Our Topaz Championship contestants are going up in the world in more ways than more as they ascend the main tower of Bayushi Castle, rising towards Lord Shoju and Lady Kachiko Bayushi's own entertaining suites and the Courtier contest.
Once everyone is settled on one of the grand balconies that overlook the sumptuous castle gardens, Topaz Championship Master of Ceremonies Omaru Miya kicks things off by telling the contestants that they will be put into pairs, given a topic to debate and once the team of judges formed by Kachiko, Shoju and Omaru deigns that one person has proven their point with significant aplomb, they are named winner.
Omaru mentions in passing that this contest has been the starting point of plenty of inter-clan and inter-family blood feuds in the past. His glamorous assistant from the Scorpion Clan is ready by his side and Omaru draws tiles from his ornate bowl, deciding who will face who.
It's Yashiro Hiruma from the Crab Clan and Endo Moshi from the Mantis Clan up first and Omaru gives them the topic of 'The Most Beautiful View in the Empire' to debate. Yashiro thinks it's the Kaiu Wall. Endo thinks it's the open sea. Omaru asks them for their reasoning and they explain further. Then Omaru fidgets with his fan and starts putting the verbal boot in. How come The Wall's so worthwhile when it hasn't been attacked for about 20 years..? Do the Mantis have the right to claim the sea and its wonders for themselves when they're so low in the celestial order by default? It becomes clear to the contestants that this is now the real test. Endo and Yashiro renew their emphatic reasoning again. Yashiro maintains the Crab direct-ness but Endo makes a faux pas in polite society by claiming that a person's station doesn't really matter. Omaru stops the flow and later goes on to say that Endo is the winner. While he slipped up, his points were more varied and challenging.
Next is Minako Ide of the Kirin Clan and Mitsuhiro Shiba of the Phoenix Clan. Lady Kachiko informs them that they will be mulling over this: what is more important, the Empire or the Empress? Everyone's been eased in, now we're into the dark heart of this labyrinth of possible pratfalls.
Mitsuhiro strikes while the iron's hot and drops a "They are one and the same." Minako stews but manages to opine that one does not separate the two. The debaters now twig that they're arguing the same point, so it's up to either one to argue it more spectacularly than the other and snatch a victory.
Soon, various members of the retinue have lost track of the looping nature of the discourse as the speakers coil around the same points. It is the usually-silent Shoju Bayushi who breaks the impasse by raising a fan and declaring that both parties have declared their support for their empress. Later, Misuhiro is told that he has won this contest with his quick resolve.
The next contest is between Sugai Bayushi from the Scorpion Clan and Kujiko Matsu of the Lion Clan. Sugai is able to run rings around the Lion Bushi who is way out of her depth and claims a victory.
The last matchup is between Hideo Mirumoto of the Dragon Clan and Hideyoshi Doji of the Crane Clan. In the end, it's Hideyoshi's long experience in loafing about in well-appointed rooms, gassing on about stuff that wins him a victory against the faltering riddles of the Dragon.
The contest is over and the contestants are ushered through into a kind of (with)drawing room next door that's not quite as finely-appointed, but it does have the Otomo matchmakers in it along with their young 'friends'. 'Aunty' Mihona and 'Uncle' Yosuke are very interested in Mitsuhiro Shiba and Minako Ide. While Yashiro Hiruma is sitting there being ignored, he's guessing it's because of the Kirin and Phoenix high rankings at the top of the Topaz Championship score table that they're getting all this possible arranged-marriage sugar.
Mitsuhiro expresses an interest in the positively charming Miss Miaka. Minako Ide puts forward her Yojimbo Kamo as a good potential match too. Miaka opines how she would like to go walking in the Isawa Mori forest in the Phoenix land some time, treading upon the natural carpet of verdant green pine needles. Kamo tries some conversation too, but he's a bit shy and he starts getting nervous about the battle scar on his face… Aren't all these little goofballs just adorable?
So the leaderboard to decide the next Topaz Champion now stands as this:
|Minako Ide||Kirin Clan||7 points|
|Mitsuhiro Shiba||Phoenix Clan||7 points|
|Hideo Mirumoto||Dragon Clan||7 points|
|Endo Moshi||Mantis Clan||6 points|
|Yashiro Hiruma||Crab Clan||5 points|
|Sugai Bayushi||Scorpion Clan||5 points|
|Hideyoshi Doji||Crane Clan||4 points|
|Kujiko Matsu||Lion Clan||3 points|