Out of the Darkness

Musings of a Phoenix part II

The championship is was a real surprise. That I did so well is a credit to my sensei but still the results were not entirely satisfying. The topaz championship was a crane with the social mannerism of a crab or mantis. He knows the arts and the sword but his skill at etiquette is almost as poor as the ronin shika. He turns the social customs and manners of the empire into insults and mockery and jest. He has the foresight of an eta.

He might have performed well but the crudeness is almost distasteful and I fear that he will disgrace Kitsuki Sama soon. He does not understand that we have no standing in law in the empire. Our authority is to travel from place to place and report to the one that is now our daimyo. I fear his ego as well will lead him to charging into battle where even my gift with the kami can not save him. He does not understand the darker side of the shadowlands. The taint that destroyed so many phoenix either suffering from it or dying to purge it during the second day of thunder. After we discovered an ogre, a tainted creature that had no business on this side of the wall, he didn’t ask to be purified from blood that might have spilled on him from his katana blow. He shows no respect for the spirits. I hope that the taint has not found root within him for I am not sure I could defeat him even with the gifts the kami bring me. He did not think of the need to report it to the law for swift action but rather wanted to wait until we met up wit Kitsuki-sama days away from the attack location. This would have given the ones that had him prisoner and brought the ogre here time to spread their blasphemy.

The ronin and his boar on the other hand keep proving a surprise. Were he to learn the ways of the court and manners to overcome his lack, he might be credit. His ability to handle the strange beast he has with him proves to be most interesting. The boar is a pussiant attacker when directed by the ronin. The ronin showed respect for the spirits and asked aid.

I think I will withhold the blessings of the water kami from the crane until he shows more humble a spirit and respect for the spirits and ways of lore and law. It will be a mild lesson that is better than any samurai with any status laughing in his face when he tries to exert magistrate powers and has no authority to back it up.

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Letter to a Daimyo

Shiba Tomoe-Sama,

I am still grateful for the chance that you gave me in sponsoring me as one of the clan’s representatives to the Topaz championship. Despite not perhaps apply myself to the correct studies that I was unprepared for contests of Iaijutsu or horsemanship, I hope that my position as the top shugenja is suitable to please you. I hope that you find that my actions were an honor to the clan.

Several disturbing events did occur at the tournement. The most obvious was elements of cheating and murder. The culprit was somewhat obvious but it is hard to tell if he did it or his clan on his behalf. I believe he might also have been behind a message delivered to me saying I should deliberately dishonor our clan and lose to a ronin in the matter of the courts test. I spoke to the one sponsoring the Ronin and he has said he will be investigating.

Upon announcemnet of passing our gempuku and old peasant monk that we aided on the way to the tournement turned out to be the fortune of Heroic Guidance. He had given me two scrolls after I aided him and they turned out to be full of wisdom for beseeching the kami. He said that we are his chosen ones. This means for a very eventful life. The blessings of the fortunes is one that I shall live upto as befits the clan.

I am sorry that I will not be in your service following my gempuku and being made an adult since you have been the soul of kindness in taking in an orphan even if my cousins did serve you. An emerald magistrate presented me with a letter with your chop saying that you have seconded me to his service. He has said that we are to head to Pale Oak Castle and an inn there that should you wish to honor me with a reply, I can he reached there.

Shiba Mirai

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Postage Due

Sensei Nori,

I am not sure if this weapon is a sword or a gaijin boomerang, because the more I try to get rid of it the faster it comes back. I must finally bend to custom and keep the sword now because even if I wanted to send it back at this point I am altogether out of stamps. I thank you once again for your gift. I shall use it in good health, and hope it is of use in duels for years to come. It will be a good compliment to the Armor of the Topaz Champion, and as the Topaz Magistrate it will be put to good use.

Thanks again for the sword,
K.U.G.

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Return To Sender

Dearest Sensei Nori,

It seems the blade you sent me was returned; this must be some mistake. I bear the blade my father had commissioned for me after his blade had been given to one of my many older brothers. I could not bear to part with the steel he selected for me, it is nearly two years old now and I have only recently really gotten it broken in. The masterwork blade you propose is much older and would totally be tougher to work with, I am sure, even if it is so light. And well balanced. And breathtakingly sharp.

Until we meet once more,

Kakita Uragiri

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An Unexpected Gift

My Honored Sensei Nori,

I am humbled by your gift, but I must decline. Such a magnificent blade is well beyond the deserving of one such as I. Surely there is some other student who is more worthy of the steel than I, I who could not even prove victorious in the tournament of Kakita steel. I thank you once more for your regard, and look forward to our next meeting.

Thank you once more, your student,

Kakita Uragiri

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Diary Triumphant!

Great news, diary! I am triumphant! Your humble epistolarian is none other than the new Topaz Championship, the most prestigious of young men and on the rise indeed. It was a magnificent tourney, and not without twists and turns. I have been made a sort of Emerald Magistrate; a Topaz Magistrate if you will and I have been given a staff of a ronin and a shugenja to aid me in my duties as one of the Jeweled Champions of the Empire. It is fitting. I also have an experienced Emerald Magistrate to aid me as a kind of mentor and advisor, I should be well set going forward.

As to the nature of my triumph, it was amazing. My acting, my poetry, my origami, all a dazzling blur. It was uncanny. Even with the unannounced tasks I was masterful. I had been told the competition would be better here, but it turns out I was just as dazzling as I was back home. Perhaps the wandering monk who claimed that peasants are just as good as samurai has some merit! I should discuss this with my old master, he was often given to philosophical meditations and that might interest him. That is a tale for another time, perhaps.

I saw some new things! I saw a duel between two of my fellow competitors, one of whom got her throat cut for her troubles, and I saw an ogre, who got jacked up for his. All in all things are going pretty well for yours truly, and I am off to another competition. I am sure I will be something of a celebrity there as well, but I assure you diary that this has not gone to my head. I am still the same simple country squire as I ever was.

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Dearest Mother (3)

I have very good news, mother—I have now become a man in the eyes of all the other samurai, and the Emperor has decided that my friends and I are going to be Emerald Magistrates! The man I thought was the Dragon Clan Champion was not in fact the Clan Champion, but that’s OK—it turned out he’s actually a high-ranking Emerald Magistrate, and he wants us to serve under him. He says that I may even be allowed to officially join the Dragon Clan sometime soon! I think I impressed him when I captured a local brigand who had been trying to disrupt the Topaz Championship competition.

Speaking of the competition, I acquitted myself well in the rest of the contests. The dueling tournament was hard, and I didn’t win it, but lots of other things went well, like the horse-riding and sword-fighting and even a talking competition. I’m not quite sure how I won that one, but I guess my competitor was just tongue-tied. My friends and I were also the only group to succeed at the “hunting” challenge—at least, the only ones who succeeded despite being attacked by that band of brigands. Don’t worry, we’re all OK—it helps that I can run really fast, which meant that all the brigands tried to chase me while my friends made it back to the Tournament grounds safe and sound. What’s also very exciting is that one of the friend that I saved from the brigands, Uragiri, is now the Topaz Champion (there are so many Champions running around everywhere, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight…). Anyway, Uragiri did even better than I did during the challenges; the only thing he didn’t win was the dueling tournament, but he impressed everyone enough that they awarded him the rank of co-Champion anyway.

Unfortunately, there were some tragedies during the tournament too. My Unicorn friend Shinjo Shiko got into a duel with a Scorpion after she accused him of lying and murdering some important diplomat, and he ended up killing her. Which is really too bad, and we still don’t know who the real assassin was. But at least Shiko died defending her honor—there are a lot worse ways to return to one’s ancestors. And there are a lot of other people that I got to know well during this time too. Another ronin, Kamahime, is really pretty and quite fun to be around—I hope I get to see lots more of her. And Shiko’s clan-mate Joseph wants me to visit him if I’m ever in Unicorn lands. Probably the strangest of all, the old peasant man we met on the way to the tournament turned out to be some supernatural bird thing! After our successes in the tournament, he even blessed us with his beneficent blessing—Shiba-san (the priestess) tells me that my antlered kabuto is now “Awake”, whatever that means. Maybe it means I don’t have to worry about sleeping in dangerous places, since my kabuto will stay on guard all night. Usually Inoshi is good at that sort of thing too, but I guess having an extra guard is never bad, especially when there are Ogres running around.

Yeah, now that we’re Emerald Magistrates-in-Training, we are on official business for Kitsuki Kage, which has included facing down a real live escaped Ogre! Alas, I couldn’t get much of a trophy form my Ogre hunt, since he might have been really Evil, and I didn’t want to get any of his Evil on me. But I did get a piece of his huge club. Inoshi helped out a lot in that fight with the ogre—every day I’m more and more glad that I decided to rear him instead of cooking him.

Your dutiful son,
Shika

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Musings of a Phoenix

It seems there is more to these contests than I realized. The fact that someone was seeking to have me dishonor my clan by deliberately losing to a ronin shows the dishonor present. Now I have to worry about all the ronin and others to see what dishonorable activities are going on. I am trying to tread the path of honor but it gets very tricky.

Still, I have proven to my daimyo that me coming here is not a clan disgrace. That as first shugenja in my family line, I will be worthy even if I know that certain contests are not my strong point. Thankfully the water kami were with me during the Sumai and my scholarly learning helped during the tests of law and heraldry. I feel bad for those that feel they are driven to win every match in every area. We all seek to be credits to our ancestors and our ancestors guide us in many ways, (I admit that this is a worry at times) that if our ancestors never rode to guide us and our daimyo and sensei never saw fit for such training, then it is foolish to expect to beat one whose sensei stressed it.

It is interesting how this ronin that shares my place is doing. His ancestors were disgraced and such dishonor is what guides him and yet, he is thriving almost as well as I am in these contests. He was better at athletics and I better at law but we both are passed gempuku when perhaps there might some that fail completely.

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Another Day In Paradise

Dear Diary,

Today was the first real day of the competition. As was to be expected, I acquitted myself magnificently. After touring the Kakita Academy, I had a chance to meet the locals and get a taste of the local flavor. The students I met seemed somewhat dull and lackwitted; perhaps it is the ease of living in such magnificent quarters. I would not speak ill of any I met, of course, but I was forced to decline to aid the master artisan in his preparations as my own duties required attention. Still, it is gratifying to know one is appreciated and some of the work they were doing was on par with my own. It bodes well for the future of the Empire, I tell you what.

Oh, dearest diary, there was a surprise! The Emperor must have heard of my prowess in the arts, because he added a whole section of competitions to the tourney. That is good news for me, but bad news is that I heard that a certain someone high up in the courts, like, SUPER HIGH UP, has a dose of the clap and it is not to be repeated. Except to the very trustworthy, of course.
I am staying in the residence of the fellow I mentioned last time with a ronin who has a pet pig and a shugenja who resembles one. Still they are both very pleasant and I look forward to dealing with them, in particular the Phoenix who seems to know a lot about things.

Anyhoo, back to the competition. I was brilliant, amazingly so, and blew through the trials like I was knocking out a set of crunches. The only real trouble I had was in the obstacle course, with a smelly Scorpion but he was brutal and foolish and I am magnificent and I smoked his ass like a trout. So as of now I have qualified for adulthood, but my eyes are on the prize to see far. Perhaps I will make allies of the Phoenix and the ronin, they seem like aces and know about housekeeping. Except the pig, but that is at least kind of interesting.

More later, diary. For now I must practice with my bad as sword.

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Dearest Mother (2)

The Topaz Championship competition has finally begun, and so far I am doing quite well…though not as well as my best good friend, Uragiri. He seems to know so much, but I thought all the questions about the strange samurai symbols and customs were hard. Who knew that you weren’t allowed to accept gifts when someone offers them to you? How does anyone ever give their friends anything, if that’s the case? Maybe I’ll have to ask my friend Mirai, the priestess I told you about before. She probably knows the answer.
At least I did well with the wrestling and the obstacle course, even against a really strong Dragon samurai and a really fast Crab samurai. And my friend Shiko (she’s a Unicorn!) offered to teach me how to ride horses, but it’s quite a bit different from just leading one through the fields. It may take a while for me to figure that one out.
By the next time I write to you, the competition will be finished. If I don’t win, I hope Shiko or Uragiri does.

Your son,
Shika

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