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Sun and Storms

Here is a "Legend of the Five Rings" inspired story that I've written. If I think it's good enough, I'll post it to their community some time soon and see what people familiar with the storyline think. Oh, and I do know what happens next ... I just thought this was a good place to end it for now. Let me know what you think (and any spelling errors, et al).

The drumbeat of waves crashing against the shore reminded her that the sea was not so far away. With a storm out at sea nearby, the walls of Kyuden Gotei seemed like no protection at all. This morning she had asked Lord Sun for his protection in her morning prayers, but this day would belong more to the Thunderer. Not the best omen for her mission, but she had no choice in the matter. She could not wait for a better time and place, but neither could the one she sought this day, the daughter of Wakiza.

This place was so different from Kyuden Moshi, from the opulence of the decorations to the nuances of the color schemes. The Moshi family mixed the golden color of the sun into their patterns, while here the gold was used more as a display in its own right.

Moshi Tomoe pushed her hair back over her shoulder. After years of having the curls brushed out of her hair, letting it stay wavy was taking some getting used to. The servant at the small palace the Moshi maintained nearby had been surprised when Tomoe sent her away.

The guard said, "She is her father's daughter ..."

"That still does not explain why she is out in a kobune when there's a storm coming in," retorted Tomoe in a biting tone.

For not the first time in this conversation, the guard sighed before answering her question. “When the champion of the Mantis decides she wants to be at sea, she goes out to sea. Many ships have already left port to flee before the storm.”

The image that comment drew up in her mind only heightened Tomoe’s frustration, but her voice only gained a hint of coldness. “Then I should commend you on the fine job you are doing of protecting her, for I’m sure you can tell which speck on the horizon happens to be her kobune.”

Another sigh preceded the response. “Actually, no, I cannot tell. And I am performing my duties as commanded. When she left, she told me to permit none to enter her quarters. No visitors, no missives, no gifts, no ...”

If she could get no satisfaction in finding Kumiko, she would take some pleasure from verbally browbeating the man. “Well, she could have also commanded you to say that she was not here, for no one could enter the room to prove otherwise.” There was nothing he could say to that, and she took some small victory in his sputtering. But there was something he had said that suddenly stuck out in her mind. “Wait, did you say no gifts?”

Given the opportunity to change the topic the guard jumped at the chance. “Yes. No one can leave gifts in her quarters, though they can be left with me to give to Yoritomo-sama upon her return.”

This was an intriguing development. Tomoe had to know more. “Did she command this of you? Was she expecting to receive some kind of gift?”

“Well, no. I cannot let anyone enter, but I could not just turn away what is rightfully hers.” He remained very distrustful of her after the way their exchange had gone thus far.

That was the answer Tomoe expected. “So she has received a gift, then?”

“No, Kakita-sama would not leave it with me. He said it was too important and personal not to give in person. I didn’t want to …”

“A Crane?” She cut him off before he could continue. “There was a Crane here?”

The guard knew he had been outfoxed, but it was too late to retract anything. “Hai. Sama.”

From the curt tone, Tomoe knew that was the last information she would get from this man. Guards were not selected for duty based on their political prowess, but most knew when to keep silent. And silent he might have stayed from the start had he not been in the mood to talk with someone. Still, this was a fascinating development. These were the Mantis Isles; the list of Crane samurai nearby was going to be short, the list of Kakita samurai would be even shorter. Duelists of the Kakita family were known to go on warrior pilgrimages seeking challengers worthy to fight but most stayed on the mainland of Rokugan. This man was definitely no simple courier. More than that fascinated her. Any man seeking to deliver a gift, and a personal gift at that, to Yoritomo Kumiko would bear some investigation. He might even be ... suitable.

“Thank you for the information.” She took one last jab at the guard’s expense. “I’ll have to discuss it with Kumiko-sama when I get the opportunity.” In a practiced flourish, she turned and started walking away before the guard could even respond, leaving him to only bow at her back as she departed.

She returned to the streets of Kyuden Gotei with as much purpose as she had arrived, albeit with a different immediate target in mind. This was her kind of prey. She was no master of the yumi as were the Tsuruchi, but she still had skills as a hunter of men. This search was not to be a difficult one, as there was no shortage of heimin who had seen the proud Kakita walk by. She couldn’t deduce who it could have been, as all eyes eventually turned to his saya and the blades therein. The dark scabbards stood out plainly against his pale blue clothing, drawing even more attention from the man to his swords. He also had a quick stride, for even at a good pace she found herself unable to get any closer to him. At least his direction was fairly consistent. Had he been a local or more knowledgeable about the city’s layout, there was any number of cross-streets he could have taken by now. That was no large surprise. It would have been admittedly rare for a Kakita swordsman to have much concern about pursuit that intended him any harm.

He had no fear of being followed. That much was plain. No, there was something else to it. Could it be that his natural agility simply made him walk faster? She couldn’t run after him; that would be unseemly. Still, she wasn’t about to let him get away. First, if his motives were as she suspected, he might yet be someone of great interest to the Moshi family, and the Mantis clan as a whole. Second, she needed to vent her frustration and avoid the temptation of standing at the docks until every last kobune returned to port, storm or no storm.

Just around a corner she spotted a bright flash of blue standing out amongst the browns and greens of the townspeople going about their business and preparing for the storm to come ashore. He was outside a sake house, the Golden Plum. She stopped, standing near the corner to observe him more closely without drawing his attention too quickly. He had not gone in directly. This pleased her, for no man enslaved to alcohol would have paused for a moment and she was already drawing up the measure of this samurai.

Clad in blue and standing proud, he did blend in like a crane among insects, she mused. His hair was dark, very different from most Cranes she had seen before. The majority of those had been at court, enabling no certain comparison to this traveler away from his home. From being among so many Cranes of the Doji family she had come to expect that white hair was a requirement. Maybe rarer still, he did not subscribe to such rigid definitions of style. It would be no surprise a Kakita would pay more attention to his blade and sword arm than to his head.

With an expressionless face the Kakita entered the sake house. It was plain to see he was going in for duty, not entertainment. And that meant he had business with someone inside. She had been hoping he would go back to one of the Crane-owned houses, but here he could be meeting anyone. She hoped it wasn’t business to be settled by a blade, for her curiosity and the thrill of the chase were already leading her to walk through the doorway.

- Pookah

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