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IC: L5R: Blood and Jade - The Topaz Championship

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With the debates complete the contestants were led out to the practice field were racks of fine bows and arrows provided by the Crane Clan were set up with an array for targets waiting some forty yards away. The spectators stood behind the firing lines, many shading themselves with parasols. Once again Lord Miya draws tiles and announced the matched pairs.

 

Topaz Championship - Day 2: Archery

 

Shiba Izumi / Akodo Yokasu

 

Kakita Ujimitsu / Hiruma Sota

 

Hantei Satorii / Mirumoto Rin

 

Mamushi Kichiro / Shosuro Toshi

 

Kakita Zoyu / Hitoe

 

Otaku Etsuko / Shinjo Shun

 

Asako Kaito / Isawa Akiri

 

Usagi Massanori / Hiju

 

Kitsu Kageko / Bayushi Daisuke

 

Mamushi Mitsuko / Kuni Taka

 

Agasha Chouko / Doji Chinatsu

 

 

Event Mechanics: Archery
The contestants line up forty yards from their targets and fire. They then turn, walk back twenty yards to a new line and fire a second time before turning, walking another twenty yards and firing a third time.

 

TNs for each shot are as follows:

 

First Shot (40 yards): TN 10

 

Second Shot (60 yards): TN 15

 

Third Shot (80 yards): TN 20

 

The rolls are Reflexes + Kyujutsu (i.e. Archery) or Agility + Yomanri (i.e. Gaijin Archery).

 

Each Raise earns the contestant a match point. Each miss is a loss of a match point. The contestant with the most match points out of their pair wins a point toward their gempukku..

 

The bows are Fine Quality and very pretty.

 

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The Archery contests were over quickly in the early afternoon and on the practice field the contestants were assembled once again as Lord Miya drew tiles once more to set the teams.

 

Topaz Championship - Day 2: Hunting

 

Team 1: Mirumoto Rin / Kakita Zoyu / Hiju / Kuni Taka

Team 2: Usagi Massanori / Akodo Yokasu / Hitoe / Mamushi Kichiro

Team 3: Bayushi Daisuke / Shinjo Shun / Otaku Etsuko / Shiba Izumi

Team 4: Mamushi Mitsuko / Kakita Ujimitsu / Kitsu Kageko / Asako Kaito

Team 5: Hiruma Sota / Agasha Chouko / Doji Chinatsu / Shosuro Toshi / Isawa Akiri

 

It was announced that the Prince, unfortunately, was not permitted to compete as his guard would make far too much of a disturbance. Everybody knew that he was tied for First Place with the Crane and Unicorn bushi though, but he did seems a bit disappointed.

 

Once the teams were set, the contest was explained in slightly more detail...

 

 

Event Mechanics: Hunting
The contestants are set into teams and sent North along the river toward the woods and told to find and bring back a Tsu Fish egg.

 

The fish are NOT to be harmed nor are eggs to be destroyed or additional eggs taken.

 

Each team only needs to return with ONE egg for the entire team to earn a point toward their gempukku.

 

The first successful team that returns within the allotted time earns an additional point toward their gempukku.

 

Two hours are allowed for the event.

 

TNs for each shot are as follows:

 

Stamina + Athletics roll, TN 10

Success means your reach the area in 40 minutes.

Each Raise shaves 10 minutes off of your time.

 

 

Perception + Hunting, TN 15.

A team must succeed at the roll at least 5 times in order to locate a nest.

Each round of Hunting rolls takes 10 minutes.

 

 

Stamina + Athletics roll, TN 10

Success means your reach Tsuma in 40 minutes.

Each Raise shaves 10 minutes off of your time.

 

Other complications may require additional/other rolls and take up time.

 

 

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Once the hunting event is done Shinjo Shun's curiosity kicks in and he will go about trying to figure out why these "eggs" are sought after. He will start off by asking his fellow guests then spread out to their host or his servants and if they can't answer he will start asking around the town other that might know.

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Lord Miya Yoto sat the vessel aside after setting the last team. It was obvious to all that one name had not been called. as the venerable Master of Ceremonies spoke to the assembled contestants...

 

"Unfortunayely the Prince will be unable to participate in these event with you all as his Guard would not be conducive to the delicate task at hand. He wishes you all good luck." Lord Miya announced.

 

Immediately Rin and Zoyu spoke to each other and quickly turn to Huji and Taka. Securing a nod from each of them Zoyu toward Lord Miya, knlt and bowed. As Master of Ceremonies Lord Miya immediately accepted the request for an audience from Zoyu.

 

The teams all began to speak to one another, planning strategies, discussing strengths and so forth as Zoyu spoke quickly with Lord Miya. The old man listened and smiled softly, nodding to the girl. With a bow he turned and walked to where the Emperor sat where he knelt himself and bowed before speaking with him.

 

After a moment the Emperor nodded to the aged Daimyo who then turned back to the contestants and spoke...

 

"Kakita Zoyu, the Emperor will grant you a chance to speak your piece." Lord Miya announced.

 

By this time Zoyu had returned to her team and when addressed by Lord Miya, she and the rest of her team knelt.

 

"Thank you Lord Miya-sama. The divine charity of the Son of Heaven is something that I can only aspire to." Zoyu said, summoning up every bit of courage, confidence and eloquent grace she could muster, bolstered by the support of her teammates.

 

"My Lord Emperor, my team and I would like to humbly request that you permit the Lord Prince to participate in this event. He has excelled thus far, and though we all know he would do this same in this event if given the chance, we would ask that you allow him to do so, to fully complete in the Topaz Championship. To that end, my team and I humbly offer ourselves as his Guard if it were to be so permitted."

 

Prince Satorii, clearly surprised by this turn of events, looked down at the kneeling Zoyu, Rin, Taka and Hiju with a nearly imperceptible smile, a small glimmer of hope, as he stepped up beside his father.

 

"Please Father. The woods are not far and I would suggest that Seppun accompany us all the way to the wood. They can remain outside while Kakita, Mirumoto, Kuni and Hiju serve as my guard for the brief time, mere minutes, that I would be away from them. Kakita Zoyu is at the top of her class. Mirumoto Rin is an obvious prodigy with the blade. Kuni Taka is a battle-ready Shugenja of the Crab Clan, skilled in healing and healing magics should the unthinkable happen. And Hiju's family has served our own as hunting guides for generations. Surely, I could be in no better hands for the few minutes that I would be out of the care of the Seppun Miharu." the Prince explained, making his case to his father who seemed to listen, but appeared to be unmoved.

 

It was then than Lady Bayushi Kachiko stepped forward, taking a step away from her husband, and knelt with a sensuous grace before speaking.

 

"My Lord Emperor, I am confident that I speak for all assembled here when I say that the words of young Zoyu-kun and the Lord Prince are only echoed in our hearts and minds. The Lord Prince leads the competition with the wisdom and grace of the Hantei and we would only ask that he be permitted to continue to do so and complete the Topaz Championship."

 

"Your concern for the safety of the Lord Prince is shared by us all. As samurai in service to you, any and all of us lay down our lives to protect the Hantei line. That is only even more true of these contestants, on the cusp of adulthood, basking in the radiance of the Son of Heaven and pledging their own lives to the Lord Prince's protection."

 

Lady Kachiko rose and walked over to the kneeling team, standing in the middle of them and outstretching her arms to either side, motioning at them in time.

 

"The Lord Prince's words cannot be denied. A prized pupil of Kakita Toshimoko, the greatest swordsman in all of Rokugan, who has proven her capability throughout this Topaz Championship. A clear prodigy of the blade with the blood of Mirumoto coursing through her veins and two swords with which to protect the Lord Prince. A shugenja of the Crab Clan who has already seen and battled horrors many will never know, and who is gifted in the arts of healing, both magical and mundane. And finally a Ryoushi from a line so skilled in the ways of nature and the hunt that his family has personally served the Hantei for generation."

 

"We are in the heart of the Empire, deep in the lands of the Crane Clan, nearly in sight of Otosan Uchi and a mere two miles from a castle of the Kankita and one of the Matsu. Thousands of the finest bushi in the Empire can be called upon in mere minutes. Nobody would so insane as to possibly seek to cause harm to the Lord Prince in such an environment and while protected by the unwavering Seppun Miharu and this team of some of the greatest young samurai the Empire has to offer."

 

"My husband and I certainly add our voice to that of these fine, young samurai. Please, in your divine grace my Lord Emperor, permit the Lord Prince this small joy before the burdens of his station fully settle upon his shoulders with adulthood." Lady Kachiko finishes, kneeling among the team once more and offering a bow to the Emperor with the non-traditional cut of her kimono accentuating and revealing more than it should.

 

The Emperor sat in silence for a moment, looking at Lady Kachiko, then glancing at the kneeling team, his son, Lord Miya and finally the crowd.

 

"Knowing that you all share my concern for my son's safety, I will permit his participation in this event." the Emperor said as she addressed the crowd and finally turned his attention to the kneeling team.

 

"The Seppun shall accompany you to the woods and wait for you. I know that each of you will lay down your lives to protect my son should it be required." the Emperor added, giving a small bow to the kneeling team.

 

Prince Satorii tried his best to hide a smile as he bowed to his father.

 

"One miharu will surely not cause a disturbance, father and shall accompany me within the woods as we hunt. I will not deny them their duty." the Prince said to the Emperor, showing his diplomacy and the depth of his understand of duty and Bushido before turning to join his team.

 

-------------------

 

The event goes largely as expected with each of the teams returning successfully within the last twenty minutes of the event and the Prince's team arriving back first with an egg, With the success of every each, each contestant has secured enough points to pass their gempukku, regardless of their performance in tomorrows event, the last event of the Topaz Championship. the Iaijutsu tournament.

 

A third night of festivities follows, only heightened by the fact that all of the young contestants have secured their place in adulthood come tomorrow. Dancers, fireworks, noisemakers and general celebration fills the streets of Tsuma as the contestants take time to prepare themselves for dinner as the Emperor's guests once again.

 

Only one small bit of news tries to put a damper on the night. The Poisoned Water Sake House, unfortunately, lived up to its name, apparently with a bad batch of sake that may have been rushed. Several patrons died while the few that survived probably wished they were dead with the extreme sickness that suffered as a result.

 

The bad news does little to bring down the mood of the city though, as is obvious as the contestants made their way back across the bridge to the Kakita Dueling Academy.

 

Dinner is much like it was the first night, exquisite food and entertainment by the Kakita Artisans, general good-natured talk, compliments on performance and the occasional teasing among the contestants.

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Once the hunting event is done Shinjo Shun's curiosity kicks in and he will go about trying to figure out why these "eggs" are sought after. He will start off by asking his fellow guests then spread out to their host or his servants and if they can't answer he will start asking around the town other that might know.

 

With the Hunting contest concluded, the townspeople were far more forthcoming with details to Shun about the Tsu Fish...

Tsu Fish are unusual creatures native to the rivers of the northern Crane provinces. Their behavior is rather unusual, and has given rise to many popular rumors about their abilities that are blatantly untrue which the townspeople use to frighten and confuse the young samurai in the Topaz Championship each year, although most are based at least partially in fact.

During the dry season, the many small streams and lakes in the northern Crane provinces dry up,leaving a network of large puddles and trickling creeks that are of little use for agricultural purposes. To prepare for this season, the Tsu Fish store up body fat so that they do not require much food. Dry season is the mating season, during which time the Tsu Fish leave the water and cross short distances to reach other puddles and find suitable mates. Tsu Fish have unusually thick, strong ventral fins, with which they use to push themselves through the mud like snakes.

 

The value of Tsu Fish eggs is rather simple. The eggs are considered a delicacy. In addition, not long ago it was discovered that the eggs were a useful source for correction fluid, allowing the removal of ink from valuable scrolls and paper when when a mistake is made. Unfortunately, this use of the eggs led to a rather rapid depletion of the species after its discovery and so in recent years the Crane have put a halt to the fishing and harvesting of the Tsu Fish, which are now increasingly rare, in hopes the species may be able to repopulate.

 

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The third and final day of competition has but a single contest: the iaijutsu tournament. Typically, the point totals at this point are such that it is already known who will and who will not achieve their gempukku. The iaijutsu tournament awards a significantly higher number of points than the other contests, however, and can radically alter the standings of the competitors. It is rare that the tournament winner is not declared the Topaz Champion.

 

The iaijutsu tournament is the only aspect of the Championship that is open for anyone to view, and typically it is extremely crowded. The entire city empties to attend and catch a glimpse of greatness. For samurai, it reminds them of their youth. For peasants, it is a welcome break in their rather monotonous lives. The people of Tsuma, having witnessed the Topaz Championship are some of the best informaed peasants in the Empire when it comes to iaijutsu and among them the obvious favorites are Kakita Ujimitsu, Kakita Zoyu, Mirumoto Rin, and even Shiba Izumi, although Bayushi Daisuke has quite a bit of support as well.

 

As the hour of Hantei approaches, the shugenja have finished their blessing of the courtyard grounds, their prayer drums echo from the temple across the river. The contestants, all of whom having already secured their passage into adulthood, enter the circle of spectators and encircle the ground where, some say, Hantei dueled with his brothers and sisters. Opposite you, the Emperor sits upon a small throne flanked by the Seppun Miharu, Imperial entourage and the various Daimyo and luminaries. Lord Miya Yoto once again draws tiles, each marked with the chop of the contestants and announces the matched pairs for the first round of the Iaijutsu tournament.

 

Topaz Championship - Day 3: Iaijutsu

 

Round 1:

 

Hantei Satorii / Mamushi Kichiro

Doji Chinatsu / Mirumoto Rin

Hiruma Sota / Bayushi Toshi

Shiba Izumi / Hitoe

 

Kakita Zoyu / Hiju

 

Akodo Yokasu / Kakita Ujimitsu

Mamushi Mitsuko / Otaku Etsuko

Bayushi Daisuke / Shinjo Shun

 

 

Round 2:

 

? / ?

 

? / ?

 

? / ?

 

? / ?

 

 

Round 3:

 

? / ?

 

? / ?

 

 

Final Round:

 

? / ?

 

 

Event Mechanics: Iaijutsu
This even is a single elimination tournament. The victors proceed to the next round while the defeated are elimination from the competition. Each victory is worth two points toward one's gempukku. The contestant with the most points at the end of the Iaijutsu tournament is typically declared the Topaz Champion. In case of a point tie, the winner of the Iaijutsu is typically given the title. 'Typically' because the title is actually bestowed by the Emperor and he may award it to whomever he so chooses.

 

Everybody is back at full Void, though there is only several minutes between rounds of dueling, therefore not enough time to meditate, perform tea ceremonies or the like to recover Void Points. Spend your Void Points wisely.

 

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The Following takes place between the Hunting Match of the previous day and that Nights Dinner with The Emperor

 

OOC note
This was written by Noir and Nina

 

The bath was hot and soothing after such a grueling day, even her ankle was feeling better, she lifted it out of the water to see if the swelling had gone down. Looking at her bare foot she idly wondered if she could do a rendering of the Tsu Fish egg...

 

Kegeko's sexy giggle brought Rin back to the bath. “Yes, Rin-san it is a very pretty limb, thank you for showing it and allowing us to admire it in such detail.†Rin moves her leg back under the water so quickly that there is an unseemly splash, before she notices the playful grin on the beautiful Lion's lip. Both Zoyu and Akari giggle as well but before Rin can form a reply the Shogi slids open a fraction and a servant girl enters.

 

She quickly steps to where Rin soaks and kneels, holding out a handscroll for her. “Mirumoto-sama, a message for you.†The girl remains kneeling as Rin rises from the water and takes the scroll. “Domo.â€

 

She unrolls the scroll and reads quickly right to left a smile unknowingly curving her lip, the other girls watching curiously can't help but notice the smile.

 

<Mirumoto Rin, The bearer of this message is instructed to guide you to the dojo we will be using at the Kiakita Dueling Academy at the first part of the hour of the rooster, should you still desire to spar. Hantei Satorii >

 

Akari overcome with curiosity as the Other servants quickly dry and dress Rin after she asks for her Training Clothes to be brought, speaks the question on each of their minds. “Rin, What is it? Where are you going?â€

 

Rin looks back at her friends. “I go to dance with the Princeâ€

 

 

Recognition

 

Rin feels it for the first time as she is guided to the Dojo. It isn't just that she is a Samurai, or even a tournament contestant, no she hears her name in whispers and sees looks of admiration on faces of strangers. The feeling is both pleasant and terrifying at the same time.

 

In short order she finds herself at a small side Dojo, like everything else here at the Academy it is resplendent. The Prince and his guard are already here. Rin approaches and kneels before the Prince.

 

“My Lord Prince, Thank you for this invitation, I am deeply Honored.â€

 

The Seppun miharu stood silently by the doors to the dojo, one on each wall with three leading outside and one leading to the main dojo, seeming to always look forward and at nothing in general. Though standing in full armor with yari they were

 

"Welcome. Though we are here, I must admit that I fail to see what I could teach you when it comes to the sword." the Prince said as he bowed to her.

 

"Your friend, Zoyu, is clearly a better or more gifted student of Toshimoko-sensei than I, despite my receiving individual instruction." he added as he pulled his daisho from his obi and set it on a rack, replacing them bokken.

 

"Though.. Toshimoko-sensei has taught me far more than just the blade, I think." the Prince mused with a small, thoughtful smile.

 

"You though, seem destined to become a kensai. But I suppose there are still lessons I can learn in defeat." he said with a smile.

Following the example of the Prince, Rin places her daisho on the stand provided for them and swings the wrapped set of bokken, both long and short made for her at Mirumoto castle. She notices the Princes curiosity at the sight of a wooden set.

 

“I had them made for me at Mirumoto castle before I left, I usually practice with steel, and very seldom in a dojo. But I wanted to be able to practice where steel would not be acceptable as well, even though in the right hands these can be just as deadly.â€

 

The prince ponders that statement for a moment, then nods. “Our time is short, we should practice.†

 

“Hai, my Lord Prince. Unless you wish otherwise, I thought we would just practice our swordsmanship. Fighting in this manner will give more opportunity to learn from one another.â€

 

“Yes, I am curious to see your technique with the Daisho. Let us begin.â€

 

Under the watchful eye of the motionless Seppun, the two warriors began their dance.

 

 

<continued below>

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<continued from above>

 

Back and forth and around and around they moved. The Prince was fast as Rin had known he would be but the more they sparred the more she realized that what she had taken for modesty had indeed been truth. The prince had a warriors heart, but not the skill she had assumed. Almost without thought She slipped into the role of guide, she spoke to him offering helpful guidance and encouragement, as they sparred and then at a perfect moment of pause Rin stepped back and signaled a break in the match. " My Lord Prince. A rigid hand is a dead hand. You grip the sword like it is an enemy and this grip forces you to move your hands when you change forms. In this way the sword is controlling you. You must control the sword, Control the sword, master the sword, master everything. This is the Way. Let me show you my grip. this is the way the ancestor teaches us."

 

Rin steps closer demonstrating as she speaks. "Hold the sword as I do: the middle, fourth and little fingers grip here on the hilt vigorously while the thumb and first finger should be lightly placed on the hilt. If the hands grip the sword too firmly when taking the stance or parrying, then it is too difficult to take the offensive. These are what the Ancestor call “dead†hands." She takes the sword and copies the princes grip showing him. "This is a common mistake many warriors make because they do not practice with the sword in one hand but only use two hands."

 

She steps back taking the sword in her proper grip. "On the other hand, if one grips the sword in a relaxed manner, he can continually take the offensive. These are “live†hands. One must not cross one’s wrists nor bend one’s elbows too much or too little. Muscles on the upper side of the arm should be relaxed, those on the lower taut.â€

 

"Practice this way with one hand and you will master the sword with either."  She steps back and relaxes but her brow  furrows as if an internal struggle was underway. suddenly she makes her decision.

 

"My Lord Prince, truly the heart of a warrior beats within your breast, this is good, the empire needs one such as you. But your duty and obligation weigh you down at the same time. I fear i speak out of turn. But I think that I must. You told me today that you would never be able to seek honor and glory your self, and i said to you that others would have to do so in your name. This is a truth. But Honor and glory are yours to be sought as well. One day you will be emperor. and the decisions you make, the orders you give will be your Honor and Glory." She pauses and looks at the Prince who is looking back at her, taking a deep breath and letting it out she continues. "You have been trained, my Lord Prince, in a great many things, and some you have learned well, and others you have not. This you have shown me,  I think on purpose."

 

Prince Satorii looked at Rin thoughtfully for a moment, considering her words as he formed his own.

 

"I am just a man. Well.. a boy for another day at least. I am here, in Tsuma, in the Topaz Championship, and even in this dojo now to show that. I wish my reign, whenever that day comes, to be different. I wish to begin on solid footing. Grounded and aware." he said, shifting his stance.

 

"The kami Hantei won the right to rule, and that success has been honored by every successive generation of samurai since. I know am destined to rule because I bear the name and blood of Hantei. But I know I will rule not due to my own actions and deeds, but due to those of my ancestor. I wish to be worthy of such a position, and seek to earn that place in the hearts and minds of the samurai." the Prince said sincerely as he looked as his own hands.

 

"All to often people forget the rest of the story of the kami. Before any contest, any Empire, Hantei rescued the other kami. They were not kami to him. They were his bothers and his sisters and he fell to earth with them. They decided, together, to hold a contest to earn the right to rule. They were family and they all came together, cooperating and agreeing. Every samurai has the blood of the kami in their veins. Together we are an Empire, but even beyond that, we are family." he continued.

 

"Yes, Hantei won the right to rule, but that right only exists because it was agreed upon by brothers and sisters... by family. For over a thousand years the the Clans have honored the word of their kami founders. That level of honor, duty, dedication and faith something I can only ever hope to be worthy of. I have done nothing to earn an honor such as that except being born to the right parents, so it is a honor that I do my best to understand, have deep respect for and do not take lightly, nor for granted."

 

Prince Satorii sighed and closed his eyes for a moment.

 

"I am rambling. It is just something that I have thought about a great deal and weights heavily upon me. Toshimoko-sensei has taught me many lessons beyond the sword, but these last few days spent among all of you, the samurai who will serve and protect the Empire I will rule, has brought me more enlightenment than years of studying the Tao. To compete against and work with you all, as an equal, or at least as close to one as I will ever been seen, has opened my mind and filled my heart with joy, and for that I thank you all."

 

 

"The price of Greatness is paid by the Great, but we all reap the benefit." Spoke Rin Softly.

 

She looks at the wooden swords in her hands. "When I was a child my mother died, a painted man came and took me away from my home. We walked the length of Rukogan, often with me carrying those swords." She gestures to her Daisho. "He rarely spoke to me except to give orders about cooking and such. He took me to the mountain, and we climbed. I was five years old. I learned that he was my father then and he left me there. For two years I studied there in Togashi Castle. I believed i would become a monk. But I often heard another song, the song of the sword. And that is the way I chose."  She makes several kata moves after stepping away from the Prince. "You have not the choice, My Lord Prince, but you do have the seed of greatness, Master the Way of the Sword and your reign will be glorious, for then you will Master everything."

 

She smiles at him before averting her eyes. "You give my companions and I a great Honor my Lord Prince more than we, I, deserve. It is we who give thanks to you and your father for trusting us with such service."

"Though a child, I think there was a lesson in your father making you carry those swords. One that has probably helped form you into the fine samurai you are today, even though you might not be fully conscious of it. much like some of my lessons under Toshimoko-sensei, I think." Prince Satorii says thoughtfully.

 

He places the bokken back on the rack and retrieves his ornate wakizashi, slipping it back into his obi.

 

"For now though, I think it is time we prepare for dinner. Thank you for the sparring, instruction and conversation, Mirumoto Rin. You do the Dragon Clan's reputation for wisdom justice." he adds before giving a bow with a faint, thoughtful smile.

 

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Tha First round of Iaijutsu matches goes largely as expected.

 

Prince Satorii is victorious over Mamushi Kichiro after Kichiro swung first, but missed by the narrowest of margins allowing the Prince to counterattack and achieve victory.

 

The heavily favored Mirumoto Rin, though repsectful of Doji Chinatsu's courage, easily defeats the young courtier.

 

Kakita Zoyu, favored by many, is triumpahnt over Hiju, displying the skill of the Kakita Duelists.

 

Hiruma Sota faced Shosuro Toshi in a quick match with Hiruma defeating the courtier through the favor of the Fortunes more than his own skill.

 

Shiba Izumi faces down the Mantis, Hitoe, and proved the effectiveness of the Shiba's no-mind approch to combat.

 

In what was generally seen as an upset, Mamushi Mitsuko defeated Otaku Etsuko, doing her young Clan justice.

 

Bayushi Daisuke and Shinjo Shun's match was one of the more interstiing and anticipated matches. Before the match began, Bayushi spoke to Shinjo...

 

"Prepare to face the Dark Sword of Bitter Lies."

 

The announcement seemed to not faze Shinjo in the slightest and a few moments later Bayushi stood victorious, though they wished one another well.

 

The last match of the round was Akodo Yokasu facing down the heavily favored Kakita Ujimitsu. The Lion seemed calm while the Crane was a picture of determination. The two bushi faced each other and in a moment Akodo stood with his sword out and threads from a slice in Ujimitsu's kimono gracing the edge of his blade. The moment of silenced seemed to drag on as the realization set in on Ujimitsu's face that he had just been defeated by the Lion with his hand still on his sheathed katana.
 

"Wha.. what? I... No. No! I was going to win... I HAD TO win! This... no. This cannot be happening.." Ujimitsu stammered, looking down at his chest and the slice through his kimono.

 

The Crane fell to his knees, his face a distraught mask and leans forward, bracing himself with his hands in the dirt. The display was clearly drawing attention, especially from Doji Satsume who's displeasure was obvious.

 

"My family.. I had to win. We needed the title... I had to. All of this work... the egg... the ronin... I spent all we had... I HAD TO WIN.. for my family..." he continued to babble, his tone now gradually beginning to shift from shock to anger.

 

Akodo sheathed his sword and leaned down to speak to the Crane,

 

"Ujimitsu-san. It is just a tourna-." he said as he was cut off by Ujimitsu shoving him away.

 

"You.. Yo.. your fault. This is all your fault!" he raged at Akodo who took a step back in caution.

 

Doji Satsume, Emerald Champion, Daimyo of the Cran Clane and Doji Family rose and stepped onto the field, his irritation apparent to all by his face and the tone of his words, spoke.

 

"This is a time for proving yourself worthy of adulthood and you sit there, behaving like a child! The Crane Clan is one of honor, integrity and duty! You are not even worthy of seppuku! You are no Crane and never will be!" he proclaims in a fierce tone to the shock of many of the onlookers as the words seemed to cut Ujimitsu like a blade.

 

"Lord Doji-sama! P-please! I just-" and he was cutoff by Lord Doji raising his hand.

 

It was then that Lord and Lady Bayushi rose. She moved to the distraught Ujimitsu while he turned to face the Emperor and Lord Doji.

 

"Then the Scorpion will have him. You see a boy behaving like a child. But I see a man. A man to whom family is the most important thing of all. Something he would risk everything for is on his mind during every moment of the day." Lord Bayushi says as he looks Lord Doji in the eye.

 

"Do not worry, Ujimitsu. You family's coffers will be replenished. They will never need to worry for a thing thanks to your dedication to them." Lady Kachiko said as she crouched and rubbed Ujimitsu's back.

 

"You cannot have him. I am his Lord and I will not allow it. He shall be ronin for the rest of his days." Lord Doji said defiantly.

 

"Ah, but you are actually not his Lord yet, Lord Doji-sama. The oaths of fealty are later this evening." Lady Kachiko retorted with her gaze shifting from Lord Doji to the Emperor.

 

"You think to use a techn-." Lord Doji said, only this time cut off by the hand of the Emperor himself.

 

"Rise, Bayushi Ujimitsu. I know that you will not squander this second chance. Be thankful for the compassion shown by the Lord and Lady Bayushi and conduct yourself appropriately from this day forth." the Emperor said in a firm, commanding tone.

 

Ujimitsu pressed his head to the dirt, kneeling and bowing to the Emperor and the Lord and Lady Shoju, making every effort to compose himself as Lady Kachiko helped him up and walked him out of the circle of spectators.

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With the matches of the first round and the events following concluded (see above), the crowd's focus is brought back to the event at hand as Lord Miya draws the eight remaining tiles to set the next round of matches.

 

Topaz Championship - Day 3: Iaijutsu

 

Round 2:

 

Kakita Zoyu / Mamushi Mitsuko

Hantei Satorii / Akodo Yokasu

Shiba Izumi / Bayushi Daisuke

Mirumoto Rin / Hiruma Sota

 

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Still feeling rueful having drawn and defeated Hiju-san in the first round of the Iaijutsu duels after having spent some time the night before giving him pointers in thanks for his excellent skill in hunting - garnering her the lead in the Topaz Championship, tied with the Prince. Zoyu began letting it wash away, preparing for the next round. With watchful interest, she watched Akodo Yokasu face her classmate Ujimitsu on the dueling grounds.

 

The brow over her green eye rose when she witnessed Yokasu's sublime calmness overcome Ujimitsu's rigid determination. Exquisite balance and unthinking sureness, Akodo-san could be more of a challenge than I thought, Zoyu mused, when the brow over her blue eye rose as well at the sight of Ujimitsu's shattered composure.

 

She had trained with Ujimitsu since her seventh year, Though she teased him, she had never born him any ill will, knowing the dourness of his drive was due to his determination to raise the fortunes of his family. Watching him reduced to such state was... distressing, doubly so at Lord Doji-sama's harsh proclamation, however within his rights he was. Zoyu couldn't help but feel... embarrassed on Ujimitsu's behalf.

 

And then Lord and Lady Bayushi where there, speaking for Ujimitsu, claiming him for the Scorpion, and helping him to his feet before the eyes of the Emperor, the dark-faced Emerald Champion and Crane Clan Daimyo, and the other luminaries in attendance. Zoyu's full lips curled in faint, wondering grin. Now that the burdens on his shoulders have been eased by the coffers of the Scorpion, perhaps Kakita Ujimitsu would have the time to learn to smile.

 

Bayushi Ujimitsu now, Zoyu amended, her grin fading with a nebulous sense of unease as Lady Kachiko and a tall, male Scorpion wearing a full Daisho she didn't recognize led Ujimitsu away back to town. In a sense, it felt like she had lost a brother or a cousin. She had taken but a single step his way, to offer some words - though she knew not what those words would be yet - when Lord Miya Yoto began drawing the tiles for the second round of duels.

 

Zoyu tossed her head, the streak of sable vivid against the snow-white of her remarkably long hair as she checked her movement. There would be time to speak with Ujimitsu later. For now, there was a duel to win and the blade does not regret, nor yearn, nor weep, but lives and dances in the stillness of the moment.

 

A Crane has lost his wings in the Iaijutsu duel, but one yet remains, the Topaz Champion within the reach of her blade...

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"If you eat poison, do not forget to lick the dish"

 

 

Mirumoto Rin was as surprised as everyone else at the events unfolding before her but perhaps not in the same way.

 

She saw the way Kakita Ujimitsu reacted to his loss. She did not know him well only observing him during the tournament and the few time he and Zoyu-san had sparred verbally. But to her the loss of face was uncharacteristic of a Samurai. If I had lost composure in such a way, she thought, I would have attacked with my swords.

 

But then Lord Doji stepped into the field and the Drama became a like a play at the theater. Lord and Lady Bayushi, then the Emperor Himself , Ujimitsu was not important to the play merely a bit player, a set piece.

 

Something had transpired here.

 

"A diversion is just that, and nothing more."

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Shinjo Shun is surprised by Kakita Ujimitsu's outburst and the conversation between those that step forth. As he continues sit to watch the upcoming matches he seems to be thinking about something that brings a bit of annoyance to him, but he keeps his composure and continues to observe the rest of the tournament. 

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Toshi watched the matches, nodding with regard to Akodo. Now that was a surprise. Well done, surprising a Kakita like that. What happened next, as Ujimitsu lost his composure, and his face was more surprising. Oh dear. Just when you had already secured your gempukku. And right in front of the Emperor no less. Doji Satsume's great rising was a given, therefore.

 

Not immediately a given, was Lord and Lady Bayushi stepping forward. Oh. Oh. It is a privilege to see Clan masters at work. In moments, sealed by the will of the Hantei himself, the Scorpion clan had acquired a new clanmate, someone of proven skill to pass the Topaz tournament gempukku, and who owed everything to the clan itself and would have extensive loyalty for the succor of his old family.

 

...This was properly, one might suppose, a thing for Daisuke. But Scorpions were Scorpions, and anyway, Daisuke had more matches. So Toshi turned his back on the iaijutsu matched and walked briskly forward to come parallel to Lady Kachiko and Ujimitsu. "Lady Kachiko-sama, I hope you will permit me to join you and our newest clanmate?"

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With the matches of the second round concluded, Lord Miya draws the four remaining tiles to set the next round of matches.

 

Topaz Championship - Day 3: Iaijutsu

 

Round 3:

 

Kakita Zoyu / Bayushi Daisuke

Mirumoto Rin / Hantei Satorii

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The semi-final round is over swiftly with each pair of contestants exchanging words before and after. Once again, Bayushi Daisuke tells his opponent to Prepare to face the Dark Sword of Bitter Lies.", only this time he is defeated Kakita Zoyu. Shortly thereafter Prince Satorii met a similar fate, proving no match for Mirumoto Rin.

 

At this point Lord Miya need not draw any tiles. The match was clear to all. Kakita Zoyu of the Crane Clan, a prized student of the Kakita Dueling Academy under Kakita Toshimoko was set to face Mirumoto Rin, a fierce combatant and sword prodigy from the Dragon Clan, skilled in the ways of Mirumoto's Niten style. The final match was to be yet another contest between these rival schools.

 

 

Topaz Championship - Day 3: Iaijutsu

 

Final Round:

 

Kakita Zoyu / Mirumoto Rin

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"Your hard work, dedication and sacrifice have ensured the safety and security of your family, Ujimitsu-san." Lady Kachiko said in a soothing tone as she guided him across the bridge while Shosuro Toshi caught up.

 

"Lady Kachiko-sama, I hope you will permit me to join you and our newest clanmate?" Toshi asked.

 

"Of course, Toshi-san." Lady Kachiko replied as she looked at him and raised her palm, parallel to the earth, which she slowly lowered it in a gesture conveying 'take it easy'.

 

"You have represented yourself and your family well, Ujimitsu-san. You already secured your gempukku and your reaction to the loss is perfectly understandable. I doubt many here could possibly grasp the weight that was resting on your strong shoulders. You did what you had to do for your family, and that is to be commended. Lord Doji-sama could not see that and it is his loss. Loyalty is the most important virtue one can possess. And a man of such virtue as yourself should be valued by any Clan. We felt we had to stand up for you in the face of Lord Doji-sama's shortsightedness and we are truly honored to welcome you into our Clan so that you may still serve the Empire with distinction." Lady Kachiko explained.

 

"We were aware of some of your, shall we say, unconventional tactics. But we said nothing because where others might see dishonor, we could see nothing but dedication, and we respected that. You could see past the trivialities and narrow-minded views of honor held by so many of your classmates.You can rest assured that your family is well taken care of and you are now part of a Clan that values and respects you." she pointed out as they arrived at the House of the Laughing Carp and Ujimitsu led them to his room.

 

"Please, wait here." Lady Kachiko asked as she sat Ujimitsu down.

 

"Toshi-san will wait here with you while I return to our chambers in the Palace to retrieve something more suitable for you to wear, should you so desire, Ujimitsu-san." she said.

 

"Please, My Lady. You do not need to. You have already done so much. I cannot ever repay you." Ujimitsu said as he gradually began to piece himself back together.

 

"We are Clan now, and family at that. Scorpions take care of their own. Toshi-san can attest to that." Lady Kachiko said with a warm smile as she brushes a few errant hairs from Ujimitsu's face before turning and exiting with the tall Scorpion.

 

 

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Toshi had caught the measure from Lady Kachiko, make it easy, smooth and comfort Ujimitsu as the change sunk in. "You are a man now, Ujimitsu-san. New clothing would be very appropriate."

"I know, Toshi-san. I am thankful for all that the Lord and Lady have so much. I now wish only to prove myself worthy of them." "There will be time enough." Toshi assured the former Kakita.
 

"I will need to see about some black hair dye." Ujimitsu decided. "With the Kakita Artisan Academy here, it should not be too difficult."

Toshi nodded precisely. "Indeed. Is there anything else you want?" Ujimitsu sighed. "I am not sure. As long as I can remember, winning the Topaz Championship has been my focus. Well.. Not so much as winning, as doing so to help my family. Now that they are secure, I am not entirely sure what to do. I had never really though past this today."

 

Toshi smiled and nodded again. "Who is to say that goal must go?"

 

"What do you mean?" "You can still aid your family." "Excuse me?"

"Forgive me. I must have misunderstood you." Toshi apologized. Rather, Ujimitsu had misunderstood - the Scorpion was his family now. But it was too early to make that much a push. Handling this issue was not coming as simply to him as he thought.

"In any case, there will be time enough to find your answer." Toshi groped around mentally for something completely different to set a new channel. Then he found an amusing answer.

"I hope Zoyu-san does not win." Toshi coyly mentioned. "Lest it go to her head." Ujimitsu's brow furrowed slightly at that. "With myself gone, she, Shiba, Mirumoto, or Bayushi will likely win." Toshi shook his head, while allowing an internal smile at finding the right path to turn the conversation to easier grounds. "Not Shiba, I feel - the others are simply at the highest level. It will be Daisuke-san, Rin-san, or Zoyu-san."
 

"Shiba is the one I am most worried about, actually." "Oh?" Toshi asked in curiosity. "They do well. The no-mind technique technique they practice aids them well." "Perhaps it will be so." Toshi acknowledged "I am not after all, versed in the wisdom of the dueling schools."
 

Outside, the city was practically empty, save guards at each gate. The masses were clustered around the Academy for the tournament.

"And my training under the Kakita is almost certainly ended as well." Ujimitsu observed sadly. "Even if Toshimoko-sensei were to permit me to continue my training, I doubt Lord Dojo would approve."

 

"That only means more places to go to learn from. Seek out new teachers, of different schools." Toshi offered optimistically, to put a brighter slant on opportunities. "That will be for my Lord to decide." "Quite, but I think he will be open to the idea." After all, Scorpions would never dismiss the chance to learn the secrets of other Clans out of hand.

Ujimitsu looked, seemingly, feeling better about everything as the new reality of his situation set in. Seeking to dye his long, silver hair black is certainly no small gesture, especially so early into this unexpected transition. Excellent. Lady Kachiko would be pleased.
 

"Thank you, Toshi-san. It seems I misjudged the Scorpion."

 

Something to learn, cousin - misjudgement is just the way we like it.

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Kakita Zoyu and Mirumoto Rin, each samurai-ko from rival schools, stepped into the circle. The anticipation of the match among the crowd of spectators was palpable. They stood in silence as each bowed and then dropped back into their stances. Zoyu, calm and serene... Rin, relaxed and casual. They stand in silence, each waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

 

Then the moment arrives and in the space between heartbeats, Zoyu strikes with a flash of steel, soft and swift as the wind.

Zoyu bows towards Rin, her smile growing faintly wider, but offers no words - their swords had spoken.

 

Rin returns the bow and the massive, enthusiastic crowd shouts, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" cheering on not just the victor, but the display of Iaijutsu talent they had seen that day.

 

In the crowd, Kakita Toshimoko gives a small shrug of his shoulders and a thoughtful nod to Zoyu, displaying is ever-present casualness. Beside the Emperor, the Emerald Champion, Daimyo of the Crane Clan and Daimyo of the Doji Family, Lord Doji Satsume, offers a bow to the victorious Crane which is immediately returned with Zoyu kneeling and bowing to him. His son, Doji Hoturi, offers a bow which is then followed by various dignitaries and luminaries, including Prince Satorii, to which Zoyu continues to return the bows as she kneels.

 

Then finally the Emperor bows and waits for Zoyu to do the same before speaking.

 

"You have displayed the grace, wisdom, dedication and honor of the Crane Clan for all to see, triumphing over many earning your victory, not only today, but each day of these contests. Rise, Kakita Zoyu, my Topaz Champion." the Emperor proclaims as she stands and gestures toward the kneeling Crane who slowly rises to her feet to the applauds of the crowd, her smiles a mixture of pride, and nervousness.

 

Lord Miya Yoto steps forth, baring a golden kabuto (hull helm), the traditional trophy for winning the Topaz Championship. Lord Miya offers a warm smile to Zoyu and bows, offering the glimmering helm to her.

 

"Congradualtions, Zoyu-san." he says, honoring her with such a suffix. "You have done your Family, Clan, Lord, Emperor and the Empire proud today. Enjoy this time and always remember it." he offers, spekaking like a favorite, old uncle before bowing once more and stepping away.

 

After a few minutes of cheers and applauds the Prince steps forward.

 

"It would be my honor to host the new Topaz Champion and the rest of my fellow competitors for lunch. Let is celebrate and enjoy this time, for this afternoon we will take our final step into adulthood. The Prince says, gesturing toward the gate of the Kakita Dueling Academy and the bridge and city beyond it. He then smiles and with a pair of Seppun Miharu escorting, begins walking with the contestants back to the city. The peasants line the road and bridge, applauding and cheer not just the Topaz Champion, but all of the competitors who have all passed their gempukku, securing their place as adults.

 

Topaz Championship Final Standings

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

"You dyed your beautiful, silver hair?" Lady Kachiko asked as she entered and stepped to Ujimitsu, brushes a errant, lock of his newly black hair away from his face. She stood beside him as he sat, and she glanced over at Toshi for a silent update.

 

"Yes, My Lady, with the help of Toshi-san. I know I am Scorpion now, and only wish to show you and Lord Shoju proper respect." Ujimitsu said as Toshi gave a small smile with his eyes to Kachiko and nodded to her.

 

Kachiko gave Toshi a slight nod and turned around, taking several folded garments from the tall Scorpion accompanying her.

 

"These are a gift from my husband, and not one to be refused." Lady Kachiko said with a sly grin as she offered Ujimitsu a full, exquisite kamishimo in Scorpion red and black.

 

Ujimitsu paused for a moment, having to catch himself and the etiquette that had been drilled into him from such an early age.

 

"Thank you, My Lady, to you and your husband." Ujimitsu replied as he accepted the gift.

 

"And, if you so desire, I have brought a selection of masks. Select any one you like, or we can have one made whenever you feel ready. I know this is a time of great change for you, and I do not wish to rush you." she said as she set out several masks and veils of various shapes, designs and materials which obviously belonged to Lady Kachiko and her husband.

 

"You, Lord Shoju, Toshi-san.. you have all showed me such kindness." he said as he looked over the masks, selecting an ornate, sheer veil, opened around the mouth, that was obviously Kachiko's.

 

"You and Lord Shoju have spoken up for me with such direct, yet eloquent words. May this always remind me." Ujimitsu said with a kneeling bow as he held up the veil above his head.

 

"Of that, I have no fear. You are a virtuous man, Ujimitsu-san. We are proud to count you among our own." Lady Kachiko says as she closes Ujimitsu's hands around the veil.

 

Just then a faint, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!" could be heard.

 

"It would seem the tournament is over. You should get dressed. The Prince is hosting a lunch for all of the competitors. You should go." Kachiko suggested.

 

"And do not worry about your daisho. We will ensure it is returned." Lady Kachoko added over her shoulder as she stepped out with the tall Scorpion.

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

The city was a ghost town as the contestants walked through it to the public dojo where Prince Satorii had arranged for the lunch. The townspeople slowly trickled in, mostly following the precession until they drew near their own home or place of business. As you near the dojo the group is joined once again by Shosuro Toshi and his new clanmate, Bayushi Ujimitsu, now dressed in an exquisite full kamishimo in red and black with a scorpion motif, his obi devoid of a daisho, his hair raven black and adorning the lower half of his face is a ornate veil, leaving his mouth exposed. The Prince looks do Ujimitsu, with compassionate eyes and nods.

 

The doors to the dojo were open and inside were arranged several tables with all manner of food and tea. The silhouette of a Seppun Miharu could be seen standing on the other side of the other three doors, which were no closed, with one leading outside and the other two leading to smaller, side dojo. One of the two Seppum that walked with the group takes up a position alone by the door which the group entered through with the other tends to linger within about arms-reach of the Prince.

 

"Please enjoy. You are my guests and this is a time of celebration before the weight of our duty settles on each of our shoulders." the Prince offered, gesturing to the tables of food while in one corner, the musicians sat, nearly huddled around their instruments with their backs to the room, possibly trying to fix one of them.

 

"What's that smell?" Hitoe, the Mantis asked, sniffing at the air. "It smells like really strong incense." she added as the strong scent of incense assaulted the nose of each competitor while a faint voice yelling something in the distance could be heard.

 

Notes: Please Read
Anybody who likes may make a straight Perception roll (10's explode) if they want to try and make out what is being yelled. Otherwise, feel free to post actions, conversations, welcoming Ujimitsu back and so forth up to this point, but not beyond.

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"Petting Scorpions with a compassionate hand, only gets you stings"

 

All Rin wanted to do right now was find a quiet garden to meditate in, things were not the way she had thought they would be. In fact as far as she was concerned the only good thing coming out of this whole event was her discovery of the man who would be her emperor one day. Which made it all the more puzzling to her that his invitation to lunch with her fellow contestants did not please her. Indeed it infuriated her. Did no one else see the danger? Or was she just crazy.

 

"The sound of distant thunder, tells of present danger"

 

 

 

The city was a ghost town as the contestants walked through it to the public dojo where Prince Satorii had arranged for the lunch. The townspeople slowly trickled in, mostly following the precession until they drew near their own home or place of business. As you near the dojo the group is joined once again by Shosuro Toshi and his new clanmate, Bayushi Ujimitsu, now dressed in an exquisite full kamishimo in red and black with a scorpion motif, his obi devoid of a daisho, his hair raven black and adorning the lower half of his face is a ornate veil, leaving his mouth exposed. The Prince looks do Ujimitsu, with compassionate eyes and nods.

 

 

Rin fell to the rear of the procession as they marched toward the Dojo chosen for their luncheon. As always she managed to be a part of the group she was with yet also to stand apart from them. Like the rest she stared at the arrival of Ujimitsu, noting his hair and Kimono, his new mask, and most striking to her his lack of weapons.

 

She followed on, frustrated and entered the Dojo

 

"The most difficult act in the world is to sit still"

 



The doors to the dojo were open and inside were arranged several tables with all manner of food and tea. The silhouette of a Seppun Miharu could be seen standing on the other side of the other three doors, which were no closed, with one leading outside and the other two leading to smaller, side dojo. One of the two Seppum that walked with the group takes up a position alone by the door which the group entered through with the other tends to linger within about arms-reach of the Prince.

 

"Please enjoy. You are my guests and this is a time of celebration before the weight of our duty settles on each of our shoulders." the Prince offered, gesturing to the tables of food while in one corner, the musicians sat, nearly huddled around their instruments with their backs to the room, possibly trying to fix one of them.

 

"What's that smell?" Hitoe, the Mantis asked, sniffing at the air. "It smells like really strong incense." she added as the strong scent of incense assaulted the nose of each competitor while a faint voice yelling something in the distance could be heard.

 

 

 

Rin sniffed the air and cocked her head listening as she cracked her neck and rolled her shoulders...

 

 

"See everything"

 

Info
bold italicized entries are quote not things rin is saying - consider it her inner monologue :P

 

 

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Note For All. Please Read.
You may now post about your events and actions up to and including the Perception and Shugenja Lore checks.

 

 

 

Perception check results:

 

Zoyu & Toshi
The yelling is a male voice coming from the North and getting louder/easier to make out as it draws closer. "The bodies are gone! The bodies are gone!"

 

Shun, Akiri, Taka & Rin
The yelling is a male voice coming from the North and getting louder/easier to make out as it draws closer.

 

 

 

Shugenja Lore check results:

 

Rin, Taka
The incense is used to cover up strong odors. It is most often used by crematoriums to cover the smell of bodies if they cannot get to them immediately.

 

Akiri, Toshi, Shun
The incense is used to cover up strong odors.

 

Zoyu
That sure is some strong incense.

 

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"When the Winds were Strong during the summer," Rins frown deepens, "We could smell this smell, when the Eta could not burn the dead they burned this."

 

She steps back to the door they entered from turning only enough so she could see the guard beyond and keeping everyone else in her sight. Her left hand gripped her Saya turning it for the draw.

 

" The winds are not strong today. My Lord Prince, we must leave now here where we entered and touch nothing!"

 

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Toshi returned with Ujimitsu in tow, and had time to greet Daisuke and allow him to meet in turn with his new family member. And also, Toshi learned that Zoyu had indeed triumphed in the Iaijitsu tournament and thus been crowned Topaz Champion. This was not much a surprise, and despite the likely arrogance she would display, not really unexpected.

 

That tournament was absurdly weighted in points, giving the winner practically as much if not more points as someone who had utterly succeeded in the two days before combined. And given the Crane emphasis and mastery of Iajitsu, it had always been a Topaz Championship biased in their favor. No matter. His only concern had been the gempukku, and he had passed.

 

All Scorpions had passed.

 

It was the smell and the shouting that drew his attention. It would not do to ignore such things. .... Vanishing corpses, he thought, and with an insense that covered strong odors... like dead bodies. The closing shouts ... none of this was a coincidence.

 

Toshi gave significant looks to Daisuke and Ujimitsu, and made flicking gestures with his hands, leaving the fingertips pointing down towards the hips - and scabbards. Be on your guard, he signaled.

 

Something was very wrong.

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"Domo arigato, Miya-sama," Zoyu said as she stood up from her bow, the golden kabuto cradled in her arms. "I am honored to have been given this opportunity to show my quality and all I have learned from Toshimoko-sensei before such esteemed personages and have it recognized. This day will never be forgotten."

 

By myself and by others... All eyes were upon her and Zoyu basked in the attention. She had claimed that she would win the Topaz Championship since she had arrived in Tsuma with Noriaki's other invitees. Now they knew her boasts were not empty. Still, when her vibrant, mismatched eyes skipped over Toshimoko and his casual acknowledgment of her victory and Mamushi Mitsuko standing in the crowd, Zoyu felt a seed, a shadow, of something that may, in a certain light, could have been mistaken for doubt.

 

Though her brothers were not there, Zoyu's parents were, having traveled the few miles from the Kakita Artisan Academy by Shiro Kakita to see their only daughter compete in the iaijutsu event and for the title of Topaz Champion. Her father, Kakita Kurohu, broad shouldered and thick-armed from working the forge as a swordsmith, let a faint smile, a bare curve of his lip, break through his iron reserve at the site of his bright eyed daughter standing proud and victorious. Zoyu was a lusher, younger version of her mother Yamiko, who was elegantly slender and youthful looking. Her vibrant smile was a match for her daughter's.

 

Zoyu only had time to exchange a few words with her parents before the Prince made his gracious offer to the newest Topaz Champion and the rest of the contestants to join him for a private luncheon, and she could hardly refuse, nor did she want to, of course. She fell into step with the group, moving with sensual, regal grace.

 

"Perhaps, at a later time, Kageko-san, we can speak of the ancestors and how they guide our actions," Zoyu murmured towards the Lion Soden-Senzo. She had won, true, but luck and fortune had turned against her too much on the path, and Zoyu wished to learn how to ease Doji Taehime's anger for her prior indiscretion.

 

Just then, Ujimitsu joined them, with his new clanmate. Zoyu couldn't keep the hint of melancholy and pity out of her eyes at the sight of his black hair and black and red kamishimo. She had known him for more than half her life, yet now he seemed almost half a stranger. She summoned a smile back to her lips and nodded her head at him, gliding close.

 

"I am glad you have... recovered, so swiftly, Ujimitsu-san," Zoyu said softly, not able to bring himself to use his new clan name. "It is unfortunate that events transpired so precipitously. Just, wherever life leads you, perhaps you will finally learn to smile."

 

Stepping into the Dojo the Prince had acquired for his luncheon, Zoyu's full lips curved into a frown, her fine nose crinkling. The incense was overly thick and pungent, not pleasant. And no proper Crane musician would ever attend an event without his instruments in impeccable order or turn his back on his patron.

 

Zoyu was going to make a comment when her head whipped around at the shouts coming from the North, her long white hair flaring around in a cloud. Her brows lowered as she made out the words that were being shouted. She could feel the rising thread of tension, like the string of biwa wound too tightly. Rin mentioning what the heavy, cloying, incense was used for drew the tension even tighter.

 

"What manner of trouble is conspiring here?" Zoyu exclaimed, the back of her hand brushing the hilt of her katana, her gaze flicking between the interior of the odoriferous Dojo and out the open doorway and back.

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Clarifiation about the smell.
It seems I was not clear about the smell and the strength of it. That's my bad. It is a strong smelling incense to begin with, but it does not smell like it was burned in the room. The smell is more like it was around or passed through the room, or something in the room now was in a room with the incense burning recently and picked up the scent, or wind blew the smell in from right outside as the burning incense passed by. It is an intensely scented incense though and the smell obvious in the dojo.

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Shinjo Shun walked in with the others and continued to observe everyone that comes in. Once his clan mate arrived he would approach her and congratulate her on achieving her gempukku and wish her well and that she honor her ancestors in her future endeavors. The yelling from the north catches his attention, but Shun is unable to hear exactly what is being shouted. His attention is then drawn to the incense and his thoughts are why are they using such an incense when it meant to cover strong odors. He then turns his attention to the rest of the gathering to see if anyone else is showing any concern or at least notices the oddity of the incense or realizes what the shouting is about. 

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After being congratulated by her family and clan-mates,  Akari had gone to give her congrats to Zoyu and Rin for winning and taking second, respectively.   That was until she heard the sounds of yelling.  While her better judgement told her go find someone else and let them handle it, she crept over to listen.  And then the smell.

 

"Incense?  But for what?"

 

She looked at the others and nodded.  "Anyone recognize the incense?"

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Rin stood relaxed after her pronouncement but ready to act as she surveyed her surroundings taking careful note of her fellow competitors, lingering on the Scorpions until her eye caught Zoyu-san looking off to the corner of the dojo. As Zoyu-san turned her gaze from the corner, Rin's found what Kakita had been looking at.

 

The three musicians knelt backs to the the open room, Rin noted that these musicians had not reacted to the competitors entering the dojo seemingly intent on their unseen task, had not even turned to acknowledge their Lord Prince, Indeed they did not seem to be moving at all.

 

Rin shifts more to face the still trio taking two steps toward them and clearing her fellow competitors just in case. "You there! In the Corner!"

 

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A mild confusion sets on over the room as one by one the smell registers with each of the contestants and even the Seppun Miharu. Then the yelling can be heard outside, growing louder and louder as it draws close, coming from the North. Ears strain to make out the words as people begin to look around.

 

Rin stood relaxed after her pronouncement but ready to act as she surveyed her surroundings taking careful note of her fellow competitors, lingering on the Scorpions until her eye caught Zoyu-san looking off to the corner of the dojo. As Zoyu-san turned her gaze from the corner, Rin's found what Kakita had been looking at.

 

The three musicians knelt backs to the the open room, Rin noted that these musicians had not reacted to the competitors entering the dojo seemingly intent on their unseen task, had not even turned to acknowledge their Lord Prince, Indeed they did not seem to be moving at all.

 

Rin shifts more to face the still trio taking two steps toward them and clearing her fellow competitors just in case. "You there! In the Corner!"

 

The three musicians slowly rise to their feel in a slow and steady fashion, almost like being guided by unseen puppet strings. Then, as a group, they turn to face the room, with their own faces graced by an emotionless, white porcelain mask...

 

As they turn the three closed doors slide open and more figures, some of them partially charred and in bits of armor and clutching katana and others unarmed and in kimono, come pouring into the main doji, easily a half dozen entering through each of the 3 previously closed doors, all of them wearing the same, emotionless, white porcelain mask. The three silhouetted Seppun stand aside, letting the masked figure spill in only to turn themselves, their own faces masked as well. Each stands by the door, clutching their yari and pointing it inside the room, barring you from easy access to those exits.

 

"Zombies!" Taka and Hiruma yell at the same time. Surprisingly, Hiruma does not draw his sword and instead drops into an unarmed stance, trying to slow the entry of them through one of the doors.

 

"The Prince! Get him out!" Doji Chinatsu yells, pointing to the only opened and unguarded door.

 

The Seppun standing by the prince lowers his yari and guides Prince Satorii behind him with one arm, slowly backing toward the opened door.

 

"No!" Akodo Yokasu yells as he draws his katana.

 

"This is a trap. They mean to herd us into a killing field. Turn into the blow!" Akodo yells.

 

In a flash of steel katana and wakizashi are drawn as the masked figures pile in and move toward the contestants, seemingly trying to force you out the door.

 

It is then that one can be seen with a scroll hanging from it's neck. "The Hantei line ends now!" the scroll reads, apparently written in blood.

 

Usagi runs towards a post and leaps at it, planting a foot against the sturdy post and using it to push off with one foot to leap up and grab a cross beam easily nine feet up.

 

"Pass me the Prince!" Usagi yells, wrapping his leg around the beam and reaching down with an arm.

 

The Vipers stand side by side, backing toward the Prince, trying to form a perimeter around him with many of the other bushi.

 

"They are not agile, but  very resilient." Hiruma explains as she grasps one of the masked assailants' sword arm by the wrist with one hand while using her other forearm as a fulcrum. With the sharp yank a loud, unsettling sound of popping cartilage and snapping bone can be heard.

 

Kageko begins to cast a spell, as does Agasha and Asako while Hitoe draws her twin kama and Hiju draws his katana and back toward the Prince.

 

Otaku draws her katana and stands beside Shun, sticking by her clanmate while the three Scorpions stand together, moving to help form perimeter around the Prince though Ujimitsu is unarmed.

 

Notes. Please Read.
Armed and Armored Zombies: Less than half of the zombies are armed, most with katana and 3 with yari by the doors. Any that are armed are also armored with light armor (+5 to TN to be Hit) except the 3 with yari in heavy armor (+10 to TN to be Hit).

 

Fear: Okay. Here is your first introduction to a Fear Rating. Zombies are Fear 3.

That means everybody must make a Willpower roll vs the Fear x5 (so TN 15 in this case) or be unable to spend Void Points at all for the combat. 

 

If you fail the Willpower roll, you can default to Honor Roll.

 

Falling back on Honor is purely optional.

 

If you Succeed at the honor roll you will gain +0.1 Honor. If you Fail the Honor roll, you lose -0.5 Honor.

 

Initiative: The Zombies are not the swiftest things around. Due to the huge melee (like 20+ one either size), we will skip initiative. Everybody can go before the zombies attacks.

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Dispassionately, Toshi drew his wakizashi free in a glint of light off steel. The presence of the zombies were not a viscerally frightening thing, as they might be to someone else. Coolly, they were framed as he'd been already suspecting unspoken: enemies - physically threatening him and Prince Satori. As he joined Daisuke and Ujimitsu in their joined link in the circle - that was an added reason for calm.

 

They would meet these creatures together, as Scorpions.

 

One porcelain-faced undead inexorably advanced, gripping a katana tightly in both hands. As the blade came up, Toshi got the sense that it would simply cut and slash its way to and through any obstacles to the Hantei prince. If Toshi was so obliging, which the Shosuro courtier was not.

 

In a slick motion, Toshi cut through gaps in the armor and dead flesh.

 

OOC
Rolls made in chat.

Willpower check passed.

Attacked a katana armed zombie at TN 10, hit.
16 damage dealt. Before mods.

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Shinjo Shun was standing next to his clan mate, Otaku-san, when the gathering realized they were facing zombies and the realization of that started to set in which unsettle Shun. The both of them joined ranks with the rest of the contestants that are present. Shinjo Shun then strikes out with a well aimed strike at one of the zombies carrying a katana in its sword arm. As he strikes the zombie he speaks to his clan mate and says, "Otaku-san, we need to consolidate our efforts to be more effective against these abominations. We need to strike at the same target until they are dispatched."

 

OoC: Shun did a called shot to the sword arm of a zombie raising the TN to 20, which he hit easily. He then landed 17 points of damage, but because of their resistance to such damage the zombie only took eight points of damage. Unfortunately, Shun failed his fear test.

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The three musicians slowly rise to their feel in a slow and steady fashion, almost like being guided by unseen puppet strings. Then, as a group, they turn to face the room, with their own faces graced by an emotionless, white porcelain mask...

 

As they turn the three closed doors slide open and more figures, some of them partially charred and in bits of armor and clutching katana and others unarmed and in kimono, come pouring into the main doji, easily a half dozen entering through each of the 3 previously closed doors, all of them wearing the same, emotionless, white porcelain mask. The three silhouetted Seppun stand aside, letting the masked figure spill in only to turn themselves, their own faces masked as well. Each stands by the door, clutching their yari and pointing it inside the room, barring you from easy access to those exits.

 

 

Rin knew fear, The things she faced were not men not anymore. The tales she had  thought Taka-san had told to impress two pretty girls while they had traveled to Tsuma, that she had scoffed at, were true. Her mind reeled. Suddenly she was a child again, the storms raged outside the bare cell that was her room in Togahshi Castle, she had been there only a few weeks her father gone without even saying goodbye. She had been afraid then, alone cowering in the corner as the thunder and lightning cracked, crying. The old man who had let her stay at the Castle had come into the room and crouched down during the storm with her. He told her a story that was funny He laughed she just stared wide eyed so he told her a funnier story and laughed some more, she just watched the old man as he continued telling stories until she was laughing along with him the storm forgotten. When she crawled to the pallet she slept upon he left pausing at the door he tuned to her . "Remember Rin, Fear is afraid of laughter"

 

Men were shouting Orders a glance back showed her the circle of her companions, The Prince in center the only way to protect him was to kill these things. It started somewhere in her chest bubbling up, it was a giggle as she flowed with her first step then a laugh only she could hear as she took the second, The Long Sword Whispered from it's Saya and across the chest of the nearest creature then back again slicing the dead flesh of its sword arm and as her short sword found its place in her left hand.

 

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" 

 

Mirumoto Rin laughed out loud in the face of her fear and danced with death.

 

actions
Rolls were done in chat witnessed by Noir and others.

Fear roll failed cannot use void

damage listed here already halved

Iaijustsu draw/attack hit did 5 points to general health of target

Second attack to zombie sword arm did 10 points

Used Wasp tattoo to draw and ready short sword

 

 

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Taka was all too familiar with facing zombies and was justifiably afraid of doing so in such an unprepared setting as this. However, it did not slow his reactions. Plucking the scroll he wanted from within his scroll satchel with long familiarity he quickly cast his spell and a razor sharp obsidian headed Ono formed in his hand. Turning briefly away from the approaching zombies he throws it to Hitoe with a brief "Hitoe, Catch!" as her only warning.

 

Turning back to face the zombies he swings his satchel onto his back as he takes up an unarmed stance next to Hiruma.

 

OOC
Fear roll was failed with a 13

Tetsubo of Earth cast 2 turns early and 1 raise to change to an Ono.
But 1 free raise to cast using a scroll with an Innate spell and 1 free raise on Earth spell as a Kuni so TN only raised from 10 to 15
Rolled an 18 (witnessed by Noir)

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The dead walked in Tsuma, graceless creatures in the shape of men, that moved like marionettes with broken strings. Zoyu felt fear clawing up her throat at the sight of those emotionless, featureless porcelain masks but pushed it away, her face growing smooth and her lips curving in her habitual faint smile. She was the Topaz Champion and she had grown up around Tsuma, training at the Kakita Dueling Academy - she would not run, her honour would not allow it.

 

The Unicorn, Scorpion, and Viper were forming a protective ring around the Prince, while Rin stepped forward in a flashing flurry of steel and Yokasu and Izumi struck at the porcelain masks. They could not all fall back into the ring less they be enveloped, so Zoyu glided forward as well, the blade made specifically for her hand sliding from her saya in a musical whisper and striking one of the armoured zombies in one graceful, continuous motion.

 

The elegant, young Crane struck with perfect form, cutting through armor and pallid skin, revealing darkened flesh inside. But the cut was not deep and the zombie barely reacted to the blow. Zoyu's grin flickered into an expression of disgust at the ineffectiveness of her strike and at the sight of Sota actually daring to touch the animated dead, despite the efficacy of his own attack.

 

"Resilient indeed," Zoyu agreed grimly, dancing over to Rin to support her in her attacks, then raising her voice to be heard over the cacophony of battle. "Everyone, do as the Unicorn are doing and form groups of two and three and strike at the same opponent until it is dispatched before striking at another. If going back leads to a trap, we go forward. Strive for that one," Zoyu said, pointing at the zombie with the malignant scroll hanging from its neck. "Perhaps it leads or controls the rest of our assailants in some manner."

 

Actions
Zoyu attack one of the armed and armoured Zombies and dealt 6 damage after halving to it.

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Steel slices at dead flesh as the zombies draw near. The resilience of the undead, fortified with foul magic is enough to catch most off guard. Against mortal foes, the floor would be littered with limbs by now, but that is not nearly the case.

 

Toshi drew his wakizashi and with the skill he had demonstrated earlier in the competition, he sliced at the zombie's sword arm, cutting a deep gash. Right behind his blade came Daisuke's katana, finishing the job, causing the arm to fall to the floor, katana still clutched in it's undead hand. It is then that some of the depth of the unspeakable foulness you all face reveals itself. The hand of the severed limb releases the katana and begins to crawl forward on its own, the fingers acting like legs as it drags the rest of the arm behind it...

 

Shun and Etsuko accomplished the same results with the zombie they faced, slicing it's sword arm from it's body with Etsuko's swing finishing the job. With a meaty thud the limb hit the floor and released the katana to begin crawling towards them.

 

Rin's drew her sword and struck the zombie in a single, fluid motion, demonstrating once again, her skill with a blade. She then struck once more and  managed to sever the sword arm from the armored, katana-wielding zombie before her. It too hit the ground, released the katana and began to crawl toward her on its own as she drew her wakizashi and dropped back a full Niten stance.

 

Taka summoned forth razor sharp obsidian headed ono which formed in his hand. Without a moment of hesitation he called to Hitoe and tossed the axe toward her. With quick reflexes Hitoe dropped her twin kama and caught the axe, instantly displaying a familiarly with it with a smile on her face.

 

"Domo, Kuni-san!" she says gleefully, turning to face another zombie.

 

After seeing the limited effect of her attack, Zoyu switches modes and did her best to direct the melee, at least as far as the others would listen. She tried to get her comrades to focus their attacks and drew attention to te scroll-bearing zombie.

 

Chouko summoned forth the blessings of fire kami and bestowed them on Rin. Instantly Rin could feel the energy and invigoration of the kami's blessing, knowing that these undead abominations would indeed be tasting her steel.

 

Kageko summoned forth an Ancestor Spirit, a Crane by the looks of him, how surrouned Kageko and disappeared into her. A smile drew across her lips as she reached for her wakizashi.

 

A zombie's porcelain masked shattered as Yokasu's katana destroyed it, sending the zombie to the floor in a heap, like a marionette with it's strong cut. A black wisp rose from the zombie's exposed face and vanished...

 

Izumi's blade found a similar target, sundering another zombie's mask in twian, which caused it to collapse before her as a black wisp escaped from it's face.

 

The Vipers stood shoulder to shoulder, brother and sister swinging at the zombie with all they had, severing it in two! The waist and legs stood there, wobbling for a moment before they stepped forward once more while the upper half, now laying on the floor, began to pull itself toward them with it's arms and hands.

 

Hiju sliced at a sombie's leg while Chinatsu backed up toward Zoyu, drawing her wakizashi.

 

Ujimitsu clasped his hands together and crotched to give Prince Satorii a boost.

 

"My Lord Prince!" Ujimitsu exclaimed, drawing the Prince's attention and showing he was prepared to boost him up.

 

Prince Satorii looked up at Usagi's outstretched arm from the relative safety of the rafters, then at Ujimitsu who stood unarmed, but ready to get the Prince to safety and face the zombies unarmed if he must. He looked around him at all of the others, casting spells, forming a protective barrier around him, risking their lives against an apparent flood of the undead, all for his own safety.

 

Prince Satorii's eyes went from a mixture of fear, confusion and even panic to an expression of resolve.

 

"No." the Prince said, partially to Usagi and Ujimitsu, but more for himself.

 

"I will not hide and cower from these foul things while samurai who are not even adults yet.. samurai who I will one day lead... risk their lives for my safety without a moments hesitation. No! I will stand with them, and if the Fortunes have decided that this shall be my last day, then I shall die with a sword in my hand next to men and women of duty and honor!" the Prince proclaimed as he stepped forward and with a single motion drew his katana and slice a zombie's mask in half, sending it to the floor.

 

Immediately a yari blade stabbed right into a zombie's face, shattering the mask and causing the zombie to fall, The Seppun then swung his yari overhead and toward another zombie's neck with deft skill, sending the masked head spinning into the air with the head and body hitting the ground at the same time.

 

Usagi drops from the rafter and reaches for his sword.

 

It was then that Kaito finished his spell, summoning forth a katana made of fire. Following Taka's lead, he turned to the unarmed Ujimitsu and yelled, "Ujimitsu!" before tossing him the blade which he caught and immediately swung down to his side, like it rested in an unseen saya.

 

The remaining zombies lumber forward, claws and grasping at any flesh, kimono or steel they can reach on their way toward Prince Satorii, but they are a mere mockery of life and move with no grace, their hands easily turned away with steel or ducked entirely. Though resilient they may be, the zombies are utterly lacking in grace and agility.

 

 

Notes. Please Read.
Ono: An ono is a two-handed, Rokugani battle axe.

 

Saya: A Rokugani scabbard.

 

Prince Satorii's Proclamation: Prince Satorii's speech/proclamation is so determined and inspirational that everybody gets 1 Free Raise to add to any single roll this round in defense of the Prince in any way (i.e. combating zombies or anything else helpful).

 

Zombie Totals:

 

5 Armed & Armored zombies are now heaps of motionless dead flesh on the floor. (roughly half of the Armed & Armored zombies)

4 more Armed & Armored zombies either have non functional or missing  right arms and are therefore weaponless.

1 Armed & Armored zombie is cut in half, but still pulling it's upper half forward.

5-10 unarmed zombies remain (including the one wearing the scroll), a couple of them with some fresh cuts on them

The 3 'seppun' zombies in heavy armor with yari have been standing in the doorways and now enter the room, joining the fray.

 

So, in summation, half of the Armed & Armored zombies are dead and the other half is weaponless (with one cut in half). The remaining 5-10 unarmed zombies are largely unhurt. The 3 'seppun' zombies are moving in to engage now too.

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Shun and Etsuko both slash at the masked faces of zombies for them, shattering the masks into a rain of porcelain and sending each zombie to the ground in a heap. Akodo follows suit as do others.

 

Noting Zoyu's suggestion, Rin turns toward the scroll bearing zombie and leaps onto the table, using them as a shortcut to reach the zombie, and yet demonstrating such agility as to never even step on a single dish and endanger her footing before hopping off the table to stand before the scroll-bearer. There is a flash of steel and the zombie stands there for a moment before the knees buckle and the severed head goes rolling off of it's shoulders.

 

A moment later the rest of the zombies top and stand motionless for a moment before all falling to the ground.

 

"Huh?" the sentiment is echoed by several in the room as they look around confused.

 

"Should I destroy this?" Rin asked as she stood with the point of her wakizashi aimed at the scroll.

 

"Worry about it later! Smash the masks NOW!" Taka and Hiruma yell in near unison as they each slash at masks with katana.

 

Soon, the rest of the room follows suit, destroying masks until the floor of the dojo is littered with severed limbs, zombie corpses and porcelain shards and dust. A final crunch echoes through the room as Prince Satorii crushes the mask of the last zombie under his sandal with a forceful stomp.

 

By this time Rin had taken up a position on the other side of Prince Satorii, taking it upon herself to help guard the Prince in  the absence of more Seppun.

 

Hiruma looks up and then looks at the doors through which the zombies entered. He looks to Taka and Yokasu, motioning with his finger to each take another bushi or two and search the rest of the dojo, each taking a different door. The search is over quickly, yielding little.

 

When hearts have calmed and thoughts are not on immediately survival one could look a the scene more closely.

 

"The bodies. The armored ones must be the bandits Lord Kuni killed and the others the unfortunate ones who drank the bad sake." Doji Chinatsu said as she looked around. Indeed, the smell of incense was emanating from those zombies.

 

"With the Emperor in town, cremations would be suspended. The incense is used to cover the smell of the rotting bodies until they could be cremated." Kageko added.

 

"While the town was watching the Iaijutsu Tournament somebody animated these bodies, marched them through a veritable ghost town and set this trap, killing and reanimating the Seppun guards and musicians with their foul magic." Chinatsu supposed.

 

The sound of troops coming down the road in a run was unmistakable. One by one swords were raised once again, preparing to face a new assault as a mass of Seppun and Crane guards burst through the doorway, yari in hand. They poured into the room followed by Kakita Toshimoko and Lord Kuni Yori.

 

"My Lord Prince, are you well?" a Seppun asked as she dropped to a knee.

 

"Yes, yes. I still have Tetsuo-san." the Prince said as she gave the Seppun by his side through the melee a pat on the shoulder. "And I am surrounded by the Empire's best and brightest new samurai and the Emperor's own Topaz Champion." he added.

 

Rin points at the scroll once more. "It says the line will end My Prince, is the Emperor safe?" she asks.

 

"The Emperor is in the care of the Emerald Champion and the finest Seppun Miharu, Seppun shugenja and Daidoji guards in the Empire. He is safe." the kneeling Seppun says as he rises.

 

Toshimoko stands, looking around the dojo and thinking to himself, nodding at the sight of decapitated zombies while Lord Kuni walks in and collects a set of chopsticks from a table, using them to pick up and examine the scroll. Lord Kuni does not look pleased.

 

"Taka. Hiruma." Lord Kuni calls, bringing the two Crabs over to him.

 

"You have done well this day and brought honor to our Clan. I fear the result would have been much different had you not been here with your duty, training and expertise. Lord Hida will hear of how you did your duty." Lord Kuni said darkly, looking over the grim battlefield that was once a dojo. He then turned and addressed one of the Crane guards.

 

"These bodies must be removed before their befouled decomposition sets in. Make sure they are removed and burned immediately and not in the crematorium." he commands and guard nods and bows, not arguing with Lord Kuni's expertise.

 

"We are to bring you back to the Emperor, my Lord Prince." the Seppun states as the guard forms up.

 

"Please, do me the honor of accompanying me." Prince Satorii says to his fellow competitors.

 

"My father shall hear of your honor this day." Prince Satorii adds, motioning for you all to join him.

 

"My Lord Prince. Given the.. circumstances... I would ask to join you to ensure your safety." Lord Kuni asked to which the Prince nodded.

 

"You honor me, Lord Kuni." Prince Satorii replied as the massive retinue proceeded out, leaving quite a few Crane guards to secure the dojo and carry out Lord Kuni's instructions while Kakita Toshimoko casually strolled along with the Prince as well.

 

 

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Curious townspeople almost line the streets as they try to get an inkling as to what had happened, dropping to their knees as Prince Satorii passed only to rises again and murmur among themselves.

 

Through the streets and across the bridge the Seppun and Daidoji escorted the prince and his party, the guard constantly surveying the streets, doorsways, windows, rooftops and the river itself for any sign of danger.

 

Guards lined the gate and walls outside of the Academy and inside, flanking every doorway, and in every corner stood a Seppun or Crane guard. Finally you enter the courtyard of the Kakita Dueling Academy and then a side dojo where inside the dojo the Emperor paced with Doji Satsume speaking to several Seppun while Lord and Lady Bayushi stood on the other side flanked by the tall Scoprion and Tangen, apparently trying to calm and reassure the Emperor.

 

The Emperor stopped and looked up and toward his son, a small wave of relief washed over his face as he could see Prince Satorii was unharmed.

 

"I am well, Father." the Prince spoke with a bow to the Emperor as the Emperor walked up and hugged his son in an uncharacteristic display of emotion.

 

"And I have this miharu, Tetsuo-san, and these fine, young samurai to think for it. Without a moment of hesitation that all risked their lives against the horde of foul abominations. While you were protected by your Emerald Champion, I had your Topaz Champion by my side." the Prince said as she gestured toward his fellow competitors and the Seppun standing next to him.

 

The Emperor released the embrace and turned to the young samurai on the cusp of adulthood and gave a deep, respectful bow to them.

 

"You have my thanks.." he said, addressing the young competitors.

 

"My Emperor.." Lord Kuni spoke as he took a knee and bowed, "...I would ask for permission to investigate this on your behalf. It must only by the blessings of the Fortunes that I am here, in Tsuma, when this would happen. Certainly a divine coincidence not easily overlooked."

 

The Emperor turned to Lord Kuni, her face turning stern, maybe even angry.

 

"You were right, Lord Kuni." the Emperor said.

 

"If the Dark Lord or some peasant maho-tsukai would be so bold as to dare to strike at me or my son here, in the heart of the Empire, trying to end the Hantei line then this must be addressed." he continued, resting a hand on Prince Satorii's shoulder for a moment before taking a step towards the kneeling Lord Kuni.

 

"It is indeed fortuitous that you are here, and indeed, a coincidence that I cannot overlook. This has opened my eyes and awakened me to a problem I had underestimated. It has shown me the dire need for a position that must be filled again, and I can think of no man better suited for the job." the Emperor explained.

 

"Rise, Lord Kuni Yori, my Jade Champion." the Emperor spoke as a gasp overtook the room.

 

Doji Satsume's head snapped to look over, the surprise on the normally stoic Emerald Champion's face clearly evident.

 

Lord Kuni dropped down to both knees places his hands side by side on the floor before him and bowed so deeply as to pressed his forehead to them in the most respectful bow possible.

 

"Thank you, my Emperor. I do not deserve such and honor, but will endeavor to prove myself worthy of the trust you place in me this day." Lord Kuni pledged before lifting his head and rising to his feet with a slow, smooth, almost preternatural grace.

 

"We do not have the badges of office here, so you will journey back to the Imperial Palace with us to be properly adorned." the Emperor explained.

 

"A Jade Champion will need Jade Magistrates." Lady Kachiko said as she walked over.

 

"And this crop of young samurai has already shown their honor, valor, duty, dedication and capability in fighting the minions of the Dark Lord. They represent every Great Clan, several Minor Clans, including the Hare. They even have multiple shugenja among their number, one from the Crab and two from the Phoenix." she praised as she walked among the competitors, occasionally brushing a shoulder with her hand as the Emperor listened.

 

"They are young, still open to any path they are directed down, willing to serve eagerly with honor. I can think of no better candidates. I humbly suggest that this too, must be a blessing of the Fortunes to help combat the Dark Lord, my Emperor." She finished with a bow to the Emperor as Lord Kuni stood, watching her with narrowed eyes from behind his hood.

 

"Well put, Lady Kachiko." the Emperor replied, giving her a slight bow in return.

 

"Tonight, when you complete your gempukku, you shall be the first Jade Magistrates so that the talents you have so well demonstrated may be properly utilized." the Emperor decreed.

 

"Congratulations." said Lord Bayushi Shoju, his voice booming out from behind his ornate mask before he gave a polite bow along with his wife, which was then followed by Kakita Toshimoko, Prince Satorii and, possibly begrudgingly, by Doji Satsume.

 

"If you will excuse me, my Emperor. I have an investigation to conduct." Lord Kuni said as he bowed deeply.

 

"Of course. Go forth, my Jade Champion, and root out this evil." the Emperor commanded, dismissing Lord Kuni.

 

"Lord Kuni and the Seppun will deal with this threat for now. There are no more bodies for the dark sorcerer to defile and none better suited to the task of rooting him out. Until then, you are my guests. Your luncheon was interrupted, so you may dine in the next room." the Emperor gestures to a door before turning to speak with Lord Miya and some of his yoriki.

 

A servant moves to the door, and then kneels and opens it, beckoning you inside into the main dojo.

 

The main dojo had been converted into a dining room where the Emperor and entourage had dined, just like the dinners the Emperor hosted from the previous nights. Several tables surrounded by mats were set up around the perimeter, with a single table on a raised dais and in each corner and flanking each door stood Seppun miharu.

 

"Please relax and have something to eat." Prince Satorii asked, "We can all do with a break from the unexpected stress of the day."

 

 

Notes. Please Read.

Food is bring prepared while tea is bring brought in. Feel free to post. Though at some point a shugenja (probably Akiri) steps outside with Hiruma to ritually purify him after having touched dead flesh. It is not a spell, just a religious ritual and does not take long before they return.

 

Maho-tsukai: A practitioner of Maho. Foul sorcerer. Witch.

 

Yoriki: An aide.

Karo: The highest rank of yoriki. A Daimyo's (or other suitable ranking person's) personal aide and 'right hand man'. They speak for whom they serve and generally handle most matters that do not require the direct attention of those they serve.

 

Magistrate: Magistrates enforce the laws and carry out investigations on behalf of various authorities, such as (in order of prestige) Emerald & Jade Magistrates, Imperial Magistrates, Clan Magistrates and even City or Provincial Magistrates. The most obvious badge of office is a jitte tucked into the obi. Most carry an additional badge of some sort (usually a medallion) to identify whom they represent.

 

Jitte: A weapon similar to a sai, but with only one prong.

gallery_185_75_19739.jpg

 

The Dark Lord: Another name for Fu Leng, along with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and The Fallen Kami and several others. Even though "Fu Leng" is almost certainly not Kami's actual name, it is the one most often used (when used), and is considered taboo, bad luck and it's use is forbidden by Imperial decree (though some, like many Crabs, ignore it).

 

 

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As much as she wishes to sit near the Prince Rin takes her tea and noodles when they arrive and joins her fellow Dragon instead. Giving her a bow before she sits. "Thank you Agasha-san, your magic was a great boon, without your skill things could have ended differently. I hope to return home soon, and that if it is your destination as well that we may travel together"

 

"Oh?" Chouko looks at Rin surprised then looks toward the Prince and with a slight giggle she continued "I would have thought you liked it here.'

 

"Well enough, He is  good man. But that is not my path." Rin sighs  and casts a wistful look at the other end of the table at the Prince and the Topaz Champion. "No i must go home I have much training to do and ...these new responsibilities, I am not prepared for them."

 

"Are any of us?"

 

"Just think, Agasha-san, two days ago there was no chance of a Jade Champion being named, and today not only do we have a Champion but we are his first magistrates. Truly the Seven Fortunes have blessed us." Rin soaks  her noodles in sauce and takes a  mouthful. She gestures with her chop sticks at the assembly. " Just think, a room full of zombies and not a single scratch. Yes, truly the Fortunes smile upon us."

 

She enjoys another mouthful of noodles.

 

"The student asked - what is truth? The teacher answered - no matter what I answer it will be a lie"

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"There is little coincidence when it comes to the Emperor. He is The Son of Heaven. The Fortunes and Kami themselves favor him and seek to aid and protect the Hantei." Chouko said, sipping her tea.

 

"Resilient though they may be, zombies are slow, graceless things, and they faced at least their number in bushi and shugenja, led by the Lord Prince and the Topaz Champion. Though an unsettling scene, I had little doubt at the outcome." she said as she nodded to herself reassuringly and took another sip of her tea.

 

"I think..." Chouka said, pausing for a moment to consider her words, "..that we are more prepared than you think, Mirumoto-san. Two Crabs trained in the combating of the Shadowlands and maho, one of them a shugenja. Three Phoenix skilled in the ways of magic, two of them shugenja. A Hare, the ancient enemy of the Bloodpseakers. Three Scorpions, skilled at iaijutsu to deal with ambushes along with a courtier, a student of people and uncovering that which many seek to keep hidden. Two Unicorns, swift and strong. knowledgeable in the ways of gaijin. Two Lions, a master tactician and a sodan-senzo knowledgeable in the ways of ghosts and ancestors. Two Cranes, one skilled in iaijutsu and the Topaz Champion, the other a courtier providing a kind face and warm smile to encourage others to talk. Two Vipers, twins who fight as one. A Mantis, sailor and skilled with any weapon and fighting on any terrain. A master hunter who has directly served the Hantei for generations. And, of course, two Dragons. You and I. A prodigy of the blade and shugenja student of the elements. We are actually quite the formidable force and will only grow stronger."

 

"The Hantei and the Jade Champion will not send us out to our duties without being certain we are properly prepared. With Lord Kuni, probably the single greatest living enemy of the Shadowlands leading us, I have no doubt of our preparation. This appointment is an honor though, Mirumoto-san, even if arrived at by less than desirable circumstances. We get to bring honor to our Clan and Families while keeping the Empire safe from dark magics and foreign magics.".

 

 

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"Hmm, I must remember to seek council with you in the future. It is good to speak with a Dragon, clears the mind."

 

She continues eating stopping to pour Chouko and herself some more tea.

 

"I tattoo you know? Perhaps you would care to look at my drawings? See if something intrigues you, or if there is something special you have sought?"

 

 

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