Resuming the night of the previous game (5 days before the tournament) the representatives from the Great Clans met with the Lion Clan representative, Akodo Daisuke, and the Dragon Clan representative, Hoshi Kozo. Ultimately, a consensus was reached on how to best handle the newly-arrived Dragon Clan bodies that had been expelled from the forest. During the inspection, Hoshi-san illustrated his enlightened lack of concern with social norms by closely inspecting the bodies and collecting some of the strange mushrooms.
In the meantime, Akodo-sama spoke with the town marshal to further discuss the future plans for the the young ward, Kitsu Kibou. Previously, Doji-sama had convinced Ikoma-san to evict Kitsu-sama for the safety of the town, but was readily convinced the best course of action would be to house all of the Lion Clan representatives under one roof at Ikoma-san’s home.
The Great Clan representatives collectively decided to head into the forest to search for the mysterious Agasha Nangen and the source of the fungal deaths. Doji-sama and Akodo-sama approached the Tortoise Clan merchant in the town in an attempt to hire some additional support to storm the forest. After making arrangements with the merchant, it was agreed that the militia would muster at the town center in the morning.
Bayushi-san rode ahead to entreat the other Jade Champion candidate, Kuni Kaizen, for advice regarding the potentially dangerous occupants of the Kitsune Mori. Offering a generous gift of sake, Bayushi-san spoke at length with Kuni-sama regarding the clear presence of a corrupt magic within the forest. He also expressed his impatience with the tournament as an experienced Shugenja and foe of the Shadowlands – competing to see who rides horses the best did not appeal to him, regardless of the minor amount of renown he might curry.
All the while, the quietly observant Phoenix Clan Representative, Shiba Takehiko, consulted the stars about their current plan of action. Spending hours meticulously drawing star charts and tracing the movements of the constellations, he consults the Void for insights into the near future. Peering into the darkness, the Void gives him an answer: “Within the forest, you will encounter great misfortune.”
In the morning, Akodo-sama looks disapprovingly over the “militia” sent by the Tortoise merchant. Woefully undertrained, the shabbily geared men would not have survived the forest, much less would they have been much help. Given the advice from Kuni-sama and the ill omens shown by the Void, the representatives agreed it would be best to reassess their mission and attempt to convince the Kuni shugenja to aid them in purging the corruption from the forest.
Until then, it was decided it would be best to move Kitsu Kibou out of Kitsune Mori Mura and head for the tournament grounds. Bayushi-san returned to Kitsune Mori Mura to continue his own investigations. While settling in over the next few days, other members of the Great Clans came into the city and began investigating the strange occurrences. When they confronted Doji Nire, he is to have said, “I know why you’re here, and I’m guilty” before committing seppuku with the assistance of Kakita Yuuta. The other inhabitants, Ikoma-san and the Tortoise merchant were both killed and Moto Xian has not been seen. Any information that might have been found from Kitsune Mori Mura seems to have reached a dead end.
The day before the tournament was scheduled to begin, a contingent of Mantis Clan representatives, accompanied by twenty armed budoka, arrived at the tournament grounds demanding that Kitsu Kibou be handed into their custody pending the investigation regarding the murder of the Tortoise Clan merchant. They argued that Kitsu-sama had been the only shugenja capable of such an attack. Akodo-sama denied and resented the allegations on behalf of the Lion Clan, defending the honor of Kitsu-sama. During the time of the attack, Kitsu Kibou had been in the company of the Great Clan representatives as they traveled to the tournament grounds.
Doji Mitsuki-sama was in the midst of attempting to negotiate for Kitsu-sama’s custody to remain with the Great Clan representatives when Shiba-san emerged from the shadows. Through his powerful innate connection to the Void, Shiba-san determined that something was amiss with the Mantis bushi standing before them – every natural being leaves an imprint upon the Void, but these bushi left no such impression. Rather, they were regarded as the utter absence of presence within the all-encompassing Void – a tell-tale sign of the truly corrupt.
“Mantis-sama, where are you?” Shiba-san asked.
For a moment, the Mantis bushi had no reply. Whatever foul magicks that had held his corruption in check began to waver before the power of the Void, which sought to reclaim the tainted form. Shiba-san served as a conduit to the Void and as their magicks faded a fetid smell began to waft through the pavilion, emanating from the Mantis.
Now fully aware of the soiled nature of the bushi’s soul, Doji-sama drew her Kakita Blade from its sheath and brought it to bear upon the Mantis. “Shadowlands!” she exclaimed as she sliced through the menpo of the unclean one, revealing an oozing skull and rotting flesh beneath the mask. Although some of the budoka laid down their arms and surrendered to the honorable Great Clan representatives, others continued to fight alongside the men who promised to pay them – one wonders if those men believed one koku a head would be worth their honor or their lives.
Doji-sama’s precise strike gave the Great Clans a great edge over the Shadowlands’ forces, and although the Tsuruchi archer proved troublesome, the blessings of Bishamon protected the Great Clans and brought them into noble victory.
The honorable Kuni-sama eventually agreed that the wishes of the Empress would best be fulfilled by purging the Kitsune Mori rather than competing in the tournament. Nursing his wound, Kitsu Kibou would be left in the hands of the other Great Clan representatives who would remain behind at the tournament to make sure the Jade Champion candidate would be kept safe and that the minor clans would be protected from any further danger while we, chosen by the Kami, would venture into Kitsune Mori – the Fetid Wood.