Winter, 1121, Kyuden Ashinagabachi
‘You did WHAT?!?!’
The small audience chamber reverberated with sound of shouting ringing through its halls. The moment it had begun silence seemed to take the small hold by force as the Lord of the Wasp expressed his displeasure.
‘Of the all the stupid, ignorant, childish things for you to do you do THIS?!’ yelled Tsuruchi, angrily tossing the agreement paper to the ground.
Mukami, his faithful general and up until this moment quite amicable fellow, clutched at his head, shame and a terrible headache ringing through his ears.
‘Ai…sama, not so loud! My head is still sore from the night before.’
‘A night you spent drinking and carousing at our expense!’ Tsuruchi replied pacing furiously, ‘Yes, when I thought that you had done a good job I was pleased with you, I was content to let you rest today! But when I read through some of the other agreements you made…’
‘I did what you asked, we forged stronger ties with the other minor clans. While not a full alliance, it still gives the southern half of Rokugan protection against the so called great clans.’
The silence still stood for a moment, Tsuruchi’s glare boring down on his sore-headed friend.
‘YOU MADE A DEAL WITH THE LION TO TRAIN THEM IN ARCHERY! THE LION! OUR SWORN ENEMY! YOU IDIOT!’
Mukami clutched at his head again at the noise.
‘Yes… I was hoping that wouldn’t come up…’
‘WOULDN’T COME UP?!? DID YOU THINK THAT THE LION WOULD FORGET? THEY SENT AN EMISSARY – HE IS CURRENTLY OUTSIDE OUR CASTLE GATES DEMANDING THE TRAINER THAT WAS PROMISED THEM! HE HAS THE GRAIN AND COIN PROMISED US AND KNOW WANTS TO KNOW WHERE THE SENSEI THAT IS GOING TO TRAIN THE LION IN OUR SECRET TECHNIQUES!’
Mukami thought back to the moment, at least the moment that he could recollect.
‘They had seemed so nice, Tsuruchi-sama. These two Lion were nothing like the Lion that we usually have to deal with. They treated me well, bought me drinks, and offered us things we needed… I thought I was doing the right thing!’
The Lord of the Mantis sighed, his fury ebbing out of him like water out at the tide. He slumped into his make shift throne, not as regal as other castles but hard won and fought for.
‘I have to make good on this agreement now Mukami. Even if it costs us our lives, I must show these samurai that unlike them, the Wasp is good on its word.’
Mukami blinked. He had not seriously considered the ramifications of his actions.
‘But… No sama! I won’t let you do this! I won’t let you give up all that you have to teach them our ways! I would do anything to prevent it from happening!’
A wry smile played itself across the Lord of the Wasp’s face.
‘I was hoping you would say that my friend.’
* * *
The pounding in his head seemed to get worse with each bump his mule made along their path.
‘Are we there yet?’
The Lion suffered him a glance as they lead him from his mountain home to Lion lands, an eight day journey if not longer considering the idiot had brought three mules of belongings with him.
Mukami sighed, took a swig from his water flask and clutched at his head.
And resolved never to drink again.
Winter, 1121, Amaterasu Seido
‘You did WHAT!?!’
The golden light of the sun radiated throughout the temple even as the common shouting match began again in the main prayer chamber.
The Moshi priestesses, used to this particular occurrence, politely excused themselves from the temple and went to pray in the gardens.
Better to bask in the sunlight that to hear another argument between mother and daughter.
‘I made an alliance with the Crane!’ shouted Moshi Wakiza shouted at her mother, ‘They were the only great clan to treat us with real dignity and respect!’
‘The only thing the Crane can be counted on is finding some loop hole around the arrangements they make!’ shouted Moshi Jukio to her daughter, ‘At least you didn’t decide to lend our aid to the Lion!’
‘Don’t judge all the Lion harshly Mother! There was one Lion ambassador who treated me with kindness and dignity.’
Wakiza blushed a little as she remembered how the young Ikoma had genuinely asked her about herself, not about politics or treaties. She had enjoyed it so much.
Jukio however, was not to be fooled.
‘Blushing like some little child past her gempukku! Bah! He was using you, child, just like all the rest to get what he wants! He would put you like a trophy on his arm, a pet falcon to do as he pleases and put you away at night for his own.’
Wakiza scowled at her mother,
‘Not all men are worthless, mother. Some actually have ambition and devotion to their ideals.’
Jukio thought on this for a moment.
‘You are right about that child. The only problem is that you are too young to make sense of one from the other. Perhaps if you would allow some of those I would choose to make suit to you…’
Wakiza snorted, ‘They are all boring! No imagination, no care about how I feel! I want a man who will treat me as an equal not… some Daimyo’s daughter!’
‘This is no pillow book child! This is real life! Should you choose poorly you will regret it for the rest of your life!’
Wakiza dropped her head, looking sullen.
‘I’m not a child mother! I know what I’m doing!’
‘Then stop acting like one and let us continue our discussion on your trip to Ryoko Owari!’
Silence settled for a moment as both women composed themselves.
Jukio looks down to the other information listed.
‘The alliance with the Fox will serve us well. You might have considered going into an alliance with the other minor clans.’
‘I might have had the Wasp envoy seemed inclined to spend his time doing something other than drinking and gambling. Same with the Sparrow.’
Jukio sighed, ‘It is sad to see that some men are incapable of seriousness. However Tsuruchi is unlike his followers. It is a shame you haven’t met him.’
Wakiza merely shrugged.
Jukio straightened. ‘Come spring, I want you to take a journey. We have made agreements that need to be honoured and you are capable enough to be my emissary. I would like you to take some of our priestesses to Shiro Asahina to honour our agreements with the Crane. In exchange, their grain and resources will assist us greatly in the near future. On your way back I want you to spend time with the Fox and then the Tsuruchi, at least three months with each before your return.’
‘But that’s over half a year! Why?’
‘Of all the minor clans, they are the strongest. With Yoritomo declaring himself for the Lion, we cannot be too careful. He may decide that what we have is worth taking. And there will be very little that he would not do if he felt that he wanted it.’
Wakiza nodded, bowed to her mother and turned to leave before hearing
‘Oh and as you still have some time before leaving we will also be discussing your fiery display over the waters of the river of Gold? I believe that a severe penance is in order since you didn’t tell me about your little performance that terrified the people of Ryoko Owari half to death. I am sure we can work something out soon…’
Wakiza ran and didn’t look back.
Winter 1121, Kyuden Tonbo
‘You did what, exactly?’
The Dragonfly advisors in the room seemed to be listless and paced within the room, However sitting on his throne, casually strumming his biawa, Tonbo Toryu, Daimyo of the Dragonfly seemed unconcerned.
‘I did nothing, well not nothing exactly but in the greater scheme of things, I am sure they thought it was nothing.’
The Tonbo gathered around the throne were shaking their heads in amazement.
‘My Lord,’ spoke one, ‘This was an unbelievable opportunity that you have squandered!’
Toryu continued to pluck the strings.
‘All of the Minor clans were represented. Each felt strongly about the terrifying moves of the Lion and Phoenix in their war of kami versus man. This was an opportunity for us to band together and have allies in the coming war that is to rain down upon us!’
Toryu continued to play.
Another advisor began to speak, ‘We have already begun to hear rumours of actions being taken by the other minor clans.’
Delicate notes played out.
‘The Fox have begun gathering their troops and train hard, ready to take action in their allies defence.’
Sounds as whimsical as they are deep.
‘The Falcon have joined the Three Man Alliance as have the Tortoise, making the Southern half of Rokugan a defensible fortress.’
A melody rising and falling like a gentle winds breath
‘Even the Badger have supplies heading to them! All of this was happening around you and you made no headway, no alliances!?!’
The music played on, intricate and serene.
‘We will be crushed underfoot of the other great clans, No one will aid us at our time of need. Why did we have to have someone who cares not for our clan…’
SNAP. The music abruptly stops.
Turning slowly to face the advisors, Toryu glared at them.
‘Our clan has always guided itself by what is right for our clan. I do not believe that this minor clan alliance will work without the support of all the clans. And it does not have that support.’
The advisors tried to speak but Toryu pressed on, taking a step from the throne towards them.
‘The only two clans that we have ever been able to rely on has stated that they will come to our aid should anything happen to us and they ask nothing in return other than we stay out of their affairs. The Dragon didn’t even require that of us, asking only our friendship. The Phoenix didn’t ask that we send armies though I would have gladly given them, nor that we pull the others into this war.’
Toryu takes another step toward them before throwing his biawa down upon the ground before him.
‘Do not presume that I have done nothing, honoured advisors. Do not assume that because I have not followed along like a dog to the whims of others that I do not do what is right for our clan.’
The advisors looked down at the ground, staring at the biawa rather than at the man whom they had offended so.
‘Now I am going to tell you this only once. What I have done is for our best interests at the moment. Should circumstances change then we may change with them. But until then, we have done right by our clan and will continue on until something changes, understood?’
Mutterings of agreement could be heard within the room.
‘Good! Now you may leave – although one of you will need to have my biawa fixed. It seems that one of the strings broke.’
As one the advisors and a hastily retrieved biawa left the room.