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  1. Weeks ago... -Shiro Kitsuki, “Last Step Castle”- The old man looked down at the letter and spoke to Toshi without even looking at him, “So what brings a Scorpion to the door of my dojo wishing to study the ways of the Kitsuki?” “I have learned the value of evidence, Kitsuki-sama. Had it not been for a single bead and some disturbed dust, I might have not been able to properly carry out my duties given to me by the Son of Heaven himself the murder of a daimyo may have gone unsolved and a noble family of the Lion would have been lost..” Toshi replied. “Evidence does not lie, Little Scorpion. Men do. One would think that the Scorpion would find testimony more… agreeable… to their methods.” suggested the old man. “Perhaps, Kitsuki-sama, but that does not mean we do not desire to know the truth as well. As you said, men lie. But men can lie to anybody. Evidence, on the other hand, simply tells it’s tale to any who are willing to listen. It has no reason to lie." Toshi countered. “Hmm..." the old sensei said as he contemplated the kneeling Scorpion courtier for a moment before speaking once more, "Come inside then, Shusuro-kun. There may be hope for you yet, Little Scorpion.” “Domo arigato gozaimasu, Kitsuki-sensei.” Toshi said with a deep bow before stepping through the doors of the Dojo of the First Glance... Toshi found the Kitsuki sharp senses and a keen intellect. Under their tutelage he learned to focus his perceptions not only on his surroundings, but also those around him. He learned that the smallest bits of evidence could speak volumes and the most subtle and insignificant of reactions and gestures could reveal even more. He began to understand the Kitsuki and came to see why they posed such difficulties to even the best plans and manipulations of the Scorpion. The Kitsuki were masters at detecting deception and discerning motivations and as said in the beginning, evidence does not lie to those willing to listen. The Kitsuki were indeed worthy opponents for the Scorpion and certainly worthy of their respect. In a few weeks time he completed his lesson and learned the fundamentals of the Kitsuki school, completing the first stage of his training and then departing for Tsuma once more. -Iron Mountain Doji, less than a mile from Shiro Mirumoto, “Last Glance Castle”- "It is not often we are visited by the Kakita, much less a prized pupil of Kakita Toshimoko and the Topaz Champion, aside from those wishing to be taught a less, of course." the Dragon sensei said. "I have accompanied my friend, Rin-san, here to her dojo so that she may further train and had hoped that I might be able to improve my own skill and 'no mind' technique while I was here. The mountains are quite beautiful in their austerity, and the Dragon are well known for their wisdom and meditation " Zoyu explained. "Here? With the rivalry of our Family schools, one might think this would be the last place a Kakita might seek to learn." the Dragon suggested. "A rivalry, yes. But it is not a rivalry born from ill will. Merely a difference in philosophy. A good rivalry causes both sides to improve, which only benefits the Empire as a whole, and a rivalry does not mean there is a lack of respect for your rival. And Rin-san certainly did your dojo proud. I only narrowly defeated her in the iaijutsu tournament and the Topaz Championship itself." the Crane replied. The sensei bowed with a small smile and turned his attention to Rin, taking a moment to size her up and look her over. “Rin-kun,” Mirumoto-sensei said as he rested a hand on her shoulder, “I am not even sure why you return. It seems that each time I try to provide you with instruction, you are already lessons ahead.” “You are my sensei. I have never meant to be disrespectful to you or the dojo. Without your instruction I would not be where I am today.” Rin said. “You are the finest student I have ever had. Niten comes naturally to you as if you developed the style yourself. I can only imagine where your talent will lead you, but I suspect that one day you may be the sensei and I may be the student...” Rin's training was relatively short, as was common for her, but as her sensei reviewed the fundamentals of Niten the sensei stopped and questioned her. "What is it, Sensei?" Rin asked curiously with just a hint of fear that she made have made some fundamental mistake. "Your guard. It is subtly different. I do not think most would even see it. Why did you change it?" "You always said that holding your swords should be natural, like holding a teacup. Since graduation I have made sure to practice each day and sparred with others. This guard just felt natural to me." Rin explained. "It is not just natural, Rin-san, it is better." the Sensei pointed out, using the -san honorific for the first time when speaking to her. "The difference is small, but noticeable. I had seen you doing so since I began your training. Like you said, I thought it was just what felt natural to you or that you might grow out of it in time, but I can see now that as your skill and understanding has improved, so has that guard. And I suspect it will only continue to improve." he said. "Sensei.. I do not know what to say." Rin said, caught off guard. "What to say? That is simple. You will explain that guard to me. How and why it feels natural to you and how you use it so that I my record it for the Dojo and future students and sensei." he said before calling in a young students and sending him to fetch a writing kit and table. "It seems I may be prophetic, as here I am learning from you, Rin-san." he said with a faint smile peeking through his calm demeanor. Rin spent the next several days in seclusion with the sensei, demonstrating her guard. He recorded it on a scroll once he understood it fully and would practice it himself before returning to her training. In her study of the blade and though meditation she came to see and understand more of the elements around her. The rudimentary lessons in Spellcraft she had received in Tsuma had somewhat opened her eyes to elemental energies, at least on a basic level. She could see how they interacted fundamentally and how a shugenja managed to focus and direct those energies, even beyond what she had learned in her Spellcraft lessons. She came to understand that, with focus, she could aid or disrupt those energies around herself as well, a feat which astounded her Sensei. "I do not know why I am surprised by you any more, RIn-san. You already fight with no mind, and from that comes speed, for thinking is slow. You already understand this lesson before I have even began teaching it to you. So I review it with you and do my best to clean up any imperfections and here you are already intuitively understanding lessons that those who graduated years before you are only just now learning with the aid of the Agasha." the sensei said with a faint smile as he shook his head. "I do not know how much longer I will even be able to teach you anything, Rin-san." he mused. While Rin trained Zoyu was a guest of the Mirumoto. The austere and ascetic lands, homes, dojo and lifestyle of the Dragon was in stark contrast to the lush and opulent lands of the Crane, but it had a minimalist beauty and seemed to give the Dragon focus. In general they had a serenity about them and almost seemed to be more like warrior monks than your typical bushi. They fought with no mind, which gave them speed, but also fought with a casual confidence and placed no particular consideration on footwork or a 'special stepping technique' such as those employed by so many styles. Even beyond the use of both swords, the difference in the Mirumoto style, stance, philosophy and even teaching style was strikingly different from the Kakita. It seemed to work for them though, as Zoyu could attest to from facing Rin in both sparring matches and the iaijutsu tournament itself. "Do not look for the perfect moment strike your opponent. Searching for that moment is still thinking, and thought is slow to react. Instead just relax and let him come to you. Your body, your mind, your arm and your sword will simply know the right moment and you will find your cut without a thought." the Sensei explained to Zoyu when she asked about the Mirumoto approach to fighting with no mind. After a short time Rin completed her training and the pair traveled back to Tsuma and the Kakita Dueling Academy. -Kyuden Isawa- "So good to see you again, Akari-kun. We have all heard of your brave actions and personal appointment by the Emperor." the sensei greeted. "I only seek to bring honor to my family and dojo, Sensei." Akari offered. "And I see you have brought a friend with you." "Yes. This is Kuni Taka, a fellow Jade Magistrate. His knowledge was instrumental to our successful protection of the Lord Prince. He has come to see the Library and make use of it while I study so that we may better carry out the duties appointed to us by the Son of Heaven." "Ah. I see..." she said. "Welcome, Kuni-san." she said to the Crab in greeting with a smile that did not appear to be forced (though it was). "Our Library is, of course, at the disposal of the Jade Magistrates. May the knowledge contained within help Jade Magistrates." Taka bowed politely. "Then let us see to your studies so that you may be on your way and back to the business of the Jade Magistrates. I am sure two shugenja are sorely missed..." Akari's lessons continued under her sensei and with that new found ability came the chance to select several new spells, expanding her magical repertoire. Her greater skill and new spells would serve the Jade Magistrates well, while Taka took advantage of the magical knowledge stored within the Isawa Library to begin research on a new spell which he had been contemplating for some time. "As a jade Magistrate you are working with other shugenja, Akari-kun. So do not forget the benefit of working together with ritual magic. We Isawa are the most skilled shugenja in the Empire, but never underestimate the benefit of sharing strength and burden." her Sensei reminded. Soon enough though they found themselves on the road back to Tsuma as well to meet up with their fellow Magistrates. -Kakita Dueling Academy, across the Tengu River from Tsuma- "I have returned to continue my lessons, Sensei." Zoyu said with a bow. "You have returned already? It seems you just graduated and here you stand mere months later ready to continue. You are possibly the finest student I have every taught, Zoyu-chan. You make an old sensei proud." Toshimoko said with a smile and nod. "You flatter me, Sensei. I simply seek to be a worthy vessel to receive what you have to teach." Zoyu said with a shy smile. "And your fellow Magistrate?" he asked "She is a Jade Magistrates, yes, but also my friends and a student of the sword as I am sure you had seen during the Topaz Championship. I had traveled with her to the Iron Mountain Dojo for her to continue her training and studied more of the 'no mind' while I was there. When the next level of her instruction was complete, she journeyed with me here." Zoyu explained. "Really? Occasionally Zoyu-chan, you...hmmm... I am not sure if the right word is... 'surprise' or 'worry' me." Toshimoko said with a warm smile. "Then it is only fitting that we show the same courtesy to one of their finest students." "Welcome, Mirumoto Rin." he said to the Dragon with a polite bow. "Your swordsmanship during the tests of the Topaz Championship was impressive. You bested one my personal students in the Weapons test and showed quite well in the Iaijutsu tournament, only falling to a prized pupil of mine in the final duel. You brought much honor and glory to your dojo." the aging sensei explained. "Anybody of such skill and devotion to the blade at such an early age certainly has my respect." he added with a deep, respectful bow. "Thank you, Toshimoko-sama. You flatter me. I only seek to serve the Empire to the best of my ability." Rin replied. "I must see to my pupil's instruction, but afterwards perhaps we call all learn from one another. A student of the blade is never done learning, after all. And then afterwards I'll introduce you both to the okasan in town. Even the most diligent student needs a break now and then." Toshimoko said flashing a easy, roguish smile. Zoyu continued her studies under the tutelage of her sensei, Kakita Toshimoko. With his training she perfected the "Sudden Strike" of the Kakita, expanding her already considerable understanding of the iaijutsu duel. It was during one of these training sessions that Toshimoko spoke to Zoyu about her progression. "I can see some of myself in you, Zoyu-chan." Toshimoko said as he sat on a rock and looked out at the river they had been training beside. "I was full of confidence and swagger. I knew I was skilled and I used that skill to bully and intimidate. I was young and brash and thought I could not fail." he said thoughtfully. "It took several hard lessons for me to grow up and understand some things... things I wish to share with you." the old man explained as he pulled his arm out of the sleeve of his kimono and rested it inside, against his chest. "You have great skill and potential, but you must understand that with this skill and ability comes a responsibility, not just to your lord and the clan, but to the the Empire and honor itself. At times it can be as much of a burden as it is a boon. The taking of a life is never something to be done lightly, and should be done with dignity and respect. I have taken lives of those I respected and even loved, because honor demanded it. I did not wish their death. I would have given my life in order to have not taken their's, but we are samurai, and our lives are not our's to give, they belong to our Lord. So I dueled them, as honor required, knowing full well what the outcome would be, and I took those lives, That was when I truly understood regret and asked for permission to commit seppuku. My request was denied, so I vowed to live the rest of my life without regret, living each day to the fullest." "You are still so very young, Zoyu-chan. I know these are just words of an old man, but please try to learn from my mistakes while you are still young. I would not wish you to waste so much of your life as I did." "And as word of your skill spreads, people will wish to duel you just to test their skill and prove themselves your better. Don't let them. Overestimating one's skill is already dangerous enough and you do not want to be the one with their death on your hands just so they could learn that lesson. You have nothing to prove to anybody, especially not anymore. You graduated at the top of your class, your won the Topaz Championship and proved your Iaijutsu in front of the Emperor and daimyo. Duel if you must, and I sure there will be times that you must, but only when you must, because you do not want too much blood on those pretty hands..." In the meantime Rin gained a new insight into the Kakita and their style with the instruction from and sparring with Toshimoko. Whereas the Mirumoto let their opponent come to them, the Kakita would seek the perfect moment to strike. They placed a greater emphasis on the duel, in which they were unparalleled, but their philosophy translated into all forms of their swordplay, even in a kenjutsu skirmish the Kakita treated each strike like an iaijutsu duel, allowing them to strike with great speed and precision only to often return their katana to its saya where it awaited the next draw and strike. Despite his position and age, or maybe because of it, Toshimoko was a jovial and relaxed man. He was at least a couple of decades past retirement age, but continued to serve the Crane. He was a very fit and even good looking man, looking younger than his actual age in general, but he also had a relaxed demeanor about him (a stark contrast to his brother in-law, Lord Doji Satsume). He was not a stuffy or rigid man in the slightest and when not teaching at the dojo would often be found in the arms of a geisha or carousing at a sake house. It was a side of him that all the Empire knew about and many found distasteful, but it seemed he was too set in his ways and far too valuable as a sensei for anybody to try and do anything about it. Strangest of all to Rin is that she seemed to have a odd familiarity with the aging sensei. She had seen him before during the Topaz Championship, but had never really spoken with him though. Maybe it was simply his easy going nature and friendly demeanor, but Rin could not help but feel as if she knew him already...
  2. - - - Clothing - - - The Kimono is the standard attire of the Samurai caste. Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. Men wear narrow obi and women wear broad obi and tie them with large elaborate bows in the back. Samurai-ko can choose to wear either form of obi. Kimono are generally worn with Tabi (split-toe socks) and Zori (flat sandals) or Geta (sandals elevated by wooden blocks to keep the feet out of water and mud). Some unmarried women, most often younger girls of the Crane Clan, choose to wear a type of kimono with almost floor-length sleeves (reaching the mid-calf roughly) called a Furisode. Beneath the kimono a simple kimono of white cotton called a nagajuban is worn to soak up sweat and stains from the body, protecting the kimono. Since silk kimono are delicate and difficult to clean, the nagajuban helps to keep the outer kimono clean by preventing contact with the wearer's skin. Only the collar edge of the nagajuban shows from beneath the outer kimono. This undergarment (as well as tabi) can be changed out several times on a warm day. There are additional garments that can be worn over the kimono. The most common of these is the Haori. A haori is, essentially, a thigh length kimono that is work open. Indeed many worn or damaged kimono are shortened and made into haori. In inclement weather, the haori is worn for warmth and to protect the kimono. Otherwise, it is won just to 'class up a bit'. A haori adds just a hint of formality to the outfit. It is the rough modern-day approximation of a really nice sweater or simple blazer. The sleeves of a haori can be tied/folded in such a way as to conceal them and make the garment sleeveless. in addition some haori are made sleeveless. A sleeveless haori (by design or folding) can also be worn over kataginu (see below). The next most common additional garment are Hakama. Hamaka are pleated, loose pants that are worn to add a hint of formality, but also allow ease of movement. They are almost always worn by bushi in the dojo while training (but are not exclusive to the dojo by any means) and some bushi prefer to wear hakama for that freedom of movement in case the need for combat arises. The Kataginu is another garment added to the kimono to formalize it. A kataginu is a vest with broad, exaggerated, pointed shoulders and is worn typically for formal occasions. When kataginu and hamaka are both added to a kimono, it becomes an outfit called a Kamishimo. The kamishimo is the most formal outfit samurai will typically wear and it is usually only worn on formal occasions. Courtiers and high-ranking samurai will often wear it on a daily basis though. The kamishimo is the rough modern equivalent of a tuxedo or very nice suit. a Jinbaori is similar to a sleeveless haori, but is designed to be worn over armor. Jinbaori are worn by daimyo and generals when they are armored and very ornate. Those of lower castes do not often wear or even own kimono. On the off chance that a peasant does own and wear a kimono, it is generally very plain, often a solid, dull color with little or no pattern or design. often made of cotton. Peasants wear clothing appropriate to their work. This often means short pants, shirts and vests with headbands being common for more physical labor intensive professions to simply keep the sweat from the eyes. Some samurai will wear peasant clothing, like pants, if needed. it is generally a matter of function due to a specific duty, but occasionally they are worn out of preference. The Unicorn often buck tradition by incorporating pieces of gaijin clothing into their attire, while the Scorpions often push the limit of what is acceptable with the cuts, collars and lengths of their kimono. Lady Kachiko is an example of this with her kimono often baring both shoulders and a part of her back while being slightly shorter and cut in such a way as to show her figure better and reveal more leg when she wishes.
  3. The morning comes and final preparations are made for the trip to Mamoru Kyotei Toshi. Horses are watered and fed, gear is secured, prayers and offerings for safe travel are made. Shun and Etsuko, as Unicorns are wont to do, checks each horse, ensuring they are in good physical shape and making saddles and packs are properly secured. One of the most tangible perks of being a Jade Magistrate is quickly apparent. Not only are travel papers not a requirement, but the benefit of freedom of movement across the lands of the clans is not to be underestimated. Traditionally, to reach Mamoru Kyotei Toshi from Tsuma, one would have to stay on the Imperial Roads and travel east, all the way to Otosan Uchi and then north to Mamoru Kyotei Toshi. And old, disused road connects Shiro no Yojin (Castle of Vigilance) and Shiro sano Kakita, left over from when the Crane clan controlled the castle. Since the Matsu claimed the castle, the road has seen little use. It has not been properly maintained, but is still serviceable, and taking this road is a much more direct route to your destination, saving easily a week of travel. The trip is long and largely uneventful. Most of the daylight hours are spent riding or occasionally walking your horse in order to stretch the legs (especially for those new to riding). Breaks are taken with some frequency and lunch is typically eaten along the side of the road at a suitable spot or in a small, roadside 'diner' (barely more than a tiny kitchen with a counter at which you can sit and eat). Nights are spent in way stations, inns or the occasional estate or castle in the Lion lands as some of the local daimyo or governors hear that the Topaz Champion and the saviors of the Lord Prince (Darling of the Court) is passing through. In general the Lions are less concerned or impressed by the Topaz Champion as they are by the fact that you all protected the Hantei line with such honor. Along the roads through the lands of the Lion, you are met by many Matsu patrols. A few words from Kageko and the display of your jade orbs means that there is little incident. You pass by Shiro no Yojin (Castle of Vigilance), a castle the Matsu captured from the Crane near Tsuma with it's massive, eight story tower. The castle is built beside a river (to the rear) and on a massive earthen mound with a single path leading the the gates between two watchtowers. Set atop the mound, the main tower reaches easily a hundred feet above the plains giving a commanding view of the plains for miles in every direction.. Days later you pass Shiro Akodo (Loyality Castle) to the northeast. Keen observers will notice that Akodo castle is not what it once was. The daring and glorious acts of the Matsu family have begun to eclipse the history of the Akodo family. Akodo Toturi, the new Lion Clan Daimyo as well as the Emperor's general and military advisor, commands the Lion armies from the castle. It is fairly common knowledge that Matsu Tsuko, the new Matsu Daimyo sees Toturi are weak and far too cerebral and is constantly pushing for an attack to reclaim Toshi Ranbo and avenge her betrothed, Toturi's own brother. Toturi though, has been unmoved by her relentless urging. From Shiro Akodo the road leads north through the northern most stretch of the Lion's lands toward Mamoru Kyotei Toshi, passing through the new Crane lands, recently acquired from the Lion. As you rest in a way station one night in the lands of the Crane, a rider is dispatched and come the next morning a Crane bushi arrives after breakfast, greeting you all. "Konichiwa. I am Hideji Daizo no Doji. Lord Hideji would like to extend an invitation to the Topaz Champion and all of the Lord Prince's guardians and Jade Magistrates to be his guest at his castle so that you may rest during your long journey and enjoy his hospitality. He currently hosts Lord Daidoji Uji as well as dignitaries from the Lion and Phoenix and would be furthered honored with your presence." the Crane says after a respectful bow. "The castle is not far, only hours from here and I have been instructed to guide you there should you see fit to honor my Lord by accepting his invitation." he further adds. Notes. Please Read. Konichiwa: "Good morning" Hideji Daizo no Doji: Vassal families introduce themselves by adding the name of the family they serve. So in this case, "Hideji Daizo no Doji" means "Hideji Daizo of the Doji" with the vassal family name being Hideji. After the introduction they may be referred to by their vassal family name. (See the "Great Clans" entry of this post for more information).
  4. Kitsu Kageko Kitsu Kageko Lion Clan Sodan-Senzo Gender: Female Age: 15 Height: 5' Eyes: Hazel Hair: Fiery Orange/Yellow Appearance: Kageko is rather petite young lady with piercing hazel eyes and a fiery mane of hair that is usually tamed into a banded ponytails on either side of her face. She wears a hooded robe with the Kitsu family mon emblazoned on the bottom of each sleeve and the mon of the Lion Clan on her back. Try as it might, even the voluminous robe with its large hood cannot totally conceal the striking beauty of this young Lion. Her features so soft and elegant, almost feline. Beneath the robe, she often wears her favorite kimono decorated with scenes of the Spine of the World Mountains at dusk bearing her family mon on her left sleeve. Her scroll satchel rests on her right hip while her wakizashi rests on her left side, in her obi, occasionally accompanied by her han-kyu and quiver resting on the hip. Personality: Kageko has a quiet sadness about her. She is very polite, bowing graciously and talking softly though sometimes to people who are not there, which can be unsettling to people at first. Her gaze often drifts off into a forlorn nothingness only to be suddenly brought back by a question or comment directed at her. Strangely though, she does seem to be able to pay attention to conversations and the like in these moments. Those who spend extended time with her soon discover that she does not sleep well, apparently plagued by terrible nightmares, the source of which is unknown. As a result, she often rests by spending time meditation or playing haunting melodies on her shakuhachi (bamboo flute).
  5. For all of you the day of your graduation was greeted by an invitation... You are most cordially invited to celebrate your gempukku by taking part in the prestigious Topaz Championship held annually in the City of Tsuma, Takuetsu province of the Crane. Please arrive before noon on the 15th day of the Serpent to formally enter. May the light of Amaterasu light your way. ~ Doji Noriaki And now weeks, and sometimes hundreds of miles later, you all find yourselves together on the final stretch of road to Tsuma. Usagi, Shosuro, Shinjo, Kitsu and Kakita having met on the road and travled for days together while Isawa, Mirumoto and Kuni having met near Otosan Uchi, the Imperial City, and shared each others company for the last leg of their journey only for all of you to meet at a way station not far from Tsuma, forced indoors by a spring shower. That night while eating, greeting and exchanging pleasantries you all discovered that each of you has been invited to the Topaz Championship by the same Doji benefactor. Invitations to the Topaz Championship were rare, no more than a handful most years and some years none at all, but eight in a single year was quite unusual indeed. Sharing the same destination and invitation you decide to travel the last few miles together. Company always makes a trip more enjoyable, especially when one of your number is from the area. As you roam down the road towards the City of Tsuma, it is a beautiful morning with the clouds and light rain of the previous night having given way to clear skies and warm caress of Amaterasu's rays. The river valley is green and lush with spring with the fields of crops filling out for harvest. The rain forced you to stay at the last way station and today your anxious feet carry you as swift as a pony down the road through the fields and orchards. You finally round a bend in the road, emerging from a large patch of bamboo flanking the road and catch your first view Tsuma. There is a greater than normal number of travelers on the road to Tsuma due to the time of the year. Some travelers are other young graduates aspiring to be the next Topaz Champion while others are merchants delivering tea, sake, cherries, streamers, fireworks and all manner of festival supplies or simply hoping to peddle their wares. Three Crane bushi guard the gate as you approach, checking travel papers, inspecting the occasional cart and nodding to local as they pass. Each of them is clad in light armor and helm, armed with yari in addition to their daisho. A group of your size and such mixed clans certainly draws their attention. One steps forward greet you.. "Good day, travelers. Your travel papers, please." he asks holding out his opened hand. As each of you present your invitations he looks them over, nodding. "Ah. You are Noriaki-sama's guests. Welcome to Tsuma. It would be my honor to guide you to Noriaki-sama's home. Please follow me." he says with a polite bow which you return before turning to lead you through the opened gates and into the city. Tsuma, Home of the Topaz Championship... Removed from the more heavily traveled highways and only a little larger and more active than most towns in Rokugan, City of Tsuma contains several dozen small homes, barns, storehouses and artisan shops. Despite its relatively small size, it boasts an unusual number of inns, sake houses, theaters, geisha houses, merchant houses and other services to comfort and supply weary travelers. Hosting the Topaz Championship has certainly served the once small village well. Tsuma and its one small wharf sits along the western bank of the Tangu River with the prestigious Kakita Dueling Academy Dojo resting on the eastern bank. The Tengu River has a slow to moderate current near Tsuma and measures anywhere from 50'-150' across. The city is surrounded by a moderate wall on all sides except for the riverbank which is spanned by two parallel, gated and guarded bridges, each measuring over 100' long and sitting roughly 100' apart from each other feeding into the middle of the city. Gates to the north, west and south allow access to the city as well. Just beyond the walls to the north rests the small eta village. Surrounding the city is fields of rice, tea, wul and cotton with patches of bamboo forest, occasionally flanking the roads from time to time. The most prominent feature of the city is the Temple to the Seven Fortunes. The temple is a large, square white stone building with slightly angled walls that rise up fifty feet into the air. Atop these walls, stacked like towers of a small pagoda, are two circular rooftops of brilliant blue-painted wood. Each is flanged eight times. Atop the entire structure is a large mirrored ball representing Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, reflecting her blessing in all directions. A long white marble flight of stairs arched by seven Torii (prayer gates), leads to the mammoth arched twin iron doors of the temple, each thirty feet high. Beneath each Torii sits offering to the Fortunes and at any given time there are just over a dozen monks in attendance maintaining the temple and offering services from healing to spiritual guidance. Shiro sano Kakita (Castle of the Kakita) lies to the southwest, housing the Kakita Artisan Academy and the shrine to Kakita himself while Shiro no Yojin (Castle of Vigilance), controlled by the Matsu family of the Lion Clan, sits to the north at the border of the Lion provinces, ever watchful of their Crane neighbors. The streets of Tsuma are bustling with activity in the midday sun. Peasants are cleaning and hanging decorations while merchants set out their finest goods on display. After a sort trip through the abnormally busy streets of Tsuma you arrive at the home of Doji Noriaki's. It is a very nice, modestly sized home, though still one of the largest in the city. The home is walled and gated and a few moments after a knock the gate is opened by a middle-aged man in fine, commoner's clothes. He immediately kneels and bows low. "How may I assist you, Daidoji-sama?" the older man asks. "These are Noriaki-sama's invitees, here to see him." the guard answers. "I apologize, Daidoji-sama, but Noriaki-sama will be gone till tomorrow. I have been left instructions to welcome his invitees as guests of Noriaki-sama while he is away." the older man replies. "Very well." the guard says with a nod before turning to face all of you again. "May the Fortunes favor you." the guard says to you all before giving a polite bow which you return before he departs for his post once more. "Please. Welcome samurai-sama. I am Yedo, I oversee Noriaki-sama's household." he says, still kneeling and motioning with an arm for you to enter the gate.
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