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Land of the Setting Sun 
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Returning her attention to the man, Hitomi could see that the gambler had already composed himself.

"In that case, what do you say to one last game?" he said. "If I'm going out, I'd rather do so with a win, or at least I'd like to lose to an opponent that had the grace to finish the job."

Judging by the measly size of his purse, the man's so-called "extra recreational funds" had now been dwindled down to petty change. Enough for a drink, probably, but not much more.

~~~

Daiki's tone of voice left a lot to be desired. It held an eerie calm, one that Umiko had grown accustomed to interpreting as a warning of things to come. She withheld a long sigh so as to not tip off anyone else as she followed Mocha out of the room. Daiki, for his part, held his tongue until he had guided his two recruits back to the main room. Kaguya sat in the same position as when the company had originally arrived, but was now accompanied by a small bowl of rice. It came as a silly sight to the ninja; she was already used to never seeing the man eat.

After they they had all taken a seat, Hideki returned from his walk, moments before Oshiro opened his mouth to speak. Seeing that the new arrival was part of his entrusted entourage, the samurai continued.

"There is something wrong with this town. With Kimura's plight I initially missed it, as I expect most of us did. After the initial shock of the ordeal, however, I began to notice... something strange about this room. A discrepancy, you could say, between the story we've been told and the reality before us.

He paused a moment.

"Go head, look, what do you see?"

Umiko slowly looked around. The inn was modest due to the size of the town, but it was still reasonably large and appeared to be doing well for itself. There was no disrepair, and everything was clean. Very clean. The room was practically empty, other than the meager furniture on which the company sat. No decor of any kind.

"Don't tell me you are thinking what I think you are thinking." She said with a huff. "The owner probably dislikes clutter, or is not actually doing so well but wants to keep appearances."

"Yes, that kind of answer is what I got out of her." He nodded. "But tell me, in this town of horses, besides our own, how many have you seen? Using steeds comparable to our own, why would the doctor be as far away as a few day's journey if it took that same amount of time for us to arrive here from the capital? You know as well as I do that it doesn't add up to anything less than what we're both thinking."

Umiko furrowed her brow. "Bandits."

She scratched her head in that uniquely Umiko way as if to buy time before continuing. "Do we have the time or man power to bother with that?"

Oshiro didn't react much. "Man power is not a problem. Time could be. Remember that our goal is to find the sun, not to skirmish with outlaws. Besides, the town is not any worse for wear. I expect the bandits are fine with whatever current arrangement they have, and if we leave before they get wind of our presence, it will stay that way. But I can not be sure, so that's why I'm asking for the opinion of the group. Both the ones here and..." He looked at Umiko.

She cut him off. "Yeah, yeah, I'll go see who I can collect."

As she strolled out the door and found her way onto the rooftops for a vantage point, she was glad to have escaped before having to give her opinion or argue. Daiki most likely already knew her stance. As she set her sights on a nearby bar, it hit her that he was likely waiting for the rest of the group to join them before he would make her... give her opinion and argue. Damn him.

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Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:10 pm
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As Mocha looked about the inn several emotions played through her mind. The town should be in chains, if anything. With quiet rage she listened to the conversation, yet couldn't help but think about what this makes Umiko in retrospect. Something warmed her from the inside, so she quietly sneaked her way onto the roof behind Umiko. After spying on her for a short time she snuck up on her once more, and was able to confuse Umiko and place her head in Umiko's lap before she could respond.

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Last edited by Kittenpuncher on Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Mar 25, 2017 1:28 pm
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Chouko glared at her adversary, face reddening. The captain was better than she had anticipated. Much better, actually. Rather than pressing her advantage, the scoundrel had taken the opportunity to taunt her. So this was the style of opponent she was facing. This battle would be… interesting.

Chouko made for her spoon again. Gingerly, this time, lest her suffering fingers endure another round of rock-paper-table. Before she had fully worked out how she was going to catch the meandering utensil, however, Captain Heiwa reached over and handed it to her. Oh? OH!?

It. Was. On.

Chouko grabbed the spoon from Heiwa's outstretched hand with a disgusted flick of the wrist, and before Oba-san could protest that any physical interaction between competitors was in clear violation of the rules, half her bowl was gone. She ate quickly, but just quickly enough to catch up. Or maybe just quickly enough for the captain to let her catch up. Or maybe just quickly enough for the captain to think she was letting her catch up. At this point, she could no longer be sure. It was a whole different game.

The bowls hit the table with simultaneous thuds as the competitors from finished the opening round. Staring still, Chouko wiped her mouth with the backside of her hand and grabbed the chopsticks laying on the table. She split them with a defiant snap.

"Bring on the tamago kake."

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Sat Mar 25, 2017 4:53 pm
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Hitomi tried to pull away from the table, but as she turned, she could feel the man's stare sizing her up, ready to judge her based on her next move. Testing her. With a sigh, the calligrapher slammed her hand down hard on the table, then pulled it away to reveal a small pile of coins equivalent to the man's meager wager. The young woman chastised herself for giving in under pressure, but she wasn't about to let this bastard get away with coercing her either.

"Fine. I'll stay for one more bet." She announced. When she saw the man reaching for the dice, she continued. "On one condition. We won't use those." She turned to the side to bear witness to the chaos unfolding just a couple of tables away. She leveled a finger at Chouko and Heiwa. "We'll bet on which of them will win their silly contest. What do you say?"


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Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:03 am
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“Oh yes,” Yoko began, spurred to speech by Heiwa’s remark. “There are lots of rules, and there’s nothing fun about them. Rules for eating, rules for arbitration, rules for digestion, even, in a rare case or two. I’ve been studying them since I was a girl and I still don’t have the best handle on the more esoteric guidelines. They’re all there for good reasons, though. Generations of knowledge in those rules, you know.”

Yoko gave a subtle nod at the end of her sentence, the gesture seemingly directed at herself.

As the pirate handed Chouko the spoon, the slits that were the elderly woman’s eyes narrowed further. A quick calculation of the date indicated that the captain’s maneuver was worth a foul: due to the Guideman’s Gambit clause, handling the opponent’s silverware was strictly prohibited in months containing only one full moon. Before she could open her mouth to interject, however, Yoko was lucky enough to remember that the moon’s phases had, in fact, been reversed for the past few months. The date of the clause’s effect would be offset by at least two weeks, indicating that, for all intents and purposes, Yoki-san was safe. Yoko was impressed! It was rare for a non-Song native to be so well-versed in the rules.

Sasaki-san, on the other hand, was apparently entirely oblivious to her opponent’s near-blunder. This would not do at all. The young girl was already at a severe disadvantage due to her lack of education in the handling of cutlery, but it was becoming more and more clear that she didn’t understand the competition that she had thrown herself into in the slightest. Thankfully, the rice hadn’t arrived yet, so there was still time to fill in the gaps in her knowledge before the competition began in earnest. The flautist was about to start on the history of the Guideman’s Gambit and the controversy it caused, but she was interrupted by Heiwa… inquiring about Oshiro? She was inquiring about Oshiro. When had she heard of Oshiro?

The flautist froze when she realized the answer to her question. She had made a mistake.

“Oh, no, dear, I was speaking of the color of rice in omusubi. You know, o-shiro.”
A waitress arrived, depositing two bowls of wonderfully fluffy white rice in front of each competitor. Each dish was topped with a freshly cracked egg.

Seeing her opportunity to change the subject, Yoko took it.
“Much… uh… much less tasteful than the golden gleam of tamago kake, you see.”
She gave another nod.

“I remember a contest from my youth, you know, when the Guideman’s Gambit was still prevalent. There’s been a widely-adopted clause put in effect since and the strategy is all but obsolete, but there’s some real history there. Rice was thicker back then, we’d had a number of especially good rain years, so choking was a real danger when speed-eating…”

“...of course, running was dangerous in the mountains, especially if the moon wasn’t out, so it wasn’t uncommon for a competitor to arrive a few seconds late if their run had gone awry. Naturally, the counter-strategy to this was for the opposing competitor to balance their opponent’s chopsticks on the corner of the table in the few seconds of their absence. The runner couldn’t sit down without toppling the utensils, which was obviously a disqualification given the rules prohibiting contact between competition materials and the ground…”

“...and so they hired sherpas on new-moon nights in order to guide them around mountain, but this quickly led to the sherpa business putting the rice-eating business out of business, so the grand council decided to ban guides altogether. The clause was put into effect to replace the Guidemen, really. It’s not so much the Guideman’s Gambit clause as it is the anti-Guideman’s Gambit clause, but that’s a mouthful, and everyone in the rice-eating business already has theirs already…”

“...so, in conclusion, that’s where Grand Sherpa Hajime got his nickname of ‘little rice dragon’.”

The elderly woman paused, winded from her extensive speech.

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Sat Apr 01, 2017 11:13 am
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Umiko was a little irritated, to say the least, that for some reason Daiki had sent her to go collect everyone yet still let Mocha run off to follow her. All things considered though it was fine as long as she was keeping up and would eventually return with her too. However just as Umiko found the bar she believed most of the wayward party members to be at the trouble causing princess attacked! Of course when the attack is such as the princess's attempt it was easy to avoid- the ninja stood from her squat and let the young girl face plant into the tile roof.

"I don't know what you're doing, but cut it out and go back to the inn with Oshiro. I'm supposed to be getting you all back there so you being out here just makes my job more difficult." Her voice was level and you could hear her glare in it.

She didn't wait for a response as she silently dropped off the side of the building and made her way across the road. She hated going in to crowded areas like this. Her rather unique look drew attention, which was the opposite of what a ninja wanted, but it couldn't be helped sometimes so she entered as calmly as possible to alleviate it some. Noting the shenanigans of Chouko and delaying dealing with that as long as possible, she first approached Hitomi, interrupting the gambling man as he fruitless tried to rope the girl back into the dice game.

Placing a hand on the younger girl's shoulder and leaning in close so the mouth was to ear she whispered an abridged version of Oshiro's discovery and adding, "He would like you to return quickly, but calmly so we can all discuss the best course of action."

Afterward she stood back up, nodded and went to do the same with Yoko, pausing a bit more as she relayed it. The slight pockets of silence spent looking over as the woman competing with Chouko. She was certain she had seen her before, adding that fact to Yoko too with a "be careful".

_________________
When my eyes be rollin'
The haters get goin'
The seeds I'm sowin'
With a smile I'm flowin'
And if I be trollin'
Ya never be knowin'
'Cause when the haters get goin'
My eyes just start a-rollin'


Wed Apr 05, 2017 1:22 pm
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Edit: Sorry for the one liners dudes


Mocharatte walked out of the inn and went to look for Oniwakamaru, and any others she could find along the way. Leaving him out of this would be a bad idea.

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Last edited by Kittenpuncher on Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:00 pm
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The monk wandered the town finding things for himself to do. Most of it was occasional maintenance work but the more he pitched in the more he seemed to suspect something was off. A broken door, an oddly patched roof, odd scuff marks, and weird splotches of cleanliness hinted at something far more sinister. It wasn't until Oniwakamaru found the town's smith hammering away in to the 'night' that the clues clicked in to place. The smith was making blades. Knives weren't a rare commodity so they shouldn't be in such high demand. Cluttered about the shelves were other sharp, pointy objects. They were heads for spears and arrows. All were of shoddy worksmanship, suggesting the smith was merely focused on producing as much as he could rather than crafting them for a purpose.

Oniwakamaru ducked out, the smith having been too absorbed in his work to notice, and considered the town. He wandered further in to the dark, searching for more signs. It was too suspicious that so many things were worn down in this village. Kyokaiyama was not by any inclination bustling but surely so much work would not be left undone. The butcher did not have a proper cutting board nor a large variety of knives required for the trade. Farmers had tools that needed mending. The woodcutter did not have nearly enough fuel. That the blacksmith was so productive was an strange thing indeed. None had questioned him on his presence either. It wasn't beneath the notice of the laymen that he had arrived in the company of soldiers. Perhaps their lack of fear and curious had a more sinister reason behind it after all. It was worth talking to the captain of their little band about.

"There is something odd going on in this village," he started.

His path to the inn the group had found for themselves was short. The captain was standing alone as if waiting for something. Still he posed the question anyway,

"What do you think, hmmm?"

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Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:26 pm
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Scoop. Snap. Pinch. Shovel.

Two bowls. Three bowls. Five bowls.

Ten bowls.

The competitors matched each other, beat for beat, grain for grain, as Yoko examined each finished bowl to ensure that no more than the allowed quantity of rice had been left behind. The pace, though furious, was still well within what Chouko could handle. As each bowl came and went, however, she had been forced into a grudging but genuine respect for this Captain Heiwa Yoki. The woman could eat, that much was for sure. And whatever taunting she might had engaged in, she was doing a rather fine job of backing it up.

But she was slowing. It was imperceptible to most of the cheering crowd, but Chouko’s trained eye had detected it. A slight hesitation in the last bite. Again in the next one. The pounds of rice that the woman had ingested were taking their toll. Her system was backing up, and every additional bite she forced down nudged her closer to critical mass. It wouldn’t be long now. Victory was at hand.

Chouko slammed down the eleventh bowl a full second ahead of the captain, the only hint of a lead the crowd had witnessed since the soup stage. Half the men surrounding the table erupted in cheers; the others were counting how many meals they might have to forego in the coming weeks if their favoured competitor couldn’t turn the tide.

As the twelfth set of bowls was delivered to the table, Chouko took a moment to taunt the captain in return. “Come on,” her fingers said, before wrapping once more around a hot bowl of tamago kake. Heiwa just smiled.

Harida’s number one eater was two, no, three bites into bowl twelve when it happened. The strangest sensation, as though the dish she was clutching had moved, pulling her arm along with it. It had been a swift displacement, and subtle. But that was enough. Her tempo barely affected, Chouko brought her chopsticks down for another bite. Rather than rice, egg, and the side of her bowl, however, they met flesh. Chouko’s flesh. Where her bowl had been, her wrist now was, baring the brunt of the girl’s chopstick assault. Chouko howled in pain, fell over backwards, and, in so doing, sent her fresh bowl of rice careening into the air…

...and directly onto poor, unfortunate Yoko’s head.

A collective gasp filled the bar. Chouko lay on the ground, in shock. How… HOW!? That was a rookie mistake! She hadn’t stabbed herself with chopsticks since she was three! It wasn’t, she couldn’t, there was no way…

Her face reddened, and the tears began welling up. She struggled to hold them back, the full weight of what had just transpired slowly sinking in. She was out, disqualified. There was no tolerance for spillage in rice eating. And there was no way she could pay for two bowls of soup, much less twenty-four bowls of rice! She would be stuck here, working to pay off her debt, and not going on an incredibly important mission for the emperor. More likely than not the sun would return to its home before she could return to hers. It was over.

And then there was her. The captain, now towering above her, leisurely stuffing one last bite passed her grinning lips. “What’s wrong, kid? It was just a fun contest.” This lady did not know when to quit.

Chouko averted her gaze, unable to face anyone, unable even to get up and leave. She lay there, completely, utterly, defeated.

“Alright,” Heiwa started, wiping her mouth and setting her bowl on the table. “I’ll cut you a deal. You take me to this Oshiro,” – she revealed a coin purse from inside her uniform – “and I’ll cover both meals.”

There was nothing for it. Wounded as her pride might be, this was Chouko’s only chance. Pleading, she fixed Yoko with eyes that said. “Please, please, Oba-san. Let me take her to see Captain Oshiro. I promised I’ll never, ever do anything like this ever again.”



“For at least a week.”

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Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:29 pm
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Ishida leisurely strolled across the bar, taking in the scenery as he went. Hmph, look at them. Alcoholics stumbling, first time drinkers taking their first life ruining sip, friends who think that nothing could go wrong. Tch, this place has it all I'll tell ya, Ishida though to himself, almost enjoying the fact that may of these people around may be digging themselves a grave they can't get out of. Should be expecting a tiny bit of business in the coming days, which is good. Feeds my mouth... and my useless "interns." Ishida thought about the money that may come in thanks to this night as he took a seat.

"What can I get you, sir?" A young bartender asked Ishida, nicely enough. "A glass of water" Ishida said matter-of-factly. The young bartender chuckled to himself a little bit before saying, "Water? Who goes to a bar to get water?" with a hint of sarcasm. Ishida glared at him, his blue eyes looking as if they're actively trying to pierce the boy's heart before calmly saying, "I go to bars and get water." The bartender, unnerved, goes to get some water for Ishida. Or therapy, maybe.

A few very unhappy minutes later, the bartender, still looking a bit shaken by Ishida's glare, gave Ishida a glass, and a pitcher of water, before walking away in a hurry. Ishida poured the first glass about halfway and was about to to take his first sip when a blood-curdling scream reached suddenly reached his ears. Startled, he dropped his glass on the floor, shattering it and sending a shard of glass through his right middle finger, cutting it. "...Well" Ishida said under his breathe, barely containing his anger. "Y'know, this world just loves to give me more and more reason to not like other human beings, doesn't it? Whoever screamed like that is real lucky I brought my gauntlet..." Ishida winded his left hand up as his holds up his right hand before throwing a huge punch directly at his hand. But instead of foolishly doing more damage, the punch connects but appears to have no effect. Then the cut on his finger closes up, looking as if nothing happened. It also smelled of lilac now, which he equally loved and despised. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be done to his now broken glass of water. Ishida, nearly shaking out of fury, picked up the pitcher of water and started to drink, thinking, If somebody felt the need to scream THAT loudly, whatever they just did must've been painful... And profitable...

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Sun Apr 09, 2017 11:50 pm
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The man sitting across from Hitomi stroked his chin thoughtfully, doubtlessly pondering whether he'd have more success with this purely luck-based bet than the purely luck-based bets they had been making with the dice.

"Interesting. All right, I'll play." He eventually concluded, and incorrectly. In actuality, Hitomi had a distinct advantage in a bet like this, for one simple reason. This man had never seen Chouko eat before. The calligrapher, on the other hand, had witnessed some things she had until only recently thought impossible. And she had a magic inkbrush. This would be almost too easy. "I'll wager on the feisty lass winning."

Hitomi stopped short and stared blankly at the man. He had beaten her to the punch. And he had bet on Chouko. Had he not seen the girl fumbling with her spoon? No, that was impossible. The bloodcurdling scream she gave after missing for the first time had ensured that almost everybody in the bar witnessed it. Nevertheless, this man would bet on her. A bold choice. The calligrapher smirked, shrugging.

"Very well. May the best eater win." Around the bar, she could see and hear other patrons queueing up to bet on the eating contest as well. That wasn't a good sign. Nevertheless, she and her opponent remained riveted to the action as bowl after bowl of rice was served and mercilessly devoured.

The young woman was so absorbed in the event that she nearly jolted from her seat when she felt a hand on her shoulder. A moment later, a familiar voice began whispering to her. Hitomi regained her composure and listened attentively as the ninja filled her in. Her face grew taut as she received the news, but she acknowledged the woman with a nod, then watched as she went to inform Yoko as well. In light of this, Hitomi pondered whether it would be better to wait for the bet to be finished or excuse herself immediately. She didn't have to think for long.

Another cry echoed through the room. Time seemed to move in slow motion as Hitomi turned to see Chouko tumbling backward out of her seat, slinging her bowl skyward in the process. Horror flashed in her eyes as she spun around to look at the man across from her. She was just in time to witness his smiling, excited expression twist and distort into one of utter despair. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Chouko was nothing if not a ditz, but she wasn't this clumsy. Not when it came to food. It briefly crossed her mind that perhaps this was the result of her luck kanji. Was this outcome her fault? No, it didn't matter. She needed to get out of here. Now.

Hesitantly, she reached across the table and retrieved the last of the man's cash. He made no moves to stop her, sullenly resting his chin on his chest. Without a word, she stood, giving one last bow for good measure, and making her way toward the entrance. With the contest over, the crowd gathered inside the bar had quickly grown very rowdy. She didn't have time to worry about that, however. She hastily made her way back toward the inn.


Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:07 pm
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~The Bar~

The contest ended, the atmosphere in the room changed, and the shimmer of coins being passed around echoed throughout the room. The patrons who had lost their bets groaned as they came to terms with the fact that they would have to get through the week with fewer comforts, while those who had bet on Heiwa lined their pockets with the spoils and their faces with wry smiles. Whether they had won or lost, however, most of them got their things and prepared to leave the bar, feeling that the competition’s closure served as a satisfactory finale to the night. It was a good time to step out too; the first rumble of a coming mountain storm sounded at the very moment Chouko lost.

---

If Yoko had been any closer to the edge of her seat, she would have fallen over completely when Sasaki-san’s bowl came careening for her cranium. She had never, in all of her years, never seen such an over-the-top ending to a rice-eating competition. Now that is was over, she couldn’t see anything at all. Viscous strands of starch and yolk poured down the front of her face, blinding her to her surroundings until she could untie the bandana from her scalp and use it as a makeshift face-wipe. When she did manage to free herself from the golden grains obscuring it, she was welcomed back to the realm of the sighted by the pleading eyes of her self-appointed protege. Yoko hadn’t known the girl for very long, but she could recognize the look that Chouko was giving her anywhere.

The elderly woman wasn’t particularly mad. Chouko had put on a good show and put up a better fight, and that was enough for Yoko to be proud of her. The flautist couldn’t even be cross at the girl for wanting to lead her opponent to Oshiro; it was Yoko’s fault that the name had slipped out in the first place. All in all, what the girl needed wasn’t a slap on the wrist, but a pat on the back.

...after she did something about this mess. The senior answered Chouko’s look with a look of her own: It was a patient, if expectant expression, the kind that only a big sister that had helped raise a dozen siblings could make. The angle of an eyebrow here, a calculated wrinkle there, Yoko’s face was imbued with an air of “Yes, but please get me a towel first.”

The duo’s staring contest was interrupted by a tap on Yoko’s shoulder, issued by the mysterious, moody shinobi woman. Apparently, Ryujin-san was rounding up the company members since Oshiro had requested that everyone come to the inn for a meeting of sorts. As far as imperially-issued summons went, this one was far more convenient than the trek to the imperial capital had been. She had agreed to let Chouko lead Heiwa to the leader of their expedition, after all; they were going back to see Oshiro anyways. It occurred to Yoko that the ninja lady would be indisposed to the idea of a stranger learning of the nature of their secret expedition, so she explained the issue to Umiko as diplomatically as she could.

“Ah, Ryujin-san, you’ve got good timing. This lady here is… ah… I don’t believe I caught your name, dear. In any case, this lady here was wondering what young Sasaki-san and I were doing out here near the mountains, and I explained to her that, as you know, a samurai had agreed to escort us and a few others past the Hikari range and into Shikame. You see, young Sasaki-chan’s appetite has managed to rack up quite a bar tab, and this lady has offered to pay it in exchange for a word with the leader of our little mountain-circling group. I think that would be alright, yes?”

Yoko flashed the best elderly-lady smile she could as she finished her attempt at persuasion.

To hear something as such from Yoko surprised Umiko. Had she not just warned the elder she thought this woman might be trouble? "I don't think that..." it would be a good idea is how she wanted to finish, but since the tab was to be paid on the stranger's dime she put the owner's potential interaction with whatever bandit forces ahead of her thought. Besides she clearly wasn't with the bandits, and this would be a chance to avoid discussing the plan when the others were all returned. "... we can possibly refuse, given your hospitality." Her teeth were still gritted together saying this, despite her best efforts.

---

~The Inn~


Oshiro sat in silence, legs crossed, eyes closed, going over the options he had proposed. If the company pressed on towards Rakka, the group of bandits would only grow stronger, more organized, more difficult to exterminate. If the company stayed and fought them off, the entire fate of the Empire might be in jeopardy. Or perhaps not? There was no telling if the Sun had actually landed in Rakka. Even if it had, what was this rag-tag group of nobodies going to do about it? Wave their magic wands at the celestial body until it was fed up with their incompetence and fled to the sky to be rid of it? This mission as a whole was seeming more and more ridiculous by the hour, whether the Emperor had endorsed and organized it or not.

Unfortunately, the samurai’s thoughts were interrupted not by a tap on the shoulder, but by the cold touch of a blade against his neck. A voice accompanied the gesture, whispering “Speak, and your friends die.”

Oshiro didn’t speak. He hardly breathed. Looking up, two cloaked figures now stood behind Hideki and Kaguya, pressing knives against the relic holders’ throats. His designated protectees seemed to be complying with the knife holders, so there wasn’t any immediate danger, at least. His mind moved on to searching the room for a diversion, something with which to gain the upper hand, but the dining hall was just as cursedly clean and barren as before. As much as he hated admitting it to himself, his best hopes now lay with Ryujin.

As the cloaked figures shuffled Kaguya and Hideki to a corner behind the door, Oshiro berated himself for his foolishness. A town full of outlaws, and he had thought it acceptable to send his shinobi off as a messenger while his guardsmen restocked the company’s food supplies? The stables might have been empty of the bandit’s horses, but that didn’t mean some of them hadn't stayed in town. It just meant that the outlaws were actually reasonably well organized, and that he had openly spoken of taking them down with a collection of luck charm owners while they were still around.

---

"There is something odd going on in this village,"

Oniwakamaru found Oshiro standing alone in the dining hall. It was probable that the others had gone to eat, and that the expedition’s leader had stayed behind in order to consider their course.

"What do you think, hmmm?"
Oshiro said nothing. Could say nothing. His charges were being held hostage within view; Oniwakamaru had only to turn around to see the reason for the samurai’s silence. Unfortunately, silence wasn’t enough to warn the monk, and before the giant could take five steps into the hall, a shadowy figure pounced from atop the door frame and pressed a dagger up against the small of Oniwakamaru’s back. A muffled voice came from behind the monk.

“I think you should join your friends in the corner, there.”

---

In the future Hitomi might stand to relax and take it a bit slower, as her rush separated her from the other bar-goers and put her in more trouble because of it. The bandits in the inn welcomed her with the same greeting they had given the rest of the travelers. Knife to neck her captor escorted her over to the side, making sure to levy her of her winnings as well. "Thanks sweetheart. It isn't that often people in my line of work get tipped. I'll have to thank you personally later." A warm stink accompanied his chuckle as he shoved her over towards the others.

A fact that shouldn't have been, but was, lost on Umiko. On the way back to the inn, she was much too focused on the stranger in their midst to even think about bandit's overtaking Daiki and literally all the combat able relic holders aside from herself and then jumping her small posse at the door, until she was on the floor that is. Her attempted captor had aimed to grab her left arm, the typically dominant hand of the land, but had grabbed nothing but air. Remedying his mistake, he kept his momentum intact and pinned her to the floor with his own body. Truth be told, it was lucky he did, as it gave the ninja the chance to see the rest of the company was taken alive, and gave her the time to choose not to endanger them by acting to soon.

The ones who had traveled with her bore witness to this before two more of the bandits stepped out for Yoko and Chouko. The two were surprised to see Heiwa in tow, however and stopped before reaching them, unprepared for this eventuality. The one on the left recovered quickly though and offered his deadly deal, "Alright ladies, if you don't want any of your friends to suddenly have a whole lot less red inside them, I suggest you step calmly and quietly this way." Picking up his buddy's lead, the other bandit stepped to the side of the door and made a small welcoming motion.

((OoC: Ishida Night Crawler allows him to be near to this and be undetected if he chooses.))

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Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:27 pm
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Could spoons be enchanted? Could bowls move on their own? How could one tell whether cutlery was magic or just shiny? These were the pressing questions that plagued Harida’s number one messenger as she made her way back to the inn, eyes on the dirt before her. The girl hadn’t been able to look Heiwa in the eye since the contest’s end. She was certain that the captain had cheated, somehow, but there was no way she was ever going to prove it. Besides, her papa had always said that no matter what other people did, one was always personally responsible for one’s own actions and the results thereof. She could have prevented that bowl from tipping. She could have, she should have, ah! This was so frustrating!

Thankfully, the trip to their resting place was a short one, and she wouldn’t have to suffer the captain’s company for much longer. The crazy hat lady could go gab it up with Oshiro; Chouko was going to have a long conversation with her futon. Exhausted and irritated, she knew there was no better remedy for a sour mood than a good night’s rest. And a good night’s rest started with a good stretch and an enormous yawn…

By the time Chouko shut her gaping maw, the troupe had taken the last few steps toward the inn. Heh, that was funny. It seemed as though the innkeepers had dressed up to greet them. “Must be a festival tonight,” thought Chouko, already half asleep. The dragon woman had already slipped in ahead of them, undoubtedly to get a taste of these red bean buns the owners were going on about. Alas. It wasn’t that Harida’s number one messenger wouldn’t have eaten some more free food, but she could barely keep her eyes open, much less move her jaw up and down.

“Please forgive me, innkeepers,” she apologized through another massive yawn, making her way toward the door. “I just ain't in the mood for a festival tonight. Please understand.”

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Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:31 pm
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Hitomi let out a small cry that was cut short by the icy sensation of metal against her throat. She put up a token resistance as the bandit relieved her of her coin purse, managing little more than a wiggle. As the bandit taunted the woman, her eyes widened, her mouth twisting into a panicked grimace as the reality of the situation set in. It was happening again. Hitomi's eyes scanned the inn's antechamber for any sign of her comrades; Oniwakamaru, Oshiro... Hell, she'd even have settled for Nakigame at this point, but neither he nor the others were anywhere to be seen. Another pang of horror hit Hitomi as the worst case scenario flashed through her mind. While she was busy ruminating, however, the ruffians didn't intend to wait for her. She was quickly handed off to another of the men, who began herding her into a side room.

The calligrapher's worries were assuaged before she even entered the next room. Through the entrance, she could already see that the others were alive and well. Her countenanced relaxed a bit at this revelation. Then it drooped even further, her eyelids lowering to forming an irate glare, as if to say, "Really? All four of you?" They had all been bound with rope as well, leaving their options rather limited. Now their rescue was entirely dependent on a one-armed ninja, an overactive child, and an elderly woman. Just then, a dull thud emenated from the foyer, leading Hitomi to believe that list had just decreased by one. Okay, now it was time to come up with a plan.

As Hitomi was forcefully shoved into the room, one of her feet got caught, sending her plummeting toward the ground with a yelp. One of her hands almost imperceptibly undid the latch on her satchel as she fell, causing its contents to scatter across the floor. Her vial of premixed ink spilled, leaving a small puddle on the ground. The calligrapher acted quickly, positioning her body to hide the movements of her hand from the guard, then scooping her relic off of the floor, smearing as much ink onto it as possible, and rapidly marking out a symbol on one of the fallen sheets of paper.

She'd barely finished when her escort grabbed her arm and yanked her off the floor, checking to see if she'd picked up anything dangerous. The only things he saw were a calligraphy brush and a sheet of paper with the word 鼡 rat written on it. His eyes narrowed, perhaps thinking it some kind of insult, but he quickly moved on to inspect the contents of her satchel. While he did this, Hitomi covertly crumpled the paper and allowed it to fall into her sleeve.

"Tch. Didn't realize we were robbing a bunch of graceless oafs. I almost feel bad about how easy this is." The man scoffed, concluding that there was nothing of interest in the bag. "Almost. Go sit next to the others, and keep your hands where I can see them. I'd advise against trying anything."

Hitomi gave a sheepish nod and shuffled back toward the wall, folding her legs beneath her and resting her hands on her knees. The bandit resumed his watch, abandoning the small pile of calligraphy supplies on the floor. The calligrapher did her utmost to keep from squirming as the balled paper in her sleeve took the shape of a disgusting rodent. It took a few seconds for the creature to work its way out of her kimono, climbing out of the top before descending down her back and to the floor.

The woman exhaled in relief, then mentally commanded the creature to go gnaw through the ropes binding her companions. The summoned creature dutifully did nothing. Unfazed, Hitomi tried again, using all of the focus she could muster to move the rat with sheer force of will. She concentrated until she was blue in the face, but again, nothing. It occurred to the her that there was really no reason why the rat would respond to her thoughts, and thinking it would had been a rather hefty assumption. This felt like something she definitely should've known by now. Had she really never summoned an animal before? Weird. Nevertheless, she couldn't give up just yet. While it was entirely possible that verbal commands would fare no better, it was also her last hope. There was no way she'd be able to go for another sheet of paper.

"I know you won't listen, but I have to try... Please untie my friends." Hitomi spoke, casting her gaze at the ground. The bandit watching over them raised an eyebrow and made to speak, but the calligrapher cut him off, her tone shifting rather dramatically. "Actually, you should chew through their ropes. With teeth like yours, that would be much quicker." Hitomi leaned forward, planting her hands on the floor to obscure the small gap between herself and Hideki. A few seconds passed as she stared at the ruffian. Beads of sweat began to form on her face, her coy grin beginning to falter. She had bet the house on this gambit, and she had no idea whether it was working.


Sun Jul 09, 2017 10:19 pm
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Heiwa enjoyed their little game. She began to think how welcomed this young woman would be aboard her ship. Chouko would make an excellent powder monkey. She began to let her mind wonder. Thinking about her ship and how badly she wished she was on it instead of here. She began to think of the good times and thus began to whistle a common shanty.

As she whistled she began to look around. The streets were oddly empty. She began to try and think of reason why but none of her reasons she liked. They finally came to an inn once the strange girl leading entered they heard a thud. Only then did Heiwa stop whistling. She looked only to see some bandits just inside the doorway. She listened to their words thinking of viable plans. She thought of 3...no...4 solid plans. But her first plan was mainly focused on creating a distraction.

As Chouko began to move toward the bandits Heiwa’s decision was made for her. Heiwa quickly slammed the doors with her powers. She then quickly delivered a kick into Chouko’s back to slam her against the door with a thud. Hopefully the impact would make the girl more coherent.

Heiwa then turned to Yoko. “How sleepy are you right now?”

---Onyx:---
About 5 seconds ago, Yoko would have had to admit that she was a moment’s rest away from dozing off for the night. A full day of riding and a half-hour of Chouko’s antics had taken their toll. As of Heiwa’s girl-shoving kick, however, the elderly woman could only manage a startled “Hm! Ah! Not at all, no…” before seeing the cloaked men for herself.


--Wizzquizz:--

Heiwa didn’t buy Yoko’s answer one bit. As she drew one of her swords she spoke “You know nothing jars you awake like a little bit of pain. It really gets the blood pumping.”

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Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:07 am
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