A Different Place, Again. Hungry Youkai !GGKI3UTr5s 2009/01/26 (Mon) 17:14 No. 74296 ▼
File 123301886979.jpg - (478.86KB, 1440x2160 , Bamboo Forest Pathway.jpg)
Deep, slow breaths. Keep alert, stay aware, awake. Don't look like you're nodding off. Won't look good in front of the Commander, won't inspire any confidence in the rest of the pack. Everybody's on edge, waiting out here in the night, on the edge of this forest, stacks of bamboo thickening so much they look like a wall, the moonlight barely penetrating more than a few inches inside. The Commander's been pushing too hard, too nervous and scared herself, too obvious and unfocused. You glance across the clearing, watching her for a moment as she stands there, arms folded, hand on with the hilt of her sword. For the last half-hour she's done nothing but stare down the pathway into the forest.
The rabbits were supposed to be here an hour ago. Why are we still waiting? Where's the order to give up and withdraw? They're not coming. Hikaru and Akio have already sat down, lain their spears across their knees. It might look relaxed, but it's an illusion. Still lazy though. The Commander is too jittery to discipline them. Arata hovers near, too young to have the confidence to speak up, too old to be stupid enough to whine or complain.
Wind cutting through your robes, can't help but shiver. Shift the spear in your grip, stop leaning on it. Going through the motions of battle in your head helps a little. Thrust, parry, stab, duck. Deep, slow breaths.
Moonlight is so harsh tonight.
The Commander turns on her heel without warning, an angry scowl on her face barely concealing the fear and worry beneath. It is just a mission away from the mountain doing this to her? Does she know something we don't?
Hikaru and Akio look up at her as she passes, boredom on their faces, but she ignores them.
"The rabbits are on their way." She announces. "Still two hundred meters down the pathway."
Senses prick up at this. They're coming. Why delay when they asked for the meeting? Waiting until the Moon is brightest? Set up a trap? Keep a tight grip on that spear.
"Isamu." She says, pointing at you. "Take Arata, hide just inside the edge of the bamboo, next to the mouth of the pathway. Cut off their escape if things go sour."
"Why?" You frown.
"Sour? I thought this was contact, not negotiation." Hikaru says, raising his eyebrows at the Commander.
She grits her teeth. "Stand up." She orders. Hikaru and Akio take a minute to do so, Akio only getting up after he sees Hikaru shrugging and rising to his feet. Those two share too much time together. Only eyes for each other.
"And you." The Commander takes a step towards you. "Don't questions my orders, just do it."
Is it the power? The tone in her voice? Strong woman, good hips. Would bear strong sons. You nod in acceptance. "Yes Ma'am."
"Come on Arata. Time to hide."
He scurries along after you as you squeeze between the bamboo stalks. The Commander stands in the clearing, Hikaru and Akio either side of her, looking like the perfect picture of a little night time diplomatic envoy.
Grip that spear.
They don't look like rabbits.
"What's all that they're wearing?" Arata hisses in your ear. You clamp a hand over his mouth. Unshaved stubble rasps against your palm.
Three of them. We outnumber them by two but they don't know that. Right height for rabbits. Black plates on chest and back, black clothing underneath, legs and arms more skin-tight black. Helmets with long sides, protecting the neck. Rabbit ears tucked away? Black visors, no faces to be seen.
The Commander's brow is sweating, even in the cold. She holds her sword's hilt tightly as the three rabbits file into the clearing and stand before her. This isn't right. They would send someone else, not just three soldiers. The tall one, or the doctor.
The Commander opens her mouth to speak, but one of the rabbits holds up a hand. The motion is too slow, too chunky.
"Inubashiri?" It asks, pointing at the Commander. The voice isn't right, like metal speaking instead of flesh, all the words are wrong, toneless.
"Yes." The Commander replies. "I am Inubashiri Momizi. Lord Tenma extends his greetings to Eientei." Her voice is calmer now, procedure and protocol taking over.
The rabbits glance at each other. They should be replying, but instead one of them holds something up, a black oblong, curves and angles.
A thunder-crack splits the night open.
The Commander crumples to her knees, bloody holes in her chest and stomach. The machine in the rabbit's hand spits metal again and Akio's head snaps back, blood arching through the air, caught by the moonlight in a perfect freeze-frame as you blink in surprise. Hikaru screams with anger and tries to thrust his spear at the nearest of the three rabbits, but he is too slow. Holes open in his legs and he falls heavily into the dirt. The rabbit with the machine steps over Akio's body and makes a hole in Hikaru's head to silence the old Tengu's roars of pain and defiance.
The battle is over before it began. Arata shakes with fear beside you.
The rabbits look at each other in silence. Moonlight glints off their visors.
[ ] Prudence.
[ ] Vengeance.