\ Haven:Mist and Shadow Logs/The Demon Blade 1

The Demon Blade 1

  Main courtyard of a traditional Japanese inn

Cherry trees and Japanese pines form a thick, verdant shroud that shields this courtyard and the overlooking facade of the ryokan from view of the highway, which lies a bit distant at the end of a paved road that terminates on this end in a small parking lot. The courtyard itself is a sparse, desolate affair of cracked stone and concrete, broken up in the middle by a gnarled old maple, its branches barren and black. The facing sides of the inn itself little aids in banishing that subtle sensation of malaise - the whitewashed walls of the two story affair is stained and blackened in places, every other tile of the peaked roofs chipped or cracked. Extra: A twisted, gnarled maple tree Places: porch

It's the late afternoon in Japan when you arrive, the sun grazing the tops of the stand of pines and cherry trees that shield the ryokan from view of the main highway. Travel from Haven was conducted by flash bridge -- Hand agents collected you shortly after your arrival and after a perfunctory briefing, hustled you into black limousines that carried you the rest of the way to your destination outside of Tokyo.

Your objective here is investigation, and if necessary, exorcism. The murder of one Renji Ishibashi has gotten /someone/ with a much higher pay grade than either of you angry, enough so that they're willing to dedicate Hand resources to resolve the matter.

On the way over in the limousine, Wren had been checking over the files that she received - examining the situation with a small frown to her lips. And of course, she'd likely discussed a few things with River - she's relatively comfortable with the man, as if they've worked together frequently before. Once they're finished, and she stands in the light of the sun over Japan, she looks at the trees and says, "You know, I always did want to visit here... and less on business."

At some point, also, Wren probably would have asked if a translator will be accompanying them.

River fills the first gap of the journey with some puking and quiet complaining, the journey leaving him a little on the nauseous side. By the time they're getting out of the limousine, he's lost his greenness, the chatter with Wren definitely easing him up. After getting the vehicle's door behind himself, he takes to rubbing at his mouth thoughtfully, looking over the blackened side of the inn. "Well, one way or another it's all paid for."

The Hand has made reservations for you, the driver had informed in crisp (and broken) English before he drove off, leaving the pair of you alone. You'll be able to stay for as long as the investigation will require. He passed along a contact number as well: should you require ritual assistance, your people will be able to assist.

You note that the parking lot is vacant. Unless guests typically travel here on foot, you'll have no other company.

"...I guess some field experience with this is good," Wren says as she looks doubtfully down at the contact number that had been turned over. There's a quiet puff of breath is given from her, and she looks over the area. Soon her pale grey eyes draw into a squint as she considers the idyllic scene - the cherry trees and pines. The fresh air. The sunlight. "Well, shall we?" she then asks the young man, turning her attention over to River.

After a quick wetting of his lips, River offers a quiet "Yep," aside to Wren. Hauling his suitcase off the ground, he starts a leisurely tromp across the courtyard, glancing over the empty parking lot with pursed lips. With a few quick steps he heads up the old steps, each creaking loudly from his pressed weight, getting the door and holding it for the black-haired woman.

  Entrance hall and common room

In a sharp contrast to the front facing facade, the first room guests are likely to see of the ryokan is bright, clean, and sumptuously-furnished. The warm glow of incandescent lamps scattered at the corners of the hall greets visitors, who enter into a little niche where a row of shelves invite guest to stow their footwear and instead wear a pair of house slippers instead. Flat cushions and small, low tables are scattered about in clusters around the tatami flooring, providing places for guests to gather and converse. Sliding screen doors grant access to the outdoor sections of the inn, while a pair of weathered steps, of natural, varnished wood like the rest of the building, lead to the second floor commons and the rooms. Extra: A collection of masks

Entrance hall and common room: "Thanks," Wren says with a small smile to River, moving in order to step past him and into the lobby of the kyokan. Her eyes never seem to stop moving as she wanders through, peering into the shadows and into the corners of the room - as if they might reveal something to her.

Entrance hall and common room: The interior proves a sharp contrast to the shabby exterior presented to guests -- a strange reversal of circumstances, where first impressions are oft most important. You enter into a small niche before the main hall - shelves at your side politely invite you to remove your footwear and replace them with the house slippers. It's currently empty, reinforcing the impression that you two are the sole guests currently present. The hall itself is empty.

Entrance hall and common room: "Yeah," River brushes off Wren's thanks easily enough, slipping in after her. His brows arch upward at the inn's internal splendor, sliding a dubious look around the empty tables and a briefer one along the house's decor, taking note of the masks. He sets his suitcase down by the shelves, slipping out of his shoes and reaching for the slippers with a bemused expression. "We're supposed to wear these, right?" he asks the woman aside, soon dropping them to the floor to ease into.

Entrance hall and common room: "I believe so. I tried to do a little studying, though the notice you gave me was short," Wren admits quietly to River, following suit with her boots and leaving them next to the door. She slips on the house slippers, working her feet into them. There's a small purse of her lips, as if she was about to say something else. Instead, she decides on, "So are we supposed to check in, anywhere?"

Entrance hall and common room: River's and Wren's questions is both met by silence by the inn - a building isn't typically sapient enough to answer questions or even be self-aware, after all. The lamps along the walls and ceiling cast a steady, warm glow over the area, illuminating, amongst other things, the arrangement of masks set on the wall opposite you, their visages expressing a whole gamut of emotions. The slippers are soft and comfy, at least.

Entrance hall and common room: The masks had caught Wren's eye as she'd looked over the area again, and the woman makes her way over towards them on house slipper-clad feet. Stopping in front of them, she folds her hands behind her back, looking at the various grotesque faces. There's a quiet pause, made even more prominent by the relative silence of the empty kyokan. Then she asks River, "Aren't these... hmm... oni? Oni masks?"

Entrance hall and common room: River wriggles his feet into the slippers until he's satisfied with the coziness of his toes, admitting aside to Wren as he scratches his neck, "Was assuming there'd be someone waiting for us." He starts pacing over the mats, stopping by the pride of the mask collection. "I think so. Demon.. ogre things, right?" he asks her, gaze flitting over.

Entrance hall and common room: River wriggles his feet into the slippers until he's satisfied with the coziness of his toes, admitting aside to Wren as he scratches his neck, "Was assuming there'd be someone waiting for us." He starts pacing over the mats, stopping by the pride of the mask collection. "I think so. Demon.. ogre things, right?" he asks her, gaze flitting over.

Entrance hall and common room: "Yeah. That might be something to look up, and investigate," Wren says as she eyes the oni mask. At first it looks like she might hold to the idea of 'look, don't touch'. Then, she starts to reach her hands out towards the mask in front of her. Right before she grabs it though, they hold up short - and she frowns. "We should see if there's anyone here," she mentions to River, turning back towards him. She's still lugging along her bags. Facing the corridor now, she calls, "Hello?"

Entrance hall and common room: "If we don't get a call back, let's leave our luggage here and start there." River's 'there' is the door off to their left, his head giving a small sideways tick in that direction. Lazy and presumptuous man that he is, he's already taking steps to one of the nearby tables, laying his suitcase in an easy grab's reach. With his unrestrained hand freed up, he scratches at his throat, taking a look to the stairs.

Entrance hall and common room: Silence greets your hails. How alone are you actually?

Entrance hall and common room: "In a moment," Wren says to River after she's called down the corridor. If nothing else, she seems satisfied with their isolation for what she does next. Reaching out again, she attempts to take down one of the masks - the big, red one with the ugly leer - in order to better investigate it. The front, the back, the bottom, the top. It doesn't necessarily seem like she knows what she's looking for - but she does it anyway.

(to Wren) The mask proves difficult to remove, almost as if it's stuck in place. There's some give, of course, but there must be some of sort of latch or catch or /something/ keeping it firmly mounted on the wall. You might be able to remove if you were really willing to go at it, or spend some time fiddling with it.

Entrance hall and common room: "'kay," River calls back to Wren, busying himself with looking over some of the paintings and some of the calligraphy. The latter works only really register blank looks from the man, with a good more deal more appreciation for the water colors.

(to River) Everything's fairly innocuous, from your brief examinations. The subject matter, at least. Carp swimming in a pond. A robin sitting on a branch. A gnarled tree, overlooking the sun rising over a valley. Sakura and ume.

Entrance hall and common room: Slipping a hand around behind the mask - or trying to - Wren attempts to feel around the edges of it, to figure out how it's hung on the wall. "Do you think they had everyone clear out for the investigation?" she wonders to River while doing this. Since they're mostly alone, as far as she can tell, she continues to speak, "The slash across the abdomen would seem similar according to ritualistic suicide from the feudal Japan days. Seppuku." Then in a quieter voice, she murmurs, "I wish Mitsuyo were here."

(to Wren) Aha! There's a latch or latch of some sort behind the mask - it proves fairly simple for you to trip them and remove the mask from it's mounting. It's fairly lightweight, the back bare, unpainted wood. There's slits for eyes and the mouth, both of which are remarkably small - it would be difficult to see much of anything when wearing the mask. A pair of holes around where the eyes would be presumably allow for a cord or elastic to be tied.

Entrance hall and common room: "Seems that way, yeah." River says back to Wren with an exhale, tugging his attention off an old painting of a robin sitting peacefully on an tree's branch, watching her at the mask. "I'm curious where the weapon came from, if they've got swords just hanging around all over the place."

(to Wren) A little closer look reveals the mask's age. Some of the unpainted surfaces are a visibly worn, and the paint looks a little faded out once taken out of the light and held up close.

River says (to Wren), his eyes wandering a bit, chewing at the inside of a cheek before asking, 'Why did people do seppuku? It was a samurai thing, right?'

Entrance hall and common room: "I believe it was due to a failure to their lord, or task, yeah. Basically when they'd failed so hard there was no way to regain their honor, other than ritual suicide," Wren answers, examining the somewhat aged looking mask intently, all over. After a while, she moves to put it back up on its mounting, and take a step back. "Though I can't imagine that someone would be able to string themselves up by their entrails, after disemboweling themself."

Entrance hall and common room: After some consideration, Wren admits, "It's possible that a supernatural could."

(to Wren) The mask's demonic visage leers accusingly down at you once its returned to its mounting, indignant at its callous treatment. Or at least, it seems that way when you look at it.

Entrance hall and common room: "Vampire definitely could, but Mister Renji would be ash. It's going to be hard to determine what really happened." River mulls it over for a second, tongue at the inside of his cheek. When Wren's freed herself up from the mask he shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head, bringing a hand up to wave her over to the western door, his other sliding it open. "Come on."

  Pathway through lush greenery

Cherry trees and vibrantly green bushes flank a path composed of wide, flat stones embedded into the earth, a corridor through a lush and verdant landscape. Branches overlap overhead, blotting all but glimpses of the sky. A rich, earthy smell pervades this area, the scent of growth and life -- even the edges of the path stones are brushed with green, algae and moss tenaciously scrabbling for a foothold.

Pathway through lush greenery: Turning now from the display of masks, and where she'd left her bags, Wren moves to head after River through the passage of the Kyokan. As they venture outside, she pauses to take off her shoes, instead opting to pad along barefoot after the man. There's a deep breath in of the air as she looks out across the greenery. "Beautiful place."

Pathway through lush greenery: The sky overhead -- at least, what you can see of it -- is streaked with purple and orange, as the sun begins its descent into slumber. A crisp breeze blows through the corridor, picking up leaves and detritus scattered along the path and sending them dancing in mad little jigs. An rich, earthy smell is prevalent.

Pathway through lush greenery: "Makes you wonder why they let the front go to shit." River mumbles to Wren, lips thinning a bit. He leaves his socks and his slippers on, careful to stay on the path, nose taking a thoughtful crinkle. About halfway to the onsen he turns a bit to walk backwards, peering over this side of the building as he goes. "Makes you realize why we're here, too."

Pathway through lush greenery: "Obviously something isn't quite right... Though I was wondering, are there ways to do summoning rituals? Obviously, I can see ghosts if they happen to turn up, but..." Wren mentions to River with a small shrug of her shoulders, following along across the rocks, toes curling around them to give her a better grip. She's still watching the area, looking it over thoroughly as they continue their explorations.

Pathway through lush greenery: Investigation. That's what the briefing said, at least. Look for evidence of ghostly phenomenon. Identify the perpetrators of said phenomenon. Remove them by any means necessary. The Shadows believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that /something's/ here. In the meanwhile, the stones are cold under your feet (even River's ), your surroundings are gradually beginning to darken, and as you past the halfway point of the path, a faint, sulfurous smell reaches your noses.

Pathway through lush greenery: "Not that I know of." River's tone doesn't disclude the possibility, though. After maybe six or seven backwards steps he twists around again, fingers delving into his jacket's pocket. He withdraws a small flashlight and flicks it on. "Ghosts are like.. this imprint someone left on the world."

  Before an onsen

The subtle smell of sulphur and dissolved minerals precedes the actual appearance of the onsen - a Japanese hot spring - itself. Oblong in a shape and surrounded by the same verdancy that surroundings the path leading to it, its bubbling, opaque waters tempt a warm and rejuvenating soak for prospective bathers. A bamboo divider cuts the onsen in half, splitting it into a male and female section, marked respectively by signs. On either side of the entrance, enclosed open air changing stations are situationed, each hosting a list of onsen rules in both Japanese and English. Extra: Onsen rules Places: Men's changing station, Women's changing station

Before an onsen: "I've been reading up on it... I was trying to learn to do what you do," Wren mentions to River, even as her eyes widen when she notices the onsen herself. She ventures nearer towards it - though is always keeping a wary eye on the surrounding areas. Attempting to find anything that might stand out as unusual, even as she and River explore the place. "Nothing really substitutes for experience, though." She pauses to check out the rules when she spots them.

  • No guests with tattoos are permitted to use the onsen.
  • No non-Japanese are permitted to use the onsen.
  • Guests must wash and rinses themselves thoroughly before using onsen.
  • Guests may not wear swimsuits in the onsen.
  • Guests may not bring towels into the water.
  • Guests may not be rowdy or create too much noise in the onsen.


Before an onsen: There's a soft snort from Wren after she reads the rules, mentioning, "I suppose two things rule me out, then. Tattoos and I am not Japanese."

Before an onsen: The sulphurous scent grows stronger the nearer you get to the onsen - by the time the hot springs come into view, its pervasive, omnipresent. It's not quite strong enough to induce nausea, but to most unaccustomed to it, it would be mildly unpleasant. Dusk comes swiftly evidently in this part of the world, the shadows growing longer and longer with each step you take. Fortunately, there's a lantern posted above each of the changing stations, and surrounding the onsen itself.

Before an onsen: "You brought your laptop, right?" River asks Wren, eyes flicking over the rules, flicking his flashlight off when it becomes evident there's already ample illumination. "Should look up if that's a cultural thing when we get a chance. Seems weird." The spring's smell has his nose crinkling. "... If they've got Internet, anyway."

Before an onsen: Wren is a rule breaker. She tries to near the onsen in order to lightly dip the toes of one foot into the hot water, looking up and over at River. "If they have internet; but yes, I have the laptop." She nods, and moves to back away from the sulfuric-scented hot spring.

(to Wren) The water's comfortably warm, hot, but not too hot. What it might do to sore muscles...

Before an onsen: Nothing comes up out of the water to snap at Wren's pale toes, nor jumps out of the bushes demanding the pair of you leave. It's dark and quiet, the sun having finally completely set, and the onsen and its immediate environs prove to be an oasis of warmth and light.

Before an onsen: "'kay, good." River givers the water a lingering look, and once Wren's back over, heads up the path again. "We can probably give it a try once we've cleared the building, if you want. I don't think anyone's going to complain."

River says (to Wren), adding to the list of things to Google, the crinkle of his nose easing, 'Are those things supposed to smell so strong?'

Pathway through lush greenery: The way back is practically pitch dark - there's no lanterns posted along the side of the path like might be expected. River's flashlight proves useful, at least until the ryokan comes into view. It's by no means a beacon of light, but there's at least a soft glow visible from behind the screen doors.

Pathway through lush greenery: "They're fed by underwater hot springs, so yes - I think so. Geothermal activity. Pretty normal," Wren answers River's question for him. As they near the ryokan, she moves to put her slippers back on her feet. Looking at the man then, she asks, "Do we know what room Renji was found in? If there's no one else around... well, we probably want to start with that." Looking up into the darkening sky, the silvery-eyed woman tries to find the moon.

Pathway through lush greenery: "Don't know," River says to Wren with a shake of his head, pushing open the door and stepping just inside. "Imagine we'll find it quick, though. You want to head upstairs first, then?"

River says, after a second, nose crinkling up again - though this time it's not because of the smell, 'Second, I guess. Since this was our first.'

(to Wren) You can't find it, the familiar glow of the moon. Either it's obscured by the ryokan itself, or the new moon comes just a little bit faster here on the other side of the world.

Pathway through lush greenery: There's a bit of a frown from Wren as they continue towards the ryokan, her eyes soon finding River once more. She gives an affirmative nod to the man, "Let's. This is what we're here to do, afterall. Though I imagine we can probably find somewhere to hang out, as well, for the evening. And perhaps try internet - but first we need something to go on."

Entrance hall and common room: Your phones are receiving reception at least, when you check them. Whether or not the place has its own wifi, you could likely generate your own hotpot if necessary.

Entrance hall and common room: "Yeah," River says to Wren, heading for the stairs after a glance over to their baggage. He takes a glance over to the northeastern door, guessing as they head for the few stairs leading up, "Figured there'd be more stuff on the ground, but I guess there's not really a second floor per se."

River walks up. Wren walks up. You follow River.

  Upstairs common area

Hallways and stairs all converge into this central area set above the entrance hall, which is furnished much more casually and modern than below. A flat screen TV rests atop a cabinet that itself stores a karoke machine, complete with a selection booklet and microphones. Couches and armchairs offers more Western-styled places for repose, while a second cabinet nearby plays host to a whole plethora of card and board games.

Upstairs common area: "I suspect most of the rooms are going to look exactly the same," Wren admits to River as they continue through the ryokan. She's still keeping a wary eye out for anything unusual, all senses - including her sixth one - ready and alert as they pass through the corridors. Looking down at herself, she admits, "If I'd known no one was going to be here, except ghosts or other malevolent spirits, I would have dressed down."

(to Wren) Just as you're cresting the steps behind River you swear you see something -- a group of men, dressed like your typical Japanese salarymen, lounging, relaxing, enjoying themselves in the commons. But you must've blinked, because a moment later... they're gone.

Upstairs common area: There's a blink from Wren, almost imperceptible, though it seems a little more harsh than the ordinary motion of her eyelids. Reaching up, the young woman rubs the pads and upper parts of her fingers at her eyes.

Upstairs common area: "You say that now, but I'll bet you anything Caspar will be appreciative of us dressing up." The quip's a little bleak, River tensing up a bit as he passes through the room, angled for the hallway to their right. He glances back to Wren, mouth opening for something else, then sliding shut, slowing his steps. "Are you getting bridge lag?"

Upstairs common area: "I... don't think so," Wren admits to River, lowering her hands down from her eyes after a long moment. She looks around the upstairs common area they're standing in, then refocuses on the shorter form of the young man. "I thought I saw something."

(to Wren) You don't see anything out of the ordinary on your sweep, despite your acutely perceptive senses. The couches look a little old, and the karoke machine is scuffed in places - it's probably seen a lot of use. The TV at least, looks like a fairly recently model.

Upstairs common area: River takes a glance over Wren's shoulder, his own eyes squinting behind the frame of his glasses. He purses his lips, then nods his head to her, continuing down the hall more slowly. "Right."

River walks to the right. You follow River.

  Narrow, winding hallway

The long hallways that provide access to the guest rooms lack the tatami matting of the larger rooms, the floor simple varnished wooden planking, and are just wide enough for two people to pass each other with a modicum of space left. Lighting is provided by small incandescent bulbs in paper lanterns mounted at intervals - without any windows, they are the source of illumination.

River says (to Wren), exhaling, following up the glance with another one, 'Long hallway. Wonder if it's just the two rooms, one on either side.'

Narrow, winding hallway: The lighting here is dimmer than in the commons, creating either a more intimate or ominous feel, depending on your interpretation. The tatami matting of the larger rooms isn't present here, though your steps are still fairly quiet due to the slippers.

Narrow, winding hallway: "Obviously, there aren't any Japanese businessmen in the area now..." Wren muses as she follows behind River, allowing him to take the lead. She seems content enough to let the man choose the path, mostly calm but ever-alert. "It's possible." Reaching out a hand, she lightly taps a fingernail against one of the supports in a paper lantern. "Wonder what this place is like in the winter..."

River walks away and to the left. Wren walks away and to the left. You follow River.

  Narrow, winding hallway

The long hallways that provide access to the guest rooms lack the tatami matting of the larger rooms, the floor simple varnished wooden planking, and are just wide enough for two people to pass each other with a modicum of space left. Lighting is provided by small incandescent bulbs in paper lanterns mounted at intervals - without any windows, they are the source of illumination.

The paper is pinned to the southeastern door. In both Japanese and English it states, 'Closed for Renovation'.

Narrow, winding hallway: Spotting the sign as they come this way, Wren comments, "This might be it."

Narrow, winding hallway: "Definitely it," River agrees, drawing in a deep breath to replace the one he puffed out moments ago. He comes up to the door and puts his hand to it, preparing to slide it open. The man's frame is a little tense, very plainly apprehensive of what's on the door's other side. After a short pause, he clears his throat and leads Wren on in.

River opens the southeastern door. River walks to the right. You follow River.

  A gloomy and cordoned off room

This room would be pitch black were it not for the lonely, shaded windows along the southern wall. Somewhat larger than the other guest rooms, it nonetheless possesses roughly the same furnishings - a futon, a shower, a low table and mat for taking meals. Overhead, several of the ceiling beams are exposed - one is marred by a ghastly stain, mirrored on the floor directly beneath it. A thin coat of dust covers everything in the room. Places: An enclosed bathroom

River is standing here. Wren walks in from behind you.

Wren thinks; '...This is it, yes.'