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

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

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:37 pm

As the boats entered Toshi Ranbo, the arrows and missiles actually lessened. This was due to the debris piled up either side on the banks of the river and floating in the water. Debris...and bodies. It became more and more difficult for the boats to proceed through the city without hitting anything.
Thunk. Thunk. Bodies hitting the hull of the ship. Along with wood, stone, parts of houses and bridges.
Harun kept his men’s’ spirits up in a defiant chant as they went, trying to ignore the other sounds, getting them all ready.
The boat then came to a stop next to a shattered bridge neat the centre of Toshi Ranbo. The Mantis marines were the first off, attacking with their kamas and bows, and Takano Unit were right behind them. All of them cascading down the shattered bridge, fighting the Onyx gathering on the shore in a fury of shouts and steel.

In a north west corner of the city, Onyx attempted to tunnel through the wall. Most of them tainted samurai, but there was one huge oni lord making some progress. Behind a row of shattered houses, they didn’t attract much attention, but then when everyone was focused so much on getting into the city, they didn’t see those attempting to get out.
The oni lord made a huge crack at the wall with a fist, shattering the stones and making a hole big enough to climb through. But once they were through, there was the thunder of hooves near by.
Utaku Chikara, Shogun of the Empire, with a full complement of battlemaidens, was approaching. They saw the Onyx coming through the wall and charged.

“Form up Takano,” Harun shouted, signalling with his fan. The Onyx were starting to scatter, and if they gave chase then his men would be too far apart to be effective. Once regrouped, they ran along the shoreline, climbing over the debris towards where the Imperial palace was. Climbing through the remains of an old castle, the former seat of the Emerald and Jade Champions. There was resistance, and even some wounds suffered by his men, but right here in the centre of Toshi Ranbo, he expected more.
What is going on? Harun wondered. Where is everyone? This is all too easy.
Through the gaps in the old masonry, Harun could see a vast courtyard that he knew led up to the Imperial Palace. And there wasn’t any enemies in sight.
This isn’t right, Harun thought.
“Chui, what’s wrong?” Utaku Kenji asked him.
“I don’t know,” said Harun. “Lets just stay here in cover for now. See what happens.”
They waited for a while, taking a breath. Eventually across the courtyard he could see deep green banners and soldiers approaching.
“Dragon, good,” Harun said. “Let’s go out to meet them.” He signalled with his fan.
They came out of the ruined castle and started to cross the courtyard. It was bare, devoid of any structures though Harun could see quite a few smashed statues and monuments. Just ahead was the Imperial Palace itself, looking almost untouched. The Dragon neared, Harun could see they were mostly Mirumoto bushi.
Then a lone robed figure in a white mask came out of the palace, dragging something along the ground.
“Stop! Now!” Harun shouted, holding up his fan.
“What?!” Shouted Daidoji Akemi. “Chui we could take him, he’s only one.”
“Form up ranks, keep your sights on the maho-tsukai,” Harun said, he felt cold inside.
We have no idea what this one is going to do… he thought.
But the Dragon didn’t have as much caution, perhaps they were even urged on when they saw Takano Unit was holding back. The Dragon swarmed around the maho-tsukai, hiding him from view.
From where he stood, Harun couldn’t see what happened next. But he saw the effects. There was something…different, different about how they fought.
Then with a gasp he realised.
They’re fighting…each other…
“Stand firm, now!” Harun shouted. “Archers, pepper, fire at will.”
“At the Mirumoto, Chui?” Akemi asked.
“You heard me, Gunso!” shouted back Harun. “They’re not on our side, not now.”
Harun didn’t know what it was. A spell, madness, the taint…but he didn’t care. They owed it at least to the souls of those Dragon to do something.
The Dragon moved uncannily fast, shrieking and screaming with insanity. And they were vicious, cutting through Takano unit ferociously. They fought back, best as they could, and Harun saw more of his men fall. Wounded, dead, and some even begin to fall to the same madness themselves.
A blade grazed his cheek and he knocked down a Mirumoto bushi, the man was spiting up blood from the wound Harun had given him, but the Dragon kept fighting. And Harun kept fighting, signalling to his men to pull back, pull back. But the bank of the river was behind them and he knew they would eventually run out of room.
A battle horn sounded, then the flurry of footsteps. Harun quickly looked, thinking they would be more Onyx…but the banners were sky blue. The Crane had arrived, and in the nick of time.

A thunder of blood and steel, the Crab Clan rushed though the city, running around through the streets where once mansions of the rich and noble stood, now all ruined and decrepit. Coming at last to the wall that surrounded the Imperial Palace from the north side. If they didn’t find a breach in the wall, they would make one themselves.
Hida Tetsuyori was in the thick of them, fighting beside his men. His armour dripping with blood and gore, but he fought on.

The Dragon dead, Harun at first saw to his men. At least half of them were gone now. Wounded or dead. Suna Platoon was all but wiped out, all was left was one ashigaru with an arm missing.
Once done, Harun went in search of the Crane commander. Harun could see him, getting the Crane to take up defensive positions around the palace. He wore the brilliant blue and gold armour of a Kenshinzen. Then he turned and Harun saw who it was, Kakita Isamu.
Isamu was one of the very few that had attained the rank of Kenshinzen during the war. In another time, Isamu might have been celebrated at the best court of the Empire. Bu things were a little different when you had not just one but two generations growing up in the shadow of a devastating war.
Harun approached Isamu and bowed. “Kakita-sama,” he said, sounding more confident than he felt. “I must thank your for coming to our aid, without you, my unit would sure have all been killed to a man…or worse.” He then added, “I am Kakita Harun, Chui of Takano Unit. You may not remember me, but I did see you years ago while I was at the Kakita Academy, you duelled Kenshin-sensei. It was an inspiration to all of us.”
“You’re right, I don’t remember,” Isamu said coldly.
Behind Isamu, Harun could see Doji Kouta approach, but the Doji stopped when he saw them talking.
“Remember, the Crane have point here, Chui,” said Isamu. “Stay with us, but stay out of the way of our objective.”
Harun thought about challenging him on this, but decided against it. “Of course, Kakita-sama,” said Harun, bowing. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just see to my men who are wounded.”
He walked off.

Back at his war table, Karasu could see that things were going well, very well for them. There were multiple breaches in the wall and incursions into the city. That combined with the mopping up of the retreating Onyx that Utaku Chikara was handling, it was looking to be a success.
They were going to have Toshi Rando, at long last.
But that didn’t mean it was over. Reports were coming in about the dead and wounded. No news yet from inside the city, which Karasu was aching to hear. And no sign of the oni Yuhmi, it was beginning to look as if it had either fled or had not been in the city at all.
A scout approached at a run. “Champion, two boats have come out of the city, from near the Imperial Palace,” he said, breathing hard.
“Do they have it secured, yet?” Karasu asked.
“No, but they should shortly,” said the scout.
“Many casualties?” Karasu asked.
“Numerous, many on the boats coming out,” said the scout.
Karasu turned to his second. “Gather the men, we are going in ourselves on the next boat,” he said.
And lets hope Harun isn’t on those boats coming out…
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:22 pm

Okay, this is a very special chapter that Kaori and I have discussed and worked on for basically years. It is why this story was written. This is such a seminal moment in Harun's life and his destiny takes a complete turn from this point onwards.
Special shout out to Troy Graham, who's Shimekiri's player. He has been reading these.
Hope you like it!

They then took the attack inside the Imperial Palace itself. A maze of dark and twisting, confusing corridors as well as traps and hazards—some deliberate, some just a result of decay and neglect. And, of course, enemies around every corner.[/div]Takano Unit had joined forces with some of the Mantis Marines, their numbers making up the wounded and dead that had left on one of the boats. With them was Moshi Hotaru, the shugenja who had come with them on their boat. Her fire kami provided much needed light, and her fire spells were particularly goof for clearing rooms.
And then, through accident or design, they found themselves in the very centre of the palace. Outside the throne room. The great doors were open but too dark to see clearly, even with the help of Hotaru’s fire kami. But from the sounds and smells inside, Harun knew the room was filled with enemies. He could also hear people coming up behind them.
I, thought Harun with a little satisfaction.
“Let’s do it,” he said, shoving the door open with Utaku Kenji’s help and they went in.
The influx of light caused the Onyx to turn in attack. Stinking, grasping, screaming withered limbs and desiccated flesh, falling beneath their blades. But they kept coming, and coming, a mass of blackened decaying bones and taint.
Next to him was Moshi Hotaru, a blazing whip of fire extending from her hands, snaking around and coiling as she moved it. Clearing a path for them, setting them all a blaze.
They held the line, Takano Unit and the Mantis, standing firm, taking out the Onyx as they threw themselves at them in a maddened frenzy. And they kept coming, and coming.
“Stand firm!” Harun shouted, hoping he could be heard above the noise. He parried the weapon of a tainted samurai with a distended jaw, it sliced him across the chin before he could kill it.
Then Harun heard the running footsteps around them. The reinforcements, arrived. Crane, Crab and more from the Imperial Legion. More and more filling the room, cutting down the Onyx and pushing them back and back, back to the throne itself. And as they neared, they could see a figure sitting in the throne. White with red paint amongst the blackness that covered the throne.

The next boat arrived, the wounded and the dead were being carried off. Karasu saw the mon on their sashimonos, these were from Takano Unit. But Karasu was quickly reassured when he was told by a wounded ashigaru that the Harun was not among them.
“When we left, Champion, Kakita-Chui was leading the rest into the Imperial Palace,” he told Karasu.
Not long later, Karasu was on the boat, heading for the centre of Toshi Ranbo.

The throne room was a mess of dead and burned bodies, though the floor did get clearer the further one went in. It was here that the Imperial Court had convened before the Steel Throne, serving the Emperors of Rokugan since the Toturi Dynasty. It was also here, after Toshi Ranbo had been abandoned, where Daigotsu Kanpeki had convened his court over the Onyx Empire, everything about it a bitter, twisted mockery of what had once been here. Right down to giving the Steel Throne a coating of cursed obsidian.
And this is where Shimekiri sat, grinning at all of them mockingly as if they were invited guests rather than an invading army.
Harun didn’t think at first, he turned to the archers. “Fire at will!” He said to them.
But fire as they may, none of the arrows seemed to hit Shimekiri and he barely moved at all.
Shimekiri laughed at him. “It will take more than that to touch me, little Crane,” said Shimekiri. He looked at Harun with a distracted interest. “Or are you?” He looked Harun up and down. “With a face like a gaijin, I’d question the purity of your blood.”
Harun flushed with anger, and may have said something had Doji Kouta not appeared at his side. The armour he wore gave him a more serious air, looking older. “Don’t answer,” Kouta urged. “Let Isamu-sama handle him, its why he is here.”
Harun nodded, they would be mere spectators here after all. Witnesses to the final act. The audience for the play that was about to be performed. The villain, Shimekiri, defiant and proud as he sat on the throne. Beautiful and deadly in the red and white kabuki paint. In armour that left his right shoulder and some of his chest uncovered—stark tainted white against the black.
And the hero, Isamu, his winged blue and gold Kenshinzen armour so splendid and inspiring. Proud, confident as he approached Shimekiri on the dais.
“And so, who has come to challenge the finest duellist since Kakita?” Shimekiri asked from the throne.
“Kakita Isamu, son of Kakita Kisano, Kenshinzen,” Isamu answered.
“Oh yes, I remember your mother,” said Shimekiri with a slasher smile. “Such poise! Such grace! Pity it didn’t save her though when I took her head.”
Isamu didn’t respond to this, in either expression or words.
“So, you have come here to see my untimely end, have you?” Shimekiri. “I do hate to disappoint you, but I have no intention of losing today.”
“You’re wrong!” Isamu said defiantly. “Every Crane blade here is dedicated to seeing your final death, tainted scum. Even if it takes all of us, every drop of blood. You will answer for your dishonour and disgrace which has gone on for far too long. This is your end, Shimekiri. Now. Today.”
Shimekiri grinned. “Well, who could refuse an invitation like that?” He stood up from the throne. “Prepare the circle, and lets see how many of you it takes before you admit the truth.”

The boat Karasu was on slowly made its way towards the Forbidden City. Slowly, as it had to contend with the debris and bodies in the water. He stood in the prow, despite the protests that he could be a target for snipers. But Karasu wanted to see for himself what was going on, and he knew how important it was for those still fighting to see him.

Moshi Hotaru prepared the duelling circle in the only clear space big enough, on the dais. Either side of the circle, both combatants prepared. Harun could see Kakita Rikuto, the Kakita Daimyo, speaking with Isamu. A Kakita sensei stepped forward with a fan, calling the two combatants forward to declare themselves.
Shimekiri stepped forward, his bow as flamboyant and theatrical as ever, his entire manner farcical. “Daigotsu Shimekiri, Student of the Kakita Duelling Academy, Rikugunshokan of the Army of Obsidian, Defender of Toshi Ranbo.” He paused to flash a grin at Isamu. “Demon Blade of the Shadowlands.”
Kakita Isamu stepped forward, his demeanour proud but also cool. “This one is Kakita Isamu, son of Kakita Kisano, Student of the Kakita Duelling Academy…” He stared across at Shimekiri as he spoke. “And the Kakita Kenshinzen school.”
Shimekiri ignored this. “Mother and son, both dead by the same blade,” he said. “How perfectly tragic.”
“My blade will avenge her,” declared Isamu angrily. “And all the others that have died by it.
Shimekiri laughed.
The Kakita sensei raised his fan. He looked at both combatants, they bowed. then he dropped it. “Hajime!”
A long moment passed while they each sized each other up. Neither of them moving or speaking, eyes everywhere.
“For the honour of the Crane,” said Isamu.
Then both drew and struck, a flurry and flash of steel, both blades coming almost identically around the right side to make the cut. But one hit, and one didn’t.
With a groan, Isamu dropped to the ground, blood pouring out if his mouth, his helmet falling off. Before anyone could move, Shimekiri lunged forward and savagely grabbed Isamu’s topknot, pulling it back to slice off the Kakita’s head.
He held up Isamu’s head to the gathered Crane triumphantly, the blood pouring down his arm. “Is this what passes now for a Kenshinzen?” He shouted. “Pathetic!” He threw the head into the crowd of Crane who scattered like frightened pigeons, tripping over themselves to avoid Isamu’s head as it bounced and rolled across the floor of the throne room.
“Who is next?” Shimekiri shouted. “Which of you is not to craven to join him?”
“I will!” shouted Kouta, running forward before Harun knew what was happening.
“Kouta, no!” Harun shouted. But there was nothing he could do.
Kouta stepped on to the dais. Shimekiri took one look at him and collapsed into raucous laughter.
“A mere chick!” Shimekiri said. “You’re barely out of your egg! Or are they making Kenshinzen even younger these days?”
Kouta didn’t answer, he stared at Shimekiri with cold fury.
But Shimekiri was colder. “Are you ready to die today, boy?”
“It is you who will die today!” Kouta declared defiantly.
“Well, you have a Kenshinzen’s arrogance,” said Shimekiri with a laugh. “I accept your challenge.”
Harun stood stunned, frozen to the spot.
There’s no hope for him! Harun thought, why doesn’t someone stop it?
But no one did, the Crane stood together as a group, watching as they prepared. Watching as the duel began. Watching as Shimekiri drew his sword with inhuman fury and utterly no mercy. Gutting Kouta from bottom to top like a fish.
Harun’s head pounded as he watched Kouta’s body crumple to the floor. Splattered with Kouta’s blood, Shimekiri kicked his corpse off the dais, making the Crane jump back. Harun could hardly watch. That was his friend, right there, who only a short time ago had been alive.
He looked at where the Crane were gathered, almost angrily.
If they won’t stop him, then I will, Harun thought. He looked over at Shimekiri, sizing him up as he would any opponent on the battlefield. Shimekiri’s strength was in his first strike, devastating, deadly…but if one could get past that…
Harun quickly looked at Daidoji Akemi and nodded towards Shimekiri. She seemed to hesitate, questioning it for a moment. Then she nodded and started loading her tanegashima.
Harun strode up to the dais, his heart cold with anger from his dead friend. “Shimekiri!”
The former Kakita turned, his face lighting up with amusement when he saw Harun. “Ah yes, the gaijin Crane,” he said. “Tell me, was it your mother who was the ditch-digger or your father?”
“I am more Crane than you have claim to be,” Harun said. “I stand here because I choose to. I honour the lessons and traditions I have been taught…things that you turned your back on. Along with your honour.”
“Ha!” Declared Shimekiri. “My ancestors were developing the art of the sword while yours were still learning to speak. What’s your name, boy?”
“Kakita Harun, Chui of Takano Unit of the First Imperial Legion,” Harun said, looking Shimekiri directly in the eyes as he spoke. “Son of Kakita Karasu.”
Shimekiri laughed. “So…this is who the Emerald Champion sends? A mere boy? Is he still too much of a coward to face me himself?”
“The only coward was your master, the oni Yuhmi,” Harun said. “Leaving you here, in this city, while he fled to safety.”
Harun kept his gaze firmly on Shimekiri, defiant with cold fury. Yet the taunts and mocks were simply to buy time for Akemi, buy time for her to get into position. And he couldn’t look around lest Shimekiri was made aware of his plan. He had to trust that Akemi would do the right thing.
“Fine!” Shimekiri spat. “Have your duel, boy, and when your father comes, I’ll send him after you.”

Karasu’s boat came to a stop outside the Imperial Palace, quickly he walked off the plank and into the courtyard. He took a quick look around, there were a number of troops surrounding the palace, but he knew there should be more.
“Where is everyone?” Karasu asked a soldier.
“Inside, Champion,” he answered.
Karasu thanked him, entering the palace at a brisk pace.

On one side of the duelling circle, Harun prepared. He checked his sword and his armour. Utaku Kenji was with him.
“Chui, are you sure about this?” Kenji asked.
“I am certain,” said Harun quietly.
“He’s going to kill you,” said Kenji.
“Quite possibly,” said Harun, sheathing his sword. “But if he does, I want you to take over command of Takano unit.” He smiled at Kenji. “You’ve been a good gunso, a good soldier, and a good friend.”
Kenji nodded, he bowed. But instead of returning it, Harun held out his hand. They shook, one Unicorn greeting another.
The Kakita sensei called them forward. It was time.

Karasu picked up the pace as he walked through the Imperial Palace. Urgently checking rooms, trying to see where everyone was. If Shimekiri was in here, he needed to be dealt with even if Karasu had to do it himself.
I hope I am not too late…

Harun didn’t realise how many people were in the throne room until he got up there. There were not just troops from the Legion and the Crane there, but he could also see some Crab bushi including one massive one who had to be their commander.
All here to watch what was about to happen.
Shimekiri stepped forward to declare himself, identical to the last two times. Then it was Harun’s turn.
“Kakita Harun, son of Kakita Karasu,” he said. “Former Topaz Champion, Chui of Takano Unit of the First Imperial Legion.”
The Kakita-sensei motioned for them to begin.
“This day will be your last, Shimekiri,” said Harun as he sized him up.
“Bah!” Shimekiri scoffed. Examining Harun like a predator. “What do I have to fear from the likes of you?”
“This!” declared Harun.
A gunshot was fired behind Harun, launching a jade-augmented iron ball that hit Shimekiri’s naked right shoulder just as he drew his katana. It shattered flesh and bone as it penetrated, burying itself there, smoking and burning his flesh. His arm weakened, his strength broken along with his shoulder. And in the first strike that should have killed Harun, Shimekiri dropped his katana.
A great gasp came up from the audience.
Then it was Harun’s turn, he attacked Shimekiri from the right shoulder down, his sword burying the ball further as it slashed across Shimekiri’s chest. The finest duellist since Kakita fell to his knees, defeated. Harun pressed the point of his sword against Shimekiri’s throat, grinning at him triumphantly.
“I told you I would do it,” Harun said.
Shimekiri laughed manically. The blood, the paint…it was like something out of a nightmare. “Enjoy your victory,” he said. Laughing raucously.
Harun cut of his head, ending the laughter. Silencing him, forever. He collapsed to his knees and couldn’t stop grinning. He had done it, he had killed Shimekiri…avenged all of those the braggart had killed.
He looked around, silence at first. Then Takano Unit shouted with glee at the victory of their Chui. The Crab Clan raucously joined in, giving the now dead Shimekiri a few choice insults. But from the Crane…nothing, not a sound or movement.
What’s going on? Harun wounded. I killed him, why aren’t they saying anything?
Utaku Kenji ran up, grinning from ear to ear. “You did it! The baka is gone!” He looked over at the silent Crane, still trying to take in what happened. “What’s going on? They wanted him dead, and now he is?”
“I…I don’t know,” stammered Harun. He felt something wet at his side, he put his hand down. Blood, from where Shimekiri had cut him.
Daidoji Akemi came up from where she had been in the crowd, carrying her tanegashima. “It was a good plan, Chui,” she said approvingly.
Harun nodded, numb. There was something wrong, there was something very wrong…
There was some sort of commotion below, then the crowd parted to reveal Karasu.
“Father.” Harun tried to get up, but it was too painful. “I killed him, I did it…” He couldn’t hide the pride in his voice as he told him.
It’s what you would have done…right?
Karasu didn’t say anything. He looked from Harun, to Shimekiri dead on the floor, to Akemi with her tanegashima. His face was blank, unreadable.
Why isn’t he saying anything? Harun wondered. Why isn’t he pleased?
The Kakita Damiyo, approached Karasu and bowed. “Champion, we must speak. In private.” She didn’t even look at Harun.
Then it started to dawn on Harun. They didn’t like it, they didn’t approve…they acted as if he had done something terrible.
But I killed him…they all wanted him dead. Right?
“Father?” Harun’s voice was very small, like a child’s. “I…I can explain. I had to…no one else would.” He started to feel light-headed.
Karasu looked at Harun, his face ashen, his eyes on the verge of tears. But he said nothing to him. Instead he turned to Kenji. “Utaku-Gunso, your Chui is wounded,” he said coldly. “Get him on the boat and see that he gets tended. Take him to my tent.”
“Champion?” Kenji asked, as if he couldn’t believe what he heard.
“I am not repeating myself,” said Karasu, turning away.
Harun was helped to his feet, painfully, and Kenji helped him out of the room. “Father, wait! Just let me explain!” He shouted at Karasu’s back. “Father, I did what I had to do! What no one else would!”
But Karasu didn’t look back.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:10 pm

They were quiet on the way back, Harun’s presence on the boat did cause a few curious stares among the Mantis but no questions. Kenji helped Harun walk, supporting the Kakita’s weight right up until they got to the Emerald Champion’s tent. Senzo quickly let them in, finding the healing supplies and then running off to fetch a shugenja.
Carefully, Kenji helped Harun remove his armour. This seemed to open the wound further so the Utaku worked quickly to stop the bleeding. It was painful, but Harun didn’t make a sound.
“I don’t understand,” Kenji said as he secured the bandages. “Why would the Crane do that? Why would treat you like that when you killed Shimekiri, their biggest problem?”
“I don’t know,” Harun said. Then he remembered something. “Shimekiri said that they would do something like that, before I killed him.”
“He knew?” Kenji said, satisfied with the bandages.
Harun nodded. “He was a Crane first.”
Senzo came back with the shugenja who checked Harun over. While the shugenja was checking him, Senzo found a spare yukata for Harun to wear and made tea. When the shugenja was done, Harun told them all to leave. Sitting by himself in the silence he started to clean his armour, thinking.

It was evening when Kakita Karasu made it back to the siege camp. By then it was full of people celebrating the victory. Karasu knew he had to at least show himself among them. But not now, now he had a far more serious duty that awaited in his tent.
Harun. His son. Who had done this terrible thing to disgrace the entire Crane Clan.
Harun, what have you done?
Senzo bowed as Karasu entered his tent where Harun was sitting silently, bandages around his middle, wiping the blood off his armour. He put down his cleaning cloth when Karasu entered, trying to get up.
“Father…I need you to listen…”
Karasu ignored Harun. He started to remove the Emerald Armour, cleaning each piece as he did and putting it on the stand where it lived. He did not turn, he did not look at Harun.
Karasu put the Emerald Blade on the daisho stand, placing his own wakizashi next to it. His hands shook, with anger that seemed to be spilling out.
“Father…please…listen to me…”
Karasu disappeared behind the painted shoji screen that hid his sleeping area. Changing into a simple blue juban and black hakama. Like he would wear back home at Rokugan Yogasha Shiro. Then, taking a deep breath in, he stepped out.
Harun sat there at the table, holding his side where it clearly still pained him, but facing Karasu. Looking straight at him, no sign of humility or repentance in him at all. Defiant.
“Father,” Harun said. “I know what I did today looked bad, but…”
“No!” thundered Karasu, with a fury that made Harun startle. “You don’t get to say that. Not today, not ever, not after you’ve just disgraced the Crane and all our traditions.” He made a dismissive gesture. “Twelve hundred years of the tradition of Iaijutsu, and you threw it all away in one moment. Like it didn’t matter at all. My own son! Have I taught you nothing?!”
“I saved all those people, father!” Harun shouted back. “All of them! Including Kakita Rakuto-ue! I stopped that, so they all didn’t have to die to kill Shimekiri. I did what you would have done!”
Karasu whirled on him, knocking the tea set and everything else off the table with a crash and breaking of china. “You don’t think I had a plan? That I was going to handle it? You didn’t, did you? You had to go in and be the hero, didn’t you?”
“Like you!” Harun challenged. “Shimekiri would have killed you just as well as he killed me. He told me! I did this so that no one else needed to die! Why…why can’t you see that I was right about this?”
“Because you cheated, Harun!” Karasu shouted. “You betrayed the traditions of Kakita! Right then, right there! How many others do you think will try and do what you did? Did you think of that?”
Harun winced. He looked past Karasu, behind him where the Emerald Champion’s armour and sword were. Kakita’s own, forged for him at the dawn of the empire. Almost like Kakita himself was standing there, judging him silently for his crimes. For his betrayal. For his disgrace.
When Harun spoke, his voice was quiet but with an edge to it. “I did my duty, father. I saw enemy I could kill and how to kill him. That is what I did.”
“And by doing this, you have thrown away everything I have hoped for you,” Karasu said. “Did you know Kenshin-sensei saw it in you to become a Kenshinzen? He noticed that the first day I took you to the Kakita Academy! That was what was next for you, it’s all gone now.” He signed. “Now, I am going to get half the Crane Clan as well a few others from the Lion and Dragon beat a path to my door demanding either your seppuku or that I take your daisho and send you out as a ronin or monk.”
“Will you?” Harun asked, quietly.
“I don’t know,” said Karasu. “I am still trying to comprehend it myself.” He sat down, putting his head in his hands.
“I did this as I saw it the only path forward,” Harun said.
“And you stand by it?” Karasu asked, looking up.
“I do,” said Harun.
“Fine,” Karasu said, with the finality of pronouncing judgement. “Kakita-Chui, you are being placed on indefinite leave until I can find a fitting punishment for your actions. You will leave first thing in the morning. Gather your things, your going home.”
“As you wish, Champion,” Harun said. He bowed and went to get his armour.
“Leave it,” Karasu said. “You have lost the right to wear it.”
Harun left the tent, saying nothing further.

Karasu sat there a long time after Harun was gone.
Harun, what have you done? I can’t protect you from something like this!
And it wasn’t just that he had done this disgraceful thing, Harun also stood by it. Defending his actions, defiantly arguing that they had been right. Harun had first learned his lessons of honour, tradition and bushido at Karasu’s knee…but now, his son was a stranger.
Where did I go so wrong with him? Karasu wondered, Yamada, I’m sorry, I failed you…
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:43 am

Harun walked back to the Takano camp, anger rising from like a wave. His father, he didn’t understand. By doing what he did, Harun had saved all of those people but he got no gratitude or recognition from the Crane. This was a war after all, Shimekiri an enemy commander he had dealt with accordingly.
The fact his wound still smarted as he walked did not help matters at all.
He was still feeling like this when he arrived at the Takano camp, but then seeing what they did next that made all that anger melt away. They all stopped in what they were doing, sank down into seiza position and bowed. Harun was stunned, standing among them amid the utter silence. He was touched, and didn’t know what to say.
Utaku Kenji approached him and bowed. “Chui, every one of us here, man and woman, samurai and ashigaru stands by you and what you did this day.”
“Thank you,” Harun said, turning to the rest of Takano Unit. “Thank you, all of you.” He cleared his throat. “But we must not forget the ones who have fallen today. We must honour their sacrifice. It could have easily been any of us.”
They all straightened and nodded, listening. Harun stood there awkwardly for a few moments.
“But I must tell you all…that this is the last time I will see many of you,” Harun said, a few murmurs of confusion as he spoke. “I…have been given new orders and will be leaving in the morning. Utaku Kenji will be serving as acting Chui until a new one is appointed.” He paused, feeling the well of emotion swell up inside you. “It was an honour and pleasure to lead you, I will not forget this time. Thank you.”
He left abruptly. Kenji stared after him for a moment. “Chui?” He waved at the men to disperse then followed Harun into his tent. “You’re leaving us? Why?”
Harun started packing up his things together, putting them inside the wicker backpack. “Like I said, new orders.”
“Your father?” Kenji asked.
Harun didn’t answer.
“Where the Champion sending you?” Kenji asked.
“Home,” answered Harun. “And after that, I don’t know.” He picked up the pouch that contained his soldier’s pay. He had hardly spent any. He took out a few koku coins, enough to get him home, then handed the pouch to Kenji. “Take them to Toshiwara Row,” he said. “Get their spirits up.”
“You’re not coming?” Kenji asked.
Harun shook his head. “Let them rest, they’ve earned it,” he said. “I should be gone before you wake up.”
Kenji nodded solemnly. “I…I guess this is goodbye then. I thought it was before, but I guess now it is.” He smiled. “We have gone a long way.”
“We have,” agreed Harun.
They shook hands. Kenji left.
Securing the last of his possessions in the pack, Harun picked up his most treasured ones save his daisho: the letters from his mother and Arahime. One lost to him, one dead. What would they think of what he did? He secured them carefully away.
He knew he should rest, he would have a few days hard riding ahead of him. But there was something he had to do before he left.

The shrine of Hikahime was quiet, yet it had a few petitioners that night. Harun knelt and did the necessary bows and claps, but his words were less a prayer and more an argument.
Is this what you meant? He asked the Minor Fortune in thought. Is this what you meant when you said I was going to take Toshi Ranbo? He bowed his head. Did you know? Did you know this would happen?
Hikahime had been a peasant up until her death, steadfastly refusing to rise above that even though she had been offered the chance. If Hikahime was still alive, would she understand what Harun had done? Why he had done it? Could she have convinced Karasu?
But on that night, Harun had no answers. He looked up, watching the flags of the Imperial Legion fly above the walls of Toshi Ranbo.

The Isawa stayed at the healers’ tents long into the night, doing their utmost that those who came their had a chance. Yet there was one corner they all seemed to avoid, and when it had to be passed it was done quietly with hushed whispers.
It was here that Isawa Koyo sat. Silent, beside the futon where his wife Isawa Akiko lay dying. Several of the shards of wood from when the bridge exploded had mortally wounded her in several places. She was not expected to last until dawn.
Akiko had come with him from Dragon lands, willingly to stand by him. To help him in his work to recover the fortunes of the Phoenix Clan. But Koyo knew her heart was truly in the home they had built together, the family they had made, the children they had left behind.
And now, Koyo would have to tell the children that their mother was not returning. It did not seem fair. He himself had been prepared to die here, to sacrifice himself. But not to lose her.
As the sun rose over Toshi Ranbo, Koyo prayed. He knew the road ahead would be lonely without her, but he still would take it.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby KakitaKaori » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:24 am

Oh, dear. Poor Akiko!
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:45 pm

I had permission from Koyo’s player. But there’s no victory without sacrifice
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:33 am

Harun rode east in the pouring rain. This and the fact his wound wasn’t completely healed slowed his progress considerably. He stayed in villages, hopefully avoiding any samurai that would ask too many questions.
Finally, on a dreary wet night, he came to the gates of Rokugan Yogasha Shiro. A guard opened the gate, and Saigou came out of the castle carrying a lantern.
“Harun! How did you come to be here?” Saigou looked around. “Are you alone? Where is your father?”
“Father is back at Toshi Ranbo, I came ahead,” Harun said.
Saigou quickly ushered Harun inside, getting the servants to take Harun’s horse to the stable. He had a million questions he wished to ask, but he took one look at Harun and said. “Let’s just get you warm and dry.”
Harun nodded mutely. It had been a long journey and he was tired. For now, he allowed himself to be led like a child.

Later, after a bath and a change, Harun went to the dining room where a meal was waiting for him. Saigou was there, presiding over the table as he had always done in Karasu’s absence.
Harun sat down, the castle seemed large and silent without the presence and sounds of children. It was strange. The younger ones asleep, the older were all away, at school or like Harun had grown and were serving elsewhere.
How long will it be until father comes home? Harun wondered. And what will I face when he does?
Karasu’s words came back to him…Seppuku…sent out as a ronin or monk.
Yet, there had been also the cheers of the Crab and Imperial Legionnaires when he had killed Shimekiri, the welcome had had gotten from Takono Unit. Not everyone thought at the Crane did. Not everyone thought as his father did.
He’s…not right…about everything…
“Harun? You’re very quiet,” said Saigou. “Is there something wrong?”
Harun looked up. “No, well…” He cleared his throat. “Ooji-san, how long have you served father?”
Saigou raised his eyebrows slightly, but didn’t ask questions. “I came here to be the steward of the Emerald Champion’s household two winters after you were born.”
“And before that?” Harun asked.
“I served in the Legion,” said Saigou. “In the ranks, and then as your father’s quartermaster.”
“What about before that?” Harun asked. “Before the Legion.”
Saigou’s face closed a bit. He motioned to one of the servants to bring tea. “That was a different time, Harun,” he said. “What has brought on these questions? Something happened in Toshi Ranbo, didn’t it? You can tell me. Why are you here?”
“Father sent me away,” Harun said shortly. “He suspended me from my command, I left the day after the city fell.”
“You did something, didn’t you?” The tea arrived and Saigou poured for both of them.
Harun nodded. “I…I killed Daigotsu Shimekiri,” said Harun.
“Shimekiri? The Black Kakita?” Saigou looked a little impressed.
Harun nodded again. “The Crane, they were trying to kill him in iaijutsu duels. They were getting killed, and keep getting killed. But I stopped that, I killed him.”
Saigou looked at Harun over his teacup for a long moment. “That would have taken phenomenal skill, Harun.”
Harun nodded. “Father thinks I cheated.”
“And did you?”
Harun shrugged. “That’s not important, I saved all those people. Including the Kakita daimyo, and father.”
“Well, that may be true,” said Saigou. “But killing Shimekiri, that is phenomenal, you should have you lauded as a hero. Why are you here?”
“I am here because father sent me away,” Harun said, staring sulkily into his tea. “He says I shamed him and the entire Crane clan.”
“And did you?” Saigou asked. “What did you do exactly?”
Harun drank down his tea, ignoring its heat scaling his throat. He put his tea cup down. “I got a sniper to shoot him with a gaijin pepper weapon,” said Harun. “The sniper was right behind me while I was in the duelling circle, shot a jade-augmented round into his shoulder. That round put off his first strike, made him drop his katana. He didn’t kill me, so I killed him.”
“And now tell me…why did you do this?” Saigou asked.
Harun looked up angrily at him. Wasn’t it obvious. “Because no one else would do it.”
“I did it to save all those people,” Harun said. “And he had just killed my friend.”
“Nothing more?” Saigou asked, Harun didn’t answer so he went on. “I know you, Harun, you were always one to make stands, fight when you thought you had been done wrong. This is no different. You wanted to kill him, didn’t you?”
Harun frowned. “But…I had no choice.”
“Yes, you did have a choice,” said Saigou. “You could have stayed your hand, not stepped into the duelling circle, stood there while he stopped every Crane in that room one by one. But you didn’t, you had to step up, you saw your chance and you took it.”
Harun looked down, Saigou was right but Harun wouldn’t admit it. “Why are you doing this?”
“I am doing this, Harun, because I know what it is like to carry burdens like this,” said Saigou. “To live with your actions, and their consequences.”
“This…this is from before?” Harun said.
Saigou nodded, memories flashed before his eyes. A ronin, at whim to the winds of fate after leaving the Spider Clan, fighting for his very survival. And the things he had done to assure that. But it wouldn’t do for Harun to hear about that. “I had a different life before the Legion,” he said at last. “I did things I was not proud of, but I also know that we are not judged for our actions as we think we should be. I thought I had been treated unfairly.”
“What did you do?” Harun asked.
“Well, I did what I had to in order to survive,” said Saigou. “And then I joined the Legion. First in the ranks, and then I met your father.” He gave a smile. “The Legion in your father did give me a cause, a reason to keep going. A way to make those burdens lighter.” He poured more tea for them both. “Harun, it is unfortunate that you have been burdened like I was at your age. I was older, able to bear it better.”
Harun drank his tea in silence for a moment. “Ooji-san, what would you say father has in mind for my punishment?”
“I am not sure,” said Saigou. “But try not to worry about it too much. A better question you are going to need to answer is how you are going to live every day after what you have done.”
“But…I’m fine with this,” said Harun. “It’s everyone else that has the problem.”
“And are you so sure about that?” Saigou asked.
Harun wasn’t certain.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:50 am

In the days that followed, Harun tried to occupied himself. Practicing in the dojo, riding and spending some time in the castle library when the weather was too bad. He sat with Saigou in the evenings and they talked of other things. Happier things. Saigou shared a few stories, including some about the Legion and Harun shared some of his own. Whatever would happen, would happen. And there was nothing Harun could do to change it now.
But there was something else, a slow stripping away of Harun’s image of his father. Nurtured since his childhood as a shining hero, a bright example for Harun to aspire to. This was slowly crumbling away by the possibility his father could be wrong. That he would never see eye to eye with Harun on what had happened. That he would never respect what Harun had done.
And that hurt, hurt more than any wound he had had inflicted on him.

Eventually, Harun sighted the laurel banner of the Emerald Champion. Karasu rode in in the late afternoon in the autumn sunshine, flanked by Emerald Magistrate and Legionnaires. Harun stood on an upper balcony of the castle and watched them all ride in. And he knew then that he couldn’t stay.
That evening, Harun came down to the family dinner that was always the tradition when his father came home. He managed to acquit himself fairly given his young siblings were also there, then afterwards he spoke to Karasu in his study and told him.
Karasu’s manner was cold and emotionless. “Can you tell me why?”
Harun shook his head.
“Where will you go?” Karasu asked.
“I thought I might go to Otosan Uchi to visit Aunt Kyoumi and Uncle Kousuda,” said Harun. “It has been a while since I have seen them…and I have wanted to since we knew about Arahime.”
Karasu nodded. “They will be leaving for Kyuden Hida soon.”
“Then, I won’t stay long,” said Harun. “I’ll come back here.” And then I’ll be here while you are gone, he silently added.
“Very well,” said Karasu. “There will be a decision made, you understand?”
“I await your judgment,” said Harun, bowing.

Harun left early the next morning. Karasu watched him, from the balcony in his quarters at the top floor of the castle. What would happen, would happen. And soon.

Two days later, Harun arrived at Shiro sano Kakita. He was received at the gate with a cold frostiness. Word of his actions at Toshi Ranbo had clearly travelled ahead. As he was the Emerald Champion’s son, a Chui of the Imperial Legions and a former Topaz Champion, Harun was known the appropriate amount of hospitality. And nothing more.
A small but comfortable room in an out of the way part of the castle where he was unlikely to run into anyone. Access to the bath house, a perfectly adequate meal on a tray in his room.
These indignities didn’t bother Harun, he had more or less expected him. Anyway, it was hardly fair for him to take out his frustrations on the servants when they were only following orders.
But Harun was not just come here for a rest from the road. After a bath, he changed into practice clothes, made sure his hair and beard were tidy, and set out for the Kakita Duelling Academy.
When he arrived, he could see sensei Kakita Hatsuko leading the younger children in basic katas in the main courtyard. The steady rhythm as they moved from one to the other, jarred a little when Hatsuko saw Harun. But no more than a beat.
“Come children,”Hatsuko said. “Inside.” She looked over the children’s heads at Harun, her gaze icy.
Harun retreated as the children lined up. But before he had time to leave, one of the children turned around to where Hatsuko was looking. It was his little sister Sakimi.
“Harun!” She ran towards him, arms outstretched. Her questions came thick and fast. “When did you get here? Is father with you? What was Toshi Ranbo like?
“Hello Sakimi-chan,” said Harun with a laugh. “I just arrived, father is not with me and Toshi Ranbo…” He looked up ass Hatsuko approached. “…is a story that can wait for another time.” He made a bow to Hatsuko. “Sensei.”
Hatsuko acknowledged Harun with a silent nod as she ushered Sakimi back in line.
“Will I see you later?” Sakimi asked.
“Hopefully,” Harun said, watching her go.
He sat down on a bench in the now empty courtyard. The glare Hatsuko gave him had chilled him.
Perhaps…It was a mistake to come here, Harun thought, No, surely Master Kenshin will at least speak to me…
He went to the sensei’s quarters, ignoring the stares of the people he passed, not stopping. A young student approached Harun and bowed low.
“I need to speak with Master Kenshin-sensei,” said Harun.
The boy took off. He took his time coming back, and when he returned he walked slowly with his eyes downcast. “Ma…Master Kenshin is not at home, he will…be back tomorrow. May…may I offer you some tea?”
“Not at home?” Harun asked. “But he has hardly left the Academy in years…oh.”
The classic snub that wasn’t a snub. And by not saying a word, Kenshin had shown Harun exactly what his views were on his former student’s actions.
As subtle as a slammed door.
Harun bristled with anger. Him too? But what should have I expected?
But before him as a boy watching him with worried eyes.
“Give Master Kenshin my regards when he returns from his travels,” said Harun.
The boy turned and ran off.
Harun strode off towards his room. With purpose, with anger in each step. The gates had closed for the night, but he would not stay a moment longer here than he had to.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:40 pm

Otosan Uchi, the first Imperial City that had been lost to the taint of Jigoku, then cleansed and then restored once more to be the capital. Harun had visited many times growing up, visiting Kyoumi and Kousuda’s house. And sometimes, rarely, even staying in his father’s quarters in the Imperial Palace. There of course was that time Akodo Ryoichi had found a very young Harun asleep behind a shoji screen while his father was in the same room having a meeting with the Emperor.
Harun had ridden hard from Shiro sano Kakita, leaving at first light and riding through the night to arrive at the capital just as the gates were opening.
The house where Kousuda and Kyoumi lived had not changed since Harun had last been there. There were still the white birds with the blue ribbon on the gate, painted with a smattering of wildflowers. Arahime had painted those herself, the summer before she had gone to the academy. Seeing them was bittersweet for Harun, he knocked on the gate. A servant opened it. Izumi, who had served the family before Harun was born as her parents had done.
“Kakita-sama?” she bowed low. “Are you expected?”
“No, I am not, don’t trouble yourself,” said Harun. He walked to the front door himself while Izumi saw about his horse.
The front door open and out came Kousuda.
“Harun!” He greeted him warmly. “It is good to see you! Why didn’t you write and tell us?”
“It is good to see you too, Oji-san,” said Harun. “This wasn’t really planned, I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, not at all,” said Kousuda, ushering Harun inside.
There was something different about Kousuda. More than just the additional lines on his face and grey in his hair and beard. He seemed more gregarious than usual, more effort put in to making sure Harun felt welcome in a house Harun still thought as his second home.
Is this from Arahime’s death? Or from what I did? Kousuda’s association with gaijin pepper was known even if never talked about.
They had light conversation over tea, talking about what had happened in the year since Harun had seen Kousuda at Shiro Moto. Toshi Ranbo even came up, Kousuda asking discreet questions that Harun felt more comfortable answering than direct ones.
“So, tell me, Harun,” said Kousuda as he poured the last of the tea. “Are you just visiting, or is there is some purpose you are here for?”
“Just a visit, it has been a while since I have seen you, longer since I have seen Kyoumi,” said Harun. “Is she around.”
“She is resting, I am sure she will be happy to see you later,” said Kousuda. “We are in the process of preparing for the court in Kyuden Hida and will be leaving in a few days. You are, of course, welcome to stay as long as you like.”
Harun shook his head. “I won’t stay long,” he said. Though he did wonder about them going to court so soon after Arahime’s death, surely they would allow them time to mourn.
Harun’s question was in thought but Kousuda answered it. “It’s fairly important we attend, it will be Kyoumi’s first as the Voice of the Emperor.”
Harun stared at him in shock. “She is replacing Hida Kosan-sama? Now?”
Kousuda nodded. “It was time.”

The house, the garden were filled with memories for Harun. Both happy and painful. Flashes of the summer as and winters he had spent there flashing before his eyes. The Imperial Winter Court had been held a number of times in Otosan Uchi when Harun was growing up, it was far easier in the lean years of war and famine to have the Great Clans gather at the capital than to impose on meagre hospitality. So the Emerald Champion and sizable brood of children had descended on the place periodically, filling the house with the laughter of children.
It was quiet now. Arahime was dead, her brothers Masarugi and Hideyaki away at school. An autumn frost covered the garden. The rock garden still, the flower beds bare of the purple saffron blooms that hid beneath the soil, waiting for spring.
Harun saw Kyoumi a few times in his days there. She seemed very distant when they spoke, perhaps focusing on her new responsibilities as one of the Emperor’s Chosen. She was kept occupied in the preparations for court. The kimono fittings, the many documents she had to read.
Kousuda was around more, polite and again asking no questions. Harun didn’t mind this at all, he had had far worse reception from the Crane clan.
On the day before they were all due to depart, Karasu arrived at the house. Harun was outside on the porched, he wore his purple and white cloak from Unicorn lands against the cold. He heard his father talk with Kyoumi and Kousuda inside but didn’t move or speak. Then he heard the door open.
Harun stood up and bowed, saying nothing.
Karasu radiated cold anger. At first he didn’t look at Harun, but instead looked past him at the garden. Remembering. Remembering that he had once stood there with Harun’s mother Yamada. She had given him words of encouragement when he had needed them, and both of them hoping the war would end before Harun grew up. A vain hope.
Finally he acknowledged Harun, as if reluctant to do so. Harun knew he had to speak.
“Father, I await your judgment,” she said, his head still bowed. “Whatever your will is, I will follow it.”
Karasu was silent for another long moment. “That is not why I have come,” he said. “I have come to tell you will be accompanying us to Kyuden Hida.”
“To the Imperial Court?” Harun asked. “But…why?”
Karasu held out a scroll for Harun to take. “This arrived after you left,” he said.
Harun unrolled the scroll. It bore the mon of Hida Katashi, Champion of the Crab. On were a list of names from the Imperial Legions “to be honoured by the Clan of Hida”. Amongst them Harun could see Koharu, Katsura Hisato…and his own.
“Me?” Harun looked up at Karasu. “They want to honour me?”
Karasu frowned. “The day after you left, the brother of the Crab Champion came to me, he wanted to see you. Apparently he watched you…duel Shimekiri.”
“You don’t like this,” Harun said.
“I don’t, but I don’t have a choice,” said Karasu.
He turned to leave, Harun watched him go. His heart in his mouth, wishing there were words he could say to make it all better, words to help move past the rift between him and his father. But there weren’t any. He went to tell Kyoumi and Kousuda the news then went to his room.
After he had gone, Kyoumi and Kousuda talked.
“I didn’t realise that it was this bad between them,” Kyoumi said sadly.
“Neither did I,” said Kousuda. “Harun is so much like Yamada.” He sighed. “Do you there is hope for them?”
“I think so,’ said Kyoumi. “We will have all winter to find out.”
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:56 am

The road to Kyuden Hida was crowded. Not just courtiers, making their way south on horseback or palanquin, but traders also taking advantage of such an influx of people on the road.
Harun travelled alone, he could have gone with one of the official parties but preferred not to. In his purple and white cloak he had a certain air of anonymity that he rather liked.
Harun travelled south through Crane lands, staying in the villages and inns on the way. He was more or less lost in the crowd that were heading the same way, it was sort of refreshing. But still, he preferred to keep out of crowds while actually travelling. Too many reminders of the Legion.
Finally, he entered the lands of the Crab Clan. Travelling first through the lands of the Yasuki family--the lands of his father Yasuki Nakura—and then crossing Earthquake Fish Bay to where Kyuden Hida stood proudly on the cliffs above.
Massive, impressive and impregnable, the castle was decked out with flags in the colours of the Great Clans with the Imperial banner displayed most prominently. And further south still was the wall that separated Rokugan from the Shadowlands, the Kaiu Kabe. Harun had heard about it all his life, but seeing it for himself was almost unreal. Beyond imagination, beyond belief, extending west as far as the eye could see. It seemed impossible that these could be made by mere men. And not only that, but it had fallen during Harun’s lifetime.
As people neared the castle, their credentials were checked before they entered. When it came time for Harun to present his chop, it couldn’t be found on the official list. “You are with the Crane Clan? What did you say your name was?”
“Kakita Harun, and I might be with the Imperial Legion guests,” he said.
The man did a double take and bowed low. “My apologies, Kakita-sama,” he said. “The Imperial Legion are being quartered separately.” He gave a signal for someone to take Harun’s horse and another to lead him into the castle. “Forgive me, Kakita-sama, but can I ask…is it true you killed Daigotsu Shimekiri with a gaijin powder weapon.”
These words had the effect of a rock being thrown into a calm pond. Everyone fell silent around him, and Harun noticed there were a few Crane.
“That was…not how it happened,” said Harun. “But yes, yes that was me.”
Harun felt a swell of pride as he went up to the castle.

Carved from a mountain by Osano-Wo with lightning, Kyuden Hida was cold and severe. No paintings or tapestries adorned its walls, no gardens of flowers or trees were in its grounds. The overall effect was rather suffocating, as if one could be absorbed within the stone itself. But it was honest.
Much of the castles barracks and storage rooms had been given over to the guests. Each clan had its own section with another for the Imperials, the Unicorn escaping the castle altogether and preferring to pitch their yurts in a courtyard.
Harun’s room was so small it was almost cell like, one of several in a row where the other Imperial Legions were to be. He was the first to arrive, and when he went in he noticed that some of his possessions from home were there. Including the chest his mother Yamada had left him.
Did father bring this? Harun wondered. Where is he? Does he mean anything by this?
Harun put it out of his mind, as Saigou had said it would happen when it did.
He set out to explore the rest of the castle, but not before opening the chest and getting a slight whiff of the vanilla and sandalwood scene within.

The castle was a slurry of people trying to find rooms. Servants and attendants running around with possessions. Trying to locate the bathhouse, the stores, the laundry.
Kakita Kyoumi and Kousuda were shown to quarters where the Imperial Court were being house, specious befitting her status as the Voice of the Emperor. Kyoumi went about seeing to their possessions while Kousuda looked up at the blank walls.
“Leave it to the Crab to not pretend,” he said dryly.
Kyoumi had foreseen this, she found the hanging scrolls and silk flowers she had brought from home. “This will be a new start for us all,” she said. “And perhaps it is better we start on a blank page.”
Scribe and Adopted Crane

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