cursebound. (Earinor & Akira)

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    • cursebound. (Earinor & Akira)

      genres: drama, acquaintances to lovers, more drama.
      killing people is unethical, anti-hero turned taxpayer, pain, assassin x priest.
      sequelitis #103

      The Land Without A Name, avoided by many, shrouded in mystery, occupies the East of Gaia's Sea. Many have tried and failed to reach the forbidden land with its high, impassable cliffs and lush greens, its fragrant trees that carry with them songs and speak of people long gone. From afar, one sees its variety of untouchable islands, soaring in the sky, detached from the rest of the earthen land, scraping the clouds and carrying with them an air of mysticism. Long gone are the days of adrestian adventurers, hellbent on anchoring at one of their near invisible ports and reclaiming the barren, savage land. In all those years since its discovery, not one stray soul has made it back from the Nameless Land in one piece, to tell the tall tale that would crush any and all superstitions about its cursed soil. Not one of them returns, and even if they do, they are no longer sound of mind and soul, plagued by whatever curse the wayward wind has attached to them and their failing shell - they are bound to wither, to crumble to dust, to be nevermore as soon as they leave behind their penultimate destination - their last adventure. Those who still push through, who dare come home, disappear into the shadows; become an example for young, forlorn adventurers who have ample life ahead of them. The East is no fun place to be, for it never was, plagued by the misdeeds of their ancestors who dared to step foot on sacred lands, or so the myths foretell.

      In reality, Houkun is far removed from the mystic death trap that many outsiders make it out to be. It is governed by the Shogunates, by powerful witches and witchers, by those infused with the breath of dragons, their royal blood pulsating in their rotten veins - they are but immortal vessels for a greater cause, focused on nothing but their own wellbeing, and known to butt heads with any and all around them. None of the splendor in old, childish scriptures remains if one were to look past the colorful camouflage and find reason within the divided, yet secretive land. The commonfolk, dictated by mages which sit above them on the evolutionary chain, live their lives in relative freedom, hardly bound by the honor one would assume they crave - not all of them can, or will do as they should and many of them lose interest in the mundane lifestyle they could be leading, as soon as coin is being offered. And yet, none of them dare leave their homeland, lest the Shoguns will send someone after them to strike them down; to keep their secrets for themselves and to lock unwanted outsiders away - they have their own way of dealing with things and, for better or for worse, are assisted by their power. Genji is one of the less fortunate souls, one of the people lucky enough to experience what it means to be "blessed" by magic, to be cursed by it, as soon as he stops abiding his man-given rules. He is but one of many, and yet, he is made an example of, made to suffer, at the whims of those above him - the ones that had initially hired him all their life, to dispose of their enemies, their allies, their friends, their families; an assassin, one that has had enough of a thousand years of bloodshed committed in someones name. And thus, he refuses to kill - and therefore, he's struck by a curse, one that is bound to keep him suffering for a thousand more.

      Genji "Noroichi" = @Earinor
      Mikuni-no-Homare = @Akira

      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • From the grape vines they hung, all the way overhead their little encampment atop the imitading stone cliffs of their ancestors - the birds followed neigh but their own commands and decided that, as long as it was a singular priest that had come down the mountain, out of their shabby buildings, simply to pick a basket of berries and herbs, they wouldn't mind the strange, old face amidst their morning quarrels. Whenever Mikuni had the time to descend, he did, simply to flee from the life of those sheltered know-it-alls and their chanting, their singing and murmuring of ancient texts, of time unknown - he knew the goddess better than any of them, and yet, while they portrayed her to be more than what she truly was, they ignored the bloodshed and the curses, the bad things that her ephemeral existence brought with itself. All gods were mortal once, Mikuni was sure of that, and yet, he was assigned quite the though nut to crack. As he looked up to the birds, dressed in beige and brown feathers, about the size of his fist, he couldn't help but grin at them before he stole one of their grapes, only to offer it back up to a most curious individual that decided that, no matter what, the foreign hand was trustworthy enough to enjoy a meal from, even if it was merely a distraction, one that lasted a few minutes, at the crack of dawn, in the foggy fields, away from the mountains ever singing cistern.

      As the bird ate from his hand, more joined, before they had crowded it and were loosely pecking at leftovers, then his skin - Mikuni shooed them off, to be on their way, and grabbed the wicker basket he'd brought. This thing was nothing but a headache to lug around, and yet, it was merely his own to carry - once he was done here, he'd go back home and decide what to do with the rest of his day, if it weren't for that rather tight, streamlined time table of his ... what was he, a kid? He was nearing his thirties, damnit! Mikuni, annoyed by the mere thought, kicked a stone on the beaten path that lay ahead of him, tossing it elsewhere. The noises he expected were the rather dull thud of an old trees bark, many of which resided within this orchard, or that of another stone. Neither was heard. Without another thought, he figured he might have just hit nothing - which wasn't that uncommon - and yet, he was sure it had hit the curb just right, just in time to knock on that old apple trees trunk, the one that would rot, come winter, unless someone cared for it. With a sigh, he turned around, walked up to that old thing and found his stone, resting against a ... leg? It was the dark-clad leg of a man, crouched against the tree, hiding in what little shade it offered. Confused, he seized him with his gaze - that definitely wasn't a priest he knew. "Are you alright? How did you get in here?" Was it a thief? No, he didn't seem stupid enough to steal from a temple, of all places. One that gave what it had, and it had nothing to give at all. "That can't be comfortable.", Mikuni told him, crouching down to get a better look at his face. What a peculiar fellow ...
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • He didn't want to kill. He didn't want to end someone live. He didn't want more blood on his hands. He told himself that over and over and over again, yet how many times had he killed someone anyway? At some point he wasn't able to resist anymore, at some point, he rather found someone on the verge to death anyway and killed them, just to satisfy the feeling inside his body and the spreading curse the haunted him. It was better than suddenly waking up over a corpse or two, not knowing how he got there in the first place. Either way, the curse, the dark entity, the demon, whatever it was that possessed him, its army grew. had he stopped from the beginning, maybe his death would mean nothing, but like this, with hundreds or maybe more of them, humanity wouldn't have a chance, even if the dragons were to descend from their castles to see an end to this. He knew this for a fact. How many years has he been wandering? He had no idea, he didn't even know if he was still supposed to be alive, or if so many decades had passed, that he should be dust by now. But there was hope. He heard of a monastery housing priest specialized in treating curses and getting rid of the traces magic left on a humans body. If only they could help him...

      Genji tried to reach that place for days. He didn't have any water left, nor did he have food. He hadn't slept in days and the scourging sun left him weak and tired. The place were the priests supposedly lived was secluded and without a horse the travel was harsh. Genji hadn't killed for a while and animals felt that. No horse let him close enough to ride it and even the insects in the trees got silent when he passed. He couldn't hunt like this either, not that he had a bow or the strength to do it. His only chance was to go on, knowing that he mustn't let himself die of something like hunger or thirst. He needed to stay alive for plenty more years - eternity even - if those priests couldn't help him. It was night when he finally was able to see lights in the distance. He slipped through the shadows as if he was one of them and that was how he ended up leaning against that tree. He didn't make it to a single building, he'd been too tired and only when something his him on his leg, he opened his eyes, perplex that the sun suddenly stood high and shone into his face. His eyes scanned his surroundings, stopping at a strangers face. He had dark skin, an eyepatch covered one of his eyes and the blue hair was loosely tied together. Genji lifted his head a little, peering through the blonde strands of hair in his face and he tried to remember the words spoken to him, so he could give a proper answer, but the thoughts slipped away from him. Suddenly he seemed to remember why he was here in the first place and a hand quickly reached out for the mans arm. "Are you a priest?", he asked him, after all, he was here to find one.
    • The tolling of the bells was near - atop their highest peak, they’d be loitered and then, they’d open the gates. Mikuni knew himself to be a rather gentle and kind soul, if only for the fact that that was how one gained the most trust from others, but he also knew that the perplexed stranger wouldn’t be save here if someone came down the mountain and discovered a stranger within their domain. How secluded was the Lunar Temple at this point? The blood was surely getting thick within its walls, with what little there was left, and for all intents and purposes, none of the older priests had sought for a wife yet, to abide the laws of their goddess, in hopes of being chosen as … what, exactly? Either way, that wasn’t what he was supposed to think about. Not in the slightest. There were bigger problems at hand, ones that called themselves a stranger and vengeful priests. Before he knew it, however, Mikuni sighed, sounding almost relieved. He’d not stumbled upon a corpse within their hallowed Orchard, but the emaciated man - or youth? - seemed to be in a rather dire spot. Why didn’t he take from the trees that already bore fruit? Even the wild animals in here would have been his to take, as long as he would thank the Goddess that they all prayed to.

      “Priest? Ah, yes. I’m currently on my morning errand, so I ditched the robes.”, he explained. This way, those garments wouldn’t get dirty and he had an excuse to shower himself in peace whenever he got back; he needed to be clean before he could slip in the outfit of an absolute puritan and endure the idiocy of this world. Whyever his father had given him up to this godforsaken monastery, he hardly knew, but he also was sure that he wasn’t leading that bad of a life. One that allowed bim to rummage through his basket and grab an apricot, bright yellow and almost the size of his palm - the Goddess worked in mysterious bit loving ways, and the fruit of her labor was not to go to waste. “Eat something, will you? You’ll feel better in an instant.”, Mikuni told the stranger( whom’s hand he eyed. Whatever or not something was off with that guy, he could hardly tell - it was just an odd spot to find someone so weird like that, dressed in gear like that no less. Curious as ever, he watched on - it was relatively silent now, as if the birds had stopped their song and looked elsewhere to share the good news they were supposed to bring in the first place. “Why do you seek a priest? So far out here no less? You don’t look like you’re from around here.”
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • Genji had picked the oldest, most dead tree of all in this orchard he only now recognized to be one. It was fitting for him. The birds around them went silent - nothing new - only humans were oblivious mostly. Maybe not if it came to the fact that he was a stranger who didn't exactly look trustworthy, but they usually couldn't tell more than that about him. There were people who grew horns, or unnatural eyecolors when they used too much magic and people who turned to literal monsters when they were cursed, but in Genjis case - at least on first glance - there was nothing much to see. Only if one were to look at the skin under his clothes that covered almost every part of it, would they see the branding that spread further and further until the thirst was satisfied. Right now he assumed it to have taken possession of his right shoulder, his upper arm and parts of his neck, but all of that was covered up, by dark fabric. The human before him didn't seem to suspect anything and he wondered how good of a priest he was therefor.

      He claimed to be one and there should be no one else in this place in the first place. Maybe there were younger men that were still in training, but this one looked a bit older. How old had a man to be to become a full fledged priest? Genji never believed in any deities if he was honest, so he wouldn't know. The man started to look at his basked he carried around, suddenly reveling an apricot and offering up to the stranger. Genji looked at the priests face, then the fruit and then he thought this was a very priest thing to do. He carefully let go of the man and instead reached out for the food. he didn't care what he ate, nothing tasted like anything lately, but he needed food and fluids, both of which were included in the tiny meal. Without saying any more, Genji ate the fruit quickly, hoping to feel a bit better. "Thanks...", he mumbled after he swallowed down. He peered up again at the man asking probably the right questions. The sun that climbed the sky behind him blinded him and he needed to blink against it. "I seek help...", was his answer. "I was cursed a few... a while... ago. I... I need to find a way to get rid of it... You priests here... you have experience, isn't that so?"
    • Mikuni watched him. There was no chance he was a threat, in fact, he looked out of place and yet, almost as if he belonged where he sat. Was he one with the trees? Was he uncertain of how his life was to play out if the priests found him, alive and well, buried in the soil of their holy garden because he desired some of their fruit? Whatever it was, priest or not, he wasn’t one to deny strangers a helping hand - he’d not shoo this forlorn soul away, make him hide himself from the rest of the priests, no. He came here to atone, to become a new person - or simply to cast any doubt aside that resided within him. Like a hungry bear, he chowed down on the apricot he was offered, its sticky juice dripping everywhere and the pit soon abandoned; he smiled, warm and gentle, then looked at him and chuckled. A lost soul, perhaps? Or an idiot that had forced himself into the holy gardens? “No need. Would you like another?”, he asked, earnestly. Whatever else was he to offer this stranger, draped in the colors of their hallowed garden? He’d already eaten from their fruit, cursed himself with knowledge beyond that of an outsider - he was welcome to take his fill.

      For a moment, he halted, then he gauged his options. Was he to leave this man here? Mikuni wanted to, if only for a moment, before he remembered that it was futile to make such attempts - his brethren would find him, and if this stranger told them he’d fed, then abandoned him, he’d face the consequences through the hands of the priests, not the words of the all-knowing, ephemeral goddess that seemed to be banging pots and pans in the back of his mind. Like this, there was nowhere to run, and like that, he was stuck here, glued to a seat that he didn’t want to find himself in - he couldn’t alleviate the curse, but even then, it made sense why no birds were chirping, or why no leaves were rustling. Even the insects had halted their concert. “Cursed? By whom? What for?”, he blurted out. This was hardly appropriate to ask, and yet he didn’t excuse himself for the rather obvious slip of tongue. His eye lay on a man that he, all intents and purposes considered, shouldn’t have invited to partake in his fruit - and even then, he wasn’t one to let others suffer. Silence haunted their conversation and minds, and Mikuni was the first to shake it off. “We do. Can you walk? You’re quite a bit away from the monastery, you see - it would be better to bring you there so you can rest a bit first. Ridding someone of their curse is an arduous task, one you need to prepare yourself for.” Just like that, he extended a hand to the stranger - this would be fine.
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • After he ate the fruit Genji felt slightly better, but not a whole lot. He couldn't remember when the last time was he ate or drank anything. Sometimes, even if he had the opportunity, he was occupied with his thoughts, keeping them in check mostly, to remember mundane things like having to drink and eat. He wondered if this was the curses doing, if it tried to keep him from basic living, or more accurate surviving, so it could have his body turned into a beacon, beckoning all he once killed out of their graves to flood the earth. Would those priests even believe him, or would they think he was crazy. It sounded crazy, but Genji knew it was true. The curse uttered had to be a most powerful one too, one that fed on something else than its bearer, keeping him alive and more or less unchanged for years. Was it even a curse? Or was it a demon possessing him? No... demons were born out of people corrupted by magic and not created out of thin air, but then again, he didn't even know what he himself was at this point.

      He looked at the stranger again, the priest that tried to help him as it seemed and Genji nodded. If he kept his body in shape, it was easier to control his mind and he didn't want to hurt anybody. Slowly he reached out for another fruit and he ate it right away. His glove was stained with fruitjuice and probably a bit sticky, but he didn't care about that now. Instead he looked up again, listening to the questions that probably needed to be asked by a priest trying to help. Well Genji hoped those weren't too important. "I don't know...", was the first answer. It could have been many people and Genji didn't remember their names, nor faces. When he learned about his curse it had already been years since it was uttered. "And I think because I killed someone.", was the second answer. Whether he was cursed because he killed a loved one, or because he killed the one who cursed him themselves eluded him. It didn't seem the priest was content with what he heard, because silence followed until the priest decided something. "Rest...? Mh... ", the stranger mumbled, but he nodded and forced himself on his feet, without accepting the help offered. "How long will it take to prepare?"
    • He was fed, and thus all was forgiven. Psalms like that wouldn’t help a single soul, and yet, it was Mikunis doing - he picked up that wicker basket of his again, as the stranger nourished himself with fruit from the holy hills and then, without complaining, got up and didn’t take the help he was offered in the first place. A slight sigh escaped him, but he brushed it off due to the fact that everyone always treated him like that, in a way that made them be remembered, even if not in the best of ways - even the younger priests were starting to ridicule him, and frankly, he was glad to bring back a souvenir of his own for once, one that would maybe make them shut up if he could heal him. This stranger was Mikunis ticket to freedom - and yet, the Goddess wailed. What a pedantic and eccentric person … The blood in his veins ran cold as he heard the next few words. A murderer seldom would beg for forgiveness, and yet, even when he did, Mikuni was sure that he’d gain nothing but self-gratification for it. This wasn’t his issue to pry into, and yet he wished to, wanted to know, to understand and comprehend. Was that why the nature seemingly had stopped moving?

      “Whomever it may be you killed.”, he started, thinking about it for a little too long. Who knew what would happen if someone like him set foot into a valley of defenseless, mountain-loving hermits that rarely let outsiders approach them? Hopefully not a tragedy. Before long, Mikuni grabbed himself a few grapes from the basket and absentmindedly shoved them into his mouth, seizing the opportunity to gaze at the stranger and then, without a word, motioned for him to follow, as he made his way back up the beaten path, to reach the monastery. “Do you think they cursed you?”, he inquired between bites. The more he knew, the better his tools would work and the easier a curse was to remove; one needed to find its roots, and once they were located, getting rid of them was but one incantation away. Wasn’t that just him, though? A lot of his fellow priests struggled with the most mundane curses, while he himself stayed away from them as much as possible. Curing them was, if not his lifeblood, his undeniable forte. “A day or two, nothing much. It would just be better for you to get your head into the right mindset and to relax a bit, to eat and drink to your hearts content and prepare your spirit.” If there was any left - murderers tended to be finicky clients all around. Still, Mikuni wasn’t one to deny the man any help. “What is your name, if I may ask?”
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • Genji saw the look on the priests face. The fear he wore to the outside, because in front of him sat someone that killed another human being. If he only knew how many it were and if he only knew that he never fought in a shoguns war, or rather he played a different game for them. "I don't want to hurt anyone...", he told the man, but if he believed a murderer was a different story. Still, it was true, but Genji couldn't stop killing, whatever he tried. Sometimes the curse crept up slowly, so he had time and could simply hide away from everyone, but it won every single time for so long now. Every kill made the burden on Genjis shoulder heavier. For now he followed the man to the heart of his home. They walked on a sandy path up a hill from which one could overlook the fruit gardens and olive orchards. Behind them the birds started singing again and the cicadas kept buzzing. If Genji were to take a moment to listen to the distant sound of nature, he'd found it calming and welcoming.

      Instead he listened to the priests questions. Questions that were hard to answer. Maybe Genji should have come here earlier, but he only heard of this place a few months back. "I don't know... I only noticed the curse much later. Years... I think.", he answered, leaving out the fact that he had killed so many people, it could have been any one of those, or even someone completely out of the picture who simply was scared he'd be visited next. If information was what the priest needed, Genji couldn't provide it to him. Maybe he should have searched for clues back then, not now, maybe now was too late. "How does one go about preparing ones spirit?", he asked next. He wasn't sure if he was able to relax, but he understood the sentiment of needing to be ready. Maybe if the curse was lifted he'd die anyway, but then it would be a welcomed death. Climbing the hill meanwhile was a tedious task, but Genji managed to keep himself going. The next question however hit him off guard, although he should have been prepared to be asked his name. As if it eluded him, he hesitated to answer for a few moments, but his name was on the tip of his tongue and he finally caught it. "Genji..."
    • They walked, and it almost felt like the way up, back the mountain, consisted of a spiral staircase that snaked itself around the hearth of the mountain in any case. Whatever or not Mikuni was proud of himself and the achievements he made, the moment he’d invite this relative stranger into a holy place, he could only pray-tell, and yet, as curious and as interesting as it would be to heal him, as hard it naturally would be to convince the hierophants, the high priests, that no matter what, this guy was deserving of freedom. What if they decided that he didn’t need to be freed of his curse? What then? Mikuni had no idea, but he followed suit, trying not to doubt himself anymore than he was already doing - it would only cause a rift in his own heart, and it’d tear him apart in a heartbeat. What was right and what would be wrong? “Nobody is accusing you of wanting to hurt someone. You’re here to atone, right? Therefore, there’s really no reason to be afraid of judgement.”, he declared. Whatever they were judging him for would be olden sins, of a long bygone era, and that meant, that this man might not have killed in years. Might have killed in self-defense to begin with. And yet …

      “Much later? So it has no physical traits? What about mental? Or do you mean your ailments only started years after?”, he tried to figure out. They were walking at an amicable pace, making their way up the mountain much faster than they initially needed to believe - the big, wooden door that guarded the place blocked their way soon enough, and while many would think that was where the road ended, Mikuni gave it a gentle shove. “Let it rest. Meditate and nurture it. There’s no way of knowing how one best goes about to prepare themselves, there’s only so much an outsider can know about you.”, he told the stranger and guided him inside, at least into the first hall of their famed home. The rest of the monastery was built into the stone and bedrock of the mountain, standing there, with a tower and its watchful eye guarding them. The men that crossed them were out on a stroll in priestly garbs, it seemed, and while Mikuni hadn’t dressed for the occasion of meeting their higher-ups, his little accessory was even more ill-prepared. A deep breath, nothing else. “Welcome to the Lunar Temple, Genji.”, he told the stranger and pointed at the murals carved into the stones, at the grass that was occupied by more than one of his fellow men - he looked for a place that they could start their journey at, and yet, it was much too early. “First and foremost, we should pay one of the high priests a visit, to assess the damage. They’re more knowledgeable than I am.”, Mikuni foretold. Upon them were the first rays of sunlight for the day, ones that didn’t touch the mountain fort. “This way.”
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • It's been a while since Genji talked to someone he believed. Sometimes he overheard others talking, but he rarely visited cities or villages. He never engaged either, which was not so different from his lifestyle before this all happened. He had different reasons though. Now however he was talking to someone, a priest no less and he didn't seem to care where Genji came from and what he'd done, but only that he was here to repent. Genji was here for exactly that and not only was he feeling the weight of the curse on his shoulders, he additionally felt guilt for all the lives he took. He wasn't afraid of judgement, everyone had a right to judge him and he also wasn't afraid to pay the price for his sins. He wanted this to be over and the world to be save. "Physical and mental...", he answered the priest who understood this wrongly, but he was weary of saying to much. It would be best to be honest with the man who wanted to help him, but could he really trust him? Would he throw him out if he realized he was maybe deserving of this curse?

      "I... wanted to change... my life that is. Then the ailments started to show, not letting me do just that...", he answered after a short moment, then stopped for a second to watch the priest open the entrance to the monastery. As if there was an unseen barrier that kept evil out of this place, Genji didn't follow the priest right away. He wasn't sure if he was able to step in, or if he'd be struck by lightening, then again, if he was let in, maybe there was still a chance after all. He slowly set one foot over the doorstep and nothing happened. Nothing felt different either and he quickly found back to the priests side. "My mind is... restless. I am not sure I am able to meditate.", he told him apologetically, but maybe if he was just able to eat something to get his strength back it would help. Walking through the inside of the building now, their steps echoed against the stone. Though Genjis steps naturally were of quiet nature, his traits as assassin faded when he was barely able to keep up the pace. He was still welcomed here and the other priests didn't pay him much attention for now. He wouldn't dare question the priests decisions, so he nodded at him and followed suit.
    • Curses often befell those who didn’t even deserve them, even if it wasn’t easy to gauge in Genjis case. Mikuni knew that he might be in the wrong here, wrong to bring a known murderer who’s mug he’d never seen before to that which he called holy, but he didn’t feel like leaving a man to fend for himself, to make him starve in an orchard full of fruit. For now, they could only hope that whoever would attend to them was nice enough to not give him a piece of their mind, but rather indulge in Genjis request and rid him of his curse. What was he supposed to do? Deny someone in need? As they ascended another tower, over worn steps, away from the courtyard, he wondered if any of the other priests would have done the same - if it was Genjis god-given right to seek retribution for things he hardly had under his control, or if Mikuni was wrong for aiding him. No Goddess answered him, not even in the shiest of voices. “How does it express itself? Rashes, loss of appetite? Fevers, maybe? Or is it something entirely else?”, he wondered aloud. All of these stairs coiled around something, somewhere, to keep the monastery as compact and hidden as possible - to keep rumors at bay, and to keep tourists away.

      For now, he was the one that got mesmerized by the flames of the candles that they had set out to keep the place alight - the higher up they went, the less orange they were. An almost ominous green hue followed their glow; they themselves were, if anything, stuck in their old ways, their beliefs and their ridicule of anything new. “Not to worry, I’m sure you’ll be free of your ailments soon enough. That will make you a new man, free as a bird.”, Mikuni told the stranger with a gleeful tone in his voice. All of this was exciting to say the least - they were one step closer to their goal. As they reached the top of the staircase, the windows no longer offered them a view to the outside world; they were murals of painted, stained glass that cast their own mesmerizing light on the otherwise plain, green-lit walls of this place. “Now, now. It’s going to be alright, we’ll figure something out - there’s something that’s got to help, one way or the other.”, he soothed his companion, glancing back at him and the flickering shadow that he cast. Before long, he was knocking on the door that sat at the end of the stairs - it looked rather dusty, and yet, it was nothing more than an act. “Father?”, he asked, his voice smooth like silk. “Come on in.”, boomed the voice from beyond the walls of its chamber. With a nod, Mikuni pushed the door open and made his way inside, waiting for Genji to do the same, only to shut the door behind him. In front of them sat an older man, his greying hair was neatly flowing over his shoulders and his beard, which seemingly hadn’t been trimmed in weeks, was combed not too long ago. The glow of the stained glass windows evaded this room, but the big alcove behind him was a sight to behold no less. They were above the clouds. “Mikuni-no-Homare. Your clothes. Your basket. Your … friend.”, the old man lamented and opened his eyes. Almost apologetic, he looked away, approaching the head priest and offering him his basket. The man took an apricot. His gaze hit Genji soon after. “Are you the one that slept in the orchard? What brings you here?” His voice was thunderous, not angry. “He wishes to b-“ “Mikuni-no-Homare. I’m talking to him.” Well, damnit.
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • The priest led Genji further in, past some other people and stone walls. Their voices echoed off them as well as their steps and Genji lowered his voice as much as he could when he was asked another question. "Changes... on my body. Nightmares." he left out the most obvious ailment he suffered from for now. He didn't want to disturb this priest, or anybody else. Maybe there was a time to share it, but not now. Genji kept vague, until he knew he could trust those priests and he knew they could truly help. The cheerful words of one priest that new nothing about Genji, or his curse as of now, didn't put him in a better mood. There was no time for hope yet, but it least he hadn't been kicked out right away. He was still here, traveling up a tower lit by candles, that mysteriously changed their colors from red to green. Smoke and mirrors were nothing Genji fell for and he hoped whoever awaited them at the top truly knew what he was doing. What if not? What would he do then? Continue on in the state he was in?

      They reached a door the priest knocked on. After he was allowed in, he opened it and Genji followed right behind him. It seemed like they climbed the tower all to the top and in it lived another priest of sorts, probably, who looked much older than the one who found Genii. Not only that, he also seemed to know where he found the stranger. Was the orchard visible from up here? Genji wasn't sure, but it seemed like he could see what was going on, but not hear it, otherwise he wouldn't have had to ask Genji why he was here. The younger priest whos name also was revealed was shut down. Genji was eyed and he lowered his head a little bit. He wasn't here to offend anyone. "Yes I am. I apologize.", he told the man, but kept close to the door and shadows he felt always comfortable around. "I am here to ask for help with a curse that was cast on me. I have nowhere else to go.", he truthfully answered. He needed to get rid of it, it didn't matter if he deserved this curse or not.
    • Wretched liars, all of them - every little one would soon be denounced by their goddess if they kept up their goody-two-shoes act, and yet, Mikuni found himself enthralled by the idea of living a life unfulfilled, one void of understanding, one bound to come and rob him of the last of his senses. He was, in a sense, nothing more than fodder for those less fortunate than him; for priests that thirsted after his status as someones favorite, as someone that would get away from any peculiar situation scot-free, as long as he desired. But other than that, what more was he, if not a simple mortal? "No need to be, young man. I must apologize, for Mikuni-no-Homare's behavior. He's always been the rash kind, I hope he didn't cause you too much trouble?", the man spoke, with a voice of honey and brine combined; it had a sour note at the end, and Mikuni could hear it, moreso than he wanted to let on. What was it that had them all turn their backs toward him? Was it because he had heard a higher calling when he had been ill-equipped to perform even the most basic of rituals? Was it mere jealousy? Whatever the case, he couldn't figure it out like this - he looked on ahead, over the shoulders of the hierophant - he was poised to act, not to attack.

      "Have they cast you aside for your curse?", the older man pried, without even giving the blonde time to breathe. "You are safe here, you mustn't worry about anything. We are here to forgive you, as long as you repent. And we specialize in treating curses." He sounded so sure of himself, of his craft and life that he'd stuck to all his life - whatever or not he was making progress or not, he probably had lost track of, and yet, Mikuni was sure that he'd much rather not be here right now. What would they do with Genji? All of this sounded like the standard procedure, but then again, how often did a lone soul wander within their hallowed halls? "Ah, where are my manners. My name is Father Seimei - may I ask for yours?" Even like this, he could have told that man everything there was to know - everything he'd pried out of those foreign, clothed hands and the sleek mouth that was probably thirsting for more than that stupid apricots he'd collected from the orchard. Mikuni shut his mouth as best he could, but before long, he was gestured forward and offered the hierophant another apricot; he, too, without manners as he was, spilled the juice everywhere, as he took a proper bite. Seimei wouldn't abide to the law of the land - he saw himself as such. "To help you with your ailment, we should assess it first. Tell me, what caused it? How far has it spread?"
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • Mikuni-no-Homare, the other priest, took position in the background of this discussion. He didn't seem pleased by what his superior said about him, but soon Genjis gaze fell upon the father again and the blonde hair flew through the air when he shook his head. "Not at all. I was arriving in the night, but it seems my strength left me right after. Your uh... priest, he offered me some fruit and it helped get me up here. I am thankful for that. If need be, I will pay for it, though right now I must admit I am short on money.", he told him, put a hand on his chest and lowered his head once more. Deeper this time. It's been a while since he talked to anybody and he tried to be as polite as he could. He'd repay the monastery if need be, but right now it was hard for him to earn money, especially since his initial job was kind of out of question now. he didn't want to kill anymore and when he had to, he didn't want to do it for money and for himself.

      Was he cast aside? he didn't know if he should say yes. People usually didn't want anything to do with him, but little did they know about his curse. "I've always been alone.", he answered instead and it was true. He had his master, but he was dead. He knew people at one point in his life but they hadn't been friends. There never had been a family either. He looked up again, weary of the kind words, not because the father gave him reason to, but because he never put trust into people lightly. Things that seemed too good to be true usually were, but still he was thankful for not being kicked out right away. "I do. And I will atone for my sins as best as I can as well." Genji didn't know if he believed in a goddess, or any other powerful deity that cared about what humans did in their petty short lives, but that didn't mean one couldn't sin without such a being. Genji was well aware that he had done many people wrong and that a punishment was only right, only that his kept him from living a sin-free life. "My name's Genji." that was all. He never had family, so there was no other name he was given. "I' am afraid I am not very sure about the whens and whys of this curse, I only much later noticed it brewing inside me. I... killed before. I think someone wanted to punish me. I think punishment is in order, but this curse it's..." Genji paused. he wasn't sure how much he should say, but in order for them to know how to help him, they probably needed all the information he could give them. "This curse, it desires blood, which I am not willing to provide." Genji bit his tongue and then he pondered over the next question, that wasn't easily answered. "Right now it spans over my right shoulder, up my neck and down my upper arm, father." But that changed, it even moved back, if it got what it wanted. Was that normal? for now he didn't dare ask or say more.
    • There was a glint in Seimeis eyes, one that people like Mikuni hated - he was interested in his prey, someone that offered himself up on a silver platter without explaining away anything at all. Right about now, he could rack up as much of a bad impression as he wanted; the father had set his eyes on him, had decided to do something with him, and Mikuni wasn't someone that felt like lingering to find out what it was, especially not all the way up here, in a secluded tower, where one wrong step would mean that somebody came crashing through one of many windows. There was a gentle breeze, and the wicker basket had been stowed away behind the desk of Seimei before he even knew - he was adept at taking from those who gave too much. "I apologize for your experiences in the orchard. Nobody patrols them - it was pure coincidence that Mikuni-no-Homare found you and I'm glad that he did. You seem capable of defending yourself, but it would be hard if you were in a delirius state.", the hierophant lamented, his eyes harking over the plain figurine that had stepped in front of him. Mikuni himself bowed for a second, at the off-handed praise, before he gazed over to Genji for a bit, who either fell for the kindness of a mad man, or was adept at dealing with them. "There is no need for monetary compensation."

      They lived a minimalistic, almost ascetic life - but to each their own. Their leaders often preached about brotherhood, about sharing with one another, and they seldom possessed much more than the average priest, at least on the surface - those who wanted to own more weren't told off, but even then, they all were taught to live as simple as possible, to keep humble, and to not take their gifts from the Goddess for granted. She was screaming at the back of his head, ready to crawl out from beneath his eyepatch. Mikuni shuddered. Seimei smiled at the stranger, the lost lamb he'd found. "You've found us. You are no longer alone.", he reminded the young man. Those knees made an uncomfortable cracking sound as he got up and walked to one of many bookshelves behind him, overflowing with old scriptures, many of which were dated, yellowed or even completely useless at this point. They were keepsakes, more than actual material, but they also belonged to them - they made up their history. "Genji ... Have you given yourself that name?" Whatever the high priest knew, it was too much, or at least Mikuni thought that, now that he was being completely silent, it was a tad bit too much. Soon, Seimei stopped. "You've killed? In self-defense, I presume?", the old bastard wandered aloud, almost as if he didn't have blood sticking to his nimble fingers. Mikuni didn't know, he just figured. "So, it haunts you. Are you able to keep it under control? Or shall we lock you in for your and our own safety until we have what we need to alleviate your burdens? I'm sure Mikuni-no-Homare can show you to a room and get you cleaned up and fed, yes?" "Yes, father." That he could, for once.
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • "Please, you don't have to apologize, father.", Genji answered. He truly didn't want that, there was no need, He slipped in here, that was his fault and that he didn't eat nor drink was his won fault as well. None of the priests here could have seen this coming. Then Genjis gaze fell upon his own sword that hung from his hip and he hesitated before answering. "I suppose so." He would never forget how to wield a sword, even though his weapons of choice had been knives, arrows and poison. Now the sword was only intended for defending his life, because dying was not an option to him. The nightmares - or visions - foretold of the worlds end if he were to and thus he couldn't end his life or have it be ended by someone elses hand. None of the questions and generals sentiment felt odd to Genji thus war, but when he was openly welcomed and told to not need to pay anything for lodging, or the lifting of a curse itself, he was surprised. His eyes peered up and he tried to read the old mans face, to see if he was joking or had an ulterior motive. Why would anyone offer all this up for free? Faith?

      The old man got up to walk over to a bookshelf, probably full of known curses and how to remove them. Genji was interested in those and wondered if anybody knew about what plagued him. "N-No... Someone took me in when I was still young. He gave me that name.", he explained to the father. If his parents had ever given him a name, he didn't know it and he wasn't interested either. Genji was the name he was used to, but that was all about it too. He wouldn't mind changing it. The tone shifted however, when Genji finally admitted to at least one sin he committed and he stopped breathing for just a moment, as if the old man would forget about it, if Genji didn't commented on it. Lying to a priest was probably another sin and not helpful in his journey to salvation. "No I... I killed for money.", he admitted carefully. "I regret it deeply and if you want me to give up my weapons, I will gladly do that.", he offered. Even without trusting those priests yet, he didn't think they were much of a threat, if push came to shove. In the end, he truly didn't want to hurt anybody here. "I don't want to hurt anyone. I can control the curse as of now, but if it should change, I will tell you. However, if you and your brothers feel safer with me locked away, I will accept a cell as well." Maybe it would be safer and it wasn't like he had places to go. The truth was though, that he didn't think a cell would keep him in. They'd need to tie him to the floor if they wanted him secured, yet Genji didn't intend to mention that, in case those people weren't trustworthy after all. He wanted a way out if need be.
    • What would this geezer gain from keeping himself a murderous pet? The idea, the seed, had been implanted into his head and Mikuni hated every second of it - he shouldn't dare think of it, but he did. Seimei, on the other hand, chuckled. "Now, now. It is right that I apologize to you - I might as well station someone to patrol the gardens.", he took into consideration. Mikuni himself would refuse, but nobody would listen to his very word - all that he was good for, was to bring the words of their lord on the day of reckoning, which was weeks away. A well-placed lie would help, yes, but while he considered the Goddess herself to be one of impulsive nature, she didn't care for someone like Genji, and therefore wouldn't try to speak up for him, no matter what happened to him. The old man knew that. Mikuni knew it. Genji didn't and he wouldn't have to figure it out, not even once. "It's a fine name. Hold onto it, will you?", the older man noted. If there had been any vitriol in Genjis voice, the old fart had ignored them and his little toy of a priest wasn't going to butt into a conversation that, as far as he could tell, didn't include him. Silence came and went, as the sound of hastily flipped pages cut through the overarching scenery - the hierophant licked his thumb to have better access to one of the scrolls, it seemed.

      As stiff as the atmosphere had gotten, as sudden his reaction was - the father looked up, more at Mikuni than at Genji - he glared at him, as if he'd invited the plague into their fortress and forsaken them all. Mikuni smiled at him, kindly. "For money, you say?", he repeated and nodded, sparing the murderer but a few more glances as he went back to his scriptures of old, stroking his beard as his eyes went over a passage that he found to be interesting. Now, he was merely playing with Genji, it seemed. "We don't have cells.", the icy voice boomed. Like this, Seimei was almost intimidating - he robbed Mikuni of air, someone that was standing there, stiff as a wall of stone, before he shook his head. "May I ask you to leave any and all of your weapons here? It hardly changes anything. The curse must be cruel upon you, especially if you're trying to change your ways." Another empty lament, how sweet of the high priest. Like this, it almost seemed like he'd consult with the others, and instead of actually helping a man in need, he'd chase him down the mountain on his own, with pitchforks and stakes, and curse him more, in the name of a goddess that held no grudge against those who weren't desecrating her mortal remains. "Now, be on your way. I'll see to it that I'll find out something until tomorrow morning, something that will help - if you need anything, Mikuni-no-Homare will gladly aid you.", Seimei ordered and shooed both of them out of the room. As soon as they began their descend down the stairs, Mikuni sighed. "What's first? Water? Food? Or a wash?"
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.
    • The voice of the father was nice, warm and inviting, but Genji questioned if it was genuine. It didn't matter to him though, yet the tone shifted, when Genji revealed his true nature. He could search for excuses, tell him he was trained to kill when he was too young to know wrong from right, but when he grew older, he didn't stop. He didn't stop when his master died either and he made a little fortune from what he did. There was nothing that excused his deeds and he knew that he probably deserved a miserable life, but there were times he couldn't control the curse and innocent people died because of it. How was that fair to them? This was why he was here, not to ease his own suffering. It was also the reason Genji didn't mention how many he had killed. He didn't even have a clear number, but it was more than a handful, way more, most of which he didn't even remember. The priests would kick him out if he told them, but this curse had to find an end somehow.

      Genji wasn't sure if the father even intended to search further, or if this revelation was the drip that let the barrel overflow. He could see the look on his face that he wore when he glanced over to the younger priest, he heard the coldness in his voice. Genji wasn't here to find friends, but he needed help. When he was asked to leave his weapons, he complied. He opened the belt that carried his sheeth and put it together with the sword on the mans table. Two hidden knifes followed and a little thing that looked like a bag, which actually carried some throwing knives and needles. It wasn't like Genji still needed those things, he just carried everything that he still called his own. The knives he also used to hunt, he didn't have a bow after all, and he knew how to use those things, though hunting proved to be difficult for a long time now. That was all he carried and he stepped back from the table again, lowering his head to show that he'd do what they asked of him. Still, the priest wanted him to leave. Genji didn't talk back, but he wondered if he should have given more information. For now, he didn't want to upset the old man and left his room together with his subordinate. While walking down the stairs, he let his hand run along the stone for support. "I am... very thirsty...", he told the young priest eventually, who also didn't seem content with the results of their talk with his master.
    • Mikuni wasn't going to step down from his stance - he thought that Seimei was an idiot, even if he'd admired him for years before. Not once had he considered that the old man would be nothing but a thorn in his side, and the moment he realized it, he also had to come to terms with the fact that he was not beloved by anybody around these parts. Genji was the same, sort of, and now that someone like that old geezer knew, it would spread like a wildfire, until all of the monastery knew that they were housing a cursed murderer. If the youngins would call him a freak, he couldn't know, but he felt responsible for the mess that he had brought upon both of them. "I'm sorry that he is like that.", he apologized as they made their way downward. Before long, the green fire had turned orange again, and as fate willed it, he slipped through a door at the bottom of the stairs, guiding Genji towards a little room with nothing much but a fountain in the very middle of it. There was no mistake to be made - it was cool and dark in here, and no other priest would cross their path in this decrepit place, even if their voices would bounce off of the wall. The cold dampness helped in its own ways. "I should have gotten you something to drink after our ascend. I'm sorry." He'd tuckered this poor guy out even more.

      For now, it was save to say that they couldn't go anywhere, unless Genji was chased off of the mountain by other priests - it didn't matter if Seimei tried to help him or not, he'd hunt him down if he was interested in him, with any and all tricks that he had up his sleeve. Mikuni approached the fountain, the slowly gurgling water, that spilled over the rim and partially flooded the room - the water shifted and sloshed at his feet, and yet, he motioned for Genji to follow him as he approached one of the windows on the other side of the room - for a bit, he lifted the heavy curtains to the side and let in some light, then fumbled with the window itself and let air fill the room as well. "Drink your fill.", he offered him and motioned at the fountain, which he walked back toward to wash his hands and then drink from them, from the water that had a pristine, transparent appearance. Normally, he'd have come here to wash his harvest, and yet, nothing much remained of it - he procured that one apricot from his sleeves, the one he'd taken, and washed it carefully after he had drank his own fill. "Want another one? You can be honest if they don't suit your taste. We have plenty of food here, so just let me know whatever you'd like to eat."
      Looking back, it maybe is like the toy carts you rode when you were a kid. But those toy carts could never go beyond the walls of the lawn. We want to follow the rugged concrete road beyond the wall. As we've grown, we've decided to leave behind the toy cart.