It had been many weeks since the services of once-respected samurai Yamanaka Yukimori had been required by his lords. Certainly, he had started off as a ronin, so this lifestyle in which he now found himself was familiar, but still, he had gotten somewhat used to having people rely on him, so this lack of action, lack of contact with his superiors entirely, had driven him to melancholy. Thus, he found himself patrolling the forests around Wakigami with increasing frequency. There were always bandits or minor Youkai that needed driving away, especially in this wooded, mountainous terrain, and so Yukimori tried to keep his sword arm sharp by dealing with these pests. Today's expedition had brought him further than before; a day's travel from the city, and almost to the borders of Ise province. Having prepared for such a trip, he had brought along some rudimentary camping supplies, and intended to stay the night outside and see what he could find before returning to the castle the following day. As he pitched his small, but serviceable tent, however, Yukimori heard a sound coming from the woods to the side of his clearing. Splashing, laughing, and the voices of people making merry. True, the sun was setting, but this place was also near a major road between Yamato, Shima and Ise. If these were bandits camped here, they would present a major threat to trade between the three provinces. Regardless, a good samurai would investigate in the name of his lord. [At this point the player may assume direct control of Yukimori. He is torn between his loyalty to the Hashinara, which had given him purpose, and the more freewheeling lifestyle that he had before becoming an official samurai, and which he now finds himself falling back into. Other than that, Yukimori's personality is up for interpretation. Please enjoy.]
His duty, along with his sense of curiosity, were reason enough to investigate. Grabbing his katana as he exited his tent, Yukimori slowly made his way toward the source of all this merry making. Who could possibly be making all this noise so close to sunset, he thought to himself. Bandits could be within the realm of possibility, but with the amount of racket being made led him to believe otherwise. The only group of bandits of such volume that he had encountered recently were part of Ichikawa Goemon's "Thieves of Justice." And as far as he was concerned they were off on clan business. At least they've been given work , was all he could think of. With the exception of the tournament (which he had entered on his own), he hadn't received any orders from his current employer in quite some time. And who would request services of a samurai who can't even hold his own in mock combat? The memories of his last few bouts weighed heavily on his mind. The moon began rising as Yukimori's musing slowed his approach. Realizing this he attempted to push those thoughts from his mind as he focused on his current task. He could now see a the light shining a short distance off. As he got closer the voices he heard were becoming clearer. While he still couldn't determine the number of voices, he could now make out that there seemed to be just as many women speaking as there were men. Feeling he had gotten close enough Yukimori cautiously place his hand on the handle of his blade. The view of what was happening just within reach, he was about to step forward but was stopped in his tracks by a snapping branch behind him. He spun around as quick as he could just in time to see...
Behind Yukimori stood a short girl, her head level with the samurai's chest, with dark skin and pointed ears poking out through long black hair. She wore an odd combination of red silk fashions that he had never seen before, and bore heavy iron shackles around her arms and legs, the chains on them snapped midway through and now dangling freely. As he finished his turn, and before he could react, Yukimori saw that she was partway through a spinning kick, her heel smashing into his face with a sickening "crack". Staggering to the side, both from the force of the blow, and the added weight of the shackle, he briefly caught sight of a surprised-looking ashigaru guard, his back to a small spring in which several women bathed, one of them bearing a prodigious pair of horns on her head... Everything went black. An interminable time later, Yukimori awoke to a bizarre scene. The foliage and trees about him were still there, but they had a ghostly, ephemeral quality, and the landscape seemed to be painted in washed-out shades of black and white. Behind him, the spring still bubbled, now colorless, but it seemed as though there was no-one around. Indeed, the forest itself was strangely silent, the normal sounds of animal life, even the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, completely absent.
His head still reeling in pain from such a profound kick, Yukimori slowly got to his feet. The already bizarre scenery spinning as he stood up. Assuming his current vision was a side effect of the blow, Yukimori took a few moments to close his eyes and allow the dizziness to subside. Unfortunately for him, this did nothing to change what he could see. Sensing that something strange was afoot he reached for his blade, to which he grabbed empty space. His heart sunk slightly as he surveyed the ground in front him. Perhaps his attacker removed his weapon. As if she would need a use for it with a kick that strong, he concluded. Come to think of it, who were those people. I could only make out three of them. What was that soldier doing with them? Bah, I have no time for this I need to find my katana. Once again lost in thought, it was some time before Yukimori noticed the flickering flower petals that were falling from behind him. Spinning around with the intention of checking for his sword behind him, he was met with a dazzling sight. Amongst all the black and white silence, stood a glowing tsubaki tree in full bloom, its flowers casting a pale pink light. Standing in awe at this wonder as well as having his suspicions of the nature of this tree, Yukimori watched as many petals continued to fall silently, losing their glow as they landed upon the forest floor. Perhaps those people were here to gaze upon this sight, he considered. Strange though, I thought these trees stopped blooming once summer began. A flicker of light caught Yukimori's eye as he spotted his katana embedded with some of the thicker branches. "Ah, there you are... how hard did that girl kick me?" It didn't matter to him. He needed to get back to his tent so that he could return to Yamato and report this evenings discovery. Grabbing hold of his sword, he yanked on it with enough strength to remove it from the bark's clutches in a single draw. The eerie silence was suddenly broken with an small, "kya!" Immediately followed with several soft blows to his throbbing head. At the same time the light produced by the tree flickered as a small gust of wind blew into Yukimori causing him to shield his eyes. Suddenly the forest was awash with the noise of small creatures and the rustling of the trees. And as he opened his eyes once more, the world seemed to regain its color. Thoroughly confused at this he quickly gathered himself together and began to move toward his camp. However, something made him stop and turn towards the tsubaki tree. The glow it had so prominently held in that darkness was now signficantly dimmer, and there were gashes where his sword had lay moments before. Why am I stopping? Clearly something is wrong with this tree. For all I know it was the one who placed me in that dark place. And yet even if it had darkened the world to him, it was his blade that truck the tree (his fault or not). Against his better judgement, Yukimori returned to the tree, tearing cloth from his sleeve. He then proceeded to cover the trees "wounds" before saying a small prayer and hastily retreating to his tent. Moments after he was gone a small figure leapt down from a tree a short distance away. The sound of the forest overshadowing the sound her chains as she came to the patchwork tree coverings. She muttered a few words to the tree before jumping into the darkness, leaving the clearing as if nothing had taken pass.
Yukirmori hastily made his way through the underbrush, to the point where he remembered making camp. As he burst from the foliage, however, what greeted him was not his small tent and campfire, but rather a long, beautiful beach, water and sand sparkling in the noonday sun. That made no sense; the coast should be several miles south from where he set up for the night. Night. That was another word that didn't fit right. The sun was now directly overhead, casting brilliant light over the glittering strand before him. It hadn't been that way in the forest, had it? Sure enough, there was a thick wood behind him, though the foliage seemed more healthy and vibrant than he remembered. In the distance, he could make out a tall mountain range, but it was mostly obscured by a thick ring of clouds, and he had trouble making out any details. To his left, down the beach, was what looked like a town or city, with architecture the likes of which Yukimori had never seen. Tall, squarish buildings with large, open windows and constructed from what looked like hard-packed clay from this distance. From the cluster of buildings, a series of docks extended haphazardly out into the water, their crisscrossing shapes reminiscent of a tangled tree's branches. On his opposite side, the coast continued for a time before rising into a series of stark cliffs, against which the waves beat violently.
Perhaps I should have have just remained unconscious , Yukimori thought to himself as he surveyed this new scenery. Strangeness aside this was much more preferable to the darkness and deathly quiet space he somehow escaped from. Seeing that his camp was no longer here, Yukimori decided to head towards the many buildings on his left. After all, buildings must mean civilization right?
As Yukimori approaches the buildings, they begin to come into clearer focus. They are indeed, as they had appeared, made of packed clay, and seem to lack anything resembling modern architecture, instead resembling tall, featureless cubes with open windows and doors. These constructions are connected by shoddily-paved dirt roads, leading out onto the rickety docks and the simple-looking boats moored there. Overall, the whole town looks quite primitive. "Halt! Who are you?!" The voice comes from Yukimori's left. A tall, dark-skinned man has appeared from the foliage, and is glaring at the samurai from his slightly-raised elevation. He has long, black hair, parted by pointed ears which extend sideways from his head at a slight angle, and is entirely naked from the waist up. The man's lower half is covered by a light tan cloth sarong reaching to his bare feet, and he holds a well-made, if simple, obsidian spear loosely at his hip. He eyes Yukimori with no small amount of suspicion, but does not make any immediate moves.