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Messages - OhGodHelpMe

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Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: July 16, 2018, 12:37:34 AM »
Be my guest, I don't mind.

I did try having the bass drum be in sync with the bass guitar hits for most of the song. It's a nifty trick I picked up from listening to way too much Funk and City Pop

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: July 16, 2018, 12:06:04 AM »
I stopped being a coward and drummed on Nose Candy


MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2018
« on: July 15, 2018, 11:37:03 PM »
Yeah, nah. Kids just don't have souls.

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: July 10, 2018, 10:39:28 PM »


Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: July 08, 2018, 08:18:46 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki
Yachi was rushed inside of the dimly lit town bar by the two excited men. Both of them seemed to be young with cleanly shaven faces. One of them wore a wool cap on top of his head, and the other donned a small, straw hat. The rowdy and jeering crowd of men and women were all ready to see the latest attempt at Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki, expecting nothing but hilarious failure and a good story to tell afterwards. The interior was made almost entirely out of wood, including the flooring and support Y-shaped support beams evenly spaced across the building. The bartender was sandwiched between his long, wide desk and the several wine grids behind him. Corked bottles of sake rested in the wine grid, ready to be served to the already rambunctious patrons. The electric, screaming energy of the bar flooded into Yachi as she looked around at everyone's smiling, cocky faces. Infected by everyone's jovial mood, Yachi herself couldn't help but grin.

The man in the wool cap took Yachi by the hand, bringing her front and center in front of the crowd. The two stood on top of an unoccupied table for two, using it as a pedestal from which to address the crowd. Yachi chuckled as she realized they were both standing on the table like two drunken idiots, all while the man raised his hands to shush the crowd.

"Quiet down, ladies, quiet down!" he mocked. "As you can see, we've found our third partner in crime here, Ms..." he said in a hanging tone, prompting Yachi to introduce herself.
"Yachi!" she shouted.
"Yachi, beautiful name! A year ago when me and my brother said we were going to attempt Kobayashi's challenge, you all laughed at us! Well I don't hear you ugly mutts laughing now!" he jeered, garnering taunts and insults from the riled crowd. "We're going to conquer Kobayashi's Insurmountable Ramen or die trying!"

His brother removed his straw hat and held it out in front of the audience, revealing his buzz cut. While his brother seemed to play the part of the provocative loudmouth, he used their anger to get them to forfeit their coin in the form of bets.

"Place your bets, people, place your bets! Will Yachi, my brother Ouni, and myself be able to counter Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki?! Or is it really just as well defended as Himeji Castle?! Place your coin and make your bets!" he teased like a sleazy salesman.

If their objective was to simply swindle some coin from the rowdy patrons, the brothers were doing a fine job of it. However, Yachi soon realized that the brothers had involved her directly in their bet against the insulted crowd. She didn't even want to imagine what would happen to her if they lost the challenge, much less what would happen if they won.

"Lose and get laughed at...win and get torn to shreds..." Yachi thought, smiling while secretly on the verge of tears.
"Service!" Ouni called out. "Bring out the pot!"

Ouni and his brother pushed three tables together as a kimono-wearing waitress stepped in, holding a small cauldron of sukiyaki. She gently rested the cauldron on the hastily smashed together tables, hushing the room with the sukiyaki's wondrous aroma.

"Here you go. Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki." The waitress said, bowing before Yachi and the brothers. "It contains five pounds of thinly sliced, slow cooked pork, equal measure of slow cooked beef, 20 eggs, chopped scallions, yellow onion, potatoes, bean sprouts, and fresh Udon prepared in-house.For refreshment, we have cold water and sake. Mr. Kobayashi isn't in Kameyama at the moment, but in his stead, I wish you luck."

Ouni distributed bowls and chopsticks to his brother and accomplice Yachi, then filled their cups with cold water. Ouni turned his eyes to his brother, giving him a confident nod.

"Ready for this, Yuto?" he asked.
"Ready and steady, Ouni." Yuto replied. Ouni then turned to Yachi, whose stomach grumbled and growled under the aroma of the pot.
"What about you Yachi?" Ouni asked.
"Let's do it! I could eat a horse!" Yachi shouted, garnering cheers from the crowd.

The three snapped apart their chopsticks as the waitress passed out small, wooden spoons for the broth. Yachi especially wasted no time digging in after being so brutally tempted by the aromatic steam rising from her bowl. The blend of slow-cooked ingredients in the pot created quite the appetizing perfume, captivating even some of the spectators. In under a minute, Yachi slurped down almost all of the udon in her bowl before proceeding to the exquisitely tender pork and beef. It was a stark contrast from the dried meat and fish she would take with her during campaigns in the field. The pork and beef melted in her mouth like warm butter, perfectly flavored by the broth and assortment of other ingredients.

Ouni and Yuto were stunned by just how fast Yachi was eating, and sped up accordingly. Even if they won, the brothers didn't want to be remembered as two men that couldn't keep up with a woman. Though, if anyone knew that Yachi was a soldier, they might've understood.

"First bowl done!" Yachi shouted, raising her chopsticks. The waitress poured her another serving in a fresh bowl and laid it down in front of her.
"We're done too!" Yuto declared, earning their next bowls as well.

Yachi took a swig of cold water before digging into her next bowl, devouring its contents just as easily as she did the first. When the solid ingredients were all consumed, she drank the broth directly from the bowl rather than using the spoon.

"Second bowl done!" Yachi cheered, earning herself another round of applause.
"Go Yachi! Swallow it whole!" shouted some drunk in the crowd.
"Hang on now, I'm not as young as I used to be!" Yachi replied with a giggle before being served her third bowl.
"Next bowl!" Ouni demanded next.

Yachi drank more of her water, lightly banging the table with her fist as if to prepare herself for the next serving. The third bowl was gone in just three minutes, and pace showed no signs of stopping.

"You eat like a damned demon, Yachi!" Ouni jested.
"And you eat like a child! Next bowl!" Yachi insulted, rousing the spirits of the brothers.
"Well? You're not gonna just take that from a woman, right?" Yuto teased.
"Next bowl over here!" Ouni cried out.
"Choke, Ouni!" yet another drunkard in the audience shouted.
"Oh shut your yap! I can smell your pissy robes from here, you drunk!" Ouni responded, getting entertained cackles out of the audience.

The three may have shared a fiery ambition, but the brothers were already starting to slow down. As long as Yachi kept up the pace, she knew she'd be able to consume most of the sukiyaki with relative ease, even if she'd end up paying the price later.

"You guys are almost half-way there! Keep going!" the waitress encouraged.

Yuto leaned back in his chair, his hand rubbing over his grumbling, shifting stomach. One more bowl, and he'd officially be down for the count.

"Ouni...I think we've met our match here..." Yuto groaned.
"Pull yourself together! We're only halfway there! Yachi, how are you doing over there?" Ouni shouted.
"Still good!" Yachi mumbled with her mouth full. "Next bowl!"

Mere moments after she bravely uttered those words, the endless barrage of tender pork, udon, garlic, and chopped onion began to upset Yachi's stomach. She felt her stomach shift and grumble beneath her robes. The smiling waitress presented her with another bowl, and that's when it hit her, a sudden wave of doubt and regret. She had only just realized that she let her hunger lead her into a food challenge spectated by a gaggle of drunken buffoons. Now that her hunger had been appeased, her wits and senses returned to her.  All of this internal turmoil and regret festered as she kept on smiling, staring into the bowl of reflective sukiyaki. All the while, she was as still as a statue.

"I...I've made a terrible mistake..." she whispered, desperately wanting to cry beneath her grin.

She mustered up what little strength she had left, slowly working on her next bowl as the two brothers picked up the pace. Their strategy seemed to involve swallowing as much as they could and worrying about the consequences later. After they'd both downed their respective bowls, however, the brothers wore the same expression of silent suffering as Yachi. With the challenge a little less than halfway complete, the three silently deliberated that they had to make an exit. They simply couldn't finish the job. Though Yachi worried how they would do this after taking the crowd's money for bets, Ouni had a mischievous glint in his eyes. A confident smile blossomed on his face and his bushy brows arched downwards.

His expression was clearly a signal for some sort of clever getaway, but Yachi just didn't know how the brothers would go about it. Finally, Ouni made his move.  He took hold of the hat he used to collect the donations...and vomited inside of it. The cackling crowd was quickly hushed by Ouni's apparent sickness, followed by Yuto's quick, sympathetic response.

"Hey, are you okay?! Ouni?! Answer me!" Yuto shouted, rubbing his brother's back.
"Ouni!" Yachi worriedly exclaimed, shooting up from her chair.

Ouni's face remained buried in the hat as his brother stood and guided him towards the exit.

"Oh dear, is your brother okay?" The waitress asked.
"I don't think so, he looks really pale! I'm sorry, but I need to get him home immediately!" Yuto replied with panic. "Yachi, can you help me walk him?"
"Of course!" Yachi answered, throwing one of Ouni's arms over her shoulder.

Within seconds, Yachi and the brothers made their exit from the bar, leaving the crowd to laugh in their absence. Just as they had all thought, the brothers didn't have what it took to challenge Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki. Their cheers brought thunder to the bar once more as they celebrated their victory with more alcohol.

"I knew those bastards were full of themselves! Serve's 'em, right!" a rugged wood cutter proclaimed.
"Hey, you don't think that kid was seriously ill, right? Like, deathly ill?" a young woman inquired as she clung to her husband's side.
"Did he look deathly ill when he was taking riling us up and taking those bets? Karma is as real as rain." answered a middle-aged man.
"Wait...the bets!" the woodcutter remembered. "Our coin was in that hat!"

The crowd was hushed again as they realized the brothers had just walked off with their money despite losing. Everyone made way for the exit, rushing outside to try and catch up to those two swindlers. Alas, when they stepped out into the street, all they found were blankets of cold, morning snow covering the ground and descending from the grey sky above their heads. Some of them looked to the tracks left in the snow, searching for three tracks linked closely together, traveling in the same direction. It would've been the dead giveaway to their location. However, their united tracks broke up as soon as they made those first few steps onto the snow. The brothers had split up with Yachi in tow, making their tracks impossible to distinguish from the all the others etched into the snow.

"Those thieving bastards!" the wood cutter yelled, his voice echoing into the gelid air.

Crouching behind a cobblestone wall surrounding one of the plantations, Yachi and the brothers quietly giggled to themselves as they heard the wood cutter's shout from afar.

"You two knew you couldn't actually beat the challenge!" Yachi laughed, realizing the brothers's true intentions.
"Of course not!" Yuto replied. "That crowd of ninnies and drunks don't deserve the honor of watching someone best that ridiculous pot of food!"
"It's better to just steal from them, y'know." Ouni added, leaning in to the conversation. "We've been planning this one for about a week now! The Great Upchuck Heist!"
"Quite a dangerous name, no? Fit for swindlers like us!" Yuto suggested.
"Well, they certainly won't want their coin back after that. In that sense, I will admit it was an ingenious plot. Well done, but I wouldn't call it a heist. It's not like you broke into the Shogun's treasury." Yachi said, downplaying their inflated victory a tad bit.
"Shogun's treasury, bar full of idiots. What's the difference?" Yuto shrugged. "At any rate, we're gonna head back home and wash our coin. We probably shouldn't let ourselves be seen around the bar again."
"Thanks for all your help, Yachi. We'd give you a cut of the profit, but..." Ouni stammered.
"No...I'm not a thief. Even if I was, I couldn't accept such a...gracious offer." Yachi politely rejected. "Besides, I didn't even know I was helping you steal from the bar. I legitimately thought we were taking on Kobayashi's challenge."

The three of them stood up, preparing to go their separate ways.

"But you can't say you didn't have fun, right?" Yuto asked rhetorically. "All's well that ends well!'
"And with that, we make our exit." Ouni saluted. "Farewell, Yachi!"

Yachi smiled as the two sneaked their way home, using the crops on the plantation as cover. She vaulted over the cobblestone wall, landing back on the dirt road as she brushed the snow off of her robes.

"Kameyama...really is something else." she giggled quietly. "The snow is endless, the thieves are clever, and the sukiyaki is divine."

Ah, this is like a literary game of Civilization. I'd join if my political writing hadn't taken a nosedive as of late.

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: June 22, 2018, 01:54:28 AM »
I done got gud lol Thanks, I’m still trying to find the best tone for my voice

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: June 22, 2018, 01:42:42 AM »

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: June 19, 2018, 11:13:37 PM »
Okay, I've been getting this question quite a bit

So...About the "Other" Izanami in the Crypt...
This is a twist I've been implementing the build up to in the main story, and revealed fully in Book of Phantoms. At one point, there were two Izanami's alive at the same time. One, the pale-skinned, walking corpse you all know and love, and the other alive and well.

Izanami was said to have died after giving birth to Kagutsuchi, a birth which resulted in her being engulfed by flames and burnt into just a little more than a skeleton. Grief stricken, Izanagi decapitated the infant Kagutsuchi in his rage, but was surprised to find that this didn't kill the child. The decapitation only resulted in the brief release of Kagu's Onibi, a supernatural 'soul flame' in Japanese mythology. This soul flame would later grow far more powerful in Senkumo War Stories and become the Tempest Flame, fueled by Kagutsuchi's rage and jealousy towards Tsukiakari. This flame returned into the infant's body after its brief showing and Kagutsuchi's wounds healed just as Izanami's would heal in the main story. Izanami's charred corpse was interred into a crypt Izanagi and Mizuhame constructed.

Unable to cope with the loss of his wife, Izanagi ventured into Yomi to get Izanami back, only to find her in a rotten state and flee from her, as the classic Shinto story goes. Izanagi sealed the entrance to Yomi with a boulder and the two had a heated argument that ended in their divorce, completing the separation of Life and Death. Mizuhame would later try a second attempt at retrieving her mother, but she died in the perilous journey through Yomi (hence why Osamu would later find Mizuhame's gourd in the Underworld). And then Izanagi was killed off by Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi since he was effectively broken and useless following his divorce from Izanami. The corpses of both were retrieved and placed in the crypt with Izanami's remains.

All the while, unknown to anyone else, Izanami's remains were actually slowly regenerating inside of the crypt. After all, Izanami's body came from a point in time when death was not really a thing yet. The thing is, Izanami never really "died" per se. Her body was severely damaged to the point of unresponsiveness, but she never actually passed away because her "death" occurred during a time when the concept of Death was still incomplete (she was the one in charge of creating it, after all  :ninja:) Hence why Izanagi can get murdered but Izanami can revive. The former's death occurred after Izanami completed Death as a form of revenge against her husband.

Anyway, the corpse heals over the years until Izanami is back to her old self again, only to find she's been locked in a crypt with her family's remains. I know this all sounds convoluted, but this is actually based off yet another aspect of Japanese mythology.

There's this kind of supernatural being called an Ikiryo (lit. "Living Spirit"). This is the soul of a person who has not died that has escaped from the body. This is opposed to a soul escaping from the body of a person who is deceased. The spirit takes on the form and shape of its originator and can be malicious, good, or just wander around possessing people to trick another person into falling in love with them (<--- This was actually a story in Japanese mythology. Hilarious stuff.)

Ikiryo was later thought to be a sort of supernatural illness during the Edo period. This was called Rikonbyou, "Soul-Separation Illness" or Kage no Yamai, "Shadow-Sickness". This phenomenon occurred when part of the soul of a living person would separate from the body and take the form of the sufferer, unbeknownst to them. This basically resulted in a doppleganger effect where there would be two of someone living at the same time. This is essentially what happened to Izanami. Her "death" during a time when death didn't fully exist resulted in her being afflicted by Shadow Sickness instead of her, you know, dying.

In the end, the real Izanami would sacrifice herself by using her body as a vessel for the then-bodyless Kagutsuchi, while the Phantom Izanami would continue to live, assuming the form and identity of the woman that spawned her. No one was ever able to kill Phantom Izanami because of this, nor were they able to kill Kagutsuchi despite her gaining a body after Death was a thing. Originally, no one found any of this out, but The End of Osamu Ashikaga is being greatly changed and expanded upon to include everyone finding out Izanami's dirty little secret.

These events forced Phantom Izanami to do much more than just assume the identity of the real Izanami. She really had to become her. A dead, vengeful, and then loving version of her. It's why she values the concept of names so highly. It's why she fought so hard to redeem the identity she sullied, the identity given to her by her originator.

So, is the Izanami we meet in the very first chapter of Aika Crisis actually Izanami? Well...not...really? Maybe? Yes? It really depends on how you feel about it. It's all about how you define Izanami. It certainly doesn't matter to Osamu. Be it the real Izanami or a phantom husk that simply took her form, he loves her for the person that she strived to define herself as.

This twist was originally meant to be applied to Osamu  :clapping: Lucrezia was originally meant to afflict Osamu with the Soul Separation Illness in order to create the same effect. The fake Osamu would act in the real one's stead following his defeat during the Inari Standoff. The real Osamu would be hidden away out of the country, healing and lying low from the people who wanted him dead following the incident (LITERALLY EVERYONE). The fake would carry out his will and die in his place.

However, it was decided that this was just a slap in the face for Osamu's character development. I didn't want the last thing he ever truly did to be to run away from his life and family knowing that a decoy would take care of anything anyway. It was better to give it to Izanami. That way, the story would be about...well...the end of Osamu Ashikaga and how that changes him. Then the twist could provide a separate conflict that serves as the underlying fuel for all of her insecurities displayed throughout the story.

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: June 15, 2018, 10:50:54 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: Her Morning
Having paid for her room and completed all of her tasks for the day, Yachi readied herself for bed. Standing at the foot of her futon, she plopped her travel bag down on the floor and withdrew her black jinbei from it. She loosened her obi, reaching inside of her robes and removing her hidden short blade. Sighing as she set the sheathed blade beside her bag, Yachi pulled her robes off of her shoulders, letting them fall at her feet. She held up her wrist, gazing at her beaded bracelet with a smile.

"My first time sleeping in a Kameyama inn, during the winter no less." she whispered.

Yachi then sat down on the futon and put on her jinbei, her mind focused on the tasks of tomorrow. A small part of her felt uneasy having confirmed the presence of Ashikaga soldiers in the area. It only highlighted how vital it was that she kept her ties to the Senkumo clan as discreet as possible.

"Tsukiakari was right. The Senkumo clan has enemies everywhere. In the worst case scenario, it wouldn't be too hard for the Ashikaga to barge into this room and arrest me. I wonder if this is what she went through for all those years when she was our commanding lord. Gekko worked hard to keep us all safe from our foes, didn't she..."

With her jinbei on and her eyes heavy with exhaustion, Yachi let out a long, tiresome yawn. She blew out her bedside lantern and laid down in her futon, her face caressed by the moonlight faintly passing through her paper window.

"Early day tomorrow..." she muttered, drifting off into her slumber.

Much like her snowy journey through high hills and flat plains, her first night sleeping in Kameyama was nothing short of tranquil bliss. The first rays of sunlight broke through the easternmost windows of her room, scattering the darkness that lulled her to sleep. Her eyes slowly peeled open, her vision blurred. She sat up in her futon, yawning as she stretched out her arms. The first stretch of the morning was cathartic, releasing all the pressure and stiffness in her shoulders and back. She opened her bedside window, resting her arms on the sill as she watched the snow gently tumble from their clouds. Though the sun had emerged to awaken her, she knew it would surely hide behind the clouds again, shying from her yearning eyes like an elusive lover.

There was something unspeakably divine about the cold darkness of winter. She had always favored the spring and summer, and not even the previous winter changed that preference. It was this particular winter, this icy paradise before her, that showed her the beauty in darkness. Then suddenly, her belly let out an embarrassing growl from beneath her jinbei, as if screaming at Yachi to get some breakfast.

"I'm starving...but I don't quite have time for breakfast right now. I need to meet the farmer today and talk to him about his yields." she said to herself, her stomach angrily growling in response. "Pull through, stomach! I promise we'll get some food, but we've got work to do first."

With that, Yachi got herself out of her jinbei and back into her black robes. Like yesterday, she hid her short blade beneath her robes in case she ran into any trouble. Within a half our, she was all set and out the door, leaving her belongings behind in her room. Knowing the other patrons of the inn would still be asleep at that early hour, she walked sneaked through the halls and down the stairs into the lobby. It seemed hardly anyone was awake yet, as even the lobby was completely empty.

She departed from the inn and descended the hill, following the frosty dirt road back into town. Just as she thought, the clouds soon blocked the sun, snuffing out its deep orange rays of morning light. She continued straight down the road instead of making the right into the heart of the town. This route took her through the snow-coated farmlands, where several plantations were lined up against both sides of the road. Some plantations were larger than others, while some even had small houses built on them, implying peasants could own some land in this town. Yachi examined the gleam of flowing water in the distance to her right, towards the direction of the Hozu river. The water started as a single stream, cutting into the bottom of the rice plantation. It branched out into several smaller streams, stretching across the rice plantation like veins in one's hand. The streams naturally sectioned off parts of the plantation, cutting it up into a series of tiny islands rather than a single, solid piece of land.

"So this area is part of a polder? That explains why the heart of town is at a slightly higher elevation." Yachi whispered to herself, squatting down to examine the soil. "Peat. Lots of it. I thought it might be a good idea to help them collect excess peat and use it for fuel, but that might be a little too dangerous. Something tells me a town that depends so heavily on wood for their construction of buildings ought to stay away from a heat source as volatile as peat. Hmmm..." Yachi continued, talking quietly to herself.

Yachi stood up, looking around her as she rubbed her chin, her mind running laps in her head.

"It would be nice if we bartered with the farming community as a whole here, instead of paying a single farmer and his workers for yields. Wait!" Yachi shouted, snapping her fingers. "I've got it!"
"Got what?" a man suddenly asked her.

Startled, Yachi gasped in surprise. She turned around and met eyes with a short, middle aged man in a straw hat and grey jinbei. His thick eyebrows and narrow eyes gave him a slightly intimidating expression, as if he was angry or suspicious of her. He stood a bit taller her with his back perfectly straight, impressively good posture for a wetlands farmer.

"Oh, you must be...Jinbei..." Yachi said as she scanned the man's appearance. She understood immediately why he referred to himself as Jinbei in his letter.
"Yes, a terrible name, I know. Please understand, I must remain anonymous when dealing with your clan. The Ashikaga aren't exactly friends with you, I assume." Jinbei quipped. "So, you're interested in my yields?"
"Yes, that's why I came. I understand you can grow an exorbitant amount of rice, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. The Senkumo clan would like to arrange a deal for a portion of these yields. For the most part, our forces seek grain and vegetables." Yachi explained.
"I can supply you with at least seven sacks of rice, and that's if the yield is unfavorable. Under optimal conditions, I can supply you with twice that amount. We have an assortment of vegetables here, but I'm afraid I must limit your selection on those. The Ashikaga, you see. They've enforced quotas on most of the vegetable yields to be given to their forces." Jinbei sighed.
"That's fine." Yachi instantly replied. "What vegetables can you offer us? We'll take anything we can get."
"I can give you around a two dozen sugar beets, two and a half dozen heads of cabbage, some turnips, and radishes. During the winter, I can also supply six sacks of potatoes. I'd give you much more if the Ashikaga weren't breathing down our necks. Of course, I expect a respectable sum in exchange for the crops."

Yachi examined the farmlands around her, particularly the peat at her feet. Her eyes surveyed the corn stalks swaying in the breeze and the few farmers out in the fields, shoveling heaps of snow on top of their soil beds. It quickly dawned on her that Jinbei either wasn't thinking the entire transaction through, or he was being dishonest.

"You mean to tell me you can move that amount of produce, undetected by the Ashikaga?" Yachi curiously asked. "A respectable sum is that last thing you need right now. In fact, it's going to be difficult to explain the sudden boom in income to the Ashikaga, isn't it?"
"I have a team of young farmers in my employment. They're capable of moving the produce you desire. You also don't need to worry about the money. I can keep it hidden should the Ashikaga come knocking upon my door." Jinbei confidently responded.
"Jinbei..." Yachi groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I cannot complete such a politically sensitive transaction like this, not off of the back of a single farmer's word alone. You're going to be smuggling supplies to a clan that is currently at war with the Ashikaga. I must be certain that the logistics match the gravity of the situation. So, Jinbei, here's what I see happening."

Yachi pointed her finger to the decayed soil all around them, carelessly shoveled to the edge of each plantation. Jinbei wore a perplexed expression, failing to understand Yachi's point.

"The dead soil? What about it?" Jinbei questioned.
"You need logistical support. The Senkumo clan can provide it. Our men can enter the town undercover as your employees. They can smuggle the produce within the peat and bring it back to base. The Ashikaga aren't going to be very suspicious of carts of peat leaving the town. If we play this ruse right, we can smuggle out much more produce than you originally advertised. The Ashikaga won't suspect a thing. In exchange for keeping your neck safe from an Ashikaga blade, I suggest you lower your expectations of monetary reward and accept our logistical support as part of your payment. We are going through the trouble of sending our own men to labor on your farm, making it healthier in the process. Or, should you refuse, the Senkumo can contact a dozen other land owners and just ask them for a share of their crops. It would be a much safer and simpler deal."
"...You're just like all the other bands of uncivilized mercenaries out there. Shrewd until the very end." Jinbei hissed. "That root evil in you never changes, no matter if your master is a god or a man."
"The deal, Jinbei." Yachi growled with furrowed eyebrows.

The two stared each other down, neither of them blinking or moving an inch. They remained locked onto each other's eyes for several minutes. Neither wanted to stand down. Ultimately, Jinbei sighed and averted his gaze as he conceded the negotiation. He couldn't dare risk upsetting the Senkumo, a clan he knew already was filled with evil.

"Fine. I accept the arrangement. We'll need at least eight of your men to smuggle the goods out of town. Four of them will handle the peat carriages." Jinbei groaned.
"Thank you, Jinbei. They'll also be acting as your bodyguards, so you won't have to worry about the big bad Ashikaga knocking on your door. I'll inform our higher-ups what we've agreed upon here. In the meantime, you are to keep this meeting a secret. I wouldn't consider it above you to cry wolf to the Ashikaga in hopes of getting out of one deal and into another. You may have remained anonymous, but we know where your property is. Remember that." Yachi threatened with an innocent smile and bright tone of voice.

In respect of their newfound arrangement, Yachi and Jinbei bowed their heads to each other and went their separate ways. Yachi sauntered back the way she came, letting out a long sigh as she returned to the heart of town. It was like a weight had lifted off of her shoulders and neck, and she was free to let loose. She stopped just outside the riotous town bar, leaning against its front wall as she stretched out her arms.

"I was really hoping I wouldn't have to threaten someone just to make a damned deal. I guess that's not always possible, is it?" Yachi asked herself. Despite the tension of the negotiation, a gleeful smile slowly carved itself onto her chilled face, reddened by the cold. "Regardless, the job is done. Now all I have to do is have a good time and find some azaleas! I can't wait to see Chiya's face when I come back home!"

Just as she was getting all excited about her surprise, two young men suddenly barged out of the bar, looking around for whoever they thought could help them. As soon as they spotted Yachi, they called out to her with their labored breath and sweating faces.

"Hey, you there!" One of them called out, startling the unsuspecting Yachi.
"Huh? Can I...help you?" Yachi asked, shocked and terrified.
"We need help eating Kobayashi's Insurmountable Sukiyaki! We only need one more person to join us! Want to help? It's free food!" the other man excitedly explained.
"Insurmountable...Sukiyaki?!" Yachi asked with stars in her eyes. Sukiyaki was all she needed to hear after such a cold and busy morning. Of course, the cherry on top of such a sweet sound was the word 'free'. Without even much thought behind it, Yachi accepted with the same amount of energy the men had.
"I'll do it! Let's conquer this Insufferable Sukiyaki!" she shouted, clearly already forgetting the name of the dish.

A full day of wonder and winter fun awaited her. What better way to start than with a hot pot full of Sukiyaki?

MR Pub / Re: Translate the above japanese post
« on: June 04, 2018, 06:06:32 PM »
Oh lol the “sh*t” in Hajimemash*te got censored

MR Pub / Re: Translate the above japanese post
« on: June 04, 2018, 06:05:03 PM »
Not true actually. Suki and Daisuki, are treated as nouns in Japanese, not verbs. So if you like someone or something, Suki desu is the right way to say it. Even if you’re saying you like someone or something the most, you’d still treat it as a noun. X ga(or wa) ichiban-suki desu. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about whether someone is saying they like you or if they’re name is Suki either. Suki seems like it would be a first name, and introductions in Japanese start with the surname anyway. “Hajimema*censored*e, namae wa Kirigawa Suki desu. Kyou kara yoroshiku-onegaishimasu” something like that so it’ll all make sense in context.

While we’re at it, you can go ahead and try to translate that.

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: June 02, 2018, 11:18:26 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: Springtime in Winter
Weary from her travel, Yachi marched down the road into the heart of the quiet town of Kameyama, eager to find a caretaker for her horse. Almost everyone she walked by was tightly wrapped in colorful kimonos, using their oil-paper umbrellas to keep the snow at bay. Merchants to her left and right beckoned their potential customers, hoping to sell them chopped wood for their fireplaces, oil for their furnaces, and bundles of straw to reinforce their rooftops against the snow. Yachi continued down the road, delighted by the cheers and hollers booming from the inside of the bar to her right, where the men gathered to drink hot sake together. She returned her gaze to the road, spotting the town stables just a few steps ahead.

"Here we are! This is gonna be your stop, big boy." Yachi said to her horse, which responded by blowing more air through its nose. "What? Don't give me that face. They'll take good care of you, I promise. Just don't give them a hard time, alright?"

Yachi passed through the opened gate with her horse, greeted first by a large, wide-open space for the horses to exercise. Across from her was the barn house where the horses stayed, safe from the piling snow. Yachi turned her head to her immediate left, noticing a middle-aged lady inside of what seemed to be an administrative building. The lady smiled as she spotted Yachi through the doorway of the building, folding loose strands from her head of sable hair behind her ear. She walked towards the door and put on her sandals before coming outside to meet Yachi. Her bright red kimono made her stand out like a drop of blood among the pure white snow.

"Hello!" the lady sang. "How may I help you?"
"Hi, I'm looking to get this big boy some shelter for the next four days. I'm here on business and need someone to look after him." Yachi explained.
"Of course! We have plenty of room for him. May I get your name?"
"Yachi Otonougi."
"A pleasure, Yachi. Come inside with me and I'll have my husband take your horse to the stables."
"I appreciate it, Ma'am." Yachi said as she politely bowed.

The two went back inside, leaving their sandals at the door. The lady, though adorably small, proved her voice to be thunderous as she yelled out for her husband.

"Dear, we have a customer! Her horse is out front!" she shouted.

The sliding doors across from the entrance flung open, releasing the smell of steamed pork dumplings into the rest of the building. An older man came rushing out, his silver hair neatly combed backwards. His beard covered most of his chin and lips, somewhat masking his smile as he bowed to Yachi.

"Welcome! My name is Reo, and this is my wife, Hinata. We'll be taking care of your horse together." he said.
"Thank you. Please treat him well." Yachi said, bowing to Reo.

While Reo ran off to retrieve the horse, Hinata returned to the service counter and withdrew a piece of parchment from the drawer.

"Yachi, was it? You said you'd like the horse to stay here for four days?" Hinata asked.
"Yes, that's right. What are you rates for the wintertime?"
"Normally, it's more expensive during the winter when our stables are packed. This year has been pretty light, so we won't be charging you much. It's 60 mon per day. Multiplied, by four, that's 240 mon." Hinata explained.
"Oh, that's excellent! I thought it would be a lot more expensive." Yachi cheered.
"Does your horse have any conditions, illnesses, or allergies?"
"Nope, he's perfectly healthy. He just gets a little antsy if he's left alone for a long time, so please be sure to give him lots of attention and time to play."
"Will do!" Hinata replied as she jotted down Yachi's and her horse's info onto the parchment with her fountain pen.
"Ummm...excuse me for asking, but this is my first time in Kameyama. Do you know the best place for me to find lodging? I'd like to keep this trip as cost effective as possible."
"Oh, I see! When you leave here, make a left and keep walking until you get to Yamazaki's Inn. It's only 200 mon per night. There's another inn if you take a right and go up the hill. They have hot springs, a dining area, and bigger rooms for 600 mon per night. Yamazaki's is great if you're just making a short trip, but the winter is expected to get even colder here. I'd honestly spend the money and have access to a kotatsu and hot springs." Hinata explained.
"I guess you're right." Yachi sighed with a smile. "I'm gonna have to just spend the money. Thank you for the advice."
"No problem! Would you like to pay by the day or pay all at once?"
"Oh, I'll pay all at once. I might not have the time to come down every day."

Yachi withdrew two stringed bundles of 100 mon each, as well as 40 loose mon from her bag, handing them to Hinata.

"Four days from now, I'll be here in the morning to pick him up." Yachi said.
"Understood. We'll have him all ready for your return. Thank you for your patronage, and enjoy your visit to Kameyama. Stay warm out there!" Hinata cheered, bowing goodbye to Yachi.
"I'll try, thank you!" Yachi sang as she waved goodbye.

With that out of the way, Yachi departed from the stables and marched back onto the streets. She yawned as she stretched her arms up into the air. All that was left was to check herself into the inn.

"Make a right and up the hill, she said." Yachi recalled to herself.

As she began her walk, she came to a startled stop as two heavily armored guards turned onto her street, both of them carrying sheathed blades at their hips. Their breastplates were made of fastened leather, while their faulds consisted of small plates of steel connected by leather strings. Yachi took one glance at their flat, disc-shaped hats as they walked by her, noting the Ashikaga clan crest decorating them. Her heart rate shot up and her veins pulsated wildly in her wrists. Instinctively, she reached her for the short blade hidden beneath her robes, stopping herself only as they passed by her without a word.

"Ashikaga presence here is light, but they're finely equipped for the winter." Yachi observed. "Sis was right. I ought to be careful here."

With a sigh of relief, Yachi continued up the road and into the hill, reaching the inn Hinata spoke of. From the outside, the inn resembled the fierce and majestic appearance of a castle with its multi-storied structure and curved rooftops. Situated on the hill, the inn was surrounded by a variety of trees and shrubs, all of them coated in snow and icicles. Two cheery trees decorated the entrance with most of their blossoms gone, leaving its remaining buds trapped in ice. Interestingly, there were several tanuki statues sitting at the entrance, fully colored and smiling at guests.

Yachi opened the front door and walked inside, triggering the customer bell above her head. Red paper lanterns hung on the walls, illuminating and warming the interior. Yachi left her sandals at the door and walked inside, emerging into the reception area from the entrance hallway. Though it was a given that much of the structure was made of wood, Yachi took notice of how clean and polished the wooden floors were in the lobby. It smelled only of green tea and strong incense, with no noticeable flaw or blemish on the interior. The ceiling was high and the lobby spacious, forcing an excited smile on Yachi's face.

Yachi was then immediately greeted by a young woman in a fancifully colorful kimono. The woman's chestnut colored hair was kept in a neat bun as she bowed and welcomed Yachi inside, smiling all the while.

"Good evening, and welcome!" The young woman greeted.
"Good evening! I'd like to rent a room here for four days. I'm in Kameyama on business. Do you have a room for one?" Yachi asked.
"We do indeed. Would you like to see the rooms we have available? I can give you a tour while we're here, if you wish." the young woman temptingly offered.
"I'd love a tour! I was just at the stables down the road and the lady there sang your praises! I heard you have hot springs available here?"
"Yes we do! Come, I'll show you."

The young woman guided Yachi down the hall, opening a sliding door leading to a small, snow-covered garden. As they stepped outside, Yachi was startled by the sharp sound of bamboo striking a rock, as well as the sounds of water splashing. She looked over to the left, noticing the bamboo rocking fountain in the middle of the garden.

"Ah, during the spring and summer, we get deer here and they like to graze the plants and eat the fruit. We use the rocking fountain to scare them away. It's called a shishi-odoshi." the woman explained.
"Ohhh! I haven't seen those in a while! I helped my parents build one of those when I was a child!" Yachi gleefully recalled.
"Of course, its winter, so we've taken all of our fruits inside and potted whatever flowers we could."
"Oh, would you guys happen to have any Azaleas potted?" Yachi asked.
"Azaleas? I don't believe so, but there's several florists in town that most likely have some azaleas. You should try asking them." the woman advised.
"Thank you! I think I will, whenever I have the time."

The woman guided her through another sliding door into a separate building. Cubbyholes containing pairs of rolled, white towels stood tall in the center of the room. Two more sliding doors, one directly ahead and another to the left, remained closed.

"This is where you pick up your towels. The larger towels are for your body, for when you need to dry off. The other, much smaller towel is a modesty towel." the woman explained.
"Ohh, to cover your privates. Wait, so...do I cover my breasts, or do I cover down there?" Yachi asked.
"Down there. The hot springs are split by gender, so you'll only be surrounded by women. Normally, your fellow women won't mind if your breasts are exposed, but please be sure to cover your genitalia."
"Ah, alright. Got you." Yachi replied with a nod.
"The door directly ahead leads you to the women's hot springs, and the door to the left is the women's changing room. There are cubbyholes in there for you as well, so you can fold your clothes and leave them there."

The woman opened the door to the hot spring, the first Yachi had ever seen. It was a natural hot spring situated outdoors, the steam clearly visible in the cold air. Several women soaked and conversed in its warm waters, giving brief glances to Yachi and the woman as they walked by. As badly as Yachi wanted to stop and take in the sight of the hot spring itself, she was all too aware what that would look like with several naked women bathing in it. As such, she contained her excitement, giggling and squealing under her breath.

"Here is the women's hot spring. The men's section is much further down, so you have a great amount of privacy here. We also have a women's indoor bath if you don't like being outside. The same rules of modesty apply there." the woman explained.
"This is so cool! I've never been to a natural hot spring before! The steam is so refreshing in this season too!" Yachi cheered.
"I'm glad you like it! You can come here whenever you like. Access to the hot spring is free to all paying customers. Now let's show you to your room."
"Yes please!" Yachi sang, noticing even more tanuki statues around the entrance to the towel room. "You guys sure have a lot of tanuki statues here, you know", she giggled.
"Oh, that's because they like to visit sometimes. Have you ever seen them in person? They're like little raccoon-dogs!"
"Really? They sound so cute!" Yachi laughed.

Making their way back into the lobby, the woman quickly pointed to the large room across from the reception desk, its floor covered with tatami mats rather than bare wood. The room was lined with several round tables, and unsurprisingly, more tanuki statues sitting in the center of each table.

"This is the dining area. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. We also have alcoholic drinks available if you wish to order some, though they will cost you extra."

The woman then guided Yachi upstairs, walking her past several rooms until they reached a sliding door at the end of the hall.

"This is one of the rooms we have available for you. You don't share walls with anyone here, so you'll have the most privacy." the woman explained, opening the sliding doors.

Yachi stepped inside, wowed by the amount of open space and cleanliness present. It was as if the room was brand new, untouched by anyone until that very moment. A beautiful assortment of pink and blue hydrangea decorated the top of the kotatsu in the center of the room. A sliding door partitioned a smaller room with a futon and several blankets, meant to be one's bedroom and personal quarters.

"Every room is fitted with a kotatsu during this season. You'll be able to stay warm while you read or eat. A smaller room is available for you for when you want to sleep. This room is going for 600 mon per night, but since you're new here, we'd be happy to give you a rate of 525 mon per night as a special thanks for choosing to stay here." the woman explained.
"This is perfect for me! I'll take this room and the special rate! Oh man, I can't wait until I can dip myself into the hot spring!" Yachi squealed with red cheeks and stars in her eyes.
"Excellent! You're going to enjoy your stay here, Miss. Everyone that's come here has only ever said good things. So then, can I get your name?" the woman asked.

With a big huff and an even bigger smile, Yachi proudly told the woman her name, fully glad to be living in the moment.

"Yachi Otonougi! Please take good care of me!"

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: June 02, 2018, 11:17:22 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: The Heart Afire With Reminiscence
After returning to the Senkumo mansion later that day, Yachi waited until night to begin preparations for Kameyama. Her quarters, shared with her sister, was but a simple, square room with two futons, a table, and a shared drawer. She sat beside the drawer with an opened, round bag made of the same fabric as the common Senkumo robe. The mouth of the bag was lined with rope so it could be tightened until closed, and then worn around the shoulder or across the back. She was able to simply pick up her already neatly folded clothes and drop them in the bag. She could barely contain her giddy laughter as she packed her bag. All she could think about was finding the perfect azaleas for her sister and wowing her to tears with the gift. Maybe she'd even be rewarded with a 'Best Sister" medal for her stunning act kindness.

"Kameyama! All by myself too!" Yachi cheered with a whisper.

Her eyes caught sight of her prayer bracelet, made of small, sandalwood beads. They were painted with a dark red pigment, making the beads resemble raw red beans. Knowing there were most likely going to be temples in Kameyama where she could worship, she gladly took the bracelet and wore it on her left wrist. Along with her clothes, she packed her paring knife, pouches of dried fruit, and a small purse filled with coin. With everything ready, she tightened her travel bag and left it at the foot of her futon.

"Alright. I'm all set for the morning." Yachi sighed. "I've got warm clothes, food, and money. I should stay focused on successfully negotiating with the farmers for their yields. I can't get too excited about the gift just yet."

The bedroom door slid open, and a very exhausted Chiya took a single step inside.

"All packed up, Yachi?" Chiya asked.
"Yeah, I've got everything prepared." Yachi replied with a small smile.
"Excellent. I'll give you more coin tomorrow. You're to use it to help with the negotiations only. If you have anything left over after the fact, you can use it however you like."
"Thank you, Sis." Yachi said with a bow.
"Anyway, come outside with us. We're grilling chicken and beef skewers."
"Chicken?! Beef skewers?! Say no more! I'll be out in just a second!" Yachi cheered with a fire in her eyes.
"Exactly the kind of reaction I'd expect from you." Chiya laughed, nodding her head side to side.

Chiya departed, giving her sister a few minutes to ready herself for the food. About a dozen Senkumo sat around a crackling campfire in the snow-covered courtyard, enjoying their skewers and drinking hot sake. Under Tsukiakari, the younger recruits weren't allowed to drink alcohol, but under the Otonougi twins, they were permitted two shots of alcohol per night. Chiya never did explain why she decided to change the alcohol rule. Many of them thought she was simply trying to get the youth of the clan to like her more, seeing that she had big shoes to fill with Tsukiakari's absence. Others, primarily the older men and women, silently concocted their own explanations. Perhaps, after so many Senkumo children had died fulfilling their duties, allowing them to drink with the adults was a sort of acknowledgement. It was recognition that they were real adults, real soldiers, just as likely to die in battle as anyone else. When they thought of it that way, it seemed fair to let them drink, so they could know the taste of alcohol and savor it before they died.

Five little girls, five women, and two men sat around that fire, laughing as they shared stories and cracked jokes. The commotion was briefly interrupted when they noticed Chiya and Yachi walking towards them. The women made room for them on the chopped logs they used as seats, handing them skewers of meat with smiles on their faces.

"Just in time!" one of the young women whispered to them, her chestnut hair tied in a ponytail. "Gunba is telling another one of his stories!"

The Otonougi twins both took synchronous bites from their beef skewers, immediately giving their attention to Gunba, sitting straight across from them. As he told his tale, the cold air made his breath visible as it passed through his thick, black beard. His raven, shoulder length hair was tied into a messy bun, letting only a few groups of loose strands dangle in the breeze. He had only one eye to look at his small audience with, for the other was injured and hidden behind a black patch.

"After the skirmish, Hiro and I tried to escape through the woods, find our way back to the nearest friendly camp. But unlike this gentle winter before us tonight, the winter of that year was harsh and unforgiving. Our bones were so cold, it felt like they could snap like twigs if we did as much as bend over. Regardless, I saddled our horse and let it walk us over to an abandoned hut on the other side of the hill. The moon was high that night, almost as bright as the sun. Hiro was bleeding badly, and the cold air only made his wounds ache more. I carried him inside and lit a fire to keep him warm. I was able to tear off a piece of my robe and secure it around his stomach. It stopped the bleeding, but he was certain to die without medical help. All we could do was wait. Only wind-blast and snowstorms awaited us outside."

Everyone was captivated by his story thus far, their anxious eyes glued to his weathered expression.

"To keep him talking, I asked him all sorts of trivial questions. Where he was from, how life was back home, if he had any girlfriends. He said he was a mud-covered farm boy in Kameyama for 16 years before he ever even thought about girls! He was far more concerned with gathering daikon during the winter and making sure the chickens grew nice and fat!" he shouted with a smile, making the little girls laugh. "But he said that it was soon after his 16th birthday that he started seeing this girl he knew differently. Sakura was her name. They had been friends since their early childhood. Sakura was always the one protecting him, cleaning him off after a hard day in the fields, and putting warm meals in his stomach when his parents were away. He said that it took him 16 years, but he finally realized the beauty of that woman. Not just her physical beauty, but the beauty in her actions as well. She was a natural caretaker. She knew Hiro so well that she could calm him and soothe him in any situation. So, he spent a few days working up his courage. On the night of the full moon, he proposed to her, and she gladly accepted."

The acceptance of Hiro's proposal brought smiles onto the women's faces. Gunba's eyes turned towards his cup of hot sake as if he were looking right into the reflections of the past.

"Soon after he proposed, however, the Onin War broke out. As it dragged on with no clear results, manpower on both sides had fallen. He was among several young men to be conscripted by Yoshimi Ashikaga, leaving Sakura behind at Kameyama. He saw some horrific things in the war, but he survived it all. In the final years of the war, Hiro was  recruited by Lord Bishamon and brought into the Senkumo clan. He said he loved the idea of pledging his life to a god rather than a mortal lord that callously threw people's lives away into the furnace of war. And yet, while he served the Senkumo clan well, he still ached to see Sakura again, to apologize for being gone for so long. That battle in Arashiyama was supposed to be his last before he could return to Kameyama. We were so close to Kameyama, so I encouraged him to just hang in there, fight through the pain. If he did that, he'd surely be able to reunite with Sakura again. Alas...no such reunion ended up happening. He asked me to write down his final words, and to give them to Sakura. He used up all of his might just to draw breath and speak. His skin had gone pale and his lips as blue as the summer sky. Soon after he was done speaking...he passed away in my arms, uttering her name as he went."

Gunba closed his eyes, swallowing the sorrow of his reminiscence.

"I did as I was asked and delivered his final words to the girl. She had been waiting for his return to Kameyama for all those years, turning down other suitors left and right. She was just as he described her. Flawless porcelain skin, long, black hair like a princess. As one would expect, she broke down when she read the letter. But then, she...she quickly composed herself. She bowed and said she's forever grateful I was able to deliver his final words to her. She promised herself then and there, that even in death, Hiro would always remain her true love. There would be no other."

Gunba raised his cup of sake towards the fire's extending flames, smirking in memory of his late comrade.

"Here's to you, Hiro. May you rest in peace." Gunba saluted, the others also raising their drinks and cheering his name.
"Kameyama?" Yachi asked. "I'm going there tomorrow!"
"Is that so? Maybe you'll end up seeing Sakura there! I hear she sells flowers these days." Gunba said excitedly.
"Seriously?! Oh, thank goodness! I was going to..." Yachi stopped herself, realizing she'd almost ruined her surprise.
"You were going to what?" Chiya curiously asked.
"J-just looking around, that's all!" Yachi cried, nervously cutting the subject matter short.

One of the little girls trotted over to Yachi, raising her chicken skewer up to her face. Her small hand rested on Yachi's knee as she stood on the tips of her toes to reach just a little further.

"Yachi! Eat well before your trip!" the little girl cheered with a smile.
"Wow! You're giving that to me? That's so sweet of you!" Yachi replied. "Thank you so much! I'll be sure to eat as much as I can before tomorrow!"
"Don't eat too much." Chiya warned. "You know you turn into a lethargic wreck if you eat a lot of food in one sitting."
"Just like a man!" Gunba cheered in support.
"Why would you say that right in front of everyone?!" Yachi laughed.
"Revenge for your snoring comment the other day!" Chiya giggled.
"Those aren't the same, you traitor!" Yachi cried as everyone broke down in laughter.

The night was blessed by a seemingly endless stream of food, drink, and laughter. Even tales of bitter memories left behind a sweet appreciation for the life and happiness everyone had in that moment. The night died down as people went to sleep, and the darkness was ripped apart by the break of daylight. Chiya saw Yachi off outside of the main gate of the mansion, helping her climb onto her horse's saddle. All of the hills and mountains in the far distance seemed to be blanketed in snow as much as the roads and flat plains were. The whole country seemed like a true winter wonderland.

"Got everything you need? Warm clothes? Food? Knives and your sword?" Chiya asked, bringing up a whole checklist of essentials in her head.
"Yeah, I made doubly sure I packed everything when I woke up this morning. I'm all set to go!" Yachi assured.
"Alright. Try to be back in no more than seven days. It really shouldn't take you more than five. Secure a deal for the Spring and Summer yields and report anything else that might be of interest to us. And don't go around telling everyone you're from the Senkumo clan either! The Ashikaga still lurks around the area, so you'll only make yourself a target."
"Chiya, stop worrying about me so much. I'll be fine. I'll try to be back in five days. I might even bring you a cool souvenir!"
"You're the last person I'd expect to know about anything that's cool! Now go!" Chiya commanded with a smile, smacking the horse's behind to get it going down the dirt road.
"Have a safe trip, Yachi! Stay warm out there! I love you!"
"See you soon, Chiya! Love you too!"

Chiya watched as the horse carried her off into the sunrise, the breeze fluttering her hair in every direction. She couldn't help but feel relieved and a little proud of her sister. She was finally going on her own adventure.

Senkumo War Stories: Down the Hozu River
Delicate blankets of snow covered the land for as far as Yachi could see. Enchanted by the gentle snowfall, she reached out her hand as her horse trotted along the dirt road, catching snowflakes in her palm. The clouds seemed to stretch across the entire sky unbroken by light or space, hanging low above Yachi's head. The low hills in the distance brought a sense of wave-like rhythm to the farmland all around her, like an endless ocean of white. She removed the gourd hanging off the side of her saddle and took a few sips of water from it. Her eyebrows shot up as she felt solid fragments of ice pass through her lips.

"It's already starting to freeze? It's only been about an hour since I left." Yachi pondered.

She slung the gourd back over the saddle and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her robe, looking on at the road ahead. She spotted an elderly couple taking a walk along the side of the road, sharing a red oil-paper umbrella to shield themselves from the snow. Yachi pulled on her reins, stopping the horse in front of the couple.

"Pardon me, I'm traveling to Kameyama. Should I continue down this road, or is there a faster way to get there?" Yachi politely questioned.
"Oh, Kameyama's your destination? You can take the road if you like, but if you take make the right at the fork here, it'll lead you to a small dock on the Hozu river. You can take a boat ride along the river while they escort your horse to the village." the old man explained.
"They ride boats along the Hozu river?! Really?!" Yachi asked in disbelief, enthralled by the idea.
"They sure do! It's an especially wonderful ride during the autumn. The river is very calm and safe to ride for most of the year, too." the old woman added.
"Thank you! I'll try out the boat ride! Safe journeys to you!" Yachi cheered with her head bowed.
"Safe journeys!" the couple replied in unison, waving goodbye as Yachi trotted down the road.

Fireworks of excitement exploded in Yachi's palms. She was already happy enough to be traveling to Kameyama by herself, but learning she could ride a boat there made her trip even more exciting for her. Though some of the other Senkumo mansions closer to the coast had purchased boats, Tsukiakari's mansion had no reason to invest in such things. Being able to move large forces quickly across great expanses of land required the war goddess to turn her attention to horses, part of the reason why she brought the Otonougi twins in. Even if it was just a small boat gliding over a gentle river, Yachi couldn't contain her excitement for the mere idea of riding in it.

Shortly after making the advised right at the road's fork, Yachi began seeing more and more people walking around, even spotting some children playing in the snow. Young men in straw hats hauled baskets of produce on their backs, carrying them in the same direction Yachi was traveling. Looking over to her right, Yachi observed the dozens of men and women in the fields, still tending to their plantations. It all reminded her of her youth in Kyoto, raising animals and tending to some of the crops with her sister.

"Even in the wintertime, there's still work to be done in the fields. Certain vegetables can still be grown in this season if the soil has been prepared for it" Yachi said to herself, recalling what she learned as a child. "I'm glad I took this trip."

The next two hours of travel brought Yachi to a snow-covered grove just short of the Hozu river. She could already hear the whisper of rushing water in the distance. Sighing in relief, she ran her hands through her hair and hopped off of her horse. After over three hours of travel on top of her saddle, her body desperately needed the brief respite. Her feet sunk into the crunchy blanket of snow as they landed on the ground. She lifted her right arm into the air and bent her upper body to the left, groaning as she did so.

"Sitting on a saddle for three hours really is a killer on your behind. I think I'll walk the rest of the way."

And so, Yachi marched her horse down the grove, towards the sound of the Hozu river. She repeatedly yawned and rubbed her trembling eyes with her knuckle, finally starting to feel the effects of her travel now that she was on her feet. All she could think about was getting in a boat and enjoying a nice cruise down the river, as well as how nice it was of the elderly couple to give her such useful advice. With all her yawning, Yachi didn't think she would've survived riding any longer on the main road.

When the Hozu river finally came into her view, her tired eyes found their energy again, and a smile pushed her cheeks upwards. The river's current gently slithered between a maze of rocks protruding from the water, and all of the trees hanging off of the forested hills were stiff with ice. The hills hugged closely to both sides of the river, creating a snug hallway of frost-covered trees.

"Oh! I get it now! This must be Arashiyama!" Yachi proclaimed.

She then spotted an old, bald-headed man stepping onto a small boat by the dock the elderly couple mentioned, rushing towards him with her horse.

"Hey! You there!" Yachi shouted, getting the old man's attention. He wiped the snowflakes off of his black robes and bowed to Yachi as she approached.
"You look exhausted!" the old man observed. "Are you looking for a boat ride?"
"Yes! Are you heading to Kameyama?"
"I sure am! You can leave your horse here. My son will escort it safely to Kameyama."

A much younger man approached from behind and bowed, his short black hair riddles with snowflakes. He was a towering young man with a muscular physique, gladly aiding his father in the business.

"Two mon for the ride, and two for the horse service!" the old man declared.
"Sure thing!" Yachi cheered, reaching for her coin pouch and paying both the old man and his son.
"Alright, it's settled! Hop aboard, young miss. Have you ever been down the Hozu before?" the old man asked.
"No, never! This will be my first time, so I'm really excited! How long is it from here to Kameyama?"
"A little under two hours. I recommend bringing some water and a snack with you, something to tide you over until we get there." the old man suggested.
"Ah, a wise idea! I'll bring my gourd and dried fruits." Yachi said as she gathered those items out of the saddlebag. "Please take care of the horse." she said, bowing to the boat master's son.
"You can count on me." the son assured.

With everything ready and their transaction complete, Yachi and the old man were off, smoothly gliding downriver. The old man steered and controlled the boat's speed with a long oar, guiding the boat down every twist and turn. Yachi looked on at the surrounding hills and the rocks crowning at the river's shore with an exhilarated smile. The river itself had a certain aroma about it. It was like she could actually smell every element of the outdoors. The water, the snow, the frosted wood, the soaked rocks, all of it. She reached her hand over the boat and down into the river, instantly recoiling and giggling as the water chilled her fingers.

"Ah! It's so cold!" Yachi laughed.
"Yep, the river gets especially cold during the winter. Take care you don't numb your fingers, alright Miss?" the old man advised.
"Sure thing! I'll be careful."

There was a whole world outside of the Senkumo mansion, waiting to surprise and entice with its simplistic beauty. Yachi couldn't help but contrast this newfound peace to the continuous chaos back at base. There were no battles here. No deaths, no mob trials or executions. No sorrow, hatred, or guilt. There was only the sound of flowing water, gentle breeze that chilled her cheeks, and snowflakes that fell from the heavens like flower petals.

I bet this would be a great place to take the children. Maybe Sis and I could arrange a field trip for them, she thought as she closed her eyes, drifting off into a tranquil nap.

"So, Miss, what are your plans for Kameyama?" the old man asked.

After a few seconds of silence, he looked back at his passenger, seeing that she had fallen asleep with a subtle grin on her face.

"Sleep tight, Miss." he whispered with a smile.

The outdoors ambiance that lulled Yachi to sleep woke her up just two hours later. The raspy honks of seven red-crowned cranes resting by the snowy waterside pulled her right out of her slumber. She immediately sat up after realizing she had been asleep, catching a glimpse of the cranes as the boat passed them by.

"You're awake?" the old man asked. "We've just about arrived at Kameyama. See? There's your horse!"

Yachi rubbed her heavy eyes to clear up her vision, her head still spinning from being awakened so suddenly. The familiar neighs of her horse drew her eyes towards the old man's son, who waited at the Kameyama shore for Yachi's arrival. Yachi stood up as the old man docked the boat, leaping onto shore with a satisfied smile.

"You took care of him! I hope he wasn't too hostile to you. He doesn't take kindly to strangers." Yachi advised more than two hours later than she should have.
"Oh! Not at all! He's a very well-behaved steed. Did you train him yourself?" the son asked.
"I sure did! I..."Yachi stopped herself, remembering not to tell anyone about the Senkumo clan. "Horse breeding and training were hammered into my head ever since childhood. My parents worked with animals."
"Boy, stop yapping with our patron and get us some food! We're going upriver in two hours!" the old man commanded.
"Right away, sir! Thank you for your patronage, Miss! Please, enjoy your time at Kameyama." the son said with a quick bow.
"Thank you both! The ride was amazing! Safe travels!" Yachi cheered as she waved farewell.
"Farewell, Miss! It was a pleasure." the old man saluted as his soon waved goodbye.

Yachi walked her horse up the dirt path leading away from Hozu river, sighing with relief and exhilaration as it began to sink in that she really traveled to Kameyama in a boat. She could hear the faint sound of wood being chopped in the fishing village a little further downriver, the view blocked by a wall of bonsai and leafless maple trees to her right. She continued up the road with her horse until they reached a clearing, where the road diverged down multiple directions. It was there that her breath was taken away by the mere sight of Kameyama. Great, timeless mountains served as the backdrop for the town, all of them white with snow. Far ahead of her were the dark, wooden buildings and slanted, straw roofs she expected, serving as homes and places of business. Several people walked down every direction of the diverging paths, all of them transporting bamboo, wood, grain, and other valuable materials for the winter. She simply stood in silence, awed by the simple but effective beauty of Kameyama.

"It's even more beautiful than I thought it would be..." Yachi whispered, noticing she could see her own breath as the snow began to fall a little heavier. "Okay, don't get distracted, Yachi! For the first two days, we're on official Senkumo business. Firstly, I'm to find lodging, both for me and the horse. I should eat well and sleep early tonight. I'm supposed to negotiate for yields at first daylight. Still...I can't help but be a little excited!"

As if responding in kind, Yachi's horse gushed air through its nostrils and shook the snow out of its hair. She petted his face and the bridge of his nose, looking on towards the snow-blanketed town.

"Kameyama, here I am!"

Develop Your Story / Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« on: June 02, 2018, 11:14:14 PM »
So, there's something else I've been working on lately. Another addition to Senkumo War Story's Book of Betrayal. I've actually decided I want to have Senkumo War Stories printed and released first, so I've been working on that this whole time. May as well tackle the longest arc.  :ninja:

As I went through and edited Book of Blossoming, I added two more characters to Tsukiakari's "lordless" army. Chiya and Yachi Otonougi! The Otonougi Twins! I've introduced them in this reworked Book of Blossoming chapter

Senkumo War Stories: Masachika Togashi
That night, after Tsukiakari and all of the Senkumo orphans had gone to bed, Bishamon retired to his sacred room of worship. Strips of moonlight dazzled on the wooden floor and off of the golden bracelets and feather ear-rings of Hachiman, who surprised Bishamon with his unsolicited visit. Hachiman had merely waited for Bishamon, standing by the open, sliding door to the side of the room, listening to the sound of crickets and flowing winds. He smiled as if he owned the place, much to the lighthearted annoyance of the sighing Bishamon.

   “You have an awful habit of turning up uninvited, Hachiman. Didn't Amaterasu teach you any manners?” 
   “Well, a student is always indebted to his master, after all.” Hachiman replied with a light chuckle. 
   “What's yours is mine, huh?”
   “Now that’s the name of the game. But I didn't come here merely to be a bother. You've got some new support.”
   “Hmm?” Bishamon grunted curiously.
   “You may have already met these fellow gods, but nonetheless, they have been very eager to see you again. Like me, they want in on the fruits this Tsukiakari girl is bearing.” 

Bishamon's heavy steps creaked against the wooden floors until he stood beside Hachiman at the sliding door. Yet another pleasant surprise stared him in the face in the form of two cloaked and hooded deities. One of them spoke with a mighty and masculine voice that would be fit for a king, and characteristic of a clap of thunder. 

   “Bishamon...it's been a while.”

Bishamon, recognizing the faces of the cloaked gods standing before him, couldn't help but release the soft laughter welling in his chest. 

   “It's almost too good to be true…” Bishamon said with amusement.

(The travesty that was both engineered and suffered by the Senkumo clan, the cruel pet project of Bishamon, was more than just a consequence of the series of wars that was consuming the country. It was also the work of the very gods who were supposed to be protecting the mortals beneath them. In due time, I would come to know who those gods were that collaborated with Bishamon and aided him in the unforgivable sins he would commit. The next day, all of us were summoned to Bishamon's room in the early and deep blue hours of the morning. Most of us hadn't even washed our faces or rubbed the sleep out of our eyes as we all knelt before Bishamon. The hundreds of red cloud symbols printed on our kimonos and haoris all pointed to the ceiling as we knelt. I would force my eyes up from that uncomfortable position in the front row along with Taeko, Mayumi, and Ebina, just to get a peek at Bishamon's face. He seemed like he was purposely building the tension in the room by giving us only silence. It felt like so much as a sneeze would result in a death penalty.)

   “Tsukiakari Senkumo.”

(He called upon me, his voice like thunder in the deep silence.)

   “Yes!” She promptly responded.
   “Raise your head.”

Tsukiakari did exactly that, not even blinking as she stared Bishamon in the eyes. She could feel the nervous breaths of all the other Senkumo members beside and behind her, as if their hundreds of heartbeats droned within the room.

“I have come to a rather sudden, but necessary decision. You, Tsukiakari...shall become the Commanding Lord of the Senkumo clan.”

Though they kept their heads down and their lips sealed, the fellow members of the clan were silently shocked. Those words looked like their pierced Tsukiakari through her heart.

   “Me...the Commanding Lord?” She repeated in disbelief.
   “Of course, this will be a drastic change in responsibility. You’ll have your own Senkumo mansion, with only one worship room dedicated to me. Recruitment, collection of funds, supplying of troops, and handling of contracted support from the Senkumo clan will be up to you. However, I’m certain your army will be of use to you as you get used to being the Commanding Lord. And if you need my help, I’ll be glad to assist. Do you accept this position?”

(I could feel the excited glares of Taeko, Mayumi, and Ebina biting against my cheeks...)

   “I accept, Lord Bishamon!” She shouted proudly, bowing her head.

(Indeed, being the Commanding Lord was a tall task. But...it was exciting! Bishamon had some of his men build up the basic facilities of my mansion over the next few weeks. Barracks for the troops, a storehouse for food, training fields, a storehouse for weaponry and armor, stables, watch towers, personal quarters for me, a proper war room, and a medical ward. The facilities were there, but it was up to me to get the manpower to build the teams that would manage all of them. I began to learn that having my own army required a completely different skill set than just being a good war goddess. Half of my job didn’t even take place on the battlefield.)

With but a handful of troops and some starting money supplies by Bishamon, Tsukiakari sat down with Ebina, Taeko, and Mayumi in her basic and unfinished war room. Such a name might’ve elicited feelings of grandeur, of a great hall seating many great military minds, all of them meticulously planning out their strategy. But alas, this war room wasn’t all that big. Although relatively large when compared to the space of other facilities, the war room was about two and half bedrooms big, consisting of four sliding doors leading to the patio, which then led down to the large, unfinished courtyard.

The courtyard at that point only consisted of sun-beaten soil with not a hint of green grown out yet. Stone walkways divided the empty  flowerbeds, each walkway leading to a different facility. Tsukiakari’s men were hard at work on that clear, sunny, sweaty day, finishing up construction on the watch towers and planting seeds in the flowerbeds among other tasks. Though, “men” was just a general term for her troops. A sizable portion of Tsukiakari’s garrison were young women in their early teens and twenties, most of them handling on-base duties while others were intended to work as combat medics in the field bases and camps.

The sliding doors of the war room were wide open, letting the girls have a view of their base in the works and catch whatever gentle breeze the air was kind enough to relieve them with. The girls all sat around the tea table in the center of the room, putting all the pieces together.

   “How does it feel to be the Commanding Lord? Has it sunk in yet?” Mayumi cheerfully asked, a single bead of sweat dripping down her cheek.

Tsukiakari sighed as she thought of everything that had been added to her plate.

   “It has. That’s why I’m starting to think I should’ve rejected the position! I can’t believe how hard it is to actually manage all of this!”

Mayumi’s smile seemed to be born of pity than amusement.

   “That’s why we’re here, you big dummy.” Taeko teased. “Let’s just calm down and figure this out, alright? Maybe it would work best if you played to our strengths.”
   “You’re right, you’re right. Okay then, let’s start with you Ebina. What do you think you should be doing here now that we have our own mansion?”

(I could never get tired of her cute, deadpan face.)

   “Since I’ve been assigned on most intelligence gathering and infiltration missions, I think we would benefit greatly if I were the head of a Shinobi unit. I highly recommend we establish our own Shinobi unit and build an according facility near the mansion. I can handle the training of our own Shinobi as long as I have the facilities necessary. Equipment should be inexpensive as well. Farming tools is all we need.”
   “Ah, that’s true!” Mayumi added. “Gekko, we can get an edge on our foes if we have a Shinobi unit sending out and gathering information. You could also use them for assassinations, infiltrations, theft, and the more underhanded tasks that our standard troops can’t tend to.”
   “Alright,” Tsukiakari said with a sigh of relief. “I’ll allocate some funds for the construction of a Shinobi unit. As for our equipment...”

Mayumi shot up a raised hand in excitement, a pearly white grin decorating her face.

   “Looks like you have an idea, Mayumi?” Tsukiakari asked rhetorically.
   “I have a few connections we can use to supply our troops with weapons and armor! It’ll be standard gear, but if we can forge deeper relationships with the various families vying for power in the country, we can pay them to forge better equipment specialized for our soldiers. Let me handle the clan’s transactions, Gekko. I can take of weapon dealing, accounting for the clan’s money, and resource allocation, whether it’s money, supplies, or materials.”
   “Alright, if you think you’re up for it. You’re pretty well organized, so I think it’s actually a good fit.”
   “If I may,” Taeko interjected, “I’d like to tend to the training of our standard troops. Also, Gekko, it’s good to have the girls work as medics in the field, but we should have a medical staff stationed here at the mansion. I’d like to head the medical staff as well. It’ll be useful if our troops get sick, return injured, or...well, dead.”
   “Alright, so a Shinobi unit, Mayumi will handle resource allocation, Taeko will handle standard training, and a medical team stationed here at home. Got it. That makes everything a hell of a lot easier, guys. I appreciate you jumping into action like this.”
   “No problem, Gekko!” Mayumi cheered.

The four of them turned their heads towards a group of long haired little girls that had been standing there just outside of the war room for a while, all six of the little munchkins running off as soon as Tsukiakari saw them. Everyone else continued to work their butts off to make the new mansion a proper home.

   “The troops all look up to you now, Gekko, but especially the girls.” Taeko explained. “Despite not being able to participate in more direct combat roles, they’re determined to help the clan, to help you grow, in any way they possibly can. Keep that in mind, alright?”

(Being looked up to by all my troops... that was going to take a lot of getting used to. I was their beating heart, the soul of the army. They were able to fight because they believed in me. It was like I had suddenly become everyone’s big sister.)

   “Well then, everyone, let’s get to work. We’ve got a clan to build.” Tsukiakari rallied.

(Just as Bishamon said, the Senkumo clan saw an influx of disillusioned warriors, ambitious peasants, and orphaned children seeking to join the ranks of the Senkumo clan, an army without a daimyo. An army led by the virtuous will of a goddess. Taeko handled the recruitment screenings, using the medical team to check each and every person for illnesses and physical conditions that may need to be treated first. Then, she and I would interview them in the war room.)
The following few days were all about recruitment. On yet another searing, sun-beaten day, Tsukiakari and Taeko sat side-by-side on the tatami mats, fanning their sweat-covered faces with paper folding fans as they interviewed potential recruit after potential recruit. Next up were two young women in their late teens, sisters with matching bob hairstyles and the same bratty attitude.
   “State your names, please.” Taeko sternly and routinely asked.
   “I’m Chiya Otonougi and she’s my sister, Yachi Otonougi.” One of them explained. “You can just call us the Otonougi twins.
They certainly came off a little differently than most of the other potential recruits. They answered far more directly and boldly, as if the questions being asked of them were just a waste of time.
   "So then, do you have any skills that would be of use to the Senkumo clan?" Tsukiakari asked.
   "Seriously?" Yachi asked in disgusted shock. "Is she seriously asking if we have any valuable skills?"
   "Skill is in our very name. It's the 'nou' character in Otonougi." Chiya added in a rather bitchy tone. "Thought you would've figured that out just by hearing it."
   "Maybe they're both lordless and witless, Sis."
   "Oh heavens, what a tragedy." Chiya said with a sarcastic tear-wipe.
   "A tragedy indeed. But to answer your question, Chiya and I are both quite versed in the art of equestrianism and animal breeding."
   "Indeed. Our family owned horses in Kyoto and often sold them to the city's ashigaru. Made an absolute living off of the trade and taught us how to do it as well."
   "A Killing, Chiya. We made a killing."
   "A living, a killing, same difference, Yachi."

Wowed by their sisterly chemistry, Tsukiakari discreetly whispered into Taeko's ear to clarify a small issue.
   "Meaning they know how to ride horses professionally." Taeko elucidated.
Taeko questioned them further.
   "So then, say we needed a message delivered or an area scouted ahead of time. Are you saying you could ride the horses and perform those tasks?
   "Absolutely." Chiya confidently proclaimed.
   "And you can help breed more fine horses for us?"
   "Horses, chickens, any commonly domesticated mammal, really." Yachi clarified. "From there, my sister and I can also prepare horse's milk and eggs."
   "Impressive..." Tsukiakari remarked.
(The Otonougi twins were in.)
Moving on to the next recruit, the two were confronted by a rather senile old man with a cane, devoid of any hair on his head.
   "Alright, state your name please." Taeko asked.
   "Shu! Shu Rogingyu! Gimme a sword, I'll slay the Hosokawa bastards that ruined my home! I won't stop until they're all dead, until the rivers run red with their blood! I'll even take the whole army by myself! I won't rest! I won't hesitate! I-"
   "Okay, I've think we've heard enough." Taeko quickly interrupted.
(Not everyone was really all that useful to us.)
Then came a young girl in her mid-teens, blessed with chestnut-colored hair of shoulder length and dazzling, hazel eyes. She wore a bloodied bandage around her upper arm, having been treated for a previous injury.
   "State your name, please."
   "Ayadachi! My name is Ayadachi." She responded with a sweet tone of voice, unlike the Otonougi twins.
   "And what skills do you possess that you think would be beneficial to the Senkumo clan, Ayadachi?" Taeko continued.
   "Well, I'm primarily skilled in medicine. I can handle basic treatment of ill patients with the cold, flu, food poisoning, pneumonia, arthritis, among other afflictions. I can also treat injuries non-critical injuries by myself, be it in a proper medical ward or on the field."
   "A field medic?" Tsukiakari curiously asked.
   "Yes, if that's what you call it. I'm also good with children! I'm a good teacher, and I've noticed you have a lot of young ones here. I can teach them to read, write, handle basic duties around the mansion, and even get them started in medicine."
   "You sound like a very well rounded person for such a young age." Taeko remarked, having been impressed. "Why do you wish to join the Senkumo clan?"

Ayadachi hesitated, her fingers curling into her palm.

   "The Yamana clan exiled my father and I from Kozuke Province, under suspicion he aided the Hosokawa war effort against them. My mother was from the Hosokawa clan and had ties to some of their generals. They thought my family was giving them information that affected the battles in Kyoto. I haven't seen my mother since, and my father fought with the Hosokawa to protect me from the wrath of the Yamana. He never came back home. So, with the city in ruins, I didn't have any choice but to leave. I heard of the Senkumo clan through word of mouth. Some villagers said you were a military force without a daimyo and free from any influence of the warring clans. I suppose I thought I would be safer here than anywhere else, and I could help people while I was at it."

(There were many stories like hers. Stories of loss, revenge, and pain were a common thread among many of our recruits, especially the younger ones. Most of them wanted to escape that violence and seek safety within the Senkumo clan. They were willing to become soldiers themselves if they had to, for they felt that fighting under the wing of a war goddess was a far better way to die than to be thrown into battle by a callous war lord, or executed by a paranoid general.)

   "Alright, you're in." Tsukiakari said. "You can prove your skills by helping our medical staff treat some of the new recruits here. You'd better live up to everything you've told us, Ayadachi."
   "Of course! Thank you so much!" Ayadachi cheered with her head bowed and eyes filled with tears.

Constant, never-ending days like these led to the swelling of the Senkumo ranks. It wasn't just Tsukiakari's mansion, but several more mansions being built across the province that held even more troops. In short time, the Senkumo clan went from a few hundred members to numbering in the tens of thousands.
(Even then I couldn't believe it. I was the head of all Senkumo military operations, in charge of my own army and property. 1488 was the year when the endlessly escalating conflicts in the Kaga Province finally fanned into a fiery tempest. It was the year the event known as the Kaga Rebellion took off. Just as Bishamon had predicted, the violent revolts and collapse of societal order spread throughout the whole country. Kaga was not the only place where these revolts were occurring. Nonetheless, the Senkumo clan took part in these conflicts one at a time.)

   “Rensu. He was an adviser of mine until recently.”

Tsukiakari found herself leaning against Rennyo's wall as they met inside of his beach home during a sunny, spring day. This time, the meeting was on much friendlier terms. Dazzling little specs of dust were visible in the radiant shafts of sunlight that shined through his windows and onto the tatami mats. The room was imbued with the fragrance of burning incense which Rennyo lit in Bishamon's honor as he sat at his desk, writing more of his pastoral letters. Tsukiakari, with the beautiful, Spring sunlight hitting her cheek, listened closely to every word Rennyo had to say.

   “Masachika had been able to squash the Kaga ikki these past few years, but Rensu's recent actions have been putting a strain on Masachika's grip on the region.” 
   “What's the extent of your advisers involvement?” Tsukiakari questioned.
   “He seems to be their de-facto commander, so to speak. He's secured funding and military assistance for the Kaga ikki from the various disaffected daimyo and noble families. He used his position as my adviser to tell the Kaga ikki that I condoned these violent rebellions, something I could not forgive. So, I had him excommunicated. But, as you can guess...”
   “That's not nearly enough to stop him, is it?”

Rennyo sighed from the sheer weight of the situation anchoring his mind.

   “Yes, I'm afraid so. Lord Ashikaga Yoshihisa wants me to do more to cease these rebellions, but he doesn't understand that I do not control them in the first place, nor have I ever condoned them. This violent branch of Jodo Shinshu has become its own extreme wing, and I am ultimately powerless in stopping it.”
   “That explains why you summoned me here with a prayer. You want me to stop this and other catastrophic revolts?”
   “That is my wish, yes.”

Tsukiakari stood up straight and put her wooden sandals back on by the front door, stopping only for a moment to utter her last words to Rennyo before leaving.

   “Monshu Rennyo...when you pray to a god, you must be heedful. When you make a wish upon a god of war, you must be deathly circumspect.” 

Rennyo said nothing as he sat frozen by her words, as if he was trying to unravel them then and there. Tsukiakari walked out, shut the door, and left Rennyo's house with a plan to end the conflict already in mind.

(Rennyo was a wise monk, I'll give him that. But he was too naive when it came to matters of the sword. Cut down one Ikko-ikki rebellion, and another one takes its place. When chaos eats itself, and thus, gives birth to itself, why not take out the reason that chaos exists in the first place?)

In those 8 years, the Senkumo clan had nearly tripled its numbers. Boys, girls, men, women, big, small, rich, and poor were all huddled beneath its crimson banner. The constant revolts and wars between lords and states resulted in more and more orphans ready to be fed, washed, and sheltered by Bishamon.

After teleporting back to her mansion, sitting comfortably in the center of a misty, forested valley, she took a walk through the torii gates that led her to the courtyard, where she could hear the collective shouts from the children in training. Taeko, fully grown and matured into a fine woman, instructed the columns of panting boys and girls dressed in peasant robes with a loud, thunderous voice.  Every time she would speak, it seemed like a flock of birds would fly out of the tree-covered mountain just behind the mansion, and fly away into the cool, hazy sky.

   “Attention!” she shouted.
   “Yes, Chief!” they all responded back.

Tsukiakari stood in the distance, just watching her. Her hair was tied up into the neatest bun Tsukiakari had ever seen, wearing a lightweight samurai chest piece adorned with the Senkumo symbol on the front. Leather faulds dangled around her hips like an armored skirt as she paced back and forth, making sure all of her underlings could hear her loud and clear.

   “What have I told you about your blades?! Your swords are your life! They are your death! They're your beginnings and your ends! Every day, we do what, Hayashi?”

A boy in his early teens called out from the columns.

   “We clean and cherish our blades, Chief!”
   “We do what, Hayashi?!”
   “We clean and cherish our blades, Chief!”
   “Then why was your sword stained today?!”

   “Because why, Hayashi?!”
   “Because I failed to clean and cherish my blade, Chief!”
   “That's what I thought, you lazy cretin! If you don't cherish your swords, I will not cherish you! Hayashi, Echizen, Kobe, Rin, Kotomi, Ieyasu, all of your swords were stained today! It is disgraceful! The next time I see your blades in such pitiful condition, I shall kill you with them myself! May as well make it easy on the enemy, right?! They've been killing idiots like you since they were children! Is that what you want?!”
   “No, Chief!” they responded collectively.
   “Then fix it!”
   “Yes, chief!”

(Taeko helped handle most of the training in my northern mansion. She was incredibly strict and demanding of our troops, and with good reason. Though they were unfortunate orphans, we could not have anyone who was too weak or unwilling to uplift the cause of the Senkumo clan in my name.)

Continuing her walk through the courtyard and into the garden, Tsukiakari crossed the small, wooden bridge across the little pond that housed all sorts of colorful fish and sprouting lotus flowers. The cool of the thick, lavender leaves of the wisteria trees provided shade on warm days, leading the way to the cascading hills of beautifully cut grass next to the main building of the mansion. As she crossed the bridge, Mayumi bumped into her from the path to her right.

Mayumi was covered in cold sweat, holding six scrolls in her arms as she gasped in startled surprise. Over the years, she had actually gotten just a bit taller than Tsukiakari, and kept her brown hair at breast's length.

   “Gekko! You scared me to death!” Mayumi exclaimed with a startled pant.
   “What? You walked into me!” Tsukiakari retaliated.
   “You’re right! I'm sorry! It was my fault!”
   “Geez…Hmm? Are those scrolls from the weapons shipment today?”
   “Ah, yes! They came in while you were visiting Rennyo!”

The two walked and talked through the gardens. Mayumi handed Tsukiakari one of the scrolls to check for herself. Within it were a list of the contents of the shipment, their quantities, manufacturing source, cost, and substitution disclosures if any.

   “Good armor is by far the most expensive thing these days...” Tsukiakari groaned.
   “Well, we are getting them fitted for people of all ages. The Ashikaga clan was kind enough to give us a discount on the swords and archery equipment though. The Shichikumo mansion in the west also confirmed they got their shipment of horses. Cavalry will be of utmost importance since more and more daimyo are throwing themselves into these conflicts.”
   “Excellent. I was right to trust you with handling our supplies, Mayumi.”
   “Aww, you're sweet, Gekko! Anyway, what did Rennyo want?”
   “Divine assistance. The revolts are damaging his relationship with Shogun Yoshihisa, so he wants me to put an end to the Kaga rebellion that's festering in the region. It's actually a blessing that our weapons and supplies came when they did. We’ll be removing the problem with the weapons Yoshihisa just gave us.”
   “So that means we're moving out, huh?”
   “Yeah, it does. I want you to stay here for this one.” Tsukiakari commanded.
   “Awww...you're worried I'll die or something!” Mayumi gushed.

(She got me...)

   “Lies! Lies and slander!” Tsukiakari exclaimed forlornly. 

Mayumi gave a cheeky smile.

   “See, even when you've got such a serious position, you're still the old darling Gekko we met so many years ago. As you wish, I'll stay here. But really, you don't have to worry, Gekko. Taeko, Ebina, and I can take care of ourselves in battle. Come on, how long have we been together?”
   “You're right...my apologies. I'm under-utilizing your potential in the field. I'll...I'll stop being so protective.”
   “That's the spirit! Well, I'm gonna go stash these scrolls. You're probably looking for Ebina now, right? She's in the war room waiting for you!”
   “Of course, she's always so attentive. Thanks, Mayumi. I...I love you!” Tsukiakari embarrassingly shouted for everyone to hear.

Mayumi stopped in her tracks as Tsukiakari blushed uncontrollably. She looked like she wanted to die after blurting something like that out so callously.

   “Wow, you really are soft at heart, aren't you?” Mayumi asked with a chuckle. 
   “Ah! What is with me? Any other soldier I can handle, but when it's any one of you three, I just-“
   “Shhh. I think I can speak for all of us on this. We love you too, Gekko.

(That fear I once expressed to Taeko came back as the flames of war only grew hotter and cooked the country like a fresh lamb carcass. As such, controlling my urge to keep them out of combat was...difficult. The only person who ever went out in the fields was Ebina, and even then, it was for espionage purposes. Bishamon had fallen out of contact with Inari, so we couldn't use her anymore.)

Tsukiakari's footsteps alerted Ebina as she sat on the floor, waiting for her return. Ebina promptly stood up and bowed to Tsukiakari as she entered the war room, like any good soldier would. Like Taeko's, her white hair was tied up in a bun, though not nearly as inhumanly neat. A lightweight, black leather vest covered her chest, stomach, back and shoulders, whole leather bands protected parts of her arms. The white handle of her katana protruded into view from behind her back. 

   “Welcome back, Tsukiakari. I've returned from my mission in Kaga.” Ebina flatly declared. 
   “Well then, you deserve a warm 'welcome back' as well! I'm happy you're here, Ebina. Please, ease up. We're alone here.”

Ebina sat back down in front of the short, rounded table in the center of the room. Several calligraphic hanging scrolls decorated the walls, written beautifully in black ink.

   “I've received maps and documents from the Togashi clan defectors.” Ebina began. “They said Masachika plans to return to Kaga to reinforce the region against the Ikko-ikki. Among those documents is a map of Masachika's castle.” 
   “Is that so?” Tsukiakari asked with eyes widened with surprise. “Open them.”

Ebina laid the maps out on the table for Tsukiakari to meticulously inspect. All of the major roads, residential roads, even some of the back-alleys were documented. Several roads leading into cities from the countryside as well as government outposts in and around the more populated areas of the region were drawn and labeled accurately.

   “Before leaving, we were able to confirm the positions of several of the outposts listed here, as well as the route to Masachika's castle. I have firm confidence that their information is accurate.”
   “Beautifully done, Ebina. And the defectors...did you silence them?”
  “Of course. I made sure none of this could be traced back to the Senkumo clan. Tsukiakari, have you decided what you wanted to do with this? Who will we be fighting against?” 

Tsukiakari stood and leaned against the opened, sliding door, scanning the gardens and misty mountains with her crimson eyes as she finalized her decision. 

   “We're going to exterminate the Togashi clan and kill Masachika.” Tsukiakari boldly proclaimed.

Ebina bowed her head without so much as an inquiry behind her logic. She was almost too loyal for her own good.

   “I understand.” Ebina said with humble obedience.
   “Hey, come on...don't do that to me.
   “Do what?
   “Aren't you curious why I chose to fight with the Kaga ikki instead of against them? You're my friend, Ebina. You don't have to just go along with my orders without at least knowing why you're doing them. I don't ever want you marching into battle without a clue as to what I'm plotting.”

Ebina's cheeks flushed with a rosy color as Tsukiakari smiled at her. Though everyone was getting older, Tsukiakari was still as youthful and beautiful as the sun and the moon.

   “Very well then. So, Tsukiakari...what exactly is your thought process behind this? I figured we'd fight the Togashi clan since you ordered me to go on this mission...but I don't understand why.”

   “Not even the brilliant Ebina sees it, huh? It's not complicated at all, dear. Several Ikko-ikki rebellions have occurred in that region under Masachika's rule, right? Sure, all of them failed, but they've been growing more and more threatening to the Togashi clan as they get more support from disaffected nobles. Killing the rebels will do nothing. Killing Masachika and the Togashi clan however, will certainly bring about a change. Once Masachika is gone, the Ikko-ikki will place the leader they want in the seat of power. The region will most likely revert to a state of peace. And, if it doesn't, we'll simply cull the Ikko-ikki. The one thing that's certain is that Masachika Togashi must go. As such, our battle plans shall be formulated accordingly.”
   “Understood! I'll relay the message to the officers.” Ebina cried eagerly.

(Masachika Togashi...it seems another proper battle delivers itself my way.)

However, this chapter isn't quite what I wanted to talk about. It's the chapters I'm currently writing, taking place in Book of Betrayal. This story arc is heavily focused on Yachi Otonougi's trip to a town near Kyoto called Kameyama (called Kameoka in the current day). This trip occurs in the winter following Mayumi's death in the battlefield, when Tsukiakari takes leave from the Senkumo Mansion and stays with Ichiki. There are a lot of events and emotions I want to get right with Yachi's story about her trip, so I'd definitely appreciate feedback as I go along. Appreciate it in advance.  :dance:

Senkumo War Stories: Azalea in the Winter
Unspeakable horror and heartbreak had been inflicted upon the Senkumo clan time and time again. The slaughter of the local village destroyed the illusion that they were somehow protected from becoming monsters. The resulting battle with Yoshihisa Ashikaga revealed the deadly cost of their lord's sin. An innocent mistake allowed the black plague to ravage their loved ones, ending in a woeful crescendo of fire and bastardized justice. The entire clan had even unanimously agreed to hang one of their own, desperate to find a destructible vessel for their rage. So, the snow seemed especially solemn that winter, slowly dropping from the omnipresent clouds. The Senkumo mansion seemed all too quiet now. Mayumi was gone, and Taeko had been exiled for her excessive cruelty and breach of authority. Their lord's absence felt the heaviest of all of these sorrows. Every member, young and old, felt the same betrayal in their hearts. They felt as if their lord had abandoned them after all they had sacrificed in her hallowed name. At the same time, they sympathized with her. To lose one's closest friends and valuable allies left and right was a heartbreak they knew all too well.

There were only two things keeping the spirit of the Senkumo mansion alive in Tsukiakari's absence. Chiya and Yachi Otonougi. The two took it upon themselves to make a surprise visit to Tsukiakari that frigid day. They rode their horses through the snow-piled forest, wearing thick, black cloaks over their kimonos for warmth. It was a slow ride, for their horses didn't have the stamina to rush through the thick blankets of snow in such cold conditions. In the early afternoon, the two finally arrived at the foot of Ichiki's temple, dismounting their horses and ascending the steps together. Once they passed the first torii gate leading to the courtyard, the two were greeted by a cloaked Ichiki, who had already sensed their intrusion. Chiya and Yachi came to a stop as Ichiki politely, yet cautiously, questioned them.

"You mortals have stepped foot within my sacred grounds, without permission." Ichiki bluntly declared. "Do you have business with me?"

Chiya and Yachi dropped onto their knees, bowing before Ichiki with their foreheads touching the wet temple grounds.

"I am Chiya Otonougi of the Senkumo clan. We've come to see our lord, Tsukiakari." she explained with a soft and submissive tone.
"Senkumo?" Ichiki recalled. "Ah, Gekko mentioned you two might try and see her. How did you find out about this temple?"
"We begged Lord Bishamon to let us see Lord Tsukiakari. He eventually told us where to go." Chiya explained.
"With your permission, may we see Lord Tsukiakari right now?" Yachi asked.
"You pallid, charmless mortals." Ichiki sighed. "I will tell your lord you're here to see her. Wait here."
"We thank you, Lord Kisshoten." praised Yachi.

The stood up off of their knees, wiping their foreheads dry as Ichiki ascended the second flight of steps leading to the tower. Within a few minutes of silent waiting, Tsukiakari emerged from beyond the tower door in her Senkumo kimono, steadily descending the steps to meet her visitors. Tsukiakari couldn't contain her melancholic smile upon seeing their familiar faces. Tsukiakari's cheeks were flushed red by the cold, and every drop of snow would immediately melt onto her raven hair and kimono. Everyone could see their own breaths as they spoke.

"Of course you'd be the ones to to seek me out. I'd expect nothing less from the Otonougi twins." Tsukiakari scoffed.
"Glad to know that our natural tenacity hasn't been underestimated." Chiya quipped.
"Though Kisshoten did call us pallid and charmless." Yachi woefully groaned.
"At any rate, we have a few things to talk about, Lord Tsukiakari." Chiya said. "It's all related to the clan."

Tsukiakari averted her eyes from them both.

"Since your absence, Chiya and I have acted as leaders for the clan. No, I suppose it's more accurate to say we're acting as representatives." Yachi explained.
"Izanami's investigation of the Senkumo mansions means that military operations have been suspended. Transaction records between our mansion and various priesthoods around the country have been destroyed, and everyone back home as their stories straight for now." Chiya added.

Tsukiakari remained silent, unsure if she really wanted to compliment the twins on being able to lie to Izanami.

"Now, I'm not downplaying our ability to represent for the clan. In fact, I think we make quite a fine team, my sister and I." Yachi proudly declared.
"However, your absence feels...profound. Most of the folks back home really miss their lord. We're no exception." Chiya explained.
"So...is morale low?" Tsukiakari asked.
"I'm afraid so." Chiya confirmed.
"It's not like we don't understand why you left, though. In fact, it's probably a good thing you aren't on base right now with the investigation going on." Yachi added.

Tsukiakari folded her hair behind her ears, looking the Otonougi twins in their eyes. The war goddess's lips trembled. Her throat burned and her eyes moistened.

"How have you been holding up, Gekko?" Yachi worriedly asked.
"Not too well, Yachi. Not too well." Tsukiakari whispered.
"Mayumi's death was hard on us all. Everyone looked up to her until the very end." Chiya recounted.
"May she rest in peace with the others." Yachi said with her eyes closed.
"I'm going to be staying here for a while. I might not be back until the turn of Spring. I'm deeply sorry, you two, for putting all of this pressure on your shoulders. I'm a disgraceful lord to you." Tsukiakari lamented, her head bowed to the twins.
"No, we fully understand. Just leave it to us, Gekko! We'll take it from here until you feel ready to return." Chiya proudly declared.
"Though, I'm sure we'll be constantly returning to you for advice." Yachi added.
"That's fine. Feel free to visit me any time. However, I'll only talk to you two. I have to ask that you don't tell anyone else that I'm here. Ichiki grows that much more irritable when visitors make unexpected trips here." Tsukiakari pleaded.
"And yet she called us pallid and charmless? The nerve!" Yachi quipped.

Tsukiakari sighed as she sat down on the limestone bench at her side, her hands clasped together.

"You two are taking up a very dangerous position in my stead." Tsukiakari cautioned. "It's no secret at all. The Senkumo clan has a lot of enemies, a lot of people looking for revenge. Even if military operations are suspended for now, you still have to be careful. Not even the gods are trustworthy. Traditionally, clans like ours can rely on their ties to more powerful families and lords to act as a deterrent against attacks during the winter. Since we pride ourselves on being free from such ties with a traditional lord, the military downtime during winter leaves us that much more vulnerable. Even more so with the investigation going on."

Yachi giggled as she gently patted Tsukiakari's head, startling the gloomy goddess. For a moment, the smiles of the Otonougi twins had Tsukiakari spellbound, completely detached from her worries.

"We've held our ground until now. I think we can handle a single winter by ourselves!" Chiya cheered.
"She says that, but Chiya always complains about the lackluster insulation in the women's quarters for this kind of weather." Yachi recalled.
"Must you always embarrass me in front of our lord? Have you no shame in your little blackened heart?" Chiya countered.
"Well of course not!" Yachi laughed. "Any sister with even a lick of shame in her isn't a sister at all! Besides, I'm not telling her some imaginary fable. You've never liked the cold."
"As you can see, Gekko, the only real threat to me is my sister's merciless abuse. So, you really don't have much to worry about." Chiya joked.
"Alright!" Tsukiakari giggled. "I guess you've got everything under control. What's going on with the other Senkumo mansions in the province? Have you heard anything from them?"
"Not really. Though, Bishamon tells us they're all following the same suspension of operations despite our mansion being the only one under investigation." Yachi explained.
"I see. I suppose he's being as careful as possible." Tsukiakari sighed. "Anything else to report?"
"Not at the moment, no. For the most part, things are going smoothly." Yachi replied.
"That's good to hear." Tsukiakari said, standing up from the bench. "I'm really glad you two came to visit. I was really starting to miss you guys."
"The pleasure was ours. We'll make our return to the mansion now. I'm sure we'll be back soon though." Chiya said with a wave goodbye.
"Understood. Have a safe ride home!" Tsukiakari cheered.
"Uhh, sis, I'll catch up with you in a minute! I need to talk to Gekko about something!" Yachi suddenly interrupted, leaving Chiya with a perplexed expression.
"Well, alright then. I'll have both of our horses ready then." Chiya replied before walking off.

Once Yachi felt that Chiya was a safe distance away, she turned to the confused but curious Tsukiakari.

"What's going on?" Tsukiakari asked.
"Well...how do I say this...I'm thinking about getting Chiya a gift, something really special!"
"Oh my, I didn't know you Otonougi were the giving type!" Tsukiakari gasped in jest.
"We aren't! That's why I had to talk to you about this privately!" Yachi hissed.
"Okay, so you want to give her something. First off, what's it for? It's not her birthday or anything, is it?"
"No, no. It's not in commemoration of anything special. It's just a Thank You gift, something to show her that she's appreciated. Chiya's been a great role model for everyone over the years. She's caring and protective of the other Senkumo members. She deserves to have something, at least one thing that's nice." Yachi explained with a pained glint in her eyes.
"That's sweet, Yachi. You're always looking out for your sister. So? Any ideas on what to get?"
"No. That's my problem."
"Hmmm. Well, what does Chiya like?"
"Well..." Yachi pondered. "Oh! She likes animals!  Maybe she'll like if I get her a rabbit!"

Yachi's smile slowly faded as she scanned Tsukiakari face. For reasons that didn't have to be spoken aloud, using animals as a gift to bring back to the mansion was out of the question.

"Oh...right. I'm sorry, Gekko." Yachi lamented.
"It's okay. Let's think of something else. Does she like flowers?" Tsukiakari asked with a bright tone.
"You're right! Chiya adores flowers! Yachi excitedly recalled. "She's always loved azaleas, like the ones our parents grew in their yard! Oh...but it's already Winter. I don't think any flowers are going to be blooming anytime soon."
"True, but I know a place that keeps potted azaleas alive during the winter. It's a bit far from the mansion though. It'll probably take you even longer to travel there in this season." Tsukiakari explained.
"What place?" Yachi asked.
"Kameyama, a beautiful agricultural town that gives their yields to Kyoto. I believe the Hozu river starts somewhere around there as well. Anyway, when flowers go out of bloom during the winter, the florists in Kameyama pot some of the most desired plants and sell them in their businesses. Azaleas are some of their most abundant flowers."
"Really?! Chiya said she was going to send me to a town called Kameyama! She wanted me to purchase some daikon and set negotiations for us to take some of their Spring and Summer yields." Yachi recalled.
"I hope you're negotiating in secrecy, Yachi. The people of Kameyama are still subjects of the Ashikaga shogunate. After the battle with Yoshihisa, they're not exactly our friends anymore."
"No, we'll be fine. The Ashikaga have lost much of their authority over Kameyama. Backdoor negotiations should be a breeze. Plus, if I can snag some of those flowers after completing the mission, I'd be hitting two birds with one stone!" Yachi excitedly fantasized in her head.
"Well, if you think you can do it, go ahead. Pack appropriately and bring enough supplies for at least a five day trip." Tsukiakari advised.
"I will! Thank you, Gekko!" Yachi sang, bowing to her lord. "See you soon, alright? Hang in there!"
"Sure thing, Yachi."

The two waved goodbye to each other as Yachi gleefully rushed down the stairs. Relieved that all seemed to be going well for the first time in a long time, Tsukiakari turned to ascend back up the second flight of steps. However, she was greeted by a grinning Ichiki, startled by her sudden reappearance. Ichiki's snow-white kimono was secured tightly by her violet obi, shutting out the frigid breeze from her body.

"Underlings of yours? They did say they were Senkumo." Ichiki deduced. "An army led not by mortal lords, but by gods. A community and a family free from the influence of daimyo, Shogun, or emperors. It definitely sounds like an attractive proposition to give to orphans of war. Their young hearts must've been afire with ambition. For that, I pity them."
"This has been one of the few times where they could relax just a bit. After the winter, I'm sure this quietude and calm will fade away. It'll be back to the trenches then." Tsukiakari replied as she sauntered past Ichiki and ascended the steps.
"I see." Ichiki giggled, ascending the steps with Tsukiakari. "You're a kind lord, giving them this winter, at least."

Glimpses of radiant shafts of sunlight broke through the clouded sky, cutting through the forest's thick blanket of leafless trees. Those shafts pierced through the web of branches above Yachi's head like spears into her eyes as her horse trotted through the snow. Yachi suddenly realized how beautiful Winter really is. Being able to see her own breath, the glistening icicles hanging from tree branches, the thick clouds and mist gathering at the tops of the hills in the distance. It was all a sight to behold.

"Yachi." Chiya called out, breaking Yachi's trance.
"Yeah?" Yachi asked.
"When we get back, be sure to start packing for Kameyama. It was difficult to get Lord Izanami to let anyone leave the base while the investigation was going on. In order to prove it wasn't a military-related venture, I had to make it so you'd be going alone. My apologies, Sis." Chiya regrettably explained.
"That's alright! I could use the alone time anyway. Even I get tired of sleeping in the same room with you all the time. You have a pretty nasty snore, Chiya."
"Lies! Stop lying, Yachi!"
"No lies spoken, Sis!" Yachi laughed.

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