(Region 15 – Eagle River, AK, USA; made public by L5R)
Shiro Morito, Ox Lands
“I do not care for your implications, Scorpion.”
Yogo Koji offered a patient smile. “I make no implications, lord Morito-sama. I am merely informing you of my purpose, and requesting your permission to fulfill my duties.”
The Ox Champion sneered. “And I suppose Bayushi Paneki expects me to kowtow to the least among his daimyo, like some mewling sycophant?”
“No,” Koji replied. “He asks only that you remember the Scorpion’s long standing alliance with your closest allies, the Dragon.” He glanced at the Dragon ambassador with an expectant expression.
Kitsuki Tadashi smiled weakly. “The Scorpion have long been our staunchest allies, Morito-sama.” He cleared his throat. “I would gladly offer my assurances that Koji-sama is a most trustworthy soul.”
Morito stared at the Scorpion for several moments before grunting and waving a hand non-commitally. “As you wish.” He gestured to his private guard, and a very young samurai stepped forward with a quick bow. “Kitaji will be your guide, Koji-san.”
“I work alone, lord Morito,” Koji said quickly.
“Not in my lands,” the Ox Champion said firmly.
The papers Koji carried with him were travel papers for the Ox Clan provinces. They had been taken from a cell of Bloodspeakers Shosuro Yudoka and his assassins had destroyed in the ruins of Otosan Uchi. The young Ox assisting him had quickly recognized the magistrate’s seal, and traced it to a small village near the northeastern border of Ox lands. Koji had grudgingly admitted to himself that the young man was particularly keen of mind, and an excellent hunter. When he told Kitaji as much, the young man only inclined his head. “I have prepared for the chance to serve the Emperor every day since my father’s death,” he said. “This is the chance I have waited for.”
“Your father?” Koji asked.
Kitaji studied the ground carefully, looking for tracks. “Kijuro,” he said. “An Emerald Magistrate who served with Miya Shoin.” Koji said nothing else, and the young samurai did not offer further details. An hour later, he tracked their prey to a small, ramshackle cluster of buildings where the forest met the mountains.
“Excellent,” Koji said. He sat on the ground and began praying. Kitaji said nothing for two hours, as Koji continued his preparations. Finally, Koji rose and smiled. “I have placed a powerful ward around this area. If they attempt to leave, they will find it quite impossible to cross. It will be painful.”
“So we wait?” Kitaji asked.
“No,” Koji said. He gestured and the largest building erupted into flame. In a matter of moments, Bloodspeakers poured out, running for the edge of the forest and searching the treeline for enemies. “If any breach the wards, kill them,” Koji commanded.
“As you wish,” Kitaji said, a gleam in his eye.