Memoires of a Rokugani Magistrate 1
From the Kakita Academy to Shiro Matsu
With all due respect to our ancestors, the Kakita Academy, my friend, is probably the worst named school in the Empire. While the name evokes a large building or a palace, it is essentially an immense and loosely closed garden with various dojo inside. Some are large, some small, all beautiful and functional at the same time, some could barely be called buildings at all, so integrated they are in the natural and not so natural wonders around them. Nevertheless, they are indeed the perfect place to learn, train and study in the best environment possible. Everything around you subtly pushes you to that state of « no thought » so propitious to the arts and of course to the most noble of all : drawing the katana, iaijutsu.
On my fifth day, the 25th Day of the Horse 1104, I was introduced to another student of the dojo and future contestant in the Topaz Championship as well : the rather odd Doji Seiichi. A student of the Kakita school of swordsmanship, Seiichi san is a gifted duellist… and a rather late sleeper. He seems to have friends in all sorts of places and to court trouble with each of them. One never gets bored around him, that’s sure. His sensei is also a strange character but with a sense of danger around him, which is probably very popular with the ladies. Anyway, we were allowed to spar and to train iaijutsu together. Seiichi proved to be a vastly superior duelist and swordsman than I am. While I’m not surprised to be defeated by a student of the first dueling school in the Empire, I have to say that my best efforts seemed rather insufficient in all ways that matter. This was quite a humbling experience and means I will need to concentrate my efforts in improving my mastery of the art of crossing steel with others. I would want to make my late father proud, rather than come to accompany him in whichever realm he is now.
Seiichi san seemed to be well acquainted with Doji Shizue, daughter of Doji Satsume sama. In the evening, he invited me to join on the next day this heiress of the Doji family in an excursion to Tsuma, where we will be competing next year. Such an invitation can of course not be refused and my sensei allowed me to depart. We took some ponies from the Academy and joined the lady, a maiden of her entourage (Kakita Mikko) and a rather sourly Daidoji yojimbo, Mifue san. The ladies had a palanquin and we all rode along. Kakita Mikko proved a pleasant company, even though I strongly suspect that Shizue sama invited her along just to keep an eye on me while she entertained Doji Seiichi. Or to keep me away of them both. My understanding is that their families somehow relied on Seiichi san to keep an eye on Shizue sama, for matters not falling under the yojimbo’s duty. My personal opinion, my friend (and I would appreciate if this little quip strictly stays between you and me), is that this is asking the fox to keep the hens’ coop.
Well, we arrived in Tsuma quickly and took our quarters at the local dojo. Like most dojo in this area, it is technically a part of the Kakita Academy. We were welcome there by a lady called Kakita Ruko, the sensei. We asked her if she could be so kind as to giving us a demonstration in the dojo but she politely refused, arguing that she had twisted an ankle during training. This is another one of these things you’ll really have to keep for yourself, my friend, as many more in this journal, because many people could get hurt by too much gossiping. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that her ankle seemed all right but that her belly was the one of a rather pregnant woman. As you might know, the lady Ruko isn’t married yet…
So instead of sparring, but after exchanging the usual politeness, we went to visit the town. Town is a big word for what is a rather modest settlement. You might know Tsuma mostly from the depictions of the Topaz Championship. But the reality is that outside the time of the tournament, it is a small place. It’s nothing like Zesei Hana Toshi, but then again, nothing is quite like home, isn’t it ? We saw many places of relaxation or pleasure and ended up visiting some. In the evening, Doji Seiichi disappeared, Shizue sama announced she would do some painting by the river and Kakita Mikko and myself took the opportunity to visit the way-station. We were interested in something different, maybe nearer to the life of the ordinary people that us samurai are eventually protecting.
That inn was a rather drab experience, a building full of merchants and ronin, held by a heimin. They served us surprisingly good food. I asked Mikko san if she was interested in sake and she warned me she wasn’t holding alcohol very well. We tried their higher end brand, some obscure thing from the Crab lands, and were in for another surprise. It was absolutely delicious. I inquired were it came from and Mikko san’s answer was another interesting tidbit of information. Believe it or not, this specific brewery is from a place near Three Horse Village, in the Yasuki territory recently hit by a terrible monsoon. You might recall that the new Yasuki daimyo, Yasuki Taka, originates from that place. This had me thinking hard and I would not be surprised if this way-station, in the heart of our Crane lands, is not somehow related, surely indirectly, to our bitter enemies in the South. I did not push the matter with the lady Mikko, as it is not conversation suiting a young woman of good lineage. But I will certainly investigate the issue further.
After a while, we were rejoined by Doji Seiichi san. He indicated to us that some very interesting biwa player would be performing soon. I asked Kakita Mikko if she wanted to hear that musician, as she seemed more and more enjoying my company. However, she told us that the sake had had its usual bad effect on her and wanted to go back to our resting place. We made sure that she was safely accompanied there and continued our chatter while the biwa player started her performance. As usual, the artist seemed mostly interested in my companion… All in all, we had a very pleasant evening and I did not feel too lonely for the loss of female company. In the end, we decided to call it a night and to retreat to our apartments. Crossing the bridge on the small river, we headed towards the dojo.
- : Legends of the Five Rings
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