Kumori - Journal Entry 9

Hachiko allowed herself to frown, looking into the hand mirror she carried in the pockets of the strange gaijin cloak. To her own eyes, she looked no different. But Naosuke told her that his magic made her look like a Cymbrian woman, with the wide eyes, blonde hair, and long nose of the gaijin. Tadatsugu confirmed to her that she did look like a westerner, and her cousins had the strange square faces and round eyes of gaijin to her eyes, so she had to trust that the spell made the change that her cousin told her it did.

They walked into the walled town of Gran Rio with as few words spoken to the guards as could be spared. Naosuke’s spells concealed their nature as Kaidanese, but only Tadatsugu had managed to learn to speak the local language with any fluency, and they still appeared as foreigners. They wore patched and luridly colored clothing in the style of traveling performers, and carried only those weapons that commoners would likely carry, the better to move quickly and innocuously after their quarry. The disguise was a traditional one for shinobi, and one that all three had been trained in from their youth. They could not sing or tell stories to these barbarians, but they could juggle, and Tadatsugu could perform acrobatic tricks.

Depending on Naosuke to the extent they did rankled Hachiko. His magics allowed him to understand conversations that Hachiko and Tadatsugu could not, increasing his relative importance in gathering information on the movements of their target. They had all studied the languages of this barbaric land, but they had learned from books and had learned that the forms they knew were out of date and their accents sounded strange to gaijin ears. Disguised as they were now as Cymbrians, Tadatsugu could use that as an excuse when speaking to locals, but Naosuke’s magics made him glib, a gift that Hachiko had in Kaidanese and envied when she saw her cousin using it.

Also, he was a Kuronami. They were cousins, true, but the white cranes were still separated from the black by five generations of selective marriage, seeking sorcerous power instead of the athleticism sought within the Kurosagi family lines. Something lurked in their blood, alien and haunted. Not only that, but they always had the gleam of ambition in their eyes, and of late Naosuke had begun to take on airs of command, airs that made Hachiko suspicious.

In Gran Rio, they took rooms in the boarding house and listened to the chatter of the locals. They performed in the square, and used Hachiko’s charms (even limited as she was by her accent, she knew how to use her natural advantages) and Naosuke’s magic to tease stories and information out of the locals. They made friends with the town guards, and impressed the locals enough to earn an invitation to perform for the town mayor.

They heard stories of a band of travelers, mercenaries who passed through and slew a tribe of bakemono. The travelers made enemies in the town, and a killer (a crude thug, not a true shinobi) tried to slay them with poison, failing in his task but killing several townsfolk in the process.

They performed for the Lord Mayor, and in his court they met the knight who locals say had risen from the dead. With careful questions they learned he had secrets to keep, about which they did not care, but from him they did learn he had sent the foreign swordsman and his friends off along the road East, toward Alhambra. The road was dangerous, they heard, bandit-infested and running through a vast desert. Hachiko and Tadatsugu shared a dark look at that; they would have to rely on Naosuke again.

The heir of Yoshitsune was weeks ahead of them; they could not afford to travel by foot. The sorcery to transport them would require a sacrifice. Standing in the court, they examined the candidates, and reached a conclusion. Their eyes met again, and they nodded, realizing without speech that they had come to the same answer.

Kumori - Journal Entry 9

Crimson Skies PhoenixMark