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» L5R Steel & Honour, Chapter 12, Over Branch and Under Briar
Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Nov 21 2011, 12:19 AM
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Three weeks after the trio of samurai departed they return to Kawa Fuchi Mura. The same Scorpion samurai as before greets them and politely sees to their needs. The villagers go about their daily routines as the four sit in the shade of a nice pavilion and drink chilled umeshu. A light breeze ruffles their hair and they talk general small talk while they watch the river.

Soon the Unknown Path arrives and furls its sails as it comes close to the dock. A man is waiting at the end and he helps tie the first line down and then hands a scroll case to one of the sailors and runs off through the village to a waiting pony by the road. The Scorpion samurai cranes his neck to try and identify the man but he is quickly out of sight. Kiyoshi overhears the masked samurai swear under his breath. By the time Akinori, Kiyoshi and Reijiro have gathered their things and made their way to the end of the dock the lines are all tied and to wood is creaking under the stain such a large vessel has on its foundations. They load up quickly and the Scorpion bows and waves them off as the sailors release the ropes and the current begins to move them downriver again.

----

At the site of the battle with Oni no Hamato the ship pulls in close to the shore. Captain Yoritomo Buntaro orders the bank sheered smooth and the Unknown Path pulled in tight alongside it. Sailors jump to do his bidding and soon enough packed dirt and hard roots have been hacked off to float down the river that the ship can sit next to the shore out of the way of the main current.

Tsuruchi Akinori raises his bow and fires an arrow high into the air. A shrieking whistle pierces the stillness of the warm afternoon and soon a group of six ponies are seen led through the forest from the road by a brown clad samurai. He bows to Yoritomo Fushou as he hands over the reigns and then accepts a small nondescript purse and leaves.

Buntaro steps up on to the highest part of the ship, the railing, and announces to everyone.
"As you all know we are here to track to its death the Oni that killed our beloved brother. We are here to redeem his memory and bring honour to his family once more. We are here to save his soul!!!" He pauses to let the shouts of the sailors and bushi die down. "We are here to avenge the deaths of our brothers, Seizo and Eiji!!!" Again the shouts rise up and he must wait until they settle to continue. "We are here for honour, for family, for Empire, for glory, and we are together, stronger than any one demon from the festering pit!"

His rousing speech over he changes his tone a bit. "Now we need to find this cursed creature and destroy it in its lair. I need volunteers to scout ahead and make sure of our heading while we prepare here. Speed is of the essence, so I need the six most skilled trackers and woodsmen we have. Any volunteers?"

A number of Mantis bushi step forward and wave their Kama, as well as the quiet and unassuming Crane and of course the two Crab brothers. Buntaro's gaze passes over the whole group waiting for more men to step forward.
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Chronocide
 Posted: Nov 22 2011, 11:08 AM
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Kiyoshi steps forward and surveys the other volunteers, there are surely skills among them that he could benefit from learning.
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Greg
 Posted: Nov 22 2011, 01:34 PM
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Kaede steps up to offer his hunting skills to assist in the tracking of the Oni.
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Nov 23 2011, 01:29 AM
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Yoritomo Buntaro smiles broadly, "Excellent!! Kitsune Kiyoshi, you above all deserve vengeance here, I appreciate your eagerness, and yours too Toku Kaede. You shall accompany Tsuruchi Akinori and Tsuruchi Dorai, two most skilled with bows and signals. And to round it off I could not refuse an offer for help from the esteemed Daidoji Ebizo-san."

The two Crab brothers immediately begin to protest, and Buntaro has to raise his hands and give them a stern look in order to reply. "Hida-sans, please you must understand that this is a matter requiring great subtlety, which is not, as we are all aware, your strong suite. When the time comes for the crushing blows and glorious slaughter we will not hold you back. Look, even the hungry Lion, Matsu Akio, knows patience. The day will come when we shall shatter the heavens with our war cry!" Another cheer goes up and Buntaro steps down from the railing pleased with himself.

The selected samurai quickly prepare their things and head to the ponys. It is completely unknown how easily they will be able to track the oni, or how far it has gone, but both care and speed are paramount. Both Akinori and Dorai load their quivers with fresh jade arrows as the two Crab drool from a distance. Akinori offers Kaede a handful as well.

They find that the forest has recovered fairly well from the fight with the demon, but scars still remain. It is these distinct marks, a blackening on the trunks of trees where Oni no Hamato scratched, and tufts of coarse black hair caught in bushes that give away its trail. After a couple hours it becomes more difficult to find signs of where the beast has passed, but each time they do they are encouraged by finding that the creature fled in absolute terror.

Both Tsuruchi Dorai and Daidoji Ebizo prove themselves proficient trackers, and after a total of four hours it is decided that some should return to the main group and lead them along this path. Dorai and Ebizo maintain that both of them at least should stay on to advance the trail, and that at least two should head back to the main group.

----

Back at the site of the battle the Crab brothers are looking over what evidence remains of the skirmish. They are both eager for information about the creature and how it acts, though Hida Hio doesn't ask much himself. They corner Reijiro after finding out that he was involved in the initial fight.
"Ronin, tell us all that you know about this beast so that we will be better prepared to rid the Empire of it and prove our might. Is it large? How large? How does it move? Is it fast? Could your feeble sword even damage it? Or would you have wished to wield one of our magnificent tetsubo? Is there any jade weaponry here besides those arrows we saw?"

Reijiro can tell immediately what sort of samurai they are. Akio is left to either follow along or look for things himself.
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Chronocide
 Posted: Nov 23 2011, 09:45 AM
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Kiyoshi would have placed his pack on one of the ponies but walk as they scout.

"I will return for the others, I'm quite sure of the way, and there are others here who are much better trackers then I. I do ask that you don't go finding the Ooni without me though."

A few things worth mentioning. Kiyoshi would have left the following items on the ship a generally safer place:
Kimono, Personal Seal, small back banner, Tea Set, Wicker Umbrella, Sumi-e ink bruch kit, Blanket, Puzzle Box, 5z


This post has been edited by Chronocide: Nov 23 2011, 09:46 AM
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redeadlink
 Posted: Nov 23 2011, 11:45 PM
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Akio merely shakes his head at the boisterous Crab men, and then goes off to prepare his weaponry for the fight which he thinks will be soon upon them.

He polishes and cleans his blades, adds a slight edge to the sides of his great hammer, and then practices that godly move that he knows.

After a while, the Crab start to get on his nerves, and he suggests that they do some competitions while they wait. Nothing that could result in injury, but just to put them in their place.
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Nov 27 2011, 01:55 PM
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The two brothers both smile broadly at Matsu Akio's invitation. Hida Hio says something, "In the lands of the Crab we compete for strength by lifting and throwing heavy stones. For even when our weapons fail us, the very earth can be our weapon."

After that he is silent again, and his brother quickly begins looking for the biggest stones that he can find. He finds a lower section of riverbank where he can reach the water with ease and then, up to his waist in rushing water, looks around for loose boulders.

The Mantis crewmen look on with bewilderment as the large Crab rolls half a dozen stones of varying sizes up onto the bank. Dripping water he approaches Akio.
"Ok, two tosses each, and the Mantis samurai here shall judge who threw the largest rock the farthest."


----

Both Dorai and Ebizo seem slightly irritated that Toku Kaede did not return with Kiysohi, but Tsuruchi Akinori gives him a reassuring smile. "I know that Kiyoshi-san will be able to cover the distance back to the river quickly, and soon we shall be joined by our brothers on this hunt."

A few hours later they come across a disturbing sight. What seem like the remains of a peasant woodsman are grotesquely impaled about fifteen feet up on a tree. His head is tilted to one side and it can be seen that he is missing the back of his head. His legs and arms are torn to ribbons, and his entrails hang halfway down the trunk of the tree where most of them go missing. All the way up the sides of the tree are the blackened marks that show where Oni no Hamato clawed.

The body is old, and the odour permeates the surrounding forest. Flies buzz in a thick mob around the rotting meat, either just hatched or looking for a place to lay their eggs. Daidoji Ebizo pulls everyone's attention back to the task at hand.
"This sign is old, the demon is not likely in the area, we can make good time if we fan out and keep to the heading that the trail has shown us. Whistle each time you find a sign along your line, and if ten minutes pass without anyone finding a sign we will join up together to find the trail again. And remember to leave markers for the others following behind us only after we have confirmed our direction."

----

Kitsune Kiyoshi has little trouble making good time along the path that they followed, and in a couple hours he approaches the road to the northwest of the river. There seems to be a commotion coming from the site of the initial battle with Oni no Hamato.
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Greg
 Posted: Nov 27 2011, 05:21 PM
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Kaede follows Ebizo's instruction, keeping his eyes open for further signs of the Oni. Despite the lingering sense of anxiety at the back of his mind, Kaede finds himself enjoying the hunt, as it reminds him of hunting trips with his father when he was younger.
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Chronocide
 Posted: Nov 28 2011, 07:40 PM
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Kiyoshi is interested in the commotion, but first and foremost makes his way to inform the party to move out.
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redeadlink
 Posted: Dec 2 2011, 12:44 AM
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Akio goes through the stones, attempting to find one that will fly true and far. After making his choice on a rounded one, he steps to just before the mark, takes a step forward and hurls the stone.

This post has been edited by redeadlink: Dec 2 2011, 12:45 AM
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Dec 4 2011, 01:04 AM
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The stone flies true, arcs through the air, and lands with a heavy thud in the carpet of thick pine needles. The Mantis watching murmur in approval.

Hida Hio steps up and selects a stone, an oblong one, speckled like the egg of a wren. He heaves it to his shoulder and judges the balance. Standing at the line he takes a single step backward and then a quick step forward, launching the rock end over end through the air. It lands just to the side of Akio's throw, a little shorter, but it bounces once past the first stone. The Mantis cheer at his cunning throw.

Hida Kagura now steps forward and confidently picks up a stone. He stands still at the line and turns to look behind him. In one quick motion, like a siege engine launching a missile, he turns and leans, stretching his arms up and over himself. The rock races through the air and hits the ground at great speed. It rolls to a stop just beyond his brothers. He grins.

He picks up his second stone and tries the same gambit, but this time it hits Hio's stone directly and bounces off to the side. The Mantis groan in sympathy for what would have surely been a winning throw.

Hio steps up again, this time taking two steps back and then forward. His stone arcs high into the air, crackling though some low hanging tree branches. It comes down in a hail of twigs and needles, and lands solidly a full length past Kagura's best throw. The Mantis cheer louder, some of them even whistling.

Matsu Akio takes the last stone into hand. His palm is sweaty, but the stone is cool and absorbs the moisture quickly. He slows his breathing and tries to shut out the noise of the bystanders. He imagines an enemy beyond the stones whom he has sworn to fight, a coward without honour, he aims to kill. Rage nearly overwhelms his mind as he takes a few steps forward to the line. The Mantis hold their breath. He begins his throw, but just before he is about to release, the imagined foe is replaced by a very real Kitsune Kiyoshi. He reacts with his fingers, the only parts still in contact with the stone, and hopes that will be enough. The Mantis gasp as they realize what might happen.

Kiyoshi appears from behind a tree and notices the Mantis bushi arrayed before him. They are all looking his way, even Buntaro-sama. He notices the river stones on the ground in front of him, and notices the grimace on Matsu Akio's face as he hurls another one straight at him...

----

The trackers make good time, even with Tsuruchi Dorai backtracking to leave markers for the rest of the samurai to follow. A number of times they go for long minutes without seeing much of anything, but then one of them, often even Kaede, finds a sign and gives the signal.

After another couple hours they find two more peasants strung up in a similar fashion, and just as old.

One time they find a discarded arrowhead. It is made of jade, though it is badly corrupted and soft. Ebizu says,
"This is a powerful Oni if it can corrupt jade on its own. It should be killed as quickly as possible."

Finally it begins to get dark and Dorai calls a halt. They confer and agree that they are not yet close to the Oni's lair and it is safe to set camp and build a fire. Tsuruchi Akinori intends to stay up and give guiding signals if the rest of the group catches up to them.
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Chronocide
 Posted: Dec 7 2011, 09:40 AM
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A wide eyed expression crosses Kiyoshi's face. He gains his wits quickly spinning to the side and bending his body out of the stones path.

Or at least tries to.
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Dec 8 2011, 10:34 PM
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Kiyoshi's muscles seem to move achingly slow as the large stone barrels down on him. It's as if everything in the world has stopped and waits only for his actions to continue... Matsu Akio's quick thinking pays off, though, and the stone begins to curve to the side and wobble. Kiyoshi ducks and twists away, and the projectile veers the opposite direction hitting the trunk of a tree a glancing blow. Bark goes flying and the stone skips to the side away into the underbrush, unfortunately back closer to the line than the other stones.

The collective breath that was held is suddenly released and exclamations go up in a cloud. The Mantis congratulate Akio on a winning throw, but Hida Kagura, red faced, argues loudly that the stone clearly landed nearer the line. While he is debating with adamant Mantis bushi his brother Hio approaches Akio and bows,
"Well thrown. It will be an honour to fight by your side." This of course leaves Kagura speechless and everyone else shaking their heads.

Meanwhile Kiyoshi recovers his composure and proceeds to seek out Yoritomo Buntaro. This he does, though he is stopped first by Moshi Kinyo who inquires after his health. Buntaro interrupts them,
"So. We crave news of the trail. Are you here to show us the way?"

----


As the scouting party is setting camp for the night Toku Kaede notices movement at the edge of the firelight. Shika growls and backs up, her hackles rising. Yoritomo Dorai notices and asks,
"What is it Toku-san?"
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redeadlink
 Posted: Dec 8 2011, 11:03 PM
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"Arigato, Hida-San. I look forward to seeing your skills in battle as well."

To Kiyoshi,

"I apologize if I worried you there. We were having a contest of strength. Come now, what news do you bring?
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Chronocide
 Posted: Dec 8 2011, 11:06 PM
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"I will shoow you the way at oonce" Kiyoshi responds to Buntaro, "but I fear it may already be too late to set oout tonight. Were another stoone thrown at me on my return I dooubt I could dodge it in the dark." Kiyoshi punctuates his words with deep breaths, but regains a regular breathing rhythm by the time he finishes speaking. The last bit clearly said with a note of jest.

To Akio:
"No apoloogies necessary, Matsu-san, I understand that there was noo ill intent, and beside it would speak ill of my skills were I to be struck doown by an errant rock. I do not believe we have met, I am called Kitsune Kiyoshi."

This post has been edited by Chronocide: Dec 8 2011, 11:13 PM
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