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Tenkai Matsumoto

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About Tenkai Matsumoto

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    Professional Thorn-in-the-Side
  1. [ Ravenspire ] Unexpected Reunions

    Tenkai raised his head a bit in acknowledgement of the authoritative voice that rang out. There was a heavy twinge of familiarity to it that quickly began to jar the monk’s memory. Is that...? Lo and behold, standing before him now was Rou Ji, the proclaimer “Buxom Bandit” herself. Looking at her now, she was certainly hitting upon the first part of her moniker. As for the “bandit”, however, Rou was like a completely different person. Even in their short time of acquaintance, Tenkai had known her to prefer to run away from authorities rather than towards them. Not only that, but she was actually commanding them, and much to Tenkai’s astonishment, the legionnaires immediately stood down. Their strangely-armored leader, on the other hand, lingered just a bit longer. “By the Emperor’s will, we will acquiesce,” he said, knowing full well that actions against guests of foreign diplomats would not sit well with Corvinus, even with their level of authority, “But do take care to keep your pet heretic on a leash.” On his order, the legionnaires dispersed and their captain followed suit, granting the two of them their privacy. Without a doubt, this was not the same Rou Ji that had accompanied him to Leviathan Stadium. Her attire was more regal now, more like a queen or princess rather than the practical bodysuit she wore. Based on her proclaimation—speaking on behalf of the “Carmine Empire of Umbra”—It seemed as if she had traded the life of stealing trinkets for that of stealing kingdoms. “Rou Ji...“‘The Carmine Empire’?”” Tenkai uttered with a mix of mild astonishment and disbelief. He took a deep breath and sighed exasperatingly. “Did everyone just move here and started playing thrones? I swear, it’s like everyone familiar to me around here has become some sort of monarch or regent.” Tenkai did look more or less like he did the last time Rou saw him, but there was something very palpable about his demeanor. He was no longer the pleasant-smiling monk as he was known to be when amiably conversing with an old acquaintance. There was something grim and jaded about him now. His astonishment at seeing Rou felt more ironic than simply being pleased at seeing a familiar face. There were small errant gray hairs forming on his head, not enough to imply age but enough to show that life was taking a toll on him. And he was missing his right eye. “Words of my death have been greatly...ah, forget it. I’m sure you can figure that out,” he said, referring to the event Rou spoke of. He hadn’t seen Dr. Queensborough since that time, so it was understandable that he wouldn’t know. Indeed, Tenkai had been previously doomed to a fate that should by all means have ended him, a small yet meaningful victory for the Grandfather of Plagues had it come to fruition. Had it not been for a literal act of God (or Buddha, in this case), Tenkai would not be standing here today. All that remained of that harrowing circumstance was a deep scar on the right side of his torso, a permanent reminder in spite of being completely purged of any Warp-spawned contagion. “This...,” he said as he jerked his thumb towards his sword guard eyepatch, “...happened in a completely unrelated incident.” Ah, yes, that one was quite a story. A particularly long one, in fact, and one that Tenkai would have to save for another day. Tenkai had wished that whatever ambient energy that was disrupting his eye’s abilities would disperse already. He had learned that being able to see a person’s soul as clearly as he could see their body provided a rather unique level of insight. The soul told no lies and could hide only so much. It represented the truest essence of what that person was. Tenkai imagines that this was an effect of his own empathic capabilities influencing his new eye. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to see Rou in that way, perhaps gain some sort of idea of how much she had changed as a person over the years. “Well, you’ve certainly grown,” he said, immediately realizing the unintended meaning behind those words. “Figuratively speaking, of course.” But seriously, what was she feeding those things??? It was at this point, struck by the familiarity in meeting an old acquaintance, that some ounce of the “old” Tenkai seeped back in, and he remembered his manners. “I’m sorry. The first thing I should have said was thank you for helping me. If you hadn’t come along, things would’ve gotten pretty dicey. I don’t even know what I did, to be honest.” That was when Rou mentioned the peculiar state of the empire of Kadia, and everything he had read had started coming back to him again. Of course, he thought. Of course they’d be that way. It practically goes hand in hand with this kind of society. “Heretic, huh?” said the monk, thumbing his rosary beads. “Can’t say this is the first time I’ve heard that. Come to think of it, there was mention of restrictions regarding non-humans in the codex. I guess I didn’t realize these prejudices ran so deeply.” Tenkai pulled out his small codex primer that he received upon entry into Kadia. Nary a wrinkle on it, but the seams were starting to wear from how many times he flipped through the pages. “Kadia seems to be a rather peculiar place. You aren’t over 30, are you? They mentioned something about mandated procreation, but I’m guessing you’d be exempt from that being a foreign diplomat and all.” Tenkai still couldn’t believe he was referring to Rou Ji as a “foreign diplomat”. At this point, however, Tenkai was used to these big, unexpected changes. @Narcissa
  2. [ Ravenspire ] Unexpected Reunions

    That had probably not gone over as well as he would have hoped. Not that he could have expected anything in the first place, however. Tenkai had been so out of the loop that he hadn’t even realized General Kanzaki had perished in the first place, let alone reborn as not so quite the same person. Of course, this had been nothing like the kind of rebirth that Buddhists were acquainted with. This was something else entirely, and Tenkai felt if he had tried to trouble himself over the details and intricacies of Raveena, her people, OXY and all of her past history, his head would likely explode. It was useless and detrimental for him to fixate on a past that had no bearing on his present. He’d save that for when the time called for it. For now it was just better to accept the situation as is. Raveena was essentially a new individual, and Tenkai would have to simply work from there. James, on the other hand, seemed more or less the same as always, and was far more informed on the situation. His help would be invaluable in whatever situation he got himself involved in with Raveena’s kingdom in the future. With their mention of Koji, the son of Xartia Pendragon, Tenkai imagined that time wasn’t too terribly far away. But for now, Tenkai had found himself in Kadia, originally for the sole purpose of reconnecting with the General and get some grasp of the situation in these lands. Having achieved this, he now found himself with a new point of interest: Kadia itself. In spite of his disagreements with Raveena, Tenkai was not at all ignorant of her words. Regardless of how their unusually strict laws seemed to someone like him, Kadia was a prospering empire with people who seemed to want for little. As far as Tenkai could tell, no citizen of the empire was prevented from leaving the city, or the empire itself for that matter. The people did not seem to suffer. Far from it, even. It would seem that for all the liberties sacrificed, they were done so willingly due to the reverence they held for their Emperor. As far as they were concerned, he was a living god and, given the nature of this land, he may as well be one. The land that had made Tenkai into who he was, now so very far away, had its own unfortunate history with living god-emperors and what came from that devotion. It was perhaps this memory of history that continued to give the monk pause in spite of his peaceful surroundings. No peace this complete and perfect ever came without a price, often a terrible one at that. Tenkai couldn’t help but wonder what the nature of the Emperor of Kadia was. In the midst of thought, Tenkai had managed to finish his wrapped sandwich, waltzing over to a nearby receptacle—or at least something he hoped was a receptacle—to discard the wrapper. No more than just a few feet away was an Imperial Legionnaire. Tenkai recognizes him as such based on his previous encounter with them upon entering the city. The monk figured he was either standing guard or surveying the area if only for one strange detail: he was looking at Tenkai. Staring, even, from the corner of his eyes. It was subtle, barely visible due to the helmet shadowing his eyes, but Tenkai wasn’t so easily fooled. After all these years of dealing with the awkward stares of passers by, he knew when there were a pair of eyes set upon him. Tenkai tried not to make it awkward. Besides, there could be a perfectly good reason for the guard’s behavior. Tenkai was a foreigner, and a rather oddly dressed one at that. It was reasonable for guards to look at him strangely. In an effort to ease the situation, Tenkai nodded and tipped his hand to his head in a half-salute-half-wave kind of fashion. Just enough to show due respect without being excessive to the degree of coming off as mockery. The guard didn’t move an inch in response. Tenkai continued on his way, turning his eyes away from the guard as he past. Somehow, the monk had a feeling those eyes were still following him. That would have been the end of it, of course, had Tenkai not turned the corner and saw not one, but two legionnaires, just like the first one, staring right at him as he passed by. These two made no effort to hide their gaze—their heads were trained right on him as he passed. The monk wasted no time. He nodded his head and moved swiftly on his way without engaging any more than he needed to. That’s strange, he thought. There’s certainly a lot more of them around than there were before. The more Tenkai progressed through Ravenspire, the more the same thing occurred. It was no surprise to him that there were guards everywhere throughout the city, but he seemed to keep finding them in places that were a bit too convenient for them to run into him. The general air about them was most unwelcoming, far more than Tenkai had experienced when he first came to Kadia. It was only after walking another block or so that it all began to make sense. That one right there, he thought, peering at a legionnaire from the corner of his eye. It’s a subtle difference, but I’m positive! That’s the same one I saw earlier staring at me with the sidelong glance! That must be why I keep running into them!, he continued, his pace increasing steadily. They’re not just watching me—they’re following me! Indeed, they had been following him, and they had been very good at covering their tracks. It took Tenkai much longer than it usually did to tell someone was tailing him, shadowing his movements so carefully that they could keep an eye on him without actually looking like they were following him. Either this was standard training for a Legionnaire, or these were no ordinary Legionnaires. Tenkai kept his movements from looking too frantic. If he did, it would tip them off that he was aware of being followed, and their strategy would change. For all he knew, it was already too late. These men didn’t just seem to be tailing him. They were were predicting his movements, cutting him off as they came around every corner he sought to turn towards in order to lose his tail. Just how many of them did they have following him? By the time he reached the bridge, Tenkai could find out. There were about six more of them standing around the bridge, loose enough for citizens to pass but still allowing them to close ranks as Tenkai approached. The others that had followed Tenkai were standing not too far behind, covering all areas for escape. There had to be about a dozen of them, no weapons drawn, no action to be openly interpreted as hostile. They simply stood there, surrounding him as a matter of intimidation. But why would they do this? Tenkai had not committed any crime. He was quite critical of Kadia’s codex, sure, but that wasn’t against the law as far as he could see, and there’s no way they would’ve known that unless they had been tipped off. The only ones who could have done that were James and Raveena, and that was highly improbable. In spite of her being a different person now, Tenkai felt he could trust her that much. These days, that was a lot coming from Tenkai. “Is there a problem, gentlemen?” Tenkai asked, his tone of voice neutral as his eye scanned over them. It was useless for him to try and use his other eye, as it was still acting strangely. The monk’s simple question, met only with silence. At least, not until another man stepped forward. He seemed like part of the Kadian Legion from the outset, but his armor was different than that of the other Legionnaires. Tenkai figured he was their captain, but it was also possible he was someone else entirely. Who was he? For that matter, who were they? Were they really Legionnaires? “That’s exactly what we’ve come here to find out,” said the armored man in charge, slowly approaching Tenkai. “All mankind is welcome in Kadia, and you appear to be human, but your manner of dress smacks of foreign religion. State your business.” Tenkai was taken aback. It didn’t seem like they were aware of what he had spoken of to James and Raveena. Instead, they were more concerned with the fact that Tenkai’s robes clearly resembled that of a holy man. In particular, a holy man of a faith not native to Kadia, or even this world for that matter. “I am visiting a friend,” said the monk, finding no need or want to lie but no desire to give any more detail than that. “I travel a lot, you see.” “Yes, travel,” replied the “captain”, “We are aware of the ‘travels’ your kind are known for, spreading their word and proselytizing the peoples of sovereign nations with words of ‘hope’ and ‘peace’” “I do no such thing,” Tenkai said, the neutral tone now permeated with a twinge of irritation. “I only help those that suffer.” “Then no one has need of you here. If anything causes them to suffer, it is the intellectual laziness inspired by blind faith. Know that Kadia follows the Corvinite Ecclesiarchy and the Emperor’s secular truth. None shall be found wanting.” Tenkai quirked a one-eyed brow at that statement. “Corvinite Ecclesiarchy, you say? Strange...,” he said, rubbing his chin. “For all your disapproval, that sounds an awful lot like religion to me.” “You’ll watch that snide tongue of yours, foreign priest. Your ‘freedom’ of speech is worth nothing compared to the Empire’s sovereignty.” “It was merely an observation.” “Even an observation that insults the Corvinite Truth cannot be tolerated.” The Legionnaires and their leader stepped closer. Tenkai had no idea whether they would strike at him or not, though he felt that if the situation had elevated that far they would already have their weapons drawn. They were merely increasing the pressure. “I meant absolutely no insult.” Tenkai kept himself perfectly calm, making not a single sudden movement. “Your intentions mean even less to us than your ideology,” said the leader. “If your business in Kadia is concluded, then we shall see you to the gate.” The legionnaires began to close in on Tenkai. It was likely that they intended to escort him to the gates of Ravenspire, if not the nearest port, and send him on his way out of Kadia. At least, that’s what he could only hope they intended to do with him. They made no move to attack or manhandle him, but at this distance Tenkai could feel it as clear as the day itself. They were absolutely itching for a reason to pummel him into the dirt, practically daring him to disobey. What better way to make an example than to have him, a monk from a foreign land, causing trouble with the Kadian Legion when nothing was expected of him but his obedience. The fact that Tenkai was carrying a sword likely made matters worse. It didn’t seem like they had cared about that fact either way, but they would without a doubt use it against him. Simply uncovering the weapon would probably be enough justification for them to execute him without question. Bloodshed was the last thing Tenkai wanted right now, and he would rather acquiesce and depart from Kadia than cause an international fiasco. But how could he be sure that was all they would do? If he cooperated, they could easily lead him somewhere more restricted and out of public view, strip him of his armaments and then...well...at that point, it would be over if they wished him to disappear. The Legionnaires were uncomfortably close. A cold, armored hand reached out to firmly grasp his shoulder and move him along... @Narcissa
  3. [ Ravenspire ] A Chance Encounter

    It would seem that Raveena managed to either retain enough of her memory of her former life to know of Tres Ecstuffuan, or at the very least had her memory restored in some other way. She spoke of these subjects as readily and without confusion as Raven Kanzaki would have done herself, albeit in a far different manner and attitude. She spoke more like a politician and stateswoman than a military commander, and both managed to chafe with Tenkai equally. That, as much, was to be expected. Tenkai was neither a military leader nor a politician. He was a monk, and he always spoke from a position relating to individual people and their struggles on a more personal level. To many, this came off as him being too soft or naive, unable to grasp the bigger picture of society. This didn't seem to bother the monk very much. There was some benefit in having others believe he was nothing more than rosy-eyed fool. Relinquishing certain freedoms for security? he thought, listening as Raveena sought to justify the Kadian codex. He could not help but ponder just how much security had actually been bought by giving up said freedoms, or even if it was truly necessary to purchase said security with said freedoms. The words came flowing into Tenkai's unfettered mind as they usually did. Sell not virtue to purhcase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power, he thought. Raveena was right in that it worked for Kadia's people, but then again, why wouldn't it? Of course it would work for its own people. Many of them had likely been born into that system, knowing nothing else. Others were unflinchingly loyal to the Emperor, who based on what he had read was hailed as the Empire's principle deity. What mortal man in their right mind would willingly oppose someone they truly believed was their god? Any man who was given any sort of pause would be found wanting, and Tenkai knew what happened to those found wanting. The concept of an empire led by an individual believed to be their god was certainly not unheard of to Tenkai, who knew well of the history of the far-away land of his upbringing. It only managed to make him ponder the matter further. Raveena was introducing new names left and right at a pace almost faster than the monk could manage. He did not know of Imperator Athyon or Emperor Raphael, but now he at least knew there was more than one empire in these lands, and more emperors to go with it. He could only imagine what sort of conflict that the world of Valucre had seen through the ages, how many more empires and their emperors had risen and fallen. He could only imagine the untold loss of life that resulted from it. Tenkai thought he would have seen that first hand by means of his "eye", but everything had felt so blurry ever since he stepped foot into Ravenspire. It always got worse when he neared those obelisks. Just what would he have seen had his vision been clear? Tenkai couldn't help but feel a twinge of discomfort over the suggestion that James would be "bored" with so little to do. Perhaps that was true enough for James Eredas, who enjoyed a good fight even when he was bound by purpose to fight it, but Tenkai was as much a "man like James" as any other. Anyone who knew Tenkai well enough knew he was far more than just a humble Buddhist holy man. He was Tenkai Matsumoto, master of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, exorcist of Daishin-ji Temple, former agent of the Vatican's Arcanum Est Opus Dei. A feared vampire hunter, bane of the undead, enemy of Chaos and professional thorn-in-the-side. To think that a man like him would be "bored" for there being nothing to fight and kill was almost an insult. None of what Tenkai did was for enjoyment or the thrill of battle. If anything, it was his hatred for violence that led him to more pragmatic decisions and decisive actions. Relishing in bloodshed was a path that turned men into monsters, so Tenkai did well not to make light of his task, not even when he was in good spirits. Raveena, however, didn't seem to bothered by making a joke of it all. Once more she brought up the name of Koji, who she had earlier explained was the son of Xartia Pendragon, using him as an example of how "one man's hero is another man's enemy". As if any of this had to do with "heroes" and "enemies", or villains rather. Tenkai remembered being exposed to such a narrow line of thought in the past, perhaps he himself being a bit too close to that concept in question. He remembered a time where he had tried to unify people of character back on Gaia, his ultimate plan to bring the myriad fighters, adventurers, mercenaries and "heroes" together, united only by momentary common interest. An alliance with and without form, something that would go beyond the petty factional disputes of the time. For a while, it seemed to have worked, but only because people had become united by circumstance itself rather than anything Tenkai could do. That effort of his died the day he had to kill the man he called his friend. That was when he learned that such words as "hero" or "villain" were arbitrary, and that even bonds of friendship alone were not enough to bring people together. Some people were simply monsters, no matter how much commonality you found with them. To that end, Tenkai was almost uncharacteristically grim in his response to Raveena's joviality. In the past he could have allowed himself a moment of amusement, but none of this was a laughing matter to Tenkai. He was not bound by some ephemeral notion of heroism and villainy. To him, there were men, and then there were monsters. The only thing that hadn't changed about Tenkai, the thing that separated him starkly from the governance of Kadia, was how he defined what made a man and what made a monster. "You think this is fun?" For a moment it sounded like Tenkai was angry, but no rage bubbled forth from him. There was no tremble in his features, no fire in his eye. He was simply without mirth, unable to see the humor Raveena saw. Perhaps that was merely a fault in their perspectives. After all, Tenkai was not royalty. Not that royal blood had anything to do with it, but perspective due to position was another thing entirely. Perhaps Raveena could afford herself that bit of fun that Tenkai couldn't. Tenkai knew from that day onward there was no fun to be had in what he did. Even James seemed a bit too comfortable, at least outwardly so. He was as quick to bring up the fact that Tenkai was as much an Outsider as James was, and how different these lands were from the ones he knew. It wasn't that Tenkai disagreed with this notion. Perhaps it was moreso that Tenkai thought James would have known that Tenkai understood this from the outset. He didn't speak of these matters lightly. "Neither of you should be so quick to presume me so ignorant," said Tenkai, clearly not amused but without any ire in his tone. "It goes without saying that this system works for Kadia. Why wouldn't it? But there are many other systems that also 'worked' for its own people with no regard to others or the rest of the world they interact with. Even more existed that 'worked' in the sense of creating a consistent, sustainable society at a price that didn't need to be paid." Tenkai turned to James. "Unfortunately, the Codex didn't come with a history section. It is, after all, nothing more than a primer for visitors. I imagine that those who seek to become citizens are required to acquaint themselves further with a more comprehensive set of laws and whatever pieces of history the Empire feels its people need to know. I am not concerned with the circumstances. I am sure that, given the nature of this world and its conflicts, this was simply the natural recourse in the development of their society. Anything more forced than that would be nothing less than complete oppression and tyrannical despotism." The monk then turned back to Raveena. "You ask me what changes I would see as if I fancy myself a statesman. You say I can't have everything I want in life as if all of what I say is acting out of desire. None of this is true. To act out of desire would be selfish, no different than those who seize power for their own sakes. In spite of all you know me to be, I am little more than a Buddhist monk. I care for nothing more than to help those who suffer. I am not like Takuan Soho, advising the daimyo of a bygone era. I am neither your advisor nor someone so versed in statecraft as to carefully articulate that which is possible, and politics is the art of the possible. I only go where I am needed, act on what I see and with what knowledge I have. And there is still so much yet to see and know. Given all that you two have presented me with, I can see now that it is not here." Tenkai pushed out his seat and rose, straightening out the bunches in his robes as he stood. Though Raveena and James had given him much to ponder, there was not much else they could offer them here. Raveena was a queen now, and she was to act in the best interest of her people. James was the leader of his Order and had a sworn duty to uphold. Perhaps then this was the fault of Tenkai's purpose in life being such a broad-spanning matter. To concern oneself with the suffering of others spanned a whole gamut of issues on a massive scope. The monk tended to stay away from politics, and the last time it even managed to concern him was back in Sigil during the conflict between the Merchant's Guild and the UWP. In the end, that really was all it was insofar as the grand political scheme of things; a concern. It was a concern because he knew very well where this all inevitably led and what resulted from it. Contrary to what Raveena might have thought, Tenkai saw it as neither his right nor his place to seek some form of change in a land that as not even his by origin, let alone rule. He wasn't about to play this game of thrones that many from his past had now sought to take part in. He would do as he had always done: wander, learn and help those that he could. If that led him to Kadia or the Datsuzoku or practically anywhere on this world, so be it. At the very least, James' prompting that Tenkai learn of Kadia's history seemed like a good enough direction. "If you have any means of keeping in touch with me, I would hear it," said the monk. "This is certainly not the last time we'll meet." Tenkai would accept whatever means by which he could stay in contact with Raveena and/or James and the Order before respectfully parting company.
  4. [ Ravenspire ] A Chance Encounter

    It seemed as if this was to be a very revealing trip down memory lane.It seemed as if this was to be a very revealing trip down memory lane. James and Raven, or Raveena rather, were not the only familiar names that came up as she got Tenkai caught up on current events. Raveena had mentioned Xartia Pendragon, that ambitious cambion wizard who was somewhat disturbingly interested in Tenkai's pet panda, Kuroshiro. She also mentioned Akako Akari, the elusive kitsune, and the psion Red Yusuke. All of them were names that were familiar to Tenkai and his past, though he was at least already somewhat aware of both Red and Akako being present in these lands due to the festival. This memory ended up reminding Tenkai that he still had about half a flatbread sandwich he had bought from a stall on his way here. He didn't really care to eat anything else at the moment, but it was bad form to bring food from other vendors into a restaurant. Tenkai wrapped up the remaining foodstuff and stowed it away in his satchel. "Well, then," said the monk with begrudging amusement. "It's like you all went off and became kings and queens without me so much as hearing a whisper of it. I wonder who else we know came here and ended up starting a kingdom." Perhaps Tenkai wasn't being very fair. The ambition to rule wasn't always steeped in autocratic tendencies. Raveena's story in particular was a bit more heartening for the monk. Though he never truly understand who or what OXY was or had ever been back when he knew the original Raven, he could tell by her tone that they were a serious threat. Now, in being reunited with her people, she not only managed to dethrone a Tyrant, but also created a new home for said refugees. Even after all this time and all that had happened with him, he could still appreciate it when war and conquest was fought for more altruistic purposes. In losing much, Raveena had gained more. "Speaking of Red and Akako," said Tenkai, "I was actually at a festival in Port Caelum not too long ago, which is where I first heard of their dealings here. Seems the situation has grown a bit sour since then." He sighed wearily. Of course it would, he thought. Everything eventually did. He wasn't sure what to make of the part about Red being implicated, but he was never one to put the cart before the horse. There was only one truth, after all. Moreover... "I actually ran into someone who I thought you might know. A young half-dragon named Arashi. She kept telling me about her friend 'Raven', and her description matched yours too closely to be coincidence." Tenkai wondered for a moment where Arashi had ran off to while simultaneously breathing an inward sigh of relief that she had not followed him on his trip to Kadia. Given what he discovered about their attitude towards non-humans, it was unlikely that they would have tolerated her presence in the city. That would have led to some unwanted conflict a bit sooner than he would have liked. As they seated themselves at the restaurant, that thought managed to hang in his head, up until the point James so cleverly picked up on it. "That would be an understatement." Tenkai planted the Codex down on the table in front of them as if he was presenting evidence in court. He didn't slam it on the table such as to draw suspicion or unwanted attention, but he placed it firmly enough to show his severity in gesture before he even started speaking. And even then, he made sure to speak in a low enough voice that he wouldn't be heard too easily, at the very least not by anyone making themselves a bit too uncomfortably close. "No option of divorce or annulment. Mandatory military service. State-mandated pregnancy, AND state-mandated abortion. Even children with handicaps and defects aren't allowed to be kept by their parents. Not to mention that absurd law about refunding at triple the cost." Yes, the very law that Raveena herself had invoked not too long ago. It was a law undoubtedly intended to scare merchants and manufacturers into maintaining the absolute highest level of quality, but designating an item as "cheap" was not something easily quantified without some specific standard. Perhaps Raveena had only invoked the law in order to scare the blacksmith into acquiescence, as it would likely require Imperial inspectors to appraise the item in order to determine whether it was eligible for refund. However, that merely opened the door for corrupt practices, where wealthy or influential members of the government or friendly foreign dignitaries such as Raveena could have their claims given credence due to their status or contributions. Raveena was a guest of Emperor Corvinus himself, was she not? Would the Imperium have seen it her way, that of a queen, or that of a mere blacksmith? "Everyone in the empire, citizen or no, is required to report any crime even if it's so much as hearsay," said Tenkai. "All it would take is for someone to start a rumor in order to put the authorities in an uproar. With rules like these, I can only imagine just how many could already be locked up in the Imperium's prisons." Tenkai could barely even think about what it could be like in a prison system run by an empire with such strict laws. Though the Codex didn't seem to show any laws regarding the discussion of Kadian law, he kept in mind that the Codex was merely a primer. There could have been a much larger, more complete version that went into more detail regarding dissent. Even if it wasn't against the law, there was no telling how they felt about it, and Tenkai was not about to make himself into a person of interest in a foreign territory just for questioning their laws. There was more he needed to see. "The Legion, their military, is given absolute authority here, and the people are expected to obey their orders 'without question'. Doesn't any of this seem a bit familiar to you? Do you ever wonder what Tres Ecstuffuan would have thought of this?" Even though Tenkai was just as critical of Tres' own ambition, he couldn't deny that the UWP had its merits and was at least at its core fueled by a desire to help the oppressed. Tenkai turned his attention specifically to Raveena. "Do you even remember that name?" Tenkai was not trying to browbeat Raveena, or least of all James, who likely had his own scruples in this situation. He didn't know how she truly felt about these laws, or even if it concerned her. After all, she was the queen of a newly risen nation and had to think of her people first and foremost. Even if things didn't sit well with her, she was still a foreign diplomat, and every action, every word she spoke could carry strong political consequences. Yet still, as he always had even when she was Raven, Tenkai would not hold his tongue when he had something to say, and boiling it all down to something he simply needed to "get used to" didn't sit very well with him. @Deus Ex Aizen @Fierach
  5. [ Ravenspire ] A Chance Encounter

    "There's...no need for that, James," Tenkai said as he stifled a grimace into a half-frown at the mention of the word "kensei". Though the concept of a "sword saint" was something even attributed to the progenitors of the martial arts lineage he follwed, such as the Yagyu clan and Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, Tenkai found the word to be pretentious. It was the kind of word thrown about by overly-enthusiastic youths that gushed over the wonder and mysticism of the Sengoku and Edo periods. It put far too much important on the "badassery" of being a swordsman, which to them was always synonymous with "samurai". Little thought was given to the wisdom of the martial arts, and any actual mention of it was mystified to the point of being magic and otherworldly. Actual use of metaphysical abilities aside, it was not the kind of thing any real master of kenjutsu wished to promote. A name like "kensei" was an audacious boast, a claim to being "the best of the best" that, while unfortunately true to many who went on warrior pilgrimages for the sake of testing their skills, was not true for Tenkai. "It's always a long story with you two, isn't it?" said Tenkai. This was quite an understatement, all things considered. Even back when he knew Raven Kanzaki back on Gaia, he could never say he really knew Raven Kanzaki. There was always something more to her that Tenkai never managed to figure out. Of course, Tenkai never bothered to figure it out in the first place. He was not interested in delving into people's pasts unless some good could come of it, be it for others who needed it or for the person in question. Tenkai did very little out of self interest, if at all, and didn't particularly like gathering information for the sake of gossip. Though he found himself often trawling for information like he was a tabloid journalist, there was always a practical purpose to it. Vampires and demons loved their secrets, and knowing what those secrets were gave people like Tenkai an undoubtedly potent edge. James of all people would know this. But Raven--...or Raveena, rather, was an entirely different subject. Tenkai had let her mystery be because, frankly, it simply was none of his business. He could even imagine Raven saying just that. Or at least, the old Raven. The new Raveena seemed like a different person. Not entirely different that she was not recognizable, but certainly not the same as General Kanzaki. "Well, I suppose you can tell me this 'long story' on the way to---....excuse me, did you say queen?" Well now, this was certainly a strange turn of events. The Raven he had known was a general, and now this new Raveena, with a name Tenkai could hardly believe James managed to get out of his mouth, was a queen. And a shy one, at that. Of course, that much was to be expected. Tenkai was smart enough to glean from context clues that Raveena had little to no memory of Raven, which by now Tenkai had chalked up to a past life or reincarnation. Buddhists believed in the cycle of rebirth, which was actually subtly different from the Hindu concept of reincarnation, and it would've been highly unlikely that James would have found the selfsame Raven had it been an actual rebirth through the Samsara since there was no concept of "self" to be same. She would just be dead, off in some other plane of existence perhaps, as her karmic energy pulls together the aggregates of form and consciousness that makes up a sentient being. Come to think of it, had she died? Tenkai sure as hell didn't know. This "rebirth" could have been due to a plethora of strange mystical happenstances that Tenkai didn't even know about, so musing about it was useless, even if only for a moment. What mattered here was that she was, in fact, a queen. Queen of what? The monk could not say. Probably not here, at least. This was an empire, led by an emperor, married to an empress. That, as much, Tenkai had gathered from reading that codex with all it's absurd rules. Had she been a queen of anything back on Gaia, Tenkai would have probably known about that already. He hadn't seen Raven in quite some time, and had reconnected with James only recently. If she had been here all this time, that would explain why he had seen so little of her. If she was queen of anything, it was likely a neighboring land. That meant she was a foreign leader in the Imperium. Was she on a diplomatic mission? Or was there some other event that had drawn other kings and queens and all manner of monarchy to Kadia? There wasn't a terrible lot of buzz right about now, so if anything had happened or would happen, Tenkai had arrived too late. Or perhaps too early? Either way, questions were bound to be raised between them no matter if Raven was Raven or Raveena or whoever. Tenkai may have looked more or less the same as he always had, but there was the rather significant addition of an eyepatch covering his right eye. Or at least something that was acting like an eyepatch. It was actually an iron tsuba, the guard of a Japanese sword, one small enough to fit over his eyesocket comfortably enough. Admittedly, yes, it was a motif best represented by one of the most famous masters of Shinkage-ryu, Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi, but it wasn't exclusive to him alone. Suffice it to say, it simply felt right. As for why Tenkai needed a eyepatch in the first place, well, James and Raveena weren't the only ones with long stories. James had offered to have his Order find a way to restore his eye, but Tenkai declined. Considering how he had lost it, there was little that could be done to reverse the damage. He now used the empty socket to house the Konshi no Magatama that had been...gifted to him, sealed in an opaque crystal orb to function as a false eye. Doing so had allowed him to see the physical world with his left eye while the artifact's Soul Sight ability remained active, taking over the function of his right eye. This was, however, at the effect being permanently active, reminded each and every moment that the world around him was practically inundated with lost souls, and many of them languished in their suffering. He saw them, and they saw him, too. This eye, in a way, was Tenkai's memento mori. "Right...yes...queen," said Tenkai. "I suppose this is yet another thing you will explain to me on the way to wherever it is your planning to dine. Or did you want to wait until we got there? I wouldn't quite fault you for it. This place seems a bit...unfriendly to those with secrets." Tenkai sure had a lot of questions for the two of them. Not simply ones about where they've been and what happened to them, but also questions about Kadia in particular. They seemed to have the lay of the land far better than he did. If anyone could make sense of these incredibly strict laws and was open to Tenkai's inquiry, it was them. @Deus Ex Aizen@Fierach
  6. Arashi is a bad cat. >:{

    Tenkai looked over at the large slab of meat that Arashi was pointing at, roasting on a spit. It seemed like the vendor was cutting slices off of the roast and stuffing it into a sliced open piece of bread like an edible napkin. Not enough for Tenkai to call it a sandwich, really, what with the lack of dressing and all. The meat was likely marinated and rubbed with enough spice as it is. The bread was just a way of holding it without getting your hands all oily or dealing with soggy napkins. "Ah, yes, of course." Tenkai said as he stepped over to the stall, hailing the vendor. "Oh, sir! I'll have one, please!" Tenkai held up his gold pieces so that the vendor knew he could pay for it. He didn't really need to specify what exactly he wanted since it seemed all the vendor was doing was serving that meat. The vendor nodded without a word, slicing off a hefty portion of meat and stuffing it into some bread, before handing it to Tenkai with a napkin. "Thank you," said the monk, as he handed the vendor his payment. He turned back to Arashi, who by now was already distracted by that box again. "Here you are, Arashi," he said, holding the treat close enough that the smell might get her attention. "This should hold you over for a while."
  7. It takes two to tengu.

    "Hmmm...a plague-ridden warzone under martial law," said the monk, rubbing his chin. "That sure doesn't sound very friendly, now, does it?" Of course, that was the point in the first place. Adventurers and sellswords were expected to delve into uncomfortable places in order to do things that others could not for the benefit of the world around them. If it was supposed to be easy, why would they hire anyone to do it for them? Regardless, there were a number of things here that didn't sit right with Tenkai about this "job". If the place was under martial law, why did anyone need to post anything in the first place? Were the guards really as nonchalant about the plight of their own people? Sure, that fact was already well established by the existence of the posting board, but what sort of city-state enforces martial law with such a light military presence and lack of concern? True, an oppressive government was often ignorant of the plight of its own people, if not the cause of said plight to begin with, but these postings seemed to be referring to incidents caused by foreign hostile entities, monsters and the like. Wouldn't that be just as much a threat to the military as it was to the citizenry? Or were they so busy dealing with some other issue that they simply couldn't bother to stretch themselves even thinner than they already were? The monk figured he'd find the answers to those questions soon enough, at least once he got started. "Tenkai," he said, responding to her request for his name. "And thank you, though luck is not necessary." Tenkai tapped his forehead, just above his eyepatch. "But wisdom is." With that, the monk departed the office. He was ready to go, though he was barely a few steps out onto the pathway before he stopped. "Wait a minute," he mused to himself. "Flew over it?" Curious. Nevertheless, Tenkai simply shrugged and moved on. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Having followed Cid's directions, Tenkai found the Eastern Block without much trouble or time spent. He had traveled to the center of town, based on the map, then looked around until he could see the segment of town where the roads were blocked by barricades. Of course, Tenkai figured he could have ended up in the same place if he had just traveled to the center of town and headed east. After all, it wasn't called the Eastern Block for nothing, right? Though, to be fair, several things that were "eastern" weren't exactly "true east" unless the shape was perfect. Otherwise Tenkai would've been traveling in a straight line right into the wrong place. Landmarks had their uses, after all. Now that he thought of it, why have barricades in the first place? Cid mentioned something about a plague, but wouldn't that be a public health issue? If the Eastern Block was a quarantine zone, where were all the doctors? Was he required to wear a mask by law before passing through, if he was even allowed to do so? And why need barricades for that in the first place? Were there people who were infected who refused to abide by law and remain quarantined? One would think that a few aid stations would mollify them a bit and convince them to stay put. In fact, such a thing was a necessity, not a luxury! How else could they fight the plague? Were they just leaving everyone to die? What sort of plague was this, anyway? "Hmmm...I suppose I'm going to have to find a way through here," Tenkai said to himself, once more rubbing his chin in thought as he often did. Was there a high security presence at the barricade, or could he slip through without much thought? And if not, was there a way he could convince the guards to let him through?
  8. [ Ravenspire ] A Chance Encounter

    "Article II, Code 1.2, All residents and citizens are to spend no less than two months’ time attending basic combative classes offered at the Imperial Academies," Tenkai continued to read in between bites of his sandwich. "So it's required that every person living here know how to fight? How peculiar." It was definitely not the most controversial rule in the codex that he had read thus far. After all, a basic understanding of martial arts had practical uses, and martial arts training was a great way to develop spiritual insight and personal cultivation. Tenkai would have been an absolute hypocrite to deny the merits of martial arts. However, these were not "martial arts", but "combatives". A familiar term, to say the least, with a name that lent itself more to the "martial" end of the spectrum rather than the "art". Given the article he had read earlier about mandatory military service, it was safe enough to assume these "basic combatives" were focused on how to fight. How to kill. It almost reminded him of the archaic society of the Spartan oligarchy, with the notable difference that women were allowed to join the Imperial Legion rather than simply training to strengthen their bodies. But that raised even more questions about that previous article. Why have it so that a family must choose a woman to serve in the Legion only if a male figure is absent? Why not have a choice to give over either a male or a female in military tribute? Why not choose tribute based on the most able-bodied and willing member? It seemed like an awfully strange preference given the variety of natures among humans. After all, if you're going to use families as sources of conscription, you might as well give them the agency of putting forth their best product, right? Tenkai balked inwardly at the thought of referring to another human as a "product". Debating the logic of the code with himself was distracting him from the fact that the whole rule felt ridiculous to begin with. Of course, thinking of these things period was distracting him from where he was going. "Ooh-! Sorry!" said the monk as he absent-mindedly bumped into one of the citizens passing along Ravenspire's marketplace. The man barely made a noise in response, his austerity likely a result of his Kadian upbringing. However, he gave Tenkai a rather strange look, somewhere between annoyance and mild revulsion. Tenkai's appearance was a bit too outlandish and aesthetically religious for their tastes. Tenkai gave him a little apologetic wave and continued on his way. Well, that wasn't very comfortable, he thought. I should be careful. Wouldn't want to anger anyone in a place where most of your citizenry is in the military. Yet curiosity suddenly got the better of him again, and Tenkai found himself poring through the pages of the codex booklet, halfway finished with his flatbread sandwich. "This is just...!" He continued reading through the sections under "Civil Services." Not only were women expected to produce children by their thirteenth year, but children born out of wedlock or "proper families" were taken by the state. What constituted a "proper family?" Given that this was mentioned separate from wedlock, Tenkai could only figure it meant more than just pregnancies resulting from casual copulation. Would a single parent be considered an improper family? What was one to do if a woman's husband died in combat? And if that didn't matter, then why would any of it matter? Why matter when someone had at least one person to teach them and raise them? Tenkai wished this was more than a primer, as he would like to see what this definition of "proper family" boiled down to. He tried to find it, but reading down the list only presented more issues that raised further questions. Accidental pregnancies were terminated by law, but what was an accidental pregnancy other than a child born out of wedlock that was unwanted? Would the child not be terminated if the mother declared it to not be accidental? That would have been freedom of choice, which oddly enough seemed contrary to many of the laws he had read so far. If that was so, then did this mean that the Imperium determined what pregnancy was accidental or unwanted and which one was? Even if it wasn't an accident, the child would simply be taken anyway. What happened then? And what of the children born with defects and handicaps? They were not aborted, but simply "turned over to the state", a result determined in utero. What did the state do with them? And what did they do with them that they wouldn't do with accidental pregnancies? They could neither keep the children they didn't plan to have, nor keep the ones they planned to have that were abnormal? If freedom and choice were that terrible a thing, why not mandate that accidental pregnancies be carried to term? Once more Tenkai found himself trying to correct the logic of the Codex with logic that was still contrary to his own ideologies, not so much in what was being forced but the forcing in and of itself. At this point Tenkai was surprised the state hadn't mandated what sandwich he could buy. Unless they already did. Tenkai sighed, flipping ahead a few pages and continuing to read. "Article II, Code 1.4 section A, Report any sightings of Unnatural species, such as but not limited to; undead. What other unnatural species are there besides undead and demons?" The monk figured this to be a sore topic for many, so he made sure to keep quiet as he read rather than simply keeping his voice low as he had been before. The last thing he needed were more awkward stares from passersby who may not view "Outsiders" too kindly. The reading took more and more of his attention, just as it had before, to the extent that when he turned the corner by the smithy, he didn't notice who he was about to bump into. "Oh! Oh, sorry!" Tenkai exclaimed, stumbling back a few feet, startling himself with how fast he snapped back to his senses, "I didn't mean to--" The two standing before him were more than simply familiar faces to Tenkai. He knew quite well who James Eredas was, a fellow Outsider and daemonhunter just like Tenkai. The monk had a small history with James and his Order of Force Majeure, and at one point James had asked the monk to join his Order in their ongoing mission. Tenkai had turned down the offer, but he would lend his aid when their aims aligned, as they often did. It was not the first time Tenkai had run into James whilst traveling this world, and by now James had gotten to know a bit more about what happened to Tenkai over the past few years since he had seen them. Perhaps not the whole story, but at least he wouldn't be surprised by seeing Tenkai missing an eye. Rather, it was Raven's presence that surprised him even more. Not because he hadn't expected to find her here. Quite the contrary. She was part of the reason he came to Kadia in the first place. It seemed that all that talk of a woman named "Raven" from Arashi had been referring to just the person he had thought of. It should have stood to reason that she would be here if James and his Order was and vice versa, given her own history and relationship with the Order. What surprised him, however, was what he didn't recognize about her. It wasn't simply a matter of a change of appearance, as James looked plenty different himself. Admittedly, Tenkai had never seen Raven using his Soul Sight in the past, so he didn't know what to think of what he saw now that he finally did. Yet somehow what he saw seemed different than what he had always felt when he simply sensed someone's spirit, back before he had been "gifted" this eye. Was it simply the effect of those strange black spires, or something else? "General Kanzaki? And James Eredas, too? Well then..." Tenkai's response was far more measured than it would have been years ago. Outside of battle, Tenkai's demeanor used to be far more upbeat and mirthful. These days, however, Tenkai's pleasant demeanor was on a much lower note. He didn't gawk at the two of them like a bewildered child who was just seeing his siblings for the first time in several years. After all, he did come here looking for Raven, among other familiar faces. @Deus Ex Aizen@Fierach
  9. [ Ravenspire ] A Chance Encounter

    "Hmmm...Article II, Crossing Precinct, Code 1.1. Only individuals under gainful employment of the Capital Ring may enter the district," said the monk, quietly reading aloud. "Well, I sure hope this isn't heading there. I don't believe I'm considered 'gainfully employed'." Tenkai didn't expect the trip to be this long. Of course, he should have expected as much given that he was traveling from one end of the island to the other. Taking a transport obviously cut the travel time by a wide margin, but it was still going to be an hour or two. Luckily, he had been provided with some particularly peculiar reading material. When Tenkai first arrived at the port city of Parime, the first thing he ran into was a military checkpoint. Not an unexpected thing to find at first blush, but Tenkai could tell by their manner of action they were in no mood to be trifled with. Not that Tenkai intended to give them any difficulty in the first place, but he was far more careful to avoid any misunderstanding. "Article IV, Code 1.1, Upon your arrival to the city, you are to divulge the full extent of your abilities to the proper authorities. Well, check that off the list." Tenkai wasn't exactly sure how to describe the "extent" of his abilities to the authorities. It actually seemed like an incredibly strange request to make in the first place. Did they want a full list of techniques and spells and what have you? Probably not, or at least that's not what Tenkai had given them. He told them he was a monk, a practitioner of spiritual arts and exorcism, proficient in utilizing his own spirit energy. They seemed to regard that as being a "psyker", which was a modern designation for the term "psychic" that Tenkai had actually heard used in places outside of Kadia. Yes, being a spirit sensitive human was indeed one form of psychic power, in a sense. Tenkai couldn't exactly use telekinesis or read people's minds or any of the other abilities commonly associated with psychic power, but communing with spirits and controlling one's own spirit energy was tied to a similar discipline. It also made Tenkai sensitive to many of the same things psychics could sense, so he could at least be considered psychic in that regard. As for his other abilities, that was a bit more difficult to describe. He called himself a "swordsman and martial artist", which caused the seasoned military men to quirk a brow at the oddly dressed traveler. At least that was how the monk remembered it. Tenkai didn't particularly look like much, and what he did look like was some sort of holy man. He couldn't be sure whether that was what made them wary of him or the fact that they didn't seem to believe him when he said he was a swordsman. Of course, that was when Tenkai showed them his sword, the yōtō Muramasa (妖刀[村正]; Cursed Sword [Muramasa]). Neither of the guards seemed very impressed by its appearance, and when he mentioned that it was a cursed sword, they merely laughed at him. It seemed that in these parts, weapons that were "cursed" or "magic" were a bit more visually impressive from the outset, and with their rather high tech looking close combat weaponry, Tenkai's blade looked like some flimsy pieced of steel with a single edge and a guard too small for their tastes. The only other thing he could mention, in all honesty, was his eye. Or rather, what was now in place of the eye that used to rest within his right socket. He told them it allowed him to see and interact with spirits, which was true enough, though that was probably the simplest way of putting it. By then they had grown tired of Tenkai and, judging by his demeanor, deemed him non-threatening. They recorded the information and set the monk on his way with a warning to keep his "sword" under wraps, though they weren't entirely convinced he could do anything with such a simple looking weapon. Nothing else about Tenkai seemed threatening enough to be forbidden, though the monk had yet to find out the real reason why they weren't worried. "Strange that they would do that, but I guess it's a matter of security," Tenkai mused to himself as he pondered the memory, flipping a few pages back in the booklet he was reading. It was given to him by the very same military officers, said to be a brief primer on Kadia's Imperial codex. They recommended that he study it and stay in line, lest he get a rude awakening. How thoughtful, Tenkai had thought of the gesture. "Let's see here...Civil Services, Code 1.1 'One man from every family must attend Academy and spend a bare minimum of five years in service to the Imperial Legion'," he continued, rubbing his chin in thought. "Mandatory military service? Hmm..." ------------------------------------------------------------------------- It wouldn't be too long until the transport arrived at his destination: Ravenspire. Truth be told, Tenkai wasn't entirely sure why they'd give a name ending in "spire" to a city. The name itself evoked a feeling of some massive, towering castle scraping the sky. Of course, as he looked to the city itself, the name began to make more sense. The massive Corvinite Obelisks didn't seem to be the same kind of spires Tenkai was more accustomed to ascending like some sort of tower, but they were still spires in a sense. The black metal gave off a strange, golden glow that, oddly enough, seemed a bit unsettling to Tenkai. He could tell that the pulse was more than just some natural resonance. It was some sort of field of influence that washed over the city itself like some sort of psychic territory. Except...this wasn't a "psychic" territory at all. It was most certainly some sort of force of will, but it wasn't a psychic emission. If anything, it seemed to dampen the psychic resonance of his surroundings, making his Soul Sight somewhat fuzzy. Tenkai didn't understand it completely at first, wondering if he was just having a bit of a headache for a moment. Yet even when he did have a headache, his eye didn't react in the way that it did. Even Muramasa seemed a bit perturbed by the surroundings. Was this field of influence that of Kadia's so named "God Emperor" that he kept hearing about on his trip here? And why was Tenkai here, sailing all the way to Alterion on Tellus Mater, and then to Kadia of all places, specifically to reach Ravenspire? He had heard that the city was a giant university campus, but it wasn't higher learning that drew him here. After all, there were other places that could catch his interest more on Kadia than Ravenspire. No, there was good reason for him to be here. There was a familiar face or two he was still trying to look for, and he had heard through the proverbial grapevine that he would find them here. Quite a long way to go just to catch up, but as far as Tenkai was concerned, it was worth it. "Code 1.2...Every female citizen must bear at least one child by their thirtieth year? Why, that's--! But what--!?" Tenkai kept himself from making an outburst as he departed the transport, slowly walking down the bridge connecting the concentric rings of Ravenspire together. He remembered how wary the military personnel had been with him at the checkpoint. It was likely that they didn't take too kindly to outsiders passing judgement on their way of life. Such was the nature of a strict, authoritarian culture. The more and more Tenkai read of it, the more uncomfortable he began to grow. By now, he couldn't decide whether it was what was written in the codex or the emanations from the obelisks that caused his unease. Of course, he would try and drown it out by getting himself something to eat. He was a bit peckish by now, and there seemed to be plenty of little shops and stalls along the way. So he decided to get himself a little something-something as he went. One of the stalls had some rather tasty-looking foodstuffs made of thinly sliced meat stuffed into a rolled up flatbread with cream sauce. It reminded him of a similar street food that he remembered from his home many worlds away, causing him to wonder whether cultural similarities among human races popped up like this in other worlds. Unlike some monks, Tenkai was not a vegetarian, though it was always a fuzzy issue with him to begin with. Some schools of Buddhism carried the stipulation that a monk could not eat any meat that was killed on their behalf. Others, much like the Japanese tradition he was a part of, de-emphasized vegetarianism, as humans were already so sinful that abstaining from the consumption of meat was not enough to ensure happier rebirth. Even so, Tenkai did not eat meat very often, and relied on his spiritual practices to overcome the negative karma of consuming meat. It wouldn't matter much for him in the end, anyway. He was a very unorthodox kind of monk, and with the many regrettable things he had to do in his life, the "negative karma" from eating meat was just a drop in the bucket. Of course, there was also no reason not to treat himself a bit while traveling after several long months of nothing but small rations of rice and dried soybeans. "1.3-A," he said, continuing to read as he ate his wrapped sandwich, "'Items found to be cheap, or faulty, shall be refunded at triple their original cost.' That sounds awfully in the eye of the beholder, no?" It was a good thing he didn't want to return that sandwich. Well, not that he could, really. @Deus Ex Aizen @Fierach
  10. Castlemania

    "It's not a matter of 'can they' so much as 'was he'", said Tenkai, "Spirits can lie and deceive people just like the living can, but I would have known if he was. You can't lie to someone when they're grabbing you by the soul." The only way it would've been a lie is if Forren himself believed it, and at that point it wouldn't be a lie. It would just be incorrect information. Regardless, there was little reason for Tenkai to think it was too inaccurate. It wouldn't change much about their approach in the end. The monk then turned to Arashi. "This wasn't exactly a planned excursion, Arashi. I'd wager all of us were brought here by chance, and there doesn't seem to be any food around here unless you're willing to mill this grain by hand. Tenkai tossed a stalk of wheat at Arashi to distract her. She'd probably play with it and chew on it for a while and forget about eating for a few minutes. With the information Tenkai had collected, James had quickly gone about formulating plans of attack for them all. The two plans both had advantages and disadvantages, as one would expect, but Tenkai thought there was at least another option they could pursue that would better suit their team. "Plan A seems good, but...," Tenkai said, "If one group encounters both groups of bandits before the other is in position, we'll be outnumbered first, even if the other group gets the jump on them soon after. That will make things too dicey, even if we're capable. Plan B has an even greater risk of us falling into a pincer attack, even if we have our full force together. The flaws in both plans stem from a single unknown: we don't know the enemy's position." After all, Forren had told them there were two groups, but didn't say anything about where they were positioned or if they were actually divided into two groups based on position. It could have been little more than a denomination, and they could be fanned out across the village. "We also don't know if there are any hostages," Tenkai admitted with a disappointed tone of voice. "I apologize for that, personally. I didn't exactly have a large window of time to work with. He broke down rather quickly." "At any rate, I propose a Plan C," he continued. "I volunteer to take point and approach the village alone in an attempt to draw them out. They don't know we exist, so it's unlikely they'll look at a lone wanderer as evidence of an opposing force. If I can call them out, they're far more bound to get overconfident in the face of a single target. Once that happens, that's when the rest of you hit them with an alpha strike from their flank." As far as Tenkai was concerned, it was a good combination of both plans. It'd allow them to use their element of surprise and exploit the enemy's overconfidence. After all, they had just ransacked the village with presumably little resistance, being far more prepared and well armed than their victims. And if there was anyone who could handle taking point against a group of bandits, it was Tenkai. Any of the others could as well, but Tenkai looked like much less of a warrior appearance-wise, and elemental powerhouses like them would definitely route the enemy if used as a surprise attack. "If I can get close enough, I can better survey the area and see where they have their hostages, if any. If I can draw them out, it'll make it much easier for all of you to position yourselves for a surprise attack as well."
  11. Arashi is a bad cat. >:{

    Defenseless? Unable to fight? That surely didn't sound like the Raven that Tenkai remembered. Of course, he should have expected as much. It was far more likely that this wasn't the Raven he was thinking about, and was simply just another person with the same name. Nevertheless, Tenkai listened to the dragon girl's account, her enthusiasm more like a pet cat than a young woman. Tenkai dared not think of her as anyone's "pet", but her mannerisms were unquestionably unorthodox for a humanoid. The monk chuckled. "Well, that doesn't sound too bad to me," he said. "Carrots are good for you. Though I guess eating nothing but carrots alone wouldn't suffice for satiety." He sighed and shrugged. "Oh well. I did offer, so go ahead and pick out a treat from the festival grounds. I shall buy one for you!"
  12. Castlemania

    For the moment, Tenkai's attention was on Forren and his interrogation, not the new face who had just made his presence known. Tenkai already felt something odd about the undead cowboy who had joined them, and it had become more evident in the peculiar words he had spouted while shooting down the one he marked as "sinner". It was a fitting description of the wicked man they had smote rightly, if a bit heavy handed. The monk would give him his attention in due time, but for now he didn't want to miss a word of Forren's account. Simple raiders, he had said, committing such a terrible act for little more than their own profit and grim satisfaction. Armed with firearms no better than that of Bonez' weaponry, if not inferior, though the effectiveness of their arms was not as dangerous as their number. Their leader was a man by the name of Rolf Thurmond, but his name wasn't of much importance to Tenkai other than knowing who their leader was once the men called to him by name. Tenkai wasn't exactly a mind reader, even with his abilities as an empath, so no picture of this "Rolf" entered Tenkai's head upon Forren's mentioning. All he could feel was what the soul in his grasp felt when he spoke his name. There was a fair amount of dread, much of it over his current situation, but part of it was knowing what Rolf would do to him after he learned he had spilled the beans. It seemed that Forren was still somewhat unaware of his fate for him to feel that fear, unless he knew his boss would haunt him once they sent him right along to join him and the rest of his band. Reality would slowly dawn on him as he rattled off past sins and missteps that were irrelevant to Tenkai's interrogation. Not one to be led astray by digression, Tenkai's remained unmoved, the piercing glow of his eye by Forren's perspective demanding penance from the criminal. In the end, Tenkai would get what he had sought. 26 wasn't a massive number but certainly not one to sneeze at, given other factors he likely couldn't squeeze from the broken spirit. It didn't account for special abilities or weapons proficiency, but that wasn't too difficult to assess so long as none of them got in over their heads and underestimated them. "Twenty-six men, split into two groups. I see. Very well, then," Tenkai said as the winding inscription etched into the length of his left arm burned blue-white underneath its gauze covering. He raised his right hand to his face in a half-gesture of prayer as the intensity of his spiritual power burned through both of his eyes. What was once an uncomfortable, almost burning sensation for Forren would now feel like Tenkai's hand was on fire, and the searing trails of heat emanating from his grip were threading their way throughout his soul. It was painful, but it was a sharp, cauterizing pain rather than a stinging torment, as if he was being burnt away from the world he lingered in. "You've given us everything we need, and now your time here has ended. May you atone for your misgivings in the next life." At the apex of this purifying sensation, Tenkai gripped his left forearm, eyes widening with an exclamation of "Hmnh!" (Ohm), a shockwave pulsed through his arm and into the broken spirit in his grasp, shattering its corpus and banishing it from the living world. To the others around him who couldn't see or sense Forren's spirit, it looked like nothing more than a brief burst of azure flame, with the resulting shockwave blowing against the wheat stalks surrounding him. Nothing remained but Tenkai's outstretched hand as lingering spirit particles dispersed and settled. To the uninitiated, even those who could see or sense Forren's spirit, one would have thought that the monk had simply destroyed the wicked soul. But the whole idea of "soul destruction" was riddled with faults. Much like physical matter, spiritual matter could not be created nor destroyed, only changed. Even souls that were devoured were either trapped inside that which consumed them, or broken down into its constituent spiritual aggregates. What Tenkai had actually done was forcibly exorcise Forren's spirit, breaking its fetter and banishing it from the living world. It was a phenomenon many referred to as "crossing over", which was normally a peaceful process that involved a spirit coming to terms with its own death and settling the unfinished business that kept it chained to this world. An exorcist, however, could force this phenomenon, which was quite often necessary in the case of wicked spirits and, more importantly, demons. It was not a pleasant sensation for the spirit in question, but that was nothing compared to what awaited him upon rebirth. For a man like Forren, that "next life" was likely to be in Hell, and for Tenkai, being reborn in Hell was synonymous to being sent to Hell in the Christian tradition, albeit with some key differences. Either way, Minister Thomley was not wrong. Tenkai was not the one who would pass judgement on Forren's soul. He merely arranged the meeting. The monk withdrew his outstretched left hand and raised his right back into the one-handed gesture of prayer he made before. "南無阿弥陀仏。" With his job finished, Tenkai turned back to the group. "There are 26 of them in total, split between two groups. If he was part of the main group, I'd say that there's 14 in their main force and 12 reserved in the auxiliary. They have firearms, albeit primitive matchlocks and muskets, and melee weaponry. Their leader is a man named Rolf Thurmond. As long as they are unaware of our presence, there's little reason to believe they'd have traps or an ambush set up for us. I doubt they have anything to do with why were here. Their only motivation is plunder. If they have anything to do with why we're here, it would be at the whim of whoever called us here, or something deeper..." There were far too many unknowns in this situation so far. Anything more was just postulation. But Tenkai was well aware of this fact. It was nothing more than something to consider once they were done dealing with the brigands. Now Tenkai directed his attention to the Minister, who by now Tenkai could not clearly determine whether he was actually present or simply another spirit that had made itself known, detectable through his use of Soul Sight. He spoke of being part of the "First Order of the Catholic Church", something that immediately sparked Tenkai's interest. Nearly a decade prior, Tenkai was an agent of the Vatican, much like that of his mentor, Father Gordon Faulkner. Though his status as a Buddhist aesthetic didn't sit well with the more conservative Vatican officials and archbishops at the time, the Vatican's Arcanum operatives came from all manners of strange backgrounds and employed various resources that chafed the stricter sensibilities of Vatican hierarchy. Of course, Arcanum wasn't the only order that operated under the Vatican's purview, as was to be expected in the case of organization that operated away from the public eye. But Minister Thomley didn't appear as if he belonged to the Roman Inquisition or even Section XIII. Instead, he seemed like a man from a time long passed, a time before Arcanum even existed. Nevermind the fact that Thomley never once said the word "Vatican", which led to the possibility that this "First Order" of the Catholic Church could have been unaffiliated. That would open up several other possibilities for conjecture, but in the end conjecture was all it was. Tenkai figued that Thomley was speaking to him, though the monk wouldn't speak until he was done addressing his undead protégé, Bonez. As much as it appeared they were on the same sign, there was something about Thomley's manner in speaking to Bonez or even how readily Bonez responded to his subtle orders that didn't sit right with Tenkai. He could feel some sort of power at work, some strong imposition of will. Had this been straight up necromancy, it would undoubtedly rifle Tenkai's senses. If it wasn't, then it was unlike any form of arcana Tenkai was familiar with. "And judged he shall be," said Tenkai. "Though neither by you nor I. I exorcised his soul, nothing more." Bonez seemed a bit too unwilling in this "crusade" for Tenkai's liking. Although somewhat obscure and uncommon, it wasn't completely unheard of for a revenant to act in the service of some righteous cause. The Vatican had done it before, and it was possible this was such a case. However, turning the dead into revenants and spectres for the purpose of judging the wicked was often the works of Hell rather than Heaven. This only raised Tenkai's suspicion. Why delight in the bondage of such a soul to this crusade? Was he a criminal forced to atone for a life of wickedness with service towards the greater good? Or was it something more than that? Ultimately, it felt like Bonez was the one being held from his fate, making Thomley's statement about the Lord's judgement a bit hypocritical. Tenkai couldn't stand to see someone bound to undeath, forced outside of the Samsara, halted in the cycle of rebirth and their potential enlightenment. That was a choice for Bonez to make, not Thomley. Alas, to address that now would mean to cause unnecessary conflict when there were more pressing matters to attend to. Tenkai had no desire to delay the retribution that the raiders had coming to them. Tenkai turned to James. "Well, James. That was all I managed to get out of him. What do you make of it?"
  13. Castlemania

    ((Forgive me for posting out of turn. The action I'm going to take will be a bit of back and forth between me and Fierach and I don't want to hold up the post order because of it. This'll help move it along.)) Jin would feel a heavy pat on his shoulder as he snapped himself into reality. It was Tenkai, who until now had calmly stood back and allowed the others to take care of the situation. With everyone so quick on the trigger, Tenkai considered himself fortunate not to give in to the heat of the moment and rush in. The monk was certainly in no mood to be on the receiving end of Jin's lightning or that revenant's firearms. Still, although Tenkai couldn't read minds, he could still hear Jin fairly well and feel the way his emotions rippled through the deathless void that Buddhists understood to be true reality. It was how Tenkai used empathy, an ability made even more potent by his new "eye". He could see Jin quiver with emotion as he struggled to come to terms with the gravity of the situation. Jin had strong morals, a trait that was an absolute necessity for the kind of warrior he wished to become. Yet it was still too innocent, lacking in temper. His value for life would undoubtedly drive him to find the most peaceful outcome, but how would he react when it couldn't be helped? When taking a life was the only recourse? Would he refuse? Or would he come to learn that what constitutes a "monster" is far more complex than he could imagine? "You are fine," said the monk. "What you're feeling right now...never forget that feeling. Live with it, but never forget it." Even in recent times, Tenkai did not allow himself to grow desensitized to violence. The fact that the world was filled with such evil and cruelty that could only be dealt with by force was something that filled him with disgust. Yet he still continued to fight regardless, with barely a quiver to his lip. It was not that he had grown used to it. He simply knew how to live with it. The rage that Jin felt was the collective frustration over the evils of the world and what he had to do to deal with it. In time and with training, that rage would be tempered into righteous indignation, a fury directed towards both the wicked and the unjust state of the world that brought about such regrettable circumstances. That very same righteous indignation was now flowing through Tenkai, and Jin would be able to feel it through the hand on his shoulder like radiant heat. "You should tend to the girl," Tenkai said abruptly. He knew that Jin was James' student, not his own, but he felt the need to preempt James in the off-chance that he might encourage his disciple's impulsiveness. "When we go in, we go in together, and with a plan. Your actions have bought us the element of surprise, presuming they don't investigate." Tenkai had to consider the possibility that the gunshot was audible from here. It was enough to draw attention but not enough to clue the enemy in on their existence. They could still use it to their advantage. Had the bandit successfully made it back to his people, they would regroup and form ranks, making the whole situation a lot messier. He wasn't expecting them to garrison in a town that was currently burning to the ground, but there were many ways they could use it against the group if the marauders knew what was coming for them. Tenkai wasn't sure if the girl was currently being tended to. One of the others could already be helping her to her feet. The point of Tenkai's forceful suggestion was to keep Jinsoku from rushing headlong into a situation they still knew too little about. They could have asked the girl, but would they really want to put a young woman scared half to death through that kind of stress? After all, she was probably still in shock over the whole ordeal and would know far less about the enemy than one of their own. That was where Tenkai came in. "Give me a moment, please." Tenkai approached with haste but he did not run. Each step he took seethed with purpose, growing ever more imposing the closer he came. But who would be the one bearing witness to this approach? It was Forren, of course, the brigand who had been so rightly ended by magic and munitions. He was a fresh kill, and even those who died peacefully still lingered for a moment before crossing over. Forren, on the other hand, had met a rather violent end, and souls such as these lingered far longer. Some could even find themselves unable to accept their own deaths, their spirits fettered to the Shadowlands that existed parallel to the world of the living. Many a soul had become lost in such a way, and battlefields in particular are often rife with lost souls. Without a doubt, the massacre not too far from them would be no different. Forren and his compatriots were the ones responsible for such heinousness. Tenkai could see that sin upon the bandit's soul like a dark stain. Not much time had passed, such so that Forren's spirit wouldn't have even left his corpse. He probably didn't even realize he was dead yet. He would not see Tenkai approaching through his glassy dead eyes, still locked in the state of shock he was last left in. No, the bandit would be seeing the world through the eyes of his spirit, as if all the color and life had faded from the scenery and the contrasts between light and shadow were far more pronounced. The party of heroes before him, the ones still (mostly) in the land of the living, would all seem a blur to him at this distance. All of them except Tenkai. What was really only a few moments would seem like an eternity to Forren as the monk approached, his form as clear to him as any other spirit. It was almost as if Tenkai was present in the spirit world and the living world simultaneously, a man very much alive yet still standing there in the same plane of existence as the now deceased bandit. To a departed spirit like Forren, it would be the same as if he was seeing a ghost in the living world, assuming corporeal form that by all accounts looked real to the eye yet shook his spirit to the core with a sense of wrongness; a feeling that what he was seeing should not be here, could not be here. It was this sense of terror that drove humans to fear the actual sight of ghosts far more than simple illustrations. The only difference here was that the eyepatch covering Tenkai's eye was negligible. The artifact that sat in his eye socket shone through the patch like it wasn't even there, a burning white-hot flame that nearly blinded his wicked soul with its baleful gaze. Forren would know with more certainty than anything that the monk could see him. And he could touch him as well. To the onlookers in the living world, it would look like Tenkai grabbing Forren's corpse roughly by the throat and pulling upward as if he was trying to lift up his body in a chokehold, yet he let his neck slip from his fingers, holding onto empty air. In truth, Tenkai grabbed the disembodied spirit of the vile brigand by his throat and forcibly tore him from his body. Anyone among them with sensitivity to spirits or ghosts would be able to tell what Tenkai was doing through their own senses. As dramatic a display of power as it seemed, Tenkai couldn't actually rip someone's soul from their body. He was only able to do this because Forren was already dead, the bonds between his body and soul having already been severed by death. But Tenkai could touch spirits like one could touch any other physical object, which made coaxing a soul from its dead body a simple task. Even moreso when it was done by force. None of them had time to wait for Forren to realize he was dead and start floating out of his body. "How many are you?" Tenkai asked Forren, tightening his grip. He held him up with one hand, and not just any hand at that. It was his left hand, the one whose arm was wrapped up in gauze concealing an entwining inscription of Sanskrit that ran up the length of it. To the spirit, it would feel like Tenkai's hand were made of iron that was uncomfortably warm, steadily growing in heat as that very same righteous indignation burned when in contact with his own wickedness. He'd feel all the discomfort of being choked to death without any restriction to his breath, seeing as he didn't need to breathe. He likely didn't need his ersatz windpipe to speak, either, but a freshly deceased spirit wouldn't understand any of that and would be held back by more familiar sensations. To that end, Tenkai lightened up the slack just enough that he could speak, no differently than he would a living person he was interrogating by chokehold. Forren was undoubtedly bombarded with emotion over everything happening so suddenly, so Tenkai took that time the bandit would spend getting his thoughts in order to fire off additional questions. "Who do you work for? What kind of arms do you possess? Be quick about it, or I'll make this hurt." Tenkai slowly tightened his grip, increasing the "heat" of his spirit that burned against Forren's. He wanted to make sure the bandit knew that death was no escape for him here, and he would be held to task. Tenkai almost wanted to ask why they were killing innocent people, but the why was not important here. Tenkai was assured of his foulness just by holding his wretched spirit in his grip. Right now, all Tenkai cared about were practical details. It was his comrades who would answer for the rest.
  14. Arashi is a bad cat. >:{

    "Arashi, huh? Well, that's quite an interesting name!" said Tenkai. "Where I come from, it means 'storm'. Though I'm not sure what it means in your language..." Truth be told, the language she got the name from could very well have been Japanese anyway. After all, with yokai like Akako about, there was no telling what other creatures and cultures from places familiar to Tenkai existed in other worlds. Was it some sort of means of migration he didn't know about? Or was this a matter of similar evolution between two separate places with similar geographical and societal circumstances? It was, of course, hard to say. It was about as hard to explain as the reason why there were so many humans to be found in all of these realms beyond Tenkai's point of origin. Arashi was a strange creature, nonetheless. She was far taller than Tenkai, and her muscle mass was abnormal for a human. She was likely some sort of reptilian hybrid species, based on those horns and giant tail of hers. Could even be some sort of dragonkin. Yet with the way she was eyeing that box, her mannerisms were more like some sort of stray kitten than a dragon. She acted far younger than she looked, which only raised more questions and implications. Was it just immaturity for her age, or was she seriously just that young in spite of development? Tenkai had seen things like that before, and the stories they unveiled were often rather regrettable. "So, tell me about this friend of yours. You said her name was Raven? What is she like?" @Metty
  15. It takes two to tengu.

    If the officer's welcoming was any indication, Tenkai would have to say that things were a lot slower today than usual. Had this been a place where adventurers and hunters were lined up looking for work, he imagined her response would have been less enthusiastic. Filling out papers and dealing with official business several times a day could be exciting for only so long before it became rote and methodical. He wondered still if this was common or simply an isolated anomaly. If it was common, well, that would definitely explain her change in attitude. Either that, or there was some sort of workplace ethic that was strictly enforced when dealing with customers. Tenkai internally balked at the idea of being considered a "customer". He did his best to outright ignore that fact in hopes of focusing on the task at hand. The officer, whose name unbeknownst to the monk was Cid, seemed to do a lot more than he had expected with the poster he had presented to her. The more she inspected it, the more confused she looked, almost as if she didn't even recognize the paper. This, in turn, only ended up adding to Tenkai's own confusion and steadily increasing frustration. Was this standard operating procedure? Tenkai held his tongue for fear of being rude, but how hard could it really be when the information was right there on the poster? That was when Cid laid it onto him. The poster was, apparently, a fake. Seriously!? And why? Legal disclaimers? Legal disclaimers? Tenkai didn't even have a lawyer! Hell, he didn't have one even before he fell out of the damned sky and into these strange new lands. He didn't know a bylaw from a list of swimming pool safety guidelines. And what was all of this about serial numbers? How was Tenkai supposed to know anything about their significance? While none of this made Tenkai angry, he was still visibly frustrated at an increasing rate. How hard was it to get a definitive report of the plight of everyday people? For all they knew the villagers could hardly even read, let alone process serial numbers and legal disclaimers. It should not have been this complicated to let the local government know there was a problem. No wonder Weland's state defenses had been neglecting them. Even throughout his confusion, Tenkai continued to listen to Cid as she explained, his face further contorting in perplexion. Her explanation did help sort out some of the issues, but it also ended up raising more questions and issues. Who was it to say what problems were worth the effort if this was being put in the hands of random soldiers-of-fortune? Why only recognize specific hunts when it was up to the discretion of the hunter? Sure, there was always the chance it could be fake, but all they had to go about investigating it was whether or not it followed the same bureaucratic methods best left to the government that wouldn't even bother helping in the first place. Of this, Tenkai could no longer hold his tongue. "Be that as it may, Ms...game...officer..." Tenkai would leave it open for her to give her name, but he would not wait too long for it either. "If the point of these bounties and other hunts being posted is to rely on the aid of travelers and adventurers, who is to say what job should be recognized and what shouldn't? So far all you've told me that indicates this poster as being fake are little more than technicalities that your everyday commoner wouldn't know about in the first place. Legal disclaimers and serial numbers are the domain of offices, offices that report to and work in tandem with local governments, and if it is as you say, the 'local government' seems to want little to do with these poorer districts. So what sense does it make to strictly adhere to the needlessly complicated structures and methods of a government that won't even bother to help in the first place?" Perhaps this was why Cid seemed so bored. She probably knew this to be true already, and perhaps Tenkai was beating her over the head with something she was well aware of. Indeed, she seemed to understand that fact when she then proposed that Tenkai check out the situation regardless of their approval. "I don't care about payment," said Tenkai. "I was planning to reject it from the outset, or perhaps donate it to something more useful to the local community. Frankly, I had no idea that the office was in charge of payment, as I'd imagine whatever reward would be supplied by the poster. If it is as you say, then perhaps it would make sense to check the veracity of a claim. I...apologize for my frustration earlier. Still, I cannot readily ignore those who suffer. All I need to know is where I am to start investigating." Cid was right to be concerned about the politics of "beast men". To that end, perhaps avoiding endorsement of the poster as an official hunt was a good move. There was no telling what kind of people it would attract, or what kind of turmoil it would create. Luckily, the right man had found the job before anyone else. "Do not be troubled," said Tenkai. "I'm well aware of the 'politics' behind this sort of thing. It's not that much different from what I'm used to. My only intention is to help solve the problem. If I can do so without resorting to use of force, that would be a nice reprieve." These days, things were not as simple. Werewolves, even vampires had some sort of political grey area. Not all of them wished to visit death upon the mortal world. Some simply wanted to live in peace or endure whatever suffering their condition brought upon them without causing any harm to others. It was something that Tenkai learned to respect many years ago, much unlike the traditional hunter. Of course, the time of traditional hunters passed a long time ago. As the generations came and went, there were less and less cases of creatures who could be considered unmistakably and irreconcilably evil. There were times where it made it difficult to truly discern who deserved righteous judgement and who didn't, but the ones that undoubtedly did...well...they always proved to be an exceptionally sinister kind. These were the types Tenkai mostly sought to root out. But resolving a simply difference on the side before more unscrupulous hunters came along wasn't a bad use of his time, either. "All I need now is a destination. I can take the rest from there."