The Demon of Kabuki Street

“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

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Mallory
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The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Mallory » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:21 am

Late Spring, 2017

These events follow a series of late-night conversations about demonic rituals, abandoned shrines, and the cannibalistic cult that has terrorized Kabuki Street on more than one occasion. Chronicled here are the investigative efforts of Eri Maeda and Mallory St. Martin, a delinquent and a witch, to identify the demonic forces plaguing Kabuki Street and bring them down...

Kabuki Street seemed somewhat diminished on a weekday in daylight, without the hundreds of lighted signs glowing and the pedestrian traffic light. Only a handful of the outlandishly costumed delinquents could be seen loitering on the main drag, at the opening of one of the neighborhood's many networks of winding alleys. There was a trio squatting around a game of mahjong, while another laconically painted her fingernails. It was to that side that Eri was bound with Mallory in tow, nodding to the group of her teammates on their way into the alley. The passage was narrow and lined with tiny bars and eateries, with only enough space for a few patrons to crowd around a rudimentary counter, each of them screened by patterned curtains to offer a little privacy from passing pedestrians. Shuffling past and turning down one of the plethora of intersecting alleyways, Eri came to another curtained doorway and passed through it, and into the small teahouse within.

Mallory kept close on Eri's heels as she navigated largely unfamiliar terrain, thumbs hitched into her backpack straps, laden with all the supplies a witch could need for a day of cult-hunting. Her gaze was curious, constantly tempted to linger on the passerby and partly-concealed eateries, but she forced herself to focus on her guide and her more immediate surroundings. She ducked her head on reflex as they stepped through the doorway, brushing the curtain aside with her arm to reveal the teahouse beyond. "It smells amazing in here," she intoned to the delinquent in front of her, her voice low and quiet. "Reminds me of work."

Eri seemed to be in a good mood, excited to be out on a real investigation with Mallory. She smiled as she shifted her own backpack straps to sit a little more comfortably as she looked around the interior of the room they had entered. "It does! I'd never actually been inside here. Saori suggested here for a meeting and interview because it's usually deserted this time of day. She should be here with the man in just a few minutes." The delinquent gave a little bow and held up four fingers to the hostess that hurried out to invite them to sit at a table. "That reminds me, I still want to see where you work soon," she added as they settled into their seats.

"It's a pretty cool place, right near the docks and not too far from my place," Mallory explained, flashing a brief smile over at Eri before she ducked her head to dig through her backpack. "Cane's one of the owners -- dunno if you know him? He calls duels a lot. They sell herbs and components and the odd spellbook, as well as homemade candy and, uh... special candy." She set an old notepad and knife-sharpened pencil on the corner of the table, and set a small silver hand mirror in her lap. "This might help him remember," she whispered aside to Eri, as her gaze ticked to the server, then the teahouse entryway.

Eri's smile flashed in return, and she watched the witch digging through her backpack. "I have met him before," she recalled. "We played catch with a red rubber ball at the Inn once," she chuckled as she remembered it. Her eyes fixated on the mirror, fascinated as always. "Hm, special? Like magical, or it has drugs in it?" she asked innocently.

"Drugs,' Mallory began, but stopped when Eri's head turned to the teahouse's newest patrons.

Saori entered with a very old man, someone who managed to look dignified in that elderly way, even dressed in a dreary blue polo shirt and gray sweatpants. Saori herself made the formalities, introducing the old man as Mr. Tachibana. Eri, for her part, introduced Mallory to her sister. There seemed little family resemblance, Saori being quite noticeably taller and much more reserved than her outgoing younger sibling. As soon as the conversation paused, the server, who had no doubt been watching for such an opportune moment, came to bring the tea and cups.

Mallory followed Eri's lead closely, surprisingly quiet and polite compared to how crass she was known to be. She introduced herself as "Mallory St. Martin," but offered nothing about her profession or area of expertise, not until she could make a better assessment of Mr. Tachibana's comfort level. Finally, after the tea was poured, and the party of four seemed to have fully settled in, the witch spoke up: "Thank you for coming to see us, Mr. Tachibana. I'm a student at R.C.C. where I study mythology and religion... and I'd love to hear more about your experiences with the shrines that used to be here in this area, if you're willing to share."

Mr. Tachibana seemed to be perfectly comfortable, indeed pleased by the setting and the quality of the tea. He listened amiably to Mallory's explanation, though it was clear his mind wandered a bit. "Oh, you're studying for a degree?" he asked, giving the witch closer scrutiny after producing his eyeglasses from his shirt pocket. Mallory nodded in reply; it wasn't technically untrue. "Well, it's been a long time that this neighborhood's shrine was torn down and built over. You know that building that used to be a train station on the south corner there?" he informed them, pointing vaguely toward the southwest. "That's where it was. It was just a small shrine, though. Didn't even have a full time priest. The main one wasn't in the city. It was in a farming village several days out." Eri and Saori for their part listened in quietly.

Mallory nodded, quietly appreciating the old man's directness. She set her tea down carefully. "Who was the shrine dedicated to?"

After taking a sip of tea, the old man replied: "Inari. Both shrines were. It was a village of farmers. That's why they had a shrine here. Here is where they brought their rice to the market. I was the priest that came to serve the little shrine here. Twice every week, plus festival times of course. But of course the shrines had various rites and feasts for lesser kami. That was how they used to do things back then."

Mallory made a few quiet notes while the old priest spoke, and nodded when he was done. "Do you recall the names of any of the lesser kami honored there? Especially any that seemed... unfamiliar, based on your knowledge of Shinto."

Mr. Tachibana's eyes became a little unfocused behind the thick glasses. He stalled for a moment to take a sip of tea, and said, "There was one unfamiliar ritual they did. It had something to do with a demon that lived up in the hills above the village. It brought them calamities, but the priests there did a ritual to suppress it, to keep it sleeping. And while it slept, they could draw its power and use it to bring the greatest harvests of rice, of a quality that nobody else could grow. I don't remember what they called that demon, though. The ritual they did was very secret. I was never allowed to see it."

"What made this ritual unfamiliar -- different from the ones usually performed at the shrine?" Mallory pressed. She did not stop writing now, even when she spoke.

"What I heard was that it was a very dangerous ritual. Being a scholar of religion, you'd have read all about effigies, I bet. This ritual was a bit like that. Except what they used were the daughters of a certain family in that village. The family they said had the gift of precognition. Maybe other gifts, too." The old priest realized he was rambling, cleared his throat, and forced his mind back on track. "I think the idea was that these gifted daughters could channel the demon, and the priests could execute the right to send the demon back to sleep. It had to be done each season after the first sake was made. Otherwise the calamities would return, you see."

Mallory nodded in response to his remark about the effigies. "Do you remember the name of the family?"

He shook his head regretfully. "I'm afraid I don't. I lived here in the city, you see, so I didn't know anyone well except for the priests and the ones who would come to go to the market. Most of them wouldn't speak about it much. I only remember they were a wealthy family, by village standards."

The witch thinned her lips thoughtfully. "Did they ever say what the calamities were... or did they ever come to pass?"

"People disappeared," Tachibana replied with a gesture, looking vaguely creeped out himself as he said so. "Floods and strange blights they mentioned, but who's to say if there really was a demon? People out in the far countryside there were superstitious."

If Mallory shared his opinion on country folk, she didn't share it. Instead, she discreetly angled the silver mirror in her lap, turning the faintly insribed point at the top of it towards Mr. Tachibana, and tapping it twice with her finger so that Eri would look down at it. "What do you remember about... the last day that someone shared these concerns with you? When was it?"

Eri studied the strangely spectral reflection of Mr. Tachibana in the surface of the mirror, watching as it shifted to a fuzzy image of a much less modern and crowded version of Kabuki Street. After a long moment, the old man on the other side of the table seemed to remember: "I guess it was when the last shipment of rice came in. The village isn't there anymore, you know. It kind of dwindled away, like towns will sometimes. The young moving away and the old dying off. The men that brought that last shipment said that once the villagers moved away from that area, that would be the end of it. With nobody around to bother, the demon would just go to sleep and stay that way."

The mirror began to shimmer, as the image shifted to encompass a windy gray sky, as people hurried down the narrow street in light scarves and short jackets. Several people milled around a heavily laden wagon, weighed down with three generations and all the furniture they owned. One of them, a middle-aged man with a black goatee, appeared to be looking right at Eri and Mallory through the mirror -- or at Mr. Tachibana, once, long ago. "September or October, then," Mallory said carefully, after a thoughtful frown. "Was anyone from the wealthy families there? Maybe planning to move into the city, after they were done?"

Eri watched carefully, and thought the old man seemed to light up at something that occurred. "The Saitou family. They were moving in around what was then the Old Temple part of town. Had a daughter going to school, to be a civil servant of some kind, I think it was. Also, that last priest, he was moving here too. Abe was his name. Yosuke Abe."

Both names went into the notepad. Mallory had what they needed. "Yosuke Abe... I'll have to look him up. Even if he's not around, there might be pictures or descriptions of the effigies in public records associated with his name... things the college's religion department would be very interested in," she added with a dip of her head and a full curve of a smile.

Recovering from the excitement of the assisted memory, the old man finished his tea and nodded. "I hope it makes a good addition. I suppose things like that don't happen as much anymore. Might be valuable to have a record," he said, with a friendly look. "If nothing else, the thought of it would be a good story to tell at campfire time," he added with a chuckle.

"Mr. Tachibana, I'm confident that this will make a great story."

((Adapted from live play with Eri Maeda!))
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Mallory
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Mallory » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:22 am

June 2017

The lake was a remote enough location that, even with the off-road vehicle, the small group was forced to make a short hike on foot through forested terrain to reach the shore. Eri carried the canoe she'd promised over her head, and the backup she promised -- Saori, Miyu, and Izumi -- followed at various distances.

Mallory was on the tail end of the canoe, her old combat boots crunching loose cobbles and dry earth underfoot as she marched. Rainfall had been low here this summer, the water table falling and the lake level retreating after it.

The witch had been quiet for most of the short hike, but as they drew nearer, she began with, "The earth feels..." The next word eluded her. She frowned, and shifted her uncomfortably angled arms under the canoe. "I don't know. Thirsty maybe, but thirsty's not quite right."

Eri paused and looked out at the shoreline while giving them both an opportunity to rest their arms. She frowned and scuffled at some of the dirt underfoot with the toe of her boot. "Yeah, seems like it could use some rain up here," she agreed.

"It's more than that," Mallory sighed, but not only were the words eluding her; the feeling was getting away from her, too. The fine hairs on the back of her left hand that had been standing on end, tickling at her nerves, relaxed again. She shook her head. "Let's find camp and get to work. The closer to daylight I'm working on this ****ing lake, the better I'll feel."

Eri was still frowning as she looked out over the somewhat lowered level of the lake. "Okay," she said, nodding to the other three delinquents that had halted some distance back from the shoreline. Each of them carried some of the equipment they'd need to camp, as well as being armed with their weapons. Eri put the canoe down carefully and pointed to a stand of elms closeby. "That seems like a good spot to set up."

"I'll start breaking out the divining gear, if it's okay by you guys?" Mallory looked over her shoulder at Eri and her fellow delinquents as she slung her backpack off of one shoulder, dangling it in front of her so she could open it up. It was near to bursting, partitioned between clothes and water and other essentials, and her arcane essentials.

"You bet," Eri said with some return of good cheer, watching for a moment as Mallory looked over the tools of her trade. Then she followed her sister and fellow delinquents over to the trees and began helping them clean up and level a spot to set up the pair of tents they had brought along. Once they'd finished, Eri checked the boat once more before taking it down to a low spot on the shoreline, perfect for putting in.

Mallory paced the shoreline restlessly as Eri and the others unpacked and set up. Her pace was quick, almost agitated, as she thumbed through the sack of trinkets she held in her right hand. Cat's-eye marbles... thimbles... two-faced copper coins... spinning tops... none of them gave her the spark she instinctively anticipated. "No... no, no..."

The canoe settled on the bank, Eri moved to look, and Mallory stopped. Her face turned to look over the lake's placid surface, drawn by a sudden quiet that stretched in every direction. The only birds she could hear were distant, off in the forest stretching beyond the low hills that flanked the far shore.

There was a gravity that pulled at her feet and her eyes, drawing them down into the water and to the flooded village far beneath it. "Here," she muttered, and stooped to scoop up a handful of smooth stones from the cracked mud.

Eri seemed puzzled, looking at the stones she selected. "What is it?" she asked. Even the backup delinquents seemed to feel an apprehension, as they had left the campsite, approaching Mallory and Eri with their weapons close at hand.

"A weight, like I'm... chained to a great black hole in the bottom of the lake, yawning open past the center of the world," the witch whispered, eyes rolling up into her head before leveling again. "A dark heat, like the heat of poison or the belly of a beast. Something wicked... and maddening... and hungry," she said, and blinked several times, returning to her senses.

"Here," she said, looking over at Eri. "This is the thinnest place on the shoreline. This is where we can see what lies beneath."

Eri listened with growing trepidation, looking at Mallory as she spoke. Then she looked down at the spot on the shoreline indicated. "The scrying to take place here then?" she asked, eyes glancing nervously out over the surface of the lake for a moment -- perhaps hopefully, as the idea of actually getting in the light canoe and paddling out on the water plainly did not appeal to her.

"You any good at pitching?" There was a gleam in Mallory's eyes as she tossed one of the stones up and down in her left hand. Then she knelt to reach into her pack, producing a small clay plate, and a copper knife. She flicked the knife open.

Eri seemed oblivious for a moment as she answered in a thoughtful tone: "I've always been a better catcher..." Then a flush crept along her cheekbones as she spotted the gleam in the witch's eyes. "What do you need me to do?"

Mallory clenched her eyes shut, tried her best not to bite her tongue as the copper knife bit into the soft flesh of her left hand. The skin seemed to yield almost hungrily to the blade, welcoming it into the blood beneath that flowed over the stones, then down into the clay plate beneath them, creating a small but growing pool.

By the time the pool had reached the edge of the small clay plate, the bleeding seemed to have slowed of its own accord. She held the blood-soaked stones out to Eri, now banded with lingering crimson stains. "Throw long," she said, voice a little strained at first as she recovered from the pain. "Skip them out towards the center, one after another."

Eri watched intently as the knife was used, then nodded firmly her understanding as the stones were passed over to her. She took each up in turn , bit her lip for a moment as she looked out towards the middle of the lake... before giving each her best throw. The lake was quite wide, but her strong arm combined with a few good skips got most of them well out towards the center.

With a thud Mallory's knees hit the mud to either side of the plate, rippling faintly from the impact, her arms falling limply to either side of her. Her eyes rolled up, then fluttered shut, head lolled back skyward.

As the first stone settled on the surface, her head dipped forward again, and her eyes slit open to stare into the crimson depths before her. She peered into nothingness as the first one landed... the second... the third...

"Its name," she whispered. "Its name..."

Eri bent down with her hands on her knees so she could be sure not to miss anything that Mallory said, thinking the magic she had cast would be in effect now and that she might not remember what she had said aloud once the spell was ended.

"Eamosaro," the witch hissed, shivering from head to toe as her fingers clenched and dug through the mud. Something thudded within the lake, something that spread ripples from the center all the way out to the shore only a few feet away from them. "The Great, Hungering Worm. Its blessings it gave plentifully, but not freely. Oh no, there was a price..."

Eri threw a glance over her shoulder, looking at the ripples with alarm. "Blessings... you mean the rice... they were making sacrifices for that?"

Mallory slid her tongue across her lips, then bared her teeth in a mad, breathless grin. "Ohhh yesss... Maidens, for the ghostly worms to arise and feast upon, and bless the harvest with their tender flesh. The cycle has been broken... but not for long. Even now, they gather their offering. Even now, they plan a summoning. Even now, they plan Eamosaro's riiiiise..."

She shuddered again, and gasped as something pulled at her. The center of the bloody plate swelled up into swirling red tendrils, the witch's chest tugged down towards it as she braced her arms against the earth, letting out a strangled cry as she resisted it.

Eri stared back at the tendrils beginning to swell up, dancing from one foot to the other, not knowing what to do. The other three had kept their distance until now, hurrying closer to see what was going on.

Mallory didn't make any sound at first, other than a grunt through gritted teeth. The tendrils stretched out further, arcing up towards the sides of her head. Her arms shook, struggling against an unseen pressure. She started screaming.

Out of desperation, Eri picked Mal up about the waist, bodily moving her further away from the shore and up the bank toward the forest, thinking perhaps that increasing the distance from the water might break the effect of whatever had happened during the spell.

Mallory writhed against her hold, a reflexive struggle, kicking her feet in the air, letting out strained cries as Eri pulled her away from the plate's bloody grasp. The tendrils stretched and stretched after her... shimmering strangely... shaking... then collapsing with a loud splash, hissing and smoking as they dissolved into the mud.

Mallory's eyes flickered open again, wild, roving over her surroundings. She was gasping for breath, and beads of sweat rolled down her face.

Eri kept going, until she saw Mallory's eyes open. She set her down gently, but kept an arm around her to hold her weight and ensure she wouldn't collapse and fall on the rocky ground. Her eyes were wide and alarmed.

The witch slumped back into Eri, her hands closing around the delinquent's arms. She blinked as she righted herself, and licked at her lips, suddenly dry. "I, uh... sorry, that, uh..." She cleared her throat, and smiled weakly over her shoulder at Eri, then at the others. "That doesn't usually happen."

Seeing the lick of lips, Eri used one hand to get her water bottle and hold it up for Mallory to drink from if she wanted. "Is it okay now?" she asked, giving a light reassuring squeeze with the supporting arm around her shoulders. The other delinquents too had vacated the shore about as quickly as they had rushed down at the sign of trouble, and remained some distance away.

Mallory took a few greedy gulps, and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah... I think it's as okay as it's going to be."

* * * * *

It was -- as Eri had predicted -- chilly at those high elevations, and she'd set a fire at their camp site. A trio of LED lanterns were providing some illumination around the pair of tents as well. All were accounted for except for Miyu, who was hiding somewhere in the trees as a lookout. The night itself was fairly well lit just in terms of starlight, for the sky was very clear.

Mallory was warming her hands around a tin cup of tea, kneeling close to the fire. She'd smiled through some of the banter she overheard, not much of it understood (mastery of the Japanese language was still a long ways away for her), but otherwise she'd been frowning over what she had Seen, and its terrible hold on her.

"It's cold up here," she remarked quietly.

Eri sat down next to Mallory, sidling close to ward off the chill and holding a cup of tea of her own. Her expression indicated a host of questions she wanted to ask, but waited for now. More banter from the still visible Saori and Izumi on the farther side of the fire by the tents provided some relaxing background. "Yeah," she agreed. "Even though it's high summer up here... It's about four thousand feet at this point."

Mallory sniffed, sighed, and leaned against Eri's side. The delinquent was smaller than her, but also a great deal stronger than her; there was a feeling of safety and security in her embrace. "Have you heard... that name, before?"

She shook her head, her free arm looping around the witch's back to hug her closer. "No, have you ever heard it before? Read about it?"

"A little," Mallory replied. "When we first talked about this, I hit the books, and... I saw a few things about a phantasmal worm. Something that once stretched under the whole earth and fed on the roots of the Tree of Life, before magic shrank from the world and the worm diminished. People would... bargain stolen life from the worm, for season after season, trading the lives of their young for plentiful harvests... until they had no more to give... and inevitably fell to ruin."

Her gaze ticked over to the black surface of the lake in the near distance.

"So that's what they were doing here..." Eri said softly. "And just because they left and the village was abandoned to make this reservoir doesn't mean the demon went away, huh?" She made a thoughtful sound as she sipped her tea. "I wonder if maybe the whole purpose of building the dam and flooding all this was someone trying to do just that."

"What, to seal the demon away?" Mallory asked, ducking a curious look over at Eri.

Eri nodded. "It makes me think. I mean, the dam isn't set up with generators. It's not to make electricity. There are really no settlements downriver for it to be a flood control measure... no farmland around here that's being irrigated from this lake," she added, looking out over the water with a frown. "Some wealthy person just sunk a fortune into a dam to make a huge lake for no reason at all."

"Do we know who?" Mallory set her tea down on the dryer earth near the flickering campfire.

"Not who put up the money," she admitted. "But the engineering firm that did the whole project is known. A matter of public record. They still exist too. Not the original team, they've all retired, but I bet a project that big and expensive they remember who hired them."

"The firm's name?" She drew her legs up, indian-style.

"Yeah, Izumi there looked it up for me when I was researching the history of the lake. J.D. Cook & Sons, based in the city. The whole thing took almost ten years to finish. And there was record of a village being evacuated to make way for the lake. They didn't go to the trouble of demolishing it. Whatever's left of it after all these years is still down there. We just couldn't be sure it was that village, until you did your scrying magic. Since the old man didn't remember the actual location of where the village was."

Mallory nodded slowly. "J.D. Cook & Sons... I guess they're next on our list, after this," she sighed, and leaned her head against Eri's shoulder. Her eyes ticked over the darkness, and she made another muffled noise as she tried to settle in more comfortably. "Deeper and deeper... That's the way this bull**** always goes."

Eri enjoyed the lean of Mallory's head onto her shoulder and the warmth their close proximity provided even in the present circumstances, and her hand raised to brush fingers gently through the witch's fluffy hair. She had her own head tilted and her lips pursed in that thoughtful expression she got sometimes. After a moment she asked, "Ne... do you think the demon is only active again because those cult people are rousing it up? Or do you guess it would be still making trouble even without them?"

"I don't know... I need to do more research. It could be that -- " Somewhere at the edge of the elm trees they camped among, a twig snapped. The witch's sharp green eyes narrowed.

Eri looked over at the snap of twig as well, tensing. Their apprehension proved to be founded a moment later when there was there was another scuffle of footsteps from further beyond the grove of trees, and then a muted popping sound followed by inarticulate cries of pain in an unmistakably male voice from the direction the twig had snapped.

Mallory suddenly twisted out of Eri's grasp and away towards the edge of the halo of firelight. "Luck, lend me a blade," she hissed, and the trace metal in the dirt rose as dust up towards her hand, forming into a small spike. She nicked the edge of her left hand, and the three drops of blood that fell from it suddenly erupted into crimson spectral hounds, howling low as they circled around her.

Soon, there was another of those popping sounds and a curse from further beyond the trees, another unfamiliar voice. It seemed that Miyu, in whatever unseen sentry post she'd picked for herself, was already engaging the intruders, apparently with some kind of supressed weapon. Eri drew her own weapon, in this case just a crude wood club she had brought along. Saori and Izumi spotted several intruders creeping in from the opposite side of the camp, undetected until now, and rushed over to fight them up close.

When another intruder came creeping through the underbrush, machete clutched close, ready to raise it, he came face to face with two baying, leaping hounds conjured from Mallory's own blood. They bit and clawed. He screamed.

"Cultists?!" the witch called over to Eri as she tugged a glass pendant loose from her necklace.

"It's them!" Eri cried, taking a knife cut to the arm from one of the creeps emerging from the treeline nearby. She swung her short club in a powerful counterattack, which the cultist blocked with an arm; the club crashed into her elbow with an ugly cracking sound, prompting a scream from Eri's foe.

"Oh! Great! They seem nice!" the witch said, and as more crashing sounded in the underbrush, more of them maneuvering and readying for another wave of attacks, she clenched her left hand into a fist, dripping more blood that erupted into an orb of bright golden light, racing off into the trees and bursting in a blinding flash among the lurking cultists. "Show yourselves, or **** right off, you simpering worm-worshipping ****s!"

Once they realized they were exposed, there was a moment that the group of cultists froze. Miyu, still concealed somewhere in the thick summery undergrowth, started giving the newly illuminated group all nine flavors of holy old hell. As several fell, the remainder decided an offensive charge was better than trying to retreat over the open ground around the elms and ran in. Eri used her club to dispatch the injured female cultist, unable to fend off a second hit. The cut on Eri's arm was visibly healing, but dripping a good quantity of blood all over the place while it did.

"Be not wasted... be not spilled in vain..." Mallory's expression twisted into an ugly snarl as she stalked forward through the tall, fluctuating shadows, flanked by firelight and the blinding radiance among the elm trees. Eri's spilled blood began to steam and dissipate, and as it did, a matching slash appeared across a charging cultists's torso as retribution for Eri's wound.

The witch did not wait for any pleas for mercy. She did not wait to see if this cultist would run. She jerked her head, and two of the hounds leapt upon him, ripping and tearing at his flesh for the others to see as they rushed out into the light.

Eri grinned as she saw her own blood being put to good use, concentrating to slow the healing down a bit to give Mal plenty to work with. She made a headlong tackle into one of the worshippers charging at them, her tough durable skull crashing into the male's chin due to her shorter stature. The group to the other side was getting nowhere in a hurry against Izumi and Saori either, several fallen there already.

Mallory focused too long on the dying cultist, and when she turned to watch Eri tackle another, one of the demon's devoted leapt out at her. Her shadow flared out, darkening and enveloping her, slowing the blade's descent as she braced her arms against his. The spectral hound snapping at his heels did little to slow him down, staying quick on his feet, trying to gain any advantage on the witch.

But fights like this were over in seconds, not minutes, and seconds was how long it took him to realize the heat was leaving his body through Mallory's fingertips. Her desperate gaze was the same as countless others that had looked in on warm hearths through snow-frosted windows before falling to winter's grasp.

By the time she was done with him, his lips were blue, his limbs were stiff, and she shook him away roughly before turning to Eri. Her terrible hounds returned to her, circling around her, lowing and baying.

The enemy she had disabled with the tackle was finished off with a clubbing to the head, and with the last of the cultist's attack perishing under Mallory's chilled grasp and on the opposite side of the camp to the swords of the two backup delinquents, the fight seemed finished. Eri came over to look at Mal when she turned her way, offering over her uninjured arm to take. "That's all of them," came a report from the still unseen Miyu, though now that she spoke, her position in the bushes was pretty clear to discern.

There was a rather different look in Mallory's eyes at first when Eri offered her arm, but after a few moments and a few blinks, after the danger had seemingly passed, she took it. And looked her over. "Are you healing okay?"

"Yeah, it is now. I deliberately slowed down the healing when I realized that you could use my blood as well as your own," Eri explained as Mal took her arm.

One of the two the witch had felled could no longer be seen. One was being dragged away. She wasn't sure whether either of them was alive or dead, and didn't linger on the thought of them. Better that way. "I guess they ****ed off." Then, a little more helpfully, "I guess they wanted us to **** off what we're digging into."

Eri nodded as she avoided looking at the dragging off of the fallen enemies. "I bet they were keeping an eye on the place," she agreed.

Mallory shut her eyes, opened them again, and listened carefully, but there was little she could make out. Distant sounds in the underbrush. Fainter sounds of pain and distress, fading as the distance grew.

"I don't think we should stick around, then... I hate driving through the night, there could be other traps, but... ****, I don't know." She cast a look out at the lake's vast, inky surface, a greater source of unease than the cultists themselves... "I think staying here's worse."

Eri nodded as she looked around at what remained of their battle... "I bet more will come after this group fails to make contact... Let's get out of here."

((Adapted from live play with Eri, with thanks!))
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Mallory
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Mallory » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:24 am

The night of October 24th, 2017…

Mallory had been learning more about Kabuki Street and its guardians in its recent weeks, recognizing many by sight -- if not most -- and putting names to the faces. She started to notice different details, like the stronger friendships and little cliques within the larger group, who was dating who, who patrolled with who… which she assumed was the reason that she found her gaze drawn to the girl who patrolled alone, Manami Aihara. Despite a recent attack and the gang’s higher-than-normal level of alert, the girl seemed solitary, inattentive, and more than a little glum.

So when the young delinquent-in-training passed the witch on the street on her way to the Marketplace, the older girl had an easy time tailing her. She wound her way through the thinning evening crowd and around stalls, paused to order a cup of chai for six copper, and kept Manami’s lowered head and hunched shoulders within sight the entire time. It wasn’t until she followed her to a bench by a memorial statue, sitting down on the opposite end, that the girl finally turned her head and spotted the witch settling in with her drink and a good book.

Mallory could hear Manami’s halting attempts at starting a conversation, before she finally settled on the subject of her chai: “It’s a nice fragrance.”

“Only six copper,” Mallory informed her, and warned her against buying three -- the vendors were suspicious. Manami laughed, but only a little, quickly drawing back into herself and her sadness, until she could find the right words:

“Am I in trouble?”

* * * * *

There was still a great deal Mallory did not understand about the politics of the Kabuki Street Rengou-Kai, and a great deal of trepidation about being seen as interfering or unduly influencing what happened in the gang. But in spite of her restraint, the girl’s troubling attitude prompted carefully worded advice from the witch…

“I know a few things about paying prices… And an unpaid debt can feel like a cloud over your head, or a sword. And you were worried about the price you'd have to pay… so you paid another.”

“I don’t think I’ll make it… There’s no opt out, except if someone kills me.”

“There is always a way out besides death.”

* * * * *

The other girl’s spirits had improved after spending some time sitting and chatting, but Mallory was no closer to placing whatever was familiar about her. She erased her curious frown with a smile as she offered her hand for a shake: “I’m not sure we’ve actually met… I’m Mallory St. Martin.”

“It’s good to meet you. I’m Manami Aihara. You could call me Manami,” but apparently not Manamana.

“I can call you Manami. Let’s get you a chai. Gotta be alert if you’re walking me back to Kabuki Street.”

Manami’s expression turned bright and cheery again, despite her lazy delinquent gait as she followed Mallory out of the Marketplace. “Thanks! You can count on me!”

* * * * *

“Babe?”

A few hours later, sorting through her own clothes and Eri’s in a burst of anxiety-driven midnight packing, Mallory dropped the colorfully stained jeans she’d been trying to decide whether to keep or donate and turned to look at her girlfriend, now frozen in the middle of picking through her sleep shirts to blink curiously back at her.

“That Manami girl… how long’s she been with the rengou-kai?”

Eri looked up and repeated the name, looking puzzled and thoughtful for a moment. “Manami… oh! I guess a little less than one month. I guess I should meet her soon… have not gotten around to it.”

“A month,” Mallory echoed, frowning. Something about it didn’t make sense to her. “Did she live in the neighborhood before she joined?”

“No,” Eri shook her head, mirroring Mallory’s frown as she started to pick up on the unusual questions, and her thoughts turned to the circumstances of her arrival… “No, I’m sure I have never seen her around before.”

Mallory’s frown deepened… until she cleared it with a headshake, giving Eri a flicker of a smile before turning back to the task at hand, building their growing donation pile. “Must just be one of those faces.”

((Adapted from live play with Manami and Eri! Thanks!))
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Manami Aihara
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Manami Aihara » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:33 pm

Last September

Unseasonably late muggy heat had settled over the city. Even now hours after the sunset Dockside was sweltering. In the second floor apartment over her uncle’s shop, Manami Aihara found her small bedroom entirely too warm for comfortable habitation. After shutting off the bedside lamp she moved to the sliding window and opened the pane taking care to make as little sound as possible. The odd hot weather had recently made her uncle even more irritable and unpleasant than usual and Manami hoped to avoid having to hear any lecture tonight.

With the window open as wide as the old and weather warped frame would allow she had just enough space to wiggle out onto the eaves of the roof feet first. The slope was steep enough to make it more prudent to crawl up to the peak without standing. Once she’d arrived she reclined on her back to look up at the few stars visible in gaps of the mostly cloudy night sky. Here at least a desultory breeze from the onshore winds was refreshing, and with the sounds of the nearby harbor the young woman soon found herself relaxed and lost in thought. Until sounds of footsteps in the alley to the south of the shop caused her to lift her head. A moment later as she listened, a voice was just audible over the subdued ocean sounds and recognizable to her ears as belonging to her uncle.

“This girl who is in my care could be exactly the sort your temple is looking for, I am certain of it this time.” Her uncle -- Shigeo -- was not alone, a fact she realized as she crept closer to the edge of the roof. He was a thin man with with an ashen pallor, and he mopped at the sweat on his forehead with a handkerchief as he ducked nervous looks at the dark figure standing across from him. “I could lead you to her. For a small bonus over my regular fee...”

Manami wasn’t sure what she expected from the hooded figure speaking with her uncle, but it wasn’t the warm, velvet-smooth laughter that spilled forth. She suppressed a gasp as her uncle’s co-conspirator stepped into the light, revealing a woman with striking features. Her face was the shape of a teardrop, with large eyes lined with a heavy ring of kohl, and a thin little bow of a mouth painted bright, sticky red, curled into a smile that was both pleased and unpleasant. Her pallor was deeper than her uncle’s but with none of the suggested frailty, giving the impression of porcelain or perfectly sculpted bone.

The strange woman pressed a knuckle to her lips to still her laughter, then drew it away, stained blood red. “I did not know you had such a sense of humor, Mr. Aihara.” Her voice was loud enough to carry to the roof yet held the sibilance of a whisper. “Me, pay you, more,” her eyes flared wider as she leaned uncomfortably close to him, causing him to retreat into the filthy brownstone wall behind him, “for the crap that you sell us? That was a very funny joke…”

Shigeo’s eyes widened in panic and desperation. “Y-y-yes, it was a joke! No bonus! N-none at all!”

She blew a slow, breathy laugh into his face, drawn out by her genuine amusement when he recoiled in horror. “Oh… do you smell that? Pay it no mind. It is just the smell of worm-food, like all the worm-food we paid you top dollar for.” Her lips parted and pulled back, showing him two little rows of dull gray teeth. “I do not know why they paid so much, when I see worm-food that I can get… for free.”

Shigeo let out a wail of panic as he raised his arms in front of his face, bracing himself against an attack that did not come. He lowered them slowly, taking steadying breaths as he dared to look at her, sweat and tears running down his face. She was smiling at him again.

“Is this one special?”

“Y-y-yes!”

“She is from the village?”

“Yes, just so!”

“Y-yes, Miss Mori, I p-p-promise! Let me show you!”

Manami’s uncle nearly scrambled on all fours in his eagerness to get back into the house and please this strange woman, driven like a dog before her. The woman narrowed her eyes at his egress, then turned her head to stare up at the edge of the rooftop.

Manami froze. Moving slowly and silently ,she crawled back a few feet to hide behind the cover of the chimney. There she crouched, eyes fixated on the gutter pipe that led from the corner of the roof to the alley. And her uncle was getting closer, thudding his way through the house, passing by the stairs to her room as he called her name. “Manami! Manami, come downstairs -- I have something for you!”

Finally the woman let out the breath she’d been holding, blowing it through her gray teeth in a long hiss, as her eyes blinked back into focus on the mismatched pair of dark moons hanging in the sky directly behind Manami Aihara. “Dealing with dogs on a moonless night… It is bad luck,” she said to herself, and with a slow shake of her head, finally followed Shigeo into the house.

As soon as the door shut behind her, Manami was moving again. She crawled as rapidly as she could without sliding off, over to the eaves of the roof to lower herself over the edge. She held onto the gutter and clambered down quickly. The moment her feet hit the pavement, she was sprinting down the road. In time she would have to think of a plan, but for now?

Any hiding spot away from here would do.

* * * * *

Kei Mori looked on in devilish amusement as Shigeo scurried around the house, throwing open doors and cabinets, calling out for the girl as he ransacked her belongings. “Manami! Manami, this is not funny!”

“I disagree,” she called out, stopping the now deathly-pale man in the middle of bounding down the stairs. He stared at her with wide, terrified eyes as she stalked towards him, closing the distance between them with the talon-like click of her high-heeled shoes. “I think it is very funny what you thought you could get away with tonight. Just a minute ago, you were telling me how I should pay in advance for a girl that isn’t there.” Her teeth, parted in an open-mouthed smile, snapped shut mere inches from the tip of his nose.

He jumped. “M-m-m—”

“M-m-m-m—!” she echoed with a trill of laughter, pushing him playfully on the arm. “You are so funny, Mr. Aihara!”

His eyes widened further, but with effort, he mustered an uncertain laugh for her. “A sense of humor is a, um… a very good thing to have!”

She snatched his jaw in her fingers and squeezed hard, bringing his gaze level with hers. “I am beginning to think it is the only thing of value you possess, worm-food. You owe me now. Remember that.”

She released him, stalking out and leaving him all alone in the ransacked house. No sooner did her high heels retreat down the cobblestones and out of earshot, than he collapsed in a gasping, sobbing heap on the stairs.
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Rapture
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:40 pm

Early October

Years of zealous leadership by the Cult of Eamosaro had both depleted their ranks and their assets, leaving what had once been a secret diaspora of true believers with only dozens of their followers remaining, and only a single safehouse to their name. The others had been compromised in the aftermath of their brazen and usually fruitless raids on Kabuki Street and other neighborhoods, and the last of their elders had fallen in battle, been hanged for their violent crimes, or still rotted in some windowless dungeon where the Watch tossed anyone they didn’t want to deal with anymore.

None of these developments bothered Kei Mori. The elders were like weeds, and encouraging them to indulge in their hare-brained raids in militant-occupied neighborhoods plucked them from Eamosaro’s garden all the faster, and left room for the other plants to flourish.

“Grandmother was right,” she mused as she stared out the window of the last safehouse of her faith, watching the heavy raindrops lash the dirty panes. It was utterly dark within the house, but there was enough gray light spilling in to reveal the reflection of someone entering the room behind her. She recognized him as her spy based on his heavy posture and the way his breath hissed wetly through his teeth.

He lurched forward two unsteady steps and stopped. His neck popped as he turned it to look at her, asking her, “About what?”

“Just thinking about her garden,” she said, fondly remembering the tangled masses of roots and herbs that cluttered the woodland cottage above the flooded village. The creatures of the forest, chittering and shrieking in their bamboo cages that dangled from the rafters. The sound the meat made when they dropped it on the stone to cut it. Her lips were dry, as parched as she was hungry this deep into her fasting, but she wetted them with the tip of her tongue and let out a pleased hum.

Somewhere behind her she heard another uncertain step. He was breathing very hard. “Did she tell you what he looked like?”

Kei laughed brightly as she turned to her little lackey, who started when she faced him and held him in her large, dark eyes. “You will see him soon enough, you silly man!” She punched him playfully on the arm, and laughed harder when the strike made him cry out in fear. “That is… if you have done your job right.” Her smile dropped into a pout, and she took a half-step closer. “You haven’t let me down, have you? You won’t hurt me like mean old Mr. Aihara…”

He pressed his bald head back against the grimy wall of the dark room as he recoiled from her outstretched finger, and a gurgling whimper escaped through the gaps in his clenched teeth. “No!” he cried. “I did as you asked… and so did the others!” Kei withdrew her hand with a slowly growing smile, and the man proceeded, his nerves slightly assauged by the gesture. “Someone has been in the old train station! Someone who broke the lock, cut a few padlocks, and left lots of footprints in the dust.”

“Those nosy girls from the lake,” Kei sneered, her eyes widening in anger. He nodded his mute agreement and continued.

“There wasn’t anyone watching it -- maybe because they didn’t find anything! The stairs to the service tunnels were collapsed, that’s as far as the footprints went.”

“And you--”

“We found another way.” He dared to step forward, angling his head to peek up at her, and shut his eyes when she traced three red-painted fingernails along his rough, stubbly cheek. “An abandoned bath-house with a drained pool in the basement. We broke through the wall and…” He broke off into giggles, pleased by the memory, and whispered: “I saw it.”

“Good,” she sighed, trailing her fingers down his face to his chest… then roughly shoved him away, eliciting a startled yelp. “What a very good boy you are.”

“What now, Miss Mori? Do we reclaim it?” He chuckled nervously, shuffling forward again. “Do we strike--?”

His last word came out strangled when she seized his jaw, squeezing hard while he gurgled helplessly, heedless of the drool that dripped down the back of her hand. “No. We keep our distance and watch and wait. These girls have already picked up the trail, and they have proven themselves strong… and clever…

“They will lead us to the final piece soon enough.”
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Saori Sato
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Saori Sato » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:41 pm

Late Fall

The basement level of the department store was a large space, but had accrued so much clutter over the years that it felt downright claustrophobic. Water-stained boxes on the verge of disintegration were piled shoulder-height or higher along the walls, obscuring the windows to thin rays of light muted by the dusty haze that filled the room. Shigeo was in a corner between an old shop vac and a pile of cleaning chemicals, a few of which the girl he recognized as Saori Maeda had already threatened to force-feed him. She'd referred to the other girl as "Izumi," a delinquent like herself who watched him with a bored, vacant expression while he sagged in the folding chair they'd bound him to with yellow utility rope.

Both of them were harder for him to see than they'd been five minutes ago,but that was before they'd started punching him in the face. He could still make out the look they shared, which he'd seen often enough dealing with enforcers in his shadier dealings: disappointment. It wasn't the lack of useful information he'd offered that bothered them so much as the realization that their excuse for this sadistic diversion was at an end. Izumi shrugged slowly and walked away from him, through the utility room by the staircase, followed closely by Saori.

There was the sound of running water, probably one of the girls washing his blood from her hands. He strained to listen, but the noise made them very difficult to hear.

Maybe the reverse was true, too.

* * * * *

"Do you feel certain that he knows nothing about the location of the cult's headquarters?" she asked as Izumi scrubbed her hands.

"Fairly certain," Izumi answered. "It would be difficult for him to conceal the knowledge from my curse. It seems as though he really is just some lackey doing odd jobs for them for pay." She stood back, letting Saori step in to take her turn. "What should we do with him now? Get rid of him I guess?"

Saori frowned and looked back at the doorway thoughtfully. "I guess we should get Manamana. She should have the honors. He is her uncle after all, and she was part of the mission that captured him..." Izumi flapped a hand and scoffed, stepping up to her side to argue with her.


"She is just a shrimp! Surely we could dispose of him more effectively. Do you think that drum of acid is still over at the docks..?"

Saori twisted the faucet off, paused to think and shook her head slowly. "I don't think it is. Besides, wouldn't it be easier to just dump his carcass in the harbor?"

Izumi seemed unconvinced. "No way. Then we'd have to cut him up first and it's already getting pretty late--" She stopped abruptly at the sound of several boxes falling to the floor, spilling two decades of old catalogs and ugly patterned polos all over the floor.

"****", Saori muttered, racing into the room with Izumi to find Shigeo's loosened bonds among the scattered debris. A thicker cloud of dust was rising in front of the open basement window. Izumi hopped up onto a few of the larger boxes and grabbed the windowsill to lean out for a look into the alleyway.

"No use. He must be long gone." She grunted as she dropped back to the floor, and turned to give Saori a speculative look. "Say, guy didn't know anything anyway. No point mentioning this to Eri, is there? I mean, she's busy with her new house and still getting over whatever went wrong on her vacation..."

"I think you're right," Saori agreed. "There's no use getting her excited when the guy is just some small time lackey. And now we won't have to figure out how to get rid of him."

"He probably skipped town anyway -- wouldn't want to risk Manami finding him again, and if the cult heard he'd been captured they would probably eat him for ratting them out," Izumi offered in agreement as Saori dug out her phone.

"I'll just call Manami in a while and tell her he blew town. No harm, no foul."
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Manami Aihara
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Manami Aihara » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:44 pm

In gloom only partially dispelled by shaky light, Manami's eyes struggled to focus. The only sound was a persistent, high-frequency hum -- somewhat like ears ringing from a loud sound -- though faintly underneath were suggestions of other sounds, echoes of chanting she could not quite discern.

Abruptly, the sense of weakness subsided, and her eyes focused more easily in the dim light.

Figures that were once indistinct shapes around her solidified into recognizable forms, some standing as if dazed, others slumped and wounded, and one sprawled on the rough floor of this chaotic space. This figure's face was visible as well, serene and passive in death. Her gaze moved to the proud standard of a soaring dragon fallen as well, blood staining the fabric and pooling beneath. A sense of vertigo washed over her, sickened her, and her vision became obscured again as a loud, thundering voice exclaimed.

"By God! You... you don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

her strangely hued eyes blinked rapidly as bright light filled her vision, clarifying into the familiar shape of the clutter on her kitchen counter. The thunderous voice was accompanied by a laugh track as it echoed out of the living room, from the television turned up far too loud, the light from its changing screen flickering into the kitchen. She blinked once more, frowning intensely at the food on the counter that she now remembered she had been using to make lunch.

"What was that? Another of these episodes," she murmured unhappily. "Mmph... either a tumor in my brain -- or I'm haunted. I'd better ask Mallory."

* * * * *

The brightness of the day seemed incongruous to Manami as she wandered the vicinity of Dockside, seeking out the apothecary shop she had gotten vague directions to. Finally it was in sight and she approached the door hesitantly before stepping inside.

Shelves lined the walls and jars lined every shelf, cluttering the space with herbal ingredients and spell components in dusty shades of every conceivable color, bookended by spellbooks, baubles, tarot cards and rune-stones. The dust was in the air, too, perfumed by dried flowers, aged parchment, fresh ink, and a faint whiff of blood.

The witch was leaning on the counter, a small ledger open in one hand, making notes with a quill in the other. A quick tick of her gaze noted that, yes, someone was in the doorway, but she finished her line and set the book down before she looked again and saw Manami. She greeted her with a surprised smile, uncertain at first, then warmer.

"Hey there, Manami. Welcome to Panacea." She slid her butt off the edge of the counter, sneaker laces snapping as her feet hit the floor, and crossed towards the delinquent. "Something I can help you with?" The faintly inscribed bangles around her wrists settled into place with a muted click.

Manami looked pale and rather unwell, but still was inquisitive enough to be impressed by the shop's contents. She looked around curiously, her eyes trying to take in all every unusual and exotic item on display. She managed a smile, but it quickly gave way to a worried frown, and she paused as if searching for words before she finally blurted out: "How can you tell if you have had terrible visions of demise or if it's a brain tumor?"

The witch's lips twitched when she repressed a laugh... but the closer she looked at the young delinquent, the more solemn she became. "What did you see?" she murmured while she searched the poor girl's face for an unspoken answer.

Manami was silent for a moment, looking straight ahead before she began. "It starts with some chanting that is... familiar, but I can't understand it. And a feeling like... like I'm not myself. Then there's this loud noise, and smoke, and I see someone dead on the floor of this place... not a familiar place. Some kind of storeroom, maybe, filled with boxes and other junk. But... someone important is dead. One of the Kabuki group."

Mallory lifted her chin, her expression hardening in response to a cold unease she felt growing in her chest. "Did you recognize the dead girl?" she asked.

The young delinquent seemed reluctant to speak for a moment. Her eyes shifted around, unwittingly avoiding the witch's gaze. "Not entirely," she finally answered in a soft voice. "Just that I can see one of the sukajan. One of the group, I am sure. I thought that since maybe I felt like I wasn't myself in the start, that the corpse was me, and I saw a ghastly vision of my own demise!" she exclaimed in a rush.

"Look at me." The witch had closed the small distance between them, stopping mere inches from Manami's face to look her in the eye.

Mallory's voice seemed to snap Manami out of her uneasy and evasive trance and her oddly colored eyes were fixed on the witch's in an instant.

The intense stare lasted only seconds longer, or seemed to -- the witch's eyes rolled back as she curled her left hand into a fist, and something audibly tore through her skin, blood welling up in her palm. She shut her eyes, and when they reopened, they were a solid, bloody red. "Do not look away," she croaked, her voice low and distant, the syllables stretching out like the eerily lengthening shadows around them.

Though she was peripherally aware of the lengthening shadows, Manami's eyes were wide and staring intently into the blood red gaze of the witch. Even though she was afraid, she found it impossible to look away. Some sound of trepidation issued from her throat, but she could not find her voice. A long, tense moment passed, though the delinquent couldn't have guessed how long, until it was too much for her to bear. She was so filled with apprehension that she nervously looked away, convinced that something horrible was approaching from the deepening shadows around them.


The witch hissed out a sharp breath when the connection broke and she pulled away from Manami, pressing her right hand over her eyes and massaging her face. She fell silent, and did not make any other sound besides the slow, steady drip of blood from her left ring fingertip down to the floor.

Manami shook her head briskly. "What was that? What happened?!" she asked in a panic.

"Go home," Mallory cut in quickly, shaking her head, her eyes still covered. "And stay there, until someone comes to get you."

The delinquent studied the witch for a moment... then turned and raced out the door.

Only when she heard the ringing of the bell did the pythoness lift her gaze to stare after Manami's retreating back as she ran across the street away from Panacea. This place would reek of magic to whoever visited next, and the least she could do was scrub her blood from the floor. But first, she dug her phone out of her pocket, thumbing through her contacts until she found Eri, and tapped out a text with unsteady fingers:

we need to talk. Manami's from the village. she has the Sight, too.

((Written with Mallory!))
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Rapture
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:21 am

((Content Warning: Gore!))

The house was dark and quiet, curtains drawn and windows shuttered on a cool summer night when every other house had their windows open. The plants on the front and side stoops were brown and wilted, and tendrils of purple-thorned vines had crept out of the debris-choked gutters to dangle over the eaves. Envelopes flapped in the breeze, packed tightly into the mail slot below a dozen paper notices nailed to the front door.

Kei strolled past it with affected disinterest, patting her mouth over a long, deep yawn, leaving sticky red stains on her fingers. She smacked her lips and squinted down the dark alley at the rays of pale light that filtered out of the side door, swaying further ajar when the wind carried down the narrow way. The light glinted off the shattered glass that crunched under her feet, and she stopped to blink slowly at the curtain flapping out of the broken window, almost masking the sounds of strained breathing on the other side.

"H... h-help... me..."

"Nn," she murmured, and held her mouth open to run each sticky finger over her tongue as she edged in through the door.

A familiar figure stood in the hallway, a thin, pale man whose dark, sweat-damp hair was stuck close to his scalp, disheveled by the black knit cap partially dislodged from his head. His arms were pinned awkwardly together in front of him, hands twisted towards the ceiling as if in desperate supplication. A flashlight rested by his feet, next to an empty duffel bag and a chair that had been broken by the glistening ectoplasmic worm that had wound its way around his body, thicker than a man's thigh and long enough to curl all the way up to his neck, dripping hot, steaming saliva onto his cheek as its jagged beak hung open over his head.

His eyes darted over to the door when Kei's foot came down on top of the flashlight. "Kei," he hissed, straining to loose his neck from the creature as it slithered and wound itself even tighter around him, and found himself unable to turn when she circled behind him.

"What happened to Miss Mori?" she cooed, tracing her fingers along the worm's slimy teeth, and giving her pet a grey-toothed grin. In an instant it tightened its hold and something cracked in Shigeo's arm, and he gurgled and threw his weight back towards the wall, narrowly missing her as he slammed the worm.

It loosened its hold from his neck as it emitted a pained shriek, but its cry was soon overtaken by screams of his own as Kei pressed the side of his face into the wall with one strong hand and sank her teeth down into his ear. His screams rose as she bit and tore, swallowed and bit down again, stifling gleeful, yelping cries as she feasted on him, until the worm let go and let him collapse to the floor. She had taken half his lobe and a ragged chunk of the corner of his jaw, and stared wide-eyed at the wounds as she squatted over him, rubbing the blood from her mouth and licking her fingers like a cat.

People would have heard the screams, surely, but the Watch had its hands busy with jay-walkers and litterers and spiders these days. She had time, and she took it leisurely, cleaning her fingers while she stared at Shigeo's weak form on the floor, shivering from shock and coughing from his long strangulation. The worm slithered through his legs and back over his torso, draping itself lazily over his body as it waited on its master. "I was very bad," she confessed to its eyeless, razor-beaked face in a penitent whisper. "I am supposed to be fasting, and I was very, very bad. Grandmother would have words with me," she added as she lifted her head, staring at Shigeo's sweaty, blood-streaked face with an expression of slowly dawning delight. "We are both so lucky that I buried her in the garden, Mr. Aihara," she hissed into the ragged remains of his ear as she loped closer to him, stopping beside his head.

It took a long moment for Shigeo to work through the pain so he could form words again, but Kei Mori waited patiently. His eyes were clenched shut, but he finally whispered: "What do you want from me? I have nothing that you want anymore..."

"Oh," Kei breathed, marveling at his perspective now revealed. She cocked her head and parted her teeth as she beheld him with a strange smile, which widened when he raised his head to look at her again. "Where did you go, Mr. Aihara, you strange, funny old man? Who did you talk to? Tell me -- " Her head swiveled away abruptly, she grinned at her worm, and turned back to him. " -- tell us everything, please."

He looked between her teeth, stained with his blood and speckled with bits of his flesh, and the worm's razor-sharp maw with growing horror, and confessed in a rush: "M-my niece, Manami... h-h-her horrible friends tortured me! They wanted to know where your base was, b-b-but... but I didn't tell them -- anything!" he insisted.

"That is because we did not tell you anything, you silly man," she whispered as she stroked his damp hair. "Tell me, who are her friends?"

"It's those horrible girls from Kabuki Street! Delinquents!" he spat, and raised himself up -- shakily -- to look at her better, weighed down as he was by the unsettling presence of the worm draped over his side. It hissed with displeasure as he shifted it, but he tried not to look at it. "Th-th-they're your problem!" he added, raising a trembling finger to her.

"They are," Kei said, delighted by the revelation, displaying it with a full, toothy smile. She beckoned him closer, and he turned his head to lean in with his one good ear to listen to her words. "And you aren't. Not anymore. Eat."

The last word wasn't for him. It wasn't for the worm, either, which vanished as soon as she spoke. He pushed himself away from her, back against the wall, and darted a look around the space, but he didn't see anything writhing out of the floorboards to snare him, nothing crawling down the darkened hallways, or slithering in through a door or window. They were alone here. He wondered briefly if she was more insane than he initially thought, opened his mouth to question her meaning... and coughed sharply.

A bloody, wriggling worm landed in his lap, clamping its translucent mandibles down on a piece of rubbery pink flesh.

The screams that wanted to escape his throat couldn't for the rising, wriggling tide now spilling out of it. His flailing turned all the more desperate when he felt them digging deeper, and he tore open his shirt to reveal the wellsprings of blood that formed on his torso wherever their writhing shapes distended his skin. A stream of them dribbled out of a hole in his chest, tumbling into his lap and digging back into his body wherever their ravenous mandibles could find purchase. His final choked screams gave way to gurgling laughter as the expanding swarm consumed him from within.

"Such a funny little man," Kei sighed, her wide, bright eyes watching as his body slowly collapsed, and the worms blinked out of sight one by one as their feast disappeared. She wiped one arm roughly across her mouth, and hummed thoughtfully as her stomach groaned. "Soon," she reassured it with a pat-pat. She gathered his flashlight and duffel bag, took one last look around the empty house, and slunk out the door to vanish into the darkness of the alley, leaving no sign of Shigeo Aihara but a broken chair and a shattered window.
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:22 am

Not long after Manami had returned home, she was relocated to the home of Chinami and Yuka, two of the veteran security girls, who were assigned as her personal detail. There was a tension that hung in the muggy summer air in Kabuki Street, something that rolled in with the changing season and the change in her routine, but as the weeks went on, the tension remained formless.

No one knew that Manami was the descendent of village Seers, outside of the blood witch and the close circle of the Heavenly Queens, and the cult had been quiet for months. Their usual haunts stood vacant, a testament to their vastly depleted ranks following one foolhardy raid against the Kabuki Street Rengou-kai after another in years past. Recently there had been no attacks at all, only a few brief sightings in the area since Eri had resumed her duties as sukeban last fall.

The security detail became another regular feature of Manami's life, much the same as it had for Mallory and Eri. When she went on missions, it was never alone, always with the two same grim-faced girls who grudgingly accepted her; when she went to sleep, they always slept or stayed watch nearby.

So when Manami awoke to some noise outside she had not yet processed, the emptiness of her room and the total darkness of the house were easily noticed. It didn't take her long to become alert, as her training for the new sub unit had improved her sense of awareness over the course of the year. She rolled silently from bed and moved over to the window to peek from the edge of the curtains and take a look outside.

Yuka was standing out in the street, extending a pistol at two widely grinning figures, her stance and her aim both uncharacteristically unsteady. She lurched forward, belching a wide splatter of steaming blood onto the pavement, and one of the figures closed the distance and plunged a long gray blade into her back with several rapid strikes.

"Yuka!" Two shots rang out, hitting the assailant in center mass and throwing him off of Yuka's back, but the security girl's eyes were open and lifeless by the time her back hit the pavement. There was another gunshot, and booted feet raced up the stairs towards Manami's room.

Manami was swift to move back to her bed, retrieving her own pistol from its hiding spot underneath her blankets. She checked that it was loaded, then waited for the door to open.

"Manami!" the same familiar voice yelled out as Chinami came barreling in through the door backwards, squeezing off a round down the hall to slow the several someones who were noisily advancing. The third gunshot Manami had heard hadn't been Chinami's, apparently, as she bled profusely from a hole in her left underarm.

There wasn't time to tell her to hide or jump out the window, as Chinami focused on firing down the hall alongside Manami into the armed figures now rushing them, all of them zealots who were heedless of any pain they faced or anything short of a killing blow.

Manami cursed when she saw Chinami injured, rushing past the guard and firing into the advancing forms. A real gunfight was more confusing than she had anticipated: the flashes in the gloom left spots in her vision, and the reports of gunfire rang in her ears and disoriented her.

Chinami began to call out Manami's name again as the wave of wounded attackers surged around her, undeterred save for one among them who had fallen, grabbing at Manami's limbs and fixing her with their hungry, bloodshot gazes as they pressed in on her. A woman licking her teeth as she breathed heavily on Manami got yanked back sharply by her hair, and with a single shot she dropped to the floor, revealing Chanami's face again to Manami in the crowd. She reached a hand out to grab at Manami as she angled for another headshot, unaware of the hooded figure prowling slowly down the hall...

"Watch out!" Manami cried, though too late as a woman with wide eyes and sticky-painted red lips yanked Chinami's hair, the same as she had done moments ago, and sunk her dozens of gray needle-like teeth into the girl's neck. This wasn't the suckling bite of a vampire but the ravenous hunger of a more feral predator, tearing skin and flesh from her throat in one long, mighty pull.

Chinami could scarcely gurgle out a scream, giving Manami a last desperate look before she fell to the floor, and the grip of the cultists around her grew tighter.

Manami screamed when she saw the demise of Chinami, but it was cut short as the cultists closed in and secured her in their grasp. She found the weapon she held pried from her grasp, though it discharged again in the process with another deafening bang.

The shot that immediately followed was almost silent, if not for the shattering of glass and the low groan of a man falling away from Manami with a quarter-sized hole where his left eye had been. The hooded woman's head snapped to the falling body as she shrank back; then she found Manami's gaze and grinned, her teeth neat and flat once more but still the same ugly shade of gray...

"Put her to sleep and let's go," she ordered, and a large, meaty hand placed a fuming rag over Manami's mouth, until her vision went black.

((Written with the player of Manami, with thanks!))
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Mallory » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:25 am

Enough noise carried from Kabuki Street to the neighborhoods nearby that, when Eri's phone began to buzz, Mallory was soon awake to listen. It took a few moments to untangle what she heard and saw from her quickly fading dreams, and she reached across her girlfriend's sleeping form to snatch the phone off her nightstand, punch in the pin, and answer.

"Miyu?" she muttered groggily, eyes blinking into focus as she shook Eri's shoulder with her free hand. "Yeah. Yeah, okay." She held the phone out to Eri with the simple explanation: "Miyu. Says it's urgent."

Eri was normally sluggish to wake, but a call at that time of night got her alert more quickly than usual. She was already looking a little alarmed when she heard Mallory say who was calling. Taking the phone, she spoke into it, shifting upright as Mallory slipped out of bed to collect her clothes from the floor. "Miyu..." She paused as she listened to Miyu's explanation. Finally, she replied: "I'm on the way."

She hopped up from the bed and grabbed her clothing hanging on the closet door, and explained to Mallory while she dressed: "There was an attack. The security detail with Manami have been killed. Manami is missing. Miyu thinks that it's the cultists."

Mallory snapped out a long curse in Koine as she pulled a tank top on over her head. "They've taken her to an abandoned storeroom somewhere... I can find out where," she said, sliding past Eri to touch her nightstand. The sigil that had replaced the lock flashed red, the door popped open, and she pulled out a low clay bowl, hand-marked with distances and gradations, and an organized bundle of locks of hair.

"Katto." The request came out in a distracted murmur, holding out her left hand over the bowl on the floor as she picked through her collection of scrying foci.

Already dressed in her seifuku, Eri pulled the sukajan over the top and retrieved the little knife from the pocket. A task she normally hesitated over was completed without much thought to it this time. She opened the blade and made the required cut, then stood back and waited quietly so she would not distract the witch in her magic.

The witch made a tight fist, squeezing out more blood than she usually spilled for a simple task, and her eyelids fluttered low as she dropped a single battered musketball into the center of the bowl. It spiraled, then slowly, steadily rolled, climbing up the gentle curve of one side until...

"Close. Eight tenths of a mile, east-southeast." She grabbed a bandana to wrap quickly around her regenerating cut, then scooped up her bag from the dresser as she beelined for the door. "Let's go."

* * * * *

Mallory's hand was fully healed by the time they reached the others on Kabuki Street, which was unusually noisy for this time of night. People hung their heads out of windows to shout gossip at each other or ask KSR girls what was going on, lights were on in many of the homes, and little clusters had emerged out in front of darkened shops to talk about what they'd heard. The witch picked up the pace as she kept up with Eri's urgent strides, though her expression was quiet and grim, silently fighting back the gnawing sense of dread that had been building in her heart since she'd awoken.

Eri's gaze swept the street, moving over various groups of delinquents that they passed. To some she made obscure gestures, prompting them to move to other parts of the neighborhood to patrol. She glanced to Mallory with what she hoped was a reassuring expression, though the sukeban herself was feeling a sense of disquieting dread of her own. When she saw Saori, Miyu and Riho standing at a corner, she made her way over to them. "Has to be right over there somewhere," she said without any preamble or greeting, indicating the southern section of the main road where the department store and old station were located.

"Where they buried the old shrine," Mallory added with a frown, shifting her bag as she turned in that direction. "They need Manami to draw out Ea -- " The syllables caught in her throat as she felt a dark warning of his presence in her mind, and she shook her head quickly. " -- the demon. I don't think we have much time," she added to Eri with a desperate look her way.

Eri nodded, gesturing to summon three more of the security team bodyguards, Lucky, Sumire, and Mitsuki, out of the shelter of an awning nearby. "Let's hurry then," she said as she took the lead, walking in quick strides toward the old building that loomed down the road...

((Written with the player of Eri, Saori, Miyu and Riho, with thanks!))
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:51 am

Manami awoke to the sonorous hum of a dozen cultists, kneeling all around her in the dust-choked space of the old station storeroom. Boxes, debris, and other clutter filled the space between them, briefly disguising other huddled shapes -- the bodies of those who had sustained wounds in the raid and finally succumbed to them. One after another, a kneeling cultist grabbed a corpse by the arms, dragging a bloody smear across the floor to the spot where Manami was bound to a chair... and right past her.

Over her shoulder was a low block of crude brown stone, covered in ancient engravings with tooth-like triangles in concentric circles and skull-like faces with impossibly long waves of hair; and just behind it, a jagged-edged pit, recently reopened by the look of the lighter gray streaks along the concrete and the tools discarded along its black rim.

Manami blinked rapidly, struggling to focus in the cluttered gloom of the decrepit space. Hearing the cultists made her remember her circumstances, and she shouted at the nearest one: "Hey! What are you doing?!"

"I would not worry about them, you funny little girl," a voice cooed from behind her other shoulder, and the face of the hooded woman from before swam into view, beholding Manami in her wide, wondrous eyes. Chinami's blood was still smeared around her mouth, much of it wiped across her arm; she found a wet spot on her chin with her thumb, and lifted it up in front of her lips. "I am not the only one who needs to eat," she tittered, affecting a laugh as she pressed a hand to her chest.

"I am so, so rude, and so sorry, little Manami! Would you like a taste?" she whispered, stretching her thumb out towards her face...

Manami tried to jerk her head away from the blood-stained hand. Her oddly hued eyes flashed with anger as she saw her ally's blood there. "Kill you..." she warned in her hoarse tone, carrying far more menace than it usually did.

"No no no," she tsked at Manami, and slapped her lightly across the face. "I am not Kill You... I am Kei. Kei Mori." She smiled then, letting her fingers dance in the air near her face. "There... isn't that better? Now we are friends," she added with another titter.

"I'm not your friend!" Manami insisted. "What do you want from me?!"

"For you to invite him in," she replied sweetly. "M-m-miss Mori!" someone stammered at her from upstairs, on the other side of a rusted metal door, slightly ajar. She ignored them, leaning in close to Manami's face and licking the congealed blood from her thumb. "Say his name," she hissed.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Manami said, feigning a confused look as Kei leaned in closer, belying a crafty smile. She was lunging a moment later, snapping her teeth and tearing at the side of her face.

Kei gasped in delight as Manami's teeth grazed through her cheek, spilling blood on the concrete before she toppled forward in her chair, and as she impacted, the taste of the blood in her mouth stirred something. A dark, insistent whisper in her ear, speaking a name over and over: Eamosaro. Eamosaro. "Oh," Kei murmured, clutching her cheek, "oh, but you would fit in so nicely, maybe he won't consume you after all... Now say it," she hissed, grabbing Manami's ear forcefully, and three more voices joined the first.

Eamosaro, Eamosaro, Eamosaro, Eamosaro... The cultists were chanting it, too, but it was soon impossible to tell where their voices ended and the ones in Manami's head began. Her world slowly phase-shifted, as the light grew dimmer, the darkness all the deeper, and every patch and smear of red blood in the room became pale and wispy violet. "Say it!" Kei insisted, grabbing her shoulder and shaking her roughly against the floor.

Looking up from the floor and gazing at the smears of blood with strange fascination, Manami's eyes reflected their otherworldly hue. Her expression grew blank as the chanting slowly entranced her. She was barely aware that she had spoken the name, even as her ears registered her own voice repeating it:

"Eamosaro."

The ground rumbled.

* * * * *

Mallory stood by the broken wall at the back of the department store, staring uneasily at the dingy stairwell behind it, with the sound of chanting rising from the depths. The first rumble had been a brief interruption as they picked their way across the store, but the next stretched on and on and showed no sign of stopping. Drip, drip, drip, three drops of blood hit the floor and erupted into the wispy shapes of snarling crimson hounds.

She looked aside at Eri and gave her a quick, decisive nod. This was her rodeo.

Eri looked back at the witch and nodded in reply. She gestured for everyone to line close behind her, and charged directly at the door at full speed. The old and partly decayed barrier didn't provide much resistance to the delinquent at a full bore charge. It splintered apart and she crashed through without even slowing.

The first cultist was struck center mass by her body and sailed down the stairs to the next landing, hitting the wall with a sickening crack. Someone was shouting near the bottom of the stairwell, but one of the witch's crimson hounds had already slipped past Eri, and the shouts of alarm turned to gurgling screams and the tearing of flesh.

Mallory brought up the rear as the delinquents surged forward, following the sukeban into the breach...

((Written collaboratively. Cheers, prost, etc. to all involved.))
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:52 am

Kei Mori's head snapped and twisted mantis-like at the sound of the upstairs door crashing inward. A significant look at a cultist standing guard near the door was enough to send him scrambling into the stairwell, brandishing a machete as he shouted out the news that another sentry was dead. Neither that nor the pained screams that soon followed bothered the priestess of Eamosaro -- all of the sentries would surely die, but it did not matter. It was already over.

"It is time."

The last cultist guarding the entrance bounced off the rusted metal door and went sliding across the floor, coming to rest between two of the dozen cultists kneeling around the shrine and chanting the name of the demon as Mallory, Eri, and her entourage of delinquents came stumbling into the space. The storeroom was shaking violently enough to keep them unsteady on their feet, but it did not seem to bother any of the demon's worshippers. They found Kei Mori kneeling by Manami's side with a knife in hand, and a quick cut loosened the last of her bonds. The girl's head was bowed, an eerie violet light leaking through her lowered eyes, but she opened them as soon as the priestess cooed in her ear:

"Call him forth."

The chorus of voices in Manami's head was only building in volume, and howling spectral forms the same hue as her eyes began spiraling up from the pit, visible to all though their words were most coherent in her ears: Raise your arm. Call him forth. Praise him. Feed him.

Manami, still entranced by the voices, seemed to intuit what to do without delay or time to think about it. She turned to face the pit, arms outstretched. The violet color of her eyes was more intense now, matching the hue of the spectral shapes streaming into her, and her voice had a strange quality of reverberation as she called over the opening: "Rise!"

The cultists rose and turned as one collective unit, looking upon the intruders with ravenous grins to rival even the priestess' expression, as one pale, chitinous forelimb latched onto the edge of the pit, followed by another... Then the spectral mass of a bus-sized worm hauled itself up from the depths, blinking three blazing violet eyes as it groaned through its concentric rings of gray needle-teeth. Two long rubbery limbs along its head unfolded, extending their bony, serrated ends threateningly as it took in its new surroundings and the many mortals that surrounded it.

The rumbling and shaking stopped, and there was a brief pause as people climbed back to their feet, the only sound in the space the deep, wet breaths of Eamosaro.

"Kill your friends," Kei whispered in Manami's ear.

Manami seemed startled by the whisper, eyes briefly back to their original fawn shade before returning to their strange violet hue. She assented with a nod as the whispering spirits asserted themselves over her will and moved to the edge of the pit, looking up at Eamosaro's massive form to give it wordless commands.

The worm shrieked, writhing further out of the hole and extending its weapon-like appendages to lash out at the delinquents and the witch, while its chitinous forelimbs hungrily shoveled fallen cultists into its tooth-ringed maw. The surviving cultists had been whipped into a frenzy by their master's rise; with their hands wrapped knuckle-crackingly tight around their butcher's knives and machetes, they howled with hunger and surged towards the intruders.

"Goddammit, Manami, you fight this bullshit!" Mallory could be heard screaming in rage over the clash of battle as she sprinted off to one side, far enough to the side to buy her a few moments away from the action. Her crimson hounds darted and leapt through the battle, two of them snapping and tearing at a cultist attempting to stab Mitsuki in the back; her third leapt through the air, about to fall onto the back of the priestess when an ugly gray spike erupted out of nothing, skewering the summoned beast, and it burst into a cloud of red mist.

Now closest to the demon emerging from the pit, Eri had to jump backwards to avoid its lunge, appendages waving in a failed attempt to grab her. Her leap carried her into one of the cultists, dislodging the machete he held from his grasp with the impact. Even disarmed, the fiendish figure wrapped his arms around Eri, grappling her, struggling to wrestle her to the ground. The delinquent deftly dropped her center of gravity in a crouch, flipping the robed zealot over her shoulder and promptly giving him a strong stomp of one booted foot to the skull.

Another cult member was charging at Eri's back with his knife raised only to be intercepted by Saori's gruesome iron studded club crashing into his teeth. There was a sound like a stack of china plates breaking and the unfortunate man back-flipped away from her with the impact.

Miyu efficiently shot and stabbed her way into the chaotic mass of cultists around her, mindful of her allies circling and darting past, but these weren't dropping as quickly as the others had in previous encounters. She shot a man in the stomach only for him to lock his hands around her throat, snapping his teeth as he tried to squeeze the life out of her.

Lucky let out a frustrated cry as she plunged her knife into his back, over and over, pulling him back with all of her strength. He fell away heavily, and Lucky stumbled back from the impact, waving her arms to steady herself... just within the reach of the worm's lashing appendages. Her eyes went wide, a breathless gasp escaped her as the bony, serrated end of a limb plunged into her back and tore out of her chest.

Riho snarled in frustration as she tried to wrestle free from two of the cultists, both of them covered in cuts and slashes but still standing. Mallory slipped and scrambled past her, grabbing onto a cultist and, with a brief squeeze of her glass pendant, set the poor man alight. She kicked him in the back, sending him stumbling into the worm that was crawling after her, covered in scorch marks and sharp, crackling ice shards from her previous attempts to gain its attention.

The worm clamped down on the screaming cultist, consuming him in several rapid, tearing bites, and twisted to swing its heavy tail across the space. Riho, Miyu, and a few of the cultists around them went soaring through the air and crashed into the floor, scattered by the blow, and the spectral demon raised its bloody maw to give out another deafening shriek.

Nimbly ducking the sweep of the demon's tail, Sumire ran forward to defend Miyu. She employed the bayonet she carried to great effect, striking one of the advancing robed shapes down as it neared Miyu. "Got him!" Sumire shouted triumphantly, cut short by the darkening blood that suddenly bubbled out of her mouth.

"Got you back," Kei hissed in her ear, needle-like fingernails clasped around the back of her head, and shoved her dying form to the ground. She winked at Miyu picking herself up off the floor and vanished into the confusing blur of bodies in motion as the battle raged.

The witch's crimson hounds were nowhere to be seen, and the witch herself was back to back with Eri, briefly, before leaping back into the fray, leaving her girlfriend to hold the nearby cultists at bay while she contended with the worm. Her eyes darkened and she croaked in Latin, and a shadow flared out from her shoulders to deflect one of its serrated strikes, splintering bone as she followed up with the simple command, Break. Blood and ichor burst from new tears in its flesh, but it seemed little weaker than when the battle started.

Eri seemed to regain some of her vigor after standing back to back with the witch, making a sound of approval as she saw Mallory attack the demon. She moved quickly to distract one of the cultists that was moving toward Miyu, grabbing him by the arms and hurling him into the far wall. Now recovering, Miyu seemed to have finally found a suitable field of fire as Eri bought her a few moments, but only one of her five accurate shots proved a killing blow.

The wounded cultists were staying in the fight, the demon remained strong, and the priestess was unaccounted for, while the delinquents were down two and struggling to regroup. The air was thick with the smell of blood, the sound of flesh and steel, and the looming despair of imminent defeat.

((Written collaboratively, with thanks!))
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:54 am

Kei's shifting, shadow-cloaked form was difficult to make in the battle, but her voice carried clearly to Manami from somewhere near the handful of cultists crowding around Eri: "Now be a good girl and kill the rest!"

The strange hue of Manami's eyes had flickered and nearly faded since the demise of Lucky, and her blank expression twitched as she fought to reassert control. Upon hearing Kei's orders, Manami's brows drew down angrily, the violet light vanished, and she focused intently on the demon. As she did, it began to writhe in a confused and desperate motion, no longer attacking the group as it flailed its limbs ineffectually at the ceiling.

Whatever screams of rage might have reached Manami from the priestess losing control of the fledgling Seer were drowned out by a piercing shriek, not from the worm but from the witch. Her eyes had gone black and the worm's confused writhing turned to writhing in pain as the scream ruptured its flesh and flooded its senses. It sought to surge forward as a cultist attempted to tackle the witch from behind, but slick black tendrils erupted from the floor to lash around the creature and hold it in place, and a well-placed shot struck through the cultist's head and dropped him to the floor.

"Kill it! We have to kill it!" Mallory shouted at the others as she twisted her hands through the air, struggling to hold it in place, leaving Eri to gleefully bludgeon and beat back the remaining cultists.

Once the last of the cultists fell, Eri charged directly at the worm, Saori following close behind. The sisters struck at the same moment but from different directions, ichor splattering far and wide as they struck the demon with their weapons. Miyu fired again, this time directing the shot at the head of the ectoplasmic creature. It reared its head back and shrieked again, bleeding profusely from its deep wounds with no means of stanching it, whipping its enormous body back and forth to hurl the sisters across the room before they could inflict any more deep wounds on its body...

But the damage they'd already done was enough. It shrieked again but it tapered off into a desperate croak as it crawled backwards, finally breaking free of Mallory's black tendrils, though the witch joined Miyu in blasting this demon with everything she had left as it left a great smear of ichor in its wake. It bent its appendages, preparing for a defensive strike, but Riho, bruised and beaten but still in the fight, snatched a machete off the floor and swung straight up, slicing through one of its rubbery tendrils. And it writhed again as Mitsuki plunged one of her engraved knives into its left eye.

Eri picked herself up from where she had landed and shouted a warning to Mitsuki. It was too late as one of the remaining cultists, desperate to protect his dying master, had flanked the bodyguard and inflicted a wound with a knife of his own. Eri rushed in to engage him, taking a cut from the blade but soon grappling and forcing the robed zealot to the ground as the dying worm retreated towards the pit, closely followed by those attacking it.

The grappled zealot hissed and snapped his teeth as Eri forced him to the ground, continuing the gesture even as her booted foot fell upon him, over and over. The worm let out a long, ear-piercing cry somewhere behind her, the survivors of the battle falling upon it to block its retreat and finish the grisly task of butchering it. The cry stretched on while the cultist stopped moving, ended by the third stomp.

The shadows rose up behind Eri in a swift, silent moment, disguised by the sounds of battle and the final shrieks of the demon, and dozens of needle-like teeth sunk into the base of Eri's neck. When the delinquent struggled against Kei's form she tightened her grasp with surprising strength, folding her solid yet spindly arms around her to hold her close and plunge a long, slender blade into her torso, over and over, quietly shushing her through her wet, bloody teeth.

In the confusion of the fight Eri fell, her heart stopped by several deep, piercing blows. The last thing she saw was Mallory continuing to fight, and then the sukeban was silent in a heap on the floor, blood staining the bright embroidery of her sukajan.

((Written collaboratively, with thanks!))
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Mallory » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:57 am

The worm's torn and burning body thudded against the floor, dissolving into a steaming pile of ectoplasm and the shredded remains of the dead cultists it had consumed, with the battle's survivors standing around it. Mallory staggered back several steps, bleeding freely from the self-inflicted wounds in her left hand, breathing hard as the adrenaline of battle started to fade. She quietly counted the people around her: Saori, largely intact; Riho and Miyu, battered and beaten but still standing; Mitsuki, bleeding from a deep cut, hopefully alright if she was treated soon; and Manami, fallen to her knees near the edge of the pit, her eyes still locked onto the worm's dissolving form with unearthly fury.

"Eri?" Mallory ventured, and looked deeper into the room. A hooded, blood-soaked figure looked up at the cry -- and the shadows rose up to snatch her away. There was a crumpled form where she had been standing, blood pooling around a familiar sukajan.

"No..." The word left her lips, her tone desperate and confused as she sprinted, slipped, and scrambled on all fours the rest of the distance to Eri's side. "No... no, no, no," she muttered, grabbing the side of her face to look into her glassy eyes, smearing blood up from her pale throat. There were deep wounds in her torso, into her stomach and chest, and blood still spilling from them, so much of it pooling around her body... Her breath choked in her throat as she tried to speak, hot tears falling in a sudden wave, and she slapped the ground with her fist and screamed, "SAORI!!!"

The elder Maeda sister had finally picked herself up, checking her injuries and finding that she was regenerating as normal. She was about to turn her attention to Miyu and Riho before she was interrupted by the witch's scream. Her eyes widened as she saw the crumpled form she knelt beside. "Eri?!" she cried.

The cries attracted the attention of Manami, who was only now picking herself up off the floor, exhausted by the exertion of overpowering the demon. She took one look at the sight of the fallen sukeban, the same face she had seen in her dreams, and fainted.

Saori paid no mind to this, rushing over and taking hold of her sister's other arm. "Eri, wake up!" she ordered her, in the stern tone of a big sister that she had not used for years.

"She can't be... she just needs a few minutes, I-I've seen her like this before," Mallory blurted out through her sobbing, struggling to hold it back as she wiped one arm roughly across her face. "She just lost a lot of blood..."

But Eri had still been breathing by the time the witch reached her side in the Inn, that night two years ago, when she'd seen her recover from seemingly mortal wounds. The delinquent now was utterly still. The witch's gaze ticked back and forth, discarding the answers she couldn't yet face, finding the solutions she hadn't yet tried.

"Cut my hand."

Saori seemed unable to face the truth either, nodding numbly to Mallory's suggestion. She glanced up at Miyu, who had stumbled her way over and now sobbed over Eri's body. The half-oni blinked at Mallory's order for a moment before she could process the request. She'd seen the witch work her magic before. She seized Mal's wrist and made the cut without any argument.

The witch scarcely winced, clenching her left hand into a fist, and pressed her right down firmly on Eri's chest. A little bit of the color drained from her face as she quickened her blood, willing a fraction of her life essence into Eri's body... without apparent effect.

"I don't, um... I'm not..." Mallory sniffled and combed her fingers back through her hair, leaving bloody streaks, and looked at Saori. "How do we fix her?" Her voice was soft and quiet and no less desperate, her gaze silently pleading with the half-oni.

Saori choked down a sob, looking desperately at her sister's face then back to Mallory. She stammered in an almost inaudible voice: "We have to take her to..."

Just as abruptly her eyes widened, and she brought a bloody hand up to comb through her own hair as she remembered. "No, wait! I'm stupid! It will be fine!" she exclaimed. The half-oni's body visibly relaxed as she explained: "Remember the story about our father? When he had a heart attack or something from trying to time travel? He came back."

The exclamation was enough to stop Mallory in her tracks, another sob escaping her involuntarily as she clutched Saori's arm, listening intently to her words. She nodded slowly and took a moment to find her voice again, before saying, "Right, Eri said something about that... about oni like her just needing some time to find their way back out of the underworld and... move a stone, right? How long?"

"It was about twenty-four hours. I'm not sure if it is always the same, but a few days at the most. We just have to make sure her body is safe," Saori explained, tears leaking from her eyes now in relief. "She won't, like, decay or anything," she added awkwardly. "The hospital here did tests on us. Our cells won't oxidize, even when they're separate from our bodies."

"Okay, so... okay," Mallory said, wiping her eyes again and reaching somewhere deep down for a little more strength and courage, enough to get things done. "Let's... let's send someone to get her car, bring it here... we'll put her in and pull into the garage at Riverwatch. We should send another car for Lucky, and Sumire," she added, looking over at the pair of bloodied bodies that Mitsuki and Riho had solemnly gathered around. "I can clean her body... keep her safe... and be there for her when she wakes up." Wakes up. Asleep, not dead. Just a temporary thing. "Is that... okay with you?" she managed to ask, looking up at Saori again, perhaps more aware in this moment than she'd ever been that this was Eri's big sister.

Saori sniffled audibly, but nodded without delay. "Yes, take her home. That way she'll be comfortable when she wakes up. You're the first person she'll be wanting to see, you know," she added. "Just call me when she does wake up?"

Mallory managed a smile for Saori, however weak and fleeting a thing, and squeezed her hand as she nodded. "Promise."

((Written collaboratively!))
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Rapture
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Re: The Demon of Kabuki Street

Post by Rapture » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:21 pm

February 6th, 2019 - eight months after the Calamity...

"Olly olly oxen free!" Kei's voice echoed through the web of tunnels under Dragon's Gate that stretched from the Perch to the Arena, and she paused to listen for any sounds other than dripping water, groaning pipes, and skittering rats. Her very red lips twisted into a disappointed frown... so she traipsed over to a four-way intersection, where a now-dry sewer tunnel intersected catacombs with all the bodies bricked over, and tried again: "Olly olly oxen free!"

She was in a black silk jacket emblazoned with a red serpent, a mockery of the rengou-kai's own "uniform," worn over a white dress that had quickly become filthy in these tunnels. Her hands were clasped behind her back, clutching a large meat hook. She rocked back and forth in her sneakers, humming thoughtfully as she looked and listened.

The silence wasn't to last for long, with the sound of a small smoky two stroke engine soon roaring from a distant tunnel, drawing close to the intersection -- the sound of an approaching dirt bike.

Kei gasped at this -- and gasped again as she started to choke. She lurched forward, bobbing her head as she struggled with something rising in her throat. She coughed and retched, and a smoking piece of meat tumbled past her lips and hit the tunnel floor. The smoke continued to build and rise, and as it did, the woman in the black jacket faded from sight...

...just as Nako reached the intersection on her bike. The young delinquent had her favorite delinquent canvas flight suit on, and a telltale silk jacket worn over it, as well as jaunty riding goggles to complete the theme. She braked when she reached the smoke cloud, apparently unbothered by it but curious. Over the thumping idle of the engine, she hummed thoughtfully, reached into the jacket worn over the flight suit and took out a hand drawn map on notebook paper to study.

As the smoke parted around the plume of Nako's exhaust, Kei appeared standing over her shoulder and leaning forward, hands still clutched behind her back as she read the map. She was utterly silent, or at least seemed so with the cover of the engine noise, enough to disguise the wet sound of her licking and pursing her lips.

Nako nodded to herself, seemingly unaware of the presence over her shoulder. She tucked the map away again and started forward again at a slow roll on the knobby tires over the rough tunnel surface -- until Kei abruptly stopped her.

The meat hook flashed out and came back, narrowly but purposefully missing a piercing wound as it looped around her neck, pulling the delinquent off her bike like a bad comedian off a stage. "Who have we here," the priestess hissed wetly in Nako's ear as the bike rolled forward without her, clattering away noisily as the delinquent struggled in her grasp.

She managed to get to her feet, but was unable to throw off Kei's choking grasp.

The priestess laughed warmly and tightened her grasp, turning the point of the hook dangerously against Nako's throat and locking her into place. "Silly child, there is no need to answer... I know who you are. We share so many friends -- Lucky, and Sumire, and Saori..."

Nako's dark eyes narrowed at the threat, glittering with malice as she heard Kei's words. "I know who you are too," she said, managing to choke the words out in a hiss.

"Tell me. I want to hear it in your words, because..." Kei struggled to contain a giggle, head bobbing with the effort as her grip tightened on the hook. "...because I want to remember you... after you’re gone," sputtering with laughter through the last word.

"You're the ectoplasmic..." Nako seemed to puzzle it over for a moment, eyes shifting back and forth. "Worm! You're a worm!" she exclaimed jeeringly. With retreat made inadvisable by the point of the hook to her throat, she surged forward without warning into her captor, short legs shoving off with rather shocking power and speed.

Kei’s yelp was as delighted as it was surprised, as Nako's movement nearly broke her free. "Friend! New friend, that's not fair!" she laughed, taking great stumbling steps back as she withdrew a knife from her jacket with her free hand. "Hold still! Hold STILL!” She laughed all the louder as she jabbed the weapon into Nako's back, sinking into her flesh.

In spite of the wound, Nako didn't try to retreat, as she drew a coffin handled bowie knife from her jacket and gave it a hissing horizontal swing, tearing through the deranged priestess' filthy dress and opening a long slice across her torso. But Kei found a moment of stillness to tighten her grasp on the hook again and push in, driving it into the base of Nako's neck --

-- oblivious to the three blades spinning through the air until two of them embedded themselves in her flesh. There was a familiar figure running full tilt towards her: Aya Mori, one of the Heavenly Queens of Kabuki Street, who'd heard this tango for two echoing down the tunnels and decided to crash it as the third wheel. Anger flared on her face as she locked eyes on her target.

"No fair," Kei giggled again, with an unsteady wobble and blood bubbling out of her mouth as she leaned very close to Nako's face, strangely delighted by the unexpected wounds. "You did not say you were bringing friends... but neither did I..." Her lips pulled back in a strange, open-mouthed grin, and what had appeared to be her tongue fell from her mouth as a fat, bloody, writhing worm. The wounded priestess began dissolving into black smoke, as the writhing worm swelled up like a balloon, rapidly growing in size...

Aya's quick steps came to a sudden halt, forced to skid against the damp stone of the underground to keep her balance. She clicked her own tongue at the sight of the vanishing priestess and the grotesque and growing worm. Something else clicked, this time her teeth, after she sucked in air and allowed it to churn within the pit of her stomach. The forceful exhale was not a wasted breath, but instead a stream of fire. She was the master of this art -- and while Eri's could be impressive, since Aya had taught her, the flame which bellowed past the shinobi's parted lips had been one of large yet controlled fury.

Thankfully Nako was short enough to keep out of harm's way, further sheltered from the blow as the worm burned away under Aya's assault. In spite of her grievous injuries and the hook embedded in her, she managed to roll away, just out of range as the worm swelled up and burst from the heat -- showering a small radius with stinging black fluid.

"Shit." Aya grabbed and lifted her darkened cloak, guarding her from the acidic splatter. She scrunched her face as she lowered her guard, her expression one of disgust until she spotted Nako. "Iijima!" She pushed forward to dash over to the wounded delinquent; she saw the hook, but she wasn't sure if taking it out would be the best idea. "Hey, hey!" trying to get the girl's attention and gauge her current state.

Nako was still for a moment, confused by the popping warm. Her head perked as she heard her name however, and she looked vigorous enough even with the hook protruding from the base of her neck -- though she didn't seem too eager to try to pull it out herself either. "Hurts," she grunted, looking back at Aya. "I'll make it, though. Thanks for the help," she added with a grimace, as she rummaged in her belt for her first aid pouch.

The young delinquent was much sturdier than she looked.

Aya began to rub her hands together, rapidly heating them up. "Let's get out of her first and worry about patching up after... This should slow the bleeding enough." She pressed her hands to Nako's form, around where the hook had pierced her. "It'll sting, but you can take it... Just hold on a little. I'll carry you back to Kabuki."

Judging by the sounds Nako made, the burning hands were uncomfortable, but she was mindful of the expectation that she be tough, and did not protest. As the sting began to diminish, she said, "I wish we could go after her. I didn't strike her well enough for her to die. Maybe yours were fatal, though. You hit her."

"Yeah... but she got away before I could set off the explosions." The purpose of the throwing knives had been two-fold. Aya knew the target could still be alive, but what mattered was that Nako hadn't become a casualty. "Do me a favor, don't pass out. Talk about something," she said as she carefully took Nako into her arms and rose up from her crouch. "What'd you eat for dinner? Or some hot guy you like."

It helped that Nako was by no means a heavy burden, even with the extra weight of the metal hook. "Well, we'll catch up with her sometime. Then get back for what she did to Lucky and Sumire," she predicted grimly. "And sure. I can talk about that."

The surprisingly merry chatter from Nako, as she gossiped as requested, echoed through the tunnels as they made their way back towards the safety of Kabuki Street.

((Adapted from live play with Nako and Aya, with thanks!))
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