The Crane Game
Suo’s Notes – 1170 - 1171 – Session XVI - XX
Session XVI – 5/1/11
Katsu speaks with Kitsuke Umibe about Bushido, then hosts a meal with the group about it. Following that, Katsu get’s the invite to Domotai’s tea for the bushido conversation. Domotai says her new position has had her focus on duty and courage. Believes a lot of enemies thought after her father’s passing it would be a good time to strike. She doesn’t understand, for example, about why the Dragon pushed for war after trespassing. It galls her that she had to make peace with the Crab, says unkind words about Jinn-kuen. Katsu tells Domotai about her sensei being murdered by bandits. She also talks about her drive to start a school for the Asahina.
Suo and Kanzen go through the garden again, spot and memorize the face of a servant leaving the area where the notes are exchanged.
Draw-lot play being held; the group all puts their names in. Come up with a play about forgiveness, in case any of us get the first draw. First name drawn is a Yasuki; Narue and Katsu notice the man picked seems to start moving forward before his name is called. The play to be performed is the “Brave Little Pony,” about a Crane serving on the wall. Doji Miyuki is picked as the “little pony.” Narue calls out “what an incredible coincidence.” Suo gets drawn as the Big Oni at the end that the pony kills. Kanzen and Katsu get rolls as Crab soldiers (fixed selection). Kanzen sends a summary to Domotai so she can choose not to be present.
Kuon shows up for the play. Back stage, Suo notices one of the bags to be thrown at Miyuki is filled with flour; “accidentally” breaks it, apologizes for being a big dumb oni. Miyuki seems to be keeping score on the Crane who “beat” her, but the play goes over relatively well.
Month of the Rat, 1170
Narue and Higen’s wedding go off with no issues, good gifts.
Next day, a Sadane contest is held — topic is an obscure play. Narue ends up taking the lead spot. Shogi game starts on the same day. Heavy weapons duels also begin – Gempachi is part of the contest.
Suo spots the servant from the garden with a female Crane samurai. Later, points her out to Narue and Kanzen, and they identify her as the wife of a middling Kakita Crane duelist from the Watchtower of the West, husband is a bodyguard.
Narue and Higen go out falconing with Katsu. After a few days of that, Shoturo, Gurban, and Tawagoto also come along. Get information about how the Ronin became prevalent in the Unicorn lines. Tawagoto and Higen talk swordsmanship, get a subtle friction on the topic. Higen finds Tawagoto’s influences troubling.
Next group walk through the garden, talk about Tawagoto’s disagreement with Higen. Suo brings up potentially telling Higen about the Spider. He brings up investigating the Shinomen forrest, starting from Zakyo Toshii.
Session XVII – 6/3/12
Setup an invitation for tea with Miyuki and Kanzen the next day to try and find out more about Narue’s brother. Miyuki and Taishi show up. Narue’s brother, Tomoe, bodyguarded Doji Yuki and disappeared. Kanzen asks about Tomoe. Miyuki says to ask Yuki for better info, but they were deployed out on Mantis islands. Quiet, kept to himself, she wasn’t sure he was overly satisfied with his duties — didn’t seem to bring him any joy. Doesn’t recall any specific incident or warning that lead up to his disappearance. One morning, he didn’t report, and he and his personal effects were gone with no sign of struggle. Local magistrates responsible for the search, reported nothing. Trade negotiations with the Lion going on at time of disappearance around rice. Miyuki goes into commerce details, Narue drills into the beginning of her relationship with Yuki. Talk of common interests. No memory of Tomoe and Yuki having any filed disagreements, and Yuki was upset when he disappeared. Katsu’s spell confirms that one. Katsu starts to ask about Honor, Kanzen brings tea to an end, Taishi seems disappointed. Miyuki says she’ll let Suo look at her notes on Yuki’s Lion negotiations.
Garden talk afterwards about the tea. Narue shares that there was something more to Miyuki and Yuki’s relationship than she could define. Decide to bring Higen in to the conversation. Higen says the Lying Darkness uses agents that have accepted at least a level of his corruption. Also notes someone going missing causes a lot more chaos, since no-one knows what happened. Narue thinks back, and thinks her brother didn’t look seven to eight years older. Consider that the Lying Darkness agent might be powerful enough to shapeshift.
Suo meets with Miyuki, reads through the journals. Everything lines up with her story, Suo is persuaded that Miyuki’s story is entirely on the up and up.
Katsu brings some spell options to Kanzen – potentially laying a spell on the window that would put anyone that crosses the threshold of Hiroshi’s window to sleep, not sure if it works on the Lying Darkness agents. Second would be an invisibility spell to watch over him.
Narue looks into Miyuki and Yuki’s relationship and timeline, but subtly, with a lot of gossip. Not a lot of info on Yuki, but Miyuki has a lot of enemies, and some contact with Hiroshi and some Scorpion. Asks about infighting in the Scorpion, but the rest of the folks haven’t heard of it. Looks into Fumiko and Shotaro’s activities; she in court, he with Katsu, but nothing scandalous. Hiroshi goes to the best geisha house, watches plays and poetry, seems to be strictly here for the fun. Hiroshi hangs out mostly with his entourage, a bit of Miyuki’s group, minor functionaries.
Kanzen’s next duel comes around, and he succeeds, putting him in the semi-final. Toritaka Kenichi comes to speak with Kanzen about the assassin. He also speaks with Katsu, who gives him a sketch. Suo also questioned, then Narue. Narue receives a note that Mayuki sent her letter to Yuki, to be cooperative in her information sharing.
Higen and Tawagoto up for the next duel. Higen wins, but Tawagoto still finishes his strike dealing much damage. Katsu heals Higen once Tawagoto backs off with a respectful bow. Narue and Suo notice Miyuki is surprised, pleased, but a little disappointed with the outcome of the duel.
Katsu goes out next day with Shotaro, Gurban, and Tawagoto go out falconing. Gurban keeps up a running commentary, until Katsu gets a change to speak to Tawagoto and Shotaro alone, then comments on how good it was Higen was able to live through Tawagoto’s strike. Tawagoto seems geniunely pissed he did not kill Higen. Katsu brings up the Spider with Gurban, has a conversation on their place.
Katsu passes on that info to the group, Narue passes on Miyuki’s reaction to the duel. Narue brings up the notion of trying to sway Miyuki to Norotoshi’s cause; only seems to have personal emnity against Higen.
Katsu talks to Shotaro about Tawagoto – Shotaro doesn’t know what’s worse, that he was blunt about wanting to kill, or that he was that terrible about hiding it. Also surprised that Gurban is still keeping him around.
Narue sticks close to Higen, in case she needs to escalate a potential situation to a duel to the death for Higen to have a shot at killing Tawagoto. Katsu gets Nintai to show up to heal at the duels in case she can’t make it. Taishi and another Crane in next duel – Taishi wins cleanly. Gempachi is in the tetsubo competition. Gambling is going on – Katsu repremands, Narue, Kanzen, and Higen pile on. Suo remains silent. Gempachi moves on to the next round.
Session XVIII – 7/1/12
Katsu brings up that she believes Tawagoto may not let his grudge go. Higen has never met the man before this winter court. Suo talks to Kanzen afterwards, agrees to keep an eye on Tawagoto. Talks to Hiro about the law around the ronin.
Katsu, Kanzen, and Narue meet up with Gurban by “chance” in a garden walk without Tawagoto. Speak of Tawagoto’s performance; Gurban is afraid this is a setup for a duel. Discover what he’d really like is to go home if possible; doesn’t know how he can replace Tawagoto. Narue tries to leave him with the impression that the group is not out to get him for Tawagoto’s actions.
Suo finds Tawagoto. Have a mildly polite but uninformative converation about motives, noodles, subtle threats; nothing actionable.
Narue gets it arranged so that Gurban has a gift he must deliver; and gets to go home with honor. Tawagoto is dismissed from his service.
Crab and Crane relations still tense; Domotai and Kuon avoid each other, but things still seem to be degrading. Do some planning for a visit to the Shinomen forrest – refresh travel papers, look into the Shinomen forrest for where to enter.
Miyuki invites Katsu to a conversation during the next round of duels with Higen facing Kanzen’s brother. Katsu sets it up so Nintai goes to the duel in her place in case healing is needed. They meet; Miyuki informs Katsu of a young man in Sparrow lands of the Mizumi family with a gift for the kami. His family wishes him to be fostered to be a shugenja, but not as a traditional Asahina – she offers to let Katsu teach him. Meeting up with him will have to be arranged after Winter court – Suzume Takahiro (age 9).
Nintai is not able to show up for the duel – a disturbance with the kami. Taishi says something to Higen before the duel; Narue and Kanzen think they here something about honor. Taishi wins. Says something else to him, only catch “means you harm.” Higen seems upset, but doesn’t want to share. Narue chastises him slightly, Suo doesn’t notice. Katsu is excited about her student. Kanzen mentions asking Nintai if he would like to join Katsu’s school. Katsu talks about the sub-text of rather be training than on the mission. Suo offers to write a letter to his father to help look for Daidoji recruits for her.
Suo talks to Kanzen later about possibly needing a new Shugenja they can trust if Katsu is of that bent; she can’t teach more than one student and continue the mission. Kanzen says that they could ask Nintai if that were to occur.
Higen talks to Kanzen later; he asks if he has ever known Taishi to be false. He says Taishi told him Miyuki wants to see Higen and all he holds dear burn. Taishi says Miyuki ordered him to cripple Higen; only his rivalry. Afterwards, he also tells Narue, says he couldn’t speak of it until he had a chance to talk to Kanzen. Narue begins to looking into Miyuki’s capabilities in doing any of the things she thinks are within her power. Thinks Miyuki messing with the team or getting Narue re-assigned may be within her power.
Kanzen and Yoritomo Kunoichi duel. Kanzen wins.
That night, Katsu and Suo are awoken by a disturbance. Guards moving around, tell us to stay put. Suo notices Shotaro leaving Katsu’s room, they nod. Guards are on the alert, patrolling regularly, seem to be searching. Two to three hours before the hustle and bustle settles down. Katsu and Suo go to the magistrate office; meet Fumiko and Shotaro. Ask if they can be of assistance; Fumiko and Shotaro seem unhappy – say they apparently can’t be. Bayushi Hiroshi has been murdered; they are not allowed to participate in the investigation — Kitsuki Omibe is looking into it with Akodo Otoku, his deputy. Katsu and Suo report back to Kanzen, then go to find the magistrate to offer assistance. Katsu convinces the guards to get a message to the magistrate. Umibe-sama says the assistance is not necessary, but will be speaking to you later today.
Next day, the rumors abound. Narue’s more reliable rumor says Hiroshi was murdered, a servant interrupted the murder and yelled for help. Umibe is keeping things close to the vest, servant and guards who saw the room are kept away from the group. The Emerald magistrate has gone to speak with Domotai. Incident has the Crab in general on edge. Toritaka Kenichi tells Kanzen he should share any information he has on the peasant suspected assassin, if asked. Kanzen goes to see Domotai. She has declined to speak with Umibe, she tells Kanzen should do what he thinks is right, but doesn’t believe Kanzen should let the Crane take any blame.
Before Kanzen gets back, Umibe calls in Hiro, interrogates him. Calls in Katsu next, interrogates her, she mentions the Yoritomo’s. Suo’s next, does not mention the Yoritomo’s. Kanzen stops interrogation of Narue and himself. Umibe sends a note to Kanzen, mentions the Mantis, says it wouldn’t do any good to keep that information secret at this point. Kanzen goes back to Domotai. Gets her permission to share, but only what’s necessary, and wants blame on the one who revealed the Mantis info. Suo mentions while waiting he wouldn’t trust any blood or cloth in the room. Narue comes in next, signals to help as little as possible, and shares about the Mantis. Kanzen comes in next. Asks if he works directly for Jiman. Go into standard questions. Kanzen does reveal the Yoritomo’s names.
Brief discussion after the interrogations. Bring Higen in, tell him the info. Afterwards, Kanzen and Katsu go to talk to Umibe about Katsu helping with the investigation. Suo sends his crystal dagger with Kanzen, stays with Narue. Kanzen and Katsu go with Umibe to the crime scene. Umibe shows them a bloody scrap of pale blue cloth, and the room looks like a fight scene. Looks like Hiroshi was surprised at his desk, short struggle, then the assailant looks like they fled through the door. Katsu finds two hidden compartments – one in the desk is empty, one in the box has koku in it. Katsu then attempts to summon Hiroshi’s spirit. She gets him; asks him to describe his killer – young man, white hair, top knot, blue kimono, athletic features. Had never seen him before. Managed to stab him, but was stabbed to death. Identifies his servant and describes her, isn’t aware of anything mystical in his death. He was regretful he had been sleeping with his bodyguard, since she was out then. Doesn’t think his argument with Fumiko has anything to do with his death. The Scorpion with the disguise kit was his vassel. If the murderers were the same, he’d suspect Yoritomo Yoyonagi. Been engaged in a personal trade war for years, one he was winning. He seems offended it only cost 70 koku to have him killed. After that, Katsu asks the kami of the sake cup to show image of the attacker. Show an image of the murder – sees the man; shows him entering from the sleeping chamber; requests about supernatural gets an image of an empty room, and it shows nothing at the question of the nothing. Goes to the next room, talk to the air kami. He came in through the window. Air guesses he climbed. Doesn’t know if there was anything supernatural about him. Says he smelled clean, maybe a little sweaty. Tries the sill of the window. Says the intruder was strong, quiet. Seemed human. Says doesn’t remember seeing the guy again, but the last person to cross it before was small, loud.
After they leave, Katsu and Kanzen share their info; Narue recognizes the description of her brother, though very well preserved for his age.