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 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:48 am

That evening after a meal, Harun went over the castle trying to find where things were. He found the dojo easily enough, simple to the point of austerity with the smell of sweat that seemed to cling to the tatami mats.
He went outside, out onto the walls that made Kyuden Hida impregnable. Below him was the sea at the bottom of the cliffs, and to the south he could see the wall stretching far into the distance.
There was a fresh wind blowing up here too, and it felt good to be out in it. Harun looked along the walls and saw a familiar figure. Dressed in the drab brown of a ronin, somehow looking both out of place yet in perfect command of herself.
“Koharu?”
She walked towards him. “Harun, so this is where you are!” She looked him up and down with some satisfaction.
“Koharu-chui,” Harun said, bowing appropriate to her rank. “It feels a much longer since I have seen you last.”
“It has,” she agreed. “I tried to find you after, hear all about that baka Shimekiri…but you had already left.” She sounded a little disappointed.
“Yes, I left the next day,” said Harun.
“What?” Koharu looked at him in shock.
Harun shrugged. “My father, he reassigned me,” he said. “Not everyone was…appreciative of what I did, of how I killed Shimekiri.”
Koharu gave a sound of disgust. “The baka was dead, what more could they want? If they want it different, they could have done it themselves.” She looked at him. “But they didn’t, did they? You killed him.”
Harun smiled a little. “It is so good to hear you talk like that,” he said. “I’ve missed the honesty of the Legion camp, my clan is not known for such things.”
“There are, perhaps, advantages to have no clan to lay claim to,” said Koharu.
“Well, perhaps for not much longer,” said Harun.
“What?” Koharu looked at him suspiciously.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the Great Clans approach you during court to have you swear your sword,” said Harun. “You made a name for yourself, Koharu, its how these things work.”
Koharu looked sceptical. “I have hardly the illustrious ancestors to qualify.”
“I doubt that will matter,” said Harun, he held out his hands. “Look at where we are, Koharu. From what I know about the Crab Clan, everything about them is proving yourself. What you can do and what you have done, and you have done that.”
“And you,” Koharu added.
Harun frowned. “I am not so sure about myself.”
“Perhaps here you can have what your clan and family have denied you,” Koharu said.
“I hope not,” said Harun. “I don’t want to be a pawn in someone else’s game. And you should be careful too, Koharu. Court is in many ways more dangerous than the battlefield.”
“Ah, so the young prince is giving me advice,” Koharu said with a laugh. “And do what to plan to do with yourself?”
“Keep my head down as much as I can,” said Harun.

The Imperial court started the next day. Harun had to attend at least today for the gift presentations, even if as a guest of the Crab he was a lot freer than the ones officially sent by the clans.
There was something else as well, he knew Kakita Kyoumi was being presented to the court as the new Voice of the Emperor and did not want to miss that.
That morning, he tried to make his kinky hair behave hoping not to resort to lacquer. It was long and getting quite unmanageable, but he managed to at least make it into a presentable topknot. After tidying his beard, he slipped into his formal kataginu. Such a pale blue it was almost white, with the Kakita mons on each side. It was long and stiff with boning, almost like trying to wear a kite.
Then, after securing his daisho to his obi, he went down to court.
Harun had to run the gauntlet of stares and whispers as he went though the castle. He had drawn such attention and curiosity almost all his life. Not just for being one of the Emerald Champion’s children but for his dark features. This had only increased after Harun had killed Shimekiri.
Not for the first time, Harun simply wanted to disappear. He would rather people speak to him than stare.
Once he got inside, Harun went to where the other Legion guests were gathered, but to do that he had to walk right past the Crane delegation who were pointedly polite to him. Doji Teruhime, daughter of Crane Champion Doji Ayumu and serving as Crane ambassador for the court, practically stared through him.
Harun turned his attention to those around him instead. All were from the Imperial Legions, but he knew only Koharu and Katsura Hisato, Taisa of the First Legion. And as Harun had predicted, the two ronin were getting not a small amount of attention from some Crab bushi.
There were a lot of people in the room, pressing close together for space. Harun tried not to let this bother him too much, but it felt quite closed and suffocating.
The Chosen were gathered on the dais, waiting for proceedings to begin. The Imperial Advisor, Kitsuki Sakome, sitting silently in a meditation posture. Imperial Treasurer, Doji Arami, deep in conversation with the Jade Champion Kuni Tsuya. And closest to the front was Chancellor Ide Meiryo, reading a document with Kakita Kyoumi next to him. Meiyo’s rather gaijin looking attire of purple hat and embroidered deel stood out next to the traditional garb of the others on the dais, but given he had been Chancellor a number of years it was tactfully ignored.
Kyoumi looked as silent as a doll, and with the elaborate hair, make up and the jade ornaments she wore, just as untouchable. It hard for Harun to reconcile what he saw too what he knew of Kyoumi. This was the same woman who had made kites for them as children? That had run into the ocean with them to swim at those summers on the shore?
But behind them all was another presence, hidden by the golden screen and with a light behind him so that he was shown as a silhouette: the Emperor himself, Iweko II. It had been a number of years since the Emperor had permitted others to see him in the full court, which was not very surprising as Harun knew from the conversations he overheard that the Emperor was of a rather advanced age now. To the extent where the subject of a regency with the underage heir, Prince Kiseki, had been raised more than once, but never taken further.
Harun didn’t know the details, but given the heir to the throne was to officially make his gempukku in the spring, perhaps the entire idea had been abandoned.
At a signal from behind the screen, Chancellor Ide Meiryo began to speak and the room fell silent.
“The Imperial Court is called into session, in the reign of the Son of Heaven, Iweko II in the thirty-fifth year of his reign.” He paused, taking a general glance around the room. “We give thanks to the Crab Clan for hosting as well as wish for the fortunes to guide the words and the choices made by those present towards wisdom.” A few bowed their heads at this. Meiryo continued. "The court has gathered at a particular critical juncture for the Emerald Empire. The Seals to Jigoku have been closed, and the Imperial Legions and the Great Clans have claimed back the city of Toshi Ranbo. The forces of the Onyx have been routed. It is a new age."
The Chancellor turned and gave a bow to large man wearing the robes of a monk. He was powerfully built but covered with the fine wrinkles of advanced age, his head shaven. Still there was a timelessness about his features. The man stood inconspicuously to one side, but when the court saw the Chancellor bow to him, they gasped. For Harun, recognition dawned slowly. The Man was Hida Kozan, Voice of the Emperor, now without makeup or finery. Kozan returned the bow in silence.
The Chancellor straightened and continued. "A new age requires new voices to guide us all towards the future. The Son of Heaven appoints Kakita Kyoumi, daughter of Kakita Yoshirou of the line of Kakita Masarugi, as the new Voice of the Emperor. May the Fortunes and traditions of her ancestors guide her and grant her wisdom.”
Everyone in the room bowed low and formally. Kyoumi herself seemed apart from all this, almost immune. Yet she gave one movement, glancing sideways to just behind the screen where the Emperor was.
“It is a new age; Chancellor Ide Meiryo-sama speaks wisdom.” Kyoumi said, her voice clear and her eyes fixed ahead. "A new age grown from toil and suffering and loss. Grown from an age that must never be forgotten. This new age must focus on vigilance and diligence, that the evils of the past may never reoccur." With that she looked towards the Crab Clan Champion. "But this is an age of rebuilding. Of recreating ourselves and our world into an Empire that can know peace, can know beauty, can know prosperity for all the citizens of the Empire. And for rebuilding, we must turn to our our artists, artisans and poets to create such a new age. This winter, the Imperial Court will host the Turquoise Championship. We not only hope that the Turquoise Champion foster a return towards beauty and the art, but may the contest itself inspire the Emerald Empire to do likewise for years to come.”
With a slight bow, Kyoumi then takes her place on the dais. The Chancellor began calling forward the clan delegates by name to present their gifts to the Emperor.
This went on for sometime, and Harun wasn’t the only one to lose interest. He looked around at the other guests. He could see all of the Great Clan Champions, present but slightly apart from the actual proceedings. The only one Harun didn’t see was the Scorpion Clan Champion, Bayushi Kayano, but with that many people it was easy to miss people.
People up in turn to present their gifts, eventually the Phoenix Clan had their turn. The ambassador, Isawa Koyo, coming to present his gift: a small tree seedling from his home village. Harun hadn’t met him, but he knew that Koyo had been at Toshi Ranbo. Had in fact led a contingent of shugenja and they had summoned a massive wave and earthquake down one of the walls at Toshi Ranbo which had been critical to securing city. Apparently, Koyo was tipped to be the next Master of Earth. But with the Elemental Council formally disbanded and the Phoenix Champion not being seen in many years, it was anyone’s guess what would happen.
After the Unicorn Clan had presented their gifts, it was the turn of the Imperial Legion guests. When Harun’s name was called, the court fell to total silence. Harun went forward holding his gift in his hands. His own sashimono, the small rectangular banner he wore attacked to his armour in battle. Emerald green in colour, with the mons of the First Imperial Legion and Takano Unit
“Tenno, this one is Kakita Harun, son of Kakita Karasu of the line of Kakita Masarugi. This one served in the Imperial Legions at Toshi Ranbo; fighting in your name, slaying your enemies and leading men who had sworn to do the same. Many died fighting in your name at Toshi Ranbo, it was the will of the Fortunes that this one was not among them. It is to honour those who have fallen that this one gives to you the banner carried into battle.” He bowed low, offering the gift. When it was taken, he retreated back to the crowd.
The other Legion guests looked pleased at Harun’s gift, but it wasn’t just for them Harun had done this. He knew that this would be seen in a different light by others, especially those among the Crane Clan. And his father.
I don’t want to get involved with these games, he thought, but I can at least send them a message.

Once the court was over for the day, it was a relief for Harun to be out in the open air. He had intended to find somewhere quiet where he could think clearly, but he wasn’t to have that luxury. A woman approached him, in her forties perhaps, and by the elaborate attire she wore in the colours of the Crab Clan, a Yasuki.
My father Nakura’s family, Harun thought with a smile.
“Forgive me,” she said, bowing. “But are you Kakita Harun-Chui, son of Kakita Karasu?”
“Yes, I am,” Harun said, returning her bow. “Is there anything I may assist you with, Yasuki-san?”
“My apologies, Kakita-chui, but…I believe I am your aunt,” said the woman. “I am Yasuki Momoibura, your birth father, Yasuki Nakura-no-shryo, was my brother.”
Harun’s voice caught in his throat for a moment. “I…I am most pleased to meet you, Yasuki-san,” said Harun, giving her a genuine smile. “Or should I say…aunt?”
“You may,” Momoibura said with a smile.
“My mother Yamada, she left me a letter she wrote before I was adopted,” said Harun. “It mentioned you and…a brother of my father’s?”
“Soyokaze-no-shryo,” said Momoibura. “He…has passed to Yomi these ten years, but I am sure his children…your cousins will want to meet once I have told them I have claimed kin with you, Kakita-chui.”
“More family?” Harun asked, a little stunned.
“Yes, may I ask you to tea? Tomorrow perhaps?” Momoibura asked. Your mother Yamada wrote to me as well and it was her wish for you to know of your Yasuki heritage.”
“Of course, after the Crab petition to the court,” said Harun. “And if we are family, perhaps you best call me Harun.”
“It is agreed then,” said Momoibura with a nod. “Perhaps…you could attend the petition as well and stand with us? Your actions at Toshi Ranbo have made a name for yourself among the Crab, Harun, even if it is not recognised by all.”
“I will,” Harun promised. Wondering what she meant by this.

The next day, Harun was with the Crab when their petition was put forward to the Imperial Court, and he was made welcome among them. The Yasuki Daimyo, Yasuki Kagami welcomed him, but it was not he who put forward the Crab petition, but the Champion of the Crab Clan himself, Hida Katashu.
Hida Katashi was tall and broad-shouldered, by both Rokugani and by Crab standards. When he started to speak, his voice was low and clear. He at first thanked the Emperor the Chosen and the Great Clans for gracing the halls of his ancestors, especially in light of the recent past which had been the “greatest trial the Clan of Hida had ever faced.”
“The Crab wish to inform the court that those who similarly have stood strong against the forces of darkness will be honoured as the Crab honour their own for the same. We wish to offer those of the Imperial Legions to make an oath of fealty to swear their swords to the Crab Clan.” He looked at the small piece of paper in his hand and read out a list of names, this included Katsura Hisato and Koharu. And this caused a small reaction not just from the Legion guests, but from the other clans. When this died down, Tetsuyori continued. “The Crab also wish to offer the highest honour for the ones we see stood strongest of all, who did not hesitate to do what was necessary to take down the enemies of Rokugan.” There was another reaction to this, quickly falling to silence as he read out more names. Most of them were from the Crab Clan, Harun drifted off a little but his attention returned when Tetsuyori read some names that were clearly from other Great Clans. “…Mirumoto Tsushino of the Dragon Clan, Yoritomo Sano of the Mantis Clan, Isawa Koyo of the Phoenix Clan and Kakita Harun of the Crane Clan.”
There was an audible gasp at this, especially from the Crane delegation for whom some could not contain their disdain. The Crab among Harun were pleased and congratulated him, but Harun himself felt a little numb. This was the highest honour the Crab could give a samurai, rarely given to those who still lived let alone those who were not Crab themselves. It felt right, it felt good to be finally recognised. And…it wasn’t as if he was not part Crab himself.
Harun looked over to the other clan delegations where there was similar scenes, except for the Phoenix where any reaction had died down quickly due to Isawa Koyo himself not reacting at all.

Kakita Karasu was also in the main court when Harun’s name and the honour he was being given was read out. He noticed Harun among the clans, standing still, silent as the Crab congratulated him. Harun showed no emotion, but Karasu knew better. He knew that this was what Harun had wanted all along. From the Kakita, from the Crane Clan and most of all from Karasu himself.
Well, he’s not going to get that, Karasu thought with a frown. And he still doesn’t know what he has done wrong.
Karasu wanted to go over to him, impress again on Harun of the grievous mistake he had made in killing Shimekiri how he had. But he also knew, the more he pressed Harun, the further Harun would be from him.
Hopefully, hopefully, Harun will see it for himself…before it is too late…
Last edited by Kakita_Harun on Wed Sep 19, 2018 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:28 pm

After the court was done for the day, Harun quickly went back to his quarters. He opened the chest his mother Yamada gave him and took out a silk bag. He held in his hands for a few moments, unsure whether to give it away. It felt right, but if he gave this away he had only had one…
He took it with him, heading down where to where the Crab who had travelled to Kyuden Hida were lodged. Harun’s arrival caused more than a little attention from the Crab bushi. He had after all been one of the ones to be honoured at Koten later that winter, word had gotten around. So quite a few approached Harun, commending him and of course asking questions. These came thick and fast until Harun was unable them all. He asked where he might find Yasuki Momoibura and then excused himself.
He gently tapped at a door which was opened by a young girl with…familiar eyes.
“You are…Kakita Harun-chui?” she asked.
Harun nodded.
The girl made a bow. “My name is Yasuki Mimiko, would you please come in?”
Harun made a slight bow and followed her inside. She led him down a dark stone corridor to a room where half the small space was taken up by a shoji screen that seemed to be covering…what looked to be a large pile of clothes wrapped up in bundles. In front of the screen, were cushions, a tea set and a brazier where Momoibura was instructing another girl in the way making tea. She gave a bow.
“Harun, welcome, please sit,” she says. “You have met Mimiko-chan, this is my eldest Ayame.”
Ayame bowed. “A pleasure to meet you, Kakita-chui.” Her sister Mimiko sat next to her.
“The pleasure is mine,” said Harun, bowing. And taking a seat “To know that I have family and to feel welcome among them is truly a blessing. But first…” He reaches beside him for the silk bag. “I wish to give you this…small token. It means a lot to me that it has returned to these lands.”
Harun knew he could claim both Crab and Unicorn blood as his own, but growing up with the Crane he of course knew how to properly present a gift. He held it in both hands towards it.
“After I made my gempukku, I received some items from my mother Yamada that she had given to my adoptive father,” he said. “This was among them.” With one hand he removed the silk bag to reveal…his father’s shamisen. The girls stared at it, Momoibura gave a soft gasp.
“Is that?” Momoibura asked.
Harun gave a slight nod. “I give this to you, so it may again make music in the lands from which it came.”
“I cannot accept this,” Momoibura said tightly, blinking. “It yours, well and truly. It is your hands that should play it, Harun.”
“My hands, I must confess, are not able for this,” admitted Harun. “Though this was not for the lack of trying at the Kakita Academy. It would be far more of a joy to hear it played by someone capable.”
“But…you have so little to remember your father,” objected Momoibura. “Us who knew Nakura-no-shryo do have memories, giving away his shamisen is giving away one of the few pieces you have.”
“Your memories are far more precious gift that I hope I can share in,” said Harun. “And if you accept, I will consider this…how do the Yasuki put it?...a fair trade.”
Momoibura smiled. “I accept,” she said. “And I think there is more Yasuki in you than you realise.”
Ayame served the tea.
“So, tell me, Harun,” said Momoibura. “What do you know of your father?”
Can I tell them about the ritual? How will they take it?
Harun decided to start small. “Very little, I am afraid,” he said. “My mother Yamada, she wrote me a little about him in the letter she left for me…she told me about you and your brother as well. It said that he was a merchant, travelled extensively and knew the secrets of Friendly Traveller Sake.”
“Yes, those and other secrets,” said Momoibura with a nod.
“You mean…Yoritomo Aramasu’s ashes?” Harun asked. “I understand this was why he was challenged to the duel.”
“Yes, that is true,” said Momoibura, her face tightening a little. “I heard from your mother directly about…what happened that day. He showed courage that I did not know he possessed.”
“I have heard the same,” said Harun, he drank from his teacup and put it down. He had to tell them. “I…I am not sure if this will seem strange to you…but I was fortunate enough to know my father better than…I ever thought possible.”
“What do you mean?” Momoibura asked.
“A year ago, I was at Shiro Moto, the Jade Magistrate and Sodan Senzo Akodo Zetsubou-no-shryo was there to cleanse the lands of the taint,” said Harun. “The Blessed Ancestors from Yomi were called to assist and…” Harun hesitated. “…my father’s spirit was the first to come.”
“You…saw his shryo?” Momoibura asked, her voice hushed.
Harun nodded. “He practically ran out to see me, and we spoke.”
“You are most fortunate, Harun, to have that happen,” said Momoibura, blinking again. “May I ask…what he said?”
“We only spoke briefly, but each word we shared was a treasure I never knew I would possess,” said Harun. “He….my father…he told me he was proud of me, and that I had more honour in me than I had in his life.”
“Then I would not doubt his word,” said Momoibura loyally.
They spoke of other things for a time. Momoibura asked Harun about his childhood and the Legion, she in turn told him about Nakura as well as Harun’s other cousins from her brother Soyokaze who had died defending the wall about five years ago. Eventually, Ayame picked up the shamisen and started to tune it.
“Ayame-chan,” Momoibura gently chastised.
“No, I would like to hear it,” said Harun. “It must be years since anyone has played it.”
After she tuned it, Ayame played a soft, gentle tune. Pleasant, peaceful, joyful. And while Harun knew that the last fingers that had played those strings were his father’s, he could not help let his mind wander. Back to the Kakita Academy, the gardens in spring where a young girl with white hair played beneath the sakura tree.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:06 pm

Been a while since the last update but I should have some coming soon.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:27 am

For the first time since his arrival at Kyuden Hida, Harun entered the castle dojo. And just like everywhere else he had been, Harun’s very appearance caused a sensation. People stared, people whispered to each other. Some with approval and some with suspicion.
The attention still irritated Harun, but he was beginning to get used to it. He just acknowledged their stares with a nod and found an empty corner to train in. But he wasn’t to be alone for long.
Harun was just going through basic katas when a Crab bushi approached him. He looked barely older than Harun. “Kakita-chui?”
Harun stopped and looked at him. “Yes?”
“I bring a request from Hida Nasu-sama,” he said, gesturing to where some more Crab bushi were gathered. “He asks that he might spar with you.”
Harun frowned, looking back over to where the Crab were. Hida Nasu…he was sure that was the Crab Champion’s son.
I guess it wouldn’t hurt, he thought.
“Tell Hida Nasu-sama that I accept his invitation and will be over directly,” said Harun.
The Crab bowed and ran back. Harun quickly went through a few exercises, making sure he was ready before following him.
Again, Harun caused a stir. The Crane and Dragon who were training together stopping to stare. Harun ignored them.
The Crab were sparring with each other, it looked rough but there was control there. Each knowing exactly how hard to hit. And this was critical, an injury in the dojo could mean one less man on the wall. At Harun’s approach, the tallest of them held up a hand and they all fell still. Harun bowed, as was appropriate to the son of a Clan Champion, but Nasu’s bow was deeper.
“Kakita-chui,” said Nasu. He was a few years older than Harun, and while Harun had always been tall but Nasu stood a head taller. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“Hida-sama,” said Harun. “I accept your request, though now I have seen your form, I would wager you favour fire over air.”
Nasu laughed. “If I could kill Jigoku spawn as you did, then my duty would be easier.”
“Perhaps,” replied Harun with a shrug. “Fortunes favoured me that day, next time I may not be so lucky.”
“Why so modest, Kakita-chui?” Nasu asked. “Not even my own father can claim fame to killing an Onyx general as you have.”
“Well…” Harun looked over their heads at the Crane and Dragon who were watching. “There is that, I just saw an enemy I could kill and act accordingly.”
Nasu nodded in agreement. “Some would say you talk like a Crab, Kakita-Chui.”
Harun shrugged. “Well, if it means acknowledgment of the lives I saved by acting as I did…then I’ll wear it.”
Nasu laughed, the rest of the Crab joining in with him. Harun joined with them, even when he saw the Crane and Dragon leaving the dojo. “I think I am going to like you, Kakita-chui,” Nasu said. “But not as much as I’ll enjoy you seeing you flat on the dojo floor here.”
“I’d like to see you try,” said Harun with a grin.
They picked up practice swords and began to circle each other.
“How many duels have you had?” Nasu asked.
“Three.”
“And won?”
“Three. You?”
“One,” answered Nasu. “That last one was Shimekiri, right?”
Harun nodded, they continued to circle.
“I heard the Crane call him the finest duellist since Kakita,” said Nasu. “What does that make you then?”
“The man who killed him,” Harun replied.
“Lets see some of that form now, then,” said Nasu.
They came at each other with their bokkens, Nasu’s attack was strong and Harun was doing his best to stay out of his way.
Find an opening, find an opening, Harun said to himself. He twisted out of the way of one of Nasu’s blows, it narrowly grazing him, then came up behind the Hida and giving him a gentle touch.
“My point,” said Harun, grinning a little.
“Not bad, there Kakita,” said Nasu, acknowledging Harun’s victory. “But you and I both know a little spar in the dojo is nothing compared to a real fight against the enemy.”
“Give me ten good men, and I’ll show you a real fight,” said Harun. “I’m not one of your sheltered, fragile Cranes that traipses from court to court. “He fingered the scars on his face where his beard hadn’t grown back. “These aren’t from duels.”
Nasu looked back at him with some admiration. “Seeing war for what it is, if the other clans see that, then perhaps something good came out of this war.”
Harun shrugged. “If only.”

Back where the Legion guests were quartered, there was a little activity. They were standing outside the rooms, Koharu was talking to the others. In her hands was a white box. She went to Harun as he approached.
“These have just come, Harun,” she said. “Yours should be in your room.”
“What is it?” Harun asked. “A gift?”
Koharu nodded, she opened her box. “Daifuku,” she said, putting one in her mouth. “It’s…very good,” she managed to say through a mouthful.
Harun went to his room, there was no box waiting for him and try as he might he could not find one.
Daifuku… He went to the doorway, and it hit him. On those boxes was the mon of the Imperial Treasurer, Doji Arami. He knew it, as it had been on other boxes that contained daifuku when Harun was growing up, often coming when Arami himself visited…
Harun sat back down on his bed, burning with anger.
It didn’t matter at all that there was no box for him, to think so was stupid and childish. And it certainly didn’t matter that there was one for all of the Imperial Legions guests except for him.
It didn’t matter, at all. Because none of them mattered, and he would show them one way or another.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:25 am

Harun was troubled by dreams again that night. This time he was back at Toshi Ranbo, back on the ship heading into the city. He could hear the thunk, thunk, thunk of the bodies hitting the hull. These got louder and more frequent. Then he heard the voices, the shouting and the moaning of the dead.
They then started to climb up the sides, swarming onto the deck as a mass. Their sinewy, wet arms, their soulless black eyes. They seemed, unstoppable, no matter what they did, no matter what they threw at them.
Harun felt himself taken up by them, his arms pinned to his sides by the mass of stinking, thrashing bodies. He was pulled over the side of the ship and down into the black water below…
Harun sat up in his bed, cold with sweat, gasping for air, gasping for air. This was not the first nightmare he had had since Toshi Ranbo, but it was the first since he had come to Kyuden Hida. It was perhaps fortunate that the thick stone walls were as good as keeping horrors in as out.
The narrow slit window showed the cold, grey light of morning. Within minutes, Harun was awake and dressing, hoping a walk would clear the cobwebs from his head.
The castle was quiet this early, but not silent. The servants were of course awake, as well as early rising bushi on their way to the dojo. Harun almost went there himself, but then turned away at the last minute. He had overheard someone talk about the secret tunnels out of the castle, of which there were a few in case of evacuation. One apparently went right through the cliff and ended on the beach below. So, he decided to find it.

Harun headed down deeper into the castle, heading down several stairs. But it seemed impossible to find, in the end he had to ask a guard on duty where to find it. The door was heavy and they had no problem letting him through. Behind the door the tunnel was steep, stairs cut into the rock, Harun’s footsteps echoed loudly as he walked down. Then he heard it, the soft sighs of the sea. He smelled the smell of salt and his pace quickened.
He emerged from behind a boulder onto a shingled beach. In front of him stretched Earthquake Fish Bay, the winter wind whipping up the waves into white peaks. Harun removed his socks and sandals and stood in the water, it was cold but it was good. He stood there for a while, letting the wind play with his hair and enjoying the feel of the salt spray.
So quiet, so peacefully…was that somebody crying?
Harun looked up the beach, he could see what looked like a young girl sitting on the beach. Brown clothing, red hair.
Can it be?
Harun walked towards the girl, spraying water as he walked which wet his hakama, but he didn’t care. Was it her? As he neared she seemed to calm, sitting quietly watching the waves.
The girl blinked at him in amazement. “Harun?”
Harun smiled. “Koneko, it is so good to see you. I’m sorry, I had to come when I saw you…but I can go away if you prefer.”
“No, no,” said Koneko, her cheeks colouring slightly. She wiped her face with her sleeve then stood up and bowed. “I…thought I was alone, you just surprised me.”
Harun smiled at her reassuringly. He had met Akodo Koneko a year previously when he had come with the Ishiken Moto Majid to her father Zetsubou’s house in the middle of the night. She was…about thirteen now, perhaps. And had always been warm towards Harun, drawn in a way sheltered young girls were to confident young men.
“How is your family?” Harun asked.
“They are well,” said Koneko, beginning to recover. “My brother Kibo began his training in the dojo in the spring, he swears he will be wielding real steel by next summer.”
Harun laughed.
“My cousin Miraiko is here, at Kyuden Hida with mother,” continues Koneko. “She was…not happy about missing Toshi Ranbo.”
Harun nods. “I spoke with her husband Hanamasu before the battle, he said much the same to me,” he said. “How are you faring in your studies?”
“Adequately, I suppose,” said Koneko, she looked uncomfortable.
Harun looked out to sea, giving her the space if she wished to confide in him.
“I have…” Koneko blinked away tears. “I have found it difficult without father.” She shuddered, as if confessing a weakness.
“Your father was one of the best men I knew,” said Harun. “He gave himself completely to everything he did. The fact you miss him speaks very highly of him.”
Koneko nodded. “I know, it is just…have you ever wondered if the path you have been set on is the right one?”
“Yes, more than once,” said Harun.
“And what did you do?” Koneko asked.
“I found the right path,” said Harun. “Or…tried to.”
Koneko looked at him. “What do you mean?”
Harun shook his head. “Nothing.” He did not wish to burden her.
“No,” Koneko insisted. “I shared a confidence, now it is your turn.”
Harun smiled. “I guess it is only fair.” He sat down on the pebble beach and invited her to sit next to him. “I’m not sure if you know, but at the ritual where…where your father died…he called many shryo to aid.” Harun picked up a pebble and examined it in his hands. “One of those was Hikahime-no-Fortune, the other was my own father.”
“Your father…?” Koneko considered. “Wait…this was the man who was married to your mother Yamada?”
Harun nodded. “Well, they spoke to me before they departed. Told me I could not stay in Unicorn lands. That I would join the Legion and…” He let the stone fly from his fingers. “…take Toshi Ranbo.”
“A…a prophecy?” Koneko asked.
“Of a sort,” said Harun. “That more or less resolved me to return, such a thing cannot be ignored.”
“Quite,” agreed Koneko.
“But since then, I have been wondering…did they know of this? If they did, how much? And why didn’t they tell me more?” He looked down at the ocean again. “I thought I saw a way forward, at least then. But did they see the real path?”
“They may have,” Koneko says. “But telling you more could have prevented what needed to happen.”
“What do you mean?” Harun asked.
“Well, what you did to Shimekiri,” said Koneko. “I heard Uncle Kibo and Miraiko arguing about it,” she added quickly. “Had you known what you had to do, you may have acted differently. Had a different destiny, taken a different path. You may have been told exactly what you needed to know to set you on the path you needed to be on.”
Harun smiled. “That sounds very wise, Koneko.”
“It does,” she agreed, looking up at him. “I should probably listen to it myself.”

They later walked up the tunnel together back into the castle. When they got to the door, Koneko stopped.
“Harun, I…I wish to ask you of something,” she said, starting to blush again.
“Anything to help,” said Harun agreeably.
“I know mother wishes to see you, will you call upon her where the Lion Clan are quartered?” Koneko asked. “Miraiko is in charge and probably has prevented such things, but mother wont refuse if you come yourself.”
“I will,” promised Harun.
She blushed again, quickly excusing herself and going back inside.
So young, so innocent, Harun thought, so good that she has not changed…
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:55 am

The Crab Clan hosted the official banquet that night. In the past, the Imperial Court would have held multiple banquets, but this had long gone out of favour in times of famine and war.
The largest of the barracks was given over to the occasion, the rather tasteful decorations suggested there was another hand at work. Harun entered with the Legion guests, a few of them looking to Harun for cues. What he noticed was the people who were not there. The Emperor and Empress were not, nor were they expected to be, but he did not see Kyoumi or Kousuda either.
His father Karasu was there though, and next to him Doji Arami. Harun quickly paid his respects, if he had words to say to Arami and his father he chose not to say them.
He was intending to sit with the others from the Legion, but Hida Nasu, who sat on his father’s right, indicated Harun should sit on his left. There was no real way to refuse such an invitation, so with a depreciating look at Koharu, Harun went to sit with the Crab Champion’s son.
Karasu watched this with interest from where he sat. He didn’t like it, but there was nothing to be done about it and it was logical given how the Crab wished to honour Harun. And it followed from there that Harun would feel drawn to them. But he still didn’t like it.
Several musicians who were vying for the Turquoise Championship entertained the group with an eclectic selection of music. The food and drink began to be served. The individual tastes of the different clans were considered, but the majority was the greasy, fried fare that the Crab usually favoured. Karasu didn’t mind, in his years living out of a tent on campaign one could not afford to be picky, but it amused him to see Arami picking at it with some suspicion.
Harun seemed to be enjoying himself far more, Karasu noticed, speaking not just with the Champion’s son but the Champion himself. As the evening went on and the drink began to flow a little more freely, the occasion got more informal and people began to move around a lot more. Karasu saw Hida Nasu introduce Harun to a girl he said was his cousin.
Karasu frowned. They have plans, all right, he thought, taking what they can and who from the rest of us.
He said this to Arami later when they were going back to their quarters.
“I am sure there are those among us who would resist such assimilation,” said Arami smoothly. “But for some, perhaps it could be seen as desirable.”
Karasu stared at him, of course Arami was talking about Harun.
“Of course, not all infractions are seen as they are deserved to be,” continued Arami. “There are those who see them as…virtues.” He threw out the word with disgust, as if it tasted bad.
This was a step too far for Karasu. He led Arami onto one of the balconies so they could talk privately. “Arami,” he said. “We have known each other for many years so I trust you know to keep such remarks to yourself.”
“I can only call the tune as I hear it,” said Arami flatly.
“Then I trust you to at least not repeat them,” said Karasu, an edge entering his voice.
“But I am not wrong,” said Arami. He turned to face Karasu directly. “It has been nearly a month since…this outrage, and you have not acted as you should. People are beginning to wonder…and to doubt.”
“Then they are wrong,” said Karasu firmly. “I have acted, and accordingly to fit Harun’s transgressions. He has been removed from command, and he will no longer permitted to continue his training at the Kakita Academy.”
“And yet here he is!” Arami rebuked, extending a hand out as if presenting to an audience. “Granted a rare honour before the entire Imperial Court for a disgrace that should at the very least had him making the three cuts. Which had he rectitude to do of his own accord, would have spared this disgrace.” His glare to Karasu was icy cold. “The fact he did not may speak of the virtues he has…and those he was raised with.”
Karasu’s gaze was fire to Arami’s ice. “We may be friends, Arami, but you would do well to tread carefully. Especially on issues which you have no right at all to question.”
“I have the right of every Crane which loathes to see the sacred traditions of my ancestors brought into disrepute,” said Arami. “Were he my son—”
“But he is not, nor will he ever be!” Karasu interrupted, his face reddening with anger. “I am his father, I know just how far to push him. To do more I may lose him forever.”
“That does not sound completely unpleasant,” said Arami smoothly. “If your son wishes to ingratiate himself with the Crab Clan, then let him join them. Arranging this should be the least of your duties as his father.”
He left then, leaving Karasu to contemplate this.
The cold air seemed to dull the hot words in Karasu’s heart. He had seen Harun around the last few days, and had heard reports. Still, he felt like he didn’t know his own son. Harun’s stubbornness, his indifference, his refusal to see how badly he had erred.
Perhaps, Arami is right, thought Karasu.
When he got back to his room, Karasu immediately went to the desk and began to write. When it was done, he bade a servant to deliver it in the morning. To Doji Nashikyo, the nakodo that was among the Crane party.
Harun was an adult now, and with the war ending there could be no delaying the duty Karasu had as his father. And Karasu had no doubt the Crane would welcome such a solution.

Several days after the banquet, the Lion Clan presented their petition to the Imperial Court. This was more a report on the cleansing of the taint from the lands, but it was also to honour Akodo Zetsubou’s sacrifice.
Zetsubou’s widow, Akodo Nikako, played a leading role in the petition. She spoke modestly of Zetsubou’s life and character, adding that the site of his death in Unicorn lands had become a place of pilgrimage for the Lion Clan.
Harun stood with them as it was presented, feeling a little out of place and quite conscious of Akodo Miraiko’s glares directed at him. He had been at first reluctant to even turn up today, let alone stand with the delegation and speak, but his tea with Nikako had convinced him.
“You are the only one who witnessed it…save Majid who was unable to come,” she had said. “My husband’s story needs to be told, and you are the best to help with that.”
The petition was already well-received by the court even before Harun spoke, his words only added to it. He said his piece as faithfully an honestly as he should, even earning some admiring looks from the Crane clan as they listened.
On the dais, Kyoumi seemed to be listening to words spoken from behind the screen. Then she came forward to speak. “The Son of Heaven acknowledges the petition regarding Akodo Zetsubou-no-shryo,” she said, her voice a clear monotone as it always was when she spoke as the Voice of the Emperor. “When Heaven reveals more of its will on this, it will be known to all.”
Afterwards, when they were outside and the court had been dismissed for the day, Miraiko approached Harun.
“Kakita-chui, I…wish to show my thanks for your help in this,” she said.
“This was a duty performed gladly, Akodo-san, and I am thankful to have been of help,” said Harun, bowing.
The Lion woman gave a tight smile. “My husband spoke to me how you met before Toshi Ranbo,” she said.
“That we did, and while we did not fight together, I know he fought bravely,” said Harun. “I trust your family is well?”
“Yes, they are,” said Miraiko shortly, with a nod.
Harun nodded in return, clearly Miraiko wanted to be rid of him despite how she felt. So, he went to take his leave.
“No, please.” Miraiko waved him back, removing something from her clothing. “My father bade me give you this.”
“Give him my thanks,” said Harun, bowing and accepting the letter. “If it is not too much trouble, you could convey my reply to him?”
“Yes, of course,” said Miraiko absently.
She went back over to where the rest of her family was, Harun lingered no further and went back to his room.
He quickly changed out of his court clothes, putting the letter away to read later on after he had a dojo session. But there was another letter waiting for him. It carried the seal of the Crane on it, and next to it a tiny green vase with a sprig of pine and a snowdrop.
Harun quickly opened the letter.

To the Honourable Kakita Harun, son of Kakita Karasu-no-kimi, Chui of the Imperial Legions,

Greetings,

Spring follows winter as a
Ground lies fallow after battle.
Seeds grow in the silence.

Would it be agreeable for you to call upon me tomorrow afternoon? Your father has suggested that it would be opportune if we were to meet over tea.

Doji Nashikyo


The words so innocent, devoid of meaning just on paper, but they had the effect of a chill entering Harun’s heart. He sat down, his legs buckling from the shock of what he knew the letter meant. Doji Nashikyo was of course the nakodo who was at court with the Crane delegation. A request to meet her would mean only one thing. Marriage.
Harun felt nervous.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Sep 27, 2018 5:52 am

The next afternoon, Harun dressed carefully. Everyday he had been at Kyuden Hida he was scrutinised, but seeing the nakodo he knew this would be like nothing else he had experienced. Everything about him would be examined. Would it be enough? Would the gift he had obtained be seen worthy?
He took it out and looked at it again. It was a painting, in the traditional Crane style, showing the return of the Unicorn to Rokugan.
The Crane, they have already judged me, thought Harun angrily as he rolled the painting back up, and this is probably how they plan to be rid of me.
He closed his hand into a fist.
If they wish to know me, then let them know me…

Harun made his way through the castle to where the Crane were quartered. A servant told him the right room, but the sound of his name made him stop in the doorway.
He turned around and saw who is was. A girl of about ten years old wearing delicate grey silks with white hair in braids. The daughter of Haihime and Daigotsu Kanpeki’s granddaughter.
“Isanko-chan,” said Harun with a smile. He made a bow. “I was beginning to wonder when I would see you.”
“You could have asked,” she said, grinning. “Is it true they call you the gaijin Crane?”
That name, given to him by Shimekiri, had followed Harun from Toshi Ranbo. It was no surprise that it was being repeated here.
“I am called many things,” said Harun good naturedly.
He looked past Isanko to see two men coming closer. Of course, this was her father Doji Sorei and her protector the ronin Kumo.
“You are quite famous now,” said Isanko. “And important.”
“Well, one day you could be,” Harun suggested. He bowed as Doji Sorei went to stand behind his daughter. “Doji-sama, a pleasure to see you and your daughter are well.”
“Likewise,” said Sorei cordially.
“I trust your wife, the Lady Haihime, is also well?” Harun asked, ignoring Sorei’s aloofness.
“My wife does as she always has,” said Sorei, he put a protective hand on his daughter. “I do hope you excuse us,Kakita-chui we have a prior engagement and cannot dally here.”
Harun made another bow. “Of course.”
“Please come to see us,” Isanko said earnestly.
Harun looked over at Sorei’s impassive face. The Doji seemed reluctant, but not overly so. “I’ll do my best,” he promised.
As Sorei conducted his daughter away, the ronin Kumo turned slightly. What happened next was not what Harun expected. The ronin bowed.
“Kakita-chui,” he said, then turning to walk back with his charges.
Harun stared at him. Just what was this ronin’s game? And who was he?

The room where Doji Nashikyo received him made Harun feel as if he had left Kyuden Hida and was at the estate of some notable in Crane lands. One of the stone walls was covered with a tapestry, from the other hung a scroll painted with flowers and birds. A table was in front of the scroll with cushions around it, an arrangement of irises and bamboo in the centre in a vase.
Harun made a bow. “Thank you for inviting me, Doji-sama,” he said. He presented gift for the appropriate offerings and refusals and then was invited to sit.
Nashikyo sat across from him pouring tea. Harun guessed she was about middle aged, been in the trade for a number of years. Her kimono and its various accents were up to the latest fashion, her hair and make up in the understated style that many older Crane women seemed to favour.
“I suppose…” Harun said. “I am not the first to meet you in this way.”
“Nor are you the last, Kakita-chui,” Nashikyo said. “When the snow lies deep in the winter, no one knows how many new shoots will rise when it thaws.”
Harun sipped his tea, his face perfectly bland. If Nashikyo wished to know him, then let her make the effort.
“This is your first time attending the Imperial Court, is it not?” Nashikyo asked, offering him a wagashi cake which were shaped like little flower buds.
“Yes,” answered Harun, accepting a cake.
“And yet,” remarked Nashikyo, “I have not seen you at many of the events. The Winding Water Banquet, for instance, is quite the chance to make the acquaintance of many at court.”
Harun took a sip of his tea, placing his cup back carefully. “Given the current…mood around my actions at Toshi Ranbo, I thought it…prudent to avoid such an event,” he said. “From what I understand about the…nature of the banquet, the sake tends to loosen tongues. I wish to…avoid such embarrassment.”
“But you did choose to distinguish yourself just yesterday before the entire Imperial Court,” said Nashikyo. “You spoke quite eloquently too.”
“That was a personal obligation,” said Harun. “I was a friend of Zetsubou-no-shryo and I was with him when he died. I owe it to his memory to make sure his sacrifice is known to all.”
“So, you value personal obligations quite highly, Kakita-chui?” Nashikyo asked.
“Very much,” said Harun. “I suppose even more now since the time I spent with the Legion. You very much depend on the man next to you.”
“Does it matter who this man is?” Nashikyo asked.
“Only that his sword is not claimed by Jigoku and that he can stand and fight beside,” said Harun.
“So, birth, training, tradition…surely these matter more?” Nashikyo pressed.
“They matter,” said Harun, his voice hardening. “But forgive me, Doji-sama, you have not fought on the field of battle where all that can save your life is a friendly blade beside you. I have.”
Nashikyo poured more tea. “You speak with such experience for one so young, Kakita-chui. You are almost eighteen winters gone?”
Harun nodded. “Perhaps I am simply the product of the times I was brought up in. I became what I needed to be.”
“There are other paths,” insisted Nashikyo. “Higher ones, ones more worthy.”
These words had to come from his father, and may be the reason why Karasu wasn’t there at all.
“There are,” agreed Harun, placing his tea cup down.
“You chose not to do this,” said Nashikyo. “To break with tradition, may I ask why?”
“To save the lives of those who would have died that day,” Harun answered. “That was my purpose.”
“But that was not the result,” said Nashikyo.
Harun shrugged. “So it seems.”
“You may offer seed to the wind, Kakita-chui,” said Nashikyo. “But no matter where it falls, it still must leave your hand.”
“But still the seed will sprout,” countered Harun. “Is this not true?”
“Not always,” said Nashikyo. She looked at the vase between them. “I enjoy irises, but if I were to plant them on a public road I would not see many blooms.”
Harun drank down his tea in one draught, the scalding pain seemed to fit his mood. “I am not gardener, Doji-sama, but I thought iris came from bulbs, not seeds.”
“You are right,” the nakodo said coldly. “You are no gardener.” She sipped her tea, her voice took on a different turn. “I know you have been reticent to attend the events of court, Kakita-chui, but I have heard that the art exhibition of the Turquoise Championship contestants will be particularly fine.”
“It is?” Harun asked.
“Indeed,” said Nashikyo. “If you were to attend, Kakita-chui, you may find it to your advantage.”
“I will consider it, Doji-sama,” said Harun.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:53 am

Harun immediately went to the dojo after leaving the nakodo, not even bothering to change out of his court clothes. The place was quiet aside from the students, which suited Harun fine.
He picked up a bokken and immediately went into the Ten Thousand Days kenjutsu drill, and at a furious pace. Once he was done, he went to it again, and again. And again. Sweat stains started to form under his arms as well as roll down his face, his breathing started to become laboured. But he continued, pushed past the limits of his endurance. The wooden practice sword a blur in front of him.
Sweat started to pour down his hands, making the handle slippery. He made another lunge and it slipped from his fingers, falling to the tatami mat.
He heard a laugh. “I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.”
Harun turned to see Hida Nasu. He bowed. “Hida-sama.”
“Kakita-chui.” Nasu bowed in reply. “That was how it went, wasn’t it? The baka dropped his katana, and then you attacked?”
“Yes, it was, Hida-sama.” said Harun. “The jade augmented ball entered his shoulder, stopping his first strike. That was the plan. Dropping his katana…that was just luck.”
Nasu tilted his head, looking at Harun curiously. “You are an odd one, Kakita-chui,” he said. “I have known bushi who have done less than you, and they never leave you in doubt of their exploits. Something you I haven’t seen you do.”
“Perhaps it’s because I don’t need to,” said Harun. “All people have to do is look at me, they know what I have done and they have already made up their minds.”
“There is more to it than that, I think,” said Nasu.
Harun grinned. “You are more perceptive than I gave you credit for, Hida-sama. To be honest, I have never wanted to distinguish myself for the sake of it, I stood out already.” He held out his hands, emphasising their darker tinge. “People have always stared and whispered, so I wanted to prove that I was more than what they thought of me.”
“Well,” said Nasu with a chuckle. “You did that.”
“Yes,” agreed Harun.
“You know what they’re calling you?” Nasu asked. “The Gaijin Crane.”
“I have heard,” said Harun quietly.
Nasu took a step closer to him. “Kakita-chui, if you are looking for the Crane to give you what you deserve, you are not going to get it. But there are others who will.”
“The Crab?” Harun asked.
“Yes,” conceded Nasu. “And others. I know if it came to it, I would be honoured to fight beside you.”
“Thank you, Hida-sama,” said Harun. “I’m…not sure what to say.”
“You don’t need to say anything, you have done more than enough,” said Nasu. He picked up a bokken, grinning at Harun. “Let’s see if I can have you on the mat this time, neh? And it’s Nasu.”

Harun went back to his room feeling more battered than he had been since he had left Toshi Ranbo. But he felt good. Alive. Exhilarated. But he was looking forward to a hot bath and a quiet evening. Perhaps a few games of Fortunes and Winds with Koharu.
But when he arrived back where the Legion guests were quartered, he saw Koharu speaking with a familiar figure. White hair, burn scars on his face, subdued clothing. It was Kumo.
Kumo turned and bowed deeply when Harun approached. “Kakita-chui, I had hoped to find you here. I wanted to personally express my appreciation for your handling of that bothersome bird. He was quite the irritating problem.”
Harun returned Kumo’s bow. “You mean Shimekiri?”
Kumo nodded.
Harun had no heard Kumo speak at length before, and there was a quality to the older man’s voice that Harun did not expect of a ronin. A certain polish and fluidity, like silk, almost as if he had training as a courtier. And a confidence, almost an arrogance, as if he was not cowed at all by being a simple ronin in the Imperial Court.
“Indeed,” said Kumo. “The methods you used, it shows an incisiveness that I would not expect from someone of your age…or background.”
Harun wasn’t sure why Kumo’s smile made him feel uncomfortable, but it did. “There are some who would not agree with your assessment.”
“And there are some who would,” countered Kumo. He reached into his clothing and then pulled out a coin. Harun didn’t recognise it but could see it was made of gold.
“This but a small token,” said Kumo, offering the coin. “But I promise, it does have quite a story behind it.”
“Something such as this clearly has more value to yourself than to me” said Harun coldly. “I cannot accept.” Kumo’s familiarity irritated him.
“Its value is what makes it worthy of one such as yourself,” said Kumo, his words flowing like warm honey. “Please, accept with my complements.”
“And this is why I loathe to part you from it,” said Harun. “Its value and significance are known to you, not to me.”
Kumo gave a dry laugh. “Such knowledge is hardly privileged, Kakita-chui,” he said. “If you were to ask, say your aunt Kakita Kyoumi-sama, I am sure you will discover more. I believe Kakita-sama takes an interest in such things.”
Now that threw Harun. What would Kyoumi know of a coin that by all appearances was of gaijin origin? And how did a ronin know that she would? As much as Harun was curious, these were not questions he was prepared to ask Kumo. The only thing then was to accept the gift and hope Kyoumi would be forthcoming with him.
“Then I accept, Kumo-san,” Harun said.
Kumo placed the coin in Harun’s hand with a bow. “I will take up no more of your time, Kakita-chui,” he said, leaving quickly.
Harun examined the coin. He was right, it was gaijin, but more than that he didn’t know. It had strange markings on it Harun couldn’t decipher.
“That is what he gave you?” Koharu came out of her room.
Harun nodded.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” Harun answered.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:04 am

Harun knew that going to speak Kyoumi would be easier for him than others, which is probably why the ronin Kumo approached him. But he knew he needed to be careful, as much as he didn’t agree with the Crane Clan’s opinion on him, he didn’t want it to reflect badly on her.
Fortunately, the art exhibition made such things easier.
The art exhibition was to be held in one of the large courtyard of the castle. Usually this was where Crab bushi trained and drilled, but today scaffolding had been erected to hang the art works on, paintings and tapestries, and stands to display sculpture and ceramic ware. There was work in many different styles from many different artists from all over the empire. And between the paintings were poems on pieces of coloured paper, mostly haiku and tanka but Harun saw at least one Unicorn travel poem.
There were also musicians, seated on cushions and chairs with their instruments, spread out strategically so the music would not intermingle.
The crowd was getting rather large, Harun was determined to enjoy himself despite the cold looks and raised fans he got from people. But it was also fairly easy to see who was there while also keeping his distance.
There was Doji Teruhime, the Crane Champion’s daughter, she was surrounded by a veritable coterie. She didn’t even look in Harun’s direction. He also saw the Mantis Champion, Yoritomo Kagawa in conversation with Isawa Koyo who, judging by his stony face, clearly wished to be elsewhere.
But he could not see Kyoumi, not yet anyway. He turned his attention to a painting of green fields and a winding river, the serenity broken by an invading army of Onyx charging in from one side.
“Quite the contrast, is it not?” said a voice beside him.
Harun turned to see Doji Nashikyo. He didn’t realise before how short she was, coming up to his shoulder.
“It is a contrast,” said Harun, bowing. “It is a pleasure to see you again, Doji-sama.”
Nashikyo nodded slightly. She had an air of efficiency about her, as it she wished to do her duty to Harun as quickly as possible and be done with it.
“Kakita-chui, I was wondering if you could enlighten me about something.” She nodded to a Unicorn sitting on a stool near by playing a stringed instrument with a bow. “Can you tell me the name of that instrument? Surely you know given your background.”
Harun frowned, he knew exactly what she meant by his ‘background’. “It is called a morin khuur, Doji-sama,” he said. “It is similar to a shamisen, but I believe horse hair is used for the strings instead of silk.”
“Most interesting,” said Nashikyo. “I thank you, Kakita-chui.”
In front of the musician was a young woman, she wore a simple kimono and obi in the colours of Crab Clan. She then turned her head and Harun recognised her. That was Nasu’s cousin, the Hiruma Daimyo’s daughter and heir. What was her name? Nasu had introduced them at the banquet. Yosoko, that was it.
“The sound is not to everyone’s taste,” continued Nashikyo. “But I suppose it is enjoyed by some.”
“Yes, yes it is,” said Harun, still examining Yosoko.
So, this is the woman I am going to marry…
She was tall, but not taller than he was. Not unattractive, but of course nothing compared to the stunning beauty of Crane women. She was strong, from what Nasu had told him, and knew her way around a sword and bow.
Ever since Nashikyo had suggested the art exhibition Harun knew something like this could happen. The tradition of the hidden “first look” the omai, was still maintained among the Crane. Harun had hoped seeing his intended would stir something in him. But when he looked at the woman who had been chosen for him to marry and he felt…nothing for her.
But then Nasu’s words came back to him. Among the Crab Harun would have the respect and recognition he would never get for the Crane. The Crab had already shown this with giving him the honour of having his name in their Hall of Ancestors. This was further proof of that, a very illustrious match. Close ties to the Champion’s family. The prospect that one of his own children would one day be Daimyo of a Great Clan family…
Perhaps, she improves on further acquaintance, Harun thought.
“Tell me, what do you think of the music, Kakita-chui?” Nashikyo asked.
“It is…unusual but I find it pleasing,” said Harun. “But did you know the Unicorn usually have a throat singer accompany a morin khuur?”
“Oh?” Nashikyo looked at him with interest.
“Yes, alone I think the music is good but somewhat wanting,” said Harun. “But together with the khoomei singer…it is a harmony that can stir the heart.”
Nashikyo nods. “Quite,” she said. “You must excuse me, Kakita-chui.”
Harun bowed. “Of course, Doji-sama.”
He turned his attention back to the painting though it swam before his eyes. He had just seen his future before him and all the feeling he could summon was a grudging acceptance.
Oh Arahime-chan, how I miss you…
“Harun? Is there something wrong?”
Akodo Koneko approached him. She had done her hair in a new style, pulled back from her usual braids with waves from her forehead framing her face.
“Not with you, Koneko-chan,” Harun said, summoning a smile. “I did not see you after the Lion petition.”
“Mother had me watch from the gallery,” she said. “I did try to find you after, but Miraiko said you had gone.” She examined Harun’s face. “Harun…you look sad. If there is something wrong you can tell me. Let me help you as you helped me.”
Harun knew he could not lie to her. “I suppose everyone will know soon enough,” said Harun. “The Crane woman I was just speaking to was a nakodo, and she just showed me the woman I would be marrying.”
“Marry? Oh.” Koneko’s face fell.
Harun nodded. “It is a little hard for me to take as well,” he said. “Somehow I always thought it would all happen differently.”
Koneko nodded quickly. “I…I think we all do,” she said. “Harun, could you excuse me? I’m not feeling very well.”
She left before Harun could say anything else.
Harun blinked. Had he said something to upset her?
But before he could think about this further, Kyoumi finally came into view. She was talking to Susumu Shibatsu, the Spider Clan Champion and the Emperor’s brother. He was surprisingly limber for a man of his advancing years. They stopped before a porcelain sculpture on a stand showing a Crab bushi riding a carp.
Harun stood a discreet distance away looking something else. Green dragons circling around the rim of a gold vase. Waiting for either of them to walk away.
Then, not twenty steps away he saw someone else. Crown Prince Kiseki, looking a great deal more mature than when Harun had seen him at Shiro sano Kakita last year. And accompanying him, in the impassive stance of a yojimbo, was Harun’s father Karasu.
For what seemed like an age, Karasu and Harun locked eyes. Neither of them made any sign to each other, or attempted to say any words. They had not spoken since Otosan Uchi. Harun expected to see coldness from his father, but that was not what he saw. He saw sadness, disappointment.
The moment passed, the both averted their eyes. The prince was now speaking to a Crane girl, and behind her appeared to be her mother.
Harun stared. This meeting was staged and cannot be a coincidence, he thought, but…isn’t he supposed to marry Isanko? What does this mean now?
Shibatsu bowed and walked away. Harun quickly approached Kyoumi, standing opposite her with the sculpture between them. “Oba-sama,” he said, making a bow.
Kyoumi gave him a brief nod, but as the Voice of the Emperor there was little she could do to acknowledge Harun in public. Harun decided to be as brief as he could.
“I was given this, I was told you would know more about it.” Harun handed her the coin.
Kyoumi examined the coin. She was very still. “Where did you get this?”
“It was given to me, by—”
“No,” Kyoumi interrupted, she secreted the coin inside one of her sleeves and raised her fan. “You need to bring to me the one who gave it to you.”
“You know more about this?” Harun asked.
“Later,” she said softly, signalling with her fan that Harun should go.
Harun left her, a million questions circling his mind. Kumo was right, Kyoumi did seem to recognise the coin. But why? And how did Kumo know she would. And honestly, who was Kumo anyway?
He looked for where his father had been, but he had gone.
Last edited by Kakita_Harun on Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby KakitaKaori » Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:14 am

Getting all mysterious....
Kakita Kaori
Kenshinzen of Golden Petal Village and overly prolific fiction writer
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