The next morning the magistrates awoke early before the sun’s first light to prepare for the day. They had agreed the previous night that they would use the Dignitary Chambers (#17) on the second floor to perform the ritual. They would not be able to participate in the actual battle as their priority was to finish the ritual no matter what their personal feelings were about the war. They also enlisted the aid of Oni no Makoto to guard the staircase leading up to the second floor while they performed the ritual. In addition they received news that two daibutai (legion aprox. 750 men) from the Imperial Legions would be arriving late that afternoon. So once they were ready the magistrates proceeded to the chambers to await the beginning of the battle.
Shinjo Luke and Shosuro Shinriko took position in the long kill cell that ran behind the dignitary chambers and faced outwards towards the battle. These rooms offered views of critical locations through arrow slits and murder holes, which would allow Lion archers and siege personnel to help maintain control of the castle. But now they allowed Luke and Shinriko a view of the battlefield, the Dignitary Chambers and some of the surrounding hallways. The rest of the magistrates and their two yoriki, Kitsu Kasai and Isawa Tsuriko, stood fully armed, armored and ready around Matsu Shimesu , dressed in Seppuku white, sat in the middle of the room with the scroll in front of him ready to sacrifice himself to stop his once betrothed’s plan.
The Crane arrived at first light. When the Crane arrived, their forces numbered just over 450. Of those, some 100 were conscripts culled from neighboring farmlands (both Lion and Crane; many Lion peasants remembered how the Lion “stole” the castle, or were unhappy with their present rulers, and were eager to help the Crane retake it). Per the lkoma’s account, Daidoji Uji was the commanding officer for the army, taking a personal hand in his clan’s glorious return to the Plains of Battle.
As the battle started, Matsu Shimesu started the ritual to finally seal away the Legacy of the Forge. As the battle started Luke and Shinriko gave the others an account of the battle. In the first twenty minutes the palisades fell. With few soldiers to defend them, due to the Yorei’s actions the night before, the Crane marched right through them and up to the Outer Gateway, only pausing to trade volleys with the archers upon the ramparts. The Lion only lost a single soldier were light, while the Crane lost almost a dozen. The archers continued to pluck away at the Crane as Uji called for siege engines to be used against the outer gate.
Battering rams, and eventually ladders, were used upon the castle. Within the next twenty minutes the surviving Lion archers had retreated beyond the inner gate to take up positions within the castle’s many internal kill cells, just like the one that Luke and Shinriko were in, where they waited for the Crane to pierce the inner courtyard. The Crane broke through the outer gate and begun working upon the inner (second) gate.
The next thing that Luke and Shinriko saw was expected but not any more welcomed. They saw the forward Crane ranks (including Uji’s command cell), as well as those of all the Lion defenders upon the lowest level including Akodo Isebo under go the strange contortions they had witnessed before when someone was posses by the Legacy. The effect of this was staggering. Moments later, the Crane punched into the Courtyard and the Lion and Crane infantry finally met. At first, it seemed that the forces remained loyal to their clan, but within minutes, Crane were killing Crane and Lion were killing Lion, adding new spirits to the Legacy in the process. These new spirits inhabited the bodies of previously unaffected samurai on both sides, and the cycle continued. It was obvious to the magistrates that the Legacy would eventually consume the spirits of all at the castle, including them. There was an unexpected benefit of this, however. With the Lion and the Crane becoming one fighting force trying to extinguish itself, the objective of claiming the castle became unimportant.
But the Legacy was not the only unwelcome aspect of the battle. As the Lion and Crane started to kill themselves and one another, Luke smelled something unusual. He tried to call a warning ”Gajin pepp…” when the door and surrounding wall of the dignitary chambers was blow away in a violent explosion. Out of the exploding debris stepped out eight figures out of myth but whom the magistrates had encountered before: Ninja. Although they wore the same black kimono that the previous had worn these ninja were drastically different. The first obvious thing they noticed was that these ninja lacked faces (a phenomenon that they had witnessed before during Winter Court with Otomo’s handmaiden). The second thing they noticed was the bolts of black nothingness that came from their hands and hurled into the magistrates. The bolts seemed to try and eat the very essence of the magistrates forcing them to use their inner ki to resist the bolts hurled at them. Hida Kengetsu also threw himself into path an additional bolt that was headed straight for Matsu Shimesu. The crystals on his armor were glowing brightly and only his Crab heritage of toughness allowed him to withstand the pain of two attacks. Then they disappeared, breaking into teams down opposite sides of the corridor.
Kakita 107 full defense
Kengetsu 39 eat golden apple
Luke 36 go thru door into dignitary chambers
Shinriko 27 stay concealed in kill cell
Kasai 24 cast rejuvenating vapors
Akio 20 give apple to kengetsu
Tsuriko start healing
Hikaru 91defending room
Luke 46 go around top corner at kengetsu’s order
Kengetsu 45 go around top corner after top 4 ninja (sees Bayushi sozui and kills with two tear giver attacks then finishes off with kharma attack)
Shinriko 35 conceal in kill cell
Akio 30 guard Matsu Shimesu
Tsuriko 28 heal hikaru
Kasai 22 cast rejuvenating vapors
Hikaru 117 go up and assist kengetsu
Kasai 53 stand guard
Luke 48 shoot
Oni 47 kill two ninja
Kengetsu 45 shove two ninja thru outer wall (thru inner wall of kill cell)
Ninja 35 flee from oni and Kengetsu back into dignitary chambers (dead)
Shinriko 28 go up and assist in the top part but stay in kill cell. (sees ninjas go thru walls before she can arrive)
Akio 23 protect matsu
Isawa Tsuriko start casting wall of water
Hikaru 90 run down and kill two ninja spider on wall
Luke 51move back into dignitary chambers
Ninja 40 try and attack shinriko (fail)
Akio 39 step out of way of wall of water but continue to guard
Kengetsu 39 assit hikaru
Shinriko 33 attack ninja in kill cell (injured)
Kasai 23 casting fury of osana wo
Tsuriko finish casting wall of water
Hikaru 82 go back to dignitary chambers
Kengetsu 40 go back to dignitary chambers
Luke 35 maintain vigilance
Shinriko 27 step back and throw knives at ninja (down one but akio finished)
Akio 25 go thru wall kill two ninja
Ninja 19 shank a scoropion
Kasai 17 casting fury of osano wo (dispel)
With the last of the ninja vanquished, and Bayushi Sozui who had plagued them for the last year, the magistrates all returned to the dignitary chambers and waited for Matsu Shimesu to finish the ritual. Outside and downstairs all of the Lion and Crane were now part of the Legacy, stalking one another in the halls of the fortress. Periodically, the magistrates could hear fighting very nearby. The castle had become a moment out of the magistrates’ worst nightmares, with everyone but them having gone into senseless battle frenzy. Death ruled the day at every turn. Outside, as Legacy inhabited samurai clashed upon the fields around the castle, the ghosts of all those who plummeted to their deaths hundred years ago can be seen again, repeating their defiant act. Throwing themselves from the balcony above, the torches they carried crackled with spectral fire, a dazzling array of beautiful sorrow, before vanishing beneath the uneven waves of Shadowed Souls River, far below.
The final moments of the ritual were a blur. The words read from the ritual scroll echoed through the maze-like hallways of Shiro no Yojin, carried upon an ethereal wind that touched spirit and body alike. In their wake, everything became sharp and focused; colors were highlighted, contours are razors’ edged, and everywhere they looked, the structure of the fortress teemed with life. Matsu Shimesu slowly drew out his wakizashi as he continued the chant of the ritual. Then, without hesitation and a smile on his face, Shimesu cut into his abdomen with three quick precise strokes and ended his life. Quickly, as a wave collapsing upon itself, the effect faded, leaving only silence in its wake. And with it the magistrates heard the fighting end. And around them they saw thousands of spirits raise thru the floors surrounding Shimesu’s body. Matsu Shimesu’s spirit also rose from its body. As more and more spirits gathered, the magistrates heard screaming and looked over to see several of the Toshi dragging Kitsu Goden forward. When in view the Toshi held Goden down and with a few violent twists pulled his head from his body. A few moments later Goden’s spirit joined the rest and then the spirits finally disappeared following Matsu Shimesu with his ritual map back to their proper place on the celestial wheel.
Bodies of those that were possessed by the Legacy fell to the floor, unconscious. The nightmare was over, you think. Finally, the threat of the Legacy was gone. Then, gradually, two figures came into view at the edge of your vision, Tankenka and Arasou, their faces beaming with pride and thanks. They lingered only a moment scarcely long enough for them to be sure that they were ever there at all, and then they are gone as well…
Things moved quickly after that. Akodo Arasou and Daidoji Uji agreed to allow the Crane safe passage out of the castle and for a temporary cease fire between the two forces while they try to figure things out. By the time the Lion had finished cleaning up the dead in the late afternoon the two daibutai of Imperial Legions arrived. Along with the Imperial Legions, the Teeth of the Mongoose Emerald magistrates quickly got the situation under control.
Over the next week the Lion-Crane war grinded to a halt by the order of the Emperor until the full details of the situation could be reviewed. The Crane Clan Champion, Doji Satsume, was also using the time to speak with the Lion Clan Champion, Akodo Toturi, to try and bring a lasting peace between the two clans. Also with the Imperial Legion came a group of monks from the Brotherhood of Shinsei. Most of them were sohei (the militaristic weapon using members of the brotherhood) who surrounded Oni no Makoto as he was questioned by the elder monk that was leading them. Eventually the elder monk was satisfied with the Oni’s story and told him to accompany them back to the monastery near Otosan Uichi.
A few days after the battle the magistrates were finally finished and headed south towards Shiro sano Kakita for the Topaz Championship. Less then a day outside of the village of Tsuma the road was blocked by a group of samurai wearing brown cloaks covering their kimonos and wide brimmed straw hats that hid both their faces and any colors or mons that could identify them.. They placed their hands on their daishos and stepped forward to the stopped magistrates…