The Daimyo assigns Torako to a gunso as per her request; Tatianna joins her in solidary. Susumu decides not to get involved unless noncombatants are attacked, but first makes sure the fake Akodo is dead. Kokuei is opposed to fighting and would prefer to try to negotiate; Daiken agrees but will fight if necessary. They plan the speech he will magically broadcast. When the army comes into view, a hundred-foot tall illusion of Kokuei tries to convince the Scorpion that this battle is not the Emperor’s will. It doesn’t quite succeed, but it does demoralize the enemy.
Tatianna manages to hit the Scorpion general with an arrow to the rear end. Kokuei steps up to support the troops. Tatianna prevents someone on the Lion side from opening the gate. Daiken tries to put out part of the city that is on fire. The Scorpion start hurling diseased corpses over the wall, which provokes Susumu to join the battle. Finally, Torako gets to duel the Scorpion general and defeats him. We check for any additional Scorpion spies and make sure the city is not on fire. Kokuei tends to the wounded, and Torako starts a big party.
Kokuei and Daiken make profuse apologies to the Crane for the deaths of the monks. Tensions rise, but the apology is accepted. The river kami leaves off possessing the head monk, leaving him very shaken, and returns to its domain. Susumu offers to hire the now aimless bushi as a yojimbo, but he declines.
A few days later, we wake up feeling woozy one morning and Tatianna sees that there has been a struggle in Hidetaka’s rooms and he is missing. It looks like four people climbed into his window and dragged him out and through the city streets. Kokuei summons an earth spirit, who describe the abductors as four plainly-dressed but strong Scorpion. A water spirit shows the abduction: they said something to him as they took him. An air spirit reports that they were after him because of his “pure heart”.
Daiken follows the abductors’ trail through the catacombs and out into the woods. Tatianna goes to get Hichi to help us and Lily brings us our horses. Eventually we come upon the remains of the Scorpion army we defeated.
Hidetaka sneaks out of the Scorpion camp and meets up with the rest of the party so discreetly that they don’t notice him for several minutes. Daiken makes our report concerning the events in Kenson Gakka and we are soon summoned before the Emerald Champion. He tells us we did a good job and to go report to our new boss. After a bit of asking around, we find our new boss, a Seppun, in our old boss’s office. He tells us that he is not giving us an official assignment, because he doesn’t want us to suffer the shame of an almost certain failure; however, the Lion are about to attack Toshi Ranbo, and if we could prevent an all-out clan war from erupting between the Lion and the Crane, it would greatly benefit the Empire.
Before we leave Otosan Uchi, Hidetaka notices something odd in the direction of Tatianna’s room and bursts in to see two men standing over her, one trying to poison her and one reading a scroll. Hidetaka attacks and downs the poisoner; when the spellcaster aims his spell at Hidetaka, both our shugenja recognize it as maho. Hidetaka checks on Tatianna and notices that the poison was being carefully dosed; they were probably trying to weaken her for a time to make her more vulnerable to the spell, not trying to kill her.
Susumu summons an earth spirit to analyze the maho spell. It tells him to ask an air spirit, but also that the attackers came from far away. Kokuei summons an air spirit; it says that the spell was a “brain-sucking spell”, which takes a single piece of information out of a victim and leaves them empty. When Hidetaka was attacked, they tried to find out his true affiliation. The two said nothing meaningful while in the room. The items we find on the bodies seem carefully placed to be innocuous or misleading. We have the bodies removed and burned. Torako is charged with destroying the maho scroll.
Kokuei gets a letter from some of his stagehand friends saying: ever since the comment the Emperor made at Daiken’s wedding about how his hatamoto should see Kokuei’s play, they have been booked solid with requests to see it performed, and could he please come and do the special effects. He puts them off with polite niceties for now.
As we pass by Shiro Akodo, we see the army mustering out, headed for Toshi Ranbo, though they deny this is clan war. Since the party are all officially off the clock, Torako stays back and rides with the Lion army. On the way to Toshi Ranbo, Kokuei brainstorms plans to prevent the war. Hidetaka suggests to find a way to put the city back into Lion hands without dishonoring the Crane.
Torako learns that the conquest of Toshi Ranbo is meant as a wedding present from Akodo Arasu to Matsu Suko. She tries to remind the troops of their duty to the Emperor, and her wish that things not get out of control. She expresses these feelings to Akodo Arasu, who assures her that the Lion will easily defeat the Crane.
Outside a teahouse in Lion lands, Hidetaka witnesses a Matsu attack a group of four Kakita, who handily defeat him. His last words were “He tasked me.”
In Toshi Ranbo, Daiken and the party meet with the Crane general in charge, and find that he is well prepared to defend the city. Daiken sends Lily out with a letter to Doji Satsume asking which proposed solutions would be acceptable to his clan. Hidetaka proposes that the Crane give Toshi Ranbo to Arasu and Suko as a wedding gift. The general is delighted by the idea but doesn’t have the authority to implement it. Daiken discovers that the Daidoji duelists have not been after him because of the former general’s defeat, but because a certain Asahina has been stirring up trouble for him.
In the middle of the night, Susumu wakes to a man standing over him. It’s Toshi Ranbo’s Emerald Magistrate, Bayushi Mugotai, offering to help. In his opinion, the Lion Clan Champion is the one most in favor of this war, but leaves the matter mostly in the hands of Arasu and Suko, while Satsume would like to avoid war and would just as soon give up Toshi Ranbo to keep the peace. He doesn’t understand why the Scorpion attacked Kenson Gakka, especially if they were also orchestrating this thing in Toshi Ranbo.
In the morning, Daiken meets the guy from Kensen Gakka who had been possessed by the river kami. He is also here to try to stop the war…somehow. He was also a “pure heart” of the Scorpion before being kicked out for not committing an act of violence. He has become influential throughout the city but has no plan of action. Daiken offers him a job as a yuriki.
Kokuei writes a letter explaining to the Lion how they have been manipulated into starting a war, which he gives to Arasu when he and Torako arrive. Arasu agrees with what Kokuei has to say, but doesn’t thing the rest of the Lion will be convinced. If Suko can be convinced that the Crane intend to cede the city, she may remove her army. Daiken receives permission from Satsume to give Toshi Ranbo as a gift.
We arrive back at the Lion army to find it on high alert. They have several Daidoji tied up, saying that they killed 43 Lion officers. The assault at dawn is now almost assured. Every captured Daidoji has the same facial tic as the Akodo who took the girl hostage and the Matsu who attacked the four Kakita. Daidoji Uji thinks that the spell “Haze of Battle” could cause the irrational behavior we have seen. He offers to commit seppuku to offset the dishonor and appease the Lion. Because of the murders, the Lion Clan Champion is more willing to become personally involved. Arasu tries to take personal responsibility for any maho that may have been used on the Daidoji, but is refused. He is given permission to duel Daidoji Uji over the murders if the Crane will also hand over the city.
Lily interrogates the prisoners, who seem to take full responsibility for their actions. They are then hanged. Kokuei goes to the Lion Clan Champion to sell him on dropping the duel and just accepting Toshi Ranbo. When he gets there, Arasu is there, having assumed the Clan Championship on his uncles death. However, he still believes he must respect his last order. Kokuei tries to talk him out of it, but fails. Hidetaka does get him to consider downgrading it to first blood. We set up a secret meeting between Arasu and Uji.
At dawn Uji cedes Toshi Ranbo and the duel begins. Arasu goes all Obi-Wan and Uji kills him with one stroke. Arasu hands Lily his daisho and tells her “Give this to the Phoenix. He was right. I wasn’t smart enough to stop it. Don’t let them kill him.” We start to hurry out of there. Uji says, “Tell your Phoenix I believe him.” We leave Daiken’s yuriki behind to handle matters locally. We ride hard toward a monastery in Phoenix lands.
We hand over the daisho of the Lion to Akodo Toturi. He plan to first take Shiro Akodo and we ride there as fast as we can.