|Written By:||Rich Wulf|
|Story Year:||1150, 1158, 1159|
Annotated Story Edit
Nine years ago, Soshi Eiji is supervising the removal of items from his brother's house and his own possessions being moved in. His mother asks him why he did what he did, and Eiji tries to brush her aside by telling her she is not well enough to be up and about. His mother tells him that his brother Soshi Ippei loved him. Eiji tells her he misses Ippei, but she does not believe him. She asks him why he died, but Eiji does not understand why she can blame him when his brother was killed fighting the armies of the Steel Chrysanthemum. She tells him that he recruited Ippei for the Emperor, but Eiji counters that all samurai must be prepared to die if their duty demands it. She tells him his brother loved him even knowing what he was, but Eiji merely says the inheritance from their father was better in his hands. She asks him why he is so wicked and he replies that it is a wicked world and only men like him can thrive. His mother stares at him as if looking for some sign of regret, but finds none and turns and leaves him alone.
Present day, and Eiji is in the street looking at his house. A fresh blanket of the winter's first snow covers the ground and roof but he doesn't feel the chill. The doors open and his wife Soshi Kiyo, his Snowflake, steps out, and he realizes his tears have frozen. She looks concerned at him and he smiles back as the sound of hoofbeats in the distance can be heard.
One year ago, somewhere near Kyuden Doji, Eiji is caught out in a blizzard. He was on his way to spend the winter in Kyuden Doji as an ambassador but became separated from his guide. All that is keeping him alive is a heavy fur cloak, a gift from Ide Michisuna. He stumbles through the forest, knowing that if he doesn't find Kyuden Doji soon he will die out here. For a moment he thinks he hears his brother's voice on the wind, and calls out. Memories of them growing up together, his brother his closest friend. But as they had grown older Eiji had focused on his studies while Ippei remained popular and loved. Eiji had grown to hate his brother, and was responsible for his death as sure as if he has been fighting for the armies of the Steel Chrysanthemum. Eiji feels remorse for the first time in his life and begins to sob as he begs Ippei for forgiveness. A voice asks him who Ippei is and he looks up to see a young beautiful woman with black hair and green eyes in simple peasant's garments. Eiji offeres her his cloak, but she tells him she is not cold. As she passes her cloak back to him he no longer feels the cold too, as if standing next to a fire. She says that he is seeking Kyuden Doji and that she will guide him there. He asks her what he is, and she asks him what does he think she is. He says that she is a spirit luring him into the forest never to be seen again, but he does not mind. She tells him he is half right, that she is a spirit, but she will guide his to Kyuden Doji. He asks her what kind of spirit she is, and she asks if he thinks she is an oni. He says that if all oni were as lovely as her the entire Empire would be corrupted. She tells him she is a kitsune, named Snowflake. Eiji laughs, but quickly assures her it is because he finds the name very appropriate. Eiji introduces himself and thanks her for saving his life. She tells him he is fortunate she found him, as she has only been in this realm since the previous night when the Lady of the Forest allowed her to take her taboos and enter Rokugan. Eiji thanks the Lady aswell before asking what a taboo is. Snowflake replies that it is a promise her kind take to be able to safeguard their spirit in this realm, and that she has taken three. Eiji asks if it is similar to jade in the Shadowlands, but Snowflake does not know what the Shadowlands is. Eiji asks her what the three promises are. Snowflake asks him if he is always this inquisitive and Eiji replies only when he meets beautiful forest spirits. She laughs and the tells him that her first taboo is to never be touched by the elemental magic of a shugenja, and the second is to always answer a question with a question. Eiji asks her if she has to with every question, and Snowflake replies with another. He asks her what the third promise was, but just then the blizzard dissipates fully and Kyuden Doji can be seen nearby. She asks him if she can trust him with that promise as it lies close to her heart, but he tells her to wait until he has earned that trust. Snowflake says she is a free spirit, and he may never see her again. He suggests that she should come with him then, so he can show her the world. She wonders if people would not asks questions, wondering where she came from. Eiji says they would not if she was his wife. For a moment he thinks about the political advantages of marriage, but does not care and asks her to marry him being careful not to phrase it as a question. Snowflake asks him to promise never to tell anyone what she is or she will vanish. Eiji promises, and has never been more sincere in his life.
Present Day, and Snowflake is moving closer toward Eiji. The horses are getting closer and she asks him who is coming. Eiji asks her why she saved his life in that blizzard, and she comments on how he is answering questions with questions. He presses the issue, and she reveals it was because he was kind. He tells her he is not a kind man and she does not know him as she thinks she does, but she claims she knows enough. The horses come into view further down the street, the mon of Bayushi Sunetra is visible. Eiji takes a step away from Snowflake who looks at him confused before looking at the riders.
Ten months ago, and Eiji is contempltating the recent attack on the capital Otosan Uchi by the Dark Lord's armies and it's destruction. Many had been killed, even some who Eiji knew, but he did not care. All he cared about was his wife, who had been struck with a fever shortly after they fled the city. None of the medicines he has found help and he sits by her bed praying, and she no longer responds to anyone. In his hand he holds a letter, which arrived two days ago, expressing the possibility of a cure. All he would need to do was to place a red chrysanthemum by his door, and he had done so without hesitation. An old serving woman at the door to the room announces visitors, and Eiji tells her to send them away if it is that shugenja again. She tells him they are not shugenja as three figures in dark black cloaks enter the room. The leader walks over to the foot of the bed and asks him if this is Kiyo, his wife. Eiji tells the servant to leave, and then warns the three that if they are shugenja they must leave now. The leader of the three tells Eiji that their magic is not elemental, and they are not shugenja. He says Eiji must serve them, and Eiji will do anything to save his wife. The leader accepts and the three begin chanting as the leader draws a knife. Eiji had suspected they would be tsukai and his soul hardens, but the leader tells him they need a vessel for the taint and orders him to call back the old woman.
Present day, Snowflake looks at Eiji before looking at the horses, stopping them in their tracks. She asks Eiji what is happening, and he tells her to leave him if she loves him. She tells him she will never leave him, and asks if they have come to harm him. He tells her to release the horses before the riders understands what she is and harms her. Snowflake frowns but releases the horses. The leader, a large man with a moon-white mask and a odd looking double ended spear, approaches them and calls out to Eiji. He asks if he is ready to fulfill his bargain. Eiji replies to Shosuro Yudoka that he is.
One week ago, Eiji is meeting with Yudoka, confessing his involvement with the Shadowed Tower. Yudoka asks if he is begging for forgiveness, but Eiji merely wishes to share his knowledge of the organization. Yudoka asks him what he knows about the Tower, and Eiji reveals he has been an agent for many months. He supplied information on Crane and Scorpion trade routes as well as arranged for agents to be placed in certain magistrate positions. Yudoka points out he may already have this information, and Eiji suggests that if that is the case he will know Eiji is speaking the truth. Eiji reminds Yudoka that he revealed himself to Yudoka voluntarily, and Yudoka points out that it is the only reason why there is not a torturor present. Eiji says he was coerced into helping, but Yudoka confirms that matters little. Eiji has come to attone, but asks only one thing in return. Yudoka will not promise anything but allows Eiji to speak, and Eiji tells him the one thing he wishes.
Present day, Yudoka asks Eiji if this is his wife. Eiji confirms it is and asks if the two may have a private moment. Yudoka agrees, and moves away. Snowflake thinks they are here to kill him, or to take him to Traitor's Grove. Eiji says they will not take him to the Grove, but to Kyuden Bayushi where he may commit seppuku before the Scorpion Clan Champion. Snowflake says that is the same thing, but Eiji points out that all samurai must be prepared to die when duty commands it. She asks how she can go on without him, but Eiji thinks he has doomed her either way. Eiji reveals that the night of their wedding the Lady of the Forest came to him and told him of her third taboo. She had to marry within a year, and marry a good man. Eiji says he is not a good man, and has failed her. Snowflake smiles for a moment in her sadness, and asks him if he really must do this. He must, and she tells him that the kitsune know alot about the path to the realms after death. She will watch over his clan and wait for the day they will meet again. Eiji laughs for a moment then embraces and kisses her. Handing her his mask he turns and joins Yudoka's men. He rides to Kyuden Bayushi with no fear in his heart.
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
- Soshi Ippei
- Steel Chrysanthemum
- Emperor Eiji recruited for
- Ide Michisuna
- Lady of the Forest
- Bayushi Sunetra - Mistress of Secrets
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