L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

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KakitaKaori
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:46 am

I like! The return of Shimikiri.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Jun 09, 2018 4:28 pm

Yup. Been waiting to to that for soooooo long.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:05 am

Harun saw Hitomi the next morning when he was on the way back from drills. The sun was coming up, drying the dew as it sparkled in the summer light. It all the makings of a hot day. They passed the Shiro where the Taisa’s and Emerald Champion’s tent were and Harun saw her there. He stopped.
“I’ll catch up later,” Harun said, going over to her.
Hitomi watched as he approached. “Harun,” she said.
“Mother,” he said, bowing and smiling. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“I just came in last night, but had to see you before I leave,” she said. She looked him up and down. “I can see the change in you already, the last year was good for you.”
“Is it that obvious?” Harun asked, a little worried. “I have been told that I brought the Moto in me back from the Unicorn lands.”
“It was always there, Harun, you just became more confident with yourself,” she said.
As they walked around the camp, he told her about the year he had spent travelling. Visiting the Dragon, the Lion and of course the Unicorn. Shiro Moto, Majid, City of the Rich Frog, the ritual with Zetsubou…Hitomi listened to it all patiently, and it there was something missing in his narrative she didn’t comment.
When Harun finished, Hitomi was thoughtful.
“So through all this, all the people you have talked to that knew your mother Yamada, I want to ask you this: why do you think she chose to leave you in our care?” Hitomi asked,
Harun felt a lump forming in his throat. “She…she wanted me to have a family, I guess. Like she had had.”
“Yes, bit that’s not all,” said Hitomi. “There is something else, why she went to this terrible duty with Shiba Michio and the Black Hand. Do you know what this is?”
Thinking back to the talk he had with Zetsubou the night before he died, Harun nodded. “It was so no one else had to do it.”
Hitomi nodded. “What you were taught at the dojo, Harun, was very clear cut in how we should act in accordance with traditions and bushido,” she said. “But you know now that the world doesn’t always work like that.”
“It doesn’t,” Harun said. “But that doesn’t mean we should not live these virtues.”
Hitomi laughed slightly. “You sound like your father, though he has learned and I hope you will too that there are necessary things that happen to win a war.”
They came to one of the training yards where there were Daidoji at a firearms range. They fired at paper targets held on poles, each one painted with a snarling oni’s face. They fired their weapons and reloaded, the latter taking what seemed to Harun a lot of time for just one shot.
Harun watched Daidoji Akemi there, standing a decent distance from the target and firing her taneshagima. It hit the oni face in the eye.
Hitomi nodded in approval.

Three days after Hitomi left, Karasu watched much of the First Legion head out again, and Harun with them. Harun went with a light heart and a smile, leaving Karasu’s heart heavy.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:11 am

They travelled west for a number of day, crossing the Kitani River south of Toshi Ranbo and proceeding north west along the edges of the Kokoro Nezuban Mori. And it was there that they met up with troops from the Lion Clan.
Here they were not far from their target, the town of Oiku which in the past had been a Lion military outpost where troops could quickly defend Toshi Ranbo. Until now, no attempts had been made to hold it though there had been plenty of conflicts to throw the Onyx back from invading the rest of Lion lands.
Now, taking it was one of the more important last steps before Toshi Ranbo.
They made a light camp, sleeping out in the open with only the jinmaku walls for shelter. They trained and drilled alongside the Lion, a friendly sense of competitiveness starting between the Lion and the Imperial Legion troops. But it also drew them together, they had a shared purpose, a common enemy.
The night before the attack on Oiku, Koharu gathered Kyojin Platoon together for their briefing. As always, their role would be to advance on horseback and to take and hold strategic points until they were relieved by infantry. Then she dismissed them, telling everyone to get some rest.
But Harun found he couldn’t, he felt excited. He saw it as his first real battle with the Legion, different from the skirmishes on the Lion border he had been in.
He walked the camp and saw people making preparations. Writing letters, making prayers to ancestors and fortunes, drinking heavily… When he got back to their camp he saw Utaku Kenji, he had a number of hachimaki bandanas he was painting messages on. Harun went closer and saw what they said: Hikahime.
“They’re for us for tomorrow,” he said to Harun. “Hikahime-no-fortune, she is special to the Legion. She was once one of us, so we invoke her name before battle.”
Harun nodded, not exactly sure how to say that he had actually met Hikahime last year when she had come out of Yomi during Zetsubou’s ritual. So, he didn’t say anything about it at all.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:31 am

Harun woke in the grey morning light, too excited to eat anything more than a few mouthfuls of rice. He watched how the others were a lot calmer, Yoritomo Osu gently ribbing Isawa Kanbei over something, Tsubaru and Koharu arguing over the merits of cooking daikon. It could have been any other morning, but it wasn’t.
Then it was time to gear up, long lines of bushi and ashigaru helping each other getting into their armour started to form. There was a lot of laughter. It was quite undignified, quite the opposite of what Harun had been taught about the proper way for a samurai to get ready for battle. But somehow he didn’t mind it at all.
Then it was time to mount up and form ranks, waiting in their places until it was time to begin. But first, a tremendous shout went up and down the ranks, shouting Hikahime’s name, chanting that she may grant them victory in battle.
When it was over, Harun thought they would be given the signal to go. But they weren’t. He could see just into the town, the Onyx were beginning to stir and come out of the village like angry bees.
What are we waiting for? Harun wondered. And then he saw them.
Lion bushi, white garments beneath white armour, leading the charge against the Onyx with a viscousness and utter disregard for their own lives.
“Deathseekers,” Harun whispered.
Koharu, who was next to Harun on her own horse, nodded.
Harun had heard of them, dishonoured Lion samurai who had nothing left but to die in the glory of battle. Harun didn’t know what they could have done to have such status, and he didn’t have time to wonder. The signal was sounded and they were off.
Kyojin platoon advanced forward on their horses, ahead of them was a line of Lion cavalry. Harun’s heart beat fast, the thunder of their hooves, the shouts among them as they rode. The Onyx came towards them, Harun couldn’t see them, but he could hear them. The shrieks and howls of the onispawn and goblins. The shouts and taunts of the tainted samurai. And then, the rasp and ring of steel and tear of flesh as they clashed.
The Lion cavalry threw the Onyx back, scattering them in different directions. This gave Kyojin enough time to dismount and ready their weapons. And no sooner had they done so that Onyx were on them. Kyoujin platoon fought in a tight formation, slashing with their sword, with their spears, holding that position until the infantry could come to relieve them.
It was confusing, it was messy in all the noise and the blood. And it was easy to lose focus. But Harun thought back to his training, those hours they had spent in the cold light dawn, and kept his head.
“Relief coming, hold firm,” Harun heard Koharu say.
And sure enough, ranks of infantry came forward and engaged the enemy from the other side. Between the two of them, they made short work of the Onyx.
“That’s it, mount up,” Koharu shouted. They ran towards where Yoritomo Osu was guarding the horses, mounted up and advanced forward.
And this was how it went, they would take positions quickly while waiting to be relieved by infantry. Always advancing, taking up key positions in the town so the others could move in. It worked well, until it didn’t.
They were fighting between rows of houses for much longer, it seemed like the relief wasn’t coming. Still they fought, there could be any reason for the delay.
Then Harun smelled smoke, heard a crackle of flames not far from where they were.
“Gunso, we need to move now!” Harun shouted.
“We hold out until we are relieved!” Koharu shouted back, between strokes of her yari.
“This house here is about to go up in flames!” Harun yelled. “We stay, our horses bolt.”
Sure enough, the horses started to whinny and paw at the ground with their hooves.
“Back, Kyoujin, mount up,” Koharu said. “You better be right about this,” she added to Harun.
Harun hoped he wasn’t, as that meant there was something wrong.
They headed back to the courtyard they had taken earlier, smack in the middle was a massive oni that just seemed to devour any that went near it. Several of the squad started forward to help those already there, but Koharu held up a hand to stop them.
“No, no, we can’t all rush in like fools,” she said. “Let me think a moment.” She pointed to Kenji and Harun. “You and you, we’ll take thirds of the squad. Tease it, play with it, then maybe those others there will catch on what we are doing.”
Harun left with his portion with nothing more than a “Hai” in acknowledgement, barely been considering we’d been given his first position of responsibility.
The three groups started taunting the oni, going in to attack him and then withdrawing when one of the others got closer. Then the rest got the idea and joined in, more soldiers started pouring in and soon the massive oni fell.
Before they moved on, Koharu went up to Harun. “You did well there,” she said.
Harun smiled.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:34 am

Oiku was taken, they moved in to occupy it, but what followed was the more difficult task of defending it from the Onyx raids from Toshi Ranbo. These seemed to Harun like a relentless grind, just throwing back what the Onyx threw at them.
They did their best, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. To Harun, it didn’t seem to matter if he was fast enough or his katana was where it needed to be. Some days their numbers were thinned due to people suffering from wounds, but then there was the sad day that Tsubaru was killed. It wasn’t a brave death, just a mistake on her part when he thought the tainted samurai she had downed had no fight left in him. The camp was quite for a few days after that, Yoritomo Osu finding sleep in the stupor of drunkeness.
One evening, Harun walked through the village to distract himself, passing the various tents and shelters where the Imperial Legion and Lion troops were billeted. Games of chance, drinking as stories and music by the various fires. It was a balm in a way to see life when what he saw every day was death.
Then when he looked at one of the fires, he saw a face he recognised. Akodo Harumasa, the son in law of his mother Yamada’s friend Akodo Kibo. Harun had met him the last winter at the Castle of the Swift Sword. Harun had thought he was a poet yet here he was with a samurai’s daisho.
And an officer, looks like it, Harun thought.
Harun had intended to pass him by, yet Harumasa called out to him. “Kakita-san,” he said. “Come, share the fire a moment.”
Harun went over, more because he couldn’t think of a way to refuse. Hanam introduced him to the others at the fire, Akodo Taruma, Ganou and Komatsu, Harun nodded to them all as he sat down.
“Mina-san, this is who I was telling you about,” said Harumasa. “He was at the ritual with my wife’s uncle when the land was cleansed.”
They looked at Harun with more interest now, seeking confirmation.
“This is true,” said Harun, he felt a twinge of sadness as he always did when he thought of Zetsubou. “I was a witness.”
“A witness?” Akodo Taruma asked. “There were more?”
“Just one more…at least with his soul still in Ningen-Do,” said Harun. “Moto Majid, is was his Void magic that made it all possible.”
“That hardly seems fitting,” said Ganou, with more than a little scorn. “What would a Moto’s gaijin magic do with…”
Harumasa cleared his throat loudly. “Please, no insulting guests, Ganou,” he said. “Where did you leave your manners? Get the tea.” He turned back to Haurn. “I apologise for my men, Kakita-san.”
“No need,” said Harun. “I’ve spent these last months in camp and its hardly where one sees refinement. Tell me, how are you family? I hope they are well.”
“They are, Miraiko is not liking sitting out the push to Toshi Ranbo,” says Harumasa. “She is at home with our son, and writes constantly.”
“It is an important duty, raising children,” said Harun, a perfectly conventional game response.
“My father in law has returned to his duties at the Swift Sword Dojo,” Harumasa continued. “Little Kibo was just starting there when I left, his mother and the rest of the family are staying for the time being.”
The tea arrived. Strong, thick warrior’s tea in plain cups. Harun welcomed its flavour.
“And Koneko?” Harun asked, he had grown closed to the redhaired girl in the short time he had known her.
“She should be continuing her training soon,” said Hanamasu, looking a little uncomfortable. “But I did want to ask about you, did you make it back to Crane lands in time? I know that was troubling you.”
“No, I didn’t,” said Harun, feeling his cheeks colour slightly. “When I got back to Tsuma, she had…it had all ended.”
“She had?” Taruma asked, repeated, raising an eyebrow. “You had a girl waiting for you?” That explains a lot.”
Harun laughed. “I suppose it does,” she said. “Yes, I did. But she’s in Zogeku now, I doubt I’ll see her again.”
“Don’t count your losses so soon,” Taruma said with a grin. “You never know what can happen after this war ends.”
Harun nodded and drank his tea.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:21 am

Three days later, Harun was fighting in the fringes on the north side of Oiku. Things had gotten a little more manageable, the Onyx numbers seemed to be slacking. Though everyone knew that this was probably due to the Onyx keeping resources in reserve back at Toshi Ranbo. Still, it only made things slightly easier. As in, Harun had more room to swing his sword between the swarms.
Kyoujin were fighting with ranged support from Ranshu platoon, they stayed back at the palisades with their bows. Daidoji Akemi was there, with her gaijin powder taneshagima. Harun did his best to ignore the explosive sounds it was making.
Fortunately, as there was a long gap between Akemi’s shots, Harun found his concentration wasn’t broken too much, he found his rhythm quite well, fighting beside the gunso Koharu. His katana and her yari working in concert together.
Then there was an attack by a tainted samurai that he had to quickly dodge, parrying it overbalanced him and he fell to the ground. The tainted samurai pressed the attack, slicing his blackened blade towards Harun. Then he collapsed, smoke and an acrid smell coming out of the side of his head. Harun stood up, then noticed Daidoji Akemi standing on the other side of the palisade with her smoking weapon in her hand. Harun gave her a nod in acknowledgement and kept fighting.
The Onyx started to rush at them then, in larger groups. But they barely stopped to engage, instead keeping on going. Right into their blades or arrows, in many cases. This was a little confusing, but Harun wasn’t one to question it. At least, not straight away.
“They’re fleeing,” Koharu said.
“What from?” Harun asked.
It wasn’t long until they got their answer though. They could hear the sounds of an approaching army. The thunder of hooves, the ring of steel and the shouts of the soldiers in battle. They came from the northwest, Harun could see them approach. And as they neared, Harun could make out the green and gold laurel banner of the Emerald Champion.
The soldiers of the legion drove the Onyx back like an oncoming storm. And among them Harun could see his father, urging them on with his green sahai baton.

That evening, Karasu and Harun walked around Okiu. Harun was telling his father about the last few weeks, flush with pride of the skill and courage of his comrades, saddening when he talked about Tsubaru’s death.
He’s a soldier, Karasu thought, with a little sting, this was not the path I wanted for him, Kenshin-sensei at the academy said he has it in him to be a Kenshinzen. Well, he's young, there’s still time…
This wasn’t just about Karasu spending time with Harun, it was about being seen by the troops. A morale boost just in case it had been flagging, a reminder that he was in the same fight they were in.
They came to the northern side of Oiku, from there the walls of Toshi Ranbo could be sighted. High, impregnable, but Harun looked towards it eagerly. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Is that next, my lord?” A bushi in Dragon colours asked. “Are we finally going to take the fight to the old capital.”
“We are,” Karasu said. “In a few days we will start making our camp around the city, and the rest of Rokugan will join us.”
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:16 pm

In the lands of the Dragon Clan was Shinyoake Mura, a village that stood in the shadow of the Jurojin’s Sanctum temple. A small village, nothing quite remarkable about it other than the facts that those who lived in it wore the saffron coloured robes of the Phoenix Clan. For it was here, in the midst of the chaos of war and rebellion where many of the Phoenix Clan made their home.
It had started small, two Isawa, Koyo and Akiko. Newly married and had been made to stay in Dragon lands by the decree of the Emperor as hostages to ensure the rebellious Elemental Masters faced retribution for their crimes against heaven.
Since then there had been a slow by steady trickle of Isawa into Dragon lands. Most were fleeing from the chaos of the civil war in Phoenix lands as well as the terrible retribution Shiba Michio was bringing on the Isawa with the fury of the Obsidian Dragon. Numbers swelled as more arrived and children started to be born.
Finally, Mirumoto Shikei, Champion of the Dragon Clan had let the Phoenix use some land near the temple that Koyo had established years before. The condition being that they would be proper stewards of it. This was the birth of Shinyoake Mura, the new dawn for the Phoenix Clan. There, with Koyo as their leader, the community had not only thrived but had done their best to make sure the Dragon benefited from the Isawa’s magic.
The years that followed the Phoenix’s arrival in Dragon lands had seen some of the most bountiful harvests in living memory. And not just in Dragon lands, Koyo had made sure the knowledge spread throughout Rokugan. Doji Arami, while he was still Imperial Agriculturalist, came with some Asahina shugenja despite the risks of such a journey.
But now, the main square of the village was filled with every adult who was able to travel. They were all packed and ready, they would be journeying with the Dragon down the mountain to Toshi Ranbo.
But not all of them, on one side of the square were the children who had gathered to see their parents go. And standing in front was a girl of no more than sixteen, yet she already had the air of taking on a responsibility beyond her years.
Koyo came out of the temple, making his way down the narrow well-worn mountain path. The final preparations were complete. As he went down into the village the crowd parted to let him through. The girl approached him.
“Father, please,” she said. “Let me go with you, I’ve made my gempukku, my place is at your side.”
“Keiheki, you were my best student, and that is why you must stay here,” Koyo said, his face as blank and featureless as a sheer stone wall. “You need to be sensei here if I don’t return and carry on my work. The Phoenix’s future is here, we need to make sure it survives.”
Keiheki bowed her head in acquiescence.
The adults said farewell to the children. Koyo and Akiko said good bye to all in turn. The twins, Sakura and Daini, so alike in appearance, so different in temperament and their affinities with fire and water respectively. The youngest, Daiyon, just starting to show some skill speaking to the air kami.
Then the moment of parting arrived, as they left the village Koyo looked back over his shoulder. Keiheki was already comforting some of the children, listening to them and helping dry their tears. Akiko gave him a soft smile.
The future of the Phoenix Clan was in that village. And one day, when the fortunes willed it, they would emerge and return to the lands of their ancestors. But until then there were battles to fight, and a war to win. Until then, the Clan of Shiba would do their part.

The soldiers of the Imperial Legion moved in force to surround Toshi Ranbo, the rest of the Emerald Legions, the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Imperial Legions began to arrive from where they had been stationed in the Empire. The rest would arrive with Shogun Utaku Chikara when she returned from Unicorn lands. New recruits also arrived, fresh out of the training camps and eager for battle.
Once the siege camp was established on both sides of the Drowned Merchant River, there were a number of changes. Koharu, gunso of the Kyoujin platoon, was promoted to Chui of a new unit. Her last act as gunso was to name Harun as her successor.
Harun was shocked by this, he had only been with the Legion months and felt almost inadequate for it. But the positive response he got from the platoon itself decided matters. Harun’s first act as Gunso of Kyoujin was to make Utaku Kenji his Nikutai, another action applauded by them. He wrote the news of this in a latter to Arahime, sending it off quickly but not sure when it would reach her.
Until the siege was begun properly, the fought right up against the walls of Toshi Ranbo. This was potentially dangerous as it would put them in range of the archers and maho-tsukai on the wall, resulting spending more time with the healers to recover wounds as well as jade therapy. And deaths, which Harun took keenly and would stay up in the evenings writing letters to their families.
One afternoon, just as he and Kenji were heading back to camp with some rations, Harun saw the arrival of the Crane Clan contingent. A sea of banners in various shades of light blue displaying the mons of the families and the designations of the various units of the Crane Army. Harun particular noticed the kenshinzen, splendid in their feathered raiment, carrying themselves with that characteristic arrogance.
“They put on a good show,” Kenji said with a grin.
Harun agreed.
Harun saw his father come out of his tent to greet the Crane Champion, Doji Ayumu. The two men were of a similar age, Ayumu a few years younger than Karasu, both coming to their positions relatively young. They exchanged bows and spoke, Ayumu then giving a signal for the bulk of the Crane to depart to where they would be quartered around the city. Then they entered the tent.
Harun turned to leave himself, but a great shout from the direction of the wall made him turn back. What looked like a scout ran toward’s the Champion’s tent, running through Ayumu’s entourage and scattering them like startled birds. The scout then looked as if he was arguing with the bushi who stood watch outside Karasu’s tent. Curious, Harun went closer. The scout held an arrow in his hand, shaking as he spoke.
“…you don’t understand,” said the scout. “This message, it came from them but the seal it carries is Crane.”

Inside his tent, Karasu entertained the Crane Champion. The more serious talks on strategy would wait until later that evening. Now they discussed the most recent news over tea. It had recently been announced that the Imperial Court would be held at Kyuden Hida that winter, something that not many of the Crane would be looking forward to. What was even more interesting is the Crown Prince Kiseki would also be there even though the boy had yet to make his gempukku.
Karasu was just pouring more tea, when the tent flapped stirred and someone entered. Both of them turned to regard the visitor, a scout, still sweaty and dirty from combat. In his hand he carried a small scroll, he bowed most low. Behind him was Senzo, the ronin who attended Karasu’s tent. He also bowed, on his face an unspoken apology.
Doji Ayumu seemed a little miffed. “What is all this?” He asked, a little indignant.
Karasu got to his feet. He always wanted to be accessible to the soldiers of the Legion, but even then no one would interrupt him meeting with the Crane Champion. And Senzo wouldn’t let them. Not unless it was serious.
Karasu gave a nod for Senzo to leave. “Tell me your name, and why you have come,” he asked the scout calmly.
“Suzume Iehira, my lord,” he said, sinking to his knees and bowing again. “I apologise for this intrusion, but you must know that an arrow just came from the Onyx, carrying this.” He held out the scroll, the mon of the Crane visible.
“From the Onyx?” Karasu took the scroll and read it just as Akodo Ryouichi entered the tent.

To Kakita Karasu who calls himself the Emerald Champion,
So delighted that you have brought so many of my old clan to my city. None of them will ever come in and neither will you. We should meet to discuss terms. Perhaps it will go as well for me as it did for you when you won that sword and armour. I will come to you, and I hope this ragtag army of yours hasn’t rubbed off your manners.

Shimekiri


Karasu crumpled the paper in anger, Ryoichi looked at him with concern. He gave a wave for the scout to leave.
“My lord, is it…?”
Karasu nodded. They had spent many evenings debating just how to deal with Shimekiri.
“He has proposed a meeting,” Karasu said, his voice tight and controlled. “I cannot refuse.”
“But you must!” Ryoichi insisted. “My lord, I…” He cast a look at Doji Ayumu and fell to silence.
Ayumu took the hint. “I should be seeing my clan are settled,” he said, getting to his feet. “Thank you for the tea, we will speak later.”
Katasu nodded silently, watching him go. He didn’t speak until they were alone. “This could be my only chance to kill him, I cannot not take advantage of it.”
“And his chance to kill you,” Ryoichi argued. “You cannot play into the enemy’s hands like this. I say this not only as an advisor, but as a friend. Your loss, my lord, would be a devastating blow to morale for the Legion and the Great Clans right when they are all looking to you to lead.”
“And how would it look to them if I refused?” Karasu demanded. “That I was afraid? Cowering in my tent.”
“Refusing to come to the summons of a dishonourable traitor is not cowardice, but common sense,” said Ryoichi. “Send me, I can be spared.”
Karasu shook his head. He knew Ryoichi was right, but he couldn’t agree with him. This was something he knew he had to do himself.
Ryoichi unsheathed his wakizashi, he pulled at the straps at his armour then pulled back the clothing there to reveal bare skin. “If you do not send me, I will make the three cuts right now,” he said, his voice as hard as iron. “I cannot let you do this.”
Karasu closed his eyes, he didn’t want to send yet another good man to his death, let alone someone he had worked closely beside for so long like Ryoichi. “Fine, have it your way,” he said, throwing the note into the fire of the porcelain stove.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:15 am

The next day, Harun took the time to see those of his men who were in the infirmary. There were several tents for the tending of the wounded throughout the siege camp, staffed by shugenja as well as monks.
Yoritomo Osu was there, sitting up but looking rather pale. He swore to Harun that he soon would be fighting fit and that he could still use his kama despite missing two of his fingers.
As Harun was leaving, he heard someone call out his name. Harun turned and to his astonishment he saw it was Doji Kouta, his classmate from the academy. He had last seen him in Unicorn lands last winter where he had been Kousuda’s yojimbo. But what was he doing here?
“Kouta!” Harun grinned at him as they exchanged bows. “You do turn up in the most unexpected places.”
“I go out of my way to surprise you, Harun, but you weren’t hard to find,” Kouta said with a laugh. “You talked about the Legion so much, and now you’re hear, and a gunso by the looks of it.” He nodded to the insignias on the little tags that hung either side of Harun’s chest plate.
“I’m still getting used to it,” said Harun. “You got time? There’s a lot to tell you.”
They walked around the camp, Harun relating his news of the last few months. Kunta was mostly interesting in the duel Harun had fought. Arahime came up and how Harun had missed out on seeing her, Kunta had actually heard of some trouble in the Zogeki courts but had no details. Harun hoped she wasn’t involved.
“You still haven’t told me why you are here,” Harun said.
“I’m here with Kakita Isamu-sama,” Kouta said. “My father thinks I can learn more at his side.”
“Isamu? The Kenshinzen?” Harun asked. “The one we saw at the academy?”
“The same,” Kouta said. “Though he hasn’t taught me much yet, he usually just sends me on errands. I’m still looking for a chance to prove myself.”
“I hope you can,” said Harun, though he had his own private doubts. Isamu’s arrogance was well known.
Just then they heard the sound of the taiko drums striking. The entire camp was silent as they listened to decipher the pattern.
“Do you know what it says?” Kunta asked.
“It’s a stand and assembly,” said Harun. “I need to get back.”
“Can I....?” Kouta looked at him.
“Come on, hurry,” said Harun, heading towards the sound of the drums.

The Legion assembled in ranks that surrounded the Emerald Champions tent. All armed, weapons held and banners flying in a show of strength. Yet the Emerald Champion was not there, the guards stood in front of the closed flaps of his tent. The only one there who could know anything was the First Legion’s Taisa, Katsura Hisato, but she stood there silently and gave no orders.
Harun stood several ranks back with his platoon, Kouta wedged behind him. He wasn’t sure what was going on. A speech? A duel?
There was a low groaning from the wall of Toshi Ranbo, one of the great gates opened and five tainted samurai emerged. Their armour was blackened, their flesh stank with the decay of the taint. They walked unchallenged past the assembled Imperial troops, but they got plenty of glares. One of the Onyx carried a nobori banner decorated with a blackened crane. And leading them, a man who was the stuff of nightmares to many Crane children. The Fallen Crane, the Black Kabuki, the Demon Blade of the Shadowlands, Daigotsu Shimekiri.
The taint had left its mark on him, but rather than a walking, rotting corpse, Shimekiri resembled an ivory sculpture. His bare arms were muscular and deathly pale, contrasting sharply against his black jinbaori and hakama. His white hair done in an elaborate theatrical style that, when combined with the red-painted kabuki mask he wore, gave him a fearsome, otherworldly look. He moved with the grace of a cat, had the subtleness of a whisper but with the speed a ferocity of a whip crack.
Harun shivered when he saw Shimekiri. He of course knew the stories, but the former Crane had a dark history with his family. Shimekiri had killed Arahime’s grandparents, capturing her mother Kyoumi perhaps intending to hand her—still a child—over to Daigotsu. Kaori, Arahime’s great grandmother and a kenshinzen, had sacrificed herself so Kyoumi could be rescued. And Shimekiri still lived.
Harun knew that Shimekiri would only come for one purpose, for a duel, but his father had not emerged from his tent.
What’s going on? Harun wondered. What is his plan?
When he came to the square made of assembled bushi, Shimekiri stopped, looking this way and that like an actor who had wandered onto the stage at the wrong moment. Then he burst out laughing.
“It seems the Emperor’s Champion has assembled his forces, but not shown himself,” Shimekiri said. He shouted up to the closed tent. “Is your courage as false as your right to hold Kakita’s sword and armour?”
There was a low growl of disapproval from the assembled troops, no words, just genuine displeasure. Harun turned his gaze to his father’s tent, surely that could not be ignored.
The flap to the Emerald Champion’s tent parted, but he himself did not emerge. It was Akodo Ryoichi. He walked towards Shimekiri in careful measured steps. He wore his armour, held his helmet to one side and a white hachimaki was tied around his head.
Harun inhaled sharply, the white hachimaki…did it mean what Harun thought it did? He looked over at Kouta whose face was expressionless.
Shimekiri looked at Ryoichi with a confused expression, but only for a moment. Like an accomplished actor when an amateur on stage flubbed his lines, Shimekiri recovered and took centre stage.
“And who are you?” Shimekiri asked, as if the Lion was no more than an obstacle to be cast aside.
“Akodo Ryoichi,” he said, making a bow, his tone curt and businesslike. “I must inform you that my lord is…not at home.” He paused, giving time for the ritual phrase used to snub someone to sink in. There was a smattering of laughter from the troops. “I speak with his voice and I will deliver his terms.”
“I will agree to no terms that are not won upon the point of a sword,” Shimekiri said, his black eyes narrowing.
“If you have a challenge to make, then by all means do so,” said Ryoichi flatly. “You may have all day, we do not.”
There was another titter of laughter. Shimekiri scowled. When he spoke, his voice was like a clap of thunder. “I challenge you in a duel to the death, according to the traditions set down by Kakita,” he said. “Now, state your terms, Lion.”
Ryoichi smiled, as if Shimekiri’s antics amused him. “The terms are this: in the event of my victory, the entire Onyx Legion will vacate Toshi Ranbo immediately, laying down their arms and submitting themselves to the mercy of our steel.”
“And if I win?” Shimekiri asked, his grin akin to a skull’s.
“You will be permitted safe conduct inside the city and hostilities resume,” said Ryoichi, pausing a long moment then adding. “And Shimekiri will be recorded in the history of the Crane Clan as the finest duellist since Kakita.” As if on cue, a Kakita courtier appeared with a rolled scroll. It had the mon of the Crane clan displayed proudly.
This caused an intake of breath from the assembled troops, including Harun and Kouta.
Shimekiri laughed. “I accept these terms, Lion,” he said. “Let the circle be prepared.”

Karasu paced his tent like a caged animal. In here was the last place he wanted to be, he could hear everything going on outside but could not participate. He had to stay in here, to save face, and send yet another good man to die. And not just any man, a friend.
Ryoichi had been by his side since almost the beginning. He had been with Akodo Tokumei while she had been Lion Champion. While Ryoichi had studied at the Akodo War College, his ideas had not exactly been welcome among the more orthodox members of his clan. Karasu offered him a posting, and their partnership had grown from there.
But Ryoichi was more than that, in time he was considered almost family especially by the children as he did not seem to have one of his own. Memories of Ryoichi with them flashed before his eyes. The twins, Masami and Masaru, chasing him in the garden holding out their cat. Helping Sakimi practice her grip on her bokken to help her gain entry to the Kakita Academy. Carrying a sleeping four year old Harun back to his bed when the boy had gone in search of his father in the Imperial Palace and had fallen asleep behind a shoji screen.
Is Harun out there? Karasu wondered. I hope he isn’t.
Scribe and Adopted Crane

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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:25 am

Harun watched the duelling circle being prepared by a shugenja, a Kakita sensei standing by. His head was spinning, thoughts moving fast. He wanted to believe that Ryoichi would win, that Shimekiri would be killed and that even perhaps the battle would be over today.
But he didn’t think that would happen. Not with what he knew of Shimekiri. And this mean Ryoichi could be about to die. He had seen people die before, and Harun was prepared for death himself as every samurai was. But…Ryoichi was almost family. The quiet, Lion uncle he and his siblings knew growing up.
He looked at Kouta, but his face was expressionless.
Outside the duelling circle, the two combatants made the preparations. Shimekiri removed his jinbaori with the help of his attendants. Beneath he wore black armour that only covered his left arm. The rest of his pale skin was decorated with tattoos and red kabuki paint. The entire effect was rather theatrical.
Ryoichi’s preparations were far more subdued. He spoke quietly to Katsura Hisato, she nodded, not saying much and then taking a small piece of paper that Ryoichi gave to her. She then gave a low bow to him and stepped back. Ryoichi put on his helmet.
The Kakita sensei stepped forward, a fan in his hand. The murmurs of talking stopped among the troops and there was silence. “May the two combatants declare themselves,” he said.
Shimekiri stepped forward. “I am Daigotsu Shimekiri, student of the Kakita Duelling Academy, Rikugunshokan of the Army of Obsidian, Defender of Toshi Ranbo.” He gave an elaborate bow.
Ryoichi stepped forward. “This one is Akodo Ryoichi, son of Akodo Asukai, son of Akodo Hiraga, son of Akodo Miyoshi, son of Akodo Shigeno who fell in battle on the Second Day of Thunder.” He gave a bow, somehow both more formal and more humble than Shimekiri’s.
“The terms of the duel are agreed upon?” asked the Kakita sensei.
Both Shimekiri and Ryoichi nodded.
“This duel is to the death, the result is binding.” The Kakita raided his fan.” Hajime!” He quickly lowered it.
All was silence as the two combatants stared each other down. And to many, Shimekiri seemed not to move at all. So fast was he that his katana seemed to leap into his hands, coming down towards Ryoichi with a brilliant flash like lightning. Ryoichi had drawn, but his blade was nowhere near Shimikiri’s. It couldn’t block the massive cleave into Ryoichi’s side, slicing through his armour as if it were no more thicker than rice paper.
Such form, such perfection, such beauty. And all in the blink of an eye.
The force of the blow knocked Ryoichi back. He gave a weak attempt at Shimekiri before dropping his katana, blood streaming down his side like a river.
Shimekiri didn’t move at all, he just grinned. He had made his one perfect cut, so he just watched the Lion die. Ryoichi crumpled to the ground, Hisato rushing over his side.
The gathered troops were quiet, though some low sympathetic moans coming from a few. Harun tried to get to the front of the line, go over to Ryoichi but every way was blocked. He felt so useless watching.
“Daigotsu Shimekiri is the victor,” said the Kakita sensei, raising his fan. He didn’t sound pleased about this.
Shimekiri raised his katana in triumph, Ryoichi’s blood still streaming down the blade. All he got were boos and jeers, with a few brave enough to shout insults.
“Satisfy the terms!” Shimekiri said. “Read it!”
The courtier opened the scroll and began to read.
“Daigotsu Shimekiri, once Kakita Shimekiri, is the finest duellist since Kakita. He began his training with the sword at Kakita Academy, but his own talent was sadly coupled to a savage's arrogance and cruelty. For this, the Master Sensei Kashiwa did not see fit to admit him to the Kenshinzen School.” A pause at this, the troops started to laugh. The ‘courtier’ gave Shimekiri a mocking grin. He continued reading, his tone slow and exaggerated. “ In an act of vengeance worthy of a petulant child, and unable to stand on his own merits, he turned his soul over to the taint, being gifted in return with unnatural skill with the blade. Not content with such obsequious surrender to the forces of evil, Shimekiri joined the Spider Clan. Thereafter he was gifted more unnatural skill by Jigoku, which he has used primarily for exacting petty and cruel revenge on those who wronged him…”
“That’s enough!” Shimekiri shouted as the soldiers roared with laughter.
Harun laughed, it felt odd but good. But he knew from the start the ‘courtier’ was a Kakita jester.
Hisato got to her feet, her expression set.
“Archers!” she shouted. Every archer within range and without obstructions readied his bow.
“What?” Shimekiri spat. “I was given safe conduct, ronin.”
“You were, yes,” said Hisato. “Not them. Loose arrows!”
Every archer in range fired, filling Shimekiri’s companions with arrows. They tried to fight, but the rain of death was too much. Some arrows git near Shimekiri, but he avoided them with a subtle grace of movement. None touched him.
When the last of the Onyx bushi were on the ground, Hisato signalled for them to stop,
“Go,” she thundered. “Our mercy for you may only extend so far.”
Sulkily, Shimekiri walked off.
As soon as he was gone, Karasu left his tent, his face pale as he saw Riyoichi’s body being loaded onto a cart by eta. In the complete silence, every eye was upon him. Hisato looked at Karasu expecting him to speak.
“Ryoichi’s sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Karasu said, raising his voice for all to hear. “All of us, every soldier, every blade, every one of us will avenge his death.” He raised his voice to a shout. “Toshi Ranbo will fall! Let them hear us inside! Let them know we are not afraid!”
As one, the Legion shouted their defiance, so loud that it rattled their banners. Harun shouted with them, perhaps if he shouted loud enough he wouldn’t have to feel anything. At least, not for a while.
Scribe and Adopted Crane


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