(A more detailed overview will be available further into the roleplay.)
The beginning of Elly's journey drives her westward, where the rest of the world and countless possibilities lie. Her travels lead her into a mountainous region, the supposed home of a great treasure. So far, the search has come up short, but in these sacred summits, there may be something else of import...
The Orochi Clan
"Streeeetch..." Elly panted to herself repeatedly, each earnest meter of climbing taking ever more of a toll on her strength. She was not used to scaling heights in this manner, at least for prolonged periods of time, but heavy raindrops along with the threat of lightning at those heights made the new labor a necessity. Elly's journey had brought her westward, from the lush forestation of prior travels to this newer mountainous region. In many ways, the peril she faced was self-inflicted. There were probably safer paths, but Elly was on a personal mission to find the undiscovered secret of these sacred ascents. Time was of the essence, and she needed to curb her curse's biting hunger soon.
After scaling the cliff for what seemed like an hour, Elly would find a temporary respite, as a cavity in the rock formation came into her sights. Relieved, Elly spread her wings and quickly soared towards what seemed to be a safe enough niche. Gracefully entering the alcove, she sighed in relief from the rain and cold, accompanied by a couple of ember-ridden coughs. It was clear she needed rest, and she seized the opportunity in her safe spot, curling up and lulling herself to sleep with the help of the nearby downpour.
"Tr... ..r, a.. .ou w..l? Tr... ..r!"
The rainstorm long passed, Elly was jostled awake from her sleep by an incessant call, and an unwelcome jab to her ribs.
"Are you well, traveler? This is no place to be nodding off. Hardly comfortable, at the very least." Her new company offered a throaty chuckle, before being joined by another making his way up the hill.
"Sensei, please. You know well the benefit of good first impressions. Let alone the fact that you're being rude to a stranger." Both voices were male, but unfamiliar; their words suggested they were familiar with the area, meaning they were possibly locals.
Elly's inert body recoiled at the strange man's unabashed nudge, her consciousness jolting out of its peace. Unusually exhausted, in part due to the weather, she made little effort to get up at the behest of her unknown company. It took her a minute to gather herself mentally and physically, before finally rising to address the two natives.
"A-ah.. who..?" she muttered, still partially in her tired stupor. Somewhat embarrassed, Elly collected herself once more and tried again. "Ah, sorry! Umm.. Oh, is this your cave or something? I was climbing and collapsed here, I'll leave if you need me to!" While she explained herself, she surveyed the two men more closely, instinctively resting her idle left hand on her shinai's handle in case of sudden hostility.
The two men, a Gecko and Komodo, both wore quite old fashion garbs. The younger Komodo wore a traditional samurai kimono and hakama, while the older Gecko, prodding Elly awake, wore a full kamishimo.
"We aren't here to start fights," the Gecko commented, immediately noticing her defensive gesture. "I simply offer advice, and perhaps lodging should you require it."
Stepping forward to join his companion, the Komodo added, "The cave is not ours, nor are these mountains that bear it. Few traverse these mountains for recreation, so forgive us for assuming you may be a traveler. If your journey leaves you weary, we can guide you to our village, down in the valley."
"Your village? Valley?" Elly questioned, more to herself than to the two men spontaneously offering her shelter. "Ah, so there was a village here. I was looking fo-" she started to say, stopping mid sentence after realizing her intentions might not make her welcome to locals. "..Was looking for a place to stay. Yeah.. My journey has taken me far, and I found myself here in need of cover from the storm."
Elly was not aware of a village's existence in the region, and she worried to herself about what that meant in terms of her treasure prospects. She pondered about her next action.. for all of four seconds, until she remembered she had company to address. "Ah, so.. It's a good thing there's people out here." she said amicably, giving the two men a polite bow of greeting. "I am Elly. Just Elly. Might I have the pleasure of knowing your names?"
"Morizaki Ichiro," the Komodo promptly replied, returning the bow. "And this is Master Kurosaka Yamori, of the Orochi Clan."
"Charmed, certainly," Yamori chuckled, bowing as well. "You needn't be hesitant. We Orochi are a peaceful people, the few of us left that there are. Come, come. There's more than enough room for you to stay as long as you need." Clacking his walking stick twice on the stone mountain floor, he started off in the direction they came. Ichiro followed close behind, looking back once to make sure Elly was following.
"O.. Ro.. Chi.." Elly stammered to herself, sheepishly tailing behind the two clansmen. The name sounded like a word from her homeland, but she failed to make any meaningful connections with it. As the group exited the crevasse, she realized that her secluded resting spot was actually on the edge of what seemed to be a man made path of sorts. It seemed that this was the beaten path after all.. "Orochi.. What is that?" she murmered in earshot of the two. Her curiosity was piqued, given how similarly the men dressed to those in her homeland and the similar nature of their names.
Ichiro hung his head, "Here we go..."
"Well, young lady," Yamori began enthusiastically, "Yamata no Orochi was an old and powerful deity, a guardian spirit of nature and unity. Our clan was formed in honor of this spirit, who defended our ancestors from the storm god Susanoo. The village we're taking you to was erected on their battleground, in the heart of the valley ahead." He waved his walking stick forward, gesturing at the low hilly land on the horizon.
"Susanoo.. Susano-o?.. It's very.." Elly stopped her train of thought there as her gaze turned to the land below the group. It looked wide open, the contrast between the harsh mountain terrain and the somewhat tamed, albeit disheveled valley appearing pleasing to the eye. "Oooh.." Elly cooed, sufficiently impressed by the land before her.
As the rocky obstructions thinned, more of the valley became visible in the distance. Set in the deepest plain was a lone enclosure, what looked like a small village surrounded by a high wall. The buildings of gold and red caught the morning light brilliantly, but upon closer inspection it seemed much worse for wear. Many points in the wall looked as if they'd been collapsed and repaired, and only a fraction of the buildings were actually standing.
"If you don't mind me asking, from where do you hail, Miss Elly?" Ichiro interjected. "Surely you'd be familiar with the legends of old, were you from this part of the world."
Elly was somewhat busy taking in the sights, and it took her a few seconds to fully process the question shot at her. "O-oh, uhm.. Some of the words sound familiar, but I'm not from here, no." She paused for a moment, remembering her homeland. "I live.. to the East..? Yeah, it's East.. Uhm, its the land of Sakoku, I think.." Her thought process was interrupted by her curiosity, her mind piqued by the novelty of the mountainside village.
"Sakoku, hm?" Ichiro repeated. "I've heard of it, but not much... Perhaps it is simply too disconnected from the mainland to fall under the umbrella of belief. What are your thoughts, Master Kurosaka?"
"Only that she's come a far way, and that we were right to offer her a place of rest," Yamori chuckled, waving his walking stick forward. "We're nearly there, so you needn't worry more." Their journey across the vast field brought them to the gate of the village. Inside a central road led straight ahead, towards a large building in the heart of the village. The atmosphere was somber, the structures all around in varying degrees of disrepair, but the central building seemed like a beacon of hope.
Even with her limited amount of awareness concerning mood, Elly could taste a sobering solemness in the air as the group neared the gate. Nevertheless, she was interested in just how similar the architectural style looked to that of her homeland, aside from the great disrepair and the surrounding mountains. "Hey.. is everything okay here?" she questioned, a bit rudely and unrestrained, but with a measure of honest concern.
"Many years ago, this village was once full of life, and a greater symbol of glory than what you see before you today." Yamori began his tales again, leading the group down the road towards the central structure. "But not all were pleased that our people should thrive. For reasons that may seem trivial to many, poor Poppy Village became the field for a great battle, one in which the odds were stacked heavily against us. Homes and lives alike were lost, and when the smoke cleared, us Orochi were a shadow of our former selves. Those who remained helped rebuild, for a time, but soon they went their separate ways. Now all who remain are us masters, and young Ichiro here who makes an effort to return often."
Yamori seemed to have no issue recounting this tale; his composure showed he had done well to move on. Ichiro however, did seem a touch flustered by it, for any number of reasons.
Elly nodded attentively at the man's story, taking it in along with the sight of houses and structures in disrepair. "Ah, Poppy Village.. Seems like it was nice before. But why would anyone do something so bad to this place?" Elly's sweet naivety showed, as she lacked the capacity to understand concepts like religious crusades and other harsh realities of the world aside from survival of the fittest. She seemed rattled by the account, despite her inability to comprehend its gravity.
"'Why' is a story for another time," Ichiro responded firmly. "We're here."
Before them stood the large ornate structure that was Poppy Village's 'Sanctuary'. Resembling an Eastern style mansion, or even small castle, the Sanctuary was home the the Masters of the Orochi Clan, and served as an eternal haven for the clan and anyone who should need it. Ichiro pushed in the large doors at the building's front, opening the way for Yamori and Elly. "Right this way, young lady," Yamori insisted. "Inside you'll find food, drink, and a comfortable place to rest. You're free to stay as long as you need to, and you can meet the other masters as well." He chuckled, waving his walking stick to herd Elly inside.
She indeed stepped forward, but was almost taken aback by the scope of the building, especially in comparison to the rest of the village. Even though there was some minor disrepair, the whole thing seemed ornate and grand in design. Elly's eyes glinted about, as if sizing up each part of the manor and discerning its worth. She did however have enough common sense to not wander about right away, instead waiting for her hosts to show her around.
From the balcony on the second floor of the Sanctuary called a soft yet well projected voice, "Yamori! Is that you and young Ichiro I hear returning?" From the shadows of the upper floors, a long slender shape came spiraling down one of the balcony's support beams. Slithering into the light from outside, it was revealed to be a jolly looking python. "Master Morizawa," Ichiro greeted in a low voice, bowing his head.
Elly almost reeled at the sight of the other master slipping down to the group's floor, awkwardly bowing her head like Ichiro was as if it were how to keep the creature from attacking. When she realized the error of her precaution, she abashedly reverted to a neutral position, a little embarrassed with herself.
"Well now, who might this young one be?" the python asked, looking over Elly carefully.
Yamori stepped forward, answering, "She's a traveler we picked up in the mountains. And what of you, Hideki you old fogey? Are you well?"
"Well enough, friend. But enough of the small talk. We needn't keep our guest waiting."
Walking back over, Yamori gave Elly a pat on the back, gesturing her forward. "Go with Hideki and Ichiro. They'll show you around, and answer any questions you have."
Elly nodded, and with that defaulted to trailing a tiny bit behind the two men. While she was interested in looking around, she was a bit concerned with how weirdly she was presenting herself. Her previous master probably would have given her a mild scolding for rudeness at that point, a thought that unnerved Elly some as they proceeded.
"Umm, sorry, I'm trying to think about a question, really!" she felt she had to say to her hosts, as if they were somehow disappointed with her behavior.
"You're free to still your nerves," Hideki commented, somehow aware of even Elly's slightest mannerisms without so much as looking back at her. "I'm sure you nary see much of this sort of hospitality where you come from. Us Orochi are a bit of the odd one out in that regard. But I assure you, it our intentions are genuine."
The snake led her through a short hall towards the center of the Sanctuary, exiting into a large yet cozy courtyard. All around, beds of flowers, small trees, and other greenery cut the soft grass into neat walkways, and in the center of it all there sat a remarkably ornate fountain. It rained crystal clear water from decorative relief sculptures, while at the top what appeared to be a stone carving of a sword crowned the impressive piece.
"Welcome to my garden, a place where many once came to find peace," Hideki introduced. "You're welcome to as well, should you ever need to ease your soul's weariness."