Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

Yakuza Problems
Working the low end of the food chain

We Mantis are often accused of being “jumped-up,” that we forget our place and origins and pretend to be of a class with samurai who are vassals of ancient Great Clans. Tossing aside the easy response that it is impossible to forget our humble origins because so many people spend so much time reminding us of them, I am constantly reminded of where I come from – a magistrate lives among such people. The upper crust never meets a man like me in the course of business, even when they trample over the laws of the lord or the Emperor – that’s what Emerald Magistrates and house arrest and assignment to some shameful post are for. Everything is swept away and peace is maintained by politely ignoring those who would disturb it.

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Shopping
How much are you charging for pride?

5 Monkey 1169

Like any bad news, the tale of our less-than stellar performance at the party raced to the ears of those who sit above us. It didn’t help that Seppun Denjiro himself was at the affair, ready to bear witness to our lack of readiness. He was at Kitsuki Atsumori’s house the next day to speak with Bayushi Tatsuo-sama. From there, it was a quick jump to Isawa-sama. Hiruma-san, like a dolt, attempted to listen in and I, like a bigger dolt, did not stop him. Always try to compound error with error, I always say.

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Quiet as a Mouse
in wooden geta

4 Monkey 1169

After the Isawa left, Bayushi Tatsuo sat quietly on a stone bench in the tea garden, contemplating the maple tree. His feet faced away from the tea house and the black lacquer of his zori was stark against the white gravel. He had been there for about twenty minutes when he spoke – apparently to the tree.

"Tea is much more enjoyable inside the tea house than underneath. Perhaps next time you would like to join me there?"

There was a pause.

"Hai, Bayushi-sama." The chagrined voice came from behind Tatsuo, accompanied by a slight crunching of gravel.

Another pause.

"Well, you'd better go share what you've learned, Hiruma-san."

And another.

"Shitsurei shimasu, sama."

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Hot Water Through Snow
-so blame cuts from the highest to the lowest

On the morning of 2 Monkey, Seppun Denjiro arrived unannounced at Kitsuki Atsumori's gate. He and Bayushi Tatsuo spent an hour or so behind closed doors while the rest of the household fretted quietly. Seppun-sama left without speaking to anyone else.

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Party People
The third Kanshigumi Story

1 Monkey 1169 

Otomo Michinaga requests the pleasure of your illustrious company on the twenty-eighth day of Doji at a moon-viewing party to celebrate the Honorable Otomo Hidetome's appointment to Alternate Undersecretary, third rank, in the Ministry of Ceremonies.

We had been invited to a party.  Officially, we were escorting a young Doji, whose parents were unavailable.  Unlike every other escort headed for this party, we would be allowed to take part in the festivities.  Isawa-sama announced all of this to us with the fanfare of an Imperial Herald.

The invitation was printed on fancy paper and with expensive ink. Isawa-sama held it in his hands as though it were declaring his promotion to Alternate Undersecretary.  Hiruma-san and Shinjo-san stared in an endearingly bewildered fashion.  I was looking at it like a Death Sentence.

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Hostages
The Second Kanshigumi Story

14 Goat 1169

 Karma has a funny way of balancing its books.  Sometimes it takes lifetimes for the great wheel to come around, sometimes it takes a day.  These past two days were the Fortunes' opportunity to drag me from one end of the Karmic wheel to the other.  Strangely enough (or maybe not so strange, all things considered) I hit my low within my own clan, my high among peasants.

By a strict interpretation of the understanding reached between the Great Clans and the Seppun, the members of the Kanshigumi are supposed to be serving "the Greater Good of the Empire", whatever the hell that means.  In reality, it's a lot like the Emerald Magistrates – serve the Empire, but make your clan look good or you're Bakemono food.  So I returned to the Mantis district of the city to give an update on our progress to Yoritomo Satoshi, the district governor. 

Satoshi-sama is not a bad man but not an overly bright one either.  I think he won this post for being "least offensive."  It's not like any Mantis in the city have any sort of pull without Ryutato-sama's say-so, but I'm so far down that particular ladder, I must look up to see the floor.  Today, he informed me that I will have a new person to report to in the future.  When I was a district magistrate, I rarely had to appear in person – All of our activities were recorded for posterity (and in order to know whom to blame).  Today, I met my new superior.  It's Yoritomo Haruko

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Fighting Fire
The first Kanshigumi story

6 Goat 1169

My armor is uncomfortably warm today.  Of course, everything becomes uncomfortable in the Kanshigumi – I think it is part of their allure.  We are nothing but uncomfortable combinations of ideal and reality: Law-enforcers with no authority, Samurai trying to put the Empire first with our clan colors still blazing proudly, authority figures who are outranked by almost everyone around us – it would be funny if there weren't so many people deadly serious about it…and if I were not a member.

This is our first patrol with our new squad leader, Isawa Yamizu-sama.  Just what we needed: a pacifistic priest of the Kami in a group that will, in all likelihood, end up in not a small number of fights.  Well, what's one more contradiction among the others?  My father liked to say, "The market's never wrong, even if you don't understand it."  I don't know what particular need we had for such a milksop as this one in his flaming finery, but he's the -sama for now.

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