L5R : Jade Winds
Getting into persona
Shosuro Naoki walked to one of the small rooms in the guest house. Calmly sliding the door closed, she turned to the empty room. She opened her mouth and formed a loud scream. Her eyes squeezed shut, shaking her fists in rage, but no sound was made. Mantis! she had not expected that. Drawing a deep breath, she willed the anger and frustration away. She could do this, she fooled the guards of Shouhoo and North Wall City. But fooling a Mantis about being a Mantis. This was the ultimate. There could be no mistakes.
She remembered Shosuro Sensei talking about actors that could immerse themselves in the character so that they knew nothing else. Her mother had hinted at it, saying she played her shakuhachi to empty her mind to let the character take her place. Her mother must have been talking about that. That was what she needed for these Mantis. Not to look like a Mantis, but to be a Mantis.
How hard could it be? She was a man for months, and no one knew. She was a Ronin in Shouhoo. She had even Hida Nakamuro convinced. She felt a twinge, the Crab was very confused and very angry at finding out the truth. But he did not walk away, he got quieter, which was no easy task for someone who talks as little as he does. Noaki’s throat clenched, “This is not the time for a fond stroll down memory lane! The Mantis will be here any moment!” she muttered to herself quietly.
With a frantic wave of her hands she started to organize all her things she had on her. She checked her clothing and sorted materials into neat organized piles in front of her. She made lists and noted if things present truly would belong to a Mantis. One Tsuruchi archer was her only contact she recalled, and a lot of study at school. School was not like the real world, she had realized this now. Such a good reason to have Actors go out and travel the empire.
She grabbed the sides of her head, she pulled the hat off her head. “Focus!” she spit, a small panic rose, did I just say that out loud? She threw the hat down. Nothing was helping. She saw her Shakuhachi, and a memory filled her vision.
Kurotani Kaito tried to learn the dance. It was the most difficult thing she had learned and it frustrated her. It was the dance that Shosuro did for Bayushi. She wondered if she really did this dance to show how much she loved him? or was this just a dance her teacher gave her because she had been bad? She hoped it was the first. Her mother’s voice drifted in behind her. “Did you learn anything?” she said in a sweet caring tone. Kaito turned and her mother sat, shakuhachi in her lap. “I learned that this dance is very hard,” stomping her one foot.
The memory ended, but the vision remained. Shosuro Naoki stood in front of her mother. Her mother’s gaze did not lift from knee level. “Oh my Winter Flower, you will never take that important step if your head is filled with frustration. It should be cleared and let the thing come to you.” Why was her mother speaking to her knees? The image of her mother started to gather wisps of fog. “No! I want to talk with you Mama!” and the fog drew thicker. Panic and fear gripped Naoki, she so wanted to stay with her mother. The fog shrouded image pointed with the shakuhachi, “maybe a quiet walk in the garden will help clear your mind for the task at hand.” Shosuro Naoki turned and walked out the door.
A few steps out the door, Naoki stopped and turned, “Mother!” but she stared back at a blank wall. There were high walls on either side of her so she turned to walk along the garden path. “Task at hand?” Naoki mused, “A dance? No! a Mantis!” she was reaching the Torii at the end of the garden. “I must become a Mantis” she demanded. The Torii started to wrap in fog. “Clear my mind, a walk to clear my mind,” she chewed over what her mother said. Basic actor training at the Shosuro Butei included ‘Walking Meditation’ and she decided to try. She settled her mind and just ‘walked’. The Torii became clearer, and as a thoughtless observer she passed under it.
The landscape changed to a nondescript void. In front of her, a path went between large stone statues. Shosuro Miyo walked perpendicular to the path, he never seemed to look up. “These represent the many fold reason mankind suffers without enlightenment,” he spoke to no one in particular. A statue tried to hit him but it missed shaking the ground. “They are the wants and desires, what we all keep hidden,” and he disappeared out the other side.
She started down the path. Dirt fell from the cracks in the statues as they started to move. She could not want to do this, wanting just made things worse. “Just be an observer” and she walked watching, but not influencing her breath. A crash behind her as one of the statues struck and missed. The last two statues yelled at each other, “She can’t do this, she will forget something, she will never be able to pull this off.” But as she continued past them the statues dissolved and Naoki felt her whole being open up, and with it the Void in front of her opened up.
A door appeared in the darkness. It floated in the void, spinning, aimless. If she willed herself closer, it slipped away further, like a butterfly or a koi in a pond. Settling her breath and letting go of everything, everyone, she stared at nothing. The door came flat into view, it slid open on an unseen frame. Beyond the door was a small room, a study of some sort by all the scrolls. It reminded her of the underground library in the Painted City where Shosuro sensei taught her. As that memory formed, the door started to slip shut and the door drifted. She passively quieted her mind again, and the door opened wide again. She sat on a bench outside the door that had clean white tabi under and a simple white kimono folded on top.
Kaito sat and started to remove her tabi. The shoes looked rancid, crawling with vermin. She pulled the old tabi off and respectfully set them aside. Her one foot looked pale white. Her other foot looked the same as when the rancid tabi was on. Her whole leg seemed fetid. Panic clutched her. The door started closing beside her. Staring off into the void she removed the layer from her leg. The foot was pale white. She discarded all her clothing and put on the clean Kimono. To her left the door remained open, she bowed but did not announce herself. She had no name to give.
The room was small having shelves on both sides. Scrolls and tomes filled the shelves. Toward the back of the room several shadowy figures sat. Another stood at the shelves pulling scrolls, examining them. Some scrolls the figure would return, a few the figure placed in a satchel.
Kaito realized two of the figures were not so shadowy. One was a rough looking ronin. He looked handsome but there was something not right about him. He spoke coarsely, “Oi, get out!” he carelessly tossed a drinking bowl at the figure across the table from him. The ronin scratched at himself, “Don’t fail! Wakirimasu ka,” he added shooting a look across the table.
The other figure stood. She politely bowed and took up a yumi. She was about Kaito’s height and had similar features, but her posture spoke of spending time on the sea. “Hai Rogoku sama, you can rely on me!” she bowed again and moved quickly to the door. She had an excited step, she looked ready to take on the world.
Stopping at the door to remove her tabi, she glanced up and smiled at Kaito. “My name is Yokakusho Michiko, I am very pleased to meet you,” she said in an almost cheerful tone. She continued to change her footwear; she nodded toward the wall. A window had appeared. Kaito felt disoriented, had the room changed she thought? “Please you may watch, I hope you will approve,” the cheerful Samurai gestured to the window. A Mantis! She was a Mantis. Kaito smiled. The Mantis girl backed out and closed the door. Kaito watched as the Mantis girl, walked off into the shapeless landscape.
Kaito watched. “What? Is there something I can do for you?” the Ronin said from behind. She turned and looked back at the seated figure. Before she could say anything, “Ah ah, the answer is NO! you should be paying attention”, the ronin finished the sentence, his punctuation was sitting back drawing his arms inside his kimono. He seemed to drift off into sleep. Kaito thought she was able to see through him, like he was becoming ghostly.
She looked up from the Ronin to see the foggy form of her mother. Standing in a doorway, she said, “Did you learn anything?” the voice was distant, but it was her mother’s.The ghostly figure slid the door shut. “Mother!” Kaito quickly turned back to the window. Her vision flashed into a tunnel of white, her little room disappeared.
Yokakusho Michiko finished dressing in the tiny guest room, in Last Village. A quick check to make sure she was presentable. She gave a small sigh, these clothes have seen better days, but someday she would get better. Quickly, she picked up her Yumi and moved to the door. She took off the house slippers, shaking them out the door she put them in a little sack. She put on her jikitabi. Standing as tall as she could, she allowed herself another downward look. There were Mantis in town, how exciting! She looked up and smiled. Sliding the door shut behind her, Michiko ran off to do the task at hand.