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1 Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:43 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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S-rank
The Man Beyond the Pines






There she lay, the woman in white cloth who was being carried by a gentle stream delivered to her by the cave with a curtain of water, surrounded in an emerald moss. Her sense of hearing drowned out as her ears were submerged, her eyes lost in the reflection of heaps of blue and white clouds like drifting jade before her. A mist began enveloping the vessel in the stream as she grew further apart from the mouth of the mountain and past the exotic blooms along the riverbanks. A few pine trees that would always attract the rain would lean over her while blossoms breezed passed with the wind. All just like home for a wild beast.

But to her, any beast could be tamed. Even if that beast was just a man.

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The sounds of wildlife echoed its past to the present. The colliding sounds of the birds singing to the insects calling, the leaves rustling of the pine trees almost whispering to one another, to the roaring waters in the crevice of the banks of the moist earth created an orchestral ensemble entitled; the sounds of nature. Her smile mimicked the sun as it cast its warmth over the land of emerald green. This was her evensong.

The blades of grass bent to her will with the careful stepping of heel-to-toe, unwilling to disturb the peace that surrounded her. The aura of purity and feeling of ease was not what she was accustomed to. In the distance, a creature without a mother traversed the small  opening. A rabbit which perched itself on its hind legs, ears like antennas, and a nose twitching as if waiting to be scratched, caused her to halt in her tracks but did not waver her welcoming smile. Heel-to-toe, etching her way closer to the small animal before her until she caught its attention she would seize to move once more. It was with her next step that its percussion seemed to carry throughout the land.

With widened eyes darting towards the rabbit, the creature returned its gaze. Shock filled the opening as the grand orchestra had lost its conductor, the chorus now silent as another wave of percussion trembled through the earth. She did not move as the rabbit scurried into the bushes only moments away. Instead, she diverted her gaze to the green that surrounded the trees across the eastern direction. Another thud. The bass carrying its vibrations would soon quicken as the sound grew louder as it drew nearer. It was not before long that she could see the outline of another creature that seemed to dwarf the trees.

A titan of wood could be seen that shared the face of an Oni. Her gaze of awe had made her lose her sense of danger as it continued to draw ever closer. The wretched screams of a beast brought her back to the reality she resided within as she rushed to cover her ears from further damage, her eyes still transfixed on the giant, afraid that it might somehow disappear and sneak up on her position. The wooden Oni had, what could only be described as a husk, in its grasp. A dampened grey figure of another titan humanoid exerted its pain with its voice as the Oni wrestled it to the ground. A flurry of percussion soon followed before the sound of silence filled the air, unaccompanied by the infamous chorus of the wild. She did not dare speak. She did not dare move. She could only wish that she was that rabbit not moments ago.



Last edited by Sousetsu Senju on Tue Jun 06, 2017 10:44 am; edited 4 times in total


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Sousetsu Senju

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The quick succession of heartbeats were divided by a tremor in her breathing as she inhaled and exhaled cautiously. A cold sweat would form on her brow, another racing down her back, still frozen in place until she felt another disturbance beyond the pines. The earth would move once more as the husk let out a victory cry as it let itself be seen over the trees once again. The Oni was nowhere to be found. An effortless cry escaped the woman which she did not command. It was dry but loud enough to catch this titans attention. Her eyes widening just as before. The creature tilted its head in her direction, its great eyes glaring at the small opening she found herself in. Like a hawk to its prey, she had been made, spotted by the great titan, stomping with each foot like a battle drum, encouraging its pace to quicken to a small jog and screech to add treble to its very own song. And yet, she still could not move. Her feet firmly planted in the ground as if she became part of the family of pines. It would have been a great stand-off if it were not for her look of fear and troublesome gaze of panic accompanied by cold sweat running down her very spine.

Her eyes shut, darkness filling her vision with haste. If she could not see her inevitable fate, maybe the feeling would be quick and painless? Like a child, she wished that it could not see her in return. Hesitant, she trembled. Water now exerting from the wings of her eyes, she could only think of everything that she would miss in this world. The rabbit that got away, the nature that sung its songs from its various albums and artists the vast climates of the world had to offer. Her family, or her chance to create one she could call her own. All of this now at a stand-still, never to be obtained, witnessed, or even felt with her emotions. She allowed her hair to fall as her head began to sink slowly to her chest. Small breaths escaped matching the trembling fear that shook her. Her teeth now gritting as her face creased trying to maintain her worries within. With the stomps slowing their pace, the sound grow louder as they collided with the earth, crushing the life of the pines that stood in its path, she prepared for her fate.

Her eyes shot open and darted their way towards the titan that stood before her. Its features were clear now. Humanoid yet made from the very earth that she stood on. Patches of green, rocks, flowers could be found on each small crack and crevice it bore. It seemed surreal that this creature was not meters away rather than in a mythical or loosely based fantasy novel. This was real. She could now understand what the authors portrayed in their characters. Their senses heightened, their fears now realized. The feeling of that cold sweat from the lower back and brow. The shaking sensation that was now uncontrollable across their limbs. How it was not as easy as it sounded to simply move. She could not outrun this creature anyway, she now found. But was it not human nature to simply survive despite how futile it was? The earthen foot now cast a shadow on her position and the mumbling of the roots resonated from its leg as it raised to the heavens above, where she would soon hope to reside if her deity allowed her.

The roar of a dragon soon expelled her fear, her attention drawn away from death and to curiosity and hope. Hope that her deity had decided her time had not yet come to pass. With her mouth failing to close, her eyes refusing to allow the tears to interrupt their attention, she witness a great wooden dragon wrap itself around the titan of earth. It began with the neck and hastily down to its torso before clamping its teeth into the calf of the supporting leg. The jaw of the great dragon did not stay clamped for long as it snapped through the soft minerals, unmatched by its true solid quality. The titan would fall, crashing down to the earth causing a great gust of wind in its radius. It was only then that the woman could react. Her arms swung to protect her head from any rocks that would be expelled in her direction. Dust would not reach her eyes or mouth as they were shut in unison.  Her hair blew furiously in the wind away from the beasts as if it was trying to escape the area. The resulting blast of energy lasted much longer than she had anticipated as the air around her refused to come to a halt. It continued to rush past her, the wind almost cutting, her right leg placed further back in order to plant her to the ground like the floral decor around her.

Just as the dust was beginning to slow its pace, she dared look back to the dragon and titan. Another murmur of roots began to muster as the head of the humanoid creature began to lift. Another roar could be heard. But this beast did not sound a fracture as titanic as the two wrestling in the forest of pines. Looking to the clear skies as this alien roar began to descend she could now see what it belonged to. It was a sight to behold as a man wielding what could only be described as a whirlpool rushed the position of the now restrained giant. It was extraordinary that a being of her size would dare stand opposite death and taunt him with his own purpose. Awe, shock, surprise, disbelief, these words were too little to match what she was feeling. She knew only one thing. This 'man,' if not another beast, was facing Goliath's with such certainty and courage that even she began to think he could overcome them. Unbeknownst that she now had another fear brewing within her clouded mind. Another sentient being like her, proving to be more dangerous than those found in an endless fantasy world with no limitations to their powers. This led to her next curious question locked in the back of her mind; was he the protagonist in this story, or the antagonist?



Last edited by Sousetsu Senju on Fri May 26, 2017 12:37 am; edited 1 time in total


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Sousetsu Senju

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A crashing collision even greater than the titan and the earth beneath caused another expulsion of force to the radius surrounding them. The earth now grinding and swirling to soft mud where the creatures head once was, sinking further and further into the ground beneath, creating new terrain as the soft granules of earth spread to create a gaping mouth of its own.  Her muscle memory reminded her to repeat her actions. Feet firmly grounded, mouth and eyes shut, arms shielding her most vulnerable sections, and her patience to wait for the aftermath.

'This power... It's incredible!' she cautiously calculated, unsure if she was safe from being swallowed by the earth or just delaying her fate a mere moment by the hands of a man who stole the power of the oceans.

It was almost as if she had shifted towards the beach. The sound of waves overlapping as they reached the shore and receding back into the large body of water once more. Her mind taking her there as her eyes remained shut. The wind searching for more things to carry on its back and take it elsewhere. Maybe it could take her problems, her worries, her weaknesses? Or maybe she could screw a cork in a bottle and throw it in waters and allow fate to push it onto someone else who was unfortunate to find them. In that brief moment, she let out a soft smile. That small moment of serenity was her only comfort she found in this battle of gods who manipulated the elements. It was because of this calming moment, she let her eyes return to the battlefield in hopes of a new light shining upon her. Hoping this open emerald green of tree leaves, grass and moss would return to the way it was not moments before. Maybe the rabbit would return?

In its stead, the earthen titan was beginning to recede into the ground, hiding among the pines behind every branch, every bush, leaving only the wooden dragon and man. To her astonishment, the man stood on its head. Something he commanded? The earth would soon tremble once more as the wooden giant returned in the distance. It arm outreaching as it held the dragon like a piece of rope. A weapon of choice? A creature manipulating another creature as a weapon, being controlled by a man who manipulated oceans. What rabbit hole did this Alice find herself in? The dragon carried the small figure back to the wooden golem beyond the pines, wrapping itself around it like sash before dropping the out of place creature on top of the golems head. It was only then that the woman made the connection. Like a final jigsaw piece, it fell into place. The manipulation of water and the wooden beasts, all derived from a clan known well in history as the Senju. She could never have imagined power such as this deriving from one simple clan member but it made those tales of the Senju seem more and more plausible. It is not so often that your belief in tales passed down from generation to generation would harbor such truth. Many exaggerations and variations seemed to compliment the reality before her.  The only question still remained however, was she still safe?

Just as before, the titanic creature, now in the form of floral qualities, etched its way closer to her position. Was it aware of her existence? Would it cast that same shadow of death she faced before? The suns gaze obstructed from hers, the warmth of its rays taken from her like the night vastly approaching without the cast of the dazzling stars above seemed to be a cruel and twisted fate. One that she had not wanted to face again. She was given a second chance. A second chance that she would now take. She mentally prepared her flight, her leg muscles now in full effect as she launched herself in a direction of shadows she could choose from, losing herself in the family of pines nearby and watched like a predator in the night, or a small critter trying to survive and escape its prey. Her breathing quickly paced, her heartbeat thumping from her chest, unwilling to silence despite how hard she tried. Adrenaline now in full effect to continue her movements but she denied that wish in order to satisfy her curiosity.


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Sousetsu Senju

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She watched as the Senju stood stoically on top of the wooden golem under his command. His arms folded into his chest and his unwavering stance stood firm regardless of the creatures movements beneath him. It seemed to search for signs of life, but how could this be? Was it searching for her? No doubt the Senju was scanning with his eyes at the same time, shifting from left to right at the evergreen below. The closer it drew his appearance grew more and more distinguished. His hair was as silver as a well sharpened blade, his armour as blue as the deepest waters, a dark sheath no doubt concealed a blade by his side  and his power radiated making the air feel heavy on her shoulders. Even though you could not see it, his determination accompanied all of these aspects. She decided to keep to the stealth approach, quiet, in hiding. Quarrel would be her greatest enemy and she would possibly meet it with sound.  

In an instant, the Senju's crossed arms became undone before re-positioning himself to the rear. The wooden golem raising its hand to cover him, as if sheltering him from the rain. The day was clear however but his actions were not. The dragon darted around the waist of the titan and roared its war cry before attempting to charge at something that was obstructed by the giant. Another roar emerged but not from a creature. A narrow row of flame sliced through the golem in an upwards slash. Another cry could be heard before the dragon eroded, stopping the blade of fire from reaching the chest of its master. With the golems free hand, it sent a crushing fist down to the origin of the blaze. Another shuddering earth and dust clouds that formed revealed another small figure, much like the Senju, emerging into the air. The blade of fire receded before being reformed to a side-wards slash across the neck of the titan. There was no cry this time. No sound apart from the crumbling, deteriorating wood that fell all too easily from the searing heat. The head of the titan soon accompanied its body in its journey to the earth below, only to be intercepted by a great wall of fire. The heat was too intense even from her distance that she could not help but feel remorse for the Senju that stood in the brunt force of it all. Upon further inspection, she could see that the Senju was still upon the beasts head.

The force of the fire's blast pushed the head into the woman's general direction, flying through the air and soon to crash in her immediate vicinity. Her eyes widened as her body prepared to leave once more. With a few short spurts, the woman created enough distance to escape the impact of the flaming meteor that now occupied the open area of emerald she found had found herself in at the beginning of this strife.

'Run. Just run. Why can't I run?' She found herself in a predicament. She wanted to move. She wanted to avoid this confrontation of far superior beings but at the same time her mind would not let her. Her feeling of remorse returned with compassion for the Senju that remained with the impact.

Her eyes shifted back and forth as her jaw began to tighten, polishing her jawline features and mustering the bravery she needed. It was then that she made a choice and began to move. She dashed through the trees, the rustling matching the urgency of the situation. She disregarded the sound she was creating until her peripheral vision had caught a glance of smoke in the nearby bushes, many metres away from the crash-site. Arriving at the faint fumes she found what remained one of the beings she now feared. A charred Senju, blackened areas painted his armour as if children were given pieces of charcoal to draw all over a blank canvas. Surprisingly, the skin did not receive many burns at all, not any that a little medical attention could not heal.  Looking over the Senju in a whole new light, she could see that like her, he was still human and could feel pain, he could die just like the rest of us. As he lay unconscious, she had to find a way to escape the grasp of the new threat. She shook the Senju, slapped his cheeks softly, yet repetitively, even thumped his chest with greater force but the response still remained. She looked in the distance of the smoldering ball of flora. Each area the flame came into contact with left a blackening mark. Smoldered and charred, the fires had created a new playing field, unlike the area before, it had been completely remade into something apocalyptic. Nothing but black stumps and thinned trees. The leaves of the trees no longer there, the branches slowly burning and falling with ease, her eyes widened once more.


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Sousetsu Senju

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She was beginning to panic. She could have left but now she may be joining the same fate of a being who managed to stay alive through an inferno that the devil himself seemed to have created. With another sharp look at the area, she could see the figure inspect the head of the golem. Without a thought, her hands began to move. She formed hand seals and slammed the earth beneath her and the Senju, markings of light seeping through to the grounds surface. She could feel the aura of chakra once again but it was not from the Senju. No, this time the energy emitted from the other being. The demon who created these fires, and he stood not a few metres from them. She straightened her back and took in a deep breath. Like a deer in the headlights she remained completely still, hoping that she could not be seen. She could see his features so clearly as his eyes looked directly at her. Locked and transfixed, unwavering he scoffed. He bore a beard with grey features. His eyes burned with a warm oak. A rather heavy coat and gloves that hid his bodily definition but could seemed to be in a rather good shape despite his estimated age of mid forties. And with enough time to gather all the details visually, the man closed his eyes and turned to venture off in the opposite direction.


With a sigh of relief, she exhaled and lowered her posture. Once she assured herself that the man withdrew entirely she returned her attention towards the unconscious Senju. He was sound asleep. Exhausted from the battle of titanic proportions and receiving a blunt force of fire infused chakra at such a close range would have killed many shinobi from any neighboring country. Yet here he lay, simply rebuilding his own energy, his life force recuperating as best it could. With a concerning quiver of the lip the woman formed numerous hand seals, unlike the previous however, the amount was far greater. She placed her left hand upon his forehead and her right upon his chest. His body emitted shining markings before fading into the blackened charcoal of his skin left by the bearded shinobi. It was then, and only then, she truly fell back to the feeling of serenity. She was safe just as she was before.  

She lay hidden alongside the Senju in the aura of peace, basking in every second it allowed her. The sun seeped through the trees and kissed her skin and it was with this warmth that came a realization. She shot upright and turned her attention to the white haired male, he still needed medical attention and soon before any further damage could occur. She calmed herself and let out a sigh in order to gather her thoughts. How was she to move him? She was not nearly strong enough and did not possess a cart to wheel him to the closest village. She could not falter any intention of curing him however, and so she reached for his hand attempted to pull him onto her shoulders. She grunted and produced as much might as she could but alas, to no avail did her efforts prove fruitful. She tightened her grip and placed her feet shoulder-width apart, her lower back arched and let out another mighty roar that she could muster. This time, his body came with ease. With eyes widened, she was surprised her efforts worked, up until she could not feel his weight. His body flew past her, dragged into an abyss of mystery. She turned only to find the Senju on the shoulder of another. Something she did not expect.


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Sousetsu Senju

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Awakened to Emptiness




The water trickled down her soft lips as she allowed the current to take her.  Wherever fate seemed fitting for the woman in white cloth to be.  This beast continued to surprise her. She saw him as a man who stole the ocean, a man who mastered the woodlands, a man who possessed courage that would put the lion to shame. The display of his might was something to behold that day of the clashing titans. She mistook him as some sort of God-like entity before she learned of his title. Something with the power to create life, just as he did with the wooden creatures, or to take life away with using that very same power, changing the course of the raging waters, bending them to his will.

Not these waters, however. These waters would be left undisturbed.

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Sousetsu awoke to the smell of pine. The suns rays seeping through like a flashlight in the dark from a great distance, ridding the blinding shadows created to show the utopia that sunk beneath them. Disorientated, he raised his head ever so slightly, cautious not to exert his body and sense any pain that my arise. He continued forward, sitting upright and shifting his neck in a circular motion to ease the stiffness, almost like removing the rust from the clogs of a mechanism. The Senju reached down to his ankles in hopes of stretching, that was when the fear reached him instead. His eyes now open and being used to their full potential the Senju scanned his arms in a panic. His vision soon became hazy with disbelief, the suns rays more illusive as his mind refused to comprehend what he saw before him, crawling on him. Like shadows, writing had inked his skin and etched ever so slightly back and forth, up and down the length of his arms.    

'Wh-... What is this!?' Sousetsu's mind raced before he attempted to scratch off the markings that were now bound to him.

The shinobi jumped to his feet, hands trembling, and breath changing its pace like a skipping stone. He darted his head to the surrounding area, as if he was prey in hiding from its hunter, he searched for any signs of life or disturbance in the twigs and leaves alike. He could not shake the feeling of watchful eyes, predators witnessing their food run wall to wall, from one end of the trap to the other with no escape, yet he stood in place. In through the nose and out the mouth the Senju cleared his mind and focused his breathing. Coming to a calm he closed his eyes before awakening his inner self, the Monkey Sage. Markings of his own painted his face in a warm red, drawing attention to his eyes and cheeks. His eyes changing their natural colour of green to a golden yellow. It was then that he could sense that these foreign symbols that plagued him was chakra. Unexpectedly, some of his own chakra filled these symbols, an unwilling fusion like casting a white flag in war for an army to invade the lands and share the playing field.

Before long, the rustling he had sought soon came to find him. With his ears at a peak, the shinobi leaped onto a branch of a nearby tree, there he lay in wait, reversing the roles of who was the hunter and who was the hunted. He attempted to draw his blade only to find an empty sheath. Padding down the length of his blade's home only to find nothing he left more defenseless than he had first imagined. The fear of using his ninjutsu as his own chakra could possibly feed these cursed etchings left his only option of intimidation. Beyond the rustling emerged a young woman with long hair of chestnut, composed of a white attire. In her arms was a makeshift tray that contained berries of all sorts. She soon sat the tray on a nearby trunk that a tree once resided. Her head tilting from side to side before slowly leaning for a better view around the corners of the trees that surrounded them. It was then that the Senju leapt behind her, as silent as the shinobi were famed for. A small sigh drew from the woman in white before she turned to face the beast.  

"You did this..." He spoke through gritted teeth and a voice so coarse from the lack of fluids from the past flames.

Her chakra matched that infused onto him. Having that knowledge, his sage qualities receded, showing his true self before her, allowing her to witness what he was capable of. He clenched his fists with such a tightening grasp that his veins began pushing to the surface.  His own attire still worn and tattered from the battle he partook in recent history. His eyes now showing determination through red bloodshot, drunk on anger and untethered from sanity, the Azure Beast was hunting. And it had found its prey.


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Sousetsu Senju

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"Once the caster has been slain, the jutsu will dissipate. That is how a jutsu works, right?" The Beast explained rhetorically with words as rough as stone. His grin did not waver as he edged his way closer.

With an soaring pain in the Senju's shoulder, Sousetsu was pinned to the earth beneath his feet. His head, colliding with the rather tough footing on its side while his breath quickly ran from his lungs to the open air. Winded and facing a disorienting confusing once again, the beast had been detained. Struggling and in pain, he did not wait for his body to recover as he forced his head to the source of the pain on his right shoulder. A golden chain, illuminated with the sun, was born from the flesh of the Senju similar to his wooden techniques. The blood that trickled down his upper back to his elbow soon halted its flow as the chain nestled into the ground with a firm and tightened latch to the earth. With gritted teeth he drew his attention to the woman who now overlooked him, just as the pine trees overlooked them both.

"This jutsu is a curse, Senju. And it has found its new host." The woman replied with a hint of remorse. There was room for kindness in her words, not the killing type it seemed.

"Remove this curse. Now!" The sage grew weary with those coarse words escaping his body that quested to appease its thirst. The etched red decor found their way to the Senju's face once again, seeping through his skin to the surface.

He began to push against the earth, raising his body until he could push with his legs. The weight of the chain was heavy on his body, but his determination supported his efforts. Another sharp pain from the shoulder and much like the first chain, the second attempted to anchor him in place. A short grunt from the Senju escaped in the meantime as he continued to edge his way to the woman before him. She was growing more hesitant, stepping back slightly as he crept closer. Those bloodshot eyes wished to see the colour red flow more eagerly as each moment passed. Next was his left side. His right. His upper back. His lower back. All the pain accompanied by a small cry that left just as the blood had reached the soil beneath their feet. Yet he still crept closer, forcing his body to an extreme length that only a sage could withstand.

Just like the titan previous, she stood motionless, awestruck by the sheer determination of the being before her. She trembled, just as she did before. She watched as the outstretching arm of the Beast made its way closer to her neck. The tip of his finger caressing the small hairs she was unaware of until this point in time, all before the grasp he longed for. With heavy breaths feeding the pain that surged through his body, Sousetsu slowly tightened his grip.

"Don't... Please don't... You don't understa-!" Her sentence was soft, quiet, almost as if she did not want to wake a younger sibling, or a sick relative, struggling to breathe just as she was. It wasn't until the grip was tight enough that all the Senju could see now was darkness.
He awoke, just as he did before. With sun-kissed skins and rays of the afternoon light seeping through he cracks of the leaves way up high. To his right-side, the woman looked at him, mimicking his routine. He wanted to repeat his actions, feel the muscles in her through and seize their movements, crush the windpipe and end this curse she spoke of. He raised his left arm and reached for his shoulder finding that the chain had gone, yet she was not dead. He swallowed what little saliva he had left in his mouth, attempting to clear the dry desert within. He knew that did not work however, as his tongue attempted to stick to the roof and sides of his mouth whenever they came close into contact.

"The curse... You feel what I feel. If I die... You die." She spoke as she watched two birds fly from branch to branch in front of her. From the ground looking up just as the Sage beside her. His heart felt heavier than the chains at this point as it was now under a literal tether to a being much more vulnerable than he. He had become a slave to her will. The Sage, rather than stew and boil under anger, accepted his new fate and would savour his speech until his thirst for water was quenched. It was with this that the woman stood tall and adjusted herself before walking off into a mouth of pine trees, turning and gesturing for Sousetu to follow. A dreaded sigh before he rid himself of the disorientation, and soon followed suit. it was not long however, that the previous Hokage was led to a place he would now know as a haven.


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The sounds of rushing water. Like a distant roar of the water dragon Sousetsu had come to be too familiar with. It was white noise to him, danger to his enemies, relief to his allies. Today it would serve him once more as he weakly stepped to its whereabouts. Looking down into the clear water below, he could see his worn and tattered self. Those hungry eyes, parched lips, and those cursed markings that seem to mock him now. All would be cleansed and all he had to do was fall and let the current take him peacefully down the stream. It did not matter how slow or where it took him, he would be free and living in ignorant bliss. He closed his eyes, his tongue brushing against his lips before let his body leave this earth. Falling forward, the wind gave him his first sense of freedom as it ruffled through his hair, revealing the cold patches of blood that were his wounds. He could let it all go as his mind went elsewhere while his body would be left in the serenity.

His body jolted back with a blunt press to his chest. His eyes opened slowly, wondering who would deny this man's wish? Who would obstruct a wounded individual from soaking his pain away, or to quench his thirst? With his final efforts, he mustered what little strength he had to his neck. Looking up he saw something that would have been at the end of the line in his train of thought. The very last being that would come to his aid, or further his pain. A large metal pole was outstretched after having come into contact with his torso and on the other end, a monkey that he was not accustomed to. He knew full well who had sent this warrior, but not the reason behind doing so.  


"These waters must not be touched by human hands." It ordered the past Hokage to retreat from the riverbank as it pushed the pole further into his chest, positioning his body upright.

"Then bring the water to me." Sousetsu replied with dry and sore vocal chords scratching against his pharynx. He did not stop his body where the monkey had intended it to do so, instead he fell to the earth, crashing and expelling the dust that outlined him.

The monkey hopped over the river, simultaneously, the woman had came to the Senju with a bowl of water. Forcing his body to sit, the Senju allowed the woman to feed him the water with care. It was just as blissful as he had imagined. The cool water washing away the coarse that covered the insides of his mouth.

"Where is my blade? My armour?" He looked up at the woman who now had the beast to call her own.

"Sealed away for my own protection." She replied bluntly as she continued to feed the Senju from the bowl of life.

"Sealing techniques." Sousetsu chuckled as the markings became just as clear as the water.

"Kuuhaku is quite proficient in these seals, I must admit. Without her 'seal of hiding' you surely would have met fate's cruel end." The warrior monkey added.

Sousetsu looked to the woman. Her name, Kuuhaku, seemed to be an alias. A literal meaning of 'blank' or 'empty,' the sage grew more wary of her intentions. Why she had saved him, why she placed this curse upon him. How long did she plan on having him around? Or was he followed until he was weak enough in order for her to capture him?  The next bowl was not destined for his mouth it seemed but slowly poured across his forehead, cooling and washing through his hair. This was as close to serenity as they would allow it would seem. He inhaled deeply and forced his body to stand once more. His stoic posture returning, although still tiresome from the recent events.

"Why did you curse me?" Sousetsu ordered for a reason, and one worth his time.

A small breeze passed them by, carrying the leaves and blossoms that left their homes not too distant from where the three now resided. Dust swirled in the wind, moving the minerals from one patch of earth to another. The sun now seeking shelter behind the trees in the distance, no longer radiating its heat at this time of day. His eyes remained transfixed on hers.

"Because you are going to help me reach the borders to the Land of Rivers." She answered with whatever courage she had. It matched that of a house cat to the Beast and Monkey Warrior that stood before her.

"We are in the Eastern part of the Land of Fire, almost bordering the land of Hot Water. I do not have the time t-"

"I said you are going to help me!" she interrupted with a roar of her own.


____

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It was not until the evening when all had calmed. The open flame tied the area together, casting shadows over the firm soil and blades of green on which the three sat. It was also then that the Senju could finally see his company for who they were. Under the starry night, the moon cast its light down into the woodlands, a new day for the nocturnal. The Monkey Warrior carried a staff much like the Sage's mentor, Wukong. Noteworthy differences remained however; a faint golden design, in a shape resembling the Dragon Kings attached to a seemingly charred metal rod. It bore faint flame, as if burnt out and the resulting black smoke was cast upon it. Like the story behind the staff, the blackened smoke never seemed to fade away. The sentient itself was a deep brick red tone with defining muscular features, accompanied by blonde and white hair that crept along his skin, swaying ever so slightly with the smallest of breezes that may have wept passed them.

In his likeness, he shared those same faint golden eyes as the Sage. A sharp tooth would linger out from his upper lip,  a golden crown which led the Senju to believe he came from some sort of royalty within the kingdom of Monkeys. His lower half was covered with charcoal leggings accompanied by a dark, blood red sash, held together by armour across its waist. Sousetsu had also come to learn that this particular creatures name was 'Omori,' and unlike Wukong, he did not seem as laid back, rather driven by his sole duties as the servant of the Monkey King. His voice, stoic and deeper than one would first imagine but rather well-spoken nonetheless. It struck Sousetsu with wonder what each history a Sage had to offer. Looking into the fires that crackled over the timber, he wished Omori's history was just as rich and warm. Looking over his shoulder where another small flame illuminated behind the clear curtain of water in the cave not too distant, he made sure the young woman lingered, resting.

"Did you find anything?" Sousetsu finally asked to break the silence. The two continued to watch the burning embers, not wishing to face horrid news or disappointing eyes.

"We believe that she never headed in this direction." Replied Omori with a regretful sigh to follow.

"I understand. Thank you for your efforts regardless, Omori." Sousetsu nodded before turning to meet the eyes of his once unknown companion. A tensed jaw hid an attempt to smile. It was then that Omori rolled his eyes to the side, in the direction of the cave that was now occupied by the young woman.

"Forgive me. I believe she may have headed West." he sounded sincere but riddled with guilt. To any, it would have sounded too convenient that the same journey for Kuuhaku would have crossed paths with the shinobi's. There was no lie in his voice however, not one the Sage could pick up anyway.

"She did protect you, Sousetsu. She would have carried you also had I not arrived." he continued in hopes of seeing the more merciful Senju that the Monkey King spoke highly of.

It was then that the woman in white emerged from the curtain of water, making her way slowly through the gentle rifts between the bushes and towers of bark. Chilling to the bone as she was almost ghost-like, haunting her way into the Senju's life with a curse only she could break. It only served to bring him pestilence, delaying his search for the one had lost to the darkness he knew all too well. It was then that he decided that he had no choice but to accompany this 'blank' to the Western borders. With luck, he may find another trace to her whereabouts.

"I need my blade and armour if we are to do this." Sousetsu confirmed his allegiance with a small request as Kuuhaku.

"I have seen the damage you can do with a blade. You stole powers only the ocean could wield. And my jutsu will destroy your armour if I need to use it. You will use this." Kuuhaku withdrew a wooden staff from behind the bark she sat on. It's ends wrapped in cloth with small writing much like his curse. Untrusting, the Senju's anger began to rise. Who knew what seal was used upon a weapon entrusted to him by his captor.

"I am not trained to use that... I need my blade." Sousetsu held back his anger, like stepping on its tail, ready to lift his foot as his patience quickly wore thin once again.

"I will give you a few days." she let out a soft smile and raised her right index finger. "With him."


____

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Sousetsu stormed the cave with Kuuhaku by his tail, dragging her behind with a strong grasp wrapped around her wrist. He forced her against the wall, his hands slamming the terrain of stone behind her, blocking her only options of escape. The sounds of the crashing water by the mouth of the cave with a faint glow from the fires outside represented what little tolerance he had for the young spark before him. Her small yelps and grunts of pain went unheard as the privacy was understandable to Omori who kept the flame company in the open area not too distant to the riverbank.

"Who do you think you are!? Dragging me into your mess, keeping me against my will. I don't have time for this!" The raging beast snapped its jaws to the taunting being he would have considered a plaything had he been awake when she had first presented herself.

"And neither do I! But you are the only one, Senju! The only one that can take me there!" She argued with that flicker of spark Sousetsu was now wary of. Fighting to hide back her tears behind her brave face, she let that first tear fall, hoping to be lost like the rest of the waters that fell from the roof of the cave.

"You are nothing but a selfish little girl." The beast toned down to nothing but disappointment.

"Please... I have to find her." another tear fell as she now refused to look at the man in front of her.

It was with this that the Senju had frozen in place, the beast was now stunned by the mere words of a young woman whose goal was not unlike his own. His jaw tensed as he ventured another gander to the flame outside. He cleared his throat briefly, hiding his own intention in hopes of swallowing it. The tattered battle veteran, now enslaved, was now feeling some remorse for his captive?

"Who do you have to find?" He spoke as he tried to calm his demeanor, trying to get to that level of neutral where the question felt genuine and not threatening, like an interrogation.

"My mother. She is with my family in the Land of Rivers, last I heard." She began to open up softly. "We got separated when our village was attacked. Everything went up in flames so fast I- I could only run. We always told each other that if anything happened, we would go to the Land of Rivers, to the Village Hidden in Valleys. I can't be sure, but it's my only option..." She sunk further into the wall as her story progressed. She could do nothing but look up at the man who towered over her, keeping her eyes onto his. Sousetsu sank his head slightly, still feeling weary from the days events, but her story rang true in his ears.    

"That jutsu, it borrows the hosts chakra, feeding from it. That's why you are still weary." She explained before placing her hands on his chest. With great speed the Senju grasped her wrist once more causing another startled yelp from the woman. She looked at him again, wanting him to trust her as she refused to move her hands from his chest. As the chakra emerged from the palms of Kuuhaku, Sousetsu's grasp loosened. A brief moment had passed and energy seem to restore to the wood user. The feeling was similar to that of the pouring water that caressed his skin. Energy he had forgotten he had or would have taken some time to replenish.

"Now you should be at half your strength. I released some of the enchantments." she explained in hopes of having some good faith given to her. "That staff, it cannot be broken. Not while the seal resides on its edges." she reassured him. She could not weaken the man anymore, but work to his favour. Her only chance of survival where just a portion of his. Sousetsu's hands were removed from the wall that kept her surrounded. She no longer felt claustrophobic in his presence and her tears reduced to a small welling in the eyes. It was then that the Senju removed himself, and at the entrance of the cave, he watched the waters more carefully. Like a two-way mirror, he saw the clear lands of green under the night sky, the moon and stars watching over the everglade. He was bound to this woman, and like the moon and stars, he had to watch over her. His mission in this world was not yet completed and would not die to a curse as a result of a desperate act. A selfish act.  

"We leave in three days."


____

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The Flower Fruit Mountain




There was still remnants of the fires that kept the shadows at bay on the field of the everglade. The Monkey Stone in the distance where the Dragon pearls used to hang in niches.  One or two tall bamboos. Three or four sprigs of plum blossoms. These were the sights that came to pass to the woman in white cloth as the river carried her into the mouth of the cave, swallowing her being, allowing her to be digested into a ground fissure.  Ancient carvings illuminated with a neon glow, like fireflies in the night, finding each other in the dark. There is a spring inside. It is not big, but it is always full of water, even when there is a drought.

There is also a story behind it. There is also a story behind him.

------------------------------------------

The day had greeted the already wakened Monkeys who held their tools, beginning their endeavor. It burning surface fed the flora in the vast green-land that surrounded the company of a proficient Wood-user, a Blank canvas, and the Monkey Warrior. With the blunt weapons at hand, the two staffs touched in preparation for their future quarrel's. Blank observed the waters from the riverbank, watching as the curtain of water gave birth to the ebb and flow. Although the crashing waters soon calmed as it carried down the stream, there was still hope in the woman's eyes of wildlife erupting from the aquatic playground beneath the surface. The water was clear however, tranquil and free from fish and other organisms that may have inhabited its nourishing residence. She could see beneath the water as clear as she could look up at the clear azure sky. With a crack, a ripple, a disturbance flowed in the water before her.

The clashing of wood and metal created an almost hollow sound. The blunt weapons greeted each other like rivals in competition to see which would crack and crumble under the force of the other. Those who wielded the tools bore no hesitance. Their faces unwavering from the crashing sounds or reacted to the recoil. Their strikes were true and carried onward with another display of skill, counter-positioning when a weak spot presented itself. No injuries had come to pass, however. A valiant effort from the less superior Wood-user as he began to unleash a fury of jabs with the pinnacle of his appointed staff, but alas, he had come to no avail as the Monkey Warrior continued to outshine the will of fire within.

The air was sweeter during the daytime. The pollen was ripe for the wildlife to claim their prize. The woman in white, reduced to her knees as the aroma was too enticing for her to pass, leaned into the vibrant colours of a flowerbed that surrounded the great oak that neighboured the friendly bout. She stood tall and continued to heighten her sense of smell as her eyes closed, embracing the breeze that passed her by.

"I can smell citrus in the wind." Blank stated before opening her eyes and turning to the staff wielding counterparts in training.
In an instant, Sousetsu stayed his weapon. He straightened himself from the battle stance and inhaled deeply through his nostrils, allowing the citrus to enter. To his amazement, the shinobi let his inner sage reign over him once again, allowing his own markings to accompany the seals. He scanned the area which now took on the natural hue of sepia and a haze of purple the further he searched the sky in which half was already showing the starry night sky. A colourful mist enveloped the area around them, the trees bearing fruit dwarfing the original intended sizes and the flora moving with more elegance and grace than the wind could ever teach them. Looking at the cave, writing revealed themselves in a luminescent glow, all written from different ages of time. How had he not noticed before?


"We are not in the Land of Fire... What is this place, Omori?" He continued to familiarize himself with the surroundings with the directed curiosity towards the Monkey Warrior to his side.

"The Cave Heaven of the Water Curtain. We reside in the Land of the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers. The Monkey King would visit this place for many reasons. It is through the power of the Monkey Sage that you can see its true form. Here, you do not age. You do not grow ill, tired or weary. All of time, slows. Almost to a halt." The Monkey Warrior grinned as he looked at the surrounding areas along with his companions. "You see, you have more time to train than you think." he let out playfully, his sharp tooth that lingered upon his lip now a charm.


____

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12 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Thu Apr 27, 2017 11:17 am

Sousetsu Senju

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Condensation escaped with the wind from the sweat from his brow as each new encounter of timber and steel found each other in succession. No matter how little time passed, the two veterans of battle would not allow it to decay without reason. Second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour, day by day, or so it seemed, as the two sentient's tensed and twisted their bodies in order to attack and defend. Who knew how much time had really passed had they not traversed into this Siberia, to the land of sweeter scents upon the mountain. The staff as a weapon proved to hold versatile qualities as it varied in its range. True to her word, Blank succeeded in creating a sturdy pole of timber, bending slightly but refusing to break to the will of the iron counterpart. The cloth in which the seal resided on did not hang loose on either end, but as tight as her vow to reach the Western borders.

Blank continued her escapades as she continued to watch the flowing nature that surrounded them. She could not see what they could, to her, all was right in the world. She could not see the warmth of the orange meadows and how the day accompanied the night sky as one. She could only be rewarded with the sweet aroma she had discovered previously. Nevertheless, her heart anchored her to this place. She fell in love with its beauty, its vibrant nature of emerald moss and aquatic blue.

'Maybe I could bring them here. To live in this haven.' she thought deeply as her hand caressed the oak tree, like her mothers hand upon her face as a small child.

Her family would have surely understood its beauty and under the protection of the Monkey Warriors, they would be safe from harms ferocious jaws that would eat through land. Finding new victims to fall to its prey as the circle of life should be. This was the place that could save them from all that was wrong and leave her the peaceful life she knew she could come to live in harmony, hand-in-hand, with her mother by her side. A curl in her lip let the world know her new intentions as her mind found a new bliss. She watched as the two warriors trained in their constant flow, like the moving waters between the riverbanks, they would stop until they found their resting point.

A bright and shining light followed by an unexpected grunt left Omori. The dazzling gaze emitted from his crown of gold. He took a knee, his pole digging into the earth to support him as his hand opposite would race to his head. The Senju stood upright in confusion. He tilted his head to the left as he watched the Monkey struggle with the migraine that came with the light that shined.

"Omori?" What's wrong?" Blank began to move toward him with haste along with a hint of curiosity and a dash of worry.
The pain soon came to pass. He could not answer straight away but rather found a moment to compose himself. Through gritted teeth and an unwilling crease around his eyes, the Monkey and directed his attention to the woman in white.Her eyes filled with care and a moist dampening. How could he not give her an answer worth knowing?

"This crown..." he collected himself, raising to his feet while his finger circled the temple of his mind. "It is not uncommon to the curse that ties you two. It is my master telling me that we should not linger here for much longer." he spoke, fighting against the pain as it carried heavy remorse on his tongue.

"How long have we be-?"

"You are enslaved?" Sousetsu interrupted, overruling Blank's question with his stoic stature before edging his way closer to the Monkey Warrior before him.

"All Monkey Warriors carry a burden similar to this. Even the Monkey King himself. While she is here, we are at risk of the Dragon King's wrath." The pain began to subside as it could be heard so in his voice. She watched as the reaction affected the woman's heart, who could only think that she could not take her family here any more. Forced to continue on their journey as pilgrims and greet fear, or possibly death, behind every corner. In turn, her heart now heavy, affected his. "I'm sorry but our time is cut short."

"How long have we been here, Omori? How long would it have been if we still resided in the Land of fire?" She repeated, craving her curiosity to be satisfied, daring the past Hokage to intervene with eyes like knives in his direction. The Wood-user would comply, allow her sentence to fly freely his own curiosity was fed.

"Six months."


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13 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:33 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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"But how is this possible? Night had turned to day during our rest! It is still early in the afternoon!" The woman in white exclaimed.

"To the world you see, time loses itself. While you slept I had seen night and day pass us by multiple times. Some slower than others, while some in an instant. It is just by chance that the day you find yourself in seems to be like any other." He hand placed on his chin as he lowered his head in response, attempting to explain the rift in space which was not an easy task.

It was surreal to the woman. Her face varying of emotions, attempting to comprehend the haven she found herself in. The Senju however, looked to his hands. The rugged burns of holding the staff, the hardened skin that were now bestowed upon the lower segments of his fingers and palms. Had he truly been in battle for six months? His fatigue matched that of half a days work. But his hands revealed the months of dedication. He could sense his ability with the wooden stick improve as the day marched forward, but he had always been known as a quick learner.

"How long do we have, Omori?" The beast asked with his infamous determination.

"I cannot say for certain. Not long." he replied with a curved brow.

"We have to hurry, I need to hone these skills." Sousetsu readied himself as returned to his battle stance. "Do not hold back."

A grin with pearly whites etched across the Monkey Warrior. He raised his left arm to his right bicep, plucking five small golden hairs from his body, not wincing from the sharp sting that he had caused to himself. He allowed the wind to carry the hairs from his outstretched and open palm, flailing from side to side and in every direction they were one with the wind. In an instant, the hairs created puffs of smoke, revealing life-like images of the original. Blank stood in disbelief as the Monkeys power continued to astound her. Summoning creations in his likeness  before her very eyes. It seemed that his particular Warrior could alter time and space, seemingly overshadowing who she had previously thought to be a god-like entity.

"I think you should gather your belongings, Kuuhaku." Omori suggested as time did not seem to favour them any longer.

The woman in white made her way to the campsite. The fire extinguished and the white smoke, long taken by the wind. She folded her clothing, retrieved the iron cast pots and pans, and any small tools and other apparatus that were used the night before. The bowls stacked neatly, the cutlery wrapped in a handkerchief, the cups by their kin. Her hands sprawled across the soil before them, shoulder-width apart. Symbols glowing through the blades of grass within a circle that would now retain the belongings. In an instant, the items had disappeared, taken by the seal to be stored in a rift of her own. It was then that a whisper called out to her. A small wisp of air that caught her attention towards the mouth of the Water Curtain Cave. Looking back to her companions and seeing them further their training, she mustered the courage her calling.

Blank ventured into the Water Curtain Cave further than she had gone before, dampening  the sounds of metal and timber that had returned, fated to clash to one was bested. Shoots of bamboo and worn out blossoms of dark red filled the crevices and decorated the interior of the fissure. It was in the distance where she had seen a creature sitting in wait. Her eyes focused, not diverting their gaze to anything else but where the next suitable footing should be as she made her way. The creature did not move. It did not react to the sound of crushing rocks beneath her feet, or  the sounds of loose stones that were forced to create ripples within the waters that filled the cave. It was not long before she realized that this creature in question was not among the living, but a watcher of stone.

Within arms reach, a Monkey of stone wore jaded spheres around its neck, its face solemn and content. She turned to see if she could confirm the feeling of eyes upon her. There was none. Nothing could startle her in this cave but the larger droplets of water, raining down from the roof of the stone haven making their unexpected journey to the mass body of water behind her. She knew she shouldn't, but a voice told her to disobey. She reached for the spheres that lingered on the statue, its attire now in her hands, carefully brushed to see the dark green hue it held. With another glance behind her, the coast was clear. Soon she would exit the mouth of the cave, but not without her spoils. The dragon pearls were now her own to do as she wished.


____

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The jaded pearls were held close to Blanks heart, shielding them from rapid waters that rushed over the mouth of the ground fissure with head sunk into her chest and chin resting on the greatest sphere. A short distance from the crashing waters she heard a pained cry from the training area, the Monkey Warrior now timid as it curled itself, tail in hand. His cries mimicked that of torture, sharp pains like needles in his head and struggled to caress his right lobe with an open palm in a circular motion. She approached cautiously, but still with haste. The jaded spheres were placed to the side of the now incapacitated Warrior.

"What's wrong with him!?" Blank cried in return, her eyes darting towards the Sage. Soon, they widened as she could see clearly that the Senju had no involvement as his staff dangled in a weak grip to his side. His mouth gaping almost finding it hard to keep his tongue in its rightful place. He was caught in a daydream, his focus had left him entirely as he watched the companion transition from a God to a lap-dog in an instant. With a brief nod from side to side, his jaw returning to a tensed state, he looked to Blank without an answer.  She wished to aid  her fallen ally that was tethered to a master with an electric leash, the remote in the hands of a child it seemed. She fell to her knees and placed his head gently upon her, caressing the red creature's temples. The Warrior looked up to his carer, a smile trying to reach her but the pain was too much. Another sharp pain stole his attention, the cry stealing hers. As he struggle and squirmed, kicked and gripped the dirt with desperate grasps, his gaze was now caught on the grand necklace of his master's.

"Where did you get that!?" Omori's anger now beginning to surface as his patience for the pain was wearing thin. His golden crown radiated a warm hue, the pain walked with it hand in hand. There was no doubt in her mind that her thievery was the cause of her ally's pain. Another act of selfishness to obtain something that was not hers. First, the life of a man who could control the woodlands and the ocean, the second, unknowingly, being a God's jewelry.

"In the cave. I-I'm sorry! Something drew me to it!" She attempted to redeem her actions. It was not a false statement however, and even the Monkey knew this. How was she to know of its existence?  

"I will return it!" Blank gripped the greatest sphere in her hand, ready to run off in the direction of the Water Curtain Cave to return what had been taken, but another hand had stopped her. Omori's bushy arms held the woman in white in place. Another pained expression lingering on his face.

"No! It is too late. The Dragon King will send my kin at any moment." Omori twiddled with fear, scanning his surroundings with signs of vexing. "Take them and go! The Dragon King will not take kindly to this!" he removed his hand from her person and pushed the spheres onto her, his feet still squirming yet he did not move far. Another stabbing sensation from a that felt utilized from a blunt knife caused the Monkey to twist and turn, finding himself on all fours, he began to drive his head into the ground multiple times. When the pain felt as if it was beginning to pass, it would return. It was within the time-frame of it residing that he turned to the Wood manipulator, who bore distinct marking of the seals and sage alike, and spoke freely with reassurance.

"Sage. Head to the West. I will find you there." his hand still trying to shift the pain evenly throughout his mind so that the pain was not built up in the one area. He proved unsuccessful however, as his yelping screeched like nails on a chalkboard with a pattern of unease.

The woman in white carried the great pearls to her watchful protector, bound together from here on out. Watching as their fallen ally had raised his arm to form a hand seal, they savoured the moment. One last look at the haven they had come learn so little in comparison to what could have been. The vibrant colours of the fruits and flowers, the Sage would inhale. The calming water-flow contained in the riverbanks, Blank would soak in. All was beginning to fade to black. Blank would wave to the Warrior Monkey, while the beast gave a nod of acknowledgment, thanking him for his time that they shared despite however brief. The sweet aroma of the flower fruit mountain was their goodbye.


____

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There was a peculiar warmth. A familiar warmth. One the Sage and woman knew all too well. They awoke on the soft soil in the midst of the woodlands, not too far from the battlefield of the clashing titans. A place that belonged to the pines. The Senju lifted himself up to a standing point, there he would brush the earth from his attire and patted the dust that lingered on the cloth. Blank could only pull herself to lay on her back as she lost herself in a well of guilt, seeking upwards for any signs of reconcile. Her hand refused to let go of the great spheres that molded this feeling. It was her only link to the Monkey Warrior that she had grown fond of, his parting gift to her regardless of her meddlesome deed. The Wood-user soon found his way to the woman in white and reached down. She offered her hand but he had ignored the gesture and snapped the spheres from her.

"When will you ever learn!?" The Sage spoke rhetorically in a ill-tempered manner. She was silent in return, trying the first rule to any way of finding peace and attempting to accept her actions conclusion.

"Stealing the Dragon Kings Pearls and thinking you will not be punished? You really are a silly girl!" The Sage scoffed. Had it been another, they would have spat. But the Senju was far above that act of rudeness. Instead, he simply confiscated what was not rightfully hers to call her own.

She continued to look upon the early evenings sky, searching for the brightest star to show her the way to redemption. She would even look for the stars that may lead her to penance.

"I heard it calling out to me." She abruptly spoke, Sousetsu now dead in his tracks awaiting to hear her reasons. A brief moment had passed where all he could that could be heard was the branches of the trees creaking and leaves bristling against one another in harmony.

"Well... None of that matters now. Where are we head-"

"I can't explain it... Like a wisp of air, guiding me to its presence. It was surreal. It wanted me to take it." she disregarded the dim-lit stars and focused on her memories.

"Fine." He forced an agreement with no real intention to learn of her past experience. It was time to embark on the long journey that lay ahead. It seemed at this point that the Sage was the only one of the two to realize that the Dragon Kings warriors were on their shadows. "Let's get going." He attempted to change the subject. He began to walk West, the weight of the spheres in his right hand. They were heavy, at least five kilograms as he placed them over his head to be carried around his neck.

"Wait!"

The Sage had halted once more, held back just as he had envisioned at the very beginning. With a forced turn of the body and tilt of the head, the Senju faced Blank who had just approached him at arms length. She bestowed upon him, strips of cloth and her blessings. That infamous and hateful glow the Sage could not learn to love, left their markings upon the Sage and the Dragon Pearls .


"There. Another seal to keep us hidden." she gave off a curled lip, offering a smile along with her services. The Sage continued his interrupted trek, once again.

"Hey, I never got your name?" She bellowed across the short distance between them as the gap was increasing.

"I never gave it." he sounded rather cold, his legs refusing to allow any more time to go to waste.

"Well... I'll give you one then..." She pondered for only a moment. One small moment and she had
adopted a rather fitting name.

"Saru."

"As in... Monkey?"

"Monkey."

A rather fatigued sigh escaped the man now named 'Monkey.' He would not dispute the name as long as it was not his own. Not in fear of who he was, but in respect that he did not know hers. She rushed to walk alongside her guide, her protector, and her only friend.

"Are you familiar with any of these lands?" Asked Monkey with the familiar curiosity we all bear.

"I am not... But I know someone who does. He lives not far beyond the stone path, a small village on our way West. He is in debt to my father, and my mother hates him for some reason. I think it was that time he had drunk a little too much at a banquet they held. Made quite the scene if I recall..."



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16 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:54 am

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Pig



She now shared the Monkey's eyes, marveling upon what he had seen that day in training. The waterbed she would dare not disturb, felt like a cloud in both its comfort and how it moved throughout the cave. The writing that was etched in the stone haven of the Water Curtain Cave left their history among the legends. Should she leave her own? The air above with a warm hue of Sepia that carried in the mist, accompanied the overpowering scent of pollen and citrus. She did not realize her craving to return. Was it considered greed that she did not share the waterbed? She never did carry the insatiable appetites for the fruit buried in the crevices or amongst the trees beyond the mouth of the ground fissure. She had never known Monkey to bother with such luxery either. A man contempt with his own purpose, drunk only on determination.

Who could turn down another companion? Is that also considered greed?

--------------------------------------------

The path of stone came to an end to a fork in the road divided by a signpost. To the left, was the road to a small village bountiful of crops. The center, to a body of water that the fisherman would occupy during the early until the fireflies relieved them in the evening. The right, a goldmine where the able bodied men would earn their living and return with nuggets of value and attires ruined with stains of black. As they came to a halt, Monkey glanced at their options before directing his attention to Blank, tilting his head slightly to the village of bountiful crops. She nodded in return with her approval. The road led over a small hill and to the other side, fields of green and vegetation plagued the land. Small huts, stalls and workshops could be seen residing by the patches of plants that fed the people who chose their nutrition. Distant figures of men, women and children occupied the lands, like worker ants on a lavish playground.

Passing by the first set of stalls of traders who offered their goods, the children ran with no sense of care to the world around them. The two pilgrims scanned their surroundings, taking in the new scenery to familiarize themselves with the generous bounty it had to offer. The stalks of grain and wheat to their left rustled with a game of tag. Their right, a game of samurai with bokken and a backdrop of cornstalks. Blank melted into a soft smile as she found the happiness and cheerful laughs to be contagious. Monkey,  determined as always, kept his senses sharp with a tense jaw and piercing eyes. The woman among the crowds were easy on the eyes, natural beauties who lived healthy lifestyles and took care of their kin.

"You sure he is here?" Monkey questioned her judgement among the peaceful land.

"Most definitely." She smirked as she watched a small group of women chuckle as they gazed upon her companion.

It was unusual to see a man smothered in ink still be considered handsome. It was only now, clean from remnants of his battle and practices with the wooden staff which now lay upon his back, that she could see his attractive qualities underneath the writing. A strong jaw, a fit figure, well-dressed, all factors leading the man with a strong sense of purpose even as a vagabond. Along the path with the wall of traders, they were stopped by the small traffic of children blocking their route. They did not grow inpatient, but rather grinned slightly, enjoying their display of stories they created without thought.

"A man as big as a mountain stole the fisherman's swordfish!"

"No it was a pig! My mother told me so!"

"Stupid! Pigs don't eat fish!"

"Then why do you eat it?"

Had Blank's mouth been filled with water it would have surely been sprayed as her sudden uncontrollable laughter spewed towards the children. Her eyes beginning to well at the innocence, yet cruelty a child bore.

"Oh yeah? I bet you are too chicken to go into the bamboo to find the Buta!"

'Buta', meaning 'pig', reminded her of the words her mother spoke of the man she had found herself in search of. That was his name, it must have been. Or at least a nickname for those closest to him. She did remember the drunkard being a man of great size. She hoped the years retained his features. She stepped forward slightly, still wiping the well from her eyes from her recent outburst.

"Excuse me! Could you tell me which direction the bamboo is?" she asked, fighting her urge to stay her chuckle once more as she looked at the innocence before her.

"That way! Up a narrow and winding path." A child responded with his index finger pointing her in the direction further to the West.

"Stay away from the Buta, Miss! He will eat you!" Another of the children cried out, appearing to be serious. These were tall tales the parents had told their children, she knew this of course. But what legend did this man leave to scare the people? Why was he not accepted? Her answer lay on the narrow and winding path that scaled another hilltop. With a bow for her thanks, the two companions set off to the West once more, in search for another guide in their Journey.


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17 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Wed May 10, 2017 10:51 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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The young boy was true to his word as the two travelling companions had found their journey on the narrow and winding path through the forest of bamboo. Waiting at the foot of the hill, a suit of armour perched up on a cross, like a scarecrow, warding off those who dared to trespass. The armour was heavy and rust gathered amongst the edges with a copper tint. It did not nurse a helmet however, but a flimsy plastic mask resembling a wild boar. It was unclear just who had left their mark with drawings in red paint marking its territory, rather childish spirals around the cheeks of the mask and gut of the armour.


'Beware of Pig'


These were the words etched on a signpost that shielded the armour from the sunlight that dawned from the West. Monkey analyzed the paintings, trying to understand the message it attempted to portray, while Blank simply admired the child's work with a small grin. The sounds of earth crunching beneath their feet as they now passed the warning to begin their trek to the lair of the Pig. The bamboo stood strong, the leaves brushed against one another from the brushes at the their base. Peace now joined their journey to the peak.

"So... how did you, umm... That man you were fighting... Did yo-"

"Let's just find this 'Pig' and get you to your mother." Monkey cut her words sharply with the blade of his own tongue. Blank expressed her feelings with nothing more than a pout and a small sigh.

"I just thought we could get to know each other."

"Continue thinking that." His words remained sour, still unforgiving from the burden that was lay onto him. He glanced at his arm, the markings still leeching his fair tone, the visible blurry motion of the ink still mocked him.

"It's a long way to-"

"Listen..." Monkey halted his movements, the woman in white soon following suit. "You want to talk? Talk to the Pig. It's my job to get you there alive. Nothing more." Monkey had finally addressed his point and where he stood in this forced relationship she had created. Her eyes diverted to the soil to her right. A small sullen silence carried in the air, the friction between the two could enable the very forest surrounding them to be engulfed in flames. She fought back more tears, the welling of her eyes returning. In order for the Sage before her to miss this re-occurrence, she pushed him to the side and hurried forward. The sounds of crackling earth becoming more common as she continued their trek up the narrow path.The white haired male tilted his head back, his eyes rolling in the process.

He mustered whatever courage he could to say something he considered she deserved. He rubbed the back of his head, somehow feeling regret to the woman who enslaved him. That apology had to wait however as the leaves quickened in pace.

"Kuuhaku!"

A thunderous clash spooked the woman in white, causing her to jump where she stood and dart her head behind her. There she seen her companion doing his job, just as he had made clear not moments ago. Monkey held his staff thrusting into, what could only be described as, a rather sizable cannonball. A boulder would be a more fitting adjective had its features not have been rounded so smoothly. The clashing of iron and wood, a loose chain which could now be seen attached to the cannonball, and a small exertion of breath from the Monkey Sage. The thunderous clash had revealed itself before her eyes.

The chain soon jingled with a hastened fashion as it began retracting, dragging the iron ball with it back into the depths of the woodland. The Sage scanned the area for any further signs of disturbance and focused his senses, hoping his hearing would not fail him again. Bamboo lay parted on the ground to their right, where the mechanism had erupted from. Blank, stood in awe as the man she had recruited was able to stand strong against a trap of that caliber. He displayed those abilities once more to her, just like that day of the fight where she had found him. She was right to take him, and she would be right to take the Pig in turn.

"I'll go on ahead!" She began running up the hilltop, her voice bellowing to the Sage on her travels.

"No!"

The sounds of rustling leaves quickened once more. History repeated itself as the Monkey Sage appeared to her side once more, parrying the ball and chain to the side. His eyes focused to where the trail of the chain led him in the forest. A shadow of a large figure stood in the distance before suddenly whipping its arm. The chain returned to its sender, followed by the iron.

"Stay close." He took her by the hand and began to enter the forest to the opposite side, seeking shelter amongst the bamboo and brushes it provided. "Stay low." He ordered. She began to crouch but continued her haste with the sage. The sound of a clatter consisting of iron, a thud and a yelp led the Sage to halt his movements once more. Still holding her hand, he turned to assist her, helping her to her feet so they could run some more, only for his attention to be taken by the origin of the iron he had just heard. Another suit of armour, but this one still had its host. His eyes slowly wandered across the bamboo forest, body after body, this land was not what he had imagined. Their narrow and winding path, was a battlefield. Their presence was among the dead.


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18 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Thu May 11, 2017 12:23 am

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A scream soon silenced as the hand of the Sage covered the mouth that cried. He crouched over her, shielding and concealing her existence, his attention returning to the general direction of the sizable ball and chain. He did not move. Her eyes welled up once more but was accompanied by a sense of relief that the man before her would come between her and harms foul play. She watched as his eyes scanned the area, his ears twitched and his head darting, like a deer that was aware of the hunter. All was now quiet. It could only mean that the hunter had lost sight of its prey, and so it meant that they were closing in.
Silently, Monkey had crept over to the suit of armour. He began to to unravel the corpse, starting with the helmet. Once it was removed he was suddenly taken back but what it had revealed. It was not what he had first assumed. It was not the skull of a warrior that it bore, but a small bag of sand with the same childish swirls of red paint. A rather poor drawing of a face only a young child could make and hope for their approval to place upon the refrigerator. His eyes squinted, his jaw dropped slowly as he tried to find the behaviour behind such actions. He tilted his head upwards, wandering his vision to the bodies sprawled across the woodland. Where they all fake?

Another thud, a crash, the sounds of bamboo creaking as it was torn asunder. How long before this place would turn into a tundra with a determined and menacing hunter at their doorstep? The Monkey Sage began to remove the armour post-haste, disregarding the mirage of this graveyard he found himself in and began placing the outfit onto the woman in white. Their actions were rushed and it proved difficult to place the armour in such a low position, maintaining their status of stealth, reducing the hunters field of vision. It was unusual for a hunter, however, to let himself be known.

With the armour now equipped, Monkey had lay the woman to rest, nestled into the closest brush so that her existence could remain alien to this world. He vanished, leaving only a few leaves to fall in his stead, a true feature of the speed the Sage had obtained. With the young woman, no longer in any direct danger, the Monkey could now assess the surroundings. The hunter was now to become the hunted. He scaled the bamboo and dashed to the next, constantly moving so that his position would not be compromised. The bamboo would recoil after each leap however, revealing his last known position, but this was only to his advantage.

With quick successions of traversing from bamboo to bamboo, the trees wallowed back and forth, to and fro, the forest now responding to their kind being struck down. They wallowed in anger, a roar in return from the hunter.

"Hey! Stop it!" the owner of the ball and chain reactive with a hint of fright. It was effort to hear the bravery and confidence behind his words, the Monkey now playing with his prey. He continued to rustle the leaves and bounce from one stalk to the next, the trees now shaking in unison.

"This isn't funny, ya hear me!?" The large ball of iron swung across the landscape, leveling an impressive amount of stalks in the process.  It was then that the Sage had found the opportunity to stop and overlook his opponent. A rather large man, larger than the iron. Was this the Pig? Upon further inspection, the Sage had notice that this was no ordinary ball and chain, but a club with a mechanism that shot the ball of iron. The chain would retract back into the handle in order to bring the bulk of the damage back to the sender. It was indeed an intriguing weapon.

The Sage waited patiently, unwavering, still, just as the bodies were across the landscape, he would lay in wait before he would show himself. He watched as the large man made his way closer to Blank's location. He raised his head slightly, his eyes would not leave her. Another crushing blow to the surrounding wildlife leveled the playing field further, closing in on the woman slowly. Unfortunately, It was the sounds of tumbling bamboo that revealed her position with an involuntary cry as it drew nearer. Monkey's eyes darted to the sudden halt in the large man before he began to quicken his pace towards the cry. Eagerly, the large man launched the iron ball once more, the Sage leaping in action soon after.

The ball of iron created such a heavy force as it crashed through the trees and landed roughly thirty meters from the sender. It was there that the Sage would make his appearance. He dashed to the ball and positioned himself firmly upon it, awaiting its master to bring him to his fate. Like clockwork, the chain rustled and the ball was to be returned. The Monkey Sage's cheeks felt the cutting wind, his hand firmly securing his position, his head tilted forward so that his vision was not all useless. Finally, he would meet the master of the ball and chain, revealing his infamous grin as his staff was at the ready to strike at any moment.


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Eyes wide open, the large man had seen what he had been hunting retaliating with a force of its own with what many would be considered a bold move. With a flick of the wrist, the staff twirled and connected with the jaw as it was too late to stop the Sage from accompanying the weapons journey back to its owner. Sousetsu leaped to the rear of the large man to combo his offense with another strike to the ribs, winding his opponent shortly thereafter.  He fell to his knees, gripping his side and jaw with awe and wonder written across his face. All before he started crying.

"Ow! Owwie! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" The large man twitched, tossed and turned.

Monkey looked blankly down to the giant that could level fields, acting like he had just left an academy and dared stand against a man of his skill, expecting to win. He was unsure if he was serious or really was a child at heart. Blank sat upright with an expression of confusion of her own.

"That hurt! Ow! Ow! Ow!" He continued to struggle, dropping his weapon, conceding his defeat to focus on his wounds. It seemed like more than enough time had passed as he caressed his side and jaw, laying on the soft soil, rolling from side to side and allowing his cries to be heard.

"Are you... Are you all right?

"What do you think, stupid idiot!?

"I was just asking..."

"No-one likes stupid questions! Ouch."

The Monkey's eyes squinted once more. His mouth unsure what to do as it dangled open to close whenever he noticed its weight.

"Pig!" the armoured woman added in a more than happy tone. It just raised further questions for the frosty haired Sage. "I didn't see that was you!"

"Trip? Tripitaka!?" The man now confirmed as pig replied with shock and surprise at his leisure as the familiar voices were now rejoicing at the sound of the others.

"Tripitaka?" Sousetsu now joining the surprise gathering. The Pig had revealed the alias' true name.  She simply glanced at the Sage before ignoring the remark and heading to help the giant that seemed to have forgotten his wounds.

"Pig! It is you!"

"Trip! Oh my days, isn't this a pleasant surprise!"

"Are we still fighting or-" The Sage held his battle stance.

"I haven't seen you in a doll's age!"

"It has been a long time, Pig... How is everything?"

"I don't know if I should lower my weapon or-" Sousetsu began to look around him to see if this man was truly alone, no more surprise attacks.

"Everything is great! What's better than free food from the farmers? They think if they feed me I will leave them alone!" A strong and hearty chuckle followed.

"Oh, Pig... You causing mischief again?" she placed her hands on her hips, almost scolding him but open for interpretation of a playful attitude.

"Well I, uhh...!" he began rubbing the back of head.

"Nevermind. C'mon meet my, umm... friend, Monkey." She helped the large man to his feet and started edging their way close to Monkey, who was still unsure if it was safe to let down his guard. Looking at the large man as he began to close in, he did not strike the Sage as an individual with much intellect. His strength however, was something to admire. His hair was as dark as the evening sky, his robust chest and waist held together by armour that may have taken any blacksmith a full day to forge.





"What kind of name is 'Monkey,' eh?" he towered over the Wood-user. In turn, the Monkey looked the man up and down, curious to just how heavy this man really was.

"Pig? How on earth did you get a name like that?" He sarcastically replied.

A chuckle escaped the owner of the ball and chain followed back a playful smack across the Sages shoulder, almost sending him to the floor.

"Any friend of Trip's, is a friend of mine! So, what brings you here?"

"Are we really going to ignore what had just happ-"

"We are heading West and we were wondering..." Tripitaka leaned in closer, seducing the large man in order to sway the man to her side. "Could you take us there?"

"Hmm... I don't know..." Pig pondered at both of his options. Staying here there was free food delivered to his doorstep and peace among the hilltop. Trip, however, was somewhat of a responsibility to him at this point, almost killing her with his recent actions.

"My mother would have wanted you too..." her eyes rolled to the side. Pig's eyes widened in his retort.

"Let me pack some supplies! You guys hungry? Let's eat!" the eager and hungry giant led them further up the narrow and winding path. It would not be long before they had found their way to the residence of the man the village people feared. The man only known as Pig.



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The sounds of pots and pans being tossed aside from under the counter-top accompanied the large man who struggled to find his instruments of cooking. His breath now becoming more resembling to that of a pig as it struggled, his tonsils scraping in his throat as he inhaled and exhaled with such a pace. Monkey and Trip scanned their new environment, the sty this man had called home. It was a small home similar to that of a cottage along a countryside. One floor, everything almost made from wood. There were no pictures, no signs of pets, only scribbles of ink on pages and bowls of fruits and vegetables lay scattered across the appliances that were a necessity to call this particular room a kitchen.

"I hope your meal was to your liking?" he could faintly be heard as his head lingered in a cupboard.

The two looked to their plates, still half filled with the bountiful helpings they were given. It was more than enough and yet the resident had left his plate clean.

"It was delicious! Thank you so much!" Tripitaka replied with a warm tone, appreciating the hospitality.

"It was. Thank you." Monkey replied in turn, not as warm but still appreciating the effort made. With a man of this size, it did not come unsurprising that he knew his way around a kitchen for the meal did satisfy the taste-buds.

"Now... If i can just-ugh... Find this- stupid.. Ah-ha!"

The two companions heads both tilted in unison, trying to see what the Pig had searched for. He pulled out a rather large rack made from wicker, almost at two meters in length. It was then he stood and placed it on the counter-top and began placing the various fruits and vegetables onto it.

"I'm not even sure how he missed something that size under a small cupboard..." Sousetsu whispered to himself as he stood in awe. Trip elbowed his ribs in response, her way of telling him it was rude to pass such a remark to their host.  

"Now, I will be finished shortly. Gather what you can and we can be on our way!" the large man scurried into another room.

The two looked at each other before scanning their surroundings once more. What was there to take apart from the food that presented itself on every surface? Trip lifted a bowl of various fruits of apples, bananas and grapes, while the Monkey Sage gathered a few utensils for cooking and eating. They made their way outside and placed the items in the open. Trip placed her hands upon the ground before them, markings sprawling across the earth before them. In an instant, the items had disappeared into another seal, another dimension that she could pluck from whenever she desired.

The door swung open with such force that the top hinge came loose as the giant hurried to their side, breathing heavily and sweating more than one should when gathering belongings. It was unusual to see the rack upon his back filled to the brim with more food, not one piece of clothing, not any other instruments that he could use to pass the time or have the ability to lend so much as a pen.

"And with that, the bedroom is empty!" he grinned as he looked down at the two. The Monkey and the woman in white turned to face each other, both thinking identical thoughts. Was there even a bed?

"Monkey, can I speak to you for a moment?" the large man requested. Curiosity filled the air as even Trip grew questionable at the response.

"Uhh, Sure?" He walked to the side accompanied by their new companion. Once the distance was out from earshot, Sousetsu was all ears. He crossed his arms and raised his head, hearing what he had to say.

"You and Trip... Are you guys..? Ya know.." he asked with an innocence similar to a teen discovering what love might be like for the first time. Sousetsu did not get the message however, looking past the large man to see Tripitaka awaiting their return. He turned his head slightly, showing him that he was still listening to what he had to say, or re-phrase the question at hand.

"Are you and Trip... More than friends?" he asked again with that innocence that came hand in hand with this now gentle giant.

"Oh... Oh! No, no. No. Like her, I'm heading West. That's it." his hands shook before him as his head nodded to assure his intentions.

"Oh, so you don't mind if I..." he began to form a grin upon his face.

"Go right ahead." Sousetsu forced a curled lip. It was then that the Monkey had a question in return for the large man. Something that the relationship between Pig, Trip and her mother that needed to feed another curious matter. As the gentle giant was beginning to turn and make his move, Sousetsu placed his hand upon the shoulder of the large man to gently ease him back into the conversation.

"Sorry, but I have to ask... What's the history between you and Trip's family?" He hoped for his answer to be rather simple enough to satisfy his urge with ease.

"Oh... Umm. Well, we were at a banquet and I had a little too much to drink, ya know? And... Well..." he placed his hands on his hips and looked to the earth below. Silence filled the air with no signs of the story getting to the punchline. The Sage awaited the answer but the giants mind wandered back to Trip.

"Well, what!?" Sousetsu's curiosity now higher than it was before.

"Oh, Sorry. Dazed off there for a moment. Umm, yeah. Apart from food, I really like women. I kind of made a move on her mother."

And just like that, he had left the Sage speechless once more.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Her father was not happy."

"I'm not surprised."

"Mhmm..." they would dwell in the air that filled with a heavy remorse for the question being asked. Their eyes wandering to the sides and occasionally coming into contact with each others once again before edging away.

"You do that to many women?" Sousetsu finally broke another brief silence.

"All the time."

"You really are a Pig..."

Pig chuckled and made his way to Trip to begin his next move. It seemed the name Pig may not have been for the man's weight but for his attitude towards women. Trip's story now became more clear. In debt to the father, the large man owes their family for his insolence. It may also explain why the people want him away from the village. With a small sigh, he watched as he made another move on the daughter of the woman he was indebted to. It seems he did not learn from his mistakes.

Trip patted the gentle giant, consoling him as his head lowered and swayed from side to side, no doubt sulking from the rejection he had just received. Monkey stared blankly, unsure of whether to laugh at his luck with the ladies or to commend him for his efforts. The Pig made his way back to the Sage with heavy feet and a heavy heart, his head still lowered.

"Uhh... Sorry it didn't-"

"And away we go!" Pig's spirits soared instantly as he now led the journey West.


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21 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Thu May 11, 2017 11:16 pm

Sousetsu Senju

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The Amaranthine

All the wonderful things in her haven, none of which were seen in the Land of Fire : Golden gates, silver chariots, and a purple palace; Precious plants, jade flowers, and jasper petals. The Monkey Sage was fated to come to this haven to be by her side, rather than be sullied by the world he knew best. The golden bells tolled from the great palace that dawned over the Cave Heaven of the Water Curtain.  

She was not subject to death. She was immortal in his arms.

------------------------------------------------------------

The travelling companions were now a trio. The rack of food now sealed away for fear of Pig feeling peckish, yet he still fell at the back of the line of pilgrims. His weapon weighed heavy on the gentle giants back, Monkeys faring like a feather in comparison. Their journey continued to the West on a dusty trail. They had passed the hilltops, mountains of stone, and the days that carried with them. Their adventurous were rather unfulfilling, making the Sage wonder why his services were required as he looked down to the ink that covered his skin and cloth that dangled loosely at their ends. The dragon's pearls, resting easy around his neck.

Pig remained an open book to the two. Insatiable hunger and lust seemed to come hand in hand while his breaks, while short, were still many in numbers. A large man needed such luxeries after all. Trip would focus her gaze on Monkey as time ventured with them, still feeling pity, like a trapped animal under prodding pole to perform for her own amusement. She was not like that however. Her selfish actions were fulfill an important goal. To see her mother, God in the eyes of a child, and to keep her gift. A gift she had revealed many times to the unknowing Monkey. He still had time to solve her mystery, her riddle, the enigma of her person. He had the power to let her secrets spill like ink on a page after all. All he had to do was ask.

Monkey still kept his stoic persona masking his intentions for his part in this journey West. A noble act to see his role to the end. How likely was his role come to an end by his personal gain presenting itself? The dieties themselves liked to play games from time to time, and even though they may be cruel, it was still just a game to them.  The crunch of the old and miniscule rocks echoed and turned to dust beneath their feet, the wind showing its form behind them however small. It felt odd that at any given moment, anything can come to a standstill, whether that be water cut from its source, plants that lived in the shadows, even the heart of a woman tethered to a Sage. A swift course of action, relaying devastating reactions the further the circle of life traversed. Come to think of it... Pig was due his break.

The sound of a familiar crashing iron onto the earth disturbed the wind behind Trip and Monkey.

"Sorry guys, my feet are aching."

"It's okay. We can rest a bit, right Monkey?"

The Sage turned his head briefly before facing forward once more, his footsteps unwavering, showing no signs of stopping.

"He needs to work on his people skills." Pig scoffed with a cocked eyebrow.

"He's just... A little different..." Trip defended his actions that only she understood. "We can catch up once you have some water."

Her hands were placed on the dusty road, the symbols reinventing themselves in circles and presented them with canteens of water. Pig first soaked his feet briefly with the cooling liquid before taking a few small sips. Trip, on the other hand, took one large swig and wiped her upper lip from the residue it left.  

A noise presented itself with the guise of click, almost resembling the opening of a gas lighter. With their ears perked, they darted their attention to the side where fields of trees resided. The Sage, while further ahead, had senses most would consider inhuman. He too heard the click. His head turned to the side once more to find his companions looking off into the emerald wildlife. It was then he leaped to join the bark and flora in hiding, awaiting the event to unfold.

Instantly, a large net sprayed across the two that sat on the jaded earth, enslaving them as the trap had been sprung. A yelp escaped the woman in white, the giant covering attempting to tear the nets thick ropes. He proved incapable of doing so, struggling like a tortoise on its back as he fumbled through each opening with his limbs flailing uncontrollably.

"Well, she might be the one after all!" a rather proud voice let itself be known.

From the thick shrubbery, a group of men exited. Five in total, wearing dark armour similar to the iron ball that Pig carried. Armed with broadswords, they circled the net of captives and began prodding at them like cattle. Each prick against Trip, Monkey felt upon himself with a sharp sense of discomfort. One of the men stood further out in the road, seemingly taking the lead, as if he watched his pawns do the dirty work.

"Forget the big guy, it's the woman he wants."


____

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22 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Sat May 13, 2017 12:37 pm

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Deep within the shade of the branches and bristling leaves, Monkey lay against the bark of a rather tall tree, his ear facing the now crowded area. The intruders sought a woman, hired by another. His jaw tensed, his mind wandered, racing against the possibilities and connecting them with his own past events. Could they have been searching for the same woman? Their features were similar, their height, the colour of her hair, and with recent actions displayed by both individuals, their social interactions of self-gain. He gripped his staff tightly, holding it up against his body so that it would not be revealed along with his intentions. The cloth that dressed the edge caught his attention. An unbreakable seal, matching his will to find the one he had also sought. He was not left much of a choice. He had to act in order to continue his journey West.

A breeze lingered were he had stood as the Monkey Sage dashed to another position, closing in on his new found prey. Listening intently, remaining silent, weapon at the ready. These were the skills required before he could pursue an effective opportunity. He could feel the woman in white's distress through the markings she had left on his skin. The pain would return to him had any harm come to her, just as did that day. Sinking deeper into the dark matter of his brain, the voice of the beast called to him. The warrior within was bloodthirsty, aching with anxiousness and thriving for attention. He could not be stopped here. He would not.

The four underlings of the man who had spoke began to circle the captives within the ropes. Like a ritual, they created the four points and raised their broadswords in unison, ceremonial to the naked eye it felt. It was almost his time. The frost-haired leader lay in watch with his own blade resting upon his shoulder, smirking, grinning, demeaning as he watched his comrades treat the gentle giant like cattle to the slaughter. Another dash within the emerald isle of trees brought the beast closer to the unknowing degenerates. His footsteps were light, his intent to subdue was heavy.

Another wisp of air and the crowd of four was now reduced to three as a member of the ceremony had now vanished, leaving nothing but a trail of dust. The remaining outcasts darted their attention to his last known location, now filled with shock, surprise and a subtle hint of fear. They faced one another, their eyes shifting as they began to familiarize their surroundings and hoped to find the end result of their friends vanishing act. But they could not. The leader of the group of misfits began to let his jaw drop ever so slowly. His blade now being preparing defend as he entered a cautious battle stance.

"Did anyone see where he went!? Anyone!?" he cried out in fear of the unknown. The remaining three executioners left their ritual and readied their blades, facing directions to cover their flanks from any more surprises.

Trip found herself in awe once more. The man that walked farther than earshot and sight had returned. His display of prowess towering over any and all who opposed him. She could not hear him, she could not see him, but she believed in her safety under his watchful gaze. Pig seized his struggling as one of his assailants had left without a sign of warning. He watched as the others began their defensive formation in disarray. His eyes widening, his brow raising, his now slowing its pounding as he escaped deaths grasp. His previous experience with Monkey had shown itself once more, letting his presence be known to the bandits from the shadows.

With another breeze, the rope preventing their salvation was cut.


____

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With a mighty roar, Pig had broke free, diverting the attention of the surrounding captors. Their swords swung to their shoulders before they began their charge to stab the now wild boar. Another opportunity, another man excluded from their ranks as the dusty clouds began to increase in radius around the area. Nothing but a small cry carried off into the distance as the Monkey had displayed his speed and strength once again. The remaining two did not falter however as their charge was already in motion. Raising a knee, Pig slammed his foot to the earth with such force it shook the land before him. The charging blades now unbalanced, no longer a sharp point to be wary of within the brief moment he provided. Fear echoed through the men once more as their movements halted to regain their footing. It was with this moment that Pig had lifted his weapon and began to toss a mighty swing.

The ball of iron was cast, expelling off into the distance, past the captors whose perception was now lowered with the quick turn of events. Unsure of the giant mans accuracy, they leaped to each side of the chain, awaiting his next course of action. Leaning down and retrieving the woman from the net of thick rope, he placed her under his arm. He activated his weapon, only this time, the ball did not come back to him. He darted with the woman under his wing to the iron anchor off in the distance on the dusty road.

"What are you doing? Don't leave Monkey to fight them alone!" she struggled as they landed at the anchor point. He continued running off into the distance, seemingly no longer worn out from their journey on foot.

"Pig! Go back and help him!" Trip cried for his attention, her orders falling on deaf ears.

Monkey lay in wait behind another wooden pillar. He watched as Pig had made his escape with Trip under his protection. A little cowardice presented itself in his thoughts towards the giant man who had the chance to turn the numbers in their favour. One swing of his iron weapon surely would have wiped two of the remaining three threats away. A small sigh escaping and his eyes rolling back to the threats at hand, he could see the two subordinates beginning to give chase by the order of an outstretched arm belonging to the man with hair like frost.  

The dust returned to the soles of the Sage's feet as he came between the underlings, his staff vertical, preventing them from furthering their steps. His head was lowered, his display still growing to greater heights. The two looked to the man before tensing their muscles as their blades began their purpose, seeking to spill his blood to make up for the ritual that he had foiled. History was destined to repeat itself as another of their plans would fail. The strikes of the edges of his staff came into contact with each jaw with a fluent motion. Another twirl to their abdomens that would follow through to the hinds of their legs, flooring them as result.

Unconscious, unwilling to fight, the subordinates had been defeated by the hands of the Monkey Sage. His attention now gazing upon another. The leader of the foes, the feet that kept them grounded, the hand that fed, the head of the snake, whichever title that would fit best was not considered a match for the man who held the ocean or bent the nature around him. He edged his way closer, the beast within now backing the rat into its corner. There was nowhere for him to run for he could not match his agile speeds. He could not hide for he would never find ease as the beast would never stop hunting. He had to stand his ground. The butt of the wooden pole tapped the earth beneath the Monkeys feet, the blade shining in the air as it tested the winds pressure, pointing to its next opponent.

The Azure Beast grinned that infamous grin. The man with hair like frost opposed with a trembling and quivering lip.



The wisp returned.


____

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24 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Sun May 14, 2017 11:16 am

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The sound of dense wood and steel echoed as the staff of the Monkey Sage met the blade of the armoured bandit. In multiple successions, the strikes from both wielders were parried and blocked, both standing on equal footing. It was an impressive feature for the leader of the captors to match the skill of Monkeys, it was clear why he was in charge of the others that fell so easily. However, he still struggled, each parry more hesitant than the previous as the Sage continued to ease the pressure on each new offense he presented. A twist of the wrist, a twirl of the staff, the fluent motions in his body, all of which made it difficult to counter-attack as he held strong and kept the barrage of jabs and swings at an increasing pace.

Another block and another parry, another echo of steel and timber. It was when the two met at a standstill, their weapons colliding and holding their own at a dead-eye, that the armoured leader took note of the staff. The blade was not leaving its mark on the wood it bore. Surely, a small dent was to reveal itself given their qualities of affinity. It did not make sense that the sharp blade did not leave so much as a scratch on the Sage's bo. He kicked off the earth to create distance between. Unaware of the circumstance that Monkey found himself in, the leader raised his left hand and formed a hand seal. A gust of wind began to form around his person, creating a new aura that would comfort him as he let loose a grin of his own to match the beasts.

A dash from Monkey and a swing of his wooden companion, the Sage refused to stop his barrage. Before he could come into contact with the opponents steel, he felt a great pressure of resisting force a metre from his target. The wind pushed back, unable to follow through with his strike. It was the wind he would be finding himself fighting against. Unable to to breach the new aura of defense, the leader chuckled at the new advantage he maintained in the field of battle. Monkey's grinning demeanor soon changed, his facial expression reducing to one who showed no amusement.

"What's wrong? I thought you were stronger than this?" The leader taunted the cursed man.

He took a brief moment to analyze this ability. The force, the pressure of the winds resistance, he assessed the strength of this technique. It was clear it was defensive, this would require an ability of a higher caliber to overcome. A new obstacle revealed itself but the stoic individual that was Monkey, bowed to no man. With a tensed jaw, a strong determination and quick wits, the Sage began to increase his pace once more. The leader would not be able to keeps his eyes on the silver haired and white kimono demon. He left after images of himself, darting to a new position as each footstep left its signature in the dust. Unable to keep his keen-eye transfixed on the bo wielder, the man with hair like frost simply seized his battle stance, closed his eyes, and focused on the sounds of the scraping dust alone, leaving his faith entirely with the wind.

This was his mistake. As the afterimages and ever-increasing speeds of the Azure Beast began to feel like he was surrounded, the leader grew more tense, unfocused, wanting to run but no longer given that option. He was in the eye of the storm that he had created. Just when all hope had been lost, he heard silence. Nothing reached his sense of hearing, not a wisp of air, not the crunching stone on the earth below, not even the sense of threat lingered as he opened his eyes and found nothing but the figures of the beasts companions out in the distance. He looked around in disbelief, searching for the one who could change his emotions with such ease, leaving his mark of fear and dread. All was quiet once more.

He dared not let the wind die down even a little. He knew was the prey to the white kimono wearing hunter. All was calm and tranquil, and it was with that that this sense of anxious and unnerving began to creep up on him. He was being watched in waiting. The sweat from his brow beginning to fall, he would not move in fear of confusing his movement to seeing shadows that were not actually there.

"Come out and fight me!" He roared, wanting the feeling of fear to pass him by with haste.

"Come out and-"

Dust exploded in his surrounding. The feeling of the rough earth could be felt across his cheek, his head pounding with agony. The Azure Beast had granted his wish as he stood over him, his hand pressing down on his face, pushing him deeper into the earth as if he was a demon pushing him down to the fiery depths of hell.

"The wind is calm within the eye." The Sage spoke, hinting towards the ariel attack that had just occurred.

"I will only ask once..." The Beasts words rang true. "Where is Kuroma?" he applied more pressure, pushing his face further into the earth so he could hear the cracks of old rocks and pebbles of dirt.

"Where is the 'Dark Horse?'"


____

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25 Re: Vagabonds: Pilgrimage to the West [Private] on Sun May 14, 2017 12:44 pm

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The man beneath the hand cursed under his breath, his teeth gritting to help endure the pain of the overwhelming force of the man whose speed outmatched the winds. The longer he had waited to answer, the harder his head pressed further into the ground. All he could do is hope that his subordinates would come to his aid, but a man of this caliber did not strike with little effort. It became clear that help would not be coming anytime soon and he did not have the time to test that.

"West! He's further West!" He began to save himself.

Pig and Trip became larger figures in the short distance as they returned to the field of defeated foes. Returning to the Sage they had only come to learn bearing the name Monkey. They were soon within earshot, yet Monkey did not lend them his attention as he focused his gaze to the man he had now subdued.

"An old hideout before the Land of Rivers, just shy of an old creek." he continued now cursing himself and his allegiance to his master.

"Who is he talking about?" Trip asked as her curiosity peaked.

"You will not defeat him. He is gaining more power even now." he let loose a small chuckle.

"How?" Another exertion of power emitted from the palm of the wood-user.

"He may be a master of fire... But his real power is not one to be tampered with..." he was beginning to lose consciousness. Coughing and gasping for air, the Senju let loose a little of the weight holding him down to keep him awake. Feeling the ease, the leader of the bandits swallowed to wet his throat and inhaled deeply to catch his breath.

"Kuroma has the power to take ones abilities." He revealed with a smirk etching on his face.

Monkey looked up towards Trip, now aware of his true intentions, she looked back with concern. His jaw tensed before putting the man to sleep before them. He stood tall and began to process the new information he had just received from Kuroma's follower.

"That man I fought when you found me. His name his Kuroma." he began to walk, continuing their journey to the West. It was not much, but Monkey was finally beginning to open up to his companions.

The two followed closely behind, now more wary of their surroundings. Pig no longer complained about his aching feet, powering through and unwilling to upset the man who displayed another portion of his power. Trip's mind filled with questions, like a common quiz, she was destined to ask for their answers. She was unsure however, if this was an appropriate time to ask them. It was still lingering in the air, the act of cowardice and leaving the Sage to fend for the three on his own. The awkward stage and how to get passed them, the only tie to their bonds being the cursed seal placed on him.

"Monkey, I... We are sorry for leaving you back there."

"It was probably best you did." he responded to her surprise, unsure if she should feel insulted or come to that agreement. The wood-user glanced at Pig before diverting them forward, his thoughts on him still remained.

"I just wanted Trip to be safe..." Pig admitted with a heavy head sinking into his chest. Monkey nodding in return with a small sigh. His heart was in the right place after all.

Silence filled the air once more. Still, Trip was wary on how to approach Monkey with further questioning. Her fingers twiddling with one another, her mind racing to different conclusions, playing out each question with a negative reaction. Pig simply thought that his silence was enough, letting the cool breeze reach the man who had protected them from a heated battle.

"Wait..." Trip halted her movements. The others turned and mimicked her action. She edged her way to Monkey, her hands outstretched openly and placed upon his chest before an aura of green emitted from her palms. The markings upon him began to illuminate, he felt a weight lift from his shoulder, a familiar power surfacing from within. Like fresh water to a plant with thirst, he felt his energy returning.

"Next time we might not be so lucky." she attempted to smile in regards to her statement.

Monkey looked down to her hands as they slowly left his chest. She had returned another portion of his powers, almost feeling back to his old self. He looked at Pig, looking him up and down, wondering what he made of this ordeal taking place. He stood in marvel and awe, the man before him was not at full strength and was able to thwart his iron ball and chain with ease during their first encounter. Realizing that he was not at full strength struck fear into his heart. The same fear the bandits may have felt in his presence. Just how strong was the Sage in front of him?


____

:19

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