Accounts of Strange Incidents

Sixth Panel
Ambushed by Ninjas!

Akari’s investigations seem to lead her nowhere because of the mystery of the one Takuma referred to as “The Missing One” who seems to sit at the center of it all—like a spider in its web, the Oniwaban finds herself musing. She decides to change tack and looks over the list surviving former Su nobles. From this she chooses to visit one who seemed to be the most suitable for her to approach, a widow named Kasumi who has a five-year-old son named Yoshirou.

Kasumi lost her husband to his gambling debts long before the war between the Su and Tensai started. The Oniwaban, taking on the guise of Akiteru, decides that the best way to approach the mother would be through her son. Akari befriends the and gets herself invited to tea.

Over tea the Oniwaban makes small talk and does all she can to put the widow at ease, even to the point of doffing the mask that Akiteru habitually wears. Slowly, and by degrees, Kasumi warms up to Akiteru and lets slip certain details of her life. For instance, the widow and her son have not been treated very well by the nobles of the Tensai or even of the Su. The boy plays by himself, ostracized by his peers, and has more than once complained to his mother about feeling looked down upon by those he once called friends.

Seeing tears well up in the widow’s eyes, the Oniwaban suggests that they go for a stroll in the lanes by the shrine and Kasumi agrees, hoping to regain her composure. As they walk, Akari hints that she may be able to arrange for Yoshirou meet new playmates by having him study at the geisha school that the Daimyo himself attends.

Akari and Her Mask

Suddenly a group of peasants attack the Oniwaban and the widow and it seems that Kasumi is their actual target. Akari defends her and is injured in the process. It dawns on the Oniwaban that the movements of the peasants are too smooth and precise to be those of simple peasants: their attackers are ninja!

The attack occurs in broad daylight and is witnessed by peasants tending the gardens beside the shrine. They hurry to the officers nearby and report to them what has befallen the Oniwaban. Yugiri, Murasaki, and Takeshi rush to the scene followed by Inari and Kawa but all are too late to stop the attack. The assailants are able to escape cleanly, leaving Akari bleeding on the ground.

Helped up by her childhood friend, the Oniwaban checks on the widow and sees that she is tended to by the Onmyouji and the Kaishaku. Inari embraces the woman, calming her hysterics while Kawa allows the widow to hug her quieting the woman further. Yugiri raises an eyebrow as he notices Kasumi briefly flinch before accepting the comfort from the little fox. The Oniwaban and the Hatamoto rush to the house of the widow to check on Yoshirou whom Akari fears has also be targeted.

(At this point the table chooses to declare that Kasumi is actually none other than The Missing One, the Oniwaban of the Su. She had manipulated Akiteru into launching an investigation that would bring the plight of her family to the attention of the officers. So deft is her manipulation that none suspect her, not even her son, Yoshirou.)


Akiteru and Takeshi find Kasumi’s household in a panic: the ninja had also been there and had turned everything topsy-turvy. The boy is badly frightened and clinging to his nurse but is otherwise unhurt. The rest of the household are likewise deeply frightened but suffer no physical harm. Takeshi has his Ashigeru secure the area and the Hatamoto attends to his friend’s wound when the latter starts to feel its effects. The Hatamoto takes special care to ensure that his friend’s secret remains intact.

When the others catch up to Akari and Takeshi, they witness Yugiri pause, hesitate, and suddenly withdraw because of something that apparently only he can sense. Akari sees this, looks around the house, and sees Lady Kumo hovering nearby. The Oniwaban gets up and, against the protests of her friend, takes the Kami outside to talk. At the same time, Inari moves to Takeshi’s and warns him against the Kami that his childhood friend has gotten involved in. The two goddesses acknowledge each other but take no action.

The Lady Kumo turns her attention back to Akari and expresses her disappointment in the Oniwaban implying that the Kami had taken Akari on as an apprentice of sorts. When the Lady Kumo tells the Oniwaban that she may be missing something, Akari voices her suspicions about the ninja attacks since no one had been hurt and no lasting damage had been dealt. At this the Lady of Spiders seemed less disappointed, leaving Akari even more perturbed.

(The table establishes at this point that Kasumi’s only motivation is to secure the future of her son. She is not at all interested in moving against the Tensai.)

Kumo, Lady of Spiders

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Fifth Panel
“Can you read, write, and do sums?"

When Takeshi receives a note from his childhood friend Akari regarding Daichi, the first thing the Hatamoto asks the shaken peasant is if he knows his letters and numbers to which Daichi surprisingly replies that he does. Takeshi immediately assigns the peasant to the beleaguered Kazuhira who is struggling with the accounts of the Hatamoto’s personal unit, the Suzaku.

When Kazuhira learns that Daichi can read, write, and do sums, the Hatamoto’s right hand man enthusiastically welcomes the peasant and immediately sets him to work untangling the expenses of the unit and setting their records straight. In addition, he instructs Daichi to teach the other members of the unit to read and write. It is good to have someone else who is literate in the Suzaku!

Murasaki at her Chores

Takeshi wonders what Daichi would know that would be such a threat to his life that he needs protecting. Akari seems to know something but isn’t telling. As the Hatamoto muses on the cloud hanging over his new clerk, he hears Inari’s amused tittering causing him to command his men to search the barracks for hidden intruders. The Suzaku search thoroughly (it is what they have become famous for) but turn up nothing. This causes Takeshi great concern and prompts him to seek answers from the Onmyouji.

The Hatamoto finds Yugiri napping on the steps of the shrine of Inari with Kawa, visible on his lap and Murasaki, broom in hand, dozing at his feet. Takeshi makes his approach known, waking the three up. Kawa takes the time to comment to the Onmyouji before vanishing into the brush that the clan might lose a Kaishaku but gain a Miko.

Murasaki upon seeing the Hatamoto blushes furiously at having been caught in such an indecorous state causing Takeshi to suspect that the Onmyouji and the Kaishaku may have been up to something indiscreet. In spite of appearances, Takeshi grabs Yugiri and forces the Onmyouji to walk with him. Unable to resist the forceful Hatamoto, Yugiri meekly follows and listens to Takeshi as he rants about his suspicions that he is being stalked by a woman.

Crows Startled into Flight

The Onmyouji tries to brush the suspicions aside and deflect the questions of the increasingly agitated Hatamoto but Inari’s giggling and rejoinders serve to only add fuel to the fire, driving Takeshi close to hysteria. Yugiri, sensing this, suggests that the Hatamoto pray directly to Inari at her shrine. Desperate, Takeshi does as his fellow officer bids and Inari chooses to manifest before him. This causes the Hatamoto to let out such a yelp of consternation that it causes the crows take to the air in alarm, grabs the attention of everyone within earshot, and causes Kazuhira and Keiji to scan the sky in concern over their commanding officer.

Murasaki comes running with her broom and Takeshi rounds on Yugiri for making the clan’s Kaishaku sweep when she could be training with the Suzaku. With an enigmatic shrug, the Onmyouji brushes off the Hatamoto’s indignation, indicating that Takeshi should direct all his attention to the Kami in front of him instead of being concerned about the dignity of a holder of a worldly office. The Hatamoto quickly apologizes to the goddess and abases himself before her, declaring himself unworthy of her attention. Inari remains amused with Takeshi and decides to grant him the favor of watching over his new clerk who, it appears to her, is causing the Hatamoto a lot of concern.

Inari Makes a Promise

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Fourth Panel
A vIsit to the swordsmith

Akari is sought out by a tearful and frightened Mariko who begs for protection for her father, Daichi: he woke up to find a blade embedded in his pillow. Akari promises to bring this situation to the attention of her superiors and takes the blade from the frightened Maiko.

Akari instructs Daichi to seek refuge with the Ashigaru of Takeshi and sends the frightened peasant with a letter to her childhood friend. Then, taking on the guise of Akiteru, the Oniwaban traces the blade to the sword smith who forged it, Takuma.

Once under the employ of the Su Clan, Takuma appears unimpressed by Akiteru’s demon mask, and is more concerned about the fates of his various blades which he refers to as his ‘children’. He is annoyed that the blade that Akari brings him remains undedicated and is used as a mere threat. He identifies it as having been made for the Oniwaban of the Su Clan which he thought was an empty office since he had never seen that Oniwaban in person, going as far as sardonically referring to the holder of that office ‘The Missing One’.

Takuma then wonders aloud about the fate of the family blade of the Su Clan and is informed by Akari that it has a new owner, Murasaki. The sword smith then voices his hope that the blade be rededicated to its new owner soon but does not elaborate why. Takuma then shows Akari around his workshop and the Oniwaban is impressed enough with his work that she commissions a blade for each of the officers of the Tensai. The sword smith accepts the commission and expresses his gratitude.

“The blade must be dedicated to its new wielder”

Meanwhle, Kaisei finds himself wading through a voluminous pile of letters from the nobles of the Tensai, many of which express veiled displeasure at having been relegated to the second seventh birthday celebration of the Daimyo instead of being invited to the first celebration. Helping the beleaguered Takumi is his equally harassed secretary and aide, Keiko. Kaisei’s patience is tried when he comes across several badly written haiku repeating the complaint of the nobles and nearly explodes when he comes across letters attacking Natsumi and her being assigned the office of Yojimbo.

Kaisei instructs Keiko to sort the letters into separate piles according to their content. He declares that he would use the ones that threaten or criticize his adopted daughter as fuel to roast corn over. As he does so, Natsumi walks in and, misunderstanding what she overhears, gets very excited over the prospect of roasted corn, forcing the Takumi to make good on his declaration.

Keiko, as efficient as ever, very quickly creates the letter piles that her Takumi ordered and Kaisei notices that there is a separate pile of letters from the nobles formerly of the Su. These letters are more respectful and restrained and more than a few are ingratiating. Some complain of not being treated as equals or of being socially excluded—typical, the Takumi notes, for the game of nobles. Still, Kaisei cannot help but wonder how many of the former Su would prefer to see their fallen clan rise up again.

Kaisei and Keiko sorting letters

Elsewhere, Yugiri unhappily reads a note from Akari (in the guise of Akiteru) brought to him by Kyoya (another of Akari’s disguises) regarding the task of rededicating the blades of the Su Clan to their new owners. The Onmyouji has Kawa return the note to Kyoya’s bag, making it seem that the geisha had forgotten to deliver the note. Yugiri then makes his way to the barracks where Kazuhira, Takeshi’s right hand, is overseeing Murasaki’s training. The Onmyouji asks the Kaishaku to accompany him to the shrine where he recently installed Inari and there he sets the young maiden to sweeping the shrine’s court.

Murasaki, while an accomplished swordsman, is surprisingly clumsy with a broom and she struggles with it, much to the amusement of Inari and Kawa. The little fox decides to manifest itself beside the maiden and tease her by running circles around her. Murasaki instinctively responds by trying to swat Kawa but misses. The game continues for a while with Murasaki gradually mastering her broom.

The Onmyouji observes that though she is a maiden, she does not seem to be familiar or comfortable with the chores that maidens are traditionally assigned. Murasaki responds with sadness and a bit of bitterness that she has had to live by the sword all her life. She had to learn to defend herself against the threats of slavery and rape that she was always subjected to.

The maiden’s story moves Inari to declare to Yugiri that she would gladly accept Murasaki as her Miko, her shrine maiden, should the Kaishaku be so inclined to relinquish her office. The Onmyouji, watching the maiden continue to play with the little fox and seeing her gradually gain confidence in the use of her broom, decides to leave the scene for a bit to attend to other matters.

Murasaki sweeping

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Third Panel
Yugiri goes wandering

It is suddenly Summer and the officers of the court assess what has been accomplished in the last season and what needs to be done in the current one. Soichiro, the Karo, points out that the clan has neither a Yojimbo for Tenka nor a Kaishaku for the clan. He also observes that the clan swords of both the Tensai and the Su have not been recovered after the conquest of Chisu. This prompts Yugiri to share that he has heard of a wandering swordsman bearing two swords, one of which fits the description of the Clan Sword of the Tensai.

Takeshi wonders aloud if the wandering swordsman had earned the right to those swords by prowess or had simply looted them off of the corpses of their wielders. Soichiro decides that there is only one way to find out: confront the swordsman. If one of the swords indeed turns out to be the clan sword of the Tensai, Soichiro wants it back. And if the other sword happens to be that of the Su, even better. As the Karo gets up, he charges Kaisei with the task of recruiting a replacement Kaishaku and Yojimbo, adding that it would be good if the Yojimbo developed a close bond with the Daimyo.

The wanderer with two swords

Akari and Takeshi choose to go after the wandering swordsman while Kaisei stays behind to figure out how to replace the fallen Kaishaku and Yojimbo. Yugiri, on his part, chooses to help the other officers by going wandering and seeing where the kami and unmei choose to bring him.

The Onmyouji finds himself led to a site that he senses is sacred and which he then realizes is the same spot that Raijin visited just before launching his attack on Chisu. Alerted by Kawa’s growls, Yugiri focuses his attention on the site and discerns a familiar shape: that of his late Daimyo. Raijin, now a ghost, seems surprised that Yugiri can see him and strides up in his usual brazen manner to the discomfited Onmyouji.

The shade of the late Daimyo seems desperate as he asks Yugiri for news about Tenka and is frustrated by the usual cryptic riddling of the Onmyouji. What is clear, however, is that Raijin is chained to the spot and is unable to depart. When Yugiri points this out, the late Daimyo retorts that the Onmyouji is in the same boat as he, except that the Onmyouji has a longer tether. The exchange ends with Raijin extracting a promise from Yugiri to serve Tenka to the best of his ability and, in return, offering whatever help he can give as a spirit. As the Onmyouji departs, the late Daimyo expressed relief that his fears had not come to pass and that Tenka had reliable allies.

Raijin’s ghost

Meanwhile, Akari, accompanied by Takeshi and his bodyguard, follow a trail of rumors that describe a swordsman bearing two swords and it doesn’t take them long to to catch up to the wanderer. Akari decides to go ahead of Takeshi and his men to ascertain the character of the wanderer and find out how he came to possess the swords. As she catches up to thewanderer, she hears him whistling a popular tune. Though the wanderer reacts in a friendly enough manner to Akari’s greeting and questions, he appears to be reluctant to talk about the swords he carries and seems to be overly possessive of them.

The Oniwaban decides to change tack and talks about the possibility of employment, which the wanderer seems receptive to, provided the circumstances are to his liking. When Akari inquires which circumstances he means, the wanderer counts off his conditions: a comfortable living situation, the freedom to enjoy fine, beautiful days such as this, and the company of people he can hold in esteem.

Akari pounces on this and says that her employer can easily meet such conditions provided that he can, in turn, meet the conditions and requirements of her employer. The wanderer confidently declares that he can meet any requirement put to him and the Oniwaban proposes that he demonstrate his prowess on her colleague. She continues that this will, in turn, demonstrate the quality of the people who serve her employer. To her relief, the wanderer agrees and she tells him of the troop resting nearby. He rests his hand on the swords at his hips and asks her to lead him to them, unfazed by the prospect of being outnumbered.

What was mercifully averted

The Oniwaban introduces the Hatamoto to the wanderer as an esteemed colleague and Takeshi pointedly asks if the wanderer knows how to use the swords he wears. When the wanderer nods, Takeshi calls for bokken from his men and demands that the wanderer prove that he does. The wanderer asks for a second bokken saying that he always fights dual blade style and Takeshi acquiesces. Akari hears a voice at her elbow betting against the Hatamoto: it is her friend the tanuki. She smiles and bets on her childhood friend, Takeshi. The stakes: everything she has paid the tanuki to date.

The duel is fast and fierce and in the course of it the wanderer is revealed to be female. While this causes Takeshi to raise his eyebrows, it does not catch him off guard, allowing him to defeat the wanderer, much to the disgust of the tanuki who pays up and slinks off. Takeshi concedes that the wanderer is indeed extremely skilled and is entitled to keep the blades she wears, even though one of them is the clan sword of the Tensai. But when Takeshi states that only the Kaishaku of the clan may keep the sword, the wanderer tenses up and asks the Hatamoto what he plans to do about it, to which the Hatamoto replies nonchalantly that he plans to offer her the post. The wanderer accepts and introduces herself as Murasaki.

The swordswoman Murasaki

The journey home is without incident save for when Yugiri catches up with the party and nearly uncovers Akari’s secret, much to her annoyance.

Back at court, Kaisei has decided to observe Tenka to better understand what sort of person would be fitting to be the Daimyo’s bodyguard. Despite the mystery surrounding him—seven years ago, Raijin suddenly presented Tenka as his heir and would brook no questions—the young Daimyo appears to be a normal child, interested in the things that interest boys his age. The Takumi watches as his Daimyo plays cat’s cradle with the Maiko and notes that one particular girl has taken on the role of ringleader.

Unlike the other clans, the Tensai have taken it upon themselves to provide their peasants with some sort of education, and thanks to the insistence of the Karo, this has taken the form of training Maiko. Because of this, the women of Taishou have developed a reputation of being both wise and wily. The ringleader appears to be wiser and wilier than her peers and seems to have captured the admiration of the young boy. The Takumi asks Setsuna the girl’s name and finds out that she is Natsumi and is one the foundlings that the Head Geisha has taken in.

Kaisei’s musings are interrupted by his Daimyo’s wanting to play cat’s cradle with him and the Takumi, naturally, obliges. As the Daimyo excitedly shows off what he has learned from Natsumi, Kaisei asks the boy his opinion of the girl. The boy positively gushes with praise and when the Kaisei asks who protects whom, the boy shyly admits that more often than not it is Natsumi that protects him than the other way around. After a while, the Daimyo takes his leave expressing his disappointment that his Takumi, though good at cat’s cradle, is nowhere as good as Natsumi is.

A game of cat’s cradle

Kaisei decides to speak to the girl and is pleased to find her agreeable and pleasant. He also discovers that she, in fact, is a kitsune, and he asks her what her intentions toward the daimyo are. The girl guilelessly expresses affection for the boy, saying that she would like to watch over him. When asked why she chose to become a Maiko, she confesses that it was the opportunity to learn new things that attracted her: the reputation of the women of Teishou was starting to spread.

The Takumi decides that he had found his Daimyo’s Yojimbo and offers the girl the post. She asks what this entails and accepts after Kaisei outlines her duties, saying that protecting Tenka comes easily to her. In addition, the Takumi offers to formally adopt her to place her under his protection and Natsumi also accepts this.

The officers gather and assess the situation of the clan. The posts of Kaishaku and Yojimbo have been filled, though the Yojimbo is actually still in training. The clan sword had been recovered as well as that of the Su Clan. The rumors that the agents of the officers have gathered point to a third party that had driven the Su Clan to attack the Tensai and what is worrying is that many gambling dens have been reported to be appearing in neighboring provinces raising concerns that the tragedy that befell the Su would happen to other clans. Closer to home, Akari’s agents heard rumors that one of the nobles of the clan is working with the resistance of Chisu but no names have come up.

The geisha school of the Tensai

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Second Panel
In the gambling den of the Su

After dealing with the assassination attempt, the officers of the Tensai Clan convene and come up with a plan to rescue the hostages in the gambling den. It was decided that Yugiri would remain with Tenka and Soichiro and oversee the celebrations at the end of the ceremony while Akari, Kaisei, and Takeshi rescue the girls.

Deciding that the direct approach is best, the Hatamoto and the Takumi choose to march straight into the gambling den and declare the ownership of the Tensai Clan over it. Backed by Takeshi’s ashigaru, they prove to be an intimidating presence causing even the samurai among the gamblers to freeze in fear. Takeshi looks over the pathetic crew and singles out two samurai who had formerly served under the Su Clan.

The apprehension in the air thickens as hands reach for swords and eyes harden, waiting for someone to draw their blade first. Kaisei, normally a voice of reason and calm, simply remains quiet but takes on a stern demeanor, adding to the tension in the air. Everyone freezes, becoming a tableau out of a Noh drama, and all is silent save for the quiet rattling of dice in a cup by a nervous, lowly gambler.

This provides Akari with the perfect distraction as she goes around the back in search of the hostages. Who does she run into but the tanuki from the incident of the storage house! She asks the tanuki if he knows of any girls who are being held against their will in the gambling den and he nods. When the Oniwaban asks to be led to them, the tanuki holds out an open paw: it is playing the haggling game again.

“You drive a hard bargain, babe.”

Akari holds up a shiny coin and the tanuki takes on an injured expression: too small a compensation for what is at stake. Knowing that she does not have the time to waste, she makes one offer after another. The haggling goes back and forth until she is able to force the tanuki to settle for two shiny coins. Clearly unhappy with the outcome of the haggle but forced to accept it, the youkai nonetheless complements the Oniwaban’s haggling skills, telling her that she drives a hard bargain and calling her ‘babe’.

The tanuki leads her quickly through a maze of passages to a small windowless room where the two girls are. They are bound in a manner that suggests that they had been used sexually, but the first thing they ask about upon being freed is how their fathers are. Hope and fear mingle on the faces of the girls, Mariko, and Susume as Akari tells them the unvarnished truth of what brought her to them. She however gives the girls very little time to digest this as she bribes the tanuki with another shiny coin to lead the girls to the safety of the feast of Tenka and into the care of Setsuna the head geisha of the Tensai Clan. The tanuki seems to be especially eager to leave the gambling den and hurries off with the girls in tow.

The main mission accomplished, Akari must now find a way to get Kaisei and Takeshi out. She finds her way to the kitchens and rummages through the supplies for something she could use. She discovers that she can concoct something that makes anyone who imbibes it drowsy and, hopefully, sleepy. As she prepares it, she is startled by a familiar voice behind her. Akari turns and is taken aback not so much by the sudden appearance of the speaker as the speaker’s regal bearing. The speaker introduces herself as Lady Kumo.

Lady Kumo reveals herself

The woman announces to Akari that she will help the Oniwaban cleanse the filth that stains the land. Akari can clearly hear the distaste in Lady Kumo’s voice but is unsure what the object of Lady Kumo’s hatred really is. Nonetheless, the Oniwaban senses that it would be unwise to refuse such an offer and signals a tacit acceptance. Akari adjusts her clothing to appear as a serving girl of the gambling den and when she looks back up, the regal woman had vanished.

Moving quickly, the Oniwaban enters the main gambling hall and quietly offers everyone there a cup of tea, in an apparent attempt to break the thickening tension. By then, only the samurai remain, everyone else having chosen discretion over valor. As she gives out the tea, she warns the Hatamoto and the Takumi not to swallow what they drink and she makes it a point to ignore the ashigaru. The stand off continues and the former samurai of the Su Clan unconsciously sip from their cups. Kaisei pretends to take a sip and starts to explain in long winded and elaborate court language why the gambling den is now under the control of the Tensai Clan. Takeshi nods in support, now and then nudging awake an ashigaru who had started to nod off.

Before long, the concoction takes effect and the samurai fall asleep, much to the relief of the Hatamoto and the Takumi. But just as the Oniwaban opens the doors to the outside, a crashing sound is heard followed by the roar of fire. Flames spread preternaturally quickly and the Tensai are forced to beat a hasty retreat. Takeshi orders his ashigaru to pull out the unconscious samurai but the flames are too intense and Akari screams for everyone to leave. Uncertain of what to do, the ashigaru turn to their Hatamoto who reluctantly agrees and orders everyone out. As if on cue, the gambling den collapses into a heap of raging kindling. As everyone takes one last look before leaving Akari, becomes uncomfortably aware that she has incurred another debt.

The gambling den in flames

When the officers return to the celebration, they find it in full swing. Susume however, is mourning her dead father, Yuichiro, with Setsuna offering what comfort she can. Mariko meanwhile is celebrating her reunion with her father, Daichi who then pledges his life and that of his daughter to the service of the Tensai. When Susume voices her apprehension that she has no longer anyone and has no place to go, Setsuna offers to take her and Mariko under her wing as her new Maiko.

Once the celebrations die down and Tenka and Soichiro have withdrawn, Yugiri turns to the business of burying the dead. The attendants in charge of Yuichiro’s corpse bring it out for the Onmyouji to attend to, perhaps to divine more of the plot that nearly took the lives of the Hatamoto and the Oniwaban. As Yugiri protests that such a task is too much work and that the dead should be allow to keep their peace, Yuichiro’s corpse starts speaking. The voice is hollow and distant and Yugiri has to strain to understand what it is saying. He relays what he hears to Kaisei who dictates everything to his scribe.

The corpse reveals itself to be that of Yuichiro, a peasant of the Su Clan whose daughter, Susume was held hostage to compel him to carry out his attempted assassination. His suicide was to demonstrate that he had done his best and he implored the Tensai Clan to forgive him and his daughter and look after her.

The corpse finally laid to rest, the court takes stock of what has come to pass and lay out plans for the coming season. They spend the last month of Spring attending to the (thankfully!) mundane task of administering Teishou and Chisu, and ensuring that the peasants are happy and productive.

The work proves gratifying and engrossing and the officers wake up one morning to find that Summer had indeed arrived.

Taking care of court business

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First Panel
Cherry blossom viewing

It is spring and the officers of the court view the cherry blossoms and look on as the Karo, Soichiro, instructs Tenka, the young Daimyo, in the ways of life. In attendance, at the insistence of the Karo, are several young geisha.

Someone brings up the need to make preparations for the young Daimyo’s seven-year ceremony and suggests that perhaps it would be a good idea to hold said celebrations in Chisu, the recently conquered province. The court agrees: the peasants there must be made to understand to whom they now owe their loyalty. The Karo approves of the suggestion and leaves the officers to work out the details.

The officers make their way to Chisu, and along the way learn that the peasants there lack for food. They agree to look into the situation. After all, the Tensai have a reputation to uphold: ever are they kind to the peasants of their domain.

Yugiri the Onmyouji reluctantly agrees to inspect the shrine of Chisu even though he declares that he would rather wait for inspiration. He nonetheless makes his way to the shrine accompanied by Takeshi the Hatamoto and his personal guard, and is disappointed to discover that a neglected roadside shrine is all there is. Meanwhile, Takeshi, his memories of the battles of the conquest still fresh, orders his men to ensure that there are no traps in the area, telling them to turn over every stone if they have to, while he patrols a perimeter he had set up.

Overzealous ashigaru

His ashigaru take his orders literally and proceed with all diligence and much enthusiasm.

Before long, Yugiri hears a petulant female voice complaining at him about uncouth ashigaru tearing up the surroundings of the shrine. Recognizing the voice as that of a kami, perhaps that of the kami of the shrine itself, Yugiri tells Takeshi about the overzealousness of his men and soothes the invisible speaker by assuring her that he had brought her a playmate.

The Hatamoto castigates his men for being too literal minded and orders them to make amends. They do so with alacrity and zest by cleaning the area of the shrine until it sparkles. The Onmyouji directs the ashigaru and continues with his tasks, impressing the kami with his hard work and diligence despite his protestations to the contrary. The kami introduces herself as Inari and presents Yugiri with a little fox spirit as a token of esteem and to be his familiar and guide. Yugiri decides to name the little fox Kawa.

Meanwhile Akari the Oniwaban and Kaisei the Takumi hear rumors about a stock of rice hidden away by possible insurgents. Akari goes off to investigate these rumors while Kaisei stays to get a reading on the peasantry and cultivate goodwill with the crowds of curious—and apprehensive—-peasants who have gathered around the officers. He is able to not only to calm the fears of the peasants but is also able to gain their support and admiration as well on behalf of the Tensai Clan.

In the course of her investigations, Akari quietly spreads rumors that paint the Tensai in a positive light, making Kaisei’s work easier. Akari locates the storehouse which is guarded by soldiers formerly of the Su Clan and informs Takeshi. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches sight of a small creature scurrying away from the storehouse. Takeshi immediately goes to the storehouse, causes consternation among the guards, and orders his bodyguards to open the storehouse only to find it empty.

The sergeant who conveyed Akari’s report to Takeshi is dumbfounded while his Hatamoto impatiently demands an explanation. Akari realizes what the creature she caught sight of actually is and tracks it down. It is a tanuki. Meanwhile, Takeshi gives his men permission to literally turn over every stone in search of the missing rice.

A tanuki appears!

Akari haggles with the tanuki to show her where the rice is, certain that the youkai had something to do with its disappearance. The tanuki obliges the Oniwaban, apparently more interested in the game of haggling rather than getting any profit from it. Eventually an agreement is reached and the tanuki makes the rice appear again, much to the consternation of Takeshi’s ashigaru who end up under sacks of it. Takeshi, however, remains unimpressed and orders his men to see to the distribution of the rice. He then turns to the storehouse guards and orders them back to basic training not only to rid them of their bad habits but, more importantly, to make sure that they integrate properly with the rest of the soldiers of the Tensai Clan. When Takeshi announces that he would personally oversee their retraining, his bodyguard give the storehouse guards a look filled with pity and sympathy.

Takeshi decides that Akiteru and Kaisei also need to to train and sees to it that they do, much to their consternation.

During a break in Takeshi’s training, Akari hears a voice in her ear that introduces itself as Lady Kumo. It’s manner is familiar as it addresses Akari as a fellow weaver of webs and informs her that it will follow her progress with great interest. Just as mysteriously, the voice falls silent.

At long last the preparations for the Seventh Year Ceremony are complete and Yugiri and Soichiro prepare to receive Tenka in front of the roadside shrine of Inari. A lengthy procession shows off the young daimyo, escorted by his Hatamoto because the clan Yojimbo was killed in the conquest of Chisu. Inari sees the Daimyo and the Hatamoto and excitedly asks Yugiri if that’s the playmate that he had promised her. The Onmyouji nods cryptically and the kami exclaims how handsome her playmate is, mentioning in passing that the child he is escorting is not so bad looking either. At that moment, a chill ripples up and down Takeshi’s spine.

“Oh! How handsome my playmate is!”

The ceremony proceeds smoothly, but just as it builds up to its climax wherein the rays of the setting sun envelop the young Daimyo, as if to show that Amaterasu has favored the child, a fire breaks out ruining the effect and dispelling the glamour. The Hatamoto, the Oniwaban and the Takumi immediately spring into action, each one doing what each does best. Akari in the guise of Akiteru determined that the fire was set deliberately and sought out the identity of the arsonists, Kaisei draws the crowd’s attention away from the blaze and towards the Daimyo, and Takeshi and his men ensure that everyone at the celebration is safe. Yugiri calls down a blessing upon his fellow officers, granting them immunity from surprise. This proves timely as the fire turns out to be a ruse to lure the officers into an ambush.

Takeshi is attacked first but the blessing allows him to catch the assassin by surprise and overpower him. Unfortunately, the Hatamoto is unable to prevent the assassin from taking his own life.

Akari has better luck because her assailant suddenly finds himself entangled in webbing and is unable to commit suicide. As the Oniwaban subdues her assailant, Lady Kumo’s voice quietly informs her that she now in Lady Kumo’s debt. Ever pragmatic, Akari turns to the task at hand. In desperation, the failed assassin pleads for the life of his daughter and reveals that she is being held hostage at the gambling den of the Su Clan by those who refuse to recognize the authority of the Tensai Clan over Chisu.

Held hostage in a gambling den

end of the First Panel
to the Second Panel


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