Thursday, 22 November 2012

TBZ: The Oni of Yamaguchi, Act 3

  • Barb plays Daigo, an Oni Mercenary Assassin.
  • Rohin plays Kobe Takeshi, a Half-Oni Playboy Swordsman Aristocrat.

In the mountains in Summer, snow sits only on the highest peaks, and wildflowers bloom in the pass. On the narrow trail that leads to Yamashiro, the mountain castle and capital of Yamaguchi, there is a particular bend in the road that affords a spectacular view of the city. On this bend is a small traveller's rest; not much more than a small hut, although the vendor serves noodles and tea to travellers. Two such travellers approach and take a seat on the long bench; a finely dressed swordsman, and a rougher-looking oni. The vendor brings them food and drink, and then discretely withdraws. Over their bowls of noodles, Takeshi and Daigo consider their options. Takeshi plans to simply walk into the castle and confront the mysterious onmyoji, as he's certain the sorcerer is behind all of this. Daigo manages to persuade him that caution may be a better approach, possibly by making enquiries with someone Takeshi knows in the town. Takeshi recalls a monk, Winter Sutra, who often acts as an advisor to his father the lord. The two decide to split up to avoid drawing attention - Takeshi waits in the pine forest outside the city, while Daigo looks for Winter Sutra.

Asking at the local temple, Daigo discovers that Winter Sutra is at the castle. At the castle gate, Daigo's knowledge of the monk's name (and the general leniency towards oni) mean that he is able to persuade one of the gate guards to seek out the monk with a request for a meeting. The guard soon returns with Winter Sutra, and Daigo takes him aside, explaining the assassination plot and of Takeshi's return to the mountain city. Daigo also asks for Winter Sutra's opinion of the onmyoji, but Winter Sutra opts to meet with Takeshi in the forest before sharing too much information.

Daigo and Winter Sutra return to Takeshi's secluded forest hideaway, where Winter Sutra fills them in on the onmyoji, Hyouma the Seeker, who is apparently consumed with a hunger for knowledge. He is also rumoured to have a permanent shikigami named White Cloud, which Winter Sutra may once have seen flying across the sky deep in the mountains. Takeshi's brother Seijurou is acting as Hyouma's patron, having invited him to court. They decide to ask Winter Sutra to return to the castle and inform Lord Kobe of the assassination plot. He does so, returning the next morning to inform them that the Lord has increased his security, but it has done nothing to reveal the true villain. Takeshi and Daigo decide to go to the castle in an attempt to provoke a response or otherwise discern the true nature of the situation.

At the castle, the group attends a private audience with Lord Kobe. He welcomes his son home, but wishes it were under happier circumstances. Takeshi introduces Daigo as the person who informed him of the assassination plot. Daigo surprises everyone in the room by announcing that he had not only been offered the job, but accepted it - as a ploy to prevent an alternative assassin being hired. He presented the unspent 20 ryo deposit as proof of this, impressing the Lord with his cunning and loyalty. Takeshi, declaring Daigo to be even more devious than himself, immediately offered the mercenary a position as his bodyguard. All that remained was to discuss ways they could cause the perpetrator to reveal themselves. Although they had two good suspects in the oni-hating Seijurou and the power-hungry Hyouma, they could not be certain that it was actually one of these two who had hired the assassin.They decided to have everyone attend the evening meal, and see if they could gauge a reaction to Daigo's presence.

While Daigo was more interested in the pork buns, Takeshi kept a close eye on his brother and Hyouma as they entered the room. No stranger to his brother's moods, he read Seijurou like a book - undisguised contempt towards Takeshi, which started to extend to Daigo as well - but then, a brief flicker of doubt, of cogs turning… as though he'd just thought of a good reason for Daigo to be there; a brief smile almost touching his lips as he considered the cleverness of this ploy to get close to the target perhaps? Hyouma's ice-like expression barely changed, but as his discerning eye swept the room, Takeshi saw how he took special notice of Daigo and seemed to be making the subtlest of mental calculations. It was in that moment that Takeshi vowed to himself that the sorcerer must die. Dinner proceeded without major incident, presided over by a weary and sad-looking Lord Kobe.

Coming Up

Laying a trap for the conspirators?
Vengeance and blood!
The Final Confrontation!

Another enjoyable session, even if the players were both a little tired or brain-fried. I tried to be more forthcoming with Aiki this time, and we did get through quite a few scenes. By the end, Daigo had 12 Aiki (I'd given him three to shift his Emotion Matrix results), and in the Intermission he pared back to only a single Fate at 5 dots (Goal: Kill those who put out the contract on Lord Kobe). In hindsight, I probably should have suggested a Fate - Goal: Protect Takeshi, but I didn't think of it at the time. His player rolled just above average, and gained 62 Kiai for a total of 63 going into the final Act! Takeshi only got 27 Kiai by comparison, but I still think it's gearing up for an explosive finale.

It was also a great moment when Daigo, who throughout has been telling Takeshi that he turned the assassination job down, and that they'd better hurry to the capital before the real assassin got there, revealed that he'd actually taken the job, while sitting no more than ten metres away from the "target"! XD There were so many raised eyebrows, and the guards hiding behind the paper screen suddenly went on high alert! XD

>>> Act 4

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