Heart of Darkness

Seventeen Names Upon a Scroll

I, Agasha Osamu, arrived to Kyuden Kurogane-Hana on the second day of the Festival of Falling Lights having been sent by one of Asahina Nanae’s subordinates. It would seem my arrival at Kyuden Kurogane-Hana was a fortuitous one, surely the kami are wiser than man for just the night before Ide Bujun had been reduced to little more than effluvia and gristle by the powerful and corrupt workings of blood magic. I did not hesitate to make myself known to a small group of individuals who were visiting as well and had taken it upon themselves to begin investigating the matter. They seemed somewhat reluctant at first at my convenient arrival, but suspicions and ill-will were shelved in pursuit of that which would seek to tear the empire apart lest great men step in and take action.

Naturally at such a prestigious festival a great number of individuals of all walks of life are present and our first task was to set about developing a list of the most prominent names among the guests of Seppun Ayuma. There are those among the Emerald Magistrate who are only content with apprehending foes in the very act, but I have valiantly stood against these simple practices in favor for what the gaijin call logic, reasoning and evidence. When one applies the full strength of their mind to any given situation it is not necessary to await a foe to commit a travesty in order to show their guilt. Thus, the list of prominent men and women of the Empire who may have had a hand in the despicable practice. I hesitate to put names to paper lest any of them suffer dishonor at the very thought of being so involved, however, it is quite clear that someone among these is a threat to the empire, and if I must besmirch the honor of all in order to protect the well-being of the Empire than that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Having discussed with my companions what we knew of the seventeen names upon our list we departed one another’s company for it had already grown late into the evening. Already I felt exceedingly positive about those who were working with me, and my confidence was only further bolstered the following day when I saw my new companions mingling about with the individuals we had discussed and asking poignant questions in an effort to ascertain more information. It was even clearer that they bore no particular allegiance to members of their own clan in this and that they sought only the guilt of the one who would be so brazen as to bring doom upon the Empire itself.

I myself ventured into the room of the slain hoping that a first-hand observation may turn up something which the second hand report I had received the evening prior did not. I was not disappointed in this. Despite the quick efforts of the laborers to replace the stains of unspeakable crimes left to linger in the room my keen eye gained much from my own investigation. It is well known that the Iuchi continue to practice Mishuto, a holdover from their many long years traversing the gaijin lands beyond the reach of the Kami’s graces. Many of the Unicorn carry the trinkets of Mishuto with them, and although Ide Bujun had erected a small shrine in his quarters there appeared to be a vast hole in the shrine where some object of significance had been taken. I did my best to guess what such an item might be, but it was beyond even my ability to discern given what I had to work with. However as I pondered I discovered that there was not one, but two entrances to the room of the slain for a secondary, secretively concealed door was revealed. I entered a long, narrow passage, a space between the wall of the room and the outer wall of Kyuden Kurogane-Hana itself. I traversed this passage and discovered that it wrapped around the whole of the living quarters upon the third floor. I had hoped that this information might eliminate some of the names from our list, but alas all of the names upon the list had their quarters upon this level. If nothing else it confirmed our suspicions that one of these seventeen must certainly be the perpetrator.

Whilst I was away exploring my companions were gathering their own intelligence such that it was. Shosuro Jinko used his sharp tongue and clever wit in the Sadane tournament. He was joined by Doji Ranshouko, Asako Nishi, and Shosuro Mieko all three of which appeared on our list of seventeen suspects. Although I was not there the courtiers have not yet ceased in speaking of Jinko’s impressive performance which left the other contestants floundering for a response. Meanwhile Hiruma Nariaki and Daigotsu Katsuchiyo spent some time at the archery range preparing for the tournament to be held there. The two of them spent some minutes getting to know Ikoma Kazue, but also in attendance was Daidoji Ninku and Suzume Hin. Katsuchiyo did not tarry long at the archery competition as he had agreed to a Go tournament where he spent many long hours plying Yasuki Jin with sake and conversation in an effort to garner more information of his character. To say that Yasuki was successful may be an exaggeration, but Jin seems to have taken a great liking to him which may prove beneficial should we need another silver tongue to dig up information for us as we draw the trap ever tighter for the culprit. Hiruma had quite an impressive display as the archery contest began, one that caught the attention of the entire festival, but more importantly of Suzume Hin who agreed to a dinner invitation.

We reconvened at lunch to share the developments we had uncovered, but I kept quiet of the secretive passage, unsure still if this was information too sensitive to divulge to the whole of the group. After all, I was not above suspecting one of them for the crime, though I dared not implicate any of them in this as it was simply too early to do so, and would be counterproductive to our overall effort of locating the true monster behind the slaughter.

My attention was drawn to Natsuko, a water shugenja and a ronin I questioned how she had found the status to not only attend such a prestigious festival, but to quarter amongst champions of the great clans. Shosuro Jinko seemed to be in sync with me as he maneuvered the way only true masters of the court might to hold a conversation with her while I attempted to enter her room through the previously discovered passageway to learn more about this mysterious individual. Unfortunately her room was as bare as her clan mon and I met with no success, however Jinko managed to arrange for dinner with her that evening on the condition that I attend as well. Jinko naturally agreed being a man of great intelligence and not wishing to miss an opportunity of learning more about one of our potential suspects.

We met Natsuko later that evening in the gardens as we had arranged. Natsuko was already waiting our arrival and I feared that I had committed some grave insensitivity in making a lady wait upon my arrival, however I was certain that we had not arrived late to our engagement. Natsuko was pleasant for one so wholly wrapped up in water kami but our engagement would soon be cut off by the sound of bloodcurdling screams coming from the temple nearby. It would seem that my old ways have not wholly departed for it was not long before I was rushing headlong toward the sounds of the screams with Jinko by my side. We saw them approaching before we were able to do anything about them. Some terrible monster, most assuredly the same who slew Bujun, had brought the dead back to life through the use of porcelain masks. Even worse these monstrosities were rampantly slaying innocent men and women without remorse.

Through our combined efforts these terrible monsters were stopped, though we discovered that Seppun Ayuma had sustained a grievous injury in the assault which had taken place all across Kyuden Kurogane-Hana. I rushed with Natsuko to his side. Despite my distaste for the efforts of those who would harness waters I cannot deny the efficacy of those healing waters for closing up wounds. I have studied much medicine in my many years, but the ministrations of Natsuko put right what even the most skilled medcinalist would struggle to heal. I discovered afterward that my companions had discovered a secret tunnel leading out of the temple. This same secret tunnel tied into the network of passageways I had discovered earlier, and also lead outside the outer wall of the Kyuden. We also discovered that Daidoji Ninku, Asako Nishi, Shiba Akiko and Otomo Hiroshi were all wounded in the attack. While I am not comfortable wholly writing them off as suspects it certainly makes it unlikely that they would hurl themselves in harm’s way in an effort to preserve their reputation. I also discovered that we must make all haste in uncovering the culprit for whomever is behind this series of dreadful events is not content with waiting around to be caught. We must put all of our efforts of mind, body and will into ending their reign of terror in the most expedient of ways. For now we heal our wounded, bury our dead and pray that we would be given clear eyes and clear minds.


Leketh RogerFrench

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