Kensei Collection


elaine_icon.gif isis2_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif

Scene Title Kensei Collection
Synopsis Apparently Isis and Elaine have a mutual aquiantence with enough influence to hold up her end of a bargain with Kaylee.
Date June 4, 2019

Yamagato Fellowship Center

Since the beginning of June, the Yamagato Fellowship Center has been abuzz with activity. New hires, new exhibits, it seems to have been rejuvenated with a new life. As it stands, the museum itself is in the process of moving in a new exhibit. A small section is cordoned off as people with gloves handle objects and signs, placing them behind glass and moving larger pieces in for display.

Overseeing it all is Elaine Darrow, the newly promoted Head Curator. She holds a clipboard with one hand, visually moving down the list as she watches others move here and there, sometimes butting in to clarify positioning for something. She’s neatly and professionally dressed in a pencil skirt and heels, standing further inside but still easily observable from the entrance.

The trip to Yamagto was short - both a blessing and a curse. It had started out awkwardly enough, two very different women trying to find some common ground outside their past, mutual acquaintance. Luckily, most of the initial toe-stepping of their verbal dance has been completed, leaving them a bit more in sync by the time they arrive and Isis reaches out to hold the door open. Stepping back in an off-the-shoulder, silky green top and a pair of billowy black slacks that nearly pass for a skirt, the toe of a shiny black shoe peeking beneath, Isis bends theatrically into a bow and invites Kaylee ahead of her with a flourished flip of her wrist. “After you, Miss.”

She follows after, but over Kaylee’s shoulder her hazel eyes widen. Isis gawks openly and for a long time before she thinks to close the little gap between her lips and blink away the impressed-stricken look from her face. She turns to the matter of trying to find the party she’s meant to meet: Elaine.

Kaylee had thought herself past the fancy outfits, but yet here she was dressed for a business meeting, even if a bit more of an informal one. Her outfit a touch more casual with it’s silky red shirt and black blazer paired with a pair of dark blue jeans. Fashionable, heeled boots click in counter to her companions steps. The once thing that throws back to her time at Raytech is the way her hair is twisted up on the back of her head.

“Thank you,” Kaylee offers softly to Isis with an incline of her head.

Her normally, bright mood tarnished following a visit from the past. Unfortunately for Isis, Kaylee hasn’t talked about it to anyone. Yet. The poor telepath was still processing the rejection by someone she had been secretly holding a candle for… for far too long.

Even with what happened, Kaylee was left with more questions than answers. While, a part of her didn’t want to face Adam’s past, she still puts on a bright smile at the sight of Elaine. “You know when I was told who we were meeting, I couldn’t believe it.” She offers a hand to the other woman, “Elaine. It feels like it’s been too long.”

Elaine takes Kaylee’s hand with a gentle shake. “Kaylee, it’s good to see you. It has been too long.” Her attention is drawn to Isis, not wanting to leave her out of the introductions. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Elaine Darrow, newly appointed Head Curator for the Yamagato Fellowship Center. Still getting used to the title… and the responsibilities.” She glances over her shoulder at the cluster of folks who are currently arranging an exhibit. “I can certainly try to help out the two of you if I can.”

She ushers the two out of the way to a little more of a secluded corner where they won’t be bothered by the workers. “Now, what can I do to help?”

There’s a little fidgeting from Isis’s fingers, the pad of her thumb brushed brushing the backs of her knuckles, before the diminutive redhead extends a hand to shake Elaine’s with in a firm, brief shake if warranted. “A real pleasure to meet you. Please, call me Jo.” She doesn’t bother to glance Kaylee’s way at this, but her blonde companion is easily in her peripheral vision. “Head Curator? Well, leave it to Eve to have friends in all manner of places. Congratulations, Miss Darrow.”

Isis tucks her hands into half-disguised pockets at her hips, thumbs hooked outwardly and stark white against the black, loose-hanging slacks. She follows as instructed at an easy pace, hidden shoes lacking any noticeable click of heels or the like. “We actually came to see the Kensei Collection, but…” Her smiles softens, her head tilting subtle to the right as she holds up her thumbs from their perch on the hem of her pockets. “I, to be entirely honest, didn’t even know it was a thing until recently. And wouldn’t have still if not for Kaylee here.” Her chuckles is quiet and warm in a politely self-deprecating way as she turns to Kaylee expectantly.

“The only reason I know it was here, was it was on display at the first gala Yamagato had,” Kaylee comments, an amused look offered to Isis. “But, yes, I’m hoping to see the collection and the reason is a bit odd.” Blue eyes scan those around them, motioning the other two away from prying ears. Voice lowering some, the telepath prepares to discuss some things that few know.

“I had a nightmare, but not the typical one,” Kaylee points out that last quickly. “Last time I had this the Nightmare Man was invading people’s dreams. But, I was here,” she motions to the room around them, “ and so was Kam. She was possessed by” — here Kaylee hesitates. Looking first at Elaine, then Isis. “something otherworldly.” She doesn’t go into the fact that this thing was in her head too. It would get too confusing in her mind.

“I think it has something to do with this collection. Specifically, the story of Kensei and the Dragon.” It was the best explanation she had, without going too far down the rabbit hole. “There was a… a scroll that stood out in my nightmare. I think it was of Kensei driving a sword into his own chest with the dragon looking on. I only got a glimpse of it in the nightmare, but I’m hoping it is here.”

There’s a look from Elaine between Kaylee and ‘Jo’. Kaylee she knows, at least, so there’s some level of trust there. She gives a nod after a moment, smiling once more. “Well, you’re in luck—I’ve done some of the translation in the Kensei collection myself, I’m actually quite pleased with it. So I’m pretty familiar with the artifacts in question.”

She turns slightly, gesturing further inside. “I’m more than happy to show you the collection. I do remember some scrolls with depictions of Kensei but I’m not entirely sure which one you might mean—there are quite a few pieces with the Dragon on it. Still, hopefully you’ll see the one you’re looking for. If we find it, I’m more than happy to read it to you.”

Otherworldly. The short redhead holds Kaylee’s gaze a moment before her pale lips pull on a supportive smile. For her role in this part of the conversation, Isis remains on the fringes - I quiet observer here for support in the quest for answers. As Elaine responds in the affirmative, she straightens a little more and smiles a little brighter. “Sounds like amazing work, Miss Darrow,” ‘Jo’ interjects as a quiet, polite, and entirely sincere assessment, her gaze turned outward back to the work being completed in the exhibit room. She even lingers half a beat to truly appreciate what’s there before falling in line with the other women.

“That would be wonderful, thank you.” Kaylee says after a glance at Isis, thankful for that support. “If it isn’t there, maybe there will be something here they could have the answers.”

Moving to follow the other woman, the telepath continues. “I’m not sure why I was pointed to this scroll in the dream. I only wish there had been more time to look at it, but… as with the nature of nightmares, I was being chased.” There is a touch of amusement in Kaylee’s tone.

“It wasn’t the only thing, but the only thing that could potentially be here.” Kaylee motions to the building around them. “Everything else, was more personal like a model of the apartment I lived in with my mother before Granny came and got me, a mannequin with my father’s clothes and a ball of red string, and a statue of an old friend.” Brows push downward into a thoughtful frown. “Not sure how it all connects, but I figure here is a good start on figuring that out.”

Kaylee felt there was importance in what she saw, but it wasn’t clicking in her brain clearly. “I just wish I knew who thought I should be here.” Was it the thing that had been in her head or in some weird way, Kam.

“If I were to wager a guess, it would be that it has to do with following your past. The apartment, your father’s clothes, an old friend, those are all sort of symbolic of your past, your history. The red string, though, that gets my attention,” Elaine says as she leads the way towards the back of the museum.

“Have you ever heard of the red string of fate? Old Chinese legend, it’s the origin of soulmates. One end of the string is tied to your ankle and the other to the ankle of someone else, to lead you to each other. The string never breaks, and it transcends time and space, they are destined to be together. Normally this is a romantic thing, but it also can be more platonic—people who are destined to meet, people who are destined to help each other. But it’s fate. That very well might be your red string. Though, who knows, it might be something entirely different.”

She comes to a stop in front of a display case. Inside are indeed bits of Kensei history; scrolls, small artifacts of the time period that may supposedly belonged to him, and a few odds and ends. “Let’s see here, I’m sure we can find something… if it’s not here, I can check my office. We have a few un-catalogued items and it might be hiding in there.”

The Kensei collection sprawls across an entire wing of the Fellowship Building, dedicated to the historic event of Shakushain’s Revolt, a civil war fought between the Ainu people of Hokkaido, Japan and the Yamato people of mainland Japan. Kensei is a figure poorly-understood who sits at the center of this conflict between ideology and culture. The first display case that Elaine has brought Kaylee and Isis to is the start of Shakushain’s Revolt in 1669. It features a small scroll stretched out on a tall stand depicting a coastline flanked by cherry blossom trees where a single, massive crow with three legs stands proudly in the water, wings outstretched with an eclipse hovering over its head. A placard below the scroll reads,

The Appearance of Yatagarasu, 1669
This ink painting, dating back to 1669, this ink painting depicts the three-legged crow Yatagarasu. It’s appearance in the waters represents death and renewal and was painted by an unknown artist during the onset of internecine conflicts on Hokkaido that would lead to Shakushain’s Revolt.

It isn’t the scroll from Kaylee’s dream…

Additionally, there are a number of men-yoroi, a type of highly stylized facial armor worn by samurai. Each of them depicts a snarling, bestial face from the nose down, often with curling tusks. There is a card that identifies the group rather than an individual piece,

Umakashte’s 90 Ronin, 1670
When it became clear that the island of Hokkaido wished to maintain independence from mainland Japan, imperial interests hired local mercenary forces to take advantage of the internal conflict on Hokkaido to weaken potential resistance. Of them, the Ainu warrior Umakashte — more commonly known as Whitebeard — was the most feared. Umakashte commanded a sizable force of former samurai, known as ronin, numbering 90-strong. These men-yoroi, face armor worn by samurai, belonged to members of Umakashte’s “Kyuujuu Ikatteiru Ronin” or “90 Angry Ronin” who garbed themselves in the countenance of oni.

Beyond this case, Kaylee can see one that looks familiar… a case containing a suit of armor she saw in her vision. A suit of armor worn by Takezo Kensei himself.

A small nod of Kaylee’s head indicates she knows the legend. “Know it well.” She almost seems reluctant to admit that. “But, my father had a fondness of the color, my guess is that is why. I’ve always believed in Fate, but… I’ve been told, there is no such thing.” By her tone she isn’t sure what to believe anymore. “Maybe it is a little of both, hmm?”

There is a soft hitch in Kaylee’s breath as they stop at the first case, even if it isn’t The One. “The eclipse,” she whispers in awe, tugging out her phone. After ensuring that there is no flash, she takes photos of items and wording. She pauses and looks at the placard for the scroll. “The three legged Raven…. I wonder.” The date was clearly before Eve and Odessa arrived in the past. There had been so much blood and carnage.

Just this one display, Kaylee knew that she’d be doing some searches on the internet and in the library. She stares down at the photo on her phone, until she becomes aware of all the others. Heels click loudly as she hurries over to the armor. The telepath takes in the suit of armor with a hungry enthusiasm that comes with her curiosity. “I was right here in my nightmare, staring at this armor.” She says quietly, taking a few photos before turning her back to it to look outward.

“She showed up….” Kaylee’s eyes track over the other displays before pointing “There!” It is said just a bit louder then she planned, too. It was hard to contain her excitement over the idea that the scroll could be real.

Elaine is there to be an assistant and a guide, but the vision that Kaylee’s had is enough to draw her in. She wants to know exactly what everything meant and why the Kensei scroll might have that sort of draw on her. Her heels click much more softly on the floor than Kaylee’s, her pace measured as she follows her from the armor towards the scroll.

“I’m certainly glad to see you found what you’re looking for,” she says. At least that’s true in one sense.

For her part, Isis must take a moment or two to pick her jaw up off the floor. Her gaze flits from here or there for want to take it all in. Now. Standing beside Kaylee, she leans in as close as the protective glass will permit, head tilted, to eye the three-legged raven with the utmost curiosity. A squint doesn’t make it reveal its secrets. A nose twitch doesn’t seem to add any more information to her brain-files. She moves to collect a palm-sized notepad and pen from her pocket when she notices Kaylee… taking a picture. “Nancy Drew got upgrades.” Following suit, she finds the fancy phone Dirk had provided her previously and snaps a flashless shot of the scroll and information placard.
With that Isis moves almost silently on whatever flat little shoes are tucking beneath her billowy slack, following in Kaylee’s wake even while she tries to crane her neck this way and that to take in all the thing by which her blonde friend has hurried.

What has drawn Kaylee’s attention so clearly is an unfurled scroll nearly six feet tall on its vertically-oriented stand. Curiously, the scroll is not alone in its case. There are two long muskets standing up on metal racks, muzzles pointed at the ceiling. They’re flintlock muskets, the kind that required pouring black powder directly into and packing a musket ball with a long iron rod. The scroll is filled with kanji and is weathered so badly that the entire bottom-right corner is missing. Below this and between the butts of the two muskets there is a display card:

The Fire Scroll, 1671
When it became clear that the Tokugawa Shogunate would not leave the isle of Hokkaido independent the tribes under Shakushain’s control rallied defenses to repel imperial invaders. With the aid of Takezo Kensei, the Ainu were able to steal the plans for gunpowder from “White Beard” along with a stockpile of muskets. With the power of black-powder firearms at their disposal, the Ainu rebellion possessed a chance of not only toppling the shogunate’s forces, but holding their land.

This isn’t the scroll Kaylee saw in her vision. There was a dragon on that one. As she looks around, she sees that particular scroll closer toward the entrance. Its back had been shown to her from her previous angle.

There is no hiding the disappointment in Kaylee’s face when she looks at the scroll. “Damn it,” She whispers under her breath. “This isn’t it either, but this is where she stood.” It might have been moved for all she knew. Or… This scroll was a figment. Lips press tight together as she gets a sense that it might be the case. “I had hoped to see it, but maybe it wasn’t real. It felt important. It made me think of one of the post-cog visions I saw. Where he stabbed his sword through his princess.” This isn’t even something she’s told Isis before. “Couldn’t understand them, but… “ Kaylee sighs out, “I don’t know, he didn’t want to do it. I think she was possessed.” That she felt certain of.

The telepath makes sure pictures are snapped of the scroll, muskets, and the placard. Taking closer pictures of this and that. It might not seem important, but with the bigger picture, it might be an important piece. “Sometimes it is hard to believe that Adam Monroe is this old,” her voice is soft as she says that, looking around them.

Then another scroll catches her eye when she look at Elaine, her focus shifting beyond the woman. “What is that one?” Even with that sense of defeat… curiosity wins out and Kaylee moves towards the scroll by the entrance.

“He never struck me as that old,” Elaine responds to the soft voice in a soft tone of her own. “People are odd.”

Her attention is drawn away and she turns on her heels to guide Kaylee over towards the next scroll. Heading over, she looks over her shoulder. “This may be what you’re looking for, this one depicts the dragon.” She steps aside so the scroll is easier to see, looking over at it herself.

Her short, slender finger lingers at Kaylee's heels like a pale-white shadow. Sometimes the shadow stretches, reaching nosily, but ultimately snaps back to its counterpart in the end. Isis finds herself on the other side of Kaylee, eyeing the muskets with undisguised disappointment. At Kaylee's reaction, the hand down by her thigh vaguely lifts. Two fingers are brought up towards Kaylee's wrist, but the half-formed gesture never becomes more. Her hand falls back idle at her side. She clears her throat. "When history becomes fact and politics, I honestly lose all interest…" She mutters, trailing off as her visage turns over her shoulder to impatiently consider the other cases. "Where it's legend, mythology, and mystery though…"

Aaannnddd, they're off. Isis's smile is renewed as she falls in behind Kaylee and Elaine.

“All legends and myths start with a thread of fact,” Kaylee comments with a smirk towards Isis. “Even Kensei was just a man… a powered one, but he still is a man and makes the same mistakes they all do.” Like hurting those that care about them. :| “But honestly, facts and politics have their uses especially when it comes to finding answers to the questions we need solved.”

“Not to mention…” Kaylee says with a grin at Elaine, “I’ve never known too many men to truly grow up. Adam, included.” She is joking of course… sort of.

Then her attention is fully given over to the scroll, leaning in to get a better look at it.

The scroll in the case is exactly what Kaylee saw in her dream. It is another vertical scroll, weathered and faded with age and missing pieces at its edges. But the ink-painting on the scroll depicts a serpentine dragon in shades of red coiled around a mountaintop where a man in black o-yoroi armor of a samurai holds a sword up toward it. The mountain is shrouded in clouds down near its base that looks almost like water. On a small stand beside the scroll is an identification card:

Kensei & The Dragon of Kiso Mountain, 1670
According to Kensei no Saiban (“Trials of Takezo Kensei”), written in 1720, Takezo Kensei ascended Mount Kiso Ontake in order to learn the secrets of the sword and receive a gift of knowledge and power from the Dragon of Kiso Mountain. In exchange for this gift of power, Takezo Kensei swore to offer the dragon what his heart desired most. This scroll depicts the first meeting of Kensei and the Dragon atop Kiso Ontake, one of the most sacred mountains in Japan. The artist of this painting is unknown.

It’s real. Seeing it in the flesh is the first validation Kaylee’s had over the vision she experienced. She’d never seen this display before then, and for it to have been so accurately recreated…

“History is always about fact and politics. It’s a recollection of what happened. Do you think the men and women writing things like this thought that it would be kept in glass cases and treated as lore, as legend?” Elaine lets her fingers trace across the glass as she looks in at the scroll. “Perhaps they’ll tell a legend about you… Jo. Who knows what history we’ll leave behind.”

Her attention flickers between the scroll and Kaylee, waiting for her to really absorb what she is seeing. She’s waiting to see if it means something to her, maybe more than what’s written off to the side. “Does it mean something to you?”

There is a skip in the beat of her heart, before he starts to speed up even before she reaches it. A hand presses to her chest. “Yes,” Kaylee finally said, glancing over at Elane, after a moment of staring at it. She looks between both women and lets out a breath. “This is it. Almost exactly like it was in my nightmare.” Reaching out she points to the armored figure, “Except that… that is different. In my nightmare, Kensei had the sword driven through his own chest. Why I wonder?”

The phone is lifted and pictures taken with excitement, details like the figure of Kensei taken up close. When she gets to the placard, the phone slowly lowers once it is recorded. She reads… “He swore to offer the dragon what his heart desired most… “ Eyes unfocus for a moment. “The princess maybe? But then why drive the sword through his heart… Representation of his love?” She sounds like she’s talking to herself now.

Abruptly, Kalee turns away from it and tracks back to the armor, staring at it. Picturing the same man that stood in her apartment in it, staring down a dragon. Of course, there is no doubt it wouldn’t be a real dragon. “The dragon possessed the princess. Taking from him what he most desired… maybe?” She looks at Isis, but not at the same time.

There is a few blinks before she looks at her and Elaine. “I’m sorry. I know I sound crazy, but… these events happened.” She motions around the area. “He wore that armor…” She points to it, turning towards it again. “From what we understand, this… happened again in the early 80’s too.” She looks at Elaine. “Well, something like it. The dragon returned to our world. That scroll was in my nightmare, if only a little different… something is trying to tell me something, I just wish I knew what.”

Casting a glance back over her shoulder, she can’t help but ask, “What is real? Is what happened on the actual scroll what really occurred? Or the one in my dream? History can be altered by the hands of the men that record it.”

Snap. Isis or rather Jo, in this case, turns a wide-eyed expression on Elaine. Just as quickly, the subtlest of wrinkles form between her brows before she gives a modest little chuckle and a shake of her head. "Me in a legend. I don't think I'd ever do anything worth noting." Not if I do it right. "And, besides, records are much more unbiasedly kept nowadays… - right?" The last takes a quick dive into tone of the curious and uncertain.

She looks back around the expansive exhibit hall. "It started out as fact, or someone's version thereof…" Isis comments quietly, a distracted half-agreement towards her companions before following after them. Halfway across the room, her attention is already drawn back in by this latest scroll and upon arrival, it does not disappoint. This is more like it - history contorted into mysterious legend. She rests her hands on her knees as she leans in, nose hovering before the glass. She takes a few snapshots after she's gotten an eyeful, and then comments in what is clearly more an inquisitive possibility than a helpful tone: "Maybe they're both true?" Both versions of the scroll

“I don’t know that history is so unbiased… depends on where you look for it. There are plenty of people who want to rewrite history and shape it to their perspective.” Elaine’s done enough studying to understand that things aren’t always as they appear in history books, modern or within the stuff of legends.

“The question is… is it the dragon or Kensei’s most desired thing? Was the dragon taking what Kensei desired most or was the dragon taking what it desired most?” She muses, but it’s not all to be taken up for discussion, she’s only positing ideas and suggestions. “Maybe we’re thinking too symbolic, if the dragon was taking something, maybe it’s his heart, his body, his blood. Sure it could be symbolic of the loss of his love but if we’re trying to take this as more than legend, as history, we might have to ground ourselves.”

“You have a very good point, Elaine,” Kaylee sounds amused, glancing her way. “That sentence could be taken either way. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.” She looks at the armor display in front of her again and presses lips together in thought. “If we look at it as it means what the dragons desired, maybe it needed a body. A host.”

Blonde curls shift as she considers other angles. “Maybe telling the dragon what he wants in return for his help? Maybe… maybe that scroll is actually of Adam’s creation?” Shoulders shrug and Kaylee shakes her head, “It could literally mean anything. That’s the challenge. Finding the right meaning.”

The telepath chuckles and shakes her head, “Wild thought… what if every legend and myth was based in what we are? Our abilities? Someone with enough hubris could set themselves up as a god.” Her eyes focus on her own reflection.

Hazel eyes, flecked with gold now, appear superimposed on the glass as a ghostly reflection over the current scroll. “Perhaps people created God in their image, not the other way around…” Isis mutters quietly to herself as an obscure ripple off of Kaylee’s comment. She narrows her gaze at the scroll before slinking away towards another scroll - one that has been gnawing at her from the periphery now - another referencing the Dragon.

The armor on display that Kaylee cannot pull herself away from is part of a much larger display, one robbed when the Yamagato Building was bombed last year. Once, just a year ago, the legendary Kensei Sword itself was on display here. Though which Kensei sword isn’t clear, given that Hiro Nakamura carried one for a time. The glass case containing Kensei’s armor is six feet tall and fourteen feet long, also containing seven other suits of armor in shades of terracotta and faded brown.

Kensei’s armor is posed in the center of the suits, a matte black worn over dark brown with accents of gold and red. His helmet bears the tusked mask of an oni. It would have been difficult for anyone seeing Kensei in his full armor to realize he was a white British man.

Along with the armor are more muskets, just like those seen by the Fire Scroll display and they are standing up against wooden racks. Below all of the displays is a black identification card showcasing the historic significance of the display.

Battle of the Hidden Fortress, 1671
After swearing his allegiance to the Dragon of Kiso Mountain in exchange for the secrets of the sword and great power, Takezo Kensei waged war at the head of the Ainu rebellion of Shakushain’s Revolt, leading a fighting force against the mercenary army of Umakashte aka “Whitebeard.” Umakashte’s fortress was well hidden in the mountains surrounding what is now Yunotai on the island of Hokkaido. It is believed that Kensei possessed secret knowledge of the fortress’ location and was able to sneak Ainu forces in to the mercenary compound. During the battle, Kensei destroyed Umakashte’s collection of firearms and slaughtered his men to the last. This decisive battle was the last known victory in Shakushain’s Revolt and the Ainu army under Kensei’s leadership would fracture in the months that followed leading to the Revolt’s ultimate failure and Takezo Kensei’s disappearance by 1672.

There is a part of Kaylee that wants to hiss at what Isis says about God, but it is quickly squashed. She knows that it is that part of her that wanted to embrace everything that Joseph loved. Watching the woman move to another display, she considers the words.

Then the focus is back on that armor again. Her head tilts yet again. Why did it draw her? Then it dawns on her. You know… I just realized what is bothering me about this. Despite all the visions and memories I have seen, I can’t imagine Adam heading an army for the good of others.

Kaylee throws an apologetic look towards Isis, moving to follow her old rival towards the Dragon of Kisou Mountain display. “When Adam has a purpose it has always been for his sole benefit and if it helps others great he’ll happily take credit for that too.”

Sometimes that which is most curious is not what is expected. Though she stands before the scroll that had pulled her across the exhibit hall as if by gravity, Isis’s gaze is actually upon Kaylee. She watches the shape the blond cuts out of the towering impressive suit of armor with a placid thoughtful expression. Bodily she is still, but her eyes are restless as they seek out every detail of the telepath and the armor opposite.

When Kaylee turns back, Isis clears her throat and dips her visage back towards the little plaque labeled ‘The Dragon of Kisou Mountain’. “Oh?” Her reply is one of only a passing curiosity this time. “I can’t say I knew him well enough to agree or disagree. But, if that’s the case I’m not sure I could fault him either. I’m not sure that makes him any different than the majority.” There’s a subtle downturn at the corners of her peach-pale lips.

The next display is another long glass case in the middle of the exhibit. Kaylee remembers briefly seeing it during the Gala event here last year. It’s memorable because there is a life-size replica of an armored horse in mid-stride with a samurai on its back, carrying a battle standard with the symbol she’s seen in so many places stenciled on it inside of a black circle. The samurai is just a suit of armor over a wooden mannequin, as are the half-dozen other figures on the march. The ground of the display is at a 45-degree angle, filled with rocks and small shrubby plants like a mountain slope. The display card for it, black with white text, describes a broader historic moment.

The Dragon of Kisou Mountain
In 1670 Takezo Kensei led a small band of Ainu rebels up the face of Mount Kiso Antake in mainland Japan, where the Ainu rebels believed Takezo Kensei could gain the blessing of a powerful spirit that lived within the crater lake at the top of the mountain. While history proves that Ainu rebels did ascend Kiso Antake during the height of Shakushain’s Revolt, the fabled Dragon of Kisou Mountain exists only in mythology and fables. Historians are uncertain if there is a living analog to the Dragon of Kiso Mountain. Scholars from the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology believe that the dragon may represent a ronin who trained Takezo Kensei in the art of swordplay, while others believe that the story of Kensei meeting the dragon is purely a work of fiction. Kensei no Saiban (“Trials of Takezo Kensei”), written in 1720, helped muddy the waters of historical fact versus historical fiction.

“History’s always fascinated me,” Elaine murmurs as she observes what’s behind the glass in the display nearest to them. “It’s a mix of reality and storytelling at its finest. You’re always searching for the truth in it, searching for meaning, reaching out for understanding that you’re never quite able to put full certainty in. You’re always just picking up the pieces to a bigger puzzle.”

She gestures towards the display. “And this is certainly a big puzzle, isn’t it?”

“Very,” Kaylee agrees with Elaine.

Staring up at the mannequin on the horses back, there is a sort of wistful sigh. “To witness this… this history, would have been… amazing.” It would have also been dangerous and deadly, she knows first hand what can happen when you step into the past.

Like with all of the displays so far, pictures are taken.

“A work of fiction, huh?” Reading the plaque, past the screen of her phone, a snort escapes before Kaylee can stop it. “Wish he would have told me the truth of these stories, what the dragon was or if there was ever really a dragon.” From what she knew there was a dragon, but at the same time there was a nagging doubt. Was the thing that came out of the LookingGlass really it?

“Or maybe the dragon is just a metaphor,” A smirk tugs at the corner of her mouth, glancing at Elaine out of the corner of her eye.

Looking around them, Kaylee seems a bit disappointed. There was so much history here, but where was the thread she needed? Had hoped for. “Let’s check out the rest of them, hmm?” The telepath suggest looking at Isis, cause they might as well.

“Kensei no sigh-bun?” Surely she’s butchering it. Isis squints at the plaque and zooms in on the title of the text with her camera phone for a photo - a reminder, like tying a string on one’s finger. She leans back, eyes still on the display as she replies, “I hope it’s just a metaphor. I haven’t leveled up nearly enough to deal with a world that has real dragons…”

When she turns back to Kaylee and Elaine its with an easy, silly smile. She gives a singular nod at Kaylee’s suggestion and slips off with the team towards the next piece of the exhibit.

Up against a curving wall is another glass-encased display showcasing nine suits of badly damaged armor sundered by deep sword strokes and punctures from arrows. A collection of old and ragged looking swords lay on display on the floor of the case, each of them rusted and fragile. The display card inside of the case explains the historical significance of the armor and swords.

The Battle of 12 Swords
One of the most contentious pieces of history surrounding the legend of Takezo Kensei is the Battle of 12 Swords. According to the story Kensei no Saiban (“Trials of Takezo Kensei”), written in 1720, the battle occurred in May of 1670 and Takezo Kensei was already a ronin fighting alongside the Ainu during Shakushain’s revolt. Until 2012 the battle was believed to be entirely a work of fiction, until a joint archaeological and anthropological expedition paid for by the Yamagato Fellowship unearthed the bodies of twelve Ainu soldiers on the island of Hokkaido, miles from where the battle was alleged to have been waged in Kensei no Saiban on the mainland near Edo (now Tokyo).
Thanks to the efforts of this expedition, the bodies found were positively identified through DNA testing as Ainu. Further investigation revealed that they were killed in battle. While not a peer-reviewed process, psychometric evaluation of the remains indicate that they were indeed slain by Takezo Kensei. Further historic investigation into letters and ledgers of payment from that era indicate that Takezo Kensei may have been a mercenary under the employ of the Imperial Japan during the Battle of 12 Swords and potentially fought against the Ainu he would later align with.

The telepath is quiet as she reads the plaque, until brows lift and she looks up at the suits of armor. Eyes unfocus as she tries to imagine what happened. Pictures are taken quickly, snapped before she grabs the other women’s attention. “Look at this,” Kaylee says in awe and wonder. “Seems history got it’s facts twisted here.” Pulling her eyes from the armor she looks over at her companions.

“A lot of this says that he was helping the Ainu, but this counters that belief.” Kaylee looks over her shoulder to Adam’s old armor. “Did they use a psychometric ability on all of this? If not… why just this one.”

There is a look of curiosity on Kaylee’s features, her eyes on Adam’s armor, “What would they find if they did that to Adam’s armor, I wonder?”

The next display case is a tall, rectangular one containing a wooden mannequin dressed in a well-preserved multi-layered split skirt of snow white that falls to the ankles. Over this is worn three layers of kimono-like garments, black silk saifuku patterened with bare branches embroidered in white. Over the saifuku is worn the hō, a vouminous outer robe also of black. The mannequin also wears a black lacquered-silk eboshi — a tall and almost conical hat — and carries in one hand a flat wooden sceptre — a shaku. The mannequin is posed with his free hand held aloft.

The Imperial Onmoyuji
Onmyōji (陰陽師) was one of the classifications of civil servants belonging to the Bureau of Onmyō in ancient Japan's ritsuryo system. People with this title were professional practitioners of onmyōdō, a spiritual divination art that incorporated astrology. People of the time believed that onmyoji were specialists in magic and divination. Their court responsibilities ranged from tasks such as keeping track of the calendar, to mystical duties such as divination and protection of the capital from evil spirits. They could purportedly divine auspicious or harmful influences in the earth, and were instrumental in the moving of capitals. It is said that an onmyōji could also summon and control shikigami — guardian spirits.
Historic records dating between 1669 and 1671 indicate that Emperor Go-Sai (後西天皇 Go-Sai-tennō, January 1, 1638 – March 22, 1685) retained the services of a solitary onmyouji named Takeya Masatane. In letters to nobility of the era, Emperor Go-Sai indicated that Takeya Masatane possessed the ability to “manipulate a person’s spirit” and was “essential to the conflict with the Ainu.” The 2012 expedition by the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology revealed in DNA testing that many Ainu who died in battle between 1670 and 1671 had a higher than 60% likelihood of having possessed the Suresh Linkage Complex. While access to Takeya Masatane’s remains were not permitted, it is suspected that Masatane may have had an SLC-Expressive ability that manipulated the abilities of other Expressives.
In 2011 biologist Adrienne Allen, a researcher with the Commonwealth Institute of San Francisco, identified 22 family lines on the island of Hokkaido that possess the Suresh Linkage Complex and trace their lineage back to the island’s original Ainu inhabitants. While Doctor Allen did not finish her research before her disappearance during the Second American Civil War the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology is endeavoring to continue her work into discovering the lineage of SLC-Expressives throughout Japan’s history.

Isis stands before the intricate kimono ensemble, head tilted sharply to the right. “Psychometric ability?” she inquires, voice far off in an only half-interested way as she finds herself leaning in to read the little plaque before this particular display. As she does, her eyes grow wide. “Wait. Did this oracle… give people abilities? Or, just augment something that was pre-existing. Because…” Because, there’s a big friggin’ difference there! She looks back sharply over her shoulder to Kaylee, seeking answers to both questions now.

Kaylee is in the process of finishing up pictures of the one display, when Isis speaks up. The telepath straightens with brows furrowed. “What did you say?” Oracle? Manipulate… ?

While the case she had been at was important, clearly so was the one Isis was in a different way. Kaylee hurries over and her breath catches at the sight of the traditional clothing. There were so many thoughts that rushed through her mind. Nudging asided her friends gently, she reads the plaque. “This… we always assumed….” She looks at Isis and then at the robes again.

In fact, she stares for a long moment, mentally fitting pieces together. This whole mystery was like a puzzle full of all sky pieces. “Eve will flip over this,” murmured before Kaylee lurches into action and starts snapping pictures of it.

“It could mean anything really,” Kaylee finally concludes. “There are so many ways to manipulate abilities, but… I mean maybe this is who gave Kensei his regeneration, since according to that other display,” She motions to the one she was just at, “He worked for the emperor and killed the Ainu people. Maybe when he met Yaeko he changed sides, betraying the oracle… or… or something..”

Speculation is all Kaylee had at the moment. “Come on,” she says with a touch of excited enthusiasm, moving to the next display.

“Yeako?” Isis pops a brow as Kaylee slips away towards the next display. She glances around the exhibit hall with the same cast as someone looking for ghosts. “Does this feel like prying to you…?” A little tick pulls up the left corner of her lips before she hurries after Kaylee…

One long case near the front of the exhibit showcases several different styles of military dress and armor from the 1600s. These half-dozen suits of armor are in immaculate condition for their age and showcase banners and standards depicting the imperial seal of Japan. Most of these suits of armor, all of which are posed on wooden mannequins, stand ready for battle. Though some look to be posed cautious, as if moving into a retreat. At one end of the display is a black plastic plate with white text describing the significance of the armor.

The Imperial Forces
During Shakushain’s Revolt, between 1670 and 1671, Emperor Go-Sai dedicated hundreds of soldiers to take command of the island of Hokkaido following sporadic attacks of indigenous Ainu people against mainland Japanese merchants. Due to tensions across Japan at the time, the Imperial army was not fully mobilized, but rather considerable money was spent financing mercenary armies from Ainu who disagreed with the war for independence and even foreigners. Most notable of these mercenary fighters was Umakashte, described in more detail in display A-7.
Historic accounts of Imperial losses against the Ainu were intentionally diminished. It was only discovered in 2010 that, when taking into account mercenary casualties, the Imperial military of the Tokugawa Shogunate lost nearly 1,000 forces or more engaging Shakushain and his Ainu fighters across Hokkaido. Though the current Japanese government has yet to officially recognize these figures.

Slinking up to the blonde’s side, Isis glances only briefly at the armor before bowing towards the plaque thereon. She squints. “Educational, “she comments dryly enough to leave the ‘but not interesting’ part understood despite being unsaid. She casts a side-eyed glance towards Kaylee to see if her fellow Adam-detective has sleuthed anything she might have missed.

Still hovering nearby, Elaine mostly listens. There’s a lot she doesn’t pick up on—mostly because she’s never been told. What she does know is the history, to a limited extent, and the language with which it was told. Instead of interrupting, she merely lingers, an added asset to understanding some bits of the exhibit. Mostly though, she’s absorbing everything the hears too. It’s what she does.

There is a soft whistle reading the plaque, look at the other two. “Did they saw how big the Ainu army was? Cause, wow.” Isis especially receives an amused grin. “The Ainu were expressive or at least many of them were. So 1000 Japanese soldiers against a few ability blessed people?” Brows lift, Kaylee is clearly impressed.

Looking back at the case, Kaylee’s smile fades a little. “Of course, we have a much more modern example of what our kind can do if we have the right cause.”

Turning to Elaine, Kaylee offers her a smile, “I really appreciate…” Eye flick past her and Kaylee trails off. The case behind their guide pulls her attention and she moves towards it, with a curious expression.

A solitary case just past Kensei’s armor contains a mannequin that stands well over six feet tall, dressed in clothing commonly associated with peasant monks, featuring a loose cape tied around the neck and brandishing a gnarled walking staff. The clothing, mixed with a fur mantle and a bracelet of jade beads, all appears to be of great age. A large placard stands beside the clothing, indicating its importance.

Shakushain was an elder of the Ainu, a man of considerable stature and according to many accounts at least 80 years old. It was Shakushain who unified his people against the encroachment of Imperial Japanese interests in Hokkaido and Shakushain who welcomed Takezo Kensei — long believed to be a former imperial samurai — into the embrace of his people. Shakushain’s granddaughter, Yaeko, is believed to be the basis for the “princess” figure in the story Kensei no Saiban (“Trials of Takezo Kensei”), written in 1720.
Shakushain was assassinated in 1672 one year after the disappearance of Takezo Kensei when, after the Ainu surrender and the signing of a peace treaty, he was confronted along with two of his generals by a samurai named Sato Ganzaemon. Shakushain and his generals were caught unarmed and their bodies left in their own fortress, which Ganzaemon burned to the ground.

“What is it?” Isis lofts a brow at Kaylee’s back, briefly casting this curious expression in a questioning glance towards Elaine, before following in her coconspiritor’s wake. Hazel eyes sweep the monk mannequin as she begins to inquire, “What have we he-…?” But the plaque cuts her inquiry short. One name stands out amidst all the text, as if illuminated from behind.

“Yaeko,” she whispers…

Catching the whisper, Elaine looks back to the display. “You’re familiar with her then?” She, of course, has no reference for Yaeko other than what she’s read and seen from the secondary sources at her disposal. She’s beginning to think that she’s woefully uninformed about all of this, however.

“Her father it seems.. Led it all,” Kaylee murmurs looking over the displayed garb.

Elaine’s question has Kaylee looking over at the other woman. There is a small nod and a smile. “She like Adam… I mean Kensei.” So many names. “Recent events and visions from postcognitives suggest she is alive, just like Kensei is.” Attention shifting back to the display, Kaylee explains to Elaine. “But these same events also points to the Dragon maybe being real too. In what way, I don’t know.”

Kaylee smiles a bit sheepishly at Elaine.”We’ve all been so out of touch with each other since Gun Hill. World went to shit. I fell down a rabbit hole and I often forget not everyone has fallen in, yet.” Shoulders shrug and she can’t help but chuckle, though it lacks some humor. “I kind of ended up fast tracked down by Richard.”

The war gave the siblings plenty of time to sit and talk.

Her attention shifts to the plaque reading it carefully, a soft hmm escapes Kaylee. “He disappear in 1672.” Eyes unfocus thoughtfully, as she moves to shift down to the next display. “I… I wonder if that happened after they drove the Dragon out of Yaeko and into the portal. Being forced to run a sword through someone you love…” Her attention shift to Isis, “I’d probably disappear, too. I know he lived because he was in New York in 1889.” During her long exile.

Then she lets her attention shift to the colorful display showing the life of a people that they could in some ways relate, too.

Nearby to Shakushain’s display is the last long glass case covering one of the wing’s walls. Here, life-like mannequins of dark-skinned men and women in patterned and colorful clothing sit around a campfire, some are playing flute-like musical instruments, others are writing. The men depicted in the scene are all possessed of thick and long beards while women have ornately braided hair. A rectangular display card gives more context to this scene.

The Ainu People
The roots of Shakushain’s revolt lie buried in Japan’s prehistory. The Ainu–the word means “most humanly beings”–are a people of obscure origins whose closest links are with the natives of Siberia. Yet at some point in the distant past there must have been wars between the Ainu and the Japanese, which the Ainu lost. There is evidence, in the form of place-names, that their range once extended deep into the mainland, perhaps even as far south as the latitude of Tokyo itself–but by the first years of the 17th century they were confined to Hokkaido and the Kuril chain, and found themselves under increasing pressure to yield what remained of their commerce to the merchants and the warriors of Japan.
As for the causes of Shakushain’s revolt: There can be no doubt that trade–specifically, Japan’s determination to ensure it got the best of every deal made in Hokkaido–was the trigger. But as tensions on the island rose, threats were made by the outnumbered local Japanese that amounted to promises of genocide. For that reason, the main dispute between historians who study this little-noticed episode revolves around a single question: Is the Ainu’s struggle best be seen as an economic or a racial conflict–or even as a war of independence?
It does not help that the centuries separating the development of an Ainu culture in Hokkaido after 660 from Shakushain’s rebellion in 1669 are only sketchily illuminated, more so by anthropology and archaeology than by the historian’s craft. But it is now generally agreed that the Ainu moshir–”Ainu-land”–remained culturally distinct throughout this period. The Ainu were hunters, not gatherers; they fished for salmon and tracked bear and deer. Religious life centered on shamans and an annual bear festival, during which (it was believed) the divine spirit of a captured bear was freed by sacrificing it. The main exports of Ainu-land were hawks, bears’ livers and dried fish, which were exchanged for metalware, lacquer bowls, sake and the rice that was so hard to grow in northern latitudes. Meanwhile, the Japanese presence on Hokkaido remained almost entirely confined to a tiny enclave on the island’s southernmost promontory.
The Japanese government in the late 19th century—which was in the midst of a revolution to modernize and Westernize the country—instituted the Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act. This was a bid to force the Ainu to assimilate, for example, by granting them small plots of land to get them to farm instead of carrying on with the fishing and hunting that they were long used to. They were also prohibited from speaking the Ainu language and had to speak Japanese instead. Over a century of discrimination of Ainu people ensured and continued for generations.
According to the Hokkaido government’s “Survey on the Ainu Living Conditions” conducted in 2013, there are about 17,000 Ainu living in modern-day Japan, although the Ainu Association of Hokkaido estimates the number to be larger than that as that survey was not conducted nationwide, and the survey only counts those who self-identify as Ainu. Only as of 2018 is a political movement in Japan gaining momentum to officially recognize the Ainu as the original indigenous people of Japan.

Isis had not heard the name Yaeko until Kaylee had mentioned it only moments before. And then, there it was in text. Isis follows after her blonde friend in a bit of a stupor, belatedly putting together the information of all the plaques into a convoluted jig-saw that creates only a partial, abstract image of Kensei. It’s barely recognizable as the Adam she knew so little of in 2009. She doesn’t even seem to notice much of this particular, colorful display case - simply going through the motions of snapping a few camera shots on her phone.

Kaylee for her part is completely fascinated, as she finally beholds a representation of the Ainu. Her head and phone dip down to capture and read about the display. Then slowly she looks up again.

“You know,” Kaylee starts, looking to Elaine, “They say that anyone with blue eyes can trace back their genetics to a single individual.” A hand motions to the mannequins, her attention shifting back, her tone awed. “I wonder if it is the same for us. Are we related to the Ainu through a single individual, born somewhere around Siberia? Wonder if there is a thesis out there about is… or maybe that book from that Suresh guy.”

Kaylee may have to visit the library for a copy.

Seeing Isis’ eyes practically glazing over and the fact that they have kept Elaine for far too long, Kaylee looks around for more.

With only one display left, Kaylee and the others are left to focus on a vertical tapestry depicting several individuals dressed in the traditional attire of Japanese nobility shielding their eyes as they stand in a garden of cherry-blossom trees. A figure, dressed much as the Imperial Onmoyuji in another display, holds his flat wooden scepter aloft to point to the top of the tapestry where an eclipse is depicted. Beside the tapestry, a placard describes the scene in more detail.

The Eclipse of 1671
This tapestry, believed to be crafted between 1675 and 1680, depicts a well-documented total solar eclipse over the island of Japan in the year 1671. The eclipse coincided with the height of violence in Shakushain’s Revolt and a mounting death toll of Imperial forces on the island. While the eclipse was visible from the capital of Edo, it was viewed in totality directly over Hokkaido.
No record remains of the Ainu perspective on the eclipse, however, imperial onmoyuji Takeya Masatane is recorded as describing the event as “a moment in which all of our worst fears are realized.” Masatane likened the eclipse to the mythological disappearance of the sun goddess Amaterasu into a deep cave and advised the Shogunate to withdraw from Hokkaido. Against Masatane’s wishes, imperial forces pushed into Hokkaido and were massacred in the battle of Jigokudani where nearly 700 imperial soldiers were slain and their bodies left in the valley as a message to the Shogunate.

And that, disjointed as it is, appears to be the story of Takezo Kensei. In as much as history is either willing to admit, or is aware of. In spite of all of this, Kaylee is left feeling a sense of something unfinished, a story left to be told. Why did Kensei disappear during the revolt? Where did he go? And how much of the story of the Dragon, as written, is true?

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