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IC: L5R: Blood and Jade - With A Single Step

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On 2017-6-19 at 9:54 PM, Noir said:

"Did we do it? Did we win?" Kageko asked, blinking her eyes open very slowly, the Little Lion utterly exhausted.

He lets out a light bark of laughter, his own smile hinting at the tiredness they all felt.

"We did, thank the Kami. And in no small thanks to your own efforts." he looks over to where the bodies of several zombies lie mangled almost beyond belief, still gently smouldering from the encounter they had with the irate Kitsu. "Your Ancestor was truly a sight to behold. I hadn't realised quite how far the abilities of the Sodan Senzo could be pushed." He shakes his head, silently admonishing himself. "But now is hardly the time to get into it. The High Priestess wishes to accomodate us as guests in thanks and I think at this stage that we would all appreciate a chance to rest. Do you think you can stand?"

She makes an abortive effort to regain her bearings and Kaze moves to help her, arm wrapped firmly about her shoulders.

"Here. Lean on me, till you have caught your breath." She nods and lets out a quiet groan as they both stand slowly, her leaning heavily into his side, arm wrapped about his waist and held there as his other arm guided her by the shoulders. Taking a moment as Kageko slumped against him, he observes the courtyard, humming quietly to himself, the bass rumble vibrating through his chest.

"We should probably go and give our thanks to the Kenku. Both our comrades seem a bit pre-occupied and I would not wish to intrude before they are ready" Receiving a tired nod from the Lion, they make their way over to him, where he stands observing the courtyard, head cocked slightly to one side. Stopping just before it, they offer as much as of a bow as they are able.

"We wished to offer you our thanks, Kenku-sama, for answering our call this night, as well as for helping us with the Orb."

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Tsukiko stood up at her full height, which in full makeup and wardrobe as Amaterasu, made her quite the stunning vision. She looked around the courtyard from her place atop the float, her sad eyes drifted over the bodies, wounded and decaying zombies. She frowned slightly.

"This is your world. One of battles, zombies, maho, kenku and magic. Though many great stories, and tragedies, are drawn from your world and into my own, I am afraid that I do not like visiting your world, Zoyu-san." Tsukiko said as she lightly caressed her bare, painted neck with her free hand.

"I much prefer you visiting my world." she said with a faint smile on her painted lips trying to peek through.

"Perhaps... once things are returned to normal, you can do so once again..." the Feathered Scorpion said, giving Zoyu a sideways glance with a small smile as she gave Zoyu's hand a subtle squeeze.

 

 

The kenku looked at Kaze, and then Kageko, quietly for a moment, as birds are apt to do, before speaking.

"I helped fight these pathetic puppets. Lighting the 'Dragon Globe' as you call it, was your doing." the kenku replied, "...even if you had a little help." he added, smiling with his eyes.

The kenku looked down at the two decapitated moon cultists and shook his head for a moment before his head quirked to one side. With a flash of steel the kenku cut the satchel of the man open, revealing several spell scrolls and something wrapped in linen. A few flicks of the tip of his blade later, and the kenku had nimbly opened the linen wrappings to reveal an over-sized mask. The outer surface was simple, calm, serene, while the interior of the mask was carved with a twisted, maniacal face.

"That is... bad." the kenku said, looking over the mask.

"Do you feel it? The thing radiates maho... more than these trinket did." the kenku explained, motioning to a mask on one of the lifeless zombies.

Then kenku pulled the saya from it's obi, holding the top of the saya at waist height behind it's back, it brought the katana over it's head and between it's wings, and dropped it blind from shoulder height, right into the saya behind his back, which it then slipped back into it's obi.

"I do not know what that thing is, but be careful with it." the kenku cautioned.

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Rin rose from her position and faced her Prince, "We are but servants of Rukogan, my Prince, doing our duty. But your words brighten our hearts and lift the spirit. We, all of us together," she indicates the prince and his men as well as the samurai who help as best they could, " have done much tonight and with the Ancestor's help averted a greater tragedy than what lies around us from happening." She looks around at the carnage and at her friends.

"If you have no orders for us at this time with your leave, I will convey your words to my fellow magistrates."  keeping her eyes somewhat downcast she manages to give the Princes a small smile.

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Prince Satorii nodded to Rin.

"Of course. Considering the events of this day, I think it only fitting that I begin it with prayers, here at the Temple, to Amaterasu myself, while my miharuassist the Order. Things here are well in hand. See to your friends." the Prince said, making it clear that he would be at the Temple for some time himself.

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He lets out a huff of laughter, while a small smile makng its way over Kageko's features as the Kenku quips about help, nodding easily. As the Kenku becomes focused on the corpses of the Moon Cultist, they look on with curiosity. When then Mask is eventually revealed, Kaze can't help the small shudder that climbs it's way up his spine. Even just sitting there, the mask left him feeling uneasy, something ominous about the way the light played over the empty eye sockets.

"It certainly does not put one at ease."

The show the Kenku makes of sheathing his blade manages to pull a smile of appreciation onto the Cranes face, though he still looks troubled, the warning echoing through his head. The fact the Kenku itself had not smashed the mask himself was telling, as well as the implication that they could not, or perhaps would not want to see it destroyed just yet.

"Aye. The utmost of care will be taken with it, for however long before we can see it disposed of correctly. For now, though....."

He draws his own saya, using the tip to flip the fabric back over it so that the mask was once again covered. Nestling his own sword back into it's customary place at his side.

"I'll see to it that the other magistrates and the Shugenja know about it and pass on your warning." He offers another bow. "On less grim things, however, might I be allowed to know the name of the one who came to our aid?"

 

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"The one? I saw several of us. I did not get a very good look, but I believe that was was Seiobo helping you. I guess that explains why I have not seen her in some time. Same goes for Tendo. I had not seen him in a thousand years or so, but it was good to seem him again, and back to his old self though, even if only for a few minutes." the Kenku explained.

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Kaze let's out a brief chuckle. He supposed that was his own fault.

"Then I am glad that you were able to see them once again, after all this time. And thank you for sharing their names with us. I'm afraid I was slightly pre-occupied and did not get the chance to ask her myself. By what name should I call you, though?"

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The kenku nodded.

"Ah. I am called Tisuri. I already know all of your names. I am sure that you all have many questions. I have many answers. Maybe some will match." the kenku said with a small bow...

 

A short time later...

Rin, Zoyu, Kaze and Kageko sat inside a side room of the Temple of Amaterasu along with Tisuri who, by this time, had taken the form of an old, wandering ronin. The rest of Tsukiko's Shosuro Acting Troupe and gathered together, collecting her and thanking Zoyu and the other magistrates when they could.

 The Priestesses brought in food, water and tea and did their best to see to the needs of the Magistrates. The food was simple, but of high quality and well prepared, which seemed to suit the very tired and hungry Magistrates well enough.

"I had been watching you all night, and was beginning to wonder if you would figure out what was happening and make it here in time." Tisuri said calmly as he took a sip of tea.

"You were watching us all night? If you know how dire things were, and the consequences if we failed, then why didn't you assist us earlier?" Kageko asked.

"Because it was not my place to meddle in the affairs of man. What use is a consequence if there is no danger of it coming about? You lives your lives, make decisions and deal with consequences, for good or ill." the kenku in disguise said with a shrug.

"Besides, you handled it well enough, in the end." he added.

"Tisuri-sama," Kageko said, looking somewhat confused, "we are all grateful for your aid, but I am forced to wonder what prompted you finally give it then?"

"I think you already know the answer, but the answer is raising even more questions." Tisuri replied.

"My spell?" Kageko asked.

"Is that a question or an answer?" the kenku responded.

"It had to be my spell, but..." Kageko said, pausing for a moment, "...I pushed myself and my magic, and I sent a plea of aid to our ancestors."

"That is not entirely accurate." Tisuri pointed out.

"I sent out a plea for aid, but... instead of calling forth any specific ancestors... I sent it back through our blood... to our ancestors." Kageko slowly remembered.

"Yes. And you all have some... unusual blood. You are each human, but also more than that. Such as yourself, Kitsu-san. You carry the blood of Tendo, the Kitsu, and to a greater degree than I have seen in many, many years. That is why he answered your call." Tisuri commented and took another sip of tea.

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Kaze sat quietly, listening to the back and forth between Kageko and the now disguised Kenku, steadily making his way through the food that had been laid out in front of him. He hadn't quite realised how hungry he had been, but barring the quick bite or two they had at dinner, and on the barge, the last time any of them had eaten properly had been lunch the day before. Bad enough, but with  running all over the city all night, he suddenly found himself famished.

Pausing at the Kenku admitting that it had followed them all night, he couldn't help but feel a bit conflicted. He could understand the Kenku's perspective, even if it didn't necessarily please him. A Samurai's actions were always their own. Even when following their Lords orders and fulfilling their duty, it remained the choice of the Samurai to do so. Because of this, the consequences of their actions were always theirs to bear, whatever may come and that gave them a weight and significance. If he had just negated the consequences of their actions, it would have been like saying "Your decisions do not matter. There is no significance to them.". He couldn't articulate it any better than that, even to himself, but the thought of being the cause of an entire cities destruction and possibly worse sent a small shiver up his spine. Consequences indeed.  Mentally shaking his head he returned his focus to the table.

He gently sets his chopsticks down across his bowl, sitting back fully on his knees as Kageko worked through what had happened. 

"So rather than writing a letter inviting one, you lit a beacon calling to all?"

Kageko pauses for moment

"It's a... crude Analogy, but for what it was, is fairly accurate" he nods in response, though a second later he cocks his head in thought, eyes drifting over to Rin and Zoyui briefly wondering.

"Though I must offer my apologies. Despite the aid they rendered, I must have missed Zoyu-san's and Rin-san's Ancestors in the chaos of the courtyard." he frowns briefly "You said that you had been following us all night. Why did you decide then and there to help us, after everything else that had happened this evening? I'll admit I'm a bit confused, though I am thankful for your intercession."

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"I would have thought it was obvious by now." Tisuri commented as he rubbed his chin and the thin beard resting there.

"As Kitsu-san said, her spelled was a plea for aid back through your blood. It was not maho, either. The blood was just the conduit used to find aid, not the source of power for the spell. You all received aid, but that was brought to you through your blood, in one form or another." he clarified.

"For Rin-san, it was not the spirit of Mirumoto himself that aided her. He was generally more of a 'Do it yourself." kind of man. Not mean or cold, he just valued self-reliance. To be fair, he has shown his favor from time to time, but this dawn it was not the blood of Mirumoto that answered the call..." Tisuri said, pausing for a moment to look over each of the magistrates, "...it was the blood of a Dragon."

"I do not mean the blood of a simple Dragon Clan samurai either." he clarified, "I mean the blood of an actual Dragon courses through her veins."

"That Dragon may not have made itself known to the rest of you, but it sent aid to Rin-san, even though she could not fully understand or comprehend it. It was aid she put to good use as well, otherwise I doubt you could have found the moon cultists in time." Tisuri said as he looked at Rin, considering her for a moment.

Tisuri sat back on his feet, his body relaxing a bit as he let the magistrates process that for a moment with a small, bemused smile. He picked up a bowl of rice and collected a pair of chopsticks, feeding himself a bite or two of rice before he continued.

"I personally helped because of her spell, and the incessant pleading from it. I could hear it. I am not the spirit of some long-dead ancestor, but I am a living ancestor, even if not human." the kenku explained as various degrees of both realization and confusion set in on the various Magistrates.

Tisuri look to Zoyu and reached out, lifting her lock of black hair.

"Why do you think this lone lock of hair is black? Or why your eyes are mismatched? Or why the blade comes so naturally to you?" he asked Zoyu and released the lock of hair. 

"It is the blood of a shapeshifter making itself known after generations. The blood of a kenku, to be precise." he pointed out as he sat down the bowl of rice.

"So, because of the spell asking for my aid, I helped. In the end though, success or failure was up to you all, as was the consequences of your decisions. I could have protected the actress easily, or flown the jade sun up to the Dragon Globe, or done any number of things, but what would that have done for you? The struggle is how you push yourself, how you grow and learn about yourself. And I think some of you surprised even yourselves with the decisions you made."

"Some have asked, 'What would you do if you knew you could not fail?'. Though I do not know what one would do, I do know that the end result would be mediocre. It is the consequences of your decisions, of failure, that pushes you, motivates you. If you knew you could not fail, that your decisions held no consequences, then what inspiration and motivation would you have? Take kenjutsu for example. If you knew you could not fail, or that your choices in a fight or duel had no consequences, then you would get lazy and sloppy. It is the danger, the consequences of each choice you make that keeps you sharp and pushes you." Tisuri explained.

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Kaze blinked at that. That was..... well. Wow. He was somewhat glad he wasn't eating right then, as he had the distinct feeling that he would have ended up choking on something.

"A Dragon, a Kenku and a Kitsu, huh? I feel distinctly under dressed now."

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Before the meal Rin had approached the Priestess alone and in private. "We have reason to rejoice but there is much suffering still," She hands the priestess a wrapped cloth containing all of the healing potions she had made during her voyage and while having her tattoo made, also wrapped is the potion from the prince. "It will not go far i am afraid but those who are hurt most and will otherwise perish especially any children. Please see that it is used well."

She bowed to the priestess and joined the rest of her companions.

Later as food and water filled the belly, Rin was weary like she had never been before. She listened but did not join in in the conversation only answering if spoken to directly and then only with a few words which probably sounded more like grunts. She was not angry  but a sense of melancholy had come over her. Even the words of Tisuri, the Kenku, as fantastic as the were seemed not to spark her from her own thoughts. But she did hear them and they joined the rest of the thoughts circling inside her head.

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Kaze shot Rin a concerned glance. While far from Gregarious usually, she did at least tend to be slightly more animated. Her expression stated unequivocally that she didn't want to talk about it. Perhaps it was fading battle rush, or maybe just how the evening had progressed. Whatever it was, though, it was clearly troubling her. Perhaps she would feel better after she had rested, or maybe even just when she had time to withdraw with the other magistrates. Either way, he would not be dragging her into conversation when there were strangers nearby to overhear it. Reluctantly, he move on, his own thoughts churning.

Facing the Kenku once more, he spends a moment just watching the disguised swordsman. Even in his human guise, he exhibited some of the habits of birds. That cock of the head as something interesting caught his eye. That look in his eyes as he led them to their own answers, only occasionally actually answering something himself. He found himself apprehensive of the next question he knew he had to ask. He had said they, all of them sitting there, had unusual blood. And given the exacting skill the bird had wielded his words with, as precise as any sword, that meant that he too had had help beyond the norm. But Dragons, Kenku and Kitsu. He was apprehensive of having the attention of something like that resting on his shoulders.Different to the thought of failing the city over the course of the night, it still left his stomach almost tying itself in knots.

 It didn't help that Seiobo, while she had been present had passed so utterly for human that he never would have anticapated that she was anything but. Even now he found it hard to believe. But then, maybe she wasn't.... maybe she.... there was no point in mentally chewing it over any more. The answers were right in front of him, only his own apprehension stopping him from finding out if she was just human, if she was a servant of something else, or if she herself was something else.

A lull in the conversation provides him with his opportunity and he takes a quiet breath to fortify himself, smoothly exhaling and finding his centre.

"Tisuri-sama. You said that, much like Tendo-sama, you knew Seiobo-sama, but that you had not seen her for some time. What can you tell me about her? Her name is, to my regret, not one I am familiar with, either among the more well known among the clan, or among my own families more immediate ones." And there. it was asked. Now he was just unsure what he wanted the answer to be.

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On 6/23/2017 at 2:17 PM, Noir said:

"This is your world. One of battles, zombies, maho, kenku and magic. Though many great stories, and tragedies, are drawn from your world and into my own, I am afraid that I do not like visiting your world, Zoyu-san." Tsukiko said as she lightly caressed her bare, painted neck with her free hand.

"I much prefer you visiting my world." she said with a faint smile on her painted lips trying to peek through.

"Perhaps... once things are returned to normal, you can do so once again..." the Feathered Scorpion said, giving Zoyu a sideways glance with a small smile as she gave Zoyu's hand a subtle squeeze.

Zoyu circumspectly squeezed Tsukiko's hand in return. "My blade may belong in one world, and indeed, longs for it, Tsukiko-san," Zoyu murmured, her habitual serene smile on her lips, but her eyes were bright with deeper emotion. "But I very much enjoy visiting your world, and I have every intention of doing so again and again." She glanced up at the much taller woman, her smile widening just a trifle more. "Why else defend the Empire if not to do so?"

At dinner, though her graces and manners were in evidence, Zoyu's mind was more on Tsukiko than those on hand. She was largely silent, only replying instinctively as politeness dictated. But then Tisuri began speaking about her and Rin's heritage and suddenly as that, Zoyu was in the here and now, thoughts of Tsukiko flown out of her head.

19 hours ago, Noir said:

Tisuri look to Zoyu and reached out, lifting her lock of black hair.

"Why do you think this lone lock of hair is black? Or why your eyes are mismatched? Or why the blade comes so naturally to you?" he asked Zoyu and released the lock of hair. 

"It is the blood of a shapeshifter making itself known after generations. The blood of a kenku, to be precise." he pointed out as he sat down the bowl of rice.

"My skill with the blades comes of dedication and being of the Kakita," Zoyu replied loftily, but there was the slightest hint of uncertainty in her faint frown as she fingered her anomalous lock of hair. "As for my... eccentricities of hair and eye, I had always believed were markings of glories or tragedies on my previous journeys on the wheel of life. But you claim it is the blood of the honoured Kenku flying in that of the Crane? Your blood?"

Tisuri in his human guise nodded in a way that was both boastful and bird-like. "It is so."

"Hmm." Zoyu lips formed a contemplative moue, considering her shared heritage of Crane and Crow as Kakita Kaze asked about one Seiobo-sama that she was not familiar with. With such legacy, perhaps Tisuri-sama would be willing to share the mythical and mystical arts of the blade for which the Kenku were renowned...

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1 hour ago, Kakita Zoyu said:

"My skill with the blades comes of dedication and being of the Kakita," Zoyu replied loftily, but there was the slightest hint of uncertainty in her faint frown as she fingered her anomalous lock of hair. "As for my... eccentricities of hair and eye, I had always believed were markings of glories or tragedies on my previous journeys on the wheel of life. But you claim it is the blood of the honoured Kenku flying in that of the Crane? Your blood?"

Tisuri in his human guise nodded in a way that was both boastful and bird-like. "It is so."

"Hmm." Zoyu lips formed a contemplative moue, considering her shared heritage of Crane and Crow as Kakita Kaze asked about one Seiobo-sama that she was not familiar with. With such legacy, perhaps Tisuri-sama would be willing to share the mythical and mystical arts of the blade for which the Kenku were renowned...

Rin burst out laughing almost rolling the laughs coming from deep in her belly from her soul.

"That Zoyu-san explains oh so much in so few words. I applaud you, Tisuri-sama, on your on your brilliant brevity." She bows to the Kenku deeply and reverently.

The she fills her cup and everyone else cup with saki, the first she has touch since their own interrupted party what seem like a lifetime ago.

Lifting the cup she looks at all of those gathered.

"We have done our duty this night and some would say more than our duty. But I say not enough.

When the rain falls from heaven, many such as I and those who are practical, do not hide from it, do not rush in doors to avoid what is only water. So what if we get wet. We will dry. And if it is hot then the rain will cool us and is welcome at least by me.

But when the typhoon blows and the rain becomes flood and the wind tears at the you... even the practical seek shelter in the strongest house.

Last night it rained, but the thunder from that rain speaks of a storm which is just over the horizon, a typhoon the likes of which none of us here, save perhaps one," Rin bows her head indicating Tisuri, "have ever seen or imagined.

My duty is clear, our duty is clear."

Rin drains her cup.

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Tisuri's attention shifted from Kaze, then the Zoyu and back to Kaze. As he was about speak, Rin's outburst of laughter caught his attention. He watch Rin calmly, listening to her observations.

"Not an inelegant analogy." Tisuri commented to Rin with a nod.

Tisuri looked back to Zoyu and nodded.

"You are dedicated and you do train, there is no doubt, but even you know that there is more to it. You do not realize it, but you have even, intuitively, nearly recreated one of the first techniques of the kenku swordsmanship." he said to Zoyu with a faint smile on his lips.

"And you spar, toe to toe, with one favored by Mirumoto himself." he added.

The kenku then turned his attention back to Kaze and shook his head, a gesture more to himself than anything else.

"I doubt you would have heard of her. Your ancestor, Kakita Eji, was visiting the lands of the Phoenix Clan for winter court, and became lost in the woods during a sport hunting outing. Deep in the forest he came upon a beautiful woman who fed him rice, sheltered him and led him back out. He was so enraptured with the woman that he asked her to return with him, and she did, for she had become enraptured with him as well. 

Her clothing was a bit different and she spoke Rokugani with a strange accent at first, she was beautiful and elegant, Her smile and laughter warmed his heart and soon the pair was deeply in love. He asked her to marry him, and she agreed, which was something that was not well received by many in his family. She lacked noble heritage and seemed to be gaijin, or at least partly so, but Eji would hear none of it, so they were wed and in time she bared him many children.

You see, Eji's family was at least partially right about Seiobo. She came from the north, well past the mountains, from a place called Qin. Her curiosity led her to Rokugan, where she met Eji and fell in love. But she was not exactly a gaijin. Seiobo was a Kitsune. She loved Eji so much that she remained in human form. I watched her grow old with Eji, their love never fading. Her love for Eji was so strong that she gave up her immortality for him. Time finally caught up with her though, and she passed on.

Though she was a loving and dedicated wife and mother, you would not hear of her voluntarily though, for as far as the family was concerned, she was Eji's 'gaijin mistake'. The rest of the family, at the time, did their best to limit the spread of her blood, but it is clear that they were not entirely successful, for here you are today. She died in mortal form, but her spirit lives on, even if she was largely or possibly entirely forgotten, watching over her descendants.

You see, we Kenku understand magic, but the Kitsune, they are magic. They know the primordial tongue of the Heavens... and The Words spoken at the Time of Creation. That is why you were able to do what you did. She showed you how, but in the end you still had to do it yourself." Tisuri explained to Kaze

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Kaze paused after Rin's little speech and couldn't help but wince internally. He supposed now might be as good a time as any to bring up the Mask and his own thoughts on the matter. If Zoyu's response earlier was any indication, she would likely not be pleased with some of the conclusions he had come to. But still, it would keep a few minutes more as Tisuri began his own story.

It was the sort of story that the courts lived for. He could only imagine what the gossip would have been like at the time it was actually happening, lips curving into a slight sneer before he schooled his expression once more. His own distaste for the Courtiers power games coming to the fore. They had their place, to be sure, but it didn't mean that he enjoyed it, and wouldn't avoid it like the plague if he could manage it. But he was getting distracted. For Eiji to have not only met an apparent Gaijin woman, but to go so far as to bring her to your home, let alone marry her. That would have sent the entire hive into an uproar. Both within the clan and beyond.

There was a certain respect he could have for something like that, to go so blatantly against the clans wishes took some steel in ones spine. He could feel a certain respect for that. Though he still felt slightly conflicted about it. He wondered what he would do in the same situation? Something to be thought on later. No point in borrowing problems where they did not currently exist. Either way, he could admit to having some pride in being able to call both of them ancestors. He would need to take some time over the next while to properly thank them. The festival had been unfortunately interrupted, so he hadn't gotten the chance. Usually, no aid was required in offering thanks to ones ancestors, but perhaps Kageko would be willing to help out once she was rested. HE wanted to do something a little more official to demonstrate his thanks.

"Well, I find myself somewhat thankful that they were less than successful, all things considered." he silently toasted Tisuri, a wry smile adorning his features "But thank you for sharing with me. Given what you've said, I doubt I would have found the truth anywhere else." his smile fades "Though this talk of Magic leaves me with much to think on." He could still envisage the word after uncovering it in the courtyard. It had felt clearing the clay from a Katana after it's quenching. So much of the blade covered by the mask, but once removed, the patterns practically dancing along it's length. It sat even now in the back of his head with a strange, almost stark clarity. With some regret, he turned his thoughts to other matters. There would be time enough to contemplate his own being later.

"Thank you again, Tisuri-sama. AS I've said, you've given me much to contemplate, but for now there is still much to talk about." his head turns slightly, focus now on Rin. "I cann't help but feel that you may be more right than you know, Rin-san. While you and Zoyu-san were otherwise engaged, we came across something somewhat alarming." he reaches down to the satchel that has been sitting beside him up till now. Reaching inside, he sets out a small pile of scrolls and an object slightly larger than a dinner plate, wrapped in cloth. He lays a hand over the scrolls

"The Scrolls that the Moon cultists leader was carrying on him. They're done in a cypher, but Kageko-san said she recognises it enough to, while unable to translate, is at least able to say where it is from. Apparently it is the same style of Cypher that is used by the Isawa school of Shugenja, within the Phoenix. Not surprising, but it does confirm Yasuki-san's ledger, which claimed to have sold the Masks to one Isawa Orimono. In and of itself, that's not particularly worrisome, if they were planning to enchant them upon arrival. The issue occurs when the caravan that was carrying the Masks was raided before it could arrive and was taken into the Custody of the Scorpion we have all had such pleasure dealing with tonight.

Given the lengths that Orimono was willing to go to to get the masks back, we can probably safely assume that they were enchanted already. Which means that someone, somewhere, is set up with enough capabilities that they were able to send entire crates of the wretched things. And Kami only knows how far that rot extends.

On top of this, we have the Scorpion resorting to crudely replicated Maho in order to Summon an Oni in order to hunt down and retrieve the masks that the Moon cultists were demanding back from them." he takes a sip from his now cooling tea, grimacing in distaste. "So, with all of these things, I am afraid that I must be once again be the bearer of ill tidings, Zoyu-san. But our work here may not be nearly as done as we may wish. Arguably the easiest, we will need to talk to the Scorpion and find out where they acquired that Maho from and follow up there as much as possible. Secondly: Orimono was an Isawa. Just by dint of his family, his connections will need to be looked into, to see if he might have spread his corruption among the clan. Third: the Caravan that was originally holding the masks. If this is to be pursued, we need to know who it was that owned it and sent it. The Yasuki at least seem guilty of nothing more than being a Merchant, thought she seems to have paid the price, if my suspicions of the identity of the corpse in the moon cultist house is correct. This seems to be much more than a single isolated incident, this looks coordinated beyond what a single cell would be capable of.

This being said, there is one thing of a more immediate concern." he pushes the wrapped package closer to the centre of the table, and gingerly flips open the wrapping to reveal the mask

On 6/23/2017 at 7:17 PM, Noir said:

The outer surface was simple, calm, serene, while the interior of the mask was carved with a twisted, maniacal face.

"It was among Orimono's scrolls. Tisuri-sama didn't smash it and I was somewhat apprehensive of trying to destroy it myself in the face of that, not knowing what it was or how it was activated. For all I know, it could be holding something horrible inside and destroying it would only send us chasing yet another monster through the city. I was hoping the Shugenja could take a proper look at it, and at least see if they can figure out if it can safely be destroyed. Something needs to be done about it, though. It radiates Maho and I desire it gone as soon as possible."

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Kageko listened to Kaze, her brow furrowing slightly as she considered some of the things he brought up. As he spoke the Little Lion reached into her satchel and fished out the painted, zombie making mask they recovered in the hidey hole in Safusa's shop. She examined it and sat it down next to the larger masked taken off of Isawa Orimono. The bigger mask totally dwarfed the painted mask. With the smaller mask being meant for humans, the bigger masked looked like it was meant for an ogre. 

"According to the Shosuro at the warehouse, the raided caravan was coming from the lands of my Clan. We must speak to them to see if they have further information, but even if that yields nothing, we can discern some things now." Kageko said, picking up the smaller zombie mask.

"I am not expert, I would certainly defer to Zoyu-san on this, but according to Safusa these masks are exquisite, worth ten times the going the price. He stated that after negotiation, he sold them to Yasuki Nobuko for three times the going rate and she resold them for five times the going rate to the, unbeknownst to her, Moon Cultists." she recalled aloud.

"So whoever made the masks did not just make simple masks, but possessed the skill to make these exceptional works of art. Or, I suppose, at least had a way to purchase them. I am sure of the exact creation process and as to when they are enchanted. It might be something that takes place from the beginning of manufacture, or could be an enchantment that could be placed on a pre-existing mask. That means that the point of origin is either a village of exceptional artisans, or one that has access to the products of such."

"What troubles me, is has Kaze has pointed out, that whoever made these had the resources to produce dozens of these masks. Not only that, but this was clearly the part of a well planned, organized plot extending well beyond these city walls. Were it not for the the blessings of the fortunes that we were here, I have no doubt their plot would have been successful. Even the dying Cultists seemed to indicate that this plan or their cult, spreads much further than we anticipated. It could be the ravings of dying mad men, but the evidence tends to support their claim."

Kageko pulled out her jade orb, holding it in one hand as she picked up the large mask with the other.

"This.. I am not sure what to make of this. Bot of the masks, the large and small, seem to radiate maho. I certainly hope this is not some experimental 'ogre zombie' mask. The implications of that are..." Kageko shuddered.

"I think we need to do some research on this and see if there are any mentions of similar large masks in the writings of the Kuni, Asako or the Jade Magistrates' archives. Akari-san can identify the scrolls and read them in the Isawa cipher and might know something of Isawa Orimono. The name does not stand out to me, unfortunately."

"I would suggest that we speak to the Shosuruo with haste. If what the dying cultists said was true, they may have a way to get to them, even in the prison. The same goes for the house in which they made the zombies. There might be a clue as to the masks origin there."

"The fact that the Shosuro got his hands on a bad copy of a maho spells is disturbing as well. Hopefully he can shed light on it." she sighed, clearly exhausted even moreso than her companions after he last spell of the night.

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Rin turned her attention back to her meal after her somewhat rude outburst. Ahh, she thought to her self, we are friends and they know me by now.

She filled her belly with fish and rice and drank much water to quench the thirst of running all over the city all night.

Kaze began his report, Rin listened, thinking that this Kakita will make a very good Magistrate, he is already a good policeman and investigator, much better than the rest of them anyway.

Then he came to the mask

Rin scowled as the evil thing was placed upon the table but still she listened and made note of the size of the thing when Kageko picke it up and compared it to one of the other masks.

She pushed her empty bowl to the side and drained her cup one last time. Standing Rin reached out and took the mask from Kageko then re-wrapped it in the cloth it had been contained within.

“We all know the way the Jorōgumo entices and entraps. The web is sticky and catches many an unwary meal. Seppun Kyuichi should hear our report and this should be sent to him as soon as possible. The Empire is in danger and that danger I think is as much from within as without.

Kaze-san, it was fortuitous that you and Kageko-san met up, you have proven yourself a very talented and welcome addition to our circle.” She gives the male Kakita a bow of respect

Then she sits back down placing the re-wrapped mask back on the table

“Tomorrow we should see to returning the sword to it's owners, at least Doji Isamu's spirit can rest knowing his blade avenged him.

And last, the question we need to answer for ourselves. Do we go back to Tsuma, all of us together and report, or do some of us stay here and see if we can discover a trail to follow so we can sweep the web of deceit and evil from our home.”

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Zoyu's eyes had narrowed at Rin's laughing comment, but she had pursed her lips to consider the Kenku's words. She might not have been the natural swordswoman Rin was, a scion of Mirumoto himself, but pride and dedication had narrowed the disparity and she was clearly the better duelist. And of course, Kakita's style of the blade was vastly more elegant than Mirumoto's Niten.

Musing on her ancestry and what it may mean in regards to her skill with the blade, and spending time with Tsukiko while in Ryoko Owari, Zoyu only paid half a mind to Tisuri as he told the story of Kakita Eji. But she focused more when Kaze began to speak of their night and the ramifications, then Kageko and Rin mentioned what still had to be done. Zoyu's face darkened slightly, irritable that their wretched night in Ryoko Owari would never seemingly end.

Zoyu nodded agreement with Kageko and Rin, her lock of sable hair falling forward to partially obscure her green eye. "There are many paths to follow in tracking down the machinations threatening the Empire. Fortunately, there are many of us as well," she suggested. "Isawa Akari and another could go to the lands of the Pheonix to investigate Isawa Orimono and check the archives of the Asako, knowing the cipher, as Kageko-san mentioned. Perhaps Kuni Taka could take our findings to Tsuma before continuing on to research among the Kuni."

An affronted frown crossed the Crane's face before she grudgingly added. "And perhaps he could pay a visit to the Kakita Artisan Academy, to see if any there recognize the artistry of the masks. I can provide you with a letter of introduction." The specter of Yajinden hung over all Crane, especially among the Asahina, and Zoyu did not like even contemplating that one of her clan could so befoul their honour and betray the empire in such a way. "I doubt it could be a Crane artisan, but they may know of any who approach their skill."

Zoyu finished her cup of sake, then poured herself a cup of water and refilling those of any who desired it. "Then the rest of us, as Kageko-san and Rin-san have said can return the blade, question the Shoshuro, then follow what trails that may develop from here."

 

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Kaze nodded his acquiescence to the other Crane,

"That seems prudent, Zoyu-san. The Caravan that the masks were travelling on, from what I recall, was ambushed on the border between the Lion and the Scorpion. I have been thinking, and while there is nothing to intimate it to be the case, Lion lands would be rather more ideal for our Quarry than the surrounding territories. We all know that the Lion tend to favour a more martial approach to Bushido and life and, while not shirking the responsibilities they hold to the Emperor, of all the clans in Northern Rokugan, they would be the easiest to hide amongst. With their dearth of Shugenja, few enough among them might recognise the masks for what they are at a brief glance. Of course, this is, for now, just a suspicion. 

One final suggestion, though. Shosuro-san and the others are already sitting on top of the Maho-Tsukai Scorpion. Orimono's house currently has no-one. Of all our leads, I feel that has the highest chance of going cold, should it be left before investigation. If Orimono's.... acquaintances get to it before we do. I merely present this to you that you might consider it before making a final decision. His house may prove lucrative in terms of information for the hunt."

He takes a final sip of his drink, setting it down with a small clink and sits attentive. Ready to move, whatever the magistrates decide.

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As they planned their day, the other Magistrates who had escorted to the Shosuro to the prion, to track down their companions at the Temple. They all listened closely to the new information and Akari examined the scrolls found on Isawa Orimono before setting them aside.

"These three scrolls are spells. Earthquake and Fires From Within." she motioned toward two of the scrolls. 

"This last scroll is maho. Summon Oni, to be specific, likely copied by Orimono into the Isawa cipher so as to conceal it from inspection by all but a Isawa shugenja. I find it simultaneously clever and offensive. But that would seem to describe these Moon Cultists in general."

I vaguely know of Isawa Orimono as well. He attended the Isawa shugenja school, but was dismissed after several years. Though he had the gift for speaking with the kami, he never as very good at it, otherwise his Earthquake spell would have toppled the Dragon Globe much sooner." she explained.

"I will return home and seek out the Kuni Witch-Hunters. I think we will benefit from myself training with them. I will also ask them about the masks, both large and small, as well as the Moon Cult. They may have learned things in their work that could seem inconsequential until looked at with the proper eye, like we have, or are developing, now." Taka stated.

"Akari and Toshi can return to Tsuma with the masks and Okimoto-san as escort. They can enlist the aid of others if needed. I do suggest we store the masks with some jade though, as a precaution." the Crab shugenja added.

"We tried to interrogate the prisoners. The oni-summoner... it seems the poor version of the spell has damaged his mind. Interrogating is virtually impossible, as is basic conversation at this point. All his brother knew was that the scroll was found among some other ill-gotten merchandise so time ago. And due to how they acquired it, they could not exactly go to the Thunder Guard with it. I they should have destroyed it the moment they realized what the scroll was though. I will continue to press them for information wile Akari and Okimoto-san prepare for our departure. I doubt anything more will be gained though." Toshi said as he tapped the chin of his mask.

"That just leaves the house to look over for clues." Kageko noted with a tired nod.

"I did not wish to allow any more time for other possible Moon Cultists to clean up their tracks, so I placed the house under the protect of the Thunder Guard. I examined the interior more closely myself, but it was rather sparse. I had the eta collect the body of Yauski Nobuko and the moon cultists, but other than that, it is undisturbed. I also made sure the Fire Eaters, the Kaijinin (Firemen) of the Fisherman's Quarter are watching the home closely, in case somebody had the idea of using fire to destroy it and any leads within. You can examine it at your leisure. Perhaps after a short rest." Yuzo said. 

 

Later...

Rounding the corner on the street, Orimono's house comes into view. Spread out in a perimeter around it stand a half dozen Thunder Guard, each in heavy armor and baring a naginata. Posted on the door and walls of the home is a proclamation stating the premises are off limits. As the Magistrates (Rin, Zoyu, Kaze, Kageko and Yuzo) draw near, Yuzo bows to one of the Thunder Guard, who returns the bow and escourts them to the door, opening it for them.

Once inside, the hours the same as any of them can remember, aside from the bodies being removed. The empty crate sits in the middle of the floor with the packing material strewn about carelessly still remains in the main living area. The shards of broken sake cups and bottles litter the balcony facing the river, along with the overturns stool the deaf girl playing the biwa sat on. In the kitchen is several more bottles of sake and a few sparse food items.

 

Spoiler

I only covered the very, very obvious stuff. Everybody is free to make (Perception + Investigation)K(Perception) and a (Intelligence+Investigation)K(Intelligence) roll to look for clues and such. If you have specific questions you can PM me or ask in chat.

 

 

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The Magistrates spread out through the house, examining it more closely. Aside from the fact that a samurai would not have a home within the Fisherman's Quarter (the entire quarter reeks of fish smell, especially near the show and docks), it was clear that this was no home. Many of the rooms were totally empty and there appeared to be no sleeping materials or personal effects, aside from a few, simple cooking utensils, a couple of pots, some cups and sake bottles and a few serving trays.

In his search, Kaze comes across several rooms downstairs with bloodstains on the floor, but none on any of the walls, hinting that wounded people or bodies may have been kept in them, but it was unlikely that the violence was committed in the rooms themselves. Judging by the lack of decomposition of many of zombies at the Temple, they may have kidnapped or lured people to the house where they were then killed and turned into zombies. Considering that they must not have had the masks until they recovered them from Yasuki Nobuko, and the number of zombies at the temple, they must have had quite a number of bodies ready to go to have created as many zombies as they did in such a short time.

Rin, being Rin, is drawn to the various bottles of sake, mostly broken, along with cups, on the balcony. A couple of intact bottles remained in the kitchen area and after examining all the bottles, Rin could see that the cultists were enjoying two different brands of sake, and one full bottle of each remained. "Well In The Stream" and the other "Flower In Winter" both brands of sake that did not seem familiar to the Dragon.

For her part, Zoyu inspected the crate particularly closely, looking for anything distinctive, such as maker's marks. The crate seemed to be simple and unmarked, containing just the remnants of the of packing material (the small bit that was not already strewn on the floor) and a few shards form a mask or two that was broken in transit. As she took a step back, to look it over once more, Zoyu noticed a pile of several katana and a couple of tanto by the door and looked at it quizzically for a moment. The Moon Cultists, with the exception of Orimono, appeared to be peasants, but were armed with katana. Imperial law forbade all but the samurai from owning or carrying weapons (even though every knew that man peasant tools could indeed be effective weapons). 

Walking over to the pile, Zoyu knelt down and selected a katana. She withdrew the blade and inspected it for a moment, before drawing on a lesson from her childhood, watching her father assemble swords he had forged. She collected a errant chopstick from the kitchen and placed it over the pin in the tsuka (handle), pushing it free with a swat of her hand to the back of the chopstick. She then gripped the tsuka with both hands and push on the tsuba (guard) with her thumb, sliding the tsuka off the nakago (tang). Holding the blade by the nakago, Zoyu then gave the tsuba a tap with the edge of her palm and slide it off, as well as the seppa (spacers), and then the habiki (blade collar). Once fully disassembled, Zoyu examined the nakago (tang) for a maker's mark, finding once she did not recognize.

With the same grace the Crane set about disassembling the other blades, find the same unfamiliar maker's mark. A thought then occurred to the Crane... disassembly, such as this, was performed any time a katana was properly cleaned and polished. And there was one person that had likely seen more maker's marks on katana than anybody else in the city. Kado (Gate), the proprietor of Swords Polished, the gateway to Teardrop Island. If anybody had seen that mark or knew anything of it's origin within the walls of Ryoko Owari, it would be Kado.

One by one, the Magistrates returned to the main room. When Yuzo arrived, he looked at the disassembled swords and nodded.

"I had them leave the weapons on a hunch. I hope it has bared fruit, Zoyu-san." Yuzo said with a small, pleased smile.

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Rin enters the main room of the house to see Yuzo and Zoyu talking over a pile of disassembled swords. She stops finding this to be an odd sight. dismissing the thoughts the sigth brought to mind she hefts the two Bottles of Sake she had found in her hand so the other two could see them.

Zoyu looks at her friend. "It is a bit early for a drink I think Rin-san" she says a slight teasing lilt to her voice.

"Not if you are a cultist!" Rin shoots back with a laugh. "It seems they were very fond of drink and had a preference." She hefts the bottles again for emphasis. "I spent a few days here and many in Niwa Shita No Kage, I do not recall ever sampling this brand. or seeing these bottles in any of the establishments in either place.

We should see if any drink merchants here, recognize them and know of where they come from. If they are not local then there is a good chance our dead cultists acquired a taste for it wherever it is from.

Have you found something?"

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Kaze wanders through the rooms, inspecting each in turn and noting the blood now firmly dried into the boards. The pools themselves were large enough, but not of a size to implicate that the person responsible for them was in the room when they were killed. They had likely been killed elsewhere and then brought in afterwards. He had to wonder, though, if the people that were used as Zombies had all been taken over the course of the night, or if it had been the work of several to acquire them all. The lack of any obvious rotting or smell meant that all of the bodies had been alive until very recently. It meant that if they had been taken over the course of days they would have had to be kept somewhere. He would have to ask the Thunder guard if there had been any increase in missing persons reports for the last while.

It wouldn't do him much good, either way, but it might give him a feel for how these people operated. Taking people over time, once you have the methods to ensure their silence would imply a certain level of cautiousness. Taking everyone in a single night runs the risk of alerting people. For a moment, he cursed the fact that the Zombies melted away once the Maho animating them ran it's course. Just being able to confirm identities would be so very useful for giving them something to work with. Unfortunately, the black slime all of the corpses has rendered down to would answer no questions that they could ask.

Shaking his head, he follows the sound of voices back to the other magistrates, raising an eyebrow as he arrives to find them perched over a pile of disassembled Katana and two jars of Sake. Still. It was far from the oddest sight he had seen all night and he joined them by the small pile with a small mental shrug.

"Nothing much of interest." he responds, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward away the fatigue. "The people animated by the Maho were taken here once they were killed, judging by some of the blood I found. But I couldn't find any pools big enough to hazard a guess as to where they were actually killed....." he continues to appraise them of his thoughts on the matter, idly taking up one of the disassembled blades and inspecting it. Once he's done, he frowns at the blade in his hands.

"The Moon Cultists blades?" he asks, looking to his the other Crane. Seeing her incline her head in agreement he frowns again, humming in thought as he notices the stamp on the nakago. "I'm surprised someone was willing to put their mark to blades like these. Their quality is poor at best. I've yet to make any Katana myself, but I've made enough other blades to recognise shoddy workmanship. Looks to me like someone was working with sub par materials. Maybe some softer Iron or some such." he turns the blade over again, looking down the length of the cutting edge. "Or perhaps someone is trying to recreate something that they only witnessed peripherally and they do not understand the reason some things are done. This looks like the Yake-Iri (clay mask) was poorly applied. You can see it in the way the steel warps slightly along it's length." He looks up and flushes under the raised eyebrows of the Magistrates.

"Ah. Forgive me. The creation of Arms and Armour is something that I find great enjoyment in."

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On 7/13/2017 at 9:12 PM, Noir said:

"I had them leave the weapons on a hunch. I hope it has bared fruit, Zoyu-san." Yuzo said with a small, pleased smile.

"A good hunch, Yuzo-san," Zoyu confirmed, returning his smile and showing him the maker's mark on tang of the blade she held. "The fruit is most ripe."

Her smile grew amused and indulgent as Kaze commented on the lack of proper technique in the smithing of the blades and she inclined her head. "No forgiveness is necessary, Kaze-san. My father, he is a bladesmith at the Kakita Artisan Academy. I have heard all the comments and criticisms about poor crafting. Still, few are able to fashion a katana of any sort, so I can see etching one's mark even on blades of this poor quality." She paused, frowning at the discarded and dissembled blades. "Perhaps it is not just a matter of substandard craftsmanship, but the lack of proper time to fashion such a number of blades."

Zoyu huffs, blowing her lock of obsidian hair from her face and wraps the naked blade in winding rags for transport. She nods at Rin, giving a pointed glance at the jugs of sake in the Dragon's hands. "Much like the sake, these blades may lead us to where else the cultists may operate or at least to those who collaborate with them, knowingly or unknowingly. I may not recognize this particular Maker's Mark, but there is one in Ryoko Owari who undoubtedly has seen many a Maker's Mark. Kado, the guardian of Teardrop Island and proprietor of Swords Polished. I believe we will be well served in paying him a visit."

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Yuzo looked at one of the blades as Zoyu showed him the mark and his lips pursed slightly at the mention visiting Kado in hopes of information.

"My friends and fellow magistrates, a moment of your time please." Yuzo asked politely, waiting for the attention of the other.

"You have been Jade Magistrates for several months now, appointed by the exalted Son of Heaven himself. And in that time, I understand that you have excelled at your duties, such as tonight. Your service truly brings honor to your families and clans.

I have been a Magistrate for some years now, and though we are empowered by different sources, most things about the job remain largely the same. So please, do me the honor of allowing me to share with you some of my observations and experience earned over these years. Maybe it could benefit you, in some small way, in which case I would be honored to have assisted such distinguished Magistrates as yourselves.

I have learned, that though you certain can rely on nothing more than badge and station has magistrates to garner cooperation and information, some people, especially the lower castes, are often better encouraged through other means. They lack the innate nobility of the samurai, and so their cooperation may be limited. Some even dishonor themselves by feigning ignorance. The often extends to ronin, and unfortunately, even some samurai, on occasion.

The friendly encouragement can take many forms, from a gift of a bottle of sake you know somebody likes, to letting smaller crimes go so that you can get information of greater ones. Yes, the latter is undesirable, but sometimes a decision must be made. Letting a crate of sake that taxes were not paid on can gain you information on a murder. Or, you can being the petty smuggler to justice and leave a murderer on the loose. Such things can also encourage some to volunteer information on their own in the future, of crimes you were not even aware of. It is an unfortunate reality of the job that is not talked about.

Today, I went to the Thunder Guard to protect this home, but I also considered that if another cultists was out there, that they might see fire a simple way to remove evidence found within. So I sought out the Fire Eaters. I told them that, in my opinion, their wages do not match the service that they provide to the city, and so to try and minimize that discrepancy, I gave them several koku. They were thankful for it. And so as quite a different matter, I asked them to keep an eye on the house to ensure that it would not come to harm. They were very obliging in the matter.

You are still unfamiliar with this city, its workings and people. That is to be expected. You arrived yesterday. But I know that the Governor entrusts the ronin, Kado, to keep weapons off of Teardrop Island. A job that he takes very seriously. Every manner of bribery, story and excuse has been attempted on him. They all fail. He is above such things. With the events of last night, and the... assistance... of the Lord Prince, we managed to bring our weapons onto the island. He is sure to not be pleased about that and may, in fact, harbor a grudge. If that is the case, then who knows how far he may take it. Seeking information from him may prove difficult, for he could always express ignorance and we could truly never be certain. 

So yes, you could go to him, present your badge and demand his assistance, but in this case I would suggest a more indirect approach. Yes, we were all doing our duty last night, but in the process, we interfered with him performing his. So perhaps a bottle of good sake and an apology to that effect might garner and more positive response. I could even offer to speak to the Governor on his behalf if the matter ever came to her attention. After all, an apology is not automatically an admission of wrong doing, it is simple acknowledging the harm or disrespect you may have caused, however inadvertently. 

It is only my suggestion, of course." Yuzo finished with a roguish smile and nod of his head.

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Zoyu's mismatched eyes narrowed faintly at the mention of offering Kado apology. To her mind, it was they who were due the apology for being delayed in pursuing their duty, and ostensibly, aiding Kado in his, whereas keeping weapons off Teardrop island was to protect it. Ridding Teardrop Island of a murderous Oni did far more in protecting the island than did keeping a mere three blades off it.

Zoyu was well acquainted with social graces, but too, her tongue was unable to voice a lie. She arched her brows and glanced towards her clansman. "Kaze-san, as one who so enjoys the craftmanship of blades, arms, and armor, perhaps you would like to speak with the honorable Kado, and perhaps bring a jug of fine sake to thank him for his time. And if he should recognize the Maker's Mark on a certain blade..."

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Kaze offers her a nod

"I would be happy to go and speak with Kado-san, though I should probably bring one of the blades in as close to a complete form as possible. A mark is telling, but every smith will have their own style that can express itself in anything from the wrappings to the patterning on the blade itself."

To one side, Yuzo offers his own agreement.

"Further, the best evidence one can provide is always the evidence itself. The sword will be better than just the blade, which would be better than a copy, and so on. It behoves all magistrates to offer the best evidence that they can. Thankfully, with this many blades on hand, using a single one for this is of little concern."

He accepts this easily enough and hunkers down by the blades, taking one and with practised ease sliding it back together before standing once more and tucking it through his obi with his own Daisho, the Saya resting on the opposite hip to his own blades. The added weight felt strange.

He turns to Rin, who is already holding out one of the Jars of Sake to him. He accepts it with a small smile and "Arigatou" before he moves off, looking down at the jar in hand. Well in the Stream. Not a brand he was familiar with. He just hoped it was of a quality that would appeal to the man. He pauses by the door just before leaving. He turns around to once more face the magistrates.

"I do not know how long it will take to acquire the information from Kado-san, but once I do, I will return to the Apple Blossom and will meet you there, once your own avenues of investigation are resolved." receiving the nods of confirmation, he offers them a small bow as he turns then and leaves the building.

The walk through the streets was much quieter than any of the journeys he had undertaken so far, and with far less frantic running about on his behalf. The majority of the citizens had retired after the end of the festivities, and only a few die hard souls still awake and performing their duties. He felt a certain kinship with them for that. The food and drink he had taken in had helped his equilibrium, but he had still been awake for in excess of a full day of intense activity. He was looking forward to being able to sleep properly once he dispensed with his own duties. The couple of hours he had staved off the worst of it, but he still felt weary from the previous day.

The empty streets did have the advantage of him making good time to the docks, though he took his time in the walk, enjoying the solitude and the cool breeze that ran down the near empty streets, tugging at his white strands as well as the tassels on his sword. It was nice to be able to just walk to his destination, rather than the frantic sprint of the last 24 hours. The docks themselves proved slightly more troublesome, with many of the ferrymen asleep, but he eventually found someone willing to bring him across. The ride was uneventful, neither side feeling particularly inclined to break the peaceful atmosphere. On reaching the other shore, he stands, stretching. Turning back to the ferry man, he hands over some money for the trip.

"There will be more if you are still here when I return. I shouldn't be too long."

Accepting the thanks he turns to face the Island once more. If the rest of the city was quiet, then Teardrop Island was practically dead, not a sign of a single living person outside. He supposed it wasn't that strange. Given the normal business hours of many of the establishments of the Island, he wouldn't be surprised if they normally kept much different hours to his own. Shaking his head to clear it, he strides towards the gatehouse. He seemed to be in luck. Whether he had yet to sleep, or had returned to his post after catching a meagre few hours remained to be seen. The Ronin stood straighter as Kaze approached, a look of curiosity crossing his face, followed by a vague sort of recognition. He had no doubt seen many faces last night, but comparatively few Crane likely came through in the rush that he had been.

"Kado-san. Apologies for disturbing you. I am Kakita Kaze. We met briefly last night when I was in quite the rush. It shames me to say that my haste may have appeared quite rude. As such, I wish to offer my apologies for last night, as well as my thanks for the care you took of my blade in my absence. It would please me greatly if you would accept this as both token of apology and thanks."

He offers the burly guard a bow, holding out the Jar of sake.

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Yuzo hid his disappointment well. They were young bushi, and so it seems some lessons they would have to learn on their own, though he hoped the lessons would not be too painful.

"Well then, while Kaze-san is off speaking to Kado we can begin to look into the sake. There are not exclusive sake merchants that I know of. Many merchants will picked up some bottles in their travels and eventually sell them at a far away city or town. Because of the amount of time it can take to reach a suitable place to sell, they generally do not wish to invest much into the sake." Yuzo explains and he pinches his chin, thinking.

"Kobei (Shrimp), if he is in town, is a good place to start. He is a Mantis and has a small craft that he travels the Kawa No Kin (River of Gold), Oboreshinu Boekisho Kawa (Drowned Merchant River) and Kawa Mittsu Kishi (Three Sides River). Because of the distances and speed at which he travels by river, and the number of clans and ports he visits, he deals in sake more then most. If he is not here, then we start asking at sake houses. Either way, it will be a little difficult today. After the festival, people sleep in, so many establishments will open later than normal." Yuzo explains.

"I would suggest we keep the blades though. We can drop them off at the Apple Blossom. It is only a moment out of our way." Yuzo suggests.

 

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

 

The city streets were indeed less crowded, certainly not empty, but a noticeable reduction in traffic from the day before. It made moving across town much faster, even at just a walking pace. The Magistrates cross back over the Bridge of Drunken Lovers and dropped the swords off at the inn. From there, Yuzo led them to the docks and after the better part of an hour searching, Yuzo spots a small boat at the end of the dock, with a smile.

"That is it. The Whistle. Komei's boat." the Crane pointed out.

"Kobaei-san! Are you here?" he called out as he approached.

There was no movement from the boat, and as the Magistrates drew near, it was clear there was nobody aboard the small craft.

"Hmm.." Yuzo thought to himself and then glanced up at the sky.

"He must be at the morning class." he said with a nod.

"It appears have a little more walking to do, but the dojo is not far." 

 

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26 minutes ago, Noir said:

"Kobei (Shrimp), if he is in town, is a good place to start. He is a Mantis and has a small craft that he travels the Kawa No Kin (River of Gold), Oboreshinu Boekisho Kawa (Drowned Merchant River) and Kawa Mittsu Kishi (Three Sides River). Because of the distances and speed at which he travels by river, and the number of clans and ports he visits, he deals in sake more then most. If he is not here, then we start asking at sake houses. Either way, it will be a little difficult today. After the festival, people sleep in, so many establishments will open later than normal." Yuzo explains.

"I would suggest we keep the blades though. We can drop them off at the Apple Blossom. It is only a moment out of our way." Yuzo suggests.

Rin slaps her forhead "HA! Of course, how could i be so forgetful, Thank you Yuzo-san. Give me one of the swords. I know someone, if I am not to late, who may know of one or the other."

She turns to Zoyu and hands her the magic sword. "You should return this to your clansmen to see that it gets to his family. Tell them it tasted the blood of vengeance."

Grabbing one of the swords and the remaining bottle of Sake Rin heads for the door tossing her words over her shoulder. "I will meet you at Apple Blossom later. Right now I have to go find a boat."

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A few minutes walk away a small building comes into sight, once which Zoyu recognized, and to which Yuzo nods.

"There is Kitsuki Jotomon's dojo. I am certain that, even with the festival last night, she is still holding class this morning." Yuzo explained with a small smile.

Once again Zyou entered the dojo, along with Yuzo and Kageko, and knelt off to the side, along the wall. The dojo was simple, a rack of full daishi cokken and another of blunted steel practice weapons, along with seven scrolls, each with the kanji for one of the Seven Virtues of Bushido; Jin (Compassion), Yu (Courage), Rei (Courtesy), Chugo (Duty & Loyality), Gi (Honesty & Justice), Meyo (Honor), and Makoto (Sincerity).

As Kitsuki Jotomon conducted class, she glanced over, but continued instructing, knowing that they would politely wait until class is concluded, or at least until there was an appropriate time, for Jotomon to speak to them. Among the students were a young Unicorn male, a Mantis male of thirty or so, and several peasants or ronin, 2 males and a female. She continued for twenty minutes or so before she gave the students some time to each contemplate a Virtue of Bushido and compose a haiku about it. After a brief time, each student recited their poem and she would give several minutes for each to reflect on it before the next student recited theirs. She then moved on to disarming drills and called up one of students, a Dragon samurai-ko, to conduct the class while she stepped aside to speak with the Magistrates.

Kitsuki Jotomon approached and bowed to the Magistrates.

"Welcome to our dojo. I am afraid I am currently conducting class, but if you would be so kind as to wait for the end, we can visit." Jotomon said politely.

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Zoyu bowed her head to the Dragon Swordmistress. "That would be most acceptable, Kitsuki-san, though in truth we have come for another reason." She nodded towards her students practicing their drills. "There are still unraveled threads from the events of last night, and we are hoping one of your students may be able to aid us finding where one of them fits in this wicked tapestry."

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Jotomon's brow furrowed slightly and she nodded before taking over the class once again. The last thirty minutes of class consisted of multiple attacker training. When it was done Jotomon had the students return the weapons to the racks, collect the scrolls from the walls and neatly place them back in the chest and then go about cleaning the dojo, samrai working beside peasant and ronin; sweeping, dusting, scrubbing the floor, oiling the bokken and so forth.

Jotomon returned to the Magistrates, bowed and gestured to the students. 

"If you need to speak with any of them, you may. Their work will be completed by another." she generously offered.

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Kado stood and listened, emotionless as was standard for him, giving away little to nothing. As he listened he looked down at the sake and his eyes narrowed slightly.

"Mmm.. my favorite brand..." Kado said, inspecting the bottle more closely.

"Where did you get it? This sake is not available Ryoko Owari." he inquired curiously.

Then Kado's brow slowly furrowed and he lifted his gaze from the bottle and back to Kaze.

"And how would you know to go out of your way to get this for me?" he pondered aloud as he subtly shifted his stance.

"Is this some kind of joke? A threat? What do you know? Who are you?" Kado asked, his voice firm and very serious with a hint of anger to it.

There is a moment of surprised silence as Kaze's thoughts grind to a shuddering halt. That.... was not the response he had been expecting. Guarded suspicion had been about the worst he had expected. This level of anger took him completely unawares.

"Ah. No. No joke, Kado-san. I seem to have trod on a sore spot for you. It was not my intention. As I said, I am Kakita Kaze. This is neither joke nor threat. The Sake was confiscated as a part of an investigation and being unneeded to further the investigation, it was felt it would make an adequate gift. It is pure fortune that I selected this one to bring along. Though whether good or ill remains to be seen."

That reaction was telling in and of itself. He had to wonder to himself if this particular brand of sake had had some hand in his becoming a Ronin in the first place. It would certainly explain the alarm Kado was displaying, as well as his thinking that it might be a threat. He silently cursed that this was the bottle that Rin had handed him, though she was not to know either.

"Please, peace, Kado-san. I offer you no ill intent."

He raised his hands in a placating gesture, taking care to keep them as far from the hilt of the katana at his waist as possible. It was unfortunate that this was the reaction he was garnering, but if Kado could be persuaded to calm down, there was opportunity here as well, given he knew of the Sake brand intimately.

He just hoped the sincerity and honesty of his words would resonate with the ill tempered Ronin. The last thing he wanted was to get involved in a fight. He briefly wished that Yuzo had come along. He would probably know best how to defuse the situation.


 

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"You are most gracious, Kitsuki," Zoyu murmured in dulcet tones. "We will not take up much of your student's time." She glanced at Yuzo then nodded towards the assembled students. "This Kobei, he is here?"

"Yes, Zoyu-san," Yuzo confirmed. "The bald Mantis in the trousers and vest."

Zoyu glanced over, concealing a frown at the Mantis' attire. The Mantis were all strange and often gaudy, those this one didn't seem to be such a successful - or thieving - trader to warrant such ostentation. "I see."

Zoyu glided over towards the man, a polite, demure smile on her lips, Yuzo at her side. "Kobei-san?"

He looked around the slender, yet curvaceous Crane, not quite hiding his admiration for her form in her elegant kimono. "I am he."

"Then you are the man I am looking for, thanks to the suggestion of Yuzo-san, here." Her smile widened just a trifle. "I wish to speak with you of Sake, if you could spare a few moments, and perhaps earn a few coins as well. There are two brands that are of particular interest to me."

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Spoiler

The following was written by Noir and Nina

Rin made her way toward the river where she had seen the Steady in the night, hoping it was still there. She walked with purpose and the peasants moved quickly out of her way most showing deference but some unable to resist looking at the odd Dragon. She wondered how many of the stares, is any, belong to those who were in league with the evil poisoning the land.

In time she found herself at the river and saw that  the Steady was still at anchor although she could see many sailors busy readying the vessel.

Rin called to a nearby boat rowing through the harbor and once it was close enough she lept on board and handed the boat man a few coins, point int to the ship.

As they approached one of the sailors saw the small boat and recognized Rin, Moments later the boat bumped against the hull and Rin called out.

"It is I, Mirumoto Rin, permission to come aboard to meet with your Captain if he is here."

Michiyo's head poked over the edge of the deck, spotting Rin with a smile.

"Of course, Mirumoto-san!" he said happily as a sailor tossed a rope ladder off the side, letting it unroll as it fell.

With a small bit of effort Rin found herself back on the deck the Steady, standing before the mildly portly, Michiyo who greeted her warmly with a smile.

"It is good to see you again. I must say, I did not expect too though, especially the morning after the festival. So to what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked with a smile still lingering on his lips.

"The pleasure is mine my friend. And i hope the festival was good for you, for me not so much. Let us retire to your cabin, I have things to discuss with you."

Once in the cabin Rin sets the sword and the bottle on the chart desk then begins to explain.

"I am here on duty as a magistrate and I hope you can help. The festival was attacked last night and terrible evil was attempted..." Rin gives Michyo an abbreviated version of the nights events. While talking she dismantles the sword. "I was hoping that with your travels you may have come across the origin of these two Sake brands, 'Well In The Stream' and the other," she picks up the bottle and hands it to Michyo, " 'Flower In Winter', also perhaps you have maybe seen the mark of this swordmaker?"

Michiyo listened, his eyes wide with surprise on occasion as he listened, stroking his long, thin mustache and nodding now and then.

"I had heard of the zombies attack at the Temples, and the earthquake, but had thought it was the work of angry ancestors or kami or something. I had no idea that they were going after the Globe and moon cultists were behind it. I had heard of their existence, but did not know they were capable nefariousness. It sounds like a well prepared and plan with a great deal of resources. Thank the kami that you were in town to intercede on behalf of the Empire, and it makes me proud to know I had a hand in assisting with that."

"The divine wisdom of the Emperor is only proven with your great deeds in service to the Empire. And truly, it seems the fortunes favor you."

Michiyo looked at the disassembled sword, examining the makers mark closely and frowned.

"I apologize, but I am afraid, Mirumoto-san, that I do not recognize this mark personally. But my Clan's membership is draw from all across the empire and I know many people in many towns in many different provinces. If I could take the blade, or a rubbing of the mark, I could likely find the source. Unfortunately, this would take some time though. Likely weeks at best, if not months, depending on luck." he offered.

THe Tortoise's face brightened somewhat as he changed subjects though, moving onto the sake. He picked up the bottle and examined it closely, trying to draw forth a memory. He uncorked it and took a whiff, which brought a small smile to his face. 

"I may be able to assist with the sake though. I am not familiar with 'Well In The Spring', but I have had 'Flower in Winter' sake before." Michiyo said as he thinks back, moving his tongue as if trying to taste it again.

"It is an extra dry sake, but also rich and fruity. If my memory serves, then I had it The City of the Rich Frog. I am not sure if it is made there, or they just hand it on hand. I had it as the House of the Golden Frog, if that is of any help." he recalled.

"It is a beginning my friend." she takes the bottle and pours them both a quick cup, "I cannot linger but I will leave the sword for you. Take no risks but if you discover anything send word to me at Tsuma."

She raises the cup and drink to their health.

"Thank you again my dear friend I owe you again for your help and look forward to the day I may be of service to you."

 

Farewells are said and Rin takes a boat back to shore and then wends her way through the crowd to the Apple Blossom to await her friends.

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Kado listened to the Crane, his eyes narrowed somewhat and focused, almost like a large, stalking, predatory cat as he took in Kaze's reaction and words. The Crane seemed to be honestly surprised, his reaction a bit too authentic, making feigned sincerity unlikely coming from a young bushi, even a Crane.

A Kado considered Kaze's words for a moment, the young Crane could not help but notice somersetting about the ronin. Considering his reputation as the gatekeeper to the island, and the fact that weapons were forbidden on it, it was rare indeed that any even threatened a physical confrontation with Kado, so very few had ever seen him in anything approaching a combat stance, as Kaze was seeing now, even if it was somewhat subdued.

But from the way the ronin turned his body just slightly, re positioned his feet, shifted his weight and a myriad of other subtle, minute adjustments the ronin made, apparently from muscle memory due to years of training, Kaze immediately recognized the stance the ronin took, and the source of his training, for it was something Kaze had intimate knowledge of. Kado was well-trained by the Akodo Bushi School.

Kado relaxed just slightly, his posture no long threatening aggression, but still somewhat guarded. The ronin took in a slow, deep breath and released it, composing himself.

"I apologize for my... shameful outburst, Kakita-sama. Please, forgive a simple ronin. I forget myself at times." he said with a bow.

With his anger fading, Kado reassessed the situation, and tried to

"Thank you for the gift. A simple ronin does not deserve suck generosity. You are too kind." he added with another bow and accepted the sake.

Kaze let out a small sigh of relief, thankful that the promise of violence had dissipated. Something had been niggling at his thoughts since Kado had squared off and it was only those final movements that he had managed to put it together. He had to wonder though. The Akodo were honourable to a fault. And many would sooner commit seppuku than see themselves dishonored or become Ronin. He had to admit some curiosity as to how it was that this one came to be a Wave-men. IT was none of his business of course, but he couldn't help it.

Either way, knowing that now, he was even more thankful that he would not be coming to blows with the older Samurai. All Bushi were lethal, but of all of the schools, there were few that garnered his wariness quite like the Akodo or the Mirumoto. He himself was well versed in the blade, but he knew better than to think that he could withstand someone so much more experienced than himself.

He shook his head

"Think nothing of it, Kado-san. Were I in your situation, I would likely smell something amiss as well. The Kami are clearly taking some amusement at my expense." He shrugs easily, leaning against the wall they were standing beside.

"Though, if you will permit me to impose on your time for a few more moments, there is something that I believe you would be able to help me with. As I said earlier, I have been investigating in the city. While the problem that originally interested us has been dealt with, I find myself at a loss to progress any further. Over the course of it, we found several blades. I do not recognise the makers mark, nor the style, but felt that if anyone were able to at least point us in the right direction it would be you, as you are probably the person best placed to recognise any given sword."

He slides the peasants sword out of his obi and offers it to the guard. He offers a self deprecating smile.

"The Sake too, is of interest to us, if you could tell us where it was made and if "Flowers in Winter" is also made locally so that we could find who originally bought it. A stroke of good luck among the misunderstandings, I'm sure you'll agree."

He suspected that the Sake was probably a product from the Lions lands, given his own suspicions on where the masks were made, but you never know. At the very least, it might give them a hint on where to cast their gaze, if not narrow down their own searches.

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Kobei's eyes narrowed just slightly in a small bit of suspicion, noting the topaz colored haori she wore. He knew Yuzo well, having dealt with the Magistrate many times, but he did not know this girl. 

The Mantis wore more of a peasant style of garb, though made of better materials and in their clan colors, mostly green, for work and utility on their ships. Often times trousers and vests, with the women sometimes simply wrapping their breasts. Zoyu had seen this before, with Hitoe, the Mantis girl she competed with in the Topaz Championship earlier that year. The only unusual thing about his attire with two large bracelets he wore, tight around his forearms and extending almost from his wrists half way to elbows, each with very large, brad, flat bulbs formed into the metal.

Kobei wore a vest, exposing his bare chest beneath, and trousers. He was fairly average, in virtually every respect, neither overly fit nor out of shape, nor particularly handsome nor ugly. Just.. average. In fact, for having a name like Kobei ("Shrimp") he was not even short. 

"Sake?" he asked and rubbed his hand on his head, as if swiping back non-existent hair.

"Of course, Kakita-san." he said with a smile, his demeanor shifting to be much more friendly and warm.

"I am afraid that I do not have any on-hand. If there is a brand you seek, then I can find it, but it will take time, weeks at least, unless this is a rush order, which will cost extra." he explained.

The mantis talked so freely about money and commerce, something which other samurai found distasteful, at best. A samurai was to be frugal with their money, but at the same time not overly concerned with it. The Mantis were often merchants though, and were rather close to their peasants, so as a clan they tended to practice commerce more openly.

Alternatively, at least from Zoyu's interaction with and observations of Hitoe, the Mantis did seem very relaxed an easy going. Perhaps it was the influence of their peasants, or maybe the sea on them, but for whatever reason they seemed to take things as they came were never overly formal or stuffy.

"So what brands do you seek?" Kobei asked with a smile.

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Zoyu kept her expression polite, ignoring the somewhat crass mention of money. He would be paid his due, but she would not haggle like some common merchant. His bracelets earned a second glance however. They were not garish or elegant enough to be decorative jewelry and they looked to be heavy, heavy enough to slow one's sword arm. What purpose would such serve?

"Cost is of no matter, Kobei-san," Zoyu said, waving a negligent hand. "As for time, perhaps, perhaps not, we shall see. Very recently, we have come across two particular brands of Sake and we would be interested in procuring their like. And I am even more interested in knowing where they may have been produced. In all your great and very extensive travels, Kobei-san, have you come across 'Well In The Stream' or 'Flower In Winter' sake?"

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