Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus

Repetition
Again and Again and Again

Ichi…Ni…San

I am not good at meditation but there is something calming in practicing with my kama. I think there is something to my lessons with Kiminori, because I can feel myself becoming more aware of the full sweep of my arms and how my feet slide across the gravel of the yard. Of course, I can also feel sweat pouring down the back of my neck and chilling in the cool morning. It tightens my neck and I feel my face twisting into a grimace.

Juu-ichi…Juu-ni…Juu-san

There is no hint now of the blood that covered the kama yesterday. A gaggle of bandits thought they’d be clever. They sent a herald ahead of them to make like they were a bunch of nobles, forcing everyone on the street to kneel so that they would not witness their getaway. Bad luck for them – Mantis have never been the most respectful and I’m not even a good example of my kinsmen. Our patrol knelt but I’d be damned if I take my eyes off the road for anyone…well, maybe the Emperor.

They came on at a pretty good clip, stolen horses loaded with their take. How many people lying in the dirt were working themselves to death while these guzu try and make their living by stealing it from someone. How many times am I going to run across this? If it’s not idiots trying to rob Hayai Kame, it’s barely civilized nezumi lying in wait on the road to the city, or baka samurai attacking members of the Imperial Court.

So here we go again.

Gojuu-ichi…Gojuu-ni…Gojuu-san

I order my patrol up and we let the bandits know that they’re not getting away without coming through us. Taifuu and Katagi let fly with arrows and it’s on. I barge in with a shout that sends the prostrate peasants scattering to the four winds. The fight is close-in and bloody, but these battles never last long. There’s a part of me that’s thankful for that – my patrol is all coming home today. But there’s a part of me that just wants to go on, to just lose myself in the madness.

Hachijuu-ichi…Hachijuu-ni…Hachijuu…san

One of my favorite kata from my training days is called “Strike of the Cliff’s Edge.” Some think it has to do with the cliffs of the islands but I’m not so sure. I think we like life on the cliff’s edge, both literally and figuratively. Having sent my challenge off to Satoshi-sama, I feel like something inside has slipped its leash a little bit and I’m straining at the ties that hold me. That abazure Haruko has been sitting smugly for months, having literally gotten away with murder. But it wasn’t enough, was it? She had to rub my nose in it, push my buttons, and spread lies about me. Now she’s going to find out what those bandits on the road discovered. I might be from peasant stock and might be a thug in a samurai’s kimono, but I am a child of the storm and one should never pick a fight with a storm.

Kyuujuu-hachi…Kyuujuu-Kyuu…Hyaku

One hundred repetitions. My arms are on fire but I feel more… alive than I have in months.

A storm’s coming.

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First Encounters and the Tribulations Thereafter

    I've finally arrived at the capital, and have been detached from my envoy on orders from a superior who wants me in something called the Kanshigumi, to replace a member they lost for reasons I do not yet know. Something of a police force, attempting to mesh all of the different clans into cooperation. I find it doubtful that it will work, nor that it will last longer than a full year. But, orders are orders.

                                         ...

    These past few days have been interesting. I was thrown headfirst into an investigation of the murder of a common whore which the Kanshigumi had apparently been following for a few days before my arrival. I infiltrated the grounds of a suspect's house, one Matsumoto Kaido, with another member of the patrol, a rather boistrous Crab individual of questionable taste and morals. The investigation was not concluded immediately afterwards, as we found no conclusive evidence against the residing couple. We did, however, find evidence supporting the fact that one of that house's servants had done the deed, in order to protect the family honor, and to keep her master from disgracing himself on women other than his own. Other than that, patrols are really no different from long stretches of road. Nothing happens, although my squad leader insists on talking to a lot of the peasants. Most of them seem to like him well enough, although some of the firemen tend to give him looks. His association with the peasants is not something I find repulsive, as I imagine his superiors do, but rather something new and interesting. It is not often you find a bushi willing to talk to peasants, let alone associate with them on a friendly basis. Yoritomo-sama is certainly an interesting character, although pleasant, and rather compassionate in Kanshigumi's cause.

                                         ...

    The past week has been more than eventful. I witnessed the death of a comrade, the sole Unicorn in our squad. I then replaced him as Yoritomo-sama's second in command, something I mourned as well as rejoiced. I hope to fill his shoes adequately, as Yoritomo-sama seemed not to trust me just yet. Over the course of the Obon festival and dance, Taifu has begun to wear at my patience. He has proven himself to be exactly what he seemed to be when I first met him; a drunken oaf with the all the brains of a common rat. Granted, he is fast, and efficient in his stealth, but he must not be let near any vaguely alcoholic beverage. If I had not been assigned to watch him, he would have disgraced the Kanshigumi several times over. Suzume-san I much prefer, although she is very quiet. An able fighter, and a bit of a poet, both of which I can appreciate as a Daidoji. Also during my time here we caught a bunch of bandits attempting to smuggle things out of the city by disguising themselves as nobles. I must applaud them on their plan, it was clever indeed, but Yoritomo-sama had both the sense and stupidity to be look anyway. People normally have their heads floored. I took little delay in attacking when I was ordered to do so. We waylaid the bandits efficiently, and they were turned in to the Kitsuki.

   

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Life's Little Challenges
One cannot stumble when already on the ground

15 Monkey

It does seem that when we enjoy some success we must be rewarded with some sort of social function. I think this may be the Fortunes’ way of keeping our karma even. It has been a hell of a day and we didn’t even fight anyone. Such is the way of a festival day spent in the Imperial presence.

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Follow the Leader, Final
Dispensing Justice

11 Monkey 1169

The problem with events like the death of a comrade is that they are, within hours, a part of the past. The present will not wait and neither does our duty. Having met with no success in our interviews with Mirumoto Kaido or his wife, I decided to see if the servants knew anything. Katagi-san offered to learn where we might be able to speak to one of them outside the estate walls and set forth. I probably should have asked how he intended to acquire that information, given the lengths I had seen him go to for reconnaissance, but I confess that I was distracted by guilt. Wandering through the Furukawa district, I got the information from the Firemen on the estate Kaido lived at. It turned out that they had held a party on the 24th of Goat. Ayako’s body had been found on the morning of the 27th. So there was plenty of opportunity there. The only useful bit of information we had managed to wring from Kaido was that he had been out on the evening of the 25th and had returned after midnight. I was slowly but surely building a timeline of events but I was also a very long way away from being able to make any sort of real accusation.

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Follow the Leader, pt. 3
Remember the Dead

10 Monkey 1169

I don’t know if I can write this.

I don’t know if I can avoid writing this.

Shinjo-san is gone. No, he is dead. We owe only truth to the dead and Shinjo-san did not wander off or join a monastery. He died tonight.

But that is how this ends, not how it begins.

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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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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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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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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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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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