He still remembered that thing which had nearly killed him. Of course he expected to remember, but not like this. The pain had faded to a dull ache in his side though it flared up if he reached too high with his left arm, but every time he closed his eyes he saw that monster's face, as if it were burned into his retina. He even saw it with his eyes open sometimes, breaking out in a cold sweat whenever that happened. He couldn't sleep without seeing his men, twitching around in horrid agony, crying out their life as vile maggots chewed away their hearts, but they always seemed distant and somehow unimportant, his gaze fixed upon the towering lord of darkness with the smoking soulsteel piece, looking down and laughing. It wouldn't be so bad if he felt hate or fear or rage in that moment, but instead he always feels what he felt the first time—a sick admiration, inhuman worship of this perfected being sent to cleanse Creation of the filth of its own existence.
Deep down he knew that if the beast hadn't appeared, he would have died, content to watch in torment and agony while he was mocked and his life consumed. Perhaps it would have been better that way, he sometimes thinks, but then corrects himself, because someone needs to remember those moments. They are too terrible to let slip into the Oblivion that spawned them.
As the grim hunter watched him die, a blur came from the left, tackling the murderous prince to the ground, and rolling out of his sight. The spell broken, it was all he could do to summon the last of his strength and burn the infection out of his side. The stench of burnt meat that followed was of his own digested flesh charred away, and he tried to stand but could not so much as raise himself on one elbow. He lay there sobbing in shame, awaiting the coward's death that he knew was his, until the light was blotted out by a huge shape. It was the beast, dripping fast-congealing blood from a dozen great wounds that knitted even as he watched. Like an over-sized dog, it licked at his injury, and growled in his ear, a low, guttural whisper, "Remember who saved you and who spared you today, Dragonling. Remember, and know the limits of your power." Then, in a flash of motion, it was gone.
Karal Nishino had been a promising young Terrestrial Exalt in Lookshy's officer corps. His run-in with the horridly perfect Deathknight known as Thundering Doom of Worms left him scarred both physically and mentally. He was both repulsed and awed by the glory of his deathly and deadly opponent. A lifetime of belief that the Dragon-Blooded are the lords of Creation was chewed away by a festering maggot. Here was something great and terrible, a primal force of reality oozing power and wickedness, every bone in its body crying out to be worshipped with a siren call that he had only barely resisted. Almost as bad was his salvation not at his own hands or those of the comrades he depended upon, but by an Anathema man-beast from the edge of sanity.
He was the only survivor of the encounter. He limped his way home. He made his reports. He was treated as a hero and upright son of Lookshy, but inside he was a broken man. He was not a spearhead of the most awesome force the world knew, but merely a deluded little princeling in a world where there lurked horrors he did not understand. He tried time and time again to go back on active duty, but he no longer had the will to command others and to lead. After less than a year he was placed on indefinite psychiatric leave, a polite euphemism for his dismissal. From there he sank into a bottle for another year. On the second anniversary of the attack, he awoke from a drunken stupor and saw himself in the mirror. Something deep within him stirred, and he saw himself for the first time in a long while. If he was not the most awesome thing he had ever encountered, then he would become so. His anima had not flared since he had dug at his own flesh for survival, but it burned once again, flushing the lingering alcohol from his system. In a fury of clarity he smashed all that remained within his house and climbed onto the roof to think under the stars.
Blades were insufficient to battle the might of the dead champions, so he resolved to copy the weapon that had almost felled him and then improve it to such perfection that his foes would not even recognize it. With scholarly vigor he applied himself to the study of projectile weapons, studying every tome on the matter in the libraries of Lookshy for a year. When those were exhausted, Karal Nishino set forth for the great cities of the South, to learn what he could from the masters of forging firewands. A year in Chiaroscuro convinced him that these were mighty weapons, but not what he needed. He returned to his home in Lookshy at the head of a caravan loaded with firedust, red jade, and steel tubing. A year of experimentation and smithing followed, as he hammered out different weapons and tried new and deadlier loads. At last he found in his garden the answer, and built a pair of revolvers each with barrel, chamber, and hammer of finest polished red jade and handles of rosewood perfectly crafted to fit the contours of his hands. The payloads they fired were the tiny red-hot peppers that gave what passed for flavor to the cuisine of Lookshy, carefully bred, picked, and rolled in firedust. When struck by the jade hammer, they burst into flames and rocketed down the barrel, hungry to lodge themselves in the flesh of enemies and causing burning pain as they smoulder and consume their Essence.
His guns were masterworks, and Nishino himself was unsure how he had created something so precise. Unfortunately, his aim was not as precise as his craftsmanship. Practice as he might, he could only become good with the weapons. Good was not enough. He needed to be perfect. Again he turned to books, and in his studies he came across a manual describing the Way of the Righteous Devil who could spit fire from his hands and burn his foes from the face of the world. This was what he needed, but the techniques described were beyond him. While he understood the details described in the tome, he could not put them into practice. It seemed as if a vital step were missing, as if he lacked some key intuition of the workings of reality to be able to sight down his barrels without using his eyes and find his foes without knowing where they were.
The masters he consulted knew not how to advise him, but at last Nishino found an itinerant monk of the Immaculate Order who understood the workings of the combat style described within the book. He explained that only an enlightened being of great Essence could follow such teachings, and that the Order knew the way to such wisdom though it required great self-sacrifice. He also denounced the tome as blasphemous and advised Nishino to burn it and to give up his folly of becoming like his enemies. Nishino thanked him and promptly ignored the monk's advice. It was clear the order would not teach him to use the ways of war he needed, but there were others that met the monk's description—a particular other that had saved his life once.
Gathering the book, the guns, a supply of dusted dry peppers, and what provisions he would need, he set off on a pilgrimage with no idea of his destination or how to get there. Nishino began by returning to the scene of the encounter itself, for he had no better place to start. Five years now stood between him and the deaths that had befallen his men, and he still knew every rock where they had lain. There was a difference in him, though; now he was in command. He was not ashamed or afraid, only determined and wary. As he stood at the site of the slaughter, wondering what to do next, he sighted the moon rising over the peaks to his South, and thus he set out after it.
For another year he let himself be guided by the silver orb, following whatever signals it chose to give him. On the sixth anniversary of that fateful day, he came to a small valley. As he stepped into its bounds, he noted a faint scent, one that he had smelled only once before, and he knew at last that he had reached his destination. From the woods behind him padded a great furred form, halfway between woman and badger and twice as dangerous as both put together.
"Why have you come here, Dragon-Child?" she growled. "I saved you once before—what makes you think I will spare you this time?"
"I have come to learn from you. You fought off that which would have killed me as it killed my men. I seek to be like you. For two years did I weep like a broken man, and for four more have I sought to make myself strong, but I am the end of what I can teach myself. I need a tutor to better myself, and you are the only one I know."
"You have spirit," the beast rumbled, "and the wisdom to know your own limits as well as the determination to not accept them. Very well, I shall teach you, though it shall not be easy." She turned and wandered down into the valley, and Karal Nishino followed. For another year he lived there, and the wild one trained him in the ways of world, showing him the ways of Essence, until he could see its flows even while asleep and follow them with his bare toes. She versed him in the senses of the tiger and the rage of the bear, and at last he understood the ways of fire laid down long ago in the book that was his key.
At last a master among men, he bid his farewell to his mentor, and she bade him luck, saying they would meet once again some day. Hefting his two revolvers, he set off across the land on his quest of vengeance. He wanders from village to village in his long red coat, righting wrongs and slaying evil, but above all he seeks the dark prince known as Thundering Doom of Worms. He knows that one day he will find him, and when he does, Karal Nishino's going to bust a capsaicin in his ass.
|Red Jade Revolver||+1||+1AP||3||6||50||•••• (••••• for a matched pair)|
|Red Jade Rifle||+4||+1AP||1||1||500||••••|
The damage dealt by the flaming hot peppers fired by the guns is both aggravated, meaning that most beings have no natural soak against it, and piercing, which halves the soak provided by armor. In addition, the wounds caused by the peppers itch and burn, acting as an especial distraction; each individual pepper a character has been hit with causes an additional -1 wound penalty for the remainder of the scene. Effects that interact with wound penalties can reduce or negate this like any other wound penalty.
Reloading a revolver or rifle requires an entire round and cannot be done while under attack. The ammunition itself must be made of the small hot peppers of the variety common in Lookshy cuisine which have been thoroughly dried and rolled in fine-ground firedust. They can be stored indefinitely so as long as they do not get wet.
Flaming pepper firearms count as form weapons for Righteous Devil Style.