Purpose

Destiny, karma… Purpose. It can be a strange path to find purpose, but I now see mine in this life. I thought I would fight, grow as a warrior, and that my sensei would defer to my great experience when this pilgrimage is over. I was so naive. These are not the things a Falcon craves. These are not what make the Toritaka great.

Today I agreed to enter into service with Yogo Mimori. She is investigating a mystery of vindictive ghosts and old debts between two of the greatest of clans, the Left and Right hand of the Emperor. This is the deed I will bring back to my sensei, to do the duty of the Falcon, and to grow beyond my old shame from many years ago.

Mistakes

Spring is coming to a close, and I find myself reflecting on my own rash actions that have led to this life. Not regret, for that is one of the three sins, but understanding.

I was hurt when the Ikoma rejected me, when Yuki left at the end of winter. Hurt and angry. I made a request of the Yotogi that was unreasonable. I did not expect the Crane to come to me. I know now she was whispering poison. I ignored it, enchanted by the thought of joining the household of one whom I held in high esteem.

I had everything I wanted for all of a week. Then the reply to my forgotten request came. For his own reasons, the Yotogi had granted my favour. I could not refuse this task granted by my daimyo, at my own request. I could not go back among the Lion, knowing I would someday join the house of their enemies.

I had turned my back on my friends, and was unable to yet join my new allies. So now I write this at a table in a Scorpion house and ponder where it all went wrong, and what I can do to get through this.

Hanami Festival

I journeyed to Kosaten, and the village of Taro Mura. The Lion were hosting a Sakura viewing. It was a thing of beauty, made moreso by its transience. I saw many faces familiar to a previous life, and made the mistake of greeting one. Usagi-san did not seem impressed by this path. I am sure he shared his observations. In future I will need to be more discreet.

I danced and played my drum for the gathered samurai. The performance was well received. It was difficult to see the allies of a previous life again. But less so than I thought it might be, after the events of the Winter.

A long conversation with Bayushi Ikiryo, to wind out my night, led to some awkwardness between us. I will have to visit her house and make amends for my poor behaviour.

Letter to the Yotogi

“Esteemed Yotogi-dono,

I have completed my year of service to the Lion, on behalf of our clan. I have earned great glory for the Falcon on the field over the summer, and tournament in the winter. I have even caught the attention of great daimyo of the Matsu and the Daidoji.

I have failed at my other task though, to secure a betrothal and greater ties between the Falcon and the great clans. My lord, I have lost the way. I am no longer in balance.

I humbly request permission to engage in Musha Shugyo, to rediscover my centre and become a greater servant for the clan.

Your servant,

Toritaka Michio.”

(Calligraphy 22, Etiquette 21)

Honen Matsuri

I attended the honen matsuri in the land of the Lion today. In another life I may have wished to be in different company, but as it were I found myself entering the contests with a Crane woman who seemed lonely. Asahina Natsue-sama was an able samurai, despite her missing arm. Quick with banter and with her sword. She kissed me twice during one of the games, and I am not so sure it was an accident the second time. We were fortunate to win one of the prizes, and parted on good terms.

Later I ran across the ronin Masa and Lady Doji Izumi. Masa had, on another day, persuaded me to look into recruitment to fight for the Crane. As we spoke of this, Izumi-sama intimated she wished to test me for her own purposes. I have agreed to meet with her tomorrow and see what this is about. A politically connected patron is not the worst I could do with when I need a roof over my head and food in my belly, before the war recommences in earnest.

Kojou

For the first time since I began my pilgrimage  I saw the sister of my heart. She recognised me, of course. She would have made a fine Falcon. We held to honour, and did not acknowledge our history together. I wanted to speak with her, to shoot, and drum. But I am no longer Michio the archer, her someday brother-in-law. I am Masashige the cavalryman, and Masashige is just a ronin soldier.

In this life, timing is everything. I received acceptance of my request to undertake this pilgrimage just after the Crane informed me they had found a bride acceptable to them. Daidoji Hiramori Miho, Kojou’s younger sister  We have never met, and now are unlikely to until my current journey is complete.

Lion Clan Military Guests – A Guide

Lion Clan Military Guests

Welcome to the care of the most honorable Lion Clan, children of Lord Akodo, dedicated servants of the Emperor and Empire itself!  While there might be many misconceptions about your stay please let this guide acquaint you with the expectations you may have as you are hosted by the noble Right Hand of the Emperor!

As a guest of the Lion Clan we encourage you to take this time to become acquainted with our customs, our unique traditions, and our culture to further strengthen the bonds between clans during this glorious ritual of honorable war blessed by the son of heaven. A copy of Leadership will be made available to all guests for light reading to help appreciate and acclimate to the conventions of the Lion Clan. Further, as you move through the encampment all guests will be issued a companion to help explain any differences in behavior of culture as well as offer insights at the leisure of our visitors.

On Daisho:

As a guest of the Lion Clan we are indebted to see to your protection while in our care.  As such, please allow our most honorable Matsu Tanpopo the honor of seeing to the initial safe storage and care for your soul while on our campgrounds.  

If there is a desire to participate in any training event, practice, or any other martial endeavor that would require your sword, please make your companion aware of such a thing! We encourage our guests to be involved in our exercises so that they may come to know who we are as a clan.

On Meals:

You may expect three meals a day. As is traditional the first meal will consist of eggs over rice, miso, and a grilled dish of changing variety. Lunch and dinner will frequently consist of a small plate dish either rice or noodle based, with grilled fish, chicken, tofu or pork, pickled, grilled or fried vegetables and a local fruit. Tea is available at all times. If another food or thing is desired (due to vows requiring one eats only tofu for example) please let your host be aware of such.

On Health and Medical Treatment:

The circumstances which typically see guests arrive to the care of the Lion Clan are such that your first moments during your visit may involve medical treatment. The skill of the Kitsu in healing is known throughout the Empire and we assure you that you are in safe hands.  While in medical treatment, please be advised that there may be minor changes to your stay that contradict parts of this pamphlet – such as what our diet may be or restrictions in movement due to the request of the healer in charge of your welfare. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

If, after being given leave, you experience any other injuries or illnesses please make your companion immediately aware. As our guest we are honor-bound to see to your treatment and comfort so that you will return safely, healthy, and whole to the clan of your birth.

On Spiritual Health and Treatment:

A temporary shrine has been constructed on the other side of the medical tents within the tent with the blue flag. Incense is available at request for your daily prayers to your ancestors or even prayers to Fortunes at your leisure. If there is the desire to visit any of the local temples, please alert your companion so that arrangements can be made.  

On Comforts:

While staying with the Lion Clan, prisoner baths have been arranged and the ofuro is typically prepared shortly after breakfast. They can be found in the tent behind the medical tent. Please let your companion know if the water requires another log for proper heating. 

Due to the state that many arrive as guests of the Lion Clan, new kimono will be available for all samurai while your former guard is being attended to by the camp servants. Fresh clothing can be expected regularly of course – though we are in a state of war, the Lion Clan takes the duty of seeing guests interred treated as samurai.  

Paper and ink for writing letters will be made available upon request to any who would wish to communicate thus. The neutral parties of this war have kindly offered their services helping to deliver messages. Beyond these things, please enjoy the local varieties of tea that are available, a selection of books, a rousing game of go or shogi, or the skilled storytelling of the Ikoma recounting the war!  

If there are other comforts or items that a guest would like that are not immediately available, please, inform your companion and every effort will be made to obtain them if possible.

Though the act of war is typically thought as an opportunity to bring glory to one’s name, we of the Lion Clan also feel it our duty to show the honor of this pursuit. If there is a concern about the courtesy being shown, please make us aware so that the situation can be rectified appropriately. 

Let the glory of this war only be outshone by the honor of the samurai who fight.

On the Matter of Rice

A raised wooden dais with a large pillow for the performer at the center and well-made but undecorated wooden shoji screens formed the stage and backdrop, serving to focus attention on the samurai ascending the stairs in her kimono to sit seiza. Miyabi first set out fan and a brightly colored cloth on the ground before her neatly before bowing deeply from her place to her audience. She waited for three counts before rising and beginning to speak.

“There was a samurai, poorer from the loss of his wife and richer for having two sons. His oldest son, Touma was a serious young man: A bushi who lived and breathed Akodo’s treatise on Leadership as a guide to all things in life such that if a person running a noodle cart called out to him…”

Miyabi’s eyes squinted small as she made her voice deep and gruff for the cart’s man, leaning forward to beckon the samurai over with her hand. “Ah, samurai-sama! Try some, try some, the best udon in the whole province!  What flavor would you like?”

A serious expression took her face next as Miyabi sat back in her seat, stroking her chin and opening her fan as if to read. “Surely.” She said in a voice dripping with Touma’s earnest conviction. “Lord Akodo’s wisdom will guide me towards which are the best noodles to eat today.”

She read some more from that fan before gesturing with a firm chop into the air with her hand. “Tosha udon. Only it bears the firmness that is befitting a samurai.” After ‘Touma’ gave one firm nod to his left and his right, Miyabi picked up the cloth as if holding a bowl. “Utz-tedakimasu!”

Miyabi returned to her own voice as she continued.  “His second son, Kaito, was more genial than his brother, more popular for that same reason as well. Where Touma would bark orders…”

A sharp gesture and Miyabi snapped her fan out at a member of the audience with a deeper, firm voice. “You! Heimin! In the glorious name of the Heavens and owing and in accordance to the Celestial Hierarchy, as followers and adherents of the most perfect way known as bushido, the directions to the nearest tea house will be given to me!”

Miyabi looked shocked, sat up and after looking left and right, swallowed visibly and began a nervous smiled, bowing and shaky gesture to the left to guide Touma on his way… watching someone move with her eyes before breathing a sigh of relief.

“Kaito had a softer demeanor that made people want to work with him, even if he was a bit foolish.” A boyish excitement and an easy, charming smile took her face as she relaxed her posture and nodded, speaking as Kaito. “Ah, it’s another beautiful day. Tell me, Touma, should we spend it reading poetry or riding horses?”

The serious demeanor returned with the earnest, sharp voice. “Kaito. Have you finished the reading that sensei asked us to do?  And you think to go riding?”

Her boyish demeanor returned. “Oniichan, the book has existed for hundreds of years. Shall it vanish in just the one day I go for a walk?” She mimed walking in her kneeled position as Kaito strolled away before returning to her own voice. 

“Still, when their father realized he would be away for business for some time, the answer was clear.”  

The shugenja made her frown deeper and sat up with a rigid backed posture, eyes narrowed as she took on the mein of an elderly man with a low voice to match such a thing.  “My sons, as I am needed to go to the capital you two must tend to the village without me. Still, I trust in your wisdom, you have been raised well.”

A boyish excitement and an easy, charming smile took her face as she relaxed her posture and nodded, speaking as Kaito. “Of course, father. There will be nothing for you to worry about.”

After that, another sharp gesture and Miyabi raised a hand to the sky as if swearing an oath. “Father, I promise that I will take care of things as you would.”

The elderly samurai seemed to sigh at his sons before going on. “Kaito, you will mind the village and receive the taxes while Touma guards the roads and assures the paths of the emperor are tended as they ought to be. I will return in some time.” Again Miyabi mimed walking away in her kneeling position.

The oath-taking gesture that seemed to always accompany Touma was given as she pivoted her body to face left. “As father has given me this task, so will I go. Kaito, we will see each other soon.”  

She pivoted to face right as if talking to Touma, lightening into Kaito’s voice.  “Jaa. Mata.”

“It should have gone well. The samurai had gifted Touma with several well-trained ashigaru to help him fend off bandits and gave a strict set of instructions for how much rice the emperor was due. But, that year the fields were blessed and the harvest came in three-fold from what was expected.” Miyabi said before she picked up her cloth. “When the first bushels came in…”

‘Kaito’ read through the paper with increasing amounts of fret in his face, grabbing the side of his head in horror. “No one said what to do if these numbers were bigger!  Ara, ara… Well, the tithe to the Emperor is supposed to be so many bushels, so… What am I going to do with all of this? I don’t want people to think we STOLE it…” Miyabi looked left, she looked right, and finally she started to mime scooping rice into a bowl, cooking and eating frantically. She scooped the air with her cloth, stuffing more rice down her sleeves and the front of her kimono.  

Miyabi spoke then, shaking her head. “More and more bushels came in and Kaito did as before, sending the emperor his due according to the sheet his father had left and hiding the rest in his kimono. And soon, Kaito began commissioning bigger kimono to account for his new size and the rice he needed to hide within it. After two years, both brother and father returned home to a surprise.”

The Lion storyteller puffed out her cheeks and moved with her arms out to waddle from side to side as she entered as the newly gigantic Kaito, bowing awkwardly to his left. The looks of confused shock as she leaned back were clearly his family.  

Touma frowned, facing right as he spoke in an accusatory stage whisper. “How… how has such a thing occurred while we were away?”

Puff-cheeked and now with a thicker voice to account for Kaito’s girth, Miyabi gave a sad sigh. “There was so much rice! I thought I was supposed to be managing the wealth of the household. I didn’t know what to do with it. I ate as much as I could after I gave the emperor his due. How does father keep so slim!?  The rest, I just hid away.”

She slapped her forehead, facing right again as her voice became angry, rolling her R’s for the harsh sound. “Idiot! My men and I were hungry and you were stuffing yourself sick? Why did you not send food to us?”

Miyabi faced left again, poking her pointer fingers together in a sheepish gesture. “Father’s paper didn’t say I had to. What’s done is done. If father meant for you to be able to feed your men while you were defending the roads, surely he would have said so. Besides, there’s none now to give–” She cut off, rolling her hands one over the other in a tumbling gesture as if something were spilling from her kimono.  “Pling, pling, pling.”

Touma’s voice was a furious roar. “You come here now or I’ll tear it off you!”

Kaito gave a yelp of surprise and fear before running in place and hiding behind a body.  “Father! Father, help! Touma has gone mad! He’s jealous I got to stay in the nice village and he had to go out with the muddy, dirty bandits!  Stop him, stop him!”

It seemed the weary sigh was the gesture that denoted the father samurai more than anything else as Miyabi’s eyes squinted and she sat up straight and stern again, looking from left to right. When she spoke again, she spoke as the storyteller herself. 

“Listening to his angry son and his scared son, the samurai realized what had happened with a sigh and declared that the debt to the emperor for what they truly owed must be paid, Touma’s men must be fed and Kaito would have to account for it.”

Here Miyabi sniffed into her hands, a dramatic showing of tears as she spoke as Kaito. “Oh! Oh, father!  Please, take mercy! Where will I find the riches to pay back such a debt? Surely the damage has been done and there is nothing more to do.” Even as she went through her dramatics Miyabi let her hand fall as if from her kimono, fingers wiggling to mimic the small grains of rice dropping to the ground. “There is no point in me suffering as well.”

Even Touma’s voice was weary, gesturing with a hand towards the ground.  “Brother, the rice spills from your pocket now.”

Miyabi looked down to the ground slowly.  Looked up from the ground with a black face before theatrical sobbing began as ‘Kaito’ threw a hand to his forehead. “See?! Horrors! MY KIMONO, TOO, WEEPS!”

The swooning gesture of Kaito finished into a deep bow of Miyabi as the storyteller, nose to the mat low to her audience before rising with her tale complete.

Awareness + Storytelling  (two raises)

Akodo Miyabi rolled 45!
Your dice were [17, 9, 7, 6, 6, 4, 4, 1] and I kept [17, 9, 7, 6, 6]