An Imperial Party
IX. Dark Deeds

A cold wind blew across the Dragon Herat Plain, whipping the thin robes of Utaku Dacha as he crept with uncanny stealth toward the main building of Shiro Morito. As the wind whistled in the darkness of night, Dacha smiled to himself. After years of training and investigation, he finally had what he needed to undo the conspiracy that had so shamed his people. He knew that, at last, his mission would be fulfilled and he would be able to return to his home.

He knew that, with the death of Morito of the Ox, he would remove the head of the Kolat.

Somehow, it seemed fitting in his mind that the Utaku family had spawned this one, this heir to the greatest disgrace that the Unicorn had known. He had failed as an Otaku before the name was changed, and he had taken on the curse of Yokatsu, and now, finally, would meet the end best suited to him.

A small sound came from some distance to his left, and Dacha saw his agent, Yotsu Hachi, passing toward the main building also. Hachi had been a good friend and an excellent source of information, working as he did in the service of the Otomo. Soon, they would both have the chance to return to their homes, and Hachi could rejoin his daughter Asami. Dacha smiled again as he recalled how fondly the aging man had spoken of his child, though he had not seen her in years.

Ah, for better times.

Dacha returned his focus to the task ahead, slipping quietly into the building. That there were no posted guards did not strike him as odd until the instant that Oneko crashed into him, knocking him out of the building and into the open area before its doors. Dacha knew in that instant that he was undone, and turned to flee. Behind him he heard Oneko speak a single word, "Musoka," before the door of the main building shut.

Dacha fled outside the innermost wall, seeing his Yotsu agent trailing behind him at a distance, and the two wove about through the buildings of the complex, eventually nearing the small temple on the grounds. Dacha entered, seeing the Osano-Wo monk kneeling before the statue of Lord Sun. As Yotsu Hachi stepped into the doorway, the sohei, Ugo, leapt to his feet and attacked the Unicorn, his eyes flat and lifeless as his fist connected solidly with Dacha's forehead, knocking him to the ground.

A blade flashed out of the monk's robes, appearing in his bandaged hand for a moment before it entered the Unicorn's side. At that moment, Hachi struck, his yari catching the sohei high in the shoulder and pitching him onto his back. The Yotsu barked out "Run!' at the Unicorn, and drew his sword as the sohei rose to his feet.
Dacha tore off, clutching his side as best as he was able, and came as quickly as he might to the window of his room. With effort, he hauled himself inside, collapsing on the floor. His hand reached for his sword, and drew it out before his eyes lost their light and the steel clattered to the floor.

* * * * *

When the delegates and courtiers gathered the next morning, they were met with a somber Ox Clan. Morito's stentorian voice spoke solemnly and slowly.
"My guests, please attend. The Captain of the Guard of this castle wishes to declare something to you."

Oneko stood and bowed, opening her perfect mouth to let her flawless voice wash over all in the gathering. "Guests of my lord, I have failed you. Last night, the ronin Kado, who had previously been in attendance here, slew several others in my lord's service. One older man, the monk Ugo, and the stable-master Utaku Dacha all fell to his blade before he fled.

"I have failed to protect those in my care, and have lost my honor." She flung back her outer kimono, revealing a thin robe of shining white, and the assembled delegates realized in that moment that she only bore a wakizashi. "I do this not for my own honor, but so that you will blame only me for my failure and not my lord, who shall not fail you." Her eyes searched the crowd, finding Yamaedo. "Miharu-san, will you serve as my second?"

Seppun Yamaedo strode forward and knelt.

Oneko turned to Koriyei. "Shugenja of the Hidden Guard, will you preside over the ceremony?" Koriyei nodded, and Oneko turned to the shisha. "Will you tell this tale?" Kanatei nodded.

"You have my thanks."

* * * * *

As the sun set that day, the entire population of that castle stood and watched as Oneko, still robed in white, read her speech. She knelt, and Yamaedo took his position behind her, his sword raised and ready, while Koriyei chanted sutras and Kanatei hurriedly wrote.

As the light from Lord Sun faded to red, the wakizashi moved, and the katana fell. The heads of those assembled bowed...

"...and that is where we stop tonight."

The gaming group began to put their dice away, and Sean Scott, who had been playing Miya Kanatei, asked, "What time is it?"

Bryce Patrick, Yamaedo's player, glanced at his watch through his glasses, and said, "About midnight."

Chris James, Dajan's player, looked to Sean and asked, "Well, what do you think? You enjoy playing?"

"Yeah, actually."

"Glad to have you."

Carl Engler, an older man, player of Seppun Koriyei, stood up and stretched. "That was the most interesting game I've played in some time."

Alan Smith, the GM, replied, "Thank you. Before you all go, though, I've got your rewards figured. You all gain three Honor and four Glory. The three that assisted in the seppuku gain another box each to each. Sean, you and Carl get six Experience, Chris, you get five, and Bryce, you get seven."

As pencils began to move, Carl looked u and said, "Guys, my family's going to be out of town next week if you want to meet at my house."

The five men continued to talk, discussing their plans for the gaming group.