We go back to Hida lands to allow Hidetaka to train with them and start our tour of our gifted lands. We discover that Hida Shiroi had been engaged but she left to become a bushi. Shiroi seems interested in marrying Susumu’s sister. Daiken moves in with his wife on the lands bordering Crane and Imperial lands. They enjoy two weeks of wedded bliss before we are all sent out on a series of unmemorable assignments. We are assigned by our superior to fill in for another magistrate at the Lion town of Kenson Gakka during a festival. We arrive a week before the festival and are given rooms in the palace. A group of Asahina monks arrive as guests at the local monastery. Susumu hangs out at the town, drinking and trying to get to know people. Lily tries to stay available to people in her capacity as a magistrate. During a game of Go, Daiken sees an Akodo who looks familiar go in and talk to the daimyo.
The morning of the festival, we are all invited to court/breakfast. Lily has nice festival clothes made for the party. We meet a Daidoji and a Dragonfly courtier. During the festival, party members engage in various tests of skill. Daiken and Torako keep an eye out for shenanigans. Kokuei opts to avoid the festival entirely and goes for a ride outside the city. During the battle re-enactment outside the city, Kokuei goes back into the city.
After the battle, crates of birds are released by the monks, but instead of war hawks, they are white doves, an omen of death. The monks are horrified. As they leave, a couple of the monks look suspicious; Hidetaka and Daiken follow them. The daimyo suggests to Torako that going back and appearing to enjoy the festival may help to calm the superstitious. Hidetaka and Lily note a mark on the back of the neck of some monks. The head monk can’t be found at the monastery. Closer investigation reveals that none of the Crane monks have the mark, but 11 of the Lion monks do and only three do not. When questioned, neither monks with nor without admit any knowledge concerning the mark.
Hidetaka and Lily go to the shrine in the city to talk to the head monk. Daiken stays behind to try to determine who had the war hawks last. The head monk has noticed the marks on his monks, but never thought anything of it. The fourteen monks are all retired Lion samurai, but the head monk is a Scorpion. Hidetaka notices a man who may be eavesdropping on his conversation. Hidetaka confronts and then tails him but sees nothing of note.
In the streets, Susumu sees something odd: a man haggles with a merchant to buy something, then immediately crosses the street and sells the thing to another merchant. Then he does it again in reverse. Daiken discovers that the crates were untended for at least two hours before the mock battle. Tatianna joins Susumu in watching the man who continues to resell. Tatianna examines the wares: various knick-knacks and souvenirs. She buys a doo-dad for each member of the party as she attempts to watch the reseller. He has haggled the merchant down to a very low sum when the merchant buys; the merchant’s wife immediately offers the same item, a small turtle statue, to Tatianna to buy, which she does. When confronted by Susumu, he claims he is lulling them into a false sense of security for the second day of the festival.
At the shrine to the Fortunes, a crowd is gathering. One of the peasants claims a waist-high demon creature with a lizard head was seen. We do find such a creature–it’s a copper goblin. Kokuei attempts to Jade Strike it. No effect, except for scaring it. It claims that it is looking for the river spirit, which has gone missing. For several years, apparently. We go down to the river to talk to the spirits; Kokuei casts a disguise illusion on the copper goblin. According to a river spirit, the river kami took human form and left in the direction of the city; it doesn’t know why. The copper goblin says she can feel spirits (she sensed the water kami on the shrine offerings), so we go into town in seach of the water spirit.
An earth spirit in one of the shrine offerings of food tells Susumu that the river kami brought it there, and that the journey was entirely on the road from the south.
We enlist Hichi’s help to sniff for a man that doesn’t smell like other men. When we get back to the town, it is in a complete uproar. Akodo Akare’s baby has gone missing. A questioned earth spirit says that an old woman with a limp took the baby. None of the guards remember a woman like that come in or out of the palace, although they did see a younger woman with a bag. A spirit leadss to a nearby well. The baby appears to have been carefully placed on a jutting root deep in the well. The baby is covered in a talc-like rare pollen. We wash the talc off and return the baby. Akodo Akare almost looks disappointed to get his baby back. He also has a mark on the back of his neck like the monks.
Another copper goblin tells Kokuei that there is a man with a broken head in the labyrinth beneath town who needs help. We head down into the labyrinth. We meet the Dragonfly courtier, who lights the ground on fire and runs away. Torako chases after her. She seems to go through a wall and disappear. We discover that the head monk from the monastery is actually the missing river kami.
We hear that Akodo Akare has found the rare talc on his baby and has headed for the monastery. When we catch up, he has slaughtered all the Crane monks, accusing them of taking his baby. Hidetaka is having none of it. He exposes the Akodo as not being who he says he is. One of his own guards takes him out. He seemed to have a handkerchief on him casting an illusion. None of the marked Lion monks seemed to be at the monastery at the time of the slaughter.
The rest of the party return to town with the river kami , just in time to hear the alarm going up, “The Scorpion are coming!”