Shades of the Orient

Maho in the Midst
Wherein the Taint is found in Shaisa Gojun

After a long night, in the wee hours of the morning, a scream broke the silence.

``A murder at Mistress Isa’s! There’s been a murder at Mistress Isa’s!‘’. Hana, a fellow student of Orange Blossom’s was shouting in the night. Taraba Kenshin awoke, and began to don his no-dachi. As one of the first awake, Kenshin was ready to go as the other guards first began to move out.

The guards heavy footsteps, rather than screams in the palace, awoke Orange Blossom. She was irate at having been awakened, and demanded to know what the guards were doing mobilizing at such an unfriendly hour. After discovering that her favorite bathhouse may be endangered by the presence of murders in its midst, she demanded hot chocolate, donned her gowns, and bade the guards (including Taraba Kenshin) to move out.

Upon reaching Mistress Isa’s Place, the guards entered and began a search after receiving Orange Blossom’s permission. While Orange Blossom and Taraba Kenshin were the only two remaining outside, a strange man made himself known. He was perched atop the awning, clad in dusty brown robes and carrying a naginata with a gnarled wooden shaft.

``Beware the spirits of the recently dead’’, he cautioned, ``they are often restless and seek vengeance’’.

At his warning, Orange Blossom accosted him, asking why he had perched himself atop a building where a crime had potentially taken place.

``I’ve been waiting for the Youths. The Bones have told that only they can solve this crime’’.

``Have you been practicing magic without a license?’’

``No, the Oracle of the Bones has told me’’

``And you’re waiting for youths atop a building’’

``Well, yes’’

``You’re aware there’s a curfew because we’re at war, right?’’

``I shan’t do it again, Mistress’’

With that, the pair of youths entered the scene. Taraba Kenshin noticed the presence of the Void, particularly in a puddle of blackish ichor, the consistency of slowly drying blood. Orange Blossom noticed the presence of fire magic (evident by the scorch lines upon the chests of the dead), as well as a certain amount of even mixture, which her teaching reminded her is reminiscent of living beings. Made of magic?

Paying little head to the magic in the air, Orange Blossom entreated Taraba Kenshin to find and question the ratlings who had to be present at the time. Kenshin knew of his associate Raishin, and asked for him in the basement barracks. [:raishin]] answered, reluctantly, obviously shaken by the events of the night. He mentioned un-manned flaming swords and a man in a fire-red kimono. Orange Blossom grew bored of waiting, dropping the torch upon the wooden stair. [[:taraba-kenshin}Kenshin]] deftly retrieved the torch, bid Raishin adieu, and reached the top of the stair, whereupon Orange Blossom demanded the ratlings be interrogated. After awhile, she decided to have Raishin act as a tracker.

After, to Taraba Kenshin‘s dismay, Raishin was collared, the group, accompanied by two of Orange Blossom’s most prestigious guard, headed down the servant’s trail to the warehouse district. After a muck-ridden journey (for which Orange Blossom demanded to be carried), a warehouse which unnerved Raishin was reached. Kenshin took over navigating, using his innate sense of the void, and found an entrance.

The warehouse was a common mess, save for a immaculately clean area in the center. It had a mural of each clan’s symbol, the Mantis clan symbol, and the symbol of the Cult of the Common Man. Below the mural lay a trapdoor. Which happened to be trapped. Orange Blossom used her talents to disarm the magic trap, though she was unsure it was fully safe. Taraba Kenshin volunteered to open the door, and nothing untoward occurred. At that moment. However, upon descending the mahogany, Kenshin and the Samurai were caught by a blast of fire, with Kenshin and Yohiro taking the brunt of the attack. The group descended to a scene of disturbing nature, with a stone altar flanked by brightly burning candles. Laying atop the altar, bound and unconscious, was Mistress Isa. Standing vanguard was a fire-red clad man, carrying a tanto which was dripping with blood.

As the group accosted the red-clad man, he smiled, and buried the tanto into the flesh of his arm, drawing a significant amount of blood, and began to chant. THe Samurai flanked him, taking up position to strike him down. Orange Blossom clouded his mind, causing him to struggle to act. Taraba Kenshin, then, flung himself forward with abandon, slashing hard and quick across the gut of the man, cleaving him clean in half…interrupting the flame bolt and adding all the sorcerer’s blood to the spell. A great conflagration erupted, utterly consuming Mistress Isa and the man, incinerating their bodily remains. Yoshiro deftly jumped backward with the grace of a Henshin mystic, missing the blast of flame. Orange Blossom was out of the way of the blast, as she had stopped at the foot of the steps to try and counter the magic. The others were hurt by the flames.

After a short amount of time, which Orange Blossom spent concentrating on magic, an apparition of Mistress Isa appeared, seemingly bound to the altar. When questioned what her purpose was, she answered with a low hiss `corruption’ and `the family’. When rebuked, she told the party `this is not over’. Orange Blossom motioned to the dagger the man had used to draw blood, and toward the altar. Taraba Kenshin took the hint, and with a tremendous burst of strength, buried it to the hilt in the altar. A wave of dark energy burst through the room, swirling about in the air before driving into Yoshiro. Yoshiro stood blank-eyed for a moment, then shook his head hard and asked for his tanto, exclaiming grimly `it is too late for ritual’. He performed a quick and full seppuku, and fell to the ground.

Writing Fatigue

Taraba Kenshin realized that in a few hours Yoshiro would potentially rise from the dead. In mentioning this to Orange Blossom, she thought it was a fabulous boon, and bade him to create an army of restless dead. Luckily for Kenshin‘s sensibilities, after interring the corpse in the prison he didn’t have to wait long for it to rise. There was a tough tussle, and with the help of Sergeant Yomoto, Kenshin hacked the living lifeless body to tiny pieces, placed them in a (marked) grave, poured lime over the remains, and buried them.

Orange Blossom tended to Kenshin‘s wounds, abating the pain, and put him as an aide to King Hitomi for a ’special project’. When Kairisu Honohonone heard from her fellow students that the prison had blown up, she rushed there to see the carnage. Her stature granted her candor from the guards, who mentioned a struggle with Yoshiro’s corpse in the violent offender’s cell. After speaking with Sergeant Yomoto, she learned that the Crab who had done this to one of her instructors was meeting with King Hitomi. She rushed back to Content Not Found: sensei-soriwa’s school, and with little convincing, the two of them made their way forcefully to protect their lord. Upon reaching the audience chamber, they burst in, discovering little untoward (at least, to imminent threat) occurring. After much apologies, King Hitomi bade them all leave him whilst he consult with his logistics advisor over the proposal of a wild ride through the Shadowlands to strike at Crab supply lines from within.

Taraba Kenshin and Kairisu Honohonone then spent some time wandering, with Kenshin relating the story as well as he saw fitting, and Kairisu Honohonone coming to her own conclusion of why two teenagers would tell such a wild story after a night missing, beginning at the bathhouse and ending in the prison with a scuffle in the cells of one party’s bodyguard…

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A Chance Meeting
Wherein Orange Blossom and Kenshin meet

Princess Orange Blossom, on the behest of her father, King Hitomi, made her way to the Prideful Gate of Shaisa Gojun. Dismayed that he sent her on a mission to distract her from her shopping, she informed the head guard to take care that the unpleasant riffraff were prevented from entering the city unless they could prove their worth. As it so happened, there was a young scion of the Black Crab waiting to do just that.

Scion Taraba Kenshin had freshly arrived at the gates of Shaisa Gojun, when he noticed a particularly long line of merchants waiting to enter the city. After a half day’s wait, he had finally made it to sight-range of the Prideful Gate. There were a couple of merchants ahead of him, when he noticed a pair of Nezumi acting as servants of the lead caravan who hadn’t been there but moments before. After he alerted the guards to their presence, they took off into the city with a pair of guards in tow. The Head of the Guard, a fellow Crab, took note of the masterful way in which Scion Taraba Kenshin brought their attention with just the right amount of reverence to not make them seem unwatchful, and invited him to stand watch upon the Gate. After a minute amount of deliberation, Scion Taraba Kenshin agreed, thereby gaining entrance to Shaisa Gojun.

Upon gaining entrance to Shaisa Gojun, Scion Taraba Kenshin heard the sound of music playing. Princess Orange Blossom was relaxing in the Merchant’s Square, lightly dancing to a soft Ocarina’s playing. When she noticed Scion Taraba Kenshin, she and her lady friends were affronted by the scent and grime of a man fresh off weeks of travel, cooking over fire, and standing fully armored in the hot sun. Princess Orange Blossom directed Scion Taraba Kenshin to the ‘cheapest Bathhouse’ she knew, the House of Jasmine Fancy.

The House of Jasmine Fancy was just that. Scion Taraba Kenshin consented to a bath. He gave over his armor and trusted no-dachi to Rai-shin, the Nezumi servant, to be cleaned. During that time, Princess Orange Blossom and her retinue arrived and procured their own rooms in the private baths. Scion Taraba Kenshin hid in his baths until their voices were muffled by layers of walls. It was at this point that Rai-Shin arrived with his freshly cleaned effects and a set of pigments. He entreated ‘Master Crab’ that he may not be welcome in the time of war between the Crab and Crane, and ‘Master Crab’ left ‘Master Scorpion’.

It became known that Scion Taraba Kenshin would be unable to pay his bill at the place, after Princess Orange Blossom had his effects transported to the Palace and entreated him to meet her in an hour or so at the dance floor. Scion Taraba Kenshin was sent to Rai-Shin for a work assignment. Rai-Shin smiled toothily, winked obviously at Scion Taraba Kenshin, and loudly and dryly asked if he was looking for ‘Honorable Work’. When Scion Taraba Kenshin announced that, yes, he was looking for honorable work, Rai-Shin took him down to the cellars to ‘scrub’ ‘things’.

It became known what Rai-Shin meant by ‘scrub’ when Scion Taraba Kenshin arrived at the cellars. He sensed the innate taint of the Void, subtle but present, behind the door to the cellar. Something lived down there that ought not to. A Scion of Fu Leng, the Festering Kami who created the Shadowlands. Scion Taraba Kenshin carefully removed the bar on the door and, carrying it as a makeshift Tetsubo, warily entered. He noticed the Bakemono sitting atop the Sake Still before it noticed him, and swung his club sideways, knocking the beast from it’s perch. As the beast attempted to gain it’s bearings, he pressed the attack, cracking it’s forehead, leading to a trickle of blood in its eyes. The creature madly lashed out, extending its shoulder into Scion Taraba Kenshin’s next swing, which landed with a light cracking. Scion Taraba Kenshin then mustered all the training he had in fighting these creatures, and brought his club low, shattering both the creatures legs, and cracking its skull as it fell backward.

The Bakemono vanquished, Scion Taraba Kenshin drug its corpse by the foot, and threw it into the fires warming the bath water. After cleaning the grime off himself in the bath (leaving it filled with viscera), Scion Taraba Kenshin told Lady Isa, the mistress of the House of Jasmine Fancy, that her ‘pest problem’ was dealt with, and that his debt was settled. He did not question the beast’s origin, and instead left for the dance floor. After a time of dancing, Scion Taraba Kenshin and Princess Orange Blossom made their way to the Palace of the Tsukai-Hunter Hiono. There, King Hitomi entreated Scion Taraba Kenshin to join the Crane and teach them of Crab battle tactics in advance of the coming battle on the perimeter of Shaisa Gojun.

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