L5R - Birds in their Nests - A Post Winter Court story Nov 27, 2017 20:25:32 GMT 10
Post by Hida Tetsuko on Nov 27, 2017 20:25:32 GMT 10
The Imperial Winter Court began in earnest, Karasu visited as often as he could which was not as often as he liked. His wife Hitomi came more often though, she had also been at Shiro Mirumoto the previous winter but Yamada had not really met her. She was gentle and quiet and Yamada thought she would make Harun a good mother. She would sometimes carry Harun in the sling when she and Yamada would walk around the city, usually going down to the Imperial Legion barracks where Karasu usually was if he was not in the Forbidden City.
Harun began to be a bit of a favourite down at the barracks, some of the soldiers would find excuses to come in to speak to Karasu. Harun laid on a blanket on the floor, sucking on the soft toy horse that Karasu had given him.
Kousuda spent much of his day in the Forbidden City, and some evenings. As did Arami. The evenings they were not there, they brought news and gossip to Yamada and Kyoumi. Like the Emperor’s new Golden Throne, though it was made of shakudo that was only a little gold and mostly copper. It was ornately decorated with the mons of all the nine Great Clans in brilliant coloured enamels.
Privately, it made Yamada feel a little uneasy. Such a lavish thing when many in Rokugan were suffering the trials of war and famine. But she didn’t question it, a new throne was needed as the old Steel Throne which had been in use since the days of the Toturi Dynasty was still in Toshi Ranbo. And Toshi Ranbo was still held by the Onyx.
The scarcity of food from the famine was something Yamada kept in mind when preparing for Harun’s Okuizone, his First Food Celebration. She managed to procure the traditional set of dishes, red lacquerware for a boy, but lavishly celebrating food seemed somehow wrong. The food they usually ate was simple and in frugal servings. Miso soup, plain rice, pickles from the vegetables from the garden. Sometimes supplemented with flatbread and hummus that Kousuda favoured.
She talked this over with Sumiko, voicing her concerns. It seemed a bit trivial to speak to Kyoumi about. Sumiko assured Yamada she would do what she could with the limited resources available to her in the household. And several says later, she told Yamada she had succeeded in procuring what was necessary. She said nothing of how, but was especially gracious towards Arami for the rest of his stay.
The day of Harun’s Okuizone came. Yamada dressed Harun in festal clothing of purple and deep blue, an homage to both his parents. Karasu and Hitomi arrived at the appointed time, and with them was another guest.
“I do hope you don’t mind,” said Hitomi apologetically. “But she has only just arrived and assured me she did not want to miss this.”
Hitomi stepped aside to reveal who was standing behind her. Yasuki Yamase, eldest daughter of the Yasuki Damiyo. Yamada had known her at Shiro Mirumoto, she had been nakodo for her marriage to Nakura and Yamada had had to “bargain” with her in the Capturing of the Groom on her wedding day.
Right after court was over, Yamase had managed to get back to Crab lands where things were far worse than in the rest of Rokugan. She had promised Yamada she would tell Nakura’s family what had happened, if they were still alive.
And now, she was back.
Yamada welcomed her warmly inside, having her here for one of Harun’s rituals of life was a good sign. A member of Nakura’s own family, she led them all into the house. Izumi came out and put Harun in her arms, he seemed to regard the gathering sceptically.
Yamase had brought gifts for Harun as well. One was a wish doll, traditionally made by Crab mothers for their babies to guard against evil spirits. It was from Nakura’s sister, Momoibura.
“I do want to meet her,” said Yamada. Nakura had told her much about his sister as they were especially close. “How was she with…what happened?”
“Death is so constant there,” Yamase answered. “She was saddened by Nakura’s death, of course. But the news I brought her of a child on the way seemed to help.” She took out a small bamboo scroll case from his sleeve. “And this is my gift for Harun-kun, to make sure he knows his Yasuki heritage.”
After the customary offering and refusals, Yamada accepted it. She opened the case and inside was a scroll sealed with a wax Yasuki mon.
“Save it until he is older,” said Yamase. “Hopefully by then it will be known who he favours.”
There was a happy mood around the table that they all seemed to share. It was as if the war, the famine and everything else was gone for just that moment and they were like any other family in Rokugan celebrating one of the rituals of life.
Through one way or another, Sumiko managed to acquire food that was simple as well as celebratory. And it all looked good on the red lacquered dishes. There was steamed rice mixed with adzuki beans, a whole steamed carp, miso soup with a large piece of tofu in it, simmered spiced chickpeas and some pickled vegetables, endamame beans and a dried plum blossom fruit. And last of all were some smooth stones that were from the local shrine to help harden Harun’s teeth.
Yamada sat with Harun in her lap, trying to take interest in the rice she was offering him with the chopsticks. But he kept turning his head away, far more interested in the people watching him.
“I don’t think he is used to seeing this many people at once,” said Yamada.
“It’s all so new to him,” said Kyoumi with a smile.
Yamada tried to tempt him with the rice again. Harun flailed his arms wildly, knocking the chopsticks of Yamada’s hand, spraying them both with rice.
“It seems you are disarmed!” declared Karasu with a laugh. He took Harun so Yamada could brush the rice off her. “No doubt the first of many,” he said, holding Harun upright.
With a bit of help from Izumi, Yamada managed to get the rice off her hair and clothing. Harun was in Hitomi’s lap now, Karasu offering some tofu to him.
It was a touching scene, but a little painful for Yamada to see.
They already look like a family, she thought, gentle mother, doting father…but it should have Nakura and me. Everything I value was taken from me, and now I am giving the rest away.
Arami, who sat next to her around the corner of the table, was the only one who looked her way. To see that bittersweet feeling show on her face for just a moment. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t need to. The fact that he saw and that she knew he had was enough.
After the meal was done, Yamada took Harun to her room to feed him and put him down to sleep. When she returned, the conversation had turned a little more serious. Yamase was talking, her voice low and serious. Arami poured tea while they listened to her, pouring one for Yamada as she sat back down.
Yamase painted a grim picture of the lands of the Crab Clan. Much of the land had been overrun by the Onyx forces, and what wasn’t could not always been relied upon to be free of the Shadowlands Taint.
“I managed to get as far as Kyuden Hida,” Yamase said. “There’s too many people there than should be, but so many have nowhere else to go. It’s not only the Onyx that are killing the Crab, there’s hunger, there’s disease.” She looked at Yamada. “There are so few children being born there, and more are needed to replace the dead.”
Yamada nodded gravely. “’I do hope you secure the aid you need, Yamase-sama,” she said. “Is that why you have returned.”
“That is one reason,” said Yamase. “I will also be representing the Crab at the Test of the Emerald Champion.”
Yamada quickly looked at Karasu to see if there was any reaction, but it was as blank and penetrable as any Crane.
“Who else will be competing?” Kousuda asked, trying to lighten the mood.
“It’s just been finalised, I saw it this morning,” said Karasu. “Mirumoto Tanaka from the Dragon, Daigotsu Yukari for the Spider Clan—”
“Yukari?” Yamada asked in surprise. “She didn’t mention anything about it.”
“Akodo Tetsu will be there for the Lion,” Karasu continued. “Shogun Kano is here too, no doubt to see if he wins.”
Yamada nodded grimly.
“Shiba Eraki will be representing the Phoenix, Yoritomo Taketada for the Mantis,” Karasu said, counting them on his fingers. “And Ide Nekomefor the Unicorn.”
“Ide Toboku-dono’s daughter?” Kousuda asked. Karasu confirmed with a nod. “Oh Yamada, I saw Toboku-dono earlier. She gave me this, and wishes to meet.” He gave Yamada a scroll sealed in wax with the Ide mon.
Yamada took it. “Of course, I will be glad to see Toboku-dono,” she said. “Do you know what she wanted to see me about?”
But Kousuda shook his head.