13 Serpent 1189
Well. Thanks to Father I was unable to travel with Ryouko and Hikari. I was annoyed at the time, but now I wonder if the spirits didn’t have a hand in that.
This afternoon I reached a checkpoint on the east-west road to Tsuma at the exact same moment as four of my fellow contestants, all of us coming from wildly different directions. Iuchi-san believes the spirits brought us together, and the events of the day do tend to reinforce that view.
Introductions went nearly as smoothly as one could hope. Even the Kakita seems like a decent enough sort for a courtier. After we had passed through the checkpoint he attempted to engage me in conversation about the weather. My remarks on the weather were as follows:
Mountains appear light
Fate hangs in air over plains
Journey to Tsuma
This elicited a chuckle from Hiruma-san. I can only assume he found some irony in the lightness of mountains. Kakita-san reply was passable, and he seems not at all like what I have heard of the Kakita. I do not expect to have to duel him, save perhaps in the Iajutsu tournament.
We elected to walk together the rest of the way to Tsuma to relieve the boredom of a long walk. There was some nastiness with a group of ronin*, but in the end no lasting harm was done, and as we waited to enter Tsuma we realized that we were all assigned to the same inn. Truly, Iuchi-san spoke with insight. We must have come together for some purpose of the kami. Father sometimes has insights of this sort as well; I wonder if this was something he anticipated?
Ryouko and Hikari were kind enough to reserve me a room between theirs at the Laughing Carp, and while Minori couldn’t make it I became acquainted with her fiancé over dinner that evening. I will have to remember to chide her for not telling me she was engaged, but Shiba Yuuji-san seems like he will be an excellent match and I wish them well.
After dinner, I managed to lose at Shogi to Ryouko, and win against Hikari. Truly, a topsy-turvy day. It has been a long day, though, and the grand melée begins the day tomorrow. I must be well-rested so I may acquit myself with honor.
*Emerald Magistrate Kitsuki-sama has sworn us to secrecy on this matter, and so while I record the events on this page for my own memory, anyone discovered to have broken this seal and read the contents of this page before the appointed time shall feel the full wrath of the Mirumoto Niten.
The road to Tsuma wound near a riverbank at one point, and a commotion by the river caught our attention. A large group of ronin in red lacquer armor attacked an unmarked palanquin, and the palanquin guards were losing.
I dashed toward the melee, but within moments the last guards standing had fallen. Horror clenched my stomach as one of the two remaining ronin sliced through the palanquin, and even as far away as I was I could see the blood. Hiruma-san shot well, and Iuchi-san’s boulder nearly knocked one of the attackers senseless, but ultimately at least one of them got away.
One of the guards still lived! The palanquin had been traveling for Tsuma, as well, he said, and asked one of us to go get Magistrate Kitsuki-sama. I volunteered, and thanks to the help of Mirumoto-sama I was able to catch the horse without trouble and race to the city.
Oh, impatience, my old enemy. The situation was urgent, true, but it was all I could do not to dance from foot to foot as I convinced the Tsuma guard of my identity and the importance of my mission. Magistrate Kitsuki-sama, thankfully, needed no convincing once she heard the gist of my tale. Mere minutes later I was leading her and twenty other warriors back to the site of the attack, once more at a full run.
When we returned, I discovered that Hiruma-san and Iuchi-san had managed to keep the man in the palanquin alive, and Kakita-san had discovered some letters bearing a strange wolfs-head mon no one seemed to recognize. It was then that Magistrate Kitsuki-sama swore us to secrecy and sent us on our way.