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Name: Higashikuni Sakamae
PB: Ichikawa Yui
Birthdate: October 14, 1955
Rank: Reiko - Fourth Rank
General, Build and Coloring: In her hitogata (homid) form, Sakamae is of average height for a Japanese woman, with brown eyes and red-brown hair cut angularly from the nape of her neck to her collarbone. She puts a lot of thought into her appearance, from the clothes she buys to the makeup she wears, and always gives the impression of being effortlessly stylish, whether she's suited up for a staff meeting or flouncing off to brunch. Physically in her early twenties, she's often mistaken for a younger person due to her youthful face and endless drive.
Though generally slim, she has a good set of childbearing hips out of proportion with her lack of other curves. She has no real muscle definition and would probably lose an arm-wrestling match with an limp noodle.
Path: Gukutsushi (goo-koots-shee)
Element: Fog (Kiri)
Description: The Dreamweavers are a difficult lot for outsiders to understand. Masters of the mind and illusion, the Gukutsushi are equal parts trickster and healer. Well aware that their powers are less physical than those of their brethren, the Dreamweavers are content to bring solace to those who suffer and to deceive those who are deserving. Among sentai, Gukutsushi often take the path of the Leaf or Mirror (Ragabash or Theurge, roughly); however, their reliance on illusion doesn't make them helpless in battle themselves. When properly angered, a Dreamweaver can visit terrible deaths on an enemy's mind or bend his foe's senses until the hapless victim throws herself in front of a bullet train. Their knowledge of how the human (or shen) mind works is a terrible weapon indeed, and one that they are well-versed in using.
(Hengeyokai Breed Book, pg 160)
Among all the other Changing breeds, liaisons between members of the same race are forbidden, resulting in twisted, deformed and infertile children known as metis. This is not so among the Kitsune, where these shinju (metis) children are considered at an advantage, raised among their kind from the very first. However, the Kitsune have a different curse - a life is required to bring them into the world. Giving birth to one is a supernaturally painful event felt by both parents and, nine times out of ten, the non-Kitsune parent dies. When a shinju is born, each parent stands a 50/50 chance of surviving or dying. Sakamae's mother, a famous Bard, died in childbirth, a much greater tragedy than the mere death of a human or fox. Her father never recovered from the loss. Sakamae knows him as a stern, emotionally unavailable and ridiculously overprotective figure.
Born and raised in post-war Kyoto, she grew up enveloped in Japan's hunger for progress while surrounded by her people's frantic attempts to repair the damage done by man's war. The atomic bombs ripped enormous holes in the Umbra, destroying untold numbers of spirits and killing the dragon princess of Hiroshima. While some Courts scrambled to restructure, others leaped forward with the humans, intent on policing their progress. Sakamae's father is Gai-nan Seer in the Kinkaku-ji Court, sworn to protect the caern directly beneath Kinkaku-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Japan to survive the air raids. In the years following the war, members of Kinkaku-ji became heavily involved in environmental lobbies; it began as a way to preserve the temple's lands, but soon became a nation-wide effort. As Japan devoted itself to manufacturing, Kinkaku-ji invested its time and wealth in environmentally sound industries. Now they all but own Miyako Corp., a company that researches and develops alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, and Kitayama Inc., which develops methods of making products smaller and more energy efficient as populations expand.
Sakamae spent her childhood in the Court itself, located under the temple's lake. Despite the changing times, she was raised to be a proper Japanese girl, well versed in literature, calligraphy, flower arrangement and the art of the tea ceremony. She was a quiet, clever child who rarely boasted of her accomplishments...preferring instead to leave them out for adults to trip over. As she grew, her lessons increasingly leaned towards corporate subterfuge, and her talent for reading people became apparent. Her father performed the Opening of the Eyes Rite when she was eleven, allowing her to pursue the Kitsune arts of jyu-ho (fox magic) and jyu-fu (origami magic) early on.
She began shadowing other members of the Court as they moved through Kyoto society, befriending the teenaged offspring of movers and shakers so as to report on the parents' movements at home. Sakamae quickly learned to be a good conversationalist and an even better listener, sympathetic and friendly to anyone with a gripe. She became the most effective sort of spy, the kind who belongs to any group with little effort.
Her contributions to Kinkaku-ji's advancement earned her the personal attention of Gotou One-Eye, the Court's Regent, who apprenticed her to a mixed-breed sentai devoted to corporate espionage, lobbying and brokering information. These older shen, Kitsune, Tengu, Nezumi and Kahn, became her sempai. Not only did she learn to move in much more complicated circles, she also picked up some other useful Breed Gifts. It wasn't long before her sempai led her through the Right of the Crossroads, wherein a kit chooses the Path that will define the course of their life's work.
Her sentai claimed a coup when the United Nations chose to host a Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, proposing to enforce a legally binding limitation on greenhouse gases. Kinkaku-ji threw the full weight of their influence behind the bill (soon to be known as the Kyoto Protocol), stirring up lobbyists and pocketed politicians. As for Sakamae, she spent the weeks surrounding the convention slipping in and out of hotel rooms, setting jyu-fu spyholes and filching personal effects so as to better infiltrate the dreams of UN representatives. She helped to spearhead the Gukutsushi of several Courts in this effort, personally devising and planting the notion of "carbon credit."
Though the Protocol was proposed in 1997 and pushed into effect in 2005, the USA has yet to ratify. Kinkaku-ji has been looking abroad for other means of controlling the mass damage the Americas do to Gaia, and they were surprised to discover several green companies under the influence of the Sunset People, Western shen. It's exceedingly rare for a Kitsune to ever leave Asia, but Sakamae has been selected as a delegate to these institutions, beginning with Anuvu Inc. in Los Angeles.
Since before she could walk or speak, Sakamae understood her mother's sacrifice. Everything she does is an effort to be worthy of it. Raised among the Court, she is expected to be better, more knowledgeable, more powerful than Kitsune born to humans or foxes, and she's worked very hard to meet that expectation. As a result, she's a Type-A personality who holds herself to ridiculously high standards and can't cope with falling short. She frustrates easily when she feels she isn't accomplishing her goals on-schedule and is prone to flying off the handle if criticized.
Kitsune as a whole are an irrepressible race, and Sakamae is no exception. A Dreamweaver, she's intimately familiar with the secrets and desires people conceal from each other but, rather than jading her, this has made her very accepting of eccentricities and differences. It takes a lot to shock her after some of the muck she's found in the brains of others. She compensates for the ugliness she sees by assuming a sunny, upbeat outlook in her personal relationships. The social skills she developed in the corporate world enable her to make friends and allies easily, and very few people suspect that she's filing everything away in her brain for further analysis.
This insight into the minds of others often makes Sakamae assume that she understands their needs and wants better than they do. Combine that with her "get things done" attitude, and she has an unfortunate tendency to steamroll people. Her upbringing prevents her from doing this to individuals of higher rank or age, but her peers and friends are fair game.
Sakamae is well aware of the stereotypes applied to young Japanese women, so she tries very hard not to be flaky, ditzy or otherwise cutesy around new acquaintances. That said, she is powerless before kittens, puppies and other babies with small eye/head ratios. And, like any wealthy Japanese youth, she's very up-and-up when it comes to the latest cellphones, mp3 players or other such toys.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Kitsune were Luna's lastborn children, and she didn't have a whole lot of oomph left for them. As such, they have no inherent healing abilities. They take damage like a human and, in the absence of healing spells, recover at the same rate. On the upside, they're not vulnerable to silver and do not inspire Delirium in humans, as they didn't exist during the Culling.
Sakamae is not a fighter in any sense of the word, but she's nigh-well invulnerable to mental attacks. She prefers to hang back, assess the situation and slowly drive her enemies mad through dreams, illusions and general long-range trickery. She's the one you send in to weaken the opponent beforehand, not the one you throw in his face. In more mundane matters, she is a ruthlessly effective reconnaissance tool; Sakamae possesses an eidetic memory, and never forgets a face, name or fact. Even little things, once noticed, can be recalled at a later date if given enough context.
Her first and foremost loyalty must be to her Court. Not all Kitsune pledge themselves to courtly life, but Sakamae has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to that path. Although she has a certain amount of autonomy, she must always operate in Kinkaku-ji's best interests and adhere to its Mandates. Unfortunately, her Court is far away and has no real influence in LA; she is an ambassador with no guarantee of immunity, and must be careful not to overstep her bounds.
Shen (other Changing Breeds) - As a member of the Beast Courts, Sakamae was raised around many different shen and is an expert at working alongside them. Though the courtiers cooperate with one another, their various races are sometimes on tense terms and the Kitsune have an unsavory reputation as being untrustworthy tricksters. Sakamae's stance towards out-Court shen is to "trust, but verify." This is doubly true for the Sunset People.
Vampires - Sakamae has never had dealings with the typical Western vampire; instead, her people have a tacit truce with the Kuei-Jin, Asian vampires who feed off of spiritual energy rather than blood. They are considered fallen immortals, once mighty heroes forsaken by the gods. Dealings with them are occasionally fruitful but very dangerous. She considers it more prudent to avoid their machinations entirely, though they do have fascinating minds...
Humans - Unlike most of her Kin, Sakamae has never been anything but Kitsune, so she shares no lingering feelings of kinship with humanity. They're nice enough in their own way, but she would never endanger her life or that of another shen on their account. She has known good humans and bad ones, been both amazed and dismayed by the contents of their dreams, and is deeply concerned about their impact on Gaia. She sees them as wildcards, a chaotic force that needs to be watched and, occasionally, brought to heel. Tricksters like the Kitsune have always kept humanity in its place, and this is another traditional role Sakamae takes to heart.