As he was preparing to return to Yamato province from his stint in Echizen, Hashinara Katamoto received a missive from Todaisen Nobuhara, the head priest of Todai-ji and self-appointed spymaster of the Hashinara clan. In it, Nobuhara detailed that the preparations for the tournament Katamoto had ordered were almost complete, and that participants had arrived from all across Japan to take part. In addition, a contingent from Ise province wished to see him when he returned, and reports of pirates troubled the waters between Awa and Kii.
While the clan’s Daimyo left Echizen, Ryuuzaki Sanosuke ordered Chosokabe Nobuchika to take several squads of samurai and to attack Harizono Yoshinatsu, who had granted the Oda contingent use of many of his troops, in the capital of Yamashiro. This she did, and captured the province with little in the way of casualties, killing Yoshinatsu in the process. She then took residence in the capital fortress, guarding the area against any incursions from Omi province to the east, currently ruled by the Oda clan.
A few days later, Katamoto once again entered Wakigami. He first met with Tsutsumi Houzan, brokering a deal with her by which she would enter the tournament alongside Baby Huey. Whichever of them lost first would be forced to join the organization of the other. That is, if Houzan won, Huey would join the Yamashiro Vigilante Association, and if Babs won, Houzan would have to join the Tea Bucket Men. Aware that the Vigilante Association was not a real group, and all the peasants who comprised it had long since gone home, Katamoto reasoned that this would cause Houzan to join the Hashinara regardless of the situation’s outcome. Houzan herself agreed to enter the tournament without hesitation.
Next, Katamoto had Sen no Rikyu brought forth. In his time away, Sanosuke had been able to determine that she was a powerful magician, expert tea master, and general to the Oda clan who had been sent to ensure Hosokawa Gracia‘s safe travel to Izumi province. As Rikyu entered the room, bound and gagged, Katamoto began gathering magic to cast a spell to drain her very soul, planning to bend her to his will. Just before he finalized the incantation, however, Rikyu’s bonds and gag fell to the floor and she herself cast a spell in an effort to tie Katamoto’s essence to her own, reflecting any state she suffered back onto him. Being a creature of substantial magical power, however, Katamoto resisted the spell, casting his own and successfully drawing out a portion of Rikyu’s soul, much to her discomfort.
He was, however, impressed that she was able to so easily break free and retaliate, and so decided to parlay with her rather than bring the tea master under his control by magical means. At this point, Matsumoto Ooawagaeri entered the room, bearing tea that he had brewed and distributing it to the generals present. Sen no Rikyu took one sip of hers, and one sip only, then placed it to the side and refused to look at Ooawagaeri for the remainder of the proceedings.
Through their talks, Rikyu and Katamoto came to an understanding by which she would aid him in resurrecting Ryuuzouji Masaie, who had perished in combat with the Oda in his absence, and, in return, he would not make any more attempts to devour her soul. Having been given the crystal containing Gracia’s soul by Huey, Katamoto had some inkling of what the tea master across from him could do. Without much alternative, and not wishing to undergo that magic once again, Rikyu accepted his deal.
Preparations were made for Katamoto, Rikyu, and a small delegation to travel to the battlefield in Yamashiro, where Masaie’s soul still lingered, in an attempt to capture it before it made its journey to Yomi. However, before he left, Katamoto deigned to meet with the delegation from Ise. Before they entered, Nobuhara warned that these individuals were very powerful, and perhaps not what he was expecting, so politeness and respect were to be encouraged.
Entering the room after him were three very strange individuals. The first looked like a young girl dressed in voluminous robes, but for the pair of long white horns extending from either side of her head. Under each horn, a bovine ear twitched, and a staff carved of bone and hung with various talismans rested upon her back. The second of the delegation was also girl, verging on being a young woman, wearing a fine dress and carrying a parasol; ordinary in all respects save for the single, large, crimson eye that dominated her face in place of the two a human would have. Last to enter was a woman who also bore a single crimson eye in the center of her head. Unlike the other, however, she had only a single leg, the other ending just above the leg, and tapering off into a thin wisp of curling blue smoke. This disability seemed to present her some difficulties in moving, but she carried herself with dignity regardless.
The three introduced themselves as Hakutaku, Okuni, and Ippondatara, respectively, and stated that they were representatives of the Hyakki Yagyo, an organization of Youkai currently based in Ise province. They had come to Yamato to participate in the tournament, as a result of Katamoto’s aggressive advertisement in Ise, and also to initiate relations between their own group and the Hashinara. Okuni did much of the speaking, while Katamoto and the other generals listened respectfully.
After some short discussions, Hakutaku and Okuni took their leaves, while Ippondatara stayed behind briefly to thank them for putting up with the latter, who would get upset if she were not the center of attention, before excusing herself and leaving as well.
Surprised by the appearance of these Youkai, but looking forward to what their presence would mean for the coming battles, Katamoto finalized preparations for the journey and set off for Yamashiro province.
Arriving at the battlefield, it was a simple thing for Sen no Rikyu to locate Masaie’s soul and transfer it into a gem, of which she had somehow procured several. She explained that the soul would be useless without an animate body to place it in, as placing it back into the Bakeneko‘s corpse would be essentially the same as containing it in the gem. Katamoto waved off her concerns, and the two traveled northwest into Setsu province.
Before they could make much progress toward Osaka, the Hashinara contingent was halted by a Bakeneko guard, who seemed furious at them and ordered them not to enter the province, or else it would be seen as an invasion and appropriate force would be employed. Confused by this sudden change in attitude from the Ryuuzouji clan, Katamoto spoke briefly to the Bakeneko, who was under strict orders not to listen to anything he said, before finally convincing a nearby samurai to deliver a message requesting a meeting to Ryuuzouji Matashichiro.
Eventually, the samurai returned, and stated that Matashichiro was willing to meet with them. With the Bakeneko still hissing and glaring at them, the Hashinara were led away and to a small tent which had been erected for the purpose. When the entered, they found only a grave-looking Matashichiro, who politely thanked them for coming, then officially presented her clan’s surrender.
Now even more perplexed, Katamoto inquired as to why she thought it necessary to surrender, as their clans were allies, and eventually learned that a man wearing Katamoto’s robes and mask, and speaking with his voice, had delivered a declaration of war to them several days previous. This troubled Katamoto, similar as it was to what had happened during the Igamono attack, and especially in light of the fact that Vengeance himself had recently vanished from Wakigami’s dungeons.
After some explaining, Katamoto was able to convince Matashichiro that the man delivering the notice was an impostor, and the true Hashinara clan had no desire to go to war with the Ryuuzouji. With her obvious relief, he continued to explain the real nature of their visit, and Matashichro agreed to have Masaie’s corpse brought into the room.
Once again waving aside Rikyu’s complaint that placing the soul into the dead body would do no good, Katamoto explained his plan to the Nekomata across, stating that he could revive Masaie but that she would be technically undead; unable to eat, sleep, or heal from wounds, but with her personality and memories unaltered. Seeing no downside, Matashichiro agreed, and Katamoto summoned his powers of necromancy, raising Masaie’s corpse at the same time as Sen no Rikyu directed her soul into the now-animate vessel.
Surprised to find herself on a table in the middle of Setsu after being “knocked out” in battle, Masaie was soon informed that she had been badly injured and that Katamoto and Rikyu had used powerful magics to heal her. These magics, so they said, would have some side effects, and she may not find herself sleeping or eating much in the next few days, as the power itself would sustain her. Matashichiro herself stayed quiet, glad to have Masaie back and not wanting to ruin the pleasant picture the two wizards had painted for her.
Their goal achieved, Katamoto soon excused himself and Rikyu and began the journey back to Yamato province. On the way, Katamoto informed Rikyu that she was still to be a prisoner, but that she would have some degree of freedom and would be able to move about as she wished. Asking if that meant that she could return to Owari province, then receiving a response in the negative, Rikyu decided to settle, for the moment, for watching the tournament alongside Katamoto.
Shortly after Katamoto returned once again to Wakigami, it was time for the tournament to begin. As his false identity, Katsusada Shishauezaemon, Katamoto had ordered for the tournament to be held to celebrate both the clan’s declaration of war upon the Oda, and his own adoption of both the ghostly and the revenant Ichinimiya Karens as his daughters. The ghostly Karen was overjoyed, as she had become quite attached to Katamoto during her travels with him and, while the corporeal Karen was still rattled by her father’s rejection, she too was happy to have found a place which would accept her.
The tournament itself would be held in four arenas at various places across the Yamato and Kii provinces. The ghost Karen would act as magical referee, to ensure that no participants with supernatural abilities altered the arena or gathered magical energy before the fight began. Meanwhile, Aotsuki Tsukamoto would be the more conventional referee, watching over the fight and declaring which party had won or lost. Battles were to unconsciousness or surrender, and killing was highly discouraged, though not actually against the rules.
Everything being in preparedness thanks to the efforts of Todaisen Nobuhara, and with Ryuuzaki Sanosuke working for security, the tournament officially began.
The first battle was a fight between Tsunawara Mishiko, bodyguard to the Daimyo of the Tanahase clan, and a mysterious armored swordswoman who had chosen not to give her name when registering. As the match commenced, the unnamed swordswoman drew her two blades, wielding one full-size katana in each hand, before moving up to Mishiko and launching a single attack. The bodyguard blocked the attack skillfully, although it seemed as though her opponent had not put her full strength behind it, and countered with a cut of her own. This, in turn, was blocked by the swordswoman, who took the opportunity to make a lightning-fast strike with her other katana, halting the blade an inch from Mishiko’s throat. Dropping her weapon, Tsunawara Mishiko surrendered, and the first bout went to the armored swordswoman.
Second into battle were the Hashinara clan’s own materialistic samurai, Yamanaka Yukimori, and a woman who had registered under the name of Nakajo Kageyasu. Kageyasu, as explained by Nobuhara and evidenced by the black crow-like wings on her back, was a Tengu, a race of humanoid Youkai rare in this area of Japan.
The battle began with Kageyasu using her superior speed and agility to vanish in the underbrush surrounding the bridge on which they battled. Realizing that he had lost sight of his opponent, Yukimori moved closer to the center of the bridge, taking up a guarded stance with his back to the edifice’s rail. Moving almost too quickly to track, Kageyasu slipped from the foliage and took flight on her wings, still unnoticed by her opponent, and rose up behind him above the river. Two strikes from her tonfa and the fight was over, with Yukimori collapsed on the ground unconscious. It was clear that Kageyasu had pulled her strength on the second blow, so that the samurai was merely knocked out, and not seriously wounded or killed.
The third match was between Baby “Tea Bucket” Huey and a samurai named Tanefuji Shinryu. Shinryu was a member of the Tea Bucket Men who had aided General Huey during his battle at Yamashiro province. Highly embarrassed at this new name, he entered the tournament in the hopes of earning a promotion out of the squad and the nickname that came with it. It was just his bad luck, however, to be fighting his commanding officer, who also happened to be a 15-foot tall undead Oni, in his first match.
Shinryu began the fight by firing several arrows from his longbow, each planting itself in Huey’s flesh but not seeming to do much to the giant Oni, while trying to keep distance between himself and his opponent. Babs soon caught up to him, however, and Shinryu abandoned the bow in favor of a katana, facing the monster in melee combat. Here, Tanefuji displayed a surprising amount of skill for a mere foot soldier, blocking attacks from Baby Huey’s massive kanabou and returning strikes of his own that cut deep into his opponent’s undead flesh. For a moment, it seemed as though Shinryu might even win, but then Huey landed a blow, and the result of the match became obvious. Skilled as Tanefuji was, Baby Huey could simply take an absurd amount of damage before showing any effects, and did not tire as a normal opponent would. A few strikes of the kanabou later and Shinryu was battered unconscious, though not seriously wounded, and General Baby Huey won the match.
Next into the ring were the ever-jovial Raizou of Goemon’s Bandits and a heavily-armored female Oni called Joguma-donyo. The two met in the center of the arena without hesitation, Raizou swinging his meaty fists, but with little effect on his opponent’s guarded form. In return, Joguma pummeled him with an umbrella-like weapon, landing each hit, but the bandit’s high level of stamina enabled him to keep fighting. As they exchanged blows, Raizou lamented that he was here in the tournament when he should be out on the town, as an exotic entertainer was in Wakigami performing Kabuki, his one true passion. To his surprise, Joguma was interested, and he managed to ask her out for that evening and get a response in the positive before she finally knocked him out, uninjured but impressed that he had managed to take that much punishment.
The fifth match was between Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the wandering swordswoman, who had been lured to the event in the hopes of reuniting with Benkei, and a woman of similar profession named Nanami. As the match began, Nanami rushed Yoshitsune, using her superior agility to dance around her defenses and strike her from behind. Despite the surprise attack, Yoshitsune was able to partially parry the blow with her glowing blade, Shichiseiken, and took only a minor wound. Her attack in response saw Nanami dodge the brunt of the assault, but also receive a cut. After several of these exchanges, with Nanami always appearing behind Yoshitsune, but the other swordswoman managing to avoid the worst of the situation and attacking in kind, it became obvious that, while both were wounded, Nanami was the worse off. In respect of Yoshitsune’s strength, she bowed out of the match and granted her the victory.
Sixth in the first round of the tournament was a match between two oddities. The first, a man calling himself Kobayakawa Hideaki, was very obviously a foreigner, with blonde hair and a strong accent, while his opponent was the Hitotsume, Okuni, leader of the Youkai delegation from the Hyakki Yagyo. While “Hideaki” at least appeared equipped for combat, with a hand crossbow and a saber, Okuni wielded only an umbrella.
Despite what the audience might have thought, the two seemed to have an immediate respect for each other, complimenting each other on their fashion sense and being complimented in turn. As they were about to meet for their first attacks, however, Okuni concentrated and seemed to vanish, reappearing in the bushes near the bridge they were fighting on, unknown to Prince Frederic Hideaki. Confused, he himself wandered into the same bushes and nearly stepped on her accidentally, firing his crossbow in surprise and tearing her dress with the arrow.
Rather than following up, Frederic seemed more concerned with the damage to the dress, and Okuni teleported away once again in a huff, reappearing once again further in the bush and hiding. Thinking she had escaped to another part of the arena, Kobayakawa left the brush and looked around one of the walls spanning the bridge, but was unable to find her. Meanwhile, Okuni crept from the bushes and came up behind him, landing a solid hit on the back of his head with her umbrella.
Though obviously in pain and annoyed, Prince Frederic was not seriously hindered, and made an attack in turn with his saber. While only slightly cutting Okuni, it once again shore through the fabric of her dress, and both fighters cried out in dismay. Okuni demanded that he take responsibility for the damages to her wardrobe, and the foreign man was quick to agree. He immediately escorted her out of the arena, and the two made for Wakigami’s merchant quarter. The confusing outcome to this match was eventually ruled as a victory for Okuni.
Following the odd match between Prince Frederic Charles of Prussia and the Hyakki Yagyo’s Okuni, Hashinara Katamoto was approached by Todaisen Nobuhara, who informed him that a group of strange individuals had requested an audience with him. They claimed to have knowledge of the Kobayakawa Hideaki character who had entered the tournament, and so Katamoto acquiesced, taking Aotsuki, Sanosuke, and Ooawagaeri with him to the audience chamber.
Entering the chamber shortly after them were five children, young girls, all of whom were wearing clothes of a familiar, but somewhat odd cut, and who spoke with surprising eloquence despite their ages. They introduced themselves as Harada Sanosuke, Okita Souji, Todo Heisuke, Hijikata Toshizou, and Kondou Isami; members of a law-enforcement group called the Shinsengumi who were after Kobayakawa Hideaki for crimes committed in Bungo province.
Thinking this must be a game the children were playing, but still curious about what they knew regarding the strange foreign man, Katamoto played along for a time. According to them, Hideaki was what Okita Souji referred to as a “scumbag” who had traveled with them here from a different land. They had entered Japan under the agreement that they would not do anything to disrupt the area or its politics, and yet Hideaki, who also went by the name Frederic Charles, had challenged the original Kobayakawa Hideaki, Daimyo of Bungo, to a duel and killed him in front of hundreds of people. He then took the original man’s name and declared himself Daimyo, a blatant breach of their rules.
Not convinced that this was actually an issue, Katamoto responded that this duel and manner of succession was perfectly legal under the Shogunate, an assertion which Nobuhara was able to confirm. He had also heard word of the duel in question, adding some validity to the Shinsengumi’s story.
Unable to stress the significance of his actions any other way, Kondou Isami finally broke forth with their true story. According to her, the Shinsengumi had traveled through time here from hundreds of years in the future, alongside Prince Frederic and a woman named Kaguya, who possessed the means of such travel. Harada Sanosuke continued that a malfunction had occurred upon their arrival in Tsuwamono-era Japan, regressing the Shinsengumi into children, and effectively stranding them there until Kaguya could figure out a way back. As they were from the future, they were very worried about the consequences Prince Frederic’s actions might have on their own timeline, and this was why it was so essential that they bring him to heel.
Katamoto naturally found their story somewhat hard to believe, but he did sense a strong aura of magic around them, and one linked to the manipulation of time. He was not willing to commit to the capture of Hideaki, but did wish to hear the other side of the story from the man, and so he agreed to allow the Shinsengumi to bring him back to the castle for another hearing. The children gratefully agreed, but stated that it would be best for them to have a guide who knew the city. Hijikata Toshizou thought that Aotsuki, in particular, would be perfect for this role, and so he was soon volunteered to go with the group in search of Prince Frederic.
With Aotsuki leading the way, the Shinsengumi entered the mercantile quarter of Wakigami in search of Prince Frederic. The man himself was not hard to find, bickering loudly with a clothing merchant in one of the main thoroughfares, with Okuni at his side. The children urged Aotsuki forward to distract him while they spread out to surround the street and block all avenues of escape. Somewhat reluctantly, he entered the street and hailed Frederic, who even now was complaining loudly that these goods were of no quality for a lady like Okuni.
While surprised to see Aotsuki, Hideaki recognized him as the
round girl referee from the tournament, whose fashion sense and style he had admittedly been admiring. When Aotsuki cautioned that the man next to her was a criminal, Okuni was quick to run to his side instead, perhaps also eager to gain the attentions of so handsome a specimen.
While Prince Frederic was busy being affronted at Aotsuki’s accusations, the Shinsengumi were in position and ready to strike. Before they could act, however, Charles spotted Okita Souji, hiding badly behind a corner, and was put on his guard. Sensing that their chance for surprise was gone, Kondou Isami ordered the charge, and the Shinsengumi surrounded Hideaki, intent on bringing him to justice, by force if necessary. Prince Frederic himself, however, was more inconvenienced than anything, his opponents all being children, though he seemed genuinely afraid of the food that Okita Souji had found somewhere and was bringing dangerously close to his fine clothing.
While the Shinsengumi struggled to bring Frederic down, Aotsuki explained the situation rationally, and asked him to come to the castle to discuss it with the Daimyo. Charles responded in turn that he would certainly be willing to, but Okuni quickly interrupted that the issue with her dress had not yet been resolved. Resignedly, Aotsuki called Tsukijo Hanahane on the mental network, and asked for his help. Delighted to have been hailed, and by Aotsuki of all people, Hanahane responded that he would drop everything and be in Wakigami the next day to handle the fashion emergency personally. Aotsuki, in turn, tried to explain that this was not necessary, but Hanahane would not be deterred, and was already making the arrangements.
With his fate in that area sealed, Aotsuki explained that an expert was being brought in for Okuni, before gathering up the two fashionistas and the five children and returning to the castle.
Meanwhile, the tournament continued after a short break. Due to Aotsuki’s absence in dealing with the Shinsengumi, Tsukijo no Yumeno was appointed as interim round girl, much to the excitement of the many men in the crowd.
She presided over the seventh fight of the first round, a battle between Ippondatara of the Hyakki Yagyo and a Bakeneko from Setsu named Muchimaro Masuyo. According to Nobuhara, Masuyo was actually one of the two remaining survivors from that Bakeneko squad which had been destroyed by Hosokawa Gracia and Saru in the first battle of Yamashiro province.
As they entered the ring, it became obvious that Ippondatara was not intending to fight alone. Accompanying her was an enormous golem, its body wrought of rough stone, connected at the joints by blue flames of the same color as that which replaced its master’s leg. Sensing that going head to head with this creature was a poor option, Masuyo instead opted to make her way quickly into a tree around the arena’s exterior, hiding within its brush while she waited for an opportunity to close the distance.
While she did not know her opponent’s exact location, Ippondatara had seen Masuyo duck into the brush in that direction, and so she conjured a huge fireball, sending it blasting into the tree’s branches and obliterating the Bakeneko’s cover. Masuyo herself avoided most of the damage, but was forced to rush forward into new cover even as Ippondatara brought forth a new fireball. Eventually, however, she was able to brave the assault long enough to place herself at her opponent’s back, with the Youkai unaware of her presence. A slash from her long claws overcame Ippondatara’s shield, but, despite the accuracy of the attack, bit only slightly into her flesh. Slashing the Youkai’s flesh was like trying to cut into stone.
At this point, Ippondatara unleashed the magic she had been gathering, in an attempt to turn Masuyo temporarily to stone, thus ending the match but, much to her surprise, the Bakeneko resisted the spell, pushing through its energies to launch another attack. This strike was blocked by the huge arms of the golem, which had placed its limbs above Ippondatara in a defensive stance, ready to guard her against attack.
The Youkai lashed out again with her psychic power while she gathered more magic, but once again, Masuyo shrugged the assault off and kept attacking. Despite this display of fortitude, however, she was having some difficulty bypassing the golem long enough to get to Ippondatara, and was thwarted by the other’s shield when she did so. Eventually, on the understanding that attacks on her opponent’s spirit were not going to be successful, the Spirit of the Forge poured all the magical energy she had gathered into the ground itself, summoning an array of six stone spears which jut from the earth violently, attempting to spear Masuyo.
The Bakeneko was able to dodge the first, and the second, but the third caught her a solid blow, and the remaining three speared through her form, leaving her impaled form hanging limply among them. This being the first death of the tournament, the crowd was somewhat shocked. Ippondatara herself seemed only disappointed that she was unable to end it without resorting to such violent methods.
Katamoto had been ready for this eventuality, however, and a group of Miko rushed to the field, carrying Masuyo’s “injured” body away to the laboratories below the castle, where he and Sen no Rikyu worked together to bring the Bakeneko back to action as an undead creature. As with Masaie, Masuyo retained all her memories and personality, and was merely told that she had been badly wounded, and healed by magic that might have some side effects.
The next fight was to be between Yokoji Masamitsu, once captain of the guard for Wakigami Castle, and a Nekomata named Byouyuugan Aika. Despite the lack of action that had come his way in recent months, Masamitsu seemed somewhat confident, and was eager to see if his personal training had paid off.
As Yumeno began the fight, Aika moved forward and into Yokoji’s view, causing him to pause in shock. She was, to him, simply the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes upon. With a simple request from her, he happily set down his weapon, forfeited the match, and left the arena, Nekomata in tow.
A subsequent match found one of the Hashinara’s favorite undead bodyguards, Umashiashikabihikoji, battling against Hakutaku from the Hyakki Yagyo delegation. The Kyonshi began the fight by generating her energy claws from one voluminous sleeve, then dashing across the field to where her opponent sat at the starting point, seemingly meditating and drawing in large amounts of magic. Umashiashikabihikoji brought her weapon down in a brutal slash but, with a flash of sparks and sudden burst, her attack was thrown backward by a magical shield which had appeared around Hakutaku. The screen of energy had developed an array of cracks from the strike, but they were beginning to heal even before the Kyonshi could launch another attack.
Soon, the Youkai’s preparations were complete, and Hakutaku opened her eyes, directing her bone-carved staff at her opponent. A serpent of crackling darkness twined around its shaft, rearing its black head and striking Umashiashikabihikoji in the shoulder with its fangs. In an instant, the Kyonshi fell to the ground, completely inert, all of the undead life gone from her body.
Next into the ring were Tsukuda Katsuo, of the Iga Ninja, and a pale martial artist named Jijage Koukou. Koukou began the fight by creating several ki-fueled doubles of herself, all of which took on the same fighting stance. Advancing, Katsuo hit one with a dart of energy fired from his blade, causing it to explode in a puff of smoke and vanish. The others advanced, but it was obvious that their skill was not at the same level as that of their creator, and he was easily able to dodge the first attack, relocating himself upon a nearby wall through use of his substitution technique.
One by one, the doubles fell, by the real Koukou proved to be a more difficult opponent. Using a style incorporating several different martial arts, she was able to push Katsuo to the brink of defeat, while he was unable to land a solid hit on her. Not wishing to endanger his own safety, and thus his usefulness as a ninja, he soon conceded the match.
The next match was one which had been highly anticipated by certain members of the crowd. Tsutsumi Houzan, self-proclaimed captain of the Yamashiro Vigilante Association, was to fight Fujibayashi Nagato, current leader of the famous Iga Ninja. Houzan’s defensive skill was well built up in rumors, while Nagato had a history of defeating her opponents in a single blow.
As the fight began, Nagato ducked away from the starting position and into the brush around the edges of the arena, hiding herself from Houzan, who was unable to track her. For her part, the Tsutsumi Kensei put up a defensive position, and waited patiently for her opponent’s inevitable attack. Seconds later, Nagato burst from the brush and launched a strike on Houzan’s back with both of her kama. Anticlimactically, the attack took Houzan completely by surprise, and both blade buried themselves deep into her back, sending her falling to the ground, immediately unconscious, and granting the win to Nagato.
Fighting each other after were a mysterious masked swordsman, known by Katamoto to be a member of the Oda clan, and a local noblewoman by the name of Midorikawa no Moukin-hime. As the match began, Moukin-hime’s hawk, a fine specimen called Amadeus, took flight and launched a diving assault on the masked man. The swordsman managed to block the strike, but only just, and quickly cast a spell on himself, muttering the incantation under his breath, which rendered him invisible to enemy eyes.
With that, he began making his way north, hoping to cut around the large ruins which dominated the center of the arena and catch Moukin-hime by surprise. Amadeus was not fooled for long, however, and soon saw through the illusion, once again diving at the masked man and empathically warning his mistress of his location. Now aware that his position was compromised, the man dodged a few potshots from his opponent’s bow, then cast another spell which created eleven illusory duplicates around him, making it near impossible to discern which was the real one.
Once again, however, Amadeus was able to use his keen vision to narrow down his options for attack, and launched a strike at what he thought was the true opponent. This was revealed to be merely an illusion, however, which dissipated when the bird’s talons cut through it.
Still unable to see her enemy, but informed of his position by her hawk, Moukin-hime began edging around the ruins in the opposite direction as the masked man advanced, still muttering incantations under his breath. Again and again the bird attacked, each time cutting through an illusion without his claws finding purchase on the swordsman’s flesh. As Moukin-hime backed herself into the southwestern corner of the arena, near where her opponent had started, the bird came to a distressing realization. Taking a closer look, he felt with some certainty that none of the masked figures advancing on his mistress were real, all of them being mere illusions.
At the same time, an invisible blade cut deep into Moukin-hime’s back, sending her corpse to the ground, dead from the unseen blow. Amadeus went into a frenzy, but was still unable to locate the killer through his magic, and so the match went to the masked stranger.
A short time later, Katamoto and Sen no Rikyu raised Moukin-hime as they had with Masuyo. The woman was shaken from her experience, and decided to opt out of the remainder of the tournament. In thanks for saving her “life” she also agreed to help Katamoto with the binding of a summoned creature to a weapon sometime in the near future.
The next match was between the wandering monk, Benkei, and Chosokabe Kanetsugu, who had entered the tournament in hopes of drawing the attentions of Matsumoto Ooawagaeri. Without preamble, the two clashed in the center of the sandy arena, Benkei wielding two large maces she had produced from somewhere on her outfit, while Kanetsugu watched and waited for an opportunity to counter her strikes. While the monk’s strength would normally have made her an ideal opponent for Kanetsugu, who specialized in using her opponent’s force against them, Benkei was simply too skilled, and the Kyonshi was unable to find any openings through which to launch a counterattack.
Eventually, after several exchanges, Kanetsugu finally fell, and Benkei emerged victorious.
Fighting after Benkei and Kanetsugu were Tsuchimi Takasuke, Daimyo of Kawachi, and a magician from China registered as Huolian. When the match began, Huolian flew into the air, and Takasuke immediately forfeited, stating that he was far too old to deal with anything like that.
In the second to last match of the first round, Matsumoto Ooawagaeri found himself fighting Go-Shirakawa Teishi, the other surviving Neko member of the squad in Yamashiro. Unlike her companion Muchimaro Masuyo, Teishi was a full Nekomata, and skilled in magic.
As the match began, Ooawagaeri approached cautiously, while Teishi ran to take cover under the northernmost tree.
Unknown to her, this was the tree which had been fried by Ippondatara’s fireball in one of the preceding matches, and the merest touch from Teishi caused the branches to fall in a resounding crash, leaving her in the open and directing Ooawagaeri’s attention directly to her.
The Black Blade of Doom continued approaching, using trees and rocks as cover, while Teishi, recovering from her surprise, used her magical abilities to summon a variety of animals to protect her. Two burly gorillas stood guard on either side of the Nekomata, while a swarm of eagles descended on her opponent.
Suddenly finding himself in the center of a constricting whirlwind of claws and beaks, Ooawagaeri suffered a variety of wounds before he was able to coat himself in a thin membrane of water. While not thick enough to act as armor, the water acted as a barrier preventing the small attacks from the eagles from getting through and wounding him.
So protected, he then teleported himself directly above Teishi, who was crouched behind the fallen tree’s trunk, and hung there in the air, upside down, with his blade to her throat. There it should have ended, but Teishi miraculously dodged away from the blade, and cast a spell on her opponent’s spirit, inflicting a form of paralyzation upon Ooawagaeri. The Black Blade of Doom began floating aimlessly upward, but before he passed too far, he himself cast a spell sucking all the air out of the arena, save for that small amount which surrounded Yumeno, who continued to oversee the match.
Unable to fight or cast spells without air, and with her eagles unable to fly without wind under their wings, Teishi sat pouting under a rain of birds flopping to the earth and eventually surrendered.
To the assembled crowd, it seemed that Ooawagaei had teleported his blade to within inches of Teishi’s neck, but had been unable to bring himself to kill the young girl, and so had cast his air spell and then gone to sleep in complete confidence that he had won the match. Only Katamoto, and Baby Huey, who was sent to retrieve the floating general, knew the truth.
Final in the matchups for the first round of the tournament were Ryuuzaki Sanosuke, general and strategist to the Hashinara, and Nakajo Fujikasuke, another Tengu and Nakajo Kageyasu’s sister. As Yumeno called the fight to a start, Fujikasuke readied her quarterstaff and moved with blinding speed to Sanosuke’s side, swinging at him in a swift arc. Her opponent, who had not yet unsheathed his nodachi, blocked the attack with his arms, then grabbed the staff himself, surprising Fujikasuke, and tore it from her grasp. He threw it into the bushes behind them, and then readied to draw his weapon, inquiring if his opponent still had the will to fight.
Now more impressed and bemused than surprised, Fujikasuke dropped into a martial artist’s stance and answered in the affirmative, striking Sanosuke with a pair of blinding strikes that, while not very damaging, resulted in a pair of painful bruises across his abdomen. In response, he drew his nodachi and swung twice. Despite his strength, the weapon caught only empty air as the Tengu sidestepped the attacks, then answered with two of her own. It was obvious now that Sanosuke was heavily wounded and growing exhausted from the repeated strikes, and it seemed obvious that Fujikasuke would win in the next exchange.
With a might roar, however, Sanosuke slammed his foot down on the stone starting plate, causing it to buckle under the strength of his blow and sending the opposite side crashing into Fujikasuke’s solar plexus. Following this, he shoved his shoulder into the now nearly-vertical plate, crashing it into the Tengu and smashing her arm in the process, rendering it a bloody, unusable mess.
Now just as bloodied, and beginning to tire herself, with the added hindrance of a useless limb, Fujikasuke readied herself for a final attack, challenging Sanosuke to survive as she put all her remaining energy into the strength. When it came, the attack was lightning-quick, and it seemed her good arm would spear directly through her opponent’s chest, but Sanosuke’s nodachi came up with preternatural speed, managing to barely, miraculously, deflect the blow.
He nodded to her in respect, stating that she had done well and could rest now. Convinced by his manner, Fujikasuke acceded, and dropped into his arms, unconscious. Sanosuke was just able to claim his own victory before he too dropped into a deep sleep, leaving the two fighters collapsed together on the floor.