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Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

The Gathering Storm
The Hirobashi armour gathered a short distance from Takada-held territory, behind a series of hills that had sheltered them from detection so many times before that they had to put down a dozen Takada scouts before they could raise the alarm. Behind the armour followed the ashigaru, lightly armored infantry armed with a mix of bows, gunpowder rifles, and spears. A handful of samurai walked casually amongst them, most of them wearing clothes that show off the soulgems embedded in their flesh. Following at a distance were the onmyouji and their attendants, held in reserve to save their powers and knowledge for more important battles later in the season.

This isn't where our story begins.

Fujiyama Hanako- Alien Rope Burn

The Wisteria blooms out of season, beautiful petals swirling in the breeze as Hanako arrives at the tea shop. It is the first day of summer and the sun beats down unusually hot from directly overhead. There are no customers outside but the door is open and the sound of conversation drifts from within. "Looking for as many swords as will answer" "Not me" "Suicide to go against the Hirobashi this year" It appears as if a few mercenaries may be within, discussing their trade over a midday repast.

Hanako is low on coin, for it seems of late rumor flies faster than her feet, and work, even dishonest work, is hard to find.


Midnight King- Zeppelin Insanity

'Life' if it could be called that, is hard for a Konghoki. Sent away from its bloody work, Midnight King approached the land of Takada, a missive held in a small pouch. It has travelled for weeks to reach the Takada, its master having sent it to the kingdom partly to send it away and partly to offer its blade in service in exchange for the valuable scarlet steel that was much in demand.

Midnight King had been dispatched with several human retainers, or more properly handlers. Unfortunately, they had fallen prey to the mishaps of the road; bandit arrows, disease, and wild animals. Now it was alone as it approached the guard post that marked the edge of Takada's domain. A pair of soldiers atop the gate point rifles at the Konghoki. "Halt and state your business traveler." One of them shouts.


Ba Yau- ProfessorCirno

Falling Water was a human village, but Ba Yau swallowed her disgust and hid her horns beneath a large straw hat. She was on her way to pledge her sword, such as it was, to Lord Takada in hopes of extending a truce between them and the local Oni tribe. For years Takada had protected the Oni within their territory from predation, but Takada's strength was beginning to falter.

Even so, it was a tenuous peace, for Oni were not welcome within human settlements. It was the last day of spring, as human measured such things, and was nearly nightfall. Rain beat heavily against her hat which both shielded her and hid her identity, but this was no night to spend out in a storm, as thunder rumbled from the horizon. Her stock of human coinage would find her a private room easily enough, if she dared.


Kaede- grassy gnoll

Kaede's feet clicked softly against the roadway as she walked through the streets of Takada's capital. Her latest instructions were to side, covertly, with the Takada clan in their war against the Hirobashi. She was sure there were agents on the Hirobashi side as well, but whether they were instructed to aid or sabotage she had no idea.

As befit her instructions, she was dressed as a common mercenary kijin swordswoman, her miko and noble outfits stowed away in her pack and her sword displayed prominently at her side. She walked amongst a crowd of other mercenaries headed to the Takada courtyard to swear service for the length of the season.

A scruffy looking Samurai bent slightly to be on her eye level. "Not often that I see a lady kijin, what brings you to this forgotten corner of the world?" His voice belies his size, cracking and high pitched, this Samurai is barely an adult! (Emotion Matrix 41) "My name is Hamuske, what's yours?"

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grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

Kaede

Kaede lets her irises ratchet open and closed as she stares back at the boy. There is a tiny part of her, deep inside her chest cavity, that rebels at the idea of someone outside the Priesthood look at her without her mask on. She lets the urge pass - it's not like her true face is exposed, anyway.

Crude metal gloves enclose her actual prosthetics, designed to stand out and display a memorable crudeness. A finger taps against the pommel of her sword, clacking like a shiki slinger's abacus.

"Ako," she finally says. That appears to be the extent to which she wishes to converse with the young man.

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

The machine halts. It is silent for a moment. Traveller? It had never been called that. Yet it was moving from place to place, so perhaps it was an applicable descriptor.

It does not make any grand gestures. In fact, it does not move at all. The voluminous hooded travel coat makes it appear like a hunched old monk rather than the sleek killing machine it is. The sound it emits could never be mistaken for human, however. It's voice brings to mind images of pickaxes on scarlet ore.

"I have been sent by Lord Shirakawa to assist the Takada clan. I must speak with your commander or a ranking emissary."

It does not see any point in mentioning the trouble of the road to lowly guardsmen. It knew that the lord would feel the deaths of the retinue were regrettable. Clearly, however, they must have been expendable, as the mission parameters did not specify otherwise. Its command functions would have been unlocked, and the engagement pattern would have been optimised. That this did not occur was proof that neither the lord nor the onmyoji that had accompanied Midnight King saw it as necessary. That the onmyoji was a casualty in the first attack did not change this. Far was it from the machine to question the wisdom of its lord or its handlers.

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

Midnight King and the Gate Guards

"Hold there." One of the guards said as the other dashed down the stairs hidden behind the gate. In a moment, she returns, accompanied by an elderly gentleman in ill-fitting armor. With caution, the old man leaned over the parapet to look down at the Konghoki. "I am Guard Captain Ichiro Takada. As the ranking officer, you may speak with me."

As the two lock eyes, an emotion barely understood passes through Midnight King's soul. He knows this man, but how, why? (Emotion Roll result 53, Shock) "So you are the machine Lord Shirakawa sent." The Takada continued. "Where is your retinue?"


Kaede and the Foolish Samurai

"Ako?" Hamuske replied with a frown. "Surely a lovely lady like you has a more fitting name than merely 'Ako'!" His voice carried in the courtyard as conversation died around them. "Perhaps you are Ako of the Scarlet Lotus? Or Cherry Blossom Ako? Maybe even Ako of the Lambent Eye. I like that one. We must insure your legend is spoken of when you return from the battlefield covered in glory!" He moved to clap her on the back.

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

The man's face was... familiar? No. Known. The man was dead. From within the white fog of suppressed memory, a faint sound drifts. A shout, but quiet as if from a great distance, barely noticed. Sensei. The machine knows not to listen. The court onmyoji said so. She is wise.

"My company has suffered heightened travel attrition of 5% per 100 miles. Additionally, we were attacked 200, as well as 36 miles from here by a total of twenty three assailants. As my command functions remained locked, the chosen engagement pattern was not optimal. None survive."

The machine executes a stiff, awkward bow. "My designation is Midnight King. My specialisations are recon, assassination and long range fire support. I carry a missive explaining my lord's terms for my services."

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Fujiyama Hanako

Hanako brushes the curtain aside as she steps in. She sits down at a table, and says, "Tea, please." She pauses. Meat buns sound good, but did she even have enough for that? She looks over to the mercenaries for a moment, but listens without interrupting. No need to be rude right away. Plus, if they keep talking, she may not need to at all.

Honest, dishonest... the former is preferable, but she's not in a place to be too picky. Will it matter when she's dead? Maybe the tea will help her ponder that, at least.

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

"Ako

Kaede does not move. Clapping her on the shoulder is like slapping a steel ingot.

"Go home," she says. There's no malice in her voice. There's not much of any emotion in her voice. "You don't belong here, boy."

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

Midnight King and the Guard Captain

"I see. We're unlikely to see any action out here, but I guess I'll have to give you an escort to the capitol." The guard captain nodded to his men, and after a quick hand signal to someone below, the gate opened with the creak of infrequently oiled hinges.

On the other side of the gate is a garrison barracks with half a dozen ashigaru in various states of readiness. Two play a dice game in the dirt. "Oi!" The captain shouts to the men and women below. "I need three for an escort for the Konghoki here to the capitol. Yosuke, Jinbei, Ochika, you're up." The two at the dice curse and a nearby woman finishes stringing a bow in a hurry. All three are already armored but they rush off to grab their weapons from the barracks.

"They'll see you safe down the wagon road. You might not like what my cousins have for you though. If you're really unlucky, we might even meet again." Ichiro Takada leapt down from the gate top, gears whirred as his mechanica legs took the impact. "I feel like I know you from somewhere before, but that can't be. In any case, safe travels." He saluted the Konghoki as the three soldiers of his escort reappear, each carried a soulgem katana of ancient make as well as a bow and arrows.

Fujiyama Hanako and the tea room

The green tea arrived almost immediately, the stick bobbed peacefully on the surface, a sign of good luck? The four mercenaries at the nearby table barely notice her arrival as they continued their discussion. "I'm telling you, I don't care if they paid an entire mountain of ryo, Takada can't possibly win this year." "I'm telling you they're offering that much in bounties! Take down a single armour and you'll never be hungry again." "Yeah, because you'll be dead." "You might die, but I actually have experience hunting armours, it's no casual thing. Doesn't mean I won't try my luck, the pay's good even without the bounties. Certainly not going to side with those Hirobashi dogs." "Never said I was going to do that, they treat free men like scum." "I'd rather try my luck in the Northern Kingdoms than sign with Hirobashi." "I served with them in the mine war a few summers ago. Food was terrible, pay was worse. Never again."

One of the men turned from the conversation to face Hanako. "Apologies miss, if we've upset with our war talk. We're just a few old hound dogs who don't know when to stop barking." For a mercenary, he's quite old, at least 40, and a massive scar runs across one eye that's been replaced with a mechanica lens that whirred softly as it focused on her.

'Ako' and the idiot

Hamuske paid her warning no mind. "Bah, I got the best samuraization surgery. I can wrestle an armour! I'm here because though Hirobashi dogs killed my parents in the mine war, and I want revenge."

He looks as if he's about to continue, but falls silent as they reach the courtyard. Functionaries dart to and fro as they assemble the arrivals into a long snaking line from one end of the courtyard to the other. There appeared to be some sort of delay at the front of the line where they were counting soldiers and assigning them to units based on purported skill, but there were too many men and women ahead of Kaede to see clearly what the problem was.

ProfessorCirno
Feb 17, 2011



Ba Yau

The oni took her time ambling down the village. It let her examine things more carefully (always, always be careful when around humans. That's what Mi-Hal always told her). It also meant keeping the hat on longer. And beyond that, frankly, she enjoyed the rain. But it wouldn't stay pleasant, and she wouldn't want to sleep in it. Which brings her to a problem - sleeping. She looked for any public houses and, lacking those, went for the most vaguely welcome looking - or at least, most nondescript - house she could find before knocking and announcing herself.

"I am a soldier here to fight for Lord Takada. I've need of shelter for the night, and I've coin with which to pay my due."

Naturally, should there BE a public house, all of that is unnecessary! But Ba Yau has learned to...curb her desires.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Fujiyama Hanako

Raising an eyebrow at the stalk, Hanako takes a sip and tries to relax after a day with the hot sun above and the road's dust below. Exhaling, she sets her tea down. "You said something about it being suicide?", she says dryly, before looking to the soldier's mechanical eye. "What do you know about Lord Takada?", she asks the ronin in soft tones.

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

Might not like. What did it mean to like? The Konghoki knew the the sound, but not the meaning. Was it similar to the sense of calm it gained from things that were Proper? To battle; to execute commands well; to make a fine shot; to stalk prey. That was Proper. Was it's task in some way Improper? It would need to find out.

It was good to receive a salute. Many humans did not salute it, and when they did, it could sense their fear. It returned the salute. That was Proper.

As the soldiers joined it, it could not help but analyse their weaponry and movements. It concluded that the escort represented 35% of its combat capability. That was better than its previous retinue. That was good.

After some hours on the road, it decided to ask. It was impatient. NO. Impatience is a flaw it exploited in others. Prey was impatient. It was gathering information.

"What do you think my task will be?"

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

Kaede

"Ako" is content to wait for her turn in the queue. There's a time and a place for boisterous action as a covert agent, but standing in line isn't typically either.

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

Ako's endless queue

While personally content to wait, not everyone around her was so restrained. After a few minutes the line changes from organized if a touch unruly into barely constrained chaos. The mercenaries are a varied sort, samurai, kijin, mysterious swordsmen, even an Oni riding on the shoulder of some exotic giant beast, and something of a festival air begins to build as street vendors and tinkers start to work the line.

"Hot tea!" "Fresh dumplings!" "Sword sharpening and repair! All original manufacturer parts!" "Mechanica tuning!" Signs and barkers compete with the actual line officials who are ill prepared to handle the sudden influx of merchants.

Amidst the press of humanity, Kaede felt a sudden tug at her side... Someone has stolen her sword!


Ba Yau's rain soaked evening

The first house makes no reply to her knock. The second appears abandoned. The third, fortunately, is lively even at this late hour. "Miss, come in out of the cold and the wet, warm yourself by the fire." An older woman replied to the knock, ushering in the Oni and gently shoving her onto a cushion by the firepit.

Several other travelers, mercenaries by the look of it accompanying a merchant, are seated around the fire. They pass around a bottle of sake amiably as an older man goes over his scrolls in the dim light.


Fujiyama Hanako's Query

"Aye, Takada barely held on last year in the mine wars. It's been that way the last few years, Hirobashi has the advantage in men and skill. Word is they outnumber Takada three to one in rifles alone, let alone armours. If you're smart, keep heading west, there's better..."

The older ronin is cut off by the tea house keeper. "Too late for that now, travel permits aren't being issued now and the mountain pass is closed."


Midnight King's Journey

The soldiers consider this. "Questions of strategy are above my pay grade. That said probably anti-armour, the Hirobashi always have more than we do, and if you could destroy even one the Lord would be incredibly grateful."

The next few days pass uneventfully. Ochika even proves to have a background in mechanica, not enough to make make repairs, but enough that Midnight King manages to catch up on maintenance that had been neglected over the journey since the Onmyouji had died.

Kwyndig fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2017 around 15:06

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

Kaede

This would be the time and the place.

"Don't move," she says to her dim-witted companion. She vaults onto one of his shoulders to get sight of the crowd - she's a lot heavier than she looks.

Years of Priesthood training are augmented by her fine mechanical eyes, searching for the sword itself or someone stupid enough to run after a pull.

So KD is basically a brain piloting a body like an armor, so her Interface subs for any default skills. That's Sense 6, skill 4, plus three dice for a Notice check from the cyberware. 3 successes.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Fujiyama Hanako

"Numbers are less important than the spirit of the soldiers behind them.", Hanako says as if trying to convince herself as much as the other mercenaries. She looks down into her tea. "A smarter person than I would make a farm, or fish, or take up being a monk." She looks up with a odd smile. "I'm a fool to let my blade lead me around, but... it's all I have left."

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

To have maintenance was Proper. The court onmyoji had said so. She is wise. She had demonstrated it, by contrasting the movement of a rusted joint to the movement of a well-oiled one. "Heed the schedule and instructions well, and you shall be quick as the snake and quiet as shadow. That is Proper." she had said. The konghoki's soul was soothed by the rituals. Its shell still bore marks and gouges left by bullet and sword, but it was ready to hunt.

Armour. It had never killed armour. It yearned to learn new prey. Observe. Assess. Master. Execute. That was the way of things.

Along the way, the machine thought back to previous sightings of armour. Armour was feared by smaller prey. It was large, tough and powerful. But it was clumsy. Slow. Weaknesses the konghoki was perfectly adapted to exploit.

The Midnight King spent the rest of the journey running through hundreds of permutations of engagement scenarios; from those favouring range, through stealth to speed.

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

A Decision for Hanako

The older man nods. "Miss, I can tell by looking at you that you haven't come to your crossroads yet. You'll know it when you see it, and you'll have to chose. What you chose and why I can't say, but those eyes of yours speak plain enough." He sips his own tea. "Just know... blood will never bring you peace."

Fujiyama Hanako gains the Destiny: A Life Beyond the Sword?
Violence, peace, or perhaps a path in-between.



An Arrival for Midnight King

As the armour arrives at the gate of Takada Castle, his two escorts dash ahead after bidding him to stay, so they can notify the commanders. A small crowd gathers around the Konghoki, as the soldiers of the kingdom had never seen the like. Word was already beginning to spread about this strange new mechanical ally.

As the generals approach, there is a faint stirring in Midnight King's soul, is it fear? No, vanity. The konghoki found itself standing straighter and saluting as the four generals of Takada approach it. "We have just received news from the foundries. Sabotage has wrecked our armour and it will be much of the season before they can be fielded again. As such, we must ask much of you and our sellswords. We will rely on you."

Midnight King gains the Destiny: Death or Glory!
Victory and defeat are the sides of the coin.

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

The machine felt... strange. What was this? The court onmyoji had never spoken of this feeling. It was confusing just as much as it was... good? It did not know, and for a moment felt something akin to panic. Then, it remembered the words. "You have been given a purpose. To have purpose is Proper. To follow your purpose is Proper." The court onmyoji was wise. This was purpose. Midnight King would follow this purpose, for that was Proper.

"My mission success rate is 87.32%. I hope that is satisfactory."

After a moment of thought, the konghoki continued. "What will my prey be? If it is to be hostile armour, I would ask to train with one of yours to test a number of engagement patterns."

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Fujiyama Hanako

Hanako is quiet, sipping her tea. She exhales after a moment, and then rises, putting her coin on the table. Everything she wants to say sounds petulant or rude in her mind. I should be already dead. You don't know who I am. I've lost everything. "Thank you for the information.", she settles on crisply, and bows slightly. "Good luck." With that, she steps out, trying to leave the mercenary's words behind at the teahouse. Hopefully, she can make the castle by nightfall.

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

Kaede and a Thief

From her perch atop the protesting samurai, Kaede can see most of the courtyard. It only takes a moment for her to spot the characteristic ripple in the crowd of someone rushing away like mad. Her eyes clicked and whirred as she focused in on the target, a boy of no more than ten summers who clenched the sword above his head in a shaky hand.

In a moment the boy will have fled the courtyard and become impossible to track in the winding streets and confusing passageways of Takada Castle...


Trainers for Midnight King

"That... can be arranged." For the next few weeks, the konghoki practiced against one of the few functional armours. It learned effective ranges of engagement as well as possible weak points, although there was no guarantee that the enemy armour would be built similarly.

grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

Kaede

Kaede dismounts her perch, landing primly on the flagstones. In a flash, she is gone, flitting through the crowd. Acquiring her target was the hard part; the meikyo mirror in her chest shines and glimmers under her armored skin as it computes trajectories and probable intercept points.

A heavy hand latches onto the boy's shoulder, and does not let go.

ProfessorCirno
Feb 17, 2011



Ba Yau

Ba Yau enters, fumbling to descretely hand over some coins, bowed respectfully, and takes her seat at the fire. She knows what comes next - and she knows she has to be fast about it. With one hand she reaches for her hat, and with the other, draws a piece of cloth from her belongings. With one move, she swings the hat off and draws the cloth over the top of her head, rubbing it slightly, as if to dry it, then leaving it on, hiding the horns beneath. With any luck, nobody noticed. With even more luck, nobody will poke or ask.

"My thanks. How have the days been treating you and your village?"

Kwyndig
Sep 23, 2006


Heeeeeeey

Kaede and the unexpected encounter

The thief froze at her touch. He dropped the sword to the street with a clatter and slumped forward, a dart sticking out of his neck. A nearby hooded figure stepped out from an alleyway. "Agent, your instructions are to be updated." The figure spoke with a mechanical tinge and made one of the appropriate hand signals. "It has been decided that there must be only one kingdom in this region going forward. Continue as planned but update your target of opportunity list to include all nobility."

Kaede gains Destiny: to kill a king
But which one?



A night with Ba Yau

The older man looked up from his work. The older woman chatted as she poured a cup of tea for Ba Yau. "The village is doing as best as can be expected, this close to summer. Plantings done and we had enough arms for the levy. What brings a young one such as yourself to this place?"

Zeppelin Insanity
Oct 28, 2009


Midnight King

The machine sparred and learned. It was good to learn new prey. Armour were a challenge. Midnight King suspected that rifle rounds would be completely ineffective against main armour plating.

The sessions began with a close inspection. Despite being allies, the pilot must have felt uneasy to see the gargoyle form stand unnaturally still for a period, then scurry quickly to another position and once more remain still. It must have felt strange to be still while knowing that an inhuman intelligence was searching for weaknesses. Midnight King closely examined joints and other more vulnerable areas, then spent many minutes calculating what paths a projectile would have to take to affect the armour.

Next came motion, tests at different ranges and with make-believe terrain. Armour were dangerous prey. To engage them from a distance had low chances of success. Their thick plating and heavy weaponry left the konghoki severely outmatched. But armour were ponderous in comparison. The machine learned that at ranges under 20 metres, their ranged weapon traverse struggled to keep up with its speedy, erratic movements. Another important data point was that many armour were not designed to engage airborne targets; as such, their gun elevation was sacrificed for better protection.

Although not as deadly at close range, they were still dangerous. However, they were mostly built to engage targets in front of them. Midnight King found that one of the more successful engagement patterns involved it climbing on to the back of the armour before beginning to peel it apart.

Some might have said that it looked forward to the hunt. They were wrong, of course. A konghoki did not have feelings. It was a machine. That is what the designers said.

Sorry for slow posting. A combination of being more busy now and lacking inspiration.

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grassy gnoll
Aug 27, 2006

The pawsting business is tough work.

Gun Saliva

Kaede

The countersign is given and the thief left in the dirt, as is the fate of all discarded tools.

Kaede returns to standing in line, mentally filing through her list of targets and categorizing them by difficulty of acquisition and potential for destabilization. It was a pleasant distraction from the dullness surrounding her.

Man, I am up for killing the poo poo out of any kinda king you got.

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