Been a delay in my writing up of the last few sessions….
We left our noble samurai having defeated an Oni in the Blue Tiled Room in Nikesake
In the aftermath of the battle, the samurai search Asako Oda’s quarters and the body of the oni vanishes. A lingering smile remains on Oda’s decapitated head and his scroll case is empty, other than a brief note acknowledging receipt of an item and signed ‘Chio’. The shugenja, despite the reservations of Shiba Ujime, examine the note and and see that the writing is crude and that of someone with bare literacy, not the hand of a samurai.
The school has awakened with the sound of the battle and Isawa Kuki joins the samurai, arranging for Shiba Sakamoto and Doji Akiro to attend the Phoenix Blessing Shrine for healing. He informs Endo, Ujime, Niro, and Temur that two students have left the school in the night – Susumu Zeshin and Togashi Mio. Kuki is distressed by what has happened and what he learns of Oda’s crimes. He summons the Asako Inquisitors to investigate and request that the samurai await their arrival.
Whilst waiting, the samurai are summoned to attend the Crane ambassador, Doji Shino. He expresses gratitude to the players for saving his daughter, and despite his reserve, they detect his relief that his daughter’s honour has been partially salvaged by her having been a victim of Maho, and he hints that Doji Akiro may need to leave a life of service and enter a monastery. Doji Niro makes his farewells and returns to the Embassy to serve his uncle and Clan. The samurai attend dojos attached to their clan’s embassies to continue their training.
Asako Kyoshi arrives with a retinue. He immediately spends time in deep discussion with Isawa Kuki and interrogates the students. Kyoshi finds Tamori Endo and Shiba Ujime’s account of events and the blood magic compelling but he is concerned that such heresy has occurred in the Phoenix lands and to one of his own family. The school are found innocent yet Asako Kyoshi remains worried. In addition to the corruption of Asako Oda, Kyoshi has recently heard from the governor of Naishou Province, Miya Ansho, that one of the Asako Inquisitors, Isawa Taeko, and her yojimbo, Shiba Otembo, have disappeared. Shiba Ujime is keen to make an ally of the Inquisition and gain some independence from his wife’s family – Kyoshi asks the players to investigate the missing Inquisitor and travel to Naishou.
The Samurai leave Nikesake, Shiba Sakamoto still recovering from his wounds, and travel south in a sampan, along the Itochu river into Naishou. As the boat drifts, the samurai exchange the little they know of Naishou – the literacy of the population, the pre-eminence of the Fortunes, the current Governorship by the Maya, on behalf of the Empress, after the Phoenix leaving the province, and the Crane and Scorpion manoeuvring for control, as well as the fantastical stories of the mythical creatures in the region.
Night falls as the boat enters the province, close to the Kawa Forest. From the bank, the Samurai see glowing balls of light floating, moving seemingly in a pattern, at the edge of the tree line. Cautious, yet intrigued, the samurai disembark leaving the still wounded Sakamoto to the care of the boatmen. As they approach the lights, they move deeper into the forest, drawing Temur, Endo, and Ujime after them. As they follow the lights, the twilight recedes and the forest lightens. To their surprise, rabbits, badgers, mice and other small forest creatures dart across their path, unafraid. Temur is amazed as Vachir, his hunting falcon, speak to him saying how much he approves of being in the forest. The samurai continue, following the glowing lights and enter a clearing where they see an elderly lady of the merchant class being beset upon by three ronin. The samurai, eager to defend the weak against bandits, leap to the attack, quickly slaughtering them by prayer and scimitar. The merchant lady thanks her rescuers but her manner is jocular and imperious, not at all as subservient as the Celestial Order demands. Vachir suggests that the samurai trust her and she invites them to share provisions with her. As they leave the clearing, they notice that the corpses of the Ronin have vanished.
The merchant leads the group to a beautiful glade – a crystal clear pond with freshly cooked dumplings, tea, sake and cakes laid out on rich cloths. The players eat and drink gratefully, thanking their host, surrounded by small animals and the chatter of Vachir. As they eat, the food and drink changes, they look down and see their hands are holding horse dung and their cups filled with dark urine, as their anger grows they hear the merchant laugh and she too changes – the features of an old lady replaced by that of a beautiful young woman. A small cowled figure steps out of the trees into the clearing:
“Enough of your pranks Soni – you have done well in bringing our guests to me”. The players notice a katana at his belt and a beak peaking out from under the hood….