Description: The morning following her rescue brings the start of a new round of arguments, complaints, and stubborn pride wounded as Ayame Ichijo makes every effort to not have the Guardian Oni Riki follow her home. What could be so horrible that she makes every effort to discourage a free ride home?
The sound of nature filters into the small shack as the light of dawn slowly floods across the surface of the mountain, chirping birds and buzzing insects merrily filling the air with their song. For one used to such things it is a pleasant noise, something familiar and warm that represents the start of a new beginning. The day has come to wash away the horrors of the night, chasing away all of the evils and horrors that lurk in the darkness with cleansing fire, at least for a little while. It is a peaceful scene, which is why, as such things go, it cannot last.
A terrible noise shatters the quiet tranquility of the forest, dull muted explosions that much resemble the sound of distant gunshots. They come in stacatto report, one after another in rapid succession, and within moments the gentle calm of the morning is replaced by the utter silence of terrified wildlife.
The source of the noise slowly climbs to its feet, massive arms stretching wide as the demon ogre rouses herself from a long night's watch. Her bones creak from the effort and another short series of disturbing pops emanates from her shoulders as they realign from their lengthy peroid of inactivity. Riki winces a little at this, letting out the deep but satisfied groan of one finally able to scratch an unreachable itch.
Trundling over to the side of the shack, she grabs a discarded bucket and fills it with water from the small outdoor faucet, the contents of which she half gargles as it is poured over her head. She repeats this noisy process several times until the taste of morning yuckines is washed from her mouth and the fatigue of pretending to be a statue for the last several hours is mostly gone. It's a lot harder to do that as a human, she discovered. Another note for her journal.
Already half-drenched, a thought crosses her mind that she hasn't had a chance to properly bathe recently. What with the fire of the previous evening leaving her smelling like a charcoal brisquette, her already powerful musk probably makes for an unpleasant combination. A quick sniff check confirms this. Yuck.
Stripping out of her traditional toga, she sets about cleansing the rest of her body with the slow methodical process of filling the small bucket and dumping it over herself repeatedly. It doesn't take long before she starts to hum something ancient and upbeat, a war song meant to be chanted to drums before the start of a great battle.
Today would likely be a battle of sorts, though not the kind that the song was written for. Oh well. No drums either. Well, that won't due. Have to keep some sense of tradition alive here. She starts to tap her feet along to the beat, slowly at first but as the tempo picks up she unconsciously begins to bang it on the ground sending minor tremors through the area.
Thump thump-thump-thump THUMP thump-thump-thump THUMP!
Hours had passed since the convalescing miko fell asleep mid-scheming. The rest of the night had passed in an instant, providing peaceful, much needed rest for one who's driven nature affords her so little in the way of either peace or rest. There's no telling how long she might have sleep into the morning if not for the revelry of the damned that commences right outside the shack that she is passed out in.
It takes a moment of blinking her eyes open within the neglected, ramshackle structure to try and piece together where she even is. The night before is a blur at first, fleeting fragments of events too surreal to have been nothing but figments of a bad dream. A battle with a Hellspawn, an ancient holy landmark lost to an inferno of Hellfire, and as if all that wasn't strange enough, there was that unending torment at the hands of some gigantic horned buffoon. Grumbling, she rolls over in the cot, bleary vision taking in the interior of the shack, her expression a sleepy neutral. Another blink as recognition starts to settle in, mouth curling into a frown.
No... it's all coming back now. It wasn't a dream, it was a /nightmare/. Grimacing, she lies there quietly. Maybe the emotional oni has wandered on, leaving her be, and all thoughts of what to do with can be delayed until such time she ever encounters her again... IF she encounters her again. But then she hears some disturbances outside and Ayame grunts. Then comes the deep vibrations of a monster's hum, and Ayame starts to grumble beneath her breath, rolling over to stare at the wall, pulling the blanket back up over her bandaged shoulder.
And then comes the drumming. "Oh for the-" the girl grimaces, sitting up on the cot only to wince, the movement exacerbating the stiffness in her slowly healing shoulders and the throbbing ache in her right arm. "Ugh." She sits on the cot, bouncing up and down slightly with each thundering stomp just outside the wall. Forced to pause as she takes stock in her own ability to get around again, the lithe priestess turns to the side, planting her feet against the floor as she shoves aside the blanket that had kept her snug and warm throughout the night.
Again and again, the cot bounces with the tremors, passing the vibrations directly on to Ayame. Grumbling unintelligibly beneath her breath again, she finally pushes herself to standing, reaching out to plant her hand against the wall for support as she takes stock of the room. On the floor is the soft green talisman she had preserved from the battlefield. Crumpled in the corner against the wall where it had been tossed is a short kimono, grey with soot and red with blood. The priestess herself has on only a pair of white socks, white cotton underwear, and a white cotton bra, the shoulder straps still stained red from last night's wounds.
Muttering, she staggers forward at last, she finally makes it to the shack door. Sucking in her breath, she finally shoves it open and leans out, hands clenching the frame for support before snapping out loud. "I will have you know, I have killed demons for less offenses than whatever One Oni War against Peace and Quiet you are waging right-...!" Her voice cuts out abruptly when she finally sets eyes on the powerfully built, unclothed barbarian ogress. Cheeks reddening suddenly, the young priestess turns her head away, "I mean, ah, er, um..."
Eloquence has left the building.
The gentle stirrings of her guest within the shack go completely unnoticed by the oni as she goes about her business, but then again, a hurricane might not have caught her attention of all of the noise. By the time Ayame manages to get the door open, she has shifted gears from a wordless hum supplemented by tapping footfalls to a full fledged battle chant. Both feet rise and fall in massive stomps, one after the other, the poor dilapidated shack practically hopping off its foundations the first couple of times before the sudden shouting brings the great bellowing to an end.
Riki's head perks up at the noise, not immediately aware of its origins as her face is buried underneath a fountain of soggy blonde hair. Setting the bucket down, she listens again for a moment only to find that instead of righteous fury the voice has devolved into meaningless sputters. The ogre peels away the curtain of hair from one half of her face, peering around until her gaze settles on the girl leaning against the doorway causing her to break out into a broad smile.
"Ah, you awaken! Excellent!"
Rising to her feet, Riki stretches once more, making no effort to cover herself or reclaim the scant clothing she brought along. Both arms are lifted high into the air and, as before, they let loose with a cascade of creaks and pops though somewhat less vehemently than the first time, though she still grunts and flexes a little in response.
"Tis a grand morning! As promised, I have kept watch over this domicle as ye slumbered. Twas no sign of the evil which harried thee at the temple. Either mine presence deterred any thoughts of vengence or the revenant's aims were elsewhere. Regardless, tis an outcome most desirable. Had the fiend set foot within mine sight, I am not certain that I could have restrained my rage. It would pain me greatly to see you come to further harm through any action of mine."
The question of the girl's health pops into her mind at this. She peers down at the miko, intending to inspect the wounds, and only just now notices the strange coloration in her face. Frowning, she kneels and reaches a hand out to press the edge of a massive finger against the girl's forehead.
"Thy complexion seems a bit out of sorts. Does a fever from thy wounds plague thee? Come, I shall wash you and apply fresh bandages, it should ease the pain."
Hands still gripping the right frame of the door for support, the grouchy priestess sucks in her breath before glancing back toward Riki briefly, then looking away again, rolling her eyes, and releasing an exaggerated, exasperated sigh as she collects herself. Already the oni's cheerful, booming voice is getting on her nerves and she's only been awake for a couple minutes now. She twitches at each of the loud pops, creaks, and snaps of an old but strong, healthy body being put through its morning paces. The girl who's body is too young to know of such things simply scowls, "Must you insist on doing that," she complains but her words are lost in the sound of the footsteps as the oath keeping guardian moves over by her with her thunderous steps
Her expression twists into a conflicting blend of irritated and completely confounded as Riki provides an accounting for how the night went protecting the shack and its sleeping priestess from the Revenant Ayame knew would never come, the girl finally setting eyes on the oni again, cheeks still pink as she pointedly lifts her eyes to glare at the horn protruding from the forehead of the towering demon. "Yes, yes, you did a wonderful job, now leave me be and go on about your busi-"
Her voice cuts out again as the large finger rests against her forehead in response to her flushed cheeks. "Wha-" she starts, pulling back a little at first, clearly not appreciating the contact or expression of concern in the slightest. But when threats of getting washed and re-bandaged come up, the girl's eyes widen in alarm and she staggers back another step. Her hands release their grip on the door frame as she stumbles backward in to the old structure, arms flailing now, "N-no, I am quite all right, I was just warm, it is just warm in here, and-" She falls into a seated position on the floor with a grunt, hands planted at her sides, another wince at the jarring of her injuries.
Sucking in her breath, undaunted, she continues, "In fact, I am so all right, I really must insist that I can make it home on my own just fine and your," she lifts her right arm to flick her hand in the universal 'dismissive' gesture as she looks up Riki, "Services will no longer be required. So just, you know, get dressed, and go do whatever demon things you normally do."
Riki blinks as her attempt to check up on the miko's condition is met with a bizarre mixture of panic and reassurance. It would have been a simple matter to intercede before the priestess could embarass herself by falling over with the sudden exertion, as the ogre knew would happen in her condition, but with the girl clearly still on edge she doesn't want to do anything that might alarm or upset her, so Ayame gets to reap the rewards of her actions instead.
The demon purses her lips, pondering something to herself for a few moments. This behavior makes little sense. Even if the human were still afraid of her, which doesn't entirely seem to be the case, it would be foolish to refuse aid for injuries such as those she is currently inflicted with. Failure to properly care for such wounds, such as the application of fresh packing and bandages, could lead to infection and complications. She must know this. And yet...
Slowly the truth of the matter dawns on the giant woman, and as always, this is plainly evident in her expression, her preplexed frown morphing into a knowing grin. She's embarrassed! A wave of relief passes through Riki at this realization. It isn't fear that keeps the girl on her guard, it's nothing more than an excess of pride. Well, there are solutions to that!
Leaning forward, Riki pokes her head into the doorframe of the shack and stares at Ayame with an exaggerated look of thoughtfulness. "Tis been many years since I last set foot upon the mortal world," she begins, rubbing her chin. "Much has changed in that time. There is much I have yet to learn anew about this new era. However, there is one that that I am quite certain of, which is that humans such as yourself have not been blessed with the power to simply wish terrible injuries away through sheer stubborness. Seeing as I hath devoted mine service to thee, regarless of thy wishes, twould be remiss of my duty as guardian to allow thy pride to bring thee low. Therefore..."
Her expression shifts to a mischievious smile as she withdraws and reaches into the shack to gather the hapless girl up off the ground. Rested as she might be, there is no way in which the twiggy little thing can resist as she is drawn out of her hole like a rabbit being pulled from its den. Riki holds the miko in much the same manner as when they first met, pinning her arms down to her side as she turns and heads towards the faucet
"I will do, as thy so graciously put it, 'whatever a demon such as I does', when faced with such a condundrum."
With that terrible pronouncement, Ayame soon finds herself as bare as the ogress, sitting on a small wooden box as buckets of water are dumped upon her by the looming figure sitting behind her like a mother hen.
Her attempts to brush off Riki's good intentions fail horribly. Leaning backward in response to the oni's forward lean, Ayame is already eying that thoughtful expression with great suspicion. Most of last night's misadventures have come back to her by now and she remembers rather clearly that the demon was no where near as easily persuaded as she would have hoped. "No one cares about your life's story," she gripes right in the middle of the oni's well intentioned if elaborate evaluation that the wounded priestess wasn't going to just miracle away her injuries by sheer stubbornness no matter how much the headstrong miko might believe she can.
"W-wait, what?" She realizes in her griping that she might have not heard everything Riki was saying about her pride. Eyes widen again as that tree trunk of an arm comes reaching in to collect her all over again. In a panic, she starts to scramble backward like a cornered animal desperate to find a space small enough that its predator can't get to it, but the powerful hand closes around her before she gets anywhere in her endeavor. "Hey, put me down, what are you-" Her arms pinned against her sides, there isn't a whole lot she can do to prevent being lifted up. She does struggle all the same, trying to pull an arm free, kicking her legs and even going so far as to hook her feet around the door frame. But even that last ditch effort only delays the inevitable by a few seconds before she's finally plucked clean out of the shack.
Moments later, she's glowering on her seat atop the box, leaning forward, her long, drenched hair clinging against her back and sides of her face. Her expression is positively dour even if the actual cleaning efforts would be refreshing in any circumstances that didn't involve her being cared for by a demon. Flustered, her cheeks are still red, but she knows when she's been beaten. At this point, she simply has to endure the ordeal and quietly hope that no knowledge of the last twelve hours ever reaches any other living soul.
"Why are you even doing all this?" she grunts irritably after another bucket is dumped on her. "I can get by just fine enough on my own, you know!" She sighs, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees, her chin cupped in the palm of her hands, "I understand you wanted to know what happened to the shrine, but now you know, so..."
She sits up then, raising her hands over her head, "Just leave me alone alrea-" Her protest is cut short as the next bucket is emptied over the ungrateful priestess.
The bucket is set aside, it's contents now adorning the girl's body. Riki sighs softly and shakes her head, looking up at the cloudless sky as if to share a knowing look with the entity that cursed her with this form and indirectly put her into the position of being the caretaker, however brief the job may be, for such an ungrateful child.
"Thy seem quite intent upon labelling me some villian, a serpent lying in wait for its moment to strike an unwary prey. However, tis obvious that thy is most certainly aware that I could have crushed thee with my bare hands at any moment during the short while in which thou hast been under mine care."
Another bucket of water is upended over her head, though some effort is made to concentrate the downpour on her shoulders, gently washing bits of excess scab and dried blood from their wounds with each repetition. However, any further protests given in an attempt to interrupt her as she speaks get doused with a faceful of tactically applied cleanliness.
"I have no need of trickery or skulduggery, girl. I am an ONI!" She bellows this loudly, raising her voice as if to let all within shouting distance be aware of this fact. "To suggest that such deceit is necessary is an affront to mine strength! However, I shall forgive thee this insult. The answer which ye shall receive shall be the same as before - I protect thee because it pleases me to do so. Tis in my nature to see those within my domain come to no harm. While that domain may be no more, I took upon myself a sacred oath to see thee to safe haven without harm and I shall honor that oath in the fullest extent of mine powers."
A final bucket is poured atop the grumpy miko and her unwanted bathing attendant rises to her feet, dusting her hands off as the vessel is cast aside. She looks down at Ayame in thought, then heads for the shack to collect what remains of the medical supplies and a few towels, rather certain that the girl isn't going to make a run for it in her current state. Even if she tried, she wouldn't get very far and probably knows it.
When she returns, the towels are set down somewhere away from water-soaked dirt and she motions for Ayame to come over and take a seat in the grass. "Let us tend to thy wounds," she says, speaking with a gentle tone that manages to come across as both a suggestion and a command at the same time. "The sun should see thee dry in the time it takes to replace their bandages."
Ayame Ichijo endures both the cleaning process and the monologue her questions provoked in sullen silence. Hugging her arms in front of her to stave off a bit of a chill brought on by the dousing, she doesn't offer any further verbal protests to the unappreciated endeavor. She does grimace at the loud shout coming from just behind her head, however, leaning forward and lifting her hands over her ears, "Are you trying to announce that fact to every monster hunter in Japan!? Do you think that they will all be as magnanimous as I am??"
In the end, though, the summary of Riki's answer was so simple, so direct, and so bullet proof, the argumentative miko had simply run out of ways of trying to pick it apart. How can she possibly come up with a compelling counter argument to the oni's explanation that she intends to see this through because it pleases her, is in her nature, and because she swore an oath that she would. No amount of circuitous logic or sarcastic needling was going to break a hole in that reasoning and after trying last night and this morning, she seems resigned to that fact.
When Riki first leaves her alone, Ayame sits up straighter, arms cross-hugging over her chest, glancing back at the shack for a moment, then looking around the area. The thought of making a run for it certainly seems to cross her mind, but perhaps she comes to the same conclusion as she exhales and leans forward again. Either way, she's still there when the ogress returns, back to cupping her cheeks in her hands, her elbows against her knees.
As the towels are placed, Ayame looks at each of her shoulders in turn, eying the healing wounds left by the Revenant's cruel blades. It could have been worse, she knows, having narrowly defended against attempted, violent slashes against her back during the fierce fight at the lost shrine. But it seems she lives to fight another day, if this giant oaf doesn't end up killing her with her painful simplicity!
Beckoned, Ayame blinks again until the explanation is offered. Frowning a little simply because she seems to have decided against looking happy about anything at all this morning, the skinny priestess relocates as requested, kneeling down on the towels, her back to Riki. "You are not the worst at first aid I have ever seen, demon." Such high praise. "Have you tended to others like this before...?"
Riki waits patiently for the girl to move over to the indicated position, half expecting to have to get up and carry her there like a petulent cat intent on being ornery in retaliation for an unwanted bath. To her pleasant surprise, the miko comes of her own volition, though she still looks the part. The oni waits for Ayame to get settled before setting about the task of applying fresh medical swipes and gauze to the now mostly clean lacerations.
An amused grunt is given as she is beset by a fresh question but Riki is happy enough to entertain conversation outside the circular discussion that they've engaged in so far. "Many years before I was a guardian, I lived among others of my kind. Ah, but ye would have not recognized me then from what ye have seen of me this day. I was a great warrior, red of skin and spitting fire, fearsome and terrible to behold..."
Despite the somewhat lavish praise she has for this memory, there is no hint of pride in her tone. Instead, she sounds almost bitter, perhaps regretful. A long sigh escapes the ogre and she shakes her head.
"Twas a different era then, a time of strife and conflict. My kind was feared by Man, and rightly so, for we took great pleasure in the games of war and destroyed many an unwary traveler and quiet village. Ye would have been correct in calling me monster had we met in that bygone age."
As before, Riki adeptly slathers the cuts with fresh alcohol, binding them with looping coils of the gauze. She ties the first one off, working with the strip of cloth as delicately as possible in order to loop it into a basic knot which ends up being much more crude than the rest of the packing. She eyes the lump of half-mangled cloth reproachfully as if it were some foe that has vexxed her for ages but quickly moves on to the next shoulder.
"Twas natural, ofcourse, that we met resistance from time to time. Though our hides were made of sterner stuff than simple farmers were like to defeat, twas not uncommon for the local magistrates to organize more worthy resistance when our numbers grew too large and bold. Many were too proud to tend these wounds and oft would simply lay down to die rather than suffer the lingering humilation of defeat."
Riki smiles a little and snorts. "Their foolishness was answered in much the same fashion as you experience now...though perhaps, not quite as gently."
Throughout the washing and subsequent cleaning and bandaging, Ayame never makes a noise when the injuries are wiped, dressed, and wrapped. Too proud to admit to feeling pain to a demon, she simply clenches her fingers from time to time and endures silently the necessary poking and prodding until they're covered again. Only then does she release a pent up sigh. A glance is made at each shoulder, but she makes no comment regarding the quality of bandaging.
She seems to consider the story of the oni's past in quiet. She speaks of an age long ago, of wars, suffering, when demons were widely acknowledged for the threats they were rather than being disregarded as fairy tales by most of the modern world. She can't help but contemplate the kind of respect she would command back then. Who wouldn't throw themselves at the feet of the local priestess for protection from the storm of beasts, yoma, and oni marauding across the land!
"It was in a time like that when my family was established and grew in influence." the miko states. "Now it is on me to continue the burden of the unending fight." Her hands, resting atop her thighs, clench tightly. She inhales then releases a soft sigh. "I should not have let that Revenant... that Scorpion get away. I am sorry that I was not able to prevent what happened to the shrine nor defeat the one responsible and banish him back to whence he came."
The girl lifts her hands to brush her drying strawberry-blonde hair back behind her ears. She will need to tie it off with her ribbon again soon before it gets too unruly in its dried state. "You are nothing like how you were then." She seems willing to take Riki's word for it. She doesn't push any further on the subject even if there are so many unknowns behind the impossibly stubborn yet far more docile oni she's dealing with now than the ones from the old scrolls in the shrine's library.
"So..." Ayame glances over her shoulder before looking forward again, "Now that I am not on the cusp of dying, I suppose I will find my way home." She lifts her right hand and waves it vaguely in front of her as if dismissing some unpleasant idea, "In light of your kindness, I will overlook your demonness for now."
She pushes herself up to standing, cross-folding her arms over her chest again, her back still to her oni caretaker.
"I guess this is goodbye then."
Maybe she's misunderstanding which safe haven the ogress has sworn to take her to!
"Is that so?"
Riki rises to her feet as well, amusement and frustration mixing together into an unruly smile as she scratches the back of her head. Unable to come up with anything to say immediately, she instead moves to gather up the discarded toga, slipping back into the garment. Though little more than a robe, it could likely make a servicable tent for someone more normally sized. The fabric clings to her skin in a few places where the water had yet to fully evaporate but otherwise rests loosely around her massive frame, covering only what it needs to in a fashion that looks strangely refined and yet at odds, like someone stuffed Conan into a geisha's casual dress.
The clothes that were taken from Ayame earlier are collected as well, along with the small bloody kimono that represented the last of her clothing after the traditional garments she had worn were reduced to cinders and ash. Not the most appealing of attire but neither one of them brought a spare change of clothes so it'll have to do for now. With her bounty in hand, she stomps back over to darken the girl with her shadow once more.
The oni's hands both reach out to hover over her for a moment before she dumps their contents onto the ground infront of Ayame. On one side, her clothes land in a small heap, underwear and dress floating down one piece at a time like leaves on the wind. On the other, another object falls, much larger and more crude looking than the factory-crafted slips of cotton. At first it appears to be little more than a lump of rough cloth, nylon or some other rugged material meant for use in the wilderness. However, upon closer inspection she will find that it infact a massive bag, clearly salvaged from the dirty shack. Judging by the smell wafting up from its mold-riddled interior it was once a recepticle for something quite unpleasant, compost or mulch perhaps.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Riki grunts and moves to stand in the miko's field of vision so as to be able to look her in the eye. She gestures with one hand, sweeping it across the bag and the pile of rumpled clothes and says, simply, "Choose."
On her feet, skin still drying in the morning sun, Ayame steps forward off the towels and picks one up, pointedly ignoring Riki for the moment after her initial words. She's had enough arguing with the ogress and isn't about to engage in even more! Using the side of the towel that hadn't been against the ground, she starts to dry herself off more, not wanting to start the long walk home with wet clothes. It occurs to her that she doesn't even have footwear beyond her dirty white socks which means the walk home might prove to be less than pleasant, but even that concern doesn't dissuade her from her plan to leave on her own.
Lowering the towel, she finally checks to see what her assertive guardian is up to only to notice her bearing the white, grey, dusty brown garments of hers in one arm. "Why thank you," she murmurs. The phrase is uttered in that 'I could have gotten my underclothes myself, thank you very much.' tone of voice that implies basically anything but gratitude. "You can just put those..." she blinks as Riki drops her clothing unceremoniously on the ground at an angle that would require partially going around the oni to get to them.
Then falls the sack and the towel-wrapped girl glances down at the heavy material piled on the ground, this time staring at it as if her mind is already jumping to the conclusion the horned demon wants her to. Ayame's eyes shift back to her pile of rumbled clothes, then back to the sack, then settle on Riki with a seething exasperation that would be impossible to miss, her cheeks blushing red again at the thought that anyone would be stuffing her into an oni's burlap sack!
Her right hand keeps the towel wrapped around her torso, her left hand lowering against her side, closing tightly into a small fist.
Gritting her teeth, she inhales then releases another big sigh, "I suppose my sparing you the sealing you most certainly deserve is not enough to get you to change your mind..." she mutters before shrugging her left arm, remembering why moving her shoulders is a bad idea, and deciding to just roll her eyes to the sky instead, "Fine, fine. If you really want to go all the way to my home, as bad an idea as that is, who am I to convince someone as impossible as you otherwise!"
She moves toward her own clothing and decidedly away from the oni sack, "But never say I did not warn you," she grumbles, discarding the towel in order to begin dressing herself. Given how she is, what must the rest of her clan be like?!
The oni looks almost a little disappointed by how easily her ward comes to the conclusion that was being implied by the presence of the sack. She had expected a sputtered 'W-what's that for?!' or an indignant 'Stand aside!' or something of that nature, which would have given her the perfect opportunity to launch into a short description of the choices the girl had in the matter, those being - to get carted, naked, to the nearest hopsital to be dumped on the doorstep for someone to eventually find or to stop being so damn stubborn and simply let the demon be helpful.
Robbed of this chance to gloat over a carefully crafted victory, Riki frowns but says nothing as the girl slips into her clothes. Once the miko is decent again, or as decent as she's going to get at the moment, the ogre steps forward and pats her on the head like an obedient puppy. She'll salvage something out of this contest of wills yet.
Without giving her a warning, Riki once more picks the priestess up. She pauses, glancing meaningfully at the sack and then back to Ayame, her expression very clearly indicating that she is considering the first option more carefully. Instead of stuffing her in the bag, however, she just grins and then pushes the slight girl up onto a shoulder in a sitting position, holding her steady until she finds her balance or stops flailing wildly, whichever happens to be the case.
"Before ye complain further," she rumbles, her hand clasped firmly on Ayame's legs just incase the fool girl's objections end up causing her to fall, "consider that ye are injured and should put as little strain upon thy body as possible. Consider also that I can travel much faster on foot whilst thy are carried upon my back."
She glances back down at the sack lying on the ground once more then turns her head to peer up at the miko with a coy expression. "If ye find this proposal unsatisfying, other accomodations can be made..."
Ayame clothes herself once more, underclothes, socks, and the white under-kimono meant to be a layer between her normal uniforms and her skin, not an outfit unto itself. Her dirty, crimson ribbon is tied into her hair once more, doing its part to keep the long tresses from spilling over her face whenever she shakes her head. The green talisman that was discovered the night before is once again tucked away beneath the tied off robe right as the head pat is executed. Leaning forward, grimacing in immediate disapproval of the gesture, she staggers a couple steps before whirling around, lifting her arms up but unable to lift them over her shoulders, such that she ends up just bending them up at the elbows and waving her palms toward Riki, "Keep your hands off of me! I will have you know that-!"
And then she's hefted clean off the ground. Likely weighing less than one of Riki's musclebound arms, picking the featherweight up again is hardly challenge. Her legs kick ineffectively, making not the slightest bit of difference beyond being annoying again. As her arms were only half raised at the time she was grabbed, they are simply pinned against her chest now that she is in the oni's hand. The strawberry-blonde is already shaking her head, her hair fanning out over Riki's hand. "Put me down, you big ox, what do you think you-"
She notices the glance toward the sack again and immediately her brown eyes widen, cheeks turning red again. Her tone remains imperious as ever, "You are NOT putting me in that filthy sack of yours! If you even-" She shuts up when she finds herself hefted to Riki's shoulder, calming down noticeably now that kicking and shaking her head are only going to make her more likely to fall clean off the rather upsetting height the oni's shoulder happens to be. Steadying herself with her hands pressed against Riki's hard skin, she sits quietly for a moment, focused more on staying perched than making a fuss - for a few seconds at least.
As Riki rests a hand over her legs to keep her put, Ayame gives her a withering look that suggests she'd like to tell her to take her hands off her right this instant... only the security the contact makes is really helpful right now.
As the sack is brought up again, Ayame's cheeks retain their crimson hue, the proud miko never having been so tormented in her life. She'd rather fight another hundred Revenants than put up with this humiliation! Gritting her teeth, she says nothing for a couple of seconds; a couple seconds that could be put to better use coming up with a more diplomatic answer than the one she blurts out. "I said... you are NOT putting me your disgusting sack! If you really want to get close to an entire compound of demon hunters and exorcists, then be my guest!" With Riki's arm over her legs, she doesn't need to brace herself with her own hands, which is probably why she finally just folds her arms in front of her, sulking, blushing, and exasperated.
Breathing in, closing her eyes as if reflect why she must be the very beacon of suffering, she finally releases another pent up, exaggerated sigh before opening her eyes. "Head back toward the-... where you found me," she mutters, "But veer a little to the south." She pauses, sideglancing at the oni once more, "And quit thinking about that sack!"
Just to be spiteful, Riki gives the moldy old bag a last look and lets out an wistful sigh that is only partly exaggerated. A few hundred years ago her interaction with someone like Ayame would have started and ended with a sack like that. No talking, no whining, no coaxing. She almost misses it for a moment. A chuckle escapes her and she shakes her head, pushing the thought aside and turning to head in the direction indicated by her small navigator.
"As you wish, my lady."
Despite being all muscle and bone, the seat upon the ogre's shoulder is surprisingly comfortable, owing in large part due to the thick cushion of wild blonde hair that drapes about her like a great cloak. It hangs freely in a great fluffy mane all the way down to her knees at the back, while much shorter but still lengthy bangs sit in layers that splay out around her collarbone and breasts providing more than enough surface area to create a nice padded seat. She makes one or two adjustments in the first couple of minutes, shifting Ayame slightly to one side or the other until she seems to find an agreeable location that is easy to maintain and comfortable with her stride and their journey into the woods becomes smooth and steady.
Not long after their departure from the old shack, Riki makes a gesture with the hand not occupied holding her cargo steady. The air shimmers for a moment and then there is a sharp pop as something that was not there before snaps into existence audibly. A long thin tube of painted red wood rests in the ogre's hands, simple in design though its nature is not immediately obvious. A small length at one of the object is fitted with a golden encasing, its cylindrical structure tapering down to a slightly smaller opening. The other end of the stick, which must be atleast two feet away from the former, its likewise decorated with precious metal, though instead of a slender tip it sports a small bowl filled with glowing embers.
The purpose of this object becomes imminently clear when the flat end is inserted into the oni's lips. She inhales deeply, her chest expanding outwards as the smoke from the burning leaves fills her massive lungs in a single long pull from the elaborate old-fashioned pipe. She holds the fumes in for several seconds before exhaling in a measured and slow fashion, pursing her lips to blow a thin stream of grey smoke into the air. She has enough presence of mind to angle her head away from the miko as she does so, mostly preventing her from getting a faceful of it. The scent of the smoke is not altogether unpleasant, however, carrying hints of spices along with the standard acrid tang of burnt things.
"I wonder," she muses, speaking suddenly after several long minutes of silent travel. "Has the world of mortals grown so deadly that children must now take up arms to defend it?" She tilts her head to peer at Ayame, offering her a faint smile as she chews idly on the gold filigree. "Take no insult from that, girl. Tis simply strange to me that one so young seems to determined to throw herself into the path of danger as her first choice. In mine own experience, death needs no encouragement to seek out those that have yet to feel its touch. Why take upon yourself this mantle? Have ye no father or brothers to bear the weight of thy family's name?"
Getting shifted around for a bit, Ayame grunts, clearly not enjoying being manhandled again, but she doesn't protest any further than the brief expression of her disapproval. Of course, once the journey begins in earnest, she doesn't seem to mind any. She doesn't start up any small talk though either, seemingly lost in her own thoughts as the oni establishes a steady gait that doesn't jostle her shoulder-miko too much but also makes pretty good time across the terrain.
She's pulled from her reverie the moment the oni takes to conjuring a pipe that is a few centuries out of fashion. She watches quietly as Riki handles the long device and finally takes to smoking from it in a patient, unhurried manner. Smirking faintly, Ayame takes to looking forward again, "Neat trick, what else can you do?" Otherwise, she stays quiet other than the occasional minor correction in trajectory to keep them on course for her home, a place she has yet to offer a name for, belonging to a family line she has also not offered a name for.
At one point, she quietly slips the green talisman out that she has been keeping safe, turning it over in her hands, before slipping it back beneath the fold of her kimono near her neckline. She leaves it to Riki to break the silence with the question on her mind. Not responding with umbrage or any visible emotion at all really when she glances to meet the demon's glance. As she continues speaking, eventually a faint frown is produced and she breaks eye contact, snorting softly as she gazes toward the side opposite Riki's head.
"They had their turn, now it is my turn," she replies in a vague sense regarding her family, her tone neutral, neither approving or condemning the circumstances she seems to find herself in. Leaning her head from side to side for a moment, Ayame is quiet for another moment. "It is no more or less deadly than it has ever been. Some of the dangers of the past have faded into obscurity, while new threats have developed over the centuries. But now people's minds have been lulled into a false sense of security. They no longer fear creatures of the shadows..."
The priestess closes her eyes for a moment, "Most would not believe something like you can possibly exist. For the last hundred years, the eyes of people have become covered with scales of ignorance and disbelief." Opening her eyes, she leans back just enough to balance lifting her face to the canopy of trees above, catching glances of blue sky from time to time as the two continue forward. "In the past, only a fool would go testing the dark places of the world without extensive training and preparation. These days, otherwise normally rational individuals will intentionally sleep at locations haunted by remnants of a violent tragedy on a dare against all prudence to the contrary. The masses surrender their ability to think in exchange for mindless entertainment, practically volunteering themselves to be manipulated by corrupt forces that have infiltrated every level of government and society."
She grunts, looking forward again as the two pass from the deciduous woods into a remarkably tall bamboo forest. "Evil continues to get smarter and people continue to get dumber. In the end, there are few who can stand and fight. Those of us who know better must or else all will be lost."
She shrugs slightly, left hand lifting to brush a length of her hair back behind her ear while also ducking under a leaning thick stalk of bamboo that nearly threatens to claim her forehead if she wasn't alert. "What else can I do?"
Eventually the come across a more established path through the bamboo forest and Ayame gestures to take the route the right with a faint frown.
She says nothing for a few minutes as they continue down the cleared path before speaking again. "You should not get too close to my home." Her brow furrows, "Being this nearby... already you are incurring great risk to yourself."
The ogre listens quietly and attentively once the girl begins to speak, nursing the pipe every so often to produce further billowing streams of scented smoke from her mouth or nostrils as they move from the mostly sparse treeline to a much denser thicket. She shows no sign of being troubled by this more difficult terrain save to grunt occassionally as large swaths of the tube-like plants are pushed aside to make room for her bulk. This has the unfortunate effect of leaving a rather clear trail behind them that could be followed, should anyone be attempting to try. More likely, it's just going to cause some very confusing questions for the next person to wander out this way, such as why no one told them that the forests were inhabited by rhinoceruses.
Riki ponders the implications of what is said with a measure of quiet contemplation and grim concern. Human affairs were never much of something she gave much thought to her in the past. Laws and regulations and the rulers who created them were a human affair. The only time she interacted with mankind was to fight or steal. However, one does not spend several hundred years among their kind without learning of their ways. Corruption and complacency oft went hand in hand and both were in ample supply when last she walked the land. To think that these traits had somehow grown more prevelant is disconcerting indeed.
Pushing a final cluster of bamboo aside with a casual kick, Riki steps onto the beaten path and turns to follow the indicated direction with a simple nod. There is further silence between the two travellers for a time until the miko attempts to warn her yet again. The oni's eyes slide halfway shut and she grins, letting out a deep rumbling chuckle between the teeth clenched around the tip of her pipe.
"The girl spends the few moments of actual conversation shared during this journey explaining that she must stand against the terrible darkness, putting her own life and soul at constant danger to brave the evils that Man refuses to acknowledge, content to wallow in his own ignorance for the simple boon of comfort. She says this with the casual disgard of an old woman who speaks of tending to the laundry, hardly more than a chore that must be attended."
Her head tilts slightly and she peers at Ayame through the edge of her perhiphreal vision with that big grin, eyes narrowed in amusement. "And yet she speaks, quite gravely, of the awful risk that may await should her family's attention fall upon the unwary demon! They must be quite the terrible fiends indeed... mine desire to meet them grows immensely."
The miko is silent as Riki offers her assessment, though her expression grows gradually more wary by the moment as if she can already tell where this is headed. As the oni confirms that she has not been deterred from completing the journey in the slightest, Ayame's eyes widen with increased alarm. "What do you... do you mean... do you have any idea what you are doing?" she asks, displaying the first symptoms of apprehension since she was roused by the thunderous drumming noise in the morning.
The kimono-clad girl begins to wiggle, no longer content to sit in place. "The shrine you are approaching now is the Meian Jinja, demon." she snaps through grit teeth. "Maybe that name stirs a memory in that thick skull of yours, or perhaps my own family name will ring a bell." She tries to pry Riki's hand off from over her legs. "My full name is Ayame Ichijo, the youngest of the Ichijo, a mighty clan of holy warriors, powerful diviners, and demon hunters!"
She would continue her efforts of trying to maneuver free while trying to convince the ogress that pressing onward is a horrible idea. A bridge along the way spans a stream that carves a gentle path through the bamboo forest. A second old wooden bridge crosses another, larger river before the bamboo forest comes to an end, opening into a vast grove of ancient cherry trees. The canopy of early summer leaves blankets the sky above, each of the trees rising up out of massive, gnarled trunks. The path forward itself is now paved with stone and every three meters an old fashioned stone lantern stands erect, each looking aged by the elements.
The closer they get, the more worried Ayame gets and the more determined her efforts to pry herself free become. Looking ahead down the path, a massive torii rises just in front of an open gate in a tall, thick stone wall. Visible beyond the wall is a towering shrine nestled deep in the forest. Presumably it is the Meian Jinja they approach now.
"Do you have any idea what they will do to you? I was not aware that the loss of your shrine has made you this despondent!" the struggling priestess growls. "I am sure you can find some reason to go on living /somewhere far away/!"
The panic in Ayame's tone and demeanor, ofcourse, do little to dissuade the bullheaded ogress from her course. If anything, her strides grow longer, devouring the distance between them and their destination with great vigor. The inadvisable attempts to wiggle free from the perch on the oni's shoulder are met with a quirked eyebrow which may very well be mistaken as her response to the boasts of the girl's lineage. All she succeeds in doing on this front is to get a slightly tighter grip on her legs.
The name is spoken aloud eventually and Riki chews on each syllable as if they have a strange taste. The pipe returns to her lips, clearly to wash the flavor out with something more palatable, but also to buy a few moments of time to think. The first of the bridges vanishes beneath her feet as she does so, old boards creaking under the weight of something much larger than what it was built for, but she pays the possibility of imminently being plunged into the stream no mind.
"A name that has not crossed mine ears in many a year. Aye, I know of thy lineage, girl. Twould be hard pressed to find a demon of this land who does not know the names of their greatest foes. Many stories have sprung from the mouths of those who crossed paths with the Ichijo clan. Were I but still a simple marauder, a roaming beast terrorzing the land, that name would hold great power over me."
Clearly, that is no longer the case for despite her acknowledgement of the great deeds of Ayame's ancestors the oni shows no signs of slowing down. The second bridge comes and goes with similar alacrity as the first and then the orchard of sakura trees after that, though the demon does pause to admire the sight of the ancient grove for a few moments.
Their path now upon the paved stone road, Riki plods along at a steady pace, her fingers engaged in a passive wrestling match with the squirming priestess in order to keep her from worming her way down to an unpleasant fall. The final desperate warning, however, causes the giant woman to stop and she turns her head once more to peer at the girl with a look of quiet amusement. The pipe provides her a final long puff of refreshment and she banishes the old thing to wherever it came from with a sharp flick of her wrist.
"Ye seem quite certain of the outcome that awaits me should I set foot within the walls of that temple. What is more, ye seem quite intent on preventing this fate from befalling me. Hath my welfare grown to concern ye so greatly in such little time?"
Her grin grows into a full-fledge smirk, lips pulling back to reveal several curved fangs amidst the more normal-looking teeth and she gives Ayame a coy wink, just to rub it in. The last bit of road between them and the temple is crossed. The massive cross-structure of the traditional torii bars their path and she ducks to pass beneath it, pausing one final time before the great gate of the old wall.
"Ye may find that I may have surprises to offer yet."
And with that mysterious statement, the ogre pushes the gate wide and squeezes through into the outer courtyard.
"No, you idiot!!" Ayame exclaims right before Riki bounds through the torii and plies her considerable strength to the opening of the large gate.
Once upon a time, the courtyard within these walls would have been full of visiting travelers, pilgrims from nearby towns, and bustling attendants busy trying to keep up with the demands of maintaining one of the highest profile shrines in the region. It was a time when dignitaries would make the trip from around the nation to have their fortunes told, seek council in matters of the soul and of war, and request prominent family members embark on dangerous missions for the good of the land.
The courtyard that greets the duo now is a different affair all together. It is a quiet, peaceful place. It shows its age, with paint peeling in places, small weeds poking up through the dirt in other locations, small chunks of stone that have fallen loose from the wall over the centuries. But it also shows signs of being cared for - for every section of peeling paint is another bearing a fresh coat, for every weed peeking up there exists a planter of carefully maintained flowers and small bushes, and all along the wall, signs of refreshed mortar can be seen caked over sections that were probably cracked at some point.
And while the courtyard have been filled with hundreds of people moving about, talking, laughing, and chanting in the past, it is hardly empty today. Nearby the opened gate, a young Japanese man cowers, dressed in simple, tan robes of a Shinto priest in training. Nearby the shrine structure further in, a duo of mikos can be seen, standing up straight, brooms in hand, having paused mid-sweeping to stare at the latest arrival. Another middle aged woman has just finished emptying a bucket of water into one of the planters to make sure that the flowers growing there will continue to get the moisture they need. A man dressed in more modern trousers and shirt is halfway up a ladder leaning against the living quarters off to the right, a paintbrush in hand and bucket situated on the ladder, now looking over his shoulder to stare at the oni and her passenger.
But for all of Ayame's cautions, the initial reception seems to be one more of wide-eyed wonder rather than violent attacks. Even the young man that had been cowering from the sound of thundering steps approaching outside stands up slowly now, lowering his hands from the top of his head to fold them into his sleeves. Another girl, younger than the rest, sticks her head out of the long, single floor building nestled against one wall of the compound.
On Riki's shoulder, Ayame slumps forward, her own shoulders slouching, rendered completely mute since her final shout prior to their entry.
"Aaah..." the young man calls to the black-haired girl back near the living quarters, "Y-you will want to fetch the High Priest, a-ah, please, get Ichijo-sama!" The younger girl vanishes back into the building.
He turns to stare way up at Riki and bows, "A-ah, w-welcome to the Meian Jinja." The Shrine of Light and Darkness. He then glances toward Ayame where she remains perched, and bows again, "Your m-mother was worried about you last night, Ayame-san." He musters a smile, still nervous yet not abandoning his post next to the gate. "She will c-certainly be glad to see you're okay."
The strawberry-blonde on the ogress's shoulder offers no verbal reply other than to breath in deeply then release a long, dejected sigh. Everyone else around the courtyard has yet to budge from their places, no one saying a word, nor showing any signs of resuming their chores as they all stare in stunned silence at their newest visitor.
Continuing her trend of ignoring the noisy priestess, despite having her ear shouted directly into, Riki steps into the open space on the far side of the wall and stops to take in the sight. She had never been to this place during her previous life, for reasons that should be inherently obvious, but stories about the remarkable craftsmanship such temples had managed to reach even her remote tribe in the mountains.
Seeing it now for the first time, her own eyes are almost as wide with wonder as those of the inhabitants gazing upon her unexpected arrival. She sweeps her gaze from one side of the massive courtyard to the other taking in every detail. The walls of mortared stone provide an impressive backdrop for the rest of the structure, a rugged but sturdy bastion meant to keep out the ills of the world and protect the treasure that lay within. She peers at the walls of the main temple, noting the faded wood covered with fresh paint, and idly wonders which one of the two of them might be the older.
It is not until the flustered gate guardian calls out to one of the other inhabitants that she seems to notice that the people within the walls even exist. Blinking, she stares as the young man as if he has spoken in some alien language for a few moments. "Oh, err... right." She shakes her head a few times as if to clear the cobwebs from her mind in the process and slowly drops to one knee. Ayame is lifted once more and set down gently on the ground. The oni turns to look at the priest with something like a sheepish expression and grins, inclining her head to him.
"I am called Riki. Forgive mine intrusion but matters dictated that I see a particularly stubborn young girl safely to her home." She clears her throat and gives Ayame a purposeful sidelong glance. "I would speak with thy lord, if it pleases him."
The walled in complex clearly serves multiple functions - a long, single floor building along the Eastern wall is clearly where those who call this place home. A gap through the Western wall appears to open up into an area of verdant greenery forming the shrine's gardens - both for recreation as well as growing herbs and plants, medicinal and nutritional alike. Storage sheds located toward the back of the courtyard no doubt contain supplies for maintaining the old structure. The wall itself is thick, sturdy, and the gate that the oni pressed through is no lightweight either, clearly designed to be bolted and secured to withstand a siege should the need arise. The shrine itself is the only aspect that doesn't appear utilitarian, rising tall with its steeply sloped roof, it exists just beyond a much smaller wall that exists just to cordon it off rather than keep powerful threats at bay - or so it would appear at first glance.
At Riki's side, Ayame glowers, her cheeks red, her right hand tugging at the bottom hem of her skimpy under-kimono. The rest of those present, some residents, others who simply drive in from the city for part time work, continue to look over toward the duo. No one seems to be in a particular panic at the sight even if the young man acting as official greeter still seems to be battling his nerves. "Y-yes, um," he stammers in reply to the giant woman's explanation and request. He flicks a glance Ayame's way at mention of stubborn young girl before turning his focus back to the unexpected demon. "R-Riki was it? Yes, ah-"
"Well, well, well," the tone of the man booms easily across the distance as he steps out of the living quarters. Wearing an ordinary looking black kimono with grey hakama pants, he hardly looks like the formidable head of the Ichijo household. But the way the young man snaps to attention and bows, hands at his sides at the approach of older, bare foot Ichijo makes it clear the weight of his position. His brown hear is streaked with grey, implying that he is older than his middle-aged features might imply. He moves casually but attention focused on the oni until he has drawn near. his facial hair is short and scruffy, forming a moustache and jaw-lining beard that is also a blend of brown and grey hair.
A glance is cast back and forth between Riki and Ayame before he finally starts to chuckle, right hand lifting up to rest at the back of his neck, "Well, I can start to guess at the story behind all this, but I think I'd enjoy hearing it spelled out anyway. But first-" his hand lowers to cup his other fist as he bows his head briefly then looks back up, "Thank you, wanderer, for bringing my troublesome daughter home. I pray hope that she didn't make it too painful of an ordeal."
Ayame grunts, "Father, are you not the least bit-"
Unclasping his hands, Ichijo-san sweeps his arms wide, cutting off Ayme, "Welcome to the Meian Jinja! I am Genbou Ichijo. Now-" Three wide steps forward are taken toward the unruly priestess. Even as she starts to recoil, he wraps his arms around the girl, pulling her in against his chest.
"Hey, come on, let me-!"
"Consider it your punishment for causing your mother and I worry last night." her father scolds gently before releasing Ayame to stagger back a couple of steps. The man moves easily in spite his age, demonstrating a certain poise that suggests whatever life he might have lived, he still carries himself with the confidence and power of a dangerous fighter. Stepping back again, he rests his hands on his hips, "Now get inside, let your mother know you're back." Ayame sighs again, rolling her eyes as she strides forward. Her father gives her a pat on the upper back as she passes him by on her way to one end of the living quarters.
Chuckling again, the older man turns his body half toward the living quarters and beckons toward Riki, "Come, come. Hopefully you haven't already eaten..." He pauses, glancing back over his shoulder, "Well, if you have, you should at least have something to drink for your troubles. You'll have to tell me what brings an oni this way." As he speaks, his eyes shift toward the opened gate as if evaluating it for a moment before finally turning to lead the way.
If followed, the head of the Ichijo household would bring Riki to the south end of the living quarters. A sliding rice paper door there would normally take one into a dining room, but out of respect for the visitor's sheer size, instead space on the large porch outside of the room is offered. A small table has already been laid out with a large jar of sake and two cups. "Hrm," the man considers, scratching his cheek in thought. "That certainly won't do." A shout is made in through the adjacent entrance, "Ryan, can you fetch a large saucer! And a second jar too!"
Comfortably, Genbou would settle into kneeling at the table as another young man in standard attendant attire drops off a large saucer and a second jar of sake. Hefting one of the opaque ceramic jars, he upends the entirety of it into the saucer to the last drop before gesturing at it with his hand that the serving is intended for Riki, "Will you do me the honor of drinking with me?"
The towering ogre continues to smile at the gate guard with amusement twinkling in her eyes, clearly giving the poor man his space and time to gather his wits. This certainly cannot be a common occurance. Her eyebrows go up a little in acknowledgement, awaiting the rest of the sentence that might follow her name, but before the youth can stutter out anything else the sound of a voice laden with easy authority draws all eyes to the far side of the courtyard.
Riki's gaze sweeps that way as well and she gets her first sight of the man in charge. Judging by the age of the miko, she had expected someone a little older than the face that greets her. However, the smattering of gray hairs among the dark brown eventually betrays his youthful facade and she smiles at this. A nod is given in return for the thanks, her head inclining respectfully at the warm welcome.
"I greet thee, Lord Ichijo, and offer thanks for thy hospitality."
The giantess falls silent again until the father has finished smothering his daughter with embarassing affection, mentally wincing at the hug, but she cannot help but let out a soft chuckle at how easily the fiery girl is disarmed by the man's overbearing warmth. A good home, indeed.
The offer of food and drink puts a fresh glint into the oni's eyes and she rises to her feet, following along at his direction with no complaints. Quietly, however, she mulls over the question of what to tell the old priest. While it is true that no restrictions were placed upon her that would prevent being entirely honest some parts of the whole story would serve little purpose save to bring her motivations into question. Perhaps a little discretion would be in order here.
Upon reaching the large patio, Riki waits for the lord of the house to take his seat first before carefully plopping down on the opposite side of the small table, crossing her legs in a lotus position rather than kneeling. Were this a drinking hall or a tavern, she'd likely have simply flopped out onto her side, propping herself up on one elbow, but it seems a bit disrespectful in this case.
The tiny cups are given a look but it seems that her host is well ahead of her in that regards and she finds herself presented with a bowl full of sake that is much more to her liking. She gathers it up and inclines her head to Genbou once more, grinning.
"If there ever comes a day upon which good drink is refused, that day shall be one without mine presence."
Hefting the bowl in a toast, she brings it to her mouth and drains the contents greedily, practically inhaling the liquid as if she could breath it like air. A few moments later the empty vessel is placed back upon the table and the demon lets out a content sigh. It is a good drink, though not quite comparable with the divine vintage taken from her Lord's gardens within the realms of Heaven. For a mortal craft, however, tis not bad.
"A fine vintage," she says with a smile. "Such a gift is most welcome. The events of the past few days have been... trying."
Shifting her weight, Riki takes a moment to settle in properly before continuing. The question that he softballed at her earlier is considered once again and she lets out a thoughtful hum. She ends up dodging it for the moment, however, shifting the conversation towards her unexpectedly friendly reception.
"I must confess, tis not the greeting I expected. To hear thy daughter speak, twas my expectation to be set aflame with righteous fire upon simply setting foot inside, mine flesh bound, spirit sealed." Riki grins. "She was... most tenacious in her attempts to dissuade mine attempts to return her here in person."
The answer to the invitation to share in drink provokes an easy laugh from the host, pouring himself a normal sized cup to sip in return. "Nn," he grunts in agreement with her assessment as well. "Family recipe," he adds with an amused grin from behind his cup before taking another sip. He is otherwise quiet until she continues speaking, his own dark brown eyes studying her with honest amusement and interest.
"Aaah..." he exhales, placing his cup back down on the table. The second jar is picked up and emptied into Riki's saucer not long after she has placed it down. "Yes, well..." He lifts his closed hand near his mouth, "Ayame... she can be a tad severe at times." His own tune fully acknowledging that he is making quite the understatement.
He turns his head to glance back toward the gate Riki had pushed open in entering. "She might've been anticipating the wards to keep you at bay, you see." Eyes return to the oni's face, "That you were unaffected was all I needed to know." He lifts his hand to his chin, his forefinger resting against his cheek where it begins to tap, while his middle finger scratches at his thin beard along his jawline, "You aren't the marauding demon she hoped you'd be."
He lifts his hand away from his face, waving it a little, "I don't care how it came to be. I don't mean to pry in to such matters. It's just..." He sits up a bit more straight, his hand going to rest against his thighs, "It's been over a century since the Meian Jinja was graced with the presence of a guardian oni. There many within the family that believe the Ichijo clan had eschewed such a barbaric concept, finding it disgraceful to rely on demons for protection like countless other shrines once did."
He shakes his head, fishing his sake to cradle it in front of him, "But nothing could be further from the truth. There is a..." His voice fades out, eyes flicking to the side for a moment as he seems to catch himself too easily delving into secrets not meant for ears other than the High Priest. "Well, heh," he hefts his cup in a bit of a toast before sipping it again. "Let's just say that few seem to remember the true meaning of this structure's name." He looks to the side, eyes coming to rest on the tall shrine commanding much of the courtyard.
Another glance is offered Riki, studying her a second time with a ready grin. "Either you two didn't fight, or Ayame needs to work on her training some more. Hah. Well, we'll know the story soon enough."
"Tch." Ayame exits out onto the wooden patio. She's already cleaned up and changed into a new set of clothes, more plain and ordinary than the attire she choses for battle, simple white and crimson. Her hair is drenched, clearly quickly washed, resting freely against her back and shoulders now. In her hands she carries a large tray bearing a large bowl of rice and a long row of grilled fish lightly basted with a teriyaki sauce. "Here," she grunts, placing the large tray on the table in front of Riki before circling around to kneel a at the end nearby her father.
She is followed thirty seconds later by another woman, this one older as well, clothed in a simple brown kimono. In her late forties or early fifties, she is a slight woman with reddish brown hair tied off into a ponytail that drapes over her shoulder to hang down in front of her. She carries another tray of food similar to the one on the front which she places down in front of the head of the household before kneeling right next to Genbou.
"Riki, my better half," the older man gestures to the woman who bears enough features in common with the fiery tempered priestess to clearly be her mother. "Koumyou Ichijo." The woman finally looks at Riki directly, quietly giving her a gentle smile and dip of her head in acknowledgement. "And our guest is Riki."
"Welcome," the woman answers softly, her hands in her lap, "I apologize if the cuisine is not to your liking, it was already being prepared before you arrived. If not, I can have something else prepared, it will just take a little while." She speaks quietly enough to almost be interpreted as extreme shyness, but there is no hesitation, no shirking of eye contact that would accompany such a trait. She simply seems to be soft spoken.
The priestess's mother glances toward Ayame then, "Honey, show your father your talisman."
Ayame releases a long sigh, fingers going up to the fold of her kimono at her neckline to withdraw that same green talisman Riki had found on her person the night before. Stiffly, she holds it out for her father to take which the man quickly does, holding it up in front of him, eyes fixed on the small, slightly tattered, charred paper charm. "Hellfire, hm? You really did have quite the night." A glance is cast back and forth between Ayame and Riki but the girl doesn't meet his eyes.
The fate of the second bowl of sake is much the same as the first, its entire contents vanishing in a few seconds with no apparent effect on the oni save for a few appreciative noises in passing.
At the word 'severe', Riki is unable to contain a snort of amusement. She's known the girl hardly a day but already she senses the truth behind the tone in her father's voice that speaks of his acknowledgement of the miko's overeagerness in the execution of her duties. It is hardly something new to her. That kind of zealous drive to persecute that which is believed to be evil has pushed many a Man to extremes they would not have otherwise deemed necessary. The other, that which is strange or unknown, is often terrifying and strong individuals tend to respond to that which they fear with aggression. Ofcourse, she wouldn't say that to the girl. It might prove... unwise.
"Wards... ah, I see! How foolish of me to not think of such a possibility. Glad I am, then, that such defenses were not designed to repel all who bear demonic heritage."
Genbou's slip of the tongue sparks a hint of curiousity within the oni and she raises an eyebrow in response to the implications that follow his half-finished thought. She peers at the shrine as he does, wondering silently, but lets the matter rest in silence. Tis not her business to ask such things. Already she intrudes as a guest and an unexpected one at that. To offer such rudeness would be a stain upon her lord's reputation. Last time she did that, it didn't work out so well, as evidenced by her current predicament.
Riki opens her mouth, intended to comment on her present lack of injuries when the young priestess returns from apparently being mothered at. Judging by her expression, she doubts the girl's enthusiasm for such a thing was any greater than what she displayed back at the forest shack. This, ofcourse, makes Riki grin faintly, a sentiment that expands to full-fledged appreciation upon having food set before her.
Two of the fish have already disappeared, with a third on its way into her open mouth, when Ayame's mother makes her appearance. Riki chews voraciously on the seasoned meat, swallowing the thing whole a few moments later, and inclines her head in her usual greeting upon being introduced. In response to the idea that the food might be unsatisfactory, she grabs another of the fish from the tray and flips it casually into the air, catching it deftly in her mouth as it falls back towards the ground. A bit more chewing later, she flashes a toothy grin at Koumyou.
"The only complaint ye shall hear, my lady, is that I hath gone for so long without tasting such fine cuisine!"
The talisman is brought forth and the ogre sniffs, almost in disdain. "Twas a vengeful spirit conjured up from the Land of the Dead. Tis no other way such a creature could walk these shores. But, tis not my story to tell." She nods her head towards Ayame by means of indication. "By time I arrived the fiend was departed, his wrath having claimed an ancient shrine. I sought to give pursuit in order to see the foul thing rent asunder, but by fortune I stumbled upon the young maiden nearby, wounded and insensate."
Ayame lets Riki speak at first, quiet as she serves a small portion of the second tray's rice and fish for herself. She glances to the side when the oni indicates that it is her own story to tell before attacking her food with chopsticks.
It is her mother that speaks up first, the girl's father still eying the talisman for a moment. "Thank you for tending to our daughter." A look is giving the strawberry blonde, "She tries to do way too much on her own." Even soft spoken words can take the tone of gentle scolding, the woman manages to demonstrate.
Ayame rolls her eyes, reaching out to take the talisman back before tucking it away back into her robe top. "It was a revenant I came across in the courtyard of that old shrine outside of Southtown." she states matter of factly, as if she hadn't nearly died fighting it. "The wraith calls himself Scorpion. He was clearly someone who had a background in ninjutsu in life... but I didn't recognize the style or weaponry." She shrugs slightly, taking another bite of food. "Che. I almost had him."
Her father lets out a chagrined sigh, but behind the expression is worry without end for a daughter that seems relentless in delving into matters just a step or two beyond her capabilities.
"You really should take allies with you on your hunts if you insist on charging into the kind of danger you do," her mother chides without raising her voice in the slightest, serving herself some food to eat as well.
Ayame's mouth presses into a thin line, the girl clearly not amused at the advice she's undoubtedly heard countless times by now. "I can take care of myself." Pushing away her half-finished plate, she stretches her legs back up to standing, pausing to brush off her knees. "Well then," she states, as if that will suffice for saying goodbye, turning to head back toward the entrance to the building until a forced cough from her father gives her pause.
Stopping for a moment, she glares over her shoulder toward the comfortable oni, "Thank you for your services." The words are forced out through gritted teeth, hands clenched at her side.
The exchange between daughter and parents is observed in silence, well mostly, as the fish continue to disappear at a prodigous rate. Such conversations were not new, apparently, if the reactions of each party were to stand testment, the resignation and worry of one side clashing with the stubborness and confidence of the other. Riki absorbs this information from the sidelines, once more understanding that her place is not to get involved, despite having perhaps a few more of those words of wisdom that would so likely rile up the young miko.
When Ayame rises to leave with a sour look, the oni looks surprised. She had assumed that most of the distrust and hate directed at her had been due to the possibility that the strange demon was simply being deceptive. Passing the test of the wards should have cleared up her nature, at the very least. She turns to watch the girl leave but can't stop a fresh smirk from spreading when the cough forces a terribly costly bit of thanks out.
"Thy... gratitude... is appreciated," she offers in as neutral a tone as can be mustered. "However, afore ye take thy leave, I would ask that ye remain and hear what I have to say. Tis a matter of grave import, particularly for one such as thou." She pauses then adds, "It may shed some light upon thy encounter with the fiend."
Riki waits for a few moments to see if her words are enough to convince the headstrong girl to remain; and if not, she displays her own brand of stubborness yet again, picking her up bodily and setting her back down at the table. In either case, with all members of the Ichijo family to which she has been introduced present, the ogre clears her throat and crosses her arms, her expression becoming serious.
"As ye may be aware, the balance of power between light and darkness is an ever-changing scale, a pendulum what swings from one side to the other as the eternal struggle of such powers wages its endless war. However, there comes times when one side of the scale grows too heavy and the balance threatened. Tis often the darkness which seeks to undermine this universal constant for its nature holds little regard for the sanctity of the divine mandate. When this happens, chaos and misfortune begin to fester. Tis the job of those dedicated to preserving the light to combat this most grave of threats, however, Man has grown lax in this duty."
She turns to look at the two elder heads of the household then shifts her gaze to Ayame, peering at each of them in silence for a long moment. "Thy hath experienced this shifting of power thyself. The fiend that fell upon thee was by no means an isolated incident. Upon mine arrival in this realm I was set upon by an onibaba of considerable power who was attempting to descrate a most holy of places for some foul purpose."
She gestures with one hand, indicating herself. "Even mine own presence here is highly unnatural. Were it not the direct will of my Lord, twould be not possible that I manifest here so far away from the divine lands. Which brings me to the point I wished to make." Tilting her head back, the oni peers up at the sky, staring quietly as if searching for something amidst the faint wisps of cloud. Almost immediately the air begins to grow heavy and dark, the fluffy white of summer weather becoming a roiling mass of black thunderclouds. Nodding, she looks at those present once more.
"Allow me to re-introduce myself. I am Riki, Guardian of the Northeast Gate and Herald to his most divine lordship, ruler of Meido and Judge of the wicked, the mighty Enma-O."
Upon the utterance of this name the gathering stormfront explodes with violent noise and light. Forks of lightning dance across the sky, slithering white tongues of plasma stabbing repeatedly into the ground around the temple. Riki sits, unfazed by the display of power, allowing the humans to grasp the enormity of her words.
Her words end up being enough alone to get Ayame to return to the table, kneeling back down, hands resting on her laps. The expression of Genbou has shifted to be more serious as Riki requests their audience for something she would like to share and Kouymou remains quietly calm, her eyes on her knees, her hands folded over each other as well. At first Ayame stares straight across the table, her gaze focused on the interior of the living quarters, as if she'd rather just vanish into there than stay out here and be lectured to by a demon. But as the oni begins to speak, gradually the headstrong priestess's attention shifts, eyes shifting to the side to look at her, mouth curling into a faint frown.
She nods very slightly when the shifting of power is described - it echoes sentiments she has been feeling for a year now, an uncomfortable awareness of how the axis of balance has tilted, yet finding herself feeling like the wretched Cassandra of Troy, cursed by the gods to never be believed no matter how earnest her exhortations of the truth. But when Riki mentions another yoma that she had encountered, Ayame's eyes widen, her hands clenching as it looks like she is about to rise up to her feet in surprise only catching herself at the last moment. It has to be the same fiend, that creature of nightmare cloaked in a mother's love twisted into something horrific. The recognition is plain to see in her eyes, but she keeps her mouth shut in spite the burning question in her mind.
The older two Ichijos remain quiet as well, giving Riki their full attention. When the demoness pauses to glance skyward, both Ayame and her mother look up briefly at the same time but Lord Ichijo never takes his eyes off the oni.
She announces her full title out loud, the proclamation reinforced by the answer from the heavens above, and the reactions she gets from all three present are unique to the individual. Koumyou bows her head out of quiet respect, not appearing startled by rather impressed, "It is an honor to host a visit from one of Enma-O's own," she murmurs. Genbou stays quiet, his eyes not even blinking from the lightning display as he continues to watch Riki. His expression is calm, and but for the slightest hint of a smile, he seems to have washed all emotion from his visage. One might get the impression that he has one hell of a poker face.
It is Ayame that reacts the most strongly, however, clenching her hands, "Now hold on. You expect us to believe that?"
She leans forward over the table, lifting her hand to point at the oni, "That you have ties to shape a storm is abundantly clear," there's no denying /that/ much at least, "But that proves anything by itself, and nor do your words!"
"Ayame-" her mother speaks up to chide the girl's lack of manners or respect. Her father reaches out to take hold of Ayame's wrist as well and pull her pointing finger back down.
While she doesn't fight her father's touch, the strawberry blonde continues nonetheless, "That sounds like a pretty impressive title you claim for yourself. Just what would one of Enma-O's powerful heralds be doing here, wandering around the forests of Japan of all places? I would wager with confidence that you-"
"/Ayame/!" her father cuts her off, his voice raised in irritation for the first time since her return home. It's enough though, the girl retreating a little, settling back into her kneeling position, staring at her father for a moment, cheeks reddened at being reprimanded in front of the oni. Genbou's tone shifts back just as suddenly as it had changed, clam but authoritative, "Please... hear what our guest has to say. That she passed through the Demonbinder Gate without so much as a pause is already evidence that the Meian Jinja is being visited by a truly unique individual."
Inhaling then exhaling, he bows his head toward Riki at last, "Forgive us. Please..." he falls quiet, allowing the Guardian to continue.
The respect shown by the mother is met with a curt nod from the oni though she remains quiet for the moment, her expression mostly neutral as if to match that shown by Genbou, though she is not terribly skilled a protecting her emotions. Ayame's outburst causes the demons lips to press together into a thin line in the first outward display of annoyance or displeasure since meeting the uppity miko.
The intervention of her father cuts short the need to offer a reply, however, which is just as well for there are few things more foolish that a mortal could do than to question the will of a god, particularly with said god's envoy sitting within smiting range. It would be a great shame for such a promising and beloved girl who has faced such dangers to be brought low by her own youthful hubris.
The oni stares down at Ayame in silence, her eyes alight with the glowing embers of demonic power amidst the darkness as the lightning continues to dance in the background. All hint of the levity and casual charm she has displayed thus far disappears from her features leaving only the cold hard stare of one deciding their next move. Eventually, she lets out a hard sigh and nods.
"Out of gratitude for thy hospitality, I shall forgive this slight. Tis not unreasonable to have doubts. My Lord hath not made his presence known upon this land in such an overt manner in many years. However, the shifting of the balance required more drastic measures and thus I am here."
That, ofcourse, isn't the entire story. The heavy weight of the iron manacles binding her wrists and ankles seem to grow suddenly more present as if her lord had shared that very thought and she grunts in annoyance, lifting a hand to rub at the back of her neck. Fine, fine, she thinks, I'll tell them.
Clearing her throat, Riki's stern expression shifts to one of a more sheepish nature. "I feel compelled to say, however, that thy daughter is not completely unjustified in her skepticism. Twas not /only/ the growing concern for the balance what brought me here in the form you see. In times past, I commited a great transgression against my Lord, failing to uphold the sacred duties bestowed upon me when I was tasked with the protection of a mortal shrine."
She frowns but holds her arms out as if to draw attention towards her body. The manacles clatter with a soft clink as the tiny lengths of broken chain dangling from each flutters about in the wind. "This is... my Lord's idea of a punishment: to curse me with this body of soft flesh and flimsy bone that I might face this task greatly diminished. Hence mine need for thy aid."
Riki now has the attention of all three humans again, Ayame's father falling quiet after his reprimand and the girl complying though clearly not looking happy about it, avoiding eye contact with the oni initially as she glares at the table in front of her. As their visitor speaks of having been sent due to the shifting of balance in recent times, the matron of the family nods her head slightly, "In these trying times, any aid we can receive is to be greatly appreciated..."
Only when Riki allows some level of justification for her skepticism does Ayame glance up again, brown eyes blinking as she looks the powerfully built demon over, her mouth a thin neutral line as she judges with clenched hands. But even her expression gradually loses its hostility, shoulders slouching a little, fingers relaxing as the oni lifts her arms and shows off the heavy, undoubtedly divinely sealed manacles and explains they are the result of punishment.
The young miko looks away from Riki to study her parents for a moment, but their attention continues to be focused on their heaven-sent visitor. Slowly, her own attention shifts back to Riki, her mind racing at the thought of the oni being in a 'weakened' form. She hasn't seen her fight, but she's certainly felt her strength first hand. But she scowls when mention of providing aid is offered, "What kind of demon comes to a house of demon hunters to get he-"
"Please, let us know how we can be of assistance," her father speaks right over her without a second thought, leaning forward slightly, showing greater interest now. It is almost as if this is what he was waiting to hear since the moment he set eyes on the Guardian Oni. "House Ichijo is not only a refuge to humans in need." he gestures with his hand as Ayame pipes down once again.
She had to see this coming. Every step of the way, Ayame's parents have been accomodating and respectful, silencing her criticisms and doubts with almost beligerent amounts of deferrence for their visitor. So when the oni asks for help how could she expect any other outcome save that she receive it with a blessing? Where the miko could not grasp this possibility, or were simply denying it in the hopes that it would go away, Riki seems entirely unsurprised. Her arms lower and she smiles, half at the quick offer of aid and half at the quick attempt by the girl to deny it.
She shakes her head and then throws it back in a great bellowing laugh, shoulders shaking in mirth. The sky begins to grow light once more at this, the freakish clouds and thunder vanishing as quickly as they appeared, surely sending local meteorologists on a drinking binge in the process. The force of her laugh is a palpable thing, though not a physical one, a faint energy that radiates out from the massive woman in a wave and then vanishes into the ether once more.
"Ahahaha, by the gods, girl. Lightning could hath struck thee down and ye would be before my Lord demanding that he explain himself." She leans forward and gives the miko a friendly swat on the back. "Perhaps that is why ye were spared, so that my Lord might avoid such a fate! Ofcourse, that leaves me to suffer in his stead..."
She holds up a hand in a familiar fashion, thumb folded over her palm with the other fingers pointed up to the sky in the Buddist gesture of reverence. She attempts to put on a straight face as she does this, struggling to contain a grin.
"But I shall accept this burden with humility and grace."
Ayame's expression shifts into visible bewilderment as Riki begins to laugh, clearly not sharing in the mirth one iota herself. Koumyou smiles a little, lifting her arm to cover her mouth with her sleeve, leaving her twinkling eyes to share in the moment. Genbou remains stoic, himself, his focus on the oni, clearly fascinated at the events playing out this morning.
"Well, if he really sent you, then I think some explaining is certainly-" Ayame begins right before the back pat nearly upends her onto the table, eyes widened as she catches herself with her hands against the edge. Leaning back up straight, she doesn't look any more amused at the circumstances as the oni humorously claims to accept her fate of having to endure the difficult girl's company.
The gesture finally gets Genbou to crack, the man chuckling at first, before finally laughing out loud while his wife continues to kneel quietly at his side, sleeve over her mouth to stifle any such reaction. Finally, the woman pushes to standing, bending down to collect the smaller food tray and stacking a few of the dishes on it in the process, "Excuse me." she states softly before heading back inside, leaving Ayame and her father with Riki.
Ayame seems to have finally realized it's better if she just keeps her mouth shut for now, because for at least this fleeting moment, she does exactly that, cheeks still red at the round of laughter generated at her expense.
"Riki, if you are in need of a place to stay, you will always be welcome within these walls. Indeed, it seems we could do little to keep you out," he chuckles, considering her immunity to the wards meant to keep evil beings at bay. "I do not know if protecting the Meian Jinja would count toward the repayment for whatever transgressions you were judged to be guilty of, but if so, it would also do us great honor to have one such as yourself associated with our shrine."
It would be impossible to miss the look Ayame gives her father, but it seems like she knows better than to argue the point after all this. Breathing in then releasing a long exhale, Ayame lifts her hand to rub her face once, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose on the way down. "What kind of reputation are we going to have with a demon hanging around? Is this not in blatant disregard for our family's long history and traditions?"
Her father lifts his hand, waving it tiredly, worn out by his daughter's persistence but not to the point of caving on the matter, "Ayame, I commend you to read more of the history of your lineage in the library... and then, when you are properly educated about such things, we can speak on this subject again."
The rebuke actually causes the girl to pause. The idea that there is something she doesn't know about that is pertinent to all this seems to immediately trouble her. "Very well." she considers, sideglancing at Riki then looking back to her father, "Perhaps I will do just that."
"Good. You should also consider how much safer your patrols would be with help too." her father adds, deciding to push things a little bit further the moment Ayame starts to relent in the slightest. Instead, the miko extends her hand to point at Riki, leaning forward against the table, "I will be watching you. You better not cause any trouble!" before pushing herself to standing, intending to storm off, perhaps to seek the library as suggested.
"Ayame, the dishes please," her father stops her only for the girl to exhale an exaggerated sigh as she pauses to fetch the empty try in front of Riki as well, mumbling something unintelligible beneath her breath.
Genbou lifts his hand to his chin, scratching at his bread again as he considers Riki, "All I can ask, if it isn't too much trouble, is that you avoid scaring the tourists if you are about. They might not be quite so understanding." he chuckles at the image of modern day tourists coming by to find a real, in the flesh, massive oni hanging out at the Jinja. Whether that would hurt tourism or cause it to explode, he isn't /entirely/ sure.
After that uncomfortable moment of having to put her game face on, Riki is immensely relieved to find that she has not spoiled the mood. The laughter of the parents is enough to set her mind at ease. As for Ayame, well, she'll come around eventually. Probably.
The offer of shelter is a most welcome one indeed. Until now, the oni has spent her nights in the forest, sleeping in abadoned shacks and under large trees. While there's something rather nostalgic about living like a wandering barbarian, she atleast had a bed roll and a warm fire back look forward to back then. There's the matter of food as well. Her own cooking skills are limited to usually not burning things too badly. Having the opportunity to enjoy home cooking such as she experienced today would have made it nearly impossible to refuse had she even been considering it.
"Thy offer is most kind, Lord Ichijo," she says, inclining her head to him respectfully. "I believe that my Lord hath already given his blessing to this endeavor. I can think of no reason why thy partnership should be refused."
Once more the subject of local history comes up and Riki's curiosity piques yet again. She is, however, forced to once more leave the subject alone. Perhaps in time she might convince the priest to allow her to know of these secrets of which he speaks but for now tis none of her business.
Riki flashes another fang-filled grin down at the miko upon being informed that she shall be under her ever-watchful gaze. "No promises." Despite this, she quickly turns to nod once more at Genbou and his request. "I shall endevour to meet this request, though..." She taps the lengthy horn jutting from her forehead and the motion sends her manacles rattling about once more. "I cannot say that mine presence shall be impossible to notice."
Holding the food tray, Ayame rolls her eyes at the continued exchange between her father and Riki as she leaves back into the living quarters with a huff.
For his own part, the older Ichijo chuckles again as the oni points out the horn before stretching, pushing himself to his feet. "Come... I will show you a place in the back where I retreat once I have had my fill of dealing with visitors for a day... a nice balcony over a canyon to the north, it makes for the perfect vista with which to enjoy a nice, relaxing smoke... if one has an interest in such things?" he finishes with a raised, questioning eyebrow as he rubs his knees and stretches his shoulders briefly.
Clasping his hands behind his back, Genbou Ichijo begins to lead the way.
Log created on 22:45:31 06/26/2016 by Ayame, and last modified on 04:08:20 07/02/2016.