The remainder of the party’s journey to Fox lands was spent in reflection and thought.
Kasuga Kiyomi spent much of her time considering the kiss Bayushi Mamoru had surprised her with. Eventually Kiyomi and her yojimbo, Toritaka Hitomi, quarreled over lies and a lack of communication, ending with the two unwilling even to see one another.
Sanjuro Tatsuya found himself overwhelmed. In such a short time, he had lost a man who was almost his brother, battled hordes of evil spirits, seen the destitution his acts had wrought upon his birth Clan, been the target of Kolat assassins, and fought one of the mightiest beasts of the sea. Yet ahead of him lay his greatest challenge: healing the wounds left by his ignorant actions as a child.
Mamoru had little time in introspection, choosing instead to spend time with Kakita Kiyo and lift his cousin Tatsuya’s spirits. The Scorpion knew his Duty, and took solace in his continued performance of those tasks.
Shiba Sagura meditated during most of the voyage. He built upon his ‘Way of the Leaf’, and sought to find peace after his life’s recent, immense upheaval. His yojimbo, Kiyo, meditated alongside him, undergoing her own emotional trials. The only ‘fun’ activity he undertook was the crafting of a play, detailing their exploits, to be performed by Mamoru.
Sanjuro Yuzuki spent the voyage as she always did: living life in the now, and living it to the fullest. She fished and laughed alongside the Tortoise sailors, refusing to worry about the upcoming Court… or possibly forgetting about its existence. The truth, only Yuzuki knows.
When at last the group docked in Fox lands, they were greeted by the 9 still-living children of Kitsune Yamako and Kitsune Toshiro. Tatsuya felt the weight of their judgement, especially under the furious gaze of Kitsune Ayaka, and knew that any attempts to befriend them would indeed be part of an uphill struggle.
As they were escorted to Kyuden Kitsune, Mamoru ingratiated himself with the eldest Kitsune twins, Toshiaki and Masuhiro. They helped him secure the materials he would need for Sagura’s play, and the Scorpion began to prepare for a performance that very night. When they entered the Citadel of the Fox Clan, they were greeted by Kitsune Daisuke, Lord of the Fox, fresh from his iajutsu lessons. They were warmly welcomed and given rooms near to one another: Tatsuya was informed that Yamako would eventually summon him for their audience, but only in the Forest Guardian’s own time.
After the ritual greetings, and the manner of Tatsuya’s ‘execution’ were handled, Sagura stepped forward to address the informal Fox Daimyo. The Phoenix heir humbly requested permission to attend the Court as a representative of his own Clan, and not simply as a guest. As no Major Clans had been invited to the event, Daisuke was understandably concerned about offending every other Clan not represented there, but was swayed by Sagura’s words of friendship and the Brotherhood of Duty. He agreed to endorse the Phoenix as a delegate if and only if Sagura could convince his three main opponents to relent:
Ujina Suzuka, Hare representative, who opposed him out of pure contentiousness.
Seppun Kenta, who opposed the inclusion of a single Major Clan at an event meant only for Minor Clans… and Imperial oversight.
And Suzume Riko, diplomat of the Sparrow, found the entire situation, and Sagura’s personal reputation, totally objectionable.
While Sagura went around the Court, desperately attempting to gain the endorsement he needed, Yuzuki acquainted herself with her fellow courtiers. She immediately struck up a rough friendship with the Badger and Monkey, and a mutual dislike with the Hare. With Mamoru’s help, she learned a little of the Court’s format, and the nature of the other courtiers: forewarned is forearmed, and Yuzuki already felt herself ill-prepared to handle the demands of representing the Mongoose at this Court.
Hitomi roamed the castle, reacquainting herself with the Foxes and training with her father Benkei. Benkei made mention of his upcoming marriage, and hinted as subtly as he could that Hitomi had best find herself a mate soon. This in mind, Hitomi set to sharpening her skills, declaring that she would only marry the man who defeated her in single combat. Sezuka of the Hare obliged her with an athletic duel, and the two quickly built up an understanding, perhaps even a friendship.
Kiyomi stayed behind the scenes, greeting Foxes and paving the way for her agenda within the upcoming Court. When she heard of Sagura’s ambitions, and his successful inroads toward his goal, she began to plot around that, as well…
Just as he was finishing his preparations for the play, Mamoru noticed a familiar presence: Shosuro Akemi had come to visit. Disguised as a servant, she claimed that her purpose was simply to help Mamoru achieve his own goals at this Court. The Scorpion didn’t believe her for an instant, and immediately began testing his food for poison with a growing, and not-unfounded, paranoia.
After dinner, Sagura performed his artistic kata for those present, followed by Kiyomi demonstrating the art of the Voice with a warm, happy song. The evening’s climax came when Mamoru flawlessly performed the humorous play reccounting their adventures, delighting old and young alike with a good tale told well through action and the dance of painted fans.
Late that night, with everyone else asleep, Tatsuya was summoned into Kitsune Mori to meet with Yamako, Guardian of that Forest, and mother of the kitsune he had fatally wounded as a youth. There he begged for her forgiveness, and was told what he must do to achieve it. A task so daunting, the Mongoose preferred to fight another Uzu-me-boshi alone than attempt it.