On the morning of the 15th of the Horse, the young samurais once again awaken early to board a dawn departing ship. As usual Isawa Masanori seemed unhappy to be awoken at such an early hour while Hida Kengetsu looked happy as could be. Isawa noticed the happy grin on Hida’s face and once again made him carry some of the heavier packs down to the docks in the hopes that it might despoil Hida’s morning person attitude. When they arrived at the docks they were met by the owner and captain of their vessel, a ronin by the name of Ryoto. He welcomed them aboard his vessel which he called the Orochi no Ikari (Sea Serpent’s Fury).
Once they were aboard the Orochi no Ikari, Ryoto quickly ordered the sailors to set sail. The crew was composed of mostly ronin with a few heimin sailors. Akodo and Hida commented on the strange metal plates leaning against the rails. Ryoto explained to them that they were designed to swing upwards and act as shields for his men if they came under attack. Ryoto and his men usually served as an escort ship to rich merchants to protect them from pirates. As soon as they were underway Kitsu and Isawa disappeared into the depths of the ship to try to keep from getting sea sick once again. On that first day Hida and Kakita for the most practiced mizu-do while being watched by Akodo who also sparred with Hida for a bit. Later that night they witnessed a Scorpion shugenja woman from the Soshi family come out of the captain’s cabin and talk briefly with Ryoto before disappearing once again. They later found out her name was Soshi Kiyoshi and was the wife of Ryoto.
Over the next week Hida and Akodo competed in a variety of tests of strength from everything from arm wrestling, lifting barrels with their legs, and lifting Shosuro Shinriko as she sat on a long board. The final result was Hida 24, Akodo 22. During this time Shinjo spent most of his time training with his raptor, Kakita practiced her draw and Shosuro formed a betting pool for the strength contests (making a small profit). During this time they passed in between islands and on the seventh day sailed past the Sea King as they finally neared the mainland. Akodo told the story here was a tremendous earthquake that sunk the island into the sea. The city disappeared beneath the waves, but the statue’s shoulders and head still stood above water and had come to be known as the “Sea King” by passing sailors. Finally towards the end of daylight in the day, the 22nd of the Horse, they docked at Daidoji Training Grounds docks which lay a little under a mile from the great fortress.
They thanked Ryoto for his services and disembarked the ship and made there way up to Daidoji Training grounds a little distance away. The ones with keener eyes were able to detect quite a large number of guards on the walls and a flurry of activity. As they approached they are stopped by a patrol demanding their intentions and identities. Isawa Masanori told them he was the Phoenix delegate here to gather the Crane shugenja scrolls for the Setsuban festival. With a bow and a quick glance at the two Lions the patrol escorted them thru the gates. Once inside the group was stunned to see a tremendous amount of activity as it seemed the entire barracks was preparing to depart. They were escorted to the commander of the Daidoji Training Grounds in the absence of the daimyo, Daidoji Akito.
Daidoji Akito escorted them to a private room and served them tea. Once the pleasantries were taken care of Daidoji Akito explained the situation. It seemed that on the morning of the wedding day, between Matsu Nosuriko and Doji Kuwanan, they found Matsu Nosuriko had hung herself in her room. The Matsu daimyo was furious and blamed the Doji Kuwanan, and all the Crane as a result, for the death of Nosuriko. She was able to convince her fiancé, the Lion Clan Champion Akodo Arasou, to declare war on the Crane clan. They expected the Lion Armies to march within the week. Everyone was stunned to hear such news as they had all met Matsu Nosuriko and Doji Kuwanan at the Topaz Championship. Daidoji Akito then told them that he had recived letters from their respective masters to give allow them access to his quartermaster for some basic equipment since they had left Kiro Sano Kakita before getting a change to properly equip themselves. He also had a letter for Kitsu Kasai. He told them they were welcome to stay as long as they wanted and that rooms had been arranged for them all. Isawa said that they would like to spend a day before moving out early the following morning on their way to Shinden Asahina. Kitsu opened his letter and informed everyone that he and all other Sodan Senzo were being recalled back to the Lion lands. Since it was quite late the group decided to return to their rooms and contemplate the news before retiring.
The next morning everyone awoke at a variety of times.Shinjo spend most of the day in the surrounding countryside working with his raptor a bit more since it was almost time to see if he had been able to train it successfully and meeting with the quartermaster. Shosuro spent the day making sure she was visible as to not arise any suspicion from the war preparing Daidoji and meeting with the quartermaster. Hida contemplated finding someone to spar with but given the level of activity, business and current mind set of everyone there decided against it. He visited the quartermaster instead, and then walked around for a bit. Finally he decided to take a soak in the bathhouse and spend several hours there relieving his muscles from the strength contests he had had with Akodo on the ship.
Kakita was one of the first to awaken and was confronted by an elderly Kenshinzen who told her master had sent him word of her arrival and to see if Kakita Hikaru was ready to learn the next part of her training. They spend the rest of the day going thru drills as the elderly Kenshinzen put her mercilessly thru the different steps. Kakita performed each aspect of the physical and mental philosophy of the Kakita; performing each single strike in a pursuit of excellence. At the end she understood the next rank and was given a surprise sent by her sister: a small puppy named Po.
Meanwhile Akodo had taken the time to visit the war room of the Daidoji which was almost an identical copy of the one in Shiro Akodo and had massive detailed maps of the Crane Clan lands and their surroundings. Akodo Akio politely kept his eyes averted from anything that might be secret and thanked his hosts for allowing him to view such a spectacular place. Once finished he too went to see the quartermaster before also going to the bath house seeing Hida on his way out.
Later that night they all had a big good bye dinner for Kitsu. They talked about their adventures and remembered the last two months together fondly. Kitsu was sad to have to leave but his duty to his clan demanded it. Kakita also introduced her new companion after being asked by Hida about the puppy following her. Kakita introduced Po and explained that he had been sent to her as a gift from her sister. Po bowed politely when he was introduced to the amusement of all. Finally after much drinking everyone went to their rooms except Kakita who took the time to go the bathhouse and clean off the day’s sweat after all the drills she had to do. Finally everyone was asleep awaiting the next part in their journey.