" Excuse me, Sanosuke-dono. I know you're busy, but do you have a moment to talk?" Amenotokotachi's mental transmission comes out of nowhere and, despite her courteous opening, is still surprising. The elegant Kyonshi usually doesn't speak unless spoken to, for whatever reasons she may have.
"Ame-chan?" Of course he was busy--there was no end to the list of things to do at Wakigami, in addition to Sanosuke's own obligations. But Amenokototachi had always been both loyal and dependable. At least since she was captured after shooting Sanosuke in the chest with her ki beam. Whatever it was she wanted to talk about, Sanosuke was not only curious, but he felt it was the least he could do for his faithful sniper bodyguard. "Not at all. I've always got time for my favorite kyonshi. Where are you at the moment?"
" Just behind you, Sanosuke-dono. " Sure enough, the Kyonshi steps out from a shadow in the hallway, just behind Sanosuke. Amenotokotachi certainly isn't known for her sense of humor, but she looks almost sheepish now, as though this might be her idea of a joke.
Sanosuke turns to the not-sound of the not-voice. "As expected, Ame-chan. If I didn't know you so well, you might have caught me by surprise", the Hashinara general responds with a grin. "Maybe next time!", he adds playfully. It felt good to know, despite her quiet nature, that they had come far enough that he was able to anticipate her now and then. Though Sanosuke had to admit, he didn't actually sense her presence in the slightest. "I said that, but it could be... troublesome if she did make a habit of it. I wouldn't stand a chance in most cases. I don't know if I could handle the sort of constant shenanigans Ooawagaeri seems to experience with his... associates." While it was true that Amenotokotachi was to act as Sanosuke's bodyguard, being this close, and once again reminded of the difference in their sizes, the considerably larger warrior couldn't help but feel protective of his, however capable, seemingly fragile subordinate. "I hope she's not in some sort of trouble. Or maybe she's decided to open up about herself? Kanetsugu-san, Uma, and Kamimusubi all have such personalities, it's easy to forget they weren't always as they are now. But with Ame-chan, it's been on my mind for a while. Whether from before her life as a kyonshi or since, I'm excited for the chance to finally learn more about her. Maybe I should ask the others about their history sometime, too. " "Well, now that you've found me, what is it you wanted to talk about?"
" It's not easy to talk about this, but I've been having dreams lately. Strange dreams - more like visions. I think they're from when I... wasn't this. " She motions to herself as she finishes the last sentence, though without any visible emotion, as though she's simply stating a fact. " We lose our memories when we become Kyonshi, and I've never heard of them coming back, but still, I 'remember' a house in Nankoku, and I always see a book. It's probably not still there, not after everything that happened, but I think I'd like to check. I want to know who I was before I died. " Amenotokotachi stops, seemingly remembering herself after what was surely the longest she's "spoken" at once since joining the clan. " If that is acceptable to you, Sanosuke-dono. I wished to get your permission first, of course. "
"Visions?" It occurred to Sanosuke that allowing Amenotokotachi to pursue her memories might prove neither safe nor satisfying for her. There was no way to know for sure though. If this hasn't happened to the other kyonshi, how was he--or anyone--to know what to say? On one hand, Amenotokotachi may learn or remember something painful that was better left forgotten. On the other hand, she may find something priceless to herself. Or maybe nothing will happen at all. And what would the consequences of that be? Disappointment? Despair? Indifference? "I want what's best for Ame-chan, but she's already made up her mind." Of course, there was no permission to give, but there was something he could do. At the very least, Sanosuke would do that. Nankoku was within their territory, and Fujino could take them there in no time. "If that's how you feel, Ame-chan, please allow me to accompany you. And there's no need to be so formal when it's just the two of us. 'Sanosuke' is fine. Are you ready now? I'm sure Fujino-chan isn't too busy to take us to there. Would you like to call her or shall I?" Sanosuke didn't know for sure if Amenotokotachi communicated with anyone else that often. Maybe she was shy, or maybe it was just hard to tell. He didn't want to push her too far outside her comfort zone all at once, but if he gave her the choice, maybe that would make things easier. The general extended a reassuring hand to the kyonshi as he spoke, hoping there was still some light to be found in the bleak, void-consumed lands to the west.
Amenotokotachi nods slowly. " I will contact her. This is something I want to do, so I'll take responsibility for this at least. " She still seems tentative, almost exceedingly polite, but there is also something else, perhaps a hint of determination now that Sanosuke has given his approval. The Kyonshi remains still, her eyes sharp, but downcast, red hair hanging loosely around the empty space where her right ear should be. Presumably she is communicating with Fujino, but she gives no outward indication that this is the case. A moment later, the sharp outrush of air that normally accompanies a teleport heralds the arrival of Fujino. "Fujino-chan is here!" she proclaims with her normal jubilancy, hands clasped vertically in front of her, "It's rare of you to contact me, Ame-chan, but I'm happy to take you wherever you need to go. I assume you'll be coming along, Sanosuke-san? There's room for one more!"
Sanosuke grins at Fujino's arrival. "That's right, Fujino-chan." He extends his other hand to the telepath. " I'm glad Fujino-chan will be going with us. It might be good to have her around if things get... if things don't go as I'd like. That is, if Ame-chan doesn't mind having her around while we investigate in the first place." Hoping to keep things light, Sanosuke maintains his smile and addresses the kyonshi directly, "Two of the Hashinara's finest, at your service, my lady. Ready when you are!"
" Thank you, Sanosuke-dono. I truly appreciate your assistance. " A flicker of what might have been a smile appears briefly on Amenotokotachi's face, before she turns and places her hand elegantly on Fujino's outstretched palm. The psychic extends her other arm and clasps Sanosuke's outstretched arm before grinning cheerfully. "And we're off! Thank you for choosing Fujino for your transportation needs. Next stop is Nankoku!" There's a familiar flash of light, a disorienting lurch, and the group is suddenly in another location. The ground beneath Sanosuke's feet is chalky and white, shards of black mixed in with the barren earth. Bone-white structures. rise about them, framed against tall, stony walls. It seems the party has teleported into what remains of Nankoku Castle. "Nankoku!" Fujino confirms, releasing her two passengers, "It's just as uh... rustic! Yes, just as rustic as I remember!" Before either can respond, a sharp, bestial grunt and an accompanying shuffling sound cut through the air. Fujino's exclamation appears to have alerted something else in the ruins, something behind one of the nearby crumbling buildings.
Nankoku Castle. This land devoid of life looks just the same as it had been left after the close of the rift and the end of the campaign against the one who called herself Amenominakanushi. Few had any reason to disturb the ruins, after all. Before Sanosuke could answer Fujino's confirmation, there was a sound audible nearby. "A wild beast?" The Silver General instinctively moves to position himself between the source of the grunt and the two women accompanying him as his hand reaches for the hilt of his nodachi. It could be nothing of consequence, but Sanosuke wasn't taking any chances. After all they'd seen, he wouldn't be surprised if this area was now producing hungry, twisted, void-creatures. Remembering what the energy around here was capable of, he takes a more defensive stance as he draws, prepared to face any threat to the party with the intention of keeping it busy while Amenotokotachi dispatched it safely from a distance.
As Sanosuke takes his defensive stance, Amenotokotachi silently fades into the shadows behind him. Just to the side, Fujino puts her finger to her lips and winks before vanishing as well, presumably teleported to safety. No sooner has she done this than something ponderously stalks around the side of the building, grunting and sniffing as it comes. As it passes out of the shadow and into the light, the creature's form is revealed. It stands like a human, though it is slightly taller than Sanosuke even with its hunched-over, loping gait. Straw-colored hair, or possibly fur, erupts from its head and back in an blast of brittle shards extending backward, and its emaciated figure is mostly covered by a dirty, faded blue robe, tattered around the edges. Visible beneath this is the thing's feet, human-like but hairy and gnarled, and its viciously-clawed hands, one of which is holding a long, rusted cleaver-like blade. Most distressing, however, is the creature's face, or, rather, the lack thereof. Over where its head surely must be among that mane of stiff hair, the thing wears a traditional Noh theater mask, painted entirely white except for pink blushes on the cheeks and a disconcerting red smile on its lips. The creature turns to Sanosuke and does not immediately react, passively watching him through the eyeholes of its mask. " Say the word and I will exterminate it, Sanosuke-dono. " Amenotokotachi's quiet assurance runs through his mind.
This is not what Sanosuke expected, nor is it what he would call a pleasant alternative, considering the creature's features. " Is it... human? " Its form might entice like humanoids to think interaction with it possible. But after Sanosuke's few encounters with Void Magic so far, he does not believe any such assumptions should be made. However, since it also hasn't attacked them outright, he decides a cautious attempt at communication is within reason... this time. " But can it understand our speech? " It seemed a fair question, at first. As Sanosuke took in its garb, gripped cleaver, and Noh mask, however, he realizes this must be a being of some intelligence. " Or perhaps a thrall of such a being. I wonder if Ooawagaeri might actually be useful in this situation... " It couldn't be helped. The Black Blade was invariably away on other missions or mysteriously absent from network communications. "Let's try something else first, Ame-chan." "Hey, Noh mask-san!", Sanosuke shouts, loud enough to be heard, but not so much that the creature watching them should be startled. Keeping his weapon up, though directed to the side to indicate defense rather than hostility, the general hopes his nonverbal cues will have meaning if his words do not. "What business do you have here?"
The creature before Sanosuke begins shaking as a hoarse, rasping sound escapes from its throat. After a moment, it becomes apparent that the thing is laughing. It turns toward the Silver General and allows the hand holding its cleaver to drop limply to its side. The Noh mask bobbing up and down in jerky motions, it speaks with a voice like crushed gravel against metal. "You not attack me? Human is brave," the brittle, hay-like mane of hair around its face crinkles loudly as it cocks its head, "This my territory. What your business?" " No other creatures in the area, Sanosuke-dono, " Amenotokotachi's voice echoes in his head at the same time. Though he can't sense the Kyonshi, she's likely to have found a high place from which to survey the area and snipe any hostiles if it becomes necessary.
As expected, it speaks. And, as expected, it is not immediately friendly. "At least we're talking though." The maned and masked thing might talk like Baby Huey, but Sanosuke has a feeling this one would warrant a different sort of approach. As its arm drops to its side, the general, too, lets fall his defensive posture, shouldering his nodachi. It is a strange being, true. But now, Sanosuke feels certain it is at least reasonably intelligent. Many normal creatures--even some humans--would not associate restraint with "bravery". To it, attacking without cause is the act of a dastard, the general surmises. "Well, he's not wrong. And now we're getting somewhere..." Upon Amenotokotachi's assurance that the coast was clear, Sanosuke is reminded how strange it is not to feel her presence as she comes and goes. He wonders if he'll ever get used to that. "Thanks, Ame-chan. By the way, do either of you know if this guy might be some kind of youkai?" Fujino was certainly an expert on this sort of thing, but maybe there was a chance Amenotokotachi will remember it as resembling something local to the area. As he awaits their response, the red-eyed Demon of Yamato decides to try offering his opponent some respect, sheathing his weapon completely. "'Your territory'? In that case, pardon our intrusion." Sanosuke steps forward, offering his open arms. "We've come here because my dear friend is hoping to retrieve something from back when she lived here. Mind if we take a look around?"