- Region Map
- A Broken Vessel
- A Quiver Unfilled
- Gusting Snow
- Warm Welcome
- Heavy Burden
- Frayed thread
- Shogi Pieces
- Morning Fog
- A River of Many Rocks
壊れた容器 A Broken Vessel
Sessho-seki Hitoshi set his calligraphy brush down gently next to the missive he had just been composing. His sake cup set upon the table next to the paper shimmered as the breeze rolled into the half open room. Knelt in front of the low table looking out onto his well tended garden Hitoshi had been enjoying the onset of the autumn colours across the maple trees. His breath caught briefly as he went to speak. After a moment he composed himself and turned to face the intruders in his room.
"You will tell me again what you just said." The words came out gently and Hitoshi did not look at the two men knelt before. His eyes lured to the dark hallway from which the man had come, the light seemingly ending abruptly from this room and turning itself to a cold dark.
"Daimyo," The first man stuttered. "It, it is as I said." Hitoshis' eyes flicked to the man. He was young, too young, yes now he thought of it he did recognise him. Nobuo, son of Tadao one of his retainers the man to this boys right. Looking at his retainers ashen face Hitoshi recognised that the boy was indeed telling the truth.
"Your son, he is dead."
"Sister, be gone! I do not have time for your petty squabbles or whatever trivial item you wish to set before me today. Father has asked me to review the koku accounts for the year." Umeko pouted behind her brother the scroll tube she held in her hands suddenly forgotten in the face of her brothers rude dismissal.
"However do you expect to take on this reins of this fiefdom when you are so rude darling brother." She simpered while glowering at the tall, lithe form of her brother Kade. "If you talk like that clearly no woman will ever be yours and the families name will fall into disrepute."
Kade sighed and put his hand to his forehead. "Just tell me why you're here Ume." She brought a scowl from his sister as it always did, she hated being called a plum. Thrusting her hand forward she showed him the scroll tube. "This, it is from a source of mine in the city. It appears that Masaru is making some inroads with the nobles there finally." She flicked her head to the side as he took the proffered tube before muttering. "Not that father cares."
Kade reached into the tube and pulled out the contained letter delicately. The writing was familiar enough that he could identify it as his brother Masaru's easily. Things were progressing smoothly, even in these troubled times. Feeling the pressure about his temples lift slightly Kade looked up at his sibling. "My apologies Umeko, it has just been a long week." Umeko sniffed and still looked away from him.
"I want you to know I had nothing to do with that business with Hisao and that, woman." Umeko visibly flinched as she spoke and Kade put his hand up to stop her. "I never suspected anything of the sort sister. The whole thing has been dealt with as quietly as possible, the last thing we need is father to find out about his sons misdemeanour." Umeko looked back at Kade visibly upset. "Yes sister I am aware it was more than a misdemeanour but we have paid the family off and the body returned to them. Gods willing it was just an honest mistake on Hisao's part." Kade felt his face set to hide his emotions on the issue. Better Umeko not know the truth, she had always had a soft spot for her little brother Hisao and to know that he was a murderer and worse someone who enjoyed the process of it would break her heart. Kade turned back to the bales of rice. "Now get going before I put you to work counting with me." He heard her gracefully exit the room and felt the pressure in his head come back with vengeance.
Hisaos hand trembled as he looked at it, he hadn't slept for days, or at least that's what it felt like. There had been so much blood. Why had she pushed him to it. He curled up tightly on the floor of his room. His new room, they had moved him from his old one. The Tatami mats had been stained. His hands found his face again scratching impatiently at his cheeks.
"Brother." She was back, the voice cold and imperious. She was beautiful, her hair held up in an ornate manner and her face delicate as a snowflake. "Get off the floor."
Hisao still lay curled there looking up at Umeko his fingers idly scratching at his face, red marks trailed in their wake, not quite breaking the skin.
"Brother," she was quieter this time. Leaning down she put her hand on his shoulder. "She deserved it. She looked on your face and she was just a farmers daughter. You just taught her a lesson that's all." Her face hadn't moved at all. She was ice, beautiful fragile looking but strong and once she had power over you she could crush you at her will. Hisao closed his eyes wishing he didn't see the poor farm girl and every cut he had laid upon her.
"Dead," the word hung like poison in the air.
"How." Hitoshi said calmly.
"He was cut down Daimyo." Hitoshi's eyebrows drew in sharply.
"A claimant to the throne Sir." the boy looked sick. His father looked near death. Hitoshi balled his fist in his lap anger beginning to wash over him.
"Daimyo, I offer my life to you in return for my boys failure to protect your son." Tadao was bowed head to the floor his son visibly shaking reaching a hand towards his father mouth opening and closing wordlessly.
"I will not hear of it Tadao. Boy, tell me quickly a fact you have yet to give me. Which of my sons is dead." Hitoshi spoke forcefully but still quietly letting the anger build.
"Masaru Sir, it was Masaru, I'm sorry Sir." The boy knelt forward as well head touching the ground. "He must've said something to offend the man and before I knew it in the middle of the street he was cut down and I was kidnapped. The only reason I live Sir is to bring you this news, otherwise I would be in the gutter. Your sons body lays in the city awaiting you, Sir." Hitoshi turned back to his desk. The brush and paper still sitting there, a dot of ink on the table where it had bled from the brush. The sake shimmered at him again. Outside a crane stood watching the stream in the garden wind rustling the reddening leaves.
"My son," the words came out little more than a whisper. Hitoshi put his hand out to the table. The world swum in front of him. Suddenly he roared in anguish. Striking the items off of the table he stood turning towards the two bowing men. The brush rolled across the floor leaving a dark line the sake cup shattered as it hit the wooden beam in the wall, a delicate tinkling and the scent of sake filled the air. "Why was he in the city!" A hot rage burned at Hitoshi, the trouble had not come to them. His son had found the trouble. Even in this backwater away from intrigue where he had thought his family safe from all the problems of the world. Screaming incoherently again he drew his wazikashi from his belt. The two bowing men had shuffled back away from his rage, the shouting had bought his retainers in from outside the door swords also drawn looks of confusion on their faces.
"Bring me, Kade!" He shouted at them. "Bring. Me. Kade!"
The water passing through the struts of the ornate bridge to the shrine glittered cheerfully underneath Fumiko. Her robes of red and white being caught and tugged gently by the breeze. Her mother stood next to her looking out onto the same tranquil scene.
"Kade tells me that he's sent Masaru into the city." Fumiko said her statement clearly a question to her mother.
"Yes well, we need to keep making friends in even in these times my dear. The Noble clans have to eat just as much as anyone else." Fumiko sighed at her mother and turned back to the river. "They all need to take brides soon aswell. That is the real reason Fumiko." Fumiko nodded sagely, not everyone was destined to live alone like her.
"Good, I'm glad that you understand mother, I had begun to wonder. Especially for Kade." Her mothers stance shifted, so it was as she feared. "You're not looking for one for Kade, are you? He is a dutiful son and a masterful bureaucrat. But he is not a leader. I would trust him to organise my court but never to hold it. The boy has no passion." her hand clasped on the raining of the bridge. "Masaru will be the heir, it is only a matter of time until your father sees it so." Fumiko turned away from her mother well aware that her position in the shrine put her on an equal footing with her mother she decided to try exercising her authority for the first time. Looking back over her shoulder at her mother she cast her features in the most serious manner she could.
"Be careful which threads you burn Kyoko. One of them may lead to a robe of silk that you did not know you had." Fumiko paced away from her mother towards the second Tori marking the shrine.
Kade knelt on the cold floor letting the news sink in.
"We cannot tell mother." Kade blurted out, quickly silencing himself and cursing internally at his outburst. "Why do you think I called you here instead of her." His father spoke in a gruff voice horse from the shouting he had done. "Your mother had high hopes for him." Kade nodded, higher than his father knew he was sure.
"I cannot go into the city, where one of ours has already been cut down so easily surely this is bait to pull our clan down one by one." His father nodded mutely "We need an independent. But someone who can still be counted on to bring Masaru back." Kade drummed his fingers on the floor.
"Are you really so craven Kade." Hitoshi's face had aged by many years in the course of a day. The crestfallen man in front of Kade was not the man he had come to know as his father. "If my brother had died by the sword and not from the errant buck of a horse I would've moved the gods stone itself to avenge him." Hitoshi's voice croaked, the emotion of sorrow did not suit his father, but then again neither did this apparent wish for Kade to end his life in a violent fashion. Kade opened his mouth to respond but Hitoshi glared at him and he felt his rebuke die on his lips.
"As I thought. Ever the bureaucrat. I weep for this clan when you are in charge." Hitoshi stood and walked to the sliding door that led to the garden. "The independent you are looking for is your sister at the shrine. If you will not face this evil then she shall." Hitoshi turned back to Kade a pained look fleeting across his face. To Kade it looked for a second that his father was going to apologies to him but then a dark shadow seemed to fall on the man. "Prepare our clan for war Kade, call the men to arms, notify the smiths and announce our intent to the neighbouring clans. At least in this I know you will serve." Hitoshi swept outside in a flurry of robes leaving Kade gaping at the pronouncement his father had just made.
The Gohei adorning the warding rope around the stone pattered quietly against its surface as a gust flurried through the shrine. Fumiko sighed exasperatedly. "It is long beyond sundown, the shrine is closed." She intoned. It was probably yet another young boy from the nearest village who played a silly game of sneaking into the shrine and climbing through the hole in the rock to prove themselves to their peers. She turned around expecting to catch a glimpse of the boy running out of the doors, instead a messenger stood in front of her. He bowed politely and offered the parchment tube he carried to her.
"The lord Kade instructed me to bring this to you immediately Dai ichi miko." Fumiko quietly took the tube from him noticing the intricately tied knot at the top. Bad news, tied in that manner it meant bad news. "Thank you, you're free to leave. If I wish to reply to my brother I shall do so in person." The messenger bowed again before walking calmly away out of the main door. Fumiko tugged once at the knot and felt it come apart, the parchment inside quietly holding its news for her. She closed her eyes and drew it out taking a deep breath, her brother had not used that knot in a long time. She opened her eyes and read of the death of her brother and the task she had been given. After a little while Fumiko composed herself and burnt the letter. So, she was to retrieve her brothers body, this would not be the first time she had had a similar task, but war. War changed everything, even she might not be safe in the city with the banners raised and the troops massing. She shook her head, she owed at least this much to Kade he had always looked over her. Sighing she packed her travelling gear away and made towards the nearest stables house looking back just once at the shrine whos doors she had chained for the first time in over 100 years.
A month had passed and the weather had not been kind to the Sessho-seki province. Snow blanketed the ground and the air in front of the spearmen stood to attention in the square outside the castle misted hazily over them. A grand pyre stood in the centre of the square with Masarus body atop it. Bedecked in his ceremonial armour he burned as easily as the wood beneath him.
Hitoshi watched his son and his plans burn soon he would watch the villages and towns of those who had forced this to be burn aswell.
Kade stood off to one side of his father, the two of them had spoken only of matters military since that day they found out. Kade rested his hand on the sword at his belt, soon he would show his father he was more than just a bureaucrat, the plans were all ready in motion.
Kyoko stood eyes fixed on the pyre her son was burning on, they had not told her until the body had come back, that hurt almost as much as his death. She would go to the ends of the earth and speak to the deamons themselves if they could bring Masaru back.
Hisao stood quietly Umeko just behind him. His brother had always been full of himself anyway. Or at least that's what Umeko said, he didn't remember much of it himself. Umeko put her hand on Hisao's shoulder perhaps this was for the best, not Hisao could prove himself a man on the battlefields.
Fumiko watched the fire she had set consume her brothers worldly remains and prayed fervently that this would be the last of her brothers she had to burn.
A Broken Vessel