The battle with the Serpopard continued. Subotai Korusu could feel the poison coursing through his system. In the poisoned state he was at disadvantage on his attacks and had a hard time hitting the quick creature with his katana. Kataashi Kikku, however, used his flurry of blows to land 2 strikes upon the beast with a swift kick to the serpopard’s midsection and reverse punch to its face. The rest of the party held back, wary of the large cloud of poisonous musk that still hung in the air cutting them off from the battle.
Wang Shu used his prestidigitation cantrip to create a small gust of wind in an effort to disperse the cloud of musk and dissipate it to the point of no longer being a threat. Kai Winding fired her bow and the shaft of the arrow bit deeply into the flank of the serpopard. In response the creature howled in fury as it went into a berserker like rage unleashing 2 bite attacks and 4 claw attacks. Kataashi Kikku got hit by a claw as it raked his chest but he managed to shake off the pain and keep fighting. Subotai Korusu did not fair as well. The Serpopard smashed a claw into his hip and then clamped down hard on his left arm with its jaws, lifting the samurai up off the ground and shaking him back and forth before dropping him to the ground in a bloody mess that was bleeding out.
With no-one else able to get through the poison cloud to lend aid, Kataashi Kikku got a healing kit out of his pack to help the fallen samurai. But miraculously Subotai Korusu suddenly sat bolt upright and sucked in a large gulp of air as Phil had rolled a 20 on the die for Subotai’s death saving throw and brought him back up to 1 HP and back into the fight. Wang Shu’s efforts with his prestidigitation magic to use magical wind to disperse the poisonous cloud finally proved fruitful as the greenish mist fell away. The party rushed in to attack the terribly wounded serpopard from all sides. Feeling the need to flee, the serpopard tried to leap over Kataashi Kikku and run down the hall but Kataashi thrust upward with his bo staff with tremendous force catching the creature on its solar plexus. The chain reaction of trauma set off by the rupturing of the serpopard’s solar plexus turned off the creature’s life force like a light. Its outstretched paws crumpled beneath its weight as it landed from its jump in a heap.
Kai Winding and Subotai Korusu used healing magic to heal the party as best they could. Wang Shu examined the fallen serpopard. It was a fascinating creature that he had only read about previously. It was interesting to see one in the flesh. He knew that the musk glands of the monster were prized for making perfume. In fact, he knew of several traders in the trade caravan who would pay good gold for the glands or the perfume. Wang Shu carefully cut away the 4 fist sized musk glands, one from each leg of the serpopard. He figured he could get up to 2 GP each by selling them outright. But Wang Shu had an even better idea. He could use his herbalism skill and some of the herbs and oils he had to turn the 4 musk glands into 10 vials of perfume worth about 5 GP each. Meanwhile Kataashi Kikku cut out 4 large claws from the beast to later clean and fashion into a necklace. The Master Treasure List was updated.
Wei Tai continued to sneak ahead and explore the caves. He followed the tunnel from which the serpopard had emerged and found a large cave that was clearly its den. There was a large pile of torn up mushrooms, sticks, leaves, and bones formed into a very large mound with several depressions in it about the size of the serpopard. A closer look revealed human bones, fish bones, and small mammal bones – rabbits, rats, etc. But the pile was left alone and not touched.
Wei Tai went down the opposite tunnel and found the passageway opened up into a much larger room. There he saw one bakemono standing on one end of the room and another standing at the other. Both were clearly on guard and both sides spotted each other at the same time. Wei Tai reacted first by moving swiftly back the way he came and alerted the others.
Kai Winding, Kataashi Kikku, Wei Tai, and Subotai Korusu rushed into the room to silence the bakemono. As they ran ahead, Wang Shu waved his hands and his 4 dancing lights floated into the large chamber to illuminate its expanse. Wang also reminded them to beware the net trap the bakemono prisoner had told them about. But unfortunately no one looked up to see the very large net hanging on the ceiling of the cave some 40 feet overhead. The southern bakemono yanked his hand backward and the net was released catching Wei Tai, Kai Winding, Kataashi Kikku, and Subotai Korusu. All but Kai were knocked off their feet from the force of the net but all were restrained and trapped under the net.
The bakemono fired arrows with advantage at the party members trapped under the net as they struggled to free themselves. Kataashi Kikku pulled a knife from his belt and cut his way through. Kai Winding followed suit by drawing forth her Katana and slashing it in a wide arc to cut the net and have it fall to her feet on either side of her. Wei Tai also cut his way out using his katana as did Subotai Korusu. Everyone could hear the scuttling feet of more approaching bakemono. Two large groups came from the north and the south to investigate the noises of battle and entered the fray. Kataashi and Wei Te moved to intercept the group to the north while Wang Shu and Subotai moved to take on the the group to the south.
Wei Tai hurled kunai throwing spikes at the oncoming bakemono wounding two of them. Kataashi Kikku unleashed a roundhouse kick that caved in the side of the head of one of those wounded bakemono. Subotai Korusu struggled to hit the fast moving bakemono due to his poisoned condition but Wang Shu leaped into the air and held his Calligraphy Staff high over head as he came down he smashed it into the ground unleashing a powerful thunderclap that reverberated through the caves and sent the torn and broken bodies of four bakemono hurtling backwards through the air.
Wei Tai could see beyond the edge of Wang Shu’s dancing lights. He called out that there were two shikome coming in addition to more bakemono. Kataashi Kikku called for a retreat to get to better terrain where the enemies large numbers could not overwhelm the group. He leaped into the air doing a mighty flip and landing on the other side of the net running back down the passageway from whence they had come. Everyone heeded the request and moved swiftly into the passageway as the Shikome and bakemono gave chase through the caves. Everyone that is except Subotai who hesitated to retreat in the face of his enemies. He wanted to make sure he did the honorable thing. But in the end he decided a tactical withdrawal to gain superior ground in this case was indeed honorable. Kataashi harrumphed at the mention of ‘honor’. He said, ‘Wading into battle to predictably fall like a leaf in autumn, then leaving your companions vulnerable? is this ’honor’? Calling bakemono ‘honorless ones’… is this honor to judge others with ignorance of their condition in order to self-satisfy one’s callow creed? You all keep using this word, honor. I do not think it means what you think it means.’
Wang Shu smiled and winked at Kataashi, but said nothing in response to his rant. Wei Tai stopped and turned to Kataashi speaking in a chorus of voices, ‘Honor and wisdom are not synonyms. A fool can act with honorable intent. An honorable man can act without honor in order to do something for the greater honor of all. Honor is intent. Honor is expressed through action. The bakemono are honorless because their intent is to harm and they offend the gods and their ancestors. Wading into overwhelming battle is foolish. Acting without thinking of the repercussions is foolish. It is still honorable if the intent is to protect your companions. It is not if the intent is for ones own personal glory. We are here to protect the caravan. That is honorable. Consider your actions and the intent behind them and determine if they are honorable. I am here because my current liege charged me with protecting my kinsman. Consider your in intents and reasons. Cast no derision upon me without consideration. If you think my actions dishonorable speak to me and if I judge you are correct I will make amends. Until then, we have evil creatures who cause harm for pleasure to deal with. They are not honorable.’
The bakemono were slowed by the difficult terrain of the fallen net but some had bows and fired arrows at Wang Shu and Subotai. Wang Shu put up a shield spell to keep the arrows at bay and Subotai cut the arrows right out of the air with his Katana. The shikome finally came into the light and one of them hurled a huge spear at Wang Shu catching him in the hip. The Ju-Hai Shu bloodline sorcerer cried out and yanked the spear from his body casting it aside in disgust.
Two bakemono caught up to Wang Shu but Subotai leaped back into the fray to help Wang escape. With a mighty swing of his Katana, the poisoned samurai finally hit a bakemono cutting the hapless creature completely in half. Wang Shu used his Calligraphy Naginata to skewer another pursing bakemono freeing the pair to move freely down the passageway. Wang Shu went first followed by Subotai Korusu who got into a defensive stance as the rear guard.