As each member of the young group of samurais explored the rest of Shinden Asahina they were given a message that the Asahina Daimyo, Asahina Tamako, would like for them to enjoy a private lunch with him over at the East Temple. They all agreed and headed off to their rooms to prepare for lunch as it was close to midday already. Once they were are finished preparing themselves they were lead by Shiba Yosuhiro to the East Temple. There they were met by a pair of monks who led thru the hallways of the East Temple until they reached a small balcony overlooking the majority of Shinden Asahina. There they met Asahina Tamako and his apprentice, Asahina Tsukiyoka. Asahina Tamako was a sickly older shugenja but was well known for his compassion and magical ability. Asahina Tsukiyoka was his apprentice, as she was well known for her ability in crafting tsangusori and fetishes. As they ate Tamako asked about their visit to Shinden Asahina and if they were comfortable and explained that Isawa Masanori was off inspecting the new scrolls and preparing for the ritual for later in the evening. If they cared to they were invited to watch the ceremony.
The group thanked him for his hospitality and told him of their individual explorations through the complex interconnected temples. Shosuro was distraught for she had been very interested in a couple of the fetishes and tsangusori that the Asahina shugenja had created but she was not blessed with enough koku to purchase them at the moment. Asahina Tamako mentioned that his apprentice Asahina Tsukiyoka was a highly gifted creator of fetishes and had brought some with her and they would be honored if they would take a couple with them for their journey. With that said Tsukiyoka brought out a silk container and demonstrated one by one the different fetishes. After some consideration and debate the group finally settled on a “Golden Fruit” and a “White Sheaf of Grain”. Once the fetishes had been delivered, Tsukiyoka asked them of their travels and adventures on the way to Shinden Asahina. Tamako told her such things should not interest an Asahina dedicated to peace. He explained to the young samurai that Tsukiyoka had a unhealthy interest in matters of combat. Akodo said it was not a problem and told Tyukiyoka of a couple of their adventures that had all experienced together. Once lunch was concluded everyone went to see different parts of the grounds.
Kakita went back to the collection of Crane clan nemuranai kept and then went to take a bath before going to the ceremony. The rest of the group simply wandered around the grounds looking at the different temples, libraries and shrines. Later that evening they met up at the West Temple to view the receiving of the scrolls from the Crane clan. At the center of the clearing stood Isawa Masanori and the crate that the scrolls were being carried in. Next to him stood Asahina Tamako and two other Asahina shugenjas. The Asahinas unwrapped a silk bundle and presented the scrolls to Isawa. He graciously bowed and accepted them. He then proceeded to go thru various forms and intonations and the group could swear they could see little multicolored lights out of the corner of their eyes gathering into a small circle between Isawa’s hands. After a while Isawa pushed his hands onto the box and the seam of the box opened with a multicolored simmering along the seam. Once the box was opened Isawa slowly and carefully placed the Crane shugenja scrolls inside. Once they were placed carefully inside he sealed the box and performed the ritual once again. Isawa sagged a bit once the ritual was complete and Shiba rushed to his side to help. The two of them made their way over to the young group of samurai and reminded them to be ready to leave in the morning. A few went to take a bath while Akodo took the time to ask a group of Shinsei monks practicing katas if they knew the best way to increase one’s strength. They talked about a couple different methods and how it was necessary to achieve spiritual enlightenment before one could achieve certain physical perfection. They did give Akodo the idea of using his gear as weights while he rode his horse. With that over he made his way his rooms to sleep for the trip towards the next step of their adventure.
The next morning they departed early with Isawa in an even grumpier morning mood then usual as he was still tired from the ritual the night before and Hida in an even better morning mood then usual as he could once again wear his armor. It was three days to Aiso ni Ryokosha Mura (Friendly Traveler Village) and then just a quick trip across the Shio Senkyo no Riku (Tidal Landbridge) to Kyuden Hida and the Crab Lands. The following three days passed uneventfully with the road bobbing and weaving thru the divided peninsula of the Crane and the Crab. They arrived just before midday in the Friendly Traveler Village. When they arrived they were informed that the tide would lower in a couple of hours but for now the Landbridge was flooded. Isawa and Shiba said they would meet them at the Landbridge once the tide resided. The young samurai went to the ”House of Black Leaves” known for having the best sake in the empire, called “Daiginzyoo-syu” . They all bough a couple of bottles to be used as gifts and Shosuro bought an additional bottle to drink then. Kakita didn’t want to drink so she went down to the ocean to practice some katas by the water. When she got there she was distressed to find the water blackish from the constant contact and proximity of the Shadowlands. Realizing she would find no peace there she decided to try someplace in town. As she made her way back up into town she was spotted by a group of Yasuki traders. They tried to convince her to buy a series of items to take care of her daisho. She was able to resist their coercion and head into the city till she found a small temple where she could practice. After a while Shosuro decided to leave the group drinking and go have a look around the village. She also was viewed by a group Yasuki traders as well. They immediately tried to get her to buy a variety of knives that they had for sale. She finally decided to buy a fancy court fan with a knife carefully well hidden inside the hilt.
Towards the middle of the afternoon it was time to cross the Landbridge as the tide had receded enough for the gigantic sandbar that connected the peninsula with the main Crab lands to rise above the water. The group mounted their horses and the caravan got under way. It was a couple hour trip on horseback from one side to another. About halfway there the group spotted a lone armored figure in the distance. Kakita noticed him seemingly talking to something but was unable to determine what it was. As they approached they were able to identify the figure as Hida Fujizaka, one of the other competitors in the Topaz Championship. He told them he had been sent to escort them to Kyuden Hida. As they rode together Hida told them all about the crazy rumors that had preceded them about their adventures, including how they had try to murder the daimyo of the Mantis and trying to burn down Yufuku na Heigen. Akodo and Kengetsu explained the real stories behind the rumors and asked what Fujuzaka had been up to. He explained he had been given command of one of the main patrol units that patrolled the eastern border of the Crab lands from Kyuden Hida to the southern border of the Fox and Sparrow lands. When they crossed the Landbridge they came across the Shrine to Daidoji Masahigi to commerate his sacrifice at the Battle of the Tidal Landbridge. They took a chance to rest while Kakita offered a small prayer. Kengetsu noticed a movement in the bushes a distance away and was able to distinguish a nezumi watching them. When he brought it up descretly to Hida Fujizaka, after seeing if any other members had noticed (only Shiba and his creature sense had noticed the nezumi’s presence), asking if he knew about the nezumi following them. Fujizaka explained that it was an ally of his, a member of the Broken Shinbone tribe, who helped his patrol find Shadowlands creatures that had made it past the wall. One the rest was complete they continued on to Kyuden Hida.
They approached Kyuden Hida about sundown, giving Kakita, Akodo and Shinjo their first look at the massive Carpenter’s Wall that stretched across the entire southern border of the Empire and had protected it from constant assault of the Shadowlands. Once they arrived at the massive gates of Kyuden Hida they were opened to allow them to pass inside. The gates were then closed behind them. In the opening courtyard they were met by Hida Yakamo, the oldest son of the Hida Clan Champion, and the Kuni Family Daimyo, Kuni Yori along with a small honor guard. Yakamo told them that rooms had been prepared for them and to not travel around un-escorted. Also a feast had been prepared in honor of their visit. With that said and done he gave a small bow and proceeded back into the fortress along with Kuni Yori. Some of the guards stayed and escorted them to their rooms.
Once in their rooms, which by Kakita’s standard were barely adequate although they were some of the most luxurious in Kyuden Hida, Hida immediately left to go see his master. He double checked with the guards to make sure he didn’t an escort and made his way down into the dojos. He found his master giving a lesson in spear thrust to a group of prepubescent samurai in training. When his master saw Hida he beckoned an senior student to come over and continue the lesson and took Kengetsu over to his small office. There they shared one of the bottles of Daiginzyoo-syu that Hida had brought and Kengetsu told him about his travels. His master informed Kengetsu that his brothers and father were all off on extended patrols and were not due back for over a month although he would hold the other bottles that Kengetsu had brought for them till they came back. His master also told Kengetsu that he had arranged a meeting with one of the Hida Wrestler masters for that night if he still wanted to go ahead with his original plan. Kengetsu thanked him again for his guidance and understanding and said that he still wanted to go thru with it. His master asked him if was going to bring anyone with him which Kengetsu said he would have to think about. After that they continued conversing about a variety of topics until Kengetsu said he had to go get ready for the feast.
Meanwhile everyone else had decided to go take some baths. When they reached they baths they discovered, to Kakita’s dismay, that there was only one bath to share for both the women and men. Seeing that, Kakita immediately turned around and went back to her room. Shosuro, in no mood to share a bath with a bunch of Hida bushi, decided that she would return as well. Shinjo and Akodo went in and found the place deserted. Akodo asked the old attendant the reason for such an absence and she explained that until the shift change in an hour the baths would be more or less deserted. Upon hearing this he quickly tossed a robe on and went to take the samurai-ko that the baths were deserted but would only stay that way for about an hour. The two samurai-ko hurried down to the baths just in time to see Shinjo making his way out with a towel around him. Kakita stepped outside and waited while he finished dressing but Shosuro just went in and got ready for the bath. Once Shinjo was done Kakita went in and commenced bathing while Akodo “stood guard” outside. Just as Kakita and Shosuro were finishing up a large group of large Hida came down the hallway with the intent of taking a bath. Akodo stopped them at the entrance and explained the situation. They looked at him like he was crazy. He decided to let the women in the group in while trying to entertain the men with a good story as they waited outside. Luckily for Akodo his story was good enough to keep the Hida from tossing him on his ass although they were still obviously not pleased with the situation. That, plus Shosuro finishing first and walking out in a small robe assisted as well. Kakita, rinsing off, had similar luck with the Hida women as they were not pleased that a spoiled Crane was keeping deserving Hida from their bath. Kakita finished as quickly as she could and made her way back to her room to prepare for the banquet. Akodo joined the Hida in the bath and continued to make small talk with them to little avail. After a while Kengetsu joined as well and noticed that the entire group were part of the Hida Champion Guard, an elite group of bushi charged with protecting Kyuden Hida and the Hida Clan Champion. Finally Kengetusu and Akdodo finished bathing and went to their rooms to prepare for an interesting night of Crab entertainment.