The Era of the Heavenly Empress
Crane Kenshinzen, Gokenin of Lonely Lotus Garden, The Voice of Emma-O, The Dark Crane
Kakita Bushi 2 / Hoturi’s Blade / Kenshinzen 2
Earth – 3
•Stamina – 3
•Willpower – 3
Water – 2
•Strength – 2
•Perception – 2
Fire – 4
•Agility – 4
•Intellegence – 4
Air – 3
•Reflexes – 5
•Awareness – 3
Void – 4
After Genpuku; To Serve
Born a year after his brother, Kakita Taro, Kakita Tiru showed great promise as an iaijutsu swordsman from a young age, much like his father, Kakita Noburu. Yet, it seemed like he had also inherited some of the martial skill of his mother, Kakita Yoruhime. As such, he was accepted into the Kakita Bushi school, to the pride of both parents, and the jealousy of his brother; born the eldest, Taro was destined from birth to become the next Goekon of Lonely Lotus Gardens, the family holdings. Kakita Tiru was ransomed by his father to the Lion in repayment for a war debt incurred during skirmishes with the Dragon, during the War of Silk and Spice. It was in that same war that Tiru’s mother was slain by the Dragon, at which point all the ambition and much of the fiery will that had possessed Kakita Noburu turned to ash. As a ‘gift’, Tiru’s brother gave him a caged songbird, an entirely unsubtle statement of his opinion concerning his brother’s place. To both of their surprise, however, when the time came to give the family’s ancestral blade to one of the two, it was given to Tiru to carry with him into Lion lands. He would be traveling to the city of Fukuharashi, in the province of Sayorinogashi, and stay there until the debt owed to the Lion was fulfilled.
To Lion Lands; To Fukuharashi!
On his very first day in his new home, another duelist, Togashi Sakura, an accomplished Dragon of the Miyamoto Swordsmaster school, challenged him in order to gift their lord, Akodo Hoshi. The duel was of skill alone, each one taking a step back to ensure that they would not strike for blood, and it was Tiru that would narrowly find victory that day. They would go on to have a number of iaijutsu duels and skirmishes, with Tiru holding an edge in the former and Sakura in the latter. It was also there that he met Matsu Kara, of the famed Matsu Berserker school. He fell for Kara the way she fell for him. In a strange twist, it was often Kara who would reign in Tiru’s temper when it flared, and Tiru who would speak out on matters of the heart and the soul with passion and vigor to her.
Shortly into his stay, however, he found out exactly how clever a courtier his father could be. In addition to the obvious aid the Lion had provided in securing his provinces, it became apparent to Tiru that he also owed favor to the Crane Clan’s dark mirror, the Scorpion. Bayushi Otsune, the very same Scorpion that had exposed the previous Lion Damiyo Ikoma Benjiro as being corrupted by the Shadowlands, was now the the head of the Scorpion house in Fukuharashi. Accompanying her in her goal to ensure that Lion lands remained free of the Taint were two more courtiers, Bayushi Yoshimi and Bayushi Saiori, and to repay his father’s last outstanding debt, he would serve as Yoshimi’s yojimbo in matters of martial conflict. That second duty was put to the test early.
A compliment from Yoshimi, congratulating Akodo Namiko on being with child, turned out to be premature; she was not in fact pregnant. While Yoshimi was quick to apologize, Namiko’s husband, Akodo Sozen, took offense. While normally a Lion would not be of great concern to a Kakita-trained duelist, it turned out that Sozen had studied at the Morimoto Bushi school. While not a pure duelist, such as Togashi Sakura, he was well trained all the same, and for the second time Tiru found himself facing down a member of his rival school. Bayushi Yoshimi did not once betray a smile or a single inkling of satisfaction, but as Tiru won the duel, he couldn’t help but feel that it had simply been a test on the Scorpion’s part of his new yojimbo. The matter concluded in favor of Yoshimi, Bayushi Otsune apologized on behalf of him, quickly covering the gaff and assuring Sozen that not all Scorpion were ‘like that’. Tiru, however, would remember the duel, and its cause, as a perfect example of Scorpion intrigue.
A Spring Patrol; The First Encounter with the Shadowlands
While Tiru was duty bound to remain in Fukuharashi, serving as a hostage and as a yojimbo to repay his father’s debts, the lands around it remained an issue of concern to the Lion. The head of the Shadowlands serpent had been cut off, true, but the serpent that had poisoned the city itself may still have lived on. As such, when the time came to make a Spring Patrol of the various villages and towns, Akodo Hoshi chose Akodo Iroden to lead it. Allowing him to choose whomever he wished to accompany him, Tiru was surprised to find himself asked to join. While he knew that his true duty lay at remaining safe in the city, he felt stifled, trapped, and accepted Iroden’s request eagerly. He joined him, Bayushi Yoshimi, Kitsu Diaki, Kitsu Kosho and Togashi Sakura and Akodo Sozen. Accompanying them, to Tiru’s happiness, would be Matsu Kara. In a very un-Crane like manner, he was looking forward to fighting beside her, and would be granted that wish, although not as he expected…
A Caged Bird of Steel Claw
While she and others, such as Sakura and Akodo Iroden fought against a Unicorn attack and occupation to the East, he remained in the castle, following his required duty and remaining out of harm; should he die, not only would his family’s debt to the Scorpion remain unpaid, but so would any hope of further trade between his father’s estate and the Lion. With little to do, he proposed the hosting of an iaijutsu tournament to Akodo Hoshi, who after pondering the matter, agreed. However, as the Lion prefer more practical forms of combat, he decided that the tournament would also have a kenjutsu portion. Tiru could hardly object of course, and in fact entered both. He was bested in the kenjutsu half by Matsu Kara, of all people, and he found that it was one of the few times he had looked at combat as anything more than a series of steps and actions, like a well rehearsed dance or play. He himself won the iaijutsu title, defeating Togashi Sakura in a diffcult last match, concluding the first Fukuharashi Tournament. For a while, it seemed, the fates had done nothing but gift him with fortune; the Kakita Blade, a victory in his very first tournament outside of Crane lands, and he knew even then that his heart, and the heart of Matsu Kara would never be apart…but all that changed when the Lion lands around Fukuharashi proved less free of the Taint than expected…
To Take Dark Wing; Tainted
He had the attention of Kakita Masumune, a Kenshinzen, and was sent beyond the empire by Jade Magistrates to cure his taint so that he can enter the school. He hopes to return before Kara’s marriage to Kitsu Diaki.
The Burning Sands; Corrupted in a Strange Land
The Return; The Sacrifice for Love
Having returned in a year’s time after his departure, free of the Taint, he found that the words he had left Kitsu Diaki with, a threat of death between two former friends over the heart of a woman, had carried far. Now it was a blood feud, with both the head of the Matsu and the head of the Kakita families agreeing that a formal iaijutsu duel to the death would be the only way to settle who would have the honor of joiningMatsu Kara in marriage. To everyone’s shock, Matsu Juri, Kara’s mother, announced that as Diiki was to handle matters of home and coin and family, Kara was to handle matters of the blade…and it was Kara that Tiru was to duel with to determine who would marry her. Should he win, both Kara and Diaki would die.
Facing his beloved in the ring, he was struck with a sudden flush of madness and rage. After leaving Rokugan, traveling the Burnings Sands, bearing the curse of the Taint without reprieve or jade leaf tea to ease the burden, and impossibly curing himself of the corruption, all to lead to this? Matsu Kara stood stoically, eyes wet, and Tiru found himself enraged; he would strike down his beloved, then Juri, and whomever else he could reach until he fell…and his rage slipped away mercifully at the sight of the sorrow in Kara’s eyes. There was only one thing to do, and so he whispered to her. She nodded, smiling ruefully at their decision, and as one they removed their mons, and set their blades down on the floor, Kakita Tiru doing so with reverence for his Kakita Family blade; he had carried it this far, and he would not wear it with him into dishonor.
Kakita Tiru, promising Kakita Bushi, invited to the school of the Kenshinzen, bearer of the ancient family blade of his father and his fathers before him was no more.
Now, there was only Tiru.
Despite giving up all that he had worked for his entire life, he still gained something that he had never known he wanted until two years ago; the ronin Kara, once Matsu Kara, had given up her family, her mon, just as he had. Further, Kitsu Diaki would live, and while things would likely never be the same again between them, he brought Tiru the katana he had found in the Burning Sands, and to Kara he returned the Duelist’s Blade that Tiru himself had originally gifted her with. The first words he spoke when he returned his weapon were these; “I pray you know I wanted none of this.” Tiru accepted his weapon, and the Kitsu’s words, and Kara did the same.
Thanks to the efforts of Bayuushi Yoshimi, both Tiru and Kara would find employment as ronin warriors under the banner of Akodo Hoshi, once more returned to the city of Fukuharashi.
The Sunrise Tournament 1172; For the Future; for Akodo Iroden?
To Mantis Lands; to Help a Friend(?)
Shortly after arriving, he was informed by Kitsu Diaki that a samurai-ko that he had met in Mantis lands, Moshi Kikiyo, was in danger. Realizing that this was the very same woman that Diaki had fought for more than a year ago in a deadly duel, Tiru agreed to accompany Diaki to the Mantis islands to search for her. After all, who would he be to argue in the face of love, even lost love, after everything that had happened only days ago. The beginning of the voyage was uneventful, and he spent a great deal of time with Kara. What had begun as a time of painful happiness, at last having one another, slowly changed to an awkward silence. They exchanged few words, each blaming themself for the outcome of the duel and their purposeless paths in life. This passed after they had found another ship at Victory Island, and Diaki had found direction towards the islands he believed Kikiyo to be on from a Tortoise bushi.
A pirate attack resulted in their vessel being boarded, and both Tiru and Togashi Sakura took positions on the bow of the ship. While they fought valiantly, they were both wounded too badly to continue fighting as the numbers arrayed against them increased. Even Hida Maki could not tip the odds in their favor in close combat. Fortunately, Akodo Iroden and Kitsu Kosho were able to lay down a withering barrage of arrows from the crow’s nest of the ship, ending the lives of many of the honorless attackers. With the help of Diaki providing aid by entreating on the fire kami to consume the enemies in flames, and with Bayushi Yoshimi ensuring that few could get the chance to climb the mast to confront the two archers in close combat, the battle was won. With many of the Mantis crew wounded as well, the ship put into a small inlet on the nearby island, and just in time; a half-dozen more pirate ships soon appeared circling their refuge. Further, it turned out that the settlement that the keen-eyed Kosho had spotted before the battle was in fact a pirate hovel.
To their shame, a few of the pirates had lived through the battle despite their defeat. One of them, a Yoritomo sailor and the apparent captain of the ship, refused to give information concerning their other bases and vessels and when given the option to seppeku by Diaki and Yoshimi, took it. Another pirate, a massive trueborn ronin named Jiro, was oddly honorable, referring to Diaki as ‘clanborn’, answering all questions truthfully as a proper hostage would. While they could not aid Diaki in finding the true location of the shipwrecked Moshi Kikiyo, Jiro did agree to join the crew. It was Diaki’s own divinations and knowledge of astrology that enabled him to chart a new course; all that was left to do now was break through the ring of patrolling pirate vessels hungry for prey.
The Kuni Temple; A Crab’s Bravery, a Dragon’s Edge
With a quick escape at the perfect time, likely aided by the air kami, Tiru found himself once again on the sea, and once again a quiet, awkward silence shared with Kara. Alone in their cabin, they had little to say, the fire that had risen in them during and after the battle fading to little more than embers as the hours turned to days upon the waves.
Spring Blossom Tournament 1172; Interesting Glory
The Spring Blossom Tournament was an iaijutsu competition held in Kyuden No Haruhana, a beautiful castle that rested in lands lands originally belonging to the Yasuki, now gifted to the Otomo. Sponsored by Otomo Goro, the holder of Spring Garden Castle, it was peculiar in that Goro invited an odd mix of duelists, and further, never invited the winning champion of the former year to defend his tournament victory. While settling into the humble quarters given to him by Akodo Hoshi, he was approached by an Otomo courtier, who was journeying back to Spring Garden Castle, and was seeking a guard to protect him along the road. Suspicious, Tiru agreed all the same, as the courtier was offering a staggering four koku for his services, something even Tiru knew was extravagant…especially when he saw the Otomo was already in possession of a retinue of four yojimbo to begin with!
Things only got stranger when he arrived, as Otomo Goro appeared almost a heartbeat after he had entered the main building with the courtier he had been guarding. Expressing his irritation that a specific bushi, supposedly the most accomplished duelist to come from the Dragon lands that year, would not be present and thus unbalance the number of duelists, he turned to Tiru and offered to pay him to stay and take the Dragon’s spot. Something in Goro’s manner and dealings reminded him a very great deal of Bayushi Yoshimi, yet how could he say no? A chance to duel at a gloriously beautiful castle, while the cherry blossoms were just beginning to bloom? He spent the first night in the warm baths under the stars, simply looking upwards and admiring the night. It reminded him of home, although even that hadn’t been this extravagant, yet he found it was less painful a memory than he would have thought. That very same night, however, another of the tournament’s participants came to find him.
Bayushi Tosen was mostly known to Tiru, beyond his goals as a general, and his accomplishments at the Sunrise Tournament the year before he had participated, when he had offered both his own mon and the mon of the Phoenix, claiming a shared victory. Tiru was therefore unprepared for Tosen to offer him entry into a group he belonged to, one that held the Empress’ safety as its highest duty. While the logic of it, the duty seemed sound, something about his proposal, about his group, rang too loudly of the Gozuko, the alliance of Scorpion, Phoenix, and Crane that had twice nearly brought ruin to Rokugan, and in the most recent of the two incarnations had nearly destroyed the Crane clan. At the same time, Tiru could not bring himself to do anything more than say he would think on it, rather than refusing outright. A Scorpion could be a dangerous enemy, as well as a dangerous ally. He would be a hypocrite were he to condemn the other for doing ‘whatever it took’ for the greater good, or in this case, the greatest, after what he himself had done in the Burning Sands. While they would speak again, several times during the tournament, Tiru would not say one way or the other whether he would join Tosen.
The very next day, all of the attending samurai were surprised to find that there was no set list of duels, no brackets, not even a time to expect when they might be called upon. Instead, each samurai was asked to contribute something of culture, of refinement and they would all be presented in the courtyard of the city. Tiru had not lost the small talent he had for origami, and it was one such work he presented, tasking himself to manage the best he could under such short notice. When he was called upon to duel immediately after the display of talents from all the duelists, he found himself unsurprised to be facing Kakita Tenkazu, the only Kakita bushi present. He was however, surprised when they finally took their stances; the boy was not nearly the duelist others suspected him to be! When Tenkazu’s focus gave way, his very honor wavered, and Tiru bested him with ease. Meeting with him afterwards, Tenkazu addressed Tiru as ‘sensei’ despite his Ronin status, and Tiru managed to offer some advice to the young duelist. In Tenkazu, he saw something of himself, and knew the heavy weight he bore.
The Gathering Storm; The Steel Wind Dojo
Uppon returning from the Spring Blossom Tournament, Tiru was surprised to find that Hida Ryozo had taken up residence in the palace of honored guests, and more surprised still to find out that the Crab Sumie had every intent on taking him up on his offer to teach him right away! As a gift for teaching what little Tiru believed he could teach, Ryozo presented him with one of the rarest gifts a ronin could receive; an invitation to that year’s Winter Court. Further, he was not the last to seek Tiru for lessons in the art of iaijtusu. Only a few days after he had begun to impart his own views on dueling to the Hida, Kakita Tenzaku appeared one morning, offering a simple red envelope containing a koku as a gift. Tiru was heartened to see the young Kakita there, his reasons for teaching the other more personal than he could like to admit; the duelist reminded him of himself, only a few years ago. How had so much changed in his own life so quickly…? Having made the gift of the Sakura Kimono he had gained by wining the Spring Blossom Tournament that year to now-Akodo Saiori, she had given him a small home to share with Kara, leading to the founding of what could be considered an impromptu dojo, at which Tiru found himself the teacher.
Kara had long ago adapted what she’d seen and learned from him in their duels into her own style, which was fortunate indeed; student after student began to arrive! Some were not of note, and Tiru did not expect them to go far in the tournament for the Empress’ hand in marriage, and he found their sheer quantity bewildering. It was Kara who pointed out the obvious, that few if any sensei or duelists would be giving or teaching their techniques, even for lavish gifts such that Tiru had received! Bayushi Tosen came to learn, his betrothed Soshi Kita designing a garden in and around the plot of land Tiru had been granted. On it were wooden slats over a small stream resembling a bridge, and a small rise that could have been the summit of a temple, all places that one might be called upon to duel. Tiru even found a moment where he displayed his own technique to his students by dueling Mirumoto Oda, the very same Dragon whose spot he had held in the Spring Blossom Tournament. Privately, this dispelled one of Tiru’s doubts; whether he could have bested the Dragon himself. While it was a close thing, he managed to eke out victory. The day that would bring the greatest surprise though corrued when Akodo Sozen joined the group of students, displaying shocking skill unknown to any in a duel with Togashi Sakura, leaving Tiru wondering exactly what he could teach him. He then further stunned the ronin by offering something unbelievable; the Akodo family name.
After the day’s teaching was done, the parade of unlikely events continued as Kara was called away to a meeting with the Scorpions Bayushi Tosen and Bayushi Yoshimi. Upon her return, she had a revelation of her own; they had offered her the Bayushi name. To say that both she and Tiru were reeling from the day’s events was an understatement. Any ronin offered a single clan name in his or her lifetime would be shocked, overjoyed, and eternally grateful, a willing servant of whomever had granted purpose again to a life without one. Yet here they were, with two choices! Yet they hesitated. Kara pointed out that the Lion had betrayed them once, by allowing the duel that had forced them to sacrifice their names, their schools, everything they had. Tiru was unsure about the offer from Tosen, and after swearing her to secrecy, explained of the Scorpion Bushi’s desire to create a group dedicated solely to keeping the Empress safe and in power. After talking at great lengths, however, Kara agreed to take the Bayushi name, in understanding that she could only do so after completing her term of service that Akodo Hoshi had paid for already. Then, she would marry Tiru, and they would be together at last, in one Clan.
That service would begin soon, for both she and Tiru, for the drums of war were beating loudly, and growing louder still with each day. Akodo Iroden had been promised the position of Tasia of the 47th Akodo Legion, if and only if he could raise the troops to fill it. The 47th had been decimated in the ongoing battles with the Unicorn, and Akodo Hoshi and those loyal to him could not spare the troops to resurrect it. Yet Iroden had managed it, even appealing to his future father-in-law, Alkodo Amatsu. One of the Lions he had found to lend and lead troops was Ikoma Machiko, who was more than eager to lead her the troops of her brother, Ikoma Yotsuken. Yotsuken only cared about iaijutsu, and a plan occured to Iroden, leading to the last surprise Tiru would receive before the attack on the Unicorn began.
Arriving at his dojo with a request to have Yotsuken train there, Iroden presented him with a banner, mons, and more, proclaiming the plot of land ’Benten’s Bridge Dojo’. Yet something about the name gave Tiru concern. It was almost as if, now that they were about to be together, the last thing he wanted was that Fortune’s attention…or perhaps, even if he could not admit it to himself, he felt angered, even slighted by Benten after all he and Kara had been through. After a simple request, it became offical, and the city of Fukuharashi had something unique to its claim; he Steel Wind Dojo had been born. Just in time for Tiru and Kara to march to war at the side of Akodo Iroden.
War! Push into Unicorn Lands; the First Stronghold
The Taking of Yari no Hosakishi
The delay of hostilities would last only long enough for both sides to catch their breath. For Tiru, who had fought in more battles than most any Crane his age, he had only one concern; where was Kara? Almost as if he had been summoned, another Lion bushi, a young Matsu, approached Tiru and told him to come quickly. Fear squeezed around Tiru’s heart, turning it to ice, and yet at the same time he could feel a low flare of flame in his soul, a rage he hadn’t felt since the duel to the death he had nearly had with his beloved. If she had fallen… upon seeing her fallen form laying in one of the small huts claimed by the Lions in their occupied part of the city, his vision hazed red. He heard a voice asking the bushi that had brought him there if she was alive, but dimly, from a distance. The voice was cold, but filled with the promise of fury and vengeance and hate. It would only be much later that he would realize the voice had been his. The bushi quickly assured him Kara was alive, but gravely wounded, and she was in no shape to fight. Speaking slowly, as if choosing his words very carefully, the bushi asked Tiru if he wanted her brought to the shugenja for healing, or treated by the more traditional healers that would tend to the majority of the army.
It took but a moment for Tiru to realize what the bushi had offered him. If he had Kara sent to the shugenja, she would be on the front lines once more, at the most dangerous part of the fighting. If, however, she was sent to those of more mundane skills, it was doubtful she would be fit enough to stand against the Unicorn in what was likely to be a brutal conclusion to the fight. The answer he would give was never in doubt, and within a few moments, Kara was blinking away the forced sleep of the wounded. As it had been all too often, they had little to say to one another, but the understanding was there; she could no more have left this now than he could have left her. After a brief clasping of hands, the other Lion present averting his gaze out of privacy, Tiru returned to Akodo Iroden’s side to serve as his yojimbo once more.
The battle renewed itself on the orders of Iroden, his Scorpion forces quickly claiming the high ground offered by the houses, while Tiru strained for any sight of Kara before the Deathseekers and the Matsu Berserkers drove into the Unicorn front lines without mercy. Remaining close to Iroden, a single Unicorn broke through the lines, pointed his katana at Iroden, and settled into a dueling stance. Iroden turned his head aside, still giving orders, clearly not having seen the challenge, so Tiru took his place. Feeling that ember of rage suddenly flare, he drew his blade without mercy, cleaving the Unicorn Chui nearly in half with a cruel and wicked cut…yet he found no satisfaction in it; this was no vicious brute that had felled his love. The Chui was a man of honor that had faced a Ronin in a test of skill and willpower, and lost. Forced to remain at Iroden’s side, he could only wait for the end of the battle, his anger at Kara’s injuries at war with his sense of honor and respect for the bravery of the Unicorn that fought, and died.
Both sides made use of skills beyond bugei talents; the Unicorn ramps leading up and out of the city collapsed, and a fiery wall ignited by Unicorn archers nearly spelled doom for Iroden’s army. Eventually however, the combined forces of the Lion Legion under the his command proved too much, and Moto Michimo, a man both enemy and friend to The Little General challenged him to a duel. They both drew steel, circling one another, and while Michimo could land no strikes upon Iroden, it took Iroden two cuts to fell him, each blow being strong enough to kill another man. Even then, the Moto still drew breath, and so was taken as a valuable hostage, with Iroden proclaiming he was too valuable to the Empress to die in this war.
With the battle over, Tiru immediately left Iroden’s side, and began searching of Kara, heedless of the other orders the Little General received. What he did next would depend on the fate of his love…
The Battle at Shiro Moto, the Fate of Matsu Kara
-pressed on into Unicorn lands, and fought to take a watchtower from them along with Akodo Iroden. Nearly defeated, Matsu Kara arrived in time to turn the tide, allowing Tiru to break through the lines and lead a charge into the tower
-after that, it was decided that Iroden would lead an assault on the Moto school itself to draw out forces from Shiro Moto, with the school falling in a quick and decisive victory
-Tiru rode back to Shiro Moto with the army, after Iroden received a whisper on the winds from Bayushi Kaoru telling him that the battle was going poorly
-inside the first layer of the castle defenses, the Akodo army had been trapped and torn apart by reinforcements that appeared from nowhere, while Kitsu Koshu rode out from the castle with the Lion Clan War Banner
-Tiru only found out that Kara had died after they had fallen back to the tower taken earlier in the day, and overcome with rage, took a spot on the front lines on the ride back to Lion Lands
-with his term of service with Hoshi over, Tiru swore to find Kara in the afterlife and return her to the land of the living, and he’d start his search by finding the one person in Rokugan; Usagi Arisu
Into the Lands of the Dead, with an Old Friend
-found Arissu at his new temple in the Kitsune forests
-accompanied by him and two other shugenja, an Isawa and a Kitsu, as well as a bushi from the Monkey clan, Toku Tobu
-wore the White Guard uniform into Shiro Moto itself, advised to seek entrance to the Lands of the Dead at a hidden temple to Emma-o in Daidoji lands, warned never to wear the robe again unless intending to swear to the Moto
-met with Daidoji (blank) at the castle, the Toku having apparently been an old friend of hers, who revealed the location of the temple and provided an escort, including one of Tiru’s students when he had taught at the Kakita Bushi school, Daidoji Kojo, who showed respect as addressed Tiru as ‘sensei’ despite his Ronin status
A Family Name; A Broken Family
-returned home to confront father with mother’s quest
-stayed at ryoken, visited with his father at recommendation of Bayushi Kumihiko, a newly arrived Scorpion Courtier that had been staying at the palace for 4 months
-had tea with his father, told him of his mother’s words, then left, unable to challenge him to a duel
-father discovered that night, committed suicide by overdosing on opium rather than die in seppuku, or in an honorable battle
-Bayushi Kumihiko suggested that Tiru be the one to take the castle, imagining likely that he would be more receptive to the Scorpion agreements than his brother, Kakita Taro
However, things were not so simple as Tiru once again sought to defy the natural order of things by usurping his brother’s rightful position as heir to the Lonely Lotus Gardens, as well as protecting his father’s honor by embracing the ‘rumors’ of Shadowlands and Maho involvement in his death. Many samurai of other clans had travelled to Crane lands, hoping to learn a few scant pieces of insight from the very place that laid claim to the most celebrated iaijutsu school in all of Rokugan, and for other purposes, and several had been staying and working with his father for some time. Akodo Tsuma was one such samurai, and he was quick to offer his condolences to Tiru, as well as a small gift. With a Jade Magistrate on the way, and further investigation inevitable, Tiru cunningly presented him with an invitation to his own dojo, Steel Wind, in Fukuharashi. Tsuma accepted the invitation with great pleasure and left immediately. However, he was only one of several samurai that had been staying at the Gardens.
The second samurai was a Crab, Hida Bie, and if not for his mon and bearing Tiru would have mistake him for a Crane in appearence! He lacked the heavy set, physical size of most Hida, and upon presenting Tiru with a gift of condolence, Tiru had to satisfy his curiosity, asking of the Hida his purpose. In response he presented something that made the young Crane’s soul ache; a pair of shattered Kakita Blades, both the katana and wakizashi broken into several dozen pieces. Hida Bie had been in Crane lands seeking to learn Crane smithing techniques in order to reforge the blades, which had been a gift to his grandfather from his Doji bride. That night, Tiru would learn the story of the blades, how Bie’s brother had worn them into the Shadowlands, been captured, and how the oni that held him had attempted to torture him with the Kakita Blades. Rather than turn on their wielder, they had shattered, and while Bie had not been able to save his brother, the broken pieces themselves were free of the Taint. He felt it only right, and Tiru agreed, that he reforge the blade himself. To that end, Tiru asked a favor of the Doji, and Bie was surprised to find himself quickly accepted into the Kakita Artisan Academy! This time, Tiru had not only made sure there was one less person to question the rumors of Shadowlands involvement, but that Hida Bie would owe him a favor in the future, and all of it for a worthy cause in Tiru’s mind.
A Dream Achieved
With his place as goekon of Lonely Lotus Garden secure, and once more able to wear the mon of the Crane and the Kakita Bushi School, Tiru was able to pursue his greatest dream; to be accepted into the school of the Kenshinzen, in Shiryo no Kakita. Traveling alone, without an entourage as he had become accustomed to doing, he stayed in the same room he had used during his brief tenure as a teacher at the Kakita Dueling Academy. Under the eye of he dueled Doji Raicho for the right to learn as a Kenshinzen. While not possessing of the raw speed that most Kenshinzen had at their call, her trained talent showed through, and while the cut Tiru delivered was clean, she only could check herself at the last moment, the duel very close. Yet at last, after many roads traveled light and dark, Tiru’s heart could not help but swell with pride and accomplishment as he donned the mon of a Kenshinzen and learned the first of their techniques.
While there, he was contacted by Doji Akemi and invited to read the first draft of the play that he had commissioned in order to attain his true dream; the return of Matsu Kara to the realm of the living. He was introduced to both Kakita Mizunokao and Moshi Higashi, the first a quickly rising star in the courts due to her acting skill and talent, the second an accomplished and celebrated actor who had performed in front of two dynasties.
While naturally reluctant to tell much of her past, the ronin woman revealed her name to be Notsuran, and that she had once tracked and failed to kill the Serpent of the East, and in fact was likely the only person alive that knew her true identity and appearance. She was also willing to give more information about Tiru’s attackers. The leader, the one that had spoken for the group and delivered the final strike that put him to the ground was Togia, the quick young duelist Otaki, and the horse archer that had remained outside of the fight went by Yoshiike. Notsuran was quick to remind Tiru that while they had escaped with his horse, and his life, they were still outnumbered three to two, essentially three to one, as Tiru was in no position to fight. As such, they waited only long enough for him to recover to the point he could ride, and they resumed Tiru’s course for Lonely Lotus Garden.
Fortunately, Notsuran’s skills as both tracker and counter-tracker enabled them to skirt the planned ambush set by the three remaining would-be assassins. Returned to Lonely Lotus Gardens, Tiru was determined to find out who had sent the three, originally four hired killers to end his life. There was one place where ronin as skilled and dangerous as these could be found; Nanashi Mura. Once more, Kakita Tiru shed his Crane colors and mon, and instead became a ronin yojimbo for the very same Isawa Sasao shugenja that had aided him in the realms of the dead.
A Foe Returned, A Lost Brother
The journey to Nanshi Mura was quick and uneventful, leaving Tiru with a great deal of time to ponder the attack in detail. He couldn’t help but think they were not simple bandits, not four Ronin of such skill. If that was not the case, well, that was the reason for his journey. Upon his arrival Isawa Sasao was quick to fulfill his Miya given purpose and seek out the various temples in the city of ronin.
The Fall of Daigotsu Jin, the Heroic End of Akodo Iroden
The Tournament of the Empress’ Hand; Which Clan Shall Have It?
In order to ensure the Scorpion would not grow too curious about where the shipments of silk were being redirected to, Tiru appointed Notsuran, the former Mantis magistrate, as magistrate of Lonely Lotus Gardens, and instructed her to carry out an investigation into the opium that had claimed the life of his father, Kakita Noburu. With the Scorpion now forced to contend with ensuring their operations remained secret, the shipments of silk to only Crane tailors, or those in the employ of the Crane without their knowledge, could be done in secret. It was then that Doji Akemi, who had been the one to ask for Tiru’s assistance in shipping the silk from Lonely Lotus Gardens, told him that he would be accompanying Doji Domotai as part of the Crane delegation to Toshi Ranbo determine which city would be host to this year’s Winter Court. Even more than normal a heavy amount of prestige rested on the hosts, as the tournament to earn the Empress’ hand would be decided there.
His first trip to the great city was not what Tiru had hoped it might have been. While he knew in his mind that he was now a part of one of the defining events of his lifetime, in the greatest of Rokugan’s cities, he found himself unable to appreciate it as he should. While he had taken back his name and fulfilled his dream of becoming a Kenshinzen, the victories felt hollow to him only months after he had achieved them, if only because Matsu Kara was not with him as he desperately wished. Still, he was brought sharply back to reality when Bayushi Tosen requested a meeting, only for Tiru to arrive and find Bayushi Yoshimi waiting for him as well.
The First Weeks of Winter Court; The Beginning of the Tournament
Before the day’s business drew to a close, the next duel to take place was announced; Benten’s Blade would face Kakita Masamune, tomorrow.
The Fate of Benten’s Blade, The Birth of The Voice of Emma-O
The duel between Benten’s Blade and Kakita Masumune was fought in the morning, with Tiru standing evenly between the Crane and the Lion groups. His heart told him to stand with Diaki, while his duty told him to stand with the Crane. Before when he had been torn between the two, he had chosen neither, becoming Ronin, and he did the same again, standing on his own instead…but the last time he had been joined by his love. The strike came as Tiru thought it would, Masamune scarring Daiki’s upper lip, as he had scarred all those that had been brave enough to stand against him, to Tiru’s continued disgust. Benten’s Blade had fallen to the oldest tradition of iaijutsu in the Empire. What did that mean for Tiru and Kara, if love’s chosen had fought for and lost the hand of the The Empress?
That night, She called for court, and Tiru watched as someone that should have been his closest friend asked for, and was granted permission by The Empress to commit seppuku, as he had promised before the tournament began. He couldn’t help but feel proud of Diaki as he was handed the Empress’ wakizashi to use as his own for the act, a display of incredible respect and honor.
After court, late at night, Kakita Tiru went to meet with Kitsu Diaki, at last finding it within himself to talk to him and apologize for how things had gone between them. To his disbelief, Diaki responded by gifting him with one of Hantei’s Tears, a legendary nemuranai that was able to completely purge one person of the Shadowlands Taint, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, although the process was almost always fatal. Diaki then stunned Tiru a second time, pronouncing him as Benten’s First. While Tiru responded that any favor Benten had shown him must have been subtle indeed, he accepted the blessing of Benten’s Blade, for if anyone could name Benten’s First, it would be Diaki. In return, Tiru told Diaki of his travels to visit Emma-O, of the quest he was on to return Matsu Kara to the realm of the living…and revealed a kimono he had been working on, piece by piece, formed originally from the White Guard kimono he had received in the Burning Sands. Diaki granted him permission to accompany him as The Voice of Emma-O, to help in spreading the Fortune’s name.
Somehow, he was not surprised when When The Empress told Bayushi Yoshimi that she herself would second Benten’s Blade. Tiru watched as she shed ten diamond tears as Benten’s Blade itself fell on Diaki’s neck, the shugenja dying without protest or hesitation, a true samurai to the end. As the blossoms of the blade turned to white where they fell to the ground, she proclaimed that he was now Diaki, Fortune of Devotion, and behind his white mempo, Tiru smiled for the first time in a long while.
WhenKakita Masumune did not appear for his duel with Bayushi Yoshimi five days later, Tiru knew why his whereabouts turned out to be unknown. Unerringly, he went to Diaki’s shrine, and found a discarded wakizashi, thrown into the dirt with contempt. Bringing it to Doji Domotai, he then turned to the Mantis delegation, asking where Moshi Kikiyo had gone. When he was told she had left the very night Diaki died, Tiru returned to his quarters, remaining silent as the investigation was pursued by Kitsu Kosho, Bayushi Tosen, and Akodo Sozen. Tiru had already gotten the answer he needed, and knew who had done it. Better than any, he knew what depths of hatred and revenge that love could drive someone to; he had driven himself against the Unicorn again and again on the Lion’s fighting retreat with their banner months ago. He had been fortunate enough to have the war to hide his vengeance behind a shield of honor. Moshi Kikiyo had no such shield, and with aid had murdered Masamune in the dark, in an alley, as an assassin.
The Voice of Emma-O would send her to judgment for her deed, and at the same Kakita Tiru would avenge the fallen teacher of his school. All he had to do was wait for the hunt to be called.
The Hunt for Moshi Kikiyo, and the Empress’ Consort
Peace of the Rich Frog, a Second War Averted
Returning to the city of Kyuden Bayushi, without Moshi Kikiyo, Tiru discovered that Hida Ryozo had become the Empress’ Consort, after Bayushi Tosen had bowed to him in the final match. While Tiru knew he had only been responsible for but a small part of Ryozo’s remarkable advancement as an iaijutsu duelist, he could not help but feel pride for his accomplishment. In truth, Tiru still believed he was the best choice for the Empress’ hand when it came to the Empire, even if a certain Lion may have been the best choice for her heart… Regardless, it helped to temper the sense of anger and helplessness he felt over failing to secure Kikiyo, even after she had burned the Kenshinzen dojo to the ground, and killed three of its members.
The Serpent’s True Face
The Great Warrior Pilgrimage
The Bon Festival, a Long-Awaited Return
For nearly four and a half months, Tiru worked tirelessly to spread the word of Emma-O. Wherever there was a festival, or a mourning for the slain of the The Great Warrior Pilgrimage, the Voice of Emma-O would be seen. A little more than a week before the Winter Court of 1173 would begin, Lonely Lotus Garden saw the largest and most prestigious Bon Festival that it had ever hosted. The powerful and influential from all Clans were invited, with each one having at least three or four noteable representatives. At the end of the first day’s activities, a shaken guard arrived to tell Tiru of nearly six-hundred unexpected guests, all wearing white, many bearing lanterns, that were on their way to the Garden. Their origin was clear to Tiru; Emma-O and his entourage had arrived.
All those present could only watch in disbelief as the Fortune of Death, standing more than twelve feet tall in ornate heavy armor, attended the festival. To those that asked, he gave cryptic answers, leading to more questions and oblique wisdoms, but he never began a single conversation. At the end of the festival, he summoned Tiru and Tiru alone to the main meeting chamber, and addressed him, asking if he understood that his work was not yet over. The Crane nodded; it was not enough to simply raise the worship of Emma-O for a short time. Their deal would remain in place only as long as this heightened level of respect remained in the Empire. With the reminder in place, one of the ghosts stepped forward, losing its unearthly pallor, and pulling back its hood. For the first time in nearly a year, Kakita Tiru smiled.
Matsu Kara lived once more.
In the matter of a few heartbeats, Emma-O and his spirit entourage had vanished, leaving the two of them alone. Wanly, Kara asked where she would sleep that night. As news of the day spread, and the miraculous events that had occurred, it was said that the Fortune of Death himself had brought Kakita Tiru his wife. Kara, however, was wiser than Tiru, as she quickly obtained some dyes, her fiery red hair now white, and the two agreed that she would train in Dragon lands, in the Ninten style, thus avoiding further scrutiny. There were those, however, who would realize all too easily that Kakita Kara bore a striking resemblance to the very same Matsu Berserker that had once sacrificed her name and honor to be with Kakita Tiru, when he had done the same for her…
Though once more in the same world, the two would need to be apart for a little while longer, as Tiru’s presence was needed at that year’s Winter Court.
Winter Court 1173, Diplomacy and Deceit
With Notsuran now swearing herself to Tiru as Kakita Notsuran, Lonely Lotus Garden was now in fine hands. This was especially considering that while Kakita Taro, Tiru’s brother, had returned from his own warrior pilgrimage, he was loathe to spend more time at Lonely Lotus than was necessary. While Tiru received an invitation from Otomo Kage to join him at his home, he declined, explaining that he was part of the Crane delegation, and was therefore required to stay at the dwelling they were at, despite Kage’s generous hospitality. While most of the early business at Winter Court was unexceptional, Tiru found himself asked by Doji Akemi to meet her discreetly one night. He guessed correctly that she was informing him that the Doji, specifically Akemi herself, would be calling in the favor that Tiru owed them back when they had allowed Hida Bie to join the Crane Artisan school. It appeared that one of her plays was likely to run afoul of someone to the point she might require an iaijutsu duelist to defend her. When Tiru voiced his thoughts that perhaps those who had an underwhelming showing on the Great Warrior Pilgrimage may have been the ones concerning Akemi, she only replied that if Tiru was concerning herself with Champions, he was considering the wrong one…
Now with the possibility he would have to duel Shoshuro Jimen, Tiru was put in a difficult position. The text that had been recently released, The Danger of the Fated, spoke of the danger he himself could present to the Empire, cementing his new ‘title’, The Dark Crane. That Akemi wished him to defend the truth of her play despite that spoke a great deal of her faith in his ability. Yet Jimen had won the post of Emerald Champion by winning an iaijutsu tournament, even if the methods he used were…varied. Nonetheless, Tiru had a debt to repay, and he would do so.
Word came down from various servants and attendees of the Empress that Orochi Hanako was being asked to come and speak before her in regards to the The Great Warrior Pilgrimage 1173. It seemed that the time was nearing for Tiru to make use of the testimony of Kakita Notsuran, as the former Mantis magistrate was the only person to have met and seen the true Serpent of the East without clan name or title. Either way, whether Notsuran testified for or against Hanako, Tiru would make a great ally, and likely a great enemy as well.
All that was left to do now was wait for the right time…
Winter Court 1173 Ends, The Kenshinzen Avenged
When news returned to Kyuden Doji that Yoritomo Hanako had answered the summons from Shosuro Jimen to appear before the Winter Court, Tiru sought out Doji Akemi. As he had no desire to anger Jimen by defending Akemi, and in light of the fact that Akemi had also aided Tiru before, producing one of her greatest works and including Emma-O, he did not wish for her to run against Jimen’s clear desire to prosecute Hanako. With that in mind, he advised her that it was possible to support The Great Warrior Pilgrimage 1173 with her play as well as her actions, while at the same time not supporting the Mantis, the Orochi, or Hanako herself. In this way, her prestige and her own feelings concerning the bravery of the Crane (as well as those of the Crane Clan Champion’s) would be expressed, while not interfering in Jimen’s agenda, or that of Otomo Kage, who by now was known as the prosecutor of the trial.
As such, Akemi hosted a dinner party, inviting Tiru as well as Doji Kwanchai, who together stood as some of the most influential Crane in the Empire. Across the table were Bayushi Tosen, his wife Bayushi Kita, Bayushi Yoshimi, and Yoshimi’s cousin, Soshuro Iku. Tiru watched silently as gifts were exchanged, including pearls on behalf of Akemi to the assembled Scorpion. While Tosen was rightly suspicious of her sudden opposition to the Mantis as well as her agreement that Shosuro Jimen shouldn’t be opposed in his desire to bring The Tsunami to justice, it became clear that the Crane and the Scorpion once again could work together to further one another’s goals. Shortly after, Hanako arrived at Kyuden Doji and the trial began.
It was clear that she had no intent of answering any questions, countering every word that Otomo Kage said with accusations concerning his own valor and honor. But Tiru’s plan to have the newly sworn Kakita Notsuran testify in favor of Jimen and Kage’s accusations fell apart when The Tsunami revealed that she too had discovered the secret gajin temple on Other Castle Island, and that she believed that the The Empress was nothing more than an imposter! To Tiru’s disbelief, Akodo Sozen, one of The Council of Thunders rose to her defense, putting their entire group in jeopardy! With no one else standing against her, the Empress ordered both Hanako and Sozen taken below Kyuden Doji into its prisons.
Seeing Bayushi Tosen and Isawa Banasu conversing about the shocking event in the courtroom, Tiru would only say that the courage of the Lion had failed that day. Pressed upon what exactly he meant by Banasu, he answered; “Dying is easy. Living is hard.” Implying that it was far easier for an honorable soul to confess to dishonorable acts and die, than to live with the burden of their actions. There was one other person that Tiru had to speak to, before it was too late for it…
He found Yoritomo Hanako in her ‘guestroom’, guarded by four Crane yojimbo, ostensibly for her ‘protection’. After making certain that the only other person to have spoken to her was Kitsu Kosho, he entered…concealing a pair of kama beneath his kimono. Once there, he spoke with Hanako concerning her slight more than a year ago of the Kenshinzen mon he wore, and while there was some talk of meeting outside of the castle, implying that both she and Tiru knew she would manage to escape, Tiru offered to settle things then and there…sliding her both pair of kama so that she would have a fair chance in battle. With a final taunt confirming that she herself had been the one to strike down Kakita Masumune| Kakita Masumune]], the battle began, and ended. After three wind strikes from The Sword of Kalima, Hanako had just enough strength to hurl one of her kama with deadly force.
Crossing the room, Tiru discovered that she still lived, and with a final statement that he was doing her a favor, her ended her life with his katana, before calling for the guard outside. Within a few hours, word had spread; The Serpent of the East was dead, slain by The Dark Crane. Tiru had felt no obligation to Masumune to avenge him, but three students of the Kenshinzen dojo and the dojo itself had been burnt to ashes by Moshi Kikiyo. It was those that now stood avenged. It was also discovered that Akodo Sozen had bested and slain Shosuro Jimen in what appeared to be an honorable iaijutsu duel, to which Tiru reflected was an appropriate end for an Emerald Champion.
Tiru was consulted the day after by Hantei Ryozo, the Empress’ consort and his former student, as to whether or not it was possible for the Yoritomo clan to be attacked and forced back into the Empire, now that the Mantis had disbanded. He agreed with Bayushi Tosen that while it may be necessary, it was not currently possible after the devestating results of the Pilgrimage.
The Empire was left to prepare for the gajin that would one day return, and Tiru was determined to ensure that one way or another, the Crane would be ready to face them…