|Stronger than Steel|
|Written By:||Nancy Sauer|
|Edited By:||Fred Wan|
Annotated Story Edit
Somewhere in Toshi Ranbo, Month of the Rooster 1169, Matsu Takeko is travelling through the streets attempting to ignore her surroundings. Even after the Battle of Toshi Ranbo the Imperial City is bustling, but she must perform the duty given to her. Takeko contemplates the presence of the other clans. The majority are Crane and Lion, with a fair number of Crab, Dragon and Scorpion. She does not like the amountMantis. Most notably is the presence of Phoenix all over the place. Guarding roads and checkpoints, watching over the city. Takeko thinks that for a clan of peace the Shiba family at least know the way of war.
Elsewhere in the city, Mantis Clan Champion Yoritomo Naizen is meeting with Yoritomo Yashinko. Naizen thinks Yashinko did well in court today, but Yashinko thinks Akodo Setai completely outflanked her. Yashinko did not expect the Lion to put forward Toturi Shigekawa as a candidate for the throne, let alone be the first to put forward any candidate. Naizen points out the Unicorn have already nominated their canditate, and Yashinko concedes the point. Naizen thinks Shigekawa is a brilliant choice having been a vassal of two Emperors, a commander of an Imperial Legion, a reputation for unimpeachable integrity. A former Lion with the Toturi name is a perfectly "neutral" candidate for the Lion. Yashinko says they must counter the Lion but Naizen thinks it will be difficult. Amethyst Champion Yoritomo Yoyonagi is the highest ranking Mantis with an Imperial position, but lacks Shigekawa's shining reputation. Yashinko thinks Yoyonagi does not need an equal reputation, but also that Naizen himself has an equally strong claim. Naizen does not understand, and Yashinko replies that Naizen has the favor of the Dragon of Thunder and points to the Helm of Thunder. The Phoenix would have to acknowledge the support of a Dragon, and that would lend weight to his nomination. Naizen contemplates the notion for a moment, but finally tells Yashinko to go ahead with the nomination.
Elsewhere in the city, three Lion samurai are making their way to the estate of Akodo Setai. When they have reached Setai's estate and shown into his study, Ikoma Akiyama announces his annoyance with Yoritomo Yashinko. Akodo Setai suggests Yashinko is afforded some leniency because of her position under the Amethyst Champion as he studies a map of the city. Akodo Seiichi asks why his legion is being kept in the city, as it would be better put to use against the Unicorn. Setai asks if Seiichi understood what Elemental Master Isawa Ochiai spoke of today. Seiichi notices that Ochiai did not dispute Shigekawa's qualifications, and Setai suggests that means the Lion can focus on the city now that others are focused on Shigekawa. The guard at the door announces that a messenger is here. Matsu Takeko enters and offers the scroll she is carrying. Setai reads the scroll and tells her to return the next day to recieve the reply. Takeko leaves and Akiyama asks how the Lion can look after the city with the Phoenix and the Dragon of Fire present. Setai does not wish the Phoenix to leave, but the Mantis must go. Setai is not concerned about the Dragon either. He passes the message to Seiichi, revealing that more Phoenix troops are being moved to the capital. Setai thinks the Elemental Masters have no intention on calling upon the Dragon of Fire, maybe only as a last resort. Akiyama agrees with that assessment. Setai does not wish to interfere with the Phoenix, and may perhaps help them by removing another clan from the city. Setai asks Seiichi if he still thinks the legion is not needed here, but Seiichi now agrees that they can be used here.
Meanwhile, at the Liquid Pearl sake house, the proprietor is content. The Liquid Pearl has the finest sake in the capital, and an excellent storyteller has made the house a popular place for the Lion in the city. The proprietor is not happy to have too many Lion here, but with no Mantis present and only have a dozen Lion today he is not worried. At one of the tables Akodo Natsu is complaining to Akodo Katsumoto that shugenja should not run things. Katsumoto counters that the Kitsu family are surely not included in that statement. Natsu agrees, but feels the Phoenix do not have the same quidance as the Kitsu and had they listened to the Lion the Mantis would be expelled as the traitors they are. Katsumoto concedes the point, and places a couple of coins on the table to pay for the drinks. The two move to leave but find the entrance blocked by a few Mantis who are trying to enter. Natsu tells them to move aside for a samurai, but the Mantis politely introduces himself as Tsuruchi Amaya and suggests the Lion will offend his ancestors by not letting him through. Natsu suggests theat the Wasp have no ancestors worth offending, and the two face off against eachother. Both draw their swords.
Elsewhere, Matsu Takeko is finishing her fourth yakitori skewer. She is pleased that a man of Akodo Setai's status told her she had done well, and tomorrow she would get to meet him again. She is about to order another skewer but a disturbance catches her attention. A fight has broken out between a handful of Akodo and a larger number Mantis. Takeko fights the urge to join the Akodo, who are holding their own, and runs to report the incident to Setai. Takeko falls, and turns to see a Mantis archer and another with a kama asking her why she is running away. Takeko notices a pain in her side but ignores it and charges the archer, killing him before he can drop his bow and draw another weapon. She moves her attention to the other Mantis, ignoring the man's feints and taking his head off. Takeko again feels the pain in her side and looks down to see an arrow sticking out of her ribs. Takeko snaps the arrow, steels herself against the pain and begins running to Setai's estate.
Back with the Mantis, Yashinko charges into her lords study and reports to Naizen that the Lion are attacking Tsuruchi Amaya and his men. Naizen asks her how she knows, and she reveals it can be seen from the balcony. Naizen grabs his weapons and tells her to think of a justification for the fight, in case it was started by the Mantis. Naizen begins running down the hall and calls for his personal guard.
At Setai's residence, Akiyama announces that Setai must hear the news. Setai notices the faint smell of blood as he hurries to find a young bloodstained Matsu woman. Takeko reports the Mantis are attacking the Lion near the Liquid Pearl east of the Small Shrine to Bishamon near the Mantis Embassy. Seiichi has already begun gathering his men. Setai compliments the Matsu on her performance and she thanks him before collapsing. Akiyama notices the arrow lodged in her ribs, and Setai orders a healer and a shugenja called. Setai then begins focusing on the battle.
Back in the streets, Shiba Miiko takes a moment to wonder where her kabuto has gone. She calls for Shiba Sotatsu to report this area is secured. Miiko looks around at the bodies, and wonders who would start a fight in a city with an entrenched garrison backed by the Isawa Masters and the Dragon of Fire? Both the Lion and Mantis should have known better, but Miiko is woken from her musings as Sotatsu reports the district has been sealed off and reinforcements are on their way. Miiko waits calmly for the additional forces to arrive, and when they do she informs them that they will only kill those who resist the efforts to end the fighting. She adds that anyone who does not stop immediately is resisting.
Later, at Setai's estate, Takeko is sitting in the garden examining the arrowhead that was taken out of her. She always tried to keep a small token of those she had defeated, but had forgotten to do so from the kama wielding man. The arrowhead would have to do for both. A sound from nearby announces the arrival of Setai, and she begins to struggle to get to her feet. Setai tells her to remain sitting, and she tells him she does not understand what is happening. Setai explains that the Phoenix have banished both the Lion and the Mantis from the city. Takeko is angry and bursts out that the Phoenix cannot do this. Setai suggests the Phoenix think the city is best protected with the Lion outside the wall. The Crab did not wish to be involved, the Dragon and Scorpion sided with the Phoenix and the Crane could not stand against three clans in the matter. Takeko is still not happy, but Setai points out that at least the Mantis have been removed from the city also. The Lion will have to wait for the moment when they can return once more.
- Matsu Takeko
- Yoritomo Yashinko
- Yoritomo Naizen
- Akodo Setai
- Ikoma Akiyama
- Akodo Seiichi
- Akodo Natsu
- Akodo Katsumoto
- Tsuruchi Amaya
- Isawa Ochiai
- Ochiai's friend
- Shiba Miiko
- Shiba Sotatsu
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
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