It is the last month of autumn and the temperature has turned cold and there are nights when people can see their breath mist in the air. The harvest has been brought in and it was more abundant than Inarikamisama had promised. Similarly, gossip from the peasants tell of many women being with child and many a parent wondering what names to give their newborns. Though the air is chilly, there is a distinct feeling of warmth emanating from many homes in both Teishou and Chisu.
Things are a bit different in the Clan House of the Tensai: plans and preparations are underway and the officers and their respective staff are busy. Defenses have to be set up in Do-i. The threat of the Nohebi has to be ascertained. The gang that enslaves women must be broken. The young Daimyo has to be prepared for the Shogun’s Winter Court.
But first, the young Daimyo must be found.
The young Daimyo has gone missing much to the consternation of the Takumi, the panic of the Karo, the worry of the Head Geisha, and the annoyance of the Yojimbo. Kaisei looks everywhere for Tenka: at Raijin’s rock, at the geisha house, at the tree where Iwao waits impatiently for his game of shogi. Natsumi, with whom he was playing hide and seek, also looks for him high and low, calling for him to come out. Soichiro has stopped acting like a court official and more like a grandparent who has lost a beloved grandchild. Setsuna too has started looking for a missing family member instead of a clan head.
Meanwhile, deep in the domain of the Nohebi, Yugiri and Murasaki, traveling incognito and adopting the air of refugees, enter one of the towns. They draw attention to themselves by acting like they fear guns. Yugiri engages townsfolk in conversation and manages to gain their attention and sympathy by telling them of how the samurai in the region he and his companion had fled have abandoned their swords in favor of ‘firewands’ and how this was connected to women disappearing.
The Onmyouji watches the reaction of the townsfolk as he connects the disappearance of the women to gaijin who took them away, never to be seen again. The devastation that Yugiri reads in their eyes confirms for him that exactly the same thing is happening to the women of the town.
Closer to home, in Do-i, as Takeshi prepares the well of the mountain village for the battle he is sure will come soon, villagers come to him reporting that they have spotted strangers dressed as pilgrims on the eastern border. What caught the attention of the villagers was that the ‘pilgrims’ seem to be hypervigilant, as if expecting to be attacked at any moment.
As the Hatamoto and the villagers stalk the strangers, Takeshi voices out that he wants the strangers captured for questioning but is concerned that they may be carrying firearms. When he describes to the men of Do-i how these firearms work, the men make short work of them by drenching the ‘pilgrims’ with buckets of piss. Sure enough, the ‘pilgrims’ pull out pistols but the powder is wet and the guns don’t work, making the outnumbered strangers easy to capture.