Promises Between Mountain and Sky

by Ednoria and Chickenhat

The Crab and the Dragon come to an understanding

That evening, after training all day in the rain, the Mountain comes to the Mirumoto.

Upon entering, the Hida kneels before him. He looks somehow smaller, and one might think he actually looked tired. “Mirumoto-sama, I have come to ask a favor.”

Yonaka puts aside the diagram of a kata he was making notes on.

“Please, and if it is a favor I am able to grant I will.”

“There are few of my clan here, or I would not burden you with this. You are an accomplished warrior, and I honor your skill with the sword. Will you be my voice?”

Yonaka looks slowly at the dai tsuchi, and at the Kaiu blade, eyes coming to rest on the muddied Hida mon the Crab wears on his chest.

“I hear you, Nakamuro-san.”

The Hida slaps his hands on his thighs and says “Well, that is a great relief. You honor me, Yonaka-san.” He heaves himself to his feet, looking a little less exhausted, at least in spirit. “I will bring you my message shortly.” He bows deeply and turns to go.

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Tsuba dragon op
When the Hida returns to his clothing he will have found a crudely folded paper envelope atop whatever pack he may have left on the porch while practicing. He vaguely recalls something the Mirumoto said about remembering details about who we are and something else about the wings of the Empire. Likely more Dragon nonsense.

Inside is half of a broken tsuba.

The design shows most of the head and body of a dragon flying between a mountain and clouds, there are also cutouts alongside where the blade would go. On one side is a cloud and the other a mountain.

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Some time later that evening the Crab returns, bows, and presents a sealed scroll to the Dragon. The calligraphy on the outside is tolerably good, solely consisting of Yonaka’s name. “My thanks, Yonaka-san. Fortunes grant that you and I may kill many Oni first, but Jurojin does not smile on our kind.”

“Um… I see… unless I am to be both the messenger and the recipient of the message… does that mean this is a gift? If so, then I am not sure I can accept such an earnest and well-intentioned gift, you know, the First Time. However, since you had already asked that I receive the gift of your honor and trust as your voice, then I should maybe count this as the second offering of the same gift. But I must have forgotten your earlier compliment, so, of course, we may overlook or …”

“Nevermind. Hai. Domo arigato, Hida Nakamuro.”

He meets the Hida’s eyes for a second and smiles, waits for a second, and then makes as if to open the scroll…

But BEFORE Yonaka can open the scroll—

Nakamuro’s forehead creases, and he frowns slightly. Then his eyes open wide, as if he has just had a revelation of some sort. He bows deeply, and then speaks carefully and slowly.

“Yonaka-san, forgive me. I have given you no gift, but rather an obligation. In the Crab clan, when a samurai dies, someone will speak for him at his funeral. That person is the voice of the dead warrior. He speaks as if the samurai still lives, and tells of his life, and delivers any messages the samurai may have for his people. This —” here he taps the scroll “— is my message, to be delivered upon my death.”

“It is not something I would lightly trust to an outsider. But there is no one here to speak for me. The Kitsuki and the Tamori are not warriors, and the Shosuro—” Here the Hida throws up his hands, growls, and in a much rougher voice, fists clenched, continues. “If you feel you cannot do this thing, I take no offense.” He braces himself, head bowed, as if waiting for a blow.

His fingernail perilously close to the seal Yonaka freezes at the first syllable, by the end of the speech he has placed his hand on top of his head in embarrassment.

“Ai ai ai, my brother, I ask that you forgive an ignorant fool! I have spent so long studying the ways of the enemy that I have forgotten the ways of my friends.”

“Since encountering my Sensei in the mountains I have been carrying the Tsuruchi’s blade as a reminder of lessons learned. It was rude of me to assume you would carry a reminder from me without offering the same for you. You honor me with your request, and I accept this willingly and gladly.”

“My broken tsuba tells much the same story, although perhaps not the whole story. Its design reminds us how much is yet unknown between the earth and the heavens, but that we ARE a part of The Way. I would be glad for you to tell my story one day, the way that you understand it. It seems we are all preparing ourselves for the inevitability of death with the hope that at least one of us will return to our homelands.”

At this Yonaka bows to the same exact level as Nakamuro and smiles broadly, perhaps dangerously.

“Death and hope. We are almost ready.”

The Hida lets out an explosive breath. He claps Yonaka heavily on the shoulder. “The stories we will tell, eh Yonaka?” He laughs grimly. “Ho! We will show these gaijin how true warriors fight.” He strides quickly from the room, pausing at the door to bow once more. “You honor me, Yonaka-san. I will not forget this.”

Promises Between Mountain and Sky

L5R : Jade Winds ednoria