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1082405 No. 1082405 ID: 909c07

Your watching your life flash before your eyes.

That must mean you are dying, doesn't it? That moment of everything you are, your entire existence, being laid bare before you, the weight of your soul to be judged by the God of Death. The very thought has you feeling melancholy, strangely profound it this moment between life and death.

What comes first is a dream, it must be. For you recall no memory like this. An endless, empty Void, nothing and everything. You feel, for a moment, profoundly calm, as everything must be. A moment later, flashes of insight, of a scene that plays out before your eyes, that you cannot help but watch with eyes wide in wonder and amazement.

There, underneath a shining sun, who light fills the heavens and gives life, you see seven great beasts. There, a hardy Crab, standing firm upon the shore, waving its claws as if to stave off the waves with force of will alone. There, a Crane, regal and beautiful, preening its feathers and judging all around it. Opposite, a fierce Lion, roaring its challenge with fangs bared, daring all to face it in battle. There still, a patient Dragon atop the mountains, gazing heavenward, pondering questions it shall never answer. There beside it, a brilliant Phoenix, feather alight like fire, the elements themselves answering its call. In the shadows a Scorpion scuttles, stinger poised to strike, and yet for all its menace it bears a solemn duty to be what it is. There, finally, a swift Unicorn, galloping across the open plain, wild and free and ever curious for what lays just beyond the horizon.

All of them call to your soul, sing to you of a place to belong. And you remember this dream, now that it has played out before you. You remember this dream... and you remember answering this call.

>To which great beast did you give your soul?
No. 1082406 ID: eb0a9c

You craved the beauty that came from the blossoming phoenix.
No. 1082407 ID: e54389

He who has command of the sea has command of everything. So crab is gud.
No. 1082408 ID: 1371b2

A part of me wants to go Crab but I think I’ll follow Kome and go Phoenix.
No. 1082409 ID: d6a776

All evolutionary roads lead to crab, this is far more destiny rather than mere choice.
No. 1082411 ID: ab6c3e

crab is crab so crab for crab
No. 1082412 ID: 5ebd37

The resolute crab, steadfast in the face of change
No. 1082414 ID: 99ca7b

Burny Birb
No. 1082415 ID: 19ea25

The honor of the Lion is being besmirched! The golden fields of the Lion are the true face of honor.
No. 1082418 ID: 909c07

The Crab welcomes you, your soul taking its place along the shore. It's claws snap at every wave, an impossible task. And yet still its stands firm and unyielding. You knew not why it faced such hardship, seemingly alone. But now it would not be, for your soul was with it, even as a great wave rises up to swallow you both-

The scene changes, shifts around you, and it is not a cresting wave that threatens to swallow the shore, but a great evil, a foul tainted land that stretches out before you, creatures of twisted, unholy origin throwing themselves uncaring against a great wall that you stand upon. Their bodies pile high, reaching ever upwards, and they clamber up towards you, screaming for your blood, your life, your very soul.

The Crab is no longer a Crab, but a Warrior, adorned in armor of deepest blue, in his hands a great club of solid wood and studded jade, shining brilliant green against the foul black of this place. He bellows defiance as the things drag themselves over the wall, and you bellow with him, charging foward to bring death to these things that should not be-

The Crab is no longer a Crab, but a Scout, dressed in simple armor, a bow in her hands. She stalks beyond the distant wall, silent and skilled, passing without notice by these things that would hunt her. Her dour face speaks of great loss, but still she presses on, grim duty giving strength where hope falters. You stalk with her, hunting, not for the death of these endless evils, but for knowledge, that your brothers and sisters might know when they shall come-

The Crab is no longer a Crab, but a Crafter, hunched over a bench, working tirelessly at his craft. By his hands great engines of war take shape, all the better to rain death upon the evil that cannot be ended. By his hands, the greatest of walls stands firm, given life by endless toil and repair. By his hands, steel is remade into armor and blade. You work beside him, ever curious and ever working, never to stop so long as need of your crafts remains-

The Crab is no longer a Crab, but Priest, face painted with colors of death and strange patterns. The tainted things are horror beyond words, but still he captures them, studies them, risks his own eternal soul for just that one more scrap of knowledge that might save a hundred others. He walks this path alone, and yet never alone, for the spirits of Earth answer his call, rise up to defend him, strengthen him, and banish the evil back from whence it came. You study them as well, knowing your soul shall someday be lost, but that your sacrifice will protect others-

The Crab is no longer a Crab, but a Merchant who was once a Crane. Her feathers, once bright white, are now stained black. But she has chosen her allegiance, sworn herself to be as the Crab, and turns her honeyed words to a task as necessary as any. Others shall fight and die. She shall ensure they can, bringing food and steel and holy jade through hard won deals and, if necessary, any means she must. You stand beside her, do all you can to supply your brothers and sisters what they need, and knowing it shall never be enough-

The Crab is a Crab once more. It's duty is known to you, as if it was always known. You would be the defenders of all against evils untold. You would sacrifice everything to shield others, no matter the cost. Never would you falter in this grim, thankless duty, and none shall question your resolve. But many is the tasks to carry out this duty...

>Who shall you stand with?
No. 1082421 ID: 7e9e02

Scout or Priest: explore those tainted lands, get that forbidden knowledge.
No. 1082422 ID: 53ec7d

Priest or Merch seem most likely to have a positive strategic impact on this.
No. 1082428 ID: eb0a9c

The crab does not face the ocean, he waits for the hungry ocean to come to his niche.

No. 1082429 ID: 5ebd37

crafter or merchant, the stalwart crab supports the others
No. 1082430 ID: 1667b2

Scout if Hiruma Bushi is an option, Warrior if not.
No. 1082431 ID: 7c0da2

Scout. Let's uncover the secrets of this tainted land.
No. 1082501 ID: 909c07

You would wander the tainted lands, track the creatures that roamed it. Know them for what they were, know their number and intent. So that the those on the wall would always be ready for what comes. So that no force of evil things would ever take your brothers and sisters by surprise. To be the forward scouts, the hunters, the grim faced heralds of doom.

Such was the duty of the Hiruma.

You remember your early life. Being taught what it meant to be a child of the Hiruma. Learning to hunt with silent steps, to slip across the land unseen. Learned to traverse the land on memory alone, to see trails and pathways where no one else could. To shoot a bow with uneering accuracy, and maintain what tolls you had with limited resources. To survive off nothing but what wit, skill and your bow could provide. Before your eighth summer, you had spent time alone in the wilderness of the Crab lands, left there by your parents, simply another test among dozens to prove yourself ready for more, for the skills that would let you survive in a place that had nothing to survive on.

You were taught all that it meant to be Hiruma. The good... and the bad. You were taught of what had been stolen from your family, from your people. The tainted things swarming like locusts over your family's lands. Despoiling all they touched, ruining what had belonged to the Hiruma. Taught of all that your family so desperately wished to recover. Told tales of Daylight Castle, the ancestral seat of power for your family, left a ruin of itself within the Shadowlands, taunting each and every member of your family. Burdened with the knowledge that until your family had recovered all that it had lost, no Hiruma would ever be whole. Your family had no home, no place in the world, existing as guests among other families.You were instilled with the same grim understanding that all your family shared. The same grim resolve the someday your family would return to its home, would chase those evils from Daylight Castle.

As you grew older, your training truly began. You were taught of the Shadowlands, that tainted realm that lay beyond the Wall. You were taught of the creatures that existed in that twisted place, the creatures that craved your life and screamed for your eternal soul. You were taught how to hunt them, as one might a rabbit, to stalk them as they stalked you. You were taught to live in a place that hated life, where the very air was as poison, and all things within sought to kill.

You remember the moment of your gempukku, your coming of age. You were sent alone into that place of pure evil, told to return with knowledge of your foes or a relic of your lost family. You remember the first day, slipping like a shadow, the wall growing smaller and smaller behind you. Slipping past things that made your blood run cold and your breath catch in your throat. You remember the first night, huddled in a small outcropping, staving off sleep through will and determination, for to sleep is to die. You remember flickering lights in the distance, the roars and screeches of monsters in the dark.

You remember stirring the as the sun struggled to cut through the eternal gloom of this cursed place. Of searching the ground around you, seeking the signs you'd known all your life to seek. Finding them, prints in the broken ground, evidence of no small number moving across the land. Such numbers, and where they traveled, would prove worthy information, and could serve the Clan.

Yet still, as you collected your gear, your gaze finds itself drawn to the distant horizon, and there lies Daylight Castle. It stands stark against the horizon, a wound that cuts deep into your soul. Within are doubtlessly lost pieces of Hiruma's legacy, be they relics or knowledge of what once was. A tempting prize all it's own, to restore some small fragment of what had been taken from your family...

>Where did your steps take you that day?
No. 1082544 ID: eb0a9c

A mishap, leading to a discovery.
The ground gave way. You barely managed to avoid the spikes at the bottom - though you cracked a few bones. But what you found at the bottom; it was beyond your wildest dreams.

Some kind of weapon. Like a crossbow, but with the bow stripped out, and covered in a white, hardened slime. And when you tapped the trigger - pure power. Surging forth, carving open a path back to the surface. You could conquer the castle - you could conquer the Shadowlands entire! The whole world would bow before you as you took the throne!

And then, to your horror, you discovered it stopped working. Nothing you did could make it You had wasted all its spell charges on testing.

How long must you search these cursed lands before you find some way to restore it?

(Depleted Plasma Carbine - can perform an intimidation check on the denizens of the Shadowlands, but it's an inert piece of weird, flimsy art otherwise)
No. 1082762 ID: 2ffbb3

For a journey deep into the shadowlands, you'll need the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Ask those scouts who have been canny enough to make it to old age.

Or if it was what to find: A scroll, though the latter half of it has been daubed on by a monstrous hand.
No. 1082764 ID: 7c0da2

You went toward Daylight Castle, knowing very well it was foolish.
Your steps took you to a graveyard, though you didn't noticed at first, until your foot shattered a skull, the empty orbits of one of your ancestors staring reproachfully at you.
No. 1083005 ID: 909c07

Before you had set out into the corrupted lands beyond, you had visited with those who had come before. Other scouts, masters of their craft all, who had survived into their old age. A rarity for any who served the Crab, for death in battle or corruption by the tainted lands were far more common a fate. But still, there were the few that managed it somehow, most serving as teachers for the next generation. It was to one of these that you gave deference, asking for advice, knowledge of the things beyond. Though he had little knowledge to give you, not least because this was to be a test of all you had already learned, he offered advice, one final bit of wisdom before your solo journey into the Shadowlands.

"Move swift as the wind, young Hiruma, and remeber: trust nothing in the Shadowlands, for all shall seek your death."

Advice you kept close to your heart, as your steps guided you onward. The temptation of Daylight Castle was too much, the honor of retrieving some ancient relic of the family a prize you could not resist. It was foolhardy, surely a death sentence, but it was a journey you would make all the same. Time in this dark place was difficult as ever to tell, ashen clouds blocking the sight of the great sun above, as if to cut off all help that might guide you. But still you pressed on, a silent shadow across the tainted earth.

There was no discernable moment that the ground shifted beneath you, even as you move closer and closer to your destination. One moment earthen soil, tainted though it may have been. The next, your footsteps crunch bone beneath your weight. You stumble slightly at the shift in terrain, but regain your balance. Investigation proves nearly too much for you: the bones of uncounted numbers, strewn across the ground like some macabre graveyard. The peoples of the Emerald Empire hadn't buried their dead for centuries, the threat of blood magic, or the taint itself, raising the dead in some unholy desecration of life too great. This sight... you steeled yourself, all too aware there would be far worse things for you to contend with in your life. Even as you continued on, so tantalizingly close to Daylight Castle, you couldn't help the feeling that the dessicated skulls all about you were your ancestors, judging your choice to go to your lost home...

It was nearing nightfall once more when you finally reached the outskirts of Daylight Castle. All know that your ancient home belongs fully to the Shadowlands. On approach, it loomed in the slowly deepening darkness, it's shadowed windows seeming to peer into the tainted lands around it. Flickering lights could be spotted here and there, as if the castle was occupied. No living thing exists within now... at least, no living thing that could be considered human. It was well and truly dark by the time you reached the castle gates, only ever so slightly ajar. Within, the courtyard was laid bare, eerily silent, nothing moving within... and yet you felt all the same as if someone, or something, was watching you.

Despite this, the open courtyard of Daylight Castle was easily traversed, its shadowed crevises providing ample hiding places. The doors to the castle's main hall lay broken and shattered, permanently open to the elements. You'd slipped into the chamber quietly, keeping as silent as possible. The interior could only be described as horrific. The walls seemed covered in outstretched hands made of bone, the smell of sickly sweet death hanging in the air. It had taken all your resolve to keep from retching, your hands gripping your weapon in a white knuckle grip, every sense stretched to the limit, seeking anything that might scream of danger.

You had sensed nothing... but you remembered much, and remembered that old sensei's advice. Trust nothing. You had needed to move, anywhere but out in the open. A quick glance identified a number of direction to go, looming out of the gloom.

>To the right, what must have been the remnants of the armory.
>to the left, what appears to be a temple, seemingly untouched.
>Ahead of you, a stairway leading farther up into Daylight Castle.
>A decision had to be made. Where did you go?
No. 1083006 ID: eb0a9c

Raid the temple of its sacred object.
No. 1083009 ID: 00869e

To the temple, surely even the creatures of the Shadowlands couldn't have fully defiled it.
No. 1083091 ID: 7c0da2

There is no way the temple is still untouched, not after all this time in the middle of the Shadowlands. "Trust nothing", you sensei said. But no place is safe in here anyway, so you might as well go and take a careful look at it. Even if it ends up being an illusion, it might retain something of its former glory. Just don't be lured into a false sense of security.
No. 1083164 ID: 909c07

You moved swiftly yet cautiously, calling on every moment of your training as you stepped further into the once home of your family. Senses screamed at you of the dangers of this place, of the horrors that could be inflicted upon your eternal soul should you fall here. But all the same, you could not bear to leave now, not without recovering something to return to your family, to restore just that small bit of your family's lost heritage. The temple had been your first thought, there had been no other choice. It appeared untouched from a distance, and it's only the words of your sensei that had kept your wits about you, despite the seemingly untouched nature of the small building.

The thin, rice paper door had been shut tight, and it took a hefty pull to loosen it enough to open far enough to slip inside yourself. Within, the old, single room temple appears undisturbed by anything. Dust covers every surface, a thick blanket that swirls slightly as your feet disturb the room for the first time. As soon as you'd cross the threshold, you had felt that sense of all consuming foreboding vanish, that feeling of something watching you fall away, and your first shaky breath within the confines of the temple seem somehow lighter and less difficult. You had been suffused with the feeling of safety, warmth and comfort. A quick investigation of the room had revealed a small shrine, a single candle still somehow lit upon its surface, its dedications difficult to make out in the dim light, but still clearly venerating the Celestial Heavens above. Paper charms are plastered along the walls and beams, and though you couldn't make any sense of them you could recognize a shugenja's work. This place had, by all appearance, remained unravaged by the tainted things that presumably stalked those halls, or the taint that normally corrupted anything it touched.

Still, your caution had you questioning the apparent sanctity of this place. Such a holy place shouldn't exist within the Shadowlands, at least not according to your teachings and knowledge. You kept low as you searched the small shrine more thoroughly, seeking anything that might be recovered and returned to the safe hands of the Clan. There isn't much of anything to be found, unfortunately, but as you'd searched, you'd felt a new feeling slowly begin to fall over you. Drowsiness, the subtle reminder that you had not propely slept for two days, and the heavy exertion of your journey taking its toll. Even in this short time, the feelings of safety this small temple had given you were a stark contrast to the rest of Daylight Castle and the Shadowlands beyond.

This place, if truly blessed by the Heavens, would be a rare safe haven within the Shadowlands. But to trust what you were feeling was real would be a dangerous gamble, a wager of your own soul. It might be better to move on, leave this place behind and seek a prize elsewhere.

>What did you do in that moment?
No. 1083189 ID: 5ebd37

A brief respite, you took what rest you could.
No. 1083213 ID: eb0a9c

Link the bonfire
No. 1083261 ID: 7c0da2

You didn't dare disturb the charms or the candle. Too tired to worry about the dust, you knelt in front of the shrine to pray. The whole situation was so unreal, you couldn't say exactly when you fell asleep.
No. 1083298 ID: 909c07

You'd set your equipment in a corner of the temple, careful to avoid disturbing the seals along the walls lest you somehow break the strange sanctity of the place. You'd knelt before the shrine, intending only to offer prayer, to seek some blessing from the Heavens in your search, and perhaps to rest a moment before moving on. It was strange then that when you'd opened your eyes once more, it was not to a dimly lit temple but a room glowing with dozens of candles. Beyond the edges of the candlelight, there wasn't a wall, but an endless darkness, stretching far past the light's glow.

Whatever shock you'd felt had been interrupted by a sound from behind you. Instinct screamed, and you'd whirled about in alarm, hand falling to grasp the hilt of your sword. What greeted your panicked gaze was not some foul demon or unholy spirit but a woman. Dressed in a kimono of sky blue and crimson red, the middle aged woman had the look of someone haggard and worn, her lips bearing signs of what look to be puncture wounds, as if someone had taken a needle and sewn her mouth shut at some point. Yet somehow you felt as if her presence was no threat to you, or perhaps merely that she'd meant no harm. Whatever her appearance, she bowed low upon seeing your attention upon her, before straightening once more, her gaze fixing upon you with a strange intensity.

"I bid you welcome, young Hiruma. It has been a long time since one of Daylight Castle's lost children has come home. Longer still since it was one that has not felt the call to service..." Her voice bore a hint of melencholy, her gaze momentarily softening into something that seems on the verge of tears. But the expression quickly vanished, her stoic gaze returning. "I am Hiruma Masami, and it is good you have found your way to Candle Temple. Please, sit, you will be safe here from the Oni's influence. You no doubt have questions, and I shall do my best to answer what I can. At least until you wake once more."

She had gestured before her, an invitation to sit and speak with her. You remember feeling the woman radiating calm and peace, a sensation you could recall near perfectly even now, and you'd unconsciously relaxed your grip upon your sword's hilt. It's with hesitation that you'd finally taken a seat, though even with that sense of calm you'd remained at least somewhat ready to spring up in defense of yourself. IF she'd been offended, Hiruma Masami had given no indication of it. Instead her gaze had continued to observe you with an almost critical gaze.

"It was foolish of you to come here alone, young Crab. Foolish... but brave. Tell me why you have come home, despite the dangers, and I shall do my best to help."

>What did you speak of then? What questions did you ask?
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