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[ Leave him a message! It probably won't be a regrettable decision. ]
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CHARACTER NAME: Ukoku Sanzo/Jianyi Ni
CHARACTER SERIES: Saiyuki


▷ First Impressions
▶ VISUAL: 5'8", black hair and eyes, almost always smiling, may be dressed like a monk. He slouches, leans, and seems to do nothing with effort. Often compared to a crow, his namesake.
▶ AURAL: And he sounds like a nerd—though his voice is also described as sounding "indecent."
▶ DEMEANOR: The impression he leaves may be different depending on what he's trying to accomplish with a given person, but in general he's eccentric, flippant, and upbeat. Regardless of how he's trying to come off, most people get the sense that he's weird, at best.
▷ IC Permissions
▶ PHYSICAL AFFECTION: He can be pretty space-invasive, so this probably won't bother him, and if it's flirting he'll shoot it back (but please see the offensive subjects section, thanks!)
▶ PHYSICAL VIOLENCE: Give me a heads up so we can work out shenanigans—he most likely won't engage unless it's serious, but if he's serious he has very few reasons not to kill people, so let's avoid that!
▶ RELATIONSHIPS: haha nah,
▶ PSYCHIC & PSIONIC INFORMATION: Mindreading is a-ok; characters who can feel presence/aura/empathic shit/whatever you want to call it will find that his is unsettingly vacant, almost like he's not alive.
▶ MAGICAL INFORMATION: If he's carrying or around his sutra he can negate magic.
▷ OOC Permissions
▶ BACKTAGGING: yes
▶ THREADHOPPING: go for it
▶ FOURTHWALLING: presumably this will never happen
▶ OFFENSIVE SUBJECTS & TRIGGERS: Don't throw teenagers at him with the intent of making it weird. I won't appreciate it. Also, I'm not comfortable with him talking to anyone who's not old enough to have developed any sense of self-preservation yet.

▶ ANYTHING ELSE? Ukoku really likes to make people doubt—themselves, their friends, things they believe, anything, and in service of that he might drop theories/information that, especially if you're mostly looking for positive CR/slice-of-life stuff, you may not want your character to know or deal with. It's 100% okay to pp/pm me about it! I can always have him peace out or say something less potentially damaging.
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Player Information

Name: Kaye
Contact: [plurk.com profile] elegiae
Age: 30 (hollow laugh)
Other Characters: n/a

Character Information

Name: Jianyi Ni, also called Ukoku Sanzo.
Canon: Saiyuki.
Canon Point: During the last fight in Reload (specifically, after ruining Hazel's life but before getting shot and running away, only because I don't know exactly how blind he is now).
Age: ~39
History: http://saiyuki.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Ni/History

It covers the basics, but it's pretty bare-bones, SO:

It mentions that Ukoku (then called Kenyuu, but I'm gonna KEEP SAYING UKOKU in the interest of not bouncing between three names) became a Sanzo priest—the highest attainable rank for a monk, considered an enormous honor, rendering the individual both authority and the power of whichever of the five ancient scriptures/sutras they've been tasked with guarding—but describing his accession as "a battle to the death" kind of makes it sound like something it wasn't. Goudai Sanzo, the guardian of the Muten sutra, at whose temple a young Ukoku was training*, was terminally ill, and needed to find a successor quickly, which would require trials for those of his students he deemed worthy. He called his old friend and colleague, Koumyou Sanzo, to the temple to as a witness to the trials. Ukoku was never chosen to be one of the participants: Goudai implied that he didn't have the moral character necessary to be considered for the honor. Ukoku, who had exhibited a consistently higher level of scholarship and skill than his fellow student-monks, seemed to feel that his nomination was a given, and in response to being snubbed he attacked Goudai. Koumyou stopped him, and he was punished with isolation in a cell.

However, when the trials actually came, Ukoku showed up anyway, knowing that there were two ways to obtain Sanzo priesthood: one, by winning the trials and being chosen by a sutra's current caretaker, and two, by killing that caretaker. What the wiki calls a "battle to the death" was more of a slaughter: Goudai was already gravely ill, and Ukoku killed him almost instantly, with no evident hesitation or effort. Koumyou, there to witness the trials, essentially allowed this to happen. In the narration, he theorized that Goudai had probably forseen that outcome and wanted him to watch Ukoku in the future—and that's how we learn that attracting Ukoku's attention is basically a multi-generational bad idea.

Following Goudai's death, Ukoku received both the Muten sutra and his Sanzo title: Koumyou gave him the name "Ukoku," meaning "crow's cry." It's implied that Ukoku developed what could cautiously be called an interest and less cautiously called an obsession with Koumyou, though so far canon has left the extent of that interest(/obsession) up for debate. Koumyou defied Ukoku's expectations—both as a person and as a monk—by accepting him as a friend despite Ukoku being kind of an immoral sack of shit. In return, Ukoku got along well with him, traveled with him, and visited him at his home temple. There's a moment in a flashback when Koumyou is talking about his ward—a.k.a. Head Protagonist In Charge Genjo Sanzo, who was then called Kouryuu, eight years old—as a proud parent might, and Ukoku remarks that he's jealous. Flirtatiousness and offhand jokes are typical of him, so it's possible to read that and think nothing of it. A few years later, Koumyou dies protecting Kouryuu from a demon/youkai attack, and Ukoku seemingly vanishes.

Many years after that, when Ukoku is working under his scientist persona, and a grown Genjo Sanzo and his companions are traveling across the continent to stop a phenomenon that Ukoku himself helped create, it transpires that Ukoku knows about it—and he's keeping tabs on their journey. At this point the remnants of his actions as a traveling monk start to roll in. The wiki mentions the boy he took in who later started to call himself Kami-sama, but it doesn't mention Hazel.

In the context of Ukoku's life Hazel probably doesn't mean much (i.e. to him), but considered with Kami-sama and (Genjo) Sanzo/Kouryuu, he establishes some patterns. Probably not long after Koumyou died, Ukoku took a trip overseas somewhere—various clues imply North America or something like it, but canon doesn't really specify exactly where. In any case, the dominant religion in this place was a version of Christianity, and Ukoku, presenting himself as a traveling monk who wanted to learn about it, stayed at a church for about a week as a guest of the Bishop there. Much like Koumyou, the Bishop was taking care of a young boy who'd been orphaned, raising him as kind of an apprentice and a son. This time Ukoku had no personal interest in the Bishop—but he was amused by Hazel's desire to kind of immediately grow up and make himself useful as an exorcist, like his father figure. In the short time he stayed at the church he planted in Hazel's head about a million harmful ideas about self-worth and how he might subvert the Bishop's wish to protect him, taught him demon-slaying magic against the Bishop's will, and gave him the idea to come to Shangri-La when he was older and visit.

Shortly after he left, the Bishop was attacked and killed by a demon, who then embedded his consciousness in Hazel. Ukoku claimed to have found out later about all of this, but regardless of when he knew, he did know, and when an adult Hazel came to Shangri-La as Ukoku had suggested he should, there was a role to play in Ukoku's long game waiting for him.

By this time Genjo Sanzo, now around 25, had his own ward, by all appearances a normal teenager called Goku who was traveling around with him kicking youkai ass. Ukoku, however, knew that Goku was in reality a vastly superhuman being known as the Seiten Taisei ("great sage equal to heaven"), kind of a chaotic neutral immensely powerful unique being who (according to legend) just sort of appeared out of the earth—and he also knew, at least to some extent, that Sanzo's relationship to him was close. So when Hazel showed up, Ukoku inevitably stalked found him, had a drink and caught up with him, and then immediately set him on the trail of the Seiten Taisei, playing on Hazel's hatred of monsters and avowed wish to destroy them all.

When Hazel didn't take any direct action, Ukoku did. While still concealing his presence from Sanzo, he attacked Goku with magic. The damage was life-threatening, though some quick action by his companions saved him. It was an emotional jolt for Sanzo, however, and he seemingly abandoned his own group, intending to use Hazel as a source of information to track down Ukoku. Instead Ukoku followed him, eventually giving in to a big boss battle wherein he revealed that he was aware of every main character's past through mysterious means, told Hazel about the demon hidden in his subconscious, which sort of wrecked him, and attempted not to kill Sanzo but to erase his existence (something he specifically called out as a goal of his, in contrast to Sanzo's companions, whom he claimed to be more interested in tossing in a lab for study).

After announcing he was bored, apparently causing Hazel to die, and being shot (non-fatally) by Sanzo, he sort of evacuated himself and started talking to long-dead Koumyou about how he was pleased to have been presumably blinded. I'm taking him from a teensy bit from before then, as noted, to avoid the injury ambiguity.


*NTS it's Zenou Temple.

Personality: Various philosophical points on Buddhism, particularly the Zen school, are brought up throughout Saiyuki, and to that end, Ukoku is somewhat allegorical. The concept of emptiness in Zen is an important one—it emphasizes acceptance, not forming obsessions or attachments. If interpreted benignly, it encourages practitioners to release expectations they may have for themselves and stop assigning value to this object or that personal quality in a unending search for greater self-worth. Western thought tends to assign "nothing" or "a/the void" a negative quality—an absence of something good—but in Zen, "nothing," i.e. emptiness, is purity. Naturally a spiritual person might like to strive for purity, right?

That's where Ukoku comes in. He's Zen read through the lens of nihilism: life has no inherent meaning, self-image is an illusion, morals are arbitrary. It's no coincidence that his sphere of power relative to the other monks in his position is nothingness, nonexistence. He challenges people who have faith in anything: is [pick an ideal] something you can really rely on? Is it something you know to be true? Are you sure? Are you super sure? Well hey, let's test your theory! He's kind of like an aimless wandering Devil's advocate, to switch religious systems real quick (his theories and methods still apply; it doesn't matter to him). More generously, he's teaching people, in a way—he's teaching them that the things they've built their lives and relationships and self-image on are unfounded and transient.

He has little to no empathy or respect for other people, almost ever. He considers most people boring, stupid, and predictable, but those whom he finds uptight or too interested in self-control tend to become his targets—usually just for mild provocation, but if the back-and-forth is fun for him, he's all too happy to escalate things. He likes to play games that present some amount of intellectual challenge, which tends to mean games where other people are the pieces—he's shown playing chess, at one point, while deciding how to influence the fate of civilization. (It's a little less heavy-handed than I'm making it sound, to be fair.) It's easy for people to see him as annoying and harmless; he gives off an air of laziness, casual disregard for rules and order, and a seeming disinterest in how others perceive him, but lives have been figuratively and literally destroyed for his jokes. He's perhaps especially dangerous to those who are young and impressionable, but few people, if any, are ever better off for having dealt with him.

That aside, he has an analytical mind that makes him fantastic at things that don't require any innate in-touchness with emotions: science in general, strategy, and a cold, clinical understanding of human nature all come easily to him. He comes off as intelligent but flippant; nothing really seems to matter to him, including his purported goals, and certaintly not his reputation—he wears slippers around his lab, is rarely seen at work without a stuffed rabbit he makes talk to people, and cheerfully talks about his sex life (with his employer/the would-be wife of the demon king, of all people) with his coworkers.

Because nothing really matters to him, up to and including the preservation of his own well-being, it's very difficult for other people to gain the upper hand over Ukoku psychologically. He's well aware of what a piece of work he is; calling him out on it will earn the caller nothing but cheeky responses. Only one thing has been shown to throw him off his game: having his expectations defied specifically in ways he can't understand. If something doesn't go the way he thinks it will, but he can account for it, kind of sort out the equation and make everything fit together, that's fine with him. When he can't understand, it invariably irritates him. The only thing he's really unable to account for that way is the nobler aspect of human nature, perhaps in part because he lacks it. Friendship, loyalty, love, and self-sacrifice are unknown quantities to him, wrenches in the machine of his perception. To an extent he can plan for/with/around them, but it's like estimating teaspoons with a measuring cup—his understanding of them is fundamentally flawed.

The irony of all this is that in spite of what a garbage human being he is, he's really living out his own version of emptiness-as-purity: he has no attachments at all (barring his passing minor obsessions, which he's quick to throw away, and his lingering thing for Koumyou). Neither people, nor wealth, nor ambition, nor his own noteworthy achievements mean anything to him.

Years after he had named Ukoku after a bird, Koumyou remarked to a young Genjo Sanzo that he did not know who had decided that birds were free; they could fly anywhere, he said, but without somewhere to land, they might consider their wings a curse, and perhaps true freedom was having something to return to. Not only has Ukoku never really had that, but he dismisses it out of hand without understanding why it's important to people.


Abilities: On the mundane (-ish) side of things, Ukoku is an Anime Genius Scientist, so he had a Ph.D by seventeen and he's at the top of his field (bioengineering). He's also a skilled martial artist, though he doesn't really do it seriously—if he's bothering to block punches, he's just playing games.

His main strength is actually his concentration, which has been described as "inhuman": in Saiyuki magic generally requires some kind of preamble, like ritual or chanting, but Ukoku can use it instantly. The general technique (i.e., available to any monk who gets far enough in training) he's been shown to use causes many sudden and simultaneous gashes all over an opponent's body. It's also been implied, though never explicitly stated, that he can use crows to watch people without having to be present—but since the mechanism there hasn't really been explained, I'm gonna address that in the Powers section instead of calling it one of his regular abilities.

That said, the scariest things he can do all derive from the Muten sutra, one of five magic scrolls that were divided when the world began, and are (supposed to be) guarded by five priests. Each has a different sphere and different powers—protection, purification, etc.—and the Muten sutra has power over nothingness/nonexistence. Various applications of that power allow him to:
-negate the space between himself and someone or something else, which can mean teleporting or attacking someone from a distance;
-effectively erase whatever gets caught inside the radius of the spell, canon examples being trees and people (or parts of people);
-retract a person's existence, i.e., make it so they never lived in the first place. Since he was unable to complete this the one time it was shown in canon, and since it was explained via unreliable narration (his own, while he was trying to terrify the person he was using it on), this isn't something I'd probably bring up in-game.

Strengths: Brilliant, decisive, possessed of no insecurities whatsoever, upbeat, adaptable.
Weaknesses: Arrogant, unable to relate to other people on an emotional level, easily bored, often unpleasant, fickle.

God/Shinki: God.
Why?: Making him a shinki would sort of hamper if not totally invalidate all the terrible bullshit fuckery GOOD NICE PLOTS he could otherwise enable. Having, withholding, and maliciously disseminating information is kind of his thing, also.
Top 3 Choices:
MAHAKALA, Hindu destroyer god, with dominion over time and the return of all things to nothingness;
NERGAL, Mesopotamian underworld king and god of plagues and destruction;
ERLIK, Turkic god of the underworld, darkness, and evil.

God Type: If a monkey's paw were a god. He's kind of like a trickster archetype, except trickster gods usually intersperse a few good deeds with bad, and Ukoku's pretty much all bad all the time. He'd definitely fulfill wishes! Just not in ways that anybody would want.

Power: CROW FAMILIARS. He can direct a flock (or, uh, a murder) of crows wherever, and see what they see.

Writing Sample

Sample:

"Excuse me, sir?"

It was the third time the old man a few feet down the bar had tried to address him. Ukoku, with a cigarette propped between his lips and a glass of whiskey in front of him, was pretending to be absorbed in a newspaper. Many people would have taken it for the brush-off that it was, but this particular old man was persistent. The deeply religious usually were, Ukoku found.

But he was too busy, unfortunately, to humor the elderly (or anyone else). He'd caught up to the Sanzo party in its slow melodramatic roll across Shangri-La. The Sanzo party, as if there were only one Sanzo—a twelve-year-old boy hell-bent on lashing out in ways he didn't understand to enact some aimless multidirectional vengeance. Ukoku was only about a mile away; they were staying at the town's main inn, and he'd rented a room above this bar.

"Sir, I—they said there's a Sanzo priest in town, and I couldn't help but notice your robes."

"Genjo Sanzo, yes," Ukoku said vaguely.

The man took it for affirmation, naturally, and he straightened a little, emboldened. "Please, I was wondering, sir, if you're going to recite anything."

Ukoku looked at him, finally, smiling. "What would you like me to recite?"

The man twisted his hat between gnarled hands nervously. "A sutra, sir?"

"A sutra!" Ukoku tipped his head back and blew smoke at the ceiling, as if in thought. "How about the Kama Sutra?"

The old man's face wrinkled further in confusion.

"I'm not sure I know that one by heart," Ukoku continued, stubbing out his cigarette. "Does your wife have a copy?"

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