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A New Emperor
By Rich Wulf

The Imperial Court was silent today. The Empress sat listless on her throne, her once strong presence now alone and frail. With each day since the Winds had departed to face Daigotsu, the Empress grew weaker. None of the assembled courtiers would speak of her rapidly failing health; since returning from Tengoku none doubted that Kaede would not remain in this world for long.

She would remain until the Winds returned. If the Winds returned. No longer.

The doors of the throne room opened, and the court turned their heads as one. Miya Shoin, Imperial Herald, stepped through the threshold and bowed deeply to the Empress. His usual practiced courtier's countenance was grave as he rose once more.

"Empress," he announced, "the Winds have arrived."

Even as he spoke, the sound of heavy footfalls echoed beside Shoin. Toturi Sezaru swept into the throne room. His long robes were scorched and tattered. Akodo Kaneka wore dented armor, a deep gash along one side of his face. Naseru entered last, now dressed in simple robes, the armor he had worn during his journey now discarded.

"We have returned, mother," Sezaru said, bowing tersely. "Daigotsu has been defeated, as you wished."

"Where is Tsudao?" Kaede asked, her coal black eyes wide as she studied her son.

"She perished fighting Daigotsu," Naseru replied, stepping forward. "She died a hero, as her father did. Fu Leng no longer threatens the Celestial Heavens, but has returned to Jigoku where he belongs."

Kaede's eyes widened, as if the news surprised her. A hushed murmur echoed through the court, surprise not only that the Sword had fallen but also that the Oracle had not foreseen it.

"So what becomes of the Empire?" Kaneka asked in a gruff voice. "Who shall take the throne?"

Kaede did not reply, as if the effort to speak were too great. All remembered the last time when Kaede was forced to choose, and was stripped from this world as a result. Now all was tense silence.

Finally, Sezaru stepped forward. "If it makes your decision easier, mother, I have no desire for the throne. I have my own concerns, and they do not allow time to rule an Empire. I hereby abdicate my claim upon the throne of Rokugan."

Kaede nodded, a look of relief crossing her face, as if the pain of the decision had lessened. She turned to Kaneka and Naseru.

Kaneka frowned and turned to Naseru, then looked back upon the throne. "It seems to me," he said, scratching the back of his neck, "that the life of an Emperor involves too much politics. The power it offers is an illusion. I prefer my role as Shogun. If you can keep your bargains, Anvil, and allow me to retain my title, I will relive your mother of this difficult decision and abdicate as well."

"So be it, then," Naseru replied. "And so long as I am Emperor, Kaneka, you and your successors will remain Shogun."

A small smile spread across Kaede's face and she nodded slowly. "So be it then," she said with a small sigh. "All hail Hantei Naseru, Emperor of Rokugan, the Righteous Emperor. Miya Shoin, spread the word across the Empire. Let it be known this day that Rokugan recognizes a new Emperor."

With that, Kaede vanished from the throne without a trace. The court looked at one another in confusion, but Toturi Sezaru only smiled.

"My mother has returned to the Celestial Heavens to be reunited with the Dragon of the Void," Sezaru replied. "The time of the Oracles is done, for now."

"What are you waiting for, Miya Shoin?" Kaneka demanded. "You have news to deliver, herald."

Shoin nodded vigorously and turned to run for the door, but Naseru held forth a restraining hand as he moved toward the throne. Shoin paused, bowing deeply before the newly named Emperor.

"Shoin, I do not wish to keep you from informing the Empire of this news, but I have something else to add," he replied. "For ten years I have worn the name of a villain, for so was the wish of my father, the Emperor. Though the Steel Chrysanthemum and my father are both dead, it was never my right or my wish to defy the will of an Emperor& until today. From this day forth let me be known as Toturi Naseru, Toturi the Third."

Some in the court gasped in shock. Some could not keep themselves from grinning in sheer joy. No member of the court, no matter how practiced they were in concealing their emotions, was unaffected.

"Why not Toturi the Second?" asked Bayushi Kaukatsu.

"Toturi the Third," Naseru replied. "Toturi the Second was my sister, known henceforth as the Glorious Emperor."

"Not officially," replied Shosuro Higatsuku. "Her reign was unrecognized."

Naseru fixed him with a cold look. "You would dispute the word of the Emperor, and the honor he wishes to bestow upon his sister, who sacrificed all for the Empire?"

None present said a word.

Naseru seated himself upon the Steel Throne. Miya Shoin departed to carry news to the Empire.

"And with the aid of this noble court," Naseru continued, "and the blessings of the eternal Kami and Fortunes, may my role be as glorious as my father's."

"And let me be first to bow before you, Naseru-sama," Sezaru said, kneeling before the throne. "If there is anything you wish of me, only speak and it will be done."

"Then from this day forth, you will serve as my Voice, mighty Sezaru," Naseru replied. "It shall be your duty to bring peace between the clans, to insure that arrogance and pride never threaten us again."

"And what of our bargain?" Kaneka said boldly, arms folded across his chest. "Shall I remain Shogun as you promised?"

"Of course," Naseru replied. "However, you cannot serve me if you are my equal. You must release those who have sworn personal fealty to you, and renounce your ties to the Lion Clan immediately. The Shogun's armies will be built anew, to serve me."

Kaneka's eyes narrowed. "You would make me a wave man?"

"Certainly not," Naseru said with a frown. "I have no doubt that any Clan Champion would be honored to offer you fealty& brother."

With that, Doji Akiko, Master of Water from the Elemental Council, stepped forward. "If the Shogun would learn the ways of peace, then what better clan than the Phoenix? We would be pleased to have the Shogun among our number."

Matsu Nimuro looked at Akodo Kaneka, his expression blank.

Naseru looked at Kaneka. "Is this acceptable?

Kaneka scowled. "Very well, then, brother. If Akiko will have it, I shall swear fealty to the Shiba. Within a year my armies will be even greater than before& All for your glory, of course, my brother."

"Indeed," Naseru replied. "Brother."

Kaneka bowed before the Emperor.

"And you, Sezaru?" Naseru asked, looking at the Wolf. "If you to serve, you must find your place among a clan as well."

"Then let that clan be my mother's," Sezaru replied. "I will also join the Clan of the Phoenix." He turned to Isawa Nakamuro, the Master of Air. "Is this acceptable?"

"Of course, Sezaru-sama," Nakamuro said with pride.

"We have an Emperor at last," Doji Tanitsu said with a sad smile. "This is a new day for the Empire."

"To say the least," Naseru replied with a firm nod. "Now gather around, my court. We have much work yet to do&"




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