Three Feet from Death

Matsu Hotaru Journal Entry 1

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The Second Day of the Month of the Dog:

So much for my sensei’s words.This was anything but an “uneventful social gathering”. The Tournament of the Samurai began with the typical ceremonies that I’d heard about, but the other guests that were present were anything but typical. The audacity and rudeness of some of them! Some I speak of in regards to their open stares, though that I can excused considering Anju is in attendance with me. I doubt many of thosew that flit about the courts have ever even seen a lion, let alone been so close to one. She behaved perfectly though, better than I could have hoped for. I was grateful for her closeness in a sea of unfamiliar faces. I dared not seek out any of the individuals there and was content to simply observe from a distance when I was not involved in a competition, but that was not to be.

I was first approached by a particularly bold member of the Scorpion Clan. He introduced himself as Bayushi Ejiro, requesting that I address him informally, as simply Ejiro. Naturally I was uncomfortable in his presence and fought not to squirm under his gaze. His lips were quirked up at the corners as if he were holding in a particularly amusing secret. He was deliberately trying to bait me, I think. Considering the fact that he addressed me as Hotaru-chan. How he knew my face and my name, I do not knoww, but it is unnerving. Perhaps he checked the guest list before I arrived? My lioness would cause me to stand out… Either way, I plan to avoid him in the future. After this tournament I doubt I’ll have to deal with him again.

My gift appeared to be well received by our host, Isawa Masahiro, and I could her murmurs from behind the fluttering of fans. Despite my frustration during their creation, I am very glas I set aside the proper amount of time to weave those placemats before leaving for the tournament.

The first two contests went well and my scores were some I could be proud of. My haiku and painting both appeared to be well received, though I must confess, the painting of the plains made me a bit homesick for the quiet.

Then there was a grave tragedy that occurred during our formal dinner, concluding the first day’s events. A vile, foul deed was committed at the very heart of Pale Oak Castle. Under the guise of peace, Shiba Reikun, a military officer of the Phoenix Clan murdered his own daimyo, Asako Toshi. He tried to frame a member of the Dragon Clan that was in attendance, Mirumoto Rai, in an attempt to start a war between the two clans. Shiba Reikun’s own lust for vengeance was his fall from grace and as is befitting his crimes, he was killed in an iaijutsu duel. He lost to a Crane from the Kakita family and though I have no love for the Crane in general, let alone the Kakita, I must admit this one’s dueling prowess is to be respected. I doubt that he’d do well on a true battlefield though, as his opponent’s single blow nearly killed him.

There was a small group of us that were asked by Isawa Masahiro to personally investigate the crime after it took place. This included myself, the Crane bushi from the Kakita family, a Dragon shugenja investigator from the Kitsuki family, a Crab shugenja from the Kuni family and a Unicorn bushi from the Utaku family. An odd group to be sure, but it seemed our combined talents proved strong enough to bring the truth to light. I must admit that the Crab I encountered, Kuni Taru, was not nearly as crass as I’ve come to expect given the tales that have circulated through the clan. The Unicorn, Utaku Amaterasu, seemed easy enough to get along with, though we did not speak overmuch during the investigation. The Dragon, Kitsuki Kumiko, proved her clan’s renown as skiled investigators is an accurate one, though truthfully, I still consider the Dragon culture strange.

I must confess that during the investigation I began to jump to a conclusion, assuming that the secretive nature of the crime and the attempted cover-up surely indicated Bayushi Ejiro’s involvement. I am glad I didn’t do anything rash and falsely accuse the Scorpion. Truthfully, I can say I never thought I’d write that last sentence.

Now though, the night is already waning and we have a full day’s events ahead of us. I had to pour my mind onto these pages before I sought rest, but now I hope for a few hours of peace.

—Matsu Hotaru

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