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|Shadows & Lies|
|Written By:||Nancy Sauer|
|Edited By:||Fred Wan|
Annotated Story Edit
Somewhere in Zakyo Toshi, during the Month of the Dog in 1170, Shosuro Masanobi is making her way home from the night's parties. She stumbles for a moment and pauses to catch herself. She has been pretending to be Shosuro Hana, a playwright and social butterfly. This meant she had to consume a fair amount of sake to keep up appearances, and she could tell she was slightly drunk. She begins planning her exursions tomorrow night, while Hana would be home "working on her play" and recovering. As she nears the area where she lives, she cuts through an alley behind a tofu shop. She notices movement in the corner of her eye, but before she can properly draw her concealed knife she feels something hard hitting her stomach and she is pressed up against the wall of the shop. A hand covers her mouth, pinning her head. Masanobi tries to gauge her opponent, seing a man in a dark kimono with no mon. He has black hair and dark eyes with a faint greenish sheen. She tries to squirm out of his grip bu shrieks as she realizes the pain in her stomach was from a knife. The man guts her, smiling as he does so.
Sometime later, Daigotsu Hirata is telling Daigotsu Masahiko how he killed Masanobi. The two are eating stew, and he explains that it was entirely coincidental that he spotted Masanobi sneaking around in the darkness a few weeks back. He had followed her back, learned what she truly was and decided to kill her. Masahiko thinks to herself that Hirata is useful, but was definitely the least sane Daigotsu she had ever met. He was expendable however, should she ever need a fall-guy. Hirata offers her more stew, and she accepts commenting on the unusual taste. He says it is the local sake, and refills his own bowl next as he asks what her next plans are. Masahiko reveals she is here to recruit any ashigaru and ronin worthy of their Lord's service. Hirata promises to keep an eye out for more spies, to allow Masahiko to work more freely.
Kyuden Bayushi, during the Month of the Rat in 1170, Scorpion Clan Champion Bayushi Paneki is meeting with Bayushi Eisaku. Eisaku's sensei has said good things about him, and Eisaku fights down the pride and replies he only wishes to serve to the best of his ability. Paneki reveals that he has a particular task for Eisaku, but first they are about to have a guest and Eisaku must be polite and is not to ask her any questions. Eisaku agrees, although he would have done so anyway. Paneki is about to continue when he hears something and asks Shosuro Maru to enter. Maru enters, asking if Paneki has a question for her. He does not, revealing he has information to share with her. Maru is happy to be of assistance and sits as Paneki begins to explain that he has been suspicious of the Spider Clan since their recent appearance. Maru knows about them, but thinks Paneki's network must have enough information for him to act. Paneki has information, but only that strange things happen in areas where the Spider have been active, but nothing traces back to them. Maru asks if he has a plan, and Paneki revals that he will send Eisaku to Zakyo Toshi as a ronin to join the Spider active there. Maru is not convinced it is the best plan, but Paneki is confident Eisaku will succeed. Maru stares at Eisaku for a while then asks him if he will be ready to succeed when the time comes. Paneki thinks she is being very oracular, and Maru smiles but does not stop staring at Eisaku. Eisaku hesitates for a moment but in the end says that it will be Paneki's decision if he has succeeded or not. Maru hopes the sentiment will keep him from harm.
Back in Zakyo Toshi, the Month of the Tiger, Masahiko notices there is someone following her. She is not afraid, confident of her abilities in a fight. She turns down a dark alley, and turns abruptly at the end to confront her pursuer. He has a stained kimono and looks barely past his gempukku. She asks him what he wants, and what his name is. He is Ieyasu, but his excuse for being here is a blatant lie. She calls him on it, and he explains that he wishes to train with her at the Steel Strand Dojo. She asks him why he did not just come to the dojo and he explains that when he did there were ashigaru there. She understands, but explains that any who wish to improve are allowed in her dojo. Ieyasu continues telling her that he wishes to improve himself enough to find a new lord. To himself, Eisaku thinks how easy this was, thanks to the intelligence from Maru's contact. Masahiko is pleased with his willingness to improve himself. As Eisaku is about to reply he notices that Masahiko is distracted. Following her line of sight he sees two men drop from the rooftops and continue to struggle in the alley. Eisaku realizes that he was not the main agent sent by Paneki but just a stalking horse for the real agent. Eisaku draws his weapon in an iaijutsu attack on Masahiko, but she blocks it. Masahiko attempts to cut of Eisaku's arm, but misses and grazes him instead. Eisaku cuts her across the stomach, but she does not die. Eisaku realizes that Masahiko is tainted, and as he does she begins healing. Eisaku thinks for a moment, and charges Masahiko. Masahiko thinks he reminds her of Hirata, and as Eisaku continues his furious attacks Masahiko is slowly gaining ground. Just as she is about to gain the upper hand Eisaku changes his attack, lopping off Masahiko's head. Eisaku pauses for a moment to see if she is dead, then sprints over to where the other two were fighting. He finds both dead, the Scorpion impaled on the Spider's blade and Hirata's throat torn out by the Scorpion. Eisaku rests for a moment, deciding on what to do. He kicks down the nearest draw and drags the bodies in. He apologizes to the dead Scorpion for the improvised funeral pyre before torching the building, buring all the evidence of the struggle. Now only he knows of the tainted Spider, and he begins his travel back to Paneki to share that information.
- Shosuro Masanobi / "Shosuro Hana"
- Daigotsu Hirata
- Daigotsu Masahiko / "Masahiko"
- Bayushi Paneki
- Bayushi Eisaku / "Ieyasu"
- Shosuro Maru
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
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