A metal hand placed a white stone onto the cross-section of the go board, and then drifted up to pull a cigarette from between lips. Smoke bloomed up to join the swarming smog at the ceiling of the teashop.


A more hesitant hand warily set down a black stone, drawing back slowly. The player sighed and slumped down, apparently resigned to defeat.


The white player reached across the wooden board again, metal "nails" gently scuffing the already scuffed lines. A white stone was put into place, surrounding a line of black stones, which were then collected.

"Argh, you cheated!" The black player stood, outraged. "That wasn't legal!"

The white player shrugged.

"I forfeit!" Grumbling, the man gathered his things and marched out of the shop.

The other player collected her winnings and stood, putting a few of the coins down for the tea she and her opponent had bought. When she stood, the teashop owner shuffled up to her. "Leaving already, Yuuka? You've only played two games."

The samurai shrugged and held up her hands to sign her answer. "It has gotten boring."

"You're lucky to have found easy money in this town. Well, see you next week. Be safe out there."

Yuuka nodded and waved at him on the way out. The shop was set on the edge of a layered block. At the base was a courtyard of sorts, surrounded by layers of tiny shops and apartments. The sun filtered through the taller buildings around it, the heavy city air.

The woman herself was as relatively small as the shop she had walked out of, petite and strong. Smooth metal plating melded with her skin halfway around her neck. Dark hair was cropped short around her chin, and angled bangs came down between her eyes.

She looked out over the courtyard for a few minutes before starting down the stairs. The only logical way across was to go all the way down, then go all the way back up on the other side. A few scattered bridges also connected the walls of buildings across the sizable chasm below.

Her goal was deeper into the subterranean portion of the city, where her primary mechanic kept his workshop. Her walk there was quiet and unpresuming, like most of her activities when she retreated to the underbelly of the city. It was best to not attract attention to oneself in such neighborhoods. The very walls seemed stitched together, crumbling cliff faces with pockmarks of doors or windows here and there.

At the workshop, she knocked on the doorframe before stepping inside. A hunched old man with a scar across one side of his face and a prosthetic eye peeked around a pile of scrap metal.

"Ah, Yuuka! Good to see you. Come for a tune-up?"

She nodded and took her position up on a worn out tatami mat. Masamune readied some basic supplies and little tools. Meanwhile, Yuuka slipped the upper half of her robes off and let them sit around her waist. Various tattoos and scars tugged on her skin when she leaned forward to roll a cigarette while she waited.

Masamune talked for her while he worked, as most did. She didn't mind. Sometimes it was nice to hear people chattering when she could not. "Well, everything looks fine. No more street brawls, I assume? Good. This might hurt…yep, sorry. Loose screw. So, how've you been this past month?"

Yuuka shrugged and took a drag from her cig.

"Yeah, that's been about the same here. Sorry to ask, but I need you to run an errand for me."

The samurai silently sighed smoke out to the ceiling and waved her hand for him to go on.

"Some numbnut must have let loose a few trade secrets, because I got a contract from some bodyguard in the magistrate's castle. Yeah, yeah. I shoulda said no. But it was some good money! And this stuff doesn't pay for itself, y'know." He rapped the metal plating on her back to make a point. "So, I need you to run the stuff up to the castle."

Yuuka exhaled and nodded. The castle was not a favored place for people on the street by any means. Only royalty was looked kindly on there. She stood and pulled her robes up again, bowing to Masamune in thanks. He showed her what she was to be delivering, a large package shaped suspiciously like a gun and some change.

"Oh, don't look at me like that. What was I supposed to do, say no? I'd like to keep my head, thank you very much." He shooed her on. "Now get movin', girl. And come back when you're done, if you aren't dead."

Yuuka rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. Shouldering the weapon, she left the workshop.


The castle was more impressive up close. Set up on it's own small mountain in-city, the main pillars were mirrored and enormous, shingled both ways to give them a more flowing look. Clean flagstones led to massive gilt doors, the main entrance to the castle. It was a monument, a metaphor dedicated to the merchant class. Even the royal guards nearby looked painted and unreal, like dolls.

When she reached the top of the hill, Yuuka stopped to admire it, and moved the weight of the gun to her other shoulder. If nothing else, the architecture was impressive.

Approaching closer, she was stopped by guards. "Halt! State your name and business."

Yuuka signed her name at them on the off chance they understood it, and gestured at the package. The two at the gate glanced at each other, said a few things that she could not hear, and turned back. "Those are Lord Hyogo's weapons?" At her nod, he continued. "Very well, you may pass."

Entering the courtyard, she glanced around. The walls were patrolled tightly, despite the pleasant and open outward appearance of the castle. Yuuka took a path straight down the middle, uneasy about being there. At the main door, she was again asked her purpose, to which she replied as best as she could. The two guards again let her through after getting the general gist of what she meant.

The hall was predictably large and echoing; too much pristine, open space. At the very end of the hall, Ayamaro sat between his two bodyguards. One watched her scathingly and had a rather androgynous appearance, with dark hair and a painted face, though he appeared to be a samurai. The other was blond, expressionless, and sat perfectly straight. The magistrate himself was like a plump child stuck between them, fat and dressed like the wealthy, which was expected.

"Kneel before the magistrate, peasant!" The dark-haired bodyguard snapped suddenly.

Yuuka faltered briefly, jerked from her observations, but took a couple more steps until she was fairly close to them before setting the weapon bundle down and kneeling on the glassy floor.

"What business have you here, samurai?" Ayamaro questioned haughtily.

"I bring weapons for one named Hyogo." She gestured uselessly.

The magistrate sighed delicately, a little annoyed breath. "You both understand her, yes?" He mumbled to his bodyguards.

"Not precisely, my lord, but I believe those are mine." The dark-haired samurai, Hyogo, sniffed. "I demanded a peasant mechanic to make them for me."

The other samurai only watched the exchange, briefly looking to Yuuka. When she made to back away and stand, he very slightly shook his head, and looked away again.

"Leave the weapons there, samurai." Ayamaro commanded, clearly bored with the proceedings. "You may leave now."

Yuuka stood and quickly walked out, not eager to overstay her welcome. Back out in the "real world", she allowed herself to stop and relax. Just a quick breather at the bottom of the city-mountain, smoke a cigarette, get rid of the itchy, sticky feeling of being in the castle that lingered on her like a bad smell. On the way back to Masamune's workshop, she bought a cheap bowl of soup and ate it as she walked. It was actually pretty shitty, but it tasted real. She would rather bathe in it than go back to the castle.

At the shop again, Masamune had disappeared. It wasn't uncommon for him to bail out for emergency supplies or to make a run for food, so she opened the door with her rarely-used key and slipped inside. Yuuka liked the shop; there was something comforting about the smell of metal and hot iron. Maybe because that was half of what she was nowadays.

Either way, there was little to do until he came back. Finishing the noodles in her bowl, Yuuka sat back against a pile of scrap metal and waited.


-Okay yeah rewrote this whole thing because ugh just ugh oh god look at the shittiness that went down ugh kill me

-So I hope it's not too shitty I guess? Please tell me how this is in reviews, since my opening chapters are always pretty god-awful :U