Kensei And The Princess


huruma_icon.gif nisatta_icon.gif

Scene Title Kensei and the Princess
Synopsis During the Fellowship Gala, Huruma is gifted a vision by Chairman Nisatta.
Date April 7, 2018

Yamagato Fellowship Center

More than an hour after an ambulance whisked John Logan away, the gala is finally beginning to wind down. Those truly interested in the Yamagato Fellowship have remained; patrons of the arts and artistry. They mingle more in the bar now, having swept out of the gallery now that Wolfhound has stopped dominating the drinking space. This has left the gallery not sparsely populated.

The graffiti art installation created by Caspian Dussault is a splash of color and modern style juxtaposed against the ancient history of Yamagato’s homeland. The longing strains of shamisen music still haunts the displays, reverberating against glass vases and down curving halls of eggshell white and pale hardwoods.

It is back at the Takezo Kensei display that one wandering art appreciator finds the Fellowship’s chairman, Kam Nisatta. Standing in front of Kensei’s armor, she looks distant and unfocused. One arm is wrapped around her waist, fingers plucking at the fabric of her gown. The other arm is crossed, hand up and fingers idly tapping at her chin.

Inside the glass case, a familiar sword demands attention to those who know it's significance. To the tall shadow stalking the gallery, to Huruma, it's significance is known well. But the story of how it came to be here? Not so much.

Though Huruma’s role with Wolfhound is important, there are other roles that she fills. Here, at a place like Yamagato, some of them come to bear. Once excitement turns subdued, she becomes a patron of a gallery, interest finding root in the art and the significance of the place she haunts. Quiet conversations about the rescues of art from the Dead Zones, restoration of museums, discussion on the potential futures between Madagascar and the rest of the new world. The last is apprehensive, though she fulfills her duties— not a diplomat, by far— but Huruma is keenly aware of her status.

Her pull.

The sense of eyes on her back, Nisatta is the quarry of a quiet sweep of the room, tendrils stretching out in a thousand touches, tickling over minds and curious as they seek. Huruma’s senses drape across Kam Nisatta’s shoulders and gives off the ghosting feeling of anticipation— vaguely eager, a touch desirous.

Depending on the degree of Nisatta’s distraction, she may or may not hear the sound of a step at her back, but it is certain she’ll see Huruma’s shape move into her peripheral like spilt ink, white eyes on her. Red feathers glint sharply as smoothed down words come.

“May I ask you a question?”

Kam doesn't turn right away when she's addressed. Instead, she tucks her chin toward her chest and looks to the side for a moment. “Of course…” she obliges, threading a dark lock of hair behind one ear as she slowly turns to face Huruma. There is a strength to her features up close, to her high cheekbones and intense stare. She is a woman who has cultivated a look that, much like Huruma, balances elegance with intensity on a knife’s edge.

“This is a place of learning, after all.” Kam folds her hands in front of herself, taking a languid step forward toward Huruma. “Far be it from me to deny a simple question, from someone as storied as yourself Ms. Dunsimi.”

“‘Storied’…” Huruma’s eyes flick down to watch Kam, her mouth ticking up at one corner in a coyly amused sort of way. At least Ms. Nisatta didn’t go for ‘infamous’. The sound of a laugh in her chest is as much of a ‘thank you’ as anything.

With her inspection of the woman at close quarters, there is a note of recognition. They are not dissimilar, at least in presentation— almost as needles, sleek, and to a point. Huruma examines Kam for moment more, her pause ending when she makes one glance towards the display and back again, the edges of her eyes narrowing above her cheeks. The empath’s mind reaches calmly, poised to investigate and observe Nisatta’s mood as they speak.

“If I might be so bold, how did you acquire the sword? The armor?” Huruma’s lips curve in another smile, and she adds another. “Do you have a favorite exhibit?” It’s a little like asking someone to pick a favorite child.

“I love all our collections,” Kam admits quietly, turning to partly face Huruma and the armor in one. “But this selection is my personal favorite. The culture of the Ainu is a disappearing thread of history. Their language, their lives, nearly forgotten except for what colonizers have written about them from their own colored perspectives.”

Dark eyes alight to Huruma, and Kam smiles faintly. “It is somewhat selfish, I have distant Ainu relations on my mother’s side of the family. When I was a professor, I spent much of my free time learning about my forgotten cultural roots. It led me to Takezo Kensei.”

Kam’s eyes close, then blink open to regard the sword and armor. “The sword was in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security,” is not what Huruma expected. “It had been pulled from the rubble of a building in Manhattan in the months prior to the civil war. Yamagato Industries found out about it, and we requested it be turned over as a historical artifact as part of our negotiations for the Safe Zone.”

Turning her attention from sword to Huruma, Kam seems to regard them both the same. “Though I believe I'm not the only one who’s rediscovered her cultural roots…”

For all that she seeks certain answers, and to gauge Nisatta’s commitment, Huruma’s interest is clear when the other woman speaks of her ancestors’ culture and the need to preserve it. She nods just once, understanding.
When Huruma learns how the sword was really obtained, her brow knits in a fine line, mouth pursing more tightly. Manhattan, before the war? With her next breath her nostrils flare slightly, an unspoken equation forming in her head. There aren’t many reasons it could have been there, and her thoughts stray until a half-inquiry from Kam brings them back. It is a formless question, expecting of a response.

“In a manner of speaking.” Huruma’s eyes watch Kam from behind half-lids. “Though I have hardly been one for too many roots in the first place…” Her velvet voice edges into just above a murmur. “Perhaps less so these days. I was born in Kenya, but I grew up everywhere. Madagascar is simply the latest stop on the train…”

There’s a look Kam gives Huruma, momentary eye contact and no shift in her expression. A beat later she blinks her attention back to the sword with a cool delivery of, “I suppose so, yes.” She folds her arms, weight shifted to one foot. “You seemed surprised to see the sword. I won’t lie… you have a file here at Yamagato Industries, due to your past associations.” Her brows crease for a moment, as if recalling something. But it’s quickly dismissed. “The late Kaito Nakamura had extensive records on several of… his associates. I’ve been privy to them, and it would be rude to pretend I don’t know some things about you.”

Some things is a very purposeful choice of words. Kam, in leveraging the power dynamic inherent in someone in a position of authority, is careful to not imply that she knows everything. It isn’t her desire to put Huruma on edge, but rather the latter. The air of a diplomat hangs about her, in spite of her more administrative role.

“I don’t begrudge you for past choices. No one in this city is clear-of-conscience enough to make such a judgment.” Kam’s gaze settles back on Huruma with one brow raised. “Let alone on someone like you.”

Surprised to see the sword may be an incredible understatement. The last time she saw it, it was certainly not behind glass, much less stationary. Kam may level temporary looks to her, but for the most part Huruma remains in profile, the glint of fiery feathers on her neck and an increasing sharpness to the lines of her jaw and cheekbones. She could probably cut glass with that look, but it doesn’t aim towards Nisatta— which in itself is fortunate.

That might get messy, anyhow.

Instead, the other woman’s words as they reach her serve to only remind, and her pale eyes shutter, closing against the testing touches of her ability.

“Of course Kaito kept a record.” Huruma laughs, a dry, coarse sound. “Imagine if he saw me now, hm?” It is this which has her turning her face back to Kam, eyelids flicking open once more. Knowing now that Ms. Nisatta has a more thorough understanding, all that’s left is to wonder how much was there. “I confess my curiosity as to what, precisely, he left behind about me.” Huruma has some idea.

“I like to believe that I have outrun pieces of my past lives.” is her reply, coming with a short slide of tongue against the edges of her teeth. “If I did not believe that— well— I would not be here, now would I?”

Kam’s shoulders rise and fall in a slow shrug. “From where I stand,” her head tilts to the side, “the woman in that file is as dead as the man who once wore this armor.” That assertion comes with a pointed look from the chairman, one that otherwise goes unaddressed. “It’s been a long time, for you and for Takezo Kensei. Sometimes the story outlives the individual… and sometimes the individual outgrows the story.”

Though Kam manages a smile at the poetic symmetry there, it is short-lived. “Kaito was an idealist. I never knew him personally, but I knew of him. I suppose I’m just as guilty of judging him by the record of his past as former Yamagato employees may have been judging people like yourself on the deeds of someone they no longer are.” A thought occurs to her. “Life is transformative. People aren’t static.” One hand gestures in the air, as if composing the notion. “Change is inevitable.”

Huruma’s eyes take in the pointed look, her capacity for picking such things up already heightened. Though there remains a tension in the muscular lines of her bare back, much of it leaves her through the slackening of her limbs and the downward tip of her chin. She remains silent for the rest, her gaze settled on the lines of Kam’s frame rather than her face.

“You have quite the way with words.” Compliments are a very good sign. Huruma links her hands, one set of fingers idly running against the other, massaging the finer muscles in her palm. “No matter how biblical my past associations may have been, it is a small comfort to hear you say such things.”

Breathing in deeply, Kam addresses the elephant in the room. “When was the last time you saw…” she looks to the sword, then back again. “Yamagato’s files are unfortunately incomplete. Kaito’s death was… the last concrete appearance we had for him. Our CEO has understandably vested interests in finding him and bringing him to whatever semblance of justice there is for a man of his age.”

Kam looks more pointedly to Huruma. “I say semblance not out of… some attempt to be glib about an unfair trial, but that who among us is qualified to be considered a jury of his peers?”

“Not as long ago as you may think.” Huruma takes her time to answer, and eventually it comes, without specification and at a plain volume. Like the weather. Her eyes cast downward, brows meeting and mouth tight against the lines of her dark face. “After the Ferrymen— ” She hesitates, memories hop-skipping years. “It tended towards missives instead. The war made all manner of communication all the harder, as you’d expect…”

Huruma lets go of a sigh she wasn’t aware of holding, the brush of air on her lips a soft huff. She does not elaborate past the point of the end of the Second Civil War.

“Everyone and no one. That is a bridge to cross.” When they get there. If they get there.

From the solitary raised brow, it appears Kam wasn't expecting that answer. She inclines her head in a slow nod and walks a few steps away, looking at the displays here. “Takezo Kensei was a dedicated protector of the weak. If you look beyond the parable, there's a story about a flawed and vulnerable man who was thrust into a world he did not understand and given a gift he did not ask for… and gave his life time and again to save the lives of a foreign land’s indigenous people.”

Regarding the armor, Kam seems distant. Then, with a shake of her head, she looks back to Huruma. “Everyone is so focused on the mythology of dragons and princesses that they fail to realize these were real people. The wars he fought in happened. The tragedies he tried to prevent…” she rolls her shoulders. “Not all heroes win.”

Then, thoughtfully, Kam asks an unusual question. “As someone who knows the story of Takezo Kensei, to someone who knows the story of the man he became…” her expression becomes difficult to read. “Would you be interested in seeing the man he was?”

The way in which Kam speaks reads to Huruma more of one knowing mind to another, than the way she spoke to the gala attendees. To most of them, this was the myth more than anything. They were attracted by the rarity and the story, and saw all of the relics as just that. Stories.

Unlike them, Huruma understands quite well the real conflicts behind the glass— and the damaged person behind relics which have barely stood the test of time.

“…Not all heroes win, no.” Huruma whispers, knowing this fact in her core.

Nisatta’s question is certainly unusual, and the tall, dark woman regards her with a clear skepticism, mottled with suspicion. Her ability reaches out more readily, thin talons sliding around Kam’s roving mind.

“And if I were?”

Kam motions to one of the black tie security officers who approaches at first, then is redirected toward a switch on the wall. He understands, immediately, what is about to happen and Kam smiles a self-satisfied smile. She turns, and waits for the click and whirr of a black privacy curtain to partition off the Kensei gallery. The security team steps to the other side of the curtain.

“Private displays of historic artifacts,” Kam explains, opening the case that belongs to the Kensei sword and armor, “are rarities. But I feel as though you might appreciate my particular ability.” She offers out a bare hand to Huruma.

“Because I can show you the past, as the sword experienced it.” A smile flashes across Kam’s face, and she waits to see how Huruma reacts.

It seems a fair reaction when Huruma gives the movements of security an intense stare, her stature straightening out until it becomes clear that she hasn’t walked herself into something unfortunate. As the curtain clicks to a stop on its rail, Huruma turns her head back to Kam, eyes brightening in definite fascination as the glass cage is slid open.

Her particular ability. Huruma looks between the outstretched hand and the open case, a wash of heat and drumming moving through her chest as she weighs her choices. Despite the smile of a proud, reassuring nature from the other woman, there is a moment of hesitation.

Huruma lifts her hand to slide it into Kam’s, soundless. Her touch is faint and tentative, for all that her limbs show an outward strength.

“Just remember, nothing you see is real or can hurt you.” Kam intones with a level and confident voice of someone who has had this discussion with others before. “At least, no more than any sensory input can harm the heart or soul.” There's an apologetic look at that, and Kam slowly reaches up to touch the hilt of the Kensei sword.


Shichigatsu 11, Kanbun 8

(July 11, 1671)

“«Stop fussing.»”

Cicadas chirp loudly in the warm night air. The scent of woodsmoke is strong, mixed with the distant sting of alcohol and a faint smell of cooked fish. Golden light flickers from a crackling campfire, dug into a sandy pit on this narrow stretch of cliffside beach. A half dozen men and twice as many women sit around the fire, most of them in partially unfastened armor, laughing and drinking.


Takezo Kensei sits further away, on a split log by the lapping shore. His shirt is of and a cloth bandage has been wrapped around his midsection where the dark stains of blood have wept through. He watches the others celebrating, sword driven down into the sand in front of him, firelight reflecting off of the metallic symbol.

“«I'm not fussing, I'm complaining. There's a distinct difference.»” Kensei looks to the woman seated at his side in dark shades of brown and black, her hair pulled back into a few loose braids and dark eyes squared on the swordsman. “«I'm not used to feeling this. I… forgot what it was like.»”

The woman scoots closer, reaching up to press a hand to his cheek. “«The onmyouji’s magic is strong. Others have taken week to recover from his void. I believe in you.»”

Making a noise in the back of his throat, Kensei closes his eyes. “«It's still a lot to believe. Magic. That it's all real.»” Blue eyes open, and Kensei’s attention is on her smile. “«The Shogun’s men saw me get hit by the arrow. The saw me bleed and they know we retreated. They're going to be looking for us.»”

“«I know. They know,»” she motions to the soldiers by the fire. “«But that's not going to stop them. And they've never been like you, Kensei. They've always been mortal. They've made it this far.»”

Kensei smiles wearily, raising a hand to touch the back of hers and keep it at his cheek. “«Don't tell the others, but I'm a shit swordsman compared to them. Kei alone could rip me limb from limb on a bad day.»”

She rolls her eyes. “«You're more than the Dragon’s sword,»” she says with a gesture to the blade driven into the sand. “«You're a symbol, that my people have allies. That we can forge bonds beyond our home. You're a symbol of the future.»” She smiles, warmly. “«Symbols are not so easily destroyed.»”

“«I suppose you're right.»” Kensei reluctantly agrees.

“«I know I am.»” she affirms with a squeeze of his cheek with one hand. “«Look, you're smiling!»” He isn't — or wasn't — but she pinched one side of his mouth and dragged it up into a smile. Kensei finally breaks into a bit of tentative laughter, holding his injured side as he does.

“«How did you become so charming?»” Kensei asks with a fond smile, lacing his fingers between hers and stealing her hand away for a brief kiss across her knuckles. She feigns ignorance, hand at her collar and scoff in the back of her throat.

“«Charming? Me? No, Kensei. It's just witchcraft.»” Her smile grows, broadly, and Kensei shakes his head with one that matches. “«I blame my father. My mother chose my name, but he wanted to call me Kyo.»”

“«Why?»” Kensei asks with a furrow of his brows.

“«Because, it means joy.»” She says with a perk of her brows and an impish grin. Kensei laughs and leans in, pressing a kiss to her lips and brushing his nose across hers briefly.

“«That's cute,»” Kensei admits, “«but I still like the name Yaeko.»”


The Yamagato Fellowship Center

Present Day

Kam’s hand comes away from Huruma’s, her brows furrowed and head tilted to the side to assess what the taller woman saw by her reactions. “It's usually different every time. I can't control what a person sees. Only that they do.”

Huruma can tell the tone of someone practiced at explanations; her hand in Kam's tightens with a firmness, a confirmation of a kind. She understands.

Perhaps she did not quite expect what comes after. Her senses seem to fill with a cloud of sudden sights and sounds, smells and the feel of air over water. The people are not real, she knows this much. Her empathy cannot reach centuries back, but there is a ghost of Nisatta's mind swamped amongst fiber and movement. Out of her body and hearing words she does not know, yet absorbing them as if she does. This is not a space in time, but a memory. The shine of the sword set aside seems a star amongst the beach.

It pulls her closer to the core of the memory, and Huruma can feel herself drawn into it. Not as a moth to a flame, rather by an attraction to the scent and feelings of something familiar. In the thrall of something she could not quite measure before.

While she watches, time seems to pause, the spirit of her gaze languishing on the two of them— Yaeko and Kensei— like the stories in so many studies, in so many books. But it’s more than that. Her words ring out like deja-vu, and Him—


Huruma’s breath leaves her in a murmur as both eyes adjust once more to the glamour of the gallery. The lights, the curtains, the glass. A hand in hers, slipping away.


As if remembering where she is, the tall, dark woman turns her head in a swivel to look down to the other. Her hand hovers between them, fingers flexing once as it moves back to her.
“So do you see them too, or no…?” Huruma sounds hesitant to find out, somehow. Her breath exhales in a sigh, her brow deepening in an expression that tickles against melancholy. If she didn’t see it, she can’t know what, precisely, has caused it. The subject matter is testy, and in some manner tragic.

“…I could see parts of it. That person.” Huruma’s voice settles back, draping deeper once more, her breath calmed. She lifts one hand palm up, as if clutching something invisible, yet tangible. “I could feel it there, deep below the skin and bone. I could hear it, sometimes. In words. In deeds. Kensei was still there, buried under centuries of an unkind, unjust world.” Her strong jaw firms, teeth tight in her cheeks, the bones sharp under the light.

“…And the world had been far too unkind to both of us.” Huruma looks away, to the open case and the sword sitting there as if nothing had happened. “So there we were.”

“I don't see it when I project, but I feel the emotions of both the object’s owner and the recipient. It paints a different picture.” Kam slowly closes the case, letting the magnetic lock fasten with a click.

She is quiet for a time, regarding the armor and weapon with a measure of reverence. Then, looking back to Huruma she has an analogy. “People are not entirely unlike paintings. Made with intention, they develop a meaning all their own in the eyes of those who view them. Then, time takes its toll. Colors fade, cruelties or accidents are visited on the canvas, and the painting is never again the way it originally was.”

A faint smile crosses Kam’s lips. “I'm glad we were able to have this moment. It isn't often that I'm able to speak so candidly about this topic.”

Huruma’s hand rests fingertips against the closed door of the display, careful not to smudge— it seems like a similarly reverent gesture, for whatever it’s worth. When her hand comes back to her, she brushes the same fingers over the fanning of feathers at her side and shoulder, red against ebony brown.

“You are right, of course. We are all canvases under the strain of time.” Huruma’s demeanor evens out, the small smile she gets answered with one in kind. Despite what she’s seen and how she’s feeling, there is something of a spark of amusement and respectful light in her pale eyes. “I cannot imagine so.” Huruma’s lips purse with a soft laugh just for the other woman, personal and inviting. “Thank you. For the private display.”

Looks like someone made a good impression.

Motioning with a wave to security as they check in, Chairman Nisatta does not look away from Huruma. “Thank you for keeping an open mind to history,” she says as the curtains begin to draw back. Nisatta inclined her head in a nod, though, and takes a step away from the display.

“The modern world requires my attention, unfortunately. But…” there's a faint hint of a smile that flashes across her otherwise neutral expression. “It was nice, briefly living somewhen else.”

“I have no doubt we’ll see each other again.”

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