Legend of the Five Rings: Echoes

Session 2: Fragile Peace

In the end, rage wins no wars.

Rage snuffs life’s candle.
Shards of peace, shattered like glass,
Reflect hope’s new light.

Session 1 covered many basics, especially combat. Session 2 dealt with court (ok, and a little combat).

The Echoes traveled to another small Crane village along the Lion border. Doji Akagi was hosting peace talks with the Lion clan at his small Court of Kimusu.
Kolat assassin
All was seemingly going well, when Ikoma Yojiro (Deceased) was brutally murdered. At first, Kitsune Toshiro was blamed, as he was one of the few samurai not accounted for at the time of Ikoma’s death. However, Kitsune Yamako, in a fit of anger revealed that Kakita had instead been alone in a room with Ineko (Deceased?).

Before Toshiro could be forced to commit Seppuku, the other Echoes discovered that the murder had instead been committed by Akodo Genzo (Deceased), who was livid at the thought of peace with the Cranes and slew his own lord to try to throw both clans into open war. To prove his innocence, he demanded a duel with the disgraced Toshiro. Unfortunately for him, Toshiro redeemed himself, and possibly averted war in a single, perfect stroke of his blade.

Note to all my players: If you create your own Adventure Log of this session from your character’s perspective, you can earn an additional experience point. Put your log in the comments for this one.

Comments

I lay there staring at the shoji screen between Kakita-san and I, unable to sleep. I could hear him move slightly on his tatami mat—either he couldn’t sleep either or he was moving in his sleep—but I was afraid to call out his name. He wasn’t speaking to me right now. He would speak at me if he needed to, but not to me. So much had changed in the day and a half since we arrived in Kimusu.

My truthful but spiteful words had made him and Doji Ineko-san lose a great deal of Honor and Face in front of the Court. I might not care about such things but it was painfully obvious that they did. My first official Court as an adult was a disaster even if Uncle would be pleased to hear about Lions killing Lions. It saddened me how things turned out with Akodo-san. He never should have been brought here. His grief and anger over the loss of his sister was still too strong and it frustrated me that his Lord hadn’t seen it.

What Sanjuro-san told me about Doji Hakura-san, the fact that he meditates to the screams of tortured men, horrified me. His vassal was now my yojimbo. His vassal was displeased with me and not speaking to me.

It would be easy to say that none of this was my fault. It was Kirin who made the deal with Doji Hakura-san to make Kakita-san my yojimbo. It was Doji Ineko-san who asked Kakita-san to be alone with her. It was his stupid decision to agree to it.

But it was my decision to travel the kingdom even after Isan’s death. It was my decision to get angry at Kakita-san’s implication that I was unable to take care of myself rather than insist he not meet with the nightingale alone. It was my decision to speak those truthful words that should not have been said. It was now my decision to go visit Uncle to seek his council, to tell him about Doji Hakura-san’s cruelty and to send a message to Kirin telling him the same.

I knew they would not question Sanjuro’s word on the matter. A samurai from a major clan might, but not my family. I did not know how that would affect Kakita-san being my yojimbo. It was his lord I was planning on telling my family about after all. I had to trust Uncle Kousei would know the right thing to do.

I finally turned away from the shoji. Kichi was curled up next to me, sound asleep, and I wished I could find peace as well as the little squirrel. I was thankful for his presence. It always made me wonder if Kurogama had engineered Kichi and me finding each other in Kitsune Mori during the month of grieving for Isan or if another force was at work.

I could not deny that there was something I didn’t understand at work here. It was not like me to feel jealousy, yet every time Kakita-san called Utaku-san by her informal name or traded glances with the nightingale, I felt its cold sting. I hadn’t been able to explain to Isan my comfort around Sanjuro-san all of those years ago, and I still couldn’t explain that I felt the same around Kakita-san and Utaku-san. I didn’t understand this odd sense of familiarity as if we had known each other for years, despite only just meeting, only the fact that I felt it.

They weren’t the only ones however. Hida-san evoked the same sense before he was called to the wall. Kuno Hachiro-san had as well. I had only met him briefly but Isawa Keitaro had too.

Including me that made seven, just like my first dream. That couldn’t be a coincidence.

Aunt Yukiko always used to tell me that everything happened for a reason. We might not like the reason, or it may not make sense to us, but there was a reason for everything. That meant that her death, that Isan’s death, that Kirin’s crippled leg all had a reason for happening. That Akodo-san and Ikoma-san’s death had a reason.

I pulled the golden egg out of my obi. That there was a reason I had been given the very artifact I had dreamt about two nights ago. If my dream was correct, this egg contained the souls of maho-spirits. The way it tingled in my hands and made me uncomfortable made me believe that it was true.

Our host Doji Akagi-san said that the Fox clan had held it for a great number of years before it came into Crane hands. When he brought it out and I recognized it, I knew that I had to have it, if only to protect it. I took care not to act like Sanjuro-san and accept it the first time like he had the Daisho from Doji Hakura-san or the rest of the Court had accepted their gifts from Akagi-san.

If the dream about the egg was true, what else were they right about? Was I really the Kitsune spirit like I had dreamt? That would explain why the Fox clan had the egg. Could spirits even be reborn in the kharmic wheel? I didn’t know. Aunt Yukiko would know, but she wasn’t around to ask. If I really was the reincarnated spirit of the Kitsune, would that mean that the other six I felt comfortable around were the reborn versions of my brothers-in-arms? Did souls reincarnate through family lines or could they jump clans? It wasn’t something I’d ever studied so I didn’t know. If the first dream was true, that shouldn’t happen. Our tainted brother was supposed to be sealed away.

Isawa Kage was supposed to be sealed away. Kuni Yuno had made sure of that, according to the dream.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t remember faces or most of the names. If these people had really lived, would I be able to find stories about them to try and jog my memory, if it existed at all? I recalled from the second dream that the Lion and the Unicorn had both been men, but the Scorpion had been a woman. That gave me a little more information to research at least.

This line of thought seemed completely ridiculous, but made sense in a strange sort of way. Out of everything that happened, it made the most sense. Ikoma-san’s murder, the duel between Kakita-san and Akodo-san, Doji Ineko-san and Shinjo-san’s behavior, it all seemed so senseless. This connection for some reason made sense and it frightened me.

I wondered if Kakita-san could hear the way my heart pounded in my chest.

If this line of thought was correct, that the seven of us were reborn, that meant one of us was our tainted brother. I knew it was not me, but I did not know who it was. That meant one of them was the man I had loved as a spirit. It meant that all of us had been drawn together again for some purpose.

It meant that Isan had to die and Kirin had to be crippled so I would be set on this path to meet the other six.

Curse the Fortunes, curse the Kami, and curse the Fates.

I had half a mind to throw the golden egg but fear stayed my hand. Not fear of earning Doji Akagi-san’s wrath from destroying his gift, but fear of my intuition being right, that it really was the same artifact from my dream, and that destroying it would unleash the maho spirits within. It was mine to protect now. I wasn’t strong enough to banish the spirits back to Jigoku and if the egg still existed, maybe I would never be.

A shadow fell over my heart that surpassed the discomfort I felt holding the golden egg. If I was right, if Kakita-san, Utaku-san, Sanjuro-san, Hida-san, Kuni-san, Isawa-san and I were the reincarnated forms of those seven warriors, I wouldn’t be able to tell them, not until I identified who was who, and maybe not even then. I was bound to them in ways I didn’t understand but I couldn’t trust them with this line of thought.

It had been the seven’s job to banish evil in the kingdom, even amongst our own. The first dream happened when the seal upon the Daisho now carried by Sanjuro-san was broken and their darkness escaped. The second dream happened on the eve before we went to Kimusu and towards the egg that now lay in my hand. Would I remember more each time we got close to an object or place tainted by darkness and evil? Would they be drawn to us and us to them? Would I even want to remember more?

I knew Uncle had a few artifacts that would meet the requirements and since I had planned on visiting him anyway, I could test my theory.

I turned back towards the shoji screen but I couldn’t hear Kakita-san anymore. If I was right then the seven of us were bound by Fate whether we liked it or not. I knew the Fortune of Happiness had forsaken me, but did he have to be so obvious about it? Would Kakita-san accept an apology for my words and the trouble they caused? If we were bound by Fate, it would be easier if we got along. Not necessary, but easier.

Did I feel jealousy because he was the reincarnated soul of the man I loved?

A shiver went up my spine. Or did I feel jealousy because he was really the reincarnated soul of my tainted brother, whom I was obviously close enough to make a promise to keep his secrets.

I didn’t know and I didn’t have anyone I trusted to share this line of thought with. Perhaps I was wrong; perhaps it was just my imagination being overactive. But my intuition told me I was right.

Sleep would not come. I was too frightened by it all.

Session 2: Fragile Peace
 

Dearest Mother,
As usual, I apologize for the lateness of this season’s letter. It is true that I have spent my time mastering the art of the sword over the gentler arts, and I shall act to remedy this oversight in the coming days.

My time in service to Doji-sama has been most enlightening, even if until recently it was somewhat uninteresting. Doji-sama has few tasks that he deems worthy of my attention, much less his own, and so I have spent my days sharpening my skills and meditating. The occasional scuffle in town has been easily resolved by the town guard, and the only bandits nearby reside in the lands of the Lion. I am certain you are as much surprised by this fact as I am.

Most recently, I have been assigned as yojimbo to Kitsune Yamala, and this has been my most active period of service. I know not what favor her family has called in to have Doji-sama assign me to this duty, but I can only assume it was most noteworthy. Kitsune-san herself is a shugenja of no little power, and were it not for recent events I would question the need for her to have a bodyguard at all. Kitsune-san has an unusual knack for finding or fashioning trouble in any environment, and so I find myself rapidly improving my court etiquette and kenjutsu the more time I spend as her guardian.

As you might have heard, Kitsune-san was invited to attend the Court of Doji Akagi-sama during the peace talks with the Lion, and I naturally accompanied her. There I spent much time in the gardens and among the many works Akagi-sama has been gifted: his gardens are as orderly and well-managed as rumors say, though there was some disorder amongst one particular clump of bushes. The Court held several contests of wit and skill, and you will be pleased to hear that I performed adequately in each with Kitsune-san’s permission. I am almost saddened by the fact that we must soon move on from Akagi-sama’s Court, though the memory of my time there will remain with me for quite a while.

There is little to mention beyond that, aside from reuniting with an old friend: Utaku Sakura, of the Unicorn. I was very surprised to see her in Hakura-sama’s Court, and I still do not fully understand why she is here, but I appreciate her presence nonetheless. She has always been a free spirit, and just having her nearby makes me feel more at ease. The fact that she has quite grown up from the scab-kneed twig of a girl you remember might have something to do with it.

Give my best to my sisters, and tell Hinata I will do my best to be there for her gempukku later this year. Please convey how proud of her I am at her successes dealing with and learning from the kami.

I hope that this letter will find you and the family well, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Be well.
Your loving son,
Shiro

Session 2: Fragile Peace
 

Otou-sama,

While I know your orders are to report no more than once per year, recent events in Hakura-sama and Akagi-sama’s Courts must be brought to your attention immediately.

Hakura-sama’s Court played host to several new figures recently, including the one to whom I have been assigned:

Hida Takeshi, an uncouth but capable Crab bushi. His speed was laughable, but his strength and endurance did credit to his family. He demonstrated the brusque nature of his family, but had a strange sense of honor: “Honor of Action”, I would say. He has since been assigned to the Wall, and did not seem to believe that he would return.

Utaku Sakura, the Battle-Maiden whom I befriended during your dealings in their lands twelve years ago. Her skill in Kenjutsu is sadly pathetic, a fact I am attempting to remedy, though her mastery of Kyu-justu matches or exceeds any other I have seen. She, also, demonstrates the brusque nature of her Clan, but has tempered it with a great deal of self-control and patience. She has become quite fair to look upon, and attracted the attention of several suitors at Court: her father is apparently undergoing betrothal negotiations right now. If you wish her to join our family, it would require little effort to obtain her approval.

Sanjuro, the ronin. Despite the fact that he has little honor and no status, Sanjuro has risen up to become an interesting figure to many in the local area. His combat capabilities are on par with my own, though he leans more toward strength and less toward speed. At Court, he is laughably out of his depth, but somehow has found himself the recipient of many honors during the following events. Shown a little kindness and given food and lodging, his “personal honor” and combat capabilities would make him a welcome addition to the Family’s assets.

Kitsune Yamala, the troubled shugenja. A simple descriptor, but one would hard-pressed to find another more apt. Mischievous, manipulative, and vengeful, she is nonetheless also capable of compassion and diplomacy… when the mood strikes her. Her skill and ability in communicating with kami are prodigious, though I have yet to see her put hand to an actual weapon with any skill. She is still troubled mentally and spiritually by the death of her twin, which seems to be driving her capricious moods.

On to the ‘adventures’ which I had warned you of:

The daisho gifted by Akagi-sama to Hakura-sama were revealed to have the blackened soul of their previous owner trapped within after a young woman from an Imperial family stole them. Hakura-sama employed myself, Kitsune-san, Hida-san, Utaku-san, and Sanjuro-san to quietly and discreetly recover the daisho, this being somewhat complicated by the fact that no one had seen her passing. Before we could recover the blades, the Imperial snapped them, thinking to destroy the taint within. After she restored her honor, the spirit of the blades rose up to do battle with us. I struck first: Sanjuro-san struck last, and the being faded. The daisho were then re-forged and gifted to Sanjuro-san, and Hakura-sama invited all of us to attend the peace talks at Akagi-sama’s Court.

We arrived at the Court of Akagi almost a week after our adventure, and immediately problems began cropping up. Doji Ineko, the renowned singer, apparently looked with favor upon me, and several times acted to gain my attention during the proceedings. According to Kitsune-san, she even went so far as to attempt sneaking into my room after the first day to speak with me in private. A young Lion, Akodo Genzo, took issue with the peaceful proceedings: I have since learned that he had lost a sister to border skirmishes, and the grief was still too near. He sought combat with me, though his previous appointment with Sanjuro left him bruised and embarrassed enough to forget. And finally, a young Scorpion courtier, Bayushi Kumiko, raised her tail: I was fortunate enough to avoid both dangerous ends. And finally, a Unicorn bushi named Shinjo Hong took his position as Utaku-san’s suitor to be a guarantee of marriage, and began behaving as such: she bore much of his behavior in her typical patient manner before informing him that such would not be acceptable. I was sadly not present for this conversation.

The young Lion killed his lord for being too eager to make peace and blamed it on me. I was unable to provide an alibi due to the actions of Doji Ineko, who had sought conversation with me and then blocked me into her room. Kitsune-san, upset with a comment I had made earlier, informed the Court of our whereabouts to achieve petty revenge. I was banished from the Court, and began preparations at the East Gate of the city. In the meantime, Sanjuro-san and the magistrate Kitsuki Hiro turned up enough evidence to prove Akodo guilty of the crime. He demanded trial by combat, and I was to be his opponent.

You will be pleased to know that the lifetime of training you financed was not to waste.

My honor restored, and the situation at ease, the talks leaned heavily in the favor of our Clan: the hateful young Lion and the wily old Lion were dead, leaving the old lord’s grieving yojimbo to maintain the talks.

I pray that the Fortunes will give you the wisdom to use this new information, if it is at all helpful. I will write again at Winter’s Eve.

-Toshiro

Session 2: Fragile Peace
 

Oya-ero,

Enclosed are sketches of the Court of Doji Akagi, especially the gardens. Also included are images of Doji Ineko, Utaku Sakura, and Kitsune Yamala: three beautiful young women I have been spending a surprising amount of time with lately. I respectfully insist that they make an appearance in your upcoming novel.

Enjoy, you old hentai. And make sure I get a copy of the next book.

-Shiro

Session 2: Fragile Peace
Deathfrisbee2000

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