Swords Crossed: Chapter 1: The Journey of a Thousand Miles ( closed, and started)

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It is 1620, in the summer time. Once the Emperor's foremost Shogun General, Pao Ryzaki has become old, and to the minds of some, weak. Unofficially, governors across Japan maintain uneasy truces with the various Yakuza in order to help regulate crime. However, ever the traditionalist, Pao rebuffed Tjin Zao, leader of arguably the largest and most successful Yakuza clan in the country. After several months, Zao amassed an army of allied Yakuza clans, and laid siege on Namako city, as well as bribing various other military officials to turn a blind eye and meet 'delays' coming to assist the Shogun.

Regardless, the city's standing army is formidable, and in order to assure success, Zao is recruiting mercenaries from across the country. Sensing he may be outnumbered, Ryzaki coerces an old contact into amassing some mercenaries of his own to turn the tide of battle. It is these warriors that form the core of the group we focus on. With the Yakuza all across the country stirring, as well as an increase in independent bandit activity, travelling the roads is a notable risk. And so others take advantage of the protection of skilled fighters, by tagging onto the group for the two week journey from Lizou to Namako.

We join our cast as the Shogun's contact, a European named Emmett Smythe gathers the initial group of warriors. The stir they cause attracts others who wish to travel, but lack the means to defend themselves.

Accepted sheets:

Binnsyboy:

Daystar:

Reiko Ito
Amaya Kaneko

roushutsu:

Shiori Higa
Emilio De Luca

Ruedyn:

Jules
Akio

NinjaDeathSlap:

Akira Nakajima
Bashir Al'Habib
Nathan Winters

Wenseph:

Kei Ayamine
Takeru Shirogane

2HF:

Ukiyo Hanshiro

Green Shoes:

Tao Song

Definitely interested. I'll put up a couple character sheets in the non-stupid hours of the morning.

Very interested; love Edo history. Will put a sheet up soon.

Some quite interesting sheets. Lots of good stuff to work with.

I will just remind everyone I'd like a few non-combatant PCs in there as well!

Any input would be nice.
I understand the whole players are mortal thing, so if he dies he dies. I don't feel like playing 2 people in one role play. hope you like the sheet.

booksv2:

Any input would be nice.
I understand the whole players are mortal thing, so if he dies he dies. I don't feel like playing 2 people in one role play. hope you like the sheet.

Very interesting sheet, and could potentially be very useful to the other characters. And don't worry, he probably wouldn't die!

Seeing as he wont be on the front line i agree. But i have to say that a 5 pound smithy hammer hurts like FUCK when it hits.
And i made him thinking he would be useful in other ways than combat.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Wenseph:

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Pretty interesting. Although, one nitpick: Genetically speaking, Japanese and Chinese people only ever have brown eyes. The brown hair on the first sheet works so long as it's dark. If you want one of them to have their more exotic eye colour, best specify they have at least some Euro blood in them.

Binnsyboy:

Wenseph:

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Pretty interesting. Although, one nitpick: Genetically speaking, Japanese and Chinese people only ever have brown eyes. The brown hair on the first sheet works so long as it's dark. If you want one of them to have their more exotic eye colour, best specify they have at least some Euro blood in them.

I changed it to brown.

Wenseph:

Binnsyboy:

Wenseph:

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Pretty interesting. Although, one nitpick: Genetically speaking, Japanese and Chinese people only ever have brown eyes. The brown hair on the first sheet works so long as it's dark. If you want one of them to have their more exotic eye colour, best specify they have at least some Euro blood in them.

I changed it to brown.

Thanks. I'm particularly interested as you've managed to do some fairly interesting characters that aren't necessarily fighters. That gets you some points when the time comes for consideration! :D

Binnsyboy:
I will just remind everyone I'd like a few non-combatant PCs in there as well!

Gotcha covered! :P Here's my 2nd sheet!

roushutsu:

Binnsyboy:
I will just remind everyone I'd like a few non-combatant PCs in there as well!

Gotcha covered! :P Here's my 2nd sheet!

Excellent. Could you edit that into your first post? It'll make my player selection process easier.

Let me know what you think!

Here's one character. Will be working on the next.
EDIT: And Here's the other character.

Any questions, comments and concerns will be welcome. :)

Doc Gnosis:
Here's one character. Will be working on the next.

Any questions, comments and concerns will be welcome. :)

Quite interesting. I'll be looking forward to your next sheet.

I don't suppose you've read Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series, have you?

Binnsyboy:

Quite interesting. I'll be looking forward to your next sheet.

I don't suppose you've read Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series, have you?

Sadly not, but I have history books that account for Genghis Khan's life, the Mongols, and bits of the Yuan Dynasty of China.

Ayah! That took rather longer than anticipated. Here it is, please let me know if anything needs changing.

EnigmaticSevens:

Ayah! That took rather longer than anticipated. Here it is, please let me know if anything needs changing.

That's a really cool sheet :D

A little set up to start with

We start in the city of Lizou, many miles from the intended destination, Namako. Emmett has been in the city for several days, and has spread across the city of an aged European man searching for capable fighters, basing himself at an inn near the city center called the The Floating Blossom. For various reasons, strange warriors from all over will soon find him with interest in the work he has for them. Due to to many Yakuza clans migrating away, many groups of low bandits have come from the woodwork, and travelling the road is very dangerous. As such, other travelers hearing of this group see it as an opportunity to move in relative safety.

Starting positions:

Emmett is in the Inn's common room, enjoying a mug of Dutch beer, the first time he has had such a drink since leaving Europe years ago, and patiently awaiting those he willing to go to Namako to find him.

Mujo is asleep in a storage building on a farmer's rice paddy near the city's South gate.

Reiko is trying to occupy her time, growing bored at Emmett's insistence at staying at the inn.

Amaya has a room in a different inn, and has heard of Emmett's recruiting.

Jules are both in the city's slums, possibly low on money.

Akio and Akira are separately entering through the city's East gate.

Tao is in his room at the Floating Blossom, given to him for free by the inn's passionately Buddhist innkeeper.

All other Player Characters will likely have been in the city for a few weeks, due to the dangers of travelling and may start where they like within it.

Chapter 1: The Journey of A Thousand Miles

Emmett closed his eyes as he drank deeply from the tankard. His moustaches were getting wet by how deeply he drank, but for once he didn't care. For a brief moment, he forgot even his purpose for being here. This was progress. He couldn't count how many years it'd been since he'd had a good mug of beer. Not since he'd left Europe. Since then, it'd been nothing but sake and shochu. Not bad, but not entirely to his taste, either. If he'd been a particularly religious man, Emmett would have told God to bless the Dutch for attaining trade rights and beginning to spread the greatest drink in the world across the East.

He had come downstairs this morning, with Reiko companionably holding his hand to see stout wooden barrels being carried in from out back. When he'd asked about their contents, the innkeeper had said they contained "something called ale" that was supposedly a growing trend in certain places. To speed along the process, Emmett had offered his services in helping properly set up the barrel and showing how to properly pour the drink, with the tilting of the mug, and yes, the head was very important. He had been given a free mug of the drink for his trouble. He had let Reiko try it when his ecstatic demeanor peaked her interest, but the sip he gave her made the girl screw up her face.

When he reached the bottom of the mug, he set it down and began toweling off his thick moustaches with a rag, and sighed contentedly. Then his face took on a slightly sterner set. He was here to do a job. But in the meantime, there was no reason to go thirsty. He waved to the innkeeper and asked for another, fishing out a couple of bronze mons from a pocket. When the mug was given to him, he sipped thoughtfully. People would be here soon. He just had a feeling...

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"You! YOU! Wake up!"

Mujo's eyes snapped open, and he sat slowly up. He had been sprawled asleep on a sack of rice, having taken shelter in the hut to escape last night's sudden downpour. Now he was confronted with a slightly overweight man with a conical straw hat hanging at his back. In the man's arms was a crossbow with a bolt loaded. "My apologies, sir. I don't wish to cause any distress."

"Distress? You're trespassing! Trying to lift my produce, I'll bet! Well, I'll not stand for it. I'm sick of cowering to you bandits, I'll--"

"Sir, I assure you, I'm not stealing anything. Why, I was asleep when--"

"You think I'm stupid?"

"Sir, I'll just leave." Mujo got carefully to his feet, patting himself down to show no concealed bulges where he could have pocketed rice. Then he reached for his swords, where they were propped against the wall. The farmer's eyes widened in shock, and Mujo flung himself to one side, and heard the wooden thud as a bolt hit the wall, quivering. Coming to his feet, he seized one of his swords, still sheathed and lunged forward, hooking it underneath the bow of the crossbow, and whipped it from the man's hands. Grabbing his other sword, he charged swiftly past the shocked man, sprinting in the direction of the dirt road. He was glad he'd not bothered to take off his boots. He let the farmer's cursing and bellowing wash over him like the morning sun. The city would be his most logical destination. He needed work. Any work. Something that would grant him a little surety for a time.

Reiko was trying to figure it out.

She watched curiously as Emmett enjoyed his strange drink. The stuff on top looked like cream, but it wasn't cream, she knew that first hand, and the stuff underneath it looked liked honey, but didn't taste like that either. She grimaced, the bitter taste still lingering in her mouth.

"Blegh, I can still taste it." She proclaimed, sulkily, watching the old man get his whiskers white with the not-cream, "Why would you drink something that looks like cream and honey, but doesn't taste like cream and honey?" Her elbows on the table, fist buried into her cheeks.

Emmett had told her that they were waiting for some people, when she asked who, he simply said that he didn't know. She thought about this for a while, before she touched on a very simple fault with the plan. So simple, she wasn't sure how the old man could have missed it.

"How do we know the people we're waiting for are here if we don't know who they are?"

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Amaya was up with the dawn, as always.

She sat at the table closest to the window in the inn she was staying at. She had not cared to make a note of the name.

Since this was the first time she had been in a city for a while, she had taken the opportunity to stock up on some very important items the day before. Tobacco and tea.

The very idea of starting the day without a good pipe and a hot cup of tea was not one she wished to indulge. However, the tea she purchased would not be necessary until she was back on the road. For now, she would buy her beverages from the local innkeepers and food merchants. She closed her one good eye, as the sun peaked over the top of the nearest buildings, its rays offering her some comforting warmth. The ronin smiled slightly as she sipped her tea, cradling the cup in her right hand, her pipe smoking gently on the table.

Having one arm had taught her more about the meaning of patience then any of her old master's lessons. One must do things patiently, and deliberately. She gently placed the cup on the table and proceeded to pick up the pipe, taking a long drag, she savoured the taste of the smoke, cradling the smoking apparatus as gently as she held the cup of tea.

Before she had retired to her room the night before, she heard talk of a man, a foreign man, hiring on people for a caravan. The journey that brought her to Lizou was of the same calibre and she had no need to remain in the place any longer than was necessary.

She would seek out this man, and she would gauge his worth before making her decision. It was far too early, however, and she would enjoy the little quiet she had, with her tea and with her pipe.

Their column rode two by two through the East Gate of Lizou, with Akira alone at its head. Nine men rode ahead of Shogun Sato, with eight behind as rear guard. They had all made their best effort to look as presentable as possible with what they had. The scales on Akira's chest shimmered silver, while his leather had been polished black as jet. Also black, was the fearsome stallion beneath him, who snorted and tossed his mane in annoyance as the noise and smells of the city flooded over them. The horse did not rear though, Akira had him too well trained for that. Kazuki Sato himself rode not twenty yards behind, looking every inch the Shogun in his immaculate armour, with his long, scarlet kimono showing underneath, and atop a slender, snow-white mare that held itself with the same calm majesty as her rider. Kazuki Sato was straight-backed and proud, although Akira knew he was in pain. The Shogun rode little anymore, preferring his wheelhouse with it's cushioned benches. Riding tired him quickly, and left his back and thighs stiff and plagued by aches. However, he had insisted that he enter the city on horseback, where he could be seen.

"We come to this place to declare war, my old friend." Kazuki had told him that morning. "It will be my last war, one way or another; and however I may leave it, I will not enter a frail old man."

It was moments like that where Akira was reminded, if any reminder was ever needed, why he served with such pride. Kazuki Sato asked nothing of those that followed him that he would not do himself if he were able; and when he was able, he was everything a Shogun should be.

The column dismounted at a local stables, roughly 10 minutes walk from the inn that they had been told to seek out, where they would find this foreigner who offered them a chance to win back their homes, and their glory, in exchange for their swords. Akira offered a hand to help Kazuki dismount, subtly of course. The Shogun's jaw was set, and the furrows at the corners of his eyes were deeper than ever, but otherwise he showed no signs of his discomfort.

"Master Sato." Akira said, bowing. "Would you prefer to remain here while I find this tavern for you? There is still the possibility this could be a trap, laid by our usurpers and enemies."

"If there is a trap, then we are already in its jaws." Sato replied "I would look upon this place, and this man, myself. However, I would welcome your company, as always."

Sato smiled, and Akira was reassured. His body may have been aging faster than ever, but the Shogun's wisdom and resolve were far from defeated. Akira chose three of his best, besides himself, to escort Sato on foot. He left the rest, with their horses and their provisions, under Takuma's command. Takuma was one of his most trusted lieutenants, and distantly related to Akira. Back at the siege of the Sato stronghold, Takuma had held the bridge spanning the palaces water gardens almost single-handedly for four hours. A stocky and heavily muscled man, once Takuma had planted his feet on the center span, no man could hope to pass him without being felled, even after Takuma himself had been feathered five times by archers on the opposite bank. The sight of his squashed, scowling features, and the great, heavy Kenabo slung across his back, should be more than enough to prevent their convoy from being molested.

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With one hand, Bashir used his stiletto as a toothpick. With the other, he placed his bet. The cellar off a narrow alleyway in one of the more colourful districts of Lizou was so full of smoke he could barely see his neighbors, standing shoulder to shoulder wither side of him. He didn't give a damn about them though, his eyes were fixed on the cock-fight below him.

Bashir was ignorant of the law when it came to these sorts of entertainment, but it wouldn't surprise him in the least if this was illegal. The Japanese nobility seemed to like nothing better than outlawing anything found to result it dishonourable amounts of fun. He wouldn't have cared even if he'd been in a good mood. Right now, with the money he was losing, Bashir was itching to slit somebodies throat.

"How do we know the people we're waiting for are here if we don't know who they are?"

Emmett gave a warm laugh, and took another gulp of ale before he answered.

"I don't know who it will be, but they will know me. And they will approach me, and I will have to ascertain whether they are suitable."

Putting a hand on Reiko's shoulder, he said, "be careful, girl. Even men I elect to take with us may not be trustworthy. Some may even be reprehensible. They need to be treated cautiously, especially by you. Make sure your knife is always within reach."

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Mujo had kept a dead run until the city wall came into view. Then with a straight path ahead, he slowed to a brisk walk, regaining his breath quickly. Only then did he sling the Shirasaya to hang at his back, crossed to form a black lacquered X, with the hilts indistinguishable from the sheaths. He contemplated the weapons as he walked. Enough with ditch digging, and pot washing. He thought it was time for a job with his blade. He didn't particularly relish violence. It meant nothing to him, not least because his effectiveness minimized the risk, but because it was all he'd known. No, he gravitated back towards work with the sword because it was the only place he didn't feel like he stuck out a mile.

It wouldn't be hard to find a more mundane job within the city walls if he wanted, though. People were often surprisingly ready to hire a ronin like himself, for any job. He supposed it was because they enjoyed an opportunity to flaunt control over someone who personified risk, and danger. It made them feel big, he thought. Like his old master, the Emperor, he thought sourly. The reverie trapped him long enough that before he knew it, he was passing through the city gates, with people moving out of his way. He realized he had an uncharacteristic scowl on his face.

Mujo shook himself. An uncharacteristically tall man with two strange swords and a glare; no wonder he was scaring people. He straightened his face, and headed for the city center. That was his habit on entering a new city. Head for the center and get your bearings, then from there, head to the nearest inn, and ask about work and rumours.

Shirogane brushed the pear against his cape, took a bite off it and let the cape flow free in the wind. Though no breeze picked it up, and instead it ended up hanging over the edge of the roof again. He was sitting on the roof of her wagon, keeping an eye on the city center where people came, went, but also stopped to shop for goods. He had a good view of her stall from where he sat. Ayamine was gesturing with her hands and seemingly shouting at one moment, to calm down the next and smile to another customer.

The horses were in the stable where she had paid to keep them. Her wagon was next to some inn, The Floating Blossom. It wasn't the inn they had decided to stay at, but he had been told to move the wagon next to it the same morning. She kept most of her goods in the wagon, and would rather he guarded it than lingering nearby her stall, scaring potential customers away.

He'd do as she wanted, until he figured he was needed. Some customers would be better to scare, than wait for them to rob her. Damn ruffians. The day had gone by without any situations like that so far. They weren't that lucky everywhere.

Shirogane noticed her maid standing up, nodding a few times, then jogging in his direction. Meiya was a simple girl, but far from daft like some. She acted dumb when she was near others, but he'd believe it if someone told him she was a spy or refugee on the run.

He wondered if that said more about him or her, when she reached the wagon.

"What does she need this time?" He asked, and took another bite.

"The last boxes of fruit, sir." Meiya climbed into the wagon. He heard her move about inside of it, then she emerged with two smaller crates.

"I'll help you." Shirogane said, and was about to jump down from the roof.

"No, sir. She told me to get them."

"I know, but they're too heavy for you."

"I'll be quite alright, sir."

He didn't argue the point. He had carried enough of her goods for one day already. "Alright then, be my guest."

Meiya didn't reply, maybe she hadn't heard him, as she was halfway back to her mistress when he had finished talking. He yawned, continued eating. It was a dull task to guard a wagon, and two girls. Two girls that often seemed to order him around, more and more lately. Well, as long as he got paid he didn't mind. They'd have to leave the city today or tomorrow, then he'd soon wish he had a warm bed.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

"Oh, how strong you are, my maid!" Ayamine said, when Meiya brought her the last fruit they had to sell. One of the male customers chuckled. Ayamine knew how Meiya disliked being publically made fun of. However, she thought it was funny, her customers sometimes thought it was funny, and Meiya was just a maid.

At least, that's the appearance she needed them to keep up. Ayamine'd be the one publically shamed if anything resembling the truth came out. Meiya put the boxes down, then begun to pick up the fruits that were still fresh enough to sell. The rest she discarded, or put in her pockets.

"You little thief." Ayamine whispered through her teeth, while somehow still maintaining a warm smile to the people passing by.

"Dinner for us, and mister. Although, I will accept whatever punishment mistress thinks suitable. If I recall correctly, she was quite understanding and graceful last time."

Ayamine slapped her over the head, so that Meiya dropped the apple she had meant to put in her pocket. All while smiling. Even if some woman stopped for a second, no one else cared that she had hit her servant.

All was well then. They'd leave the city as soon as the new goods she had bought, from the craftsmen and farmers of the area, arrived. It should be today, or at the latest tomorrow. On the road, there was a certain freedom that a city lacked, which came with the downside that they had to watch their back wherever they went.

"Fresh fruit!" She shouted.

"be careful, girl. Even men I elect to take with us may not be trustworthy. Some may even be reprehensible. They need to be treated cautiously, especially by you. Make sure your knife is always within reach."

Reiko pondered for a moment.

"Why would you pick men who aren't trustworthy? Seems silly to me." She reached into her obi and pulled out the sheathed stiletto dagger she kept hidden. "And I always keep this close by, ever since you first told me to. I'm not a forgetful old man who can't tell the difference between cream and honey and..." She looked at the ale cup in disgust. "That."

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Amaya left a few coins on the table as she left for the market square, the few belongings she had, she kept in a small bag that she hung from her obi, below her blades.

The sound of merchants plying their trade grew as she drew close to the square. She drew a few confused glances from passers-by, she didn't acknowledge them, of course, why would she? Peasants found anything outside their tiny sphere of experience strange.

As she walked around the market, her arm resting on the pommel of her blade, she browsed the various wares. Nothing of interest caught her eye however.

"Fresh fruit!"

Amaya thought for a second before heading over to the vendor. She hadn't had fruit for a while. Oh sure, she had plenty of dried fruit, but she couldn't remember the last time she ate a fresh peach. She waited patiently as other customers bustled past her, eager to get served. She didn't mind, she could wait. Amaya had learned how to be patient.

Emmett tried to look offended, but snorted with suppressed laughter. "I never said it was honey and cream. Not everything is what it looks like, child." He casually took the knife from her, flourishing it, and spinning it across the back of his hand before flicking it into the air and catching it by the point before offering it back to her. As she took it, he ruffled her hair, and brought his hand away from her ear with a mock gasp of surprise as he appeared to find a large copper coin nestled behind it. He gave it to her, and said, "I hear a fruit vendor outside. Go and buy some peaches."

He had been practicing his various parlor tricks more and more, since having met Reiko. Children, he found, loved that sort of thing. He certainly had as a child, and had picked them up as though he were born for it. Good thing, too, as they had gotten him more money than an urchin on the streets of London would ever hope to see. Putting his booted feet up on the table, he leaned the chair backwards on its two back legs to an improbable angle, and took a long stemmed pipe and wash leather pouch from inside his multicoloured coat. His garments were colourful, if travel worn and a little faded. However he found the wear went quite a way to making his clothes look more debonair, so he hadn't replaced them. With tobacco tamped into the silver fitted pipe head, he popped a sulfur headed match with a thumbnail, and lit up, puffing and relighting with well practiced ease. Soon a steady tendril of smoke was rising in front of his face, itself lit by the patch of glowing orange under his nose.

Shiori spent her day tending to her duties: keeping the house clean, organizing the family records, taking care of the finances. Such was the life of a samurai's wife. Her husband, Daichi, would often be sent on missions for several days. With the rise of the bandits, Daichi was being sent out more frequently each month.

She was used to him being gone for several days, but it has been two weeks now. It was supposed to be a standard mission--report to his lord, subdue activity in Namako, report back, then return home. If anything had happened to him, she would have heard something by now. Something just didn't feel right.

She had tried to send letters out, but lately there has been too many bandits that have been attacking anyone on the roads. None of her correspondence ever reached their destination, and she didn't know what to do anymore. She wanted to leave and get the answers herself. But there was no way that would be allowed. Her responsibilties were at home.

But perhaps good fortune was smiling on her today. There have been a lot of visitors coming to Lizou, ever since that Westerner arrived. Word on the streets was that he was putting a group together to head to Namako. Maybe one of them could do her a favor? She would have to see for herself.

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Emilio was walking through the market square, examining what the merchants had to offer. He had arrived in town a month ago, renting out a small living space that doubled as his personal studio. He had taken up a couple of odd jobs around the town, just to earn enough coin to procure his supplies. He had brought his paints from his home in Venice, had bought enough canvas and wood to paint on, and now all he needed was a subject.

When he left home, the next big thing that was exploding on the art scene was capturing the drama and tension of the subjects. Everything was grand now, the architecture, the music, and of course the paintings. No doubt the church had something to do with this movement, and Emilio was determined to find his own grand voice in this new country.

Any artwork that he had seen when he arrived was much simpler than what he knew. The tools, the techniques, the subject matter seemed much more practical to him. Perhaps starting smaller and a little simpler was a good place to start, thus he settled on his first paintings to be still lifes.

"Fresh fruit!" he heard from a crowd nearby. He approached the stall, gauging the fruit. They looked very good, good enough to serve as subjects.

"Sono perfetti!" he exclaimed in glee.

A stream of barely coherent curses, in languages numerous from French to Cantonese all blurring together, accompanied the thud as Bashir drove the point of his dagger into the wooden railing. It quivered when he let it go, as if the weapon was afraid of his rages. The black and white rooster had just pecked through the eyes of the gold and red, the one he'd put his last silver on. The gold he's taken for a lucky omen, as well as it reminding him of the sands of home. The red of course was for blood, but he had hoped his charge would be the one spilling it. Now, he was cleaned out, and there was no-one inside this shit-hole who was like to buy him in again. Even if there was, the way Bashir's luck was going that path would likely end with them taking all his clothes before the night was through. If he was going to pay for a bed for the night, let alone a girl to warm it and some Sake or Hashish to get him in the mood, Bashir guessed he was gonna have to find some sad sack to beat senseless for their coin. With that thought, Bashir wrenched the dagger from the rail, and shoved his way through the packed crowd to the back of the cellar, where stairs greeted him to take him back up to street level.

Before the door had even closed behind him as Bashir emerged outside, a voice called out to him.

"Habib, you sack of shit!"

Bashir, looked one way, then the other, then laughed aloud. Two Yakuza faced him in either direction, boxing him in in the narrow street. All four had Ninjato's drawn, and looked perhaps half between them as thirsty for blood as Bashir was.

"Evening fella's. How can I assist you?" he mocked.

"How about you start by giving us our fucking money!" the talkative one growled. "Then you can beg for mercy as I cut off your balls!"

Bashir just couldn't help himself now. When the laughter came again, he threw back his head and hooted.

"What's so fucking funny?!"

Bashir laughed again, louder than ever.

"Oh... Oh God!" he choked. "I'm sorry... you guys... have no idea how much I needed this. You just made my day!"

As the mirth came forth again, the ring-leader cursed, and the four began to enclose. Bashir, as casually as another man would reach for his purse, unhooked one of his throwing axes from his belt, and hurled it through the air. The crescent steel tumbles end over end, burying itself in the ring-leaders upper-torso, crunching through collar-bone and ribs. Before the others reached him, he had time to un-sling his compact, double-curved Mongol bow, notch and arrow, and shoot another through the throat, killing him instantly. As the two who were left reach him, Bashir dropped the bow, gave a jubilant howl, and let fly with Red Elinor.

The sound of steel on steel was a sweeter music than any other Bashir had found in all the world; the ducking, weaving and parrying the most exhilarating dance. The Kilij whiled with the two Ninjato's, sending sparks flying each time they came together. As one lunged at his face, Bashir spun and stepped inside its reach. His elbow broke the Yakuza's nose, and Bashir flung him bodily into his ally. No longer having to contend with being surrounded, Bashir pressed the attack. Red Elinor was a blur, and his fast, compact slashes drove the two men back along the alley, one bloodied and unfocussed, the other beginning to taste fear. After that, it was over so quickly Bashir was almost disappointed, or perhaps it just seemed that way in the heat of the fight. The bloodied one tried to skewer him, but Bashir met the blade with his own, and a flourish of his wrist sent the Ninjato spinning through the air. He drove his foot between the bloodied ones legs, as the other attempted a downward slash. Bashir sidestepped the cut easily, cut off both the man's hands, and then silenced his scream with a slash across the face, parting the top two thirds of his head from the rest of him, leaving and exposed tongue that waggled absurdly in silent anguish. Before the bloodied one could rise again, or beg, Bashir stabbed him through the gut, and twisted. The wails made him smile, before he slashed across the throat to make an end.

Bashir whooped at the high of his victory, before sheathing Red Elinor and going back to retrieve his bow. Only the ring-leader remained now, just about alive still. His breath rattled from the punctured lung, and he was coughing up blood. When Bashir was done looking the others for their coin, he went and knelt down beside him.

"Do...it!" the Yakuza rasped.

"Save the best till last." Bashir muttered, almost kindly, as he drew his pistol out of his boot, pointed the barrel between the man's bloody teeth, and fired. When that was done, he looted him too, and wrenched out the axe, wiping the head on his sleeve before sheathing it again.

He needed a drink.

============================================================================================================================

For what felt like the hundredth time that day, Nathan cursed himself, screwed up the notepaper he had been writing on, and tossed it away. He'd been trying to wrap his head around a new form of poetry he had discovered in this new and bountiful land. Haiku's, the local's called them. Some that he had read were so poignant, despite their fleeting nature, that Nathan had almost wept. He had decided on that moment that he absolutely must write an anthology of his own. They were, however, proving bloody difficult to do!

He should just go in, he knew. He'd found the place that he was looking for easily enough, as he always did, but he was holding back, killing time on a doorstep across the street, trying to discipline unruly syllables to occupy himself. He should be able to tag onto the party of mercenaries and wandering warriors without too much difficulty, once they turned up. He might even prove some use to them, in his own way. What made him balk however, was the thought of being the first through the door. The man was looking to swords after all, not pens and paper, and Nathan hardly expected the sort of man who looks to hire blades to fight the Yakuza to be a jolly sort. What on Earth wouls be made of him if he just swanned through those doors, and offered his services of prose, map-reading, and general scrounging. No, better to wait, until he could slip in almost unnoticed; and for that matter, if he ended up being called upon to state his business, me must remember to call himself a guide, not a writer. A guide might be seen as having some value, a writer was a useless mouth to feed, unless this budding champion of the Emperor's cause was uncharacteristically fond of bedtime stories.

Tao awoke as the sun hit his eyes, streaming in from the window. He swung his legs over the bed and sat for a moment, running his fingers over the coarse stubble that adorned his crown; breathing deeply through his nose, smelling the fresh fruit that lay just outside the inn.

Dabbing his hands in a small bowl of water, prepared the night earlier, he quickly rinsed his face, reciting a short prayer as he went about it. Shrugging on his robe, a broad smile spread across his face.

Today will be a good day.

Grabbing staff and satchel, Tao closed the door behind him, as he made for the main inn area. The foreigner with the strange coat immediately caught his eye, as he grabbed a small bowl of rice from the bench, thanking the inn-keeper. Tao was indeed grateful for food & board; the hospitality in other parts of Japan had been less than welcoming.

He sat not too far from the stranger, facing him from a table to the right, eager to strike up conversation upon finishing his meal; wanderer's often had fantastic, if exaggerated, tales; stories which Tao listened to with keen interest.

Watching him begin to smoke, the monk leaned back in his own chair, though not to the same reckless extent. Leaning his staff between his neck and collarbone, he quipped in a friendly tone.

"That coat of yours looks like it's been through a travel or two. I wonder what has brought it here of all places; far from it's owners home, no?"

Reiko watched in awe as Emmett made the dagger effortlessly dance across his hand. She was sure the man was a wizard, she had seen him do things nobody else could do. As he ruffled her hair, her giggle was cut short as a coin appeared, "Woooooow! How do you keep doing that!?" Yup. Definitely a wizard.

"I hear a fruit vendor outside. Go and buy some peaches."

Reiko took the coin in both hands, her eyes sparkling, with money like this, she could buy all the peaches she'd ever want! She took a step back and bowed deeply, her two braids gently brushing the floor in front of her, before running out of the inn door and into the market square.

She brought her hand up as the sun hit her face, the place was so busy, how could she ever find the fruit vendor in all this?

"Fresh fruit!"

"Yes!" She proclaimed to herself. She elegantly navigated her way through the tall crowd of people before she found herself standing behind a tall woman in a blue clothes. She seemed to be waiting to be served, but not trying to grab the vendor's attention. Maybe she wasn't rich like Reiko now was? I suppose not everyone has a wizard friend.

"Miss? Excuse me miss?" The tall woman turned towards Reiko slightly, her hand resting on the two weapons she had at her side. Reiko squeaked slightly when she saw that the woman was missing an eye, a huge scar across her face. The woman said nothing, only stared at her curiously. "A... are you waiting to buy some fruit?" The woman nodded slightly, her gaze not shifting. "O...okay."

Reiko stood beside the woman for a few minutes, until an opening to get served appeared. Reiko looked up at the woman, who was already looking at her. She nodded towards the vendor. Reiko smiled and bowed her head slightly "Thank you miss!"

She hurried to the space, holding her precious coin in the air, since she couldn't see over the side of the counter.

"Please! Please! five thousand peaches please!"

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