by Kakita Saito
A month had passed since the death of Asahina Yori and the disappearance of his son Nakayama. In that time, my duties had been to 1) find Nakayama and 2) investigated the enemies of Yori. However, Asahina Yori had been such a seemly honorable man that there were only 3 people who disliked him; 2 of whom were dead. The remaining one is currently in the Mantis Isles visiting a sister for the past month. And he is a Crane Magistrate! Finding Nakayama was even worse! No one had seen Nakayama since that fateful night, not the geisha he liked to visit, not the monks at the temple or even the gambling house he frequented. It would seem that my friend had just vanish into the shadows. This had not been an easy month.
Imura-sama then informed us that the shugenja from the Asahina school would be arriving in the next few days...with a Imperial Magistrate! It would not be proper for such a guest to enter a Crane city without a escort, so Diro-sama, Genju and myself would wait for them outside Shiro no Kakita. We waited for 2 days before they arrived. After the formal greetings, the Unicorn magistrate(Otaku Yuri) tried to gather information from Diro-sama but was politely refused. Genju and I both figured that it would be better for us not to give information before Diro-sama decides to. Yuri-sama kept trying but she was clearly a novice in the courts and was no match for a Crane. Then a arrow flies out of the air. Asahina Hazuko fell from her horse. Yuri-sama charged the enemies and the heimins we just pass drew their hidden katanas! The Fortunes had finally shine on me!
There were 8 of them with only Dori-sama, Genju and myself protecting an injured Hazuko. 2 of them ran towards me... and they were trained! Their swords flashed in arcs trying to make me retreat. I gave them the ground they seek waiting for the inevitable mistake. Then one of the wave-men took too large of a step forward! In an instant, I was on him. His katana went towards my head but I was too near. Easily blocking his strike, my blade immediately went across him. Blood pour out of his neck like a waterfall. The other ronin showed no fear as he immediately strike against me. I bend like the weeds as his katana hits the air where my head was. He stepped in, seeking to press me back. I blocked his blade as it tried to come across my belly and immediately went into the Three-Drinks Strike. His body fell dead on the ground.
My head turned towards the voice. Another ronin stood before me, his katana in its' saya. It was a challenge. My katana went into its' saya as I observed my opponent. A Crane I may be, but I much rather prefer a pitch battle than a duel. We both stood still looking straight at each other. His breathing, his shoulders, his eyes. I saw them all as I clear my mind of all thoughts. In an instant it was over. Blood flow freely out of my cheeks as I fell to my knees. The land blurred as I held my wound with my left hand...and then my vision corrected itself.