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Legions, Part X

Legions - Destinies
Kyojin

The pain was unimaginable, just as it had been the first time. Even as Kyojin awoke from his nightmarish vision, the memories of it faded. He struggled to remember, but he could not. Whatever force had compelled him to forget his past the first time had persisted once again, and now even the remembrance of it was gone.

He had struggled against the forces that twisted and rebuilt his body. He had fought with all his being against the Taint that coursed through him, and the pain had worsened. He had become a thing, half man and half creature, with no past or future. This time, however, he tasted the power and wanted more. He had accepted the changes, embraced them. And this time it had been different.

"Kyojin?" Kuni Yori said, looking down at him with a surprised expression. "Is that you?"

Kyojin rose from the dull fields. No longer was he half man, half beast. Now he was as he was in life, a human samurai, radiating the primal power of Jigoku. He tucked his twin blades into his tattered obi, his long, blackened cloak fluttering in the wind. "It is now," he replied.

"This place& there are things here that are beyond even my reckoning," Yori mused, surveying the terrain around them. "After the battle, I relived a rather entertaining period of my mortal life. It was most interesting." He glanced up at the huge warrior. "I assume you experienced something similar?"

Kyojin only glared at Yori darkly.

"Ah yes, your memory," Yori nodded. "I believe Iuchiban promised to restore it."

"That no longer matters, Yori," Kyojin replied. He pointed to the horizon. "The Legion of the Dead. I can smell them. They're gathering."

Yori folded his hands into his sleeves. "Smell them?" he asked.
Kyojin sneered. "You cannot?"

"Regardless," Yori said, squinting as he searched the horizon, "they have some ulterior motive. I can sense something in that direction. Something that pulls at the very realm around us. What could it be?"

"They move toward the Black Finger River," Kyojin said.

Yori opened his mouth to reply that such a river existed only in the mortal realm, but then paused. He studied the land around them more carefully, and as he did so, the land seemed to resolve itself more conclusively. This place was familiar. He had been here before, in the mortal realm.

They were standing in this realm's version of the Shadowlands.

"Oblivion's Gate," Yori said. "That can be their only goal. Could this Realm's Gate still hold some measure of power? Could Goemon and his brood seek to pass through into the mortal realm? I wonder why."

"It doesn't matter," Kyojin said. "We will stop them."

"Of course." Yori's stitched face split in a hideous grin. "Gather anyone you can find. We leave at once."

"No," Kyojin said.

Yori's eyes narrowed. "What did you say?"

"No," the warrior repeated. "I have followed you as a slave, hoping that Iuchiban would restore what I have lost. I will do so no longer." He glanced around. "I no longer need the Bloodspeaker's help."

"Kyojin-san," Yori said with a chuckle. "Did you ever truly believe helping Iuchiban was my goal?"

Kyojin looked at Yori with interest. "What then?"

"We are only a piece of a larger puzzle, my friend," Yori answered, "We have other allies& but perhaps if we can regain the mortal realm we will have no need of them either. We can carve out our destiny in Rokugan anew. Are you with me, Kyojin?"

"Will there be death?" Kyojin asked, hands moving eagerly to the hilts of his blades.

Yori only smiled.

Legions - Destinies
Okura no Oni

Okura's chest heaved as she surveyed the chaotic battlefield. Blood and gore dripped from her curved blade. The screams of samurai filled her ears. She saw a circle of hideous bakemono gathered around a wounded samurai, the last survivor of his unit. She moved closer to watch, intrigued by the sight. He was only one to their dozen, but six more of the bakemono already lay dead at his feet. The others did not dare approach him now, keeping him hedged in with their spears and shouting high-pitched insults. Blood streamed down one side of the samurai's face. His right arm hung broken and useless but he wielded his katana in his left. A familiar symbol was emblazoned on the left shoulder plate of his armor the symbol of the Lion Clan.

As she approached, the samurai glanced up from his attackers. Recognition shone in his eyes, followed by anger.

"You are the demon who dares to wear a Lion's name!" the man cried.

Okura stepped forward, looking down at the little man. The bakemono scattered as she approached. "I am," she said.

"I am Ken'o, of house Ikoma," he said. "In the name of my clan I will cast you back into the Pit!"

"You have no chance against me, human," she replied, continuing to advance.

Ken'o said nothing. He charged her with his blade held high.

With a single, savage stroke, Okura no Oni killed Ikoma Ken'o.

But as the body fell, Okura paused. She was astounded by the bravery she saw in the man's eyes, the look of satisfaction as he died. She may have discarded his defiance as the foolish bravado of a man who knew he had no hope for survival, but no. That was not it. There was something more powerful at work here. This man had lived and died a Lion, and though in the end he had failed& that meant something. He had died complete, a part of something larger and more powerful than she could comprehend. In that instant, Okura felt very small. She felt a sense of shame at blackening the name of this man's clan.

No. Such thoughts were weakness. She was a demon, the spawn of a true Oni Lord. It was her destiny to feed upon a mortal's name and damn his soul forever. It was the name that was trying to lead her astray, trying to delude her with visions of such weak concepts as honor and righteousness.

"For Rokugan!" the cry rang in her ears.

Okura looked up to see a squadron of Lion samurai charging into battle against her father's demon horde. They were outnumbered, overpowered, but they would not falter. The demons began to fall in terror before them.

Was this weakness? What drove these humans to do such things?

The part of her that was Lion whispered that there was only one way to know.

But turning against her father would serve no purpose. She would surely be destroyed, cast into Jigoku, the fate of her soul uncertain but bleak at best.

Did these humans risk any less? She wanted so badly to understand. Was it possible?

"For the Lion!" another samurai shouted.

Before she realized what she was doing, Okura no Oni echoed the cry. The Lion would not accept her; she had killed too many this day. Yet there was one thing she could do that they could not, one way to turn the tide of this battle.

She lifted her sword and charged into battle against her father, the Oni Lord Akuma.

Then the vision faded. Okura stood on the Plains of Thwarted Destiny. Ten figures stood in a circle around her, wraithlike entities garbed in long flowing robes and jeweled crowns.

"The Lords of Death," Okura said, bowing to the ancient gods. "What brings you to this place?"

"What indeed?" one replied. "We bring you a warning, Guardian of Heaven."

"And an offer of aid," said another.

"You would be wise to accept both," said a third.

"I am listening," she replied.

Legions - Destinies
Togashi Yokuni

All around, the Legion of the Dead made preparations for war. The future was uncertain. Even if they triumphed here, none truly knew what fate awaited them in this strange new realm. Yet they had no choice but to destroy the Legion of Blood and open Oblivion's gate.

Yet one soldier's thoughts were not on the task ahead. The Dragon sat apart from the others, hands clasped before him, head bowed in despair. The Legion would leave within the hour, and he would march beside them. Yet how could he fight when he had already failed?

"What troubles you, Satsu-san?" a familiar voice asked him.

Mirumoto Satsu stirred from his musing and looked up to see a large tattooed man standing nearby. He wore a sad smile and his golden eyes shone with wisdom. "I do not believe we have met," Satsu whispered.

"We have, yet we have not," the man said cryptically. "In life, I bore the name Yokuni."

Satsu rose at once, then knelt. "Forgive me, Togashi-sama. I did not realize you marched among the Legion."

"No," Yokuni said, signaling for Satsu to rise. "I am not Togashi. I am Yokuni. I was tamashii, one of those blessed with the ability to house the Kami's soul. I granted our lord my name and my body, though I died in doing so."

"Ah," Satsu said. "Then I commend you. Not all men can make such a noble sacrifice." He bowed low then returned to his seat upon a nearby stone, staring into the distance once more.

"Sacrifice," Yokuni mused as he sat beside him. "I understand that you are no stranger to sacrifice."

"I did only what I was required to do," Satsu replied.

Yokuni chuckled. "You are too modest, friend. I know of the vision Togashi offered you before you faced Hida Yakamo on the day of your death. I know the choice you made, to die so that the Empire would live."

Satsu said nothing.

"I can only assume that when this realm forced you to relive your destiny that you faced that choice again," Yokuni added.

Satsu looked at Yokuni, his face ashen. "I do not deserve to march beside the Empire's heroes," he said. "I have failed, Yokuni-san."

"Oh?" Yokuni asked raising an eyebrow. "How so?"

"In my vision, the Air Dragon came to me," Satsu said. "He told me that if Hida Yakamo survived, my sister would fall to madness and the Dragon Clan would suffer& In my vision, I killed the Crab Thunder to prevent that future."

"Of course you did," Yokuni answered.

Satsu scowled. "You mock me?" he retorted. "I chose to risk every life in the Empire for the sake of my sister's soul! How can I stand among these heroes when I have done such a thing? I do not deserve to be samurai!"

Yokuni smiled. "Why do you say that?" he asked.

"How could you suggest otherwise?" Satsu answered. "Everything the Air Dragon said was true, but I underestimated Hitomi's strength. She rose above her madness. She became the Lady Moon, for the Fortunes' sake. I chose poorly! I failed Togashi!"

"How?" Yokuni asked.

"I disobeyed him. I slew the Crab Thunder."

"But Togashi never commanded you to spare Yakamo, he gave you a choice," Yokuni replied. "I think perhaps he knew the choice was impossible. I think he knew that either fate would be dire. Perhaps there was no correct' choice, Satsu."

"Then why did the Shadow Dragon influence my vision?" Satsu answered. "Why did he drive me to kill Yakamo?"
"The Shadow Dragon is a creature of deception," Yokuni said. "Fear, desire, and regret are the weapons it uses to defeat a samurai. The Shadow Dragon enticed you to choose a path different than you chose in life& but who knows where that path would have led? It does not matter. It is enough that you are left to wonder if your decision was the correct one. Now all the dragon must do is leave you to your doubt& and Hitomi is robbed of her most loyal defender."

"In your own vision, Yokuni-san, what did you face?" Satsu asked, looking at the monk intently.

Yokuni grinned. "I relived the day that I told my mother I was leaving home to join the Order of Togashi," he replied. "Does that surprise you? Did you expect I would relive the day that I gave my life so that our Kami could survive? That was never a choice at all, Satsu. Just because something is important does not mean that it is difficult& but it is the difficult choices that truly define us."

Satsu was silent for a long time.

"Let me ask you this, Satsu-san," he said. "Is it wicked to wish to save your sister's soul?"

Satsu said nothing.

"Is it dishonorable to prevent the deaths of your kinsmen?"

Satsu looked at his sister, standing among Goemon's council.

"Would a true Mirumoto allow himself to be defeated in such an ignoble manner?" Yokuni asked. "Will you let doubt consume you and see the Shadow Dragon triumph?"

"No," Satsu said in a low voice. "I will not."

"Then let us prepare for battle," Yokuni said. "I, for one, will be proud to fight beside you, my friend. How could Lady Moon falter, with such a brother by her side?"

The two men rose, and moved to join their brethren among the Legion of the Dead.

Legions - Destinies
Hida Kisada

The Crab knew him as the Great Bear. He was the most fearsome warrior in a clan feared for its warriors. His strength was unmatched. His ruthless cunning was unparalleled. It was said that there was not an enemy whom Hida Kisada could not defeat.Yet as he stood upon the Kaiu Wall and stared east toward Beiden Pass, he wondered.

This was a burden he should not have placed upon his sons. They were worthy, even Sukune, in his way, but they were unequal to the task. Yet Kisada could not risk stepping away while his fleet was still incomplete. There was too much to attend to, too much left unprepared. He might win at Beiden, only to lose in Otosan Uchi because he was lax here. The Crab had already sacrificed too much for failure to be an option.

"The battle at Roka Beiden turns against us, my lord," whispered the slick voice of Kuni Yori. He appeared on the battlements behind Kisada, arms folded in his robes, face invisible in the depths of his hood. Yori had been sent with Sukune's armies; he was supposed to be several weeks' travel away. Kisada was not surprised to see the sorcerer here. "Sukune has fought bravely, but he faces Toturi now."

"Toturi," Kisada growled, his callused fist clenching near the hilt of his blade. "So there is no hope for Beiden Pass." The war would be more difficult now. Any campaign that began in failure was more difficult.

"Sukune does not plan to give up, but we both know what the outcome will be," Yori answered. "Your son is no match for the Black Lion. Not without help, at any rate."

Kisada's steel eyes focused upon Yori, demanding further explanation.

Yori glanced about cautiously, insuring no unwanted ears lingered too near. "My allies in the Shadowlands can give us the strength we require to hold Roka Beiden, but they require that you offer them a sacrifice."

Kisada did not answer right away. He was an old man, though he still bore strength than many half his age. He had spent his entire life fighting the Shadowlands, and for what? The other clans looked upon the Crab with scorn. The Emperor was a weak fool, pitting his servants against one another for his amusement and clutching a Scorpion traitor to his breast. All that he had done, all that he had accomplished it would make no difference in the end if he failed here. He would bring peace to the Empire. It would be his legacy, even if he did not survive to see it.

"I accept their terms," Kisada replied. "I will be their sacrifice."

"I am sorry, my lord," Yori said with a small laugh, "I have already broached such a possibility, and Fu Leng's servants agree that are too valuable to die. Of course, as Lord of the Crab, all the lives of your people are yours to give or take away. I am certain our allies will choose a soul that you will not miss."

"Yori, no!" Kisada shouted. He reached out for the shugenja, but Yori faded away as swiftly as he had appeared.

The echoes of the Great Bear's voice resounded over the Kaiu Wall for nearly a minute then faded into silence. Kisada removed his thick steel helmet and sat heavily against the base of the wall.

What had he done?

Kisada did not move as the Realm of Thwarted Destiny resolved itself once more. Yasamura and his children rushed to greet him, but for a moment he did not reply. Then he rose, slowly and deliberately, and moved past them toward where Goemon had gathered many of the others.

"But is it even possible?" he heard Hitomi question as he drew nearer. "Oblivion's Gate was dangerous and unstable even at the best of times. It took Goju Adorai years to determine how to open it. We do not know that whoever passes through will not simply be destroyed."

"It is our best hope," Naka Kuro said. "Thus far we have been unable to leave this realm or contact those beyond in any manner. We must return lest the secret of the Bloodspeaker's defeat die with us."

"But is Iuchiban even our true enemy?" Daidoji Uji hissed. "I think the Shadow Dragon is a greater danger."

"And he is a danger we will address," Matsu Goemon answered, "but we cannot ignore Iuchiban. All of this will be for nothing if the Bloodspeaker destroys Rokugan. We have some small chance to stop him, though the risk is great."

"Yet I fear Hitomi's warning is not without merit," Kuro said. "Not just any soul will be able to make the passage. It will be painful and difficult. We must make certain whoever makes the passage can survive."

Then all voices fell silent, and all heads turned as the council realized the Great Bear now moved among them. Kisada turned to his left, looking at his son, Sukune. There was no judgment there, no anger for the choice that his father had made. There was only understanding and faith in his youngest son's eyes.

Kisada cursed himself for ever considering Sukune weak.

"I will go," Hida Kisada said.

Legions - Destinies
Sanzo

The Legion of the Dead marched upon Oblivion's Gate, but Sanzo did not stand among them. He could not. Instead, he lingered at the edge of their formations, always just over the horizon and out of sight. Occasionally, he had quietly aided them by dispatching scouts or stragglers from the Legion of Blood. It soothed his troubled soul, to help them. It reminded him of the days of the Clan War, riding beside Koan, Ichiro, and Yumi the one time in his life when he might have been called a hero. He did not allow such musings to consume him, and always disappeared into the mists if the others tried to approach. They could not find him. He knew this place too well. For the others, this realm was a place of mystery& but he had spent decades wandering it alone, and would remain so as long as he wished. Or so he believed.

"Who are you?"

Sanzo turned in his saddle to see a young woman clad in orange and red standing close enough to touch him. That she had been able to come so close without making a sound was impressive. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"I am Shiba Tsukune, Fortune of Rebirth," she replied, bowing slightly.

Sanzo's eyes widened. He gave a deep and respectful bow from his saddle.

"I know you are an ally," Tsukune said. "We saw you fighting the Legion of Blood before, but you vanished. Goemon recognized you. He said you were a hero once."

The ronin glanced back at the distant Legion and gave a bitter smile. "Then Goemon must have mistaken me for someone else, Fortune. In life I watched my family murdered by foul beasts, but did nothing to save them. I let a cursed sword dominate my soul and struck out at the one man who might have saved a dying Empire. I chased death with blind fury but even death eluded me& at least for a time. I am Sanzo. Do I sound like a hero to you?"

"I count others who have done darker deeds as allies," the woman answered, bowing slightly to him, "but I must confess I have not heard of you."

"Why would you have?" the ronin said sourly, looking down at Tsukune with a snarl. "I was a failure and a coward, and in the end, an assassin. I was weak in life, and now am restless in death. I am not worth your time, Fortune."

"You call yourself weak?" she asked. "You risk yourself alone against an enemy that a legion of heroes fights only with caution."

"With all due respect, Fortune," he said with a chuckle, "a man need not be strong to be foolish."

Tsukune frowned. "What became of you after you died? Where have you been?"

"I have been here," Sanzo answered, gesturing at the empty fields with a broad wave of his arm. "This realm has been my home& but I can feel that it is changing. It becomes more solid, more real by the moment. Even I cannot say what it will become."

Tsukune gestured to the white wisps that constantly floated on the edge of one's vision, drifting in and out of the distant fog like a heat vision. "Many souls are trapped here. Most remember nothing of their life, but you can? That is quite remarkable."

"I disagree," Sanzo answered. "Memory is not a blessing here."

"Sanzo, have you experienced any visions of the past?" she asked, studying his face carefully. "Have you recently relived a moment from your past life?"

"No," Sanzo said, seeming confused by the very question.

The Fortune's eyes widened. She seemed to look upon Sanzo in a new light. The ronin felt distinctly uncomfortable.

"We will soon begin a march on Oblivion's Gate, Sanzo," she said. "I would welcome you to march beside us."

"I am nothing," he said. "What can I offer you that Hitomi, Shoju, Kamoko, or Kisada could not."

"You know the battlefield," Tsukune said. "No other soul I know can claim that. Will you help us, Sanzo?"

The ronin looked down at the Fortune with an uncomfortable expression. He felt as he did long ago, when he had helped Yumi and the others to escape her wicked cousin. To be needed gave him a sense of hope, but also a sense of dread.

What if he failed again?

It was a risk, but Sanzo was no stranger to risk. A man who risked nothing had already failed.

"I will go with you, Tsukune-sama," he said.

Legions - Destinies
Bayushi Dairu

"Dairu!"

Bayushi Dairu did not pause in his course through the winding labyrinth that surrounded Kyuden Bayushi. He continued on, pretending not to hear, hoping he could duck into a side passageway before the speaker caught up with him. He was unsuccessful. A familiar figure darted into his path, another young samurai in the colors of the Scorpion. He studied Dairu with a curious expression.

"Dairu-san, didn't you hear me?" he asked with a chuckle. "I was calling your name."

"I am sorry, Kaukatsu," Dairu said, bowing in apology to his friend. "I have a great deal on my mind." He kept his face a careful expressionless mask, showing none of the troubles that consumed him.

Kaukatsu gave Dairu a steady, thoughtful look then shrugged as he fell into step beside him. "You always have a great deal on your mind," he replied. "You invite trouble into your soul, Dairu-san. You should enjoy yourself. There will be time enough for trouble when you are lord of the Scorpion Clan."

Dairu chuckled. "I wish you were right, Kaukatsu," he said, "but I fear trouble does not wish to wait for me."

Kaukatsu rolled his eyes. "Please," he said. "Do not tell me that you are still bitter about your father not inviting you to the Winter Court in Otosan Uchi. You will not spend your winter idle. You will accompany my father and me to Kyuden Miya. There will be intrigue aplenty& and I have it on good authority that Kakita Konoko will be there again this year. I'm sure you remember her."

Dairu smiled sadly. "How could I forget?" he replied.

"Then there is no problem at all, is there?" he asked. "Who needs Otosan Uchi?"

Dairu said nothing. He reflected back to the scene he had just overheard, his father meeting with his uncle, Aramoro. The two men had been discussing the impending visit in Otosan Uchi, but politics were not what occupied their thoughts. This was no mere Winter Court. This was to be an invasion, a coup against the Hantei himself. His father intended to place himself upon the Emerald Throne. There were only two days left, and then everything would change.

The idea had appalled Dairu at first. It was treachery most foul, treachery against the heart of the Empire itself. His revulsion had passed quickly. Dairu's faith in his father was absolute. If Bayushi Shoju planned to strike at the Emperor there must be a reason why.

But Dairu would never know the reason. His father had not trusted him with the secret. He was going to be sent away to Kyuden Miya, where he would be safe with Kaukatsu, his father, and the rest of the courtiers.

His father had always been a distant man, but Dairu had always admired him. He had always sought his chance to prove himself. Now, it seemed father would deny him the chance. What galled Dairu the most was that he knew his father did it out of love the battle ahead would be the most dangerous the Scorpion Clan had ever faced.

Shoju did not want his son to die.

"Well I suppose I shall leave you to your brooding," Kaukatsu said, interrupting his friend's thoughts, "but please, finish quickly. My father is already making final preparations to leave. We will embark for Kyuden Miya within the hour."

"Very well, Kaukatsu," Dairu said with a sudden smile. "Tell your father I will be there."

Kaukatsu nodded, seeming reassured by Dairu's decision. He bowed and headed back the way he came.

Dairu waited until Kaukatsu was gone, then continued on his way to the stables. He could be on his way to Otosan Uchi within the hour, well before Kaukatsu realized he was gone.

Yet as Bayushi Dairu strode through the twisting hallways, they twisted and fade away, replaced with an endless field of grey. Memories flooded through him, memories of pain. Memories of battle. He saw his father betrayed. He saw the armies of the Scorpion crushed by the enemy. He saw the face of the Crane Champion, and saw himself die on Doji Hoturi's spear. Dairu fell to his knees, overwhelmed by the sensations, yet when he looked up again one remained. The vision of Hoturi still stood before him, though his shining blue armor was replaced with a suit of lacquered black. He looked down at Bayushi Dairu with a patient smile.

"Welcome to the Realm of Thwarted Destiny, my son," the man said in a quiet voice.

Legions: Destinies
Daigotsu Hoturi

The vision of Hoturi looked down at Bayushi Dairu with a patient smile.

Dairu drew his blade in an instant. "What are you?" he hissed. "You are not Hoturi. I have heard of you. You are his corrupted twin, the False Hoturi that was born from Pan Ku's Egg years after my death."

"You say that I am not Hoturi, though my memories tell me so," Hoturi said with a smile. "Is that any different than your own insistence that you are the Scorpion Champion's son? Our destiny, who we are, is what we make of it, Dairu-san."

Dairu's expression darkened.

"In every way that matters, you are wrong," Hoturi continued. "I bear all of Hoturi's experiences. Like Hoturi, I loved your mother but was little more than a pawn in her games to be used and discarded. Like Hoturi, I suffered for her vengeance, for her commands bound me to destroy the clan that I loved. I was consumed by hatred and madness. But I was given a second chance. I have risen above my origins and become something more. I am Daigotsu Hoturi. No longer am I a mindless pawn of Fu Leng, but a samurai in his service. Do you not see? My destiny is now my own to command, my son," He took a step toward Dairu.

"Do not call me that, spirit," Dairu said, edging carefully away from Hoturi, his sword level with his black-armored chest. "Bayushi Shoju is my father."

"Then perhaps I should call you father instead?" he replied. "It was your death, after all, that began the inevitable chain of events that resulted in my creation. Is not every sin, every atrocity I committed, the result of your own selfish actions?"

Dairu would hear no more. With a fierce cry, he charged at Hoturi with a wild swing of his blade. The specter stepped easily to one side, drawing his blade in the space between moments and deflecting the attack.

"I have no desire to fight you," Hoturi said in a quiet voice. "Do you not recognize an ally when you see one?"

"You are no ally," Dairu retorted. "You mock me, you mock my family!"

Hoturi's eyes blazed red. "Ungrateful boy," he snapped. "I am the man who shielded you from the Shadow Dragon's sight. I sought you out to protect you from it. To allow you the chance to relive a destiny that was stolen from you. I did not expect gratitude. By the Fortunes, I did not even expect you to succeed where you once failed. I did, however, expect better manners." His hands tightened on the hilt of his katana.

Dairu held his blade steady. "What are you talking about?"

Hoturi closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. With a fluid move, he sheathed his blade. "Forgive my outburst," he said apologetically. "It is difficult to control my anger in this place. It feeds off of us, seeks to make all that we are a part of itself. We must resist its call, Dairu."

Dairu stared at the man for several moments. "What did you mean about the Shadow Dragon?"

"The beast haunts the dreams of all in this realm," Hoturi explained. "He seeks to corrupt the visions, and in doing so turn this realm's hunger to his own twisted purpose."

"And you kept him from me?" Dairu asked. "Why?"

Hoturi was quiet a moment. "I do not know. My mission here has little to do with you. I know you are not my son. And yet&" he trailed off. "Perhaps this was my own test? The time is swiftly approaching when this place will change. We must be prepared to change with it, Dairu-san."

"Then change, if you dare, False Hoturi," Dairu said with a sneer. "Make your choice. Turn your back on the Dark Kami. Join the true heroes of Rokugan and help us banish evil from this realm."

"You truly do not understand what is happening here," Hoturi said. "This goes beyond good and evil, beyond honor and dishonor, Dairu. I will not join you, and I know you will not join me."

"Then what do you want from me?" Dairu demanded.

"Only to see my son& to see my father one last time," Hoturi replied, covering his flowing white hair with a black steel helmet, "before this place consumes us all."

With that, Daigotsu Hoturi stepped back into the mists and vanished just as he had appeared, leaving Dairu to his thoughts.

 

 

Kaze no Shiro Return

 

Togashi will return!