Episode 1: Tea and rice - The call to Tsuma EditThree honourable friends - Shinjo Tomoe, Akodo Yasuhiro and Shinjo Takaaki are approaching their Gempukku and as a result, they are in their final year of childhood.
Their host Daidoji Asuka has invited them to their family home which is a short journey from many prominent cities in the Crane and Imperial lands. In exchange children of the Daidoji are pawns in a game of one-upmanship about who can be the better hosts.Despite a day of luxury and easy entertainment the two Unicorns are hard to please and don’t always involve themselves, so after a rich breakfast they are intrigued to hear that the Noh theater group will not be performing today. When asked Akodo Yasuhiro suggests that they prove their martial prowess and their hosts dufully arrange a visit to the local dojo. It is only a small building with three halls around a central courtyard and a single wall finishing the enclosure.
Yasuhiro and Takaaki accept bokken offered by the master of the dojo whilst Tomoe accepts a wager from one of the students on the result. Takaaki is victorious, but only just and the student hands over a small bottle of sake and then accepts a further challenge from the student to a kenjutsu match which she wins, once again narrowly. The four politely share the resulting sake and depart in good spirits returning back to their hosts.
Tomoe and Takaaki tend to their horses whilst Yashiro practices his kata and other exercises before the evening meal.
However before Yasuhiro goes to bed he visits the family shrine and venerates the ten thousand names of his ancestors. He feels the reassuring presence of his ancestors and their subtle guiding whispers. Before he leaves, there is a single whisper that is audible. “Await the Herald”
That night he awakens to hear the subtle movement of servants and watches outside to see a mounted official bearing an important looking banner. Rousing the others, they look out and Tomoe identifies the messenger as a Miya Herald. One of the Imperial messengers carrying the Emperors own seal.
The messenger comes in and asks the hostages if they have passed their Gempukku yet and if they are confident in the skills of their school. They answered in the affirmative and bowed low. She offered them the opportunity to seek Glory in Tsuma, which they enthusiastically accepted.
However the town of Tsuma was 50 Li away (25km/15 miles) and they were concerned that they might arrive late if they walked. So with the aid of their hosts, they were furnished with an extra horse and provisions. With the Unicorn at the fore they were able to make the journey in excellent time. Stopping for the night at a way station not too far away from the town itself.
On the road, they nearly ran down an old man who may have been a monk, but they were kind and helped him up and assisted him in carrying his enormous chest back to his home.Despite making up a lot of time on the road due to their superior horsemanship, they were unsure how long they had, but accepted the old man’s offer and took tea with him. The kindness of his rescuers spurred him to offer the group a gift. A fine Katana in a blue sheath with brass ornamentation. Knowing that they should offer a gift in return, Yasuhiro offered his Naginata, a fine gift to offer in exchange. Having refused the gift twice it was finally accepted and the bid the old man farewell.
They arrived in to the town of Tsuma where the festival was well under way.
Doji Kuwatai found them and directed them to kakita duelling academy where registrations were being held and they were able to register in time for the festivities with only half an hour before noon. Their existing weapons were `Taken to be polished` (Nobody would deprive a Samurai of their weapons, but by offering to have their weapons cleaned and tended to by a professional, hosts are able to ask guests to leave their weapons behind whilst they are in a place where their host guarantees their protection.) and they were issued with a pair of bokken, each the size and weight of a katana (long sword) and a wakizashi (Short sword). These were dyed a brilliant blue colour and represented their participation in to the Championship.
Episode 2: lights on the river - Meeting the competition Edit
As the last person finally signed in the adjudicator Kakita, the gong was rung and the other competitors gathered in the central courtyard of the Dojo.Each of the clans sent a senior representative to gather the students up to give them words of encouragement and to answer any questions they might have.
Whilst these meetings were private you did get the schedule for the events: Day 1
- Strategy Games Tournament
- Bushido and Nobility
- Obstacle Course
- Horse Archery
- Skirmish tournament
- Iaijutsu Tournament
- Closing ceremonies and awards.
They gave each Clan words of advice and told them to mingle but to rest well as the competition starts at Dawn.Going back in to the courtyard, it was clear that not everybody got to speak with their representative, as the two ladies of the Scorpion clan were not met by anybody.
However the group mingled both within their own clan and with each other.
Shinji Takaaki managed to get an invitation to be entertained by the Scorpion ladies later that night, Shinjo Tomoe was confronted with her rival Dadoji Kenji who accused her Grandfather of murdering his uncle in cold blood. They squared off for a few moments as if about to duel, but it became clear that Kenji was only trying to get the measure of her skill.They had a very brief introduction to everybody present and the Lions even arranged a well considered performance highlighting their culture and the culture of the other clans, but before the could conclude it, a loud noise from down on the docks sounded up. The Imperial Barge was coming, with the Emperor himself to watch the games.
Everybody who was present kowtowed before the Empeor except for the guests disembarking with him (His son and heir and the Daimyo of the Scorpion clan and his wife) and a drunken Crab who stayed out of view and cast deeply insulting remarks about the Emperors choice of company. However he made himself scarce as soon as the Imperial Guard came closer. So much for the courage of the Crab.
As everybody else followed the Imperial procession to the Governors mansion, the contestants took the opportunity of a nearly empty town to enjoy some well deserved food and drink.
Takaaki accepted the Scorpion invitation and came back no worse for wear and with his honour intact. The Scorpions were in fact excellent hosts.
Everybody prepared for the long anxious night before the games themselves begin.
Episode 3: Sycamore seeds in hay - The first day. EditAs they slept, Shinjo Tomoe awoke to the sound of somebody moving past the paper screens that seperated her from the other contestants. Iuchi Ayana however was having a nightmare and so Tomoe roused her to which she gave a violent start.
They stepped outside to investigate the strange movement and found a woman in a red Kimono crouched by the side of the other dojo hall trying to start a small fire with a flint and steel. As they approached her she was oblivious until Ayana shook her by the shoulders. Tomoe stamped out the small fire before the guards arrived. When roused from her sleepwalking Agasha Midori was surprised to find herself here and begged the two Unicorns to spare her. They agreed and when the ashigaru peasant guards arrived, they pointed them off towards the river, saying that an assailant in black had set the fire. Surprisingly it was not investigated further.Rousing in the morning for prayers, they were led by the Dojos master Kakita Tochimoko, who gave thanks to the Ancestors for fighting so hard to win the land on which they now stood and to the Divine Kami, who created the Empire and above all the Sun Goddess Ametarasu who looks down upon them all in whose light they would compete.
Over breakfast the lots for the pairings were drawn. Whilst Ikoma Sen managed to neatly avoid a generous offer of fish from Hantei Taro by recounting the time that his ancestors marched for 20 days on empty stomachs with only water to sustain them and suggesting that he abstains from fish in their honour (rather than shamefully admit his allergy to fish in public)
In the first round Kuni Taeko beat Shinjo Tomoe with an unskilled but determined eye, she took advantage of her every mistep. and Shinjo Takaaki was beaten by Ide Kazuma in one of the longest games of the round, as Takaaki needed constant refreshers on the rules, which his opponent was happy to oblige with.
However Iuchi Ayana, Ikoma Sen and Skodo Yasuhiro all managed to make it out of the qualifiers. Akodo Yasuhiro and Usagi Ozaki's match was particularly close fought.
As contestants finished one of the VIPs took them aside to quiz them on Bushido and heraldry, with Ikoma Sen's keen memory allowing him to answer all five questions correctly and thus the overall winner of that event.After a brief break for lunch in which Hantei Taro asked Iuchi Ayana for advice about being a free spirit and was sadly told that everybody has their duties, and where Takaaki purchased a gift for his lady friend Bayushi Sumi in the form of a small and exotic hand mirror decorated with emeralds, which he sent to her along with a poem penned with (a lot of) help from Ikoma Sen:
From behind the mask
Sensual hazel eyes still
Set ablaze the soul
They reconvened for people to start the obstacle course race. Iuchi Ayana was off to an excellent start and managed to vault the log and climb the wall with each, but fell down the final pit. The others put in a solid effort, but the eventual winner was Usagi Ozaki of the Hare Clan who leapt all obstacles without breaking his stride.
Finally came the Horse Archery contest, where Shinjo Tomoe realised that something was terribly wrong with her horse. Calling over the other Unicorns, they Iuchi Ayana found that the feed had been contaminated by dried sycamore seeds. They were out of season but as much as horses love their taste, they are deadly poisonous.
Ayana called upon the Earth Spirits to purify the body of Tomoe's horse and the toxins were slowly bled from her by the magic. The prize Otaku steed would live, but it would be useless in the competition to come.
Tomoe tried to appeal to the adjudicator, who suggested that in a real war, failure to care for your horse could mean the difference between life and death and so refused any assistance.Now that the horse was out of danger, they needed somebody who could minister it to allow it to make a full recovery. They spoke to Otako Shiko who called over KItsune Tanzen, a gentle soul who was skilled at caring for animals. Under the watchful eye of his care, the prize steed would need only some rest.
Then the contest began. Ikoma Sen was not as masterful on a horse as the born warrior Yasuhiro or the Unicorn and failed to score any points, but Shinjo Takaaki restored honour to the clan by claiming joint first place. Tomoe on the other hand struggled through the course on a tired and borrowed steed, far the inferior of her own, but still managed to complete the course.
Successful they retired for a feast celebrating the first day where Kabuki actors told the story of the creation of the world and the Empire by Lord Moon and Lady Sun and their nine children who would go on to become the first in the Imperial line and the forebears of the Great Clans.
Bayushi Sumi seemed quite taken with her gift and returned one of her own to Takaaki. It was a necklace of amber that reflected the light in a dazzling array of colours. She cryptically suggested that it was especially enchanted to bring victory against Doji Kuwatai and once again invited him to the inn. Takaaki, now powerless against her wiles (and not putting up much of a struggle in the first place) accepted without hesitation.
With the celebrations of the evening winding down they retired for the night, with only occasional dreams about being eaten by a Dragon.
Episode 4: Bleeding Honour - The morning of the second day Edit
They woke to the sound of the Dojo gong and after a bath where they could be ritually purified, they gathered in the courtyard for morning prayers,
- Ide Kazuma spoke with Ikoma Sen, who asked about rumours he might have heard, but Ikoma instead launched in to a rousing speech praising the poetic skills of iuchi Ayana promising that she would be victorious later today.
- Shinjo Takaaki met with Bayushi Sumi who was still clearly sweet on him despite her staring daggers at Ikoma Shorisuro. She mentions a person who could smooth the way if he needed any assistance, then Takaaki steered the conversation away from Shorisuro and mysterious men to pleasant 'get to know you' talk.
- Shinjo Tomoe was approached by Kitsuki Oki who suspected that the obstacle course was rigged as well as the poisoning of her horse and wanted help investigating this, despite her getting no points so far in the contest.
- Akodo Yasuhiro was invited to dine with his clan elders at the top table who asked him about his plans if he won mentioning that he could score a powerful blow for his clan, whilst the adjudicator Miya Yoto suggested that he could gain greater glory and accomplish more if he used such a boon to gain a prestigious position.
- Iuchi Iyana spoke with Ikoma Shorisuro who went on about a large powerful presence at the tournament and ascribed it to the divine presence of the Emperor.
As breakfast was being cleared (and Matsu Rino won the Strategy games tournament) tie-breakers for yesterdays matches were concluded.
Ikoma Sen narrowly won the Bushido test answering that honour was the most important virtue because it existed even when nobody else was watching. Whilst his Hare clan rival flubbed and spoke on the wrong topic. For his trouble he was awarded a wall scroll written by the previous Emperor on the subject of Bushido.Meanwhile the tie-breaker for the horse-archery saw Isawa Nariko, Shinjo Takaaki and Toku all compete for the prize by chasing down a horse with a target on its back and trying to shoot it. The others hit the target but Isawa Nariko struck the closest to the bulls eye. However as soon as she did, she began to slide from her horse. The quick-thinking of Shinjo Takaaki saved her and when a fabulous back-banner that had served with the Imperial legions was offered Nariko tried to decline it, stating that her rescuer should have it, whilst Takaaki insisted that it go fairly to the winner. The Emperor stopped them and insisted that both acts were noble and their humility was admirable and deserving of recognition. He said that a poem of the deed would be commissioned but that the back banner should go to Nariko as it was the reward for the test of skill.
Then the room was cleared and the skirmish bouts began.
- Yasuhiro - Lost to Ichiro Iwane who was a powerful warrior who grabbed and crushed him in a signature wrestling move of his clan. (0)
- Sen - Met Asahina Tadamo and despite trading blows, the crane shugenja yielded (_)
- Ayana - Fought Kakita Tokiko the duelist and won by a hair's breadth. (_)
- Tomoe - Fought Otaku Li to a bloody victory leaving both badly blooded. (_)
- Takaaki - defeated Matsu Rino with a powerful blow that could have killed her if not for her armour. (0)
With all but Yasuhiro advancing to the next round, and guaranteeing themselves 1 point, they left the skirmish tournament they were pulled aside for the courtesy contest each individually.
- Yasuhiro - Presented a poem of his ancestors. But whilst it was heartfelt it had too many syllables in the middle line. (1)
- Sen - Told a tale of the deeds of the Hare Clan (the judges) noble deeds (2)
- Ayana - Presented a conjured semi-precious rock and spoke of discovery (2)
- Tomoe - Offered a ride on her steed, which was still recovering (0)
- Takaaki - Offered an insulting gift of an inferior kimono of no particular significance (0)
Then at lunch they spread out. Ayana and Yasuhiro both meditating at the temple.
Takaaki joined the Scorpions for meditative tea ceremony and further pleasant conversation with Sumi.Ikoma Sen sought out his rival in the next round of the skirmish. Hiruma Haru, a brave and already battle tested warrior who killed his first goblin (Goblins are tainted creatures of Fu Leng, generally considered much weaker than a full-grown samurai) when he was only 9 and has a few battle scars to prove it. Haru however was struggling with the upcoming poetry test, concerned about how well he would do and after answering a few of his questions it became obvious that Haru has only the barest knowledge of how to construct a poem and can't count syllables to save his life. However a short bit of coaching from Sen renewed his confidence a little and he mentioned looking forward to testing his skill against a Lion and his respect for Sen's clan.
Shinjo Tomoe and Kitsuki Oki confronted Isawa Nariko at the temple. They asked what happened and Nariko tried to brush it off. However the keen eyed Kitsuki suggested that she was intentionally protecting somebody by evading the question.
Nariko fled the temple apologetically rather than confront these questions.
Episode 5: Wounds in the Woods - Afternoon of the second day Edit
After lunch the contestants were gathered by the dojo entrance and told to prepare with whatever armour they wished for but only the shorter of the two bokken that represented the wakazashi.
Otaku Shiko organised this round. Scattered throughout the forest were a number of knives in bright blue bags.
The contestants would need to find one of these bags, use it to fashion a weapon and then bring down a suitable beast to prove their resourcefulness.
As people were allowed to work in teams, many did so.
- Ikoma Sen, Matsu Rino and Akodo Yasuhiro formed a team together. Matsu Rino came back with a wolf (2 pts) and Ikoma Sen a rabbit (1 pt).
- Shinjo Tomoe, Shinjo Takaaki and Iuchi Ayana formed another team. The two Shinjos came back with wolves (2 pts each) whilst Ayana returned with a rabbit.
- Not having muck luck in locating one of the knife bags, the sharp-eyed Iuchi Ayana spots an armed and armoured figure lurking in the bushes, who has not, in return spotted them. After a brief discussion, the Unicorns dismiss the option of simply ambushing the man as they are unsure of his intentions and they do not wish to harm a harmless, if suspicious, person. To a called 'ho there in the bushes' the man, an unkempt individual with no mon, obivously a ronin, rises and inquires whether they are here for the competition. Takaaki confirms this and voices his assumption that the man is not. "But I am" he replies and advances on Takaaki with a "you'll do". Assuming he means them harm, the three Unicorns draw their bokken and assault the ronin. Tomoe lands a blow which distracts the man enough for Takaaki ti steal in and inflict a solid wound. The ronin refuses Takaaki's demand to yield with a sneered "you overestimate your chances, pup" and swings at him, missing but causing a terrible injury to Tome on the backswing. Ayana remembers she is able to summon a yari of air and promptly deliver one into Takaaki's hands. Before he can employ the magical weapon, the ronin attacks and gravely wounds Ayana and opens up a nasty cut on Takaaki's ribcage. Takaaki retaliates with the yari of air and, finally with a proper weapon in his hands, pins the ronin to a tree, fatally wounding him. "I was going to let you... I only wanted to..." Are the man's last words. What he is doing there is a mystery but he was clearly waiting for someone. No doubt he is connected with the event disrupting the contest.
- Attracted by the sounds of combat, the Lions happen across this scene and between the six of them, they decide to inform one of the Lion officials, emphasising and praising the efforts of the Crane clan in making sure that there were not more such ronin hiding in the woods and that is was sheer bad luck that the group happened across the lone remaining miscreant. They retrieved the man's katana as evidence.
- During the fight with the wolf pack, for which the Lions and the Unicorns teamed up, Takaaki suffered a serious wound, but insisted to carrying home the alpha wolf he slew, despite barely being able to walk
- Soshi Yumi, Bayushi Sumi and Bayushi Sugai also went off together making a boar (2 pts) and a pair of pheasants (1)
- Tamori Hochi and Ikoma Shorisuro returned late without any game, but they did look tired and happy. (0 each)
- The Isawa twins (Nariko and Hisen) went off together. They returned with a rather impressive boar each, but had points removed due to the excessive burning. (1 point each)
- Ide Kazuma, Otaku Li of the Unicorn clan and Tai of the Mantis clan returned with several fat birds (but could only present one bird per person after finding a knife and making small throwing spears. 1 point each)
- Shiba Jin and Agasha Midori of the Phoenix clan and Doji Kuwatai of the Crane went off together and returned more scorched but with only one particularly large goat between them that Doji Kuwatai claimed as his kill. 2 points for him, 0 for the others.)
- Kitsuki Oki and Mirumoto Uriko of the Dragon clan went off together and came back with a small monkey each (1 pt each)
- The duellists Hantei Taro (Imperial) and Kakita Tokiko (Crane) went to work as a group and whilst they came back with a healthy pair of rabbits, they were too late and so scored nothing. (0 pts)
- The heirs of the minor clans Usagi Ozaki (hare) and Ichiro Iwane (badger) went together, but were unlucky enough not to be able to make a weapon in time. (0 points)
- Three of the crabs: Kuni Taeko, Hida Fuzizaka and Hiruma Haru went together. But after a while, Kuni Taeko got frustrated with their complete lack of subtelty and just set a snare for a hare (1 point for her, 0 for the others).
- The nature lovers Kitsune Tanzan (Fox) and Asahina Tadamo (Crane) both worked together. came back with a large stag, but were unable to submit it because they were unwilling to kill the beast (0 pts)
- Daidoji Kenji the Crane went alone and came back with an enormous deer over his shoulders. (3 pts)
- Toku the Ronin went off alone and came back with a fat hare (1 point)
Shinjo Tomoe was knocked out of the Skirmish fight when she fought her rival Daidoji Kenji who seriously taxed himself in order to knock her out even at his own chances of advancing further in the contest using brutal but precise strikes aiming to injure.
Shinjo Takaaki fought Mirumoto Uriko and despite her striking a good first blow, she wasn't able to hurt her opponent enough to stop a devastating retaliatory strike.
Ikoma Sen and Iuchi Ayana did not yet have their bouts.
Seriously hurt once again, Takaaki goes in search of a shugenja once more and with the day drawing to a close decides to look up Sumi and catch up with her day.
Thankfully before the day has even ended, all of them have attained at least the minimum needed to achieve their Gempuku ceremony.
Session 6: The changing flow - End of the second day Edit
Round 2 of the Skirmish:
Ikoma Sen lost to Hiruma Haru (1 pt total) - As he missed his first strike and suffered a serious blow, he conceded to avoid injuries that could cripple his chances in the other contests.
Iuchi Ayana lost to Toku the Ronin (1 pt total) - She waited for the perfect opportunity, but the ronin was so fast that he scored two clean hits on her, leaving her unable to effectively retaliate.Round 3 of the skirmish:
Shinjo Takaaki lost to Hida Fuzizaka (2 pts total) - Despite ploughing everything he had in to his first two strikes and leaving himself open, the first hit was only able to graze the giant armour-clad warrior, whilst the second missed entirely. Fuzizaka on the other hand took a measured stance and retaliated on each hit with his Tetsubo and struck both times, driving the wind from his adversary. Takaaki yielded honourably before suffering the ignominy of having the fight stopped by the judges. However Fuzizaka was in good spirits and was impressed that Takaaki was able to strike a vulnerable spot in his armour at all. At the end of the day, Takaaki will make good on the promise to his distant kinsman that the loser buys the next round of drinks.
- Tomoe was visited by Kitsune Tanzan who was happy to report that her horse was well and that `it spoke highly of her`
- Ikoma Sen was at the river with Kakita Tokiko who agreed to duel him later for practice. But was knocked in to the water and nearly drowned. Ikoma Sen dove in after her and helped keep her afloat, until Tai of the Mantis clan swam in afterwards and rescued them both. But when they got to shore, she revealed iridescent skin and gill-like features on her neck. When they were heading back Tokiko mentioned that she was violently pushed in to the water, but did not see her attacker.
- Takaaki and Ayana went looking for some relief from their wounds however Shugenja are rare and only some know the prayers of healing. So they found the crabs drinking in the Poison Water sake house, celebrating their successes in the skirmish tournament and when Takaaki explained that he was worried he might have to forfeit his fight against Hida Fuzizaka, due to the injuries suffered against the ronin, the wolves and in the second round of the skirmish contest and he did not want Hida Fuzizaka to accidentally land a fatal blow that would see him disqualified. Fuzizaka was sympathetic and not wanting to get through on a forfeit, he confided that, at least in his own clans eyes, he had passed his Gempuku already. He was here as a reward for doing so well. The Crab clan do not think much of the Topaz Championship, so they rarely send anybody to oversee it. So he and the other Crabs went with the Unicorns to see their only clan representative, a Yasuki merchant by the name of Yasuki Joeiga, who offered to sell them a rare fetish from the Asahina family. The sparkling blue vial contained a sweet tangy liquid and for the princely sum on 2 Koku they secured it for the use of Iuchi Ayana. Once her wounds were healed she offered her services to Shinjo Tomoe and Shinjo Takaaki, restoring them to fighting form.
|Shinjo Takaaki - Scored 2 points
Under open skies
Ancient Mountains rolling plains
Here spirits soar free
|Shinjo Tomoe - Scored zero due to 7 syllables in the last line.
Leaves whisper in wind
The rich earth drinks of the rain
Beauty unseen by the eyes
|Iuchi Ayana - Scored 1 point
Spring has come again
Everything has come to life
Unicorns roam free
|Ikoma Sen - Scored 2 points
The river flows fast
Carrying you to the sea
The salt sea is calm
|Akodo Yasuhiro - Scored 2 points.
At Spring on the hills
Multiplied in the flatlands
Many become one
After the poetry people were invited to a feast at the governor's mansion. The atmosphere a bit more relaxed than the previous night. They spoke with their fellow contestants. Tomoe in particular sought out Kitsuki Oki to tell her about the assassination attempt of Tokiko, one of the favourites to win the dueling contest tomorrow. They wrack their brain for suspects, but she points out that the PCs are all doing rather well so far and that all would have a motive for making sure others do poorly. She also speculated that perhaps demons could be responsible as she lacked much evidence to go on.
After a while the students began to head out alone or in groups. Ikoma Sen went to find Tokiko to get some last minute practice in.
Takaaki, after spending all the meal talking, making eyes and exchanging discrete caresses with her, took Bayushi Sumi out on an evening stroll which ended at her sailing boat on the river for some private time. As a result, neither were aware of the events which transpired.
Shinjo Tomoe and Iuchi Ayana went back to the dojo. However as Ayana and Tomoe went back they were joined by Otaku Li, who met up with them as they heard sounds of a scuffle in the darkness.
They went down to the forest where they saw a few people engaged in a violent brawl with swords. The attackers were wearing armour with helmets, whilst the defenders wore the robes that they had worn at the feast.As Tomoe went over she found the Daimyo of the Badger Clan Ichiro Akitomo (Father of.Ichiro Iwane) was bleeding to death. With no magic and no skill at medicine, he passed away in her arms as they called for help. Otaku Li ran into the forest after the killers and returned a few minutes later exhausted.
It wasn’t long until Ayana returned with the guards who took everybody in to custody.Back at the Governors mansion, each witness was invited to speak and it went well at first. However Otaku Li blurted out an accusation against Lady Bayushi Kachiko, who had been at the Emperors side all night.
The accusation caused the whole room to go deathly silent and Bayushi Shoju answered with a challenge. As she had not passed her Gempuku, she could not be challenged directly but Otaku Shiko answered on her behalf. An administrator against one of the most skilled clan champions in living memory was a grievously unfair fight. She begged for clemency for Otaku Li, which did earn some sympathy until Li reiterated what she had previously said and refused to back down. The challenge was set for an hours time outside the Dojo.
Ayana spoke to the Emerald Champion and said that it was most likely an illusion. Whilst Doji Satsume (The Emerald Champion) Agreed, he said that the careless words were unrelated to the original crime.
When they fought in the traditional white kimonos of those involved in a duel to the death, she was cut down in a single stroke. Otaku Li retreated to the temple where she worked to compose her death poem. The other members of her clan visited and tried to help but only hardened her resolve that she was right.
As she retired, those not already in a bed retired to theirs to rest. Although Iuchi Ayana had another dream of a vast dragon whose smoke made an obscuring mist. Unable to see, samurai in the mist fought each other and died. Untilt the dragon noticed Ayana, chased her down and she woke up before being eaten.
Then came time for the final day.
The only two contests remaining are the Iaijutsu tournament and the calligraphy contest.
The line-ups have already been announced for the first round of the iaijutsu tournament.
- Shinjo Takaaki vs Doji Kuwatai
- Iuchi Ayana vs Hantei Taro
- Akodo Yasuhiro vs Kitsune Tanzen
- Shinjo Tomae vs Tomori Hoshi
- Toku vs Ikoma Sen (Winner Ikoma Sen)
The full line-up of the Iajutsu contest can be found here
Session 7: A bitter-sweet victory - Final day. Edit
As the contestants wake in the morning of the final day of the Topaz Championship, nerves are mixed with excitement.
As she wakes to the morning gong, Shinjo Tomoe finds a note by her sleeping roll. “Take a fall in the first round of the Iaijutsu contest and you will be rewarded handsomely” - Evidently somebody feels threatened by her.
As they go to their morning Baths before prayer - It’s easy to spot that Otaku Li and Ichiro Iwane are absent, the discuss the events of last night in hushed whispers.
Then they are gathered in the courtyard for morning prayers where Doji Satsume, the Emerald Champion leads them in veneration of their ancestors, the seven great Fortunes, Ametarasu the life-giver and the many other fortunes and Kami that they would bless this day.
Breakfast - Edit
There are two notable absences - Otaku Li and Ichiro Iwane
As people tuck in to a healthy breakfast of a smoked fish and rice dish (Ikoma Sen excuses himself and goes hungry) the prizes for yesterdays games are announced by Bayushi Kachiko.
Skirmish Tournament - Edit
- A steel helmet with a great rent in it, worn by the eponymous hero of the Battle of the River of the Unexpected Hero who died heroically fighting back a Shadowlands incursion on his own and buying precious time for Unicorn reinforcements to arrive
- This was won by Usagi Ozaki.
Poetry - Edit
- The prize was a wall-scroll with a poem by a Asahina Mitsu, winner of the Annual Asahina Poetry contest. which read: “Life and Death entwine, Accepting purpose and Truth, The Celestial Wheel.”
- This was won by Ide Kazuma for his poem about a Dragonfly. “Northerly wind blows, Dragonfly moves slowly south, Going to warm home.”
Hunting - Edit
- A Tsuruchi Bow that has been tested in battle
- This was won by Daidoji Kenji for bringing in a huge stag from the hunt.
Courtliness - Edit
- The Tea set used by the master of the Kakita Dojo to welcome new initiates.
- This was won by Bayushi Sugai
After breakfast was cleared discussions between participants broke in to groups.
- As Iuchi Ayana was highly hyped in the poetry contest, but scored only one point there is a bit of a backlash from people who expected more. Particularly the crane contingent
- Usagi Ozaki’s sister came around making a pest of herself.
- Matsu Rino confesses to Akodo Yasuhiro after his generosity in the hunting that she hired the ronin that attacked the Unicorn and that pushed Kakita Takiko in to the river.
- Kitsune Tanzen makes some romantic overtures to Tomoe with a purple lily and a small note of his affections.
- Ichiro Iwane comes by to say his farewells.
Then the gong sounds for the first round of the Iaijitsu tournament.
The Iaijutsu Tournament: Edit
Whilst Iuchi Ayana was knocked out by Hanto Taro in the qualifiers, the others performed better having a very favourable mixture of opponents.
When Shinjo Takaaki duelled Doji Kuwatai, he wore the gift of Bayushi Sumi a brilliant necklace, an adjudicator tried to discourage him from wearing it, but when told it was a romantic gift the adjudicator apologised.
Ikoma Sen triumphed over the Ronin Toku.
Akodo Yasuhiro beat Kitsune Tanzan to the slight chagrin of Shinjo Tomoe.
Shinjo Tomoe beat Tamori Hoshi, the lover from the Dragon clan who was so intimate with Ikoma Shorisuro
The second round was more of a challenge, although when Akodo Yasuhiro was matched with Shinjo Takaaki, the Unicorn found himself winning the second bout without a fight as his opponent yielded. Although his stance revealed that the decision had been made before even viewing Takaaki's stance.
Ikoma Sen was beaten out by Hida Fuzizaka
Shinjo Tomoe defeated the overall leader of the Championship Bayushi Sugai.
Enjoying a rich mid-day meal however as people finished their food, there was a mournful bell from the temple.
Otaku Li was going to die. Dressed in her white ceremonial robes she knelt with blades in front of her. She requested Shinjo Tomoe to be her second and whilst she appreciated the presence of her fellow unicorns, snubbed Akodo Yasuhiro's words of support and a priestess helped usher him away.
However when the fatal moment came, Tomoe hesitated, reminded of her battle-sister who fell and in her grief, the cut was not clean. Otaku Li cried out before she died, tainting her death, but the second stroke succeeded where the first did not and she fell silent. She left Tomoe her sword, which she renamed Truth's Bane.
Following that Tomoe was visible shaken for the rest of the day by images of death.
They returned to the Iaijutsu with heavier hearts.
Gathered once again as a group and seated at desks, everybody was instructed to artfully draw the kanji for `sword` a word with many subtle written variations most of which are suitably complex.
Only Shinjo Taakaki and Iuchi Ayana managed to score a single point there.
Iaijutsu second rounds: Edit
Shinjo Takaaki squared off against Hantei Taro and despite nearly simultaneous strikes the judges awarded the win to Hantei Taro.
Then Hida Fuzizaka squared off against Shinjo Tomoe and once again the result was contested, but Tomoe was judged the faster.
Finally she too was narrowly defeated by Hantei Taro once again at a judges call. Although Taro needed to push herself more than she expected as Tomoe found an unexpected opening which likely contributed to her defeat in the finals against Kakita Takiko.
Finally with the tournament concluded the closing ceremonies began.
Then the final round of awards are given:
Calligraphy Awarded by Bayushi Kachiko (3 points of glory)
The fine ivory handle brush used by the Emperor to sign the Surrender of the Mantis General Yoritomo following the Battle of Ice and Snow. The inscriptions on the brush detail the defeat of the Mantis and the rescue of Bayushi Kachiko (who was an imperial representative at the time) from their clutches by the Crane Clan.
Iaijutsu: Awarded by Kakita Satsumi, the Emerald Champion. (9 points of Glory)
The blade of the Topaz Champion (A masterfully made blade in a blue scabbard with a silver and gold hilt) there are two large emeralds each the size of a small fingernail on the outer pommel of the blade and a one more set in to the hilt. (+1k0 Katana)
Overall: Awarded by the Emperor Hantei XXXVII (38th) himself (10 points of Glory)
The armour of the Topaz Champion (A brilliant blue set of heavy armour (with the accessories removed it can be worn as light armour) forged by the Jewelled Smith and inlaid with about 30 tiny emeralds each the size of a grain of rice around the faceguard of the helmet and a single larger stone at the centre of the breastplate that is about the size of a thumbnail. (+1 resistance and +2 TN)
The Gempukku Ceremony finale.Edit
Each successful individual (There should only be about 20) is prepared by an Asahina Shugenja, bathed, blessed and given a ceremonial robe before being led out to the main courtyard.
Then people are led out in order of the number of points that they scored starting with the lowest.
Those with less than 7 points are ritualistically returned to their clan and home. It’s understated but embarrassing for those involved. They then get front row seats to see the elevation of their betters.
Then those who succeeded then enter.Each one in turn is presented their Wakazashi, use it to cut their thumb and a drop of blood is mixed with ink (they are given a cloth for the cut. They write the scroll pledging their loyalty and obedience to their clan and Emperor. After it is read aloud, both the scroll and the cloth are burned and mixed with tea. Which the Samurai drinks and as they rise they are presented with their swords and proudly announced to the world as a new Samurai. Akodo Totori acts as the representative for the Lions whilst a merchant Ide Igo acted as the replacement representative on short notice.
Each in turn was then presented with their Katana.
- Iuchi Ayana - Scorpion’s Venom (Otaku Shiko’s blade used against Bayushi Shoju renamed after her death)
- Shinjo Tomoe - Truth’s bane (Otaku Li’s grandmothers blade, she re-named it and offered it to Shinjo Tomoe. It's named for the manner of her death, sacrificed for speaking the Truth.)
- Shinjo Taakaki - Megumi’s prophecy (The Blade that Megumi gave, but this is now paired with an equally impressive wakazashi)
- Akodo Yasuhiro - Cats Paw (The sword of the Ronin slain in the forest has been exhaustively polished and given new fitting befitting an Akoko.)
- Ikoma Sen - Swallows Flight (His Grandfathers sword used in war)
As the ceremony comes to its end you gather together with your friends to reflect upon your successes. Your attention turns to a bent old man wearing a brilliant blue scarf. Megumi smiles upon each of you and in a voice louder than you would have thought possible from such a small and aged frame, he proclaims to everyone. “Bear witness, for these are among the chosen” and where the old man once stood is now a blue collared crane, which leaps into the sky heading for the sun.
Celebratory Feast Edit
Those who failed are consigned to another table. Ikoma Shorisuro formally request to commit seppuku from the Emperor and with a nod from Matsu Tsuro and it is accepted. She dies the next day and her lover Tamori Hoshi is also later found dead unable to live without his love.
The mystery of Megumi linger with you. His strange proclamation and exit have heightened your renown amongst the powerful of Rokugan and you expect offers for your service to be forthcoming, but something bothers you. Megumi spoke about your being “among the chosen” - Chosen for what?
However whatever else is true, you are now full fledged Samurai, with all of the duties and priviledges that involves and the future is yours.
(The end of the Topaz Championship story)