Between Crimson Skies

The Leaves Fall at the Winer's Coming Frost

With the wedding ceremony of Ikoma Rin and Daidoji Karolooming heavily in their minds, the party made haste in their efforts to conclude the promise to deliver to Kitsu Ikatsu her persecutor. Upon arriving at the shrine where they had sequestered to young Lion Shugenga, they were informed by a concerned Mirumoto Amaya that her charge was not well, having refused all food and taking very little water over the last several days. When entering the shrine, the party found that Kitsu Ikatsu had not only shaved her hair in an act of self-punishment, but was determined to commit seppuku if she was afforded the permission to do so. In an effort to help the young Lion pick up the shattered pieces or her life, the party entreated her to use the opportunity she had been provided with by the miraculous cleansing of her taint. The Lion seemed hesitant to take up the courage to begin her life anew until the group brought her face to face with the captured Brother Ikyo. Upon seeing the architect of her shame prostrate before her, she demanded the use of Kakita Hidaku‘s ancestral Katana, which she was granted. In splitting Brother Ikyo’s head in twain, she passed through her moment of destiny and has begun her new life.

After the body of the broken monster has been prudently burned, the group set forth once more for Kyuden Ikoma, donning their finest garments and girding their courage for what promised to be an eventful evening indeed. Isawa Takimoto prepared for the demands of the Ikoma regent as a provider of music for the nuptials, Kakita Hidaku sought the clarity he knew would be necessary for the inevitable trails of both a courtier and a master duelist, Daidoji Jiro hardened his resolve to face the unpleasant spectacle of his estranged brother wedding the twice distasteful Crane regent, and Kuni Kokuri prepared for the dangerous confrontation with the powerful woman with whom he seemed destined to continually and vocally oppose.

Within the court chambers there was a temporary period of peaceful interaction with Takimoto wandering among the guest providing a musical diversion, Hidaku enjoying the celebrity of being a sought-after Representative of the Emperor, and Kokuri catching up with his old friend Ikoma Ujiaki. The only one not enjoying the brief respite was the much gossiped about Jiro. The reverie was not to last however, as the junior Scorpion representative Yogo Amia tracked down Kokuri with an urgent message regarding the assassination of her mentor apparently by non other than Brother Ikyo, despite Ikyo’s imprisonment at the time of the murder !

With little time left before the commencement of the Marriage ceremony Kokuri prudently pulled Jiro aside to accompany him to the site of the slaying. Along with Yogo Amia, the two navigated the depth of the Kyuden Ikoma untill they reached a small, unused library at swhich point they were ambushed by several Lion bushi. As the wedding ceremony began, one of the Bushi smiled and offered greetings from non other than Ikoma Rin herself.

As the trio fought for their lives under the castle, the wedding concluded, and Ikoma Rin made a startling announcement. She stated that the body of Kuni Kokuri had been recovered from the sewers under the Kyuden. Quickly riding the amazement that greeted her statement, the Ikoma regent followed with the proclamation that her trusted vassal Matsu Hokitare would be taking the ill=-fated Crab’s place as the official investigator of the taint in Kyuden Ikoma.

Unable to stand for this affront Kakita Hidaku leapt to his feet and questioned the possibility that his Kuni ally, who had just been present in that same room minutes earlier could have been murdered, his body disposed of AND found again so quickly, let alone the possibility that the Daidoji Yojimbo he left in the company of could have been overcome as WELL. There followed a heated exchange between the Kakita and the Ikoma Lord, with Akodo Toturi eventually stepping in to put to question his own judgment in placing Ikoma Rin into the leadership of the Ikoma clan. He challenged her to a duel with Kakita Hidaku serving as his own champion and Ikoma Rin quickly declared her new husband Daidoji Karoas her own.

As this transpired, the trio who had been ambushed by the Lion assassins under the castle fought bravely, the two shugenja struggling to fell their assailants while the flashing blade of the Yojimbo unbelievably held of four times his number in assailants’ steel. Just as the tide of the battle seemed to turn against the trio, the crab urged his friend to topple a nearby shelf of dusty old scrolls to trap the Lions in the kindling he then urged the Scorpion to set ablaze. The three then ran quickly to a corner secluded enough for the young Scorpion to mask their likenesses in case of further foes set against them.

The three entered the council chambers shortly before the epic duel was to begin, and they watched as the master Kakita duelist unflinchingly set upon his enemy, striking a blindingly fast and powerful blow. Alas, the blow was just short of deadly, and the Crane was able to make an astonishing counterblow. though it lacked the finesse and obvious skill of the Kakaita’s stroke, the Bridegroom’s attack somehow slipped past to strike his opponents head clear off his neck. To the disbelieving eyes of the court, the lesser Bushi had clearly won !

Ikoma Rin did not have time to savor her victory however, for before his friend’s lifeblood had stopped flowing, the very much alive Kuni Witchhunter slowly walked up to stand near the Kakita’s corpse. There, before all the Court and Rin’s shaky disbelieving face, Kuni Kokuri formally laid the charge of attempted murder before Ikoma Rin. As the regent fell to her knees, Kokuri was joined by both Yogo Amia and Daidoji Jiro who added thier own support to the accusation.

Akodo Toturi had seen enough, and at that point declared Ikoma Rin’s life forfeit for her crimes and appointed Ikoma Tsanuri to the post of Daimyo of the Ikoma family. He then disbanded the Autumn court and immediately called his advisors to counsel him on clearing the taint from the Ikoma lands once and for all.

As everyone began to leave, a sardonically gleeful Brother Ikyo strode before them, much to the astonishment of the Shikken and the Witchunter who had burned his corpse just earlier that same day ! The monster had barely begun to speak as the Kuni, with steely determination in his eyes, stepped forth to vow "No matter HOW many times you return, I shall be there, each time … " before taking the twisted monks head with his wakizashi. From the Locust-Cleric’s hands fell a scroll, describing how the grain tainted with the spawn oif the Locust had allready been shipped out into the lands of the Lion, a victory claimed by the forces of Jikoku even from the jaws of death.

After clearing the last remnants of the Locusts and the taint from the Ikomo lands, the brothers in arms raised a last toast to their departed comrade, drinking from the Sake that Kakita Hidaku had sent to furnish the ill-fated marriage feast …

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