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The Saga of a Lotus Blossom

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The Saga of a Lotus Blossom

Post  TRU on Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:22 pm

Authors Note: The names in this story all have meaning to them, some more significant than others. My Caviler Lien was given the name Naoko at birth. This name means "obedient child". It was what her parents wished her to be but they never spent the time tto cultivate it. The Demon Hunter Koizumi renamed her Lien which means "lotus". The Lotus flower is a symbol of beauty and purity as it's plants grow out of the muddy places to bear beautiful white blossoms.

Please forgive any lack of clarity, inconsistencies and any and all liberties I have taken with Tian history. I did not proof read this very well before posting it. But most of all forgive the length. Lien story didn't stop properly growing until after 9 pages were typed and so I sought to cut it short. But alas, short it is not. All in all I hope you enjoy!!

 dragon 

                              ***********************
She was born Naoko Kuroda in the small river fishing village of Hokkaido. Her mother ran the gambling tables in the secret rooms behind the ramen shop. She always had a handful of well toned young men at her disposal, ramen shop employees by day and bodyguards by night, sometimes with a little something extra on the side. Her father was an aimless man, having ceased trying to please his wife he now sought pleasures elsewhere, mostly at the Madame Butterfly’s Inn and Sauna with all the beautiful women.

Though it seemed only a humble fishing village Hokkaido was nothing of the sort. True, they were one of the only villages near the breeding grounds of the rare and favorable golden eels, but fishing these grounds were not the only reason for the fishermen to travel to Hokkaido. More often than not, when a days work was done the fishermen would dock their small river boats and spend more than half of their day’s earnings on the town’s “pleasures”. A few days later they would board their boats again, the lucky ones with money still in their pockets and sail on for more peaceful waters. Most would return in a year or so, never being able to refuse the draw of Hokkaido and their golden eels.

The residents of Hokkaido thought their living was easy, never imagining there would be hell to pay.

                                                   *****************************
The following is an accounting of how Naoko’s life would change forever:

Forgive me for a moment as we follow two travelers, coming up the coastal road.

“It’s this way,” the short sinewy man crouched over the path, his face hidden by the broad bamboo brim of his sugegasa. A long red tattoo of an imperial dragon ran up the tanned skin of his right arm. He was dressed in simple garb, suggesting that he was a mere peasant, but the ornately matching pair of katana and wakizashi that hung by his side spoke of higher breeding. The tattooed man looked up at his companion, a skinny man with a thin black ponytail secured at the nape of his neck and dressed in a blue linen kimono. His expression as looked down at the tattooed man made one think that he made a habit of sucking on unripe cherries. The lines of his cheekbones were sharp enough to cut your finger on, and despite his lack of visible muscles his jaw was set with great strength.

“You see?” the tattooed man gesticulated expectantly, “Here is the ash on the road. I fear we are too late to save the town. This oni was faster than we expected.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just the telltale signs of civil war, Koizumi?” the man in the blue kimono replied, squinting further up the road. “Villages and even some small towns have been known to burn as a casualty of some local dispute in this area. Seems as though no one has been born with a cool head here since the fall of the Lung Wa.”

“No, Kurosawa. I am afraid your pessimism is short sighted. There have been no armies through here, small or large, since before the last rain.” The tattooed man, Jiro Koizumi, gestured to the road again. Even though the road was mostly dry now, water still stood in the ditch at it’s edge. Aside from the ruts made by the water the only other tracks on the dirt road were those that belonged to the farmer or merchant, not the utter trampling of a party of war.   “This is the work of an oni. The same oni we have been tracking for a week now.”

“Hmm,” the grunt was as close as Yukio Kurosawa would come to a concession of the facts presented to him. “Then it would seem that time is of the essence.”

He watched his tattooed friend stand and stretch his limbs. As soon as he reached for his drinking gourd Kurosawa knew that Koizumi would offer him a drink so he declined with the wave of his hand and asked him the obvious question. “What can an oni want with a small town on the road between Nazhu and Lanming? An attack on this place of insignificance seems unwarranted.”

“I’m not exactly sure, my friend.” Koizumi replied, putting his drinking gourd away on his belt. “I once heard a rumor about a village in this area. A small river village that held quite an attraction. It seemed that men traveled there for more than just the fish… This may be the place we are looking for.

“It is a pity,” he sighed as he looked toward the setting sun. “I was looking forward to a soft bed tonight, not to mention a nice hot bowl of ramen.”

                                       ***************************************

The village of Hokkaido was a burned out wreck. Something inhuman had ravaged the place thoroughly, leaving no building standing. The desolate waste smoldered from the recent fire. Koizumi was amazed the no one around had seen the cloud of smoke and sent for help. Surely some of the nearby rice farmers would have seen something… Yet as he thought it over he recalled that the rice fields had stopped abruptly 7 or 8 miles before they had reached the village. Now all he could see where grasslands to the west of the river. Grasslands with a large, soot covered, uneven path cutting through them like a giant arrow pointing the direction that they needed to go. Koizumi glanced back at the village, surely nothing more could be living there. All the buildings had been burned to a crisp. It was hard to even tell what stood where anymore. He didn’t have time to look for survivors anyway if he wanted to catch and kill the ravaging oni before it struck again.

He motioned at Kurosawa who was poking around in the ashes, inspecting the remains of the village. “We need to keep moving if we want to catch up with the beast.” he said, indicating the trampled down grass. “I hope it is ready for a nice long nap after it’s full meal, because I’m of the mind to give him one.”

And thus the demon hunters (or hunters of the oni as they are known in Tian) followed their prey and soon caught up with it, dispatching it before the sun could rise again. Exhausted they headed back for the village finding a little comfort for sleep in a half burned boat house near the edge of the river. They both awoke the next evening to find that someone had joined them in their respite. A small child, a girl they supposed, though she was so dirty, singed and bedraggled it was difficult to tell at first, was curled up asleep in the crook of Koizumi’s arm. She was the lone survivor.

They took her with them as far as the nearest rice farm. With stern resolve Kurosawa explained to his soft hearted companion that she could not stay with two bachelors who roamed around the countryside seeking and slaying dangerous monsters. The girl would only slow them down, or worse, get killed in the process. But the child wordlessly clung to Koizumi’s calf refusing to let go. Koizumi could not refuse the silent plea and much to Kurosawa’s dislike the girl had come to stay.

“Maybe it’s time we took a little vacation,” Koizumi said to his friend. “The child needs a safe place to grow and since she won’t be parted from us than we must go with her. I think it is high time I went to visit my dearest aunt and uncle in Varisia!”

“Varisia!” Kurosawa scoffed. “That is half a world away, in case you have forgotten. Just how do you plan to get there? And on what money?”

“Don’t you worry, old friend,” Koizumi replied, “I have my ways…”

                                     ****************************************************

A few months later as the last cherry blossoms fell and the first hints summer began to show themselves Koizumi, Kurosawa and the child found themselves outfitted for winter and traveling with a caravan through vast Crown of the World. Much to his partner’s chagrin Koizumi had signed the two of them up to be caravan guards. Using his easy going charm Koizumi had persuaded one of the women in the caravan to care for the child for the duration of the trip. She still remained unnamed since she hadn’t said a word to them since they had found her in Hokkaido. Koizumi had done his best to draw her out gently but to no avail. Sometimes he feared the ever present scowl on his fighting companion’s face did more the keep her in silence than not, though if he had to be rational he knew that sometimes these things just took time.

It took them close to four months to travel the expanse of ice. By the time they reached Avistan the child was looking more and more like a little girl. Her hair had grown out long enough to cover the badly singed areas and having a female watching over her the past few months had done wonders to bring out her feminine side. Koizumi was glad for this since it was a duty he could not perform for her. She may have chosen him but he and Kurosawa were sadly lacking in the feminine touch. A part of him wanted to agree with his companion and the fact that they were an unfit pair to raise a child. He thought maybe he should try to leave her with his relatives in Varisia. But as soon as that thought crossed his mind he always thought back to the moment in the rice farmer’s hut where the child had clung so tightly to him, silently pleading with him to never leave her. He had made a silent promise that day in return to her pleas that he would indeed stay with her as long as he had breath in his lungs.

The trees were almost bare when they rode into the small town of Sandpoint. Koizumi was glad to have made it before the harsher temperatures of winter had set in. Sure they had all the cold weather gear they needed but traveling was far easier in the warmer months. A quick inquiry pointed him to the house he needed.

“Now, I feel I should warn you,” he spoke as they dismounted their horses. “I haven’t seen this part of my family in ages. Since I was a small child, in fact. I’m sure we will be received warmly, but one never knows.” He laughed awkwardly. “I seem to be picking up on a bit of your pessimistic viewpoint, Kurosawa. I should watch myself more carefully or I will become twice the lemon you are.” Kurosawa only grunted in reply.

All fears were allayed for once Koizumi introduced himself to the woman at the door she joyfully ushered him and his companions in and fed them for she was his mother’s younger sister, his Oba Atsuii. She had a child, a girl named Ameiko nearly matched in height and age to the girl-child that still clung to Koizumi’s side. Ameiko was delighted to have a new playmate but she soon grew bored of the silent, wide-eyed stare and left her behind in search of something more interesting.

When Lonjiku, Atsuii’s husband came home that evening he was less inclined to be joyful toward their three new house guests. When she told him that one of them was her nephew Jiro from Tian Xia he was furious. He told her that he would not have an ungrateful, disinherited wretch living under his roof and that was final. The “guests” would need to go elsewhere. Tearfully Atsuii relayed the information to Koizumi. She tried to comfort him by explaining that she had never agreed with his father’s decision to turn him out of the house and family. She said that she was proud of his decision to follow his ideals but as it was, Lonjiku was a traditional man who clung to the old ways and to him turning away from father’s way of living was the gravest of insults.

And so they spent the winter lodging at an inn in Sandpoint, spending as many hours as they could with Atsuii and Ameiko while steering clear of the fuming Lonjiku. It was still a time of peace and happiness for Koizumi for all the moments spent with a loving aunt who fretted and fussed over all three of them as if she were their own mother. The girl slowly grew out of her shell with all the care she received and the rambunctious Ameiko soon found her to be a suitable playmate. After much pestering from Atsuii over the fact that “child” was not a proper name Koizumi decided he would call her Lien for she reminded him of the lotus flower. He hoped she would continue to bloom beautiful and strong in spite of the great horror of her childhood.

As winter turned to spring Koizumi set his face eastward. Too long had he been idle in the fight against the oni. He knew they must wait at least another month before they set off for the land he called home. It was then that he would be able to get a job with one of the early caravans traveling over the Crown of the World. When the day finally came for them to leave Lien finally broke her silence.

As Koizumi put her on his horse she called down faintly, “Goodbye, Ameiko. I will miss you!”

Then she buried her face in the horse’s mane and began to cry. Koizumi was so astonished he could only stare. He looked at Lien, then at Ameiko, then back to Lien. Finally he said the first thing that came to his mind.

“Do you wish to stay with Obasan and Ameiko?” he asked her gently. No reply came. He looked pleadingly at his aunt. What was he to do now? He must return to Tian Xia, but could he leave Lien behind? She would be well cared for here, Atsuii would make sure of it.

“I could leave you here, if you wish…” His hesitation was met with vigorous head shaking as Lien gripped harder on the horses mane. “Alright then, you shall stay with me, my flower.” came his reply as he hopped on the horse behind her. “It just saddens my heart to see you cry so. But I am sure you and Ameiko will see each other again. Life is not so short as all that.”

And with that they said their goodbyes.  And though he was right in saying so it would be many years before Lien Kuroda would see her childhood friend again.

                                   ****************************************************

The years went on, the child Lien continued to follow the Hunters of the Oni through everything they did despite the ever present danger. Both men taught her things as she grew. With happy pride Koizumi taught her how to harness the passions of her heart and channel them through the blade. Reluctantly Kurosawa taught her his vast knowledge on the subject of the oni, their origins, history, and most importantly their hierarchy. And with a childlike heart she loved and trusted them believing that she was the most privileged child in all of the world.

When Lien was on the cusp of womanhood tragedy hit once again. Her dearly beloved friend and pseudo-father Jiro Koizumi fell in battle against a powerful oni never to get up again. In a foolhardy move he had tried to take the oni on by himself. By the time Kurosawa and Lien knew what he had done the oni had already done his worst and moved on. Kurosawa stood silently beside her as Lien mourned Koizumi’s death for days. When the last tear had been shed Lien reached for her sword and swore to have her vengeance. But Kurosawa stood in her way.

“You know that I have never been fond of you, Lien,” he replied to her violent protests. “You were a deadweight and a danger to our livelihood. But no matter how many times I told Koizumi to find you a new home he would hear nothing of it. So what I have to say next is not out of any love for you but for a respect to my former companion.

“You cannot fight this oni. Your skill in the blade is good but you are still only beginning. If you try to fight him you will be powerless to mete out your strongly desired revenge. There is still much for you to learn.

“Put your thoughts of vengeance to rest, Lien. May they sleep quietly like the old man under the sakura trees in spring time. And while they sleep, do everything you can to hone your skill. Train your thoughts, your body, and your passions. And when you think you have done enough training go and train some more. Only when you feel that you can never learn enough will you be ready.

“Then and only then you may waken your vengeance. And yet, be shrewd in doing so. Do not try to mete it out on your own. Do not forget what pride cost Koizumi. Revenge can render you blind so it is best to have someone with you to help you see straight, to see logic.”

Kurosawa then told her where she could find a school for warriors that accepted women pupils. It was run by a man named Assa Takenaka, a master of the blade and a sage of many knowledges. And after giving her enough money for her travels he bade her farewell, and with bitter disappointment she watched his blue kimono fade away in the distance.

                                          *************************************************

Thus Lien Kuroda found herself a pupil of the great Sensei Takenaka in the Hall of the Dragon Samurai. The training was not as friendly as that she had received from Koizumi. Upon entering the school she was stripped of everything she owned and told to forget everything she thought she knew. At first she rebelled, too proud of her childhood training to give it up, but she soon found that to be more trouble than it was worth. So along with her thirst for vengeance she lay her memories to rest and with grim determination she threw all her energies into her lessons.  

After a year of studying at the Hall of the Dragon Samurai Lien received a summons from the Master Sensei himself. With much trepidation she went to meet him in the school’s private garden. Had she done something wrong? Had she not progressed in her training as she was expected to? Was she failing her studies of Tian history? What could have happen that Sensei Takenaka would draw her aside without warning? Whatever it was Lien knew she had to do whatever she could to stay in the Hall.

Sensei Takenaka’s greeting was warm and gracious as though he sensed her distress and meant to set her at ease. He was sitting at small table set up with a pure white tea set and he beckoned that she come and join him. After he had poured the tea and partook of a few sips he asked her, “Lien, do you trust me?”

Taken by surprise Lien could only reply, “Yes, sensei.”

“Hmm,” Takenaka took another sip and stared off into the distance, “so you say.” Slowly he finished his cup of tea, letting the weight of his words hang in the air. Finally fixing his gaze on the young woman before him he continued.

“So you say, but I have no proof of this.”

Lien opened her mouth as if to reply but no words came out.

“No, this will not do.” Takenaka shook his head. “It it true, you are a good student. But therein lies the problem. You see, we do not set out to make good students but great ones. We desire that everyone who steps through our gates reach their highest potential and much more before they are allowed to bare the honor of being called a Samurai of the Dragon Order. We ask them for the fullest trust and acceptance of our methods. They will be useless to our cause if they are not fully one of us first, united in mind, soul and body.

“But you do not desire this, do you Lien? Oh, I know you are obedient to a fault. I have marked this. But I have also seen that you are holding back your trust and acceptance. Is the cause of the Dragon’s Order so beneath you that you disregard it so?”

“Forgive me, Sensai,” Lien replied, “I do not understand what you mean. I thought I was following all the rules of the hall as was expected of any student. If I have disregarded the order I have done so unintentionally.”

Takenaka sat quietly as he gently watched his student. His long gaze made Lien uncomfortable but she not flinch. She quietly sipped her tea as she waited.

“Let me tell you the story of our history long past. You have come to know a little of our order in your time of study with us but I now I will enlighten you about why our order exists in the first place.

“Have you ever seen a dragon, Lien?”

Lien shook her head. “No, Sensai.”

“It is as I thought.” Takenaka replied. “Dragon’s are rare things indeed these days. And when they are seen they often inspire great fear and greed in those who encounter them. Such is the way with our world in these times. Once it was not so. Long ago, before the birth of man the Lords of Heaven saw fit to create great powerful beast to roam the earth. In Tian Xia we were gifted with five of these serpentine creatures, the dilung of the forest, the jiaolungs of the sea, the tienlungs of the heavens, the futsanglungs of under the earth, and the highest of them all, the lungwangs to rule them all and give them balance.

“The five great dragons of Tian Xia reveled in the land they were given, counting themselves the greatest creatures ever created. Soon after however the Lords of Heaven saw it fit to create humans. Once doing so the Lords charged the dragons with the task of protecting the earth, seas, and skies for the humans they had created. The dragons were told that the Lords of Heaven had given the earth to these humans as their birthright and when they had grown in number and matured they would take on the task of ruling it.  Inwardly some of the dragons scoffed at this idea of the humans ruling the world. To them man was nothing more than a mewling babe and such they would ever be.

“But man grew, multiplied and started to spread themselves across the face of the land. Soon the dilung and the futsanglung began to feel the threat of man’s foolhardy bravery as their territories slowly became more and more inhabited by the weaker creatures. In anger they fought back and killed many humans in the process.

“The great lungwang looked on this with disapproval. They warned the dilung and the futsanglung of their barbarism but in their anger they refused to listen. Finally the lungwang called council with the four other dragons to discuss the iniquities of their earth bound brothers. The dilung and futsanglung presented their cases while the other dragons listened patiently and sorrowfully for some had seen this come to pass. Much was discussed in attempts to ratify this grievous situation making the council last for days.

“Finally the lungwang had had enough. Their leader rose and cleared his throat and began to speak with great authority. ‘Brothers,’ he said. ‘I have heard much in the past few days but the more I hear the more one thing is clear to me. That one thing is this. The Lords of Heaven made us great with power to live on this earth to protect it, and not to rule it. In their ultimate wisdom they saw fit to give man the sceptre and not the dragon. I believe it is in our best interests to do what it was we were created for instead of grasping for what does not belong to us.’

“The jiaolungs and the tienlungs agreed with the great lungwang. The dilungs and the futsanglungs however did not. They didn’t think that man deserved the gift they had been given and vowed that they would continue to fight them for supremacy. And so the great lungwang banished the dilungs and futsanglungs from the council of dragons, and in their place they added a human emissary, committing to the charge the Lords of Heaven put on them from the beginning. Thus the three great races of dragons have lived in harmony with the humans for many years to come.”

Takenaka sat back and sighed. “It is this great harmony that our order is based on. A harmony between three great races of the dragon and fragile man. A harmony based on loyalty and the desire to fulfill a mutual purpose, to obey the command of Heaven. And so, in a small way, we the Dragon Samurai train ourselves with that kind of commitment in mind. The commitment to put our allies before our own desires, to protect them with our lives, to defend their honor, and above all to be unified in the commitment of fulfilling a mutual goal. To do so is our honor and our pleasure.

“Do you understand me, Lien Kuroda?”

“Yes, Sensai.” Lien said with a bow of her head.

“Good,” said Takenaka, “then you are dismissed to go back to your studies.”

Hearing the history of the dragon order humbled Lien. She understood what Takenaka was telling her and she found new resolve in committing herself wholly to the Order of the Dragon. Ten years later when it came time for her sword ceremony where she would accept the official title of Dragon Samurai she did so with honor and pleasure, proud to be named a protector of others.

                           *************************************************

“Where will you go, bright Lien?” Takenaka asked his newest samurai when he found her packing her bags to leave the Hall. “What grand purpose do you seek to protect?”

“Ah, Sensai,” Lien smiled. “I go in search of the harmony that exists between dragon and man. In my studies here I have learned that there is a place in the Inner Sea region where such a thing exists. I seek to go there and observe how such a harmony works and thus further my training.”



“Grand aspirations indeed, Lien.” Takenaka smiled back at her. “I have heard something of this place myself. What a wonder it must be to see it with your own eyes. If you ever find your way back to the Hall I would greatly desire to hear what you find there.”

“Thank you, Sensai.” Lien bowed deeply to her elder. “For all that you have taught me. You have been a fountain of wisdom and an admirable example of discipline to me and I am loath to leave such treasures behind.”

“But you must, my child.” Takenaka said gently. “We have protectors enough here at the Hall. You must go and find those who need that protection the most and guard them with your life. For such is our honor and pleasure.”

With the blessing of her sensai Lien mounted her horse and started her new journey. As she rode out of the gates of the Hall Assa Takenaka called after her, “Do not forget that those who need our protection exist on all the paths we take!”

                     ***************************************************************

After many months of travel Lien reached the border of Varisia. Riding through the verdant green land brought back memories of a time she had long forgotten. Suddenly her heart pulled her to a place she knew only from distant and loving memory. She knew she must go first to Sandpoint. The place of peace between dragons and humans could wait while she took a long overdue rest among
the ones she loved.

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