Mirumoto Fumiko sent out invitations to every other Major Clan, and several of the minor ones, to her court at Shiro Mirumoto. With the Dragon being the only Major Clan not involved in the Spirit War, the other Clans saw this as an opportunity to sway them to one side or another.
Fumiko was mindful of this, and eager to get her sons and adopted-son/hostage Sanjuro Tatsuya experience in Courtly ways. She specifically invited the youngest and most inexperienced courtiers, giving her children an edge while still allowing each Clan to pursue its own agendas.
The delegations arrived over the course of a day, each escorted by Tatsuya up the single winding path to the Dragon stronghold. As soon as the last guests, Tsi Daichi and Sanjuro Yuzuki, had arrived, the first formal dinner of the Court began.
Dinner, Night 1
The Scorpion courtier, Shosuro Akemi, flirted outrageously with everyone, particularly Tatsuya, and drugged her yojimbo, Bayushi Mamoru, purely out of habit. Mamoru, for his part, chatted with the Crane yojimbo and Tatsuya on little things, getting to know them both better.
The Mantis ambassador Moshi Akira stayed around the edges of the room with her yojimbo, Tsurichi Ai, and kept silent company with Sanjuro Yuzuki.
The Crab courtier, Yasuki Yori, attempted to make conversation with the Crane courtier, but was repulsed by the latter’s terrible manners at dinner. His yojimbo, Hiruma Tarou, kept a watchful eye on the courtier the entire time, rather than watching for any dangers to the man.
The Crane courtier, Asahina Minoru, displayed terrible manners throughout dinner, got drunk off of the little sake served there, and made several inappropriate suggestions to his yojimbo, Kakita Kiyo.
The Phoenix courtier, Asako Tsubasa, grew increasingly upset as her yojimbo, Shiba Sagura, continued to outshine her in Court functions. For his part, Sagura spent dinner getting to know the other yojimbo and, toward the end of the meal, preventing Kiyo from drawing a blade on her charge after numerous disgraceful suggestions.
The Unicorn courtier, Ide Hui, spoke to almost no one, seemingly bored with the entire affair. Her yojimbo, Utaku Chou, spoke of nothing but the upcoming Iaijutsu Tournament to take place the next day.
For his part, the Lion courtier, Ikoma Taichi, made easy, peaceful conversation with everyone nearby. His yojimbo, Matsu Vash, said nothing, choosing instead to sample the sweets and delicacies of the table.
The Tortoise courtier, Kasuga Kiyomi, kept up light conversation throughout the meal, managing to bring Tsurichi Ai and Sanjuro Yuzuki into a story about the Echoes of Rokugan. Her yojimbo, Toritaka Hitomi, watched dispassionately, noting only the strangely intent looks being sent her by Mirumoto Jirou.
Fumiko’s sons, Hideyoshi and Jirou, sat at the head table with their mother, while Tatsuya chose to eat at the lower tables and get to know the guests. Of especial interest to him were Kiyomi, who knew many stories of Tatsuya’s father, and Yuzuki, a member of his clan and daughter of the Echo of Courtesy.
The Tsi Forgemaster, Daichi, eschewed company: any who happened to sit nearby were ignored at best.
The Evening Hours, Night 1
Traditionally the time for discussion and planning, the making of alliances and the beginning of schemes, most of the delegations were too damn tired after a full day of travel to do much of anything.
Mamoru and Tatsuya attempted to get to know Tsi Daichi, and found that he chose to sleep by the forge, guarding a strange, lumpy bundle. Yuzuki spent the majority of her time staring off into the distance, though she exchanged a few words with Yasuki Yori and Tsurichi Ai on the subject of her mother.
The assembly had pretty much dispersed by the time Mirumoto Jirou had gathered the courage to approach Hitomi. As soon as she turned her eyes on his diminutive form, though, his carefully-prepared speech disappeared into the Void, and he did nothing more than blatantly proposition her. Kiyomi saved her from the social faux-pas of smiting him, and the Dragon disappeared off for the night.
The Morning Hours, Day 2
Shosuro Akemi ordered her yojimbo into her bedroll to be ravaged until the hour before dawn. While everyone else took the silence as a chance to rest, she stealthily crept to the kitchens and poisoned certain meals according to the seating arrangements. Among her intended victims were Mirumoto Jirou, Mirumoto Hideyoshi, Bayushi Mamoru, and Hiruma Tarou.
After a light meal, Mamoru and Tatsuya together visited the sleeping Tsi Daichi, bringing him food and drink and alerting him to the beginning of the Iaijutsu Tournament, which the old artisan was supposed to judge.
Almost every delegation was awake and alert for the first match of the day, Sanjuro Yuzuki vs Shiba Sagura. Itwas not a good start to the Tournament, however: Sagura, an experienced duelist, easily defeated Yuzuki before her sword cleared its scabbard. Both duelists comported themselves with Honor, though, and there was much applause as they left the dueling circle.
The second match, Mirumoto Jirou vs Toritaka Hitomi, ended with a kharmic strike: Jirou’s stroke missed, however, while Hitomi’s struck true, and drew perhaps more blood than was required. The two bowed, and Jirou stumbled off to the healers as the next dueling pair approached. Unnoticed by most, the Mantis courtier and her yojimbo finally showed up at this point.
Unknown to any save Shosuro Akemi, Hiruma Tarou had been poisoned at breakfast and was delirious. He stepped into the ring with a dai-tsuchi, wearing his heavy metal armor. Bayushi Mamoru kept to the heart of the event, and took an iaijutsu stance. The Crab struck first, swinging his heavy weapon on a perfect course with the Scorpion bushi’s head. Mamoru was the only one who saw a tiny needle fly through the air and into the Crab’s ear, causing the poisoned man to stumble and giving the Scorpion an opening. Mamoru drew blood, and the Crab left the ring in disgrace, storming off to another portion of the castle.
There was a break before the next duel began, but eventually Utaku Chou and Sanjuro Tatsuya stepped into the ring together. The Unicorn, eager for a glorious victory, underestimated the speed of her Dragon-trained opponent and suffered a humiliating defeat. Tatsuya treated her honorably, though, and was a credit to his Clan… both of them.
The Afternoon, Day 2
After the noon-day meal, the Court gathered to watch the second round. Sagura stepped into the ring to demonstrate that he could still duel, a formality since he had no assigned opponent, when a tall, dark-clothed figure with abnormally pale skin, silver hair, and a crystal no-dachi kicked his way through crowd and buildings on his way to the ring. He stepped inside the dueling circle and glared at the suddenly-pale Tsi Daichi, then at the shaken Sagura. The figure paused and began to speak, but Sagura kept to the rules of a duel and sliced the figure across the knuckles, damaging the man but drawing no blood. The silver-haired figure looked down at its injury, grinned at Sagura, and vanished without a trace, leaving his priceless weapon behind.
The Falcon, Toritaka Hitomi, recognized the ‘man’ as a spirit, though none she had seen before. While everyone else was unwilling to touch the fallen blade, Hitomi stepped forward and placed it next to Tsi Daichi. Kasuga Kiyomi stepped forward with a song to lighten everyone’s hearts, and Shiba Sagura encouraged everyone to put the event behind them.
Things progressed quickly after that: Mamoru lost to Kakita Kiyo in a hard-fought duel filled with graceful dodging and precise strikes. Hitomi was sorely wounded by Matsu Vash in a skirmish after a kharmic strike. It was at this time that Tatsuya found Hiruma Tarou decapitated: he quickly ordered the body removed, though no one could find the head.
The final duel of the day, and the determining match for the semi-finalists, put Tatsuya up against Hideyoshi. His surrogate-brother’s years of experience were countered by his growing hatred of Tatsuya, and the two met on equal footing: Hideyoshi’s attack struck a single hair from Tatsuya’s head, while Tatsuya’s attack barely drew two lines of blood along Hideyoshi’s side. The duel concluded, Hideyoshi dishonorably struck his surrogate brother in the face, leaving the circle in disgrace.
Dinner, Night 2
While Tatsuya was ordered to take Hideyoshi’s seat at the table, since Hideyoshi was missing and still disgraced, everyone else sought seats among those who knew them best. Shiba Sagura volunteered to perform a few graceful kata with his naginata, a Phoenix tradition that Mirumoto Fumiko welcomed after a day of such strange omens. After that, Kasuga Kiyomi volunteered the story of Toshiro, Honor’s Echo, and his duel for the hand of Kitsune Yamako. Such a legendary duel and its far-reaching consequences amongst the Minor Clans drew people’s thoughts back to politics, and the mood of the Court returned to normal.
Tsi Daichi left the meal early, begging exhaustion. Tatsuya made sure a guard accompanied him back to his ‘chambers’ by the forge. With the various courtiers busily plotting and planning, it was several hours before the young Mongoose hostage could find his way to the forge. Before then, he and every courtier attended the Haiku Competition, hosted by Fumiko herself.
Just prior to the contest, Shosuro Akemi’s hunt for Sagura was foiled as he walked to the gardens with Yazuki. She set her sights on Kiyomi, instead, and it was only Hitomi’s timely intervention that saved the young Tortoise from Akemi’s ‘vile’ clutches. The highlights of the competition were Tatsuya’s poem:
Born of Mongoose blood/
A home amongst the Dragon/
Mongoose needs her pup/
and Sagura’s poem:
Red and brown petals/
Forgotten in the moment/
The touch of Benten/
Fumiko was almost ready to announce a winner when her younger son stepped forward with his own love poem:
A peerless beauty/
Twin mountains of majesty/
The silent falcon
Sagura was declared the victor as Kiyomi again restrained Hitomi from smiting the presumptive Dragon.
When he was finally free, Tatsuya arrived at the forge to find the ronin Forgemaster unconscious, with his guard dead of poison. The strange bundle Daichi had so closely guarded was missing, and the only clue was a scrap of silk matching Tatsuya’s own torn robe…