The Scorpion's Sting

From the Empire

The Emperor’s Peace, a white blossom on swords end, a courtier’s game,

the green grass withers, bushdio covered by snow, swords traded for Go,

the old is forgot, Katana’s rust in scabbards, brush defeats the bushi

times of peace grow long, testing our fragile resolve, ancestor’s slumber

but winds of change blow, pressure bends the status quo, the tallest tree snaps,

blow the horns of battle, growing old unbefitting, katana’s seek out destiny!

-unknown

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On the road to Tsuma

Five men are dead because of us. We can try to rationalize that their lives were of little worth, for they were but peasants. But they were Crane peasants; Crane peasants slain in Crane lands by Crane samurai. I do not doubt the necessity of our actions; the desperation that drove those men to violence against us would have been much worse if it were directed at innocents. These men were disrespectful to the lands of their lords and had clearly forsaken their duties. They were searching for a fight, and they found it in us.

Still… who are we to judge them? Who are we to decide that, in that moment, they must die?

Bushido tells us what the answer is, but it is less clear on why. I have read the tenets, and I honor them to the best of my ability, but I do not always understand them. It is a simple thing to memorize the code, to recite it upon command; far trickier, I have found, to use the code wisely and as it was originally intended. That is the most subtle art of Bushido; not in its execution, but in knowing when to execute. Any man may practice Bushido, but that does not make any man a samurai. Kakita knew that. He did not write down a series of rules to be followed arbitrarily; he wrote down a mantra for a martial kind of faith.

I know that honor demanded we accept the challenge of those peasants, but I am less sure that it ever needed to go that far. Once the violence was imminent, yes, Bushido demanded we cut them down. But did Bushido demand that we let it come to that? Would Kakita have found a better solution?

Graduating from my Gempukku, I foolishly believed I knew all there was to know of Bushido. I am only now beginning to realize just how little I truly understand of it.

I may not be as wise as Kakita himself, but I am of his blood, and I owe it to him to find the answers, to truly understand not just what the tenets of Bushido say, but also what they represent.

For as harrowing as this lesson was, I am beginning to believe that the true definition of Bushido is not in the deeds of samurai, but in the decisions which dictate those deeds. Anyone can draw a sword and cut, but a true samurai knows when to draw, and when to keep that sword sheathed.

Tonight when I pray, I will beseech the spirit of Kakita for the wisdom to see past the target of my blade, and into its purpose. Purpose is our compass; without it, we are but wayward travelers lost in a land we do not know. Such is no fate befitting a Kakita. Everything we do, we must do with purpose.

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The Pillow Book of Soshi Seiya (Foreward)

It is said that a mere butterfly’s wing may in time give rise to the fiercest kamikaze. The spirits must laugh at us, who so often mistake the touch of destiny for mere happenstance. If I had not been so young then, so naive and full of faith, perhaps I could have seen through the illusion of chance for what it was.

Looking back, it could only have been fate that brought the four of us to that gempukku ceremony so long ago. Tsuruchi Musashi Jémuzu(?), famed archer of the Mantis clan and presiding host. Bayushi Etsuya, courtier of the Scorpion clan, my ally and my rival in the upcoming contests. Togashi Satoru, tattooed monk of the Dragon clan, come all the way from the northern mountains to prove his worth. A strange ensemble, and yet one perfectly apt. We were all outsiders in our own way, mistrusted by the Empire whether deservedly or no.

If only we had known what awaited us the next time we met—that the Dragon’s words were an omen of the tragedies to come. Would we have acted differently? Did duty leave us any other choice?

Regret is the chill of a moonless winter’s night, slowly but inexorably creeping into your bones until the fire of your youth no longer warms you.

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