Letter Addressed to Akodo Hirano, Lion Clan Daimyo, from Ikoma Yuri, Ambassador to the Scorpion Clan
Greetings, Akodo-sama, and may the blessings of our benevolent Emperor find you well this day! As per your request, I have recorded the events leading to the injury of Bayushi Kiyogimi, nephew to the venerable Bayushi daimyo. While my lord has doubtless heard news of the scandal, he may not have heard the shocking details surrounding Kiyogimi’s insult. Never in the annals of diplomacy have I heard of such a disgraceful and dishonorable sight as I witnessed that day.
The diplomatic corps of Bayushi palace had assembled to celebrate the birthday of Bayushi Mochiko, the daimyo’s mother and dowager of the Bayushi family. The crowd was dressed in finery befitting such an august occasion; as per Bayushi custom, we had allowed ourselves to be bathed by the family’s servants just prior to the proceedings. Having never experienced the tradition before, I confess to suffering a strong anxiety at the thought: after all, if the Scorpion wish to dispose of an adversary, there will never be a more opportune time than when he is naked and vulnerable in their own house. I mention this because it has important bearings on what happened next.
The ceremony was held with all the pomp the normally mysterious Scorpion could muster. The celebration which followed contained all the subtleties one would expect from such a gathering. The plots grew and multiplied beneath the cheerful décor, and we were all engaged in brokering relations between our mighty clans – as is natural for such an occasion. Our business was disturbed, however, by the arrival of a late visitor to thee proceedings. He appeared at the door like a spectre, leaving a trail of confused servants in his wake. He strode quickly through the assemblage, who quieted their politicking at the sight of his huge form. His helm bore the crest of the Crab Clan – the only such crest to be seen ta the celebration.
The samurai’s décor stood in sharp contrast to the remainder of the room. He was in full armor, nicked in a hundred places and spattered with mud from the road. His face was unshaven and his katana hung easily from his belt – ready to be drawn at a moment’s notice. Scorpion masks – both metaphorical and actual – revealed no trace of emotion, but the shock at seeing such a man in such a condition could be felt in palpable waves throughout the room.
“I have been taken from my duties at the Kaiu wall to attend this… celebration,” the Crab rumbled, adding a note of disdain to the last word. “Apparently, you all feel that a milestone in one woman’s life means more than the continued safety of Rokugan. Nevertheless, you have called, and the Crab will adhere to the tenets of etiquette. At the behest of my Lord Hida, I have come bearing a gift for the dowager.” He opened his hand to reveal a small egg, crafted of jade and ruby. At a touch, the egg sprang open; within it lay a scene of dancers and acrobats, who moved with mechanical precision across its surface. Its artistry was all the more inspiring for the unclean oaf which held it. He placed it on the ground before the speechless dowager, bowed low before her, and turned to go.
The Crab moved swiftly back towards the entrance, intending to exit the way he had come. This seemed to assuage the crowd’s anxiety and talking slowly returned to the room – albeit in hushed and scandalous tones. Kiyogimi, however, was not to be left in such a manner. He followed in the Crab’s wake, apparently planning to pursue the matter further.
What happened next was difficult to fathom. I know that Kiyogimi approached the Crab just before he reached the stables, and I know that he made overtures that the rumpled bushi should stay a while. My colleague in the Phoenix clan maintains that Kiyogimi had expressed gratitude for the Crab’s gift, and asked that the samurai remain and wash the dust of the road from his tired form. When he demurred, Kiyogimi insisted, stating that it was tradition that all present bathe as a courtesy to their hosts.
Apparently, the statement did not go over well with the Crab, and I was close enough to see the response. In a flash he tore the young Scorpion’s mask asunder and demanded that Kiyogami draw his katana so he could “die like a man.” The color drained out of Kiyogimi’s now-bare face, and he haltingly asked what he had done to deserve such treatment.
“You ask me to lower my guard in your house, yet you do not even lower your own,” the Crab snarled. He tucked the Scorpion’s mask in his belt and folded his arms, as if daring Kiyogimi to push his luck. After staring at the Crab for several moments, Kiyogimi turned away, lowering his head in shame. The Crab mounted his horse and stormed out, the mask still hanging from his belt. During the entire episode, no one had thought to ask him his name.
Certainly you are aware of the uproar which followed. The Bayushi demanded restitution for the insult; the Crab maintained that their emissary had acted properly. The Bayushi demanded that the mask be returned; the Crab intimated that they were welcome to take it if they could. The Bayushi threatened retribution; the Crab responded with stony silence. Finally, the matter seemed to settle in the background, with the Bayushi retreating – presumably to plot some vengeance – and the Crab continuing their duties as if the incident had never occurred. We doubtless have not heard the last of either party.
The incident and its repercussions demonstrates the great danger in inviting the Crab to any civilized affair. They lack the manners and the inclination to behave like proper Rokugani. Leave them to their duties, my Lord, and their barbaric demeanor will never trouble you. Should you ever feel the need to bring one of them to your own gathering – be it military, personal, or diplomatic – I urge you to bear this incident in mind. I would sooner see a herdsman’s swine at court than any of their dour and hateful faces.
Your Most Obedient Servant,