Mists of Akuma

Assault on Tengu Ninja Village
Eggshell Grenades!

With Wei Tai’s Kami-like ethereal scouting mission of the Tengu Ninja Clan Village complete, they returned to the hidden boat outside of the compound to rejoin the rest of the party. A plan was hatched to get everyone in to the southwest building and catch the ninja inside by surprise. One by one everyone except for Wei Tai climbed into Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. Wei Tai then spoke the command word of ‘Zendar’ and miniaturized the chest. Wei Tai picked it up and moved invisibly and ethereally into the compound. They moved directly to the southwest most building. Wei Tai found the fireplace room was still unguarded. They willed themselves back to the prime material plane and placed Zendar’s Dimensional Chest on the ground. Wei Tai spoke the command word of ‘Zendar’ and the chest became large once more. They opened the chest and put their hands into the swirling gray bubbles summoning the party members out of the chest one by one. When all had emerged, they prepared to launch the assault on the 3 ninja Wei Tai had seen on the other side of the door.

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Kai Winding began her ritual casting of the silence spell while Wang Shu passed out more handfuls of myconid telepathy spores. The rest of the party that was not connected mentally ate the spores so that everyone could speak to one another using telepathy. Five doses of the spores remained. The Master Treasure List was updated. Wei Tai was ready to open the door when Kai gave the signal. Everyone else got on either side of the door and prepared themselves to rush in and attack the ninja on the other side. After 10 minutes, Kai nodded. Wei Tai flung open the door and Kai released the silence spell centered on the door in the northern wall of the room. The two ninja fighting in the room suddenly stopped in confusion as everything went completely silent. Wei Tai hurled Shinsei Hari into one of the Tengu Ninja ripping open a gaping whole in the side of his neck. Kataashi Kikku then ran in and delivered several strikes to finish the wounded ninja off. The ninja was still struggling to understand what was happening as he crumpled to the ground expiring on the floor. Subotai moved into the room cautiously and delivered a strong Katana blow to another ninja.

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Wang Shu entered the room and moved to the southwest in order to escape the silence spell. Outisde it’s area of effect the sorcerer could still speak and power his spells with verbal components. He unleashed an eruption of silent lightning underneath the ninja that was wounded by Subotai to finish him off. There was only one tengu ninja left standing in the room. But the crafty ninja removed three small eggs from somewhere in his ninja suit and hurled one at the feet of Kataashi, Subotai, and Wang Shu. The eggs were eggshell grenades and they exploded releasing a thick black smoke that stung the eyes. All 3 men coughed as they inhaled the smoke and had to fight off its effects. Wang Shu and Kataashi were unaffected by the poison but Subotai succumbed to it and collapsed on the ground paralyzed. The smoke also created a distraction such that the tengu ninja could run away from Kataashi and past Wang Shu to hide under one of the benches of weapons along the south wall.

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Wei Tai entered the room and looked carefully around, trying to spot the hidden shinobi. Wei Tai had been watching both doors and the tengu ninja had not gone through either one. Wei Tai smiled as they saw the heel of the ninja’s tabi sticking out from underneath the weapon strewn table. Wei Tai pointed and mentally called out the hiding spot to everyone via the magic of the myconid spores. Kataashi, still choking on the black smoke of the eggshell grenade, ran toward where Wei Tai was gesturing. He delivered a flying kick to the tengu ninja followed by two palm strikes. Kai Winding moved in and grabbed hold of Subotai’s feet, dragging him away from the black smoke of the eggshell grenade. She tried to wake him but found him paralyzed from the poison. Wang Shu moved away from the black smoke of the eggshell grenade and saw the tengu ninja. He struck the ninja using his Calligraphy Staff Naginata. The long blade upon the tip of the staff sliced the ninja’s belly open. He struggled to keep his innards inside himself as he expired on the ground.

Kai knew that the party could not be without their samurai if they were to survive this. So she dragged Subotai outside of the silence area and read a scroll of lesser restoration which removed the samurai’s paralysis. Wang Shu removed 2 vials of antitoxin from his pouch – giving one to Subotai and another to Kataashi. He thought that should help them deal with the ninja’s poison. A quick search of the bodies by Wei Tai uncovered 2 salvageable egg shell grenades. Wei Tai pocketed them carefully in their own ninja suit.

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Kataashi and Subotai went on either side of the door in the northern wall. Kataashi nodded and Subotai opened the door. As he did so the silence spell spilled into the room to the north. The two ninja packing backpacks in the room were covered in utter silence and quickly turned around to see a samurai charging at them. The first powerful swing of Yabakuji, cut into one of the tengu ninja just above the waist doubling him over. Subotai deftly slid the katana out and high overhead to come slicing downward and cleanly remove the ninja’s head at the neck. The head rolled across the room as the rest of the body collapsed to the ground. Not to be outdone, Kataashi Kikku ran into the room and delivered a flying kick with his leg augmetic that snapped the other ninja’s head back and sent him falling backwards. But before the ninja hit the ground Kataashi’s red glowing fists delivered two more terrible strikes with lightning crackling silently around them. The ninja was dead before he hit the ground.

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Another quick search of the bodies yielded 2 more eggshell grenades which Wei Tai added to their collection. The Master Treasure List was updated. This building was now clear. The party caught their breath and healed those that needed it. They were lucky that they were able to take out all 5 ninja without raising any sort of alarm. After reviewing their options there seemed to be only one more empty room that could be used to get out of Zendar’s Dimensional Chest and launch another surprise attack. That was in the northwest building where the senior ninja masters and Grandmaster Sho Tengu were planning. It would be a hard fought battle but the time was now to cut off the head of the snake. Wang Shu cloaked Wei Tai in invisibility once more and one by one they got into Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. Wei Tai then assumed spirit form using the spirit tea and snuck across the courtyard and into the empty kitchen of the northwest building. And one by one Wei Tai summoned each of the other party members out of the chest and into the room.

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The final preparations were made. Kai Winding cast a spell of warding bond on Wang Shu, creating a mystic bond between the two. Wang Shu’s armor class and saving throws received a +1 bonus and Wang had resistance to all damage. But each time Wang would take damage, Kai would take the same amount of damage. Again Kai prepared her ritual of silence and cast it directly on the kitchen door. When Wei Tai opened it, the silence spilled out into the greater room and bathed everything in complete quiet. Wei Tai slipped into the room and instantly targeted one of the ninja masters sitting at the table. Catching the ninja by surprise, Wei Tai hurled Shinsei Hari in a sneak attack and hurt him with deadly strikes to the chest and neck. Wei Tai then slipped away around the corner and tried to hide. Kataashi was next through the door. He sped around the far side of the room to try and get to the front door. He did not want any of the ninja to get outside and warn the others. He found a tengu ninja warrior guarding the door and launched into attacking him. With 3 awesome strikes, the ninja fell before the monk. Kataashi stood in front of the door determined to let no one escape. Subotai strode boldly into the room and went right to the table with the ninja masters. In one fluid motion he pulled Yabakuji from its scabbard and cut into the wounded ninja master with an iajitsu strike. The katana came down hard across his shoulder bloodying the ninja. Then subotai pulled it back with two hands and thrust it into the ninja’s chest. He spun backwards as he yanked the blade free with a flourish. It was a deadly strike but the ninja master was tough and refused to die. Wang Shu came in to the room and moved to the far corner where he was out of the silence spell. There he unleashed a chromatic orb of lightning that smashed into the wounded ninja master and made him fall to the ground never to move again. Two ninja were dead but 3 including Grandmaster Sho Tengu remained.

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The adage it is better to get the jump on a ninja than to let the ninja get the jump on you proved true. For although the initial assault had gone well for the party the element of surprise was now gone and the ninja masters, fighting for their lives were pulling no punches. The first thing to happen was that one of the ninja masters hurled 3 eggshell grenades. One at the feet of Subotai, Kataashi, and Wang Shu. Wang Shu instantly responded by sweeping his Calligraphy staff down and calling on the power of his Ju-Hai Shu bloodline. Wang’s staff ripped a hole in reality itself. The eggshell grenade headed for his feet was swallowed up by the hole in reality before it closed a second later sparing Wang Shu any effect from the eggshell grenade whatsoever. Subotai and Kataashi were not so lucky. The toxic smoke from the grenade exploded around them. Although each of them fought off the smoke’s poisonous narcotic sleep effect with a strong constitution, the smoke itself made it difficult for them to see. The ninja attacked using this to their advantage. Subotai stood bravely holding his katana out to keep them at bay, but he was soon surrounded by ninja masters with ninjato that were dripping with poison. Subotai managed to parry a few of their blows but several got past his guard and cut deep into his vital organs. Subotai could feel the poison working its way through his system. He convulsed with pain. He was bloodied but fought on as Grandmaster Sho Tengu stared him down with his soulless eyes. Subotai bravely tried to match the gaze of the grandmaster but found even his steely samurai resolve wavered in the face of such a menacing opponent. Subotai knew he was outmatched but fought on regardless falling to the ninjato of Sho Tengu.

Another ninja armed with a kusarigama (long monriki gusari chain attached to a kama) attacked Kataashi. The ninja lashed out the kusarigama chain and it wrapped around Kataashi’s leg. The ninja then yanked the chain and pulled Kataashi’s legs out from underneath him. The ninja was on him instantly hacking away with his kusarigama. The blows were deadly and Kataashi could feel the poison coursing through his system. Kataashi was bloodied and prone, but at least he was still conscious.

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Seeing Subotai fall and understanding the dire circumstance of Kataashi, Kai Winding knew she had to do something. Suddenly the silence that cloaked the room and made the battle seem like some sort of surreal event vanished. The sound of the kusarigamma chain rattled and everyone could hear Kataashi grunting as he struggled to free his leg from it. Everyone also heard the soft voice of Kai Winding rising in their ears. It grew in loudness and power as she cast a beacon of hope. Kai began chanting and concentrating on this new magic having to sacrifice the silence in order to bring this about . Her words filled everyone in the party with hope and vitality and maximized all healing. Kai instantly followed this up with a mass healing spell. Everyone received the maximum amount of healing possible. Subotai suddenly became conscious. Kataashi was no longer bloodied, and everyone was buoyed.

Kataashi finally freed himself from the chain of the kusarigama and performed an instant stand. He kicked out repeatedly at the ninja master and scored some nice hits. Wang Shu blasted the same ninja master with lightning magic and then retreated back. Wei Tai hit the same ninja master with kunai strikes and bloodied him. The ninjas began to close in on Kai and Wang Shu hurling eggshell grenades at everyone in the party. Again Wang Shu tore open reality to engulf the grenade thrown his way and it disappeared harmlessly before his might. But Kai was engulfed in smoke. Kai choked but was not overcome by the poisonous paralytic effects of the eggshell grenade. The ninja master was on her immediately swing with his poisoned ninjato. Kai had two of her steel fans out in a defensive position and used them to great effect shielding herself from attacks. She stepped closer to Wang Shu and out of the smoke of the grenade so that she could see better. The ninja masters were as deadly as they had thought. They were going to have to fight even harder to beat the Tengu this day.

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Wei Tai Scouts Tengu Ninja Village
Become Like the Kami with Spirit Tea

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With the battle of The WormWood complete Wang Shu busied himself with erasing all the traces of the battle that took place aboard the ship. He used his prestidigitation spell to clean up all the splattering of blood and gore upon the ship’s walls and floors. He repaired both the doors that had been smashed apart using Hankachi. All of the sailors aboard The WormWood were still unconscious from the battle that had raged across the ship. Subotai rounded them all up and dragged them into the main hold. He tied them up so that when they came round they would not be able to escape. Meanwhile Kai Winding sprinkled a pinch of salt on the dead bodies of Midori Okima, Hwang Hun, and Shiatsu Koto. She then placed a copper coin on each of their eyes. She began to chant and recite the words to a ritual that would keep their spirits at rest and prevent them rising as undead using her gentle repose spell. When she was finished Kataashi Kikku tied Midori Okima and Hwang Hun with rope and heavy stones from the catapults he found in the cargo hold of the ship. Both Midori and Hwang Hun were tossed over the side of the boat to sink to the bottom of the river and be food for the fishes. Subotai Korusu opened Zendar’s Dimensional Chest and placed the dead body of Shiatsu Koto inside for safe keeping. They did not have time to deal with his body at the moment and they did not want to run the risk of Shiatsu somehow being raised from the dead. So they kept it in Zendar’s Dimensional Chest for now. The whole party then took a much needed long 8 hour rest and healed their wounds.

When they awoke, the party tried to put together a plan to return the ship to Nagabuki and to get back to Tengu Ninja Village. Many plans were discussed but in the end Wei Tai took out his disguise kit. He already wore a very convincing disguise to make him look like a sister of Midori Okima. However, he touched it up and added an eye patch to make themselves look exactly like her. The disguise was uncanny and all were impressed by the shinobi’s skill.

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After Kai Winding performed a Lungs of Akuma ritual so they could all breathe underwater, everyone but Wei Tai jumped off the boat and swam underneath strapping themselves into the harnesses they had fashioned there. Wei Tai then went down in to the hold and found the 8 sailors awake and tied up. Wei Tai knelt beside each one and cut them free. Speaking with the voice of Midori Okima, Wei Tai convinced the sailors that the ship had been taken by the enemies they had been battling and that they were the one’s who had tied the sailors up. Wei Tai further explained that after regrouping, Shiatsu Koto had returned to the ship and destroyed the enemies retaking control of the vessel. Wei Tai commanded the sailors to get topside and sail the ship to Nagabuki. They all leaped to their feet and got busy preparing the ship to sail. Once The WormWood had passed beyond the illusory wall of foliage and was back on the main Yokini-Sawagi river, Wei Tai directed the helmsman to sail to the shore opposite the Tengu Ninja Village. Once there, the party disembarked from beneath the ship and swam to shore. Wei Tai took out 8 of the 10 bottles of the Potion of Forgetfulness that they had recently recovered. Wei Tai handed a potion bottle to each of the sailors and commanded them to drink by order of Shiatsu Koto. Each drank in turn and the memories of the past 24 hours faded away from their minds. Wei Tai then commanded the sailors to return The WormWood back to Nagabuki, their service to Shiatsu Koto fulfilled. And with that, Wei Tai leaped off the boat to land gracefully on shore.

As The WormWood sailed back to Nagabuki, the party entered the dense jungle with the idea of hiking back to Tengu Ninja village. Wei Tai spoke the command word ‘Kigae’ and the magic of Kimono Bukuro instantly switched their elegant kimono out for their ninja suit. But it was now around 8 PM and quite dark. Luckily a nearly full moon and clear night skies provided some help as the group needed to creep through the jungle. They wanted to move slowly and with stealth since they assumed there could be ninja sentries on this side of the river. Since it was so difficult for Subotai Korusu to move with stealth, he volunteered to enter Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. Kai carried the tiny box and every 8 minutes or so, she would enlarge it, open it, and summon Subotai so that he could breathe for a bit. Wei Tai could see quite well with his darkvision so he led the way. About 100 feet back Kai, Kataashi, and Wang Shu made their way carefully through the jungle. In order to communicate, Wei Tai and Kai had both eaten the Telepathy Spores gifted to them by Grandfather Basidio.

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Wei Tai crept through the jungle and suddenly froze. They looked up and saw the slightest bit of movement about 40 feet up in the canopy of a nearby tree. Nestled in the branches, Wei Tai saw a camouflaged blind had been built and a sole ninja sentry was perched up there on guard. Wei Tai spoke through their mind to Kai warning the rest of the party to stop and listen. Wei Tai slowly eased Shinsei Hari out of their bandolier and wrapped his cold fingers around the kunai’s cold steel. Then suddenly they hurled the weapon up to strike the tengu ninja with deadly force. The magic of Shinsei Hari returned the kunai to Wei Tai’s hand for 2 additional attacks. Kataashi Kikku moved swiftly up to support and amazingly did not trip on any of the jungle branches hidden in the dim light. But by the time he got there, Wei Tai had hurled Shinsei Hari 3 more times and the ninja sentry was dead. Kinzoku, Kataashi’s tsukumogami flying snake emerged from his pants and flew up into the trees to investigate using its darkvision. The metallic flying snake returned to Kataashi and told him that the ninja was dead and that the only other thing up in the blind was a signalling lantern that had not been used.

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The party continued through the jungle and after an hour were very close to the point where if they crossed the river they would be at Tengu Ninja Clan village. But suddenly the forest floor erupted and a ninja leaped out of a pit covered with leaves to attack Wei Tai. The ninja was brandishing a ninjato coated with a slimy green liquid. Two deadly slashes cut into Wei Tai. They were hurt but the poison seemed to have no effect against their undead nature. The ninja pressed the attack with 2 more strikes as Kataashi moved swiftly up to lend his aid. Wei Tai finally regained their composure and disengaged taking a step or two backwards while unleashing a flurry of kunai strikes. The ninja was hit by a couple but they did not have their typical stopping power due to a lack of a sneak attack. Kataashi had a hard time seeing, but Kinzoku helped by causing the ninja harm with a sacred flame spell. Seeing where the target was now allowed Kataashi to flank and Wei Tai moved in with his katana to sneak attack and deliver the killing blow.

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The party swam across the river using Kai’s lungs of akuma ritual to be underwater and unseen the entire time. They made their way into the hidden boat Kai had found previously just to the north of the Tengu Ninja village gate. There they hid and prepared for the next phase of the mission. Wang Shu dried everyone’s clothes and bodies using his prestidigitation spell. Kai took out a small tea cup and dipped it into the stream. Wang Shu used his prestidigitation spell again to heat the water and Kai sprinkled some tea leaves into the cup. Kai put the cup to her nose and inhaled deeply savoring the aroma of the freshly brewed cup of tea. She then began to wave her hand over the tea cup and softly speak words of power.

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When the spirit tea ritual was completed she handed the tea to Wei Tai and said, ‘Drink this tea to be like the kami and float through the village in the border ethereal like a ghost.’ Before Wei Tai drank the tea, Kai and Wei Tai both ate more telepathy spores as the 1 hour duration had run out. There were 8 uses of the myconid spores left. Wang Shu cast a spell of invisibility upon Wei Tai and finally Wei Tai drank the hot tea. They felt the hot liquid pour down their throat and take effect. Wei Tai’s body faded like a ghost. They could float in any direction and pass directly through solid objects. The ninja left the hidden boat, crossed the shore, and like a ghost passed right through the large wooden palisade and into the compound of Tengu Ninja Village. The dense thorny brush was like an illusion to Wei Tai as they passed harmlessly through that as well without even stirring any of the brambles. Wei Tai emerged on the other side adjacent to the wooden walls of the first building.

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Wei Tai carefully pushed his head through the wall and looked inside. He found the room to be well lit, unlike the total darkness outside. There was a ninja standing in front of a large pile of crates and barrels on the far side of the room. He was packing a large back pack full of supplies from the barrels. Two other ninjas were standing on either side of a large work bench. One was mixing what looked like some sort of liquid poison. The other was filling an eggshell grenade with black powder. The work bench was covered with oils, herbs, tools, and charcoal burners. In the corner of the room was a beautiful well manicured bonsai tree on a pedestal. Wei Tai telepathically communicated this information to Kai Winding.

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Wei Tai then moved south across the courtyard to another building. Under the thick canopy of the trees, the ninja village had been shadowy during the day when Kai had scouted it. But now at night, the moonlight was completely cut off and it was completely dark outside the buildings. Wei Tai used their darkvision to see just fine but telepathically warned Kai that everyone else would struggle to see anything at all. Everything was eerily quiet. Just to the left of the northern door to the building Wei Tai stopped and stared up into a smaller tree. A ninja sentry was tucked away up in the tree looking to ambush intruders. Wei Tai took note and phased through the wall of the building. Inside was a large table with 12 place settings. The remains of a large meal were still evident on the table. On the far side of the room sitting on a tatami mat against the wall were the 3 metal chests brought here by Shiatsu Koto. Two ninjas were flanking the chests obviously guarding them. Two side rooms were unoccupied bedrooms. There was also another door leading into the building on the western side of the south wall.

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Wei Tai then moved to the southwest most building and phased through its wall. Inside they found two ninja packing large backpacks from barrels on one side of the room. On the other side of the room was a wooden dais with a beautiful katana and wakizashi set on display. There was also a door in the south wall. Wei Tai phased through the south wall and saw a large room with tatami mats spread out over the floor. The south wall had two large wooden tables covered with melee weapons. There were ninjato, katana, wakizashi, axes, daggers, knives, kama, chains, monriki-gusari, etc. Two ninja were clad in armor and sparring against one another with ninjato. A third ninja was looking on and offering advice on fighting technique. There was a door in the western wall.

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Wei Tai moved north towards the last building. Crossing the courtyard they stopped and stared to the west by the western gate to the village. Wei Tai saw a ninja hidden in some of the thick thorny foliage on one side of the gate and another in the foliage of the other side of the gate. Both sentries were very well concealed. Wei Tai made a mental note and passed the information back to Kai.

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Wei Tai closed in on the last building and passed through it’s outer walls. Inside he found 4 ninja sitting at a table on the eastern side of the room. The table was covered with maps and documents. Wei Tai locked eyes with one of the ninjas and his heart – if he had one – skipped a beat. Wei Tai instantly recognized those eyes. Those hate filled eyes were none other than those of Grandmaster Sho Tengu. Many bad memories from their former selves flooded back into Wei Tai’s mind. Judging from the way they were talking with Sho Tengu, the other 3 ninjas sitting with him were senior Tengu Shinobi. Wei Tai did not linger but carefully moved on through the building. The main entrance from the village courtyard was guarded by another ninja. There was a large table on the eastern side of the room with many scroll tubes and calligraphy laden maps and documents. There were two doors in the northern wall. One door led to a kitchen with a table and chairs. It was currently unoccupied. The other door led to a bedroom which was also unoccupied. Inside this room was a large standing wardrobe. Wei Tai stuck his head inside the wardrobe and looked around with his darkvision. They saw a full myriad of clothes including Ikari and Imperial guard uniforms, commoner guard, elegant expensive noble kimonos, Gensoso White Crane Monks robes, and of course ninja suits. There was also another door to the north which led outside.

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Wei Tai phased through the door to the north and found themselves in a quiet outside grove with a cobblestone path leading to a shrine under a huge wooden Torii arch. Wei Tai moved carefully across the grounds towards the shrine and found several pressure plate traps along the cobblestone walkway that would trigger poisoned crossbow bolts to fire from heavy crossbows hidden in the thick foliage. Wei Tai also spotted a tengu ninja sentry hidden on top of the arch. The shrine was made from wood and brass and depicted the faces of the Tengu Clan ancestors. Kai urged Wei Tai to remove the traps and see about unlocking the door. Wei Tai concentrated and they faded back from the border ethereal to the prime material plane. Their feet sunk into the earth as their form was solid once more. Now able to interact with the world, Wei Tai set about to carefully disarm all of the traps and unlock the door leading into the building. They also found a poison needle trap in the door’s lock which was removed.

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Wei Tai then concentrated on being like the Kami once more. The power of the spirit tea faded their body away to the border ethereal. Wei Tai then phased through the walls of the building to move back towards the center of the village. There was a tense moment when passing through the open room, Grandmaster Sho Tengu seemed to look right at Wei Tai. But nothing seemed to come of it. At Kai’s urging, Wei Tai moved back to the building that held the 3 metal chests and two ninja guards. Wei Tai found the back door was relatively secluded, they found it was locked but a short while later Wei Tai successfully picked the lock. The plan was to perhaps hit this building first and try to maintain the element of surprise. It would be difficult but a plan was taking shape.

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Shiatsu Koto Demise

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Wang Shu had just turned Wei Tai and Kataashi Kikku invisible in hopes of them getting the jump on Shiatsu Koto below in the hold. Kataashi went first and slowly crept down the stairs. He saw the door at the bottom right had finally been forced open past the shiranto sap. Kataashi peaked inside to see a galley with some meat still sizzling away in a wok over burning charcoal and dirty utensils left on the cutting board. In the hold of the ship, Kataashi saw two sailors providing a line of defense for Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima. One sailor held a broadsword and the other wore an apron and held a large meat cleaver. Both looked very nervous. All eyes were at the bottom of the stairs where he was standing. Kataashi tentatively moved closer and there was no reaction. Wang’s invisibility was working. Kataashi spied the light coming through the wooden latticework of the hull’s opening some 20 feet overhead. Kataashi crouched down and then leaped up 20 feet into the air over the heads of the two sailors to grab hold of the wooden lattice. He then moved hand over hand along the lattice until he was directly behind Midori Okima. He then let go and dropped down to the floor instantly going back into a crouch to absorb the landing. He made no discernible noise and still remained hidden.

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Wei Tai also silently descended the stairs. He looked around and did not see Kataashi which was a good sign. He hid behind the door to the galley and kept an eye on Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima. He twirled Shinsei Hari in his bony hand waiting until he saw Kataashi to strike.

Subotai Korusu knew that Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima were prepared and ready to unleash hell upon anyone who stepped into the room below. Kataashi and Wei Tai were cloaked in Wang Shu’s invisibility and avoided their wrath. Subotai had no such wards. But he was not afraid. He called upon his ancestors for protection as he cast a shield of faith. Then he drew forth Yabakuji, set his jaw, and calmly moved down the stairs and into the room. Sure enough Shiatsu Koto opened his upheld fist and 3 scorching rays blasted out of his palm. Subotai ducked under the first ray, the second careened off his shield of faith, but the third struck the samurai, burning him badly and blackening his Tosei Gosoku armor. Subotai staggered for a moment as the pain of the attack coursed through his body. But the Monkey Fist Knot tied to his armor began to glow and the damage to the armor faded away. As the Clan Korusu insignia upon his family armor brightened, Subotai’s steps grew more confident propelling him once again towards the two sailors blocking his path towards his ultimate goal – Shiatsu Koto. Midori Okima closed her upheld hand into a fist and Subotai felt all his strength leave his body. He suddenly could not move. But the samurai refused to submit to the woman’s dark magics. He narrowed his eyes and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. And soon he broke through the yoke of her magic until he stood directly in front of the two trembling sailors. Subotai calmly spoke to the sailors, ‘Surrender – my fight is not with you. It is with them.’ He gestured towards Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima.

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The two sailors trembled and looked at each other with great fear and trepidation. The broadsword and meat cleaver shook hesitantly in their hands before the mighty samurai. Midori Okima yelled at them to attack or she would flay their skin from their bones. Fear of Midori trumped fear of Subotai and they attacked. Subotai deftly parried the broadsword and caught the wrist of the sailor swinging the meat cleaver and shoved him backwards.

Wang Shu ran down the stairs and into the room unleashing a blast of magic directed at Midori Okima. Wang then wisely moved through the door to the south to get out of harms way. Kai followed suit and emerged only briefly to assess the situation and then ducked back behind the wall. Finally the time was right for Kataashi to strike. And strike he did. With advantage from his invisibility he caught Midori completely unprepared for his attack. He unleashed a powerful roundhouse kick to the midsection of Midori Okima doubling her over and then followed it up with an elbow smash to the back of her head. Lightning from Kataashi’s Stance of the Furious Storm crackled through Midori’s body. In response, Midori looked up at Kataashi sliding her eye patch to the side and revealing an empty eye socket with a pulsing black orb of energy where an eye should be. The energy flew out of Midori’s eye socket and enveloped Kataashi doing necrotic damage to him. Wei Tai saw this attack and finally unleashed his Shinsei Hari attack upon Midori. The kunai struck true and delivered some crippling damage that bloodied the woman.

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Shiatsu Koto moved swiftly in response to close with Kataashi. He said with a fierce sneer, ‘I banish you to the 11 hells!’. In one deft and blindly fast movement, Shiatsu unsheathed the tai chi sword at his back and struck Kataashi who simply vanished. Shiatsu then calmly moved back in front of Midori and held his sword out pointing to Subotai as if challenging him to come any closer. Subotai nodded towards Shiatsu and said calmly to the still shaking sailors in front of him, ‘I warned you..’ and suddenly drove the hilt of Yabakuji into the face of the broadsword wielding sailor who collapsed in a heap in front of him knocked unconscious. Subotai then grabbed the cleaver wielding sailor by the apron and pulled his head down towards his fast approaching knee. The samurai’s knee smashed into the face of the sailor knocking him out as well. Subotai calmly advanced on Shiatsu Koto, moved adjacent to him, and circled around him to threaten Midori as well.

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Wei Tai hurled kunai at Midori and the bloodied woman looked as if she was about to collapse but a death ward spell she had laid upon herself went off and she was kept alive. Knowing he could take out Midori with a well placed spell, Wang Shu came out and unleashed his magic. But with a wave of his hand Shiatsu Koto cast counterspell and unraveled Wang Shu’s magic much to his dismay. Midori Okima brought her hand to her left breast and gently traced the outline of her elaborate tattoo with her fingers across her skin. A wave of pleasure washed over Midori’s face as the magic in the tattoo flared to life healing enough of her wounds to bring her back from the brink of falling unconscious. But then something unexpected happened. Kataashi’s tsukumogami flying snake Kinzoku, slithered out into the room and cast a spell of sleep. In her still weakened bloody state, Midori could not resist it’s power and she collapsed to the floor asleep.

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Shiatsu Koto shook his head and spoke but a word. The power of the word surprised Subotai and ran through him like nothing he had felt before. It left him reeling, stunned, and unable to act. Kai Winding knew she had to do something or Subotai would be cut down by Shiatsu. So she pulled out her two steel fans and ran up to close with Shiatsu Koto. In one motion she flipped open both fans – one in front of her face and the other in front of her chest – and she assumed a defensive stance hoping to draw Shiatsu away from the vulnerable samurai. Wei Tai hurled Shinsei Hari again and the Oni forged weapon was knocked away by Shiatsu. But it reapered in Wei Tai’s bony hand and he hurled it again and again. It drew blood and hurt Shiatsu. Wang Shu followed up and hit Shiatsu with a powerful ball of thunder. Kinzoku tried to ignite Shiatsu with a sacred flame, but the spell was resisted.

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Shiatsu Koto snarled with rage raising his sword above his head which burst into flame. He then jammed the sword into the ground and spun around unleashing a circular column of flame against all around him. Kai, Subotai, and Midori Okima all took fire damage. The damage woke Midori Okima from her slumber. She stood up and unleashed a slow spell on the party. The only one who failed to resist the magic was Wei Tai who started moving in slow motion able to get off only 1 attack and do nothing else.

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Subotai saw Kai standing bravely alone against their enemies and summoned all the strength of his ancestors to come to her aid. He finally found his focus and sprung into action, overcoming the stunning effect of the power word. With two deft swings of his Katana, he cut down Midori and she fell beneath his sword. When she fell, her concentration on the slow spell was broken and Wei Tai was able to function normally again. Shiatsu Koto moved to Midori’s side. He crouched down beside her, cradling her limp body in his arms. Shiatsu put his hand gently on her right breast. His fingers traced the tattoo around the curves of her skin and its magic flared to life. Midori suddenly gasped in a big gulp of air into her lungs as she regained consciousness and looked into Shiatu’s eyes thankfully.

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A portal of fire and brimstone suddenly opened directly above where Subotai was standing and a broken form fell down out of the portal. It careened limply off Subotai and rolled to the floor still. It was the broken body of Kataashi Kikku. He had been hurtling through the 11 Hells and seen things no man should see. His body was burned and torn and he lay bleeding to death on the floor. His will to fight was ebbing away and even casting aside his dignity to unleash the pure hatred of his haitoku could not overcome his wounds.

Midori Okima stood up and flipped open her eye patch. An orb of black energy pulsed in her empty eye socket which hurtled out to envelope Subotai. The necrotic energy hurt the samurai. Shiatsu Koto then stepped up and began a dance of death with Subotai. The two clashed steel on steel. The strength and power of Subotai’s katana versus the speed and precision of Shiatsu’s Tai Chi sword. Shiatsu somehow passed the samurai’s guard and cut a fine line across his neck – blood poured out of the now gaping wound and Subotai sunk to his knees bleeding to death on the floor. Kai gazed in horror as Subotai’s life blood pooled before her as Shiatsu Koto pivoted around and stabbed between her fans right into her neck piercing clean through and out the other side. Kai began to cough blood as she sunk to her knees bleeding to death on the floor.

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Wang Shu swallowed hard. He and Wei Tai were the only ones left against both Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima. Their friends lay bleeding on the deck. Wei Tai moved behind the door and disappeared from view. Then they unleashed a torrent of kunai attacks with Shinsei Hari upon Shitasu Koto. Shiatsu managed to cut one of the attacks right out of the air but two of them got through and hurt Shiatsu badly. Wang Shu knew he had to step up big. He focused his magic and unleashed a powerful thunder spell that caught Shiatsu Koto in his chest and collapsed his lungs. Shiatsu fell to his knees and then completely to the ground with his sword clattering to the ground beside him.

Midori Okima screamed and ran to the side of the fallen Shiatsu Koto. In her rage she unleashed the necrotic energy of her empty eye against Wei Tai. Kataashi’s tsukumogami Kinzoku targeted her with a sleep spell and Midori could not resist its magic. She fell to the floor beside Shiatsu in a deep slumber. Wei Tai ran up to Midori and thrust Shinsei Hari right through her eye socket and into her brain in a coup de grace. Wang Shu fed a healing potion to his fallen comrades and brought them back to consciousness.

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A strange calm befell The WormWood in the aftermath of the battle. Subotai Korusu looked ruefully upon the exposed form of Wei Tai. He drew Yabakuji and called on his ancestors to reveal the true nature of those around him. Both Wei Tai and Shiatsu Koto suddenly smelled of a noxious odor indicating strong evil. But when gazing upon Wei Tai, Subotai also heard heavenly music indicating powerful good. Subotai was confused but one thing was very clear. Shiatsu Koto was some sort of fiend and Wei Tai was undead. Subotai pointed his katana at Wei Tai and said, ‘Wei Tai, your difficult story of your previous selves and their cruel fates makes sense to me now. You are necroji. And although your kind is hated by Soburi you have my respect and fellowship. But we are to meet with the court tomorrow and I worry they will not be as accepting as I, tell me are you able to put your face back on?’.

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There was a slight pause and then Wei Tai erupted in loud somewhat diabolical laughter. Every member of the party looked nervously between the confused samurai and laughing necroji. Finally Wei Tai ceased his laughing and said, ‘Of course, we are shinobi and we are ninja. We can make our self look like anyone or anything. And it is time for a change.’ Wei Tai then proceeded to use their disguise kit to cover their bones with a skin like putty. They cut Midori Okima’s hair from her head and gathered it up expertly and tied it together into a wig which was then put over their head. Wei Tai slipped Midori’s kimono off her body and donned it their self. A few more quick adjustments of make up and then in less than 1 minute of total time, Wei Tai looked like an entirely new person. They looked almost like Midori. Almost like a sister perhaps. They could even pass for her if you didn’t look too closely. They flicked open a fan in front of their face demurely and said in a soft female voice, ‘We will choose to look like this… for now…’

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Subotai gestured to the body of Shiatsu Koto bleeding to death on floor. ‘What do we do with this one? I would tie him up and take him prisoner but I worry he would simply teleport away with his demon magics should he regain consciousness.’

Kai responded, ‘Koto is far too crafty and resourceful he must be destroyed.’

Subotai replied, ‘My bushido code prevents me from doing further harm to a defenseless man. It would not be honorable.’

Wei Tai replied, ‘I have no honor I can put him down.’

Kai put up her hand and said, ‘No Wei Tai. That is not true. You have proven to us that you are honorable.’

Kataashi moved up and crouched down beside Shiatsu Koto. He grabbed Koto by his long luxurious black hair and lifted his head up. Kataashi drew a bone handled knife and put it to Shiatsu’s neck. He then looked to Kai. Kai nodded silently. Kataashi drew the knife across Shiatsu’s neck and ended his life.

The party completed a thorough search of The WormWood with Kai Winding using her detect magic ritual. Kai winding used her spare the dying spell and in fact all 8 of the original sailors survived. So there were no dead sailors. Only Shiatsu and his 3 companions were dead. The ship contained a lot of food, barrels of water, salted fish, some ballistas, some weapons, and some minor trade goods.A total of 35 GP, 22 SP, and 15 CP were found between the persons of Shiatsu Koto and Midori Okima. A magical potion was found on Shiatsu Koto’s person. A small wooden chest in Shiatsu Koto’s forecastle room contained 10 potion bottles that radiated magic. Wang Shu later determined the the potions to be Perfume of Bewitching from Shiatsu’s person which Wang Shu took and 10 Potions of Forgetfulness. The Master Treasure List was updated.

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There were several documents of interest in Shiatu Koto’s room of the forecastle:

1. The Official Ikari Deed of Ownership for The WormWood vessel is in the name of Lord Isa Barto.

2. There is a letter written by Lord Isa Barto to Shiatsu Koto that references Shiatsu using forged travel papers (that you “recovered” from Magistrate Lo Ban’s office at Torii Gate) and to use his cover as a representative of the Jade Workers Guild to travel to Satsujin prefecture.

3. There is another letter to Shiatsu Koto from Lord Isa Barto that orders Shiatsu to come to Barto’s estate in Nagabuki and safely escort the 3 Iron Chests of Gold to Barto’s personal sailing vessel, The WormWood. The crew has orders to follow Shiatsu Koto’s instructions to the letter and ask no questions. They know none of the details of the events to come and Shiatsu Koto is ordered to keep them in the dark as to any details. Shiatsu Koto is commanded to direct them to sail to the Tengu Ninja Village where the 3 chests of gold will be used to secure the Tengu’s services. Shiatsu Koto is instructed to order the sailors to drink the potions of forgetfulness after they have passed through the illusory terrain back to the main Yokini Sawagi River. The potions will cause the sailors to lose the last 24 hours of their memory so they will forget the secret entrance to the Tengu River and any details they might have inadvertently learned of the plan.

4. There is a document signed by Shiatsu Koto and Grandmaster Sho Tengu. It describes hiring the services of 3 ninja masters and 5 Tengu Ninja. The sum of 750 imperial gold coins is documented as a deposit for their services. The ninja are to travel secretly and individually as soon as possible using forged papers to Satsujin prefecture where they will regroup and use the provided map to infiltrate a death crow outpost and gather as much intel as possible through whatever means possible and brief Shiatsu Koto when he arrives later.

The party assessed the timing of events. It was currently noon. It would take 1 hour to return to Nagabuki (if the sailors sail The WormWood). It would take 10 minutes to sail back to the Ninja Village (if the sailors sail The WormWood). The meeting with Lady Wuguan Ikari was the next day at noon. The meeting with Shiatsu Koto to begin the journey to Satsujin prefecture was at dawn the following day (after the meeting with Lady Wuguan).

View
The Battle of The WormWood
Wei Tai Revelation

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Having located Shiatsu Koto, the time to strike was now. Everyone used stealth to sneak below decks and move to the stairs leading up to Shiatsu Koto’s room in the forecastle. Kataashi Kikku whistled softly and Kin, his leg augmetic flying snake tsukumogami, detached itself from his leg and coiled itself around the monk’s arm. There were two doors nearby. Wang Shu gave Wei Tai his last two vials of shiranto sap. The ninja crept up to both doors and carefully applied 1 vial to each door in an effort to maximize the difficulty in opening the door. If there were people on the other side of the doors, Wang Shu hoped the application of sap would at least slow them down.

Wei Tai was first to act, sneaking up the stairs to surprise Shiatsu Koto in his bed. Shinsei Hari flew out from Wei Tai’s outstretched hand and sank deep into Shiatsu’s shoulder. Shiatsu grabbed for the kunai as he cried out in surprise and pain, but the enchanted weapon had already vanished and reappeared in Wei Tai’s hand. The ninja hurled it twice more into Shiatsu Koto. He then moved back down the stairs and out of the way for someone else to get through. Subotai did a double move to run up the stairs and move to a flanking position on Shiatsu. As he rounded the corner of the room around the large mast that went through the ship, he saw the rest of the room and spied Hwang Hun standing in the far corner. So Subotai positioned himself between Hwang Hun and Shiatsu so that neither could aid each other and neither could get past him. Knowing he had to hold the line he cast a shield of faith spell to gird his defenses.

Wang Shu ran up the stairs and unleashed a lightning lure spell to try and pull Shiatsu Koto out of his bed and on to the floor. But Shiatsu Koto made his save and resisted the magic. Kataashi Kikku moved up the stairs and got into a position directly south of Shiatsu Koto, Kin slithered off Kataashi’s arm and moved to a flanking position opposite the monk. Kataashi then reached out and grabbed Shiatsu’s sword from it’s scabbard on his back. The monk then hurled the long thin tai chi blade down the stairs. Kataashi then proceeded to unleash a flurry of blows and pound into Shiatsu Koto. As his fists smashed into Shiatsu, Kataashi noticed some sort of magic was protecting him. It felt as if he were striking a wall of iron and not human flesh. His advanced Kung Fu technique also included the crackle of electricity with each strike. The lightning damage seemed to hurt Shiatsu Koto fully but the bludgeoning strikes of Kataashi’s fists and feet seemed to be limited to half damage.

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Kai Winding was last up the stairs and passed Wei Tai on her way up. She entered the room and cast a bless spell on Kataashi, Wei Tai, and Wang Shu. With the surprise round finished Shiatsu Koto was finally able to react. He still lied on the bed arms folded over his chest. Despite having been hit by numerous Kunai strikes and pummeled by Kataashi, Shiatsu’s hair and clothes seemed to still be perfectly in place and he did not seem to be in any pain or distress. Weaponless, cut off from his bodyguard, and surrounded by foes Shiatsu continued to lay on the bed, smiled, and calmly spoke, ‘Kai Winding? You’re a little early for our jaunt to Satsujin. Such a shame… Waru Kitsune warned me about you. I was hoping the fact that you were a Kuren would not necessarily mean you are a Death Crow. It seems Lord Benton Satsujin is craftier than anticipated… Well played… I did not think we would meet opposition before even leaving Nagabuki.’ The smile slowly drained away leaving Shiatu’s face darker and more sinister. In a slower and deeper voice he continued, ‘You are all making a terrible mistake. You don’t know who you are dealing with. You will tell me your secrets… all of your secrets…’

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Suddenly Shiatsu teleported past everyone surrounding him to the top of the stairs. He crouched down picked up his sword and with a flourish sheathed it on his back in it’s scabbard. He then spoke the spidery words of magic and gestured with his hands casting the spell infernal mindfire. He coiled his hands and released them outwards pouring forth black fire that did nothing to the surrounding wood of the ship but seemed to burn the mind. Everyone reeled and their heads exploded with psychic damage. But Kataashi Kikku and Wei Tai had it even worse because they failed their charisma saving throws and took additional fire damage as they literally burst into flame. Kataashi’s pants and shirt had burned away leaving him fighting in his loincloth, his leg augmetic in full view. Wei Tai’s straw hat, battle mask, and the putty forming his face’s disguise burned away revealing his true nature. Wei Tai’s face was a skull etched with magical runes. The eye sockets burned red with the glow of undeath. The rest of his body was also bones, fused together by metal wire and gears – a mechanical undead creature. Everyone recognized him as a Necroji, an undead race created by the Ropaeo on their continent across the great divide. They are crafted by taking the bones of 9 different humans and wiring them together with steel and animating the collection of bones using powerful necromantic rituals.

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Shiatsu Koto cursed Wei Tai as a filthy necroji and admonished Kai Winding for keeping such horrible company. Wei Tai responded by hurling Shinsei Hari at Shiatsu’s face. Shiatsu Koto caught the kunai in his hand right in front of his face. But before he could hurl it back at the ninja it disappeared from his hand and reappeared in Wei Tai’s hand to be hurled again. The second and third strikes hit true and hurt Shiatsu Koto. Wei Tai wisely withdrew as he was bloodied and barely standing. Wei Tai moved down the to the bottom of the stairs away from Shiatsu Koto. Wei Tai heard the two nearby doors trying to be opened but staying closed thanks to the application of shiranto sap. But suddenly the door farther away exploded into splinters that flew across the room and Yorimoto Yusuke moved around the corner to close adjacent to Wei Tai. Not far behind him was Midori Okima who cast healing magics upon Shiatsu Koto.

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Hwang Hun hefted his huge Tetsubo. The great club smashed down into Subotai. The blows were powered with such strength that Subotai had never felt the likes of before. It rattled his bones through his Tosei Gosoku armor leaving Subotai bloodied. The brave samurai returned the favor and unleashed two powerful swings with Yabakuji. The first included an iajitsu strike and empowered ancestral smite. The second strike another empowered ancestral smite. The keen blade cut down in a wide arc slicing through the armor of Hwang Hun and finding the flesh beneath. Two gaping wounds in the giant man streamed forth with gushing rivulets of blood.

Kataashi, frustrated with Shiatsu Koto being healed and having some sort of resistance to his attacks, shook his head and pressed the attack against him anyway. Kataashi leaped up and kicked his leg up into the air and brought it down hard on top of Shiatsu Koto’s head with an axe kick. The blow smashed open a cut on Shitasu’s forehead and blood began to stream down his handsome face. Kataashi’s kick was so fierce that it left Shiatsu Koto stunned. Kataashi followed up with a flurry of blows unleashing punch after powerful punch against the defenseless Shiatsu Koto. Kataashi’s final punch would have knocked Shiatsu Koto down but some sort of magic effect went off and it kept Shiatsu Koto standing.

Kai Winding cast a spell that bathed the entire party in powerful healing magics. And she moved to a position on Shiatsu’s bed as if to mock him. Shiatsu Koto struggled to react and make her pay for such insolence but he could not move. Such was the power of the spitting monk’s stunning kick.

Wang Shu saw his chance against the defenseless enemy. Wang drew his hands into his chest and began to move them back and forth as if he were caressing the air into some sort of ball. Sparks began to crackle around the Ju-Hai Shu Bloodline Sorcerer’s hands forming a ball of lightning between them. Wang Shu hurled the ball of lightning and it smashed into Shiatsu Koto who’s burnt and blackened body crumpled and rolled unconscious down the stairs.

Yorimoto Yusuke then faded into some sort of transparent ghost like state and moved through Wei Tai and Kataashi as if they were not even there. Kataashi took an opportunity attack that went right through Yorimoto. Wei Tai saw Midori Okima grab a hold of Shiatsu Koto’s body and drag it away around the corner. He also heard some sailors running up from below decks to help. Wei Tai moved up to close in and flank Yorimoto Yusuke. Having seen what happened with Kataashi’s attack going right through the transparent Yorimoto Yusuke as if he weren’t even there, Wei Tai readied a kunai strike for when Yorimoto looked more solid.

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Subotai and Hwang Hun continued to trade mighty blows. They were completely pounding on each other until Hwang Hun let out a bellowing shout that shook the very ship itself. The force of the yell sent Subotai sprawling backwards and knocked him prone. Kataashi stepped up to attack Hwang Hun figuring his strikes would do nothing against the ghost like Yorimoto. Wang Shu heard Midori Okima screaming at the sailors to go up the stairs and attack the intruders. One of them ran boldly up the stairs brandishing a broadsword only to see the epic battle unfolding before him and have his courage waver.

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Wang Shu swung his mighty calligraphy staff. The naginata cut clean through the sailors neck and his headless body rolled down the stairs. Subotai leaped up off the ground and swung Yabakuji in a wide arc towards the head of Hwang Hun. The huge man brought his tetsubo up to parry the Katana, but Subotai stopped the swing short, pulled his hands back to his face, and thrust it forward into Hwang Hun’s face. The keen Katana blade sunk deep right between Hwang Hun’s eyes. With a triumphant flourish Subotai twisted Yabakuji free releasing a shower of gore to splatter upon the wall. Hwang Hun went rigid and then fell to the ground as if in slow motion landing on the ground with a crash.

Yorimoto Yusuke suddenly solidified holding his pipe in one hand and his Katana in the other. Wei Tai took the opportunity to release their kunai. Shinsei Hari was cut out of the air by Yomrimoto’s katana, but the second attack found purchase. The sneak attack seemed to damage Yorimoto greatly but he did not cry out or make any noise at all. Instead he took a long drag on his pipe and then exhaled his black smoke in a large magical cloud that enveloped everyone in the room including one of the sailors who had run up to fight under Midori Okima’s urging.

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The sailor’s eyes turned black and he died instantly. Each member of the party felt necrotic energy flow through the smoke and into them causing great pain. Each had to make a constitution saving throw. Those who failed included Kataashi, Kai, and Subotai. The three of them felt the black smoke work its way into their eyes causing them to go blind.Yorimoto Yusuke followed up his pipe attack with a swing of his Katana that cut deep into the blind Kataashi who was unable to dodge the attack. Subotai and Kataashi had a hard time hitting what they could not see and Kai cruelly realized the only answer she had to blindness was a priest scroll of restoration that she could not read while blind. Wei Tai continued to riddle Yorimoto with kunai strikes and Wang Shu unleashed a lightning orb only to find out much to his dismay that Yorimoto Yusuke was immune to lightning damage. Yorimoto put his pipe in his mouth and held his Katana with two hands. One quick strike cut down Subotai and another cut down Kataashi. Both lay bleeding to death on the floor.

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In desperation Kai winding reached blindly down to the floor and was able to find the body of Subotai lying next to her. She cast her last healing spell upon the samurai. Subotai then poured all of the healing powers of his Korusu ancestors into himself. Wang Shu poured a healing potion down Kataashi’s throat. A moment later Wei Tai was cut down by two viscous strokes of Yorimoto Yusuke’s katana. Things were looking very grim until suddenly the blindness faded and everyone could see once more.

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Kataashi leaped up and did a flying kick with his leg augmetic to severely damage Yorimoto. Wang Shu smashed Yorimoto with his calligraphy staff staggering him. Subotai rose up behind Yorimoto Yusuke and brought down a powerful smite upon him with Yabakuji. Subotai then thrust the blade forward and drove it clean through Yorimoto Yusuke erupting out of his chest. Surprisingly there was no blood, only black smoke wafting out of the gaping hole left in his chest. Subotai pulled the katana free and Yorimoto Yusuke sunk to his knees, dropped his katana to clatter on the ground, and his pipe fell from his mouth. When the pipe hit the ground Yorimoto Yusuke’s body suddenly crusted over as if it were burnt and charred. Then the body turned to ash and fell away to scatter across the floor.

Wang Shu poured a potion of healing down Wei Tai’s undead skull head. The young sorcerer looked at Kai Winding and said, ‘Something about feeding a healing potion to an undead feels very strange and wrong.’ Kai shrugged and drank one of her own healing potions, divvying up some of the small elixirs and making sure everyone drank them to get as healed as possible. A few more sailors came running up to fight following the orders of Midori Okima. Each one looked terrified as they saw the destruction at he top of the stairs and was quickly dispatched by Kataashi and Wang Shu. Kataashi managed to run down the stairs and sneak a peak around the corner to see that Shiatsu Koto was back on his feet and looking quite well after multiple healing spells from Midori Okima.

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Kataashi ran back up stairs and informed everyone about what he had seen. Kai Winding was completely out of spells but she yelled confidently down the stairs, ‘Give it up Shiatsu, we have killed your friends. It is time for you to surrender.’ Shiatsu laughed and replied in a mocking tone, ‘I give up, Kai, come on down here and accept my surrender.’ Kai replied with some foul cursing and expletives. Wang Shu smiled slyly and said, ‘I have an idea for how to break this stalemate and gain the upper hand.’ He clapped his hands together and cast a twinned invisibility spell on Kataashi and Wei Tai. Both of them vanished as the party prepared to launch a final assault against Shiatsu Koto.

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View
A Birds Eye View of Tengu Ninja Village
Divide and Conquer

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Having just watched Shiatsu Koto and his entourage disembark from the ship called The WormWood with 3 heavy looking metal chests in tow, the party swam underwater breathing easy thanks to Kai Winding’s Lungs of Akuma spell. They had to fight the current but Wang Shu wanted them to get clear of the entrance to the north so that they could come to shore without being seen by any Tengu Ninja Clan sentries or guards.

Everyone did well battling the current except for Kataashi who needed a little help from Wang Shu to make the swim. As everyone swam north, Wei Tai simply plodded along the bottom of the river, walking as if they were on dry land. Wei Tai slithered up on shore carefully looking about to be mindful of sentries. Seeing none, he snuck up to the wall of thick foliage. It was a thick bramble of thorns and impassable brush – almost like a living wall some 30 feet high. Kai poked her head out of the water and looked very carefully around. She noticed a wooden beam of some sort of structure protruding above the brambles at a height of about 40 or 50 feet but below the main tree canopy which was about 100 feet above. Kai also spotted a row boat with oars well hidden along the shore by branches to make the boat look like a giant bush. She began casting a ritual of detect magic.

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The group discussed ideas for getting into the ninja village and seeing what was happening. One idea was to turn Kataashi invisible and have him leap up to the structure peaking out over the dense foliage. Another idea was to have Kai fly or Subotai hack through the brush. They could also have climbed the 30 foot wooden palisade wall. However, in the end Kai swam over to the hidden row boat and disappeared within. A moment later a beautiful white crane emerged from the hidden boat, spread its wings, and took to the sky.

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The majestic bird flew through the air over the brush bramble walls and circled the compound looking down below. Kai saw 4 main buildings all with doors but no windows. There were walls and paths but seemingly no guards to be seen. Either everyone was indoors or the ninja were well hidden. Kai saw a large Torii Arch to the north which was the structure peeking up above the foliage. Underneath it was a shrine of some sort. There were two targets set up between two of the buildings and two ninja were hurling shurkien and kunai into the targets. The two were very engrossed in their practice and either didn’t see Kai glide by or paid the bird no notice. As she flew over the compound, she swept it for magic using her detect magic, but found no magical signatures that she could detect.

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After completing her aerial recon of the Tengu Ninja Clan village, Kai gracefully flew down and landed in the water next to the hidden row boat. There she stepped in with her long legs and disappeared from view once more. A few moments later, she emerged in her original Soburi form. Kai then debriefed everyone on what she saw. Ideas ranged from a full assault on the entire ninja compound to taking the boat now and defending the boat from foes as they left the ninja village to stowing away on the boat and using a divide and conquer strategy. Wei Tai had been clear that they wanted to destroy all of the Tengu Ninja Clan in order to sate their revenge. But they were willing to be patient to make sure the job was done right. Kai agreed. She wanted to see the Tengu destroyed as well as Shiatsu Koto and his entourage.

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It was decided that the wisest course of action would be to fight two different battles – to divide and conquer. Better to not fight everyone at once and possibly be overwhelmed. So the group swam back underwater and reattached themselves to the bottom of The WormWood. Wei Tai hid just under the water by the boat in order to spy on what was happening on shore. They saw the main gate open. Shiatsu Koto, Hwang Hun,Midori Okima, and Yorimoto Yusuke emerged from the ninja village but this time the 3 floating metal chests were not with them. They boarded the WormWood and the ship’s sailors pulled up the gangplank and made ready to sail. Wei Tai slid back into the water and attached themselves to the undership as the boat pulled away from shore and set sail back towards Nagabuki.

After the WormWood was out of site of the Ninja Village but before the illusory shoreline was reached, the party struck. Kai carried Kataashi in her arms and flew up to the front of the ship. Subotai and Wei Tai climbed up one side of the ship while Wang Shu climbed up the other. Kataashi struck first running along the top of the dragon head at the front of the ship, over the roof of the forecastle and leaped down onto the deck. There he saw 3 sailors. One was manning the helm and steering the vessel. Another was coiling rope and the third was tightening a pulley system. The last sailor was standing right in front of Kataashi and looked up at him with a confused look on his face right before Kataashi knocked him out with a powerful punch to the face.

Just then Wang Shu leaped over the side and swung his Naginata in a wide arc. The flat of the blade smashed the sailor coiling rope in the head and he crumpled to the deck unconscious. The last sailor manning the helm had his eyes go wide in surprise as he saw his comrades so quickly taken out. He took a big breath of air as if to cry out in warning but before he could let it out, a blast of eldritch power erupted from Yabakuji to smash him in the chest and knock him unconscious as Subotai landed on the deck sword outstretched.

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Everyone fanned out across the main deck making sure everything was secure. One large double door went into the forecastle and two smaller doors led into an aft structure. There was also a wooden latticework covering an opening into the ships hold. Kataashi covered the forecastle door and the latticework while Wang Shu used his Shiranto Sap to seal the locks and hinges on the aft doors hoping to seal them from use.

Wei Tai looped a leather thong over the ship’s steering wheel to keep it pointed forward. Kai Winding deftly tied up all 3 of the unconscious sailors and gagged their mouths to keep them quiet. Wei Tai pulled out the Coin of Capture. They captured the likeness of one of the sailors and then created an illusion of him at the helm pretending to steer the ship. Subotai then dropped anchor. He tossed the anchor over the side and gripped the chain tightly in his strong hands. He pulled on the chain as it hit the bottom such that The WormWood slowly came to a stop. The move was so subtle that the party thought no one below decks would notice the ship stopping. True it seemed for no one came out to the top deck. All was quiet.

Eventually Katashi opened the double doors on the fore castle. Inside were some empty bunks and crew quarters. There was also a staircase leading down below decks. Wei Tai slid down the stairs like a ghostly shadow. He saw a hold sparsely filled with crates, barrels, and sacks. There were also some ballista stored down here. There was another staircase leading down. From there Wei Tai heard talking, laughing, and possibly singing. Moving ahead he found two doors and a stairs leading up. One door only had silence behind it while the other sounded like metal striking metal and a strange sizzling sound. Wei Tai crept up the stairs, rounded a corner, and found himself peaking into the aft state room that Wang Shu had sealed with Shiranto sap. Laying on the bed was Shiatsu Koto relaxing. Like a leaf on the wind, Wei Tai expertly made their way back to the party to explain what they had seen.

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Fishing for Dragon Eels

Feng.png Wang Shu woke up before dawn. Moshi Mataki assisted him in donning a disguise. They used some ash and animal fat to change Wang’s appearance. They greyed out his hair and made it stand up straight in a messy fashion. They also rubbed some diluted ink on his teeth and hands. Wang Shu wore his hat on his back under his new cloak which Moshi helped to stain. Wang instructed Moshi to stay home for the rest of the day and the next practicing his spells. Wang also gave Moshi a vial of Shiranto Sap.

Wang then slipped out of the small apartment and made his way down to the docks in the Iron Quarter. There he saw the situation was still largely as Wei Tai had described it. He saw dock workers, and sailors getting Shiatsu Koto’s ship – The WormWood – ready for sailing. Wang pretended to be a beggar and sat on a doorstep keeping watch for the rest of the party to show up.

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Back at the Ryoshi Hotel, Wei Tai took out his disguise kit from his pack and began using it to make each party member look very different. He was going for a dock worker type of look. He pulled it off quite well on everyone except for Kataashi. It was really hard to make the tattooed betel nut chewing monk look much different. When the disguises were complete they made their way down to the docks as well. Wei Tai scoped out the area. He walked right past Wang Shu, but neither of them could recognize one another based on the excellent disguises both had put on.

Wang approached one of the many fisherman and asked if he could pay him for the use of his canoe. After some negotiating, the man revealed he had a 4 person canoe that he would let Wang rent. He would pay 5 GP now for him to get get his canoe and 5 GP later to use it for the day. Wang paid the man 5 GP and he went off to get his canoe. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Finally Wang got bored sitting around and started to walk back up towards the Ryoshi Hotel when he heard the all too familiar sound of someone snorting their nose and spitting loudly on the cobblestone. Wang looked towards the noise and saw a man with a strange hat and an unmistakable betel nut stained grin. Wang recognized him as Kataashi Kikku. The small group of men with him must be the rest of the party but their disguises were very good. Wang Shu approached cautiously but then revealed himself to the group.

Now that they were assembled together once again they began hashing out a plan for how they would follow The WormWood and Shiatsu Koto. Subotai Korusu thought it would be a great idea for everyone but Wei Tai to climb into Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. Then Wei Tai would take the chest in miniature form and sneak aboard The Wormwood and find a place to hide everyone. Kataashi Kikku and Kai Winding were vehemently against this plan. There was only a limited supply of air inside the chest and the thought that they might be trapped forever inside if something were to happen to Wei Tai was not appealing to them.

Wang Shu suggested they use the canoe he rented to follow the boat from a distance. Everyone was concerned that they might be spotted or might not be able to keep up with the sailing ship with simple wooden paddles. Kai Winding had the idea that she could use her Lungs of Akuma spell to allow everyone to breathe underwater. It would last for 1 hour. But as ritual magic, she could renew it in only 10 minutes. Since Shiatsu Koto said his trip was not long and he would be returning to Nagabuki the same day, she thought they could affix themselves somehow to the bottom of the ship.

Everyone seemed to agree that this was the best plan available. Wei Tai took out his 100 feet of rope and began to cut it into smaller sections and tie the rope securely to a piton. He also readied his piton hammer. Then Wei Tai used stealth to slip into the harbor undetected. They did not need to breathe and slowly worked their way to underneath The WormWood. There Wei Tai used their hammer to pound the piton spikes into the wooden hull of the ship.

Wei Tai then slipped out of the water and Wang Shu used his prestidigitation spell to dry him off. By now the docks were beginning to fill up with folk and it would be difficult to slip into the water undetected. There were town guards, dock workers, and merchants about. They would need a distraction. So Wei Tai moved through the iron quarter until they found a street performer juggling in front of a gathering crowd. Using the Coin of Capture, Wei Tai captured the image of the juggler and his pins. Kai Winding cast an aid spell on herself, Katashi and Subotai. Then she performed her Lungs of Akuma ritual to allow everyone to breathe underwater.

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Everyone was ready. Wei Tai used the Coin of Capture to create an illusion of the street performer juggling on the opposite side of the harbor some 60 feet away. The juggler tossed 10 different pins some 10 feet up in the air. It was quite amazing and easily distracted almost everyone in the docks within view for at least the amount of time they needed to all slip into the water of the harbor.

Once underwater, the party made their way to The WormWood and tied themselves securely using the ropes Wei Tai had left. About 15 minutes later, it was high noon and the boat began to move. The party watched from underwater as the boat moved swiftly though the harbor and out into the Yokini-Sawagi River. The boat turned up stream and began to pick up speed. It was a very difficult ride for everyone. The water rushed past at high speed and a great deal of force pummeling each of them against the undership repeatedly. But everyone managed to get through the ordeal without succumbing to any exhaustion.

About half an hour later, Kai Winding renewed the Lungs of Akuma ritual to replenish their ability to breathe water. About half an hour after that, the boat turned and looked like it was heading towards shore at high speed. The boat and each party member suddenly passed right through an illusion of the shore revealing a secret hidden tributary of the river. On the other side of the illusion the boat began to navigate a much smaller waterway.

Suddenly something huge came up from the depths of the river bottom. It was a dragon eel that swam right up to Subotai and began to sniff him. Before anyone could react it snapped its jaws at Subotai clamping down on the samurai and sinking its teeth into his flesh while releasing an electric current that further wounded its prey.

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The dragon eel tried to bite Subotai again but the crafty samurai used Yabakuji to cast a shield spell. It followed up with a viscous tail slap but again was unable to get past Subotai’s shield. Since everyone was tied to the still moving ship, it was impossible for anyone to move over to help. But Kai Winding cast a spiritual weapon spell that made a magical katana appear next to the eel and cut into the creature. Wei Tai hurled their magical kunai Shinsei Hari at the creature and scored a sneak attack. Wang Shu tried casting a spell but the eel resisted the magic. Likewise Kataashi whistled and tapped on his leg. Kin appeared to cast a sacred flame but again the huge creature resisted the magic. Subotai gripped Yabakuji tightly and unsheathed the blade in a broad flourish using an iajitsu strike to cut deep into the eel’s slimy hide. The samurai also unleashed a powerful smite to cause the dragon eel significant pain.

Not liking the attacks from Subotai, the creature swam away from the boat. But everyone’s ranged attacks continued to harass it plus Subotai’s Yabakuji blast. Wang Shu managed to hit it with a lasso of electric energy and pull it closer resulting in the dragon eel attacking Wei Tai and then swimming away.

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After sustaining more damage, the dragon eel attempted to swim away but it was destroyed before it could completely get away. Its enormous body started to sink towards the bottom of the river as the ship sailed past.

Not long after the ship came into one side of the river bank and set anchor. Wei Tai cut himself loose and swam up to take a look at what was going on. They saw the ship had stopped alongside a huge wooden pallisade-like wall with a great double doors bearing a raven like sigil. Wei Tai knew instantly what this was and where they were. This was a ninja village of the Tengu Ninja Clan. It was the very ninja clan that had murdered many of their past selves. They saw a gangplank had been lowered on to the shore and 4 individuals had walked from the ship down to the stony riverbank. Shiatsu Koto led the way with 3 heavy looking iron chests floating in the air behind him. Next was Hwang Hun looking wearily about. Then Midori Okima was walking carefully along the stony riverbank as her footwear seemed wholly improper for the terrain. Bringing up the rear was Yorimoto Yusuke smoking his pipe silently.

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Wei Tai swam back to everyone and helped cut them loose from the harnesses explaining that they had arrived at a ninja village of the Tengu Ninja Clan. Wei Tai shared his memories with the group of how the Tengu Clan had murdered many of his previous selves. Wei Tai swore to kill every last one of the Tengu and have his revenge. He asked for the party’s help in this. Subotai was the only one who hesitated but he had heard of the Tengu Ninja Clan. It was responsible for assassinating two of his ancestors. Everyone seemed to be on board with helping Wei Tai. So Wei Tai swam back to see what was happening on shore. He saw Yorimoto Yusuke pass through the huge double doors and saw them close behind him. He could hear one sailor on deck standing guard over the boat.

So he swam back down to the party and updated them. Wang Shu urged everyone to quietly swim to the north in order to try and get out of view of the sailors on the boat. So everyone began to swim that way.

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Beautiful Women with Parasols
It's an Ambush!

Wang Shu was very impressed by the boy, Moshi Mataki. He seemed dedicated to Wang’s teachings and committed to learning. But Wang asked Wei Tai to follow him without being seen and to report back to the party as to what they saw. Wei Tai easily followed the small boy to a tiny apartment just off the Lane of Glory in the Pewter Quarter. There they found that Moshi had a mother named Shun Mataki and a little sister. Moshi’s sister cooked the food and cleaned the meager dwelling while Moshi’s mother sold her body along the other prostitutes of the Land of Glory. Wei Tai had a difficult time reporting back on this mission as the families situation hit very close to home for them.

The party discussed Shiatsu Koto’s offer and Kai Winding presented Shiatsu as a liar and one who had plans to wreak havoc in Satsujin prefecture. She said that she believed his boat ride to acquire specialized help a cover for hiring a ninja clan. Subotai was presented with the facts regarding the the forged travel papers acquired from Magistrate Lo Ban and the party convinced him that Koto’s scheme needed to be stopped before something terrible happened. Subotai was most preoccupied with meeting Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari. As long as this little adventure with Shiatsu Koto did not keep them from their meeting, he would lend his help.

It was decided that Wei Tai would disguise themself as a dock worker and scope out the docks looking for which boat might be that of Shiatsu Koto. They spotted Midori Okima and Yorimoto Yusuke directing some dock workers to carry some heavy chests on board the ship and put them down below in the hold. The ship was named ‘The Wormwood’. The ship’s sailors seemed to be preparing it to set sail. They sketched a map of the docks and returned to share it with the rest of the party.

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Meanwhile Moshi Mataki told Wang Shu that he had been approached by a pretty well dressed Soburi woman. She had told him that she wanted to meet Wang Shu and had some information for him that he would be very interested in. Wang had Moshi lead the party to the meeting (without Wei Tai who were scoping out the docks). The meeting point was a rather deserted part of the city near a large stone shrine.

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The woman was indeed very well dressed and carried a beautiful parasol to shade her from the sun. She strolled right up to Kataashi Kikku, looked him in the eyes, and softly cooed, ‘Show me your tsukumogami.’ Kataashi smiled back at the beautiful woman and spoke in a strange language. Suddenly a strange metallic snake slithered out from Kataashi’s pant leg to float in front of him.

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Then all hell broke loose as the party was attacked from all sides. The woman with the parasol cast a disrupt technology spell on the flying snake tsukumogami several times to try and knock it out, but the snake resisted. Kataashi must have been charmed by the beautiful woman because although he moved to protect the flying tsukumogami and fight back, he purposefully seemed to avoid fighting the beautiful woman. A Tanuki (panda humanoid race) Priest came running out from behind a closed door on one of the buildings. He carried a bamboo staff with a large gourd on the end of it. When he assumed his fighting stance Kataashi recognized it as the stance of the poisoned river – a powerful kung fu style. The tanuki spun the staff around his head and cast a faerie fire spell wreathing many in the party including the flying snake tsukumogami in light and giving advantage to all attacks against them.

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A ninja looking woman on the top of the adjacent building hurled an enchanted kunai at the snake tsukumogami. Every time she threw it it would hit or miss its target but then magically return to her hand. She hurled the kunai 3 times and the enchanted blade cut into the mechanical flying snake. Pieces of metal and parts fell off the creature as it spinned in the air trying to avoid the hurled kunai. But the damage was too great and the creature was overwhelmed. It fell to the ground in front of Kataashi and broke apart into a few pieces. Wang Shu sprang into action by holding his calligraphy staff above his head and then whipping it forward towards the ninja on the roof. As he did so, crackling lightning whipped out of the staff and wrapped around the woman in black. She cried out as the lightning singed her body and then yanked her off the roof to fall 30 feet on to the hard cobblestone below.

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A bare chested monk flipped out of an alley to land on the opposite side of the party. As he went into his fighting stance flames in the form of dragons began swirling around his body. Kataashi recognized the monk’s kung fu style as using the Stance of Fire’s Vengeance. It was a powerful technique that allowed the monk to erupt in flames and deliver fire in addition to his powerful physical blows.

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Lastly a formidable female samurai with tattoos on her chest came running up behind Subotai Korusu. Subotai instantly recognized her as Nakeno Satsujin, a powerful samurai of the satsujin clan who had been disgraced by having an affair with a Korusu noble. She was cast out of Satsujin by her lord and never allowed to return on penalty of death. She tried living in Korusu prefecture with her lover but shortly thereafter in an effort to save face by the Korusu lords, she was cast out of Korusu as well. Nakeno still caries the Satsujin ancestral Katana but now is a Ronin – a masterless samurai who sells her sword to the highest bidder. Nakeno Satsujin clearly recognized Subotai as a Kuruso noble at the very least and seemed hell bent on cutting him down. An epic tow to toe battle erupted between the samurai and the ronin. At one point Subotai won past Nakeno’s guard and pierced her chest with Yabakuji. The blow was deadly and would have spelled the end of most people. But somehow Nakeno gritted her bloody teeth and fought on healing herself with the power of her ancestors and returning a deadly blow to Subotai who fell before her wrath.

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The battle was fast and furious. Clearly the group of ambushers was trying to get a hold of the snake tsukumogami who was now lying in pieces on the ground. But Kataashi was standing over the creature and protecting it ferociously. She had somehow managed to avoid getting attacked but finally Kataashi managed to shake off whatever enchantment had bewitched him and unleashed some attacks against the woman. Suddenly her guise dropped as she revealed her true form. She was a fox hengeyokai – a kitsune. She suddenly had red furry ears and 5 bushy fox tails sticking out from under her dress. Every time Kataashi hit her with enough damage to bring her down one of her tails fell off and she was healed.

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The battle was hard fought with people dropping on both sides and being brought back up by healing magic on both sides. But eventually some sort of turning point was reached when the ambushers called for a retreat. The bare chested Soburi monk cast some sort of spell that unleashed a torrent of steam and fog from his fiery forms. The fog cloud obscured the entire battlefield and allowed the ambushers to pick up their fallen comrades and make their escape.

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The party did the same, but as Subotai carefully moved through the fog he stepped on something. He looked down and saw the kunai the ninja woman had been hurling. When Wang Shu had taken her out with his lightning lash it appeared the magic kunai had fallen out of her hand and on to the street not returning. Who ever carried her away had missed seeing it inside the fog cloud. Subotai picked up the kunai and tucked it in his belt thinking that he would give it to Wei Tai. They could make good use of such a weapon.

Kai Winding healed everyone and they went back to Kai’s hotel to rest and debrief after the attack. Wang asked Moshi to wait outside and will sat down and have some tea. After pouring the tea, Wang looked right at Kataashi with a very troubled look on his face and asked plainly, ‘Please tell me your story and explain to me what exactly what the mechanical dragon is.’ He was clearly not happy about what had just happened. Just then Wei Tai slipped back into the room. Before they debriefed on their mission, Wang pressed Kataashi for answers.

Kataashi took a moment to look each character in the eye. Everyone could see that the effort took a great amount of will, an underlying edge of fear seemed to pull at the edges.

Before he began to speak, Kataashi carefully removed the remains of Kinzoku’s still form from inside his robe. Everyone could see traces of leaking fluid and bent metal plates as he lovingly straightened the snake-like body. Kataashi reached into his backpack and pulled out a small cloth roll. He placed it next to Kinzoku’s body and carefully rolled it open revealing small unfamiliar tools and bottles of dark fluids.

As Kataashi spoke, he picked up a cloth to clean Kinzoku’s form, preparing to repair/heal it while he talked.

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‘I have told some of my past. Everything I said was truthful. I was born with one leg. I was sold to Master Wei in the Hagane Budo Monastery. The monastery taught me and cared for me.’

“I did not receive my first prosthetic until I had been there for a year – I had important lessons to learn on my own first. I was three years old when I was first fitted. As you can imagine, a leg that fit a small child is quite different than what I wear today,” and he nods down towards his leg.

With the cleaning done, Kataashi took out a tiny set of metal pincers, like modified chopsticks and began to meticulously bend and re-align any bent metal.

“Each year, as I grew, the earlier prosthetic was removed and I spent a month with no metal support. Master Wei taught that one always had to be prepared for change and independence. After a month of very difficult training, a new larger prosthetic was provided that matched my size. Each time, the sophistication of the augmetic increased, seemingly in time with my martial and philosophical training.”

Kataashi then paused his story as he seemed focused on a particularly challenging task of repair. He removed a small jar of fluid and something like a stylus brush. He began to gently almost draw, or paint, the fluid in careful strokes at key places in Kinzoku’s form. The inky fluid quickly absorbed, returning shine and quiet flexibility with each application.

“On my seventeenth birthday, Master Wei gifted me the leg that I wear now. Though it’s sophistication and articulation far surpassed anything I had worn previously, it was as mundane as all the previous augmetics. For almost two years I learned how not just to use my augmetic, but I discovered how such a tool could become part of me, part of myself.”

Kataashi laid down the last tool and sat up straight, stretching his shoulders back. He then picked up Kinzoku looking at all sides from different angles. “Ahhh …,” he reached into one of the pockets in his roll of tools and pulled out a smaller strangely shaped piece of metal, almost like a small gear. He tapped gently on one of Kinzoku’s neck plates and it popped open. With an equally strange tool, Kataashi reached in and removed what looked to be a damaged similar piece of metal. Kataashi carefully replaced it with the undamaged gear, carefully closing the metal plate afterwards.

“Then for the second time in my memory at that time, the mists arrived. I was out gathering firewood when the mists appeared seemingly from nowhere. I was able to take a deep breath, believing that would help, before running back as quickly as I could. As I ran, my leg – this augmetic – began to feel different, began to glow. I made it back to my cell in time and sealed my chamber to wait out the mists, as I was taught.

“However, an unabiding pain in my leg began to grow, I began to feel like I was losing control. I tried to adjust the gears and dials, but I found them moving in strange and different ways. I was considering removing the leg when I became distracted by sounds outside my chamber. Looking out my small window, I saw a growing horde of bakemono swarming the monastery grounds. Then, to my astonishment, I saw Master Wei emerge from his chamber to fight them. He cut through their ranks like a scythe through wheat. And then the Oni came into view. Some of my brother and sister monks left their chambers to fight alongside our Master and I felt the heat of camaraderie in myself as well. I pushed on my chamber door to emerge and found it blocked though.

“As I watched, I could see that Master Wei was intentionally piling bakemono bodies to block my chamber door – he did not want me to emerge. Unable to help, I watched in agony as my brethren were decimated and Master Wei was wounded. And then the battle suddenly, inexplicably stopped. The Oni and bakemono retreated and I thought perhaps Master Wei had frightened them off. But I was wrong.

“An enormous Oni emerged from the mists, an Oni the like of which only exists in legend. Many of the remaining monks ran at his sight. I myself wanted to cower in a corner. His power was overwhelming.”

Tears began to course down Kataashi’s cheek as he spoke. He picked up a clean cloth and wiped them from his face. Then he bit down on some betel nut and spat right into the cloth as well. Rubbing the cloth together to spread out the orange-tinted moisture, he carefully laid the cloth over Kinzoku. With deft movements, he began to buff each metal plate, polishing with obvious care and love. With Kataashi’s story paused for a moment, he hummed under is his breath for a few moments while he worked on Kinzoku. After the third caress with the cloth, a subtle movement was seen from Kinzoku.

“And for a moment, I did cower, retreating to my bed with shame and fear. It was then that I felt a sudden surge of pain in my leg and a completely unfamiliar movement from within – and Kinzoku emerged for the first time. In my fear and surprise, I knocked it away. It flailed on the floor like a newborn, unable to understand its own movement. A moment later, after a strong spasm, it leapt into the air… and stayed there. It seemed as surprised as I was.

“It turned to look at me, seemingly frightened, and then looked for a place to hide. And so it quickly returned to my leg and the hidden recesses from which it was born.

“It was not attempting to hurt me and so my curiosity won over. I tapped on the leg, seeking for it to emerge again. But then I heard an enormous explosion outside my chamber. I leapt to my feet, Kinzoku forgotten for the moment. The scene outside was… terrible. Every one of my brothers and sisters lay dead, frozen in rictus from some terrible Oni spell. Master Wei, alone, stood and fought a brutal battle with the enormously powerful Oni. A moment later, the Oni caught Master Wei’s augmetic arm and tore it from his body. It was a mortal wounding.”

After each swipe of the cloth along Kinzoku’s metal form, Kataashi moistened the cloth further with his tears. And after each swipe, the metal form seemed to arc in rhythm, growing in strength. Upon the tenth caress, Kinzoku floated a few inches off the table – almost in stasis. Kataashi sat back and gave Kinzoku time to return to consciousness.

“Kinzoku was born, if that is what it was, amidst the dark mystery of the mists. I know that the mists are tainted with evil and corruption. And then there are those among us, perhaps even your young apprentice Wang Shu, who are born amidst the evil and corruption of humanity.

“Are there not humans born within the most honorable settings who fall to the depths of human depravity? Are there not humans who crawl out of the dregs of life, bringing joy and peace with pure hearts? Our birth does not define our path, nor does it lead us to honor or corruption. Each of us makes that choice ourselves…”

“Kinzoku is alive. Kinzoku is kind and inquisitive and fearful and brave and, at times, maddening. I suspect we could all name some in our family with similar qualities.

After a few moments of pure stillness, floating upon the air, a light slowly blossomed from within Kinzoku’s head. Kataashi’s gaze returned to Kinzoku and he smiled. With a purse of his lips, Kataashi gently whistled a lazy tune, drawing Kinzoku’s gaze to himself. Kin floated over and curled around Kataashi’s neck with affection. It then turned it’s gaze to everyone else in the room from the safety of Kataashi’s warmth.

“It’s ok, Kin. It is time you introduced yourself. For the moment, anyway, no one will harm you.”

With Kataashi’s permission, Kin then streaked around the room with precision, but curious movements, exploring each new person with sudden stops in the mid-air at different vantages. In some ways, it had the same air as a curious, yet cautious puppy, coming up close almost to sniff and then backing away if a hand moved in his direction. After a couple of moments, Kataashi whistled and Kin returned instantly. It looked one more time around the room at everyone and then re-formed, blending into Kataashi’s leg augmetic.

“If you do not trust Kin or I, I will leave you and make my own path with no ill feelings. You have done me the honor of listening to my story for the first time. I have never shared this tale before. So what say you all?"

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Wang wiped a tear from his face. “Thank you for sharing your story, we all have hardship to bear in this world and I ask but one thing. If we are all going to continue to work together, to bring healing to Soburin, we must all be honest with each other.” He then looked at Kin, “How far away can it travel from you and can you communicate with it, like we do with the Myconid fungus?”

Kataashi nodded his head in thanks to Wang Shu. “To my knowledge, Kinzoku does not have a limiting constraint. But honestly, we have never tested it. Kin and I communicate through sound or speaking.” Kataashi whistled and Kin flies back to Kataashi’s leg.

A smile slowly began to grow on Kataashi’s face as he said, “That reminds me, do remember all the sleeping bakemono in our first couple of encounters? I was surprised no one connected my whistles with those seemingly mysterious events…”

Wang Shu laughed, “Ha, that makes sense my friend. It may be a welcome aid in our endeavors and easier to use now that we are all on the same page. Kai Winding, I have to ask..h.how long were you aware of this and were you keeping it a secret from me? Either way, if we are to work together we need to have an open line of communication as keeping secrets will make things complicated.”

Kai shrugged and frowned, “everyone here had previously noticed this charming little…leg snake?” Kai gestures at Kin. “You and I acknowledged previously Wang—that Kataashi was not being forthcoming with what he shared with us. I have no problem with his using an augmetic—it hasn’t attacked us, it does not seem evil—as far as i can tell, it is merely another form of life. I do not pretend to understand the Mists but I suspect that it is not what it seems and that perhaps it is not necessarily the polarizing evil we believe it to be. A more nuanced assessment may be in order. Until and unless it, or Kataashi for that matter choose to forgo defending the spirit of life, in whatever manifestation it takes, I will accompany them. However, Kataashi, and Kin, we need to find a better way to shield Kin from detection. We also need to learn more about this Ronin from my prefecture to discern her motives. I for one do not believe it has anything to do with Koto but the Mists seem to obscure more than just the howling bakemono.”

Kataashi turned to Kai, “I have spoken with ”/characters/michiko" class=“wiki-content-link”>Michiko in the past about how to prevent Kinzoku from being detected. Her only suggestion was a magic called ‘nondetection’…"

Through all Kataashi’s story telling, Subotai listened with great intent and focus on him. His body language was completely stoic, almost statue like. When Kin actually faced Subotai, his eyes narrowed, yet then he ever so slightly bowed. After the tale is over, Subotai asked, “Kataashi, I anguish at the fall of your monastery to the Oni. I now understand the blood feud between you and the Oni more fully. But you never finished the tale. You said your master was mortally wounded during the battle. Did he slay the large Oni? Did the mists take him? Did you see what happened? I am sorry for your loss, I truly am, but these answers may help you if you journey through the pain. We are here for you. I agree Kin is a truly mysterious creature. I thank him for the magic he was able to use against the bakemono in the beginning. But, it seems he is a creature of the mists and that gives me pause. He has done nothing to directly endanger me or us so I am not obligated to destroy him. But if he turns, like you could Kataashi, I am bound to destroy the evil. I pray to my ancestors daily that is doesn’t come to that. But I am cautious to the safety of us and Kin. Obviously those folk were after him. Why would they be Kataashi? Did you do anything in town that might attract folks who deal in augmentics? Did any dealer, who would kill to have Kin so to speak, see him? We need to find out who wants Kin.. . Might it be the authorities? I don’t think so, because they usually work in more upfront confrontations, not covert sting operations. It might also be our current target from Kai, but striking him doesn’t seem as logical nor as sinister as Koto would seem. So who else knows about Kin, Kataashi?” Subotai again focused on Kataashi with stern patient stoicism.

Kataashi turned to Subotai and nodded, "Subotai, your presumption that Kinzoku is a ‘creature of the mist’ is understandable… but I believe it to be more complicated than that. Yes, Kin’s ‘emergence’ seems to have been triggered by exposure to the mists. But one could just as easily infer that Kin’s emergence was triggered by the proximity to bakemono or Oni. Further, if you consider our recent unfortunate period spent in the mists, all of us, the humans in this room, were the ones at risk. Kinzoku was unaffected throughout that time. If Kinzoku were a creature of the mist, would he not be somehow further affected by exposure? Lastly, to your question of exposure, except for when I was charmed by that Kitsune, Kin never left my leg nor did I communicate with it. However, I did notice that we entered that tea house to visit with Kai’s nefarious contact, each of us was “sniffed” by that initial guard. After ‘sniffing’ me, he frowned and looked down towards my leg. At the very least, he suspected an augmetic. At worst, he somehow detected Kinzoku. Perhaps it was he who shared this information? I do not know that our attackers were tipped off by the false jade merchant Shiatsu Koto, but the timing is very suspect. I am concerned that perhaps they show up again while we are on our cough boat mission. If Wang Shu’s apprentice can effectively discover more without being discovered himself, I think it is to our benefit."

Wei Tai spoke in a woman’s voice: “I worry about putting the child in harms way. I would prefer not to endanger him or his family any more than we have already by being his associated with us.” Then in his regular voice Wei says “There is no honor in using children.”

Wang raised his voice and said, “I agree with you Wei Tai and am upset with the lot of you. It is all of you that put the boy in danger.”

Kai raised her voice in turn saying “Wang you are an obdurate fool!” Rolling up the sleeve on her kimono, and with gusto, she gave Wang a good slap.

Wang shrieked at the blow and yelled “You harlot! I am finished with all of you! Only bad things will come to you and those that associate with you. Do not look for me to help you further! Moshi come here immediately.” Wang Shu flung open the sliding door and pulled Moshi into the room. Holding the boy’s hand he cast invisibility and they both vanished.

After the dramatic display by Wang, Subotai sighed and shook his head. “I sure hope he knows what he is doing. Does anyone else?”

Kai shrugged…

Wang Shu and Moshi Mataki ran through the city of Nagabuki to the Ryoshi Hotel. All the way Wang quietly lectured Moshi about being invisible. When near the hotel, they found a private place to become visible and then went inside. Wang gathered his belonging and then checked-out of the hotel. The two then leave. About half-way to Moshi’s home they find a shop and buy a cheap cloak and some dry noodles and meat for 2 SP. They find another private place and become invisible again. They then went straight to Moshi’s house and entered without being seen. Wang spoke with Moshi’s mother and asked her approval to continue Moshi’s training. He apologized for not doing this at the start and did his best to explain her son’s potential and how it could benefit the family. Wang gave Moshi’s mother the food and a gold coin and asked if this was enough to get her to stay home tonight. He urged her to stay home.

Shun Mataki, Moshi’s mother, was quite surprised by the arrival of Wang Shu and her son. When they appeared in her apartment, she was dressed in a very revealing sheer gown sitting in front of a mirror and applying make up. She quickly changed in to less provocative and more formal clothes and then busied herself with cleaning up and straightening the small apartment. She was quite thankful that Wang Shu had taken an interest in her son and thanked him for being his patron. She gave her blessing to train the boy. She accepted the food and coin and insisted that she be allowed to cook a meal for Wang and the whole family.

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Shun did not go out that night but rather stayed home and watched Wang Shu teach her son magic. Moshi picked up the minor illusion cantrip quite quickly and was able to make an illusion of a marble. He followed it up with using the magic to make an illusion of a beautiful flower that he “gave” to his mother. Shun was very impressed and showered her son and Wang Shu with praise.

Wang went to bed early. But in the middle of the night, Wang Shu woke up suddenly to a loud banging on the door. Shun raced across the room to the door and opened it only slightly. Wang heard a gruff male voice say, ‘Where have you been Shun? Madame Tay Tay sent me down here to check on you. Why didn’t you come to work your shift at the brothel?’

Shun feigned a cough and replied in a low voice, ‘Tell Madame Tay Tay that I am not feeling well this evening.’ The male voice replied, ‘Come on Shun, you know Madame Tay Tay’s clients always request you. You are one of her biggest money makers. No one has your Baishunpu skills. Its amazing what you can do. I have heard the stories. Madame Tay Tay is not going to want to hear your excuses. You better be back tomorrow night or she will probably send Dendar to teach you a lesson.’

Shun coughed again and said, ‘Tell her I will come in early tomorrow and make it up to her. I promise.’ The male voice grumbled and replied, ‘OK but don’t try and tell me I didn’t warn you. I would hate to see your pretty face messed up by that brute Dendar. You would never be able to pay off your indenture then.’

Moshi and his sister were still sleeping quietly and did not seem to be awakened for the interaction with the man at the door. Wang heard the man’s footsteps fade off into the night. Shun closed the door and slowly turned around. Wang was standing right there in front of her. After a minute of strained silence Wang addressed Shun. ‘I am sorry if I caused any difficulties with your employer, that was not my intention. Please go to work early tomorrow and do what you can to appease Madame Tay Tay and this Dendar. Tell me what is the price of your indenture?’

Shun Mataki bowed her head in shame and did not look at Wang Shu. She exhaled slowly and said, ‘Please Wang Shu. I do not want to put you in any danger. This is none of your concern. I do what I must to keep our family together and safe.’

Wang Shu gently put his hand on Shun’s shoulder and in a very kind voice said, ‘I understand and only wish the best for you and your family.’

Shun froze in place and looked into Wang Shu’s eyes. She whisked some of her luxuriant brown hair out of her face with her hand and slid it behind her ear to keep it in place leaving her bright blue eyes locked with Wang Shu’s. The two shared a moment of silence, Shun Mataki’s face a beautiful work of stone. Suddenly a crack appeared in the stone facade and a single tear began to slowly glide down Shun’s perfect skin. Wang Shu reached out his finger and gently touched her face intercepting the tear. Her skin was so incredibly soft. And then the torrent soon followed. Shun Mataki began to quietly sob and threw her arms around Wang Shu crying into his shoulder. Her warm soft body pressed against Wang Shu. She smelled intoxicating.

Through her tears, Shun said, ‘I am indentured to Madame Tay Tay for the sum of 500 imperial gold coins. I have worked my way up to being one of her most expensive and requested Baishunpu. I work hard for her and make her much money in her most expensive brothel. But it has been 3 years working for her and I seem no closer to paying off my debt. What meager coins I take home with me leave quickly after paying the rent on this home, buying food for our family, and keeping us in decent clothing. Its all I can do to buy inks and paper for Moshi’s drawings. I don’t think I will ever be free of this debt.’

She sobbed quietly into Wang’s shoulder and pulled herself against him tightly. Wang held her tightly and then gently pushed her away to arms length causing a look of confusion to spread across her face. Wang Shu said, “Do your job and know that I will help you pay this debt sooner than later. Moshi is a talented young person and I would also like to teach his sister a skill that might help this family. Does she or you play an instrument?”

Shun wiped the tears from her eyes, her face beautifully shifting into a look of gratitude. ‘You are a good man, Wang Shu. I do not know how I could possibly repay you for your generosity,’ she said. But then the cloud of concern passed over her face as she continued. ‘But please be careful in your dealings with Madame Tay Tay. She is one of the most powerful Madams in the Lane of Glory with ties to the Botoku Gang. I would not want your concern for my family to get you into any trouble or result in any harm befalling you.’

After straightening her kimono she crouched down and opened a wooden cabinet. From within she extracted a beautiful old Sanxian. ‘This instrument used to belong to my father before he died. I have fond memories of him playing it for me when I was a little girl. I never learned to play but have kept it as a keepsake to remember him by. If you would be willing to teach my daughter and I to play it, I would be most grateful, Wang Shu.’

Wang smiled broadly and said, ‘your lessons will start soon. But for now we must go to bed and get some much needed sleep.’

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Luncheon of Death

Subotai, Wei Tai, Kataashi, and Wang Shu woke up from their night’s rest at the Takari Inn. Subotai opened his eyes and frowned. A dank odor assaulted his nose and the blankets were coarse and rough against his skin. He hauled himself up off the rather worn tatami sleeping mat and looked around for his kimono amongst the threadbare furniture. This modest Royshi Hotel was indeed quite modest. He and his companions trudged downstairs to the common room and sat at a large common table for some breakfast. Each was served a bowl of lukewarm congee – a rather bland rice porridge. Subotai searched the table for some sort of spice to provide the congee with some flavor but found nothing. He sighed and wondered aloud, ‘I wonder how Kai Winding is doing this morning?’

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Over at the Midori Inn, Kai Winding opened her eyes and smiled. The smell of Jasmine gently caressed her nose and the silk sheets were smooth and tender against her skin. She eased herself out of the luxurious bed and found her kimono folded neatly where the room servant had stored it within easy reach amongst the fine furniture. This wealthy Royshi Hotel was indeed quite splendid. She elegantly glided down the ornate stairs to the dining room where a geisha bowed and helped seat her at her own private table. An array of fine dumplings, steaming rice bowels, and sweet pork buns graced her table along with a beautiful Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. Kai Winding was amazed at the incredible flavor of the dishes. She smiled and wondered aloud, ‘I wonder how the others are doing this morning?’

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As Kai Winding daintily put her silk napkin to each corner of her mouth, a geisha approached, bowed, and placed an envelope in front of Kai on the table. The geisha said, ‘A message was delivered for you this morning my lady.’ She bowed again and drifted away into the kitchen. Kai’s long fingers took hold of the envelope and opened it. Inside she found a high quality paper card. Written on the card in beautiful calligraphy she saw:

Shiatsu Koto of the Jade Workers Guild invites Kai Winding to the Yamja Tea House in the silver district for a lunch meeting at high noon.

Kai smiled and summoned a servant to write a return card. The Midori Inn scribe took down the following dictation:

Kai Winding accepts the invitation of Shiatsu Koto to lunch at the Yamja Tea House. She is pleased to meet him there at high noon.

She bid the scribe take the message to a courier to deliver it to Shiatsu Koto. As the courier left the Midori Inn, Kai’s friends entered. She ushered them into a private dining room where they could speak freely. Kai explained that she was having lunch with Shiatsu Koto at high noon and would appreciate the company of the rest of the party under the ruse that they were her bodyguards. As a wealthy merchant from Shiatsu Prefecture, she would be expected to have body guards to keep her safe.

Later that day at high noon Moshi led the party to the Yamja Tea House. The outside courtyard of the area was filled with dumpling ladies selling dumplings and tea to all manner of customers.

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The dumpling lady directed Kai Winding inside the building to talk to the owner Buto Yamja. Buto called one of his geisha to lead the group through the rooms of the tea house to the meeting with Shiatsu Koto. They passed through the entrance and were greeted by Waru Kitsune, a tall handsome young man with long red hair and furry fox ears sticking up through his hair from the top of his head. Seven thick bushy fox tails stuck out from the rear of his kimono. Waru Kitsune discreetly sniffed each party member as they passed by him. He smiled after sniffing Kai Winding. He sniffed every other party member without reaction except for Kataashi and Wei Tai. When Kataashi passed by, Waru sniffed him and looked down at his leg. When Wei Tai passed by Waru, the Kitsune sniffed him and frowned. Subotai noticed Waru’s subtle actions and in particular Waru’s brow furrowing with concern over Wei Tai.

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The party was led by two other individuals sitting in an adjacent room. One was a Soburi Female sitting at a table eating shrimp dumplings. She had shoulder length black hair and an eye patch covering her right eye. Beautifully colorful tattoos decorated the woman’s shoulders and chest. Next to her was a Soburi man smoking a pipe and puffing big clouds of black smoke into the air. He wore a blue and gold kimono with a straw hat covering his eyes. He held his pipe in his right hand and his left rested casually on his katana in its scabbard at his waist.

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Then the geisha led them past a table with a human soburi man and two kappa – turtle men – sitting enjoying some tea. When Subotai Korusu walked past one of the kappa, he bumped into him and the kappa spilled his tea all over his kimono. The kappa samurai stood up and faced Subotai, anger spreading across his reptilian face. He said, ‘Korusu eh? To which Korusu do I have the honor of having spilled my tea?’

Subotai stammered a bit, ‘I am Subotai Korusu.’

The kappa samurai gruffly replied, ‘Ask me my name.’

Subotai obliged.

The Kappa Samurai replied, ‘My name is Hanko Mamoru of Korusu prefecture. Why then am I in Nagabuki?’

Subotai shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I do not know.’

Hanko then said, ‘I have been exiled from my homeland by your uncle Lord Korusu.’

Subotai tried to smooth things over, ‘I apologize for my mistake with the tea and apologize for your situation at the hands of my uncle…’

Hanko cut Subotai off, ‘This great insult cannot stand. I will not dishonor this fine establishment with bloodshed but my honor demands justice. I challenge you to an honor duel – tomorrow at dawn. Meet me at the boulevard of honor. Bring your second – we will settle this dispute using the old ways.’

All emotion left Subotai’s face. He turned very serious as he nodded. ‘So be it… We will settle this using the old ways.’

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Seemingly satisfied, Hanko sat back down and everyone else filed past into the next room of Yamja Tea House. There sat a young Soburi man at a marble table. He had long black hair and a charming smile. He wore a fine green kimono bearing the mark of the jade workers guild. A jian – thin double edged longsword – was sheathed on his back. He gestured to the seat opposite him and invited Kai Winding to sit.

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Standing the corner of the room watching Shiatsu was a very large and bearded Soburi man. He was armed and armored to the teeth and wore a straw hat. Shiatsu referred to him as Hwang Hun and called him his bodyguard but the man never spoke.

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Shiatsu and Kai engaged in some cultural pleasantries. They also shared some perfectly brewed tea and very tasty dumplings. And then got down to business. Shiatsu Koto asked to see Kai’s travel papers to verify that she was indeed from Satsujin prefecture. At first feigning offense, Kai gave everyone pause as she slowly opened her kimono at her chest and then pulled out her travel papers. She held them up and waved Subotai over. The samurai picked up on her unspoken cue. He took the papers from her and then placed the papers in front of Shiatsu to review.

Shiatsu Koto looked Subotai up and down and remarked, ‘It is quite something to have a Korusu noble in your service, Kai. Especially being from Satsujin.’

Kai smiled and said, ’It’s a long story. Perhaps I will share it with you some day.’

Shiatsu nodded seemingly satisfied and poured over the travel documents. After saying that they all seemed to be in order, he handed them back to Subotai who dutifully returned them to his mistress, Kai Winding. Shiatsu then proceeded to inquire of Kai the extent of her influence in the Satsujin prefecture court. Although she avoided too many details she did quite convincingly lead everyone to believe that she had many contacts within the court and could get the trade delegation an audience with major figures within the administration.

Shiatsu Koto seemed quite pleased and invited Kai Winding to join the trade delegation of the jade workers guild heading to Satsujin prefecture. Kai thanked Shiatsu for the offer but said that she had to think it over. Shiatsu invited her to dinner the next evening at Chaya Cuisine – the best restaurant in Nagabuki. Kai agreed to dinner and bid everyone good bye. The party left the Yamja Tea House and returned to the private room at Kai’s hotel to debrief.

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The next morning at dawn the party went to the boulevard of honor. Hanko Mamoru and his kappa second were already there setting out the ceremonial tatami mats and preparing for the honor duel. Wang Shu had volunteered to be Subotai Korusu’s second. So as Hanko and Subotai sat facing each other kneeling on the tatami mats, Wang Shu and the kappa second met to discuss terms of the duel. Subotai set the stage by using his culture skill to impress his opponent and all assembled with his mastery of the honor duel ceremony. Then Wang Shu used his persuasion skill to get Hanko’s second to agree to Subotai’s terms for the duel. The duel was to be to unconsciousness, magic was allowed, but no preparation could be undertaken before the duel was to begin.

During the ceremony Hanko Mamoru described his weapon of choice – his ancestral weapon – Rasshu, The Stinging Bite. It was a 3 section bone whip, a bone handle connected by a short chain to two short bones with sharpened tips. When Subotai described Yabakuji, the kappa was both intimidated and hopeful.

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The rest of the party and a small crowd who had assembled to watch the fight all looked on as the kappa and soburi samurai sat quietly facing each other. It was Wang Shu’s honor to count them off. 3-2-1- both samurai leaped to their feet and drew forth their weapons. Both were blindingly fast but Subotai was just a hair faster. Yabakuji cleared its scabbard and in one clean motion cut past Hanko’s guard in an iajitsu strike and exploded in radiant energy as Subotai unleashed a level 2 smite. Green blood gushed out of a severe wound in the kappa’s neck, but some sort of warding spell or magic item went off and the wound vanished.

Hanko responded with a blood curdling scream. Many on-lookers fled from the honor duel in terror after hearing it. But Subotai resisted the frightened effect and stood fast in the face of it. But Hanko then followed up with two wicked strikes that in similar fashion to Subotai were iajitsu strikes and exploded with a powerful smite. But unlike Subotai’s strikes, Hanko’s ancestral weapon Rasshu- the stinging bite unleashed splashes of acid with each attack. The acid dissolved away parts of Subotai’s armor but his Monkey Fist Knot began to glow blue and the armor was restored negating the effects of the acid on his armor.

Subotai staggered back bloodied by the attack but summoned all of his strength so that he could end the fight. He swung Yabakuji in a wide arc and smashed the flat of the blade against the Hanko’s head. Again he unleashed a powerful smite and finally the stubborn kappa fell to the ground unconscious.

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Subotai had won the honor duel and gained a +1 to his dignity (while Hanko lost 1 to his dignity). Despite his winning, Subotai still walked over to Hanko’s second and explained that he wanted to pay the cleaning bill for the kappa samurai’s tea stained kimono. Later that day the bill came due. It was 10 GP. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Later that evening the party went to dinner at Chaya Cuisine – the finest restaurant in Nagabuki. Shiatsu Koto sat with Kai Winding to convince her to join him. It didn’t take long for the two of them to get to business. Kai asked how much would be her share of the trade delegation’s profits. Shiatsu set her cut at 20%. Kai countered and said she would only join him if he could offer her 40%. Shiatsu claimed he had to honor the needs of other investors and the two finally agreed to 30%. After that, a fine dinner was had by all and Shiatsu Koto picked up the tab.

The rest of the party sat at an adjacent table with Shiatsu’s entourage who they had met before at Yamja Tea House. Hwang Hun, the large bodyguard who still said nothing. The female soburi with the eye patch was also there. The party found out her name was Midori Okima. She turned out to be quite talkative. She tried to suss out some more information about each party member claiming to want to know those she fought beside. She learned that Wang Shu was a Ju Hai Shu bloodline sorceror and that Subotai was a Kuruso noble samurai but that was about the extent of it. The final person to join them for dinner was the Soburi man in the blue and yellow kimono who puffed on black smoke the whole evening. Again he said nothing, but the party learned through Midori that the man’s name was Yorimoto Yusuke and that he was quite good with a Katana.

The deal was finalized. Shiatsu Koto was taking a short boat trip to check in on some additional specialized help for the trade delegation mission in two days time. In three days time, the party was meeting with Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari. On the fourth day, they were all set to head out on the journey to Satsujin prefecture.

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Welcome to Nagabuki!
The Gem of the South

Having solved the The Mystery of the Stolen Flesh, the party got ready to leave the Oni cave and return to the trade caravan. Subotai Korusu was carrying Zendar Oni’s massive naginata. Kataashi Kikku asked the samurai why he was taking the weapon. It was too large and heavy for a man to use. Subotai said that it was a trophy of Zendar Oni’s demise and that perhaps he might get some gold in exchange for it. Kataashi scoffed and said that weapon was worthless much like the worthless Oni who carried it. The Oni whose name Kataashi would not even be bothered to utter. Subotai thought on that and agreed, burying the wicked weapon outside the cave.

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The group returned to the trade caravan and met with General Hu Ban to debrief from their mission. As usual Subotai Korusu did the talking. He truthfully related all that had transpired. Subotai omitted the part about Kataashi Kikku drinking the blood of Zendar Oni as he felt it was not dignified to trouble the general with such distasteful stories. General Hu Ban thanked the group for their efforts of tracking down the killer and bringing justice upon him. He decreed that all treasure found on the Oni was theirs by right to do with as they wished. But Hu Ban shared with the group that he was very disturbed by the fact that this Oni had seemingly sought them out and had come here specifically to prey upon the caravan. It was unusual to see Oni so close to a major city.

After the meeting, Wang Shu went to speak to the herb dealer he had met in the trade caravan to inquire about purchasing additional Yamabushi Incense. Unfortunately, the dealer explained to Wang that he only had enough yamabushi incense left to cover promised deliveries to merchants in Nagabuki and that he could not sell any more incense to Wang. He was eager to try to cleanse Kataashi again now that the monk seemed to be more amenable to it. But he realized he would have to wait until they reached Nagabuki to obtain more incense for the ritual.

General Hu Ban ordered the trade caravan to start moving again and after a few uneventful days of travel, a large city loomed out of the surrounding landscape at the intersection of the Imperial Road and the Yokini-Sawagi River. At long last it seemed that the Tanaka Trading Caravan had reached its final destination – the city of Nagabuki in Ikari prefecture. The enormous city was completely encircled by a huge stone wall. The wall was so tall that none of the buildings inside the city could be seen from outside. Additionally the wall was lacquered with layer upon layer of Shironto Sap to seal every last nook and cranny. It was certainly the tallest wall anyone in the party had ever seen. And Wang Shu had lived in the Imperial Capital.

The merchant wagons began to file into the city through the massive wooden gates. All of the caravan guards were assembled before General Hu Ban. The General addressed everyone and thanked them for doing a exemplary job in getting the trade caravan safely to its final destination. He said that he was honored to have fought along side each and every one of you. After his speech was concluded the General’s attache dispensed final payment to each caravan guard for their service and each was discharged to do as they will, their contract to the Tanaka Trading Company now being complete.

Using his finely honed cultural skill, Subotai Korusu approached General Hu Ban and asked him if he would provide a letter of introduction for the group to meet with Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari in order to return the weapons and armor of her deceased nephew Satsuto Ikari. Subotai’s persuasion was so complete, that not only did the General write a glowing letter of introduction but he volunteered to introduce the group to Lady Wuguan personally when he went to her estate in 5 days time.

The party then had a discussion about where each of their paths would lead next. There was safety in numbers and they seemed to fight well as a group and had similar aims so they decided to stick together and entered the city of Nagabuki as one. After negotiating the long queue to gain entrance, each party member had to show their travel papers to the guards. Wang Shu tried to persuade them to grant them free entry to the city but was unsuccessful. Each party member had to pay the sum of 5 GP to be allowed to enter.

Shortly after they passed through the massive wooden gates, they were set upon by a young boy with an ink stained kimono who introduced himself as Moshi. He said he could tell that they were all new to the city and that they definitely needed a guide. Moshi claimed to be the best guide in all of Nagabuki. He lived there all his life. After some haggling with an amused Wang Shu, the little boy sold him a very nice map of the city and agreed to be their guide for the next 5 days. Wang paid him 1 GP now and promised 2 GP in 5 days time.

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The party then began to explore Nagabuki with their little guide. They learned that Moshi was a budding artist and his goal was to be the best artist in the city.

Boulevard of Honor – This long open corridor between the eastern outer wall of the city and the inner walls is mostly empty except for the occasional throngs of folk who gather to watch the honor duels which often take place here. With so many warriors gathered in one place, it is no wonder that honor duels have become a common occurrence in Nagabuki. Samurai frequently meet to duel in this space of the city. The party witnessed two Soburi samurai in a very well choreographed duel to the death. Several city guards watched the ceremony and the duel and did nothing to intervene – even when the head of the losing Samurai was cut from his body in one clean stroke by his opponent and was collected by his second in a ceremonial wicker basket.

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Lane of Glory – This northern broadway of the city is filled with prostitutes, black smoke merchants, and just about any other vice one can think of. The party steered clear of this area.

Monument March Perhaps the most galling of the foreign invaders’ contributions to Nagabuki were the 300 statues that lined the western side of the city, symbolically watching the soburi from the direction of the oppressors’ distant homeland. The settlement’s native warriors relished casting down the carvings of their persecutors only a decade ago and at the direction of Lady Wuguan’s Court, with every month that passes a new memorialization of an Ikari hero is installed to replace the crumbled remains of their persecutors—facing west
toward Ceramia.

Ikari Barracks All of Nagabuki’s swordworthy citizens are made to serve at least 2 years with the Nagabuki Guard and while doing so are made to live in the large, fort-like barracks at the top of the Iron Quarter. This practice of conscription causes some strife but ultimately strengthens the Gem of the South twofold—the Sobietachi Walls are always amply defended and those who patrol the city are well-known to the people they are oathbound to protect.

Training Fields Open for use by individual schools as well as the city’s defenders, this area is often jokingly called the “Unending Theater” by seasoned Nagabuki guards for the sounds of combat that can be heard day and night. Gensosō sensei frequently wander the grounds in search of fighters with the potential to master the primal martial arts and the Mists of Akuma have prompted ever more men and women to try their luck dueling other students, hoping to be seen by the elite warrior-monks and chosen to learn the order ’s secret techniques.

The party spent some time here working out. In particular Wang Shu tried to attract the attention of the Gensoso White Crane Monks but was unable to do so as far as he could tell.

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Kagami Smithery Built on the labors of generations of men and women that created the metal links used to survive in Ikari (and bind enjin), the Kagami Smithery has grown into a vast production facility of traditional soburi methods. Though they may not make their product as fast as others, their protected techniques and access to the purest materials produce the most dependable chains in all of Soburin.

It was here that Subotai Korusu sought out a buyer for the armor of Zendar Oni. Subotai haggled a very good price for the armor and delivered it to the man by using Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. The party perfectly ringed Subotai and his buyer to hide the transaction from prying eyes.

Akaibu Magic Shop This family-owned institution run by Keiko Akaibu sells a rare commodity: magic items. Gaining an audience with Keiko requires no small bit of maneuvering and even then not everyone is given leave to browse her wares. Those who do should be wary spurned customers have complained that they received a curse with their purchase.

Honzogaku Hospital Enterprising herbalist merchants salvaged the gutted remains of a ceramian hospital after Hitoshi’s Rebellion and continue using it today. All manner of healers and healing equipment is for sale here at well established shops. Potions of Healing and Yamabushi Incense in particular can be found here. Each member of the party except Subotai (who did not have the funds after repaying his debts to party members) purchased 100 GP worth of Yamabushi Incense to bring the party’s total to 425 gp worth. After returning to Wang’s Takari Inn room, Wang Shu conducted a cleansing fire ceremony on Kataashi Kikku cleansing him of 3 points of haitoku. This took 1 hour and cost 100 GP worth of incense leaving them with 325. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Ryoshi Hotels The majority of ore coming into Nagabuki is iron brought along The Imperial Road or down the Yokini-Sawagi River. Hotels, teahouses, and bathhouses crowd streets alongside fisheries and freight yards catering to the docks of the Iron Quarter, making it the liveliest area of the Gem of the South. The hotels here run the full gamut of squalid to poor to modest to comfortable to wealthy. Each party member got a room in The Takari Inn (a modest hotel) for 1 GP per night per person (for 5 days) which included a room and modest food. Later in order to keep up appearances for her meeting with a representative of the Jade Workers Guild, Kai Winding got a room at the Midori Inn (a wealthy inn for 2 GP for 1 night)

Yokini-Sawagi River. Timber from the jungles is shipped up this river to Nesuto in the north, metals travel from all over into Nagabuki on its waters, and finished armaments forged in the Gem of the South head downstream to Kusari before distribution across Soburin.

Keizai Market One can find nearly anything in the Tin Quarter’s most popular marketplace. Buyers should beware however, as the businesses and shops change from day to day as owners finish requirements to Lady Wuguan Ikari before moving to more profitable areas of the city making virtually all sales here final transactions, no matter how good or bad the product.

Yami-Ichi Market – a smaller market of the silver district just off the trainig grounds is said to be a black market of sorts. Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari has banned almost all technology in the city. But if one really wants to buy or sell such things illegally this market is supposedly where it can happen.

Jade Workers Guild – a series of shops in the silver quarter where artisans craft works from jade and merchants sell them. Kai Winding stopped by one shop and spoke to a fine young man about a nice jade necklace. It looked good on her but came in at 500 GP, which was a bit too rich for her current level of funds. But Kai did reveal that she was from Satsujin prefecture and was interested in talking with someone about setting up trade relations and possibly opening up Satsujin markets to the jade workers guild. The young man was very interested and arranged a future lunch meeting between Kai and a representative of the guild. He also recommended that she stay at a nicer hotel. His card got Kai half off at the Midori Inn – a wealthy hotel. She paid 2 GP for 1 night as opposed to the normal price of 4 GP.

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Tattoo Shops – Tattoos are common across Soburin, but here in Nagabuki they seem to be unusually prevalent. Walking around the city, most folk seen have elaborate and gorgeous tattoos. The artwork is truly amazing. There are several tattoo parlors in Nagabuki that are run by wizards. They are able to enchant one use spells into their tattoos. Most folk have the lungs of akuma spell at the ready via their tattoos in case they should be caught in the mists of akuma and need to get to safety. It can be expensive, however. Some poor folk have indentured themselves to the tattoo shops in order to cover the cost with funds they do not have out of fear of the Mists of Akuma.

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Wang Shu did some wandering around the city and spoke with a number of its citizens trying to see if anything unusual had been happening lately in Nagabuki. He shared the following info he learned with everyone in the party:

Overall he got a feeling of optimism from the citizens of Nagabuki. Lady Wuguan Ikari keeps the people safe and treats them fairly. The influx of new goods from the trade caravan has set a lot of economic action in motion and many are trying to take advantage of it. Clearly there is a martial tradition here in the city. Most folk he met on the street seemed to be capable warriors even though that may not be their primary occupation.

When he mentioned the attacks on the trade caravan, he universally found a very angry reaction regarding oni, adeddo-oni, and ceramians. Technology here is almost non-existent and tsukumogami as well. When he told tales of a tsukumogami canon, people shuddered in fear and revulsion. Most folks said things like that never happen within the walls of Nagabuki. However, he did hear some stories of the unusual. A few people have turned up dead with a horribly disfigured face. Their mouths were ripped open at the sides leaving a grotesque looking face on the dead person. Even more peculiar were that the bodies later disappeared from the morgue. Rumors regarding who is responsible are all over the place. Some say Kengen Scientists are using the bodies for some kind of experimentation. Others think Oni are to blame. Others point to the depravity of the Botoku Gang.

Wang Shu also heard talk of the Mists of Akuma surrounding the city more frequently these days. The people feel safe though. It is very rare that the mists can breach the high city walls. But when they do most folk use shiranto sap to seal themselves into their homes or rely on magic tattoos.

The last time the Mists surrounded the city, wave after wave of adeddo-oni swam under the river wall to pour out into the iron quarter. But the city was ready. The town guard and the gensoso monks cut them down and destroyed them before they could do much damage to the city.

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The Mystery of the Stolen Flesh
Drinking Zendar's Blood

The trade caravan was making good progress and was getting closer and closer to Nakabuki. When one morning, the party was hastily summoned to the tent of General Hu Ban. A large crowd of caravan guards and merchants were standing in a circle around something and talking in hushed tones. As the party approached they all went silent and gave way revealing a gruesome site. The bodies of 3 men were on the ground. But they were completely stripped of their skin leaving only muscle and organs behind.

General Hu Ban greeted the party and explained that 3 men had been found murdered in the night at their camp site. Their flesh had been completely stripped away. The General tasked the party with investigating this horrendous crime and getting to the bottom of it. Those responsible must be brought to justice.

Kai Winding performed a ritual casting of detect magic and scanned the bodies. She found faint traces of necromantic magic. Wang Shu used his medicine skill to examine the bodies. They were definitely fresh having died some time in the night. He also found evidence of severe blunt trauma and piercing damage to certain tissues. It appeared to Wang that the men had been killed first and then their skin had somehow been removed with some sort of magic.

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The party returned to the scene of the crime. Wang Shu looked carefully for tracks. There were human sized booted tracks all over the area. But 1 set of tracks was much larger – at least 1 large size humanoid creature had walked up to the fire pit and walked away again. Wang also found some strange clawed quadruped tracks of a very large creature. As they studied the scene, Kai Winding quietly said, ‘There are 6 bed rolls – not 3.’ Subotai Korusu frowned and rounded up the caravan guard sergeant in charge of the men in this area. It turned out there were indeed 6 men who had been sleeping there last night. After a quick sounding off 3 of the men were unaccounted for. There was a chance they could still be alive, so the party set off immediately to try and fin them.

Wang Shu did an excellent job following the tracks. They led into the thick wood and then up into the mountains. Little drops of blood were occasionally found along the way which was encouraging that the party was on the right track, but discouraging that they might not find any survivors. After about an hour of travel the party found themselves at the edge of a large chasm spanned by a stone bridge. The tracks went across the bridge.

Kai Winding flew out first over the empty expanse to look down and examine under the bridge. She saw it dropped 100 feet down to jagged sharp rocks at the bottom. The Stone bridge looked sturdy and safe and she could see clearly that nothing was hiding underneath. She did spy a cave entrance on the other side of the bridge, however, next to a thick copse of trees. Kataashi Kikku volunteered to cross the bridge first. He boldly strode across, checking for traps as he went. Wei Tai had a readied kunai attack against anything that he should see, Subotai had readied a Yabakuji blast. Wang Shu had readied a spell attack. Kataashi found no traps but half way across the bridge he heard some rumbling and looked up right into the gaping mouth of a gray render who appeared out of thin air right in front of him.

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The invisible creature took Kataashi by surprise at a full run biting down hard with its huge teeth and trying to drive the monk into the ground. The massive jaws damaged Kataashi greatly but he resisted their twisting action to drive him to the ground and the jaws released. But then two claw attacks smashed into him. The first knocked him to right and the second knocked him to his left and fully off the stone bridge. Kataashi snapped out a hand to try and grab the edge of the bridge but only managed to slide his fingertips across the stone as he plummeted down into the crevasse. The monk slowed his fall but the damage was too great he hit the hard sharp ground and everything went black.

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Kai Winding flew down in seconds to check on the fallen monk frightened of what she would find after so terrible an onslaught and such a nasty fall. But she found a bloodied Kataashi propping up his broken body and smiling up at her through either bloody or betel stained teeth. Kai, rather disgusted, could not tell which. Kataashi had chosen to make a haitoku saving throw to cheat death. He was keeping himself alive and fighting through sheer force of will. This choice forced him to gain 1 haitoku point and gain a level of exhaustion. Kai cast a healing spell on Kataashi and took his rope. She then proceeded to fly straight up back towards the bridge 100 feet above them. Kataashi tested the stone walls. In his exhausted state he was in no shape to reliably climb the walls, so he waited patiently at the bottom as the battle raged on above him. Likewise Kai WInding’s fly speed of 15 was keeping her from rejoining the fight any time soon.

So Subotai, Wei Tai, and Wang Shu were left on their own to battle the intimidating Grey Render. The beast charged forward across the bridge to attack Wang Shu. Luckily Wang managed to dodge the ferocious attacks and keep the beast at bay with his Calligraphy staff and a well timed shield spell for two out of the three of the attacks. But one of the claws made it past his guard and put a huge gash in his chest as the force of the blow knocked him sideways. Subotai came running out to set up a flanking position for Wang if he could get back in the fight. Subotai teed up for a big swing against the creature but his feet slipped on some loose rock and his strike missed its mark. But he did manage to get a shield of faith spell off as a bonus action to protect Wang Shu. From a hidden position, Wei Tai unleashed some devastating kunai strikes that did sneak attack damage. However, when the damage was done the grey render used a reaction to lash out in a bloody rampage attacking Subotai. But Subotai’s armor protected him as the deadly claws did not penetrate his Tosei Gusoku armor. Wang Shu righted himself and got into a flanking position and unleashed a booming blade attack with his calligraphy staff. The blade of his naginata cut deep into the hide of the Grey Render further fueling its rage.

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Subotai and Wang Shu continued to battle the grey render in melee flanking positions with Wei Tai hiding in the dense foliage and hurling kunai to score sneak attacks against the beast. Subotai’s shield of faith spell made the difference in preventing the grey render from successfully attacking Wang Shu and they fought on. It was not easy but eventually Wei Tai managed to hurl a kunai through the gaping maw of the creature and out through its head. The beast was instantly silenced and fell to the rocky stone dead. The next round Kai made it to the top and healed Wang Shu. Wei Tai and Subotai tied their ropes together and lowered it for Kataashi. Kataashi was still in an exhausted state, so instead of climbing the rope, he tied it around his waist and Subotai and Wei Tai hauled him up from 100 feet below. As they worked, Subotai related to the group that he had read stories about the grey render beasts. They are rare creatures but have a strange bond with humanoids. They typically pair bond with a humanoid almost like a pet dog and will fight for their master. These creatures have no penchant for magic. The fact that it was invisible and the necromantic magic lingering on the bodies clearly pointed to some other foe being involved. Kai Winding nodded grimly pointing to the cave entrance, ‘Gentleman I believe our answers lie in that cave.’

When everyone was back together, they healed the wounded and crossed the bridge gathering at the entrance to the cave. The sunlight only went in a few feet before being consumed by the inky darkness. Wei Tai said he could see further in with his darkvision but the tunnel turned out of sight only 20 feet or so in. It was agreed that Wei Tai would sneak in and scout out the cave to see what they were getting into. The ninja slipped into the inky blackness of the cave and vanished. Wang Shu cast a dancing lights spell to prepare for everyone else going into the cave, but kept the lights away from the entrance to not spoil Wei Tai’s reconnaissance.

Wei Tai crept through the cave not making a sound. He kept his body close to the walls to use them as cover and avoid detection from those who could see in the dark. The tunnel curved around and then split into 2 main chambers. There was not much to this cave system. It was small and had very little in the way of furnishings. It seemed to Wei Tai that whoever lived here had not dwelled here long, perhaps even it was a temporary shelter of sorts. Wei Tai did not see any immediate threats but what he did see greatly disturbed him. In one cave 6 complete human skins were stretched out and affixed to the walls. He also saw the remains of 3 humanoid shapes without any bit of skin upon them tossed carelessly in the corner of the cave.

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The total silence was suddenly pierced by a deep and dark laughter that began echoing through the cave. Wei Tai listened intently trying to pin point where it was coming from but it seemed to be all around him. A sharp pain erupted from Wei Tai’s chest as a huge naginata blade pierced his body. A large creature materialized in front of him. It was a large Oni whose face, horns, and hair were all snow white. The creature laughed and said, ‘Welcome to the cave of Zendar Oni. This will be your final resting place, ninja. Look upon the walls. Your flesh will soon join that of those you seek to rescue. You should not have come alone’ Zendar Oni viciously twisted his naginata and it crackled with electricity shocking Wei Tai’s already severely wounded body. The Oni then yanked his naginata free tearing open Wei Tai’s chest and the ninja crumpled to the ground unconscious and bleeding to death.

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Outside everyone heard Zendar Oni’s words and the death cry of Wei Tai. Kai Winding was first to react. She ran into the cave and cast a light spell to illuminate it further. Wang Shu went next running in to the newly lit area and moving his dancing lights in to illuminate the rest of the cave. But he looked around and only saw Wei Tai lying in a puddle of blood. There was no trace of the Oni. Kataashi came charging in with his adrenaline pumping and on high alert. But he too saw nothing to attack. He readied a kick and called out a challenge, ‘Zendar Oni you hide like a coward. I will destroy you like I destroyed Yorozu Oni. Look… his teeth and horns decorate my necklace and yours will too soon enough.’

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Subotai Korusu then ran in to the cave and seeing no one to attack, knelt by the side of the fallen Wei Tai and pumped him full of healing from his lay on hands ability. Suddenly Zendar Oni appeared in the southern cave as he unleashed a cone of cold spell that bloodied everyone. Subotai was surprised it didn’t kill Wei Tai for the damage was more than he had cured, but for some reason the ninja seemed to ignore the cold better than everyone else. Zendar Oni cackled and said menacingly, ‘No Kataashi Kikku it is I who will destroy you. Yorozu Oni was my friend and you will pay dearly for embarrassing him before all of his ancestors and disgracing him after his death. My plan to get you to this cave has worked perfectly and soon your skin will decorate the walls with the others. And in so doing Yorozu Oni will be avenged.’ Kai Winding responded by unleashing a torrent of healing energy. Her magic bathed each party member in restorative bliss making their many wounds fade away.

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With the Oni now visible everyone unleashed their attacks. He had his back against the wall so he was difficult to flank but there was room enough to attack normally. Subotai used an iajitsu strike and unleashed his most powerful smite to hurt Zendar badly. Kataashi followed up with some devastating kicks that rivaled Subotai’s blows with Yabakuji. Wei Tai let his kunai fly and managed to hit Zendar in a vital area doing sneak attack damage. The combined efforts managed to bloody Zendar but his regeneration was strong. As soon as he was hurt by an attack it seemed that his wounds would begin to fade away.

Zendar Oni‘s attacks with his Naginata were deadly. The weapon was sized to match the giant’s large stature. It also crackled with electricity doing extra lightning damage. Many brutal blows were exchanged but finally Zendar Oni turned into a mist and floated up towards a hole in the ceiling of the cave to make his escape. Most of the weapon attacks had no effect and it looked as the creature would get away.

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But Wang Shu yelled out. ‘You will not escape us on this day, Zendar Oni!’. The Ju-Hai Shu bloodline sorcerer raised his calligraphy staff over his head and smashed it to the ground unleashing a thunderwave spell that blasted apart the mist. The small particles suddenly reformed into the Oni’s natural Giant form and it’s dead body fell, landing in a heap on the floor of the cave.

When the body of the Oni slammed to the ground after Wang’s spell, Kataashi walked over with a focused gaze, bent down, and began cutting out the horns and teeth from the flesh and bone of its skull. When that gruesome task was complete, Kataashi bowed for a moment in silence. Then he cupped his hands beneath the bleeding flesh to capture a small pool of blood. He raised his hands to his mouth, and with a grimace, drank the Oni’s blood.

Staring down at the broken body of the oni, Kataashi spoke, ‘Zendar Oni, your blood is foul. As I bested Yorozu, I have bested you. Know that you are weak and mean nothing. May your spirit crawl away to hide in folds of darkness, forever hiding from the wrath of Hachiman.’

Kataashi then stood, clenched his belly for a moment, then said to everyone with a blood-rimmed smile, ‘Well, that was absolutely disgusting. But, thank you… Thank you for your assistance in eliminating this abomination.’

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As the gravity of what had just happened descended upon everyone, a small wind blew through the cave. Wang Shu’s Dancing Lights and Kai Winding’s light spell flickered as if they were flame affected by wind. A feeling of unease descended upon everyone except for Kataashi who felt empowered and good. Kataashi’s dignity went down by 1 point and his haitoku went up by 1 point. Everyone noticed that whenever Kataashi went into a fighting stance, a loud clap of thunder echoed around him due to the severe auditory effect of his misted condition.

Subotai Korusu frowned and said grimly, ‘I am glad this Oni’s presence is erased from Soburin!!! But Kataashi, take heed, absorbing more of that dark path may turn you as it did Takeda. I warn you, in front of all of us, if you turn I will be bound to destroy you. You may enjoy the so called benefits of the dark mists, but I beseech you that there is a more dignified path to reestablish your order of kung-fu. Think of your master and how he’d want it restored. Wang and Kai and myself would be honored to help you in this cleansing path. I know I cannot force you, but I implore you as a friend and ally in this eternal struggle of making right this land from both the mists and the Ceramian menace.’

Wang Shu looked away from the bloody spectacle with a worried look on his face. The wind blew through Kataashi’s hair and his eyes grew wide at the feeling. His face seemed to flash through different emotions – satisfaction, a sense of growing power… and then fear.

Kataashi released his breath in a gush, as if he had been holding it for a long time. He looked around the cave, coming back to himself, and then spoke. ‘I do not regret my actions. The Oni, this one not even worth naming anymore, all of of their kind, deserve to feel the pain they covet in others. I do not regret it… Yet beneath it, I feel the pull of the darkness. It was almost like the sea’s edge when standing in the waves’ retreat…’

Kataashi then turned to face Wang Shu and continued, ‘I will submit to a cleansing. The pull was almost too strong for me. I will not forgo revenge, yet I do not want to lose myself… to become one of them.’

Wang Shu smiled slightly and then a serious look overtook his face. ‘Let us begin right now my friend.’

Wang assessed Kataashi’s Haitoku at a level of 19. He then started the hour long Cleansing Fire ritual. He pulled out his Herbalism kit, lit a small ceramic oil lamp and started to boil some water and burn incense. Reading from a little book of lore he chanted throughout the hour-long ritual.

Kataashi’s Haitoku score was currently 20. And he had a -1 modifier on his Dignity checks.

Attempt #1: 7-1+2= 8 fail
Attempt #2: 17-1+1=17 fail

Each time, Kataashi closed his eyes and attempted to meditate through the process. Yet the pain of cleansing, whether physical or emotional, was evident upon his face. He tried not to fight, but the grip the darkness has on him seemed very difficult to break.

After two hours of ritual cleansing, Kataashi’s haitoku had not subsided at all. Looking defeated, Kataashi turned to Wang Shu and said, ‘Where do we go from here?’

Wang Shu frowned and said, ‘Well, that uses up 200 of my 250 gp in yamabushi ritual incense. Currently we do not have enough incense to try again.’

Wang Shu looked solemn and said ‘We must return to the caravan and purchase more incense. I will not give up my friend until we have helped you heal your Haitoku and cleanse your soul.’

Kataashi bowed his head after the effort. ‘I am sorry I am such a poor student. Searching through… my anger and my fear… is very difficult for me.’

Wang smiled reassuringly and replied, ‘You are a tough nut to crack my friend. But, I will keep trying until the job is done.’

Wang Shu began the rather foul chore of cleansing the cave of the Oni’s presence. He used Hankachi to clean up as much of the blood as he could. The remains of the three soldiers were buried outside the cave and given proper burial rites. Wang did his best to cleanse the cave and appease the Kami. But despite his efforts, he realized that there was no kami presence in this cave to begin with.

Searching the cave yielded little but the Oni himself carried a small miniature chest on his person that radiated magic. After some experimentation, the party discovered it was Zendar’s Dimensional Chest. They put Zendar Oni’s armor inside the chest but the naginata would not fit. Inside the chest they found 32 cured human skins and 5 enjin skins which they buried and gave funeral rites to. They also found 140 GP, 35 sp, and 1400 cp inside the chest. A clear coin that held illusion magic was also in the chest. It was the Coin of Capture. The Master Treasure List was updated.

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