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.
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.
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.
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.
(Calligraphy 22, Etiquette 21)
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.
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.
To a vanguard of the Spiritual leaders of the Lion,
Our contact has been brief, but Matsu Koritome Tanpopo wishes to ask about matters pertaining to the Kitsu, in this case with regard to his own situation. I wish to hear from my Ancestors about what I should do with the family line and I am given to understand that some among them would have the ability to put me into contact with them. I am aware that you are not a Shugenja of the Kitsu yourself, but perhaps you would have met a Sodan Senzo you could ask?
Fortunes carry your soul,
To the bold and efficient Kitsu Ise Kozume,
Matsu Koritome Tanpopo writes again, this time with a more general matter pertaining to the Kitsu: I wish to make an arrangement for recurring School exchanges between the Phoenix and the Lion ((I mean where Lion get trained at a Phoenix School and vice-versa)); I anticipate that, given the chance, the Phoenix would want to send a few students to train with the Kitsu and I need to determine if this would be possible. I will also be reaching out to the Ikoma, but if my hunch, based on having grown up surrounded by Phoenix, is correct, the terms would be far more agreeable with the opportunity to send students to train with the Kitsu.
May you ever find yourself in favour with your Ancestors,
I write with incredible news.
First, let me say that I received mother’s guidance regarding the debts our family is owed. I will seek during my time to seek out these debts and have them repaid to the clan. I thank you for trusting me with this duty, for while trade and commerce are dubious matters, a clan still must be good stewards of the wealth our lord entrusts us with. I will not fail you in this charge.
Second, I have just departed the Winter Court, and can finally send this letter now the snows have cleared. It was an incredible experience. I was even invited to create paintings for our Dragon hosts, and to send to the Imperial court itself. I’m still shaking as I consider it. Thank you, thank you so much, for your many lessons on the art of Sumi painting.
Speaking of the court, it is there I received the most amazing news. My friends, Asako Norinaga and Daidoji Isamu, of the Phoenix and Crane clans, have both extended incredible invitations. I have told them of Kenji-kun’s affinity for the kami, and his budding talents as a potential Shugenja. Daidoji-sama has offered to speak for Kenji-kun in a letter of recommendation to the Asahina, and Asako-sama has offered to speak for him to the Isawa. They each offer to have him tested for suitability to study with their schools.
I know we pride ourselves on our self-reliance, and this virtue has been a comfort to me many times in my life. But Father, Mother, I love my little brother dearly, and I want him to have the chance to excel. Either of these opportunities would be incredible for him, and I urge you to consider them. I am sure they will come at some cost, be it diplomatic or otherwise, but they could be the beginning of a very bright future for Kenji-kun.
I hope this letter finds you well.
If you can, please send more Yuzu juice, and perhaps some dried, candied yuzu if there is any left after the winter season. It is proving very popular with my friends here!
Your loving, dutiful son
Included at the bottom of the letter is a playful rendering of a small, anthropomorphic hare with a straw hat walking down a road with a pack slung over his shoulder.
Doji Junichiro-san I am sorry to write and say that I had considered having a dinner for the two of us. but recent events make it easier to simply write to you this summer and see if our issues can be settled that way. Maybe I can set aside my wishes to have a more partnership relationship. And learn to live a life with you living your life where you are at I living in my lands.
Peace be with you
(Chop of Matsu Mayuko)