The Scorpion's Sting

Theft on the Emperor's Road

From the pages of Kirari's journal

Sixth Day

I have heard them say that court can be dangerous, but I did not quite realize the truth of the saying. Someone has already tried to sabotage our efforts at the minor clan court, and we haven’t even arrived yet. Itsuma-san awoke to find his biwa missing, and Tensen-san’s topknot was severed in the night.

I could feel Itsuma-san’s pain keenly. What would I do without my spell scrolls? How could I practice my art? I’d have offered to try my hand at crafting him a new one, but I have neither the time nor the materials. With any luck, we might be able to find a merchant on the way to Sparrow lands, but I’ll admit that without the sound of his songs in camp, a melancholy has settled over us all.

Tensen was near to considering seppuku, such was his anguish. I had not realized how much the hairstyle could mean to one in the buke, since my hair has always been my own to cut or grow as I pleased. It was only through a careful recitation of the Path to Inner Peace that we were able to regrow his hair back to something close to its normal length. Tensen said that he had an obligation to protect me now, after this and when I saved his life twice against the Shinsei-do cultists. But I demurred. It is to his father that I owe my life, and thus to Tensen as well. The debt goes both ways now, it would seem.

Whoever did this was skilled, and were sent here with a purpose. I consulted with the earth and fire kami as to what transpired in the night, but I could only discern that there were four hundred pounds worth of them, and they headed in the four cardinal directions away from our camp. Yuki’s acquaintance, the unicorn Shinjo Mae-mi, was able to spot tracks, but the footprints all appeared to lead towards our camp, not away. Shinobi? But they are merely a legend…

My thoughts cannot help but turn to that Scorpion we met in Lonely Shore City, and those two “Dragon” monks we supposedly met with. The motive is certainly there: the Scorpion would not want the Three-Man Alliance to find even more support from the Crane.

But why not take the jade sword, my spell scrolls, our weapons? Or even our lives? Why not put a stop to the Crane delegation entirely?

We cannot afford to mount a search effort in earnest for these brigands, but perhaps we shall find out more at Kyuden Suzume.

Emperor’s Road or no, we have resolved to take watches during the nights going forward. Tomorrow, we continue on.

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