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|The Truest Test, Part 1|
|Written By:||Shawn Carman|
|Edited By:||Fred Wan|
Annotated Story Edit
Somewhere in Toshi Ranbo, Doji Ichita is looking north towards a dust cloud that appeared roughly half an hour ago. The sound of an approaching horse announces the arrival of a Miya courtier. Ichita asks him if he is coming, and the Miya confirms. Moments later, "he" arrives, and Ichita greets Bayushi Norachai, the Protector of the Imperial City. Norachai asks Ichita what he can report, but Ichita has had no news from the sentry he dispatched to investigate. Norachai asks Ichita to identify himself, and Ichita names himself a gunso in the Jade Legion and apologizes for his involvement in this matter. Norachai was not aware there were Jade Legionnaires in the city, but Ichita points out that ther are only twelve of them in charge of Asahina Sekawa's estate in the city. Norachai suggests they should co-operate, and Ichita places himself and his men at his disposal. Ichita theorizes who the approaching forces could be but Norachai doubts it is the Khan or the Dragon Clan. Norachai turns to a subordinate and orders the maneuvering of forces. Ichita asks if they will be in place in time, but Norachai does not think they will. Ichita looks back north and after a moment spots approaching riders. Norachai thinks it is Battle Maidens, but Ichita notices the formation does not correspond to Utaku tactics. The rider at the front shouts out to Ichita who recognizes him as Akodo Moromao, the sentry he sent. Moromao announces the arrival of his lord and Norachai demands to know who is in charge of this force. The leader identifies himself as Akodo Shigetoshi, Daimyo of the Akodo and he has brought thousands of Akodo from the war with the Dragon to stand against the Khan.
Somewhere near Tonfajutsen, in Lion lands, the sound of a battle horn transfers information accross the army. Utaku Tama uses a tessen to convey that information to her troops and then moves to join the Khan's command group. Moto Chagatai asks what news there is of the Lion. Shinjo Saihan reports they are an hours ride east, and Chagatai asks if they are near enough the Imperial City yet. Iuchi Lixue confirms they are but Chagatai asks if they should ride for an hour more first. Lixue agrees and Chagatai orders Tama to send the signal to the troops. Chagatai begins making arrangements for the formation to be used, but Lixue points out that the Lion will reach them before they can complete the ritual. Chagatai orders Tama to ensure that the Baraunghar have enough time to complete the ritual, and bellows out across the army "To War!" The army roars back.
Back in Toshi Ranbo, in the Imperial Palace, Empress Toturi Kurako is not paying attention as her advisor, Doji Tanitsu, is going over minor issues. She longs for the time when she was on battlefields, but is brought back from her dreaming when she notices Tanitsu has stopped speaking. She sees a man at the entrance of the chamber, who greets the Empress and Tanitsu. Tanitsu returns the greeting to Kaneka, but Kurako remains silent. After a moment Kaneka breaks the silence and asks if he may speak with the Empress privately. Kurako nods and asks Tanitsu to leave for a moment and make the arrangements for her meeting with Norachai. Tanitsu leaves and Kurako asks Kaneka what he wants. Kaneka reports that an army of Akodo have reached the north wall and are preparing to defend it. Kurako smiles and asks how her former clansmen came here. Kaneka says the Akodo Daimyo Shigetoshi arranged their departure from the Dragon conflict to be here in case the Unicorn pass the Matsu in Lion lands. Kurako does not think that will happen, and asks Kaneka what the status is on his forces. Kaneka has less than fivehundred men in the city, as per her orders. Kurako suggests that the arrival of the Akodo means the Shogun could remove all his troops now. Kaneka wishes to remain, but Kurako is certain the Lion will stop the Khan. Kaneka insists once more, but Kurako presses the point that the Khan will not even reach the city. Kaneka points out that Chagatai is a brilliant tactician and is not sure he can be stopped, but if he can it will be the Lion who can do it. Kurako is angry and chides him for his lack of confidence. Kaneka hopes she will not see the Khan's forces, and turns to leave. He pauses and says that he never intented to take the throne from her. Kurako says she could not risk her husband's legacy on even the smallest uncertainty, and Kaneka understands and leaves.
Somewhere east of Tonfajutsen, in the command tent of the Lion Clan Champion, Matsu Yoshino is searching the maps laid out on the table for some detail. Striking the table in frustration he draws a question from his officer Matsu Yokuya. Yoshino says he is frustrated, but Yokuya points out that the Khan must be retreating because the Lion have thwarted his advance on the city. Yoshino knows the Khan is no fool and his random targeting must be for some purpose. Yokuya thinks that with Ikoma Korin's forces coming from the north and Matsu Takenao's forces from the south there is no way for Chagatai to go but retreat. Yoshino wishes for a moment that Ikoma Otemi was here but he is still recovering from his wounds at Shiro Matsu. Yoshino is still convinced something is wrong, and asks for Kitsu Katsuko. Yokuya reports she is in Rengai Mura coordinating re-supplies. Yoshino orders his horse readied and Yokuya is shocked Yoshino is leaving the camp. Yoshino explains he must follow his instinct and that Yokuya is in command. Yokuya accepts promising to kill a hundred Unicorn. Yoshino wishes him the strength of his ancestors as he leaves, and silently prays for wisdom for himself.
Back in Toshi Ranbo, in the Mantis estate, Yoritomo Yoyonagi is annoyed as her servant has just announces the arrival of Bayushi Norachai. She greets him, and Norachai proceedes to mention he wishes to speak with the ranking military officers among the Mantis. Yoyonagi jokes that she thought he was there to see her, but Norachai presses the matter with the officers. Yoyonagi waves him into the next room where they are supposedly discussing tactics. Norachai thanks her and moves into the next chamber. The assembled Mantis stop speaking as he enters, and asks to what they owe the honor of his presence. Norachai apologizes for his presence by needs to speak with Yoritomo Utemaro about the Mantis deployment in the city. Utemaro understands, and introduces the other officers in the room; Yoritomo Isoshi, his chui, and Yoritomo Bakishi, a recent arrival from the Islands wearing a mask. Norachai continues, wishing to discuss his request of deploying the Mantis at the west end of the City. Utemaro remembers and has prepared the orders, but Norachai wishes to change the orders. Utemaro assumes it is because of the Lion. Norachai reveals the Lion will take the north, west and south flank of the city, leaving the eastern side to the Mantis. Utemaro is outraged that the Mantis are to be placed where there is virtually no chance of an attack. Norachai cuts Utemaro off and tells him that he must be well aware of the duty the Mantis must perform from that side. Utemaro does not understand, and Norachai explains that if the Unicorn do break past the Lion the Mantis will be best equipped to halt them in the streets. Utemaro makes certain he has understood Norachai, and compliments the Scorpion. Norachai tells Utemaro to ensure his men are ready, and then leaves. For a few moments after the Mantis are silent until Utemaro finally says he finds the change interesting. Bakishi removes his mask and says he is not surprised. Utemaro asks why Yoritomo Naizen hid his identity from Norachai, and Naizen explains that another man of rank in the city would just cause more confusion. By remaining discreete the other clans cannot manipulate him.
At the outer edge of Toshi Ranbo, Akodo Shinichi stands atop one of the watchtowers alongside a Seppun shugenja. Shinichi is getting impatient, and is almost relieved when the shugenja makes a noise. He sees the shugenja place one hand to his head and groan in pain. Shinichi asks him what is wrong and the shugenja replies that there are too many air kami rushing here in one go. Shinichi turns to look out over the plain and suddenly there is a single rider where there had been none before. More and more men appear next to the rider and moments later there are thousands. Shinichi can see some of the riders who appeared fall to the ground from their saddle. Then he sees the banner of the Khan and the Baraunghar army, announcing the arrival of the Unicorn.
To Be Continued in: The Truest Test, Part 2.
- Doji Ichita
- Bayushi Norachai
- Akodo Moromao
- Akodo Shigetoshi
- Moto Chagatai
- Utaku Tama
- Shinjo Saihan
- Iuchi Lixue
- Matsu Yoshino
- Matsu Yokuya
- Yoritomo Yoyonagi
- Yoritomo Utemaro
- Yoritomo Isoshi
- "Yoritomo Bakishi" - Yoritomo Naizen
- Akodo Shinichi
Not Present, But Mentioned Edit
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