Seeds of Revolution
By Shawn Carman and Rich Wulf
The western edge of the Akodo provinces
On the open plains that marked the Lion-Crane border, even a small number of horses could generate a sound like thunder. Such thunder heralded the arrival of Akodo Tekkan and the dozen samurai who accompanied him. They raced across the plain, crisp winds in their hair and the crunch of early frost beneath the hooves of their steeds. Tekkan's face was a mask of barely controlled fury.
Another dozen Lion soldiers stood scattered across the plain, dead bodies strewn among them in the cold grass. One stepped forward and bowed as Tekkan pulled his horse up short. The symbols on his armor indicated the rank of a gunso.
"What happened here?" Tekkan demanded.
"An ambush," the gunso said. "Bandits, from the look of them."
"Roughly two dozen," the man continued. "We claimed eight of them before they fled. Two of my men were lost."
"You did not pursue?" Tekkan said harshly. "Why not?"
"I thought it wise to await your reinforcement, my lord," he replied. "They ran to the southeast."
Tekkan mused. "The same direction as the others. There is only one place they can be going."
"What are your orders, commander?" the gunso asked.
"Return to the camp and re-equip," Tekkan said. "We will end this once and for all."
The Lion Estate in Toshi Ranbo, Okura District
Akodo Ieshige rubbed his face with his hand again and took another drink of his rapidly cooling morning tea. He was well aware that his eyes would be red and irritated; he had gotten precious little sleep last night. In truth, he could not remember the last time he had slept well. The dreams&
No. He would not think of those.
With a grim expression, Ieshige took a small pouch from his obi and withdrew some dried herbs. He sprinkled them in his tea and took another sip, grimacing at the bitter taste. The herbs calmed his nerves and eased his fatigue, but they tasted foul and were rather expensive, as they were imported from distant islands of the Mantis Clan. If the dreams did not abate soon, he would find himself in a most unpleasant predicament when his exhaustion began to show.
There was a light rap at the door. Ieshige closed his eyes for a moment and drew a deep breath, marshalling his strength. "Enter," he said.
The screen slid back with the whispering sound of silk and wood, and a young man in bright golden robes stepped into the room. "Good morning, governor-sama," he said with a quick bow.
"Good morning Kusari," Ieshige returned. "I seem to recall asking you to call me Ieshige sometime yesterday."
"Yes, my lord," the young man returned. "And several days before that as well"
Ieshige raised his eyebrows. "And?"
"And it would be inappropriate for a governor's assistant to refer to him by his given name," Kusari continued, his smile never disappearing. "I only act as my station dictates."
"Station," Ieshige said with a shake of his head. "You are the son of a Lion daimyo. Your station is easily the equal of mine."
"My father has been Ikoma daimyo for less than a month, and his promotion was hardly expected," Kusari returned. "Like him, I hope for the chance to earn my fortune, rather than inherit it."
The governor began to argue further, but then thought better of it. Kusari was a strange young man, possessed of boundless good fortune and high spirits. He had been appointed to serve under Ieshige following his gempukku six months ago, and in that time the governor had only seen they boy's mood falter once, when word reached him of his father's decision to become a ronin. Even then, however, Kusari accepted his fate with a stoic resolve that had impressed Ieshige even more, and he had made the young man his personal assistant in court matters. Thus far, it had proved a wise decision. He remembered the quiet satisfaction in the boy's eyes when he learned his father had not only redeemed his honor, but been promoted to leadership of their family. Those rare souls who could deal with both triumph and tragedy with equal calm were the most admirable of samurai. Ieshige only wished he shared Kusari's sense of unshakable serenity.
A shudder, both physical and mental, passed through him. The herbs lessened the effects of physical fatigue, but they made it more difficult for him to focus. Yet another concern to add to his growing list. "What is our first item of business, Kusari?"
Kusari nodded and tucked his hands into his sleeves. "There are a pair of merchant patrons who seek your counsel in resolving a dispute. It regards the allocation of space in your district."
"Commerce?" Ieshige frowned. "Is this not something that could be dealt with by someone else? I have little knowledge of such matters."
"Unfortunately not, my lord," Kusari offered, his tone apologetic. "It seems these patrons are rather well connected, and have allies among the administration of other districts that are eager to see this matter resolved."
"Very well," the governor said with a wave. "Bring them to the audience chamber. I will be there shortly."
Kusari nodded and stepped back into the corridor. Ieshige rose and took his daisho from the rack where it rested, tucking the blades reverently into his obi. Perhaps he would be fortunate and someone would challenge him to a duel today. Then he would either have the opportunity to alleviate some of his stress& or he would be free of it altogether. It was a peculiarly morbid train of thought, but one he entertained frequently of late. He pushed such thoughts aside.
Ieshige crossed three hallways and reached the modest audience chamber in his governor's residence. It was still a new building, and rich smell of fresh lumber never seemed to dissipate. He frowned at the sight of Kusari waiting outside the audience chamber, a perplexed look on the young man's face. "Are they within?" he asked.
"No, my lord," Kusari said. "They were dismissed."
"Dismissed?" He was not certain whether to be relieved or annoyed. "I did not order them sent away."
"I did not send them away, my lord," Kusari insisted. "Akodo Setai is here. He dismissed them, then requested to await your convenience in the audience chamber."
"Setai," Ieshige said flatly. The former Deathseeker was perhaps the most influential Lion in the Imperial City. For Setai to have come to see him so suddenly, there could only be trouble. "Very well." He stepped past the younger man and opened the broad, wooden door.
Akodo Setai stood within. As always, he looked strangely out of place in the finery of court, a massive warrior with the calm, calculating eyes of a scholar. Ieshige could not fully understand it, but it had always seemed that there was another Setai hidden just beyond his reach, contained within the peaceful composure he displayed in the court, always ready to burst forth at a moment's notice in a frenzy of violence and destruction. Were all Deathseekers so cursed? Some said that Setai was fortunate to be one of the rare handful that ever escaped that order alive. Ieshige wondered. "Good fortunes to you, Setai-sama."
"And to you, governor," Setai said in a low voice. "Please ask your assistant to enter as well. He must be present."
Ieshige raised his eyebrows in surprise, but bowed his head in acceptance and rapped once on the door behind him. Kusari stepped into the chamber and bowed, awaiting an order. "Join us," Ieshige said simply, ignoring the youth's somewhat confused look. He turned back to Setai. "I suspect your sudden arrival does not bode well, Setai-sama."
"It does not," Setai returned. "There has been an unfortunate incident along the border south of here. I am afraid I will require your assistance."
"Of course," Ieshige said at once. "What is it you need of me?"
Setai did not respond at first, and indeed did not seem to have heard the question. Instead, he regarded Kusari intently. "You are the son of Lord Ikoma Korin, correct?"
"It is an honor to meet you," Setai said. "I understand you are betrothed to the youngest daughter of Lord Kitsu Juri?"
The young man could not hide his smile. Love and marriage seldom went hand in hand for one with as many political responsibilities as a samurai, but Kusari's was a blissful betrothal. "Kitsu Juniko, yes, Setai-sama."
Setai nodded and turned back to Ieshige, seeming to change the topic altogether. "A small military outpost three days south of here has been plagued by recent bandit attacks. It seems the commander of that outpost, Akodo Tekkan, became convinced that the attacks were originating from a Hitsu Taekeru, a small Crane city a short distance across the border. Three days ago, he led a force of Lion and took up occupancy in the city, claiming its unprotected state was a danger to the Lion border."
Ieshige could not believe his ears. "He did this without seeking approval from his commanding officer?"
"He did," Setai answered. "There are reports he was
seriously injured shortly after seizing the city, but we have
nothing more than that." He paused for a moment. "I am in
the midst of extremely delicate negotiations following the end of
our war in Kaeru Toshi. Volatile might be a better description, but
"Complicated," Setai said. "Even attempting to meet with the Unicorn is difficult, as most of my own attendants want nothing less than Chagatai's head for Nimuro's death, and for once I cannot say I disagree. The Scorpion are as inscrutable as always, Ironically the negotiations with the mysterious Dragon Clan are, for once, clear cut. The few skirmishes we had seem to generally have been the results of misunderstandings. They are eager to make peace with us, and seem pleased we retained the city. They even offered the aid of their own courtiers to help us in resolving our disputes."
"This is fortunate, at least," Ieshige said. "Should I shave my head and ride up Togashi Mountain tomorrow seeking enlightenment, I would hate to see my path barred."
Setai chuckled. "Yet surely you see my problem," he said. "I cannot abandon my duties here, not for another week at the very least. In that time, the Lion's alliance with the Crane could fall apart if this matter is not dealt with quickly. Many Crane are not pleased to hear that a Lion has claimed one of their cities, no matter what the impetus may have been. There are those among both Lion and Crane who remember the days when our clans were at war, and long for that glory once again. Tekkan is one of them, and I believe his motivations in aiding' this Crane city were not as pure as he claims."
"You wish me to deal with it?" Ieshige asked. "Why me, Setai-sama?"
"You are a hero," Setai said. "All Lion know of your deeds during the fires that threatened this city. Even the most jaded samurai would never dare stand against a man of your station and reputation. Tekkan may listen to reason, coming from you."
"Why is that necessary? No Lion would dare ignore an order from his superiors," Ieshige insisted. "Regardless of their reputation."
"This is not a matter of the chain of command," Setai said. "Tekkan has done nothing wrong. It is the Lion's duty to protect the Empire from threats both within and without. This city has something of a history. The matter is far from simple."
"Oh?" Ieshige asked.
Setai sighed. His face drew into a frown as he approached an uncomfortable topic. "Hitsu Taekeru is a relatively new city. It was originally built as a supply point for the Hantei's armies during the War of Spirits. As you know, the Steel Chrysanthemum compelled many Phoenix into his service, and not all of them were samurai. He forced many Phoenix farmers to make the long journey from their homelands here, where he had planned to form one of many base camps to eventually cripple the Lion armies. When the war ended and the Hantei was defeated, many of these peasants felt they had been betrayed and forgotten by their lords, so they remained in Crane lands. The Crane did not wish to deny such a valuable labor force, but had few samurai available to attend a new village suddenly forming on their remote border. It became a place where the shamed and forgotten among the ranks of the Crane were sent to be forgotten. Despite this stigma, Hitsu Taekeru developed quite swiftly from a village to the ranks of a small city in only a matter of years."
Setai paused for a long moment. "And this is where the tale grows darker. During the Rain of Blood many samurai fell to the corrupting call of Iuchiban. Any who bore fear, desire, or regret in excess of their honor risked losing their souls to its magic. The samurai who protected Hitsu Taekeru were& vulnerable. They fell to Iuchiban's madness. The peasants, upon realizing what happened to their former leaders, quickly organized and slaughtered the men and women who once protected them. Without the watchful eye of samurai to guide and protect the city, many of its inhabitants have fallen to banditry and other criminal activities."
"Why did the Crane not restore order?" Ieshige asked.
"Hitsu Taekeru is a small and remote village," Setai replied. "Relatively speaking the problems occurring here were very minor for the Crane. Consider this: even in the best of times, assignment to Hitsu Taekeru was seen as a form of punishment. What Crane samurai would volunteer to go there now after his predecessors shamed themselves in the rain and were put down by peasant vengeance? Perhaps they thought it would be letter to let the city slowly disintegrate into ruin. And here, Tekkan saw opportunity. He knows that though the Crane would willingly let the city destroy itself, there are many who will not endure a Lion protecting it where they failed. Though his actions fall well within our duty, he has delivered an insult that may renew the blood feud that tore our clans apart for centuries."
Ieshige nodded. "A delicate situation."
"You must convince Tekkan to reconsider, Ieshige," Setai said, "as well as assure the Crane that all Lion are not as bloodthirsty as he."
"I will leave immediately," Ieshige said. "Kusari can tend to matters in my absence."
"That is unfortunately not possible," Setai said in a quieter voice. "He must accompany you."
Kusari could not contain his surprise. "Why, my lord?"
Setai's features grew grim. "Your betrothed went to Tekkan's outpost against her father's wishes, hoping to convince the warriors there that their actions were shameful," he answered. "She has not been heard from since." He paused a moment, surveying the young man's devastated expression. "Kitsu Juri wished you to investigate, Kusari. He wants you to find her."
The young man said nothing for several moments while the two older Lion stood waiting. Finally, he seemed to break free of his trance. "I will prepare the horses," he said in a whisper, then turned and left the room.
The village of Hitsu Taekeru
Ieshige and Kusari arrived in the Crane village just under three days later. They did not speak the entire trip, and the two yojimbo who accompanied them did not attempt to break the silence. For that, Ieshige was grateful. He had not had the dreams for the first time in months, and felt well rested. The travel was invigorating, but he could sense the specters that plagued him hiding, waiting to return. When they did, he did not know what he would do.
Hitsu Taekeru was a small town. There was an air about it that disturbed Ieshige as they rode in, and he could sense the same reaction in the others. The houses were not constructed in the haphazard, random assortment of many villages and small cities, but strictly lined in neatly regimented rows. The Steel Chrysanthemum had created this place as a weapon against the Empire, and it retained that madman's cool efficiency. There were Lion bushi stationed periodically throughout the perimeter, and they quickly directed them to the impromptu command center near the town's center.
The four newcomers dismounted near a large building that apparently served as a meeting place of some sort, or perhaps a magistrate's office. A Lion gunso stood in the courtyard, poring over what appeared to be a map of the city. Ieshige could see the man steel himself as they approached. "Identify yourself," Ieshige commanded.
"I am Akodo Sadahige," the man bowed. "Gunso in the third Akodo Legion, stationed at the seventh border outpost."
"Sadahige," Ieshige mused. "You once served the Shogun, did you not?"
"I did, Ieshige-sama," he said proudly.
The inclined his head curiously. "You know me?"
"Every Akodo knows of your valor, Governor."
"Where is Akodo Tekkan?" he demanded.
Sadahige frowned uncomfortably. "Tekkan died in his sleep three days ago," he replied. "There has been a strange rash of killings in the city, and he was among them. We are still investigating the matter."
Ieshige was disturbed by the news, but he also realized this likely made his duties much easier. Tekkan's soldiers would have followed the man's orders even after his death, but now that a superior officer had arrived, resolving this matter without Tekkan's interference would be a simple matter.
Kusari leapt down from his horse. "Juniko," he said. "I seek Kitsu Juniko"
Sadahige glanced downward. "Kitsu Juniko was here," he said. "She came to the city a week ago, though we did not know who she was until just three nights ago."
"Where is she?" Kusari demanded. His voice was jagged.
Sadahige's mouth was a fine white line. "She was another victim of the killer who stalks these streets," Sadahige said. "I am sorry. I have had her ashes prepared to be returned to her father's temple."
"Let me see them." Kusari's voice was a hoarse whisper.
Sadahige glanced at Ieshige, who nodded almost imperceptibly. Sadahige gestured for one of his men, who stepped forward and bowed sharply before Kusari. The younger man followed the soldier into the building.
Ieshige dismounted. "Tell me what is going on here, gunso."
Sadahige nodded, his rigid stance relaxing somewhat. "There have been attacks on Lion patrols in the area for two weeks prior to our arrival. At first, they were thought to be bandit attacks, but they were too precise, too cautious. They were deliberate strikes against us, or so Tekkan-sama believed. Each time they escaped through superior knowledge of the surrounding terrain."
"What can you tell me of this city?" Ieshige asked.
"Through a quirk of geography, Hitsu Taekeru is closer to Lion holdings than Crane, although it falls on the Crane side of our shared border," Sadahige continued. "It suffered horribly during the Rain of Blood."
"I have heard the tales," Ieshige said grimly.
Sadahige shook his head. "The fall of those who once protected this place is only the beginning. In recent months, we have heard rumors of civil unrest within the city. Peasant uprisings, things of that nature. The Crane erred in ignoring this place for so long, and Tekkan was outraged." He paused for a moment. "He claimed it was our duty to restore order here& but it has been difficult."
"How so?" Ieshige asked. "A Lion army is not enough to assure these peasants the chaos is past?"
Sadahige smiled ruefully. "They say that a wolf fears a man until it has a taste for his flesh, then it becomes a killer forevermore," he said. "During the Rain of Blood, these peasants were forced to kill samurai to survive. These are no peaceful farmers, Ieshige-sama. The Phoenix failed them. The Hantei failed them. The Crane failed them. Now they are fighting back. We must be careful, Ieshige-sama, lest what begins here grow out and consume all of Rokugan. Consider this, Ieshige it is unlikely that all of the Crane who once lived here fell in the Rain, yet all of them are now dead."
Ieshige nodded, a worried expression painting his features. "Perhaps they were slaughtered by their Tainted kinsmen."
"Perhaps," Sadahige replied, though it was clear he did not believe it to be so. "In any event, after Tekkan died, I had no choice but to assume command." Sadahige turned to Ieshige with a grateful expression. "I have followed his last orders and retained control of the city. Now that you are here, I gladly relinquish my command to you. I believe it was a mistake to come here, and the Lion have only made a bad situation worse. Do you wish me to commit seppuku?"
"No," Ieshige waved the comment away. "Though Tekkan can count himself fortunate that he is dead. You have done nothing but successfully followed your superior's commands in an impossible situation, and I think I will have need of you if we are to both make peace with the Crane and end the revolution that brews here."
Sadahige glanced around at their surroundings. "It hardly feels as though I have succeeded, my lord. There is something deeply wrong with this place. I almost think we would be better off if the city was destroyed."
Ieshige shook his head. "No," he said. "The ones who killed Tekkan and Juniko no doubt whisper to their brethren of the failures of samurai. They are but a few of the many who live here. If we were to murder innocents to silence them, we would turn their lies into truth. What grows in this village would appear in a dozen others tomorrow. We must find the culprits, the killers, and punish them."
Sadahige looked at him in surprise. "We're staying here?"
"I do not see much other choice," Ieshige confessed. "There is a beast in this place, Sadahige, a beast born of fear and dereliction of duty. Only the honor of Lions can restore peace to this place."
A mournful wail rose up from within the city's main building, echoing across the gray, quiet afternoon like the cry of an animal in pain. Ieshige looked away, pretending not to hear the sound, leaving Kusari to his grief.
The Crane Estates in Toshi Ranbo
Doji Seishiro sat quietly at a go table in the garden, his mind dwelling heavily on other things. Courtiers passed him with respectful nods of the head, but he hardly noticed. His polite nod in return was purely a reflex, nothing more. It was not until an attendant approached and bowed low, that he raised an eyebrow.
"Akodo Setai to see you, Seishiro-sama."
Seishiro nodded, and the attendant disappeared. Moments later, she reappeared with Setai in tow. The Lion nodded to the attendant, bowed to Seishiro, then took his place across the go board. Neither said anything for some time. Finally, it was Setai who broke the silence. "An interesting challenge for us, wouldn't you say?"
"A challenge, yes," Seishiro agreed. "Others are calling what Tekkan did an act of war."
"Not completely inappropriate," Setai said with a nod. "And certainly what it will become if you and I do not stop it from becoming so."
"So the Lion will withdraw?"
Setai smiled sadly. "You know they cannot. Taking a Crane city and relinquishing it immediately, only weeks after our new Champion assumes command? You know he could not do so unless he loses a tremendous amount of face, forever weakening his position with the other clans." He shook his head. "Further, if the reports are to be believed there are other complications in Hitsu Taekeru. The Rain of Blood may have planted the seeds of revolution there, and they must be dealt with. How ironic that Tekkan used the duty of the Lion as an excuse to take your village, and now that same duty compels us to remain."
"There are many within the Crane who will not see this as a noble effort to maintain peace," Seishiro said with a sigh. "They will see it as Tekkan intended. As an invasion. In a matter of hours, you and I will be enemies, as we were before we ever met." Seishiro's tone was one of resignation.
"That may well be our fate one day," Setai agreed, "but it will not be today."
Seishiro frowned. "You have a suggestion? Because I cannot think of anything."
"I have considered it," Setai admitted. "Perhaps we might rely upon an unusual political tactic in this case."
"And what is that?"
The Crane accepted it with a wry smile and glanced over its contents. "The truth," he echoed. "You truly are a strange man, my friend. What makes you think Kurohito will be swayed?"
"Because Kurohito remembers the War of Spirits," Setai said. "He remembers the last time the Empire truly warred with itself. He is a proud man, but he will not let that pride bring greater harm to Rokugan or to your clan."
"So you hope," Seishiro said.
"If I must gamble upon the honor of samurai, then so be it," Setai said. "The day I can no longer do so, I no longer wish to be samurai."
Ieshige finished reading the scroll, then carefully folded it and handed it over to Kusari. The older Lion had just returned from his patrols, and still wore his helmet and full armor. "Setai never fails to find an interesting solution," he said after a moment's consideration. "It seems you will be overseeing the administration of this village temporarily."
Kusari looked at him curiously, then unrolled the scroll and read. "What& this doesn't make any sense."
"I don't see why not," Ieshige said with a shrug. "It saves face for everyone involved."
"How?" Kusari asked, eyes wide with fear and surprise. Ieshige found with some sadness that the boy's once unflappable serenity was now just a memory.
Ieshige took a bite from the rice ball he had been shifting from one hand to the other. "The Lion cannot appear to have taken a city from their allies for no reason. The Crane cannot appear to have permitted that to occur. We cannot publicly admit the peasant unrest that brews here without inviting more. Now, it will appear as though the Lion moved a force into Hitsu Taekeru as a favor to the Crane, and as part of a political marriage. You will oversee the village on behalf of both clans until such time as your wedding, when the Crane will offer the city to the Lion as a gift."
"Marriage." Kusari stared at the scroll with a mixture of disgust and disbelief. "I just buried my betrothed. Am I to love another?"
"Kusari," Ieshige said sternly, "do not let your personal feelings interfere with what is needed for both Lion and Crane to survive."
The young man looked at Ieshige for a long moment, then bowed his head. "You are right, sama," he whispered. "It is not what she would have wanted. Yet how can this be? The Crane would give the Lion a city in return for me?"
"This is no ordinary wedding," Ieshige replied. "You will marry into the Doji house and become husband to Domotai, daughter of Kurohito, future Champion of the Crane Clan."
Kusari's eyes widened, stunned. "Hai, sama," he said. "If such is my destiny then I will embrace it." Ieshige could see that Kusari was visibly shaking now, but stood strong. His grief must be terrible, but he did not intend to fail the city or his clan. Ieshige envied the young Ikoma's strength.
"In the meantime, it falls you to calm the boiling blood of the peasants who dwell in this village," Ieshige said.
"Me?" Kusari asked. "Will you not be here?"
"No," Ieshige replied. "I cannot remain."
With that, Ieshige turned and left, saying no more. He made his way outside, toward his horse. He sensed Kusari's confusion and outrage. In time, they would become anger, perhaps hatred. That was regrettable. Ieshige doubted he would be welcome among the houses of the Lion for much longer.
Yet what must be, must be.
Since the fires in Toshi Ranbo something had haunted his dreams. Some dark specter, whispering in his ear. When he arrived in the village, it had fallen silent. He had known rest once more. He thought, perhaps, that he was free. Now he realized the truth. Whatever it was that sought to control him was at rest because it wanted him here, and if he remained the Lion would suffer. Then again, perhaps it wished him to do what he did now, abandon his clan in their time of need.
No. Perhaps he had failed, but Kusari would not. The boy was too strong.
In the meantime, he must seek the truth, seek the peace within himself. Ieshige climbed into the saddle and removed his helmet, running one hand over his freshly shaven scalp. He turned and looked over his shoulder, toward the looming northern horizon.
There was still time. He could still return to the Lion.
But he could find no truth among them.
With a heavy sigh, Ieshige tugged the reins and kicked his horse into movement, galloping down the road toward the mysterious lands of the Dragon Clan.
Koji the carpenter watched the Lion ride away with a thoughtful expression, then set down his hammer and made his way through the ordered city streets. He stopped at a particular house and, glancing to make sure no samurai were nearby, slid open the door and stepped inside. A broad-shouldered man with long white hair knelt in the center of the chamber, meditating over a scroll laid out on the floor before him. Koji did not understand the symbols he saw there, but then Koji had never learned to read. The man looked up calmly, seeming to expect the carpenter's arrival.
"It seems the Lion plan to remain," Koji said. He did not bow or offer any honorary title, though his voice was filled with deep respect and deference.
"Extraordinary," the man said, "and Ieshige?"
"He rode north," Koji said. "His head was shaven, like a monk's."
"His leash was always too long," the man replied, "but then my master's plans often defeat themselves in such a way."
"What must we do?" Koji asked. "The killings have not turned the Lion Clan away."
"No," the man mused, "they have not. Yet I sense they have served a greater purpose. The importance of this place is building. This village will give birth to change, Koji-san. Much blood and violence will be born here."
"The blood of samurai?" Koji asked fiercely.
"Yes, Koji," the man said with an amused chuckled. "The blood of many samurai. With fortune, perhaps you and your brothers won't even need to risk yourselves killing them again. They will kill one another for us."
"I hope you are right," Koji said. "This city will not bow to samurai again. They are only men, and they are flawed."
"Your wisdom is greater than you realize, Koji," the man said. "Now leave me. I have helped you work toward your freedom, now you must give me peace so I can work toward mine. I have much to orchestrate beyond the future of your humble city, my friend, and time is growing short."
"Of course, Yajinden-san," Koji said, stepping back to the door, "I will leave you to your work."