by Oni no Jingasa
‘The Mirumoto style is called “Niten-Ichi,” which means “two swords as one.” It teaches the use of two swords at once, flurries of strikes, and the disruption of the enemy’s rhythm. In parts of the Empire, it is called “the Coward’s Way.” But never to a Mirumoto’s face.’
The courtier looked truly baffled at Mirumoto Higaru’s statement, ‘Why not? Would that not be an easy way to insult a practitioner of your style of swordplay?’
Higaru considered his possible responses carefully before continuing…’As with all things, there are always more secrets than can be revealed on the surface.,’
‘…For instance; the true stance that any Mirumoto knows is the kamae. It is not so much a stance in the traditional sense as a state of awareness. We are taught to always be prepared to attack at any time.’
The courtier looked disappointed, ‘That simply means that you are easy to goad and trained to react poorly to such things. You admit that your sword school is dangerous then?’
‘Yes. The Niten is a terrible weapon. We are trained in its use because we submit to the demands that our style has on us. We know that with one slip we could do great damage to a person…or a reputation. I think that you misunderstood my last statement – please let me attempt to convince you with further information.’
The Courtier agreed and waved his hand toward a seat in the court gardens. It would be hot still, but not as stuffy as the building proper. The fresh air filtering through could ease both of their minds…
‘I would like to ask you questions to aid in your understanding.’
‘Ask away Mirumoto-san.’
‘Does a Scorpion lie?’
‘There is a warning: Never trust a Scorpion who tells only the truth’
‘Wasn’t it a Scorpion that coined that phrase?’
‘It was actually, a bit of a slip I would imagine. They will probably go down in history as the great blunder of court theory for their clan.’
‘Or would they??? At the end of the day is it not a more precise observation that the phrase itself could be a lie? If it is a lie, then it is true. If it is true, then you cannot trust the wielder of its words. In either case a sense of mistrust and caution must be maintained around a person who would use such a statement.’
‘Thus the blunder. The Scorpion should never want to advertise that they lie! It would be much wiser for them to seek social redemption in the form of a developing reputation for truth.’
‘It is a face Daigotsu-sama. When you meet someone who is a scorpion- all of the years of reputation, their strange arts, their old participation in the Scorpion coup, even the way they will dress tells you that they will lie to you. It may not come today- but one day they will lie to you. You can never trust a scorpion- you could end up being like ‘The Frog’.’
Taking a moment to remember the nuance of the old fable, the courtier looked at the passing clouds- none were healthy enough for rain…they never seemed to be…
‘I remember now…’I can swim.’ The famous quote the scorpion gives the frog after stinging it. I never understood that quote to be honest- why go through all of the trouble of getting the frog to swim it across the stream if it could have done it anyway?’
‘The nature of the scorpion is to sting. It takes great care in its approach; it maintains a façade until its opportunity arrives to strike. When it strikes its opponent they are helpless to defend against it.’
‘How is any of this going to help me understand the Niten-ichi any better?’
‘Kamae is the art of strategy applied at all times. Strategy is deception. In order to maintain this deception we are trained to show a façade to all people around us. In this we are ready to strike at any time.’
‘You are putting up a show for me now then?!?’ The Daigotsu was amused by the concept of someone as spiritual as Mirumoto Higaru lying to him.
As amused as he was a moment before, he was just as surprised and enraged by the simple and forward response. This was a conversation of honesty! This simply would not do…
‘If you are to represent my interests in this court you will take this time to be perfectly honest with me Mirumoto-san. I will brook no lies between us during your acceptance interview! Should I determine that you lie during the rest of this meeting I will have your lord informed of your dishonorable behavior!’
Higaru bowed deeply, agreeing to the Daigotsu’s demands.
‘Tell me what you think of me Mirumoto Higaru. We have experienced each other’s philosophies over the day. You know why I have come to the Second City, and of the duties that your clan will ask you to perform in the service of my protection…So tell me- do I meet up to your Dragon standards?’
Higaru let his kamae slip.
As Higaru spoke again his inner darkness could be felt as if it were a palpable force…winding its way around his neck on the command of this sudden and terrifyingly quite furnace of rage before him.
‘You do not.’
‘…Your previous associate was a ‘monk’ by the name of Masayoshi. Masayoshi was the animal responsible for using the Blood of the Preserver on Sujigaki Mura in the colonies. It was the furthest extent of the Lion’s influence in these colonies, with the least protection…’
The Daigotsu’s eyes slimmed as he began to realize what Higaru was mentioning.
‘…My first student was on his way to Second City to meet me. In his letters he was excited, his journey had been the most enlightening of his life. He had just achieved his gempukku in the months before. He was my son!’
It would have been easier to have been attacked by Higaru’s blades rather than his words. The Diagotsu tried to change the subject, already regretting his choice to force honesty from this future yojimbo.
‘I took musha-shugyo and sought the people responsible. I found them- all of them save for the spy who chose the location. The spy that knew about delicate correspondence that would be carried by a young Dragon samurai- acting as a courier on his way to the Second City for further training. The choice of location was efficient- hurt the lion, and destroy inbound information that could hurt the Spider Clan’s reputation.’
The Daigotsu sputtered his response out before the venomous look of Higaru, ‘I did what I did in the name of the Spider and Daigotsu Kanpeki! Those lives lost saves thousands more!!! I did not mean to kill your son!’
The court members nearest to the gardens had their attention riveted on the Daigotsu courtier- who had begun to shout.
The Lady Suikihime was amongst them, as well as the Ivory Champion, Shinjo Tselu. The Champion slowly began his approach toward the panicked Daigotsu…
Higaru regained his kamae with a short breath, ‘We are always ready to strike Daigotsu-sama’
Before the dishelved spy could speak again the champion slid in between them and arrested the Spider.
It had all been arranged…He delivers the Spider conspirators, Tselu presents testimony and evidence in court to damn the last surviving conspirator, Suikihime gets rid of the Daigotsu presence in her court…He gets his revenge.