A Quietly Brewing Storm

Winter Court in Toshi Ranbo, 1123

Excerpts from private journals of attendees

Prologue

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Daidoji Ryota rode hard despite the cold that wrapped the dawn. It was one thing for the Child of Heaven to proclaim Violence Behind Courtliness City as Scorpion Territory. But for all their heimin to disappear without a trace…

Doji Ushitora entrusted him with a letter. On his honor, Daidoiji Ryota intended to bring it to people who could help their clan. The castle of the Emerald Champion was the closest Crane holding in the vicinity and his mount breathed heavily with the urgency Ryota thrust upon it. He expected a day or two of riding towards the castle.

Instead, Daidoji Ryota was stopped by a contingent of riders dressed in white and blue. At its head was a stern man who immediately called for the company to halt. His gaze quickly appraised the young bushi, and he extended a hand as if waiting for something to be given to him.

Ryota immediately handed over the letter from Doji Ushitora. A few moments later, and the man spoke.

“This Doji lord presumes much if he thinks he can demand anything from the Daidoji daimyo… Fortunately, I am on my way to Toshi Ranbo by request of the Emperor.”


Rumors Around the Court of Shosuro Jin, Preceding Winter Court

In the few days leading up to the Emperor’s arrival, Hida Kurogane has been splitting his time between the Lion, Scorpion and Crab – drinking sake with Matsu Mitsuko; attending Shosuro Jin’s court; and partying with his brothers and comrades.

Kitsu Airu has been seen trying to get an audience with Jin, to no avail. According to sources close to Jin’s personal attendant, the lord of Toshi Ranbo has been avoiding his Lion friend.

Mirumoto Haruka has been sparring with her sensei, Mirumoto Ichie outside the castle walls. No one really understands what Dragon do.


Presentation of the Dragon, from the notes of Temari, Scribe of the Dragon Delegation

It has been a few days since Ichie-sama has been training Haruka-sama when the latter expressed her worries about the absence of a Dragon delegation. Ichie-sama then hands over the clan banner to her, and tells her to carry it while on her horse. When asked why, Ichie says that they are tasked to be the Dragon delegation. Haruka-sama seems to be inanttentive, because she has not noticed that her sensei has provided a horse, and that I and my other colleagues have assembled in the field beside them. After expressing her surprise, Ichie-sama and Haruka-sama ride in and shortly proceed to the receiving court.

Inside, Shosuro Jin, as lord and master of the castle, welcomes us. “Your presence graces these halls, Mirumoto Ichie-sama, of which your fame as the rurouni precedes you,” he says.

Turning to Haruka, Ichie commands her, “Tell her about that quote I told you three years ago.”

Confused, Haruka mumbles out, “We must be like water. For water follows the shape of the container, but still in essence is water. We must adapt, but remember that we are still samurai?”

“Your insight is definitely welcome,” Jin says. “But if you will permit me to correct you, I am the lord of the castle, not a lady.”

Ichie’s gaze at Haruka is tinged with disappointment. “Those are not the words I said,” then turns back to the Scorpion. “One is supposed to refuse the gift of wisdom twice, but no matter.”

Jin’s apologies are profuse, with a promise to serve tonight that will please the Dragon.

We are led to our quarters, where we prepare the costumes that our esteemed Dragon delegates will be using for the Winter Court. We will not let them be shamed.


The Arrival of the Crane and the Lion, as observed by Bayushi Tekkamen

It is always inspiring to watch the Crane delegation arrive, to see the grace with which they carry themselves, their mastery of courtly etiquette, their extravagant gifts! It’s as if they didn’t suffer a defeat recently by losing the city to the Lion, and to us.

Surely, they will seek some reprisal this Winter Court, after all, the daimyo of the Daidoji Family has arrived and presented a pair of… Blades, to Shosuro Jin-sama, from foreign lands. Were I more inclined to practice the ways of the blade, I would surely miss the kata he is to perform before the Emperor.

Ah, and of course, the Crane Champion arrives as well. There has been much talk about hostilities and fair combat as of late. Her presence at Winter Court will emphasize that she holds no grudges against the Lion, nor will any dare to question her word. Doji Hotaru-sama has even given her bow as a gift!

And wonders indeed never cease! Akodo Toturi interrupted the gift giving of Doji Hotaru, claiming that his brother would find it completely acceptable and honorable to have the bow that felled him be given as a gift to the Governor of the City.

… He arrived alone, as if telling everyone assembled that he needs no army to face the Crane. Or any threats for that matter. His mere presence alone is enough.

And what a presence he has…


Shiba Tsubaki’s Diary at Winter Court 1123, with special participation of Isawa Uona-sama, Isawa Tadaka-sama, and Shiba Tsukune-sama

We have arrived at Violence Behind Courtliness City! Yay!

The road was long, but we have finally arrived! We presented ourselves before the new governor of the City, Shosuro Jin-sama, but it was mostly the Masters of Air and Earth, and the Champion who spoke. We, or I, mostly looked around at the decorations and the other attendees.

Shiba Tetsu-san asked us to behave ourselves as guests, but there’s just so much to see in this City! I saw a Crab bushi I think. They’re big. And a lot of Cranes. I think one of them just looked my way.

Maybe I’ll go out and look at the city tonight. Shiba Tsukune-sama and Shiba Tetsu-san surely wouldn’t mind…


Unicorn Contingent: 15 samurai. Leader: Iuchi Shahai. Initial Report, by Matsu Koshimae

These Unicorn… Is there no end to their cowardice? First, their champion breaks off her betrothal to the Ikoma Daimyo. Then their son reclaims territory that were supposed to be gifted to us by this betrothal, and now, the daughter of the Iuchi Daimyo attends Winter Court?

Perhaps they think that spiritual matters are to be discussed. No, this insult to Lion honor cannot be dissuaded by a shugenja. It must be settled on the battlefield!

Glory to Matsu Mitsuko-sama!


Arrival of the Unicorn Delegation, from the journal of Iuchi Shahai

After our arduous journey through this confounded snow, we arrived in Toshi Ranbo with as little fanfare as possible. It was good that we arrived before the Son of Heaven, for I will not have more tongues wagging about my beloved clan.

We were welcomed into the court of Shosuro Jin, and how these people stand living all year round inside stone buildings is really beyond me. But no matter, inside there was warmth from the braziers and the press of people, though there were cold gazes from brown- and gold-clad samurai.

I must send a bird to Shinjo-sama; Matsu Mitsuko is here at court.


A Coded Message

My lord,

The Winter Rat has approached the Summer Horse regarding the foretelling.
They plan to speak with the river bird.

Your servant


Infiltration Mission

Confidential Report

The Cranes have been thrown into disorganization.

After watching the Crane lord Doji Ushitora try on robes from the atelier of Kakita Ochiru, I made my presence known. One of the yojimbo managed to grab me, so I executed the next stage and left the kawarimi. Concealing myself under the eaves, there has been mention of the Lion planting a spy in their midst.

Among the things I must report which are of no particular importance:
※Doji Ushitora has displayed insecurity against the Lord Akodo Toturi.
※One Crane maiden, Kakita Midori, is betrothed to a Shiba Tetsu, part of the Phoenix delegation.
※The Daidoji yojimbo has romantic feelings for Kakita Midori.
※The Kakita Ochiru is showing signs of moving fashion in the whole of Rokugan. Her influence is now prevalent in the whole Crane court and the backwater Slow Tide Harbor; the Crab are also asking favors from her.


Arrival of the Emperor and his Delegation, from the Journal of Otomo Yuu, Courtier

His Eminence, the Hantei XXXVIII, and his sons, Crown Prince Sotorii and Prince Daisetsu, make their way to the City of Violence Behind Courtliness, this day the 10th of Togashi, 1123. The lord of the castle, Shosuro Jin, has properly prepared the procession so unnecessary eyes do not gaze upon the radiance of the Son of Heaven. This strengthened the approval of the Emperor for the Scorpion Clan.


Auspicious events unfolding on the First day of Winter Court, Otomo Yumeiro, Courtier

This year’s Winter Court turned out to be very exciting. The Crane were expected to do something about the situation in Toshi Ranbo, as were the Lion. I had been expecting this to be the main discussion on the first day, especially upon seeing the Emerald and Crane Champions, Doji Satsume and Hotaru enter court discussing.

Instead, Daidoji Uji was asked by the Emperor to perform some kata he learned from gaijin lands. Followed shortly thereafter by the entrance of the new Lion Champion, Akodo Toturi. Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the Master of Earth, Isawa Tadaka, who brought a Lion Shugenja in tow. Apparently, some sort of prophecy is involved, and if this Kitsu Airu knows about it, this prophecy would not come to pass.

Their conversation goes into detail about prophecies and knowledge and other conditions, but the Lion Shugenja is visibly worried about her newfound knowledge. She seemed stuck in place, unable to move forward or back. Until the Son of Heaven retired for the day, and the Master of Earth escorted her out once again.

This Kitsu Airu will require further observation. Surely, someone who has the attention of the Lion Champion and the Phoenix Master of Earth is no ordinary samurai?


A Coded Message

Heavy parchment wrapped twice in gold silk thread, knotted thrice in a mizuhiki pattern.

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Annotations from the Journal of Asahina Tamako, Daimyo of the Asahina

Did that young one just make up a new kind of poetry? I still have the note with me; and is this a simplified rendition of a smiling face?

These Dragon, they are hard to fathom. All this, to hear a few lines of prophecy about a Lion and the quietly brewing storm.


Shinjo Saeran’s Diary: Burgeoning Interest in a Tortoise Maiden, and a Crane Bodyguard

The Phoenix delegation left in the antechamber court was approached by this hulking Crab samurai; I think he was trying to recruit them to the Wall? But he was also talking about a certain Kasuga Yumiko. What was that about? What political move was he trying to pull?

The interminable wait to be let inside the Main Court was killing me – Iuchi Shahai-sama could not get permission to gain entrance. I noticed that the Phoenix were also showing interest on a Crane – this Daidoji Ryota, who will apparently have a friendly duel in court with the undefeated Shiba Tetsu. If the Phoenix can finagle it, the duel will be held in front of their dignitaries, and maybe even the Emperor himself! It is a different matter altogether when a Champion speaks.

We are still waiting. These fettered folk…


Shiba Tsubaki’s Diary at Winter Court 1123, Part 2

Today is Winter Court proper! I’ve prepared enough to not look plain, but the other clans really went all out! That Scorpion courtier earlier was almost scandalous… Soshi Eriko? She’s a kimono designer! She’s got really nice designs, and some of the older Phoenix really get excited about her. She’s as good as that Crane, Kakita Ochiru? I like her designs too! They’re more modest, more “me” than Soshi-san.

But Shosuro Jin-sama seemed unusual today. He looked distracted or drunk. I wonder what happened? He was looking around, then suddenly approached the Crane delegate Doji Arami. Doji-san was having a serious discussion with Matsu Mitsuko-san, but Shosuro Jin-sama’s interruption broke their dialogue.

If any cooperation was being talked between Doji-san and Matsu-san, it would have to wait, because Matsu-san approached the Unicorn delegation, and must have had serious words with Iuchi Shahai-sama. Oh Dear… I hope they don’t come to blows.

But what’s really exciting was the planned Fashion Festival for Winter Court! It seemed both Soshi Eriko-san and Kakita Ochiru-san will showcase their work for everyone in the next few days! At least, that’s the commotion I heard, especially when both artisans accidentally bumped into each other.

Soshi-san didn’t seem impressed by Kakita-san’s works. I disagree, seeing as how I’m wearing a Kakita-made kimono, as well as that Tortoise samurai some of the Phoenix are talking about. I could swear there were sparks as they faced each other off. This might be worth checking out soon!

Doji Arami-san seemed to prepare for a presentation as well. It would seem they have a story to tell? The Return of the Unicorn and the Recognition of the Crane? Or was it the Tortoise and the Crane? Regardless, they also managed to secure a schedule for that. I hope to hear the latter, that’s new! Haven’t heard of that yet…

Now if only that Crab samurai would stop inviting us to the Wall…


Preparations for the Winter Eleganza, from the very scattered notes of Kakita Ririn

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Hida Sukune’s Letter to his father, Hida Kisada
Honored Father,

I hope this letter finds you well.

The Winter Court has formally commenced with the arrival of the Eminent Son of Heaven, Hantei XXXVIII, and his sons.

Prior to this, our company of brave and hardy warriors have partook of experiences in the City of Toshi Ranbo. The Crane, Lion and Scorpion influences are prominent in the Entertainment District, but I still consider the Friendly Traveler sake to be superior to the weak brews they have here.

First day of court has been interesting, to say the least. The Emperor’s attendants have been gracious enough to invite me to watch the sword performance of the Daidoji daimyo. It is from gaijin lands, along with the twin swords he used.

The Lion Champion is urging action, but not on the ongoing war between his clan and the Crane. Such duty he displayed is commendable. I wonder if we could invite him to the Wall.

There was some minor commotion when a few of the Champions and Elemental Masters converged on a priest of the kami.

Outside the Main Court, Kurogane-san has managed to convince the Elemental Master of Earth to sojourn to the Wall. I heard that he was in search of a legendary sword, Kishu. Is this not in the forsaken lands of the Hiruma, Father?

I will send another letter with news on the morrow.

Your dutiful son,
Sukune


Epilogue

Akodo Toturi walks along the hall, towards the quarters provided for dignitaries and important personages. From a side corridor, a graceful figure steps out, strong emotions playing on her face.

“Toturi,” she calls out softly.

“Hotaru,” the man acknowledges.

She reaches out, but midway her hand falters, and she folds it to herself.

“We cannot keep meeting like this,” Akodo says gravely. “Aside from the current war between our clans, honor demands of me to stay on a course without you.”

Eyes glistening, she says, “You are right.” She steps back. “Good night, my lord.”

He watches until Hotaru has disappeared from view, then continues to his room.

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