her jitte. "I am a Jade Magistrate take me there now as fast as you can!"

Eyes wide the man bowed and set off pushing through he crowd with Rin hot on his heels.

 

 

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Yuzo swiftly led the Magistrates through the streets of the Noble Quarter, pointing out a few key features along the way, such as the large Civil Hall, the grand Governor's Estate, and the Scorpion Gardens and Bath House.

"I hear the Unicorn donated a plant to the garden that eats meat." Yuzo commented with a grin about the Scorpion Gardens as they turned pass them and toward the Pious Gate.

Once through it gate the Magistrates proceeded up Monk's Edge Avenue, the street that served as the dividing line between the Merchant and Temple Quarters, pass through several large crowds of celebrants and by an occasional small shrine, where people are praying to their ancestors, in hopes that they will look down in favor on their descendants.

The Magistrates followed the road, checking signs as they pass until they reach they Diamond Street, where Jorihime points at a wooden sign.

"There. 'Safusa’s Antiques, Artifacts and Oddities'. That must be it." she says as she points to the door which hangs slightly ajar.

As Zoyu looked at the sign and front of the shop she caught some rapid movement out of her peripheral vision, something which was certainly not normal, especially on this night. Instinctively she reached down, brushes the back of her hand over the katana's hilt, as Kakita Duelists were apt to do as she turned her head to get a better look at the movement. A young man, dressed in a festival costume and carrying his mask was running up the street toward them, either leading, or being chased by, Rin.

 

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Zoyu arched a dark brow in mild surprise upon seeing Rin running their way. Rin had gone off on her recognizance and Zoyu had not thought to see her here, but such were the vagaries of the Fortunes. She glanced towards the curio shop, the door suspiciously ajar, then shifted gracefully to impede the running boy if necessary, her hand remaining near the hilt of her sword. With a flick of her eyes and a swift gesture with her off hand, Zoyu suggested the others keep an eye on the shop and any other potential exits in near proximity.

"Hai, Rin-san," Zoyu called out. "Is this mere coincidence or have your own investigations led to Safusa's Antiques, Artifacts, and Oddities as well?"

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Rin stops before her friend holding up her hand as she tells the young man to find her at the inn tomorrow and gives him her thanks for showing the way.

"This is the place but not the final place we must hurry."

Hand on her swords she moves past Zoyu and listens at the door.  Then pushes it open slowly.

"The sword is safe for the moment." Over her shoulder she whispers to Zoyu

"Safe? Why did you not bring it?"

"Because I do not know where it is, other than that it is somewhere safe. but it may not be for long."

Rin enters the shop.

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"I... see."

Zoyu's full lips grew into a thin, straight line as she suppressed a frown of deep irritation. The enigmatic ways of the mysterious Dragon were truly infuriating at times. The back of her hand brushing the hilt of her blade, the beautiful duelist gave her other companions another nod, then stepped gracefully after Rin into the curio shop.

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From the looks of it and the neighborhood, the shop is a seedy little dive in downtown Ryoko Owari, just as the innkeep had recalled, and its paper door hangs slightly ajar.

Rin and Zoyu cautiously approached the door, followed by the other Magistrates. Only a faint flickering light could be seen inside the shop as they approached the door, accompanied by the sound of scuffling and chittering inside, and the sudden loud *Bang!* sounding like a table being knocked over.

The Magistrates stopped and all looked at each other, nodding to each other as most of them quietly drew weapons or readied scrolls. Once prepared they proceeded once more with Rin and Zoyu in the lead. The pair peered past the hanging door and into the shop. 

The shop is a small, one-room building, with balsa wood and rice paper walls, and several low tables and shelves, and inside things are in chaos...

Several of the lesser oni are scrambling everywhere, looking in everything, utterly ransacking the place (with absolutely no courtesy). Tables are on their sides, items strewn about the floor, the cash box is on the floor with quite a few coins spilled from it and strewn across the floor. One of the little monsters leaps from a high shelf, toppling the shelf as it leaps from it, sending it falling to the floor. This is met with screeches and angry spits from the other lesser oni on the floor, who are tearing apart what seems to have been a sack of trinkets. The last lesser oni drags a chipped porcelain mask out from under a brightly woven rug, and screeches eagerly to the others.

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Peering surreptitiously through the hanging door, Zoyu gestured at the others to hold up a moment. She wanted to see if the oni-spawn had found what they had been charged with finding. Then they could recover it and perhaps learn more of what was going on. While remaining aware of the oni-spawn and their actions, Zoyu tried to look around the gloomy interior for any sign of the Oni itself.

Spoiler

[Asarasa] 8:43 am: Blind Perception Roll to see if the Oni is around
Asarasa *rolls* 2d10: 2+8: 10

 

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Rin stopped going forward at the touch of Zoyu's hand on her arm. Then she saw the chattering oni rat-thing with the mask and without a thought hurled her wakizashi at the offending creature lest it flee with the item.

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Rin's wakizashi twirled through the air and struck the excited oni-spawn in it's body, the blade piercing through it's thick hide and skewering the beast, causing it to belt out a pained shriek and nearly drop the mask. The other oni-spawn snapped around to face the door as Rin charges forth, bursting through the paper and wood door, katana at the ready. She races across the room on occasionally precarious footing toward the oni-spawn she impaled, barely catching herself a time or two.

 "Kill the others I want this one alive!" Rin shouts back over he shoulder at Zoyu and the other Magistrates as she reaches the skewered oni-spawn.

With a sigh of long suffering exasperation, the sleek Crane flowed into the ransacked after Rin's impetuous action. Hand close to hilt, Zoyu arrowed towards the oni-spawn that had leapt off the shelf, intending to end what it called life. She moved across the cluttered floor with the grace of a dancer, the difficult footing seeming to have no effect on her progress. With a flash of steel the creature lay on the ground, split nearly in half but for it's thick hide, both halves twitching and gurgling, clutching onto some semblance of life. Even still, it clawed it's way toward Zoyu and pathetically tries to swipe at her, which was turned away with Zoyu's katana.

Jorihime charged in right behind, intentionally shuffling her feet to knock any debris out of her path, slowing her progress, but making balance less of an issue. A oni-spawn hurled itself toward Rin and was batted to the ground, sliced in two by a powerful, downward swing of Jorihime's katana, the Lion's great height granting her long limbs which allowed her to reach the beast in mid-leap.

Kaze filed into the door as another oni-spawn landed near Rin and snapped at the mask, trying to wrestle it away from it's wounded fellow, buying enough time for Kaze to follow in Jorihime's tracks as far as possible and kick a half-broke vase at the oni-spawn, the ceramic shattering in it's face and staggering the little monster for a moment.

The last oni-spawn shot through what remained of the shattered door with all haste. Logic, if it could be applied to the beasts, you indicate that it was attempting to flee to gather help, but if that was the case, then it's plan was cut short when Taka snatched it out of the air and slammed it down on Yuzo's drawn katana, impaling the beast on fine Kakita steel where it wirggled and writhed for a moment before Yuzo brough his blade down, pinning the pease to the ground with a sandaled foot and sliced the blade through the beast's side, ending it's life.

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A faint, serene smile on her lush lips, Zoyu smoothly glanced around for anymore of the Oni-spawn as she glided up to guard Rin's back. Seeing not other oni-spawn offering threat, her blade flicked from its saya to slash at the oni-spawn trying to retrieve the mask from its pinned companion. A splattered line of black blood sprayed along the wall as the oni-spawn fell to the ground in two halves.

Rin slammed her hand down on the pommel of her wakizashi already impaled into the oni-spawn, driving the point into the floor and pinning it in place.

The room fell silent for a moment, aside from the hissing gugrling of the pinned oni-spawn. As the Magistrates surveyed the room looking for anymore threats, Kaze's eye caught a strange lump and depression in the rug near Rin's trapped oni.

 

Spoiler

The oni-spawn pinned to the floor by Rin's wakizashi is badly injured, but still alive. It has little strength and cannot even free itself. It's limbs and barely flail weakly. It is only a threat if somebody get's REALLY stupid around it.

You may resume posting normally.

 

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"Taka, Kageko, Akari," Rin called to the three. "Is there any way you can use this thing to find the big one with your magic?"

Then while the three magic users thought on the problem she knelt down in front of the little monster hand on the hilt of the sword pinning it to the ground. She was careful to stay out of the range of it's wicked claws.

"Do you understand me little oni thing," She asked in a low soothing voice?

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Zoyu frowned in disgust at the writhing Oni-spawn, arching a sculpted brow at Rin as she attempted to communicate with it. Why bother, it was just a coagulation of vileness and taint. "Kill it and be done with the foul thing."

The striking Crane was far more interested in what appeared to be a mask that the oni-spawn had tried to depart with. Despite her blithe confidence, Zoyu kept a wary eye on the pinned oni-spawn and for any splashes of its black, putrid blood as she bent over to retrieve the item it had grasped in its claws. As she did so, she noted the direction of Kaze's gaze.

"Kaze-san, what have you found?"

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Rin holds up her hand to stop Zoyu from taking the mask. "Please, Zoyu-san, wait a moment," She bends closer to the little beast, keeping her hand up to ward off the smoldering Kakita swordswoman,

"Come little oni-thing, don't you wish to live?"

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Kaze edges forward, testing the depression, edging the rug back reveals a loose floorboard, still slightly askew from where it had been moved to reveal the cubby hole.

"Seems to be a stash of some sort, Zoyu-san. Koku, scrolls and room enough for the Mask to fit comfortably"

His eyes flick up as Rin attempts to address the Spawn, dismissing it after a second. He supposed there was no harm in attempting to talk to it. Stories were that some Oni, at least, could speak, and if this one could be... persuaded.... to speak, it might save them a bit of trouble in the long run. He reaches into the depression, withdrawing its contents, loose coins making a small pile beside where he had taken a knee. The scrolls come out next, each one being glanced over as it's retrieved.

"Hmmm. About 80 Koku all told, and a half dozen scrolls."

He cracks open the one still in his hands, unfurling it slightly to reveal it's contents.

"Looks to be some form of Journal Safusa-san was keeping. Hmmm. I can appreciate his dedication. From what I can see here, there are daily entries going back some time. One was entered earlier on today, as well."

He scans through the entry, unrolling the scroll to go back through previous ones.

"Well. This seems interesting. He seemed to be enamored with a Geisha on Teardrop Island, at the House of Fluttering Butterflies. He seems to know the Oni was coming for him and has gone to see her one last time. Listen: "There is no time to waste, and I must hurry. Time is running short, and the Oni will be here any minute to kill me. I've heard of his rampages across the town, and the only one left is me. Hopefully Ryusoke can bring the sword - my last hope! - and now I go to my dark fate. Huruko, Huruko, I have to see you, just one more time, before I die... "

He clears his throat, meeting Zoyu's gaze.

"If we hurry, we may yet catch up to him before the Oni does, or if nothing else, it may put us on a course to meet with this Ryusoke. This being said though, if we are to move, we can't afford to waste time with the Spawn."

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The oni-spawn weakly flailed it's claws at Rin as it clutched the mask close to itself. Rin spoke to it and the things hissed and tried to pull itself off the blade, but the broad tsuba (guard) kept it trapped on the sword and pinned to the floor. If it understood anything that was said, it certainly didn't show it, or say anything other than hisses and an occasional screech as it clutched the masked and struggled against the sword pinning it with what little remained of its strength.

"It can possibly be done, but I am afraid that I, and I believe the others, lack the spell with which to do so. So we must rely on more mundane means to locate the Oni for the moment, I am afraid." Taka replied as he came closer to the oni-spawn, taking a moment to examine it more closely.

Yuzo listened with the others as Kaze read the entry from Safusa's journal and frowned slightly.

"Teardrop Island? That's... not good." Yuzo commented.

"Why?" Taka asked.

"You see, weapons are not permitted on Teardrop Island. It is supposed to be a safe place where one can leave their worries behind. Even Magistrates are not permitted to bring their weapons, with the possible exception of a Scorpion Magistrate who is on duty. Aside from some minor drunkenness, the patron of the island by and large conduct themselves well.

You see, to get to the island proper, the dock leads through a shop called Swords Polished. It is run by a ronin named Gate. He collects weapons from visitors, and even offers complimentary sword polishing for guests of the island. When one leaves, they may collect their weapons again. Gate was placed in that position by Governor Hyobu herself given the duty of not permitting weapons on the island... and he and his assistants take their job very seriously. Even Imperial Magistrates are not permitted to be armed. The island is patrolled by the Thunder Guard though, but now that I think about it, I am not sure if they even wear their swords. Hmmm... " Yuzo explained.

Yuzo paused for a moment, debating on his next words before continuing.

"Now... that is not to say that there are not ways one could sneak weapons onto the island. I suppose a fisherman could be bribed to take passengers to the service dock where they could sneak in, or maybe just bring over some weapons in a bundle which a person already on the island could hoist up. One could even try to swim to the island themselves. I would not think it an easy swim, but possible. Though it is a way to get on the island, one would dripping wet 

In any case, I do not advise pushing the issue with Gate himself. He is steadfast and will not budge. And those samurai that have , on rare occasion, decided that they would 'teach that ronin a lesson' and drew steel against him, were sorely surprised by Gate's capability." Yuzo added. 

"I suppose we could obtain special permission, but it would not be a quick process, especially tonight with the festival." Yuzo thought aloud.

"That is unless the Lord and Lady Bayushi are your personal friends." the Crane joked.

 

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Rin frowns, so much for her bright idea, she sighs heavily, "Weapons or not we must go and quickly."

She snatch's the mask form the pitiful creature before her and hands it to Zoyu, then stands up slamming her foot down on the oni things back crushing it as she pulls her short sword free.

Rin, her frown now a full blown scowl, stabs the little monster again making sure it is dead.

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Zoyu gave Yuzo a level look before glancing down at the mask, turning it over in her hands, studying it, surprised to find it warm to the touch. Perhaps invoking the names of the Lord and Lady of the Scorpion would provide them with the access they needed. But it would also put them even further into their debt, something Zoyu could not countenance, especially since they were trying to save the lives of their purported subjects.

She nodded at Rin. "I agree, time is of the essence, Rin-san, but it will serve us naught to confront the Oni without the means to end its depredations." Zoyu flipped over a wrist in an apologetic gesture. "You are a highly skilled warrior, as am I, but the Oni has proven itself very formidable, and besides my blade, there seems to be only one other, perhaps two," she amended, nodding at Jorihime, "that may be able to pierce its foul hide."

Her red lips tightened, nose scrunching up with conflict. "We may have no choice but find... other means to retain the tools needed for our duties upon Teardrop Island, as Yuzo mentioned. But I may have another means," Zoyu claimed. "Toshimoko-sensei gave me a letter of introduction to the Okasan of Teardrop Island, vouching for me and those I see fit. Perhaps it, along with Safusa's journal, will enough in these trying circumstances to have Gate... bend the regulations this once."

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Rin looks at all of her companions sternly.

"Our purpose is to defeat evil at any cost, even our own lives," she pauses on Yuzo, "even at the cost of our own honor if that is what is needed.

We do not have time to get permission, nor time to waste convincing a duty bound guardian that he must aid us. I believe that if we do not get to the Island as fast as possible the Oni will kill his quarry and get the sword, for I believe that the sword is on Teardrop Island.

I know of a way to the island, but we must leave now. Any of you who do not wish to follow please do not hinder us."

She give one more look at her companions before stepping toward the door.

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Zoyu looked down to study the mask to hide her brief expression of disappointment and suspicion. It felt ever since the Topaz Champion, people were willing to discard Honour at the first sign of inconvenience and then claim doing so a virtue in the pursuit of something greater, when in fact it mostly seemed to serve themselves rather than the Empire.

And she herself was not innocent in this, witnessed by her silence on the matter of Lady Bayushi and the Jade Champion. Still, she had believed their adherence to Honour made them better than the gaijin that existed beyond the borders of the Emerald Empire, but now she was beginning to grow disillusioned with the Empire she had sworn to serve. If so many were willing to dishonour themselves, for any reason they choose to justify doing so with, then it should simply be done away with...

And now, she couldn't keep a hint of suspicion from her heart in regards to Rin. She had dismissed the necessity of the sword earlier, but now seemed to think otherwise. And Rin had not been in Ryoko Owari anymore than she had been, why would she know of a way to Teardrop Island? She grunted, curtailing that train of thought as she recognized the Mask.

"This appears to be a Mask like one of those adorning the undead in Tsuma," Zoyu commented, handing it to Taka. "Can you discern if it is indeed the same or possess some other quality, but swiftly?"

She nodded at Rin with resignation and followed her to the door. "Show us your way, Rin-san and let's be done with this farce. Considering this Mask, I want Safusa and this Ryosuke taken alive to they can be questioned about their complicity in this situation before they are executed. And we will have to read the rest of the journals as well."

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As soon as she, Zoyu, and what others decided to follow her were out the door Rin paused. She looked toward the harbor many minutes away and then the time spent rouse of the steady, time she did not think they had.

"Come I will explain as we go," Rin starts off toward the river in the direction of Teardrop Island.

As they move rapidly through the city avoiding the crowd as much as possible, she explains her encounters with the painted man and his riddle of the sword, how when last she had seen him that the monk had been wet and told her that the sword was, for a time, in a safe place.

She went on to explain her plan of acquiring a bout that could  sail across the river to land in secret, either at the merchant dock or better still, if they could find rope and strong hooks along the wall that they could scale.

When asked how they could sail a bout with out a fisherman or crew she barked a little laugh.

"I spent several weeks on a ship, I was not sick the whole time, and when i was not sick I was not idle. I believe I am more than capable of sailing a boat across the river. But i will have to use you're backs to row."

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The Magistrates nod to Rin, knowing they have a short time to talk on the way to their destination.

"I do not know for certain, but we might be making a mistake here." Toshi said.

"We are going to Teardrop Island, to confront this oni and hopefully get this sword, but why? Based on what? The writings of some peasant merchant? How much more does he know that we do not?"

"The oni-spawn seemed happy about finding the mask at Saufusa's shop. At Fuketsu-sama's home the oni had searched through the crates of costumes... and masks... he had bought. Cates that had the marking of the Shosuro Warehouse. The same warehouse that sold party favors, including masks, to the Cranes at the Inn and Safusa and the Unicorn."

"The only interest in the sword seems to only be from people, not the oni. The person who hired the bandits to get it at the crematorium. This tattooed man who apparently stolen it from Fuketsu's home and now this Safusa. Yes the oni were at Fuketsu's home, but so were the items sold to Cranes by the Shosuro and then passed along to him. The last purchaser on that scroll ledger we got from the bandit lists the Unicorn, and we have heard Fuketsu-sama mention the Unicorn warehouse being broken into, goods violently searched and nothing taken."

"We are assuming that the oni is after the sword, but as of yet, all of the sightings of it and it's spawn seem to have been in search of the good sold by the Shosuro, not searching for a sword. In fact, the only place connected to that ledger and apparently the goods that has not been attacked, to our knowledge, is the Shosuro warehouse itself."

"It's on the docks on this side of the bay, and not much out of our way. It might be worth taking a look at. And if not now, then I would suggest immediately after we leave the Island." said Toshi.

Yuzo waited for Toshi to finish and brought up a different subject,

"I feel there are a few things I should also point out before some of us take certain courses of action.

"There are nine of us. One, two, maybe three people could possibly slip onto the island undetected, but I doubt nine could without drawing significant attention.

That being said, it might be best that those of us for whom our weapons are not critical, simply enter the Island through Swords Polished and Gate. My daisho, though finely crafted and carried by generations of my family, is not magical to my knowledge, so I will surrender it. I think the same applies to most of us."

"Gate also knows that a shugenja who a scroll satchel is just as dangerous as an armed bushi, if not more so. As such, scrolls must be surrendered to him as well."

"And I should point out, that if one were to manage to get a weapon onto the island, they would have to conceal it. Everybody knows weapons are not permitted and there is a patrol of Thunder Guard on the island."

"Frankly, If the sword is going to be on the island and we are going to be there, then we may all want to consider entering through Gate and focus on getting the sword to confront this oni with." Yuzo concluded.

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Rin stops jogging and stares at Yuzo through narrowed eyes, takes a deep breath and lets it out before looking at Zoyu, who nods at her as if reading her mind.

"I was really wanting to sail the boat, but you make sense, Yuzo-san.

I am a woman of action not words or thinking. I care not for the why in this matter. The Oni must be destroyed and everything points to the sword as the thing we need to do this. So let us find the sword and then we shall send the monster back to hell. Then we will solve the other problems."

She bows at Yuzo, "So, lead us to Gate, please Yuzo-san."

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Kaze nodded along with Toshi's reasoning.

"It has been a concern of mine as well. If it pleases the Magistrates, I would escort Shosuro-san, Kitsu-san and Isawa-san to the warehouse, that we can investigate the source of all this misfortune. If nothing else, it allows us to cover more ground quicker and cover both points of interest."

"Hopefully we will be able to find some trail of the Maho-Tsukai there and capture him or her. Small chance, but it is there. If not, hopefully we will find something of use. Once we are done there, provided we have not found the Maho, I would recommend returning to the Apple Blossom, it is a decent staging ground for us and somewhere everyone knows. If he is found, one of us will return with word to the Inn. Moving him may well disrupt his Concentration and grant the Oni his name, and the last thing we want is to be directly responsible for an Oni Lord being unleashed."

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"An excellent suggestion, Kaze-san," Zoyu said, dipping her head towards her fellow Crane. "One I fully support, especially if once more, the Oni flees our blades." She nodded at Rin then turned to Yuzo. "As Rin-san says, we shall debark at Swords Polished and see if I can made clear our need for a special dispensation in this one case, for the sake of those on Teardrop Island and perhaps for the City itself."

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With nods and bows the Magistrates split off into two groups, Toshi leading the way to the Shosuro warehouse while the rest headed toward the docks.

 

~ Kaze, Toshi, Kageko, Akari ~

Toshi leads the way to the warehouse, taking a shortcut that happens to lead through a very dark alley across from the warehouse. He stops his fellows and looks over the building from the darkness.

The warehouse rests near the river, far from the celebrations occurring in other parts of the city. Two Scorpion guards stand outside the closed doors, watching the street while shadows flicker past the second-story windows, and voices echo through the building into the street.

"Let's have a look, shall we?" Toshi said, stepping from the alley, leading the others, withdrawing his jade orb as he approached the guards.

"You there. I am Shosuro Toshi as we are Jade Magistrates conducting and investigation and it has led us here. Open the door, we will inspect this warehouse." Toshi stated, not really giving the guards a chance to protest.

One guard looked to the other and nodded, motioning to the door with his head, prompting the other guard to open the door and lead the magistrates inside.

The warehouse stores cargo waiting to be loaded onto river boats mostly. Ccrates are scattered around, but little else. Some of the cartons seem to contain masks, and some contain other party favors, as well as the Shosuro’s usual trade: silks, rice, beans and grains. 

The building itself is constructed of solid wood, with tremendous pillars in the walls and sturdy oak beams to hold the ceiling aloft, with walls of of oak. A set of shaky-looking stairs lead up to the second floor which is only a small area at the back of the warehouse, leaving the majority of it wide open to the high roof.

Once inside the guard closes the door with a sigh, apprently unhappy about the situation. He leads the magistrates into the warehouse, toward the center of the floor which is fairly wide open and not cluttered with crates.

The guard looks up to the second floor and shouts, “Magistrates! Get them or we’re all dead!” as he draws his katana and strikes with a single motion, narrowly missing Kaze.

Over his shoulder several Scorpions run up to the 2nd floor railing with bows, each of them drawing and nocking an arrow.

 

Spoiler

Roll initiative and post in the combat thread.

 

 

~ Rin, Zoyu, Yuzo, Jorihime, Taka ~

Moving through the narrow streets of the Merchant Quarter, the Magistrates approached the docks. Before them they could see the Bay of Drowned Honor, with many boats anchored in the water and one boat,a barge really, tied up at a dock. On the shore poles were driven into the ground on wither side of the dock with cloth stretched between, making a simple barrier, each panel graced with the Imperial Mon.

On the shore stood the Lord Prince Hantei Satorii, holding in his hands strings attached to an elaborate dragon kite that danced in the soft breeze as fireworks went off above it, with several small candled inside of the kite, providing lift as well as a flickering glow. THe prince was clad in an exquisite emerald and gold kamishimo, with his daisho and fan tucked into his obi. Around him stood the Seppun miharu, forming a basic perimeter around it at several meters distance, ensuring they were not in his way while guarding him, their eyes constantly scanning for any danger.

A small crowd had gathered, people coming to see the Lord Prince and future Emperor, something which scant few ever have the chance to do, as he flew his magnificent dragon kite in the night sky above.

Rin blinked and them smiled wide, hooking an arm into Zoyu's, and reached into the Crane's obi, withdrawing her jade orb before she pulled her along toward the barge and with the other following.

"Um, where are we going? That's the Imperial Barge and the Lord Prince. I did not even know it was here. I did not see it earlier. Regardless though, one does not just stroll up to the Lord Prince." Yuzo asked, obviously concerned.

"Rin does." Taka said, matter-of-factly.

Rin, with her unusual haircut and tattoos, leading the striking Zoyu, clad in her Topaz haori, followed by the rest, certainly caught the attention of the Seppun, a pair of whom moved to intercept the magistrates. Rin held out the jade orb to the miharu.

"I am Mirumoto Rin, this is Kakita Zoyu, the Topaz Champion, and that is Kuni Taka. We are Jade Magistrates and this our deputy, Okimoto Jorihime, along with Kakita Yuzo, Doji Magistrate. We have and urgent matter to speak of with the Lord Prince." Rin swift explained.

"You have no appointment and the Lord Prince is not taking audiences, nor would you be permitted into the Lord Prince's presence arm-" a Seppun said before he was cut off by the Prince himself.

"Rin-san! Zoyu-san! Taka-san! It is so good to see you again!" the Lord Prince said as he handed off his kite to am aide and walked over to the magistrates who all swiftly fell to their knees and bowed deeply, pressing their forehead to the hands that rested on the ground.

"And so unexpected too! Please, rise. This is a night of celebration." the Lord Prince said, motioning with his hands for the magistrates to rise as the Seppun relaxed somewhat.

"Thank you, My Lord Prince,"Rin said, rising back to her feet, "but I am afraid we must speak with you, We are afraid that you may not be safe." Rin said.

The Prince's smile faded, her gaze shifting from Rin to each of the magistrates and back to her once more.

"Come then. We can talk more privately on the barge." the Prince instructed, leading them onto the barge where the story of the evening's events were relayed.

Afterward the Lord Prince nodded.

"Hm. Well, I am afraid that I cannot help much with your investigation. My presence would only draw attention to the matter and add undue burden on you all." he explained with a thoughtful look.

"I understand, My Lord Price. But it may be best for your safety if you at least pull up anchor and put distance between you and the city, should the wort happen." Rin suggested.

"I have full faith in you all to take care of this matter. In fact, I feel so confident in it that I may just go and relax for a bit. Care to accompany me to Teardrop Island?" he asked the Magistrates with a smile.

 

 

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~ Kaze, Toshi, Kageko, Akari ~

Without thinking Toshi's hand found his wakizashi and freed it from it's saya, cutting a deep gouge into the Scorpion's chest. THe guard's thin armor stopped some of the cut, but the pass of the wakizashi left a crimson gouge across the man's chest. 

Instinct had Kaze swaying back from the first strike, the length of razored steel passing just out of range of him.

Tsking in dissatisfaction, he rapidly shifts into an iajutstu strike, his Katana whispering from it's sheath as he lunges forward. He feels resistance as the blade bites home before it gives and he opens the Scorpion from hip to shoulder, the Scorpion not even getting a chance to scream before he hits the floor nearly cut in two.

Appraising the rest of the warehouse at a quick glance he had to wince in displeasure. 4 Archers on the rails. One man by the door. Kageko looked to be winding up for a spell, and given the look of concentration on her face, it was going to be a big one, prioritizing her protection over chasing down the scorpion by the door, he settles in front of her, blocking as much of her as possible so that she can work her magic.

LElemental energies of glowing light blue and white sparked and swirled around Akari as she called on the kami of air. A howling wind could be heard outside causing the shuttered windows to rattle vigorously and finally blow open as three of the archers were engulfed by swirling tempests of air, sending the arrows they loosed off on odd trajectories, effectively neutralizing most of the archers.

The last archer though reasoned what was happening and took aim at Akari as best he could with Kaze blocking his aim. He arrow shot through the air, passing dangerously close to Kaze's head and Akari's arm, but struck into the ground harmlessly.

And then there was little Kageko. She was small and not particularly armed, but tonight, of all night, she had allies. Not her fellow magistrates beside her, but allies from beyond the grave. She began to appeal to them, her voice piercing the dangerously thin veil between this world and the next. 

Kageko's voice was odd, difficult to comprehend and even hear as her eyes began to glow. 

"Kaze. The doorman, if you will..." she said calmly several ghosts coalesced into existence around the unhindered archer. They began verbally accosting him, so speaking with disdain and others yelling, as if giving him a dressing down from beyond the grave. The Scorpion, under this assault, dropped to his knees, dropping his bow to the warehouse floor below, gripping his head, trying to cover his ears as she clinched his eyes tightly, trying to block out the ghosts.

"Forget the men! Get the women you fools! The Shugenja!" the Scorpion by the door yelled, drawing his sword and moving toward Kageko.

 

 

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With the attention on the shugenja and Kaze, Toshi took the opportunity to duck behind some crates and into the shadows of the dimply lit warehouse as Kaze watched the ancestors form with a guarded reverance, still wary till they pass him by and begin raking their errant descendant over the coals. At Kageko's quiet command he sketches a short bow.

"As you command, Kitsu-san."

Kaze turned to move on the man by the door. He briefly considered trying to take the man alive, but any routes he envisaged where he fails would leave Kageko open to an attack from behind, and he would not allow this to happen. 

Steadily Kaze advanced on the soon-to-be-corpse, who is still screaming at his compatriots even as he rushes to meet with Kaze. He was too slow on his swing though, and Kaze's blade lashed forward once more. There was a stunned expression on the Scorpion's face as it came to rest three feet from his body, the rest of his corpse toppling over a second later and leaving a rapidly expanding pool of blood behind.

Above the magistrates, the three Scorpions under Akari's enchantment all dropped their bows, drew their katana, and kicked at the flimsy railing, knocking it to the floor below in a pile of wood shards and splinters, barely missing Kageko and Akari as they focused, maintaining their spells.

 

 

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Kaze whipped around at the sound of splintering wood, cursing as he saw what the remaining three Scorpions were planning. He sprinted at Kageko and Akari, tackling them both at high speed and out of the range of the jumping warriors, wincing as Akari loses her balance and hits the ground with a dull thud, offering her a quick apology. Kageko, less deep in concentration, managed to keep her feet under her, and so he turned once more to face where the three men will land with the Shugenja once more comparatively safe behind him.

With a yell the three Scorpions leapt off of the second floor, sword held high above their heads to bring them down on the magistrates below, having only narrowly missed due to Kaze's quick action. Two of the Scorpions land on their feet, while the third slips in some of the spilled blood. Landing on his backside, the unlucky Scorpion tries to scramble to his feet while the other two drop into their stances.

To the trained eye of a bushi, their stance was crude, obviously lacking the instruction gained at one of the prominent schools of the Great Clans.

"Surrender and we promise to make your deaths qui-." on of the standing Scorpions said as the point of a blade emerged from his chest.

"We extend the same offer to you." Toshi said as the wide-eyes Scorpion slid off of his clansmen's blade.

 

 

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Seeing the brief hole in his opponents guard as he reacted to the third soldier's death, Kaze pounced forward, throwing all thoughts of defense to the wind for one overwhelming strike. The Scorpion realized his mistake too late, and attempted to bring his blade up to block the Crane's sword, but it's was a futile gesture, the force of the blow easily pushed it to the side as it continued on its path. The blade fell from nerveless fingers as the body fells over, the head separated from the rest and bounced twice before falling still.

Kaze turned to the final man, still struggling to get up from the pool of blood, raising his sword so the hilt is beside his head and the blade parallel to the floor.

"Surrender, Scorpion-san. The Magistrates would hear of what is going on here, and you have already lost. Lay down your weapons and answer their questions and you may at least meet your ancestor's with some degree of self respect and honour for aiding us in our duty."

The scrambling Scorpion fell still and sat on his backside with a sigh.

"What's the use. We're all dead anyways.." he sighed.

"What do you mean?" Kageko asked as Toshi slipped off again into the maze of crates and darkness.

"“My name is Fujun, and I serve the Shosuro house. It wasn’t our idea. We're...  bandits, but we aren’t  sorcerers... I didn’t know what he was doing with the candles... and the blood. Please... you’ve got to believe me ... you’ve got to help, or all the souls in this city will be devoured."

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Tucking her Jade Orb of Office back into her obi with a mental scowl for Rin taking the liberty, Zoyu bowed as deeply as the others, with fluid grace. Surely, the Fortunes were with them, to have the Prince here at this opportune time, hopefully his presence enough to get them onto Teardrop Island and pass an obstinate Gate still armed.

While that would be well, and she was pleased by Rin's enthusiam with the appearance of the Prince, Zoyu was not so sure about the Prince risking being in such close proximity to a dangerous Oni. Especially not after his life had already been risked by the use of Maho and the seeming machinations of Scorpion and the new Jade Champion. Alas, convenience and surety seemed to be no part of being a Jade Magistrate.

"It is indeed a most unexpected honor, Son of the Son of Heaven," Zoyu replied smoothly, avoiding giving voice to her concerns. "One we could never refuse." She let a hint of a smile and amusement enter her tone as she added, "I do not expect when Toshimoko-sensei bestowed me with a letter of introduction to the Okasans of Teardrop Island, that I would bear while in the company of the Prince."

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The barge was made ready swiftly and pushed off from the dock, a course set for Teardrop Island.

The Prince nodded to Zoyu with a smile.

"How is Toshimoko-sensei? I have not seen him since the Topaz Championship, but I have been practicing my kata daily, just as he taught me. Toshimoko-sensei taught me many things, in fact, things which extend well beyond the dojo even. I shall be ever thankful to him for that and I do hope he is doing well. " the Lord Prince said thoughtfully, casting the most subtle and fleeting of glances at Rin.

"I had seen the Bon Festival in Otosan Uchi many times, but always hear stories about the festival in Ryoko Owari. I love fireworks and kites, so I traveled here as quietly as I could. Governor Hyobu did not even know of my intention to enjoy the festivities in her fine city. Had she been informed, there would have been a great deal of pomp and circumstance, and I did not wish to take attention away from the festival, so I arrived late and enjoyed the fireworks from the barge." he explained, not just talking to Zoyu, but to all of the assembled magistrates.

"I have heard much talk that Ryoko Owari hosts some of the best geisha houses in the empire, only possibly exceeded by those of Otosan Uchi itself. I have heard names of these establishments in conversation, but recently I have heard much talk about one in particular that I might like to visit... The House of Fluttering Butterflies. I do not wish to create too much of a disturbance, so perhaps you all can accompany me instead of the Seppun? It would certainly draw less attention than a squad of armed and armored miharu (guardsmen) marching with me." the Lord Prince suggested with a smile.

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Rin listens to the prince and the champion as they talk but found it hard to keep her eyes of Sartorii. He had said nothing (why would he?) about her hair or the Tattoo, and she found her self hoping that he liked them. She could not but notice the glances he cast her way, those glances made her feel giddy and brought a flush to her cheeks..

When he suggests that  they act as his body guards she nodded, perhaps a bit too vigorously, "Yes My Lord Prince, that is a very good idea, It will draw much less attention."

She kicked herself mentally, of course it will you  ninny, he just said the same thing.

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"Toshimoko-sensei is doing most well, Lord Prince," Zoyu murmured politely while giving Rin a sidelong glance and keeping any embarrassment on her friend's behalf from her face. It was fine to besotted, but not to be so obvious about such. "His lessons go far beyond the blade, to all aspects of being a Samurai, a servant of the Emerald Empire, while remaining true to oneself. My gratitude knows no bounds as well."

Though there are ways in which I would like to show him...

"What fortunate circumstance, for the House of Fluttering Butterflies was where we were heading," Zoyu admitted with a hint of wryness with another side-eye at Rin. "And if you wish to cause not a disturbance by leaving behind the miharu, why, we would be most remiss in not accompanying such an august personage as yourself to provide what little company and protection that we may."

Convenient and not convenient. They were more likely to remain armed with the tools necessary to deal with the Oni, but now they would be solely responsible for his safety and the Oni was proving damnably hard to pin down and exterminate. Well, one did not accrue Honor and Glory without some risk, and if it allowed Rin more time in the presence of the Prince, so be it. They would simply have to succeed - failure was not an option.

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Kaze had to blink at that particular proclomation. Apparently an Oni was only one problem among many and while ultimately a significant threat in it's own right, that required time. He focused a glare onto the Scorpion once more while addressing the Magistrates.

"Isawa-san, Shosuro-san. Would you mind taking a look around? See what you can find in the Warehouse that may be of interest to the others. Kitsu-san and I will speak with our friend here. He apparently has much to share."

Akari offers him a small bow of assent as they make their way into the warehouse proper, Toshi having already slipped off. He had to shake his head there, but regardless, if there was one thing that Kaze appreciated, it was the appropriate distribution of forces. Particularly given the magistrates were under no inclination to follow his suggestions. Turning back to the Scorpion vassal, his tone becomes distinctly strained.

"Now, then, Scorpion-san. I think you have a lot that you will need to tell us. If you could please tell us as much as you know, we would appreciate it. Of particular interest is the Maho Tsukai's location, but his name his intentions would also be appreciated."

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~ On the Imperial Barge ~

During the short trip the Lord Prince approached Jorihime and spoke with her, not recognizing the Lion. Once introduction were made, the Price then apologized for not recognizing the sure name, considering himself familiar with the Houses of the Lion Clans and even their vassals. From there Jorihime explained what happened to her Family at the hands of Hideji Fumiya, that Lord Okimoto's youngest daughter had survived and eventually managed to carry out her blood feud and how the Magistrates helped restore her Family. The Lord Prince listened closely and nodded.

"I would expect no less from a Lion or these fine Magistrates appointed by the Son of Heaven. My father's wisdom is apparent, for the reinstatement of a noble family such as your own will surely only strengthen the Empire. I will see to it that your Lord, the Lady Okimoto, is provided what she needs in order to properly care for her Family." the Lord Prince said, to which Jorihime kneeled and bowed, pressing her forehead to the deck of the barge.

"Your generosity is only surpassed by your wisdom and nobility, my Lord Prince." Jorihime said with her head still bowed, and slowly rose and backed away.

The Lord Prince, after speaking to the others for a minute or two each, then meandered over to Rin as casually as he could appear.

"It is so good to you Rin-san, and your friends. I have heard of your.. instruction.. to the Sensei at the Mirumoto School. I am not sure I have ever heard of one so young contributing to the style so significantly. Your skill is truly undeniable... part of your unique style." he said with a smile as she looked to her partially shaved and tattooed head.

The Prince spoke more softly now, to Rin alone as the lights of Teardrop Island drew near.

"We spoke about duty before, in Tsuma, We both have our duties, but you possess a freedom that I, even as heir to the Empire, lack. I must admit, I am envious at times." he said.

 

 

~ In the Shosuro Warehouse ~

 

5 hours ago, Kakita Kaze said:

"Now, then, Scorpion-san. I think you have a lot that you will need to tell us. If you could please tell us as much as you know, we would appreciate it. Of particular interest is the Maho Tsukai's location, but his name his intentions would also be appreciated."

 

Fujun pointed to the second floor of the warehouse. 

"Up there. He's.. up there. Takage can answer your questions better than I." the Scorpion said.

"Then lead the way." Kageko said.

Fujun rose and led Kaze and Kageko up the rickety stairs to the second floor. There was a broad walkway running from one wall to the other, the railing now missing on one side with a wall on the other possessing a single door. Fujn opened the door and led the magistrates inside, each of them on alert for an ambush, but none came. 

The room was a small office, taking up maybe half of the floor and another door, with light flickering underneath and muffled chanting in the air, led to a separate room. Fujun opened the door, revealing bars, and reached for a key. He unlocked the door and stepped aside.

The room was lit by many candled, each of them set in a small bowl of blood, making small hisses now and then as the melted wax would run down the sides and reach the blood. They were arranged in a circle, in the middle of which sat a man in a kimono of Scorpion colors, head freshly shaved, eyes glazed over and drooling slightly as he chanted with a scroll rolled out before him. 

To the side stood another man in Scorpion colors who looked up and lifted his hands away from his swords.

"If you’re smart, you’ll take one look at Hinata-san and flee. Go on, turn your backs and run. This city is going to be gone by morning, so there will be no one to tell the tale to your Lords." His voice sounds ragged, defeated, as if he has no hope of survival.

 

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