The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – at the Topaz Championship (part 2)

15 Serpent 1189

Another day, another disappointing athletic performance from me. I did not even manage the top eight in the race, although I was close. My stamina failed me on the straightaway before the wall, and I could not recover. Then in jiujitsu I fell in the first round to Usagi-san. As much as I would like to blame fatigue, the voice of Mirumoto suggests even lack of sleep should not have dulled my reactions that badly. I attempted to recenter myself over lunch, but I could not concentrate even well enough for that.

It is worth noting that the Sumai tournament was won by Bayushi Mirai-san, who faced off agains Hida Haruko-san in the final round. I think everyone was surprised by this; certainly Hida-san was, and I think Bayushi-san was, too.

The afternoon was somewhat better. My companions from the road and I were all a part of the same hunting team, and I am now even more convinced that the kami have had a hand in bringing us all together. We also had Toku-san, Bayushi Mirai-san, and Daidoji-san on our team, and the eight of us hunted well together. Hiruma-san is an excellent tracker, and despite the interference of another group of ronin*, we managed to bring in three of the four wani in the field, as well as a clutch of eggs.

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*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.

I do not believe these to be actual ronin. While they wore Rokugani armor, and carried katana, not even ronin would behave in such a fashion.

Toku-san commented early on in the hunt that he thought we were being shadowed. I thought at the time he could have been noticing the Daidoji Iron Warriors who were refereeing the hunt, but that proved not to be the case.

On the trail of the second wani, Toku-san spoke up again. I rather like him, despite the way he tried to peep on us last night. He’s clever and brave, like one might expect of a Monkey, and if that is sometimes misapplied, well, he took his punishment with good humor. All of that aside, this time he was pointing out that the trail was far too easy to follow. Sure enough, the second wani was all-too-obviously bait for a trap.

Hiruma-san vanished into the bushes to scout the hollow; it seems the reputation of the Steel Hummingbirds is well deserved. When he returned, it was decided we would split into two groups and reverse the trap. They had killed one of the Daidoji shadows, and only Bayushi-san was willing to just walk away once we learned that. She’s all right, for a Scorpion, but she is still a Scorpion.

I must admit, a small part of me was glad of the fight. In some small way I feel like it redeemed my performance in the melee yesterday.

When we launched our attack, one of the “ronin” shouted something in a language none of us had ever heard before. Kitsune-san said it wasn’t the tongue of the Ivory Kingdoms, and it didn’t sound like anything Iuchi-san had heard among the Unicorn. I think they are almost certainly gaijin, and I worry that they have come to try and destabilize Rokugan. At any rate, they all fell in short order, like the dogs they were. They fought strangely, though, as though they were somehow able to attack while defending, which shouldn’t be possible. One of them managed to get a lucky stab in on me, but I put him down in my next strike.

While Daidoji-san’s team pursued the last living member of the ambush, Bayushi-san finished off the wani they had used as bait for their trap, and Hiruma-san noticed that the gaijin had a watcher who was out of range and running. I do not think we have seen the last of these foreigners.

Trouble piled upon trouble in that hunt. Hiruma-san tracked the third wani for us, but as we were putting it down a scream rang through the forest. My feet carried me to it before the coherent thought to help had formed, and my teammates were only moments behind. What we found was horrifying.

In a tiny clearing I found the body of Daigotsu Kurami-san, the lone Spider in the Championship. Four teal-green fletched arrows protruded from her back. According to Kitsuki-sama that fletching is characteristic of Tsuruchi arrows, but I do not think Tsuruchi Kouji-san dishonorable enough to kill another samurai – even a Spider – in such a way. I know little of the Kitsuki method, but enough to suspect that Kitsuki-sama believes that answer to be too easy. While there is no love lost for the Spider, the fact that a contestant has been murdered during the contest is . . . troubling.

Both my team and Hida Haruko-san’s team have been sworn to secrecy on this matter. Hopefully it will be unsealed soon, but I have my doubts. Perhaps I am being paranoid, but her murder so soon after the gaijin ambush suggests a connection to me.

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