Daiken receives word that his wife, Kuzumi, is pregnant, and she joins us at Court. A new guy is running Shiro Akodo, and so the Court events are not running completely smoothly. Kokuei shuts himself away to do research on a new spell. Daiken is not seen for a couple of days, so Susumu goes to his room and is told he is sick. Lily and Hidetaka are also looking under the weather; Susumu examines Hidetaka and thinks it might be a flu of some kind. Susumu asks Torako to try to see Daiken, and she does her best but is also turned away. She learns that Daiken is being seen by Toturi’s personal physician (for political reasons), so Susumu goes to see the physician. Apparenly, it’s a really unpleasant illness. Susumu remembers that a horse of ours had a similar illness, and suggests purification with Earth spirits. Toturi’s physician asks Susumu to oversee Lily and Hidetaka’s care. That evening he hears that two servants have become ill.
In the middle of the night, Susumu is woken up by the physician. Daiken is the only one who is not getting rapidly worse; the others have developed extremely high fevers. A Crab visitor mentions that people were sick in his household before he left a week ago, which suggests the Plague to Susumu and the physician. They come up with a plan to divide the guests and staff into groups under the guise of a Court game, to limit the spread of disease. Each group is assigned a different set of activities to keep them occupied–go tournament, scavenger hunt, hunting party, battle simulations, arts, etc. The servants are assigned to only serve one group each.
The next day, Hidetaka begins to get better, suffering some swelling but avoiding the gangrene. Our two shugenja expend all their energy casting spells to treat the increasing number of sick people. The entire hunting party (which the original Crab was not in) gets the plague. When another group goes out hunting, they also all get the plague. The shugenja make the connection to horses. They check the stables, and every servant with contact with the horses has gotten sick. They put a quarantine on the stables–no one new goes in, no one comes out.
Daiken finally gets over his illness and is bewildered by the situation at the castle. Lily retreats to the stables and notices that all the horses have fleas. She uses a traditional Unicorn treatment for the fleas, and we eventually get a handle on the plague. Overall, about 100 samurai and a proportional number of peasants died. A few days later, Toturi comes down with whatever Daiken had. We don’t see him again for almost a month, when he emerges, looking weak. Now that the plague is over, Kokuei has time to work on his spell again.
One night Daiken and Torako see a suspicious character in the shadows, but before they can catch him he runs up the wall and disappears. They inform the castle authorities, who can find nothing. Susumu asks an earth spirit about the intruder and is told he has been in the Shiro four times. The first time he just touched the front door; the second time he went in the stables and messed with the food; the third time, a few days ago, he went into the kitchen and messed with the water; the fourth time, we scared him off. Susumu goes to the kitchen and summons a water spirit. He is shown that the intruder made some gestures over the well and mimed pouring something in with both hands (empty-handed), and no spirits were involved. He talks to an earth spirit in the stables, who implies that more than one of the “light people” have intruded in the castle recently. In the stable, the intruder did a dance in front of the hay. Daiken wonders if this could have anything to do with the yuriki he bequeathed to Toturi.
Daiken talks to Toturi about the intruders; Toturi seems very disturbed by the idea that someone might be practicing attacking his castle. The two shugenja systematically go to each section of the castle wall and ask the spirits about any “light people” who may have come over. Over the past year, seven people have come over a total of 47 times, all during the winter. In years past, they have come in over a thousand times; the last big group was 55 crossing six years ago, also in winter. They do not appear to have left any footprints in the snow. Susumu talks to Hichi, who says thay they are “good with snowcraft”, and points in the general direction of where they come from. Hichi believes that now that one has been noticed, they will never come back if they’re smart, but he promises to keep an eye out. Winter court otherwise ends without issue.