L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

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L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:24 am

This is the sister-story for Kakita Harun's Chasing the Winds story. We're going to coordinate and play off each other for a bit and see what we can come up with. This is a sequel to the School Days story and, other than the first teaser from some point in an as-yet undetermined future, starts exactly 1 year after School Days ends.

You can read this offline on this PDF version: http://craneclan.weebly.com/uploads/6/9 ... itched.pdf
-----------------
Ditched - an Onyx Empire Story

I am not going to die here.

My name is Kakita Arahime and I am not going to die here.

I am a daughter of the line of Kashiwa and I am not going to die here

My line is the line of a hundred generations of Kenshinzen. A line of Empresses.

I descend from the blood of Yasurugi and Konoshiko. I descend from the blood of Kakita and the First Men. I descend from the blood of Doji-no-kami, daughter of Heaven.

I am not going to die here.

I will not abandon the daisho of Masarugi here. I will not abandon the blades of Kaori here.

I will not die in some hot, filthy jungle to be eaten alive by insects.

I am not going to let my mother and father mourn me.

I am not going to let Harun, that baka, ditch me without giving him a piece of my mind.

I am not going to die here.

I am not going to die...

I am not...

I am...


--------------

Spring, 1236 - Shiro san Kakita

The closing ceremony had been a slightly more subdued affair than it had been the year before. Most of the villagers had scattered. The glory of victory in the Topaz Championship had eluded the Crane, a disappointment. The Emerald Champion and his retinue had departed early; the war in Sparrow lands was going poorly, there were rumors of conflict in Otosan Uchi itself, and Kakita Karasu could not afford to be absent for long.

One by one, each participant in the tournament that had reached this point was called forward, received their daisho from a family member, and swore allegiance to the Clan Champion or appointed representative.

“Kakita Arahime. Step forward.”

She had been called second to last, the highest placing Crane in the Topaz Championship. She was met by her mother, dressed in her kimonos of white trimmed with blue and Imperial jade. She handed Arahime a daisho that seemed ancient. The saya was a beautiful pearl white, and the tsuba of the katana was gold with the image of a crane flying over a river scattered with cherry blossom.

“Your grandmother’s sword,” said Kyoumi, a soft smile curving her lips, and the young woman knew it was true. These were the blades of Kakita Kaori, a kenshinzen of unquestioned honor and the last kenshinzen of the direct line, her great grandmother. Arahime accepted with a bow and felt the weight of the responsibility of generations fall about her shoulders.

Arahime then went forward and knelt before the Crane Clan Champion, Doji Ayumu, offering her swords. “This one offers you, Doji-no-kimi, her oath of fealty, her life, and her sword to use as you see fit. This one wishes to serve you to the fullest extent of bushido and to follow you wherever you lead, as called Kakita Arahime.” She then bowed low.

Doji Ayumu accepted with a nod. “I accept your oath, Kakita Arahime, and the honor you will bring to the Clan of Doji.”

The new Topaz Champion, a Dragon, made his pledge to his own clan representative and all arose. Arahime turned to join her parents, but as she turned away, she was stopped by the sound of Lord Doji Ayamu's voice.

"Arahime-san. Kyoumi-san. Kousuda-san. Meet me this evening for tea when the celebration is finished. I wish to discuss your new assignment."

This was not something that could be refused.

------------------------

The main gates to the village of Tsuma fell shut with a thud, and with that sound the Topaz Championship was, officially over and the celebrations had begun. Kakita Arahime watched them silently for a moment or two, willing them open again, but her baleful glare did nothing to move the gates or move the hearts of the gate guards who held them. She did not feel like celebrating.

"He didn't come."

Her mother laid a hand on the young woman's shoulder, her renowned voice speaking softly. "Events do not always happen as we want them to, Arahime-chan. It could have been anything. I am certain he wished he were here."

"If he wanted to, he would have made it." Arahime's words were more resentful than her heart truly felt. But they were flavored with disappointment and it left a bitter taste in her mouth. There could be only one Topaz Champion each year, and there was no dishonor in coming second. But she could not help but think that somehow, if Harun had kept his promise, she'd have been able to focus just a little bit harder, strike just that little bit more true, and have won the final match. It was not right for her to think so, but she felt it anyway.

She followed her mother in silence, ignoring the congratulations from the other students and visiting adults on her fine performance. When I see that baka again, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind, Arahime thought angrily.

If he's alive. He had no right to make her worry about him.

If he cares about me. He had no right to make her care about him. He had no right to make those fluttering feelings in her chest start whenever she thought about him.

If he hasn't run away to join the Unicorn for good.

Stupid Baka.

--------------------------

A very plain tea set was laid out on the low table. There might have been a time when such a set would be considered too plain for a daimyo’s table, but the art had changed. This piece was simple and beautiful. Doji Ayumu was already kneeling on the opposite side of the table when Kakita Arahime entered with her parents. It was clear from the arrangement of the room that this was to be a quiet and informal conversation, despite the Champion’s high status. It was also clear that even the clan champion afforded Kyoumi and Kousuda a measure of respect.

They bowed to the Champion and took their places opposite him in silence while he poured the tea. The tea ceremony began in typical silence as each appreciated the subtle flavors of the tea. Arahime was confused, but did her best. Only once tea was poured and appreciated did Ayumu open the conversation.

“Do you like the tea? It was a gift from the Warlord in Second City. Our own tea plantations will take years to recover, but through our trade agreements with the Rinjin, we are able to have such small luxuries.”

Kyoumi’s eyes narrowed very slightly, but her smile was pleasant. “It is delicious. We are fortunate to have such trade agreements.”

Kousuda took a second sip. “The choice is interesting. This variety seems particularly auspicious for the occasion.”

Arahime was silent as the Champion nodded, pleased that his message had been sent. “Indeed. It was selected especially by our ambassador to the court of Second City. Doji Mushari is perhaps my finest ambassador, and has been for many years. Experienced. Intelligent. Able to speak several languages, and, more importantly, traverse the difficulties in understanding between us and the rinjin with grace of a dancer and the wit of a poet.”

Kyoumi accepted the compliment silently, while her husband noted, “I have shared some correspondence.”

Ayumu smiled. “Then I’m certain you have heard much from him about how well your wife’s poetry and stories are received in the colonies. She has made quite the name for herself. It is no wonder, considering how instrumental she was to creating the very concept of rinjin. And you yourself had such favor from the Warlord! Of course, there are many troubles. Certain factions who are dissatisfied with the Imperial tax levies. The loss of his first yojimbo to tropical disease, and so on.”

A frown graced the poet’s lips. “I doubt any of the younger generations care much about the events of a winter court seventeen years ago, and I have much less time for poetry in my current role, Ayumu-sama.” She had a wary tone in her voice, uncertain what the Champion was getting at, but beginning to feel like she would not like it. Arahime looked at her mother in confusion, a little wrinkle creasing her forehead.

The Doji lord acknowledged the frown. “It is still greater repute and respect than most any here in Crane lands.” Finally, however, he chose to be more direct. “You may not have heard about Mushari’s most recent difficulty. His yojimbo, Daidoji Yakune, recently was required to commit seppuku. He was caught in an affair with a Yoritomo Courtier and it brought considerable dishonor. Now he is without his sword. Even though I have no concerns at all for Mushari’s honor or safety, it is incumbent on me to be certain he has competent protection. Considering the respect the rinjin have for you and your family, and your family’s vaunted reputation for diplomacy and skill, I believe Arahime will be the best I have for this role.”

Finally, Arahime spoke. "I apologize, Doji-dono, but I know very little of the colonies. What are the rinjin? What is their relationship with our clan?"

Kyoumi gave her daughter a gentle smile. "It was all long ago, before you were born. The War with the Onyx had cut off the Colonies once held by the Empire from the Empire, and they lived without communication for many years. During that time, those samurai who still lived there, mostly of the Mantis clan, came to interact with the Ivindi more, losing many of their Rokugani ways. Finally, their leader, chosen," she shot a glance over to her husband, "by the Fortune Yoritomo, by the name Arashi, decided to reach out to the Empire again, to bid for the colonies' ability to self-govern in exchange for helping the Empire in its time of need, much as Yoritomo did once before. It was a bold gambit, but so had been that of Yoritomo. The Emperor agreed...under certain conditions. The Warlord of the colonies would respect the Imperial Throne, and pay support and tithe to the Empire. The samurai there would become 'rinjin'...neighbors, rather than samurai, for to be samurai means to serve. And the members of families there must take new names that their true loyalties must never be questioned. Kitsune, Moshi, Tsuruchi, and Otomo, and the Yoritomo...these families have been all but lost save for the remnants there. But they have chosen new names and become something new. As to our relationship...." Kyoumi looked up at the Crane champion with a knowing gaze. "We paid the price for their freedom. For the Emperor demanded the full measure of their tithes across the twenty years they had been gone at once. But they could not procure that much that fast. It was the Crane that financed their tithe until they could stand on their own. They have been repaying those debts ever since. I cannot imagine that feelings are overly kind."

Perhaps it was even more than that, judging from the expressions of concern in Arahime's parents' faces. The girl felt an icy spike of fear go down her spine, but she composed her face and maintained her on. She answered soberly, “Of course, Ayumu-sama. I will go wherever you send me.” I don’t have to like it. This is duty. I passed my gempukku, Mother. You can’t protect me anymore.

The Crane daimyo emptied his cup and set it down. He acknowledged Arahime with a respectful nod. “Spoken like a true samurai on her name day.” He looked at Kyoumi and Kousuda. “She will have as much protection as I am able to give. Mushari is a good and honorable man and will do all he can to protect her too. I do not doubt that, were duels to come, the Kakita school will outstrip any the Yoritomo or Otomo can provide.”

Kyoumi sighed and put down her own cup. The tea tasted like boiled leaves. “As you will, my lord. When does she depart?”

“Her ship leaves from Otosan Uchi in three days. Thank you all. This may not be the sweetest tea but I can think of few better to share it with.”

The three bowed in acceptance, made their polite goodbyes and departed.

They did not have much time left together. They needed to take advantage of every moment.

------------------

Late in the evening, Arahime pulled out her brush and paper. She fiercely rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand to try to keep the tears from spilling and messing up the ink.

She'd waited half the night, hoping beyond hope that Harun would come in time. That she'd be able to see him before she had to leave. But he still wasn't here. She'd have to write him a letter and leave it with Kenshin-sensei.

Dear Harun-san,

I am sorry I was not able to stay until you finally arrived. You missed a lovely time at the Topaz Championship. Of course, Mirumoto Fumaki claimed the prize, but everyone tells me that coming second is very respectable and brings great honor to the family. Mother tells me that there were several inquiries about marriage prospects already but it is early days yet. My only regret is that you were not there to cheer me on.

You should have been here, Harun...I don't want to marry someone else....they wouldn't have even approached Mother if you were here....

It rained during the tsu-fish hunt, but the boys I was teamed up with and I persevered. Remember when we used to go look for them? The chase was exciting, certainly. I am sure that you had many exciting adventures during your days in Unicorn Lands. I wish I could have heard all about them. Your father was also here, though he had to leave early. There was some trouble with the merchant ships in Otosan Uchi he needed to attend to.

We made it through the rain...I did it without you. But with you it would have been better.

Unfortunately, right after the closing ceremonies, I received my new assignment, directly from Doji Ayumu-sama. The most recent yojimbo for the Crane Ambassador in Second City recently committed seppuku regarding an incident with a Yoritomo courtier. The ambassador, Doji Mushari, needs a new one. Since Mushari-sama is currently without protection, I am required to leave immediately. Ayamu-sama believes that my family’s reputation and my father’s connections will serve me well in this new posting.

My parents think this is really dangerous...Mushari has lost two yojimbo already. They're frightened. But I have to go....

I will miss you and write to you as often as I am able. Know that I will always think on you and remember fondly our times spent dancing in the gardens pretending that the world was kind.


I don't know if I will be able to write. I don't know what will happen. But...with you the world was perfect. I wish it could be that way again.

Sincerely,
Kakita Arahime.


She sealed up the note. She would take it to Kenshin-sensei first thing in the morning, before her family left for Otosan Uchi.
Last edited by KakitaKaori on Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:02 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:42 am

I wild just like to say for the record that as this scene is taking place, Harun is riding hell for leather to keep his promise to her. Unfortunately, the winter was particularly harsh that year and snow delayed him.

I feel sorry for Arahime, but she's still a teenager and has so much to learn!
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sun May 07, 2017 6:37 pm

Spring, 1236 - The Coast off Otosan Uchi

The wind sent her white hair flying like a banner streaming behind Arahime as she watched Otosan Uchi grow smaller and smaller in the distance. The weather was beautiful, the seas pristine, and her heart was far more turbulent than the waters.

The last three days had been a whirlwind. Her parents had used all their contacts and resources to swiftly prepare her for her trip. Her father had, somehow, managed to find a set of the light armor that the colonists favored, and had it shaped and freshly lacquered within two days. Her mother had had a seamstress prepare a new lightweight kimono of recent style, and also tucked in the beautiful, if scandalous, teal kimono she herself had been given by the old Mantis Clan Champion, Moshi Janisha, many years ago. The Emerald Champion himself had sent along a broach, and the Imperial Treasurer had provided a half a dozen letters of introduction to all those who owed him favors. She had a list of names and appearances and customs prepared for her to memorize.

And she knew all the preparation in the world would never be enough.

It was not the call of adventure that frightened her. Her father told stories of the Burning Sands, the exotic djinn and giant roc, of sorcerers and oases and magic carpets. She remembered hanging off of his every word, trying to imagine a world so far away. Her mother always watched the storytelling with a wistful smile, usually while she herself was buried in the depths of her own studies, either of the dark ways of Jigoku, or in the dance of letters and the court where she turned the priorities of the Voice, Hida Kozen, into action. Sometimes Harun had been there, also hanging off of Kousuda’s every word, though he worked harder to hide his interest.

He was always better at hiding how he felt.

Too much Fire and Air, That’s what her masters had told her. They tried to lead her to the paths of Void, of Earth, and Water, to the deep places in herself where she could find peace and center. To not allow her emotions to master her. And she had tried. But it was a struggle. How would she find patience and stillness in the heat of Zoegeku?

While she imagined the adventure, though, the truth was Arahime had never been far from her home. Though her parents had been away in Otosan Uchi while she was at the Academy, the Academy was just like home to her. She knew every rock and tree. In the colonies, even the trees themselves would be strange to her. That made her nervous, but that was not her greatest fear.

Her greatest source of fear was that, as young and as green as she was, she was to be entrusted with the life of the finest ambassador of the Crane? She had never been given much responsibility for anything. Too much fire and air, just as her Sensei had said. Too many convoluted thoughts and wild imaginings. Not enough faith.

Now she travelled to the end of the world, alone.

She took a deep breath of the familiarly salt-scented air. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of wheeling seagulls.
She had a long journey before her. Perhaps she could push the thoughts of Harun, of her parents, of her home aside to focus on the moment.
Perhaps she could find her center out there on the ocean.
Perhaps the moment would be enough to carry her through.




Late Spring, 1236 - The Ivory Kingdom Coastline

Arahime had never seen so much green.

In the halls of the Kakita Academy, there were pictures painted by the famous Grandmaster Painter, Kakita Toshiki, that showed the Kitsune Mori before the devastation the Crab had wrought upon it. Her mother had drawn pictures in the air of the deep forests of the Isawa Mori with its many dark pines and ancient pathways. Neither were anything like the coastline that rapidly approached.

The trees did not come in one height, but were layered with tiers that went up towards heaven like the roofs of a pagoda. A thin strip of pearl-white beach fronted rows of trees with long, thin trunks with no branches like bamboo, their leaves a brush at the top that shaded the ground. Every so often, she could catch a glimpse of a flash of bright red or blue, the wings of some brilliantly colored bird.

It had been a long trip, and Arahime was more at peace with it than she had been when she had left. She was still not happy with leaving so fast, but the prospect of new faces and new lands were intriguing. Harun would have liked it…. She crushed the thought quickly. Those thoughts were for a different time and a different land and she could not afford the sin of regret. She told herself she was going to enjoy every single moment this strange world had to offer her, and do the very best she could to serve the ambassador and her clan with excellence.
And maybe see something beautiful along the way.

“Beautiful and deadly.”

Arahime turned. One of the Mantis sailors on the ship nodded his head at the jungle while he tightened a rope that held the sail.
“The Ruined Kingdom. The jungles. There’s colors there you’ve never seen before, Kakita-sama. Ruins bigger than anything you’d believe. But creatures the size of any oni that hauled itself out of Kanpeki’s black butthole. Insects with poison as vile as a scorpions, and ants that would eat a bushi under his own armor. Those that go in those jungles don’t come out. No, I wouldn’t go ashore there...but from here? Beautiful.”

Arahime ignored the coarse language and nodded her understanding and appreciation of the warning. She had no intention of trying to leave the city anyway; her charge was unlikely to go adventuring in the jungle at his age anyway.

As the ship approached the mouth of the river, small fishing villages began to dot the banks. They looked very similar to the villages near Otosan Uchi she had ridden to with her parents as a little girl. She remembered joining with the village children, learning to swim and play in the waves, as some of her earliest memories.

The great stone archways and palaces, crumbling in places, looked ancient...as ancient as the oldest parts of the crumbling city of Otosan Uchi, but in a way that was completely alien to her. Each giant block of moss and ivy-covered stone crept slowly past as the ship made its slow and stately progress upstream.

The land grew more densely inhabited the further upstream they went. Villages carved and standing on the ruins of Ivory Kingdom fortresses, then small towns built inside the shells of great palaces, then larger cities built around intact buildings. Finally, the banners and ships and grandiosity of a mighty port, and a spread of farmlands that seemed very much the tranquil domesticity of her home. Beyond the port and these lands lay the capital of these lands of the Rinjin. Home of the Warlord, and favored of the Thunder Dragon. Second City.



Late Spring, 1236 - Second City

The whirlwind of disembarking, the strange sights and sounds, it was all Arahime could do to keep from gawking as she followed the servant that had been sent to bring her to the Crane Ambassador. The road from the docks was greater than she imagined; there had been much recent building there. Beyond the stalls and houses that lined the road, the samurai-ko could see more of the farmland she had seen as she approached by river. She was led past low walls and through an area of merchants and artisans, their booths and stalls crowded together worse than the merchants that gathered around Tsume village for market day. Beyond the peasant and merchant districts, huge Kaiu-built walls surrounded the military district within, though the heimen refused to tell her the area’s real name when she pressed with her questions. Here, the buildings began to go up and up in height, reaching towards the heavens. The feeling was oppressive, as though they were all going to come tumbling in on her. However, there were areas more grim in Otosan Uchi, so she marched on, chin up, towards the inner wall that shielded the Inner District. Here, finally, the buildings of oppressive height at least had space between them for gardens and clear-running little streams. The servant led her up the steps to one of the smaller buildings in the district, well-appointed and marked by the statues that stood by its entrance as the new Embassy of the Crane. She was ushered inside to meet her new charge.

She instantly liked him. Doji Mushari was an older man, with white hair done up neatly in a traditional courtier’s cap, deeply tanned skin, and tired brown eyes. His face had a number of sun-worn spots and wrinkles furrowed his brow, but they served to bring animation and a gentle smile to his face as he invited Arahime to join him.

“My dear young woman,” he said, giving her a bow that honored her with an equal status. “I am so grateful that you are here. I met your father, years ago, when he came to discuss the paths of treating with gaijin used among the Ide. Kousuda-san was most inspirational, and I have had reason to call on his insights many times since I arrived at this post. I trust your journey was not too unpleasant.”

Arahime shook her head. “It was not. I’m told there are storms later in the summer, but the convoy left before late spring and we only had a few short bursts of wet weather.

“Excellent. I have not read the letters yet, but I look forward to the reports. Not all things are for the Morishita to read. I am certain I will learn more about you in the reports, and I have prepared one for you, about myself, about our situation, and everything I hope you will need. I know it is very difficult to adjust so quickly to a new situation, and you are fresh from your gempukku. I will do everything I can to make the transition smooth for you.”

“Thank you, Mushari-sama. I will do my best to serve,” Arahime answered.

Mushari poured a cup of some cool juice for Arahime and passed it to her and invited her to sit with him before a table set with a variety of kinds of foods, many of which were unfamiliar to her. After she was settled and comfortable, his tone grew less formal, but more grave. He sighed.

“Arahime-san. It is a difficult situation we are in here. The Warlord supports our endeavors. A few of the older families. It has taken much work, but relations are finally…comfortable…with the Morishita family and the Tenmei family. They are less good with the Nobumoto and poor with the Arashi and the Ota. Always we have striven to work with each family as fairly as possible, open to change and adaption, while still maintaining the structure that is needed for others to understand the depths of our sincerity. The older generation, the ones that remember being something other than Rinjin, who remember being samurai, understand still what was lost and what was gained as they become what they become.”

The older man offered her a bite of some small, round fruit. Its sweetness burst on her tongue, delicious after the long sea voyage. She savored the taste as he continued.

“When the founders of these families returned to this kingdom, many winters ago, before you were born, they carried with them the gift of the Emperor’s independence. It was a gift they sought eagerly. When the Onyx Empire sundered these lands from the Empire, the colonists that had been here felt abandoned and rejected. In the long break of contact between the Empire and Zoegeku, they had no advocate in the ways of the culture of the Empire. And, with our own hands bound, and the Empire so distant, we were not able to teach them as we should. Perhaps it, too, is a place where the Crane have failed, as we have in so many ways in the face of these battles.”

“But we couldn’t...!” Arahime leapt to the defense of her clan, but Mushari raised his hand to stop her. “No, Arahime-san. You will need to bear much more than simple words of honest reflection. You will have to bear insult to you. To our clan. Each clan has done wrong and right over the years. The times have been hard, and all of us have struggled, won, and sometimes failed in our duties over the years. But failure has its cost. Especially when combined with the anger of those who are quick to blame others for their own sufferings. You will hear every sort of calumny spoken about the Children of Doji here.”

Arahime closed her mouth tightly and tried to listen as Mushari continued. “Those founders of the Great Houses were eager to explore what their independence was, to make something new. We could not provide a culture for them, so they created their own. They raised up the lost past of these lands, drawing on the customs and culture and the resources of the Ivinda who had gone before, rather than taming their hearts into the ways of the samurai of Rokugan. Once independence was granted, they rejoiced in their newfound uniqueness. They enjoyed the goods of the Empire, but they had no desire to re-embrace its ways.”

The young samurai-ko listened carefully, suppressing her questions. She took a sip of the pale white liquid that Mushari had poured for her and focused on maintaining her face as he went on.

“This older generation has no love for the Onyx, and tells stories of the lands of Rokugan and what was lost. They do appreciate the gift the Emperor gave to them and the debts they owe, and only rarely speak of them with resentment. But their children…for them it is a different matter. The Empire is very distant to them. The monsters the Great Clans fight, almost a myth. The Emperor is a foreign power that strips away their wealth and their resources fighting a foe that for these young ones barely exists. These young people are children of the world their parents wished to create, and that world has little space for the ancient ways.”

He lowered his eyes to his cup, and there was surprising compassion in his tone. “It is not fair to say there is no suffering here. Each year the monsoons crash down upon them. Creatures emerge from the jungles to extract their price, and diseases can be swift and deadly. But in good years and bad, the Crane collect the debts. We need this repayment, for our treasuries are stripped empty and every koku we have goes to fund the war and feed the people, but here they do not understand. Every year, some of their heimen leave to return to our lands, for we have recruiters among them who arrange passage for any who wish to go. The Ivinda population grows. For these many troubles, it is...convenient...for many to blame the Crane. Their wrath at the Crab and Lion may be greater, but they are not here. We are.”

The Kakita could hear in his tone much of the way her father spoke as he tried to help her resolve her differences with her younger brother, Masarugi, or when he would come to visit the academy and she’d complain to him of the troubles Harun was facing. The boys who teased him used to make her so angry! But her father would try to explain what it was to be frightened of change, and how Harun, how he, himself, who was once Ide, was a great change to many in his new family, and change took time. Mushari too seemed to at least try to understand those who hated him.
How could the daughter of Kakita Kousuda do less?

She bowed to the Doji. “I will try to understand and keep my patience, Doji-sama. I do get angry sometimes, but I will try.”

The Crane ambassador returned her bow. “And you will succeed,” he said plainly. “You must. Without a yojimbo, I must tread even more carefully. You are my only worthy champion, and a duel stands, here as in Rokugan, as the final test of truth when persuasion and diplomacy have failed. Without my faithful guard, I am forced into ever weaker stances. I have not been able to bring in more artisans or courtiers to help them learn the ways of the Empire or to temper this hot court, because I cannot provide them safety. I cannot challenge falsehoods made against us. I cannot afford to lose you, Arahime-san. But we cannot start any unnecessary duels or trouble. The Crane still need this vital link of trade, and we cannot make our relations with the houses that favor us worse. “ He drained his cup and set it down to give her a grandfatherly smile. “It is a heavy burden I place on your shoulders, Kakita Arahime-san. But I know the strength of your family. I know you will survive the trials of this place, and excel. However difficult they might be.”





As Kakita Arahime stared at the ceiling in her chamber that night, feeling the floor sway beneath with the remaining vertigo of her sea-voyage, she certainly hoped the old Doji was right.
Last edited by KakitaKaori on Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sun May 14, 2017 7:31 pm

Late Spring, 1236 - Second City

The old Doji had done what he could. In the way of the Doji, he considered it his duty to look after every tiny detail. Her room was comfortable and serene. He had already had prepared for her clothing in exactly the correct current fashion for yojimbo in the court, though he had noted that her armor was perfectly appropriate. But it was hard to keep her face correctly impassive as she followed him into the colonnaded courtyard that served as the Warlord’s palace. She felt like she was walking out onto a battlefield naked.

She immediately drew eyes from throughout the court. Mushari was old, a familiar face. They were used to seeing his white hair and blue eyes. But Arahime’s pale skin, long, ivory locks, and stormy gray eyes, stood out in a stark contrast amidst these darker faces. It had been several years since a Crane maiden, especially one of the kuge, had appeared in these halls. Perhaps it was the shortness of her kimono, but Arahime could feel hungry eyes upon her.

Mushari led her to a man, around her mother’s age, with green eyes and his red hair streaked with white from an early age. He bowed to him, and then made a gesture towards her. She bowed also, more deeply.

“Morishita-sama, please allow me to introduce my new yojimbo, Kakita Arahime. She has just arrived on the Cormorant from Otosan Uchi” He turned slightly to face Arahime. “Arahime-san, I am privileged to introduce you to the head of the Great House Morishita.”

Arahime’s quick mind raced over the notes that her mother had prepared for her and that she had memorized as she bowed again. Used to be Kitsune. Shugenja. Testy. Has Red Panda spirit. A few other things. “Morishita-sama,” she offered as smoothly as she was able. “It is an honor to meet such a renowned Restorer-of-the-Lands. How are the efforts here in these lands going?”

The Shugenja cocked his head thoughtfully, looking the girl up and down. “Well,” he offered Mushari. “She’s more polite than the last one. That is something, I suppose.” He turned to address Arahime directly. “We’ve reclaimed about as much of the jungle as we can, barring help from the Emperor, which we’re not going to get. Naturally. But it is polite of you to ask.” He rubbed the short beard he wore. “You look familiar to me. Do you have family from the Colonies?”

Arahime darted an uncertain glance towards Mushari, who stepped in smoothly. “She is the daughter to a Crane poet. Kakita Kyoumi. I believe she wrote a sequence of stories that was quite popular here about six years ago called the ‘Journey of the Woodpecker?’ Delightful tales.”

Lord Morishita acknowledged the name, but Arahime could not help but think the man’s smile looked rather awkward. “Well, we shall see if your new yojimbo can outstrip her predecessors in honor, Mushari-san.” He gave a small bow to both and departed.

Mushari watched him go thoughtfully.



There were other introductions, a whirlwind. Some of the names she had memorized previously, some she had not but did her best. All were older men and women, similar in age to Mushari. The last introduction, made towards the end of the day, was the Warlord himself.

The scrolls Arahime had studied had described the Warlord’s heritage, part Ivinda, part Moshi from the days before the colonies had received their independence, part son of Yoritomo, born from the Scorpion, adopted child of the Son of Storms. He was a slender, tall man, with dark, dark skin, even darker than Harun’s, with long gray hair and odd, gaijin eyes that evaluated her like the Master Gardener would take the measure of a new tree taking root in his garden. Like a man trying to decide if this tree should be uprooted or fostered. She bent knee properly, keeping in perfect alignment with her charge, though adjusting for her lower station.

The Warlord’s expression was cool. “Welcome to Second City. I hope you have the chance to enjoy all that we have to offer.”

The words were neutral, but it sounded like an instruction. “I look forward to it, Arashi-sama.” Equally neutral, but eager to please. That should work.

The Warlord then made a gesture, and a much younger man, much the same in appearance as the Warlord, stepped forward. He was only a year or two older than Arahime herself. He too had long black hair in a flowing tail and dark, dark skin, though his eyes were not as wide and gaijin. She could feel those eyes running over her. He was wearing a loose-fitting kimono of teal silk that showed off his muscular chest. The younger man bowed politely. “Allow me to introduce my only grandson, Seiho-kun,” the Warlord offered.

Arahime bowed back towards the younger man. Once again, she felt very self-conscious as the eyes of the court turned upon her, and could draw no sense of intent from the Warlord’s beast-eyes. “I am honored to meet you, Seiho-sama.”

The Warlord’s grandson smiled, his white teeth flashing. “I find myself jealous of old Mushari-san, that he may spend so much time basking in this radiance. I hope he would not object if I pluck a few small moments of your time to introduce you to the wonders of Second City.” His voice was smooth and charming and altogether too forward.

Arahime felt an instinctive pang of immediate loathing which she managed to keep from her face. This may not be in my duties, but I must not be rude. Maybe a polite refusal? “Surely you would be too busy to act as guide for a simple yojimbo such as me.”

“Is that not the lesson of the Crane that time spent in the presence of great beauty is never wasted?” Seiho seemed pleased with his cleverness in the response.

Oh no. He’s taking it as a gift. Now there was no getting out of it. Arahime tried to keep her voice neutral as she answered, “There is such great beauty in these lands already, bright colors and vivid sights. I am plain and pale in comparison.”

“Ah, but half the beauty of these flowers are in their exotic nature, and here, you are a rare bloom. I would be honored to be seen in the presence of such a rarity.”

Arahime’s bow helped her conceal her frustration. The Arashi was greater rank than her; she had little choice anyway. “I would be happy to see these exotic sights then, if Mushari-sama finds opportunity to grant me leave, Seiho-sama.”

She could hear the faint sound of tittering from behind her, where a number of the other younger courtiers stood with their fans raised. On being dismissed, she straightened and turned, but the laughter stopped as she turned to face them. But she could feel the eyes of many upon her. Evaluating her, judging her, weighing her as an ally, obstacle or threat.

On the way out of the door, she and the ambassador were intercepted by one of the young women of the court, wearing the mons of the Ota family.

“Oh, Mushari-sama, please let us welcome your new yojimbo,” the courtier said. “It looks like she will be so popular....and terribly...exotic. I am sure many of the young men of the court cannot wait to enjoy some time in her presence. And the rest of us cannot wait to find out how closely she resembles all we have heard of the legendary beauties of the Crane.”

The woman’s words were perfectly effusive and polite, but her inferences hit Arahime like a blow. How dare they? But Ambassador Mushari just nodded and smiled without responding, leading Arahime away while she focused on maintaining her On.

More eyes followed her on the way out. She straightened her back and tilted her chin up. Ignore them. Focus on your duty, Arahime. Serve.
Last edited by KakitaKaori on Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:15 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby Kakita Shiro » Tue May 16, 2017 11:23 am

How far the former Colonies have fallen. Tsk tsk.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sat May 27, 2017 9:38 am

Early Summer, 1236 - Second City

Summer court was fast approaching, and already the days were looking to become a long, hot misery. Mushari had warned her, had done everything he could to assist. He had taken her ‘calling’ on his friends throughout the high houses in the city. He slowly introduced her to new foods such as lentils and mangoes, discussing each and helping tame her reactions. He warned her of the heat, and gave her hints on how to keep her composure in such wilting temperatures.

But some things he could do nothing about. He could not change the way many of the other samurai of Second City smelled. He assured her it was simply because they lacked soy and therefore consumed more red meat, garlic, and cumin in their foods than the samurai of the Crane Clan. But the stench of grease and death was pervasive about them, and it was an exercise in discipline and courtesy to keep all trace of it from her features. She was rather proud of her ability to hide it.

The other thing he could not change was the way the young men looked at her. The shorter, lightweight kimono that seemed to reveal the lines of her body far too immodestly, the deep cut neckline, these were bad enough. But they were shared by all in the court. It wasn’t until Arahime finally could no longer avoid Seiho and his offer to escort her into the city that she found out why.



The streets of the city were crowded and the heat was oppressive even in the early evening. The Military District, hardened stone and tall buildings made an impressive wall around the central Imperial area. Seiho led Arahime and a half-dozen ‘friends’ and hangers-on through the Imperial District. He pointed out the various buildings, describing to her the history of city. Here where the ruins of Fuan-ti’s tower had been before the deadly monsoon season of 1213, there the Great Baths. The young man had an unending supply of gossip, much of it salacious, and was eager to share it. There were several in her own clan back at the Academy who indulged in such, though Arahime’s mother always warned her that, for gossip, it is best to hear and never listen. Little truths are rarely found there. Arahime merely nodded along politely.

The Military District was cramped and oppressive, ornamented primarily with colorful banners. Arahime could see that having the bushi of many clans in such a small area could swiftly lead to fights. On the other hand, there was much to encourage the sharing of different fighting styles. In one tight courtyard, the duelist watched as a Crab bushi instructed a group of rinjin in a technique performed with polearm with a U shaped hook at the end.

Arahime had grown up sheltered, perhaps, but every year the students of the Kakita Academy came to watch the melee and dueling in the Topaz Championship, and every other contest that the Crane could arrange. After each event, the students were tested extensively on their observations of the fighting styles of all the clans present, and Arahime had been a quick study on the subject. She could see traces of the styles of other clans, especially of Spider and Mantis, but the styles were rapidly merging towards something new. Something that drew from all of them. Perhaps determining what that was, and countering it, would be a distraction during the heat of Summer Court.

Seiho saw her interest and smiled. “Perhaps we will spar later, you and I? I have long heard of the artistry of the Kakita techniques. Of course, here we must be plain. Brutal even. We actually fight, you see. But do not worry…if we spar, I will be careful not to damage such loveliness.”

A chorus of titters from behind them as some of Seiho’s companions found the comment humorous. One of the Arashi’s companions, a lean, muscular man a few years older than him, gave a low chuckle. “So, Seiho-sama. I heard the Crane have a word for the second strike in a fight.” He paused dramatically for a moment, and continued in a fake, high-pitched voice, “‘Please don’t hit me again!’ I wonder if that is true.“

Seiho shot his companion a glare. “Parushi-san. You should apologize. That was rude of you to say to our lovely guest from the Crane.”

Arahime’s hand drifted down to the comfortable weight of her blade in her saya as she struggled to keep her face composed. Her gray eyes glittered, but she held her tongue.

The man known as Parushi bowed deeply to Arahime. “My apologies, Kakita-san. I am but a simple rinjin. I could not possibly know any better.”

The Crane kept her eyes fixed ahead of her, pushing down her anger and ignoring both him and his apology.

Arashi Seiho smiled. “Our ways here are surely less refined than you are used to. Thank you for being so forgiving, Arahime-san.” He led the way on towards the Temple district.

Arahime silently fumed.



The Temple District, in many ways, resembled her mother’s home in Otosan Uchi. The streets here, as everywhere else in the city, were crowded, but it smelled less badly than other areas of the city due to the heavy fragrance of incense in the air. Considerable damage had been done to this district recently, and large buildings had become nothing but piles of broken stone. Narrow roads were cut through the rubble as passage through the district.

Lining every road that had been cut between the blocks of stone, there were shrines. Some were very minimalist, a pile of stacked rocks and nothing more. Some clearly honored Fortunes that Arahime knew from Otosan Uchi or Kuyden Kakita. But many had statues that she did not recognize. In Rokugan, shrines would be decorated with a small arrangement of blossoms, a small bowl with a rice ball, or strips of red paper and incense. Here, all were decorated with brightly colored wreaths of paper flowers, great bowls of tropical fruit, and cards and tokens in every color, in gold and silver beside. Each shrine seemed to shout for more attention than the next. Both the round-eyed Ivinda and Rokugani tended the shrines around them.

As they walked, Seiho explained that six years before, a shugenja explorer had ventured westward into the lost cities in search of sacred artifacts, either for himself or for some more noble purpose. He found an artifact, a simple, smooth brown stone with some sort of light within. The shugenja brought it back to the Temple District and there tried to break it open. In so doing, he triggered an earthquake that destroyed most of the district and killed dozens. Since then, independent exploration had stopped. The Warlord permitted no more expeditions into the western jungles. Future development was occurring only in the east, where there were fewer threats and less risk of unleashing some hidden horrors. The search for artifacts of the Ivinda had ended. Arahime found that position perfectly reasonable, considering the extent of the damage.

Seiho was eager for her to see the remaining districts with him. Despite his condescension about her fighting prowess, the Arashi seemed to be working hard at being charming and genteel. But the space between Arahime’s shoulder blades continued to itch when she was around him. She fought to repress her irritation. You’re just upset about Harun still, girl. You need to put that aside. Harun has every right to make a life of his own; you don’t need to hang on him like an moon-addled doe. You must accept this moment as the Fortunes will it to be.

But the itch between her shoulder blades didn’t go away.




The next day, Arahime found herself again touring the city with Arashi Seiho in the last few hot evenings before Summer Court. She noticed that his friend Parushi was no longer present. But Seiho’s retinue only grew, and she found herself the center of attention amongst fifteen young men and women, lesser stars circling the court of Second City’s moon.

And with them, their ‘compliments’.

“We are glad you could join us…we were concerned that you exhausted yourself last time,” one, a rugged type who might have been a Crab twenty years ago, but now with the name Arashi Huriko, offered.

Arahime’s eyes narrowed slightly. I can play this game if I must. They’re children. “Oh, Huriko-san. If you found yesterday exhausting, you should have said something. We could have stopped earlier.”

Another…a Tenmei, smiled warmly at her while fanning herself. “That kimono is just lovely. I’m certain my grandmother would have approved of it…”

Arahime wished she had a fan but retorted sharply, “Your grandmother must be a woman of great talent and dignity, bringing honor to her family. It is for us to endeavor to do the same.”

Seiho smiled, and touching her elbow to lead her away from the group. She flinched at the unexpected and uninvited touch. “They are just jealous, Kakita-san,” the Arashi offered with smooth flattery, pretending to ignore what he had done. “We should leave if we are going to be able to see an offering in the Artisan District this evening.”


The Merchant District had less stone than the Military District, perhaps a little less oppressive without the tall buildings leaning over the streets. But it was far more noisy, crowded, and full of life and color. The older sensei had told her of the days before the war, when the streets around Tsuma village were crowded with merchants eager to sell their wares. The years before the rationing and the travel restrictions and the gaijin pepper. During her own Topaz Championship, there were a full seven merchants in the busy village, including one from the Unicorn lands who brought a few, very restricted and approved, gaijin goods to offer. The throng of merchants of every land and language was overwhelming, the list of goods they offered at least equally so.

Arahime could not permit Seiho or his retinue to see her wide-eyed naiveté.

The merchants of the district carried a wide range of goods, and at least a third of which look nothing like the items she would find in Rokugan. Intricately carved wooden screens and pierced brasswork were offered side by side with fine pottery and wall scrolls fit for any Rokugani kamidana shrine. There was a style of carved stonework that she liked in a pale cream and green stone, and Arahime picked up a piece, an intricately nested set of spheres one inside the other. As she looked down she felt a presence behind her, felt the pressure of a man standing so closely at her back she could feel him leaning against her. She was trapped against the table. Seiho reached around her and took the stone sphere away, leaning in close, then straightening to look at the choice approvingly. “Shall I buy it for you? I can tell you want it.”

At the Academy, I would duel him for that. But at the Academy, he would not /dare/. Arahime sidestepped to get out of his reach and straightened to look at him coldly. “Please stop,” she said simply.

But Seiho just smiled and tossed the sphere from one hand to the other with casual ease. “Stop what? Is something the matter, Arahime-san? If so, I apologize. The ways of the rinjin are different than the ways of Rokugan, especially the ways of the cultured Crane. We never know when we might accidentally hold our teacups incorrectly or forget to fasten our geta ‘just so’.”

One of his hangers-on, a sharp-eyed Nobumoto girl, laughed aloud. “She is blushing. Do you see? She actually turned pink. Seiho-sama…how fortunate you are. Look at that beautiful, pale complexion. Such a treasure. How boring we must all look in comparison.”

I cannot call a duel here. Not for this. She exhaled slowly out her nose. “Such…closeness…is not the way of the Crane, Seiho-sama.” she answered stiffly.

Seiho’s smile broadened. “Another reason to love Zogeku, then.”



They reached the Artisan’s District just after sunset. Brightly colored lanterns hung across the streets, and in front of the geisha houses and theaters. The lights gave the whole area the feeling of a festival, like New Years when the dancers would stage their performances at the Academy and all would turn out to see them. Despite her previous fury, Arahime allowed herself a little seed of excitement at the idea of seeing a play. It was a common occurrence at her home, and the timeless stories, great heroes and villains, songs of tragedy and courage and sacrifice all spoke to her. Their plots had been the background of her childhood, even though her mother said she never watched the plays themselves.

The buildings in the Artisans’ District were of better construction and finer make than those of the Merchants’ district, as though they were built to weather the storms of time better than the Merchant District counterparts. Some of the buildings had shops; Arahime was drawn to a humble-looking shop named the Flowers of the Colonies, its beautiful, exotic ikebana modestly displayed.

“So…ikebana.” A yawn from another of the Arashi¬. “I’ve heard how much the Crane care for such things. You must be an expert. You must teach me all about it some time.”

“I’ll have to see if I can find the time,” the Crane snapped back tartly.


The theater Seiho sought out was decorated in a very non-Rokgani fashion, built of solid stone, the stonework itself painted in many bright colors. A number of people were entering, and Arahime caught odd expressions being thrown her way as they passed. Seiho, for his part, seemed confident and pleased, again, with a light touch, taking her arm and steering her into the darkened building. The others gathered around, making sure to leave the young woman space to sit only next to the grandson of the Warlord. She sat.

The lanterns on the stage were lit, the music of many instruments began, and the play started.

The form of a tall woman, pale with dramatic geisha-style kabuki paint, and adorned with a carefully styled wig of white hair, stepped out onto the stage. She was dressed in multiple layers of blue kimono and exotic hair ornaments. Blue scarves fluttered at the movement of unseen stagehands as she dramatically cried out to the Wrathful aspect of Suitengu, Fortune of the Oceans, that she must be conveyed across the seas to go to her Mantis lover or she would die of sorrow.

Another, dressed as the great Ocean Fortune in a costume of black, blue, and green with a coral crown, came out to answer her, telling her she would be taken to her Mantis lover if she did what she was bid by the three guardians of the sea that came to her.

The woman agreed.


Arahime looked away from the stage to see Seiho watching her. When he caught her eye he smiled and turned back to the stage, but Arahime could feel his hand slide closer to her. She stiffened.

An actor dressed as a shark emerged from the hinted waves, his shiny armor of scales glittering in the lantern light. The Shark spirit demanded that the woman release her hair and her hairpins and give them to him. The woman did so, letting her long, white hair down to flow around her.


Arahime could not help her thoughts from straying to the time she had to put her hair up, when the Emperor brought his son Kiseki to join the Academy, the same year as her brother Masarugi. All the girls were supposed to look extra special for the Emperor, so all had their hair done. Harun had laughed at the lacquer necessary to hold the hair in place and how terrible it looked when the pins were removed until it was cleaned properly.

She smiled at the memory. But then she felt a warmth at her side as Seiho had drawn closer to her, sitting right next to her in the crowded theater, his arm behind her. She pulled away as she could, but he just smirked.

An actor dressed as an Eel, wearing a smooth, shiny black silk kimono with jet hair, came from the waters. He demanded that the woman remove her kimonos as his price for taking her to her lover. He grabbed at her obi, taking the end of the obi in his teeth.


Arahime knew full well what that action in kabuki meant. She felt sick at what the convention implied. But looking around the theater, it was clear that the audience did not, instead simply enjoying the lurid and horrifying spectacle with no understanding of its significance.

The drums pounded out the music of tragedy as the woman shed the first layers of her kimono, leaving only the sheerest scarlet underkimono, trimmed with blue. It barely reached her knees.


Arahime could feel every eye in the theater turning at that moment to look at her intently, eager to see her response. How could I explain what this means…what they are showing? They can’t possibly understand this. She hardened her face against it, keeping a neutral expression.

Seiho slithered nearer.

The Eel receded into the blue waters, and the final guardian emerged from the depth. This guardian was not played by one actor, but two, both dressed in red, moving together. Guardian Octopus. The actor of the two that served as the Guardian’s voice declared that the woman’s lover was dead, lost at the bottom of the endless sea, and the will of the Octopus was to take her to him. The Octopus wrapped its arms around the woman and disappeared, taking her deep beneath the waves.


The theater erupted in cheers and applause. Arahime felt Seiho’s hand on her back. As she turned to look at him, pulling away again, he smiled broadly.

“What do you think, Arahime-chan? A fine performance, is it not?”

The question seemed innocent. But there was a coldness, a calculation, in the Arashi’s eyes as he looked at her.

He knows what it meant. He knows. He just doesn’t care.
Last edited by KakitaKaori on Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:15 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby Kakita Shiro » Sat May 27, 2017 1:29 pm

I suppose it's too soon to just kill Seiho.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Sat May 27, 2017 3:02 pm

You warm my heart, Shiro-sama!
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sun May 28, 2017 5:35 am

If a Harun was there, he'd do it.
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Re: L5R - Ditched - A Winter Court 5 Sequel Story

Postby KakitaKaori » Mon Jun 05, 2017 5:55 pm

Summer Court, 1236 - Second City

During the long, hot nights of Summer Court, Arahime focused on one goal and one goal only: avoiding Seiho, the Warlord’s grandson. It was not expected that she remain in her armor throughout the days of the court; she wore it anyway. Mushari did not require a yojimbo’s presence for every single meeting or walk across the Palace grounds; she walked with him anyway, hand resting on her obi. The old diplomat accepted the close guardianship of his young yojimbo with gentle patience, even though she did not speak with him of her troubles. The duelist held his papers, carried his gifts, and set up the braziers he would use to make tea. During the hot middays, Mushari returned to the Crane embassy. Arahime was able to sleep, study, or play go with the pleasant old man. He enjoyed telling stories of the Colonies and the things he had learned since he arrived here, and invited her to read to him when his eyes pained him. Arahime came to appreciate the quiet.

After a long evening spent watching the Doji meet irascible Ota and hot-tempered Nobumoto with equal amounts of calm pleasantry and unrelenting determination, Arahime had to ask him how he did it. Mushari smiled gently and poured her a cup of cool, sweet water of the coconut, flavored with matcha.

“My parents were courtiers of the Doji. Famous. Honored. Very well versed in the arts of diplomacy from the beginning of my family line. But when I was born, during the peaceful reign of the Empress Iweko, I had a great difficulty. For the fortunes saw fit to laugh at my family’s excess by afflicting me,” he expressed his mild amusement, “with a stutter.”

Arahime blinked, having never heard the courtier speak less than flawlessly.

He smiled as he continued. “This, of course, earned me much mockery. But my father was a wise and kind man, and he taught me well. You know the five lessons of Lady Doji?”

Arahime nodded. All those trained in a Crane dojo are taught about the five lessons, though as a bushi she was not necessarily expected to practice them all.

Calligraphy: Your words are important and valuable. Once committed, they can never be taken back.
Ikebana: All things that are can be seen from many different perspectives and are transient. Significance depends on where the viewer stands at the moment it is viewed.
Painting: What you perceive is filtered and colored by your own moment and understanding; you must broaden your understanding to perceive what is timeless and essential.
Poetry: Words may have many meanings. One must look to the heart to know what is true.
Origami: To reach a desired end requires patience and the completion of many small steps done with excellence.



Mushari smiled. “It is good the lessons have not been lost, even when so much else has. My father was determined and persistent. Every day he worked with me to improve my speech. It took many years. I suppose it is a benefit that, shielded from the world as we were for many of the dark years of the war, I benefited greatly from the time I was able to practice. However, I will never forget the jeers of my classmates, many of whom came from even greater families than mine. My father told me that those who taunted me were unworthy of my anger. That it is not our lineage or skill that gives us value. It is our deeds that prove our worth. It helps me remember that, each day, I get to choose my own worth. I could prove worthy of my father’s patience and my family heritage. Or I could choose to be unworthy, such as the ones who taunted me, and let their taunts drag me to their level. I choose to rise above. The actions of those who diminish us make them small. They are not worth my anger. Instead I choose to give them the opportunity to rise.” He sipped his drink. “Sometimes they do.”





Doji Mushari sadly watched his yojimbo go back to her own room for some sleep. She was courteous, intelligent, sensitive. A pleasure to talk with. Maybe a little tempestuous, but that is a luxury for the young. Though he’d not yet been able to see her in combat, he had watched her in her daily kata and did not doubt her focus and lethality. It was ill fortune, and the popularity of that cursed play, that put her in Arashi Seiho’s sights, and the man was a bore. From the gifts, like the stone spheres he’d sent on the first day of summer court, to the petitions for her time, to the endless ‘accidental’ run-ins, the young man refused to accept Arahime’s rejection of him. Jealousy and the current state of the Crane won her no friends among the cad’s peers. The courtier could not blame the young woman for sticking close, though Mushari privately wished, for her sake, she’d been able to make at least one friend. She seemed so lonely and unhappy. It was not a life he would choose for her.

But it might be one the Fortunes would see fit to choose. The older courtier pulled from his sleeve the letter he had received that morning. It was written with friendship and in informal style, frangipani and the scent of vanilla and warm cream paper. But the hand that wrote the calligraphy was well known to him. The Warlord Arashi’s oldest, and most faithful, advisor, Tenmei Nasuko. It was a simple inquiry: had any arrangements been made in Rokugan for the hand of the lovely Kakita Arahime? With those words, Mushari knew the Warlord had noticed his grandson’s interest in the young Crane and thought to temper the young man’s churlish ways with Crane discipline and courtesy. Whether the Crane in question wants it or not.

Mushari sighed. The match was not a bad one. Seiho was likely to inherit the position his grandfather held, and his father would hold shortly. The rinjin were, year by year, losing their links to Rokugan and Rokugani culture. Increasing the influence of the Crane would increase his ability to bring in courtiers and artisans to, maybe, temper this hot court. Previous ones had been driven out, but if the Warlord’s wife commanded that they be left alone, they would be.

But if that wife earned her husband’s displeasure… Mushari shook his head. Seiho was not generally a patient or persistent man. His infatuations seemed to end quickly. He would tell the truth about Arahime’s status, but respond slowly. And maybe arrange things that would cause Seiho to lose interest in the girl until another Crane, a better match for the young man, could be brought in to capture his attention.
Maybe someone more…flexible. That would please him. In the meantime, a sparring match with Arahime might persuade him that he has no hopes of drawing her desire and no way of compelling her to his side. Perhaps that will convince him to lose interest for the moment so he will leave the poor girl alone.





The dojo was lit with bright lanterns, celebrating the coolness of the mid-summer evening. A number of flowers of the court were assembled to view the proceedings, but Kakita Arahime bore them no heed as she stepped onto the floor. Her eyes were only for her opponent.

Most young women would share her perspective; few would deny how handsome Arashi Seiho was. Dressed only in broad hakama of green and silver, his deeply tanned skin rippled across the muscles of his chest. He bowed to Arahime, a friendly smile on his face. “I am grateful, Arahime-san, that Mushari-san has given me this opportunity to see you once again. You have been so diligent in serving him that my greatest efforts to enjoy your company again have come to nothing. I only seek to please you.” He almost sounded sincere, but to Arahime’s ears every word was false.

Still…

For just a moment, she felt a flash of confusion. Maybe it really is just a difference in the cultures. Maybe he really didn’t understand what the play meant…what it means to take one who has been stripped down to nothing…and then take everything that is left. The significance of that to my clan. Maybe he is just doing this because he is a boy who finds me attractive. Maybe he cannot help himself.

In her memories, she remembered floating leaf-boats with Harun down the stream that trickled through the Academy grounds. They would launch them together from the low, red bridge, and as the boats floated away they would talk of all the adventures that awaited them. But despite Arahime’s ever-more-fantastical tales, Harun was always a part of them. Willing to be the hero. Willing to be the one who was rescued too. Never making her more or less than what she wanted to be.

“To test my skill against yours will please me.” Arahime kept her tone formal. In victory or in defeat, a bushi shows his worth in battle. Let him prove he is worthy of me.

Seiho smiled, walking over the weapon’s rack and picking up a pair of shinai. “I am certain in a contest of live steel, you would have me at a disadvantage, Arahime-san,” he offered in a self-deprecating tone. “But my grandfather would not permit serious contests of steel in a friendly bout, lest true harm accidentally befall such an honored guest.“ A few of those watching the contest hid their smiles behind their fans; the weaknesses of the Kakita style were considered famous. After all, if they could not use iaijutsu…

Arahime silently accepted the shinai and returned Seiho’s bow before dropping into stance. All anxiety, All despair. All fear and loneliness and hope and regret. She fed them into the void as she watched her opponent evaluate her. Then, thought becomes action in the space between heartbeats. Her shinai whipped out in front of her, the tip tapping Seiho under the soft point of his chin. She held back, of course, so it did not harm him.

Dead.

His shinai tapped against her shoulder less than a second later -- a glancing blow, but one made with strength. They were both in motion now. He seeks to unbalance my defense… She whirled and brought the shinai in a slashing blow against the back of the unarmored swordhand with enough force to sting.

Unhanded….

Seiho kept coming, however, perhaps convinced that he was strong enough to withstand the disarming strike and the deathblow. He managed to get another strike on her arm. Perhaps in a more serious fight, his greater strength would have slowed her down and pushed her off balance to where she would be able to be knocked down. In a simple sparring match, she was still faster, but it was definitely time to finish this match. Nothing for it but to prove to Seiho that this is the end of the fight.

She exhaled and released, bringing all her focus through Seiho’s shinai itself, rather than the man holding it. The practice weapon shattered into splinters in his hands.

The Arashi was no longer smiling. He scowled and swung at her with the broken weapon, trying to rely on his strength to overwhelm her, but a crisp command from the sensei stopped him before he could finish the strike. In a pitched battle, it might continue, but not here. Not today.
Without saying a word to the Warlord’s grandson, Arahime took a step back and bowed. Her gray eyes watched him carefully. You were beaten by a woman. By a Crane. By your actions now will you show if you are worthy.

Seiho threw the broken shinai away in disgust and gave the Kakita duelist a cursory nod. “You were lucky, Arahime-san,” he pouted, “that we were fighting with such inferior weapons that mine shattered. I personally find a pair of kama in my hands far better foreplay. “

Unworthy. Even of my anger. “I defend my charge with my soul and my steel. That is enough.” Her voice remained calm and passive, despite his provocation.

Seiho paused, and then turned on his flashing white smile. “Well, defeat has its pleasures also. If I will not be claiming my victory over you, it is only right that you do the same to me. Claim your prize, gentle maiden of the Crane. I am yours.”

The courtiers tittered, and Arahime felt the familiar anger rise, but, remembering Mushari’s words, for the first time, let it go. “Leave me alone. I want nothing from you.”

She passed the shinai to one of the students of the dojo as she passed and walked out.




The scrollcase was of purest lavender jade. The letter was on paper of ivory white, and the seal was dusted with gold. Doji Mushari sighed. He was honor-bound to have the letter sent to his Clan Champion, Doji Ayumu. But… The ambassador unrolled the letter he was to pass along. He read past the usual pleasantries to the heart of it…

…and so, in light of the mutual respect between our Kingdom and the Crane, and in light of the growing affections between my grandson, Seiho, and Arahime, the daughter of your vassels in the Kakita family, Kyoumi and Kousuda, I request that a marriage be arranged to bring the grace and culture of the Empire closer to our hearts…and the heart of a daughter of the Crane may carry our sincerest good wishes to you and to the Emperor himself…


Mushari slid the letter back into his scrollcase. He had seen no hint of any such ‘affection’ between Seiho and Arahime; indeed, it seemed as though Seiho had started avoiding her after their sparring match much as he hoped they would. There was something…he had noticed that the others in the court quickly changed subjects when his yojimbo was raised, but the matter was difficult to pursue with her present so much of the time. This letter, undoubtedly, was the source of the rumors. The Warlord had decided to proceed. Well, he thought as he shook his head sadly. It is the duty of all to serve. We do what we must.
Last edited by KakitaKaori on Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Kakita Kaori
Kenshinzen of Golden Petal Village and overly prolific fiction writer
http://craneclan.weebly.com/
[Kakita Kyoumi/WC5]


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