With the battle over and all the injuries attended to Kakita instructed the ashigaru to attend to the bodies. Remembering Hida’s instructions from the last time she instructed everyone to clean their weapons with small cloths and toss them, and the bodies, into the fire. The main body of the Tasu no Oni had separated into three large pieces after it exploded with smaller pieces spread all around. Once all the bodies and weapons were intended to and tossed into a great bonfire Kakita ordered everyone to resume traveling.
With the rest of the day passing uneventfully they found a waystation to stop at a little before sundown. Kakita arranged the paperwork with the ancient innkeeper while everyone else stored their gear away. Afterwards Shosuro and Kakita used the two person bathhouse to clean up before dinner was served while everyone else went up to their rooms to relax and to meditate on the day’s event. About an hour after their arrival the samurai were informed that dinner was ready and being served in the common room. The group thanked the hostess for the meal and begun digging into the rice, vegetables and river fish. During dinner Hida and Kuni Yuddai talked about Hida being able to learn Sagasu-do. Kuni explained that he so called “Hunter’s Way” was more myth then fact and that IF such a style existed it could only be taught to Kuni Witch Hunters. Hida said that such a future would be doubtful the future was always changing. Hida thanked Kuni for the information and then asked Akodo if he knew any practitioners of the Lion Clan’s ”Art of the Sword” martial art who would be willing to teach him. Akodo said that, although he did not know the art or anyone who did, it was an Akodo family style and it would be possible that his father would know someone. Hida inquired if Akodo could ask his father about any instructors willing to teach him. Akodo answered that his father would probably be willing to help Hida as he was his friend. Everyone smiled at this comment and continued with their meal leaving Hida quite happy with the outcome.
The next few days passed couple days passed rather uneventfully with Hida continuing to practice his juggling and knife work. Shosuro taught him a variety of knife maneuvers and emphasized that when you stabbed someone the intent was to kill your opponent. Because of this Hida found the knife work much simpler to learn then Mizu-do had been. When he converse d with Shosuro about this and knife work was just a simple stab twist and pull out Shosuro laughed and said that sounded like something he would do with Hida women. On the afternoon of the fourth day out of Kaiu Shiro they reached Kamisori sano Yoake Shiro. The Razor of the Dawn Castle was the most northern stronghold of the Kaiu Wall and marked its northern end. As they made their way up towards the castle some weary looking Crab bushi and moving with them were three non Crab samurai; they group was able to indentify a Lion Akodo, a Dragon Mirumoto and a Scorpion Bayushi. After the formalities were taken care of and Kakita had presented their papers they were told not to wander around too much as they had just finished a battle against a Shadowlands incursion and some of the berserkers were still cleaning up some of the stragglers. As they made their way into the castle the non Crab introduced themselves; they were Akodo Katsuro, Mirumoto Shoichi and Bayushi Susumu. As they introduced themselves it was obvious that they were desperate for any outside news. Katsuro invited them all to join him, and the other two, together in his room for dinner that night. The group took the opportunity to clean up in the big Yasuki designed baths before heading to their rooms to relax for dinner.
Once the sun was set they all received messages to join Akodo Katsuro in his room for dinner. It turned out that Akodo Katsuro, Mirumoto Shoichi and Bayushi Susumu had come to the Crab lands in order to find honor and glory fighting the Shadowlands on the wall. Instead they had only fought a handful battles, including the one today, and had mostly just suffered thru their hosts ”hospitality” for the last three months and were eager for some different company and any news from the outside. Hida and Akodo told them a few stories from their travels and gave them all the information they had learned in their travels about what was going on in the rest of the Empire. Akodo explained that they had been traveling for the last three months with barely any rest and had had little chance to catch up with the gossip of the Empire. Hida went into great detail about several of their adventures much to the amusement of Bayushi Susumu, who kept glancing in delight at Shosuro. Finally after a couple hours of socializing everyone retired to their rooms for the next day they would be leaving the comfort of the area around the Kaiu wall and would be proceeding in the area around Shinomen Mori.
The next morning they awoke to once again begin their journey. They were seen off by their new acquaintances that they had dinner with the night before. Once the farewells had been finished the caravan set on it way. On the way out they noticed a group of Crab Bushi sitting in full armor meditating and foaming at the mouth. Correctly concluding that this were the famous Crab Berserkers the group gave them a large berth. Once on the road Kakita cautioned Shinjo to be extra watchful as the traveled farther into the Shinomen Mori region. It was two days to their next major stop, Shiro Kaotsuki no Higashi, and the first day passed with little incident. They camped within sight of the Crab Watchtower of the West and the ashigaru were put on a cycling guard with a Samurai with them.
The next morning once they were on the road Kuni Yuddai yet again used his scroll to speed them on their journey. A little while later Shinjo informed Kakita that he had found some sort of large tracks maintaining a heading parallel to their own the last day and found new, fresh traces today. He didn’t know what the tracks were but it was something bigger then a human, did not leave prints and knew how to move more or less unobserved and without leaving a trail. Kakita told him to keep careful watch and not to take any unnecessary risks. Shinjo nodded and moved back into the forest. After he left Kakita, Shosuro and Kuni debated about what it could be but could not think of anything with the limited information. Shosuro and Kakita knew about some abandoned relics with snake men” depicted on them and myths about an ancient great snake men empire. About an hour later Shinjo returned informing them that he had traced the trail to a small clearing and assumed who was ever trailing them was currently there. He had not moved up to check on it and had come back to inform Kakita and ask what to do. Kakita told him not to move into the clearing and to move past it as it was deeper into Shinomen Mori then she wanted to move the caravan into in order to investigate. Shinjo understood and continued his patrol. As he came to the perpendicular point directly from the caravan into the forest his eyes caught the sight of an armored snake creature with a bow trained on him. Without giving it too much thought Shinjo called his bow to his hand and sent an arrow flying into the creature. Then he turned his horse towards the caravan and rode as fast as he could. He leashed a huming bulb arrow to warn his companions and then concentrated on riding thru the thick forest. He noticed a pair of similar creatures pursing him on either side of him before he sped ahead and broke thru the clearing.
At the sound of the humming bulb Kakita ordered everyone to halt and form ranks with Akodo and Hida standing in front of where the signal arrow had came from with Kakita and Shosuro behind them and the Tortoise surrounding the caravan behind that. Kuni asked Kakita if he should prepare a lifting barricade spell or an offensive fire spell. Kakita, figuring that must of them did not have a bow and arrow, that an offensive fire spell would be better so Kuni brought out a red lighting and fist symbol scroll. A few seconds later Shinjo broke thru the trees and set himself behind Shosuro and Kakita warning that there were at least 5 giant snake men in pursuit. For a few moments nothing happened until Kakita spotted the 5 snake men just inside the forest staring back at her with red eyes and weapons ready. Tension rose and Kakita watching these strange creatures with arrows pointed at her and the caravan under her command gave the order “OPEN FIRE!”