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Okami's Journal

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1 Okami's Journal on Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:59 pm

Bayushi Dave

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Amateur Writer
Month of the Rat. Hour of the Dog.

A burnt sun hangs softly over the shoulder of the Spine of the World Mountains. Over the course of two days the bitter winds come out of the mouth of Beiden Path, piercing the partial openings of the interwoven straw vestment around my chest and blowing my companions into the crevices of the city, never to reemerge until we meet on the other side.

They can leave; I have reason to stay.

I do not truly know what I wait for, but the coldness of the low mountain air amounts to nothing compared to the anxiety beginning to come from within. I think of the years. Then I stop. I could only get to eight before I remembered the separation, and I could not bear to bring myself to fully comprehend exactly what divides us.

“Brother-sama.” A soprano voice warmed the coldness of the air. The pins holding her dark hair back glisten with the rain dripping from her forehead down to her rounded nose. I remove my straw hat and place it on her head. Glimpses of the crimson kimono peaked out from underneath her straw jacket. “I am pleased to meet you.” Her bright smile shown out of spite for the horrible conditions of darkness the clouds bestowed upon our first meeting.

We step in out of the cold. I remove her hat and she removes her coat. Before she leaves the town I will buy her a winter jacket. “Ryoza…” I mutter her name to her face for the first time and she accepts warmly with admiration. “Our uncle let me know of your selection to act as the Lion’s envoy to fulfill the obligations of the Crane’s wishful proposal.”

It only took a minute for her to close the distance of their worlds. “They say I am to be proud of my skills, but wish for this experience to assist me in gaining insight on what matters.” Even with her views judged and deemed irreconcilable with the world she still smiles. Did she even know they wanted her to change, to become something else?

“What matters to you now, sister?” Each name and word I can pin to her I will attach from my repertoire of vocabulary.

“Duty and honor above all.” Spoken with the same smile as before, her brightness begot her ignorance.

“I speak no tricks, but I would mean to know what do you hold dear to you besides the virtues and clan?”

“I cherish this. I have always thought of this moment but with my schooling complete I am needed elsewhere. I am samurai.”

“You are.”

I take the cup of sake to my lips and engulf a hardy swig. I lower the cup and my expectations of what good will come from the next few days. Before we part I buy her a winter coat. Telling me the heat of the distant lands as a reason to save the money fails when I inform her all sea travel moves across trade winds, and Mantis ships do not always provide cover from the elements. Maybe begrudgingly, of course not, she takes the coat and departs with her escort. She takes my warmth. She leaves me a book.

I stand in the cold for an hour as the last traces of her fade on the horizon. After a few hours in the tavern, the traces of her begin to fade from my memory.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Serpent.

His name is Taka. Every year he makes his way down from the mountain to guide samurai through the pass safely. Getting me to the gate of Shemate Keep runs me one bu but any mishaps along the road could cost me my life. I take the business decision and inform him I will pay him when we get to Shemate.

A good business practice draws many clientele, but this particular companion comes across as peculiar. He greets me as a “san” to which I politely correct him and then inform him my trip to Shemate will take precedence. After bowing an apology he lets me know of our intertwined fates. I will never stand in the way of a man and his business, nor turn away a potential drinking partner.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Dog.

While Taka provides a good service, his control over the weather needs some work. The cloudy day we departed into now breathes flurries upon us. Cover from a tree line shelter us from the wind and our provisions keep us safe from exposure. I regret not purchasing a heavier coat, but Maigo no Musha would truly turn me away for such a trivial regret.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Boar.

During our night, my new Kakita rebuffs my offer of sake. I pour it down until it fills something. These trees cry as the wind pierces through them.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Horse.

After several hours of travel we can no longer find the road. Cruel kami from on high hide it under a dense cover of snow and watch as we try in vain to uncover their deception. Praying for reprieve opens up a lull in the harsh storm. We spot a tower flanked by storms on either side. Without patience we storm the manner in a fashion Bieden has not seen since Toturi the Black last passed through.

I offer some of the poetry from the book Ryoza gave me to Kin. We speak about my sister and his family. I tell him I read through the book of poetry to understand my sister better. Our conversation comes to an end and I feel at peace with Kin.

For a Kakita, Kin takes the harsh weather better than I would give him credit for, but before I can sit to take a drink with him we find a belligerent force provoking the ire of Kin. The Crane draws his sword and a Mantis uses concise words to deescalate the situation. I may need to stop drinking today.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Monkey.

A crass Tortoise and a pair of beleaguered brothers stumble into the tower with more turmoil than the storm outside. We find our solace quickly succumb to the brash nature of the disorderly behavior of the Tortoise ordering his man to check the tower. Immediately the Kitsuki takes offense, but the rest of the room continues coordinating the efforts to get a fire started.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Rooster.

Our day grows odder by the minute. The presence of a Kitsuki and a Shosuro would come as unexpected, but together, and in such great quantity, I feel the Fortunes may have lost their minds. A shugenja in need takes more precedent than myself, so I offer up my blanket to the twins Aiki and Airo. Aiki seems more interested in the tower, but her sister accepts the hospitality when I place the blanket on the ground without dignifying who owned it.

Our company grew more with the inclusion of two Dragons, the Mantis, and two women caring for a small child. Kin starts looking for wood to gather to make use of the hearth against the wall, while I care to the peasants. Parts of their skin look drier than usual, but I cannot see blackening around the feet of hands. With a little reprieve from the elements they should be fine.

Under the stairs rests a large rug. I speak with Taka and Mirumoto Wenbo about getting the two peasants and beating the rug clean. With two women and a small child, the rug will provide a better sleeping condition than the cold, hard floor. After finding traces of frostbite, I do not wish to tempt the Fortunes anymore than our predicament already does.

Others do wish to tempt the fortunes. Taka has taken a fascination with a spirit gate outside, so I tell him to ask Togashi Yuna if she will assist him. After I correct her inaccuracy of my title, I find the Tortoise wishes to speak with me in private. In the kitchen area we discuss something of a haunting presence within the tower. This goes far beyond my foray, so I suggest he take up the matter with Aiki, while I go tell Wenbo to stand watch at the front of the door to keep a lantern to light the way back for Kotaro and Taka.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Dog.

Between us all we have enough food to last for a few days, but the forest gives us a bountiful amount of food today. How long this can keep up may deceive us, but for now we just need to wait out this storm. I see the rest of our party through the night, but I never find Kin again. I can only assume some stone fixture or trinket keeps him within the other confines of the tower.

Wenbo and Yuna remain close to one another and after a brief conversation with the young swordsman he presents information about a missing friend. No man is ever truly missing. I offer sake and a story of a criminal to keep information coming and finally get Yuna to partake. Wenbo and Yuna offer up information of the missing man. Criminals seem to pour into the area. Earlier, the Kitsuki told me about a Phoenix coming through the area after abandoning her wedding. I will pass on this information soon, but for now the night creeps on.

Month of the Rat. Hour of the Dragon.

In the morning I remember a strange dream about the spirit gate Taka took so much interest in. I should make sure Aiki wards the tower in case of a malevolent intrusion from any realms outside of our own. Kin made his way back to the lower levels of the tower after his disappearance last night. While the Mantis and Tortoise lead the peasants into the wilderness to forage, I stay behind to gauge interest in my sister’s poetry with Wenbo. After reading two poems I start drinking and insult the Crane clan.

Kin leans in during the comment and speaks into my ear. Before I can speak with him the lumbering form of the Mantis drags a dead wolf into the tower. Given his movement I gather most of the blood came from the wolf, but some of the blood looks like it comes from wounds. After he drops the carcass of the wolf into a drain in the kitchen, I tend to his wounds and stop the major bleeding.

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2 Re: Okami's Journal on Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:28 pm

Bayushi Dave

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Amateur Writer

The day came but the sun remained frozen in the sky, hidden from sight. Our kindling remains steady, but the energy of the tower remains nervous. Anxious. An anxiety paid in full.

The young boy screamed at the sight of his dead grandmother. He remained ecstatic and refused attempts to calm him. His mother rose the suspicions of the others within the tower by throwing wild accusations against those in the samurai caste. I reminded her of her proper place, but it only planted a seed of discontent within their minds.

The Celestial Order does not inhibit those born into peasantry—it protects them from the dangers of the world. If this order were to fall, those peasants would be torn apart by the evils of the world. I remind them of their place for their protection. And I will kill her with my hands to defend it.

The body is removed and given burial rites. I can’t recall who took care of the ordeal, but the family of the deceased stayed by the fire for some time.

While I speak with the Shosuro twins the distrustful Tortoise tells us about a ward he removed. Given the events of the past night, even etiquette and courtesy begin to falter when dealing with this man. The shugenja take the Tortoise to where he removed the ward at my request, while I investigate the area where I saw a door in my dream.

Within the calm after the death, we come to share bits of information linking our dreams. Following these signs bring us to a hidden cave beneath the snow. A waning pounding rests against my mind but not my chest. It comes from deep.

Yuna and Kotaro briefly fight over the beads; Yuna takes them. Kotaro steals them. Acting as our medium, Kotaro speaks with some manner of spectre. The hand guard I found upon our arrival proves some use to him, so I relinquish it. With what actions transpired over the past day, anything to remove myself from this cursed tower will do.

Kotaro stays within the gut of the cave for several hours.

We look after our supplies until a disturbance comes at the door. Three men seek shelter, one knows Wenbo. After allowing them to enter I feel a disturbance about them. While they warm themselves by the fire, I go to the second floor and pilfer through the lumber we collected to find some tree sap and the perfect mushroom. Slowly I grind the mushroom into a powder with the back of my clog. Raised voices come from the side of the room while I add some water to form a paste. The sap gives the paste the viscosity needed to help keep the rate of absorption of the poison to a more subtle substance.

I descend the stairs just as cool heads do the same within the room. Riou refuses reason, prompting me to draw my blade and tessen. Yuna strikes at him, but Riou retains enough of his stature to reveal a pistol. The small ball blasts into Yuna. The Tortoise continues to baffle all reason by blocking door. I can only assume he means to yell at a peasant on the other side.

Yuna and Riou continue their duel with the glow of Yuna’s tattoo bringing their power into the fight. I deflect a blow swung with a dire intention. Knowing his exit is no longer viable and sensing his demise in the air, Riou lunges towards Wenbo, prompting the young swordsman to put Riou down.

Everything in the tower now rests a little more peaceful, but I need to attend to something.

One of the bandits brandishes a katana. This confirms the suspicion I already hold for these two men. The Tortoise interrupts me while I recruit the two men to assist in gathering wood, but his brash nature lends me a shadow to hide in. Each bandit gives off a nervous energy, making it easier for the Tortoise to confiscate their weapons.

Fatigue and blistering cold draw the bandits to the fire for a short rest. I take the time to mix the poison into a waterskin for the men to drink from. Justice and vengeance do not guide me for I would not allow these men the comforts of a hearth were I to. This is necessity.

Now I can see I missed nothing by relegating the activity of gathering wood during the past few days. No lord would send a man into such a harsh storm were it not truly a matter of life or death. Knowing their penchant for warmth after wandering for days, I persuade the men to drink from the waterskin, telling them the sap within will keep them warm.

Kuno takes it first. After an hour he looks like death personified. I offer him a drink of sake and then tell him and the Tortoise to make stock of our lumber and make for the tower. Shinkami and I stay out for one more hour. He drinks.

Along the borders of the Scorpion lies a small shack with an unnamed peasant woman with four daughters who work her farm because her son would not take his place.

These men are more than bandits. When overrunning a bandit camp, many within came to the camp when bandits raided villages and were forced into servitude outside of martial or violent ways. Highwaymen do not fit this mold. They are highwaymen. They stalk well traveled regions and make targets of those who cannot defend themselves. They stalk battlefields like carrion birds, looking for defeated samurai.
They did not wish this fate on themselves. Nor did they pray to their ancestors one day they could live the shameful and dangerous life of a bandit upon the high roads. Trauma forced them into this. The poverty Shinkami knew as reality caused him to take martial action against the innocent. I will not spare his life. He exists as a failure of samurai. Greed and hubris made him, but I am not a man of means to mend his trauma. I am a man of means to end the trauma he will enact on others.

I ask him for the name of his mother. For the name of where she lives. While Shinkami deserves to die, I will make reparations with his mother to pay penance for the failure of others who allow the life of peasants to fester over into turning them into bandits. I am the wolf; I am the shepard.

Before they pass I offer them sake. One last drink before oblivion.
They grow worse by the fire. The stew they eat will only go to waste, but they should be allowed to die well fed by a warm fire.
Kotaro approaches me over the matter of a blade he is assisting in creating. This is news to me, but after a brief exchange of pleasant and unpleasantries, I am glad to know of what will happen.
Assassins creep in the night, so go to bed early. Then, when they creep in at midnight, you will be fresh and rested and ready. I remember the words from Akodo’s teaching, but even the tactical master would be at a loss for words over the murder of the mountain man Taka.

Before I could ready myself a creature bearing a murderous intent blew past me into the harsh courtyard. Yuna and Kotaro gave chase to the creature while I tended to Taka. Blood pooled around his mouth and his eyes grew dark. His skin grew cold as the outside air. His breathing finally collapsed under the pool of blood no longer pressing through his mouth.

Guard Riou. I follow out the door in trail of the commotion the others have made in chase of this demonic entity. I expected to see a man merely holding a parasol brandishing a knife, but I witness the knife enter the Tortoise without any form of human arm. While I cannot make out what features this creature contains, Kotaro and Ichihara finally bring the creature down.

Some power must hold control over this entity, but as we examine its now lifeless form, we remember burning this thing. Evil must not die in this place.

After bandaging the wounds of Ichihara, the others attend a funeral for Taka. I stay.

Before Shinkami passed he muttered a few words about meeting some others. No one tended to Riou after the altercation and he is in need of healing. He sees reason in giving me a few snippets of information for the treatment. I make sure he knows I need it. A few minutes pass and the information he tells me sounds about right. He met the men on the road; they got caught in the storm before they could reach an isolated farm in the mountains.
What he tells me next is right.

Cast out from his monastery by a cruel master, cut off from his friend turned enemy, and beaten by the woman who cared for him, this man holds the same trauma as the bandits. I put both of them down, but do I carry out the same action with this man? I still have the poison, but his mind is sharper. He could know and reveal me. He could prove valuable. He could deserve restitution.

Before I finish my judgment, Kotaro returns with a blade, probably a gift from his apprenticeship with the cave dwelling apparition Oh. The night proved more eventful than I thought, and while others come back in from Taka’s funeral, I move to retire for the night to a more peaceful state.

In the morning we awake to a reprieve in the storm. We must be out now, less we tempt fortune too much by staying within this cursed tower for any longer.

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