IC L5R 4e Distant Thunder II

ClassDunce

A Proper Villain.
Validated User
Hiruma Jun’Ai

*** The End of the Day ***

Jun’Ai’s Quarters


“We recorded the tattoos of all of the Bakuto there.” Okada said as he applied some kind of cream to Jun’Ai’s hair. It brought a sheen and allowed him to shape the hair and maintain the part in it. “More than a few of them matched tattoos that were already recorded by Magistrate Kitsuke Joiron.” A small brush and pot appeared and she didn’t object as he applied some makeup beneath her eyes.

“A good deal of opium as well. But people weren’t smoking it there?”

“No Magistrate.” He shaped a point in the dark eyeshadow with a small cloth. “They were just storing it in the teahouse. Aja, with her Doshin, are chasing down the leads from the Gambling chits now.”

“I thought we were leaving?” Sparrow spoke up from his place in the corner. Somehow he had acquired a Yari that was broken at about two feet down the handle and was in the process of smoothing out the broken end of the handle. He had a bundle of cord on the ground next to him that it appeared was meant for the weapons handle. “Shouldn’t we have already have been in Ryoko Owari? And why is Okada hunting Bakuto? That’s my job…”

“You weren’t here, Honored Doshin.” Okada answered as he sprayed a mist of scented oil over Jun’Ai. “I had to find a way to manage without your skills.”

“Okada did well, Sparrow. As did you, in getting my friends to me safely.” Jun’Ai nodded a thank you to Sparrow. “You had to take on more than I expected but I never doubted you.” She paused as she stood up and Okada readjusted the Grey-Blue Kimono she wore and made sure that just the right amount of bright vivid purple was viewable from the layer of cloth beneath it. “Now what is the spear for?”

Sparrow was sitting on the floor rubbing a roughened stone over the jagged wooden butt, He took the spiked butt cap out of a pocket and attempted to slide it back over the shortened spear, a clue that the spear wasn’t already broken when the young Doshin had… found it. “I’m going to need it.” He said with a grunt as he struggled to force the butt cap back on. “I may have to fight Amagi.” He looked up at Jun’Ai when he said that part. “You know because of my… honor.”

“What honor?!” Jun’Ai and Okada said simultaneously.

“I know, right?!” Sparrow shrugged before he started to use a smooth stone to sharpen the length of the blade on the spear.

Jun’Ai opened her mouth to speak but had no words so she closed it again and looked to Okada with a single raised eyebrow. “Well, don’t die Sparrow.”

Okada’s fan was in his hand almost from nowhere as Jun’Ai nodded to her Doshin again before heading out the door. “Jun’Ai-San,” Okada spoke up. “I believe Kumiko-San would enjoy this. Remember the gift is important but the giving of it is honored through tradition.”

Jun’Ai mumbled beneath her breath. “It’s a waste of time but I know.” Okada continued to fill Jun’Ai in on his investigation as they headed to dinner.

*** Before Dinner ***

Jun’Ai waited in a small alcove, with Okada, in a place that she knew Kumiko would have to pass through in order to meet everyone for the meal. When Kumiko arrived Okada apologized and excused himself from the pair claiming some task that needed to be done leaving Jun’Ai and Kumiko to walk alone.

“It is good to see you here safely, Kumiko-San.” Jun’Ai said after the appropriate greetings. “Sparrow told me of the journey, I am glad he was able to be helpful.”

“We’ve been working with the Magistrates here, amongst the Unicorn. I recently acquired something that I felt you may enjoy far more than I would.” She reached into her Kimono and removed a small book. She turned to face Kumiko and held the book out to her with both hands. “This is the Histories of Ide Kanji, It tells the story of the Unicorns travel through the Burning Sands and their time in the City of Sorcerer’s. From the perspective of Ide Kanji. From what I’m told it’s filled with adventure and romance.”

It was quite obvious that Jun’Ai was giving her friend the opportunity to refuse and when she did the Hiruma Scout offered again. Jun’Ai went through the entire social tradition of gift giving without a single complaint.

*** Dinner ***

Jun’Ai sat upright, she was eating her portion of the meal with her chopsticks and actually pouring her sake into a cup that she sipped from with constraint, instead of straight from a phial. She finished chewing before she spoke. “The Labyrinth was very fascinating. I wish we had more time to explore it. Who knows what we could find in there.”
 
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Angwa

Active member
Validated User
Kumiko

"It is good to see you as well Cousin. I will admit I was concerned that there might be 'unpleasantness' given the current situation. I fear that such things will only increase the strife in what is the Empire's greatest bread basket. "
"Well, I would describe Crane and Lion lands as the Empire's premiere source of food, but yes, you are right. I believe we have been lucky to not have ended up in a skirmish. Ronin here are currently... less than welcome."

"Things grow ever more desperate here Kumiko. I'm sure you've seen but despite the Unicorn provisioning well for their own people and thus being able to leave the peasantry their own food and resources, there are signs of hunger and the rebellion is only making this worse. Without at least a middling crop from this region, there is likely to be famine in many of the surrounding lands. "
"Hmm, that will be all but unavoidable. There are so many ronin without a means to sustain themselves and their families who will be forced to take by force what they need. Matsu-ue will want to declare war on the Crane as well, and I fear nothing or nobody will stop her. It will also most certainly not be the usual restrained affair. That will be a much graver threat to the Empire-wide food supplies."

When she discusses meeting with the leaders of the insurrection, Doijin has to hide his unease. The people leading this resistance have proved both ruthless and utterly unconcerned with the suffering of their own people. Beyond that, they were still in rebellion to the Empire he served. In truth, he should find out the leader and put an end to him. But...then they would simply splinter and the problem would merely grow. Being a Magistrate means recognizing that sometimes there are things a sword or bow cannot solve. Still, to have his cousin dealing with such worries him.
There is a slight smile.

"Do not fret, cousin. It needs to be done. We can not fight our way out of this conundrum and besides, I am quite certain what we currently perceive is not at all the whole of the story. The Underhand is still alive, and if I interpret Togashi-ue correctly a possible path to victory is gaining their trust and loyalty."

*** Before Dinner ***

“It is good to see you here safely, Kumiko-San.” Jun’Ai said after the appropriate greetings. “Sparrow told me of the journey, I am glad he was able to be helpful.”
"He will grow up to be quite the man, I am sure. He will always have a home among the Wolves should you no longer require his services and he desires so. I am fond of him."

“We’ve been working with the Magistrates here, amongst the Unicorn. I recently acquired something that I felt you may enjoy far more than I would.” She reached into her Kimono and removed a small book. She turned to face Kumiko and held the book out to her with both hands. “This is the Histories of Ide Kanji, It tells the story of the Unicorns travel through the Burning Sands and their time in the City of Sorcerer’s. From the perspective of Ide Kanji. From what I’m told it’s filled with adventure and romance.”

It was quite obvious that Jun’Ai was giving her friend the opportunity to refuse and when she did the Hiruma Scout offered again. Jun’Ai went through the entire social tradition of gift giving without a single complaint.
Kumiko smiles brightly and after the usual refusals accepts the gift with obvious eagerness.

"Thank you. That is most thoughtful. I have not been able to save my collection, and I doubt Miko-san will loosen our the purse-strings for such luxuries. Hiriko-san and me will enjoy this, rest assured!" There's a pause. "I must say your yoriki's effort do not go unnoticed, Jun'Ai-san. You made a wise choice!"

It has been a long day. A day of humiliating parades and waiting on the sand of judgment. A day of numbing stacks of legal cases and trying to find one's way through Bayushi's labyrinth. A day of waiting for others.

But finally all the companions are gathered together in Kyuden Bayushi. Miko fills cups with sake or tea as she whisks food trays away. The dinner was filling but simple fare. The others might think it was linked to supply issues, but to Doijin's way of thinking it makes the food hard to poison.
"Hiriko-san? You had a lead you wanted to look into, I believe? Is this Traitor's Grove far from here? Or can we find something of interest is this labyrinth as Jun'Ai-san believes?" She remains quiet about the disgraceful way they were treated for now. "Oh, and Sparrow-san, would you mind assisting the wolves in our recruitment efforts? Your showmanship would be helpful, and I believe the heimin would be more open to conversation and directions to you than to ronin."

No, Kumiko might remain quiet about the parade yesterday, but she has not forgotten the hatred the common people directed towards them.
 
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Ebony

Just Here for the Food...
Validated User
Kakita Hayase

The priest welcomes the offered assistance and stands to his feet. If he is going to spend an undefined period of time in this hole, at least he is with his most favorite magistrate among the crowd.

He reaches for the offered onigiri, but Hayase's look stops him. He smirks. Tenkawa's face is certainly not perfect, but that's exactly what makes him attractive. In combination with his athletic build and the air of confidence he carries himself with, he is, indeed, a very handsome man.

He is about to say something witty,not sure what yet, when the Crane speaks. Aha! A metaphor! He is the sightseeing! She definitely meant that! But why wouldn't she prefer looking at him? Nah... It is not a metaphor. Unless! She doesn't want to be in the labyrinth after all, but he is educational! Educational... What does that even mean? Before Tenkawa has time to figure that out, her expression changes and her words bring him back to reality. He has been challenged before the great Thunderer. Before Lord Moon, the one thousand fortunes in the night sky and the spirits of the forest. Someone had abominations attack them in their sleep. They killed his woman and left him for dead. The Mantis' smile vanishes. "Yes, I didn't expect us to delay here this long." He takes a step away. "In the city, in general, not the labyrinth." He adds as an afterthought.

"I wanted to talk to you about that exact thing, actually. Moving a bit faster. Or what about not just one bit, but fast enough to allow satisfaction to be earned." Tenkawa is still talking about riding to Ryoko Owari and killing Junzo, but he certainly put some effort in making his words sound ambiguous.
Hayase nods. She looks at the maze around them, discarding directions as already taken, then realizes that they have already walked down every passage here. With a small shrug, she chooses a path at random and starts walking again. "I will admit," she says, "that I did not realize how long we would be here. I thought, perhaps, we would look around, waiting for Kumiko and her companions, then move on. Two days, at most." She smiles, and adds, "I suppose the Fortunes amuse themselves by disrupting such assumptions."

She spots a trigger for a trap she had seen before, and briefly bends to see if it is now active. It is not, thankfully, but she steps wide over it, indicating for Tenkawa to do the same. Beyond here should be a sharp left; she is not surprised when the passage continues straight. Her internal map is annotated, restarted, and redrawn, again. "We will leave for Ryoko Owari as soon as we can, Tenkawa-san," she says.

They walk and walk and walk and the previous conversation is forgotten for now. After a few hours, Tenkawa realises that it might take them days to find an exit. Alarming, very much so.

"Hayase sama," he calls her by her chosen name. "If we are to spent the next week or so in this kami forbidden place, you need to know it." He sounds serious, but humor and flirting are the two things he finds solace to when he is as anxious as he is at the moment. Tenkawa stops and looks at the woman across him. "There is no one else I'd rather spend a week with confined inside a dark and dangerous place. You are my number one choice!"
Hayase stops and returns Tenkawa's gaze. She feels the heat of a blush rising up her neck toward her hairline, and wonders if it is dark enough her to keep the Mantis from seeing it. She is silent, wondering where this came from, and how to respond. Her sister, Haruko, would know in an instant. Of course, her sister would not be in a darkened maze, accompanied only by a member of a minor clan. This is not Haruko's life; it is Hayase's, and she must live it as best she can.

Still, there are precedents. Courtiers get statements of admiration all the time. Admittedly, many of them are poetry and letters of beautiful eloquence. (Haruko has shown her some of the ones sent to her by admirers, and Hayase has admired the sentiment on the skill of the writer alone, never mind the sentiment.) They have ways of responding that maintain the diplomacy and nature of their positions, without insulting the other party. Conscious of the fact that she has been silent for a number of breaths, she clears her throat delicately, and says, in a pleasant tone, "Thank you, Tenkawa-san. You honor me with your praise. It is more pleasant to lost here in your company than it would be without, as well." Truthfully, she would prefer to be in the company of someone who might be able to get them free of this place, but Jun'Ai is somewhere in the Labyrinth, and Hana is in the city, assisting the Magistrate's doshin. But, having someone else with her is infinitely preferred to being alone, and the Mantis has shown a good sense of direction. She smiles again, and indicates a direction, "Let us try this way; it seems as good a path as any."

Lost and finally found! He only has time for a few words with the Crane before they join the other magistrate. "So? Did you have any fun today, Lady Kakita?"
The question catches Hayase by surprised, and she laughs. Not the light, dignified laugh of a Crane courtier, but the sharp, barking guffaw of the granddaughter of a Hida warrior. She turns it into a cough, feeling the blush creep up her neck again. "Perhaps some small entertainment, Tenkawa-san," she admits. "Though I think I would prefer a teahouse or walk among the gardens next time."

"No, not proud." Jun'Ai smiled at her friend. "Hiruma Minikaze-Sensei would be jealous."

She nodded to Tenkawa as the Yoriki payed his full attention to Hayase. "I could spend weeks in here and probably not see every chambers. There could be sections of this Labyrinth that no one has entered since the creation. Who knows what's hidden away in here..." She started to lead them through the Labyrinth and back outside.
Hayae nods. "You will send a copy to Hida Kisada-sama, no doubt? And..., do you know, I do not think I know the names of Kaiu-sama and Hiruma-sama? Did they accompany the Great Bear north to the Capital, or stay at the Wall?"

Later

Moto Narantsetseg sits next to a small table in Hayase's guest quarters, as her mistress reads over the report of the day. "The properties were easy to scout," she says, "and boundary markers were present, but I swear, Hayase-sama, that the Scorpion purposely camouflaged them wherever possible. I found several of them all but buried beneath surround stones."

Hayase reads over the synopsis of her yoriki's activities, nodding. The young Unicorn had ridden out away from Kyuden Bayushi to scout the surrounding farmland, verifying property markers and farm boundaries. Several of the cases that Shinjo Kozawa was dealing with were land disputes, along with disagreements over water rights and right-of-way. It was, to be honest, hardly glamorous, but a Magistrate's job included the enforcement of the civil laws on Imperial land as well. And, at the very least, Narantsetseg got to ride out with several of her fellow Unicorn. "Did you see any of the reported rebels?"

Narantsetseg shakes her head. "There were signs of them, definitely, near the river, and around several of the granaries. But we saw no trail sign newer than a few days ago, and saw no one carrying daisho or wearing Scorpion colors."

Hayase nods. "They wouldn't, this close to the Castle. Any large groups?"

The young Moto indicates a passage on the next page of the report. "Several that could have been rebels, but they could also have been farmers preparing the fields for Winter. I reported them to Matajiro-sama."

"Good," replies Hayase. She is silent for a few minutes, reading the report, sipping at a cup of tea that her yoriki brought with her when she arrived. She reads the rest of the report quickly but thoroughly, then puts it down and nods. "Well done, Narantsetseg-san," she say, smiling lightly. "If we are here for another day, I will try to find something else for you." She waves away the other woman's protest. "I know that this sort of thing is not interesting to many. I directed you to do it, because it is part of the Magistrate's duties, and you needed to see it. Next time, I will attend to it, and you may go with Okada-san, and chase the gamblers through the streets." She smiles to show that she is joking, and the smile is returned.

"Thank you, Hayase-san," replies her yoriki, "but this part was not so terrible. The land here is beautiful, even at this time of year. And I was able to ride with my cousins." She smiles again. "You should have come with us. Taidama needs the exercise."

Hayase laughs lightly. "He will get enough on the road to Ryoko Owari, I think. Hopefully, we can winter there, though I doubt that Junzo will do us such a favor as staying in one place when the snows come." She shakes her head, then drains her tea and stands. "Come, I think the others are expecting us at dinner."

The end of the day

It has been a long day. A day of humiliating parades and waiting on the sand of judgment. A day of numbing stacks of legal cases and trying to find one's way through Bayushi's labyrinth. A day of waiting for others.

But finally all the companions are gathered together in Kyuden Bayushi. Miko fills cups with sake or tea as she whisks food trays away. The dinner was filling but simple fare. The others might think it was linked to supply issues, but to Doijin's way of thinking it makes the food hard to poison.
Jun’Ai sat upright, she was eating her portion of the meal with her chopsticks and actually pouring her sake into a cup that she sipped from with constraint, instead of straight from a phial. She finished chewing before she spoke. “The Labyrinth was very fascinating. I wish we had more time to explore it. Who knows what we could find in there.”
"Indeed," agrees Hayase. "Should our duty allow it, returning here would be interesting? We have had barely a chance to look through the Scorpion records. I am sure there is information of great value there as well. I can only hope that the Magistrates here will be able to build on Jun'Ai-san's discoveries."

"Hiriko-san? You had a lead you wanted to look into, I believe? Is this Traitor's Grove far from here? Or can we find something of interest is this labyrinth as Jun'Ai-san believes?" She remains quiet about the disgraceful way they were treated for now. "Oh, and Sparrow-san, would you mind assisting the wolves in our recruitment efforts? Your showmanship would be helpful, and I believe the heimin would be more open to conversation and directions to you than to ronin."

No, Kumiko might remain quiet about the parade yesterday, but she has not forgotten the hatred the common people directed towards them.
Hayase greeted her friend warmly when she came to dinner, conversing lightly on the events of the day. She is unfortunately aware that Kumiko and her band of ronin are likely to receive an unpleasant welcome wherever they go, except perhaps someplace like the City of the Rich Frog. She is equally intent on not leaving Kyuden Bayushi without them again. The presence of at least on Magistrate should be able to shield the ronin from most of the poor treatment that they would otherwise receive. "I was going to ask about that. We found little here to direct us in our hunt, though Tenkawa-san's communion," she pauses to smile at the Mantis briefly, "gave us plenty of information already. Hiriko-san, will there be anything here that you think might help us?"
 

ClassDunce

A Proper Villain.
Validated User
Hiruma Jun’Ai

*** The Labyrinth ***

Hayase nods. "You will send a copy to Hida Kisada-sama, no doubt? And..., do you know, I do not think I know the names of Kaiu-sama and Hiruma-sama? Did they accompany the Great Bear north to the Capital, or stay at the Wall?"
Jun’Ai adjusted her pack. “I don’t believe that the Great Bear would be interested in the Labyrinth not unless he had to attack the castle, then he would turn to the Kaiu and Hiruma to lead the way.” She reached into her pack and took out some wrapped rice balls and offered them to Hayase and Tenkawa. “Kaiu Suman-Sama was at the Capital, he was in charge of the siege weapons that brought down the walls of Otosun Uchi. I will certainly send a copy to him. He would be very interested, and to my Father... he will seethe with jealousy”

“The Hiruma Family Daimyo is Hiruma Kage-Sama, he did not join the forces for the march to the Capital.” She didn’t explain why. “There were not many Hiruma at the Siege. After Kage-Sama’s attempt to take back Shiro Hiruma… there aren’t nearly enough Hiruma or Scouts to send away from the Shadowlands. I believe Kage-Sama’s father was there though, our former Daimyo, Hiruma Yoshi-Sama, he’s an advisor to the Great Bear.”

*** Before Dinner ***

"Thank you. That is most thoughtful. I have not been able to save my collection, and I doubt Miko-san will loosen our the purse-strings for such luxuries. Hiriko-san and me will enjoy this, rest assured!" There's a pause. "I must say your yoriki's effort do not go unnoticed, Jun'Ai-san. You made a wise choice!"
Jun’Ai nodded. “To be honest Sister, Okada-san was Sparrows choice not mine. He was the correct and wise choice though.” She continued to walk with Kumiko. “I am taking advantage of Okada-san’s suggestions though. He’s made some good points, in private, about how I can be more effective in service to my Clan.”

“It does involve being able to move through the Northern Clans in a more… acceptable manner to them. The Northern Clans are not ignorant of my Clans sacrifice for their Duty. The hardships that we endure. Yet we get very little aid from the others.” She raised a hand to pause any dissent as she continued. “Okada made the point that we quite often work against ourselves in Court. What good will we would gain from our devotion to our duty is dashed against the rocks by our behavior. The families of the Crab are not suited for politics however if we just followed customs and tradition no politics would really be needed.”

“Most courts would be honored to host us and we would naturally gain the goodwill of those courts and family. Which would lead to more support. Okada explained that being present and pleasant would get more grain for the wall than what our courtiers currently accomplish.”

Her hand fell to Minikaze’s tsuma. “I am no courtier Kumiko-San, I do not have honeyed words and the sight of my scars make people nervous. I know these things. However I am a Magistrate, and I will be in Court. I have a responsibility to my clan to do the best I can for them. If becoming… this is what it takes. Then so be it.”
 
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