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|Written By:||Shawn Carman|
|Edited By:||Fred Wan|
Annotated Story Edit
Somewhere at sea, in 1169, Yoritomo Hotako is asleep. She is dreaming about floating in the sea clinging on to a scrap of wood. She can feel the sea around her, and things swimming around her. As she is being taken from the water Hotak wakes abruptly and leaps up, but falls down from her exhaustion. As she lies on the floor she recognizes the rolling of the floor as that of a kobune, and after a moment she carefully rises to her feet and moves to the cabin doorway. For a moment she could think she was back on the Spoils of War, but the danger of an unknown vessel quickly grabs her attention. A voice asks her not to be alarmed at her lack of weapons, as they were already missing when she was saved from the ocean. A small man in clean but shabby clothes identifies himself as Motaro, the captain of the Modest Blossom. He implies that if Hotako is not happy with her rescue she can be thrown back into the sea. Hotako apologizes, and asks who she can thank for saving her. Motaro confirms her suspicion that they are not Mantis, but independant contractors. Hotako suspects they are pirates, but Motaro merely points out that they are not unlike what the Mantis themselves are. Hotako does not dispute this, knowing full well the sordid Mantis history. However since the ascension of Yoritomo Naizen, the Scourge of Storms, to Mantis Clan Champion the Mantis have gained a new purpose and direction. Motaro asks her how she came to be adrift at sea. Hotako asks first if there were any other survivors. Motaro confirms her fear that there were none, and she reveals her brother had been on the ship with her. Motaro apologizes for her loss, pointing out that Suitengu can be a wrathful being. Hotako reveals that it was the Serpents of Sanada who were responsible for the attack, not Suitengu. Motaro recognizes the name as a group of pirates. Hotako confirms this, revealling that Naizen had commanded the Serpents be destroyed. Motaro is convinced the Serpents would not be easily found, and Hotako reveals that they had sent only the one ship in hopes of luring out the Serpents. As they continue to talk Hotako begins to feel she recognizes Motaro, but he denies that they have ever met. Motaro asks her how long she had served on her ship, and she reveals it had been six years since her gempukku and appointment to the ship. It was the same ship her brother was serving on, and even an old friend of her mothers, Yoritomo Yoyonagi had visited them. At that she recognizes Motaro as Moshi Mogai. He had been one of the assistants to Yoyonagi. Mogai grimaces, and Hotako calls him a traitor. Mogai tells her to remember that he's saved her life. Hotako thinks about how he had been tainted during the Rain of Blood, and how he and Yoritomo Kitao had created the Dark Wave. They had plagued the Mantis for years until their destruction at the end of the War of Fire and Thunder. Somehow a few ships had escaped, and Mogai must have been on one of them. Mogai asks her what she intends to do now, and warns her he is known as the Master of Pain for a reason. Hotako still thinks his death will be worth her life, but he points out that if she died now she would not understand the truth behind her brother's death. Hotako believes for a moment that it was Mogai's ship that destroyed hers, but he insists it was in fact the Serpents of Sanada. Mogai reveals that his men and some associates are also hunting the Serpents, and they know where they will be and when. Mogai understands that she is confused, but he will explain everything later. If she still wants to kill him afterwards she will be free to try. Hotako considers this for a moment, then joins him in his cabin for food.
Sometime later, a massive man in blood-red armor is asking Mogai if Hotako is coming along. He calls her a child, and Mogai points out to Tatsune that she is worth taking along. He disagrees, saying that he is the commander of the Spider Clan Army and does not need her. She bursts out that she is not a child, but he ignores her and tells Mogai that he will be held responsible for bringing her to this operation. As Tatsune leaves Mogai tells Hotako to ignore him. Hotako thinks the plan is madness, but Mogai thinks theat it is worth it to end the threat of the Serpents of Sanada. Mogai asks her how long they were hunting the Serpents. Hotako reveals they had been hunting them for sevent months. Mogai points out that he and his associates will accomplish their task in less than a week. He points to an island in the distance and asks Hotako if she recognizes it. She does not so he tells her it is Blue Reef Village. There are less than two hundred people who live there and the Serpents will attack there. Mogai reveals they have paid the Serpents to attack and leave no survivors. Hotako is shocked, but Mogai explains that it helps to track the Serpents. Tatsune and his men will ensure the Serpents do not leave the village alive while Mogai's ship takes care of their ships. Hotako points out that many innocent villagers will dies, but Mogai thinks their deaths will be a lesser evil. Hotako is still angry, but Mogai reveals the serpents would attack Isora Mura next instead. Hotako knows there are over a thousand people in Isora Mura, including her parents. Mogai knows the Serpents rarely leave any witnesses, but is sure her parents would be able to survive. Hotako reveals her mother is a courtier, and her father a retired bushi and minor sensei of the local dojo. Mogai asks if the sacrifice of this village would outweigh the lives of those at Isora Mura and her parents. Hotako is silent for several minutes before asking for a weapon if she is to aid Tatsune's forces. Mogai smiles and hands her a pair of sai.
Sometime later Hotako is int middle of the battlefield. The Spider forces are tearing through the Serpents, killing all. Hotako had been sickened by the dead villagers at first, but her grief was replaced with rage. She tears through the Serpents, but when she hears Tatsune order all the Serpents killed she objects. She knows there are more members of the Serpents not present, and they will need to interrogate survivors to find the rest. Tatsune pauses for a moments before pointing at Hotako and ordering his men to kill her. A Spider attacks Hotako, but she knocks him unconcious. She turns and throws her other sai, catching Tatsune in the throat killing him. Hotako turns to the remaining Spider and tells them that they can kill her if they want, but not before they have found out where the rest of the Serpents are. She is surprised to see teh Spider do as she says.
At the end of the battle Hotako was certain she would be killed, but none came for her. As she looks around she sees an arrow sticking out of a dead pirate, and she calls out Tsuruchi. A familiar face emerges from a nearby building, an old friend from the Mantis islands. Tsuruchi Mitsuzuka moves cautiously towards Hotako, asking her who the men with her are and what is going on. Hotako says it doesn't matter, and asks him if he still serves on the Venture. He does, and explains that he had been ordered to remain in the village to oversee the shipments to see if someone was in league with the Serpents of Sanada. Hotako tells Mitsuzuka to inform his captain, Yoritomo Han-ku, that the Serpents have been dealt with by the Spider Clan. Mitsuzuka is confused and wants her to be more clear. Hotako tells Mitsuzuka that he should tell Han-ku that in exchange for dealing with the Serpents the Spider will be allowed to sail through his territoru. This will give Han-ku's brother an easier time of doing his duties. Mitsuzuka does not know what she means, but Hotako knows that he is fully aware of what duty Yoritomo Dainaru fulfills for Naizen. If the Spider are allowed to continue as they are, Dainaru's competition will disappear. Mitsuzuka wants to know more about Hotako and the Spider, and she reveals she intents on hunting down the leader of the Serpents and kill him in revenge of her brother. Mitsuzuka thinks she is throwing her life away, but she replies that since the death of her brother there is nothing left for her but revenge. Mitsuzuka shouts that she is disrgacing her parents, but she only wants them to know that she is avenging her brother.
Sometime later, Hotako is staring out at sea in the direction of Blue Reef Village. Blue Reef Village disappeared from the horizon hours ago, and Mogai had not said anything since their departure. Finally he speaks, telling her she was right to kill Tatsune. Daigotsu would have punished him when he learned of what happened at the village. Hotako shivers at the mention of Daigotsu, but asks how he would have known of what transpired. Mogai is certain he would have somehow, and says he would have told him himself had he survived the return trip. Tatsune was sure to attempt to kill Mogai to silence him. Mogai is pleased he did not have to kill Tatsune, as he would have to assume his position. Hotako is confused, and Mogai reveals that Tatsune was the Obsidian Champion. He had obtained the position in a tournament in the City of the Lost shortly before the city was vacated. Hotako is concerned that Daigotsu will punish her for slaying the Obsidian Champion, but Mogai is confident she will be treated as the new Obsidian Champion. They are travelling to erradicate the Serpents of Sanada, but Hotako is not pleased that it will come at the expense of a few villagers. Mogai thinks it is worth the cost, and Hotako cannot disagree.
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
- Hotako's Unnamed Brother
- Yoritomo Naizen
- Yoritomo Kitao
- Hotako's Unnamed Father
- Hotako's Unnamed Mother
- Yoritomo Han-ku
- Yoritomo Dainaru
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