Age 7 - Entered Kakita Academy

Age 10 - Father incurs obligation from Bayushi Mototugi

Age 13 - Meets Bayushi Gaitono (Childhood name Soto)

Age 15 - Attends Mirumoto Swordmaster school for two seasons, meets Mirumoto Mannaka who gives him a fine Tea Ceremony set.

Age 16 - Graduates from Kakita Academy and goes through Gempukku.

Age 18 - Traveled with Otomo Godaro, religious administrator, and his entourage.

Setsuka on the Other Clans

Crab walks the shadows
Crane's spirit is their beacon
Shadows kept at bay?

Dragon ponders truth
Mountains imprison truth's light
The spirit withers

Lion roars glory!
Some Lions roar themselves deaf
Crane's honor unheard

Phoenix sees beyond
Artisans of the kami
Their wisdom grows strong

Scorpion plots well
He does what others will not
They guard us from shame?

Unicorn rides high
Many say they will catch her
Crane already has

Life Lessons

The young child Jiro, who will one day become Kakita Setsuka, plays with a cloud of butterflies, his cherub face spilling giggles carelessly as he scampers about the courtyard, vainly grasping for the beautifully colored creatures. He is startled as his smiling father steps into his path. The tall, lean man half-crouches to make eye contact with the young Jiro. His voice is a strange mixture of bamboo and a quiet river.

"Little one, you must know that you will catch it before you reach for it. Once your spirit has made that decision, the action is merely a formality."

Jiro stares blankly, a huge smile still framing his face. His father laughs and repeats himself. Setsuka nods slowly in understanding.

"Good then. Capture the butterfly then."

Jiro furrows his brow in determination takes a deep breath and snatches his hand out in a blur. He cackles with glee as he sees the wing protruding from his clenched fist. Sadness washes away his expression of joy as he opens his fist to see the butterfly crushed and mangled.

Father says softly, "You must know exactly what you ask of your spirit son. Do not let the Seven Fortunes decide for you. Indecision often leads to tragedy."

Mishone weeps softly, but her courtly posture remains, and unlike lesser women she is beautiful even in her sorrow.

Jiro enters the living area, his finely crafted calligraphy satchel in hand. He has been struggling through ancient scrolls on swordfighting all day, but his weariness turns quickly to tense concern when he sees Mishone crying.

"Mother, what is it?"

She stops weeping almost immediately. "Are you ready to go to school, little one?"

"Hai. I hope to bring honor to our house."

"You will little one, of that I am certain."

"Will father return in time?"

"No little one, he will not, but do not worry, his heart is with you."

"When will I see you again?"

Mishone is on the verge of tears again as she answers, "Why must keep asking that little one? You know that we will not see you for many years, until your gempukku. The next time we speak, you will have chosen your new name."

Mishone turns away, but the gentle motion of her abdomen betrays her sobbing. Jiro leaves to finish packing, wracked by a strange mix of excitement and sorrow as he looks ahead to his departure to the Kakita academy the next day.

Jiro set down the bokken which now seemed ten times heavier than before the sword drills had started. It was not nearly as unwieldy as when he first hefted it three years ago, but it was still difficult to use without the benefit of both hands. Keeping it at arm's reach constantly was a real pain, too, but he did not want to have to scrub the outer wall again, so he was very attentive to that detail.

He washed his hands and face, dried them on a plush fragrant towel, and reclined on his bed to read the scroll from his mother as he snacked on a sweet rice cake.

Honorable son, your father has returned from his travels safely. He was struck unconscious in a great battle with the Matsu. When he recovered, eta had already stripped him of his belongings. He was forced to live off of the land for some time and ventured into Scorpion lands. A Scorpion Magistrate found him and honorably gave him shelter and aid. Your father has honorably recovered his ancestral blade and slain the thieves that took his sword. You will have the honor of helping us fulfill our obligation to honorable Bayushi Mototugi when you are an adult.

The rice crops have done well this year. Crane will again fill the hungry bellies of our empire and keep it strong. Dragon's belly never seems to fill. It is as though we are trying to fill their mountains' bellies too. Does rice farming not hold enough truth for them?

The list of eligible brides for you is growing faster than you are son. You will have quite a selection when you finish your studies and return to the court. I wish your father would spend more time in court. His duties as an Emerald Magistrate do us all great honor, but the court is lesser for his absence.

"Damn!" Jiro exclaimed to the empty room. "Obligated to the villains of the empire. At this rate, I will be doomed by "honors" before I earn my katana."

Jiro had never seen a Scorpion up close until today. The Scorpion, who called himself Soto, was fourteen, a year older than Jiro. He was visiting the school as part of his studies, but he was a student of the Bayushi school. He was pretty fast with his sword. Jiro could usually take him in the draw, but after that, it was a real toss up. It was humbling for Jiro. He had always been quicker than his peers and now he had real competition from someone that hailed from a clan that until now he had no respect for.

Jiro and Soto quickly found respect for one another on the dueling mats. Respect turned to comraderie as the two discovered a shared interest in poetry and the Tao of Shinsei. Many long nights were spent arguing philosophy. Jiro taught Soto that the Crane was not a shallow courtier and Soto taught Jiro that the Scorpion was not a villain as much as he allowed others to pursue the path of honor and glory. Jiro did not fully accept the noble sacrifice that Soto described, but he did acknowledge that it was a difficult responsibility that no other clan was well-suited for. Jiro still dreaded what favor Bayushi Mototugi might ask of him, but he had newfound respect for the Scorpion clan.

When Soto left, Jiro was his match, but he let the Scorpion win an occasional drill not to let on to the Scorpion his full capabilities.

"Are you standing on only one leg Crane? Balance does not seem to be in your nature. Perhaps you will learn to stand on both legs before you leave here." Those were the first words Mirumoto Mannaka spoke to Jiro and Jiro never forgot them.

Some of the more advanced students at the Kakita academy had been given leave to visit a single school of the other clans. Jiro, eager to prove his worth, chose the Mirumoto Swordmaster school of the Dragon. He had to compete for the honor among his peers. It was a challenging, but he had always been the head of the class when it came down to duelling. His peers learned the courtly ways in plush surroundings while he studied the art of the blade. While they danced with lovely, perfumed courtiers, he danced alone in the dojo with his bokken perfumed only by the smell of a day's worth of sweating.

The climb up the mountain was harder than he had imagined. He had never climbed a mountain before and quickly decided that he did not want to again. But the trip was worth it. The thrill of being among a whole host of unknown swordmasters to test his mettle against. He couldn't help but smile broadly. A lean man strode up to Jiro, a stern look locked on his face. He stared deep into Jiro's eyes and Jiro stared back. Was he to duel already? Was there no courtesy in this school. It was too late, he knew this was a duel and the man facing him obviously did not care that he was only armed with a bokken against Jiro's blade. Jiro barely finished the thought before light exploded and he fell flat on his back.

"Are you standing on only one leg Crane? Balance does not seem to be in your nature. Perhaps you will learn to stand on both legs before you leave here." The stern expression broke into a smile. "I am Mirumoto Mannaka, welcome to our school. Find your balance Crane, for lessons will not announce themselves in a courtly fashion!" Mannaka laughed loudly as he turned around and walked away. A few nearby students chuckled, but Jiro took it well. Besides, those students would not fare so well against him...

Jiro only spent two seasons at the school, but he did find his balance, a balance of spirit. He learned how to enter a deep meditative state and he also learned the spiritually motivated ceremony of tea making. He had come to learn more about swordsmanship, but instead it was more like a religious retreat. Although he came to respect the Swordmasters and their students, he did not extend that respect to the Dragon clan over all. He understood the philosophy of the Swordmasters, but still found it hard to respect the frustrating aloofness of the clan, their strange machinations, and suspicious secrecy. They held their truths so closely that they might likely wither and die. Such greed of knowledge was unhealthy. At least the Mirumoto were honest. The blade does not hide truths.

Jiro's stay was pleasant and educational. He took the lessons in stride and impressed his instructors with his dedication to the blade. When he left the school, Mirumoto Mannaka gave him a beautiful tea set with a stylized dragon teapot and cups sculpted to look like cranes cupping their wings.

Jiro bowed low and said, "Mannaka-sama, I cannot accept something of such singular elegance. The gift is too great."

Mannaka-sama answered, "I am the teacher. Trust my judgement of your worth, please take the gift."

Jiro stayed in his bow and said, "Mannaka-sama, I am new to the ways of the ceremony, perhaps it would best serve one more skilled in the art."

Mannaka-sama answered, "It is spirit, not skill that calls for such a gift. Your spirit is worthy of it."

Jiro said, "Mannaka-sama, surely the set calls for a spirit as great as yours."

Mannaka-sama answered, "It was fashioned by the spirit of your family, the Kakita artisans. It is time for it to return home. Please accept it back into the family from whence it came."

Jiro finished, "Hai, Mannaka-sama, you honor me with your gift and I will guard your gift with my honor."