|Dark Oracle of Fire, Part III|
|Written By:||Shawn Carman, Rich Wulf|
Annotated Story Edit
Previously: Dark Oracle of Fire, Part II
Somewhere in the Dragon mountains, present day, Asako Bairei sits on a boulder writing on a piece of parchment. Nearby Mirumoto Tsuge, clearly annoyed, asks him what he is doing. Bairei points out that until Isawa Nakamuro and Tamori Shaitung return there is little they can do but wait, and he would prefer to spend his time noting down interesting stuff he has seen if he may be dying soon. Tsuge asks him if he is afraid to die, but Bairei points out that he only fears his death will be without purpose. Bairei asks Tsuge if he fears death, but Tsuge boasts that Dragon do not fear death. Bairei's retort draws a chuckle from Hitomi Maya, and Tsuge wishes to know what kind of pointless information Bairei is writing down. Bairei says he noticed the exquisite craftmanship of the tsuba on Tsuge's katana, but is sorry that Tsuge does not think his grandfather's sword worth noting. Tsuge's eyes narrow and his hand strays towards his blade, but Bairei does not notice. Tsuge offers Bairei to sample the steel, and Bairei graciously accepts Tsuge's offer to examine the blade more closely. Tsuge storms off in anger, and Maya asks Bairei why he plays the fool when he is clearly very smart. Bairei says that he did not want to allow Tsuge the satisfaction of intimidating him. In general he has been underestimated all his life, and this occasionally allows him to accomplish what he wants in the search for knowledge. Those who think him a fool he does not care about, but those who see through his act he can trust to treat as equals. Maya thinks Bairei would be quite interesting as a monk, which Bairei contemplates for a moment before asking if it would give him more time to read.
Somewhere further up the mountain, Isawa Nakamuro and Tamori Shaitung are climbing with Tamori Chosai just ahead of them. Chosai has been silent since he was revealed as the Dragon traitor, and Nakamuro could sense that Shaitung is struggling with her love for her uncle and her duty as the Tamori Daimyo. Shaitung points out a cave further up that they are trying to get to, and not for the first time Nakamuro thinks they could have reached it easily had they used magic. A few minutes later tehy reach the ledge by the cave, and all three are noticably tired from the climb. Nakamuro asks why they have come here, and Shaitung reveals it is the only way she can contact this particular vassal of hers. Nakamuro asks what kind of vassal would live in a place such as this, and as Shaitung replies Nakamuro hears a rumbling sound. Certain they are about to be hit with an avalance he begins asking the kami to take them away, before stopping as Shaitung did not appear to be alarmed. A zokujin appears, and Shaitung reveals it was one of the zokujin who helped them escape from Tamori during their first encounter. Kjgkt recognizes Nakamuro and thinks he is Shaitung's mate, but Nakamuro explains they are just allies. Shaitung reveals the zokujin are also fighting Tamori, and asks Kjgkt that they need his help in locating Tamori. Kjgkt says Tamori is hard to find let alone get to. Shaitung thinks they have someone who knows the tunnels well enough to get to him. Kjgkt agrees to help them locate Tamori, and hopes they will be able to defeat the Dark Oracle. Shaitung promises that they will, even if it kills them.
During the climb down Nakamuro asks Shaitung if she meant Mirumoto Tsuge when she said she knew someone with knowledge of the tunnels. Shaitung confirms it is Tsuge, having fought an ally of Tamori's in the tunnels. Nakamuro points out that Tsuge will not be happy that Bairei and he are joining them. Shaitung does not care, as Tsuge will do as he is ordered, but Nakamuro is not so sure. Nakamuro contemplates Chosai and how dangerous he can be if the forget about him for even a moment. For a moment he feels fear, but pushes it away immediately. He could not afford to be afraid. As they reach the others Nakamuro finds Bairei and Maya in a good mood, but Tsuge was more angry than when they had left him. Nakamuro thinks about the Dark Covenant of Fire, and if Tamori realizes it has fallen into their hands he will flee and they will never find him. Time was becoming short, and they must face Tamori soon.
Four hours later, somewhere underground, the group are attacked. Nakamuro is knocked to the ground by the convulsing ground, causing his vision to blur. As he recovers he sees that Bairei and Maya are fine, but Tsuge appears to be unconcious. He uses the air kami to push back the attacking earth, and hears a call from Shaitung asking if he still has the Covenant. Nakamuro calls out that he has, but as he tries to clear more space he sense someone approaching. A cold voice from the shadows announces the arrival of Isawa Taeruko. Shaitung is angry, but Taeruko chides her and Nakamuro for the way they are dressed. Nakamuro asks her why she did this, and Taeruko replies it is because nobody tried to save her daughter. Bairei steps alongside Shaitung, ready for battle, and tells Taeruko she has disgraced them all. Suddenly Nakamuro realizes something is wrong, and asks Taeruko what the name of her daughter is. Taeruko is outraged, but Nakamuro insists. Nakamuro commands the air kami around Taeruko to leave, revealing Master of Fire Isawa Hochiu. Shaitung is confused, but Nakamuro asks Hochiu why he helped Tamori. Hochiu defends himself, saying he did not help Tamori. He has seen the Phoenix become weak during the War of Spirits and they must be reborn in conflict as they have in the past. Nakamuro is outraged at the claim he did this for the good of the Phoenix, with so many dead on both sides of the war. Hochiu says they live in Yomi, having died heroes, but Nakamuro thinks he is as mad as his father was. Hochiu does not agree, and points to Nakamuro and Bairei as prime examples of those who have grown in stature thanks to the war. Hochiu tells Nakamuro to give him the Covenant so he can defeat Tamori.
Nakamuro points out that Hochiu is responsible for Isawa Riake's death. For a moment Hochiu's face falters, but he pushes it aside. Nakamuro presses the point, and Hochiu's face twists into rage as he summons fire around his sword. A sudden wave of water hits Hochiu, and Nakamuro can see Bairei is outraged. Bairei screams that Hochiu is a disgraced murderer, and Hochiu erupts in a column of flame. Bairei barely douses the flame heading for him, creating a scalding steam in the cave. Nakamuro attempts to drive the steam at Hochiu but it does not affect him, and Hochiu sends a ball of blue flame at Nakamuro. Before Nakamuro can protect himself the ball is stopped by a sudden wall of earth, and Shaitung appears at his side asking if he is ok. Nakamuro is silently glad she cared about him enough to ask, but tells her Hochiu is very powerful and this must be ended quickly. Shaitung's wall of earth melts into lava, and Hochiu commends her on her prowess the last time they met. He leaps into the air, easily deflecting attacks from Nakamuro and Bairei.
Shaitung is certain that Tamori will sense them soon, and as she warns the others the cavern explodes. A large shard hits Nakamuro in the chest, causing him to be disoriented. Tamori has found them, and his booming voice tells them they should not be fighting here. Nakamuro is badly wounded, blood trickling down from the corner of his mouth. Tamori sees his daughter, and thanks her for visiting but would have preferred it if she had let him know she was coming. Tamori notices Hochiu, and tells him he is no longer protected by the ritual he had used. Hochiu is defiant, and calls out for Chosai to act. Chosai has obtained the Dark Covenant in the confusion, and orders Tamori to face Hochiu in an iaijutsu duel, without the use of his magical abilites. Tamori curses his brother but accepts the challenge, confident in his strength from the taint. Hochiu and Tamori face eachother, and the seconds drag out into minutes. Nakamuro does not relish facing either winner after the duel is complete. He locks eyes with Maya who nods, and he hopes her plan will succeed whatever it is. Suddenly both duelists strike with lightning speed moving past eachother in a blur of movement. Slowly Tamori slumps to the ground, and Hochiu holds a long, jagged wound across his chest. Hochiu thinks he has won, but Tamori reveals he is not yet dead. Hochiu leaps at the Dark Oracle, but is incinerated before he can get that far. Nothing is left of the Master of Fire, not even his sword. A second blast of fire catches Chosai off guard, and the weak flames spread across his body as if torturing the old man. Shaitung pleads with her father to stop, and Tamori laughs at her attempt to appeal to him. She reveals she was merely getting him to gloat, and steel suddenly just out of his chest. He looks down in confusion, and Tsuge kicks him off his blade from behind. Tamori is dead, and Tsuge requests permission to commit seppuku to attone for having aided Tamori. Shaitung asks him what he is talking about, and he reveals that he had chased Tamori's servant Hitaka into the mountains months ago.
Tamori had captured Tsuge and his men, and tortured and killed the men until Tsuge gave him permission to attack the Dragon armies. Shaitung tells him he is a fool, and they need him to help them out or they will all die. Nakamuro is about to say something to Tsuge, but is interrupted by Chosai. Chosai is becoming the next Dark Oracle of Fire, and is preparing to kill the group. Shaitung screams for Chosai to fight it, and suddenly Maya appears next to Nakamuro with the Covenant in her hand. Nakamuro seizes the Covenant and tells Chosai he must hear what he has to say. Chosai scowls at Nakamuro but tells him to make his demand. Nakamuro tells him to leave Rokugan as swiftly as he is able and never return. Chosai's eyes widen and he curses Nakamuro before fading into the fire. Shaitung is sad and Nakamuro wants to go to her. Nakamuro tries to rise but cannot stand. Maya comes to help, and whispers that Shaitung would not accept his comfort if he offered. Shaitung looks at Nakamuro for a moment before saying they should leave this place.
Sometime later, Nakamuro has been bandaged and healed slightly by Bairei. Bairei is making preparations for them to leave, and Nakamuro is meeting with Shaitung. He wants to say something, but ends up offering his apologies. Shaitung says he has nothing to apologize for, and that her family owes hima great debt. Nakamuro turns to leave, but pauses. After a few moments he attempts to tell Shaitung something, but she cuts him off. She has her responsibilities as Tamori Daimyo, and he as Master of Air. Nakamuro knows, and Shaitung says she only has the Tamori family left now. Nakamuro thinks she is stubborn, preferring seclusion to the chance of being hurt again. Shaitung points out that he has his own issues to resolve, the council needing new members. Nakamuro says that the distance between the two would not be difficult to overcome for the Master of Air, and that he will return to help her with her loss. Shaitung tells him he can be a fool if he wishes, and she will not stop him. It is as close as Nakamuro will get to an acknowledgement from her, so he bids her farewell and leaves.
- Asako Bairei
- Mirumoto Tsuge
- Hitomi Maya
- Isawa Nakamuro
- Tamori Shaitung
- Tamori Chosai
- "Isawa Taeruko"
- Isawa Hochiu
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
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