|Character||Character Type||Portrayed by|
|Asahina-sama (Asahina Byakuya)||male samurai||Rachael|
|Shizune Reiki||female kensei cat hengeyokai||Dedrick|
[with horse Ushi and monkey Kuu]
|Yoritomo Mochiko||male fire shugenja||Sydney|
|Tanaka Ryo||male fire shugenja||Kevin|
|Mibu Kyoshiro/Kyo||male samurai with a dai-katana, masquerading as a medicine peddler||James|
|Onihana Daisuke||the nine year old ninja||James|
The samurai Asahina-sama, his companion Reiki, and Takumi come into a small ghost town in the province of Kii, looking for refuge because it seems like a storm is coming in. The temple has a couple of lights lit. Asahina-sama refuses to sleep in the countryside, so he and Reiki head towards the temple. They run into Takumi and question him. Asahina-sama to Reiki: “You may speak.” Reiki-kun knocks at the temple door. Mochiko opens the door and invites them in. Takumi stables his horse Ushi in back. It is lavish for a small town temple, but it seems ghost-like even inside, except for two attendants. Asahina-sama: “Is it usually this quiet?” “The temple elders are away on business,” says Ryo. They show the honorable Asahina-sama to his lodging, and he appreciates the hospitality and pays homage to temple. The sohei Mochiko stands guard. Takumi interrogates a tree. The tree sloooowly responds: “They’re all leaving, going away. Fire temple…fire bad.” Mochiko looks at him talking to a tree on her rounds, stares, and walks away.
There is a foul wind from the east. Kuu the monkey spends the night in the tree. They consume a small meal with rice…their resources are gone as well. It is between spring and summer (May-June-ish). Asahina-sama formally calls everyone by their last name. Reiki stays up watching and hears the horse whinnying. She turns into a cat to see what is going on. The horse is jumping up and down, but everything else seems normal; it looks like just a storm. She curls up and sleeps in front of Asahina-sama’s door. Ryo thought he heard something fall. He gets up and finds the sohei in her quarters, and both go to check it out. Kuu in the tree: “Tut tut, it looks like rain.” Ryo pets the cat in front of Asahina-sama’s door. The cat wakes up and looks at them. Mochiko to Ryo: “They’re strange; one of them was talking to a tree.” Reiki changes back to a human. The two startled temple attendants draw weapons, as does Reiki. The samurai and the shaman sleep peacefully, oblivious to everything. Ryo: “You’re pretty soft there.” They put their weapons up. “Next time say something, I’ve never met one of you people before.” They go off to investigate the noise.
Ryo sees figures ready to jump out of shadows, so he casts light. Bakemono! “Get them, they’re evil!” Ryo blasts them with burning hands. One books it out of there. Mochiko does a ranged attack with her kusari-gama, but it does not hit. One of the bakemono hits her. Reiki flash steps and cuts with her double-edged katana. She cuts one in half, and the severed part slides off. These bakemono are light foot soldiers, basic infantry that don’t last long on their own. One pokes Reiki with a short spear in side. She hisses. The bakemono gives her a weird look. Ryo tries shocking grasp. Mochiko goes up and hits, dropping one. Reiki misses; it pokes her again, and she hisses again. Ryo and Mochiko miss, but Reiki cuts the remaining one in half and blood spurts. Ushi the horse has calmed down now with Reiki’s help. Reiki, though, is angry.
Kuu wakes up and runs into temple, where she wakes Takumi up by jumping on him. Kuu runs out, and Takumi follows. The samurai wakes to monkey shouts and thunder. He gets his swords, heaves a long sigh, and goes out. The temple people clean up the bloody mess: charred bodies, two cut in half…Takumi checks his horse. Those low creatures were not worth Asahina-sama’s trouble. Takumi heals Reiki and Mochiko. At Asahina-sama’s request, Ryo imparts this information: “The Tosa province has been slowly acquiring Kii’s land and others, up to double what their province lands were, and no one knows exactly how they were doing it. During spring and summer months, many samurai were sent into Tosa lands to investigate, but none of them have returned. Those that went in the fall and winter months have seen nothing but devastation – destroyed lands, burned villages. Those that went into the heart did not return.” Asahina-sama: “Are you bound to the temple?” Ryo: “I’m the only person here at the moment, as the leaders have gone to the northwest to the capital, waiting for the insurance claim check to come in…however, I sense that they’ve abandoned this town and left us as cannon fodder. I don’t believe they will be coming back.” Asahina-sama: “I won’t ask you to abandon your post, but I will accept your services.” Seeing that the heads have already abandoned them, he readily accepts. Mochiko’s job is to protect Ryo, so she also accepts. Takumi also asks to come along too. Asahina-sama supposes he would be useful. He hopes Ushi (which means cow) doesn’t give milk. They gather the supplies (or what little has been left behind). Mainly there’s lots of rice. They take stock, prepare, and decide to leave when the rain lets up. Asahina-sama goes back inside to wait because he is wet. Takumi venerates the tree spirit. Asahina-sama lets everyone else do all the work. The temple was pretty much cleaned out by the leaders that left before, but they get all they can. They pray, practice, and then head to the east.
They travel from sunrise to noon and get to the border between Kii and Tosa, pulling along with them a rickety old cart from the village containing the extra temple stuff – candle poles, rice, fermented drinkable rice…On the border is a small outpost with twenty samurai sitting there behind makeshift wooden trees cut down for a fence (a small defense position). They come greeting Asahina-sama with open arms: “We could use a samurai from Kagano here!” Asahina-sama is investigating Tosa’s recent expansions, as they are a mystery to all. They are nightly losing men at all positions – 1 or 2 to 20 every night. They can’t find traces of them at all. This post has lost two in last two weeks – three nights ago they lost the most recent one. Two men were on patrol, and one came back and warned that something was odd; daytime came, and they found nothing. The next outpost is north or south an hour, but to the east there is nothing.
They leave the cart there, offering food and drinks to share, and continue east, planning to return at nightfall. Around four in the afternoon they come to a village. The grass is tall, and it is unpopulated. Most of the buildings have been burnt to the ground, and corpses are still lying there, well-picked over bodies with only little tiny scraps of flesh. Asahina-sama stands in his emo snow and considers all of this. Takumi goes into a trance but senses nothing…everything has been razed. They go back to the outpost and get some rest before night. Some samurai have been tapping into the good stuff, and a couple are sleeping with bottles by them. Asahina-sama takes last watch and requests that Shizune-kun watches with him. Takumi will also watch with them, while the other two take first watch. The whole group will take second watch. There is, after all, some honor among samurai. The samurai from Kagano (such as Asahina-sama), however, are the cream of the crop. Ryo mentions the bakemono that were very hard to see to the outpost guards. In the middle of night, they get woken up and taken to the crude wall with sentry posts, where they look around and roam about. It seems to be a calm night. The samurai emos for a bit. Takumi’s hair does strange tricks. The outpost samurai are all depressed that the night went well, as they wanted to see a Kagano samurai in action.
They head further east; Asahina-sama says that they can’t tarry longer. They leave some of the sake and trust in honor that they won’t abuse it. Samurai D.A.R.E.!!! Asahina-sama leads as they travel three hours to a town; the horse is not fond of the taste of the grass growing close by. Then they pass three other villages that are just the same. Takumi decides that it must be powerful forces doing this to remove things of the spiritual level, higher level onis and oni kin. There are small spirits in the grass, but the villages are devoid of spirits. Asahina-sama’s samurai senses are tingling.
They reach another village as the dusk is setting. This village seems to be fresher, and they take shelter in rubble for the night. The bodies are rotting and fleshy, and ceremonial masks have been placed on all of them. The shugenja knows that the masks help them pass on to the next life. There are some rumors…if the masks are left on, the dead get angry and rise up against those who replaced the masks on them. As they study the masks, the cat-like woman bats at the samurai’s hair tie, much to the annoyance of the samurai. Masks like that haven’t been used in over 500 years. Asahina-sama decides to remove them and burn the bodies. The sohei gets told to do the dirty work. Takumi goes into a trance to commune with the spirits of the dead village people. “Are the current burial arrangements agreeable?” They are screaming loudly – FREE US!!! Sohei sets about as quickly as she can. She gets five or six done, but on the seventh or eighth one, a hand comes up. She backs off. “Quick, set them on fire!” Ryo uses burning hands and burns one; the rest mobilize. Asahina-sama iaijutsus one of them, slicing it in half. Mochiko knocks one down. Takumi turns ten of them, and they shamble away. The ones that got sliced get up again. Reiki also iaijutsus and cuts one down. She thinks about taking off the mask. [No brains for you…] Asahina-sama strikes for the mask and grazes across it. Ryo burns two of them. Mochiko hits the mask square on; it shatters, and the zombie falls down. Takumi makes more run away and not come back. Reiki runs up to one of the next group and tries to hit the mask but swings too high. It attacks her but also fails to hit. Asahina-sama moves up to a different one, aims for the mask, slashes at it, breaks the mask, and cuts it in half; the zombie falls cut in half. Asahina-sama feels vindicated. Ryo burning hands another one. Mochiko hits and crushes the mask. Takumi waves his hands and goes oogly boogly, but none go away this time. Reiki hits and breaks the mask. The zombie explodes. Reiki reflex saves to avoid zombie bits, but no. Asahina-sama hits one, and the mask shatters in three. Ryo burns more. Mochiko hits another and blasts the mask. Takumi makes the rest shamble away. Reiki attacks the one as it shambles away from her, but she misses. Reiki: “Must get zombie chunks off, ew ew ew!” They spend the night there.
The night has just begun, and the sohei has mysteriously disappeared. They find a tattered house that Ryo has to purify. The only spirits that Takumi senses are shambling away. The night goes by uneventfully. The re-dead that they killed the previous night are still there, but the ones that wandered off haven’t returned. They continue going east. It used to be tall grass, but now all is wasteland, shrubs, dirt, and ash. Asahina-sama emos and snow falls; he thinks of how much nicer his homeland is and performs a decent inner monologue. Reiki shivers slightly as snow tickles her shoulder. Everything is completely desolate; they pass more ruined cities and last year’s borders between Tosa and Kii. Ryo purifies their camp area, and Takumi, Reiki, and Asahina-sama keep watch. There is still more emo snow. Reiki flash-steps as a cat around the radius of the snow. Takumi’s hair goes every which way as he looks confusedly on. The first two shifts go quietly. During Asahina-sama’s shift, a small little centipede skitters over a rock. Then a bakemono jumps out from behind rocks. He hits the centipede; then he looks up, notices the samurai, and gets a deer in headlights look. Asahina-sama yells; all but the kitty wake up. The bakemono (black-skinned, one eye, carrying a spear) shouts quite loudly himself. He sizes the samurai up. Asahina-sama sees the other two are up and says “Shizune-kun, up!” Then he moves forward. Several more bakemono appear. Ryo moves up to the samurai. Reiki tumbles up and defends. Asahina-sama looks at her: “Oh, you are so unpretty.” Reiki hisses. Takumi tries to shoot one with his dai-kyu (composite longbow). Asahina-sama walks up and slashes at one. All of the bakemono swing and poke at Asahina-sama, but they seem to be scared. Asahina-sama feels superior in their general direction. Ryo moves up beside the samurai and lets out a burning hands, killing two. Reiki moves up and tries to hit. Takumi shoots and gets an arrow through one’s ear; he’s now a bad-ass bakemono, and looking into his mirror, he thinks he’s more bad-ass than the samurai. Asahina-sama attacks the cheeky little guy and cuts him into three separate pieces; he falls apart with his mirror in hand. One gets scared and runs away. Another attacks Asahina-sama and misses him. Reiki attacks the remaining one with her katana and kills him. Takumi tries to shoot the fleeing one but fails. Asahina-sama flicks and cleans his sword with a cloth. Takumi hears “right on” from behind him: the centipede. He has a conversation with him. “We eat dead bodies, rotting things…not a lot of food around here though.” Takumi gives him food. The centipede has sparkling anime eyes: “Ah, food!” Asahina-sama looks at Takumi funny, as he is talking to a centipede; the centipede makes a funny face at Asahina-sama. Takumi asks Asahina-sama: “What is our business here? The centipede wants to know.” Asahina-sama: “How dishonorable!” The centipede doesn’t want to give his name out – too personal. Centipede: “Where are you from? From that tree? Couple hills? Oh, really far away. Gaijin?” The centipede comes with them, riding with Takumi.
They pack off and continue to the east. Growth has come back to the land; Ushi is happy, no more diet for her. The land seems to be recovering from some mass catastrophe. Takumi offers to talk to the plants. Asahina-sama declines. The centipede hasn’t shut up yet. Kuu jabbers on too. The centipede occasionally sings a folk song. Sadly only Takumi can understand the centipede. The rest shake their heads repeatedly, and the people in front of Takumi walk faster. Takumi gets lots of weird looks. They come upon another village – it’s not in too bad of a condition, and some houses have been fixed up and replaced somewhat recently, but there are not any inhabited dwellings that they can see. Asahina-sama goes up and knocks on a door. No answer. He tries a different house, and he hears snoring from the inside. He tells Shinjo-kun to go inside, then changes his mind and sends Shizume-kun inside as a cat. She sneaks around inside and sees artwork hanging on the walls and a family shrine; it’s being kept up. There is a second floor. She sees a large foot as she opens a door. The loud snoring is coming from this room. Reiki returns and reports that she found very large yellow feet. They see the bakemono from before trying to sneak into the town. Takumi shoots it and gives it a piercing. Reiki throws a rock at it. Asahina-sama: “Shizune-kun, what are you doing?” Takumi tries to shoot him. The string snaps, and the arrow plops onto the ground. “Itai!” Asahina-sama runs up. Ryo follows the leader. Reiki also runs up. Takumi restrings his bow. The bakemono hits Reiki. Takumi grazes his arm and gives him an arm-piercing. Asahina-sama fails to hit. Ryo does a shocking grasp spell but can’t touch him. The roof of a building is lifted up as a big yellow bakemono that looks like the little one’s father comes up. Asahina-sama: “Shimatta.” The bakemono swears: “What the heck?” It’s very confused at seeing humans. The party has now seen unusual oni. Ushi stands still as the centipede runs down its leg and books it out of there. Reiki looks at the big guy and pokes the little one, distracted greatly. The little one tries to hit neco-chan but is distracted by the oh-crap-big-eyes. Takumi takes out the little bakemono with a shot. The big yellow one’s eyes light up; he reaches in the house and pulls out a big sword. Takumi notices that the rest of the members of his party are looking at something behind the buildings. He goes up to them. It’s a real honest to goodness oni, something that hasn’t been seen for a thousand years. In the samurai’s head: “Boop boop boop…DEATH!” Asahina-sama charges up. The oni swings at him and barely misses. Asahina-sama pokes in an almost critical spot. Ryo casts flame-blade and runs up. The oni rakes Asahina-sama and knocks him to one side. Reiki pants up to Takumi, who heals her and then rides up to Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama takes full defense and glares angrily at the oni. Ryo had hoped the tank would keep the oni occupied, but he bravely runs up and hits him with the flame-blade. The oni hits Ryo. Reiki charges up and feels strong (kitty BIG); she gets hit but swings back. Takumi heals Asahina-sama, who then goes up and hits the oni. Ryo tries to hit him. The oni hocks up a big nasty boogie and hurts Asahina-sama greatly with molten copper. Reiki slashes with his katana. Takumi heals Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama does a full attack on the big nasty oni, and the oni falls to his knees and then upon Ryo. Reiki backs away from the ichor, and Asahina-sama flicks his sword.
Takumi wanders off to look for the centipede. Asahina-sama investigates the well in the center of the town, hoping to wash off his armor. The oni melts away in ichor-y nastiness. Poor Ryo. On the other side of the well is a man who is crouched down. Asahina-sama stands next to him and ponders him. His flesh is pale, his hair is long down his back, and his sword is run into his gut, but he is still breathing. Asahina-sama: “Excuse me.” He slowly gets up and turns. Asahina-sama notices that he has no eyes in his sockets and no tongue in his mouth. He’s been mutilated beyond belief. He pulls his sword out of his gut, and flames leap from the blade. Asahina-sama has his sword out too and holds it defensively. The stranger attacks him, and Asahina-sama feels the heat of his blade as it goes by his side. Reiki charges in and moves around the well. Asahina-sama barely misses him. Ryo, now out from under the oni, walks into the oni house. The only thing left of the oni is the great club. The eyeless man swings again and misses. Reiki tries to intimidate him; Asahina-sama hits once. Then he opens up his own wound, and he falls on the ground and bleeds to death. Takumi finds the centipede under a rock, and he tells him the bakemono are gone; the centipede comes out. Reiki studies the sword – it fades and gets an old rusty look to it. Asahina-sama studies the well: the water looks healthy. He waits for the shugenja to purify it.
The house looks well-kept; Ryo goes back out and finds most of the others by the well. Takumi joins them as Ryo purifies the water. Asahina-sama takes his armor off to clean the copper; its efficiency is not affected, although it looks ugly. He looks very irritated and emos a little. There is no statue of liberty for samurai (green copper…get it?). All of the other houses are pristine, but they are empty. Asahina-sama requisitions a place for the night. Takumi heals everyone. They explore out a bit and then come back to the town for night. Wildlife is back in the area, as if the destruction hasn’t been there. They find stores of rice and squished Kii samurai in jars. Takumi purifies the rice. They bury the barrel of samurai. Takumi notices that the eyeless man is purified, and Asahina-sama orders him buried as well. The symbols on his kimono make him seem like he’s from Tosa. Takumi: “Look, the centipede is going to come along with us!” Asahina-sama: “Riiiight.” Asahina-sama gets his own room, although the cat tries to sneak in. Asahina-sama: “Kitty sleeps outside the door.” Asahina-sama makes a calligraphy sign: Enter the room and you will die. Takumi makes a paper crane and puts it next to the sign. The centipede tries to sneak in, and Reiki bats it away. The rest have to take baths after Asahina-sama. Ushi is stabled in another house, which Takumi stays in as well.
In the middle of the night, Reiki hears neighing. She kitty-fies herself and goes off to investigate. She sees a bakemono in the streets and goes off to wake up Asahina-sama. As Asahina-sama walks down the stairs, they see bright light and smoke. Reiki wakes Ryo up while Asahina-sama goes out the back door. Takumi goes downstairs; the door is open, and he sees two bakemono looking in at Ushi with content faces – they’ve just seen their next meal. Asahina-sama sets out towards the front. Reiki follows him as a catgirl. Ryo creates water on the fire. Takumi blinks at the bakemono and shoots one, killing it. Ushi hits with a hoof and crushes the other’s skull. The centipede freaks out and runs in figure-eights. Asahina-sama goes out into the street and sees lots of little bakemono holding torches and one big one whipping the little ones and yelling in a strange language. Ryo translates it as something about stinky humans. The catgirl peeks around the corner. Ryo also backs around and works his way around to the other side, whistling…this is not the shugenja you’re looking for…Takumi gets up on Ushi and shoots one out the door, killing it. Asahina-sama charges in and hits the surprised bakemono, exploding him in a bloody gory mass as he runs through him. Reiki goes to charge in but trips over her tail. Two run off down the street, freaked out by their exploding friend. Three more run off; the big oni hits them as they run by and whips some in half. Three of them hit Asahina-sama with their claws. Ryo continues along the building; he runs up to Reiki, who explains: “I got overexcited.” Takumi puts two arrows into another, killing it. Asahina-sama explodes another. Reiki tumbles up. The bakemono hits Asahina-sama; another attacks Ushi but misses. The big oni tromps down the street toward Reiki and swings but misses. Ryo runs up beside Reiki and does burning hands on the bakemono, and it dies. Asahina-sama swings at the big one. Reiki hits with her katana as well. Takumi kills another and rides out the door. The oni thinks that the humans and hengeyokai have cooties. He drops his whip and flees as Asahina-sama and Reiki hit him. Ryo also punches him. Takumi shoots him and drops him as he flees into the darkness. The centipede is their cheerleader: “Way to go bakemono slayers!” (He waves with fans in half his feet).
Takumi invites the others to stay in his house. Ryo puts out the embers from their old house as they cross the street. He sleeps in to get his spells back. Takumi heals Asahina-sama. They go out east again. Around two in the afternoon, the centipede whispers in Takumi’s ear: “You sure about this? More bigger things this way.” Takumi warns the others and gets disgusted looks, including a Jiiiiiiiii stare from Asahina-sama. They see a mountain range to the south. Reiki stares at the mountains. Asahina-sama decides to go closer to the mountain range. They set up camp at the base of the mountains. Asahina-sama: “We’re going as far as the horse goes.” Reiki picks up feathers and looks at them for awhile. The centipede seems happier that they’re going into the mountains. Reiki’s feather-searching makes things take longer. Asahina-sama: “What are you doing, Shizune-kun? Don’t make me withhold your milk. Tell me what you’re doing.” Reiki’s heard legends of a special bird that lives in the mountains, and she wants to see one. Reiki wants to keep the reasons personal. “Yes, Asahina-sama.”
For several days they continue into the mountains, and it gets colder. They see the remains of a temple off in the distance. Everything has been burnt. Reiki and Ryo find bits of parchments with writings mentioning air…as in a temple of air. Kuu runs around in the ash and leaves monkey tracks everywhere. Ryo relates the trouble with the temple of air (lots of ninjas, so the temple of air was banned). The centipede says that it looks like it was burnt to the ground externally, as in a fight on the inside; they purged the place. Centipede: “Stupid rules, that samurai edict.” Fortunately the samurai can’t understand the centipede. Takumi reports all but the last comment to Asahina-sama. They continue on. Kuu helps Reiki search for feathers. They continue traveling for a week. They abandon the cart when the route becomes impassable and keep going. The centipede becomes their guide; Asahina-sama refuses to believe Takumi is getting directions from a centipede, but he listens to the advice. Another week goes by; still silence and quiet. Takumi hears lots of voices: he’s content. They’re getting closer to Kon, which worries the Kagano samurai (Kon and Kagano are enemies). Reiki finds a feather about the right size (a huge black one). Jiiiiiii stares everywhere from the frustrated samurai. Takumi: “Centipede-san, what’s that feather?” He’s quiet about that. He does tell Takumi that he’s a small spirit sent out to scout. He wants them to go to Kon. He’s kept them to certain paths to avoid the oni lords in the area.
Into the third week of their travels they crest a mountain and see the capital of Kon down below them. Takumi: “Don’t worry Asahina-sama, stay with Centipede-san and everything will be ok.” Asahina-sama: “You’re asking me not to fight in the city of my enemies?” It’s a port city on a river. Asahina-sama puts his Kagano armor and his ancestral katana in Ushi’s saddlebags, and emo snow falls. Takumi: “Centipede-san approves.” Asahina-sama: “Clearly I should put them back on.” He tells Reiki to lead. Centipede-san: “Let’s go into town!” They head towards the gate. Several samurai are posted; they act feral. Reiki puts her feather away. They pass through the gates, and the feral samurai sniff in their direction. Takumi: “Do samurai normally sniff people in Kon?” Asahina-sama: “For all I know, they run around in pink kimono and wear sumo underwear on their head.” The town is all human; samurai patrols are low-quality manner wise, though. The city has seen greater glory in its past, but now times are harder. They go to the merchant section for supplies; those closer to palace have higher status. Asahina-sama sends the others to buy supplies in the lower section. Takumi: “I have no money.” Asahina-sama gives them money for food. He listens to all rumor tidbits. Ryo sees all five temples – earth and water are the biggest and are across the road from each other, and all the lower levels of shugenja and sohei battle and compete for converts. It’s a very comical sight. There are a lot of rumors that the city will be evacuated; they’re afraid Kagano samurai are going to come to strike them. Lots of them are worried about their lord, who has locked himself in his castle. He hasn’t even issued orders for his samurai. Centipede-san disappears. Takumi wanders around: “Centipede-san? Centipede-san?” Asahina-sama doesn’t see any of the rumored ogres.
They go to the hot springs (onsen episode!). Asahina-sama doesn’t bathe with the rest of the party. Reiki bathes as a kitty. Asahina-sama also gets his own room. He hears OOO coming from the other side of the door, and it slides open. Asahina-sama goes to the side of the door…bastards. People check each other out in the bath. Nosebleeds occur. The party is relaxed, however. Reiki looks for someplace to wash her kimono. Asahina-sama pays everyone each a tael because he has no spare change. He sends them off shopping so he can bathe in peace. Reiki finds a spare kimono – a checkered combat kimono. Takumi: “Centipede-san?” Reiki helps him look. They cross in between the two temples. A bunch of guys look up and rush at them from both sides of the street. Reiki is whisked to the temple of Earth and Takumi to the temple of Water. Ryo goes to the fire temple and learns that the samurai is in a bit of trouble. They asked Ryo where he was from, how is the temple, etc. He informs them that the leaders of the temple went away and they were surprised by that; they asked how the war was going (not good), how was the temple (town was abandoned), what are you doing so far away (he was requisitioned by the samurai to go on a mission to Tosa…Ryo tries to bluff). They are interested in the oni/bakemono problem. They ply him with drinks the whole time, as they are very very interested in the whole thing. Reiki manages to keep her mouth shut about the samurai. Takumi talks to a nice old man about spirits. Oji-san understands about Centipede-san, and Takumi is happy.
Takumi and Reiki meet in the middle of the street. Asahina-sama had a long nice relaxing time in the onsen. The earth people were scary and pet Reiki, and she is scarred. They all meet at the inn and tell Asahina-sama about the temples. Ryo confesses that he mentioned that he knew a samurai who would not be welcomed here, and the shugenja he talked to were happy about it. It sounds like they’ll be meeting the fire shugenja again. Asahina-sama goes emo. Aeka’s name is dropped, but no one knows who she is. They seemed to have something planned for the party…as in a job. Asahina-sama: “Well, I see you’ve all done a good job of keeping our mission a secret. Let’s go back and rest for the evening. Please watch my door.” Takumi and Reiki keep guard duty. Ryo gets a knock on his door. A guy from the temple: “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back for the night.” Asahina-sama is still paranoid.
Asahina-sama whacks Takumi on the head with a paper fan…baka baka baka baka baka! Takumi: Huh…blink. When Asahina-sama looks out, he sees two sohei outside Ryo’s door with the fire symbol on their head armor. “Tanaka-san, can you explain why there are two sohei outside your door?” “They are representatives of the temple of fire, guarding my room/not letting me escape.” Takumi goes up and blinks at them. Reiki goes up in cat form…they say shoo. Asahina-sama suggests that they all go to the temple together and that the idiot (Takumi) carry his armor in the saddlebag. Some peasants and merchants salute Ryo because of his guards. Asahina-sama puts both swords on before he enters the temple. The temple seems to have run across some rough times recently; it doesn’t have as many followers as earth and water. There is an honorable wait for an hour and a half. The samurai and kensei meditate…Takumi: “Centipede-san?” ::Whack::.
They are finally let in to meet the main priest. Asahina-sama: “I was informed that you questioned my assistant concerning our mission and that you have an interesting response. It seems as though you want us to do something?” Priest: “Enlighten us on where you’re from.” “Kagano. Don’t let that beyond these doors.” The priest’s smile widens. “What brings you into Kon?” “I’m a samurai, not a spy…you dishonor me by claiming such a thing. This was an unexpected detour.” Takumi: “Centipede-san brought us here!” ::Whack::. Priest: “Thank you, the child needs to learn his place.” “I went to Tosa, and then I came here; not much to be said.” “Well, you made it out of Tosa alive.” Takumi: “Centipede-san helped us!” The main priest casts silence on Takumi. Takumi is drug out of the room by sohei. Asahina-sama refuses to commit treason by telling information to a possible enemy. Reiki mentions that she is looking for a certain type of bird. “That is of little concern to me”…the feather goes up in flames. Asahina-sama: “I would ask that you not do that again.” Reiki is very upset, and she asks to be excused. Asahina-sama: “We’re getting out of here, now. Let’s go. We’re heading to Kagano.” They are stopped by a set of samurai who want Reiki and Takumi to come with them. Asahina-sama goes along but sends Ryo ahead with a message to his lord. Reiki vents her anger over the feather on Takumi’s head. The samurai take them straight toward the center. Takumi: “Maybe you should have gone out too.” Asahina-sama: “I’m an idiot. It’s contagious.” Reiki’s tail is poofy. Takumi has to leave the horse in the stable, but he puts the saddlebag on his back. They are guided into the mountain to the castle. Asahina-sama tries to calm the angry kitty down. They wait several hours. Asahina-sama JIIIIIIIIIII stares at everyone. There are two irate people and a boy happily staring at the inside of a castle. They are finally led into a giant chamber, large and luxurious, with a little old 3-4ft. man sitting in his chair, and next to him is a 20 ft. naginata. Kitty says kiou (cut). He is the old and venerable Lord Kon. Asahina-sama: twitch twitch twitch.
While Ryo is waiting, his sohei Mochiko shows up with the Yamoto samurai/medicine peddler Mibu Kyoshiro. He’s a peaceful guy. The other three (Asahina-sama, Reiki, and Takumi) are in the castle of Kon. The Lord is sitting and smoking a pipe; a little old guy, four feet tall tops, with a straw hat and elaborate robes. There are three openings along one wall that light is coming through with balconies shaped out of a mountain. Asahina-sama: twitch. Reiki is still upset about the loss of her feather. He beckons them further. Takumi bows. Lord: “Three? I only heard about two that talked to my advisors Shiro and Bensu.” (Shiro and Bensu are the water and earth heads.) Asahina-sama: Jiiii stare. Takumi nods, and Reiki gives a kitty wave. Asahina-sama said that he would not leave his companions behind. Lord: “What were you doing in Tosa?” Asahina-sama: “How is that any of your business?” Reiki: “They’re aiding me in my search for a legendary bird (a tengu), and we got lost in the mountains.” Takumi: “Centipede-san led us here.” Lord: “I heard about that from Shiro-san.” He still wants to know about Tosa. Takumi starts to tell him, and Asahina-sama kicks his shins. Reiki hits him with a fan. Asahina-sama: “I do not report to anyone but who I report for.” Lord: “Do you work for the Temple of the Wind?” Asahina-sama: “You dishonor me by insinuating that.” Takumi: “We went through the mountains because Centipede-san told us to. Centipede-san was nice, nicer than…” ::Smack::. Lord: “Why do you keep shushing your companion? The spirits are not quite dead yet, although Kagano thinks it so. Things aren’t what they once were; people are making quick and easy power grabs while others are killed senselessly. Tosa, but others more subtle…I haven’t been able to pin anything on Kagano as of yet. I have been looking for answers but have found nothing…scouting, information gathering in the library…Lord Shin was a powerful Wu Jen, but he dabbled in the dark arts, and he has information going back a thousand years to the Great Wars. I want answers and truth about what is going on in these lands. If I wanted power, I could easily take Kagano, but that is of no interest to me.” Asahina-sama: “So you just plan to keep this small patch of lands? It seems uncharacteristic to not want to take over more if the possibility presents itself.” Lord: “If you had seen what I have…so much death, I’m tired.” He somewhat trusts the hengeyokai and the boy who talks to spirits, but he is wary of Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama gets his katana and wakizashi out. Lord: “From what land do you hail?” Takumi: “He’s from Hoki!” Asahina-sama glares. The Lord chuckles…he knows. Asahina-sama still won’t tell him. The Lord doesn’t blame him. Lord: “Could I talk to your companions alone for awhile? I don’t want to do you any further dishonor.” Asahina-sama concedes. Takumi gets kicked and iaijutsu-slapped some more. Lord Kon hands Asahina-sama a note to give to the oldest son of Lord Kagano (the Lord once traveled with him). Asahina-sama gets on Ushi and books it out of there.
Lord Kon to Reiki: “Why are you carrying two katanas?” Reiki (puzzled): “I don’t know.” She gives a frightened mew as she sees the evil well man’s sword. Takumi knows it’s magical: it seems dull and rusty, but bits of the actual metal glow through. Takumi talks to the sword. He hears an overwhelming cry of DEATH!!!! More blood!!!!! Reiki grabs it from Takumi, and she has a desire to cut anything near her. She attacks Takumi but misses. Lord Kon jumps and misses. She hits Takumi, and his blood is absorbed into the sword, making it shinier. Takumi tries to disarm her with his wakizashi. Reiki tries to attack Takumi again. Lord Kon gets behind her and holds her in a sleeper hold. Takumi tries to wrestle the sword out of her hand. Then Reiki breaks out. The sword is now slightly on fire. Takumi tries to disarm again and gets the sword. He holds it to himself and lays flat on it on the ground. When Reiki jumps, she’s still hanging in the air. Lord Kon has her by the kimono on the end of the naginata. After several minutes, she calms down, and Kon rolls a ball of yarn in front of her. Lord Kon knocks the katana from Takumi’s hands: “We must leave this room immediately.”
After they get out, he asks them again about Tosa. If the sword came from there, things are worse than he thought. He tells them to travel as far away as they can, and he will send a message when he knows what is going on. Master Bensu comes up through the ground and is told to take care of that monstrosity in there. He puts a ward on it. Shiro comes in and helps. Two others show up, and the head of the temple of fire also. Takumi takes one end of the ball of yarn and leads Reiki along. They eventually come out to the others. Asahina-sama yells at Takumi for letting Lord Kon have an evil sword and hits him on the head repeatedly. Takumi won’t get pay for three months. Asahina-sama: “You are all idiots and should die!” Kyoshiro: “Violence is not the answer, Asahinia-kun.” Asahina-sama: “Kun? KUN?!?” He throws the fan at him. Kyoshiro effortlessly dodges it. Takumi introduces himself and Reiki-san to Kyoshiro, who calls themTakumi-kun and Reiki-chan. They find a boat going downstream; for a tael per head, the boat-man will forgo some of his cargo to make room. Takumi picks both Reiki and the yarn up. The boat-man’s name is Hiro, an elderly man who’s bowlegged with a band around his waist. Asahina-sama is sad and makes it snow.
They sleep and make it half-way into Kagano, and he makes port in a small town. Asahina-sama: “We’re going to the capital. Many, many things to report…” They stop in at the local samurai outpost. Things have been peaceful; they missed the summer festival. Sad emo snow. The samurai sizes Kyoshiro up. He offers Asahina-sama his horse, so Asahina-sama takes the brown horse Uma. It takes a week to get to Kagano. Asahina-sama is proud of his happy shiny province. The get to the capital, and Asahina-sama goes in to deliver his message. A samurai with a big honorable banner leads them after taking their horses. At the palace, they honorably wait many hours. Asahina-sama is called to one of his superiors, Hoyoshio, and he reports about the mission of Tosa, the bakemono, the no-eyed man, the evil sword now in the hand of enemies, the weak lord of Kon…Hoyoshio fumes about the loss of the sword: “Get out of my sight.” Asahina-sama comes out rather upset. They stay with Asahina-sama’s family. Kyoshiro calls Asahina-sama “kun” again; Reiki hits him with his fan, and Kyoshiro retaliates with his sword sheathe. Asahina-sama talks to his sister, who is very kind to him. He sulks and goes to his room. Takumi tries to tell the disbelieving others about the sword; when he mentions Lord Kon, the servants begin to move away. Takumi: “What was I supposed to do…between the Lord and five head shugenja and the kitty playing with yarn, I don’t think I could have gotten the sword back.” Takumi is given just rice at dinner…rather bad rice.
Then Asahina-sama has to talk to his father, who is sitting all honor strewn. It is a very long walk from his room to his father. Asahina-sama: “I have returned. It has been a very long and strenuous journey. I have already made my report to the capital.” Father: “Have you brought honor to the family?” Asahina-sama: “I will take it on myself!” Father: “…” Asahina-sama haltingly explains the situation. Father growls. He looms rather large over his son. Asahina-sama…spotlight, by himself, snow falling. Father: “You will sleep in an inn tonight, and you will stay there until I hear word from Lord Kagano that you have redeemed yourself.” Asahina-sama: “Yes father.” To the rest: “We’re leaving.” Takumi: “That’s good, they didn’t have very good rice anyway.” Hit on all sides. Kyoshiro dives in: “No violence!” An annoyed Mochiko chants to herself: “I need money, I need honor.” The servants turn their backs on them. His oldest sister hands him a baggie of food on the way out: “Don’t worry, father will forget what he’s angry about soon enough.” They find a lower inn, and Asahina-sama ignores everyone else, sulks, and broods, becoming a pile of snow with Jiiii sticking out of it. Reiki tries the cute kitty look. Kyoshiro makes potions that explode on use. Reiki blames herself. Takumi: “Most things are my fault.” Kyoshiro: “It will be ok, Asahina-kun!” Asahina-sama: “Don’t call me kun! Die!” Ryo: “His entire future is at stake; he’s brooding.” Reiki acts like the kitty from Azumanga Daioh and bites Kyoshiro’s hand: “Please don’t hurt me kitty-san!”
The city is full of law and order, and all is clean and shiny and beautiful. Takumi wants to go off and explain the situation to some higher-up; Kyoshiro stops him. Asahina-sama then remembers the scroll. He goes but doesn’t let Takumi go. Only Reiki accompanies him as he goes to deliver the message to the son of Lord Kagano. The samurai that he talks to says he will help him out because Asahina-sama’s father saved his life, but it will be tricky because the son is living out on an island in the middle of a lake. The fishermen go out at nightfall and cross, taking Asahina-sama and the kitty. They make it look like they’re fishing so as not to draw suspicion. Asahina-sama goes up to the little island with the one room sanctuary with the single light. He goes towards the light and rings the bell at the door. The door opens, and he sees a man in his fifties with a big bushy beard. Asahina-sama: “Are you the son of Lord Kagano?” Son: “Don’t mention his name to me. Are you here to taunt me like the others?” He takes the note, unrolls it, reads it, and bursts out into maniacal laughter. Son: “Ah, it’s good to hear from a friend every now and again. What brings you here, samurai?” Asahina-sama: “Only to deliver the message.” Reiki is one with the shadows. Asahina-sama: “I’ve already brought dishonor on myself.” Son: “A samurai of Kagano bringing me a note from Kon, you are brave or stupid, I don’t know. Why are you working for Kon? This is the reward I get for traveling with him, a small castle in the middle of the lake and getting beaten every morning and night by samurai. I traveled with a member of a notorious ninja family who was trying to regain honor, but my father wouldn’t listen.” Asahina-sama: “I’ve given you the message; that’s all I came here to do.” Son: “Why didn’t you turn it in to my father? Then he could send three to beat me instead. My father is corrupt.” Asahina-sama: “How dare you speak of our Lord this way?” Son: “I’m his oldest son, but instead of a hero’s welcome, I get thrown on this island.” Asahina-sama: “My family and my father’s honor come first.” He tells him about the sword. The son is relieved: “You don’t understand. Lord Kon has been trying to fight them, but the artifacts are back, seeking power and changing people. And it all began…” Reiki: “Yeah, it tried to make me attack my buddy.” Son: “There still is hope then. My father is busy trying to grab his lands while Lord Kon spends all of his resources trying to save us all.” He suggests that Asahina-sama leave immediately: get the artifact back or stop the madness. The son scribbles a note down and tells him to take it back to Lord Kon. Son: “Whatever you do, don’t mention this name: Stargazer. That is the root of all of it.” Asahina-sama: “I doubt we will ever speak again.” Son: “Probably not. Either stay here and wait for your death, as my father is not kind, or leave and try to redeem your honor.” Asahina-sama: “Come, Shizune-kun.” They go out. The fishermen: “How well did you beat him?”
He goes back to the inn to think and emo. Ryo sets food down in front of him. Asahina-sama: “I need your advice. We will find a secluded spot somewhere tomorrow: Shirahime shrine.” The innkeeper shoos Kuu away: “Bad monkey!” Next morning they go to the shrine. Asahina-sama outlines what’s been going on: either wait or leave. Mochiko has heard rumors that hell has opened up in Tosa and is spreading. They decide to travel to near Kaga (cursed lands) and Reiki’s home for cleaning armor and glamoring swords. They make it to Reiki’s family-owned town. Asahina-sama gets his armor deglobbed and betters his sword. Reiki’s family is glad to see her. A human tailor has moved into town…he makes string! He’s known as the yarn-master. Everyone is perfectly happy and bouncy: Fish? Stay away from the cat yakuza and the catnip dens. Takumi inquires about the spirit spy network…there is no spirit spy network, really, or so he is told.
After recouping, they go across Kagano towards the Kon capital. The land is marshy and mucky. They stay low-key. Asahina-sama frequently gets invited by samurai to drink sake while the rest are left to fend for themselves. Asahina-sama is full of inner conflict. When they reach Kon, Asahina-sama takes his Kagano armor off. In the village is no inn, just the temple of fire. Mochiko and Ryo notice that it’s pretty thuggish and brutish (mafia/yakuza). Their sohei get sake down a lot of throats, especially Mochiko’s. The leaders talk to Ryo: “Yeah yeah, we understand travel. Those lands getting ready to help us out?” Asahina-sama: “He’s not going to tell you anything.” Takumi: “Centipede-san?” “Naw, we try to keep this place clean.” A cockroach runs by. “We keep waiting for Kagano to take over, keep sending them information; then we’ll get treated better.” Takumi: “But the earth and water people are nice.” They get upset at him. “They might act like they’re fighting, but they’re really close.” Temple politics make Asahina-sama fall asleep. It doesn’t compare to the supreme angst that he is feeling. The sohei dance, Mochiko among them. Kyoshiro pets the kitty: Mrow, chomp down on the hand. It’s a very weird temple. Mochiko holds her liquor like a pro. Ryo: “Why is fire on the outs in the province?” “Earth and water went traveling with the lord, but we’re stuck out here in the slums. If we can help Kagano out, no problem. We’ve been trafficking them information for a long time now.” Takumi (talking about the fire shugenja): “They’re scary people and they talk funny.”
Next they head out and come to a river, having been forewarned about a shoddy bridge and kappa. Takumi knows that if they make an offering of fruit or sweet things to the kappa, they can cross safely. Ryo finds a persimmon tree, and Kyoshiro uses his sword to cut down persimmons. Asahina-sama is angered. He draws his sword and challenges Kyoshiro to an iaijustu duel. Kyoshiro hides behind Ryo and says violence is not the answer. Asahina-sama iaijutsus him for subdual damage. Takumi: “Do you feel better now?” Asahina-sama: “Yes.” Kuu grabs fruit and eats it. Takumi talks to the kappa and offers persimmons; a turtle head pops up with a bowl of water on his head and eats the fruit. They cross the bridge and reach Kon, Reiki with a hop, skip, and a jump, getting hit on the head by Asahina-sama every time.
In Kon they try to get an audience with Lord Kon. Reiki and Takumi go off to talk to the shugenjas of earth and water. Asahina-sama lets everyone stay at the onsen inn again. Kyoshiro wanders around. He gets caught between the temple of water and earth, and earth wins. Takumi talks to the water: they destroyed the sword. Now that’s a problem…Reiki and Kyoshiro are in the temple of earth. Bensu sticks a paper ward on Reiki’s head and tells her not to remove that for a week. Mochiko wanders around as well. She easily avoids the crazy bridge. Ryo relaxes in the room; Asahina-sama bathes alone. Takumi and Reiki walk in with sweatdrops and nervously tell Asahina-sama about the sword. Asahina-sama: “You are the most idiotic companions that ever could have clung onto me! Die and come back as cockroaches!” Takumi: “Could I come back as a centipede?” Asahina-sama: “No! Come back as a dead body.” He is further enraged by being called Asahina-kun. “Don’t touch me!”
Ryo goes to the temple of fire. “I heard on our last adventure the excitement that went down…what happened to the sword?” “Oh yeah, we took care of that one good. It was kinda sad, something like that in our hands there. Too many others were watching, though. We coulda been a contender.” “I heard the weapon was cursed.” “Kon’s just spreading rumors; it was spewing fire, so it was probably one of ours once.” Ryo: “Who knows how the wheels of karma turn?” “Just wait for our turn to strike. Want to help us out? We heard your companions are in good with the big man.” “Well, I’m kind of busy, and we’re not heading back there for awhile.” “Your friend get hurt reputation-wise?” (In the onsen…Asahina-sama: Achoo!) “Maybe, you know, we could sneak in and give him another item that can pose as one of those, help him out. It’s only dishonorable if you get caught.” Ryo thinks…too many wards. “I don’t think my companion would be of that mindset.” “Just think about it.” He slides him 50 tael. Asahina-sama sneezes again. He must have a cold from too much emo snow. Kyoshiro sticks his head into the onsen: “Need a potion?” Asahina-sama chucks a bucket at him: “Get away from here! Leave me alone!” Kyoshiro finally starts calling him Asahina-sama.
Takumi wanders through the streets: “Centipede-san?” Kyoshiro goes to the water temple and is told all about it; then he goes to metal and wood. The metal are the blacksmiths of the town; they are rather sane, and their temple is a giant forge. The temple of wood is in the red-light district, and they have geisha running in and out of it. Kyoshiro stays around there for awhile and becomes a devout follower of the wood sect. Mochiko also goes around gathering info on the temples. After three days, they get an invitation to the castle. Asahina-sama: “Where have you been?” Kyoshiro: “I’ve been finding my religion at the temple of wood.” Mochiko looks at him with disgust. Reiki bites Kyoshiro’s finger. Kyoshiro: “Ah, those wood priestesses could bite harder.” Takumi missed those lessons about “stringing the bow” in samurai school (his parents and siblings were samurai, but he kind of failed…).
They enter the chamber once again after waiting for hours and discuss the sword’s destruction. Then Asahina-sama asks Lord Kon about Tosa and the artifacts. He takes out the scroll from Lord Kagano’s son and hands him the message. “I see you’ve seen for your own eyes what’s been going on in the land of Kagano.” Asahina-sama: “So there are worse artifacts?” “Oh yes, the one you found was just a poor creation in a larger experiment.” Chairs come out of the ground. Mochiko silently agrees with the bad-mouthing of Kagano. Reiki sits as a kitty on the cushioned chair. “From all the research I’ve been able to do, a thousand years ago there were many races that roamed with man: korobokuru, oni, and two others, all competing for the celestial emperor’s favor and land. The top generals had a challenge and took the lands where we are currently living and used them as a giant gameboard for ownership of the land with the help of the spirits. The oni lost that war, and known history gets fuzzy at points. As the war went on, the oni general saw that his honor was losing drastically because of the purity of humans and their assistance by the hengeyokai and the spirit folk. The korobokuru made a pact with the general of the oni to imbue them into weapons. At the end of the war, they banished, not destroyed, the oni-lord, and he wound up getting lost in a city underneath the lands of Kagano, once a korobokuru city. This weapon was one of the experiments trying to get to the ends; they trapped the soul of an oni in and it didn’t work right. The weapons take many forms, not just katanas, and they take the shape of other weapons to take over the hearts of men and put them in power. In my travels a long time ago, I wound up uncovering one of them with my traveling companions. I sent several men out, and it took over one of my companions, a Wu Jen. We subdued him and buried the weapon on the spot. Then I sent some of my own men to look for it, and they found a giant crater where it once was in Kagano. It must have found the lord of Tosa and taken control of him. It’s a naginata. The last time anyone has been to the capital and come back alive was twenty years ago; they could only say that the cursed weapon was there. We don’t have records of how to destroy it, as it was korobokuru-crafted. Perhaps there is information in the library of Mimasaka. But there is good news. Several generals put themselves in weapons, but we don’t know what their weapons of choice were. They aided in the downfall of the oni.” Asahina-sama mutters about superstitious idiots. They leave. Kyoshiro suggests that Asahina-sama heal himself in the temple of wood. Asahina-sama: “We’re still going to go into Tosa. I can’t go back until I have some proof of what we’re doing.” Should they go into the mountains? Asahina-sama: “We don’t have Centipede-san this time.” Takumi: “You believe in Centipede-san!” Happiness! ::Smack::. He suggests that they get supplies and that Takumi talk to spirits to guide them through. To the others: “You can follow if you like.”
As they go to the mountain city gates, they are greeted by an old man with no hair: Muyo Ryo. He bows. “I am to help guide you through the mountains. My services have been requested from an old friend to help you out.” Asahina-sama accepts his help. Reiki looks for more feathers. Muyo to Reiki: “They will find you.” Muyo: “There are indeed problems with the fire shugenja. A woman from there was thought to possess the weapon and went to the capital. They never heard word from her again. I serve Lord Kon and the Celestial Emperor, but I am but a lowly monk.” After several weeks they reach the other side of the mountains. Muyo Ryo leaves to return to his monastery. Takumi gives him an origami bird. Kyoshiro gives him potions. They are back in Tosa.
Asahina-sama is going to try to bring back a bigger, better artifact. Poor Reiki still can’t find her feather; neither can Kuu or Ryo, who are helping. Asahina-sama is rather impatient. Kyoshiro has wandered off again. Asahina-sama: “This group is pathetic.” Ryo: “That was not a very nice comment.” Asahina-sama: “Nice is not in my repertoire.” Takumi’s in his own happy world. Asahina-sama remembers that the expansion of Tosa into other countries happens around the time of year they’re in (later summer), so more enemies will be in Awaji or Kii and not where they are going.
They travel into Tosa for a few days…things are too quiet. Then they come up over a small hill and see a bustling town below with people in the fields. Asahina-sama boldly walks onward; then he thinks twice and decides that the others should redeem themselves and go forth and scout. Takumi goes forth on Ushi with Kuu and Reiki the kitty. The village people look surprised at visitors. Takumi is offered food, and he babbles on about centipedes and making samurai mad while the innkeeper tunes him out. Takumi goes out to get everyone, and Asahina-sama is irate that he found out nothing about who was in charge or if they have armies or bakemono.
Takumi returns to the inn with the others in tow, and the innkeeper invites them to come in and eat. Asahina-sama is upset that they don’t recognize that he is from Kagano. The innkeeper asks how they got through the mountains and is surprised that they didn’t run into any monsters. He is very hospitable. When questioned about the village, he says that it has always been peaceful here: no threats or anything. Things are quiet and peaceful as always, according to him. Asahina-sama asks him for directions to the next village and then decides to spend the night there. He pulls out his best mats for the night. People pour into the inn to look at the strange visitors. The peasants are actually capable fighters, as Reiki sees. And they have battle scars.
Takumi speaks with a chicken. It gets scared when he tries to act like a bakemono and runs off; Takumi chases after it, and more run off. A rooster comes up to peck at Takumi but misses. He tries to talk to the rooster, but their conversation is confusing. Reiki wants to chase the chickens. Asahina-sama: “Sit in my lap instead, and I will pet you.” Takumi feeds the rooster some rice, and it goes off. Asahina-sama tells Takumi to compose a haiku about chickens. Little children come in to pet the kitty, and Asahina-sama glares at them: Jiiiii vs. children eyes. Asahina-sama looks like a nightmare to them, and they run off as the emo snow blows after them. Takumi runs excitedly up with big shiny eyes to Asahina-sama with his haiku:
Chickens scratch and peck They don’t know what humans are I scare them; they run.
Takumi: “Do you really like it?”
This is sarcasm Figure it out already You idiot boy.Takumi gets even shinier eyes and goes off sadly into a corner.
Asahina-sama enjoys some sake. The innkeeper keeps the fire going to melt the emo snow. Reiki plays with the snow. Asahina-sama feels tipsy. He giggles. The sohei can take her liquor, but she still gets somewhat intoxicated as well. Takumi tries some and sees three kitties, and his legs aren’t altogether there. Asahina-sama: “Don’t get your idiot on me.” Mochiko: “Don’t spread the idiocy.” She and Asahina-sama talk about honor. The innkeeper keeps offering sake to Ryo, but he says he’s fasting. Takumi tries to pet one of the three Reiki-sans. Asahina-sama: “I have sensitive shoulders, ticklish on the feet.” Kuu the monkey gets into the alcohol and flings stuff everywhere. Asahina-sama: “Get your kid to stop throwing shit.” Takumi can’t stand up. Asahina-sama: “We are the worst group ever.” Mochiko: “You are the weirdest samurai I have ever met. Kagano’s corrupt.” Asahina-sama: “It is not!” Drunken iaijutsu duel with fans! Reiki is outside sighing. Then the two argue about being drunk. Asahina-sama: “You said Kagano was drunk!” He keeps giggling. Asahina-sama: “It’s dishonorable to associate with the floorboard. Ninjas…all named Sasuke who live in a giant bucket.” Takumi lies on the floor staring up at them.
All of them doze off. The innkeeper lifts Asahina-sama and the sohei and the boy and puts them on mats. Kuu passes out in the rafters. Reiki sleeps on Asahina-sama’s back. He turns over, and Reiki has to jump off. Ryo does some meditation; Reiki the kitty also meditates. Ryo motions for Reiki to come over and very quietly mentions that none of the villagers drunk the sake…it could have been drugged. They take watches. At the end of Ryo’s shift, a lot of bustling goes on outside. The innkeeper checks on them, and something else is watching them. Its smile is larger than a normal human. Ryo whispers to Reiki: “We are in deep trouble.”
Reiki jumps on people to wake them up. Asahina-sama doesn’t wake up, but Takumi wakes up very groggy. She claws him: “Reiki-san, why are there five of you?” Next Reiki hops on Mochiko, who gets up: the effects are wearing off of her strong sohei self. Reiki flicks her tail to the window. Takumi hears the commotion outside. Ryo tells Mochiko that they were probably poisoned, and Mochiko is very nonchalant about it. Reiki keeps jumping on Asahina-sama until he jumps up: “Mreeeer!” Ryo tells Asahina-sama that they were poisoned. Asahina-sama hears weird gurgled and slurred noises instead. Asahina-sama tries to stand up and manages it, wobbly. He looks for his sword: “Why are there three of them?” For the drunk people, everything seems loud. Asahina-sama and Takumi hear them whisper from outside: “Are they ready yet?” Asahina-sama: “My samurai senses are tingling.” Reiki pretends to play with yarn outside of the door to see what’s going on. There are a lot of larger than man-size creatures gearing up. Takumi casts obscuring mist, making everything infinitely more confusing (but it’s strangely what the inside of his mind looks like…). Mochiko casts bless on everyone. The mist gets Asahina-sama’s glasses wet: “I hate this spell.” Asahina-sama hands Takumi the saddlebag with his armor in it, and Takumi casts bull’s strength on him.
Tanaka Ryo goes out the back, sneaking to avoid the innkeeper. The innkeeper (now an oni) attacks him and misses, stabbing wildly in the misty darkness. One dark-skinned big oni runs into the room and runs right past the cat-girl. Asahina-sama tries to sneak out the back door as he noisily stumbles forward and fails to find the door: “Who put this wall in the middle of my door?” Another oni runs by Reiki, and she iaijutsus as it runs by. Takumi prays to the spirits and brings luck on his allies and disfavor on his enemies. Yet another oni charges and hits the door. Another one runs up and screeches to a halt as it comes to its buddy in the doorway, swearing. The last one runs up and has to stop at the congestion in the door. Mochiko casts bull’s strength on herself. Reiki swings with her katana but misses in the mist. Tanaka-san uses shocking grasp on the innkeeper but misses. The innkeeper bats wildly into the mist. One oni runs through the wall right next to Takumi. Mochiko watches it run by. Asahina-sama keeps trying to find the back door. He finds the door and stumbles out, only to notice an obsidian dark creature with a huge toothed jagged smile. Another oni runs back to the door, not knowing where he is going. Another swings at Reiki and misses. Takumi fires an arrow off into the darkness. One oni hits Reiki with a giant pole-arm called the lajatang. Another one misses because of the obscuring mist.
Mochiko goes out the hole the oni made in the wall. Reiki slashes into the nearest oni. Tanaka-san casts burning hands on the innkeeper. The innkeeper hurts Asahina-sama: “Itai-ta-ta-ta…” The one outside runs until he comes out of the obscuring mist. Asahina-sama makes a full attack with his katana but is clumsier than usual due to his drunken/poisoned state. Another one runs out through the wall because he can’t find anyone. Takumi moves up to where he heard the hissing cat-girl and sees an oni; the oni is scared of the shaman that came out of nowhere, and he trips and falls. Reiki attacks the prone oni. One oni swings at another oni, and another whiffs by Reiki. Mochiko treks after the one who ran off. Neco-chan swings at the one on the floor again and misses. The innkeeper misses the shugenja. Ryo throws fire shuriken at the innkeeper, but they miss because of the mist. An oni runs back into the mist, right into Mochiko, whom he hits. The other oni gets back on his feet. Asahina-sama full attacks again and mightily flails with his two swords. The other one runs back in through the hole in the wall. Takumi manages to find Reiki and heals her. Reiki misses; Ryo tries to shocking grasp; the innkeeper misses; Mochiko pulls out her warfan and succeeds to bluff that it’s a normal fan, hitting the oni; one of the oni makes a good solid hit…but on one of his comrades; Asahina-sama tries a full attack and hits once, cutting the innkeeper; the oni misses the sohei; the running oni runs out the wall again in a different direction.
The ground underneath is starting to rumble. One misses Neco-chan. Takumi randomly shoots out the door. Mochiko attacks with the warfan in ki frenzy. Reiki misses, Takumi fires another shot out the door, Mochiko misses, Asahina-sama does two full misses, Ryo burninates the innkeeper; Ryo gets injured, the oni whiffs by the sohei, one misses Reiki, and the ones outside pummel each other. Reiki shenanigans and smites, Takumi shoots out the door foolishly, Asahina-sama hits once and drops the innkeeper (Asahina-sama feels shiny), Mochiko gracefully smites with her warfan and kills the oni in front of her (the sohei does a little dance); the running one runs back in, swearing because it can’t find anyone. Whiff-fest ‘06! Reiki misses, and Takumi shoots at the thirty he thinks he sees. Mochiko heads back into the mist to try to find more victims. Everyone damns the shaman for the stupid mist. Asahina-sama is grumpy, and he sits down and grumps. There is a large commotion of profanities and whiffings in the background. Ryo Jiiis the samurai who is just sitting there and heads back in to try to find something to burninate. He comes across the one running through and misses with burning hands.
The house is on fire. One of the oni slays another. The room collapses in on everyone. Reiki gets pinned. Another oni dies. [Fire alarm goes off in Tower Hall where we are playing at this moment…fate?] Kuu wakes up, yawns, crosses the beams, and gets outside as the house collapses. Asahina-sama goes out the door and outside. He contemplates the fate of his fallen comrades and makes an angsty haiku as he stands silhouetted against the fire. Takumi levitates the beam on Reiki, but she has a broken leg. Takumi tries to splint her leg and does a horrible job. Everyone hears cat-girl banshee screams. Asahina-sama walks back, yelling for people: “Shizune-kun? Tanaka-kun? Yoritomo-kun? Shinjo-kun?” Asahina-sama is mad at Ryo calling him Asahina-kun and doesn’t help him. As they muck around in the rubble, the mist finally lifts. Asahina-sama tries to fix Takumi’s butchered job on Reiki’s leg; it hurts horribly, and she passes out shrieking like a cheerleader. Takumi realizes they were fighting wanglaing: they prey on humans, and they can shape-change. Reiki uses her sword as a crutch as Takumi heals everyone.
Asahina-sama goes to investigate the other huts. They are empty of all life. There are no chickens: they ran away. Takumi thinks that the oni turned into chickens and ran away. Asahina-sama says that they will take care of Shizune-kun until she gets better. Reiki: “Asahina-sama likes me!” Asahina-sama: “I do not…not so loud!” They spend a restless night. With her broken leg, Takumi has Reiki ride Ushi. They check the burnt bodies for artifacts and find the innkeeper’s secret stash of coins filled with 4,000 yaun. There is also a container of half-burnt rice, which Takumi is set to work on. They talk about possibly going to Mimasaka, but that’s through Kii and other occupied countries, so they decide to continue toward the capital. Takumi is banned from scouting.
They travel for several days and only see one unoccupied village. Takumi keeps healing Reiki’s leg. They then go into an ominous forest. Asahina-sama and Mochiko forbid Takumi to speak to trees…then he is forbidden to talk to plants…then to talk at all…then to breathe…Reiki pets Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama: “I’m calm (in a frustrated voice). It’s not my fault I’m vertically challenged.” The sohei shakes her head at everyone’s noise (Asahina-sama’s fuming tromping in armor…). Takumi tries very hard not to breathe as he leads the horse. Mochiko goes to scout ahead (so as not to go insane with the others). She thinks she hears a moaning sound. The samurai keeps tromping up. Reiki pushes the air out of Takumi’s puffed cheeks. Kuu goes bolting into the underbrush. Ushi meanwhile is working on being the first non-human to go to Nirvana. Takumi silently: “Kuuuuuu!” (muffled with his hand over his mouth). Asahina-sama (loudly): “I thought I told you not to talk.”
Ushi begins to act up…she doesn’t want to go any further. The ground in front seems to have moved a bit. Reiki pokes Ushi with a claw, and she backs up. Ryo shoots the ground with an arrow. Takumi asks Ushi what’s going on: “Danger.” Ryo shoots the ground again. Mochiko picks up a rock and throws it. Ryo’s arrow hits with a hollow sound. Asahina-sama pokes the spot with his katana. Takumi pulls Ushi back, and Reiki hisses at him. Out from underneath the ground comes a fast-moving object with flashing arms as a trapdoor pops up, revealing something larger than man-size; it jumps out and lands behind Asahina-sama, flailing with its arms. It’s a giant spider with a human face, swearing up a storm in spirit talk: “Darn short samurai!” Ryo and Reiki relay what it says. Out above in the trees comes another large spider; it bites Takumi, draining his strength. Another one drops down from the trees and bites Mochiko. Reiki takes full defense. Takumi shoots one, and it hisses at him. Reiki: “Hey, I’m the only one who can hiss.” Asahina-sama attacks the one that called him short and is so angry he only hits once. Another spider jumps at Ryo and bites him. Mochiko goes into ki frenzy and casts bull’s strength on herself. One attacks her and misses. The swearing one swings over the samurai’s head and misses, swearing more: “Short people suck! Who sends these short guys in, what the heck, I’m fighting midgets!” Reiki translates every word to the angry Asahina-sama. Ryo casts flame blade. Two spiders miss, and then one bites Takumi, and he falls to the ground…he has no strength. Asahina-sama angrily attacks the swearing insulting one again and strikes it thrice: “That’s what you get for calling me short!” The one on Mochiko misses; she pulls out her warfan, smacking one. The big one hits Asahina-sama. Ushi is scared and backs up. Ryo attacks with his mighty flame blade of flameness.
A spider picks Takumi up and pulls him into the trees. Reiki: jump, hobble, smite! Asahina-sama continues to slap around the one that insulted him and kills him. The swearing has stopped. Mochiko drops another. Ryo kills another with his flame blade. Takumi heals himself and takes more damage as he’s carried away. Ryo goes to look for their comrade. Reiki smites and shenanigans. Asahina-sama tries beats the crap out of another, stabbing mightily with his wakizashi. Mochiko hits twice with her warfan, and that one goes down. Ryo can’t see where the spider took Takumi. The spider wraps Takumi up. [Rachael: He’s a happy meal.] Reiki kills a spider. [Dedrick purrs at his dice.] Asahina-sama kills another. Asahina-sama: “We’re missing someone. It’s quiet.” They search for Takumi. Reiki points up to the trees, and a spider jumps down and bites her. Asahina-sama: “Did you find it?” Reiki: “Eep!” Ryo heads towards the kitty screams. He goes and climbs a tree…then decides burning would work better. There’s the nasty scent of burning spider in the air. Asahina-sama helps get the burning spider off of Reiki’s face. Reiki hugs him.
Ryo tries to climb the tree…up up up…then he slides down, bringing bark with him. Asahina-sama takes off his armor and attempts the climb. There’s quite a comical scene going on. Next Mochiko tries…comedy continues. Reiki with her broken leg also fails. Asahina-sama finally makes progress up the tree. Reiki resists the urge to iaijutsu the tree. Asahina-sama has a hard time reaching a grip. Ryo also goes up the tree. Mochiko argues with Reiki about iaijutsuing the tree. Asahina-sama: “You can’t catch it flat-rooted!” Reiki slices into the tree, but it’s a huge tree…the fun part is pulling the sword out of the tree. Asahina-sama and Ryo finally figure out the trick to climbing. They find lots of webbed cocoons hanging down, and Takumi’s hair is wiggling out of one. Asahina-sama cuts it down, and Mochiko tries to catch him: “I’ve got it, I’ve got it…” Thunk. Mochiko cuts him out of the cocoon. Ryo tumbles out of the tree, and Mochiko manages to catch him. Reiki tries to move her sword out of the tree: wiggle, wiggle, swing! Mochiko: “Are you sure you’re a weapon master?” Asahina-sama goes down into the pit, which contains a bunch of caves with bones and shiny loot: 1,260 tael, two gems, and sangkauw. There is peace and quiet, except for Takumi’s wheezing. He is glad he practiced holding his breath earlier.
They rest and wait for Takumi to regain strength. Asahina-sama: “Darn. You’re talking again.” Reiki finds the forest interesting because there are things to smite. Takumi: “I’m feeling better!”…picks up a small rock…falls over. Asahina-sama walks stiffly, trying to make himself look taller. Ryo comments on it. Asahina-sama: “I have no complexes!” Takumi to Asahina-sama: “Do you need healing?” Reiki: “Asahina-sama likes me!” Hearts float around the cat-girl. Takumi is woken in the middle of the night: Kuu is on his chest, and he holds out a centipede…Centipede-san! He runs around waking everyone else up: “Centipede-san is back! Centipede-san is back!” Takumi heals the poor wounded insect. Centipede-san: “I was trying to scout ahead…ran into some pretty nasty things out there…lot of monsters, but most of them went east, or west, or one of those directions.” Now there are two people with hearts! Asahina-sama: Jiii as hearts bounce off of him, shooting down and exploding the hearts. Everyone else: will save to resist the happy! Reiki glomps Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama: “Don’t touch me!” He and Takumi argue about hugs. Asahina-sama: “I don’t like small insects!” They finally get out of the forest the next day, and down the slope is the capital city of Tosa, all ominous and evil looking. Onis stand post, bakemono are getting whipped and running around, and there are horrors and abominations and some humans in bad shape.
Asahina-sama duels with Reiki and wins. Poor Reiki can’t get stronger [level up] until she wins. Asahina-sama: “I will not apologize for defeating you, Shizune-kun; you should have been stronger.” After they finish, Kyoshiro walks into the camp: “I was running all over the countryside being chased by bakemono-san. I think I lost him.” Asahina-sama: “Do you have a spine? Possibly? Then use it!” Kyoshiro: “But I can’t whip it out and use it.” Kyoshiro makes another interesting potion: an exploding tea of cure minor wounds.
They are looking into the city of Tosa, seeing all sorts of activity, lots of oni and bakemono chilling. Kyoshiro: “Asahina-sama, what place is that?” Asahina-sama: “Kon was tame compared to this. But we’re going in. We have to.” Centipede-san: “Is he serious?” Asahina-sama: “I have every intention of surviving.” Mochiko: “I vote we don’t go down there.” Centipede-san: “I agree.” Mochiko: “Centipede is smarter than samurai.” Takumi: “I’ll go with you, Asahina-sama!” Asahina-sama won’t listen to Ryo until he calls him –sama instead of –kun. Centipede-san says to wait until nightfall, although Asahina-sama is still reluctant to take the advice of a centipede. Reiki: “If I get eaten…” Mochiko: “Blame Asahina-sama.” Asahina-sama: “I might even shed a few tears.” Reiki glomps Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama: “Do you have to do this?” Reiki turns into a kitty and jumps off his shoulder. Ryo calls Asahina-sama squeamish. Asahina-sama: “There’s nothing wrong with not liking to be touched.”
Reiki goes off to scout. She goes through the tall grass and up to the city. There are several gates and no noticeable weaknesses in the wall. Asahina-sama: “I guess at nightfall we’ll have to go through one of the gates.” Centipede-san demonstrates how he flattens out and wiggles through the walls; Takumi gets down on the ground and imitates, and the others have no idea what he is doing. Asahina-sama puts his foot on Takumi’s back. Mochiko wants them to find another city with an artifact.
Nightfall comes. Takumi tells Kuu to stay outside and watch Ushi. Kuu salutes. Centipede-san goes into the forest, and they side-track following him for half an hour. A full moon opens in a clearing, and on a rock is a bigger centipede. A man-sized centipede. Dai-centipede-san! Centipede-san salutes him. He reports: “I found these guys again. I want to help them out, they want to go into Tosa.” Big centipede: “Going into the city may not be a bad idea right now.” He continues talking to Takumi, as the others can’t understand them and only see waving antenna and pinchers. Asahina-sama is convinced that the big one is staring at him. Then the centipedes leave, and Takumi reports: “We should have left here a week ago, as the other oni out warring are coming back in a week. The centipede says to wait until midnight. Some of the oni aren’t real, but if you don’t fully disbelieve in them, they can still hit you.” Everyone else: “What?” Takumi chatters on for awhile, Kyoshiro makes another couple of potions (one cure minor poison and one bad acid trip/bad-tasting fear cure), and Asahina-sama sulks. Reiki says that Asahina-sama is afraid of centipedes. Ryo tells Asahina-sama to relax. Kyoshiro gives him a potion to “relieve him of his fear of centipedes.” Asahina-sama wisely refuses.
At midnight, both bugs come back. Centipede-san sits on Takumi’s shoulder, waving his antenna. From out of the bushes comes a short portly man, round in all his features. He has a really long mustache and beard, and he has a big pot on his back. “Hello, I am Joshiro, a wandering merchant.” Kyoshiro shows him some of his own wares, and Joshiro snickers. “What is your goal, what is your purpose, and I can help you!” Asahina-sama: “We need to get in the city quietly and come back.” Mochiko: “And survive.” Joshiro: “You want to go into that city? The mighty city of Tosa?” He goes on for five minutes about the ridiculousness of their mission. Reiki to Asahina-sama: “Are you afraid of bugs?” Asahina-sama: “Do you want me to hit you?” The merchant goes halfway into his big jar and shuffles around. Takumi talks to Centipede-san: “It’s ok, he’s got everything!” There is emo snow. Joshiro pulls out six pairs of flight goggles. Kyoshiro puts his on backwards: “Wow, do these allow me to see in the dark?” “These will help you see inside the city.” Asahina-sama: “How much?” “Don’t worry about it, I owe the centipedes a favor. Just return them when you get back.” He helps Kyoshiro put them on the correct way. Asahina-sama takes off his glasses and puts the goggles on…he calls Takumi Shizune-kun and says Kyoshiro is holding up two fingers when he is holding up three. “They have left some powerful guards behind, but most of the strong ones aren’t there.” They are reminded to hurry. Kyoshiro: “Alright, let’s go!” He walks into a tree. Mochiko asks Joshiro if he has any honor in his big pot. “No, you have to earn that.” Joshiro and the big centipede smoke pipes. Asahina-sama doesn’t want to entertain that image.
Takumi: “Centipede-san’s coming with us!” Mochiko: “Maybe he’ll keep you alive.” Asahina-sama: “That’d be a pity.” The doors to the city aren’t locked. Some bakemono are running around, a different breed (the feral variety), in some kind of organization (patrols). They’re motioning that there’s a bigger force somewhere nearby that the party seems to be reporting to. Asahina-sama pulls the rest of them into an alley and tells them to be careful. Takumi is still walking down the middle of the street. Asahina-sama: “Idiot.” Ryo pulls him back. Takumi: Blink blink. Asahina-sama: “Where are we trying to go in the city?”
They pass a guard shed with a big blue oni leg sticking out of it. Asahina-sama clanks pasts. A head appears, and a two-story tall oni comes out of the building: “Well well. What do we have here?” Asahina-sama looks at him defiantly. “What brings you here, puny human?” “I’m not little!” Some bakemono trickle out from behind him. Mochiko casts spells on herself and others as they talk, and Takumi casts prayer. The oni swings his sword over Asahina-sama’s head, mocking him. “I’m a guard, you have to answer everything to me before I get hungry. My minions haven’t had human in awhile.” Asahina-sama: “I refuse.” “I guess I’ll have to beat it out of you. I like this game!”
Asahina-sama iaijutsus the big one that’s been insulting him. “If nothing else I will go down in honorable combat!” One little bakemono charges up and misses the sohei. Mochiko attacks it with her sang-kauw and kills it. Kyoshiro stays hidden. Two attack Ryo and Takumi but miss. Two more attack Reiki, and one hits her with a small wakizashi. The big one takes a swing at the samurai and hocks a massive loogey of molten copper at him. More bakemono mob out and attack. Ryo casts heat metals at one of the bakemono. Takumi fires arrows at the one in front of him and kills it. Yet more bakemono move out. The samurai takes his full attack on the big guy. Reiki attacks the one in front of her and cuts it with her katana, killing it. The sohei is mighty with her spells and makes the bakemono population dwindle. Kyoshiro keeps hiding. The bakemono attack Takumi, Reiki, and Mochiko. One bakemono feels the heat on his armor. Ryo tries to cast flame blade but can’t concentrate. Takumi pierces another one’s shoulder. The big one attacks Asahina-sama again, but he hits right back. The big one looks seriously wounded. Reiki lashes out at the ones around her and takes another down. Asahina-sama bleeds dramatically in Reiki’s direction as Reiki yells to her, “At least it’s not a centipede!” Mochiko takes more down. Ryo is hurt as they claw at him…it feels more like playing, but they’re actually trying. Centipede-san squirms around on Takumi’s shoulder and head.
Two bakemono attack Kyoshiro, who finally springs into action: his eyes blaze red, and he makes a ki shout (he’s become Kyo). The one with heat metal dies: “I’m a contender…no…” Ryo creates a flame blade. Takumi shoots another one to death, killing the one with a piercing…he was too busy looking into a mirror, and Takumi shot through it into his head. The big one hits Asahina-sama, who kills it. He glares at the dead body through his gore-stained goggles. Reiki smacks one around and slays it. Mochiko makes one explode, and she is covered in bakemono goo. A lot of the small guys start running away. One runs away with an arrow piercing. Reiki, Ryo, and Mochiko swing at them as they go by. Kyo slays one with his overly large katana. Asahina-sama attacks the remaining leader who keeps trying to rally the troops as they flee. Reiki runs up and attacks a bakemono around the leader, killing it. Mochiko actually misses the other one. Kyo kills the remaining one on him and moves out of his dark alley. The leader bakemono slashes at Asahina-sama, who bleeds and emos. More run away, all except for the ones around the leader. Ryo moves up to the leader guy and hits with his flame blade, killing him. Takumi shoots and kills one; Asahina-sama butchers the last one with bloody gooey explosions. No one notices Kyoshiro’s transformation.
They move back into an alley for healing. After Takumi heals him, Asahina-sama tells everyone to get going. Asahina-sama and Mochiko have to clean the gore off of their goggles. They keep heading towards the middle. The border patrols are in higher alert since they think humans are inside the city. Oni are mixed in with the bakemono. Takumi: “Wait, I forgot to heal myself!” There is a lake with a large castle in the center. There are even some horse-headed onis. They look for a place to rest and find an abandoned building.
Kyoshiro crafts another potion, which explodes on the last watch. Because of the noise, they have to leave. Asahina-sama barks out orders as everyone else hides. He walks right out into the sight of three big oni: two have horns and strange eyes, and one’s a horse-headed oni. Kyoshiro sneaks off. Asahina-sama: “Surely you’ve heard what happened to your companion.” “He was weak.” They crack their knuckles and wonder at the human that’s in the middle of Tosa without being a slave. One of them: “I can take him without my weapon.” Asahina-sama: “You misunderestimate me!” He iaijutsus and slices the braggart. It hits him back with claws. Mochiko steps out, and the gray one pipes up: “Ooh, I call this one.” Asahina-sama is irate that the others didn’t leave while he was distracting them. Takumi shoots the horse-headed one. It throws fire shuriken into the building, setting it ablaze. The gray one moves up to the sohei, and Reiki moves out slightly: “I’m a helper!” Kyoshiro keeps running away and hiding. Asahina-sama attacks the orange one and does massive damage, cutting away his shins and guts. Mochiko swings, and it hits her with a claw. Takumi casts prayer and moves out of burning building. The horse-head one steps up with an uma smile on his face.
Ryo moves out of the burning building and casts obscuring mist. Takumi gives him a thumbs up. Ryo tells Takumi and Reiki to move up to horse-face with him. The grey one misses Mochiko, and Asahina-sama cuts the orange one more. Mochiko hits the one in front of her. Ryo, Reiki, and Takumi walks forward in the obscuring mist and cover everyone else in it. The grey one slashes Mochiko, who cries out: “Shaman!” Asahina-sama curses the obscuring mist and continues to hit the now mist-shrouded oni, killing it. The mist gets a bloody reddish tint. Mochiko hits the grey one. The three move up to where they think the horse-head one is, but they can’t find him. Ryo dumps the obscuring mist and fires up flame blade. Takumi shoots the grey one. The grey trips and falls on his butt. Reiki shenanigans and swings her katana, criticalling minimally. Asahina-sama trips on oni ooze and sludge and goes splat. Mochiko keeps hitting: “Go team minimum damage!” Takumi shoots the grey one again. It stands up and hits the sohei. Ryo slashes with his flame blade and kills him. Takumi tries to help Asahina-sama up off the ground, but he bats away his hand.
Fire shuriken come from above and hit people, even Centipede-san. The horse guy is floating in the sky, smiling and laughing. Reiki takes full defense. Asahina-sama gets up off the ground and prepares. Mochiko stands bravely and honorably. Takumi shoots the horse-head oni. He drops down by Asahina-sama, Mochiko, and Takumi and hits the first two. Mochiko is greatly injured and looks about to die. Ryo heals her. Reiki shenanigans and smites, missing. Asahina-sama attacks four times and hits twice. Mochiko hits it once again. Takumi heals Asahina-sama a bit. Then the horse-head oni goes again and tries to gore Asahina-sama, Mochiko, and Reiki, but he only hits Asahina-sama. The horse-headed oni’s wounds heal. Mochiko looks weaker as her ki frenzy dies down. The building burninates and smolders pretty nicely. Reiki misses, and Asahina-sama swings and hits once. Mochiko tries to hit, and Takumi heals Asahina-sama once again. Centipede-san jumps off Takumi and bites the oni. The oni hits Reiki, Mochiko, and Asahina-sama. Ryo heals the sohei, and Reiki whiffs. Asahina-sama chips away at it some more. Kyoshiro keeps hiding with the bakemono, pretending to be one of them. Mochiko hits the oni. Takumi heals Asahina-sama, and the oni hits the three again. Ryo heals Mochiko once again. Reiki keeps shenaniganning and finally hits. Asahina-sama hits once again. Mochiko misses. The oni takes two swings at Reiki and gores the sohei. Reiki’s unconscious. Asahina-sama: “Shizune-kun!” Ryo cures Reiki a bit, who wakes up and sees stars and bakemono in a circle around her head. Reiki tumbles up and slashes at it. “Go team damage!” Asahina-sama, enraged by Shizune-kun going down, hits thrice and deals much damage. Mochiko hits for a bit. The oni swordinates and gores. Takumi heals Asahina-sama yet again. Centipede-san runs around underneath. Ryo casts burning hands and drops him.
They move away and heal. Takumi is useful for once! They go off leaving the missing Kyoshiro, who they assume is dead. They think he was burned and cremated. They sneak along as all of the attention of the oni is diverted to the burning building. They move towards the palace, a rather gaudy and elaborate place: the most egotistical design ever with faces on the lord of Tosa all over. Mochiko bites her lip not to laugh, and Asahina-sama says that Kagano would never have something so ugly. Kyoshiro keeps chilling with the bakemono he’s been hiding with and experimenting with his concoctions. The castle is huge and surrounded by gardens, and there are gaudy and ostentatious items everywhere. They walk around the edge of the castle for hours. They feel small. Asahina-sama: “Stupid demon lords making everything look so big.” Kyoshiro tries to get directions from the bakemono to the castle, and some of them guide him.
The others find several side entrances that are lightly guarded, and they sneak towards one of them. They enter a tea room; everything is gold-plated. The paper is the finest rice paper, and there is silk with elaborate haikus and noh dramas. They take their shoes off, except for Asahina-sama, who will not give the enemy that courtesy. Reiki turns into a kitty and hops on his shoulders, playing with his hair. The first room is barren of everything. Kyoshiro encounters the oni at the gate, and he tries to diplomacize with him. Oni: “We sent for no servants; get out of here.” He kicks him, and Kyoshiro runs. He comes back and tries to sneak past disguised, and he is kicked out, although he isn’t recognized from the last time. The others are up on the second floor, and the floors are wood and simple. Mochiko: “They ran out of money.” They continue to the third floor. The oni grabs Kyoshiro as he attempts to sneak past this time, and he pulls him up to his mouth: he’s hungry. Kyoshiro wiggles free and runs. The oni chases him, wanting his meal. Takumi sees their supposedly dead companion out the window and is about to yell after him, but Asahina-sama shushes him. Kyo turns and faces the oni, slashing him with his giant katana. The oni hits him back and spits copper at him. Takumi wants to shoot the oni but is stopped by his companions, who don’t want to reveal their position.
The third floor has lots of beds and is simple but nice. Kyo slices again, and it misses him. Then Kyo misses and the oni hits. Kyoshiro turns to run and it hits him, and he passes out on the ground. Takumi shoots the oni out the window as he picks Kyoshiro up to eat him. Kyoshiro realizes he didn’t gain hitpoints the last two levels, revives, and runs. Asahina-sama pulls Takumi’s head down as the oni looks around, trying to figure out what hit him. Asahina-sama and Mochiko deny that Kyoshiro is alive. The oni flies like superman after Kyoshiro, who takes a circuitous route back to the castle. The oni stays right behind him, very very hungry: Kyoshiro is his meal ticket. Asahina-sama, holding Takumi’s head down: “Are you sure I can let go of your head now? Is there anything in there?”
They continue looking around the castle, and they see some of the finest necklaces they have ever seen. Asahina-sama grabs one to take back as proof. They find a ladder up to the fourth floor. The castle still seems empty, and there is another ladder up to the fifth. There is a lot of weaponry around; they look like standard weapons. In the other two rooms are more elaborate weapons with names written on them. Ryo detects magic and has to make a will save. He closes his eyes quick enough to a room brighter than the sun: everything is magical. Takumi notices that there is an important daisho sitting there, and he remembers the name vaguely and thinks it might be important – Lord Kagano’s ancestral daisho. Asahina-sama takes it. They debate over this, trying to figure out why his swords were there. Reiki: “You might not want to pick up weird swords…trust me.” They go to the next room, which is the armor room. The armor also looks famous. Ryo fires up detect magic with his eyes closed. Asahina-sama finds Kagano armor but nothing belonging to Lord Kagano. He takes one set from a higher-up family. Ryo finds some from Kii, from three of the highest five families.
They go up to the last floor, and the floor is cut in half. There’s a door and a nice breeze. Takumi listens at the door and hears lots of wind; so do the others. Reiki opens the door. The door to the floor below shuts on them, and there’s a guy in there meditating. He’s human and in full armor. He puts his armor on, bows to his sword, turns around, and looks at them, eyes burning. Asahina-sama steps forward, prepared to die honorably. Mochiko casts all of her prep spells on herself. Ryo inches back towards the closed door; it’s too heavy to open. The two samurai iaijutsu stare. “Explain yourself quickly why you bothered my meditation; you’re in my castle without my permission.” Asahina-sama: “I have no need to explain to you.” “What is a samurai from Kagano doing in my chamber?” He mentions that his armor and weapons are all prizes of war. “The oni are simply weapons that we use.” Ryo and Mochiko question why; “Humans are weak, that is why they are enslaved. Lord Tosa is out on the front. They should have taken most of Kii and Awaji by now.” Takumi asks his name. “Lord Tosa has not allowed me a name.” Reiki also tries to open the door. Mochiko finally gets it open. Reiki dives down through it. Ryo thinks it most prudent to go. Asahina-sama backs up slowly. He has dramatic inner tension. Asahina-sama orders everyone to go. The oni chasing Kyoshiro has his chopsticks out. Ryo goes out the door. Takumi goes out as well and waits at the bottom of the ladder. Asahina-sama: “I will return, and we will make this an honorable duel.” He quickly books out the trapdoor. The man smiles evilly as they leave.
Oni chasing Kyoshiro: “Humanhumanhumanhumanhumanhumanhuman…” They go downstairs and reach the garden, but a horn sounds from the top floor. They book it. The oni catches up with Kyoshiro, who goes unconscious. There is no hope for him. Lots of activity comes back to the castle. They fight their way through the waves of bakemono. Most of the oni are away eating Kyoshiro. They run out of the city and try to find the clearing again. The big centipede and the guy with the big pot are playing shogo. The exhausted companions take off the goggles and collapse. Takumi greets Ushi and Kuu. Asahina-sama tells Joshiro that they lost one of their companions in the fire when he comments they are missing a pair of goggles. Takumi: “But I saw him fighting the oni!” Asahina-sama and Mochiko: “It was obviously not him because he was fighting.”
When they wake up the next day, they are not in the clearing. They are now in the middle of some plains. They have everything but the necklace Asahina-sama took. Takumi: “Centipede-san?” Ushi eats the grass. Takumi flops back in the grass: “Let’s stay here; this is a happy place!” Asahina-sama: “No, we need to get to Kagano.” Ryo flies up and looks around with fire wings. Takumi levitates him so that he can cast the spell without setting the grass on fire. He finds a small town fifteen or twenty minutes away. Takumi: “Wow, I think it would be fun to fly like that.” Asahina-sama: “This isn’t the appropriate time to be having fun; we need to get to Kagano!” Ryo: “Asahina-kun?” Asahina-sama: “I’m not listening.” Ryo: “There’s a village that way.”
They enter the village and see human people. Asahina-sama discretely asks where they are. Reiki: “We got lost wandering through the woodlands.” Asahina-sama: “How far is it to the next province?” “Well, you’re currently in Haven, the name of our town.” They say that the province is none of their concern right now. They want them to stay. Mochiko: “How far away is Kagano?” They whisper amongst themselves: “Where’s Kagano? What’s Kagano?” Asahina-sama turns to Takumi: “This is all your fault.” Takumi to townspeople: “Do you know Centipede-san?” “Which one? This is a resting place for travelers who have lost their way.” Their robes and bodies are quite clean. Takumi sees spirits in a trance: sky dragons, grass, the people in the village somewhat…Mochiko: “So, how do we leave?” “That will all come in good time.” Asahina-sama is still impatient to get back to his homeland. “You will learn patience, young one.” Asahina-sama: “I’m 27!” Reiki glomps Asahina-sama. The townspeople smile lightly. Asahina-sama: “I am going to patiently wait for you to get off until I kill you.” Reiki: “I’m not getting off until you’re calm. Aw, Asahina-sama doesn’t like me anymore.”
They point to a hut: “That will be your home for now.” Takumi learns that the centipedes are the guardians of the land that scout for the celestial bureaucracy and watch over and protect the people. Reiki turns into a kitty and is petted. “You are still in the mortal realm.” They are spirit folk, however. “Several larger and more powerful forces have noticed you, and it is better if you are not around for now. Kagano would not be a welcome place for you right now. Tosa and Kagano are not friendly places for you to be.” Takumi: “See, I told you this was a happy place!” Asahina-sama: “HAPPY PLACE?!?!” Mochiko: “I was going to get honor back I was going to get honor back…” Asahina-sama: “Why would I be unwelcome for bringing back what I have?” They debate about it. Mochiko: “You could always take the daisho to Kon.” Asahina-sama turns and stalks away. Ryo: “We may have stepped into something very political here. This could have something to do with Lord Kagano and his son.” Asahina-sama: “Still, I can’t stay here…I eventually have to go back.” “Not right now, though…a lot of eyes are looking for you.”
They were not allowed to leave the happy place. When they try to leave, they end up back in the village. Asahina-sama does this many times and becomes a village spectacle. Takumi talks to all of the spirit folk and is very happy. Reiki glomps Asahina-sama, and Ryo calls him –kun. Asahina-sama is close to a mental breakdown. Flames stream from his body. Flaming Jiiii!!! Ryo thinks the fire is cool. Mochiko and the samurai go off to fight and drink. When they ask questions, the spirit folk tell them that their lord shall explain it. Asahina-sama’s emo snow + burning aura = emo rain.
The spirit folk set up festivities with paper lanterns and alcohol, doing a ceremony to welcome back their lord after his service at the celestial temple. Asahina-sama still doesn’t feel festive. Reiki drags him along. Ryo’s wearing a flame kimono, Asahina-sama’s in blue, Reiki’s pretty in pink, Mochiko’s in white and red, and Takumi’s kimono has horses and centipedes and who knows what else on it. Off in the distance is a trail of lanterns snaking its way through the sky. Mochiko looks at her bottle of sake. Asahina-sama disbelieves. Reiki and Takumi: “Pretty pretty pretty!” There’s an older dragon with attendants on its back. Takumi: “Dragons look like big centipedes!” It lands, and ladders roll down the side of it. The attendants climb off, and he shrinks into an elderly man with a long beard like an oriental dragon. Takumi shouts out: “Why aren’t you a dragon any more?” They take him to a new building in the village, and he greets the villages with a big festival. Takumi works his way up to the lord. He is happy and ecstatic and compliments the lord, who chuckles at him. A little child runs up to the lord with a big giant dragon stuffed animal and presents it to him, and then runs away.
Reiki wants Asahina-sama to play a game. Mochiko suggests a drinking game. Takumi talks to the goldfish being used for the games. “The world is so small…” Takumi takes the fish’s bottle and walks out with it, but he is chased after by the game master: “You have to win it!” Takumi gives him his one tael (all of his money, and far more than the fish is worth) instead and walks off happily with the goldfish, dropping it in the river to make its world bigger. He has an eternal fish friend! Asahina-sama plays the game and lands a ball in one of the bowls. He wins a goldfish, which he gives to Reiki. Takumi asks the fish’s name: Kinjyo. Kinjyo also wants to be free, so Takumi walks off to the river. Mochiko drinks, Asahina-sama joins her, and Reiki trips when chasing after Takumi to try to regain her precious fish. Kinjyo joins his brethren in the river. Kuu jumps on Reiki’s shoulder and is hit by a mallet. Kuu screams and runs off onto Takumi’s shoulder. Takumi looks at the sad Reiki reprovingly: “If you loved the fish, you should want it to be happy!” By the end of the night, Takumi has freed all of the goldfish: a hoard of happy goldfish! There’s a lantern parade at night, and Takumi joins it, riding Ushi. The lord watches from above.
Afternoon the next day comes around, and people wake up. Reiki had fun dreams about her date with Asahina-sama. Asahina-sama attempts to get out of the village again. Ryo: “Asahina-kun, how are you?” Asahina-sama: “You are noisy.” In the evening, they are invited to eat in the lord’s manor. Conversation… Asahina-sama is NOT afraid of centipedes. Reiki thinks he is. Takumi says that centipedes are nice and happy. They go in the lord’s manor and are greeted. Onihana the little boy (secretly a ninja) is in the tea room. The old man has a jovial smile. Takumi and Kuu try to imitate the big smile. Kuu is rather successful. “Are you the samurai that traveled into the lands of Tosa to the capital and came back alive?” “Well, I’m here now.” He asks why, and Asahina-sama said it was for his honor and his country. “Is there a problem with being from Kagano?” “Yes and no. It seems that there are some problems with your lord. Things are not what they seem anymore. Let us enjoy this meal today, and we will go on a nice little journey tomorrow to explain things.” They have a conversation about Takumi’s family. Asahina-sama is amazed that Takumi has samurai relatives. Mochiko is very sarcastic. Takumi: “My uncle is Asaku…” Asahina-sama: “Don’t you dare call me that!” “No, I wouldn’t call you my uncle’s name, he’s a lot taller than you.” “Are you calling me short?” “No, he was just really tall.” The lord avoids questions on Tosa. Asahina-sama insists on going back to Kagano soon. Takumi is a wise dim-witted adolescent. Mochiko enjoys drinking, and Takumi declines to drink because he didn’t realize the last and only drink he ever had was poisoned.
Reiki sleeps at Asahina-sama’s feet as a kitty. Asahina-sama resists the urge to kick her. They are taken out of the city in the morning, and the lord has a child with him, carrying a stuffed fox with a straw hat. “He is one of my wards.” Asahina-sama: “As long as he doesn’t travel with us…” The lord grows into a big dragon, and everyone climbs aboard. Takumi has lots of little heart emoticons around him. The little boy is a chibi: “Are you a samurai? Really? Really really?” Reiki: “Isn’t he cute?” Boy: “I want to be a samurai when I grow up!” (with big puppy eyes). Asahina-sama huddles on the dragon’s back. Takumi plays the opening scene fromTitanic on the front of the dragon with his arms outspread: “Wheeeeeee!” The attendants move back and forth with tea. The flight lasts several hours. The boy Onihana Daisuke jumps up and does acrobatic tricks. He and Takumi become friends: “Centipedes are cool!” Reiki: “Isn’t Onihana-chan so cute?” Mochiko’s nerve twitches. Asahina-sama still huddles, not wanting anyone to know he is afraid of heights. There is nothing but clouds when they land, which they climb down onto. The ground is hard, however. Asahina-sama slowly descends the ladder. Reiki jumps off and clings to him. Off in the distance is a palace. There are mountains down below, which they can see when the clouds break.
The old man leads them to the palace. Some happily skip, some calmly walk, and Asahina-sama nervously doesn’t look down. The palace is dilapidated and worn down from age. “Welcome to the celestial palace.” There are no attendants…only tumbleweeds. Asahina-sama thinks they have all died. The lord’s heart sinks, and he looks depressed as they go inside. Takumi wants to make him happy. “This was once the glory of the celestial palace, but times have changed unfortunately. People as brave as you should see this.” He stops in front of the lord’s chamber and sits at the door. “Please, see for yourself what is going on with the lands. But please don’t touch anything.” He slides the door open into a dark room. It looks like a war zone. They hear three claps, and some of the candle stands light up around the room. They see bodies everywhere of all shapes and sizes, and at the end is the celestial emperor slumped over on his throne with a sword still in him. Onihana hides behind Asahina-sama, and Reiki clings to him. There are marks of different shugenja and oni. It looks like they have walked miles. The lord was away on duty, and this is what he came back to. It looks like the hell-dwellers were fighting the celestial bureaucracy. Takumi is at least glad that there are no dead centipedes.
Ryo faintly hears “Help me…” Onihana reenacts the battle with plushies. Asahina-sama hears the voice too, although he thought at first that Ryo was going crazy like Takumi. Takumi goes into a trance. He senses a great evil presence in the direction of the throne. He falls over: “EVIL!!!” He is rather scared and crawls away. Onihana goes to touch the sword, and Reiki and Asahina-sama stop him. It’s a clean kill through the heart. Takumi crawls out to the lord…Evil…the lord gives the child tea, which he fears is evil, so he purifies it. Ryo talks to the voice while Onihana examines the sword. The blade looks like it could cut through stone. Ryo leaves the room and yells “Touch nothing! Remember what you were told!” Onihana asks the sword how he can help. The sword wants to be free. “So, how did you get here?” Reiki and Asahina-sama think everyone has gone crazy. They grab the boy and drag him away. Reiki glares at the sword. Onihana slips out of Asahina-sama’s grasp, however, waves goodbye at the sword, apologizes, and runs out, grabbing Kitsune-san (his stuffed fox).
All of them make it out to the lord. He’s having a tea party. Ryo’s hand is shaking. “Have some tea; it’s story time, I guess.” Reiki has her giant hammer out, and one of the attendants takes it. Mochiko pours sake in the tea. “Congratulations on being one of the first living humans in the celestial palace. The emperor had two male heirs, but we have no idea where either of them is. The sword was at one time one of the celestial emperor’s generals. A long time ago (1,000 years) there was a war between two of the generals, Shin-Anon and Fu-Lang, who took part in a dispute between the oni-kin and the humans. Shin-Anon favored the humans (who were intelligent and could adapt to their surroundings), so he persuaded the emperor that the lands should belong to them. But Fu-Lang thought the oni should have control, so a fight went on for a hundred years. Fu-Lang underestimated the humans completely, however, and the oni killed themselves off while the humans trained and overran them. Unfortunately, Fu-Lang was a sore loser, and he practiced some dark arts and recruited the Korobokuru. He imprisoned himself inside a naginata. Some of the other generals joined him as well, eight of them: inside the temple was one of his lesser generals in the katana. From what we have gathered from the informants (Centipede-san!), you ran across one of the failures. Shin-Anon made his generals meet them in the same form (he and six others became weapons), but they couldn’t destroy them, only imprison them in tombs. Lords were assigned to protect those realms, but about thirty or forty years ago, a bunch of adventurers ran across Fu-Lang and released him; he made his way to the land of Tosa in the hands of a peasant. The plague has spread, and some other leaders have been affected. Kon is fine, but Lord Kagano could be affected, as you have his ancestral daisho, which seems to symbolize a pact between him and Fu-Lang. That is why you had to be hid away.” Tosa is probably gathering forces to storm Kagano, thinking they have broken their treaty. Tosa has spread over most of Kii and a large part of Awaji. Ryo to Mochiko: “Our home is truly gone.”
Onihana thinks that since Asahina-sama is perfect, his companions must be at fault. Asahina-sama blames himself, however. Everyone except Takumi and Mochiko cuddles Asahina-sama, who is miserable and emos. The lord will send them into Mimasaka to try to find information: they have until next spring to get information before Tosa invades Kagano. The lords of Mimasaka are fighting and bickering amongst each other, however, so it will be hard to get to the library. Also, the party will probably look like bumpkins, as fashions change all of the time. Asahina-sama decides to go to the library to save his homeland. Onihana thinks that reading books will help him save the world! The lord tells them to train for months before they go to the library. He brought Onihana along to go with them: he can get into places that they normally could not, being small. The spirit folk train them, including tengu. Reiki is very happy to train under the tengu, as that is why he was searching for the feather. Takumi has conversations with many kinds of spirits to try to cure his ADD while a fire shugenja ancestor is pulled out of the celestial bureaucracy to train Ryo. Takumi worries about Centipede-san, who is still in Tosa. He expounds to the spirit folk on the greatness of Centipede-san, but they make him pay attention to his studies. Study study study study study… Reiki meditates with a tengu. The ancestral sohei drink with Mochiko on their off time. They get spiffy weapons and items.
They head out in the middle of the winter into the lands of Mimasaka. Reiki frolics in the snow. The spirit folk kept the daisho and armor that Asahina-sama got from Tosa in the spirit land. The library is in the central capital, but the three sons of the previous lord disagreed with how things were divided up, so they have been warring against each other for twenty years. The people, however, are more interested in fashion and news. The samurai don’t wear much useful armor or decent daisho. “Should this be worn on the left or on the right?” All of the warriors die on the inside upon seeing the fashion-savvy samurai. Kuu jumps on someone’s head and plays with a ribbon; the monkey-on-the-head becomes a fashion statement. Asahina-sama feels his honor threatened and has an iaijutsu duel with a fancy samurai, whose sword’s name is Princess’s Fury. Asahina-sama beats him and feels better about himself. He rips the other’s beautiful gaudy kimono. The samurai weeps, and his makeup runs. Takumi comforts him that the thug look is coming back. He rips off the arms and opens it up to show his chest. The yakuza look is in! “Hmm…maybe this might work…I dunno, though.” Asahina-sama gets honor out of his duel.
They stay at the most simple inn they could find. They are happy to have guests at this run-down little inn. Onihana sneaks in. They are grateful that it is not gaudy. Asahina-sama tells them that Takumi is touched in the head. The innkeeper feels his head like a melon. Asahina-sama partitions off a corner to sleep. Onihana climbs up in a snow-covered tree and plays the flute. They ignore Takumi, but he talks to them anyway. Asahina-sama tells Takumi to go talk to the snow. He does. He revels in just existing and being cold and feels closer to enlightenment.
The next day they travel to the capital city, staying on the outskirts to avoid the gaudy places. The spirits in those areas are even fashionable and snooty. Takumi tries to talk to them, but they tell the little dirty child to go away. The capital in the night is as bright as the day, as if the city never sleeps. Takumi: “Can we go to a play?” Asahina-sama: “No.” Takumi: “Yay, we’re going to a Noh play!” They find the library in the center of town by the castle. Only the most fashionable people may enter that rich end of town, and the walls are guarded by stylish goons. Onihana wants to know what’s fashionable. “That’s what’s behind us.” He sneaks around behind them: “I’m fashionable!” They can’t find a reasonable non-gaudy inn. Finally they find a shady place in a questionable district, with red lights and everything. They ask if they want to stay for an hour or a night. Takumi: “Why would you just want to stay an hour?” “We can show you if you want.” Asahina-sama: “No, he’s my little brother!” Takumi: “I’m your brother? Yay!” Onihana: “Is it like being enlightened?” “Yes.” Takumi: “I was enlightened in the snow last night.” Onihana: “I was enlightened when I was three!” Asahina-sama: “There is nothing wrong with being unenlightened! Meeting. My room. Now.” Takumi: “Are we going to be enlightened?” Ryo tries to explain the birds and the bees to oblivious Takumi. Asahina-sama uses his sword to demonstrate. “The katana goes into the sheath…”
They try to work out a plan to dress up one of them so that they can get into the walled-off fashion town where the library and castle are. Onihana dresses Ryo up. He looks really gaudy. Then he spiffs out Takumi: he’s dressed up as a girl with hair baubles and sparklers and everything. They decide that Takumi is Ryo’s wife…from the south. Takumi channels snotty spirits. They head off to the gate with everyone else as servants. The guards tell Takumi that one of his sparklers is out. He acts fluttery like a girl. Ryo gets them in. Onihana waits outside. The “bodyguards” are sent to servants’ quarters. A new trend was started…the servants all have rips and tears in their kimonos. Reiki the cat goes with Ryo and Takumi. Onihana sneaks in and heads for the library, jumping roof to roof. Ryo is pulled aside by men talking business and fashion. He’s like…yeah. Takumi is pulled off with the pretty girls and courtesans, and he learns WAY too much about “enlightenment.” “Giggle giggle…they do what?!?”
Asahina-sama and Moshiko drink it up with the servants. Guys hit on Mochiko. She glares at them. Flowery guys hit on Asahina-sama. No! Glare! Onihana jumps onto the library roof. He pulls off tiles and makes a hole into the wood. A fight erupts and sumo wrestling ensues in the servants’ quarters. Honor is style here. Asahina-sama and Mochiko sneak out. Reiki falls asleep while listening to the men’s talk as she sits by Ryo. Asahina-sama and Mochiko see that the library is walled off, and Mochiko hears a little chinking on the roof. They clamber up onto the roof, and Onihana puts his knife away and starts punching the wood. Asahina-sama: “Idiot. Have someone with a real weapon do it. (Looks at Mochiko.) You do it. I’m not using my ancestral daisho on a roof!” Mochiko attacks it, and after several attacks breaks through. Asahina-sama finally reconsiders and aids. They break a small hole in it. Takumi talks about origami with the courtesans, and one of them can do origami…with her tongue…ack. They continue to discuss their techniques and talk about the pretty boys at the theatre. Takumi’s giggles get lower and more nervous as the evening wears on. Onihana jumps back to the stables to get rope from Ushi’s saddlebag. He brings back the rope, and they slip down. It’s pitch dark, so Asahina-sama lights a candle. There are scrolls as far as the eye can see. And there is no Dewey decimal system. Onihana is lucky and finds one on Korobokuru; they created a great atrocity and got banished in a mountain range, never to be seen again. Ryo and Takumi go back to the hotel while the others continue to search, and Onihana continues to be lucky. Asahina-sama feels vaguely lonely sleeping in the library without a cat by his feet. Ryo: “So, what did you talk about?” Takumi is incoherent: “…” The korobokuru used a great forge in the capital city of a great and vast mountain range: the range around Tosa and Kagano. Takumi and Ryo decide to return, as they can’t find anyone else. Reiki goes with Takumi. They try to figure out the new fashion trends: bright flashy colors and big ribbons. They spend the better part of the day getting costumes together. They go to the library and find that it is walled off. Takumi sends Kuu up to try to find an entrance, and Reiki goes too. They see candles within. Kuu jumps on Asahina-sama’s head as the kitty peers down on him. Takumi levitates up, and he levitates Ryo as well. They are all in the library.
They continue to search the library. Moshiko knocks a bookshelf down on top of herself. Despite the hole in the roof and all of their noise, nobody even looks in the direction of the library; they avoid it entirely. Ryo finds pictures and information on where the capital of the korobokuru should be. The kid and the cat go into town to get food. Takumi finds something about the wars 1,000 years ago; the generals hid themselves amongst the forces of the land, and the oni and the korobokuru were aligned (after the war they were imprisoned in the mountains because they made the weapons, while the oni were put into hell). The korobokuru weapons were better quality; two of the good generals were lost on the battlefield, so there are now only five of the original seven still wandering around. Ryo finds the list of six weapons of evil and their locations. “Asahina-kun?” “Don’t call me that!!!” “I found something…” He shows him the list: Chuujun (prized possession of a major oni lord), Gentatsu (used as an ancestral daisho of a samurai lord), Juushin (protected by ancient spirits of the land), Miwokaroshitejinwonasu (treasure of a yakuza lord), Shikimaku (in a small province hidden by an ancient order of monks), and Zendou (hidden by korobokuru as an accursed weapon).
Asahina-sama decides it is time to leave, so they wait until nightfall and sneak off. They need to find the spirit folk again, so they go to the province of Bichu from whence they came. Takumi continues to annoy Asahina-sama, who offers to remove his tongue. “But then I can’t cast spells!” “Darn it.” As they move south, the fashion has changed to a “less is good” style. Asahina-sama thinks that it is the most ridiculous one yet. Others torment Asahina-sama more about “enlightenment.” Then Asahina-sama and Moshiko argue about Noh theatre. They finally reach Bichu, but they can’t find their way in. Takumi goes into a trance and talks to a spirit. They are guided to a run-down shack, but it is well made inside. They argue, and Asahina-sama complains. The next morning, they wake up to a full set table and the little old man sitting at the end. Mochiko digs in, Asahina-sama eats in a refined manner and guards his food, Ryo eats with dignity, and Takumi babbles on about all of the details of their quest. More enlightenment humor ensues! Then they discuss how to get into the korobokuru prison in the mountains. Gentatsu might be with Lord Kagano. If Asahina-sama would have brought the lord’s “real” daisho back, he, them, and all of his family would have probably been killed. The lord will look for more information on Juushin. Miwokaroshitejinwonasu was held by earth shugenja in the land of Kii. Shikimaku is in the land of Kai. Asahina-sama gets called short in connection with the korobokuru and walks outside and emos. The others talk strategy, and the lord (Dragon-dono!) arranges travel to the mountains for them.
The next morning they are met by kirin (Oriental unicorns). Takumi babbles at them. They look at each other: “Is he going to be like this the whole trip?” Moshiko was going to offer the kirin sake and then realizes that they are the ones driving. They fly and run on the clouds. Asahina-sama is very unhappy. Takumi: “Bye Ushi!” Kuu jumps on Asahina-sama’s head, and the others torment Asahina-sama about his fear of heights and his disbelief of mythological creatures and places. Everyone but Asahina-sama sees a dragon flying in the distance. When they land, they are greeted by a short, stout little fellow who seems to be made of stone: a mountain spirit. He and Ryo insult each other because the spirit called them filthy humans. Mochiko tells him to stop talking. Asahina-sama gets taller, and everyone else (to what Ryo can see…he’s sinking in mud). Takumi thinks the mountain spirit is cool, but it takes Mochiko’s talking to get him to stop. Asahina-sama enjoys feeling tall for once. The mountain spirit leads them up to a mountain; he waves his hand and a small entrance way appears, and he dourly leaves.
They proceed into the darkness. Ryo casts light on a pebble so that they don’t have to hold torches. He still makes the kid carry it on a necklace around his neck. They wander around for hours. Most of them have to crouch through the dusty and dirty corridors. When Ryo runs out of light, they lie down and rest. After a day and a half, they come across an abandoned underground city. Takumi casts tongues so that he can read directions in korobokuru. He has a field day running around and reading signs. He eventually finds directions to The Great Stone Capital. Takumi casts tongues on Ryo: “Ooh, we can have conversations in languages that no one else can understand!” Ryo contemplates a fireball.
When the light runs out again, they sleep and keep watch. During the sohei’s watch, she hears a scuffle nearby. Mochiko wakes Reiki up and tells her to wake everyone up. Cat-girl pounce! The kitty pokes the little kid Onihana awake, as Asahina-sama doesn’t wake up with the glomp. They wake Takumi and Ryo up. Onihana bops Takumi on the head with a scroll. Takumi throws Kuu on Onihana’s head. He pets the monkey. Kuu jumps on Asahina-sama, but he’s out of it. Reiki sits on his chest and tickles his nose with her tail. Then they hear sword-clanking. Reiki turns into a kitty and goes to scout at Mochiko’s orders. She sees two almost shapeless forms fighting each other in the hallway. She runs back and reports to Mochiko: “There are clouds fighting each other.” Reiki starts tugging Asahina-sama’s foot. Onihana keeps poking him in the head. Ryo carries Asahina-sama after they fight over it for a bit. Onihana hides. They buff themselves up. Only Reiki can see because of darkvision. Reiki has Ryo cast light on a rock. They can hear snarls, growls, and profanity. One of the clouds looks like a samurai, and the other is an unusual creature that has combined features of animals. The samurai is from Kagano. He’s a lot taller than Asahina-sama, though. The shaman goes up and tries to talk to the spirits to figure out why they are fighting. The others lure him back by saying that they have Centipede-san. Mochiko drags him back. Ryo tries to walk out with Asahina-sama, but he runs into a barrier. He sets the samurai down (no, throw the samurai! They come up with crazy plans). He can go through by himself. Then they try to pull Asahina-sama through with rope. The rope is cut. Onihana plays with plushies: honorless monk-san and emo-san. Mochiko wants to fight. Takumi goes into a trance to talk to local spirits. He talks to a lady who was Asahina-sama’s ancestor; the spirits are fighting over Asahina-sama’s spirit, and they have to join a side. He runs out of questions before he learns which one to join, though. Shirukinokatsukami, the animal one, is sent by the celestial heavens to protect people; the samurai is a vengeful spirit, possibly. “Kill the samurai!”
Reiki runs up and swings at the samurai spirit, slashing his spine. Onihana goes up behind and punches him. He turns around and tries to hit Reiki, but the Shirukinokatsukami grapples him from behind. Ryo casts ignite arrows on Takumi’s arrows. Takumi tries to break the enchantment on Asahina-sama, but the spell level is too low. It does shake up the samurai spirit, though. Mochiko goes into ki frenzy and attacks the spirit. Reiki flails away, and Onihana hits. The spirit samurai hates cats; he attacks Reiki. The cuts burn to her very soul. Ryo and Takumi shoot flaming arrows, but they go right through the spirit. Mochiko makes the spirit dissipate. Takumi goes up and fanboys the Shirukinokatsukami. Onihana speaks celestial, and he translates. The spirit thanks them for protecting Asahina-sama. He will awaken soon. Takumi: “Tell Centipede-san hello for me!”
Asahina-sama wakes up. He gets glomped. “Off! Get off!” Takumi: “I met one of your ancestors!” Ryo: “Asahina-kun?” Asahina-sama is happy that they did something useful without his guidance. Onihana: “That Kagano spirit was too tall to be you!” Onihana intercepts Reiki’s glomp. Takumi: “The Great Stone Capital is this way!” He goes skipping up the path with the light. Asahina-sama stomps, Onihana prances, and Reiki glomps. Takumi runs off with flaming arrows when Asahina-sama takes the light. Apparently the spirit Takumi talked to was Asahina-sama’s mother (and he thought it was his great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother…whoops).
They get to the stairs of a city with rivers of lava and statues with beards of lava. Asahina-sama says that there are still korobokuru down here and that they hold grudges. There is movement down below in the city. They sleep for a bit. Ryo repairs Reiki’s kimono. It takes them awhile to travel down the stairs and to a gateway. Ryo and Onihana study the architecture. It’s as old as the oldest temples above. Onihana goes chibi, and Reiki chases him with a giant hammer. They walk along and hear a shriek from a distance; a person looks at them and then books it. Takumi casts tongues and hears them: “Oh no, the apocalypse, the humans have come to finish us off!” Takumi’s companions have all run off to hide, though. Takumi tries to talk to them and say “We’ve come in peace!” They surround him. Asahina-sama steps out, and half of them run away: “Ah, they’re coming out of the walls!” Takumi talks to them and calms them down a bit. He tells them short samurai jokes to break the ice. He casts tongues on Ryo so that he can talk to them too. They are cautious and think that they are only a scouting party. Takumi says that they just followed the big sign to The Great Stone Capital and that they should make it a tourist attraction and sell souvenirs. They hold their weapons tighter. Takumi casts tongues on Asahina-sama so that he can diplomacize. Mochiko offers sake; one of them drinks it, spits on the ground, and says it’s weak. They want them to hand over their weapons to prove they mean no harm. Takumi hands his right over. Onihana hands over a plushie. Asahina-sama is very reluctant to depart with his daisho. They are led through the city streets to a cave; Onihana sneaks out before they are closed in. Reiki the kitty is still out as well.
When they come back to the cave, they can’t talk to them anymore. They motion for them to follow. They are led to a guy with a large beard and long flowing robes, but they can’t understand them at all. Takumi tries to gesture; they bind his arms. Then he tries to sing; they cover his mouth. They are taken back to the chamber. They are there for awhile. Meanwhile the “ghosts” Onihana and Reiki wander the city. The korobokuru come back, and Takumi casts tongues on Ryo. The korobokuru are very straightforward. They are mad about being condemned down here; they think humans live for thousands of years. “We were sent here to ask for your help.” He talks with them for awhile. They don’t want to help if they don’t get anything out of it. They get sent back to the room. Takumi talks to a stone spirit, who tells them to drink with the korobokuru and give them money; also, the spirit of the great forge is under the biggest statue of the kings, and that spirit is grumpy.
Ohinana glomps the kitty. They sneak into an important looking building. Onihana looks like a little old lady with Reiki as his beard. They decide to go investigate prison-like areas and leave.
The others are released from the cave and drug into a room with a different person wearing heavy metal-plated armor. Asahina-sama speaks this time: “My servant offers you sake, but it is clearly inferior to yours.” He pushes it back. Mochiko tries to show that it makes one happy. Takumi gives them a paper crane. “I have a small amount of currency from the upper world.” “What is your real purpose? We have been kind enough so far.” Asahina-sama tries to explain again about the weapons. They, however, are glad that they are causing harm in the human world. They think that will lead to their freedom when the humans become too weak. He looks worried about how humans got the weapons in the first place and sends them away.
The next time, Asahina-sama, Mochiko, and Ryo talk. Takumi tries to talk to Stone-san again. Mochiko mentions Zendou. “Cursed? You’re speaking of the holy weapons of the korobokuru empire? The one our king wears at his side?” They are sent away again.
Later, a korobokuru sneaks in and tells them to follow him. The guards are all asleep. He walks through a wall, but he has to open a portal for them to follow. It opens to the outside. Reiki has been climbing up the side, and she sees Asahina-sama come out; she jumps on his head. Onihana intercepts the kitty so that she doesn’t brain the samurai. The korobokuru looks at them, but when Asahina-sama says they’re friends, he tells them all to follow him. They go underneath one of the statues into something like a temple to jewels, and he takes them to a back room. They are greeted by an old korobokuru; he lifts his hand, and everyone can understand everyone else. He talks to his attendant and asks about their appearances (he can’t see them). “What brings humans to my lands?” Asahina-sama: “We seek information about swords that are viewed as unhealthy in our lands?” “Zendou is actually the king’s hammer.” This goes on a bit. “Be thankful I have people in many places. Zendou for a long time has lain quiet, but about thirty years ago, the king decided to use the weapon as a holy weapon; it has made the people powerful, but probably at the cost of our very beings. Those weapons had brought curses upon us, so the promises are probably false. If you destroy them, you free the beings inside them, and then you have to fight them.” They will have to bring the weapons down here to the great forge, and the great forge hasn’t spoken to anyone in a thousand years. The old korobokuru wants to take Zendou from the king. There are five celestial weapons (two were destroyed) and seven evil. They have a portal to an ancient mountain castle above surface, but he doesn’t know who rules there. Any korobokuru who passes through it dies, however. They get their weapons and leave.
Through the portal is an elaborate room filled with mystical and magical items. Onihana starts to go through the stuff, and an alarm goes off. Several guards run into the room; they have the markings of the lands of Kon. “Ahh, we need back-up, Kagano’s coming through the portal!” Asahina-sama: “We are not here on behalf of Kagano, and we have an idiot here who should not have been touching anything.” They are led off, and Onihana is searched in full. He puts Crow-san and Rat-san on their treasure to compensate. They sit and are fed a decent meal. Then they are called to meet with Lord Kon himself. Reiki stares at Asahina-sama: “I’m waiting for you to start twitching, you’re so cute when you do it!” Asahina-sama: “I’m not supposed to be adorable!” They enter the chamber with Lord Kon and the five head schools of shugenja. Takumi tells their rambling story with asides from Onihana. Reiki plays go. One of the weapons, a katana, is currently in custody of the temple of earth in the lands of Kii, according to Lord Kon. Kagano is preparing for war with Tosa. They had their hands on the greatest celestial weapon, but it was stolen 25 years ago by who it chose. Mochiko offers sake around as Takumi continues to babble. It takes several games of go. He babbles himself to sleep. If they move in at the end of the battle, they can hopefully subdue both Kagano and Tosa.
A massive battle is fought between Tosa and Kagano, and Kagano wins the battle. Asahina-sama’s father distinguishes himself.