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 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:03 am

Being back at court was an odd experience for Harun, coming back from the Wall where the threat was visible and pleasant back to court where so much was about pretence and appearance. And he was constantly reminded where he wasn’t welcome, especially in the dojo. He knew the stories that were circulated about him, probably by the Crane.
The Koten ceremony was a welcome relief, it was a full day’s ride northeast from Kyuden Hida. And with several people as well as Harun to be honoured, they made quite a party, banners of the Crab, Dragon and Mantis Clans flying freely. The Crab and Mantis Champions riding as well.
But no Phoenix, Harun noticed, and he didn’t see his father’s banner there either. That hurt.
He rode with Koharu and Katsura Hisato and talked with other things, trying to ignore the pain.
Koten, the Crab Hall of Ancestors, was an austere stone temple nestled between two mountains. Here it was that the heroes of the Crab were honoured, their stories told and kept alive. The fact that the Crab were inviting samurai from other clans to be commemorated there was exceptional.
They arrived at nightfall, making camp outside and rising early the next day to gather inside.
Inside Koten was dark and cold, a chill that seemed to penetrate the skin. Like at the Wall, the walls here were inscribed with names. But there were more, many more that went back many years. There were also statues. Kisada, the Fortune of Persistence standing with his great grandson of the same name and his daughter, Hida O-Ushi that continued his line.
Harun felt decidedly small, what had he done compared to legends such as these? The fact that his name was to be included within these walls?
They are recognising it though, which is more than the Crane would ever do…
Harun sighed.
Nasu came up beside him, grinning proudly. “Impressive, aren’t they?”
Harun nodded. “The one on the left is your grandfather?”
“Yes,” said Nasu, his voice lowering a little. “He was trained by Kisada no Fortune after he returned from Yomi, trained here even. But no one knew even then what the Crab would face…”
Harun nodded again, preferring not to answer.
“They’re getting started,” Nasu said.
Harun went with him where the crowd had formed around one of the inscribed walls. A wall where there was room for more names to be added. In front of it stood Hida Katashi, Champion of the Crab, towering above most people in the room. Beside him was a small, wizened bald monk. Hito, Nasu explained, the Keeper of Lore.
“We have come here to day honour not words, but deeds. The deeds of those who have been seen to be worthy to have their names inscribed in these hallowed halls. Those deeds we will hear of today. Step forward to be honoured…Kakita Harun-Chui.”
All eyes were on Harun as he made his way forward, the crowd parted to make a path to where the Crab Champion stood. Harun bowed low. “I am honoured that you think to deem me worthy to stand amongst these giants.”
Katashi indicated that Harun rise and stand beside him. “Your story, Kakita-Chui, will be repeated down the ages for those who wish to hear it.”
The monk began to speak, his voice taking on a ritualistic cadence as he repeated the story of Harun’s life. He knew everything, beginning even before Harun was born with his birth father Nakura’s sacrifice. Harun’s adoption, his training at the Kakita Academy, the Topaz Championship, the battle of Shiro Moto, entering the Imperial Legions, Shimekiri….
It was complete, and accurate, but all wrong. The details were accurate, but Harun knew that it not like had been like the Crab were making them to be.
They’re making me out to be some hero...that’s not me.
But he had to be silent, to stand and wait for the finish. He scanned the crowd, trying to spot people he knew. Nasu, Hisato, Koharu, Momoibura, Moshi Janisha standing close to the Mantis Champion…and at the back of the crowd Harun saw his father Karasu.
His heart leapt with joy. Father…he came!
Did this mean Harun was forgiven? No, that was impossible, but surely his coming meant something.
When Harun’s story was done, his name was solemnly inscribed on the wall. Harun watched it rather hollowly, somehow it meant even less now. He was quickly congratulated by well-wishers, excusing himself as he made his way through the crowd in search of his father. When he wasn’t to be found, Harun quickly went outside just in time to see Karasu mounting his horse.
Karasu stopped, turned to look as Harun went up to him.
“You…you came,” Harun said, breathless. “Thank you.”
Karasu’s face was a closed mask. “I came because this meant something to you, Harun, not to approve of what you have done.”
“I know father,” said Harun, feeling like he was a little boy again. “But this…it means nothing compared to a word from you.”
Karasu frowned. “Well, you know how to get that.”
He rode off, Harun's heart was heavy as he watched his father ride away. Would this gulf between them ever be healed?
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:27 pm

There was a festive air in the camp that night, especially from the Mantis and the Crab that seemed to wish to outdo each other in drinking. Harun was invited to be a part of it, but felt a little separate, as if he wasn’t enjoying himself. All he had in his mind was the image of his father Karasu, riding away.
Yoritomo Sano, whose name had gone up on the wall after Harun’s, did his best to make Harun feel welcome and Harun was already familiar with most of the Mantis delegation. All but one of them were friendly towards Harun, and the he caught the name of the one who wasn’t: Yoritomo Aramaki.
Aramaki…he gave Yosoko that fan… Harun remembered, no wonder he doesn’t want to talk to me…
When Harun was sure he wouldn’t be missed, he left. Intending to turn in when Janisha saw him. She walked up to him.
“This is different to when I last saw you at Shiro Moto, Harun,” she said after they exchanged greetings.
“Yes, well a lot has happened in a year, Moshi-sama,” said Harun.
“Indeed,” said Janisha said with a nod. “Walk with me a little, with you?”
They left the raucous drinking party, heading behind the row of tents to where it was quiet.
“You distinguished yourself at Toshi Rambo, quite markedly,” said Janisha. “It is all you hoped?”
“No,” said Harun. “If I could just have killed Shimekiri without…everything else, I would have.” He sighed. “Everyone is just taking it the wrong way. The Crane see me as a disgrace…the Crab welcome me as a hero…”
“And what is it you see yourself as?” Janisha asked.
“I don’t know,” Harun answered. “I thought I did, now I am not so sure.”
“You cannot always control the consequences of your actions Harun,” said Janisha. “Perhaps it is better that way.” A small smile appeared on her face. “Do you know the story of how I became Mantis Champion?”
“No, but I have been curious,” said Harun.
“Years ago, at the court at Shiro Mirumoto, I was attempting to heal the rift between the Mantis from Rokugan and Zogeku,” she said. “There were two factions, and I managed to get the leaders to sit down together. Yoritomo Ichido from Rokugan, and Warlord Arashi from Zogeku. While this was going on, there was a contest where people competed to become the next Mantis Champion, the right to wield Yoritomo’s Kama…your Uncle Kousuda was one of the ones who competed.”
“Uncle Kousuda?” Harun looked at her.
“He was there right up until your mother Yamada forbade him to continue,” said Janisha. “So I got the two sides together, and that was when Ichido won the contest…and then he passed the kama to me.” She smiled again. “And there I was Mantis Champion, with Yoritomo’s Kama, something I had never had the ambition to have or thought I had the right to.”
“Perhaps that was why it was right for you to have it,” suggested Harun. “From what I know, you did great things for the Mantis.”
“Thank you,” said Janisha.
Someone called Janisha’s name, they both turned to see the Mantis Champion, Yoritomo Ogura. Beside him was a boy of about fourteen,
“My husband and my son Jiyu,” said Janisha, her veneer of formality slipped a little.
Harun nodded. “I should go,” he said.
“Harun,” Janisha said, stopping him as he walked away. Her voice more serious. “This may be the last time I see you, I wish you well in your life.”
“Thank you, Moshi-sama,” said Harun, bowing and then leaving.
But before he was out of sight, he turned to see Janisha embrace her son.

It could have been anywhere. The cabin of a ship on the high seas…in the restored Toshi no Gohei…or in Zogeku, with its wild beauty beside the river.
But it was in this tent, among the others that were encamped in the shadow of Koten, that Janisha sat with her family for what would be the last time. They all knew, even Jiyu, and though this hung over them like a shadow they tried to make the best of it. Tried to make this last time be a good memory.
But it was difficult.
Janisha looked at Jiyu, her only son and the only thing that could not be taken away from her. Her duties to Shahai as the Oracle of blood had demanded much of her, had even had forced her to be parted from him to serve at Haihime’s side. But Jiyu was her legacy, her hope for the future and for the Mantis Clan. One day he would win the right to wield Yortomo’s Kama, just as she had and just as his father Ogura had done.
Jiyu strongly favoured his father, which was understandable as Ogura had had most of the raising him. Daring, already quite skilled in combat. He would make his gempukku in a year or two. Janisha wished she would be around to see it.
Jiyu knew what was going on, had accepted it as best he could. But that didn’t mean he liked it. He sat there sullenly, silently, until he could no more.
“It’s not fair!” He shouted, glaring at his mother accusingly. “All my life you were always away and I hardly saw you, and now you are back you are going away…to die.” His glare was like fire. “Don’t you care? Don’t you care what happens to us? To the Mantis?”
“Jiyu!” warned Ogura. “Don’t you dare speak to your mother like that!”
“Why not? I meant everything I said!” Jiyu argued. “And it’s not as if I will get another chance to!”
Ogura glared back at his son.
“No, Jiyu, you are right,” said Janisha, her voice rising a little with anger. “It isn’t fair at all on you. You didn’t ask for this, you didn’t ask to be born into this.”
“I was hoping you returning to Rokugan meant it was all going to be over,” said Jiyu. “That we could be a family…somehow.”
“And you have every right to want that, my son,” said Janisha. “And you will have it, one day when I have done what I need to do to make it happen.”
“Why does it have to be you, mother?” Jiyu asked. “Can’t it be someone else?”
“You say I should ask another to accept this burden to spare myself?” Janisha asked. “You will be a samurai soon, Jiyu, and you know that this is wrong.”
Jiyu shook his head, throwing off her touch and storming out of the tent.
“Jiyu! Get back here and apologise!” Ogura demanded. “Jiyu!”
“Let him go for now,” said Janisha with a sigh.
They talked for a while over the remains of the meal Jiyu had abandoned. Sharing experiences, memories. The test of skill that Ogura had won in order to marry Janisha. Rebuilding the Mantis Isles after the disasters and deaths that had plagued them. They were happy years even, short years but still happy. It was when Jiyu had been born, it was when they all stood together to craft a future for the Mantis.
And then she had had to leave, called away by her obligations as Shahai’s oracle.
“You have passed it on, the Oracle?” Ogura asked.
Janisha nodded. “Soshi Kenshio is her name,” she said. “I am not sure where she is now, but the power was fading. Everything is waning.”
“What about Teru?” asked Ogura.
Teru had been a Shosuro infiltrator that had been with Janisha virtually unnoticed for many years. Ready to kill her if she displayed any hint of the Shadowlands taint.
“Teru is with her,” said Janisha. “He was sworn to the Oracle, not to me.”
Ogura nodded. “So, I suppose this is it then?”
“Just about,” said Janisha, her voice pained.
They both turned as someone came into the tent. It was Jiyu, red-faced and embarrassed. And limping a little “Mother, I wish to say sorry for my words earlier.” He bowed.
Janisha went up to him. “You come up with all of that on your own?”
“Some,” admitted Jiyu with a shrug. “Some of it was Sano, he said he’d thump me again if I disrespected you.”
Janisha put her hands on her son’s shoulders. He’s going to be as tall as his father one day, she thought with a little pain. “My son, there’s nothing wrong with what you feel. One day you’ll understand why it was me who had to act.” She looked down at him. “The future still needs people to make it happen.”

Janisha stayed up into the night, writing the letter to her son that he would read when he came of age. So much to tell him, to explain, words she wanted him to carry and remember. But it seemed as if words were not enough to convey how she felt.
She carefully sealed the letter, Ogura would hold it in trust until then.
She then laid down a blank piece of paper, much larger. She stared at its emptiness, her brush hovering over its surface. Once, years ago, at the Imperial Court she had given a set of paintings to the Emperor. Three of what would be a set of five. The fourth one she had done later and sent it on as promised, a painting of the Valley of the Centipede, home of the Moshi family. The final one she knew would be painted when she left Rokugan.
She put her brush to paper and started it. It was time.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:17 am

Harun’s second betrothal meeting took place in the rock garden at Kyuden Hida. Cushions were set out for both parties on both sides of a table with the nakodo Doji Nashikyo down one end. Harun sat to the right of his father, across the table from Hiruma Yosoko.
He was silent, his face was still as his mother and father spoke with the Hiruma Daimyo, his tea sitting untouched on the table before him. If this meeting went as he expected it to, if it went well then the formal terms of his marriage could be settled. The wedding day could be set.
He looked over at Yosoko, she was looking down again, looking as removed from the whole affair as she was. What was she thinking? What was she really like?
Harun picked up his teacup and drained it. At the other end of the table, Nashikyo caught his eye as she poured more tea.
“Kakita Harun-san, why not take Hiruma Yosoko-san for a turn about the garden?” Nashikyo suggested.
This too was part of the tradition. Obediently, Harun got to his feet and walked off with Yosoko. They walked for a while in silence, each not knowing what to say.
“Nasu said that you have been to the Wall,” said Yosoko. “How did you find it?
Harun considered his words. “Different,” answered Harun.
“You are being polite,” said Yosoko.
Harun shrugged. “Crane habits, I guess.”
Yosoko smiled a little. “Don’t apologise, I rather like it,” she said. “It is…different from what I usually see.” They continued to walk. “But you’re not much of a Crane as you are something else, are you Kakita-san?”
“That is true, my birth mother was an Utaku battlemaiden, my father a Yasuki,” Harun said.
“Where is it that you belong then?” Yosoko asked.
He shrugged again. “I am not sure, I don’t think I have ever been.”
“You could belong here,” Yosoko suggested.
“That is true,” Harun said. “We must take what fate and the Fortunes throw at us, I suppose.”
Yosoko nodded, opening her fan. The sandalwood was painted with scenes of waves, the teal tassel rested on the back of her hand.
Harun drew in closer to her, his voice low. “I…I know who gave you the fan, Hiruma-san.”
Yosoko’s eyes widened, she stopped. “I…how do you know?”
“You care for him, don’t you?” Harun asked. “That’s why you always carry it.”
She didn’t respond.
“It’s all right,” said Harun reassuringly. “You can tell me.”
They walked on in silence for a few moments. “Yes, his name is Yoritomo Aramaki,” Yosoko said. “He’s been bringing us supplies on his ship for a while. He…” Her voice grew very small. “He wanted me to marry him, until…”
“Until I came along,” Harun finished glumly.
Yosoko nodded. They walked on in silence.
“I…cared deeply for someone,” said Harun. “Then she went away, and then she died.”
“You carry her with you, still,” observed Yosoko.
Harun looked at her. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only from another who knows what to look for,” said Yosoko.
Harun made a smile, he looked over at the table where the negotiations were still taking place. “What do make of all of this? Of…us?”
Yosoko bowed her head. “We both have a duty to our families,” she said. “Nothing else matters, not even what we want.”
“I agree,” said Harun.
He looked at her up and down, it seemed as if they were both at the same point, hearts pledged to others, hands pledged to each other. That was often the way often the way of marriage in Rokugan, for people like them. Then why was it so hard to accept?

Later that evening, Harun went through the chest of his mother’s things in his room. The letter she had written to him, the letters between her and his father Nakura. The fan he was sure his father had given her. He opened it out, painted in white on the purple silk, a horse leaping over a carp.
With all his heart, Harun wished he could place it in Arahime’s hands on their wedding day. See it tucked into her obi as they pledged their vows to each other. But she was gone from him, gone forever.
He closed the fan and put it away.

Harun dreamed that night he was back at the Kakita Academy. He walked through it, his sandals echoing through the empty halls. But he could not see anyone nor hear anyone. No one in the gardens, in the outer courtyard, in the dormitories, in the dining room, the main dojo…all empty.
Where is everyone? Harun wondered. Have they been evacuated? Is that what has happened again?
Was there an Onyx army about to attack the castle? That was what had happened when he and Arahime had been evacuated as children. His father had taken charge of that, making sure the children were safe in Otosan Uchi from the advancing horde.
But Harun couldn’t hear anything but the sound of his own footsteps. Then he stopped, there was someone else walking around. He ran towards the sound, it was coming from near the sensei’s quarters.
When he got there, he saw a peasant with a broom sweeping away leaves that had blown in from outside. When he saw Harun, he stopped sweeping and bowed low.
“Forgive me, samurai-sama,” said the peasant. “But you will not find anyone here.”
“Where have they gone?” Harun asked. “Has everyone been evacuated?”
The peasant looked at him confusedly. “Evacuated? No, no one comes here anymore, no one has for a long time. Not since the samurai stopped duelling.”
Harun stared at him, aghast. “What?! But…but why?”
The peasant shrugged. “Well, I guess they found better weapons. Easier, no need to spend years learning how to swing a sword.”
“No, no, that can’t be!” Harun shouted, looking in all of the rooms. Hoping to find someone, anyone to tell him this wasn’t true.
He came at last into the Master Sensei Kakita Kenshin’s room. The table was set for tea, two cups and the teapot between, as it had been the night Harun had come back from Unicorn lands. And to one side of the table was Kenshin’s daisho on its stand. They were beautiful in their blue and gold, the swords of a Kenshinzen. But they were sheathed, and covered in dust. As if they had not been touched for some time.
An explosion hit the castle walls, he ran to the window and saw two immense armies facing off against each other. One Lion, one Crane, not fighting with swords and spears but with exploding weapons of gaijin powder.
Harun recoiled in horror, falling to his knees.
Did I do this? Did I cause this? No! No! He held his head in his hands.
He woke up in a pool of his own sweat. Gasping and staring at the ceiling. His heartbeat pounding in his ears. Had he cried out? Had anyone heard him. He hoped not.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Fri Nov 16, 2018 6:56 pm

Alone in the dojo, Harun’s bokken was a blur as he went through his exercises. Katas, stances, lunges, feints…again, again and again. But wasn’t enough, not nearly enough to dispel his nightmare. The empty academy, the traditions of Kakita abandoned.
It couldn’t happen, it couldn’t, it couldn’t… he refused to admit it.
He stopped, chest heaving, sweat dripping off him. He took a deep calming breath, then noticed he was no longer alone. Quite a few bushi had arrived to train. Crab, Lion, Unicorn, Dragon, a Phoenix…and the Crane.
Harun raised his bokken again, going into another kata. And then he heard the words.
“There he goes again, the gaijin Crane.”
Harun whirled around to see who it was, it came from behind him. It had to come from the Crane. They all stared at him, a row of pale blue.
Harun’s anger flared. Would he or wouldn’t he? He decided he would.
He strode towards them, his anger rising like an oncoming storm. He faced them. “Which of you was it?” He stared them down. “Which of you wishes to face the gaijin Crane, eh?” He slid his sword slightly out of its saya, exposing the blade. “Come on! Step up!”
Kakita Yashiro stepped forward. “I will.” His face was still, his voice calm.
Harun glowered. “Fine,” he spat. “We will settle it now which of us is better.”
Yashiro nodded. “Blades, to the first blood.”
A ring formed around the two Kakita, the Crane and Dragon on Yashiro’s side, the Crab and Unicorn on Harun’s. The Crab shouted insults at the Crane as Harun prepared.
“He’s a pissant, Harun,” said Nasu. “Wipe that smug look off his face.”
Harun looked at Nasu in surprise, frowning. He then went into the middle of the circle where Yashiro was waiting. The Phoenix bushi, Shiba Jintao, had been chosen to officiate. He checked their swords and called for silence.
Harun and Yashiro took up their stances. They stared each other down, their hands ready to draw. Waiting for the moment to strike.
And then the tension broke. Behind Harun, Nasu gave a laugh. “Doesn’t matter if you don’t strike first, Harun, you can always shoot him after.”
Harun quickly turned, looking at Nasu in horror.
He doesn’t mean that, surely? He looked at Nasu, grinning at Harun, laughing with the other Crab at his own joke. Oh Kami, he does!
Karasu’s words at Toshi Ranbo came back to him. You had to go in and be the hero, didn’t you?...How many others do you think will try and do as what you did? Kyoumi’s words, My poor Harun, you are still Crane. What do you think it means? Shimekiri’s cold black eyes, mocking him in his madness before his death, Enjoy your victory.
The empty halls of the Kakita Academy, the traditions of Kakita, of duelling, the beauty and wonder of the Kenshinzen…all abandoned because of him. For his actions.
It was like a shard of ice had pierced his heart. What have I done? What have I done?
Yashiro looked between Harun and the Shiba. He looked confused.
Harun’s thoughts faced. I have done this, I have to end this now, I have to end this right.
Harun bowed, lower than he needed to so he could show his deference. “I concede,” he said. “You are the better samurai, Kakita Yashiro-sama.”
Yashiro looked down at Harun coolly, he betrayed no emotion. “I accept,” he said.
Harun left the dojo, leaving the stunned silence of everyone behind, and went in search of his father. He had to face what he did like a samurai.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Nov 17, 2018 5:56 am

Harun’s thoughts whirled like a storm as he headed to his father’s quarters.
They were right…all of them…father, Kyoumi, Arami…even Doji Teruhime…how could they live with me doing this? How could I live with myself? I have been so very blind.
Karasu wasn’t there when Harun arrived, but the ronin Saigou took one look at Harun and went in search of him, telling Harun to wait inside.
Harun sat in seiza in the middle of the floor, waiting, his heart pounding in his ears. His head was bowed, looking at the floor. When he heard his father enter, Harun immediately threw himself on the floor, his face on the tatami. He did not look up as his father crossed the room.
There was a long silence in which neither of them spoke. Harun took a deep breath, but he did not dare move.
Karasu looked down at his son, prostrating himself before him. A samurai awaiting judgement, like many others had before him.
“Harun, you have something to say?” Karasu asked. His voice was careful and controlled.
Harun rose slightly, still keeping his head bowed. “Father, through my own actions I have committed a most grievous disgrace on the Crane Clan. I have disgraced you, I have disgraced the Imperial Legions, I have disgraced the our family and the traditions of iaijutsu.” Harun took a deep breath, keeping his voice even. “I was wrong, I disobeyed orders, I used gaijin weapons in a duel. I thought I was justified at the time, thought I was saving people but the truth is…” His voice faltered a little. “The truth is, I was afraid for my friends, for you. And I let that fear guide my actions.” He closed his eyes. “I do not deserve the honours that the Crab are bestowing on me.” He took another deep breath. “If you so wish, I will perform the three cuts to atone for the shame to our family.”
He prostrated himself again, awaiting his father’s decision.
Karasu looked down at him. He knew that no one would question if he granted Harun’s seppuku. Some had called for it, some had said it was even too late.
But Karasu could not do it. Harun was his son, and while his actions were in excusable Karasu knew that they were brought about by his actions. He had to accept that. They all had to accept that.
“Harun, get up,” said Karasu.
Harun dared look up, confusion on his face. “Father?”
“It is not my wish that you perform the three cuts,” said Karasu. “You have acknowledged you fault in this, that was my wish, and that is enough. I forgive you.”
“But…the others…” Harun’s words caught in his throat. “Don’t they want…”
“Leave that to me,” Karasu said firmly.
Harun bowed. “I am grateful for your mercy.”
“See that you continue to prove worthy of it,” said Karasu.
Harun nodded, but he foresaw a snag. “I will but…the Crab will not see it this way, even after I marry into them. If it is still your wish…”
“No,” said Karasu, with a grateful sigh. Harun would have done his duty and gone ahead with the marriage, but Karasu could spare him that “It will not go ahead, you need concern yourself with it no longer.”
Harun felt as if a great weight had been lifted off his chest. “Thank you…father.”
“You know what has to happen now, don’t you Harun?” Karasu asked. “There can be no more Legion, no more Kakita Academy. You will be found a posting as befitting your actions. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” said Harun.
“You may go,” said Karasu.
I had such hopes for him, Karasu thought as Harun left, but now, it is good that he has come home.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:23 pm

That evening, Karasu accompanied Empress Iweko Ayameko and her son Crown Prince Iweko Kiseki to the Hida Dojo. Karasu wore the Emerald Armour and carried the Emerald Blade, but his role was purely ceremonial.
The dojo was empty when they arrived, save for the Master Sensei Hida Senchou. Senchou was tall as Crab often were, and wore only deep blue hakama pants even thought the evening was rather chilly. On his bare upper body, Kiseki could see how his service on the wall had marked him. Ugly scars, to his side, his chest and arms and most of them had not healed cleanly.
Kiseki thought the Crab sensei’s state of undress was rather inappropriate, but as his mother had explained the lands of the Crab were a different world to what he was used to. One of the many different worlds that made up Rokugan, and he would need to know them all if he was to succeed his father as Emperor.
The Prince and the Hida exchanged bows, the former giving the latter the briefest of courtesies. Senchou did not even seem to notice.
“My mother said that you had something to teach me, Hida-san,” said Kiseki, sounding rather sceptical.
“That depends, Your Highness,” said Senchou. “Are you prepared to learn?”
Kiseki narrowed his eyes. “I am here, surely that counts for something.”
“Words matter little here, my Prince, and nor do intentions,” said Senchou. “You must let your weapon speak for you, this is the only language the Shadowlands understand.”
“I am destined for other duties, what need have I of this?” Kiseki asked loftily.
“You begrudge the Crab their ancestral duty when all would gladly die for you?” Senchou challenged. “Or the Esteemed Empress, your mother? She began her training here, in this dojo. Would you begrudge them?”
“No,” said Kiseki quickly.
Senchou gave a chuckle. “I thought so.” He reached down to pick up the wooden sword that lay at his feet. He tossed it to Kiseki who easily caught it. “This is your first lesson. Hit me, if you can.”
Kiseki dropped into a fighting stance and lunged at the Hida sensei, his form an excellent example of the Kakita form, as smooth as a flowing river. But Senchou was too quick for him, surprisingly agile for his huge size. The Prince attacked him, but the Hida moved in a blur, moving just out of the reach of the bokken. Kiseki concentrated, attempting to anticipate the Crab’s moves, finally striking him on the shoulder.
Kiseki laughed. “I did it!”
So pleased with himself, Kiseki dropped his guard. Senchou took this as an opportunity to disarm him, taking the bokken and then using it to knock the Prince’s feet out from under him. Kiseki sprawled on the floor, Senchou pointed the tip at his throat.
“What good is your first strike, my Prince, if you do not have your sword.”
Kiseki stared at it, incensed at the Hida’s trickery but also impressed.
“Never let your guard down,” said Senchou. “Not in the dojo, not on the battlefield or in the palaces. That is your first lesson.”
“Yes…sensei,” answered Kiseki.
Senchou lowered the wooden sword, letting Kiseki get to his feet.
“Once you are a man, my Prince, you will come to me,” said Senchou. “We will have a lot to do.”
Kiseki bowed, not just a courtesy but one of a student acknowledging the lesson of a teacher. This seemed to amuse Senchou somewhat, he returned the bow and left.
The doors to the dojo opened and Kiseki turned to look. Inside came two people. Doji Sorei, resplendent in his pale blue hitatare, with his daughter Isanko. The girl wore a pale pink furisode with a blue obi and violets in her white hair.
The pair made their bows to the Empress and Prince. Kiseki looked at the girl curiously, then glanced at his mother. Ayameko nodded. Kiseki went forward to greet Isanko.
And on the upper level of the dojo, three figures observed the exchange. Haihime, daughter of Daigotsu Kanpeki; Moshi Janisha, the former Oracle of Blood; and Kumo, once Susumu Ketsueki and High Priest of Shahai. Everything they had worked towards culminated in this moment, what was to be the joining of the Hantei and Iweko bloodlines. A curious meeting of dark ambitions, divine prophecies to give Rokugan the future it needed.
But this is also where their duties ended. Yuhumi no Oni, who carried the bloodline of two gods, was still in the Shinomen Mori. He had to be stopped at all costs or he would rise again.
Kumo looked at Janisha and Haihime. Who would have thought we would be the heroes of this story?
They then departed, the final battle ahead of them.
Last edited by Kakita_Harun on Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:18 pm

After he returned from the dojo, Karasu sat on a bench near the rock garden. Some of the dark clouds that hung over them all were beginning to clear. Prince Kiseki’s betrothal to Isanko would be announced to the Imperial Court in the morning, the marriage to take place once Isanko had come of age. Toshi Ranbo would be administered by the Crab Clan until the city was declared free of taint. And then there was Harun…
Karasu sighed.
Someone entered the courtyard, he looked up to see it was Doji Arami on his way to bed. On seeing Karasu, Arami approached.
“There have been rumours that your son left a confrontation in the dojo,” said Arami. “I hope this means that he has come to his senses.”
“He has,” said Karasu.
“Of course, he will take the proper course of action following this?” Arami asked.
“No,” said Karasu. “Harun offered his seppuku, I refused him.”
Arami looked at him, the shock of Karasu’s words competing with his desire to keep his composure.
Karasu sighed. “Sit down, Arami,” he said. “I know what you want to say, I have been hearing nothing but it ever since Toshi Rambo. It is not as simple as you might think.”
Arami sat down on the bench. “How can it not be?” He asked, sounding a little miffed.
“Because of us,” Karasu answered. “You were there all those years ago when we begged the throne for the use of gaijin weapons to war against the Onyx. We compromised our culture, our ideals, our values for survival. Those choices led us to here, we need to accept that and the consequences that came of it.”
Arami considered this. “That doesn’t excuse what Harun has done.”
“No, it doesn’t, and he knows this as well,” said Karasu. “What matters is what we do now, the way forward for Rokugan. For Iaijutsu. For our culture, our traditions and our future. Will you help me?”
“I would be glad to,” said Arami.
A silent moment passed between them. The animosity between the two friends was healed.
“I always considered that you did far more to save Rokugan than I did, Arami,” said Karasu.
“You are very kind to say so,” said Arami.
“I am not being kind,” said Karasu. “I am being honest.”
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:14 am

The walls of Kyuden Hida seemed an unlikely place for the Susumu Shibatsu to take a leisurely stroll, but he was there with a purpose.
Kakita Harun had made himself scarce since that display in the dojo. He had not been seen in the dojo since, and rarer still around the castle. Shibatsu sought him out on the walls, and his search had not been in vain. There he could see the Kakita bushi, trying to extricate himself from some Crab who were clearly admirers of how he had dispatched of Daigotsu Shimekiri.
Shibatsu approached, his black silken court robes swishing as he walked. He went up behind Harun and made a light cough. “Pardon me.”
Harun turned around. “Lord Shibatsu.”
The three young men bowed.
Shibatsu made a gesture with his fan towards Harun. “Friends, a moment to speak with the son of the Emerald Champion alone.”
The Crab drew back, Shibatsu moved off and with his fan signalled for Harun to follow. They walked along in silence for a few minutes, Harun seemed relived to no longer be with the Crab but wasn’t sure what to make of the Emperor’s own brother and Champion of the Spider Clan seeking out his company.
Shibatsu had followed Harun’s career with some interest in the last few years, which had not been hard given the young man’s prominence. The Crane had sought to tame him, with all his wildness and his gaijin blood. Had they succeeded? Shibatsu wasn’t sure it would be an altogether bad thing if they did not.
Shibatsu came to a stop, the Kaiu Wall was visible to the south. Harun stood next to him, his eyes on the horizon, waiting for Shibatsu to speak.
“The Crab bushi are quite interested in your accomplishments in Toshi Ranbo, Kakita Harun,” said Shibatsu. “You seem to have made an impression.”
Harun seemed to stiffen at Shibatsu’s words. ““I did what I had to do, My Lord. I do not take pride in it.”
“You removed quite the long-term embarrassment, both to your clan and to the Iweko, from what I have heard,” said the Lord of the Spider, continuing to stare at the distant wall. “You did as we all must.”
I know he has been there and seen the Crab's ‘creations’, thought Shibatsu, he knows how far we can go to ‘do what we must.’
Harun didn’t reply, so Shibatsu continued to speak. “I find dealing with the Crab has historically been tedious. Their valour and sacrifice is of course worthy of praise and reward. And yet their disdain for honour and right behaviour stymies the effort to reward them. To do so would make it seem that their disdain itself is being rewarded. Don’t you think?”
Harun shifted awkwardly. “I…do not consider myself in a good position to judge.”
Shibatsu motioned with his fan to the Kakita mon on Harun’s clothing. “Perhaps not yourself, but is it not the Crane’s duty to judge what is and is not worthy? To develop and advance the culture of the Empire?”
“I suppose,” said Harun, still sounding awkward.
Shibatsu smiled, trying to sound reassuring. “Well. The Crane and the Crab have their duties. My duties offer me a certain...latitude...in rewarding those who are worthy of reward, even if proper face requires their deeds be rightly condemned.”
Harun looked troubled, unsure if he should speak and he was about to when Shibatsu continued.
“I do hope you find your assignment to Seawatch Castle pleasant, Harun-san. The ocean can be beautiful in the spring.”
Harun’s eyes widened but he didn’t answer.
He didn’t know, Shibatsu realised. Aloud, he said, “But if you find your time there taxing, or if there is anything else that you might wish for, please do not hesitate to write to me. Some duties are a pleasure.”
Harun’s voice was careful and controlled, clearly he was again looking for a way to escape. “I am very grateful, Lord Shibatsu. “ He bowed low. “I will obey my father’s orders gladly, if that is where he sends me. But I am grateful for the kindness of your offer anyway.”
Shibatsu smiled as it he expected this answer. He closed his fan and tucked it into his obi. “Another day then. For now...I think I shall go get some kave. Enjoy the view, Chui.”
As Shibatsu walked away, he could not resist a backward glance.
He refuses now, but when the quiet of Seawatch gets to him, he will remember.

On his way back to his room, Harun was confronted by someone else. This time it was far more welcome, Akodo Koneko. Her red hair was in braids and she had small pink flowers in her hair. And she was smiling, which was certainly an improvement on when Harun had last seen her.
“It is good to see you looking so well, Koneko,” he said. “I had hoped to see you before court ended.”
“Mother was saying your betrothal fell through,” said Koneko, her golden eyes a little serious. “I am sorry.”
Harun shrugged. “These things happen,” he said. “From what I hear, Yosoko and Aramaki are very happy.”
Koneko giggled. “I didn’t see the wedding but I didn’t need to. Mantis and Crab can get very loud with the celebrating.”
Harun nodded. “I have heard similar stories from my parents wedding.”
Koneko looked as if she were to say something, but then changed her mind and said something else instead. “I…I heard you were at the wall. What was it like?”
“You seem very informed about my comings and goings,” Harun teased.
Koneko blushed deeply.
“Yes, I was at the Wall for a few days with the Crab Champion’s son. It was…harsh, but the Crab are dedicated in their duty. They have to be, they protect us all.”
Koneko nodded, again she looked as if she was working up the courage to say something, but decided not to. “Can I ask what is next for you, then? Will you be returning to the Legion in the north?”
“No,” said Harun. “Because of what I have done, the shame and disgrace I have brought to my clan and to my family, I won’t be. I will be staying in the south, I have been assigned to Seawatch Castle.”
Koneko’s eyes widened in surprise. “So…you are not returning north?”
Harun shook his head. “I am sorry.”
Koneko’s face fell. Harun sighed, he was sure now that Koneko had felt something for him—or imagined she did—ever since he had come into her house with Majid that fateful spring night. There was a simplicity and pureness about her that was charming and that was unmarked by the tragic passing of her father Zetsubou. He hated to hurt her, but he owed her honesty.
“Koneko, I like you, you are very kind but there is something that you need to hear,” said Harun. “I do not think that there is a future for us as you see it. I am not good for you and I will not bring my shame into your family.”
“But…but…in a few years it could all change,” Koneko protested. “I will be of age, this will all quiet down, I promise.”
“You don’t know that,” said Harun. “I would hate to see you treated as I am, it wouldn’t be fair. Besides, your cousin would never allow it, nor would your uncle.”
“Mother would!” Koneko argued. “She and father married when everyone was against it, including Uncle Kibo. If they could do it, so can we!”
“Koneko, you need to listen to me,” Harun pleaded. “What you are talking about is just not possible. Please, do not make me say things that will hurt you.”
Koneko’s face crumpled, wiping her face on her sleeve. “Is…is there someone else.”
“There was, but it doesn’t matter,” said Harun.
“Tell me,” said Koneko, her voice wavering.
“She died,” said Harun. “I loved her…but never told her. I don’t think I could care for anyone else like I still do for her, and that wouldn’t be fair to you.”
Koneko’s eyes were red and swollen from her tears. Harun was touched, of all the things that were going on in the world it was reassuring to see girls like her still swayed by the impulses of their own hearts. So normal.
“Koneko, you hate me today, and you probably will tomorrow,” said Harun. “But you will have better days than this, days when you will look back and see this differently. And soon, I hope.”
“It doesn’t feel this way,” said Koneko.
“I know,” said Harun. “But one day, you will.”

In the days before Harun left, there were a few things still to take care of. He witnessed Koharu and Katsura Hisato swearing their swords and their lives to the Crab Champion. Harun stood at the back, hoping the tall Crab bushi in front of him were enough to conceal him. Nasu sat on the dais at his father’s right hand, he did not appear to see Harun.
Harun also went to see his aunt and cousins. Momoibura was sad about his leaving, but did her best to not show it. He let her keep his father’s shamisen though, it was far better for it to stay in the family. Though it was nice to hear it played one last time.
The night before he left, Harun packed up his possessions. The chest with his mother’s things would of course be going with him to Seawatch. He looked through the letters again before putting them away. The one from his mother, the ones between his mother and his father, the one from Arahime…and another letter on yellow paper that had not been opened. It carried the seal of the Lion Clan.
Of course, it’s from Akodo Kibo. Harun had not read it. He broke the seal. A flower fell out, a pressed white chrysanthemum.
Harun picked it up. Truth? He held it as he read the letter.

Kakita Harun,

News has come to me of our victory at Toshi Ranbo, a long-awaited milestone. These things always come at a cost, and news of your deeds have spread wide with even wider reactions from the empire at large.

I realize that many may have spoken or not spoken to you about what occurred there in that room. But remember this, Akodo-no-Kami wrote that Honour is not determined by what others think of you, but of what you think about yourself. It is your Honour that carries this burden, not mine and not theirs. Would I have done it exactly the same way? No, but my few changes in timing may not have resulted in the same outcome.

These are interesting times. Times of consequence and change. Many things that my generation did merely to survive will have their price paid by your generation just as my generation paid for the survival of my parents’ generation. We are all connected in this way.

There is no taking back that which has been done. There is only accepting our mistakes as part of who and what we are and striving to be better for it. I know this better than many, but such is a story for other times.

Although, your mother did the same sort of thing, you know. Threw out duelling tradition to do what she thought was right. Risked everything, even you, to do so. It would seem that you're more like her than you know.

In Honour and sacrifice for our Empire,

Akodo Kibo

Harun put the letter down, the words were ones he needed to hear but he wasn’t sure of he would have seen that before. Even but a few days before.
… “Honour is not determined by what others think of you, but of what you think about yourself”…And what I thought of myself has changed. How could I have been so selfish?
Harun folded the letter carefully, putting the flower back inside, then put it in the chest with the others. He then locked the chest.
There was a tap on the door, Harun went to open it. It was Hida Nasu. Harun bowed.
“Hida-sama, I wasn’t expecting to see you,” said Harun.
Nasu dismissed Harun’s concerns with a wave. “Come on now, surely we are passed all that.”
Harun let him in, closing the door behind him. They sat on the stone floor across from each other.“I got my posting, Nasu,” said Harun. “Seawatch, I leave tomorrow.”
Nasu made a rude noise. “What a waste of your talents!”
Harun shrugged. “Perhaps, but it is what I deserve after what I did.”
“What you did was no different from any Crab would he find himself in your position,” said Nasu.
“I know,” said Harun, meeting his eyes directly.
Nasu was the first to look away. “I still don’t understand,” he said. “How you have been treated by the Crane—by your own father—is shameful. The Crab were ready to welcome you with open arms, even into my own family. Why? Why did you reject us?”
“I did this because how he do things matters,” Harun explained. “I forgot for a while why this was important, you reminded me.”
“That was not my intention,” said Nasu. “You should know I didn’t mean anything by that.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you did or not, the fact you said it matters,” Harun said.
Nasu shook his head. “I don’t get you.”
“I didn’t think you would,” said Harun.
Nasu stood. “I should go,” he said, heading for the door. “May the Fortunes favour you, Harun.”
Harun watched him leave. He never will understand, he thought, but maybe it is best that he doesn’t.

That night, Harun dined with his parents. Hitomi was pleased that Harun and Karasu were talking, but there was still the distance between father and son. The gulf had narrowed, and they could reach across and speak to each other, but it still remained. Harun didn’t mind at all, he considered it an improvement and possibly even more than he deserved.
“You might find Seawatch rather quiet after the Legion,” said Karasu. “Much has been damaged from the tsunami from the Seals, and the war delayed a lot of repairs. Hopefully that will change.”
“Good,” said Hitomi approvingly. “The war has been going on for so long, I am not sure many remember what peace is like.”
“I suppose I will find out for myself soon enough,” said Harun. “It might even be good.”
“You might, at first,” said Karasu.
Afterwards, Karasu gave Harun back his armour. Harun checked it over, making sure it was ready for him to wear the next day. He looked at the helmet last of all, the golden crane spreading its wings against the blue. He looked at his father.
“My mother Yamada, she killed the man who made this, didn’t she?”
Karasu nodded, not at surprised that Harun knew this. “She did,” he said gravely. “He gave her armour too…which she relinquished before she left.”
“How do you reconcile what she has done with who she is?” Harun asked.
“I don’t,” said Karasu. “Because I know she has no illusions about what she is doing for Shiba Michio, and why. And I know that once this is all over, once the Jade Hand appears, that she will answer for them.”
Harun looked down at the helmet again. “Will I ever see her before that happens?”
“I don’t know, that is entirely up to her,” said Karasu. “But I do know this: if you truly need her, Harun, she will find you.”
Harun didn’t find this completely reassuring. He put the helmet away.
The next day, Harun left Kyuden Hida in the cold dawn. He looked back and he saw two figures on the battlements, one in green with dark hair, one in blue with white. Isanko and Prince Kiseki. Prince Kiseki stood still, as if he did not even see Harun. But Isanko waved. Harun smiled and returned her wave.
He rode down the road, getting to the gates and then looked back. But they had gone.

That evening, as the Imperial Court made ready to return north to Otosan Uchi, three Crane continued a tradition that they had observed for many years. Kakita Kyoumi, Kakita Karasu and Doji Arami gathered for tea. Much had intervened, marriages, children the war…but they had done their best to maintain the tradition.
Kyoumi presided over the tea. In each of the cups was a tea bulb, when hot water was poured in the bulb opened up like a flower in bloom.
Arami looked at it, smiling. “I have not seen these for a long time,” said Arami. “Where did you get them?”
“Yasuki Koji,” said Kyoumi. “He had hoped that they could entice me to tell him where his sister is. You remember Yamase?.”
Arami nodded.
Karasu examined the cup carefully. The set was familiar. It was a translucent blue, it had to be the tea set he had in his tent, until he had broken it the night Toshi Ranbo was taken. The pieces had been put back together, with gold powder in the cracks. He looked over at Kyoumi and smiled.
“How did you do it?” he asked
Kyoumi only smiled in return. “I have had it for a while,” she said. “I was waiting for the right moment. It is yours of course.”
Karasu put the cup down. “Harun left this morning,” he said. “I thought it best to keep it quiet. On his own he is faster and can get well ahead of the main train.”
“You will be at Tsuma this spring?” Kyoumi asked.
Karasu nodded. “I am needed at the Topaz Championship for Prince Kiseki’s gempukku. Will Kousuda be there?”
“I am not sure,” said Kyoumi. “It depends when the Crane delegation leaves for the Summer Court in Zogeku, he wants to go with them.”
“If there is anyone who can get answers from them, it is Kousuda,” said Karasu with confidence. “Hopefully we don’t have to take action, the last thing we need is a war so soon after this one.”
“You think it could happen?” Arami asked.
“I refuse to rule out any possibility,” Karasu replied.
Arami nodded, managing to look calm as he sipped his tea.
“There are reasons to look forward,” said Kyoumi hopefully. “Good reason.”
“Thanks to you, cousin,” said Karasu.
“Thanks to all of us,” said Kyoumi.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby KakitaKaori » Wed Nov 21, 2018 6:35 am

I loved that so much.
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Re: L5R - The Duty of War - A Post Winter Court 5 story

Postby Kakita_Harun » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:59 am

It took Harun the better part of a week to get out of Crab lands completely, the road was improving and he could set a good pace. At the border into Crane lands, he presented his travelling papers. These authorised him to be travelling in armour and were authorised with Karasu’s own chop. He got a few questioning looks from the samurai at the magistrates post, but he was let through.
The road he took went between Akagi Mori and Kitsune Mori. The latter of course had been devastated by the Kaiu for firewood and their war machines. Harun’s birth-father Nakura had promised to help the Kitsune with the recovery of the forest in his retirement, something Harun had promised to do as Nakura’s death had prevented it.
After Harun left the city Ookami Toshi, he turned east and the journey got much worse. The road was full of ruts and holes, it slowed him down and it only got worse when he headed into the mountains. There were few villages in this part of Crane lands, the land was not very fertile and what settlements Harun saw were meagre and small. More than once, Harun had to shelter out in the open.
Finally, Harun arrived. He descended from the mountains to where Seawatch Castle stood on the high cliffs over the sea. It had been built solid long ago withstand the attacks of pirates that raided the Crane coast It had suffered much damage, not just from the tsunami but from years of neglect.
The castle was the residence of Doji Kiburo, the Senchou of the castle and the village nearby. He was a thin man with thinning white hair and a bad chest. But a pleasant sort and—to Harun surprise—rather pleased to see him.
“I won’t ask what you have done to get this posting, Kakita-Chui,” Kiburo told Harun when he arrived. “You will find all of us at Seawatch have stories that we would rather not share, but we always welcome new company.”
“I am here to serve the Crane, Doji-sama,” said Harun.
“I do not doubt that,” said Kiburo.
The damage to Seawatch Castle was more apparent on the inside. There were rooms that had leaks when it rained and an entire wing was completely unusable. The central garden of the castle was overgrown and wild, though Kiburo promised they would try to get it under control as it was beginning to compromise some of the stonework.
The barracks were in better condition than the rest of the castle but were built to house more than the twenty bushi that were stationed in there. Harun was installed in a room off to one side which had a window shade that stuck and smelled strongly of damp. But this was to be his home for the foreseeable future.
His second and the gunso was Daidoji Kitano, it was he who got the men onside when Harun brought in the discipline and techniques from the Imperial Legions. He drilled them daily and accompanied them on patrols, trying to make improvements where he could. What was even more difficult were the peasants they called upon for ashigaru. They would not make soldiers despite Harun’s efforts, and most of their time they tended their fields or fished in the sea.
Harun went even with them one morning, taking the steep path down the cliffs to where they hid their boats in caves, out of reach of the high tides. Watching the boats go out, enjoying the sea air.

As promised, Seawatch was quiet. Harun did his best to keep occupied as the spring days lengthened and passed. He kept up his training, he found a quiet spot on the cliffs which he went to each morning. He dined most evenings with Doji Kiburo who was a good conversationalist despite the breaks due to his persistent cough.
He wasn’t completely cut off at Seawatch. He got letters from time to time. From his father, Kyoumi and his siblings. The news was welcome, but didn’t remove how remote Harun felt from everyone he knew.
Harun’s sleep had improved since he had left Crab lands, perhaps to do with the calm and the sea air. But he still occasionally had nightmares. Standing ankle deep in blood in the throne room at Toshi Ranbo…Shimekiri’s mad eyes and laughter… He tried to forget, let them wash over him.
Until one night there was a dream that he could not ignore.
He stood on a beach, the white sand bright against the blue water, before him was an impenetrable wall of green. A jungle, dense and alien, like in Zogeku. The jungle parted, like a curtain, and a figure in white emerged. A woman, by the shape. She was tall, wore white garments of the softest silk that swirled around her in a cloud. She was adorned with jewellery from head to foot, bracelets, anklets, rings and two clasps either side of her head that secured a veil that hid her face.
She carried two swords, one of steel and bound in pale blue cloth. The other looked golden and was decorated with a red tassel.
But there was something familiar about her, about how she moved. She almost danced, yet in a way that Harun felt he had seen her before.
Can it be her?...No, no…it cannot be…she is dead…
But as he watched her approach him, his heart beat fast. He started to smile.
Can it be? Really? After so long? It’s too much to hope for…
Her voice was soft, silvery, as if it came from a great distance. But it was her voice.
Harun gasped. “Arahime-chan?” Still hardly daring to believe.
He stood still, frozen, afraid that she would melt away like snow if he even dared as much as move. She reached up to remove the veil and he saw her face.
“Arahime!” It was her. The grey eyes, the smile slightly mocking him. But she looked different. Thinner, browned by the sun. It was her, and yet she was nothing like he remembered. He still didn’t dare move.
She stepped towards him, reaching forward to clasp his hand. Her touch was warm, reassuring him she was alive. She smiled at him again.
“I am not dead, please don’t forget me,” she said, her voice sweeter than music in his ears. “I am alive! I promised I would come back and I will. I’m trying to get back.”
Harun reached for her. He wanted to hold her in his arms. Hold her close so she could not be taken from him again. But she seemed to dissolve in his arms, fading away like mist.
She smiled at him as she faded, her smile reassuring that all would turn out fine.
“Remember me!”
He woke up panting, his hands flailing at the air. He was covered in sweat, but had the first real smile on his face in months.
She’s alive!
Her touch, her voice, her different appearance…these were all clues, clearly to show him that it was not just a dream. But a message, to tell him that she was alive.
And he knew he had to tell someone, at once is possible.
He sat at the table and got out pen, ink and brush. But as he started to from the words in his mind, he stopped. How would he explain this? The certainty he felt? On paper it would just be unconvincing, easy to dismiss as his own desires.
And he had promised his Uncle Kousuda he would say nothing of Arahime to Kyoumi. It would only hurt her, distract her from her duties as Voice of the Emperor.
He sighed and put away the writing materials.
If she is trying to get out, then it could be a long time before she can tell anyone, he thought, they’ll send word as soon as they can, until then I can only wait…
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