The companions first meet at the waystation, where they discover that their masters had made a bet over who would become the Topaz Champion. The prize was a magnificent jade dragon statue that they found while working with an Emerald Magistrate fifteen years ago.
The newly-met companions travel together to the town of Tsuma. On the way they meet an old peasant who stumbles and falls into the river. Shinjo of the Unicorn (Landon) is the first to pick him up while Akodo of the Lion (Steven) helps with his pack. In gratitude the peasant performs a tea ceremony for them all. Hida of the Crab (Ty) is given the task of filling up the kettle with water from the river and putting two mysterious packets in, causing the water to boil. The peasant then offers one of two gifts to Shinjo: a katana or a small box. When asked about the katana, he sincerely says it is in his safekeeping from his lord. Shinjo refuses twice, as is polite, then graciously accepts the katana. In return, he offers his gaijin weapon in exchange. The peasant deems this a very worthy gift and accepts. In the end he offers his home for the PCs to stay in Tsuma.
Within sight of the village of Tsuma, the companions encounter Yasuki Jodeiga,a “Crab clan merchant of many things”. Shosuro of the Scorpion (Katelyn) wants to buy a coin of jade but none is available except for an exquisite jade medallion. Shosuro decides just to purchase a finger of jade. While haggling, the merchant convinces her to also purchase a small good luck charm made out of glass and copper. Hida decides to purchase some medicinal tea (x2 stamina wound recovery at night) and gets 5 packets (4 servings each). He also is convinced to purchase a good luck charm.
When they arrive in town, they spot a Temple of the Fortunes. They proceed inside. Shosuro gives a prayer before Benten (Fortune of Romantic Love), Hida before Bishamon (Fortune of Strengh) and Kakita of the Crane (Ashley) before Bishamon and Daikoku (Fortune of Wealth). Akodo tries to converse with one of the monks attending but is unable to maintain the proper etiquette and the monk quickly moved on.
Afterwards, they are headed to a local Sake house run by Shosuro Ukio of the Scorpion. The companions chose to get a private room. After sitting and ordering they hear a loud shout as Hida Fujizaka of the Crab (another contestant in the tournament) enters the Sake house. He quickly is invited to join the companions and quickly commences a drinking contest of Shochu, a distilled alcohol. Hida and Shosuro join him. After four drinks of Shochu, Shosuro is reduced to emptying her stomach and collapses next to the table. After three more drinks the pair of Hidas decided they have had enough and call it a night. The companions get directions to the peasants house (the House of Fortunes) and proceed. On the way, they note a Unicorn merchant house. They arrive at the house and notice a pair of paintings showing the heroic deeds of Akodo Masashi (went to the Shadowlands and killed the oni Kusatte Iro) and Mirumoto Puhabo Natsumu (1st person to gain enlightment since Shinsei).
The following day they witness the arrival of the Imperial barge. The Emperor meets with the Scorpion Daimyo, Bayushi Shoju, first and Bayushi Kachiko, his wife (who has the emperor’s ear). The companions also notice Bayushi Sugai who was entered into the tournament after the deadline because he is Bayushi Kachiko’s nephew and she asked special permission from the emperor to do so. When the frail and sickly emperor’s son appears, a veteran Crab samurai bushi nudges Akodo, saying “Here comes Calamari-sama!” When the crowd starts to disperse, Akodo challenges the veteran samurai. Before things get to heated up, Shosuro quickly gets in the middle and calms the pair down. At the same time, Kakita distracts Hida from interfering. They hear the following rumors:
- War is likely between the Lion and Crane again since the Crane are looking weak.
- The Emperor is refusing to step down for his son.
- There is an aging and highly respected Phoenix shugenja here with his yojimbo watching the competition.
The companions then proceed over to the the Unicorn Merchant House. This Greco-Roman rotunda looking building is the home of a nephew of Ide Daikoku. Inside are treasures from all over the world. Hida buys a pair of “boxing” gloves, Akodo buys a chain of black tiger claws and Shinjo and Akodo buy a ivory chess set together.
At the end of the night, they walk around the town and enjoy the festivities. Tomorrow morning the Topaz Championship will begin.