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 Midnight in the Gardens of Juramashi's Honor

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PostSubject: Midnight in the Gardens of Juramashi's Honor    Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:55 pm

Location: #627, Juramashi District, Otosan Uchi Book 1

The pale light of Lord Moon shed down upon the Garden of Juramashi's Honor stabbing through the heavy foliage. It was the early hour of the Tiger. Other than the eta whose purpose it was to clean the untouchable debris, few would normally be out walking through the beautiful walkways and paths. More than 30 monks, formally trained as Kakita gardeners and artisans, would spread throughout the massive structure over the course of the day.

Just now, two senior gardeners led the way towards the central gazebo along hidden paths normally traversed only by their fellows. Behind them, a dozen ji-samurai, doshin, and ashigaru warriors followed closely behind a senior city magistrate. Usagi Kinotu urged caution and silence, thinking not for the last time that it would have been easier to move with stealth alone. But then, if what was promised truly lay ahead, it was not a job he could tackle alone.

There, up ahead, between two hedge rows whose opening was artfully hidden by a trestle of honeysuckle and ivy, lay the gazebo. The Hare could see the crows carved as if mid-flight along the burnished wood. The slats in the roof allowed the moonlight to spill down in bars. On a normal morning, the sight would have been breathtaking.

Tonight was no different. Yet, it was not the simplicity of the evening or the powerful imagery that captured the attention. Instead, it was the gathering of cultists and the sight of fresh blood.

A dozen of the New Heavenly Message members stood in a circle around a central figure. Atop the wood of the gazebo's floor lay seven heavy tatami mats. The top layers were soaked in the blood that spilled down from their most recent sacrifice. Kinotu's hand lashed out and wrapped about one of the two senior gardeners just before the man could call out in surprise. The woman atop the mats was one of their fellows. She lay, splayed open in some dark ritual unconnected to the others, her blood nearly gone from her body. But she was still alive.

"Lord Moon! Take this offering and carry it into your dark world. Lift up the blood as sacrifice and give us in return nothing more than your continued distance. Shed not your light upon our world. Let not the unbelievers discover our plans. Hide us with your gaze turned away!"

Kinotu shoved the former Crane monk back into the crowd making quick gestures. The ashigaru lifted their tonfa and bo staffs. The ji-samurai hefted their bows. The Seppun guardsman that accompanied him nodded and reached back to take his yari.

"Take her, Onnotangu, Lord of the Heavens! Take this offering as our praise to you!" A man dressed in heavy brown cloth stood at the woman's head, a dagger poised to strike down into her heart. Kinotu could see the hidden gold and jade coloring of a rich brocade beneath. This was the promised Imperial from the letter. Kinotu looked at the Seppun with a raised brow.

"Otomo. I recognize him as a servant of the Plenipotentiary of the Office of the Treasury. I forget his name."

Kinotu smiled inwardly and turned back to the scene. A recognized Imperial and a gathering of cultists caught in the act. This was more than what the note promised. Taking these individuals and pinning the leadership of the New Heavenly Message on this Otomo would seal the investigation. With Moru gone, no one would even question. More importantly, because an Otomo was involved, the Imperial families and the Emerald Champion would have every reason in the world to keep the investigation under wraps. No one would check his work.

"Should we go? He is going to kill her!" The gardener whispered harshly and Kinotu saw one of the cultists turn in their direction. The Otomo WAS about to kill the woman, but Kinotu waited. They had no shugenja with them. The Imperials did not want to risk such a valuable commodity if the cultists were corrupted. The woman's body was devastated. If they went now, they would save her life.

But not for very long.

The Otomo plunged the blade down in a sharp gesture calling out "ONNOTANGU!" and Kintou's hand dropped. The gathered ambushers raced through the archway revealed by a bright shaft of pale moonlight. The ashigaru fanned out to block the exists, hidden and open, revealed to them by the monks. The ji-samurai fired upon any cultists who tried to escape. Kinotu and the Seppun waded into the mix with yari and tanto, putting an end to the lives of evil men.

Kinotu saw the Otomo drop the dagger and pick up a scroll. He was only twenty feet away. The Hare samurai knew he could be there in an instant to cut the man down...but he waited half a step. There, in a flash of light, the yari whistled through the air and plunged into the man's heart. Kinotu turned to the Seppun with a nod.

It would be less suspicious for the Seppun to have killed him.

Not for the last time since receiving the mysterious letter, Usagi Kinotu wondered at his good luck. If the cultists followed through on their promise and left the Juramashi, he would be a silent hero. The Governor and the Imperials would owe him.

And he could hunt them down on his own.

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C Thomas Hand
GM/Storyteller/Swell Guy

The wisest words fit into pithy sayings.

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