Crashing to the floor, jolted awake by the impact, the young scribe Otomo Hiroshi awoke with a start.
It was dark in the room, night had overtaken the day and it seems as though sleep had caught up with him at last.
Carefully he pawed around the room, wiping the sleep from his eyes, wondering if his world was ending. Slowly his hand found his small writing candle and lit it. The tiny fire burned bright throughout the darkened room, comforting warmth amidst the calamities that had befallen the Empire of late.
He looked tired, haggard amidst the scrolls that lay scattered around the room, ink dripping from his kimono sleeves – a product of falling asleep amidst his work.
He allowed himself a small giggle.
I fell from my desk dreaming I had lost a hand! He thought to himself.
He looked back upon the writing desk, re-reading some of what he had already written.
The last few days had been traumatic.
The Crab’s assault, the Emperor’s death, Satsume’s seppuku.
All of these things had destroyed much of what the clans and the people thought and believed about the Emperor. Gone were the days of the unassailable Emperor. Gone is the safety of the Imperial Status by virtue of their blood.
He looked up at the last entry he had written before his collapse.
… Kisada chained before the majesty of the Imperial Throne.
Standing beside the Empress, The Imperial Chancellor, Asahina Yumiko and Imperial Advisor, Bayushi Kachiko stood, Crane and Scorpion united in solidifying a lasting peace.
The Imperial Herald motioned for quiet in the room addressing the assembled esteemed members to hear the Empress, her child upon her lap, give her proclamation.
It never happened.
What did occur was as unexpected to me as the death of the glorious Emperor XXXVIII, long may Tengoku heed his wisdom!
The doors to the chamber opened and in strode a Lion samurai and Phoenix samurai. Both appeared young, their names while not unknown, were still not the most highly sought, striding in like men of twice their station!
Between them stood the lost Imperial heir Hantei Sotorii-sama.
He appeared as if reprising the very first Hantei himself. Though only young he bore the countenance of a man who had seen battle, a man who has experienced much in a small amount of time. Resplendent and bathed in the loving light of lady Amaterasu, he confidently strode to the dais, his advisors never leaving his side.
A tension hung in the air, a tension of apprehension, dispelled as soon as the young Heir reached the dais. He showed the respect due to the Empress and his small brother, young and destined for a great life, bowing low in respect.
He then addressed the crowd of courtiers, champions and leaders.
In light of the circumstances he announced his intention to return to the Lion in order to complete his gempukku.
“ No heir should be worthy of ruling an Empire as glorious as the one left behind by my father, the Topaz Emperor, that has not under gone the rite of ascension that is gempukku.” He proclaimed.
Then he turned to his mother, the Empress of Rokugan. He advised her that in this time that he would entrust the Empire for the next five years until he has returned an adult ready to rule.
He did however have some proclamations that were to be enacted upon now, with his mother’s consent.
Clearly shocked at this unprecedented display, the Empress nodded her ascent.
His proclamations to the assembled crowed are truly a measure of the divine inspirations of the heavens!
His first was to pardon the Crab Clan for their role in their attack on Otosan Uchi, citing their loyalty to their champion was not misplaced, but Kisada’s faithlessness was.
To the Hida samurai however his justice would not be swayed.
“Henceforth, for the crimes committed by Kisada, the Hida Family shall be banished from the Empire. The only exception to this is the lady Hida O-Ushi, who valiantly fought to save my father and redeemed herself by capturing her father. To her and the other Crab that have stood with my father, should they have been Hida, they will be able to join any of the other Crab families and continue their service.”
In place of the Hida, the Hiruma would rule their more militaristic cousin and the Ujina family will be disbanded.
Of their lands, the Scorpion and the Crane will have returned to them what is theirs and more besides. Perhaps with their assistance on the wall, the Crab will never again forget their duty.
Murmurs of consent echoed around the chamber. Kisada himself, sullen and humbled bowed before the young Sotorii, muttered something to the prince before he was lead out of the hall.
The second proclamation was for the abolishment of the Asahina family.
“While it is true that the Crane have been loyal and trustworthy, the deception and treachery was born of the supposed pacifists. It is clear that their agenda has been to poison Satsume against the man that was like a brother like him and I have clearly heard testimony from reputable samurai concerning the conspiracy of Asahina samurai acting against the Empire. They have consorted with the Ujina Brothers who poisoned the Crab and summoned Oni.”
“Worse still they wormed a servant to the highest level and murdered my father.”
Gasped shocks and cries erupted throughout the hall. The Imperial Chancellor Asahina Yumeko dropped to her knees in supplication for mercy for her people.
At this the prince added his addendum, “Yumiko- san. For your service – you and your brother – to the throne, you are to stay in your position and keep your name. You shall be the last of the Asahina, the last of that accursed bloodline.”
The cries in the chamber died down as the Chancellor bowed and returns to her place behind the throne, her composure returned.
Still the young Heir continued.
“In place of Shinden Asahina, I believe that my father’s vision of a unified Empire was not in vain. His Topaz Magistrates will need a place to call home. To this end a new palace shall be constructed, the Palace of the Topaz Champion. Here all new Topaz Magistrates will watch over the Empire with a new champion, to be determined by contest open to any and all. Let not rank of samurai deny entry to champion these brave magistrates. Let it be by virtue of their skills.”
Then in his third and final proclamation and much to the surprise of everyone, he asked that Satsume be allowed to commit seppukku and that the shrine to courage be reconcecrated.
“This man was run afoul by those that would seek to destroy his good name. Others used him, manipulated him, corrupted him. Yet my father loved him and cared for him. For this reason should he not be the man that my father found worthy then in Tengoku he shall face my father and all the heavens for his sins! But should he be forgiven, the heaven will truly show the wisdom of our hearts.”
He then offered the position of Emerald Champion back to Kitsuki Yasu.
However to much surprise, shock and simple amazement, the Kitsuki Daimyo not only refused the position but strode out of the hall without another word!
However the young Heir, unperturbed by this, told his surprised mother to organise for a new one. A tournament held on the plains of Thunder once more.
With his business concluded, the young Heir had begun to leave when a brash young shugenja interrupted the proceedings.
Shiba Ayumu, a descendant of the Hare clan, raised his voice to supplicate the young heir.
“What of the Minor clans? What of those that have been loyal to the throne but harmed so greatly by Asahina and Hida both? Would you abandon that loyalty?”
Young Sotorii, clearly expecting something of this nature, nodded his head thoughtfully.
“In this time of war” he began, ”the minor clans have tried valiantly to protect the Empire when others would not. In understanding this, none can deny their bravery in the face of adversity. In accordance to this, let the Hare clan be restored once more, the name of Usagi being granted to it’s leader and to those that follow him and any who wish to join them may. I shall expect your new daimyo’s oaths to be sworn to my Mother in my absence.”
Then as if nothing had even transpired, Hantei Sotorii- sama, The next Emperor of Rokugan, simply left, still accompanied by his small entourage of Phoenix and Lion samurai.
The Empress, now regent, disbanded the court to be reconvened in several days time to discuss the next Tournament of the Emerald Champion.
Slowly he placed his parchment down. His mind, still filled with the momentous occasion, acted on instinct. He slowly rose, gently making his way to the small window and stared out toward the moonlit sky.
As it shone so brightly in the sky, he gazed out at the Imperial palace, the city of Emperor, the heart of the Empire and still had to surpress another small giggle, a realisation making him giddy even in the still of the night.
Even in this tumultuous time, it’s perils and hazards amid the chaos of conspiracies and violence, where innovation and change faced traditionalism and isolationism, where so many have died in such sorrow and tragedy. To live in these times, to experience it all, is to truly be not only thankful to the heavens for such opportunities, but in truth it makes it worth living!
Laughter echoed out into the night, the mirth of a man who has survived only to wonder what the future will hold.
May I always live in interesting times!