Time of the Void Story Cards
Kachiko's Bluff (Scorpion)
Shadows moved along the hallways of the Imperial Palace preparing for the arrival of the army of the Seven Thunders. The Emperor stormed about the palace as all his own preparations met with failure. Everywhere he turned, his guards were dead or missing. The gates were open and drawbridges dropped. He threw open a panel and found his wife and seized her by her kimono, lifting her high in the air.
"You! You are the cause of all of this! I will kill you!"
She smiled. "You cannot. Only when the Thunders are assembled can you kill us. Every creature in the world has rules it must follow and you are no exception." She looked the Emperor, her gaze turning poison. "Killing me now violates laws that are greater than even your power."
The Emperor's fists clenched, his eyes burst with black fire and his voice rattled the foundations of the palace. He threw her to the floor and stormed away. Kachiko was still for a moment, then her body began to shudder from the strain of hiding her fear.
"You were right about that, Yokuni," she whispered. "I pray you are wrong about the rest."
When Toturi's army approached Otosan Uchi, two Lion armies were there. One, led by Ikoma Tsanuri, carried the banner of the Emperor, ready to fulfill their oaths to protect the Emperor at all costs. The other, led by Kitsu Motso, carried the banner of the Lion, ready to kill or die for the empire. As he watched, the armies charged at each other with a thunderous cry. Discipline quickly descended into disorder and Lion fought Lion, regardless of family or allegiance.
No longer able to stomach the bloodshed between the members of his former clan, Toturi charged his army into the midst of the battle as Junzo's army simply watched and laughed. Toturi's battle cry erupted from the middle of the fighting and a deep silence fell across the battlefield. About to engage each other, Tsanuri and Motso both turned to look at Toturi, and the thousands of bloody Lions waited for a command - any command.
Toturi raised his sword high and pointed it at Junzo. "For Matsu Tsuko, and for Rokugan!"
Behind the feral smiles of their three commanders, a single army turned towards the army of Yogo Junzo and the battle cry of ten thousand Lions, old and new, eachoed through the walls of Otosan Uchi.
When the armies of the Clans finally united under Yakamo and Toturi, the Crab Hero charged into the fray, his tetsubo and jade hand killing and crushing enemies as he went. Finally, his body bruised and bloodied, he saw the oni that stole his name.
Yakamo kept his fury in check as he advanced on the creature, but when it turned to look at him with his own face and eyes, he could contain himself no longer. The duel was deadly and swift, and just when it seemed Yakamo had the upper hand, the oni's acrid blood sprayed into his eyes, blinding the hero with pain. He stumbled backward, swinging his tetsubo blindly, hoping to keep the oni at bay until he could recover. He heard the oni cry out in pain and when his vision cleared, he saw Mirumoto Hitomi crushing the oni's head with her obsidian hand.
Yakamo stood, his body aching with every movement. Hitomi waited. Yakamo shook his head, "I cannot afford the luxury of killing you."
"I thought you were Kisada's son," she whispered, her voice filled with hate. "I suppose he is the coward I always suspected him to be."
Hitomi's taunt was successful. Yakamo charged her, but the fresh Dragon was too quick for the wounded Crab. His tetsubo was on the ground and her blade was at his throat in a moment. "I won't kill you now, but you'll always remember that I could have."
As Junzo's reinforcements approached the Imperial Palace, they suddenly found themselves riddled with arrows and fire. Daini and Qamar charged into the undead army with a battalion of Phoenix, led by Shiba Tsukune. The samurai-ko charged ahead quickly when she saw the Necromancer leading the army begin casting spells. Qamar and Daini charged into the mass of armies while Isha led the archers in a volley of arrows to support their charge. Tsukune cut down the Necromancer, but she didn't make her cut in time. The dark energy fired out and found the Naga Champion. His skin and eyes turned black and gray, then it peeled away from his bones and he dropped the ancient Spear to the ground...
Isha dropped his bow and picked up the Spear. When the battle was over and the bodies were thrown into a great pyre, Daini call to Isha, but the bowman corrected him. "I am the Isha no longer. Now I am the Qamar," he said.
Daini bowed with reverence and understanding. Tsukune followed his example, even though she did not understand. "I must go and tell the Clans of our success," she told the new Qamar.
"Very well. Shashakar will send you."
The Naga shugenja nodded, crushed a pearl in his fingers and before she could thank them, Tsukune was in the midst of the battle at Otosan Uchi, watching her lord and master fall from the walls of the Imperial Palace as his body burned with black fire.
On the night before the assault on Otosan Uchi, Isawa Kaede, filled with visions of doom and dark prophesy, fled from the camp into the night. She spoke to Tadaka for only a moment, and she told him of her dreams and visions.
"He is calling me," she told him. When Tadaka asked her who was calling her, all Kaede could say was, "The Oracle. He calls me, Tadaka. He calls me."
On the walls of Otosan Uchi, the Master of Fire waited for his brothers and sisters. His mind finally eaten away by the corruption in his blood, he hurled black fire down upon his former Clan. The Elemental Masters, incomplete as they were, tried to stop his assault, but one by one they fell under the corrupt power of his fire. Only Isawa Tadaka had the strength to withstand the pain of his fire, and while the Master of Earth's magic distracted his cousin, Shiba Ujimitsu was able to strike down the Fire Master.
Tsuke's blood was as black as midnight and burned Ujimitsu like flaming pitch. The Phoenix Champion screamed as he fell from the walls like a comet. He clung to life just long enough to whisper seven words to Shiba Tsukune, and put the Clan sword in her hands. Then he died.
With a new-found fire in her eyes, she and Isawa Osugi lifted the bloody and burned Isawa Tadaka to his feet. They could only pray the Phoenix Thunder had the strength to hold on to life long enough to face the Dark Emperor within.
The army of the Son of Storms returned to Otosan Uchi from its victory against Yogo Junzo's reinforcements to find Junzo's armies routed and crushed by the armies of the Thunders. Content with his victory, he approached Hoturi, Yakamo and Toturi with his lieutenants at his side. This time - unlike a thousand times before - Yoritomo did not kneel, only bowed.
"We have routed the reinforcements," he told them. "And now my army stands ready."
"Ready?" Toturi asked.
"Yes. Ready to crush your own."
Kakita Toshimoko, standing close to Doji Hoturi, put his hand on his blade, but his Champion shook his head. "Explain yourself, Stormson."
Yoritomo removed his helmet. "My army is ready to attack. We will fail. Destiny cannot be denied. But we are ready to attack you now and die if it is necessary."
"To what purpose?" Toturi asked.
"To prove that we are willing to die to prove that we are worthy." Yoritomo's eyes gave them no hint of feint or bluff. "I will send my lieutenants back and you will kill me here for my disobedience." He snapped his fingers and the two lieutenants retreated and he knelt with his head bowed.
Hida Yakamo's laughter could be heard across the battlefield. "By the Fortunes, I like this man!"
Toturi nodded. "As do I. Call back your lieutenants, Son of Storms."
"But you had better have your army pray," Hoturi told him. "If we fail, you new status will be short-lived."
Yoritomo replaced his helmet. "Then don't fail."
As the Thunders prepared to enter the Throne Room, Togashi Yokuni stepped before them. "You all know your destiny. Deny it at your own risk." Then he turned to Hitomi. "Yours is the darkest path. Walk it with care. More rests on your shoulders than you know." Then, he turned and entered the Throne Room, removing his helmet and his armor. "I am here, Fu Leng!" he cried out and the Thunders winced from hearing the name spoken. "I am here to show them that you can bleed!"
Suddenly, the Dragon Champion transformed before their eyes. His skin turned to scales and his legs and arms grew long as his body twisted and shifted until his pure form was revealed to all. "It is me!" he cried out. "It is your brother Togashi! Face me now if you dare!"
Another dragon appeared, this one made of smoke and shadow. The battle of the two brothers was swift and certain. Togashi's teeth drew blood from Fu Leng, but the dark one twisted his brother's body in his arms, snapping his back. Then, he threw the broken dragon at the feet of the Thunders and laughed. Hitomi knelt down before Togashi, her obsidian hand glowing with a hungry light. She plunged it into the dragon's chest and pulled out both his heart and the lost twelfth black scroll. Then, she squeezed his still-beating heart, stealing his strength, making it her own.
When Togashi's heart was nothing but a dried husk, Hitomi cast it aside and broke the seal on the last black scroll, releasing the last remainder of Fu Leng's soul. His triumphant laughter filled the room and he called out to the Thunders.
"Do what you will! My power is now complete! A thousand years ago, your descendants died to trap me in those scrolls. Look at you now. Look at me! My power is a thousand times greater than what it was. My victory is complete!"
But from the shadows, a different laughter was heard. Its owner stepped from the darkness, clapping his hands and nodding his hooded head. "You are right, dark one. Your power is greater than ever before. But there is one thing you did not count on. One thing that I have known, and my father, and his father, and even the first Shinsei you killed a thousand years ago. You see, now that your soul is fully released, it is also fully bonded into the body of the last Hantei."
As Fu Leng realized what Shinsei said, his eyes began to dim with the darkness of fear. "That's right, Fu Leng," Shinsei said, his face twisting into a smile. "You are mortal."
At the Imperial Palace, Shinjo Yokatsu arrived with his army of peasants and horsemen. Leading the charge was Otaku Kamoko and her battalion of battle maidens. When Junzo retreated from his doomed army, Kamoko charged after him. The undead shugenja turned back on the battle maiden, pulling black scrolls into his hands, summoning his dark lord's power. With naught but a whisper from his mistress, Kamoko's horse burst into a sudden blur of speed and Junzo's body was crushed by her steed's mighty strides.
With Junzo broken under the hooves of the Unicorn, the undead army of the Emperor had no will to guide it. Together with the Crab and Lion armies, Kamoko destroyed the remainder of the porcelain-masked creatures while Yokatsu waited behind, blocking any possible reinforcements from coming to the doomed army's aid. Then she watched as the Phoenix destroyed themselves and met Bayushi Kachiko at the gate. Finally, the Thunders were assembled.
They entered the palace, and saw the death of Togashi Yokuni as Mirumoto Hitomi open the last black scroll. Watching the power of the dark lord grow, Kamoko could stand by no longer. The descendant of Shinsei tried to hold her back, but she shrugged him off and charged at the Emperor, with her Clan's sword in her hand and a wild battle cry in her heart...
In the darkness of the Throne room, Toturi watched Kamoko charge Fu Leng and could do nothing as Fu Leng swat her aside like an inconsequential insect. The jade fire that erupted beside him came from Yakamo's hand and the eyes of the wounded Master of Earth. Yakamo charged Fu Leng, with Tadaka's magic shrouding him in holy light. Black fire blasted from the Dark Lord's palms but Tadaka's jade aura protected the Crab Thunder as Yakamo's father's sword drew black, corrupted blood. Doji Hoturi was just behind Yakamo, his own Clan sword held high over his head. Both Thunders sliced at Fu Leng's mortal body again before the dark lord expelled them from his presence with an unholy wind.
Toturi looked about quickly then turned to Tadaka. "The Throne, Tadaka! The Emerald Throne!"
The Master of Earth nodded and with his chants the chair rose high into the air. Before Fu Leng could move, Tadaka dropped the Emperor's Throne on the dark lord. Toturi charged the Emperor then, raising his sword, but Fu Leng recovered too quickly. He grabbed Toturi's throat with his death-cold grip and smiled through bloody teeth.
"Now you are mine, Lion!"
Toturi felt the inhuman grip squeeze... then release. He opened his eyes to see Kachiko ripping at the dark lord's eyes. He was dropped to the floor as black blood poured out of the Dark One's wounds, but his fist clinched about Kachiko's slender throat...
Fu Leng's grip held fast about Kachiko's throat. Doji Hoturi charged again, but the Dark Lord put his hand through the Crane's chest and watched the Crane fall back, his eye full of pain and surprise. Tadaka sent arrows of jade at the dark lord, who reflected them back at the Master of Earth, riddling his tainted body with purity.
Toturi was next. The dark lord caught Toturi's blade in his grip, and twisted it until Toturi lost his grip. Fu Leng smacked the ronin with the katana's pommel sending him back into the darkness. Yakamo screamed out of the shadows of the throne room and ran forward, but Fu Leng changed the darkness about the hero into chains and bound Yakamo to the floor. At the door, Hitomi watched with the last black scroll and her obsidian hand... and did nothing.
"You have failed Scorpion," Fu Leng whispered to Kachiko. "I will kill your comrades and keep you as a trophy."
"Then take a good look at your trophy, dark one," she said. "For its the last look you'll get."
Only then did Fu Leng notice her black hair flowing freely over her shoulders. He looked down and saw the long needle hair pins in her hands...
After their fateful duel with Fu Leng, Bayushi Kachiko knelt with the head of the dying Crane Champion on her lap. His blood flowed freely from his wound and his cough was wet and painful.
With only momnets of life left in his body, he whispered, "Take my hand."
She did. "That was a foolish thing to do Hoturi," she said to him. "After all the pain I've caused you. After everything I've taken from you. Your family, your clan..." her fingers touched the black braid tied to his belt, " ...your wife." The strength in his finger was fading. She held them tighter. "Why?" she asked, her whisper filled with confusion and rage. "You should have let me..."
"Someone once told me life is too short for regrets." He coughed again. "And revenge." He struggled to see across the dim lit room. "I saw your courage, lady. It saved my best friend's life." She put her fingers on his lips, but he shook his head. The pain in his chest stole more of his breath and she told him to rest. "No. I must say this." He looked deep in her eyes. "Take off your mask," he said. She did not protest. Hoturi smiled. "I forgive you." he whispered. "Pray, forgive me so I may pass in peace."
With her mask set aside, she nodded. "I forgive you, Hoturi." He bit his blood-spangled lip and his eyes squeezed shut. Kachiko took the braid from his belt and slipped it into his hand. "I'm certain she forgives you too."
"Remember this day, lady," he said, his voice fading away. "Remember me."
Just before the void came to claim him, Hoturi felt a single tear fall on his cheek and her voice softly whispering, "I will."