Legend of the Five Rings: Accursed Destiny

Session 16 - Into the Depths
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Session 15 - How Did It Get So Late, So Soon?

Tatsuya’s suspicions, Mamoru’s manipulations, Sagura’s trials, Hitomi’s impatience, Kiyomi’s plotting… the following day saw all of these come to a head.

First, Kiyomi received an Imperial missive, detailing how she would be married off soon in a punitive strike against her mother, Kasuga Kasumi. Kiyo received a similar letter, causing her internal fury at Sagura’s shameful actions to leak out. Something about the missive seemed off to Kiyomi, and she utilized a new technique to prove that the papers were but clever forgeries.

Sagura meditated in the garden on how to best approach Kiyo, once again verbally sparring with Mamoru’s elder sister in an attempt to clear his mind. After composing himself, he met Kiyo in private to give a heartfelt and profound apology, which she finally accepted, willing to act as though nothing untoward had happened.

Tatsuya, Sezuka, and Miyako tracked down Mamoru in his father’s hall and sought to confront him with their evidence. Before he could respond, however, news spread throughout the city: an army had appeared on the horizon: Imperial Legionnaires and Crane regulars, all under the banner of Kakita Katashi. Daimyo Takahiro immediately ordered that Kiyo, daughter of the Kakita Family Daimyo, be held prisoner to prevent any information on the city and its defenders from reaching the invading army.

As the other guests attempted to figure out what was going on, Sagura slipped out the city gates and, using a new kiho he had taught to himself, roughly navigated to the edge of the Crane army. There he bowed and declared himself, asking to speak with Katashi himself. When the old warhawk learned that his daughter was still inside of the city he was to besiege, he commanded Sagura to protect her, no matter the cost.

Inside the castle at the city’s center, a tense standoff began between the company and Takahiro’s guards: Tatsuya and Hitomi stood between them and Kiyo, hands on their weapons, while Kiyomi tried to reason with the surrounding soldiers. Even Mamoru questioned his father, asking why the Emperor would send a legion to attack a loyal subject. Sagura returned, out of breath, to reveal the answer: Takahiro sent a team of assassins after Emperor Toturi, and had been attacking his neighbors in utter secrecy for months, killing peasants and burning crops, blaming it on either side of the war.

Kiyomi took the opportunity to question the guards: was their loyalty ultimately to their treacherous lord, or to the Emperor? Enough of them were shaken that Sagura could press close to Takahiro, his sightless vision granting him insight into the nature of the daimyo before him. To all the hall he proclaimed in a loud voice, “This is not your lord! He is tainted by-” And the daimyo fled, through hidden passageways and secret tunnels.

Tatsuya and company attempted to pursue him, but set off too many traps and had to turn back. The thing that looked like Takahiro took this opportunity to double back, almost killing Yuzuki and Tatsuya before Hitomi managed to get a clean hit on him, driving him back.

The form it had taken leaking shadows, the creature’s shape shifted to the maw of an enormous dragon, and its dark breath swept throughout the castle.

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Session 14 - Mysteries and Masterminds

Guiding his companions from the temple to his family home, Bayushi Mamoru informed them that he had been called home suddenly to ensure the safety and security of Bayushi lands. Tatsuya glanced back toward the battlefield and quipped that he was doing, “an excellent job so far.”

They proceeded to the castle, preparing to meet the lord of these lands, Mamoru’s father Bayushi Takahiro. The Scorpion daimyo gave them all a place of honor at his table, in thanks for the rescue of his daughter Miyako, who had yet to leave Tatsuya’s side. With a glance to his son and to his daughter, the aging Scorpion invited the questing samurai band to stay under his hospitality until the Cherry Blossom Festival, which he promised would be a memorable event.

Kiyomi immediately joined in on affairs at the court, joined by Kiyo with Sagura’s permission. Hitomi and Yuzuki departed to practice in the dojo, while Sagura himself spent an enjoyable evening verbally sparring with Bayushi Kasumi.

That evening, Yuzuki decided to introduce her Phoenix companion to the wonders of sake. Still dealing with the loss of his eyes, Sagura agreed and was soon utterly plastered. Songs were sung, sake was never spilled, and the two drowned their sorrows before seeking their beds.

Toward morning, however, two notable events occurred: Tatsuya’s rest was disturbed by the sound of an assassin escaping his room, and Sagura rolled over to Kiyo’s bedroll in his drunken sleep. Of the two, the second was more close to being fatal, as the blind samurai seized a handful of soft and perky in an attempt to figure out what he was up against.

Something about the ‘assassination attempt’ bothered Tatsuya, though: a suspicion preyed on his mind, made him question the truthfulness of his friend and host. Everything seemed… too convenient. His life had been saved too many times, at the last second, for it not to be somehow orchestrated. Gathering together with Miyako and Ujina Suzuka, he shared his misgivings, leading them out the following day to investigate the site of the battle.

Almost immediately, he uncovered disturbing information: the Scorpion force had been waiting for some time, watching his companions approach the temple. The ronin had possessed more koku than they should have seen in a lifetime. The monks at the temple agreed that they were treated well, even somewhat respectfully, despite the ronin occupation lasting a week. Miyako, overcome by anger, suggested that perhaps her father and brother had set this up in an attempt to win Sanjuro’s trust once and for all… and perhaps, to secure him a place in the family with her hand.

Their trip back to the city was interrupted by a final piece of evidence: a meeting with Doji Akae, who revealed himself to be the Kolat’s Master Coin. He explained that the Kolat had never threatened Tatsuya, that he had been lead to believe that by a third party… and that every attempt on his life had been managed by someone close to him.

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Session 13 - In the Service of Death

After the events of the Kitsune Winter Court, Tatsuya, Sagura, Hitomi, Kiyomi, and Sanjuro Yuzuki banded together once more to help the Dragon’s hostage save his birth Clan. They were joined by Kiyo, acting as Sagura’s yojimbo, and Ujina Suzuka, acting as their guide and a constant gentle temptation to Tatsuya.

To save the Mongoose Clan from Inari’s wrath, they set a course for Shinomen Mori, there to discover the Naga techniques for holding a soul within a pearl. Using this, they would return the soul of Kitsune Yukiko to her proper body, and earn the forgiveness of Kitsune Toshiro. The other half of the bargain Tatsuya made, that he must prove his True Love before obtaining Kitsune Yamako’s forgiveness, was unknown to any save the man himself, and a certain scheming Tortoise.

The Falcon ‘declared’ their first stop at the Shrine to the End, a temple to the Fortune of Death. Traveling along the great forest’s edge, the party was surprisingly unmolested save for by a hungry bear, which Hitomi chose to tame rather than combat.

Each samurai spent the journey speaking with the others, getting to know each other better and discussing what they knew about their curses.

Arriving at the border between Shinomen Mori and Scorpion lands, just across the river from the Shrine, Hitomi spotted a small force of ronin guarding the Shrine. Deciding to explore the situation before diving in, Kiyomi and Yuzuki discovered that the bandits were intent on plundering the temple and murdering the monks, as well as the Scorpion noble they had captured. Leaping into action, the questing samurai slaughtered the first group of ronin before a second, larger band sprang from hiding.

Tatsuya and Hitomi fought their way to the main building, where the noble was being held captive, while Yuzuki, the blind Sagura, Kiyomi, Kiyo, Ujina, and the bear held off the ronin. Upon entering, however, a trap was sprung specifically for Tatsuya, as two Kolat assassins stepped from the shadows to strike at the Dragon’s hostage and his Falcon companion. When the samurai demonstrated surprising skill, killing one of their assailants, the second attempted to leap out a window, only to be blocked by the canny Phoenix outside. With no other options, the anarchist chose to detonate the gaijin pepper packets wrapped around his chest.

The explosion masked the battle cry of an approaching Scorpion force, lead by Bayushi Mamoru, who made quick work of the ronin and aided the injured travelers. Even the bear.

Once everyone was healed, Hitomi led them to the great statue of Emma-o at the shrine’s center, and it was there that each of them had a vision.

Sagura ‘saw’ the Path of the Leaf come to rest on a large scroll upon which glowing words bespoke mankind’s final Destiny.

Kiyomi saw a large man with red skin guarding a gate, beyond which lurked the horrors of Jigoku.

Yuzuki saw her previous life as a Spirit of Meido, and the excitement that convinced her to become mortal.

Mamoru saw a play, performed by his past life for Hantei Genji, Second Emperor of Rokugan, for which he was first named the Fortune of Actors.

Tatsuya saw his childhood crime from Kitsune Yukiko’s perspective, and from that of her parents.

What Kiyo, Ujina, and the bear saw goes unrecorded, as none of them spoke about it.

Hitomi stood before the judgement seat of Emma-O, Fortune of Death, Judge of the Underworld, Lord of Meido. They spoke of her life, her choice to help the soul of Shiba Sagura, and the Fortune returned her voice. A bargain was struck between the two of them, in which Hitomi agreed to serve the Judge in life and in death. What she gained from this, she has told not a soul.

After the vision passed, Mamoru revealed that the captured noble was his sister, Bayushi Miyako, and offered the party his father’s hospitality…

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Session 12 - A Samurai's Duty

The Kitsune Winter Court was over, its goal of uniting the Minor Clans in purpose and in resources achieved.

Sagura looked over the art which he had created, a yari and naginata of finest materials and expert craftsmanship, feeling that his time was well spent.

Tatsuya walked the gardens of Kyuden Kitsune in the company of Ujina Suzuka, enjoying a little happiness amid a sea of troubles.

Mamoru vanished without a word, though his room was left orderly and clean, absent of all of his gear.

Kiyomi sent off a message to her mother, detailing her many successes at the Court, and the suitors she now trailed wherever she went. Hitomi was satisfied with her own catch, and waited with waning patience for the day they could finally be married.

Yuzuki, unable to sit still long enough for her own coutship, took advantage of the brief time before the closing ceremony to go off by herself to fish. When a particularly large fish took her pole, she dove in after it and was dragged far downstream. She recovered her pole, and the titanic fish attached, but as she hauled herself onto the bank, she forgot all about both.

Before her stood the ruins of a village, ronin and lesser oni moving among the bodies of the murdered peasants. As she looked on in shock and horror, the blood that soaked the ground moved on its own, forming a portal of blood and flame at the town center. A massive oni stepped through, accompanied by a white-haired warrior and several other ‘mortals’.

Knowing that her duty was to report this immediately, Yuzuki activated her jade steed and raced to Kyuden Kitsune.

Kitsune Daisuke immediately called in all of his samurai and ordered the peasants into Kitsune Mori, where they would be safe. He noted that the [[Session 9 – Fourth Task: Of Duty and Dishonor | actions]] of his guests had probably saved a great many lives: no gaki in the forest meant the people within would live on.

Deciding to make a stand until help could arrive, Daisuke requested the assistance of his many guests. Shugenja and bushi put on their armor and sharpened their weapons or practiced their spells, while those Courtiers without military training led the way into the Forest. Only Kiyomi remained, charged by the Fox Lord with gathering ronin reinforcements.

The Fox army took its stand along a river. Sagura was charged with guarding the shugenja and archers at the rear. Hitomi acted as a one-person bulwark at the river’s edge, bisento firmly planted and heavy armor gleaming. Yuzuki led the tiny Fox cavalry in preparation for a flanking maneuver, and Tatsuya was incorporated into Daisuke’s personal guard, his father’s trusty blade at his side.

Kitsune rangers reported an army of thousands, mostly Tainted ronin, undead, and goblins, but also including at least one living siege engine and a dozen bloodspeakers. Both armies stared at each other across the river, which began to run red with blood spilled upstream. The bloodspeakers caused the river to peel back, and the zombies began moving across the muddy river-bottom, those who became mired serving as a bridge for later forces.

As Sagura’s archers began to fire, and Fox shugenja turned the Earth upon their foes, Hitomi unleashed the destructive spirit within her bisento and began separating zombies from their heads. Few actually reached the Fox lines, and the main Tainted army began to cross. Goblins sprung from hiding around the shugenja, only to be cut down by Sagura and Kiyo. Yuzuki charged into the enemy’s flank while Daisuke and Tatsuya spearheaded an assault on their front.

Appearing all but routed, the opposing general sacrificed his bloodspeakers to trap Daisuke, Yuzuki, Hitomi, and Tatsuya on the far side of the released river. A truly immense Oni rose out of the forest and attacked the four, while the white-haired general wordlessly challenged Sagura to a duel.

Unable to overcome the massive creature’s tough natural armor and its rapid regeneration without crystal weaponry, Tatsuya sent up a silent prayer: a prayer that did not go unanswered. A single bolt of lightning sprang from a darkened sky to strike the Mongoose, and his crystal blades appeared at hand. Though all took hideous wounds, standing at the brink of death, they finally found the beast’s heart and killed it forever.

On the other side of the river, Sagura watched as the enemy general handily dispatched a half-dozen ashigaru in the space of a breath before launching through a series of attacks with his naginata, driving the Tainted man back to the river’s edge. Just as the flames embossed upon his blade’s edge caught a single beam of sunlight, prepared to strike the final blow, his opponent’s katana cut up across the young Phoenix’s face, stealing the light of day from him forever.

As a second Tainted army approached, the enemy general flicked his hand, banishing the bloody waters once more, and began to stalk across the bodies of his army toward the four wounded samurai. In that moment, when all hope had faded, Tatsuya flung himself at the maho-tsukai, interrupting his control over the river and causing them both to be swept downstream

Yuzuki rescued Tatsuya’s unconscious body from the river’s fury with her fishing skills, and the survivors made their way back to Kyuden Kitsune. There they were healed, and thanked by Daisuke and all others present for their sacrifice and their service.

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Sessions 10 and 11 - Court and Courtship

(Sessions 10 and 11 are all but lost to time due to GM mistakes and cupcakes. Summary here.)

After their adventures in the Forest and around it, the party returned to the Court, taking the time for a quick bath and an explanation of where they’d been. Yuzuki decided that she was far too traumatized/exhausted to properly represent the Mongoose at the Court, so Tatsuya went in her place.

Things immediately heated up as Ujina Suzuka brought forth the first order of business: purging the Kolat from the Mongoose peasantry. The Hare representative proposed a method much like separating chaff from wheat: cut them both down, and figure out which is which later. Tatsuya protested vehemently.

The argument escalated quickly: Suzuka claimed that Tatsuya was too ‘Major Clan’ to understand what must be done, and Tatsuya declared that Suzuka was too bloodthirsty and filled with hate to properly see what should be done. Eventually, with the rest of the Court watching in resignation, Tatsuya challenged the Hare to a duel, and she accepted.

Hitomi, having sparred with the Hare before, was sought out as a teacher in preparation for the evening duel, and Sagura volunteered to help the young Mongoose practice his iaijutsu. Kiyomi, still busily plotting behind the scenes, met with the Hare and discovered the true purpose behind the duel.

Yuzuki blew up at Tatsuya about causing such an event at the very beginning of the Court, but when he explained the threat and insult to their Clan, she forgave him and helped him to train.

By the time Tatsuya arrived at the dueling circle that evening, his iaijutsu skills were honed razor-sharp. He looked a little ill when Suzuka presented the weapons for the duel: twin knives, in the style of the Ujina family.

The duel was declared unto the death, or until one party admitted they were wrong and withdrew their comments in disgrace. After the first exchange of blows, Tatsuya knew he was heavily outmatched. It quickly became apparent that the Hare was toying with him for some reason, and this enraged the Dragon’s hostage.

Choosing to focus his rage, Tatsuya struck a low blow, targeting not the agile Hare, but her obi. Forced to hold her kimono shut or be utterly shamed, the Hare fought on with deadly intent until Tatsuya was completely at her mercy. And then she stopped. In a hushed conversation that no one outside the ring heard, she complemented him on doing whatever it took to gain an advantage in a losing battle. As the Mongoose looked on in confusion, she bowed and departed the ring to retrieve a new obi, leaving Tatsuya as the victor.

Before people could recover from their confusion, Hitomi forced her father to speak for her, welcoming the challenge from Kitsune Toshiaki to face her in a duel and possibly win her hand.

For the young Fox, everything became clear as crystal in that moment. Despite minimal training with a bisento, despite his disadvantages in reach and strength, despite facing an accomplished and heavily-armored foe… Toshiaki struck true, defeating his soon-to-be wife in a single blow.

Congratulations began among the Minor Clan representatives, and Court was pushed off until the following day. Suzuka returned and lured Tatsuya off into the garden, explaining her purpose behind the duel and generally getting to know him. The two left the garden much later, blushing.

Sagura and Kiyo commiserated over the lack of a ‘proper’ duel, and went out beneath the stars to appreciate their light and the beauty around them.

Mamoru, stymied in his every attempt the turn the duel in Tatsuya’s favor, shunned as a Major Clan interloper, and excluded from the events at Court, finally gave up and enjoyed himself, flirting and drinking the night away.

Over the course of the next months, Court ran fairly smoothly. A plan was formed to purge the Kolat from Minor Clan territories, aid was sent to the Badger Clan, dozens of deals and arrangements were made, and Yuzuki was pursued by the Badger Clan champion. Tatsuya and Yuzuki swapped the task of a courtier between each other, representing the Mongoose as an ever-changing and adapting force. Suzuka and Kiyomi plotted to deflect Scorpion attention from Hare lands. As a matter of fact, Kiyomi plotted with just about every representative over something, weaving and intricate web of favors, alliances, and friendships in preparation for some great act.

Suzuka was occasionally escorted around the garden in evening hours by Tatsuya, though the servants’ gossip confirmed that they had never done anything truly inappropriate.

During the Court’s final week, many important relationships took center stage. Mamoru finally tracked down Yuzuki and blackmailed her into telling him of everything that occurred at court. Suzuka declared that she would assist Tatsuya in passing through and around Scorpion lands on his quest. Hitomi of the Falcon staked her claim upon her Fox, all but securing an Alliance between those Clans.

And Kiyomi’s web was at last complete when she secured an agreement between all Minor Clans, and even those that were once Minor. A re-envisioning of the Three Man Alliance, sharing support and manpower as needed in these tumultuous times.

The final night of the Court was celebrated in an immense party, for what could go wrong at this most joyous of events?

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Session 9 - Duty and Dishonor

Kitsune Daisuke, Daimyo of the Fox, decided to take advantage of his guests’ “abilities” by charging them with clearing out the Gaki of Kitsune Mori. Bayushi Mamoru, Sanjuro Tatsuya, Sanjuro Yuzuki, Shiba Sagura, and Toritaka Hitomi agreed, accompanied by Kitsune Ayaka and four Kitsune Rangers.

The First Great Gaki-Hunt went amazing well at first, with Sagura and Mamoru taking the only major injuries, which were immediately healed by Ayaka. Dozens of gaki fell beneath their concerted efforts, and after a few hours the forest around them went quiet.

Ayaka was concerned about the sheer number of gaki: usually, her mother kept their numbers to manageable levels. She set aside her worry, stepping into Chikushudo with Yuzuki to ensure her arrival at Court on time. On the way back, however, the two young women noticed a feeling of dread and the scent of blood on the air: they stepped into the real world to see a pair of beautiful Crane women having a maho duel. The first, identified as Ineko, Song of Blood, spoke of a plan to ‘escape the bonds of Taint and mortality both’. The second maho-tsukai flung scarlet lightning at her, which was deflected and claimed several of the Kitsune Rangers, drawing the rest of the party to their location.

There was a brief but terrifying fight: the second maho-tsukai was revealed as an akutenshi, a dark ‘angel’ in the direct service of Fu Leng. The party proved equal to the task, however, as their skill and their Tsi weapons caused the tempting demoness to take flight. When it came to Ineko, however… the party balked. Injured, many of them almost to death, Sagura felt it was still their duty to deal with the powerful blood-mage. Tatsuya and Yuzuki, whose Clan specialized in slaying maho-tsukai, realized it was an impossible task without casualties, and outvoted the Phoenix. Ineko made pleasant conversation, and then fled before the Guardian of the Forest arrived.

They returned to Kyuden Kitsune, the brooding Phoenix continuing on to stay at an inn within the town. The others proceeded to enjoy a relaxing bath, debating about their actions, and the nature of Duty.

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Session 8 - Keeping Track of Allies

While Shiba Sagura worked to undo centuries of mistrust and poor treatment, aided in secret by Bayushi Mamoru, someone else worked behind the scenes to deny the young Phoenix’s efforts. Sagura’s efforts to secure Suzume Riko’s approval fell flat, though she did express an interest in seeing how truly he kept to his words of friendship and mutual respect between Minor and Major Clans.

Hitomi chafed at the inaction as everyone prepared for Court, while Tatsuya morosely pondered the Task Yamako had set before him.

Trouble reared its head when Yuzuki was declared missing: several servants had seen her run into the forest the previous night. Hitomi, Sagura, Mamoru, and Tatsuya grabbed Kitsune Toshiaki as a guide and set off into the forest to find her. Toshiaki turned out to be a poor choice of guide, and they soon became totally lost.

After several terrifying battles with predatory gaki, the group was pinned down by several shozai-gaki. Bloodied, beaten, and deprived of his katana, Sagura took up a tree branch and struck out at the hungry ghosts. In his hands, the branch warped into a naginata, glowing with unearthly might, and he drove off the gaki before collapsing from his wounds.

Hitomi and Sagura were wounded terribly, and had to be carried from the forest in haste, as more gaki smelled prey and chased after them. The group emerged on the opposite side of Kitsune Mori, into Crane lands, and sought sanctuary in the lands of Doji Hakura the Second.

After another harrowing adventure, this time involving a senile shugenja and a monstrous lord, the party spent three days circumventing Kitsune Mori. They arrived back at Kyuden Kitsune in time to see themselves enter the forest for the first time: the magic of Chikushudo had twisted time, making them arrive no later than they had first left.

As Court at last began, Sagura went before all the delegates together to request admittance as the Phoenix representative. The room was silent for a short while before Kasuga Kiyomi and Suzume Riko spoke with one voice: No.

Meanwhile, Yuzuki awoke in the forest, finding herself nude on a pile of conspicuously large feathers…

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Session 7 - Making New Friends

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.

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Session 6 - Dealing With Monsters

The mountain rose from the sea and Kasuga Kiyomi, pulling from her vast education, identified it as an Uzu-me-boshi. It was a troll shaman bound to an oni, and if they could defeat the troll inside, the vast creature would dissipate.

As the others steeled themselves for battle, Bayushi Mamoru escorted Kiyomi below decks as a non-combatant. Believing he would perish in this fight, he surprised her with a kiss before rushing back above. Seeing an opportunity, he climbed into the ship’s catapult.

Sanjuro Yuzuki dashed to the crow’s nest, firing off an arrow that seemed to have little effect on the beast. Sanjuro Tatsuya decided to take the direct route and dove in, swimming to the beast. Toritaka Hitomi, knowing she would be unable to swim in her heavy armor, tied herself to the mast with a long length of rope. Shiba Sagura attempted to climb the rigging, but got tangled.

The Uzu-me-boshi’s back began sparking and a wave of steam engulfed the ship, trying to cook them alive. Kasuga Tomo, the ship’s captain, launched Mamoru at the beast, a gleam in his eye. Yuzuki fired off another arrow, striking the beast, who barely noticed the tiny arrow. Mamoru landed on the chest, his blades digging deep in the creature’s flesh, just as his cousin Tatsuya reached the beast and started the long climb up.

Hitomi tried to reach out and strike the beast with her bisento, but between the distance and the ship’s movement, she was unable to strike it. The beast inhaled deeply, releasing a torrent of water of water onto the ship, cracking wood and nearly washing many of the sailors overboard. Sagura, frustrated with being tangled and inspired by Mamoru’s own flight at the beast, severed a taut rope holding him bound, flinging himself towards the beast. He landed very close to the eye and began stabbing.

Tomo, being the self-proclaimed ‘greatest sailor in Rokugan’, maneuvered around the beast and the Gaijin ship, getting closer, trying to avoid the steam and water jets. Toritaka Benkei, seeing the mast his daughter was tied to start to splinter and crack, wrapped his large arms around it, stabilizing it. The Tortoise sailors began quickly trying to repair and plug the holes in the boat, preventing it from swamping and sinking.

As they were finally close enough to the beast, Yuzuki set her bow down, taking up her meteor hammer, walking the short distance to the same shoulder Sagura was perched upon, swinging her hammer and knocking out one of the beast’s teeth.

Mamoru went to the other shoulder, reaching up with his obsidian weapon, this time in the shape of a scimitar, and popped the beasts eye, warm red liquid spilling out around him. The beast gave a mighty roar. Seeing his opening, Tatsuya jumped in the beasts mouth, surprised to be swimming in dark water and forcing his claustrophobia and an epileptic seizure away, swam downward to the beast’s belly.

Finally close enough to use her weapon, Hitomi sliced open the beast’s side, spilling light into the troll inside. Angry at the damage it had taken, the Uze-me-boshi clawed at Sagura and Yuzuki. She got out of the way but Sagura took the brunt of the damage and began to fall. Shaken, Yuzuki missed striking the beast with her meteor hammer.

Mamoru, seeing his cousin jump down the beast’s throat, quickly followed, just as Tatsuya struck at the troll inside. The beast roared and flailed, the cause of its pain not easily visible. Hitomi, acting out of instinct, reached forward just further than she could reach, snapping the rope holding her to the ship but catching Sagura and saving his life. He managed a quiet “Thank you” before passing out and being set on the deck.

The troll attacked Tatsuya, the beast moving to fight something no one else could see. Feeling a surge from the Void from somewhere, Tatsuya struck again, stabbing the troll. Tomo began steering the ship into the beast’s belly. Yuzuki and Hitomi continued to strike at the beast.

Mamoru, being a sneaky ninja, stabbed the troll from behind in surprise. The troll’s own defenses shocked Mamoru, rendering him unable to fight. The troll, ignoring the wounded Scorpion, instead struck at Tatsuya, almost slaying him. Tatsuya impaled the troll, killing it, getting shocked himself.

The enormous beast roared one final time before starting to fall apart and dissolve just as the ship hit its belly. Mamoru and Tatsuya were washed out of the belly through the cut Hitomi had made. She grabbed Sagura and Mamoru, preventing them from falling overboard. Tatsuya crashed into Benkei. Yuzuki calmly walked back into the crow’s nest, retrieving her bow.

The battle was won and the beast defeated, everyone tired, sore, and soaked.

The Gaijin ship, recovered from their battle with the beast, approached closer. Weary, everyone began to ready weapons for the next pending fight. Kiyomi assured them she could handle it and scrambled up the gangplank, barely hesitating, her father following. On board she met the ship’s captain, Edward Teach from Thrane.

Speaking strictly in Thane, Kiyomi directed the Gaijin away from the Imperial City and towards the Isles of Silk and Spice, specifically Honor’s Anchor. She portrayed herself as naïve, talkative, and not comprehending what she was manipulating him towards. He offered a gift of a cannon, which she had to reject, if only because her ‘companions’ would insist on its destruction. He then offered a gaijin cutlass and barrels of Rum, which she took, offering her old war fan in exchange. Tomo, proud at his daughter’s performance, left two of his sailors on board Teach’s ship.

Yang’s Honor limped to port for repairs. Sagura wrote a letter to the Fox Daimyo and sent it off ahead. Mamoru tried to get on Kakita Kiyo’s good side, with mixed success. Yuzuki, bored at being in port, went fishing and caught a whale.

Deciding not to kill it, she swam next to it to remove the embedded hook. A Ningyo, a Rokugani mermaid, swam up and thanked her, handing her a small pearl.

Kiyomi, watching the battle but not participating in it, told the story of the fight with the Uzu-me-boshi, mentioning everyone’s name but focusing on the deeds of the Minor Clans, especially Sanjuro Tatsuya. The well-spun tale has begun to spread across the empire already, and many now look with interest and some trepidation upon this newest generation…

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