Memoires of a Rokugani Magistrate 3
Our hero had been invited to visit Shiro Matsu, a rare honor…
And finally yesterday, 1st Day of the Goat 1104, a gong announced that our Lion “hosts” had arrived in front of the open gate. Matsu Agetoki himself, on his steed and followed by five retainers was standing outside, at attention. We prepared our own ponies and joined him as soon as it was polite, together with our Crab guests and the monk Todoshi on his quixotic cart. As usual, lady Shizue and Kakita Mikko were in the middle of our small caravan in a palanquin, always shadowed by the yojimbo Daidoji Mifue. The trip was uneventful, spare for the bragging of the Lion officer and Hida Miko on and about their bigger mounts. We learned the taisa of the Second Matsu Army had taken his from the slain daughter of the Utaku Battle Maiden leader in a border skirmish near Kaeru Toshi (the gaijin call it the City of the Rich Frog). This is a feat of importance which certainly did not make him any friends outside of the Lion Clan.
Shiro Matsu and the Lion lands are not particularly pleasant. While the plain around it is fertile enough, it is constantly trampled by the armies of the Lion marching around, to and from it. It is a flat land, without any of the care and attention to esthetic that you encounter in our own territory. The castle is a massive mountain of stone and wood. It was built by the Kaiu engineers and their craft can be recognized at every corner: drab but supremely functional and militarily efficient. There was of course a welcoming committee with important Lion officials, amongst which Akodo Kage, the famous sensei, Ikoma Ujaki, the son of the late Ikoma daimyo and current karo of the Matsu one, and of course various other sensei and officers in the Second Army. You might remember that the father of Ujaki, Ikoma Sada, was recently slain in battle duel by our Doji daimyo… We were introduced to Matsu Sakura and Akodo Furuyama. Both are future contestants in the Topaz Championship, so we had brought presents. Doji Seiichi impressed with thoughtful and well turned poems. I had decided to avoid sculptures for once and instead I had painstakingly copied the first chapter of the ancient Law treaty written by the Scorpion Saibankan, in two identical sets. I offered each one to each contestant, explaining that as a modest trainee I could offer nothing worthy of their much higher status and fame. But that as fellow contestants in a championship, which has for clear purpose to pick future magistrates, we were all somehow equal in preparation and thus an equal gift of the best legal knowledge was most appropriate. None of them sounded offended, which made me think they bode well…
We were shown our apartments, more like prison cells really, and went to sleep early, save for Seiichi who had a late night conversation with Shizue sama (according to Kakita Mikko). Doji Shizue, a famous storyteller already, had performed for the higher lords and sensei in the castle, some kind of founding story about how Lord kami Akodo met the lady Matsu. Then today, we woke up just as early to go run around the castle with the troops. That drill was exhausting but I managed to follow. Then we went to the dojo. Hida Miko fought Matsu Sakura with a practice ono. Although the fight wasn’t as unbalanced as it could have been, since the Lion is untrained with this weapon she still bowed in front of the Crab superiority. I did the same against Doji Seiichi again, as his boken was too much of a match for mine. And I ended up fighting Hida Miko with my jitte, just to see if I would manage to disarm the huge thing. I did, but just barely and this was an exhausting fight. During this time, Akodo Furuyama fought his own brother Ichiro successfully, then clearly threw away a duel with Seiichi san out of boredom, it seems. We are now heading for a quick restoration before the afternoon hunting party…
From Shiro Matsu to Kyuden Ikoma.
My friend, it has been such a long time, or so it seems. The way of the traveler is filling not just with the vast spaces of the Lion Plains, but also with so many events and feelings… I didn’t tell you in my last letter, but I got a brilliant idea last week. After the hunting party, I tried to find Akodo Furuyama. As I might have told you already, he is the son of a Lion magistrate and a Kitsuki lady. There are rumors of course, and these shouldn’t be repeated, that he might have learned about the controversial Kitsuki method. How exciting (and slightly scandalous for such a traditional Lion family)! What’s more than a rumor though, is the fact that he is destined to join Emerald Magistrate Matsu Yaruga sama as a yoriki, after successfully passing his gempuku. Furuyama was kind enough to send a message to the Lion magistrate and he accepted to meet me and some of our friends. I invited them all for sake at the best (and only) inn of Shiro Matsu. Kuni Sakura was especially helpful and soon we were all treated to excellent sake and no less excellent and more importantly educational stories of the honorable magistrate. I ensured Furuyama san that I would always be in his debt for this wonderful evening.
We received another invitation, via Doji Seiichi of course, to go visit the Otaku lands. My understanding is that some of his former relations is stationed there, or betrothed to some noble man. His relations are as numerous are they are complicated. But maybe I am too simple a boy to understand the affairs of my betters. Since we were going to go via Kenson Gaka, we stayed a last day and night at Shiro Matsu. This went quite wonderfully for me: you might remember me mentioning the exquisite Kakita Mikko. We took the opportunity of the entire castle going to the morning training run to have some intimacy. Let’s just say that we did exchange fans and that I wrote her a wonderful poem, or so she was kind enough to say. To my surprise, her fan was full of these scribbled and nearly undecipherable notes that courtiers keep of their daily encounters. As entertaining as instructive… We left in the afternoon of the 3rd Day of the Goat.
The fair maiden left,
Her delightful scent remains,
Promises of joy.
We passed and camped at Michi Sano Tozen no Fukuchu (you might remember the Memorial of the Battle of the Bloody Retreat, from the Second Iuchiban War, for the Scorpion and Lion samurai who fell there fighting for the Emperor). I went a bit outside the camp to find flowers for Kakita Mikko. Hida Miko was accompanying me (which means I was probably the safest child in a 50 li radius). I found a couple of interesting types, especially a big purple one, which I brought back. I gave another one to Miko to put in her hair, but she didn’t understand the idea. A bit frustrated with her lack of comprehension, I ended up telling her she could use it as camouflage. This was of course meant in jest, since the poor lady is so massive, but she took it rather seriously, which ended up creating an argument with Seiichi san. This was my own fault for interfering in other people’s affairs again, I suppose. Hida Miko also tried a bit of hunting, found some big ape tracks, and captured alive a rather cute squirrel. Kakita Mikko was quite amused with the flower. She confided in me that it was a plant use to create some drugs. I was a bit embarrassed and made a note to myself to get some knowledge into herbalism before innocently getting into trouble again. In any case, my courting with Kakita Mikko seemed to be going perfectly as she proved to me that very night. You will forgive me if I don’t go into more details. Discretion is after all a virtue as well. Let me just say that I used the rest of my free time working on a stone. The idea is to make a rose flower. I have heard that some are created naturally in the desert, either by the winds or some kind of underground process, far beyond the Unicorn territories…
- : Legends of the Five Rings
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