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Arolem

Which takes priority?

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There was an attack on your Lord's life by an unknown assassin. Through your investigation you discover not only the culprit - a kolat no less - but also a maho-tsukai. Before you can report your findings both flee from the palace.

They run in different directions. You don't have time to find reinforcements, nor report to your lord. Both are armed and very dangerous. If you do not take chase to either they will get away.

You must choose one to pursue and deal with. Which takes priority? Is it down to personal preference? Does the empire hold one to be worse? Is it your Lord's discretion (from whatever history he has)? The one that acted on his life is most important? The Kolat could lead to more cells. The maho could corrupt he land and people.

Assuming of course you know about the Kolat being more than assassins.

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Well, on the face of what you've described, the more serious crime is the maho. This isn't to say that an attempt on the life of a samurai lord isn't a big deal (it is!), but the assassin is a "mundane" threat--based on your scenario, he or she can kill individuals, certainly, but isn't like to go on a murderous rampage or threaten commoners. There are generally measures in place--often, but not always, effective ones--to protect against such threats (they obviously failed in this case.)

Maho, OTOH, threatens the spiritual purity of everyone who is exposed to it. A maho-tsukai can do enormous damage among a broad swath of the population, and can even allow vile and blasphemous things like oni to enter the mortal realm. A known maho-tsukai must be stopped immediately, and at virtually any cost. An assassin is a criminal who can be investigated and brought to justice, but if that doesn't happen immediately, the potential effects aren't even REMOTELY as dire as having a maho-tsukai on the loose could be.

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The assassin is a crime against your lord and the clan, the Maho-Tsukai against the Emperor.

The Empire would nominally consider the latter "worse", but both are perfectly acceptible choices to pursue.

Since you caught the former 'in the act', your lord is probably still actively in danger. You've been ordered to find the assassin; technically you have the authority to change your orders but by default you should be fullfiling the orders you were given.

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Maho-tsukai is always worse than Kolat (largely because kolat aren't well known) but, as others have said, there might be other factors, such as if either threat is currently doing anything to screw with people.  Also, while a samurai should never act out of cowardice, any reasonable Bushi is going to realize that they might not be successful in fighting a Maho-tsukai without back-up, so they should probably get help with that one, while the Kolat assassin is something they should be able to deal with by themselves.  Hence, a Bushi chases the kolat, then warns everyone that a Maho-Tsukai was in the area. A Shugenja might actually confront the Maho-tsukai first, because shugenja are meant to face spiritual threats.

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I'd agree with the previous posts about spiritual corruption taking precedent in a contest against those attempting to over turn the social/religious hierarchy.

I'd even venture to say members of the Kolat have fought against Maho-Tsukai, though I can't reference any specific examples.

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The Kolat are very much opposed to Maho and the like - it was established from the start and they have agents specifically trained to eliminate tsukai and such. In that way the two elements could play in to each other. =P

Generally I would prioritise the tsukai but it depends on other things. Does honour demand the would-be assassin be brought to justice? You can always justify not going after the tsukai by suggesting it is better handled by jade magistrates/inquisitors/witch hunters.

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I agree with the majority that “empirically” the Maho is the bigger threat over all. As a generic threat.

But on the other hand, so what? There are lots of other factors that could push you one way or the other as you refine the choice from generic to specific.

For example - what is your Giri? If you are a yojimbo and your duty is as a bodyguard to your lord then I think you would lean toward pursuing the assassin. Presumably a Shugenja character has a Giri related to spiritual matters and would lean toward pursueing the Maho. 

Or...what is your Clan? if you are part of the Crab Clan I think that’s definitely a push toward chasing the Maho. On the other hand, the Crane Clan seems to be under a lot of external pressure at the moment. Maybe for a Crane Clane Samurai the immediate threat of the assassin is a priority because it’s aimed right at your Clan (when your leaders can’t afford more trouble), while the Maho is a more generic threat...

It’s not exactly the most honorable part of your samurai...but what if your anxiety is superstition? Are you really going to choose to go after the Maho?

Does your Ninjo insect at all with this decision? 

Do you know either of the two people?

Does one or the other have enough status that pursuing them openly is going to be problem?

Lots of potential points to reflect on when making the choice.

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37 minutes ago, Void Crane said:

I agree with the majority that “empirically” the Maho is the bigger threat over all. As a generic threat.

But on the other hand, so what? There are lots of other factors that could push you one way or the other as you refine the choice from generic to specific.

All very good points. The answer to the OP's question is still that they SHOULD chase down the maho-tsukai as the far graver threat to the Empire. What the samurai actually DOES is going to be influenced by the factors you list, and certainly a bunch more you didn't. It's that dichotomy between what samurai should do, and what they actually do, that's really the basis for some of the most interesting dramatic tension in the story.

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The general rank-and-file of the empire have no idea what a "Kolat" is and fewer still comprehend their ultimate goals or why they should care beyond "more **** foreign influence". A mortal assassin is ultimately a mortal assassin though.

The maho-tsukai is the much graver threat to the empire, and has potentially has powers that could wreak wide-spread devastation.

A mortal assassin can only do so much to disappear, and if they feel being caught is imminent, the worst they are liable to do is to off themselves and deny you the ability to interrogate them.

A maho-tsukai has magic on their side and could potentially magically disguise themselves as just about anyone to disappear. Moreover, if they feel being caught is imminent, they could very well sacrifice their very soul to unleash an Oni in the middle of the empire.

 

Thus an individual maho-tsukai is a much greater threat and would take priority.

I mean, even if one were to consider the long term goals of the two groups....

The Kolat being successful would see a weakening of the celestial order, but so long as one has faith that the celestial order is righteous then their goals are certain to ultimately result in little change.

Jigoku being successful would see a corruption or destruction of all life in the empire and plunge the world into eternal darkness.

 

The latter is far more important to deal with.

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