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[New fiction]In The Garden of Lies

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1 minute ago, shosuko said:

If you used a katana and wakizashi that were on the shorter end you could easily double draw.  Many people either assume there is 1 standardized length for a sword to be, or tend to want the longer sword for the advantage of reach... but if you forgo reach in favor of being able to draw a blade quickly with just 1 hand you could apply some unorthodox styles to catch your opponent's off guard.  I don't imagine you would draw them at the same time, but the advantage of 2 swords against 1 is kinda obvious.  In 1 sword vs 1 sword the main issue becomes - how do you get by your opponent's sword while still using your sword to strike.  In 2 sword vs 1 sword you use one of them as a parry instrument and the other to strike.  I would imagine drawing the katana with the opponent's draw to hold their blade aside while drawing the wakizashi to give a quick stab or slice while their sword is bound up with yours.

I don't want to derail this so I'm going to make my point and then move on.  Brief background: trained for several years primarily in aikido and somewhat katori shinto ryu.  I wold describe myself as an experienced fan of martial arts but by no means a master.

Let's begin with the purpose of iaijutsu.  Despite it's depiction in l5r, iai was intended primarily as a response to ambushes.  While it did have dueling applications (lulling an opponent into a false sense of security) most stories of masters starting with blades sheathed are apocryphal at best (though there are some reliable stories that suggested it happened occasionally).  Instead, iai was used mostly as a way of responding to an unexpected attack; it's for this reason a good number of iai kata begin from a seated position.  As such, the moment we start talking about the realism of iaijutsu in l5r we're on shaky ground since real iai was never intended for the role it serves in the game.  The means we're intentionally being cinematic and a bit of willing suspension of disbelief is the price of entry.

Next, let's go into the process of iaijutsu.  Most iai kata have four stages: stance, draw, strike, and return.  Keeping in mind that kata tend to be a very formalized method of practice intended to train the body for instant response, real world application would often differ (i.e. due to the emphasis on responding to unexpected attacks, real iai didn't often permit the opportunity to take stance).  Stance in an l5r duel could vary a great deal, just as the stances in real iai could differ a great deal.  If an iaidoka had to be prepared to draw from any position, and the kata reflect this, it seems viable that a Rokugani samurai could use any stance.  Thus let us assume that a duelist may start from any stance from the classic Crane standing with an upturned palm over the hilt to a Dragon standing with arms in a neutral position (swords drawn or not) to something even more esoteric.  I really would like to see a duel in a fic that begins with someone sitting or kneeling, but I digress.

The next stage is the draw.  This involves two double-actions.  The first is the iaidoka must take hold of the sword's hilt in one hand and the saya in the other hand.  The second is the iaidoka would pull the sword forward with one hand while pulling the saya back with the other. (note: I'm leaving out several other things like disengaging the habaki but they're not directly pertinent).  This accomplishes two things: the first, and most important is that it cut the amount of time required to draw the sword in half.  If a sword of length is moving away from a saya it will take a certain amount of time to clear the saya, but if the saya is moving away at the same speed, the sword will clear the saya in half the time.  The second is that it prevents the iaidoka from overextending themself - if the sword is 30" long then the iaidoka would need to extend the sword 30" to clear the saya which means they would need to reach 30" forward, which would be right in the path of their opponent's blade.  If the saya moved back half that distance then the iaidoka can move the sword from much closer to their body which prevents overextension and creates more power and control.

The end result is that any effective iaido draw would necessitate two hands.  If one hand is busy trying to draw a second blade it's simply going to be ineffective.

A few minutes on YouTube can show some wonderful examples of iaido, both as solo kata and as a partnered exercise.  One can see these principles at play right away.  Likewise, one can also see videos of modern kendo tournaments which do permit niten-style dual wielding; it's an effective strategy but not a dominant one by any means.  Curiously, most surviving forms of Japanese swordsmanship that employ two swords use the wakizashi not as a defensive weapon but as an offensive weapon, used to beat the opponent's sword out of the way to open up an avenue for attack.

Again, all of this is about realism which shouldn't matter terribly much.  L5r is a made-up game about magical samurai.  The same things that I find cool and cinematic often drive other people insane (i.e. most Unicorn cavalry should be horse archers, but then again so should most samurai).  If someone really gets bent out of shape about dueling, wait until they find out about shugenja.

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I kind of wonder where the "giving a gift" palm thing comes from...Someone once suggested to me that it's a misunderstood concept of turning something else towards the sky pre-fighting, but I can't remember the details. 

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17 minutes ago, suburbaknght said:

If someone really gets bent out of shape about dueling, wait until they find out about shugenja.

Well said!

I wrote some stuff into my home game about using iaido to respond to surprise attacks (if you're honorable) or launching surprise attacks (if you're not), but still kept the gunslinger-style dueling because it's such an ingrained part of the setting at this point. Maybe the Mirumoto all have minor nemuranai saya that pull themselves back during the draw? :-)

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I just assume that they use the saya as the second sword for the first "round", and then draw the second sword in the second, if there is a second ;). 

Or they block with a undrawn sword. That's something to imagine.

 

For the purposes of the fic, purists can assume that Hiroue is so bad at swording that he didn't see the subtle difference between drawing 2 swords per round instead of drawing them over 2 rounds :P 

And he doesn't care, probably. His lack of pucks given about the duel was well expressed. 

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34 minutes ago, WHW said:

"Wow, this is so boring. I wonder what would happen if this turned sour. This guy looks strong, from the way he sits I suspect he trained under tutelage of Master Crane. Never fought a Master Crane student. I wonder if their Rising Swallow Cut is really as good as they say. I think I would have to counter it in this way...but what about that guy? If I defend by attacking here, my charge is all open from this side. I guess I would have to cut their heads off in one swoop? 

...

I wish Ninja did exist..."

*Later, at night, a servant brings Shiba-chan a letter. It's from the Master Crane Student-kun*
"Dear Shiba Yojimbo Chan,

Here is some obligatory poetry,

I noticed you couldn't take your eyes off me

It was a great honor

And it isn't the only thing that's great

If you catch my style"

And thats what Shiba Yojimbo chan gets from staring at a guy for 30 minutes, pondering about whats the best way to gut him in a unlikely case he turns out to be a hired assassin.

Shiba Yojimbo chan sadly lives a very peaceful life.

 

 

I would ADORE a fiction showcasing the constant need of the Shiba to protect their charges, bordering on Paranoia.

"The ****! That Hiruma bushi is 43 steps away from his Yatsuki, he is leaving him vitally exposed! What do they teach those guys on the wall!"

"Is there a knife behind that fan? No, the position of his fingers would have to be orientated differently to account for the size of the handle... unless it was strapped to the WRIST!"

*Freezes on the spot when the Isawa puts food in their mouth, mentally preparing to administer CPR if he chokes*

"Why Is that portrait hanging there? Is it covering a secret tunnel that assassins could use!?!"

 

Paranoid Shiba would be hilarious, but also really cool since they are supposed to be thinking of these things on a level entirely above anyone else save maybe the Seppun.

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2 hours ago, suburbaknght said:

I don't want to derail this so I'm going to make my point and then move on.  Brief background: trained for several years primarily in aikido and somewhat katori shinto ryu.  I wold describe myself as an experienced fan of martial arts but by no means a master.

Let's begin with the purpose of iaijutsu.  Despite it's depiction in l5r, iai was intended primarily as a response to ambushes.  While it did have dueling applications (lulling an opponent into a false sense of security) most stories of masters starting with blades sheathed are apocryphal at best (though there are some reliable stories that suggested it happened occasionally).  Instead, iai was used mostly as a way of responding to an unexpected attack; it's for this reason a good number of iai kata begin from a seated position.  As such, the moment we start talking about the realism of iaijutsu in l5r we're on shaky ground since real iai was never intended for the role it serves in the game.  The means we're intentionally being cinematic and a bit of willing suspension of disbelief is the price of entry.

Next, let's go into the process of iaijutsu.  Most iai kata have four stages: stance, draw, strike, and return.  Keeping in mind that kata tend to be a very formalized method of practice intended to train the body for instant response, real world application would often differ (i.e. due to the emphasis on responding to unexpected attacks, real iai didn't often permit the opportunity to take stance).  Stance in an l5r duel could vary a great deal, just as the stances in real iai could differ a great deal.  If an iaidoka had to be prepared to draw from any position, and the kata reflect this, it seems viable that a Rokugani samurai could use any stance.  Thus let us assume that a duelist may start from any stance from the classic Crane standing with an upturned palm over the hilt to a Dragon standing with arms in a neutral position (swords drawn or not) to something even more esoteric.  I really would like to see a duel in a fic that begins with someone sitting or kneeling, but I digress.

The next stage is the draw.  This involves two double-actions.  The first is the iaidoka must take hold of the sword's hilt in one hand and the saya in the other hand.  The second is the iaidoka would pull the sword forward with one hand while pulling the saya back with the other. (note: I'm leaving out several other things like disengaging the habaki but they're not directly pertinent).  This accomplishes two things: the first, and most important is that it cut the amount of time required to draw the sword in half.  If a sword of length is moving away from a saya it will take a certain amount of time to clear the saya, but if the saya is moving away at the same speed, the sword will clear the saya in half the time.  The second is that it prevents the iaidoka from overextending themself - if the sword is 30" long then the iaidoka would need to extend the sword 30" to clear the saya which means they would need to reach 30" forward, which would be right in the path of their opponent's blade.  If the saya moved back half that distance then the iaidoka can move the sword from much closer to their body which prevents overextension and creates more power and control.

The end result is that any effective iaido draw would necessitate two hands.  If one hand is busy trying to draw a second blade it's simply going to be ineffective.

A few minutes on YouTube can show some wonderful examples of iaido, both as solo kata and as a partnered exercise.  One can see these principles at play right away.  Likewise, one can also see videos of modern kendo tournaments which do permit niten-style dual wielding; it's an effective strategy but not a dominant one by any means.  Curiously, most surviving forms of Japanese swordsmanship that employ two swords use the wakizashi not as a defensive weapon but as an offensive weapon, used to beat the opponent's sword out of the way to open up an avenue for attack.

Again, all of this is about realism which shouldn't matter terribly much.  L5r is a made-up game about magical samurai.  The same things that I find cool and cinematic often drive other people insane (i.e. most Unicorn cavalry should be horse archers, but then again so should most samurai).  If someone really gets bent out of shape about dueling, wait until they find out about shugenja.

The concept of iai "dueling" is the same as the concept of western gunslingers "dueling."  It didn't really happen - but it was NOT a myth per se.  In the old west, as in peace era japan weapons were not outlawed.  People could walk around carrying guns in the west, and many of the best bandits were especially great because they could go from a casual encounter to a draw and fire.  Your opponent is cheating at poker?  draw and fire before they have a chance.  You're drinking sake with a person and they offend you, and you're a high born samurai?  cut them down before they have a chance to draw their sword.  While there was no real formalized dueling, the art of the quick draw or iai like draw-cut was actually pragmatic in a sense that you may either wish to attack in an instant, or need to defend yourself in an instant.  The law was not strong enough to prevent these things in the beginning, and stuff like Tombstone and Doc Holiday aren't entirely mythological.

The formalized iai practice is mostly an evolution of kata practice for the sake of kata practice.  I would go as far as to say that most martial arts kata you see are not realistic, or even rightly an attempt to mimic real combat.  They are meant to display technique and control.  Iai practices to draw a "properly sized" katana from your obi into a cut.  Pulling the saya back is important.  I wouldn't say it is doubles the speed of your draw.  You certainly don't pull the saya back as far as you pull the blade forward.  The Saya moves about 1/3rd of the distance.  If you tied your saya such that it was held back by your obi, and your sword was shorter (maybe 3/4th length) you could clear it just as easily with just 1 hand.  I know because I've done this.  Tradition is great, but tradition is only a set of rules to be broken.  When Musashi dueled Kojiro on Ganryu it was known that Kojiro used a slightly longer sword to out reach his opponent.  Musashi crafted a weapon with an even slightly longer reach to counter this.  Evolution breaks tradition, and it is where things get real.  If I were to practice drawing 2 swords for a duel then I would certainly use shorter weapons such that I could draw them both as quickly with just 1 hand.  This definitely breaks iai tradition, but in Rokugan niten was supposed to break iai tradition... so I don't see the problem here.

2 swords is a definite advantage because you can use one weapon to parry.  This is consistent across eastern and western fighting styles.  The main problem with 2 weapon fighting when we are speaking of Katana is that Katana are 2 handed weapons.  They are not nearly as agile or effective when wielded with just 1 hand.  A shorter blade pair actually makes a lot of sense, and the idea is that you make up for the disadvantage in length by using 1 blade to parry, allowing you to close the gap to your opponent, and use the other to deliver a stab or quick cut.  A full length sword is needed for neither of these.

Edited by shosuko

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Other thing I like about Hiroue - instead of focusing on him as a Stupid Sexy Scorpion who is just that attractive and compelling, the fiction portrays him as a great listener first and foremost. He isn't just brute forcing his way by spamming Seduction +50 rolls, so to speak; he also isn't commanding the Marty Stu Effect of Being Universally Attractive. He does his job by doing research, then analyzing, then setting the mark up, then damage controlling his mistake, and then realizing unpredicted and fleeting window of opportunity to gain some ground. 

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3 hours ago, WHW said:

"Wow, this is so boring. I wonder what would happen if this turned sour. This guy looks strong, from the way he sits I suspect he trained under tutelage of Master Crane. Never fought a Master Crane student. I wonder if their Rising Swallow Cut is really as good as they say. I think I would have to counter it in this way...but what about that guy? If I defend by attacking here, my charge is all open from this side. I guess I would have to cut their heads off in one swoop? 

...

I wish Ninja did exist..."

*Later, at night, a servant brings Shiba-chan a letter. It's from the Master Crane Student-kun*
"Dear Shiba Yojimbo Chan,

Here is some obligatory poetry,

I noticed you couldn't take your eyes off me

It was a great honor

And it isn't the only thing that's great

If you catch my style"

And thats what Shiba Yojimbo chan gets from staring at a guy for 30 minutes, pondering about whats the best way to gut him in a unlikely case he turns out to be a hired assassin.

Shiba Yojimbo chan sadly lives a very peaceful life.

 

 

Carry on, really it doesn't need much polish and possibly only another couple of assassination scenarios.

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7 hours ago, WHW said:

I want a fic where a really bored Shiba Yojimbo zones out during some political scene and starts imagining all sort of scenarios, like "what if ninja suddenly attack", "what if the guy sitting to my left suddenly charges us with a tetsubo", and other stuff that usually ends with the room bathing in blood.

Keeping the mind occupied and training at the same time, and all that jazz. 

 

7 hours ago, WHW said:

"Wow, this is so boring. I wonder what would happen if this turned sour. This guy looks strong, from the way he sits I suspect he trained under tutelage of Master Crane. Never fought a Master Crane student. I wonder if their Rising Swallow Cut is really as good as they say. I think I would have to counter it in this way...but what about that guy? If I defend by attacking here, my charge is all open from this side. I guess I would have to cut their heads off in one swoop? 

...

I wish Ninja did exist..."

*Later, at night, a servant brings Shiba-chan a letter. It's from the Master Crane Student-kun*
"Dear Shiba Yojimbo Chan,

Here is some obligatory poetry,

I noticed you couldn't take your eyes off me

It was a great honor

And it isn't the only thing that's great

If you catch my style"

And thats what Shiba Yojimbo chan gets from staring at a guy for 30 minutes, pondering about whats the best way to gut him in a unlikely case he turns out to be a hired assassin.

Shiba Yojimbo chan sadly lives a very peaceful life.

 

 

Holy frak, I need this character in the story NOW! :lol:

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So I did a thing. I might continue or not, based on a whim. But be warned, this might not be what you are expecting. Also note I'm not a native english speaker, so my written english might be painful to consume. 

Other than that, well, here it is. 

 

***

Evil Courtier was cornered, with his back against the wall. A proper, solid, wooden wall. No bursting through it to escape, with an added benefit of being relatively soundproof. It was Evil Courtier's secret room, after all; here, he was plotting all of his Evil Plots. He made sure that not a soul could eavesdrop on him. It was, for all intent and purposes, his Hidden Fortress. 

" Wha...what are you doing here?! Who let you in?!"
Silly Evil Courtiers. Always thinking they are in the charge. That they are the ones asking the questions and composing the answers.
She stepped forward, ignoring his words. She was very good at ignoring what people say. It was kind of her job, really. 
Enduring their chatter. Enduring the pain. 
Evil Courtier clenched his fists. While his upper body seemed proud and confident, his legs betrayed the truth of his soul. Just like Bayushi's eyes and mouth, they were saying something very different. His upper half tried to project power and authority...while his feet desperately searched for an escape route, a telltale sign of the prey in the face of a predator. 

And one of them was lying.
Which one? No need to ask...

But there was no escape. No more steps to be taken. 
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The only option left? 
Endure.

She made another step forward, and the fact that he couldn't match her movement with his made something inside her purr. She wasn't advancing very quickly, but her movements definitely weren't sluggish. They were like fate, like the oncoming storm, like the avalanche, the wildfire, the hurricane and the tsunami - slow, deliberate, powerful and most importantly, unavoidable, inescapable. The tension was rising, the urge was dripping, fingers - itching, soul...humming.
Endure. 

"I asked you a question! You shall respect my Emperor-given authority and respond at once, you pathetic...pathetic..." 
Evil Courtier was searching for an insult, again trying to make himself bigger. She understood that perfectly. Animals did that when cornered. Bare your fangs, make your fur all WRRRZAH!, and make your opponent rethink their approach. What did you have to lose, anyway?
She couldn't help but smile faintly, thinking what the Evil Courtier had to lose. A lot. 

"...you pathetic bushi! BRUTE! Good for nothing swordhead! Uncivilized, ungrateful dog!"
He started stomping. It probably was supposed to be angry stomping of an irritated manchild, who could get whatever he wanted by just snapping his fingers, doing a secret fan move, and saying 'I'm a Courtier, duh'. But it was just a facade. A desperate bluff.
The truth was hidden in shadows, and she was about to extract it. 
She was good at it. It was kind of her job, really. 
In her eyes, he was stomping like a scared, cornered and desperate rabbit. She had to be careful, as it could easily die from fright, it's tiny heart giving up and stopping too early...
She could care less for his words. The body was the soul, the soul was the mind, the mind was the body. It silently spoke the truth, while words loudly obscured it. 

"I've had enough of this! GUARDS! TO ME, AT ONCE! TAKE THIS TRASH OUT OF MY SIGHT! GUARDS!"
Another step towards the fulfillment. 
"...g-guards?"
A delightful shiver electrified her spine. His mask! It was cracking! Fear started spreading, like a wildfire. Jumping from his legs towards his torso, catching his hands ablaze, and finally beginning to burn in the way he was speaking, and in his eyes.  It was like a song, really. A song of muscles, a song of bones...

"Incompetent fools! I will have their heads...no, their whole families will pay for this failure of duty! Why am I surrounded by idio...wait..."
She stopped. Her whole being was listening. Waiting. Craving what was going to happen next. 

"What is...what is this...it cannot be! Is this..."
It is a song! A song! A song of...
"...blood?! How is this even...no...no, no no no, no...!"
A SONG OF BLOOD. 

He finally noticed! At last! Did he see the red stain on her blade...? No, no no, movement of his eyes revealed that wasn't the case. He was looking at what was behind her, not at her. She could see that. It was kind of her job, really. It would mean that the remains of his slain guards have been finally silently flowing inside the room, forming a marvelous, joyous and syrupy pool.

Evil Courtier lost all of his composure. Suddenly, he became much smaller. Reasonable enough, easier to defend. Just like how when facing bloodthirsty dogs, your best bet is to throw yourself to the ground, cover your throat and face, and try to reduce yourself as much as possible. And endure. Endure the pain. Pretend to be dead. 

Or you could, you know, just kill them all. That worked too.
For her, it worked much better.

Not for the poor Evil Courtier, though.

She was so close. Very close. So, so, so close. But not close enough. The distance! She needed to get rid of it, get rid of it now! Right now! Remove eradicate exterminate the distance!  The very space between them! 

"Stay...stay away from me!"
At this point, he was trembling and shaking. The wall behind wasn't going anywhere, and he was no Shinobi; he couldn't just pass through it. His body was very confused. He would never make a great, good or even passable bushi. All of him wanted to squeeze through the wood, become one with it, but it was no good, no good at all. He never was taught how to endure. He didn't endure the pain, so it consumed him. In an act of desperation, Evil Courtier produced a knife from nowhere, and pointed it at her, as if it could save him. 
It could not. Not because it was a bad knife. It was actually a splendid knife, made with care and love, a knife full of nostalgic desire to return to the old, good days. Days from before it was assigned to this dumb courtier. To the days where it fulfilled its destiny, where it could manifest its purpose. 
Where it could be itself and live in happiness. 
To the times where it could and did cut meat, trying to avoid bones, because bones were no good, ugly and blunting the blade. No good, no good, bones were no good. Messy. She understood the blade pointed at her perfectly. It was love at first sight, really. 

In fact, she felt more empathy towards it than towards its wielder. 
It was a really sad, heart-wrenching sight. He was holding it all wrong, and due to his constant trembling and shaking, there was no power, no Earth behind the grip. It was incapable of hurting anyone or anything. It was mercilessly denied of its most basic function. She probably could have literally walked into it and ending up harming him more than herself.

And so she did. 

Evil Courtier yelled, and fell, unable to withstand her advancing presence, ending on the floor. Panicking, he tried to gather himself, but due to his weak, courtly nature, he was unable to get up from his knees. She watched his pathetic attempts from above, with a hint of disgust, contempt, and pleasure blooming on her face. It was only a hint, not because the emotions were weak, but because she intuitively restrained her expression. Keeping it that way was kind of her job, really. 

"Stay away, stay away, leave me, stay away, you, YOOOOOUUUU MOOOOONSTER!"
Knees under his face, knife again pointed at her with both hands wrapped around it, he was hyperventilating. It was all useless. A waste of precious breaths. And a crime against great craftsmanship that gave birth to his weapon. 
And that injustice was the final straw. She couldn't hold herself back any longer.

It was the time.
With a single sweep, she cleared the air, unlocking the space he tried to lock down with his desperate attempt at defending himself. The knife fell to the floor (sorry, knife! she made a silent promise to pick it up and give it some well-deserved love later!) with a metallic noise, along with the flesh that was wrapped around its grip, which made appropietly wet, meaty kind of sound. 
He didn't understand. 
Maybe he couldn't? He was staring at stark white bones sticking out of the place where his fingers used to be, unable to process what just happened. For him, it was probably like a sudden gust of steely wind, stealing away his fingers like playful Kami of Air steal umbrellas, inviting you to chase them. 

"Aa...aaa....aaaaaahhh..."
A pleasant, animalish sounds started coming out of her victim, as he moved his hands closer to his face. Tears started to gather in his eyes. And she, she was excited, anticipating and very, very, very much alive. 
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"
AND THEN, SHE EXPLODED WITH JOY. 

His scream was a fantastic, pleasant promise of everything that was about to come. She raised her sword, trying to decide where to start from. She had a noble mission, after all. She had to make sure that this person leaves this world with enough punishment for all of his evil deeds. It was the only way to cleanse his karma, and save him from the hells of having to purify it by going through appropriate spirit realms in his afterlife. 
And, fair and simple, she was about to enjoy herself. Fulfill her hidden lust and desire. Become a fully realized human, as a human who is denied what makes them tick, is forever disqualified from being human. 
"Nn-no...stop it...I beg you..."
The only suitable thing to do here was to give him the death of thousand cuts, she decided. 
"I will give you...whatever you want just...let's talk this through!..."
The problem was, she just wanted one thing. All she needed was the sensation of separating his meat from his bones, severing the muscles and breathing in his blood. 
"You monster...You nameless coward...I will find you! You will pay! This won't be left unanswered, believe me! I will find you! I will find out your name, and I will haunt you forever, I will kill you in my next life, just you wait..."
She readied her blade for the first of the thousand swings, but there was one last thing to do. He was right. He needed her name. It was very important. 
So she spoke.

"My name is...
Shiba Kiri -

*
Kirikage...My name is...uhehe...hehe...he...eh?"

Kiri-chan was temporospatially disturbed for a moment. She felt like she woke up from a long, deep dream.
She felt that way mostly because that was exactly the case.
Above her, a beautiful tree. Under her, ground. Around her, flowers, sunrays and empty bottle of shochu. And...

"Ah, Kiri-san!...you are awake, yes? I'm sorry if it's my fault."
And, probably most importantly, a kneeling man who was smiling apologetically. Who was holding back a small laughter?
"I didn't want to disturb you, Kiri-san, because you had such a peaceful, pleasant look on your face, and now...now you wear a look of a unamused kitten who had a prank played upon it."
Chuckle. Very funny, apparently. Kiri was indeed not amused and made no effort to hide her grumpiness. 
Some people would take offense in that cat comparison, but Kiri-chan didn't. Nobody would. Actually, that's pretty contradictory, isn't it? Her head...ugh. The key to solving that contradiction was this man. And that's because it was impossible to take offense in anything this man said. It was a very annoying truth of the universe that made her elements boil and stir a lot. 

He looked at Kiri with a very warm, very kind  and very punchable smile. 
"I hope it was a great dream. It certainly looked like so. May the Yume-do allow you to finish it later. You certainly deserve it."
Kiri slowly got herself up to a half sitting position, and then moved her eyes towards the man, even slower. 
This man had a name. Asako Akira. It was quite an important name, at least as far as her life was concerned. Daily life? She was his yojimbo. And he was her charge. Fantastic, incredible, exhausting.
Nightly life?
Evil Courtier currently wore his face and spoke using his voice. Yeah. Go figure that mess out. 

So yes, dear Akira-sama, it was a great dream. The best kind of soft, wet, bloody dream. But if you want, you can help me finish it, just stay still...
Obviously, she didn't say that out loud. Instead, she cut the air with a quiet, sharply non-committal answer of
"...Maybe."
combined with a powerfully rebuking glance to the side, away from the man she lusted to dismember.
...which would be any man or woman, really, so she planted her eyes in the pond. Ponds weren't populated by humans, but they were by fishes. Animals, strangely, were safe from her desires. Good for them. Bad for her. Being able to get her fix this way...would help tremendously.  

"I see."
Akira was immune to pouting. He was resistant to many things, and at the end of the day, he would forgive you everything and try his best to make you feel good about yourself, your life and the universe.
And he did it, for many, many people. 
But it didn't work for Kiri, and only served to deepen the despair and madness of her daily life. 

"If you want to enjoy the beauty of these gardens for a little longer, don't worry. The tea party is starting soon, but I think your comfort is more important than being on time. If a need arises, I will just take responsibility by..."
He was talking. Way too much. She unfocused from the words. The message was clear without them anyway. Stupid words. She let herself wake up, by staring at her own reflection in a beautiful pond.
It was a bad idea, because it reminded her that she looks like a sleep deprived, opium addicted, depressed tanuki. 
...Which was somewhat true, just remove the tanuki part, and switch opium for her own "alcohol based herbal remedy", which she used to self-medicated and suppress her...condition. 

Her condition. Yeah.

Certain people possessed passions. Some of them really liked, let's say, fried chicken. Some of them really loved beautiful hands and would do a lot to touch and gently caress them. There were many needs and urges and desires, each person having their own. 
Without the ability to fulfill them, these people wouldn't be people. They would be just sad, unfulfilled husks, right? Living dead. 
Well, Kirikage had her own impulse. It was a rather unfortunate one.

She got up, without a word. 
"Ah, are you ready, Kiri-san? Then let's go."
She wasn't ready. She will never be ready. All she could do was to endure. But her well-trained perception picked up the fact that some people were going to go and grab them in a moment. It was pointless and exhausting to wait for them, she decided. Fewer explanations. Less talking. Done quicker. 'Endure and minimize the suffering', was her motto. Not a very cool one, she had to admit, but it worked. So while doing her job was definitely tiring, not doing it would end up being even more bothersome, so...yeah.

Akira talked a lot. It probably was charming. She couldn't tell because, for the most of the time, she wasn't listening. Her Shiba training was filtering his pointless blabber for important keywords, and processing the text of his messages subconsciously, looking for important things. It was a great ability to have, really. Made her duty as a yojimbo bearable. Barely, but bearable. 
He was a courtier. He did a lot of talking. He also had a pure, crystal heart. Always saw the positive side of the issue, always managed to notice the good things about people and overall was incredibly likable and just...charismatic. And it obviously annoyed her all the way to Jigoku. He was basically some kind of living saint, and it was a safe bet that someday, Fortunes would descend from the Heavens and ask him "Hi, Akira-dono, we decided that you are amazing enough to join us without this whole dying thing, so what do you think, wanna come?"
And he would smile, laugh apologetically, and say something about how grateful he is, and that he would love to, but he has certain duties to attend to and sadly he has to refuse, but it would be wonderful if they could hang out together at a later date. 
And then Fortunes would be really happy about that, and Kiri-chan would find herself puking in some dark corner, unable to endure this sweet perfection of a living saint. 

She hated him. Not because he was a bad person, but because he was such a good guy, and most importantly, because he seemed so Crabdammit content with his life. He was plain and simply happy and satisfied! Got a flu? Happy because it was just a flu. Got rejected by the...person he really liked?...Kiri didn't pay enough attention to remember that persons gender...whatever! Got rejected? Smiles and is glad they can still be friends! 
This man was unbearable. Nobody even wants to assassinate him or whatever people do with annoyingly competent courtiers. There was one attempt to kill him...but apparently, the would-be assassin couldn't bear himself to execute the contract after watching Akira go around. So he ended up confessing and crying like a little baby, and Akira FORGAVE HIM AND EVEN HELPED HIM FIND A FITTING MONASTERY FOR HIMSELF SO HE COULD START ANEW AS A MONK WHAT THE CRAB AKIRA. 
They still exchange letters. It's disgusting. 

Well, that whole assassin fiasco thing was before Kiri became his yojimbo...to be fair, she got assigned to him because her last charge decided her shining personality is too much for him to endure, and because that whole comedy of assassination made Akira's parents think "hm, maybe he needs a yojimbo or something". 

Kiri was very sad she didn't get assigned to him before the assassination. Because if the assassin would get near Akira with her on standby, she would cut him down before any stupid redemption story could even begin to start happening. A magnificent series of blows, leading to a bloody fountain of fulfillment and fuzzy belly feelings. 

And then, Kiri would be happy and satisfied...for the time. Her desire seemed to strangely correlate to the phases of the Moon. She had certain suspicions about that...

The impulse.
The urge.
The need.

All she needed... 
...was to kill. 

Kiri suffered from a chronic need to perform violence, make other humans bleed, cause them physical pain, and ultimately, take away their lives. It was the element that made her tick, that put her mind at peace, that gave her strength to look to the future with a bright smile and strength to soldier on. 

It was her constant companion since always, basically. She always knew that there was something fundamentally wrong with her, and Kiri was smart enough to understand that being so different would only lead to problems. So she did her best to hide it. 
She didn't understand it...until she killed her first man, during a bandit attack. Then, it all clicked, and the true despair of her existence began - she managed to experience the true happiness and fulfillment, but she knew that it was fleeting and going to abandon her soon...while also being incredibly hard to reaquire during to, well, being born a Shiba.

Yes. Being born into the Phoenix was the greatest irony of her existence, a curse and cruelty of Fortunes. She was a natural master of killing arts. While she made sure to keep her head down - it required tremendous and exhasuting effort to keep her tendencies down when she had sword in hand after she tasted her first victim - she was actually a master of the sword. Any other Clan would scout her, acknowledge her as a greatest duelist of the generation or something, and then let her do some killing, be it on the battlefield as a bloodthirsty Matsu, or in courts as a death-dueling Kakita or Mirumoto. The Crab would just weaponize her, and Unicorn...she would embrace the Moto way.

But Phoenix? The pacifists? The life-lovers? Nobody recognized her talent. It wasn't that important for them, really. Or rather, they probably intuitively knew that she was all about destroying life, not protecting it, so they just avoided looking at her. 
Anywhere else, she would be a hero. An infamous hero, sure, but still a hero. But here? Here she had to hide her true nature from her peers, constantly living in fear of being discovered. And being discovered wouldn't be pretty. She was sure they would try to...fix her...using Air magic, medications, and other personality-warping "rebirth" rituals. And for her, that would be equal to lobotomization at best and practically death of her current identity at worst.  
Thankfully, a certain mix of herbs helped to keep the impulse at manageable levels. Glorious self-medication was...well, not very glorious, especially knowing that over the time, her body will grow immune to it. That's why while it started innocent, she had to make it stronger as years passed. 
Potentially the greatest killing machine of the generation turned into a drug addict. That's the Phoenix. 
She wished she could be born Scorpion. At least she would be respected and accepted, in some twisted way. 
But no. 

That's why she had to endure, and do her job. Attend the upcoming party. Empty the mind. Let the words fly by, and seek out any dangers. And if things get really boring...start fantasizing. Occupy yourself with the mental projection of a hyopthetical scenario of "I need to kill everyone in this room, how do I do that?" 
Endure the pain.

"You are a fantastic bushi and duelist, aren't you, Kiri-san?"
What. 
Her mind suddenly focused her attention on a non-irrelevant string of words that left Akira's mouth. 
No. No. NO. NO NO NO YOU DIDN'T. WHY ARE YOU SO PERCEPTIVE WHEN YOU DON'T NEED TO BE.

"I know that you are not a fan of these courtly meetings, so I asked a friend or two...and manged to invite a fellow duelist passionate for you! This way you will have someone to talk to and have fun with. Shared passions, yes?"
He was so proud of himself. He really had the best intentions. He just wanted to help her make a friend.

But all he did was make Kiri want to stab herself to death. This was going to be bad. Very bad. Terribly Crabs on Walls level of bad. 
The upcoming party spelled out trouble. Duelists were trouble.
CRAB DAMMIT. 
*

28
21
Edited by WHW

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11 hours ago, Daramere said:

Just to be clear for those without a comprehensive knowledge of the old setting, the Kolat were formed by some of the people who held power in Rokugan before the coming of the Kami. They found it unacceptable that they had been displaced at the top of the food chain, and started a conspiracy (mostly criminal in nature) in an effort to further their own return to power. Much later the Kolat began developing a philosophical justification for the actions they had taken, that justification being that humanity should rule itself, rather than bow to the celestial order. But their primary short-term goal is almost always the accumulation of power for themselves.

Amusingly enough, the canon of the old L5R was that if the Kolat ever actually managed to achieve their theoretical end goal of deposing the gods and freezing the cosmic cycle, this would have resulted in the destruction of the universe.

Of course, we have no idea what the details of the Kolat are in new L5R, assuming they exist.

The original Kolat were individuals who questioned the Kami's right to impose their will on Rokugan and whether the Clans they founded were truly preferable to the tribal system that had existed previously. However, with no better solution and no hope of defeating the forces of the Kami regardless they were resigned to wait and debate among themselves.

Then Shinsei came and his teachings revealed the true nature of existence. Kharma dictated the society of the Kami would inevitably fall and be replaced just as they had replaced the one that existed before them. But the Kolat realized only logical purpose of the kharmatic cycle would be to create a system where the cycle was obsolete. Overnight the became conspirators dedicated to the establishment of this perfect society.

It was later also realized that hereditary inheritance was an unacceptable means of determining leadership and that system was replaced with an enlightened meritocracy within the Kolat.

 

The sections proposing the Kolat's victory would lead to the destruction of the world are of highly debatable canonicity. Unless one considers that since the current world is dependent on kharma, the creation of one where kharma is obsolete would necessarily destroy the old one.

 

The Kolat must still exist. The Yasuki are a Crab Family and the Kolat were instrumental in bringing that about. They were also responsible for the Moto joining the Unicorn.

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4 minutes ago, shineyorkboy said:

The Kolat must still exist. The Yasuki are a Crab Family and the Kolat were instrumental in bringing that about. They were also responsible for the Moto joining the Unicorn.

In the old canon, sure. There is absolutely no reason that has to still be the case in the new canon. FFG wouldn't even have to give us new explanations for how Yasuki became Crab and Moto became Unicorn, unless it somehow became relevant to the new timeline. 

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38 minutes ago, Zesu Shadaban said:

In the old canon, sure. There is absolutely no reason that has to still be the case in the new canon. FFG wouldn't even have to give us new explanations for how Yasuki became Crab and Moto became Unicorn, unless it somehow became relevant to the new timeline. 

Given that FFG is still selling the old source books I'm gonna consider most of the old lore still valid unless it's specifically contradicted.

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Lots of companies use DriveThru to make easy money on their back catalogs so that's an iffy assumption.

If FFG wants to use the Kolat, it'd be fun for them to play it out extremely subtley over a few deluxe expansions, just tiny hints here and there. They have a great opportunity to really play up the tension of it being a phantom in the minds of paranoid players since at this point we really don't know whether it's a real thing or not.

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2 hours ago, shineyorkboy said:

Given that FFG is still selling the old source books I'm gonna consider most of the old lore still valid unless it's specifically contradicted.

Well for one thing the Utaku are already the Utaku at this point, implying that they were never the Otaku.  It's fully possible that the Yasuki have always been Crab, or that the Moto joined through means other than Kolat involvement. 

If in doubt, disbelieve in silly myths like ninja, Kolat and shourido!

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5 hours ago, WHW said:

So I did a thing. I might continue or not, based on a whim. But be warned, this might not be what you are expecting. Also note I'm not a native english speaker, so my written english might be painful to consume. 

Other than that, well, here it is. 

 

It wasn't, as you say, what I was expecting but that doesn't mean it wasn't good.  Very well done and I couldn't tell you weren't a native english speaker.  I'm not sure it needs to be continued.  The situation is complete and the tragedy of it explored enough for us to understand.  I suspect a good editor could actually make it more concise, but I can't claim to be a good editor.  She's possibly an interesting character to play in a one-off, or small group game.

Again, well done.  Would you be averse to my borrowing/stealing the original idea of the 'daydreaming' yojimbo at a negotiation or party?

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4 hours ago, shineyorkboy said:

Given that FFG is still selling the old source books I'm gonna consider most of the old lore still valid unless it's specifically contradicted.

I prefer the opposite approach: I'm not going to assume anything from AEG's timeline has been kept in FFG's, unless it comes up in one of their fictions. Not that I know much about AEG's timeline: I came pretty late to the CCG and I didn't pay much attention to the storyline (though I heard about some really silly stuff).

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9 hours ago, shineyorkboy said:

The original Kolat were individuals who questioned the Kami's right to impose their will on Rokugan and whether the Clans they founded were truly preferable to the tribal system that had existed previously. However, with no better solution and no hope of defeating the forces of the Kami regardless they were resigned to wait and debate among themselves.

Then Shinsei came and his teachings revealed the true nature of existence. Kharma dictated the society of the Kami would inevitably fall and be replaced just as they had replaced the one that existed before them. But the Kolat realized only logical purpose of the kharmatic cycle would be to create a system where the cycle was obsolete. Overnight the became conspirators dedicated to the establishment of this perfect society.

Except all of that, even from the Kolat's point of view, happened after those folks got together and grumbled about how they had lost power. The above summarizes part of the opening history in the Merchant's Guide to Rokugan, but it leaves parts out. The original Kolat were those who lost power. They believed that the Kami weren't the be-and-end-all that most Rokugani believed them to be, and thought they could do a better job. But, in the words of the book, they lacked the "moral authority" for objective. Then Shinsei came and they glommed onto his ideas (most followers of Shinsei would argue that they glommed onto a perversion of his ideals, but that's immaterial for this particular point). The primary objective - seizing power from the Kami - came before there was a philosophical "justification" for it.

And, of course, I'll also point back to how it was established way back then (again, in the Merchant's Guide to Rokugan) that the Kolat were 'wrong' on a cosmological level - actually achieving their philosophical goal would not create a perfect, stable universe, but would destroy it.

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1 hour ago, Daramere said:

And, of course, I'll also point back to how it was established way back then (again, in the Merchant's Guide to Rokugan) that the Kolat were 'wrong' on a cosmological level - actually achieving their philosophical goal would not create a perfect, stable universe, but would destroy it.

I hope that FFG never does this with the Promised Land sect. That is, I hope they never definitively show that their theology/philosophy is wrong and that there is no potential paradise in the afterlife for non-Samurai.  Keeping it ambiguous would, in my opinion, make for a more compelling story.

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