The Cursed Throne: From the Pillow-book of Mirumoto Kasumi – the Topaz Championship (part 3)

16 Serpent 1189

Thrilling! Absolutely thrilling. Poor Hikari, though.

This morning was the mass battle, where the thirty remaining contestants were pitted against fifty (!) Daidoji Iron Warriors. Thanks to the efforts of Isawa-san and several others, Hiruma-san managed a groundswell among the contestants to secure the generalship.

(It should be noted that at the time he was doing this, I was having tea with Ryouko in preparation for the night’s challenge. I swear, Kakita Satoshi-san may be the only decent Kakita in existence. Kakita Toshiaki-san underestimated my guard, though; I think his sensei may have praised him over-much as a child.)

At any rate, the battle. Hiruma-san won the generalship, and gave squad command to Hikari , Akodo Takamichi-san, and Hida Ryouta-san. The Daidoji Iron Warriors were led by Taisa Daidoji Masatane – apparently an old friend of Hiruma-san’s father.

Hiruma-san only made one mistake in strategy, to my mind, and I think it came of mountain training. In the first round he kept Hikari’s unit back, most likely to shore up whatever weakness became apparent. In the open field, though, it meant that we didn’t hit the Daidoji as hard as we could have. In terms of position that was a rough start, but with some luck we turned it to our advantage. Hikari rallied the archers. Yoritomo-san got the banner. And I took on the Taisa.

He was leading from the front, so he was already heavily injured when I saw him. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, though, and never mind that as a Taisa he was sure to best me.

Except he didn’t. He couldn’t get past my guard, and with the guidance of my honored ancestor somehow I defeated him. The battle turned solidly in our favor at that point, and was actually over before the allotted time ran out.

I performed less well in the debate, and not as well as I would have liked in poetry, but that hardly mattered in the face of my performance in battle. In the debate I faced off against Nanbu Kaguya-san, and it predictably became my Akodo heritage against her Scorpion. I managed a tie, which is really as well as I hoped to do. In poetry I drew “nature” – which I believe may have been the broadest of the available topics – and was unable to do better than pedestrian with my offering. I didn’t do poorly, I suppose, but it’s rather bland.

After dinner, I went out drinking with some of my new friends. Kitsune-san insisted he needed to have a talk with the other Mantises first, so he and Yoritomo-san were late, and Hiruma-san apparently had a dinner invitation from the Daidoji Taisa, but otherwise we all went and had an excellent evening.

That does bring me to the other thing that happened today, the event that until this moment I wasn’t certain if I should write about at all. You see, before the battle this morning, Kitsuki Mai-sama brought charges in the murder of Daigotsu Kurami-san before the Shogun against Tsuruchi Kouji.

The evidence was damning, but when Kitsuki-sama asked that he be summarily executed – not even offered the option of seppuku – I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach – and justice is fire. When the Shogun asked if anyone would speak for Kouji-san, I did. I asked if he had confessed, and we were told he maintained his innocence. Yoritomo-san stepped forward as well; apparently, to her mind, Kouji-san’s honesty was his one good point. Kitsune-san also stepped forward. Notably, Watanabe-san did not.

Apparently, the Shogun was softened. He offered Kouji-san the option of seppuku or being cast out as a ronin – and he chose to become a ronin! I have had all day to wonder about this, and I still have no answer.

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