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Author Topic: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Book of Revenge soon, comrades!)  (Read 95225 times)

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Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #450 on: January 08, 2019, 05:02:53 AM »
Through a shocking turn of events, Senkumo War Stories: Book of Betrayal Part 1 is just about 99% complete. Just adding a few more tiny scenes and reading it over again. I could really finish it tonight and publish it, but I would still like to wait a tad bit. I wanna run promotion and get some final thoughts before publishing  :thumbsup:

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

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #451 on: January 09, 2019, 03:13:49 PM »
Wooo I did it!

Kind of  :ohmy:

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

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

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

Offline Suuper-san

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #452 on: January 09, 2019, 04:19:22 PM »
well done for getting something else big out there!
hope you have success!
Art: Manga / Fanart / Requests (closed) / Other | Manga Stories: Overdrive / Endlessness
Other: Tutorials / Craft | Feedback & Critique Welcome!!

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #453 on: January 10, 2019, 08:49:26 PM »
Thanks suuper!

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

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

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

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

And that is where this story comes in.

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

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

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

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

We saw each other as a reason to die.

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

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

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

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

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

Despite all odds, she upheld her promise.

That's the kind of woman Inari is.

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

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


Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #454 on: January 23, 2019, 03:25:57 PM »
Alright guys, With Book of Blossoming complete and Book of Betrayal up for pre-order, I'm shelving the SWS series for now so I can focus on getting Death by Ex-Girlfriend out. Since I did two for SWS, I'll probably go ahead and do two for DbEG.

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

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #455 on: February 11, 2019, 12:33:48 AM »


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

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #456 on: March 10, 2019, 01:43:50 AM »
Continuing on with Book of Azaleas
Begone, Evil
While Taeko and the others threw together a plan to use Jinbei as as bait, Tsukiakari hastily entered Sakura's flower shop, taking shelter from the dearth of warmth outside. The floor of wooden boards beneath her sandals creaked and moaned beneath the weight of her body as she took those first few steps inside the store. Her sandals left wet footprints on the wood, a gift from the morning frost coating the petrified, congealed earth outside, The air of the shop was naturally sweetened by the perfume of blooming flowers sitting on display. The aroma, combined with Sakura's polite bow and endearing smile, gave her shop an atmosphere of homely warmth during such a cold, pallid winter. Seeing no one else around, Tsukiakari threw off her black hood, revealing her wicked tendrils of raven hair loosely draped over her scarlet eyes.

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

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

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

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

"I know who you are, Tsukiakari Senkumo."

"We've never met."

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

"We live in an era of war."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You alright, Gekko?" Taeko asked.

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

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

Taeko and the others continued on their way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What should we do?" Inari asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #457 on: March 15, 2019, 11:17:27 PM »
The Shadow of Kameyama
Back to square one. Their only lead vanished without a trace beyond a torii gate that took them nowhere. Everyone stood around the shore of the lake, Tsukiakari massaging her aching temple while Inari skipped rocks down the water.

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

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

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

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

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

"Now. Right now." Tsukiakari ordered.

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

"You okay, Inari?" Tsukiakari asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Find peace, Sakura."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline Rustee

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #458 on: March 18, 2019, 11:16:39 AM »
I'm still reading but your work is amazing, great job! Your an inspiration!!
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 06:02:56 PM by Rustee »
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #459 on: March 18, 2019, 02:42:06 PM »
Thanks Rustee  :clapping: I appreciate it! I definitely had a lot of fun writing this whole thing, so I hope you have fun reading it

Ghosts of the Past
Caught by her own prey, Tsukiakari remained unable to move as the man in black caressed her soot-stained face. Seeing him up close, she saw his facial scars that twisted and contorted his skin. His rimmed hat obscured his eyes and his pallid hands were cold to the touch, colder than winter's ice.

"I wasn't expecting to run into you like this." he said. "I thought you perished fighting Yoshihisa."

"You...Did you take Yachi?" Tsukiakari hissed, struggling to break free of her paralysis.

"I'm sorry, I don't know-"

"Yachi Otonougi!" Tsukiakari screamed.

The man in black chuckled softly. "An eye for an eye."

"I have never wronged you, and neither has Yachi! Let her go!"

Enraged, the man in black drew a hunting knife from underneath his tattered robes, plunging the blade into Tsukiakari's right shoulder. He kept his hand wrapped around the hilt, twisting the blade deeper into her flesh as she tore apart her throat screaming in agony.

"Never wronged me? We're all phantoms here, Tsukiakari. You should've never risen after after Yoshihisa killed you. I should've never risen after you burned down my home and massacred my neighbors."

Shivering as she clenched her jaw, Tsukiakari stared daggers at the man in black with her bloodshot eyes. That fierce anger in her crimson eyes quickly turned into heart-shattering horror. A lump the size of her fist settled in her burning throat as tears welled in her eyes.

"Ahh, you remember, don't you?" he teased. "Every single one of us were massacred by your bloodthirsty men. They killed parents in front of their children and husbands in front of their wives. Your clan destroyed our home and then tried to hide the evidence. And you dare say you've never wronged me?"

Tsukiakari thought back to the atrocity the Senkumo committed in the village, the impetus behind her decision to march against the Ashikaga. The charred arms sticking out from smoldering rubble, the death of Noriko and her child, her multiple attempts to dispose of the bodies.

"You survived that?" Tsukiakari asked.

"Survived? I wasn't so unfortunate. Like I told you, we're all phantoms here. Just as you arose from your grave, so too did I arise from mine. And ever since that day, you and I have been two halves of a whole."

Flowing sparks emerged from his forehead, igniting into a full-fledged horn of flame, matching the one Tsukiakari had. The Phantom Maiden levitated over them both, lifting the flaming petals of the burning flowers up towards her. Her very gaze from behind her impenetrable mask of shadow pierced Tsukiakari just as much as the hunting knife lodged in her shoulder.

"We're both more demons than people." the man in black remarked. "These very scars were given to me during the day of the massacre, when your soldiers set fire to our village. I was a hard working, young man, just doing his best to make an honest living. Among other things, I sold tea seed oil to the city folk and brought back whatever I made to help the village. When your men arrived, wounded and enraged, I was among the first to try and calm them down. Their response was to begin slaughtering us. They doused me in my tea seed oil and barricaded us in my home before setting it ablaze. Our lungs filled with the smoke of the fire and oil, and the odor of our own burning flesh. I inhaled the smoke carrying the lives of my neighbors, as if I were forced to breathe in their very spirits. We screamed until our throats constricted so tightly we could hardly breathe. We struggled until the fire ate through our very muscles. And when I next awoke, I was among the corpses washed up by the river. These fiery phantoms seemed to share my thirst for revenge when they brought me from my watery grave."

"What happened that day..." Tsukiakari began. "I did not order that massacre! When the rest of us found out what happened, we put those men to death!"

"And tried to erase your sin before anyone could find out. My neighbors, my sister and her unborn, they all perished because of your clan. They weren't even given dignified graves. Sakura over there wasn't too different from me. She too lost something dear to her under your watch. In the end, vengeance was all any of us had left. Your shameless, ceaseless lust for power and glory created all of this. Now I have something dear to you, Tsukiakari. I wonder if you lack the stomach to do what you need to in order to get it back."

Tsukiakari hung her head low, her vision blurred by her tears. "I'm truly sorry for what my men did to you. I'm sorry for the pain we caused you, the horrors we inflicted upon you. I truly am sorry for it."

Taken aback, the man in black snickered. "A goddess apologizing to a mortal?"

"But..." Tsukiakari interjected. "No matter the virtues or sins of my clan, I am still bound by my duty, as their commanding lord, to love them, fight for them, and protect them. If you've taken Yachi, you have already made yourself my enemy. No matter how remorseful I may be, no matter how much I regret what happened to you, I will always protect those I love."

"That's unfair, Tsukiakari."

"I know that. Such is war."

The man in black suddenly covered his mouth, stifling a brief coughing fit. He stood up, laughing and coughing at the same time.

"You will never find her in time." he mocked. "Not without earning your second horn."

"I won't be the plaything of some damned ghosts. I refuse!" Tsukiakari shouted.

"Like I said, two halves of a whole. Where there is pain, there will always be hatred. One day, your feelings will mirror my own. When that time comes, only revenge will bring you peace."

He backed away, the flames surrounding him as the Phantom Maiden slowly dropped to the floor. He gave the wounded war goddess a final smirk before disappearing behind the fire. "It's just our nature, Tsukiakari."

The flames dissipated into floating trails of smoke and ash, benighting the store once again. All that Sakura had spent her life building and nurturing was reduced to a miserable pile of smoldering char and cinder. All of the years it took to turn her pain into something beautiful for herself and her neighbors were for naught.

Tsukiakari stood up, surveying the devastation around her with a heavy heart. "Sometimes, there just isn't a happy ending..."

She hated to admit it to herself. She truly despised it, but that man truly terrified her. His very aura was steeped in malice and evil, and it was more than enough to petrify Tsukiakari in her place. It was as if fear itself was his superpower. Her flaming horn extinguished, Tsukiakari stumbled through the front door, her head still spinning from the immense pain she was in. She found the Ashikaga standing before the ruined shop, shaking in their boots and barely able to keep hold of their spears. Looking at their pale, frightened faces, she didn't see soldiers in them. She only saw terrified men far out of their element. They looked to her, none of them able to form a word with their frozen tongues and chattering teeth.

Tsukiakari carefully pulled the knife from her shoulder, dropping the bloodstained blade on the ash-covered porch.

"Which one of you wants to arrest me?" Tsukiakari howled. "Anyone?"

Not one of them stepped forth to claim the glory of arresting the one and only Tsukiakari Senkumo, the blood moon of the battlefield, the crimson-eyed war goddess. None of them had the stomach, nor the will to die. And so, Tsukiakari simply walked past them, ascending up the hill back to the front of the hotel, the agreed rendezvous point. There she found Inari, Taeko, and her men waiting for her. Inari immediately rushed to her aid, helping her sit on a nearby bench to rest.

"What happened in there? You're all burnt up!" Inari fretted.

"You okay, Gekko?" Taeko asked.

Tsukiakari nodded. "He found me, the man in black. He found me. He's teamed up with those phantoms."

"The ones that showed up at our base?" Taeko questioned.

"Yeah, those ones. Furthermore...he's from that village, Taeko. The one our men massacred. He was among the bodies we dumped in the Katsura river, and those phantoms gave him a new lease on life. That's why he's doing this. That's why he took Yachi. It's all revenge for him, revenge for destroying his home and life."

Taeko stood speechless for a moment before she sat down with Tsukiakari, clasping her hands.

"Boss? Are you okay?" one of the men asked, sincerely concerned for Taeko.

"I'm alright." Taeko said, out of breath. "Just realizing we've seen someone who is neither a man, nor a ghost. Someone who died because of us, who should not be alive right now, is back with a vengeance. And its our fault. Now Yachi is paying for our sins."

Inari ripped a part of her sleeve off, using it as a tourniquet for Tsukiakari's shoulder.

"Thanks, Inari." Tsukiakari sighed.

"So...what now?" Inari asked.

"You can forget talking about the village guard." Tsukiakari advised. "They're scared out of their wits. We know now that he can slip in and out of places with those phantoms by his side. He relies on them for power."

"What the hell did they want from Sakura, though?" asked one of the men.

"I can't say." Tsukiakari replied. "It's like they're always searching for something, but I don't know what. They gave a horn to me, to the man in black, and to Sakura. All of us have something or someone we despise. It's like they feed off of that."

Inari tightened the tourniquet and folded her snow-white hair behind her ear. "So, we don't have any leads?"

Tsukiakari shook her head. "I'm afraid not. The only thing we can do is try that gate again, but it's useless if we don't know how to pass through it. There's something that he has that we don't."

Inari nervously rubbed her fingers over her knuckles, mustering up the courage to speak. "We should return to that gate and take a closer look at it."

Everyone looked to Inari, sensing she knew something the rest of them didn't.

"Inari? What do you mean?" Taeko asked.

"I have a shrine in Kyoto. Fushimi-Inari shrine. Many people have disappeared there, as if they were spirited away. Eventually, they return, but for that brief time, they completely vanish."

"Inari, what are you saying?" Tsukiakari questioned with wide eyes.

Inari hesitated, speaking slowly and softly. "That gate he used...I think it links back to that shrine."

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #460 on: March 26, 2019, 03:37:08 PM »
Only Fools Court Vengeance
Tsukiakari stood from the bench, anxiously pacing away from Inari with her hand practically glued to her chin. Shocked silence was the reaction to Inari's sudden hypothesis, as well as her silence on the matter up until that very moment.

"Fushimi-Inari Shrine. That's in the city. We're dead if we go back there." Taeko bemoaned. "We can walk around in Kameyama without much hassle, but Kyoto? The whole city knows who Gekko and I are."

"But why Fushimi-Inari Shrine?" asked one of Taeko's men. "Why abduct a girl and bring here to one of the most important places of worship in the capital?"

"I doubt they would hold her captive in the shrine itself." Inari stated. "But they most likely used the gate to bring Yachi far away from where she was abducted and continued on from there. The shrine is situated on a mountain the people named after me. People disappear all over that mountain. It would be a fine place to hold a captive."

"Why didn't you say something earlier?" Tsukiakari asked, staring daggers at the fox goddess.

Inari's tongue tied itself into a knot. "I...I just..."

"Yachi's life hangs in the balance, Inari. I brought you along on this search because I know you're good at info-gathering. I also brought you here because I trust you." Tsukiakari admitted.

Inari bowed her head, her hair obscuring her dewy, red eyes. "Please forgive me, Tsukiakari. I didn't want to think that something so horrible could happen in my own home. The thought terrified me."

Tsukiakari sighed, scratching the back of her head of raven hair. "Are all of my fellow gods so vain? I get it. You're a new goddess and you've skyrocketed into a high seat of power. You've got a good reputation you need to protect and you don't want to lose that. But even I've learned to never put my own vanity, my own reputation and glory, before the life of a single friend. Even if that friend is a mortal."

Tsukiakari flinched, slapping her hands on top of her burnt arms. Taeko rushed to her side, helping her stand upright as the cold bite of the winter air gnawed on her tender burn scars.

Despite the pain, Tsukiakari continued speaking. "I would risk life and limb just to bring Yachi home. I would die for her over and over again, if I needed to. I would do the same for every single mortal in my clan. Even if my sworn enemies were to lay down their swords and join me, I would love them just as fiercely as I do my closest allies. That's just the kind of goddess I've become. To hell with glory. To hell with my reputation. I will stop at nothing to bring that sweet girl home to her sister, where she belongs. None of the other gods seem to have that same respect for mortals."

Tsukiakari stepped forth on her own, laying a gentle hand on Inari's shoulder. "Don't be like them, Inari. Don't be twisted by vanity. Even if you have to sacrifice your reputation to protect something, that's a small price to pay. Taeko and I have endless blood on our hands for that very reason."

Inari stood in breathless awe as she realized the dangerous mistake she had made and continued to make throughout her entire time in Kameyama. She had so readily used Jinbei as a pawn to help her get closer to finding Yachi. She couldn't do the same when the torii gate implicated her own shrine as being involved in Yachi's abduction. Gods are creatures of vanity, each one obsessed with being worshiped, being remembered in some way. It was an innate desire. Like how humans long for companionship and intimacy, gods pine for veneration. Desire, no matter if it comes from a god or a human, always ends in misery. It always brings suffering.

Tsukiakari stood tall before her allies. "Taeko, Inari, everyone. Get your things together and gather the horses. We're going to Kyoto."

Back home, the Senkumo base remained under lockdown. After gathering physical evidence of the clan's various campaigns and activities, Izanami began a relentless series of interviews for nearly every member of the clan. Day by day, Izanami's investigation grew more and more invasive. The atmosphere inside of the base's walls was so serrated and uneven that one could cut themselves with it. The Senkumo's tolerance of Izanami and her shinigami slowly rotted and morphed into a festering resentment. On that day, Izanami concluded a brief interview with Chiya in the storage building of the base. Dull, gray light faintly beamed through the clerestory, shining its ghostly pallor onto both of them.

"When will all of this be over?" Chiya asked.

"A few more days, at the very least. I want to interview some of your younger troops as well." Izanami stated.

Chiya recoiled. "The children?"

"Will that be a problem?"

"I will not allow you to involve them in this. They're scared as it is with their lord gone."

"Chiya, I have to do my job."

"And I have to do mine as their commanding lord and as their guardian." Chiya sternly replied. "Izanami, you may be a goddess, but we're both women, right? We can be honest with each other if we so choose."

Izanami sighed, annoyed before Chiya had even made her point. "So we can."

"This isn't about justice, is it? You don't care about putting Bishamon or any of us behind bars."

"You're right. It isn't about justice. It's about love."

"Love?" Chiya asked, confused.

"Since we are both women, permit me to a be a little bit more than just honest, Chiya." Izanami said, smiling. "There is nothing I wouldn't do for Tsukiakari. She's my granddaughter, the only fragment of family I have left in this world."

"The legends say you birthed a great abundance of children."

"I did. Most of them are dead." Izanami stated, still smiling. "The ones that remain have forgotten what it means to even be a family."

Izanami clasped her hands, her eyes bearing a look of yearning and reminiscence. "The War of Kin. It was the civil war that erupted after Izanagi's failed attempt to rescue me from the Underworld. When he returned from that awful place, he was so traumatized by the ordeal that he never again spoke a single word. He fell into a languid torpor, as if he had fallen asleep with his eyes open. With his mind shattered, our children knew he could no longer lead our family. Amaterasu, my brightest daughter, hatched an idea in her mind. She wanted to unite our family and form a pantheon, a sovereign nation of gods. A nation of which she and her brother, Tsukuyomi, would be the rulers of. Many of my children supported this idea. Many did not. The ones that didn't still sought to rescue me, their beloved mother, from the deep, dark clutches of Yomi. They still had faith that I could serve as their leader. Amaterasu wasn't very accepting of their dissent."

Though she wasn't there to witness it, Izanami envisioned her children fighting amongst themselves, their arguments exploding into a needless, heartbreaking bloodshed. Her gently clasped hands tightened, as if she were choking the life out of something that wasn't there.

"In the end, it was those that sided with Amaterasu that won the war, leading to the creation of the pantheon. And then, get this. Right after the war, Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi freed me anyway. They could've rescued me earlier and prevented the entire thing, but Amaterasu decided to wait. She decided to let her own siblings bring blades to each other's throats. She decided to let our family tear itself apart for no reason. She did it all for power, to elevate herself as a leader figure. It's amazing just how devilish silence and inaction can truly be sometimes. When I set foot on the earth again, I found many of my children dead, and a disgusting pantheon of murderous traitors built upon their bones. My few remaining children are all but strangers to me. But not my granddaughter. She wasn't alive to be part of any of that. Her heart was pure and innocent, and I swore to protect that. That's the kind of love that drives me to do this, Chiya. Please, tell me this. Which one of us do you think has the better chance of protecting Tsukiakari from what's about to come?"

Chiya lacked an answer after hearing that tale. Her lips were as unbending as the steel of her sword.

"Bishamon is using you. You're too smart not to know that." Izanami said. "The time will come when this era of war will reach its final stages. A clear end to all of this chaos will be just in sight. When that time comes, Bishamon will get rid of you. Because as it has always been and always will be, gods do not respect the sanctity of life, mortal or divine. Being worshiped by humans was supposed to teach us humility, but it brought only destructive yearning and appetite. I should know. When that time comes, how much do you really think you'll be able to do?"

"We don't have your kind of power, Izanami, but we will do everything we can for her."

"That's not an answer. What can you actually do for her? You're mortals. As much as you love her, none of you are long for this world. Should Bishamon set his sights on her, you won't have the power to do anything against him. The only way to prepare for that possibility is if we work together. Cooperate. I need to interview those children, Chiya."

"Out of love?" Chiya remarked.

"Out of love." confirmed Izanami.

Chiya meditated upon her answer for a moment. "None younger than twelve years of age."

Izanami gave a satisfied nod. "Agreed. Thank you, Chiya."

"I'm surprised you haven't just taken Bishamon into custody yet, with everything you've collected from us." Chiya said.

"I can't. Rather, I can, but it would hurt me more than it would him. Your master is a cunning man. He took every precaution to avoid being arrested. It's not a coincidence Tsukiakari isn't here, or that Bishamon just happens to be marrying a famed, Buddhist goddess."

"He's getting married?" Chiya recoiled.

Izanami nodded. "The way things are in Heaven, arresting him now would alienate the Shinto deities from the Buddhist ones, putting our alliance in jeopardy. As much as I despise my fellow gods, as much as I hold a grudge against Amaterasu for what she did, I can't let anyone suffer in the crossfire of this investigation. I'm just...not that kind of goddess anymore. Only fools court vengeance."

Everyone's trust in Bishamon had already taken a hit after Mayumi's untimely death, but to hear that he was getting married only further eroded Chiya's faith in him. His long absence, sending orders from afar, his sham marriage, it all screamed something foul. None of them knew what kind of moves he was making, nor what he was plotting. Indeed, Chiya was to smart to not see what was happening. Bishamon was making outside arrangements, as if he was preparing for something, as if he needed some kind of insurance.

"I hope you're genuine in your words about your love for Tsukiakari." Chiya said. "I think you're right, Izanami. One by one, the leaders will die off, including myself. I know that. Sometimes I worry where Tsukiakari will find herself once we're all gone. The magic about this base was that its ring of leadership, Ebina, Mayumi, Taeko, my sister and I, and Tsukiakari, we were all friends. No matter what happened, that never changed. Tsukiakari had our backs, and we always had hers. But when we're all gone, she may find herself surrounded by vultures, at worst. We'll need outside allies like you. Izanami, can you promise me something?"

"What is it?" Izanami asked, intrigued.

"Say you're right. Say that, if we do ever reach a visible end to this era of war, and Bishamon does try to dispose of us. Just promise me that, if you can't save anyone else, save Tsukiakari. Your granddaughter is a dear comrade and friend of mine. I lack your power, and perhaps I lack your intensity in your love for her, but I cherish her as much as I humanly can. We Senkumo, even the children, are prepared to die eventually. But none of us would want Tsukiakari to share that fate with us. She can live on forever and tell our tale to the world. She can record our precious little war story, our small imprint on history. If she does that after this war ends, then this clan will never go floating down the river of time. All of the suffering we endured, the dreams we had, our love for each other...none of that will die. Not even after we do."

Izanami extended her pale hand, prompting a handshake from Chiya. On at least that one issue, the mortal and the goddess saw perfectly eye to eye. Both of them, so terribly familiar with the pain of war, stood firm in their love of one goddess and the great things she was capable of.

"Chiya Otonougi, you have my word. I will protect Tsukiakari with all I have."

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #461 on: March 29, 2019, 06:44:32 PM »
Within an hour, Tsukiakari and the others had the city of Kyoto in their sights. They stopped for a brief rest in the grove overlooking the city, having avoided being seen on the main roads. Thick, dark clouds began to roll their way through the sky, slowly obscuring the sun's radiant light. The city seemed to be in a restored state, a far cry from its decimation during the Onin War where so many warriors got their start. The sight of the place alone held both pleasant and troubling memories for Tsukiakari and the rest of them. That accursed city was the birthplace of the war consuming the country. It was a playground of avaricious lords and a graveyard of nameless innocents. See the city again was like looking into the eyes of an ex-lover.

"Smell that?" Taeko asked. "Petrichor."

"Our rain-scented city of phantoms." Tsukiakari sneered. "It was raining when we first set foot in the city as Senkumo, too. They really cleaned up the place."

"My shrine isn't far from here. I can get us there without being seen." Inari said.

"Please lead the way, Inari." Tsukiakari said.

Hitching their horses just outside the city, Inari led the group through the ragged, impoverished outskirts of Kyoto, then through the twisting, turning alleyways of the heart of the city. Wagons and carriages cluttered the main streets, filling the air with the creak of worn out, wooden wheels mixed with the deafening prattle of pedestrians. Homeless men slept on dirty curbs like emaciated corpses, while impoverished women tucked themselves out of the public eye, curling up in the same alleyways the girls traversed through. The earthy perfume of petrichor intertwined with the aroma of cooked rice, fish, and vegetables as the girls cut through the alleyways, slinking and slithering their way towards Fushimi Inari Taisha, Inari's grand shrine.

"We're not far now." Inari said.

"Listen, it's best we split up." Taeko recommended, halting everyone's march. "Boys, be on your best behavior. Keep your blades hidden and don't draw any attention. Just pretend you're taking a casual walk around Mount Inari. Search the shrine at the base of the mountain. Gekko, Inari, and I will ascend and search the top. Once we can confirm the shrine grounds aren't being used to hold Yachi, we can search around the shrine itself."

The men gave affirmative bows and went on ahead of the girls.

"Tsukiakari, I'm sorry." Inari suddenly apologized. "You were right about what you said back in Kameyama. I treasured my shrine's reputation above the safety of your comrade. I feel sickened by that."

Tsukiakari's eyebrows shot upwards in surprise, but she then smiled and patted Inari's head and scratched between her hidden, fox ears.

"It's water under the bridge, alright? Don't worry about it. Let's just find Yachi and bring her home." Tsukiakari said, her head-patting earning stifled squeals of pleasure from Inari.

As Taeko was about to press forward, she was suddenly grabbed by her wrist. One of the women sitting alone in the alleyway had taken hold of her. She stood from her curled position, the blanket around her shoulders falling to the ground. She couldn't have been out of her twenties yet, she looked so young. Her dirty skin was smooth and radiant, while her hair was voluminous and dark brown.

"Please...can you spare any money?" the woman asked.

"Sorry. I don't have any on me." Taeko bluntly responded.

"I'll do anything, miss. Please..."

Taeko stole a glance at Tsukiakari and Inari before returning her gaze to the young beggar before her.

"So you're the kind of woman who will do anything? Let's put that to the test." Taeko sneered.

Inari's jaw nearly dropped to the floor as Taeko loosened the white obi around her kimono and parted the cloth wrapped around her crotch, exposing her vagina to the young woman.

"Pleasure me. Right here. I'll give you money if you do it." Taeko said, a fierce look in her eyes.

"Taeko!" Tsukiakari whispered.

The young woman was petrified. She looked like she had barely spent a night with the opposite sex, let alone another woman.

"Go on." Taeko encouraged. "You've got a cute face, pretty lips, and a nice tongue in your mouth. Use them and earn your keep, since you'll do anything. I'll double your pay if you make me orgasm."

The woman backed away, unsure if Taeko was being serious or just playing her for kicks. The answer, at least to Tsukiakari, was obvious. Taeko covered herself up after making her point.

"Don't say you'll do anything if you don't have it in you." Taeko chided, taking the woman's hand and helping her stand up straight. "Get yourself out of the dirt and go out on the main street. I saw several people out there in charge of wagons and stalls that can use some helping hands. Ask if they'll hire you. If that doesn't work, go to Fushimi Inari shrine. You can help maintain the grounds there."

Nearly speechless, the young woman mustered up words of gratitude as Taeko walked away. "T-thank you! I mean it! Thank you!"

Taeko simply held her hand in the air and gave the woman a thumbs-up, continuing on her way with Tsukiakari and Inari.

"You have strange methods, but you really are kindhearted, Taeko." Inari praised.

"What were you going to do if she actually agreed know...pleasure you?" Tsukiakari asked, terrified of the answer.

"Huh? Nothing, really. I would've let her do it and paid her as I promised. But I knew she wouldn't. She's not like us, Gekko. She lacks that darkness in her eyes. I wanted to show her that. Besides, people who lack the resolve to actually do anything make me sick."

After a short while, the three stood before the massive, red torii gate entrance of Fushimi Inari shrine. An impossibly thick shimenawa rope hung from the torii gate, wrapped around the upper ends of the gate's pillar and festooned with shide, zig-zag paper streamers. A white romon gate, outlined with bright red support beams running through the second story, and pillars of a faded crimson color at the base of the gate, stood ahead. Furhter along, visible through the arch of the romon gate were the worship hall and main shrine, both retaining the red and white aesthetic of the entrance and similarly marked with shimenawa and shide paper. Many different people from all walks of life, rich and poor, enjoyed themselves as they sauntered through the shrine grounds, stopped at the office to purchase talismans bearing Inari's name written in kanji. Smiles adorned the bright faces of the shrine maidens, all of them dressed in their traditional white robes and bright red skirts.

Calm and serenity overcame Tsukiakari and Taeko almost instantly. Fushimi Inari seemed like a perfectly preserved slice of the country's former peace and stability. One could get lost in the aesthetic of the petrichor-scented shrine grounds, the fleeting snow melting off of the hip-and-gable roofs of each building, or the uphill path of thousands of red torii gates behind the main shrine. Inari's shrine was nothing short of magnificent, eclipsing the shrines of other major gods that were much older than her. It was all a testament to how much the people loved her.

"Inari, you know the way around this place better than us. Where should we start?" Tsukiakari asked, shaking off her initial astonishment.

"Let's ascend through the worship area and go through the path of a thousand gates." Inari instructed, pointing in the direction of the path. "We'll go up to Shin-ike Pond. The pond might actually help us locate Yachi."

Taeko snapped her fingers in remembrance. "That's right! I remember being told about this legend when I was a kid."

"Legend?" Tsukiakari asked, completely out of the loop.

"It's said that if you're searching for someone who is lost, you can go to Shin-ike Pond and clap. The clap will echo from the direction where you can find that person." Taeko explained.

"Huh? Inari, is that true?" Tsukiakari excitedly asked.

"Well, like I said back in Kameyama, people have gone missing around this shrine before. I used this pond to try and locate them, and my foxes would go and guide them back onto the path. Not all of them were ever found, however. I can't promise you that the pond will definitely help us locate Yachi."

Tsukiakari sighed. "Well, a coin toss is still better than being completely clueless. Looking at this place now, I don't think they'd keep Yachi directly on the shrine grounds. The Man in Black had those two phantoms helping him. All of these torii gates and shimenawa would act as repellants to evil spirits, though. They wouldn't be able to follow him here."

"There's a lot of things those three shouldn't be able to do, like not being dead." Taeko chided. "Let's not underestimate this guy. Inari, lead us."

"Got it." Inari nodded.

Inari lead the way through the romon gate and around the worship hall, noticing that Taeko had suddenly come to a stop as they passed by the office selling talismans. Once Inari stopped, Tsukiakari came to a halt as well, looking back at the tranced Taeko. Taeko's eyes froze upon the talismans bearing Inari's name, her hair fluttering about in the winter breeze.

"Taeko?" Tsukiakari called out.

"Oh, sorry. Just taking a look."

The three continued on their way, marching past the crowd of Kyoto citizens offering their prayers in the main hall. The wind coiled around the base of the mountain, pulling their hair past their left shoulders. Tsukiakari brushed her fluttering, raven hair aside as she surveyed the many worshipers present. Some wore fine, pristine robes as symbols of their great wealth, while others sauntered around in their dirty, worn out clothes that they probably wore everyday. Children walked along with their mothers and fathers, but some only had one parent with them. Many of them were young, but others had been grayed and wrinkled by time. It seemed that no matter where someone came from, no matter what their circumstances were, they all sought Inari's protection and blessings.

This time, Tsukiakari was the one who stopped, halting their mach.

"See something you like, Gekko?" Taeko asked.

Tsukiakari smiled. "No, no. Just...kind of got reminded of home, I guess. Sorry for holding you up."

"We're coming up on the thousand torii gates right now. I hope your legs are up for the challenge. It's a half-hour walk up to the top." Inari warned.

"Uphill?" Taeko asked, clearly looking a little terrified.

"Yeah. Why?" Inari questioned.

"No reason. It's just...heights make me a little nervous."

Tsukiakari could hardly hold her jaw in place. "What? Taeko, are you scared of heights?"

"No, I said they made me a little nervous! Don't twist my words."

Inari hid her giggle behind the sleeve of her robe. "We can hold hands if you'd like, Taeko."

"I'm not a child. Let's just get going, already." Taeko pouted, much to the amusement of the two goddesses.

The path of a thousand torii gates was quite literally that. Torii gates almost completely covered the path of steps leading up to the top of Mount Inari. If one torii gate was supposed to be able to ward off evil spirits, Taeko and Tsukiakari could only imagine what thousands of them could do. As they walked, the seemingly excessive amounts of torii gates gave them a further sense of calm and security, especially since they were walking right by Inari's side.

"I have to ask, Inari. Why so many gates?" Tsukiakari questioned.

"Well, these gates were actually donated by various worshipers. It's so they can receive blessings and good luck in their endeavors. Most of them are from small business owners that just want to be able to provide for their families." Inari explained. "Since there were so many disappearances around this mountain, I decided we should make a path of all of these torii gates, in the hopes of reducing the amount of people that go missing."

"I'm just wondering how the Man in Black managed to get one of his own. If that gate we saw really did link back here, then it must've been from here, right?" Tsukiakari asked.

"It's not an impossible feat." Inari said. "This shrine was actually burned to the ground during the Onin War."

"Burned? The whole thing?" Taeko asked.

"The whole thing. Many of the old torii gates we had didn't survive the fire. A few of them did, though. If this Man in Black was any one of the donors, or even if he just took one of the gates that survived, he'd probably be able to use it to link himself back to this area."

"I wonder if our fiery friends had anything to do with that." Tsukiakari sneered. "Then again, the mortals managed to raze most of Kyoto all by themselves during the war."

"If I were a phantom as smart as either of them, I'd take the opportunity to burn down the biggest repellant to me in the city." Taeko assumed. "A war like that would be just that opportunity. Like I said, let's not underestimate them."

"That's a scary thought..." Inari shivered. "Tsukiakari, you saw them in Sakura's shop, right? What were they doing with Sakura?"

Tsukiakari thought back to the pitiful, barely-human state Sakura was in. "They were inside of her. It's like they were trying to take her over. Ghosts seeking a body to take and possess for their own."

"Think they're people we knew?" Taeko asked. "I remember the Phantom of the Flies ended up being Masachika Togashi."

"Yeah, I do think we knew them. We just need to know who they are."

Inari sighed, as if clearing the heaviness of the conversation from her chest. "Hey, let's just enjoy the walk, alright? We'll worry about everything once we get to the pond. May as well use what precious time we have to clear our minds."

True to Inari's warning, the legs stung with lactic acid buildup as they continued up the path, climbing higher and higher on the mountain. As the air got a bit thinner and the city of Kyoto got smaller, Taeko sincerely considered taking up Inari's offer and holding hands. A few kimono-clad passerby's walked descended the steps past them with no trouble, but Taeko seemed to really become unnerved by the increasing height. Seeing she was shivering and frowning with anxiety, Inari stopped at a resting point marked by statues of her servile foxes, adorned with red bibs around their necks. Inari sat down on the bench, giving her legs some time to recover. Taeko's gazed remained fixed on the pillar of one of the torii gates. The fox goddess assumed she was most likely examining the kanji, as every gate bore the name of the donor on the pillars.

"Whew, told you guys it was quite the walk." Inari yawned.

"I actually feel pretty good." Tsukiakari sang. "If we weren't at war, I'd come here for a walk everyday, if I could. It's amazing you have such a large shrine, Inari. I wish someone built one for me."

Inari snickered. "In due time, I'm sure you'll have your own shrine too."

"What do you think, Taeko? Will I ever get a shrine as nice as this?" Tsukiakari asked, smiling.

Taeko hadn't budged an inch and paid no attention to their conversation. Tsukiakari walked up to her and followed the direction of her gaze, reading the name 'Yoshinori Akiyama'. Taeko's eye glistened like a precious, dewy jewel, her eyebrows sunken in melancholy. Tsukiakari remembered Taeko's earlier comment, that she had been told about the Shin-ike Pond's legend when she was a kid. It shocked her that she had never truly thought much about it before, but like most of the Senkumo's recruits, Taeko could've very well have been raised in or near Kyoto. She rubbed her hand around Taeko's back, consoling her as they both stared down the torii pillar.

"Someone you knew?" Tsukiakari whispered.

Taeko hung her head, on the verge of tears. "My dad. He's not here anymore, obviously."

"I'm sorry. You two were close?"

"Very. I was always a daddy's girl." Taeko smiled. "He taught me how to use swords, and his job assisting shogunal deputies allowed him to teach me about administrative tasks as well. He was a spiritual man, so it's no surprise he donated a gate here."

"No wonder you were so good at your job." Taeko chuckled.

Taeko nodded. "Yeah. He got caught up in some trouble, a conspiracy among the deputies to depose Yoshimasa. The bastards wanted to protect the integrity of a shogunate that was clearly already falling apart. My dad, being the honorable man he was, agreed to take the fall for their treachery. He died like any other disgraced warrior does."

Taeko wiped the tears from her eyes, her mind swirling with memories of her childhood. "Mom practically died of grief a few days after that and I took Ebina with me when we ran away. Bishamon found us and...well, you know the rest. It's an awful feeling, Gekko. Feeling homesick for a place and a time that you can never get back."

"I know the feeling. Believe me, I do."

Inari stood, approaching the mourning Taeko. "That torii gate was one of the few that survived the fires of the Onin War. Your dad endured through it all, Taeko. I remain ever grateful that he donated to this shrine."

"Thank you, Inari." Taeko nodded. "Seeing his name here isn't what makes me so sad. It's just...I imagine what he would think of me if he were here, watching me all this time...and it makes me glad he's dead."

Taeko caressed the kanji of her father's name with her fingers, bowing her head in apology. "...Because he'd never be able to recognize his little girl inside of this rotten woman..."

Tsukiakari had always repressed her thoughts of home, her memories of Amaterasu. None of it ever mattered as much as the life she had made for herself on Earth, surrounded by her fellow Senkumo. But now that she was older and knew what pain was, she wondered what kind of pain her mother had experienced in her life. What made her into the heartless and cold woman that she was? It seemed so simple to figure out if she truly wanted to. What if she just went back to Heaven and asked Amaterasu herself? Asking, talking, exchanging dialogue. All of that was lost. Human and divine obsession and yearning for power led only to dead loved ones and ruined homes. Everyone tried to replace that pain with hatred, but no matter how much one drank from the cup of vengeance, the pain lingered. Pain and anger drove the times, both on Earth and in Heaven.

Taeko soon collected herself, and the three continued up the path, all of them holding hands. After another fifteen minutes of walking, they finally arrived at Shin-ike Pond, situated below a stone prayer area dedicated to Kumataka, the ancient hawk-eagle of the mountain. The pond reflected the snow-covered hill and trees that surrounded it in a bowl-like fashion.

"Here we are." Inari waved. "Tsukiakari, just think hard about the person you want to find and clap facing the lake. You'll hear an echo from the direction they can be found."

"Simple as that?" Tsukiakari asked.

Inari nodded. "Simple as that."

Inari and Taeko stood aside, giving Tsukiakari room to think. She focused her mind on Yachi Otonougi, the girl that was always paired with her twin sister, always ready to follow any order no matter how bad the situation was. Yachi, whose quirks complimented those of her sister's, whose careful hands and deep knowledge allowed the clan to raise its own horses, giving them an edge on the battlefield. Yachi, who so willingly took on the burden of being a commanding lord when Tsukiakari lost heart.

"You've always fought beside me." Tsukiakari muttered. "And when we lost Mayumi, you fought for me while I gave up. You're a true friend. A true comrade. It's time to come home. Come home to those that love you."

Tsukiakari clapped twice, waiting patiently as the sound of her hands reverberated off the water and through the sky. First came the silence, disrupted only by the whisper of the breeze. Then came the promised echo, pointing Tsukiakari's ears back towards the base of the mountain, near the main shrine. No one expected to receive an echo that sounded so close. Yachi was being held on shrine grounds.

"Dear god..." Taeko uttered.

"The main shrine!" Inari urged. "Let's go!"

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #462 on: April 09, 2019, 11:33:05 AM »
The girls raced down the steps of the mountain with all haste, noticing a disturbing lack of people in the shrine along the way. It was as if everyone just disappeared. Taeko noticed belongings were dropped on the ground, such as talismans, personal bags, and ema plaques. The dying ring of the echo led the girls towards the shrine's honden, a sacred building that the general public is never allowed to access. Knowing this, Taeko and Tsukiakari stopped dead in their tracks as they approached the honden, knowing that it was the building in which deities were enshrined.

"Oh now's not the time, guys! Just come in!" Inari urged.

Inari flung open the doors to the dark building, closing the door behind Taeko, who was the last to enter.

"Gods, please forgive our trespassing." Taeko prayed.

The inside of the honden was alight with dozens upon dozens of candles lined around five statues in the center of the main room. The statues depicted five ancient deities, long forgotten by their people, lying on flat beds. Their eyes were closed and their hands sat on top of their stomachs, their fingers intertwined. Figuring they must've faded into nothing from lack of prayer, Tsukiakari knew the statues served as the resting places for their spirits. Such was the fate of forgotten gods. It was no wonder that the gods alive now would do anything to maintain their base of worship.

The three looked around, but saw no trace of Yachi anywhere. Taeko noticed a section of the floor sinking a bit under the pressure of her right foot, her heart racing with anticipation.

"Gekko! There's something under the floor here!"

Tsukiakari and Inari rushed to Taeko's position, moving some of the lit candles out of the way.

"A basement? In the honden?" Inari questioned.

Taeko flung the trapdoor open, immediately filling the honden with the fetid stench of blood and excrement. If Yachi was down there, the smell alone was already a bad sign. The girls were forced to cover their noses just to stop themselves from vomiting. Tsukiakari descended the ladder, her sandals splashing in a small puddle of blood. The basement amounted to a short hallway of sorts, appropriated into a dungeon. The hall connected to an antechamber that led nowhere. The wall to the right was lined by three jail cells, each one partitioned by rows of steel bars. In the center of the antechamber, there was a single, reclining chair stained with copious amounts of blood. Two hand cuffs swung side to side right above the seat, dangling from the ceiling. The entire antechamber floor was covered in lit candles that did nothing to combat the rotten smell trapped inside the basement.

Taeko descended the ladder as well, investigating the antechamber while Tsukiakari checked the cells. There was no sign of Yachi anywhere. Taeko spotted a small, blood-filled bowl by the reclining chair, picking out a disgusting, yet peculiar item.

"Human teeth and nails..." Taeko observed aloud, holding up a tooth. "It was ripped from someone's mouth. Is it Yachi's?"

One cell in particular had the most blood settled in it. There was fresher blood layered on top of darker, stickier, congealed blood. Whoever was held there was routinely taken out and put back in, probably to be tortured at the reclining seat. Sitting on the bloodied, wooden floor was Yachi's black choker.

Tsukiakari knelt down, picking up the choker. "This is Yachi's. She was here, and recently."

Inari called down from above. "Taeko, your men came back!"

Tsukiakari hurriedly stuffed Yachi's choker in her pocket, rushing up the ladder ahead of Taeko. The men returned alright, bent over and trying to catch their breath. They rushed over in a hurry just like the girls did.

"Ma'am, we've got company! The Ashikaga know we're here!" one of the men exclaimed.

Suddenly, a thunderous voice roared from outside the honden. "Tsukiakari Senkumo! Come out, coward!"

Taeko and Tsukiakari cautiously tiptoed towards the two small windows at the side of the building, peering out from the white, cloth curtains as their men drew their weapons in preparation for a fight. Dozens of Ashikaga troops stood surrounding the side of the honden, their spears lowered. Pushing through the center of the semi-circle of soldiers was a man donned in bright, gaudy armor of red and gold, distinguishing him from the black-clad foot soldiers surrounding him. Eight tall soldiers wearing similar armor without the gold trim accompanied him. Four stood off to his left, the other four to his right. The man, obviously charged with confidence, removed his helmet and tossed it back to one of his guards to catch.

The rain began as a drizzle, then quickly grew heavier as the fancily armored warrior stepped forward. He bore a head of short, black hair and a cleanly shaven face. Even beneath his armor, Tsukiakari could tell he had the physical build of a grizzly bear, massive in his stature and just a bit fat. His very steps almost seemed to shake and rattle the shrine grounds.

"I know you're in there, Tsukiakari! Why don't you come out! Face me, you coward!" he shouted, as thunder boomed in the sky.

Tsukiakari paid close attention to the family crest painted on his breastplate, recognizing the diamond and cross symbol very well.

"He's from the Ouchi clan." Tsukiakari groaned.

"Same bastards that killed Mayumi?" Taeko growled, receiving a nod from Tsukiakari.

"I am Ouchi Yoshioki, Kyoto-born Lord of Suo and head of the Ouchi clan! You will face me here and now, you wretch! Come out!"

"What's the plan, Gekko?" Taeko asked. "We can't let this guy waste our time. Yachi's life depends on it."

Tsukiakari squeezed the curtains in her right hand as she took a moment to think. She peered out of the window again, focusing on Yoshioki. "Stop your barking! I'm here, you dog!"

The Ashikaga troops gasped in surprise as Yoshioki chuckled to himself, pacing back and forth.

"You really are back from the grave!" Yoshioki sang. "You have a lot of Ouchi corpses to answer for, war goddess! Come and face your execution!"

"Only a fool gambles his soul on revenge, Yoshioki! If you were a wise man, you'd march your men off of sacred ground, live to fight another day!" Tsukiakari shouted.

"And if you were a wise woman, you'd come out right now!"

Yoshioki raised his left hand, signaling his bodyguards to draw their blades from their sheaths. In response, Taeko and Tsukiakari pushed the handles of their swords with their thumbs, popping the blades into the reach of their right hands. Taeko's men braced themselves, wiping the glistening sweat off of their foreheads. The Ashikaga foot soldiers began to shake in their boots, their teeth chattering in the rain as their wobbling hands struggled to keep tight grips on their spears.

"You're making a mistake, Yoshioki! You've heard the stories! You know what I can do!" Tsukiakari screamed.

"Indeed I do! And I know what you can't do! If little Yoshihisa was able to kill you, I can do it too!"

Taeko's grip around the hilt of her blade tightened in rage. "Gekko, you have to let me face this guy."

Yoshioki paced back and forth, visibly growing more and more anxious. "If me and my men need to storm the honden and pull you out of there ourselves, then so be it!"

"Gekko!" Taeko growled, her anger boiling over.

Tsukiakari nodded. "Go."

To the Ashikaga's surprise, the honden doors bursted open, making way for the seething, impetuous Taeko. Her long, raven hair was wetted by the pelting rain as she stood like a statue before dozens of enemy soldiers. Initially stunned by her brazenness, the silent Ashikaga troops filled the air with a barrage of laughter. The right hand of Tsukiakari Senkumo, said to be just as fierce as the war goddess herself, stood before them bearing the scars of war, deprived of her beloved clan and left with only one eye.

Yoshioki eye's dashed first towards his troops, then at Taeko. "I asked for a war goddess. I don't recall asking for the Senkumo clan's used goods."

Taeko pulled her sword from its sheathe. "Your clan killed someone very dear to my heart. I won't stomach any more of your insults."

"You're challenging me?" Yoshioki asked.

"Yes. Not as a Senkumo, but as Taeko Akiyama, daughter of a proud and righteous warrior, sister to a kindhearted orphan, and friend to a fierce and loving goddess. I challenge you as a woman who has known nothing but war and misery her entire life, who has buried more friends than she can even count. I challenge you as a former commander that loved her soldiers more than she ever loved herself. I, Taeko Akiyama, challenge you to lay down both your sword and your hatred."

Taeko threw her blade to the rain-soaked ground, wiping the entertained smiles off the faces of Yoshioki and his troops. Tsukiakari, Inari, and Taeko's men watched with their eyes widened with shock.

"This city has seen enough suffering." Taeko began. "It's seen enough widowed wives and childless mothers. It's seen enough good men die for nothing. Maybe my younger self would've fought you here and now, but after seeing all I've seen, I just don't have it in me anymore. This is where my mother gave me my name, and where my father met his end like a true warrior. I will not contribute to the bloodshed plaguing my home. Our home. You were born here too. I reckon all of you were. Hell, most of you picked up the sword for the same reason I did. You all lost something, and you told yourselves you would never lose anything again. You all had lovers and friends that lost their lives here. Even as your enemy, I recognize that. Even as someone who lost friends to your clans, I respect that. So, in honor of all of those people we both had to bury, at least for this one day, I'm putting down my sword. I'm looking sweet revenge in the eye and telling it to find another fool."

Taeko didn't move a muscle, and neither did Yoshioki. The two of them stood like unwavering walls in the rain, their eyes dead set on each other.

"Gekko and I are only here to save a friend's life, a friend that was kidnapped and tortured on these shrine grounds. Our enemy is the man who took her, knowing full-well that she had nothing to do with his grudge with Gekko and I. Her sister is sitting at home, deathly scared that she's going to lose the only family she has left. As a former comrade, and as someone who knows the pain of losing a sister, I can't let that happen."

Yoshioki's chest bounced back and forth as he erupted in boisterous laughter, applauding Taeko for the entertainment. "Sounds to me like you're all getting what's coming to you, at long last."

"Did you hear a word I said?" Taeko shouted. "Our friend has gone missing!"

"And I hope that she dies slowly and painfully, Taeko, otherwise I'd feel as if I sat through that sob story for nothing." Yoshioki groaned. "You're right. We've both lost that which was precious to us. We've both found solace in our swords and courage in our armor. I too respect your suffering. However, you cannot expect to find mercy in those you were merciless to. The world just doesn't work like that. Now, pick your sword."

Taeko's fists clenched until her nails drew blood from her palm. "No."

"Pick it up, I said! Now!" Yoshioki roared, pointing his blade at Taeko.

Suddenly, the voice of an intruder interrupted their argument. "My oh my, Yoshioki. I don't think I've ever quite seen you so angry before. You're practically burning up."

The intruder was the Man in Black, who materialized out from under the honden's shadow like a dark specter, appearing behind Taeko. He held onto his black hat with one hand, preventing the wind and rain from blowing it off of his head. Taeko slowly backed away as if she were retreating from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating beast.

"You." Yoshioki growled. "Orphan of the Katsura River."

"What's the matter, Yoshioki? You look like you've seen a ghost? Are you that surprised to see me again?" teased the Man in Black.

"What the hell is going on, Yoshioki?" Taeko asked. "How do you know this prick?"

The Man in Black slowly stepped forward, driving everyone backwards. "I've come to take back what's mine, Yoshioki. You took a family heirloom that was passed down to my sister. Give it back."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Yoshioki scoffed.

"Noriko's ring. I know you have it."

"Noriko was a traitor to the shogun, as was your entire village!" Yoshioki howled. "An onyx ring was all I asked for in recompense."

The Man in Black turned his head towards Taeko, chuckling softly. "So you're Taeko Senkumo. Perhaps you recall your men being ambushed on a road close to the village you destroyed. I'm sure you looked at the damage inflicted upon your troops and ascertained that whoever attacked you couldn't have been from our village. The attackers weren't a ragtag militia, but a well-trained force using effective weaponry. It was this man that suspected my village of aiding Ashikaga operations. He reported as much to his Ashikaga owners, and Yoshihisa responded by orchestrating a false-flag attack. It was revenge for Masachika Togashi, and the perfect excuse to attempt to crush the Senkumo clan. But he didn't expect Tsukiakari to sally out right away, nor did Tsukiakari expect to actually die to his men."

Tsukiakari and the other remained hidden inside, unsure of whether she could even trust that his revelation was the truth. But one name he mentioned did chill her down to her bones. Noriko. This mysterious, phantom of a man was Noriko's brother.

"And how would you know the thoughts and motivations of a dead man?" Taeko asked.

"He told me himself, of course." replied the Man in Black.

"Corpses can't speak, you grave-robbing bastard." Yoshioki rebuked.

A devious smirk carved itself onto the mysterious man's face. "Yoshioki, please. Be civilized about this."

"I don't have the ring. The damned thing was haunted after your village was destroyed. I went back to the ruins and threw it down the well." Yoshioki explained.

"As I thought. You were too weak to bear its burden. Serves you right for stealing from us. " the Man in Black said , returning his gaze towards Taeko. "As for you, you can burn along with them."

A swathe of flames suddenly enveloped one of the Ashikaga troops. The surrounding guards scuttled back in fear as the Phantom Soldier materialized from the flames, impaling the spearman with a flame-wrapped nodachi. He swung his fiery blade, flinging the spearman's burning corpse at Taeko's feet. He continued on a rampage of the surrounding Ashikaga guards, slashing them with his hellish nodachi, each cut reducing their flesh and armor to cinders and ash. Yoshioki's bodyguards escorted their lord away from the ensuing chaos, disappearing down the hill as Tsukiakari, Inari, and Taeko's men emerged from the honden.

Spotting them, the Man in Black raised his arms as if he were welcoming some honored guests. "We meet again, Tsukiakari."

"Where did you take her? Where's Yachi?" Tsukiakari interrogated.

"It's as I told you before. I won't let you find her before you earn another one of these." said the Man in Black, knocking his index finger against his forehead. "You were smart to use the pond. I didn't expect you to figure out the connection to this shrine so quickly."

Blood leaked out of the ever-increasing corpses strewn around the Phantom Soldier, the fire dancing around his body reflecting off of the surfaces of the scarlet puddles. The puddles rippled as the Phantom Maiden's head of ashen hair arose from the blood, followed by her shadowy face and tattered kimono. She levitated out of the blood without it staining a single part of her, floating towards the Man in Black. Seizing the moment, Taeko and Tsukiakari rushed towards him with their blades drawn, aiming to incapacitate and capture him. In an instant, the Phantom Soldier vanished behind a veil of flames, reappearing in front of the Man in Black just before the two girls could lay a finger on him. The fiery hulk of flaming flesh and armor kicked Taeko away with his right foot while seizing Tsukiakari by her throat, slowly choking the strength out of her body.

Taeko's men wasted no time drawing their bows and firing off a volley of arrows at the Phantom Soldier, but the arrows dissolved into specs of ash before they hit their target. The Phantom Maiden levitated forward, presenting herself as the culprit of the negated attacks. Her ashen hair was set alight by flame, becoming a wicked conflagration twisting and dancing upon her head. A ring of raging fire surrounded her, the soldier, and the Man in Black, protecting them from any further attacks.

Taeko slowly stood herself up, hardly able to draw breath into her lungs after receiving the kick that propelled her back towards the honden. Helpless in combat, Inari could do nothing to save Tsukiakari. His horn drawn from his forehead, the Man in Black sauntered towards the choking Tsukiakari, laughing as he removed his black hat.

His gaze crawled over the war goddess, then the Phantom Soldier. "Nostalgic, isn't it? I must ask that you don't kill her, however. We're taking her. We'll see if she doesn't give in by then."

The Phantom Soldier reluctantly loosened his grip around Tsukiakari's neck as she passed out. He released her body, allowing the Phantom Maiden to levitate it off the ground. The ring of fire extinguished itself, shrouding the four of them in white smoke. Taeko ran through the smoke with her blade in hand, her other hand cradling her throbbing stomach. As the smoke parted and lifted into the wind, Taeko found that all four of them were already gone.

Realizing Tsukiakari had been captured, Taeko fell to her knees with her hand slapped across her mouth. The very realization alone nearly made her sick enough to vomit.

Inari's hands shivered beneath her robes. "She's...she's gone..."

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #463 on: April 10, 2019, 07:38:54 PM »
And Then Came The Darkness
The purl of the Katsura River's tainted, fetid waters were stifled by the dozens of bodies washed along the riverbank. The colossal blood moon watched over the corpses like a heavenly eye, haunting the night sky with its eldritch light. The cadavers were colored anywhere between a pallid gray and a putrid, greenish-black, their decomposition hastened from being submerged for so long. Crows hung their cacophonous caws in the air, gathering like worshipers at mass to feast upon the bloated bellies and pungent rot offered to them by the corpses of the villagers. Flies and maggots attended as well, accepting their place as bottom feeders to the crows. Men, women, and children lied together in a repulsive display of death and decay, the night breeze lifting their stench up towards the hills. The hills that should've been ice capped in that season had their ice melted, the runoff causing the river to overflow and reject the bodies upon its banks. A flickering orange light sat atop the hill, centering itself in front of the blood moon. The light vanished, reappearing upon the riverbank in an instant as the Phantom Maiden.

Her fiery entrance scared away the flock of crows and flies, scattering them into the night. She levitated over the bodies, her ashen hair slowly igniting into gentle flames. After a few minutes, the phantom closed in on one particular corpse. The corpse of a man marred by burn scars and deathly pallor, his soul yet to depart from the earth. Flames enwreathed the body, but they did not eat away at his rotten flesh. His dead fingers twitched and his motionless heart began to beat once more. His eyes opened as he drew breath into his mouth. Slowly, he arose from his watery, mass grave as a man brought back from death's clutches. His first sight of the world since his death was that accursed blood moon in the sky. He stared into its scarlet light and it stared right back at him. Remembering all that had happened, he wept amidst the corpses, falling to his knees in wordless agony.

Tsukiakari saw all of this in her slumber as if she was living the moment herself. The vision was quickly shattered as she suddenly awoke, her vision a blur. Her naked body was riddled in goosebumps from the cold, stone ground she lied upon. The odor of dried blood invaded her nostrils as her vision slowly clarified. She realized she was trapped in a cell, much like the ones she found at Inari's shrine. Her fiery horn was drawn from her head, alerting her to the Phantom Maiden, who stood at the cell door watching her. Just as quickly as Tsukiakari laid eyes on her, the phantom vanished into smoke, making way for the Man in Black.

The room had a similar set up to the one found at Inari's shrine, complete with a reclining chair stained with blood.

"Welcome back to the waking world, war goddess."

Tsukiakari suddenly felt a dull pain in her ankles and was unable to move her feet. She took a gander, seeing the flat ends of large nails sticking out from her ankles. Nails had been driven into them while she was unconscious, making the mere act of standing up impossible. The Man in Black walked away, leaving Tsukiakari alone. Or at least, that's what she thought before turned her body around as if she were tossing in bed. Sitting against the wall with widened eyes was Yachi Otonougi, naked, bloodied, and riddled with countless scars. Her body was almost entirely black, blue, and dark red. Seeing her again, Tsukiakari crawled over to her, throwing her arms around the frightened, but relieved Yachi.

"Yachi! I found you! I finally found you!" Tsukiakari cried, clutching Yachi tightly to her breasts.

Yachi could barely do much else than sob Tsukiakari's nickname. "Gekko! Gekko!"

"It's okay now, Yachi." Tsukiakari said, stroking Yachi's hair. "I'll get you out of here, okay? I'll bring you home to your sister."

Yachi simply shook her head, still unable to speak. Tsukiakari laid her hands upon Yachi's cheeks, looking into her eyes. Yachi's face was stained with tears of relief and sorrow, tears that Tsukiakari could do nothing to stop.

"It's okay, Yachi." Tsukiakari said, kissing her forehead. "We'll get out of here somehow."

Tsukiakari noticed that none of Yachi's fingers had any fingernails on them, only the exposed nail beds underneath. Though Yachi kept her head bowed, she also noticed that some of her teeth were missing, the swelling around her cheeks indicating they were pulled forcefully. Overall, Yachi appeared to have a significant amount of weight. Her arms and thighs had gotten thinner, and her cheekbones were more pronounced than usual.

"They're not feeding you?" Tsukiakari asked, getting a simple shake of the head from Yachi.

There was nothing Yachi could possibly eat in that bloodied mess of a cell. Yachi held her hand over her grumbling, aching stomach, in desperate need of nutrition. If she didn't have something, she'd be dead in a few days if her luck was good. Tsukiakari sighed to clear her mind, looking down at her own breasts.

"Yachi. My breasts. I'll feed you."

Yachi recoiled, uttering her first real words since Tsukiakari joined her in captivity. "I can't..."

"You're malnourished. If you don't have something, you're going to die." Tsukiakari said bluntly.

Left with no other option, Tsukiakari leaned back against the cell bars, massaging her breasts until she drew milk from her left nipple.

"Forgive me." Yachi whispered.

"It's alright. Anything to keep you alive." Tsukiakari nodded.

While Yachi fed from her left breast, Tsukiakari hopelessly tried to plan an escape. The thing is, with her feet rendered immobile and Yachi nearly starved to death, escape was a profound impossibility. At most, Tsukiakari knew she'd have a chance at using her elemental powers to free themselves from their cell. But after that, they were as good as buried. Either the Man in Black or his phantoms would catch up with them easily. Without a blade, neither Tsukiakari nor Yachi could properly defend themselves. After a few hours alone in their damp, quiet cell, the two girls drifted off to sleep, their bodies trying to preserve as much energy as possible.

Their brief respite was quickly disturbed by loud banging against the cell bars. The Man in Black had returned. He knelt down as the two girls scurried to the opposite end of the cell, trying to keep as much distance as possible away from him. Before he could speak, he was ravaged by a fit of wet coughs. He spit out blood into the cell, taking a moment to recover his breath before speaking.

"Enjoying your stay?" he asked.

"Piss off." Tsukiakari hissed.

"Thinking about escaping, war goddess? We're situated on a steep hill. The air is thin, and this winter is especially cold. Even if you did manage to get out of here in your incapacitated state, you'd be unable to descend the hill without killing yourselves. Let's say you do somehow manage to descend safely. You still have a retinue of Ashikaga troops to get through. Think you'd make it through them with Yachi in tow? But'll get lucky. Really lucky. Not that either of you look all that lucky. But if you were, maybe you'd be able to bypass the guards and make your escape. I can see you living through this, Tsukiakari, but Yachi? With her injuries and lack of nutrition, she'd be fortunate if she lasted a day outside. No one would be willing to treat her, considering she belongs to the Senkumo clan. And as far as I know, you're a long way from home. She has no hope of surviving this. Not without my help."

"What do you want?" Tsukiakari asked, holding the shivering Yachi to her breasts.

"It's simple. Give me the location of the Senkumo base. Do that, and I'll arrange for you both to receive treatment."

"You want me to sell out my clan? My worshipers?"

"Don't tell him anything, Gekko." Yachi whispered with her dry throat. "Not a word."

"I see you're still persistent, Yachi." the Man in Black chuckled. "But what about you, Tsukiakari? Aren't you willing to do anything for your comrades?"

"If I give you the base, I would've betrayed Yachi just as much as I would've betrayed the rest of my clan. I'm not telling you anything."

"I had a feeling you'd both refuse my offer. That's fine." said the Man in Black, standing up. "As you wish, we'll do this the hard way. Prepare yourselves."

He flung open the cell gate and tore the screaming Yachi out of Tsukiakari's embrace. Tsukiakari caught hold of her hand, but Yachi was far too weak to grip it. The Man in Black delivered a swift kick into Tsukiakari's eye, knocking her away. He shut the cell gate and continued dragging Yachi by her hair as she reached out for Tsukiakari.

"Please! No more! No more! No!" Yachi sobbed.

"Don't you touch a hair on her *censored*ing head!" Tsukiakari roared.

"Or what?" challenged the Man in Black.

He stood Yachi up and locked her wrists in a pair of dangling handcuffs hanging from the ceiling, just beyond the reclining seat.

"Gekko..." Yachi helplessly cried.

"Stop! Please, she has nothing to do with this! I'm the one you hate, aren't I?" Tsukiakari begged.

"Give me the location of your base, Tsukiakari!"

"I can't do that!"

Just as quickly as he received his answer, the Man in Black took a metal hammer from the reclining seat, slamming it into Yachi's stomach. Then came another blow, forcing a cry of agony out of Yachi. He kept hitting her in her stomach over and over again, each blow making Tsukiakari cringe more than the last. Her hands wrapped around the cell bars so tightly she thought she would snap them in half.

"Talk! I want a location!"

"Don't...say anything, Gekko! Don't talk!" Yachi pleaded.

"Why do you want a location when you have me? Just let Yachi go and torture me instead!" insisted Tsukiakari.

"It's not enough if it's just you, war goddess. You and the rest of your clan should all perish. But as I said, I'm more interested in wiping out your base than anything else. Cutting off the head of the snake is the most efficient thing to do."

He then struck Yachi's ribs with the hammer four times on her right side, then four times on her left side. Yachi's feet dangled above the ground as she flailed her unbound limbs in agony. Being suspended by her arms, it felt as though they were slowly being pulled out of their sockets the longer she hung there.

"Let's try something else. Neither of you seem willing to talk."

He stuck in index finger and thumb into his mouth, summoning two Ashikaga guards with a sharp whistle. They flung open the door to the room and closed it behind them, putting their spears off to the side. Their red cloaks were covered in white chunks of unmelted snow and their boots left watery imprints on the squeaky, wooden floors. The Man in Black set up a table right in front of Tsukiakari's cell as the guards unchained Yachi from the ceiling. The war goddess's eyes rapidly darted between the guards and the Man in Black, sensing things were only going to get worse.

"What are you doing? What the hell are you going to do to her?!" Tsukiakari shouted.

"You can still stop this, war goddess. Give me a location, and you both walk."

The guards dragged Yachi over to the table by her sore arms, her knees dragging across the floor. They plopped her on the table on her backside, the wooden legs creaking under the force of her landing. One of the guards held down her frail arms while the other undid the crotch of his pants and forced her legs open.

"! Don't do this! I'm begging you, just leave her alone!" Tsukiakari wept, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Yachi!"

"Gekko! Don't tell them anything!" Yachi screamed.

"Give me a god damned location!" demanded the Man in Black.

Yachi fought back with all her might, but the men kept her pinned on the table with no hope of escape. Her defiant screams turned into horrified wails as the guard proceeded to pry her legs open and rape her, all for the obstinate war goddess to watch. Tsukiakari fell to her knees, sobbing so hard that hardly any of her cries escaped from her burning throat. The Man in Black had rendered her completely and utterly powerless.

Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Death By Ex-Girlfriend (Senkumo War Stories PUBLISHED)
« Reply #464 on: April 12, 2019, 11:19:01 AM »
The Oath of Azaleas;The Honeymoon of Tragedy
Hours passed since Yachi's torture. The two girls sat in their cell in the late hours of the night, neither of them able to sleep a wink. They sat with their backs facing each other, on opposite sides of the cell. Yachi lied down while Tsukiakari rocked back and forth on her bottom, their room alight with dozens of candles. After all of that pain, torment, and humiliation, Yachi whispered a prayer beneath her breath. A prayer addressed to Tsukiakari herself.

"Oh beloved child of the summer moon, give me the strength to persevere. Give me the strength to endure. Give me the strength to forgive. Winter will be over, and the cherry buds will blossom soon. Command me to blossom too beneath your hallowed moonlight. Give me the power to love, the power to protect. Guide me through the war on this earth and the war in my heart."

"Yachi." Tsukiakari said. Silence hung in the air for what felt like an eternity.

"I'm okay, Gekko. They can break my bones and even my mind. They cannot break my spirit. And they can't break my faith in you either. You're still my goddess. You did the right thing. Please don't blame yourself."

Tsukiakari turned herself around and crawled closer to Yachi. "I just sat there and watched them...those monsters, they..."

Yachi opened her arms and brought Tsukiakari in for a warm embrace, smiling for the first time since she was captured. "Like I said, you did the right thing. We both have to be strong now. We can't tell them anything."

"Yachi. I don't know if anyone knows where we are. I don't know if we'll be saved."

"That's okay." Yachi nodded.

"Have they always been doing that to you? Violating you like that?"

"It's already happened several times. It'll happen again, I'm sure. If it'll protect everyone back home, I'm alright with that. No matter what, I won't surrender my silence."

Tsukiakari caressed Yachi's cheek, planting a gentle kiss upon her lips. It was a world away from the violence she had been subjected to up until then. Such gentle, innocent gestures of affection were sorely missed, as evidenced by Yachi's tears of joy dropping down to the cell ground.

"I missed you, Gekko. I missed everyone at home."

"They miss you too, Yachi. I've missed you, terribly so. You have no idea how worried I was."

"Probably not how you imagined you'd find me, huh?" Yachi laughed.

"Come here, silly. You should feed some more. We have to make sure don't starve to death."

"Will you hold me? Until I go to sleep?" Yachi asked.

"Of course I will. Anything for you."

Eventually, the two managed to drift off into a brief sleep using each other for warmth. What little sleep they got was cut short by the Man in Black banging in the cell bars with a small, ceramic bowl. Neither Tsukiakari nor Yachi had any idea what time of day it was. There was no windows in the room, and only the interior light was visible whenever the door was opened. From that, Tsukiakari gathered that the room was situated inside of a larger building not immediately close to a outside door or window. The odds of escaping seemed to drop even lower.

"Here. Something to eat." said the Man in Black, dropping a bowl full of dead cockroaches and writhing maggots onto the cell floor.

The famished Yachi rushed to the bowl, her body desperate for something, anything to eat, even if it was as vile as roaches and maggots. Tsukiakari restrained her, keeping her away from the grotesque offering.

"Yachi, no! You can't eat that!"

"Perhaps if you'd give up the Senkumo base, she'd get something nicer to eat. Maybe something that will prevent her from dying."

"I've already told you, you're not getting a damn thing out of me! I don't betray my comrades!" Tsukiakari rebuked.

"And here I thought you were a sensible woman. The events of yesterday will keep repeating themselves over and over again until you give me what I want. You've only endured a single day of it, Tsukiakari. Yachi has been here for much longer."

Tsukiakari slammed her arm against the bars, staring daggers into his eyes. "We won't break."

"No." said the Man in Black. "You'll shatter."

The door flung open, and in came two guards dragging a third prisoner in by the arms. Once they stepped into the candle light, Tsukiakari saw and smelled that the prisoner was already long dead. The guards held wash cloths to their faces, covering their mouths and noses from the fetid stench let off by the bloated, blackened corpse. The Man in Black opened the cell for them. The guards quickly plopped the corpse onto the cell floor and shut the gate, rushing off to go catch some fresh air. So bloated was the body that the eyes had turned a murky yellow, and were practically popped out of their sockets. The tongue was severely swollen, blocking off the mouth like a gag. The blackened skin was blistered around the thighs and gut areas while all the limbs were frozen in place by rigor mortis. Blackish-yellow fluid leaked from the ears and mouth of the body, staining the floor.

Yachi huddled herself in the far corner of the cell, embraced by Tsukiakari.

"Welcome your new cellmate. Jinbei. We'll see how long you last with him." The Man in Black chuckled, making his exit

"Wait! Wait!" Tsukiakari pleaded to deaf ears. The door was shut, and the two girls were firmly trapped with the rotting cadaver of Jinbei.

Tsukiakari pressed her hands together and channeled the power of frost out of her right palm. She blasted jinbei's corpse with a shower of frost, trapping it in a frigid sarcophagus of ice.

"Don't worry. That should halt the decomposition. It'll protect us from the stench too." Tsukiakari sighed.

"Jinbei was the farm head I met in Kameyama." Yachi said. "Sis sent me there to work out a deal with him. For food. He didn't know anything about our clan and couldn't give them any information. So they killed him. Soon, they won't be able to keep either of us alive. They'll kill us too."

"Don't say that, Yachi."

"It's true. That man...he's ill. He's been coughing blood ever since he captured me. He'll be dead soon too. He'll most likely kill us before he clocks out. If that happens, and it will, only one of us will be coming back from our graves, Gekko."

"You want me to kill him when I come back?"

"No. That's not what I want." Yachi said. "I wasn't able to get the actual shrub, but I got some Azalea seeds before I left Kameyama."

"Azalea seeds?"

"Remember? I originally wanted them as a gift for Chiya. I was so excited to see the look on her face when I brought home her favorite shrub. A beautiful gift of gratitude and sisterly love, for everything we've been through together since we left Kyoto. But now...I'm afraid they'll have to become a gift of parting."


"Listen to me, Gekko." Yachi commanded. "We're wasting valuable time. It can take you anywhere between a day and three weeks to wake up from your slumber whenever you reincarnate. We won't wait for them to kill you. We'll take that matter into our own hands. When you wake up, all I ask is that you retrieve those seeds and bring them back home. Plant them at the Senkumo memorial. For just one day, let the clan celebrate peace. That's my final wish."

Tsukiakari could barely look Yachi in her eyes. Her gaze was too piercing and tranquil, as if she had already made her peace. She had already accepted that this was the end of her.

"Promise me you'll plant them? Not just for Chiya, but for the whole clan." Yachi said.

Tsukiakari hesitated, desperately trying to draw together an alternative plan in her head. She couldn't come up with anything. Not a single thing. Yachi's plan was the best course of action. It made strategic use of Tsukiakari's reincarnation abilities, ensuring that neither Yachi herself nor Tsukiakari would have to suffer any longer than they needed to. Even after the Man in Black was dead, Tsukiakari would still have to worry about the two phantoms bringing some other old victim of the war from their graves. It was time to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

"I promise..." Tsukiakari cried, bowing her head.

A few more hours, or at least, what felt like it, passed them by. The Man in Black returned in the room with two guards, silently ordering them to take away Jinbei's frozen corpse. The Man in Black smiled as the guards hauled the hunk of death and ice up the stairs, impressed by Tsukiakari's obstinance.

"You froze the body? Not bad, war goddess."

"Whatever you're about to do to Yachi, do it to me instead. She can't take much more of this."

"No, Gekko." Yachi intervened. "I'll do it."

"I won't just sit by and watch them torture you anymore!" Tsukiakari protested.

"Since you care so much for Yachi's well-being, we'll start with her." laughed the Man in Black.

"No! You bastard!" Tsukiakari cursed.

Once again, the Man in Black dragged Yachi out of her cell to inflict more suffering upon her. He bound her to the reclining chair, then adjusted it to set her upside down. Taking hold of his hammer, he struck Yachi's stomach three times, each hit filling the room with her cries of pain.

"Last chance, you two. Where is your base?"

The girls gave him silence and nothing more. The Man in Black nodded, putting much more power than usual into the fourth strike on Yachi's stomach. It was then that Tsukiakari understood why he had hung her upside down. That fourth hit did irreparable damage to Yachi's stomach, forcing her to vomit what little she had that was sustaining her.

"Yachi!" Tsukiakari screamed, as if she felt the hit herself.

"It's...okay...Gekko..." Yachi murmured. "He can't hurt me."

She immediately received another blow of the hammer to her knee, turning her gentle words into screams of agony. Tsukiakari watched with tears blurring her vision. Each hit Yachi took felt like a direct kick to her heart. No matter how much pain Yachi endured, she refused to give up the lives of her comrades. After a while, the Man in Black changed course. He brought two guards into the room and set up the table in front of the cell again. Tsukiakari thought she knew what was coming next, but the guards opened up the cell and brought her out as well. They laid the crying Yachi down and held her writhing arms down to the table while Tsukiakari stood before her opened legs.

"Take her." the Man in Black said.

"...What?" Tsukiakari recoiled.

"I said take her. We've all had her already, but you're our guest of honor. You should be able to have some yourself."

" god damned monster! I'm not doing that to her!" Tsukiakari roared, falling to her knees as she tried to charge at him. The guards stood her back up and forced her head close to Yachi's genitals.

"It''s okay, Gekko." Yachi whimpered.

"No, I'm not doing this!"

"Take her now or we'll kill her in front of you!" shouted one of the guards.

The Man in Black traced his finger along Yachi's lips, then dragged it down her chin, neck, and breasts before pressing his nail into her wounded stomach, drawing a pained groan from her.

"Perhaps you'd prefer it if I took her instead?" he laughed. "You'd best do as I say. If poor Yachi takes another hit to her stomach, I don't think she'll be able to accept any food we give her."

"Gekko...I love it's okay..." Yachi sighed. "I love you."

Tsukiakari had her face shoved into Yachi's genitals, much to the amusement of the guards. Crying as she did it, the goddess was forced to perform cunnilingus on her suffering friend. It was beyond humiliating, worse than degrading. And that's exactly why they did it, to break their spirits so they'd be more likely to talk the next day. At the end of their torture, Tsukiakari and Yachi were left alone once again, with nothing but a bowl of cold, stale rice to share between them. The one day they were given something better than roaches and maggots to eat was the day neither of them had an appetite.

Tsukiakari sat in the corner of the cell, staring at the flickering light of the candles surrounding them. Yachi gazed at her silenced goddess the whole time, unable to find the words to sooth her after what happened. She inched herself a little closer to Tsukiakari, patting the floor next to her with her hand.

"Gekko. Come here." Yachi said.

"I can't." Tsukiakari shivered.


Unable to deny the sweet sound of her voice, Tsukiakari crawled over to Yachi, both of them sitting themselves up against the wall of the cell.

"Thank you." Yachi muttered.

"Thank you? For what?"

"For being here with me. I was about to lose heart before you showed up."

Tsukiakari scoffed. "But I couldn't get you out like I said I would."

"You will get me out of here." Yachi smiled. Tsukiakari immediately realized what she meant.


"At the foot of the memorial. I want to help the Azaleas grow." Yachi said.

The two sat in silence for a while, both of them thinking of everything that was going to happen next.

"Look at me, Gekko."

Tsukiakari held her head up and was taken aback by Yachi planting a kiss on her lips. "Yachi?"

"I meant what I said earlier, that it was okay. So don't feel bad, alright? You could never hurt me."

Yachi kissed Tsukiakari again, then pulled back. When she went in for a third kiss, Tsukiakari made sure to kiss back. Their lips met and parted as their tongues brushed up against each other. Yachi placed her hand around Tsukiakari's neck as she lied down, bringing the goddess down with her.

"I want to do it here." Yachi said. "Is that okay?"

Tsukiakari simply nodded before kissing her again, lightly squeezing her small breasts. She was careful to be gentle to Yachi, whose body was riddled with bruises and cuts, especially in her stomach area. Yachi's hand slithered past Tsukiakari's breasts and down to her genitals, which were already thoroughly wet. Yachi brought her fingers back and held them up to Tsukiakari, who gently sucked them clean before kissing Yachi again. Tsukiakari planted gentle kisses on Yachi's neck, moving down to her breasts. Though they were smaller than her own, Tsukiakari gave each breast a barrage of kisses, and each nipple a gentle sucking and slight pulling. Clearly sensitive in the area, Yachi let out a few suspirations of pleasure before trying to stifle her louder moans.

Tsukiakari dangled her breasts over Yachi's face for her to suck on as she pleased. It felt entirely differently than it did when Yachi fed from her breasts just to stay alive. The goddess's toes curled in pleasure. Fireworks went off in her chest as she sighed and moaned in response to Yachi's dutiful treatment of her nipples. Tsukiakari then crossed her right leg with Yachi's left, and her left with Yachi's right. The two interlocked their fingers together and tightly held hands as Tsukiakari gyrated her hips back and forth, rubbing her soaked genitals with Yachi's.

"Harder!" Yachi whispered into Tsukiakari ear.

Tsukiakari increased her force and speed, rendering the both of them too entranced to speak. Yachi soon joined Tsukiakari's rhythm and swayed her hips around, only making the act feel better for them both. Their moans filled the cage as their genitals soaked the other's inner thighs. Tsukiakari licked Yachi's cheek as she increased her speed further, losing herself in pleasure. Yachi threw her arms around Tsukiakari and held her closer, their moans getting sharper. Their breathy moans turned into animalistic grunts as they briefly increased their speed even further before jolting and jerking in each other's arms, climaxing together.

Tsukiakari kissed Yachi again before tightening her lips together, drenching her own fingers in a thick pool of saliva and inserting them into her own vagina. As wet as she was, she wanted it to be even wetter. Aiming for a second orgasm, Tsukiakari began chaotically thrusting her fingers in and out of her vagina. Yachi followed suit, borrowing the fluids stuck on Tsukiakari's thigh for extra moisture. The two girls lied beside each other, still holding hands as they masturbated together, Tsukiakari much more aggressively than Yachi. The goddess spit on her fingers once more, her genitals producing a loud, wet schlick as she violently rubbed her clitoris and labia. On the contrary, Yachi was a gentle masturbator that took more pleasure in watching Tsukiakari than she did anything else. She had never seen that side of her lord, the side that craved physical pleasure with such self-loving aggression and perversion.

Tsukiakari's moans grew louder as she scored her second orgasm first, quickly followed by Yachi. Yachi lied there shivering as Tsukiakari licked her own hand clean, then took Yachi's fingers and dutifully sucked them clean.

"Gekko...I love you."

Tsukiakari caressed Yachi's cheek, gazing into her glossy eyes before plating a gentle kiss on her lips.

"I love you too, Yachi."

Locked in each others embrace with their legs intertwined, the girls used each other for warmth that night, falling asleep remarkably soundly for two injured captives. After their consensual act of love, Tsukiakari felt absolved of her earlier violation of Yachi's body. Whether or not that was Yachi's intent by choosing to have sex then and there of their own volition, the war goddess did not know.