Legend of the Five Rings: Accursed Destiny

Session 4 - A Lesson in Careful (Family) Planning

Sanjuro Yurika quickly decoded the courtly language used in the Mongoose-Crane treaty Sanjuro Yuzuki had negotiated, and came up with a startling truth: Yuzuki had provided the Mongoose with plenty of rice and grain, but at the cost of becoming a Crane vassal family.

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Bayushi Mamoru, Sanjuro Daichiko, and Sanjuro Tatsuya balked at the revelation, but the treaty was signed. With Sanjuro Hinata still at the Imperial Capital, no one could figure out a way to countermand the treaty without sparking a war between Mongoose and Crane. Even Kasuga Kiyomi felt stumped by the well-worded treaty, though she kept poring over the document for a way to save this newest Minor Clan.

Buruburu: The Hungry Ghost of Fear

Guests were shown to their rooms, and Daichiko took Shiba Sagura out into the gardens for a refreshing walk. The talked of little things and grand plans, away from almost every prying eye. Meanwhile, Tatsuya and Yuzuki went to the old ronin Kakashi for training. Tatsuya spotted that the ronin used some form of makeup to make him appear older, while Yuzuki was simply grateful to have some instruction on her foreign weapon.

Eventually, everyone went to bed. Everyone slept peacefully, save for Sagura and Toritaka Hitomi: these two were tormented by horrifying nightmares, unable to awaken or truly get restful sleep. This continued for several days, while everyone else tried to think of a way around the treaty’s conditions.

One possibility, that the Crane would renege on their end of the bargain, vanished when a large, heavily-guarded caravan piled high with foodstuffs crested the hill. Kakita Kiyo was extremely proud of herself for negotiating the treaty, and her father Kakita Katashi was pleased to bring one of his daughters back to the family, while also strengthening his clan and extending their reach.

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Festivities began between the jubilant Mongoose, who up until this time had been starving almost to death, and the smug Crane caravan guards. Doji, Daidoji, and Kakita were everywhere, wooing all the womenfolk and guarding the treaty from Mamoru’s attempts to ‘see’ it.

The festivities culminated in the reading of several Haiku, which Sagura and Kiyomi excelled at, and finally an iaijutsu display. The many Crane desired a duel between Kiyo and Tatsuya… but he quickly invited Hitomi into the ring, trying to avoid his aunt’s swift and furious blade. The Mongoose and the Falcon dueled, invoking a more formal and slow-moving style of fighting that was pleasing to the eye – for everyone but the Kakita duelists present.

When Hitomi stepped from the ring, however, a great wind came up and circled the dueling circle. Trapped within, Tatsuya looked on in shocked confusion as the Soul of Honor, Kitsune Toshiro, stepped from the gusting cyclone into the circle, taking up a dueling stance. Tatsuya prepared to duel, but knew he was utterly outmatched by the experienced Spirit. The two spoke: Tatsuya asking Toshiro’s forgiveness for his crime, and Toshiro taking the measure of his brother’s son. The Spirit of Honor declared that he would take Tatsuya’s measure through a single perfect strike, and they dueled.

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During the duel, his katana awakened, immersed in the young samurai’s sense of Duty and Honor. Seeing this, and finding Tatsuya’s measure admirable, the Spirit of Honor named his price for forgiving Tatsuya.

Meanwhile, Mamoru had managed to sneak past the Daidoji ‘Scouts’ guarding the troublesome treaty, and swapped it with a pre-created forgery, complete with an easy escape from the Mongoose’s end of the bargain. When Sanjuro Hinata returned the next day, she found Mamoru’s clause with ease, and Yuzuki was lauded as a great courtier, and a master of subtlety.

All was not happy, however, as Hinata had not returned home alone. Accompanying her was Miya Houki, Voice of the Emperor, and he was there to have a quiet marriage with Sanjuro Daichiko…

That night was filled with hijinks and potential dishonor, love and loss, comedy and tragedy. Sagura got what he wanted, without getting anything he wanted. Yuzuki found a new friend, but became beholden to another. Kiyomi learned of many things, and finally got into some mischief of her own. Hitomi at last found rest, the buruburu banished by Isawa Keitaro, but was unable to prevent her charge’s urge to make trouble. Tatsuya found the path to forgiveness, but only from his victim’s father: he realized that the child’s mother would be an entirely different story.

The wedding the following morning was subdued, but ritually perfect. Afterward, the party boarded Kasuga Tomo’s ship, preparing to leave for Fox Lands, and the possibilities that lay there…

Comments

With quick, deft strokes, Shiba Sagura’s brush flew over the scroll in front of him. His eyes, red and long since emptied of any possible tears, moved back and forth over the scroll, following his own words.

“I’ve always strived to live up to the ideals of being a samurai, as well as the peaceful teachings left to my family by Shiba. I know I excel at all things a samurai should: swordplay, court, art. Though I would otherwise be a shining beacon of bushido, there has always been a spot of rust, a dot of tarnish that has marred my soul.

I write, of course, of my love for Daichiko. Though we were engaged but briefly before it was called off, I immediately knew that we shared a soul. Dishonorable though it was, we continued our relationship in secret. I even gained glory with art inspired by the forbidden love.

However, what the Voice of the Emperor, and by extension his most holy Toturi, has asked me to do tears at my heart like a lion to a fallen beast of burden. I am both with my love, as I longed to be, but divided. My love goes to her, but she sleeps in another man’s bed at night, eats at another man’s table. And I am to help her sire this man’s child? It is a heavy duty, and I’m sure the Voice believes he’s doing me a favor, or he would just name another to be his heir. But if it works, and Daichiko becomes with child, can I live this lie?

Benten is surely laughing at my expense.

I can’t endure this dishonor. When my duty in Fox lands is complete, I will speak with my father about wiping it away."

As the fire in his room died, leaving flickering shadows across his face, Sagura stared at his last sentence. Finally he crumpled it in his fist, ink smearing, and gave it to the single remaining flame, which burned brightly for a moment, then faded.

 

Mamoru’s Haiku:
“Lush, Green, Beautiful…
The Winds of Change due abound,
…Rejoice in Rebirth!”


(Deciphered)

Father,

I have made it to the Mongoose lands. It is far worse off than reports have said when I was still in training. It is a very desolate place. I am not sure how the Mongoose Clan has managed to survive thus far on their own but they are a durable people.

I have managed to stop the Cranes from essentially assimilating the Mongoose into their own by making them their own vassals. This was no thanks in part to them sending someone so inexperienced in being a courtier. This was not her fault however as they might as well have put a minnow in pool of sharks. She was easily exploited by Kakida-san during the Dragon Court by signing a contract she did not understand. Thankfully, Lady Hinata has been very stubborn about keeping the Mongoose Clan independent so thus far my scheming helped them remain so. By doing this, I have also killed two birds (perhaps three, with Kakida-san’s slight disgrace from my ploy) with one stone by having one of their trusted members indebted to me by having this inexperience courtier redeemed in her clan’s eyes. Someday, we will be able to welcome the Mongoose into our welcoming arms, so you may want to start planning some ideas on how we can complete this goal.

Tatsuya-san is still heading to Fox land at some point but we will be moving towards the Falcon lands as well since this is a means to an end in ending this curse he has inflicted upon himself by harming a Fox spirit. I will still be by his side to ensure his safety. I am not sure as to why I am assigned in trying to get Tatsuya-san to join the Scorpion Clan. His mind has already been made up to becoming a Mongoose already it seems and believe me, he seems to become more like his father as how great-uncle describes him. If that is so, his heart may not belong to that of a Scorpion but the laid-back Mongoose. As it is my duty, I will keep trying; although, I am growing a bit fond of my cousin, he seems to be a well-intentioned person so it will be incentive enough for me to get him to join our clan. I do have a lot of competition around me in people trying to get Tatsuya in either joining their own clan, or ensuring he becomes a Mongoose.

I also have seen some very scandalous things here, father. I will not divulge this information via letter but I will disclose it in person should I manage to make it through Scorpion lands in our travels. All I can say is that I found it interesting that the Voice of the Emperor is now married to Daichiko-san. Apparently, the Mongoose has done something to manage to have some sort of connection to the Emperor. Perhaps it is from the fact that a member of the Sanjuro family was once an Emerald Magistrate or the fact that the Mongooses’ “profession” is vital enough for the Emperor to keep the Mongoose clan intact? With all these traces connecting to the Emperor, is it wise to for us to meddle with Tatsuya’s presumed “destiny”?

You have taught me well about duty to the clan father, but you also have taught me to use my own judgement so I will do my best not to disappoint you. Send my love to mother and the rest of the family.

Sincerely,

Mamoru

 

As I board Kasuga Kiyomi’s boat, headed for fox lands, I cannot help but reflect on Kitsune Toshiro’s words.“Reconnect Yukiko’s spirit with her body, and you will have my forgiveness.” I will have his forgiveness. Meaning Yamako may be a whole different bottle of sake. Sake, even thinking of that kami cursed drink right now makes me ashamed of my behavior the other night.

I will succeed in this trial I have been given, even if it costs me my life. I was told the Falcon clan is a good start on figuring out how to get Yukiko’s spirit back to her body, and luckily, Toritaka Benkei, a Falcon daimyo is on this boat with us. I will talk to him and see if he has any ideas, or at least where I can go to get an idea.

No matter what it takes, I will lift the blight from the Mongoose lands. Even at the cost of my own life.

 

Daichiko’s sudden wedding to Miya-sama reminded me that I was supposed to marry soon. Mother didn’t marry until she was in her thirties and Uncle Benkei had never married, so I didn’t think it was fair I was expected to before I turned twenty.

At least I was allowed to choose, for the most part. And I did have quite the selection.

Given Shiba-san’s reactions during the wedding, his wife would be in name only. He had seemed heartbroken about the whole ordeal and the poem I overheard him muttering to himself sounded decidedly ominous. I wouldn’t put it past him to do something incredibly stupid in the name of ‘honor’. Plus, as his father’s heir, anyone he married would join the Phoenix.

I think if I was forced to join a major clan, I might do something incredibly stupid.

Bayushi-san at least would fit into my clan, if it came to that. I didn’t quite trust the Scorpion, but I was intrigued by him. He was watching over Tatsuya-san, but I couldn’t figure out why. He had to have done something to help out Yuzuki and the Mongoose—he had insisted on my reading that treaty after I already had—but again, I couldn’t figure out why. Blackmail? Control? Was he completely an atypical Scorpion?

He was fun to talk to, at least, and throw jibes back and forth. While it wasn’t exactly Sadane, it was close enough to be amusing. And he wasn’t completely useless either in Court or on the field of battle. His poetry wasn’t blatantly obvious and the play we had done together as his present to Daichiko and Miya-sama …

It was just a play and we were just acting, but for a moment I felt something real, something special. Under that mask of his, Bayushi-san could be anyone, someone available to me to marry or not.

There was also Tatsuya. I had to help him the best I could, but marriage had to be the furthest thing from his mind. He wasn’t cruel, unkind, or unfair to look at, but he didn’t interest me, not that way. I suppose there were things I wanted to keep an eye on in Mongoose lands and if I was married to Tatsuya, I could do that.

The most likely choice was Hiro-kun. He had studied with the Tortoise, but remained a Fox. He was annoying and troublesome, but never unkind. It would please Mother, as she wanted to keep a closer eye on Yamako-sama. I knew the two were friends, but Mother still wanted to make sure the Kitsune Spirit didn’t have malicious intent against the Empire.

It was something to think about on the journey to Fox lands and during their Winter Court. I was glad to be on my father’s boat and so far, none of my ‘companions’ had much difficulty finding their sea legs.

I wasn’t quite sure what the future held but it would be interesting, to say the least.

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