Prodigal Prodigy VI

"I do not care what the Akodo Daimyo says! I will not see this Lion samurai, there are better things to spend my valuable time on!"

"But Hochiu-sama, if what they claim is true, then… then he might have some innate ability for magic. Should we not examine this? It could be most fascinating and…"

"Oh, be quiet!" Isawa Hochiu's face was red with anger when he spat out the words, as if he was breathing fire. "Those Lion wouldn't know true magic if it sprang up and bit them! The boy probably has some affinity for the elements and manifests it like a kiho of sorts."

"His body was sheathed in flames and the bandits were charred black, but no fire or smoke was seen and their clothing wasn't burned."

"You seemed to be very interested in this Konuwari-san," Hochiu hissed, "Why don't you study this? With my approval, of course…"

Agasha Konuwari kneeled and said, "Thank you, Hochiu-sama. I will bring reports to you… regularly… about any and all results, of course." He stood and left the Master of Fire to his personal pyre of anger.

* * *

Ah, there you are Maigo-san," Konuwari said as he bowed quickly, "I have spoken with Hochiu-sama."

"And?" Maigo's voice was hard, but carried a hint of concern.

"He has… assigned me to help you and to try finding out what is going on with you."

Maigo sighed and turned his head to look sadly at the much smaller shugenja, "I am a man of the sword, not a manipulator of the elements."

Konuwari smiled at the samurai and replied, "But magic also has its uses in battle. You could use balls of fire to defeat many men! You could be as great as, oh say, Matsu Nimoru… Just imagine."

The Agasha's last comment made a sparkle appear in Maigo's eyes. "As great as Nimuro-sama?" He paused to contemplate for a moment and then said firmly, "No! I could not act upon such a thing, bushido does not allow me to. It would mean dishonor."

"But think of the possibilities! A person who was trained as a samurai all his life, but who can use magic like a shugenja! Only Hitomi is known as such, and look at where she is now! You could put yourself above bushido and no one would be able to stop you!"

"Phoenix your tongue moves like a Scorpion's tail, but your words are not without appeal. I will allow you to teach me what you can, but if I suspect the smallest trick from your side I will leave and then you will have failed your duty. And we both know the penalty for failure… or should I say: the three penalties?"

Konuwari nodded slowly and realized that he had underestimated this man; carefully choosing his words he said, "You have my word, Maigo-san, no Scorpion tricks from me. But we must start training as soon as we can, today preferably or else tomorrow."

"Then let us begin and we will see what you and your scrolls can teach me."

* * *

Masurao was still meditating when soft sounds reached his ears: the sound of someone walking towards him. Concentrating a moment, he extended his senses and slowl the surrounding sprang into his mind and he found that someone was indeed approaching him. He smiled as he opened his eyes, "Konnichiwa, Nikkan-sensei."

The aging man looked at the ise zumi sitting before him. Nikkan looked up at nothing in particular and tapped his chin with his finger, thinking a moment then saying, "Okugi-san, it is you, isn't it?"

Masurao's face must have clearly shown his amazement, because Nikkan chuckled, "Yes, but I have recovered my true name: Togashi Masurao. However, would you mind telling me how you knew it was me?"

Nikkan grinned as he said, "I've only known one young man who could meditate as long as you AND remain aware of his surrounding. Plus, I recognized your eyes… Well now, Masurao-san, tell me, did you enjoy your time at the Imperial Court?"

"It was a great experience. I'd rather not left, but certain circumstances… forced me to leave. I have learned much from the people there."

"Last time I met you, you were an excellent swordsman. I hope you did not exchange the daisho for the fan," Nikkan jested.

Masurao dryly proceeded to pull a courtier's fan from his obi, open it and flutter it in front of his face.

Both men burst into laughter, disturbing the serene silence of the garden. When they had calmed down Nikkan said, wiping the tears from his eyes, "Would you to join me to the bushi's training? Maybe you can still learn something from an old man, or teach some wisdom you picked up while dealing with Cranes and Scorpions?"

Masurao stood, bowed and said, "I would consider it an honor, Nikkan-sensei."

* * *

The young bushi were quite talented, but unexperienced, none had seen even the smallest skirmish, let alone a true war. But their sensei could be proud of them nonetheless.

"Bushiii stop!" Nikkan's powerful voice rang clear through the dojo and the students stopped with whatever they were doing and assembled quickly. "I want to introduce a former student of mine, Togashi Masurao."

Masurao bowed as Nikkan indicated him and the students returned the greeting. "Greetings, bushi-san. I am honored to be here again, after all these years…"

Nikkan and Masurao spent the following hours teaching the young bushi. After all the students had left Nikkan sat down and said, "Have you spoken to your sensei yet?"

"No," Masurao sighed, "I have seen him, but he did not recognize me and I was on my way to meeting with Hoshi-sama. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, I just thought you would be quite interested in meeting him at the moment," Nikkan mused, "this very moment…"

Masurao nodded with a smile and stood, "Then I shall take my leave from you. It was an honor to have been a sensei with you today, Nikkan-sensei." Masurao bowed and left the dojo to find his former teacher.

* * *

"Ah, is it really you? Okugi-san? Come in! Let me have a closer look at you." Shido, formerly Agasha Shido, narrowed his eyes and scrutinized the young man before him. "And you say your true name is… Togashi Masurao? Interesting… Who would've thought you were a son of the Dragon after all?"

"The young woman who was present and had been silent up to now cleared he throat and said, "Shido-san, who is this young ise zumi?"

"Oh, my apologies, Shaitung-sama! This is Oku… Masurao-san, my last pupil."

Masurao bowed deeply, "I am honored to meet you, Shaitung-sama. Your master of the Earth is the stuff of many tales in Otosan Uchi."

"Your admiration is noted, but with determination you will become a good shugenja as well, Masurao-san."

"Not with the Earth kami, he won't," Shido joked, "I can tell you that!"

Shaitung raised an eyebrow and said, "Would you explain yourself… please?"

"Of course, Shaitung-sama! It is really quite simple. I tried to train him in the new ways you've suggested, but it quickly became clear that he was more attuned to the Fire kami. He was lucky that I still recalled some of my Agasha training."

Shaitung looked at Masurao, she walked a circle around him, slowly taking in the young man before her. "You are a shugenja," she asked.
Masurao nodded, patting his satchel of scrolls.
"And you bear tattoos," she continued.
He nodded again, smiling.
"And a daisho too?"
More nodding.

For a moment Shaitung and Masurao just stared at each other and Shido at the both of them. Thinking something might go wrong he interrupted, "Well, Masurao-san, it was good to see you again, but… Shaetung-sama and I must continue."

"We will meet again, Masurao-san, sometime."
"No doubt about it, Shaitung-sama."
"I will look forward to that day."
"And I backward to today."
"Have a good day then."
"A good day to you."

* * *

"Well, Masurao-san, how was your meeting," asked Nikkan, who had been waiting outside the shugenja's quarters.

"Interesting, very interesting." Masurao walked right past Nikkan, who didn't even bother to stop him.

* * *

Maigo growled with frustration, "This is no use! These scrolls are nothing more than a meaningless mess of kanji to me!" He threw away the scroll he had been trying to read and walked of fuming.

"Maigo-san! Maigo-san, wait!"
Konuwari had to catch his breath when he finally caught up with Maigo.
"All you need is a little patience!"

"Patience!? You ask me to be patient?! You try to teach me in a week what others learn in a year! I do not have time for this! I am leaving!"

"No, you must not leave, Maigo-san!"

"Hah! Stop me if you can!"

Desperately Konuwari reached for his pouch.

* * *

"What's this," Maigo yelled amused, "a man of flames to stop me?!"

Konuwari did not reply as he was focused on maintaining his concentration and with it his man of flames.

Maigo stepped aside and attempted to walk pas the burning image, but Konuwari did not allow it. The burning bushi kicked the samurai and followed through with a punch on Maigo's back. Letting out a scream of rage he stood and tried to punch the bushi, but his hand went right through.

Both the waning and waxing warrior and Konuwari smiled slightly as Maigo discovered that he would have to try harder to harm this opponent. The fighter of fire attacked again, tripping his samurai opponent and grappling him.

Maigo was taking a beating, though the bushi's punches connected with Maigo's chest, his own went right through the flames. Suddenly he felt the same feeling as on the day those bandits murdered his daimyo. With his mind he grabbed the fire within and seized its power.

* * *

The small courtyard where Maigo and Konuwari had been practising, and now were competing, started to fill with interested shugenja and amazed samurai. The saw two men, one made of flames and the other wrapped in fire, fighting on the ground.

Though Maigo felt the makeshift man's blows less, he himself still couldn't harm it. His frustration grew until, finally, it burst out.

Konuwari's eyes widened as did his mouth, his jaw dropped as did the scroll he had been holding. He had never seen such a thing before! Maigo had unleashed a great blast of flame, tearing away the burning bushi and its controller's concentration.

People who had seen this happen were equally astounded. Then, Maigo stood, looking at all the onlookers, the flames surrounding him slowly dissipating. Finally his gaze found Konuwari and rested there, giving him a cold and burning glare. "Now you see, Phoenix, why I don't need scrols!!?"

* * *

Hochiu sighed irritated, "What is it now, Konuwari-san!!??" He felt he was able to strike down the normally groveling and sycophantic shugenja, he turned around angrily, ready to enact his feelings. However, this time Konuwari was flanked by several other people. "What is the meaning of this Kabuki theatre in my chambers?!"

Konuwari and the other witnesses kneeled while he spoke, "Hochiu-sama, I think you would be interested in our story…"

* * *

Nikkan had followed Masurao out of Shiro Mirumoto, the young man had stopped at the edge of a precipice, concerned the older man sad, "Masurao-san, you should be careful. The winds can be treacherous here, one gust of wind and…"

Masurao barely acknowledged Nikkan, looking down into the depth he muttered, the sound barely reaching Nikkan's ears, "I always wondered." He then spread his arms and lept into the abyss, leaving Nikkan to wonder what ise zumi loved so much about diving to seeming deaths.

[To be continued]