Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! Welcome 2016

Hey folks.  Here's hoping you all had a fantastic 2015 and I do hope 2016 will be a fabulous year filled with gaming and fun.  I still have a HUGE number of game session transcriptions to catch up on as well as a lot of activity planned in the months to come.  The Gamers & GMs Philippines mini-conventions will continue to celebrate and share the love of gaming.  There will be a few personal game projects soon to be launched as well and I do hope the reception of the will be pretty positive.

Will also start on my new list of 12 New Games for the year. I started this last 2013 and thanks to this personal challenge, I've exposed myself to the creative ideas and systems of a lot of other people.  This, I feel, has given me additional insight in how to approach my own games when I design them.  This 2016, I am already excited to get started in trying a bunch of other systems, hopefully including some like Marvel Heroic Role-playing, Mythender, and maybe even something as awesome as The Farm.

Currently, I have a few ongoing campaigns.  Our teen superhero game called The Wardens (using DC Heroes) will be back with the Summer Break story arc.  I'm throwing complete trust in my players in this game, giving them complete reign on the pacing of the story for three game sessions.  Hopefully, our Bliss Stage game, wideawake, won't meet the cancellation that our Orpheus game, dollhouse, did.  The Orpheus game had to die because the group faced the one threat that kills games with the greatest ease: real life demands.  Then, there's A Red and Pleasant Land's Dreams Betwixt Walls game under GM BJ where I get to be a player.  Pretty awesome game, I must admit with the story nicely unfolding with just enough horror and wonder at the same time.   We recently wrapped up our Ryuutama game, Journey, with the heroes finally finding their way out of the horrible Black Isle where the Black Dragon rules.  It was a nicely touching moment with some tears and some laughter.  An ongoing office-game campaign using Blades in the Dark is also nicely flowing.  Thieves should start having sessions again starting next week, if not the week after.

2016, I hope you will be a kind year.  And I do hope everyone finds themselves having more fun telling stories with each other.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Journey ep04 : Ryuutama


Episode Four
"The Granile Road"


Joshua, Jordi, and the three others leave the quaint town of Ifa.  The group takes a trip to the town of Artienna, known for its Great Bridge of the Dawn and its Mineral Water which rejuvenates tired muscles.  There, they celebrate a Festival for Travelers from all over.   The group excitedly make their way to the town, anxious for an opportunity to sell the Nekonip they have earned. Once they arrive, they hope to meet with the head of the Traveler's Festival, a stout kind fellow named Matthew.  But that won't happen til a few more days pass, however, on the Granile Road.

During the first day of their journey, the group journeys to Aya's Tango in the Grass.  The heat bears down on them, making Tristan feel tired and all of them are getting pretty Smelly.  Aya wishes they could find the closest body of water.   Jordi tries to argue with Piter on how they're all carrying his bathtub for free when he should pay them.  The argument ends when they realize despite the desire to banter more, it is just too warm.  A sign soon shows them they are moving towards Artienna. Eventually, the group finds delicious berries to eat.  Joshua, the weather-reader, senses the coming of a thick fog.  The group travels quickly through the landscape and soon find a wonderfully large tree to set camp under.

The trees grow in number as they move through the shade and the growing fog.  The path winds between the massive trees, but the canopy of leaves protects them from the harsh sun.  By the end of the day, they find a nice clearing to set a campsite at.  The stones on the ground even mark a good fireplace area.  There's even a hallowed out three area with vines that serve as a curtain if one wishes to get changed.  Tristan casts an Alarm spell.  Jordi cooks a meal using the berries, creating three whole dishes to enjoy!

The next morning, they wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon, eggs, and rice.   But as they open their eyes, they discover the Heavy Fog surrounding them.  Jordi hands the others their sliced berries, and shares his own heavier breakfast with Aya.  Aya hums the Foggy Cha Cha to raise their spirits.  A shrill cry comes out in the distance!  The group hurries to follow behind Piter, wondering what it was.   They find a massive figure around 30 feet long, with emerald scales encrusting its form.  The thing is  majestic green dragon on the grasslands!  It seems to be munching away at the raspberries.  The group catches its attention, and the green dragon turns to face them.  It shrieks in surprise! The group slowly backs away as it breathes heavily, uncertain how to act upon seeing them.  The monstrosity strikes... but suddenly, its attack seems to have been deflected by something emitting sparks and fireflies.  Piter stares at the ground where he should have been hit, but there is no wound.  The fireflies scatter, fading into the night.    Aya picks Piter up and they all hurry back to the camp.  Neither realize the Reveil that the Ryuujin used to protect them had left their protector with a wound of its own.  They realize the rare sight of meeting a Dragon is one fraught with danger as well.

The morning that follows has them continue the journey.  Aya seems to be having an unlucky day as she keeps tripping, stubbing her toes on things and catching her elbows and shoulders on nearby plants.  They move through the milky fog.   Jordi gives Joshua a ride on his cart, but only long enough til Aya commends him for his kindness.  The cobbler intentionally only let Joshua hitch to look good in her eyes.   Trees flank their path.  They see a signpost but discover it is broken.  The road does not fork, however.   They find along the way a leather bound bag with metal stitches.  On its face, SOXI can be read embroidered on it.   Inside, it seems to contain gem stones, coins and other small effects.  Also, a small notebook can be found, and the first letter reads:

To my dearest, may your travels bring you joy.
And may your return bring us the wealth we need to pay for my medicine.  - D

Tristan groans aloud on why did he have to read the letter.  He was hoping the purse was money they could keep.  The notebook marks that the total contains are 450 coin worth, and that he needs 150 coins left to go for the medicine.  Piter asks Joshua if there's a Lost-and-Found place in Artienna, but Joshua admits he has not heard of one.  That does, however, sound like a good business.    As they camp down to eat, Joshua starts lamenting the loss of his favorite donkey, Amberdilexi, which makes the others squirm, knowing they had eaten it by accident.    Alarm is cast once more before bed.

With nightfall, however, they wake up upon realizing there's that feeling of having to keep their balance.  When Aya tries to sit up, she realizes the ground is slanted somehow that she rolls on top of  the others.  She yells at them to wake them that they're somehow moving despite being camped!  Aya opens the tent flap and they discover all around them is nothing but fog and cloud.  Jordi does not seem to be with them.  They tumble to the other side of the tent once more as the slope shifts!  Aya wonders as she rolls out of the tent if they're on the dragon!   She surveys the area and realizes the clouds are the fog.  The tent is upon what seems to be a giant leaf.  And around them are massive blades of grass!  Worse, the party donkey has gone missing.  Piter wakes Jordi, who then shares the grassland dragons can make things grow faster.  "Faster or bigger," Piter hisses, "There's a difference!"  When Piter's abacus begins to levitate out from his hands, the group begins to suspect foul play.  Not long after, even Aya's personal belongings, a pearl encrusted mirror, begin to float away.

They soon discover that capitalizing on the incident are a pair of Konekogoblins, both of whom are training to be thieves.   The two masked figures are seen with a telescoping fishing rod.  One tries to disable Tristan, who gets to them from behind, with some kind of powder but it fails to affect him.  He casts a shooting star to bring one down.  Piter snags the cord of the fishing rod, keeping the masked figure from running away with it. When captured, they identify themselves as Kotaro and Quika, and try to claim they're doing this to feed starving kids.   The Dragon's Blessing must have caused the plants around them to grow into gigantic proportions.  The two, it turns out, happened to encounter Jordi, the cart and the donkey, at the ground and only then began to fish what they could.  The Alarm never triggered since they were fishing from outside it's range.   Realizing the two are far too young, Tristan forces out of them the information that they were being trained by a man named Kotihi, and the group decides to bring them back to Artienna to get reprimanded by their adult counterparts.  They camp down the night.

The next morning, Aya wakes them with her song, "Shiny Shimmering Splendid" and the group awakens to a sunny day.  They approach the town and see bright colors about.  The festival is ongoing!  The gates open as they approach and the sound of cheering voices fill the air.  They see the many carts, the many stands, the wonderful collection of cultures and products available.  They meet a man selling portraits of the dragons, but they realize the artwork is not accurate. The man claims to have painted accurate ones, but it seems he's lying.  Piter insults the man, accusing him of making fake paintings.  He mentions a companion who was there with him when he witnessed the dragon.  The companion supposedly lost his purse while there.   Later, they present the two thieves to the local authorities and find a not too happy authority figure receiving them.  The guards are confused, however, on what exactly happened as per their tale.

Tristan sets up his spot to sell stuff.  Jordi admits he was denied a license since he has no wares with him.  He raises the hope to unload and sell the Nekonip at once so there's time to get a new permit to sell his own wares.  Jordi challenges Tristan to sell the Nekonip within the day, and if he does, he will even give Tristan half of his sale.    He starts selling the Nekonip in Piter's special boxes, and selling actually gains the attention of a Noblewoman who is also enjoying the sales the festival is offering.  They fiercely bargain on the purchase, with Jordi and Tristan pretending to be lovers to distract the customer long enough to recalculate their offer.  The sale is made and Jordi successfully maneuvers Tristan to agree to splitting the sale 50% down the line.

When the group argues with the painter about the cranberries in the path (while they remember seeing Grandberries instead), which seems to suggest that the painter saw the dragon  (or at least, a dragon) earlier than the ones the group had seen.  The painter's reputation is ruined by their accusation, and the nobleman who wanted to buy the paintings opted not to buy it instead - worried the painter might be just creating fantasy images and not accurate depictions.  

The group soon reunites near their temporary spot, and Jordi has a moment with the noblewoman's servant, and learns a few more things that explain why they would be searching for so much Nekonip.  Piter seems happy to get the painter's bag, despite Aya feeling guilty that they may have ruined his reputation.  Piter considers getting more materials for better boxes to create and stuff.   The group also starts shopping for travelling gear, in preparation for future trips.

Aya visits the bathhouse, hoping to clean up and feel cleaner.  Someone joins, and she notices the person who joins has a large scar across her back. It is a healed scar, but still clearly new.  Her hair is long and reddish blonde.  Aya strikes a conversation with her, talking about her scar, about being a minstrel, and later, about the festival itself.  When Aya helps her recover from slipping into the water, she is surprised how warm the woman is.   In the other side, Tristan dips into the water as well to clean up.  Like Aya, he has a guest in the tub as well and they talk about life in general, then shifting to the man confessing about how stupid he feels about losing his wallet while travelling with some painter.  His name, it turns out, is Soxi.  And as it turns out, he too was behind the reason the signs were broken up that warned travelers of the "large plants."

Back at the shop, Piter continues to work on the boxes he hopes to finish.  Jordi asks him if he's going to the bath houses like the others to clean up.  The two argue about the deals they had made and the two snarl at each other about going to the same bathhouse.

The red haired woman shares to Aya that her wound was from helping a friend, and that the wound was caused by a dragon.  She explains that dragons tend to swipe once then leave.  Aya is very impressed she would protect someone to that extent.  Oddly when Aya asks about the friend the red-haired woman protected, she admits they actually haven't met. "I don't think I am what he is looking for.  But don't worry too much, Aya.  Your friends and you are doing a great job."   Aya realizes she never shared her name with her.  The room fogs up completely, and then fades, revealing to Aya she's completely alone.  

Tristan and Soxi go through a long tirade of trying to get each other's names, but after Tristan thinks the bag is owned by the man, it turns out to be owned by someone else!  Tristan asks if the man at least recognizes it, and he admits its a money-pouch, but not a bag.  Tristan heads off, searching among the city guard for someone named Ixos.  He finally finds a perfect match, and the man weeps and thanks him when Tristan even adds the missing amount of money to help him get the medicine he needs.  Ixos actually asks if Tristan is one of the Ryuujin, but Tristan insist's he isn't one.  Tristan leaves so happily, he fails to notice the woman he walks into along the path.  He apologizes, and the woman gets back on her feet, telling him to never stop being himself.  She turns the corner and vanishes into fireflies as she walks on.

And finally, Piter dips into the bath only to find Party Monkey there too.  Piter steps over him.  The door opens and someone asks if he can share the bath.  Piter welcomes the strange, "As long as you don't make shoes."  The man comments about how one would think he'd hate the water by now given he's surrounded by it day in and day out.  The man turns out to be a seafarer and owns a ship.  He travels here once a year for the festival only.  The man turns out to be named Captain Calum and he talks about having bought four donkeys and how he'd love to get more.  After the long conversation on how well the donkeys do their job and the like, Calum mentions his desire to buy a few more.  Piter, however, wonders by the end of the conversation if Calum refers to something else when he says Donkeys.  He isn't to leave til a week from then, and Piter admits he'd love to see what the ship looks like.

That moment, a bearded man arrives and informs the Captain that the asses have arrived.  Calum bids Piter farewell and leaves.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Gamble : Blood and Honor

The Gamble

Houses of the Blooded: Blood and Honor

Under the Kind Daimyo Masamune, whose Cunning is known.  The Province of Hokkaido (Enduring/Well-defended) had a Shinto Shrine, a Geisha House, Sumo School, Gambling Den and a Rice Farm.  The Meibutsu of the province was their delectable kani.    The island had women who are the best lays in the land.  They have few warships, and do not project their strength.  Welcoming but secure place.  People are highly superstitious but devoted to the sea.  The Emperor's summer palace is here.

The Samurai under his service include:
Tetsuo Morinaga, the Kaishaku, played by John.  His name means Steel.  His weakness is Beauty.  Despite that, he has an intimidating presence.  The Clan Blade rewards those who have succeeded against the challenge it poses.
Kai, the Hatamoto, played by Phil.  His name means Knowing.  His weakness is Beauty.  He is quite a well-read Clever Strategist.
Unagi, the Onmyoji, played by Patrick.  His name means Slippery.  His weakness is Prowess.  Truly a sea-man before he became samurai.
Shiro, the Courtier, played by Adrian.  His name means White.  His weakness is Strength.  Wonderful conversationalist.
Ono, the Oniwaban, played by Rocky.  His name means Secrets.  His weakness is Courage. He is known to be quite Harmless.

Act I - Opening Gates

The gambling den.  All the samurai are gathered at its gates, with the rest of the Province watching eagerly over their their shoulders as the Daimyo shows the new gambling den to the Seneschal of the Emperor.  The Daimyo struggles to find the words to boast of their gambling den.  Shiro, sliding into the conversation, supports Masamune's loss of words with his own.   The Seneschal is amused, but then stops in front of the Executioner, stating that he recognizes him somehow.  Tetsuo admits he led an army before, but the Seneschal Never Forgets a Face, despite being Dangerously Honest, and that moment, Tetsuo realizes he recognizes the Seneschal.  He had worked under the Seneschal before, and he was once an ashigaru under him but he thought Tetsuo was dead. Clearly he was mistaken as the samurai still lives.  "Perhaps you should consider the honor of some people," the Seneschal sneers, then walks to the Omnyoji asking if today is a good day..." gamble?"

"The ebb of fate favors those who risk..." comes Unagi's response. When the Seneschal asks for the name of the gambling house, Shiro once again steps in to cover for the Daimyo's befuddlement.  Shiro claims the house is to be named after the waters, and the Seneschal declares the place open.    They have gained Honor.  But not all of them.

Act II - Doors

The people celebrate in the gambling house.   Shiro handles the games as the master of ceremonies.  Unagi inspects the construction to ensure everything was done appropriately.  Ono is quietly serving sake, unrecognized by all. Kai visits Tetsuo, hoping to talk to him about the earlier events - clearly the Seneschal knew him and did not look at him favorably.   Tetsuo thought he was the last survivor, so he ran off to start a new life.  As it turns out, he was wrong.  Kai reminds him that he is now of the Hokaiddo and that their Clan takes care of its own.  His past is the past.  "But be prepared to do what needs to be done," the Hatamoto warns.

Moving down the corridor, both catch sight of a pair of beautiful women approaching the door they are keeping watch.  The Hatamoto excuses himself, especially after checking if they appear to be Geisha of the Province and reminds the Kaishaku he's handling the Yojimbo duties tonight.  The Kaishaku tries to remain composed, being so devoid of understanding the ways of women.  The women claim to have been summoned by the Daimyo and that their duty is to entertain the guest.  Tetsuo stumbles with his words as he explains he wishes to serve his master.  The geisha suddenly steps forward, touching Tetsuo's lips, as she tells him they are ready.  Unagi happened to be passing through that moment, inspecting things and in shock proclaims how these geisha are wearing the wrong patterns.  There is a silent clash of wills as Unagi finds himself staring at the lead Geisha's eyes.  Unagi is certain the patterns are wrong, but he does believe they are geisha.  They are not familiar faces though.  Unagi recalls seeing the lead geisha once outside the Province... but then remembers she witnessed him doing something once that he did not want anyone else to know: a broken vow of celibacy... with the Hatamoto's wife.  He allows her to go, and she smiles, knowing what she knows gives her an upper hand.

Neither of them realized, however, one of the Oniwaban's spies saw that exchange.

Back at the Gambling House, Shiro entertains the guests.  He soon notices an unthinkable act: one of the men in the gambling house is armed with his sword.  And worse, he seems to be drunk and very talkative, now very friendly and generous to everyone close.  The man frighteningly is one of the samurai of the Seneschal of the Emperor.  The Hatamoto arrives, but chooses to observe for now how Shiro will handle the event.   Even Ono, serving sake, simply observes.  Shiro draws out the man's anger towards women and gets him to admit he is depressed for having lost a woman.  Ono notes that part of his anger is his hate of sea travel, and that he has been in service to the Seneschal for quite some time.  The man's left arm, he notes, is weaker and he seems to have the beginnings of a cataract in one eye.  His name is Jingoro Takimoto, and he turns out to be the Executioner of the Seneschal.  He finds the duty to be such a burden, as he carries with him the Emperor's sword.

Unagi notices a perfume in the air, one different from the usual scents he has grown accustomed to in this Court.  He follows it and realizes it leads to a side corridor the Geishas would not have used.  He hurries off to find the Hatamoto to report his findings.

Kai congratulates Shiro's actions on controlling the Executioner of the Emperor, despite the drunken man waving the Emperor's blade around.  He heads off to visit the Daimyo.

Back at the Daimyo's chamber, Tetsuo Morinaga can hear the sounds of giggling geisha and gasping men coming from the door.  Sounds of cloth tearing as well erupts from within.  He realizes the sounds can sound both like those of sensuality or of murder.  The groans and grunts are accompanied by splashes and giggling.  The sounds alarm him, but deep down he feels he must remain a samurai and wait.  That moment, fortune smiles upon him as the Hatamoto arrives.  Both realize they can smell smoke emanating from the door.  Kai feels the demands of Courage rise as he slides the door open without asking for permission from the Daimyo - and given this is an act in which the Hatamoto is risking his honor, even Unagi's predictions come into play.

The door slides open to reveal the lead geisha smoking a pipe.  Behind her, the paper doors are closed with a trail of scattered clothes of the Daimyo, the two geisha and the emperor's seneschal.  Hatamoto sees a small stream of red coming out from the bottom of the bed.  The lead geisha sees his concern and explains, "They were virgins."  She blows out another cloud of smoke.  Knowing Masamume would understand his actions in these matters, Kai feels confident his brashness would be excused.  However, he had accidentally partially drawn his sword.  Pressing his thumb against the blade, he draws blood to satisfy the honor of the blade.  The lead geisha smiles at this, and Kai feels he can trust her.  He explains the smoke was unusual as their geisha had not taken to this foreign habit.  She offers it to him to try.  As Kai takes a puff, the lead geisha stares at Tetsuo and asks if he would like to try - her legs parting at the moment her offer is given.  Tetsuo takes a leading step forward, but then feels his loyalty challenged.   Under other circumstances, he would have probably indulged.

Kai feels his senses shift from the tobacco.  His sight sharpening.  His hearing expanding.  The lead geisha suggests the Executioner try the tobacco as well, but he reminds the General that they are not on personal time.  Kai walks up to the Executioner and offers it to his lips, challenging him if he will deny her this hospitality.  He inhales, coughs from the smoke, and she returns to the General's side.  She commends the General for being used to the ways of women, and he admits he knows when there are times to indulge and times to deny oneself.  More sounds of passion waft from the paper doors.  Kai forces his attention beyond the haze the tobacco has placed his mind in, and he realizes a direct way to check is not acceptable.  But thankfully, they hear the Daimyo call out asking for an explanation.  The lead geisha motions to the Hatamoto to remain silent after he tries responding, claiming she was practicing her "man's voice."

Unagi cannot find the Oniwaban.  He does find the gambling house has become a celebration.  People are watching a central table where the Takumi is with a drunken samurai.  The drunken samurai has gone into a full narrative moment, standing with his hands on his chest, as he demonstrates how his wife used to berate him night after night after night.  Unagi sneaks in, searching for the Hatamoto, only to be singled out by the drunken samurai to come forward and act like his wife.  Shiro moderates the whole event, keeping it acceptable in a way that all believe it to be an act - saving the samurai's face.  Unagi acts out what the drunken samurai wants, but remains evasive to ensure none of the blows actually land, and avoiding any sort of physical contact with the Emperor's Sword, without it ever slipping out of its scabbard.   The people remain amused.    The place develops a reputation for being lively and fun.  The drunken samurai feels relieved and happy that others are listening to him, feeling more at home.  He understands Shiro has protected his honor, and thus owes him one.  They cheer, with Shiro offering a round of sake to the house - hoping he did not declare it too soon because they might not fully afford it.

The night begins to end with laughter in the gambling den, with the two samurai leaving the chamber with the geisha, and as the sound of a breaking pitcher reveals the Oniwaban is actually in the chamber of the Daimyo, picking up the pieces to clean the mess he - as a servant - had made.  Jingoro is escorted to the resting rooms by the Ashigaru.  And the girls are gathered by Shiro, congratulated for a job well done.

Act III - Before Morning

Testuo stayed by the corridor til the coming of morning, inspecting the pipe during the silent hours.  He notes the hint of red on it from the lead geisha's lips.  He fumbles with it and finds a note asking to meet at the Shinto Shrine before dawn comes.

The Daimyo meets with the Hatamoto around the same hour, telling him today is an interesting day.  The Hatamoto commends that he sounded satisfied, but then realizes he may have just slipped and revealed he was in his chambers without permission.  Masamune shares how Ogo's male voice did sound like Kai's.  Kai simply claims that geishas are truly talented in such a way.   He admits he will rest, exhausted from the night's affairs.  The Emperor's Seneschal sleeps with the Geishas.  At the room, the Daimyo retires for the night suggesting that they visit her Province in the future.  "Tomorrow, if we are truly blessed by the Kami, the Emperor will send word if he is truly visiting."

Tetsuo finds someone waiting at the Shinto Shrine, but it is far from who he had expected.  Unagi is there, as he rightfully should be, and questions the Executioner on why he'd come.  Tetsuo confesses his concerns, his conflict between his role now and that of his past, and of the Emperor's Seneschal and her role in his history.  Unagi allows him some time alone to think and ponder on his life.  Tetsuo makes a donation and the Unagi gives him a Blessing, reminding him that I have no Home.  "Your old life is your old life. This is your new life."  Tetsuo feels extremely thankful for this.

To the Unagi's surprise, the lead geisha Ogo emerges at the doorway.  She addresses him with amusement seeing he is now a priest.  She teases him with the fact she is aware that Unagi had slept with Kai's wife, and muses how many prayers he offers each night that he does not find out.   She claims to desire time in the temple but Unagi inquires if she is here to meet someone.  Ogo admits people who come here come to see her.  Unagi dismisses his acolytes and leaves, as requested, a single lit candle.  Ogo promises to never tell the Hatamoto, but Unagi turns down the offer, insisting he wants to hold the last promise he has made in his heart.    He leaves to dismiss the Acolytes, only to discover there is no sign of any of them in the temple!

Back at the town, a messenger arrives and the message speaks of the Emperor's visit having happened yesterday.  Shiro and Kai are dumbfounded at the idea that his August Patronage had been in their presence all this time.   The messenger admits he had been instructed to delay the message for a full day.  After discharging the messenger of his duties, Shiro runs to the Daimyo!  

Ono, the Spymaster, happens to be in the temple praying when the scent of Ogo's perfume reaches his nose.  He realizes he knows who Ogo is and overhears the exchange she had with Unagi.  He knows she is the Emperor's Spymaster and he realizes she has been here for a duty he must have secretly assigned her.  He observes as Ogo addresses Tetsuo, referring to him by his full name, Tetsuo Morinaga, Great and former Yojimbo.  He tells her he prays for the Kami to bless him a new life.  "You and I, we have committed grave sins in the past."  Ogo counters that they have committed so sins.  Tetsuo stresses he has fierce loyalty to the Emperor and he feels inside the conflict remains between wait he knows is right and his loyalties.  "I have tried my best to run from that life, but now I am seeking blessing for having lived peacefully here."

Both the Hatamoto and the Courtier find no sign of the Executioner in the chambers they had given him.  They are not certain what is transpiring.    They rush to the Daimyo's chamber.  The two feel panic rise within them.  The Chaos swirls.

Unagi was about to interrupt both Ogo and Tetsuo only to find Ono interrupting him.  Harmless Ono asks him to stay silent.  To observe.  "In the future," Ono whispers, "The temple should be locked at night.  Too inviting. I would not presume to tell you how to do things, but clearly there are those who enjoy hanging here at night."

Ogo tells Tetsuo that it is not the blessings of the Kami that he seeks, but a chance to make things right.  The door opens and Jingoro, the Emperor's Executioner walks in with the blade raised in its scabbard.  Ogo tells him, "We have unfinished honor that seeks to be settled."  Ogo leaves Tetsuo's side and walks up to the blade.  Dawn breaks.  Sunlight creeps upon them.  A new day.  Unagi realizes a new prediction is due.  "Draw your blade, samurai, for we must settle the past," Ogo draws the Emperor's blade,  "We have the Emperor's blessing."

"It seems the sins of my past have caught up with me," Tetsuo admits.  "There is no need to stain the Emperor's blade with the blood of a traitor."  He kneels and prepares to commit Seppuku to regain honor. But Ogo tells him he is mistaken, for his actions have never brought him dishonor.  Ogo calls out Ono, claiming to know he is in the room.  She states how none of them have paid attention to the upper balcony of the shrine.  All look up to see the Emperor watching.  Ogo declares Tetsuo to be the man she believes would better serve as Yojimbo  and offers to give a demonstration.  The Emperor, with the smallest of movements, shows he desires to see.

"When you are ready, Samurai," Ogo bows before Tetsuo.

"Is it done?" the Daimyo asks Kai and Shiro as they reach his door, gasping for breath, "Have we lost the Executioner?"  The two soon are enlightened on what was actually transpiring.  "In as much as we are known to be kind and generous, many forget we are Cunning."  The Daimyo tells the two samurai to accompany him now to the Temple, blind to the spy of the Spymaster listening from the ceiling.  They learn how the Executioner acted as a fool to distract all and focus attention on the gambling house while the Emperor and his gathered arrived at the Shinto Shrine.

Unagi watches as the duel is about to begin.  He pulls back a sleeve, reaches for the brush, and begins to write a new prediction for the new day.

"Let everything be reborn."

Ogo and Tetsuo stand, swords drawn and ready.  Ono knows Ogo as well, however, and is surprised she is not using her bow.  The two remain unmoving, reading each others stance and anticipating each other's moves.  They clash, but not a single time does Tetsuo land a blow upon Ogo.  But as they strike a few more times, Tetsuo successfully disarms Ogo of the Emperor's blade and launches it into the air.  Old emotions boil to the surface and Tetsuo begins to scream out words containing all the anger and feelings of betrayal he had felt.  In an attempt to steady himself, Tetsuo extends the blade against her chest and demands that she yield. Rather than do so, however, she rushes forward towards it.  Tetsuo withdraws the blade at the last second, and sheaths it, then runs for the falling blade.   Ogo smiles, and yells, "Ono!" knowing he will throw her something she can throw.  Ono throws Ogo a dagger.   With Courage, Tetsuo catches the blade with his hand, and the blade draws blood from his palm.  Ogo raises the dagger, but seeing what Tetsuo has done, drops it to the ground.  Tetsuo turns, with the Emperor's blade in his hands, and offers it back to her.

The Emperor is impressed.  The duel is concluded.  And the Executioner comes up to Tetsuo and offers the scabbard.  Ogo bows, with the dagger at her feet.  There is no need to draw blood anymore.

"Come and take your place among my samurai," the Emperor addresses Tetsuo directly.  Tetsuo walks up to the Executioner, takes the scabbard, cleans it, then sheaths the blade.  The Hatamoto and the Courtier arrive at the doorway in time to see Tetsuo rise to his feet.

"Well," Ogo smiles at them, "I guess it is time to celebrate."

And they celebrate, indeed.
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