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]