1st Day of Shinjo, 1123
My Dear Son, Ichigo,
This story was the first time you left Crab lands. I pray to the Kami Hida that you are able to relay this story to your son, and your grandson when the time comes. I pray this is not your first and only time out of the Crab lands — The Emerald Empire is vast.
This story happened after I came back from Slow Tide Harbor. After finding Doji Hiroshige, my group and I managed to reunite him with his Crane family. I asked them to send the young Doji to the Wall, as agreed before we left to find him. The Cranes responded that they will take this under consideration, sending Hiroshige to the Wall, once he will no longer bring shame to their clan.
I am still waiting.
In any case, I boarded the Yasuki ship back to Crab lands to finish the tasks assigned to us by our Champion, Hida Kisada. During this time, I engaged in the traditional 100-man Kumite to prove what I have learned in my time away. It was sufficient.
However, because of the threat of taint from within the empire, because of a Maho-tsukai in Slow Tide Harbor, our Yasuki kin used a crate of Jade arrows. Our champion has asked to find a replacement for the jade we have lost. Right around this time, we received a letter of invitation to Bishamon Seido in the Lion lands, from Kitsu Gennosuke, to honor the Heart and Soul of Slow Tide Harbor. I was part of this group, that was considered the Heart and Soul.
Four of us were invited. Doji Arami, Mirumoto Haruka, and of course, the Lion, Kitsu Airu. Apparently over the course of a few weeks, Kitsu-san has encountered bears, bathed under a waterfall, and… I’m afraid I don’t understand what she wrote. These shugenja matters are confusing. Mirumoto-san seemed quite invested in training children in Slow Tide Harbor though, while Doji-san, had a talk with his lord about… Crane things. He lost me after talk of paintings, and clothes.
In any case, shortly after we arrived in the Temple of Bishamon, the celebration was underway, and Doji-san gifted a magnificent Jade Dragon to Kitsu Gennosuke, unfortunately, the matter was marred by the arrival of a Lion messenger who announced terrible news: The Lion Clan Champion perished in combat with the new Crane Clan Champion (Doji Hotaru). Within moments, the tension in the air was palpable. We were advised to stay in the Temple to stay safe. I hope you understand what that means.
To pass the time, we were given free rein over exploring the temple, but we had Lion Yojimbo around us all the time. And we had our own Ikoma bard to tell us stories, Ikoma Shonen. He was quite knowledgeable in Lion stories. Mirumoto Haruka-san asked for a light spar with your mother.
I gave your mother a nice massage that night.
After another day, Kitsu Airu-san informed us that we should head out to the Temple of Listening Ghosts. Apparently, listening in the Temple of Bishamon was not enough. Listening is best done in the Temple of Listening Ghosts.
I know, Shugenja are…. mysterious. How she got more than one sentence out of her sensei is a mystery. Equally as mysterious as that time when Doji Arami was walking out and about before the sun rose. I thought Cranes usually slept in.
At the Temple of Listening Ghosts, Kitsu Airu-san communed with the spirits of the mountain. A huge Mountain Lion Spirit greeted us, and said something to the shugenja. Perhaps it was glad that there are visitors in it’s temple. After all, they had problems with cattle. Something was out there wounding their mountain buffaloes — something with huge claws or teeth, not an Oni, but something human-sized.
We were lead to meet Kitsu Shizuka, the lead monk of the temple. She is even more mysterious as she didn’t speak when she met us. Only prepared tea, and, after drinking all of it, prepared to leave, if not for the timely interruption of Mirumoto Haruka-san, who wrote her a message.
She took us to an unused room, where a young Ikoma traveling bard seemed to have stayed for a few months. We learned that this Ikoma has not been seen for a while. So I sat on his unkempt bed, and listened. There seemed to have been some kind of spirit on his bed which I relayed to Kitsu-san, who together with Mirumoto-san, did some dancing with incense. It seemed to have been some sort of Dragon secret.
At this point, I saw things I couldn’t believe, and heard voices, hundreds of voices speaking all at the same time. When I looked out of our room, there were hundreds of Lion who were doing practice drills, other samurai milling about their own business. They disappeared as soon as the Lion and Dragon stopped, Doji-san seemingly confused at everything that happened.
In the end, we decided to head to the garden, since that seemed to be the only place Kitsu Eiju seemed to favor in this temple. He wanted to know more about the Kitsu, you see. But was unable to find anything, or talk to anyone knowledgeable in this temple.
If you thought this story was strange, you’re in for a surprise, my son.
A man was standing on a high branch on this tree in the garden looking down on us. He identified himself as Shu, the Kitsu, and demanded we worship him. I initialy thought he was jesting, so I gave him a few incense sticks and lit them for him.
This Shu, was our missing Ikoma bard. And it turns out, he truly needed them.
Shu was a 7-foot tall man, taller even than I, and had… feline features. Paws, a tail, a mane and everything. He seemed quite intent on having humans worship him, for he was, as he said, a Kitsu. Kitsu Airu said the man was possessed, by a spirit of frustration, and so he wore this skin.
Kitsu Airu recommended that we cleanse the spirit residing in Eiju So we cajoled and entertained this spirit, telling it how magnificent it was, rubbing it’s head, showing it various items of interest. Unfortunately, as I understood it, they were not enough, and we had no choice but to call on the Spirit of the Mountain Lion to assist us.
Ikoma Eiju died that day. But the Temple of Listening Ghosts was relieved of its troubles.p.