Honor & Steel: A Legend of the Five Rings Living Campaign
A former Kaiu in a strange new world
Even in the times historians call peaceful, there is always conflict within the Emerald Empire. It is simply a matter of scale, for even without great calamities the Clans are always jockeying for power. And, of course, the Crab wage their never-ending war so that the rest of the Empire might be protected.
There is more to the Crab’s defense than merely the strong arms of the Hida, the swift feet of the Hiruma and the twisting minds of the Kuni, however. The Great Carpenter Wall was not built by warriors, but by craftsmen. It was created, and maintained to this day, by the skills of the Kaiu. And for these skills, often the Kaiu are given more respect than the rest of their Clan.
This fact has always grated upon the young man once known as Kaiu Shinjiro, a prodigy among his peers. The Kaiu do not stand alone amongst the Crab, so people should not look at them as if their cousins do not exist. Many hold such a negative view of most the Crab, despite all they do for Rokugan. They are the ones who hold the gate against the horrors of Hell itself. Why does it matter, then, that they lack social niceties?
Even more to the point, why are the Kaiu often treated different? Either all the Crab should be treated with respect like the Kaiu, or none of them should. The Clan is more important than the Family alone, and they are all Crab. They stand together, for only then could they withstand the fury of monsters that would destroy everything good in this world. This thought, more than almost any other, burned in Shinjiro’s mind as he grew up.
Tall and broad of shoulder, the young man strongly shows the Hida blood of his mother, Hida Kiyoshi. She taught him how to use heavy weapons to the greatest effect, and ensured her child would not grow without a sense of courage and duty. His father, however, inspired in him a love of creating. A prodigy himself, Kaiu Hiraku would share with his child the wonders that could be created at the forge, and from an early age Shinjiro knew what he wanted to do with his life.
As an only child Shinjiro enjoyed the fullness of his parent’s attention, such as it was. His mother was often on duty serving upon the Wall, while his father as never without projects to complete to keep the Crab supplied. As such, he was half raised by his sensei Kaiu Daijiro for much of his childhood. Those few times Shinjiro was able to be with both his mother and father are cherished memories, something he holds dear to his heart.
Shinjiro would have liked nothing more than to build and fight for his Clan, but fate, as happens all too often, had other designs. The young man was set into an arranged marriage, and while this normally would not have been so bad the Clan of his spouse filled him with unease. He was betrothed to Asahina Yasuko, of the Crane.
The young man was bitter about the arrangement, of course, but could not deny this was his duty. The lands of the Crab arw mostly barren, and the lands of the Crane are among the most fertile in the Empire. Closer ties to the Clan of Doji could only aid the Crab, no matter how distasteful it was to ally with them on anything. So it was that Shinjiro went to the marriage interview with resentment, but understanding.
Those dark feeling died in his heart the moment he saw his betrothed. Asahina Yasuko was beautiful, like a masterwork of art. Yasuko’s face was without flaw, with high cheekbones and perfectly full lips. Her long, lustrous black hair flowed down her back like a river, and her blue eyes were as radiant as sunlight over ice. She moved with a lithe grace, soft footsteps belying the obvious fitness of her form. Shinjiro could find no fault in her, and to a craftsman like him this was something to be marveled. He was immediately smitten.
Unfortunately, such could not be said for Yasuko. While polite, it was obvious that the young woman did not care for the arrangement. Shinijiro could always see her grimacing out of the corner of his eye when she looked at him, and even so stricken by her beauty it was obvious that Yasuko was only grudgingly going along with this planned union out of duty to her Clan. She would marry Shinjiro, but she would never feel the same affection for him as he did for her.
This tore at Shinjiro’s heart, for he wanted Yasuko to love him as he’d so deeply fallen in love with her. Alas, with the tensions between their Clans it seemed such a thing would be impossible. To Shinjiro, that had to have been the reason for Yasuko’s distaste. The Crane and the Crab had warred and bickered for centuries, and ill feelings were common between the two. In such an environment, how could love ever hope to bloom?
But Shinjiro was not discouraged. It if was the relations between his Clan and the Crane that led to Yasuko’s distaste, then he would simply do the impossible. He would work toward better relations between the Crane and the Crab, and Yasuko would come to appreciate him. Even more, it would make both Clans stronger if they stood together! In his eyes, doing this worked not only toward his own happiness but prosperity for both the Crab and the Crane.
How wonderful, and blinding, love is. It is so sweet, and its illusions so deep. It can push for the humble to become heroes, and for the great to become villains. It can turn even the most intelligent into fools, and cause the wisest to fall. Love is a sword without a hilt, and if embraced without care it would bleed its holder dry until nothing is left.
Is this to be the recently wed Asahina Shinjiro’s fate, or will he perhaps succeed his goals and achieve the appreciation of his beloved? It is possible, as are all things, along the turnings of the Kharmic Wheel. All that mortals can do is walk their path as best they can, and perhaps achieve some measure of happiness along the way.
So it is for all who live, and so it is for Asahina Shinjiro.