“Sound Judgment”

Here’s the honor-event winning fiction from the 2013 Atlanta Kotei (note that Michael’s original was folded in a scroll and had some nice background touches and image cropping that isn’t being reproduced here):

“Sound Judgment”

by Michael Albert

The Emerald Champion Utaku Ji-Yun strode quietly before the Imperial Legion.  Hundreds of eyes pretended not to gaze too long at her serene countenance.  They knew why they had been summoned.  They all knew what was to come.  The rumors were true.  The entire Legion awaited the orders that would set into motion events far beyond any glorious duty their appointment to the Legion might have held in their minds.

Ji-Yun spoke with a clarity of purpose that only an Emerald Champion, favored blade of the Empress, might ever know.

“Go and bring law to the lawless.”

“Go and bring law to the lawless.”

It was done.

And so the Legion moved.  Ji-Yun stepped to the forefront of the Legion but did not move as it passed her by.  Instead she faced the rows and rows of samurai as they departed, meeting their eyes as often as chance would permit.

There would be blood.

There would be death.

Ji-Yun knew that there was no escaping these truths.  Honor, pride, and perhaps a simple lack of understanding would all conspire to see this matter resolved in no other way.

She hated it.  Upholding the law was one thing.  Condemning the whole for the actions of a few…her Unicorn sensibilities had seen that justification perverted far too many times.

Moreover, she hated the choice that had to be made.  A siege of the Second City would leave only the most undeserving of broad judgment to suffer.  It would be on the backs of the peasants and the merchants that the scars would form from this.  There was no certainty that a siege would break the resolve of those who intended to rebel anyway.

An outright attack would see considerable death and destruction.  The Second City was too well fortified for any other outcome.  The Empire simply could not afford such wanton waste.  Ji-Yun was uncertain the colonies even deserved such harsh action.

Yet still…choices had to be made.

Fukuzo quietly approached Ji-Yun.  He led her steed in all its finery to reunite with the Battle Maiden turned magistrate.

“And you believed your days of saddling up for war were past.”  Fukuzo bowed deeply and smiled as he offered her the reigns.

Another time and place might have allowed Ji-Yun a moment of levity to banter with the ronin.

“Fukuzo?”

“Yes my lady?”

“I intend to take advantage of my position as Emerald Champion with my clan,” she said flatly, ignoring his jest.

“Is that wise considering…?”

“I will use my position to influence my clan, not to influence for my clan.  There is a difference Fukuzo.”

“Of course my lady…”

“Send word to Moto Miyu and Iuchi Shaocheng in the colonies.  I would speak with them before our arrival.”  Ji-Yun snapped the reigns of her steed and turned to face Fukuzo.  “If judgment is to be passed, I would see it done swiftly.  There is no room for failure.”

Fukuzo only nodded his head and climbed atop his own steed.  This was one task where his attention would not waver.

*****

The journey had given Ji-Yun time to think, time to plan, and time to banish her doubts about what must be done.  The Legion had already been spotted by the Second City scouts.  There was no avoiding that.

The arrival of an Imperial Legion brought the full weight of the Empress’s law to bear.  The Governess and her court were given a fair and honorable opportunity to receive her forces without conflict.

It was not to be.

The Second City had closed itself up, and the siege had begun without so much as a shout.

Ji-Yun retreated to her own quiet meditations after yet another day of the two grand forces merely looking at one another from their encampments.  It was the perfect opportunity for a discussion that should not have been necessary.

Fukuzo guided Moto Miyu and Iuchi Shaocheng into the meeting.  They both bowed deeply to the kinsman who now sat before them with the trappings of the Emerald Champion.  Miyu was about to speak when Ji-Yun raised a hand to silence them both.

Her questions were quick and sharp.  “Do you serve the Empress?”

“The time may come when the Lords of Death pass judgment upon the whole of the Colonies. It will be unfortunate, but I will not hesitate.”

“Without question,”  Miyu responded.

“Without hesitation,”  Shaocheng added.

“We serve the Empress…and her Champion,” Miyu replied with a deep bow.

 

“The time may come when the Lords of Death pass judgment upon the whole of the Colonies.  It will be unfortunate, but I will not hesitate,” Shaocheng replied with icy resolve.

 

“If the siege cannot be broken, I will call upon your magic…and your…judgment to open a path for us.  Go and gather the others.  Be prepared.”

Miyu and Shaocheng replied as one, “Your will my lady.”

 *****

Reports from Shinjo Kinto and the Imperial scouts told Ji-Yun that no end to the siege was in sight.

Ji-Yun reflected on the orders her kinsmen would set into motion.  The Death Priest’s strike would be abrupt and without warning.  The lawless colonial leadership would be completely caught off guard and by spilling the blood of these guilty few, the deaths of samurai and heimin on all sides could be avoided.

The conflict could end before it even began.

It would be a swift cut, clean and exacting.  She held hope that decisive action might preserve and restore honor in the Second City but then…

The message arrived only minutes before the explosion sounded.

“Be ready.” –Kuni Renyu

With the wall breached, the brutal conflict began.  Lives were lost in every direction.  There was no choice but to press on now.  Her kinsman would not be needed.  There would be plenty of death for both sides…

Judgment that had been reserved for those who were truly guilty would now fall upon them all equally.

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