L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

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L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat May 20, 2017 9:00 pm

This story is set six month after Winter Court, it has the birth of Harun and Arahime as well a few updates of things that have happened since.


Birds in their Nests

Otosan Uchi, Summer 1218

Utaku Yamada was tired. It had been a long ride from Phoenix lands, weeks on the roads riding in the late summer heat. Something that she would normally enjoy but was more difficult now due to the burden she carried. She stroked Yoru’s neck affectionately. He understood everything and had been there with her from the beginning.
She approached the gates of Otosan Uchi. Yamada didn’t really like cities though she had been to quite a number of them in her travels. But coming here, she didn’t like what it represented. It was an end, an end to all that had been of her life. And when she left, it would be the beginning of something else.
Once through the gates, Yamada made her way through the streets and over the bridges. As went further in, through poorer distracts and towards the wealthier, she noticed that the conditions improved. In the poorer districts there was a lot of rubble to avoid but as she neared the centre of the city conditions began to improve. She began to see more rebuilding, and sometimes whole buildings that had been reconstructed. Despite Yamada’s dislike of cities, she was impressed by how much was recovered from the utter devastation it had been sitting in for decades.
After searching for what seemed like hours, Yamada found the right house. In the Chisei District, near the wall that divided the inner and outer districts. Separating the house from the street was a stone that seemed to be fashioned from the rubble that littered the streets. The wall had two wooden gates, one wider presumably for horses and deliveries, and another narrower gate. Painted on it were three white birds in flight holding a pale blue ribbon that fluttered in a breeze.
Yamada smiled. This was definitely Kyoumi’s house.
The gate opened, a man came out. Clearly a servant, he bowed low to Yamada.
“Utaku-sama, I bid you welcome to the house of Kakita Kousuda and Kyoumi,” he said. “Please, allow me to take your horse.”
Yamada dismounted, carefully and with a little difficulty. She stroked Yoru’s nose and the handed the reins to the servant who took him in the side gate.
It was then that Kyoumi emerged from the house. She wore a cornflower blue kimono decorated with a pattern of silver leaves and birds. Her brown hair was tied back in a fox tail with a green silk scarf. She was pleased to see Yamada, but there was something else there behind her stormy grey eyes. A secret? What did she know now in her work with the Voice of the Emperor?
Yamada dismissed such questions, if she was supposed to know out such things there was time for it. And if she wasn’t…
Kyoumi made a formal bow to Yamada. “Utaku Yamada-san, welcome to our home. I do hope you will be as comfortable here as you would in your own.”
An odd thing to say, given what Unicorn “homes” are like, thought Yamada. She bowed in return, with a little difficulty. These formalities between them seemed a little funny given how well they had known each other at Shiro Mirumoto last winter.
“Thank you for having me, Kyoumi-san,” said Yamada.
“Please, come in,” said Kyoumi, leading Yamada into her home.
Kyoumi and Kousuda’s home was a haven of colour and order amid the ashes of a ruined city. Here and there were little touches that reflected their personalities, their origins as well as their hopes.
A stream of white gravel ran parallel to the dividing wall and meandered along until it entered in a sort of circle in the middle of the courtyard. Breaking up the bareness of the white stones were a few rock formations and flowers in pots. Right at the end of the stream in a brightly coloured pot that Yamada knew was Kousuda’s doing was a small almond tree.
They crossed the gravel stream on a small wooden footbridge and after removing their outdoor shoes entered the house itself.
The house was constructed simply of paper and wood, but inside again were personal touches. Yamada could see some of Kousuda’s paintings on the walls, one she clearly recognised was of Chrysanthemum Lake in Unicorn lands. There were also some poetry scrolls on the walls that were clearly Kyoumi’s.
The main room had a brightly coloured carpet on which was a table with a glass vase with a subtle ikebana arrangement. On the floor around it were richly embroidered cushions. A shoji screen divided the room, on it was a delicate painting of cranes in flight.
The sliding doors to the courtyard were open and Yamada could see the other buildings that surrounded the open space. One was small, probably the servants’ house, the other was better described as a shed and had a stout lock on the door.
“I know it isn’t much…” Kyoumi began to say.
“No, no, it’s lovely,” said Yamada earnestly. “I love the little touches you have made, the traditional and the new.”
Kyoumi managed a smile, but there was still the formal demeanour. “Kousuda has been called out, but he will be back this evening,” she said. “Can I get you something to eat? Or would you prefer to rest after your long journey?”
“Please, Kyoumi, don’t put yourself out,” said Yamada, trying to work out what was happening with her friend. “You are the one doing me a favour by having me stay with you. Don’t feel as if you have to change things to be more accommodating, because I know you are.” She smiled, trying to reassure her. “And yes, I think I will have a rest.”
Kyoumi relaxed a little, showing Yamada to a guest room.

The guest room was simple with simple furnishings and a few decorations. And it would be Yamada’s home until the spring.
One of the servants, a girl names Izumi, helped Yamada out of her armour and helped her change her clothes. Then she asked if Yamada wanted her to draw a bath.
“No thank you,” said Yamada, “perhaps later.”
Once alone, Yamada laid on her side on the futon. She wore a yukata in a pale mauve that was almost white, tied with a white obi. Her hands around her belly that was only just visible through her clothing, feeling the movement of the child inside. The only remnant of her brief marriage to her late husband. Utaku Nakura, once Yasuki.
It had been six months since Nakura had died. Six months since he had been cut to pieces while she had held him in her arms. Six months since she had told him he was going to be a father. And all gone in the one day.
Every day she thought of him. Every day she remembered his smile, his voice, his touch; his warmth next to her when they slept together at night. Every day she remembered the plans they had made, the life they were going to build together, the family they had wanted to start. And every day, Yamada had to push those memories back, lest they grow into the possibilities of what would never be.
Ashes upon ashes. The ruins of what she had lost last winter fell upon the ruins of what she had lost as a child. She had had a family then, a home, and lost it when the Unicorn lands had fallen to the Onyx and her world had ended.
She felt a hand—or was it a foot?—striking the wall of her belly. He—and Yamada knew it would be a he—was already a comfort to her, even before he was born. Her son would never know such loss, she would make sure of it. A family, a home, what she and his father had wanted to give but no longer could.
She had a promise to keep after all. And a dark duty to perform. But not yet, not now, not until the spring.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat May 20, 2017 9:01 pm

Dinner was more relaxed. It seemed as if Kousuda knew something was bothering Kyoumi and did his best to lighten the mood.
It worked. Yamada had never doubted the former Ide’s way with words, but this was rather impressive. It wasn’t long until he had them laughing over one of his stories from Medina al-Salaam. Yamada had heard the story before but didn’t mind hearing it again. It was when Kousuda had gotten into an altercation with some Yodatai traders that somehow he ended up getting the better of.
When the meal was over and Izumi served tea, Kyoumi asked Yamada about her time in Phoenix lands.
“It was…interesting,” Yamada said, placing her tea cup on the table. “Our priority was making sure the terms of having the Blessed Herd in Isawa lands were understood and that we will be left alone.”
“And will it happen?” Kousuda asked.
Yamada sighed. “It will, for now at least. Things were very difficult there, with many of the Isawa in rebellion there is basically no leadership. Kyuden Isawa was abandoned, after what we heard about what happened there we didn’t want to go near the place. We managed to find someone in the Shiba who understood what we needed, but it is probably not going to stay that way for long. It will change, we just made sure we would be ready when it does.” She looked at Kyoumi. “You remember how Karasu managed to find us an Emerald Magistrate? Kitsuki Masayoshi is still up there. Shinjo Saeki-dono says we will still need her.” She took a sip of tea. “How is Karasu? Have you heard from him lately?”
Kyoumi nodded. “We’ve had letters, he’s working well with Hikahime and the Legion. I have heard good things and we can expect more.”
“What’s it like?” Kousuda asked. “Up there, where the herd will be?”
Yamada knew what he meant. She cast her mind back, remembering what it was like when they finally arrived at Garanto province. The green meadows where the herd would roam and graze. If only she could have stayed… “It’s not home, but it’s very close,” she said. “If they are left alone, they should be safe.”
Kousuda nodded. He and Yamada exchanged a look, a sharing of a common kinship between the children of Shinjo that nothing could take away.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” said Yamada.
She sent Izumi to her room and the girl returned with a box. Yamada put it on the table and opened it. Immediately the scent of pine filled the room. Kyoumi smiled, inhaling it gratefully. Inside were three sprigs of pine, their fronds forming a frame around three pinecones.
“I know you spent some time in Phoenix lands,” said Yamada. “There is something unique there that isn’t like anywhere in Rokugan. Especially Isawa Mori, which is where these are from.” She pushed the box towards Kyoumi.
“Oh, we couldn’t accept it,” said Kyoumi, looking longingly at the box. “You need not have gone to such trouble.”
“It is you who is going to a lot of trouble by having me stay with you,” said Yamada. “This is but a small token of what you have done for me.”
“This is a wonderful gift,” Kyoumi said, knowing her lines and playing her part very well in this. “It reminds me of my time in the Phoenix lands when I was at the Artisan School. It is too much.”
“Then I am very glad to have given such a good memory,” said Yamada. “And I know you will use these to add the beauty you have already created in your home.”
“Then I accept, with thanks,” said Kyoumi.

After dinner, Kyoumi excused herself saying she had work to do for the Voice. Yamada and Kousuda went to check on the horses. The stable was at the back of the house and was rather small, but adequate for Kousuda’s horse, Yoru and any other guests that could be staying there.
Yamada talked with the groom, asking detailed questions. When he revealed that he was of Unicorn blood, Yamada knew there was no reason to question him further. When he left, she tended to Yoru, he wasn’t fond of stables so she made sure he was comfortable.
“There’s quite a lot of Unicorn living in Otosan Uchi now,” Kousuda told her. “So, it’s not difficult at all to find someone who understands horses.”
“How are you finding it here, Kousuda?” Yamada asked. “Staying in one place? In a city? I know the Ide did it more, but we have been nomadic for a while now.”
“I’m liking it,” Kousuda said. “Truth be told, Kyoumi feels a little shut-in here too, I don’t we would have come here were it not for her work with the Voice.” He sounded as if he wanted to say more, but chose not to.
“You don’t have to pretend, Kousuda,” Yamada said. “You’re happy here with Kyoumi, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Kousuda managed a smile. “Tell me, how are thing with you?”
Yamada didn’t answer at first, she rested her head on Yoru’s nose. Feeling his warmth, smelling his smell. “I survive, I guess,” she said, her voice low. “I go on, I do what I need to.” She turned to face him, her face a mask that betrayed nothing. “I never did thank you for that day, Kousuda-san. For what you tried to tell me, how you tried to stop the duel. You were right.”
“It would not have made much difference,” Kousuda reminded her.
“It would,” Yamada said. “Nakura would have had dignity.” She looked down. “He wanted to end it that way, I talked him out of it.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Yamada-san,” Kousuda said, trying to reassure her. “He made the choice, and you know why.”
“I have to,” said Yamada, “it’s all I can do.”
Kousuda nodded, not saying anything further. They then shut up the horses, going back to the house.
“Listen,” Kousuda said. “I want you to know that I am very happy you are here. For Kyoumi, she needs friends right now.”
“She seems under a lot of strain,” said Yamada.
Kousuda nodded. “I have to be away until winter,” he said. “Knowing you will be here makes me feel a little better about leaving her.”
“Can you tell me what is troubling her?” Yamada asked.
“She will tell you in her own time,” Kousuda said.
Yamada nodded. “She needs you, but I will try to be there for her.”

In the night, the memories came as they always did. Flashes of what had been, what would never be. It was much harder to dismiss them at the night than it was during the day.
She felt her son move inside her. Another one that Nakura wasn’t there for.
And he will never know his father, Yamada thought sadly, Or me.
She laid down on the futon, cupping her hands around her belly. Closing her eyes against the darkness.
But sleep was far from her that night.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:24 am

Kousuda left the next day, and not with a little hesitation. He said he couldn’t be sure how long he would be gone, but he would definitely back by winter in time for the Imperial Court.
“And to see the little one,” he promised.
“his absence was felt not just by his wife Kyoumi but also by Yamada. Kyoumi’s ambivalence was harder to avoid. Towards her new role with the Voice of the Emperor, her role as hostess and even probably Yamada’s pregnancy. It’s like they walked in circles, like an unbroken horse shy of the one who would one day trust them.
And it was more than a little frustrating.
So, rather than mirror Kyoumi’s intricate dance, Yamada tried to keep herself occupied. While she didn’t have any official duties for the Unicorn Clan while she stayed in the city, she did want to keep informed on what was happening. Particularly with the decisions she had been involved in making.
There was also a little sadness, because she wasn’t part of these plans, only observing. And that at a distance. Six months ago when she had arrived at Shiro Mirumoto, she had always assumed she would be leaving the mountain to ride to take back the Unicorn lands with the clan. To return home, just as they all had wanted. Not sitting in a house in the middle of a city, newly widowed and six months with child.
There were letters she wanted to write too. Particularly to Nakura’s family, trapped behind Onyx lines in the south. To introduce herself, but also explain what had happened and the reason for her decisions about her and Nakura’s child.
She gave a sad smile, trying to attempt the letter for the third time in as many days. She had wanted to meet them. His parents, his brother and sister. They had made plans, dreams spoken of in the small, brief world they had shared together.
Perhaps, Yamada thought, our child will know them someday…
The door opened and she could hear Kyoumi arrive home. She put down her brush and packed away her writing things. The letter could wait another day, and perhaps when she could be sure it would get to them.

They had fallen into a routine in the last few days since Yamada had been staying. Usually Kyoumi was in the Forbidden City in the mornings with the Voice. In this time, Yamada would go over her correspondence, read or sit in the garden. After Kyoumi returned, they would have the midday meal and then Kyoumi would show Yamada some of the city. They would return for the evening meal, and then Kyoumi would work late into the evening.
That afternoon, at Yamada’s suggestion, they went to the Temple to the Seven Fortunes. It was but a short walk from Kyoumi’s house on the far side of the Chisei District.
Rather than one temple, it was a series of large shrines to each of the fortunes. Like much of Otosan Uchi, they showed signs of recent repair. As had the school in the centre of the temples which Kyoumi said they were trying to open as soon as possible for the children of the district.
There were quite a number at the shrines, talking to the monks, nuns and shugenja who tended them. But the most people by far were around the Shrine to Benten. Most of them women. For one of Benten’s vassals was Hujojuko, the Fortune of Fertility.
Yamada and Kyoumi joined the queue for the shrine. It was rather long but moved quickly. As they neared the entrance to the shrine, Yamada could see inside. A shugenja seemed to be saying prayers to the expectant mother while a nun of Hujojuko handed them what looked to be a strip of cloth.
They were almost inside when Yamada caught the eye of one of the women coming out. She clearly did not want to be there or be seen there. But the surprise of seeing her at all made Yamada blurt out her name.
“Yukari!”
Yukari’s head whipped around at the sound of her name. But she first looked behind her, back inside the shrine, then at Yamada.
“Yamada, Kyoumi,” said Yukari, nodding to them in greeting.
“It’s a….surprise to see you, here,” said Yamada, a little awkwardly.
“Yes,” said Yukari shortly. “For me as well.” She looked over her shoulder again.
“You must come and visit,” said Kyoumi warmly. “Tell us about your trip to Zogeku.”
“Yes, of course,” said Yukari. She sounded genuine, but clearly not inclined to chat. “I’ll have a note sent ahead, perhaps tomorrow…”
“Yu-ka-riii!” A high, sing-song voice pierced the air. Al eyes turned towards its owner, a tall woman wearing the black and white of the Spider Clan. All eyes, except Yukari’s who hid hers in clear irritation.
The woman made way over, she had an almost regal bearing that was not hindered by the swelling of her belly. And despite the difference of a few years in age, there was clearly a superficial similarity between the two women.
“Imoto-san, you escape me again!” she scolded. “There are people you need to meet!” She turned to regard Yamada and Kyoumi. “And aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?”
Yukari looked as if she would rather be anywhere else doing anything else, but she compiled.
“Momoko-chan, this is Kakita Kyoumi and Utaku Yamada, we met at court at Shiro Mirumoto last winter,” she said, sullenly as if she were reciting lines. “Kyoumi-san, Yamada-san, this is my older sister Daigotsu Momoka.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Daigotsu Momoko-san,” said Kyoumi sweetly. You must be very proud of your sister, she has managed to help so many people with her skills in diplomacy.”
“Proud, perhaps,” said Momoko. “Surprised, yes. She knows full well what will make the family proud.”
Yamada noticed that Yukari didn’t speak, but she clearly wanted to. Fortunately, they were almost inside the shrine just then.
“Will you excuse us?” said Yamada. “It is our turn.”
“Of course,” said Momoko with a winning smile. “We will wait for you.”
Yamada and Kyoumi headed inside, bowing to the shugenja and monk. The Benten shugenja said the requisite prayers for a safe birth and delivery. The nun pressed the strip of cloth into Yamada’s hands. An obi, red in colour and wider than usual.
“Remember to wear it to keep your baby warm,” said the nun, saying blessings before they thanked them walked away.
When they came back to where Momoko and Yukari were, the tension between the two sisters had clearly increased. Yukari looking down rather sullenly, Momoko with her wide false smile.
“I wish many blessings on you for you and your child, Utaku-san,” she said. “Bringing children into the world is one of the best ways we can serve as samurai.”
“Thank you, Daigotsu-san,” said Yamada. She thought she heard a derisive snort from Yukari.
“Tell me, is the midwife attending you any good?” Momoko asked. “Such things are vital, and I ask as the sanba that has attended all of our family is highly skilled as well as knowledgeable.”
Yamada was caught a little off guard by this. “Uh…I don’t think so…”
“Splendid!” said Momoko. “I shall make sure that she calls on you this very evening!”
“Thank you,” said Yamada, feeling a little awkward.
Yukari stood sullenly behind her sister, not wanting to say anything and clearly wanting to be on her way.
“I would like to stay, Daigotsu-san, but I think the walk and the heat of the sun are a little trying,” said Yamada.
“May we call upon you tomorrow?” asked Kyoumi.
“Of course, of course!” gushed Momoko. “I remember my first, I bid you farewell then.”
“Do we have to go and see her?” Yamada asked as they walked away.
Kyoumi nodded. “At least once, perhaps Yukari would like someone else to talk to.”
“Hopefully, we can always laugh about it later,” said Yamada.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:45 pm

The midwife arrived that evening as promised. She was a short woman, solidly built and probably of mid to late forties. She wore a simple brown cotton kimono with her greying black hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun. Her name was Kokoro, but she insisted Yamada call her Oba, Auntie.
Accompanying her was her young apprentice. A girl hardly past fifteen called Nibui. She carried the midwife’s tools in a large bag and did not speak much. But this was hardly noticeable was Kokoro talked far too much.
Yamada was not quite sure what to make of her at first. By her caste, a midwife was an eta, these people—or rather non-people—dealt with necessary but undesirable things. But like a geisha, also an eta, they seemed to inhabit a peculiar place of trust when they were plying their trade. A geisha had her okiya; a midwife the birthing room.
Much later, when it was drawing nearer to Yamada’s time and she felt comfortable talking more freely to Kokoro, she shared her thoughts of this. But the midwife only smiled.
“You are not the first to ask that my dear,” she said. “Every mother is a mother and every baby is a baby, and every baby is born the same way from the Imperial Palace down to the huts in the eta village.”
But that day, there was a little bit more formality. At least at first. They went to Yamada’s room and Nibui was sent to make tea. While she served it, Kokoro asked Yamada some questions. Firstly, about Yamada’s general health and then about her monthly courses and when they had stopped. She then she calculated from a metal circular calendar Nibui removed from her bag.
“If we are right about this, my dear, this puts the little one’s arrival in the month of the Rooster, early autumn,” she said, more to herself than to Yamada. Nibui noted all of this down in a little book. “That is not much time, since this month, the month of the Goat, is almost over.” She turned to Yamada, shaking her finger at her in a mock scolding way. “You should have come to see me earlier, young woman!”
Yamada laughed, Kokoro was starting to grow on her.
“Now, I need to ask about your mother, my dear,” said Kokoro. “Did she have children other than you?”
“Yes…oba,” said Yamada. “Four of us altogether. All girls, I was the youngest.”
“And am I right in guessing your mother is not in the city?” Kokoro asked gently.
“No,” said Yamada quietly. “She died when I was a child, along with the rest of my family.”
“You poor dear,” said Kokoro gently. “You do need women around you for the birth, remember. Ones you can trust.”
“I think I can manage that,” said Yamada. Kyoumi of course would be there, but she secretly wondered if the Crane girl was up to such a task.
“Now come,” said the midwife, patting the futon after Nibui had unrolled it. “Let us see how the little one is doing.”
With Nibui’s help, Yamada removed her obi and kimono until she was down to her undergarments. Nibui then helped her lie down on her back. Kokoro trained hands then ran over Yamada’s belly, feeling through to where the growing baby was inside. She applied a little pressure, and Yamada felt the baby move.
“A little fighter, this one,” said Kokoro with a throaty laugh. “Yes, there is the head, give me your hand, dear.” Kokoro guided Yamada’s had to just underneath her ribcage. She felt something solid there, round, moving beneath her hand. “Still standing up the little one is, but there’s time and room for him to move.”
Yamada felt something hard press outward against the walls of her belly. A hand? A foot? It was hard to tell.
“Let’s leave the little one now,” said Kokoro, letting Yamada sit up and put her kimono back on. “You are carrying fairly low, which can mean a boy. “She gave Yamada a pointed look. “From what I have heard, your family, the Utaku, have rather firm opinions about that.”
“We do,” said Yamada, sipping her tea. “But…my husband died last winter. It’s…all I have left of him.”
“I know, dear,” said Kokoro, patting Yamada’s hand gently. “Babies come whenever they want to, even in the middle of a war. We make the best of things.”

Kokoro gave Yamada careful instructions, saying she was to have warm foods and to eat fish bones as it would help bring on her milk. She also left a packet of tea, which would help with this as well as other common pregnancy ailments.
Yamada and Kyoumi saw the two of them off. But she was so inclined to talk was Kokoro that she dallied in leaving. It was only when Nibui pointed out the lateness of the hour—the only time she had spoken that evening—that Kokoro realised they should be on their way.
“I shall see you in two weeks,” said Kokoro to Yamada. Then, she turned to Kyoumi. “I expect you will be needing my services soon, Kakita-sama.”
And with that, she left.
“Kyoumi?” Yamada looked at her curiously as they went inside. “What did she mean by that?”
Kyoumi looked a little embarrassed. “Well…”
“You mean, you’re…”
Kyoumi nodded.
For a moment, Yamada forgot all propriety and gave Kyoumi a warm hug.
“That’s wonderful,” Yamada said, then remembering herself and stepping back quickly. “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy for you.”
“It’s fine, I understand,” said Kyoumi.
“How long have you known?” Yamada asked. “Does Kousuda know?”
“Yes, we have known for a little while now,” she said. “And thank you for your good wishes.”
Yamada smiled, the first real smile Kyoumi had seen since she had arrived. The first one that was not tinged with sadness. And then she started to giggle like a girl.
“I’m sorry,” she said, putting her hand up to her mouth in an attempt to stifle her laughter. “But both of us…at the same time.”
“I know,” said Kyoumi, joining in the laughter.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:14 am

On their walk to Yukari’s sister’s house, Yamada saw more of the city. It was still surprising how much recovery and rebuilding had gone on. For so long the old capital had been abandoned, resettlement was only really possible once the taint was removed from the city for good.
It’s like new growth, thought Yamada, new life after a great storm.
But the new growth was very different from the old. Gone was the quaint rusticness of the old Rokugani style, in its place were new innovations and even foreign influences. How much there was varied from district to district, there were still more traditional structures such as in the Chisei District where Kyoumi lived. But in the Sereko District where a number of prominent kuge of the Spider Clan had their homes, there was a definite emphasis on the new rather than old. And there was a definite Zogeki influence, at least that was Yamada’s best guess.
The Spider Embassy was a prime example. They passed by it so Yamada was able to see it fully. The painted wood in the black, white and scarlet of the Spider Clan. The intricately carved columns inscribed with the mons of the different families. The intricately sculptured gardens hidden partially behind screens.
There was also a rather small, modest house at the rear of the embassy. So unremarkable that Yamada would have overlooked it had Kyoumi not pointed it out. It was the official residence of Susumu Shibatsu. Champion of the Spider Clan but also brother to the Emperor. It was certainly small and unassuming, particularly since the walls to the Forbidden City where the Imperial Palace was located were only a stone’s throw away.
Literally in their shadow, Yamada thought as they passed, perhaps that says more about him than anything else would.
Momoko’s house was one of several that bordered on a large and elaborate garden. A servant received them at the door and led them through to the gardens where a large group of people had gathered. Sitting, standing, talking in groups. Dressed impeccably in court clothes of a number of different colours. Perfect make up. Decorated fans and parasols.
The sort of people that Yamada usually went out of her way to avoid.
And in the midst of it all was Momoko. At the centre of all affairs like a queen bee in charge of a hive. She introduced Kyoumi and Yamada to the various people, Kyoumi managing to find the right words with ease and Yamada with a little difficulty.
The names and faces blurred a little, but there was one who stood out to Yamada. A young woman wearing a kimono of a soft apricot colour patterned with white butterflies. Momoko introduced her as Asako Tomiko. She was a little younger than Yamada, and there was something resembling actual sincerity and candour in her voice and manner. This contrasted starkly against the false courtly graces of the others.
She was also very interested in how Yamada had recently been to Phoenix lands.
“It has been very hard to get any news of what is happening,” she said to Yamada. “I have not heard from my brothers in several months.”
“Can you tell me their names?” Yamada asked. “I did speak with a number of Phoenix while I was there, from different families.”
“Their names are Isawa Tenji and Isawa Higoshi,” she said, looking at Yamada closely.
“I am sorry, but I can’t help you,” said Yamada. “I definitely did not meet anyone of that name, but there were a number of Isawa I saw. So that does not mean I did not see them.”
“No need to apologise, Utaku-san,” said Tomiko. “I have been away from home for a number of years, living here. And it can be…hard to not know what is going on.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Asako-san,” said Yamada. “My clan is fighting to take back our lands, it is hard to hear news of what is going on. And I thought I would be there, part of it.”
“I am sure you are doing your duty well here, Utaku-san,” said Tomiko, a fleeting glance at Yamada’s belly.
Yamada smiled, perhaps there were good things about being here after all.

Later on, Yamada walked the gardens, seeking peace from the constant chatter of the courtiers. The sun was hot and she was glade for the shade of the white parasol Kyoumi had loaned her.
Like the city itself, the gardens here were a mixture of old and new. With the traditional pine, maples and bamboo, Yamada spotted frangipanis, roses and white vanilla orchids.
She crossed a small footbridge that spanned a stream and walked into a training yard. A simple paved courtyard with weapon racks on either side filled with practice weapons for anyone who wished to use one.
And it was there that Yamada saw Yukari, dressed in her court furisode decorated with spiders, practicing katas. Yamada approached, watching Yukari and admiring her form. Uncompromising in its strength and speed, no hesitations. Unlike anywhere else, it was where Yamada could see Yukari’s true self. The blade could not lie.
Then she stopped, she acknowledged Yamada with a nod. “You couldn’t stand it either?” she asked with a wry smile.
Yamada smiled back. “I was there for as long as I could,” she said. “But I have to tell you, I have an easy reason to escape.” She touched her pregnant belly.
Yukari gave an amused snort. “When you put it like that, it almost sounds tempting,” she said. “Almost.” She sheathed her sword. “I know we couldn’t talk properly yesterday Momoko is…” She shook her head. “How have you been? Well, aside from…” She glanced at Yamada’s belly.
“Surviving, I guess,” Yamada said, taking a seat on a bench. “It’s like something else has taken control of my life and it hasn’t happened yet. So, here I am waiting until it does. Waiting, which is something I’m not very good at.”
“You’re not the only one who is waiting,” said Yukari, sitting down beside her. She was quiet for a long moment. “I’m getting married soon.” She said it as if she was required to do disagreeable but necessary, which to Yukari it was.
To anyone else, Yamada would have expressed warm wishes. But to Yukari? “Should I congratulate you?”
“Well, that would be the traditional thing to do,” said Yukari. “Not that you have ever struck me as particularly traditional.”
Yamada gave a small laugh. “That’s about right,” she said. “I can see one advantage of you getting married though. Your sister.”
“That is true,” admitted Yukari. “She’s not the only one of my family to be at me for to replenish the clan’s numbers. But she is the loudest and the most annoying.” Yukari gave a frustrated sigh. “She’s planning the wedding, which I hoped wold keep her at bay. But it hasn’t, and she’s gone and invited half the city every other day to introduce me to them.”
“You realise, she will be on to you next to have a child,” Yamada said.
“Ha! She can shout all she wants,” said Yukari tightly. “Isawa Tatsumi and I have an understanding. There’s other ways to replenish the clan. This war has made a lot of orphans. Many of them need homes and families.”
“Yes,” said Yamada thoughtfully. “Yes, they will.”
A servant approached them and bowed low.
“Utaku-sama,” said the servant. “Kakita Kyoumi-sama wishes me to tell you that she is leaving now, but you are in no way obligated to go with her.”
“Please tell her I will come shortly,” said Yamada. The servant ran off. Yamada turned to Yukari. “Please, come and visit us. It’s far quieter in Kyoumi’s house and I am alone most mornings.”
“I think I will take you up on that,” said Yukari. “After all, there aren’t that many people in this city who actually say what they mean.”
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:43 am

Kyoumi was not inclined to talk on the way back. She walked quickly, her face was set in concentration. When they arrived back at her house, Kyoumi quickly excused herself and retired to her bedroom for the rest of the afternoon, only emerging for the evening meal.
It was late when she came out, wearing a casual cotton yukata patterned with coloured fans. She looked rather pale.
“Should we send for Kokoro?” Yamada asked. She knew what was going on even if Kyoumi wouldn’t talk about it. “She could have something that helps with…”
“No thank you, Yamada, I’ll be fine,” said Kyoumi quickly. She took a tiny sip of tea, a small mouthful of plain rice, then ran back into her bedroom.
Yamada could hear her from the table, it was then no surprise when the servant girl Izumi came out, saying her mistress hoped Yamada would excuse her for the rest of the evening.
Yamada finished her meal alone, pregnancy had not hampered her appetite. But what was ailing Kyoumi was common. Yamada hoped that Kyoumi would at least be sensible about it, but she doubted it.

It didn’t stop there. Over the next few days, Yamada noticed Kyoumi looked increasingly pale and fatigued and would frequently excuse herself. She also ate very little. And she refused to talk about it, saying that it was nothing and her duty came first.
Yamada bit back her words of approach she wanted to say to her. She admired Kyoumi’s dedication, but what good did she do if she was like this? It must be an embarrassment having to excuse herself while in the Imperial Palace. And from what Yamada knew of Hida Kozan, he wouldn’t be very sympathetic.
Finally, when there came a morning when Kyoumi could hardly rise from her bed without fainting. Yamada took charge. She told Kyoumi to stay in bed, sent word to Hida Kozan that Kyoumi needed to be excused for a few days due to illness. And she sent for the midwife.
Kokoro spent a lot of time with Kyoumi. When she was done, Kokoro came out to speak to Yamada.
“You did well to send for me, Utaku-sama,” said Kokoro, her eyes to the ground and her tone deferential, as it always was when she was outside the privacy of Yamada’s room. “This should pass, and I have given her a tea that should help.”
“Thank you for coming, Kokoro-san,” said Yamada warmly.
“No need, Utaku-sama,” said the midwife, bowing solemnly. “It is my duty to all women, no matter their station or rank. Do not hesitate to call for me if you need me.”
When Kokoro left, Yamada went into see Kyoumi. Knocking first then sliding open the door when Kyoumi bid her come in. She looked pale, lying in bed. She tried to prop herself up to a sitting position when Yamada came in.
“Don’t tire yourself out,” said Yamada, she sat down on the tatami mat next to Kyoumi’s bed. “You need to rest, and you will.”
“But I have…duties to perform,” she said, sounding a little exasperated.
“I know, but making yourself ill doing them won’t help you, your baby or Kozan,” said Yamada patiently. “Do you think the Utaku would send a shiotome in your state into battle? She would be a danger to herself and a hindrance on everyone else.”
“That’s different,” Kyoumi argued.
“Not very,” said Yamada. “Besides, I don’t think Kousuda would forgive me if he knew I let you get you into this state.”
Kyoumi closed her yes, laying back on the futon. “Fine, you win for now, Yamada.”
“it will pass soon,” said Yamada hopefully. “But until then…”
“Yes,” said Kyoumi, meekly like a young girl. “I’ll be good.” She added, a little mischief on her voice.

The tea did help to remedy some of the sickness, but not the fatigue. In a few days, Kyoumi was able to resume her duties but she had to cut her days short and return from the Forbidden City earlier. Often bringing some of her work back with her.
Their outings together around the city were less frequent, so Yamada sometimes went out by herself. Seppun Hill, where the kami fell to earth, was a place she went to often as it was very near Kyoumi’s house. Another place she went now and again was to watch the Last Legion—now the Emerald Legion—train on the outskirts of the city. But as the summer went on she found the distance hard and exhausting, even if she rode Yoru there. The stallion seemed to understand though, as patient as ever and he even seemed to know what was going on as he nuzzled Yamada’s growing belly a few times.
There were also more Unicorn arriving in the city, establishing themselves in the new houses or setting up camp wherever they could. Utaku Shironoya, who had been in Otosan Uchi for some time, showed her around what had been arranged for the civilians that were arriving. This included the children of those fighting to take back the Unicorn lands. They were looked after in large groups of around the same age, mostly Utaku men and a few older women.
“We of course would be happy to take care of your child, should you return to active duty Yamada-sama,” Shironoya said, with a smile and a bow.
As the summer went on, soon it was time for Yamada to accompany Kyoumi to the Temple of Benten to receive her pregnancy obi. Kokoro’s visits become more frequent, seeing each of them separately on the same day.
They had visitors from time to time. Yukari of course, Tomiko a few times as well as a few of Kyoumi’s friends and some of the Unicorn living in Otosan Uchi that Yamada had met.
They also attended Yukari’s wedding, the most reluctant people attending being the bride and groom. Yukari’s sister Momoko was in her element though, presiding over the proceedings as if she were the one who had been married.
At some point in the evening, Yamada managed to find a seat and was relieved to be off her feet. Then she realised she was sitting next to Asako Tomiko whom she had not seen for a few days.
Yamada tried to engage her in conversation, but Tomiko seemed distant. She wasn’t disinterested, it was almost as if something had upset her. But before Yamada could say anything else to her, Tomiko walked away.
Yamada stared after her in shock. Had she done something wrong?
“It is understandable, given what has happened,” Yamada overheard a masked Scorpion courtier say to her Spider companion. “With what happened to her brothers, it’s showed up at all.”
“So brutal,” remarked the Spider. “All those Isawa, and with the Phoenix fighting amongst themselves, there’s no checking that one who calls himself the Obsidian Hand.”
They walked off, leaving Yamada stunned by what she had overheard. This had to be Shiba Michio’s work. What exactly had he done to Tomiko’s brothers? How many Isawa had been killed?
But try as she might, Yamada couldn’t find Tomiko.

It was the next afternoon when Yamada finally managed to ask Kyoumi about what she had heard the previous night. Kyoumi listened patiently to Yamada, nodding at intervals.
“Yes, that was Shiba Michio,” said Kyoumi, her voice was serious, her voice grave. “From what I have heard he has gathered a few followers, they call themselves the Black Hand.” She shook her head. “It’s…awful what he is doing, what they are doing. Their tongues are cut out, their hands are nailed off and nailed to a board. Then they are left…to die.”
Yamada winced, that was horrible. “But, if they’re the ones rebelling…”
Kyoumi shook her head decidedly. “There are better ways to deal with such things.” And that was all she would say about it.
But later, when Yamada was alone in her room she had more time to reflect on it. What she now knew about the task ahead of her. What influence could she have over Michio? He was being guided by heaven, by Lord Moon himself. Would she be able to stop things like this?
They could have deserved it, Yamada told herself, and there are more, others who deserve judgement.
She shivered, pulling the blankets close around her. She could feel her baby shift a little inside her, there was not as much movement now. This worried her sometimes, by Kokoro said it was normal as the baby grew and ran out of space.
Soon he would be born. Soon she would leave this place and join Michio. Soon.

As summer ended the nights became cooler, the days longer. The leaves started to turn and birds began to disappear, seeking out their warm home in the south away from winter’s chill.
The coming of autumn also was the beginning of Yamada’s confinement. Starting just before her baby was to be born, and ending a month after the birth. During this time, Kokoro explained, she was to stay in the horse and rest as much as possible.
“And wrap up warmly,” said the midwife. “The wind is chilly, the baby must stay warm.”
Kokoro also insisted on a diet of “warm foods” and tasked Kyoumi with making sure it was stuck to.
“But what about Yoru?” Yamada asked Kyoumi later. “He needs exercise. He can’t stay in the stable all day.”
“Don’t worry, I spoke to Utaku Shironoya,” said Kyoumi reassuringly. “He will send someone daily to attend to him.”
In the coming days, Yamada’s world grew smaller. And it felt strange for her life to be arranged around her, like she was a child again and needed to be cared for.
One afternoon, Kousuda arrived back. He was pleased to be home but was a little amused to be greeted by two pregnant women.
“What has been going on here while I’ve been away?” he asked, trying to contain his laughter.
Yamada scowled at him, trying to stalk away but it was more like a waddle.
Like a brood mare, she thought in frustration.
At dinner, Kousuda was full of news from the road. Particularly from the Unicorn.
“They have managed to take back Far North Village,” he told Yamada. “I don’t know all of the details, but I do know the Crab troops we were promised would only just have arrived.”
“It would have been the Dragon that assisted us. Lord Shikei was very keen to help, renew the old alliance,” said Yamada, remembering back to her meeting with him the previous winter. “It is so good we have a foot hold…but if only I could be there.” She sighed. “Have you heard anything about the Legion? Of Hikahime? I asked down at their barracks when I was there, but they couldn’t tell me anything.”
“Not as much,” Kousuda said. “All I have heard is they are heading south, though there’s a number of things they could be doing. I supposed we will have to ask Karasu when he arrives for court.”

While he was home, Kousuda spent a considerable part of his day locked in his workshop. A small hut on the far side of the garden. From the explosions Yamada could hear inside, she didn’t need to be told to stay clear.
Then one night, a few days after Kousuda had returned, Yamada woke up from a deep sleep to find her bed soaked. She quickly sat up, lighting the lamp. It wasn’t blood, it was water. Her heart beat fast, she could feel her belly contract, strong and hard.
“Izumi!” Yamada shouted. The girl had been sleeping in the next room in case she was needed during the night. “Go and wake Kyoumi and then run for the midwife.”
“Is it…time…Utaku-sama?” the girl asked.
“Yes,” said Yamada. “The baby is coming.”
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:18 am

The story is about half-way, but I wanted to say I have enjoyed writing it so far. And I've enjoyed looking into this side of Rokugan, a very closed world of women that is definitely there but not talked about.

And now, I give you Harun's birth.

-----

Kyoumi was with Yamada before even Izumi was out the door. She had thrown on an old yukata, her hair hastily tied back with a scarf. She was calm, not even the slightest worry showing on her face.
When the contractions came, and they came often, Kyoumi was right there as Yamada breathed through them. Encouraging her, holding her hand.
Izumi then arrived with the midwife who immediately took charge. Kokoro gave curt, quick orders to her apprentice Nibui and the servants, then giving all her attention to Yamada.
“Hello, my dear, I heard your baby was coming and it looks like he is,” she said cheerily. “Nothing to worry about. Let’s just get you on your back for a moment so we can see how baby is doing in there.”
Kyoumi and Kokoro rolled Yamada onto her back, Kyoumi staying near Yamada’s head while the midwife examined her.
“Very good, baby is right where he should be,” she said, getting back her up to a kneeling position with Kyoumi’s help. “Up now, there’s the dear. All we need to do now is await his arrival, which I don’t think shall be very long.”
Kyoumi and Kokoro then removed Yamada’s clothes, including her undergarments and dressed her in a loose yukata which they tied loose over her chest. On the other side of the room, Nibui was laying out a series of large cloths on the floor with assistance from Izumi and her mother Sumiko. And when that was ready, Kokoro and Kyoumi helped Yamada move onto it, rolling up some more lengths of cloth for her to lean on or rest upon if she wanted to.
The contractions were strong, but Yamada was able to bear them stoically. Resting gratefully between them, even managing to drink some tea and have a few bites of food when Kyoumi offered it. The food and drink gave her much needed strength to fight the pain, letting herself only make a low moan when the pain reached its peak. She bore it because she had to, it was the duty of all samurai women to bear children, to have heir to carry on the family legacy. Duty was what she had had with her all her life, this was but one more.
Besides, she had seen women in labour before. Utaku women normally gathered around the mother for a birth, not just the nearest relatives such as her mother’s and sisters, but as many as the birthing chomchog could fit. This was something all women and girls needed to see, the duty that was ahead of them.
I know what happens, thought Yamada, I can do this.
Through it all, Kokoro was calm, almost relaxed but still perfectly in charge. She kept talking to keep the mood light. She told jokes, related stories from the births she had seen, asked Kyoumi about her and debate with Sumiko the best way of cooking daikon.
The contractions then started to come stronger, harder. Hitting her body with the force of a horse at full gallop. The room swam before her, the faces and voices blended together. She called out to them, confused. She wanted her mother, her sisters, her husband. Where were they? Why weren’t they helping her? Why wouldn’t anyone help her expel this weight, this boulder inside her?
“Mother…mother…where are you?” Yamada called out, her voice was high and fearful, like a child.
“Please, don’t shout,” said Nibui reproachfully. “It can worry the baby.”
Yamada turned towards her, flailing out a hand that collided with Nibui’s face and sending her sprawling on the floor.
Kokoro chuckled. “Stay with me, my dear, this is good,” she said, smiling reassuringly at Yamada and at Kyoumi. “Breathe, you are doing so well.”
That brightened Yamada a little. She grabbed Kyoumi’s hand tight, panting, beads of sweat rolling down her face. The pain intensified, buckling her knees and she would have fallen over had Kyoumi not held her strong.
“Stay strong, Yamada,” she said, looking into her eyes reassuringly.
“Is it almost over?” asked Yamada. The question was not directed at Kyoumi, but anyone who might tell her yes.”
“Not quite, my dear,” said the midwife, her voice coming from behind Yamada. “Baby is almost at the door and you are doing a splendid job.”
Yamada closed her eyes, leaning hard on Kyoumi, groaning loudly. Why had she thought she could handle this? How could any woman do this more than once? This was a battle, unlike any she had fought, her own body fighting against her. She fought hard, but it sapped her strength.
“Baby is at the door now,” said Kokoro. “You have been so strong my dear, this is the last part. Bear down, bring him into the world.”
Somehow, spurred on by Kokoro’s words, Yamada found the strength to go on, to fight just a bit longer. She crushed Kyoumi’s hand from the effort of it, bellowing curses as if she was charging into battle.
And then, cutting through her shouts and urging of the other women, was a cry. Soft at first, like the mew of a kitten. Then louder, robust and full of life. Yamada wept tears of joy.
“My baby, my baby…” she said breathlessly, she lay limp against Kyoumi. She smiled, the pain completely forgotten. “Let me see him!”
“Here he is,” said Kokoro, holding him up. He was small, wrinkled, red and pale. “A fine boy, you should be proud.”
Kyoumi helped her lie down, but Yamada’s eyes were focused on the bay. Her baby, hers and Nakura’s. Their son. Her arms ached to hold him, but she waited. Watching Kokoro bathe him in warm water. She wiped away the pale grease to reveal dark, dusky skin.
Yamada laughed. “Look at him! He’s a little Moto!” Smiling at everyone. Happy at the whole world and wanting the world to share in her happiness.
But that was nothing compared to what she felt when her son was put in her arms. It was like a new dawn after a long night, a brilliant flower opening on a bright spring morning. To hold her child, her son in her arms was more happiness than she thought her heart could hold.
Nakura, where are you? Can see our child? Our son? He’s so beautiful and perfect. I love you…
She ran her fingers through his hair. Soft black hair, curling against his head. He opened his eyes to look at her. Brown and gentle, like deep pools of water.
Just like his father…
She stroked his cheek tenderly, calling her son by his name.
“Harun.” It had been her father’s name, the dark wild Moto who was descended from the Ujik-kai of the desert. That had been humbled by the love of her strong, silent mother.
Things were going on around her, but Yamada didn’t care. She felt them wash her, change her clothes. She didn’t fight, so long as they didn’t take Harun away.
When they were done, Kokoro then helped Yamada put Harun to her breath. He nursed easily, hungrily, then falling asleep in Yamada’s arms. She smiled at Kyoumi, she was tired.
“Thank you, for everything,” Yamada said.
“Rest now,” said Kyoumi, covering both mother and child in a blanket.
Yamada was asleep before Kyoumi even left the room.

When she woke up hours later, for a moment Yamada thought the night before was some sort of dream. But Harun slept beside her. His eyes buttoned shut, wrapped in a white blanket.
For a while she just laid there, watching him sleep. Then Harun started to wake, crying softly.
Izumi, who had been sleeping on the floor in the same round, roused herself and helped Yamada sit up so she could feed Harun, putting firm cushions behind her to support her back. She then brought Yamada a tray of food and some tea, and then when Harun was asleep once more she helped her dress and fix her hair.
When this was done, and Harun was sleeping in her arms again, there came a soft tap on the door. It was Kyoumi.
“How are you this morning?” she asked, sitting beside Yamada. “Have you rested?”
“I have, you need to rest too, Kyoumi,” Yamada reminded her. Kyoumi’s baby was due in late winter, early spring.
“Oh, I did,” she said, her grey eyes bright and cheerful. She looked down at Harun sleeping in Yamada’s arms. “May I…may I hold him?”
“Of course,” said Yamada, holding Harun out for Kyoumi to take.
Kyoumi cradled Harun in her arms, smiling down on him as he slept, stroking his curly black hair. In the daylight, the darkness of his skin was more noticeable, contrasting sharply against the white swaddling blanket. “He is a little treasure, Yamada,” she said. “I’m guessing his looks favour your Moto ancestors?”
Yamada nodded. “I named him for my father, Harun.”
“Well, hello there, little Harun-kun,” she said softly.
“Kyoumi,” Yamada said, feeling as if what barriers remained between them had been swept away the night before. “I want to thank you for what you did for me last night. You being there gave me the strength I needed.”
Kyoumi shook her head, still smiling. “I hardly did anything,” she said modestly.
“You did everything just by being there,” she said. “And I would be honoured to do the same for you when your time comes.”
Kyoumi looked a little embarrassed by Yamada’s candour. But she took it in her stride. “Well, thank you and I was glad I could be of help,” she said.
Harun took this moment to open his eyes and looked up at Kyoumi.
Those soft brown eyes, so much like Nakura’s….
He then turned his head towards Kyoumi’s chest, moving his mouth in a way akin to a gulping fish.
“I think he needs feeding again,” said Yamada, taking Harun from Kyoumi.
Kyoumi discreetly left, returning a short while later to ask if Yamada could receive a visitor. When Yamada said yes, Kyoumi opened the door to reveal Iuchi Hiroshige.
“Hiroshige-san,” she said gladly, nodding in greeting to him as she couldn’t stand to bow. He had been the Unicorn delegation’s shugenja at court the previous winter. He had presided over Kousuda and Kyoumi’s wedding and Nakura’s funeral. He also spoken much needed words of comfort to Yamada on the night after Nakura had died. And here he was again, to do the purification as he had done on that fateful night.
“It is good to see you again, Yamada-san,” he said. “You are looking very well. How is the little one?”
“Very well, he is sleeping,” said Yamada, looking down at Harun with a smile.
“Not to worry, I can do all of this without waking him,” he said, reaching down to take the baby from her. “What is his name?”
“Harun,” she told him.
“Harun, a strong name, may it serve him well,” Hiroshige said solemnly. He held Harun in his firm capable hands as he performed the purification rite and the blessing. His ease with babies was no surprise as he was both a father and a grandfather. “May the way always be clear for you, Harun. May your steed be swift and the wind always at your back.”

Later on, Yamada sent for Kousuda. The former Ide was jovial, gladly holding Harun in his arms, perhaps thinking it would not be long until he held his own child.
But there was a reason Yamada wanted to speak to him.
“I know you’re a Crane now,” she said. “But if you don’t mind, would you be able to do a Unicorn tradition? Just this once?”
“Of course, Yamada,” he said. “What did you have in mind.”
Yamada smiled. “I think you’ll know.”

In the stables at the back of his house, Kousuda saddled his horse. His tack was in the pale blue of the Crane, but around his horse’s neck he tied a string of bells and tassels. Purple, but Yamada said Yoru wouldn’t mind if Kousuda borrowed it.
As he rode by the side of the house, Yamada could hear the hoofbeats on the stones and the jangling of bells.
Kousuda then rode out onto the streets of Otosan Uchi, proclaiming to all he encountered that a child had been born in his house that day. A boy named Utaku Harun.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:19 am

(Double post)
Last edited by Kakita_Harun on Sun Aug 19, 2018 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:49 pm

The month that followed was a bit of a blur to Yamada. Kyoumi, Koko and even Kousuda were constantly urging her to rest. And given Yamada was up through the night feeding Harun, she didn’t have a lot of energy to fight them.
Kokoro visited constantly, always with Nibui in tow who was very much subdued towards Yamada. The massive bruise around her eye she had had from when Yamada had struck her took a while to fade.
Just before the month of confinement was up, Kokoro examined her and pronounced her fit and healthy. But warned her that some of the changes that her body had undergone from carrying a child could be permanent.
“And you should not find it hard at all to bear more children,” she said confidently. “As long as everything went as it did before.”
“There will be no more children,” said Yamada. Her voice had a finality and coldness that even Kokoro did not question.
There might have been, once, added Yamada in thought once Kokoro had gone.
She looked down at Harun sleeping soundly on the tatami mat, his tiny little fist clutching the soft white blanket that covered him. So beautiful, so peaceful and innocent sleeping there. She loved every day she spent with him, but now each day was one closer to when she would have to leave him.
She touched his cheek, gently stroked his hair. Her promise to Michio, so easily made. But now…

When Yamada emerged from her confinement, the dying warmth of summer had been replaced by the chilly winds of autumn. The skies above Otosan Uchi were often grey and windswept, the maple trees shedding their leaves. But there was still colour. Kyoumi’s camellias were beginning to bloom, filling the garden with their white, pink and red blossoms.
A month on from his birth also signalled Harun’s entrance into the world and his blessing at the shrine. On a blustery day, Yamada wrapped Harun up warm and they all set off. Kyoumi and Kousuda walking together, along with Yukari as well as Shinjo Saeki.
Saeki had been the Unicorn Ambassador at the court in Shiro Mirumoto. She and Yamada had also travelled to Phoenix lands to secure the new home for the Blessed Herd. She had recently arrived in Otosan Uchi on her way south and was pleased to be included in the party.
Later, Kyoumi and Kousuda hosted everyone in their home. Tea and cakes were served as well as some hummus and flatbread.
Saeki took Harun on her lap, smiling as his hands explored the toy she had given him—a wooden horse on wheels. He also played with Saeki’s long hair, but she didn’t seem to mind. She had children of her own, she explained, all at Journey’s End Keep where many Unicorn still were.
“I do hope to bring them back here, and as many as we can manage,” she said. “Thanks mainly to you, Kousuda-san.” She nodded at him in this. His negotiations with Spider Champion Susumu Shibatsu had led to many Unicorn moving to Otosan Uchi, having a home in Rokugan while their ancestral lands were taken back. “It may be many years before the Unicorn Clan can gather on the steps once more, but we will.”
Yamada nodded in agreement, but she felt a little awkward.
Like everyone else, she fully expects me to join the war in the spring, she thought, and I’m lying to her, and everyone else.
Yukari’s gift to Harun was a toy katana. He seemed most interested in it, which she hoped was an indication that he would go and kill some Onyx before they were all gone.
More visitors came with gifts, some Yamada had struck acquaintance with during her stay in the city. And there were some Unicorn as well, Utaku Shironaya as well as some other shiotome that had had babies that year. There were polite, making little conversation as was the nature of Utaku women. It was a strange feeling for Yamada, to feel apart from her own family.

As the Month of the Dog drew to a close, reports came through of the armies settling down for the cold months of winter. Otosan Uchi prepared for the remembrance of the dead with the Bon Festival. Rows of lanterns adorned the streets of the city and the servants gave the house a thorough cleaning.
On the morning of the festival, the entire household gathered before the family shrine. Offerings of food were made for the ancestors of the household, and those were dead who did not have family to remember them. Asahina Hiroki, a shugenja who had come for the occasion, led the prayers.
Bon was about remembering the dead, their spirits returning to speak with the living. And to Yamada, this particularly year had never felt more poignant.
Harun might never truly know his father, but perhaps from Yomi his father might know him.
The Parade of the Dead down the Emperor’s Road was something to see and they all came out to watch. Revellers danced, rattling bells and banging drums. Harun, tied securely to Yamada’s back, seemed to like watching the dragon dancers, leaping and whirling in the bright coloured silks held aloft on the poles. Of particular interest to Yamada were the Obsidian and Jade Dragons. They intertwined with each other, mirroring the others movement but in a different way. The Jade Dragon so lithe and elegant, the Obsidian wild and menacing.
And then, as the day drew to a close, many people went down to the harbour where the setting sun cast a halo that gave Golden Sun Bay its name. Small lanterns were released into the water, each having the name of a person who had died that year written on it. And as it had been another year of war and famine, many, many lanterns were set loose upon the water.
When it came time for Yamada’s turn, she put the brush in Harun’s hand and she guided it with her own to write Nakura’s name. She then set it loose on the water, watching it join the sea of light as fireworks exploded in the sky.
Scribe and Adopted Crane

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KakitaKaori
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Re: L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story

Postby KakitaKaori » Fri Nov 03, 2017 5:53 am

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Kakita Kaori
Kenshinzen of Golden Petal Village and overly prolific fiction writer
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[Kakita Kyoumi/WC5]


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