The next morning they woke up and continued on their way. Hida asked Shosuro if she could train him in knives as they rode. Shosuro asked exactly what Hida wanted her to help him with. Hida explained that Kobo Ichi-kai could use knives for many of its maneuvers and some of his trainers recommended that he train in knives in order to improve his ambidexterity and because small weapons were useful when fighting in close with an enemy. Shosuro explained she could not assist him with the ambidexterity part but she could train him in the basic use of knives and that maybe together they could achieve the ability to use two knives at once since when you master the more advanced knives skill it becomes easier to use two knives at once. Shosuro recommended that they practice knife skills once they reach their destinations but that juggling could be a good way for Hida to improve ambidexterity. When Hida started to gather knives Shosuro laughed and suggested that something simpler should work to start. Hida got a pair off rocks and went back to his front position to start juggling. Much to everyone’s amusement he tried juggling the two rocks as they rode forward. He managed to do so rather successfully although he did manage to hit Akodo once with a rock and Akodo barely managed to dodge a second time when one of Hida’s rocks went flying.
The day passed rather uneventfully as they group of samurai traveled along the road parrelling the Twilight Mountains and Carpenter’s Wall. Towards sunset they arrived in Midaki Sano Mura. High Tree Village was primarily a mining town, few women or families that actually lived here, and the populace mostly consisted of the samurai and heimin that worked the mine. As they rode into the village they saw that the people were quickly exiting the streets as the sun begun to get closer to the horizon. As they neared the center of town they were approached by a old samurai. He introduced himself as Heichi Batsuda and by his family name they indentified him as remainder of the disbanded Boar clan. Kakita showed him their papers and asked for a place to spend the night. He offered them his own home and stables for their horses.
His home was a small simple place of three rooms; his bedroom a common room with kitchen and a small secondary room for his servant and storage. Heichi Batsuda let them stable their horses in his stables and his servant prepare a meal for them and their ashigaru. With sunset fast approaching the citizens of the city quickly moved indoors and the streets were quickly deserted. Heichi Batsuda entertained them with stories about the Shakoki Dogu and the history of his family with them. As the night wore on Kakita took out her biwa to practice and give them some background music. Shosuro mentioned that it might be a good idea to find a seamstress to make a small bag that Hida could fill with sand in order to have something easier and more portable then rocks to use to practice juggling with. Later Shosuro and Hida noticed, what at first, they thought were fireflies but when they pointed them out to Heichi Batsuda he told them that they were actually the Shakoki Dogu. He offered to take them all out and introduce them and Shosuro was tempted. When she expressed her doubts concerning the Shakoki Dogu abducting them Heichi said that it was possible but not certain. It was rare for them to actually abduct anyone and were usually rather friendly. Shosuro decided not take any chances as they watched the flickering lights thru the window. The finally all drifted to sleep with the Shakoki Dogu dancing thru the village.
The next morning the group awoke to the sounds of the villages heading off to the mine. Hida armored himself up and then invited his companions to join him in meditation. Shosuro and Akodo agreed to meditate with him while Kakita brushed her hair and Shinjo went out to attend to his horse before the day’s ride began. Once everyone was finished preparing they prepared their horses and got ready to set out after thanking Heichi Batsuda for his hospitality. As they got under way Hida once again found some rocks to continue to train his ambidexterity thru juggling. When Akodo saw this he moved a safe distance away from Hida. Kakita murmured to Kuni Yuddai that Hida sometimes acted like a small child. Kuni countered with “A man who stops learning is a man who stops living”. Kakita thought on this and retorted that there were some things a samurai should not learn and Kuni accorded that something were probably better learned in private.
The next three days passed with no incident with the group staying the nigh at whatever inn or samurai house they could find. On the third day they came around a bend and saw Kaiu Shiro. Carpenter Castle was surrounded by plains full of siege engines that could be quickly moved to any point along the wall if necessary. They made their past the countless siege engines towards the castle itself. The castle walls were adorned with schematics of siege engines, buildings, weapons and many other things. Due to the fact that the castle was built just shortly before the Kaiu Wall itself it was difficult now to see where the castle ended and the wall began. They were greeted by official envoys of the Kaiu family and escorted inside once all the proper greetings were exchanged. After their gear was stowed they agreed to a guided tour around the castle and the Kaiu Wall. It was the first time for Kakita and Shinjo to actually look out at the Shadowlands. Afterwards they were shown some of the lower tunnels with their guide leading them around the traps and putting out some of the hidden passageways that existed to allow scouts to enter the Shadowlands undetected. Finally they were shown the Kaiu Forge at the very center of the castle while once a year the Kaiu Master Blacksmith came and made six Kaiu Blades; katanas that would never dull nor break. After they all took a bath, in the separated baths in the castle that were installed as an idea from the Yasuki. Once finished with the tour they once again took dinner together in Akodo’s room. The rice was surprisingly good and after dinner Akodo worked on his mane. Shosuro finally came over and assisted him after watching him having a tedious time doing it himself. They talked about a variety of subjects including Hida’s more presentable and cultured appearance versus the way he looked when they first met him. Hida, uncomfortable with the topic, decided to meditate while Kakita used the opportunity to adjust his posture. After a little bit of mockery at his predicament Hida finally retired to his own room to meditate in peace. After a little while longer the rest decided it would be a good time to retire.
In the morning they awoke and prepared to depart. They thanked their Kaiu hosts for their kindness and hospitality before departing. Once on the road Kuni Yuddai once again directed the kamis to assist and speed them on their travels. As they were rather close to Shinomen Mori, Kakita cautioned Shinjo to be extra careful on lookout and warned everyone to stay extra focused. It would take them approximately four days to reach Kamisori sano Yoake Shiro the last stronghold and northern anchor of the Kaiu Wall. Most of the day passed without incident until in the early afternoon when the main caravan heard one of Shinjo’s Humming Bulb arrows soar thru the air coming from the direction they were heading and bit to the side. Kakita immediately ordered the Tortoise to surround the wagons as she, and Shosuro moved forward and dismounted. Akodo and Hida also took the time to dismount and readied their weapons with Shosuro and Kakita standing a little bit behind them. Not long after they saw Shinjo break thru the tree line galloping towards them yelling that something was coming. He reared to a stop just behind Shosuro with his bow already set and ready. Seconds later a huge bug like oni with a spiked body broke thru the tree line and came charging at them.It looked like a hellish cockroach with the head of a bakemono and serrated legs. Its abdomen, which accounted for half the creature’s bulk, bulged and pulsed with many small faces. Hida indentified it as a Tasu no oni and said it was slightly resistant to damage and could generate fear in its enemies. And with that the oni was upon them.
60 kakita attack move forward then back (20 damage grazed)
39 hida full defense
35 akodo hit it with no dachi (37 damage kills it)
28 shinjo attack posture attack podling (injured it) arrow saved
21 shosuro full defense
20 baddie attack hida (does not because it explodes when Akodo kills it 22 podlings)
Kakita commands tortoise samurai and 5 ashigaru to carole the podlings and not let them escape. 3 podlings attack hida, 3 attack Akodo, 16 try to flee
79 kakita help kill the ones attacking hida kill one in two attacks
41 shinjo finish off podling from first attack arrow saved
30 hida attack double jijutsu attack kill one podling
29 tortoise samurai move and surround podlings
28 totroise ashigaru move horses surround podlings
27 badies try to attack hida/Akodo and miss. 15 move but are blocked by tortoise
26 shosuro attack one of the ones attacking akodo (crippled)
18 akodo attack swings and misses
57 kakita run up and double attack a podling attacking ashigaru killing it
52 shinjo atssist tortoise two shots vs podling kill (1 arrow saved, 1 lost)
37 torotise samurai 4 attacks each killing 2 podlings each (2 attacks per podling killing 2 each so 4 total) Kasuga Yori with dual tonfas and Kasuga Shinobu with kusarigama.
32 shosuro kill crippled
30 badies 1 attack hida, 2 attack Akodo (1 hit), 1 attack Shosuro, 10 attack tortoise)
27 hida stomp double jiujutsu strike with foot kill
25 akodo attack one
8 tortoise ashigaru stab with yaris (kill 5)
79 kakita double attack kills one
33 ashigaru attack (kill 3, injure 1)
31 podlings 1 left hops over tortoise
29 shinjo attack last podling kills it (arrow saved)
29 hida head towards tortoise
19 akodo attack
16 shosuro attack unhurt
8 tortoise samurai
With the battle finished Kakita took the time to check on everyone. With Akodo the only one hurt she brought out her medicine kit and quickly patched up his wounds. Although surprised by the attack and subsequent explosion of the Tasu no Oni everyone remained fairly calm and alert for any further dangers they might encounter on the borders of both the Shadowlands and Shinomen Mori.