The party begins gathering the peasants they encounter along the road to Kyuden Kakita and with the exception of two that escape their notice are able to herd them down the road despite the ice and sleet of the winter’s last siege. A handful of elders and babies die from the conditions along the way but in all 63 peasants make it to the open gates of the Crane’s artistic capital. The party discovers one among the peasants has the soul of a shugenja, able to commune with the air, Yoshi. He is elevated from the peasants by the party and rides with Mizuko into the Crane city.
The party is offered quarters and goes about their work quickly. The peasants are taken and fed by the Crane, though a subtle slight seems to be lingering in the air. No sooner to they arrive in their inn than Daidoji Hikaru finds many mons waiting for him—old classmates seeking to visit with the duelist, one in particular from an old rival / friend hoping to see his “stance.”
The Dragon, the Unicorn, and Sadako find a very fine tea shop and sample the wears—a particularly earthy brew with naturally “mellowing” agents. Kettou buys a fine Fox inspired teapot for a small fortune. Hitomi discovers the joys of Rokugani cough drops. Ryoma, Takezo, and Sadako all get the munchies because they got high, because they got high, because they got high.The Crane and Phoenix head for a temple to meet to turn over the boy to the Asahina. They are welcomed by Asahina Moku, an old healer that once served at the Kakita Academic. Mizuko slights Takkeji by introducing the peasant boy before him but the matter is politely tabled for a later time. From Moku, Takkeji learns that the Asahina are aware of the supernatural influence on the storm—that while the storm itself is naturally occurring, the intensity of it has been spurred on by other forces. The kami are agitated as they rush northward in a wintery rage. Takkegi goes to the temple’s tower and extends his mind out to sense the source of the darkness four days west and south of the Kakita fortress.
The Crane take their leave to visit the dueling academy, where Hikaru meets with his frenemy, Kakita Taniguchi. Taniguchi, foul of mouth, insults the sensibilities of the demure MIzuko and apologizes for his crudeness, blaming his time with his cousins in the Daidoji lands. Hikaru and Taniguchi compare stances and engage in a non-lethal duel before his students to showcase the art of the Crane. While Hikaru’s blade swings first, it cuts deeper than intended—still, not blood is shed and the two men find the years that have passed have turned their rivalry into respect. Taniguchi confides his concerns of war on the horizon as the Matsu seem to turn their eyes to the city of Toshi Ranbo.
Sen, for his part meets the lover he never knew he had, Doji Didntquitecatchhername. They toast to their plans to run away together. Sen learns that the majority of the peasants are coming from villages south of Crossroads Castle. He also learns that the snows in Beiden Pass are not impassable for a small group such as their party, but would be very difficult. The roads as far as Kyuden Matsu are open and indeed, the Matsu even now eye the Crane border and await the spring.
Elsewhere, Hitomi feels the weight of the season as she begins to burn with fever. After dinner the party goes to the hot springs to wash and hopefully burn away the Hitomi’s fever. Takkeji applies the medical learning of his clan to set her chi’s flow, causing Kettou’s cheeks to turn the color of Hitomi’s feverish brow. The sexes separate and enjoy the fine hot springs and tea. The men compare notes of what they have heard throughout the day. The ladies discover more about Mizuko’s secret before encountering a well muscled woman named Hida Aimi who claimed to have come from wintering in Kyuden Matsu. She seems to indicate that there is a plague hitting Kyuden Kakita, and describes symptons like those of Hitomi. She then invites Mizuko to the Carpenter Wall, offering to take her on a tour of both sides. Hitomi, afraid of contagion, excuses herself. Aimi exits the scene. The party returns to the inn.
The next morning everyone makes ready for the journey out to discover a gift has been left for Hitomi. Wrapped in purple and gold, she opens a small box to discover 11 white flowers sprayed with the blood of peasants.