Destinies Untold

Gathering the Kindle

Spring, Month of the Serpent
Year 1117
Tsuma Village

It was a week before the Topaz Tournament. Having survived three attempts on his life, Doji Utsukushii arrived and spent the last of the money he acquired from his attackers on a meal, a bath, a shave and a haircut. His invitation to the Topaz Tournament was given to him by Crab, which seemed like odd timing considering that Utsukushii was nearly twenty-one years old. He dresses in a new Daidoji kimono that’s creased from his long journey.

Kakita Yuriko was staying in town with her parents, Kakita Kenji and Heiwako. Yuriko has just passed her rank one test with Kakita Toshimoko. As one of the best students of her class, Toshimoko ensured her an invite to the tournament. Kakita Kenji, her father, was away on business attending to diplomatic negotiations with the Lion clan.

Asako Daisuke was also in town early, serving as yojimbo for a shugenja, Shiba Hiroshi. Daisuke’s invitation to the tournament had been planned by the Asako elders since immediately following the last Topaz Tournament. They will not stand to offer such a humiliating showing again. Daisuke’s parents are both artisans who had a share in the same business that Hiroshi is in town to tend. Having spent part of his childhood in Tsuma with Kakita Yuriko, Daisuke had been spending some time with her when Hiroshi periodically dismissed him from his duties.

Daisuke and Yuriko met Utsukushii in the Laughing Carp tea house and very shortly thereafter they all met Yasayama, a Crab sent to the Crane lands in exchange for Utsukushii. In the next few days, Yasayama learned that although he passed his Doji courtier schooling, his Crab clan had disowned him and he is now ronin. Yuriko invited Utsukushii to stay in his mother’s home. Utsukushii gave several of the gifts Hide Fuzekai had told him to dispense. He also gave Yuriko a kimono he had purchased and met with his mother to give her some exquisite papers and inks. His mother didn’t seem all the pleased to see him, but Utsukushii didn’t pick up on all of her displeasure.

Meanwhile, Yoshitsune Arashi’s father, Yoshitsune, disappeared at sea, leaving his minor clan in minor disarray. It is quickly decided that Arashi would assume the mantle of Clan Champion after his gempukku at the prestigious Topaz Tournament. The Mantis clan received the ear of the Imperial families and was gifted four invitations to the tournament, which are given to Yoshitsune Arashi, his sister Sameko and two of the most gifted young samurai of the Fox and Moshi clans, Kitsune Jiro and Moshi Chieko respectively. Around the same time, Moto Priyanakasha received an invitation to the tournament from her father, Moto Terumori, the Moto Khan. The five young samurai traveled together via ship up the coast until they arrived at Crane lands and then followed the river on horse and with entourage. After a few days travel in the Crane lands, encountering several Doji magistrates patrolling the land, Seppun Makoto approached them after dinner and told them that the Emperor and his son were camped just a short distance downstream. They were invited to travel alongside the Emperor’s barge on the trip to Tsuma.

The next morning, they gathered gifts for the Emperor, an ornate fan intended for Sameko’s wedding and a satchel of their finest exotic teas. They approached the Emperor’s encampment, which was being torn down to make way for the journey up river. The five young samurai and Yoshitsune Kazuo, Arashi top advisor, met with the Emperor. The meeting of the Mantis clan with the Emperor went well, but they could tell it didn’t impress the Emperor as much as they hoped. Upon receiving their gift, the Emperor invited Arashi to serve him the tea at lunch.

Chieko quickly instructed Arashi on the tea ceremony as they ride on horseback. During the tea ceremony with the Emperor, the ceremony doesn’t go all that well, but Kitsune Jiro saved the day with humorous conversation with the Emperor. However, it still didn’t seem like they impressed the Emperor as much as they would have liked. The Emperor told them he is looking forward to seeing them compete in the tournament and the Mantis left to ride alongside the barge. By dinner, a Crane assembly had also begun to travel alongside the Emperor’s barge. The Mantis did not get another audience with the Emperor after that point.

During one the intervening nights, Sameko and Priya snuck across the river and freed the Crane’s horses. This delayed their party which sent the Emperor’s barge ahead of them.

The Emperor’s barge, the Mantis clan assembly and a wearied Crane clan assembly arrived in Tsuma at noon on the day before the tournament. During the intervening time, Yuriko, Daisuke, Utsukushii and Yasayama watched as Tsuma filled up with Imperials, Crane and the rest of Rokugan assembling for the tournament. The large village swelled from its normal population of a few hundred to almost a thousand.

The Imperial and Kakita officials steer away everyone aware from the tournament grounds north of town.

The Mantis manage to build a pavilion close to the tournament grounds. Priya drags Sameko off to the Unicorn villa attached to the Medinaat al-Salaam exhibit in town. There they run into the owner of Medinaat al-Salaam, a Unicorn courtier named Ide Hanan. He said he was able to save Priyanakasha one room in the villa, which Priya invited Sameko to share. They visit their room quickly to drop off their belongings and Priyanakasha found a sealed scroll with her name sitting on a thin pedestal. Upon exploring the villa more they found Utaku Sumiko, one of the Unicorn tournament entries. Sumiko seems to have a calming effect on the horses. Priya asked to touch her horse, which Sumiko allowed. With the rest of the Unicorn off enjoying the town, Sameko and Priya went off in search of the others.

Arashi went to the Poison Water sake house and gets into a fight with a group of Crab bushi. After getting thoroughly beaten, Arashi and Jiro were rescued by Utsukushii who lied to the Tsuma magistrates to distract them. Utsukushii led Arashi and Jiro back to the Mantis pavilion. Priya and Sameko caught up with Arashi. Yuriko, Daisuke and Chieko were inside the pavilion. Chieko chastised Arashi for his foolishness, but began to heal his wounds with her shugenja magic.

Within the hour, Chieko has mended Arashi and Jiro’s bruises and his headache from shochu (whiskey) and the beating are quickly subsiding.

Priya and Sameko learn from a henin in the Unicorn villa that all of the other Unicorn contestants are out and that most went to a gathering at one of the local Crane manors. Both of them quickly realize that due to the location, it would awkward to arrive without an invitation, but that surely either Utsukushii or Yuriko were certainly invited. They can also hear excitement and a crowd from within the pavilion grounds.

Yuriko, Utukushii, Arashi and Daisuke also can hear the sounds of talking, laughing and merriment outside of their pavilion and a henin has finally found Yuriko and presented her to the invitation to the Crane gathering. The wording of the invitation is “We would like to invite the contestants of the house of Kakita Heiwako and their guests to a gathering after dinner at the house of Kakita Kei.” Yuriko knows this is home of the uncle of Kakita Ichiro, one of the Crane contestents.

Yasayama also presents himself at the Mantis pavilion and seems very excited about participating in some merriment to lift his spirits. He mentions that from the information he’s gathered that most (but not all) of the Crane, Unicorn and Phoenix are at a gathering at the home of a local Crane samurai. Yet most (but not all) of the Dragon, Crab and Lion are mingling in an open area of the pavilions.

He says mysteriously the Scorpion do not yet seem to have arrived. There is some talk of them boycotting the tournament over some disagreement. However, no one seems to have any information on what the disagreement might be about or even with whom.

It is only shortly after dinner time. The town is a buzz with excitement. Even for the rather reserved and stoic lands of Crane much laughter, joy and excitement can be heard around every quarter.

The evening before the tournament has just begun!

Priya replies:

After helping the roughed-up Mantis back to his tent, Priyana is a bit nervous about what she’ll find tonight in the crowd, but that’s what gives this place an irresistible allure.

She drags Sameko back to their rooms and quickly but carefully takes the necessary steps to ensure we create the right impression. Sameko will surely have her own ideas on fashion and decorum – and Pri will likely add her 2 zeni as often as possible – but for her part, Priyana wants to make sure she’s the center of everyone’s attention.

To that send, she has one of the girls take down her hair, brushs it and tucks it back into a <neater version of> a halo-style riding braid, adding flowers, a string of pearls and a gold silk ribbon. She freshens up her makeup, with pink coral for her lips, lapis lazuli and kohl for her eyes. A pair of pearl stud earrings adorn each ear, a simple gold ring clips the left side of her nose, and a fine gold and amythest tikka crowns it all.

She dusts off her heeled riding boots, and has one of the servants brush them to a warm glow. She trades the cotton hakama she was wearing on the road, for a pair of double-layered silk gauchos in Mantis green, and tops them with a close-tailored, finely embroidered white furisode. She forgoes the traditional juban under it, opting instead for a low-cut golden silk choli, in hopes she’ll find someone in town this evening who’ll be worth giving accidental glimpses of it to. The furisode gets wrapped with green and gold silk scarves for obi, complete with tiny brass discs intended to softly clink and chime musically as she walks.

She leaves her katana home, but tucks her wakizashi into the scarves along with a long, heavy kukri and a pair of kindjal. Her jambiya stays home in the stand with her katana, occupying the place where her wakizashi would normally reside.

Now thoroughly dressed to impress, she turns to Same and asks excitedly, “Are we ready now, at last, for our last night of immaturity? Tomorrow the games begin, and after that—masters of the Empire!” <=D

Sameko replies:

Sameko has adopted Priya’s penchant for kohl on her eyes (she likes the effect it has on her blue eyes and the practical assistance it can be at sea), but she otherwise has no plans to upstage Priyankasha. She does, however, encourage her friend in a thoroughly irresponsible manner. She just tries to make sure that she doesn’t cross the line from Samurai to…something else.

For her part, Sameko doesn’t think to remove any of the several gold rings that cling to her left ear (all piratey) but she does remove the larger gold hoops that she sometimes sports. She’s been watching people and can tell that such things could be overkill. She ties a Mantis-clan do-rag on her head and lets her hair fall down her back, though she’s also had portions of it braided so it has an exotic layered and practical look to it. It marks her as obviously Mantis, but also doesn’t seek to imitate her friend.

Owing to the things Priya likely has in mind, she dresses in more or less expected Rokugani style, with a minimalist juban but otherwise like a male samurai might dress. She isn’t quite as eye-catching as Priya, but she’ll turn heads and be just as capable of moving as she needs to be. She dons her daisho, excited to wear her beautiful black-scabbarded swords out in public and in the presence of the Crane who obviously appreciate such fine craftsmanship and works of art. She leaves her kama behind, however, thinking that those may not be…kosher.

She grins at her friend and brushes down an imaginary lock of hair on Priya’s head, “I think there are boys and sake bottles that would both like the feel of our lips on them. But it might be best not to overdo either one if we have any intent of winning. I intend to win…and if I don’t, I intend to make the winner remember me.” With that she almost skips out the door, excited to go see things.

GM replies:

Within the hour, Chieko has mended Arashi and Jiro’s bruises and his headache from shochu (whiskey) and the beating are quickly subsiding.

Priya and Sameko learn from a henin in the Unicorn villa that all of the other Unicorn contestants are out and that most went to a gathering at one of the local Crane manors. Both of them quickly realize that due to the location, it would awkward to arrive without an invitation, but that surely either Utsukushii or Yuriko were certainly invited. They can also hear excitement and a crowd from within the pavilion grounds.

Yuriko, Utukushii, Arashi and Daisuke also can hear the sounds of talking, laughing and merriment outside of their pavilion and a henin has finally found Yuriko and presented her to the invitation to the Crane gathering. The wording of the invitation is “We would like to invite the contestants of the house of Kakita Heiwako and their guests to a gathering after dinner at the house of Kakita Kei.” Yuriko knows this is home of the uncle of Kakita Ichiro, one of the Crane contestents.

Yasayama also presents himself at the Mantis pavilion and seems very excited about participating in some merriment to lift his spirits. He mentions that from the information he’s gathered that most (but not all) of the Crane, Unicorn and Phoenix are at a gathering at the home of a local Crane samurai. Yet most (but not all) of the Dragon, Crab and Lion are mingling in an open area of the pavilions.

He says mysteriously the Scorpion do not yet seem to have arrived. There is some talk of them boycotting the tournament over some disagreement. However, no one seems to have any information on what the disagreement might be about or even with whom.

Sameko replies:

Sameko drags Priya first to the Mantis pavilion to check on her brother, Chieko and Jiro. She is a little surprised to find Yasayama there but his indeterminate clan status doesn’t seem to bother her much. After all, she’s adopted and her best friend is a hostage who attended her clan’s dojo. She swoops in and tries to ascertain her brother’s condition. Finding him to be in good health because of Chieko, she thanks Chieko profusely.

“My brother is brave, but impetuous. Thank you again for making him competition-worthy. Our clan will remember this.” She says it with a friendly smile, but she’s also serious. She knows that without Chieko, Arashi would likely be even harder to handle, and after tonight, could have done irreparable damage to the clan by screwing up his own gempukku.

Noting that Yuriko, Daisuke, Utsukushi and Arashi are all there (as well as Yasayama, Chieko and Jiro), Sameko makes sure that she finally actually introduces herself to people that her brother seems to know.

“I am Yoshitsune Sameko and this is my sister Moto Priyankasha.” She obviously uses the term ‘sister’ metaphorically. She bows and gets everyone’s names and scolds her brother for obviously involving such honorable people in his shenanigans, but the scolding is light-hearted and more than a bit resigned.

“We were about to go out and see what there is to be seen in this wonderful and beautiful village. We would be honored should any of you choose to accompany us.” Her eyes dart over to Priya, not quite making sure there is tacit approval of her invitation. She is at least partially afraid Arashi will pick another fight he can’t win. The more people present the easier it will be to control him, she reasons, and these people seem interesting at the very least.

Priya replies:

Pri wants to head straight over to the Kakita dinner party where the other Unicorn are; she’s unconcerned with the lack of a specific invitation, and simply decides if that’s where her family is, that’s where she should be, too. She makes a fake show of reluctance when Same drags her back to Arashi’s place, but her objections quickly fade when she sees Yasayama for the first time. “Woah… Same, who is that? Surely the largest Crane i ever saw, and with such rough hands…” she gossips. When she finds that this is Utsukushi’s counterpart, she is a bit astonished. “No… the Hida traded this for Utsu? What were they thinking?! Why, he should be part of the wall; not sent away from it! And—then the Crane made of him a Doji?? The hells you say!” And yet the situation intrigues her, and so she determines to get to know him a bit better. As tall as Yasa is, and as intriguing as his story sounds, chances are good Yasa becomes the first attempted “victim” of Priyana’s choli. ;D When/if she learns he is now ronin, she gasps and is dumbstruck for a moment, but in reality that only makes him more intriguing to Pri, and her mind starts scheming to find a way to make uses for him.

Still, social necessities being what they are, Pri soon starts pulling on Same’s arm. “Same, we really should be moving on. We must get to Jisho Kakita Kei while the night is young, and we are in our best form. It will not become us to arrive with too much celebration already under our obi, neh? Life is too short to miss a gathering at someone else’s expense!”

Daisuke replies:

[I’m pretty sure Daisuke was not with the others, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll say that as he was returning from his sparring, he happened to cross paths with Utsukushii and either offered or was persuaded to accompany his new friend, and the battle-sore companions.]

Daisuke is happy to follow along anywhere he’s led, excited by the sights and sounds all around, and glad for the companionship. At some point, he makes sure to have his bruise looked at. While he’s embarassed to do so for something so minor that was his own fault, he knows his family would be furious should he show up to the tournament in anything less than perfect condition.

Sameko replies:

Sameko is equally surprised by the reality of Yasayama’s situation, but she doesn’t say anything about it, instead finding bemusement in her friend’s sudden fascination. When Daisuke requests having his bruise examined, Sameko brings in an older Mantis shugenja to examine it, not wanting to bother Chieko, who is far too important to be healing stray Phoenix just because they show up. Besides, she may need all her magic to take care of Arashi.

She whispers to Priya, “We should go with the Crane that are here. That should help our case getting in.”

While Daisuke is being tended to she watches though, and can’t help but ask, “Isawa-san, how did you come by such an injury?”

GM replies:

Chieko notices Daisuke’s swollen hand before he even has chance to talk about it. When Sameko suggests having one of the other shugenja look at it, Chieko smiles coyly and says the kami beg her to speak to them more and is glad for the opportunity. Chieko listens closely to his answer to Sameko’s question. She pours cool water over his hand while chanting to the kami. The water lights up and after it passes over his hand, the pain is gone.

Yasayama is incredibly formal when meeting Priyanakasha. But soon relaxes when he picks up that she’s more like Yuriko than Heiwako.

“The Crab did send me away and the Crane did train me as one of their courtiers, but my family has forsaken me and my school chose not to sponsor me in the tournament.”

Yasayama doesn’t take long to succumb to the choli. And which point he blushes greatly and locks eyes with Priyanakasha when talking with her. His voice is deep and penetrating. When Priyanakaasha talks of leaving he speaks a short haiku, in a strange mix of formal and informal Rokugani:

“Springtime sakura1,

Mono no aware2, neh3?

Blooms lost to summer.”

1 cherry blossom tree

2 a japanese saying meaning “the awareness of the transience of the moments of life and a bittersweet sadness at their passing”

3 isn’t it?

Daisuke replies:

Daisuke looks embarassed but grins. “I’m afraid I may have misunderstood the customs of the Unicorn clan, and challenged one to something a bit more brutal than I expected. When my fellow students fought, it was for points, not blood. Perhaps that difference is why the Unicorn are known for such fierce warriors and we are known for,” he shrugs, embarassed,” . . our Shugenja”.

He continues, looking pained “And I am ashamed to admit that I was goaded into anger. For all I know, boasts of certain victory are how the Unicorn pray to the Fortunes for favor, but I saw only arrogance in my blindness, and sought to teach him a lesson. Perhaps also I was angry at the blow to my hand, though clearly it is my own shame to be unprepared, not his for meeting my challenge. And so, while his wounds are far greater, and I was the victor, I think that perhaps it was I who lost the most.”

“Still,” he can’t restrain a little grin,”it is reassuring to see that I am not so unprepared to do battle with my fellow students as I had feared I might be.”

When Chieko finishes, he thanks her with a very childlike smile. “You are very kind. It’s all better!” Then he remembers his composure. “Please let me know if there is ever anything I may do to return your kindness.

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