The Mandate of Heaven
Kakita Ryotaro is a proud and sometimes arrogant Crane bushi. His focus is Iaijutsu, but is also skilled in kenjutsu in general and kyujutsu. Like all samurai, he holds all tenets of bushido in great esteem, but is particularly focused on honor and compassion. These are also the traits he values most in his companions and allies. He has a smart mouth and little patience for the social maneuvering common in the empire, both of which get him in trouble. He has learned to maintain a calm and quiet appearance when forced to interact.
Ryotaro is heavily connected to the strands of fate and is able to glimpse the future at some points. His divination is raw and unfocused, but the future is something that greatly interests him. Though he does not know why, when he looks too far into his own future, it looks very grim and dark. All his life, he has felt uneasy in temples and around fortune idols. Unbeknownst to him, he was cursed by the Tengoku, for the kami know that his death is destined to bring great pain to the empire. Fate does indeed hold such a place for him that he has narrowly avoided death several times in matters that he should not have. Ryotaro seems generally lucky to others, but he places a high value in fate, and as such, does not see it as luck, but as what was meant to be.
Ryotaro, like most Crane, enjoys the arts, particularly origami. Though he does not create himself, he has always liked viewing the masterful pieces of the talented Crane artisans. He recently was gifted a song-bird to practice for falconry and he greatly enjoys its company.
Ryotaro dresses in a blue robe, with a crane and reeds in white along the hem. In battle, he wears blue armor over a white tunic with a battle standard with his personal and family names as well as his titles. He is often seen in his favorite straw hat with his songbird on his shoulder. He wears his white hair long and bound back behind his head. Recently, he has been mostly seen wearing his newly won Topaz Championship armor.
Ryotaro’s story preceding his entry into the Topaz championship is quite boring. Having been born into the well-regarded family Kakita of the Crane clan, his life has been somewhat sheltered in the Kakita bushi training academy. He has always seemed to get by in situations where others would not have, as if there were some greater cause in store for him. He has spent much time trying to determine his ultimate purpose. His skill in Iaijutsu and his family’s social status earned him a place in the Topaz championship.
While on the path to the academy from visiting family, Ryotaro walked alongside fellow competitors from the Dragon, Phoenix, and Scorpion Clans. They encountered a strange old man who fell under his heavy burden trying to move out of the way of the samurai-to-be. After helping him from the ground, the old man made the young ones some tea. The man asked Ryotaro to fetch an elaborate mat and tea set from his chest. Ryotaro saw a samurai’s weapon, the kitana, in the man’s chest. He did not press the matter, but stored it away in his memory as odd. The group thanked the old man and continued on their way. They later ran into a Crab clan merchant peddling his goods along the road. The Dragon clan bushi was dismissive of the merchant, but Ryotaro purchased a rice-cake from the peddler for his songbird.
On the first day of the championship, Ryotaro only earned 2 points towards the tournament and was greatly disheartened. On top of that, he lost the opening round to Kakita Kenmaru in a jujutsu match. After the challenges of the first day, Ryotaro headed to the inn. Here, he was talking to Isawa Tohru about the old man on the road when they were approached by Bayushi Minato. Being naturally inclined to distrust Scorpion clan members, he was already uneasy when Kakita Kenmaru entered the inn. This caused him to leave and go to the gaming parlor. Here, he joined some Crab clan members who were impressed with his victories in the challenges earlier. They wanted him to prove his warriors spirit, so he joined them in drinking and eating. Knowing he must dine with the emperor later, and that he could not keep up with the Crab warriors, he caused a distraction. He got a drunken Dragon clansman to approach the table and hit on the Crab samurai-ko present. He defended the samurai-ko’s honor and earned the respect of the Crab warriors. Though slightly tipsy at the emperor’s dinner, Ryotaro was able to avoid showing it. Afterward, the same group that he walked into town with was joined by a samurai-ko of Unicorn clan. They came upon the scene of a murder that implicated a Bayushi competitor. However, there was insufficient proof, and he was aquitted. The Unicorn clan samurai-ko spoke out and was cut down for doing so. Late in the night, Ryotaro came upon Akodo Raiken, fretting over the loss of his daisho, forgotten at the Kakita academy. Ryotaro retrieved the daisho for Raiken, and the two formed a bond.
On the second day of the championship, Ryotaro was able to earn 4 points, successfully qualifying him for the Iaijutsu tournament on day 3 and completing his gempokku ceremony. During the egg hunt, the group was attacked by ronin. The ronin were easily dispatched by the group, and the Bayushi competitor from the previous night seemed to be the only one unaffected. After the events of the second day, Ryotaro and his companions had a relatively easy night. Ryotaro spent his time looking for answers about the mysterious man the group met on their way into town. He ended up speaking to another Crane Doji Hyoteki about the master workmanship of the box they received. She invited him to spend the winter at her home court. He also spoke to the Sparrow bushi Suzume Masu the group befriended, but he always seemed to lead the conversation back to rice, so Ryotaro got almost no information from him.
The third day of the championship was the Iaijutsu competition, Ryotaro’s specialty. He made it through the first couple rounds without too much difficulty, but there were a few close calls. Ryotaro’s superior skill and speed with a blade won out and got him to the final round where he faced his rival Kakita Kenmaru. Knowing that a loss here was unacceptable, but confident that fate had already determined a champion, Ryotaro calmly approached his rival. Ryotaro did not focus as much as usual on hiding his emotions, so Kenmaru was able to read him quite well. However, Ryotaro’s strike was so quick that Kenmaru had not even drawn his sword when Ryotaro returned his to its sheath. It seems that Ryotaro is destined for great things, and the start of his samurai career is a strong one. At the graduation ceremony, after being announced as the year’s Topaz Champion, the old man from the road appeared and prophesized that the members of the group were the Chosen Ones. There was indeed something mystical about him as he then turned into a crane and flew away.
Several months passed as the newly appointed Topaz Champion and his fellows journeyed the empire to learn about the various clans. After his tour led the group to Dragon clan lands, they were approached by the Dragon clan champion in a small, near-empty inn. He tasked the group with traveling to Crab clan lands and learning about the Shadowlands from the Kuni. The group accepted the non-optional task and headed out immediately.
Upon arriving at Kyuden Hida, the group was received by Lord Hida’s son, as the great Lord Hida was away. The Crab leader was impressed with Ryotaro’s pride and display of his Topaz Champion status. He seemed to agree to allow the group to train with the Kuni and spend some time on the wall. The young samurai were invited to a dinner, which was held in the traditional Crab manner. That is to say, messy and somewhat crude, at least as far as Ryotaro perceived it. Having been exposed to it before allowed him to understand most of what was going on at least. The meal was followed by a drinking contest and fights. Ryotaro did not do especially well in either, but managed to avoid making a fool of himself. Next time, he will remember to wear his armor to a Crab dinner party! After the party, and necessary rest, the group was headed out to Shiro Kuni to begin their Shadowlands training.
The travel to Shiro Kuni was a relaxing one. The group was joined by a Lion bushi and a Crab scout, both of which should be helpful in the quest through the Shadowlands. Miromoto-san also seemed to be acting slightly differently, though Ryotaro made nothing of it. After months of practice, he has finally mastered the technique shared by the Topaz Champions.
The party of the Topaz Champion reached Shiro Kuni, but were not able to meet the Lord immediately. They were informed that Jade would be a precious and useful material for the Shadowlands, and sought some out immediately. Ryotaro was able to procure some Jade powder, but no fingers. The Mantis Shugenja he met in the practice fields told him that he may be able to talk the Lord of Kuni castle into allowing us to have some if the group is unable to find any in the marketplace. She also agreed to watch over Ryotaro’s songbird while he ventured into the shadowlands.
After meeting with Hiruma Makasu, the group was told to camp out a night in the shadowlands by themselves. If they survived the night, they would be permitted to join the Crab hunting party on the mission the next day. Ryotaro sought answers from his prophetic visions, but was shown an extremely unpleasant sight that resulted in no helpful solutions.
The group survived the night, with no real problems. The hunting party took them deeper into the shadowlands, but the group had joined with a sizeable Crab force. Even though the Crab scouts reported a trap, Hiruma Makasu still went forward with his path, as if he had a death wish. The hunting party marched into a chasm and was ambushed by a force of goblins and ogres, as expected. Ryotaro was able to slay one of the ogres with the aid of Isawa-san, which opened up a path of retreat. Ogres and goblins pursued the party as they worked their way back to the wall but were unable to catch the group the first night.
Akodo Raiken: Akodo-san seems quite different from the other non-Cranes that I have met. It is good to have a friend in such an honorable warrior brother.
Bayushi Minato: While Bayushi-san has not yet done anything noticeable to impact my judgment of his character, I have not known him too long. It never takes long for a Scorpion to show his true nature. It will take quite a miracle for him to earn my trust.
Isawa Tohru: Isawa-san seems to be as closely connected to the strands of fate as I am. The fortunes have granted him the ability to change it. I am both respectful and wary of Isawa-san’s power, as I am with anything dealing with the fortunes.
Kakita Kenmaru: Kakita-san is an arrogant prick and long-time rival, though I would never say such aloud. It felt excellent to have beaten him in the final round of the Topaz Championship. Were it not for the fact that we are kin, our encounters would likely have turned lethal by now. Though it pains me to even think it, his skill with a blade is excellent.