True loves last lament,
The lightning strike tears apart
a hearts fragile peace
Having returned to the White Mountain City the magistrates found themselves with some time to pursue their individual needs. Hotaka spent time with his wife, Shin’ichi developed his skills and understanding of his heritage, Naruto worked on improving one of his spells while Chiaki dived into her research, ignoring a building concern at the back of her mind. For Shugeki the time was primarily spent in the company of her aunt, preparing for her upcoming wedding. Much to her displeasure there was little time for riding. As the day approached she found herself being pestered by Soshi Mirai, eager to gain the friendship of the courts current favourite samurai.
Thanks to their role as magistrates the Governor allowed for the ceremony to take place within the confines of his palace and was himself in attendance. Most of the primary members of court were present, after the recent union between Crab and Scorpion the need for parity by joining Unicorn and Scorpion was well understood. The magistrates, with the exception of Shugeki, were able to mingle with the guests, though Shin’ichi was politely ignored for the most part. Representatives from many of the major Clans were present in addition to the Imperial Herald for the region, who became frustrated with the unsubtle yet indirect badgering by Hotaka with regards an undeclared love. Naruto, finding himself in the presence of another Dragon for the first time in many months, expressed his expectation that there would be trouble. This was, after all, a wedding in which the Scorpion Clan were heavily involved.
Shugeki meanwhile was busy receiving final, yet apparently never ending, instructions from her Aunt. It didn’t help that she was more concerned with the wellbeing of her Utaku steed than the matters at hand and only the arrival of her perfectly presented sister provided any respite as they headed to meet the guests.
The rites, led by the senior shugenja Soshi Ki, had not gone far before they were interrupted by none other than Chiaki. Declaring her love for the groom she protested that it was her he should be marrying, that they were fated to be together and that Shugeki’s heart still belonged to another. The protest fell on deaf ears, Utaku Asano letting it be known that matters of the Clan were more important than love. Shin’ichi led Chiaki away, with the Phoenix protesting the injustice for as long as the wedding party were in sight. The distant look in her eye departed the instant they were gone from her vision as Shin’ichi led her to her room. Shin’ichi, ever observant on his return, noticed that the Unicorn bushi Ide Ojong had departed, though to where he did not know.
With the distraction removed the ceremony concluded and events turned to gift giving. The Governor presented his ‘face’, gifting the couple the mask that covered his face, revealing another beneath it much to the amusement of the groom.
Hotaka presented a painting of the groom on behalf of his wife and himself. Only those who knew the family well could tell that it was actually of his deceased brother, Shugeki’s true love.
Naruto presented a matching equestrian grooming kit, like his comrade choosing to honour Shugeki over her new husband.
Chiaki’s gift went ungiven, the shugenja not having returned from her room.
Shin’ichi gave the most Scorpion of gifts, a war diary of a legendary strategist from which the complete pages had been removed.
With the party moving towards one of celebration the guests began relaxing, helped by the energetic dancing of Hotaka, stomping along in his war boots. Shugeki, finally free of her Aunt’s oversight took the opportunity to start moving towards the exit, considering her duty to her clan now complete. She was foiled by the arrival of a palace guard, who took the Governor aside for an urgent conversation. The shugenja Ki had been found dead in her room and all the guests were now suspects, which Shugeki took great in emphasising to her Aunt.
The magistrates were ordered to investigate with all due haste and after summoning Chiaki from her room went in search of the scene of the crime. They found Ki face down over her writing desk, a single wide stab wound in the back of her neck and a scrap of purple cloth in gripped in her left hand. She had been killed quickly and efficiently without the chance to draw upon her magics to protect her…