Last week’s game was perhaps one of the slower ones of the campaign so far, at least from my reckoning. There weren’t too many events that rocked the boat, but the players definitely brought their A-game, leaving me to flounder a bit. I’m hoping to be able to get back on track by next game and not be so slow to react as I was in this session.
Toshi Ranbo’s Merchant Quarters
Doji Satsu sat amidst the pile of reports, looking over them as his sister, Tomiko was quietly sorting them in order of priority. It would seem that his subordinates had been quite busy, taking it upon themselves to resolve the Three Leaves Merchant House issue without consulting him.
He had to admit that they were expedient, however. He also decided that it wasn’t worth investigating too closely as to how his ward, Tezuka had been involved with the ronin’s shenanigans. There were more pressing concerns… most notably the fact that the Three Leaves was soon to discover that they were without a leader.
This meant that whoever might take over was open to being picked up by any of the Great Clans. The siblings had to act fast if they were to retain the Three Leaves as an economic resource of the Clan.
Tomiko knew one of the potential heirs, an art enthusiast by the name of Daigoro. She knew his tastes in art and hatched a plan with her brother.
The Temple of Ebisu
Tezuka was awake at the crack of dawn. He wasn’t the sort to enjoy hard work, but it was difficult to remain asleep when everyone in the temple was tromping about to perform their duties. He’d grown somewhat used to his duties as well, shedding some of his childish features as hard work and a lack of rich foods left him leaner and stronger.
The young Shugenja was attending to his duties, when Willow, the Prostitute that he’d rescued some days before, approached him.
“Young master” She bowed low, “My apologies for my forwardness, but it seems that you are troubled. My training as an… entertainer has taught me to recognize signs of such, and should you need someone to speak to, I would be happy to hear you out.”
Tezuka nodded, “Arigatou, Willow.” he used her stage name, as the young girl did not wish to reveal the name her parents gave her… or simply did not know it. It was a common tragedy that poor girls could be sold off to such establishments under the assumption that they would work to pay off some for of debt for their upbringing and schooling.
She was a reminder to him of just how inherently unfair life was. Still, her position as a prostitute meant that she was effectively outside the celestial heirarchy.
“Your generosity and concern is touching. However I would much rather be alone with my thoughts.” He finished his statement.
Willow nodded, bowing low once again. “Pardon my impertience, young master. I will take my leave now and attend to my duties in the temple.”
Later that day, Tezuka received a different visitor to his temple. He stepped out to find a monk wearing rough commoner’s clothing. The monk bowed low, and addressed the young Shugenja with quiet, measured tones.
“It is quite a surprise to find someone so young already tending to their own temple.” the monk spoke, “I am called Kage, and I come to you as a mendicant monk, and seek succor in your temple, if only for a short while.”
“Greetings, Kage-san.” Tezuka replied, “You shall find a place to rest and meals to be provided for you here. We welcome men of the faith in this Temple.”
“Many thanks, young one.” Kage said, “I have heard much of you from the commoners, and I’ve reason to believe that you are destined for greatness for your talents.”
“Exaggerations, I assure you. Come, I’ll have you shown to your quarters, Kage-san. I’m certain you would appreciate a moment of rest.”
The Merchant Quarter’s Gambling District
“Are you certain about this, Xian-san?” Doji Ai asked hesitantly even as she followed the young Ide diplomat who was guiding the artisan through the crowded streets and the suspicious looks of the commoners. Needless to say, having two young samurai-ko walking into a gambling district was out of the ordinary, but the young Crane held herself with the same dignity and grace in whatever situation.
“Hai, I’m afraid so.” Xian replied as she stepped into one particular establishment, the Fading Chrysanthemum. “This is it.”
Xian had told Ai that the person they were to meet would be here. It wasn’t very difficult to spot the man they were supposed to meet. Iuchi Hayan was a large person, with a bigness of meat as opposed to simply just fat. He laughed loudly as he rolled dice out of a cup, and roared even louder as the assorted ronin and commoners around him groaned at their misfortunes.
“Hayan-san?” Xian interrupted as he was gathering his winnings, “This is Ai-san, the Artisan that I was telling you about, the one that was going to be working on the Unicorn’s gift.”
Hayan looked up, an easy smile on his face. “Really? And what would you want with me then?”
“I wish to know more about your family, and the history of the Iuchi.” Ai replied, undaunted.
“Heh, you’ve come to the wrong Iuchi.” Hayan sneered, “Hasn’t anyone told you that we’re combat shugenja? We don’t sit around telling stories to make ourselves feel better.”
Ai filed that knowledge away. The fact that Hayan was alone, and certainly didn’t seem to be a stranger to physical exertion meant that the claim to be combat-capable wasn’t a lie. She would have to corroborate this information with further research of course.
“I’ll tell you what. Beat me in a game of dice and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.” Hayan offered.
“Hayan-san!” Xian admonished, but Ai simply nodded.
“If that’s the only way to get you to talk about yourself.” Ai smiled, “I’d hate to deprive you of your only means of livelihood after all.”
Hayan laughed, “let’s see your pretty mouth drop insults once you’re several bu lighter!”
Ai on the other hand had a different plan. She could afford to be several bu lighter, as she carefully coaxed out information, asking about this and that as they played. She would lose the gambling, but she gained much more knowledge… especially with regards to the Meishodo amulets of the Unicorn Clan, a special form of magic that allowed them to store spells in items. It was a unique talent of the unicorn, and one that had been developed after learning from the Burning Sands.
Ai smiled as she handed her money to the Unicorn, who at least had the decency to avoid counting it in front of her.
“Arigatou, Hayan-san.” Ai bowed, “I regret not being able to make you a little poorer, but perhaps next time fortune might smile on me.”
“let’s hope so.” Hayan laughed, “I’d start to feel bad if I was taking so much money from you without a fight.”
Xian apologized as they left the gambling house. “Gomen, Ai-san. Hayan is perhaps uncouth, but he is quite skilled.”
“Oh, don’t worry.” Ai smiled, “I got what I came for.”
The Merchant Quarters, Crane Residence
Tomiko and Satsu had invited Daigoro and his wife, Keiko over to the estate for a viewing of Daigoro’s prized artwork. It was a massive show of favor, and Daigoro and Keiko arrived with fear and trepidation at being called in by a Great Clan.
They were met with much hospitality and care, as Tomiko and Satsu went about their work. They viewed his artwork, (with Satsu realizing that one of the most prized pieces, pottery supposedly from the Naga was a fake.)
Later, they sprung their trap. Tomiko led Keiko away, while Satsu feigned an epiphany with the Void, before telling Daigoro that he was destined to lead the Three Leaves Merchant House. Satsu further told him that as an Ishiken, it was his responsibility to see Daigoro’s desinty fulfilled, and so the Crane would be more than happy to continue their sponsorship of the Merchant House.
Stricken with fear and awe at being addressed by an Ishiken, Daigoro was a man who had a near-religious experience, leaving the meeting with a new-found faith and determination to take control of the House.
Satsu and Tomiko shared knowing glances. They’d done their job perfectly.
The Temple of Ebisu
Tezuka ate with the monks, speaking with Kage.
“And how have you been doing with your responsibilities so far, young man?” Kage asked.
“Forgive me, Kage-san.” Tezuka replied, “But it seems that in this place, unlike the Asahina temples, one could get into a lot of trouble by simply opening my mouth.”
“Perhaps, but consider the fact that your talent is wasted here. Locked away simply because others won’t hear you out.” Kage advised, “What use is talent if others ignore it? You owe it to yourself to realize your potential.”
Tezuka listened, not trusting himself to speak just yet, but nodded in understanding.
They would reward his talents by shoving him away in this Temple, out of sight, out of mind. Surely this was an injustice.
The Merchant Quarters, Crane Residence
Ragan was in Satsu’s estate, tending to some of the more meager tasks when he received a message from a servant. He recognized it as being written in Daidoji code, and was surprised to find that it came from Keizo, the Ronin that he’d helped.
In it Keizo informed him that there were Harriers that had survived the purge, and that they were mobilizing. Keizo had sent word ahead that they were planning to destabilize the Crane somehow, but details were far too sketchy to be able to find out what means they had in mind.
The Merchant Quarters Magistrate’s Compound, Prison Building
“First a gambling den, now you’re bringing me to a prison?” Ai was starting to feel just a little put out at this. She may be doing this for the sake of art, but even that had it’s limits.
“My most heartfelt apologies.” Xian said, “But Tai-san has been rather hot headed, and this latest incident…”
“Latest?” A raised eyebrow.
“A-anyway, shall we meet him?” Xian offered.
They entered the prison to find a roguish looking Shinjo samurai leaning against the far wall of a prison. The man had apparently been jailed for brawling with an Ikoma, and was thrown into prison for his trouble.
His clan refused to take a stance in his case, and he was to be presented to the Imperial officer for his hearing in two days. Ai tried to get information from Tai, but the Shinjo was more than a little obstinate.
“Get me out of this prison.” Tai said, “Or let the hearing be favorable to me and then I’ll talk.”
“I can always see another Shinjo.” Ai said flatly.
“I have tapestries, heirlooms from my mother’s side that date back to the days of the Kirin Clan.” Tai offered, “Surely a weaver such as yourself will learn more from there than you possibly could from mere stories.”
That got Ai’s attention. He was right, craftsmen could tell stories of their own with the care an detail, the method of their work. It was a glimpse of a time long gone… and it was in this rogue’s possession.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Good girl.” Tai smiled.
Ai knew that Tai was going to be trouble but the prize was worth it. The tapestry was something that could advance her research by months, and lend her the kind of credibility that could authenticate her work when submitted to the kami Shinjo.
She returned later that night in time for Satsu and Tomiko to call the others to council and address any pressing concerns.
The Merchant Quarters, Crane Residence
The council was a small, informal sort. One where Ai brought up her intentions to Satsu and Tomiko, informing them that she had a special project with the Unicorn, one that could profit both clans, but only if it was successful.
Tomiko and Satsu agreed to hear her case out in private, and were about to adjourn when a messenger arrived with a letter.
Doji Domitai, the Champion of the Crane Clan was coming to visit Toshi Ranbo, and a visit to the Merchant Quarters was on the agenda.
Satsu understood the weight of this as they would have to ensure her safety.
Ragan understood that this could be an opening for the Harriers. Nevertheless he held his peace for now, no use panicking the others yet, not until he had a better idea of what was going to happen.
Satsu dismissed the group then, and he and Tomiko spoke with Ai, hearing out her objective. They agreed that a gift to the kami Shinjo was certainly out of the ordinary, and said that they would try and find a means to get a favorable result of Tai’s hearing… through the Imperial officer in charge of that case, a certain Otomo Masote.
And this is where we ended the session this week. As I said it was a little slower paced, but I’m hoping that I get to pick up again soon. We’ve got a few interesting developments here, with Kage’s arrival and Doji Domotai’s eventual arrival. Word of the Harriers is always a bad thing as well. Doji Ai has her hands full trying to coax information out of the Unicorn, especially since the clan ill understands her requirements in order to create the kimono she was talked to weave.
At this point there’s a lot of potential, and maybe things will start sliding out of control, but we don’t know for certain. My players are all very used to politics it seems and are all capable of keeping more than a few balls up in the air with little effort. Let’s see how things turn out next week.