Mists of Akuma

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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Kaiyo Nightmare

The bridge destroyed by the Ceramian’s cannon was repaired after several days and the caravan started moving again. One evening, the party was camping at night. They were sitting around their camp fire telling stories when the peaceful night was suddenly shattered by a deafening explosion. The party jumped to their feet and stared through the darkness to the south where men were running chaotically and yelling ‘Tsukumogami!’ . Chaos erupted through the trade caravan. The ground shook as a huge form moved through the night in a hopping motion. Every time it hit the ground the earth seemed to shake from its sheer weight. The moonlight glistened off something long and metallic looking. The party drew their weapons to face the oncoming threat when there was suddenly a flash of light from it and the entire area exploded. Two caravan guards standing nearby next to some wagons were completely torn apart, pieces of their bodies strewn everywhere from the force of the explosion. The chaotic noise of the camp was replaced with ringing in everyone’s ears. Amongst this shock and awe a Kaiyo Nightmare hopped into the light of the campfire.

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This huge monstrosity’s body was that of a cannon but with two legs, a mouth with sharp teeth, and a single disturbing eye. It was as if the captured Ceramian canon itself had come alive but had also changed into something larger and more frightening. In fact as it hopped around the battlefield on its two legs, it’s eye would fix its piercing gaze upon one of the party members and a wave of fear would sweep over them. The resolute adventurers were able to resist but most of the other caravan guards would flee in terror at the sight of the creature. Everyone had certainly heard the tales of tsukumogami – familiar objects that were inhabited by spirits and came to life – but this was the largest of such creatures anyone had ever heard of. It was terrifying.

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The Kaiyo Nightmare hopped across the camp site and smashed its barrel into people doing massive amounts of damage. And then every once in a while it would level its canon at a target and unleash a devastating cannon blast. It was hard to pin down with melee attacks due to its fast hopping movement. Wei Tai’s kunai seemed to bounce off the metal canon without doing much damage, Kai’s arrows likewise seemed not to slow it. Subotai Korusu’s enchanted katana, Yabakuji seemed to hurt the tsukumogami but only when he was close enough to be able to strike. But then Wang Shu unleashed a huge lightning bolt that hurt the creature badly. ‘Lightning!’ yelled Wang. ‘It is vulnerable to lightning!’

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Wang Shu’s powerful lightning magic had bloodied the Kaiyo Nightmare. Rivulets of blood were streaming down its chicken like legs and dripping from its tongue which dangled from its mouth. Kataashi Kikku had also been using his kung fu to produce lightning strikes and hurting the tsukumogami. The Kaiyo Nightmare wanted to make Wang Shu pay for his magical assault, but the crafty sorcerer had turned invisible and escaped the creature. So it took out its wrath upon Kataashi – pounding him into the ground with barrel slams. Eventually Kataashi had had enough and took cover between two wagons thinking the creature was too big to follow. Instead the Kaiyo Nightmare unleashed a cannon attack that ripped the two wagons apart and set them ablaze sending burning pieces of wood and tarp in all directions.

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The singed monk staggered backwards from the blast and strange pieces of shiny metal fell down to the ground around him. Kataashi stopped to pick up the pieces and put them in his pack before returning to the fight. Kai Winding and Subotai Korusu were busy healing the party as the damage was so extensive. But finally after continued blasts of lighting from Wang Shu and attacks from others, the huge monstrosity finally fell to the ground dead.

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Ceramians Defeated
Koleraj Escapes

The battle with the Ceramians raged on. Michiko was slicing off the arms and legs of the mutants surrounding her with well placed strikes from her razor sharp Katana.

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General Hu Ban joined her in fighting back along with archers on the far side of the bridge.

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Michiko ran fast towards the edge of the destroyed bridge and leaped across to the other side. There she began to cut down the Ceramian riflemen. The party continued to fight them as well with Subotai Korusu and Kataashi Kikku engaging the main group led by Koleraj Batelano while the rest of the party hid back in the lush vegetation.

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Koleraj Batelano took a lot of damage, but he gave as good as he got – firing his revolver and slashing with his saber. Some sort of technology hidden under his uniform healed him at one point allowing him to fight on, but the momentum was turning against him. The Ceramian Riflemen were falling all around him and so he bolted to the southwest into the thick jungle and disappeared into the brush.

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Wang Shu turned invisible and followed him discovering he had ran under a large camouflaged netting. He peaked beyond it to see a large and strange contraption of wood and light steel plates, a powerful engine spit to life spewing smoke and causing four insect like wings that seemed implausibly small carry it aloft into the air.

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Wang Shu used his long range metamagics to take out one of the flying machine’s wings but it still flew off as Koleraj Batelano made his escape. Together, Michiko and the party cut down the remaining Ceramians. As they lay writhing on the ground gripping their lost limbs and terrible wounds Michiko yelled, ‘Those of you lucky enough to still have your lives, Pray for your ancestors to take you quickly. But leave the limbs you have lost behind. They belong to me now!’

Later some of the Ceramians were rounded up and interrogated by Michiko. She said, ’I’m gonna ask you some questions. And every time you don’t give me answers, I’m gonna cut something off. And I promise you, they will be things you will miss!’

Michiko learned where Koleraj Batelano was headed and ran off in pursuit. She was very concerned with a Rogue Kengen General being in Ikari prefecture.

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The party rounded up all of the Ceramian rifles and Wang Shu led a ritual of destruction wherein they were all destroyed. Everyone but Wei Tai participated and their dignity increased by 1 and their haitoku decreased by 1.

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Ceramian First Contact

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Wei Tai slid the pilfered documents from Magistrate Lo Ban’s desk into the flap of his ninja suit. But as he did so, he locked eyes with the purple dragon and saw the rage build in its face. Before Wei Tai could react, the dragon was across the entire length of the room and was upon him. Its razor sharp teeth bit deep into his body and clamped down tight. Wei Tai was surprised by the ferocity of the attack and that it was magical in nature – thwarting his natural damage resistance to piercing attacks. He was lifted off the ground and shaken to and fro like a rag doll as the Dragon carried him deeper into the room and away from the secret door in the floor.

Wei Tai called out in pain over the Myconid Spore Telepathic Bond. Kataashi Kikku heard him and sprung into action. He grabbed hold of the rope and rappelled down the wall of the Torii Gate 50 feet before dropping the last 50 feet and using monk slow fall to soften the landing. He then ran off towards the secret door. Wang Shu told Kai Winding of Wei’s problems and the two of them began to run away from the tent and towards the guardhouse. As he went, Wang pulled out a scroll of fly and tried to use it, but it was beyond his current abilities and the scroll burned away to nothing, wasted.

Wei Tai was very badly hurt but still conscious. He jabbed his finger into the dragon’s nostril forcing the creature to open its jaws slightly in surprise. The nostril did not feel fleshy but rather strangely like magical force. Although it did not feel like a living creature, it seemed to react like one. It was just enough for Wei Tai to wriggle and spin free of its toothy maw. Wei Tai landed in a crouch and ran towards the door. But the dragon snapped at him taking an opportunity attack and Wei Tai once more found himself in the jaws of the beast before everything went black and he fell unconscious.

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Realizing Wei Tai had gone dark, the rest of the party continued to go as fast as they could to come to his aid. Kataashi Kikku was the fastest and he reached the secret door to the left of the main gate moments later. He shoved open the door which was held slightly open by the rock Wei Tai had left in it. Kataashi ran down the stairs and through the hall and would have set off all the traps had not Wei Tai previously disabled them. As Kataasshi burst into the room he saw the dragon looming over Wei Tai’s broken body. The dragon had opened the flap of Wei Tai’s ninja jacket to reveal the stolen documents and was reaching towards them with a claw. But its attention quickly shifted to Kataashi as he entered the room and the dragon turned to face him.

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Kataashi managed to run towards the dragon and flip over it to land by Wei Tai’s side. After needing many extra hands to help haul Wei Tai up the rope to the top of the wall, Kataashi knew all too well that Wei Tai was too heavy for him to carry by himself. So he said a prayer to Yuki Ikari as he placed a hand on his fallen ninja friend and called on her healing touch to flow through him and into Wei Tai. The ancient Kami spirit answered his call and a host of bright blue butterflies burst forth from his hands to surround the ninja. As the butterflies melted into his body, Wei Tai was renewed, his wounds vanished, and he regained consciousness. He even found his telepathic bond was still in place.

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Kataashi urged Wei Tai to get to the secret door as he snatched the stolen papers away from Wei Tai in hopes of luring the dragon away. Kataashi’s plan worked all too well as the Dragon left the fallen ninja to launch a full attack on Katashi. The creature’s jaws clamped down on the spitting monk and much like Wei Tai before him dragged him deeper into the room while shaking him viciously back and forth.

Wei Tai took the opportunity to get up and move swiftly to the secret door in the floor by the Magistrate’s desk. He opened it and jumped down the staircase it revealed. He placed a hand on the door ready to shut it as soon as Kattashi could free himself from the dragon and get through the door. Wei Tai telepathically urged Kataashi to join him.

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The spitting monk needed no further encouragement. He thrust an eagle claw strike into the fleshy part of the dragon’s mouth around its teeth hoping to find a pressure point of some kind. He too found the dragon’s mouth was not hot and wet as he expected but rather room temperature and dry. But the strike had its intended effect, the dragon recoiled enough for Kataashi to slither out of its jaws and flip away from it.

The monk disengaged and ran for the secret door in the floor. He dove through the opening and Wei Tai slammed the door shut in the face of the onrushing dragon. Wei Tai frantically tried to lock the door but found the complex lock too difficult on his first go. The Dragon tore open the secret door and snapped its enormous jaws at Kataashi, but the monk managed to dodge the teeth. Kataashi pushed the door shut with all his might and urged Wei Tai to try the lock again. The dragon pushed back against the door. The veins in Kataashi’s neck bulged out with the sheer effort of his tug of war with the dragon over the door, but the monk managed to keep it shut long enough for Wei Tai to finally use his picks to lock the door. The dragon raged on the other side but its pursuit of them was seemingly thwarted.

Wei Tai and Kataashi ran through the trapped hallway but Wei Tai paused to reset all the traps. The two left through the secret door to the outside and Wei Tai locked the outer door and replaced the vines that were hiding it further. The two ran into Kai Winding who had used her powers of flight to get down to lend her aid. In order to avoid detection from the female archer overhead who was on watch, Wang Shu chatted her up. His engaging conversation distracted her long enough for the 3 party members down below to get to the rope and climb back up.

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Kataashi handed the stolen documents over to Kai Winding and smiled. His toothy grin put on full display his betel nut stained teeth. Kai Winding returned what was at once a weak smile and at the same time a rather disgusted look on her face. She tucked the documents away into her Do-Maru jacket and checked to make sure everyone was all right. She cast some healing magic on Kataashi and Wei Tai to make sure they did not look like they had just gotten into a fight. Wang Shu used his prestidigitation cantrip to remove any sign of blood stains or the like. Wang Shu hoped the dragon they encountered was not intelligent or could not talk. He worried that it would tell Magistrate Lo Ban about the break in. But perhaps Wang’s consternation was unfounded. The next day there did not seem to be any repercussions and a few days later, the Mists of Akuma finally broke and the caravan left the safety of the Torii Gate to continue their journey deeper into Ikari prefecture.

It was good to be back on the road. The party was walking along the trade caravan in the middle of the line of wagons when suddenly a loud and fiery explosion went off followed by small chunks of stone raining down on them. They looked up to see a huge hole had been blasted through a big stone bridge that crossed a gorge with a raging river far below. The canon blast was followed by the reports of multiple rifles that ripped into a number of caravan guards at the lead who were standing on the bridge causing their dead and bloody bodies to be strewn in a macabre array across the bridge. As the party moved forward to try and get to the front, another explosion went off. Now they could see there was a large group of Ceramians on the other side of the bridge and they were firing a huge cannon. But this time the canon blast smashed into a wall of force that had been seemingly conjured up by the woman with the red hair, Michiko. She stood defiantly just on the other side of the large gaping hole in the bridge with General Hu Ban at her side. A group of three mutated looking warriors ran down the bridge and leaped over the hole to smash into the wall of force. They pounded at the invisible wall with their fists and weapons but could not get through to the general and Michiko on the other side.

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General Hu Ban suddenly shouted out for all to hear using some form of magically enhanced volume for his speech. ‘It will not be that easy to prey upon us, Koleraj Batelano.’ Everyone had heard that name before spoken of gravely in tea houses across Soburin. Koleraj Batelano was a Rogue Kengen General – a Ceramian – and one of the most bloodthirsty of those that remained. General Hu Ban continued to shout, ‘What are your terms for calling off this foolish attack and leaving in peace?’

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Koleraj Batelano put something conical and metal to his mouth and shouted back with volume equal to General Hu Ban, ‘Surrender the entire Caravan to us and we will let the rest of you live.’

General Hu Ban replied, ‘What? Complete surrender? I think you overestimate the value of your position.’

Koleraj Batelano erupted in fury, ‘Bah! Conscripting you pathetic Soburi into our glorious Ceramian Army was the biggest mistake we made in the War of Kaiyo. It was your weakness that caused The Great War to end.’

General Hu Ban shouted back, ‘Stop your foolish talk of things that neither of us can control. Clearly we are at an impasse. You cannot break our mystic shield and we cannot pass until you withdraw. What about 1,000 Imperial Gold Coins?’

And so the haggling began. As General Hu Ban kept the Ceramians talking, his page ran up to the party and exclaimed, ‘General Hu Ban wants you to sneak across the gorge to the south of the waterfall out of eyesight and launch a surprise attack to disable their cannon. The General will keep them busy with negotiations, but hurry!’

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The party burst into action, diving into the thick tropical vegetation of palm trees and bamboo, and sprinting to the south. The tree covered ledges sloped down towards a massive waterfall. Below the waterfall they could no longer see anyone at the bridge above. They looked across a wide expanse close to 100 feet across. The waterfall thundered above them falling about 300 feet down into the huge gorge below. Wei Tai and Kataashi each tied their 50 foot ropes together. Then Kataashi tied one end of the rope to a tree hanging out over the edge of the cliff. He then moved back into the thick jungle. He sprinted towards the edge and leaped into the air leaving a trail of dark smoke in his wake. Between the power of his monk Ki and his leg augmetic he quadrupled his already sizable jumping ability allowing him to soar across the chasm in a huge jump. Landing gracefully on the other side he quickly tied the other end of the rope to another overhanging tree but lower down. As the rest of the party stared dumbfounded at the incredible jump they just witnessed, Kataashi waved his hands frantically for them to come across and join him.

Subotai was the first to cross. He slid his katana out of the sash at his waist with it still in the scabbard. He placed the scabbard over the rope and held on with a hand on either side. He then launched himself and slid down the rope commando zip line style to land on the other side with Kataashi.

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One by one the rest of the party followed suit. Kai and Wei Tai using their katana’s just like Subotai and Wang Shu used his calligraphy staff. The party then used stealth to work their way up through the thick jungle to the bridge on the other side of the bridge. Using his extend metamagic to increase the range of his spell, Wang Shu unleashed a shatter spell that caused one of the canon’s wheels to explode into tiny wooden and metal bits of shrapnel. fire. The shrapnel tore through the Ceramian Bombadiers who were manning the cannon and tore through the cannon itself. The shrapnel also hit a nearby pile of cannonballs which in turn exploded with a huge cacophonous fiery blast of force. Three Ceramian Bombadiers who were manning the cannon were blasted backwards and the canon was in burning pieces on the ground. Two of the Ceramian Bombadiers got up slowly and unsteadily wiping the blood from their wounds but the third was dead.

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As if on cue, right after the explosion of Wang Shu’s spell, Michiko brought down her wall of force and leaped towards the three mutant warriors on the other side. Her Katana sliced through the air lopping off one of the mutant’s arms and one of their legs as if they were made of paper. Showers of blood erupted from the gaping holes left behind as the hapless creature dropped to the ground dead. General Hu Ban also charged forward and delivered some steady blows to the mutants on the bridge with his Katana.

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Kataashi Kikku burst out of hiding from the foliage and moved swiftly up to engage the Ceramian Riflemen. He delivered a flying kick which snapped the head back of one of them at a horrible angle before he slumped down dead. The Ceramians responded by firing their rifles at the party. Subotai Korusu was able to cut one of the bullets out of the sky with a quick slash of Yabakuji. Kataashi was able to use his monk ability to dodge the first bullet. But for most it was the first time the characters had tasted steel delivered by firearms. The bullets bit deep and hurt badly. The riflemen moved to encircle Kataashi with bayonets affixed to the ends of their rifles. Koleraj Batelano had a saber in one hand and a revolver in the other. He blasted his revolver and swung his saber twice at Kataashi.

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Document Intrigue
The Magistrate's Wooden Dragon

After the revelations outside the tent, everyone returned inside to finally take their rest. It had not been very long ago that they were racing for their lives through the Mists of Akuma down the Imperial Road being chased by hordes of adeddo-oni. Sleep felt good. In the morning Wang Shu performed an hour long yamabushi cleansing fire ceremony for Kai Winding using 60 GP worth of yamabushi incense. The Mists of Akuma had taken their toll and increased her haitoku to unacceptable levels. She used her resistance cantrip to aid in her dignity saving throw and successfully was cleansed of corruption. The minor auditory effect of Kai’s voice suddenly shifting several octaves into a deep and disturbing voice was a very vexing side effect of Kai’s misted condition. That auditory effect was now gone and Kai thanked Wang Shu profusely. Wei Tai also asked to be cleansed. Wang Shu conducted another hour long yamabushi cleansing fire ceremony using 65 GP of yamabushi incense in this case. Wei Tai’s cleansing was also successful removing the mild auditory effect of his voice shifting into a chorus of voices. So now Wei Tai sounded like any other Soburi man. Kataashi Kikku was offered several times to be cleansed as well, but he politely refused.

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After the ceremonies were complete the party went out in search of replenishing some of their supplies from the trade caravan. Wang Shu purchased 100 GP of additional yamabushi cleansing incense and 1 potion of healing. Kai also purchased 1 potion of healing. Katashi and Wei Tai each purchased 2 potions of healing. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Later Kai Winding shared something she had seen with the group. Apparently Magistrate Lo Ban was hiding travel papers from her view that described someone named Shiatsu Koto leading a raid in Satsujin prefecture. Kai explained that since she is from Satsujin, this was quite alarming to her and she wanted to read the papers more thoroughly to see what in fact was going on. She stated clearly that this was a personal matter but that she would appreciate any help the party would offer. Subotai Korusu was very concerned. It was illegal to tamper with official documents and he did not want to upset Magistrate Lo Ban or run afoul of the law. He did not forbid the rest of the party’s involvement, but he asked to be left out of these plans and not included in any sort of action involving stealing anything.

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Subotai went to meet with General Hu Ban the next morning. Everyone went him except for Kataashi Kikku who went off to practice his katas. Subotai fully debriefed the General on everything that had happened during the rearguard action holding the line. The fate of Takeda Yoro was particularly difficult for the General but he was glad that the rest of you made it back to him safely. After that meeting was complete, Subotai Korusu and everyone except Kataashi went to meet with Magistrate Lo Ban in order to fully debrief him on what happened in the Mists as well.

Upon entering Lo Ban’s office for the second time, Subotai noticed a whole wall of spear racks that were empty and rather dusty. There was a large wooden carved dragon statue in one corner and 2 guards in the room. Subotai followed the cultural etiquette exquisitely by giving Magistrate Lo Ban a gift of a Korusu silk handkerchief. The magistrate was quite pleased by the courtesy and prepared a clean sheet of paper and a fresh calligraphy ink set to document, Subotai’s story. Subotai then proceeded to describe in exquisite and sometimes harrowing detail the experiences of the party from Hold the Line!, Arrival at the Torri Gate, and Climbing to the Safety of the Torii Gate.

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While the magistrate was dutifully transcribing Subotai’s words into beautiful calligraphy characters, Kai Winding, Wang Shu, and Wei Tai were looking around the room – casing it for possible ingress. The were looking for secret doors or some other means of getting into the room beside the main door. But they found nothing. Upon conclusion of the documentation of the events, Magistrate Lo Ban thanked Subotai and was about to end the meeting, but Wang Shu spoke up and complimented the magistrate on his very expensive looking dragon carving. With a skillful charismatic maneuver, Wang Shu manipulated Lo Ban to bring them over to the carving and describe who made it and the finer details of its quality.

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Magistrate Lo Ban showed off his dragon carving to Subotai Korusu and Wang Shu. Wang Shu noted that the quality of the carving was fantastic – the red lacquered wood shown with an almost magical brilliance, but he failed to notice anything more. With the magistrate expertly distracted by Wang Shu, Kai Winding tried to distract the closer guard by languidly moving towards him and showing an unusual amount of interest and possible affection towards him. She unfortunately laid it on a bit too thick and only resulted in a very awkward and embarrassing encounter between the two. It provided a little distraction but not the amount of distraction that Wei Tai needed to fully search for the documents. He was able to use his sleight of hand to search through the papers on the desk and found the papers Kai was looking for not to be among them.

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Wei Tai saw there were 6 locked drawers in the desk that could easily contain papers but Kai’s distraction with the guards was not good enough to allow him to try and pick the locks and get into them. Wei Tai did notice, however, a strange change in the pattern of the tiles in the floor in the southeast corner of the room behind the Magistrate’s desk. He thought it might be a secret door of some kind.

Before leaving Subotai Korusu asked Magistrate Lo Ban if the dusty spear racks were supposed to actually hold spears. The magistrate apologized rather sheepishly and explained that there was a shipment of Ikari spears that was to have arrived here about a month ago. A wagon transporting them along the Imperial Road in the mountains near the city of Rinku went missing. Satsuto Ikari, a noble Ikari samurai leading a squad of 10 men, was dispatched to track down the spears but they never returned.

Subotai Korusu frowned and asked if the shipment was 60 spears all bearing the mark of Ikari. The Magistrate checked his records and confirmed that was in fact the case. Subotai sighed and explained that he believed they had recovered the spears in a raid on a bakemono cavern. Subotai excused himself and went off to fetch the spears. He had some caravan hands carry the brand new Ikari branded spears into the room and place them in the spear racks. Subotai also showed Magistrate Lo Ban the armor, katana, wakizashi, and travel papers of Satsuto Ikari and explained his fate and that he wished to return the fallen samurai’s armor to his family. Magistrate Lo Ban wrote a letter of introduction to Subotai Korusu to help him gain an audience with Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari. Subotai thanked him and everyone took their leave.

Later that night when Subotai Korusu had gone to sleep, the rest of the party met in secret to plan a possible infiltration of Magistrate Lo Ban’s office. A quick recon by Wei Tai showed a lot of guards and doors that would have to be opened. It looked quite difficult to get in without battling any guards which is not something Kai wanted to do. After hearing about the possibility of a secret door, Kataashi Kikku thought it was worth checking to see if the secret door possibly went outside. The Magistrate’s office was at the ground level and adjacent to the outer wall. It was worth a look to see if it somehow connected. Wang Shu got out the Myconid telepathic bond spores. They were eaten by Kataashi, Wei Tai, and Wang Shu. Since it looked like it would take them down into the Mists of Akuma, Kai Winding cast the spell Lungs of Akuma conferring on each of them 1 hour of immunity to the Mists of Akuma.

Wei Tai used Kimono Bukuro to switch from his armor to a black ninja suit. Kataashi Kikku took 50 foot of his own rope and tied it together with another 50 feet of rope from Wei Tai. The two snuck past the guards and went to a dark area of the wall where they could hide behind some battlements. They looped the rope around a battlement, securing it in place, and dropped it down into the mists below. Kataashi Kikku stayed at the top guarding the rope as Wei Tai rappelled down through the mists 100 feet until he finally reached the ground.

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Keeping in constant contact using the telepathy spores, Wei Tai reported back to Kataashi and Wang Shu. Wang Shu then passed along the progress to Kai Winding using his voice. Wei Tai worked his way along the base of the wall searching as he went for secret doors hoping that he would find one leading into the office. Wei Tai moved silently and hidden mindful of adeddo-oni lurking in the shadows as well as Ikari archers who could spot him from the ramparts above. The mists swirled around him but he could see well in the darkness using his darkvision. Wei Tai eventually got to the area just to the left of the mighty oaken door of the main gate. There he found a small key hole sized gap in the stone covered by overhanging vines. He brushed the vines aside as he pulled out some small lock picks from his ninja sash. He carefully used the tools to pick the lock. He found the lock complex and very difficult but Wei Tai’s skill and luck was strong. He felt the very satisfying click as he unlocked the lock but then felt a sinking feeling as a poison needle trap that he had missed pressed into his hand delivering a lethal dose of powerful poison. But Wei Tai just carried on as if the poison had no effect on him.

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Wei Tai reached his hand past the open lock and felt for the mechanism that would open the secret door. He finally found a small lever which he pulled. A 5 foot by 3 foot section of the wall slid away to reveal a set of stairs leading down into the darkness. Wei Tai slipped past the door and as it began to shut, he wedged a piece of stone into the doorway to keep it slightly open and ajar. Passing down the stairs like a shadow he quickly reached a narrow 5 foot by 5 foot tunnel. He looked carefully at the floor and walls with his darkvision discovering the tell tale signs of pressure plates and small holes in the walls hiding some sort of spears. He once again used his thieves tools to disable the pressure plates as he went rendering them unable to trigger the poisoned spears to shoot out.

The tunnel only went about 30 feet before ending in more stairs going up to a ceiling. Wei Tai searched for traps on the stairs and secret doors on the ceiling. He found another small gap in the ceiling that corresponded to another hidden lock. He found another poison needle trap which he disabled this time and then picked the lock. Again the lock was quite complex but he managed to pick it. The lock opened and he was able to reach behind it to find a lever. When he pulled on the lever, a 3 foot by 3 foot hole in the ceiling slid aside revealing the office of Magistrate Lo Ban. Kataashi Kikku’s hunch that a secret passage led from the outside in was correct.

Wei Tai looked down the stairs that he had just gone up. He could see the Mists of Akuma spilling through the secret door he had left ajar and swirling around on the floor below. So far they were not breaching the gatehouse but he should not tarry too long should they attempt to do so. Wei Tai put his hands on the floor of the room and silently pulled his legs up and into the room. The secret door in the floor began to silently slide shut, but Wei Tai wedged a kunai in between the stone blocks to keep it open.

He scanned the room with his darkvision and waited quietly to make sure everything in the room was secure. He saw and heard nothing so he crept forward along the floor to the desk. There he checked it for traps and after finding none began to pick the locks on the 6 desk drawers one by one starting with the top right. The lock was difficult but not as complex as the locks on the secret doors. Soon it was open and Wei Tai was rifling through the papers inside. He saw nothing regarding Shiatsu Koto or anything related to the documents Kai was after. So he closed that drawer, made sure it was locked, and moved to the next drawer down. He picked that lock and found mostly writing implements. He closed that drawer, made sure it was locked, and then went on to the next below it.

However, suddenly Wei Tai heard a strange sound from across the room. He looked up from his work to see a shimmering translucent image of a purple dragon step out from inside Magistrate Lo Ban’s red lacquered wooden dragon statue. The dragon began to scan the room but luckily did not react. Perhaps he was not detected. As luck would have it Wei Tai was crouched behind the magistrate’s desk and it was offering him excellent cover to hide from the dragon. The dragon began to sniff powerfully though the large nostrils on its snout. It floated above the ground as if hovering in the air. Wei Tai communicated this to Kataashi Kikku and Wang Shu through the telepathic bond.

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Kataashi Kikku was getting quite alarmed but Wei Tai kept calm and picked the next lock to open the bottom drawer on the right. He quietly flipped through the papers inside able to read them with his darkvision. He found the travel papers for Shiatsu Koto and read them silently in his mind to Wang Shu who relayed it to Kai Winding. There were two documents. One was travel papers that looked like Lord Benton Satsujin had invited Shiatsu Koto to visit his court as a representative of the Jade Workers Guild in an effort to discuss opening jade markets in KI-Yosa. Another document described Shiatsu Koto as an agent of Lord Isa Barto and that he was to hire ninjas and lead a raid on Satsujin palace using the invitation as a cover. Wei Tai asked what to do and through Wang Kai Winding told him to take both documents as evidence and to return with them.

Wei Tai closed the drawer and made sure it was locked before sliding the two papers into the flap of his ninja suit. As soon as the papers were on his person, however, the dragon snapped its head around and looked right at him as if it somehow knew Wei Tai had stolen something from the room. Wei Tai called out telepathically to Kataashi Kikku and Wang Shu that he had been spotted by the dragon and was in serious trouble as the creature flew across the room towards him at a blinding speed. Wang Shu slapped his forehead in dismay wondering how he could have missed that the giant dragon statue was enchanted in some way.

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The Meeting in the Tent
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General Hu Ban was very pleased with the incredibly brave rear guard action of the party to hold the line against the hordes of addeddo-oni. Without their sacrifice, the trade caravan would have been enveloped in the Mists of Akuma and not reached the safety of the Torii Gates. At Wang Shu’s suggestion, as a special boon, the general provided the rich and luxurious tent of one of the caravan merchants to be at the disposal of the party. There they met on top of the Torii Gate. Much had been seen in the Mists of Akuma and certain things that were seen had to be discussed. Each party member took a seat around a beautifully ornate table in a tent lined with silk pillows and lacquered furniture.

Subotai Korusu calmly asked Kataashi Kikku, ‘So how did you get your leg my friend, was it by choice? Remember what I heeded to you in the magistrates office, the truth will set you free my friend. I wish to know the origins of your amputee. I am not here to place judgement, just know the truth.’

Wang sat in the corner quietly while Subotai questioned Kataashi. He began a cleansing fire ritual on himself while the group talked.

Kataashi stiffened at the query. He looked around the tent, catching everyone’s eye with a hard stare. ‘What business is it…’ On the last word, his voice cracked and then paused. With slumped shoulders, Kataashi took a deep sigh, ‘I am honored by your respect, friends. Other than my companions and teacher in the monastery, no one has ever shown me such respect.’

Kataashi pulled back his robe and let it drop. He stood before everyone in the party, wearing only a loin cloth. His entire body was completely covered in complex and beautiful tattoos. He extended out one leg and pressed his fingers down, leaving a normal pressured trace along the flesh. He then extended his other leg and tapped on his thigh with a faint, metallic clinking sound. After a moment, with that knowledge, everyone’s eyes adjusted and each was surprised to see that the complex tattoos on this leg are created with subtle paint and the curves of shaped metal.

‘Were it not for this leg, and the others before it, I would be dead and buried.’ With a pained expression, he continued, ’I was born to impoverished parents and I was born with only one leg. I am told they struggled to keep me, but they had no time to care for one who needed more than most. When I reached two years of age, my parents sold me to a monastery that had the resources… and the good will to raise one such as I. ’

‘It is there, with all my maimed brothers and sisters, that we learned the art of Hagane Budo, the steel martial art. Who would I have been were it not for my Master? Who would all of us have been? We would have been beggars or prostitutes at best, dead at worst. I know the steel brings risk and taint, yet were it not for the steel, and the love of a Master willing to see beyond the superstition, our lives would be nothing, filled with death and dishonor.’

‘Judge me if you will, but I lied to the magistrate because ones such as him know nothing of the suffering, pain and difficult choices of folk who work with dirt under their nails. He would have cut me down with no thought had I told him the truth. I have seen it before…’

Kai nodded solemnly at Kataashi’s response. ‘I cannot even imagine being in your shoes, spitting monk. I am sorry for your pain and your loss.’ Kai crossed the room and gave Kataashi a hug and a smile. Tracing the line of his jaw with her hand, she continued ‘But are you being completely forthright with us about the Ceramian technology you employ? We are all entitled to our secrets, I suppose. I will trust to your discretion but be mindful of what you bring into this city not necessarily what bears you into it.’

Wang stopped the ritual he had just started and stood. He bowed to Kataashi with both hands open and spoke, ‘I have misjudged you Kataashi. The scars on Soburin run deep and touch us all in one way or another. Who am I or the magistrate for that matter, to judge one such as yourself because of the circumstances of life? You have proven yourself as a caravan guard and as a comrade in arms to all of us.’

Subotai nodded his head in agreement with Wang and added, ‘Kataashi, I am honored by your honesty. In my homeland, the taint of technology clings more to the heart than the actual limb. I have known many an amputee and have respected their station. This dictates the laws of bushido. You are my ally and I have pledged to never abandon you and you all.’

Subotai stared down at the ground, narrowing his gaze… ‘That is why we must avenge Takeda, our fellow in arms, those foul mists destroyed his soul! We shall complete our mission for the caravan and strive to cleanse this tainted word. As we cleansed the Kami’s shrine.’

Looking up, Subotai eyed Kataashi. ‘When I debrief the magistrate on our actions as rear guard, I will inquire on the laws of this land which I will follow as tenets of the samurai state. Once I know them, I may be able to give better council. In my homeland, I only saw one Ceramian executed for fell technology but only because he was illegally smuggling and implanting people of my land and many other more heinous crimes such as burglary and murder. Simply having one is not illegal, at least where I come from. Your choice to lie is yours, though I now understand why you did. You do not know what the magistrate would have done, but I am glad you are here with us. Though, that woman from the trade caravan, the one speaking to the magistrate before us seems to know your secret as well. When you answered the magistrates question, she shook her head no. Tell me Subotai, do you know that lady? How would she know your secret?’

Before Kataashi could answer, Wang Shu paused and looked to Wei Tai saying, ‘We all have secrets, even myself…as a Wizard’s school drop out, I have things that I must keep secret to the world. I am curious about your great weight, Wei Tai and ability to act underwater. What do you hide under that mask of yours? Whatever secrets you may reveal to us, I pledge to keep them secret as I pledge to keep what Kataashi just shared with us within this group of friends.’

Kataashi nodded in appreciation of Wang’s words. He then resumed chewing on his betel nut and looked over to Wei Tai with mirthful curiosity.

Wei Tai paused and stood very very still. He doesn’t seem to breathe as she stood there staring at the floor….. ‘We are searching for our lost honor. It has been many many years since we dared to trust anyone. Many many years of traveling the roads alone fighting the chaos.’ Wei Tai looked up toward the roof of the tent and began making statements each spoken in a different voice. Some female, some male, and one of a small child. ‘Looking for redemption. For revenge. For hope. For my lost children. To avenge my wife. To avenge my husband. To find my way to the light. To avenge my betrayed men. To find my mommy and daddy. To live my life. To die, God’s damn it! Just let me die! To bring hope back to the world. To return to the path of honor…..’
All the voices started talking and yelling and crying at the same time…. At least 13 distinct voices emanated from him as she stood there completely and utterly motionless…. Then they all stopped. Wei Tai lowered his head and looked slowly around at the group.
‘We are Wei Tai. We are the betrayed ones who have lost our honor and our way. The only path we see forward is to prevent anyone from doing this again and to bring peace to any who are suffering our fates..’

Wei Tai continued, ‘If you wish for me to go my way please let me do so in peace for I have work to do.’ Wei tai lowered his head and she walked out of the door.

With a look of confusion and bewilderment Subotai called after Wei Tai, ‘Come back Wei Tei! I will not impede on your mission, though I’d love to know how you came to be?’

As Wei Tai spoke to the group, Kataashi’s mouth first stopped chewing and then slowly dropped open completely. When Wei Tai walked out, Kataashi mumbled, ‘Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting…’ He paused for a moment, lost in thought and then distractedly walked out the door as well.

After Kataashi and Wei Tei left, Kai turned to the others, raised her elegantly arched eyebrow and said, ‘uh, yes, that was quite unexpected. I hope we have not lost our ninja. He or she or they or whatever Wei Tei is, is most honorable and valuable. I will try to seek Wei Tei out.’ Kai left the tent as well in search of Wei Tei.

Kataashi emerged from the tent to find Wei Tai standing alone outside a little way off gazing up towards the sky… utterly still. Kataashi stepped closer to Wei Tai and was about to speak when Kai and Wang Shu emerged from the tent. Kataashi paused and stepped back, waiting patiently for others to speak first.

Wei Tai looked at Kataashi. When he spoke, the echos of other voices could be heard sounding of a deep sadness and loneliness. Wei Tai said, ‘I could not dishonor you with less than the truth after you honored me with your secret. If this means the end of our fellowship so be it. I will seek my path back to honor alone once again if I must.’

Kai gracefully glided up beside Wei Tai and silently looked up at the sky too. After a few moments, she said, ‘I do not want you to leave Wei Tai. None of us do. What I said to Kataashi applies to you, to any of us, it would seem. I do not mean to lecture you, only the spitting monk,’ Kai winked, ‘but it is our choices that define who we are not this stuff,’ Kai pinched Wei Tai’s cheek. ‘Come back inside Wei Tai, I need your help. You honor us with your courage. We will help you find your path along the way.’

Kataashi stepped up on the other side of Wei Tai after Kai spoke. He stood there silently looking up at the sky as well. After a while, he looked down and spat, expertly hitting the center of small rock at his feet.

’Hell’s bottom, Wei Tai, I don’t give a shit how you got where… what… who you are.’ He then paused for a moment. ‘That didn’t come out right. It’s not that I don’t give a boar’s teat about you… all or what path you seek to redemption. It’s that I don’t give an jackass’s left testicle what you look or sound like. It seems our paths have connected at this time in our respective lives. I count myself fortunate.’ He then smiled wryly, spat on the exact same spot, darkening the stain, and said, ‘Well, at least until some magistrate finds out about my leg and chops it off, or finds out about your multi-faceted soul and tries to rip it out. Heh heh.’

Subotai slowly exited the tent in deep thought. He joined the group and said, ‘I must admit I have never seen anything like this. My ancestors bless me thru Yabakuji so in a way they live on thru me, but not in this way. So many stories, so much pain and loss….’

Subotai knelt, drew yabakuji and set it carefully on the ground before him. ‘You search for your lost honor my friend. I pledge on my life and ancestry that I will aid you in this quest.’

Wei Tai said, ‘I thank you all for the honor of your friendship. This is the first time since this was done to us that I have dared trust any or had anyone I could call a friend. If my presence is not too offensive or dangerous to the group we have agreed to continue with you. It was Mai Lee and Verek who felt we should trust you and we decided to bow to their wisdom.’ Wei Tai continued to stand there silently regarding the heavens.

After a moment Kataashi said, ‘Though your story is your own, as mine is mine…’ He then looked over to Wei Tai and smiled broadly with brown stained teeth, ‘Was it the Mists that did this to you all?’

Wei Tai looked around the group and then said, ‘I am sorry for being so melodramatic. You asked and I was honorbound to answer. No. The mist did not do this to me, but rather an honorless master sent Hikari No Ha to another honorless master, but that is a tale for another night. Are there others who wish to share their tales with their blood brothers here?’

Wang Shu shrugged, ‘Sure, since we are all being honest. I flunked out of Wizards school and accidentally banished myself from the library to a far away forest. I was never good at studying and while lost in the forest I found the path of the Wind, Lightning and Thunder from a naked Yamabushi…it’s a true story I swear to you all. He is probably still naked in the forest for all I know…’

Subotai frowned towards Wang and said, ‘I am of the noble house of Korusu am a descendant from a long line of military generals, including Zhiajo Korusu, who slayed a Yai sovereign, reclaimed Soburin’s eastern coast, and created the great defensive wall to repel the Ceramian invaders from the imperial palace.’ Subotai bowed his head in sudden solemnity. ‘And fell when our allies from Satsujin betrayed us and gave the Ceramians a foothold into our land and eventually began the Kengen Occupation.’

At the mention of Satsujin, Subotai looked solemnly at Kai. Subotai stayed silent, but seemed to be holding something back…. he then continued. ‘So I have been called to be a samurai and trusted with my clans legacy blade, Yabakuji, named after its first wielder Yabakuji Korusu. It has been handed down from generation to generation, from Yabakuji, to Zhaijo and now to myself. As I explained earlier the battle with the Oni has awakened this blade and it’s powers are growing and linking to me. Besides the kiss of Ikari I have never felt such joy. So my mission is to protect the innocent from evil and vanquish the plague in our lands. It seems this includes the Ceramian menace and the foul mists themselves. I know not how this will be done, but simply know that is my mission. ‘What about you Kai? What do you wish to share?’

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