Saturday, January 16, 2010

Letters from Mesutsume - Age 14

Here, presented for your august review, are the letters detailing the 14th year of Matsu Mesutsume, born Ikoma Mesutsume and Hero of the Battle of Shiro Daidoji, The Last Kitsu, The Unicorn's return, and several other smaller skirmishes. The letters detail the beginnings of the Gunsen that would eventually take the name 'Razor Paw', and progresses through Razor Paw's participation in the war with the Dragon circa 575.

Unfortunately, exact dates for the letters have been lost to history, and we can only make guesses based on the historical events mentioned, and our own illustrious histories. Furthermore, while these works have been cleaned up for ease of reading, I have left the wording as close to the original as possible in the interests of letting Mesutsume-sama speak for herself. Accounts such as these, from the people who actually lived them, are rare enough that there is no need for my unworthy hands to taint it more than is necessary.

I will point out, however, that there has been some confusion as to the subject of the last letter in this collection. Having scoured all historical records of the war in question, as well as speaking to the descendants of several of Razor Paw's members, the closest answer I can find is that somewhere in the war with the Dragon, Mesutsume suffered what she felt to be a humiliating defeat. One that she carried with her from then on, spurring her to perform greater and greater feats to make up for it. 

With that I will leave you to the letters themselves. It is my hope that you will both enjoy the tales of heroism and bravery from one who fought amongst those heroes, as well as learn of the history and glory of one of the Lion's most illustrious units.

Ikoma Masshiro

The Letters


I am writing you from my newest encampment. As I am sure you have heard, I have been reassigned to the 14th Legion of the Second Matsu Army, serving under Taisa Akodo Heihachi in the gunsen under Gunso Matsu Zugaiko. I have only been here for a couple of days, but it feels more like home then any other place I have been assigned other than home itself. The usual prejudices I have faced all my life are still here, but they seem less so. The members in my squad, while we are all still getting to know each other, seem more moved by words and deeds than appearances. I must say the change is nice, though it could just be a false perception as everyone is new and not wishing to cause waves during an acclimation process. Still though, neither Nikutai Akodo Nuntai, nor Daihohei Matsu Konnoko have shown any signs of dislike towards me. In fact, it more or less seems to be the opposite, especially now.

The other news is that I have found her, or perhaps it is better to say that fate has brought us back together. The Matsu woman I spoke of before, who ridiculed your teaching, and my ability, is also in the squad. She is as impressive and terrifying as ever, a true Matsu in every sense of the word. I am shamed to admit that my desire to prove myself to her, to force her to eat her words from our first meeting, have caused me to speak in a way that is untoward, but I find it so hard to hold my tongue when every fiber of my being screams out to show her that I am every bit as competent and capable as any Matsu. It will take time I know, and hard work, but I am more than up to the task. Do not worry though father, my desire to avenge the slight given to us is not so strong that I will risk further shame to the Lion or you for it, nor will I let it go so far as to cause the loss of a valuable resource to the clan or this army. It will be done as you taught me, with skill and precision.

Lastly, I have had my first taste of battle, or at least a close approximation of it. Our enemies were peasants who had lost their way, chose to rebel against the Lion, and were being led by a ronin. In response to this, an admittedly large force of 30 Lion were sent to deal with the approximately 300 rebelling peasants. We were there primarily to observe a nikuten of Spear Elite, but our Daihohei challenged us to not let them take the Lion's share of the glory in restoring the natural order of things. I am proud to say that we did not let her down, and it was one of our own, an Omoidasu trained Matsu named Chengensai, who struck down their leader with the best spear throw I have ever seen from someone other than you. Speaking of spears, father, the Lion in this army use them in ways that I could never conceive of before. The way they wield them, magari yari in one hand, nage yari in the other, wading through the enemies of the Lion, and killing with a righteous fury is truly a sight to behold. I can only imagine how much more terrifying it will be if I can incorporate it atop the training you have given me.

I have, however, taken up enough of your most valuable time, father. I am sure that you and Akodo Genji-sensei are most busy training the next generation of Lion. I only wished for you to know that your daughter is doing well, that she is serving as best she can, and that any and all glory she earns is only because of your training and desire to prepare her for her duty as well as you did. Any failings are my own, and, someday, I hope to make up for them enough that our family is viewed only with admiration. Please give my regards to mother, I hope that she is doing well.

Your loving daughter,
Ikoma Mesutsume


We are marching to war today. Up north, to fight the Dragon, as it has been explained to me. They have not told us the reason why we are going to war, but I do not think it matters. What difference does it make why the Dragon are attacking? The fact of the matter is that they are attacking, and we as the Lion can not allow such to go unanswered. So we will march up, and push them back into their lands, teaching them the folly of this attack against the Emperor's right hand. Still, I do find myself wondering why they are attacking. Surely they must know how foolish it is to attack the Lion of all clans. Our might is unquestioned, and unparalleled. It is not a question of will we succeed in pushing them back; it is simply a question of how many will die before it happens. 

Speaking of such, the views in my gunsen seem to vary wildly on the idea. Daihohei Matsu Konnoko is full of spirit, thinking it will be an easy thing for us to turn back the Dragon, her confidence is astounding and I can't help wondering if it borders on over confidence. I feel the events of my life have been proof enough of the dangers of underestimating your opponent, and overestimating yourself. On the other hand, there is Matsu Shotaru. While he has not actually expressed anything that would make me think that he doubts our ability to win, he clearly does not think it will be as easy as Konnoko-sama claims. I think that the answer is perhaps somewhere in the middle. We need to know our opponents, and as such the first battles will be hard. However, I have nothing but confidence in the Lion's ability to win this war, and send the Dragon back up into their mountains, where they belong.

In other news, Matsu Yohko has been made the Daihohei of our sub-nikuten. It puts myself, Matsu Chengensai, Matsu Shotaru, Ikoma Tsumaro, and Kitsune Kaori under her. I can not tell if I despise Yohko, or have nothing but the utmost of admiration for her. It may, in fact, be both, but she grows every day in interesting ways. I think she too is confused about me. I am not sure if it is just that she doesn't remember, or if she feels that what she said is not truly all that severe of an insult. It would explain why, for the second time, she has insulted me in precisely the same way. At a training exercise, she jumped in to "defend" me, but only changed what was said from me being a Crane bitch to a Lion one, leaving, as my daihohei, the accusation that I was cheating unchallenged. I am still not sure how, or why, I didn't lash out at just that moment with the anger I felt, save your training and my own knowledge that I didn't cheat, I was simply better than the two who had fallen before me.

As you requested information, the others in my sub-nikuten seem equally interesting as samurai. Matsu Shotaru is a quiet man. He keeps to himself, and it has been interesting watching the others try to draw him out of his shell. He keeps his own council though, meeting all comers with a steely gaze and a quiet confidence I wasn't aware existed in the Matsu. Of the sub-nikuten, there is the most evidence that he is the weakest among us, and yet, I simply do not see it. If he survives the next few battles, I feel he will truly be terrifying. Matsu Chengensai on the other hand, is perhaps one of the most interesting people I have ever met. A Matsu, towering at at least 6 feet of height, and yet he was Omoidasu trained. His training was broken amongst numerous dojos, the result is that he is a Matsu, trained by the Omoidasu who until recently had never been shown how to use a sword, and yet has a natural aptitude for the spear the likes of which I have never seen. Aside from me, he was the only other in our sub-nikuten who won his practice bout without being touched. As for the others, it is hard to talk about Ikoma Tsumaro or Kitsune Kaori without speaking of them together. Tsumaro has been assigned as Kaori's yojimbo, and as such has been with her often. He seems an interesting person, but has been tasked with the unenviable position of having to educate Kaori into the ways of the Lion. Still, he has done an admirable job of it, and they won their bout as well because of his sacrificing his body to prevent her from being hit. It is a shame I don't believe Kaori has realized that this is why she won, and I hope it's not a lesson she learns in combat when Tsumaro falls to a dragon blade shortly before she does.

I will write you again soon father, hopefully with news of doing well, and helping bring victory to the Lion.

Your loving daughter,
Ikoma Mesutsume


I write you just recently having had my first taste of battle. My gunsen has just had it's first contact with the Dragon. I say our gunsen, but in truth it was only half, a nikuten, under the command of Dai-Hohei Matsu Yohko. Our gunsen was split into two nikuten of ten for scouting. Nikutai Akodo Nuntai went with the other nikuten, and left Matsu Yohko as our commanding officer. Our orders were to scout north until we came to a river, reached mid-day, or made contact with the enemy. Engagement was only if we had greater than two to one numerical superiority, as it was viewed we were two green to otherwise judge our abilities compared to the unknown dragon. The Nikutai is a cautious man, but we were not moving long before contact was made with a group of three Dragon scouts. They, sadly, drew first blood, and slew Matsu Yotsu with an arrow as we charged. Ikoma Tsumaro wounded two with arrows, Matsu Shotaru ran down their runner, and myself and Matsu Yohko took the two who stayed. I can tell you with pride that I slew the nikutai, while Yohko slew his assistant. The battle ended with the one loss, and another injured. Though Kitsune Kaori, untrained as she is, somehow managed to plead with the water kami, and got them to save his life. In return they asked us to go to the river, and prevent the people there from polluting it. It was a disobeyance of orders, but how could we not go? To not go could risk the water kami turning against the Lion, and that is something we simply could not afford during a time of war.

Moving towards the village, we were spotted by a dragon in a hastily constructed watch tower. I do not know how none of us saw it, simply that one moment it was not there, and the next it was with the dragon in it looking straight at us. Yohko-sama took immediate control of the situation, and maneuvered us so that the pursuit could not catch us on ground not of our choosing. While we moved I saw nine dead lion in one of the small valleys between ridges of shale. Among them were four dead dragon, I hope the numbers attacking were larger than the number dead, to lose nine but only take four seems a bad way to be taken. I take solace in the fact though that those men died fighting for their clan, and as such will reincarnate as something better. Yohko-sama led us to a place where we could jump the river, gaining a temporary reprieve from our pursuit, and we moved towards the village. Coming across the watch tower again, we ran into another three dragon. I was given the point, and as we charged their nikutai singled me out as his opponent. That this letter is being written at all is proof of your training's continued success. My attention was fixed solely on my opponent, and as such I do not know who killed the other two, but one was cleaved in two with a ferocity I believe only Yohko-sama can bring into a battle. Also, I do know that it was a combination of Matsu Shotaru and Akodo Tsumaro that brought down the man in the watch tower.

It was then that Yohko-sama showed just how much she has grown in such a short time as a leader. She sent Shotaru up the tower, and had him blow the alert whistle to attract the gunsen of dragon that held the village. When they moved, we destroyed the bridge and moved into the village while they were on the far side of the river. From there she sent some of the villagers to destroy the other bridge and buy us more time. In the time we had, she constructed a plan the likes of which I have only seen matched by Akodo Genji-sensei when he faces against some of his older students looking to become officers. We positioned ourselves to surprise the enemy, Yohko-sama convinced that we could take them with her plan. She was not wrong, though I do not think even she was expecting what I can only assume was Kitsune Kaori-san's addition to the battle, as the animals themselves rose up to fight off the dragon invaders. I do not have the paper to detail the whole battle, save to say that they were twenty, we were seven, the village is now ours with every one of them dead, and we only lost two men in the fight. Your daughter once again slew the officer.

I do not mention my own achievements to brag, but simply to show you that your training has not been wasted. Also to show you how great Matsu Yohko-sama actually is, and continues to become. I feel the gap between us is growing ever wider. True I slew three officers, and by final tallies killed two more than her. However, my kills were possible only because of her maneuverings. I slew three officers, she took out nearly three times her group's number with only three losses. I killed two more people than her, she took a village back, and commanded while staying only two behind. She was in the thickest of the fighting in the village for the longest time, and lives to tell of it. I will need to work hard to try and close this gap. I will not fail you.

Your loving daughter,
Ikoma Mesutsume


I am not proud of myself for this, but I now know what Grandmother meant when she said you must be careful of your words, for killing someone with words is a far worse thing then killing them with a blade. I am not even sure that you could say I killed who I killed with words. It was not intentional, but his strength of will and hatred for me due to my appearance, and the fact I bested him before in the practice ring, had him so infuriated that with naught but a smile from me he came charging from his gunsen's tent. I spun and put the haft of my spear to his throat, but his rage was such that this did not deter him, and caught by surprise I lost my grip on the spear as he came barelling towards me. If not for the fact my squad mate Matsu Shotaru-san tackled him just before he hit me, I am not sure how the encounter would have gone. Though, with the swift arrival of Gunso Zugaiko, I do not think I would have been much the worse for wear. Gunso Zugaiko-sama's lesson was to show him what could happen when you try to tackle a fellow Lion in camp. It sounded like the blow broke something, as both his arms went limp right afterwards, and that seemed to be the end of that.

It is here though that your daughter shows the spirit that you worked so hard to train out of her, but due to her own faults never could do. Shamed by the fact I needed help with a buffoon such as that man, angry at myself that I had lost my grip on the spear, and so sure of my own superiority that I forgot his strengths, I sent him a note in the medics tent. I believe it was the contents of this note that brought him back to my squad's tent the next morning as I stood outside next to Matsu Chengensai-san. His rage led him to threaten us both, and Matsu Yohko-sama's orders were to take him into custody. Faced with this fact, he drew live steel and tried to kill me. I moved out of the way, I am not sure what it was that prevented me from drawing a weapon of my own, but I did not. As I moved around him, Chengensai-san stabbed and killed him with his magari yari, striking with enough force that he almost severed the man's shoulders from the rest of his body with the broad-headed spear. It was not until Chengensai-san explained that the man didn't deserve a chance to erase his shame for his actions that it dawned on me what I had just done. When you kill someone with words, you don't just take their life, you take everything from them. That man is dead, yes because his own honor and will was weak, but also because of what I did. For that I am sorry. I do not feel we have lost much with his loss, and yet I know it was not my place to do as I did. I will need to be more careful in the future, especially now that I know the consequences something as innocent as a smile given to the wrong person at the wrong time can cause.

In other news, our squad is being moved from sole front line duty, to more of a problem solver unit. I am not so sure how I feel about this. The man who debriefed us after taking the village proposed ideas that seemed to be the sort of things that you and Akodo Genji-sensei warned against so often. It seems strange to me that two people who could have chosen the same name for themselves could have such vastly different views on what is acceptable. Still, I can not but serve to the best of my ability. I will, after all, be fighting for two people when next I see combat. I owe the fallen that much. Perhaps it will ease some of his shame in death, and allow him to not fall too low in the celestial order for how he died. I hope my next letter will carry happier news to you, and only pray that you can forgive your daughter her less than honorable actions. She is working hard to overcome the temptations of her spirit with the honor you instilled in her.

Your loving daughter,
  Ikoma Mesutsume

Never again, I'm sorry
~Ikoma Mesutsume

This letter was found bound to a scroll tube. Inside the tube was nearly two feet of hair, bound tightly with rope. The interwoven locks of red and white hair leave no question of who the hair belonged to.
~Ikoma Masshiro

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