So while Zuko was off taking over a cult of the dead moon on his own, his player needed a replacement character. So for this week’s installment, here is the backstory for Chiyoko, written by Nick Dianatkhah.
A Child of a Thousand Generations
“Chiyoko, how did I beat you?” Kakita Noritoshi questioned sternly, his one eye gazing piercingly at her.
Chiyoko stood, reverently holding her blade as a small paper thin trail of blood began to leak from her shoulder, visible through the razor cut in her kimono. Her shame was crushing. She had been given an opportunity, one she did not understand, to train with the Kakita Daimyo himself, Kakita Noritoshi, and so far she had done nothing but disgrace herself and her sensei. She had been able to do nothing as Noritoshi had reacted with lightning speed and expertly traced a line on her arm with the edge of his blade.
The precision, elegance, and sheer speed of it all had her shaking with admiration.
She had been the brightest, and best pupil in her dojo. A rising star, garnering the attention of the entire Kakita family, though she didn’t truly know to what extent. The forms and ideals of Iaijutsu seemed to have already been residing in her soul when she was born, and in her mind when she started to train. Chiyoko was simply a prodigy.
Her gempukku ceremony still lie in the future, and already she had exceeded, not only the training of her dojo, but the beginning techniques of Kakita bushi. Noritoshi had demanded to complete her training before her gempukku, and here she was, disappointing him.
“I ask you again, child. How did I beat you?”
“I am sorry, sensei. I do not know. You are faster than any man I have seen. I simply cannot follow your movements.” Chiyoko said with embarrassment and shame in her voice.
“Nonsense. A duel is an extension of a Samurai’s mastery of himself. It has very little to with his opponent.” Noritoshi fell in a dueling stance as he spoke. “I do not beat you because I am faster, or stronger, or more experienced with a blade. You have failed to attain mastery of yourself. Your thoughts, emotions, and soul. I am finished with you today. Go.”
Chiyoko bowed deeply, sheathed her katana and left the training room, her embarrassment as shackles around her ankles. Chiyoko was a paragon of Bushido. To think that she had such little mastery of herself was unthinkable, yet her sensei had said it was so. Her soft footsteps leading out of the room seemed to echo in solitary ridicule of her failures.
Chiyoko’s Gempukku was only days away and still the Iaijutsu master worked with her. In his infinite patience he had not given up on her despite her consistent and magnificent failures. She did not expect to best Noritoshi, as he had only been beaten in an Iaijutsu duel twice. The first against the tainted duelist Megumi, and the second against the vile Bayushi Jimen. The second, one could say, was never truly a duel. Noritoshi simply acknowledged Jimen was his better, though everyone present knew otherwise.
Chiyoko knew she could not beat Noritoshi, but the ambitious, arrogant, and petulant child inside her wished nothing more. She wanted to prove she was worth his time and effort. But so far, in months of training, she had never been fast enough. Noritoshi had ended the duel by the time Chiyoko had drawn her blade.
The acrid smell of incense drifted to her nose, reminding her of where she was. With a determined mental lash she chastised herself for losing her concentration. With a practiced and precise movement, Chiyoko delicately leaned forward from where she knelt, Kimono and posture in perfect form, to light another candle for the worship of the Fortunes. She felt the presence of her ancestors very strongly, but that was no rare occurrence. She could feel them watching over her nearly all the time. Some she could identify. Some she could not. Some were of the Crane clan and some were not. The presence of Kakita was the strongest, and most influential, however others such as Toshimoko, and even Dairya have made known their presence.
She was not originally named Chiyoko. Her true name had long since been erased and forgotten. She had become renamed as “Child of a Thousand Generations” when it became apparent just how many of her ancestors followed her.
Chiyoko leaned, purposefully, forward again as she lit another candle, reciting her prayers to the Fortunes and her ancestors, asking for their blessings and guidance.
The Topaz Championship was concluded. The event was largely a disappointment from an entertainment standpoint. It was obvious from the beginning who the victor would be. The other clans should have felt shame in being so completely put into place, but each member of the ceremony was too in awe of the events transpiring. For while the event was not entertaining, it was a sight to behold for the simple perfection of its champion.
Kakita Chiyoko had demonstrated the utmost in humility while she soundly defeated every contender in the Topaz Championship. She positively exuded Bushido. Not just one or two of the tenets. But each of them. When the contest was concluded, and Chiyoko named the Topaz Champion, the gempukku ceremony was begun. This particular ceremony was unique. Each clan ambassador brought, to Chiyoko, gifts and praises for her exemplary performance. Each onlooker, despite the fact that Chiyoko was the Crane Clan contender, began viewing her as their own champion, at least in spirit. She was the epitome of what each Samurai wished to become. There were some who were weeping openly as the ceremony continued, each young samurai-hopeful being accepted, truly, into their clans.
Chiyoko’s measured stance sent a message of pride for her clan, and gratitude for the praises. In her heart she knew she was undeserving, as her sensei only sent her to the championship as he had wasted so much time with her hadn’t time to prepare another candidate. One that was more worthy. One that had done Noritoshi proud. In the last few days before her Gempukku, and since then, she had not heard or seen from him. He was ashamed of her and her failures.
As the Scorpion ambassador approached her, to sing her praises, she allowed herself to enjoy the ceremony, for at least a moment. She thought hopefully of the future, and improving so that one day she could repay Noritoshi by becoming the student he deserved. In the meantime she had brought glory to her Clan and sensei, and she consoled herself with the fact that for a time it was the best she could do.
“You were exceptional these past few days, Chiyoko-san” The Scorpion said, as he bowed. Deeper than propriety would dictate, and Chiyoko wondered if it was an excessive showing of respect and honor, or if a Scorpion game was being played. “If only all of your clan and ours could adhere so perfectly to Bushido.”
The Scorpion bowed even deeper, until it seemed he was scraping like a heimin and moved away, allowing his servants to bring the Scorpion gifts forward. A white and blue veil, much in the fashion of a Scorpion Courtier, but in the Crane colors, and with designs of the magnificent bird in the stitching.
The Scorpion concluded, and the final clan ambassador approached. The Crane Clan. Her first Sensei walked with the ambassador, and was carrying a blade of such grandeur Chiyoko could hardly take her eyes away.
“You have brought your clan, daimyo, and sensei great honor today Chiyoko-san. You have brought the eyes of the heavens, and your ancestors, upon you. As the world, and heavens watch, so too, do we. Lady Doji and Lord Kakita themselves would have a difficult time finding a more perfect Samurai. We are deeply honored that you were, of course, born into the Crane clan. As success follows you, so too will it follow our clan. I present to you a tool in furthering that success. Akio-sensei.” The Crane clan finished and deferred to Chiyoko’s former sensei.
“This blade was commissioned months ago, as we knew that your victory here was a foregone conclusion. The greatest Asahina artisans competed for the honor to craft this Kakita Blade.” Akio bowed and presented the blade to Chiyoko. “Wield it well, with the spirits of your ancestors guiding you, and the tenets of Bushido protecting you.”
Chiyoko said nothing, she knew the expectations of her behavior here. She wanted to cry out that she wasn’t worthy, but instead she reached down to her own simple katana, unsheathed it, and handed it to an aide. With both hands she then reached toward the Kakita Katana and gently lifted it from her sensei’s hands and expertly placed it in her, newly vacant, sheath.
For Chiyoko the rest of the ceremony and celebration passed in a blur.
“Thank you Chiyoko-sama” Your expertise has once again earned your clan honor. The courtier Doji Sasuke congratulated Chiyoko as she sheathed her sword. “You are garnering a reputation for this sort of thing. Continuing to only disarm your opponent, instead of wounding them, or killing them causes them no end of insult. I hear rumors that courtier champions are becoming less willing to face you. I didn’t think that was possible.”
“Your words are kind Sasuke-san. But it is only my duty to protect you while you achieve your mission.” Chiyoko responded with a slight bow of the head, as she watched the brash Lion duelist fetch his blade which lay a number of yards away. “I do not think that Ikoma Korou will stand in your way any longer. Now it is just the Bayushi and Asako to deal with.”
Sasuke checked quietly, so that no onlookers would see his breach of face.
“I do not mean to tell you your job, of course!” Chiyoko corrected herself.
“There is no need to worry my friend. You obviously know what steps we are to take next.
For a few months Chiyoko had been tasked with being Sasuke’s weapon of the courts. As she was a prodigy with the blade, he was a prodigy with words. Together, in only a few months, they had made great strides politically for their clan. Any court they spent, even a small time in, they were given great respect. If not for Sasuke’s golden tongue, then for Chiyoko’s blue steel. They had also become quite close friends over the time as well.
The Ikoma courtier in question glowered the two Crane as he rejoined his failure of a champion. The duel had been over before the Akodo had even realized it. The moment his sword had left its sheath, it had been removed from his hand and flung across the courtyard by Chiyoko. By the time everyone saw where the sword had landed Chiyoko had sheathed her Kakita Blade and was walking back to rejoin Sasuke.
The argument had been settled and the Lion were disgraced.
Each of the other delegates began walking toward Sasuke and Chiyoko bowed to her friend and excused herself.
The procession was abruptly halted by the entry of a imperial official. A number of Miya Heralds strode, with an entitled purpose, but ragged, exhausted look in their faces, into the courtyard, where one of them called out in a loud voice.
“The Dark Oracle of Fire has assaulted Dragon and Phoenix lands. It appears he attempts to break his exile. He has bent the Yobanjin tribes of the North to his will and enchanted them with strange, volatile magics. The Dragon and Phoenix struggle to repel the assault, but the foe they face is unnatural and the magics employed cause even the clan victories to turn to defeat. We have orders for each of your Daimyos.” The Miya heralds began calling each delegate by name to come receive their missives. “Take them to your Daimyo immediately. There is no time to waste.”
Sasuke’s name was called and he and Chiyoko shared a concerned glance as he strode to the Heralds to take the messages.
Chiyoko tightened her obi around her pristine white and blue armor, and slid her sheathed Daisho into place. The last few months had seen the fall of the Boar Clan, a massive assault on Unicorn lands, and much of the Dragon clan being displaced. She had been part of a military unit en route to help protect the Unicorn lands, but upon arrival was given a new task.
If she were to be honest with herself, she felt relieved. She hadn’t taken a life yet, and the idea of a large scale battle gave her tremors of fear. Her habit of disarming her opponents was not a tool she used to disgrace and humiliate them, though it accomplished that effect. It was her aversion to kill. She knew that it was a Samurai’s job to kill for their Daimyo, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Even in the few skirmishes she had participated in. She was a flowing beauty in battle, never coming to harm or even close to it. But she never took a life, and rarely drew blood.
Just another in a long list of personal failures. Perhaps her commander knew it, as he dispatched her, with a Unicorn horse, to catch up with a group of Samurai, called the Paper Lanterns. Her commander and the Unicorn Daimyo in this area had reached some agreement, and Kakita Chiyoko carried with her confidential letters from both of them to the man leading the Paper Lanterns. A courtier by the name of Ide Todo.
As she mounted her new horse, thoughts of courtiers pulled her mind to Doji Sasuke. Her friend, whom she realized, adding another failure to the list, she loved. Spurring the horse onward towards the east and subtly northward, she wondered what the Paper Lanterns were like and how Ide Todo would stack up, as a man of the courts, against Doji Sasuke.
To be continued next week with Steve Diamond’s Honor & Tears