The magistrates arrived at Kitsuki Daran’s home to see how his own investigation had gone. His servants told them that the magistrate was still in the surrounding village interviewing the Lion soldiers staying there. Since the local Emerald Magistrate was not there the young Teeth decided to ask the old sensei masters at the training grounds.
As they made their way towards the training grounds, they noticed a young Akodo staring at them. It was a common practice for samurai to test one another for “swordlessness” when they first meet or when they have not seen one another for many months. These tests are commonly non-violent. and involve the two warriors facing off in a silent “Chi” challenge. And it was clear that the young Akodo was trying to engage in such an encounter with Shosuro Shinriko but was no moving forward enough to formally engage in such an encounter.
They stopped and Akodo Akio made his way over to the young Akodo to try and figure out what the young Lion bushi wanted. Akio made his way over and casually asked the young samurai if he could help him. The young bushi ignored Akio and, moving with the fluid grace of a duelist far exceeding his years, marched over to Shinriko leaving Akio behind quite dumbfounded. The young Lion spoke directly to Shinriko and claimed he was seeking revenge for an untimely death at her hands and demanded a duel to the death. Shinriko was stunned and the Emerald Magistrates tried to question the young Akodo about why he demanded such a duel but no matter what argument they used the young Akodo could not be dissuaded. He actually dropped into a duelist stance and placed his hand palm up beneath his hilt. The pose and stance shocked Kakita Hikaru who knew it was a very advanced Kakita duelist technique that normally only the Kakita Kenshinzen used.
Seeing that the young Akodo could not be dissuaded, and was actually getting more aggressive by the second, Hikaru’s shocked look when he took his stance and knowing that t strange spiritual possession was the reason for their presence there, Hida Kengetsu moved behind the young Akodo. The young samurai paid no heed to him or the other Emerald Magistrates and had his attention focused solely on Shinriko. With a glance towards Akio and an affirming nod from the rest, Kengetsu wrapped his arm around the Lion’s neck and squeezed, using his bicep to cut off the blood in the carotid artery. The maneuver was called the Hadaka Jime (naked strangle) and it took about thirty seconds to reduce the young samurai to unconsciousness. Kengetsu lowered him gently to the ground, satisfied that he had subdued the young samurai without causing any permanent injury. Because of this he was shocked when the samurai stood back up like a puppet on strings and once again assumed his duelist stance where staring at Shinriko.
Kengetsu once again grabbed the young Lion but since he was already unconscious so he simply held him restrained while Shinjo grabbed some rope from his saddlebags and they tied the young Lion up. Akio grabbed a passing Ikoma messenger and sent him off to get one of the stronger Kitsu shugenja to hopefully come and find a way to cure the young lion. It did not take long for one of the senior Kitsu to arrive and the situation was explained quickly. The shugenja figured he could use the Earth spell “Spirit Ward” to remove the spirit from the young Akodo and prevent a new one from entering. He would be in a trance for the duration of the spell and would not be able to communicate or help them while in it. They agreed and the Kitsu made a large circle of salt around the young lion and entered into it and slowly begun to chant before falling into a trance. When he did the young Akodo immediately slumped as if his strings had been cut. Shinriko entered the circle and with a few nudges awoke the young Lion.
Upon being questioned the young Akodo had no memory of his verbal assault and duel request on the Emerald Magistrates. The only thing he remembered was practicing and going to some water and after that nothing, but the name Hifune. Hikaru and Shinriko remembered the tale of a samurai named Hifune in the time of the kami who failed to accept an honorable challenge, fleeing from a superior opponent. Then suddenly a young Matsu samurai-ko approached and issued the exact same challenge to Shinriko. The Matsu could not cross the salt barrier and just stood on the edge in the exact same pose that the young Akodo in the circle had been in. She too demanded revenge for some unknown past death against Shinriko but Shinriko continued to refuse the duel. Kengetsu made his behind the young Matsu and shoved her into the circle, careful not to disrupt the salt circle.
As soon as the Matsu entered the circle she looked around in confusion. Seeing the Imperial mon she bowed deeply and asked what was going on. After a few questions she too did not remember anything after practicing in the training grounds and then appearing in the circle. She too remembered the name Hifune. With this everyone else decided to enter the circle but before Shinjo Luke could do so he too seemed to shudder and got off his horse and walked to the edge of the circle. He also assumed the same stance as the previous too and started at Shinriko. The Scorpion, as a courtier, had no intention to duel a trained bushi much less one wielding a fortune given katana. The spirit, realizing that Shinriko would not duel it under any circumstances spoke “Your sword is your own” and Luke slumped forward. It was a true dishonor for Shinriko to not take the duel after all the insults and assaults upon her person but her actions were her own.
When no more possessed samurai came over to try and duel Shinriko, they awoke the Kitsu shugenja from his trance and untied the first Akodo. It was clear that there was no reason to bring the incident public and the two young samurai were allowed to go back to their training. The Kitsu had heard of the samurai Hifune and told them that his ghost had been presenting his lessons to others but no incident of encountering him had been reported in over a century. The magistrates thanked the shugenja for his assistance and continued on their way to question the sensei masters. Along the way Isawa Tsukiko informed them of the sophistication and power of the spell they had just witnessed and apologized that it was well beyond her expertise. They shrugged it off and figured that this investigation was going to get a lot more interesting before it was over.
They found the sensei masters in the training grounds going thru drills with the samurai being taught there. They could also see Matsu Tsuko, the Matsu daimyo, on the other end of the training field. The field itself was a simple spectacle with banners displaying the Matsu School and Akodo School many lessons. The masters were Akodo Numo, Akodo O-Jiteko and Matsu Gishaku. Akodo Numo had been the master that Kengetsu and Akio had spoken to on their last visit about the Art of the Sword and their own marital art, Hisoudou, and he was pleased to see them again.
As they talked the masters would occasionally yell out orders at the practicing samurai. It was clear that they found the present situation fascinating from a warrior’s perspective. The thrill of war was back in the air, the students were training with more heart and everyone was paying close attention to Bushido again. They are supported the theory that the ancestors of both clans were chastising their descendants for their docile lives. But besides this theory none of them had ever witnessed anything quite like this in their lives and recommended talking with the Sodan Senzo for better information. The magistrates told them they had a meeting over lunch with him the following day and thanked the masters for their help.
With no other immediate leads to pursue until the following day, or at least until Kitsuki Daran came back from interviewing the soldiers in the surrounding village, the magistrates gave themselves some leisure time. Akio spent time training and even used one of the fishing houses that lined the river as a practice studio as the scenery and subtle vibrations of the florr cause by the passing river beneath to be calming. Kengetsu spent the time at the geisha house that he had visited before. He spent the evening with the same geisha he had relaxed with the previous visit telling them what had transpired at the Setsuban festival and winter court including his engagement to the Imperial princess.
That evening they met back at Kitsuki Daran’s house and met with their fellow Emerald Magistrate. After interviewing the solders he attributed their memoore loss to something else, perhaps battle fatigue or a contaminant in their watter or food supply. He clearly believed that the supernatural world has been well explored and reseached as it has been proven over the last thousand years and does not immediately attribute inexplicable circumstances to it, and preferred to reason such puzzles our methodically. He does not question the reports of his fellow magistrates but believes that it must be some strange combination of a couple ghosts flirting about such a chaotic battlefield and one of his previous theories. Hikaru took a bath and practiced her biwa while watching Luke work with his falcon and steed.
The following morning the group awoke and prepared for their meeting bathing and prepping to meet with the pure blooded Kitsu. Kengetsu even declined to wear his armor and instead chose one of his finer kimonos. That morning they heard that more skirmishes along the Crane borders and that the Lion soldiers resting in the village were being called back into active duty once again.
Finally at lunch they met at the Kitsu archives with Kitsu Goden. The Sodan Senzo is pleasant but is obviously fatigued from all his recent work. He gives them much of the same information that the Kitsu masters has presented without adding anything new. Since he was an honorable shugenja and the leading expert in ghostly lore in the area the magistrates also told him a little about their prime suspect, Bayushi Sozui. Although he tried to hide it, Hikaru and Shinriko saw that he knew the name although they were unable to press him for more information about the fact. They cautioned him to be careful in spreading such information as she was a dangerous assassin trained in war and disguise. He told them that he found all this information disturbing and decided to deliberate with and ask the ancients for information. He would nee dto use the Kitsu meditation chamber and invited the magistrates to join him. He told them it would take him a few minutes to set up but then he would allow them entrance. They readily agreed to such an endeavor and followed the Kitsu out.
The path to the meditation cell led behind the Ikoma Hall of Scribes and into the tree line ending at a well. Following the Kitsu, they looked beyond the next grove, finding that the path continued unabated. It was almost as if this second path was purposefully concealed within the forest for some reason. A short walk later, they saw a simple structure ahead, its surface unbroken except for a single heavy wooden door. A few feet away, they could see the door. Kitsu Goden entered telling them he would need a few minutes to begun the proper rituals and would then call them in. He left the door ever so slightly ajar, and that long and after white tendrils of mist cling to the gap between. A few mintues later then saw that long white tendrils of mist start to cling to the gap between.
Suddenly they heard sounds of struggle accompanied by Goden’s crices for help, begging the magistrates to enter. They rushed in to find that the meditation chamber was dark, with no windows or doors other than the one they had just entered through. The walls – commonly a uniform expanse of small squares – were almost completely obscured by a growing darkness, as if they were being eaten away in shadow. Where the walls had vanished, the dimensions of the room expanded beyond your vision, flush with the horizon, becoming another place, another realm, where the land was barren and lifeless, and Amaterasu’s blessing light had faded away. The only features visible upon the broken land were several large obelisks of splintered rock, jutting out of the ground at irregular angles.
Goden remained the focus of the twilight realm’s encroachment, the last part of the cell that remained bright and pure. But his control was slipping, his face a painful mask of concentration as he tried to stave off the influx of darkness. The mists flooded into the room from beyond threatened to overwhelm him, tendrils of ethereal smoke tentatively snaked in through the pocket of light around him. Beneath his furrowed brow, his eyes locked with the magistrates, pleading for aid. Behind him, within the shadowed mists, figures gathered, waiting for the light to vanish. They stood behind a tall samurai, whose gleaming mempo was frozen as a vicious smile of recognition. The figure stepped forward, bracing above Goden, prepared to strike.
The magistrates tried to step forward but the figures, more of the faceless dead, floated forward between the magistrates and Goden. As they prepared to do battle they noticed that the sprits now appeared more substantial, as if their forms were tangible. The magistrates hopefully assumed that this meant the spirits could be hurt in such a place. With this in mind Luke and Shinriko opened up the battle with an arrow and a knife straight at the figure behind Goden. Both hit and staggered the figure back. But as they prepared to enter fully into the battle they noticed the pocket of light surrounding Goden slowly vanished, the wall of the meditation cell behind him replaced by a grey blanket of mist The door leading back outside the cell also disappeared, trapping the characters in Meido.
Then Goden’s strained features relaxd and he stood, joining the injured figure. Goden glanced back at the stunned and confused magistrates and told the figure, “End their suffering," and strolled quickly and purposely away, carefully picking his path through the jagged obelisks as the magistrates prepared to defend themselves from the faceless dead and their unknown leader.