Legend of the Five Rings: Accursed Destiny

Session 19 - Waiting for Death

Shiba Sagura knew he was in trouble. He knew that his entire world was about to turn on its head, one way or the other.

He did not mean to challenge the Spirit of Honor’s word, especially within his hearing.

He did not intend to sire a child with another man’s wife. To his mind, the child would be haunted by that stigma for the rest of its life… and so would the young Phoenix.

He never wished to ostracize himself by his words and drunken actions, to offend Kakita Kiyo, to infuriate Bayushi Mamoru.

These things occupied his thoughts as he awaited the dawn, and a duel to the death he did not believe he could win.

No one else slept that night, though for an entirely different reason. Toritaka Hitomi, Sanjuro Tatsuya, and Sanjuro Yuzuki were approached by an old ‘foe’: Ineko, the Song of Blood. She offered them her friendship and assistance in return for a simple boon…

Tatsuya and Yuzuki sent her away, debating whether turning over a copy of the Path of Man to the bloodspeaker could cause much trouble in the future… and if that trouble was worth the gain. While they debated, Kasuga Kiyomi, who had sneaked into Sanjuro Daichiko’s nursery to hold the baby, was also confronted by Ineko. When the same request was put to her, the Tortoise immediately chose to learn about her companions: how to cure the curses Tengoku, Jigoku, and all Creation had thrust upon them.

Ineko smiled.

Dawn approached, and Sagura’s meditations were interrupted by the arrival of his uncle, Isawa Keitaro, fresh from the defense of his brother’s keep. Keitaro bore a message in response to Sagura’s letter, orders from Yoshio. The message was sternly worded, telling the younger Phoenix to maintain the Honor of his Clan and their allies in the Miya, to forget his inner turmoil over a Dutiful act, and to preserve his life.

“A samurai’s life does not belong to him. It is given to his lord, to spend as he chooses in the pursuance of his own Duty. You have made your own choice, my son, and now you must live with it. Our family needs you.”

‘Must live’ rang in the young samurai’s mind, and his recently-regained vision cleared: he knew what he had to do.

When his companions assembled, and he faced the Spirit of Honor across a dueling circle, Sagura bowed, like a reed before a mighty wind, and recanted his offensive words. So Honor relented.

As his companions stepped forward to greet the relieved samurai, the Shadow Dragon sprung its trap. After all, how could it refuse such tempting, unaware, sleep-deprived targets, and a chance to capture or slay the Spirit of Honor as well? Shadows sprang to life, lesser avatars of the Dragon itself.

Hitomi, Yuzuki and Tatsuya stepped forward, proud and confident. Kiyomi ducked behind her bodyguard and cousin, and Sagura stepped forward to duel with his own opponent. The battle that followed flowed perfectly, the companions in harmony with each other once more, and with each blow another minion of the Shadow Dragon was sent howling back to the Nothingness.

The battle ended when Sagura paused to stare down at the arrow through his heart.

Time froze: within the arrow was bound a Beast, a creature embodying 107 lifetimes filled with mistakes and wickedness. Sagura’s past self, prepared to consume his soul and drag it to Gaki-do forever.

A samurai would have stood his ground. He would have fought the Beast to the death, conquering it or being devoured by it. But Sagura had gained wisdom over the past year: he found a path besides Bushido, one that held a more certain victory, if he could bear the price.

“You are a part of me.” He accepted the Beast into himself, to keep it penned with his will, to accept all of his mistakes, and to move past them.

Kiyomi watched all of this as though from afar, piercing the frozen moment, her own curse causing her to see how her dead friend would be judged. But the blazing letters above his head that signaled his final destination shifted constantly: Jigoku, Gaki-do, Maigo no Musha, Yomi, Tengoku… until at last the Fortune of Death himself stood before them for his deliberations.

The Tortoise bargained and reasoned and pleaded for the Phoenix’s life as he contained the Beast. And Emma-O, The Final Judge, at last relented. The Phoenix rose again.

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Session 18 - In the End, Our Choices Make Us

Deciding to press on immediately rather than stay and rest after their arduous battles, the exhausted party set out. Taking the Imperial Road toward Kyuden Miya ensured swift travel, and they made camp less than a day away from the home of the Imperial Herald. That night, Bayushi Mamoru returned to the party in his merchant disguise, pursued by minions of the Shadow Dragon. When Sanjuro Tatsuya and his companions proved more than capable of defending themselves, even half-asleep, the ninja withdrew.

The entire week he was gone, Mamoru killed agents and minions of the former Lying Darkness.  They took exception to that.

Sanjuro Yuzuki took watch as the others tried to bed down for a little more rest. Deprived of anything interesting to do, the former Spirit of Meido entertained herself by using her new nemuranai to fish. After almost an hour of patient waiting and a mighty heave, the Mongoose diplomat landed… the kami of the river itself.

Forsaking yet another night’s rest, the party hurried to Kyuden Miya, convincing the gate guards to let them in despite their suspicions of this ‘ronin band’. Early-risen townsfolk merrily gossiped over the birth of the Miya Daimyo’s heir, a boy: every time it was mentioned, Sagura’s mood became more dour. Tatsuya and Yuzuki shed their disguises, the Dragon’s hostage longing to see family after so long and Yuzuki eager to speak with her long-time friend. Only Kasuga Kiyomi took the time to count the months that had passed: seven since the marriage between Daichiko and the Imperial Herald, not the nine expected from a blessed marriage.

Miya Byakuya

That didn’t stop her from wanting to be the first to hold the tiny, adorable bundle.

Following the example set by the Mongoose, everyone save Mamoru removed their ronin attire and greeted the Daimyo and his wife as friends and family. The Scorpion wandered the town as a merchant, picking through rumor and gossip before presenting himself at the celebratory feast.

Only the Phoenix remained morose. That child was his, to his mind, and the dishonor of his actions weighed heavily upon his mind.

He sought an audience with his former lover, and Daichiko granted it after meeting with Yuzuki and Tatsuya. The Miya Lady and the Phoenix Heir discussed the child, her life, and their past relationship. Sagura claimed that they should reveal the child’s true heritage, lest this new life be tainted by dishonor. Daichiko held that in the eyes of the Empire, no matter what else, the child was Lord Miya’s: her son would not be haunted by her past.

Sagura turned to sake for comfort, and later his friends for advice. Due to the Phoenix’s profoundly ill-chosen and drunken words, his request for aid was rewarded by a sound drubbing from Mamoru, a sharp word from Kiyomi, more sake from Yuzuki, and quiet support from Tatsuya. On advice from the Spirit of Honor, Sagura sent a letter to his lord and father detailing his crime, asking for judgement.

Tactless words to Kiyo, Kiyomi, and Toshiro, a looming hangover, and the final repercussions of his choice seven months ago combined to hound the young blademaster’s thoughts as he gazed up at the stars that night.

Everyone rested, awaiting what the morning would bring.

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