Out of the Darkness

Memoirs of A Champion, A Pillow Book by Anon, Chapter II

It was then the powerful shugenja who aided me drew on the powers of the air and water to permit us passage into the briny depths of the sea. Beneath the waves was a mysterious world of topaz and emerald, glittering as the sunlight filtered through the waters above. The colors reminded me of my duties both as the Topaz Champion and a servant of the Emerald Magistrate. A sobering consideration, for the pressure of the water above my head was not unlike the pressure I felt from those Thunderous* duties I had undertaken. As we moved beneath the waves, I led our little band consisting of S- and M- and our new companion Double M- who had joined us in deference to the majesty of the Topaz Magistrate.

Before our path was a cloud of glowing jellyfish, like a million floating moons in the water. S- could commune with them; for his years of living as a beast had stained his very soul with the stripe of Chikushudo. Every animal was his friend, and he was friend to every animal. A ronin, true, but noble and wild in his heart as the animals he so friended. The mysterious fish told him a tale of woe; they had been enslaved into the service of a great monster, a foul beast of the depths who knew not but malice and terror, a beast of the S-Lands, if you get my meaning.

M- had some lore of these beasts, for she was trained by those who had tried to master them and failed. In their failing, however, much was learned. She could tell us the path we needed to follow, and where it would go. Yet she and her spirit allies led us astray, to some horrid fishmen with hands like knives and feet like fins. They were easily dispatched, for Kakita steel knows neither fear nor mercy. Yet they were sorry things, neither thinking thing nor entirely animal. S- could have no truck with them in spite of his great gifts, but Double M was wise to the ways of the sea and suggested they may have a village nearby.

We followed her directions, for she was as the water to my fire, and S- was the earth to M-’s air, and thus we were complete in ourselves and went to an amazing undersea village with great towers and marvelously clever villages and all manner of things. Their warriors approached us, but quickly we found one that could speak the language of men. He was in awe of the Topaz Champion, and wished to give aid, but they were too weak from hunger and sickness to give much aid. I suggested the peasants above could offer aid of their own, a bond between earth and sea, a bridge of hope and mercy and understanding.

Compassion. It may be the greatest of the virtues. I would know.

Thrilled at the prospect of not dying from hunger as well as the chance to serve the Empire in the person of the Topaz Champion, they agreed. They then gave us directions to a secret lair, a place of hoary darkness in the briny deeps…

*Thunderous: Worthy of a Thunder, difficult, a task of great import.

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Results of an Investigation

Kage Sama,

As you instructed, I have continued with the investigation using more conventional methods. Unfortunately these have been of as little use as our own techniques. To say I have made any progress is an overstatement. Continuing to inflict such torture on these clearly innocent people betrays my sense of honor. Given the lack of evidence and testimony, I am forced to declare this case unsolved. I only hope the memory of the little Crane girl’s dying cries don’t haunt the remainder of my nights.

Your loyal comrade,

Yamamoto

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Memoirs of A Champion, A Pillow Book by Anon

My legend rolls out before me, and the cry for aid screams from Phoenix lands. I heed the call, for Duty is all and fly on wings of the Crane to assist our cousins. The tree of the ancient Hantei has been watered with the blood of slain kinsmen, and only the keen eyes of the Champion can see far enough. S and M are with me, and K-Sama is a brilliant mentor, but the burden falls heavy on my shoulders, as heavy as the armor I bear…

What do you think, diary? I am working on a tale of my memoirs. That is the opening, before I relate the rest of our adventures. Writing is an interesting passtime, and I can only hope I do a bit of service in that regard before I have a style polished enough for a proper book. Still, recent events are more worthy. Now that we are in Lion lands, I am hoping for some great battles or the like to spice it up. Currently K-Sama is indisposed so we are taking up the mantle of the investigator as a favor to some of his old associates. It is interesting work, and the Lion (while somewhat boring) are more interesting than I had been led to believe.

More in a bit, duty calls and I must heed! Perhaps that could be the title of my pillow book, “Call of Duty” – No, that is foolish. No one would be interested in something with that as a title.

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Musings of a Phoenix V

The one that committed the foul murder is dead. He should not have been granted such an honorable death as challenge by sword. It was a tough choice but I think I chose the honorable way. The way of the clan is peace, the way of the clan is honor. The clan faced shame either way, either false accusation to lead to war or shame of a murderer. The peace and my clanmates living was the more honorable course, not a war caused by dishonor. I chose not to accusing or investigate the mirumoto either for that too could only lead to more war and strife and only the crane’s wife was dishonorable there. I can rest easy on that. Still I had to make sure that the lesson was learned that you act dishonorably your whole family suffers the shame. I feel a hypocrit in a way for this but my life is atonement for sins of my ancestors and I will protect my family from shame and not act dishonorably.

There exists one that seems to have survived the purge though. I am not sure what to do about him. I am not sure if he is honorable servant speaking for good or perhaps a horrible bloodspeaker and if there should be repercussions on me should he be caught. I know that there is no shame in any action that I have done but my ancestors…….. I am torn. I pray tonight for wisdom from the fortunes and kami for how to resolve this torment in my soul. How the Crane would gloat if he knew the burdens of my soul.

The crane too makes me worry. He acts as if he doesn’t respect the celestial order. He is so unspiritual thinking that the world revolved around him. I fear what will happen when fortunes take notice and punish him for it.

Tonight we rest at the castle of a lion as I muse on the events of the past week. The death of the Phoenix and the short journey from southwestern phoenix lands to northern lion lands. There is vengence and a ghost that is haunting this castle in some way. A ghost linked to a dishonorable deed of the current daimyo’s grandfather. One that seems to have come back to bring death to the father. I fear the half brother of the current daimyo is half spirit beast, child of a a vengeful ghost and the son of the daimyo. I fear what that sort of thing might mean for me. What ghosts will come for me for the deeds of my parents. Sometimes, I wonder if the more honorable course is to die honorably.

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Dearest Mother (7)

Dearest Mother,

I’m writing to you now from Goshu Castle in the provinces of the Lion. We are once again supporting Kage-sama in an investigation of a murder—though unlike the previous ones, this murder preceded our arrival. Kage-sama has also seen fit to trust us with even greater responsibility; Uragiri-san and Mirai-san and I are conducting the entire investigation!

There are certainly some strange goings-on in this castle. The servants have been whispering about a curse upon the daimyo’s family, and all three of us have experienced disquieting dreams of a stranger following us through a garden maze and a drowned child. Mirai-san believes the phenomena are supernatural, but Uragiri-san scoffs at that notion. I do not know what to believe; while the dream certainly seemed quite real, perhaps it was truly nothing. In reality the garden itself is simple, with a beautiful koi pond, and the child (a son of the late daimyo) is by all reports no more dead than I am. Mirai-san has of yet been unable to unravel this mystery, though perhaps consultation with the resident Kitsu priest will provide her with some enlightenment. Uragiri-san tells me he also has some crucial information that was presented to him in secret by one of the Akodo daimyo’s close confidantes. As for me, I discovered some important clues about the murderess that Uragiri and Mirai helped to explain, and I have also been attempting to track down an intruder who broke into the late daimyo’s quarters. We don’t know how he is connected to the murder, but we plan to find out soon. I hope that our upcoming audiences with the late daimyo’s sons will prove fruitful as well. Since we believe we have discovered the identity of the murderess (and she has certainly faced justice, as she apparently died from the very same poison she used to murder the daimyo) perhaps these last remaining steps in our investigation will provide some insight into why she did what she did, which appears to be the only unanswered question we currently face.

After this investigation is concluded, I will ask Kage-sama if we might be able to travel further south and visit the village—it would be wonderful to see you again, and to introduce you to all of my friends. And Mother, please let me know as soon as you receive the stipend that Kage-sama has said would be directed to you; I do not want you to be in need any longer than is necessary.

Your son,
Shika

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Sifu Roshi's Prayer

Hear me, Child of the Sun and Moon! Hear me, Fortune of Thunder!

It has become clear to me these past few days that the denizens of Pale Oak Castle would benefit greatly from the presence of your guiding hand. For there has been the shedding of noble blood, and whispers among the servants of…other dishonorable behavior among the guests. In the midst of all of the useless pageantry of the court, I foresee that violent conflict may in fact be the only means of resolution.
The one accused is determined to prove his innocence with his blade; he has such promise, and perhaps he should be encouraged. But at the same time, the Kitsuki and his proteges seek knowledge, and these subtler, sublime arts may still be used in your service.

Show to me those whom you favor with the strength to overcome, that I may further your will…

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An Inexplicable Test

Kage-sama,

I believe I have fixed the issues with my time zone, so my letters to you will no longer travel backwards in time to arrive before they are intended. This is a test of that.

KU

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A Letter to a Shiba Daimyo

Shiba Togai Sama,

I write you my honorable lord, from the confines of Pale Oak Castle’s detention cell. I have been erroneously accused of the murder of daimyo Asako Shizu by a Kitsuki magistrate. He has used the underhanded tricks of his clan to throw suspicion off the real murder, a Mirumoto, and onto myself. I have demanded the right to prove my innocence by combat and will shortly have this situation resolved and the dishonorable tactics of the Dragon exposed for the Scorpion shenanigans they are.

Your humble servant

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A Letter to Yamamoto

Yamamoto sama,

How unfortunate that you haven’t had the anticipated success with the Cozy Traveler Inn murder. I’m sure however, with proper perseverance, you will ultimately be successful. Although we are practitioners of our own Method, it might be worthwhile to invest time in more conventional interrogation techniques. Continue to keep me appraised on the progress of the investigation.

Kage

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JUDGEMENT DAY DRAWS NEIGH

Kage-sama,

I am informed Shiba-san is confused as to the nature of his guilt. Perhaps it would spare the Phoenix the indignity of having one of their men tortured if we deferred the judgement to the kami, perhaps it would be best if KAKITAAAAAAA resolved the issue. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

KU

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