Rokugan SRIU Episode 2 “Cherry blossoms fall . . .” (L5R Campaign Report)

6 May, 2015

The basic structure of the campaign here Rokugan SRIU and the previous game (and the other three characters) described here: Episode 1 “. . . and a monkey.”

Two new characters joined the unit:

Doji Otaro, a doji courtier and inheriting son . . . who lacks compassion.  (Doji Courtier 2,  Played by M.)

Otaku Asilah, outspoken Otaku battlemaiden . . . who just knows a gaijin invasion is going to happen any day now.  (Utaku battlemaiden 1, Played by C2, his first time playing L5R.)

The new team members are introduced and then Doji Akira takes them all out for fine dining and a play (kabuki as the Crab usually do not like noh) as a team building / get to know you exercise.  It is somewhat successful. Cherry BlossomsIt is spring in Otosan Utchi, capital of the Empire of Rokugan, and in only a few days, the great Hanami, the cherry blossom-festival, begins.  Originally the Hanami was used to divine that year’s harvest as well as announce the rice-planting season through reading the blossom and afterwards offering were made with sake. Emperor Hantai Saga (Hantai VI) adopted this practice, holding flower-viewing parties with sake and feasts underneath the blossoming boughs of sakura trees in the Imperial Court.  Poems would be written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral.

The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society.  Under the sakura trees, people had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts. The teasing proverb ‘dumplings rather than flowers’ (“hana yori dango”) hints at the real priorities for most cherry blossom viewers, meaning that the viewer are more interested in the good food and free flowing drinks accompanying a hanami party than actually observing the flowers themselves. Therefore it is unfortunate that the cherry trees show no signs of blooming, there are neither buds nor blossoms.  As the main grove of such trees are planted beside the Imperial roads, it indirectly falls into Magistrate Doji Akira’s portfolio and he has been contacted by the city-gardener, Kakita Yuzuki, to try and determine what is wrong.  She meet with the team and says that the trees are healthy – so there is no natural cause for the missing signs of blooming.  A group of three heimin sent to use powerful fertilizers to try and shock one of the trees into blooming vanished.  His assistant sent to check on them vanished as well. The team heads out to investigate.  The trees are indeed not even close to blooming.  They scout around and find three new sapling cherry trees around one of the older trees, there were obviously out of place and the Bayushi communes with the spirits of the saplings and finds out that they were once people.  While she is doing that, the other characters noticed that a group of toughs clustered around the food wagons at the city gate.  The Doji calls them over, they come over, as is proper, they are just peasant workers after all.  Wuja whispers to the Hida that they are quite heavily armed for workers and once it is pointed out, it is obvious that they are carrying jo sticks and tonfa.  The Doji demands something of them and their leader yells at the others to run and he moves to punch the Doji, with a tonfa.  The Crane is able to iaiijutsu draw his katana and cut the leader but not enough to put him down and he clocks the arrogant Crane brutally before a second cut drops him.  The other try to flee, but the others give chase and the the Bayushi raises the earth to trip them, the leader sacrifice does not allow them to escape and they (and the wounded and unconscious leader) are rounded up.

The thugs say they were hired by a man in a black mask who paid in silver, the coins being a mix of Imperial and Phoenix mint markings, asking them to keep watch and discourage anyone poking about if they could or report to him when he paid them if they could not.  Under questioning, they admit to knocking out the gardener’s assistant and leaving him in the backroom of a tea house, the characters stop to rescue him on their way back to dropping the thugs off in jail and reporting what they have learned so far. Doji Akira listens carefully, makes notes and sends them back out.  The Hida realizes that Wuya is not with them and, in fact, did not accompany them back into the city.  They find her among the food trucks by the gate, sipping tea and keeping watch.  Wuya reports that there have been reports of weeping being heard and strange things happening in the grove, especially at night, she points to the fact that the food carts are clustered on the other side of the road from the grove. By this time it is getting late and the food carts are packing up to go back inside the city.  The characters talk to the guards at the gate who agree to open them when they need back in, and also admit to hearing mysterious sobs in the grove from their post on the walls.

With the sunset, the gates are closed and the unit is left along among the trees.  They spread out and soon hear crying in the distance.  it takes a little time to track it down but they find a very pretty girl in a cherry blossom pink kimono crying.  When asked why she was crying she says it is because she has no name and no home.  The Bayushi recognizes it as the Fortune of Cherry Blossoms and tries to comfort her.  She then explains to the others that the Fortune is unnamed and has no shrine to call home, so they should build her a temporary shrine.  The name will be more of a problem, as it is the Emperor who names fortunes in the Empire . . . The Bayushi and Wuya stay with the Fortune while the others go back into the city to contact  the City Gardener, who in turn sends a message to the Imperial Chancellor, and get materials to build a shrine . . . and decide that the thugs they captured earlier (less the one who struck the Doji) should be forcibly recruited to act as haulers and, ultimately, builders as well.  The Doji takes great joy in traveling around the city demanding the material needed for the shrine from various merchants.  By the time they return with the goods, however, the guards on the gates have changed and it is now commanded by Seppun Bachin, Imperial Guard Taisho, who is accompanied by his aid Miya Atsui.  Bachin is, well, a bit of a jerk, but he totally outranks all the unit put together.  They have no way to force or bluster their way through, luckily he takes a shine to the Otaku and agrees to let the others go about their business is she stays and has tea with him.  The rest of the yoriki promptly abandon the Unicorn to her fate and head out.  (The Utaku promptly failed her compulsion roll and spent the entire time warning the Seppun about the upcoming gaijin invasion, which was quite beautiful.)

The three thugs, who have some skill at carpentry it turns out, start building a temporary shrine.  The character learn from the fortune, who the Bayushi is tentatively calling Hana that she had met with a man in a black mask who promised her a name and a house if she keep the tree from blossoming for another four days.  She also admitted to turning the gardeners into saplings “because the man in the mask told me to keep the tree safe from those that would try to make them bloom.”  She seems happy with the temporary shrine and fades away as the sun rises.

Leaving the thugs to guard the shrine, they head in only to find Doji Akira waiting, as they have a meeting with the Imperial Chancellor, Doji Aritomo, with just enough time beforehand to take a bath and changed into more appropriate clothes.  The Chancellor takes their testimony and consulted with one of his advisers, an obviously highly placed member of the Brotherhood.  They are thanked for their efforts and are told that the matter is under advisement.  They return for some much needed rest and a few hours later, a note is received by Doji Akira, who reads it to his SRIU team that the Emperor has declared that the Fortune of Cherry Blossoms will henceforth be known as Hana and a full shrine to her will be build at the grove outside the Capital. TempleThat evening, they go to take the news to Hana.  While the Bayushi gives the Fortune the news, the other see a figure deeper in the grove.  The Akodo tries to sneak around while the Hida and the Doji close.  They find a tall man in a fine, dark kimono wearing a black mask.  He is polite and they exchange words, the yoriki trying to find out what he was trying to do, while he deflects the questions.  Just before he turns to smoke and vanishes, he asks the Doji, “What do you want?”  They search for him but he seems to have vanished into thin air. The cherry tree blossom beautifully, signalling a good harvest.  The Emperor is happy and orders that all of the clan build a shrine to Hana-no-Kami in their lands.  Kakita Yuzuki gives them each a white jade medallion decorated with a spray of cherry blossoms.  Lastly, the Bayushi is offered a post at the Shrine of Hana-no-Kami when she leaves Imperial service by the head of the Four Temples Order.

Notes: Based on an adventure idea by Nicole Goci posted to the Legend of the 5 Rings RPG Google+ Group.  History of the Hanami adopted from the Wikipedia page on the same subject for my Rokugan.

Episode 3 can be found here.

Cherry Blossom photo by Erik Eskedal and temple photo by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) both used a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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