Kanzen's Notes

Mura Sabishii Toshi, Capital of Kougen Province

Escorting Akemi to the Moon Viewing party

Playing a game with Go stones drawn from a bag
Moon visible, may speak truth or lies as visible
Moon hidden, white stones must speak truth instead, black stones same

Received black stone

Gave fan gift to Doji Masami

Mostly crane, some crab, lion, mantis

Introduced to Doji Suichi, chief advisor – possibly detected some interest in Akemi and jealousy towards me

Met head of Mantis delegation – Yoritomo Okichi, coquettish, underdressed
-And her bodyguard Yoritomo Nene, an obvious lech

Toritaka Chuichi, head Crab diplomat, friendly and boisterous
and wife Toritaka Fumiko – retired ghost hunter, a little otherworldly
—both older, late 40s/50s
and bodyguard Hiruma Anzai – asocial, blends into background

Head of Lion delegation, Ikoma Sosuke, big and boisterous, supports on crane/lion alliance
and wife Ikoma Chinatsu – very reserved and quiet
and bodyguard Ikoma Ton – always present and obvious, confident

Some Yasuki present, both crane and crab

Some lions as well, Kitsu

Some Kitsune as well, shugenja

But mostly Crane, more than all others combined

Suichi in animated conversation with Kenjiro, governor, apparently trying to convince him of something
—Governor’s bodyguard is nearby

introduced to Kakita Ogai, a famous poet, and Kakita Soetsu, his grandson, a painter

Approached by Toyotomi, asked if I had gotten a mission yet
-we chatted a bit, he’s fought several duels (rank 4 Kakitan bushi)
-he offered to help continue my education

Approached by mantis ambassador (Okichi)
…who then attempted to seduce me, requiring a Test of Honor to resist — I couldn’t get a read on Akemi-san afterwards, but she seemed affected

We walk by a member of the Lion delegation, Kitsu Shunko (shugenja and historian)
-socially inept and happy to talk to somebody friendly

Kenjiro – came to me, asked me if I had any position in mind. I said that I had no expectations; but wanted to excel in whatever position the Crane Clan had in mind.

Met:
Suo – tall, lanky, still growing. Quiet, reserved
Katsu – Small, beautiful (BB), shugenja

Heard about:
Asahina Michinori – fellow shugenja, hiding in bushes
Doji Etsuya – Suichi’s new assistant

Toritaka Fumiko and Hiruma Anzai – talked with me while Chuichi talks to Akemi

Met Kakita Hochiko – a courtier assistant
…and husband Kakita Yoichi – introverted duelist
—Mantis more troubling of late, trying to economically dominate the city

Asked Akemi about duelists in attendance:
Hiruma Anzai
Hiruma Higen – also a trained duelist
Daidoji Yutaka – Daidoji Kinnosuki’s yojimbo
Kakita Kinuko – Taisa of the 37th Legion, 2nd Army
Kakita Yoichi
Daidoji Ton
Yuritoma Nene

Made a social call on Toyotomi

Kenjiro summons me (Toyotomi also present)
Ogai interested in traveling the province for inspiration (with grandson, Soetsu)
—extensive tour of the province, 1-2 months traveling, coast and interior
including Asahina Katsu and Daidoji Suo, also Kakita Hiro (Sean; Miromoto-trained duelist)

We have travel papers for the provinces
Also have a map of the province

Ogai-san:
-Wants to ride horses
-Wants to visit:
—Wolf City, CN12 (We have head magistrate’s name)
—CN11 Umoeru Mara
—A23 (near Fox lands) Kitsune Mori Mioa
-has 4 servants

Have 3 letters of introduction to magistrates

Meet up with Kakita Hiro

Asahina Katsu -Asahina shugenja – Hot(BB), Shugenja, Talking with animals, handling animals, plays flute
-Daidoji Suo – Trained as a daidoji yojimbo, skills in combat
-Kakita Hiro – Trained in Miromoto bushi school, some spiritual skills, yari, mother was a Miromoto bushi

Before we leave, Governor asks me to check in on the villages and see how they are doing and report
I also make social calls on Toyotomi and take Akemi out for an evening

We depart. Kakita Ogai, Kakita Soetsu + 5 servants (we have 6 including Hiro’s, Ooshu)
7 horses total – 1 per samurai, +1 pack horse
Katsu tells us our horses’ name
Katsu has a falcon

Heading for Wolf City

Soetsu is chatty, Ogai values silence, Ogai is happy when Katsu-san trails back a bit with Soetsu

First waystation – Katsu is way too focused on her waystation camp prep duties, staff is nervous

talk to Katsu about backing off a bit with the waystation staff

Second waystation – a puppet theater troupe is present, so more crowded
—Hiro has a thing for puppet shows, Ogai is introduced to leader of the troupe, Heiji, and asks for a show
—Performance is good, Ogai is happy and pays 5 koku

Third day –
-See a dead horse and two peasants ahead on the road with spilled baskets
—They say they were on their way to wolf city and were attacked by a wolf, they fled and wolf was killed
-
-attack was roughly an hour or so ago
—-Their papers are for Daiu and Koin of Nature’s Harmony Village and have leave to travel as thinkers/peddlers in Kugen province
—Decided to chase after the wolf, Hiro + Suo pursued, Suo slew it singly
-Arrived later at the waystation and sent back an eta to take care of the horse corpse

Fourth day
Wolf City in sight
—Check in with militia squad -
ashigaru with samurai in charge
-Farming city, busy, but with few visitors
-Have an official militia raised by the city and supported by the farming revenue
-Militia size and level of preparedness are higher than normal because a governorship was granted 400 years ago, to a very military-minded governor, Doji Yujiro
-Current governor is named after the original governor
Meet with Chief Magistrate Kakita Toju
Greeted by someone in the Doji Mitsukuni
-Stay at one of the finest inns in the city – beautiful, almost a work of art
5 rooms total
Get a message from the governor to dine with him tomorrow evening at the governor’s estate, time, place, etc.

Meet with the magistrate, Kakita Toju, while Ogai-san visits the park
—He’s slightly unhappy but very polite
—Mentions only that they have 2 magistrates where a town this size usually has 3 or 4
—get general lay of the land from him
—Governor is in charge of the militia, but has a captain who handles the day-to-day issues, Taisa Doji Zenko

Dinner at the Governor’s estate – restrained elegance
I bring a gift and present to his wife, Doji Hisa
We arrive last (Ogai being the most honored guest)
Introduced to
Doji Yujiro, governor
Doji Tashiaki, chief advisor
Daidoji Washi, bodyguard
Doji Zenko, Taisa of the militia
Kakita Toju, chief magistrate
Doji Mitsukuni, junior magistrate

Oddly, the governor isn’t leading the conversation – his wife or chief advisor redirect him or change direction of conversation often
Later in the night, Hisa and Mitsukuni leave, Ogai recites some of his poetry, mostly with a martial theme
After wife and advisor leave, he talks about his time as a ronin in 762 (it’s 1165), 5 bandits ambushed him and he chased them from Crane into Lion lands, very detailed, Toju is irritated and a little bored, Suetsu is surprised, intrigued, doesn’t completely get it. Ogai mentions that he had been traveling through that same section of land and it had looked different — as if the governor had seen it in the past.

Later, we discuss the issue with Ogai-sama, he thinks it bears investigating. We decide to ask for permission for Ogai-sama and assistants to visit archives, and talk to Tashiaki about helping out. We ask nicely enough, and Tashiaki seems to be open to our help, as long as we protect the governor and governorship.

From Tashiaki: The governor is usually in the here-and-now, but occasionally goes back in time when reminiscing. We should speak with Hisa-sama and Washi-san. Tashiaki has known the governor since childhood, and his father. The father had similar eccentricities before he retired and went to a monastery, passing away a few years ago. Yujiro has had these episodes since taking up the governorship. We set up an appointment for the evening with Hisa-san, and then continue to the archives to help with research.

Tea with Hisa, Tashiaki, Hiro, Katsu, and me: They were already happening when Hisa married him (he was already governor). He’s not significantly different even when lost in the past. Happens more often when he’s out and about or supervising the militia, or drinking or talking about the past. It does happen of its own accord as well. He often speaks of a nemesis, but never named him — likely but not certainly a Lion samurai due to the time period and the setting.

During that, in the archives, Suo found the original Yujiro’s diary. He was a crane samurai originally, then went on a warrior’s pilgrimage (effectively being a ronin) — sparse entries while he was a ronin, more entries as a member of the Crane clan. He volunteered for a necessary but distateful task. He swears that Doji Yudaka will be avenged, and swears at the Lion clan and their shameful actions. We find a dead-on description of the battle that he recounted the previous evening. Hiro remembers he was killed in a duel with a Lion in a fight for Toshi wa Ranbo. There were Crane allegations of something unfair happening during the duel.


Questions:

What was the duel?
Who was the Lion involved?
What was Yujiro’s task?
How did Yujiro die?
Did the governor’s father also suffer from the same condition?

The duel resolved ownership of Toshi wa Ranbo. Allegation was that the Lion duelist was using poison.

We interview Daidoji Washi. He’s nervous and concerned. Father had similar effects but not as completely or often. Matsu Kaoru was the Lion involved — the Nemesis. Matsu Kaoru was a lesser duelist, but he won. Allegations that the Lion used poison, and he believes that it caused Yujiro to swear vengeance against the Matsu, becoming a ronin. He later returned, rejoined the clan, and became the governor. Yujiro believes the Matsu was a man of great resourcefulness and cunning. The episodes are not more common in any particular place. Yujiro’s sword was owned by the original Yujiro, as well as some of the tapestries and some other items in his quarters.

We know from the diary that the magic mirror exists and can be used to communicate with Kyuden Doji. Get permission from the wife to have our shugenja look at artifacts from the time of Lord Yujiro — most are ok, but we won’t be able to easily look at the sword. Ogai remembers that Kaoru-san died later in a duel with a Scorpion, Bayushi Robun. A couple months later, Yujiro was the governor. Research showed that the Scorpion was a bodyguard for a Scorpion courtier who actually instigated the duel and maneuvered Kaoru into the duel (intentionally to first blood).

Nemurani check:
-Governor’s wife’s tea set
-a mirror (down a deserted hall in an unused storage room)

The mirror is almost certainly made by an Asahina craftsman but not obviously working. We send a message through the mirror asking the recipient

Greatest hopes:
Hiro wants to be the best Miramoto swordsman ever.
Suo wants vengeance on those affected by Fu Leng who desecrated his mother’s grave and killed his uncle.
Katsu wants to bring a spirit of adventure to the Asahina school.
Washii wants to retire w/o having ever lost a charge
Hisa wants to see the gardens of Kyuden Doji
Yujiro wants to ensure that his city is so well defended that it will never be taken by the Lion clan

He relates a story of another assault on Toshi wa Ranbo where the crane clan sent out a duelist in an attempt to kill a general. His lord issued a challenge. The governor of the city accepted the challenge and appointed a duelist, Kaoru. The lord was slain, Kaoru the less skilled winning, and the eta reported an odd smell from his wounds, likely indicating poison, but with no testimony, little could be done. Yujiro swore to track him down and kill him. Kaoru was killed before Yujiro could reach him, though.

We confront him. Katsu and Hiro know of the Realm of Thwarted Destiny, a relatively new spirit realm. We convince him that he has overstayed his welcome and he should go… and he does. Yujiro is freed from the spirit.

We visit the next day. The mirror has responded, and is owned by a descendent of the prior owner. Yujiro thanks us, and then a few days later we leave.

Now headed west to Central Border Village, 3-4 day trip. Pass Muramoto Rikaku (f) and Shosuro Tetsu (m) heading the opposite way to Okami Toshi. They are there to map the province. At second Waystation, meet young woman of the Fox clan, shugenja, Kitsuki Sayako heading to Muro Sabishii Toshi with dispatches.

Ogai wants to visit the new village that was founded to start logging the nearby forest, New Prosperity Village.

Magistrate Yasuki Sumio wants to talk with us. He has received word of a problem from New Prosperity Village. They believe they are having problems with animal spirits. There’s a samurai, Daidoji Tadasu. Nothing but problems harvesting wood since spring thaw, tools breaking / missing, other problems. We have report from Daidoji Tadasu. Tadasu wants a shugenja consult quick. Headman Wataka should be able to provide guidance.

We’re provided with 12 man-weeks of provisions and a mule to carry them. We reach NPV in about three days. We will stay at Tadasu’s.

Tadasu: They started logging after the spring thaw and encountered problems within a week of starting work. Workers are hearing things, getting lost, tools get misplaced or go missing, saws folded in half, axes/hatchets getting handles lost. Village was supposed to be far enough away from Kitsune Mori (60 miles) that it was free of spirit involvement.

We’re shown to rustic quarters, get settled, and head out to the forest.

Wataka (headman): He himself has seen some evidence of spirit involvement, and some men he trusts have reported incidents, as have others that he trusts less). It’s been happening more frequently, several times a week now.

We head to a recently logged area. Katsu confirms no spirits present in immediate area. Suo and Hiro find signs of normal animal activity.

We sit back to back, staying quiet at Katsu’s request. She attempts to commune with earth spirits. We see fox tails and a badger, possibly spirits. We meet a three tailed Kitsune, “Gray Tail”. They’re not angry at the loggers; they just want their proper due.

We make a report to Wataka and Tadasu. Tadasu is displeased, but accepts our offer to ask that a shugenja be sent to talk to the spirits.

We return to Central Border Village and report our efforts to Yasuki Sumio. Stay the night there, and then go to the village of Inari’s Bounty, 3-4 days travel away. When about a day away, we see smoke rising from the direction of the town — apparently a large fire has started outside the village and headed towards it. We ride through the night to the village and manage to awaken them in time to save it . Rumiko, a former peasant, and Minuto are two monks who care for the village shrine to Inari — Ogai knows Minuto. Haru is the village headman. Kakita Kikuko was Minuto’s former name — he’s a famous former duelist. I ask him to talk of dueling and he does but it’s a highly philosophical. We rest.

We end up spending three weeks at the village. Next destination is the town of River’s Fork Village. They also serve as a guardpost for Mura Sabishii Toshi and the Daidoji, sending a boat if need be. Stay the night at a guesthouse on the way there, at Village #11. A rice storehouse building was obviously damaged by fire, headman Kagetoki says, 2 nights ago, it was struck by lightning and a fire started. Almost all of the rice lost. Also, 3 of the best rice paddies were ruined, completely drying up. Also, a strange wind is blowing.

The previous morning, they discovered the paddies ruined after the warehouse had caught fire two nights previous. They had been visited some days ago by a ronin shugenja, Genjiro, who had offered to trade his ability to speak with the kami for room and board. He stayed a couple days, but then got upset and claimed that the villagers disrespected him and he stormed off. I get a description of the ronin. We examine the rice storehouse. The fire seemed to have been unnaturally strong. The earth kami say that the fire kami were activated by a ‘suitable offering’. Katsu examines the dried up rice paddies. The ‘Banish’ spell was cast here, killing the kami — and it’s a Mastery Level 3 spell. Peasants said he was muttering about not being able to live down past mistakes and wondering why the peasants wouldn’t just let him be during the initial casting, although he didn’t leave for hours afterwards.

We continue to interrogate peasants, he found out he was a member of the Yotodama family, a really minor family of the Asahina, recognized him by the pattern on his kimono. We sleep the night in the headman’s hut and resolve to follow the ronin in the morning. We think we’ve picked up the trail, and track him for several hours, to the Imperial Road. We approach him, he starts a fire and heads for the river. We try to take him alive, but he resists, eventually lightning bolting himself to avoid capture. Suo tells us he will take care of the body, and then returns telling us a story about how he didn’t have to touch the body because of a badger spirit appearing. No useful info on the corpse, although Katsu got his scroll case – some were in Asahina cipher, others were in a second cipher. We need to return them to the Asahina family. We investigate the area where he had started the fire and find a small scrap of cloth with the mon of the Yotodama family. Katsu talks to the kami in the cloth, and find out that it was owned by Yotodama Masazumi, who lost his honor.

Ogai’s next goal is Nature’s Harmony Village, on the other side of the mountains. It’s about 1.5 weeks back to Muro Sabishii Toshi. We make it back without event, and spend a day there resupplying and filing reports. Governor: 1 quarter of Toshi Ranbo exploded and burned, Cranes are investigating with Lions. Governor invites us to dinner to meet a new member of the party. His wife and daughter Akemi are also in attendance, as is Kinnosuke, the head of the Daidoji Trading Council and other advisors, but just Cranes. We meet Doji Narue, just having been assigned here a couple weeks ago from Masume Mora (home of the most influential matchmakers in the Crane clan). She’ll be coming with us.

We set out for Nature’s Harmony Village, 2 days travel. Large, well cared-for village with much fishing and natural resources around. We get settled in, spread out among the village’s 5 guesthouses. We get a tour of the village, local industry including bamboo/rattan, fishing, and copper mining. As we’re heading to the copper mine, we spot a previously unknown cave with some quality, old stonework at the entrance and decide to investigate it. It was apparently revealed recently by a stoneslide. As cave entrance is uncovered, we see a mon, possibly an extremely old Crane mon. We take two miners and proceed inwards, finding a door about 20’ in with a larger Crane/Chrysanthemum, that Katsu recognizes as the original mon of the Yasuki family from when they were part of the Crane clan 1000 years ago. Walls are full of painted frescoes and other artwork. Another door hides an even more opulent room, a tomb with an opulent sarcophagus, with the name ‘Yasuki’ written on it. We fly Ogai up to the cave. Ogai believes we have discovered the tomb of the first Yasuki, and that it’s worth informing the governor immediately. We return to Muro Sabishii Toshi immediately, and inform the governor. We later hear that the Crane and Crab clans and the Emerald Champion begin discussions about who should be in charge of the tomb.

A month and a half passes, during which I train up to 2nd.

On a nice day, the sky suddenly darkens and begins raining blood. Screams spread throughout the crowd, and those exposed to the rain begin to feel strange urges. I resist, but know that not all will. Responding to a scream in the garden, found Doji Suichi menacing Akemi and after he refused to stop, fought and killed him, sheltering in the garden’s shrine with Akemi until the rain stopped. The governor tasks me to quiet the warehouse district, and I take 20 soldiers, Suo, Narue, and Katsu (from the Asahina compound). We stop a minor riot (possibly lead by the Mantis ambassador’s bodyguard, Yoritomo Nene) and protect the warehouses and docks.

In the morning (about 18 hours later), get relieved by a mixed force of 20 Crane and 10 Crab. Crab informs us that those driven mad by the rain are tainted by it. The 37th legion has been moved into the town for security. Governor tells us that things are settling down, but the eta village is a complete loss. The rain of blood apparently happened as far away as we’ve heard from.

-Five years pass-
The Sun fell from the sky about a week ago. Also, there is currently no emperor.

Get the letter for Kakita Noritoshi, gather the other four people, and get this letter:

Kanzen-san,

I require your assistance, immediately. Gather a small group, only people you know and trust implicitly, and proceed at best possible speed to the village of Shizuka Mura in Gyousha province. My chop should be sufficient to have anyone you need reassigned. Avoid sea travel, roads, way stations, and all settlements until you reach Shizuka Mura. Upon arriving, speak with the monk Toshi at the shrine to Toku. Do not speak to anyone of this letter or where you are going, I will explain when we meet. Remember, only samurai you know and trust implicitly.

Kakita Noritoshi

Katsu enables us to get there (Shizuka Mura, near CN7) very quickly (12 days instead of 2-3 weeks by road) thanks to spell casting.

Small village w/ small mine. The monk sends us to the Shrine of the Thousand Fortunes in Hitoshi Ranu Mora, speak to Iano.

Another day to get to Hitoshi Ranu Mora. Noritoshi himself is there. His wife, Mai is dead, murdered by Bayushi Sunetra on the orders of our Emerald Champion, Jimon. She also tried to get his son, Ichiro, age 8, to pick up a weapon, which would have incurred a curse. Noritoshi killed Sunetra.

He had yielded the Emerald Championship due to threats to his son and to protect the secret of the harriers. Domotai was unaware of the Harriers, but ordered them purged. Monastery in Sparrow Lands, Kyuden Suzumi, shrine to Kenro Ji-gen. We must take Ichiro to the monastery, uncle is Tenshin.

Do not reveal who Ichiro is to anyone else. Do not allow him to touch a weapon. He has travel papers for us for Mantis lands and Sparrow lands. Use them if you have to. He also names me his Hatomoto.

We add Ichiro to our party, reprovision, and set out. He has horsemanship. We travel at a more moderate rate until we encounter a Crane patrol, at which point we use Ride Through the Night to travel faster.

In Mantis lands, Katsu thinks she hears something behind us, and uses a spell to become more perceptive. Katsu and Hiro give chase, and are eventually stopped by threatened arrowshots and a male voice that says “You’re not who I’m looking for.” We decide to let him be. Later analysis of the target arrow he shot shows that it’s possibly a Mantis arrow. We ride on.

He wakes up with nightmares about his mother’s death and his failure to take revenge. He apologizes the next morning and we ride on. We travel through our old province, fording a river and heading into the former Fox (now Mantis) lands.

When the foothills north of A25 are in sight, we see what looks like a mounted patrol (Crab) heading this way, 20-30 total, 10-12 riders. The lands we’re in are questionably Crane, so we angle away from the Crab. The riders draw weapons and charge. We all fight, including Katsu, who kills one. After a pitched battle, we win, and Katsu heals us. We tend to the wounded enemies and then move on.

We stop a bit away from Kyuden Suzumi and stop for a bit. After a few hours of wait (where we think we hear a wolf), we give up on the camp and decide to go into the temple. I make contact with the uncle, Tenshin, and his abbot agrees to accept the son.

A couple of days pass before Noritoshi shows up, along with a few Crane samurai, all Ashidaka. He asks us to take on another mission involving one of Jimon’s long-time allies (from before he was the Emerald Champion). He’s an Emerald Magistrate in Scorpion lands. He has travel papers for us. We are to find out what we can. He lives in S13, Shutai (rep. of having criminals and ronin). We are to learn as much as we can that we can weaken Jimon through whatever means we see fit. If all else fails, provoke him into a duel. He will try to leave word with the governor of Mura Sabishii Toshi as to where he will be, or we should hang onto the information until he can reach us. He gives us an additional 200 koku.

Bayushi Kobashi is the man’s name. He’s been an emerald magistrate for over 10 years, rumored to have been corrupt for a while.

We travel for a couple of weeks to get there, via a somewhat indirect route. As we travel into Scorpion lands, the peasants are obviously just now recovering from the famine inflicted on them by Bishamon, but are happy and upbeat. We meet Yogo Namiko, Scorpion magistrate, on the road. Shutai is a large village / small town of thousands of people. We’re riding through farmland along the way. A few days later, we arrive in Shutai. Peasants here are sullen, surly, scared (especially the unarmed). We get there and there is a small riot in progress, clubs, knives, peasant weapons. Apparently there are two gangs fighting here, with a lot of collateral damage — the Lotus Cartel and the Chrysanthemums. We break up the riot by walking through it. The local magistrates show up, led by the clan magistrate, the ronin Genishi, also Kobashi’s deputy. We exchange harsh words. There are at least 7 cartels total, charging protection, including the Wheezing Carp. Hiro and I explore the sake houses while others talk to the peasantry. We meet Kakuzo, a ronin, and chat with him a bit. A fair number of the ronin work for him, the magistrates get their cut, violence stays at an acceptable level. We go to the Emerald Magistrate’s to report in as visitors. He had come from Zakyotoshi but has not yet returned and is overdue. Zakyotoshi, “Pleasure City”, is kinda like Vegas — very large and a ronin party town. Order kept by an Emerald Magistrate and half an Imperial legion.

Narue spoke with Kobashi’s secretary, who has traveled with him to Zakyo Toshi, where he often visits Shinjo Matsudara, a fellow Emerald Magistrate. There’s an inn where he often stays when in town. Genishi was hired by Kobashi, and owes him his position. He seems respectful/fearful of Kobashi. A question… why does this town not have a separate magistrate, instead of a combo deputy EM?

We depart the next morning. About halfway to the first waystation, we see buzzards circling off to the side. Find a corpse of a horse, and a body. Corpse has the Bayushi and Scorpion mons. A satchel lies a bit farther away, apparently thrown during the fall.

The satchel has a collection of scrolls, a tight, neat script. Notes, possibly a report, all in the same handwriting. See names of Jimon and Kobashi, and an organization calling itself the Spider. The Mantis clan is also mentioned, as well as names of various businesses, prostitution dens, etc.

Suo also finds his daisho and jitte. He believes that he was ambushed, the horse tricked to fall by stepping into the hole. He was then bashed in the head by the 6 (or so) men who were part of the ambush.

Narue, Katsu and I make it to the waystation while Hiro and Suo follow the tracks all the way back to the eta district of Shutai. Narue talks to the people at the waystation, who said that the Emerald Magistrate had come through on his return journey 5 nights ago.

We eventually identify that it’s a fairly detailed set of reports about people calling themselves the Spider Clan (at least a year old), their dealings and operations in Zakyo Toshi, their influence in Shutai (including interactions with Kobashi and Jimon). There are a half-dozen messengers (all named, including some details) identified as bagmen for info transfer between Kobashi and Jimon (going back for years). An opium house and a low-class geisha house that had belonged to a Mantis, Jimon had ordered them closed, and the author of the report believed that they were impacting an allied competitor’s operations. 1 week later they were reopened with same employees, same muscle, just new managers, thanks to Kobashi. The author belives that they now work for the Spider Clan. They primarily have influence locally (Zakyo Toshi and Shutai).

Katsu asks the kami for knowledge. Even with the kami’s knowledge, she gets the following: There is no Clan calling itself the Spider Clan, never a clan recognized by that name.

Possibilities… false document? Hiding from the kami somehow? Why was Kobashi carrying these documents?

Katsu is able to use the kami to get a look at the author of the document. She also identified that the author is a Unicorn. She also got a look at the man who placed the documents in the satchel, perhaps Kobashi himself. We have a sketch.

We continue on to Zakyo Toshi, a large city. Larger than the citiies surrounding Kyuden Doji. Bustling, full of activity, samurai of a variety of clans. We get an Imperial Legion (a Scorpion) guide to take us to the Emerald Magistrate headquarters. Shinjo Matsudara was the author of the document, and we discuss Kobashi’s death, and eventually broach the subject of the document. He reacts a bit (pretty much only Narue notices) and changes the subject, asking if we want to have a tour. We’re about 20 minutes outside of town when he stops bullshitting and starts talking to us. Kobashi had come to the town to blackmail him into giving up all of his notes. Some years ago, Matsudara had a fondness for drink and woke up with a woman not his wife. He bought her silence with koku and left the geisha house. His wife is a former Lion. He hasn’t had a drink since, and hasn’t told his wife because he wants to avoid inter-clan problems. Kobashi showed up and blackmailed him a week ago. Kobashi also added that the geisha was a guest at the Emerald Compound (thus, Jimon was complicit). Spider clan only appeared here in the last year and half (Matsudara has been here for 6). They stay low-profile and have no compunctions about killing. They have ‘subversive’ ideas about virtues — spreading a more selfish version of bushido, might makes right, having control of a situation is the ultimate goal. I agree to waiting until winter (about 3 months) to reveal the information to Noritoshi so that he can tell his wife first.

We take some information given to us by Matsudara and hammer Genichi with it. After a bit of work by Narue, he folds, blaming everything on Kobashi, Kobashi taking him from being a gang member to a deputy under his thumb, implicating all of his deputies.


(End of the month of the Goat)
Return to Mura Sabashii Toshi. New emerald magistrate, a scorpion — Bayushi Maru — young, but experienced bushi (added as part of Jimon’s ascendence to Emerald Magistrate). Not afraid to use her looks to get what she wants. Demanded an additional adjoining estate in order to get room for a rice warehouse (previously, rice had been stored in the Crane warehouses until tax time. We’re invited to the welcome dinner two days hence. Her entourage: Soshi Shizue, a shugenja (spooky). Shosuro Fumiko, experienced courtier deputy — occasionally flirtatious, but always proper. Bayushi Tetsu (disadvantaged, bitter deputy bushi who hasn’t gotten opportunities). Bayushi Shotaru, bushi investigator. Sanjuro, ronin being trained as an investigator. Also servants, eta, torturers, etc.

When we get back, have a message from Noritoshi about how to get a message to him.

Welcome dinner — nobody from Crab clan invited (we’re still at war). Important members of other clans are invited. Everything is pretty much cleaned up from the Rain of Blood (across Rokugan, lost about 10-15% population). Eventually, the Emerald Magistrate arrives, with entourage. I believe she has an honor rank of 4.

Meet her entourage. Soshi shugenja is a non-combat shugenja, as most are. Fumiko and Narue verbally spar, with no clear winner. Shotoru is pleasant enough, cruising for chicks, asking for the geisha house (aka ‘brothel’). Bayushi Tetsu makes polite conversation, but desperately needs a heroic opportunity. Shotaru got involved with the Scorpion during an investigation and stayed on in Maru’s service. I talked with Maru: she didn’t personally know Jimon, had just gotten her position by doing well within the Scorpion clan and was noticed and picked to be an Emerald Magistrate only a week before she was ordered to come here. Sanjuro and Shotaru were her deputies when she was a clan magistrate. She was assigned Shizue, Fumiko, and Tetsu. She offers to ‘show me her stance’ and almost succeeds in tempting me to something improper. Katsu is impressed by the advances of Shotaru, who expresses interest in her animal training.

Later that night, I’m asleep at home with Akemi, and note that the lantern has gone out and someone else is in the room with us. Attacked by three assailants in black outfits, 2 unskilled, another expert swordsman with a poisoned blade, hitting and poisoning me — the pink, oily magnolia-smelling poison known to the spider clan. Katsu stabilizes me and Narue mixes up a cure for the poison.

We believe they entered through a receiving room on the side of the house. All 3 had purses with silenced amounts of money in them. Decoys each had a pair of knives. One of them had a poor hummingbird tattoo on the back of his left shoulder. The more dangerous one had his sword, a metal vial of that poison, half-empty. The 3 bodies are wrapped and taken to the secured eta facility. Suo and Narue notice that there is a faint scent of opium as they open the thug purses — so perhaps the thugs came from an opium den. The third purse also has this scent. Hummingbird tattoo guy: 1b 35z in Crane and 5k in Scorpion. Thug 2 has 3b 35z Crane and 5k Scorpion. Pro has 4b in Crane, 12k minted by Lion clan. Bottom of pro’s purse has a single giant pine needle — so from a large, mature tree. Some of the scorpion koku had flecks of opium attached. Sword has an odd balance compared to what I’m used to, used more for lunging.

Narue researches the poison: derived from plants that grow throughout central Rokugan – Scorpion, Mantis, Crane, some minor clan lands — but on the other side of the mountains from here (but requires a good bit of preparation).

Meet for tea with Kitsune Hitomaro and Tsutaro to ask about the pine needle. Tsutaro: looks to him like it’s a needle from one of the ancient redwoods at the heart of the Shinomen Forest. Hitomaro concurs, based on the size of the needle. (but possibly from the Kitsune Forest, or Isawa Forest, as well). We ask questions of the kami in the needle: It hadn’t seen a naga. The humans it saw wore mainly black and blood red. Other items in the pouch with it were a number of small kami (personal items and such). From the colors… ninjas? Crab? Scorpion?

Jotaro comes back with some information — the two thugs, sneak thieves, were locals. His own experts don’t have anything to say about the money. If the pro came into town, it was probably via boat, so they looked at recent ship arrivals — a number of crane vessels, merchant vessels, a Miya herald vessel, a Mantis vessel from Ryoko Owari carrying a load of opium — the best suspect, we have this ship’s name. Nothing tying the pro to that ship, but there was a lot of movement on and off that ship. That vessel was in port for a day and then set sail for Mantis islands with some mantis personnel and Scorpion merchants. Also a Mantis vessel from the islands with Mantis personnel to replace those, headed upriver to Kyuden Kitsune. Think the pro probably arrived in the last week.

I get summoned to the governor’s mansion. The assassination attempt on me was not an isolated event (all happened midway through month of Monkey). Doji Jorihime, wife of our champion’s (Doji Domotai) uncle (Doji Noguri), was killed in what was an attempt on Noguri’s life in the gardens of the Crane embassy in Toshi wa Ranbo, protecting him. He finished off the assailants (with the first Kakita’s blade). Asahina Nozomi was assassinated — he was a phoenix in the custody of the Asahina family (son of one of the elemental masters), killed at his estates in Shinden Asahina. Another dozen middle-tier assassination attempts were made as well, hatomotos, influential courtiers, family champions and daimyos, etc. The Lion have also reported that they were attacked as well. All of the attacks happened on the same night across Rokugan. We get a list of who was attacked and where. On the list of names of the Lion clan was included the Akoma family daimyo and the Kitsu family daimyo. Also Akodo Hachigori, Kitsu daimyo’s chief bodyguard. A couple of dozen Lion guards have commited seppuku due to these events. Narue looks at the list of Crane for patterns: a smattering of people and roles. 3 Dragon also killed in attack on Jorihime (bodyguard, diplomat, and functionary — Mirumoto never even drew his swords). Jorihime was attacked by a half-dozen highly skilled attackers (perhaps due to his location).

We don’t know if the Crab were affected — but Suo is going to ask Hiruma Higen (crab duelist). We also go to talk to Bayushi Maru about the coins we found on the assassin. She says that several of the coins are counterfeit, and probably all are suspect. We believe that she’s telling the truth. Because of the simultaneous attacks across multiple clan lines, the Emerald magistrates will definitely get involved. We tell Jotaro this.

Hiruma Higen (through Suo): The Daimyo of the Kaiu Family was killed, and he’s not alone. Kizuki-sama (Zack’s character) is now the Oracle of Water.

I visit the governor. Jotoro is there with an update on the investigation, haven’t found a lot of info yet. Kenjiro has info about other clan attacks:

Dragon: Tomori Daimyo and her husband (Master of Air) were both killed — Dragon shugenja family. Overwhelmed by assassins, they took out their attackers and the top two floors of the house. A couple of Kitsuki magistrates were killed.

Mantis clan: Moshi Amiko, Daimyo of the Moshi family, killed w/o getting off a spell. Also Shoshuro bodyguard, Tsuruchi Ki. Shoshuro Jimon survived.

Phoenix clan: Master of Air died, married to daimyo (who survived). Master of Void survived, bodyguard.

Unicorn clan: except for Shinjo Matsudara (who had given us information) was assassinated — only Unicorn affected. Something weird is going on with Unicorn clan.

I leave a message at the Green Plum teahouse in hopes of contacting Noritoshi. We discuss plans for avenues investigation — it basically comes down to waiting for Noritoshi or sending part of the party to the Shinomen forest to talk to Badger aka other spirits.

Katsu has a goal on starting a school for shugenja who refuse to follow the path of pacifism.

I generate a list of the various samurai attacked, notes about each attack.

We get a message (hopefully from Noritoshi) asking for a meeting in five days time. We get another message, with the seal of the Emerald Magistrate — an invitation for dinner four days from now. I politely refuse the invitation (since we’re cross-scheduled), and the next day we leave for the meeting spot.

Narue gets some gossipy info: A letter from Ide Tang was handed over by the ronins who helped kill the assassins (Ide Daimyo, chief diplomat), to Shinjo Nakaga was revealed which shows both are Scorpion plants. Some ronin calling themselves the Spider Clan (???) helped fend off the assassinations and asked to joined the Unicorn Clan. Also, many of the assassins had the symbol for Loyalty tattoos, associated with the Scorpion clan.

Questions… what was the motivation? To invade and supplant the Unicorn clan?
Why that date? As a show of power? Or was the day important? Historical/spiritually important? It was the new moon, so from a practical aspect the attacks would be easier in concealment. More importantly, the attacks happened almost within minutes of each other, perhaps simultaneously.

We set out for Inari’s Bounty village on the way to the meeting. We don’t think anybody’s following us. The trip is uneventful, weather nice, etc. General area where meeting takes place is a flat, level, broad plain, w/ minor hills not too far away.

We meet Noritoshi — he’s hyper alert, and appears to be on edge. He didn’t know about recent assassinations. We rosebud him, filling him in on what’s happened recently and our suppositions and questions about what the likely motives and causes are.

He points out that assassinations where the assassin is wiling to give his life are more likely to succeed. Also, that a goal of scheduling the assassinations might have been to cause fear and terror. Also, if Jimon is behind or part of the Spiders, is the Scorpion Clan Daimyo, Paneki, involved?

We discuss talking to Doji Noguri and seeing if he knows about the Spider clan and if so, maybe that was why he was attacked. Noritoshi has been traveling around to lesser cities, insulting Jimon and dueling to the death any who defended him. He’s been spreading the story of Jimon’s betrayal and has been gathering allies as well.

Noritoshi told Suo and Narue the story of why he wants to take out Jimon — Katsu avoided the telling to preserve her honor. He didn’t know about the Harriers before that day. He recommends talking to Noguri and confirming where he will be before setting out.

Others to talk to? Request to speak to the Master of Void, Isawa Kimi — but she’s so close to the void that she can be opaque on a good day. Katsu casts Ride Through the Night on Noritoshi and then he takes off. We camp for the evening and then continue on to Inari’s Bounty, arriving there uneventfully two days later.

We decide to continue on to New Prosperity Village in the interest of talking to the local animal spirits and seeing if they have any input on recent events or the pine needle clue. We make contact with a fox spirit and, huzzah!, Stumpy the badger spirit! Stumpy says that it’s not possible for him to identify a single pine tree from the pine needle, but he could lead us into the forest to where trees of the appropriate size can be found. He doesn’t know any spirits in the heart of the forest, but is willing to take us and also warns of danger from the naga guardians. He tells us the names of some of his friends in Shinomen forest who we contact in a similar way and who might be willing to help or willing to get in touch with Stumpy.

We continue on to Central Border Village. We write and send a letter to Doji Noguri, and then travel back to Muro Sabashii Toshii.

Update from the governor: When Moto Chen confronted Ide Tang, Tang admitted it, apologized for the betrayal, then Chen had him quarted. Shinjo Nakaga has not been found, but the Unicorn clan is looking for the mid-level samurai. The expected successor to Ide Tang, Ide Yusuke (his deputy), was not promoted, instead Ide Eien was. We also check in with Jotaro on my assassin’s investigation. The thugs were Katai and Shoji, two local peasant criminals — history of violence, but not murder – mostly burglary. No leads yet on the pro. Port records were reviewed, one Crane vessel chartered by a herald to the Miya. Another vessel stopped enroute to the Mantis Isles from Ryoko Owari (picking up some Mantis personnel along the way), another vessel from the Mantis Isles. Crane Troop ships. Another Mantis vessel heading to Kyuden Kitsune. Given the opium traces on the coin, perhaps he was on the vessel from Ryoko Owari… but also, that could be yet another false lead.

We find two men recently slain, a Scorpion with his sword drawn and a Mantis with 2 kama, wearing average kimonos. The Scorpion dies just as we approach. There’s a torn-open satchel case which I ask Katsu to secure. The Scorpion is wearing the Bayushi mon, the Mantis the Yoritomo mon.

Contents of the satchel include: 4 koku in Crane-minted coins. A shipping manifest listing assorted items and quantities, rice, silk, opium, spices, grain, rattan, etc. Also what appears to be an actor’s makeup kit including makeup and wigs. Also a note, handwritten: “My lord, I have discovered a plot against us, and learned the ID of 2 conspirators. They will meet with an assassin in the Green Plum teahouse on the night of the next new moon.” (that’s 8 days hence) We tell Jotoro and he goes with us to tell the governor. He agrees that this is a problem and we offer to set up a stakeout on the teahouse. Katsu confirms that the letter is written recently, so it seems likely that the next new moon is the one referenced (rather than the past).

Katsu asks the water spirit who wrote it and gets an image of a man’s hand. She asks where it was and sees a plain, unremarkable room, maybe a room in a house or inn.

We ask Jotoro to keep it quiet, to avoid tipping off anyone that the note has been captured. The Green Plum teahouse is in the foreigner’s district, it’s a fairly average teahouse. Hiro goes and checks it out. A number of peasants, some Mantis samurai. Some private rooms, which can be reached either through the front door or the servants’ areas. He found a couple of places to conduct observation. We will place Suo in one of these, provide enough other people to fill 6 of the 7 rooms, and Katsu’s spell will provide us with the audio feed.

Also, we get re-invited to the Emerald Magistrate’s house. Bayushi Maru shows up, shockingly tastefully dressed. She doesn’t even flirt with the men (or women) in the party. All of her retainers are in attendance. I sit next to Bayushi Maru and Katsu.

The conversation turns to different views of honor in the multi-clan world. Tetsuo avoids the conversation. Shotaro takes the lead in discussing the various views of honor, noting that his clan has a bad reputation but it’s due to how they perceive honor. Narue (and of course, the smitten Katsu) agree with him. I try to turn the conversation towards the perverted form of Bushido and see if any of those present are adherents. Shotaro says that Akodo said ‘the only judge of ones honor is himself’, possibly indicating selfishness.

He tells a story about compassion — ‘compassion flows from strength’. You have to have power in order to be compassionate. I have suspicions that he is either presently working for or may be easily swayed by the Spider clan.

Katsu ends up discreetly spending the night with Shotaru.

Game: 10/24/10

We get set up and positioned at the teahouse. I wait nearby at the Marginally Suitable Teahouse. Katsu gets her spells prepared. A couple hours later, I notice a pair of male samurai approach the teahouse, one w/ wakizashi only, another with katana and wakizashi, no discernible mons. They go in and Katsu hears them sit down. A peasant comes by, male, 30s, seems hinky. Samurai: “Target is due in the city before winter sets in. Intends to winter in the city. Mask is made of linked scorpion koku. Young female bodyguard, perceptive and experienced despite her age. He cannot survive through the new year.” Samurai is willing to pay 20 upfront, 50 on completion, plus expenses. Wants the killing to be subtle but weak evidence to implicate the Crane, the Daidoji specifically. Peasant accepts. Peasant leaves first, Hiro follows him (possibly to his death).

We regroup. Hiro returns, having lost the peasant after about a half-hour of walking down towards the docks. Hiro doesn’t think he was spotted, but the peasant was generally trying to avoid being followed. It’s currently October. Winter starts the beginning of December, the new year is in April.

We decide to invite the Scorpions to dinner to subtly talk to them about masks and upcoming visitors for winter court. Narue works up pretty good likenesses of the samurais and peasants. The Scorpions accept.

I actually notice the two samurai exiting the Mantis embassy, wearing Mantis mons. Bushi who was wearing the daisho, was now wearing a wakizashi and kama. Samurai’s name was Rikuo. We talk to the governor and discuss the problem. We bring Kinnosuke in. Discuss options…

Kinnosuke: It could be Bayushi Hiroshi — he’s one of their more useful merchants. We don’t know why he would want to winter here. Kinnosuke and the governor speak quietly. The Daidoji Trading Council will work on tracking down the peasant. 70 koku sounds like a little… maybe the assassin already has a grudge against the Crane or Daidoji, or Scorpion?

We get a little more info about Yoritomo Rikuo. Worked at the embassy for about 6 months, as a bodyguard. The bodyguard of Yoritomo Yukio, a courtier from the Mantis Isles. They are officially part of the embassy. I drop a hint to Narue that I would be happy to kill a mantis for her.

Dinner with the scorpions. Katsu prepares a poem for the dinner. Bayushi Maru brings a fine flower arrangement which I accept. No news on the Night of a Million Billion Ninjas. Narue and Katsu and I work on directing the conversation towards Bayushi Hiroshi, the mask wearer. Maru mentions that she had met Hiroshi a couple of years ago, but they make no mention of Hiroshi’s visit. They’re staying here for the winter. I try to investigate if they had anything going on with the Mantis but they didn’t mention any recent changes or anything that would explain

Narue notes that it’s a little interesting (but not unheard of) that Yukio has a bodyguard. There are a lot more Mantis in the city than they used to be, perhaps due to the increased Crane need for grain due to the war with the Crab.

Summoned by governor. The Mantis have informed the head magistrate that one of their people, a Yoritomo Kimon, has gone missing here while running errands for the local embassy. We get information from Narue about the kinds of places that Yukio frequents.

I get summoned again by the governor. A request for assistance from Daidoji Gorobei, magistrate in Twin Maples Village (deputy, courtier, is named Kakita Eizo). A few weeks ago (19 days before the great assassination a week ago), 10 ronin arrived escorting ~250 refugees peasants have arrived with travel papers signed by a magistrate, Yasuki Kanbe, in Tatiyama province, which has been overrun by Crab. The magistrate is missing, believed dead in a cavalry charge, shortly after he signed the papers. The ronin are calling themselves part of the “Spider Clan”. The peasants speak highly of this group of ronin. Twin Maples is about 4500 people (3000 before the war). Additional peasants are short of housing and common goods. The current tent housing may not be sufficient through the winter.

General news on the war with the Crab: Losing some ground, 38th is being pulled back a little.

Leader of the group, Takuya. Swarthy, suspicious eyes. Seems like a decent leader. #2 is Seiho, big, tetsubo. All
have been reasonably friendly. Gengyo, small, agile, quiet, dour. Yaeko, middle-aged woman quartermaster. Chikuma, female, young, deferential (maybe with Gengyo). Masayoshi, small, chip on his shoulder. Shige, skilled outdoorswoman and tracker. Masaru, sailor, seems to have a grudge against the Crab. Soh, also a scout, bad scar across throat and apparently mute. Eien, skinny youth, commerce and merchant skills.

We head out to Twin Maple Village. Overcrowded village in bunch of rice paddies, new construction obvious. Ronin had horses, peasants are all on foot. Suo speculates that if these are really related to the assassinations, then there may be even more Spider Clan members mixed in among the refugees. There’s a typical refugee camp — we head in to talk to the mayor. Many magnolias growing here as well (remember, Spider clan poison is magnolia).

We meet up with the deputy. Yesterday, a large shipment of household goods and supplies was hit by a group of bandits on the way from New Prosperity Village, and the magistrate and the ronin are out chasing the bandits. Ronin requested only that they be provided with housing in return for assistance. Caravan was about 3/4ths of a day away at caravan pace. We talk to some of the survivors of the bandit attack.

Bandit numbers – 1-3 dozen, probably ~25. Swords, axes, large clubs. Waiting in ambush, jumped out of camouflaged positions. No horses visible. Some people attempted to fight back and any that resisted were killed. All five survivors were peasants, out of 3 samurai, dozen ashigaru, 8 teamsters, 4 wagons. Goods were: 2 wagonloads of timber, 2 wagonloads full of household goods.

We armor up and head out. We find the caravan, the oxen dead. 2 wagons of timber are there, the wheels shattered, with an obvious attempt to set fire to the contents. A lot of the household goods are missing, the loads ransacked, some contents scattered on the ground. They looted for the smaller, more expensive items. There are a couple of bodies not present (1 samurai, 1 ashigaru), and no obviously bandit bodies. The bandit tracks head southwest towards a nearby river, and we see the tracks of ronin and magistrate following. There are a couple of apparently local blood trails, leading to the missing ashigaru and samurai. Slightly odd, some ashigaru weapons were missing, but the samurai had their own weapons.

We follow for a while and find a body along the trail. Wearing ashigaru armor, looks like he’s been killed by a spear. One of the bandits. Killed yesterday afternoon, with traffic around the body occurred around midnight last night. We continue to ride on through the night thanks to Katsu’s spell. The next morning, we hear clear sounds of fighting roughly a half-hour away — shouts, steel on steel, etc. About 10 minutes after we hear the sound of fighting, the fight appears to be over. We crest the hill and see the aftermath of a battle — but at least one person in Crane blue seems to be up and moving around. Some of the wounded are still moving, possibly receiving first aid. Wounded were Masaru and Chikuma, provided help by Shige and Gengyo. Katsu heals one of the bandit and we take him prisoner. There were 20 bandits total. We get introduced to the ronin. We check out their travel papers and find them to be in order (although we kinda suck at this, so who knows if they really are?). Suo checks out the bandit leader’s satchel and finds a smattering of koku, some kind of inventory list, other odds and ends, and some badly forged travel papers.

Soh, Seiho, Chikuma, Masaru, and Yaiko return to the attack site with us. We make small talk (well, Soh doesn’t). We ask a bit about their history and background — they talk about their village in Tatiyama province. They talk a bit about their background and history — nothing too unusual for a band of ronin. They’re now working with a “loose confederation of other ronin”, which calls itself the “Spider”. The Spider group started up about a year ago, Tatiya found out about it and wanted to join. The ronin have been pitching in and helping the peasants out. When they have downtime, the ronin play at cards or dice, drink, etc — sake houses when they have money.

11/21/10

Suo interrogates our bandit, with some success. He doesn’t know why they attacked this caravan, or how his boss found out about it. He doesn’t know much of anything, really. Narue talks to several members of the group and finds out various things… Chikuma is even younger than she looks, probably joined up at 12 or so. Masayoshi is a short, miserable bastard with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Get a chance to talk to Gorobei later… he’s suspicious of how altruistic the ronin are, but they haven’t done anything suspicious. They have some provisions and money, but not an extreme amount, and have been trading manual labor for food. They also have horses. Gorobei says that Masayoshi is probably their best swordsman (along with Takiya… Gengyo above average, Seiho not bad, Soh good).

Narue and Katsu get in a bit of a tiff as we head towards the battle site. We arrive at the battle site, where things are being cleaned up, and Narue has sufficient ability. The Spider group claims to be a confederation of ronin groups who have autonomy within the general spider clan tenets, but Narue thinks he’s lying and that somebody is calling the shots.

We get back to Twin Maples Village and get Narue’s braindump. She thinks there is something up with the Spider ‘clan’ and their professed goal to protect peasants, so that when the next Emperor happens, they will get made into a minor or major clan. Despite their claims, Narue believes that there is a central leader calling the shots. Other questions… why is Masayoshi scared of Takuya? What are their goals? Who is Takuya’s boss?

We tell Gorobei that we agree with his suspicions and will take them back to the governor. He asks us to ask them for more deputies, or some ashigaru, with the reasoning that his village has suddenly increased in size 50%.

We make it back to Mura Sabashii Toshi with enough time to prepare for the Mantis party. We give an info dump to the governor, he agrees with our plan to hire them and try to hire some of the group away if possible.

Mantis party:

We arrive, our goal being to get more information and/or provoke Yoritomos Yukio and Rikuo into revealing something more. The Mantis embassy is a recreating of an island paradise, up to and including 2 tigers.

I get told by Bayushi Maru that Bayushi Hiroshi is coming to winter here, an amazing coincidence given that we had just asked about Hiroshi-san at the dinner. Narue talks to the suspects… Yukio doesn’t appear to have any real responsibilities, other than hanging out and occasionally helping out with his official duties. He’s also much more skilled than he has worked on appearing to be. He’s very willful. His motto is “provide the customer what they want”. He’s definitely dirty (as if we didn’t already know). Katsu and Suo notice that Yoritomo Okichi and Yoritomo Ume have a heated conversation about Yoritomo Yukio after Narue talks to Yukio.

Suddenly, the governor gets a proclamation from Toshi wa Ranbo: Doji Domotai: Crab clan asks for terms! The governor is horrified that he had to read the scroll in front of those in attendance, given the content and the inflammatory style in which it was written. All restrictions on Crab travel are lifted. Both Okichi and Ume are shocked, surprised, and a little upset. The governor’s wife was appalled at the style of the message. Crab ambassador is angry and also horrified, his wife the ghost hunter is stunned, his bodyguard angry. Hiruma Chieko, one of the bodyguards, is homicidally angry, and Higen is upset/angry, as is Anzai. Bayushi Maru is amused. Fumiko seems surprised.

The Mantis, noticing their party suddenly full of tension, attempt to spread out and defuse tensions, but too late. Hiruma Chieko and Yasuki Yoshi start getting into it. Higen threatens Chieko unless she apologizes, and she doesn’t. We are invited to the duel at the Crab embassy tomorrow.

Go to the Crab embassy in the morning, along with the governor, his bodyguard. Hiruma Higen vs. Hiruma Chieko, to the death. I successfully assess Chieko, but not Higen. Chieko is Void 3, Iaijutsu 2. General sentiment of resentment towards Higen for the duel. Chieko draws first, but Higen attacks before she finishes the draw, and Chieko dies silently before she can complete the draw. I notice that Higen has a Kaiu blade.

Thanks to a letter from Doji Miyuki (Lady Domotai-sama’s advisor), I get to inform Narue that she will be marrying Hiruma Higen for the good of the Crane Clan (ending her betrothal to Doji Nobuhito), at Yasuki Yashiki, after the wedding of Yasuki Jinn-Kuen and Doji Keiko.

We have about three weeks until we need to leave for Yasuki Yashiki.


1/9/11

We discuss what to do with the city in our absence. Suo will put out the info on bodyguardnet and provide to the governor a list of who can best help out in the bodyguarding attempt. Followup meeting with the governor.

Hiruma to Suo: Shadow Dragon is the avatar of the Shadow aka the Lying Darkness, and is after me. Gives Suo a finger of jade. And a tanto that’s part of the set he and Kazuki were given by a fox spirit that can track each others wielders, harm creatures of darkness and shadow. Crystal blade. Can reflect sunlight through it to cause lying darkness minions physical pain. He’s going to give Narue the other blade. Minions of lying darkness can travel through shadows, appear from shadows, including yours. Hiruma also has a crystal katana from the Shinomen Forest.

Hiruma also talks to Narue, gives her the tanto, and a crane carved from jade. Hiruma has an issue with Miyuki. He requested permission to duel Miyuki’s brother, and did.

Hiruma comes to me, tells me about the Shadow Dragon and the Lying darkness, and the weapons he’s given to Suo and Narue. Higen lets me know that I can call on him for assistance if need be. We tell him about the Spider Clan except for the possibility of Jimon being involved.

We decide that testing with the jade and reflection of the crystal sunlight.

Narue: Her brother disappeared almost 6 years ago, around the time of her gympukku. Lady Miyuki will be there and may know something about her brother’s disappearance. Her brother was a bodyguard duelist assigned to one of the samurai working for Miyuki-sama, a courtier. He had gotten emotionally affected over the months.

Suo owes Miyuki a debt of honor, her family assisted his father in transferring Suo from Courtier school to the Daidoji bodyguards.

Higen-san once knew Miyuki-sama, and dueled her brother to the death.

I talk about my brother, who last I heard was the duelist bodyguard for somebody at Domotai’s court, perhaps Doji Miyuki. Later confirmed that he is still occasionally dueling, usually to the death.

Followup meeting with the governor. Governor is willing to sign on to the idea of inviting the ronin into town in order to keep them close. Thinks it might be possible to get Bayushi Hiroshi invited to Yasuki Yashiki for Winter Court, thus possibly moving him to a safer location and away from the assassin’s home turf.

Crab Daimyo and wife will be there. Higen’s Daisuke, new wife Koneko, young son (2). Otomo family are sending Otomo Danu to represent them. The Miya are also sending a rep, Miya Anzai. Emerald Magistrate Kitsuke Umebi, a Dragon, will be there, as will his Lion deputy. Some Unicorn invited. Also some Mantis invited, although none from around here. No other family or clan daimyos in attendance. Bayushi Maru sending Fumiko and Shotaro to winter there at the request of Umebi to provide him some additional deputies. Much of the guest list dictated to the Crab by the Crane. Some of Higen’s mother’s family will be in attendance as well (mother dead, though). The Crab guest list includes every notable Crab duelist.

Narue and I begin working on a way to get Bayushi Hiroshi invited to the wedding in a way that doesn’t seem too suspicious. I schedule a dinner with the Emerald Magistrates.

Narue investigates, with my assistance, current events in Yasuki Yashiki. Domotai ascended after father’s seppuku for killing his wife. Miyuki has been involved in preparing the events in Yashiki. She’s trusted to handle things on her own and do preparation. She was working for Akiko at the time that Narue’s brother disappeared, handling a lot of merchant activity. More recently she’s been somewhat allied with Kakita Atoshi, a bushi who’s mostly involved in politics, Kakita Noritoshi’s adoptive brother. Miyuki and Atoshi both disapprove of Noritoshi’s vendetta and blasphemous breaches of etiquette. Atoshi is spending Winter Court at the Imperial City, hosted by Otomo Hokonohite. As for Kakita Taishi, Miyuki has used him to bully or get her way in a number of matters with other clans that some Cranes find distasteful — specifically the preference for dueling to the death rather than to first blood.

We have dinner with the Emerald Magistrate. Narue successfully manipulates them into thinking that it’s their idea that they requested that Bayushi Hiroshi get an invite to the Winter Court at Yasuki Yashiki. We make preparations to leave. Before we leave, we get a message from Ogai-sama that he can’t attend but will send Soetsu and another student in his place.

We set out, along with several others that are traveling to the same place. Waystations near the Crane/Crab border (especially in the Yasuki provinces) have suffered the effects of war. We get hassled a lot in Crab lands with requests for my travel papers. We are greeted by Yasuki Fumiki, a little creepy but friendly. Miyuki-sama has been here for some weeks and is seeing to specific arrangements in our wing. We are welcomed into the palace and taken to our rooms. Reps from Otomo and Miya families are here. We all end up with suites of rooms near each other, all with windows looking out on the destroyed city under reconstruction. Narue notices that the quarters might be a little inferior to our status. We meet the person in charge of security for this floor and his team. On one side of our quarters is an assistant to another of Domotai’s advisors, Doji Courtier-san. On the other side is a famous Kakitan origami artist. Next to Narue is an Ikebana artist, to Hiro an Asahina shugenja. And he expresses his regrets for Asahina Kaitoro, the Asahina daimyo, who has recently passed away. Not much additional information, he apparently passed away peacefully in his workshop.

Official start of winter court is 1 week away, with an opening banquet. We’re welcome to visit the city outside and wander the grounds.

And I meet Kakita Nintai, my brother, unexpectedly there! Kaitoro-sama had been working on a fetish item, imbuing an object with magical effects. He had been devoted to the work he was doing, missed a meeting, and was found slumped over his workbench. His death (a week ago) has delayed Domotami’s arrival.

Asahina Katsu, according to Nintai: “She’s not a pacifist, and it’s weird!”

When she arrives, Domotai shortly summons Kanzen. I go. She asks where Noritoshi is, and I say I don’t know, and that I talk to him rarely. I tell a bit about the assassination attempt he suffered but not that Jimon is the cause.
She tells me that I should be prepared to say a few words after Jinn-kuen’s wedding and Narue’s as well, and that since I am the senior Kakita that I should be prepared to keep the others of my family in line.

I ask Katsu to send the message, and also let her know that she’s getting a bit of a rep for being bloodthirsty among the normally pacifistic Asahina shugenja.

Narue awakened at 4AM. A Doji courtier’s bodyguard, Kakita Hidoshi, the son of the chief Crane ambassador to the Lion clan, a Kakita, has gone missing. He’s just out of his gympakku, stays out late sometimes with his friends, but has never not come home before. His other 3 friends are also bodyguards for Doji courtiers. First friend, Kakita Yasutaka, is woken up for inquiry. He doesn’t know where Hidoshi is, other than to assume that he’s somewhere in the city. They split up to scout the territory, Yasutaka came back by midnight. Yasutaka says that Hidoshi is fond of the ‘social life’. Narue manages to pull out of him that they’ve had a yearlong competition over who can seduce the prettiest girl, but they never let it impact their duties, etc. I go to talk to Kakita Mosashi. Narue gets Kakita Tadasu. Their stories match, so we go into town.

We find out that he met up with a pretty Crab deputy magistrate, who left the next morning with the gift that Hidoshi was supposed to present on behalf of his family. We get a replacement gift for the Crab girl and try to find Hida Noriko. We go to her address, she’s not there, we leave a message. She shows up at 4AM that night, obviously coming straight there after partying. She’s wearing it. She says he gave it to her, and we believe her. Hidoshi returns after dinner, with the inro. Yay, I don’t have to kill him!

Next morning is the day of the big opening dinner. Big gossip is that the Crab Champion is not here and will not be here. We attempt to find out why. “Unavoidably detailed on Crab Clan business” — personally dealing with a major Shadowlands assault on the wall. Jinn-kuen’s wedding in about a week, Narue’s in about a month. I don’t know of any simmering rivalries or things likely to lead to duels (other than my brother wanting to kill me). I will probably have to approve any duels, but have the option to say that it should be to first blood, or just a comparison of stances.

The big dinner! Probably ~200 people in attendance, including local samurai and everybody who was invited to attend winter court here. Mostly Crab, Crane, some Unicorn, some Mantis, some Lion. No Phoenix. About a half-dozen Scorpions here, the ones that we finagled an invite for. No Dragon. A surprising number of ronin in and amongst the Unicorn. A couple of representatives from the imperial families, Otomo Banu and Miya Anzai, with Seppun bodyguards.

People are mostly seated by clan, at the head is Jinn-kuen, at his right is a handful of high-ranking Crab. To his left, Domotai and high-ranking Crane. There’s Domotai and a few senior Crane above me in the ranking. I’m the #2 Crane present, and have a table close to the head. Jinn-kuen gives a fine welcoming speech to Yasuki Yashiki, including the Crab Champion Hida Kuon’s regrets that he was not able to make it in time for the opening dinner. Dinner starts. We have a fine Crab dinner — the masters of deep-frying anything.

Post dinner, more speeches. Otomo addresses the gathering, happy for the peaceful settlement to the war. There will be many competitions over the winter, and he will be keeping track of the clan affiliation of each contest winter, and the clan with the most points will receive a tax break at the end of the winter.

Then, the Miya. Best wishes for everyone, happy at peaceful settlement. She will be divvying up pairings of clan samurai in teams of two (each from a different clan). The team that wins will have their family histories set down by the Miya heralds and presented to them.

Crabs will be hosting a sumai (sumo wrestling) tournament as well as a tetsubo competition. Domotai announces that the Crane will be sponsoring and adjudicating an iaijutsu competition. The big announcements done, dinner comes to a close, and all are invited to enjoy the gardens and the winter at the palace.

We adjourn to the garden. Higen is chatting with a collection of Doji, but not a lot of inter-clan mingling going on. We note that all the Unicorn shugenja have ronin bodyguards, somewhat worrisome given that the Spider clan has been courting the Unicorn more openly.

Miyuki-san is there, with my brother as her bodyguard. She gives Suo shit about Noritoshi not being there, and not providing leadership to the Kakita family.

Domotai circulates, talks to every member of the crane delegation. Wearing a really beautiful hairpin, a stylized crane hairpiece. She gives special attention to Narue, the pending bride, and Suo, her former bodyguard.

2/27/10

We get pairings for the Miya’s. Katsu paired up with Moto Hanzhi. I’m paired up with Yasuki Tijaki, a recently retired sumai champion courtier. Suo paired up with Yuritomo Nodotaki, greedy but friendly merchant captain. Narue paired up with Natsu Sudome, beautiful and boisterous but within bounds of propriety. My older brother is competing, younger one is not. The next day, Hida Kuon arrives. Tijaki and I go out for saki to get to know each other.

A few days later, Yasuki Jinn-kuen gets married, apparently goes pretty smoothly. Domotai gives the bride a hairpin crafted by the late Asahina daimyo similar to the one she wears. She gives to the groom a small coin purse with the original mon of the Yasuki family. Suo notices that the gift is insulting, as it’s bad luck to bring the old mon into Yasuki Castle. Doji Miyuki also gives a gift of the sake from the Cherry Blossom Snow works, which is also insulting since the Crane killed all of the workers at that sake factory.

Shosure Fumiko and Bayushi Hiroshi seem to be having a disagreement, Fumiko indignantly whispering to Hiroshi that “He doesn’t run our clan!”, which sets Hiroshi off again on another tirade. Suo tells us that it’s bad luck for the old mon to be present in Yasuki Castle, and fears that Domotai is listening too much to Miyuki, and is holding the Crab too accountable for past transgressions. I volunteer to have a discussion with Domotai and see if she really intends on restarting war with the Crab. She does, apparently still harboring resentment over the death of her father.

At this point, Katsu lets us know that she has a new spell enabling us to communicate two-way with Noritoshi. We decide to adjourn somewhere appropriate to converse. We fill Noritoshi in, and ask for his guidance. He says that as his hatomoto, I should feel free to offer her counsel and guidance. It seems odd to him that she would be interested in restarting hostilities, but she’s young and inexperienced, and adjusting to the realities of her situation. We’re going to get a letter from him and one for Domotai as well. Kakita Tokani will continue to be the active head of the dueling academy. Kakita Michihiro will be the hatomoto at home to make decisions. I am empowered to make any decisions for the Kakita family as necessary or as Domotai demands. His letter to her lays out what Jimon threatened him with and Sunetra’s involvement. He intends to keep his son safe and cause Jimon trouble in any court he visits in order to force a duel — the only way since he can’t gather testimony. If Domotai wants to see him or speak face to face, she will have to order him to appear. If we can find evidence or testimony about the Spider’s involvement, then that could be brought up to Domotai.

When we return, the castle is abuzz with the news that Kuni Fumitaka, a Kuni witch hunter, has arrived at the castle. The iaijitsu is a lavishly decorated bokken from a famous Crane artisan. First round opponent is Hida Anzai. Iaijitsu 3, Reflexes 2. +1k1 to focus roll. I do 7 points of damage, and win skillfully, getting some applause from those assembled. Other first day: Kakita Taishi wins, Higen wins against Kakita Tadasu. Shotaro wins against Hidoshi. I attend all of the duels of the Kakita that attend. The next day, the letter from Noritoshi has arrived, including one for Domotai. I take it to her. She reads it, and seems to take it pretty well, although she wonders why he didn’t just kill Jimon at the contest for the better of the Empire. I try to defend his actions as best as I can.

The poetry competition is next. Katsu enters. One famous Kakita poet, Kakita Torekado, is participating. Matsu Suitomi as well. Higen also entered. Katsu wins! She is congratulated by most of her competitors, not from the ronin. Miyuki invites Suo to a private tea. She expresses concern over Noritoshi’s absence. She talks about the possibility of Noritoshi being replaced by Domotai, and offers assistance and support to us when that happens, as she’s on good terms with Otoshi (Noritoshi’s adopted brother). The next day, Katsu gets an invitation to tea with Miyuki, and goes. The same overtures are made to Katsu.

Doji Osamu is the advisor of Domotai’s who’s least likely to want to go to war with the crab — a middle aged man who served her father. Doji Noguri is the survivor of the other attack on Cranes. We enlist Suo’s father to serve as a go-between to talk to Doji Noguri, and will talk to him again in a couple of days. We have an audience with Domotai where we tell her about the Spider clan, and our suspicions that they may be benefitted by wars between the clans. She doesn’t really care, but listens.

Action! We (meaning everybody but me) see the assassin that we saw leaving the tea house. A chase ensues. We lose him (although Katsu finds out from the kami that he’s of the Lying Darkness). I inform Domotai of the assassin and what we know about the assassin being hired, although not HOW we got the information. She gives praise for us bring the assassin’s target here, but doesn’t seem to completely buy into the Lying Darkness threat, thinking that they’re long since destroyed. Katsu and Suo go talk to Higen about the Lying Darkness and get more information about him. He warns us about the shapeshifting powers and travel powers of the Lying Darkness. Also, the most powerful of the Shadow can phase through solid objects, including living flesh. Shadow servants are people who, though once human, have through consorting with the Shadow begun to lose who and what they are. Because the Shadow likely saw Katsu and Suo talk about him being part of the Lying Darkness, the Shadow may now be targeting them, and Higen warns them it may come for them in the guise of somebody they know.


Katsu meets Shotaru for tea, as well as Moto Gerbin, and his ronin vassal Tawagoto. Moto Gerbin has animal handling at level 5. A couple days after the chase with the assassins Kuni Fumitake, the witch hunter, approaches and asks for a word. I give him a little information but manage to conceal who the target of the investigation. We also hear from Noguri through Suo’s dad. The assassins that he killed also used the same poison.

The next round of the dueling competition, i’m matched up against Shinjo Nanase, a Unicorn with a katana. The beginning of the fight is rough, but I manage to strike first and successfully hit for only 3 damage. My brother fights and wins against Hiruma Kenichi. Higen defeats Yuritomo Iko. Shotaro defeats Daidoji Tomo.
Kakita Masashi defeats a ronin, Yoshimi, but only by getting really lucky. Tawagoto defeated Kakita Shaku.

“Everybody but Kanzen notices…” that Crab Champion Kuon has been almost nonexistent, not participating in most events and is rarely seen. The others hear that Kuon is talking shit about Domotai in private.

Narue may get Higen a job at Mura Sabishii Toshi as head of the bodyguard academy there. She meets with Gympachi and has a nice tea.

Remember, in the last 12 years since Toturi died, his children have been fighting to sit on the throne. One son went into the Shadowlands to seek enlightenment and died. His brother is the shogun. The shugenja brother is crazy. The daughter died.

A couple years back, the Unicorn made their attempt to fast march through the Lion and seize the throne. The Phoenix showed up with the Fire Dragon and stopped it.

The next competition is Kemari, the hacky-sack in full courtly attire. My partner Yasuki Tijaki the sumo wrestler is participating. Competition is won by Yoritomo Burako, a Mantis sailor of extreme grace.

Later that night we hear that Katsu had a falconing outing with Shotaro, Moto Gerbin and Tawagoto. During our discussion in the garden that evening, the topic of Moto Gerbin’s view of honor comes up as does Shotaro’s and the possible similarities to the Spider clan bushido. We see a disturbance in the bushes, which Katsu surreptitiously identified as a shadow. We give chase, during which the shadow creature shapechanges into Narue’s brother — which could indicate a few possibilities:
1. The shadow creature was Narue’s brother (it’s easiest for them to shapechange into their original situation)
2. The shadow creature had seen Narue’s brother at one point and was impersonating him.
3. It was Narue’s brother, and merely appeared to be a shadow creature due to some effect.

On our way back, Katsu sees a scroll lying just a bit off the path. I find a short note, with good quality calligraphy, perhaps a note between lovers. “I want to see you again, I know we must be careful but I can’t let my husband find out. I need to see you again. Please.” It is scented with perfume, and probably written by a woman, Suo knows, and probably from the Crane clan. We put it back. We go and talk to Higen, mentioning what happened, and that Narue saw her brother. Higen said that when the shadow appeared to him in various shapes, it tended to be more manipulative. Higen suggests that Narue talk to Domotai about her brother.

Higen said that some of the shadow agents he’s killed had: A blotch on their body, or featureless faces, or they disappeared with a scream or a puff of smoke as a crystal weapon tore through them. We asked if Kazuki had any spells that worked well against the Shadow, and Scot will get back to us on that.

Akodo Itoku is one of the leading authorities on honor and is currently working as an Emerald magistrate, so Katsu may take her questions around honor to him.

I walk with Suo to where the scroll case was found the previous day, and there’s a new scroll in its place: “In the usual place, night after tomorrow.” We analyze the calligraphy, the paper is not scented, the style seems similar to crab script.

After Narue mentions that the wedding hasn’t been scheduled yet, and it is obvious that it would be safer for her to be sleeping with Hiruma, I ask Domotai about the wedding date, pointing out that Higen is a valuable duelist and that it would befit us to include him in the Crane clan before another war broke out. She concurs, and the wedding is scheduled for four days hence.


Code of Honor was originally set down for the kami Akodo for bushi, and later applied to courtiers and shugenja alike. Katsu gathers us for a dinner, having just discussed honor with Kitsuki Omibei, the Emerald Magistrate. Narue is willing to work for the good of the Empire even if it requires deception. I’m willing to follow orders as long as they’re honorable until I have to commit seppuku. Suo is willing to to resist and die fighting it. We continue to discuss honor for a while and dinner ends pleasantly. Jenwa makes her Lore (Honor) check and gets a read on Domotai’s honor. Katsu is invited to tea with Domotai tomorrow morning. Domotai says that the Lion shouldn’t have started a war over the fact that some of the Lion samurai trespassed. And the idiot Crab, who the Crane had to make peace with in order to reduce the number of concurrent enemies. Giving that traitorous bastard Jinn-Kuen a Crane wife will make him think twice in the future.

Higen and Narue’s wedding is only a few days away. (End of Rat) There’s going to be an impromptu play. Daralat play – crude, rude, and awesome. We see a Crane servant leaving the spot where the scroll cases have been secreted. Yasuki Mino is running the play and has brought his acting troupe to entertain us, acting out short scenes from various well-known plays. The fix appears to be in, as Katsu and Narue notice the young man whose name is drawn to choose the play. The play to be performed is called “Brave Little Pony”. Suo knows this play — Pony is Crab slang for a foreign samurai who comes to the wall and is worthless, freezing and finally proving himself by giving up Crane ways and adopting the ways of the Crab. Name drawn for the role of the brave little pony. Doji Miyuki is chosen to play the lead in the play. Narue gently chastises Mino for cheating. There’s a little fixing of some of the later names, like where they have characters who beat up on the pony. I get the role of a Crab soldier. Suo is a large Oni. Katsu gets the role of a Crab soldier. (me and Katsu’s roles are fixed).

The play starts. All of the Crab duelists at Winter Court are in attendance. A lot of the Crab here just seem to be looking to have fun rather than to hate on Cranes. Kuon is in attendance at the play along with his wife and bodyguards. Suo finds and disables a flour trap.

“Everybody but Kanzen notices…”

Play goes off without any unscripted fights occurring. Kuon disappears immediately after the play. Domotai is socializing.

The wedding goes well. At the reception, Crane clan provides an excellent flute player. Higen’s stepmom attends the wedding. Domotai and Kuon are the first to give gifts. Domotai presents her with a hairpin that had been worked on by the last Asahina daimyo, Kaitoro, incredibly detailed, with a Crane twined around a katana. To Higen she gives a fine Kimono which reminds people of the kimono politics that she played when the last war started, and to the couple gives them a nice estate near Mura Sabishii Toshi. Kuon goes next. He gives two lacquer boxes, which contain chopsticks crafted out of steel inlaid and enameled with a mix of crab/crane colors, and mixed tantos with both family mons on them. Higen’s father gives him a portable shoji screen beautifully painted, showing the garden at Kyuden Hiruma, and her a written history of the Hiruma family. To the couple he gives the gift of a servant. Miyuki gives arrangements of flowers that are of amazing quality.

I give to her a fine fan depicting a smiling face on one side and a grim face on the other, and to him a fine lamp, and to the couple, a tea set. The reception proceeds without any major events.

Next is a Sadane contest. Shoshuro Maru plays. Topic of the contest is an obscure play by an old Crab playwright. I don’t remember that play but I remember another play by the same playwright. Narue wins, narrowly beating out Doji Yasu. Then a Shogi tournament, mostly Crab, but a handful of Crane, including Gempachi. My partner enters.

Suo finds the person who owns the servant we’ve seen, a female Crane courtier married to a mid-tier Crane duelist, from the Watchtower of the West. Her husband is bodyguard to a samurai stationed there, to keep an eye on the Crab.

Katsu, Narue, and Higen go falconing. They talk about Ryoko Owari. Later joined by Moto Gerbin and his vassal. Moto Gerbin tells the tale of how he met Tamagoto, happening upon him at a waystation. Afterwards we talk about it. Apparently Tamagoto and Higen disagree on some issues of sword training.

We talk to Higen about the spider clan. He had heard about the Spiders showing up at Unicorn clan borders with a bunch of corpses, claiming that they had stopped a group of assassins from coming after the Unicorns on the Night of a Million Billion Ninjas. He suggests that we take some time to investigate the Shinomen Forest because of the clues we have that point us there.

Kanzen's Notes

The Crane Game austinmills