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

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Rin bows her head. "I have found a sort of freedom, My Lord Prince, I wish it were possible to share it with you, then, truly, I would be fulfilling my duty."

She looks at the fast approaching island in the distance. "This is not what i expected out of life, none of this, sometimes I feel that it is a burden, but then I think of those with a much greater burdens, and no way for them to express themselves the way they may wish. This is why I have chosen to embrace not only my duties but also my wishes. I can only be myself and only as myself can i do my duty. I hope that  the stories of our adventures have given you some enjoyment."

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The Lord Prince nodded and turned slightly, looking out over the water at the reflections of the fireworks overhead. Rin stepped near her, and up to the railing surrounding the barge. She leaned back against the railing in the casual manner she has, grasping the railing on either side of her to steady herself, facing the Prince.

"Duty is a burden, and that is why it is given to those with the strength to contend with it. That is what makes a samurai. We do what we must, putting our duty before even our own wants and desires, if need be.." Prince Satorii said as he stepped up to the railing, still looking out over the water, and leaned forward, propping himself up with both hands on the railing, the side of his left hand touching the side of Rins's right.

"We must find joy in the little things, however fleeting they may be..."

"Death always looms, such as tonight. The Seppun are incredibly well trained. They are skilled and devoted miharu, each of them willing to lay down their life for me without hesitation. But if we go to face an oni, then there is nobody else I would rather stand with than your fellow Magistrates, and you." he explained as the dock of Teardrop Island approached the side of the barge.

With a sigh he straightened up and turned to face one of the Seppun.

"Hitoshi-san, I will be visiting the island under the care and protection of these Magistrates. This is not a comment on you or your men. Your devotion and skill are beyond question, as is your recognition. You need not worry." he said, placing a hand on the Seppun's shoulder, "but I know you will." she said with a smile. "Truly though, there is no safer place in all of Ryoko Owari Toshi than Teardrop Island, and I do not wish to create a disturbance for those enjoying the festival here. These magistrates were handpicked by the Son of Heaven himself, and have already risked their lives for my protection before, and without a moments hesitation."

"Of course, My Lord Prince." the Seppun miharu said, somewhat begrudgingly, with a bow.

 

Prince Satorii stepped onto the dock, leading the Magistrates behind him and entered the large, two-story structure with a sign that read 'Swords Polished". The building was well made and beautifully constructed almost entirely of oak, including interior walls, with the outer walls of the first floor built from stone. From either side a stone wall extended from the building, encircling the island, forcing samurai to enter though the establishment.

Behind the counter stood a large man in a brown kimono and hakama, with the sleeves of his kimono tied back with a tasuki, revealing strong, heavily tattooed arms. The man looked very fit, middle aged, with a shaved head and a long, thin beard and mustache. The man is clearly a ronin, but he doesn’t act like typical ronin. He is not diffident or sly, and he lacks the habit of shame that most ronin seem to possess. He carries himself well, not with the arrogant pride of a young duelist, but like an old general, and always looks people in the eye.

He smiles and bows deeply as the Prince and Magistrates enter, welcoming them courteously.

"Welcome to Teardrop Island. This is Swords Polished and I am Gate (Kado), proprietor of this establishment. On behalf of the businesses of the island, I am pleased to offer complimentary sword polishing while you enjoy the services of the island." the man said politely.

He then turned to Taka.

"And you need not burden yourself with excessive weight and unwieldy things, such as your scroll satchel. It can be stored here in safe keeping as well, while you enjoy the island."

Thought the man was very courteous and polite, one could not but be left with the distinct impression that his 'offers' of sword polishing and scroll satchel storage were not offers at all.

The man picked up a large, silk cloth and held his hands out, ready to accept daisho.

Prince Satorii bowed, stepped forward, addressed the man,

"I am the Lord Prince Hantei Satorii and these Magistrates are my honor guard. I have brought them with me so as to not disturb the tranquility of the island with my usual miharu. As my honor guard, they are not here to enjoy the island, but to provide me protection, as is required by mandate of the Son of Heaven. As such, they will retain their weapon so as to be able to properly effect their duties." the Prince explained.

Gate's barrow furrowed slightly, his jaw tightening ever so slightly.

"I, on the other hand, am here as a patron of this island." the Prince said as he withdrew his sheathed katana and wakizashi and held them out toward Gate's silk-covered hands, but paused.

"This daisho is one of the oldest in the Empire, only pre-dated by those of the Kami themselves. It was forged for the son of Hantei himself, and has been passed down the Hantei line ever since. Few have ever seen it's blade, for it is said to be infused with the very divinity of the Hantei line itself and to handle it, or even look upon it without possessing the most noble of heart and purity of spirit renders one incapable of so much as speech or movement as they are utterly overcome by the purity and divinity of the Hantei line. I do not question your nobility or purity, Kado-san. I only ask that you be certain you and your staff can handle such blades, for I would be remiss to turn them over otherwise."

Prince Satorii held the blades out a little higher, letting the lightly cascade down the beautifully lacquered, emerald and gold saya of the exquisite pair of blades.

Gate look at the swords for a moment and then at the Lord Prince. He closed his eyes and bowed deeply.

"Your honor is above reproach, My Lord Prince. Perhaps it is best that you retain them." Gate said politely, albeit if a bit begrudgingly.

Prince Satorii bowed and Gate moved to slide open a door beside the counter. He led the Prince and Magistrates through several halls and room and out to the backdoor of the island, sliding the door open.

"Please, enjoy the beauty of Teardrop Island." Gate said and bowed deeply.

 

There is a fairly uniform atmosphere on Teardrop Island. It’s the only part of town where the air is rarely disturbed by the sound of horses’ hooves. Instead, the sounds of the fue and the shimasen fill the air. This isn’t the gentle music of the temples, however; it’s the taut, exciting sounds of the great epics, mixing with the delirious notes of peasant dances and ribald ballads. Providing counterpoint to the music are the high, lilting voices of the women and the gruff, grumbling tones of the men.

The air is thick with scents - from the heavy, exotic blooms of the Island Garden, to the expensive perfumes of the women. And underneath, never prominent but always present, the thick, earthy scent of opium smoke. Everything looks bright and proper in the Licensed Quarter. The signs in front of the theaters and tea houses are sedate, beautifully lettered. The sake gardens are graceful and flawlessly tended, Even when the sun goes down, a thousand paper lanterns are hoisted, like a sky of new stars, bathing everything in a gentle, soft glow.

It is easy to relax, enjoy, and believe nothing could ever go wrong here...

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The memory of the Prince's touch still lingered. It had taken all her will to not grasp that divine hand, to kiss it.

Never had she felt such desire such...love and devotion for anyone. Rin knew that regardless of any other thing, now, her life belonged to this man.

Her Prince.

"The sword will be close to the merchant if not in his possession. I was told that when we find one we will find the other.

And we will probably find the Oni there as well.

My Lord Prince, when we encounter the monster, you should not engage it yourself and you should not announce yourself. It would abandon it's own mission to kill the Son of the Son of Heaven. That we must not allow.

Zoyu-san, until we have the sword we seek, has the only weapons in our possession that will harm the Oni. We must draw its attacks so she can fight it.

Taka-san if you can make a blade with your spell please do so and allow Yuzo-san to use it.

Jorihime, your task is to defend the prince at all cost and should the hell spawn get the best of us, you must, no matter what, get the prince to safety

As for me, if you would both loan me your Jade Orbs, I may find uses for them."

 

 

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Prince Satorii's lips tightened and he looked down at the ground for a moment in thought before lifting his gaze to Rin once more.

"I understand what you say, Rin-san, and it is not unreasonable. I understand we all have our duties. The Hantei are supposed to rule.. to lead, like the kami Hantei. And though I am not Emperor yet,  I feel I cannot ask any of you to do something that I would not do myself. I will not hide from this beast while others may fall in my defense."

The Prince reached down and withdrew his sheathed katana with his left hand and held it out in front of him, staring at the exquisite katana and saya.

"I am Hantei Satorii. I am a samurai and a bushi, personally trained by the finest swordsman in the Empire. Within my chest chest a beats a heart no less full of courage than your own and my blades cut as well as any, even Zoyu-san's. If the fate of this city teeters on a knife's edge as you say, then we must all do our part this night, and you will need every strong arm and sharp blade you can muster." he said, finding his resolve.

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For a moment Rin feels she understands what the Seppun must feel like when ordered not to do what they know they should.

But only for a moment.

She steps close to the prince looking him in the eye woman to man.

"Then stay close to me," her voice almost a whisper, her eyes searching deep within his, "so that my swords may deflect its blows, my Lord, and my body may shield yours."

 

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"As you say, Lord Prince," Zoyu replied with barely a hesitation, her face smooth as she bowed her acceptance of the Prince's decision. "Well do I know the efficacy of Toshimoko-sensei's students. Let us be about it then, with haste, but not unseemly so, less we draw the eyes of the Thunder Guard patrolling the Island. May the Fortunes and our Ancestors be with us this night."

Zoyu and Rin flanked the Prince, lending a pretense of no more than a handsome man being escorted by a pair of pretty women, if one did not look close, but in truth, ready to defend his flesh with their own as they strolled briskly towards the House of Fluttering Butterflies. Teardrop was indeed exquisite and Zoyu had every intention of returning and partaking of its delights, but for now, her eyes scanned for danger and the fearsome silhouette of the oni along the streets and rooflines.

Though she had made no protest against the Prince placing himself in danger, privately she prayed that no ill would befall him, leading to her and Rin needing to explain what happened to the Emperor himself before begging to be allowed to restore their honour through seppuku. But the decision had been made, worrying about it could only lead to a delay in her blade, so as Toshimoko taught her, she put it outside of her self for now, aware of it, but no longer allowing it to be a distraction from necessity.

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Teardrop Island was the better part of a mile long and gradually narrowed to the south. Thousands of lanterns were strung up across the streets on ropes, giving the whole whole place an soft, almost unearthly glow. The buildings were a mix of geisha houses, theaters, restaurants, sake houses and gambling parlors, each establishment exquisitely constructed and maintained. By all accounts they were the among the finest in the Empire, only possibly rivaled by those of Otosan Uchi itself. People strolled through the streets, sometimes moving from one establishment to another while others strolled with geisha while engaging in pleasant conversation.

The smell of delicate perfumes, fine incense, delicious foods, flowering gardens (and opium smoke) mixed in the air in a strangely pleasing and complimentary way. The island was a quite place compared to the rest of the city.  The sounds of fue and the shimasen being played fill the air, playing the great epics, mixing with the delirious notes of peasant dances and ribald ballads. Providing counterpoint to the music are the high, lilting voices of the women, the gruff, grumbling tones of the men and general soft murmur of conversation, while fireworks explode in the sky above and the sounds of celebration carry clearly from the city across the water, with brightly lit boats with colored lanterns fill the water. 

Unlike the rest of the city, few on the island are in costume, but most, if not all, tend to be dressed in their finest attire. And as testament to Gate's efficacy, nobody is armed. Indeed, it feels like a place where one would never need arms for that matter. The general mod of the island is relaxed and pleasant, a place where samurai can drop their guard and relax without a fear of a loss of face.

The Magistrates and The Prince, guided by Yuzo, moved down the street at a brisk stroll. The party could not help but get attention, not only by the fact they were armed, but by the presence of the Lord Prince as well.

After several minutes of walking, a building came into view, the only building that particularly stood out from the rest of the island, in fact. It was a massive, three story structure ringed by wrap around balconies and obviously of gaijin architecture. The purple banners of the Unicorn Clan flanked the entrance and the beautifully lettered sign read, 'The House of Foreign Stories'. Strange, though not unpleasant, music, singing and smells came from the structure and one could clearly see samurai speaking on the balconies with gaijin 'geisha', dressed in what would seem to be the strange finery of foreign lands. 

"Ahh. Here we are." Yuzo said, pointing to the building across the street from the gaijin structure, "The House of Fluttering Butterflies."

As the Magistrates and Prince approach the door of the House of Fluttering Butterflies, a plump okasan, her ornate kimono patterned with butterflies, stepped out to greet them. 

“Good evening, honored guests on this night of the Bon Festival. I am Bashiko, the okasan of this proud house. Ah, such honorable visitors, the Topaz Champion and the Lord Prince himself! You flatter us with your divine presence, my lord. Please, come inside. Would you like sake? Perhaps some hostesses to serve you on this festival night?” She smiles warmly, and her eyes twinkle.

The House of Fluttering Butterflies is clean and polished, with sparkling hardwood floors and beautifully carved artwork on the pillars which hold up the roof. She leads the Magistrates and Prince through the sliding doors and into a large common room where there are several men and women, all talking quietly or listening to the singer, a young geisha playing a stringed biwa, her voice echoing merrily through the corridors of the large house.

 

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Rin thought of the mysteries of life.

The incongruity of the two establishments so close together, one serene, civilized, known, the other loud, smelly, barbarian, unknown.

She looked at the geisha on the strange balconies and found they're dress attractive to her eye.

Find one and you shall find the other

The words of the tattooed man rolled in her head

She studied the plump woman as she spoke, and the surroundings. She saw nothing amiss, nothing to fear.

She had expected the Oni to get here before them, had expected the worst.

She looked at her Prince.

What if I have brought him into danger that could have been avoided, she thought.

Rin scowled.

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Sighing at the scene, Kaze shakes his head.

"Even were I not duty bound to prevent such a thing, I would not turn my back to let the city die. Not and still call myself Samurai afterwards. Now, I hope you  will excuse my brevity, this is hardly the time for digressions, I know of the Oni the Maho Tsukai has unleased into the City, as well as the risks should it win in the contest of wills, or should it's summoner be slain or disturbed. I need you to tell me what you mean by the city being gone by morning? Is it just the prospect of the Oni Lord, or something else?

“Something else? There may be a new Oni Lord at dawn. What else do you need?" Takage asks before continuing. "I was here when he cast that circle. Just after the three men came to visit him this afternoon.” Takage shrugs, "What matters is that he gave his name to it. Do you know what that does to you?”

After a pause, Takage continues. 

"A few days ago... three, maybe four... some of our men attacked a caravan leaving the lands of the Lion. What they brought back was rich. Money, silks, and some crates of things for the festival. Costumes mostly, and masks. Really expensive masks. So my boss, Hinata,” he indicates the man chanting in the circle, “sold the things to three of his best buyers: a pair of Cranes, a Unicorn, and a peasant merchant.”

“Then, today, some men came to visit Hinata. Said they knew about the caravan. They wanted the masks. Just one box. One specific box. Out of ten boxes of porcelain masks, they just wanted one. Nothing else. I don’t know why, but they were serious about it. When we didn’t have them, they shut themselves in here with Hinata and stayed a long time. They looked like normal guys. One of them was really big, not muscular, just heavy.” 

He spits on the ground, and continues,

"Then I saw their wrists. One of them had a big, black moon, branded right here.” Takage lifts his arm and points at his inner wrist.

“Moon Cultists... worshipers of Lord Moon. You don’t mess with their kind. Things get ugly real fast, when you’re dealing with the kind of people who want to put out the Sun herself.” Takage looks around uneasily,

“Hinata said they were going to kill him. He had to get the masks back, and soon. But there was no way we could do it. Not in one night. That was when he used the spell...” Takage sighs, "He summoned that thing to find that crate for them. That's how badly those moon cultists scared him."

"I don't know much about magic, but I know the spell will end at dawn. If the oni is still alive, then it gains Hinata's name permanently. And if he does, then this city will burn in flames, and all the people inside Ryoko Owari will be nothing more than food for the Shadowlands. One oni can’t do that, no, but one Oni with a name,” Takage shudders. “an Oni Lord, loose in Ryoko Owari. Then you will hear thousands screams, and some of them ... will be your own.” 

He turns to you, and his face is pale and hopeless. “Kill it. Kill it now, while you still can. Kill it, or we all die.”

 

"This... is not good." Kageko said as she walked around the kneeling man, inspecting him and his magic.

"I am no maho-tsukai, but in my training as a shugenja of the Jade Magistrates I have learned about maho. And this here... "she says as she points to the scroll unrolled before the kneeling Hinata, "To it simply, that is a third-rate, bastardized form of a proper Oni summoning ritual. This is bad. Very, very bad..." she explained.

Kaze grunted in acknowledgement, mind racing. The spell ended at Dawn.... that was new. And an unpleasant surprise. It put an even tighter schedule on the magistrates than they had thought. Caster is killed, Oni lord. Caster loses his concentration, Oni Lord. Caster loses his battle, Oni lord and Oni is alive at Dawn, Oni lord. Nodding to the Scorpion, he adresses Kageko.

"Kitsu-san. You and the other Shugenja suggested that there might be a banishing scroll here. Do you see anything of the sort? Anything at all that we might be able to use? And Takage-san. It has come to our attention that there may be a sword in the city that can kill the thrice cursed thing, are you aware of such a thing? The Merchant you sold some of the masks to seems to be staking his life on it."

Kageko looks about, but shakes her head.

"I do not see it, and even if there were, it's effectiveness would be doubtful if it is from the same shoddy source as that summoning spell, not to mention, it would be casting maho." Kageko replied.

 

"We had heard some stories of a possible magical blade. The fact it was in the Crane hatamoto's house lent a bit more validity to the stories. I think he told the oni to check the Crane hatamoto's house for it, but finding the crate was still priority. Hopefully if it found the crate, the blade could be used to kill the thing before dawn. It returned, but did not have the sword, so I do not know what happened." Takage replied.

"You seem to have magic though, hopefully you can kill it or banish it or some-such."

"That is the intent, certainly." He gave the man a deadpan look. "After all. It's what we've been trying to do all night." He turns an joins Kageko, standing off to one side.

"The others need to know of our new deadline. We're going to have to change our plan and try to meet up with the others on Teardrop. If you would, could you and the others watch over the Scorpion here to make sure they don't do anything untowards while we are fighting the Oni? And that they don't try to escape should it be defeated."

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Zoyu returned the Okasan's smile with a subdued one of her own and faint nod of her head. "You are too kind, Bashiko-san. I'm sure an establishment as fine as this has hosted many notable patrons from the Empire. Such as the great Kakita Toshimoko, perhaps?" she said charmingly as the Okasan lead them into the common room. She noted other than one brief, disapproving glance, the Okasan made no other acknowledgment of their blades. "A private room would not be amiss, if such could be arranged on such short notice?"

"Of course, Honourable Champion," the Okasan agreed with smooth decorum, "If you would follow me."

Teardrop Island seemed like a most interesting district, luxurious, sensual and inviting. Alas, Zoyu could not enjoy it at the moment, trying to keep attuned danger and the Prince's safety. Though she did notice enough to find the Unicorn establishment a tad garish and the gaijin 'geisha' perhaps too flagrant and her eyes eerily large and round.

Before Bashiko could once more ask after their needs or any requests, Zoyu held up a hand, this time bowing her head lower. She hated the necessity that forced her to be so abrupt. "Forgive me, most gracious Okasan, but we did not arrive to the House of Fluttering Butterflies for what I am sure is an excellent reputation, but on business of the Jade Magistrates."

Zoyu reached into a pouch and pulled out her Jade Orb of Office, letting Bashiko get a clear view of it. "There is a great threat to Ryoko Owari troubling the city during what is supposed to be a festive time. There is one it is imperative we speak to in regards to this threat and we believe he frequents this establishment," Zoyu explained with intense sincerity. "A Safusa, a merchant, with a fondness for one Huruko. We must find him, them immediately. Each moment we delay causes the danger to grow more imminent."

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Bashiko looked at the Orb and then at the Prince and swords and scrolls they carried. Her face fell slightly for a moment before a smile came to it once again.

"Far be it from me to impede an investigation, especially one so important as to draw the Lord Prince's personal attention." she said, bowing deeply. "Please, come with me."

The Okasan led the Magistrates and Prince into a room paneled in copper-colored wood. Inside, a small man with a thin breard and mustache, and a geisha, sit with an untouched sake set and bottel on a table nearby. The man rises, standing between the Magistrates as the geisha as Bashiko bows and excuses herself.

"Who, who are you? What is the meaning of this?" the man asks as his eyes fall on the Prince, looking at him as if he should reconize who he is, but not quite sure (or unable to believe his eyes).

 

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Rin steps past the okasan into the center of the room ignoring the man. She looks at all the corners, any place a sword could be hidden. She spins back to face the Okasan."

"Bashiko-san, have you seen a Tattooed man tonight? Or heard of anyone talking of one?"

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The oksan shook her head at Rin.

"I am sorry, but I have not. I hear that some of the gaijin at the House of Foreign Stories have tattoos, but I would bother with that place. It is loud and smelly." 

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While Rin spoke to the Okasan, Zoyu glided towards the slight man with the undignified facial hair, her expression hard and remote. Her mismatched eyes flicked about the room, seeking signs of threat or what they sought before looking on who she presumed was Safusa.

"Keep watch for any incipient danger or interruptions," Zoyu suggested over her shoulder to her fellow Magistrates before turning back to the man. "You are the merchant Safusa?" she demanded coolly, holding out her Jade Orb of Office so it was practically in his face. "We are duly appointed Magistrates of the Jade Champion. You will tell us where the sword is or where and when you expect one Ryusoke to deliver it. And then you will tell us of all you know of the Oni and the one or ones who summoned it. Speak swiftly, for your time and our patience grows short, and we wish to end the threat Ryoko Owari has been subjected to."

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The man sighed and dropped back down onto the pillows, clearly looking crushed.

"Y-yes. I am Safusa." he sighed and nodded.

“It all began last evening. With the festival coming, I was preparing my shop, buying items which would make a profit. I’m a merchant, just a merchant." He sighed nervously. 

“I followed the Cranes to the warehouse district. I knew they had contacts, and I wanted in on the deal. I just wanted to make a little koku, for...” his voice trails off, and he looks at Huruko for a moment.

“I was going to buy her contract, you see.” he said as he looked down at the floor. 

“The masks which the Scorpions sold me seemed of tremendous quality. They didn’t know what they had! I was going to make a fortune. And I did. But then, the Oni came. I heard about it when it attacked the Cranes. I thought it was coincidence. But then the Unicorn warehouse... now I’m the only one left. The only one who bought those cursed masks. Have you seen them? They are worth ten times the price I paid for them. Ten times!. And I only got three times when I sold them again... but you know how Crabs can bargain."

“I know a little about Oni, from my days in the Hida lands, and I knew of the sword that the Daidoji had brought back from the Shadowlands and presented to Doji Fuketsu-sama. I thought it could be enchanted, and if so, it may be the only thing in the city which can kill the Oni. So I cashed in a debt owed to me by an Ise Zumi monk. Ryusoke.”

"Ryusoke already delivered the sword..." he said as he slowly drew a sheathed katana, the handle wrapped in Crane blue and white, out from under the pillows. Carefully he rose to his feet and with a resigned look on his face he bowed, offering the sword.

As he held the blade out before him an explosive crash comes from one of the far rooms of the geisha house, followed by screams and the bright flicker of rapidly spreading flames. Roars of rage and glee, now all too familiar, resonate through the building, slowly growing closer.

The color drained from Safusa's face, his eyes wide as the sword hangs limply in his hand while the other hand reached behind him for Huruko.

"By the Fortunes..." he whispered as an eerie blow light clearly began to leak out of the top of the saya of the sword he held.

 

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Rin reached out grasping the hilt and drawing the sword.

"Zoyu-san on the right," She stepped forward drawing her wakizashi," My Prince take the center, please. Taka, Yuzo prepare yourselves and guard the merchant please."

Rin slides to the side taking her stance to the princes left. She looks sideways at him "Now it is time to live my Prince!"

 

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"Hai!" Zoyu murmured emphatically in dulcet tones, sashaying to present her sleek profile towards the doorway to the right and a step ahead of the Prince. Her sword remained sheathed, though her left hand lingered close to the hilt. Though she was not pleased by the Prince's positioning, now was not the time to question it.

Her eyes had lingered just a moment longer than was warranted on the glowing blade in Rin's hand, a stab of envy coursing through her before she dismissed it as unworthy. Of course she had dreamed of wielding a blade blessed by the Fortunes and the Kami, a Windblade or Sword of Legend perhaps, or even been proved worthy to wield the Ancestral Blade of the Crane Clan itself.

But her father had crafted her blade for her hand in particular and an Asahina had enchanted the steel to strengthen it beyond mortal bounds. It would be the blade she would wield until she proved no longer worthy to do so. The Sword did not make the Samurai, but rather the Samurai and her skill that had to prove to be equal to it.

 

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"Hai!" Yuzo responds, drawing his katana and stepping in front of Taka.

For his part, Taka withdraws two scrolls, unrolling one as he steps partially behind Yuzo, with the pair placing themselves between the rest of the Magistrates and Safusa and the geisha.

The Prince grasps the saya of his katana with his left hand, and with a flick of his thumb loosens his blade in it's sheath for a quicker draw.

"No regrets." the Prince said, remembering some wise words from his sensei as he steeled himself for whatever may come.

 

Terrible claws stabbed through the doors and tore down, shredding the paper and finally ripping the doors from the walls, leaving just a few tatters scraps of paper and bits of wood hanging. In place of the door now stand The Oni with a pack of the oni-spawn spilling into the room to either side of it.

"Fortunes protect us!" Safusa whispers, nearly petrified in fear and only slowly backing away, trying to put himself between the oni and the geisha protectively, even with all of the samurai in front of him.

The small eyes of the oni scan the room, it's gaze falling on Safusa, then the sword in Rin's hand, followed by Zoyu and then the Prince.

It's large nostirls flare as it sniffs at the air and shifts it's gaze to Taka, and the satchel at his side.

The light of the fires flicker on the wall behind the Oni as the smell of the fire assaults the Magistrate's noses.

With a thunderous roar the massive beast stomps forward as the hissing and chittering oni-spawn rush and leap into the fray.

 

Spoiler

Roll initiative and post it in the combat thread.

 

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The terrible Oni and its skittering spawn burst into the room and Zoyu let the fear and dismay wash through her and away, and focused on the points to incapacitate and kill. Just another opponent to bring down as efficiently as possible, if bigger than most. Its eyes were drawn to the glowing blade in Rin's hand and that was all the opening Zoyu required.

The sleek Crane slipped forward, as the Oni lunged at Rin, her blade flickering from her saya like lightning formed of star-filled steel. The razor's edge seemed to no more than caress the demon's flank before Zoyu continued her graceful movement forward to make space for the Prince. A moment later, thick, black blood gouted from the Oni's side.

Zoyu had desired a more disabling blow, but alas, she would take what she could get. The Oni was damnably tough, but it was now well aware that her blade could pierce its hellish hide. It would suffice, considering it now had two more blades to be concerned about. 

No sooner was Zoyu's blade withdrawn than the Lord Prince's katana was freed from it's saya. The steel had a faint golden hue to it as he drew the blade up and out and and then back down, biting into the beast's flesh and leaving a long, thin, oozing cut, though not nearly as impressive a wound as Zoyu had inflicted.

With a snap of the wrist Prince Satorii flicked the blood from his blade and re-sheathed it. Though personally trained by Kakita Toshimoko himself, Zoyu, and Rin for that matter, could remember that during the Topaz Championship the Prince proved to be a competent, though not impressive, swordsman, and certainly not on their level of skill.

Behind the trio on the font line with the Oni, Taka stood, scroll in hand, as he quickly chanted his prayers to the kami, elemental energies swirling around him as one of the oni-spawn launched itself at him. Swiftly, Taka ducked, letting the creature fly overhead, but never ceased in his prayers.

The other oni-spawn followed suit, hurling themselves at the Lord Prince, Run and Safusa as Taka, nearly shouting the last words of his prayer, finally released the energies upon the Oni and it's spawn. Simultaneously each of the shadowlands creatures were struck by individual arcs of jade green energy.

The oni-spawn that had missed Taka and another that was hurling itself at the Prince were each sliced in half down the middle of their hellish bodies, instantly killing them.

The other two oni-spawn, launching themselves at Rin and Safusa were both left with massive gashes in their flesh, expsoing the twisted mockery of organs inside them as the blow knocked each of them aside, altering their trajectory, which had the unfortunate side effect of causing Yuzo's blade to miss as her swung in defense of Safusa. Both screatures hit the ground in awkward piles of limbs and claws, leaving a trail of black blood as they weakly scrambled to their feet.

The Oni roared in pain, having now been struck a third time in as many seconds with the jade green energy leaving another wound in it's foul flesh. The beast stomped forward and let out a tremendous roar of anger which shock each of the Magistrates. Before them stood an Oni, a demon from the depths of hell, and now it was angry... a truly fearsome sight.

 

Earlier...

Kaze ran from the warehouse and headed southwest, trying to reach the shore as close to Teardrop island as possible. Around the tiny dock near the Apple Blossom, and just south of the Dragon Bridge, he could see several peasant fishermen sitting on the shore near their small boats, watching the fireworks overhead.

"I need swift passage to Teardrop Island! Now!" he said in a firm, authoritative voice, hoping to spur them to action. 

The fishermen looked at Kaze in surprised, mildly stunned and caught off guard.

"There's a koku in it for whoever can get me there the fastest." the Crane said, holding up the shiny coin.

Immediately their eyes went wide and they hopped to their feet, each offering the take Crane to the island, and each, of course, claiming to be the fastest. Picking one Kaze jumped into the boat as the fisherman pushed it into the water and set a course for the Licensed Quarter.

As they drew near the island, Kaze could see the unmistakable Imperial Barge having just left the dock at Swords Polished and a twinge of dread went through him. The presence of the Emperor made, or even the Lord Prince, put immeasurable pressure on the Magistrates, should they fail.

Once at the dock Kaze exited the boat and without objection turned over his swords to Gate. Time was of the essence, and he could feel the passing of each moment. Once outside and onto the Island proper, Kaze asked for directions and began to jog down the street, moving as fast as he could while still being able to read the signs he passed. well aware that it may draw attention.

In time the sign for the House of Fluttering Butterflies came into his view and a small wave of relief came over him. It was a fleeting feeling though, as he spotted the Oni on the roof of the massive, gaijin-looking structure across the street. With a single leap the creature bound from the roof of the three story gaijin structure down to the House of Fluttering Butterflies, crashing through a wall with a roar. It's landing knocked over lanterns and send patrons inside screaming as it pulled globs of flesh from it;s back, flinging them to floor to create it's foul spawn before it charged into the building.

As fast as Kaze's legs would carry him he ran into the burning geisha house against the tide of patrons flooding out, chasing after the Oni.

 

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If the sight of the Oni alerted him to his destination, the flames and screaming would have done the trick, Kaze entered the final sprint up to the Geisha house, barrelling through the crowd to get there. Skidding through the door, he took only a second to correct his course as he shot off towards the sound of inhuman roaring. HE could see the creature coming up ahead, harassing the two familiar bushi as well as the third figure that had his stomach plummeting. Being that there were only two Hantei currently alive, and that the other was the ageing Emperor, it didn't take a genius to figure out who the teenager wearing the Hantei mon was.

Cursing, he put on another burst of speed, dropping into a sliding tackle at the last moment, the full force of his charge taking the legs out from underneath the Oni, which collapsed with an undignified squawk. Kaze bounced to his feet on the other side and between Rin and Zoyu, panting like he'd run a marathon. The message coming out between just barely between pants,

"Kill it...... Sunrise...... we lose...."

Toward the back of the room Taka drew another scroll and began offering a new prayer to the earth elemental kami. His eyes glowed as the wounds on the oni, some of them healing before the eyes of the Magistrates, began to harden and change color from the Oni's red flesh to that green of jade, causing the beast to howl in agony. Before their every eyes, the Oni was turning into a jade statue.

The Oni lashed it's tail sharply, using the momentum to snap back to it's feet as it claws at it's own wounds, trying to tear away the flesh-turned-jade.

Zoyu flowed back with a dancer's grace to stand before Oni, interposing herself between it and those behind her. Her face was smooth, a serene curve to her enticing lips, as she waited for the opportune moment. Then once more, her blade was a blur, dancing from sheath to kiss the Oni's hide and sliding back back in after being flicked clean, a spout of blood trailing in it's wake.

The Prince, having caught a glimmer of the Oni's intentions from it's previous moments, had dropped back into a defensive posture with his, his left hand still resting on his saya while the back of his right hand brushed the grip, ready to draw the blade and turn away an attack from the Oni that never came.

Seeing the perfect opening, Rin Flexes her shoulders and unseen the wasp on her back flaps its wings in a blur. Rin steps close to the monster as it strikes at her Prince!

Slash and spin, slash back again and spin again then drive the sword backwards into the creature. Each time the Oni's flesh was cut or pierced the flesh around it immediately began to turn to jade until finally, wounded and weakened enough by the onslaught of magical blades and elemental energies the Oni reared it's head back, belting out ear-piercing roar of pain, anger and frustration which shifted to a choking sound as the last of the Oni's flesh succumbed to the spell.

Standing before the Magistrates was now the most exquisite stature of a roaring, wounded Oni they had ever seen. It was beautiful, in a way, with detail only possible by literally turned flesh to Jade. For a split second they could not help but blink and look at it, feeling the danger was now past, until a flaming beam fell onto the new statue, saving int the head and most of the torso, sending the rest crumbling to the floor, reminding the Magistrates of the burning building falling down around them.

"Quickly! We must get out before this becomes our tomb as well." Yuzo urged as he slashed the remaining, badly injured oni-spawn with two swift strikes, quickly rendering them into puddles of black, tarry goo.

In the back of the room, Taka fell to his knees, dropping his scroll and holding himself up with his hands on the floor, utterly drained and exhausted.

 

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Rin after assuring that the Prince is unharmed rushes to Taka's side and helps him to his feet. She grabs his scroll and shoves it into his satchel

"Hurry! Hurry! Follow Yuzo-san! Now! Go!" She yells at the merchant and the geisha. As they run past her she grabs they saya and sheaths the katana shoving it into her obi with her own swords.

Rin waits for Zoyu and the Prince to go then helping Taka follows as fast as they can, avoiding the falling ruin of the burning House of Fluttering Butterflies

 

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Kaze moved to taka's other side, helping Rin to carry the burly crab out of the burning building, the weight an easier burden with two than one. As they exit the building, the cool air a blessed relief from the heat of the growing inferno. Coming to a stop outside, he helps sit Taka against a wall and offers a respectful bow to the Prince. He felt he should be doing more, but until it was confirmed the Oni was permanently dealt with, time was still of the Essence. As such, a lot of protocol could be dispensed with till after the situation was resolved.

"Forgive my haste, my lord Prince, but there may yet be more work ahead of us this evening."

Addressing the magistrates, he begins:

"We found the Maho-tsukai responsible for summoning the Oni, he and his brother, as well as several of their Vassals were in hiding in the Warehouse. The vassals were mostly disposed of, but we of course couldn't touch the Maho-tsukai himself for fear of what it would do to the Oni. If I may be permitted to request, I would suggest we make all due haste to the warehouse to confirm his spell has ended and then deal with them as appropriate. Kitsu-san and Shosuro are watching them, but still."

Something about the confrontation with the Oni was making him ill at ease. He hoped it was just paranoia, but the Oni had thus far been elusive prey, so having confirmation of it's ultimate demise would be greatly reassuring. He wouldn't put it past the beast to have another trick up it's sleeve. He would rather know if they had to hunt down any of the Oni's smaller spawn now rather than dallying.

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Pale skin starting to redden under the heat and flames of the burning building, Zoyu nodded with satisfaction at the broken Jade statue of the Oni and sheathed her blade with a fluid flourish. The Oni was dead and the Prince was unhurt. Now to deal with the Maho-Tsukai.

"As you say," Zoyu agreed calmly with the anxious exhortations of Yuzo and Rin. Rin and Kaze supporting Taka, Zoyu hurried out ahead of them, her face hardening at the sight of the fleeing merchant. Her tone was sharp and cold with command as she caught up with him. "You! You are coming with us, Safusa, we are not yet done with you and these cursed masks you sold to these Crabs."

Zoyu took a deep breath of the cool air, clearing the smoke from her lungs as Kaze gave his brief report about the status of the Maho-Tsukai. She kept close to Safusa, keeping one of her mismatched eyes on him. Done with his report, Zoyu flashed a quick, fierce grin and bowed her head. "An excellent suggestion. I am more than ready to end this investigation, preferably before the Festival is done."

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"Ah. Apologies, Zoyu-san, there is one or two more things you may find of interest. The Oni was summoned to retrieve the Masks, this is true. But the reason it was summoned? Seemingly there is a group of Moon cultists operating in the City. They want the Masks bad. The Oni was summoned to retrieve them from those to who they had been sold to. Once they were retrieved, the Cultists would come to collect them. What they would hope to achieve with them is beyond me, but it is doubtful it is anything good. We will likely need to deal with them as well."

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Rin left Taka's side and listened to Kaze as he made his explanations, She nodded at Zoyu who guarded the merchant to make sure he did not slip into the night and approached the distraught Okasan watches the fire brigade as they try to save her establishment.

Bashiko-san, you have our thanks and our apologies for what has happened to your wondrous House. I promise we shall help you rebuild,” Rin bows to the older woman.

She then goes to the Prince , “We shall escort you back to your ship My Lord Prince and ask that you carry us back across the river so we can go and finish this trouble one and for all.” She bows to him but her eyes and her lips show a smile of satisfaction and more.

“I hope My Prince that you are happy with the glory you have earned this night. You're aid was invaluable, I..., “ Her eyes seek his, “...We, owe our success to you.”

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On 2/10/2017 at 6:21 AM, Kakita Zoyu said:

"As you say," Zoyu agreed calmly with the anxious exhortations of Yuzo and Rin. Rin and Kaze supporting Taka, Zoyu hurried out ahead of them, her face hardening at the sight of the fleeing merchant. Her tone was sharp and cold with command as she caught up with him. "You! You are coming with us, Safusa, we are not yet done with you and these cursed masks you sold to these Crabs."

 

Safusa's eyes went wide.

"Cursed!? I didn't know they were cursed! I swear! I thought they were just beautiful masks. I wouldn't have sold or even dealt with anything cursed. I got them from the Shosuro warehouse and resold them. That's all!" he pleaded.

 

On 2/10/2017 at 9:37 AM, Mirumoto Rin said:

Rin left Taka's side and listened to Kaze as he made his explanations, She nodded at Zoyu who guarded the merchant to make sure he did not slip into the night and approached the distraught Okasan watches the fire brigade as they try to save her establishment.

Bashiko-san, you have our thanks and our apologies for what has happened to your wondrous House. I promise we shall help you rebuild,” Rin bows to the older woman.

 

The Okasan stood there, mouth slightly agape as she watched the geisha house crumble in on itself as the flames licked at the sky. A small crowed has gathered and the balconies on the House of Foreign Stories now had quite a few patrons and gaijin 'geisha' on them, watching the fire brigade fight the flames. She turned to Rin and closed her eyes, bowing deeply.

"Thank you, Mirumoto-sama. Your generosity truly knows no bounds." she said.

 

On 2/10/2017 at 9:37 AM, Mirumoto Rin said:

She then goes to the Prince , “We shall escort you back to your ship My Lord Prince and ask that you carry us back across the river so we can go and finish this trouble one and for all.” She bows to him but her eyes and her lips show a smile of satisfaction and more.

“I hope My Prince that you are happy with the glory you have earned this night. You're aid was invaluable, I..., “ Her eyes seek his, “...We, owe our success to you.”

 

The Prince returned Rin's bow.

I am not sure how much of a help I was, Rin-san. It was truly the efforts of Zoyu-san, Taka-san, and yourself that won the day." he said as he glanced up at the night sky, "..or night, as it were." he added with a faint smile.

"I know that my presence is more of of a hindrance to your duties than an aid. You all have enough to deal with and worry about without having concern for my safety. I was able to assist here, and keep you all armed, lest the fight with that beast may have ended much differently. I cannot stay out of the protect of the Seppun for long though. They have their duty as well, and I would be remiss to deny them it."

"I will speak to these Thunder Guard and then deliver you all to the mainland so that you may be about your duties." Prince Satorii said, motioning to the Thunder Guard Lieutenant who was standing, waiting to speak.

"Thank you for this night. It shall be one I will not soon forget. The fire I have felt tonight will keep me warm for some time." he added as he bowed to Rin once again, his eyes lingering for a moment.

As the Prince said his last words a man appeared behind around the Prince. Bluish-white and translucent, the man was huge and dressed in full kamishimo, with the mon of the Hantei emblazoned on his Kataginu with a no-dachi over his shoulder. By Kageko's descriptions and stories she had told over the weeks and months of travel, the man was clearly a ghost.. an ancestor spirit... who obviously favored the young Prince. The Ancestor nodded to Rin and then glanced to the other Magistrates, giving them a nod as well before fading from site once more, though the Prince seemed totally oblivious to the Ancestor's apperance.

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Rin's eyes go wide for a second then she bows deeply before the Prince and his Ancestor.

"Your presence has meant more than you know My Lord Prince.  I am in your debt, and my sword as always is Yours."

 

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Zoyu gave Rin a faintly disgruntled glance. The Crane found her companion's desire for the Prince a bit too blatant, almost obsequious, when there should have been subtlety and art to the dance. Though to be honest, Zoyu would have been pleased if Toshimoko-sensei would look at her a little in the same way Rin looked at the Prince, or the Prince looked at Rin.

At the sight of the Ancestor Spirit behind the Prince, Zoyu's uncanny eyes widened and she bowed her head towards them, while wondering if she would see her own Ancestor during the Festival. Though her Ancestor had granted her a great gift in wielding words, Zoyu hadn't always been diligent in abiding by Doji Taehime's strictures.

"No thanks are necessary, Lord Prince, we all but did our duty," Zoyu murmured demurely. "But to truly live is the sweetest of things."

Her eyes narrowed on Kaze, almost as if affronted that he would dare reveal yet another issue their positions as Jade Magistrates demanded they look into. "Crazed Moon cultists, now, Kaze-san?" Zoyu commented with sharp exasperation. "Is there no end to the foul depredations in this city of Scorpions?" She turned hard eyes on Safusa. "You will tell us all you know of these masks, where and to whom they were sold, to redeem yourself for your ignorance, Safusa."

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"The masks were just exquisitely crafted. The painting was beautiful, aspiring to the skill of the Kakita. I got them from the Shosuro at an incredibly low price. They sell to merchants, not to the public, so I guess they were just wanting to unload the masks and make something off of them before the demand vanished. They were worth 10 times the price I paid, easily. As it was, I sold them to a Yasuki merchant, Nobuko, for only 3 times what I had purchased them for. She strikes a shrewd bargain. I made a little profit off of them, but not much, and certainly not enough for all this."

"I was just trying to earn and save, so I could purchase Huroko's contract. I'm no criminal and certainly not a maho-tsukai. I just..." he said as he looked over a Huroko standing along with the other geisha around the Okasan.

".. I love her." he explained with a yearning in his voice and eyes.

"And she loves me. I am not a handsome man, or wealthy, or charming or even brave..." he admits, looking down at the ground sadly, "But she loves me all the same."

Safusa lifts his head for a moment and then drops to knees, bowing and pressing her head to the ground.

"I will help you in any way I can, of course, but please do not take me from her. I beg of you, Magistrate-samas. I know you to be noble, honorable and virtuous samurai. Please show mercy on this lowly, love-struck peasant." he begs, sobbing softly.

 

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Rin crouches down in front of the grovelling merchant.

"What do you know of the bandits which attacked the crematorium? Answer truthfully, Safusa." She asks him with a lowered voice audible to only the two of them.

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Though on his knees and leaning forward with hs eyes on the ground, Safusa's shoulders noticeably sink and his head drops as more tears fall from his cheeks. After a long moment, he speaks,

"I... I...  hi-hired them.... to get the Daidoji's blades i-in canse he carried the magic blade..." he admitted as her pressed his forehead to the ground, seemingly resigning himself to his fate.

 

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Rin stands and gestures to the geisha to come to her and Safusa, the girl hesitates a moment then comes forward, her eyes watching the kneeling Safusa with worry and longing.

Rin glances over at Zoyu before speaking to the girl.

"Safusa has claimed that he and you are in love. What do you say to this?" Rin asks softly so as not to scare the girl.

Huruko looks at Safusa, obviously wants to kneels next to him and hug/comfort him, but looked back over her should at the Okasan. Then she too, despite the poise a geisha is trained to have, looks at Safusa with longing eyes and closes them, nodding.

Rin's scowl is even deeper now with the geisha's admission. She sighs heavily as she glances again at Zoyu, nodding to herself as she comes to a decision. "Thank you go back to your place I will return later to speak to you and your Okasan."

Once the girl leaves she looks down at Sofusa. "Come and do your duty as a man and a citizen Sofusa, hold nothing back. We go to end this."

 

 

 

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Zoyu's face was smooth, but her gaze remained far from forgiving. She knew what love was - for there were two she loved - and it was not a right, nor did the Fortunes or Kami promise it. Despite what he may have intended, she found Safusa as liable as the bandits he had hired who had desecrated the bodies of her clansmen in search of the sword.

But she would not be needlessly cruel. "Tell us of this Yasuki Nobuko and where we can find her. And aught else you know of these masks, where they were sold and to whom. If in your aid we recover them before they cause more chaos to the city, or the Empire, perhaps you will have made restitution for your crimes."

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"She's a merchant. One I see to sometimes since I still have contacts within the Crab Clan. She's very shrewd, even for a Yasuki. I.. I can show you to her shop." Safusa babbled quickly, hopping at any opportunity to escape severe punishment.

"I know where it is. Being a magistrate, I have dealt with those who have been.. rumored.. to occasionally deal in stolen goods." Yuzo offered.

"And the masks.. I don't know anything about them other than they were exquisitely crafted and painted. Some like to buy plain masks and paint them personally, but many buy painted masks, such as those. The costumes and party favors I bought with them were good, but not approaching the quality of those masks. That is all I know. I swear." Safusa explained, still on his knees, looking quite pathetic.

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Rin shakes her head, more distractions.

"We must deal with the Maho-Tsukai first, then the masks. Safusa you will accompany us to identify the masks when we find them."

She tells the Okasan to send word to their rooms once they have found a place to stay, then bows deeply with regret for what they have lost.

"Let us go, lead the way Kaze-san, please."

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Zoyu kept narrowed, mismatched eyes on Safusa but nodded at Rin in agreement. "As you say, Rin-san. The Maho-tsukai first. Lead on, Kaze-san, if you would."

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Once on the Imperial Barge the Prince spoke to some servants and then turned to speak with the Magistrates.

"It is at leastmidnight, and you have been rushing all over Ryoko Owari, chasing bandits and battling oni. if your dinner was interrupted by the oni, then you must eat something and sate any thirst you may have. You must maintain your strength." the Lord Prince urged as kettles of water and tea were brought out, along with bowls of fruit and rice.

"The trip across the bay will take several minutes, so please use this time to fortify yourselves."

As the barge drew near the docks across the bay, a servant walked over holding an exquisitely carved box, graced with Hantei mon inlaid on the top in gold. She held the box standing beside the Prince as he spoke.

"It sounds as if you may still have oni, maho-tsukai and moon cultists to battle. I wish I could join you, but I know my presence would only be a hindrance. I wish to help though, if I can. So please, take these and may they aid you in the fulfillment of your duties." the Prince explained as he opened the box.

Inside were at least a dozen small porcelain bottles, more like vials, each baring the Kitsuki mon. The Prince gathered a hand full of bottles and stepped to each of the Magistrates, tucking a bottle into their obi, not giving them a chance to politely refuse.

"These are gifts from the Kitsuki. Should you take injury and lack the time or ability to be restored by mundane or magical means, then drink this. I am told it will heal even the most grievous of injuries. I pray that you will not need them, but if you do, then I will be thankful to have been of aid." Prince Satorii said as the barge pulled into the dock.

"Good luck, to you all and may the Fortunes favor you."

 

The Prince's Gifts

Spoiler

Each vial contain a healing potion that will restore 6 entire wound levels when imbibed.

 

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The Prince came to Rin just as the barge was bumping into the dock and he was ending his speech, if his hands lingered a moment longer than needed, or if Rins fingers had brushed his departing hand as she secured the bottle, none were the wiser.

She bowed deeply as did the others, then with a not so gentle push on Safusa's back they marched down the gangway and on to their destination.

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Zoyu took the opportunity on the barge to drink a cup of tea and delicately eat a persimmon, though with some haste. They had been all over Ryoko Owari this night and their night was not yet over, and her hunger was growing once more.

The graceful Crane bowed, accepting the gift. "We thank you for your aid and these gifts this night, Prince Satorii," she affirmed. Then following Rin off the barge, Safusa pushed ahead of them, she added in passing, her lips curved in a smile that was not quite demure. "The Fortunes and our Ancestors surely favour us, Prince. The threat of the Maho-Tsukai will be ended this night."

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Kaze remained silent as the magistrates interrogated Safusa, keeping quiet watch to try and ensure what little privacy that was possible was achieved, as well as to receive advanced warning if there were any more problems to rear their heads. With the Oni dealt with (he hoped), much was resolved, but the night had already proven itself tricksome, and the dull gnaw of paranoia sat in the back of his thoughts like a malignant tumor. The Oni's ultimate defeat felt too easy, of all things and as such he was waiting for the other show to drop.

His lips were dragged down into a disgusted frown when he hears the lengths Safusa went to to acquire the blade. Fear notwithstanding, he still ensured the desecration of the remains. That they were the remains of his clansmen was like a slap to the face, adding further insult. Conciously smoothing his features into a detached expression as the interrogation continued, he tries to divorce himself from the simmering anger. Love drove all in it's thrall to strange lengths.

He nods to the Magistrates as they finish with the distraught merchant, and he felt a stirring of sympathy for the man. He truly looked wretched there. Moving to the Princes barge on the journey back to the warehouse. He would be the first to admit that he felt out of place on the barge. His time among the Lion had instilled in him a sense of practicality, and he felt out of place amongst the wealth displayed on the barge, as well as the obvious comraderie between the magistrates and the Prince.

The gift, though, was something he greatfully received, offering a deep bow to the Prince, as well as his thanks. The fact that the Prince was offering potions that were clearly meant for the Royal family was humbling to the extreme, he just had to ensure that it went to good use, if it's use was needed at all.

As the barge bobs gently by the shore, he offers one final bow to the Prince before he turns to follow the others down the gangway and takes the lead in guiding them through the Warehouses to the one dedicated to the Scorpion, Left hand resting on his sheathed blade in an almost casual manner, but ready to shift into a drawing stance should any unexpected guests drop in.

The warehouse loomed above them as Kaze nodded to it.

"This is the one, Zoyu-san, Mirumoto-san. The Scorpions and the other Magistrates await us inside." before stepping forward to shift the door open and lead them into the darkened warehouse. Hopefully this night would be over soon.

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