The residents of the various villages scattered about the countryside of the Suruga Province now lived in fear. They avoided straying too far from the village, kept their children close at hand, and were locked away in their homes before nightfall. It had been like this for nearly a week; ever since the sighting of the clay demon near a village to the far East of the province. The people were used to the demons that roamed their lands, of course. They generally kept up an uneasy truce, staying out of each others way so long as neither side provoked the other. Sure, there was the occasional fox demon who'd steal food from their farms, or some such thing, but their area was more peaceful than most.
Or, it had been, at least. Until the incident at the Fujiwara Castle. Once home to the ancestors of the current lord of the province, whose family had relocated several generations ago, the castle had come into possession of the Fujiwara clan, who renamed it and made it there own. This clan was one of warriors, who worked as protectors for the local lord and the province as a whole. This position brought their family wealth and prestige. After the slaughter of Murukami clan not two months before, they were one of two remaining such clans. It had been rumored that the Fujiwara had some hand in the other clan's demise. However, these rumors were silenced after the women and children of the castle arrived at the nearest village, most of them blood soaked and scared for their lives. Every warrior in the clan had been killed, they claimed. None had gotten a clear look at the attacker -for all were sure that there was only one- but most swore that it was some demon.
A mob had quickly formed, determined to hunt down the murderous demon. They found nothing. There had been sightings, though, of a warrior-like figure thought to be that same clay demon. Once by a child, who'd gone to play in the woods in spite of his mother's warnings. Then, by a traveler, who'd gone to the next town to peddle his goods and left far later than planned. From these accounts, it was clear that the demon, if it was such, was moving west. Its intentions were unknown. However, its path was clear. If it continued on in this direction, it would likely be near the farming village known as Ojika.
This time, though, they would be prepared. A group of young men from the village had band together, deciding that they'd search the woods for the demon during the night it was expected to be there. Nevermind the fact that it had killed a castle full of trained warriors with ease. Other villagers tried to dissuade them, sure after Fujiwara Castle that any encounter with the demon would end in bloodbath. But young men were young men, as determined to prove themselves as they were to protect their village. Luckily for them, they would not be the ones encountering the supposed demon that cool night.
The full moon above cast a bright light across the forest, both illuminating its darkest depths and throwing shadows of trees across the ground. The air itself was bitterly cold; the chill in the air sunk to the very bone. The occasional breeze, running through the leaves above and filling the nighttime silence with that haunting sound, completed the eery feel that the woods gave. Truly, there was no better environment for a vengeful ghost to lurk. Not that Kotone counted herself as one to 'lurk.' The word was far too... questionable. No, that clay figure, clad in a warrior's garments, strode
between the trees, head held up and one hand resting on the hilt of the sword at her hip. This was not the only weapon she carried -a short knife and a naginata across her back completed her small arsenal- but she did seem to treat this one as if it was a part of her. It not clink or clatter as she walked, as one might expect. Her light strides made it silent. Despite this silence, though, she remained unaware the of the pairs of eyes now warily following her.