A Study in Emerald

What is lost can be found

Goat 18 – Goat 29 (end of month of Goat)

After spending time in Tsuma for the topaz championship the crab delegation decided to return back to the Crab lands after their trip in the Lion lands. They decided to take a route passing from the Lion lands to Crab lands. Their journey was uneventful as when they reached the encampment near the wall they reported straight to Hida Kuon about the events and their achievements during their stay in Tsuma. 

Hida Kuon decided to give them new assignments while the wall is being rebuilt. The destroyed section of the wall is around 50 percent rebuilt and is being heavily guarded by crab samurai. The assignments that were given were simple. First assignment was to recruit a group of ronin from a nearby forest near the foot of the mountains near the wall. Kuon decided that these ronin would be most useful in joining the 20 goblin winter that they are planning to bolster the ranks of the Crab clan. The second assignment was that the group should accompany a Caravan of supplies to Shinsei's Last Hope and from the fortification there escort a Kaiu Engineer back to the wall so that the engineer may help in improving the designs of the wall. 

The group went to the forests and and decided to track down the ronins deep into the forest. Their search was halted when an arrow fired from the trees landed in front of them as a warning. The group then decided to engage in negotiations with the ronin group. The Ronin group did not want to join the 20 goblin winter since should they die, no one would be left to care for their families. Yasuki Mizuharu and Hiruma Kenshin then settled the negotiations that the ronin would be allowed to supervise and control a village under the control of the Crab clan where their families may relocate should they join the 20 goblin winter. The Ronin group agreed to the terms. Afterwards, Yasuki Mizuharu, Hiruma Kenshin and Hida Yang decided to return and report back to Hida Kuon about their success and decided to undertake the second assignment.

Despite the dangers, Yasuki Mizuharu decided to come along with the second assignment. Unfortunately, the trip was cut short when the group along with the caravans and a handful of samurai encountered something strange on their way to Shinsei's last hope. They were met with walking humanoid corpses and they decided to engage in battle. During the battle from the fog, arrows were being shot at the samurai. They were puzzled by this and questioned who was firing arrows at them. This was answered when from the fog a figure emerged. This figure looked to be a samurai like them but had green glowing eyes, white pale skin and his skin is covered in what seems to be scale like carapace of sort. The figure was also wearing armor that look weathered, muddied and old. The group identified the armor to be of the Dragon clan. The figure dropped his bow and charged into combat with the samurai drawing out two swords. The battle was easy when they were confronting the zombies but suddenly it turned brutal when the unknown samurai joined in. Hiruma Kenshin was the first to be knocked unconscious in battle, followed by Hida Yang. Yasuki Mizuharu called on all the other samurai to help him fight this unknown samurai but some were even killed by it. It was decided that this battle cannot be won so Mizuharu called on the samurai to carry his fallen brothers and retreat back to the safety of the encampment behind the wall. While they were retreating Mizuharu was gravely wounded by the Dragon samurai and while he ran from battle with his wounds, he saw from the fog emerged several figures that looked similar to the Dragon samurai that they have fought… a pale-skinned woman carrying bow and arrows and another pale-skinned man that was riding what seemed to be a black horse with red eyes and strange skin.

The group managed to return back to camp to report back to Hida Kuon. They fear that the supplies that were supposed to go to Shinsei's Last Hope has been destroyed by the monsters. It was then reported that based on the description, the said unknown samurai were the Lost. Several days passed and scouts report that they have not seen the Lost that the group encountered but found the remains of the supply caravans. They have been looted and the caravans left to burn. 

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The Long Road Home
Scorpion Clan Gaiden 1

Recommended BG Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAPAgRR-ljI

-

Bayushi Yojiro, once the Champion of the Scorpion Clan, turned back to check on the litter being pulled by the horses to glance at the unconscious (and bound) body of Bayushi Ogura, rogue shugenja and Gozoku conspirator.

"He's alive?" he asked Nephthys, his companion on the journey.

It had been 2 days since they've left the City of Tsuma. They've stayed away from major roads and pushed on through night and day to reach the edges of the  Crane borders, where fresh horses waited for them brought by Scorpion agents in secret.

"Yes," Nephthys assured him, sitting primly beside the unconscious form of her cousin.  "I've treated the worst of the injuries he's received and the doses of medicine I gave him should be enough to prevent him from casting, but not enough to end him prematurely," her voice was quiet, almost like a whisper in the wind.

She wore no make up or mask, wearing an unadored kimono that didn't carry any mon. Even without the trappings of her station and the outrageous make-up, she was still quite beautiful in that exotic type of way. It was hard to deny the Senpet part of her lineage that showed in her high cheekbones, and full lips.

Yojiro nodded, "I imagine it must be difficult for you to see this from your cousin. Many would have just killed him and be done with it."

"I understand that my wants are outweighed by what the clan needs," Nephthys replied looking up at the older Scorpion, that self-same inscrutable smile. "And I understand that cousin dearest may have information you might need in regards to the Gozuku and that spell he has," her eyes narrrow.

"It's a terrible spell, but even I can not deny how that might be important."

"In the hands of the Yogo, it could be researched for a true cure. The nature of the taint has always been a mystery, and I'm certiain that Yogo Kenji will be most grateful for this addition to his studies."

He fell silent again for a while, as if judging something, "What do you think of your companions in Tsuma so far?"

A curious expression came to her face at the question. "Hmm…they all show great competence in what they do, I trust them enough to do what needs to be done," she gives another careful glance at Ogura before returning to look at Yojiro.

"I've seen Reiki and Hannei work the most, and they've proven they adapt well to any situation given," she adds. "Coordination is good between all of us, and though I don't always see them in action, the fact the job gets done speaks well for itself."

Her gaze becomes thoughtful. "I agree that spell needs to be studied…" she hesitated, there was something she wanted to ask, but wondered at the wisdom of it.

"Speak. You've something on your mind and I would rather hear of it then to let silence grant you a thousand false answers."

A look of slight surprise came to her features before Nephthys found herself smiling. "…I have some contacts in the Burning Sands that might help in studying the spell," she told him. "It is an option I want to offer. I always believed that tackling a solution in a different perspective might offer us answers that we might not realize."

"That is of course, if you trust me."

Nephthys was deliberate in not addressing Yojiro's name. You never know who could be listening in these parts and Yojiro was a legend not just to the Scorpion.

"Who would be interested in such a thing? The Taint is a phenomenon unique to Rokugan due to Fu Leng." Yojiro's voice betrayed his curiousity.

"The Qabal," Nephthys replied. "They're a brotherhood of scholars and sorcerrors and given Medinaat's position as a trade hub for several empires, it is something to note that they may have seen more diverse magic than most."

"I've heard of them, they were the ones who brought about Shinjo to endorse the Scorpion back to Rokugan after our exile. You know someone from the Qabal then? Do they have influence?"

"The Qabal unversity holds significant influence, as not only do they serve as part of the Caliph's court, they are also teachers," Nephthys nodded. "One can go to their university and study if one is willing to learn. Finding someone who might want to take a look of this spell is not hard."

Yojiro nodded, "Very well, I'll speak to Sunetra of it. If you have a contact that can help us with it, then let's not pass on the chance. This spell may well save lives… if used properly"

She nodded in agreement, deferring to her companion's decision before deciding to bring up another topic.

"There is one other curious concern I have," Nephthys began. "It's that Daidoji I had to get rid of… he moves like we do. The idea of a non-Scorpion sharing the same niche as we do… is disconcerting."

"It is, but I remember the words of a certain Ikoma friend of mine, Ikoma Sume once said, 'The problem with you Scorpion, is that you think that only you can be underhanded."

Yojiro smirked, "I've lived long enough to know that that's true. The Crane may be the face of honor, and the Lion the very image of Bushido, but cleverness and loyalty to a cause greater than that can lie in the heart of any person."

Nephthys gave that self same inscrutable smile. "That's an amusing answer," she would agree. "But it's not something I'd take to kindly. I want to believe the clans are capable of the things we do, and not something they picked up from the Gozoku."

She paused. "I wish I had time to observe him, unfortunately I had to finish things. Ogura was a bigger catch."

"There will be others." he said, "Once we get Ogura to confess the details we will be a very busy Clan indeed."

"Indeed," Nephthys returns to look over her cousin's "well being". She had to make sure he will be coherent enough to be interrogated at least.

- KYUDEN BAYUSHI -

It had been a long journey, and Nephthys, no matter how used she was to the rigors of travel felt a little weary. The herbal concoction that kept her cousin unconscious was a careful mix, and too much of it would kill him.

But finally they returned to Kyuden Bayushi, capital of the Scorpion lands. Sweeping curved roofs and scorpion-tail motifs were a common feature in the buildings, and there was an air of familiarity as she caught the scent of familiar za'atar spice mixes and grilled meats wafted from the roadside inns.

Scenting the spices brought a pang in her heart, and for a moment she felt melancholy fill her as memories of her time in Medinaat came unbidden.

It was with supreme effort to push them away, and focus on the task at hand.

There was much to be done after all.

They made their way to the castle itself, as servants backed away, getting ready to receive them. They'd barely dismounted from their horses when Nephthys spotted the familiar form of Yogo Koji, the Daimyo of the Yogo family as he made his way to greet them.

"Welcome back." he bowed, "I hope that the journey was not so dangerous?"

"The Fortunes favored us this time." Yojiro said as he looked at their precious cargo, "Sadly it seems that we have yet another secret to keep for the good of the clan."

Nephthys slid off the saddle, letting the servants take the horses ' reigns and bowed low to the Daimyou of the Yogo.

"This one, requires delicacy in handling given the amount of secrets he has…" she waited the servants to leave before reaching to lift the cover/hood used to obscure Ogura's visage. Just enough to allow Koji to spy his visage before setting the hood back down.

Koji's eye widened with surprise, "Very well, bring him inside. This can't possibly be good, can it?" She noted the tired, haunted look in his eyes. This was a man who had seen hell and lived to tell of it. It was no surprise then that nobody has ever heard him laugh.

"I'm afraid not," Nephthys replied quietly, helping haul her cousin inside. "He has…interesting information, good or bad..is something we won't know until he talks."

-

Ogura felt himself swimming awake. Slowly coming to, his vision was blurred and he couldn't keep his head up, "Muh…"

Koji looked at Nephthys, both were clad in drab brown kimono, in the basement of Kyuden Bayushi, where none of the screams would be heard. "Excellent technique." Koji mused, "I had not considered administering it as a vapor. I feel you and I will have a lot to discuss, Nephthys"

Nephthys tucked away the vial she used to rouse her cousin. She'd incline her heat at Koji, a small smile on her lips. "I'd be more than happy to discuss them with you, Koji-sama. Perhaps after this unfortunate business is done."

"Indeed." Koji said, turning his attentions to Ogura, "Now then, Ogura. You don't know where you are now, but I can assure you that this is a very unpleasant place.  We are here to give you an option to turn on the Gozoku you worked for, and we may yet find a way to keep you alive."

Nephthys forced her face to remain serene but she did glance at Koji at that particular remark. Was he really serious keeping Ogura alive? It was a thought that was far too risky to allow.

Ogura was sapped of willpower, and the drugs in his system kept him complacent and forthright. Koji sighed, "There's a certain art towards drawing out information without a blade." he said, "Let's begin, shall we? Who do you work for?"
Ogura tensed, as if he was conditioned to resist such a command.

"You're a bright boy, but you're not smart enough to impress your father. This isn't your doing. You're no mastermind, just a lackey in a ladder leading to smarter people." Koji's tone was cutting, she saw Ogura's breathing quicken "Who do you work for?"

Nephthys decided to step in, an inscrutable smile on her lips as she beheld her cousin. The drugs were doing it's work but she could see him tense.

"Not a total failure," Nephthys argued lightly. "After all cousin dearest did find a cure of the Taint, didn't you? I saw you what you did to that eta. Quite impressive really." Her voice held a honeyed quality.

"You made it look so easy too, but it couldn't be that easy can't it?" The trick she knew was to get him to relax, and get him to start talking first. It didn't matter what it was about, it would be easier to lead him later.

Ogura growled, "Wouldn't you like to know?" he stared at her, before recognition dawned on him, "You… why are you here? You're supposed to be out there in Medinaat."

"Is this how you say hi? I was called home," Nephthys smiled, though hers was one laced with regret. "This was not the family reunion I envisioned honestly…" she stepped closer, the scent of her perfume was pleasant but alien.

"And you, why are you here?" she asked him, her smile becoming a bit mournful. "I had half expected you to be deep in your studies, perfecting your craft…. proving to uncle that your decision was the best! You were going to show them all."

"I developed the Bloodspeaker Method," he growled, "They crafted the theory, I perfected it, honed it. You know nothing of what I can do!"

Koji watched impassively, this was more than an interrogation… this was personal to Nephthys.

"I know you can be more!" Nephthys argued, this was her cousin, the boy she looked up to, who showed her tricks as a child to make her smile. "I know you to be a capable man. I know because you are my cousin. You are my blood. I grew up with you."

"You are more than just some Gozoku lap dog made to do their dirty work," she argued.

"What do you want?" Ogura collapsed, the life driven out of him at his miserable state, his understanding of where he was completed. He was helpless, physically now in addition to the state he'd always been in.

"Help me build your legacy," Nephthys begged him, her voice softer now, her hand resting against his cheek. "I refuse to let history leave you as some two bit villain…instead, I will take whatever you can give me to become the tool I will use to stab at the very heart of the Gozuku. The will pay for what they have done and I will take your research all of it, and ensure that people who see it will know it was your brilliance that made this possible."

"What you found, cousin, is a step closer to a cure of the Taint. Even if this empire will not recognize your achievements, I will make certain that the Qabal universities will see to your work."

He looked at her, "You've always been the clever one, haven't you, Mika-chan?" he said, "I know what you're trying to say. My life is forfeit, but my work can live on. Can the Scorpion bear to live with a cure for the Taint that has my name on it?"

Koji wanted to answer, but silenced himself. He was not about to take this moment away from Nephthys

"Since when has that stopped me?" Nephthys felt herself smile, for once feeling tears prick behind her eyes. It was supreme effort that she kept the tears at bay.

"Oh Ogura…you have missed so much," she sniffed. "The Scorpion have tolerated much of my scandalous gaijin ways, I'm certain a little more wouldn't hurt them any more than what I've been doing."

"You want the Method." he said, "Do you swear to me that it will be my legacy, cousin?" He hung there, lost in the possibility of it. Everything was taken from him, but should they cure the Taint… then his father would have to hear of him forever.

"Your method and the names who put you into this mess," Nephthys nodded. She can not speak for Rokugan but the Qabal will have his research with his name. She could promise that.

"And I swear the Qabal libraries will keep your name on your research and your tale," she looked at him, her voice softer for only him to hear. "…after all, they have to, once your nephew is old enough to read he'll want to read about you."

Ogura was stunned… a nephew? "I have but one name to give… Bayushi Atsuki. He yet lives again thanks to the war of the spirits."

"The Shadowed Tower." Koji's expression darkened.

"But he has taken the name and identity of another, Shosuro Furuyari."

Nephthys looked at Koji and Yojiro. "That..that is the name of a playwrite is it not?" she was alarmed to hear that a man like Atsuki should still live.

But you then you have the daughter of the first Isawa walking on this plane, so she supposed stranger things have happened.

"The Steel Chrysanthemum wasn't the only villain to make the most of the Spirit War." Ogura said, "I knew who he was, but he gave me the chance I needed. The same chance that I seem to have squandered now. Take the Method. I will have no use of it… but others have it. I have not given you an advantage cousin… but an obligation. The Method is known to the Gozoku now."

"You never make things easy for me, I'm glad to see that's not changed," Nephthys stood up. They have a name, and the method. "I'm certain Koji-sama will have more questions…I'll go make tea for all of us."

-

The night was long. Questions were answered, promises made, and in the end, a letter drafting his confession was finally procured. Ogura surrendered his name to a method that could cure the taint, in hopes that it could finally prove to be the missing link to save Rokugan from the insidious forces of the Shadowlands Taint.

Nephthys retired to her temporary quarters, well aware that her cousin, a product of a series of poor decisions, was languishing in the dungeons below.

Tomorrow was going to be a terrible day.

-

Nephthys stood from her futon, and knelt before her make-up kit, opening to reveal the plethora of dusts, and colorful powders, rogues and paints…and a mirror. She'd reach to touch a small pendant, hanging around her neck, before wordlessly pulling away the the chain that held it.

She brought it up to the light revealing the fact it contained a liquid in it, before turning to make tea. There was one last thing she would have to do.

Ogura sat quietly in his cell, looking up as the doors opened to reveal Nephthys there. "Is it time, cousin?" he asked.

He'd shaved, arranged his hair in a style that left him with some dignity. He knew that it was the end. To his credit he seemed to take it with sublime stoicism.

"No," she set down the tray between them, "Not for a few hours," she replied soundlessly settling to sit on the cold ground beside him.

"How did it come to this, cousin?" Ogura asked, "we've both grown up to be quite different from what they expected of us, haven't we?"

"Yes," she agreed, letting the tea steep and cool. "Life is strange, and Fate is fickle…" she felt herself smile a little.

"….do you want to hear more about your nephew?" she asked him.

"I do." he said, understanding that perhaps this is one of the last times that he'll be treated as a person. "What did you name him?"

"It's wordy…but his name is Suleiman al-Rashid bin Punjab," Nephthys smiled keeping her voice quiet. "A mouthful isn't it..? He's named after the legendary wise king. We…I have great hope for him. He's turning four now."

"You've done well to bounce back to that figure then considering you bore a child," Ogura scoffed at his own terrible attempt at humor, "May the kami watch over him then, and bless him with a life long and fruitful. May the light of Amaterasu guide him to greatness and Bayushi guide his thoughts and deeds."

Spoken like a true shugenja. Not some cackling power-mad sorceror from the Burning Sands, but a priest of the kami from the Soshi temples. A benediction to a first born.

Nephthys felt herself smile. "Baka, Ogura-niichan," there was a catch in her voice there, one she quickly forced it away even as she poured the tea.

"…Thank you," she spoke sincerely of his blessing to her son. "…You know, he took after you." she looked at Ogura. "He's young but the Sahir say he's shown some…talent in the arts of sorcery. I wouldn't be surprised if he can talk to kami too…"

A moment and she was drawn into a spiral of "what-have-beens" the "what-ifs" in her life. In that moment she had never felt so saddened, frustrated, wanting to cross those bars and shake him. But she also knew hate, the Gozoku will rue the day they touched her family.

She served him tea, gently pushing it past the bars toward him. "Drink, have tea with me. I promise there's no bugs in there unlike last time."

"You were a cruel playmate." he laughed, sipping it, "bugs… leaves taken from some random bush you'd stumbled upon in the gardens. Kami knows how often you could have accidentally killed me by serving me tea."

"You always had that weird face when you get surprised," Nephthys smiled, waiting for him to finish his tea and push the cup back toward her.

How ironic then that the tea she served was one laced with poison. Hemlock took time, and if she was careful he would simply pass looking like he had simply passed on his sleep. It would be painless, it would be merciful. He may have fallen in the likes of the Gozoku but it does not change the fact he was still her cousin.

"Arigatou." he finished his tea, returning the cup through the bars. "Thank you for this moment of peace. I will be ready when they come for me. I am ready for my fate."

Nephthys picked up the cup, placing it in the tray. She had barely sipped her own tea, even as she lifted her tray. "Know that you are in my thoughts," she spoke softly, before turning to leave.

-

Bayushi Ogura was a traitor to the clan, and a heretic to his faith. By all measures he was abhorrent and deserved every punishment and torture that could be dreamed of by the Clan of Secrets.

And yet he passed away peacefully in the hours leading to this scheduled execution.

Physicians claim his coward's heart failed him before he could muster the courage of a true samurai.

None of these words mattered to Nephthys. As she watched them take his body away for burning, she knew that his soul was free, and that the cycle of kharma would give him another chance.

Yet another secret that Nephthys chose keep in her heart.

-END-

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Trouble at Twilight Mountains

Horse 1160

The fugu was led by Lady Kojiro Ayase and her unnamed Yojimbo. They led a group of samurai who have pledged their loyalty to the Pufferfish clan or Fugu. They are joined by 80 peasants and 3 caravans carrying supplies up the mountains. Kojiro Sayuri talked to the peasants in the village where the caravans were getting ready to depart and made friends among the peasants. Soon their journey begins with the caravans along with the samurai heading up the mountains. They are joined by Kojiro Sayuri and her brother Kojiro Itami, Kojiro Kurose, Kojiro Daichi, Kuni Kurokokku, Kojiro Katsu and Kasuga Shinichi. They headed up the mountain and suddenly as they were nearing the top a fog suddenly appeared. On their way to the top the peasants started talking about rumors of the mountains being haunted but Kojiro Katsu managed to convince them otherwise. On their way the yojimbo of Lady Ayase managed to pick up a strange stone statue that resembled some sort of human with a weird appearance. He gave this to the other samurai to inspect but none of them have any idea what it is. 

As soon as they reached the top of the mountain they started to descend down into the valley. Kojiro Sayuri along with a lion decided to scout ahead, her lion started to growl at something and she saw the silhouette of something humanoid in the fog. She ran back to the group as she heard a voice in the wind "Leave…..". She reported this to her companions. Her brother Kojiro Itami decided to accompany her to investigate but found nothing in the area. They proceeded to continue. Later on they decided to consult with Kuni Kurokokku. He then decided to talk to the spirits in the area but found no answers about the mysterious being.  As they were going back to the caravan Kojiro Itami saw a figure in the distance, what seeme to be a small girl but she had no eyes. The little girl only had empty eye sockets. Shaken, he went back to the group and hesitated to tell them about it. Kuni Kurokokku decided to talk to the spirits again and he heard the spirits say "That to appease the spirits they must leave." He then decided to tell his companions that they needed Leaves to appease the spirits. Many decided to ignore it. As they started to continue on their journey, Kuni Kurokokku spotted from a distance a man wearing armor but was covered in wounds and blood and is staring angrily at Kojiro Sayuri and Kojiro Itami. He could not identify who the man was but in an instant the man disappeared in the fog. He told them that he saw something but wasn't sure what it was it could have been his imagination. 

The group continued on their journey when they happen to hear water rushing. They followed the sound of the water and came upon a land where there was suddenly no fog. They found the land to be near the edge of the mountains and there was a waterfall that fell into a lake. Beyond the lake there was what looked like 8 stone pillars in a circle. Then beside it was a small decrepit wooden shrine. The group decided to investigate and found the land to be fertile then they decided this is the place they will settle. They checked out the shrine and found a statue similar to what they found earlier but a big bigger. Kuni Kurokokku decided to inspect the stone pillars and communed with the spirits where he heard the name "Shakoki Dogu", he is unfamiliar with it and he asked if he are safe there in the area. "The spirits told him that the group is safe for now and that the spirits are there to protect something" The group decided to split the peasants to their task. They assigned some of them to start building houses, some to pitch tents, some to start farming and creating rice paddies. Kojiro Kurose has decided to go fishing in the lake and decided to spend his time teaching the peasants how to fish. He is unable to teach them properly though but he does manage to catch fish.

The group decided to go scout along with volunteer peasants out in the fields looking for wood. Kojiro Sayuri and her brother Kojiro Itami, Kojiro Daichi and Kojiro Katsu decided to go out and look for it while Kuni Kurokokku decided to stay and bless the lands. They did manage to find trees but they are dead and then Kojiro Daichi decided to commune with them. While Kojiro Katsu found a neary mine that was old and abandoned but decided to inform the group and explore it later. Kojiro Itami had his lion and falcon scout ahead, his falcon seemed to have spotted a castle that is in ruins in 2 days travel from the settlement. While Kojiro Daichi found out from the tree that it is tainted and that there are no living trees nearby. All the while suddenly from the fog a figure appeared what looked to be a bushi covered in armor with tusks and wielding a mai chong charging at them. The peasants all saw this bushi glowing and ran back to the settlement while the group fought with it. The charging bushi identified as a boar clan bushi charged at Kojiro Itami and used his mai chong to pierce through him and then made a follow up slash on his chest. He was left mortally wounded and then he ran behind his sister for help. His sister, Kojiro Sayuri decided to ask the boar bushi what is he doing? The boar bushi answered that he is avenging his lord for what the lions did to them, in response Kojiro Sayuri carried her brother princess bride style and started to run. Kojiro Katsu decided to bring out his mai chong and pretended to be a boar clan bushi and told the boar clan bushi that he will take care of the lions for the crime they have done. The boar clan bushi was convinced and he faded away with his final words. "Avenge us brother, right the injustice that has been done. Clear our name."

The group returned to the settlement and decided to consult with Lady Ayase about of the events. There were long discussions and arguments between Kuni Kurokokku and Kojiro Daichi. In the end, Kojiro Katsu convinced that Lady Ayase that he was able to protect the village by valiantly defeating the Boar bushi spirit through storytelling. Lady Ayase proclaimed his a the Great Champion and then proceeded to believe in Kuni Kurokokku's advice that the Ex-Lion samurai should stay in the settlement while they launch an expedition to the castle to find out more about what has happened to the boar clan.

Later on, the group found a tunnel behind the waterfalls and it lead to a cavern that had a door with strange symbols on it. There was also orbs of preserved blood on it as it was noticed by Kuni Kurokokku. They asked Lady Ayase about it and then they were told to ask the Great champion about it. They then consulted with Kojiro Katsu and it was decided they should consult with the crab clan first. Kasuga Shinichi was told to write a letter to the crab clan asking for assistance with the matter. The group managed to find deposits of jade in the mountain walls nearby to the village and have asked the peasants to start mining with Kojiro Kurose leading them. At night fall as most of them went on their ways. Kuni Kurokokku was enjoying the mud bath he had created near the waterfall when he spotted something unusual. One of the stone pillars from the 8 pillar formation suddenly moved and sprouted arms and uprooted itself. The stone changed shape to resemble the statue that they possessed earlier. Kuni Kurokokku decided to call for peasants to call his companions while he followed the walking statue. His companions came as soon as they heard the news and they saw that the statue walked towards the supposed jade mine they have uncovered and started to use its powers to shape the earth to close the mine. Afterwards it melded with the mountain wall and is slowly disappearing to it. In a last moment, Kuni Kurokokku called out to it "Shakoki Dogu!". It stopped. He then asked it "What are you doing?" It answered "To protect". He then asked what happens to the village now. "There will be less power to protect it." With those final worlds it disappeared into the mountain. The group then decided to rest for the night for many things have happened today.

Later that night, Kojiro Itami had a dream or more like a vision. He saw a village that was prosperous and happy and it was situated where they were. The pillars were all statues and then the shrine was built and not decrepit. The scene suddenly changes to people from the village being dragge deep into the mountains by unkown men. The men, women and children are brought into the deep caves to what seems to be a very large anvil and they are sacrificed and killed on the anvil. The last scene was a little girl similar to what Kojiro Itami saw that had no eyes was brought to the anvil her head placed on top of the anvil and then a hammer crashes down crushing her head on the anvil. It was then that suddenly Kojiro Itami wakes up from the vision. He decides to sleep it off. The next day, when they awoke. They noticed that the fog surrounding the settlement has moved closer in than before.

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Loose lips sink ships

Month of Horse 3rd week

The Unicorn samurai arrived in Shiro Shinjo escorting the Lion envoys. As soon as they arrived the guards took the other guests to another area to await consultation while the Unicorn samurai was brought to the main hall to meet with the commander of the army and an esteemed advisor of Moto Chagatai. Upon Arriving at the Hall they saw a vast hall with pillars and red carpet and a large group of ronin kneeling bowed down to a man sitting on a chair in the middle with another older man wearing noble clothes by his side. The group recognized the man on the chair as Moto Chen, cousin of Moto Chagatai and one of the commanders of the army of the Unicorn. While the other man beside him is Ide Tang. The group immediately bowed down and Moto Chen addressed them.

Moto Chen congratulated them on their completion of their task. He has heard of their accomplishment through the ronin that was sent here but he asks why were the ronin told to await here at Shiro Shinjo? It was then Shinjo Rakuchi told him that the ronin were a great help in securing the villages to the north and east of the lands of the Unicorn helping the peasants against the bandit and it would be such a waste to let men go. Instead they wanted the ronin to join the Unicorn as samurai. Moto Chen looks unsure of that because he wasn't sure if the ronin are fit to be Unicorn samurai. Horiuchi Arashir voiced out in a respectful manner that maybe Moto Chen may test these ronin to see if they are a fit for the Unicorn. Moto Chen likes the idea then said that the best ronin in terms of skill should be matched in single combat with one of the samurai. The group was caught by surprised and Moto Roland was overconfident with his skills, so he volunteered to take on the task. The match was quickly finished as Zanzet attacked Moto Roland with a bamboo sword and Moto Roland quickly dodged it and returned it with an attack of his own. With Moto Roland's strength he managed to injure Zanzet in one strike. Moto Chen looked unhappy with the result which prompted Shinjo Rakuchi to reason that the Unicorn are well trained warriors and with training and guidance the ronin may become good infantry men. Moto Chen was unsure but he agreed to the wise words and allowed the ronin to take on the Shinjo name so that they may become additional samurai to patrol their lands.

The next topic brought up by Moto Chen was the topaz championship that is going to be help in Tsuma in crane lands. He asked the group for a representative since they have shown their worth in their task. The group unanimously voted for Shinjo Rakuchi to be their representative because he seemed to be the most well rounded of the group. Moto Chen agreed and then gave Shinjo Rakuchi koku and the responsibility to look after his comrades. Moto Chen then gave the floor to Ide Tang to discuss political matters before he himself gives out their assignment.

Ide Tang brought up the topic of the Unicorn needing allies in this time in order to ensure Moto Chagatai's plans go smoothly. He suggests that when the Unicorn samurai reach Tsuma they are to make friends and trade agreements with the other clans. Ide Tang called upon one of his own. A talented man, Ide Takahiro for a task. He gave him a letter with the Ide seal on it. This letter was to be given to the Scorpion clan representative since he feels that the chosen representative must be respected among the Scorpion clan samurai so in a way passing on the message and deal. Ide Takahiro asked what are their policies when dealing with the other clans. Ide Tang told them that the clan is open for negotiations for trade agreements and pacts that will ensure that the others will not interfere with their plans and extending friendship. The topic about reaching out to the Minor clans Deer and Fugu were brought up as Ide Takahiro was tasked with sending out letters extending friendship to our neighbors, the Deer and possibly new friend, the Fugu. An additional task was that since the group is going to Tsuma, Ide Takahiro should write a letter to the lord in charge of Tsuma asking if it would be okay for them to bring in theirs goods to offer to be sold by their heimin in the night market.

Lastly, Moto Chen has decided to hit two birds with one stone with the assignment. Since the group is heading to Tsuma, he has called on the group to investigate the disappearance of one of his own men that goes by the name Moto Unichi. Moto Chen sent Moto Unichi to Ryoko Owari to investigate claims of smuggling activity within the city. Moto Unichi was supposed to report back to him within this week but did not. He fears something may have happened, he wants the group to go there to find out what happened and retrieve any information that Moto Unichi may have uncovered. Afterwards they are to send the information to him by a courier and they are to continue to Tsuma for the topaz championship.

The group departed for Ryoko Owari right away while bringing along supplies and caravans that they may be able to use in Tsuma. On their way Arashir using his skills with divination asked the kami of what might have happened to Moto Unichi. He saw a vision of a man resembling Moto Unichi entering a large building with bright red and orange lights in a crowded district, the building has a symbol of an eye in the middle of a sun symbol. With this information the group headed to Ryoko Owari to follow the lead. It took them a few days of travel to reach Ryoko Owari and as soon as the group arrives in Ryoko Owari, they venture in to look for the supposed building after asking around in the city. As they were walking through the busy crowds. Moto Catalina was approached by a man wearing red and black armor but was wearing a mask that looked to be like an oni smiling but with fangs curved and pointing outward. The man whispered to her that maybe she is interested in foreign products. He is selling them for a good price. Moto Roland saw this and decided to answer for his companion and told the man they are not interested. The man staring at the group backed away then disappeared into the crowd.

After a tough navigation of the crowded city streets. They reached a building with the symbol in the visions. It is the House of the Morning Star, a very popular Geisha house. They entered and asked to meet with the Owner of said geisha house. After a few moments a beautiful woman wearing red appeared from down the hall. She looked a bit past her prime but her beauty and the way she walked and acted was full of grace. She introduces herself as Bayushi Ayeka, she manages the House of the Morning Star and looks after the girls working here. The group ask about Moto Unichi and Bayushi Ayeka suggests to them that there was a girl that is called Jade working here that might know of him. They should avail of their services so as to learn more about Moto Unichi since the girls and Jade are currently working so that they may rest their weary bodies from their travels and enjoy some down time with the girls and at the same time get the information that they seek. The group agreed and went to the second floor of the building in a private room to talk to the geisha. They drank tea and sake and were entertained by Jade and the other girls. Through subtly speaking with the samurai the girls were able to learn a great deal from them especially from one of their Companions, Moto Catalina who had a penchant for being very honest and open. Horiuchi Arashir talked to Jade to ask about Moto Unichi and he found out that Moto Unichi was a frequent customer of hers but they were in love with one another. Horiuchi Arashir then decided to tell her love fortune and divined to see if Moto Unichi and Jade was meant to be together. He saw a vision of a man in unicorn leather armor lying face down in a dark alley with his head bashed in and blood on the ground. Horiuchi Arashir decided not to share this with Jade and told her that it is imperative that they contact and reach Moto Unichi at once to secure his safety. Jade who decided to trust in the Unicorn samurai, shared that is not safe to talk here and will talk to him after her work shift is done. They agree to meet at the House of Foreign stories, a geisha house owned by the Unicorn clan that promotes diverse geisha.

At the House of Foreign stories later in the night, the group rested and tried to gather their wits when Jade approached them and asked them to talk in a nearby dark alley where no one would overhear them. The group agreed but decided to let Moto Catalina continue sleeping on a couch bag and not wake her. In the alley, Jade told them the whole thing. Moto Unichi was a frequent client of hers but they both started having affections for one another and Unichi told her of his assignment and discoveries regarding the smuggling operations in the city. He is currently in hiding in a shack outside of Ryoko Owari to avoid dangerous people. The group then decided to get to Moto Unichi to safety and get the informaton that he has. They headed to the shack outside of town to find it empty but with traces of blood on the bed and on the floor. Horiuchi Arashir then decide to commune with the kami and divine of what really happened. They saw the vision of the past of what happened in the shack. It showed that Moto Unichi was sleeping in the shack when a man wearing a mask with what looked to be like an oni smiling but with fangs curved and pointing outward suddenly stabbed him in the neck with a knife. Moto Unichi startled tried to resist but the unknown man continuously stabbed him in the neck and the area below the neck. Moto Unichi's blood spilled on the bed and he fell on the floor dead. The unknown man then grabbed the body and dragged it out. Upon seeing this vision, the Unicorn samurai then realized they were too late. They decided to split up with Ide Takahiro, Horiuchi Arashir and Moto Catalina searching the shack while Shinjo Rakuchi and Moto Roland would go look for clues as to where the body was taken. 

Shinjo Rakuchi called for his falcon and sent it to look into the area and the city to see what it can find, when a few moments later the falcon signaled to its master that it found something. Shinjo Rakuchi and Moto Roland went to the city to follow where the falcon was circling overhead. They were lead to a dark alley in the slums. The dark alley contained the body of a man in unicorn leather armor with blood and his faced bashed in. The tatoo on his shoulder identifies the man as Moto Unichi. They noticed that he has no possessions so it was made to look like he was robbed and then killed by someone but upon closer inspection there was a hidden pouch in his armor which contains a key. The group decided to take it with them and report the body to the Patrol as they found someone dead possibly from a robbery. The patrol found the body with the help of Shinjo Rakuchi and Moto Roland and called for an eta to take care of it. Shinjo Rakuchi and Moto Roland decided to go back to their meeting place because there was no other leads.

Meanwhile, Moto Catalina searched the floors of the shack and discovered a hidden compartment in the floorings of the shack. She opened it to find what seems to be a small box in it. She retrieved the box and the group saw that it was locked. Moto Catalina wanted to smash the box open against the ground but Ide Takahiro advised against it and decided to check the contents of the box by shaking it a bit to hear what was inside. The box when shaked sounded like there was something long in it but accompanied by like a sack with powder or grainy materials. The group decided to go to their meeting place to seek counsel from the others.

The group met up and figured out that they key was for the box. They opened the box with the key and found a document within it. The box also contained a small pouch with unknown materials in it. The group decided that this was very dangerous and decided to keep this amongst themselves for now and Ide Takahiro decided to send a letter back to their superiors that contains a message regarding their discovery hidden in cipher, so that other people would not see this. The group then traveled to another city away from Ryoko Owari before sending the letter via courier. Meanwhile, Horiuchi Arashir decided to return to Jade and let her know of Moto Unichi's fate. Jade was unhappy with the news but accepted his fate due to the dangerous circumstances regarding his duty and decided to not make it known to others to keep herself safe. Horiuchi Arashir told her that if she needed a safe place to go, she can go to the House of the Foreign stories to hide. Afterwards, the group decide to continue on their journey to Tsuma. It takes them several days to reach Tsuma coming from scorpion lands. They arrived at Tsuma in the afternoon of 4th of the month of Goat.

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All In The Family, Part 2
Night Action!

2nd Day of the Month of the Goat. Evening.
Bayushi Yojiro's Safehouse in Tsuma

Bayushi Yojiro listened quietly to the reports from the team, nodding as they finished. "Bayushi Ogura never did have a good relationship with his father," He stood, "But we're not here to discuss his motives. We need to capture him so we can secure his network, but if that proves to be impossible, then I want him dead. What is not negotiable is that none of the other Clans should discover his involvement."

He looked at the maps of the city on his desk, "I'm pulling the Infiltrators and Actors out of the heimin to assist in his capture. What are your plans?"

Nephthys sat in seiza position, her usual mirthful manner was starkly absent even as she spoke, her voice was serene if serious, and the only evidence of her rage at seeing her cousin was how she tightly gripped her fan. "I last saw Ogura heading to the direction of the Temple of the Seven Fortunes. It would be good to start there," she mused.

"I'm certain the man had taken time to establish his identity here as some hapless Asahina visiting the temple and ample time to make himself as secure as possible. Though given the illusion he weaves to hide his identity, it would be good to have a shugenja with us when we investigate," her gaze would settle on Kannako's direction. "Would the kami be able to tell you where to find Ogura if such a spell is active?"

"I should be able to, yes," Kannako nods. "If I ask the kami nicely, they should be able to point us in his direction… But it might also alert him to our presence."

With a furrowed brow Reiki asks Yojiro, "Were we able to find out how Magumon and Tohru was communicating with Ogura?"

Hannei has, through all this, been seated at the far dark corner meditating. Planning is not something she commonly gives opinion to — she is a worker, and is satisfied to leave the method of her utility to others. What she does need is to re-calibrate her center, and find energy for the long night and day ahead.

Kannako nods once more. "The letters Hannei discovered were also written in the same pseudo-Soshi cypher of the letter that Master Yojiro had given us earlier," she says. "These letters, I believe, were folded in a specific manner to indicate either the sender or the receiver."

Yojiro nodded, "That's the working theory. The other possibility is that the folds denote not a person but a location. Fortunately even if we don't have enough samples to figure out a code, I've sent an agent to persuade one of Tohru's household servants to disclose their knowlege. Kannako is correct in this case."

Nephthys was in thought a moment. "Once we have this letter, we can send it to the temple…I'm certain if the letter is forged well enough we can use it to lure Ogura away, in pretense to some kind of of emergency," she spoke, tapping her fan lightly in thought.

"Once Ogura is inside a palanquin we can lead him to a location of our choosing and deal with him. There would be less witnesses that way."

Reiki agrees to the plan, though raises the concern if Ogura would fall for a palanquin. But if no one has other suggestions, he agrees to this. "We might be going too fast, but this is a good course of action. Where then will we engage him?"

"I would like it if it is somewhere far from the eyes of the Crane," Kannako sighs. "But we are in Crane lands, and that might prove difficult."

"We'll have to take him away. He's a potential goldmine of information and I don't want to lose that as much as possible." Yojiro pointed out a building in the western side of the city, "Meet me here. I'll have our Infiltrators help extract us out of the city. "

"I'll be going with you," Nephthys offered. "Uncle would want me to personally see to Ogura's…situation," she phrased the term delicately. Though she would inform Yojiro of her ready-made poison kit should he require of it.

"But I can act as look out, just in case."  A small faint smile.

"I shall be having a private dinner and helping everyone settle into our new quarters" Kazuo says quietly "Just in case questioning birds ask where everyone has been this evening."

Yojiro nodded, "Good. We still have a few hours to get into position, any last minute preparations we need to consider?"

"I'll just need to borrow a yumi from the barracks and set-up where we plan to ambush him." Reiki adds, "I can help coordinate the actors along the routes as needed while I'm out there."

"Yosh, I'll assign some actors to attend to you, Kazuo-san." Yojiro noted

"We'll provide you with a Yumi and the arrows on your way there." Yojiro said to Reiki  before turning his attention to Hannei "Let me know when you have the letter ready. Good hunting, everyone."

An eye cracks open, and slowly Hannei eases out from her meditative posture. "I shall have it soon, Yojiro-sama," is the low intonation, and she shuffles forward for the paper and ink on the low desk.

-

Two hours later, approaching midnight. The Temple of the Seven Fortunes is a serene structure in the middle of the city. Softly glowing lanterns in various pastel colors decorate the grounds, and the moonlight lends a blue hue to the now empty flagstones.

After returning from the Armory, Reiki sits alone in the room set aside by Yojiro for them. He meticulously lays out the pots that Nephthys and Yojiro has provided, as well as pulling out the arrows from his quiver. He wraps his hands in a strip of cloth, careful to not leave as much exposed skin as possible. Using a brush, he then begins task of coating each arrow head and parts of the shaft with the poisons.

Once done, he places each arrow back into the quiver, careful in not making contact with them, leaving 2 remaining shafts. Reiki picks up a vial made of bone and proceed to strap it on to the arrow. And finally, he takes the sliver of jade that he managed to acquire and tied it securely on the remaining arrow.

After completing his preperations, he unfurls a map of Tsuma, and starts reviewing all the decoys and re-routes that they have coordinated with their heimin.

There is very little more preparation Hannei can do, after the groundwork that they've done, all that was left was pure execution. Hannei tucks her knife in its customary holster, leaving behind her extra to avert suspicion, and dons the necessary disguise to  harry Ogura. It would be nice, she thinks grimly, if all went according to plan, but her short years on the field has taught her that it is better to have contingencies aplenty instead.

Letter in hand, she prepares her mind for the ruse, and begins to scan the temple for ways in that would not be so open as the front gates.

Trusting in the utmost that her companions are where they have planned, Hannei cases out the entrance to make sure no one is on the other side.

She pops open the latch and slides the door with slow, careful movements. She peers inside. Her eyes adjust to the darkness inside, and she recognizes the kitchen from her earlier attempts to case the place. On silent footsteps she looks into the adjacent room where you find servants cleaning up after the day's activities.

A female Asahina shugenja instructs them, pointing out how to clean up the rest of the temple, "Hurry up, it's almost time for evening prayers!"

Hanei straightens up and tucks the letter into her sleeve. Finding herself some cleaning implements, Hannei— steps in with a nervous shuffling gait and immediately takes to also cleaning alongside the other youngsters.

After a few moments of cleaning up some statues of the fortunes, she spots the other Shugenja shuffling down for evening prayers. The other servants stop and bow and Hannei catches a glimpse of the target, Bayushi Ogura in his disguise.

Hannei continues her duties for a moment longer, not willing to catch the attention of these Cranes. She stops and bows to him as well, and withdraws with the rest of the servants. Pretending to be new, she whispers to one when no one else is in earshot. "Does it take them long, to pray?" she asks innocently.

The other servant turns to her and whispers "Not too long, about half an hour before they go to their respective leisure time and go to sleep."

Blushing a little, as if embarrassed, she gestures to Ogura discreetly. "He's… rather handsome. Where does he go?"

"Ah, Asahina Minato-sama is new here. I hear he takes walks in the city after hours to see the sights."

"Oh," Hannei says, as if utterly disappointed that she would not be able to sight the man more. But she thanks the girl, giggling, and continues on her duties.

Nephthys keeps vigil outside on the other side of the temple, oblivious to another figure in the shadows

-

The prayers and rituals continue, and soon the shugenja file out, much more relaxed as the pacifistic Asahina go about their only leisure time in the day.

Hannei positions herself at the entrance where Asahina Minato must exit, if he wishes to remain normal in the eyes of everyone. She knows the difficulty of being an Actor, and preempts it.

Minato bows to the others as he prepares his kit, a small furoshiki sack tied neatly into a bundle. He makes his way out into the courtyard and towards the gates. He glances up over the eastern wall for a moment and hurries along.

Hannei runs after him them, moving to intercept him at the gate, as if to greet him. "My lord," she greets when he approaches, revealing herself from behind the pillar of a tori gate.

"Minato" is startled at her approach, "What is it?!" his tone slips, tucking the furoshiki away from you subconsciously, "What do you want?"

Nephthys notes at the direction Minato looks at. She spares a glance at the self same direction a moment, just to check if there was someone there or something he is noting at.

Hannei bows deeply, and pulls out the letter from her sleeve. Without meeting his eyes, she presents it to him, arms outstretched.

Minato looks irritable as he takes the letter, "What's thi-" his words are cut off as he recognized the folds and begins unfurling quickly.

Nephthys catches it, the faint outline of a person crouched in the shadows in the adjoining building rooftop. It seems that Ogura wasn't operating alone as the team assumed.

Hannei shuffles backwards, as is customary, before straightening up just a little to be able to walk more. She remains bent. "My lord, this way, and urgently."

Ogura nodded, growling, "Tell Tohru that this is unacceptable." he walked towards the palanquin, "Just when we have everything in order!" He held his hand up and made a curious gesture as he made his way to the palanquin.

Nephthys let out a slow breath as the figure sprang into motion to follow Ogura as he entered the Planquin. It seems that the other intruder hasn't seen her. Whether it was luck or skill was irrelevant. What mattered were results.

Hannei doesn't respond, because she's a servant, only closing the palanquin door for him when he enters. She whistles for the heimin carrying the litter to proceed, and runs alongside it.

The heimin, of course, we're part of the Scorpion's gift to the Tsuma preparations. They began to move, picking up the pace as they headed to the drop zone where Yojiro, Kannako and Reiki were waiting.

Nephthys uses her stealth to intercept the tail hoping to catch him before he becomes aware of the change in route.

Having arrived earlier, Reiki finds a tree where he can hide behind but still hear the approach of the arriving palanquin. He pulls out a flesh cutter arrow coated in fire biter, and waits.

On the other hand, Kannako is dressed simply, and is waiting by Yojiro's shadow. She is on high alert, ready to act at any given moment.

The tailing Gozoku agent followed swiftly, only to be interrupted by the sudden appearance of Nephthys darting out of the shadows like a viper. Her poisoned knife glitters in the moonlight as he cuts into his shoulder. The Yojimbo lets out a strangled cry as the burn of the poison begins to radiate out from the wound, and forcing his muscles to lock up!

The palanquin proceeds on its way and Hannei hears Ogura inside "Who else is waiting for us in the extraction point?" he calls out to her, "Have they cleared the other labs?"

Hannei runs closer to the palanquin. Unable to answer those questions, she instead intones: "My lord, we must change palanquins after the bend, so that your obscurity will be guaranteed."

Nephthys quickly slits the man's throat from ear to ear, ensuring his silence before quickly stashing his body to retrieve for …examination later.

She then follows after the palanquin, careful to remain in the shadows and on the look out for other Gozuku agents that could be watching.

"Ugh," Ogura growled as the palanquin set him down as they reached the drop zone. "About time. I've not time to waste with that pompous fool."

He steps out, illusion gone to reveal his true features, hair color and kimono.  He looks around, confusion in his features as he realizes he is nowhere near where the agreed extraction point was supposed to be.

Without a word, Hannei slips behind him them, knife drawn, and stabs him from behind with the poison tipped knife.

Ogura lets out a cry as Hannei's knife slips into his kidney, followed shortly with the THUNK of a fleshcutter arrow digging into his ribs. He spasms in Hannei's arms as he is overwhelmed with the pain

After loosing an arrow, Reiki quickly reaches for another but sees Ogura already drop to the ground. He still knocks another arrow, just in case.

Hannei catches the limp figure in her arms, and begins to drag it back to the palanquin.

How fortunate that she had not missed, she thinks.

Yojiro nods, "Yosh, good work." he gestures as the heimin secure the  Shugenja and tie him up, applying poultices to the wounds to stop the bleeding and administering medicine to keep him unconscious.

Kannako follows after Yojiro, a hefty length of rope in her hands.
"It seems I was not needed, after all…"

"We were lucky, Kannako-san," Yojiro spoke, "Better that you were here than we be without. In fact, would you please determine if there is anyone monitoring us?"

"Of course, Yojiro-sama." Kannako nods.

At Kannako's behest, the air kami swirl around before reporting back to her. There were no Air kami being asked to monitor Ogura currently, but the kami's opposite, the vile kansen cling to him hungrily, eager to obey.

"Maho," Kannako hisses and narrows her eyes at Ogura. She turns to Yojiro again, "He was not followed, Yojiro-sama. He is alone."

Nephthys watched from a distance, satisfied that Ogura was well and truly harmless before back-tracking to where she left Ogura's accomplice. Nephthys conducts a body search and sees that her opponent had a peculiar tattoo on his wrist: The mon of the Daidoji. It seems that the Gozoku Conspiracy truly did make for strange bedfellows. She retrieves a blowdart, and three shuriken on his person before she mars the face and hands of the corpse with acid and stashes the body somewhere and returns to meet up with the rest of the team.

Yojiro noted Nephthys' return. "Trouble?"

"I had to dispose of one of Ogura's accomplices, a Daidoji with a penchant for our…type of work," she spoke the last part quietly, stepping out of the shadows in a traditional Scorpion kimono, though a a simple half mask covered the upper part of her face.

Yojiro nodded, "Very well. I will begin the journey back to Kyuden Bayushi so that we can question Ogura, and see to his punishment in Traitor's Grove. Remain here to double-check on possible remnants of the Gozoku Conspiracy. I highly doubt we've rooted out all of them."

"I will be going with you to deal with Ogura, Yojiro-sama," Nephthys replied. "Uncle will insist on a personal report in regards to his wayward…son." Her eyes narrow slightly as she glances at the unconscious form of her cousin.

"It is after all, a family matter."

Yojiro considered Nephthys' words, and finally nodded before looking at the others, "With Nephthys gone, you'll have one less operative. Stay safe, and report to me if you have any further discoveries. Furthermore, Bayushi Paneki will be arriving here by the 5th Day under the pretense of attending the Topaz Championship as a spectator. He'll serve as your contact in my absence."

"Thank you, Yojiro-sama," Kannako says, bowing. "I shall send word, should we discover anything else."

"Will you be returning before the Championship?" Reiki asks.

"I wish I could join you all but perhaps the Walking Scandal will have to defer her appearance for now," Nephthys gives a thoughtful look, "Besides, it wouldn't do for me to not reappear without a proper entrance. Being fashionably late is considered popular among gaijin after all."

Yojiro nodded, "Good luck then, to all of you. Nephthys, gather your things and meet us outside the Western Gate. We'll leave as soon as you rejoin us."

"It won't take long," Nephthys promised before retreating away, to return to their lodging to retrieve her belongings. She would take the things she would only deem necessary, the rest she would leave a note to Kazuo to hold on to while she was away.

It was a silent parting, with the Scorpions returning to their respective duties in Tsuma. Their vigil was not over.

They may have avoided a political catastrophe with Ogura, but the bigger question remains… just how deep does the Gozoku Conspiracy go, and has Ogura been able to teach his abhorrent Bloodspeaker Method to their other shugenja?

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The Obsidian Titan
Crab clan session 2

2nd week month of Horse

The crab samurai received word and news about the crane incident of Daidoji Juiichiro posing as a crab merchant. The samurai have decided to let the magistrates handle it and instead focus on getting supplies for the wall. The yasuki courtier and another bushi decided to go to a nearby crane village to ask for donations while the rest will accompany the others doing their gempukku in the shadowlands.

The yasuki courtier, Yasuki Mizuhara and his bodyguard, Hiruma Kenshin went to a nearby crane village where they were asked by the village guards what they were doing there. They explained carefully to them that they were there to ask for donations for the wall and managed to convince them of their sincere intentions. They were sent to the local lord's compound to talk to the lord, Daidoji Hannouji about it. There Kenshin was surveying the grounds and saw that there were guards in the compound and a warehouse where the supplies are being stored. They went in and talked to Lord Hannouji about their intentions. Hannouji agreed to supply them with atleast food and supplies that would be enough to support their campaign for half a year. They were given two caravans atleast of supplies. Hannouji believes that since his village is near the border of the crane and crab and his village would suffer losses if the oni were able to pass through the wall. The duo went around town asking around and found gossip regarding recent events especially those in Tsuma and heard about a trade being done between the unicorn and mantis. They decided to talk to their superiors about making a trade agreement with mantis as well. As they head back to crab lands with the caravans in tow, they were blocked by bandits. Mizuhara tried to convince the bandits to join the crab instead of resorting to banditry, but Kenshin sneaked out the caravan and around the bandits and caught them by surprise and killed one of the 3 bandits. The bandits then fought back and in the end all of the bandits were killed but Mizuhara was injured in the ensuing battle.

Meanwhile, back at the wall. Hida Yang, the new hida bushi that needed to do his gempukku was accompanied by his comrades: Kuni Kumiko, Hida Deadpool and Kuni Kushimaru. When they reached the other side of the wall they felt tremors from the ground and was approached by a large oni. It resembled a man with a top-knot but was atleast 9 feet tall and it was very large and fat with a large mouth with razor teeth. The creature dislocated its jaw and stretched it open to make it more intimidating. It seems this creature would be able to swallow a man whole.

Suddenly, the warning bells rang from the wall which meant that oni were attacking as they were readying themselves for battle suddenly from the shadowlands and beyond the mist a large creature unseen before suddenly started to advance to the wall. It was the biggest monster they have ever seen. It looked like a giant man with white eyes but it's entire body was covered in black-scale like armor. It was bigger than the wall itself. The group suddenly ran back to their side of the wall and scaled it and prepared for battle. The archers all grouped together to fire at the beast while all the shugenja focused on casting their best spells at the creature. The attacks seem to hurt the creature only a little bit when suddenly the creature punched the wall destroying a large section of it sending debris over the land and many of the soldiers on that side of the wall flying to their death. The fat, large and pudgy oni started pouring into the destroyed section of the wall. All hell broke loose as soldiers were stunned by the destruction and many started forming armies and groups to repel the oni pouring from the destroyed section. As the oni poured into the destroyed section, the titanic black creature started to move away and headed back into the shadowlands. The group went down to form armies and attacked the oni to try to repel their advance. The crab forces all converged on the area where the onis are coming in. The crab clan ordered their Kaiu siege engines to move toward the wall forming a temporary barricade to block the section while firing at the monsters. The group along with a number of samurai and ashigaru fought the monsters and slayed those who managed to cross over. With the entire crab army mobilizing to contain the destruction, it was a war that lasted almost the entire day where the crab were killing the creatures and they were pouring in. In the end, the crab army were successful in destroying the creatures but their land was filled with corpses and tainted corpses all over the fields. The concentration of the tainted corpses on the lands were able to affect some of the crab clan's armies. Afterwards, many of the troops felt the sickness coming from the corpses and they immediately called for a cleanup of the entire area.

A week has passed when Mizuhara and Kenshin return to see the lands they came from to be a site of a battlefield. There were still bodies being burned and cleaned and they noticed a large section of the wall is gone but repairs are underway. They estimate it would take some time before the wall could be repaired but many of the samurai will stay to stand guard as always vigilantly so that no shadowlands creature may slip through the destroyed section. In the end the group was congratulated and thanked for their efforts. Mizuhara and Kenshin were praised by the commander because of their efforts to get supplies. Yang passed his gempukku by helping organize the ashigaru and slaying the oni thus proving his might as a hida warrior, Kuni kushimaru, Hida deadpooru and Kuni Kumiko were also praised and thanked for their help in repelling the oni. In the end, the group decided that Kenshin should be the crab clan representative for the topaz tournament and they also talked to the commander about contacting the Mantis to set up a trade agreement. The group then decided to use their time to train and when the time comes they will start their journey to Tsuma to participate in the topaz championship.

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All In The Family
Scorpion Clan Session 2

The Golden City of Toshi Ranbo, Imperial Capital of the Emerald Empire

"Good work on your last mission." Kaukatsu bowed to the assembled Scorpion samurai, "But I'm afraid that  you'll not have time to relax here in the Imperial City."

"What's the matter, uncle? And how can we help?" Nephthys inquired.

"I've received notice from our former champion, Bayushi Yojiro. He's currently working on a top secret mission, and has asked me to send my most trusted agents to him in the Crane City of Tsuma.

"As such I'm adding your names as the Scorpion Delegation for the Topaz Championship. I'll need a volunteer to serve as the Clan's representative."

"I would like to volunteer." Hannei bowed.

"Very well. I'll finalize the list and send you all on your way. Please make your preparations as you leave for Tsuma tomorrow morning."

The City of Tsuma

The team found themselves meeting in one of the private rooms of The Poisoned Water Sake House, where they found Bayushi Yojiro.

The former Champion of the Scorpion held out the letter to the assembled samurai. "We've discovered that there are agents within the Scorpion Clan who do not agree with the way that the Clan is being led by Sunetra-sama. Calling themselves the Shadowed Tower, they seek to return the Scorpion to the era of depraved villainy."

Kannako bowed low as she received the letter in both hands, noting that it was written in a strange variant of the Soshi Cypher.

"What troubles us is that this showed a direct correlation between the Shadowed Tower and the Gozoku. Our analysts have determined that the message we intercepted from a Shadowed Tower agent was meant for a recipient here in Tsuma. Unfortunately, while my hunt has led me here, the fact that I remain a high-profile figure means that my own mobility is restricted.

“That said I can at least give you a letter of introduction to the current Mayor of Tsuma, a certain Doji Tohru. He’s an unpleasant man, but if there’s a Gozoku agent in the city, then they will likely be in his circle.”
-

After their meeting with Yojiro, the team decided to do something for the Topaz Championship first, with Kazuo and Hannei going about the stores to buy out all of the best flowers for Kazuo’s use. During his spare time leading to the Topaz Championship, Kazuo puts together no less than 8 stellar Ikebana displays, one for each of the clans as a welcoming gift to each of the Clans.

Once they’ve had a chance to rest, the team proceeded to make their introductions to the ostentatious Doji Tohru. The estate was quite an eyesore, with gaudy decorations such as jade pillars and an extravagant dueling circle in the gardens of his home.

There they met with Tohru and his equally unpleasant bodyguard Magumon. Reiki took the lead here, introducing the team to the Mayor. Tohru seemed quite pleased to receive yet another Great Clan in his home and with a little bit of flattery, the team was able to secure quarters to stay in within the Mayor’s estate. Tohru also informed them that he was looking to throw a party to welcome the Scorpion and Kazuo offered that the Scorpion could show their gratitude through an “Exotic Dance” to be performed by one of their number.

Kannako took the chance to look around, and came to the conclusion that the Dueling Circle seemed to be enchanted, and most of the estate was designed to show off, a behavior frowned upon by most polite company.

Tohru then calls for someone to attend to the Scorpions. This turns out to be young Doji Haruko, a meek and insecure young graduate from the Doji Courtier School who wore a threadbare kimono three seasons out of date, and accompanied by her ronin bodyguard, Ragan. A man of few words but much caution.

Reiki goes out to try to establish contact with the local Scorpion information network, while Kazuo, Kannako and Hannei take the young Crane shopping, giving her a whole new outfit that she could wear for the Topaz Championship. Haruko turned out to be quite the earnest, courtier, if one that was doubtful of her own ability.

The team introduce Haruko to Nephthys, whose extravagance leaves the poor Crane flabbergasted. Nephthys takes the time to soothe the young courtiers nerves, and spends the time to teach her the proper ways to conduct herself when dealing with ones such as herself in what turns out to be quite an enlightening experience for the young Crane.

While they were training, Hannei takes the threadbare kimono of Haruko and begins to case the place in the guise of a servant. It was then that she stumbles upon Magumon, who fails to recognize that she was not one of the house staff, and instead hands her a sheaf of letters… one of which is written in the Soshi Cipher!

The rest of the Scorpions case the place, and make a few discoveries. Kannako finds a series of hidden passageways and hidden rooms in the estate, while Kazuo are able to determine the guest list and some key facts, such as Miya Genji an Imperial was invited to attend the party.
The team regroups, and Hannei hands the letter to Kannako, who decodes the cipher to reveal that it was a missive informing the recipient that the “volunteers are being held in a storehouse. And once the Topaz Champion is chosen, they will be brought there for indoctrination.”

The team decides to show the letter to Haruko to gauge her reaction. She recognizes it as being the kind of letters that come out of Tohru’s office. Hannei gives the letter to Haruko to return it and tails her as the young Crane and her Yojimbo head back to Magumon. Haruko shows the letter to Magumon saying that a servant must have dropped it.

Magumon takes the letter and attempts to cut a terrified Haruko down! Her ronin Yojimbo, Ragan steps forward and blocks the strike, and the two samurai engage in mortal combat as Haruko cowers in terror. Hannei acts quickly, and throws a teapot at Magumon’s head stunning him and allowing Ragan to land a strike that knocks Magumon unconscious.

Hannei asks that Ragan take Magumon’s unconscious body with them as she leads them to one of the estate’s hidden rooms to meet with the rest of the Scorpions. The team considers their options, but eventually settle on a plan.

-

Ragan and Reiki bring the unconscious form of Magumon to Yojiro, while filling in the former Champion with the details of the case. When asked about what their next plans are, Ragan confesses that he is ill at ease about leaving Haruko with Tohru’s estate as the others there are suspect. Reiki and Ragan come to the agreement that the Scorpion will offer sanctuary to the young courtier and the ronin until they can negotiate a safe transfer to a trustworthy team of Crane.

Nephthys on the other hand takes the letter from Magumon and hands it to the servants and proceeds to fade into the shadows as she tails them to the letter’s ultimate destination.

While Magumon’s fate was being discussed, Hannei assumed his identity and followed Tohru until he left the estate to approach a warehouse in the city. Upon entering Hannei was stunned to discover that the warehouse was converted into a strange housing structure, with crude cots made to hold an alarming number of eta. Casual observation revealed that these eta were drugged to the point of almost incoherence.

Tohru approached a figure dressed in Scorpion Clan robes, whom Hannei recognizes as Bayushi Ogura, the son of Bayushi Kaukatsu.

At this point Nephthys was also tailing the team, and was stunned to see her cousin Ogura there. But what was more alarming was the demonstration of a new technique that Ogura had managed to create. Pulling down a sleeve, he revealed the rot of Shadowlands Taint on his person, and upon asking a drugged eta if he was willing to receive the Taint in exchange for more drugs, the eta readily agreed, and the sickly green corruption flowed out of Ogura’s arm and into the unwitting “volunteer.” To prove his success, Ogura cast a Jade spell upon himself showing that he suffered no harm from doing so.

Nephthys and Hannei both knew that as tempting as it was to kill Ogura outright, there was more to this conspiracy than just simple revenge. With the details in mind, both Nephthys and Hannei regroup with the team, bearing grim tidings.

-

The next day, Reiki and Kazuo speak with Miya Genji, one of the honored guests of Tohru’s party, and present their accusations and evidence. Bayushi Yojiro stood among them, discussing the nature of his investigation on the Gozoku and stressing the need for discretion in handling the matter.

“While we ask that you judge these men as the Voice of the Emperor, we also request the the Emperor hold his peace until we can root out the rest of this corruption.”

Genji readily agrees to this condition, and issues the edict to have Tohru and Magumon executed quietly and away from public eye. The Crane are made aware that they should prepare for Tohru’s replacement, but details on the nature of Tohru and Magumon’s crimes are to be sealed  away upon Imperial Authority and will be revealed only when the Miya family sees fit to do so.

Yojiro asks for the Scorpion to be granted the honor of serving as the Miya’s protection from such conspiracies in the event, as he is certain that there are more. They withhold from informing the Miya about Ogura’s involvement for now.

Seeing wisdom in the request, the Miya confer a temporary status as magistrate upon the Scorpion team, allowing them to serve as a counter-intelligence force and mandated to work together with the Crane Clan (Who host the event) and the Lion Clan (who bear the Seppun mandate) to see to the safety and success of the Topaz Championship.

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Tales from the Lion Clan: Episode Two

Tales from the Lion Clan
Episode Two:
A Topaz Stained With Blood

 
"The Tournament nears
Hearts aburst with vile magic
Finished in two strikes"


Location: The Crane City of Tsuma, Site of the Topaz Championships
Day: Year 1160, 26th Day of the Month of the Horse – 1st Day of the Month of the Goat

An esteemed guest arrives at the Vigilant Dojo – one Akodo Toshiyuki, esteemed Master of the Akodo Bushi School. Taking Souji into private conversation, he discloses the nomination of Ikoma Souji, prodigy of the school, as the clan's candidate for the upcoming Topaz Championships in Tsuma and bids him present himself to the tournament's organizers before the second week of the month of the Goat. Souji humbly accepts the praise and honor of representing the clan, with Toshiyuki making it clear as day that he lobbied strongly that Souji is the best candidate for the clan.

A second esteemed guest arrives shortly thereafter – the Emerald Magistrate of the Imperial City himself, Kakita Genta. Recounting the valiant deeds of the Lion in saving the capital, he bids them go to Tsuma to serve as additional security from the Imperial Capital and to present themselves to the Mayor of Tsuma, Doji Tohru. When asked about the incident weeks prior, the Magistrate simply said that the case has passed on to more relevant parties.

As the group was about to depart the capital, they get wind of rumors circulating of one Matsu Toshiro being closely linked in comparison to the "Walking Scandal", Bayushi Nephthys, pegging his demeanor and attitude as brusque and akin to the savages of the Burning Sands. Toshiro attempts to dispel the rumors, nudging the pretty Daidoji Gate Guard whom the rumor was picked up to consider it dishonorable to believe such lies. Internally, however, the young samurai rejoices in his newfound infamy.

A few days of travel on Imperial payroll brought the Lions to the Crane city of Tsuma – a city that they noted was bustling with masked heimin everywhere they go – the inns, the geisha houses, even their lodgings and the preparation of the Topaz Championship. With Shimpachi curiously wondering if some sort of cultural festival is afoot that they were not aware of, the group proceeds to introduce themselves to the Mayor of Tsuma, noting how lavishly extravagant his estate is, a notch above Crane standards.

The mayor meets them and welcomes their service despite insinuating that their presence is needless and unnecessary. The Lions shrug off the remark and insist on the Emerald Magistrate's mandate, to which the mayor relents and bids them aid in the setting up of the tournament's Dueling Grounds. Kitsu Keisuke, however, feels a curiously uplifting sensation as the Kami around him feel strangely at ease and in joy, prompting a curious, blurted-out inquiry to the matter. Interest piqued, the Mayor gladly boasts of his enchanted zen garden and eagerly shows the Lions the expanse of his enchanted grounds, which include a dueling arena with curtains of swirling sakura petals magically circling the arena in perfectly-orchestrated winds, the season one of eternal spring, and four massive Jade pillars standing ready at the arena's cardinal corners. Tohru does not waste time to tell that it is the Master of Water, Doji Akiko, wife of the Crane Champion, who is responsible for the magnificent landscape work, one that arrests Keisuke's attention entirely and hopes one day to meet the Master of Water to praise her work.

Heading to the Dueling Grounds, the Lions note once more that the presence of Scorpion heimin and eta are prevalent and outnumber the Crane heimin manpower. They immediately proceed to sweep the heimin present for any concealed arms and the arena for concealed compartments that may contain illegal items, with the party noticing that one heimin is missing. Toshiro requests one of the heimin retrieve a sample of the missing man's clothing, that Matsu Kondou's trusted lion companion, Shin-kun, would manage to track down the missing heimin.

It is then that Souji realizes someone is stalking him – a presence in the woods that immediately conceals itself when he takes notice. Curiosity getting the better of him, he moves to confront the mysterious stalker, only to find a massive bulk of a man who is making a poor effort to conceal himself in the bushes – a far cry from the diminutive figure he saw earlier. Wracked with needless guilt, the man surrenders to their confrontation and introduces himself as Hida Mori, indicating that the mysterious stalker had fled into the village upon being noticed. Prompted for a description, Mori relays that the man wore a mask and appeared like a common heimin from his attire. Toshiro, Souji, and Keisuke gave chase.

Ikoma Kazuchika, who had taken charge of ensuring logistics progress well alongside security, investigates the missing heimin alongside Shimpachi and Kondou when a sample of the missing heimin's clothing had been retrieved for Shin-kun to trace. The scent trail leads to a most-horrendously-murdered man, his chest burst open as if it had exploded from the inside, his immediate surroundings curiously devoid of blood. When Toshiro, Keisuke, and Souji returned from their fruitless chase of the masked stalker in a town full of masked people, Keisuke immediately isolates the case as a murder committed using Maho.

Tracing the roots of the spellwork, Keisuke taps into the Water Kami in the surroundings and finds a trail of agitated ones, hinting that the Maho-tsukai is still nearby and must be confronted lest more crimes happen. Their chase leads them into the city proper, where the trail stops momentarily at another murdered masked heimin, his chest also burst open. The trail leads out into the city and into a forested outskirts, where it promptly ends at a circular pond that has been stained a dark red, with two heimin corpses half-dipped into it and bleeding into the waters.

Further accentuating the gruesome display are the profane prayers written amongst the surrounding trees in blood, which Keisuke deduces as a summoning spell of sorts. Intent on stopping the ritual and confronting the Maho-tsukai, Kondou sics Shin-kun to track it down while the other Lions proceeded to remove the offending prayers from the trees. It was then that the heimin corpses shuddered and slowly rose to life.

Dispatching the feeble undead with a few blows, the Lions isolate the Maho-tsukai as hiding atop one of the profanely-marked trees, prompting an angry Toshiro to knock down the tree with a singularly-strong kick, toppling the tree over and allowing Shin-kun to maul the hapless Maho-tsukai buried underneath. It was dead before the Lions even got to it, which they discovered was a woman dressed in a black kimono and carrying several spell scrolls, which Keisuke promptly confiscated. Her face was barely recognizable, having been severely mauled by Shin-kun to death.

A presence behind them catches their attention as a handsome man with dark hair and wearing a kimono of white and black arrives, sheathing his katana at the sight of the Lions. With him are two other bushis clad in similar robes, armed with sheathed katanas as well. He introduces himself as Shinta – one that the Lions pick up as one of the ronin as exhibited by how he named himself and how his attire does not display any of the Clans' distinct mons. Shinta regales that the Maho-tsukai is Kiku, The Heart's Demise, a dangerous shugenja that his band had been tracking for the better part of the year from the heart of the shadowlands to the heart of Rokugan itself, something that certainly arrests the attention of the Lions in attendance. Keisuke sees the man as one of unimpeachable honor, and the rest of the Lions gladly thank him for his deeds and welcome his and his companions' blade.

With their newfound Crab companion sending for Tsuma's Clan Magistrate, the Lions detail the plot of the Maho-tsukai to disrupt the Topaz Championships and thanks the service of the Lions to the clan, promising further investigation into the matter, all the while surprised at the presence of the ronin Shinta and his band. The magistrate takes over the investigation and bids the Lions take a well-deserved rest – something the Lions interpret as their cue to head to The Azure Fan, Tsuma's most popular geisha and drinking house.

All in a day's work, pursuant to the Vigilant Dojo's creed: Slay Evil Immediately!
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Gift from the Lover's Hand
恋人の手からの毒

Dragon Clan Session 1
1160, 14th Day of the Month of the Horse

Mirumoto Ryoko, Kitsuki Amane, Kitsuki Taiyo, and Togashi Hiryu were assigned to Suigeki Toshi as deputies. Their orders were to keep the peace, enforce the laws of the land, investigate rumors of mahou-tsukai activity, and protect the sacred treasure of the city, the Water Anvil.

They started their duty by learning the culture and history of the city, inspecting the Unicorn Trade Caravans and Scorpion trade goods, speaking with the locals, and ending their day by patrolling the entertainment and red-light district.


1160, 15th Day of the Month of the Horse

The deputies were summoned by the chief magistrate at the waning minutes of the Hour of the Tiger (few minutes before 6 AM). Kakkita Shinjiro, a Kakkita Artisan famed for his skill in literature and placing second place in a Topaz Championship was found dead in his study. The chief magistrate tasked the deputies investigate the matter.

Arriving at the scene, Kakkita Shinjiro was found lying over a table, having perished while composing a letter. The scent of aromatic herbs filled the room, with the sharp odor of apple and almonds piercing the air near the corpse. Through methods magical and mundane, the investigators determine that the murder weapon was a box of potpourri which Kakkita Shinjiro burned, with the herbs within having laced with poison. Examination of Kakkita Shinjiro's poems, books, and journals reveals letters to and from Utaku Rei, sadane with Kitsuki Fusou, orders for medicinal herbs from Soshi Danzo, requests to visit both the gardens of the Scorpion and Unicorn estates in Suigeki Toshi, correspondences to and from other aritsans within the city, and a letter to Kakkita Shinjiro's daimyo petitioning for marriage into the Unicorn Clan. Interrogating Kakkita Shinjiro's yojinbo reveals that the poisoned box of potpourri was a gift from his lover, Unicorn Battlemaiden Utaku Rei.


The deputies headed to the pharmacy of Soshi Danzo, one-armed surly veteran and personal pharmacist to the Scorpion Delegate within Suigeki Toshi, to learn more about the medicinal herbs and the poison. Kitsuki Fusou, young apprentice of Soshi Danzo, was tending the workshop when the investigators arrived. She called her master to speak to the deputies before returning to her duties as an apprentice.

Kitsuki Amane separated herself from the group to speak with Kitsuki Fusou regarding the murder of Kakkita Shinjiro. However, due to ill chosen words, Kitsuki Amane inadvertently accused Kitsuki Fusou of murder. Furious, Kitsuki Fusou demanded an either an apology or a duel to the death. Kitsuki Amane chose to back her words with steel. As a courtier, Kitsuki Fusou named her master Soshi Danzo as her champion in the duel while Kitsuki Amane, also a courtier, instead chose to represent herself.

As representatives of the law, the deputies were empowered to authorize duels to the death, especially if they were to accuse someone of murder. Thus, the duelists moved outside to the street to begin the trial.

Despite being heavily disadvantaged, Kitsuki Amane survived a minute against a superior opponent before being rendered unable to fight. Soshi Danzo, for unknown reasons, refused to deliver the death blow.

During the duel, Mirumoto Ryoko stood as witness to the proceedings. Togashi Hiryu entered the pharmacy and obtained an unsent love letter from Kitsuki Fusou's quarters. Meanwhile, Kitsuki Taiyo, having invoked the blessings of the kami, approached Kitsuki Fusou, and began eloquently orating a tragic tale of three lovers trapped in a triangle in order to provoke a reaction.

Just as the duel concluded with Soshi Danzo's victory, proving Kitsuki Fusou's innocence, Kitsuki Fusou became enraged at Kitsuki Taiyo's provocation. She drew her wakizashi and assaulted Kitsuki Taiyo. Left without any alternatives, the deputies, with some assistance from Soshi Danzo, restrained and incapacitated the berserking Kitsuki Fusou. The three remaining ambulant deputies brought Kitsuki Fusou and Kitsuki Amane to the magistrate's building, the former to be incarcerated for drawing a weapon in public and disturbing the peace, while the latter to be healed of her wounds.


When Kitsuki Fusou came to, she was contemptuous towards deputies who wished to speak with her regarding Kakkita Shinjiro's murder. Kitsuki Fusou refused to speak, proclaiming herself innocent under the eyes of heaven and considered any and all matter relating to Kakkita Shinjiro to be closed. Unable to go against law and tradition, the deputies ceased all attempts to gather information, leaving Kitsuki Fusou to spend the night in confinement due to disorderly conduct.

The investigators sought an audience with Utaku Rei, and were politely rebuffed by the Unicorn samurai protecting the Unicorn Estate. The guards informed the deputies that Utaku Rei was out riding, and that they should come back again tomorrow.


1160, 16th Day of the Month of the Horse

The remaining deputies met with Utaku Rei. Despite the famed stoicism of the shiotome, Utaku Rei's downcast demeanor and red eyes expressed her sorrow clearly. Conversing with the Battlemaiden, the investigators learn that she and Kakkita Shinjiro were close, that she was betrothed to an unknown member of the Crane Clan, and that Kitsuki Fusou is a dear friend of hers. Thanking her for her time, leave the grieving maiden to discuss their findings.


Mirumoto Ryoko informed Kitsuki Fusou about the status of the investigation. The murder weapon, a box of potpourri filled with poisoned herbs was gifted by Utaku Rei to Kakkita Shinjiro. If the box were to be delivered as evidence, Utaku Rei would be found guilty of the murder of Kakkita Shinjiro.

Kitsuki Fusou demanded that she be left alone.


1160, 17th Day of the Month of the Horse

The deputies were summoned by the Chief Magistrate early in the morning. Kitsuki Fusou was founded dead, having performed seppuku. Beside her, a signed testimony admitting to the murder of Kakkita Shinjiro.

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The Eye and the Fury
1160, Summer

Yoritomo Yuushiro (Shiro) wants to accelerate Shouto's gempukku so that he becomes suitable for marriage. The boy is second in line for the championship of the Mantis clan. After his gempukku is done, he must find a dowry suitable for his bride. His cousins and officers in his ship, the Eye of the Storm, make preparations for the ceremony in court of Toshi no Inazuma (City of Lightning), dedicated to Osano-wo. His cousins' names are Chisaki, Dioji, Tetsuko, and Tetsuyuki. 

With his cousins' guidance, Shouto presents himself to the court and his father with all the aplomb of a Mantis heir. Shiro smiles and hugs his son, and then proceeds to berate him harshly in front of the court. He disowns and banishes Shouto until he can return with a dowry worthy of his wife. Shouto gamely takes the challenge and says he shall prove his father wrong, to the cheer of the crowd.

Shouto presents two options for the dowry. One is a giant pearl owned by an orochi (giant sea serpent) that has been recently spotted in the Rokugani seas. The other is an off-the-books smuggling ship from the Ivory Kingdoms supplying the Crane Clan, under the protection of the Mantis. He consults his cousins, and they opt to try do both.

After some weeks plying the seas, they run aground of a random island in the middle of deep sea. They determine that the impossible island is an anchor to Sakkaku, the realm of mischief. They explore the island amidst the storm ad find a cave - within was the sleeping sea serpent.

To seek guidance on how to deal with the orochi, Tetsuko communes with the nearest water spirit… the sea serpent itself awakens and responds to her commune. He is Kensaku, fury of the storm. Shouto asks what it desires, and it says it will give itself unto Shouto if in the future, when Shouto is a clan champion, he will command the Mantis to do something for Kensaku. Shouto agrees, and in return the serpent dissipates, leaving behind the pearl that was set upon its head.  

On their way home, they encounter the smugglers and easily subdue them with the help of Tetsuko's affinity with lightning. One ronin, Mototoshi, is defiant, but Dioji convinces him to avoid a senseless death and is taken in. Shouto says he is disgraced from the Mantis clan for crimes that are too terrible, so he cannot be presented to court even under their sponsorship. In the end, after a long mulling, they let the smugglers go unmolested, with a promise for a favor.

They return to the city after six weeks of being gone and gain glory. Shouto passes his gempukku. His bride's ship appears on the horizon — bearing Crane colors.

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