A Study in Emerald

Tales from the Lion Clan: Episode One

Tales from the Lion Clan
Episode One:
Lighting up the Chrysanthemum Festival

 
"The festival starts
The palace is almost blown
Lions save the day"


Location: Toshi Ranbo, the Imperial Capital
Day: Year 1160, 6th Day of the Month of the Horse

The Imperial Capital awakens to the bustle of activity as final preparations are underway for the Chrysanthemum Festival. In the Vigilant Blade Dojo, Commander Akodo Renge, Gunso of the Shinsengumi Nikutai, assembled her unit and issued their orders for the day: oversee the delivery and mounting of the last-minute Dragon Clan hanabi that will be arriving from the village of Diku.

The Shinsengumi awaited the delivery of the hanabi at the Western Gate, where Akodo Shimpachi made good use of the waiting time getting to know the attractive Daidoji and Matsu gateguards. Eventually the shipment arrived and Matsu Toshiro oversaw the assessment of the paperwork while Matsu Keisuke checked the shipment – five horse-pulled carts carrying the hanabi in wooden crates – and discovered that the fifth cart had crates that contained hidden compartments. It was discovered that the hidden compartment contained sacks of gaijin pepper, which prompted the Shinsengumi to initiate a confiscation of the cart and detainment of the Dragon Clan heimin that transported the shipment – a doddering old man who did not know of the illegal goods in his shipment.

It was then that a Lion Clan Magistrate, the local magistrate of the Imperial Capital, intervened and took charge of the apprehension, apparently expecting such an illegal shipment to arrive at the city. He ordered the Shinsengumi to escort the other four carts into the Senzai District, a largely-Crane occupied district, where the hanabi will be set up for the festival. He also gave orders to report to his office afterwards for further debriefing.

Pursuant to their new orders, the group traveled to the entertainment district of the city, where Shimpachi once again lost no time getting to know the Daidoji guard overseeing the heimin setting up the hanabi, who in turn insulted his lowly attempts to win her attention, a fact that the level-headed Ikoma Souji silently endured for the oblivious Shimpachi's sake rather than risk a confrontation during an important Imperial celebration. Afterwards, they headed to the Magistrate's office in the Chuushin District, near the Imperial Palace. En route, they find the Magistrate and his escort killed, with only small puncture holes on their vitals as the only injuries sustained, a fact that mystified Keisuke and Toshiro as they assessed the situation. The confiscated cart stood empty beside the corpses, which prompted an escalation of the matter due to the potential dangers that such a quantity of gaijin pepper possesses.

It was agreed that the beastmaster, Matsu Kondou, would employ his trusted warcat, Shin-kun, to track down the missing gaijin pepper and he and Toshiro set off to hunt for their missing contraband. The others informed the Magistrate's office of the situation, where they found Commander Renge and she promptly took charge of the matter, leaving the four to chase after their comrades. They met a Unicorn Clan Samurai along the way, a jovial and cocky fellow named Moto Joja, who was apparently headed to the Imperial Palace on some business. He claimed to have seen a lion and two samurai head to the Palace as well, a fact whose urgency was not lost on the others – did the gaijin pepper find its way into the Imperial Palace?

Toshiro and Kondou found themselves accosted by the Imperial Guards as Shin-kun tried to approach, but Toshiro's convincing explanation of the urgency of their business, with some assistance from Shin-kun's apprehensive snarling, prompted the guards to allow the two on grounds that they do not come close to the Imperial Gardens. Keisuke, Souji, Shimpachi, and the Unicorn Joja caught up with them, and together the Lions stormed the Imperial Palace, bent on finding the lost gaijin pepper before events could spiral out of hand.

Shin-kun tracks down the missing gaijin pepper to the Imperial Courtyard, which adjoined the Imperial Gardens, where the group learned that the Emperor himself is engaged in the festival's rites. The courtyard is being set up with other hanabi, which could mean that the gaijin pepper may be stowed nearby in what could perhaps be an attempt to bomb the Imperial Palace. Keisuke and Toshiro launches into an immediate investigation, with Keisuke barely brushing against death as a circular pellet shot from a distance narrowly missed him. The group catches sight of the assailants – two heimin atop the palace walls, armed with a curious long stick that they seem to be taking aim with.

Toshiro and Kondou take the forefront of the fight, immediately apprehending both heimin assailants, with Souji following suit and killing one outright before it could threaten to fire another shot. Another heimin on the courtyard, an accomplice of some sort, ran to a storage house, where Shimpachi and Shin-kun headed him off and Keisuke proceeded to look into the heimin's goal – a storehouse packed from floor to ceiling with sacks of gaijin pepper. He wasted no time in dousing the foul substance with water to render it impotent.

As the relatively outmatched battle wound down, the two Lion clan samurai overseeing the heimin in the courtyard suddenly attacked Toshiro and Kondou, prompting the two to retaliate despite their efforts to explain their situation. It was hinted that the samurai are in leageu with the rogue heimin, which reveals a conspiracy to bomb the Imperial Palace itself from the Lion Clan's own ranks. Shin-kun immediately proceeds to ravage one while Toshiro and Kondou proceed to incapacitate another.

The commotion finally attracts the attention of the Emerald Magistrate, who was in the adjoining gardens at the time. After getting the details of the situation from Toshiro, he sentences the rogue samurai to death, although the own samurai's arrogance to insult the Magistrate prompted him to cut him down personally. The Magistrate then proceeds to interrogate the group as to their actions and raised suspicion on the circumstances of their presence in the Imperial Palace.

Thankfully, their friend Moto Joja comes to vouch for their actions, offering testimony before the Magistrate. He is accompanied by a Crane courtier, Lady Doji Kirara, who was with the Unicorn Samurai and together the two proceeded to explain the events further to the Magistrate, the crane's flowery remarks buffed down by Souji so as to downplay their involvement and prevent needless attention, much to the Crane's surprise. The Magistrate promptly clears up the situation and escalates the matter to his hands, ordering the group to report to him after the festival for further debriefing of the matter. He asks them to leave immediately, where Keisuke catches sight of the Emperor himself staring at them from the Gardens, his expression unreadable from afar.

The Shinsengumi return to Commander Renge, who listens to their reports with a mixture of emotions, then heaves a sigh of relief as she learns that the matter has been dealt with. She gives them the rest of the day off, allowing them to partake of the festivities that lasted throughout the night, the Imperial Capital lighting up with the colorful hanabi and radiating the sounds of merriment, its inhabitants oblivious to the disaster that almost struck them.

All in a day's work, pursuant to the Vigilant Dojo's creed: Slay Evil Immediately!
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Mess with a Bull and you get the Horns

Crab Clan: Year 1160 Month of the Horse

The new recruits of the crab clan were prepared by their Commanding officer, Hida Murakamo for their gempukku into the shadowlands. The Kuni must retrieve body parts for research purposes while the Hiruma and Hida must go forth and kill Shadowlands creatures and bring back their heads to pass their gempukku. They were all provided with an inch of jade to be used for their trip. The time limit would be a week. That is how long the jade will last out in the shadowlands before it is completely consumed by the taint. After getting some tips from the local soldiers in the camp near the wall, the group was lead through the underground tunnels of Kaiu wall and led out to the shadowlands side where they were greeting by a totally alien place. It was like a dark marsh with light fog covering the place. 

They ventured forth along the walls and went deeper into the mountains where they happen upon a clearing and saw a gruesome sight. A large frog like creature with a big mouth by the river was snacking on what seems to be the remains of a crab samurai. The river is flowing red like blood and while the creature was distracted the group rushed in and killed the creature before it could even react. Afterwards they payed their respects and burned the remains of the samurai and the creature right after collecting body parts and the head. They continued deep into the mountains following the stream of red where they noticed they were being stalked. They called out to their stalkers and were approached by nezumi (rat men). The nezumi looked weak and thin like they were malnourished and asked for help from the crab explorers in exchange for a bag of shinies. The crab group agreed and were led through the mountains using nezumi tunnels into a clear area deep in the mountains where they found a large bull like creature with big horns and skin that had metal plates for skin and saliva that looked like acid. They engaged with the creature and after a prolonged and difficult fight they managed to bring down the creature with one of them badly wounded. They asked the nezumi for help to bring back their comrade and the spoils back to the wall. The nezumi agreed and carried their companion back to the well right after giving them a bag of shinies… which turn out to be jade pieces the size of fists. Successfully, the group returned to the wall with their accomplishment of having being able to survive a week out in the shadowlands . From this day forward, they can hold their heads up high with pride that they are true samurai of the crab clan for they have accomplished what most other samurai of the other clans cannot. Bring down a creature that could possibly have ravaged an entire group of samurai.

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The Expected Guests

The remaining samurai that have been accepted by the Junghar army were sent on a simple errand where they were to meet with Lion clan envoys and Mantis clan envoys in the town of Mizu Miura and to escort them to Shiro Shinjo. The trip was without problems and they arrived in the bustling merchant city of Mizu Miura well know for its main resource: pearls. Mizu Miura lies south of a very large lake rumored to be inhabited by ningyo (mermaids). Talks around town say that the ningyo provide the pearls that the town gets and there were rumors from back then that eating a ningyo would give one immortality. 

The unicorn samurai saw the lion bushi out in the marketplace browsing wares from the market place and swiftly approached them. The shugenja introduced himself and exchanged pleasantries with the lion bushi. The bodyguard of the shugenja wasn't as welcoming as his companion and gave a slight bow to the lion bushi. The lion bushi looked surprised and was caught offguard but she remained composed and thought it was nothing. Later on, the unicorn were introduced to the envoy who was resting at a nearby inn, she wasn't feeling well and she decided to rest. The unicorn patrol group that was sent to search for bandits arrived in town and the Ide courtier decided to complete his duty by giving the letter that was assigned to him to the town governor. Afterwards he met up with his other companions at the inn. The next morning he received news from a message carrier that his guests have arrived at Shiro Shinjo and that the Mantis envoy will not be able to make it since they had urgent matters to attend to. The group escorted the Lion bushi and the envoy all the way to Shiro Shinjo.

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The Unicorn ride for the common people

Unicorn Clan: Year 1160 month of the Horse

A small band of Unicorn samurai that had recently passed their gempukku test were assigned in the Junghar were called upon by their captain to report for duty in Shiro Shinjo. There the captain gave them their first assignment: To patrol the lands north of Shiro Shinjo and head into the mountain side near Ki-rin's path to search for signs of bandit activity and possible clues to the whereabouts of Kolat sympathizers that are known Unicorn Kolat samurai that have dishonorably fled and are in hiding. In addition, the courtier that was accompanying them was assigned a task to deliver a letter to to the village head in Mizu Mura.

The group decided to get information from the inhabitants of Shiro Shinjo of any rumors of bandit activity. They were told that there has been an increase in bandit activity as of late especially to the western lands of the unicorn. They decided to buy more provisions to share with the peasant villages who may have less resources due to bandit activity to ensure the peasants are taken care of. They departed on their patrol passing by many small farming lands that are untouched but as soon as they reached the north western areas they saw the devastated small farming communities. They consoled and gave relief goods to the communities that were affected by the bandit raids and gathered information on the bandits. 

While following the information that they received from the peasants the headed towards Ki-rin's path and there they saw smoke rising from the hills. What they saw before them was a few huts burning and a battle between two armed groups: One unarmored but carrying weapons while the other group was carrying katanas and were lightly armored. The panicked peasants ran passed them and away from the scene of the fighting and one of them asked the peasants what the situation was all about. The peasant answered in a panicked state that the bandits attacked and ronin sprung to their defense and are engaging them to buy time for the peasants to flee. The unicorn group then rode into battle while the courtier decided to stay back and help the peasants flee the battle. The unicorn working with the ronin made swift work of the bandits. After interrogating the bandit that surrendered the unicorn went to the mountains to retrieve the stolen grain and asked the ronin to deliver the grain back to the villages that were raided and promised the ronin for their help and service they will take the ronin to the capital and speak to the courts to petition to have them join the Unicorn clan. The Unicorn samurai then rode on to complete their patrol mission while leaving the villages with a sense of accomplishment knowing they have done their duty to protect the common people and are happy they have made new allies.

The ronin departed to do what was asked of them and to await the unicorn samurai at Shiro Shinjo, carrying with them a letter made by the courtier with the marks of the samurai group explaining the situation of the ronin and asking the unicorn samurai there to treat them as guests so they will be escorted to the capital once they have returned from their patrol duties.

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