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Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: March 18, 2019, 02:41:38 AM »

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: March 16, 2019, 01:39:57 PM »
This was fun

Snug and Cozy

The Shadow of Kameyama
Back to square one. Their only lead vanished without a trace beyond a torii gate that took them nowhere. Everyone stood around the shore of the lake, Tsukiakari massaging her aching temple while Inari skipped rocks down the water.

"We should've jumped the bastard. At least then we could've made him tell us where Yachi is." Taeko lamented. "I'm sorry, Gekko."

"Well, it's not like any of us could've guessed he'd vanish beyond a gate." Tsukiakari consoled. "That man we saw, the one in black? He was definitely the same guy I bumped into at Kameyama. We should head back and start asking people some questions in the morning."

"We'd practically be alerting the whole village about Yachi's disappearance." Inari warned.

"I know, but we can't do this by ourselves. We have to speed this up. Yachi's already been missing for far too long." Tsukiakari replied. "I will not leave her behind. Hell itself couldn't stop me from bringing her home."

"I'll keep some foxes stationed here in case they return. When should we ride back?" Inari asked.

"Now. Right now." Tsukiakari ordered.

Everyone mounted their horses, with Inari mounting up with Tsukiakari. There was something wrong, something that only Inari sensed. It was a strange and sudden feeling, as if they were making a horrible mistake by leaving the lake. Inari kept her eyes trained on the moonlit waters, rippling and dancing in the night. They were missing something, but Inari couldn't quite pinpoint what.

"You okay, Inari?" Tsukiakari asked.

The fox goddess snapped out of it. "Y-yes! I'm alright."

The first rays of dawn crept over the hill and between the trees as they rode back to Kameyama. Once solid ice began to slowly drip from petrified, dead branches. Startled deer quickly vacated from the road as they heard the thunder of horses approaching, scurrying back into the woods from whence they came. A wandering merchant here, a family repairing their broken down wagon there. Signs of quiet, peaceful civilization almost infuriated Tsukiakari. A young woman had gone missing right under their noses, as quietly as the town went about the day. Not one of them seemed even the least bit worried or bothered. Meanwhile, worry seemed to be the only thing coursing through Tsukiakari's veins.

Once they arrived back in town, everyone dismounted their horses and hitched them outside of the hotel where Yachi stayed. Taeko threw on her black haori and gloves, rubbing her hands together as a visible breath escaped from her lips.

"I almost forgot what it was like to see the sun. Feels like the water on my eyes was freezing up." Taeko quipped. "Alright, let's get to work. The old man in charge of the boat said that his son let the village guard know about Yachi, right? We should talk to them. It doesn't really look like they're doing much to solve the issue."

"Of course not. The Ashikaga probably told them not to." Tsukiakari groaned. "Let's go talk to the bastards."

Taeko turned towards her men. "Boys, go around and ask some of the residents what they know about our curious man in black. We'll reconvene here later."

"We'll see what we can dig up." assured one of the men as they descended the hill, aiming to begin their questioning in the heart of town.

Inari, Tsukiakari, and Taeko, stood outside of the hotel at the top of the hill, their minds overloaded with their increasingly difficult task of retrieving Yachi. Tsukiakari sighed as she leaned against the wooden railing along the edge of the hill, overlooking the rest of the town. Taeko and Inari were about to get down to business, but they stayed silent as they sensed the war goddess's morale deteriorate. Taeko approached her slowly, noticing her shoulders subtly shake and shiver as she started to cry. She hadn't seen Tsukiakari cry or heard her heartbreaking whimpers since the night she was tasked with euthanizing poor Ebina. That alone spoke volumes about why the tears were returning now, in such a hopeless, helpless situation.

"I'm sure she's alright, Gekko. If they went through that much trouble to hide her, they must be keeping her alive." Taeko assured.

"That's exactly why I'm crying." Tsukiakari said. "They're keeping her alive to make her suffer. I can feel it. Chiya is worried sick about her and we have no idea where she is. We've already lost so much."

Taeko closed her one, remaining eye, remembering the sensation of the other one she lost. "I know. "All too well."

Inari clasped her hands, struggling to get the words past her lips. In the end, she didn't have the bravery to speak her mind.

"Okay." Tsukiakari sighed. "I need to pull myself together. We have to find her. We just have to."

"That torii gate was rather curious. Whoever that man in black was, he knows his way around the supernatural." Taeko observed. "You don't think he's a god, do you?"

"I've never seen any god like him, so I doubt it." Inari refuted. "None of us have such grotesque scars around our bodies, since we have heightened healing properties."

"Yeah, the guy looked like he was dipped in a pot of hot oil or something." Taeko said. "Someone like him can't possibly keep a low profile around this small town. The men should be able to learn something. We should get going and talk to the village guard, Gekko."

Tsukiakari nodded as Taeko softly rubbed her back, silently agreeing with her. The three girls soon made their way down the hill, marching through the heart of town in sluggish lockstep. They paid no mind to the residents quickly passing them by, all of them heading in the same direction they were going. But then, as more and more people rushed past them, some of them even sprinting, the girls looked to each other in confusion. They hurried their pace, following the abnormally frantic foot traffic down the frosted, dirt road. The frightened populace of Kameyama congregated outside of Sakura's flower shop, of all places. Three local men worked together to hold the front door of the shop closed, as if they were trying to keep something terrible from coming out. As the girls approached, monstrous wails of pain bellowed from inside, shaking the very walls of the shop.

The three men barricading the store from the outside all wore the same black robes and hoods lined with gray, serow fur, the outfits of Kameyama's local guard.

"Get back! Stay the hell back!" one of the guards shouted at the crowd.

Tiny flashes of orange light flickered beyond the blackened windows as the screams continued. More and more people gathered outside of the shop began to high-tail it home, locking themselves and their loved ones inside. Some even went the extra mile, slapping holy talismans on their front doors to ward off evil spirits. With such terrifying sounds erupting from a once peaceful store, it was no wonder that people were resorting to superstition. The entire town was frozen in fear.

Tsukiakari rushed through the fleeing crowd, approaching the guards blockading the entrance.

"Didn't you hear us? Stay back!" the guard guard commanded

"Whatever's in there, you're not going to make it go away by standing here all day, are you? Let me in!" Tsukiakari commanded.

"Gekko, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Taeko asked in deep worry.

"I don't. All I know is that Sakura is in there, screaming in pain. Even she despises me, I won't let her endure whatever's going on in there! So, I implore you to let me the hell in!"

"Please, let her inside!" Inari urged. "My friend here is an onmyouji! She's better equipped than any of us to deal with an omen!"

Yet again, Inari had to tell another lie and tarnish her good reputation. At the very least, none of the villagers even knew that she was the revered fox goddess.

"An onmyouji? You sure you can handle whatever the hell is in there?" asked one of the guards, earning a nod from Tsukiakari.

"Lock me in if you need to. Just don't let that innocent woman inside suffer for any longer."

The guards moved aside, cracking the door open just enough for Tsukiakari to slip in. "Okay, but hurry! This was your idea, so don't blame us for whatever happens!"

Tsukiakari looked to her companions once more before rushing inside the flower shop, the door closing shut behind her.

"An onmyouji?" Taeko whispered to Inari. "Are you out of your mind?"

"It worked, didn't it? It was the first thing that came to mind."

"Gekko hasn't the slightest clue of how to deal with spirits. None of us do! I..."

Taeko's incoming lecture trailed off as over two dozen men in reddish-orange armor stormed down the road in a single column, their boots splashing in the frigid puddles reflecting the sun's light.

"Ashikaga." Taeko growled, pulling Inari along with her. "We have to go, Inari."

Trapped in the belly of the beast, Tsukiakari paid no heed to the soldiers forming a perimeter outside of the shop, most of them visible through the front windows. The rest of the windows, however, remained blocked by bamboo window shades, thus benighting the shop. Despite the darkness, Tsukiakari could make out the outline of a body lying on the floor just shy of the purchase counter. Thick trails of dried blood stained the stranger's face, from her empty eye sockets down to her neck. The screams quieted down into cries and agonized groans. Taking just one step forward on the creaking, wooden floor, Tsukiakari kept her hand positioned just above the hilt of her sword. A second body, mere feet away from the first, lied in a pool of coagulated blood, its face blackened and disfigured. The war goddess spotted the weeping Sakura sitting on top of a third corpse, a small, orange light flickering from her forehead.

Even in the darkness of the shop, Tsukiakari could see every breath she took. Of all places, how could a flower shop be the site of such misery? How could a place run with such love and care from its owner became a dark and cold crypt reeking of blood and burnt hair?

"Those who have eyes cannot see..." Sakura whispered like a mantra. "Those who have eyes cannot see. Those who have eyes cannot see..."

Hoping to snap Sakura out of her horrific trance, Tsukiakari quietly uttered her name. "Sakura."

She raised her head, revealing the source of the flickering light. A bright horn of fire protruded from the left side of her forehead, illuminating her blackened eyes and ghostly, white face. Devoid of color, warmth, and the common twinkle in every human's eye, Sakura stared back at Tsukiakari as a husk of what she once was, a human turned monster. Her lips shivered as the stared into the war goddess's eyes, as if some surviving fragment of her humanity struggled to break through to the surface.

"Those who have eyes cannot see." Sakura repeated.

Tsukiakari peered over Sakura's shoulder, noticing the third corpse had its eyes ripped from its sockets, just like the first.

"I'm sorry, Sakura. There's nothing I can do for you anymore." Tsukiakari lamented, her head bowed.

The only thing left for Sakura was death. Nothing else would end her suffering. Tsukiakari drew her sword, the blade screeching against the inside of the scabbard.

"I apologize for our regrettable first exchange." Tsukiakari prayed. "I know the pain of war all too well. But I was too immature to realize you were no stranger to it either. I am the one that denied your humanity. I was wrong to do that."

Sakura stared almost absentmindedly at Tsukiakari as she raised her blade.

"Find peace, Sakura."

The sword cut through Sakura's neck in a single, clean swipe, severing her head. Her body flopped to the ground as her head rolled across the floor, stopping in front of her once proud assortment of azaleas. The flaming horn protruding from her forehead slithered and coiled around the entire length of the head, the fire growing more and more agitated. The flames exploded into a searing conflagration, instantly enveloping the entire shop. The guards blockading the door, as well as the Ashikaga stationed outside backed away in terror as they watched the building go up in flames, sending a trail of black smoke soaring towards the pallid, winter sky. Tsukiakari herself was caught in the fire, her black kimono and upper body scorched in an instant. She rolled on the floor, desperately reaching around for her blade's hilt. Grabbing it, she stuck the blade into the floor and instantly choked most of the flames away with a gust of crystal-blue frost. The flowers, including the Azaleas, remained alight with flame, their fiery petals gently falling down to the floor.

Lo and behold, the Phantom Soldier stood in the very spot where Sakura's head was eviscerated. And out from Sakura's corpse arose the Phantom Maiden, her appearance triggering the emergence of the war goddess's own flaming horn. Tsukiakari's entire body was paralyzed with unbelievable pain. Her hands, arms, and cheek were black and pink from the scorching she had just received, and the protrusion of her fiery horn only made it feel as if the inside of her head was on fire. She stood helpless to do anything as the Phantom Soldier took slow, plodding steps towards her. He drew a screeching blade of lightning from his fiery scabbard, mimicking one of Tsukiakari favorite techniques.

Like a bloodthirsty executioner, the Phantom Soldier raised his blade above Tsukiakari's head, ready to drop the focused lightning down upon her neck. But every flame casts a shadow as deep as its own light, and out of those shadows came a third figure, the man in black.

"Enough." was the only word he uttered upon his arrival.

The Phantom Soldier retracted his blade and backed away, disappearing inside of the fire. Something else was paralyzing Tsukiakari now, a legitimate, primal fear that had suddenly taken over her. This illusive 'man', if one could call him that, kneeled before the wounded Tsukiakari, his black hat obscuring his face. His pale, scarred hand reached towards her, his thumb pressing on her left cheek while two fingers pressed on the other. In her pursuit of this illusive phantom of a man, she was instead caught by him.

Seeing her face up close, the man in black smiled. "The blood moon of the battlefield herself, Tsukiakari Senkumo. Back from the grave, are we?"

Continuing on with Book of Azaleas
Begone, Evil
While Taeko and the others threw together a plan to use Jinbei as as bait, Tsukiakari hastily entered Sakura's flower shop, taking shelter from the dearth of warmth outside. The floor of wooden boards beneath her sandals creaked and moaned beneath the weight of her body as she took those first few steps inside the store. Her sandals left wet footprints on the wood, a gift from the morning frost coating the petrified, congealed earth outside, The air of the shop was naturally sweetened by the perfume of blooming flowers sitting on display. The aroma, combined with Sakura's polite bow and endearing smile, gave her shop an atmosphere of homely warmth during such a cold, pallid winter. Seeing no one else around, Tsukiakari threw off her black hood, revealing her wicked tendrils of raven hair loosely draped over her scarlet eyes.

Upon seeing her customer without her hood, Sakura's smile waned. "Good day to you, ma'am. Please let me know if I can help you."

"Actually, you can." Tsukiakari retorted, approaching Sakura. "A friend of mine came here to Kameyama about a week and half ago. Her name is Yachi Otonougi. She was supposed to come home immediately after her trip here, but she never returned. There's evidence to suggest she was abducted. Violently."

Sakura's lips slowly pulled apart. "There's no mistaking it. Voluminous hair as black as a moonless night. Eyes as red as the blood moon. But the stories spoke nothing of your rotten aura."

Tsukiakari rested her arms on the counter, leaning in towards Sakura. "I'm sorry, are you always this rude to your customers?"

"I know who you are, Tsukiakari Senkumo."

"We've never met."

"But I've heard all the stories. I've seen the results of your work, the carnage and suffering you leave in your wake."

"We live in an era of war."

"An era that you helped create. An era of fanatics so willing to die for a cause that they practically wait in lines to widow their wives. You and your men are lunatics so obsessed with creating your new nation that you'll burn down what remains of the one we already have. You're demons driven by revenge."

Tsukiakari leaned in closer, whispering through serrated suspirations. "Are you going to help me, or not?"

"Yachi came here to buy flowers. Azaleas. She ended up buying the seeds instead, so she could plant them at the turn of Spring. I didn't see her after that." Sakura explained.

"You recognized her, didn't you? You knew she was a Senkumo."

"I had my suspicions, but she's the one who told me she was from your clan. She's a sweet girl, unlike you. I pray that she's found and brought home safely. She doesn't deserve to be harmed just because she's associated with the likes of you. But you're used to that by now, aren't you? Good people becoming nothing but ashes and memories, all for your dream of building a new nation. Just like my fiancé."

Knowing her presence was no longer welcome, Tsukiakari walked in reverse, rearing towards the exit. "Enjoy aging away as a widow in her *censored* hole of a flower shop. Thanks for nothing."

Without another word, Tsukiakari slipped out of Sakura's shop, slamming the door shut. She released a heated sigh into pale, wintry sky, watching as her visible breath disappeared before her eyes. A strange feeling lingered in her chest, like insects crawling around the inner walls of her lungs. She couldn't quite work out exactly what emotion she was feeling after that brief, but bitter encounter. Anger, perhaps. Rage, even. But something else accompanied that rage, harassing her heart like an enemy that refused to let her sleep calmly in the night. She quickly discarded the feeling and marched back up the road, leaving the storefront in a huff. Taeko and the others emerged out of the alley to her right, all of them waving the war goddess to join them on their walk towards the crest of the hills to the north.

"Gekko, come with us." Taeko said. "Inari is using Jinbei to bait the Ashikaga. When they come and pick him up, we'll follow them to see where they take him. Hopefully they lead us to Yachi."

"Sounds like a plan." Tsukiakari coughed. "Well, I didn't get much out of the florist here. I get the impression that she doesn't like me very much. Wait, did you say Inari is using Jinbei as bait?"

Inari, very clearly ashamed of herself, kept her head lowered and her eyes downcast. "I don't want to talk about it. Let's just get this done and find Yachi."

Words of assurance traveled their way from Tsukiakari throat to the tip of her tongue, just as someone suddenly bumped shoulders with her on the road. Keeping up a modicum of politesse during such a stressful search, Tsukiakari made sure to bow and apologize. "Excuse me, sir."

The man before her, if one could even call him that, was dressed in tattered, black, Buddhist robes. A wide-brimmed, black hat obscured most of his face, but his apparel did little to chase off any stares towards his unsightly skin. Every inch of visible skin on his arms and lower half of his face was malformed and disfigured, likely from severe burns. It was rough, uneven, and even a tad sallow. Long trails of suture marks coiled up and down the length of his arm, with shorter trails plaguing what little could be seen of his face. Such breathtaking scars. It must've been impossible for him to live a normal life having to wear them all around his body.

The man bowed, tipping his hat towards the young lady before him. "My apologies, ma'am." he said in a clear, deep voice.

Though the man continued on his way, Tsukiakari stood frozen for what felt like minutes to her. She felt as though she had just bumped into a ghost wearing black, as if he were ready to attending a funeral. Taeko wrapped her hand around Tsukiakari's shoulder, guiding her back along the road.

"You alright, Gekko?" Taeko asked.

"Yeah...yeah, I think so."

"It's not uncommon to see scarred veterans around this area, but that guy looked like he walked through hell itself and still made it out. I wonder what battle did that to him." Taeko said.

Taeko and the others continued on their way.

Snowflakes lazily rocked back and forth on top of the restless, winter wind. The darkness of night had fallen over the land and the pale moon usurped the radiant sun. Taeko's men kept their watchful eyes trained on Jinbei's farmstead from afar, resting on a snowbank on top of a hill. It had been hours already. Everyone was beginning to wonder if Inari's bait would even be effective. Taeko sat among her men at the edge of the snowbank, snacking on small servings of onigiri to satiate her grumbling stomach. Tsukiakari, on the other hand, couldn't bare to eat a bite or catch a moment's rest. The sight of Yachi's blood staining the snow left her with no appetite and no desire to sleep. She sat a little ways behind Taeko and her men, her crimson eyes fixated on the starry sky. She didn't utter a word to anyone. Silence and ample time to think usually served to calm her nerves, but Tsukiakari found no peace in either of them now. Time was against them, and until they found a lead, all Tsukiakari could do was sit back and think. Think about all of the horrific possibilities of where Yachi was or what was being done to her in that very moment.

Inari approached from the foot of hill, her hands tucked in her sleeves to keep warm. Her own breath became a visible gust of white vapor as she sighed, sitting next the war goddess.

"Are you warm enough in that kimono, Gekko?" Inari asked.

No reply. Tsukiakari couldn't even look Inari in the eye.

"We're going to find her. I'm sure we will. Just hang in there, for Yachi's sake." Inari encouraged.

A sudden hissing from Taeko grabbed their attention. Taeko swished her hand towards herself, urging the two goddesses to come to her position. Their legs ached as they climbed up the snowbank and set their eyes on Jinbei's farmstead. Taeko pointed her finger towards Jinbei's house past the crop fields.

"Jinbei's finally got some visitors. They might be the same people that took Yachi" Taeko said.

The ghostly, amber light of lanterns dangling in the snow caught their attention as they scanned the house. Six Ashikaga troops stood guard outside of the house, forming a perimeter around the inner farmstead. There was a seventh figure among them. Unlike the troops, he didn't have a lantern at his hip, nor did he don any kind of armor. He wore a familiar set of black, tattered robes, his pale, scarred arm reaching out to pinch the brim of his raven hat as he ascended the steps of the porch. One of the six guards accompanied him to provide light.

"The hell?" Taeko cursed. "We ran into that guy earlier, didn't we?"

"What should we do?" Inari asked.

"We wait." Tsukiakari said. "If these guys took Yachi, they might take Jinbei to the same location. Taeko, we need to get ready to tail him."

Taeko nodded as her men rallied around her. "You heard her, boys. Let's keep our distance. Make sure you aren't seen."

"Yes, ma'am!" the men responded before rushing to their horses.

Sure enough, the Ashikaga stormed into the house and dragged the unconscious Jinbei out by his arms. They loaded him onto a horse-drawn wagon, the ghostly pale man in black riding with his body and four guards while the other two drove the horses. They proceeded to speed down the dirt road heading northeast out of town, leaving Kameyama behind. Tsukiakari and the others slowly trotted along on their horses, deathly cautious about their distance. They cut off from the road and hid themselves among the twisting, enveloping shadows of the surrounding woods.

"Where the hell are they going?" Tsukiakari hissed.

"I don't know." Taeko shrugged. "All I know is that Lake Biwa is this direction."

They continued tailing the wagon for what felt like hours through the bitter cold, finding themselves a long ride away from Kameyama. The wagon's wheels screeched and whistled as it came to a stop along the shore of Lake Biwa, the moon's reflection shimmering on its waters. A small fishing boat sat along the shore, its nose pointed towards the torii gate built some hundred meters down the lake. The men dragged Jinbei off of the wagon just as he was regaining consciousness. His speech was slurred, his words sounding more like confused moans as he realized he was in Ashikaga captivity.

The man in black was the last to leap off of the wagon, putting on his black, cotton gloves before doing so. Jinbei's moans turned into soft sobs as he pieced together what was happening to him. As per his worst fears, Jinbei was caught in the jaws of the Ashikaga after colluding with their sworn enemy. The man in black pointed towards the fishing boat, signaling two of the men to prepare it to traverse the lake. As the men proceeded to follow his order, a single flaming horn suddenly protruded through his black hat, a strange sight that garnered no significant reactions from the Ashikaga guards.

Tsukiakari and the others observed from afar, some several hundred meters away from the lake.

"They're going to cross Lake Biwa? We not just ride around it?" Taeko questioned. "Did they really take Yachi out this far?"

"We'll track them from the shore." Tsukiakari said. "We can't lose them now. This is our only shot to find Yachi. Come on!"

Tsukiakari took the lead and rode along shore as the fishing boat set out on the moonlit waters. They watched with keen eyes as the boat slowly drifted passed the torii gate, only for it to disappear before their very eyes. The boat simply vanished beneath the gate, never emerging from the other side.

"It's's gone!" Tsukiakari shouted.

"I'd say it wasn't possible if I hadn't just saw the damn thing vanish..." said one of Taeko's men.

"Only one way to see where it took them. Gekko, you're the only one that can reach that gate without a boat." Taeko said.

Tsukiakari brought her sword along with her as she dismounted, marching towards the shore. She unsheathed her blade and swiftly slashed the waters with the very tip of her sword. The slash produced a high-pitched ringing that resonated off of the lake, a sound similar to when ears momentarily lose their hearing, only for them to ring before sound returns. A bridge of radiant ice formed from the shore to the torii gate, astonishing Taeko's spectating men.

"That's the power of a goddess, gentlemen." Taeko chuckled. "Make sure you don't get on her bad side, though. That girl has a higher kill count than any of us combined."

Tsukiakari stood before the torii gate, which looked like any other gate one would find at the average shrine. There was nothing about it that would suggest it had any supernatural properties beyond the belief that it would ward off evil. She passed beneath the gate, finding that she had not disappeared like the boat did before. No matter how many times she tried, the gate worked as nomral, not as a door to a faraway place. After several failed tries, she waved her sword in the air, signaling to the others that it wasn't working.

With a heavy sigh, Tsukiakari rested her hand against the leg of the gate. "You let them in, but you're keeping me out?"

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: February 24, 2019, 05:53:16 AM »
Together in the Urn



Book of Betrayal is out. Forgot to mention that. Enjoy!

MR Pub / Re: Chit Chat 2018
« on: January 28, 2019, 11:18:53 PM »
I just wanna give a shoutout to all the homies that didn't live long enough to see Kingdom Hearts 3 get released

We made it, peeps.

We made it.

Music / Re: OGHM's Wacky Slappy Guitar Riffs
« on: January 26, 2019, 12:02:39 AM »
The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Alright guys, With Book of Blossoming complete and Book of Betrayal up for pre-order, I'm shelving the SWS series for now so I can focus on getting Death by Ex-Girlfriend out. Since I did two for SWS, I'll probably go ahead and do two for DbEG.

Though, I seriously have a mind to go out of order again and do Inari Standoff  :unsure:

Thanks suuper!

So, someone gave me a really cool suggestion. They said I should rewrite Inari Standoff to be in the first person. Most of the story takes place in the airport with Inari and Osamu and doesn't really change perspectives like the other arc. It would be a good opportunity to make the experience more intimate by getting inside of Osamu's head. I think I'll actually do this.

I tried writing out a foreword from this perspective.
A Foreword That Wasn't a Foreword, But a Confession
I've been wondering where to start with this story. I've been wondering exactly how I'm supposed to tell you about everything that happened during those fateful three days. You know me. I'm no good with organizing my thoughts. I've always been the kind of man that shoots from the hip and figures everything out later. But I suppose, if I had to start anywhere, it would be with a foreword of sorts. No, that's not right. Instead, consider this a confession, from me to you.

I have many regrets in my life, many of them you've been a witness to. Though there are many stories and experiences I've divulged to you thus far, I must begin my confession with a simple admission that I have misled you. Hell, I've been misleading myself as well, so I hope you don't take it too personally. Of course, for the sake of cheap suspense, I won't say exactly what I've misled you about all of this time, but if you've a keen eye, you might've already guessed what my lie was.

My second admission is related to the first in a way. What happened with Rousoku Himawari...I shudder to even remember it. Usually, my tales end on a bittersweet note, but not that one. It ended in tragedy and nothing more. What you witnessed was love, hatred, and envy culminating in a bloodbath that none of us wanted. The whole experience shook me like I've never been shook before. All of the color in the world turned gray, and even the shadows turned a deeper black. Needless to say, I was not a good place.

And that is where this story comes in.

I am going to tell you a tale about a particularly pivotal event that I unwittingly involved myself in, an event referred to as the Inari Standoff. Three days the standoff spanned. It was so brief, and yet, with her at my side, it felt like a lifetime. This "her" I'm referring to is the namesake of the event itself; Inari Okami. A fox goddess with deep-red eyes and snow-white hair. An alluring beauty whose body and spirit were both riddled with scars. A once-proud and noble deity, reduced to a flesh-eating, blood-drinking fugitive desperate to do anything to survive. A being who was once worshiped by humans, being hunted by them. She terrified me. Her scarlet gaze froze my spine and set fire to my nerves. And yet, I was drawn to her. So utterly drawn to her. To this day, I still can't quite comprehend what came over me, what possessed me to stand by her side. Still, in all of my foolishness, allow me to try and explain.

I think, during those three days of the standoff, Inari and I saw ourselves in each other. We both saw the hurt, the pain, the guilt, the anger the other felt. Initially, we were only using each other for our own gain, but our relationship quickly became more than that. We fell in love. It was a love born in darkness, anger and grief. It was love given form by shedding our blood and tears together. It was a love of two wounded souls seeking comfort in each other.

You've loved someone, I'm sure. Even if they didn't love you back. You probably considered that person your reason for living at some point. You thought that they embodied everything that made life such a worthwhile journey. The love I will tell you about in this tale is much more sacred than that,

You see, we loved each other, not because we saw each other as a reason to live.

We saw each other as a reason to die.

Inari and I hoped to survive the ordeal and live together, but we both knew that such a possibility was like a coin toss. Knowing that, we both marched in lockstep towards our deaths. To us, that was alright. Dying was okay, because we would die together. All of our earthly burdens would be left here. Our bodies would join the soil of the earth, and we'd be long-gone, in a much better place.

Our story is sacred to me, so much so that I did not want to recite it to you. In telling this tale, I feel as though I'm exposing myself before you and tearing out my hair and my eyes. No, it feels even worse than that. It feels as though I'm desecrating the tomb of a beloved friend, a tomb that was enwreathed in flowers and offering, never meant to be disturbed.

I feel that way, because Inari meant everything to me. And because, in this story, she is the one that exposes how I've mislead you. She was the one who spoke the truth and set me free. It is entirely because of her that I am here now, solemnly healed of all the pain I had felt before.

At this point, I'm sure you're wondering where Inari is right now. Did she make it through the standoff, despite all odds? Well, I suppose I can let you in on this little secret. Accept it as your reward for making it through this drawn out confession of mine.

Inari promised me that her heart would still be beating by the end of the standoff.

Despite all odds, she upheld her promise.

That's the kind of woman Inari is.

My dearest friend, my guiding lover, my reason to die.

This is the story of Inari Okami, and the infamous Inari Standoff.


Wooo I did it!

Kind of  :ohmy:

Book of Betrayal comes out on February 8th, but it's available for pre-order for 99 cents.

I hope this one does well too. Like Book of Blossoming, this one went through a lot of rewrites and improvements, so I promise you that it's well worth the dollar.

Ironically, SWS has turned out to be the most intriguing aspect of DbEG to me. I guess it's just because it sets everything up that happens in DbEG. Tsukiakari living past the Warring States and into the modern era despite receiving no prayers as a goddess. Izanami reuniting with Kagutsuchi hundreds of years after she's given a physical body again. The question of Izanami's strange immortality despite other gods being able to die. The exorcist system arising as a reiteration of what Bishamon did with the Senkumo. Inari turning into a flesh-eating butcher who's distrustful of humans after several centuries on the run. And the culmination of the Third Great Holy War between the Shinto pantheon and the vampires.

Through a shocking turn of events, Senkumo War Stories: Book of Betrayal Part 1 is just about 99% complete. Just adding a few more tiny scenes and reading it over again. I could really finish it tonight and publish it, but I would still like to wait a tad bit. I wanna run promotion and get some final thoughts before publishing  :thumbsup:

Aika Crisis is still in the oven on the DbEG side of things. Book of Azaleas (the one I'm working on now, about the abduction of Yachi Otonougi) will be next on the SWS side of things. Book of Blossoming was about 53,000 words and Book of Betrayal looks like it might be a little over 65,000.

As I continue working on Death by Ex-Girlfriend: Aika Crisis, I'll also be finishing up Senkumo War Stories: Book of Betrayal.

Good ol' Tsukiakari had a rough life. Anyway, I plan to release Book of Betrayal sometime in March, and Aika Crisis soon after in April.

Revision to the chapter "I Need You, I Need You, I Need You..." in the Dawn and Dusk arc. Because I like to make my audience suffer by making them emotionally attached to certain characters and then messing those characters up really badly.

Isabella Confesses
Later that night, Isabella woke in her hospital bed to find Izanami standing at her side, as still as a shadow. Izzy's head throbbed and shuddered as she sat up and turned on her bedside lamp, taking a blurred, tired gander at the fidgeting Izanami. The goddess's eyes were downcast, but they glimmered like glass with the moonlight beaming into the hospital room. Izzy knew Izanami long enough to know something was wrong.

Isabella: Izanami? What's wrong?

Izanami lowered her head.

Izanami: I'm so sorry, Izzy. I'm so sorry...

Isabella: It's not your fault, love. I just got dizzy and fell, that's all. Really, it's okay. Come, sit down with me.

Izzy patted her hand on a spot right next to her, beckoning Izanami to come over. She accepted the invitation and plopped down on the hospital bed alongside Izzy, the two sitting in silence for a short time.

Izanami: How are you holding up?

Isabella smiled and released a few giggling suspirations.

Isabella: For someone who fell down the stairs and hit their head, I'm doing just peachy! I think some of the others in this wing have it a lot worse than I do right now.

Izanami: No offense, Izzy, don't look all too 'peachy'.

Scratching the back of her head, Isabella's nodded as her smile waned and withered. Her sigh shattered her optimistic attitude.

Isabella: Yeah. I know. Pancreatic cancer. Can you believe it? Of all people, me. At my age.

Izanami: I'm sorry...

Isabella smiled as she held Izanami's hand, shaking it slightly as a sign of reassurance.

Isabella: No more apologies out of you, miss. This isn't your fault. Besides, I'm glad you came here. I was just thinking I needed someone to talk to. You're always so patient and understanding, Izanami. You're the perfect ear!

Izanami: Well...of course! Whatever you want to say, I'll listen.

Isabella: I, uh, called my mother. Once I learned the extent of the cancer, and, well, how this was gonna end...I had to decide what I'd do afterwards.

Izanami: Afterwards?

Isabella: body. After I'm gone.

Izanami's lips trembled, as if she was scared to delve any deeper.

Izanami: What did you decide?

Isabella clasped her hands together as if in prayer, nodding as her eyes darted across miscellaneous objects in the room, trying to busy themselves.

Isabella: My folks wanted me to come home as soon as they heard I had cancer. They thought that maybe I'd be able to have it removed surgically in the United States. Unfortunately, my kind of cancer is usually spotted and diagnosed far too late. As was the case with me. By the time the doctors found it, I was already out of options. All I could do was wait for the end. Then, it became a matter of waiting at home with my family, or staying here. It was...the most painful choice I've ever had to make, Izanami, but I chose to stay and meet my end here. I had to prepare myself to tell her, but I was able to let my mother knew. That was the first time I'd ever made her cry. I'll never forget that.

Izanami: I'm sure she understands.

Isabella: Yeah, I'm sure too. I hope I'm sure, anyway. It's just...I'm my mother's last child. My brother died nearly seven thousand miles away from home and was brought back in a box. Looks like I'll be going home in a similar fashion.

Izanami: But you're pretty strong for being able to decide these things and communicate them clearly. You're a decision maker even in a time like this.

Isabella: I guess so. No parent should ever have to outlive both of her children.

Izanami: As morbid as it is to say, there's really no helping it at this point.

Isabella: Man, Izanami. What am I gonna do now? It feels like I've hardly even lived much of a life, like I've still got so much unfinished work to do. I wanted to make more friends, get married, have children here, maybe find a job near a U.S. base here. If I had enough of my own money, I wanted to open up a restaurant, a nice, small one near our neighborhood. So many things I wanted to do...

Izanami: Perhaps you've done enough. Perhaps your job here is already done. Maybe, just maybe, you've already brought happiness to more lives than you know. I think the most important thing you can do with the time you have left is to make yourself happy. Find your joy.

Isabella leaned back and nodded with a smile.

Isabella: When I think of what it is that makes me happy, I just think of you and the others.

Izanami leaned in towards Izzy.

Izanami: Then, perhaps, that's all you truly need.

Again, with those giggling suspirations, Izzy grinned widely as she spoke.

Isabella: You're right, you're right. I'm having all of this doubt and guilt because...I...well, Izanami, if I had to confess... I...

Her smile broke apart, melting into a somber frown. Her glossy eyes glistened beneath her slightly raised brow, her voice breaking with childlike vulnerability and mortal fear.

Isabella: I'm scared...

Her saddened expression, her fear of what was to come, broke Izanami's heart.

Izanami: Don't be, Izzy. We're all with you, and we'll be with you until the end. Don't simply wait for the end. Waiting is what fills us with fear. Like a book, we have to forge our endings carefully. Write yourself an ending you can be at peace with. An ending worthy of Isabella Bailey. We'll all help you do it.

Izanam took hold of Isabella's hand, squeezing it like it was the last solid thing on earth.

Isabella: You're right. You're right...

Manga Talk / Re: what manga are u reading now?
« on: December 29, 2018, 05:16:15 PM »
It's Winter, which means I do my yearly re-reading of some of my favorite manga! The first one is a short, but really sweet manga called Ane Doki by Mizuki Kawa*censored*a. You might know her as the creator of Ichigo 100%.

Despite being my favorite work of hers, this is one of Kawa*censored*a's most unpopular works. Ichigo 100% seems to be her biggest one, and you'll probably hear more about Te no Kuchi than you will about Ane Doki. And to be fair, Ane Doki fulfills all of the clichés of its genre. Misunderstandings and accidents galore. However, I didn't mind that for a pretty simple reason: Kouta, the MC, is 13, and he finds himself living under the same roof with a 17 year old girl. I mean, I have experience being a young boy living with older girls, so it just reminds me of my childhood hijinks and the sexual tension that comes with that kind of situation.

Ane Doki's strengths are its art, presentation, and its characters. Ane Doki's art is much more refined and cleaner than Ichigo 100%. I feel like this was the manga where Kawa*censored*a really started to hone her visual style and I love it.

Presentation wise, this was really influential for me. This is a story focusing on Kouta living with a 17 year old girl named Natsuki. In stories focusing on the home setting, I feel like the passage of time needs to be felt, even if the work is short, to make the inevitable emotional impact really hit home. Despite only being 26 chapters, Kawa*censored*a made it feel much longer with one simple trick. Seasons!

The manga depicts the changes in seasons and weaves it into the story. Kouta met Natsuki during the sweltering Summer, a hot season for a hot girl. Right at the start of Fall, Kouta realizes his feelings are a mess after he goes on a date with his longtime crush, Kanade, has his dream come true when she confesses to him, but can only think of Natsuki when that happens. Winter time is when those feelings come to a head. It's the saddest part of the story, as Kouta's father finally returns from his sudden, business trip and breaks the news that he's being transferred to Sapporo, which means they have to move. At this point, Kouta had been living with Natsuki and her sister Chiaki for six months, so needless to say, the news is quite a heartbreaking bombshell for them.

Knowing that he and the girls will have to part ways, Kouta wanders the neighborhood to sort out his feelings. What I love about this is that Kanade confronts him and confesses to him again, knowing full well that Kouta really loves Natsuki. Kanade takes the defeat with some mighty grace though. Kouta himself doesn't outright say that he loves Natsuki, he only apologizes after being confessed to. Kanade can see it in his face and demeanor that he loves the older girl living with him. She even admits that Kouta changed because of Natsuki. He became more assertive, more willing to take action when it's time to act.

"Now that I've done it, you have to do it too. You better tell her how you feel." She even encourages him to confess to Natsuki before they part ways. It was definitely the most graceful and somber acceptance of defeat I've seen from a girl in a manga.

Throughout the story, Natsuki does seem like she's acting purely out of self-interest, but by the time the Winter chapters come, Kouta realizes that everything she was doing was to help him grow up and become who he is now. And despite him being young and small, she never lost faith that he could do what he needed to in any given situation.

It's such a short manga, but it never fails to hit home. This was the manga that influenced how I write in pretty much every aspect. I prefer home settings because of this. I make my characters live together and have plenty of slice-of-life moments because of this. I learned to make the passage of time feel more tangible by depicting the change of seasons, and then changing the mood of the story to match those seasons. I associate Spring with beginnings and discoveries, Summer with excitement and sexual tension, Fall with changes to personalities and traits, and Winter with reminiscence and melancholy. Then Sankarea would come along and influence how I view depiction of lighting and color, but that's another story.

If you like Kawa*censored*a's work, Ane Doki is a hidden gem buried beneath her more popular manga. I really wish it were longer, but it packs quite a lot in just 26 chapters. Most of all, it's very homely feeling and genuine towards the end. Bonus points for chapter 26.5, the four page mini-epilogue. I'm a sucker for endings that mirror the beginning. That was beautiful, Kawa*censored*a. Absolutely beautiful.  :clapping:

Read during the Winter (NOW) for maximum effect.

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