A STORY OF THE DIAMOND EMPIRE
BY Aaron Medwin
"Kid, you sure your dad'll be OK?" A Senpet voice.
"Of course. He's a Crab." A relative... yes, it was Matsuro. Consciousness flooded back to Yasuki Punu.
"Didn't seem that way to me."
"He's not a warrior. I'm the warrior in the family now."
"Mother's dead. An oni got her."
"Oh, sorry." A pause. "Neat gun you've got there."
"Yasuki .33 holdout pistol. With Naga pearl ammo. Three shots of this, and most Oni won't have the brain cells to scrape together to know what hit 'em."
"Oni have actual brains?"
"I think so. I know some do."
"Well, it's a good plan, kid. Destroy evil stuff. Got any more of that ammo?"
"No. I need all of it to defend my dad."
"He's lucky. You're a good shot with that thing. Got me twice, right here."
Punu's eyes fluttered open as he regained consciousness. The motion around them, he was in a car of some sort. Soldiers... it was a troop transport. He was lying on a fold-away bed, and Matsuro and the Senpet, Asoth Hotep were sitting on either side of him. He sighed. This would be a long war. He wondered with a pang if he would ever see his village again.
"Dad, Asoth has been showing me all sorts of neat Senpet weapons. There was this one gun, mounted above the driver's seat, it can fire a thousand times per minute! Wouldn't it be cool if the pearl ammo could be used with it?"
Holding up a hand to silence his over-enthusiastic son, he asked "Where's Shiniko?"
"She's fine." He pointed to her, almost comical sleeping form, draped across the laps of two of the biggest soldiers he had ever seen.
"Fine." He looked at the Senpet. "Sergeant, where are we going?"
"Yasuki-sama, we're taking you to our base of operations, just on the other side of the Twilight Mountains. From there, you can get just about anywhere you want to go."
"The Twilight Mountains? Is the war going-" Punu was surprised, and began to panic.
"I'm afraid so." The Senpet frowned. "Those demons are giving us quite a run for our money."
Matsuro blurted, "Then take me with you! I can fight them!"
"Absolutely not, young man. This war doesn't change the fact that you are still my son, and you have not yet passed your gempukku. You are staying with me, young man." Punu didn't want to lose another member of his family.
"Kid, you should listen to your father. He's right," Hotep said.
"Asoth, please, let me speak to my father privately." Matsuro sounded almost adult. Hotep got up, and went to the passenger seat in the cab. "Dad, this is a war. This is the biggest thing to happen in five hundred years! I'm a Crab. I'm a Crab *warrior*."
"Not yet you're not."
Ignoring his father, Matsuro continued "I can trace my bloodline all the way back to Hida Yasamura. That's a lot of ancestors telling me that I can't stay on the side. My enemy is out there, and it's my job to protect Rokugan from it. Nineteen hundred years of Hida blood is telling me that when push comes to shove, I need to go out and fight. I am a Hida, father, regardless of my family name. 'Twenty million drown in blood if I am weak.' Well, that was a thousand years ago. Now, it's closer to two hundred million. Would you stop me from defending them, of upholding my ancestral duty?" He glared at his father with the glare he learned from his mother.
And, for just a moment, Punu saw his beloved in her son's eyes. "Son..."
"I need to do this, father. I will do this, even if you forbid me."
"Son..." Punu tried again.
"Mother would have let me."
"Son, you will go." Matsuro smiled, a wide smile, and grabbed his gun. "But, never forget that your father is a Yasuki. I'll not have you go off to war with a holdout pistol and no armor."
YogoTech was a large company situated in a seven building complex just a few miles south of Shiro Yogo. In the past two years, it had grown from a small producer of radios to a large corporation. The discovery that spurred on this growth was an Isawa development called "tetsukami", literally, iron spirits. The combination of magic and technology allowed powerful results to be developed at relatively cheap cost. The Isawa had toyed with it for a while, but the Yogo realized its commercial potential and began to mass market the easily constructed devices.
One of the geniuses behind the recent advances was a man named Yogo Hacharui, a middle aged man who had studied at the Isawa shugenja-ryu. He had no aims of riches, power, and fame, but it was thrust upon him, and he wore the mantle well.
He did not get many visitors, in fact, he didn't see many people at all, save his apprentice, the lovely Iuchi Arumiko. So when he heard there was a man wishing to see him, he was surprised.
He opened the door to greet his guest, and was taken aback momentarily when he saw his old business partner Yasuki Punu.
"Punu-san," Hacharui bowed. "I am honored by your presence."
Punu bowed in return. "Hacharui-san, it is good to see you again."
"Likewise." Turning to his apprentice, Arumiko, he said "Arumiko, excuse me while I speak to my old friend Punu-san." She nodded silently, and left the room through the back door into the laboratory.
"I'm afraid I haven't come to exchange pleasantries, Hacharui-san. I need the finest weapons and armor that you have." Concise. That was how you dealt with a corporate man.
Hacharui frowned, "Punu, you know I don't make those things." He motioned for Punu to take a seat, and he did. The two sat, facing each other.
"The Scorpion military has prospered, Hacharui, from the tetsukami. Your clan's armies rival the Unicorn, because each of your men are equipped with enough devices to destroy a small village. Alone." Punu stared directly into the eyes of the Scorpion. "You can deny things to other people, but I know how brilliant you are; you must have taken part in the design."
"Many of us did, Punu. I can't-"
"You can get me one suit of armor and enough equipment and weapons for one trooper for three months."
Hacharui eyed the man in front of him. Punu wasn't a young man, but he wasn't old, though he didn't have the stamina to fight a prolonged battle, let alone struggle through the rigors of war. "No. I won't help you kill yourself in that manner." A calculated insult.
Punu's eyes narrowed. "The equipment is for my son. He is going to fight the demons who killed his mother. With or without your help. And I promise... I can pay enough to make it worthwhile."
"I know you can."
"Then what is the problem? Procure the items!"
"I can't do that on short notice. Give me five days."
"In four days, the legion my son is part of is leaving. He must have that equipment before then."
Hacharui sighed. Punu saw his opportunity, and pressed on. "I'll consider this... full repayment."
Hacharui arched an eyebrow. "Then, old friend, you have yourself a deal. Assuming, of course, our friend Kurichiki, allows it."
"He'll agree. I know how to talk to him."
"No. I don't agree." Kurichiki's tone was matter of fact.
"Daidoji-sama, this is a very important matter. My son's life is at stake here." Punu knew this was not how things were supposed to go. He had called the Supervisor a few hours before, and his call had finally been returned. They hadn't even been talking five minutes when Kurichiki refused the transaction.
"I really don't care. I won't allow you to spend your family's money in this selfish way. War effort or no, this is inefficient." Kurichiki said. "I'm trying to be reasonable, here, but you're not helping."
"Do you have a son?"
"I'm not going to allow you to spend so much on one soldier. As his father, you are especially unqualified to make such decisions."
"Do you have a son?" Punu grew more insistent.
Kurichiki sighed. This Yasuki was growing annoying by the minute. "No. My wife and I have not been blessed with children."
"Then you really have no idea what I'm talking about. I have been through hell and back, losing my home, my village, my lands... my wife... and I will most certainly not lose my son, too. You will allow this transaction." Punu knew he had no real hold over the Daidoji, but he had to try.
"Governor Yasuki Punu, your request is accepted." Kurichiki spoke quickly and softy.
"What?" Punu said.
"I just called him up, and I've been reviewing your finances of the past four years. You turned quite a profit, and the difference between your village, and the next most productive one of that size is easily enough to pay for your 'indiscretion' in this matter." Kurichiki lied, it was not true, but he knew what the troubled man would want to hear. He wanted to hear that he was good at his job, so he would be able to return to it before the other displaced refugees. He wanted to hear that someone higher than him approved. He wanted to hear that his son would be properly equipped. Besides, the costs of the armor and weaponry was marginal.
"Kurichiki-sama, I thank you." Punu was partially stunned, but managed to speak the words he should.
"Then good day, Punu-san. I have other work to do. Try not to require special attention in the future."
She dreamed a pleasant dream. Born into a high ranking Shiba family, and put through the most mentally exhaustive training the Empire had to offer, she didn't dream often. Nor were they often pleasing dreams. This one, however was. She dreamt she was still a little girl, and she was playing with Daddy. Daddy didn't always do much with her, but in her dream, she had his full attention, and reveled in every moment. He didn't even talk to the Invisible Voices. Suddenly, the haze of dream parted, and she realized that he never stopped talking to them. He never paid attention to her. And then she awoke.
She was an adult, and she was the Captain of the Shiba House Guard. And she didn't need 'Daddy'.
The phone by the side of her bed rang, and as she sat up to answer it, she glanced at the clock. The hour of the fallen kami, Fu Leng had just begun - far too early for her to be summoned except in cases of extreme emergency.
She grabbed the phone. "Konyo."
"Captain-sama, there is a situation. The Shadowlands have invaded Kyuden Isawa."
She was out the door in less than a minute, fully armed and armored.
Arriving in the barracks of her men, she began barking out orders. "The Shadowlands have hit us, yes, even from this distance. It's time to strike them hard and fast. Greenstone ammo, save the jade for later, but keep it handy just in case. Three team formation. Chiru, Jobu, you're team leaders, I'll take the first. Once you're in, evacuate anybody you can. We're expecting backup from the Council, but Takige's not there, so they won't be doing any rituals." She rolled out a map of the kyuden, and pointed to other entrance points. "Chiru, take your team, clear out the sewers. Jobu, you and your squad go through the back entrance. We'll converge at the Council chambers, and go from there. Any questions?" Silence. A quick look around the room told her that her men were the best she could ask for.
"Minimal casualties, Shiba. We've got a long war ahead of us, and I don't want to lose any of us. We'll be going into combat a lot more, soon enough." Konyo nodded to her men, who all bowed to her in salute. She knew they would follow her to the heart of Jigoku if she asked them to. Especially when the job was to protect the Isawa, and the Council. The Shiba never forgot the Kami's Oath.
"We're going through the Resurrection in twenty minutes. Dismissed." The Shiba Resurrection was a great archway, based on ancient Unicorn magics, that allowed instantaneous, one way travel, to anywhere in the world. Using it was costly, and it was not an easy artifact to use, but it worked. In emergencies, sometimes the cost was never too high.
Punu saw his son leave with the Senpet, and returned to the small home he and his daughter Shiniko occupied, since the invasion of their lands and destruction of their home.
Shiniko was lying in on her futon, on her side. Her breathing was steady, and she looked so peaceful. He did not disturb her as he walked to the table and poured some tea. He took the cup of tea, and walked to his daughter's side. He sat down, and looked around at his new dwelling.
The house wasn't old, but it was built in the old style that had never really gone out of fashion. Even though the rice paper walls were substituted with thin plastic, and the wood was chemically treated to not burn as quickly, and the lanterns were electric, but the atmosphere was the same as it had been for nineteen centuries. He breathed in some steam from the tea and sighed.
Shiniko coughed, and sat up.
"Daddy?" She didn't open her eyes much, but she craned her head to face her father.
"Yes?" He put his tea down, and his arms around her.
"I don't feel good. My tummy hurts," she pouted.
"You're fine, Shini-chan. You're probably just missing your mother." He slowly rocked her. "Let me tell you a little story, you'll feel better."
Her face brightened. She loved Daddy's stories.
"Once, there was a clever samurai named Wushu. Wushu served the Great Carp, a kami of Umi Amaterasu, which was not that big, back in those days. Now, it just so happened that one day, Wushu, on his quest to aid his lord kami, found a small stream that did not move. He asked the stream's kami, 'What is wrong? Why aren't you moving?' Do you know what the stream told him?"
Shiniko shook her head.
"The stream told him that he was lonely. He was a very small stream, you see, and had nobody to flow to. Wushu nodded. He sympathized with the poor stream, but could do nothing to help. So he continued to walk. He came upon a great big rock. This was a big, big rock. It couldn't move, and it was very thirsty. So when Wushu talked to the rock, it refused to answer, because it's mouth was so very dry. So Wushu kept walking. He walked up a large hill, and when he got to the top, he saw a little pebble. The pebble was crying, because it couldn't do anything. It was small and useless, it thought. Wushu thought for a minute, and told the pebble his plan. He would use the pebble to start an avalanche, that would push the big rock into the stream, and push the water flow into the Umi. The pebble agreed, so it could help. Wushu threw the pebble, and it caught other pebbles on the way down. The pebble and it's friends kept going down the hill, and met their bigger friends, who joined them. The bigger friends met even bigger friends, and way down at the bottom of the hill, the big rock saw the pebbles of various sizes coming. They pushed him into the stream, and he took a deep drink. He was really thirsty, after all. The stream flowed around him, and all the way to the Umi. The Umi got bigger, and the Great Carp was very, very happy. Do you know what the story means?"
"Everyone can be useful, even the littlest pebble." He jostled her hair. "You'll be fine, Shiniko, you'll grow up to be a clever woman who can help me."
"Okay Daddy. I'm tired now, so I better sleep so I can help you later." She sounded so grown up.
She lay down on her futon, and drifted back to sleep. Punu knew that she was sick, though. He could feel her forehead, and knew she had a fever. He would find a doctor in the morning.
He went to sleep, thinking of who he could get to help Shiniko.
"Uhh.. captain, there's nothing amiss here." Three units of the Shiba House Guard stood in the courtyard of Kyuden Isawa. They looked around, puzzled. The call for help had been confirmed, and yet, the castle still stood.
"Keep an eye on things here. Don't let down your guard, I'll go find out-" Konyo halted as she saw the Master of Air, Isawa Takige walking towards her. He walked towards her quickly, without the airs of Isawa dominance that typified Isawa/Shiba relations. Still, he had an elegance to him that seemed almost second nature, even in urgency he seemed to radiate a calming influence.
She stood in front of the shugenja, and kneeled. "We... we were told there was a Shadowlands incursion here, Sama."
Takige nodded. "Konyo-san. It is good to see you again." He wished that, just once, he could meet her under pleasant circumstances. Perhaps, he could talk to her, and maybe... no. No distractions. "The other Masters are keeping it from growing. It seems to be a tear in space... and we can't seem to destroy it. We figured you guys could help, destroy what it spews out while the Council figures out how to close it. We, well, we need Hokori for the research, he knows the Shadowlands better than any of us, and he's the only one who can inhibit the rift." He pointed to a place on the outer walls, where a faint glow could be seen.
She stood, and nodded to the Master. Turning to her troops, "You heard the Master. Get up there, now!"
They didn't wait for her to finish speaking before they started running to the stairway that would lead them to the walls.
She turned to move, but Takige's hand on her arm stopped her. She turned to look at him, but he waved his hand, and suddenly, they were on the wall, beside the Master of Earth and small hole in the world. "There are faster ways than feet, Captain." She only grunted in acknowledgment.
Isawa Hokori, the middle-aged, potbellied Master of Earth was standing there, holding the tear from growing. It was significant effort, and it showed on the tensai's face. The hole wasn't large, less than a foot long, but it was the color of deep fog, and unnerved the three Phoenix.
Konyo glanced behind her. The Guard would be here in a second, and there was no way of knowing what they were about to be facing.
"Konyo...chan." Hokori said through gritted teeth. The strain of holding it back was showing on his face, and his entire body trembled with the effort of resisting Jigoku's advances.
The battle was not going well. Tsuke stood on the parapets of Kyuden Isawa, and laughed. Fires most unholy streaked from his hands as they flew to the libraries down below. Destruction of this power... of this scale... Jigoku was amused.
Konyo was startled. What was happening? Tsuke? That was almost a millennium ago, why was she thinking of that now? How was she thinking of an event she never saw? Then she realized. Jigoku must be feeding her this image through the rift.
"Ready weapons!" she called, and thirty enchanted pistols were aimed directly at the rift.
She nodded to Hokori, and he dropped his concentration, and turned to run between the bushi, to safety. As soon as Hokori let his concentration slip, however, the rift exploded to be the size of a horse, and tentacles of inky darkness reached out from the tear in space, and dragged Hokori and Konyo in to it.
The Shiba House Guard fired, but to no avail, the portal closed, and Hokori and Konyo were gone.
As Tsuke's fires burned the Isawa Libraries, he noticed a small hole open. His destruction caused Jigoku to keep a watch on the palace, and someday, this dark legacy would haunt the Phoenix again. More destruction. Tsuke cackled, and kept throwing his dark fires.
"'As the Akasha decided, as the humans watched. As the Bright Eye and the Pale saw their children of the People and the Humans unite, so was the Pact born. No Naga shall slay a human, no human shall cause a Naga's death. The Asp saw this, and were pleased to have an ally. The secrets of the pearls shall stay as the province of the Naga alone, and the Cobra gave their blessings. The histories of all shall be shared, and this pleased the Constrictor. The places of the seas and the human paths of the waters would be respected by the other race, and the Chameleon rejoiced. The Greensnakes saw this, and required only one thing from the humans.
The five Bloodlines made their pact with only the Crab, but over time, all humans shared the alliance with the Naga. Both races benefited, though there were hardships involved. The Foul remained a constant threat, and the People ever struggled against it. The Nezumi, even, were grudgingly accepted by the People, and they solemnly promised to never eat another ratling.
That is the past, Akasha, and I remember it well, for I am required to do so." The Olyah, the keeper of what was, the historian of the Naga stepped down from the dais in the center of the tower.
A Constrictor approached the dais, and the Akasha greeted him. "I am the Malekish, and I have seen the future, and there is much to say.
An enemy long dormant, perhaps the Darkness Between Stars itself arises soon. I have seen the sky darken and the oceans boil, and the seas running red with blood. War comes soon. I have seen the death of huge flocks of birds, such as the Asp keep for food. A sign of famine, I believe it is. Last night, I saw two stars align, the ones the Humans call the Weaver and the Kappa, and that portents a rise of the Foul. These signs are too soon, the stars too close together. I saw a demon grinning at me from the heavens where it is trapped. It seeks escape, and I fear that it may receive it. There will be darkness, and there will be pain. I saw light, though. I saw a being of the Foul destroying the Foul. The cost will be high, and some will seek to prevent it."
The Akasha murmured. The humans had tales of this, their 'Amoro' had done so.
Malekish continued, "There is a false hope, that will lead the humans astray. They will be blinded by prophecy and portents, and unable to see truth. When the vision came upon me, I was, for the first time, frightened. 'This is what will be, but it is not what should be,' I cried, but the visions grew more intense, and I saw nothing but darkness unending. 'Prophecy cannot betray,' I claimed, but no more. I fear that these visions cannot be trusted."
That doubt and fear rippled through the Akasha.
"I saw all those things, whether they be or no, and what frightens me the most is that I feel a dark presence in the Akasha. One of our own... there is an evil in the Akasha, and it seeks to harm us."
The Malekish, finished speaking to the Akasha, waited, as the minds of Naga everywhere processed the information.
The response was to him, and to him alone.
"The Vedics seek you. Journey at once. They can tell you some of what you saw, for they caused the darkness you feel in the Akasha."
He had a nice shiny-shiny new car, and he had his window down, driving well above the speed limit. He had good music playing on the radio, and the wind was blowing his fur. He felt like a Doji actor in a car commercial.
He wasn't a Doji, though, and this was no car commercial. He was a Fuzake, and the Oni-Oni be damned. Even though it destroyed his poor tools, he wouldn't let it get his car. It was Nez's pride and joy. It was running smoothly, even the windshield wipers were working perfectly. He had to get this car to the Wall, so he could be safe, and so his car could be safe.
In the distance, he saw a corpse rise up from the ground. It wasn't too-too far off the road, so he slammed on the gas, and aimed his car at the undead thing. The impact tore the creature in half, and didn't even dent the car. He got back on the road, and kept driving. It was good to be a Fuzake. You got all the good toys.
After another hour, the Wall loomed over him. He drove right up and came to a halt on a large metal plate. A loud, booming voice called out over a megaphone "IDENTIFY YOURSELF IMMEDIATELY."
"Fuzake Nez. Fuzake Autoshops, designer."
Nez saw a head poke over the Wall's edge to look down at him. He stuck his head out the window, and craned his neck up to look at the guard.
Nez heard him mutter, "damned ratling.", and then, to another person on the Wall, "Let it in." Turning back to look down at Nez, "REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE. ATTEMPTING SUDDEN MOVES WILL CAUSE YOU TO BE FIRED UPON WITHOUT WARNING. STAY INSIDE YOUR VEHICLE."
He droned on more, the man-man was doing his job when he gave strict instructions to the Nezumi. Eventually, he stopped, and the plate the car rested on sunk into the ground, and as he was lowered, another slid into place.
The plate came to rest in a large underground cavern, hollowed out by Kaiu engineers decades ago when the automobile first reached Rokugan. They were a gaijin thing, originally, but the Emperor was so enamored of the machines, he requested one, and within three years, every clan had several. In a decade, they were commonplace, and large highways were built, at great cost, to allow the use of the car across the Empire.
There was a debate about the Wall, though. Some argued that it should be dismantled to allow for more efficient highways, but the Crab would hear nothing of the sort. "The fastest vehicle is nothing compared to the speed the Oni strike with. If there is no Wall, there will be no Rokugan." The Crab received sanctions for years, but they refused to destroy the imposing structure. Eventually, a compromise was reached - one car at a time could pass through the intricate tunnel system one of the Kaiu devised. It was not efficient, but it allowed movement, and nobody truly wanted to argue with the Crab.
The plate Nez's car sat on finally reached the bottom. Three tunnels lay ahead of him, and he drove through the central tunnel, to reach the other side of the Wall. He passed through a tunnel of light, shone through pure jade, and another of crystal, and he eventually came to a stop in a small chamber, on another plate, this one to take him to the surface.
He thought he heard a sound. "Did you hear that-that?" he said, to nobody in particular. There was nobody around him, but he heard another loud thump. "Very-very bad." He pulled out a pistol from the glove compartment, and made sure it was loaded. It was, but it wasn't greenstone ammunition. "Oh, crap-crap."
As he checked his gun, part of the ceiling came down, and when the dust settled, he heard moaning all around him. Scores of corpses lay strewn about the chamber, fallen from above. Some of them got up, and began to shuffle towards him.
He opened fire, and hoped the zombies would be finished before his ammunition was.
"Ujimitsu, not like Ujimitsu!" Shiba Nakira, the Phoenix Clan Champion, awoke and sat up quickly. He opened his eyes to a room that was not his, that he had never seen before. It was entirely white, save a large pink Shiba mon on one wall. The walls seemed to be padded, and the door appeared to be solid steel. The Soul awoke soon after, flooding Nakira's mind.
I am Shiba Busurugo, student of Ikoma. I once woke up in a room that was not mine. It belonged to a bog hag, and I followed my sensei's teachings and made her flee... but my insanity was not as great as yours, Nakira.
I am Shiba Kowan, thief and Champion. I was a master criminal before I became Champion, and no door was locked to me. You, Nakira, are willing to listen to what I have to say? Then you will escape. Summon Ofushikai, and use it to cut the door.
In an instant, Ofushikai appeared in his hands. He leaped forward, and raised the ancestral sword of his clan to strike at the door imprisoning him.
I am Shiba Toriiko. I refused to lift a sword even to fight an enemy. I prevented the deaths of countless thousands, and though it cost me my life, I do not regret my actions. Nakira, do not do this. Do not raise your own sword against your own clan.
He dropped the sword, and sank to his knees, clutching his head. "Shiba, the voices! Silence the voices!"
And they were still.
He wasn't sure if it was his imagination, or his soul speaking next.
I am Shiba. Twin to Bayushi, brother to Hantei, friend to Asako, and defender of Isawa. You are my son, as all of you are...
Nakira screamed at the top of his lungs. Shiba himself had never spoken before, and the agony of his words(or were they Nakira's words given shape and soul?) was intense.
...yet student, as well. Learn, my sons and daughters, learn from those that are below you, for the common man's wisdom is sometimes greater than the wisest kami. Shinsei, was a common man.
When Shiba finished, Nakira's breath of screams was spent, and he collapsed onto the padded floor. Drained of energy, he lay silent, staring straight ahead of him to the door painted with white. Ofushikai's light reflected onto his face, into his eyes, but he did not mind. He lay there, letting the Void pass through his mind, his soul silent, for a change. After a while, he drifted to sleep again, only one thought going through the mind of the Champion of the most magically gifted clan..
This is a comfortable floor.
Outside the room, through the wall, two people watched him with the power of the air spirits.
"Doctor Kinobe?" asked the nurse.
"Mmm. It is unfortunate. Nakira-sama has never been a well man, but it seems that the stress of the coming war has... unhinged him. He doesn't seem to be able to identify reality anymore." Asako Kinobe spoke in a monotone. "I'm going to recommend he be placed under full observation. I think I need to talk to the Council."
The Festering Pit of Fu Leng.
Created by the falling of the sixth son of Heaven, during the Kami's Fall. From there, Fu Leng created the Shadowlands, and the Oni, goblins, ogres, and the source of all Taint.
It was also the home of the dread Oni Lord, Akuma.
"My spawn, it iss time to begin our full attacks. The Crabs that stood in our way are being beaten back by my legions, and the path is laid clear for our attack!" Akuma's voice was deep, and powerful. It resonated within every being in the Pit. None dared speak, for fear or annhilation. "Kyosso... has already left to deal with the Crab remnants. Shikibu... go and destroy the Emperor himself... without him, the huumans will fall quickly, without leaderss... ...Tsuburu... go to the mountains of the coward's clan, and destroy their food supply... their endless supply... while I... ...I ssensse something... Go, and destroy the clan of the Dragon, Tsuburu... or you will not feassst ever again..."
Kyoso bowed, turned and left, a mockery of polite Rokugani custom. Shikibu simply left, and Tsuburu vanished.
The other Oni Lords gone, one lone creature approached the Overlord. He was a Naga, but an abomination who desired to embrace the Taint into himself. A curious being, and one with a dark soul, with a past life he could not fully recall. However, he served Akuma now, and that was his largest concern.
"Kaashraak... dear Naaga... what is it you wish of me? Skeletal legions to attaack your folk? Undead zombies of your people's corpses, to frighten them?"
Kashrak hesitated. If the Oni Lord was generous, accepting them might only obliterate him. If Akuma was not feeling generous... Kashrak shuddered at that thought. "Lord Akuma, it is nothing of that nature. I merely wished to tell you that there is... something happening in Otosan-Uchi. Something that may interest you."
Akuma sniffed, and extended his three tongues. "Yesss... Naga, you will prove useful yet. There iss an ally being forged... by a man I know all too well..."
Shamar whistled as he locked the door to his store. As he walked down the sidewalk that would take him to his home, he thought of the irony of his situation. Almost six hundred years ago, the Wrath of Beyond forced hundreds of thousands of Rokugani to the Burning Sands as refugees, and his people took them in, and protected them until it was safe to return. Now he was in Rokugan during a war that threatened to destroy the entire Empire, and he was not being treated as anything more than the second class citizen he had been for thirteen years. He shrugged. Rokugani were always xenophobic. If it weren't his life on the line, he'd find it funny.
As it was, he was sorely tempted to return home, and tell the tale of his life to the Living Memory. It was a Ra'Shari custom he had been 'forgetting' for years.
"Going somewhere, gypsy?" A thug. They had been accosting him daily for the money he had stopped carrying.
He turned around, and looked into the eyes of the bully. The bully was a small man by Ra'Shari standards, but average height for a Rokugani. He was thin, with wiry muscles that indicated a life on the streets - without enough food, and getting into fights often. He had his weight on his back foot, as if he were ready to run at the first hint of trouble. Perhaps this bully would not be too difficult to dispatch. He seemed cowardly as it was.
Shamar fell into a battle stance. The bully saw the training of the gypsy, and decided to pick an easier mark. He fled.
Chuckling to himself, the gypsy continued to walk home. Another day, another memory. Memory... perhaps he would go see the Living Memory. Any reason to leave a war zone, he supposed.
In an alley a block away from his home, he heard something move in the alley. The bullies would keep coming until they learned the truth of the gypsy's prowess. Drawing a pendant from under his shirt, he clutched the star in his hands. The family heirloom let him draw confidence, something he needed at the moment.
Unafraid, he entered the alley.
"Ganwu? Honzo? Come out and face me, once and for all! I'm tired of your games!"
But it was not Honzo or Ganwu who emerged, and darkness descended.