This week’s episode was written by Paul Genesse. After everything they’ve gone through, the Paper Lanterns are guests of the most powerful people in the Empire, only the woman that Makoto believes he is destined to marry is dying.
The Journal of the Crab Clan Shugenja, Kuni Magatsu
We have arrived in the capital of the Emerald Empire and now reside in Toshi Ranbo. The Paper Lanterns were invited by Otomo Hoketuhime, one of the most powerful women in the empire, and one of the leading contenders for the vacant throne. She would make a powerful Empress, and publicly, by her, we were recognized for our achievement in destroying the Shame Sword of Penance.
I said nothing, for I am not very fit to speak in the presence of such high-born people. I let the deeds of my companions and I speak for themselves, for I adore silence when I am in the company of my betters.
Our glory was barely celebrated, when during the gathering afterward, we learned that the daughter of Otomo Hoketuhime, Otomo Yuni was gravely ill. It is no secret amongst the Paper Lanterns that Hida Makoto believes that he is destined to marry this beautiful young woman, and had a vision of such long ago. It is unlikely that a woman of Yuni’s status would be allowed to marry a low-born samurai like Makoto, but there are signs and portents that he is a man who cannot be underestimated.
We rushed to ask her mother for permission to see her, and Ide Todo accomplished this goal rather easily, using my reputation for saving nobles who were dying of unnatural diseases, which has only grown after I healed Tamori Shimura of a deadly affliction.
With Ide Todo, Kitsuki Tsuze, Hida Makoto, and Zuko, plus our yojimbo, we rushed to Otomo Yuni’s side to offer our help. As a traditional healer, I have some advanced training, but in the realm of diseases of the spirit, I have more experience, as all Kuni are taught of how spirits from the other realms can attack the living.
With the help of my companions, namely the astute investigator Kitsuki Tsuze, I made my examination of the poor young woman, and interviewed the staff who were caring for her. I have come to believe that those men and woman tending her are not responsible for her illness, but they must have been afraid to look in the dark place and find the truth of her sickness. I have no such reservation, and would have looked even deeper, had the woman’s life not been in jeopardy.
The following information was learned: Yuni has been ill for approximately one month, and is wasting away to nothing, despite adequate food and water being ingested. There was no apparent trigger for this mystery illness. All traditional cures have been tried, and no doctor has been able to diagnose her condition. Numerous shugenja have been called on as well, but none of them have been able to offer any explanation either. The fact that no other shugenja have come up with a reason why Yuni is ill, makes me wonder if they were too afraid to point toward what I found. Are they afraid to tell Otomo Hoketuhime that her daughter is being attacked?
I have determined that her wasting condition is related to a spiritual attack. She is losing weight at an alarming rate. She is not lucid and can attain a state of lucidity only when I use my most powerful magic, and give her the Will of the Kami. Her energy, her vital chi, is flowing away from this world and into a different realm, perhaps Gaki-do, the Void itself, or another place. Instead of her chi flowing down into her crown chakra, it is flowing up and out. She is becoming nothing, and soon, if this chi drain is not stopped, she will die.
Makoto is beside himself with worry, and has been acting like a madman. It is not my place to tell that tale here, and I shall focus on my attempts to learn more about this poor girl.
I attempted to speak with the kami inside her bones and it resulted in her left arm breaking, and a terrible screaming from the kami. I do not know what attacked Yuni, but suspect it was dark spirits, kansen, or spirits from another plane.
I also drained a small amount of her blood, per Tsuze’s excellent suggestion, and found it to be dying. The kami within the iron inside her blood were weak and could say almost nothing.
I did speak with other kami in the immediate area and was given one clue: the sound of the wind. Air. Is this element responsible for her decline in some way? Or is air possibly connected to the dark entity trying to kill her? What dark powers are associated with Air?
I shall find out, as we will discuss our findings with others who may know more about this spiritual attack. Other shugenja, and perhaps sages, are in Toshi Ranbo and they may know what we must do to sever this link that Otomo Yuni has to the dark realm that is draining away her soul.
The implications of this attack are filled with danger. Who would be brazen enough to attack the daughter of Otomo Hoketuhime? Someone who does not want her to become Empress perhaps? We must find out who that may be.
The most intriguing, and cryptic bit of information we learned, was when Yuni became lucid for a moment, after I gave her the Will of the Kami. She said to Hida Makoto, to whom she locked eyes and took his hand, “You will destroy everything.”
She faded back to a somnolent state after this, as Makoto asked who he had to destroy. He wanted me to send him to Gaki-do, or wherever the entity might be, so he could go there immediately and destroy them, but this is beyond my power for the time being. Perhaps I shall learn and I will accompany Makoto and any others who wish to go, to this place. When we are finished I will send Makoto and the others back, and then I will linger and learn as much as I can about the dark realm. If I survive, I shall write a long scroll about my journey, but I digress, and must not entertain thoughts of such a pleasant and enlightening journey for now, as an important young woman’s life is at stake.
Our mission now is to save Otomo Yuni. With the help of Ide Todo’s voice, Tsuze’s investigative skill, Zuko’s talents and connections, Makoto’s persistent strength, and my willingness to look in whatever dark place we find, we shall find out how to sever the link that has been created between poor Yuni and some unnamed dark realm. We shall find out whoever has done this, and Makoto will be unleashed with the Strength of the Kami.
My powers of foretelling the future are limited, but I suspect that the enemies of the Empire have seen what I have seen. They wish to prevent a low-born Crab, Hida Makoto from marrying Otomo Yuni. Her mother will likely be Empress someday, and when she dies, a Crab samurai will sit as Emperor beside Otomo Yuni.
Their most trusted advisor will be Ide Todo, a Unicorn Courtier, and this will not sit well with the Imperial families or many of the other Great Clans. Who can say who is listening to Kitsuke Tsuze on the other side of his mirror, and few would want a suspicious Dragon so close to head of the Empire? Tsuze has already saved the life of Otomo Hoketuhime, and foiled someone’s assassination attempt. Our mysterious friend Zuko will be one step away from the pinnacle of power, and whatever the Spider Clan wants, the other clans will oppose, which is perhaps for the best. The dishonor I would personally bring to my friend Makoto and his bride cannot be insignificant, but the chances of me being alive when that day comes are quite small.
I shall die in the defense of the Empire, and I know that if a Crab sits upon the throne, my brothers and sisters guarding the Kaiu Wall will not be left to wither and die when the hordes from the Shadowlands attack us again.
I have decided now that if we do not find a way to save Otomo Yuni through other means, I shall sever the tie myself. I shall trade my own life for the power to create a spell that will break the bond. Then I will protect her soul from harm forever, always watching, as a spirit on the other side, foiling attempts to harm her. I shall haunt her enemies, and those of her Crab husband, and it will not only be the goblins and oni who have nightmares of Kuni Magatsu.
To be continued next week, with MAKOTO IN HELL.
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