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The Resplendent Lies of Shosuro Seiko

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1 The Resplendent Lies of Shosuro Seiko on Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:18 pm

Cosbones

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Shosuro Shiori suppressed the urge to fidget under the Library Master's gaze, her well maintained smile cool as the frozen ponds of winter. Her mask proves to be an adequate protection, covering her weak and betraying eyebrows as they wrinkle in frustration with the elder man. Did she not bow correctly? Was there something off in her address as she entered? Finally, the senior Butei speaks in a slow and deliberative manner, a tone like screeching gulls. "Is my Collection not adequate enough, Shiroi-kun? Again you are here asking for more. I suppose soon I must dispatch a great army of bushi to liberate the Ikoma of their knowledge."

She has offended the grizzly old badger, even as he meanders on like he is amused by her thirst. She can tell in the slight emphasis of her name, the tone of mockery hinting deep frustration. Her eyes are as sharp as the knife prodding into her hip, beneath the kimono.

Shiori is quick to offer some appeasement, "Your collection is the finest on Butei found anywhere in the world, Osamu-sama!" She exclaims in horror. "It is just that while I was serving in the Painted Village, I overheard someone speak in hushed tones that there may be a book I had not had the fortune to read. The rumours said that it was hidden to all but the Master? A little game the writer asked be played, so only the truly sharp may attain any insight gleaned from it's secrets." The hint is enough to make the Library Master break, which is probably why he never left the walls of the Butei Academy without guard. He is frowning now, possibly anticipating what she is about to ask. "I believe his name was Kakita Kin?"

She could feel his gaze intensify after the name spilled from her lips, and truly understood that this man had lost his mind some time ago among the shelves of great glory, never attaining it for himself. But she also knew the true hatred came from the fact that he believed in his duty enough to halt any thought of denying its existence. "Perhaps I have such a book from such an unusual author." He said, in that awful voice of his. "Wait here for a moment, I shall go seek it out."

Osamu made her wait for the entire day. Hours passed as she sat patiently, still and statuesque, the sun drifting across the sky. Occasionally a servant would enter and bring her tea. At midday lunch was served by an uncomfortable Hinin, who politely informed her that Osamu had been far too lost in his archives to be able to share the meal. Shiori smiled demurely and ate in the silence of an estate as still as a tomb. Soon, the sun began to set and the young Butei ordered the plan she had carefully crafted through the entire day. She would dress as a servant, walk unseen through the halls of the Academy and sneak her way past shelf after shelf. She would search all night if the need arose.

Shosuro Osamu surprised and pleased her, however. He returned just as the lanterns were being lit for the evening, holding a manuscript within his aged hands. There was ink on his thumbs and fingers, a smudge on the back of his knuckles and a dab on the palm of his hand. The paper was fresh as he laid it before her and the ink had only begun to dry. In neat calligraphy the topmost page read simply the title. The Resplendent Lies of Shosuro Seiko. "You are to burn this once you have finished reading it, Shiori." He said harshly, dropping any pretence of being polite. "If you are known to have kept the book then your education here ends and your life as a Samurai is forfeit. That is the price of reading this. Understand?"

The young Butei hesitated. This book must certainly hold something very interesting if she could lose her life for it. "I understand fully, Osasmu-sama. May I?" He nodded his head once, sharply as she lifted the pages. A string had been used to tie them in order and the paper was of certainly high quality. The ink smelled of something unusual, as if it had been mixed with a perfume. Shiori could not place it. The elder excused her without comment when she saw how eagerly she had begun to pluck at the pages like they were strings of a Biwa. As she closed the paper door behind her, hugging the pages to her chest and bowing the elder a good evening, she might have heard the old badger mutter that a child of Shosuro and Kitsuki was always going to be more of a burden then a gift.

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2 Re: The Resplendent Lies of Shosuro Seiko on Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:03 pm

Cosbones

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The hallways of the Academy had emptied for the night, many of the other Butei retiring for evening classes or simply to be in the presence of company. Shiori might have been slightly undignified in the way she hurried but the tantalizing promise of knowledge was enough to lull her into removing her sandals and running bare foot, silent as a shade. Soon she was within her private dormitory. She laid the manuscript down upon the floor like a precious child before she stretched her stiff back and changed from her most uncomfortable (and fine) kimono into something more suited to reading. Her last task for the evening was the simple lighting of her lantern, which she laid beside her bedroll.

Shiori read like she had always read within her own private spaces; laid upon her stomach, with the book spread facing the doorway to her room. It was not the most dignified of seating arrangements and if her sweet, naive Mother ever caught her like this she would have been given a stern lecture of proper etiquette. Instead the Butei was allowed to immerse herself in the world of another mind, another world of the past. She felt sure that by the time she had read the entire manuscript, she would be able to slip into Shosuro Seiko's mindset like the man was simply a new kimono. Lighting her own private lantern, so she could read late into the evening, Shiori began.

Shosuro Seiko was the only child of Shosuro Atsushi and Bayushi Nori, his mother a Courtier and father a Butei Sensei that chose to raise their son within the ever changing walls of the Painted Village. Accounts begin to creep up of his involvement with major city arcs around the age of seven; Seiko was convinced to pick the pocket of a "Visiting Unicorn Bushi," failing the Initiate in one lucky maneuver and the following season he was used to deliver false poison into the tea of the "Shosuro Daimyo" of that year, utterly destroying a carefully developed network of spies at a crucial moment. At age eight he was formally inducted into an education, simply to avoid complications involving exploitative butei.

His formal tutoring at the Academy was not as noteworthy, however. He proved admirable and well versed in his duties but seemed to lack the truly vicious element sometimes required of our students. One of his Sensei mused that the boy lacked any real motivation to strike down his enemies, too comfortable with the idea that any harm he did was part of a production. Seiko's penchant for mischievous behaviour also proved stressful for those around him and rumours persist to today of various cruel pranks. The most prominent story concerns him falsifying his own death shortly before his gempukku ceremony in a darkly humorous way, simply so that any official ties with family and friends could be broken cleanly before he was adopted into full service for the clan.

With his new name selected, Seiko became the Nephew of a shrewd spy, Shosuro Yuu. The two were embedded within a Crane court under the Kakita name, where Seiko formally created his first persona, Kakita Kin. They would remain there for quite a few years before Yuu felt his position was compromised, forcing Kin to break off a strategic engagement. Seiko seemed displeased and uneasy when he returned to Scorpion lands and the Butei Academy, remaining listless until he was informed he would be attending Winter Court He chose to make the trip in disguise although his reasoning for this remains in doubt. All following accounts were made some time after the events occurred, as keeping a diary is strictly forbidden for any Butei.


1198, Month of the Rat.

The name of the village has been lost to time but I know it was a small place, silhouetted against the Spine of the World. It was as still as a temple when I arrived, store fronts and tea houses without laughter or light in the cold of winter. I spent a night there in a small inn before Kakita Kin sought out an Eta mountain man in the brisk morning. His name remains with me simply because the man himself was so unusual. Taka might not have ever existed before I had needed him, sprung fully formed from the stone to lead my way through Shamate Pass. All good fortune comes with a price however and I found Taka had two. I parted ways with a single bu and shared his company with a man named Ikoma Okami. The Lion seemed shrewd, having probably dealt with Scorpion in his career before. I tried to present myself as naively as possible, moving swiftly pass any insult and dodging any question or request I found could put me at risk. I believe he knew very little, but found his insistence that we share Shochu annoying.

Snow began to fall. First it came in a light scattering, my white hair matching the fat, wide flakes. Then it came in a torrent. A biting cold wind trying to cut through my Straw cloak and against my face. I regretted not packing snow shoes as the slush and cold bit at my toes, but my incompetence in hiking endeared me somewhat to the red haired man. Soon we were directed beneath a forest canopy which eased my walking. Okami asked if I needed help and seemed pleased when I proved to be slightly steadier of gate on numb feet. We travelled for a while more in a world that was rapidly becoming as pure as a blank roll of parchment and Taka grew anxious about our safety. I admit I began to share those fears.

Thankfully we saw a shape, a leviathan lurking out of the white flurry. A round monolith that stood as a separate peak from those around it. It was there our small group found refuge.

The stillness of the place was eerie with the fury the icy sky held. We stood in darkness and shook the snow from our bodies, finding the floors thick with a layer of dust. It was not long before we joined by others, three men seeking the same shelter. Two brothers I had seen in the village, from the Ozimu family. Both were palanquin bearers that I considered hiring and their client and reason for travelling so far out was an extravagantly dressed Kasuga Ichihara. I was chastised by both Lion and Tortoise for placing my hand upon the grip of my Katana, simulating surprise. In my apologetic manner I further reinforced the idea of an inexperienced and frightened Crane bushi.

The door did not stay closed long. Three more arrived, an odd mix of Shosuro Shugenja and Kituski. Airi and Aiko were pretty young ladies from what I could see beneath their masks and proved very useful with their magic later on. While Jurobei was thankfully focused on Ichihara I politely avoided the three of them as best to my ability, finding the Shosuro far too close to home and the Kitsuki a challenge I would not like to scale yet.

A peasant family arrived after them, with a Samurai escort. In later conversations I discovered them to be Grandmother Oba-San, her daughter Izu and grandson Jin from the Takoboshi family. Izu had lost her husband to the War Season and was now searching for compensation for her son's safety. Jin had the same sad air of a child without a parent and little understanding why. What surprised me most were their company and Jin's beast of burden. Yoritomo Kotaro was an imposing figure, in the company of two tanned and hardy Dragons. Togashi Yuna and Mirumoto Wenbo were obviously as close as Shosuro Airi and Aiko, spending much of the night together.

The exchange of names and formal introductions were made but it became clear we would be taking the pragmatic approach to our stay. The group's activity echoed through the abandoned stone halls. We built a fire and unrolled a large, dusty rug upon the freezing ground to give us a warm place to sit. I explored the two floors above with some of the other guests, while others went out behind the tower into a much quieter courtyard. The place was strange, storied and old. Taka claimed that people avoided it because of long haunting spirits. Airi explained to an attentive Ichihara that it was caled Shiro Oh once upon a time and belonged to a now lost Ronin smith of great skill. We discovered remnants of the lives of people long gone; A set of shogi pieces arranged oddly, the name Ryu upon the dragon, A child's empty chair sitting accusingly in a room, an old empty bedroll splattered with some thick black liquid and a long abandoned bed frame of the Master above. What was most unsettling resided in a room beneath a set of stairs on the second floor.

Three oil paintings, laid against the cold stone wall. I turned them about, intrigued at the prospect that someone would abandon something so important and personal. They were not good objectively. Sloppy work with harsh brush strokes and uneducated colours. The first depicted a lone baby in a crib and had suffered at the hands of the water Kami, who now made their own artwork with running paint and mould. The second was of a Samurai in full armour, proud upon the battle field, but as sickly as the young nameless child. The girl was last. She was alone within a garden, quiet and mournful and intriguing. I found myself wondering about her. The sister of the baby in the crib? The child itself now grown? I might have never known. What stuck in my mind most was that it lacked the sickness and age the others shared. It was as fresh as the day it was painted some decades ago. I placed the paintings back where they belonged, hopefully deferring respect to any spirits that might still look upon them favourably.

Kotaro and I found a ladder to the rooftop upon the third floor. I tested the rungs carefully and he pushed me aside, climbing up eagerly to expose us both to the elements. A howling wind blew into the tower and he only briefly considered the world before before the hatch was slammed shut. The Mantis annoyed me from then on. In an evening where I made Tea for the group and declined a meal so that I might exude honour, I hoped I had cultivated an image to escape probing eyes when I decided to set up my tent upon the second floor. I would be colder of course, but then I would have some privacy, or so I thought. Kotaro appeared to me and claimed he held suspicions for Kin's desire to not sleep in a pile like dogs. I disarmed him somewhat, pleading innocence and refusing to break character under harsh words. When his talk with me proved fruitless he disappeared downstairs. From then on I kept an equally close gaze upon him as his upon me.

I slipped Kakita's face off after and tried to ease into an evening of private thoughts, tired of a day dealing with pompous asses and young oafs. It was an arrogant mistake, of course, one I would not make again, as I found the others were not as content to simply sleep. The fortunes chose to test my patience. The second floor became a thoroughfare for activity. The Shosuro Twins investigated the shogi set with the intensity of twin Kitsuki until the brutish Ichihara brushed them away and attempted to play a game against Jurobei. He made the Kitsuki use Ryu's piece and I began to wonder about the strange Tortoise after he sorely lost the game. I doubted he even knew how to play. My suspicions grew when the man hid in one of the rooms. Up the stairs came the Omizu brothers, hesitant and obviously distraught at leaving the safety of the others. Sharp whispering came from between them and I watched quietly from within my tent as they crept across the open floor and slipped into the room with the stained mat. They remained in there for only a short time before scampering back out and down the stairs once more. Kasuga followed them shortly after and I was forced to wait for the early hours of a new day.

I was miserable, cold and tense. Exhausted from a day upon the road in the body of another and beginning to regret Kin's insistence that we would fast for the night. As any Butei knows it is a tiring affair to be another. You not only exaggerate everything that you do or say but you suppress all else about yourself, expending the energy for two men in twice the time. Kin would not return to me, instead treating my subconscious as his bed roll, which fanned the flames of my frustrations. In my meditations a pain grew within my head, black spots appeared in my sight and I felt my teeth grinding together in a way they had not since I was young. I admit there was also a fear that I might grow frostbitten so far from the others and I felt the chill of the realm of spirits now that night had silenced all things once more. I packed away my tent and gear and used my training to select a better place to hide, creeping past a room full of sleeping men, women. The pantry was warmer then the floor above, warm air circulating better through the kitchen and into my quiet makeshift bedroom. I retired here for the night, furious at my alter ego.

I dreamed of him that night. Kin and I were stood in the snow behind the tower. Icy steps lead from the hindmost door, past a small outhouse built for the servants and through a tall red Torii. There was a courtyard here, bordered on all sides by a thick forest laden with snow and a now capped stone peak, unshaped by human hands. Water trickled quietly out of sight of the flagstones of the yard from a small reservoir, moving swift enough to halt the formation of ice. A broad shouldered Smithery sagged sadly in this beautiful place, tools abandoned and rusted in the open elements, and my eyes could find nothing of the horizon but white snowy skies and the silent sentinels of mountain peaks.

The Kakita smiled at me and I frowned in return. We both were compelled to look up at one of the posts of the Torii, where a small paper charm blew in the gentle wind that carried ever more flakes. Kin reached up for it and I attempted to halt him, angry that he would move without my order or permission. It was foolish and offensive to disturb the words and hopes of others. In that naive way of his he simply laughed and plucked it from it's place, taking my arm and pulling me out towards the forest. I wanted to chastise the boy as we walked like friends through the tree line and into deepest darkest woodland, but found he appeared to pity me. Rather then being angry with him I instead felt a sudden inexplicable fear.

That was my first night within Shiro Oh.

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