It had only been a matter of time before the gajin that had slain thousands of brave bushi during The Great Warrior Pilgrimage 1173 would return, and so they did, during the Winter Court of 1177. The manner of their return was surprising, however, as The Kingdom of Yoritomo‘s ships they kept scouting towards the foreign lands reported a gajin ship, much smaller than the iron vessels loaded with gajin pepper, was growing closer to their lands. Yet, it had raised a white flag! The Yoritomo Prince, Yoritomo Kosho had one of the Kingdom’s own vessels fitted wit ha white flag, and sent to meet this apparently friendly missionary. Word quickly came back to Kosho that the main in charge was named Koriron, and could actually speak Rokugani! A quick question to Cado revealed that she could not speak their language, and as such Kosho went to meet them. Further surprising the Kingdom’s representative, it became apparent quickly that Koriron was there to negotiate peace!
Yoritomo Kosho was always one for recognizing oppertunity, he quickly entered into negotiations, finding that Koriron was willing to trade much of the advanced technology of the Merenae kingdoms for simple gold, which The Kingdom of Yoritomo had in spades, thanks to their trading. Koriron offered faster engines for kobunes, while Kosho wanted one of the iron ships that he had seen in action near The Burning Sands. When Koriron’s price was named to be a shoulder high pile of gold, Kosho changed the items in question to the devestating rifles that that the Merenae had. Eventually, it was settled on 5 engines that could burn coal or charcoal, and fifty rifles…for five katana blades. To a Yoritomo like Kosho, a katana meant less than his prized Yoritomo longbow, after all, so why not? All of this was settled in only a month’s time, which led to Koriron’s next question: could the riches of the Emerald Empire be plundered if the Kingdom worked together with the Merenae?
Yoritomo Kosho had already told Koriron that the Emerald Empire and The Kingdom of Yoritomo had split apart, but that even though the Empire did not want to take the islands, there was no way that the Kingdom had enough forces to land and plunder anything on the coast, even the rich Crane cities. A plan forming in his mind, Kosho asked Koriron to hold a demonstration, one that would show Yoritomo Naizen that the Merenae were certainly worth allying with against the Empire. Naizen however, just as cunning as Kosho, realized that the reason the Merenae had come in peace was because they feared the powerful, unknown magics of the shugenja of Rokugan, while Rokugan feared the guns and gajin pepper of the Merenae. If they played both sides against one another, The Kingdom of Yoritomo could come out ahead, and much, much richer. So it was that in the spring of 1178, that Yoritomo Kosho returned to the Emerald Empire, to Toshi Ranbo, bringing a dire warning of the gajin’s return…
Instead of being received by The Empress, or even her consort Hantei Ryozo, he found himself greeted by Otomo Kage. While he was one of the highest ranking Otomo’s, he was hardly one that was likely to receive and listen to Kitsu Kosho‘s statement; Kage’s hate of the Mantis, and therefore the Yoritomo, was very well known. After only a few hours it became clear to Kosho that he was not about to make progress, as Kage himself had not even arrived, and so instead he went to see one of his oldest friends; Toturi Sozen. To Kosho’s dissapointment, it became clear that Sozen no longer bore any suspicion or distrust towards the Empress, and indeed, was once more her loyal servant. While they spoke at length on honor, and what they had done together, in the end their conversation came to a close with Kosho rising and declaring Sozen was dead to him from this moment on. With no other choice, Kosho was forced to meet with Kage once again.
The two met with little fanfare, in private, and did not even exchange a single bow. The tension in the room was thick enough to be cut with a sword, as the two spoke to one another curtly, Kitsu Kosho told Otomo Kage of the threat the Merenae represented, a threat that Kosho himself had helped to engineer! Kage did not seem to relent even after Kosho stated that the Merenae were coming with not less than 20 of their iron vessels! When he then offered to make sure the Merenae didn’t land on the coast, if the Empire was willing to provide them with enough gold to assemble a large enough fleet, Kage countered that the Empire could not be bought, and then asked why the Merenae would skip The Kingdom of Yoritomo when it was clearly a smaller and more easily raided target, even if the Yoritomo were still masters of the seas! Kosho simply stated that they were not interested in such an admittedly small goal as Kage had said, and Kage was forced to take Kosho’s words to the temporary Emerald Champion, Hantei Ryozo. After hearing from Kage, Ryozo agreed to finally speak to Kosho. While waiting, Kosho also met with Bayushi Yoshimi in secret, with Yoshimi agreeing to help Kosho with whatever he needed…once Kosho knew what that might be.
Finally, it was time for Hantei Ryozo to meet with Kitsu Kosho. Kosho repeated much of what he had told Kage, while Ryozo expressed his concern that ‘pirates’ might abscond with much of the increased Yoritomo fleet, thus proving a greater threat to Rokugan in the long run. Further, he didn’t believe appeasing the gajin would last forever. Paying them to leave would only embolden them. Kosho repeated that twenty ships were coming, and while it was possible The Kingdom of Yoritomo might be able to negotiate with the Merenae, he would rather choose the friends he already knew. Gravely, Ryozo asked for four days, and when Kosho granted them, he met with Toturi Sozen, Otomo Kage, Bayushi Yoshimi and Kakita Tiru. While the five discussed the dangers and benefits of ensuring the Kingdom would aid them, ultimately Ryozo decided to give a gift of half of what Kosho wanted; all the gold, but none of the lumber. Kosho had been sent to start a war, to give the gajin a reason to attack Rokugan, instead, he had accomplished what Yoritomo Naizen would never have dreamed possible; gaining the gold and the good will (to some extend) of the Emerald Empire! Yet Ryozo was not a fool to imagine that was the end of it; indeed, Kaiu engineers of the Crab marched to the Crane and Phoenix coasts to fortify them, and furthermore, entire legions of shugenja took up residence there as well, ensuring that the coastline was now the most fortified position in the Empire besides the Great Kaiu Wall itself!
It took nearly a year for the construction and troop movements to be finished, a year in which Yoritomo Naizen traded lightly with both the Empire, and the Merenae. When the time came for the demonstration, Kosho’s words brought an unexpected development; the Merenae would not attack at all, fearing the power of the shugenja when Kosho told them exactly what was arrayed against them! Instead, a new district was created on the islands in The Kingdom of Yoritomo, one that promoted trade between they and the Merenae, and even the Burning Sands…and certain unscruplous persons in the Emerald Empire. If ever there had been doubt about the existence of the Kingdom as a power and a force to be respected, it was now gone.
(more to come)