The Price of Honor

Split the Difference-- and possibly the Yasuki
Game 11: 6/04/2015

The party finalizes plans in Kyuden Bayushi and further investigate the two Scorpion agents fighting over their caravan. It’s discovered that each are representatives of certain “business interests” but were both hired to acquire and deliver the exact same caravan by the same individual. Miya Nido for his daughter’s wedding. Both cargo manifests the agents were after included the official items on Kome’s own manifest (silk, sake, fireworks) as well as Kome’s extra manifest (several boxes of liquid void). What wasn’t on the list of items to be delivered was the box containing the curious artifacts.

A deal is brokered to avoid leaving Kome with broken legs and both parties agree to await the delivery at the intended location and deliver it to their drop point in Ryoko Owarit— thus satisfying both contracts and seeing who hired them to work against each other. On the way, the party encounters a Maho user who has summoned or smuggled several minor oni to capture the caravan. The party dispatches the two of the oni and the caster causing the others to fall into a pile of rags.

The party continued on towards Fox lands, traveling faster now that they are free of the caravan.

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Welcome to the Scorpion's Den / or Trader imposed at Traitor's Grove
Game 10: 01/15/15

Sen and Sadako discover the bodies of the six Bayushi horseman on their way back to the party. They are able to deduce that the one on watch was struck with a sleeping elixir and then strangled by a wire. The other samurai had their throats slit. They rush on and find the party camped a short distance away. They make sure there are no other assassins before entering the camp. Sen and Kaminari ride back and take a look at the bodies, returning as the camp begins to wake. They soon discover that Kome is missing. Kaminari is able to track the general direction allowing Takkeji to project through the void to that particular location. Unfortunately, the location is not a happy one and he begins to scream even before his soul has returned to his body. Sadako, Sen, Ryoma, Takezo, and Kaminari decide to go in person. Sen, realizing the location they are likely hiding in, begins to prepare the group for entering Traitor’s Grove. They enter the disturbing grove and Ryoma is separated from the group. He sees a vision of his mother, her throat slit, trying to tell him something but vanishes as the party approaches. Sen sends word to Kome that they are nearby, to which they begin hearing his screams, leading them to where two men are about to torture him. The party arrives in time and blades meet flesh, though they vanquish their foes they take a great deal of damage themselves. The party returns to camp as Scorpion magistrates ride up investigating the six dead bushi along the road. Sen and Ryoma take them to the bodies and they continue to investigate. The magistrate tells them not to leave Kyuden Bayushi until they have been cleared and to inform Kome he will be wanted for questioning. The party arrives at Kyuden Bayushi and soon after the magistrates visit them each with questions about Kome, the cargo, and their traveling papers. A mysterious hooded figure brings news to one of the party members and Sen pulls on his contacts to try and get Kome sprung— only to discover that the potential source of the tension between the three rival claims on the caravan may be a box that has somehow made its way into Hitomi’s saddle bags! If it wasn’t bad enough that there is the potential for the party to be arrested for smuggling, they all receive an invitation to tea at the palace! What ever gifts will they bring?

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Deeper into the Pass / Or Beiden My Time
Game 9: 01/02/15

The 9th – 11th Day of the Dragon, in the 17th year of Hantei XXVIII (1120 Isawa Calendar)

Deciding it best to scout ahead, the party use the tactical insights of Yoshihiro to determine the most likely locations for additional bandit attacks. Diving into a meditative state, Takkeji extended out his senses through the void and sensed additional life energy ahead, some moving towards them. The party took cover and readied themselves for attack just as a volley of arrows shot from the cliffs. The bandits demanded the samurai stand down but in true Rokugani bravado they refused. The bandits offered them a drink, and rolled a flaming barrel of oil into the pass. Takkeji summoned forth the wind to blow the smoke away while the bushi unleashed a torrent of arrows of their own. Yoshihiro and Takezo began scaling the rock face to the cliffs above. Three bandits lept through the smoke and began an attack on foot only to be met by steel— Kaminari’s blade sliced through the air as his horse charged, Hikaru took up his stance and awaited the attacking bandit’s charge with perfect stillness, while Ryoma‘s moved to Takkeji’s position to protect the shugenja from the on-coming bandit. The bushi each did their part, and Takkeji’s blade too sliced into the attackers. Further back, Mizuko waited with Kome, protecting the goods in the caravan. A flaming arrows threatened the integrity of the very combustible “silk” but Kome’s quick reflexes moved a peasant in the way, thus saving the goods. Mizuko, not pleased with the Crab merchant’s choice of shield demanded to know if the contents of the wagon might be usable in their defense— to which the merchant said no. Above the pass the Dragon and the Lion finished off the archers but not before an arrow found its way into Kome’s shoulder. The battle over, the wounds were seen to.

The smoke seemed to attract the attention of seven Bayushi riders. They had crossed into the Lion held portion of the pass from Scorpion lands upon seeing the smoke. The head rider, Bayushi Fuyuki, immediately asked if Kome was with the party. Kome for his part did not immediately scream in terror, but everyone was able to see that he was not particularly glad to see this man. The two walked off to have a private word. The party learns that the riders are from Beiden and had been patrolling deeping into the pass because as of late there have not been as heavy patrols through Beiden pass on the Lion side of the border— likely their troops have been pulled elsewhere. Fuyuki and Kome return and the merchant announces that the riders will escort the caravan the rest of the way to Beiden.

The party arrives just as a storm rolls over the village. The magistrate checking their papers only looks through three of them before waiving the group through. The party decided to stay at the Long Sleep Inn, ominous but possibly promising. At dinner, the party notices three visitors to Kome, one after another. Bayushi Fuyuki, a man in a full cowl and mask, and a Yogo woman with a thin veil of a mask over her eyes. The woman, Yogo Adi, collects a large scroll satchel from Kome and then leaves. Fuyuki and the cowled man seem to have lengthy conversations with Kome over the course of the evening and are spotted having an intense whispered conversation outside of the Inn later that evening. Kaminari later finds out from Kome that the caravan was set to be delivered to a specific spot just outside the planes surrounding Kyuden Bayushi, but that he does not have a name of who he is turning it over to. However, now it seems that both Fuyuki and the unnamed man (who Kome later reveals is named Shosuro Noburo) both have laid claim to the caravan’s contents. He is unsure how this will play out. Kaminari, after a visit to the geisha house and a local tavern makes friends with the locals and runs a few hypotheticals by them. This combined with Mizuko’s reflection on their original employer, leads to the theory that Kakita Kunai may be selling the same goods over and over again, each time staging bandit attacks. Why anyone else continues to buy these goods after the 5th robbery is a mystery in of itself.

The next morning both of the men decide to accompany the group along the road to Kyuden Bayushi. Fuyuki’s men are following the party on horseback a ways away. When the party stops to camp, three men exit the woods and go to speak to the Shosuro before departing. Hikaru puzzles over the situation and begins to theorize additional reasons for their present situation.

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Border Crossing Part 2
Game 8: 12/15/14

The 4th – 9th Days, Month of the Dragon, in the 17th year of the reign of Hantei XXXVIII (1120 Isawa Calendar)

The party arrives at the gates of Shiro Matsu to find that many Lion warriors have gathered. The crowd parts and a unit of samuraiko, each with red sashes hanging from their katana approach. At the lead is Matsu Yumi. She roars out Akodo Yoshihiro name, a fear inducing nimbus about her. She challenges him, calling him the heir of his grandfather’s cowardliness, a dishonorable, and disrespect-able liar and a cheat. She then calls upon the Ikoma to witness the formal challenge, to be fought to the death at a time chosen by their daimyos. For his part, Yoshihiro is quick to retort, gouge at the Matsu’s known short temper, cause her further loss of face with his calm reply. Fire burns in her face but a cool wind saps her fire. A stranger to the party, Shinjo Kaminari approaches thanking Yumi for helping him in his duties assigned by an emerald magistrate— he had been sent to find and deliver the party to their station in Fox lands. Thrown off by both Yoshihiro’s words and the unexpected arrival of the Unicorn, Yumi quells her rage and speaks plainly— insisting that the Akodo must accept or decline, then he may be on his way. That it is not for her to determine the time of the duel, but that their lords will do so, and certainly imperial needs will be taken into account.

The party is allowed to enter the city, where they find many Lion owned doors closed to them, not that they notice as they instantly find refuge among the Unicorn inn and tea house, The Dancing Horse Inn – Shiro Matsu, one of three such Ide owned tea houses. There they rest for a moment until Yasuki Kome enters to reveal that the Lion have impounded the caravan for a thorough search as is their right— “unfortunately,” he says, “this may delay our departure… greatly.” Shosuro Sadako and Shosuro Sen quickly get to work. Between Sen’s contacts in the city, and the combined efforts of the Shosuro and the Yasuki the caravan’s inspectors sample just enough of the goods bound for Ryoko Owari so as not to notice they were in the caravan at all.

For his part, Isawa Takkeji approaches Commander Yumi directly, calling upon their time together and years passed to gain audience. The conversation is lengthy and he spends a better part of the evening in her tent. By the time he returns to the Dancing Horse, the caravan has been lifted from impound and thanks to Sadako and Sen, nothing was found in the time in between.

The party dines with a contingent of Unicorn, mainly Ide, who have been traveling with members of the Iuchi family on an academic mission, collecting various histories from the Ikoma and wisdom from the Kitsu. They seem ready to be gone from Lion lands as they have been among them since late summer and long for the open steppes of the Unicorn instead of the rigid courts of the Lion.

The party quickly decides to leave early in the morning. Ide Hitomi for her part makes use of having a large contingent of Unicorn at the in to continue her own investigation. She meets with Iuchi Saiyumi, the governess to the Iuchi daimyo’s daughter. She learned a good deal about the mon discovered at Green Spring Village Hub before the fire. Concerned that there might be darkness too close to her clan, she asks Takkeji to sense for taint around Saiyumi but none is found.

The party leaves Shiro Matsu and begins to head towards the mountains. All seems easy enough, until their ronin guards turn on them. The matter is quickly handled, but now the entire caravan is guarded only by the party…

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Faction 2
Teaser Fiction

“I trust my agent is in place?”

“Nearly, so. The entire group is crossing Beiden Pass as we speak. A Unicorn rider was sent by the Magistrate in the Fox Lands to make sure they were not in trouble.”

“My how he doubts his charges.”

The rider will be an unpredictable element in all this. He did manage to diffuse the Matsu situation in a way which suited us, didn’t he?”

It suited shorter term plans, though not longer. Nothing that I cannot fix, I must keep my own influences minimal until something distracts them.
“Do you think the others suspect our hand in any of this yet? Do you feel that Old Nine Tails worries he has harvested the fruits out of season?

“Perhaps. He has no doubt noticed that his choices met with some resistance, though he likely does not know from whom. The old man on the mountain has the greatest chance of seeing through my illusions. But let us hope he keeps to his monk’s life attending to the bells. The season of death if fast approaching, and hopefully the Lion – Crane war will keep the empire busy enough that they don’t notice the heavens. “

“What Nine Tails fears most, I think, is not the influence to switch those he’s worked so hard to have here… No, he fears me, he fears me not even knowing me. He fears where my fingers have touched on his delicate web or what faces of mine he’s said too much too.
:A deep breath:: Yes, even now I smell smoke and blood upon at least two of them- a scent that will last them through the next three lives. A third takes a first step in the shadows of hubris, only madness will be there to greet them in the crossing, though in that madness what an ally they would be. I would carve a new throne out of that pure hubris and seat my lord upon it.

Many will try to tempt that one, you may need to begin those pursuits early. I’ll leave you to your training.

Thank you. Good night grandfather.

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Border Crossings part 1
Game 7: 12/04/2014

Returning from Green Spring Village Hub at last, the party rests at the Fog and Sweet Flowers Tea House under the hospitality of Iwasaki Hanna. There they find that Crossroads Castle is still full of travelers waiting to cross the Crane – Lion border. The snow melts have apparently washed out roads.

Yoshihiro has a run in with a drunken Daidoji, which, thanks to intervention from Sadako and Sen ends very badly for the Daidoji but very well for their hostess.

Mizuko and Ryoma discover that while people are crossing in from the Lion lands, very few people are able to cross into the Lion lands— and those that are tend not to be individual travelers. They hear about a Kakita merchant who has a caravan going across the border in two days, a silk shipment ordered by a Miya living in Ryoko Owari. The caravan is actually looking for hired blades to guard the shipment through Beiden Pass.

Mizuko, Ryoma, and Hikaru go to speak with the merchant, Kakita Kunai, the next morning and arrange to have the party act as guards as far as Kyuden Bayushi where they must turn south towards Fox Lands. Kunai offers to pay the party but Hikaru assures him that no pay is needed, to which the merchant is most pleased to hear. They are introduced to the caravan task master, Yasuki Kome. Ryoma begins to poke around and Kome quickly attempts to divert his attentions.

The party gathers the next morning and the shugenja bless the caravan while Yoshihiro talks to the 7 other guards, two Crane and five ronin. He learns that a name from his past, Matsu Yumi, command troops just north of the border. This is bad news indeed considering her desire to seem him dead last time they met. Takkeji too seems to know the samurai-ko, though does not seem as nervous as Yoshihiro. They meet Kome who takes their traveling papers and adds returns them with an additional page and permissions with the Miya seal. Ryoma studies the seal a long time before folding them and putting his papers away with a raised eyebrow. Kome announces how please he is to see that the party is traveling to Kaia Osho Mura, where he currently lives and runs the sake works.

The party sets out. They cross into the Matsu lands and upon seeing their papers, a Lion runner leaves the camp, presumably to notify Matsu Yumi of Yoshihiro’s presence. The party is given an “escort” along the road towards Kyuden Matsu — made up mainly of Lion troops who seem excited to see what their leader does to the Akodo traveling with the party. After three days on the road they are diverted off the road and through a forested area, when they emerge and rejoin the road, the valley stretches out before them and the walled fortress of Kyuden Matsu sprawls across the horizon, Lion banners billowing in the wind as legions of troops perform “military maneuvers” along the road.

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Green Spring, Red River part 2
Game 6: 11/20/14

Through use of cunning, blades, and the blessings of the kami the party escapes from the bathhouse and finds the side door of the estate. A well placed “distraction” by the Lion sends the estate on high alarm as guards organize to put out the fire beginning to rage in the kitchens. A duelist spots the party and crosses blades Hikaru— both men cutting in the true fashion of their school. Hikaru’s blade bites deeper and his opponent falls. The party uses a passageway from the cellar to the main house to ascend to the top of the manor where they expect to find the witch. Yoshihiro takes the fallen Crane’s blade returns to the dungeon in order begin destroying the arcane circle he had described to the shugenja.

The samurai battle their way to the top floor of the massive complex, crossing through a potent ward that lights a fire in the minds of the shugenja, burning through their thoughts. They press on and discover the maho witch, covered in blood, with her guards at either side. The battle begins, blades and spells clash. As the battle edges in the party’s favor it becomes obvious that the witch herself seems simple compared to the woman that seemed to threaten the women in that party at Kyuden Kakita. They try to convince her to stand down, but not before she plunges her dagger into her belly— “I will not be denied revenge…” she gasps as she kills the baby inside her to unleash an unseen spell. The samurai move in and cut her down.

Meanwhile, fire rages quickly through the estate and the party quickly egresses— perhaps none more quickly than Takkeji who calls upon the wings of his clan to sail to safety on the ground below. The party moves to join him through the burning building, seeing that Lord Tsuzo lies dead, bleeding greatly from his hakama pants. “Let the fire take them all,” a voice is heard saying and the group returns to exiting.

Outside, the tortured eldest son of Tsuzo Kakita Tsuzumo watch his ancestral home burn— the firelight dancing off of the horrible scares on his face. Several guards and servants exit the building and upon seeing him, either fall to their knees, offering their swords or simply turn and walk back into the fires— their souls too tarnished to even beg for the mercy of seppuku from their lord.

At dawn, winter break and with it the slightest hint of a promise of spring. Kuni Kai arrives on the fourth day and bring with him several young acolytes and they begin to make prayers to cleans the lands of Green Spring Village. With each passing day, the snow melts away and the early blooming flowers begin to appear.In the distance, many groups of peasants can be seen on the horizon, returning to their plots of land and beginning the cycle of the season.

Tsuzumo may be considered an ally of the party.

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Green Spring, Red River part 1
Game 5: 11/6/14

The party emerges from the darkness of their journey to encounter the outlying farms of the Green Spring Village Hub. The continue on the road, a thing layer of snow across the grayed out landscape. Peasants seem to toil in the fields, tilling snow over and over. They acknowledge the party but refuse to stop or speak to the samurai. The village hub is all but abandoned, a lone woman lowers a child into a well, picking away at the frozen water. A small shrine to the kami and fortunes the only other sign of life. The party moves to an abandoned tea house just outside of the manner house of Kakita Tsuzo, lord of the Green Spring Village.

The party seems to have attracted attention as a member of Tsuzo’s house guard comes to find out what the samurai want. Hikaru goes on behalf of Mizuko to meet with the village yuriki, Kakita Zumino. Zumino is young, perhaps three seasons into manhood, but recently appointed the yuriki, by his father, Lord Tsuzo. His inexperience reveals much to the trained Crane eye, but Zumino extends an invitation to the samurai to rest within his father’s walled estate and join them for dinner.

The party is led to a guest bath house on the property and allowed to prepare for the meal. The effects of the lands seem to begin to leave their mark on the party as tensions run high. Mizuko in particular channels her personal demons in a way that leaves her shaken.

The party convene in the estate dinning hall and are fed a delicate meal, joined by courtiers and local samurai that must have been in Tsuzo’s estate as winter began. They learn the Tsuzo’s wife, Aime, is unable to join them due to her “delicate condition.”

Akodo Yoshihiro, using his advantage of being a Lion in Crane lands, begins to insult Tsuzo. The lord has him arrested and thrown into the dungeon, siting that he is a Lion spy and will have the Crane magistrates notified. The rest of the party is dismissed back to their quarters and the implication is that they will leave at first light. Guards escort them back and are placed on guard.

While in the dungeon, Yoshihiro meets Kakita Tsuzumo, a young samurai chained to a wall and obviously the victim of intense torture. He learns that Tsuzomo is Tsuzo’s eldest son and formerly the yuriki of Green Spring Village Hub. However, after his father brought Aime to live in their home he began to fall out of favor. He claims that Aime’s cruelty soon revealed her to be a practicer of dark arts, when he tried to tell his father as such, he was imprisoned in the dungeon. Yoshihiro manages to help Tsuzumo break free, as well as another tortured prisoner, Asahina Mori, a priest in service to the family, also chained and wounded. They discover a blood covered ritual area where the remains of human sacrifice defile the very water pooled in the dungeon. The three men escape through waterway, through a passage from the estate cellars— but not before Yoshihiro casts burning embers into the dry good of the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Hikaru, Takkeji, Kettou hatch a plot to lure one of the guards into the side changing room. Tekkeji attempts to call on the kami, only to discover that the air itself has become blood thirsty and tainted. Takkeji excuses himself and gets into position outside while the other two samurai call upon the power of their stances to dispatch of the guard. A single, perfect crane draw and a powerful dragon slash undid the guard; a splatter of blood against the rice paper screen is the only sign. Before the other guard can raise the alarm Takkeji, Takezo, Ryoma, and Sei make quick work of the other guard.

The plan is now to escape from the bathhouse without raising alarm and end the darkness that resides in the estate.

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Choice at the Crossroads
Game 4: 10/09/14

By looking inward, Takkeji is able to interpret the ripples within the void to find the source of the blood on the petals. The party notifies the Asahina and and with a magistrate, Daidoji Tempu, go into the peasant district. They trace the vision to where the peasants the party gathered on the road are staying. The woman known to the party as Hida Aime, dressed in drab gray robes, is found clutching the body of one of the peasants, his throat slit. The party is able to deduce that Aime is also a peasant, puppet-ed by dark magic through the use of a sympathetic link— her ear, which has been cut off and replaced with a sloppy kanji akin to the one found on the wild dogs five nights ago. Purple paper and golden ribbon in the corner confirm that the blood soaked flowers received by Hitomi were sent from this room, likely delivered by the controlled peasant.

With the help of the Asahina and the jade magistrate the party cleanses the scene and the Ivory Petal Inn. Takkeji and Ryoma send Toro to speak to the peasants. They discover that all of the peasants are from the farmlands surrouning Green Spring Village (Midori no Izumi Mura). The lord of these lands, Kakita Tsuzo, invited the peasants into his walled estate when the winter turned particularly cruel just after midwinter as their supplies ran low. The peasants told Toro that Tsuzo was particularly cruel, and his wife would beat and brand them and mutilate them. Toro is sent to find one of the mutilated peasants and returns, a bit beaten, with a man missing a finger. He is turned over to the magistrate. The Crane take responsibility for the remaining peasants, some of whom are now sick, thus allowing the party to continue their investigation.

The party continues on to Crossroad Castle. A few days pass and when they arrive they find that the Castle is full of travelers awaiting the thaw of Bieden Pass. Kyuden Matsu has been turning out guests from Lion lands, and Crossroad Castle has become the main waiting point on the other side of the border. As such, the party stays at Fog and Sweet Flowers Tea House where they meet the owner Iwasaki Hanna, a shrewd but welcoming madam. In conversation regarding Tsuzo, the party learns that he is not married as the peasants had said. However, Mizuko, recalls from her time at court that she had heard of Tsuzo, but that he was unmarried. However, there was a good deal of gossip about him bringing a woman dressed in Crane finery to the opening of the Kyuden Kakita winter court but that no one knew her— and her name continued to change throughout the night as he became drunker. It was assumed he had dressed up a geisha and tried to pass her off as a lady.

The party rests for the night. The next morning they mean with Daidoji Koshi and Daidoji Kashi the twin children of Tempu who serve as assistant magistrates at Crossroad Castle. They provide the party with several fingers of jade as promised, in exchange for their discretion regarding the matters at hand. Sei confirms a rumor he heard about animal mutilations in the autumn outside of the city walls. The party goes to meet with Kuni Kai, a crab shugenja with tie to the Kuni witch hunters, but alas, the hunters have left many days before. Sei does learn, however, that the party should not arrive at night to Green Spring Village.

That evening, the party departs Crossroad Castle and head south. They march through the night and just before dawn they come to the belief that they have entered into a blight. As the sun rises and lights the mountains like stretching ghosts, they see gaunt figures tilling in the snow.

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An Open Gate
Game 3: 9/24/14

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.

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