It took me a great deal of willpower to not reach out to her when she passed. Instead, I focused on my duty, standing guard at the big doors to the Empress’ courtyard together with my friend Yuhimano on the other side. I had watched the first part of the procession pass in the first half of the day. All of the clans had sent emissaries for this grave occasion, so many that it would take the latter half of the day to see the end of the line on their way to the temple where the burial ceremony was to be held. During which, of course, I was to stand guard without so much as a single blink. I felt honored to be chosen, but my inner feelings betrayed me when my sister Miyumi passed me without so much as a glance in my direction. Of course, it would be entirely inappropriate for us to acknowledge each other there and then; and of course, there would be time to meet when duty was done.
Of course it’s never that simple. When the long day was done I went to sleep immediately; the ceremony for the Jade Champion would take the rest of the night at least, and I was expected to serve the next day. My sleep came fast, and it was deep, and so it was that I awoke a bit groggy when the alarm cry was raised. The commotion grew bigger as I ran, and as I turned the corner I found the origin: the temple. Inside, I saw her lying dead on the ground in front of the dais on which the Jade Champion was honored for all to see. Her face was twisted, but in her eyes the spark was gone. I ran to kneel at her side — and was stopped by one of the Kuge, none other than the Imperial Advisor, still present.
“Wait, Moyamo-san, for we know not what evil has caused your sisters death! Wait I implore you! You will get a chance to grieve for her!” The honorific and his tone startled me and I managed to compose myself a little. His message registering, he continued, “We were in the middle of the ceremony when she suddenly stood, shrieked loudly, managed two steps, then fell down. Death was instant as far as we can see. We suspect a highly deadly poison.” Unable to stop the anger in my voice from showing, I asked the rhetorical question: “But, who would want to poison the daugher of the daim-yo of the Dragon clan?”
Two days later, Daim-yo Izuku Mirumoto sent me on my current quest: find the killer of my beloved sister and return honor to the Dragon Clan.
Tsuchimikado Yonomi stood in the room, contemplating the maps on the table before her. Standing or sitting around the map table were her companions, those who had pledged to her cause. Together they would fight the trespassers, here and now. Most of the people in the province thought these people nothing more than a group of merchants, traveling to Shizerawa. She knew better. Oh, there were merchants in the group. Most of them were assassins and firebrands, false spiritual teachers and treacherous ronin. Chousokabe Sadateru had brought her information that there were even some gaijin embedded in the caravan. His intelligence-gathering had been excellent so far, thus nobody doubted even that outrageous bit of information. Who would dare to oppose the Laws of the Empire and allow foreigners entrance into Rokugan?
The Scorpion Clan was growing forceful in its tricks. Would they stop at nothing to gain a sliver of more power?
In the far corner of the room sat Sagara Yuki. The older woman’s drawn face betrayed anxiety and displeasure. She had argued vehemently against the plan, but in the end she was overruled. She had said that even though their cause was just, it would not appear like that to those outside the group. Yonomi agreed with that, but in her opinion, her own honour meant little if she could strike this blow against the vile Scorpion Clan. Still, she could ill afford to ignore her advice.
Hida Hidemori struck the table with his gauntleted hand. He grumbled: “Let us attack now, Yonomi-chan. We know where our enemy is, and they do not know where we are. Every moment brings them closer to the border, and us closer to being discovered.” Of course, a Crab would urge her to action and battle. He thought that referring to her as chan would gain him favour. She reckoned that this was a Crab’s version of subtlety.
“I am well aware of this, Hidemori-san,” she said, stressing the honorific to put him into his place. “However, I must take into account the outward appearance of our operation, as Yuki-sama so wisely noted.” She nodded to her, who graciously nodded back. “Even if we are absolutely right, and just, this will still be seen as an unprovoked attack by Lion Clan’s forces upon Scorpion’s merchants, in Sparrow lands no less. This will harm our cause in the long run.”
“I was under—” A loud roar outside the building interrupted the warrior’s objection. “To arms! To arms! The Scorpion bushi are upon us!”
It seemed that the decision was taken out of her hands. A bold move by the enemy, but one she should’ve been prepared for. Had her father not warned her? “Always defend your camp as if it is your home under siege.”
Grabbing her helmet and strapping on her gauntlets, Yonomi strode towards the door. “Gather your warriors, friends. For the Empress!”