An Imperial Party
III. Before the Boss Gets Back

A cold wind blew across Dragon Heart Plain, but inside the walls of Shiro Morito, inside the guest-house near to its gates, four young men from the Imperial Houses did not care. They had entered the guest-house only a moment ago, and now stood in amazement at the revelry taking place before them. At their fore, Seppun Yamaedo stood more stiffly than he would had be been carved from stone as raucous music and other noise surrounded him along with the odors of alcohol and sweat and smoke. His grip reflexively tightened about the tsuka of his sword, and some in the guest house, deep in their cups as some were, heard the unmistakable sound of a gauntleted hand squeezing the handle of a blade. Men began to rise from where they sat, and many more hands reached for arms. Yamaedo's keen eyes noticed this, and he only further readied himself for battle as nearly a score of Ox bushi prepared to drag him down.

At that moment another cold wind began to blow, but it was not the gentle frosty bite of the wind upon the plain but an icy blast of gale force that cleared the haze of the room away in an instant and made all take notice as the walls of the guest house creaked ominously. Beside the stern and stony figure of Yamaedo stood the small frame of Seppun Koriyei, a scroll clutched in one hand with the other a closed fist clenched before and below his glowing eyes. Miya Kanatei quickly came between the two Seppun and the room full of Ox bushi, his horo scraping the floor and hobbling him as he went. Meekly, he looked at Yamaedo, gesturing with his hands for the miharu to loose his grip. The miharu's eyes grew flinty, but he complied, and the shisha turned to the room, holding his hands low and palm-down, and the Ox bushi withdrew slightly, easing the tension in the room palpably as Otomo Dajan stepped forward.

Taking a deep breath of the now-clear air, Dajan began to speak in his melodious voice. "Let there be no misunderstanding between the families of the Emperor and the bushi of the Clan of the Ox; we come as ambassadors, and intend no harm to those in this castle." A pause as Dajan gathered his faculties, and the room was visibly much less volatile. "We came here to meet with one named Masaro, in accordance with the orders he declared to us that he had from Lord Morito, and Stable-Master Otaku Dacha-san praises the sake highly. Perhaps we have all been under its influence this day, and can let this matter rest." Several grunts from the Ox bushi in tones of approval, and most sat down again, the boisterous songs and speech returning a moment later. Kanatei visibly relaxed, and swiftly removed both sashimono and horo, revealing the thick riding kimono emblazoned with seven moons and two circles beneath. Yamaedo removed his helm as Koriyei returned his scroll to its case with a word of thanks to the air kami. Dajan, however, stiffened as Masaro came to him.

"You speak well," began the menacing Ox bushi. "And now you will speak with me as I go, while I get further, what was it you said, under the influence of the very fine sake of this place. You, no doubt, will wish to retain your full and unfettered thought, and will doubtless not wish to at this time partake of the Friendly Traveler vintage Lord Morito has available." The Ox's eyes narrowed again, and Dajan only just barely checked himself before he showed that he was on edge.

Straightening himself even more rigidly than before, Dajan lifted his nose ever so slightly. "You have an odd way of showing the hospitality of your lord, or perhaps I simply do not have an understanding of the ways of those so far removed from the Imperial graces and the blood of divinity." The Ox blinked twice in rapid succession, and Dajan pressed on. "But enough of lineages. Let us speak on something that we both can understand." Another two blinks. "You said earlier that Lord Morito would be sure of those who come to visit him. Do you imply that the Imperial Houses would send those not worthy of his trust to stand before him?" This last was said somewhat loudly, and a few other men in the guest-house took note, including Yamaedo, who quickly reattached his helm.

Dajan quickly withdrew a slip of paper from his obi. "I am Otomo Dajan, Seiyaku of the House Otomo, sent by order of Otomo Hoketuhime as delegate of her family to the Court of the Clan of the Ox." The emerald badge of the Seiyaku suddenly shone upon Dajan's obi. "I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with him."
Masaro opened his mouth, and then closed it again, searching with great difficulty for the correct words. Some noted his travail and smiled. Kanatei noted it and shook his head, mumbling to himself that he would have much work to do this winter. And in so muttering, he missed when Masaro finally did collect enough of himself to reply against Dajan's verbal barrage.

"My lord will be back tomorrow. I will ask then if he will see you."