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7. Isawa Aki

Day of the Duels

Played on November 25th, 2018

Topaz Championship, Day 4 in Tsuma, Year 1123

I run around the corner of the main dining hall, as I have done so many times before. I halt before the smoldering ruins of Isawa Juriko's house, my feet standing in the mud. Knowing what I would find, tears sprung into my eyes. I had cried so many times here that the ground in my dreams had become muddy. "Sorry, Juriko, I should have been there," I say quietly. "Don't blame yourself; if you play with fire you can get burned," said Juriko's ghost. "Today is much too important to fret about such things." She kissed my forehead and I woke up. I felt my forehead and found a torn flower petal which had flown in through our open window. A terrible omen; I quietly dressed and silently hurried out leaving the beatiful Doji Ren asleep in her room.

The day I kept thinking about the omen. Something terrible is about to happen and likely to Hitoshi. I've come to like him and try and talk with him before the day's tournament to try and learn anything. He's in a real sour mood still after his inappropriate outburst the day before. The tournament organizers in the hall seem to be equally sour and just seem to want the Topaz championship to be over with. I search around for omens of what's going to transpire, but fail to think of anything. The tournament starts: Bayushi Meilin beats Moto Batbayar with her blunted katana, striking from drawn position in one fluent motion. Suddenly, I see Doji Satsume in the crowd, looking extremely worried. I can't help but feel guilty but I don't know what to do. Kakita Ruki grabs a specific blue and white katana from the set of tournament weapons; Hitoshi is already in the ring holding his blunted katana. The fight starts, Kakita Ruki is quicker to draw and scores a hit. His katana was not blunted but had a razor-edge! Blood spurts from Hitoshi's body in a radiant flower pattern. Oh no! I failed someone again! I had been so busy staring for omens and failed to look at what was in front of me.

I ran out; centering myself for a second and ask, almost beg, the water kami to right the flow of ki and blood inside Hitoshi's body. My emotions disturb my balance but I feel Juriko's stability guide me. Hitoshi breathes a huge breath and his wounds mostly stop bleeding. People look at me in awe but I can just sigh a breath of relief. A man runs away seemingly carrying a duplicate of the sword which struck Hitoshi. The Topaz Champion, Kitsuki Yukini-san, asks us to follow the fleeing man. I can not forsake my promise to the late Emerald Champion, Doji Satsume-sama: "When a Samurai has said he will perform an action, it is as good as done." I'll be like the water kami and keep watch over Hitoshi. He is obviously not safe here. A group of the other participants heed Kitsuki-san's words and race after him.

A terrible scene unfolds in the dojo. The Crane clan feels so dishonored by the incident, they feel compelled to have Kakita Riku to commit seppukku. Just as he takes up his wakizashi, Kitsuki Yukini and his group burst in with Bayushi Kyo carrying Bayushi Sugai over his shoulder. Kakita Toshimoko calls for Kakita Riku to stop. The group present the blunted blue and white katana to Kakita Toshimoko. Hardly any words are spoken but everyone seems to understand what has happened. Kakita Riku and surely the entire Crane clan's honor has been restored, but I have no idea what would happen to Bayushi Sugai and the Scorpion clan. I hope we can extract information to find out why Bayushi Sugai felt this need. Was he vengeful for last your's championship or is there more at play?

There is a long period of rest which I use to heal my soul by tending to Hitoshi. Hitoshi is in shock and says very little coherent. Poor man; I feel he's blown about like a flower petal caught up in a hot summer storm. The tournament recommences. The bushi-side of the tournament is riveting but I try and keep my balance so I'm prepared for the Shugenja tournament. My Phoenix clan-mate Shiba Toya wins. I congratulate him before the single Shugenja duel starts. I have to face Kitsu Tsuabasa, of the Kitsu Medium school. He calls upon his ancestors to restore the balance in the dojo after this morning's events. A great feat but not something easily noticed by laymen. I used his calm air to channel Hitoshi's hot summer storm into a warm breeze around the dojo. Not my best work but it does impress. I get awarded the win in the duel. This means the championship is determined by a relative count of the contest points between Shiba Toya and me. Even though I don't have a high score, I do have more than Shiba Toya. This means I win the Topaz Championship!