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Ashes in the Breeze (Japanese Inspired 5e in-character) (nsfw)

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
Head northwest along the road from Kugi towards Horozawa. It is about a day's worth of a journey on foot for a normal person, that is if one doesn’t come across any dangers or blockages along their way. This area could only be described as rural, once out of the small town, farms and rice patties dot the landscape. Then after another hour or so of walking, all human influence would give way to wilderness. Wilderness where monsters roam and bandits run. If a wild kappa doesn’t jump out at you for getting too close to its pond, a feral oni might just drop down on you but if that wasn’t enough bandits could rob you at any time they feel like. Needless to say, travelers were always on guard. Either buy a weapon and know how to use it or hire a bodyguard.

But it wasn’t all bad, while traveling you could make some new friends on the road or take in the breathtaking scenery. Some might not say that the south east was very pretty but the trees were impressive enough and some of the views of the ocean on the main road couldn’t be beat. This area was mostly known for farms and agriculture.

Just a couple of walking hours outside of Kugi a young man came bursting out from the tree line. He seemed to be in a hurry. So much so that he bumped into someone else walking on the road. “S-sorry, I can’t stop. Or else…” he muttered nervously and in a very uneasy tone. Scurrying ahead in a hurry, his movements were jerky, tense. He paused at turned around to the person on the road, perhaps feeling guilty. “You should probably hurry too… I’m not sure if they’re following me.”
(@Penny)
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
Jihi had been on the road for several hours already. She figured she'd left sometime shortly after midnight and walked, anxiously watching the darkness around her, until the black sky turned yellow, then blue in the morning light. She'd been debating how far she'd be able to push herself before it became dangerous; it was possible her uncle Touma - who might as well be her father - would either try himself or convince a neighbour to try and catch her, and she wanted as much of a head start as she could manage. If her uncle got the chance to try and convince Jihi to come home, she wasn't sure she'd have the will to deny him. Her heart ached just thinking about him now.

It was a strange feeling, leaving home. She'd never gone beyond the furthest edges of the outermost rice paddies before. At times, it didn't feel real, like if she just looked over her shoulder she'd see the thatch-roofed women buildings and curated fields of her hamlet. Then she'd catch a glimpse of the ocean and realize she was alone in a strange land with nothing but a collection of second-hand stories to guide her. It was intimidating, and she'd even considered turning back, but forced the urge down. Her mother had made the same trip, except in reverse, and carrying a child at the same time. Surely she could do this.

Jihi shifted her backpack's weight on her shoulders and felt back with one hand, feeling the bulge of her mother's urn, comforting herself with the knowledge it was still there. She had to do this.

She stopped in her tracks, head turning, when she heard something crashing through the trees. She'd previously taken comfort in the weight of her protective leathers, but they didn't lend her any confidence now. Her hand went to one of the nunchaku at her waist, pulling it free, before she shifted into a defensive stance. Nonetheless, she was unprepared for the man bursting out of the treeline, stepping back nervously as she struck her shoulder, but it wasn't an attack. When he stopped, she lifted the hem of her hat, staring back at him with wide pink eyes.

"Wait - " she asked, taking a step towards the man. "Who's following you? What's happening?"
 
OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The young man paused for a moment to look back at Jihi. At first he couldn’t tell that she wasn’t human, but now he got a good look at her crimson features. But his frightened expression didn’t change, at least not that she could catch. “I… w-was captured… but they told me to run.” He stammered, a bit of sweat crawling down his temple. “I don’t know who they are…” he panted, his eyes widening like he was trying to remember their faces . “I… t-think they’re going to kill me. T-they looked like bandits.” He turned away suddenly. “I know a spot I can hide…” he muttered and began scurrying down the road, the same direction Jihi was initially headed. After that he didn’t really stop. It seemed as if he was truly frightened, he was doing this sort of hurried walk in between jogging and walking. A pace that one could easily keep up with if they chose.

After a few minutes of hurried walking and looking over his shoulder every second. He suddenly turned off the main road and headed down a trail that was fairly rough and was definitely not on any maps. Regardless if he was being followed by Jihi, he hiked into the woods. Disappearing from sight of the main road. If there were anyone else traveling they’d totally miss him and if there truly was someone following him, they would potentially lose him.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
"Kill you?" Jihi hurried after the man, her free hand pulling the other nunchaku free from her waist. "They let you go just to chase you? That's insane!"

He had some distance on her, but at a run, Jihi easily closed the gap between her and the man's anxious trot. He wasn't moving very quickly for someone in mortal peril, especially given the nature of his pursuers. They captured him, but released him, just to find and kill him again? There was no logic or reason in it besides sheer cruelty. Only a demented sadist would do something so needlessly vicious. It was hard to imagine a whole group of them working together.

The stammer of his words. The quiver in his voice. The movement of his eyes. It was all so perfect, the very image of a terrified victim. Jihi would have loved to share the stage with him.

Jihi followed the man until he turned off the road into the forest. She allowed him to penetrate into the underbrush where it was harder to move quickly, then turned and sprinted down the road, leaving him and any accomplices her may have had behind. She didn't stop running until her lungs burned and her blood pounded in her temples, finally slowing to a walk as she looked over her shoulder, inspecting the road and trees. Nothing followed her.

After a few, long seconds to make sure, she sagged with relief, then started giggling. The giggles turned into laughter as she put her nunchaku away. She could've been robbed! Hell, she could've been killed! She put a hand to her sweaty forehead as the laughter subsided. She wasn't sure whether to be scared at how close she came or proud of having seen and avoided it. Again, a scared voice inside her said she should go back home, but she quelled it. There were thieves between her and the village now, anyway. Nowhere to go but forward.

Her hand reached behind her, pressing on the bulge of the metal urn in her back again. "What would you have done?" she whispered. "You'd probably have fought them. I bet you'd have won. Did you have to fight anyone when you came this way?"

Her hand dropped away from the bulge as she kept walking, watching the trees by the road. "Why did you come all this way?"
 
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OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The trip from Kugi to Horozawa takes just over 12 hours. If Jihi left in very early hours, she’d be arriving in the afternoon/evening in Horozawa. The sun would be beginning to descend onto the horizon. The forest would gradually morph back into more and more fields. Farmers and their wives would be out in the paddies, hunched over and breaking their backs. Others would be pushing carts full or empty along the road perhaps into town or back home.

Glances would be given to Jihi as she passed. Some dubious looks and some just passing their gaze over her. Perhaps they were a bit wary of her presence or how she looked if they were able to get a glance of her crimson skin under her wide straw hat.

Horozawa is a farming village much like Kugi, but just a bit larger. There are more fields here than Kugi as well as a larger community. Other than that it looks and feels similar to the more rural towns. But this place had a soba and katsu shop. There were a few inns one could stay in where they’d serve hot food, drinks and have a bath. These inns also doubled as an izakaya or place where one could grab an alcoholic beverage and snack after a long day of travel or working the fields. The tailor in town could make alterations or sell you a nice kimono or even something more rugged for the fields. A blacksmith in the village could make farming tools of all kinds but there weren't any sort of weapons here. Though if attacked by bandits, the villagers wouldn’t hesitate to defend themselves with sharp farming implements. Horozawa is known for its high quality rice that’s pure white and fluffy like snow when cooked.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
Jihi was well beat by the time the wilderness around her starting transitioning to farmland. A peasant herself, she was no stranger to long hours of physical activity, but the physical strain of endless walking and the mental strain of watching her treacherous surroundings had taken its toll. Under normal conditions, she'd have stopped to rest before this point, but she pushed her limits. She was still afraid that Touma or another member of her hamlet would try to catch up with her and wanted to reach Horozawa before nightfall.

She was not too tired to be friendly, however. Indeed, each fleeting encounter revitalized her just a little bit. She answered every curious appraisal or suspicious frown by lifting the hem of her hat and smiling back at them, taking particular joy whenever someone took interest in her unusual appearance. It was her special treasure, something no one else could match. Not once did it occur to her that she could be hated or distrusted for it.

Upon entering Horozawa, her first stop was to visit the main well. Drawing up a bucket of water, she cupped her hands and drank, treasuring the feeling it flowing down her throat like she never had before. She'd drained her waterskin long ago on the road and was parched. Once she was satisfied, she filled up her waterskin and looked around for the largest inn. With luck, one would even have a stage. Perhaps she could earn her keep for the night with a performance for the villagers.
 
OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The largest inn turned out to be nicest. Guests would be greeted upon entering and be presented with a large room with a tatami mat floor. Upon removing your shoes you’d be able to step up onto the raised floor and take your seat at one of the many tables or cushions. There wasn’t really a bar per se but patrons would be able to order drinks from the servers shuffling around and there were only two drinks one could order, sake or shochu. If one desired, they could pay one of the girls to go back to their room and keep them company in a strictly non-sexual way, this wasn’t a brothel. But the girls encouraged it and even pushed for it, for a bit of coin, the girls would go back with the guest and chat with them and serve them tea in their room and touching was kept to a minimum.

At the far wall of the lobby was a stage, not huge. Big enough for a geisha to play the shamisen. Walking in through the front and stepping up onto the tatami. The stage would be to the far left. The way up to the stage center was clear of any tables and zabuton. But everywhere else the tables and cushions had no specific organization or setup. The servers find their own pathways through the obstacles and patrons.

Closest to the stage is a group of 4. They seem far too drunk but are still continuing to drink. Two other pairs of gentlemen sit a bit away from the stage. Another group of 4 sit opposite from the stage and in the farthest corner sits a lone man, his straw hat down.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
Jihi's eyes locked on the stage the second she entered the inn. Smiling, she tilted her hat back and let it hang behind her head by the chinstrap from her neck. It took a second to realize someone had greeted her at the door, but when she did, she looked over and spoke. "Hello! I'm Jihi, a traveling entertainer. Can I speak to whoever's in charge?"

Stepping out of her sandals, she entered the main room and sat at a table. Her stomach growled and her tongue tingled when she glanced on the drinks in guests' hands, but she resisted the urge to order something immediately. Negotiations first, Jihi, she thought. Don't get ahead of yourself.

While she waited for someone to arrive, her eyes scanned curiously over the other guests, her ears primed to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Perception roll to eavesdrop on other guests' conversations (if you want multiple rolls, let me know): 15

Insight
roll on the lone man; is he as relaxed as a local, or does he look like another traveler? Does he have his hat down for privacy, or is he just napping? 17
 
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OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The woman greeting Jihi bowed low as she entered the inn. “Welcome! How may we serve you today?” She lifted her head back up. “A traveling entertainer? One moment Jihi-san, I’ll get the inn manager.” The woman, essentially the receptionist, stood up and shuffled away to somewhere to the back of the inn.

The man alone in the corner was definitely sleeping. Jihi could even catch a few loud snores coming from him. Definitely a drunk of some sort, sake bottles covered his table and were presumably empty. A server even came by to wake him, but he didn’t stir no matter how much she shook him or raised her voice. A glint of a steel hilt next to him would indicate a sword of some kind, most likely a katana. Perhaps a soldier or a drunk swordsman, or didn’t even know how to use it. Stolen valor was a big thing among traveling bums nowadays especially in the rural areas.

Only the closest tables could be heard, one group of 4 and the two pairs of men. One of the pairs was talking about how one of the nearby towns has been having young women go missing and the various men of the town are being accused and executed by the mayor's small group of swordsmen. Then something about a rice shortage, they hear rumors of rice being rationed out if it continues like this. The other pair of men briefly talk about Jihi, they seem more curious but they continue their conversation about heading north with their families. The group of 4 farthest away from Jihi are talking about how they believe the ground outside the town is cursed or sick and that it’s making its way in towards the town.

After a moment, a short old man shuffled out of the back. He’s wearing a brown kimono with trouser-like pants. Shuffling up to Jihi, he sits down. “You’re an entertainer?” He bows his head at her and smiles.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
"Yes, sir," Jihi said, bowing her head respectfully at the man. She rested a hand on the tabletop and leaned forward, smiling. "I am an actress. If you'll allow me, I will entertain your guests tonight by performing on that stage."

She pointed at the stage against the far wall. It was smaller than the stages Jihi had typically used, but since this would be a solo performance, it would probably be fine. "I have my own costumes, a script, and even special effects. It will be a show unlike any your guests have seen before! I can start immediately, or I can wait if you want your employees to tell the people of Horozawa that you'll have a show tonight."

She smiled at him again. "In return, I want a room for the night, a bath, and a hearty dinner." After a moment, she added, "And breakfast."

Persuasion check to negotiate a deal: 26
 
OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The manager stared at Jihi for a long moment, his face flat with a hint of irritation, like he wasn’t amused by her proposition. But his face turned into a grin as he beamed at her. “We actually have been looking for entertainment for the inn for quite awhile actually. It’s destiny that brought you here.” He nodded. “I accept your terms and I’ll add, depending on how you do, any tips we receive you will get a share.” He climbed to his feet. “We’ve got a show tonight!” He laughed. “Let’s get as many people as we can. While you get ready, I’ll inform the town of your show.” He grinned down at Jihi. “Break a leg.” The manager turned and shuffled into the back area, not before he spoke to the receptionist about their deal and to send someone out to spread the word.

It would give Jihi some time to prepare. She had about an hour and a half to get everything ready before patrons started to arrive. The inn would be full before the hour ended of patrons ready to see what Jihi had to offer. Though the group of 4 nearest the stage would be talking about her, they seemed skeptical that a girl of her kind could put on a show of any worth. The drunk swordsman slept through the whole performance even when crowded by people.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
Jihi's smile faltered as the proprietor stared her down, her brow furrowing in concern. She chuckled weakly in relief when his expression changed, but still gave his back a worried look when he walked away, her confidence shaken.

Insight roll to determine what the manager was thinking: 5

She didn't need the full hour and a half to prepare. From the beginning, she'd planned to earn her stay in inns using her acting skills, and she'd spent some of her time on the road planning solo performances in her head. Though she took some time to solidify her outline, the first thing she did after the manager left her was to stand and approach the group of four she'd eavesdropped on earlier.

"Good evening, gentlemen," she said, sitting at the table uninvited. "I am Jihi, a traveler. I heard you say the ground outside the town is sick. Where? And how is it sick? I may have to cross it when I continue my travels and I want to be prepared."

Persuasion roll to get the men to talk: 26

Back in her own hamlet, Jihi didn't give solo performances. All of the plays were with other members of the community, so this was a new experience for her. Her semi-improvised script stole two of her favourite roles from other plays: a raunchy comedy about a vain, unfaithful wife and a tragic morality tale about an oni who attempts to conquer an entire forest and neighbouring village, creating a dramedy about a spoiled young wife who cheats on her husband with an oni, both played by Jihi in her different costumes. At the last moment, she created a third character - the husband, represented by her traveling clothes - who served as the narrator, tying the disparate features of the plot together. She also used her sorcery as special effects - mostly to lend oomph to her portrayal of the oni, but also more subtly to indicate scene transitions or otherwise invoke tone.

As she prepared, however, she couldn't help but overhear the drunken quartet near the stage. Annoyed by their lack of faith, she tried to determine what exactly what the basis of their skepticism was, just so she could prove them wrong.

Insight or Investigation roll (I don't know which is more appropriate, but they both have a +2 bonus anyway) to determine why the drunken four don't like her: 21

Performance
roll to put on a good show: 20 (These dice are on fire!)

Jihi is not a gifted writer, but not a bad improvisor. The combination of damatically different source material gave the play an inconsistent, zig-zagging emotional tone, but her comic timing and convincing pathos made it work somehow, the erratic shifts only increasing the dramatic torque when it could have easily descended into nonsense. She covered up any plot holes with the husband's narration, playing them off as sudden twists - implicitly complimenting audience members observant enough to notice them - instead of mistakes. The husband's soliloquy even ended with a punchline somehow both funny and emotionally touching.

Once the play was over, Jihi headed backstage - or whatever passed for backstage here - and sagged against the wall in relief, willing her racing heart to calm down as she waited for the inn's manager to talk to her about her performance and their deal.
 
OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The manger is hard to read, in the end though it really seemed like he was happy to have Jihi perform in his inn. He didn’t look back at Jihi as he shuffled away to the back.

The group of four that Jihi had eavesdropped on were busy chatting away till Jihi approached. The one talking stopped abruptly and looked over at Jihi, his expression wasn’t hostile but was the typical way you’d look at like a lost child. They all watched as she took a place at the table, all of them a bit puzzled at her bold gesture. As Jihi asks her probing questions, they give each other a look, as if asking if it’s okay if she knows. One of them finally pipes up.

“The ground towards the north is sick, blighted. Many of the crops over there will have to be abandoned as everything is starting to die. It even seems to affect the trees. We don’t exactly know where it’s coming from but the other farmers suspect it’s coming from the mountain. We’ve suggested sending someone up to investigate the origin but no one is willing. You know… I’m going to be honest, you don’t look too rugged, but if you were to find the source and perhaps do something about it. I’m sure the village leader would give you a reward.” The guy shrugged. Another added in. “If you stick to the road you won’t have to worry, but you’ll be able to see the trees and ground. It just looks like they’re all rotting.” That seems to be all they know.

The other group of four was nearest the stage and Jihi could easily listen into their conversation and pick up on their thoughts. It seems that they were mostly bothered by her appearance and that she seemed so young. They continually made passing derisive comments but eventually by the end of the play they were laughing and enjoying her performance. Perhaps they finally had enough to drink to look past their bigotry or forgot.

The crowd would react enough to her performance, laughing at the jokes and punchlines. The crowd gave Jihi an applause as she stepped off stage. There was a hallway just behind the stage leading to the kitchen that served as sort of a backstage. The manager approached Jihi after her play. “Well done, Jihi!” He laughed as he shuffled up to her. “It was wonderful and everyone loved you! As we agreed you will have a full meal waiting for you in your room and the bath will be prepared for you. Also here’s a little bonus for you for doing so well. A portion of the tips we made tonight. 70 mon.” He holds out a small sack for her to take, containing 70 mon. “One of the servers will take you to your room when you’re ready.” He smiles at her before shuffling away.
 
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OP
DigitalBlue

DigitalBlue

Super-Earth
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Location
The Final Blue
The manager pauses and turns back around to Jihi. “Of course, I just assumed you’d like a little privacy and quiet time to relax as you ate Horozawa’s best kaiseki.” He grinned. “It’s definitely better than those other inns.” He put his hand up and whispered, like he was telling her a secret. “But I’ll have them bring you your dinner at whatever table you wish. Just take your pick.” The manager bows at her once more before spinning back around to leave. By now many of the patrons had begun to leave and many of the tables were freed up once more.
 

Penny

Super-Earth
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Location
Canada
Jihi returned to the dining area. Initially she sat alone at her own table, but if anyone asked to join her or if she was invited to join another table, she happily accepted, eager to make friends. She ravenously devoured her food - she'd been on her feet all day and hadn't eaten since she left her home last night - but drank even more. She gulped down all of the sake that came with her meal and paid for more if she had to, not stopping until she was thoroughly drunk and reveling with anyone who cared to join her.

At some point in the night, Jihi managed to secure a scrap of paper and something to write on it with. Jihi's calligraphy wasn't great - there wasn't much need or opportunity to read or write in her home village, and many of the adults only taught their children because they themselves were raised in other, larger communities - and her inebriation didn't help, but she managed to scrawl out a legible message:
Want your help to go up the montain mountain
fix sick land
can pay money!!!
- Jihi
(redgirl)
She folded the message, approached the drunk swordsman, and slipped it into his clothes before tottering off to continue her drinking.

Once she was finally worn out, she slipped off to the bath, leaving her clothes a rumpled pile on the floor as she stepped into the water. Between her physical and mental fatigue, the dirt on her skin, and the alcohol in her system, the hot water was utter bliss. She barely even bothered to wash herself before simply leaning against the side of the bath, closing her eyes, and breathing a sigh of relief. In seconds, one hand had slipped between her legs and she began to fill the room with soft sighs of pleasure. Minutes later, she felt herself release with a long, high-pitched moan that echoed off the walls of the room, then felt her body go slack, her consciousness drifting away as if she was melting into the water...

A moment later she was shocked awake with a gasp, splashing. She'd dozed off in the bath and her head had slipped under the water. The shock of adrenaline woke her up enough to climb out of the bath and dry herself off before gathering her clothes under her arm and stumbling naked to her bedroom, where she slept until morning.
 
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