Disclaimer: The Legend of the Five Rings is belongs to Alderac Entertainment and Wizard of the Coast. This story is adapted from the Legend of the Five Rings Role-playing Game. I remind you this is my first attempt to write L5R fanfic, since nobody wrote it. It might have several inconsistencies with the original canon. So, if you still want to read this story, read with your own risk!
Trials for the Unicorn
The First Steps
Burning Sands, four years ago,
Two riders paced their steeds across the arid desert. Despite the heat, they wore purple and white costume and bore Unicorn Clan mon. The Clan was assigned to accompany the exiled Scorpion Clan as the part of Emperor Toturi's order. The Lion, Emperor's right hand also sent some of them to aid. One of them, a girl laughed,
"Come on, Jiku! You slugged behind me…" The boy replied,
"Don't worry, Soche! I will catch you! Watch your back!" The maiden said,
"I will be the one who finish this!" Then they laughed again.
Afterward, both of them rested on the sand, staring the horizon. The boy named Shinjo Jiku sighed,
"Few years more, we'll have our gempukku…I can't wait that moment!" Utaku Soche said,
"Yes, that will make the others recognize us as an adults and samurai!" Jiku nodded,
"I will receive my own daisho, thus serving beside Yokatsu-sama!" Then the Utaku maiden asked,
"By the way, have you thought about your adult name once you have finished gempukku?" The boy mum for a moment, before blurting,
"Not yet, but I will find it later. I must choose the name that represents my destiny…" He turned to Soche,
"How about you? I think your mother was particular for that," She was silent; her mother Utaku Masamune was serving the current Utaku daimyo, Kamoko. She was quite strict and unbending; the common characteristics of the Utakus. She expected Soche to follow in her footsteps, yet she considered her youngest daughter was 'too delicate as a Crane maiden'. Soche sighed,
"I still have no choice, but I'm sure you will be greater because you're come from the Shinjo family, our Kami founder!" Jiku patted her shoulder,
"Soche, whatever happened, it won't change our friendship…" She smiled, while turning to the other side,
"I can't more agree with you, Jiku. I think we should return to the campsite now; I saw the incoming sandstorm to our direction," They immediately went to their horses who already restless. As Jiku mounted his steed, his eyes caught something afar. It was looks glittering blue. The Utaku called,
"Jiku-kun! Come on! We have to go!" The Shinjo turned his horse toward west,
"Wait, Soche-chan! I think I saw something…It was a man!" He paced his horse toward the direction,
"Jiku-kun!" He didn't hear her anymore.
Shinjo Jiku paced quickly. As the distance closed between them, he saw a man with glittering blue-sea cloak. He looks weak and fell facedown on the sand. At the same time, the raging wind blew the sands toward him. Once close, he dismounted from his horse and went to the stranger. Soche was behind her,
"Jiku, get back! You only killed yourself!" He replied,
"I can't let this man die, Soche! Please, help me to carry him!" Together, they went to the fallen man and lifted him. They found out that the stranger was surprisingly light. However those Unicorns don't have time to ponder. The sandstorm was closed behind them and engulfed them into darkness…
Shiro Moto, present time,
Inside the dojo at Shiro Moto,
"Watch out, Jiku!"
"Umph!" Jiku failed to see the incoming attack; he was knocked down by his attacker. When he slumped, a dark-skinned man offered his hand until a shout heard,
"Let him stand by himself, Xuren!" The man turned to a rugged man behind him. He scowled and stared them with his fierce eyes. His muscular arms were criss-crossed by scars from the battle. Not only that, the Khol emblem was emblazoned at his white armor. Moto Xuren begged,
"Yesunge-sama, let me help Jiku…he's my friend and…" Moto Yesunge replied,
"In battle, you have nobody to help you! It must be you or else, you'll die!" He turned to the other one, who already lifted himself,
"And you! You let your focus wander! I already stressed that will cost you a head!" As he spoke he stepped closer and closer to Jiku until his hawkish nose touched the youth's face,
"I won't tolerate this any longer, Shinjo Jiku! Do you understand that?" Jiku's cheeks flushed, and his hands clenched but did not flinch as his sensei's breath and spit flew to him. Yesunge had been returned from the War of the Rich Frog, where he fought the Lion Clan. Many Lion bushi had fallen to his scimitar. After the war, he accepted the position as a trainer at Shiro Moto. Though the Unicorn was used to be in a hardship, nevertheless Yesunge had driven his disciples overzealously. He even said, 'I will drive you hard until all of you hate me!' The Shinjo realized that he was not in position to protest that. He answered,
"Yes, sensei!" The Khol nodded as he turned to his other disciples, announcing,
"Practice hard! Few days more, you will have your gempukku! I don't want you to look downcast, when you finally will be recognized as adult samurai! Then you shall face me proudly and I do the same to you!" Everyone nodded in understanding. Yesunge turned to two youths behind him,
"Get out! Take a rest!" Jiku and Xuren went out without waiting further.
Outside the dojo, Jiku sips from a leather container while staring the steppes below. He felt nothing as his sensei's words echoed inside him. After the incident at the Burning Sands, changes swept into his Clan. Their founder, Lady Shinjo returned and uncovered the Qolat/Kolat's influence inside the Unicorn Clan. She immediately purged the Clan, especially the Shinjo family from their dark influence. As a result, the number of their family was thinned considerably and the leadership fell to the Moto family. Not only that, they also fought against the Dark Moto. As far as he concerned, Soche's and his family were spared from the disaster. Inside his heart burned to the disaster that befell his family. Now his family was led by Shinjo Shono, the closest man to the Khan Moto Chagatai and Emperor Toturi III. Jiku hoped once he was recognized as a samurai he would do anything in his power to restore the might of Shinjo.
"Jiku-san," The youth turned and saw the blue sea-cloaked man stood behind him. His hair and moustache were white, while his eyes were gentle. He was the stranger whom he and Soche had saved four years ago. They brought him immediately to their family and introduce him to Shinjo Yokatsu. The man barely spoke language that the Unicorn known, yet he could spoke what the others recognized as Ujik-hai's language. Not only that, the stranger had shown his prowess as a magic-user. Because of that, the daimyo declared that he would be adopted by the Iuchi family. Iuchi Yoshino, the distant family took him as a disciple and gave him name 'Najiru'. From him, they found out that the stranger came from a distant land and was a member of what they called 'Ishtar-shi'. Najiru told his master that the 'Isthar-shi' magic cannot be understood by the humans, yet they were open to learn another magic. After two years passed, Najiru finally could spoke Rokugani language, though not so perfect.
"Are you all right, Jiku-san?" The youth bowed slightly,
"I'm all right, Najiru-sama…this just not worth of your attention," The shugenja didn't buy that,
"Are you sure? Are you upset with your teacher?" Jiku slightly startled to hear that. Yesunge was very particular to not allow the others but his disciples to enter the dojo. Yet, Najiru already know what happened inside. He didn't say further until the shugenja said,
"Yesunge-san quite strict, but I think he was doing that for your sake. Sometimes it is hard for those who had returned from battle to accept the realities. Yet, he believed that what he experienced in the past was worth for you…probably I'm wrong to say so," Jiku sighed,
"I…I just afraid that I can't make my dream come true…I just want to be a good samurai, that's all!" Najiru nodded,
"Your friend, Xuren also thought the same. He worries that his skills isn't enough to prove himself over his younger brother. I sensed that he is actually capable, yet it was his minds who think otherwise," The magic-user pulled his pipe and smoked, forming a circle of smoke,
"Don't let your mind barred you; everyone has their own potential; it only wait to be unleashed…" Jiku smirked only,
"You know something, Najiru-sama? You spoke like Shinsei…I wonder if he was coming from your 'Ishtar-shi'," Najiru chuckled,
"I don't think so, Jiku-san. According the account I've read, Shinsei was a mortal but I admires his influence toward your society. Only few people can talk, even advises kami,"
"Do you have the kami in your place, Najiru-sama?" The man turned to him, before spoke absentmindedly,
"What we have is the Valar…that's all." Before Jiku wanted to ask more, Xuren called him,
"Jiku, come! Sensei has an announcement to all of us. He says it was come from the Khan!" Startled, the youth rose quickly. Before he left, he turned slightly to Najiru, but the shugenja waved his hand,
"Go on, I will wait you here…"
Inside the dojo, all the Unicorn bushi gathered inside and sat upon the tatami. Yesunge stood towering among them. Folding his muscular arms upon the chest, the Moto spoke with a loud and clear voice,
"There's something I must tell you today. Our Khan wanted me to select our best warriors for represents our clan in the Topaz Championship this year at Tsuma," Everyone inside the room gasped in amazement. The Topaz Championship is the most prestigious gempukku ceremony in the Empire. To attend that was considered an honor. However, the Great Clans tend to very selective in determining who will represent them at the Championship. To permit anyone to enter the contest would risk embarrassment, and no Great Clan would risk such a thing in front of others. From centuries, the Championship has been held at the town of Tsuma, not far from Shiro Sano no Kakita. The Crane Clan has taken particular pride for the Championship as a good host. Then Yesunge turned to his disciples,
"To represent the Moto family, the Khan and I agreed to select…Moto Xuren as one of our bushi for enters the contest!" Everyone turned to the dark-skinned Moto who looks nervous, and then applauded him. Jiku clapped loudly until the sensei stopped,
"Yet, he won't be alone at the contest! Our Khan decided to send two warriors for the Championship this year. The Lion, Dragon, Crane and Phoenix also sent two representatives each," When the name of 'Lion' and 'Dragon' mentioned, all disciples murmured and grumbled to express their assent. The sentiment after the War of the Rich Frog has been tense. So far, these Clans have maintained uneasy peace among them. Yesunge continued,
"Stop! I don't want all of you taken by feelings! True, I have killed many Lions and Dragons during the battle, and have no regrets for that! Yet, we have to uphold the code of Bushido! In the championship, you were measured not from how many enemies you have killed, but rather than your self-control! I believe the Lion and Dragon participants would prefer show their feelings through a healthy competition, and you must show them that the Unicorn will not shrink from such thing! Xuren, treat your opponent with respect, and they would treat you in return!" Xuren nodded,
"Hai,sensei!" While touched his black beard, he said again,
"Though you are our official representative, I decide to pick another as to follow the Khan's order! I have chosen…Shinjo Jiku!" Jiku's eyes bulged in disbelief, as everyone stared him. Yet, Xuren cheered for him and everyone inside followed. The Moto barked,
"That's all for today! You are dismissed!" When everyone went out, he called Xuren and Jiku,
"Xuren! Jiku! Khan Chagatai has assigned Ide Tatsuji to accompany you to Tsuma. He also secured the permission to pass the Lion's territory from the Emperor; so you don't have to worry about the possibility of untoward incident. Yet, I want both of you to open your eyes, just in case the Lion turned their back upon us! Is that clear?"
"As you know, Tatsuji once was my student like both of you; therefore he is your sempai. You must follow him clearly and don't shame our clan's name…" Both kowtowed as the sign of respect. Yesunge dismissed them, but Jiku stayed. The old warrior glanced to him,
"Do you have something to say, Jiku?" The Shinjo asked,
"Sensei, can I ask Najiru to join us? He has been long time among us, but never went to Rokugan." The Khol furrowed his brow; Iuchi Najiru wasn't a true Unicorn, but he had been adopted by the Iuchi as one of them. The Khan actually preferred to keep the gaijin from the prying eyes of the other Great Clans, especially the Phoenix. Since his rescue, Jiku was quite close to him. Though he dislikes the magic-user, but there is nothing wrong inside. He chose his words carefully,
"Jiku, Najiru has no business at the Championship. The contest is for the samurais, not for the shugenja. He wouldn't stomach the contest, except you can't handle the burden and need some magic," The youth insisted,
"No, sensei. I don't want the easy way to win! I'm a Unicorn, just like you! I asking this favor because he never seen the other parts of Rokugan! I know why the Khan and Shono-sama keep him here; they are afraid that…" Yesunge whirled on him,
"Take care with your tone!" he stood so close to the young warrior that he looked straight down into Jiku's eyes. "No one questions our Khan and General Shono so brazenly, not even his own relatives!"
"I only meant," Jiku said, standing tall and returning his teacher's stare, "Najiru is no stranger among us, yet we treated him like we were treated by the other Clans. Beside, he won't be show-off and I just need a friend to accompany me…"
"Xuren will be enough!"
"I know! He is close to me as well, but…forgive me for disrespect, sensei! I need someone to guide me from the other way…that what I want," The Moto was silent for a while. He grudgingly admitted the shugenja somehow more like a mentor to Jiku and his friends. The magic-user was the closest person to him after Utaku Soche. Najiru achieved what he couldn't; touching their heart. Yet, he couldn't disobey his Khan's order unless…
Yesunge watched the warrior carefully, and then spoke, "I know Najiru-san is your friend and you wanted to be with you, but I won't go against the Khan's orders," Jiku's face fell. "But if you four should happen to slip away tomorrow, I may not be able to remember,"
The Shinjo said, grinning, "May the Fortunes bless your faulty memory, sensei," The Moto waved his hands, barking,
"Now go! Just leave my dojo and prepare for your departure!"
They departed from Shiro Moto at the sunrise; Ide Tatsuji was a sturdy, fox-faced man rode beside Xuren, while Iuchi Najiru and Jiku followed from behind. The fox-faced Unicorn said,
"We won't pass at Toshi sano Kanemochi Kaeru, instead we took the way to Toshi sano Meiyo Gisei before go to Shiranai Toshi," Xuren muttered,
"I don't feel better when at the Lion's territory…" Tatsuji replied,
"The people at Toshi sano Kanemochi Kaeru did not take us lightly; they couldn't forget what the war brings to them," Then the shugenja said,
"I think what Tatsuji-san says is right; we should avoid any frictions with the Lion Clan. At least, we come in peace…" The Ide glanced to the Iuchi,
"Probably you are right, Najiru-sama. It is not your way to have fight; it is the way of the shugenja, not the warrior," Instead offended, Najiru smiled only. The Ide usually committed to the diplomacy, yet they didn't afraid to fight whenever it is necessary. Jiku added,
"Don't worry, Tatsuji-san. I will behave to not smear the Clan's name." Tatsuji grinned proudly to the youth's words.
"Yosh! That's the spirit! Come, our journey still too far!" Xuren and Jiku smiled; their sempai somehow more relaxed than their teacher.
After crossing the river, they arrived at Muzasano Eiyu ni Suzu, before go to their destination. When they entered through the gate, Najiru saw everyone wore brown and yellow colors upon their clothes. He recognized that these people were the subjects of the Lion Clan. He could spot some bushi staring them with unfriendly look. Just beyond the entrance, a small city of tents and shacks beckoned to travelers. Jiku and Xuren watched their surrounding uneasily. Yet Tatsuji was unruffled with that. The quartet rode up to the soba shop and dismounted. Inside, they each ordered a bowl of cold buckwheat noodles and sake, and then came back to find a bench when they could sit in the shade. Before they could eat, someone called,
"I am assuming all of you go to Tsuma for the Topaz Championship," Everyone turned and saw three people standing not far from them. One of them was a middle-aged warrior with brown-yellow armor. He tucked his daisho upon the waist. His hair was dyed gold, following the Lion's tradition. Beside him, a tall, athletic youth stood. Like his companion, his black mane was dyed gold and he wore a light armor. A white ribbon wrapped at his forehead. He watched the Unicorn with slight disdain. The last, a black-haired girl with a satchel stood behind them. Only few strands of her hair were gold-colored.
Najiru noted the visitors weren't unfriendly like other people. He turned to Tatsuji, who asked,
"May I know your name?" The warrior answered politely,
"I am Ikoma Satsuke!" The youth also introduced himself,
"My name is Akodo Shotaka, student from the Castle of Swift Sword!" He turned to the girl,
"She is Kitsu Konoko; both of us are the contestant from the Lion Clan! Who among you will participate at the Championship?" Xuren glanced darkly to the Lion, but Tatsuji rose and bowed cordially,
"It is an honor to meet the contestant from Lion Clan; I will introduce our own," He turned to Xuren,
"Moto Xuren and Shinjo Jiku; they will be represent the Unicorn Clan at the Championship," Xuren and Jiko rose and bowed out of politeness. Satsuke said,
"Don't worry, we aren't bothering you. Though the War of the Rich Frog is hard to forgotten, we believe that we have to put that away until these bushi have been proven themselves as a good samurai!"
Shotaka quickly quipped,
"Then we shall prove who is better…" Xuren looks agiated, yet the Ikoma quickly stared Shotaka sharply. Jiku and Najiru watched them with tense. Konoko have put her right hand into her satchel, just in case of violent outburst. The youth was silent upon its silent rebuke. Satsuke turned to them,
"Forgive me, Tatsuji-san. The young people usually brash and Shotaka-san is no exception!"
"I can see that, Satsuke-san! No harm done, you and your companion are welcome to join us. We won't be long here." The Ikoma asked,
"Where are you going, Tatsuji-san?"
"To Toshi Meiyo no Gisei…" The Lions nodded in understanding until Shotaka said again,
"Too far if you take the way. Why don't you take to Shiro Sano ken Hayai? It is much closer than go through Shiranai Toshi…" Tatsuji replied,
"Such a good suggestion, Shotaka-san. However, we might trouble you if we choose the same way," Satsuke added,
"Shotaka is right. You will take the longer way through Toshi Meiyo no Gisei. I know it is odd to have the Lion and Unicorn goes together, but since it is for the Topaz Championship, why don't we walk together? Except you don't trust us…" Najiru bowed before speaking,
"Your offer is generous, Satsuke-san. Yet we don't want to give you trouble, by going along with you," Jiku immediately remembered the etiquette about accepting something. The Ikoma smiled wryly, and then he insisted,
"Nonsense, you don't give us trouble. You have to come with us,"
"Thanks, but we will become burden for you,"
"I insist you to come with us, as the contestant"
"We aren't worthy for your invitation…"
"I will have it no other way…you are…" The shugenja answered,
"Iuchi Najiru. Then we'll accept your offer." The tension was relieved. Not sooner enough, the former enemies gathered around the table. Though uncomfortable, Xuren and Jiku sat face to face with their Lion rivals. The Moto finally spoke to Shotaka,
"I thought the Akodo family always thinking first before doing, not like the Matsus," Everyone was silent, fearing the Akodo consider it as a veiled insult, Shotaka answered,
"That's because I somehow possesses the Matsu's trait of quickness. Not to mention of the Ikoma's fascination to history," Jiku caught,
"Not so bad, Shotaka-san. That's very impressive!" The Akodo scratched his head,
"Yes, but my sensei advises me to balance those traits. Sometimes I'm going too zealous in doing something," Then he smiled slyly,
"Well, it will improve over the time! Now I just want to best of you! We shall prove it at the Championship, no offense intended!" Xuren grinned to the Shinjo,
"I think I like this Lion…" Jiku turned to the silent Kitsu,
"Do you like to talk, Konoko-san?" The female shugenja turned to him incredulously, her face was serious,
"What do you want me to talk? The Unicorn has killed my relatives…" Realizing his mistake, the Shinjo said slowly,
"I'm…so sorry to hear that…" Sighed, she answered,
"I think I'm supposedly to apologize to bring that matter, Jiku-san. Well, the war is over and we'll face each other at the Championship…" Nodded, Jiku asked carefully,
"Are you what they called sodan-senzo?" Konoko said,
"Yes, I am as the other Kitsus does…probably you wonder why the shugenja like me joins the Championship?"
"I won't ask it."
"It is my childhood dream to be a warrior, yet my parents seem disagreed with me. They sent me to train as shugenja. But the dream never dies…that's why I…" Jiku noticed that the Kitsu was alarmingly tense and nervous. His eyes caught a bug beside her. He whispered to her,
"Stay still…" With a gentle movement, the Unicorn slammed his palm upon the crawling insect. Konoko breathed in relief instantly. She smirked slightly to him,
"I never thought I have indebted to a Unicorn…" Jiku said casually,
"Not a debt, just consider a friendly gesture," Then the Kitsu broke a smile,
"I will think of that at the Championship…"
Author's Note: This is my first Legend of the Five Rings' (L5R) fanfiction. I just like to fill the unnoticed categories. This is based from the L5R RPG: The Topaz Championship, Third Edition and any information about L5R I can get. My player character here is Shinjo Jiku. I will continue this once I have plenty of time. Reviews, critics (or flames) are welcomed! Wait the next chapter, 'The First Day'! See you next time!
Gempukku-coming to age ceremony, signifying the recognition of adulthood
Daisho-a samurai's sword set; a katana and a wakizashi