The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow Book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 1)

14 Serpent 1189

Noon

I have neither excuse for nor understanding of my poor showing in the grand melee this morning. Despite everything, I was caught off-guard by the starting bell, and before I managed to gather myself the Ikoma next to me had grazed me rather impressively. I joined Ryouko and Hikari in the center of the field, but my slow start continued to hinder me. My friends eliminated those in the center, and I took what I thought was a daring move to engage Daidoji Yuuka-san. I thought to eliminate one of the threats from the battlefield, and given the infighting among the Crane, clustered in their corner, I thought I had a chance.

I cut her, but I do not believe I cut deeply enough to trouble her, and not even Ryouko was quick enough to aid me. Daidoji-san knocked me flat in one blow, and my honored ancestor has seen fit to scold me all morning for it.

Ryouko and Hikari showed well, at least, even if Ryouko did lose her temper at Daidoji-san after I fell. She was eliminated nearly as quickly as I was by that woman.

Amazingly, the grand melee came down to Hikari and a Yasuki courtier. Hikari had been wounded by Hida Ryouta-san, though, and Yasuki-san had emerged thus far unscathed. When they traded blows it was Yasuki-san who remained standing, much to everyone’s surprise.

After my poor showing in the melee I decided I would prove myself in the horse race. It quickly emerged that the one to beat was Daidoji-san. Kakita-san says she has a reputation among the Crane for gambling and risk-taking, and after watching her race I believe it.

I nearly managed. Emboldened by my race to Tsuma yesterday, I took the course at a full gallop. I made every hit, I threaded the obstacles with the grace of a Shinjo (no, really, I watched Shinjo Khan-san go through, and everything I had done I saw mirrored in his performance) . . . but I could not make the final jump. In the end, Shinjo-san and I tied for second behind Daidoji-san. He seems like an interesting fellow. Perhaps if I can become friends with Iuchi-san and Shinjo-san, relations with the Unicorn will relax a little?

At any rate, I know now what my first goal must be on my path to proving the superiority of Niten. I must surpass Daidoji Yuuka-san.

To that end, Ryouko, Hikari and I all agreed to cram together over lunch today for law, history, and heraldry. . . and perhaps later tonight I will let Ryouko give me some pointers on jiujitsu. Practicing jiujitsu with Ryouko, though, can be a little hazardous.

. . .

Well. That was an eventful night. I’m glad nothing untoward happened to Akodo Takamichi-san, but I do wish I hadn’t had to go looking for him. It is now well past midnight, and the footrace is happening first thing in the morning.

At any rate, I managed to do passably well on the Law and History test, although I will forever be embarrassed about calling my wakizashi my “duty” instead of my “honor” like a Scorpion. I could have explained it away. Enten is my soul, and Hyoten is my honor, but honor – like justice – burns like fire. It is duty which is an icy bound. But saying that to the Herald . . .

I did rather better than I expected on the Heraldry exam, and won the full four points. I was somewhat surprised to realize that my performance there tied me with Asahina-san for the lead.

After dinner, just as I was about to suggest jiujitsu practice to Ryouko and Hikari, I overheard Daidoji-san organizing an informal girls-only match. That went well, and I feel a little more confident about the sumai competition tomorrow, but that was also where the night started to get eventful.

I was up against Daidoji-san in the ring, and she managed to suplex me. This was annoying, but it did put me at exactly the right angle to see up into the tree branches. Some of the boys had evidently decided it would be fun to spy on our match. We caught Kitsune-san and Toku-san, and Bayushi Mirai-san and Nanbu-san had a brilliant idea for their punishment. They spent the rest of the night hanging by their ankles from the eaves in nothing but their underwear, their faces done up like geisha. A suitable punishment, and one which would injure nothing but the boys’ pride. I let Kitsune-san down to aid in the search, so I guess it was only Toku-san who spent the whole night that way.

There was hardly a pause before I overheard what was about to happen between the Crabs and the Unicorns, and it sounded like something that might get people disqualified. I don’t mind if someone gets injured competing – that’s just a part of the game – but the Crabs were talking about luring Shinjo-san and another Unicorn outside the city to administer a beating, and that’s a different animal entirely.

I’m not going to defend Shinjo-san’s friend; drunk or not, it was a truly terrible insult he offered. However, I saw no good that could come of the planned beating. So I got the Crabs involved in a haiku drinking match. I am too tired right at this moment to recall exactly how I began it, but thankfully they were also drunk and the game was a sufficient distraction.

There is not much to tell about the search for Akodo Takamichi-san, I’m afraid. I wasn’t there when he was found, but Hiruma-san assures us that all was well and he returned to the Golden Carp without incident. And now I must sleep, or I will never manage the race tomorrow.

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