Gisei: Falling Rain Dojo???!!!
Brent: For those of you that don't know, Gisei invented Falling Rain in her ongoing Always Coming Home. Errr...yes, no, maybeso? The Falling Rain Dojo has just shown up in the Gozoku; one of its students is currently a favorite of mine, and he/she is going to play a major role before all is said and done. The techniques of the school probably won't be featured as heavily as I like to in Swordmaster: the Gozoku is more about philosophy than swordsmanship. Keep a close eye out, though. The student of the Falling Rain is on the horizon even now...
Gisei: In one of the early stories, when the three Champions start plotting, Bayushi Atsuki reflects on Doji Raigu: "...the Crane was a man wed to the words the first Akodo had written; he would never abandon the words of the code, but its spirit was something he could never know." Why does Atsuki think that? And is he correct?
Brent: When we came up with the concept of Doji Raigu, we wanted to set a real difference between him and a typical Crane Champion. Chris has always been a big fan of the difference between "living the code" and "knowing the code," and that seemed like a very good way to go. Raigu does the latter, and Atsuki know it (because Atsuki knows lots of stuff). It's up to the readers to decide whether Atsuki is right, and whether Raigu is truly honorable, or if he's just not dishonorable (AKA following the written words). And, is there a difference between following the law and believing in the law?
Gisei: Who sent the assassin in Chapter 15, Footprints in the Snow?
Brent: D'oh. We hoped this was clear...apparently not. Oh well. The most dangerous man in the Empire...Hantei Kusada. :) In his discussion with Gaman when they play go (Chapter 17?) the monk hints that he knows Kusada was involved. As of yet, no one in the Gozoku knows the truth. They will. <insert dramatic thunderclap>
Gisei: What was Ayatsuro's school? Where did she learn to fight like that? What are her true loyalites? Gozoku or Imperial? Have they changed over time?
Brent: Ayatsuro's sword school is Kakita Bushi, but as you've noticed, her personal style is far different from most Crane. The Empress is a special type of yojimbo that the Crane Clan has developed, with a lot of training based in dealing with attackers under less than prepared circumstances, using whatever it takes to nullify an enemy. Over time, the Crane Clan has often instructed the Empress in such ways, since she is the Emperor's last defense in many cases. In modern Rokugan, this kind of style falls under the expertise of the Daidoji (and is probably still taught to the lovers/geisha of important lords, though Toturi Kaede most likely scoffed at such mundane ways). Her style will probably show up as a New School in the RPG stuff.
Brent: As for her loyalties...? I think that Ayatsuro loves the Crane and the Empire a whole lot, but I think that she doesn't want it to be at the expense of Kusada (whom she is starting to love in earnest) or her children. I don't think she's really all that much Gozoku or Imperialist: she's like most people, who just wants everyone to be happy and live on, and to live her own life in peace. Naturally, that's not going to happen...
Gisei: Are we going to see more of that Shiba warrior who 'killed' Mochiko?
Brent: Honkai is going to step aside for awhile; he was called in as a trouble-shooter to the assassin problem, nothing more. He has few non-stabbing skills, and in the end, the Gozoku doesn't like relying on brute force. So you won't see him doing Gozoku dirty work for a long time, but when he returns...watch out, because it'll be with a very big job.
Gisei: Is Raigu becoming disenchanted with the Gozoku?
Brent: Definitely. Raigu is going to become more and more an outsider in Gaijushiko and Atsuki's personal politics as things go on; he doesn't want to see their methods or effects, so he is ignoring (by choice) a large amount of their personalities. On top of that, the way Chikuma died reminded him that his allies would sacrifice anyone for victory...perhaps even the Champion of the Crane. He's feeling doubt, probably for the first time since they began their alliance.
Brent: This will be VERY important later, btw. Boy, I love ending with something like that...