"You do realise that the fact we have to deal with her at all is a problem caused by you and yours?" Kai asked lightly. "You can keep your disdain to yourself, thank you.
"So far we know we will be dealing with undead," he ticked off each on his fingers, "Oni, and of course the Bakeneko and Hitomi herself. Oh, and possibly Otoyo, because knowing our luck she will have already been brought back by the time we get there.
"I know you think we're the intellectual equals of slugs, but hopefully you realise that even slugs have jobs to do and if you just help us as best you can then we can go off and do it. The more information we have the easier it will be to succeed and let you get on with whatever it is you immortals do.
"So. What can you tell us about the Bakeneko? Rei said the older ones have powers- among them necromancy. What else do you have?"
"Well, like most things, they are faster, stronger, cleverer, and generally better than Humans. Of course, you lot are a bit better than the average Human, but still." Chiyo gave a look. "And I had suggested to the Goddess that we continue hunting them down. Blame Rei, not me."
She shrugged. "They're immune to poison - they eat the stuff like candy in fact. They're supernaturally beautiful, and they have all the grace, agility, and reflexes you'd expect of cats. So there's that.
And I don't resent Humans. I am not a monster. I simply resent Rin allowing her emotion to cloud her judgment, and sending children to do the work of adults. I do not believe you can do what she is asking of you, and I believe that we shall all suffer for your failure. But enough of that.
They're innately magical. So many of them may be Sorceresses or display additional powers, assuming they chose to hone their powers.
And Hitomi has help. She has to. She's a thug. A real fucking idiot. There's no way in Baator she came up with this plan on her own, and no way in another nine thousand fucking years she could have figured out how to replicate, let alone modify, Sogi's plague. Someone is helping her, and whoever that is is probably a lot more competent than she is. She's all strength and speed and natural ability, but she hasn't a ounce of talent or skill in her body."
Chiyo turned around. "If you have no other questions, I should start making preparations for after your inevitable failure." She paused for a moment. "If it's any consolation... I genuinely hope you don't die." She at least sounded earnest. "I mean that. Well, not for Shari, but for the rest of you. You're good people, and it would be unfitting for you to die."
EDIT: Forgot some sutff and accidentally locked thread.
Shari was honestly impressed that Chiyo managed to speak to them half-decently, no doubt in thanks to Kai standing directly up to her. The vendetta against her personally was still alive and well, but that part wasn't exactly surprising. Neither were the outright insults leveled at her race.
"That's actually worse, having a thug like that in apparent command..." She spoke up in accordance to the woman's description of Hitomi, her voice the epitome of solemn, professional calm. "The last time I fought her, she was clearly way out of my league... But even a masterful sorcerer I could deal with. Have dealt with..."
Hand to her chin, she tried not to let the obvious implications of that statement rest on her mind for too long, whilst she tried to conceive of a reasonable plan of attack.
"The problem is that I don't think simply offing Hitomi will halt this, if there really is somebody else pulling the strings... There are plenty more Bakeneko out there..." It was a sour realization, but she did her best to remain objective. If they were a bunch of frenzied killers who were just looking for revenge, there were more than a few superior targets she could think of. But no. They had a task to perform, gifted from their master, simple as. "If she doesn't know the person in charge by their face... or if she's possessed by something... Then I have to ask if there is a more viable way of rattling Hitomi's leash, so much that she leads us to the real puppeteer herself?..."
"It's okay if you have no idea, Miss Chiyo." Looking up, she allowed herself a momentary, sly little smile. "We've been getting that alot from superior beings lately."
Chiyo stomped over to Shari and slapped her. "Talk back to me again, I fucking dare you." She glared at Shari. "Besides. Between Orochi and Kanegawa, you have plenty of experience serving gods, don't you? Rin tolerates you because she pities you. I don't pity you, and you test the limits of my tolerance." She took a deep breath and calmed down a bit.
"If I knew who was yanking Hitomi's leash, I would have told you. I don't. Neither does the Goddess. The entities that come to mind with the means to be manipulating her all lack the motive to do so. Perhaps it is simply Orochi's cult attempting to fuck with us. I do not know. I intend to find out."
Chiyo's hand impacted like the full-on punch of an ordinary human, causing Shari to stumble slightly sideways as she resisted the reflexive urge to counterattack.
She clenched her teeth, a fervent new anger brewing in her gut. Rin had been a monster of the worst sort herself, in the past. Shari had long since decided that was why she was forgiven. So fuck pity. She wouldn't accept that.
"What's the difference? If we run into another mind flayer you could be doing me a favor." The monk growled back bitterly, fully expecting an even harsher strike to be on it's way. If not worse. "I owe my holy master every second I remain alive. Not you. So if you are going to randomly just lash out and kill me because you want to, go ahead. I may be a poor ignorant little sap but at least I'm saving my damn anger for the enemy. At least I'm putting my pitiful little life on the line, trying to stop the rest of my comrades ending up like Jian did. In Rin's name."
"And I haven't you stupid idiot?! Oh, fuck this, I don't have to explain myself to you lot."
She shoved Shari and then just stormed off.
"Good luck, you'll fucking need it."
Shari was still gritting her teeth, not really able to appreciate the novelty of having talked down a fully armed kitsune.
"I'll suggest if you want to buy anything for the trip, you'd best do it now. Rei wanted to meet us later." She looked back to the others briefly, before moving to thunder off herself. "A few new potions of health are probably not a bad idea."
All the monk really wanted was some decent elbow-length gloves. Hand-to-hand fighting with the undead was several degrees worse than just 'messy'.
"Immortals," Kai said sadly.
He turned to Shari, "I'm going to buy enough holy water to cleanse both our souls," he said wryly, "although somehow I think it'll be of more use thrown hard at the walking corpses we're sure to face later."
The group did their shopping and/or praying and reconvened at the palace's harems the next day, gear in tow and ready to go fight a literal crazy cat lady.
Rin was there, as was Rei and Yuan, but Rin was apparently not in a very talkative mood and mostly just stayed by Yuan, holding her hand tightly.
Rei explained that she, Chiyo and Rin had arranged for a carriage to take the group as close to Oguchi as they felt was safe, and that they would have to go the rest of the way by foot and/or horseback. Common sense suggests Hitomi would be staying in the capital city, Oguchi proper, but it may be wise to investigate the outlying towns and villages of Oguchi anyway - just in case. If nothing else, might at least give the group a taste of what they were in store for, so they could prepare accordingly.
Rei also gave Haru a stack of about 30 ofuda, and a ring of prayer beads. "For, like, good luck, handsome."
As the group headed off to leave, Rin opened her mouth to say something to Yuan, but Yuan just shushed her. "I love you." the grumpy Monk said with surprising emotion and a kiss, before joining the group as they headed off.
However tender Yuanjun was with Rin, she didn't have any of that tenderness left for her allies. "Alright, I don't care what Rin told you, we're not torturing Hitomi. Unless we have to. We go in, we stop her by any means necessary, and we leave. Simple. I think even you four can handle this." She said in her usual arrogant semi-grumpy drawl the moment the group was outside the palace.
Then she kicked Ryo in the chest. Not hard enough to really fuck him over, but hard enough that it was a good reminder that Yuan's thighs were more than just for show. "That's for getting beat up by the blind woman."
Yeah. Yuanjun was back.
Ofuda are functionally identical to scrolls. The prayer beads Rei gave Haru are the standard prayer beads from the Wondrous Items list. Below are the ofuda, and number of each, that Rei gave Haru.
8 Cure Moderate Wounds
6 Cure Serious Wounds
5 Cure Critical Wounds
5 Death Ward
6 Remove Disease
Kai just rolled his eyes. "Yes, thank you Yuanjun" he said dryly, "Chiyo had already clarified that, and we have known Rin as long as you; somehow we know her well enough to know that despite her loathing of Hitomi she still doesn't truly want us to peel the bitch's skin off and rub salt into the mass that had previously been her face."
He hadn't missed her. With distaste, he wondered what on Asul Rin saw in her- not for a second considering that Rin would have similar thoughts regarding Shari.
"Shall we get on with it," he asked acidly, "or have you more tiresome put downs and irrelevant asides designed to gloss over the fact that you've been safe and cozy whilst we've been facing horrors you can't imagine?"