With only about half an hour before the big feast the young group of samurai each prepared for the feast. Kakita put on her Topaz Armor, the heavy armor she had won as the Topaz Tournament Champion, Hida Kengetsu prayed to his ancestors for guidance for his test, Shinjo polished his bow and Akodo prepped his mane. No one knew what Shosuro was doing. At the given time they came out and were escorted by a servant to the main dining hall. The hall was near the center of Kyuden Hida and the only light sources were from burning lanterns.
At the center of the table was Hida Yakamo with Kuni Yori to his right and an open spot for Isawa Masanori on his left. Also at the table were several of the Hida Champion Guard and Hida Fujizaka.
Once everyone had found a place to sit, Hida Yakamo stood up to give a speech: “We are gathered here today to once again help celebrate the upcoming Setsuban Festival on behalf of our friends the Phoenix. The visitors here will take the Crab Clan shugenja scrolls and escort them back to the Phoenix lands where they will be presented to the winner of the Shugenja duel competition. Now LET US EAT!” And with that simple speech the feast began. Servants brought in plate after plate of food. Although the food was simple the sheer amount of food that was presented was a bit overwhelming. The only non-Crab who could seem to keep up with the vastness of food presented was Isawa as the rest of the young samurai tried their best to eat slowly.After the dinner started in earnest, the first of the demonstrations began. The first demonstration was the resolution of a dispute between two bushi, a Hiruma and a Hida, who had been promised the same woman. After listening to their arguments, Hida Yakamo decreed that the dispute would be decided by a tetsubo duel. Both combatants were already fully armored and they were brought a pair of lightly padded, just enough to make it difficult for a loss to result in death rather then simple unconsciousness, in order to settle their dispute. With a shout from Yakamo the two combatants started wailing at each other. To the surprise of the non-Crab at the dinner all the Crab started cheering and betting on the outcome of the fight. After receiving a couple of solid blows the Hida fell unable to continue the fight leaving the Hiruma as the winner of the dispute.
Once the results from the first dispute were cleaned up Yakamo ordered some professional entertainment brought in. With that proclamation a pair of Sumai wrestlers entered from both the west and east and begun their circle around the ring along with their introduction after which the ring was cleansed and blessed in preparation for the bouts. While the cleansing was being performed the first combatants stretched and prepared while the spectators began betting on the outcomes. Kakita noticed that Shosuro was not engaging in betting and asked for the reason as Shosuro had demonstrated her ability and enjoyment in gambling. Shosuro mentioned that she had to watch her spending until they got back into the lands of the Scorpion and she could receive her stipend. Kakita pushed over a koku to her and told her to enjoy herself. After some debated Shosuro accepted the coin and reviewed the betters and the competitors. Seeing that the one in the West corner was just as fit but with more spirit then the East she placed the whole koku as a bet with one of the Hida Champion Guards. He was hesitant for a bit but thinking that he knew more about sumai then the little Scorpion accepted the bet. The match began and after a bit of wrestling for position the competitor from the West threw his opponent out of the ring. Shosuro got a few glares from her competitors but must thought it was simple luck. Kakita for her part was quite amused and told Shosuro to continue. The next matchup begun and Shosuro once again used her skill for measuring people to determine the likely winner. This time one of the Hida Champion Guard samurai-kos decided to place the bet thinking that she Shsuro had simply used her beauty to confuse her comrade. This time the bet was for half a koku. And once again Shosuro’s chosen one won the bout.
As the ring was cleared a servant came to Hida Kengetsu and told him that his master, Hida Hisoka, was waiting in the hall. Kengetsu thanked him and explained to Hida Yakamo that he had an appointment to keep with his master. Yakamo understood and nodded his permission. Kengetsu then mentioned that he would like to be able to take Kakita with him if she was willing and if it was ok with Yakamo. Kakita nooded her acceptance and with Yakamo’s agreement the two of them excused themselves from the banquet hall. Outside they found Hisota waiting for them. As they walked Kengetsu explained to Kakita the purpose of the meeting and that since she had taught him Mizu-do and helped him find his path he had wanted her to witness this test as well. During this time Hisota watched the interaction between the two and noticed the much cleaner appearance of Kengetsu. He told them that the Crab clan had a misson for Kengetsu and that Hisota would be personally indebted to Kakita if she would assit Kengetsu. Kakita cautiously agreed as Hisota explained the situation. It seemed that the niece of the Emperor, Okomo Yoroshiku, would be at the Setsuban Festival. She was of marrying age and her father and uncle were permitting her to choose her own husband. Hisota reminded Kengetsu of the troubles the Crab faced; the constant onslaught by the Shadowlands with limited support from the rest of the Empire. He then said “We need resources and this is the best way to get them. If you were to marry the Emperor’s niece, you could be in position to procure them when and where we needed them. Go. Play their games, dance to their foolish tunes. But do not forget that brave samurai die here every day; by bedding this Hantei woman, you could help end the bloodshed once and for all”. Looking at Kakita he asked if she would assist in helping Kengetsu by teaching him how to successfully court a more refined woman. She had already had an obvious influencing in helping him overcome his uncleanliness disadvantage a bit. She agreed that she would do her best in making Hida better himself.
While they talked they made their way out of Kyuden Hida, passed the hundred bushi guarding the gate, and down into the surunding village. They entered into some of the more seedy parts of the town and went into a sake house with the Hiruma mon on the outside. The inside had a dirt floor and one empty table that, as Kengetsu’s skill at battle told him, was tactically surrounded by the other Hiruma scout full tables. They sat down at a rectangular table for six and ordered some sake with Hisota at one end of the table with Kengetsu to his right and Kakita seated to his left. Hisota explained that the new sensei, Hiruma Goemon, had served as a Hiruma Scout, as a Hiruma Grappler, a Hida Bushi and Hida Wrestler and now was a sensei serving a the Grip of Earth Dojo.
Not long after the sake was served three more samurai entered the sake house. The oldest of the trio walked with a limp, the younger two being a Hiruma and a Hida. They walked over and greeted the already seated trio and introductions were made. The one with the limp was Hiruma Goemon, who sat at the opposite end of the table from Hisota, with the Hida Avenger seated to his left and across from Kakita, and the Hiruma Grappler seated to the left of the Hida Avenger and across from Kengetsu. With the introductions done and sake served Goemon got straight to the point. As a favor to Hisota he was willing to give Kengetsu a chance to convince him that he was capable of changing his complete way of battle and continue down the path of a Hida Wrestler. Kengetsu explained his encounter with the Tsi blacksmith and his consequent reliance on his martial art abilities. He also explained him learning Mizu-do from Kakita which got a smirk from the Crab as Mizu-do was far from a respected martial art. The Hida Avenger and the Hiruma Grappler started asking Kengetsu varying questions about his encounters and abilities. They also explained the advantages and disadvantages of fighting close in and personal with an opponent. The Avenger used his size and strength to assist him along with his masakari while the Hiruma Grappler preferred to find his opponent unawares or asleep and finish it quietly with his knife.
After hearing all this Hiruma Goemon asked Kengetsu if still thought he was capable on undertaking this new path in life and prepared to face the challenges. Kengetsu affirmed that he was. Without a word of warning the Hiruma scout reached across the table and sank his knife into Hida Kengetsu’s right arm. Kakita reacted almost immediately and rolled away from the table. She had seen the attack but hadn’t had the time to react. She did have time to prepare for the Hida avenger about to throw the table at her. She chose her moment, the table left the ground, flew at her and her sword split the table neatly in half. The avenger attempted to follow up his table throw by attacking with his masakari, but Kakita had seen that as well. With a graceful swing of her own blade, Kakita deftly disarmed the avenger.
The battle abruptly ended with a shout of pain and thump on the floor. Hida had come to his feet in a defensive posture after being stabbed. The Hiruma Scout had, at first, rolled away from the table. After the avenger had thrown the table, the scout attacked Kengetsu using his skills Kobo Ichi-Kai. Kengetsu had chosen to respond with one of the Mizu-Do techniques he had learned from Kakita. Kengetsu, using the Thumb Wrench technique, completely dislocated the scout’s arm. The scout had shouted in pain and then slumped to the floor unconscious.
Before the fight could go on any further Hiruma Goemon stood and simply told everyone to stop. He looked at Kengetsu and told him that he would train him. He then walked over to Kengetsu and with one blow to his head knocked him unconscious. He then had the Avenger drag Kengetsu out the door. The Avenger bowed to Kakita and Hisota and placed the Hiruma Grappler over his shoulder and dragged Kengetsu out the door by his foot. Goemon told Kakita that Kengetsu would be a week delayed but should join them by the time they reached Shiro Kuni. As they left Kakita made a comment about the effectiveness of Mizu-do to the general laughter of the Hiruma Scouts seated around them. With the business taking care of Hisota escorted Kakita back to the dinner.
Meanwhile back at the dining hall the dinner had continued. Another dispute had been brought before Yakamo. A pair of twins, whose mother had given birth to them alone and had died while doing so, father had just died. With neither one being the obvious senior they had came to Yakamo to decide the matter. After hearing the problem Yakamo once again said they would decide the victor by tetsubo duel. The padded tetsubos were brought out once again and Yakamo gave them permission to begin. Acompanied by cheering and betting the two brothers began their duel. They were evenly matched and the duel progressed for a surprising amount of time. Finally, with a definite blow to one of the brother’s armored skull, the bout was decided. Yakamo decreed that the winner was the older brother and should arrange the inheritance portions for him and his now younger brother. With the final bout decided and final meal finished Yakamo told his visitors that now they would begin the true entertainment and competition for the night: the drinking contest.
With that said servants begin bringing in trays full of sake. Shiba was able to excuse himself from the whole drinking contest due to his yojimbo duties. Akodo also was able to weasel his way out of the whole contest by his commitment to duty and taking care of his comrades. Shosuro tried her best to get out of it but could not think of a good enough excuse and Shinjo didn’t even try. So as the sake was distributed in front of everyone the first round began. Shinjo tossed down the extra strong sake with out a problem but Shosuro wasn’t so lucky. After taking her shot she tried to stand up with the rest of the competitors but wasn’t able. A few seconds later she leaned against the table and passed out. Seeing this Akodo said that he would carry back to her room as he wasn’t drinking. Yakamo gave his permission for Akodo to do so. With that Akodo picked Shosuro up, much to the sadness of Hida Fujizaka, and carried her back to her room. He had little trouble with her weight, even when his sandal broke and he almost went down. When he reached the hallway with their rooms the two posted guards raised an eyebrow at the circumstances which Akodo replied that the drinking contest had begun. Once Akodo had placed Shosuro on her bedroll and placed a kimono over her he went back to the dinning hall meeting Kakita just as she was walking up with Hida Hisota. Kakita explained that Hida would be detained for a week but should be catching up with them soon.
Kakita and Akodo walked back into the dinning hall together and Hisota excused himself. Inside they arrived just in time for the fourth round. Shinjo had been taking care of himself up to then but as the fourth was downed, down Shinjo went down as well. When Kakita walked in Yakamo spotted her, her silver white hair and Topaz Armor stood out easily in the room, and beckoned her over to join the competition. As the fitth round commenced five sake bowls were placed in front of Kakita. Yakamo explained that she had to catch up. She nodded and began drinking her bowls of sake. She drank down two bowls of sake and with that she was unable to continue and she too fell victim to the effects of the sake. Akodo once again had to take one of his companions upstairs. Carrying Kakita was a little bit more difficult as she was in full armor but he managed to get her upstairs and into her room. He then went back downstairs to check on Isawa and Shiba and to carry Shinjo back to his room. But when he arrived Yakamo was able to convince him to finish the drinks that Kakita had been unable to finish in order to defend the honor of his “fallen” companions. Akodo reluctantly agreed and proceeded to finish the drinks. He got thru Kakita’s remaining three bowls until he too fell victim to the potent sake.
The next morning, those not being brutally beaten in the name of training (so everyone except Kengetsu), woke up to find a cup of foul smelling substance sitting next to their beds with a note “For your headache”. Everyone decided to drink the awfull substance and within a few minutes felt vaguely more human. Kakita spend must of the morning finding someone to clean her armor and taking a bath. Shosuro had someone clean her kimono also took a bath. Akodo changed into his other kimono and went off to find Hida Fujizaka, who the guards told him had carried him to his room the night before and they were invited by Shinjo to watch his final training with his falcon which upon being released for the first time from its tether returned straight to Shinjo’s arm.
Shosuro, after watching Shinjo’s Falconry showing, went off in search of Hida Yakamo for unknown reasons. Her guard informed her that Hida Yakamo was last seen patrolling the Wall. As Shosuro came up the stairs and arrived into the sounds of battle. Close to a hundred goblins were locked in combat with barely fifty Crab bushi. One of the two guards at the top of the stairs was already on his way to join the fight. The other looked at Shosuro, off to the fight, back to Shosuro and finally relinquished himself to the duty of guarding a guest in his lord’s fortress. Shosuro examined the fight her vantage point just outside it edges. Between all the battling flesh of men and monsters she could just make out Hida Yakamo in the center of the battle. Shosuro decided that there would be few better opportunities to impress Yakamo.
With a smile and a nod to the fight she asked her new guard, “shall we?” It was all the encouragement he needed. Together Shosuro and her guard downed twelve goblins together. Shosuro had even managed to cut one of the foul beasts clear in half with her katana. Once they reach the ring of Hida Champion Guards surrounding Hida Yakamo they separated. The Hida guard stayed on the edges of the fight while Shosuro made her way to Yakamo’s side. Two more goblins attacked them before the battle finally ended. Yakamo crushed one outright with his heavy tetsubo. The other goblin met the same fate after first being wounded by Shosuro.
Meanwhile Akodo had been searching for Hida Fujizaka finally finding him talking to some troops. Akodo thanked him for taking him and Shinjo up to their rooms the night before and taking them out of their kimonos so they wouldn’t be ruined. Hida Fujizaka said that it was not too much of a problem but if Akodo really wanted to repay the favor he could out in a good word with Shosuro and maybe help him get some alone time with her before they departed. Akodo said he would try when he got a chance. Thinking that was no time like the present, he went off in search of Shosuro. Asking around he found that she had last been seen heading up to the Wall. He came up and saw the bushi starting to toss the bodies of the goblins down off the wall and finishing the ones still crawling by either stabbing, crushing or simply tossing them off the wall as well to allow the hundred foot drop to finish the job. A few bushi had fallen to the goblin’s weapons and were tossed into one of the constant burning pyres set up for light sources and to purify the bodies of the fallen. Shosuro helped next to Yakamo with the two of them talking. When Akodo arrived he mentioned that looked like he had missed out on all the fun. Yakamo explained that this was the life for the Crab on the wall but they bore the duty proudly. Shosuro promised that she would see him later that night and that Kakita and her would provide for some entertainment. Yakamo promised he was looking forward to it.
After that Shosuro and Akodo went off to relax and prepare for their dinner later that night. Shosuro especially went off to find Kakita to inform her that Yakamo wanted them to do a performance for him later that night. Kakita agreed and they spent some time preparing for their performance while the rest explored around Kyuden Hida waiting for their departure the next morning.