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I do not believe there was ever any moment in my childhood that I realized I was a slave. Or perhaps the better term is “indentured servant.” Regardless to which niceties you ascribe to, or choose not to, it changed little of one irrefutable truth: that I was an owned thing. But I hardly knew that. Instead, I believed I was special and important. I believed I was destined for something great; to become one of the Nine Companions of Great Forks, the most sought after mistresses in the whole of the East.

I was one of twenty-five fox-children of the nine-tail generation. This would mean little to you, but it meant much to me. Rei-Lai, the Fox-Lord, was my blood-father and one of the Nine Companions of the one-tail generation, his own great-grand daughter by distant blood-ties, my birth mother. We nine-tails marked the rebirth and renewal of the fox-lords blood into the lineage of the Companions, which until then had been eight mortal generations removed from his plod.

Our teachers, the fox-like kitsune spirits in Rei-Lai’s service and those women among the last generation who had failed to become Companions yet were too valuable to throw away, made certain we understood what a rare and priceless thing every one of our tails were. Between lessons in prayer, etiquette, obedience, history, philosophy, combat, and the bed-room arts they schooled us in our own self importance. It would be more than a hundred years before such as we were born again. We were the blessed. The sacred. They did, of course, fail to mention the true significance of it being that our contract prices could be effectively tripled simply for the numbers of our tails, but that does matter little beyond the morality of deceiving little girls. We were hardly normal children by then anyway. Most girls of our age had already been put to work in the real world and spent their time in between playing games of make-believe. We were learning how to best impose ourselves into the path an assassins’ killing strike and how many ways our tongue could be used to make someone, man or woman, weep in ecstasy.

I had only one blood-sister. Often those who Rei-Lai spills his seed into birth in threes and fours, but my mother bore only two children, myself and Midori. Until I lost her, I did not realize how close we truly were. Though the world outside the walls of Rei-Lai’s private estate might have looked strangely upon us for it, a blood-sister was something more than a sibling to we fox-children. Midori and I walked side by side, hand in hand, into every lesson and every test thrown at us save the last. We shared a bed nearly from the first day of our life. We prayed to our father together nightly. We met our birth-mother together and together were so overcome by her graceful and dignified presence that it hardened our resolve to be among those chosen to become Companions. We made grand plans and shared dreams of being contracted out to a dashing Dynast prince as a matched pair and spending the rest of our lives happy at his shadow. Midori was the first female I had ever kissed in passion and the first I had ever made love to. I loved my sister dearly.

Thus, when our collective sixteenth birthdays came and we would be tested to see who among us was fit to begin the true training of a Companion and who would simply be placed for purchase on slave blocks or within our fathers many houses of ill-fame, I had no expectations beyond both of us winning absolute approval. My childish presumptions were what made that which should have been the most joyous day of my life instead only one of the most painful.


The string was still shivering, letting out a trill crystalline note that echoed through the warm damp air of the bathhouse. Water droplets condensed upon the ceiling and tumbled into the bathing pool with a shallow splash. Fire crackled and water boiled at a frothing gurgle in the great brass colander that lay on the other side of the wall. The bamboo shoot flooded slowly with a fresh stream of scalding water, sloshing softly against it’s walls before the weight tipped it over with a single hollow click and drained it into the pool before resettling. A man within the pool sighed in obvious relish at the fresh heat and the new wave of steam that wafted into the air. A servant placed a piping hot cup of tea upon the foot of the little platform I knelt upon, it’s delicate porcelain chiming at it touched the cold tile only a silken pillow separated from my knees. Soft as a kit through young grass, the servant moved away, her slipper-clad feet making only the barest of scuffs as she crept unobtrusively towards the man in the pool to deliver his tea as well.

Aware and unaware of all the sound around me, I waited calmly until the right moment, that breath which came between sound and silence as the quivering note began to fade from the air. And as it found my ears, my fingers moved by memory across the koto to the next string in the song, pinching it between my long nails to pluck. But then I hesitated. There was something not quite right with the string. I could feel it’s plumpness even between my nails. Pressing my finger tips against it, I could tell from it’s texture that it was coarse cat gut, not braided silver thread as the last and rest should have been, and for the note it played, it was far away from it’s rightful position upon the koto. Someone had restrung my instrument. I allowed myself to show no concern or distress at the discovery. My restrainedly cheerful smile stuck firmly in place and I let not a breath or a heartbeat come faster that might give away my sudden panic. I knew they were watching me for that, though they hid their presence beyond any sense. It was the first test.

There was only a heartbeat left in the life of the last string, only a moment before silence and failure, and so many other strings to search. My finger tips glided away from the imposter string without hesitation, sliding with a deftness that a life time of conditioning had brought over the other eleven strings. I soaked in all I could through the touch, reading through sensation what my eyes could not see. There was no string save the first in it’s proper place and all were off a different thread, requiring a different stroke to bring out the proper pitch to the note. But even with such sly trickery, I found the proper string to play. Copper, my fingers told me as they tasted it’s biting edge. A harder pluck than silver to make the note sing true.

Just as the first string faded from life, the second was born with a sweet new born cry. Behind it’s pleasing voice, I heard the faintest of sounds from across the room. A whisper scrap of something edged sliding across oiled leather and under the fragment scent of the subtle perfumes in the bath water, I caught the crisp bitterness of steel and the acidic tang of poison. The urge rose, but I did not stir from my position nor shift the heavy weight of the koto across my legs nor let my fingers move to the weight of the twin fans dimpling the silk behind me nor even so much as let my ear twitch at the sound.

It was the second test and even as I kept my sense open for new sounds and sensations, I shifted through my memories for any hint of something amiss in the room, a sound or scent or feeling that might revel where the assassin stood. I had heard nor sensed any other presence in the room. There was myself, there was the man in the pool… and there was the servant.

The song of the string began to fade and my fingers moved unhurriedly across the now familiar layout of the koto to the next string. The assassin was waiting, hoping to use the next note to disguise a further step. And just as she waited, I waited as well. I made not my nerves steel, which was drawn so tightly the slightest provocation could snap it, but instead willed them to be as rested and limber as the nine tails that curled around my knees. Listening to the boil of the caldron, to the gentle slosh of the water as it filled the bamboo tube, I waited until I could tell that the wooden pipe was almost full. I ran my fingers along the cord bellow them. Steel string by it’s cold smoothness, how fitting. A delicate pluck to stop the note from souring and prevent the cord from snapping.

Then events passed by in seconds, on after the next. The voice of the copper string faded. My finger nails stroked humming life out of the next. The assassin took another step closer to her victim. The bamboo shoot, engorged with water, rocked forward on it’s hinge and began to spill it’s content into the pool seconds before it touched the lip of the bath with a wooden tick.

Clothing rustled softly as the assassin froze at the unexpected sound across the room, just as I had expected she should. I was on my feet at that moment, lifting the koto above my head, careful not to disturb the even flow of the note. Balancing upon my toes upon the tiny wedge of tiled floor between my pillow and the corner wall, I swept my foot across it’s silken surface to shove the fans off before hooking my foot under the pillows thick-weight and kicking it across the room at the assassin. There was a soft scrape as her feet twisted her towards the on coming missile that doubtless sprang from no where in the corner of her eye. In the seconds she took to batter the harmless pillow from the air, I had spun and set the still singing koto down gently on the floor and swept up the folded battle fans in it’s place.

She was skilled. When my motion became apparent, I heard her shift away from me and back towards the man in the pool. She was closer to him in that moment than I was to her. If I simply ran, she would end his life before I could impose myself between them. So instead I hurled my fans through the air as I sprang from my platform, aiming high and low in the two positions I would have held a knife for a clean killing cut. Counting on her professionalism had not been a mistake and my throw was rewarded by a sharp hiss of pain and the triple clatter of two wooden fans and a steel knife falling to the floor. She dove at once to recover the knife, but by then I was already upon her and it was too late.

I reached towards where I had heard the knife fall and caught her wrist as it snaked out to grasp the handle of the poisoned blade. Having only a delicate grasp upon her, I took in a high-breath and willed myself to be as the clever fox who follows the shadow. When she jerked her hand back to free it from my grip, I let myself be pulled with it instead, allowing her to draw me into striking distance before letting go. She was readying a lunge, this one to be aimed towards me. I was close enough now to feel the subtle vibrations through the air and the shifting heats of her body. The assassin was left handed, yet another surprise. How long had they had to look just to find left handed assassin?

It was an amusing thought I puzzled over as I let out a low-breath and let my balance find itself upon my right foot. My opponent’s breathing hesitated an instant as she gathered herself to strike and when her lunge came I made certain I had already turned aside. I could feel the currents from her determined lunge waft across the back of my haori, the whispering hiss of cutting air leaving no doubts that the blade she wielded was real. Until that moment, I could not have been certain how real this part of the test was, but even if the blade had made of wood or tin it would not have mattered. Though some of my half-sisters would dismiss anything they knew to be no risk to themselves, a true Companion would treat even the barest hint of danger as a true threat. In every training exercise through out my life, I had worked hard to convince myself that the lives of myself and my charge were truly in danger. I could ill afford to do anything but the same now.

Spinning a full circle on the toes of my right foot, I raised my left leg upwards through the slit in my hakama, bringing it to a crescent above my head at mid turn before bringing it back down to catch the side of the assassin’s face with the full saber-curve of my foot. The brief second of resistance in her muscles that gave way to a sudden limpness was all the assurance I needed to know the single blow had done it’s job. The assassin was felled. And for no other reason save to add insult to injury, as I finished my spin and she began her unconscious journey to the floor, I let my tails unwind from their stiffly braided singularity and slapped all nine across her face. Let that teach the fool who would try to slay this Companions charge! The man in the pool, who had made neither sound nor motion since my first assault upon the assassin, let out a softly amused sniff.

I bothered not to hide the self-pleased air that came to my smile. "Dignity, grace, and humility” was a mantra my half-sisters and I had been taught since the day of our birth. In my life time, I had mastered all but the last.

My back was already to her when I heard her body crumple to the ground, no longer a concern. Winding my tails back together again, eight around one to form the illusion of a single presence, and brushing down the wrinkles in my clothes, I strode in measured steps back to the platform where my koto awaited. In proper form, I slid onto my knees before it, feeling the dampness of the hard tile soaking through my skirt, and drew the instrument onto my lap to pluck the next note in the song just as the last was fading. The cord bellow my fingers was cuttingly thin, yet soaked in the warmth of my touch almost instantly. A golden string. A pluck as gentle as you would use to take a virgin rose.

My finger nail barely pricked the string, but was rewarded with a strong, sure note. And a slow, even applause from the pool behind me.

The man had not spoken a word the entire time and when he finally did, I was certain that I would not be able to stop my back from stiffening at the sound of his voice. It was a voice I had only heard twice before in my life. Once had been when I was little more than a girl-child and he smiled at me as he walked among my half-sisters and asked me my name. The second had only been four years ago, alone in a parlor with him to speak at length of life and prove that I had learned my lessons of history and philosophy well. Yet was a voice I had spent my entire life devoted to. A voice whose approval would grant the calumniation of a life time of dreaming and see me entered into the haloed ranks of the Nine Companions.

“Excellently done Gin,” said my father, the Fox Lord Rei-Lai.

That he knew my name still made my lips part and I had to close them before they could draw an excited gasp. Setting the koto carefully back upon the platform, I turned on my knees towards the sound of his voice and demurely bowed my head. “Thank you, my lord-father.”

I could feel his eyes upon me, searching me for any flaw like a jeweler with a suspicious stone. “You have grown since I saw you last. You have grown well. Come closer that I might examine you best.”

Willing my knees not to shake, I rose smoothly from the floor and moved towards the sound of his voice. When I suspected the trickery, I am uncertain, but as I grew closer to where I knew him to be sitting at the edge of the pool, I stopped evenly. Feeling with my toes through my slippers, I could barely make out the edge of the pool just beyond reach of my feet. Another step further would have sent me tumbling helplessly into the water.

When my fathers laugh rose up behind me, this time I was not surprised, and the infectious sound of his joy made the little smile upon my face blossom and caused my cheeks to grow warm in pride. I had passed another test.

“You would be surprised how many of my kits are taken by that ruse.” My father confided in my ear once his laughter was contained, his presence heavy and warm behind me. “Your performance has succeeded nearly every expectation of a true Companion. You have done well, Gin.”

His hand patted mine as he as said this, a gestured that might have been fatherly had it not lingered. I could feel the hot, leathery pads on the tips of his fingers as they closed over my hands and he guided my arms upwards to place a hot, dry kiss upon the tip of my knuckles. Tickling the fur on my ear with his breath in a way both pleasing and disturbing, he murmured to me with a dry crackle running through his voice, like kindling come to smoke. “There is only one final test.”

When he released my hands and ran his palms down the length of my sides, it felt as though my clothing had simply melted off of me. The shift shock of air against my bare skin made me shiver despite the warmth. I could not stop my breath from coming faster in fear and trepidation. I had known this would be coming. The training for this aspect of a Companions duty had perhaps been the most exciting and enjoyable. Yet just like the assassin’s blade, it had never been real until now. Somehow, it was far more frightening than the thought of a poisoned blade.

But my body knew what to do even while my mind was still trying to come to grips with it. He leaned his weight in against my back and began to kiss my neck and I shifted thoughtlessly to best accommodate him, touching and rubbing as much my bare flesh to his as I could. His warm, dry hands slid under my arms and closed over my breasts and my shoulders pulled back of their own violation to better thrust them into his gentle touch. He murmured a wordless command against my skin and shifted away from me slightly, moving his hands to my shoulders and I gave no resistance as he leaned me over against the wall. My tail slid out from between us, coiling around his waist, and I felt my legs ease themselves apart.

I knew not what to expect from then on, but what touched me felt at first like a hot piece of iron searing inside of me and then later like nothing so much than some long missing part of me finally come to complete what had been unfinished. My world, nothing more than absolute darkness since the blindfold had been secured over my eyes, exploded into something I could not even describe, an image that burned into my mind and my eyes as one. A silver circle so beautiful it made me weep and when it finally fled into the realm of mere memory, the loss of it sent not only my vision but my every sense back into darkness.

I awoke what I could only assume to be some time later, curled on the floor of the bathhouse. My body ached in ways I didn’t even know it could, inside and out, and my own sticky, drying scent in the air was almost appalling. As each sense pried itself from the floor and opened back up to the world, I was only made more and more aware of how long I had been sleeping. The fire of the cauldron outside had burnt out and the water ceased to boil. The air in the room had become cold.

But I was not alone. My father remained somewhere in the room, I could feel his watchful gaze upon me and sensed something more about it. A tinge to his attention that I had not felt before, a nervousness that I slowly came to realize permeated the very air. I pulled the blind fold away from my eyes, wincing hard at the glare of white off the immaculate tiles of the floor. Vision blurred from so long in darkness, I peered around but saw no manifestation of my father present. Still I knew he was there.

“Have I been chosen, father?” The word, even as I spoke it, felt strange to say, as if was a multitude of other meanings to it just beyond my grasp. For some reason, I suddenly remembered the circle that had flashed into my thoughts when passion had overwhelmed us both. Something about the image filled me with a loving warmth… and made me shiver.

It was some time before my father finally answered and the fearful awe in his voice shook me even deeper. “Yes,” he said slowly. “You have.”

Obligations to the Caste

Life changed greatly in many ways after that day. But the most striking was when I heard of my sister. As children we are raised to expect nothing less than the pinnacle of perfection out of ourselves. We are taught that the only value we can truly have in life is if we succeed in impressing our father and our teachers and earning our place among the Companions. Yet, the Nine Companions are so called for a reason. Among twenty-five young women, only nine of any generation are every selected. The rest are failures and I have heard how ungentle my father is in telling them so. Most are simply crushed outright by his dismissive rejection of them, their spirits and hopes shattered. Most just go on to the slave auctions and pleasure houses as empty shells. Some never make it that far.

I don’t remember how long I wept when they told me Midori had been rejected and killed herself in her grief. It was nearly enough to make me wish to end my life as well. Friend, sister, companion, and lover; she had been the only true family I had. Our dreams, our hopes, our plans to be together forever had simply been ripped away by a callous and careless dismissal. That was the first moment I came to realize that I hated my father as much as I loved and worshiped him. It was that anger and the thought of eventual revenge that made me over come my grief. I would become a Companion, as much to answer my own desires and honor my sister. I would take all the skills and knowledge offered to me, hone them to absolute perfection until my name was more radiant than all the others. I would explore my new found gifts, touch upon the warm power that I felt stirring within me, and bend it to my will. Then, I would turn those same skills to end the spirit who had destroyed my sister.

Like so many plans in my life though, it was just another childish fantasy. But I clung to it in the years afterwards. After training for an entire life time, six more years spent in study and practice were a simple thing to manage. My training was somewhat different than that of the eight half-sisters who became Companions with me. As much as we learned together of new ways to protect, pleasure, and care for whoever bought our contracts, I was often taken aside to learn other things. My new teachers, spirits older than those who had raised me in my youth, seemed to know much of what I had become and helped me come to understand it as well. I learned to touch the silver flowing Essence that surged through my body, to shape into forms impossible for my half-sisters to match with their own pale auras, to tap into and touch it without making it burst into a telling banner.

I came to understand at once that though my father had blessed my sisters in some way, something else entirely had blessed me. I was his daughter still in blood, but in spirit I had become more than my sisters and, perhaps, more than my father as well. It made me feel a surge of pride and power to think on that. Every time he took me into his bed to test my progress and then quickly sent me away afterwards, but would keep my half-sisters with him the rest of the night, I could feel his fear of me. But giddy as I became at the thought of his fear and how much closer I was coming to turning against him, I began to wonder if I even really could. I knew, physically, I would be capable of the deed, but as my preparedness rose to the task, my heart began to sink away. What good would it have done my sister to kill the same spirit we had loved and worshiped together all our lives? My fellow Companions had all lost blood-sisters after the test, yet none else entertained the thought of assassinating our father. It left me troubled sometimes and the moonlight could not always bring peace of mind.

Merits and Flaws

Merit: Enchanting Feature: Sensual Allure

When she walks, her hips swing slowly to and fro in a hypnotic cycle. When she smiles, it is both playful and wicked at once and her lips glisten softly in invitation. Her long lashes move slowly as she blinks and there is almost always something warm in her serene, hooded gaze. She sighs and the men in a room sigh with her. Gin is only deliberately seductive when she means to be, but she always carries a natural allure with her that can just as easily make men lust and women scorn her jealously.

Flaw: Unusual Appearance

Hard, fox-like ears and a nine white furred tails are far from normal even in the East. Though at least in the East they are a mark of something noted and respected (or feared, depending on where you go). Elsewhere in the world, they are simply strange features more likely prone to draw Gin attention. Few outside of the East are likely to know of the Fox-Lord Rei-Lai or of the Nine Companions and there is nothing to Gin beyond an aura of sacredness to separate her from simply another strange spirit or creature spawned from the Wyld.

Flaw: Favor

There is a book in the East that is the size of several volumes of Imperial Law combined. Within are the names and accounts of every single Companion who has ever been. Accounts which begin from the moment they come screaming into this world and sometimes follow them clear into the next. Rei-Lai is a shrewd businessman and knows the value of pinching pennies. He keeps track of every last expense involved with raising and training his daughters and exercises the parental right of archaic Great Forks laws to demand his children repay every last mark on the sheet. Until then, they are legally in his debt as indentured servants and as no expense is spared in their raising, almost all will remain that way until they die. With the death of her sister Midori, Gin’s debt is doubly what any of her half-sisters would have to pay, as Midori’s account was passed onto Gin. Despite the impossibly crushing weight of this, Rei-Lai has never pressed her for payments. Instead, he occasionally ply’s her for favors and has always stood on the offer to cut her debt in half the moment she sends him her first born daughter.

Flaw: Enemy

Gin believes her sister Midori to be dead, as does her father and all who knew her. They could not be more mistaken however. As the grief stricken young girl dangled upon the end of a silk scarf tied into an improvised noose, waiting for life to flee from her, a voice spoke in her ear. It had been soft, sympathetic, and understanding. It told her about her fathers betrayal, her teachers lies, her half-siblings sabotage of her tests, and then offered her the power to take revenge on them all. Midori’s black Exaltation happened unnoticed behind the force of Gin’s own. Her seemingly dead body was cut down and taken to Syigia to be buried, but the pale fox-girl awoke before the earth could be piled atop her. She seduced her grave diggers, rode them atop her own coffin, then killed them both and drank their bodies dry.

Midori, who has come to be called the Void’s Own Mistress, has since become a servant to the Mask of Winters. She leads a cadre of ghostly concubine-assassins, all recruited from the lingering spirits of those other fox-children who killed themselves in grief after Rei-Lai rejected them. Together they play with the leaders of the Hundred Kingdoms, using seduction and assassination to turn the little nations against one another and weaken the East for the Mask of Winters eventual coming. Yet her personal business rears it’s head as well. She has been long in planning her eventual revenge against Rei-Lai and the Nine Companions of her generation, but they have become secondary to a single target of her grief. Long ago, after spying upon her sister during Gin’s training, she convinced herself that Gin had betrayed her like everyone else in her life and has since worked herself into a delusional madness of hatred for her blood-sister. The Void’s Own Mistress watches her sister closely from the shadows, hunting always for a moment of weakness to renter Gin’s life, seduce her way back into Gin’s favor, and then destroy everything her blood-sister loves before snuffing her out as well.

Heirlooms & Artifacts

A Companion cannot go into the world unarmed. The life of her charge, herself, and the reputation of their very order is at stake every time she take a contract and leaves the estate of Rei-Lai. The Fox-Lord ensures that his daughters do not venture out ill equipped and has years ahead of their first contract to prepare gifts for them to take with them. He pays heavily to forge gods to see his daughters receive only the best. Still others carry the weapons handed down from mother to daughter, from generation to generation of Companion. Gin’s own weapons come from this second variety, given to her by her mother the day before she left Rei-Lai's company. They are complete and matching set of three, more ancient than some artifacts wielded by the Dragon-Blooded of the Realm.

Red Sun in Spring: Perfect Enchanted Warfans

They were crafted in the First Age, a gift from a Terrestrial lord to his favorite mortal concubine. Elegant and deadly in their beauty, like the woman who carried them, the Red Sun in Spring stayed with the concubine her entire life, until the day her lover and lord was slain in the Usurpation against the Solars and she joined the rest of the harem in committing ritual suicide in their sadness. The fans were entombed with the concubine, surviving long after she had turned to dust to be found by a party of scavengers and sold to Rei-Lai over five hundred years ago. They’ve since been passed continually from one Companion to the next, each one leaving a little piece of herself with them. Gin is only the most recent to carry the fans, but can feel the solemn air of the centuries about them and sometimes feels she can hear the whispers of all those concubines and Companions before her who carried the fans.

Gin, in fact, can sometimes hear their whispers. The Red Sun in Spring have become the fetters for several ghosts within the Underworld, including the first who ever carried them. Siam Lochi, the ghost of that first concubine, was a powerful old spirit in Stygia. Respected, wealthy thanks to a long standing mortal cult mistakenly worshiping her as a goddess of pleasure, and dangerous. It was only natural that when the time came, she was chosen to become the next White Queen. Since Styiga’s fall to the First and Forsaken Lion and the other Deathlords, Siam has been attempting to call out for help silently to any who carry her fetter. Gin is hardly to first to perceive these messages, but like the others cannot understand them entirely and pass most off as mere imagination.

The Red Sun in Spring are lovely weapons. Crafted from wafer thin strips of precious green jade between dark wooden edges, they fold and unfold as if they were cloth. Images are leafed in gold and silver across each, the artistic depiction of an idyllic spring day in the First Age. Most outstanding upon the fans however is it’s depiction of the sun as a blood red orb. If one scrapes slightly at it, it becomes evident that the sun use to be gold leaf as well. But at her death, the first concubine to own the fans smeared the sun over with her blood as a sign of defiance against the sun whose Chosen had slain her master, and every woman to carry them since has felt the urge to do the same. Exactly how Siam would react to know her fetter is carried by a Chosen of the Moon today remains a mystery not to be solved until the unlikely day Gin and the White Queen come face to face.

The fans were never bound with the magic of true artifacts, only enchanted in minor fashions to better facilitate the use by their mortal barer; it’s true power lay instead in the raw perfection of it’s craftsmanship. These enchantments faded with time or were simply blown away in waves of sorcerous counter-magic, but Rei-Lai has always paid to have new magic woven into the fans. And then added the cost to his daughter’s debts.

Perfect: +1 Def, +1 Spd, +2 Acc
Enchanted: Unbreakable
Spd +1, Acc +4, Dam +0L, Def +3, Rate 4

Winter’s Loves Loss: Enchanted Dragonscale and Moonsilver Sais

Carved from the scale of Osen, an elemental dragon of air, Winter’s Loves Loss were expressions of love and sorrow made in the name of a Companion named Haya, Gin’s several times great grandmother. Lonely by way of his foul temperament, Osen had managed to drive away or kill every paid lover and servant he had ever claimed in the mortal world. Until Haya. Unusually gentle and compassionate even for a Companion, the fox-woman so gracefully endured the spirits harsh manner and cold nature that she slowly began to find a place in his heart. But his love for her only made him jealously possessive and when her contract to him ended and he could not afford the price being asked to renew it, Osen instead kidnapped Haya and locked her away, ready to fight any who came for her. Yet no assassins came and none had to. Realizing that she would never escape him to repay her debt to her father, Haya honorably took her own life instead.

Osen serves Rei-Lai now, inheriting both Haya’s dept and further reparations for his foolish actions. The great dragon is rarely seen openly and makes for a sorrowful figure when he does. He remains heart-broken and guilt laden to this day, something which Rei-Lai consistently and skillfully milks to keep the dragon pliable and docile. Among his duties is the rather grisly task of carving items out of bits of himself. Most are simple talismans placed for sale on street vendors, but occasionally Osen becomes inspired in his grief. So it was with Winter’s Loves Loss, carved out of a still living scale ripped from his body when another fox-child named Haya was elevated to the place of Companion. The name of his lost lover is hidden in every fold and contour, worked into the very soul of the weapons until the little god within them identified itself as nothing else. They speak her name as they move through the air, whispered on the soft shush of wind, and a certain sadness surrounds them when struck properly by the light seem to form a pair of sparkling teardrops.

The sai’s are milk white and glossy, smoothly polished to touch. The teeth of the tsuba curve outwards from one another as they reach the apex of their length and the central prone shaped into a viscous stabbing point. Pure glistening moonsilver forms the grip of the handle, shaped to resemble prayer strips coils around a cherrywood shaft. Etched deeply and filled with the glossy blue blood of the elemental dragon, words of poem in honor of Haya are written across the faux-strips in Old Realm. Only the hardest hearts can listen to it and remain unmoved. Whenever it is read, the sais themselves shiver slightly in remembrance and the faint image of the woman they were made in honor of can be seen in murk reflection upon the prong.

Winter’s Loves Loss have barely been used since their creation. The Companion who shared Haya’s name carried them until she died and they were nearly buried with her, but for Rei-Lai claiming them at the last moment. Only two others before Gin carried them, both meeting sudden and unexpected ends. Since then, the sai’s have carried the reputation of being cursed by Osen to bring ill fate to any who do not share the name of his lost love and remained untouched in Rei-Lai’s armory until the Fox-Lord chose to allow Gin’s mother to give them to Gin. It was the only gift he has ever given to his daughters free of charge, simply to be rid of the weapons.

Spd +1, Acc +5, Dmg +4L, Def +6, Rate 4
Commitment: 6

In addition to being piercing as most sais are, the Loss ignore Hardness and reduce soak by 2 additional points for every level of anima displayed by Gin. With the sais in her hands, disarming becomes a Diff 2 action, regardless of any outlaying factors short of Charms or Sorcery. This includes making a 'ranged disarming' attempt by hurling the sais. By spending 2 motes, she may reflexively make a disarming attempt upon any attack which fails to strike her (including those dodged or parried). The sais instantly break any mortal weapon with a successful disarm attempt, including those enchanted to be unbreakable.

For 4 motes (2 per sai), Gin can cause the sais to 'plant' themselves into any surface. As long as the motes remain committed, the sais cannot be pulled free by anything short of a superhuman feat of strength (Difficulty 4 + Gins Essence). The moonsilver in the sais spreads outward to the area immediately around where they have been planted, bonding to whatever is within a foot diameter and preventing simple escapes by removing clothing or sliding weapons from scabbards.

Five Tailed Fox Bangles: Perfected Kata Bracers

Akako was the most hot-blooded fox-child to ever ascend to the place of Companion. She walked the path of the Nogitsune family with both feet and all five tails firmly planted in their soil. The Crimson Kit, as her sisters all laughingly called her, was one of the few Companions to ever love Rei-Lai into utter exhaustion. Yet though she loved riddles and pranks, she was no hellion. Akako was passionate and vibrant, in love so wholly with living that she yearned to make ever moment an experience and every experience something to be remembered. Her passion was infectious and nearly every client who bought her contract sought to marry her or scrap together the price of a life-contract just to stay by her side. Yet even Rei-Lai was unwilling to let her go and raised the price on her contract in the name of demand until none could afford her and Akako had to remain with him instead.

Rei-Lai’s attachment and Akako’s devotion to the Nogitsune path lead to a rare event among the fox-children and even among the Companions; the raising of one of their own into a true spirit. While in some deep rooted philosophy the eventual goal of any Companion, it had happened so rarely in their history that most ignored that part of their upbringing as they grew older. Yet Akako proved it could be done, becoming a true kitsune in the service of the Division of Secrets. The lesson of her loyalty inspired devotion in the hearts of fox-children for generations to come. Her service to the Sidereal of the Bureau of Secrets was almost legendary as well, Akako acting as boon-companion to any number of Oracles during their hidden forays into Creation. Though the Chosen of the Maidens are often quite slow to acknowledge the work and service of heavenly spirits, Akako proved too much to be ignored. Under her request, the offer to sacrifice a portion of herself towards their making, and on gentle insistence from Rei-Lai, the perfected kata bracers known as Five Tailed Fox Bangles were crafted to be presented to every fox-child who proved devote in her beliefs.

The bracers eschew the prayer-strip like appearance of most Perfected Kata Bracers and take the shape of a fox-like kitsune instead. Though made from starmetal, the bracers were alchemically treated to appear to have been forged from nothing more than iron tinted a dull hot red. Careful examination of the streaming lines of fur reveal sutras of wisdom disguised as playful stories hidden among the crevasses of moonsilver. In these characters alone one can find the occasional glistening streak of color that marks true starmetal. The metallic fox wraps her tails, legs, and eventually her open mouth around the arm of the wearer. Stretched into a sly smile, the jaw of the kitsune actually hinges so that it can be opened and closed to allow the wearer to pass their fist through. Ever time the jaw is moved however, a strange little squeak emerges from the bracers, like the sound of cheerful laughter and most who have worn them have sworn they have seen the eyes wink at them mischievously as they deliver a blow.

Gin was granted the right to wear copies of the Five Tailed Fox Bangles well before her Exaltation. Hardly the original pair made, the bracers which graced Gin’s arms in practice sessions were nothing more than cast-iron replicas and she was not the only fox-child of her generation to wear them. When she became a Companion and an Exalt, the bracers came with her, and none willing to ask for them back. Her Exaltation seem to exclude any possibility of her eventual rise into god-hood, but her devotion to the concept of being a Companion was enough for Rei-Lai to press upon his connections in Yu-Shan and to have a pair of moonsilver bracers created and brought to replace the iron replicas she had worn to that point. The Fox-Lord, of course, added their cost onto her growing balance. Gin wears them almost constantly, keeping them hidden under the sleeves of her robes and an extra wrapping of long white silk, and bares great pride in pulling back her sleeves and unwrapping them to revel what lay beneath. The bracers are an honor among the Companions, even if few others understand the significance, and one she will not soon forget.