The sun's high in the sky over the open range of the training field overlooked by Bayushi Castle and the Archery Contest of the Topaz Championship is about to begin.
Each of the eight contestants is given a fine 'Dai-Kyu' longbow by the group of Scorpion bowyers in attendance, each one with a small woven wrap of different coloured silk threads tied around the grip to denote each of the great clans and the bow's archer for the contest.
First to shoot at the three rows of targets spaced further and further back is Hideyoshi Doji from the Crane Clan. He hits the first row but misses the second and respectfully ceases his participation there.
Endo Moshi is next and shows up his clan's neighbours accross the sea by hitting all three targets.
Hideo Mirumoto's of the Dragon Clan's resolve that he might have to start shooting arrows at things any time soon is strong. He hits all three rows of targets and takes a contest point for his trouble.
Mitsuhiro Shiba's read all the right books about archery, hits the first two targets and his third arrow seems to be en-route to hit the third, when it deviates off towards the end of its flightpath, only grazing the edge of the target and landing on the ground.
Hailing from a long line of scouts who're among the best archers in the empire, it's to Yashiro's (and his ancestors') disappointment that he misses the last target too. Probably too much time haggling for things in the Yasuki Courtier School have made his hands a bit too soft for this sort of thing these days.
Diminutive Minako takes up her bow and proceeds to calmly bury the front half of an arrow straight into the exact centre of each target she looses at. Everyone is quietly impressed but doesn't want to break the air of serenity being put out chiefly by Minako herself, so they just let their mouths hang open for a while.
Sugai from the Scorpion and Kujiko from the Lion Clan both fail to hit sll three targets are score no points.
The archery contest is finished. Master of Ceremonies Omaru Miya informs the contestants that the next test will be one to test their skills as courtiers and will happen on the upper floors of the main castle keep, overlooking the gardens.
The spectators and officials drift off and Hideo's detective instincts are able to be let loose, in search of any possible sabotage… He sends off his yojimbo (and son) Kato to pick up Mistushiro's arrow that seemed to fly oddly. Kato returns and there doesn't seem to be much up with the arrow apart from it getting a bit damaged during its almost-hit and landing.
Hideo turns his nose towards the bows and the Scorpion bowyers to sniff out any impropriety there. Inspecting the bow with the Phoenix-orange wrap that Mitsuhiro used, he finds that the bow string is slightly frayed, seemingly on purpose. He questions the bowyers, who fearfully feign ignorance and stammer that they have made a great mistake. Hideo presses them further to root out any falsehood and he picks up tension in the words "Scorpion superiors" in their babbled reasoning. The bowyers are now slamming their foreheads against the ground and wailing in an even more pathetic way when Hideo leaves the scene and stalks back towards the castle, taking the arrow and suspect bow with him.
Meanwhile, Mitsuhiro decides it's time to roll up his courtierly sleeves and do some dirty work for a change… All in the name of good though, namely trying to stop the war between the Lion and Dragon clans before it's even started. Spying Hideyoshi Doji of the Crane Clan – who admitted to Mitsuhiro the night before that the Crane don't really like the Lion - Mitsuhiro makes a bee-line for him and readies some particularly un-honeyed words, designed to undermine the Lion at court. Isn't it strange that this overtly martial clan seem to be doing so badly at all the martial contests..? Could it be that they're just paper <s>tigers</s> <s>lions</s> <s>bears</s> tigers and they're crap at war..? Hideyoshi certainly seems receptive to the idea and remarks that that certainly does seem to be the case. Also, he's sure more people are thinkly exactly the same thing…
Meanwhile-Meanwhile, Yashiro is trying some small-talk with Yui Shosuro, the Scorpion yojimbo bodyguard who's been assigned to him, just try and detect if she's planning on stabbing him when his back's turned. Ever the salesman, Yashiro turns the conversation to her material desires and Yui admits to coveting her Whispering Sword School sensei Toshimaki Bayushi's wooden 'bokken' training sword, fashioned out of white oak. Quickly coming up with a wheeze to win his yojimbo's trust, Yashiro trots off to school dojo, happens to bump into Toshimaki and asks him if the bokken is for sale. Amused that this is coming up in conversation, Toshimaki replies that the item in question is not for sale. Thinking that means he only wants to trade item-for-item, Yashiro then enquires if there's anything that Toshimaki's heart desires… Toshimaki has to think for a while, but he thinks it must be every young Scorpion bushi's idle dream to don… The Ancestral Armour of the Scorpion Clan! The ceremonial armour that only the Daimyo of the Scorpion has the right to wear..! Yashiro eyes the main castle keep, the supposed location of the Ancestral Armour and also the location of his very next appointment in the contest…
But what's he thinking..?
…See you next time!
The scoreboard in the Topaz Championship now looks like this:
|Minako Ide||Kirin Clan||7 points|
|Hideo Mirumoto||Dragon Clan||7 points|
|Mitsuhiro Shiba||Phoenix Clan||6 points|
|Endo Moshi||Mantis Clan||5 points|
|Yashiro Hiruma||Crab Clan||5 points|
|Sugai Bayushi||Scorpion Clan||4 points|
|Kujiko Matsu||Lion Clan||3 points|
|Hideyoshi Doji||Crane Clan||3 points|