The Picard sailed leisurely in the waters of the Reisui. It was a single-masted ship that could support upto thirty sailors. In order to reach the Karasuma village mainland, one has to take a ship from the last port in the Bay of Daiwan. Two days in the sea, along the coast, brings one to the semai canyon, which wedges its way, through the lofty Youjin mountains. The canyon is a murky mile-long pass, which further opens into the downstream waters of the Reisui river- overlooking the river valley. The origin of the river is at the base of chojo hill- the territory of Karasuma village.
The Overlord of Karasuki, Itou Uno had delegated his uncle and Chief Bursar, Masateru Uno, to hold trade talks with the Overlord of Karasuma village, Senju Mikashita, before their Goddess Festival began. It was to be a landmark trade deal that would transform the economies of both villages. Karasuma was a warrior village, while Karasuki was a trade and banking village. It made sense for both communities to come together, during times of peace.
As the ship emerged from the canyon, into the Reisui mainstream- the sun illuminated the chojo hill, which loomed high in the west. It would take around three hours to row to the upstream docks. Chief Bursar Uno instructed his Navy Captain to moor the ship at an old jetty nearby. It was time for his second breakfast, and the bobbing of the ship was not appreciated by his guts. The Reisui formed rapids in the area, making it quite challenging to navigate smoothly. The party would've already reached Karasuma the day before, were it not for the numerous meals of the Chief Bursar. It had been five days since they left Karasuki, while they could have finished the journey in three days.
The Picard carried twenty one seafarers. They included- Masateru Uno, the Navy Captain, and his seven crew- a cook, four oarsmen and two personal lady-servants of Uno. The ship crew were slaves from Karasuki. The village was heavily involved in slave trade and also boasted of a skill camp to train them in different vocations. It was their primary economy. Over years it had made them the richest village in the continent.
Apart from the above, a military protection squad of seven from Karasuma village, were Chief Bursar Uno's personal escort. They had been sent over by Overlord Mikashita, by land, as a gesture of respect. The squad was led by Captain Yorokobi Miyamoto. Uno had also hired four mercenaries for his protection. They were outlandish looking sellswords with strange blades- much in contrast to the well-dressed and disciplined Karasuma squad.
As The Picard was anchored and tethered to the land, Uno emerged from the cabin, and a bench was spread with his breakfast. He was a fifty year old, obese, balding man. One could easily mistake him for a grey walrus from a distance.
Captain Yorokobi leaned on the deck, sharpening his blade with a whetting stone. He had already assigned three of his squad to unboard and stand guard on land. Bandits, very often, hid in the canyon or the jettis to rob merchant ships. The other three guards kept a watch on the deck, facing the mouth of the canyon.
Masateru Uno: "Captain Miyamoto, would you care to join me for breakfast?
I have some broiled prawns, pigeon pie and ale to wash it down."
Yorokobi felt sick to his stomach, looking at the greasy food so early in the morning. He was a man of few words, and had risen through the ranks through hard work and discipline. At the age of twenty eight, he was already a master of kitsu and had awakened the Miyamoto eye, which gave him the ability of chlorokinesis- that is, control over plants. But every time, it would render the user blind for several hours. For a man of his abilities and rank, gluttony was sinful and punishable. But he kept his ideas to himself.
Captain Yorokobi: "I am flattered that the Chief Bursar feels I am worthy to dine at his side. But the warrior code allows only two healthful meals a day. And Karasuma warriors worship the warrior code."
Masateru Uno: "If you say so, Captain. We, of the Karasuki village and the Uno clan, believe that- it is important to worship the belly as many times as possible, in a day."
He patted his large belly and chortled loudly. Then he proceeded to gorge on his second breakfast, noisily. The docked ship bobbed very lightly in the ebbing water. It was fastened to a post firmly. The dilapidated jetty was constructed on a clearing about two hundred feet in length and half of that in breadth. The morning sun shone across the denuded terrain. Birds chirped musically from a forest that began from the treeline ahead.
Yorokobi heard a low whistle. It was one of his squad members standing guard on land. He rushed to his feet and alerted the deck guards. From the edge of the deck, the Captain took off lightly, jumping high in the air and landing softly, ten yards ahead, beside the land guards.
Guard 1: "We sensed a presence."
Guard 2: "First we thought it was an animal or a villager. But animals do not come this close to the rapids. There are watering holes upstream. And villagers certainly won't venture this far from the mainland for fear of bandits."
Guard 3: "It appeared out of thin air somewhere in the foliage of the trees ahead. Only way that is possible if someone-"
The Seiton technique was used to help store weapons in an alternate raiki space. In other words, it helped in making things disappear- which had great utility in travelling with heavy weapons. Kin lords and some Hyougi of Karasuma could use advanced Seiton to teleport themselves over distances ranging from a few feet, to a few miles. Seiton teleportation was effective in both fight and flight. It was rumored that the travelling warrior Lord Heydrian could travel over twenty miles through this technique.
Captain Yorokobi took a deep breath. Had a Kin Lord come to welcome the Chief Bursar? No, that was not likely. But there were artifacts in the black markets of the outlands that could help one teleport. Perhaps it was a bandit targeting a seemingly harmless party.
Yorokobi (loudly): "We are a military escort from Karasuma, escorting Lord Uno of Karasuki. Make yourself known, stranger! Or prepare to be assailed!"
Thank you for reading!