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Not all wandering ronin are lost [ATTN: Rua, Leonarrie]


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Music wafted through the streets and alleys of Downtown Long Kong, the raucous blaring of club speakers and the excited chatter of patrons carrying even into the quieter portions of town. As the distance from the riverfront increased, the architecture morphed from the sleek, modern design of Long skyscrapers and entertainment venues into more traditional stylings of Long Kong suburbia. The last rumble of distant thunder gently shook windows and sent ripples through the water pooling in the cobbles. In spite of the passing of the storm, a humid haze lingered at street level, its sticky miasma clinging to the coats of goers-about like hitchhiker seeds.


Bucephalus shook the last of the rain out of his mane. Or rather, the mane he had assumed. This form was of a well-built pegasus stallion, his coat the white of freshly cleaned bone with mane and fetlocks the hue of rusted iron. His heavy footfalls reflected martial discipline, but the measured rhythm of his steps reflected high-born pedigree.




Thankfully, he had managed to shelter in the metro station before the worst of the storm had struck. Water beaded off his coat and clung to the strands of his mane, but he was otherwise none the worse for wear. But now another problem presented itself. A low growl shook his stomach and put a cringe to his face. It was a long walk to get to the main street Downtown. His dwindling bits meant an unnecessary train ride was out of the question.


As if granted by providence, a ramen shop was just around the next block. Bucephalus took one whiff of the delicious scent of soba and broth and began salivating. Love and friendship fed changeling magical reserves, but food was what filled a hungry belly. Furthermore, staying to do dishes or assist with cooking meant a few more bits to pay for lodging for the night and food the next day.

With nothing left to lose, Bucephalus hoofed open the door and stepped inside, taking a seat upon one of the cushions by the low counter.

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From the shadow of a covered stoop, a glittering eye peeked from under the brim of a lifting hat. Raindrops slid together then dripped from the woven reeds of the headwear, but the storm had finally moved on it seemed. With a shuffle, the huddled form of a pony unfurled itself from its makeshift shelter. A worn saya slid into view from its hiding place under the frayed white kimono the mare wore, settling into place hung from a strap at her side.


"Finally," Leonarrie exhaled, glancing skyward at the retreating clouds.


The thunderheads still looked mutinous, but it didn't seem there would be another downpour for a least a little while. Plenty of time to wander about, and put more distance between herself and the bass-shaken streets near the riverfront. Usually Leo preferred to walk along rivers, but the clubs had been too loud for the sensibilities of someone accustomed to wandering country roads. Which urged the question as to why she was in Long Kong of all places?


Culture, was her main response to this unasked query. Despite falling in love with traditional Neighponese habits and architecture, Leonarrie held a fascination with most things Eastern. Besides, Long Kong had some of the best dumplings this side of the continent, and she wasn't about to pass that up. Ramen too. Speaking of...


The ronin slowed, her musings forgotten as her tail and kimono ruffled in the humid breeze. She lifted her muzzle, sniffing. Time seemed to freeze for one perfect moment. Even the final raindrops sliding from her white coat were held in place, quivering with anticipation.


There was no denying it. That was the smell of ramen AND dumplings! With a near giggle of foal-like glee, off she trotted in the direction of that tantalizing aroma. The trail lead her past throngs of locals, and though she was completely unconcerned with trivial things like right-of-way and personal space, she managed to swerve around all of them in her single-minded quest.


Soon enough, Leonarrie found herself at her goal: a hidden treasure of a ramen shop. Without further ado, she shouldered the door open and slid inside. Before taking a seat on a free cushion near the counter, she at least had the presence of mind to slip her sheathed blade from its strap to set it carefully beside her, followed by her large hat. With a curt nod of approval that also served to flip her spiky blonde mane from her eyes, she now flomped with eagerness as she awaited her turn to order.


Her attention was drawn to a rather striking pegasus nearby, apparently also waiting for food. Her gaze lingered for only a moment before she offered a friendly smile.


"Hello! Are you a hopeless fan of gourmet ramen and dumplings too?"

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The shop was a cozy affair. Its interior was lit by an old hearth at the far end of the dining area and the soft glow of faerie lanterns enchanted to shed light without heat. Small circular tables ringed with similar cushions offered seating away from the main counter. A small censer stood upon a corner table, its smoldering coals filling the room with a faint hint of incense.


The area behind the counter was just as prosaic. A few posters with descriptions and sketched drawings of menu items and a chalkboard scrawled with the day’s specials stood behind the till. Quite conspicuously overlooking the counter sat an ornate carved statue of an okami yokai, another lit censer of incense at its feet. Bucephalus raised an eyebrow. While the carver had given the wolf a countenance of neutral, watchful tranquility, Bucephalus could not help but think its eyes were constantly upon him.


From the kitchen came the quiet bubble of hot broth in pots, the crackle of grease in a fryer, and the clinks and clanks of dishes being washed by hoof. Bucephalus sighed. As hungry as he was, the shop was likely a one-pony operation. He couldn’t expect them to be at his every beck and call. Thus, Bucephalus waited.


"Hello! Are you a hopeless fan of gourmet ramen and dumplings too?"


There was a beat before Bucephalus was able to respond. So absorbed in scrutinizing the okami statue had he been that he’d hardly noticed the newcomer. A quick glance told him that there was no one else in the shop that she could have been talking to.


“I rather fancy myself a hopeless fan of a full belly,” he smiled. “If that is to be accomplished by ramen and dumplings, I welcome it.”

He glanced at the raindrops beading upon her hat. “Would that make you a hopeless fan of remaining warm and dry?”

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The first trip to Long Kong was not going so terribly well for the young samurai. Just working up the funds to get all the way here was a nightmare, and the very night of her arrival she finds herself stepping off the airship to be greeted by this torrential downpour. Memories of her training back in forest flooded back as she tried to stick to the walls and make the best of long kong architectural style, the hips and gables giving her shelter from the rains as she moved about the area. Sadly, the building of Long Kong were not attached all attached to one another. As a result: Rua was getting soaked between every house. 


HAving nothing but the clothes on her back and the bundle on her bokken, The waterlogged kirin trudged through the streets, shivering as she walked. It was getting harder to see now. The heavy rain leaving her drenched bangs repeated falling in front of her face and the rest of her mane clinging to her neck. Almost every five steps she had to bring a hoof to her forhead to lift up her bangs like a curtain to search over her surroundings through the pouring rain. On one lift of her natural veil she spotted something: A ramen shop? That sounded wonderful... just as wonderful as it looked. The shop stood out in the dreary, greyish blue night. The windows radiating rays of hopeful golden light among onto the street.


She still had some coins rattling around in her satchel. Just as she approached along in the hopes of both relief from the rain and the possibility of a warm meal, the concern for the form dried up along with the skies. She noticed that somepony had just wandered into it before-hoof and cracked a smile when she noticed the hat, looks like someone might be in a similar situation as her... maybe even sharing a country of origin. The ronin tried to wring out some of her mane... although it seemed it was still weighed down by the moisture. Breath magic might take care of it, but this manestyle needed to be cared for properly and Rua knew diddly about hair maintenance regarding magic. Rua would have to make do. 

The Shivering Kirin made her way into the shop, stifling a cough from the still moist air. Her eyes were drawn to the-- wow, that is one... big stallion.The blonde pony who came in previously seemed very familiar, yet Rua couldn't place where she'd seen her. "Um, Good afternoon." Rua bowed to the two ponies, "Are you both travelers? This my first time in Long Kong. It has quite the rain, that it does."




Edited by Pretzelparty
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Leo set her mouth in a less-than-amused line at the stallion's response. Had he just implied that ramen and dumplings were the same as any other food, so long as it was food? She must not have heard him correctly. The bass from the night clubs was interfering with her hearing. Yes, that had to be it.


At the mention of staying warm and dry, she followed his gaze to her hat and the few glistening drops that still stubbornly clung to it. It had done its job admirably.


"Aren't you?" she responded easily, smirking in response to his smile now. "I already look shabby enough, I don't need to add waterlogged onto it," she quipped. "Besides, I really cannot pull off the wet mane look."


At that moment, the door opened once more, ushering in another gust of stormy air and a bedraggled... what was it, a kirin? The mare was rather sure. Despite spending a sizable amount of time in the East at this point, she still had a bit of trouble discerning the various draconic features of the different races that inhabited it. The young arrival seemed about as worn-out as she looked, though her unusual way of greeting them made Leonarrie grin. She even had a rather unique hairstyle that was appealing to the white pony in an almost personal way, as though she'd worn it that way herself once. She hadn't, had she?


"I am indeed, and you should invest in a takuhatsugasa!" the wanderer exclaimed, indicating the headwear and winking at the pegasus next to her. "Everyone agrees, it's quite effective. You can even learn to weave your own from almost any strong plant fibers."


She patted the next open cushion near them, inviting the kirin over. Nothing solved wet and miserable like ramen. Or dumplings. Or both.


Reminded of the distracted gaze the male had earlier, Leo let her eyes truly wander the shop for the first time. It was nice, cozy. Her attention fell on the large statue of a wolf that overlooked the counter. For a moment, there was no reaction. Then a double-take. The ronin stared hard, taking in all the features of the stone yokai. It looked so incredibly familiar...


Akemi? she thought curiously tilting her head.


Leo could have sworn the lit tips of the incense flared ever so slightly, but nothing else happened, aside from the young mare in the back suddenly galloping to the front counter as though shot from a cannon. Despite no pony having said a word to her, she looked as though she'd been yelled at to serve the guests.


"May I take your order?" she asked breathlessly, though politely.


Every few moments she seemed to glance over her shoulder at something, though it was any pony's guess as to what. There was nothing behind her. Maybe she was just a really jumpy new hire.


Leonarrie waited a beat before shrugging and taking the initiative. "Udon in a shiitake broth with daisy greens, please!" she announced proudly. "And two servings of kuri dango!"

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Years of service in protection gave Bucephalus a knack for reading others. The other pony was clearly nonplussed, though for what reason, Bucephalus could not discern. Wouldn’t everypony appreciate a full belly to starvation? Perhaps it bore further study.


“Nor I, it seems,” he said, gesturing to his buzzed short mane.


The new arrival trudged in, weighed down by her sodden coat and mane. While his counter companion offered a seat between them to his left, Bucephalus reached for the napkin of the empty seat to his right next to him. It would be woefully inadequate, but it was better than nothing.  Except upon his hoof contacting it, he realized that it was a towel.


Bucephalus did a double-take. How had he missed it? He was certain that it was a row of folded cloth napkins sitting upon the counter, none of which had included a towel. Cautiously, he ran a hoof over it. It certainly felt like a towel. It certainly looked like a towel. The only question was how it got there. Furrowing his brow, Bucephalus finally picked it up and passed it to the Kirin.


“Indeed it appears rain is quite common in this region,” he finally said still distracted. “Here. This should help. It wouldn’t do for you to catch a cold over a little rain.”


Bucephalus’ ears twitched to face the new voice. It appeared the owner had finally returned in quite a state of distress. Bucephalus raised an eyebrow. She was young, barely out of school, it seemed. Perhaps her parents ran the shop and she was merely working there? He tilted his head ever so slightly to get a look around the young earth pony. No one else appeared to be in the kitchen. The only breaths and footsteps he could hear were all at the counter.


“A strange land it seems,” he muttered to himself under his breath.

“Soba with whatever your house broth is.” Bucephalus placed his order. “Also, might I speak with you about helping out in the kitchen?”

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  • 3 weeks later...





Something about this pony filled Rua with an odd sense of familiarity, a sense that only grew as she took a seat beside the traveler. "Well I've made perhaps a thousand Takuhatsugasa but I always wind up losing them somehow, be it wind, rain, or just bad luck. It's almost as if my head is cursed, that is might." The young Ronin brushed her bangs out of her face for the umpteenth time and tried to keep her dignified facade despite the constant annoyance. This irritation was lessened when the stocky stallion with the close cut mane offered her a towel, "Domo... By the way, my name is Hanari Rua."


The Kirin wiped down and dried out her mane as best she could... although now it was a bit messed up and fluffing up slightly. She'd have to spend a good deal of tiem in from of a mirror later tonight. When the proprietor came back she looked back between the two ponies at her sides, having not really thought about the question she pinted to the blonde one, "I'll have what they're having, minus the Kuri Dango, I will."



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