As the group starred out at the looming palace wondering if they had really seen what they had they saw the caravan continued his course towards Kyuden Gotei. From the gates poured a brightly colored escort of 50 bushi bearing banners of the mantis and banners of the Mantis and Phoenix mons interlinked which brought a scowl to the face of Isawa Masanori. As the group continued to ponder the presence of a gaijin at Kyuden Gotei Shosuro Shinriko simpliy informed them that he was an ambassador and then continued on her way towards the palace leaving her shocked companions behind her At this point Kitsu Kasai decided to sense the presence of any nearby spirits and was quite shocked to look up into a sky at a flying bat transformed into some sort of hideous man sized bat humanoid bat like creature before his spirit vision. He quickly no one else could detect such a thing and tried to remain calm although his agitation was clear.
As the caravan entered the gates into the main courtyard of the palace they were greeted by over a hundred Mantis cheering for them. At the front of the gathered celebration was a large man. Kakita Hikaru realized that this must be Yoritomo; the ambitious Mantis Clan Champion. As Yoritomo gave a welcome speech to the visitors Kitsu Kasai surveyed the crowd with his spirit senses still active. He was shocked to find a substantial number of the creatures arrayed through out the crowd. Shinjo Luke noticed his companion’s increased agitation and asked him if he was alright as discreetly as he could. Kitsu replied with a quick description of the creatures he was seeing. Kakita Hikaru overheard this discussion and informed them that were called koumori, a bat like creature from the realm of Chikushudo, the Realm of Animals. Isawa also side mouthed whispered some information about the creatures and explained that they were not evil and to remain calm. Meanwhile, Yoritomo continued to give his speech to the crowd concerning his thankfulness for the opportunity of the Mantis to prove the worth of their Shugenja to the rest of the Empire and to reconcile their differences with the Phoenix.
Once the speech was finished the group was given a couple hours to rest and relax after their journey. Hida took the time to ask for some more one-on-one time with Kakita practicing Mizu-do. Once finished the pair prepared themselves for the upcoming dinner. Shosuro inquired to some of the servants around the palace about the gaijin ambassador but everyone told her that they had no idea what she was talking about. Shinjo took the time to work with his falcon and discovered that the Mantis and the unicorn share a lot of the same views on courtesy and court life. Also both of Clans were traders and explorers at heart so conversation was quite pleasant for all involved. Finally it was time for dinner.
At dinner the five crane diplomats sat with about twice the same amount of the most influential Mantis and a lone Kakita artisan, Kakita Kumpei, who lived on the Islands. The party was arranged in such a manner that they had a Mantis and a Crane diplomat on either side of them with of course Isawa Masanori next to Yoritomo. The Crane diplomats were let by the courtier Doji Hiroyuki (peace, harmony) and his second Doji Maeme (honest child). The talk was varied although trade and pirates were the most talked about topic of conversation. Everyone noticed that Shosuro Shinriko was deep in conversation with the Mantis next to her and that the poor man was quite taken by the beautiful and charming Scorpion. Shosuro was still trying to gather information about the gaijin they had witnessed upon their arrival. Finally after some verbal baiting the older Mantis courtier agreed to meet later with her in a more comfortable setting and discuss in more detail the possible existence of an ambassador from outside the Empire.
Kakita Hiakru asked about the young bushi Hiroto she had encountered upon her arrival to the Mantis lands. The Mantis next to her had to think for a bit and then told Kakita that he thought that was a inspiring young bushi who was getting a lot of attention lately and would probably soon be appointed to the rank of Captain. Thinking that the young Crane must be taken with the young samurai he asked her if he would like him to arrange another meeting and that he would be happy to travel to Musume Mura and help arrange a more formal relationship. Kakita Hikaru told him that she was not interested in him that way and simply that the bushi had run into her and had seemed to know her. She also talked at length with Kakita Kumpei. It seems he is a moderately talented but because of comments from Scorpion courtiers his exhibition at Shiro sano Kakita was short lived. He made a better theorist than an artist, and Kumpei retired to the Mantis isles, where most of the court has heard of him.
Kitsu Kasai still seemed a bit anxious about the koumori. He asked how the humans of the islands were able to tolerate living among such creatures. Yoritomo answered that when the armies of the kami were scouring the Empire destroying those that they thought were minions of Fu-Leng the koumori were spared by Hida and sent to the Islands. When Kaimetsu-Uo, the son of Hida Osano-Wo, came to the Islands it was the koumori that helped Kaimetsu and his people settle the Islands. Kitsu Kasai said that he still personally could not live with creatures that looked like that. With that Yoritomo summoned a man and said that they did not seem any different to him. Kitsu muttered something about him not seeing what he could see and went on to complain to Akodo Akio about the koumori getting their own islands while the kitsu were eradicated.
Everyone was invited to go attend the conference the next day after the morning celebration. Isawa Masanori said that they had a long way to go and would be departing the day after next to head south and get a ship back to the mainland. By his attitude it was clear that the sooner he was out of the Mantis lands the better. After dinner everyone headed off to bed. As Hida was preparing for dinner that was a small knock on his door. Answering it he received a letter from a servant that invited him to a meeting at the hour of the Rat in the gardens. It was signed “Esteban Cornejo”. He armored himself up and relaxed for a bit before making his way to the metting spot.
Once Hida arrived at the rendezvous spot he looked around without spotting anything when suddenly a hooded man came out of the shadows. The man bowed deeply before Hida and removed his hood. Hida was a bit shocked to see a gaijin before him in strange, but obvious ornate, clothing and a strange sword at his hip. He introduced himself as Esteban Cornejo (or Cornejo Esteban using the naming principles of Rokugan), an ambassador from the kingdom of Merenae. Hida was curious why such a man would want to meet with him. Esteban explained that although he had been given plenty of scrolls to read about the kingdom he was not allowed to leave the palace grounds. He understood that the Mantis were descendants from the Crab and that the Crab were responsible for defending the wall against the evil place called the Shadowlands. But he knew very little about the Shadowlands and the “Taint” that inflicted the monsters within and those that were harmed by such. Hida thought about this and saw no reason why not to help the ambassador and said that he could help with such knowledge. Esteban was very pleased by this and grabbed a small table and writing utensils he had hidden in the bushes nearby. The two of them talked for many hours as Hida explained the falling of the Kami, the building of the wall and the many battles with the tainted monsters from the Shadowlands. Esteban was also curious about the effects of jade and how the Taint was inflicted upon its victims and what effects it had. Finally after many hours Esteban was greatly pleased with the information gathered and asked if there was anything he could do for Hida. Hida answered that he did have a book in a gaijin language that he would love translated. Esteban answered he was quite knowledgeable about several languages and would be pleased to help. When Hida showed him the book Esteban took it and sadly told Hida, although he knew what language the book was in, he did know the language itself. He understood that the book was about “boxing”, something he had not studied since he was a young boy, but that was the most he was able to decipher. Seeing Hida’s disappointed look Esteban said that he could at least give Hida the alphabet that the book was written in since it was the same alphabet his own language used. Hida asked how long that would take and was rewarded with a scroll with the gaijin alphabet. Esteban explained he had made several in an attempt to teach some of the Mantis the Merenae language. With one more formal bow the pair of them left for a well earned good nights sleep.
Meanwhile Shosuro was on her own late night rendezvous. About the same time Hida was making his way to the gardens she was met by the Mantis courtier’s personal servant with instructions on where to meet him. She had to go up several flight of stairs and was lucky enough to be stopped only once by a passing guard. When asked what her purpose was this late so far from her room she simply answered that she was meeting for someone for some intimate conversation. Finally arriving at the room she was greeted by the Mantis courtier and invited to sit down and share a little late night sake. Once pleasantries were exchanged Shosuro started getting on the information she could about the gaijin ambassador. She discovered his name was Esteban Cornejo and had been found shipwrecked. It seems that they had been trying to reach the Empire when they had been blown off course and had crashed. He seemed to know over six different languages and was a smart, passionate man. The courtier had only met him twice but each time he had enjoyed the time spent with the foreign ambassador. Shosuro asked what the ambassador thought of the Empire and was answered that the man seemed to enjoy it and found Kabuki Theater particularly entertaining. Once she had gathered all the information she could get out of him the older Mantis approached her and touched her gently, beckoning her to the nearby bedroom. Several hours later Shosuro woke up and stealthy dressed and gathered her things. She left a letter thanking him for a wonderful night and hoping to meet again. She also reminded the man that she was a Kabuki actress from the Shosuro Bugei School and would love to have the opportunity to show her skills to the foreign ambassador. With that she quietly dressed and made her way back to her room without being spotted.
The next morning the group awoke to a beautiful day. Dressing in some of their finer kimonos and made their way to down to the beachside where the people had set up a great festival to honor the first participation and integration into the Phoenix hosted Setsuban Festival. As the people gathered to watch the scroll be presented to Isawa Masanori by Yoritomo and his chief shugenja the group noticed that the shugenja and his assistants seem to be exhausted and with that realized the reason why the normal stormy spring weather was so clear. When it was finally time for the scroll to be presented Yoritomo gave a speech about how today was the first step in reconciling the differences between the Phoenix and the Mantis and one more stride on the path to proper recognition for all the Minor Clans of the Empire. Isawa Masanori thanked Yoritomo and the Mantis for this chance for the shugenja of the Empire to witness and study the unique spells of the Mantis.
With the ceremony over the group went about the festival and looked at the many stalls. There were games, food and shows all around them as the people of the Islands of Spice and Silk celebrated this momentous occasion. Shosuro spotted a Kingyo Sukui (Gold Fish Scooping game) stand and hurried over. The game had three tiers of prizes depending on how big of a fish was caught. Shosuro wielding her poi (Thin Paper net) calmly waited and with a deft wrist picked up one of the smaller fish and scooped into her floating bowl. Hida, Shinjo and Akodo also gave it a try. Hida and Shinjo were both able to scoop up one of the medium sized fish but Akodo tried twice and failed both times. Hida picked out a light blue bolt of silk while Shinjo got a gold buckle to use with his saddle. Shosuro, seeing Akodo dishearted, gave him the small jade mantis figurine she had one so he could protect himself from ghosts.
Seeing that it was starting to get later they made there way over to the open air clearing where a pavilion had been set up for the courtiers to discuss the trade and pirate defense agreement. As Doji Hiroyuki started the discussions Doji Maeme made his way thru the delegates serving tea to everyone. After about an hour Shinjo Luke remembered his lesson from the Topaz Championship about not wearing his riding boots when he expected to be sitting for a long period of time. Luckily for him he was able to refrain from twitching at all but he was quite uncomfortable. Some of the others noticed a growing agitation among the delegates and started to feel angry towards the sheer stupidity of it all. Finally after several hours, as people getting more angry and aggressive towards each other Doji Maeme suggested they take a break and get back together at the begging of the Hour of the Monkey at the cliff overlooking the west sea and watch the sunset to settle the moods of everyone. With that everyone went on their way although a few wondered about their sudden change in moods.