Prelude: Gensai

The Emerald Empire of Rokugan. It is a land upheld by honor, guided by fate, ruled by destiny. The Great Clans each support the Emperor, but inter-clan conflict is inevitable—both in the Emperor’s courts and on the battlefield. In the midst of danger and turmoil, honor must be your sword and your armor.

It is an era of sudden change and upheaval in the Emerald Empire. Mortal schemes, elemental imbalances, and celestial turmoil have disrupted the political, military, and spiritual equilibrium of Rokugan. Long-simmering rivalries and fresh betrayals ripple through the courts and on the battlefield. The Chrysanthemum Throne is beset by threats from without and within, and the honor of the seven Great Clans shall be put to the test.
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Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Thu Jun 20, 2019 1:57 pm

Image "Dig the well before you are thirsty." - The Tao of Shinsei

The Emerald Empire of Rokugan. It is a land upheld by honor, guided by fate, ruled by destiny. The Great Clans each support the Emperor, but inter-clan conflict is inevitable—both in the Emperor’s courts and on the battlefield. In the midst of danger and turmoil, honor must be your sword and your armor.

From the Shadowlands in the south to the Burning Sands in the north, from the Twilight Mountains in the west to the Islands of Spice and Silk in the east, Rokugan, the Emerald Empire, has stood for over one thousand years thanks to the seven Great Clans who serve the Emperor. As guardians and politicians, each clan fulfills their role in society and are as varied as they are powerful. But all are bound by the same code of honor, the way of the warrior, the code of Bushido. Honor is valued above all else, and a misspoken remark can be just as fatal as an enemy’s blade.
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Kōnotori Mura : White Stork Village

Just another farming and fishing village in the southern Crane lands, Kōnotori Mura, is a pleasant, if not simple, place to be. The village is pleasantly arranged, each house placed just so by a Crane civil planner, as if it was a a piece of ikebana, the Rokugani art of flower arranging. Peasants work the rice fields that spread out around the village for many li. They work with vigor and songs on their lips that help them to keep time as they plant and harvest throughout their lives. The village has a small wharf area with a few floating docks, fishing boats, and a thriving beach side community of fisher folks.

White Stork Village takes its name from the many white storks that migrate through each summer from their breeding grounds in the nearby Uebi Marshes to the west on their way to the south east Isles of Spice and Silk. There among the so called Mantis Clan the storks winter. A large garden, placed just so among the arrangement, is set to invite the storks with dogwoods and lilies. They say it is good fortune if a stork takes notice of you along its flight. The height of Crane fashion will often bear a feather from White Stork Village.

Three roads come into White Stork Village, each one leaving by a cardinal direction North, South or West. Travelers pass through the village daily on their way to other places. Only a rare few come here for the village itself. Some come to visit the garden when the storks are present, others to visit the small Shrine of the Sebun Ronin. All visitors end up at the Cresting Wave Sake House, the only such establishment in town where travelers can get a meal and room.

It is the Month of the Rooster, as the peasants view the calendar. Summer is fading, autumn is coming, the rains will start soon. The storks are nearing the end of their migration, yet many are still found in the garden and waters off the coast of Kōnotori Mura and so too are travelers. Tax season has begun as the rice harvest is starting. Many reasons have brought many souls to this small village, some may call it fate, or fortune, or kharma, whatever the purpose, small ripples have begun to spread across the surface of the water.
This is the second thread of the intro threads and will be for Gensai / Hermit please wait for another post from me before you join in.
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:09 pm

The journey has been long and winding from the cold north lands of Rokugan. All summer a solitary ronin has traveled the length of the Empire in search of something, what that something is even the ronin isn't sure. The great cities of Toshi Ranbo and Ryoko Owari Toshi did not hold the key to the search. Small villages in the Lion lands were lacking, towns along the Scorpion's mountain holdings were empty, and the wilds of the northern Crab lands were devoid of purpose or goal.

So it is that the man, known only as Gensai, is traveling east, toward the sea, with the whispers in his head that in a small town known for white crane, something he is looking for might be found there. Samurai and Monks alike have mentioned a shrine there where perhaps he might find that thing he's looking for, or at least figure out what it is he's looking for.

His load his light, his feet are soar, but his spirits are high. They call it the Shrine of the Sebun Ronin, the "Seven Samurai", erected some three centuries past in a small town known as Kōnotori Mura, White Stork Village. The sun is rising in the east, its rays, still warm as summer fades and fall begins, shine like a beacon in Gensai's heart. Something whispers in his ear that yes, this is the path he seeks. As he walks along the road the village comes into view, long morning shadows reach out toward him as the roof tops are ablaze with the suns rising light. A flock of white cranes swoops in from the north landing among a great garden there. Yet the Sebun Ronin he seeks is set just to the southwest of the center of town.

One foot in front of the others Gensai finishes the last leg of the trip into town...
Welcome Hermit to the game as our wandering ronin. A full description post is in order and away we go.
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Hermit » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:19 pm

Gensai raises a hand as if to shield his eyes from the shimmering glare cast by the roof tiles due to Lady Sun’s radiant dance. Instead he places the frayed straw hat held in said hand upon his shaggy uncombed head. Likewise steeped in the Goddess’s effulgence are the multitude of rice paddy fields arranged in tidy rows in shallow depressions both further inland and some only several yards away from the cliffs overlooking the shore. The lambency cast upon the pools and rice plants give the impression of massive oblong discs of gold beaded with dots of jade and emerald.

Such a breathtaking scene is not what has guided the young vagabond to this idyllic corner of the Empire however. His steady stride doesn't slow to appreciate the endless blue of the seascape stretching as far as the eye can see along the sun drenched eastern horizon, or the poetry in motion that was the migrant flocks of storks that the town owes its very name to gracefully dipping down briefly from their stately exodus into the inviting garden below to be marveled up close by nearby onlookers. They are presently, not unlike most things concerning the Crane, elegant pastimes that are tangential to the true reasons that bring this disheveled looking transient to their doorstep. At best the ronin idly entertains the notion of indulging in such diversions once his business here is concluded. His aching feet would be eternally grateful for the opportunity anyway.

His brisk pace bringing him within a stone’s throw of Kōnotori Mura, it doesn’t take long for Gensai to notice from behind the obscurity of his straw hat a familiar look that remains constant no matter where his journey carries him. It’s a furtive glance or more often in the case of samurai a slightly prolonged stare that runs through a gamut of thinly veiled emotions ranging from concern, to disdain, and in rare instances such as this place, hopeful gratitude. Gensai secretly cherishes the last one and does not begrudge the former two in the slightest. Standing head and shoulders above many and with a muscular body to match, the ronin is fully aware of his intimidating appearance.

With dusty and worn traveling clothes, a tattered straw hat, the massive shape of an Ono strapped tightly to his back by loops of hemp and coarse dark blue silk, and a lumpy beige furoshiki slung and held casually over his left shoulder, a passerby might offhandedly mistake him for a bandit chief. It is only upon closer inspection that one notices the daisho snugly secured by a creased belt at his hip, dissuading all but the most staunchly skeptical or naive of that assessment. Also of note are the pair of white crests that decorate Gensai’s otherwise drab haori in the distinctive shape of a bellflower.
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Once within the town proper the young wanderer pauses to observe his immediate surroundings. In particular his veiled gaze lingers over vendors and establishments, committing them to memory for the purpose of restocking supplies, potential clients in need of his services, and other basic amenities seldom found on the roads and untamed places. Satisfied with his appraisal, Gensai promptly resumes his journey to the Shrine of the "Seven Rōnin".
Last edited by Hermit on Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:47 pm

Image The village proper is simple, yet laid out in a fine pattern, a testament to the Crane skill at all things. He passes through the market square and notices a few places that might be of use later on. Proment among the small buildings is the Cresting Wave Inn, one of the few two story structures. A older man, a Yasuki by his family mon proudly displayed on his kimono exits the Inn and turns and heads toward the stork garden on the far side of the town, just behind him comes a younger man, another Crab Clan member, perhaps a relative by the look of him. The younger man stands and watches the older man for a time, unknown to the old man, then he turns and heads back inside.

Gensai takes note and then sets foot before foot and heads for the shrine he's heard is here. Nestled among a few building is a small clearing. A single cherry tree grows in the clearing next to a single lantern post. A very small pagoda rests in the middle of the shrine painted red with a green roof. The structure can't hold more than one or two people at a time. The small stairs lead up to a set of doors, inside the Shrine of the Sebun Ronin awaits.
Image Seated, cross-legged, on a nearby stone is a lone komusō monk. He wears a reed tengai hood on his head covering all his features. Across his lap lays the shakuhachi bamboo flute typical for his order. He makes no sign he's seen or heard Gensai's approach.
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"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Hermit » Tue Jun 25, 2019 8:43 pm

The transition from noisome market square to tranquil shrine grounds is unusually abrupt but no less welcome to Gensai. The past few months abroad have taught him to value the serenity commonly found in quiet places such as this. It is unsurprising then that his itinerary up to this point has included a myriad of other shrines and Brotherhood monasteries. This shrine bears little difference to the others he has visited before and yet something he cannot properly ascribe to has subtly guided him to this one in particular with what he can only assume to be some profound insight awaiting discovery at the end of this particular branch of his journey.

Gensai sees a water basin replete with several bamboo ladles delicately placed along its stony perimeter near the shrine entrance. Walking over to the basin, the shugyosha temporarily sets aside his straw hat to perform temizu* without obstruction. Reverently dispensing the water from the basin with one of the ladles imparts a rejuvenating sensation to his weathered arms and hands, and it takes some effort for the young ronin to abstain from quenching his parched throat instead of simply rinsing his mouth out as formality dictates.

Completing the ritual ablutions and placing his straw hat upon his head once again, Gensai steps into the sanctity of the shrine grounds and pauses to admire the lone cherry tree adjacent to a single lantern post. Eventually his sights wander along a flight of stairs to settle upon the pagoda most likely housing the shrine itself, noting the small donation box next to the door. So focused on the notable features of this place, the ronin almost overlooks the presence of the monk sitting cross-legged on a stone a few feet away.

Gensai briefly considers the figure from behind the visored slits of his straw hat. Neither wishing to disrupt the stillness of these sacred grounds or ignore the wandering monk, Gensai eventually decides on a compromise. Maintaining a respectful distance from what he approximates to be within the peripheral vision afforded by the monk’s tengai, he mutely inclines his head deeply towards the ascetic. Satisfied with the respectful gesture of acknowledgement, the shugyosha turns in the direction of the shrine once more and calmly walks up the steps.
*-Here's a link that provides a quick overview of Temizu and the formal steps taken to perform it properly: http://www.tsurugaoka-hachimangu.jp/manner/temizu.html
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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:50 pm

The shrine's reverence settles over Gensai as he takes his first steps and rituals onto the grounds. Piece by piece he nears the pagoda on soft feet. He reaches the monk and bows his head, to which the basket headed ascetic makes no response. So Gensai moves to the slatted doors and pulls them open on silent hinges. Inside is the shrine proper no large than a man's length; a simple piece sits there.

Its nothing more than a simple stone lantern, painted red. It is worn and weather beaten, suggesting it stood alone here for a few decades before the pagoda was built around it. At its base are small wooden bowls, some with offerings in them of incense, zeni, or paper ribbons scribbles with kanji. The lantern is set back against the later half of the space, allowing Gensi to to enter inside to stand before it. Seven silk ribbons, each one red as well, hang from the ceiling, written with a name: Kanbei, Gorōbei, Shichirōji, Kyūzō, Heihachi, Katsushirō, and Kikuchiyo.
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Hermit » Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:52 pm

Setting aside his hat on the ground, Gensai stands deferentially in front of the honden. Reaching within his furoshiki, the ronin produces a number of offerings from the bag to place in the bowls surrounding the base of the lantern. Among these items includes a pouch filled with salt, a miniature cask of Junmai Genshu* sake, a bamboo bento filled with seven omusubi**, and finally a roughly carved wooden statuette of the Little Teacher.

Having made his offerings, the shugyosha pauses to note the distinct lack of a suzu*** to attract the attention of the kami (or rather the spirits of the departed in this case) and theorizes its absence to symbolize their eternal vigilance over this village and its inhabitants. Setting aside the stray thought, Gensai proceeds to pray in rote fashion****, though midway through the motions it dawns on him that he is unsure what it is that he is praying for. Prosperity? Protection? Enlightenment? Suddenly the young ronin feels an invisible weight settle itself heavily upon his broad shoulders and discomfort creeping its way through his veins like ice water.

As unmoving as the red ishidoro in front of him, it is no small effort on the part of Gensai to not simply collapse from what he can only surmise to be the undivided attention of the band of Seven... that or more than likely a sense of foolishness for not having the forethought to consider what to pray for beforehand.
*- A type of sake made from pure rice wine with nothing added (Junmai), including water after it's brewed (Genshu).

**- A word for rice balls. They're also known more popularly as onigiri, but I figured it might not be a great idea in this particular setting to have a foodstuff with a name that sounds like it's referring to oni, heh.

***- Prayer bells found at most shrines. Used in the way mentioned in the post, as well as to ward off evil spirits.

****- The section of the article provided in this link titled 二礼二拍手一礼 (Two-two-one) pretty much sums up what Gensai is doing here if you're curious: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/a ... to-shrine/
Last edited by Hermit on Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:28 pm

Perhaps its more obvious than he suspects, perhaps its simply strange timing, but the komusō has moved to stand a blade length away from Gensai without the ronin realizing it. He speaks, "Guidance."

Yes perhaps that is what Gensai is praying for, Guidance.

"Many ronin come here seeking guidance. I can see it on your face, you seek that too." How he could possibly see Gensai's face at all is a mystery. "When you are finished ronin-san, join me, I could stand to have a little company." He then turns back around and returns to his large rock and seats himself there once more.
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Hermit » Thu Jun 27, 2019 6:54 pm

To his credit, Gensai only flinches slightly when the komusō makes his presence known, not daring to make an even greater fool of himself by dropping his gesture of prayer. The shugyosha is left feeling somewhat off-put by the ascetic’s disturbingly preternatural stealthiness and talent for observation that would impress even a Kitsuki, but listens all the same to whatever sage advice he has to impart.

“Guidance.” The word rolls silently out of Gensai’s mouth after the monk has departed with an innocuous offer of company. To his pleasant surprise the word aligns well with his intentions, much like the pieces of a sliding puzzle lining up to form a perfect image from its formerly chaotic jumble. Concluding his prayer with a final, albeit slightly clumsy bow in the wake of his minor lapse in thought, Gensai gathers up his belongings and departs from the quiet sanctity of the shrine pagoda.

His gaze quickly picks out the monk from earlier sitting cross-legged at the same spot as before, giving off the impression that he’d never moved at all from his stony perch. Slowly descending down the stairs to join the contemplative figure, Gensai once again sets his flat-topped straw hat and furoshiki aside and sits down in a rougher mimicry of the monk’s zen-like sitting position. After a moment of silence, he inclines his head deeply as he had done before upon entering the shrine grounds and solemnly says, “You have my sincerest gratitude, komusō-san. I am Gensai. Might I have the honor of knowing your name?”
''At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.'' - Lao-Tzu

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Re: Prelude: Gensai

Post by Vardaen » Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:14 pm

The monk could be smiling, he could be frowning, he could be doing nothing under that basket and Gensai wouldn't know it. The man replies, "You are most welcome. I am known as Supai now, care taker of the Shrine, though there isn't much to take care of these days. You are Ronin, yes, come to seek guidance from the seven ronin of the shrine." He's not really asking questions as much as he is just stating observations. "Will you sit with me a time, I would hear news of the lands beyond, and can share what I know of the shrine with you in return. have you eaten rice today?"
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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