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Messages - OhGodHelpMe

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Chiya woke up in Satoru's cell, lifting her head off of his shoulder. Her neck cracked as she sat up, indicating she had stayed in that position for hours. It was the middle of the night, or perhaps even the early hours of the morning. It was hard to tell from what little she could the skylights in the hall. Satoru remained asleep as Chiya quietly sauntered out of the cell and shut the door, locking it back up with her keys. It seemed the whole base had fallen quiet. All she could think about was getting to her own bed and resting her aching neck.

She received quite a rude reminder that winter was still in effect when she stepped outside, her sandals crunching against crystalized blankets of snow and her body chilled by frigid wind. She slipped her arms out of her sleeves and kept them wrapped around her torso as she cut through the courtyard towards the women's quarters. She stopped just shy of the door, her heart feeling strangely uneasy. She looked back at the brig, knowing that tonight was the last night Satoru would be able to sleep. That bread and water she gave him would most likely be his last taste of food and drink on this earth. It was the eve of his trial, where he would surely be sentenced to death in front of a cheering, Senkumo crowd.

Envisioning such a spectacle only reminded her of when Taeko did the same thing to Chiharu. It reminded her of how quickly her fellow Senkumo would rush to kill a child if they knew she was guilty of killing their loved ones. After spending the night with her sister's murderer, Chiya didn't feel any rage or sorrow. Rather, she felt as cold and empty as winter itself, as formless and directionless as the wind. And yet, somewhere in that whispering wind, she could faintly hear Yachi's giggles and suspirations.

Chiya lifted her gaze at the pale moon in the sky. "Did I do the right thing?"

Satoru was awakened by an abrupt knock upon his cell door at the crack of dawn. The red sun rose from the horizon, cresting over distant hills as shafts of sunlight poured through the windows of the prison. Tsukiakari leaned against the wall facing Satoru's cell, her arms and legs crossed.

"Today's the day." Tsukiakari said.

Satoru nodded. "And so it is."

"Your trial won't be for another few hours. Seeing as you'll almost certainly be put to death, I'm just here to acknowledge any final wishes or testaments." Tsukiakari explained.

"In that case, why don't we have a chat?" Satoru proposed.

"This isn't exactly a social call. You murdered my friend."

"You're right. This is no social call. Think of it as a confession. I'm sure you have a few questions for me, don't you? Like how the bubonic plague came to infect your base. How I managed to get the support of the Ashikaga years after Tomiko's passing."

Tsukiakari, intrigued, stepped closer to the cell door. "How did you know about the plague outbreak?"

"Isn't it obvious? You think it was some sort of natural disaster or freak accident? No, no. It was a deliberate act of revenge committed by the phantoms. Specifically, it was the girl. The phantom maiden."

"The phantoms were responsible for that?"

"Didn't you find it odd that that the snow on the surrounding mountains melted that fast before the season had even gotten hot? The Katsura river almost never overflows like it did that day. It was the phantom maiden that melted the ice, causing the runoff to overflow the river and reject the corpses you had washed away."

"After that, she revived you from the dead." Tsukiakari said, putting the pieces together.

"And thus, we become adversaries." Satoru smiled.

"Bubonic plague isn't a disease you ever really see that often in this country. Which one of the villagers had it?" Tsukiakari questioned.

"None of them did, as far as I know. If even one of us was sick, the rest of us would've fallen ill in no time as well. Our village suffered from illness, as most villages do, but we never had any form of plague."

Tsukiakari recoiled in surprise. "What? Where did it come from, then?"

"That was also a gift from the phantom maiden. She produced the plague herself, as if it was some sort of curse. After you disposed of the bodies, you and your men brought infected fleas back to base with you, and the infection began to spread from there."

"She produced the plague herself? But that...that can't be right. The only person that could do that was..."

"Izanami." Satoru finished. "I know. The girl shared countless visions of her, though I don't think it was on purpose. Those horns you have now, they're links to the phantom maiden. Keep them long enough, and you'll see glimpses of the girl's mind. It's filled with hate for this woman, Izanami."

"So then? Why would the girl target me if she's angry at Izanami?"

"I couldn't say for sure, but if I had to guess, the girl hates you and Izanami equally. Perhaps her reason for hating Izanami is linked to her reason for hating you."

Tsukiakari took a step back with a frazzled look on her face. "It can't be. If you're telling the truth about the plague, I might know who the phantom maiden really is. I just really don't want to believe it. I have to check with someone to make sure."

"Either way, it's peculiar that everything she touches turns to flame." Satoru said.

"That's exactly what I was thinking. There's something else I want to know, though. Back at Inari's shrine, when you encountered Yoshioki, he referred to you as a grave robber."

Satoru snickered. "The phantom soldier was roused from his grave in much the same manner that I was from mine. The phantom maiden commanded we dig up his corpse so she could take control of his lingering hatred for you."

"I'm almost scared to ask, but...who is he?"

"An Ashikaga. That's all I'll say."

Tsukiakari slouched against the wall, her head weighing down upon her neck like an anchor. "This phantom maiden has been deliberately bringing back my old enemies, then. She hates me herself, raises an Ashikaga from his grave, resurrects you..."

Tsukiakari stopped in the middle of her thought. "Wait a minute. Did you link up with Tomiko's force after your revived the phantom soldier?"

"Yes, we did. That's how I was able to take command of of Tomiko's army."

Tsukiakari's chest tightened up, her breathing becoming shallow. "Yoshihisa?!"

Satoru nodded. "The son of Tomiko and Yoshimasa, and the cause of the Onin War. Turns out, he had enough hatred for you to catch the phantom maiden's attention. We stole his corpse from his grave and blessed him with divine flame. For all this time, those two phantoms watched you and stalked you, but the phantom maiden never disclosed your location to me. That's why I had to abduct your dear Yachi in the first place. The entire ordeal was a race against time to beat my affliction. The girl granted me enough time to exact my revenge, but only on the condition that I would work to pass on those horns to you. It succeeded. Revenge is not her only desire. She's searching for a body to tether her fiery soul to. A living body, not a corpse she can puppet with her flame. You growing both horns means she has fully attached herself to you. She plans to use your body as her new vessel."

"Could it really be her? How on earth did she find her way back to Japan after all these years?"

Tsukiakari took a deep breath and pressed on with her questions. "You also spoke of Noriko's ring when you encountered Yoshioki. You said you wanted it back."

"That bastard took my sister's onyx ring in exchange for sparing our lives. Our village was under suspicion of aiding the Senkumo war effort, even after you and the Ashikaga clan broke fellowship. The villagers, Noriko and I, we all lied through our teeth to protect the Senkumo as well as ourselves. We shot down any and all accusations that were actively aiding an enemy of the shogun. In the end, the people we sacrificed everything to protect ended up slaughtering us all."

"The ring itself was thrown in the bottom of the village's well. You never retrieved it?" Tsukiakari asked.

Satoru shook his head. "I planned to after I broke Yachi, but she never spoke a word. If what Yoshioki said back then is true, then Noriko's phantom haunts that well. That's...something I can't bear the thought of. Even if I could, I don't think I'd have the stomach to return to that village."

Tsukiakari sighed. "What a mess we all made."

"If I were you, I wouldn't waste my time with some pointless trial of a dead man walking." Satoru chuckled. "I'd be confronting my phantoms. The soldier, the maiden, and even Noriko. As long as those three remain, you and your men will remain haunted. The clock is ticking, Tsukiakari. All of the major players in this theater of war are all nearing their true goals. Everything is coming to a head. You can just feel it."

"That reminds me. When Yoshioki and I stormed that ruined temple, we encountered another old enemy. It was a different phantom, one covered in chains and swarms of flies." Tsukiakari recalled.

"Ah yes, you knew him as Masachika Togashi, former lord of the Kaga province. The phantom maiden revived him as well."

"That's what I don't get." Tsukiakari groaned. "When we took his body into our custody, he re-emerged as a phantom and attacked our livestock, feasting on our horses. All in all, his behavior was completely different from that of the soldier or the maiden. He seemed to be driven by instinct and self-preservation, not hatred. His moves weren't calculated or planned beforehand like the maiden's. He was like an animal, doing what his instincts told him to."

Satoru crossed his longs, stifling a barrage of coughs as he spoke with wheezing breath. "The phantom maiden didn't have control of him back then. She may have tried, but she did not succeed."

"What I'm wondering is why I found him again at the abandoned shrine. After our first encounter with him, I ordered Yachi and Chiya to cremate the body. That should've been the end of him."

"You did indeed cremate him, but the phantom maiden had been watching. She secured his ashes from their resting place and revived him, even in that state."

Tsukiakari lips parted in stunned surprise. "What did you say? She revived him? He was nothing but ash. How is that even possible?"

"For the same reason it's possible for her to revive the dead in the first place. It doesn't seem to matter what state the person is in. If there's any trace of their physical remains, she can bestow upon them the spark of phantomhood. She's an exception, even among ghosts. It almost makes me wonder if she's even really a ghost at all."

Tsukiakari stood up and anxiously paced back and forth. Beads of sweat dripped down her temple and raced down towards her chin as she came to a sudden stop. "It's just as I thought. The phantom maiden isn't actually a phantom, nor a ghost. She's a goddess. The power of fire, the ability to cheat death itself...I think I know very well who she is now."

Tsukiakari gathered the strands of her hair and tied it all up into a messy bun. "The others will handle your trial and execution. I'm going to take your advice. I've got phantoms to get rid of."

"You're leaving right now?"


"Well then, Tsukiakari, I bid you farewell. But before you go, just one more thing."

"What is it?"

Satoru struggled to stand on his own two feet. His hands coiled around his cell bars for support. "Beware of Bishamon. Whatever he's planning, his dreams of the future do not include you or the rest of this clan. You are following a madman."

"You are a madman." Tsukiakari replied.

"We're quick to recognize our own. Make your own plans for the future, Tsukiakari, and make them fast. Otherwise, Bishamon will be the end of you all."

The two stared daggers at each other, the silence between them thick enough to cut with a blade. Satoru's warning made the hairs on Tsukiakari's arm stand straight up. Part of her knew what he was saying was the truth.

"May you find peace in the world beyond." Tsukiakari bowed.

The war goddess stormed off, determined to put an end to phantoms that had plagued and haunted her for so long.

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: July 04, 2019, 08:08:24 PM »

I'll have the actual song ready soon, but please enjoy this spectacular fail of a take where I smash everything in a fit of rage because I can't sing in key.


MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2019
« on: July 04, 2019, 08:00:18 PM »
Back from the dead


The morning wind scattered the falling snow like ashes upon the land. On that day, the gates to Tsukiakari's gates remained tightly shut and guarded. That day marked a very poignant occasion that could not be disturbed. It was Yachi's funeral. The courtyard was filled to the brim with tearful men, women and children, many of whom knew and respected Yachi as they would any other Senkumo. Whoever could not fit in the courtyard watched from the patios of the surrounding buildings or the windows of their bedrooms. With the crowd of mourning soldiers behind her, Chiya stood before Yachi's flower-adorned casket, still holding onto the bag of Azalea seeds her sister never got to plant. Tsukiakari stood among her troops in the front row, silent tears streaming down her face.

"My dearest Yachi..." Chiya began. "Welcome home."

Tsukiakari looked upon Chiya with a mix of sorrow and deep respect. She could barely hold herself together, and yet, Chiya had agreed to prepare an open letter to her sister. Her voice broke and cracked with every word she spoke, every breath she took. It was taking every ounce of Chiya's inner strength to keep her heart from shattering right then and there. And still, she continued to speak.

"We were all so worried when you didn't return. And you know me. I've always been the biggest worry wort when it comes to you. Though, we never imagined that you would come back to us like this." Chiya paused, collecting herself. "I received your gift, the azalea seeds. Gekko gave them to me after you returned. Thank you so much, Yachi. It's winter now, but when the spring comes, I'll be sure to plant them. We'll make the day they bloom a holiday, Azalea Day, where no one will fight or kill anyone. For just one day, the clan will celebrate life, love, and peace, just like you wanted. That's my gift to you, for being such a one of a kind sister. I love you, Sis."

Chiya wiped her tears with her sleeve and continued on. "Yachi, there's no more pain. No more suffering. No more tears or sorrow. Please, rest in peace."

While Tsukiakari and her men mourned the loss of Yachi Otonougi, their master, Bishamon was more than a day into his journey. He had traveled back to Oyamatsumi's temple on the lake, hoping to find him there. But alas, he was nowhere to be found. He dismounted his horse, looking around with his hands placed upon his hips.

"Looking for Oyamatsumi, kid?"

Bishamon groaned. He just knew it was Hachiman, making another one of his signature, unwanted appearances. "No, I'm looking for a good set of pots and pans for Ichiki."

Hachiman joined him by the lakeside, running his hands through his messy, white hair. "He's already left for Kaga, or so I heard from Raijin."

"Kaga?" Bishamon repeated.

"Yeah. Raijin mentioned the order to kill Taeko and said that Oyamatsumi tracked her down in Kaga. Don't tell me you called a hit on a girl without knowing where she was, Bisha."

"Taeko isn't in Kaga, she's here. I saw her yesterday with my own eyes."

"Well, either you're going senile or Oyamatsumi just walked himself right into a trap." Hachiman said. "If you saw her yourself, why didn't you just kill her?"

"Kill her?" Bishamon recoiled. "I wanted to kill her the moment I saw her, but I couldn't. She was with Tsukiakari the whole time. Besides, if Izanami's star witness was murdered in a Senkumo base, it would be like asking to get caught. I'd be throwing all of our leverage away."

"So, what do we do now? Want to try and find him before he screws up?" Hachiman asked.

"No. It might actually be better if we don't. I got engaged to Ichiki as a deterrent against Izanami's prosecution, but I have a feeling she might just go ahead with it anyway. In which case, I need to make prosecution a losing game for her on grounds other than her reputation. I'm thinking Oyamatsumi's arrest would actually help us with that. We'll have to give the kid a bit of scare, but it's all for a good cause."

"And what of Taeko?"

Bishamon crossed his arms. "For now, she's gotten herself some more time, but only a little. I underestimated her. I won't let her pull a ruse like this again."

That night, the machinations of men and gods went unheard as the peaceful, winter wind combed through the land. Despite the cold, the Senkumo were able to get their nightly campfires and torches lit. Tsukiakari and Chiya stood before the Plague Memorial outside the gate of the medical ward. The structure was a twelve foot tall, cream-colored obelisk, with an epitaph inscribed down the length of the memorial.

'In honor of those who fell to the plague. Though your souls have left us behind for a better world, your love remains with us, and ours with you. We recall the memories of your lives over drinks and crackling flames, partaking in the joy of reminiscence and it's subtle, yet powerful aftertaste of sorrow. We remember you. We love you. We always will.'

"Yachi wrote the inscription." Chiya said. "She was sure you'd like it."

"I love it." Tsukiakari assured.

"I hope you won't mind, Gekko. I've asked that Yachi be buried in the courtyard, and for the azalea seeds to be planted at her grave. I can't bear the thought of putting her anywhere outside of these walls."

"That's alright with me, Chiya. I think it's a beautiful idea."

"Thank you. I...have another favor to ask."

"What is it?" Tsukiakari questioned.

"I want to speak to her killer. The Man in Black."

Tsukiakari and Chiya locked eyes.

"Chiya...you know that's not a good idea. He's going on trial tomorrow morning."

"I'm afraid I must insist, Gekko. Let me talk to him. It's the only way I'll be able to move on from all of this."

"What do you mean?"

"Yachi has been in my thoughts non-stop since you brought her home. My mind won't stop replaying our lives together. I feel her everywhere I go, as if she's just watching me from a short distance. I feel her in the flowers, in the snow beneath my feet, and the wind beneath my hair. It's like this nagging, phantom pain that won't subside. And yet, as much as I think about her, her killer remains just as present in my thoughts. Every time I think of Yachi, her memory is sullied by his image. My head is all full of ghosts, Gekko. I need to make it stop."

Tsukiakari pinched the bridge of her nose. "I know the feeling."

"I'm going. Alone."

Tsukiakari raised her index finger as if she was about to make a point. She took a breath to speak, but quickly released it with naught a word of protest. "Just be careful, Chiya."

Chiya bowed in gratitude. "I will. Thank you, Gekko."

Chiya descended the steps of the medical ward, wading through the people in the courtyard like a snake through blades of grass. The occasional voice would call out to her for her attention, but she paid them no mind. The cold air stung her swollen eyes as she trailed past the crowds, approaching the two guards stationed in front of the brig. Recognizing their lord, the guards bowed their heads and allowed her through.

She slowly sauntered through the torch-lit halls of the spacious brig, not quite knowing what she was going to do or say once she saw the Man in Black. She could see herself barging into the cell and strangling him, but his terminal illness made murdering him pointless. Thinking a little more, she saw herself put the Man in Black through an interrogation of sorts. Though, if she asked why he did what he did, it would only make his presence in her thoughts that much stronger. She released an exhausted sigh, conceding the simple fact that there are many things in life that cannot be accounted for nor calculated. The most human moments are spontaneous, neither planned nor foretold.

And so, Chiya stopped in front of the Man in Black's cell, catching him sitting against the wall cross-legged. A single, solitary candle just barely illuminated his face in his darkened cell. Chiya spent what felt like an eternity just gazing at him, scanning every detail of his face.

"Come to mock a dying man?" the Man in Black wheezed before coughing.

Chiya struggled to put a string of words together. "No. I'm not here to mock you."

The Man in Black raised his head, but his waning vision prevented him from being able to see his visitor very clearly. "Who are you?"

"My name is Chiya. Chiya Otonougi. My sister was Yachi Otonougi."

"You're her sister?"

Chiya nodded. "Yes. How are you feeling?"

The Man in Black scoffed. "You don't care."

"Do you need any water? Food?"

"...Water." the Man in Black said, expecting to be served a swig of vinegar rather than water.

Chiya smiled. "Okay, I'll be right back."

Just a few minutes later, Chiya returned with a bowl of cold water, along with half a loaf of bread. She gently put the bowl down as she dug into her pockets for the key to the Man in Black's cell. Chiya unlocked the cell and stepped right inside with the man that murdered her sister, closing the cell door behind her.

"Here. I melted some snow for you." Chiya said, offering the bowl to the Man in Black.

He took the bowl and drank from it in silence. He put it to the side as he erupted into a fit of coughs as Chiya patted his back. Next, she offered him a roll of bread.

"When was the last time you ate something?" Chiya asked.

"Being sick doesn't leave much room for appetite."

Chiya dropped the bread roll into his hands. "You have to eat, even if you're dying."

The Man in Black sighed before he finished the bread roll in just three bites, then washed it down with more chilled water. Chiya herself didn't even understand why she was doing what she was doing. She didn't put much thought into her actions. She simply moved and provided help where it was needed.

"Thank you." the Man in Black said.

"No worries." Chiya replied with a smile.

The two of them sat together with the single, lit candle between them.

"Hey, what's your name?" Chiya asked.

"The Man in Black."

"No, your real name. The one your mother gave you."

"What does it matter? I was risen from my grave in the Katsura river. Any semblance of my past is dead along with my friends and family."

"That's not true." Chiya protested.

"What would you know?" The Man in Black dismissed.

"The ones we love live with us forever, exactly the way we remember them. Don't you think the way they remember us also lives on?" Chiya proposed.


"Satoru is your name?"

Satoru nodded. "The one my mother gave me."

"That's a great name, Satoru." Chiya giggled. "I knew a kid named Satoru, growing up. He was a real troublemaker. He used to steal radishes, of all things, from one of the produce vendors in my neighborhood. He'd been taking things from her ever since he was a little boy. He wasn't even that good of a thief. He'd always get caught and he'd be forced to apologize to the woman he stole from. The woman gave him so many lectures, I wondered if she would ever run out of lectures to give. When the Onin War erupted, though, Yachi and I escaped from our home and searched our neighborhood for any survivors we could take with us. A lot of our friends and neighbors were already dead in their homes or sprawled out in the streets. We found Satoru and that old woman among the bodies in the street. She died with her body wrapped around Satoru's. She tried to protect him when Yamana soldiers rampaged through the neighborhood. I never understood why she would do such a thing, but I think I finally understand why she made that sacrifice. I think she remembered who Satoru was before he became the neighborhood rascal. In her final moments, I think Satoru was still that sweet little boy she knew, and she gave her life to protect him."

"But now they're both dead. Where does that memory go when the people who shared it are no longer here?" Satoru asked.

"Well, I wouldn't have been able to tell you that story if it didn't live on, right? I witnessed their relationship from a distance, and yet, the memory of Satoru and the old lady lives in me."

"I suppose you have a point, then."

Chiya leaned her head back against the wall, closing her eyes. "You sound like you still don't believe me."

"Even if it's true, I have no intention of letting that version of myself live on in place of the demon I've become now. People have a choice as to what their legacy will be. I've chosen my way in my final days. One day, you'll choose your way in your final days."

Satoru went into another coughing fit. It sounded as though his coughs were powerful enough to tear his throat and lungs into pieces.

"What choice did my sister make?" Chiya asked.

Satoru went silent for a few minutes that dragged on like hours. He bowed his head and turned his thoughts to the weeks he spent torturing Yachi, his questions stonewalled by her obstinance.

"Your sister remained loyal to her comrades until the very end. No matter what I did to her, no matter how I wounded or shamed her, she didn't speak a word of treachery. She expressed no hatred towards me."

Chiya wiped the tears flowing in her eyes as a slight smile formed on her face. "Yeah. That sounds like her. Satoru, my sister was a caring girl. Whenever there was a friend in need, Yachi always stepped up to help. Whenever there was an opportunity to use her skills for a good cause, she took it. Do you know why she specifically wanted to gift azalea seeds to me? It's not just because they're my favorite shrubs. The flowers that grow from the shrub have a meaning. When you gift azaleas to someone, you're asking that they take care of themselves and be well. They're the perfect flowers to give to someone you love deeply. So deep was her love for her friends, comrades, and the world around her, that she couldn't even bring herself to hate you, her murderer. Her tormentor. Perhaps she saw in you what that old lady saw in the Satoru I knew."

"And what would that be?" Satoru questioned.

Chiya locked eyes with him. "Humanity, in all of its ugliness. But humanity, nonetheless. Beneath all of that hatred and drive for revenge, a part of you is still crying in pain. Hatred is never born alone."

Satoru snickered as he hung his head in embarrassment. "She said those exact words to me, once. You really are her sister, aren't you? The same looks, the same mannerism, even the same words. You remind me of someone I once knew."

"You know a good sibling when you see one, right?" Chiya asked, laughing and crying at the same time as she laid a hand on his shoulder.

Satoru turned his head away, hiding his flow of tears from the light of the flickering candle between them. However, he couldn't suppress his mournful sobs, nor his memories of Noriko. Chiya threw her arms around Satoru in a loving embrace as he shed his first true tears since his first death. Forgiving what he did to Yachi was impossible. Forgetting the pain he inflicted upon both her sister and herself was even more difficult for Chiya.But that night, Chiya made the choice to understand Yachi's killer, to break bread and water with him, to sit and know him.

And she knew that, somewhere, Yachi was cheering her on.

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: June 22, 2019, 11:24:41 PM »
Alright. One of my friends co-wrote some lyrics for Tomb of Saint George and sang the hell out of it.


The Tomb of Saint George

« on: June 18, 2019, 01:12:10 AM »
Happy Day of Nativity

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: June 16, 2019, 10:26:17 PM »
The Rebel

Really nice song by Earth (Black Sabbath before they called themselves Black Sabbath). Shame they never performed this song again.

Video / PC Games / Re: E3 2019
« on: June 15, 2019, 10:14:52 PM »
It was a snore-fest and that cute Japanese girl everyone is making fan art of seemed to be the only person visibly having any fun whatsoever. Most announcements were for sequels or games we already knew were coming, while new ones got CG trailers that don't tell you anything about the game.

Todd van der Linde came out with his usual "I HAVE A PLAN I JUST NEED MORE MONEY ONE MORE BIG SCAM AND WE'LL BE HARVESTING DRAGON ARMOR IN 16 TIMES THE DETAIL HAVE SOME GOD DAMN FAITH" act and remains gaming's Prince of Lies.

Honestly, I see why Sony pulled out (besides for the fact they'd be chewed out for promises that remain unfulfilled from the last E3 and for their disastrous, censorious policy regarding sexual material in games that seems to only be affecting Japanese developers but not TLOU2 with their zoomed in, realistically rendered makeout session HMMMMMMMM  :hmm: :hmm: :hmm: :hmm: BIG THINK, MY NOGGIN IS A'JOGGIN).

I had an extra $20 lying around last night so I decided I would buy a game. I can't tell you how long I was browsing Steam and PSN, looking through games like Spiderman, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, etc. In the end, I didn't buy anything that was made recently. I bought Kingdom Hearts 1.5+2.5 because I had never played KH2 Final Mix, and playing KH3 made me want to go back and appreciate the other games. I thought it just came with KH 1&2 final mixes, but it also came with Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Birth by Sleep. I'm going to be busy for a while.

I mention this to emphasize how uncertain I've become when buying new games. So much so that I'd rather buy a bundle of older games I know I love and haven't played in years. I almost thought to buy Madden 19 a while ago until I saw everyone making a huge stink about the game. The last Madden game I got was Madden 05. I guess you can't just buy a football game and just play football anymore. It's no longer that simple.

Looking forward to a darker Zelda game, though. Really scratches my Majora's Mask itch.

Melting Snow
It was a long night.

News of Yachi's death spread like a cancer and robbed nearly everyone of their desire to sleep. Friends and comrades alike congregated in the courtyard to mourn and pray together. Others preferred to lock themselves in their rooms and fight their sadness alone. For some people, quietude and a cup of sake in Yachi's honor was their preferred method of grieving. The night sky was dyed a dark blue, a sign of the morning sun's imminent arrival. Inori exited the medical room where she examined Yachi's corpse, her eyes still red and swollen from crying. She approached Tsukiakari in the hallway while Taeko, Chiya, and Goro stood out of hearing distance.

"I've never seen anything like it in all of my years in this clan, Gekko." Inori said. "The list of injuries and wounds plaguing her body is beyond extensive. It would be easier to write down what didn't happen to her than what did."

"Do you think there was a killing blow?" Tsukiakari asked.

"Not from what I saw. I think all of her injuries, combined with her severe malnutrition and dehydration led to her death. She just couldn't take it anymore."

Tsukiakari nodded. "I can't believe that monster put her through such unimaginable pain."

"What should we do? With the body, I mean."

"I don't know." Tsukiakari sighed. "I won't decide anything until I get Chiya's consent. For now, keep the body cool and preserved."

"As you wish. I'll be waiting on Chiya's decision, then."

Inori bowed to Tsukiakari and returned to the medical room. Left alone, Tsukiakari plopped herself down on a nearby bench, rubbing her tingly hands together as she hung her head. The first rays of the morning sun crept over the horizon and slipped through the gaps in the wooden shutters, painting her face in stripes of orange light and dark shadows.

"Oh, Tsukiakari!"

Tsukiakari raised her head and shot back onto her feet as she met eyes with Inari.

"Are you leaving?" Tsukiakari asked.

Inari nodded. "I'm sorry. I want to stay with you through this difficult time, but I've received summons from Izanami to help her in Kaga."

"Ah, to help with her investigation, I assume." Tsukiakari groaned, plopping back down on the bench.

"I'm...very sorry. This was not how any of us wanted this to end."

"It's alright. I'm really thankful to you for all of your help, Inari. We couldn't have found her without you." Tsukiakari said.

"I suppose...we're enemies now?" Inari said.

"You mean the investigation? I could never consider you an enemy because of that."

"You may feel that way, but I'm sure Bishamon doesn't. As I recall, Tsukiakari, you decided you would remain with the Senkumo clan rather than leave and come with me."

"Of course I'm going to side with my clan! They're my family."

"But even you can surely see that in this situation, siding with the clan is the same as siding with Bishamon. They're not mutually exclusive in a legal battle. Nothing changes the fact that he is your master."

Tsukiakari's silence was all but an admission that Inari was right. That silence was soon interrupted by a frenzy of cheers booming from the courtyard. Tsukiakari could faintly hear the massive, wooden gates  of the base creak on their hinges as they parted open.

"What's going on?" Inari asked.

"No idea." Tsukiakari replied.

Everyone around the base dropped whatever they were doing and swarmed upon the courtyard as if it were a holy site of pilgrimage. A massive crowd formed around one man, or rather, one god. Bishamon had come to visit. It was the first time anyone in Tsukiakari's base had seen him in years. He dismounted his fiery horse and embraced his fellow Senkumo with open arms, accepting their tearful hugs and praises. His mere presence brought the smiles back upon the Senkumo's faces, even if only for a moment. It was a morale boost like no other.

"My brothers, my sisters...my comrades..." Bishamon began, the crowd of hundreds splitting apart to make a path for him. "It's so good to see you all. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to come and see you. I've been very busy, as you can guess."

Tsukiakari, Taeko, Chiya, Goro, and Inari descended from the medical ward. They could tell just from the behavior of the troops that their surprise visitor was Bishamon. The body language of even the hardest soldiers became obedient and submissive, their hands clasped together in prayer and their heads bowed as Bishamon slowly sauntered past them.

"All of those battles, the plague outbreak, and now this investigation, this petty attack from Izanami herself. You've all been through so much, and yet you still stand strong, firmly planted in your cut of the earth." Bishamon praised. "I have never been more proud of all of you than I am right now."

Bishamon felt a tug at his robes. Looking to his left, he saw a young girl, no older than ten, crying at his feet. He knelt down on one knee as he stroked her shoulder, meeting the mournful girl eye to eye.

"What's wrong? Why the tears?" Bishamon asked.

The girl kept her head of brown hair bowed, hiding her tear-stained face. "Yachi...Yachi's dead..."

Bishamon stood up, stroking his beard. "Dead? What happened to her."

"My sister was kidnapped." Chiya interjected, all eyes turning to her. "She went to Kameyama to run an errand, but she never came back. Someone abducted her before she could make the journey home. Who abducts a damned girl? Who tortures her endlessly like that? Who beats her, pulls her teeth, and rapes her?!"

"Chiya..." Tsukiakari mumbled, unable to bring herself to stop her.

Bishamon's eyes scanned over Chiya, but they were quickly drawn towards Inari and Taeko. Even though Chiya was the one talking, his gaze was entirely focused on them. Taeko especially stared daggers right back at him, balling up her fist so tightly that her dirty nails drew blood from her palm.

"To do all of that to her...to give her such an undiginified grave...who would do that? Why? Why her?" Chiya cried, clutching a lock of Yachi's hair to her chest.

Bishamon refocused his gaze upon Chiya. "I am...so terribly sorry to hear that. I truly mean that."

Chiya shook her head. "Where were you?"

Chiya stormed off, retreating back inside of the medical ward.

Bishamon turned around to face his crowd of worshipers and comrades. "Return to what you were doing. I'm going to have a talk with Tsukiakari and our guests."

The crowd dispersed and return to their rooms. With Bishamon's abrupt return, the Senkumo at least had enough morale to actually go to sleep.

"My apologies, but I really must be going now." Inari said.

"That's too bad. I was hoping to reminisce about the good old days with you, Inari. You were an invaluable part of this clan's rise to power. We wouldn't be here without you." Bishamon said.

Inari forced a smile upon her face, taking Bishamon's praise as an underhanded insult, an insinuation that she was merely trying to kill a beast that she helped create.

"Duty calls, Bishamonten." Inari bowed.

"Let's go, Inari." Taeko urged.

"Leaving so soon, Taeko?" Bishamon questioned. "You're more than welcome to stay, at least for just a little while. This was your old home, after all."

"No thank you. I only came back to help Tsukiakari find Yachi." Taeko growled.

"I insist. You're staying for just a little longer." Bishamon commanded.

Taeko had no choice. She calmed herself down, sticking close to Tsukiakari.  The three of them bade farewell to Inari as they entered the base's brig. They followed the reverberating coughs down the halls, stopping at the Man in Black's cell. He lied on the ground, completely naked and exposed, just as he did to Yachi.

"That's quite the cough, young man." Bishamon teased.

The Man in Black snickered. "A progressive lung infection. It's a slow and painful death."

"Oh, I'm sure. I'm the clan leader, you see. I've seen my fair share of illnesses and infections, though most of it was fever, gangrene, bone infractions, just a slew of nasty afflictions." Bishamon said. "Still, I find that there is no rot in this world quite as pervasive as revenge. I've even seen it raise the dead right out of their graves, turning men into phantoms of their former selves. Kind of like you. You seem to be much more of a ghost than a man."

"We're all ghosts. Every single one of us." The Man in Black sighed. "And here I thought I had to destroy the entire Senkumo clan in order to get my revenge. I was wrong. Who knew that Bishamon himself would be foolish enough to play right into my hands?"

Bishamon chuckled. "Was all of this part of your plan? Did your grand strategy include dying of illness in a Senkumo jail cell? How the sick delude themselves."

"Death is a kind of clarity you gods will never understand." The Man in Black retorted.

"So then, what do you intend to do with him, Tsukiakari?" Bishamon asked.

"Every bone in my body is screaming for me to kill him, but that would be far too easy. I intend to put him on trial here at base, so that everyone can know what kind of monster he is. As for his sentence, that's up to Chiya to decide."

"The woman just lost the only family she had left and you want her to deal with this bastard's punishment too?" Taeko hissed.

"No one has more of a right to make that call than she does, Taeko." Tsukiakari replied.

"You do, you *censored*ing idiot! You're the Commanding Lord!" Taeko retaliated.

"That's enough, Taeko." Bishamon said. "As you're no longer part of this clan, I won't accept any hostility towards Tsukiakari. Besides, our enemy is right here. Once he's dealt with, this terrible chapter will come to a close."

"He fails to understand the depth of the human heart."

That voice belonged to the Man in Black, but it did not come from his cell. Tsukiakari shivered as she slowly turned her head to the left, her heart trying to rip itself in half inside her chest. She saw him. She swore she saw the Man in Black standing right next to her, dressed in his black, tattered roads and wide-brim hat. He looked at her and she at him.

The Man in Black turned her attention to Bishamon. "Fear, hatred, respect, even love—they are all powerful feelings. Power is what gives rise to action, and action to change. No one can kill what they fear, hate, love, or respect. No matter what the object of those feelings are, the emotions remain."

"You played the game and lost, young man." Bishamon said. "Well, I won't bother you any longer. I'm sure you have much to atone for and think about in your final days. You'll die an insignificant speck on the canvas of history. No one will remember you. Your tale will never be told. Consider this my way of making sure that your grave is even more undignified than Yachi's was."

Tsukiakari quickly glanced back to her left, but her vision of the Man in Black was already gone. She wiped the sweat from her brow, realizing her armpits were sweating beneath her robes. It frightened her, just how much his continued presence and memory unsettled her.

"Girls, let's leave him be." Bishamon said, walking away.

They left the Man in Black by himself, returning to the snow-covered courtyard. They walked Taeko over to the base's gate to see her off, the sun's light making the snow dazzle like a sea of diamonds.

"Thank you for your help, Taeko. After all these years, you're still a pillar of strength." Tsukiakari said.

"That's what you need to be, Gekko. You need to be a far stronger pillar than I ever was." Taeko replied. "These men here, especially the women and the children, they need you. You have to take on the world's brutality and cruelty in their place. You have to make tough decisions for them. Otherwise, the Man in Black really will win."

"I'll...I'll try." Tsukiakari bowed.

"It was a pleasure seeing you again, Taeko. Where will you go now?" Bishamon asked.

Taeko scoffed. "You must be joking."

The two locked eyes for a moment until the tension was broken by Bishamon's grin. "Good to know you're still a cautious woman, Taeko. Be careful out there. It's a dangerous world and the Senkumo clan has a lot of enemies. With us or not...people out there might still wish to harm you."

"Sure." Taeko said, cutting the conversation short.

Taeko mounted her horse, leaning forward as if the mere act of mounting made her dizzy. She took a deep breath and composed herself. "Farewell, you two. Be well, and give my love to Chiya."

"I will." Tsukiakari promised.

And so, Taeko departed from the base, the gate shutting behind her. Tsukiakari released a lonesome sigh, already missing the presence of her former friend and her nine-tailed ally.

"Well?" Tsukiakari led on. "I assume this isn't just a social call. What made you show up after all of these years? Where were you the whole time?"

"Defending the clan from afar, of course." Bishamon said. "I've been expanding our bases into different regions, keeping our coffers full, and planning out the clan's future. Of course, I've had to stop all of that to deal with Izanami and this investigation. She's very bothersome. As for why I came, it was indeed to let you all know that I am still here, this clan is still strong, and that I will not bend to Izanami. I wanted to tell you in person that you are allowed to resume normal operations again."

"What? Are you serious?" Tsukiakari asked. "Izanami isn't even done with her investigation yet."

"Don't worry about Izanami. I have friends in high places. They won't let Izanami and her gaggle of traitors have her way. We will survive, Tsukiakari. Remember that."

Bishamon's fiery steed approached, allowing the war god to mount and prepare to leave. "Start thinking about where you want to go next, Tsukiakari. Coming out of winter, most of the clans will have their forces all cooped up in their forts. The land is clear for our troops to march. We're very close to achieving our dream, a sovereign state free of the folly of daimyo and emperors."

"It's hard to think about any of that when we've just lost Yachi, Bishamon." Tsukiakari said.

"I know. I'm very sorry about that. Please tell that to Chiya. I must be on my way. I've got an investigation to break apart."

And so, Bishamon departed from the base as well. With that single visit, he seemed to have restored much of the faith that was lost over the years of suffering Tsukiakari's men endured. With his army re-energized, Tsukiakari was left to wonder just what Bishamon had in store for Izanami the Cruel, his pale adversary.

Hearts Betorn
Taeko and Inari gazed upon the lightning-scarred field of burnt, mangled corpses with their mouths agape in awe and disbelief. Nearly all of the Ouchi soldiers died with their eyes stuck open, the crimson glow of the blood moon reflecting off of their melted eyeballs as their flesh cooked and bubbled beneath their armor. Bound by his shackles, the Man in Black led the way back to Taeko and Inari, with Tsukiakari trailing close behind him with watchful eyes. Taeko jumped down from her saddle, stomping down the grass and flowers as she marched towards Tsukiakari.

"Taeko Senkumo. It's good to see you again." the Man in Black said.

"You shut up!" Taeko screamed as she cut Tsukiakari off. "What the hell is going through your god damned head, Gekko?! Do you have any idea what you've just done?!"

"Of course I do. The Ashikaga wouldn't have brought justice down upon this man. They wouldn't have punished him for what he did to Yachi. He was working for Tomiko the whole time. Everything he did was to honor her vendetta against me."

"Gekko, you're playing a fool's game. Release him. Let him die out here, alone. Revenge isn't going to make the pain go away."

"No." Tsukiakari replied. "This bastard is going to answer for what he did to her. He's going to answer to Chiya, who no longer has any living relatives in this world. He's going to answer to all of Yachi's friends and comrades, everyone who loved her! He doesn't get to sit in an Ashikaga jail cell taking it easy until he dies of illness."

"I think it's an honor to be able to meet the poor sow's sister." the Man in Black groaned.

"Shut the hell up!" Taeko screamed. "Gekko, I love you, but if you think I'm going to support this, you're out of your mind. You're coming undone if you really think this is a good solution to anything. I thought we were done with this endless cycle of bull*censored*."

"I'm indebted to you, Taeko, but you don't have a say in this. You're no longer a Senkumo." Tsukiakari said.

Before Tsukiakari could even blink, she received a swift fist to her cheek, knocking her down into the dirt as Inari gasped in surprise. Goro stepped forth with his hand trained around the hilt of his sword.

"Taeko! Do that again and I'll cut you down!" Goro shouted.

"I dare you to, boy!" Taeko challenged.

Tsukiakari coughed the dirt out of her mouth as she slowly got back up from Taeko's punch. "It's fine, Goro! It's alright."

The two women stood faced to face, eye to eye. The blood moon and its army of faded stars hovered above their heads like a cosmic light show.

"Yachi was my friend too." Taeko growled, her hand still balled into a fist. "How dare you speak to me as if I don't know the girl wrapped up in that damned cloth! I loved her! Do you seriously believe she'd support this if she were still here?"

"Get out of my way. I'm taking both her and her killer home." Tsukiakari muttered.

Taeko recoiled in disgust, taking a few steps back away from her former friend. "My god...you've forsaken yourself. You're about to give this madman everything he wants. After everything we went through together, you still don't understand the world you live in, do you? There is no such thing as justice here, Gekko. He knows that. That's why he did all of this."

Tsukiakari scoffed. "It seems you've forsaken yourself as well. You used to shed both blood and sweat to create the justice that wasn't there, the freedom that wasn't ours. That's how this clan has gotten so far, survived all of the tragedies it has. We fight to create the society we wish to see. Don't tell me you've lost your spine."

"You sound just like Bishamon." Taeko hissed.

Tsukiakari pushed the Man in Black towards Taeko, telling her, without words, to carry him on her horse. Taeko bit her lip in vexation as she tugged the Man in Black along. Judging by the veins popping out from Taeko's forehead, Inari could tell that it was taking everything in Taeko's power to leave the argument aside. Refusing to even take another glance at Tsukiakari, Taeko helped the Man in Black onto her horse before mounting up herself. No one said a word. The animosity was too thick in the air for conversation. For Taeko, the silence was preferable. She couldn't bare to think that Yachi might still be watching them from somewhere, listening to Tsukiakari's poisonous intent.

It was terribly late in the night. Most of the Senkumo had already fallen asleep, their day's work completed. As usual, a small team of armed guards patrolled on the graveyard shift, shivering in their boots from the winter cold. Chiya was yanked out of her slumber by a violent knock upon her door. She sat up with a yawn, her vision still blurry and unfocused. She slipped her feet into her sandals and answered the door, worried there was some sort of emergency. Opening the sliding door, she came face to face with Inori.

"What's wrong?" Chiya asked.

Almost immediately after asking, Chiya's ears caught the faint sound of a multitude of whispers down the hall, all of them mentioning 'Tsukiakari'. It seemed everyone had risen out of their beds in excitement, but also confusion.

"Tsukiakari returned just now. It looked like she was headed towards the medical ward with Taeko, Goro, and Inari." Inori said.

"The medical ward?" Chiya repeated, her eyes suddenly widening. "And Yachi? Did Gekko bring Yachi back?!"

"I-I'm not sure. I only saw one other person in tow and I have no idea who that was. They...also carried something wrapped in white cloth to the medical ward. It looked like another person was wrapped up in there."

Horrified, Chiya bolted down the hall and barged out of the living quarters. She ended up in the courtyard and continued sprinting towards the medical ward. Her body was moving on its own, her mind both overwhelmed and blank at the same time. She barged into the ward itself, following the faint sounds of voices and the flickering traces of lantern lights to find Tsukiakari and the others. Turning the corner of the hall, she ran into Goro first.

"Lord Chiya? Why are you awake?" Goro asked.

In tears, Chiya struggled to collect the breath to speak. "My sister, Yachi. Is she here?"

Goro's tongue was made of stone. He couldn't find the right words to break the news to Chiya. Chiya pushed past him, sauntering towards the lantern light pouring out from the opened door ahead. As she approached the door, two Senkumo nurses barged out of the room, one of them embracing the other as they both cried together. Chiya stepped inside, alerting Taeko, Inari, and Tsukiakari to her presence. She saw a mere glimpse of the white cloth Inori described, but it was obscured by Inari's nine tails.

"Chiya." Tsukiakari said, surprised to see her. "I..."

"Let me see her." Chiya demanded.

"That's not a good idea." Taeko warned.

Chiya's voice cracked as she fought back her tears. "I'm begging you. Please let me see her."

Inari patted Tsukiakari's shoulder, then directed a glance at Taeko. Silently, the three of them agreed to vacate the room. Left alone with the body, Chiya could already tell from the smell permeating from the cloth that Yachi was not in a good state. Her hands shivered as her she traced the face of the body through the cloth. Not only was it cold to the touch, but it was riddled with swelling and bruises that could be felt right through the cloth.

Chiya's chest caught fire as her tears blurred her vision and fell upon the enveloped body. She slowly parted the cloth at the face of the body, and came face to face with her own sister. Her face was disfigured by the extreme torture she endured, but Chiya nonetheless recognized Yachi. Tsukiakari, Taeko, Inari, and everyone else could hear Chiya's heartbroken wails from down the darkened hall. Even those standing outside the medical ward, waiting in dreadful suspense for news of Yachi's return, heard those painful cries. It was all the confirmation they needed that Yachi did not return alive.

It was Taeko that cried the most, knowing all too well the pain of losing a sister. Unable to bear it anymore, Taeko marched back into the room. She approached Chiya from behind and took a gentle hold of her right hand. Chiya stood from her kneeling position and threw her arms around Taeko, who hugged her as tightly as she could.

The lantern hanging above Yachi's body flickered and weakened, until the flame was extinguished completely, stolen by the maw of winter's cold.

Oh boy I bet that text is easy on the eyes in that size lol
See, the book file is formatted in one size while the standard Amazon cut is another size. They had the size that fits the book file (otherwise words would get cut off) but it’s a weird dimension indeed. Ah well. You get to read fiction is cook book format

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: June 03, 2019, 04:25:25 AM »

Oh yeah, the digital version of Aika Crisis is out now too. Happy reading, everyone.

You can snag yourself a physical copy of Aika Crisis on Amazon now.
Or the digital copy for $2.99 on Amazon here!

For those interested, I'm going to be posting the Senkumo War Story novels over at Royal Road. Book of Blossoming will go up first, and then Book of Betrayal Part 1 (gotta go a chapter at a time, so bear with me). Great chance to read it if you haven't gotten into it yet.

I know it's the 'final' arc, release-wise, but it actually takes place centuries before the events of Death by Ex-Girlfriend. You don't need to read DbEG to get into SWS. You'll actually start seeing a lot of connections and cool tie-ins if you read SWS first. The supernatural conflicts laid out in this series are what lead to the conflicts in DbEG, after all.

Oh, that was faster than expected.

You can snag yourself a physical copy of Aika Crisis on Amazon now.
You can pre-order for $2.99 on Amazon here!

I want to try something a little different, though. I'm always weary of doing physical copies because they're bound to cost more than their digital counterparts. Manufacturing, printing costs, and all. Books with heavier word counts or bigger cut sizes cost more to print, so they naturally become more expensive.

So, how about this. You can read the book for free here, in it's entirety. If you like the work, go ahead and get yourself a physical copy. If you don't, well, tell me so. Either way, it's a good opportunity for everyone to see just how heavily I'm reworking and refining all of this.  :clapping: It has been no easy task, I assure you.

And since these books are coming out, I guess I'm open to any and all reviews, comments, or criticisms of any part of Death by Ex-Girlfriend or Senkumo War Stories. If you've got any thoughts about the series, a specific arc, general or specific, do share them  :clapping:

Alright, now to work on War Cloud. See you, folks.

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