Once the caravan was placed away and the ashigaru taken care of the group of samurai proceeded to their designate rooms. They were fed a small dinner and Isawa took the time to fully debrief the young samurai he had put in charge of the valuable caravan. They told him about the Tasu no oni and how they had dealt with the podlings, the people they encountered at Kamisori sano Yoake Shiro, and of course the encounter with the naga outside of Shinomen Mori. Isawa in turn talked about his encounter with the bloodspeaker and the removal of his black scrolls and soul from the rebirth cycle. Once the debriefing was finished they turned to their meal and more pleasant conversion before finally retiring to sleep.
The next morning, 4th of the Monkey, they awoke and made their way father north into the lands of the Unicorn. The first passed completely uneventfully as they stayed at a waystation that night. The next day they approached the shore of Mizu-umi Kiku Hanabira . Chrysanthemum Petal Lake was named for the hundreds of Chrysanthemum trees that lined its shores. Late that evening they arrived at the Temple of the Lost Moto . The walls were white and unadorned, except for the white masks of the Moto from before the family was lost under the leadership of Moto Tsume. Only Moto were allowed to join this temple, and they were expected to memorize the names of all Moto who had fallen to the Shadowlands. They were greeted kindly and given lodging for the evening.
As the sun set the group sat at the shore of the lake to enjoy the summer evening and the sight of the sun setting over the watery horizon. Kakita played her biwa quietly enjoying the majestic sight while Hida used the serene setting to meditate. Akodo stared out over the vista thinking of the philosophy of life and doing his best to create a haiku that would accurately portray the scene before him while Shinjo grabbed his fishing pole and sat at the shore relaxingly casting out his line. Shosuro had decided to check out the Moto temple before joining her companions at the shore line.
Some time had passed before Shosuro joined her companions. Akodo was still working on his haiku and Shinjo was slowly filling a wooden bucket with fish. Kakita had ceased her biwa playing and was practicing her origami and Hida had slowly made his over to her to kneel beside her as he had finished his meditating. Shosuro did not wish to disturb Kakita and Hida, and wishing to observer their encounter, went over to join Akodo. They talked about the vista and a proper haiku and quickly put their heads together to think of an adequate haiku and watch the awkward relationship between their Crab and Crane companions.
As Hida had joined Kakita she silently handed him a origami paper. She was gracefully creating origami Chrysanthemum and placing them to float over the lake. She slowed down her creating so that Hida could follow the procedure with her. As he tried to mimic her creation Kakita began to address her large and brutish, but kind, companion.
“There are many forms of relaxation and artistry in the Empire. This is clear way of expressing the artist side of a samurai” she told Hida.
“My clan is a clan of war and do not have the time to practice the civilized ways of the Empire. We are raised from birth to fight tainted evil” replied Hida as he barely manages to successfully follow the gestures of Kakita and create his first origami Chrysanthemum.
“The courtiers of the Crab clan participate in the artistic activities of the Empire” answered Kakita as she began another origami chrysanthemum.
“True but the courtiers of the Kaiu and Yasuki families are very different then the bushi of the Hida” retorted Hida as he tried his luck at another origami chrysanthemum.
“To find enlightenment and be a true samurai of the Empire a samurai must find a balance between the war and peace in his soul” replied the small Crane.
“It is difficult to find peace when all your father teaches you is how to kill and your obligation to war for the sake of the Empire” rejoined the large Crab.
“My own father is a courtier and wished for me to follow the path of the courts. I decided to follow the path of my deceased mother and become a bushi against the wishes of my father. There is always a chance to find peace and balance” sagely replied the beautiful samurai-ko.
“There is only peace in death” the unsightly samurai snapped as he failed to successfully create the origami chrysanthemum by ripping the delicate paper.
“The Crane find time to find balance even in our constant dedication to perfection. Your master asked me to help you find balance and embrace. You took to mizu-do very quickly as it was fighting.” The samurai-ko calmly reminded her aggravated companion.
“That’s because it was fighting. Fighting is second nature to me and as natural to me as breathing” the hulking Crab reminded the petite Crane as he once again begun attempting to create an origami chrysanthemum.
“I need to teach you proper etiquette. This too, as fighting is for you, must become second nature. I know this will be a great challenge for you and truthfully hope you can endure thru this training. One key principal is patience. And practice just like your martial arts.” Kakita firmly replied.
“I have endured many things. This should not be any more difficult. I will fully cooperate with your training” Hida replied as he successfully completed another origami chrysanthemum. “Although it is in your nature I would appreciate it if you tried not to peck too much”.
“I am sure the shell of a crab can withstand my pecking” jestingly retorted the Crane.
With that said, Kakita begun the civilized education for Hida. She instructed him to continue to attempt and practice the origami but corrected his posture reminding him to remain conscious of he held himself. He should act if others were watching all the time even when alone. After several more origami chrysanthemum floated away over the lake Hida said he would take what she had shown him and would think and meditate on the subject but for now he would retire to his room.
Meanwhile, as the debate about the balance between war and serenity raged between the Crane and the Crab, Shosuro and Akodo had been observing the exchange. Although they were too far away to hear the conversation they were close enough to gauge the reactions and emotions playing on the physique of their companions. As they observed their companions sitting by the lake with the temple behind them, Akodo was finally able to properly formulate the haiku he had been contemplating. Shosuro was eager to hear it so Akodo cleared his throat and clearly intoned:
Amaterasu shines down
Moto’s Temple Shines
Shosuro was impressed by the presentation of the haiku and decided to formulate haikus based on the perceived exchanges between the Crane and the Crab. Her first haiku was:
Crane pries crab from shell
Crab believes crane to pretty
To teach a lesson
Akodo quickly caught on to the game and tried his own wit at applying a proper haiku to their companions. After a few moments he replied:
Crab opens his ears
The Crane cannot pierce his heart
Etiquette dies between.
Shosuro was pleased with the joining of the Akodo to her little game and quickly retorted with another haiku of her own:
The crane’s frustration
“Oh what a thick shell you have”
The crab is confused.
The unlikely pair of Lion and Scorpion laughed heartedly at the mental image inspired by such haiku causing the pair in question to curiously glance their way. The pair seemed to finish their debate and continued to work on their origami. Akodo observed them as they released more origami chrysanthemum on to the lake and serenely gave his last haiku to his companion:
Together two sit
Paper flowers grow in hand
Hida collected himself not long after and bowed to Kakita. He then headed back in the direction of the temple entrance passing the laughing pair on his way. He inquired on their activities and they answered that they had been formulating haiku. Hida nodded at this and after very little thought asked if he may add a haiku of his own. Akodo responded that they would never try to stop him from expressing your art. Hida simply intoned:
As light starts to fade
Mother of the sky finds peace
Shading this holy land
He then bowed before them and continued on to the slight shock of the Lion and Scorpion. They had not heard him utter any sort of poetry or elegant speech since the Topaz Tournament poetry competition. Kakita meanwhile had been working on a complicated trio of origami; a lion, a scorpion and a unicorn. After finishing these she also made her way to the temple by a more direct route leaving the origami and the entrance between her companions and the temple interior. Shosuro recovered from her shock and, gazing serenely at the now set sun, said:
Samurai by lake
Cares flit away on the wind
Akodo acknowledged the haiku although was unsure of the theological possibility of tranquility floats as he raised from his seated position and gestured that they should return to the temple. Shinjo also, with a bucket full of fish, was returning to the temple. When Akodo spotted the elaborate origami left by Kakita he was unsure if they were an offering to the temple or a gift for them and decided to not disturb them. Shinjo gave the bucket of fish to the Moto monks, several of which he had caught with the assistance of his falcon, to compensate for the sustenance they were giving him and his companions. They thanked him and said they would include the fresh fish with the dinner.
Not too longer after the young group returned to the temple the call for dinner was issued and everyone from the caravan and the monks of the temple joined together in the great dining hall. At dinner Hida tried to convince Akodo to practice jiujutsu with him in order to make it easier for them to perfect their art. Akodo seemed dubious of Hida’s abilities to train him and if he had the skill in jiujutsu to create an entire new style of martial arts. Hida saw the hesitation on Akodo’s face and did his best to ease his companion’s doubts with a quick haiku:
Find a way with me
Strike with hands, lift with your arms
Trust my strength with heart.
Akodo thought on the implications of Hida’s words and answered with his own haiku:
Lions does not argue
Together we shall make art
Martial art is ours
This sudden raising of eloquence on behalf of both Hida and Akodo and Hida’s exaggerated perfect posture seemed to stun Isawa Masanori. He looked between them for a bit and then at Kakita and asked what in the world she had done to inspire such eloquence. Kakita answered that she was not sure about the Lion but had been trying to assist Hida in expressing himself in more eloquent ways. Isawa seemed impressed by this and was pleased by the personal growth the young samurai had undergone in such short time. He then asked about his eluded too martial art that Akodo and Hida had been conversing about. Hida explains the new martial art that he and Akodo were trying to create. Akodo was still doubtful and found the basis of the proposed technique a bit outlandish and said that Hida wanted them to throw one another at their enemies. Isawa encouraged their creation and wished them prosperity and luck in their endeavor.
As the meal concluded Akodo wished to share the haiku he had created about the temple with the all those gathered including the monks. He called for attention and explained in a loud voice to the monks that, as they had spent their evening at the temple and lake, the beauty of the lake inspired him to write a haiku which he would like to present to their Moto hosts in thanks of their hospitality. He presents the first Haiku he had developed that evening in such an stirring manner that he actually made one old monk cry. The monks thanked him for his elegant gift and everyone made their way to their rooms to retire for the night. As they were on their way Shosuro gestured Kakita aside for a moment a presented her a written haiku:
Majestic crane flies
Her regal feather shine bright
Shosuro informed her that she hoped that it was an adequate apology for her behavior. With the final business and haiku of the evening finished everyone quickly withdrew to their beds.
The next morning the group awakened to quick breakfast and proceeded deeper into the lands of the Unicorn. Late that evening they arrived at Shiro Iuchi. The fortress was known as the Gatherer of Winds Castle and was called that because the violent gusts of wind that would sweep down from the nearby mountains. Despite being the ancestral home of the Iuchi family, who were mostly shugenja, it was a virtual fortress due to its proximity to Iuchi Pass. Any army approaching Unicorn lands from the south would have to pass Shiro Iuchi. They were greeted at the gate and escorted inside. It was past dinner already so the young group, along with Isawa Masanori and Shiba Yosuhiro, in Isawa’s rooms. He took the time to explain that they would be staying at Shiro Iuchi tomorrow and leaving the next day. He also explained that they would be traveling across the hills towards Ryoko Owari. Although they would not be entering the city of lies they should still remain on their guard while in its vicinity. From there they would be taking a boat down the _Kawa no Kin (River of Gold) to Shiro Shosuro. From there they will head over to Yogo Shiro. From there they will cross mountains into the lands of the Lion for a short rest at Kenson Gakka. With the route explained everyone retired to their beds to prepare for the next day.
The next morning Shinjo Luke disappeared to receive some additional training and the young samurais caught glimpses of him riding back and forth doing his best to quickly hit as many targets as possible with his bow. Kakita decided that it would be nice to spend some time with her dog, Popo. She was noticed by some Unicorn War Dog Master’s who brought their Ki-rin War Dogs over to compare. They spent quite some time together comparing notes about dog training and the different breed in the Empire. Hida, Akodo and Shosuro were given the opportunity to ride some of the Unicorn mounts. As none of them had ever had the privilege to do so they happily agreed to take a ride. Once finished Hida talked with their guide, Moto Tetsu, about the different Unicorn martial arts. Moto Tetsu explained the basics of Bariqu Wrestling and that there would be a performance after the scroll sealing ceremony. They talked a while on the differences between sumai and Bariqu Wrestling and other jiujutsu styles from around the Empire.
On the other hand Akodo and Shosuro went out shopping. Akodo decided to go out gift shopping into the surrounding village. After some shopping around at the different exotic Unicorn stores before finding gifts for everyone. Once the purchases were completed he had them sent to the rooms of his companions. Shosuro had also gone shopping and had picked up some leather riding boots and a Otaku family kimono. As Shosuro exited the store she saw a Moto with a Shinjo with an eye-patch on. She had noticed several people with these eye-patches on since entering the Unicorn lands. She sauntered over to the Shinjo scout and asked him if he used the eye-patch in order to preserve night vision or if had actually lost an eye in service of his clan. The poor scout lost before she even opened her mouth as he watched her walk over. He glanced around and took it off and showed it to her. He called it a Sling and it was a gajin weapon that used any small object, usually rocks, as ammunition. As he showed her the hidden weapon Shosuro remembered that Shinjo Luke had one wrapped around his wrist as an decoration and had seen several other Unicorn with them as similar decorations. He demonstrated its use to her by hitting a flying bird from quite a distance. He was proud of his hit and went into detail how it was an easy weapon to sneak into other lands as decoration as few outside of the unicorn knew its actual purpose. She was unable to convince the Shinjo scout to educate her in its use but thanked him for the explanation. He told her that regretfully the weapon was not sold to outsiders. Shosuro thanked him for his time and demonstration and hopped to see him around. She then went and find a secluded corner to quickly change into her newly acquired Otaku outfit and disguise herself as a member of the Unicorn clan. She then proceeded to a weapons shop with no one thinking she was anything but an Otaku battle maiden. There she was able to purchase several slings for her personal use. Now she just had to figure out how to convince someone to show her how to use it…..