o/~ So take one consideration with another / A policeman's lot is not a happy one o/~
Many years ago, a bouncing baby boy was born into a branch of the Imperial household. His parents were not exactly in favor, and fearing for their son, hid him away for quite many years. In time, the disfavor was forgotten, and they brought Ninjin, now a large, genial man, back into the public eye.
Part of the reason his part of the family was no longer in disfavor was by the graces of the Shogun, which rather distanced them from the Imperial line. In fact, his father had been named governor of Edo shortly before his return. Ninjin was therefore admitted into the fold of the Bakufu; he had early on expressed an interest in defending the fine city of Kyoto, the capital, and joined the Second Troop of the Shinsengumi. Over the years, he rose through the ranks and became its captain, both a testament to his skills as well as just how darn likable he is. He does, after all, take the time to get to know and chat with everyone in his troop, in the other troops, in the streets of Kyoto, in the dark alleys of Kyoto, in the jail cell he just filled with arrested miscreants.... Krisma. Bags of it.
Recently, Ninjin's father fell ill and was forced to resign as governor of Edo, passing on the position to his son. This has forced him to split his time between the two cities, but he has managed to do it quite well. Edo thrives, and his troop are still a respected force in Kyoto.
Ninjin seems to be a bit simple, but this is, of course, not the same as stupid. Especially since he has studied some mystic lore with some of the temples, earning himself the title of Great Sage of Tao. He knows a few esoteric things. Still, though, sometimes he seems remarkably absent-minded. Fortunately, his skilled staff both in the Shinsengumi and in his governor's offices are there to nudge him gently when he lets something slip by; once he does know to take care of something, he does it quite well.
Ninjin has expressed reluctance to be caught up in the succession, but if there's one thing he's known for, it is his sense of duty. If he is to ascend to the leadership of all of Nippon, then he will do it.
o/~ Walking like a man / Hitting like a hammer o/~
When Emperor Go-Orodonobakayoyo of Nihon agreed to take Sarah Baker as a bride in a diplomatic move that was widely discouraged by the Shogun during the 'Black Ship' crisis, not too many people thought that it would make an impact on life in Nihon. Sarah Baker bore one child, a girl, and sent her back home to be raised by her relatives.
Then the Emperor died in a horrible accident, as did his two sons who had accompanied him. As decreed by the law of the land, the next oldest child would become Emperor... Genvieve Baker.
This was widely unheard of, and several prominent governors and daimyos protested, but as she was indeed a legitimate child of the Emperor, none could refuse her claim. Sarah sent for her, and for a short while, ruled as her daughter's regent. Perhaps Sarah knew what problems would occur for her daughter, for as part of her formal education in Nihon, she apprenticed her daughter to Mas Oyama in his school of martial arts.
When Sarah herself was killed in a horrible accident, Genvieve returned to claim her rightful place as Empress of Nihon. No one knows exactly what happened behind the closed door meetings between Genvieve and the more vocal of the dissenting parties, but in the end, Genvieve won her claim, and rules Nihon as its Empress.
She has not yet taken a husband, claiming that no man in Nihon seems to be worthy enough for her. She currently controls the island of Hokkaido, and is favorable to the shogun.
Genvieve is a very tall imposing looking woman. Her features are hard, yet feminine, and as she trained for several years under Mas Oyama, she has considerable bulk and mass. Though she is half barbarian, she is as comfortable in Nihonese clothing as she is in the clothing of the lands of her heritage.
o/~ And while the king was looking down / The jester stole his thorny crown o/~
Shigeru Konae grew up as a fairly tall, thin young man, cute but not yet handsome. He had pure white hair as a distinguishing feature, which over the years grew to his waist. He spent much of his youth wandering around Kyoto and watching everything he could. Swordsmen (who told him to get lost), mages (who told him to bugger off), and politicians (who welcomed him, as he actually listened to them). He enjoyed listening, and taking in everything. He became quite good at making himself seen but not heard. Good, but not perfect. Eventually he was dragged off to the Shogun as being an interfering little busybody.
Shigeru explained to the Shogun exactly what he had been doing and why. The Shogun was impressed. The Shogun also knew he had to get rid of Shigeru before the boy ended up making enemies of most of the craftsmen of Kyoto. He discussed the matter with Shigeru's parents (who were rather surprised he was alive; he hadn't bothered to go home in the past two years), and decided to have Shigeru go and explore the exotic Southern lands, so that he might further his knowledge. Especially that he might further it further away.
Nothing was then heard from him for a long, long time. It was presumed that either he had died, or simply decided to live away from Kyoto.
It therefore came as something of a surprise when a rakishly handsome, deeply tanned young man, with his snow white hair now a very arresting silver, came back to Kyoto. His first stop was the Shogun's, where he managed to arrange himself an audience and thanked the Shogun deeply for the opportunity he had been given. He brought back many fascinating treasures of the Southern Lands, which tended to involve shiny glinty things, and also a few signed accords, which tended to involve written loyalties.
Since then he has divided his time equally between the Southern lands and Kyoto, and when he is in town he seems to have the run of the place. The Shogun has told him he is not to dishonor the Myojin Shogunate. He has upheld that promise. He has also managed to visit each and every bar in the city, bed down most of the willing women (available or otherwise) and a few of the willing men, and seems to gain his income mostly from various bets, blackmails, and just plain old chicanery. He has made many of the craftsman that he watched as a child wonder if they weren't much better off with merely an inquisitive youngster. But he hasn't dishonored the Shogunate.
o/~ Been Dazed and Confused for so long it's not true / Wanted a woman, never bargained for you. o/~
Moto shinsengumi shibantai kumicho Kousai Kosui: ditz, klutz, and generally mediocre. No one is really sure just what she's good for.
She's handy with a blade, but seemingly no more so than her troops, and hardly on the level of First and Third Troop leaders Saitoh or Soujirou, though it's rumoured she's got a secret technique or two that she refuses to use unless mortally threatened. She is smart, though often seemingly distracted, and has proven that she's got at least some small skill in the mystic arts, and seems to know an awful lot about Pattern, not to mention being spotted throwing bolts of fire and lightning on occasion. She does seem fairly tough, if only for having survived so long without the outstanding level of skill that many of her peers had displayed.
Kosui's only real outstanding feature is that people seem to instinctively like her. She's gathered a fair bit of support from the temples, her own troops are rabidly loyal, and to date has failed to acquire any specific mortal enemies, and seems to know just about everyone. Her support for the Shogunate seems more incidental than a deliberate choice, when asked about it, she's reported to have replied, "I'm the captain of the Fourth Troop, how could I be an Ishin? Duh."
o/~ Dude looks like a lady o/~
Bishou (generally known as Bish) is more of a woman then most women. His primary interests are origami, ikebana, tea ceremony, calligraphy, tanka poetry, cooking, kimonos, playing the biwa, and grooming himself. He rereads The Tale of Genji at least once a month, crying openly in the gardens of his estates at certain passages while eating enormous amounts of candy from an expensive dish.
Wearing his kimonos, he is usually mistaken for a woman. Wearing the tailored suits of the Black Ship Barbarians that he's come to favour of late, he is usually mistaken for a woman in a suit. He carries two swords of reputedly enormous potency that somehow have a connection to the Pattern; no one is quite sure where he got them, and his primary use for them seems to be as a fashion accessory.
He is as gay as an extremely gay French horn. He supports the Ishin Party because it's newer than the Shogunate and therefore more fashionable.
o/~ The day I tried to live / I dangled from the power lines / And let the martyrs swing o/~
Kogoro Katsura, disillusioned early in life by the corruption and ineptitude of the Myojin line of Shoguns, has long worked against the Bakufu as one of the leaders of the Ishin shishi.
The politically perfect fortunate son, heir to the fiefdoms of both Choshu and Satsuma, Katsura was apprenticed to Mistress Tadami at an early age, learning her Inzen-Ryu and becoming a Trump artist of some note. He then departed into Shadow for a time, returning, if not wholly changed, then not wholly the same either. After the forcing of Edo harbor by the Black Ship, he was one of the initial organizers of the Ishin, using his power base in Choshu and Satsuma to provide funding and support to their 'phantom army,' the Kihei-tai.
One of the principals behind the recruitment of Himura Kenshin and Shishio Makoto, he became slightly disillusioned with the whole Hitokiri concept after their sequential resignations, although he did not stand in the way of Twilight Suzuka.
Recently, Katsura has become more firm and strident in his calls for action against the Bakufu. It is believed only the fact that the old Shogun yet lingers keeps him in check.
o/~ Oh, I am the very model of a modern major general / I've information animal and vegetable and mineral o/~
Barrel-shaped, with a square jaw and steel-grey hair, "Captain" Yamamoto tags many of the stereotypes of the retired military commander -- which is odd, because no one seems to know where he might have been in active military service. (Rumor has it that he assumed command over the Sekihoutai merely to provide some threadbare backing for the military title he insists on using; what the Sekihoutai themselves think of this is unknown, although at least there is no open rebellion within their ranks.) He typically dresses in civilian clothing styled to look like a uniform, and carries a swagger-stick which he uses with alacrity. Despite his blustering manner, a surprising number of people seem to like the old codger.
This includes, to many people's surprise, the Shogun himself. Perhaps he's amused by the Captain's boisterous behavior; perhaps he is inspired by the Captain's booming pronouncements that discipline is the true heart of the realm. No one knows for sure. What is known is that the Shogun likes his company, and has given him a number of minor offices in the bureaucracy, despite his open support of the Ishin party and the repeated attempts of Bakufu members to oust him, certain that he must be up to no good. The latter makes his survival questionable when the Shogun passes on...
o/~ But there ain't no saint just for killers o/~
Very little is known about "Twilight" Suzuka's past, and she prefers to keep it that way. Rumors run from her being some minor noblewoman in the outlying provinces who managed to escape an arranged marriage, to her being the unacknowledged daughter of a Samurai and a low-born woman out in Shadow who managed to make her way to Kyoto. Another rumor that persists is that she wishes to gain vengeance against someone in the Four Noble Familes that has wronged her in some fasion. If there is anybody who knows for sure, they're not talking. Or, "Twilight" Suzuka already killed them, which is another possibility.
Whatever Suzuka's origins, somehow she managed to get herself trained under Master Hiko Seijiro, learning the ways of Hiten-Mitsurugi-Ryuu from him. It is said that this is where she learned her tremendous skills with the sword, and additionaly gained her appreciatiation of fine sake. It is also occasionally whispered that she and Hiko were lovers, but this generally gets one rapidly injured, or worse. Very few manage to say it a second time, anyway.
By the time the Ishin Party was formed and the Bakumatsu had begun, Suzuka had already left Hiko's tutelage and found work for several years as an assassin. She pledged her loyalty to the Ishin, seeking to overthrow the corrupt Shogunate. When the first two Ishin Hitokiri became unable to carry out their duties (one due to resignation, the other due to increased super-freakness), the leaders of the Ishin Party looked for a hopefully more permanent (and hopefully more stable) replacement. They chose "Twilight" Suzuka, and she rose to the challenge.
"Twilight" Suzuka takes her name from her tendency to give her targets until 'Twilight', the point where day and night are in perfect balance, to make their peace before she comes to kill them. Many try to delay the inevitable, setting up impressive defenses of warriors and magics to stop her. But to no avail. She is extremely lethal with her weapon of choice, a bokken that is a little over four feet long, but she is not adverse to using other weapons when they present themselves.