Out of the Darkness

Dear Togashi Brothers and Sisters,

It seems I have finally made a splash at court! I have finally wet my beak in the service of clan and Empire, and I have not been found wanting. We had been tracking the death of a noble Lion bushi, one who was murdered in his bed. Such things are apparently all too common, but it was a happy coincidence that Kitsuki Kage-sama and his disciples were present to take matters in hand. A trail of misdirection and chicanery was left for us to follow, but in the end it was the harsh winters of our lands and the determination of what is right that won out in the end.

It is our duty to show others the path as it can be, so it was with this in mind I dumped a bucket of ice water and snow on to a bog hag. I was certain of her malice, and so I acted in our inimitable way. Then came the punching, and it was glorious. We easily beat up the hag and her minions, I and those who share my wisdom.

I have also had a curious dream, I will send it under seperate cover.

- Kenta

View
Lions and Dragons and Bog Hags, Oh My!

Matahari-sama,

I am pleased to report on the recent success of Kitsuki-sama and his most faithful assistant magistrates. It is quite fortunate that the magistrates were able to put all of the false leads and speculations about Seppun-sama’s demise to rest, and were able to conclusively show that there was neither evidence nor testimony to implicate anyone in his death. Among the beneficiaries of the conclusion of this investigation is Mirumoto Yume, who has recently expressed her…gratitude to her protector for so zealously defending her On. I expect that her personal allegiance could prove quite fruitful in the future.

Even more importantly, by distancing themselves from such distractions as Seppun-sama’s death raised, the Emerald Magistrate and his company were not only able to unmask a hideous bog hag, but they were able to locate a shrine to the powers of Darkness as well. If anyone were to desire an investigation into its nature and how it came to threaten the heart of the Empire, now would be the time to act, before those who are content to wallow in their ignorance would have it summarily destroyed. It is also noteworthy that Kitsuki-sama himself played an important role in the interrogation of “Kuni Yuke”. Despite her significant prowess at deception, his questioning of her swiftly led the Magistrate to suspect that something was amiss; as I have said previously, I do not envy those who are the focus of the suspicions of a Kitsuki. The wise would avoid such situations altogether.

Surprisingly, though, it was Togashi-san’s supernatural insight that finally led to the foul creature’s destruction—apparently simple kami of nature recoil from spawn of Jigoku. Thus, such creatures are unable to experience the discomfort of, for example, cold, and Togashi-san was able to discern this hidden power when no others were able to do so. One who possesses such Sight Beyond Sight™ would be a dangerous foe not only to creatures of the Taint, but possibly also to any who might wish their secrets kept. Though he expresses interest in learning about his heritage, unless such a man were known to be fully loyal, those who are careful ought not be too quick to share any important details with such a one.

One final note: Lion are stubborn and foolish, to the point where the advantage of simple ambush tactics escape them. Perhaps this only manifests itself in some of them, or only when one of their number has been brutally murdered. In any case, I am sure that the knowledgeable possess many methods for manipulating such stiff-necked behavior to their advantage, but I confess that such simplicity still stymies me.

View
Enlightenment and the Physical Being

I have spent the last three nights given to riot in the flesh of another. As the body craves the extremes of the icy waters, the rocky mountains; so does the spirit crave the extreme of experience. It has opened a new path to enlightenment, and I feel the spirit within me move. I have spoken with the Brotherhood in the nearby temple on this, and teachings of old have been made plain to me. It is not in denial of the self, of the spirit, that we find enlightenment I suspect. It is in to do and to experience all that can be done. To deprive oneself of such things is madness, or at the very least it will not be my path. To see the world in the flash of ecstasy or through the haze of drink, to know the limits of the senses and step beyond them, this is my path.

I see clearly now, in all directions, for all times.

View
Further Reports to Bayushi Matahari

Matahari-Sama,

The plan progresses; Yume (and by extension the Dragon) are now beholden to me for my spirited defense of her virtue, while among the servants I still encourage the rumors about her suspicious activity in the kitchens on the night of Ayumu’s death. Happily, if matters should truly come to a head and I am called upon to duel, I believe that any outcome will be beneficial for us. Should I lose, Yume and the Dragon are disgraced, while if I win, the Phoenix are held up as paragons of self-sacrifice and honor. In either case, the Phoenix become further indebted to us for our assistance.
And, there are even more opportunities that are presenting themselves to me as the situation unfolds: First, the head of the Phoenix delegation has an unwavering hatred for the Dragon, and he has been surprisingly encouraging of my role in the Ayumu/Kumiko affair. If he is willing to dishonor himself and his clan for the sake of his vengeance, we can no doubt use this to our advantage in the future, even as we support him for the moment. Additionally, I plan to cultivate my relationship with Yume further, as she and her uncle may offer beneficial insight into the workings of the Kitsuki Magistrates.
My relationship with Kage-sama itself is also beginning to bear fruit, as I have had the fortune to observe him while he carries out the investigations into Ayumu’s and Smooth’s deaths. It is worth noting that despite the great value he places upon physical evidence, he still relies heavily on eta to perform the manual labor associated with anatomical analyses or other “unclean” work. While I understand this perspective completely, it is clearly a weak link—if such servants are under our influence, then surely we can determine what a Kitsuki sees and does not see in his investigations…?
Also, it has become clear to me that extensive training in the art of deceit is sufficient to allay at least the most basic suspicions of anyone, including Kage-sama himself. Granted, he has no reason to think me guilty of any offenses, but it has still been straightforward to direct the investigation into Ayumu’s death away from us over the past few days. Once again, the key to success is to have his trust—I am not certain how much would be revealed under direct, hostile interrogation, for example. But it appears to me that as long as a Kitsuki does not focus his formidable powers of insight directly onto one of our agents, then that Kitsuki is just as easily deceived and manipulated as your average Akodo.

Whenever I gain greater insight into the nature of my master and his School, I shall inform you forthwith.

S

View
Meditations on the Nature of Enlightenment

Two men pass from the mortal realm in the night. One dies in peace, one in violence. Which man draws breath in the morning? Which man knows a final peace?

Time is strange. To grope for enlightenment is to be a blind man in a room without echo or feature. In many things there is glimpse of the ultimate truth; it can be found in meditation and serenity but such is a hard path with little succor. In the embrace of the flesh there is a flash of it. Perhaps this is why such things are so popular. Togashi spoke of all men seeking enlightenment if they wished it or no, in the act that makes mortality itself immortal through generations there is a key, I think.

To see two men dead is a curious thing, for that which must come for us all wears many masks but is ever one servant. I must be a servant of truth, in truth there is that glimpse of enlightenment. Yet to seek truth in this mortal world is to peel an onion. Beneath each layer there is another, in stripping one the eyes burn and the fingers sting. To consume it is acidic, bitter. Beneath the final layer is nothing. Shinsei wrote of the onion in his teachings, but before today I have never understood it in fullness.

I still do not.

View
Another Letter to Isawa Hiroko

Hiroko-chan,

I was overjoyed to hear of your new appointment to Kyuden Agasha—perhaps now that you are closer to the Imperial lands, we may have the opportunity to be reunited some day soon. Alas, I do not know when the snows that have enveloped the Seppun’s estate will clear and we will be able to travel with Kage-sama, or even if any Miya Heralds will be able to travel in order to bring this message to you before spring.

In addition to the poor weather, recent times in the lands of the Seppun have been quite eventful—Seppun Ayumu-sama tragically died in his sleep of completely natural causes about which I know absolutely nothing, and his son has now ascended to his position. Unfortunately, prior to his demise, one of the attendees at Court, Mirumoto Yume, had gifted Ayumu-sama with some exotic spices rumored to be from gaijin lands. One of Ayumu’s associates, Bayushi Matahari, publicly acknowledged the gift to him shortly before his untimely and in no way suspicious death, and now vicious and hurtful rumors are circulating about Yume’s role in Ayumu-sama’s undoing.
Something about Yume—perhaps it was her innocence and her piety—reminded me of you, and I could not stand idly by while she was maligned for an occurrence that was utterly and without a doubt completely uncaused by any mortal being’s actions. When I heard the victimization of poor Yume, I confess that I publicly demanded that all those attending Seppun Doi-sama’s court cease to spread their vile slander. I even went so far as to have a servant fetch my naginata from my quarters and bring it to the banquet, so that I could defend the honor of the Dragon maiden from any who would dare to face me. None responded, but I fear the rumors are not yet completely quashed—some servants, with whom it would be unseemly to duel, no doubt still talk out Yume when they are out of earshot of any noble samurai.
I pray that you do not view my service in the defense another woman as an affront to the special bond we share, for even as I spoke of the unimpeachable honor of Yume, it was you of whom I was truly thinking. And if I could not do the honorable thing even for her, by what right could I say that I am worthy to defend your honor, if and when that opportunity arises?

A number of days later, another samurai was also found dead, though this was clearly a violation of the heavenly order, for he was murdered! I have it on good authority that the victim, Akodo Smoove, was well known for his ability to seduce many a fragile and trusting samurai-ko, a concept I find utterly repulsive and have absolutely no familiarity with whatsoever. So initial suspicions about the death currently point to one or more of his paramours being behind his death, but the wise and knowledgeable Kage-sama is still pursuing the investigation with our most capable assistance. It is fortunate that the Kitsuki investigator and his team always seems to be around when murders happen—otherwise, how else would the plot progress Imperial Justice be administered so swiftly?

View
A Letter to Bayushi Matahari

Matahari-sama,

I am honored to report that the plan that I enacted has come to fruition. I have arranged the situation so that Agasha Kumiko has compromised herself with Akodo Smooth. I see that my faith in the abilities of the Akodo was well-placed. One of the trickiest aspects of this plan was removing Kumiko’s chaperone, but I was able to convince her to leave her charge for just long enough…
All of this has occurred much to Seppun Ayumu-sama’s consternation. He recognizes the wisdom in…encouraging the Phoenix to keep their silence, though he is not yet convinced that a financial incentive is the most reasonable means of doing so. Perhaps in your future conversations with him, you can encourage him in that direction, that the Phoenix may ultimately be even further in our debt…

To my surprise, other members of Ayumu-sama’s court have also chosen to ally themselves with me. Yume, the daughter of the Dragon, was particularly kind to me, especially once I favored her with a most unique gift that increassed her stature among the courtiers. Now that we will be unable to leave for some time, perhaps we shall see where this friendship with Yume shall lead.

Your Humble Servant,
Shunsaku

View
The Diary of an Amateur Historian

My time at the court of Seppun Ayumu has been interesting, to say the least. My time here began typically enough. I arrived with the other guests prepared for a culinary experience of heavenly proportions, on account of the presence of Shosuro Matahari, and that is precisely what we got. We were regaled with cuisines from all over the emerald empire, some even from beyond. Each was selected with the utmost of care, the sequence of dishes left each of us with a deep satiation.

The art throughout the estate has been equally amazing, but the centerpiece is without a doubt the four seasons garden. Obviously the garden has been “between seasons,” as it were, during the course of the gathering, but that hasn’t diminished its beauty.

The final night of the party was spectacular. The aides of Kitsuki Kage, famed emerald magistrate, presented gifts to his honorable Seppun sama. One, a blue tile of all things, was particularly well received.

When we rose the next morning to prepare to leave, the ground was white with snow. Travel was out of the question. Unless there is a sudden thaw in the next few days, we will all be spending the winter under the roof of the Seppun Doi.

I say Seppun Doi because our host Seppun Ayumu sama died suddenly a few days after the snow fall. I am expecting a rather interesting winter as I sit here, admiring the winter quarter of the garden.

View
Meditations on the Nature of Truth

The world sits in balance; we walk the beam between. If one is pitched from the path, it is in the misunderstanding of where to place the step.

I have met a Phoenix who is a Scorpion, dual natures twisting in harmony. He accepts his nature as Scorpion in grace and ease. Yet the Phoenix preys on him, picking at his very bones. I must watch him, watch the path of his balance. His path is not mine, but it may instruct or inform. Will I sting the frog because of accident of birth? Because of my nature? Togashi sought to build men who could find a path and follow it, the world finding the step around them.

I do not know where I must trod. Perhaps each step is my true path, to dance as yin and yang.

Bearing witness to intrigues was strange, the face behind the mask is the truth. Yet what to do with such a bauble? Perhaps what was shown was for my benefit, but I do not think so. The Phoenix who is a Scorpion pushes with the force of both in the service of both, yet who does he serve in turn? Is he a servant of truth in his crimes? I do not think so. Yet I do not know, for as the blind men groped the great bison in their darkness, only fumbling portions of the whole are known to me. To act on such a thing? Folly.

Too young for such mysteries. The Emperor knows of the nature of the Scorpion and raised them high once more. The stinging tail perched on the shoulder, inches from the throat. It has stung once before.

Why?

Perhaps it is his nature to do so.

Perhaps there is a greater truth.

Behind all things this may lie. I will find it. The truth is out there, a raw and primal thing. I will know it.

View
A Letter to a Dear Friend

To his most honorable Takeshi sama from his dear friend Smooth,

I hope my letter finds you in the best of health. I can currently be found at the home of his most honorable Seppun Ayumu sama. His most honorable Seppun sama has been generous enough to throw a late autumn party for his closest friends. Honored I am to count myself among the number of people invited to his spectacular social event. At said event are three lovely young ladies of high birth and honor. One I have gotten to know in particular, one Agasha Kumiko. She is a most honorable and intelligent young woman who I has been a delight to get to know.

Your most honorable companion, Smooth

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.