Accounts of Strange Incidents

Sixteenth Panel
Promises
“This blade should have killed you…”


Akari in the guise of Akiteru heads to Takuma’s cutlery booth to ask for more information about the blade that caused her wound. The bladesmith greets the Oniwaban cordially and expresses satisfaction with the Re-dedication ceremony.

When Akari presses him about the weapon, he states with outright pride that it was forged for one of the agents of the Oniwaban of the Su Clan and that it was meant to be a vicious weapon. The bladesmith goes on to describe the particulars of the weapon in loving detail, adding casually that had the blade been handled properly, Akari should have been killed.

The Oniwaban manages to hide her annoyance at this and asks the bladesmith to forge a blade worthy of her child Daimyo. Takuma snaps out of his reverie over his blade and considers the request. He then tells her that he will need more of the special iron sand from the mountain, to which Akari responds that she will have someone go and fetch some. And by someone, she means Takeshi.

Iwao, the Akuma Oni who plays Shogi (badly)


At the close of the festival, the officers gather at the shrine for a late meal and informal debriefing. Soichiro has taken his purchases and Tenka back to the clan house with Natsumi in tow. Everyone is tired but relieved that the festival turned out better than expected. Murasaki, however, is still bothered by the odor of wood smoke and is determined to track it to its source. Meanwhile, Takeshi scolds his childhood friend as he binds up her wound which has started bleeding freely again. Impervious to the beratings of the Hatamoto, Akari, weak from the loss of blood, tells him of his mission to fetch iron sand from the mountain for Tenka’s sword.

Murasaki follows the scent of wood smoke to a large tree in the courtyard of the shrine and a huge, red akuma steps out from behind it demanding to know where Raijin is. The akuma, whose name the officers later learn is Iwao, is upset at the former Daimyo because they were playing shogi and the akuma was winning when Raijin suddenly disappeared on him.

The akuma is, for the most part, incoherent but the officers are able to piece together the akuma’s story. Iwao had been caring for Tenka since he found the child abandoned in the wilderness. Seven years ago, Raijin came across the akuma and offered to play shogi against him for the child. The akuma cannot seem to remember what the former Daimyo wagered should the akuma win, but that is irrelevant now because Raijin won Tenka and took the child away. The akuma has been playing against the former Daimyo ever since, and, for the first time in 57 games, Iwao is about to win.

“I was about to win, too!”


After a roundabout discussion, the officers are able to convince Iwao to give up on getting Tenka back since the child is cared for and is happy. This seems to suit the akuma who seems to genuinely care for the child. He also seems to really like playing shogi even though he is obviously bad at it. The officers promise to take turns playing against Iwao for enjoyment and to teach Tenka to play the game when he is older. This cinches the deal for the akuma and he seems contented and happy.

The akuma notices Akari’s wound through the smell of her blood and presses a pill onto her palm, telling her to drink it to stop the bleeding. Unsure about the medicine, she later consults Lady Kumo who tells her that akuma medicine is vile but efficacious. Akari takes the pill which is as horrible tasting as the Lady of Spiders promised, but the very next day, Akari’s wound bleeds considerably less. When she thanks Iwao for the medicine, he presses upon her a tincture that will address her blood loss and ease her pain.

“Akuma medicine is vile, but it is efficacious”


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Fifteenth Panel
Faces
Kagami


Kaisei, also responding to the growing panic of the crowd, frantically searches for the source and is led to to a small, frightened figure huddled in an out-of-the-way copse. The figure is constantly shifting in a kaleidoscope of faces and costumes all while whimpering that there are just too many feelings, and just too many memories.

The Takumi directs his staff to keep the crowd away from him and the figure, and Keiko enlists the Suzaku on hand in this. As Kaisei approaches the figure, it takes on the form of Natsumi, but he knows that his adopted daughter is guarding the child Daimyo. Just as that thought crosses his mind, the figure of Natsumi changes into that of Tenka. Instead of being alarmed, Kaisei gently asks the child if it really wants to take on the burden of so heavy a name. When the child shakes its head, Kaisei decides to give it the name Kagami.

At that moment Goro appears at Kaisei’s elbow and scolds the child who then promptly turns into a tanuki. Goro explains to Kaisei that she is from another clan, and was likely banished for having the gift of being able to read minds. He then introduces himself to the child tanuki as the chieftain of the clan that occupies this region and offers her a home in his clan. Uncertain about this, Kagami looks at Kaisei who nods reassuringly. Kagami then accepts the hand of Goro.

Saying goodbye to the dead


The commotion is finally quieted when the priests and monks attending the festival announce that it is time to send the lanterns up to heaven. Yugiri helps Tenka send his lantern up and is relieved to see Raijin smile as he slowly fades away. As the crowd quiets down and begins to send lanterns up, figures among the crowd also begin to melt away. Takeshi sends up three lanterns, as does Soichiro. As the lanterns float upwards, the festival winds down, the crowds thin, and the stall keepers start packing up.

Though she is entranced by the sight of the lanterns, Murasaki starts noticing the odor of burnt wood and it disquiets her. She mentions it to Akari who does not notice it. In spite of this, the Kaishaku cannot shake off her apprehension.

Later, Goro informs Akari of Kagami and her special abilities and the Oniwaban expresses interest in the services that Kagami might render in the future. However, Akari is in no hurry to pursue this: there are other immediate matters to attend to. As the tanuki clan withdraws at the close of the festival, Goro visits Yugiri and conveys his gratitude for the role he and his clan were allowed to play in the festival. The Onmyouji, as usual, looked distracted.

Yugiri meditating


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Fourteenth Panel
Names
Yugiri at work


The Onmyouji and his staff also mark the unexpected float of the mountain god and his men but are not perturbed by it. A young assistant voices out that another kami has appeared seeking worship, but Yugiri brushes it off as stating the obvious. Very shortly Tenka’s float arrives at Inari’s shrine and the child Daimyo ascends the stairs, signaling the start of the Re-dedication Ritual upon the swords. Each blade is laid before the Onmyouji who gives each one a new name, writing the characters down as he goes. As each blade is renamed, Yugiri then hands the blade to Tenka who seems to instinctively know what the ritual requires of him. Yugiri notes the ghost of Raijin standing over his son, coaching him through the motions.

The child Daimyo hands Murasaki her swords: the sword of the Tensai Clan named for the Harvest, and the sword that was once of the Su Clan, now renamed Bonds and Camaraderie, reworked from its old name, Web. Yugiri inexplicably bestows a name upon the broom Murasaki is fond of using, calling it Peace. The swords of the Hatamoto are named Stone and Magnet respectively and when these are handed to Takeshi, he hears the voice of Raijin and has a vision of his former Daimyo watching over him and his men.

Murasaki with the Sword ‘Harvest’


At the culmination of the Re-dedication Ceremony, fireworks light up the sky amid applause and cheers, but it is not long before some of the cheers and laughter turn into cries of longing and sorrow and the names of the fireworks makers are replaced with the names of the dearly-missed departed: the ghosts have started to walk among the crowd.

Curious about this, Akari, with the help of Kasumi, manages to slip out of her palanquin but reopens her wound as a consequence. Takeshi is incensed at this and sends both Kazuhira and Keiji after her as she makes her way through the gathering crowd while he wades in and tries to calm the panic he senses rising from the masses.

The Oniwaban runs into Goro who is just as perplexed as everybody else and denies his or any of his clan having any involvement with the ghosts. He does suspect, however, that the ghosts are not actually what they seem. Akari asks if a tanuki is involved and Goro is forced to concede the possibility: there are some that are able to read minds but these are ostracized by other tanuki as cursed.

“Could a tanuki be involved?”


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Thirteenth Panel
Gods
Rice Fields


Inari has Takeshi escort her to the rice fields of the Tensai Clan and there she propagates her blessings by frolicking and dancing among the rice paddies. As soon as she is done blessing one field she bounds off like a deer to the next, leaving the Hatamoto hard pressed to keep up with her. She tells him that the harvest this autumn will be abundant and will be more than enough to feed the harvest that is coming this spring. When all she gets from Takeshi is a quizzical look, she laughs and leads them back to the festival, in time to catch the parade of floats.

Inari and Takeshi arrive at Akari’s palanquin just in time to see her send off Tenka, Natsumi, and Murasaki to the geishas to prepare for their respective parts in the parade of floats. Likewise, the Oniwaban sends off her childhood friend to oversee the security of the parade because the last float will be Tenka’s. This leaves Kasumi and Yoshirou with Akari and they watch the procession of floats. Akari notes the various little pranks that the tanuki play on the nobles that actually add to the atmosphere of fun and playfulness for everyone without—miraculously—humiliating the nobles or injuring their pride. Goro is going to be insufferable for the next few weeks, the Oniwaban thinks. She also notes with relief that the nobles who were once of the Su Clan seem to have been embraced both by the common folk and the nobles of the Tensai Clan.

The tanuki at work


The procession of floats unfolds smoothly, each one a work of art and loving craftsmanship. Cheers rise from the crowd as Inari’s float passes by only to be eclipsed by a float that seemed to appear out of nowhere and that no one recognizes: the ones carrying it declare that it is the float of Yamamoto, the god of the mountain that once straddled the lands of the Tensai and of the Su. Takeshi pushes his way up to the float only to be shoved aside by the devotees but not before locking eyes with Yamamoto who winks at him.

Takeshi goes to Akari to confer about this development and is soon joined by Inari who confirms that another kami has indeed made its presence felt. She assures the Oniwaban and the Hatamoto that this is a good thing and that she, as the presiding kami, will make sure that this one will behave.

While Inari is busy explaining all of this to a bothered Takeshi, a tiny spider alights on Akari’s shoulder and the Oniwaban hears Lady Kumo whisper to her. The Lady of Spiders points out that the Tensai Clan has apparently become important and powerful enough that another god has decided that it wants the worship of the clan. All gods want powerful worshipers but each has their own way of getting this worship. Akari quietly reminds Lady Kumo that she had put out a modest offering for her at the start of the festival to which the Lady of Spiders sniffs that she had hoped for a float of her own. Lady Kumo sighs and wistfully murmurs about next year’s festival…but Keiji, thinking the spider venomous (and hoping to impress the Oniwaban), slaps the spider away before it can say anything else, leaving Akari aghast.

Yamamoto’s entourage


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Twelfth Panel
Sights
The Jesuit, Francis Xavier


Keiko informs Kaisei that he has to meet with a Jesuit priest who wishes to pay his respects and to present his credentials. The priest calls himself Francis Xavier. The Takumi asks his secretary to move the meeting to some other time because he is busy making sure that the nobles are happy and diverted from their grievances, and that every detail of the festival moves smoothly.

As he makes his rounds, Kaisei notes to his satisfaction that the nobles have taken to the spirit of the festival with good humor and a sense of playfulness. Unbeknownst to him, Goro and his clan have been working very hard in the background to awaken these qualities in the nobles and the labor of the tanukis have borne much fruit. The only dark spot to this happy development is that the Takumi has learned through his informants that someone is targeting him because of his involvement in the burning down of the gambling den of the Su Clan.

Kaisei takes note of this, his mood turning grim, but nevertheless continues with his rounds. There is the procession to oversee, which will begin at noon and continue on to sunset where the floats will join in with everything culminating at the shrine of Inari. Immediately after, there will be a feast for the common folk and a banquet for the nobles for the clan. The Takumi unconsciously picks up his pace, moving as fast as decorum and dignity allow, to ensure that everything moves smoothly—all this despite repeated assurances from Keiko and the rest of his staff that everything is in order. Kaisei must ensure that any mischievous kami that may be lurking around the festival are forced to look for their amusement elsewhere.

Shrine to Inari


As the Takumi wends his way through the stalls and booths lining the route of the procession, he notes with satisfaction the Suzaku, the personal unit of the Hatamoto, decked out in their fox-themed uniforms complete with masks. The effect would have been comical but somehow the unit is able to imbue an air of gravity to their presence, making them look at once both reassuring and threatening. Or perhaps it was because there are foreigners in long black robes present who are surprisingly fluent in Nihongo and conversant in the manners and customs of the land?

These men in black are mingling with the common folk, buying from the stalls and booths, haggling over price, and striking up conversations as if they were born and bred of the land. Kaisei feels his brow furrow at this, but hurries on: there are other, more urgent matters to attend to.

One of his agents has expressed concern over the number of illicit gambling games that have sprouted through out the festival. Though, with the help of the Suzaku, these are easily broken up, that they pop up so quickly and so frequently has raised a red flag among Kaisei’s staff.

The Takumi pauses to pay his respects to the Daimyo playing in Akari’s palanquin and solicitously inquires after the Oniwaban’s injury. The children divert themselves with their games (Cat’s Cradle being an apparent favorite) while the adults leisurely watch the festival unfold. Kaisei casually mentions the Jesuits to Akari and Murasaki and is assured that the foreigners have not escaped the notice of the other officers. Some of his concerns assuaged, Kaisei continues on his rounds.

Jesuits at the festival


The Karo drops by the palanquin to pay his respects and to show off his purchases. He has indeed taken Setsuna’s command to heart and has been buying things from nearly every booth and stall in the festival. On impulse, Soichiro gives some of the things he bought to Akari, among which are knives that the Oniwaban recognizes as made by Takuma the bladesmith. Just as suddenly, Soichiro decides that what Akari needs are new clothes and he hies off to search for a bolt of cloth before his adopted granddaughter can say anything in protest.

Takeshi has also been making his rounds, making sure that no untoward incidents mar the festival. The Hatamoto notes to his satisfaction that everything is in place and that his ashigaru are ready and alert. The security that he deployed is tight and nothing human can hope to defeat it.

Suddenly he finds the kami Inari on his arm and insistently demanding that he take her around the stalls and booths since this is the first time that she’s ever had a festival in her honor. Understandably, she is very giddy and would like to share her joy and excitement with someone and she had decided that someone would be Takeshi. Later the geishas would gossip that many a maiden had her heart broken when they spied the two walking among the stalls arm in arm, the very vision of the perfect couple.

Stalls at the festival


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Eleventh Panel
Festivities
A Festival Procession


It is finally the day of the Summer Festival which marks the turning of the season from Summer to Autumn. Spirits are high among common folk and noble alike with the nobles vying to outdo each other in their floats and performances while keeping within the bounds of decorum and good taste—a feat that all have managed surprisingly well. The dance of Lady Kiko and little Natsumi is greatly anticipated while in the background, Goro the tanuki and his clan have gathered to “teach the noble houses a lesson in humor and laughter”.

As the dawn breaks and the tolling of the shrine bell announces the start of the festival, Soichiro takes Kaisei aside and confides his concerns to the Takumi: Soichiro had not slept well at all since the night the ghost of Raijin visited, though this is more because the Karo is worried that his former Daimyo was accompanied by his former Oniwaban who was never far away. It doesn’t help that Soichiro’s deceased wife and the former Oniwaban happen to be the same person.

Saki, Soichiro’s deceased wife and former Oniwaban


The Karo further bemoans the fact that the geisha have turned him away because they are all busy with the festival with Setsuna herself (who reminds the old man of someone, oddly) telling him to go out and enjoy the festival. This advice, Soichiro declares, he will take to heart as he foists off the care and protection of Tenka to Kaisei.

Kaisei in turn has Takeshi take on the task of watching over the young Daimyo AND Natsumi because the Takumi has to ensure that no political faux pas occur during the Festival and he and his staff are stretched extremely thin. The Hatamoto is dismayed by this but accepts responsibility for the children anyway, and immediately goes off in search of his childhood friend, the Oniwaban, with the intent of passing the children on to her.

To Takeshi’s surprise, Akari gamely takes the children in since she had planned to invite Kasumi and her son Yoshirou to watch the festivities from her palanquin anyway. She sends the Hatamoto on his way, relieved that he does not have to carry the burden of guilt of having his childhood friend cover for him and freeing him to attend to other matters.


Akari’s gaudy palenquin

Takeshi takes Kazuhira with him to visit Murasaki whom they find sweeping the temple grounds and playing with Kawa. Takeshi remarks to Murasaki that she seem to be happy to be part of the Tensai, whether it be in the barracks or at the temple. When the young girl looks guilty at this, the Hatamoto points out that this is because she has finally found a family and assures her that regardless of whether or not she takes up the twin swords, she would still be a valued member of the Tensai Clan. Murasaki chooses to wear the swords today and Takeshi assigns her to guard the Daimyo in Akiteru’s gaudy palanquin.

At this Yugiri appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and asks for Murasaki’s broom and her two swords and explains that he needs to dedicate the swords. The Onmyouji stashes them at the temple which is the end point of the festival’s procession and says that it will be Tenka who will hand the swords back to her. Of the broom, Yugiri remains silent. Takeshi provides Murasaki with a sword and assigns her to guard the Daimyo as he enjoys the festival from Akari’s palanquin.


Murasaki enjoys Kawa’s company


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Tenth Panel
Visitations
Yugiri, Murasaki, and Raijin


With the preparations for the summer festival in full swing, Yugiri visits the barracks in search of Murasaki. The Onmyouji finds her helping the Suzaku try on the fox masks and costumes that they will wear as they ensure that everyone at the festival is safe. He asks her to walk with him and he leads her to the place where he last had a conversation with Raijin. Murasaki accompanies Yugiri as the Kaishaku because of the rumors that ninja are abroad. She watches in dismay as the Onmyouji seems to stumble and blunder his way to their destination but is comforted and assured by Kawa who has tagged along because the little fox has noticed how sad she seems in the garb of her office and bearing the two swords and feels pity for her.

Raijin, on the other hand, is vexed at Yugiri for what the Onmyouji is doing: the deceased Daimyo does not appreciate his old friend and companion dragging outsiders into their conversation. There is so much that the former Daimyo has to let the Onmyouji know, particularly about how the living seem to be calling out to the dead and how the dead cannot help but respond. Yugiri, however, steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the shade of his former master and proceeds to explain the duties of a Miko and the demands that the role places on those that follow such a path.

When the Onmyouji brings up the duties of the Miko towards the dead and how the temple maidens are expected to provide vessels for the deceased to speak through, Raijin barks out a short, sharp laugh of comprehension. The former Daimyo decides to play along with the Onmyouji’s plan when he tells Murasaki that there is a spirit here that he wishes to speak with and that he wishes her to facilitate the conversation.

Murasaki and Raijin


When Murasaki nods her acquiescence Raijin possesses her and addresses Yugiri. The former Daimyo expresses admiration for the girl and is impressed that she has what it takes to excel at what she chooses to do, be it Miko or Kaishaku, but it quickly dawns upon him that taking the mantle of the latter would break her. The Onmyouji wisely keeps silent, allowing his old friend and former master to come to the realization on his own that it is the nature of giri, of duty, to break the one that carries it. Duty is a burden, regardless of how pretty its trappings.

Whether or not it was Yugiri’s intention to lead Raijin to this insight is unclear but the result is undeniable: it breaks the fetters that bind the deceased Daimyo to the spot, freeing him to go where he would. Naturally, he chooses to return to the clan house to see for himself how things are. He does this immediately, leaving Murasaki shaken. She tells the Onmyouji what she had seen while Raijin possessed her: him defiant and laughing at the gates of Hell, having made an enemy of the Akuma, and the demons, in turn, screeching in a terrible voice that they would tear down the clan.

Raijin takes pause at this and, unapologetically states that he had a good reason for everything that he had done, especially since he got Tenka in the process. Murasaki is more confused about what role she should play in the clan, and voices this aloud adding that all she ever wanted was a home. Once again, Yugiri remains silent though there is sympathy in his eyes.

Raijin visits Takeshi


When the three return to the clan house, Raijin takes to talking to the officers one by one starting with Takeshi. The Hatamoto excitedly and proudly informs his former Daimyo that the ashigaru of the clan are undergoing rigorous training and are being taught to read, write, and do sums. Raijin praises Takeshi’s efforts but reminds him that the essential virtue of any soldier is to say “I do”, that is be willing to take on any mission and see it to its completion. This virtue, the deceased Daimyo notes, is in great abundance in Takeshi’s men.

The conversation moves on to other military concerns: the ashigaru of the Su have mostly been integrated into that of the Tensai though the training of the former is still lacking. Raijin expresses confidence that the Hatamoto will rectify this quickly. The former Daimyo ends his visit with a request to Takeshi to start Tenka on the sword.

Raijin visits Akari next and he finds her just coming back from her escape to the geisha house and making her way back to her room through the floorboards of Akiteru’s closet. The two talk a while, and Akari is more candid and direct than usual as she reports on the recent year to her former Daimyo. She then audaciously tries to get him to act as one of her agents while he’s around. This brings a smile to the ghost’s face and he commends her learning well under Saki, Soichiro’s deceased wife and former Oniwaban to the Tensai.

Raijin leaves the current Oniwaban with a promise of aid and hints at troubles upon the horizon which he refuses to elaborate upon, no matter how much Akari badgers him to. As he departs, she asks him to scold the Karo for paying more attention to the ladies than his duties. The puts even a larger grin on the ghost’s face.

Soichiro is fond of the ladies


Kaisei is next but this time the former Daimyo decides to visit his Takumi in a dream. It is set in a pleasant summer day with Kaisei delivering his usual weekly report. This time around, the report is full of concerns about the nobles being too full of themselves and unnecessarily difficult. Kaisei’s worry and concern is written all over the report along with his anxieties regarding the well-being of his recently adopted daughter, Natsumi.

Then there are the duties of the Karo that Soichiro, Raijin’s father-n-law, have been foisting on Kaisei with increasing regularity. This man bears the burden of two duties on his back and yet he does not break, and the deceased Daimyo realizes that this is not the time for criticism, no matter how good natured or dire warnings, no matter how urgent. Raijin goes over the reports as he used to and ends the audience with his usual praise and says that he looks forward to the next report.

The ghost returns to his Onmyouji and feels compelled to explain himself regarding the akuma. The akuma had threatened the clan so he bought the clan time by challenging them, in the process rescuing Tenka who in some way is vital to the safety and future of the clan and must be protected at all costs. Yugiri listens to all of this with half an ear as he prepares a lantern with Raijin’s name on it: the Onmyouji intends to have the young Daimyo send off his father to his rest after the festival. Raijin notes this and sighs. There is no stopping Yugiri once he has set his mind on something. But ghost has one more errand to run…

In the geisha house, Raijin possesses one of the geisha in order to talk to Soichiro, who shrieks in surprise but manages to regain his composure. After making sure that his deceased wife Saki is nowhere near, the Karo gives his former Daimyo a report. Raijin is pleased with what he hears and chides his father-in-law for foisting the duties of the Karo on an already harried Kaisei. When Soichiro offers the excuse that he is personally overseeing the training of Tenka, the former Daimyo sighs and accepts what Soichiro says, admonishing him that Tenka must never be left alone and unattended.

Raijin visits Soichiro at the geisha house


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Ninth Panel
Changes
Lady Kiko dancing


As Kaisei and the long-suffering Keiko make their rounds among the nobles handing out invitations, they decide to take a break and stop by the geisha house where they are greeted by Setsuna, the Head Geisha.

Setsuna takes Kaisei aside and discreetly asks him for a favor: it seems that ever since Soichiro announced the competition at the summer festival, the nobles have been tripping over each other in an attempt to out do one another. While the are all earnest in their efforts, not all of them bear sweet fruit. Just as the Takumi has started wondering why the Head Geisha has started talking like the Onmyouji, she leads him to a room where he sees an elderly noble woman doing…something.

Kaisei watches in horror as the old woman carries on and is brought back to his senses by Setsuna’s explaining that the old woman had suddenly burst into the geisha house demanding to be taught how to dance. But she is so bad at it! Even a tree writhing in a typhoon has more grace! What’s more, the old woman clearly puts her heart into her efforts that the geishas cannot help but feel like cheering her on, which leaves them all feeling very confused and conflicted. So, after that lengthy preamble, the favor the Head Geisha asks is this: please tell the old lady that she has no hope of learning how to dance!

Mariko, Susume, and Setsuna provide musical accompaniment


As the Takumi contemplates the task before him, he hears the hurried shutting of a sliding door and the muffled guffawing of Keiko. His normally stoic and impassive secretary had finally cracked, Kaisei decided. Off to a corner of the room, he spies Mariko and Susume on the Koto and Shamisen respectively, desperately trying to keep straight faces as the old woman, whom Setsuna identified as Lady Kiko, directs them to accompany her dance.

The Takumi also notices Akari (disguised as Akiteru) enjoying the scene. That the Oniwaban seems to be making bets with a tanuki doesn’t register as strange to Kaisei for some reason, even when the tanuki seems to be betting on him. Finally, the Takumi catches sight of Natsumi who apparently has been following him and Keiko all this time. The little kitsune seems to be fascinated by the elder lady’s attempt at dancing and imitates the movements. In contrast to those of the old woman, the little fox’s movements come across as cute and Kaisei gets an idea.

The Takumi talks to Lady Kiko to ascertain what her reasons are for wanting to learn how to dance and she confirms what Setsuna said about wanting to win the contest. But Kaisei senses something behind the old woman’s words. She seems to have her own reasons for wanting to win, as if to show someone up. As the old woman replies to the questions of the Takumi, she does not interrupt her movements, as if trying to remember a dance that she had performed so, so long ago. Kaisei looks around and notes that the other geisha have put up screens to prevent their patrons from laughing at the old lady’s efforts.

Natsumi


Natsumi continues to imitate the movements of Lady Kiko and has started adding flourishes of her own. There is a look of concentration on that little girl’s face, as if trying to remember the steps to a dance that she had once memorized but had forgotten. Kaisei suggests to Lady Kiko that she might consider sharing the stage with his adopted daughter and implies that he would be in her debt if she agreed.

The old woman pauses and looks skeptically at the Takumi, wondering what the catch was to his offer. Then she looks at the little fox as she dances and the eyes of the old woman light up in recognition. Lady Kiko joins in the dance with Natsumi eliciting a gasp of admiration from Mariko, Susume, and Setsuna. There may have been some fox-magic involved but the performance of the musicians improves in quality and the other geishas and their patrons started turning their screens to watch the pair perform.

Silence falls upon the room save for the music of koto and shamisen and the chiming of the tiny bells that both dancers wear in their hair. A stillness reigns as the audience seems to hold their breath so that only the hush and swish of the hems of the kimonos of the dancers and the fans in their hands could be discerned. When the dance ends, quiet applause ripples across the room, as if the audience was reluctant to disturb the calm that the dance had summoned.

Lady Kiko and Natsumi dancing


A chirrup of delight from Natsumi breaks the spell as she unselfconsciously hugs Lady Kiko. The old woman, on her part, kneels as she returns the hug with tears in her eyes. She glances at the Takumi and nods her assent, much to Keisei’s the relief: this one, at least, would not lose any face at the festival. Indeed, she might even amass honor and esteem.

Akiteru notes that Kaisei had resolved the situation well, even though the Oniwaban had lost her bet to her friend Goro. The tanuki happily pockets his winnings and regales Akari with his plans to liven up the summer festival at the invitation of Onmyouji no less. Goro even adds that even the goddess Inari seemed to be willing to play along. However, the tanuki made it clear that neither he nor his kin would touch Lady Kiko because she seems to be under the protection of a kitsune.

Akari can only smile at the enthusiasm of her tanuki friend as the wound in her side begins to bother her. She needs to doff the guise of Akiteru soon and return to her sickbed. It would not do to have Kaisei discover her secret now. That would be most inconvenient. But first, one last task to carry out.

The Oniwaban talks to Mariko and Susume confirms that they are both willing to be her agents. Akari makes it clear that there is no shame or loss on their part if they refuse. Should they agree, their duties would be limited to information gathering for the moment while their training is still at an early stage.

Both Maiko agree to be agents and both voice the desire to be trained so that they may be useful. Pleased at this, Akari, entrusts them both to Setsuna for their initial training. The Head Geisha welcomes the new additions to her stable. She then updates the Oniwaban about the state of things but soon notices Akari’s wound and inquires about it with a degree of concern. Akari reassures her Head Geisha that it is a minor inconvenience caused by a horse’s kick. At that, the Oniwaban makes a hurried exit.

“I was kicked by a horse”


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Eighth Panel
Webs
The Buddhist Monk


A Jesuit, a Buddhist monk, and a Shinto priest ask for an audience with the Onmyouji, the first to pay his respects and the latter two to report serious news. Yugiri chooses to meet with the latter and postpones meeting the foreign priest for later…much, much later.

The two holy men share news with Yugiri that there have been disturbing reports of people seeing dead loved ones come back to life. Among those who reported this was Susume who had reported seeing her deceased father, Yuichiro. When the Onmyouji presses his informants for details, he realizes that a majority of the reports come from those who were once under the Su.

The Onmyouji thanks his informants and sends them off, choosing to deal with an immediate concern first. He lays out the corn that he had filched from Kaisei’s brunch earlier and calls out to any tanuki that may be nearby to partake of them. Goro, the tanuki Akari had befriended, shows up and inquires what the Onmyouji wants in return for all the lovely corn that he had supplied. Inari also makes an appearance, curious as to what Yugiri has in mind.

Yugiri describes, in his usual roundabout way, the problem with the nobles and how he has been tasked to please both the kami and the nobles at the upcoming summer festival while managing to humble the nobles without them losing face or incurring shame. Goro concludes that these nobles need to grow a sense of humor and is delighted with the challenge. The tanuki starts to rapidly count off the ways he plans play with the nobles of the Tensai to make them laugh with each other and gleefully thinks about calling in the rest of his extensive extended family to lend a hand.

Inari is delighted at the prospect of a full blown summer festival since the Su never really put any effort into mounting one but voices her concern that the tanuki may go overboard. Yugiri remains silent on the matter.

The Lady Kumo Comes A Calling


Akari wakes from sleep to find Lady Kumo dangling mere centimeters from her face. The Lady of Spiders warns the Oniwaban of trouble to come and hints that there are a few things that Akari has failed to notice. The kami also encourages her to learn more about the weapon that inflicted her wound because knowing how to use such a weapon might be useful in the future. Having said that, The Lady of Spiders departs, leaving the shaken Oniwaban feeling that she has stepped off the deep end.

Takeshi and Kaisei decide to look in on their injured colleague and see how she is doing. The Takumi is particularly worried about Akari’s injury which she tries to downplay. Kaisei vents about the bullies who appear to be after his dear Natsumi and asks Kyoya to be assigned to him as an agent. Takeshi immediately jumps in at this and states that it would be impossible for the Oniwaban to grant Kaisei’s request. When Kaisei asks why, the Hatamoto blurts out that the girl is pregnant before Akari can form a reply, forcing her to play along with him.

Kaisei relents and takes his leave to summon the nobles, both Tensai and former Su, to an assembly where Soichiro will announce the competition at the summer festival that is open to all the nobles. The prize for the most impressive display put up by a noble house is recognition from the Karo along with unstated privileges that accompany it. Kaisei spends his time giving out the invitations personally, intimidating those that he dislikes.

Kaisei Handing Out Invitations to the Nobles of the Tensai


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Seventh Panel
Crises
Brunch with the Takumi of the Tensai


The officers convene in the office of the Takumi for a brunch of roasted corn and tea. Soichiro, the Karo, who has been gradually foisting his responsibilities onto Kaisei in order to better focus on Tenka’s training, makes one of his increasingly rare appearances. Murasaki, the Kaishaku, shows up dressed up as a Miko “just to see how it feels”, much to the bewilderment of most of the other officers except Yugiri who does not seem to notice. Natsumi, the Yojimbo-in-training, who is happily munching on a cob of corn, does not seem to notice the significance of the Kaishaku’s choice of clothing either. Akari shows up as Akiteru, having changed clothes and bound up her wound.

Kaisei tries to ignore his burgeoning migraine as he updates his fellow officers of the rumors and rumblings of discontent among the nobles of the Tensai who felt that they had been snubbed by not having been given a part in the first celebration of Tenka’s seventh birthday. A suggestion is floated that perhaps the nobles could be given a chance to show off at the upcoming summer festival.

Soichiro declares that he has complete faith in the ability of the gathered officers to resolve this issue and makes to leave but finds that he is unable to because Akiteru has deliberately put his entire weight on the hem of the Karo’s hakama, preventing him from rising. Peeved at this, but unable to scold his adopted grandchild, Soichiro chooses to vent his frustration on the Onmyouji who has been quietly hoarding corn cobs and trying his best to be inconspicuous. The Karo issues a direct order to Yugiri to oversee the summer festival and to see to it that both the nobles and the kami are pleased by it.

Yugiri and Soichiro


The Onmyouji tries to deflect the task put to him but the Takumi seconds the motion, eager to pass the problem of the nobles onto someone else. The two officers start haggling about minutiae with the Karo regarding the summer festival when all of the sudden the Oniwaban collapses in a faint into her adopted grandfather’s lap, a red stain in her side visibly growing larger.

The meeting dissolves into confusion as Takeshi, Soichiro and Keiko all move to aid the fallen Akari. Takeshi orders Keiji to carry his childhood friend to his room. The Hatamoto’s left-hand man obeys with the alacrity that the Suzaku have become (in)famous for and moves with speed, carrying the limp form of the Oniwaban out of the room. Soichiro and Keiko follow close behind.

Kaisei turns on a bewildered Kazuhira and demands to know how the Oniwaban incurred such a serious wound and what the meaning of this was. The only thing the right-hand man of the Hatamoto could offer was an account of how the Oniwaban incurred the wound. When the Takumi tries to get details from Yugiri, the Onmyouji deflects the matter so deftly that Kaisei is turned around and finds himself apologizing to Yugiri instead of getting any details.

When Kaisei’s attention is turned to the Onmyouji, Kazuhira takes the opportunity to speak to Murasaki concerning her contemplating becoming a Miko. He tells her that the Suzaku see her as their little sister and will support her in anyway they can. The Hatamoto’s right-hand man assures her that he would even talk to Takeshi on her behalf if need be.

Murasaki’s Choice


Keiji moves quickly to carry the unconscious Akari to the room of the Hatamoto. Unfortunately, the room that he knows is in the barracks. It doesn’t take Takeshi long to realize this and quickly steer his left-hand man to his room in the main clan house. They get to the room ahead of Soichiro and Keiko and shut the door. Takeshi instructs Keiji to let no one in except the physician that Keisei had the presence of mind to summon.

When the healer arrives, the old man finds Akari laid out with only her wound visible. As the physician tries to examine the Oniwaban, Takeshi intervenes, preventing the healer from stumbling over the secret of his childhood friend. Though the physician persists, the Hatamoto manages to bully the old man into focusing solely on the wound. The healer relents and treats Akari, noting that though the wound is grave, the patient is in no danger but would have to rest for at least a season, ideally two, lest the wound re-open. The blade that caused the wound was particularly vicious, having pierced several organs.

All this time, both Soichiro and Keiko chafe at being kept from entering the room. Kaisei, having adjourned the meeting, soon joins them and demands to talk to Takeshi. The Hatamoto emerges from the room escorting the physician out. After being assured that his adopted grandchild is safe, Soichiro takes his leave and makes his way to the geisha house. Kaisei sends Keiko on an errand and he and Takeshi speak privately. The main concern of the Takumi is that with the Oniwaban laid low, the clan has lost a resource. The Hatamoto counters that this is not so because Akari is still able to think and that is where the real resource lies.

Akari Bedridden


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