Legend of the Five Rings: Echoes

Session 6: Gathering Storms

Darkness gathers, and Honor pulls the Echoes in a hundred different directions...

As the storm gathers,
Honor shackles the Echoes.
Their foe, not so bound.

This session picked up with a little backtracking, getting Sanjuro Sakura‘s player caught up on what happened last week, and passing Sakura’s mysterious “Cold of Absence,” which kept her out of last session, to Kitsune Toshiro (his player was out and about). This episode also saw the return of Hida Takeshi (MIA, presumed deceased), whose player’s work shift has allowed him to return to us!

Gathering Storms started with Sakura’s mother, Utaku Rumiko asking her about her various suitors. Rumiko is a proud, strong woman, who is not about to force marriage upon her only daughter, but did express the values of the various political connections that could be forged with such connections. Sakura let her mother know she did not feel ready for marriage.

Hida Takeshi also returned, with the magistrate Kuni Hachiro (Bound), who spoke with Kitsune Yamako about their possible kharmic connection. The Fox shugenja explained her theory about the The Songs of Rokugan and The Echoes, with which Kuni agreed.

While working in the stables, Sanjuro (Deceased) and Sakura were approached by several of the young Unicorn’s suitors, including Gayan, and a young Lion samurai.

After small pleasantries, Sanjuro decided to seek out Toshiro’s younger sister, Hinata. Her recent engagement to the lout Hong (Deceased) could not be easy for her, the ronin figured, and wanted to help her relieve stress with some practice dueling. However, it did not go well for the Echo, when the young Crane’s father, Kakita Katashi, arrived, and berated the man for teaching a lady how to fight. The ronin couldn’t help but open his mouth, and soon found himself challenged to a duel with one of the few legendary Kenshinzen.

The duel drew a large crowd as everyone came expecting to see a master duelist (the Kakita Lord) in action. To everyone’s surprise (including the group’s… damned dice) Sanjuro, a ronin, Shosuro hirobumi in a dueldefeated the master duelist, a sliver of red appearing on the Kakita’ Lord, his own blade stopping millimeters from Sanjuro’s throat when he was beaten. Katashi turned and stalked back to his estates in disgrace.

The rest of the Echoes (minus the ill Toshiro), went to the local sake-house to celebrate Sanjuro’s unlikely victory. Sanjuro’s ronin friend, Kuno (Deceased) was oddly quiet, and when confronted, he said he was just remembering family. In the morning, the ronin had departed Unicorn lands.

After the sake-house, the Echoes staggered back to their guest rooms, though Sakura was interrupted by her cousin Ide Ruko, who told her of a possible revolt building against her mother’s lord. He offered her a solution, and then bid her good night.

Unfortunately, the Echoes weren’t allowed to sleep off their drink. They were assaulted by a group of tainted assassins, similar to the one faced on the Mantis isles weeks before. After the shadowlands threat was dealt with, the group was finally able to rest. But it was short lived.

In the morning, they were all invited to the small Crane guest estates. Upon arrival, they saw Lord Katashi dressed in funeral garb, with his son, Toshiro, behind him. They had arrived to witness the Crane’s seppuku…

And we ended it here. We needed Toshiro’s player here for what was about to happen, but I feel it was a good cliff-hanger.

Comments

I’ve only seen a few duels in my life, most of them with either Toshiro or Sanjuro on one side. I’ve never seen either one of them lose, except for the fight for the old peasant’s life where Toshiro threw the duel and Sanjuro won.

Sanjuro’s duel with Toshiro’s father was no exception. Hida-san and I encouraged Sanjuro, reminded him of his limitations, that it wasn’t dishonorable to bow out of the duel, and to remind him that Kakita-dono had several reasons to ‘accidentally’ strike too deep and kill him. If he went through with the duel, none of us were sure Sanjuro would survive it.

Dark storm clouds rolled in, thunder booming in the distance. Just as the first drops of rain began to fall, the two swordsmen moved. Sanjuro drew blood first, striking Kakita-dono across the chest. The lord seemed dazed for a moment as the crowd grew silent. No one was expecting Sanjuro to win. When his sword touched the ground, Kakita-dono snapped out of his trance and rushed away.

Sanjuro was glad Toshiro had caught ill and missed the fight. I wasn’t so sure.

We tried to relax, going to a tea house with Kuno tagging along. He was acting strangely the entire night. Sanjuro noticed that when Kuno was focused on his drink his face changed. Not a spell, but facial control. I couldn’t recall ever hearing of anything like that before.

Sanjuro also told me later that he heard a voice, offering to help him kill Kakita-dono during the duel. He declined.

I hadn’t felt anything dark while the duel had been taking place, though I was a little distracted thinking I was about to see my friend die. I’d heard stories of the Kami and the Fortunes helping mortals, but never like that. Something else was at work, which was worrying.

It wasn’t the only troubling thing. Someone knew who the seven of us were, someone who wanted us dead. It was only my insomnia that kept me alive; had the tainted assassin struck while I was asleep, I wouldn’t have survived.

We defeated the assassins with no one worse for the wear. I was able to heal both Sanjuro and Keitaro and one of the Unicorn Shugenja healed where the assassin clawed my back. The Egg of Purgatory now had three souls within it and I was going to have to figure out some way to hold it without touching it. Every time a tainted soul was sucked into the Egg, it grew uncomfortably hot.

When Sanjuro and I went to check on Toshiro, who we found out defeated the assassin sent for him easily, we were refused entry into the guest estates of the Crane. We did catch a glimpse of Kakita-dono in all white, writing a poem with Toshiro sitting across from him before the doors were closed.

Toshiro’s father was preparing to commit seppuku, likely from the ‘dishonor’ of losing a duel to a Ronin. We were invited to the Ceremony, though I wasn’t sure why.

How could I stand by while the father of the man I loved did such a stupid act? If I stayed silent, Hinata would have to marry Shinjo, Toshiro would have to find Hakura’s killer (or someone to blame for the murder), and if he was successful, we would be married. But a Great Lord would be gone from Rokugan when darkness was seeping into the world, tension between the clans was growing, and there were whispers of plots against the Emperor.

If I acted dishonorably, if I spoke up and tried to convince Kakita-dono not to perform the three cuts, successful or not I would anger a great deal of people. I would have no hope of ever marrying Toshiro, not that he would want to tie himself to someone so brash and foolish. The Crane clan may attempt to punish my family for my actions. But if I was successful, a Great man, the father of the man I loved, would live. I had already seen enough death. My words had gotten people killed before; could they also save someone?

I don’t know what to do.

Session 6: Gathering Storms
 

As Kuni-san and I were heading back to the Wall, we continued having strange visions. Kuni-san believed we were all connected in some spiritual way and felt we needed to rejoin the companions we have been traveling with recently.

I was reluctant to rejoin them since most of them had no sense of what Bushido means to them. Most of them have condemned me for upholding to the very code most of us have sworn to follow! I secretly preferred returning to the Wall to join with the rest of the Crab Clan where I felt at home and knew that others shared the same sense of honor that I valued. However, Kuni-san had declared I was to be part of his Magistrate allowing me to assist him in other missions rather than being obligated in returning to the Wall. Since duty is very important to me, it is not my place to argue; perhaps we would solve the mystery of these odd visions we both have been experiencing.

I found Sanjuro working in the stables. Apparently he needed money since he no longer has a daimyo’s financial backing. I felt pity for the man who once was at the same station as I was but now reduced to a stable boy’s job! Despite his dishonorable act to commit seppuku when his lord passed; the man had his own sense of honor which I could secretly admire. Even though as a samurai I should despise this man, Sanjuro being what he is and the fact that he has made me feel more welcome within the group as compared to the others, I feel more akin to him than the rest of the group.

Sanjuro and I caught up a bit and I noticed Utako-san was being approached by many different men of different clans. They were apparently trying to court her by first inviting her to attend the lantern festival with matching kimonos (what clowns!). I then easily concluded that Utako-san was apparently being set up in an arranged (and political) marriage. I secretly pitied her for being arranged to marry such pathetic men but I will not voice my opinion since it is not my place to interfere in such political affairs. After all, I am a warrior! And warriors speak with actions, not wasteful words!

Kitsune was present in the nearby vicinity but kept her distance which is fine by me. This way I don’t have to hear her nagging me again about “bullying peasants” or “scaring the guests”. Most of us began to mingle with the other people.

Not long, I caught word that Sanjuro had insulted Kakita-sama by telling him how to raise his daughter (that’s what I heard anyway) and challenged him to a duel. I found it odd that a lord would challenge a lowly ronin to duel him but Sanjuro must have made him very angry to forget that. I’m sure it was more about teaching him a lesson or else he planned on “accidently killing” Sanjuro to avoid any of the red tape involved in having Sanjuro killed or jailed for his “insolence”. I never did like Cranes and their ways.

Even though the Cranes are not well respected by my clan because of their cowardly ways, Kakita-sama was a (grudgingly) a well-respected swordsman in his own right. How the Cranes produced good fighters when they hide in dark corners is beyond me and my other clan members. Kitsune-san and I were for once in an agreement that Sanjuro should gracefully bow out of the duel. However the man was determined to go through with the duel. My hopes were that Sanjuro’s convictions and his own sense of honor he followed would prevail through this duel (and to also see a Crane lord humiliated by a lowly ronin would be all the more of a sweet-secret victory on my behalf as well).

To everyone’s surprise (including, I believe, Sanjuro’s) he won! I congratulated Sanjuro and reminded him that his own sense of honor proved to be the more just (i.e. Sanjuro was more “in the right” than the lord was). We all decided to celebrate, even Kuno was present to celebrate but after awhile he grew despondent and left our celebration. I celebrated even more as I encountered some warriors from the Unicorn clan and we had a friendly brawl. After the celebration we all retired to our guest rooms.

I heard a crash and a shout as our female companions were being assaulted by tainted assassins (the scum!)! We managed to fight them off and the rest of the manor’s guards arrived and all seemed well. We stayed closer in adjacent rooms for safety incase the tainted assassins attempted to strike again; but they never did and we awoke the next morning to discover that Kakita-sama was preparing for seppuku due to the shame he bared in losing to a ronin.

I personally felt nothing for the Crane lord to end his life to regain his honor; to my understanding, it was his error for handling it in the way it came out (but perhaps this is the reason why he is committing seppuku? Doubtful, Cranes tend to think they know everything so his ego cannot bare the shame in losing to Sanjuro, what big baby!)

I noticed that Kitsune-san seemed more disturbed about this ceremony than any one of us. Sure Sanjuro felt bad about the situation since he was not expecting what he did to lead to this…but I came to realize that Kakita-sama is Toshiro’s father. I know she has a liking to him so I am sure she is opposed to this ritual as well. So I suppose she will try and interrupt a man trying to regain his honor for the sake of her lover…because Toshiro is supposed to be involved in his father’s seppuku as well. If she realized that a samurai would rather see his father regain his honor in his peoples’ eyes rather than live in shame for the rest of his life, she might realize that Toshiro would likely be supporting this ritual. However, I know that Toshiro cares little for the Bushido code as well. Then there’s the “wildcard” Sanjuro…regardless, this may be the most interesting seppuku ritual I will ever attend! I can’t wait to stand back and watch!

Session 6: Gathering Storms
 

Whoops, I should have said “to not commit seppuku”.

Session 6: Gathering Storms
 

I cannot believe what Yamala-chan and I saw just after she and I were refused entrance to see Kakita-san. The father of Kakita-san in a white ceremonial kimono, writing what I can only surmise is a death poem. Kakita-dono is preparing to commit hara-kiri. Was it simply because I defeated him in our duel?

Like the people who attended our duel, I was shocked when I won. This man is a Kenshinzen. He has forgotten more about sword play than I might ever know. My surrogate father Tatsuya, taught me that to become a better bushi, one must face opponents that are somewhat better than you. Only a fool however, takes on people who are far too superior than you so eagerly. The thing is, I was originally going to bow out, and declare Kakita-dono the superior man. Then, as we were sizing each other I suddenly gained some kind of new confidence.

I keep replaying the duel in my mind, looking for the moment he slipped up. There is no way I beat him without him making a mistake. I mean, I should not have been able to win. Where, where was the flaw? Nothing, his form was perfect, his draw was fluid, and his speed was incalculable. So how in the name of the Kami did I pull it off?

Tatsuya raised me to become a great sword fighter. I know he would be excited to find out I just fulfilled the one prerequisite for joining the Kenshinzen. I haven’t spoken to him in almost a year. I really should write him.

The only problem is, the man whom I have defeated is going commit seppuku. Mind you I don’t care as much about him as I do his children. Because of me, two people I care for are going to lose their father. Wait Sanjuro…..he is the one who challenged you! He’s the one who lost, and he is the one who had decided to end his own life, don’t blame yourself! Just think of something else.

I was surprised to see Hida-san return. I thought for sure he would be greatful to go back to the wall away from us. He has many disagreements with us on things, and sometimes he can be difficult to deal with. That being said however, I still kinda like the man, and am glad to see him return. He showed up just around the time Sakura-chan and I were in the stables, and seemingly every avaliable suiter in Rokugan were coming around asking if she would accompany them to some festival coming up (matching kimonos and all).

Then there was the attack of the tainted assassins. Who is sending these things after us? I don’t know if I can deal with sleeping with one eye open. Things are getting dangerous, we have to stay on guard.

Session 6: Gathering Storms
Deathfrisbee2000

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