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Old Aug 30th, 2021, 12:46 AM
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Scene 9 - Epilogue (Team Ichi)

The next few days pass by in a blur, concluding with a gempuku ceremony that occurs without incident. Hitoshi is well enough to attend despite needing to lean on an aide to stand. Still, he's expected to make a full recovery. His fiery temper, however, is noticeably absent. As is the empty chair that had been reserved for Kakita Riku.

The capstone of the event is the formal naming of Matsu-hime as Topaz Champion. Kitsuki Yuikimi, in a symbolic gesture, places her helmet on the victor's head. In reality, the Lion's measurements had been taken after the tournament, and a master armorsmith will soon craft and deliver to her the armor awarded to every Champion.

At long last, the contenders are samurai.

There's another night of celebrations, this time among the delegations from their own clans. Talk turns to the new samurai's futures and what their daimyos may have planned for them. Most of the seasoned samurai shared they had no say in the matter. Such is the duty of a samurai. The road to Tsuma may have been narrow; so too is the road beyond.

Then on the last day, as final preparations are made for the long journey home, three of the new samurai receive summons to the Magistrate's estate.

Scene 9

“Please, come in and have a seat,” Agasha Sumiko says as the trio are escorted into the sitting room by a servant. They seem as much surprised to see each other again as they are the Ruby Champion. The Dragon is clad in the simple green kimono she wore when they had first met on the road to Tsuma. After gesturing to the cushions surrounding the low table, she sets out some cups and pours the tea. The brew smells of fragrant, earthy spices with a hint of citrus. “There's no harm in enjoying some of the Crane's finer teas while we are still here,” she adds.

Once poured, Sumiko takes a long sip of her tea, letting her eyelids drop as she savors the exquisite taste. Only when the silence lingers long enough to become awkward does she speak. “First, the news. Bayushi Sugai-san has confessed to his crimes, so there shall be no need for any of you three to testify. He believed he should have won the Championship last year, blaming Kakita Toshimoko-sama for his loss. Rather than attack the kenshinzen directly, he decided to act against the one he loved like a daughter - Kakita Riku. After the incident at the Poisoned Water Sake House, Bayushi-san had made a deal with the bandits that attacked you. I should have noticed something was amiss when he reported they had gotten away, but my mind was occupied on other matters. In any event, he is to be executed, but we will hold him until we receive word from his Lord. The Scorpion are known to want to dole out their own punishments.”

She takes another sip and visibly brightens. “Now, onto the main reason you are here. You see, one of the Emerald Champion's responsibilities is to select candidates to become future Emerald Magistrates. These are the samurai tasked with maintaining order through all of Rokugan, reporting directly to the Emerald Champion rather than their clans. Every year, I watched the Emerald Champion make his choices with little chance for input. And once a new Emerald Champion is chosen, they will once again decide who should become an Emerald Magistrate.”

“Right now, I am acting Champion. I will be upfront with you; this is my one opportunity to bring my own influence into the Emerald Champion's ranks, and I intend to take it. It was no coincidence that I escorted you into Tsuma and that I carefully watched your performances at every event. I wanted to make sure I really got to know the contenders and see what they can do. And I'm honored to have selected you three to be among the best I have seen.”

Finishing her tea, she stands up tall before you. “Here is what I ask,” she says. “Agree to become an Emerald Magistrate under my command, and I will permit you to journey to the Castle of the Emerald Champion to begin your instruction. Word will be sent to your families and daimyos that you have answered the call of the Emperor. They will have no choice but to accept your new duty. If you succeed, you'll have a long career as an enforcer of the Emperor's laws. You will be taken care of just as you take care of Rokugan. You will have authority over your own destiny, at least more than you might with your clans. However you must be willing to put your duty to the Emperor above those of your clans. Alternatively, you can return to your homes and the futures that await you there. The choice is yours.”

Realizing her speech was a bit more impassioned than she intended, she returns to her seat and awaits your response.

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Old Aug 31st, 2021, 09:54 AM
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Isawa Anshi - Phoenix Clan
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Anshi was never going to be Topaz Champion - she was keenly fixated on that as if it were immutable fact. And, of course, it became truth. Who would best a Matsu in her prime in a contest of combat? Perhaps Takuya - the sparring was closely-matched for longer than most may have initially assumed. But, of course, Matsu Emiko emerged triumphant in the end.

Anshi is happy. But mostly relieved. The tournament is over. And it took something from her in these three days, that she may not be able to weigh and take stock of for many years. Innocence? No, something more ephemeral than that. Complacency, perhaps.

She is a samurai now.

And she no longer has any real assurance on what that actually means. To be a samurai is to be the elite of Rokugan. To be a samurai is to honour Bushido and serve the Emperor. To be a samurai is to subscribe to a system clearly loathed, or at least treated with barely-masked resentment, by many of its adherents, to the point which sects such as the Perfect Land challenge it and make pawns of the minor clans just to push their ideological talking points. To be a samurai is to serve with faith and sincerity, only to be forced into death or disgrace when made the unwitting instrument of another's vengeance.

She never considered there to be any alternative. She has already defied the original path expected of her by her family simply by training with the Kaito instead of the Isawa. There is no more slack on the rope.

She will be a samurai.

The eternal
Road to the heavens is long, indeed;
Return home, and
Get to work!

- Okura

Isawa Suzume - Phoenix Clan
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The ceremony is fog and mist to the newly-ordained Phoenix samurai. She was once Isawa Anshi. A name she is happy to leave behind. Her great-grandmother, named Suzume, was a scholar who wrote extensively on the 'soul of Rokugan' and collated many theological understandings from across Phoenix lore. The new samurai is happy to take the name - she is now Isawa Suzume.

It is also fitting because the name means 'sparrow'. A little bird, flap-flap-flapping no matter who tries to cut her down. Strong enough to dance out of reach. Not strong enough to fly over the mountains to escape the Great Clans and their eternal enmity.

She's always wanted to travel extensively. In that respect, her new name is almost a wish to the kami.

Suzume and To be replaced if Takuya takes a new adult nameTakuya find brief moments to meet and spend time together. The bond between them has grown strong in a short time. Suzume is content with him, taking comfort in his gracious humility and calm demeanour. So much so that she slowly tells him everything about herself. Perhaps too much, as she even confides in him about her encounter with the Perfect Land sect, and the letter from her father that burns on secreted parchment, ordering her to find and deliver these 'heretics' to justice - an order she has defied through her silence, and through a mercy she now fears was misguided. She implores the man who may be her future husband to secrecy, dreading his response even while knowing she can't shoulder it alone.

She gets some opportunity to speak with To be replaced if Emiko takes a new adult nameEmiko, but they are mostly pleasantries - Suzume is still a little in awe of the newly-ordained Topaz Champion. She finally steels herself for some probing questions, mostly: "You are Topaz Champion now. What will you do with your new status?"

She sees little of the other contenders who were with her that night of the apparition. She looks for Togashi Shingo, but he does not reappear, and she burns with shame that she may have condemned him to misfortune. The Scorpion contender, Kamiko, and the Crane contender, Rei, appear to keep to themselves, for Anshi does not see them either.

Finally, she - and the other contenders - are free of obligation in Tsuma ... until Agasha-sama asks to see them. And the reason for the meeting is not what Suzume has expected.

To be an Emerald Magistrate?

Agasha-sama has barely completed her appeal to the samurai before Suzume answers. "Yes! ...Yes. I accept the gracious offer." Her clear eagerness is uncouth, even for a new samurai. And her whole body tingles with potential. To be beyond the reach of her father, out of servitude to the Emperor directly. To dip gracefully into a gilded cage. Yes. It is her best opportunity. She could travel all across Rokugan, whereas the duties of a shrine keeper trained in the ways of the Kaito might be fortunate to leave Phoenix lands most seasons.

And something new bubbles within her. What does it mean to serve the Emperor, knowing what she knows about those who chip away at the infrastructure underneath the Emperor's unassailable position? What does it mean to keep the Clans stable, even as sects such as the Perfect Land toy with those who place their faith in the system? Those who fill the ranks of the Great Clans have indeed struggled to hold to their own standards of virtue and honour - some more than others. Yet, the Perfect Land, for all their high-minded philosophy, are little better in the way they use individuals as shogi pieces for their own agendas. Virtue lies in them both, but they are both marked and flawed all the same. And they are hardly the only bitter division within Rokugan that the Celestial Order cannot easily account for.

Suzume could bridge the gap here, at least. She has befriended the Perfect Land and kept their secrets, but not joined their ranks. She has become a samurai, but can now rise out of the shallow well in which her original destiny would have placed her. In this position, she can work towards harmony, rather than discord. It would be a long path, and she doesn't have the wisdom to mend all broken bridges yet. But she is someone new, named after an enlightened sparrow. Flap-flap-flap, Isawa Suzume. Your road will not be easy.

To be a samurai.

That has already proven to be a road slightly wider than she had feared.

OOCA fair bit of inner monologue here, I'm hoping future posts will lean more on actual dialogue! But the main interaction here aside from pestering Emiko a little and agreeing to the Magistrate offer (without consulting her consort ...) is that she confides in Takuya over a lot of volatile stuff - her refusing to act on her daimyo's orders alone is, at the very least, a violation of what's expected of her under Bushido, let alone her fraternising with an outlawed sect. Sorry Takuya!

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Old Sep 2nd, 2021, 08:37 AM
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Shinjo Takuya of the Unicorn Clan
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It has been an eventful few days. Takuya had hoped of course to win. He had striven towards the goal, sacrificed for it and fought hard to be the eventual victor. Now that he wasn't though a new emotion seems to have settled into the void left by his previous striving: acceptance.

He had given his all in very difficult circumstances. In retrospect he didn't know what more could have been done. In that one moment and that one place Emiko was the better duelist. Deep down he felt that it could have gone either way in another time and place. But it hadn't and he was at peace with that.

This sense of peace and acceptance continued as Anshi, now Suzume, had made her confession to him. He had promised her to keep her secrets though to be honest the bit about the Perfect Land makes his head spin a bit. As a Unicorn he was used to hearing of the strange ways and religions of outsiders. This sect though wanted to remake the faith and culture of Rokugan itself.

That alone was heresy of the highest order. But upon consideration he thought that it was beyond him. She was the wise one and he could accept and follow her lead here. Whatever the ultimate truth of the matter the ways they followed were enough of a truth to get him by day to day. Let the Kami sort the rest of it out he reasoned.

It felt good though he realized that she felt comfortable enough to confide in him. He offered her support because that was what it seemed like she needed. As they talked he too felt more comfortable. Maybe there was hope for them as husband and wife he mused.

A lot was changing but some things stayed the same. He had been given the name Takuya upon his birth. It had never defined him though. Win or lose he was still the same man he had been before. Life might be changing for him but he would face it as that same man. For what it was worth though he did rather like Suzume's new name. It fit her rather well.

All of which finally brought him to Agasha Sumiko's office with the others. Her offer surprised him but it made him smile. The fates had conspired it seemed to give him a special new purpose. One of honor doing a job that needed doing. Suzume jumped at the chance which made him smile all the more. She too saw the possibilities that this offered them.

"I too would be honored to accept," he said simply, trying to keep the smile from his face and failing.
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Old Sep 13th, 2021, 10:50 AM
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Matsu Emiko
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Emiko's body is aching everywhere, she won, but at which price. The ceremony was like waking up after a dream, she only remember part of it. Yet, she will remember the emotions, a mix of pride and exhaustion. She won, like her mother before her. It's the perfect outcome.

"You are Topaz Champion now. What will you do with your new status?"

That's a good question. She didn't really think about it, sleeping for a week is her plan so far. - " I don't know dear Isawa-san. My head is still foggy from last night's celebration and sake. " Emiko is tasting the tea slowly. - " I feel honoured to have won, but humbled. It could have easily been Takuya-san. " She smiles and turns toward the Unicorn retainer. - " Takuya-san, your right foot slightly shakes when you are about to attack. I learned that by observing you in the last days. It made a difference in the outcome hahaha... " The pretty princess smirk. - " You should fix that before our next duel. "

Emiko is not surprised by the proposal, Sumiko hinted about that to her before. - " I accept, but I have one condition. I will serve the emperor until my mother dies. Afterward, I need to be released from my duties so that I can go back to my homeland to lead my family. I can't forsake my duties as a princess, I don't have siblings and only a few cousins. We tend to die young in wars. " She remains silent, looking at Sumiko-san for her answer.

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Last edited by MoonZar; Sep 13th, 2021 at 11:05 AM.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 05:32 PM
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Sumiko listens and nods along with each of the acceptances, her smile growing ever wider. She confirms with Emiko that she may resign to fulfil her obligations to her family when the appropriate time comes.

“Excellent,” the Ruby Champion concludes when all is said and done, rising from her seat. “I will have the local magistrate adjust your travel papers to permit access to the Palace of the Emerald Champion. It is only a few days' journey from here on well-kept roads. Once there, you will begin a specialized curriculum for your future roles. Unfortunately, I must depart immediately to take care of a pressing matter, but I will be at the palace to greet you when you arrive.” She bows individually to all three samurai. “I look forward to serving our Emperor and our country with each of you.”

Ringing a bell, she summons a servant to escort the trio from the estate, and from there it is a short walk back to the inn. As they walk and ponder their new futures, they watch the townsfolk taking down the banners, lanterns, and streamers decorating Tsuma for this year's tournament. The peasants immediately stop what they are doing and bow low in respect for the samurai as they pass, sometimes shouting words of praise or gratitude. Only a few short days ago, the three were but contenders able to walk through town without much fanfare. Now, they are famous samurai. Perhaps they will one day grow accustomed to this sort of treatment.

Perhaps they already are.

“Roar!” cries a small girl in the street waving a stick at a group of children. “I'm the Topaz Champion Lion Princess and I will defeat you all!” The children shriek in delight and flee from the samurai warrior, who seems determined to cut them all down with her ersatz katana.

A woman sidesteps the fleeing children just in time, bumping into a man carrying a large sack of rice. Soshi ni kie, brother,” she says to him apologetically. Soshi ni kie,” he replies, offering a friendly smile.

The children scamper past an old samurai kneeling below a cherry blossom tree. He looks wistfully at the children before turning his gaze towards the trio, and they recognize the scarred countenance of Doji Satsume.

He nods his head in gratitude before flickering away into nothing.

Game Summary

Provided is a list of accomplishments for the remaining Player Characters:
  • The party successfully fulfilled Doji Satsume's wish to have the Mantis Hitoshi pass his own gempuku. Without their aid, he would have been sent home a failure. The truth that Hitoshi is Toshimoko's son was never exposed beyond the few who knew, and the full story behind the Mantis' birth is likely to remain a mystery. The party can only speculate as to why the late Emerald Champion made such an odd request to help Hitoshi.

  • Emiko's personal story: The Lion princess, in failing to declare the love of one suitor over the other, spurned both the hearts of Hitoshi and Seiji. Though she leaves Tsuma without the warmth of a lover's embrace, the future is undecided, and she may yet find love in the Palace of the Emerald Champion. Meanwhile, her choices with the suitors had forged a new friendship, discovered through a respect for each others' combat abilities earned in their duel in the garden. As they found one could not best the other, Seiji commented that Hitoshi would fight well on the Wall against the creatures of the shadow, and the Crab would undoubtedly accept him in their clan if he could pass their tests. Having realized his status among the minor clans would always limit his prospects, Hitoshi agreed, and would instead journey to the Hida lands after leaving Tsuma to pursue membership with the Crab.

  • Takuya's personal story: The Unicorn chose duty over love, abandoning his geisha who had not been entirely truthful in her pursuit of her young lover. Takuya revealed her presence to his father, reaffirming his commitment to his family and strengthening their bond. In return, his father agreed to let Hanoko live. Instead, she was sentenced to live her remaining days in a burakumin village as a collector of night soil, never again to wear the painted face and luxurious kimono of a geisha. Meanwhile, a potential new interest has arrived in fellow contender Isawa Suzume nee Anshi of the Phoenix clan. Only time will tell if a meaningful love can blossom between the pair and if that love can survive the growing tensions between the Unicorn and the Phoenix clans.

  • Suzume's personal story: The young Phoenix discovered the whereabouts of the Perfect Land Sect, and in direct defiance of her father, chose not to turn them in to the Phoenix inquisitors. Even so, the party successfully thwarted the sect's plan to grow in power and sow confusion over proper adherence to Bushido. Perhaps the public scolding Toshimoko gave to Kakita Aiko has convinced her avoid any repeat attempts. Then again, the sect remains in Tsuma undetected, with every opportunity to grow. In any event, Suzume will undoubtedly have the opportunity to revisit her decision after taking the oath of an Emerald Magistrate. Whether she has successfully slipped from her father's grasp or found a potential match in the Unicorn clan's Shinjo Takuya will only be determined with time.

  • The party prevented a terrible tragedy at the final tournament, uncovering a plot by Bayushi Sugai to frame Kakita Riku for an attack on Hitoshi. They managed to capture Sugai alive, who confessed to the crime. Whether he was acting on behalf of the Scorpion or someone else will likely never be known, though rumors and speculation are sure to follow. The party also stopped Riku from committing sepukku, though rather than provide Toshimoko guidance on a response, they addressed Riku directly and asked her to consider her choices. Upon reflection, she rejected her status as samurai and became a ronin. Forever will she wander the lands of Rokugan without a clan, pursuing her own ideas of justice in the world.

  • Emiko, Suzume, and Takuya all passed their gempuku and became samurai. Emiko had the added honor of winning the tournament and earning the title of Topaz Champion. All have been accepted as Emerald Magistrates, and they will soon enter the training program at the Palace of the Emerald Champion. Though their time in Tsuma has ended, their story is only just beginning.

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Last edited by Spoonybard; Sep 14th, 2021 at 05:37 PM.
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