And then it was time for the final swordfight.
Oboro was beyond words. Maybe she just hadn't needed to exert herself in the previous fights, but you now got the impression she wasn't even trying. Gracefully she dodged and weaved around Satomi's skillful strikes, occasionally catching one, but more often than not either dodging outright or parrying with her own sword - which she still did not draw from it's scabbard. Occasionally she'd hit back with unarmed strikes of her own.
Eventually Oboro got hold of Satomi's waikizashi.
Satomi was amazing, herself. She, too, was like watching an artist make art when she fought.
She never really stood a chance. In the end, the fight had ended, really, the moment Oboro got her blade. From that point on it was just Oboro making things implicitly clear to everyone watching that Satomi, like everyone else, was just wasting her time.
She was really something else.
"She's very skilled," Haru said, to no one no particular. It was obvious, anyway. Considering Oboro's performance, the casual tone of the statement almost seemed like insult instead of the compliment it was. Hopefully Ryo had not taken his previous loss to heart; there was no shame in losing to such a woman.
Oboro didn't even bother to show up to receive her awards and rewards in the end. Apparently the chain-smoking redhead was nowhere to be found, having left sometime after defeating Satomi.
Yuanjun got some money and suchlike for second place. You didn't pay too much attention though, because you couldn't really stand to look at Qing.
The trip home was more or less like a more depressing version of the trip to Yagyu. Rin seemed upbeat, though, in spite of all that happened. Ryo may have been fortunate, she barely paid any attention to him and was all over Yuanjun even more than usual.
The day after you got back to Kusanagi-to Rin had you all brought to the palace again. Roku wasn't there, presumably she'd sent him off on something else, the nutjob.
Rin met you in the palace's gardens. Yuanjun was already with her, since Yuanjun had been spending most of her time with Rin already. Rin was feeding and talking to the dozen or so adorable little foxes which swarmed around her. Even the little animals seemed to be affected by her infectious charm - they didn't even seem to register Haru's arrival - odd for a Druid - and were much more interested in Rin.
Then again, Rin was feeding them bits of chicken. Haru didn't have bits of chicken.
As always, Rin greeted you with too-friendly kisses, too-close hugs and a bit of friendly groping. She really, really, just couldn't help herself.
"Well that could have all gone better." Rin said with a soft laugh. "You all did very well, though, I'm very proud of you all." She paused to give a bit of chicken to a fox that was yipping loudly and pawing at her legs. "Oh, you, mommy didn't forget about you." She purred to it.
"Anyway. I'm so sorry that you all had to deal with that... unpleasantness regarding the abomination." Her revulsion seemed genuine. "My Hideki has no idea what it might have been doing there. And I'm just a hooker with a great rack, so don't ask me."
"I've - I mean my Hideki" she gave a little giggle "- have people looking into the Cao angle." Rin gave a heavy sigh (her face is up there, her face is up there...). "It seems that all we've managed to do is raise more questions."
Rin hugged Haru close, leaving her arms around his shoulders and kissing his neck softly afterwards, still pressing up against him. As ever, she smelled, felt, and looked amazing. It was hard to concentrate. Haru found it difficult to believe any woman - any human - could be so... so perfectly sexy and beautiful.
"How're you holding up, handsome?" Rin giggled. "I imagine you in particular must be pretty shaken up over everything. Anything I could do to help you relieve some stress? I've got some ideas..." She gave a naughty little smile. "Yuanjun won't mind. Maybe we can even talk her into joining in." she added with a wink to Yuanjun.
"No, thank you." Haru took a step back to remove himself from Rin's arms. Tsubasa eyed Rin jealously from his shoulder.
Lacing his fingers together, Haru said gravely, "These are, indeed, ominous signs. I hope we may uncover the answer to this mystery before something...happens..." He trailed off, thinking.
Rin smiled. "You sure you wouldn't like to let off some steam with me?" She asked, pressing the issue - and herself - against him some more. "You know they have those apes out in the West that do it. Those Chimp like things. You know what I mean, right? I think Hideki has some in the menagerie here in the city, even." She smiled. Gods but it was hard to say no. "I promise I'll blow your mind. Among other things." She gave a laugh and pushed off him, kneeling down with her foxes and happily petting the excited little things, occasionally picking one up to let it lick her face while she laughed. They seemed to really like her.
"Well, you know. Didn't they have an incident with a Mind Flayer a while back in Mizunokuni?" Rin shrugged. "Maybe you kids would like to go visit the Daimyo? I know Akemi, and could possibly pull some strings. Well, ask Hideki to do it, anyway. She and I met a while back at some diplomatic thingy that Hideki took me along to. She was really wild." Rin gave a little shudder of pleasure. "You remember her, right Ryo? She was practically throwing herself at you and you were all 'HURF DURF I'M BORING AND AWFUL.'"
"I don't know how you could say no to her, Ryo. Really. I mean, how often do you have the huge titted leaders of entire countries throwing themselves at you? Besides me, of course." More of Rin's musical laughter.
"Well, not that I run the country, of course." Rin laughed. "But you know what I mean."
Kai smiled tightly at Rin's brand of subtlety, but couldn't stop the nervous fidgeting he'd been keeping up for days since they drew close to Kusanagi-to. On the one hand he was desperate to see Mio, so desperate he could barely keep his attention fixed on anything else for long.
On the other, he was more than a little nervous about how she'd react when she saw him. His former wife, though only a few years older than him and tiny in stature, was still very much more powerful than him. He had never been quick or skilled enough for unarmed combat. Mio's difficulty with empathy, her preference for dusty old books filled with anatomy and strategy over people and the taste she had developed for cruelty made her a far more effective fighter and weapon than he. Master had always favoured her, his vicious little prize, right up until he'd felt her fists connect with his skull. Kai remembered how she'd left their Master's body broken in a dozen ways and felt the icy touch of fear under his nerves. Motherhood had not softened her. If anything, the risk he'd put her children and her husband in would cause her to be far, far more dangerous.
Not for the first time he wondered if it might not be wise to slip away back to his home unnoticed and avoid Mio altogether; but then, as always, the familiar ache returned. He hadn't seen her in so long. Or the children.
He resumed fidgeting, drumming his fingers against his thighs.
"Well Rin, if I can say no to you, turning down a foreign leader isn't going to be hard at all. Besides it would not have been proper." Ryo replied, tapping the collar of his Kimono. He had apparently not shaved in a while, he had a bit of a beard growing.
Rin shrugged. "Your loss. She was amazing." Rin laughed and threw herself around Yuanjun, kissing her neck and hugging her close. "Of course, you know you're my favorite, right? I wouldn't want to make you jealous. Unless making you jealous would somehow result in a threesome in which the two of you tried to one-up eachother for my attention. Then I totally want to make you jealous."
Rin leaned back, still hanging onto Yuan. "Point is, lovelies, that Akemi and I fucked eachother's brains out. She's nice. She's hot. And she's dealt with this shit before. You kids could use a break, and Mizonukuni is a lovely country. It might do you some good to relax there, and maybe see if you can't get some catharsis out of talking to her."
She did a little twirl away from Yuanjun and laughed. "Besides, you're all lovely. There's a good chance she might fuck you too. Oh, oh! Ask her to show you 'the wave'!" Rin gave another happy little shudder.
"If you'd all like to go, I can get travel arrangements set up easily enough. Well, I mean, my Hideki can. I can't. I'm just a hooker. A hooker who's willing to fuck you all for free but only Yuanjun and Shari have taken me up on the offer because the rest of you obviously hate me and want to tease me until I go insane."
Everyone: Do a Knowledge Local, History, and Religion for Mizunokuni, and Knowledge: Nobility for Akemi.
"A break sounds good." Ryo said, trying unsuccessfully to remember things about Akemi and Mizunokuni.
"There was some revolt cra-...erm, buisness- going down in Mizunokuni years back, I remember that." Shari spoke plainly, keeping an eye on Kai's restrained emmotions so closely, that she almost let herself swear in Rin's honourable presence. All she could do to avoid the stress of thinking about Mio (and failing Kai by somehow antagonising her, should they ever even meet) was to try occuping her mind intently with the task at hand. "I know because I got hired hunting some of these weird-magic-type fellows for a while. Never bothered to ask what they had to do with the old goverment at the time, unfortunately... Guess they were one and the same."
"Akemi..." Shari repeated the name to herself out loud. Some twisted form of nostalgia brewed in her stomach, recalling memories of her early footsoldier days. Back before her skin had been either shredded or stained with ink, but not so far back as her first kills in the feild. Regardless, there was no face to the name. -and the youthful punk version of miss Tsunzaku sure as hell didn't know any Daimyo-level priests...