A Study in Emerald

The Darkness in the land

Early week of Monkey. Year 1160

The next morning one of their companions was found to be missing. After yesterday's funeral rites were done for Kojiro Itami. The group did not see Kojiro Kurose in the morning and questioned peasants about him. The peasants told them that they saw Kurose leave heading out into the mist and has not returned since last night. The group then decided to go to their daimyo Kojiro Ayase and report the events that have transpired and also to report on the progress of the village. While they were discussing things with Ayase. Kasuga Shinichi happened to see a crab samurai escorted by peasants visiting their village. He approached and talked to the samurai, the samurai introduced himself as Kuni Sosa. Sosa is a kuni shugenja sent by the crab clan as part of their deal to inspect and help out with the village for a weeks time every month. Together they talked about the problems of the village and headed to talk to the daimyo. There they discussed things such as the boar clan spirits, the oni that they saw and shakoki dogu and their companion acting strange after retrieving a sword. Afterwards Sosa thought that the Fugu clan are being prevented from mining nearby because the spirits are hiding something in the earth. It was then revealed by the group that there is a hidden door behind the waterfalls nearby and decided to show it to Sosa. It was there that they decided to enter the door and investigate. They headed down into the dark tunnels that had signs of a battle of people that have been killed, there was dried blood everywhere. After some time they finally reached a large chamber with a huge stone platform that seemed to once contain evil, the ground of the area was filled with dried blood and at the end there was another door that opened to a pathway surrounded below by lava. The pathway lead to an area with a wooden pedestal that laid on top of it an old tome. The group inspected the tome and found it to contain many blank pages but it contained a few pages with some strange prayers written on it. Sosa then recommended that the group keep the book they will then collapse the chamber and the path leading to this place to make sure no one ever comes here again. Before collapsing the chambers, Kurokokku and Sosa decide to commune with the earth kami to figure out what has happened here. Kurokokku received information that the First Oni used to be contained here but is no longer here. Afterwards they reported back to Ayase who told them about the Setsuban and then they decided to go look for their companion and track him down and retrieve the cursed sword so they may give it to the Phoenix clan for safe keeping. Sosa recalled that the weapon they may have retrieved may be a bloodsword. It has been said that these weapons drive a user mad and incidents arose from the use of these weapons and they should be brought to the Phoenix clan to be safeguarded. Kojiro Daichi then started tracking down Kurose's tracks that seem to lead towards the direction of the ruined castle. Not long after traveling from the village they are met with a strange man in the mist, as they call out to him, it approached them. It showed itself to be Kurose but he looked different. Kurosewas missing a large chunk of his body from his stomach and his skin was pale and white. He also had red glowing eyes and he carried the cursed sword with him. He then attacked the group and the group engaged in combat with him. In mere moments he was defeated with the combined powers of the shugenja, but Kurose managed to graze the two shugenja with his skill with his swords. The group afterward decided to pray for him and burn his body. They then took cloth to wrap the cursed sword and they decided to give it to the Phoenix clan when they go to Setsuban. The group then decided to scout and explore the castle since they were nearby already. 

When they arrived they saw that the oni was no longer there, they then headed into the castle and found the walls and ceilings of the ruined wall to be covered with black veins. Shinichi decided to poke one with his bow and out from it spouted black blood which he successfully dodged. They then reached the end of the hallway where they tracked Shakoki Dogu's heavy tracks leading down a stairwell. They then headed down to find that the hallways are filled with black veins as well but these are throbbing. As they headed down the hallway the air in the area was warmer and soon they encountered what seemed to be a hooded and robed man and 2 zombies. They decided to engage combat with the hooded figure and the figure used a dagger to draw blood from his arm and cast some sort of spell that forcibly drew the air from Kurokokku's body causing him to rupture and blood to come out from his ears, nose and mouth. He was hurt by it and had difficulty breathing and they then used all of their spells to bring down this hooded figure. Daichi then binded one of the zombies and he soon heard that there were more approaching. They wanted to bring back the hooded figure for questioning but decided to kill him instead. Before they retreated two more hooded figures showed up and used the same spell on them as the one before which lead to both Kurokokku and Daichi being knocked out unconscious. Sosa and Sayuri then rescued both of them carrying them out of the castle and back to the village due to their wounds. Before losing consciousness however, Daichi saw at the end of the hallway beyond the doors what seemed to look an anvil that was bigger than any anvil he has ever seen. The anvil was black and seemed to have marking and was deformed of some sort. He then realized that this anvil was a great source of evil.

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A Hunting We Will Go

Goat 28 – Goat 29 (Monkey 1-3 travel to scorpion)

A guest has arrived coming from Lion lands to visit Shinjo Rakuchi. It was none other than Bayushi Hannei requesting an audience with Shinjo Rakuchi to deliver something to him. She was met with Shinjo Rakuchi and afterwards she requested to meet with Moto Chen to talk about matters.

The Unicorn group led by gunso Shinjo Rakuchi, followed by taisho Shinjo Leilani was called by Moto Chen to do an investigation job at Oshindoka Toshi. Included in said meeting was Bayushi Hannei. The mission briefing was that the group would travel to Oshindoka Toshi to investigate 2 unicorn samurai who has been missing. 2 weeks ago, Shinjo Kino was sent to Oshindoka Toshi to investigate strange activity within the city and to report back, but he never did. A week after his disappearance, Moto Karina was sent to check up on him but she also never reported back. Thus, Moto Chen decided to send the group to check up on the 2 samurai. There was also a meeting behind closed doors regarding information about activities within the empire and to confirm Rakuchi's decision and plan of action. The group is suspicious and the entire meeting was met with strange looks and whispers regarding Rakuchi and Hannei's relationship.

The group set out towards Oshindoka Toshi which was not too far away. It took a days travel to reach the destination. Oshindoka Toshi is a large city that is situated near the Dragon Lake and Dragon Heart Forest. The city is said to have been built with the help of the crane thus the city has many crane influences in its structure but is populated heavily by Shinjo families of the unicorn and many craftsmen who specialize in the use of wood and diamonds. The new addition is the military camps found outside the city which seem to be training platoons of new recruits for the Unicorn army.

The group divided itself into several tasks. Shinjo Rakuchi and Ide Takahiro went to meet with the governor of the city, Shinjo Koran. Koran offered them the governor's own place during their stay as he was honored that the Topaz Champion has come to visit. Koran also provided them with anything that they needed: tea, food and documents of their request which was a list of visitors to the city and activity of those going in and out for the past few weeks. Shinjo Leilani and Horiuchi Ardashir set out to investigate and ask around town in regards to Shinjo Kino and found out that he was staying at an inn near the stables called the Bleeding Hearts. The inn is for middle class to low class people and it turns out that Shinjo Kino paid in advance for a week of stay in the inn but after 4 days he never returned to the inn. He was last seen entering the city on the 4th day but disappeared right after. Searching through the belongings he left at the inn there was not much to go with except that Kino was seen talking to a female samurai who seemed strange. The strange samurai was seen as not wearing much clothing, had twin tails and her shoulder armor had spikes on it and she was pretty beautiful, muscular and loved to drink alcohol. The duo decided to go around town to look for this mysterious samurai. Moto Catalina and Moto Roland went to investigate around town in search of Moto Karina but coincidentally found out that Karina also stayed at the Bleeding Hearts inn. They also went to the inn to investigate and found out that Karina was staying at the inn but did not pay for her stay there. Like Kino, she also left her belongings at the inn and disappeared. The innkeeper refused to release her belongings until the debt for her stay was to be paid. Catalina decided to pay for it and went out of the inn to open her belongings but she was strongly urged by Roland that they should instead head back inside the inn and check her belongings so that no one else may see what they would uncover. Karina's belongings contained regular clothes and at first it didn't seem like anything was out of the ordinary but they soon uncovered a small pouch that contained herbal leaves. Catalina upon closer inspection, identified the herbs as Jade Petal leaves and was shocked by the discovery. They then decided to ask around town about Karina and keep the leaves amongst themselves as it was illegal to even have this in one's possession. Their investigation led to Karina was seen several times heading to the military camp outside to talk to the recruits. They then headed outside to the city to investigate at the military camps. Bayushi Hannei decided to investigate about a ronin named Zanzen who was recruited in the Unicorn army a long time ago. This task was requested by Rakuchi who had suspicions about said ronin. She disguised herself as a ronin and went to the camp to enlist in the army. It was there that she endured the day's rigourous training and she met Zanzen who seemed like a regular recruit. Upon engaging in small talk with Zanzen, he revealed that before he joined the unicorn he used to do delivery jobs back at the Phoenix lands. He and his companions were given a letter anonymously, to pick up large bags of materials from a village in Isawa Mori and to bring said bags deep into Isawa Mori near a shrine and to leave the materials there. They were paid handsomely to deliver said packages but they did not check the bag of its contents. Later on, Hannei decided to fake getting sick so that she could be sent to the barracks to get rest. At the barracks she decided to search the belongings of the soldiers and found a bag that contained more Jade Petal leaves, she decided to take a leaf and then went on to meditate and rest in the barracks.

Later on in the afternoon, Catalina and Roland talked to the military camp's officers to investigate further and found out that Karina actually talked to some people in the camp. They then called on said people including Zanzen, to ask about Karina. Zanzen didn't remember much but recalled that Karina talked to a few people in camp then around 2 days ago went to Dragon Heart Forest to meet with someone. Karina never came back and he assumed that Karina finished her job and went home. After further question with the other soldiers they discovered that 2 out of 6 soldiers were lying when asked about the Jade Petal leaves. Catalina and Roland brought this soldier into a tent away from the barracks to interrogate him further. Catalina decided to use her expertise to check if any of them were tainted through observation. She then manage to catch signs of taint from one of them. She decided to reveal herself as a Vindicator and expose this solder who was named Moto Kayo. Moto Kayo then revealed himself to be someone who was heavily tainted and his eyes glowed red and his skin turned pale with some sort of rough ridges on them and he drew out his katana and engaged in a battle with Catalina and Roland. The attacks of Roland were not as effective as he thought as when he used his Ono to cut the creature down the creature's skin was tough and hard. The battle raged on and Roland decided to call for reinforcements and started calling for the unicorn soldiers to aid him in battle. It was at this time that the creature ripped the side of the tent and ran towards the forest. The soldiers arrived too late to see the creature run into the forest. It was at this time that the duo decided to report their findings to the commander of the camp. They surrendered the Jade Petal leaves to the commander who then decided to search the entire barracks for contraband goods. Hannei tried to sneak out but was caught by the commander, since no one should leave the barracks, while the soldiers were all assembled so that everyone may be searched. Hannei seeing her situation might go bad decided to sneak in the barracks and hide the Jade Petal leaves in one of the bunks nearby and told Roland about it. The search went on for hours to ensure no one else in the army was carrying contraband goods. Roland then called for a messenger to look for the Rakuchi and the rest to bring them out to the camp.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group wandering the city saw a huge crowd forming at a drinking place in the city. It was there that they discovered that there was a drinking contest and the prize was 10 koku. Included in the contest was a crab samurai who matched the description of the woman they were looking for. Rakuchi and Takahiro was also present in the crowd and they asked the crowd on who the woman was. It was revealed that her name was Hida Oukie, she had been staying in the city for the past 2 weeks, and she drank a lot during the night. She would also get into fights with the local samurai as many had tried to hit on her but then she found them undesirable and hit them back… physically. It was also said that a Moto samurai decided to woo her and she punched him so hard that he flew and landed on one of the stalls. Ardashir and Leilani decided to join the contest in a way to get closer to her. As the drinking contest went on, Takahiro decided to excite the crowd through his oration skills and the crowd was happy and excited to be there. Oukie was the last person standing in the contest and won. She decided to use the money to treat everyone to drinks and proceeded to eat and drink the night away. It was at this time that Rakuchi, Leilani, Ardashir and Takahiro decided to join her. Oukie was impressed by Takahiro's skill in dealing with the crowd and gave him money for drinks. The group talked to Oukie and found out that she had been staying here for quite some time due to her job. They then noticed she had an unusual mark on her shoulder, and realized that the mark she bore was a tattoo that is usually given to a group of Witch Hunters from the crab whose job is to hunt down and destroy the Shadowlands creatures that have managed to enter the empire. However any further questions regarding her job, she would not reveal to just anyone. She would only inform those that she deemed strong and tough enough to be able to beat her in a contest of strength or toughness. It was at this time that the messenger reached the group and informed them of what happened at the camp. Rakuchi then told Oukie regarding the tainted creature. Seeing that she has a new lead, Oukie decided to drink one full glass of mare's milk straight down and then she tossed th glass aside and ran towards the camp, stopping by the inn to grab her Tetsubo. The group followed her, but on the way a hooded figure dropped a note in Rakuchi's pocket. No one noticed, except for Leilani who decided to try to grab the figure. The figure saw Leilani and dodged and ran down the streets to hide from the group. Leilani decided to chase the figure but saw that the figure moved to fast and then it disappeared into the crowd. They decided to check the note and it contained a message that asked Rakuchi for a meeting 2 nights from now in the forest alone. They decided to pursue it later and went to the camp.

Upon grouping at the camp and informing the others of what had happened. It was reported by the commander that 10 more soldiers from the camp were missing and no other contraband goods were found. Hannei and Takahiro decided to stay to talk to Zanzen while the rest of the group decided to go straight into the forest at this time with Oukie leading and Catalina tracking down the tracks. During the travel to the forest Oukie then revealed her purpose in the city. She was sent to track down creatures that have been seen escaping from the wall into the empire. She came upon the city and decided to stay when she met with a certain Moto Karina who showed the Jade Petal Leaves. She deduced, that some creatures might have been using it to hide in the city and Oukie paid Karina to investigate the matter for her seeing as Oukie herself is not really that good at investigating and her skills lie on fighting. Roland and Catalina then decided to give Oukie the Jade Petal leaves that they confiscated from the barracks. Soon they came upon the corpse of Moto Karina deep into the forest. Upon inspecting the body they found it to be tainted and she was killed two days ago. Her guts have been ripped out in the open and her katana seemed to have been damaged in a way that the katana has hit something hard. They decided to dig a pit and then throw her body in and burn it. The group continued venturing deeper into the forest and soon the tracks lead to a tree. It was at this time that the creature dropped down from the tree and attacked the group. Atleast 2 more creatures dropped from the trees and joined in the battle. The battle was over but too quickly, Oukie rushed in with her Tetsubo raised and in one swing managed to obliterate the upper half of one of the creatures in one strike. She then ran towards another creature and in one swing knock the creature down crushing it. Leilani using a Yumi, let loose an arrow at the downed creature that was knocked down and killed it. The last creature seeing an opportunity, rushed to the group and attacked Catalina with his katana and he managed to injure Catalina. Catalina fought back but was too injured to even swing her weapon properly. Ardashir called on the earth kami to raise a boulder and turned it to jade before striking the creature with the jade boulder. Roland as well rushed in to help his companion, but the creature's tough carapace is proving hard to penetrate. Oukie then ran towards the last creature and with one swing, smashed the creature and crushed it. The battle was then over. The group decided to head back to camp while Oukie felt that she had done her job and she deserved to go back to the city and resume her drinking and eating. Hannei and Takahiro talked to Zanzen again regarding his previous activities before joining the Unicorn and he revealed that he kept his past hidden because he didn't want others to know what they had done. Zanzen revealed that some time ago before he joined the unicorn and sometime after the delivery of goods to the Phoenix lands, he and his companions found a valley near phoenix and dragon lands and found the site of an old battle or skirmish. There they looted armor and weapons from the fallen and decided to claim said equipment for their own. Despite being ronin, he found the actions to be quite disgraceful but if one's back is pressed into poverty, one has to do such things in order to survive. The group then decided to go to the local magistrate to order for the capture of the runaway conscripts since it is an offense to abandon their duty and the army. The magistrates then would send the word out to look for said runaways.

A few days later Rakuchi decide to go into the forest to meet with the unknown figure but before he let his falcon out to scout the area above, Hannei decided to follow and sneaked nearby. When he reached the location however he found another note stating that the meeting is off since he brought someone with him and that they are always watching. He then decided to shout out in the forest where the figure replied back to him and identified themselves as the Kolat. The purpose of the meeting was to see if they can recruit Rakuchi to join the Kolat, given that he had shown great compassion for the common people. They also informed him that they know about what happened to Shinjo Kino. Rakuchi stated that he understands the Kolat and their purpose but he does not approve of their methods and declines their offer. Hannei then decided to sneak to try to look for the person in the shadows but was unable to find anything. The Kolat, disappointed decided not to take further action and they disappeared into the shadows. Afterwards, the group decided to report back to Moto Chen about their findings and as agreed, Rakuchi would accompany Hannei back to scorpion lands and would regroup back at Unicorn lands before heading out for Setsuban.

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Questions and Answers

Goat 16 – Goat 24, 1160

After the Unicorn delegation finished its business at Tsuma they then decided to head to Shiro Akodo to ask around and follow up an investigation on a tip that they have received in Ryoko Owari before. They bought souvenirs and asked about The House of 3 leaves. They then learned that it is a tea house and inn that is located not far from Shiro Akodo. The group then travelled there to see a large establishment with a stables on the side and several ronin guards guarding the entire area. There are not much travellers that pass through here and it is found in a forest.

The group decided to enter and once they entered they were greeted with multiple tables and no other people aside from the staff and 2 guests. A lone phoenix samurai from the shiba family on one end and a beautiful lone dragon samurai from the mirumoto family on the other end. Rakuchi, Takahiro and Leilani decided to ask the staff about what they do here for business and found out that they sell tea and also serve as an inn for weary travelers on the road. Ardashir decided to use his kawaru sticks to divine and ask questions. Roland however found the beautiful woman on the other end and wanted to talk to her but instead asked Catalina to talk to her and get Catalina to set him up with the beautiful woman. Catalina then agreed and then stood up and went to the woman's table to engage in conversation with her and to get her to meet his cousin Roland.

Catalina: "So… great tea we are having right?"

The woman looks at Catalina and sees that she is not drinking tea at the moment and looks at her with a puzzled look.

Catalina: "Hi! I'm Moto Catalina and so… my brother cousin finds you interesting." Catalina then points to her table with Roland and Ardashir in it.

The woman then looks to the table and smiles back at Catalina and she introduces herself as Mirumoto Nanase.

Catalina: "So we are the Unicorn delegation that attended the Topaz Championship in Tsuma. We are just passing by here on our way back. It is rare to see Dragon Samurai here. What brings you here?"

Nanase: "I am currently accompanying my friend as a yojimbo on her mission. She is currently in talks with Shigure-san. I do not know the details but I think it may be about transport of tea goods."

Catalina: "Really? Me too I am the yojimbo of the Unicorn clan. Look at my Nodachi." Catalina brings out her Nodachi and slams it on the table.

Nanase: "I see… that is an impressive weapon."

Catalina: "I see you don't have company. Do you want company?"

Nanase: "Please do. It would be a pleasure to have your company. "

Catalina: "I cannot find a match for my cousin, he is having a hard time looking for a match in Unicorn lands. Even our Daimyo is having a hard time looking for a match for him."

Nanase: "I see… My advice would be to ask the Daimyos of other clans. Perhaps they can provide a match for your cousin."

Catalina: "So… who is your Daimyo?"

Nanase: "… Mirumoto Uso"

Catalina: "Thank you. Have a pleasant day."

Right before Catalina leaves, Rakuchi and Takahiro arrive to talk to Nanase. They both introduced themselves and Nanase is honored to meet the Topaz Champion. They ask questions in regards to why the Dragon are here and they are answered by Nanase that his companion a Kitsuki is currently in trade talks probably with Shigure. Rakuchi then asked questions in regards if Nanase is familiar with Ryoko and Taiyo, the creator of the sword that he carries with him. Nanase does not know much about them personally but does recognize them. After a few minutes they leave.

Leilani wandered the area of the inn and found a trapdoor that leads down to a basement under the inn and also noticed the ground near the trapdoor is well traveled then she went to the stables to join the others. The group heads out to the Stables while at the same time they decided to stay at the House of 3 leaves for at least a night. At the Stables they inspect the saddles of the horses to check if there are hidden pockets and if there is something hidden in them. They discover that one of the saddles contains something hidden in it but they are suddenly interrupted by the stable master, Akodo Ichi. Akodo Ichi is a lion samurai whose mother was an Akodo but died in giving birth to him, while his father was an Utaku stable master as well. Which where he got his fascination with horses and then Ichi decided to be a stablemaster and requested to be put in this position.  Leilani and Ichi hit it off with discussing and talking for a long time about horses. Ardashir decided to commune with the earth kami and ask about the strange substance to which he found answers that there may be some in the area. After some time the group decided to invite Akodo Ichi to dinner near the stables. That night they then had dinner and discussed with Ichi his history. It even reached a point when Takahiro recommended to Leilani that she should sing so that everyone including Ichi may hear of her voice. Her singing impressed Ichi and even the nearby guards of the inn.

Afterwards the Dragon samurai and her companion are set to leave and they are met with the Unicorn in the stables. They exchange pleasantries and share their farewells. Before departing, Nanase told Roland that he should be patient and the right one would come, hardwork and patience is need to be able to find the right one. That conversation seemed to confuse Roland but he somewhat got an idea on what happened between Catalina and Nanase based on the what was said. Rakuchi then invited the Dragons to visit their lands if they are able to. They are quite honored and thankful for the invitation and with that the Dragon samurai and her charge depart on their journey.

That night, the entire night was spend with Leilani and Ichi talking about interests and such things and dinner between Ichi and the Unicorn delegates. The group then decided to regroup back at their rooms and discuss about things. They then decided to talk to Shigure before leaving. That night, they met with Shigure and asked her some questions about her business. They realized that Shigure's business is that she sells tea and imports and exports the product to different lands. She has many visitors that deal with her on this mainly from Phoenix, Crane, Scorpion and Dragon. With that they take their leave. They soon discover that one of the saddles left in the stables contain a hidden message and then they take it and decipher the message. The message contains something about a shipment of goods being delivered to the village of Enkei. The group makes a copy and puts the message back in the saddle. That night, the Phoenix samurai ride their horses and leave. The next morning, the group prepare their bearings and leave for Ikoma lands. Takahiro wanted to visit his in-laws and prepared a story for them about the Topaz Championship, he also talked to his in-laws and asked about Souji and the lion samurai. Afterwards, they leave for Unicorn lands.

Upon reaching Unicorn lands they have heard that Ide Tang has departed for scorpion lands to do more trade negotiations and talks. Moto Chen received them and congratulated them on their success in the Topaz Championship. Rakuchi then discussed with Moto Chen about his proposal to Bayushi Paneki to which Moto Chen was slightly troubled by the proposal. Moto Chen talked to Rakuchi about it and decided to reveal the Khan's plans to the entire group. It was then decided that for the future Rakuchi has been promoted to Gunso, while Leilani has been promoted to Nikutani for their efforts and for the future plans.

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Hoshi Matsuri
A Festival of Misfortune at the Village of Enkei

The Hoshi matsuri is a festival held annually in the village of Enkei in En-ju province. Located in the mountains west of Seido Jurojin, it is one of the few fertile valleys inside the province supplying most of the food being used in the area. The festival is performed in a temple dedicated to Inari, though recent events have caused attendance to decline. 

The masters send Isawa Rai and Isawa Toranaga along with their Yojimbo, Shiba Yuriko and Shiba Nobunaga to Ensure that the festival proceeds smoothly. 

Meanwhile the Agasha send Agasha Aiki and Agasha Karma, along with a large shipment of Hanabi as a goodwill gesture to foster better bonds with the people. 

Shingon Keita, is sent to the lands as a request from by the lord of Enkei, Nani Yoh, to assist with the decorations for the Festival. 

so the players make their way to the remote village of Enkei…


Arrivai in Enkei

1160 Month of the Horse Day 3, Hour of the Dragon 

THe village of Enkei is located in the Asako province, as one of the few well defended fertile valleys. The recent war has had the local lords garrison expand, somewhat haphazardly in an attempt to make the area more defensible against the dragon… 

The characters arrive in different caravans, one from the Isawa, one from the Agasa and before them is a large shipment with a number of Ronin guarding it. Upon closer inspection it belongs to one of the merchant "families" that reside here – the Uyamada. 
 

The Ronin seem to be on guard the closer they get to the town, and as they near the pass nearing the town fortress gate, one of the Ronin guards is instantly killed by an arrow to the head. Karma hears whispers from his guardian spirit, seemingly enjoying the fact that there are others nearby. 

The Isawa delegation, start to cast – Rai and Toranaga  shuffle through their scroll cases. 
Shiba Nobunaga charges forth past the ronin caravan to engage the ronin archer directly. Nobunaga manages to reach the high ground where the ronin are and manages to  get a good glimpse of the Archer – a large man man with a disproportionate arm, to runs away with unnatural speed. Nobunaga and Toranaga try to give chase but feel their minds assaulted by something. Nobunaga, is able to identify the work of a Maho Tsukai, and makes quick work of the caster. 

Shingon Keita and Aiki, notice something off about the way the supply caravan of the Ronin is setup, so they start investigating the Wares while the Ronin are busy fighting. – They discover Long boxes (possibly paintings and large scrolls as the local lord is an avid collector of historical relics and artwork though they find that hiding them in bails of food supply is quite suspicious) 

They manage to get some of the bandits to surrender, and take them in to present them to present them to the local lord for Judgement.  

Same day Hour of the of the Horse 

The various delegates arrive in enkei and meet Hiyori the lords assistant, who escort them to meet the local lord. She also has the Ashigaru and Heimin proccess the goods that were delivered. The ronin meet with the head of the guard who inspects their wares and orders the ashigaru/heimin to start loading it. 

The Shiba Yojimbo note that this location seems to lack males, as most of the Heimin are female and the most of the small male population seem to be in the lords garrison. They keep their thoughts to themselves for now. 


meeting with the daimyo, and presentation of Gifts. 
- Introduction to the lord (Nani Yoh) – rumors about the lord 
- introducing the festival and the current problems being encounterd by the Area 
- Arrival of Hounnoji and Ibuki — giving the lord a Sacred Blade and its implications. 

Same day Hour of Goat 

Shingon keita, asks permission to look around – especially since there's a library, knowing that the lord is an avid collector of scrolls and history, he thinks perhaps he might find what he's looking for in the library. 

he stumbles about, finding various scrolls about the local history and eventually stumbles into a hidden compartment, where he finds 3 Jade scroll cases – though they're all empty. he quickly leaves the library and decides to think on what it could possibly be. 

Complicated preparations 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 4, Hour of the Hare

Isawa Toranaga and Shiba Nobunaga head into town to bless the Lands, which consist of three vilages and a town, they start the long proccess. As they travel through the Town and later the villages, they note the lack of children and men in the area – though they proceed to bless the land but encounter much difficulty – with the kami being extremely moody.  They begin to investigate why. 
 

Agasha Aiki, begins investgiating the lords town in depth while Isawa Nobunaga and Shiba noubnaga try to find out why the land is incredibly resistant to being blessed. Over the course of AIki's investigation she notices that note that there are not a lot of Samurai, or males for that matter accoss the entire area. She hears rumors of a night of fire, so she asks for permission to access the library but gets distracted while browsing though the various historical scrolls.

1160 Month of the Horse Day 4, Hour of the Rooster 

Isawa Toranaga and Shiba nobuanaga learn that the harvest has ben bad due to the Kami being "told" not be produce good blessings, not so much a curse, but being ordered by a greater being but the kami can't seem to understand a number of their questions. Though the sheer scale of the curse baffles them. 

The team convene and decide how they'll deal with the bandits – they spend the next day working out and preparing to deal with the bandits (Rai, Yuriko, and Karma) and what order they decide to deal with the bandits -> Mirumoto, Tengoku's Justice, Big Arm, Nanashi's bandits (Ikko ikki) 

While Aiki and Toranaga start to figure out the cause of the kami's displeasure 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 5, Hour of the Dragon

Isawa Toranaga and Shiba Nobunaga head into town to try and figure out what is happening 
-> they converse with the various townspeople and learn a number of things. 
-> the night of Fire and the dissapearing children 

Agasha Aiki, starts to research on the history of the town -learning that the land is rich in hisotry but has been mostly left alone. Most of hte traditions were gained during the dawn of the empire, During the travels of Hantei and after the Day of thunder when Shiba gave Asako the secret of the path of man. 

She also learns of the Kami that was bound to protect this place, and its arrangement with the people of this town. 

Shingon Keita prepares and decorates the the festival grounds, though he notes that 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 5, Hour of the Dog 

Shiba Yuriko starts to see hear voices of children in the hallway. A ghostly girl visits her in and seems to move whenever she blinks. the Girl has a Kemari ball and wants to play,  She later learns that the Mayor does have a child though she's incredibly timid around strangers.

she fails to get a good nights sleep, a terrible way to start bandit hunting. 

Bandit Hunting 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 6, Hour of the Dragon 

Bandit hunting begins, They pass trhough the temple, meeting the blind miko – Marika, who explains the night of fire. 

They choose Mirumoto first - 
> mirumoto ronin, out for vengeance.
> He leads elite bandits who ransacked some of the Hanabi shipments – they find out that he has been making bombs using Hanabi. 

Meanwhile they also send a message to the Nanashi Bandits (or monks) pleading with the lord to see if he is willing to grant them amnesty, in exchange for letting them settle and work in the town. After much convincing hte lord agrees to the tactic. 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 6, Hour of the Dog

Yuriko is visited by the girl who seems to be able to pass through walls with no issues. She seems insistent on playing with Yuriko, since she's bored and that there are no other children to play with 

yuriko ties this up with th missing children and has Aiki assist in the investigation

1160 Month of the Horse Day 7, Hour of the Hare 

Isawa Rai, Agasha Karma and Shiba Yuriko – lead some of the Ashigaru borrowed from the lord to deal with the bandit group called Tengoku's justice. the battle is short but bloody, with most of the bandits refusing to surrender. 

they find that some of the bandits had managed to steal some of hte supplies being shipped as well as some of the marble used in the statues that decorate the temple grounds. 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 7, Hour of the Rooster 

The Team convenes and trades information 

Aiki shares what she learned about the village, while Isawa toranaga and Shiba Nobunaga share the accounts of the kidnapped children – (who were spirited away) they share that most people were afraid that sharing the Childs loss would mean that they would never see them again. 

Aiki shares the name of the Kami or land god protecting this place, and that perhaps communing with her would help the understand why this is all happening, the curse and the missing children. 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 8, Hour of the Rat

They negotiate the peace with Nanashi and enlist his help to hunt down Big Arm, 
During the chase they find out that big arm is carrying a jade scrollcase -similar to the one the lord has -but their attacks cause him to drop it and it opens, a pulse of evil radiating from the scroll contained.

They realize its a black scroll. but not which one, they attempt to interrogate Bigarm regarding what it is but only get that a person named the Gardener will find them and retrieve the black scroll from them. He is killed shortly after as a practitioner of Maho. Rai places the scroll back in the scroll case and holds on to it for safekeeping. 

upon dispatching the last of Big Arms bandits, they head to his bandit hideout to reclaim the goods present – mostly scrolls and missives and the occasional trinket. They have nanashi and his crew carry the rest of the goods back to the village. 

once gone they Rai decides to examine the black scroll to understand what its capabilities were – he opens it partially unleashing a portion of its power 

Kama's Kami rejoices in the act of opening a black scroll, but is quickly disappointed as Rai closes it quickly, opening it only by 1/4th of is  length before closing it. 

upon returning to th village Rai's attempts to hide the black scroll from the Asako are fruitless as Hounnoji presses him for it – using her authority as an inquisitor. Rai is forced to turn over the scroll but hides the fact that he opened it with the others.

1160 Month of the Horse Day 8, Hour of the Rat

the team goes to the temple and communes with the Kami – calling out to the land god. She pulls them into her realm, and they now have to bargain with her. They bargain with her and she eventually demands favors from them. They spend the rest of the days before the festival trying to fulfill the bargain. 

 

The Festival Arrives 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 16 Hour of the Monkey 

The festival finally starts. The cast spend time preparing and trying to enjoy the festival. The isawa Shugenja hang by the Temple to ensure the dances go well. 

Karma and Aiki participate in the various games and stalls along with the Monks and Miyata 

THe lord is thankful that everything is going well. 
 

1160 Month of the Horse Day 16 Hour of the Dog

DUring the Fireworks display, Karma, Rai and Yuriko notice the inquisitors leave hastily. They follow them as they seem to chase somoene – who reveals herself to the the one who used big arm to steal the black scroll – The inquisitors identify her as Kinyue, and enage her as she tries to take the black scroll from Hounnoji. 

The Inquisitors manage to cut off Kinyue's arm as Rai, Karma and Yuriko arrive – but they see kinyue regenerate her arm in using blood boils and shadows. They look in horror as Kinyue retreats yelling at the inquisitors – "it looks like i'll have to make do with two…" 

other than that he festival was successful so I suppose it was mission acomplished… 

 

View
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. 

View
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-

View
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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