Sumihane Lore

Heroes of the Sumihane

Saiu Hisen

Hakato’s first cousin and close companion. Before the advent of the gods, Hisen was an artisan and woodworker. Together, he and Hakato traveled from tribe to tribe, working in wood and metal to earn their rice. While Hakato spent this time developing his art of swordsmanship and refining his method of forging blades, Hisen instead perfected his artistic works, including sculpture and the creation of wooden musical instruments, especially the flute. When the Primordial War ended and the gods appeared, Hakato and Hisen quickly became followers of Saiu. Brash and enthusiastic, Hakato put himself forward and soon became one of her closest companions, while Hisen was more retiring and remained in his cousin’s shadow. Instead, he became close friends with Yuutsuru, another of Saiu’s retainers.

When it came time for Saiu to marry, she enlisted Yuutsuru’s aid in finding a husband. Yuutsuru put forward several suitors that she knew would not be to Saiu’s liking, before proposing her friend, Hisen. As they spent time together, Saiu came to appreciate Hisen’s artistic nature, and over the span of a lengthy courtship, the two came to find that they were in love, and were soon wed. Theirs became the prototypical example of a harmonious marriage, and is still referenced centuries later. However, due to the close blood link between them, the ruling lines of the Saiu and Hakato Families must take great care when intermarrying.

In the modern Empire, Saiu’s relationship with Hisen stands with Komoretsu’s relationship with Seiya as one of the Two Exemplary Marriages.

Relics of the Sumihane

Hayasagitō

When the Primordial War ended, the gods sealed their accord through the marriage between Senkō, the Shining Lord of Steel, and Kagayaki, the Radiant Lady of the Sun. Though each of the gods bore arms and armour as befit their divine birthrights, to celebrate his wedding, the Lord of Steel forged eight blades for his fellow gods.

However, though all were pleased by the gifts, the Clear-Eyed Lord of the Mountain made prophecy when he beheld them: that none of the gods would wield the blades that Senkō had forged for them, for their fate lay elsewhere.

Sure enough, though the swords were indeed fine, the gods did not wield them, preferring instead the divine weapons that they had always carried, each tied to its bearer’s domain and power. Instead, as followers began to flock to the gods’ banners, each sword was in turn given to the closest among the god's companions, as an affirmation of their bond. Swords were given to Yagarō, Fujizuru, Hakato, Shinjugawa, Itsumaru, and Tōyama.

Hakato accepted the sword given to him by Saiu, and bore it all his life, wielding it in countless duels as he fought in the Lady of the Shore's service and travelled the breadth of the Empire honing his skills. While developing his unique style of swordsmanship, which depended on speed and focusing on cutting through the first, most fraught moment of combat with a single perfect strike, it is said that he drew his sword so many times that his thumb wore the lip of the saya down to the thinness of paper. In his hands, the blade came to be known as Hayasagitō, for the incredible swiftness with which it would pierce his foes' defences. At his death, the sword passed to his daughter, Shiroiashi, and has been the inheritance of the Hakato daimyo to this day, remaining far lighter in the hand than other blades of its size.

Ripple Swords

The sacred weapons of the Sumihane are produced by the smiths of the Hakato Family in their ancestral forge perched on a set of cliffs overlooking the sea. Each blade begins as iron mined from a set of coastal caves below the forge. The smith heats this ore in a driftwood fire, working it into steel with pale charcoal, using hammer and tongs passed down from Hakato himself and the forging of the sword he carried before receiving Hayasagitō.

When the metal is ready, the smith begins to shape it, all while reciting from memory passages from Swordsmanship. Once this process is complete, the blade is quenched in purified water from the place a river empties into the sea, with a thin layer of oil from the rare local tea bush floating on top. As the blade is plunged through the oil into the water, the oil is bonded to the metal as it cools, creating a distinctive, watery rippling pattern across the blade.

The blade is given a hilt of cured and oiled driftwood cut with a reed pattern to provide grip, and fitted with a tsuba and pommel of brass with a subdued patina burnished to a slight shine. The construction of the saya, however, takes almost as long as the forging of the blade, for there is no wood in it. Instead, it is composed of hundreds of layers of paper and lacquer, built up into a strong but incredibly light sheath for the blade. Before each layer of paper is applied, the smith marks it with blessings and invocations of speed and good fortune. After the last layer is applied, the saya is given a final surface of opaque lacquer in black or dark gray.

The result is a highly traditional katana in size and shape that never the less appears to weigh far less than it ought, and which seems to spring into its bearer's hand faster than thought, seeking always the most perfect, penetrating strike.

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