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Who is Best Girl?

Shoku Twins

Author Topic: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (DbEG First Arc Almost PUBLISHED)  (Read 76063 times)

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Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #435 on: October 18, 2018, 12:35:57 AM »
Wow, okay. 74 orders today alone, 150+ total in the past 3 days.  :dance: #7 in War & Military Action Fiction, #10 in Fantasy Adventure Fiction (though I wouldn't really call it fantasy. Whatever, Amazon.)

There's still a few hours left if you haven't gotten it free already. Happy reading, everyone.

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #436 on: October 19, 2018, 08:55:34 PM »
I'd like to rededicate this thread to me mostly just posting first drafts of content, with light promotion here and there.

For that purpose, I made a Facebook page for DbEG/SWS where you can stay up to date on everything as I progress through my work! I'll be posting discussion topics, deals on the books, updates on work, all sorts of stuff.  :dance: Give it a follow if you're on Facebook. I plan to post there pretty regularly about the two series'

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #437 on: October 23, 2018, 10:35:24 PM »
I got bored and made a trailer for Book of Blossoming. I think I want to start making more of these! What do you guys think?  :clapping:

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #438 on: November 07, 2018, 11:40:28 PM »
As you know, Death by Ex-Girlfriend is next, starting with Aika Crisis. It might take some time getting this exactly how I want it.  :ninja:

Have a portion of the intro scene so you can see how much I'm reworking this.

Day 1: My Ex-Girlfriend Called an Airstrike On My House
Osamu’s eyes shot open, bringing him back from his bout of unconsciousness and delivering him to the world of the living. The pale blue light of the electric lantern sitting on the rotten, wooden floor of the bowling alley pierced his hazel eyes like photon daggers stabbing through his retinas. A glossy sheen of cold sweat dampened his peachy skin and head of shoulder-length, raven hair. His dirty, black thermal was messily unbuttoned, exposing the golden peace sign necklace dangling against his chest as he tried to free his rope-bound wrists. His squirming and struggling made the wooden chair he was bound to creak and shudder, alerting his captor to his awakening.

The echo of high-heel shoes thumping against the ground reverberated through the abandoned bowling alley, serving as a heart-stopping reminder to Osamu that he wasn’t alone.
“I was beginning to worry you died, Osa.”

His wicked, devilish ex-girlfriend, Yoko Akiyama, emerged from the darkness with the scent of strawberry perfume, vexation, and vengeance around her. Her elongated shadow grew smaller as she passed by the electric lantern, then stretched back out as she stepped towards Osamu. She pressed the heel of her stiletto against Osamu's chest and pointed her glimmering katana at his frightened face. Yoko had a demonic fire in her sapphire eyes, which clashed with her firebrick-colored hair. The lantern’s light illuminated the outer strands of her hair, enwreathing them in a cyan veil. Her raised leg meant that Osamu caught a glimpse of her panties beneath her flowing, pink skirt. She wore a denim vest and a white shirt with the kanji for "Love" printed on it, because certainly, someone who would kidnap another person knew what love was.? ?    

(There we go...those eyes again...)?   

"Now then, are you ready to talk?", Yoko inquired, her smile thinly veiling her murderous intent.?    

"T-talk? Talk about what?!" Osamu asked, his teeth clattering.?    

"Oh, I don't know, maybe why the hell you decided to come back to town after what you did!” Yoko lashed out. “Do you have a deathwish?! You do, don't you!"?   

"Yoko, darling, please listen to me-"?   

 "Shut up." Yoko interjected, slowly gliding her sword down from Osamu's lips and to his chest and stopping at his groin.?    

"You're still as handsome as ever. It's too bad you're nothing but a filthy insect. Where would you like me to cut first? Your face? Your biceps? How about your-"?   

 “Don't cut me anywhere! This is far too aggressive of a homecoming bash,  Yoko! Even for you!” Osamu cried, forlornly trying to free his bonded hands.

Yoko sauntered over to the bleachers and plopped down in her seat with her arms crossed. “My my, and here I thought you loved me for who I was on the inside. Well, since I know the truth, I suppose I won’t be giving you the antidote anytime soon.”She finished her sentence with a teasing wink. Osamu swallowed the burning lump in his throat, imagining some noxious brew of poison flowing through his bloodstream.

“Yoko…you poisoned me?!”

The redheaded ex snickered with amusement. “Nope! I just wanted to see the face you’d make if you thought you were going to die!”

“Please don’t play around with my mortality!” Osamu shouted with his head leaned back in both relief and vexation.
Yoko stifled a chuckle to speak. “However, you’ll never get me to tell you the code to deactivate the bombs I planted in the nearby kindergarten! Not until you formally apologize!”
“You rigged a school?!” Osamu gasped.
“Just kidding! I don’t know how to make bombs!” Yoko tittered.
“Why are you saying that as if that’s the only thing stopping you from committing a brazen act of terror?”

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #439 on: November 22, 2018, 09:45:44 PM »
Alright, that's it! Aika's name is no longer written as Love Song! It's now written as Lament/Book of Lamentation (But still read as Aika.) There's actually a reason for this though. So, Aika Crisis tried and mostly failed at conveying the...well...crisis that Aika was going through, internally. I believe the original draft focused too much on her relationship with Osamu and not well enough on her mother's untimely death.

Aika's mother was gravely ill, but any chance she could've had at getting better were dashed from jump street because she refused medical treatment for a long while. Aika's mother was one of those folks who believed very strongly in faith healing, which kept her out of the hospital for most of the duration of her illness. At first, this was all fine with Aika. She firmly believed, along with her mother, that God would take her illness and save her life as a reward for her unbreakable faith. That obviously didn't happen. A big part of what Aika was going through was the conflict of her faith with her grief of losing her god-devoted mother. She just can't reconcile the two. She can't mend her broken faith in God, and she also can't quite accept the loss of her mother. Osamu leaving Kyoto was just the final nail in Aika's coffin. Her mother was dead, she felt god abandoned her, and Osamu quite literally abandoned her and everyone else.

That should've been conveyed better, but I made it look like Aika attempted suicide because she had boyfriend issues. I think this is a better character arc to go through. it should make Aika's fresh start towards the end that much more fulfilling.

Sort of. My primary goal as a writer is to make readers feel as if they've lost something that they can't get back. Usually, this is balanced by the feeling that they've also gained something in return. Dawn and Dusk for example. We lost Isabella, but we gained the rest of the girls as wives. Inari Standoff, Osamu loses his dear Inari, but literally gains her heart and is given a fresh, emotional start. He no longer has to lament about past failures.

This doesn't really apply to Letting Go, though. That one is just loss. Just crushing, bitter loss.

Anyway, Aika's name means Book of Lamentation and I think it encapsulates her conflict with her emotions and her faith. Also, highly debating making Rei a trap? I...that would be awkward. That's kind of why I want to do it. I don't know.

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #440 on: November 29, 2018, 02:11:32 AM »
Meanwhile on the SWS side of things:

Taeko's descent into madness is being greatly revised. Firstly, as the Senkumo clan grows, it becomes clear that Taeko is the brains behind the clan's rise to power and legitimacy as a fledgling nation. She handles training, oversees recruitment, instructs the medical teams on surgical procedures, heads the Senkumo's shinobi units, and starts getting more involved in the business/money-making side of things (including but not limited to suggesting to Bishamon that the clan should start up a few opium plantations, given all of its uses.) Tsukiakari goes on to establish a proper court martial on base, but its soon undermined by the clan's increasingly baleful thirst for revenge. Taeko is on their side most of the time.

So, when things start really going down on base (Plague outbreak, appearance of phantoms, conspiracy of mutiny among the troops etc), Taeko has no issue persecuting her own. She also ends up developing torture techniques for the clan's shinobi unit, but this soon goes from physical torture for the sake of getting information, to trying her damned hardest to mentally/emotionally break the target, no matter how insanely cruel the methods are.

Book of Betrayal Part 1 is about half done.

On the DbEG side of things:

Aika Crisis is coming along slowly. I'm firmly settled on making the heart of Aika's...crisis...based on her mother's death due to faith-healing, and the resulting conflict between her faith and her emotions. I think I want this first arc to also just slightly touch on what each of the other girl's lost when Osamu abandoned them. Aika lost her faith and her mother, Yoko lost her father, Isabella's brother was shipped off to war, and Izanami lost the first man she has loved in thousands of years (though she was the most understanding of Osamu's plight during the time).

Can't wait to feel the pain of Dawn and Dusk again.

Anyway, have a SWS excerpt.

The next day was a hell of searing sunlight and blinding glare. It was such a bright day that the troops saw afterimages of their sunlit surroundings every time they blinked. That day, under Tsukiakari’s order, the entire base prepared to fight with the Ashikaga. Weapons were checked, rations were packed, armor was fixed, and the horses were given their battle dresses. While the Otonougi twins oversaw the base’s operations, Tsukiakari gathered Mayumi and Taeko into the war room. It pained them every day that Ebina was no longer there to sit on that empty, fourth cushion.

   It was business as usual in the war room. The three drew up their plans for reconnaissance, their marching routes, and the most beneficial areas to stage their attacks. It all had to be done as efficiently as possible, and as quietly as possible. If the fighting was inevitable, Tsukiakari was determined to get the drop on the Ashikaga before they could launch attacks on the Senkumo.

   “A pre-emptive attack? Gekko, please reconsider this!” Mayumi urged. “The Ashikaga are our strongest allies and our closest business partners! Eliminating them will make it harder to run the clan!”
   “I will not reconsider. The Ashikaga will discover what happened to those villagers, and the Senkumo will be the primary suspects. They know that we operate in this region, practically right next to them.” Tsukiakari surmised. “Once they find out, war will be an unquestionable certainty.”
“We’re going to kill them before they kill us. We can’t afford to fight a defensive battle, Mayumi.” Taeko stated. “Our troops are trained in field combat and siege warfare, not for defense. As long as we’re on the offensive, we have the advantage over them. Besides, the Ashikaga’s influence has only waned since the Onin War. The Shogunate no longer means a damned thing to anyone. It’s every lord for himself now.”
Mayumi recoiled with widened eyes, as if she was disgusted with them both. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Your strategy is a joke! We should open a dialogue with the Ashikaga rather than immediately rushing to the battlefield!”
“And what good will that do for us when they find out we massacred villagers living in their territory?” Taeko retaliated.
“I just thought that, after Ebina, you two wouldn’t be so eager to throw any more people into harm’s way!”
“Shut up!” Taeko screamed, standing up. “I did everything I could for her! Everything!”
Tsukiakari stood as well, seeing their fighting had gotten out of hand. “That’s enough! Both of you! Ebina wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I’m sure that wasn’t what Mayumi was insinuating. Regardless, my orders are absolute. We are going to fight the Ashikaga. If you don’t want to help, then just sit back at base.”

The room went quiet for a few seconds. Mayumi spoke, her voice broken and thin, as if she were about to cry. “Fine…”
Mayumi slowly floated out of the room like a lifeless specter. Tsukiakari’s heart shook and rattled inside of her chest as she watched her leave.

“Listen, Gekko…” Taeko began. “Mayumi is our friend, I get that. But she can’t be allowed to disrupt the chain of command here. Mayumi is in charge of our resource allocation and supplies, and that’s as far as her authority goes. I make a lot of important decisions around this base, but your word on any given issue is the final word. Mayumi has no place in that.”
Tsukiakari shook her head. “We’ll deploy within the week. Mayumi is coming with us.”
“I’ll make sure everyone is ready on your signal, Gekko.”

Offline Walter B

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #441 on: December 02, 2018, 03:09:16 AM »
Congratulations on getting published!

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Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #442 on: December 02, 2018, 05:56:43 PM »
Thanks Walter! The work never ends, given how big this series ended up being. It’ll take me years to publish all of this. Which is a good thing! But oh so tiring too

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #443 on: December 03, 2018, 08:45:55 PM »
Following the pyrrhic victory against Yoshihisa Ashikaga, there was the whole "A Person Undone" chapter, in which Inori, a Senkumo nurse, undergoes some severe dissociative trauma. After she regains her memories though, the clan visits the Katsura river to scatter the ashes of their fallen. This was Taeko's speech to her men at the river. I wanted this moment to be where Taeko proves herself to be both a fortifier and a consoler to her men.

The Theft of the Soldier's Humanity

Taeko and Tsukiakari surveyed their mourning troops as they walked along the Katsura River, their hands coated in the ash of their fallen comrades. Spotting Inori and her team, Taeko quietly sauntered towards them, Tsukiakari tailing her. Inori and the others perked up and straightened their backs as they prepared to salute their superior, but a quick hand gesture from Taeko stopped them from being so painfully formal. Without a word, Taeko slowly reached a hand into Ayadachi’s urn, carefully cradling her delicate, fleeting remains with both hands.

“I won’t let this river take the rest. This mortal dust is all we have left of them.” Taeko muttered under shallow breath.

Confused, Tsukiakari took a step towards her. “Taeko?”

Taeko looked to Inori and the other nurses, her single eye unblinking. “They deserve better than to be entombed in these ageless waters, forgotten by each passing year, every subsequent era. We won’t forget them like the river will. We won’t neglect them like the soil will.”

Taeko leaned her head back and smeared Ayadachi’s ashes over her face, her hand gliding from cheek to cheek, from chin to neck, from nose to forehead. Her strange action caught the attention of the surrounding troops while Inori and the other nurses stood mystified. After her initial shock, however, Inori followed Taeko’s lead, smearing more of Ayadachi’s remains across her face. The longer those pale ashes settled on her face, the more the tears began to return. It was as if the weight of Ayadachi’s ghost was pushing down upon her shoulders, summoning the sadness she thought had been run dry. One by one, her fellow nurses reluctantly joined them in this mournful ritual, the group gathering a crowd of curious troops.

Taeko stepped forth to address them. “I will no longer ask you to put a cause, an ideology, before your humanity. That is not how soldiers should be treated, as instruments of the times, paying in blood for the life of an idea. Many of you must feel it, don’t you? Your beliefs, your convictions, everything you thought you had sworn your heart’s allegiance to, slipping into the dissonant turmoil of conflict. Don’t feel discouraged. I feel it too. When the machinations of war quiet down in the night, I feel that weight bearing down on me. I feel like I’ve somehow betrayed the convictions of this clan when I mourn those we’ve lost. Has my faith in Bishamon or Tsukiakari waned? Have I forgotten the promised eternity beyond martyrdom?

Now I realize…we had already lost our way from the start. The ideals of this clan ignored the soldier’s condition, that he is, after the fighting is done, just a human. Everyday, we are all risking death in our pursuit of a new nation. The country your ancestors helped build, this beautiful corpse of a nation, was prostituted by lords and their folly. In much the same way we once urged you to suppress your doubts and sorrows for the idea of glory in martyrdom, so too did the lords convince their subjects to discard a piece of themselves for the good of the province. Humans…reduced to nothing more than loyalists without question, without skepticism. That neglect for humanity created the era we’ve inherited. Lords of a dying era fighting lawless men of a misguided cause. In the end, both sides continue to turn men into fodder without personhood. Perhaps that is unavoidable in the game of war. Perhaps, in many ways, we are no better.
But these men and these women, whose ashes we hold before us now, died believing in the nation we could build. A nation of horizontal rule rather than vertical oppression. A nation that is more than just the ruler and his subjects, the destitute and their wealthy counterparts. We risk everything so we can begin the groundwork for a nation where every man and woman has a chance to be greater than the previous era allowed them to be. 

A place where a soldier is more than the disposable instrument of the ideology of the state. A place where the people aren’t suppressed by the military, or censored by the government. What we’re doing is dark work. Our circumstances require that we commit actions that are antithetical to the convictions of our ideal nation. They require us to deal in dark deeds and poisonous words, to engage in brutality never seen before in this country’s long history. A long history that will, inevitably, distort the humanity of our clan and the truth of our cause. A long history that will erode the tombs of our heroes and violate the resting places of our honest humans, whom the world will judge as monsters because they dared to carry our name.

But no one can take from us the communion we shared with our comrades, the love we had for our dearest friends. No one can take that burning emotion you all feel in your hearts in this very moment, nor the fire screaming out from the pit of your stomach. Accept the pain of losing what you loved. Embrace it. And if you, like me, feel the hatred festering within you, if you feel the deepest malice of your humanity seeping out and crying for revenge, do not let this river be their tomb. Unleash hell upon the deaf ears of history. Give no futile mirage to the eyes of this era. Accept your humanity as soldiers, and all of the imperfections therein. Don’t go floating away down the river of time.”

Not a single word was spoken after Taeko’s speech. She only noticed it after she was done speaking, but nearly every soldier there had huddled around her and Tsukiakari, who stood just as awestruck as the rest of them. Taeko’s words that day had instantly transformed her into both a fortifier and a consoler, someone akin to that of a strict mother figure. Tsukiakari, unable to find the words to express what Taeko’s speech meant to her, approached the nurses holding Ayadachi’s urn and coated her face in her ashes. The other troops soon followed suit, with everyone taking handfuls of their loved one’s ashes and smearing their faces with them. In silence, their coated their faces in the pale dust, bearing the visage of an army of ghosts beneath the dual, orange-purple veil of the twilight sky.

Taeko's words had freed them of the clan’s ideological burden. It allowed them to let their human emotions, their sorrow, their fury, come to the surface without a hint of shame. It ignited that spark of humanity that Tsukiakari had failed to inspire, through no fault of her own. Taeko was the human touch, while Tsukiakari was the godly conviction. Though, that did little to suppress the guilt the war goddess felt, that she had robbed them of what truly separates gods from humans; that sacred communion of camaraderie.

Bearing the ashes of countless dead on her face, Taeko cast her eyes towards the falling sun, the rest of the troops joining her in viewing its fading light.
“It is the times that will pay its blood debt to us soldiers. Not the other way around. Mark my words. Our comrades will be avenged. Our legacy, our truth…will carry on unmolested through time.”

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #444 on: December 11, 2018, 01:11:16 AM »
Trying out some new cover designs. What do you guys think?  :notunderstand:

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #445 on: December 18, 2018, 04:17:14 AM »
Sorry for the break between the last chapter.

Winter's Mirage
It was another frigid, winter day. Tsukiakari sat on one of the benches outside of Ichiki's temple, her eyes closed and her breathing shallow. Fluttering flakes of glimmering snow gently floated from the sky and melted on her head of raven hair. The wind moaned and howled as if it was trying to break her meditative concentration. The war goddess's mind was clouded, benighted by hatred. Memories of the onslaught of tragedies she endured in her time on Earth floated to the surface like corpses rejected by the heartless sea. Ebina's injury and subsequent demise. The village massacre, the plague outbreak. Mayumi's death, Taeko's excommunication from the clan. The soldiers she immolated with her own two hands and blade, soldiers that called her Lord and worshiped her as if she were the center of their worlds. Her powerlessness in those incidents fueled a fiery hatred within her, though not even she knew exactly who that hate was aimed at. Herself? Her comrades? Bishamon? Perhaps the country at large?

A fiery warmth settled next to her, as if she sat beside a campfire. The war goddess felt chills travel up her back and tingle her spine, all while the fine hairs on her arms shot up in unison. While her mind was awash with these echoes of the past, she could just slightly perceive an unwanted presence in her immediate surroundings. The warmth beside her grew more intense, becoming more threatening than comforting. While the goddess's eyes remained shut, the phantom maiden arose through the solid ground as if it were water, lured to Gekko like a fly to a carcass. Her long sleeves covered her hands and draped down towards her pale, dirty feet as she continued to levitate right next to Gekko.

The phantom maiden slowly tilted her head as she observed Tsukiakari, her crimson eyes hidden behind an intangible mask of deep, dark shadow. Some force was connecting the two, drawing one to the other. As if she were energized by this connection, the phantom maiden floated higher towards the sky, raising her hands as if she were being crucified. Her ashen hair caught fire while her eyes glowed like dying embers.

"Damn it..." Tsukiakari cursed beneath ragged breath.

Farther away from the war goddess, the phantom soldier sat in the saddle of his flaming horse, watching the war goddess from the rooftop of Ichiki's temple. Two long, devilish horns protruded from his forehead, one of them broken while the other curved upwards. The fire enshrouded his entire body, as well as his horse's. It was like the two were plucked right from the insatiable furnace of Hell's deepest pit. The flaming horse wailed and cried from the rooftop, calling out to the tortured Tsukiakari. But when the war goddess opened her eyes, the two phantoms disappeared as if they were never there.

 Ichiki sauntered out from the temple entrance, descending the stairs with a seductive sway in her hips. Her white negligee bounced and floated on her body like a weightless, aurora veil, revealing her curvy figure with little left to the imagination. Her rosy lips curved upward in a subtle smirk as she approached the brooding war goddess.

"Sulking again, Gekko?" Ichiki teased. "You'll tarnish the good looks your mother gave you if you frown like that all day."

Tsukiakari stood herself up, using her sheathed blade as a cane. She drew a deep breath that betrayed her vexation.  "Is that so? Perhaps I should sulk more often, then."

Ichiki snickered, her straightened fingers partially covering her smiling lips. "That baleful scorn of yours is so adorable, Gekko."

The sound of a horse's gallop slowly swelled in the distance, breaking through the ambient noise of snowfall and wind. Ichiki and Tsukiakari turned their eyes towards the forest, certain that the Otonougi twins had come to visit yet again. The horse's rhythm spelled urgency for the war goddess. She could tell that something was wrong when she only heard the gallop of a single horse, rather than two.

"Gekko!" Chiya shouted from the treeline. She hopped off of the saddle and ran towards her lord, trapping the goddess's arms in the tight grip of her shivering hands as she caught her breath.

"Chiya? What's wrong?" Tsukiakari asked.

"Gekko..." Chiya began, still catching her breath. "Yachi is missing!"

The revelation stole the breaths of the two goddesses.

"Missing? What happened, Chiya?" Tsukiakari questioned.

Chiya spoke in rapid-fire succession. "She never came back from Kameyama! She was supposed to return six days ago, but she never showed up! The shinigami looked for her and turned up nothing! I'm worried, Gekko! I'm so worried!"

Tsukiakari knew more than anyone that Yachi wouldn't have taken so long to come home. If she had gotten a suitable gift for her sister, she would've been eager to race back to the base. She would've presented her winter azaleas with a pearly, white smile and blushing cheeks, doting over Chiya while the men laughed in amusement. Six days? Just to get back from Kameyama? It didn't make sense. None, whatsoever.

"Please Gekko...I'm begging you..." Chiya cried into Tsukiakari's chest. "Please bring her home. I just want her to come home..."

Tsukiakari looked to Ichiki without a word, as if silently asking for her permission to leave the temple. Moved by Chiya's concern for her sister's well-being, the war goddess was already determined to search for her.

"I couldn't stop you if I tried." Ichiki sighed. "You should go. Get the girl back to her loved ones. If Bisha starts asking questions, I'll cover for your absence."

Tsukiakari nodded and returned her focus to Chiya. "Chiya, listen to me very carefully. Return to base and stay there. I'll go to Kameyama and see if I can find Yachi. Once I do, I'll bring her back home. But it's important that you remain at the base until I do, okay? Say it back to me."

Chiya's tears were soothed by Tsukiakari's promise to find Yachi. "I'll return to base and stay there until you bring Yachi home..."

"Gekko, are you sure about this?" Ichiki asked. "You still haven't fully recovered from your reincarnation. If you run into trouble-"

"I'll be fine. Even in this state, it would take a small army to kill me again."

"Still, be careful, Gekko." Ichiki began, the cold air making her subtle suspirations visible. "It's not just your physical health you need to worry about."

Ichiki spun on her heel, sauntering back to her temple with steps as light as air. Gekko continued to clutch Chiya to her breast as she watched Ichiki disappear beyond the thickening draft of snow. Her grip around Chiya's shoulder's tightened, her thoughts returning to Yachi. For her sake, the war goddess wished deeply in her heart that she only got lost amidst the snow, or simply couldn't return to base for some reason. Whatever the problem was, Tsukiakari was going to figure it out and bring her home. She was absolutely sure of it.

Not even an hour after hearing of Yachi's disappearance, Tsukiakari was already plowing through the open roads on horseback, with nothing but her sword and a few extra robes in her rucksack. Treading down the same road Yachi would've taken to begin her journey to Kameyama, Tsukiakari embarked on her first task. She knew she would need help if she were to find Yachi in a timely manner. And so, as the pale clouds above parted to reveal the glimmering, sapphire sky, Tsukiakari made a detour towards Inari's shrine. Wary of shinigami patrols around the base, she led her horse around the long way, approaching the shrine from the other side of the hill it was settled on. Her white horse slowly plodded up the steps as she kept her head ducked to avoid the canopy of twisted, dead branches overhead. Gentle winds blew flakes of snow off of the trees, prickling her face before melting into droplets of water.

For just a moment, Tsukiakari caught herself enjoying the love bites of the snowflakes, snickering to herself behind sealed, smiling lips. "Yachi, you must've been giddy with all of this snow around. Isn't that right? I can almost hear you laughing somewhere in these woods, playing in the snow."

Finally, she arrived at the shrine, the doors wide open. Inari was sitting at her table, a steaming cup of tea at her side, as she sorted through the ema stuffed in her prayer box. Her nine, puffy tails waved and tottered around while she took a cautious sip from her porcelain cup of green tea. Noticing Tsukiakari dismounting her horse outside, Inari shot up on her feet and rushed to greet the war goddess outside.

"G-Gekko! I didn't know you were coming!" Inari stammered. "How did you get here? Izanami already began her investigation, didn't she?"

"Inari, listen to me. I need your help." Tsukiakari said, her eyes reflecting her anxiety.

"Gekko, if this is about the investigation-"

"It's not about that and it's not about Izanami. It's Yachi..."

"The Otonougi girl? Did something happen to her?"

Tsukiakari shook her head. "That's the thing. We don't know. She went missing, Inari. She was running errands in Kameyama, nothing major. She should've returned already. She should've been back days ago, but she hasn't returned. No one has seen or heard anything from her since she left."

"She's disappeared? In Kameyama of all places? How long has she been gone?"

"It's been over six days, Inari. It doesn't take that long to get back from Kameyama. Yachi isn't the kind of woman to dawdle around the countryside in the middle of a harsh winter, either."

" am I supposed to help?" Inari asked.

"You used to spy for us before you gained your popularity as a goddess." Tsukiakari began. "You have good tracking skills, a good sense of smell, and you have kitsune to widen your search area and gather information. When it comes to manhunts, you're the most capable person I know. I'm going to Kameyama right now to search for Yachi. I want you to come with me."

Inari recoiled in surprise. "Now? Right now?!"

"I know it's sudden, and I'm sorry, Inari. I truly am. But I need to find Yachi immediately."

Inari pinched the bridge of her nose. "Gekko..."

"Listen, Inari. I'm no stranger to war. I know what happens to people who go missing. Every day that passes reduces their chances of staying alive. They could be sold into slavery or handed over to the enemy for money, and enemies is something that the Senkumo clan has no shortage of. There are people out there that would do horrible things, sickening things to a girl like Yachi, just to hurt me personally."

Tsukiakari extended her hand, rubbing Inari's arm as she contemplated her decision. "Please, Inari. I need you."

Inari's lips trembled, her mind bouncing between accepting and denying Tsukiakari's pleas. The war goddess's scarlet eyes were so often the inspiration of fear on the battlefield, but in tender moments of crisis, they were sweet and vulnerable. They were glossy like marbles and reflective like a river's gentle purl. Inari sighed away her worries, surrendering to that helpless gaze of Tsukiakari's.

"Alright, Gekko...I'll-"

"Yachi is missing?"

The sudden interruption from a third person startled both of the goddess, summoning their eyes towards the shrine's torii gate. It was Taeko, who had overheard their conversation.

"Taeko..." Tsukiakari muttered.

"If Yachi is missing, I'll help you find her." Taeko assured. "I know I'm not part of the Senkumo anymore, but...Yachi is still family to me. I'll help her in any way I can. I have men near Kameyama. I can be of use."

"I don't know." Tsukiakari began. "Your methods are aggressive and dark."

Taeko smiled. "In a race against time darkness is needed. The Senkumo can't act while under investigation, but my men can. If I tell them we're searching for an old war buddy of mines, they won't leave any stone unturned."

"Gekko..." Inari said. "Power is best utilized when it operates in both the light and in the shadow. Whatever resentment may exist between you two, you cannot deny one simple fact. You are the light, and Taeko is your darkness."

Tsukiakari sighed. "I can't be picky right now. Yachi's safety depends on us. I'll accept your help, Taeko. Inari, get ready to leave immediately. The three of us are heading to Kameyama."

"That's what I like to hear!" Taeko cheered. "Let's go bring Yachi home!"

"I don't have a horse. Can I ride with you, Gekko?" Inari asked.

"Of course. If you need to pack anything, pack lightly. We need to be able to move fast so we can find Yachi sooner."

"Gotcha! I'll just bring some thicker robes!" Inari yelled as she ran back inside to collect her things.

Even now, Yachi's phantom laughter haunted Tsukiakari, like a beautiful mirage hiding beyond the snow. Traveling down the same roads she would've taken was like treading right in her footsteps. That alone made it feel as if she was still alive and safe somewhere, simply waiting to be found. And so, with a team of three, Tsukiakari sallied onwards towards Kameyama.

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #446 on: December 19, 2018, 08:45:53 PM »
Red Ice
Several hours of riding later, Tsukiakari and Inari waited besides their pale horse, the former pacing back and forth in anticipation. They had stopped on a small hillock close to the grove that preceded the Hozu river. Inari watched as the war goddess walked in her own footprints over and over again. It was easy to tell she was lost in thought, analyzing and overanalyzing all of the possibilities regarding Yachi's disappearance. Taeko marched back up the hillock, returning from a quick visit to the farmhouse ahead. Upon hearing her footsteps, Tsukiakari snapped out of her trance and rushed to approach her.

"Did they tell you anything?" Tsukiakari asked.

"They said a lot of travelers come down this road to head towards the direction of Kameyama. They barely interact with any of them, though. They certainly don't remember interacting with a girl like Yachi at all." Taeko explained.

Inari rubbed Tsukiakari's back as her shoulder's slumped. "Don't worry, Gekko. We'll find her. I'm sure we'll find more eyewitnesses once we get to Kameyama."

Tsukiakari nodded, allowing herself to be reassured. "You're right, you're right. Let's get back on the road. Kameyama isn't too far now."

The trio mounted their horses, Inari riding with Tsukiakari, and made haste towards Kameyama. They arrived at the small, peaceful town by sunset, exhausted from the long journey. For Tsukiakari, the constant anxiety of not knowing where Yachi was, whether she was safe or in some sort of trouble, was the only thing keeping her awake. They dismounted their horses as they approached the town's main road, leading them by their reigns. As it was evening, the townsfolk were all tending to their final errands of the day and preparing to go home. Children playing in the snow down by the fishing village threw their last snowballs before cleaning themselves up and rushing off to their warm beds. Fishermen, carpenters, and butches made their final sales and began closing their shops.

Taeko and Tsukiakari were especially on the lookout for Ashikaga troops. After all, the two of them led armies against the clan, killed their shogun, aided the insurrections against their allies, and garnered the hatred of the iron-willed and militant Tomiko. Though the two of them wouldn't admit it verbally, it was thrilling to remember that they were both wanted women, that they still had people out there who cared enough about them to want to execute them. Ashikaga presence throughout the village was incredibly light, most likely due to the clan's waning political and military power. Lords that had once aligned themselves with the shogun could now care less for the position, nor the man wielding it. The power vacuum created by the On?n War lived on, inviting everyone with an appetite for war and its spoils to take whatever they could get. This left the Ashikaga clan alone, with few supporters, and most of their troops drawn back to make a fortress-city out of Kyoto.

"Yachi would've visited the stables to drop off her horse after her arrival." Tsukiakari said.

"I'll go ask them if they've seen her." Taeko began. "Gekko, you should check the hotel. Find out if Yachi completed her stay and signed out with them or not. That'll tell us if she was still in Kameyama when she disappeared, or if she was ready to leave."

"Right." Tsukiakari nodded. "Inari, can you get some of your kitsune ready? I want a search conducted around the town perimeter, all the way up to the Hozu river."

"I'll get to it right away. Where will we all meet up afterwards?" Inari asked.

"We should make camp just outside of town." Taeko suggested. "We'll be noticed if we put ourselves in a hotel room, especially with Inari's tails."

A little hurt by the comment, Inari's shoulders slumped in dejection. "Sorry..."

"She didn't mean it like that." Tsukiakari assured with a smile. "You're the most capable out of the three of us. There's no need to feel down."

"Watch yourselves out there, especially you, Gekko." Taeko warned.

Tsukiakari nodded. "Same to you."

While the two goddesses went their separate ways, Taeko made a steady march into the same stables Yachi used to house her horse during her trip. The gates were wide open, as the family that ran the stables left their business open for longer hours than other places. Once she passed the gates, Taeko hitched her chestnut-brown horse and sauntered inside of the small, administrative building. The door was wide open, inviting any last-minute customers inside before closing time. Taeko was greeted immediately by the small, petite Hinata with a friendly bow and smile.

"Welcome, Ma'am! How can I help you?" Hinata sang.

Taeko flashed a quick smile before reverting back to a more serious expression. "Good evening. I'm not here to house my horse or anything. Actually, I was wondering if I could ask you some questions."

Hinata's smile wilted. "What kind of questions?"

"See, a friend of mine came to Kameyama on a business trip about a week ago, but she never came home after that. She has short, black hair, green eyes, often wears a black choker. Her name is Yachi. Yachi Otonougi? Did she come here at any point during her trip?"

Hinata's eyes lit up. She easily remembered the upbeat, optimistic Yachi. "Oh yes! I remember her! She did come here, to put her horse in the stables after she arrived in Kameyama. She was such a sweet girl, so full of energy! When she came here, I gave her directions to the hotel just up the road. You said she hasn't come home?"

Taeko nodded. "I'm afraid so. Where she lives, it should've only taken a day at most, maybe two to get back home. Instead, she's been gone for nearly a week. I'm very worried for her."

"Goodness, bless her. I'm so sorry to hear that. The last time I saw Yachi, she had come to pick up her horse. I think she was getting ready to head home that day." Hinata recalled.

"Did you notice about her? Did she seem out of it, compared to your first meeting with her? Anything at all?"

Hinata shook her head. "No, not at all. She was just as chipper that day as she was in our first meeting. Nothing seemed off about her whatsoever. She thanked us for our service and we wished each other a kind farewell. In fact, she was such a pleasant customer that I offered free service to her friends."

"I see." Taeko muttered, rubbing her chin. "When she left that day, did you see which direction she took?"

"She made a right down the road out front. That road leads west and runs parallel to the river."

"West? Yachi needed to head East if she was going home." Taeko said, slightly taken aback.

"She could've taken a boat down the Hozu in that direction, hence why she headed West first." Hinata explained.

"Boat?" Taeko asked.

Hinata nodded. "There's a family here that runs a business offering boat rides to visitors, for sightseeing. He has several stops further east and will take a patron as far as he can if they pay him well. There's a reduction in visitors during the winter, so he'll use his boat to ferry people for extra money."

"Is that so? Thank you for the tip. I'll be sure to ask them if they saw Yachi."

"Of course, I'm happy to help." Hinata bowed. "Please bring that girl home safely. I had no idea she's been missing. I'll be praying for her."

Later that evening, Taeko linked up with the two goddesses on the western outskirts of the town, not far off from the Hozu river. Winter's pale, radiant moon hung over them like a watchful eye as they took shelter in a small cave, huddled around the warm, amber glow of a crackling fire. With the day at an end, the girls exchanged what they learned, each of them thickly wrapped in warm robes and kimonos.

"Inari, did you find anything out?" Taeko asked.

Inari shook her head. "Not yet, but I sent out twelve of my kitsune to search in and around town. They'll continue the search as we rest."

"Good. What about you, Gekko?"

"I found the hotel Yachi was staying at and spoke to reception." Tsukiakari began. "Yachi completed her stay, paid them in full, and signed out with them. That was the last time they saw or heard from her."

Taeko turned her glossy eye towards the dancing flames before her. "And I heard from the lady that runs the stables that Yachi picked up her horse and went west down the road. If she were going to ride home on her horse, she would've went east, but there's a good chance Yachi wanted to take a boat down the Hozu. By all accounts, it looks like Yachi was making her departure before she disappeared."

"You don't think there was an accident on the river, do you?" Inari asked.

"The Hozu is a very tranquil river, perfect for long boat rides. It's very unlikely she was hurt on her way home if she was taking the boat." Tsukiakari analyzed. "If she left the hotel and picked up her horse without a problem, the next person who saw her last..."

"Would be the person in charge of the boat." finished Inari.

"I checked the riverside on my way here, but the dock was empty." Taeko said. "It's probably too late to talk to him right now. We'll see what we can find out in the morning. For now, we rest. If we get a good night's sleep, we'll be sharp tomorrow."

"Right." Inari nodded.

Tsukiakari remained in silent agreement as they all laid their heads on their spare robes, using them as pillows. She was almost hoping Yachi was just causing trouble and went off on her own to take a prolonged vacation somewhere. But by all accounts, Yachi seemed to have been operating exactly as instructed. It only further drove home the possibility that something terrible had happened, that something had gone horribly wrong. If that were the case, Yachi might not be safe after all. It felt as though these thoughts kept her up four hours, but Tsukiakari managed to drift off to sleep. At least for just a few hours, she wouldn't have to worry about anything. She could dream all she wanted of Yachi's smiling face and her quirky interactions with her twin sister. A beautiful mirage, accessible only in the dark comfort of sleep.

Early the next morning, before the sun had even begun to crest over the horizon, one of Inari's small, white kitsune rushed inside of the cave, rubbing everyone's faces with its tails to wake them up. Inari got up first, barely able to open her eyes all the way.

"What's wrong?" Inari yawned.

Able to communicate with the nine-tailed foxes, Inari was able to understand its whimpers and moans as if they were human words and sentences. She immediately shot up to her feet, shocked awake by what the kitsune was telling her.

"By the river? Guide us there!" Inari urged. "Taeko, Gekko, wake up! I've found something!"

Spurred by the alarm in Inari's voice, the two immediately got up and put their sandals on. At last, it seemed they had found a solid clue as to Yachi's disappearance. The trio, guided by the kitsune, rushed through the cold, frigid forest beneath the dark blue hue of morning, the chilled air brushing through their hair waking them up further. The kitsune guided them further east up the river, stopping about half a kilometer away from the Hozu dock. It stopped just at the riverside, turning to Inari to let her know they had arrived at the right spot.

"Your kitsune really do work fast, don't they?" Taeko smiled.

"They're the hardest little workers I know!" Inari cheered.

Tsukiakari looked around the ground, any place where Yachi would've sat down to rest. The kitsune turned towards the river just as an old man on a small, wooden boat began to break into view.

"That must be boat Yachi took! Let's flag him down!" Inari pointed.

Over and over, the three girls shouted as loud as they could to hail the old man to the riverside. Noticing them, he steered his boat towards the three. The girls helped the old man drag his boat onto land so that it wouldn't start drifting downriver.

"My goodness, are you three alright? Calling out like that, you made me think you were in danger!" the old man sighed.

"Sorry, we're not in danger or anything. We're looking for a friend of ours. She was supposed to take your boat east about a week ago." Tsukiakari explained. "Short hair, green eyes, a choker? She had a black horse with her, packed enough on it to last a few days? Did you anyone like that leave town on your boat in the last seven days?"

The old man suddenly looked as if he had seen a ghost. His eyes darted across the faces of the three girls, his expression both shocked and saddened.

"You must be talking about that Yachi girl, right?" he asked.

Tsukiakari stepped forward in elation. "Yes! Did she leave on your boat? Have you seen her at all?"

The old man frowned and shook his head. "I'm sorry, girls. I took Yachi west and dropped her off in Kameyama. My son handled her horse for her. We agreed that I would pick her up in a few days after that, but when that day came...she never showed up. I'm afraid I haven't seen her since."

Their elation turned into horror, as their worst fears had been confirmed. Yachi did everything right, as far as they could tell. She arrived as planned, left as planned, paid her dues, and only had to catch the boat to leave. She never did.

"My son and I...we did find her horse, though. It was all tied up to a tree a little further down west." the old man explained. "She seemed like she knew how to take care of a horse by herself, so we thought it was odd that she'd hitch her horse by its neck."

"By it's neck? Yachi would never do that." Taeko said.

"Can you show us where you found the horse?" Tsukiakari asked.

"Of course! Follow me."

The elderly man led them further west, pointing them towards the exact spot where he and his son retrieved Yachi's horse. The girls immediately started combing through the area, digging into the snow with their bare hands to see what they could find. Knowing Yachi had never hitched a horse by its neck, they began to suspect that someone else was responsible for that. Their worries mounted as they questioned whether that person managed to hurt Yachi before binding the horse to a tree. Tsukiakari, perhaps more vigorously than the others, dug through mound of snow after mound of snow like a woman possessed.

"Did you happen to find anything else at the scene?" Taeko asked the old man.

"No, but I didn't really search it either. I'm not as young as I used to be, so..."

"Of course." Taeko sighed. "I don't blame you. Whatever happened to her horse?"

"Well, my son contacted the village guard and handed it over to them. They said they'd hang onto it until they found her." the old man explained.

Inari shook her head. "They never had any intention of doing that. A girl goes missing here and the security presence remains as light as ever."

"They might've realized who she was after they took her horse. In which case, they'd be glad she went missing." Taeko examined.

Tsukiakari suddenly gasped, seemingly finding something amidst the snow. Taeko and Inari rushed to her side as she slowly stood up, her breath growing heavy and fast. Speechless, she turned around and held up Yachi's red prayer bracelet and her unsheathed short sword, both of them stained with congealed blood. On the ground lied more of Yachi's possessions, her gourd and her haori, stained with more blood.

"Oh, god..." Taeko muttered.

Inari zoomed towards Tsukiakari as her breathing worsened, her body shaking and shivering. The fox goddess threw her arms around her, embracing her in a comforting, warm hug as she fought back tears.

"There's so much blood! What did they do to her?!" Tsukiakari furiously questioned. "What did they do to Yachi?!"

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #447 on: December 22, 2018, 05:46:07 PM »
Harmless Lie
The trio remained at the scene for some time, stewing in their shock as they tried to piece together what happened to Yachi. Tsukiakari held her bloodstained blade close to her heart as if it were a lock of Yachi's hair, or some sacred remain that would vanish forever if it wasn't kept close at all times. Inari sat next to her, soothing the mournful war goddess with a slow, constant rub of the back. Taeko remained standing, carefully analyzing every inch of the scene.

The elderly man removed his straw hat as a show of respect for their grief. "I'm sorry I couldn't help more. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Taeko shook her head. "It's very likely Yachi was taken because of her affiliations. If that's the case, it would only put you and your son at risk if you helped us any further. Please, go home. Forget you ever saw us or any of this. Say nothing to the village guard."

"Very well. May you find her alive and well, ladies. Good luck to you."

The old man bowed and waddled back to his boat. Inari followed him, eager to help him push his boat back onto the water so he could be on his way again. Meanwhile, Tsukiakari approached Taeko with a jumbled mess of words swirling around on the tip of her tongue, but ultimately resulting in cold, hard silence, fitting for the harsh winter. Thick sheets of clouds had begun to settle in the sky once more, bringing the gentle snowfall back from its brief hiatus.

Seeing that Tsukiakari was yearning for answers, Taeko explained her deductions thus far. "There's a lot of blood here, but not nearly enough to indicate that Yachi was killed. The blood on her blade is a sign of a struggle, one that she ended up losing. Whoever took her saw enough value in her to want her alive. You'd think that if it were the Ashikaga, the guard presence here would've increased as a result of Yachi's presence."

Tsukiakari remained silent, her eyes locked in a dark, thousand yard stare. Realizing hard dark her assessment was getting Taeko thought of what they could do next. "There are still people we haven't talked to yet. Yachi came here on a mission, right? She must've spoken to more people other."

"She came to arrange food shipments with one of the farmers here." Tsukiakari whispered, her tone broken and cracked. "She also wanted to get her sister a gift. Azaleas. There's a florist here that grows them, even during the winter."

Taeko nodded. "We need to talk to those people, see what they know.'ve got to stay strong. For Yachi."

"I know that." Tsukiakari muttered. "But I know what my enemies are capable of. I know exactly what kind of brutality they're willing to use to hurt me and my clan. It would've been better if Yachi was killed instead of taken."

Taeko shut her eyes in disgust. "Gekko, don't say that..."

"It's true, Taeko."

Inari waved the old man goodbye as he made his way down the Hozu, and returned to Taeko and Tsukiakari. "So, what should we do now? Do you think Yachi was taken further west after she was abducted?"

"It's very likely." Taeko replied. "It would be harder to get away with a wounded girl if her abductor went east in the direction of town, but we don't know that for sure. Even if she was taken west, how far do you think one could go in seven days? For now, we should talk to the other two people Yachi interacted with here. I'll start assembling my men here to help us search for her. We can't trust the Ashikaga to do it."

"I'll go to the florist." Tsukiakari said with a slightly raised hand. "Inari, you should talk to the farmer. Yachi came here to negotiate a deal with him. They would've discussed shipment contents, frequency, and routes to our drop-off points. He's the only person who knew Yachi was a Senkumo, so he could be our prime suspect."

Inari nodded. "Got it."

"Remember, everyone..." Taeko began. "Don't draw too much attention to yourselves. If the Ashikaga are the ones that took her, there's no telling what they'll do once they find out we're here."

After figuring out how to continue, the girls rushed back to town and split up to handle their tasks. Inari steadily made her way towards the town's farmstead, keeping her fox ears hidden beneath her black hood. Foot traffic on the streets remained light as the snowfall returned, the cold breath of winter keeping most folks tucked away inside of their warm homes and beds. The farmstead seemed just as empty, with not a single soul out in the fields. Even with all of their grain stored away and all of their hay cut and baled, the farmhands would still have work to do in preparation for Spring. So, why the quietude? Compared to the rest of Kameyama, the farmstead felt more like a graveyard.

Inari unlatched the small wooden gate out front and entered the property. She cautiously walked along the dirt path until she reached the farmer's home, still not catching sight of anyone. She gave three gentle knocks upon the door of the humble, wooden home and awaited an answer. To her surprise, the locks twisted on the other side, and the door slowly creaked open. Jinbei, the farmer Yachi met during her trip was as pale as the driven snow. Dark circles blighted his bloodshot eyes while his trembling, right hand clenched the handle of a knife.

Seeing he was armed, Inari took a few steps backwards "Are you Jinbei?"

"What do you want? Who are you?!" Jinbei interrogated.

"I work with Tsukiakari Senkumo. You made contact with a girl named Yachi here about a week ago, right? She came here to negotiate shipping terms with you?"

Jinbei slowly lowered his knife. Despite it being such a harsh winter, his forehead glistened with cold sweat. "You're with the war goddess, huh? Get inside, quickly! Before anyone sees you!"

Inari wasn't exactly comfortable rushing inside of the home of a frantic, knife-wielding farmer sweating bullets in the middle of winter. She hesitated at first, but the thought of Yachi spurred her to get inside as Jinbei asked. Jinbei hurriedly slammed the door shut as Inari entered, flicking each of his four locks back into place. Once they were locked inside, he released a long sigh and calmly put his knife back on the roundtable in the center of the room. Animal hides acting as curtains shut out most of the light from the outside, masking his one-room home in darkness.

"I knew something was wrong." Jinbei began. "Yachi arranged for some of her men to help with the shipping process, but they never showed up. I thought she might've gotten caught, maybe the Ashikaga arrested her or something. If they find out I'm collaborating with the Senkumo clan, they'll kill me."

"When was the last time you saw her?" Inari asked, standing against the wall.

"Not since..." Jinbei wiped his forehead as he pieced together his scattered thoughts. "Not since we made the deal. She came, we agreed on our terms, she left, and that was it. I didn't see her after that. Some Ashikaga guards came knocking on my door a few days ago, but I wasn't here. One of my farmhands reported the incident to me and I told them to leave and lie low."

"You came back to the place they checked first?"

"I didn't have anywhere else to go, alright?!" Jinbei hissed. "At least not without the money Yachi gave me as part of the deal. Where the hell else was I supposed to go in the middle of winter?!"

"Damn it..." Inari cursed. "Listen to me. We found Yachi's belongings on the riverside, some distance west of here. There was blood at the scene, but no trace of Yachi. I have to find her as soon as possible."

"Blood? So she was taken! I knew it! *censored*! I knew it! I don't know where the hell she is, alright?! I haven't seen her since we closed the deal! If I don't get out of here soon, they'll probably find out that I worked with her and they'll come grab me too! I'm sorry, but I can't help you."

Inari took a long moment to think. "We might be able to get you out of here and put you somewhere safe. Lord Tsukiakari is gathering a small team as we speak to handle the search. We can escort you out of here."

Jinbei, presented with a ray of hope, erupted into wheezing, tearful laughter. "Praise her! Praise her! I owe her my life! When can we leave?"

"Tonight. We can leave tonight. You should pack your things now."

Jinbei nodded excitedly, still laughing in lieu of further words of gratitude. He rushed over to his drawer, hurriedly packing a few of his belongings into a small rucksack.

"Your lord just saved my life! I thought I was a goner! If you can get me out of here, I'd gladly farm for Tsukiakari in her province!"

Inari watched from behind, tightly clenching her right hand in her left, wracked with guilt. While Jinbei continued to elate over his freedom, Inari tip-toed closer towards him and lightly tapped his neck with her long, claw-like nails. The joyful Jinbei suddenly went silent, his eyes reeling back into his head. He fell unconscious, knocking over his roundtable and slumping against the wall. Inari stood in shocked silence. Perhaps, she surprised herself by how willing she was to lie to an innocent man.

"I'm sorry..."

She undid the locks on the door and let herself out, leaving Jinbei behind. Once outside, she slouched against the front door as she fought back tears. Her chest felt weighted. Her throat burned as if she were parched. It was too late to go back now. She made a decision in the heat of the moment, a decision that she was sure would help her find Yachi. And so, wary of being seen, she picked herself up, took a deep breath, and left the premises.

She marched in silence down the main street, her mind still spinning from what she had done and planned to do. By luck, she spotted Taeko exiting Kobayashi's bar with eight men trailing behind her, all of them wearing black, fur robes. Noticing their gruff, hardened appearances, their rough beards and battle scars, Inari surmised they were the men Taeko commanded in Kameyama. When Taeko noticed Inari approaching, she gestured her men to enter the alleyway, so they could all convene without being seen. Inari followed them, slipping into the darkness of the alley.

The men stared daggers at the strange woman with crimson eyes, snow-white hair, and wriggling fox ears. Sensing their unease, Taeko stepped forth, laying a gentle hand on each of their shoulders to assure them they were in good company.

"Careful, boys. This girl here is a goddess. Inari Okami." Taeko said.

Clearly not in the mood for introductions, Inari skipped the formalities. "I spoke to Jinbei, the farmer Yachi cut a deal with. He knew something went wrong after days went by without a follow up on their deal. He was completely spooked."

"Did he know anything about her disappearance?" Taeko asked.

Inari shook her head. "He hadn't seen her since they finished negotiating. But...he did insist the Ashikaga might've had something to do with her disappearance. He mentioned that they made a stop on his property while he was away, but he wasn't there to see them. The Ashikaga are looking for him, he knew that. So...I...knocked him out. I'm thinking we should let them take Jinbei. They might lead us to wherever they're holding Yachi."

Taeko smiled. She lightly slapped Inari's shoulder, then rubbed it to console her. "I was wondering why you were so tense. I would've done the same thing. You did well, Inari. You did this for Yachi. Don't forget that."

Inari simply nodded, her eyes still downcast and saddened. Taeko turned to her men, each of them eager to receive their orders.

"Gentlemen, we're going to allow our Ashikaga friends to pick up Jinbei. I want eyes on that farmstead at all hours of the day. Be ready to tail whoever takes him, but do not engage, and do not be discovered. You are to find out where they take him and report back to us with all haste. Got it?"

With a plan of action set in motion, the men replied collectively. "Yes, ma'am!"

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #448 on: December 31, 2018, 07:20:31 PM »
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...

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #449 on: January 01, 2019, 05:17:51 PM »
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.