Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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The Dead Man

I could tell you about our meandering searches for clues about the prostitute’s death. I could even tell you that we have a lead on a suspect – a Mirumoto! That will be sure to make us immensely more popular, living, as we are, in the Dragon District of the capital. But, that is, incidental. Crime will come and go and I need to record this to remind myself when life gets hard.

I met a dead man today. He was not physically dead but, like the girls at the House of the Lotus Root, he was moving largely from forces not under his own control rather than any will to serve or achieve or…or, I don’t know, live.

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Follow the Leader, pt. 1
Who's in charge?

8 Monkey 1169

Today my world shifted a little bit.

Last night, upon our return from the graveyard, Suzume-san was waiting with a letter for Isawa-sama. As I sat to write in my journal, I noticed his face begin to turn gray. He left us for a bit (in order to talk with Bayushi-sama, I discovered later), then called us together. His father had taken ill and the Phoenix had requested that he return home to take over as head of his family. I considered what it would do to me to learn that my father was ill or that I was suddenly to be responsible for my family’s well-being. My sympathies went out to him. We helped him pack.

This morning, we had breakfast together and saw him off. As he headed out the gate of Kitsuki-sama’s home, he turned and looked at me.

“I spoke to Bayushi-sama and recommended that you take my place.”

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Follow the Leader, pt. 2
Sound and fury, signifying nothing

9 Monkey 1169

This morning we met our new Crane – Daidoji Katagi. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings, but it took me a few minutes to remember that I was now the patrol leader and ought to escort him to meet Bayushi-sama. We went to the squad leader’s room to find Bayushi-sama and Doji-sama lying in wait. Doji-sama was positively delighted to see the third Crane in our squad. Bayushi-sama’s reaction was utterly unreadable but I could imagine. Funny, no one held a quick reception to greet me when I arrived.

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