30 rings. The old bastard lion was wearing 30 gold rings on his right hand alone. Even in times as hard as these Tadaka was still able to send a message. Aside from his hand and the golden tsuba that adorned his no-dachi, Eiko-to, Tadaka was laden with gold and jewels which likely weighed as much as a skirmisher’s armor. The message was in no way subtle, but it was effective. “You need us. We don’t need you.”
Daidoji Uji had no doubt where the wealth had come from. For years the Mantis mercenaries under Tadaka had been paid well from the Crane coffers. In this newest conflict with the Yasuki, he had taken his charge to support the Daidoji to mean he was free to pillage and raid the Crab independently of Uji’s orders. And now he offered to sell the weaponry and supplies he had taken in his raids (much of it stolen from the Crane by the Crab in the first place) to Uji’s cause “At a deep discount, of course.”
“Tadaka-san, you know as well as anyone that we have little left to offer. We can barely outfit our own armies as it is. As you have no doubt noticed that your Tsunami Legion has been put upon to carry ever more weight in this campaign.”Tadaka’s voice rumbled out from his golden mempo. “And you have no doubt noticed that the Mantis have little need of any more of your devastated koku.”. A stinging barb from any of a thousand courtiers. But insults were not Tadaka’s way. Backing one into a corner and hewing him apart was Tadaka’s Way.
“I do have a way you may repay your debt and all future debts to the Mantis, if you would hear it.” The price would doubtless be even more sizeable than the koku the Dojo no longer had, and no one wanted.
“I was not pleased with Hantei’s revocation of my clan’s status. If I had wanted, I could have shattered his ape champion on the floor of the Imperial Court and cleaved yet another pretend emperor from the throne. But that would have done nothing return the Mantis to their rightful state.”
“I ask that we form a formal alliance between our clans. We shall cement this alliance with the marriage of our respective champions. This will bind the military force of the Mantis and the political powers of the Crane together. Forever. We shall slaughter any who would do you harm while you recuperate from the decades of unpleasantness and you will support us in time to force the clans to recognize our legitimacy.”
" If you lead your forces in a frontal assault upon the Crab they will be forced to return in kind. That will weaken Kyuden Hida enough that will be unable to repel the 100,000 or so troops I can have at their gate in two nights. We will take Kyuden Hida, their unassailable bastion which stood strong against the full might of Jigoku just 400 years ago. They will have no option but surrender."
Uji was glad that he had also taken to wearing a full mempo in his dealings with Tadaka. It would not do for his men to see his face fall in front of one that some still considered a brutish enemy. “It is fortunate, friend, that I am unable to provide an answer. I must allow my champion and his advisers to answer. But tell me, does this order come from your champion? Or is it one of your idealistic strategies that will only succeed by you own hand?”
Tadaka’s eyes burned into Uji for a heartbeat. The air tensed with violence and the sudden smell of blood. Blood and piss.
“I will convince her.” Tadaka rose and bowed to Uji. His work done he spun on his heel and he marched out of Uji’s command tent his gilded pirates following behind.
“What have I done?” Uji spoke aloud.