Never deal with dragons

Gatac 2013-12-07 04:56:41
IC Thread 25a - Takao
Gatac 2013-12-07 12:11:50
The mansion now stands mostly empty, hastily deserted in the exodus of servants, slaves and guests. What remains of the samurai quarters are a few bedrolls, hastily abandoned, but it makes a good place for Takao to practice some his kata. Assuring himself that he is alone, the samurai steadies his right feet and draws his left foot forward as he blades his body towards an imaginary opponent, hands on the handle of his blade for an explosive quick-draw.

"I would speak to you before your departure, Takao-san," Hiro Homi says, walking past him without a sound. "As you wish to travel to the capital first, it seems prudent to prepare you as best as possible for what you will find there. I am here to answer your questions."
MikeS 2013-12-07 12:20:17
"Homi-sama", Takao bows. "It is fitting that you would find me here in practice. My body is honed to an edge beyond anything I have achieved before, but I feel unprepared for this trip."

"My entire life, I have been trying to live up to the ideals of bushido, yet I feel that bushido will not carry me where my Emperor's needs are taking me. Subterfuge and deceit are necessary. I have become much better at spotting these, and have been able to bend my mind to greater suspicion. These parts have been simple: recognize that court activity is like warfare, and many of the same tactics can be applied, recognize that a duel of words is like a duel of swords, and you can spot the tells in the opponent's face and posture."

"But will I be able to succeed without being able to deceive others myself. Is there a way to maintain bushido in this game of politics and intrigues we are embarking on?"
Gatac 2013-12-07 12:31:23
Homi nods to that. "An important question," he says. "And an old one. Yes, I suppose it is possible, but you will be tempted. In the capital, loyalties are daily bought and sold. It is easy to accept an invitation or a favor and place yourself in the debt of questionable people. If you wish to avoid speaking a falsehood, then let others talk. Conduct yourself honorably and without ego, such that the vultures will find no vice to seize on, but see and hear everything you can. Such a plan will require discipline, and you may find that some of the answers you seek will remain behind closed doors. And there are those whose temptations you may not easily recognize, and those who will use lies and slander against you if they cannot seize upon a true weakness. Do your work slowly and carefully, however, and you will likely not attract their attention."

He bows slightly.

"I cannot speak more than what little I know of a code I have never followed, young samurai," Homi says. "I hope you will find some use in my advice nevertheless."
MikeS 2013-12-07 12:34:06
Takao contemplates the sensei's words: "This is good advice that I will have to ponder on. But what about the doors that remain closed to those of honor? Would you employ agents to gain access to what is behind those doors? What more can you tell me of the High Lords?"
Gatac 2013-12-07 12:45:14
Homi smirks. "I have a few agents in place that you may call upon in my name," he says, "though I fear many have lost faith in me. You will recognize them by a ribbon of black silk, tied in a two-inch braid on the right side of their obi. Ideally, you would wear such a ribbon yourself to make yourself known to them, but if this sign has been compromised, we cannot risk you being seen with it. It should be safe, however, to approach one you see with the braid and ask if the sparrows have sung this morning. His response should be 'The sparrows are quiet'. If he says anything else, leave him be; he might be watched and unable to help you."
MikeS 2013-12-07 13:05:01
"Thank you for your help and advice, Homi-sama. I will not disappoint you or the Emperor."

Takao bows. He waits to see if Homi will say anything else, before resuming his practice, a strange form of kata that Homi has never seen and that utilizes quick draw to rapidly switching between sword, gonne, and unarmed locks and throws.
MikeS 2013-12-07 13:08:01
After the early morning practice, Takao attends his Emperor one final time, and then saddles the horses and departs with Yoshi, destination: the capital.
MikeS 2013-12-07 13:15:56
The two samurai spend the first hours on the road in silence. The pause for a brief lunch in a small village, and continue onward at a steady pace.

In the late afternoon, Takao clears his throat and asks Yoshi:"It occurs to me that you never mentioned what brought you to Lady Sarano's palace in the first place. I admit I was very surprised to find an honorable man such as yourself in a den of vipers."
Gatac 2013-12-07 13:28:31
Yoshi nods. "Indeed I did not tell you of my reasons," he says. "I ask your faith that there is a good explanation for it, but it is not mine to give at this moment. If Shira-dono wills it, you shall know."
MikeS 2013-12-07 15:11:13
"Your loyalty is beyond reprieve. I respect your answer", Takao replies.

The he falls silent again as they ride on.
Gatac 2013-12-11 10:31:52
The ride with the afternoon sun in their backs soon takes the pair to another small village, this one at the shores of a wide river. A small convoy of barges is moored to the village's pier; Takao's pretty sure he recognizes those as weapon shipments from the Forge destined for the capital.

"Night will fall soon," Yoshi says. "We should go look for a place to sleep." Noticing Takao's look, the old samurai smiles. "I've been meaning to get a gonne myself," he says. "Everyone seems to have one these days, and I do not wish to be at a disadvantage."
MikeS 2013-12-11 11:32:18
"They are peasant weapons", Takao replies. "They only work in large groups. Don't get me wrong, they are no less deadly for it, but they are less useful to a skilled warrior than the sword is. If your iaijutsu is strong, your sword will have cleared its saya and cut through the opponent before he can draw his gonne."

"I once saw a foreign sensei of the gonne, and he shot a target for devastating effect at several hundred paces, so far away I could hardly see it. Yet, he could have not reloaded his gonne again before a samurai on horse could have crossed the distance."

"Yet, if the gonne spreads, men like you and I will fall victim to it. It is so easy to use that a troop of heimin can be trained in its use in less than a month, whereas we have perfected our art over many years, if not decades. Numbers will win that game. Even if each of use can kill fifty of them before they get us, there are still more of them."

Takao looks back to the barges. "Since when have gonne shipments gone to the capital? I'm of a mind to see who these shipments belong to."
Gatac 2013-12-15 10:22:28
"They first came to my notice a few months ago," Yoshi says. "They pass through the capital's port, though Shira-dono does not know their owner or final destination. Do you wish to pursue this matter now?"
MikeS 2013-12-15 11:53:43
"Do they usually keep their cargo secret, or do they openly carry gonnes? Why don't we ride down and see what they have to say for themselves?"

Takao guides his horse towards the pier, taking the lead.
Gatac 2013-12-15 12:51:06
"They make little secret of it," Yoshi says. He trots his horse behind Takao's. "We will see what they have to say for themselves."

Riding down to the pier, the two samurai certainly catch some attention, with the civilians and dockworkers ducking out of the way of a potential fight, which leaves the boat's guards to step up - Takao counts four.

"Can we help you, gentlemen?" one of them asks. There's a small club swinging from a loop on his belt.
MikeS 2013-12-15 13:22:57
Takao dismounts and walks towards the guards, not waiting for Yoshi to follow. He stops a foot away from the guards and crosses his arms.

"Indeed you can. Who's shipment is this, and where is it going?", Takao demands.
Gatac 2013-12-16 11:08:12
"That is not for you to know," the guard says. "Move along, please."
MikeS 2013-12-16 11:22:37
"Who are you to judge what and what isn't for me to know? I have spoken to Lady Sarano not a day ago. I will accept your humble apology, and then you will answer and take e to your superior."

Takao glowers at the guard.

(OOC: 1d20+15 = 31 Takao intimidates with implied threat of authority)
Gatac 2013-12-16 14:53:17
(Guard's Resolve: 1d20+12 = 17 FOLDED!)

"I - I'm sorry, samurai," the guard says, flinching away from Takao. "Please, we're just here to guard the shipment. We don't want any trouble. You - you want to talk to Master Mura? He's not here!"
"That man is no master," Yoshi comments, stepping out of Takao's shadow. "I know of him by his ridiculous name - a free trader who makes his home at the capital. If you wish to walk into his house, make sure you wear boots that clean easily."
"We're just doing our jobs, alright?" the guard pleads.
MikeS 2013-12-17 08:04:05
Takao brushes past the guards onto the barge, forcing the guards to keep up.

"Where are the shipping papers? What are you carrying, and where is it going? Where is Mura?" The questions come quickly. Takao is not giving them a chance to think long about the answers. He stops suddenly and pivots around, and the trailing guard almost collides with him and is now physically as well as mentally off balance.

"Who's in charge while Mura isn't here? Open up one of these crates!"

(OOC: how many barges are there, and how many guards and boatsmen are there?)