(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?