Once again Akari delved into the silver laced streams of Ki, determined to find a way to disrupt the plans of the Prefecture and Ito and divert the threat to the Balance. Once again, a telltale flash of red fur in his peripheral vision indicated the presence of the Kitsune.
Further and further, the Tanuki master pushed back along the thread, looking for the point that could break the alliance between the two powerful houses. Tracing the long journey back to it's origin, Akari found himself in a plaza, near the Takashi palace. Under the cover of darkness, the Takashi lord - Hiro was gathering his retinue together.
"Aha" the Tanuki chittered to himself, clearly the lordling was acting furtively and doing a terrible job at it too. Akari sympathised (nearly), the young samurai held to his honour and found any attempt at subterfuge distasteful.
"Maybe this is a better chance" he muttered. "A little push here could dissuade the Dragon clan from allying with the Snakes of Ito" Looking around he was unsurprised to see the Kitsune manifest next to him. With a nod, she indicated her approval and promptly dissipated from his senses, only to reappear in the plaza in fox form.
Once again the Tanuki focused his will and the images of his righteous warriors appeared in the inky shadows of the plaza. With a nod to the Kitsune as she lined up alongside his brothers and sisters, Akari started the thread once more.
With a comical jump of surprise, Hiro spun to face the sudden arrival of the band of monks. Drawing in a giant gasp of air he bellowed like a parade ground Gunso - "TO ARMS!"
The sound of drawn steel filled the air like the hissing of many vipers, sending a shudder down Hiro's spine. Already sceptical about the upcoming alliance with the duplicitous Snakes of Ito, the young lord nerves were on a razors edge, as he half expected to see the scaly hides of the hebi-samurai slithering out of the darkness. He was therefore very surprised to see the furry features of some Ro-Kanese monks. What they hell were they doing here? and why the hell were they in the company of some very young looking children?
Whatever the reason, they were obviously intent on intercepting the Takashi delegation. Hiro shrugged his armour clad shoulders, his fathers orders were explicit - convey the offer to the Snakes, secure the treatise and between the two clans, the threat offered by the Jung pirates would be neutralised. Honour dictated that he complete his mission, but the back stabbing nature of the Ito offended him and his honour as did the manor in which this mission had been organised.
While he understood the political wrangling behind the scenes and the precarious grip of the Dragon clan on the reins of authority within the region, he despised the need to hide a treaty that was supposedly meant to protect the innocent inhabitants of the Jwar coastlines from the Jung deprivations. If this treaty was supposed to bring stability to the people then why not shout it from the rooftops? Why not march openly to meet with the Snake delegation and send a message to the pirate clans?
The argument between Hiro and his father regarding the mission had gone on for some time before the Daimyo had simply ordered his son to obey him. Hiro seethed as the memory of the shame he had felt at being reduced to a little boy once again burned through him. Almost gleefully he ripped his razor sharp katana from it's smooth, lacquered sheath. At last he could regain some honour in a straight forward fight!
With a banshee-like shriek, Mizuchi launched himself into the air, stretching his elegant neck to gain height before crashing down in front of the great ape dressed in crafted armour and who easily swung a brass shod club that a muscular human would struggle to even lift. Like a lightening flash, the dragon flicked his muscular tail at the orangutan like a bull whip, delivering a stunning blow that opened a line of bright red blood across the thigh of the powerful simian monk.
Undeterred by the agonising wound, Kosuke grabbed the stunted forearms of the giant serpent and pulled the surprised dragon closer. With a twist of his barrel shaped torso, the red haired ape launched the juvenile beast clear across the plaza, narrowly missing the charging form of the Takashi ward - Iiju Makoto. The great ape, panting from the show of immense strength in throwing the dragon, barely had time to raise his club before the scion of the Hare Clan cleaved through his pitiful armour with his No-Datchi. With a sigh the Temple monk slid to the floor, a terrible, jagged wound across his chest.
Iiju Makoto allowed himself a nod of satisfaction as he wiped the simian blood from the broad blade of his two handed sword. The orangutan had been dangerous, immensely strong and skilled, it was good that he had put down that beast. That sense of accomplishment dissipated as he felt an even bigger hand thump down on his shoulder. With a nervous twist of his head, he barely caught sight of the enormous leathery face of a silver backed mountain gorilla before being launched sideways with an incredible show of power. With a crash, the heavily armoured ward clattered into lord Hiro, throwing both samurai to the plaza floor.
|oops Damon's fingers...|
More bestial roars filled the air as Kuma, the giant panda warrior monk of Ro-Kan powered into the fight. With brutal efficiency he charged the slight figure of the female messenger, intent on ending the threat contained within her bag. Drawing her katana, Bachiko tried desperately to block the flurry of blows from the enraged monk's Bo-staff. However, her vain efforts inevitably weakened as the onslaught continued unabated and with a final horrendous crack, the sturdy oak staff clubbed her to the ground.
Mizuchi the dragon subtly shifted his coils as he slowly fought through the haze in his head. He had landed hard after being thrown by the enraged orangutan, his skull connecting with the pillar of an ancient Tori Gate. Cracking his eye open, he glanced around the battlefield looking any immediate dangers. Spotting the fallen body of the red haired primate, he snorted with glee (and a little relief) at seeing his enemy laid low.
Feeling stronger by the second the young dragon raised his head, only to find himself face to face with a young girl. Mizuchi was unable to put an age to any human, they lived such short, fleeting lives but she clung to an old stuffed bear for comfort and had to be pre-pubescent. Shifting his sight from the mortal world she virtually shone with the flow of Ki that penetrated her every fibre. She was far to precious to the Balance and the Kami to destroy, but she did represent a threat to his warband. Mizuchi pushed his gargantuan frame higher and higher, towering over the diminutive figure of the child, who was frozen in terror at the uncoiling beast.
Far across the plaza, the giant gorilla known only as Aiko's Guardian felt her fear. With his hand still clutching the ankle of Prefecture samurai he turned, desperately searching for his tiny companion. Flinging the unfortunate soldier away, the mighty simian beat his chest with his huge fists. Canines flashing in the failing light he roared his challenge to the dragon as it unfolded its muscular coils to tower over his diminutive charge. Rearing to his full height, he goaded the powerful serpent into attacking him instead, to no avail as Aiko fainted dead away, leaving herself very vulnerable to the dragon.
The Guardian, seeing Aiko fall, blinked in confusion. He could still feel their bond, but she lay stock still in the manicured lawn of the Tori. Hiro Takashi, taking advantage of the giant ape's distraction, stepped behind the huge primate and drove his katana deep into the spine of the beast. With a grunt of surprise the gorilla crashed to the floor and lay still.
Seeing his brethren fall, Kuma piled into melee with a yari armed samurai. The human used the length of the weapon to try and keep the enraged bear at bay and almost succeeded, until he felt a razor cut through his hamstring dropping him onto one knee. The Kitsune danced back away from the retaliatory swipe of his spear, lightly stepping over the weapon and offering an apologetic shrug before skipping away as Kuma lifted the human into a bone snapping bear hug, that crushed his spine.
Master Akari rifled through the documents that seemed to be so vital to the Prefecture retinue. "Ah" he muttered to himself, noting the details of the treatise and the promises made from the Lord Takashi. "Right then, enough of this violence" he continued.
With a shift of focus, the scene stilled. Akari walked the perimeter of the plaza, noting with sadness the broken forms of his fellow monks and their companions. "This will not do either" he chittered in the secret Tanuki language. Spotting the Kitsune, he carefully picked his way over to the trickster Yokai and bowed deeply.
"My thanks sister, for your aid in determining the path that we must follow. The Balance as always remains on a razors edge and could go either way if we follow the path of blood. Perhaps then we can employ a different stratagem and follow the path of guile?"
The Kitsune nodded her agreement, the alliance would fail before it began, she would see to it personally.
This concluded the first two games between the same two factions, with Damon playing Prefecture and me playing my beloved Temple of Ro-Kan. We then played a further game but I changed it up a little by playing another faction. Part 5 will pick up the story from there. However now writing these stories up, I'm a little dissatisfied with the abrupt ending here - what did the Kitsune do? The trickster Yokai has a mission still and all the tools she needs to complete it. I think I may have to come up with a set of rules to cover the infiltration or I could use the "Rise of the Kage" rules by GCT. Either way, expect a "spin off" adventure....
hope you enjoy