L5R RPG : The Shadow of Hoken
Dangerously beautiful Crane duelist
|Air: 3||Earth: 2||Fire: 2||Water: 2||Void: 3|
|Honor: 6.5||Status: 1||Glory: 1|
|School/Rank: Kakita Bushi 1||Insight: 138|
Advantages: Benten’s Blessing, Sacred Weapon (Kakita Blade), Strength of the Earth
Disadvantages: Lord Moon’s Madness, Secret Love, Bitter Betrothal
Skills: Kenjutsu 3, Iajutsu 3, Kyujustsu 3, Defense 2, Sincerity 1, Etiquette 2, Courtier 1, Tea Ceremony 1, Investigation 1, Lore: Heraldry 1
Weapon 1: Kakita Blade (Attack: 6k3, DR: 7k2, Can reroll damage once per duel, +1k1 damage per Void point spent)
Weapon 2: Yumi (Attack: 4k3, DR: 5k2/4k1)
Armor: Light Armor (TN: 25, Reduction: 3)
Kakita Yuuta’s eyes narrowed and a bead of sweat traced a burning trail along his temple. His arms trembled with fatigue. Yet as he attained the center stance, his exhaustion flowed away, leaving him empty and perfectly focused on his opponent.
For her part, she gave no sign of strain. Her face was beautifully composed: eyes shut, lips slightly parted, not the slightest twitch to betray her intent. Her maiden’s foxtail had come half-undone during their sparring and now her snowsilk hair drifted against her cheek. Yuuta focused on her hand, watching for a sign that she was readying her strike…
And as always, it was over before it truly began. His wooden katana was free and whistling upward, aiming for her side. She was faster. The edge of her practice blade slid along his sleeve as she darted past. His sword buried itself in the empty air.
“I am done, sempai!” he cried, resisting the impulse to throw his practice katana against the dojo’s boarded floor. “Why can’t you practice with a student your own age?”
Doji Mitsuki ran her delicate hand along the edge of the practice sword once before resheathing it. When she turned to face him, her dangerous, beautiful, implacable face was full of laughter. “Because, Yuuta-kun, none of the others are half as skilled as you are. Most of them don’t even get the chance to draw.” She crossed the floor to rest a hand on his shoulder. “I’m only winning because I’m a full year older.”
Yuuta smiled. At thirteen, he was too young to verbalize the effects her powers of persuasion had on him, but he could feel himself relax. “You’ll win the duel tomorrow for sure, sempai,” he crowed. “No way that Bayushi baka stands a chance against you.”
“Yuuta-kun, language!” Mitsuki admonished. “I wouldn’t underestimate the Bayushi. Their training is different than ours, but they are still incredibly fast.” She stretched, rising on her tiptoes and causing the younger boy to gulp. “You’re right, though, we’ve done enough for the evening. Let’s head to sleep.”
The last full moon of the year was just rising through the snow-covered trees of the Tsuma Kakita gardens. Mitsuki gazed up at it as they crossed the dojo grounds, her face pensive. Yuuta watched her watching the moon, chewed his lip for a moment, and essayed:
“The last moon rises
above the barren branches
Mitsuki laughed. “That’s terrible!” She cuffed gently at his head, but he could see that something was still weighing on her mind.
“What is it, sempai? What’s wrong?”
The older girl sighed, tucking her hands into the sleeves of her kimono. “Yuuta-kun, do you ever feel like…like there is something you should be doing, but you’re not sure what it is?” The girl’s sapphire eyes turned back toward the moon. “Like you are being called to a destiny and your life isn’t entirely your own…and…and it frightens you, because you’re not sure whether that destiny will be good or evil.”
Yuuta thought for a moment. “Oh, sure, like when Kakita Hideo wakes me up in the morning…I’m being called, but I’m never sure if I’m going to spring awake with a ‘good morning sensei!!!’ or if I’m going to throw my sandals at him.”
Mitsuki looked at him and blinked. “Yes…yes, it’s something like that, Yuuta-kun.” She sighed again and shook her head, then attempted the ghost of a smile. “In any case, it’s nothing, I’m sure. I will see you in the morning, Yuuta! Be ready to be my second!”
“I will, sempai!” Yuuta called, and the two parted ways to enter their separate dormitories.
But Yuuta did not see Mitsuki in the morning. No one did. When Yuuta and Kakita Hideo arrived to wake her, they found her tatami undisturbed, as though she had never slept on it at all. None of the girls sharing her room remembered hearing her come in. A frantic search was begun, but was almost immediately overshadowed by the accusations leveled at the Scorpion clan.
“They knew she was going to win the duel and become the Topaz champion!” a furious Yuuta exclaimed. “They kidnapped her, Kakita-sama!”
The duel, of course, went on without Mitsuki, as was prescribed, and Bayushi Madoka emerged as the victor and Topaz champion. But for the first time in recorded history, the title was held in abeyance, pending Mitsuki’s return. The message to the Scorpion clan was clear: if they wished their champion to be recognized, they would need to “find” the missing girl.
A day and a half later, Mitsuki returned to Tsuma under her own power. The girl was disoriented but otherwise unharmed. After parting ways with Yuuta, she said, she had a dream of being devoured by a dragon. She was wound in the dragon’s coils, crushed, and tossed down its throat. Deep within its gullet, she found a blade that glistened like the crescent moon. With this blade she cut her way free of the dragon’s stomach.
“I woke up miles away, lying in a snowbank.” For the first time since her return, Mitsuki began to cry. “I’m sorry, sensei! I…I missed the duel and I…I have disgraced your dojo and your teachings…I…”
“No, child, no,” Kakita Hideo offered. “We are glad that you are home, that is all that matters.” But he exchanged a troubled glance with Doji Hazuki, Mitsuki’s mother, over the girl’s heaving shoulder.
No evidence of wrongdoing was ever found. Even a Kitsuki investigator called to Tsuma declared that Mitsuki had left the dojo willingly, with no signs of a struggle. Though the matter was dropped, it laid the foundation for a silent, cold feud between the Tsuma Doji family and the Seido Bayushi family that would continue for years. It also sowed the seeds of a bitter love that would flower tragically as Mitsuki grew into her beauty…
The Wasp Clan eta who found the corpse outside of Tsuma village at first did not know what to think. The slash along the man’s belly was sharp and clean, clearly the work of a samurai sword. But why would a samurai cut a man down here, the eta thought, in the middle of nowhere, not even close to a road? In the end, the rings on the man’s hand and the beautiful craftsmanship of the inro and netsuke suspended from his obi convinced the eta that silence was the better part of profit. The corpse, denuded, was left to offer its mystery to the sky and the snow.