Our meeting with the giants of the wall over, I feel it is more than past time for me to check up on Bayushi Bakuryu . From the crane we have been told that he will be well enough to travel by the time we have to set out. I ask to see him, and from the Scorpion I learn nothing.
I fear the stress of meeting the Scorpion clan face to face may have been more than my young yojimbo was prepared for. Once again, I am told how I differ from the rest of my clan. Fitting, as I am soon to be tortoise, if I return sane from the Shadowlands. This seems to be highly unlikely, but dwelling on it will only make things worse.
I owe a debt of grattitude to Master Tsu. With his help I was able to finish my gift to Tek’Tatsuzo Ikrit in only two days. It is something I would not have been able to do anywhere else in the Empire. Easy access to supplies and parts, a master smith to aid me. They are not as detailed as I would like, but they are complete and functional. I will name them before I give them to Ikrit.
I wanted to give Ryuutsume some time. He seemed a little shaken by his time with the memories of my blade. I will talk to him, but if it can be helped, I do not wish to frighten him.
Bayushi Bakuryu greets me at the forge as Master Tsu and I are finishing the gift for Ikrit. He is much weaker than I have ever seen him. He asks for his blade and clip back, which I return to him. It is obvious that the cleansing of his wound has taken it’s toll on his body, and I am glad that his will is strong enough for the fight.
Well tommorow we depart for the shadowlands, for better or ill, I fear it will leave it’s mark on me the rest of my days.
I get to know the warriors My Lady Somesai Dai has sent to watch over me. Thank the Kami that these are able bodied men, each with a unique weapon at their disposal. I am relieved that at least I will not be forced to nursemaid these men in battle. Working at the forge with Master Tsu is a calming and centering activity. I hold my head high with pride knowing that I am working so near an obvious master of his craft. It is then that one of his assistants calss him Master Fubatsu. Fubatsu! My hand shakes even now thinking about it. My hammer stutters as well as my words. “Master Fubatsu?” I ask incedulous. He turns with a mischivious gleam in his eye, “Yes?” My mind works to put the pieces together. “But your work is known the length of the empire!” I blurt out more like an awestruck child than a properly trained samurai. Again he smiles at me. Knowing that my words would fail me utterly if I continue I bow deeply and return to the weapon I had been repairing. It is later when The rest have left for the day that Master Fubatsu shares a gift with me. A kaiu smithing hammer, and a jade flake whetstone. I do not recall if I refused them properly, but fortunately for me I do no think Master Fubatsu would make an issue of such a slip if I did.
Unfortunately the relative peace I had found here would be disturbed. There are times I wish the Kami would have left me be, and found another champion. This would be one of those times. a feeling of hopelessness settles over our group as we discuss entering and leaving the shadowlands. We will all return tainted. Unless the kami have set aside some way for us to avoid the taint. I have never been overtly religous, but I dearly hope they have. I look to Kazanbai and wonder if I had his gift, would I have made the same choices, would I have become tainted already too? My immediate answer is no. I would like to believe that is an honest answer. Now we willl leave in a few days and I must accept the fact that I may never see my homeland again. I may indded become the mindless beserker the senseis warned us about. I have my duty. I will accept it and perform it as long as I can. The one thing that gives me hope is the thought that I will come across Neichiwei No Oni. Oh, I would enjoy that! I made a promise to Neichiwei that I would avenge him, and I intend to keep it.
I feel saddened by what I had to do next. We had to convince the Crane and Tortoise who were following us that they had to remain behind. It nearly broke my spirit to see such ready devotion and having to deny them. I hope they understand the respect I hold for them, and do not think I have slighted them.
There are days I wish I were a simple blacksmith, but I am not. I am a Matsu, and duty demands my scarifice. It will have it.
Of course Ryuutsume‘s fall causes a little stir among my companions. Kakita Hotsuma shows his ussual disdain for any decision I make. At least by now we are more or less dismissive of each other instead of talking politely behind clenched teeth. Kuni Kazuma offers to carry him, and I decline. I believe the Kuni thinks that he is the best at everything. Sure, he is large for a shugenja, but he lacks dicipline. A litter is made, and I drag the ronin to the Kaiu Wall.
I am glad I lived long enough to witness this. An engineering marvel, manned by warriors ready to respond at a moments notice. Much of the empire will tell you the Crab are nothing more than brutes and savages. Well if that is true, then these savages take their oaths very seriously. Walking the wall I have the opportunity to study some Hida beserkers. Though our teachings differ there is at least a bit of similar thought in our attacks. Though I see far more energy being used than is necessary, they train with an enthusiasm I find refreshing. My studies are disturbed when I hear the clear sound of a forge being worked. Though I find the practices of other clans interesting, the forge calls to my spirit. While there I meet Master Tsu. A finer weaponsmith I have yet to meet, and I have meet many fine crafters in my travels. It is nice to work with a fellow weaponsmith. It is even better to be given the oppurtunity to study under a master.
The night has grown long and I head back to my quarters, preparing to wash the stink of the forge off of me. Bayushi Bakuryu asks to see me on the wall after I have checked in on the ronin. Though our viewpoints are drastically different, Bakuryu is the closest thing I could call a friend. Esspecially these days. He asks me to hold onto his Crystal sword and jade clip. I know his blade was given to him, and he does not let it go lightly. It is then that some more Scorpion join us on the wall and move to flank him. Though no weapons are drawn, I can feel the tension in the air. I ask Bakuryu if this is of his own free will. His response is one of acceptance. “It is. They do what they feel they must.” If he had wanted it, I would have cut them all down. Consequences be damned. It’s at that moment I realize that I am a poor friend. Bakuryu is probably still injured from our fight in Toshi Ranbo, where we fought the shadow beings. A shugenja steps forward to inspect the items Bakuryu has given me. At a nod from Bakuryu I hold out his blade and clip to be inspected. He declares bothe of them “pure”. With that they depart, and I wonder if I did the right thing.
Watching Bakuryu’s group depart footsteps rapidly close on me from behind. Already weary with todays events, I turn warily to the newcommers. “My lord, is everything alright?” “Yes,” I respond, “Simply different clans with different customs.” It is then that I notice their mon is not Crab but Tortoise. I bow to the four of them. “We feared we would not find you in time.” Just like Somesai Dai to get the last word in before a dangerous mission. She would send out runners with a letter. “We are here to serve as your Yojimbo.” At this point I break down into tears laughing. Gatering my wits I explain to the Tortoise before me that it is not their ability that makes me laugh, but the intent behind it. He seems to take no offence. It seems my last letter was a little over dramatic and she sent out over two dozen warriors in different directions to find and protect me. I have said before that my words have gotten me in trouble before. Protection? HA! Yojimbo? Ha! What does my lady take me for, a Phoenix in need of a defender? I am a Matsu. A tool to be used against the enemies of my Emperor. I explain that I believe the Lady has perhaps overstated my importance. Seeing the looks on their faces I understand they are follwing the orders of their Champion and Daiymo. Little I say would dissude them. I share a cup of saki with them and tell them that tommorow will be the time to get to know each other. This should be… interesting.
Having defeated the dream creature we were now left stranded on the dreaming world. Kazanbai still lay unconcious. A spirit converses with Hotsuma and thanks him for his help freeing himself. Then a few minutes later we are greeted by a centuries old spirit. Evidently one of great importance, and a relative of Hotsuma’s. To me he said “It is good you honor your blade so”. To the ronin he says “You should not be ashamed of who you are.” To Kuzuma he syas “You folowed him here? You are braver than I thought.” I feel an almost impulsive need to question the ancient spirit, but the ronin cautions me not to pester a spirit. With a twinge of regret I watch him leave. Think of the advice one soul so old would be able to pass on! Would it not have been the greatest breach of ettiqutte I would have begged the spirit to share some of his wisdom and history. A few hours pass and a smal group of Crab come and return us to the waking world. It seems that Ikrit had informed them of our need. Once again the nezumi prove a most useful ally. It bothers me that my fellow bushi treat them with such scorn. I wil forge a great gift for Ikrit to show him and his clan how much I appreciate their help. Speaking of Ikrit’s tribe, I wonder how long his tribe will be in their own dream battling tommorow.
The crane continued to fortify in my absence and the mountain pass is now well fortified. I am impressed at the speed of the Crane Warriors, and it’s at that time I learn we have been in the dream realm for nearly two weeks. Humph. More lost time.
The ronin approaches me as we march towards the wall. My hostility towards him has waned, though it is a long road until I would consider him a friend. He politly implores me to see my blade. He shows respect, but I tell him that he does not know what he is asking. He also has a responsibility to the Jade Shujenga, one he wants to help our mission in any way he can. Tricky man. Appealing to my sence of duty. I have given my word to the Jade Shugenja to be a little less stubborn and not leaving off on my own again. Ok, so maybe just the latter, but I will not disappoint him again. I tell the ronin that what he asks of me is my history, and my future. As cleansing the blade is an unfullfilled task, one I will remedy before my death. He says with his spirit touch, his ability to see the history of an object, I will not even have to draw it. I refuse and I tell him this is not some feather or fan. It is a weapon of war. If he wants to see my blade’s past he will get it unfiltered. I draw the blade and he moves to take it from me. I shake my head telling him I will allow him his glimpse, but I will not handover my blade. He takes hold of the grip and goes white. He shakes for a moment or two, then falls. I sheate my blade and lean down “I warned you.” I wonder what it is he saw. Will he come back sane? The way of the Matsu is not a subtle art. It is war through sheer force. Perhaps I will learn somethings that have been forgotten. Perhaps he can help me with the cleansing of my blade.
Somedays are simple and straight forward, others are not. Crossing the mountain range on our way to the Wall, we were attacked. In our dreams. Honestly. I may be a jade magistrate, but I have always seen that posting as a way to open door in our quest to find the rings. Or in a lesser case, to offer a sword arm to the other magistrates who are far more adept in jade dealings. Our escort of Crane warriors and some of our party were asleep and would not wake. Many things happened in short order,the most important being Kazanbi ordered the gathering of those that could not wake together. Feeling a little ineffectual I lead the Crane into the builing of fortifications. Kazanbai then states he believes we need to enter the dream. When I asked him why he said he believed we could help those trapped inside the dream only from the dream. I disagreed, but I didn’t have an alternative, so we agreed to proceed. Kazanbai instructed us to meditate and he would guide us in. I warned Kazanabi that meditating to find a peaceful center is difficult for me in the calmest of times, I could only guess as to my ability under duress. I felt Kazanbai strain to pull me into the dream. Once into the dream I see Bakuryu standing over me striking out at snakes that have attached to me. I see the ronnin grab a fistful of the snakes and try to pull them out to no effect. Kakita Hotsuma is firing his bow, which glows when he draws it back. He has taken to his bow more often. Perhaps he is trying to become a better balanced warrior. Kazuma is wielding Hotsuma blade when he is knocked into the air from a creature erupting from the ground. It is composed of many of the snakes attacking us. I thought at this point I could free myself from the snakes feeding on me or I could attack that which seemed to be a focus. I charged the creature (Kazanabi would later tell what it was called, but that name escapes me right now) and attacked as a son of Matsu. Kazanbai collapses. I can only assume he is once a gain fighting a battle I cannot witness. Hotsuma releases a shot from his bow that explodes the creature all over me. The creature is defeated, Now we just have to return to the waking world.
On a personal note I spoke with Kazanabi about creating a staff with him and I swallowed my pride and asked Hotsuma to help me with my Iajitsu.
Some days are simple and straight forward. There are enemies of the Emperor before you, and nothing to stand between you and righteously cutting them down. Our group may be a jumpy bunch, but you could hardly blame us after all that’s happened since we were called together. The days events went much like they have in the past. Most of us justtrying not to go stir crazy without getting into the crew’s way. That night I’m awoken by more activity on the deck than is normal for an average night. I rise and find out a trader vessel is signalling our’s and it wants to talk. Immeadiately my hackles are raised. This has been a favorite ruse of the forces arrayed against us. I ask Kazuma to rouse the rest of our group. Better to play it safe than dead. It seems Kakita Hotsuma shares my apprehension. We ask Kazanbai to protect our vessel while Hotsuma, Kazuma and I investigate thier claims of an injured captain. The injury is true, as is the identity of the captain. Apparentlyy a trusted friend of our own captain. The real face of the situation is revealed when Kazuma heals the injured captain and his first mate panics. A trap. Ha! We were prepared for this. I’m allowed to cut down the pirates like the undeserving men they are. Hotsum works on his Bow from over my shoulder. I don’t recall what part Kazuma played in the combat, but to be fair myattentionwas happily directed elsewhere. Kazanbai ordered the crew into the hold forming a choke point. Tactically done! With his magics and the crews arms not a single injury is sustained by our own side while the pirates are wiped out. Despite the chance I gave them to surrender. Ikrit warns the crew of an approaching terror. Tentacles erupt for the water, grabing men and ships. The captain uses a milky sphere to blow a strong wind directly into the sail and we leave the beast behind. Perhaps an Oni of some kind. Perhaps also responsible for some of the destruction in the harbor city a day past. Kakita Hotsuma is preparing reports to send off when we reach land. He and I saw eye to eye today. Funny how a common enemy causes us to put aside our bickering.
There is probably comming a day where I will have to face up to those of political sway my less than normal attitude towards the Nezumi. They are not samurai, and should therefore not be held up to the same ideals. They have however fought to protect people that despise them. And have twice now come to the groups aid without being asked. Hunting and killing Oni to protect others? THAT is noble. I will have to speak with my Daimyo before my upcomming nuptials. I may indeed end up being known as Somesai Kana.
We head in to Otasan Uchii. Confident in our ability to contact the Nezumi we bear a strait course to the home Bakuryu and had cleaned out last winter. The Nezumi had continued the work I had asked them to continue, but it looked like it had been several monthes since anything had been done. We try to head into the Burrows, but find the tunnel collapsed. We decide that I would work the Forge a little to try to get their attention while Bakuryu would investigate the entrance near our fight with the Oni. Kuzuma proves to be a worthy companion, and found a high perch to keep a watch over the city. Night fell, and Bakuryu hadn’t yet returned. This really didn’t concern me, as he moves slowly when hiding his presence. He returns and brings Ikrit with him. I am glad that Ikrit would be able to join us in our journey. Ikrit tells us his pack is asleep. He relays that his rememberer says they are needed to fight against tommorow. I can not recall the specifics of this tale, but I know it is important to his people. We set off acsoss the city in the morning, with an uneasy feeling settling in. Ikrit tellls me it has been this way for awhile. Nezumi aspect of time means that is as close as I am going to get with specifics. We decide to hold up that evening in Shinsei’s temple near the edge of town. It has been cosecrated, but still our uneasyness refues to leave. During my watch I see a bright flash. Knowing that Bakuryu is out in the city, I rouse our compainions to go investigate. We find Bakuryu quickly as we see him abandoning all his usual stealth and running flat out towards the temple. A piece of darkness smashes into him and throws him into an alley. Chrarging down the street to come to his aid two more shadows peel off to engage us. Figures of darkness, roughly human, but seemly composed of black smoke. My strikes appear to hurt it, but not quickly enough. It envelops me and most of the damage I suffer is from Ikrit’s attempts to hurt the creature enveloping me. Kazuma lights up the area with his Jade Strikes, and though the creatures recoil from it, they are not hurt as badly as any creature of the Shadowlands should be. Bakuyu is wounded greatly in the fight with deep burns on his chest. Kazuma once again proves his worth by channeling the Kami and healing the worst of Bakuryu’s wounds. Sometimes after witnessing the ability of the Shugenja I wonder briefly what would have happened had I been born a Kitsu. Ha! What a sight that would have made. Kazuma heals my calf so we can move faster out of the city. I look back in sadness as we leave. Another place I felt at peace has be corrupted. I wish the Tattered Ear well in their fight with tommorow.
Rejoing our other companions is a less than joyous occasion. The ronin, whose name escapes me right now, and probably will for some time, makes a passing comment at a cage for Ikrit. I retalitate that maybe he should look for a cage for his dog instead. He says that his dog has more of a place in the celestial order than the rat. I tell him that anymore slander against Ikrit and I will put him in his place. Kakita Hotsuma starts up again and just as it looks like I’m going to go through another round with this pompous ingrate Bayushi Ayame suggests that it has been a rough evening, and perhaps we should rest before harsh actions arise. I agree, as I have little respect left for Hotsuma, and none at all for his Ronin lackey. If the Jade Shugenja says he comes, then he comes. I however do not have to like his presence. As I write this we have boarded a messenger ship heading to the Wall. I am intrigued by the ocean, but not enough to lean over the rails. The first part of our journey complete, I hope our passage over the water goes without incident.
We head out on our Journey to the Shadowlands, after spending HOURS debating the best route. After Kuni Kazuma adn Kakita Hotsuma finally end their debate we head south toward Otasan Uchii. Fortunately the Jade Shugenja, Master Tomorai, saw merit in myidea about bringing a few Nezumi with us. They are immune to the taint of the Shadowlands, and my thought is that if the worst should fall, at least the rings would be able to return the the Jade Palace. My hope is that Ikrit himself will join us, but he has greater responsiblities now, so I don’t know if that will even be a possibility. We met two patrols of Tortoise clan Samurai on our journey, and though I thought to say something, perhaps it would have been inproper at this time. In the hub village I am able to work the forge a bit. It was not creating works of art, but rather functional things needed in the area. Anything I can do to help my future clan. I have neglected to mention the Ronin that now accompanies us. He is evidently touched by the kami in a way that he sees visions when touching items of importance. I wonder what would happen if he ever touched a Ring. He has a dog that travels with him. I will wait to decide how I feel about that. So far I remain unimpressed by him. He seems to defer to Kakita Hotsuma almost without thought. It was decided that a few of our number would not enter Otasan Uchii. Cowards. We head towards the Shadowlands and they a frightened of a ruined city? Bah. I understand Kazanbai’s reason for not entering. He says he has no wish to go to a place that holds so many personal demons for him. This I understand. Infact I understand it all to well. The Ronin and the Kakita are simply cowards. and to think I had started developing a touch of respect for him. I guess he will always remain a painted fopp. Unable to face true combat. Only in his ordered duels. Anyway the rest of us will head into the city. I am curious to see what the Nezumi have done in my absense.
We find ourselves reunited once more. Personally I had training that needed to be done, and my Sensei was gracious in her harsh training. Bakuryu and I are not seeing eye to eye as of late, but perhaps even more concerning is that I seem to be getting along with Kakita Hotsuma. Interesting to saythe least. The man who was Isawa Akira is now called Kazanbai, and he cast some sort of spell to purge himself of the taint. My first reaction to this rash act was one of anger and distust. Kazanbai has pulled away from us, and has said little to me in months. Master Tomorai Ryoko explained to myself and Kakita Hotsuma was this spell was and the intent behind it. Though I am still unsure about the condition of Kazanabi’s soul, I will be willing to allow another the time to attone for his mistakes. After all, I’ve been given that chance.
Well, we’ve selected the next ring. We are going after the Earth Ring. In the Shadowlands. In Fu Leng’s tower no less. I don’t care for the location of this one, but I know my duty. My one fleeting hope is that I will be able to face Neichiwei No Oni, and keep a promise to a fallen comrade. I also hope that the jade will hold out long enough to protect us. After all, I have a big reason to come back now.
Having arrived in the Jade Palace, having met Kuzuma, I headed to the Scorpion Consolate and met with Moshi Suma where I was debriefed. I ratted out the Dragon for holding us hostage during our travels. I ratted out the Unicorn for way-laying me on the highway twice. I informed them about the incident with Niechiwai and the Snake Clan. I informed them of what I knew about the goings on in Tortoise Clan holdings (though ooc I can’t really remember). I did not mention that the Phoenix lost the scroll. I also did not mention the Ronin. We have gotten word that there was a coup at Tortoise Clan holdings, which apparently Kazambai knows a bit about.
We headed north from the Emerald Champion’s palace to Crane lands, Hotsuma staying behind to deal with some business. We meet with a subordinate: Kaiu Jun. Moto Teijo is the head of a collaboration of imperial engineers at the palace. When Hotsuma arrived, he had changed his outfit: he wore brown with jade trimmings, an imperial mon. He had cut his hair shorter. Things between he and Ayame are… rocky.
We have imperial sanction to ride horses upon the roads. Cultural note: it is illegal to ride horses on the roads without that sanction.
NEW XP RULE: standard 6 points per session until further notice.