A series of letters between Clan Champions, revealing the nature and disposition of two Great Clans toward one another as we enter the era of Emperor Edition.
By Shawn Carman
Edited by Fred Wan
Yoritomo Naizen, Mantis Clan Champion
When my father was a young man, he was wronged by a member of the Crane Clan. This was not particularly uncommon in his day, as relations between the two clans were tumultuous to say the least in that era. However, in the tradition of our family line, my father formally informed his rival’s family and sought satisfaction through appropriate means. When the family granted leave for my father to pursue satisfaction, he then notified the rival in question of his intent and arranged for an opportunity for the Crane to apologize and withdraw the statement that had led to the conflict. The Crane declined, and in a matter of months, fate conspired to bring the two men together. My father avenged the slight to his honor, and the Crane went to meet his ancestors in shame.
My great-great grandfather was responsible for this tradition. In the same manner, my ancestor had his honor slighted by the actions of a wave man. While many among my ancestor’s family suggested that he should simply avenge himself against so insignificant an opponent, he was a man responsible for overseeing dozens of students each day at the dojo, and considered the notion that the wave man might not be familiar with the customs he had offended. Like my father would do many years later, my ancestor had his complaint submitted by courier in writing to the wave man, offering him the opportunity to make right his mistake. To the surprise of many, the wave man offered an apology, and in time became a trusted vassal of my great-grandfather’s family. Decades later, his granddaughter was offered fealty and joined the clan. It was a proud day for all.
It has been two years since the conclusion of the Destroyer War, and still the Empire suffers from its effects. There is a time of peace, but it seems fragile, and many are like me in that they believe another conflict at this point could endanger the very stability of all Rokugan, and that is not something that can not stand. Toward that end, I have no desire to see our clans proceed to war over the slight to our honor offered by the Mantis years ago at the Battle of Toshi Ranbo, when you assisted the Khan with the breaching of the city’s defenses. Instead, I have made the matter a personal one, wherein you and I may resolve it individually and spare our people the possibility of another conflict.
I think very little else needs to be said. You are familiar with the events, and why they stay with me even all these years later. I invite you to offer apology for your actions, and we will move forward without the specter of this hanging over us.
I await your response.
Lion Clan Champion
* * * * *
Akodo Shigetoshi, Lion Clan Champion,
I dozed off twice during your letter. Honestly, how you Lion ever became so large a clan, I cannot fathom. After all, if a simple letter takes so long to reach the point, I cannot readily imagine how nightmarishly lengthy your courting rituals must be. What is the age of a Lion youth upon their day of marriage? I would estimate approximately thirty summers, based on your letter.
I could not possibly be less concerned with your hurt feelings over events that no longer matter to anyone other than the hopelessly backwards-looking Lion Clan. I explained my rationale at the time of the event you describe to the only authorities I recognized, and you were not among them. If you cannot begin to appreciate, even in retrospect, the circumstances surrounding that incident, then you and I discussing it is an exercise in futility. At least for me. You may enjoy it quite a bit, given the hopeless meandering tone of your letter. Either way, I do not care. I will not apologize, now or ever. Make of that what you will.
You may be interested to know that I am in fact quite grateful to you. Reading your letter to my children is the only certain way to put them to sleep. You have no idea how much I appreciate that.
Mantis Clan Champion
* * * * *
I have your answer, then. I had hoped you might have some vestige of honor that I had, in my haste and my wrath, overlooked. Clearly I was a fool to think that you are anything other than the wretched, treasonous dog you appear to be.
I will have satisfaction.
* * * * *
To the esteemed lord of the Lion Clan,
I hope the Fortunes find you well this day, honorable Shigetoshi-sama. I was greatly pleased to receive your correspondence, as we have met on but one occasion since the conclusion of the Destroyer War, and I was unable to extend to you my personal gratitude for your efforts on behalf of all of Rokugan. Though my new duties have taken me far from that small monastery in the Scorpion provinces, it remains very close to my heart. That its presence so close to the Second Pit places it inside the so-called Scorpion Wall is a source of great sadness for me, but that does not in any way lesson my tremendous appreciation for all the loyal subjects of the Empress who defended us against the evil of Kali-Ma. You personally commanded the forces of the Lion in those battles, and so I feel that I owe you my life and the livelihood of my entire order. Little could I imagine that I would be selected from the brothers at that simple monastery to take the place of the former Imperial Advisor. Truth be told, more than two years later, I still struggle with the idea.
My gratitude notwithstanding, it is with great regret that I must compose this letter. As you may have surmised, the present status of the Empire is rather tenuous. We are in the process of rebuilding a tremendous portion of Rokugan, recovering from the most devastating plague in history, and dealing with the remnants of a vast horde of undead that still haunt the wilderness areas. The threat of famine is ever-present, and of course it goes without saying that if any external enemy should present itself, whether from the Shadowlands or beyond our borders, the results would be nightmarish for the people of Rokugan. In the interests of protecting our fragile state at present, the Empress has declined all requests for matters of honor pertaining to the events prior to the establishment of the Iweko Dynasty. To allow even one such dispute to spill over into the modern era would invite all such disputes into the open. I hope you understand that such a thing cannot be permitted to occur, for a number of reasons.
This is a great disappointment to you, of that I am certain. The Lion are known for their unimpeachable honor, and to offer you even the slightest offense would be a tremendous disappointment for me personally. Still, I would be remiss in my duties as a member of the Brotherhood of Shinsei if I did not encourage you to look past these events that are now virtually forgotten by everyone else. Allow the past to remain there, sleeping, and rest comfortably in the fact that not a single of your ancestors could ever find fault with the life of valor and glory that you have led.
I would be happy to discuss this with you further, if that was your wish.
Brotherhood of Shinsei
* * * * *
It is difficult to believe that five years since the war ended, that ridiculous blowhard Shigetoshi is still raising complaints in court over our personal battle back during the Khan’s march. At this point I have no choice but to believe that he simply cannot accept that he was defeated, and hopes to either die in the attempt to avenge the insult, which is the most likely outcome, or kill me and never have to worry about it again, which is foolish. Either way, I do not believe I have ever encountered a human being with such incredibly irrational behavior, and I say that as a man whose wife has been pregnant no less than three times so far. I begin to understand why the Crane and Scorpion have derived such pleasure from manipulating the Lion over the centuries. They certainly deserve nothing less.
All this aside, I am growing irritated with the constant reports of their clogging the courts. Even the Imperial denial they received has done nothing to slow them down. I am not interested in our every endeavor being complicated by some Kitsu or Ikoma whining about their blemished honor. We must give them something else to worry about in order to take their focus from us. One of my advisors here in the islands suggested that I simply face Shigetoshi and end the matter, but that man is now the second mate on a shoddy vessel, serving an unpleasant captain in unsafe waters. As I trust you understand, facing Shigetoshi will result either in my death, which helps not at all, or his, which will only set the entire Lion Clan upon us with even greater fervor. I will not have that sort of annoyance plague my children their entire lives.
I think you know what sort of thing must be done. Speak with Utemaro.
* * * * *
To my children,
Even now, as I write these words, know how proud I am of you for all that you have accomplished in the name of your clan. I know that your mother would share my pride over your accomplishments. So much you have done has brought glory to the names of our ancestors, and I know that there will be even greater things in your future. Shinjiro, you are one of the finest warriors in your entire generation, and I know that your accomplishments as Champion will eclipse my own. Kano, your brilliance as a tactician and your gift for words will certainly place you as one of your brother’s most trusted vassals, both on the battlefield and in the Imperial Court. And Dairuko, gentle little flower, there could be no more brilliant sensei than you, despite your youth and relative inexperience. My brothers-in-arms at the Castle of the Swift Sword assure me that your classmates learned as much from you as they did from their sensei. Your wisdom and clarity will see your brother’s armies filled to capacity with the finest soldiers in all the Empire.
I have come to the decision that I must retire for the good of the Lion Clan. I do not know if you have heard the news concerning Yoritomo Naizen, but I have received word that he was lost at sea during the recent unseasonal weather that has plagued the sea this year. From the reports I have received, the Mantis have left the remainder of the seas virtually empty as they search for any trace of the ship that Naizen was sailing upon, but thus far there has been no success in locating any trace of him. Already some poets among the clan’s ranks are claiming that he was called home to the Celestial Heavens to serve as a personal attendant for Suitengu, the Fortune of the Sea. Such claims are ridiculous, of course, but one can hardly blame them for their melancholy and desperate need to cope with the loss of their lord.
Naizen’s death has stunned me. I took leave of all my appointments yesterday and spent the entire day in the shrine to our ancestors, praying and meditating on what this might mean. The realization is a simple one, of course. For far too many years, avenging myself upon Yoritomo Naizen and his treacherous vassals has been my all-consuming thought. In times of peace, I have squandered what could have been productive years, even decades, obsessing over a slight to my honor. In seeking to avenge an offense that our ancestors would not have forgiven, I have in fact committed another such offense. I should have retired years ago. I have flouted the traditions of our people and remained far too long in my position, and all for vanity. I wished to demonstrate that I was still a warrior, still a general, and a man of honor. I fear I have behaved foolishly, and I will not weaken my clan one moment longer than necessary by continuing to do so.
I am so very proud of each of you. The ceremony of my passing the position of Lion Clan Champion to you, Shinjiro, will take place in four days. I hope that you can all be present for your brother’s ascension, and to see a foolish old man take up the robes of a monk. It will be good to lay eyes upon you one last time as a samurai before I find another means of serving my clan. I only hope that, upon my arrival in the next world, our ancestors and your mother are not too angry with me for my foolishness.
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