Alright, my previous post was fairly desultory, so let’s clarify a few things :
- Mr Walters, author and blog commenter, has obviously noted how awesome Poison Needles was as a skill in the ‘main’ series. He has therefore specifically stated in the introductory material that my use of Poison Needles in this book is restricted until I ‘find’ some poison. I guess learning the skill didn’t come with an ‘introductory’ pack of 100 needles and an ominous jar marked with a skull and crossbones.
- I don’t start with a dose of the Blood of Nil either.
- Also, I guess my spiritual reserves haven’t reached their preferred peak, because I only start with 3 points of ‘Inner Force’. I had noted this, but should have confirmed it for my legions of fans.
- The introduction finally makes clear that the pretext for adventure here is the competition for the chance to compete for the position of Grandmaster of the Five Winds.
In a scenario that sounds suspiciously like the Amazing Race, I am advised that the terms of the contest are as follows :
- The other four competitors and myself are taken to the Island of Plenty, and we must make our own way from Lemne (east coast) to Iga (west coast) in five days.
- The five cities on the east coast each have a flag, two of which are required before a competitor can make their way west.
- I must ‘do no evil’ on the journey (so no downloading movies off The Pirate Bay) and cannot take a flag from one of my fellow competitors.
As the shop (called Catechism) sails into the harbour, I am given a brief rundown (Deathtrap Dungeon-esque) of my fellow competitors.
- Aiko (a female competitor) is wearing a black ninja costume and checking her equipment.
- Gorobei, my future rival, is hungry for success, having only just failed to win this contest on one previous occasion.
- Daon fled the island ‘as a boy’, with his temple incinerated.
- Chigeru is the token ‘older’ competitor, and is apparently a man of significant spiritual power. He is the Togowa-style elder statesman of the contest.
Aside : I’m sure the author is annoyed that Gorobei was named previously, as it prevented him from having a perfect A-B-C-D of names.
A young woman named Singing Wind greats us at the dock, mentioning that her husband (who apparently performed this greeting last year) has been assassinated, and that a local bandit leader (Mutari) has killed her guards and her husband, seized her home and stolen her husband’s sacred katana longsword. Her remaining samurai are escorting her husband’s body home and she asks for our help.
Aside : In a depressingly predictable point, I note that the samurai apparently prioritise the dead body of their lord over, you know, the living body of his wife.
Aside #2 : Its always nice, for a chance, for the book not to go out of its way to describe how ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous’ the young woman is.
In any event, Singing Wind asks for our help. Gorobei, Daon and Aiko immediately pledge their help. When Chigeri asks about the fate of the contest, Singing Wind interestingly promises to give ‘her’ flag to whoever gets the falcon Katana back.
Chigeru states that there are ‘enough’ people assisting Singing Wind and states his intention to pursue the contest. I can agree to help, go alone to the city of Suma or follow Chigeru south to Nara.
Firstly, there is no way on god’s green earth that some intra-mural contest should be prioritised over helping someone avenge the death of her husband. It would be like refusing to serve in the army defending your homeland because you were due to compete in the swimming at the Olympics.
Secondly, any organisation which would value a glorified scavenger hunt over such urgent needs is not one of which I would be proud to be a member.
Therefore the initial choice is one of the easiest I have made in this series of books. I vow to assist Singing Wind.
Stats : All modifiers : 0, Endurance : 20, Inner Force : 3