My dear sensei Kenji, Sorry I have not sent a letter in a few days. My time at Doji Haruki’s home was interrupted and I haven’t had the time to write. You were right. Very soon after I began my travel on my own the winds of the fortunes of course blew my plans off course. Luckily, as you taught me I was expecting such changes of plans and was prepared for them. As I traveled alone to Doji Haruki’s home to rest on my way to the Bon Festival I did as you had taught me, listening to the stories the world around me is trying to tell. I shared a couple mid-day meals with workers from rice fields. There is much insight to be found in the daily labors of the empire that often go unnoticed.
My days’ travels passed mostly as you and I had always traveled. I walked slow to take things in and paused every couple hours for a few moments to find something new, or read a passage, to contemplate as I walked.
I was pleased when I got to Doji Sama’s home to see that the fortunes had gathered some companions with which to travel. The little Moshi Akemi was there, and it was nice to see her again. She seems spoiled to me, but something about her reminds me of my little sister. It has a way of making you protective of her… like when I used to let my little sister win at Go. There is another shugenja that joined us as well. She is from the phoenix clan. She must be very in tune with the Kami as she seems perpetually distracted, as if they constantly whisper in her ear. I hope she is getting the best training because surely that level of distraction would lead to insanity over time. There is a young courtier from the scorpion clan with us. He has been very quiet thus far not sharing much of himself with the rest of us, but he has done an amazing job navigating the hurdles we have faced recently traveling between different cities who were not on the best of terms with one another. His name is Shoshuro Kenzo, and I think while in court I may stick close to him. You know how nervous I am in at formal events and the like…I just hate the dance of lies, half truths, and false niceties that take place at those things. There is a crane who is very very flashy, even for a crane. So much time spent preening at first I thought he was trying to start his own peacock clan. Aside from that he is humorous and usually a joy to be around. We now travel with another, more down to earth, crane as well but more on that in a bit. Haybusa, the traveling ronin who we’ve met on our travels in passing from time to time, I was surprised to see was also at Doji Sama’s home also on his way to Bon Festival festivities at Seppun Ayamu’s estates. He is as loud and brash as ever. It is sad to me the way he seems to constantly be trying to gain the approval of those around him. I hope he learns what so many of the brotherhood monks we have met learned, that peace and joy does not come from a family name or the esteem of others, he will only find it when he is fine with who he is.
We sat around the tea house on our second day here enjoying getting to know those we had not yet met, and catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. It was quite fun and we begun in the late afternoon/early evening to retire to our very luxurious quarters at the estate of Doji sama. As we approached the estate we heard a cry come from a welcoming foryer. When we entered a very disheveled and upset Doji Haruki was crouched over an empty sword stand. I had noticed the very fine swords that were displayed on the stands when I had arrived the day before. He took a moment to compose himself in private I didn’t notice but little akemi took a moment to come in. She said she had asked the kami what was going on outside while the others, and myself, ran fool-hearty into the room. She said the kami were acting very strange, what very few were present at all. Our distracted phoenix confirmed.
Hayabusa and myself noticed someone had entered through the window and Hayabusa noticed they had exited the same way and headed west. Doji sama told us he had received the swords as a gift from Seppun Amyamu and he could not go to the Bon Festival and say they were lost. I excused myself and asked that when they made ready to give chase if Hayabusa please bring a horse for myself to ride into town, as I was going to go talk to the gate guards. The first guard I cam to was an idiot who misunderstood my question so I continued towards the west end of town hoping that the guard on the otherside was less a fool. I ran into a lower level samurai I had had a small conversation with in the tea house earlier walking down the street as I passed. Our previous conversation had convinced me he was a fairly astute man and even drunk he told me he had seen an attractive woman riding far to fast to not be on the run to the west. The others caught up to me before I reached the other end of town.
I am still bothered by what we found there, and that was nothing. The guard was missing and I think perhaps the woman who fled killed him… though we never found a body or sign of blood he was just completely absent, and no sign of him was ever obtained. If she murdered this guard it makes me a little ashamed of how things ended up. I hope to ask Doji Sama when we get to the Bon Festival if any sign of this guard was found and perhaps before I send this letter to you will have a relieving post script on that to add.
In anycase we rode through the night, crossing over into crab lands. We ran upon a Crab patrol (I will admit I was afraid the ronin would do something brash). Shoshuro Kenzo was able to plead our case and we were taken to their village. They had recently been raided by goblins and much in the way of repairs were needed. It broke my heart to see how the Crab suffer for the empire and I wanted to pitch in, but time was limited. We picked up the trail of the thief again at the inn. She had stayed the night. The ronin and I went outside to block any window exit while the others went to apprehend her in her room. We noticed she had already gone, and the others confirmed. It seemed she had run off into the hills, which I had read were filled with bandits. Perhaps it was a simple theft after all..but not a usual bandits style to ride more than a day from their home to steal an item they could hardly sell I would imagine.
We caught up to the thief but as we did we watched her destroy the swords. As we had traveled Moshi had told us that the kami said something dark had passed before us, and we were fairly certain that the swords were the cause of both the kamis strange actions back at doji samas home and what the kami along the path had experienced. Because of this it wasn’t such a shock when we saw that the destructive thief was a Seppun trained for destruction of tainted items. While Kenzo tried to convince her to give us the blades she was shot from behind a hill with arrows. While the phoenix shugenja saw to her wounds I noticed Akemi scrabbling up the hill. At this point we also found we had been followed by another Crane, an iron warrior, who quickly joined to assist us. I, always feeling th e protective older brother, scrabbled quickly up the hill ahead of Akemi and found an ambush awaiting for anyone coming around the hill on the other side. While the two crane and the ronin headed around the hill I tried to shout a warning and indicate the number of people awaiting them on the other side. Once Akemi reached the top, always one to surprise, she seemed to call down the entire anger of osono wo to confuse and deafen the ambushers. Then she and I engaged the two who had taken the shots. Soon they were all dealt with and we found that the scorpian had immobilized the Seppun. We had learned before that while she thought she had destroyed a tainted item she had doubled the number of tainted items, as the taint remained. We could not, in good conscious, return the blades tainted to Doji Sama nor tell him he had been given a tainted gift. That could create a rift of honor that could lead to open hostilities. We returned to the crab villiage. Such villages which face constant barrages from the evils of the world and the shadowlands keep ghost hunters around, and we knew they would know what to do. The sword had to be reforged and that took time. That is why I am so long between letters. While we waited for the reforging of the swords I helped in what ways I could to help repair the town. I also helped give advice to the few who would take it on better ways to arrange their homes to increase better good chi flow….maybe it will help deter goblin attacks, but I doubt it. I do think the local brewer will be surprised at how pleasant his customers remain from now on and how much more money they spend.
During this time, through objects found on the bandits, we found that in fact they had been ordered to kill her and take her all weapons….and we are fairly convinced that person is at the very least from Seppun Amayu’s estate. Once the blade was reforged we found that it had been possessed by a spirt of a hungry dead. We don’t know what the poor spirit wanted revenge for, but we did loose him from the mortal coil and I hope he finds peace.
As I write this we travel directly from the Crab village to the estate of Seppun Amayu. We got word to Doji Haruki that he should meet us there and we would bring the didoji. Hopefully he will make excuses for our tardiness. This puts us in a precarious situation. It seems most likely, my short time in magistrate training and life under my father’s roof tells me, that the Seppun woman was most likely sent by some one from Seppun Amayu’s own house. Therefore it is most likely that someone at the home of Seppun Amayu knows that the gifted blades were cursed, making them a potential danger and the gift giving a potential mark on the honor of Seppun Amayu. If any details of this ordeal were to become public knowledge it could be damaging to all involved. If someone is aware of the swords previous condition then when we bring the swords back untainted it will be very obvious to whoever laid this plan out that we know too much. We will become a risk….but perhapes that will force them to play a risky maneuver. In Go loosing your focus and feeling trapped can often lead to stupid mistakes…hopefully they will be made before any of us suffer.
We let the Seppun woman go, which is a concern as we did not find out who informed her of the where abouts of the swords or that they were tainted. I feel that Seppun Amayu will want to know who attempted to steal his gifts…though if he doesn’t that tells us a great deal. Further, I know the law says that she should be brought to Doji Haruki to explain herself and to Seppun Amuya as she tried to steal his gift. If Doji Sama has been truthful with Seppun Sama about why we are late there could be great and unhappy discussions about why we didn’t bring this woman to him. Seppun Amuya is very tight with the emperor and such an oversight could look very bad on us. There could easily be suggestions that we colluded with this woman for some nefarious means. As things stand no one need suffer dishonor. But, in this case I fear that whoever sent her will be at Seppun Amayu’s home for the feast and bringing her puts her at risk. It would not be fair to her to bring her to answer for her actions now, and as we know the law is not always fair, and what is proper and fair is not always the law. Further, bringing her in and forcing her to answer for her actions would force us to be completely open about the state of the blades when we found them. While I both the bringing of her to Seppun Amayu and the discussion of state of the blades could be done with care, we do not know who Seppun Sama might confide in, and if the information got to the wrong people it could again lead to open hostilities and improper accusations of errors of honor. Bringing the swords back untainted and mentioning nothing of it outside our circle will allow us to hold a few ma-jong tiles that should be a boon to us. We will be able to see who holds the matching tiles and know they were the snakes waiting to strike the whole time.
Well Sensai it seems we are saddliing back up now. I will send this letter as soon as we reach Seppun Amuya’s estates and do my best to keep you updated. I hope all is well with you in the temple and until next we meet may the winds of fortune keep you safe, but not so safe as to be uninteresting.