L5R : Jade Winds
by Chickenhat and Ednoria
At some point between the Troll fighting incidents there were enough clues dropped by the GM and between players and it became apparent that a dangerous love triangle had been formed between the Scorpion, the Dragon, and the Crab. In stories and legends this kind of thing always ends very badly. (see In the Wake of the Fugu Fiend for one possible result) The real life wangst to try and figure out a way to prevent all 3 characters from needing to commit seppuku became a growing concern until I managed to remember one story that, although it eventually ended in tragic death, preserved the honor and friendship of all 3 lovers. I give to you now the “de Bergerac” inspired resolution.
It is quiet and the others are occupied with maintaining their weapons, meditating, or boiling rice.
Yonaka walks carefully toward his large friend, bows, and kneels facing him. A breath as he collects his thoughts again to make sure the words are not too much like the Dragon way of riddles, and not too polite as the way of the courtier. Hopefully he can impart their importance.
“My friend,” he starts," I have a favor I must ask, and of all here I know you have the strength for it."
“I cannot ask my cousin, not now. I do not know the monk well. The Kitsuki may have been able to assist, but he is not here, and there are some things I would rather he not actually be witness to. And…” Yonaka bows his head.
“I need your help.”
“I need to tell you there is one who has captured the feelings of my heart. She is someone I would trust almost as much as you when she is herself.” at this the Dragon pauses, “I would tell her how I feel, but to do so too directly may be embarrassing. Besides, the spoken word of the Dragon is often misunderstood.”
“I would write it to her, but that would be more embarrassing, as my words are clumsy and my writing poor. There’s also the matter of having only a little bit of rough paper and no ink.”
“I have seen your kanji, and they are worthy of her beauty. Will you help? Will you be the hand that builds a shrine equal to the fortress?”
Nakamuro stares at Yonaka for a long moment. He starts to answer, clears his throat, and starts again, at first weakly, but gaining strength as he continues.
“Ho, Yonaka! Did I not ask you for your help in much the same way just a few days ago? Yes, little brother, I will help you.”
Here he turns away quickly, fumbling for his writing kit in his sleeve. Before he turns back to Yonaka, he drags the sleeve hastily across his face. His voice is his own again when he speaks.
“Now, little brother, tell me what you wish to say.”
“Thank you, brother mountain”, Yonaka nods and then chews on his lower lip for a second. “I would simply say I love her, but these are not simple times and she is not a simple woman. I call her Neko, for she first called me little mouse as a joke. She will not answer to her actual name right now.”
“You have seen this, maybe, the way she does more than pretend and becomes someone else. If my actions towards her while she is not herself seem harsh and commanding, it is only to help her to become… more I guess, of what she has become. It’s confusing sometimes, but trying to accept it is sometimes the only gift I can give.”
“But I am getting ahead of myself. Let us start with the moment I first noticed her true inner self. Hoh!”
Flames in the moonlight
Kyusu gently warms the tea
Beauty in the pour
Yonaka thinks upon the words, but seems to frown. “Too clumsy? Too removed? I cannot tell, I’m not a stranger to the ways of art, but it has never mattered that I do such things before.”
As he listens, Nakamuro opens the writing kit, carefully setting out the brush, ink stone, and ink container. His hand trembles slightly as he grinds a bit of the ink stick and then adds water, stirring until it reaches the correct consistency. Finally he reaches back into his sleeve and pulls out a few pieces of hanshi, much finer than the paper he had used for the letter he gave to Yonaka. He turns the sheets over and over in his hands, then, noticing Yonaka’s glance, he stops. “From the dwarves,” he says shortly, laying the paper down on a flat rock.
“Your haiku is well-formed, little brother. But you have left her out of it entirely. Perhaps —” he hesitates, briefly “— perhaps the last line could be changed.”
Flames in the moonlight
Kyusu gently warms the tea
She pours with beauty
“But Yonaka, I am no poet. I am no good judge of what would — would please her.”
“You are as good of a judge as I am for what pleases her, but I am hopeful. Yours is a better line. We may not be poets, but together maybe we’ll make one good poem, neh?”
Nakamuro does not answer, but reaches into his sleeve again and takes out another piece of hanshi, this one less fine. There is already writing on one side. He turns it to the clean side, dips his brush and traces a few practice strokes, holding his sleeve back with his left hand. After a moment or two, he grunts, satisfied. He places one of the dwarven hanshi, one side beautifully patterned in black and red, on the rock, and sits very still, his eyes closed, brush hovering over the paper. In one fluid motion, he writes, the characters appearing clear and black on the page. When he is done, he sags, head bowed; then he picks up the paper and passes it to Yonaka.
Yonaka places his palms together and bows to Nakamuro, then shakes his kimono sleeves towards his elbows before gently receiving the haiku with both hands. He looks like he is struggling to find the words to express his gratitude.
“Hai.” he says simply as he waits to make sure the ink is dry, “When she is herself this will please her very much.” before he rests it on the flat surface again, looking to Nakamuro as if for permission to continue. Then focusing his will to the exclusion of all else he makes several careful folds in the paper until it unmistakably forms into the shape of a cat.
Nakamuro gazes at the cat for a moment, and slowly nods his head. “Yes. It will please her.” He looks directly at Yonaka again for the first time since the start of their conversation. “She is fortunate to have someone who can treat her as she deserves.” He bows, then picks up the hanshi he used to practice on and crumples it into a tight ball before putting it back into his sleeve. Then he stands, nodding to Yonaka before walking quickly away.
Yonaka nods in agreement and rises with a bow, watching quietly as Nakamuro walks away. Making another bow to the shrine he notices the writing kit and tools still out. Taking extra care he cleans the brushes and inks and places them reverently into their shodo case upon the stone. Then he gently takes the offering, placing it carefully in the collar of his robes before he departs.