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Who is Best Girl?

Shoku Twins

Author Topic: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)  (Read 42690 times)

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Online OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« Reply #405 on: June 02, 2018, 11:17:22 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: The Heart Afire With Reminiscence
After returning to the Senkumo mansion later that day, Yachi waited until night to begin preparations for Kameyama. Her quarters, shared with her sister, was but a simple, square room with two futons, a table, and a shared drawer. She sat beside the drawer with an opened, round bag made of the same fabric as the common Senkumo robe. The mouth of the bag was lined with rope so it could be tightened until closed, and then worn around the shoulder or across the back. She was able to simply pick up her already neatly folded clothes and drop them in the bag. She could barely contain her giddy laughter as she packed her bag. All she could think about was finding the perfect azaleas for her sister and wowing her to tears with the gift. Maybe she'd even be rewarded with a 'Best Sister" medal for her stunning act kindness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Kameyama, here I am!"

Online OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« Reply #406 on: June 02, 2018, 11:18:26 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: Springtime in Winter
Weary from her travel, Yachi marched down the road into the heart of the quiet town of Kameyama, eager to find a caretaker for her horse. Almost everyone she walked by was tightly wrapped in colorful kimonos, using their oil-paper umbrellas to keep the snow at bay. Merchants to her left and right beckoned their potential customers, hoping to sell them chopped wood for their fireplaces, oil for their furnaces, and bundles of straw to reinforce their rooftops against the snow. Yachi continued down the road, delighted by the cheers and hollers booming from the inside of the bar to her right, where the men gathered to drink hot sake together. She returned her gaze to the road, spotting the town stables just a few steps ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Online OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« Reply #407 on: June 15, 2018, 10:50:54 PM »
Senkumo War Stories: Her Morning
Having paid for her room and completed all of her tasks for the day, Yachi readied herself for bed. Standing at the foot of her futon, she plopped her travel bag down on the floor and withdrew her black jinbei from it. She loosened her obi, reaching inside of her robes and removing her hidden short blade. Sighing as she set the sheathed blade beside her bag, Yachi pulled her robes off of her shoulders, letting them fall at her feet. She held up her wrist, gazing at her beaded bracelet with a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (COMPLETED)
« Reply #408 on: June 19, 2018, 11:13:37 PM »
Okay, I've been getting this question quite a bit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, it was decided that this was just a slap in the face for Osamu's character development. I didn't want the last thing he ever truly did to be to run away from his life and family knowing that a decoy would take care of anything anyway. It was better to give it to Izanami. That way, the story would be about...well...the end of Osamu Ashikaga and how that changes him. Then the twist could provide a separate conflict that serves as the underlying fuel for all of her insecurities displayed throughout the story.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 11:19:36 PM by OhGodHelpMe »