A Quietly Brewing Storm

The Final Task of Hida Saizo

A private letter to Matsu Tsuranuki

My Dear Wife,

Bushido demands that we samurai live by a code. We must be honorable, we must be courageous, we must be courteous, we must be sincere. Sometimes we see occasional lapses in individuals. Rarely do we see three people choose survival over bushido.

After the unfortunate events of Toshi Ranbo (Violence Behind Courtliness City) where the Lion retook the city after the demise of its Crane administrator, the shugenja there have given Mirumoto Haruka-san a recommendation: their rituals indicate that she is free of taint, but it would be best to consult with a Kuni Purifier to be sure. Since she was going to Crab lands, I have thought it best to inform you that we will be having a guest. Some of your sisters-in-arms also perished in battle against an oni. They fought exceedingly well. I will not recount this tale further, this was in the previous letter I sent you. You were saddened the last time, I have no desire to repeat the experience for you.

Doji Arami-san and Kakita Ochiru-san seemed to have been asked to stay to negotiate in the transfer. In exchange, the Crane have sent a Daidoji to accompany us on our way to Crab lands. Daidoji Ryota-san, also a member of the Heart and Soul of Slow Tide Harbor. The rest of the Lion seemed preoccupied with other matters, and so our Kitsu Shugenja member didn’t immediately join the trip back home to Crab lands.

After the month spent in the Barracks of the Damned, Daidoji Ryota-san volunteered to accompany Ichigo and I to pick up Mirumoto Haruka-san. It would seem that he learned much in his time manning the wall, and I hear some of our defenders trying out the techniques that he has shared with them as well. The month recommended by Kuni Hatsu to Mirumoto Haruka seemed to have cleared her of any taint. Mirumoto-san however, seemed a bit… Affected in her time in the Barracks. She was saying something about waiting for apples to drop from the Apple tree to test her vigilance, but a pear tree fell, and of the five apples she was supposed to cut down, she only reached 3 because the other apples fell from a different tree. Her sensei was truly unusual in her teaching methods. Perhaps such are the ways of the inscrutable Dragon.

On our way back, we were ambushed by a small pack of goblins. They brought down Mirumoto-san’s horse, while the others seemed intent on attacking Ichigo. Daidoji-san and I managed to keep Ichigo safe, while Mirumoto-san pulled down a boulder and crushed three goblins in one strike. The final goblin ran, but was chased by a Nezumi who honored our treaty with them.

This Nezumi was called Tchk’Tchk, and it told us that some of the tunnels underground were opened, that’s why some goblins emerged. They followed the goblins to Crab lands, and having accomplished that, were content to go back home. As I closed the gates though, the voice of a Kuni Purifier demanded that the gate be opened. She was chasing after a tainted Hida, who went through here. She was Kuni Shisai, I knew of her and let her out. She explained that she has been chasing after Hida Saito, who was tainted and was being treated, but she was knocked out and she’s been chasing after him for two days now. There was no reason to doubt Kuni-san, and it was clear the gates were opened from this side. If anything, we thought there was a dangerous person who was willing to open the gates and let Shadowlands creatures into the Empire. This could not be allowed.

As we looked for tracks, we managed to find them leading to a well, where Kaiu Yatsuhiro was trapped. Like Kuni-san, he was knocked out by Hida Saito, and thrown into this well. He’s been slowly making progress in helping himself out of the well, at the expense of his fingernails.

We brought Kaiu-san back to the nearest garrison, which happened to be Kuni Castle. There we found that Kitsu Airu-san has spent a few weeks learning with the Kuni. At least, I estimate a few weeks as she was paler than the last time we have met.

Kitsu Airu-san did a shugenja thing and found out that four people headed out recently — Hida Saizo was not alone. Daidoji Ryota-san found that a crossbow and several quarrels went missing from the armory, and there was also a missing horse, as investigated by Mirumoto Haruka-san. They were headed towards the direction of Hida Castle.

We found out that Hida Saizo is part of a group of expeditionary samurai, meant to reclaim lands beyond the Wall. His companions, Hida Kotaro, Hiruma Magohachi, and Hiruma Arisa have just returned recently, but are nowhere to be found. Their sergeant seemed extremely displeased at this and ordered them to be found. Since our arrival and request to find Hida Saizo, the Crab seemed unperturbed, until they realized that the request seemed serious because of Taint. The bushi manning the garrison started talking amongst themselves actively, but it was nothing like gossip. The Crab do not gossip.

By this time, you probably realize that the Hida Saizo I have mentioned several times, is our neighbor and they were making their way back to Hida Castle, tainted. We couldn’t allow that to happen. It is a good thing to have these samurai traveling with me. They all agreed to chase and stop Hida Saizo from reaching Hida Castle.

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Saizo-san was dragging the three samurai behind a horse, tied up like prisoners, intent on delivering them to the champion in order to receive justice. His eyes were completely black, and he shivered as he spoke, a wound was on his shoulder, bleeding black blood. He aimed his crossbow at the three prisoners, threatening to kill them, but aimed the crossbow at us as we stopped him.

You see, my wife, Saizo-san had already perished. He died as their group encountered an oni in the Shadowlands, and at the first sighting of the oni, the other three tripped him, and left him to die to save their lives. Saizo fought and perished, hopefully defeating the oni, and it was here that Kuni Shisai encountered them. Kuni-san had met the other three unwounded, and free from Taint, before another hour passed and she found Saizo-san with a huge wound, obviously Tainted, and making his way back to Crab lands. The three managed to return to Kuni Castle, falsified a report about retreating after Saizo-san perished, and it was here that Hida Saizo hunted them.

There was a tense moment when Hida Saizo aimed his crossbow at me, and asked if we would allow cowards like these three to serve at the wall. We shot back and asked him, would you bring your taint back home, to Hida Castle, to bring these three to Justice, knowing his Taint is now contagious? We volunteered to bring the three to their sergeant, to mete out their just punishment, but Saizo, as Crab, could not be allowed to continue to Hida Castle. He could go to the Barracks, or die an honorable death. I would assist him, as his second, it was what I could do as his neighbor.

In the end, he chose to die, as a Crab, still remembering his duty. He refused to live out his life in the Barracks, unfortunately, he shot himself with his crossbow, instead of the three cuts. I performed the final cut afterwards. Kuni Shisai-san would later inform us that this area would need to be quarantined because Hida Saizo failed to perform the three cuts.

We brought the three deserters back to Kuni Castle, where they were ordered to commit Seppuku. Kitsu Airu-san and Mirumoto Haruka-san assisted Kuni Shisai with whatever shugenja needed to purify land. Kitsu Airu-san seemed to have brought out a lot of books as well. She must have spent a lot of productive hours in Kuni Castle, bringing with her copies upon copies of Kuni writings. She seemed quite enamored with one of her copies, she kept glancing and looking at it. Perhaps, it was a pillow book…? But I jest. I know no other Lion that reads pillow books, my wife. I have laid out the report and submitted it to the Crab sergeant stationed at Kuni Castle, another copy I would bring to our lord Hida Kisada-sama.

My wife, did he do the right thing? Hida Saizo? He was left to die unjustly, and he needed to bring the matter to closure, so much that he endured the taint, and risked affecting everyone to bring the matter to an honorable end. Was this something that you envisioned when you married into the Crab?

In the end, I could only give Hida Saizo a good tale to his death. That future generations would remember him not as a failure, but as a lesson.

I pray to the fortunes that this does not happen to us.

Oh, my wife, in a week and a half, I shall need to travel back to Slow Tide Harbor.

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