The group was invited to visit both Silken Smile Theater and the Shosuro Gardens. They were told that they would need a guide if they were to visit the Shosuro Gardens as it was the responsibility of the Shosuro family to make sure that the multiple poisonous plants and flowers in the gardens were not used incorrectly or that any one accidentally be harmed by them.They decided they would take dinner while watching a performance at the Silken Smile Theater. They decided not to visit the Shosuro Gardens and instead take some proper baths after being stuck on the barge for the last two days. Isawa and Shiba decided to rest for the next couple days would be a hard uphill journey.
At the end of the hour of Bayushi the young group, minus Shosuro, was escorted to the Silken Smile Theater. Dinner was served with some fresh fish from the river while a few performers played some music before the act was to begin. The act shown was the Scorpion representation of the Lion attack and occupation of what was now Kenson Gakka. In this act the Matsu forces attacked the “seemingly defenseless” Scorpion town butchering all the men, women and children without discriminating about age. The act used a heavy incense to represent the smoke from the burning town that was thick enough to almost bring tears to the audience. A couple of the audience were able to notice a Scorpion seemingly off in the distance shaking his fist in fury as the Matsu finished ransacking the village before disappearing back stage and representing the end of the show.
The lanterns were brightened and the young group noticed a Crane making his way towards them. He bowed to them all, although gave a separate bow to Kakita Hikaru, and introduced himself as Doji Masa, who was there sponsoring this show and was hoping to bring the actors to the capital to perform for the Emperor to show the actions of the warlike Lion and Matsu in particular. Kakita thought this was a good idea but Hida Kengetsu seemed a bit confused about the purpose of such a show but remained silent. He asked there opinions about the show and then thanked them for their time and hoped to see them again some day. With the show done their escorts returned and once again gave them an invitation to see the Shosuro Gardens as they were quite stunning at night. Hida and Shinjo decided to take them up on their offer although Kakita and Akodo decided they would rather retire to their rooms. Akodo decided to just relax and look over his items while Kakita decided to start composing a new song with her biwa, using her duelist mother as the inspiration.
Hida and Shinjo were escorted towards the back of the palace where the Shosuro gardens resided. It was several acres of exotic poisonous plants including the Nusumu iki that expelled a poisonous vapor whenever anyone came close and looked identical to the inoffensive shinsei iki which was the most prominent plant in the gardens. They were escorted by a young Shosuro samurai-ko that pointed out several different plants explaining a bit on how they worked and where they could be found. They saw several people working in the gardens late at night and their guide explained that many of the flowers could only be harvested at night. Shinjo seemed fascinated by it all and made sure to take careful mental notes on the antidote plants and the poisonous plants that looked identical to non poisonous plants while the whole time keeping his new pet monkey from trying to explored the surrounding trees and flower beds. Hida seemed interested in some of the more fast acting poisons that the guide boasted could kill a large sized oni in less than twenty seconds. As they continued down thru the pass Hida thought he saw someone following them but was unsure as the person was not there the next time he was given a chance to glance behind himself. As they made their way back towards the palace Hida thanked her for her guidance and decided to give a quick haiku in appreciation of the gardens:
Fields of sweet color
Beneath moon and innocence
Belie true nature
The Scorpion samurai-ko was startled at the poetic ability of the bulky Crab and bowed and thanked him for being such a good guest. She escorted them back to the palace and then, once sure they knew the way back, bowed again and bid them a good night. When Hida came back to the hall with his, and his companions, rooms he saw Shosuro limping her way towards her own rooms. He approached and asked what had happened and she simply answered training. Hida nodded knowingly remembering his own recent experiences but then noticed the red crystals in his armor flicker for a slight second as he approached Shosuro. He glanced at Shinjo to see if he saw anything but Shino couldn’t see anything else in the hallway with them. Uncertain of the cause of the very small light from his ancient armor so everyone quietly retired to their rooms.
The next morning everyone woke and started their usual return. When Hida made his way to the bathroom he noticed it was unused which was strange as Akodo usually used the bathroom first thing in the morning. With only 15 min left before they had to gather at the stables and leave, and no sign of Akodo, Hida decided to knock on his companion’s door to see if was ok. He could hear Akodo on the other side groaning in painful delirium. Not caring about etiquette Hida flung the door open and rushed in ready to defend his friend. Instead he found Akodo still in bed in a cold sweat rolling about in some sort of dream. Hida tried to shake Akodo awake to little effect and then yelled for a servant. When the servant arrived he commanded him to bring both Isawa and Kakita. The servant was quick to gather both of them although Kakita had not had quite enough time to finish brushing thru her hair and had it tied off in a simple arranged knot. Isawa had no ability to determine what was wrong but Kakita was quickly able to determine that Akodo had Hot Madness sometimes called Boiled Mind. Hot Madness was a disease that attacked the victim’s mental faculties. It would heat the victim’s scalp and makes it nearly impossible for him to concentrate. If not treated the victim would lapse into a fevered sleep and eventually die.
Shosuro saw the servants talking together and spreading rumors. Realizing that her friends would the most probably cause of such rumors she made her towards her companion’s rooms and into Akodo’s rooms where she heard everyone together. As she entered she saw the situation and soon after Kakita was able to quickly prepare an antidote and within a few minutes of being administered Akodo’s fever diminished and he awoke to see everyone staring down at him. They explained what happened and Isawa gave them all an additional thirty minuets to prepare to leave.
Forty minutes later the group was geared and, besides Shosuro, more then ready to leave the Castle of Pretending. The next stop on the way to Shiro Yogo was Nihai Tower which stood on the only road to Shiro Yogo. It guarded a treacherous bit of cliffs and swamp. Although the road up the mountains was well traveled and maintained it was still a difficult stretch forcing everyone to take care in riding their horses to prevent them from stumbling off the side and falling into the deep ravines. As they traveled they could see the tower as they moved around the mountains but it was not until almost sundown that they reached Nihai Tower. They were greeted cordially and given rooms in the barracks underneath the tower. Akodo decided he wanted to the view from the top of the tower when given the chance but the rest of the group declined the offer to enjoy the view. They had a simple meal at the tower fortress before retiring for the evening to continue the next day up the mountains to Shiro Yogo.
The next day they prepared their horses as normal and double checked the wheels of the caravan before setting back out. Hida forgoed his usual place at the front of the caravan with Akodo and rode next to Kakita in the middle of the caravan to practice his conversation skills. Again the rode was hazardous and required constant caution to keep from riding right off the side of the mountain. To the northwest they would occasionally see glimpses of Beiden Pass going thru the Spine of the World Mountains. They reached Shiro Yogo just after sunset and were greeted by a cold, armed escort. They were instructed that rooms had been prepared for them and that they would be lead to said rooms where they would stay until the sealing ceremony was to take place. Kakita offered to perform a tea ceremony before the ceremony but Isawa said it might be better to wait until after the sealing ceremony. Once the group had their stuff put away they took the time to relax and clean up before the sealing ceremony was to take place. A few hours later they were escorted to a small clearing for the sealing ceremony. The ceremony was quick and with little celebration as the head Yogo shugenja calmly presented Isawa Masanori with a small assortment of dark blood red velum scrolls. Once the scrolls were sealed they were escorted back to their rooms and Kakita offered to perform the tea ceremony she had mentioned earlier. Isawa and Shiba accepted her offer as did Hida when Kakita said she could guide another person thru the ceremony. The ceremony was performed flawlessly with Kakita leading Hida thru the ritual.
Shortly after the tea ceremony was completed they were brought dinner to their rooms. They decided that they would have dinner together rather then separated in their rooms and quickly gathered together. At dinner Hida asked if anyone had any suggestions on him becoming more sophisticated in order to charm the Emperor’s niece. They all talked on the subject for a bit coming up with several suggestions; bathe more, buy a nice kimono and taking his armor off in polite situations. Hida said he was already trying to be cleaner in his appearance and he would do his best to find a good kimono. But Hida was very uncooperative about the last part and seemed quite reluctant to change his Clan’s heritage so much. Akodo pointed out that the typical Crab usage of heavy armor in even polite situations was one of the reasons why they were considered unsophisticated. Shosuro also asked about the training methods that Kakita was using to see if there was anything that she could do to help. Kakita thanked Shosuro for her help as she would probably have more experience in courting then Kakita would. After some consideration Shosuro said that she should put him in front of a woman he wouldn’t recognize so that he would not feel uncomfortable. Seeing the confusion of her companion’s face she clarified that they should take Hida to a geisha house in order to have him practice the art of sophisticated courtship. As they gathered themselves to leave back to their individual rooms Hida asked if they could help him improve his poetry ability and asked for each them to give him a subject matter. After some deliberation the choices were the following:
Shinjo: Fight of an arrow
Shosuro: Hida’s shoe
Isawa: Lost love
With that finished the group retired to their individual rooms to prepare for their journey down into Beiden Pass in order to cross the Seikitsu sano Yama no Oi into the Lion Clan lands. The following morning they awoke and backtracked for half the day down into Beiden Pass and started the journey thru the mountains. It took the group about three days to get thru the mountains and they spent the night in the east side hills of the mountains. The following morning, 19th of Monkey, they crossed the Three Sides River into the Lion lands passing a small garrison on the way guarding the border. By early afternoon they made it to Kenson Gakka just in time for the Humility’s Lesson festival. Akodo Akio quickly disappeared with the local general, Akodo Ikare, who knew his master and had agreed to train Akio if he came thru Kenson Gakka. The rest of the group had the rest of the day to explore the village and fortress although Isawa was exhausted from the trip and quickly retired to a private room with Shiba watching over him. With the celebration the next day they decided to rest in Kenson Gakka before proceeding thru the Lion lands and north to the Setsuban Festival.