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Scrying Notes – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

Iwemara noticed the approach of about 15 peasants on the horizon with sticks scythes and kama.  She silently warned Tatsumaki they had a problem. Getting her point he crept to the Monks tent to silently wake him, Iwemara went to the shugenja.

The monk woke before Tatsumaki wokes him, and was very suspicious of why he was in the tent, and questioned him on what he was doing there. Tatsumaki explained, but the monk was clearly not convinced.

The peasants realised they had been seen when Iwemara spoke quietly to Kanto and screamed loudly rushing forward to attack the group.  Iwemara shouted a warning to the camp, and drew her bow, preparing to shoot.  Kanto cast a spell from one of his bottles.  Tatsumaki drew his sword.

Iwemara shot a peasant twice, severely injuring him, the monk punched the ground.  A fissure tracked to one of the peasants, and the earth jumped up and smacked him in the face. The monk did the same to another, injuring him too.  The peasants continued to approach.

Iwemara dropped her bow, and pulled her swords, going into full defensive stance.  Tatsumaki killed a peasant.  As they drew close, the party could see that they had no clothes on their upper bodies, and that they had a lot of dark black scarring.  The party could also see that their eyes were completely dark with no pupils, and decide that they must all be killed.  The monk kept using his fists on these ‘zombies’.  He killed one and missed his next target.  Then they saw one of them carrying a katana. Kanto killed a peasant, and the peasants split up, two trying to attack each of the party, Tatsumaki having three on him.

The peasants attacking Iwemara missed as she darted away from their blows.  Tatsumaki was slightly injured by one, and grappled by another, the monk was grappled by two.  Iwemara darted in, attacking one of the ones attacking Tatsumaki, who was closest to her, injuring him badly.  The monk was able to injure and kill those attacking him.  Kanto drank a potion and became wreathed in flames, stepping in front of Iwemara to more of the peasants, as did the monk and Kanto.  Tatsumaki killed one attacking Iwemara, Kanto attacked the other, and missed.  Iwemara slashed the peasant injuring him slightly, and the monk managed to knock out the one carrying the katana so he could be questioned. Unfortunately he died from his injuries before he woke.

After the Battle, Tamori Kanto burned the bodies with his flaming dai-tsuchi so that they couldn’t be raised as zombies as per Rokugani law.  As it was later in the night, Tatsumaki and Iwemara settled down to sleep after thoroughly cleaning their weapons.

 

The next morning the group continued to the temple. As they travelled the land and scenery got wilder, more lush plants, and lots of vines and creepers.  They got the impression they were heading towards one of the ruined Ivindra cities.  When they got closer to the area the temple was supposed to be, they saw a dome of sorts, assumed that to be the temple and headed towards it.  It at first appeared to be a round stone ball, but slowly resolved to be recognised as the belly of a very fat man, that looked a lot like the statue of Fudo.  There were steps leading up to the stomach area, and they presume the temple s within or behind it.  The temple had clearly been there a LONG time.  The head was eroded, it was loosing an arm and it was simply HUGE.  There was a rock covering the entrance, and they climbed the stairs.  It took their combined efforts to slide and nudge the rock to one side and gain entrance. They slid it aside to find a tunnel.

 

The tunnel smelled musty; there were a lot of cobwebs and the metallic stench of fresh blood – lots of it.  The tunnel was lit by torches that looked like they were in dire need of replacing or refreshing so the dark was only barely lit.  The party drew their weapons and entered.  As they continued down the tunnel they saw blood smeared on a wall – a handprint pulled along.  Then they came across a dead man in brown monks robes.  He looked recently dead, not more than 12-16 hours. Kanto and Iwemara wrapped material around their faces. Kanto burned the body, and others that they came across.  It made the tunnel smoky, but at least the bodies couldn’t be raised which was the gist of the discussion they had before doing it. At the end of the tunnel they entered a large room.

 

There was a huge wall plaque with a celestial dragon fighting the Fat man that the Fudo statue in the village and the temple itself are shaped like, clearly this is Fudo himself. Below was a small shrine with golden items, statues and candle holders.  Kemuri noticed the huge sack of Koku next to that of course.  Naturally Kemuri wanted ALL the koku, and was annoyed he couldn’t carry it as there was far too much for his horse to carry.  He decided he would take as much as possible.  There was a discussion about it between Kanto and Kemuri.  Kanto telling Kemuri he’s very persistent in wanting to collect Koku ‘for his order’ (himself).  Kanto said the city will be starving and the koku should be re invested in it if it’s to survive.  He agreed the money shouldn’t remain in the temple – agreed that it would be looted if left there.  But the two differed in what they planned to use the money for. Iwemara half listened as she assisted Tatsumaki who totally ignored the koku to gather the scrolls up that were part of their mission.  Some of the bodies in the room appeared to have been protecting some of the scrolls at one end of the room, and this is where they started looking and collecting them. Iwemara pocketed ten koku that she said she would donate to the temples when she returned to the city.  Kemuri and Kanto eventually decided to divide up the Koku between their two horses, and the koku each carried would be used how they thought best. So Kemuri will keep his, Kanto invest it in the city to its benefit. – Note to self, find the records to see if this actually occurred. Looking at the scrolls, neither Tatsumaki nor Iwemara could read the strange foreign script. They don’t recognise the kanji or the symbols.  Iwemara made notes and simple sketches of what the temple held as well as the image on the screen.

 

While investigating the temple and recording the image on the wall screen in a basic sketch (she’s no artist, but it is recognisable for what I saw.  I include a better sketch for your perusal than the one that is in her journals) she noticed a slight seam on the wall plaque between the dragon and Fudo and realised it was a false wall.  Tatsumaki was also looking around the temple room, but found nothing else. Iwemara, neverone to give up on a challenge when secret rooms were involved found the button (neatly it was Fudo’s belly button) and pressed it.  The ground shook quite fiercely, and a section of the wooden display slid across. It was dark inside, but they could see something glowing on an extravagant plinth.  It looked like a plain golden egg with no ornamentation or patterns on it, which was more than made up for by the amazing ornamentation and decoration of the plinth and cushion it rested on (Again, sketch enclosed). The cushion was solid silk brocade, there were drapes around the egg framing it.  It was shining brightly and alluringly.  Iwemara approached the egg and as she did it started to glow more brightly and it started to hum.  Everyone could hear a high pitched buzzing in their heads.

 

Tatsumaki said ‘that doesn’t sound good’, and suggested that Iwemara step away.  Iwemara however looked bespelled and I get the impression she had the overwhelming feeling that it wanted her to get closer to it, and was slightly mesmerised by the glow.  She felt she had to touch it, pick it up and examine it more closely, and while she questioned the feeling briefly, she succumbed to it and picked the egg up.  Bright light shone through the room, and they saw a vision in their heads (as did I while scrying this) that was as vivid as living an event and watching it unfold.  I saw the Second city.  From the weather it appeared to be about 6 months from their present time and it was nearing or just ending the monsoon season.  There were tornadoes, and lightning and pouring rain. There were two armies arrayed outside the city, not unlike the way the Lion and Dragon were not long ago to their perspective, only on one side it was the steel coloured chrysanthemum of Iweko Shibatsu led by Akodo Genshin, and on the other was a unicorn lady leading the Imperial legions from Toshi Ranbo.  The two armies engaged one another, and the image pulled back, showing a huge black dragon curled over the governor’s mansion, making the people in the city act as it saw fit, and do things beyond their comprehension – like puppets on a string.  The forces led by Akodo Genshin defeated the Imperial Legions, the city fell into complete darkness and the vision faded.  Clearly they had been given a foretelling.

 

What they think is about half an hour later everyone woke up, realising that they had passed out. When Iwemara woke she found she was slumped to the floor and was cradling the egg in her arms and had a huge headache.  She heard a voice in her head.  Linked to Iwemara of this time, I did what I did with Sanra, I knew it was a risk, given the nature of the Entity, but I am ever dedicated to my research.  Below follows the conversation she had with the Entitiy.

 

 -Greetings young one-

She responded a little timidly fearing she was going mad –Um…hello?-

-Have you ever been a Holy woman?- The voice asked her.

 

-I don’t know. The Dragon Clan are very religious, and I am of their clan, but I don’t know much in the way of theology. I keep meaning to learn more, but duty keeps me busy- She responded

 

-You must help me defeat the dragon of madness….- She was told. -You must find your path-

 

-I have been trying- She said, not really sure what her path was, beyond knowing she must serve her beloved Empress to the best of her abilities, and do her duty to her clan.

 

-I can help you…- The voice told her

 

-How…sama?-She asked, unsure who she was addressing in her mind

 

-Your body is shared with me now-She was told by the voice. This upset her a lot (quite rightly) but the entity soothed her.

 

-And you are?-She asked a little timidly.

 

-Fudo-

Not quite sure how to respond to this given what little she knews of the Fudoists she was cautious in her resonse– ….ok….-

-You hold my heart in your hands. You will keep my presence a secret-Fudo told her. She felt compelled to do so.

-Ok.-She agreed before asking -How do we defeat the dragon?-

-keep my heart safe…and I will grant you power beyond your comprehension. Pan-Ku must be defeated…-He told her.

 

The others woke at the same time as Iwemara or slightly sooner.  They saw Iwemara slumped to the floor cradling the egg protectively or possibly possessively and she appeared to be muttering quietly to herself in her sleep.  They couldn’t hear what she was saying.  Tatsumaki approached her and tried to wake her up.  She roused, and was asked if she was ok “Are you well Iwemara-san?”  She told Tatsumaki she had a headache, but otherwise yes, she thinks she is fine, and slowly gathered herself to rise.  She carried the egg out with her.  Tatsumaki seemed suspicious of the egg and kept glancing at her to check she really was well.

 

-Your friend is a fool-Fudo told her

-He is a non believer-Iwemara replied

-He is a fool. He needs a path-Fudo told her.

-Then we must help him find one-She responded.

-Indeed…-Fudo replied before going quiet again.

Kemuri and Kanto were discussing the vision they saw when Iwemara and Tatsumaki emerged from the alcove behind the screen. They asked Tatsmaki and Iwemara’s opinions too. Iwemara said that Pan Ku must be stopped, mentioning the dragon’s name.  Tatsumaki looked at her oddly again, and Kanto asked her what Pan Ku was. She paused thoughtfully for a second, gazing at the dragon on the panel and asked Fudo -What is Pan Ku?-

-He is an avatar of madness and anarchy-

-makes sense-

-one of the original celestial dragons-

Iwemara told Kanto it was the dragon, and he was an avatar of madness and anarchy.  She says she learned it in her vision while she held the egg.

-Shhh they must not know my presence-She was told agian.

Tatsumaki was still suspicious. “Do you trust it? The egg.  Should you still be carrying it? It was hidden for a reason.” He asked her

“Yes. It was hidden to protect it, it may be useful in the future.” She said calmly.

They discuss who they should support on the battlefield if it comes to what they saw in the vision – Kanto is the first to raise this question.

“I would always support The Empress Iweko over anyone else, Of course I would stand with the Imperial Legions.” Iwemara replied firmly.  That is the one thing she is certain of.

“If the vision is right, in 6 months time, the Imperial Legion will have to be sent to sort matters out here…And it loses.  What kind of power can do that?” Kanto asked

“Lets get back to the city. We need to report this.” Iwemara suggested.

Tatsumaki said that “we don’t know the nature of the vision, is it what is going to happen? or what could happen?  Should we act to try and prevent it, or just continue as normal, in the belief that it’s going to happen?”

-Heracy!!!!-Fudo said quite clearly in her head before asking her -Why do you associate with such fools?-

-They are honourable people, and it is my duty to work with them- She replied.

-honor…such a pretty word….-He sounds quite scathing of honour, which shocked Iwemara quite a bit.

Iwemara responded to these questions and doubts about the vision they saw. She said that “We have seen the future that couldbe possibility, it has not happened yet so it can be changed – by altering the events, removing those we recognise from the vision, we can alter the events and hopefully change the outcome.”

-you’re a very clever girl..-Fudo tells her

-thank you!-She respond courteously

-Heracy!!-He retaliated. -Keep my heart safe.

-I will-She resopnded

-Your fool is wrong- He told her when Tatsumaki still questioned her on her logic.

–As you say-she responds, still not quite sure why Tatsumaki is a fool. He seems an honourable person, even if he does have a few issues with Shugenja.  She knows he will have his reasons.

 

The group completely missed Iwemara’s meaning.  Kanto and Tatsumaki seemed to be quite shocked that she was suggesting killing Shibatsu. Iwemara was deeply shocked they think her as base as to suggest such a thing.  “Kill? No, we petition for people to be posted or sent elsewhere.  The future can be changed.”

-That sounds like a good path-Fudo told her. -Kill the boy, send him home whatever you prefer-

As they continued discussing the matter Fudo kept chipping in his comments in her head…

-It could happen…-

-Your friend is a fool-

-Sigh….-

-That’s better…-

‎…before finally telling her that  -Time is of the essence-when they finally decided to return to the Second City as soon as possible so that they could report everything and start attempting to change the future.

Iwemara checked to see that the egg was safe, and wrapped it more carefully in her spare robes. Tatsumaki frowned at her keeping the egg, but didn’t mention it again after her earlier defence of keeping it ‘safe’. They loaded up the Rokugani ponies they were provided with.  The ones Kemuri and Kanto were assigned looked very uncomfortable dragging their koku load. Tatsumaki mentioned to Kemuri that his possessions will slow him down.

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The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…Yozo-sama came to speak with me this evening. He has decided it is his time to retire. It saddens me the reasons he gave he for his decision. He would have made a wise and just Ivory Champion had he stayed but I respect his reasons, even as some of them shocked me deeply. Yet Yozo-sama has never lied to me, I must believe what he says is true. I was honoured that he chose to bestow his Daisho on me. I will care for it until I find a worthy successor, or can pass it on to my child if I have one. I was quite mortified at his response when I offered to keep him company that evening, his last as a samurai. He thought I meant company in bed! These lands must truly lack the spirit of bushido, and common decency if he thought I was offering to behave like a common geisha girl. I did not expect this of the world, it is much different to Shiro Kitsuki. You will have to let my sister Akemi read these letters before she passes her Gempukku so she is more prepared for the world than I was. I soon put Yozo-sama straight on where my offer of companionship lay. He is my sensei, has almost been a second father to me, he told me he has taught me like he would have his own daughter, I was offering tea, and conversation, and perhaps a game of Go. I always thought that that was what an evening of company meant…I had not thought there were other connotations until now…

 

…We left the Second city via a secret passage that leads from the Dragon embassy and out of the Temple district into the much quieter peasant district so we did not have to deal with the mobs of peasants. I should have known that there would be a secret passage somewhere. They seem to be a feature of Dragon clan constructions. I’m not sure why, but they are veryuseful.

 

We had requested horses as time was of the essence on a mission of this nature, and these were waiting for us. It was not as peaceful in the peasant district as we had hoped as we passed through. There were several fields of barley on fire. Whatever madness grips the city has obviously not been contained, and there could be problems with food supply come winter if it is like this around the entire city. It didn’t take us long to arrive at the village we passed through when we went out with Genshin and Miyoshi. The Shoju was still there, and he grinned at us and nodded. The peasants were paying him with both money and sake this time.

 

Tamori Kanto asked if we had been outside the city before, and Tatsumaki explained about our previous mission and that the Shoju was essentially a Magical talking future seeing monkey, which was a fair description from him. He explained that you had to get him drunk for him to do his divination, and that his taking koku as payment was a new thing. Togashi Kemuri decided to ask him what he was doing with his money and approached him.

 

The shoju spoke to us, asking what us ‘dear samurai’ were doing so far from the city. Kemuri-san responded with a question of his own, asking what he was. He said he was one of the last of his race, and that for a koku or a glass of sake he would predict his future. Kemuri-san had a discussion about getting him more sake for a fee and arranging it all at a later date. I did not listen to closely to such low behaviour, thought the shoju would not accept the word of a samurai in lieu of payment but it is perfectly in keeping with the first impression I had of Kemuri that he would try. I feel incredibly badly about what happened next. Having proved himself in telling the future of what would happen at the village, I gave a peasant a couple of zeni and bought a bottle of sake for him and approached, curious what he would see in my direct future. I asked him. He nodded, and said he recognised me very well, and started chanting, but a look of utter horror crossed his face and there was terror in his eyes. He started bleeding from his ears and he fell sideways, his head crashing into the vials of sake. I heard his whispered final words, and they sent a shiver through me. He said “It’s madness, it’s all madness” before he died in a pool of his own blood. I do not know where the creature was in the Celestial order, but for him to have died from looking into my future in such a way…it deeply unsettles me.

 

Tatsumaki made the flippant offhand comment “Well Kemuri-san he won’t need the koku.” I was disgusted by Kemuri’s actions afterwards, and think I will increase what I donate to the temples from the money I confiscated when I return to the city – if it’s there when I return. Tatsumaki watched in fascinated disgust too – I don’t think he’s ever seen such behaviour before, and the peasants…well the look on their faces said it all. Kemuri rifled the poor Shoju’s possessions taking all of his koku into “safe keeping” by pouring it all into a bag on the transparent explanation that that much money would unsettle the peasants. Kanto-san reminded him that he should Tithe 1/10th of the koku to the Order, but given Kemuri is the only representative of his order – and he said so – I suspect the entirety will be lining his own pockets. It’s disgusting. I heartily disapprove of any monk who has such avarice.

 

I was asked by Kemuri about the last time I had spoken to the being. A bit stupid I thought, he asked if it did this before and did he come back from it. He was dead…there is no coming back from that unless it is in spirit form. I said a short silent prayer to the Kami for patience in dealing with this monk, and another to whatever spirits the Shoju held dear that he was now at peace and whatever realm his soul went to, be it Chikushudo, Meido or Tengoku. I did agree with one thing the monk said though, that the fact the Shoju died from what he saw in my future, it really doesn’t bode well…

 

…we have made camp for the evening; we should arrive at the temple tomorrow. I helped set up our small camp and ate sparingly of my travel rations. We are not in short supply, but after what I saw in the village with the Shoju I wasn’t hungry and had much to think about…I may speak with the priests about the Shoju being, and see if I should pray for his/it’s spirit or not. I feel badly about the manner of its death. I was contemplating what it said when I heard footsteps and went on the defensive alerting the others, but it appeared to be a Ronin of some sort. He carried a wakizashi and a staff, had a strange garment wrapped about his head and wore orange robes that were reminiscent of the Isawa, but carried no mon. Unusually I couldn’t read him with Ide Maru. He must have quite good control of himself for that. He didn’t greet us, just walked up to the fire and began to warm his hands over it. I asked – politely because you never know how strange ronin might react – what he was doing here.

 

“My name is Koen,” he whispered “I am a wave man looking for some food. I am blessed with the ability to speak to the Kami; I sense one of your number is similar to me in that regard.” I thought it no hardship to offer the rest of my ration, as I wasn’t going to eat it, and though he was a ronin, you always drilled me in the common courtesies, even to those who are less then you are. We had a short discussion with him. He’s a Shugenja with a water affinity, and had an earth affinity too or something along those lines; but that his master (who had the same name) ensured that he had a balance in his elements. I didn’t quite follow it all. Kanto-san seemed quite interested in him though, and they spent some time discussing what spells they could cast, and Kanto-san did offer to teach him how to make food for himself and others if he performed the same favour at a later date, which I thought quite admirable in him, if a little…well, a little too open. But it turns out that this Koen has no difficulty finding, or making food. Of course that led to the question of why he had asked for the meal, but he responded he felt he had earned it, that he had slain many blasphemers that day. My heart sank at that. I knew he must mean the fudoists at their hidden temple. Kanto-san asked if he had done it on behest of the Second City guards, but he had done it on his own behalf, claiming it was a mission he had only recently taken up because his master had appeared in a dream, and had told him of the problem of the fudoists in the colonies. Is it just me or does that sound very similar to Akodo talking to Genshin-san? I was possibly a little indiscrete in explaining our mission to the temple now I look back, but I was anxious that he had not burned the scrolls that were the primary reason for our going to the temple. He suggested that we return home, but I cannot abandon my duties, and told him so. He said he meant home, Rokugan, anywhere but the Ivory kingdoms, even to suggesting that I travel with him. Tatsumaki looked annoyed, and I respectfully declined. I am not one to throw off family, clan and duty to the Divine Empress to flee some unspecified danger. Kemuri-san engaged him in some theological discussion about his order, and the elemental imbalance again and the teachings of Shinsei and how the Phoenix should be absorbed into the brother hood. As if that will ever happen! Koen was quite polite, but ended the conversation quickly after hearing this spiel. I don’t blame him. He didn’t stay long after that, and he left the camp thanking us for the food and conversation. We had a little chat around the campfire, mostly Kanto-san explaining what the spells in the bottles were. There were some very useful things, one that burned a target it hit, another making a person less susceptible to injury, healing potions…it was interesting to listen to. Tatsumaki-san and I are on first watch, while Kemuri and Kanto sleep, so I’m writing this by firelight. Hopefully then I will be able to sleep when my watch concludes…wait…I hear a noise…

 

 

 

Financial Ledger – Togashi Kemuri

 

Carried over from previous Balance:

4 Koku

 

Deposits

96 Koku

 

Balance

100 Koku

 

Outgoings

0

 

Withdrawals

0

 

***

 

At first I thought Tatsumaki was just ascetic but his behaviour makes me think he is just poor and desperate to get his hands on more Koku. He needs watching. It might be worth hiring some Ronin to look after my belongings. I will consider it later. The others seem trustworthy.

 

Scrying Notesof Isawa KKorimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

There was a smell of burning.  From the highest point of the city many fires could be seen to be burning.  There was screaming too, as if the city were being ransacked by a gaijin army, though it was merely the beginnings of a maddened horde that were patrolling -or stalking- the streets. There were so many innocent peasants wailing and crying and beseeching the kami.

As Tatsumaki threw the monk out a Lion patrol saw him and shouted “There’s one!”  The monk ran, and Tatsumaki nodded to the guards as they ran past before returning to the embassy.

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…When Tatsumaki returned, he whispered something in Joben’s ear, and Joben-sama looked most concerned. He spoke to us saying that time is of the essence and that we must hold up in the embassy and protect the peasantry as much as possible. The Mirumoto were ordered to patrol the temple district, he requested a scribe to send word immediately to Kyuden Mirumoto for reinforcements and requested Tatsumaki, myself, and the two new comers to act as a scout force to find the hidden temple of Fudo and bring back the scrolls to help unravel what’s happening. I accepted of course. The Dragon cannot spare many bushi right now for such a mission, and I am not unskilled in defending myself as I have proven on several occasions. A Shugenja and a monk would be invaluable in deciphering the scrolls and also look like they can take care of themselves, and Tatsumaki is an Ivory magistrate. Joben-sama did apologise for it being such a slim scouting party, but as I could well understand, the Dragon could not give more to us; the current situation being what it was, we are spread too thinly as it is. I returned to my rooms to prepare for tomorrow’s expedition not long after that, but not before I heard one final report from one of the Bushi coming to report to Joben-sama. The Mirumoto patrolling the Temple District are being forced to kill some of the mad, though they do it only when necessary; but peasants are going mad and attacking kinsmen etc, and had to be put down. The military district is overrun by mentally unstable mob like riots and everywhere else is on security lockdown. Not a comforting thought to go to bed with.….

 

…Oh my…by all the fates and fortunes. That Scorpion must have truly been mad! I took the bag from the merchant thinking it was mostly zeni and bu, worth maybe one or two koku at the most, but it’s not… The entire bag is full of koku. I just counted it. 70 koku and he gaveit away…for an acorn! I don’t know what to do. By rights I should give it back to the Scorpion…but who knows where they got it from?…but I can’t keep allof it…well I could…I did confiscate it… perhaps…I think I will donate some of it to the temple of Togashi…and perhaps the Fortunes to thank them for smiling on me…I might ask Yozo-sama his opinion on what I should do with it. I truly did not expect to receive such great wealth and riches…

 

 

Notes from Scrying: Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

Iwemara was packing her travel bag before she retired for the night. It was going to be an early start and she wanted to be prepared. The ashigaru armour she had returned to the city in had been cleaned and was hanging ready for use the next day. It wasn’t bad quality considering it had been made for peasant use, just very basic, and in a plain colour that blended with the scenery rather than in the clan colours. Given the state of the city, she did not want to risk an injury that the armour could prevent on this scouting mission. It wasn’t the first time she had worn such armour, she just preferred not to unless it was a necessity; she was not after all a bushi. She had removed the intricate formal robes of the court long since, and her hair was free of the netsuke that were almost a requirement for courtiers, allowing her hair to flow loosely around her shoulders and down her back. Young Kimi had been fast asleep on a pallet in her sleeping room when she had returned to her rooms, and she did not disturb her. She’d replaced the court robe with a lighter silken gown more comfortable in the heat of the evening, her travel robes laid out ready for wear the next morning. She heard a short rap on the frame to the door of her quarters, and looked up. She could see the bulk of a person backlit through the paper screen. A familiar bulk too, if she did not miss her guess. “Come in.” she called, and she wasn’t surprised when Mirumoto Yozo stepped in. He looked old, and haggard, even though he had removed his armour of office; more so even than when he had returned from court. Her heart went out to him. Being Ivory Champion must be more stressful than she realised. He gave her a fatherly hug, as he always did when they were in private and greeted her warmly.

 

She offered him a cup of tea, and gestured to the small corner of her room that held a small brazier with a tea pot already warming for her own cup. He accepted with a brief smile that faded quickly as he sat. As she poured he spoke to her sounding far more serious than usual.

 

“Iwemara-san, we need to talk, and I feel that it should be in the strictest confidence.”

 

“Of course Yozo-sama, you know I would never betray a confidence.” Iwemara said, passing the delicate porcelain tea cup to him. He took it, sipped and held it cupped in hands calloused from decades of sword practice. She poured her own cup, wrapping slender fingers around the bowl and sat there sipping it, inhaling the light herbal scent of her preferred blend, allowing Yozo to gather his thoughts; waiting for whatever it was he wanted to tell her as she had so often done in the past.

 

“I feel bound to warn you Iwemara. I do not believe Shibatsu can be trusted. I am aware of your close blood ties to the Imperial line, and your loyalty to the Divine Empress and the position that that puts you in, but in my opinion, Shibatsu’s guidance in court today was misplaced.”

 

“I agree that his decisions were not based on all the knowledge available Yozo-sama, I do not believe he has the full facts of what is going on in the city with regards the Fudoists. I only learned part of it tonight myself.”

 

“It is not only that Iwmara. He was lying when he accused Renyu of holding Fudo relics in the Governor’s mansion. Lying in court.”

 

Iwemara’s eyes widened, and she looked shocked to the core. It was a good thing she had finished the tea in her cup, because her hands fell to her lap in her surprise and dismay, and any tea would have spilled onto the silken gown, ruining it. She tried to speak, and failed blinking rapidly. Yozo looked saddened at the dismay he was causing his favourite student, knowing how idealistic she was – especially when it came to the Imperial family – and wearily continued.

 

“I fear my age gets to me. If I had been but ten years younger I would have thrown myself in front of Renyu to fight the Seppun guard with him instead of sitting there and allowing him to fight alone.” He paused, sighed. Iwemara was still incapable of speech and still looked shocked. He looked like he felt badly for disabusing her of some of her idealistic views on the world, but she had to learn one way or another, that the tenets of bushido were followed to different degrees. She was a perceptive young woman and, he did not believe that she would become as cynical of the word as he had of late. “The events of today have come as a revelation, and provided me with some much needed enlightenment. It is my intention to retire and join the brotherhood.” He could see the dismay flare in her eyes. “There is a small but decent temple dedicated to Osano-wo and I have received their blessings. I plan to go on a crusade of the Ivory Kingdoms to bring the word of Shinsei to the populace. This city is rotten to the core and I mean to leave.”

 

Iwemara looked down, knowing the truth of his words as she heard muffled through the walls of the embassy the unsettling sound of the city outside, remembering what she had seen as she passed through it. “My duty keeps me here.”

 

“I know, and I applaud you for your dedication to your duties. You have been a great student Iwemara, one of my best.” His hands went to his obi and he began to untie some of the fastenings. “May I leave my daisho in your keeping?” He asked, offering her his intricately wrought twin sister blades. They were the finest workmanship she had ever seen, the elaborate scrolling on the blades a work of beauty, the steel razor sharp. Often when she had been training with him had admired their fine craftsmanship. They dwarfed her own daisho set; Yozo’s wakizashi was almost as large as her katana. She would never willingly give her own blades up, not when they had been made specifically for her but she keenly felt the honour he was bestowing on her in entrusting her with his blades.

 

“It would be my greatest honour Yozo-sama. I will hold them until I find someone worthy of carrying your blades” she responded, accepting them and bowing deeply to him. This seemed to lift some of the weariness from him and he continued speaking as she reverently placed the blades on the daisho stand in the place of honour above her own.

 

“I have named my successor, and have spoken to Shibatsu about it. He was displeased that I was leaving, but because of my age he did not question it. He does not know my true motives. I simply cannot work with one who lied as he did today. My successor I have named to be Doji Hakuseki, she is a fine magistrate and bushi, and will do well in the position.”

 

Iwemara nodded, accepting his assessment, having heard similar reports of her herself. “She is a great duellist. I do not believe I could best her now as I did so many years ago. She is a worthy successor to your position.” She said, her tone regretful still that he felt he had to step down. She still did not know how she had beaten the girl the first time they had faced each other and hoped Hakuseki didn’t hold a grudge.

 

He looked at her kindly, thinking the regret in her tone was that she had not been selected for the position “You would have been on the list of successors, Iwemara-san. You have all the skills needed to do well in the position, but I thought your valuable skills and the duties you are doing here were more greatly needed by the clan than the city at present.”

 

“You are wise Yozo-sama, of course you are correct, my duties lie with the clan.” she said, bowing to him again, slightly relieved he hadn’t chosen her for the position. She still had so much to learn to make a good champion, be it Ivory, Emerald or Clan, though she still thought she would have made a more honourable showing as Topaz Champion than Naleesh had. She’d really lorded over the position and probably still did for having held it.

 

“I have sent word for her to be notified, and the ivory armour will be delivered to her in the morning. I plan to shave my head first thing. Stay strong Iwemara, keep on the right path and do as much you can to help your dragon brothers.”

 

“Of course Yozo-sama.”

 

Yozo bowed to her then, and hugged her. He rose to leave looking old and weary, and, to Iwemara’s eyes sad. “Would you care for some company this evening Yozo-sama?” She asked before he could leave. He turned back to her and looked at her oddly for few seconds.

 

“I thank you for your offer Iwemara, but I can’t accept it. I have raised you like a daughter, and it would be wrong.”

 

Iwemara dropped her eyes from his face at the words, blushing crimson in mortification, stuttering as she tried to explain…she hadn’t meant company in bed! What must he think of her?

 

“I..I…didn’t…didn’t mean…” She stuttered, before pausing. She closed her eyes, searched for her centre and took a deep calming breath. He had been in the world far longer than she had, and had far more experience of people. She was not the flip skirt that Scorpion girls were reputed to be. She could understand it if she had been. It was part of what the Scorpion did in their position in the Celestial order, wrong though it seemed to her. For him to think her capable of such behaviour…it was shocking, but it must be far more widespread a thing in the Ivory Kingdoms… for girls to sleep with their mentors, elders and social superiors…but shewasn’t like that, and she wouldn’t leave him with that impression of her.

 

She opened her eyes and rose gracefully, from her seated position looking him in the eyes, all seriousness. “As you have raised me as a daughter, I consider you a second father. I was not…I did not mean…I was offering a pleasant evening of conversation, and perhaps a game of Go.” She smiled at him, remembering past games “But perhaps you are right. I have a mission I must go on tomorrow, and you look tired, and must have much to do to prepare. You should rest Sensei.” She took his hands and bowed over them, kissing the knuckles in a gesture of deepest respect. “I will always think fondly of you Yozo-sama, you have ever been a great Sensei. If ever there is anything I can help you with, do not hesitate to ask it of me.”

 

His expression lightened as she spoke, and he looked fondly on her again as she showed her great respect for him. He looked less tired, less old, less cynical at that. She was still the idealistic young woman he had known most of her life, charming and kind. “Thank you Iwemara. Sleep well, and may the fortunes bless you in all you endeavour.” He hugged her, the reserve that had been in his voice dissolved by her words and actions. She hugged him back, kissed his cheek as she would have kissed her father and let him go. “Good night Sensei” she whispered to his retreating back, before turning to the room and finishing her preparations for the next day.

Scrying Notes of Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

Togashi Kemuri & Tamori Kanto entered the City to find it in chaos. The sun was setting, the blazing red of it illuminating and eerily reflecting the red blood in the streets.  The Lion were rounding up great clan samurai and executing them, leaving their bodies to sag to the floor and add to the blood staining the streets. They were banging loudly on doors hunting calling for Fudoists to ‘come out from where they were hiding, the filthy scum.’

“The city is in a state of upheaval. Perhaps we should head to the Dragon embassy to find out what’s going on?” Tamori Kanto said to his companion and Togashi Kemuri agreed that that would be wise.

They saw gangs of great clan samurai and peasants mixing as if there were no difference in status and no celestial order. There are members of all the clans doing it and it looks very strange to them.  They looked around with wide eyes.

Tatsumaki was in the Temple District with Mirumoto Joben having retreated there after the battle went against them.  Many Mirumoto had been killed by the Lion in the retreat.

 

 

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…When everything had calmed down and everyone had been evacuated from the governor’s mansion, Yozo-sama suggested that I return to the embassy and get an early night. He said I should stay there until he returned and that he was going to do some more snooping about court to see what was going on and what was likely to happen. I did as he suggested. I’m veryglad I had my daisho on me. It was absolutely mad in the city, and it put many who would have interfered with my progress off. I do not know whether it is the heat of the building summer or some malign influence, but it is deeply worrying. The military district was full of Lion hunting for fudoists. I was stopped and questioned twice at sword point, and it frightened me at what I saw them doing. It was not…not honourable what I saw them doing. They weren’t even permitting seppuku…simply slaughtering samurai who admitted to Fudoism, and leaving them in the streets. I was glad to leave the Military district…but the Temple district wasn’t much better. It was busier than it normally should be, even at festival times. Most of the people were peasants praising and beseeching the kami, asking them to assuage them for the wrongs they had committed, asking what wrongs they had done for the madness that has afflicted their number. It was an atmosphere of desperation, panic simmering just beneath the surface, and I feared that too, they could so easily become an unthinking mob with a small spark to set them off.  Of course I never showed any of my feelings on that score. I have read what happens when a large body of peasants are in a blind panic. It cannot be controlled short of a unit of soldiers and even then the destruction it causes to property and number killed and injured is terrible. It was a relief to make it to the Dragon embassy, still an island of serenity among the desperate peasantry, mostly because the Mirumoto Bushi on guard were making sure the peasants did not come too close to the grounds.

 

I found Mirumoto Joben and his personal guard in the embassy in a large room with quotes of the Tao framed on the walls. Tatsumaki-san was there, so he survived the battle. I wonder if it was he who killed Miyoshi-san? Probably best not to ask, I don’t think I want to know the answer. Poor Joben-sama looked exhausted. I heard at least three reports from his generals on the losses the Dragon have sustained against the Lion. It’s really bad, nearly 2/3 of our bushi are dead. Given our clan has no stronghold in the Ivory Kingdoms Joben-sama will have to send word to Rokugan to restore our numbers. Since the clan were one of the first to make their home here, we always considered that the Second City was our home away from Rokugan, and sending for reinforcements will take a long time. Joben-sama has instructed everyone – no exceptions – to not make any enemies, or to be in conflict with any great clan, and to apologise or admit defeat in all points, much as it will gall us, and even if we truly are in the right. We must save as much face as possible and make sure we do not get wiped out while we perform our sacred duties before we can replenish our numbers.

 

As Joben was telling us this, I noticed two new people arrive. One was a most unusual monk, in his mid thirties rather than a retired samurai, though no monk of a kind I am familiar with. He wore the most extravagant clothing – all of the most expensive materials – his kimono probably cost more than I earn in a year! And everything he carried was of the most expensive or highest quality that could be made, completely opposite to your typical monk! He was of a tattooed order, and had the traditional shaved head…there was a cloud tattoo on his head, and his short sleeved kimono revealed a scorpion and a Ki-rin tattoo on his arms, but I’m pretty sure that was the onlytraditional thing about him. Looking at him through the eyes of Ide Maru I could see that his greatest motivation here was to spread the word of ‘The great brotherhood monk Gorinno’ as he mentioned the monks name later to me …and to amass a vast sum of wealth. I will keep my distance from him if I can. He doesn’t seem to be an honourable type at all, for all I have been taught to show the greatest respect to brotherhood monks.

 

The unusual monk entered with another quite unusually accoutred man, but I recognised the bottles and paraphernalia on the bandolier he had slung over his heavy armour as bottled spells and determined he was of one of the Tamori. He was much older than his companion, was probably the oldest person in the room, with powerful looking broad set shoulders and a massive war hammer slung over his back. I think it might have weighed as much as I do. He also had one of the Isezumi tattoos – an ocean tattoo on his forehead. I’ve always thought that one was quite a pretty tattoo with its flowing swirling lines. I wonder what it does? He looked like he’d seen some rough times though, his equipment was looking very worn, to the point that some pieces looked like they needed repair. Looking at him with Ide maru gave me a far more favourable impression than his companion. He has an open and friendly personality, though I think he may be slightly tootrusting of people at times. He’s recently suffered a loss, and came here as a kind of new outlet instead of retiring to the brotherhood. He looks very strong, but I feel his soul is tired. I hope he finds what he needs here; certainly he has not arrived at a good time for the clan.

 

Joben-sama nodded to them and greeted them, recognising that they came from outside the city and asking them what brought them here. As was proper, the monk deferred to the shugenja, so at least he knows some of the proper courtesies. Tamori Kanto introduced them both and explained that he had lost his wife recently, and thought to make a new life here. He introduced the Monk as his associate and yojimbo Togashi Kemuri. Joben put his hand on Kanto-san’s shoulder and made all the proper responses, but warned him that it was not an ideal time to root himself in the city. A bit of an understatement of the facts in my opinion if what I have seen this day is even half of what’s going on in the city. He said the clan was going through some growing pains. I was unsurprised when Kanto-san spoke of the outrages and atrocities that the Lion were committing to other samurai across the city. Keenly interested in Joben-sama’s response I listened. He was very politic, saying that there was a new theological faith being spread called Fudo and that it had made a lot of ground with the lower classes and some of the Great Clan samurai. Kemuri-san asked what its tenets were. Interested, I continued to listen though I know it is rude to do so, but I do not know myself, and having come across aspects recently I am interested to know more. It may be useful information to know in the future.

 

He said that they were mysterious about it all but its tenets seemed to be about the individuality of people being brought to surface and to embrace personal aesthetics over bushido and the Tao. I was shocked that any samurai would follow such, but it isdifferent here to in Rokugan. Of course it’s completely outrageous, but it made it quite popular as it gives colonial samurai a chance to embrace colonial life. I won’t bore you with the theological debate that followed. The monk kept talking about elemental imbalances and enlightenment of the empire over enlightenment of a person. Joben looked amused at his philosophies but you know that theology is not one of my great strong points. I did not follow it at all well. Thankfully the strange monk said that debating their views on theology would take too long now and suggested it wait for another time. Joben agreed and explained the situation and what was going on, namely the recent conflict with Lion and what it had been about, introducing Tatsumaki-san as having fought bravely. The Dragon apparently support the Fudo cultists on the basis of the fact that the Dragon clan heads are aware (or have recently been made aware as this was the first I had heard of it) of a threat to the colonies which the fudoists have quite an insight into and have abilities beyond our comprehension that can be used to stop them corrupting the minds of individuals. The current madness afflicting the City and the rest of the Ivory Kingdoms is the result of this entity. It’s a sort of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ situation, and the other clans don’t appear to be aware of the greater evil. I believe I may need to make a study of this Fudo if it is indeed useful in combating the greater threat Joben-sama mentioned. I’ll never stray from the path of the Tao or bushido but if it is a weapon that can be used to combat this entity, it can be used and discarded later but not at the moment…certainlynot while the Lion are out in the streets slaughtering those who follow the cult.

 

Joben-sama asked me then what was happening in court, and I explained about Shibatsu-sama being in charge as governor at the moment and what had happened with Akodo Genshin accusing Renyu of fudoism. He already knew that Shibatsu-sama was in charge and Genshin had been promoted to the head of the Second City guardsmen and had ordered the slaughter of the fudoists. I filled in a few blanks for him though. My report was interrupted by one of the Mirumoto entering and telling Joben-sama that a Fudo monk was begging sanctuary. Joben-sama asked for opinions from those who surrounded us, because we could be massacred by the Lion for taking him in if the word got out, but Shibatsu-sama does have a fondness for the dragon. Tatsumaki thought that we could question the monk and then hand him over to Shibatsu-sama’s mercy. He said he’d deal with the Blasphemer. He really doesn’t like fudoists, I don’t really like them myself, but if they can be useful in defeating a greater enemy I will not question or challenge the decisions of my superiors.

 

He was brought in. He had once been one of the Asako I think, but he only had the one name – Furugaro. He told Joben-sama of a Fudo temple 3 days ride away that would give us the insight we needed regarding the current threat to the colonies, saying that if we saved the transcriptions we could potentially save the colonies. Joben thought on this for a while, and that’s when I realised I hadn’t told him about the pearl and the dark Naga, thinking that it might be important information. It appears that we are threatened on many sides and while the Dark Naga are indeed a threat, they are merely a complication in light of the greater issue of this entity that threatens the Second City with madness’s malign influence.

 

Yozo-sama returned from court then, looking so weary and exhausted. Yet even though he looked so tired, he was still resplendent in the Ivory Armour of his office. It’s got the most gorgeous white sheen to it. He was immediately upset by the presence of the Fudoist and ordered him to be thrown out immediately. Joben thought that we could question him first and maybe ask for Mercy from Shibatsu-sama. The monk began pleading, pointing to the map saying “It’s right there your salvation is right there!” He marked the spot with blood from his hands. Disgusting, but he did not have an ink brush. It’s not that far from here. Yozo sama was quite firm, if dour saying: ”Things have been taken too far and we can’t save him.” and that if Joben wanted him questioned, Tatsumaki could do it outside the embassy. He ordered Tatsumaki to escort the monk outside. I’ve never seen Yozo-sama look like this. I went and ordered his favourite tea blend, and made sure he had a cup as well as ordering tea to be sent up for everyone else. I felt very sorry for him. He was almost grey with exhaustion.  Clearly the position of Ivory Champion weighs heavily with him.

 

The monk became quite feisty, and Tatsumaki offered him a quick death if he told him all he knew, not the most tactful of things to say really, but honest. Naturally the monk did not wish to die, shouting that his path wasn’t finished, for Tatsumaki to get away from him etc. Tatsumaki took hold of him quite firmly, though of course the monk tried to break free and Kemuri aided him in punching the other monk allowing Tatsumaki to get a firmer grip on the man, who began to mutter and pray. Tatsumaki questioned him about the temple. It was apparently founded by a monk called Miko and is full of scrolls. The monk said that some of the fudoists might be there, but he wasn’t sure how many died in the revolution overtaking the city. Kemuri asked what we would face getting there and the monk was I believe honest in saying the trials to get there were not difficult. They have a monkey that patrols the grounds and that he got sake…that sounds very much like the Shoju we spoke with on the way to the village young Kimi came from. Tatsumaki recognised the description too, and said so, asking if there were any hidden surprises inside. The poor monk was frightened, but he said there would only be his congregation, and Praised Fudo. Tatsumaki dragged him out then, and that was the last I saw of him…

The Letters of Kitsuki Iemara

 

…Young Kimi was quite in awe of the city as we approached through the peasant district, looking around with wide eyes. As we rode I spent time explaining things to her that she asked about, and pointing out things of note like the statue so recently erected in honour of Togashi Tamoran. There were many small offering bowls at the foot of the pedestal the statue stood on, and I could see at least three of the peasants bowed in prayer to him. Peasants bowed to me in respect as I passed by, though they looked twice as they saw Kimi up in front. I suppose it isa little unusual to have a peasant child sitting up in front of a samurai on a horse. It will do me no harm in their eyes however. We passed beyond the statue, and came to a grouping of buildings. I was shocked. Horrified even by what I saw there. Kimi brought it to my attention by going ‘Eeew!’ I have to admit, I wanted to say it myself! By one of the trees was one of the Kakita. He was…it was disgustingwhat he was doing. And he didn’t even look ashamed of himself! Even the peasants looked concerned about him and gave him a wide berth…well all except the peasant girl that was in his arms. Sheseemed happy enough. NO samurai demeans himself by getting so…sopersonalwith a peasant! And in public too! By the fortunes, they were practically having sex right out in the open. Dis-gusting!

 

Of course I spoke to him about it. What self respecting samurai wouldn’t? He did not stop what he was doing with the peasant girl, he simply put his hand up to wave me away! Of all the cheek! I took a risk and told him he demeaned himself, called him Crane, and he just ignored me. I expected at least some response, possibly even a challenge to a duel for such insult but he just ignored me! It’s beyond belief. I may have knocked some sense into him if I hadn’t had Kimi and the pearl with me, besides, he is not of my clan, or I wouldhave intervened. Getting the pearl and its guardian to safety was my priority, not dealing with a deviant Crane who had to have taken leave of his senses to demean himself so. I made a note to speak with his superiors about it. Certainly the Crane will not wish for their clan to lose honour and respect by the actions of a few deviants. And in doing so…and keeping it quiet until the samurai is found and disciplined… I will earn a favour from them to use at a later date I’m sure. I moved on, and told the city guard at the gate into the Temple district to go and put him in the cells overnight to cool him off. Hopefully that might bring him to his senses. They looked at me incredulously as if I were mad. I don’t think they understood correctly or simply didn’t believe what I was telling them. They had better follow my orders.

 

Inside the city wasn’t much better unfortunately. It was busy, as it always is, but there was a feeling of frenzy about the activity. The peasants especially had a frantic or frenetic air about their activities. I thought at first it might be a hold-over from the unrest of a few days ago, and the excitement of the impending battle outside the city walls, but now…I’m not so sure. I came across a merchant’s stall on my way to the Dragon Embassy. The merchant was mad. Quite mad. And so were his patrons.  They HAD to be with what he was displaying as his wares. The stall held a selection of suspect and useless items…yet people were buying them! There were bits of rubbish, bits of dirt, chunks of an unidentifiable meat that could have been quite literally anything. 99% of the people I saw looked thoroughly disgusted by the merchant and gave him a wide berth, but others were buying things from him. I saw one Scorpion samurai buy an acorn, giving the stall holder a huge bag of money for it. There must have been at least a couple of koku in there in change…and all for an Acorn!? I admit they are probably quite rare here in the Ivory Kingdoms given the climate, but still…a whole BAG of money? I wouldn’t have given more than a zeni for it. I had to act at that. The merchant fought back, barring his teeth like a feral animal. I had to knock some sense into him with my sword, and he fell to the floor, before running off. I confiscated the bag, though I’m not quitesure what to do with it now.

 

Given how unstable the city seemed, I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I told Kimi that if anything happened to me to make her way to the governors estate. I told her to speak to no one, but to insist on seeing Mirumoto Yozo-sama, saying that Kitsuki Iwemara had sent her, and that it was a matter of great urgency. I told her to tell him everything that she had told me and that he’d know what to do. She nodded quietly, but in the end the advice wasn’t needed. We got to the Dragon embassy without further mishap, and it was a veritable haven of peace, serenity and calm efficiency. The exact opposite to what it was like outside. It was a relief to be there. I took some tea and learned that court was still in session. I had the servants feed and wash Kimi. I told them to put her in something clean and presentable from the servants clothing. It will be several shades above her station, but I cannot take a ragged looking peasant to court with me. It’s simply not done! As an attendant however, she will be admissible. I refreshed myself as well, and changed from my ashigaru armour and travel attire into court robes. I cleaned my Katana too. It had the smallest speck of blood from the merchant on it. Kimi did not like being washed, and squealed loudly at the attendants, and wriggled about as they dressed her. She liked the green of the attire when she was finally dressed however. It did actually suit her. Once we both looked presentable we braved the frenzied streets once more to travel through the Military District, and into the Imperial district to the Governor’s estate.

 

We were crossing the military district when I saw another unbelievable thing happen. There were a Hida and a Moto playing Go. The game was almost completed as we approached, and in the end the Hida won. You will not believe me when I say this but I swear its true mother…the Moto said “Fair enough Hida-san, you bested me fair and square.” And handed over his katana. His Katana! He’ll be in for it when another of his clan find out. Who hands over their Katana to another? It’s the family honour! Giving it to another is about as good as telling everyone you are a Ronin or your family are honourless dogs, and I know the Moto aren’t. I couldn’t help but stare as he bowed to the Hida, and walked away whistling to himself. I was gobsmacked. I’ve just never seen the like before. NOONE gives away their katana. Ever. I couldn’t help but grip my own. I’m not sure whether it was protecting it or if it was to make me feel better, but I held it all the way to the Governors estate.

 

The place was swarming with Seppun guards as we approached the estate. I could see the chrysanthemum mon flying high from one of the flagpoles. It was an odd shade of steel grey, which I know is a colour favoured by Iweko Shibatsu-sama, the Empresses younger son. That his wife is in the city, well, wasin the city, she’s probably outside currently getting healed or getting ready for war with the Dragon, but that, the number of guards swarming the estate and the flag, suggested he was now in residence. It made me very, very glad I’d taken the time to bathe and change into court robes and get Kimi out of her peasant rags. You just don’tgo up in front of the Imperial family travel stained and dragging a ragged peasant with you! But I was quite glad he was here, I’m always pleased to see one of the Imperial family, and perhaps he would be the right person to put the pearl and it’s young keeper into the care of. The Seppun are the most formidable guards in the empire and I have great respect for their skills at protecting the Imperial family. I suspect it is only on either the Empress or Togashi-satsu sama’s word that I didn’t get my family into very deep trouble when I did what I did.

 

I entered, and was announced by the Miya herald. There had been some changes to the court, and my surmise was correct. Iweko Shibatsu-sama was in court lounging on a new throne that had been placed there. Not unsurprisingly, he was surrounded by the Seppun guards and also members of the Spider clan and wore quite interesting armour. It was a dark silver colour with little spiders worked into it over black clothing. It was very much in the style of the Spider Clan, though richer of course. He was raised by them though, so it is only natural he might wish to emulate or show respect to the clan. I thought it quite unusual that he felt he should need to wear armour, being of the Imperial line though. He has the Seppun Guards, and almost certainly the Spider would protect him with their lives as well, so he shouldn’t needto wear it in court….but…each to their own. Renyu-sama looked a bit nervous around the Spider, but then, the Kuni did used to hunt members of the Spider clan down at one time. But he seemed to be delighted that the prince was there otherwise. I was greatly pleased to see Yozo-sama sitting on the ivory throne looking resplendent in his new armour of office. The armourers and artisans must have worked overtime to get it done. I have to say, Ivory goes very well with the colours of the Dragon clan, but I grieved to see the sleeve on one arm pinned up. It is a great loss to the clan that one of our finest duellists was injured so. Kimi and I approached the dais, and I whispered rapidly to her that that was the Empresses son, and when I bowed, she was to abase herself. I swatted her to do as told when I made my own very deep obeisance to the Imperial son of our great empress.

 

 

Shibatsu-sama was most gracious, and told me to rise. I did as bid, though Kimi kept herself down, which was proper. He said he has a soft spot for his mother’s side of the family, which was really nice of him, less so for his fathers. Then again Iweko Seiken is very much involved with the Lion and some reports say the brothers do not get on. I’m not sure of the truth of this however, and one should neverbase evidence entirely on rumours. I hope my response was properly respectful. I fear I may have gushed a little over speaking of Empress Iweko-sama. I do not believe he knows how closely related I am to her, but he probably knows how much I respect and adore her…well he will now I fear…I hope I did not disgrace the clan…Shibatsu-sama was very interested in what Kimi was carrying for me, and asked about it. Kimi looked up at him from her kneeling position beside me, flushed, fretted and shuffling a little tried to shield her burden with her body.

 

Renyu-sama interrupted before I could make answer. He stood, coughed a little, and said “Yes, my magistrates have returned. I may need to get their report from them in Private away from court ears.” I think he forgot that I was not one of the Ivory Magistrates, merely the representative for the Dragon Clan on the city council. I know he meant to speak with me in private, without Shibatsu-sama, yet I believe d that Shibatsu-sama needed to know about the pearl. Certainly I thought it would be better in Imperial hands than any other. I don’t normally talk out of turn, but I agreed that what I had to discuss was best discussed in Private, and Shibatsu-sama would discover what it was my ‘attendant’ bore. Renyu wasn’t pleased. He glared at me, but he really couldn’t say anything and gestured for us to head deeper into the estate. I followed his lead, climbing the dais, young Kimi right behind me.

 

Yozo smiled as I passed. He was pleased to see me, said that though he could see I was very busy, it would be lovely to catch up, and I nodded emphatically. Of course it will be a great pleasure to catch up with my sensei, it has been a long time, and it is an honour that he singled me out in court. I told him catching up would be very welcome before following Shibatsu and Renyu-sama into the interior to a very elaborately decorated room. Shibatsu-sama made himself comfortable and immediately asked to see what it was Kimi was holding. I made the report to them both of what had occurred in the village, apologising to Renyu-sama for overruling him on Shibatsu-sama joining us, explaining I had not wanted to reveal what Kimi carried to the entire court. I gave as brief an explanation as possible and had Kimi show them the pearl. Shibatsu-sama was very interested in all I had to say. It was very good of him to show such condescension. Of course Renyu-sama said the pearl would be placed immediately in the vaults of the estate with guards posted. He did not like that the child had been entrusted to such a charge…or more accurately that a peasanthad been entrusted with such a charge, but I appealed to him, saying the Naga had entrusted it to her family, that she was still the guardian, whatever her position in the celestial order. I asked if she could not remain guardian and still have the pearl safely kept under Imperial guard as it should be. Shibatsu-sama overruled Renyu sama. He thought it was a fine idea to keep the girl as one of the pearls guardians, saying it would be a good thing for the peasants to rally behind, which is true enough. He requested that Kimi be fostered at the Dragon embassy, which of course I agreed to. At least keeping her there, I will know how she does, and she will benefit from her time with the servants. The Pearl was of course immediately placed under the highest security.

 

In telling my report, I did of course have to mention Iweko Miyoshi’s unusual behaviour. Shibatsu-sama looked troubled, explained, that he married a Matsu on the insistence of his father. Apparently he thought a strong wife would be good for him. It was very good of him to say such, certainly he did not need to explain anything to me. Who he married was none of my business after all. I’m beginning to think he’s actually not as bad as the reports give him out to be. He questioned me about the events of course, and I couldn’t lieto him about it. He thought it very troubling what she did, and said he’d have to speak to her about it. He was also interested in Tatsumaki-san. I thought he would order his execution for attacking his wife, but he didn’t. He said that the techniques of the Mirumoto must be very impressive, as his wife was quite hardy and difficult to pacify. I was quite surprised, but I think I answered respectfully. After I had given my report, we all returned to court. Of course all anyone could talk about was the impending battle between the Dragon and the Lion outside the city walls. There are rumours that Tsudoken isn’t quite right in the head…and given what I saw while walking through the city, I can well believe it. I’m not sure what the Fudoists have to do with it, but it seems that Joben-sama took their part after the Spider became a little too… thorough… in what the Magistrate had asked them to do…namely root them out of the peasant district. It will be interesting to see what is actually happening, for I will not trust to rumours alone for my information.

 

Notes from Scrying – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

Tatsumaki went to the Tamori for healing.  He was quite shirty with them when they questioned his absence at the temples.

 

In the Lion camp Genshin and Miyoshi were comparing notes, they thought everything was a Fudo retaliation for what they did at the village, and asked two Kitsu to help heal Tsudoken of his mental illness. The two Kitsu went in, one came out after a scream and immediately commited seppuku.  Genshin and Miyoshi entered the tent when there was no further sound from within. The other Kitsu was standing there drooling, apparently mindless.  Tsudoken was still over his table muttering. It confirmed Genshin’s suspicions. Whatever it was it overpowered the Kitsu, so he had no idea what to do about it.  At which point Tsudoken looked at them.

“Excuse me, it’s time for war. Assemble the ranks.”  He kicked the table over and stormed out to rally the troops.

Genshin believed the battle was wrong, but he was a Lion and wouldn’t back away from a fight.  He joined his comrades.  Miyoshi who voiced her thought that it was the Fudoists, to blame, followed him.  Genshin pointed out that the fudoists were whispering in the ears of the Dragon, thus removing the strongest defence of the city (after the Lion of course) so they could take over.  Miyoshi said they would destroy them once and for all and then both prepare for the impending battle.

 

The battle began, initially the Lion winning. Tsudoken was on autopilot, but was still formiddable. Tatsumaki got the opportunity to save a wounded enemy and stabbed him to death instead.  Genshin ended up in a duel with a Mirumoto and killed him.  He was then challenged to another duel, the Lion still apparently winning the battle, and killed that one too.  The battle came to a standstill, the Dragon rallying to bring the likely outcome to a stalemate.  Genshin was by now badly hurt, and Tatsumaki came up, as Miyoshi also arrived at the same point of the Battle.  Miyoshi and Tatsumaki fought, Tatsumaki was disarmed while Genshin watched, but he soon retrieved his weapon during the skirmish, and Miyoshi was killed by his hand. Tatsumaki bowed to Genshin, who was on the ground and moved back into the heat of battle, but it was not long before the Dragon banners called a tactical retreat to the city.

 

When Tsudoken was done, he ordered a persuit then he snapped back into crazy mode, immediately drew his katana, looked at the barley field they were marching past to chase the Dragon and walked towards it. Then he started harvesting the barley with his katana. His attendants looked rightly horrified and tried to drag him away.  He fought them, though they managed to drag him away as he dropped his katana.  The attendants lookd very concerned, and one of them picked up and carried his katana after him.  Genshin witnessed all of this.  He picked up the war fan after a moments contemplation.  Someone had to take charge after all…

 

Genshin took off his armour and spoke to the Lion army. “Akodo has spoken to me, made me aware of how far the corruption has spread. The reason Dragon were sent against us, is that the governor sent them against the city.  As the governor not the true governor and only in his position because they helped to put him there,” He made a motion with fan and katana. “It’s our job to clear the city, of the taint, and place Tsudoken on the Governors throne. Then his mind will be cleared! “

Of course the Lion roused at his words.

 

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iemara

 

…I was just talking with Yozo-sama when we heard the reports that the Dragon were retreating from the field of battle defeated by the Lion. A pity that they are winning, but they are a martial clan. It wasn’t long before more reports arrived that the Lion were moving through the city murdering samurai from ALL clans over theological disputes. That was when Shibatsu-sama and Renyu took notice of the reports and started to organise a counter offensive against them, but the Lion were very fast in what they were doing, moving through the city with inexorable speed, and the resistance to what the Lion were doing came too late for many. I heard that Genshin-san was in charge, though I didn’t credit it until he showed up at court.

 

He marched into the court at the head of a group of Akodo city guard. He looked very much the worse for wear, no doubt from the battle he had just fought. He was not wearing his armour either which I thought verystrange and he had a wild look in his eye. The whole court looked horrified at his appearance, which for Ivory (or any) court was worse than disgraceful. Renyu-sama asked what the meaning of all the slaughter of people in the streets was about, and Shibatsu-sama seconded the request. To give him his due, despite his wild appearance, he acted properly, making deep obeisance to Shibatsu-sama before responding in impassioned tones.

 

“Akodo spoke to me. In the name of Iweko Miyoshi, murdered on the field of battle by the Dragon, I am honouring her memory and sacrifice.”

 

I glanced at Shibatsu-sama at such a declaration. He looked very shocked and disheartened for a few brief moments before putting on a brave face. I believe that whatever the reports and rumours and despite the offhanded way he spoke about is wife, he did care for her. I felt for him. But Genshin-san hadn’t finished. He continued on in ringing tones about the Naga attack in the village and at length about the need to purge the “Fudo threat”. I do not yet believe we have enough information to condemn them so entirely, however blasphemous they at the surface appear, but I have kept my thoughts on this private. I do not hold the rank, not have the knowledge to judge them or to be making decisions about such things and will follow the lead of my superiors in such matters of theology. I was still quite shocked when he accused Renyu-sama of being behind the Fudo threat. What caused him to think such a thing? Where is his evidence? But then he did just say the spirit of Akodo himself spoke to him…so I suppose that would be reason enough. I managed to keep my face…I think.

 

Renyu-sama responded immediately, telling Genshin-san that he had disgraced himself (which in my opinion he hadarriving in court wearing as little as he did) and that he was to commit seppuku immediately. Shibatsu-sama immediately countermanded him though. He said that the testimony of the Lion was correct, and that there were Fudo relics in the back rooms of the estate and ordered the Seppun guards to take ‘the Kuni’ into custody. Not unsurprisingly Renyu looked very annoyed. As the Lion are the city guardsmen, Genshin ordered his men to assist and the combined forces of guards began to approach Renyu on the dais. Yozo put a hand on my shoulder, a tacit warning to keep out of it all, and I wasn’t going to argue. I’d already decided to remain neutral of course. I wasn’t about to stand with Renyu when Shibatsu-sama had made it clear what side he stood on. I nodded to Yozo-sama and stepped behind him to stand in the position a yojimbo would normally be, so he knew I had gotten his message.

 

As the guards approached him weapons drawn, Renyu started to chant. I think people forget just how powerful Shugenja can be at high ranks. Certainly this showing of power was impressive. The entire estate began to shake as if the earth was shivering and trembling like it does near Wrath of the Kami mountain. The ground started to crumble away, and I could see somethingtrying to rise from the ground. More earth fell away, as if a pit were being opened, and a truly enormous man like creature made entirely of earth broke through, raining wood and rock and chunks of debris everywhere and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. I saw one poor Doji courtier killed – crushed by falling debris. I’m not sure, I am no expert on magic, but I think what Renyu summoned was a massive avatar spirit…an earth guardian…at least that’s what one of the Tamori said it was likely to be when I described it to them later. He said it was probably the physical embodiment of an Earth Kami in the shape of a bear. I’ll ever forget what it looked like. It was truly immense.

 

The Scorpion clan in court melted away as if emerged I noticed, cowards running away from a threat, but I admit, I feared it myself. If it attacked us we would not have survived. Thankfully all it did was hunker over Renyu, shielding him from all. Shibatsu-sama ordered the guards to see to the evacuation of the estate and to back away from the creature. I didn’t see much after that. Yozo-sama had turned his back on the creature, and had wrapped his good arm around me using his body to shield me, and was moving us both out of range of it. I caught brief glimpses of the scene as we moved away though… I could see the Seppun amassed around Shibatsu-sama. Half the lion were running away as far as I could tell; the rest were defending those of high status and helping them escape, much as Yozo-sama was doing with me, though I do not claim to have the status of those the Lion protected. It was very good of him to shield me as he did, but he has always been kind to me, almost like a second father.

 

I could hear Genshin shouting, blaming Renyu for everything. I admit it was quite frightening. But all the creature did was to pick Renyu up in one of its enormous fists, smash its way out of the estate and walk out of the city with him. It took a long time for the chaos it left in its wake to calm down though. The court was ruined. It will take the Asahina a long time to repair I think. I stuck close to Yozo-sama and he returned not long after the creature and Renyu left, so I heard Genshin-san ask Shibatsu-sama what his orders were. Shibatsu-sama praised his great valour in such times as these, and elevated him to the position of Head of the City guard in the Absence of Akodo Tsudoken, so it appears that the rumours that he has gone mad may be true after all, certainly Genshin replied that he would hold it until Tsudoken ad been cured of the Fudo disease…

 

Of course Shibatsu-sama’s first orders were to kill all those who aligned themselves with Fudo in the city. Genshin ordered the guards to do just that. His exact words were “Well you hear the Governor. Guardsmen you have a duty.”…

 

 

 

 

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The Diary of Kitsune Shiro

 

I really dislike travel. Less chance to have a good drink or a puff on a good pipe of opium.  I did as asked however.  I found Yoritomo Hirumi.  Took some doing but I managed it.  Animal spirits are sohelpful in that regard. They are terrible gossips, and there was rumour of a huge storm on an island and they didn’t want to go anywhere near.  Handily it wasn’t too far away.  And the closer I got the more humans began talking about the Thunder and Earth Shugenja that had the power to Rival an Elemental Master congregated there and I knew I was on to a winner.  I thanked my animal spirits for their guidance.  Even better were the rumours of a woman fitting Hirumi-sama’s description with him.  The place is just slightly north of the Isle of Serpents on the east coast.  A couple of days travel.  It as most difficult to find a boat to get to the island.  I had to part with more money than I like to get one and a captain willing to sail me there.  It cut into my sake budget.  And I hate boats…

…The bloody Island is rocky and the water gets rougher the closer you get to ti.  I don’t gat sea sick like some, but I hate this mode of travel.  Give me a good forest or jungle on solid earth any day! There’s a heck of a lot of thunder rolling about and lightning brooding in the distance in the dark roiling clouds. I’m glad its shugenja controlled. It’s well behaved and leaves the Kobune alone…the Kobune almost seems to be being pulled to the island too, so at least we aren’t having to fight the currents or fear being capsized.  Very well behaved rough seas that….

 

…So after three thrilling landing attempts we made it to the tiny spit of land that could be used as a landing on the island on the fourth attempt.  The place is almost unliveable.  Hardly anything green to call plants, through there’s a bit of lichen higher up.  Not surprisingly there were no buildings on the kami forsaken spit of rock, and no path. I had to scramble and climb, and with my hangover – no sake over a hour! That was not fun.  I made it to the top though.  There were 6-8 of them in Lotus position all looking so bloody serene compared to the havoc they were causing.  I’d love to know how they do that.  Me?  I’d hav a screwed up face to get that done.  I stumbled over.  Bloody slippery rocks.  It made me look like I was a drunkard, though I tried for respectful and dignified. Just get me to court and see how well I can do it!/….where was I?

 

Oh yes.  Ther were five of them women, the rest were men, hair all tied back in ponytails in the usual robes with mon on the back.  Hirumi was in the middle with Him.  She’s quite pretty in a tomboyish way. Her hair is fairly short and her robe was more intricate than the plain ones the others wore, with a firey red stitched to the edgings and lining it. All f them had their eyes closed.  I introduced myself and asked for Hirumi.  In the most respectful tones, I told her what the situation was and about the Abomination that had called itself Kiyomi.  Then He said the Naga were moving, and had never been asleep as thought.  I can’t see why that’s a bad thing, but he thought it was…Now I need another drink.  I think I’m going to have to do a lot more travel…where did I leave that bottle.  I’m sure it was in my scroll satchel.

 

Authors note:  This account is highly suspect, Kitsuki Shiro was at this time a confirmed alcoholic.  She was almost certainly drunk.  The old man in the middle of the circle Shiro refers to as Him, has a distinct resemblance to the description of the ancient man with insect like eyes that Agasha Sanra met on her journey to the Second city.  I scryed to confirm Shiro’s words and she was slurring when she said, bluntly “I’m looking for Yoritomo Hirumi”

 

Several of the Moshi kept their eyes closed but still looked disgusted, Hirumi burst out laughing and as she rose from her position, she stretched and a huge wave splashed in the background a and bolt of lightning made a huge roar… She opened her eyes looked Shiro up and down and grinned in a way very reminiscent of Hiromi and said “A Kitsune with a drinking problem, interesting… I am her, lady fox.”

 

Shiro attempted to bow deeply to her (and almost fell over). “I’ve come from the second city Hirumi sama.”  She did slur her way through an explanation of recent events in the city and and what brought her there though.

 

“Ah my brother… What madness took hold of him to make him commit such crimes against the Empire and her colonies I cannot imagine. I see it’s up to me to restore honour to the Mantis. Very well, I will return to the Second City with you lady fox to discuss terms of an alliance with Renyu-sama, however the news of that viper Kiyomi and the damage she had done to our clan concerns me…

 

“She is Kiyomi no more, only a shell filled with a demon this continent would be glad to forget.” The little man in the middle…

 

“I was about to say something similar revered one” Shiro slured. “A creature that can summon such Abominations should be destroyed.”

 

Hirumi noded and sighed “Well, best get going there’s a lot of work ahead.”

 

At this point the old man got up and opened his big buggy eyes, they were glazed over slightly and he gasped.  Looking very closely at those eyes I saw the image of a thousand humanoid creatures slithering towards the Second City reflected in them. He gasped and declared “The Naga are on the Move!”

 

Shiro blinked at him a bit stupidly. “They’re awake again are they?” She slurred, sounding interested.

 

Hirumi looked quite concerned, “Let’s hope for all our sakes there is a City to return to.” She said.

 

The old man walked up to Shiro and whispered. “They never slept…they simply waited…they are the dark naga…and they have found what they were searching for…”

 

“I take it that’s a bad thing?” Shiro slured completely unaware of the grim looks on everyone elses faces as the other moshi began to rise.

 

Clearly Kitsune Shiro wasn’t the brightest taper in the screed. – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

 

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

… Tatsumaki-san and I both remembered something we had read back in our training days about pearls this huge. It’s a Naga pearl. They are an incredibly important artefact in their culture, used in magical rituals, and other things and as such are one of the most prized things for the Akasha (the Shugenja of the Naga). It’s pretty obvious to both that this means that the creatures we will be facing will be Naga, and that it is the pearl they are after.

 

From the tracks through and surrounding the village, Miyoshi-san had determined that there were between 5 and 8 of the creatures around the village. I thought it might be more like 4-6 but I did not argue with the woman, she’s an Iweko, for all she married into the name, so deserves the respect that goes with it, and it is always better to prepare for a greater number of enemies than expected then be surprised by an overwhelming force – plus she used to be a Matsu scout she probably does know more than me about this sort of thing. Probably.

 

I was quite sharp with the child asking her where she had gotten such a priceless artefact. At first she just stared at the floor and went pink. I could tell she wasn’t trying to be naughty. She was actually being quite stoic about my sharpness with her and I could sense some external pressure she felt to keep silent. She wasn’t telling us because she thought the consequences could be severe, and was loyal to whatever this external pressure was. At first, all I got out of her was that she couldn’t tell me or all the samurai in the Second City would die….which to a peasant child would indeed be a severe consequence, since we are their protectors. But after talking quietly with her for some time, and using all my tact and charm (and you know that’s not inconsiderable when I wantto be charming), I got her to tell me the story.

 

About sixty years ago, the village got approached by men that slithered, by which I infer they were Naga. They gave the child’s grandfather an item to protect and hide. The item was the pearl, and it was her grandfather’s great secret, and then her fathers. Young Kimi is the last surviving member of her family, so the duty of protecting and hiding the pearl has fallen to her and at only eight years old too! She told me that the ones who slither told her grandfather that they would return to get the pearl back one day, and that those that came would not be good like they were and that they were to keep the pearl safe and hidden from them. She then said that the slithery man told her grandfather that if the pearl fell into the wrong hands, the people of the colonies were doomed. Obviously the child and her charge need protection. An eight year old, even a brave one is no match against that many creatures. I decided we needed to discuss this with our Lion comrades, Tatsumaki-san stayed with Kimi, and meditated.

 

When I left the hut Miyoshi-sama was busy speaking with the villagers, and organising an ashigaru militia to help defend against the creatures. I decided to not interrupt her; she was telling them things such as “No, no hold it thatway up!” and “You are supposed to put the armour ON.”   I didn’t want to get roped into giving an impromptu lesson in how to handle the weapons they have or helping instruct the villagers on how to put their armour on, so I went to find Genshin-san. He was digging the pit trap they had planned to set up outside the village kimono round his waist and working very hard. He’d been very careful of his armour, having removed it and laid it carefully on his tent next to the pit so it wouldn’t get dirty. He didn’t let up his work while I explained the situation, but stopped at the end. He wanted to see young Kimi so he had a break and I took him to the small house she lived in.

 

She was sharpening a tiny bamboo spear when we arrived. I’ll have to give it to her, she has courage. It reminds me of me at her age a little, though I did not have such a precious charge as she does. Genshin-san gestured for her to go inside and made sure we were alone and none of the villagers could hear us. He was very good with her, asking her name, and how old she was, and asking if she knew what a Yojimbo was. I knew then what he planned to do. Honourable of him to do so, slightly amusing too. She obviously hadn’t heard the word before, looking quite confused, so he explained that it meant bodyguard, and then told her that until she was safe, she could consider him her Yojimbo. I thought it quite funny that a Lion samurai would act as a Yojimbo to a peasant child, but she has been given a sacred charge to defend the pearl, so…perhaps not. Either way, she and the pearl will be returning to the Second City so that the pearl is secure…well… as secure as is possible. I will make sure she is ok there, and not disregarded once the pearl is safe. It was given in trust to her family after all and so it is she that is the true guardian, whoever else gets posted to the position. An artefact of such value and rarity should definitely be under Imperial protection. I will ask Yozo-sama or Joben-sama what they think is the best course of action if I can, Renyu-sama if I must but the fewer that know about the pearl the better I think.

 

I digress. Kimi was quite surprised by Genshin-san’s offer, but he repeated it quite firmly, telling her that he would stay by her side and that she would be as safe as she could be until we have protected the village. Poor Miyoshi seemed to be having a very difficult time of it outside; I overheard her telling the village children off for playing in the spiked pit. Genshin-san returned to help finish it after this, and then put his armour back on, returning to Kimi’s hut, which he hung around with all the appearance of nonchalance to the peasants, but I could see his stance was that of a guard.

 

After this, I went and sought some armour for myself. I am fully aware I am pretty useless in a melee situation, though I am passable at duelling. But that does not prevent me from being on a rooftop out of the way and shooting things with my bow. But even then – just in case – armour is a sensible precaution. It took me agesto find some that fit me. One of the downsides to being so small. I did find some that fit quite well. I think it was meant for an up and coming teenager in training for the ashigaru, but it serves its purpose as well on me. Tatsumaki-san assisted me into it. I haven’t worn ashigaru armour since the Topaz Championship. I simply haven’t needed to wear armour in my position, even when duelling since it has always been to the first blood. He offered me a leg up to get onto the roof of the house I chose to be on, but I didn’t spend my younger years around Shiro Kitsuki idly. It’s not difficult to find hand and foot holds enough to shin up to the roof on these huts. The one I had chosen was well placed strategically. I could see and was in range of where Genshin-san was guarding the entrance to Kimi’s home, Kimi standing next to him with her little spear. It was also within arrow shot of the edge of the village that the Naga were expected to emerge from, and where the ashigaru, Miyoshi-san and Tatsumaki-san were assembling.

 

While we waited, Genshin-san asked me if I had any more useful knowledge on the Naga that I could share weaknesses and strengths etcetera. Sadly not, beyond knowing they are quite good archers, the good Naga that is. I’ve no idea about this dark breed though you may be sure I will be searching the library for more information when we return to the city, especially as Genshin-san mentioned that the creature that killed Ikoma Katsuru matched the description of a dark Naga. The women children and ashigaru that were not of age were safely inside their huts and we were standing waiting for the Naga to show up when things started to go strange. Not quite wrong, but verystrange and I’m not proud of all my actions. I will do better next time. I must live up to my great, great aunt’s example and think what she would do in such a situation beforeacting.

 

What happened was that all of a sudden, and for no reason that I could see, Miyoshi-sama charged the ashigaru and started to ruthlessly hack them apart. Tatsumaki-san seemed to be quite stunned at her actions, and she was going for another peasant when I called out to her asking her what in Jigoku she was doing. I told her to stop what she was doing, and that we were supposed to be protecting them, not attacking them! (Especially as they are the ones who will be supplying the city with Rice. If she kills them all, we are doing the job of the dark Naga for them, or at the very least, weakening the city). I kept yelling at her to stop, but it just seemed to spur her on. Tatsumaki-san tried to disarm her of the axe she was wielding as the peasant militia broke and ran in the face of such carnage, but she ignored his actions as if he wasn’t there. I couldn’t hear either of them; I could see their lips moving. Having spoken to Tatsumaki and Miyoshi-san after the battle, I believe she had taken lave of her senses, however briefly, as she firmly believed that she was attacking Naga, despite the evidence to the contrary – peasant bodies with marks of her axe in them. It took Tatsumaki-san severely injuring her to snap her out of whatever it was, and by then there were at least four dead peasants littering the ground in her wake as she had headed into the village towards the hut I stood on, chasing after those who fled her blood lust. Tatsumaki-san looked very disturbed, and I do not blame him, he wasn’t the only one to be disturbed by these events. To be forced to attack one of the Imperial family…to protect the Samurai of the Second City by protecting the peasants. It is not something one does lightly.

 

It was unfortunate that the Naga chose that moment to arrive. I must see if any of their magics can do that to a person – make them act so thoroughly out of character, for surely Miyoshi-sama would not slaughter those she had only recently been training to protect the village the way she did if some magic hadn’t been cast on her.

 

I saw them first, a pair of Naga sneaking around the village and the hut where the child and Genshin-san were. I shot one of them before calling a warning to Genshin-san to be on guard! A good thing I did too, it gave him the time he needed to go into full defensive stance in the doorway of the house so that the Naga had to ether kill him, or break down the walls of the house to get to the girl and her pearl. I did not approve of Tatsumaki’s action in leaving Iweko Miyoshi undefended when she was so badly wounded, but I believe he thought her to be a dishonourable traitor. It is certainly what he told Genshin-san later when he came to explain his actions. Whatever his thoughts, she was left undefended while he came to my aid when he saw me shooting at something. It was probably for the best he did move away from Miyoshi however, two more Naga came out of the forest as he strode our way, and he was between them and both Miyoshi-san and the hut Genshin-san and I were guarding. One of the creatures looked like it had been caught in the pit trap that Miyoshi and Genshin-san had set up. It was covered in the broken off points of the stakes and bleeding heavily.

 

One of the Naga sneaking around the hut saw Genshin-san and attacked him, injuring him, I shot at it again, and then Genshin attacked it, slashing it deeply across where a human would have a thigh, which on a Naga was scaled muscled flesh. I shot again and killed that one, allowing Genshin-san some time and allowing him to make an accurate attack that killed the other Naga attacking him. Young Kimi was quite brave, staying by Genshin-san’s side with her little spear, though she was clinging to his leg at the end. Bless her. She did very well considering her age.

 

In the mean time, Tatsumaki-san was engaging with the other two Naga. He slashed the injured one, feinted and slashed the other, badly injuring it. It tried to strike him back, but it missed as he darted out of the way. He truly is as skilled as he says in a battle. I knew he was from sparring practice – where he thoroughly defeated me in minutes, and he didn’t hold back either, I still have a bruise from it – but practice is different to a proper battle, and he wasn’t boasting when he described his skills. I shot the more badly injured Naga, killing it, allowing Tatsumaki-san the opportunity to concentrate all his energies on killing the other. Genshin-san had returned to guard position when I looked back. When it was obvious there would be no more Naga attacking tonight, I dropped down from my vantage to appraise Genshin-san on what else had occurred, since he could not see what had happened between Tatsumaki-san, Miyoshi-sama and the peasants due to the positioning of the hut, though he may have heard the screaming of the peasants. He believes Tatsumaki-san should commit seppuku for his actions when we return to the city. I think that should be decided back in the City by our superiors given the unusual circumstances that led to Tatsumaki injuring Miyoshi-sama in the first place.

 

Genshin-san remained guarding Kimi and I went to Miyoshi-sama to see what I could do for her with my poor skills. I was at least able to bind he wounds and stop the bleeding. She has lost an ear to Tatsumaki-san. I don’t think she will forgive that. She was very confused though. She kept saying that she’d been fighting Naga, when she hadn’t fought a single one. Tatsumaki-san says that she kept telling him that she was fighting Naga,and didn’t understand why He was trying to stop her doing so. When I was tending her she kept saying that Tatsumaki would pay, so even if he avoids seppuku by some miracle, he will have a sworn enemy in the Imperial family. Either way, none of us have healing skills, and the peasants certainly won’t assist us now. We need to get her back to the city for a Shugenja to heal her, though it would be foolhardy to make such a journey at night with the possibility of more Naga out there.

 

I brought her to Kimi’s hut, and made her as comfortable as possible so she could get what recuperation she could from a night’s sleep. Genshin-san guarded us all, so Tatsumaki-san and I meditated to conserve our energies without losing our effectiveness if an attack came. Genshin-san does not believe Tatsumaki-san can be trusted with guard duty now. It was a quiet night however, and nothing else of note occurred.

 

In the morning we reassessed the situation. Kimi was coming with us of course, so she and I packed up her few belongings and wrapped them around the pearl in a spare travel bag of Genshin-sans. Genshin-san has already decided she will sit up on his horse in front of him. Tatsumaki-san wasn’t happy with the suggestion of using his mount and mine to make a litter to transport Miyoshi-san in. That’s when he called her a traitorous dishonourable person and said that she was lucky to be alive. This confused Genshin-san slightly, so Tatsumaki related what had happened from his point of view. He’d asked her what she was dong after she attacked them without provocation, told him she was killing Naga, refused to believe him when he told her she was killing peasants, even with the evidence of a dead peasant in front of her, with the wound from her axe in his chest.

 

Genshin told Tatsumaki that he expected that when we got back to the Second City that he would do the honourable thing or will be told to do so by his superiors. Tatsumaki-san just turned and walked away from him. Genshin-san spoke to Miyoshi, and it was agreed that while she would be very uncomfortable, to get her back to a proper healer at the Second City was of high importance. To do so she would have to be seated in front of me on my mount, as neither Miyoshi not Tatsumaki would be happy with them having to share a horse. I think Miyoshi was glad to get away from the village to be honest, though she was slumped over in the saddle in front of me and I feared she might fall several times. She didn’t thankfully. I am not big enough really to hold her on a horse, nor strong enough to more than slow a fall, thankfully, she didn’t pass out on me nor did she fall. We made good time, though it wasn’t a comfortable journey back with the tension in the party. Kimi seemed quite happy up in front of Genshin-san at least. The tension appeared to go right over her head. She has never travelled beyond the village before, so was interested in all the new sights, and asking all sorts of questions that Genshin-san answered good naturedly.

 

It was a very awkward moment when we came in sight of the Second City to find two armies facing one another outside the gates, apparently ready for battle to commence between them within an hour or so. It had to be the Lion facing the Dragon didn’t it? The Lion force was led by Akodo Tsudoken if I read the Mon correctly and the other army was led by Mirumoto Joben. We could see from where we halted to take in the sight – for it wasimpressive – that there were a small contingent of strange looking monks with him. It took us a while looking to realise they were aligned with Fudo. I heard Genshin-san utter a curse under his breath, but he was all politeness to…well to me at least.

 

He turned to me and very courteously and ceremonially said that “We are now in sight of Second City. My duty as a Yojimbo ends here. I relinquish the child to your care, and go to aid may comrades in battle.” All very polite, very eloquent, given that our clans appear to be enemies currently. I hope I was as eloquent in my response, relinquishing Iweko Miyoshi as a former Lion to his care as our clans appeared to be in conflict. I took young Kimi up in front of me in her place.

 

Genshin-san went off with Miyoshi-sama then, to join the Lion arrayed for battle. Tatsumaki-san clearly believed that it was his duty to join his fellow Mirumoto in battle, which left me to take Kimi and the pearl into the safety of the city. It seems I will have to speak with Mirumoto Yozo-sama about her as Joben-sama is occupied. I will at least have the benefit of being able to discover what has happened in our absence at court…

 

Notes from Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

Genshin got one of the Kitsu to heal Miyoshi and asked to speak to Tsudoken so he could give his report.  Tsudoken was in his campaign tent plotting strategies over a map.  There were no advisors, though some stoic guards stood outside.  He was all alone inside, and not looking very well – he was unshaven, had the look of exhaustion, and not having had enough meals. He equally clearly was not all there, muttering over the map on the table. Genshin spokes to him, reporting, on what happened in the village and blamed Fudo for Miyoshi’s going mad. Tsudoken barely recognised him and told to prepare for the battle.

 

Miyoshi went to see him after being healed. She tried to talk strategy, and blamed the Dragon being in league with the Naga for everything. Tsudoken ignored hercompletely, muttering to himself and plotting where to put defences in the city – walls and towers etc.

 

Tatsumaki went to the Dragon lines. There were 30 Fudo supporters from various clans with The army as well as  some shugenja and tattooed monks.  An old toothless man in the robes of a Fudo monk was talking with Joben. Tatsumaki questioned why Joben was talking to such blasphemers.

 

Joben who had been speaking with Togashi Noburu told him “We have a friend and enemy here with the Fudoists and are learning learning how to defeat it from them.”

 

Tatsiumaki gave hisreport, saying Iweko Miyoshi was dioshonourable and saying he had to bring her down.  Joben questioned that he struck one of the Imperials, but the Fudo monk who was listening said he did the right thing, indeed went so far as to say he should have killed her as ‘the seed’ was now in her and that they should have burned the village.  The monk, Miko blamed the group for burying the statue in the village and told Tatsumaki that the ‘Gaze of Fudo’ had been protecting the village and blamed the group for the pearl being endangered.

 

Tatsumaki’s was more worried about the Naga attack. The Fudoist was more worried about Miyoshi going crazy. Miko hoped the ‘Celestial Entity’ didn’t follow the group back to the Second City.  Tatsumaki called him a blasphemer, and respectfully taking his leave of Joben went in search of a healer.

I have been asked to continue my chronicle of the events from the second city in the time after Agasha Sanra’s death using my unique scrying techniques, this time focussing on key figures In the Imperial family and people who became high ranking personages such as Kitsuki Iwemara who rose to prominence during this period, and Shosuro Nirav, who survived it all to become the Daimyo of the Ivory Kingdoms Scorpion. I have therefore added a few anecdotes and events from Iwemara’s life to the prelude of this chronicle.  There are fewer reliable sources in this period such as Agasha Sanra’s Journal, however Kitsuki Iwemara wrote many letters which have been painstakingly compiled and added to my scrying techniques which had to be used more frequently, plus the journals of others and various reports. – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

 

 

From the Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…I’m leaving Twin Forks City today. The Crane seem to be doing well now, and have no more need of my services, though I was happy to help them in their time of need, and they were grateful for it. Fujimura-san orders me to the Second City. He wants to know, and I quote his words “What in Jigoku is going on?” I don’t blame him. The reports from the city I have heard have been quite…interesting. So I am to discover what is going with the city’s leadership, and more importantly discover where the Governess actually is. All of that is of course on top of the usual duties of keeping an eye on the Spider who so recently left the City in great numbers, though some remain…

 

…I have arrived in the City. It took several days hard riding but Minoru was an excellent mount as you said he would be, and handled the distance well. He is comfortably stabled and a groom from the stables will be sent to return him to you as you requested, as soon as he has been properly rested.

 

I was greeted very warmly and welcomed to the city by Mirumoto Joben-sama. He was very friendly and spoke of my reputation as a great duellist. I hope you haven’t been overstating my skill at the duel. I still have much to learn to be a greatduellist, but I can hold my own. Apparently Togashi Noburo-sama wants to step down as the new Regent Kuni Renyu’s Dragon representative at court. He needs to be getting on with his Daimyo responsibilities apparently, so Joben-sama has recommended me…mostly because of my duelling reputation. I was fully aware of the honour of such a position being awarded to me. To be the one to take on the duties of Togashi Satsu-sama’s son! I can’t believe I’ve been given such an amazing responsibility! It is such a great honour. Like his father, he is a great man. I must do all I can to prove myself worthy of the trust of the Masters. I accepted the appointment most respectfully. I will make every effort to not fail them, or the clan, or the Empress. I will do my utmost to do my duty to the clan and my family as Kitsuki Iweko would have done. I told Joben-sama that he would not regret the choice he had made, but he said he has every confidence in my skills….

 

…I have never been in the Dragon Embassy before. Unlike the other Embassies it is not located in Imperial district, but the Temple district. I do not know why this is. Possibly because the clan has a strong tradition of theologians, and those who seek enlightenment; possibly because we were the first to build on the foundations of the old city when the districts had not yet been established. I know that there is talk that it was sited there due to the proximity to the peasant district where the Spider live so we can watch our charges. Nothing is ever so truly simple to be placed as this reason or that. It’s probably sited here for all of those reasons. Whatever the reason, it feels right that it should be where it is. It is an elegant building, strongly scented with incense, images of Dragons and other interesting creatures on the walls. As suits the clan, it is very minimalistic in style, very elegant. Joben-sama’s rooms in particular show great beauty in its bare simplicity….

 

…Joben-sama introduced me to one of the Ivory Magistrates today. I will be working closely with Tamori Tatsumaki-san as Dragon representative at court. I had heard of him before we met though. He is well known among those in the Dragon Barracks for his kenjutsu prowess and regularly trains new recruits, though from what I have heard, his training is less than gentle when they spar with him! If they leave him an opening he takes it. A good way to teach; much the way my master taught me. Certainly it forced me to not make the same mistake more than twice.

 

He is an interesting person. He’s fairly average of height, slightly broad across the shoulders. He’s wiry as opposed to muscular, and wears light armour but no sleeves below the plates so his Isezumi Tattoo can show. It stretches up the entirety of his left arm in an increasingly complex tattoo of reeds… or perhaps basket weave. It is very impressive, the only impressive thing about him in fact…all of his clothes, his armour, his weapons… all look fairly basic and quite old. He must be an acetic. He gave me a hard stare as I entered, but it softened quickly into a small smile. I don’t know why I have that effect on people. It’s useful for making friends though. Of course he noticed my daisho immediately. I know it is unusual for one of my family to carry a katana and mine is sized perfectly to fit me, so it looks like a child’s toy compared to his, but I’ve always used that to my advantage in duels. They underestimate me for my size, and that is their downfall.

 

He seemed to be quite uncomfortable here in the temple district, especially as he had to spend so much time around shugenja. I found most unusual and asked him about it. He obviously has connections to shugenja through his family, and with the Togashi with that tattoo, yet he has the bearing of the Mirumoto. I think I amused Joben-sama with my assessment of him. He started to grin. Tatsumaki-san was less pleased. He does not like to speak of his family connections, aligning himself fully with the Mirumoto dojo. He offered to teach me some of his techniques some time. He’s seen me practicing and thinks I can handle myself quite well. I was surprised when Joben-sama said my stance was impressive. But then he knows Mirumoto Yozo-sama, who taught me all I know.

 

He was very good to me when I was young, I didn’t realise how much so, the way he kept me occupied when my studies were ended in the dojo. I was still a child, and he a fully trained bushi when I watched him and the others sparring. I think it amused him at first to show me the moves. It kept me from getting bored and into trouble with my parents again though, and I did enjoy learning Iaijutsu from him, so I kept going back to the sparring grounds when I could. It was so much more interesting than book learning and Kitsuki Iweko was able to duel before she became the Empress. Tatsumaki-san agreed that he was a fine tutor. It is a great loss to us all that he can duel no longer…

 

…Joben-sama has spoken to Kuni Renyu, the current regent of the City. Tatsumaki-san and I are to meet two Lion bushi in Ivory Court to investigate the monster sightings that have been reported outside the city in the villages. We are to report to him, and also to Renyu-sama.

Our Lion comrades are Akodo Genshin and Iweko Miyoshi, the wife of Iweko Shibatsu. I do not envy her position as his wife. Reports suggest he can be…difficult.

 

Genshin-san is an honourable person, worrying that Fudoism will get out of control if he is not in the city, but that will be kept in hand if what I’ve heard is true. The Spider are rooting it out in the peasant district. I’m sure that will be continued in the city…though they are being very…thorough…in their job. I could tell he is one who would be quick to anger over the cavalier attitude some take for their honour. He is proud to be here, looking forward to fighting monsters. He had a good opinion of me, thinking I had good bearing and equipment and that my stance suggested that I could take care of myself. He’d still try to protect me if he thought I should need it though. Very honourable Lion. He was much more concerned about the state of Tatsumaki-san’s equipment, and the fact he didn’t treat it better. There was some discussion over showing him a place that would do so for him when we returned. I think he thought the blade would be as unkempt looking as the armour and scabbard, but I reassured him that the equipment may be old, but it was well cared for, especially the katana. I suggested to Genshin-san that Fudo was a greater worry then Tatsumaki-san’s equipment

 

Iweko Miyoshi liked me too. Thought my daisho set was interesting, and that Tatsumaki-san needed to clean his blade or it would stick in its scabbard and that it may result in his death. Tatsumaki kept his composure, when they argued that he should look after his equipment better because it would be a disgrace to be seen in court. He retorted that we were going to investigate monsters, and that they would hardly care about what he was wearing. I was quite amused.

 

We acquired horses and assembled our travelling packs before leaving. Mine is called Xindi. He’s not quite as comfortable a ride as Minoru was, but adequate. We rode for several hours before coming across a group of peasants gathering around a strange creature. They were offering it sake to dink. I looked at it with First Look. It is not an antagonistic being, it was most peculiar. The peasants were subservient to it, and weren’t working. That seemed to greatly upset the Lion in the party. Genshin-san asked my opinion. I suggested that we investigate it on our return to the city, we had our duty after all, and I saw no danger in the creature. I did allow that it was worth pausing to speak with the peasants about their work, or rather their lack of it though.

 

We took a short break and Genshin san spoke to the peasants about going back to work. They say the creature is called Shoju and apparently is some kind of a prophet, aided by drinking sake, which he does quite gluttinously before whispering into the a peasants ear some answer to a question they had asked. I’m not sure where in the celestial order the creature stands, but it doesn’t seem right that it should milk the peasants for all of their sake. The woman he spoke to just before we arrived was upset by his reply and walked away crying. I spoke with her quietly and gave her some advice. It was apparently a matter of the heart she had consulted the Shoju creature about, and gotten a negative answer. I bought a bottle of Sake from her, paying her a zeni or two. Tatsumaki gave a peasant a koku for a bottle of sake….a bit too much to give a peasant really, though the peasant was morethan happy to take it obviously. He asked it a question, when he would receive a letter from his father, but the answer was negative, he wasn’t going to. I asked it about its ability. It can see into the future of an individual. I asked what was in my future. It said it saw Glowing orbs, Arrows flying, Buildings burning, monsters in the dark and peasants dying. An interesting answer to say the least. I will see if it plays out true before I believe it can truly see the future. I thanked it politely regardless, just in case it truly does have the power to see the future. It found what it had seen quite distressing, or so it said, and rolled over onto its side and started sleeping balancing a sake jar on its belly. Since the creature was asleep, we sent the peasants back to their work and continued our journey…

 

…We arrived at the village that had reported the disturbance. It is the property of the governor, though technically it’s the regent’s at the moment and they grow rice to supply the city, so I can see the importance of resolving the situation quickly. It’s a very interesting setting, the peasants that work the land are a mix of Rokugani and gaijin natives. They were working the fields when we arrived, and looked surprised to see us. We were warmly welcomed by the village elder. He spoke with an interesting combination of Rokugani and Ivory Kingdoms. Elder Tomasu was worried, very worried, though he hides it well from his people.

 

We told him we had been sent to investigate the sightings and protect the village as was our duty He told us what they knew as we walked through the village. They hide in their huts at night and the creatures can be heard around village. They make truly horrible noises in the middle of the night and it’s been happening on and off for the past 3-4 weeks every few days. The samurai they reported the sightings to did not believe them at first. An oversight on their part, but given recent event’s not overly surprising.

 

 

We checked the perimeter of the village, and found dents in the ground, quite strange, it looked like a heavy creature and the tracks were very long. They are everywhere over the village, it’s not natural. While we were investigating the track we noticed at the four corners of the village there was food in pots held in place with stick and rope. We asked them about it. They were offerings to the kami to ensure a good rice harvest. A sensible precaution on their part. Tatsumaki-san paid a visit to the village shrine. He returned shocked and upset, and told us that there was something blasphemous in the shrine. I went with him to see. There were two statues in there. One was, naturally a statue of Inari, fortune of rice and good harvests, a perfectly legitimate and reasonable fortune to be praying to in this village. The other…the other was of a fat man holding a sword with flames rising behind him. On his protruding belly were five rings, twisted travesties of the true rings of Rokugan. Tatsumaki-san was correct, they are utterly blasphemous! I recognised the symbol they framed as being worn by many at court, but it was Genshin-san who identified it. It appears Genshin-san has every reason to worry about this cult of Fudo.

 

He asked if we were around at the time of the peasant uprising. Sadly neither I nor Tatsumaki were. We had heard of the scandal with the Mantis and Togashi Tamoran, but not the fallout, well I didn’t realise the peasant revolt I’d heard about was fallout from that, but given how much Tamoran-san lived to help those lower in the celestial order, it wasn’t surprising the peasants were upset by the manner of his death. I think it fitting that a statue of him was made, even if it only served to pacify the peasantry, they still have a focus to remind them that at least one of us cared about them, and that we do our duty by them as they should by us whatever is happening elsewhere. I hadn’t heard that a Fudoist monk had been involved in inciting the uprising. It explains why Genshin-san was so reluctant to leave the city even though this was his duty. He explained that the monk had worn a tattoo with the twisted fire symbol. It looked quite sinister…and that it had spat a form of corrupted green flame at Genshin-san when he had tried to arrest him. We all agreed with Tatsumaki’s initial assessment of the statue. Blasphemous. It had to be removed, but that required tact so that the villagers did not become upset. The last thing we need at the moment is another peasant revolt!

 

Iweko Miyosi was far more interested in wanting night to fall so that she could kill lots of the creatures and die in glorious battle. She got bored of the discussion of the Fudo statue I think, and went scouting while we spoke with the village elder about it. It appears a Fudo monk by the name of Miko arrived in the village not too long after a bad harvest and that he said if they worshipped the statue of Fudo that they would get a good harvest. The monk also apparently donated money to the villagers to buy more buildings that the governor had denied them, yet they had obviously needed. Between us Genshin-san, myself and Tatsumaki-san explained the dangers of Fudo-ism and how those found to be following it were being killed in the city for the damage they are doing. Genshn san asked if the monk had suggested the pots of food, but they have been doing it a long time. Most interestingly, it came out that the monster sightings had begun to occur right at the same time the Fudo monk turned up.

 

It could just be a lucky coincidence, but most likely not. We used the information to our advantage telling them that like those in the city, they had been played by the Fudo monk into worshipping a false religion and that it was that which had brought the creatures upon them. We did not intend to punish them for this, we simply wanted to guide them back onto the true path, and that we would cleanse the village of the creatures and clean the temple of the false idol.

 

The peasants believed this, and the village elder looked very annoyed. He immediately ordered that the Fudo statue be ripped out of the temple and bury it somewhere. They were in the process of doing this when Miyoshi-sama returned from her scouting. She reported that she has found a festering smelling hole in the ground in swampy ground in the jungle outside the village. She believes that this is where the nest of the creatures will be. We discussed a course of action, though all were agreed that the peasants needed our protection.

Miyoshi-san noticed a small child. She looked quite worried, and when she was pointed out, she raced away. Tatsumaki-san and I chased her while Mioshi-san and Genshin-san set up a pit to deter the creatures from entering the village, as it was beginning to get quite late. She ran to one of the village huts and told us to “Go away, it’s mine!” That was more than enough for me. I had to know what she was hiding, especially when she called ‘it’ treasure. It could be a child’s treasure of no value true, but I had to investigate it. The Kitsuki in me required that.

 

Tatsumaki asked if the child was being trouble as she wasn’t going to let me in, I said yes. He tried to kick the door down, but he was off balance and failed. I couldn’t help but giggle with the child over that. A powerful bushi unable to kick a door down! I think he loosened the lock with his kick though, so that when I tried it swung open. The child was in the room, looking around, she kept glancing towards one part of the hut almost obsessively. I asked to see her treasure again, she still said no and tried to escape, but Tatsumaki grabbed her, and held her as she tried to wriggle free. She was a brave one, shouting at him to let her go, not unlike I did to the Seppun guard at Shiro Kitsuki all those years ago, but she answered my questions with his persuasion.

 

Her treasure was hidden under a loose floorboard. It wasn’t too difficult to remove. Inside I could see a something glowing in the darkness. It was spherical, white and when I pulled it out I realised what it was…I’ve neverseen such a truly hugepearl before…

Diary of Kitsune Shiro

 

It was a busy night last night, I didn’t get to drink halfenough sake, or take anyopium. I was too busy being de-facto head of the clan in the city. It’s a lot of work, with nowhere near enough perks, though the Hida guard I took to bed was rathergood! I was glad of the Guards Hida Renyu-sama assigned for my safety while I spoke with those Mantis remaining in the city. They at least kept their heads unlike the fool Crane, and almost all swore allegiance to the city. I think they like their freedom and their heads better than Hiromi anyway, arrogant bastard! Refused my bed!

 

Renyu-sama has summoned a council to decide how to deal with the city tomorrow, all clans must send a member and the Ivory Magistrates are to attend as well. I’d much rather be in a sake house, but need’s must I guess, and someonehas to represent the clan, I may as well since Renyu-sama at least seems to respect the fact I took down one of those abominations on my own…well mostly on my own.

 

I stood beside him in court in the morning, and it was good, but then I found an opium den still open before court started, so I was nice and chilled out when I was there. I got to stand behind Renyu-sama on the dais. Lots of petty colours in the court…handsome bushi too. A Lion especially…Akodo Genshin…he asked to stand with the new regent as bodyguard, he was good looking. I wonder if I can get him into bed? I may try later…

 

Renyu started talking to the court, I didn’t pay any great attention, there were pretty birds flying about above his head which were far more interesting. I’m sure he said something about the Mantis swearing allegiance to the city though, so I might be able to walk around without guards again…though given how gorgeous mine are…and how good in bed! That might not be such a good thing.

 

There was a lot of talk in the meeting. I wish I’d had sake to drink. They went on andonabout the peasants, and how revolting they are, as if we didn’t all know that, and about a Dragon monk that died…I think he might have been the one the abomination killed in the competition. They called it a Mantis! The bloody Cheek! I set them right on that point immediately. Apparently the city only has 8 months worth of food too. As long as the sake and opium don’t run short, I couldn’t care less.

 

Renyu-sama, defendeing of the Mantis in the city said, quite sensibly that killing us all wouldn’t exactly be all that helpful. Grateful for that. The Crane suggested a statue for something and that WE should pay for it….Oh, wait, apparently the Dragon monk was much loved by the peasants, they aren’t revolting…well they are, but they are also revolting as in not working. Drat. I’m not sure I have the authority to agree to that, but I had to. I don’t even know where I can get the sort of money something like that will cost! It’s not coming out of my Opium money that’s for sure!

 

There was some talk of monsters nearby, and setting up an Ivory Legion. Should be interesting if it works. One of the Ivory magistrates- a Scorpion – I’d love to get his mask off I bet he’s very good looking underneath, if not I’d bet he’s good in bed. Scorpion are well known for it…and I haven’t tried a scorpion yet -suggested attacking Kalani’s landing since that’s where Hiromi fled with hisfollowers.

 

Renyu-sama at least is well informed. Hiromi-sama isn’tthe true clan head of the Mantis, he rules in the stead of Hirumi-sama his twin sister, so she could follow the path of the Moshi shugenja. Apparently Hiromi’s latest escapades have pushed even her too far. I have offered to seek her out on behalf of those in the city and discuss what is to be done and to see how she stands. The Moshi have left the Clan officially, and when asked, I thought it would be a good idea (if it works out, I may be able to afford more opium and sake which would be nice.)

 

There was more talk of attack, of course the Crane offered their ships, then the Scorpion got told off, and there was an argument between them, the other Ivory magistrate, a Phoenix lady with isezumi tattoos – she must be an Agasha for such – and a scar across her face and the Unicorn. Something about Ide Shen being dead. A pity. He was pretty good when I slept with him. He kept trying to give me some weird gift in a box, but I’m no geisha. Enjoy the moment and then move on, that’s me!

 

The Crab are making Ivory Armour for the new Ivory champion, who was the one who is still alive and got the farthest.  Now I desperatelyneed some sake!

 

 

The Last Senpet

 

My land and my people are gone.

 

The great pyramids still stand but the Yodatai scurry all over then like scarabs. What remains of the Senpet now toil under the chains of the Yodatai Centurions.

 

My family had joined the Moto at the end of the last war so we were spared the same fate as our people. As I now sit atop my horse looking down at their plight I am ashamed of my freedom. There is some commotion below a pair of chariots have broken away and are heading towards me, they are using our chariots there is nothing sacred anymore. My people have 1000 gods and I call down all of them to curse the Yodatai. I turn my horse and ride away, the chariots chase me for a while but my horse is not dragging a bronze wagon so I eventually outpace them.

 

When I return to Medinaat al-Salaam I am equally disappointed by the other Senpet who remain free. They spend their time dreaming of glory in battle against the Yodatai and then waste their lives on pointless attacks on Yodatai merchants and diplomats. I must find allies to take back Senpet. And I know where to find them.

 

I am Senpet by heritage but Moto by birth. The Unicorn know about the threat of the Yodatai it is time to see if Rokugan is ready to face them in battle.

 

 

Research notes- Isawa Korimi

 

I unearthed, after considerable searching the scrappy and fragmented parchment bearing the above inscription, in a strange almost flowing script that was Rokugani in language, but gaijin in structure because of one of my recent viewings in the scrying bowl. Nirav had been challenged to a duel over Ide Shen’s death, and had accepted it.  Records showed he had gone to the duelling grounds on the appointed day at the appointed time – no coward was this Sosuro Nirav and the Senpet Moto who had been his opponent had given him further insult by using not a katana as was expected but a Senpet scimitar.  Nirav threw some insult at the Unicorn for that.  The Senpet insulted Nirav’s mother, and in retaliation, Nirav rather foolishly lowered himself to the level of the Unicorn and gave his Bayushi blade to Bayushi Kahoku’s keeping and took up a no-dachi.  As a result it wasn’t much of a duel, and Nirav retained the upper hand throughout, coolly keeping his temper.  He had quickly killed the Moto in the following skirmish and I was interested to discover who the Unicorn would have so foolishly wasted to such a pointless fight.

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 23: Peasants, Fudo, Court and the Estate.

 

This morning I accompanied the Shiba and Scorpion guards to escort the Asahina artisans present the statue of Togashi Tamoran to the peasantry. They have made the most amazing statue, and overnight too. No wonder they look so exhausted. I understand it resembles Tamoran-san exactly too. We passed Akodo Genshin as we went through to the peasant district. He and the other Akodo Guards are reinforcing the walls in case trouble does arise. I suggested that a largenumber of samurai might unsettle the peasantry more than a smaller party guarding the artisans, but that if things turned ugly, assistance would be welcome. I suggested that they come to our aid, if lightning were to be called from the sky. Genshin-san accepted this as a suitable compromise, and they continued to reinforce and guard the walls as we went in.

 

The peasantry were all gathered together being addressed by a man in monks robes, preaching against the clans and samurai in general and the fool peasantry were listening to him. That had to be stopped immediately, and I could see that swords were not the way. They needed to be won with words. I could see the was a Fudo-ist from having met that one who was supposed to act as a ‘spiritual advisor’ as Acai-san did, they will have to be dealt with, and soon I think. I will have to raise it with Kaitoko-san and Chukage-sama to see if it is worth raising at court to the new Regent.

 

As the other samurai seemed inclined to take the more forceful option, I took it upon myself to address the peasantry, presenting the wonderful work of the Asahina artisans, and trying to sway their opinions back towards us. The Blessings of Benten came to my aid most usefully, and the aid of a few words from one of the other samurai in my party we managed to sway most the peasantry back to us. Of course the Fudoist had to be arrested, and there were a few peasants who did not accept our words. We fought them.

 

The bushi that accompanied us were quite skilled, and I only needed to cast the Fury of Osano-wo once before the Fudo monk was captured. He used some form of corrupted Isezumi tattoo of a twisted ring of earth to spit a tainted fire at Akodo Genshin before it was managed however. I will have to mention that to Agasha Tajiri-san, corrupted tattoos must not be permitted to propagate unchecked.

 

Afterwards the peasants began to return to their duties, some even beginning to worship at the statue of the Togashi Monk, as was right and proper. It is a good sign that this Fudo’s preaching has not swayed them far from the true path. Genshin-san requested that I perform a funeral ceremony for the dead samurai, which I was perfectly willing to do, though I didn’t get too close, or, worse, look too closely at the bodies. The Fudo monk was dragged back to court after that, and we met a group of Spider monks on our way. They were most concerned about the peasants being unharmed as protecting them was part of their duties, and seemed disgusted that several had been and that they had not been there to protect them. They apologised for having been busy. They took our report of the Fudo monk most seriously, and promised to search out any others that hide among the peasantry. I have no doubt they will be most thorough in their duties after their recent failing. We returned to court after that, to shocked gasps and whispers. Renyu-sama asked for the meaning of what we had done. Genshin-san began his report, but was interrupted by a Unicorn. Genshin-san called for a duel to resolve the matter after he had finished his report. The Unicorn was insulting so the duel took place there and then. Genshin was the superior, and gave the downed Unicorn the mercy of committing Seppuku once his wounds had sufficiently healed, completed his report, and Renyu-sama had the prisoner executed then and there. I did notice that the Unicorn who supported the Fudo-ist monk was dragged away by Shiba Tsariko, among others from different clans. Kaitoko-san will not be pleased to hear of that.

 

I returned to the estate after that, to deal with a few matters I did not get around to yesterday, and spent the afternoon crafting a netsuke of a Phoenix and the void to give to mother for her birthday. It can dry overnight and be fired tomorrow if the Kami are willing. Once I had finished the hard part of crafting and tinting the piece I returned to the Scorpion Embassy to stay with Togo tonight. He was still out doing Scorpion business, but I had a nice chat with Saru-san. I do not need to eat, but Togo had had delicious meal prepared so I ate a few bites. I must go, he’s…well. He requires my attention, and far be it for me to ignore my husband when he’s in this mood!

 

 

The Secret Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

I helped put down a peasant revolt this morning, as I describe in my main journal and kept myself occupied today. Saru-sama came to me when I returned to the Scorpion Embassy since Togo was not yet returned and gave me the poison, it is a slow acting one, but may not kill him entirely if he is strong, and I may need to take other measures. I will not wait to do the deed, the sooner it is done the better for the Kolat. It is for the greater good after all.

 

*****

 

I slipped the poison into the tea he took with our final cup of the evening. He was most amorous and I could not find the hardness of heart to refuse him one last night of joy and it was truly amazing. Now he sleeps, a smile on his face, relaxed and comfortable. It will take four hours to work Saru-sama said. I will have to remain awake and wait for it to act.

 

*****

 

It has worked. I felt it as I lay in his arms. His chest convulsed in his sleep, and his breathing got heavier. He started to gasp for air, but he did not die. I must finish it as Saru-sama said I must. But how can I kill someone so helpless like he is? He sleeps! And yet…it is for the good of the Kolat he must die. How can I finish it without leaving a trace that could lead back to me? I cannot cut him, that would leave a trace, and I am not very strong, so to try and smother him even in this state may wake him and allow him to fight back, and I’m not sure I would be strong enough against him. Perhaps my staff? If I do it right I will be able to kill him and leave no mark. Yes, the staff is the best solution.

 

It is done. He is dead. Togo. My Husband. Dead. I killed him. It was for the good of the Kolat, so why am I crying? I did not love him, he treated too poorly for that. So why do I feel so bad? Oh what have I done? What has happened to me? I am Phoenix. We are a peaceful people.

 

As I took up the staff the void symbol glowed red like fire. I had forgotten it’s power. As I struck him it unleashed the power of void on him, and …and…oh..I can’t. Why did I see it only as a weapon? Why did I not remember it’s power? It killed him. Instantly I hope so he did not feel any pain. It…It crumpled his chest…I…I can’t believe I did that to him, and worse…I could hear mother sobbing. I didn’t know what to do, and then Kazuma-san entered the room. I was lucky he was Kolat. He…he said he had orders to deal with…with Togo. He said I should leave, that I had done well? Well? When I killed my husband? I know It was for the good of the Kolat, but did it have to be me? I did what I could to help him, writing a note, supposedly to Togo, saying I had a few things to do back at the estate early in the morning, hoped he didn’t mind me loving and leaving him and that I would him at court tomorrow

 

Now I must return to the Estate of the Elemental Masters and pretend nothing has happened. How can I do that when Togo is dead? I must…Somehow. I must not fail the Kolat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was drawn once more to my scrying bowl.  I shouldn’t have.  Master Todaro said I should go a few days in the real world, and I said I would but I needed to find out what happened to Sanra.  Her journal is almost at an end.  And that last entry in the secret journal…She was in emotional turmoil still fighting her subjection to the Kolat loyalties even if not aware of it conciously, and once Togo was dead only then did she discover she actually did care for him, for all her professed hatred.   There is so little left about Sanra’s last days to learn, I have come to the night her journal ends and she disappears under such mysterious circumstances, I wanted to know how, though I suspected I now know why.

 

Sanra made her way back to the Estate of the Elemental Masters through the city alone and on foot, slightly stunned at what had happened. It was very late into the night if not very early into the morning and the events of the day and her roiling emotions were starting to take their toll. She stumbled as she made her entrance to the estate past the guards who greeted her quite stoically and formally with no hint of their usual fondness.  She didn’t notice the change. She saw Kobiyashi not long after she entered.  He looked rather ill as he guided her into the receiving rooms that she had to pass through to get to her personal rooms. She found that the estate had visitors and was suddenly wary despite her exhaustion. There were three people in the room, Inquisitors of the Asako family all, Asako Kaitoko among them looking quite somber.

“Oh my dear Sanra, you showed such promise. You could have been a worthy Elemental Master…But that’s all for nought now the Kolat have hooked you into their fold. I’m sorry but under the command of your wise mother you are to be arrested on behalf of the inquisitors…” Kaitoko told her almost gently.

Kobiyashi looked outraged on Sanra’s behalf.  Sanra was still numb, and just stood there as Kaitoko continued trying to regain her wits, to plan how to escape.

“Shiba Kobiashi despite your recent… failings…the members of the Shiba family are willing to forgive you… If you comply with our commands and help us with this unfortunate state of affairs.”

Kobiyashi looked into Sanras eyes and noded. “It’s been an honour to serve you Sanra-sama, we have had some great adventures…. A Pity… No more adventures…” He then drew his katana and stood by her side. “You forgave my failings once, may you forgive them again. They will not lay a hand on you while I still breathe.” A tear ran down his cheek as he said it and Sanra noticed.  He had been a very good friend to her, and did not deserve this, but he had made his choice for good or for evil, and she had to escape this place. She feared what the Asako would do to her if they took her into custody, and her orders from the Kolat on this were clear too.  She could not be taken alive.

She touched Kobiyashi’s arm “Thank you my friend. Do what you can.” Then she turned and fled outside preparing a spell as she ran.   She darted out of the building, but was blocked by a line of seven Shiba guards. Behind her she could hear the sound of a scuffle, smashing and then Kobiyashi screaming.  Her fear increased tenfold, and in her terror she cast her spell at the guards, calling lightning down on them.  The lightning forked from the skies striking one of the Shiba guard in the centre of the line forcing him to one knee.  He looked up at her tears in his eyes.  The others began to advance on her.  She backed away, but they grabbed her arms and held her.  She began to cry in her terror begging them to let her go, fighting like a demon, but while they didn’t look happy in the slightest to be doing what they were doing, they were too strong for her and held her in a vice like grip.  She continued to struggle, even though she knew it was useless, begging them to let her go, tears running down her face unnoticed in her terror and desperation.

 

She heard footfalls behind her and two inquisitors caught up and joined the Shiba in holding the terrified Sanra who was going crazy in her terror and desperation to escape.  One of the Asako had a nasty Katana gash across her face that was bleeding freely.  Sanra, in her desperation called the lightning down again.  The clouds above had been getting thicker and more angry looking ever since she had entered the estate.  It was clear a storm was brewing, it cut out the dim light cast by the moon and stars, cloud billowing out, the estate at its centre.  A bolt sliced down through the sky and struck the bleeding inquisitor. She fell to the ground dead, her skin smoking where the bolt had struck.  The Shiba grimly held her tighter as Sanra struggled even more fiercely, her voice reaching its highest pitch of terror in her pleas to be released.

 

As she slumped in utter exhaustion, she felt a breath on her neck as Kaitoko walked behind her and whispered in her ear. “Such a shame, you are obviously too far gone to save now Sanra san… I must say in normal circumstances this would seem like a grizzly task, but I happen to take my position very seriously, and I rather …enjoy my job… farewell. May the fortunes shower you with mercy… Personally, I hope they don’t.”The last was hissed, and she went to face Sanra from the front, a wolfish grin on her face as she opened herself to the void, and cast the spell of unmaking on Sanra.

 

Sanra could feel it almost immediately, making her feel weak, and sick and dizzy all at once as her very being was slowly ripping away from the mortal realm.   The pain was excruciating and she could feel herself dying. Kaitoko in front of her seemed to be enjoying every second of it, the Shiba looking like they wanted to be violently ill.  Sanra’s eyes got wider and wider, but she refused to cry out from the agony of it, her eyes filled with passionate hatred of the woman facing her, who had not even tried to offer mercy and bewilderment at how it had come to this.  At the end though she did cry out a pitiful terrified plea of a lost and frightened child “Mother!” and then there was nothing left of Sanra but a black staff that rested at Kaitoko’s feet, and a small book.

 

She looked quite amused as she saw the book and picked it up before walking back inside the Elemental Masters estate leaving the staff and the body of her colleague outside for the Shiba to deal with.  The boiling clouds above finally burst, and it began raining heavily.

 

I came up from the vision in the bowl feeling very subdued.  Poor Sanra. If she had had any other inquisitor come for her, she would have been handled more tactfully, and may possibly have been retrievable with a lot of work on the part of the Isawa, but she had had Kaitoko to deal with, one of the most driven of the Asako of that time, who had no mercy in her, who had eventually gone mad and herself and had had to be put down in the same manner as Sanra by Isawa Kimi.  I wonder if Kimi chose that method because of what she had done to the daughter she had obviously loved, or if it had simply been the way she best knew how to kill.  I’ll never know.  I put the scrying bowl away.  I know the full story of the sad fate of Agasha Sanra now, how she had lived and been well liked, how she had fallen into darkness through no fault of her own, and what that darkness had led her to do.  Finally, I have seen her end at the hands of one who had had the beginnings of madness within her even then.  It is a tale worth telling properly, and so I have complied it into this chronicle along with journal entries and letters that support her story.  Sanra was painted out of history by those wanting to hush up her actions, but perhaps her story should now be told, as a cautionary tale if nothing else of the dangers of the Kolat.

 

Note by Isawa Korimi

 

It has taken me a full year to complete the writing of this chronicle, but now it is complete.  I shared it with Masters Todaro and Izaran.  They are impressed by it I think, because it is measured, and well sprinkled with factual accounts by others who knew Agasha Sanra, and lived through those turbulent times.  They were so impressed that they shared it with the Imperial Archivist Miya Ishwara, who has offered me a position in the imperial archives as a biographer of personalities and chronicler of past events.  It is a great honour to work with the Miya and Sepppun, and may even led to greater honours as I know it is a position I can do very well, as it is something I love to do.  I have accepted and by Dan I shall be on my way to Toshi Ranbo with my Daimyo’s consent, and blessing.  I look forward to discovering the lives of those who lived in the past.  I wonder who or what I will be asked to Study first? It will be a wonderful challenge I’m sure.

 

Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

 

 

 

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Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 22a The Morning News & Catching up on recent events

 

Togo told me last night that it was the Kolat, long thought to be destroyed by the Scorpion that were behind my kidnapping, and that the crystal tears were a way of spying or communicating with each other. He thanked the kami that I had been rescued in time. I thanked him for his rescue of me in turn in the way only a wife should. It was most enjoyable to us both, and we drifted off to sleep late into the night, so it was late in the morning when we were brought up to date with the most recent events that had been going on in the city. I swear, I disappear for two days and the entire city changes its face entirely!

 

I learned that in the absence of Yoritomo Hiromi, who was deposed yesterday – that was the riot in the Imperial district, the Lion and many other clans fighting the Mantis, throwing them out of the city apparently – that our new Regent is a Crab by the name of Hida Renyu, and that he’s summoned the clans – all of them – to send a representative to discuss the state of affairs in the city, the Ivory magistrates have also been summoned to attend. As that stands, it’s just Nirav and myself who stand as Ivory Magistrates. I’m fairly sure the new Regent is the Hida Daimyo and he can’t be much worse than Hiromi was. I hope. At least he appears to have his priorities right. Togo wasn’tpleased. He summoned Nirav-san, and told him he planned to have two pairs of Scorpion eyes in the council meeting, and that he had appointed Bayushi Kazuma to be the Scorpion Clan representative, and that they were to work together. Nirav was to meet with him and discuss the situation so that they both knew all they needed, and that Togo and I would attend court together. Togo expected a lot of political fallout from the incident with Shen too. Called it Unicorn ‘chest thumping’ but that they would take on the problem as it came about.

 

Nirav -san suggested presenting evidence of the Kolat being in existence to the council, but Togo doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Firstly, would the council believe them? – and a very good point on Togo’s part, secondly it could potentially destabilise the city even more than it was already and panic the court. Nirav wasn’t sure how to deal with the Kolat, he’d thought (and so had I) that they were a fairy-story like Ninjas are.

 

Togo said that they had killed all of those who had been in the Kolat Temple they had rescued me from. Most of the thirty had chosen to use poison to kill themselves rather than be questioned, though some fought.

 

Nirav said that rescuing me was the important thing, and I thanked him again for his assistance. He said I should go back to sleep. I wonder if he uses that tone on his wife? Part solicitousness, part condescension. I didn’t do as he suggested, he wasn’t the only one with things to do today. I spent a brief period in meditation, and then dressed and prepared for the day while Togo and Nirav went to speak with Bayushi Kazuma. The first order of business will be to speak with Kobayashi-san, then I must go to the estate. If I have been away two days, there will be much that needs my attention, so that Koiso and Chukage-sama need not be bothered with it. I can always return to the Scorpion Embassy before court opens.

 

 

The Secret Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Nirav-san arranged everything to suit my needs when we got back to the embassy, and even sent Saru-sama to keep me company, which gave me the opportunity to apologise for any disrespect I may have shown her, but she said I was doing well and gave me my first mission while Nirav was away. I have three tasks ahead of me.

 

1) Togo must die, he knows too much about the Kolat, Nirav too if he gets in the way.

 

It shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish this, though I will have to give some thought as to how, so that I am not put under any suspicion. I will miss the sex that we’ve been having lately, it’s amazing, but if he had shown me the attention he’s been giving me these past days since the beginning of our marriage it may have given me pause. As it is, he didn’t, and I’m still not entirely trusting of the change. It is also for the greater good of the Kolat, so I will see it done.

 

2) I am to become the Elemental Master of Fire.

 

Given how unstable Koiso-sama has been acting lately, and the mistakes she has made, such as incinerating that poor Crane, I should be able to accomplish this over time…I think. I know I am one of those in the running for the next Elemental Master of Fire position, and I treat the Shiba with the respect they feel they deserve, misguided though they are by the teachings of Shiba. I do know that I would make a better leader than Koiso-sama, even if I am not as strong a Shugenja. The teaching of my beloved mother helped me control the passions of my element of affinity aided by my Isezumi tattoo of the ocean which provides a measure of balance, and so I can make decisions without letting my passions influence my decision, but make it on cool calm reflection.

 

3) I find and surrender to the Kolat all of the secret artefacts that are hidden in the elemental masters estate.

 

I’m not too sure that is a good idea. They have been hidden on the estate for a reason, and one I am unaware of. They are furthermore, the property of the Phoenix, and I respect the clan too much to do it the harm of removing items from their care that should be, especially if I do not know what such items do. If they are not where they are thought to be in the future when they are needed what untold damage would I be doing? I have told Saru-sama that the items are well hidden and are not kept in one secret room as they believe and it will be a difficult task to find them. I may spin off a small item that is not dangerous from time to time if I can discover what they can do first.

 

Note: I do not judge her for these thoughts.  She wasn’t in effect Agasha Sanra any more, only a fragment of her and her true loyalties remained, and that she retained that under their intense brainwashing magic is remarkable. I laud her for not allowing any of our artefacts fall into their hands.- Korimi

 

 

I can always use Koiso-sama’s crystal tear to communicate if I need to. We switched back to discussing recent events in the city, Saru-sama catching me up to speed before Nirav-san returned. I was shocked to learn the Moshi have left the Mantis Clan! And that Yoritomo Hiromi got backhanded by an old man, who’s description sounds oddly familiar somehow…could he have been the strange old man I met on my way to the Second City? I remember his words…How did he know that Doji Saru was not all she appeared? No matter.

 

After about half an hour, Nirav-san returned, and shooed Saru-sama away. It was quite amusing to watch the way he treated her. I believe it amuses Saru-sama too. If only he knew the full truth!

 

He was tired, but we spoke for long enough that I think I allayed any suspicions of having been brought into my new family. He now believes he rescued me in time to prevent such an occurrence. He doesn’t know much about us either from what he said. I think he thought us a fairy story. Unfortunately he’d read my journal, and returned it to me and so Shen’s fate was sealed. He committed suicide, and I put the blame on him for the seduction, when it was as much my fault as his. I’ll have to tell Togo though. I can’t have a Scorpion knowing a secret of mine; you never know when they might chose to use it against you. I do wonder though…what’s going to happen to the City. There’s the threat of the Yodotai hanging over us, and the creature that killed Katsuru-sama still at large, and now all the turmoil within between the clans. I wonder where it will lead to?

 

Nirav-san went to find Kobayashi-san, dear, dear Kobayashi-san to tell him the good news of my rescue. He has been such a good friend and bodyguard to me, and to turn Ronin for thinking he had failed me…well he didn’t. There was no way even the Shiba could have prevented my brother Kolat member from taking me that night. I will have him back as my Yojimbo, and will stand up to any Shiba that contests it. I value such friendship and loyalty. Mother certainly believes he is a worthy person, or she would not have told Nirav-san to give Kobayashi my staff, and I trust her wisdom and judgement.

 

There was a sticky moment when Nirav-san asked about the crystal tear, and I think I managed to prevaricate. I told him I’d speak to Togo about it. Koiso is at least volatile, and Nirav knows this so it was easy enough to get him to believe it would be difficult to retrieve. He thinks Chukage-sama would assist. He probably would too, but I need that tear.

 

When Togo returned, I confessed to my infidelity, but he forgave me. He could do little else given his many, many infidelities over the years. I got him to tell me what he knew about my ‘captors’. Master Tiger was right. He does know too much, though he hadthought them destroyed.

 

 

*****

 

We have a new Regent in the city. A Hida by the name of Renyu. It will be interesting to see how long he lasts. The riot yesterday was the clans kicking the Mantis out of the city. I’ve been summoned to court with Nirav, and a representative of each clan this afternoon. That will be interesting.

 

I won’t bother repeating the details of the day, but it was interesting. I did come up with a plan to kill Togo while I was in council however, and spoke with Saru-sama about it. If I use a slow acting poison, it will kill him in the night. Saru-sama can acquire such things for me and thought it a good plan. Given I was drugged, I can pretend I have been casting the Balm of Jurojin on myself, so that I cannot be caught unawares again. Alas, I had not thought to do the same to my beloved husband.

 

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 22b Debate and Discussions

 

I went to the Scorpion barracks first to see Kobayashi. It was well worth the effort I made. His face lit up like a sun beam when he saw me, he went to one knee immediately, and explained his reasons for becoming a Ronin, which of course I did not accept. He returned mother’s staff to me. I think there was no worthier a man to carry it for me while I was unable to. He said it was very great source of focus and that my mother is a source of strength and wisdom. I’m so glad he was able to feel her presence, even if only for a short time, she is all that, and kind and caring. I am blessed in having her as a parent. Of course I asked him to remain my Yojimbo, which he agreed to, though he feared he would fail me again. I do not. He is good and loyal and honourable. He will do his duty as he did that day at the village. He protected me in the battle when I foolishly got too deeply involved.

 

I next went to the Estate of the Elemental Masters. Chukage-sama was in his usual place, apparently meditating. The guard were very disapproving of Kobayashi, given his current Ronin status, and reluctant to let him enter, but they did eventually allow him past. It shows they have little true measure of the man, for all they lived and trained together not two days ago. I spoke with Saburo. He too was very disapproving of my having Kobayashi as a ‘pet’ yojimbo, but I will not abandon him. I value him too well. I did however bow to his judgement that given the current state of the city, a second yojimbo was required for my protection, and so a very pretty woman was summoned. Shiba Setsuko is to be my new Shiba yojimbo. I’m sure she is a worthy guard, but it will take time to come to know her, when I already know and trust Kobayashi-san. I spent the rest of the morning dealing with those estate matters that had been left to fall slack in my absence before returning to the Scorpion embassy flanked by Kobi and Shiba Setsuko-san so that Togo and I could attend court together.

 

The governor’s estate is a mess, the ground is all torn up, the gardens ruined in the battle yesterday. There are chunks missing from the building too. Was a Shugenja using Earth Becomes Sky? Seems a bit extreme if you ask me to deal with Bushi guards and maybe the Kitsune and Moshi, though if I heard correctly from one of the Shiba, the Moshi have left the Mantis Clan?? And Hiromi-sama got backhanded by some strange old man who was with them before they left! I have NO idea what’s going on there. I still think it would have been better if the Phoenix hadn’t allied with them, but no matter. It can be dealt with. Already the Asahina that were protected from the arrests that were made in the name of the Imperial Proclamation by Chukage-sama on the Elemental Master’s estate are working diligently to repair the damage. At court I discovered that the damage wasthe result of Earth becomes sky being cast. If rumours are true, then during the fight to expel the Mantis, several Destroyers were summoned by the creature that supposedly won the tournament to become Ivory champion. I refuse to call that which summons destroyers by the name I previously knew her by. Ever since her appearance, playing her flute in court, there has been trouble everywhere. I would not fall into the trap of believing it is allher fault, but she certainly has not helped matters in her actions. If she truly did summon destroyers, then she isn’t even a she, but an it. A dangerousone that should be destroyed as soon as possible if it hasn’t been already.

 

The new regent Kuni Renyu was sitting on the dais in the Governors throne, with other Crab as guards and a slightly disturbing looking Kitsune standing behind him…white hair and white skin. I’d have called her an albino, if her eyes hadn’t been a normal colour. Given what’s been happening in the city while I was unaware, I wonder what she did to earn his trust and be permitted to stand with him? A Lion with only one eye, a recent battle scar if I don’t miss my mark went and introduced himself to Renyu-sama and then stood next to the Kitsune, a Lion bodyguard as there should be.

 

Not long after that Renyu-sama stood and introduced himself. He was quite eloquent and charismatic and acted properly for a courtier, proving false the stereotype of Crab being barbarians in court. He congratulated the Great Clans for helping to depose Yoritomo Hiromi, and ordered all to not judge the entire Mantis clan on the basis of the actions of one fool. A wise move. It would be bad to go from decimating the Crane to decimating the Mantis. If Katsuru-sama was correct we need everyone, and I have always counselled toleration as taught by my beloved mother. Besides, Renyu-sama stated that the Mantis that remain have sworn loyalty to the City, rather than their clan, which is interesting. He’s lifted the Embargo on the Crane too. I think he’ll do quite well until Sukihime-sama arrives. He seems to be in control of the situation, and is dealing fairly with everyone, as any justgovernor should do. He dismissed the Court after that, with the exception of the Ivory Magistrates and Clan representatives.

 

We all sat down to discuss the running of the city, and how to deal with various things that needed addressing as soon as possible.

 

First on the list was the discussion of what was happening in the peasant district. Ever since the death of the Togashi Monk…Togashi Tanoram I think his name was? It’s been in a state of flux, and there is talk of revolution. They are refusing to work the land as a result. Renyu-sama wanted to get a consensus on how to deal with the situation, because if it is not pacified now, it could ruin the food supply to the city for yearsto come. I can well believe it too. We only have about eight to nine month’s worth of food stored and available to us. The Scorpion representative Kazuma-san asked what they wanted, but they apparently won’t say and are standoffish. Tamoran-san was apparently quite a figure among them. Kazuma suggested that the Togashi send monks in, but they already have, the peasantry do not wish to talk of theology. Kazuma-san said they didn’t need to talk theology, just settle the peasantry down. Unfortunately, what information the Togashi did manage to gather, suggests that the peasantry are quite passionate about the death of Tamroan-san’s murder by the Mantis, and consider all other Togashi a pale imitation to him. The Kitsune, called Shiro jumped in, saying that that creature was no Mantis. Renyu-sama stated, and I agree, that throwing the Mantis to the Pyre isn’t going to help matters.

 

Finally Doji Iza made a sensible suggestion, Why not rise a statue in honour of Togashi Tamoran that could be set up in the peasants district. I fully endorsed the idea. I have seen the Artisan’s work, they are very skilled, and it will be a fitting memorial to one slain in such a base manner. The Lion representative Akodo Genshin suggested the Mantis pay for it, which does seem to be appropriate. The Kitsune looked surprised, and a little worried for some reason, but didn’t have much choice but to accept. I’ve never seen this one at court. I’d remember her face for its oddity of pale skin and white hair. Genshin-san then suggested that the Crane might be a more suitable Clan to extend a hand to the peasantry – that they may have sympathised with the Crane’s plight, there was much discussion on that, as the peasantry weren’t badly treated by Yoritomo Hiromi, only the Great Clans, the Crane in particular. Either way, the statue was commissioned, and Kazuma-san offered scorpion guards to protect the artisans in the peasant district when the statue was set up. I offered the Shiba to assist as well. The Scorpion were slightly offended, but given the state of the peasantry, I countered with the more guards the better! Skilled artisans take years to train, and they should be protected.

 

The next item on the agenda was the sightings of monsters outside the city by villagers and townsfolk. After the city has been stabilised, Renyu-sama asked members of the council to investigate. Of course this is the remit of the Ivory Magistrates, and I volunteered immediately, followed closely by Nirav san, who voiced my opinion. He also brought up the Governess and related the situation. He had a lot of questions, who will find her, and quite boldly I thought, asked where Renyu-sama’s imperial mandate to be interim governor was.

 

Renyu-sama said that the first point would be being discussed later, and as to his authority, he has no imperial proclamation. He has however served as Jade Champion for several years and took command as it needed to be done. If Nirav-san wished to challenge him…Nirav san declined, but did ask who the Ivory Champion was now, something that was also to be discussed later, then we went back to the monster sightings. We can appoint Yoriki to assist us of course, but the city is going to needmore magistrates in time, but until then Nirav-san and I can appoint some and grant them temporary legal powers. I’m going to appoint Kobayashi as one of mine I think. A party will be going out once the city is more stable, including myself, Nirav-san and Kobayashi…oh and my new yojimbo Shiba Setsuko. Renyu-sama suggested that Genshin-san accompany us, and Kazuma-san, since he appeared to show some sensitivity to the peasantry.

 

There was discussion of setting up an Ivory Legion too. We are to speak with our clan heads and chose members to join the Ivory Legion. I’ll have a chat with Saburo-san to get some of his suggestions from among the Shiba and take them to Asako Kaitoko-san later.

 

Next to be discussed was the matter of the Mantis that fled the city with Yoritomo Hiromi. Nirav-san brought it up, and asked if we were going to assault Kalani’s landing, the Mantis stronghold in the Ivory Kingdoms. It was mentioned that some Mantis support Yoritomo Hirumi (Hiromi’s elder twin sister). I have heard of her, she permitted Hiromi to rule as clan champion in her stead so she could study with the Moshi. Renyu-sama has heard of her too, and apparently she is as compassionate, almost meek in demeanour, but her twin’s actions have pushed even her patience over the edge. Shiro-san offered to reach out to her on behalf of the City, she knows of the Moshi having left the Clan, and thinks that they could be useful if they can be brought around to assist the City. When Kazuma-san mentioned that ships would be needed, of course Doji Iza offered the services of Crane vessels for the venture in a withering tone. I’d have thought that Kazuma-san might have remembered that the Mantis aren’t the only sea faring clan, just the one doing it longest.

 

After that the Scorpion got told off for the unrest theyhave been causing in the city. They explained of course and there was a lot of back and forth argument between the Unicorn and Scorpion over the matter. When I corroborated a statement of Nirav’s concerning Shen and I the Unicorn had the temerity to accuse me of lying. Me! I stayed silent, but I raised my eyebrow. Nirav-san came to my defence. The upshot of that was that Nirav-san will be fighting a duel with one of the Unicorn in the near future to decide matters.

 

Next to be discussed was the matter of who was going to be the new Ivory Champion. It was quickly agreed that Mirumoto Yozo should have the position, as he is the highest ranking contestant still living, even though he lost his arm to that creature, who took the Ivory sword. Renyu-sama has already commissioned Ivory Armour to replace this, emptying the city of Ivory to make it. After that the court was concluded.

 

I spoke with Saburo-san, discussing the Ivory Legion and names he could suggest to be a part of it. He’s quite eager about the whole thing. Koiso-sama is looking very ragged and unkempt. I think the pressure of being an Elemental Master is too much for her. She was asleep on a cushion in the middle of the estate gardens. When I suggested she be moved to her room, her eyes started to smoke and she swatted the Shiba guards who attempted this away like flies. We mutually agreed that she be left to herself.

After sorting things out at the Estate, I paid a visit to Asako Kaitotko-san to provide Saburo-san’s list to her own for those suitable to be placed in the Ivory Legion. She was quite happy to have these recommendations, pleased with my efficiency. I believe we work well together to the benefit of the clan.

The Ninkasi Reports – Kyuden Katsura

 

Report to: Matsu Kiyaka

 

Kiyaka-sama,

 

This morning I spoke to the guards regarding the circumstances surrounding Katsuru-sama’s death. Many are on what little guard duties have been left to the Lion since the Mantis came to power. We have been stripped back to the most menial duties, and what little we have left, we do most thoroughly; so I arranged to speak with them after the tournament to choose the new Ivory Champion.

 

I went to the Temple Katsuru-sama was burned at to pay my respects, and gave my prayers to the Kami that he has found his ancestors quickly and safely. I did not ask favours of them that I might win the tournament but I did pray that the Lion Clan would win much honour this day. I have already told Akodo Tsudoken that I will bow out if I face him. I compete without wish of winning as I told you, as a tribute to Katsuru-sama, and Hotaka-sama and for the honour of the Lion. Not everyone approves of the way I am paying my tribute to these great men. Kitsu Kemono accosted me while I was in the temple district voicing his strong disapproval for my actions. I have no doubt others will share his feelings, but for the honour of the Lion, we must have more than one competitor, and I want to see how far Hotaka-sama’s training at Kyuden Katsura will take me. As predicted, the Lion are split over my participation in the tournament. Many sided with your decision to allow me to compete due to my associations with Hotaka-sama and understood that it was my tribute to him. The rest think it’s shocking that a death seeker would try to compete for a high status position. I care not what they think.

 

There are several Ronin competing among an even spread of the clans competing, The Crane being the noted exception. I passed the courtier test (just) thanks to having observed Hotaka-sama in action and the Crane during my incarceration with them. There was a lot of muttering from the conservative element of the Lion that I passed. Some were surprised I had the manners and etiquette to do so. More fool them. Katsuru-sama was a great courtier, passing that test was a tribute to him.

 

Unsurprisingly I passed battle skill with flying colours. I made intelligent use of traditional Lion tactics as one would expect with the training I have received. I attribute this to the teachings of Akodo and my observance of Hotaka-sama’s guidance of the Legion during the recent skirmishes. There is a Mantis courtier, Yoritomo Kiyomi garnering much respect among the Clan. She passed the Battle skill test almost better than I. It was very strange her technique, very foreign, certainly not Rokugani, but to give her credit, there were few casualties the way she did it. I have included the exact details of the scenario she faced and how she dealt with it below for your consideration.

 

I failed at the test of commerce (not unsurprisingly, I’ve not really done that sort of thing before), it doesn’t fit with the ethos of an honourable Samurai. I passed the diplomacy test easily and had a good long talk with the Ivory Kingdoms native. We spoke about the border skirmishes I have fought in and he has heard of. It was quite amicable. Surprisingly, this meant I passed through to the final challenge, the Iaijutsu Duels. I did not expect to make it this far.

I faced one of the Crab, and he defeated me by taking first blood with a single clean cut. I am pleased I made it this far. The conservative element were much relieved I did not progress further, but my brothers of the North who were in the city were congratulatory.

 

The Mantis girl took the arm of the Dragon she faced. I don’t trust the woman, it was a most dishonourable act. Totally ridiculous even if it was a mistake on her part. I caught the pleased smile on her face before she looked properly horrified though. I’ll have to watch her, she does not deserve the most respected and honourable position of Ivory Champion. The Crab I faced bowed out of the competition at this happening. Coward.

 

This leaves The Mantis girl facing a Dragon monk…

 

 

Diary of Kitsune Shiro

 

I heard there was to be a competition for the Ivory Championship today. That sounded quite interesting, so I went to court after dealing with my hangover. I arrived just as a Dragon faced the flute player Yoritomo Kyomi in an Iaijutsu duel, so I think I missed most of it. Never mind. It was sufficient I was there for the important bits.

 

Kiyomi killed the monk, almost cutting him in two. It wasn’t cool, very un-Mantis. The crowd agreed, and the peasantry, and the clans began fighting the Mantis egged on by the Lion who spoke as lady Seppun, though I don’t know what shehas to do with it, but spirits often know more about things than us mortals. I can’t think why everyone is so upset about thatnot when she then summoned four destroyers, but they were too busy with their little argument. It’s not cool that everyone is fighting all the time, they should take some Opium and chill out, It’s so much better than aggro. Then they can deal with the important things…like Destroyers in the Governors Estate. The creature that summoned them is obviously not of the Yoritomo, and got away in the confusion of the clans fighting. It will have to die if it can ever be found again. Hiromi seemed to have things in hand, killing some Matsu that dared attack him, so I assisted a Kuni to put the Destroyers down. They are not cool. Abominations should not live, even when they look animal like on the surface. They were not any animal I’ve seen in chikushudo, and clashed harshly with my inner peace.

 

We worked together to take out the first one with Earth Becomes Sky. I never thought I’d needoffensive spells, but as always my Master was correct. It worked very well against the Destroyers, though it left the Governor’s estate quite a mess. They split up after that, a grotesque elephant-like one attacking me, the other two going for the Kuni. I killed mine with the assistance of some of the storm legion, who had theirpriorities right, even if the rest of the Mantis doesn’t with only a little injury, then I turned to help the Kuni, but he had it well in hand, with a giant wolf-dog that was magnificent.

 

He took down his two, then looked at me and the dog began to growl. I was going to talk to the dog with Natures touch, but the Kuni who later introduced himself as Renyu called it off, and brushed the dust of battle off himself. Renyu is an impressive figure of a man, tall, broad shouldered, Red hair. Isn’t he the Kuni Daimyo?  I wonder if I can get into bed with him, I’m sure he’d be marvellous…but perhaps now isn’t the time. I can’t understand why the Clans are so upset with the Mantis. Hiromi was given the position of Regent by Lady Sukihime wasn’t he? It matters not now. Renyu did at least offer to protect me from the rest of the clans. I’m not sure whyI need protecting, but…any assistance is helpful. We spoke only briefly before he took the Governor’s throne, proclaiming himself regent of the Second City. He said it was a fine seat to rule from, and Hiromi’s run away, coward. I’ll stick around and see what comes of this. I learned from him that the Mantis are holding the true Governess of the city somewhere. That disgusted me.  I chose correctly when I stayed. Renyu fights for the city and the governess. He said the city would need a strong regent in the meantime and appointed himself. I’m certainly not going to argue. I got offered a position on his council though, Mantis representative. Not sure what that will be like, I’ve never been to councils before. I wonder if they serve Sake there? That would be nice. I agreed to speak to my fellow Mantis about the situation, he seems to think they should be under house arrest for some reason, but at least it means they won’t get killed. I’m sure they’ll see reason.  Now….where’s that pipe of opium I left around?

 

 

 

Notes from Isawa Korimi

 

The night after connecting so strongly with Sanra’s spirit, I dreamed I was still connected to her.  I may have been, there is no way of corroborating sme of this, but later research suggests this is the gist of what occurred:

 

The process of brainwashing Sanra had gone well they said above her head. The masters said a few days more would have been better, but she was definitely ready, she believed in the tennets of the Kolat, and was loyal to their chain of command.  The masters were slightly annoyed that she retained her loyalty to the Phoenix though. They’d been unable to break her loyalty to just them alone. She cared about the Phoenix a great deal, especially her yojimbo, but they had run out of time with her, and it could not be helped.

 

She was told she was to use Koiso’s tear to find out more orders later… and the plan they had for returning her to her people without suspicion of their involvement, though Sanra asked the Master Tiger if there were any expendable personnel to blame for her kidnapping if they questioned her closely.  Master Tiger suggested Ide Shen would make a good target for them.  Sanra felt a brief pang, but if he had become expendable to the Kolat, then he had become a liability that had to be removed in any case….she submitted to their preparations to return her to her clan with good grace.

 

 

The Ninkasi Reports

 

Report to: Matsu Kiyaka

 

At: Kyuden Katsura

 

I have enclosed the above report and write to inform you that Matsu Ninkasi has been reunited with her honour and her ancestors. I send her Akodo blade, wakizashi and armour to be returned to her Aunt, Matsu Asina, who I believe is her closest surviving relative? You will know better than I. The armour will need considerable repair, but is salvageable.

 

I will relate the events that led to her regaining her honour, I believe her assistance to send Akodo Hotaka to his ancestors and the manner of her death are enough for her name to be entered into the histories, but I leave the decision to you as head of her family.

 

The duel between the Dragon Monk and the Mantis Creature for the position of Ivory Champion was a complete disgrace. They assessed each other for some time, and then when they came to strike, the monk punched her in the face. She was smiling as she cut him asunder.

 

It was complete uproar. The monk was much beloved by the peasantry, they started throwing rocks at the Mantis, and unsurprisingly the Dragon called for the Mantis’s head for what she had done. I have neverseen anything so dishonourable. It was completely beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Katana were drawn, and there were calls for her execution for such a travesty. Clearly no one would respect her in the position of Ivory Champion after that.

 

Kitsu Kemono, in contact with the spirits caused even more chaos and confusion, as Lady Seppun made her displeasure known. I relate the wording, as I believe it is worth the reading. His voice became powerful, roaring in the voice of a woman that must have been Lady Seppun herself and said:

“I am Lady Seppun and I voice my displeasure at the atrocity committed today. My number will never fall behind the monster sitting on the Ivory Throne or the Governors seat. I am Lady Seppun and I am Displeased.”

It was so powerful a roar, it shook the foundations of the governor’s estate. Yoritomo Hiromi looked terrified, the one that had killed the monk didn’t appear to care, she walked to the Ivory sword of the champion, took it and began to pray. Something strange began to happen, the ground became blackened and began to twist. I was too busy to see what happened to the Mantis woman, we were too busy pushing the Mantis out of the city, but it’s reported that she summoned four destroyers, which were put down by the Crab, who now claim that the Second City, in the absence of the governess who they claim (and I believe) the Mantis have kidnapped, requires a strong regent. So we now have Kuni Renyu sitting in the Governor’s chair. I have included sketch of the Mantis woman, for your records. She is to be attacked and killed on sight should she appear. We cannot have destroyers causing more complications than we already have with the Yodotai and the creature that killed Katsuru-sama.

 

Members of the imperial families were drawing swords after Lady Seppun’s explosive announcement, and it was too much for any Lion to Igonore such a call. Ninkasi was one of the first Lion to join them. Kemono summoned a tidal wave, and knocked through a swathe of the Storm Legion protecting Hiromi and the Mantis creature. The peasants were pushing at the storm legion too, greatly assisting our efforts. The shugenja appeared to have the attack of the Mantis woman in hand, Kuni Renyu in the lead, throwing bits of the Governor’s Mansion at her. We took on the Mantis proper, Ninkasi leading. She found the gap in the storm Legion and took on Hiromi. A brave action going up against a Clan Champion, but she was warrior enough to injure him before he cut her down. She was fearless to the end.

 

Hiromi nearly cut her in two. His most fatal mistake after that was taunting us with her death. It enraged her fellow brothers and sisters, whipping them into a fury. It was a hard fought battle pushing the Mantis out of the city, but the injury Ninkasi gave Hiromi, and an arrow he took injuring him further, was enough to keep the Mantis on the back foot most of the way. Unfortunately the dishonourable dog escaped with a large contingent of his forces, but we will see the Mantis do not cause any more trouble in the city.

 

We lost few of our troops, and cremated them all in the traditional way, Ninkasi among her brother Lion as was proper for one who had redeemed her honour. I will keep you updated of events in the city as needed.

 

From: Akodo Kobi

 

 

Notes – Isawa Korimi

 

I confess, this research is becoming something of an obsession.  I cannot help from dipping into the scying bowl to see the events that surround those described in the diaries and records I have seen.  My friends have begun to notice and comment, but I can’t help it, now I have started looking back I am fascinated.

 

Nirav was paying a visit to the Unicorn embassy again. He was, reluctantly allowed to enter.  They speak briefly, and it’s not friendly chit chat from their expressions.  Shen looked defensive at what Nirav was saying.  Having read Sanra’s journal, Korimi wondered if he was calling Shen on the lie he had told before.  Whatever it was, the discussion rapidly devolved into scuffle, Shen obviously shouting for someone, but Nirav had barely drawn his sword when Shen started to froth at the mouth, and collapsed to the floor. It was obvious he was dead. The guards could tell it too and went for Nirav, but he’d seen the look in their eyes, and wasn’t hanging around to explain.  He was half way out the window before ever they started after him.

 

The images shifted and Nirav and a small contingent of Scorpion, and Phoenix, Master Chukage among them were in the merchant district outside an inn.  They enter and make their way to the basement.  A trapdoor is tripped, and Nirav nearly dies as it falls beneath him, his quick reflexes the only thing that saved him.  Only those who could bridge the gap followed, the rest keeping watch and subduing the Crab who owned the inn.  The Scorpion slaughtered all within the basement rooms until they came to a small room at the back where they found Sanra. She was unconscious – drugged – and tied to a chair.  Chukage cast Jurojin’s balm to purge the poison, and she was released from her bonds.  She was carried out by him and given into the care of Kobiyashi, and some of the Scorpion guard.  After some discussion, Nirav accompanied Sanra to the Scorpion Embassy and Togo and Chukage, working together purged the inn of the Kolat members within, for Togo knew now who had kidnapped his wife, and they could not be permitted to spread their vileness.  I have to admit this amused me.  It has to be one of the few times during this turbulent period when Scorpion and Phoenix worked together.

 

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 21: Kidnapped, Rescue & Recovery

 

I was kidnapped the night after Kobayashi got married while I slept at the Scorpion Embassy with Togo. I don’t remember much. I think they kept me drugged so I couldn’t cast spells on them. I woke up in a small dark room to find that Chukage-sama, Nirav-san and another Scorpion bushi had found me. I think Chukage-sama had cast Jurojin’s Balm on me to purge the drugs, but I was still quite shaken and disoriented, with no idea where I was, how I’d gotten there, or what had happened to me. Nirav-san suggested that explanations could wait until they had gotten me out of here. I had to accept that, but was very wobbly on my feet. We were almost to the exit, but there was a great gap, with spikes and there was no way I could get over that. Chukage-sama carried me over in the end. He’s very light on his feet, and strong too. I am most grateful to him for rescuing me, and reuniting me with my husband, who was waiting for me outside with a large number of Scorpion and Phoenix bushi. Dare I hope that the breach between our clans is finally beginning to heal?

 

Togo was delighted to see me, paying no heed to what any of the bushi thought from either side and paying me the greatest of compliment he could have, embracing me and kissing me as he did so publicly. He is being so good to me. Nirav asked the Scorpion bushi that was with him when I was rescued what he should do now. Togo looked a little surprised I noticed. I wonder why? But the scorpion said he should follow his masters orders, which he did, leaping across the gap, though nowhere near as nimbly as Chukage-sama had, landing quite close to the edge. Togo ordered Nirav-san to take half of the guards and escort me back to the Embassy safely, while he dealt with the people who kidnapped me. The Scorpion Bushi, I believe his name was Akio, said he would remain with Togo, and Chukage-sama decided to remain too, and sent the Shiba guards back to protect me.

 

There was no sign of Kobayashi-san. I asked Nirav-san where he was, and he explained what he had done. Honourable, honourable Kobayashi! To turn Ronin for believing he had failed in his duty, when no one man can protect another all of the time! And on his wedding night too! Poor man. The poor woman too, to have to marry to save herself from being arrested and then forced to become a ronin the very next day. He left his bride waiting for him after I had performed the ceremony so he could see me to the Scorpion Embassy as was his duty, but after that he was off duty. I had told him not to return until morning and to spend time with his bride. I was in the hands of the Scorpion guards who had protected me well enough until now. He is not to blame that theyfailed. And now he is competing to become the Ivory Champion, presumably so he can wield the resources of the city in locating me. I must speak with Shiba Saburo about accepting him back. I value such faithfulness. I was surprised to discover that he had my staff, but it is only proper, and Nirav did the right thing I giving it to him. I have no doubt my mother had a hand in this, she is very wise. I wonder if that is how Nirav got into contact with mother – through the staff? It would make sense, and I do not yet know its full powers.

 

I was escorted to the Scorpion embassy by the guards. There appeared to be a riot going on in the Imperial district. I wonder what it was about? I’ll no doubt find out soon enough. As we approached the embassy we came across a unit of mounted Unicorn facing off against a group of Scorpion bushi. They were claiming a murder had been committed and that it was an act of war and that the Scorpion were now enemies of the Unicorn clan. It was all quite dramatic. Then they started on about how Ide Shen was a gallant samurai, with honourable intentions and had been killed in cold blood by Nirav. I was upset he had been killed, but perhaps it is for the best. I suffered a moment of weakness with Shen, and his later actions suggest his intentions, whatever they were certainly weren’thonourable. I remember hearing his voice while I was bound and drugged. He was a part of it, and I was a fool to be taken in by him. The Unicorn galloped away not long after and Nirav explained that Shen had attacked him while he conducted his investigations into my kidnapping, and in the capacity of Ivory Magistrate at that. He had the right under that aegis to defend himself, and said that further explanation could wait for later. Given how I was feeling, I was in no position to argue and allowed him to lead me into the Embassy.

 

Saru-san ran to meet us when we entered the embassy, looking for Nirav and was most relieved to see him, giving him a great big hug, asking where he’d been and what had happened in the most concerned tones. She will make a good wife for him, caring for his needs the way she is. Nirav tried to introduce us, but we are already acquainted through Ivory Court of course. Saru-san invited me to tea when I felt a little better. I was grateful for her kindness and accepted. She has been a good friend to me. She went off to prepare the tea things for me.

 

Nirav-san sent some servants to prepare Togo’s room for me and a few of my Shiba guards and arranged for food and drink to be sent up too. I do not needto eat or drink but sometimes I do enjoy the flavours of food, and of course eat when in company to be polite…He said that there was not much room at the embassy and would I mind only a few of the guards being inside with me? It was probably a sensible security precaution on his part to limit the number of Phoenixwithinthe embassy, but my guards can do their duties equally well outside as in, and I was in no state to argue, so I didn’t. He has been most solicitous of my needs.

 

I thanked Nirav, and declined the food but did say what I most desired was a bath and a clean change of clothes. He was most prompt in having the servants arrange such facilities for my use, and even sent a Soshi shugenja to heal the rope burn wounds on my wrists and ankles. I know he is capable of healing himself in a limited way, but I appreciate that he sent the best to tend me. He sent Saru-san to keep me company while he dealt with some minor business. That was fine. I had a good long soak, to clean away the grime of however many days in the same clothing, and changed into fresh robes. I felt batter for that, and the healing, and while I did retire to Togo’s room, Saru-san made a soothing, and witty companion. We will become good friends I think. I was grateful for the guards, they make me feel very much safer, and I’m so glad that this horrible ordeal is over. At least one good has come of it, namely the Scorpion and Phoenix working together rather than warring with each other. I pray to the kami that such cooperation, the reason my marriage was contracted to Togo will continue to the mutual profit of both clans.

 

After about half an hour or so Nirav returned and politely shooed Saru-san away with a “I’m sorry dear, we’ll talk later, but right now I need to talk business with Sanra”. As Saru headed to the door, Nirav-san untied his mask, took it off and gave Saru-san a quick kiss on the cheek, reminding her to close the door behind her. If Togo hadn’t finally started to pay me the attention I have long craved I might have been jealous of Saru-san. I was surprised he did not put his mask back on afterwards. I have never seen him without it before. He looks very young to be so high in Togo’s regard and confidences, but not bad looking for all that. Saru-san has been most fortunate. He must be skilled at what he does. He sat with me, placing the mask on the table, poured himself a cup of sake and downed it, before remembering his manners and offering me a drink, I declined, taking a sweet rice ball to nibble on instead, but I could see how tired he was.

 

We had a bit of a chat. He wasn’t quite sure where to start, so asked me what I remembered. I told him I didn’t remember anything after retiring to bed with my husband after performing one marriage ceremony, and witnessing his. It appears I was taken in the night two nights ago and they’ve no idea what’s happened to me. I honestly don’t remember much beyond the hazy knowledge that I was drugged, and some voices. I knew one of them was Ide Shen, and told him. He was surprised, but then told me what he knew of events.

 

 

Togo had woken up drugged and was in a rage. He did his duty and started investigating. The Kami told one of the Soshi that I had been taken out of the window by somebody in brown robes. It wasn’t much to go on, but he asked around anyway. Apparently the Phoenix weren’t greatly helpful, blaming the Scorpion. Not surprising given how raw the clan have been since Shiba Tsukimi-sama was blinded in the duel with Bayushi Nitoshi. They are slow to forgive or forget such actions, and of course they know more of my breach with Togo, than our more recent reconciliation. Togo was apparently more pragmatic, and seemed to think the blame lied with Shen (He must have figured out that we had had some form of a liaison). Nirav questioned Shen, who said that he barely knew me (a complete lie as you will know if you have read my journal) and had no idea why Togo would want to blame him.”

 

He paused in his telling and had some more sake, then confessed to having found my journal among my possessions. I was slightly surprised he could read it, but apparently one of the Soshi was brought in, and it isn’t the most complex of the Phoenix ciphers I admit. He found it interesting reading at least, and of course it proved Shen’s deceit, and somehow told Togo who had taken me. I was embarrassed at some of the contents he would have read in it. I asked him if Togo knew. His response was most honourable for a Scorpion, I have to admit. He said it was not his place to tell him; that they were the clan of secrets, that my secret is now his secret and that they were very good at keeping them. He served himself a huge portion of the food they had sent up for me, apologising for it, but explaining he’d been on the go for two days with little food or sleep. I’m not sure I trust to having such a secret in someone else’s hands, even Nirav-san. I will have to confess what happened to Togo, and accept whatever fall out comes of it.

 

I told Nirav-san that I thought I had heard my captors discussing what they would do with me. I think they wanted to use me some way. He didn’t think that boded well, but he hasn’t much idea of what is going on, and suggested that I ask Togo to explain it all when he returned. I will too. He did ask me if I believed that he hadn’t killed Ide Shen. I asked him to tell me what happened exactly.

 

He said Togo was already suspicious of Shen. He didn’t state why, but Nirav went to talk to him anyway. He said he hadn’t seen me, and barely knew me, which seemed reasonable at the time, naturally. Of course after reading my diary, he knew that Shen had been lying to him so he went back to see what else he had been lying about. Nirav told him that he knew about our… relationship. Shen tried to attack him, which seemed unusual given most diplomats don’t know how to use a Katana, but Nirav had him on the floor before he could strike. He said that Shen was bleeding slightly, but not fatally… and then he called for guards, and bit on something in his mouth, and started frothing at the mouth and seizing. I don’t know what that was about any more than Nirav, but I believed what he said. It was too unusual not to believe. I believe Shen was into something, and fooled me into thinking he cared.

 

Nirav thinks the Unicorn will be a problem. From what I saw earlier, they definitely will be, calling for war between the clans the way they are. Stupid too given the Yodotai threat to the north will have most of their clan tied up already, and there’s that creature that killed the governor to deal with and the mess caused by the Mantis taking over the city in the name of the Governess. I still think the Phoenix should have waited, kept neutral to both parties in this matter but Koiso wouldpush me for a choice despite all my voiced reservations.

 

I told Nirav-san he needed to rest and be with his new wife, she mustn’t have seen much of him recently, but he declined, tired though he was, as he still needed to find Kobayashi-san and give him the news of my rescue, though if he has been staying in the Scorpion Barracks while he has been a Ronin, I imagine he won’t be too far away. He has my staff, and suggested I reinstate him, as if I would do anything else to such an honourable man. I must speak with Saburo-san at the earliest opportunity about him returning to the Shiba Guard. I certainly do not wish to lose such a loyal and devoted friend as Kobayashi because it wasn’t his fault I disappeared. It sounded more like one of the fabled ninjas from my childhood fairytales, though the reality was probably more a skilled shugenja of illusion and a bushi working together. Togo will know more.

 

Nirav asked me about the crystal teardrop Jekku-san gave me. I thought it was just a teardrop, beautiful, mesmerising even but nothing more, and told him so. I told him what I knew a mine is no longer among my possessions. He said Togo thought that they were dangerous, though how he didn’t know. I must ask him. As it stands, Koiso-sama still has hers, and it will be most difficult to get her to part with it, given her volatility. Nirav-san says that Chukage-sama might be able to help, and I agree, if anyone can get fire to see sense it is the restraining hand of water to cool the flames.

 

It appears mother’s staff manifested a new facet to its abilities while I was missing. Nirav spoke to mother, apparently in person in the mountains, either above Kyuden Isawa, Shiro Shiba or Kyuden Agasha, depending on where she was, mountains and snow and a city below isn’t much to go on from his description. Dearest mother. She has always looked out for me, even though she is so busy with Clan and matters of great import to the empire. I miss her presence, and it makes her staff all the more special to me.

 

Nirav left only a little later, and I rested until Togo’s return. He was delighted to see me looking so much better, and I was glad to see he had returned unharmed. We spoke long into the night, discussing what Nirav had been unable to tell me, and I confessed my infidelity. It was the most difficult thing to do. I am ashamed at my weakness now, but while he was disappointed, he had had his suspicions and he forgave me. He could do little else given his indiscretions over the years. We will put them all in the past now, and work at making our marriage better together.

 

 

 

Note: This small bound book was discovered long after the events that this chronicle detail in the personal effects of Asako Kaitoko, the fallen inquisitor, who went mad during this period.  It is most illuminating on the thoughts that Agasha Sanra was thinking after her kidnapping and brain washing and so I include it here.  It shows she isn’t completely innocent, but possibly was not irretrievable, albeit she couldneverhave held high office if she had been retrievable. – Korimi

 

The Secret Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

I came round in a room in the temple. Chukage-sama, Nirav and another Scorpion were there, and freed me. I think they bought the whole I’d been kidnapped for nefarious means thing. I wonder if I can use that to my advantage with the first of my tasks?

 

I was a bit disoriented from the drugs I was given and the speed Chukage-sama removed them from my system, and a little from my training, but I think I behaved as a newly rescued kidnap victim should, all disoriented and wobbly and confused asking where I was and what had happened. Nirav suggested that we all left and left explanations to later. I think he was a little worried that there would be more Kolat members around…they arevery good at their jobs…I was assisted down the corridor, but there was a trap door open with spikes in a hole in the bottom, which I’d never have been able to cross alone. Chukage-sama carried me over. He’s very light on his feet, but then he is the Elemental Master of Water.

 

Togo was waiting for me outside and seemed to be quite delighted to see me. I really do wonder about this change in him, not that it matters, it is too little too late. I tried for yearsin the name of peace between our clans. Unfortunate that he knows so much about the Kolat, or I’d have made him work for a return of my feelings for him. There was some interesting byplay between Nirav and the other Scorpion, as if that Scorpion was his superior, Togo looked surprised, but the man suggested he follow his masters lead, so Nirav and half of the Scorpion and most of the Phoenix guards that had accompanied them returned with me to the Scorpion Embassy (at Togo’s suggestion, and I couldn’t really refuse if I were keeping up the distraught kidnapee act) to keep me safe. Chukage remained, and the other Scorpion that rescued me presumably to ‘take down’ the cell of Kolat. As if they’d ever concentrate everything in one place.

 

On the return to the embassy Nirav explained to me that Kobayashi has gone Ronin for failing to protect me, honourable honourable man! A pity he is married now, I will soon be free of mine. Nirav also informed me that he carried my staff at my mother’s suggestion, was taking part in the tournament of the new Ivory Champion and that my mother sent her greetings. I should have known that she would be able to contact anyone. I wonder if Nirav examined the staff? Was that how she found out? Whatever happened, I am grateful that it is Kobayashi that holds it, I will at the very least get to speak with him again. That he blames himself is obvious, but he was not on duty, he’d seen me safely to the Embassy, I was in the hands of the Scorpion guards, who, compared with the Kolat who took me, appear to be quite incompetent. There appeared to be a riot going on in the Imperial District, I wonder just what I’ve missed while I was being enlightened by the Kolat?

 

When we got near the estate, I could see a contingent of mounted Unicorn facing off with a contingent of Scorpion Bushi…rattling on about murder and an act of war and how the Scorpion were now their enemies. All very dramatic, especially about the bit where Shen was a gallant samurai, had honourable intentions and was killed in cold blood by Nirav before they galloped away. That was news to me, and I glanced at Nirav. I was a little horrified he was dead of course, he was a fellow Kolat member, and verygood in bed. I could have gotten used to sleeping with him, potentially even married him after Togo was out of the way, but never mind. I’m sure there are other men out there. He said he’d explain later, but now wanted to get me safely inside the Scorpion Embassy. I agreed, acting the part perfectly.

 

Saru-sama came to join us as soon as we entered the embassy. It was a masterful act I must say playing the sweet ever so concerned new bride worried about her husband’s wellbeing, giving him a big hug, calling him her beloved, asking him where he’d been and what happened. Nirav introduced us. I almost choked with laughter, but managed to respond that we were already acquainted. She invited me for tea, and I almost stumbled and called her Saru-sama, but caught myself. I hope I did not give her offence for that, but I was told to continue life as normal, and before they took me, Saru-samawasof lower rank. I did treat her as respectfully as I could, calling her a good friend, and accepting her kind offer when I had recovered from my ‘ordeal’. She appeared to go off quite happily, so I think it all went quite well.