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[Episode] Winter with the Asakuras Empty [Episode] Winter with the Asakuras

This post has in-line assessment comments.Sat Dec 31, 2022 7:57 am
Quest Request:

Winter is a quiet time; the padding of the snow, the blankets of clouds, the hibernation of the animals, it is the season of withering, and yet it seems to nurture all that survives it. Death and rebirth, whether souls undergo such a process is a contentious topic amongst religious philosophers, but it is an undeniable fact for the living things that pass through this season; unharvested crops are chilled to death, and yet the melting of the glacial snow is what provides water for the next years rice.

Despite the offerings of the season, it is an ultimately bleak time; whatever meditations a human being may go through during such a time are little more than the mind making better sense of its dire circumstances, a way for the person to distract themselves from hardship and replace that suffering with something more meaningful. It is only the flying birds, and the very wealthy who can insulate themselves or escape from the cold. Flying above, in their yearly migration away from Kano Kuni the white-winged doves made their way Eastwards. Soaring high over snowy mountains, humble villages, and simple cottages, the freedom of the flock was unparalleled; creatures like this could transgress upon whatever part of the world they wished to see, the red line? The government? These restrictions meant nothing to the avians. Humans thought the ambitions of birds beneath their notice, but perhaps it was those denizens of the sky who were possessed of the more lofty and dignified perspective.

A boy with his head in the clouds. Singing an annoying little song that seemed to go on without end, rolling himself a snowball much larger than a boy his size should’ve been able to move, the moppy red-haired kid broke the sacred silence of the grayish-white void, “♫The winter night comes with a crisp chilly breeze! The turquoise clouds blur to blue mist with ease! ♫ Whose boat is it that’s floating downstream? Heading out for someone they’re wanting to meet! ♫ Yalala-lalala-lalala!” As Doji forgot the words to the song he simply began singing its tune as he happily pushed his snow-boulder onwards.

There were some creatures who did not take kindly to the disturbance of their peace; for those animals who could not hibernate, rest was a precious thing in the dead of winter. A single one of the large cat’s eyes fluttered open, a crystalline blue marble that seemed to see all the world for what it truly was: prey. In its field of vision, the tiger saw the source of the racket, a little red-furred human cub; human children were always dinner and a show.

As Doji approached the top of the hill, he heard rustling amongst the branches of the willow tree above, staring down at the blind boy were the eyes of a white tiger; and as it let out a guttural, pre-emptive growl of attack, the perceptive boy smiled up at it, “Hiya Kitty! Do you want to play too?!” The young red-head bounced up and down as he spoke, excited at the prospect of having a pet to run around with.

The white furred tiger also seemed quite excited.

Meanwhile, Hanako Searches the Snowy Wilderness for her Boy…

Where did that little idiot get off to now… the swordswoman hoped that someday her kid’s adventurous spirit would serve him well, but it was worrisome, that at any time her legacy could disappear; she hoped that he would always return, … he better not have gone far, I told him he shouldn’t be wandering around in the middle of winter. He could freeze, or be trapped underneath an avalanche, or…

“Doji!” She spotted her boy, standing at the bottom of a nearby hill alongside a massive snowball and a barren willow tree. She couldn’t tell if he was okay, nor exactly what he was doing with the mass of rolled ice. Nimbly she slid down to her boy, kicking up a spray of white powder in her wake.

“Hee-hee-hee~” the kid was preoccupied, and didn’t notice his mother’s call, nor her approach; he was simply enjoying patting his new pet on her pretty little head. Trapped within the mass of the giant snow, the tiger had met its match, and had been swept up in the brat’s whimsical wintertime play.

“Young man! Pay attention to your mother when she’s speaking to you! Stop your play this instant! I told you not to stray far from the house, and it’s time for our practice,” Hanako reprimanded her boy sternly, shaking him a bit by his shoulders to get his attention.

“Oh! Okay mom!...” with this, Doji threw a palm strike into the snow-boulder, shattering the ice apart and freeing its prisoner in an instant, “... come on Kurea!” The tigress was a bit too quick to follow after the boy as he began scampering up the hill, almost as though she wished to claim revenge on the child for his icy humiliation.

In an instant, the tiger dubbed Kurea, was snatched up by her scruff and held aloft in Hanako’s iron vice grip, “absolutely not, young lady,” a white-hot flash of intensity shot through the Asakura mother’s eyes, her gaze seemed like something beyond a human; she too was a predator, and she was much further up the food-chain than any mere cat.

As she was thrown loose from the swordswoman’s grasp, the cat was quick to prowl off into the wilderness and make itself scarce, it would have to find easier prey to recover its lost energy; it had never encountered one of the furless two-leggeds as terrifying as that one. As it trudged off into the wilderness, it growled back up to the red-headed child, who was now waving it farewell with a teardrop streaking down his face.

Leaping up the hill, Hanako quickly caught up with her son, and scruffed him up by the back of his shirt. The little brat wasn’t going to escape her sight again, at least not today.

“Mom! Come on! I can walk!” Doji whined up from his dangling position, brushing the water from his eyes as he was carried home.

“Oh I know you can walk Doji, you always seem to go places I tell you not to, and I’m not leaving anything more to chance today. Also why are you so heavy, boy?” There was no way in hell that an eight year old was supposed to weigh more than a full-grown tiger.

“I keep telling you! I’m dense!” The boy shouted up angrily, he’d explained his peculiar weight countless times.

“Aye. That’s for certain,” she doubted her boy would ever be anything less than “dense,” but even if he was blind and stupid, at least he was resourceful enough to come out of situations like this alive. Still, the boy’s heft was concerning; he didn’t appear overweight, something more was at play.

Back at the Asakura Cottage…

“Yow! Mom, that one really hurt!” The boy had been thrown to the snowy training grounds’ floor by the weight of his mother’s heavy bokken strike, he had tried to counter attack, but she’d read him easily and cut through his attack straight for his shoulder.

“Good! It’s supposed to! If we were fighting with steel you wouldn’t be around to cry about it! Try blocking next time!...” Teaching the boy was always an irritating prospect, so often he complained about matters of fairness; Hanako knew one thing very well: in battle there was no such thing as fairness, the death of her clan, and the teachings of her mentor had ingrained that into the very core of her fighting spirit, “... now stand and fight! We’re not finished here.”

Rocking back up to his feet, the boy clutched his training sword and recollected his focus; he listened for his mother’s position, searched out the tremors of her movement, felt the indent of her frame in the current of the icy winds. Doji was going to score at least one hit on his mother this session no matter what it took.

Even if it meant he had to try the same thing over and over again.

Charging in for attack, the red-haired kid swung his full-weight in towards his mother’s chest.

“I told you! That isn’t going to work!” Hanako easily caught the blade with her defensive parry.

“I don’t care what you say! It’s going to work this time!” Doji, growing frustrated with his mother’s condescension, pressed into her parry with inhuman strength.

This power… the taste of the clash seemed almost familiar, as though she was once again meeting that most heavy of kanabo. Hanako was unnerved, and for a moment she lost her concentration.

“I’ve got you now mom!” Doji screamed, noticing his mother flinch from the weight of his attack, he pressed the attack.

Hanako’s guard, alongside her bokken, were shattered in an instant. With the strength of a young dragon, the boy’s strike sent his mother hurtling back through the snow; and so he scored his first glorious point in months. As Doji realized what he had just done, he couldn’t help but break his combatant’s demeanor and begin celebrating, “Hee-hee! Yahoo! Gotcha! I finally got ya back for the last time ma!”

Prying herself up from a pile of snow, Hanako spit out a mouthful of ice before speaking quietly back to her boy, “you surprise me so often Doji. Sometimes I wonder if you even know what you’re capable of…” for a mere child to meet a prodigal swordswoman, a student of the legendary Nobunaga Mishima no less, this was a feat that was well beyond all but the finest swordsmen; what would such a boy be capable of once he’d grown? In that moment she felt a deep sense of pride, perhaps this red-haired boy would truly be the spark that rekindled the burning legacy of her clan; maybe one day the Asakura would be known once again for honor and strength.

“... let us break for tea,” Hanako dusted the snow from her clothing as she headed towards the deck of the cottage.

“Hee-hee! Scaredy cat! You’re just afraid now that I discovered the secret to beating you!” The boy called out a playful taunt as he threw aside the training sword and rushed over to his mother’s side to enjoy some of the family’s sweetest teas together.

Though the prideful woman’s first reaction was to tell the boy to shut his naive little mouth, she couldn’t spoil her son’s unjust yet, and so smiled softly over to him before speaking knowingly, “The secret to beating me? No, no, boy. You did well to score your hit, but make no mistake; you’ve not learned the secret weakness of the Niten technique yet…” the white-haired woman trailed off mysteriously as she went inside to fetch the tea set.

Tea Ceremony

Leaking steam like warm-breath clouding icy winter air, the kettle breathed out its empty fumes like a dying dragon. Hanako had portioned out a small amount of sugar for herself and her boy alongside their tea-oranges; as they both quite enjoyed their drinks sweetened.

“Doji, don’t drink that,” the elder swordswoman was always forced to remind her son of the simple etiquette of enjoying the steeps of tea. The first steep was always to be given to one’s tea pet, a loyal companion whose sole duty was helping in the enjoyment of these beverages

“It smells so good though!” The boy sniffed at the strong drink happily, dipping his tongue in to taste it. It was a stiff drink for flower-water, but nonetheless the boy lapped at it, thirstily enjoying the overpowering taste of Jasmine flowers.

“It’s too strong to be enjoyed properly. Plus, if your pet is cold, you ought to give it a warm drink,” Hanako poured her first steep over her own tea pet: an eight-tailed fox; with the pouring of the drink, the color of the statuette changed from pale gray to a bright white.

Doji picked up his own tea pet, feeling its carved details in his hands, it was a strange long-necked and horned animal that his mother had told him was known as a giraffe, “This little guy is so weird. Is he any different when he’s warm?”

“Many things become different when they are shown warmth Doji. Simply because you cannot see that difference does not make it any less real,” although admittedly, some of the fun of the kid’s statue was lost on him, as the vibrant red-color of its transformation was brilliant and beautiful only to those who could see; a detail Hanako had forgotten when purchasing the figures.

“Yeah, I guess so…” with this, the boy spilled the tea he had wanted for himself over the giraffe; following its flawed surface, the warm liquid seemed to awaken a crimson lifeblood in its recipient.

“If nothing else, it is good manners,” Hanako spoke gently to her boy as she poured each of them their second steep.

“What good are those?” The boy pouted as he dropped a bit of sugar into his cup, and took the first drink from his tea.

“They are one of the few amenities we can each afford one another, even in battle you ought to meet your opponent and recognize the honor they have staken in choosing to battle,” Hanako thought back to her master’s ruthless and disrespectful ways, they were one of the few qualities she did not admire in the man; perhaps because she couldn’t afford to have what was left of her clan seen as wholly unworthy of respect.

“Sounds like you want unfair things to be made fair,” the boy spoke a bit bitterly from behind his sugar-coated lips.

“How do you mean, Doji?” She couldn’t see exactly what good manners had to do with fairness.

“You want people to meet each other with respect. But not everybody deserves the same respect, like Ai~sama, she’s a nice lady who deserves to be honored…” the boy thought fondly of his surrogate aneki as he took another sip from his tea, “... but the rest of the boys in the village. They’re all useless trash who want to pick fights even though they can never win, why would I respect somebody like that?”

The boy’s words unsettled Hanako to her core, she had heard similar sentiments from his father.

“You afford your opponent basic respect with the hope they will do the same for you, it is a transactional matter, if you meet your opponent head-on without trickery then they will hopefully do the same for you,” she spoke plainly, hoping to shut her boy up and enjoy the tea with him.

“But that’s not fair either mom! In a fight, one side is always fated to win! Today it was me, but it’s almost always you! It’s not fair, why should the strong have to honor those weaker than them?!” Doji had been growing frustrated with his mother’s talk of unfairness, if she was going to uphold such principles, than she at least ought to be consistent with them.

“You think one side always wins?” The boy’s naivety was showing through.

“Of course! They have to!” The red-haired boy shouted to his mother.

“Consider this then, Doji: you are the shogun, and the entirety of your army has been set to wage war with another country. You overcome your opponent’s armies after decades of struggle, but in the process, both lands are laid barren and scoured of all life. You take the head of the enemy king, but you look back upon your armies, and you see that nothing remains of them; every last man has been slaughtered. You look to your opponent’s army, and the same is true. The only man left standing in a broken, and blood-filled land is you, and you have nothing to show for your campaign of bloodshed…” Hanako drank her cup of tea fully before finishing her thought:

“... who has won then, Doji?”

A mean-looking grin crossed the devilish boy’s face as his mother finished her somber meditation, “me! If I took his head then I won! Even if there’s nothing left, in the end I still won! I still proved that I was better than my enemy, and I can carry that pride until the day of my death!”

“Then what if you should both kill each other?...” Hanako spoke with severe irritation, she couldn’t believe the foul sentiment coming from her child’s mouth. Would he truly be so happy to sacrifice everything just for the sake of indulging his ego?

Doji remained quiet, he’d not even thought of the possibility of a draw in such a battle.

“... what then? Eh? Is there some arbiter of fate who shall reward whoever survives their wounds the longest? In the end, if there is nobody to carry your legacy, it doesn’t matter whether or not you won,” Hanako glared at her son with icy blue eyes, she wished that he could see the sheer extent of her disappointment.

“It matters to me.

“You oughtn’t be the only thing you fight for.”

The First Technique

“Let us train without weapons this time, Doji. I wish to show you something…” it was time that the boy learned more of the techniques and philosophy that he would one day be sent to find.

“Ha! I knew you were scared! Bring it on mom!” Doji beckoned with his hand, unarmed combat was the sparring where he’d scored the most hits against his mother; she was a swordswoman through and through, and he had been forced to scrap with the village children for as long as he’d been allowed to venture down into town.

“Whatever you say boy. That’s not the point of this exercise though. I will teach you your first Niten technique today–” she was immediately interrupted as she dared to say these words to her overly-excitable boy.

“Woah what! That’s so cool! I finally get to learn one of Uncle Nobunaga’s moves?!...” The kid threw his hands forwards into excited little balled fists before clapping them together back and forth and jittering with exhilaration, “... wait, then why aren’t we using swords?” Doji asked, knowing his mother’s teacher to be a swordsman above all else.

“You will learn this technique without your weapons. It is one of the most simple unfairnesses of this world that a warrior can always be caught without his blades, and so I will teach you this technique in such a way that it can never be taken from you,” Hanako spoke with her typical matter-of-fact ruthlessness.

“Oh! That makes sense I guess! Is it no-sword-style then?” The boy chittered up to his mother.

“It is not, but I’m certain you remember our lessons in the way of the cutting hand, no?” She hoped that her son wasn’t forgetting his most important lessons. Without the ability to use one’s own hands as swords, a samurai could always be caught off-guard; it was only through the callusing of the hands, and the honing of the warrior’s spirit that such an ambush could be prevented.

“Blugh. Yeah mom. It really hurts though…” the boy trailed off, his excitement seemingly having vacated the premises.

“Good. That’s the punishment for being caught without your weapons, if you have to break your hands to win a fight then count yourself lucky that you were able to use them as weapons in the first place,” her merciless demeanor would not break for even an instant, though in truth she didn’t plan on breaking the boy’s hands today.

“Okay…” the boy rubbed his hands behind his head before rubbing them together to warm them against the cool winter air, “... so what’s the move?”

“I’d like you to know the technique’s meaning before we try it, Doji. The name of the technique is ‘the sky splitting lance,’ can you guess what it does?”

“Oh! It must be an attack so powerful that it splits the clouds above in two when you use it!” The kid spoke of a fantastical ability, but such a technique was little more than a laughable fairytale.

“Hana-ha-ha-ha!...” The woman couldn’t help but laugh at her boy’s imaginative misconception, it was rare that the Asakura mother was caught off guard enough to let out her cute little giggles.

Doji smiled at bringing his mother a bit of happiness, and assumed that his guess must have been correct.

It was not, “... no, no, Doji. It’s nothing quite as grand as that, I wonder if even the gods of the heavens could accomplish such a thing. Our technique is much simpler. It is the division of yourself from the earth you stand upon, a moment where you may fly to the heavens like a bird taking flight.”

“Woah! We can fly?!” Doji took the meaning a bit too literally, and his blind eyes seemed to sparkle with eagerness.

“Not quite. For a moment you will be one with the wind, but true flight is best left to the birds themselves…” Hanako figured it was time she demonstrated the technique’s function; taking a deep breath and widening her hips, she readied herself. With the sudden thrust downwards of her arms, a crater was left in the snow and the ground below, and Hanako’s figure vanished from Doji’s sight in a gust of wind.

Calling from above, the swordswoman clued her son in to her location, “... these are the heights that the Niten technique offers Doji! From high above the members of our school are blessed by the sun’s rays, and the wind’s zephyrs! We are permitted the great honor of presiding over the battlefield from above, this is the ‘splitting’ of the lance, the division between the heavens and the earth itself!”

Landing gracefully back in the snow, Hanako looked to her awestruck boy before continuing, “but this alone is not the strength of this technique. What splits the heavens, so too can split the earth…” with another use of the technique, Hanako prevented herself from flying from the attack’s impact, and instead directed the full weight of the blow into the earth below; for a moment it appeared as though the strike had no effect, but after a second or two the ground beneath the two tremored, and an enormous circular hole exploded from what had once been solid ground.

Doji, now fallen into the pit, shouted up gleefully to his mother, “when do I get a turn! Teach me now!”

“... one moment Doji, there is a bit left to understand. The shattering of the earth you have seen here, this is what divides the swordsmen of the Niten from all others; where others would enslave themselves to the earth beneath their feet, we adhere to nothing we do not wish to, and so you must learn to dominate both the earth and sky if you truly wish to follow this path,” Hanako spoke, a bit cryptically, but only Nobunaga himself could properly explain the philosophy in its fullest.

“Alright! Let me try!” Doji attempted to follow his mother’s movement, but graceless and unrefined, his technique fell flat; as though a bird with clipped wings was attempting to take to the sky.

After Hours of Futile Efforts…

“I give up! I can’t do it! I’m too weak! It’s unfair! I can’t see how to do something like that! I’m completely blind to it! I wasn’t born to do this mom! I was born weak and I’ll always be that way!” the kid cried out, his face covered in frozen snot and tears.

Amongst the wicked words that her offspring had spoken today, these were the ones that brought the greatest anger to Hanako’s heart. She had made this boy, kept him secret and safe, for the express purpose of honing him into the blade that would etch their clan’s name back upon Wano Kuni’s history. Her anger overcame her, and in that instant, she drew her blade and cut her son twice along his face; this would be the origin of the boy’s cross-shaped scar.

“How dare you speak of strength as though you know anything about it! If you choose to be weak then so be it! You will always be a weak, worthless, pathetic excuse for a bastard if you refuse your destiny! A true swordsman could fight without his sight easily! A true swordsman fights no matter what is taken from him! No matter what he is deprived of! You can speak of your own weakness all you’d like, but do not blame it on the circumstances of your birth! If you are too weak-willed to fight then that is something much worse than a simple birth-defect, it is a spiritual deficiency!”  

In the silent wake of the woman’s brutal reprimand, she and her son stood, warmed only by the burning harshness of her words. Tears of blood and saline leaked from the child’s face, splattering down and staining the pale winter’s snow.


Somewhere in the distance, the echoes of the boy’s shout shook loose an avalanche; and a trio of unlucky hikers were buried alive in the natural consequences of the demon-child’s misery.

“I need you to help me more…” The boy cried harder, falling to his knees and weeping at his mothers’ feet.

The Asakura mother couldn’t help but feel she’d been too harsh on the boy, and that she’d failed him both as a teacher, and as a parent; she was the first to leave real scars on her own flesh and blood, her descent into rage disgusted her, in that moment she was no better than the boy’s father, or his grandfather before him. The child was not his father, that man would have never wept and pleaded to her in such a manner; even if he was the descendant of oni, the boy was still human.

“I’m sorry, Doji. If that is what you need, then I will give it to you. You are worthy of whatever assistance you require to walk your path,” the niceties that Hanako spoke were few, far between, and difficult to read; but Doji could hear the tenderness and remorse in his mother’s voice, she was clearly unhappy to have pushed him beyond his limits and punished him for it.

With this, Doji’s mother instructed him more dutifully, guiding him physically through each step of utilizing the “Sky Splitting Lance,” and as the sun began to set, their work was finally complete.

It was a pitiful gust that carried the boy above the cottage, but nonetheless, as he flew the gleaming rays of the evening’s dying light painted Doji’s face in shades of pink, periwinkle, and red. In that moment, Hanako knew that her son would one day be worthy of Nobunaga’s teachings, and that he would reignite the beauty and dignity of their clan. As he hurtled back towards the earth, the Asakura mother dove for her son, sweeping him up into her arms and looking at him with a loving smile.

“Excellent work Doji. I’m proud to call you my son,” she said, holding the heavy kid aloft before throwing him back up and down like a baby.

“Ma! Stop it! I’m not a little kid anymore!” The small, weighty, boy said, holding back laughter and smiles as he affected the serious demeanor of a warrior. Despite his mother’s break in composure and violence towards him, this day Doji felt a deep sense of familial love, and a duty to the future that he would pursue in the name of their family.

Later that Evening

Prowling up to the porch of the small house, the hungry animal had found little luck in its wilderness hunt; visibly skinny, the tiger submitted itself to its last resort, a humble plea to the furless mother that had reprimanded it. The beast pawed politely at the canvas frame of the cottage’s doorway, it smelled like fish in there.

Almost instantly, the door slid open, and the white-haired woman affixed her stern gaze down to the wild cat before speaking through a mouth filled with rice, “well? Why are you here?” Hanako was confused to see the creature, she couldn’t understand what would drive the animal to pursue her; furthering her confusion was the beast’s submissive posture, if it was wanting for food then she was surprised that it had not simply crashed into their house and started mauling them and rummaging their kitchen.

The tiger stared up to the woman with its glimmering blue eyes, before licking its chops expectantly.

“So it is the food that you want?...” Hanako glowered down to the critter, before breaking her composure, “... fine. Come in and mind your manners.”

The creature slowly walked over to sit down next to Doji, slurping some of the salmon from his bowl with its tongue, “Hey! That’s mine!” The fish-loving kid wasn’t excited to share his food.

“Here, have your own,” Hanako spoke, sliding a dish of salmon chunks over to the tiger.

“She already had mine though, Mom!” Doji bemoaned, pouting at the loss of his evening’s protein.

“She’s hungry. She is in need, just as you are,” tears began welling in the mother’s eyes, but she would not allow herself to cry in front of her son.

In the end, both members of the Asakura family were happy to welcome the beast into her new home. That night, the three of them all rested in a pile on the floor, enjoying each others’ warmth as a blanket against the quiet and enveloping cold of the winter’s nightfall.

Post Word Count: 5,029
Total Word Count: 5,029
The Conqueror / Black Fist
Name : Gray
Epithet : "The Conqueror"; "Black Fist"
Age : 49
Height : 10'2" (310 cm)
Weight : 1043 lbs (473 kg)
Species : Cyborg Human
Faction : Pirate
World Position : Lurking Legend (Former Yonkou)
Crew : Black Fist Pirates (Destroyed)
Ship : Sangria's Vane (Destroyed)
Crew Role : Captain (Former)
Devil Fruit : Pressure-Pressure Fruit
Bounty : [ber=r] 5,000,000,000
EXP Bonus : +0.20 (to all allies)
Income Bonus : +0.20
Shop Discount : -30%
Balance : [bel] 25,000,000,000

Posts : 3900

[Episode] Winter with the Asakuras Empty Grading

This post has in-line assessment comments.Tue Nov 07, 2023 11:02 pm


Quality Score (Re)assessment: No


Asakura Doji:

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