Kitsu Kasai had led an interesting ten months since he last saw his traveling companions from the Setsuban caravan. The war between the Crane and the Lion had kept him and the other Sodan Senzo busy making sure the samurai’s spirits from the fallen soldiers on both sides made it to the proper lasting place. Kasai had noticed the blackness he had encountered in the Mantis’s lands occasionally at the outskirts of his vision while he was escorting spirits thru Meido.
That winter he was visited by the fortune of Megumi once again. He told him it was time to use the drink he had been given that spring and that it was time for the pure Kitsu to take their place as true shugenja. Kasai took the strange vial and, with a prayer to his ancestors, downed it entirely and quickly. He spent the following three weeks in a dream coma. When he finally awoke his right eye, that was colored the bright orange that only the pure blooded Kitsu possessed, had a ring around the iris with symbols representing the five elements of the world. With it he could perceive the kamis of the world. His powers were quickly discovered by the other Kitsu and his training in the way of the kami was begun in earnest. Luckily for him he knew many of the principles already but like all other full blooded Kitsu he had not been able to apply them. Now he was not hindered by his lack of perception and by the time it was spring he was a capable shugenja although he had a deficiency for Fire and Earth spells although his full Kitsu blood allowed him to have an affinity his already powerful ancestral magic.
That spring he returned to his duties as a Sodan Senzo but with the added power of a full shugenja at his command. The Lion Crane war continued and the work of Sodan Senzo did as well. But a week previously he had heard a strange rumor of mass possession at Toshi Ranbo, the location of the most intense Lion-Crane fighting. The spirit realm was also in chaos and there were reports of angry ghosts everywhere. Kasai even heard of reports of spir its following around other Sodan Senzo like pets and guards. Kasai even heard reports of old grandmothers recently deceased almost turning into gaki over simple misunderstandings with their descendants. He knew he would need to consult the archives to see if he could figure out what was wrong and started on his way towards the Castle of the Swift Sword.
On the way he had to help several ghosts thru meido and he had just finished escorting one when he saw a strange sight indeed in the distance. He saw what appeared to be a Sodan Senzo moving away from a large group of ghosts confronting a group of samurai. Upon closer inspection he saw that the samurai were his old traveling companions from the Setsuban festival and they were facing off against a group of ghosts almost twice their number. In addition his old companions did not have the look of spirits or the look of a Kitsu Sodan Senszo, instead he swore that their entire bodies and souls were there within in the spirit world. Not about to abandon his old friends he joined into the already beginning fight between the two forces.
73 KAKITA kill two attackers, 2 miss 1 hit
46 KITSU fury of osano-wo
42 shosuro knife attacker 28 damage hurt
40 KENGETSU full defense 86 8 damage flight of the dragon
36 shinjo attack attacker 17
29 faceless 5, 5, 4, 2, 1
24 akio cutting
22 shugenja start casting a heal spell
91 kakita kill two attackers
48 kengetsu shoves
41 baddies 1 on Kakita stunned, 1 on akio stundded, 2 on Kengetsu stunned. 2 attack Akodo, 3 on Ashley, 1 on Shosuro, 1 on Shinjo,, 5 on kengetsu
40 akio attack kill both
38 kitsu lion run 100 ft
32 shosuro shaqnk a bitch kill
26 shinjo whack the guy
14 shugenja walks up to Kakita and heals
86 kakita slice thru both
61 kengetsu 2 standing 40, 39
47 akio chop
36 shosuro attack on on Kengetsu
34 kitsu attack one on kengetsu
26 baddies 3 on kenge, 2 on Kakita, 1 on akio
16 shugenja jade strike
As the last faceless dead fell to the ground, a darkness came out of the mist and consumed it with a silent scream and the samurai were left confused but relatively uninjured. Hikaru and Shinriko brought out their medicine kits and begun to patch up those who had been injured while Kasai turned back into his normal form with a quick shake of his head. He was shocked to see them there in the first place but after a few minutes discussion he was told of Kitsu Goden’s betrayal and about Bayushi Sozui as well. Kasai informed them he had no idea how to get them out of meido and worried that masks would not protect their identities from wandering spirits.
As they contemplated their fate they looked around at what could possibly be their new home. The desolate landscape stretches as far in every direction as they could make out with no variation. The only break in the monotonous terrain was the twisted obelisks and a distant mountain range that appears no more inviting. The air was dry and burned thier lungs, and the ground was parched There was no water here, no vegetation, no life of any kind. Could they die here, without water or food? Or would they just walk the barren realm forever, without end?
As they pondered their fate, the knee-high mists about them begin to part, collecting together as a wall of dull grey. Upon their surface images formed, a thousand tiny flares falling together in time, like a waterfall of light. From within the cloud, a voice could be heard, commanding but laced with kindness. “Beautiful isn’t it?” The forms of Tankenka and Arasou stepped forward out of the mist, which lost its substance again and drifted back toward the blighted earth. “The ancestors are pleased with you," Tankenka continued. “You have come far, and learned much, but there is still one secret you must know … "
Tankenka thanked them for their efforts and applauded them for their heroic actions over the last week. But in death he had become a pragmatic man, unfettered by social grace. He spoke his mind and his sole sold interest layed in averting continued open warfare between the Lion and the Crane, which could only be accomplished if Bayushi Sozui was stopped. To do this he explained the true situation to the magistrates:
It seems that Bayushi Sozui had corrupted and taken into her service Kitsu Goden a number of years before. He had been using his abilities as a Sodan Senzo to lead spirits astray including the spirit of Akodo Arasou. But this was one of their mistakes for Arasou has not been idle. Walking the scarred and barren world of Meido since the Kitsu’s deception, he has observed the contemptible man’s actions, learning and preparing to strike back.
Tankenka explained that Kitsu legends spoke of a place between the known tiers of the Celestial Order, where the furious go after death. Although some of this information was known to them there was Endless war-torn fields were littered with the shattered remnants of a thousand fallen provinces and the broken bodies of countless angry dead. It was an embittered realm, where Bushido had been warped beyond reason, corrupted by the meaninglessness of eternal warfare. This place was called Toshigoku, the realm of fighting spirits, which has been lost within the realm of the dead – Meido – for nearly a thousand years.
The fierce spirits who inhabited this place were drunk upon the intoxicating sweetness of Bushido, and looked forward only to an eternity of restless struggle, rising each morning to continue the martial contest, with no hope of victory or failure. Their anger never calmed, and their souls never knew true peace. They are the Legacy of the Forge, warriors who have been neglected or forgotten by their descendants after honorable death upon the field of battle. Like yorei they were spirits who had become trapped in the dark underworld and could not move forward in the cycle of reincarnation. The Legacy were the faceless dead, stripped of their identity and purpose by the neglect of their families. Some were ronin, or had no one to remember them; others were reviled or dishonored in the Living World for some wrong they were thought to have performed, whether true or not. This was the ultimate cause of the Legacy spirits’ anger, and the reason why they continued to wage war, even beyond death. The Kitsu had a name for these beings. They called them toshi (which literally meant "fighting spirits”). Early Kitsu forays into the realm of Meido discovered that they were a dangerous threat both to the balance of the spirit world and to the lives of all in Rokugan. Those spirits which could be saved were freed of their angry mission, and returned to their proper course in the Celestial Heavens. The rest were sealed off within a distant part of the underworld by the Sodan-Senzo Masters and forgotten.
Bayushi Sozui and Kitsu Goden found evidence of the Legacy hidden within the Kitsu archives. Along with the notes of a little known Sodan-Senzo named Jikai who had devoted his life to the study of the original Legacy texts. He theorized that the toshi might be controlled through one or more kami spirits. Unfortunately, his notes also indicated that the karni used would most likely be destroyed in the process (the reason for the Sodan-Senzo’s obscure reputation and the exile of his notes within the archives).
There was some logic to the notes, however. It was widely accepted within the shugenja community that yorei have an affinity for kami evident in a form of “sensei-student” relationship. Often, after a shugenja works to satisfy a yorei’s longing on this plane so that the ghost may pass on to Jigoku, it is a karni which is summoned to lead it there. This is especially true if a Kitsu is not available to perform the task. So utilizing the kami to control the toshi, however dishonorable, made a reasonable amount of sense. Sozui was determined to test the validity of Jikai’s theory. Beyond harnessing the power of the kami, Jikai’s notes indicated several additional conditions that had to be met.
Foremost among them was the need for a battle of “epic” proportions to be engaged during the attempt. This catalyst was viewed as a bridge between the Legacy’s dark prison and the physical world – the warriors of the battle would become vessels for the fighting spirits in their time on the physical plane. Over the following weeks, Sozui and Kitsu Goden went to work to engineer such a conflict, and found the upcoming peace talks at Toshi Ranbo wo Shien Shite to be perfect for their needs. Sozuj “prepared” the negotiations, making sure that several key figures on both sides were sympathetic to continued violence between the clans. Arasou would prove most useful to help incite the fighting; Goden ensured that he would be ready when the time came for a “proper appearance.” The plan in place, both instigators retired to the peace negotiations, ready and willing to commit the Empire to war.
Tankenka smiled and said that as attentive as Sozui and Goden were in their research, they had missed one critical element. Jikai’s later notes were gauged toward finding a release for the fighting spirits; controlling them was only the first step. Once they were manifest again in the Living World, Jikai believed that it would be possible for someone to lead them across the barren realm of Meido and into Jigoku where they belonged, but only at the cost of that which could be performed to attempt this, but the Kitsu Masters – seeing only a steady stream of selfless samurai wasting their lives in the effort – separated the later notes and declared them heretical.
These notes also warned of the greatest danger in dealing with the Legacy of the Forge: as long as the toshi remained in the Living World, every death by their hand would increase their number. While they act as flesh, each victim rises to join their ranks. Unless the ritual to lead them home was performed quickly, a Legacy unleashed upon the Empire would rapidly grow out of any kami’s control, destroying everything it touched. These later notes were never found by Sozui or Goden, due to the efforts of an armorer stationed at Shiro Sano Ken Hayai, Matsu Shimesu. Unknown to any but Tankenka, Shimesu has been watching Sozui for many years. Tankenka encountered Shimesu during his initial forays into Sozui’s past Shimesu had already been observing the instigator for some time at that point, and proved an invaluable resource concerning her history, motivations, and apparent goals. While the shikken continued his investigations elsewhere, he had left Shimesu in charge of watching Sozui. When Sozui and Goden began investigating the Kitsu archives for information about the Legacy, Shimesu informed Tankenka of their search, and conducted his own as well. He was the first to find the heretical notes.
By the time Tankenka arrived at Shiro Sano Ken Hayai, Sozui had already left for Toshi Ranbo. Shimesu had not been able to establish Sozui’s intentions, except that they had something to do with the toshi and Jikai’s notes. Nor had Shimesu been able to discover the identity of Sozui’s accomplice (Goden, who had left for Toshi Ranbo with her). Fearing the worst, Tankenka continued on to Toshi Ranbo, leaving Shimesu behind to safeguard knowledge of their findings if anything should happen to him.
“The Kitsu and the Scorpion do not know what they have unleashed upon the Empire," Tankenka told them. ’The toshi grow in number with every conflict. The Kitsu ancestors recognized this, but could not help them. So they sealed them away, never to be seen again … until now. You must put them to rest. There is a ritual, hidden within an outpost on the Plains of Battle. It can stop them, but only if you find it soon. The longer the Legacy strides the realm of man, the larger it will grow. Soon, very soon, it will be too large for the ritual to work:”
Tankenka told them to find Matsu Shimesu at the Castle of the Swift sword as he knew the location of the ritual scroll and would be able to lead them to it. Arasou also said to ensure their success they should take an escort of Lion troops. “Take the regent’s mirror to Matsu Tsuko, and ask her to look into it. She will give you what you need”.
As Tankenka and Arasou explained the full situation to the magistrates they noticed several strange occurrences around them. ‘The mists clung to thier calves, lazily swirling around them like a small whirlpool. The gray is laced with black and it was difficult to tell if it was thier shadow, or someone else’s. As Hikaru listened to Tankenka’s words about the ritual, her eyes were drawn beyond his shoulder, to something lurking within the jagged stone forest. But when she focused her vision, it was gone. Akio felt something dart by his leg, but when looked down, only the mist could be seen caressing his skin there.
Finally with the magistrates fully informed Tankenka and Arasou told them they should be able escort them out of Meido so that they could stop Bayushi Sozui and Kitsu Goden from destroying the Empire. They led them through a thick patch of the jagged obelisks; Tankenka crested a low rise and waved his arm toward the vale beyond. _"Do not look back once you have started across. The journey can be disorienting, and we wouldn’t want you getting lost:’ His voice was warm and gentle, and his words reassuring. For a moment, the image of his brutal death returned to them, the sound of his body as it strikes the ground … But they fought the memory back, and looked into the vale below.
The Lion encampment outside the Castle of the Swift Sword can be seen sprawled out before them like a two-dimensional painting, the oil blurring at its edge, burning away when it slips into the dead realm of Meido that frames it. As they looked back at Tankenka, the painting began to dissolve, losing its substance and vanishing into the mists. “No,” he said abruptly, conjuring memories of their own sensei, “do not focus upon me. Look to the Living World, and never look back:’.
The magistrates understood instinctively that this would require an extreme amount of personal willpower to make the passage back to the mortal realm. Kasai gave his own void to help his old comrades and they drew upon their inner void power and their latent good kharma. But when Hikaru and Kengetsu called upon their own inner ki and their link to their ancestors flared a strange and horrible thing happened. The silhouette of the ancestors appeared as normal but this time the same darkness that had taken the faceless dead came out and wrapped both of their ancestors and took them away. But their sacrifice was not in vain. When their eyes returned to the picture, the edges began to congeal hardening once more. As they stared intently into the deep portrait they felt themselves drawn to it, drawn into it. The painting curved about their vision, filling their mind, and the images upon its surface began to move together – slowly at first, then more and more lifelike until the air around them was fresh and clean once more, and soft wet grass could be felt beneath their feet. They were back. They found themselves just outside of the Castle of the Swift Sword and noticed only a few hours had gone by in the realm of Meido. They quickly decided to split up and talk to the people necessary. Hikaru, Luke and Kengetsu went to find Matsu Shimesu while Shinriko and Akio went to inform the Kitsu masters of Goden’s betrayal.
Kitsu Kasai was left back in Meido happy to see his companions once again where they belonged. He bowed to Tankenaka and his former Clan Champion. They bowed back and vanished back into the mists. Kitsu knew he had to get to the Castle of the Swift Sword and made his way quickly back towards his own exit back to the mortal realm. But then suddenly the black mists targeted him as well. Although he tried to outpace it he could not move fast enough and was soon enveloped by the mists. They started to strangle and burn him and then, like they had many months before, tried to once again rip his mask off. Kitsu was forced to use all his reflexes and willpower to get out of the mist and finally plunged his spirit back into his body. Shaking from the experience he got onto his mount and rode hard for the Caslte of the Swift Sword.
Akio and Shinriko were given a meeting quickly with the Kitsu Masters. After the situation was explained in full the Kitsu Masters said they would give any assistance they couild. They were shocked to hear that the Emerald Magistrates already knew the location of the hidden scroll as did the armorer. They informed the magistrates that they would summon and give name to a Oni to protect the scroll until their arrival as the protection from the sprit world was the duty of the Kitsu family. The other three found Kitsuki Daran on their search for the armorer and informed him of what was happening. Daran said he would prepare a letter to send to the nearest Imperial army company but feared, with the skirmishes along the border, that they would not be able to reach them in time. Knowing Kasai would be looking for them and should be arriving soon Luke sent his eagle into the air with a simple command and the eagle could be seen during slow expanding circles looking for Kasai to lead him back. They finally found Matsu Shimesu and after a quick introduction of who they were and who their enemy was he eagerly joined with them.
The magistrates once again reunited outside the training grounds in order to convince the Matsu daimyo, Matsu Tsuko. They also explained the situation to her and requested her assistance. She was clearly angered at the mention of her fiancé but after looking into the mirror she appeared a little less consumed by her rage, her comportment slightly more positive then before. She offered the magistrates the services of the junshi whose courageous actions provided an entrance into Toshi Ranbo augmented by a small compliment of Lion soldiers from the training grounds. She would also have the Lion magistrates on the look out for Goden and would report any sightings of him to the Emerald Magistrates.
Finally they were joined by Kitsu Kasai, who had followed Luke’s eagle to them, at Kitsuki Daran’s house. They briefed Daran about what was going on and he left to write the letter to the closest Imperial Army unit to assist them as well when they begun to debrief Matsu Shimesu about this history with Bayushi Sozui.
Shimesu explained that this information was not for the general public and got their word that they would not repeat it. He explained that when he was very young, he was kidnapped by the Scorpion. The deceivers’ true target was Sozui, a young Kakita girl promised in trade for Shimesu to cement relations between the clan families. The Scorpion kidnappers had had no need for him, other than to balance Sozui’s abduction, and to incite conflict between the children’s families; he was simply a tool. He was given to a heimin family in the Crab lands, to spend his life as a commoner. As soon as he was able, Shimesu ran away, heading for his homeland, where he would reveal the Scorpion plot and rejoin his family. But the Matsu were not pleased with his survival. They warned him to leave, or he would be killed The family could never acknowledge
his life again, or risk being blamed for Sozui’s disappearance, which would greatly shame their house. Thus, Shimesu learned the true sharpness of Scorpion forethought, and how to hate them. He had made it his mission to track down the Scorpion instigator named Bayushi Sozui, whom he blames for his misfortune, and kill her. Only then, he reasons, can he himself make the three cuts, ending his misguided existence. She is his obsession, the sole reason for him to continue.
The magistrates were a bit stunned by Shimesu’s story now knowing at least some of the true story behind their enemy. They thanked him for his story and said that his skills would be well appreciated as they tried to stop Sozui. That night the summoning ritual for the oni was done. The Kitsu masters beseeched the assistance of Emma-O, the Fortune of Death and rules of the Spirit World, to send them an Oni to safeguard the ancient ritual scrolls. One of the Kitsu masters, Kitsu Giama, gave his name in exchange for the service and Oni no Giana was summoned. The Oni was attuned to the spirit sense of the five magistrates and their new yoriki, Kitsu Kasai, before being sent to the outpost to guard the scrolls.
Finally the following morning the five emerald magistrates, their two yoriki, their 4 servants, their disciple, their two eta torturers, their two new lion retainers and almost eighty lion soldiers made their way to the outpost to hopefully stop the Legacy of the Forge.