Accounts of Strange Incidents

Twentieth Panel
Warnings
Akari by the stream with the iron sand


Akari sneaks off to the stream that has the iron sand in its bed to see what Takuma the blade smith is so particular about. She scoops up a handful and examines it closely. It has a bluish sheen that she has never seen before. Takeshi looks for Yugiri but is unable to find him, not knowing that the Onmyouji had made his way back to the base camp. Frustrated, the Hatamoto stomps to the stream where he finds that Akari has built up a pile of the blue sand and stuck a stick of incense on top of it.

Near the cave where the caravan is hidden, Yugiri has a conversation with Yamamoto about where the torii and the steps leading up to it are to be laid. Takeshi tries to contact Yamamoto to ask for permission to take some iron sand back to the Clan House of the Tensai, but gets no response. However, Odan is at hand and he takes it upon himself to gather up some iron sand in Akari’s sack and hand it to the Hatamoto with his compliments and assurances that the kami would not mind.

The former Takumi shares his thoughts with Takeshi saying that he is actually looking forward to a life of peace and quiet, to be remembered even in humble circumstances, and to work towards growing the settlement, which may include finding wives for the ronin. Akari asks about the former Oniwaban of the Su Clan but Odan knows nothing, saying that he has never even seen the Oniwaban in person.

“I have never seen the Oniwaban in person”


Kaisei and Takeshi finally catch up to Yugiri and pounce on him. Their business at the mountain concluded, the officers plant a banner by the stream, charge the ronin with the responsibility of protecting the domain as part of the holdings of the Tensai Clan, and make the journey back to Ranzan. The three-day journey back is uneventful but the officers return to find that Keiko has been coming down hard on the ashigaru for wolf-whistling Murasaki while she’s been teaching Tenka swordsmanship. Takeshi is doubly displeased.

The Onmyouji is joyously welcomed back by his acolytes who have been mourning his passing and Yugiri proclaims that the Hatamoto has the favor of the kami because he alone was able to change the fate of the a lowly and worthless Onmyouji. For good measure, Yugiri proclaims Takeshi as someone who can defy fate and protect someone marked by death.

The Lady Kumo visits Akari in the evening and expresses pleasure at the Oniwaban’s progress. The Lady of Spiders seems particularly pleased when Akari makes mention of Saki, saying that the Oniwaban’s adoptive grandmother would be particularly proud of her. Then, turning somber, the Lady Kumo advises Akari to be more alert still for her foes are subtle. The gambling dens may not be spreading physically, but the corruption that they breed is. The Spider kami says that the corruption originates from the West, and she foresees a time when black sails will darken the bays of Japan, like some grim omen from a foreign land. Akari thanks her and gives her some of the iron sand as a gift, which the Lady Kumo is happy to accept.

Later still that evening, Inari appears before Takeshi and asks about his trip to Hieiyama, revealing along the way that Yamamoto is her uncle.

“So how is uncle…?”


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Nineteenth Panel
Villagers
Ronin at the ready


Kaisei and Takeshi are revived and they declare that they are from the Tensai Clan. The Tensai ashigaru show themselves and a standoff between them and the ronin ensue. Yamamoto calls his men to him and diffuses the situation. The Hatamoto then reveals the Tensai have come to the mountain to ask permission to gather the iron sand that can be found only here.

The kami seems pleased with Takeshi and sets down the conditions where he will allow the Tensai to gather the sand: Yamamoto wants more people to worship him, a tori to be erected at the foot of the mountain, a burnt offering, and to be welcomed at the Tensai Clan shrine. Takeshi notes that many of the conditions are vague and indefinite so while he accepts them, he makes no promises.

Akari produces a box of incense and Yugiri proceeds to light them. Yamamoto adds that he wishes a shrine to be constructed at the stream where the iron sand is to be gathered and offerings to be placed therein each time iron sand is taken. Kaisei offers to take the kami’s ronin in and make them part of the Tensai Clan.

“I wish a shrine to be built”


After enumerating his requirements, Yamamoto fades away, leaving the ronin to deal with their societal issues on their own. For this, they turn to an elderly gentleman who seems to act as their leader when the kami is not around. This gentleman identifies himself as Odan, once the Takumi of the Su, and he looks very distressed and uncomfortable.

Odan explains that he and the ronin would rather live in the mountains, alive, hidden away, and forgotten rather than be called dishonorable for their refusal to commit seppuku when their clan was defeated, and he would not have the Tensai contaminate themselves with this dishonor. Nonetheless, Takeshi, remembering his humble roots, insists on taking the ronin in and making them honorable once again. The former Takumi relents and agrees to discuss terms with the officers, leaving the ronin under the care of Eiji, one of his sub-lieutenants.

Meanwhile, Yugiri walks among the ronin and engages them in conversation, all the while pretending to be oblivious to the situation. The various ronin he speaks to generally tell him the same story and air the same concern: that their former masters would demand that honor be satisfied with blood. The Onmyouji suggests that the men offer themselves as the guardians of the mountain, specifically of the source of the iron sand. They could build a formal settlement and not have to worry about matters of honor any longer because they would be but humble villagers but under the protection of the Tensai. The ronin are happy at that idea and many nominate Odan as their representative.


“You would be humble villagers but alive”

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Eighteenth Panel
Waves
The first day out


The first day of the journey starts early with everyone in good spirits save for Yugiri whose morose mood not even sunshine and the smiling greetings of peasants can lift. It takes a couple of days to move through Ranzan, the town just outside the Clan House, and the officers note that the town is growing prosperous and is gradually spreading out into the countryside.

By the end of the third day, the officers and their entourage find themselves at the foothills of Hieiyama which are steep and thick with hardwoods and fruit trees. The scouts Takeshi sends out locate a cave that is well-hidden and large enough to accommodate the caravan but is not defensible should the site be discovered. The officers choose to rely on stealth and make it their base, and then they, along with a small contingent of ashigaru, make their way cautiously up the mountain, following the landmarks that Takuma had described to Akari, eventually locating the stream that has the iron sand in its bed. The caution of the officers costs them time though: by the time they find the stream, it is late in the day.

Another of Takeshi’s scouts returns with a report that there is a camp of men upstream. The scout describes the men as unkempt, undisciplined, and apparently near to mutiny, but a large man exerted his authority over them and calmed them down. As the officers discuss their next move, the Hatamoto takes the precaution of sending a runner back to the main contingent for reinforcements. In the heat of the discussion, no one notices Yugiri slip away and change into his white burial clothes.

The men of the mountain


Akari also manages to slip away while Kaisei and Takeshi are distracted by the reports of the returning scouts, and she makes her way to the camp upstream, creeping in close enough to eavesdrop on the men of the mountain. She overhears them talking about having tracked a caravan up to the foothills only to have lost it somewhere in the lower forest. The big, well-built man that the mountain men defer to is addressed by them as Yamamotokami-sama, the kami of the mountain, and he appears to be displeased that the are uninvited guests in his mountain.

The kami suspects that the caravan is from the Tensai Clan that he had recently revealed himself to. He addresses his men who are revealed to be the ronin who are all that are left of the defeated Su Clan and tells them that he has just recently begun enjoying the feeling of being free and being under the jurisdiction of no mortal. Because of this he is reluctant to have yet another group of mortals stake a claim on him.

It is at this point that Yugiri stumbles in looking like someone searching for a place in which to commit seppuku, but not before writing his nature-inspired death tanka. Yamamoto makes this observation to the Onmyouji and tells him that the mountain he is in is for those seeking life, not death. Yugiri asks Yamamoto what he and his men are doing, and as a reply the kami sends his men off to search for other uninvited guests. At this Akari rushes back to where Kaisei and Takeshi are and reports what she has heard, all the while maintaining the masquerade of being Megumi.

Yamamotokamisama


The Hatamoto immediately instructs his runners to return stealthily back to the main caravan with an order to ready their defenses. Upon hearing about Yugiri’s antics, Kaisei loses his patience with the Onmyouji sparking a loud argument between the Hatamoto and the Takumi. Akari chooses to quietly slip away as this happens and, just as she does, witnesses some of the ronin capture her fellow officers and knock them out.

Yamamoto answers Yugiri and in the course of the conversation reveals that what he as the kami of the mountain wants is worshippers, not owners. He also adds that he has become cynical of temples and shrines because the kami within them have become more like pampered pets rather than honored deities. The Onmyouji on his part reveals that he has decided to die because a peer and he had an argument. As if on cue, the ronin appear dragging Kaisei and Takeshi with them.

Akari has followed her fellow officers and led a contingent of soldiers with her. She is barely able to restrain the soldiers from attacking the kami and the ronin.

On seeing the unconscious Hatamoto and Takumi, Yugiri comments off hand that some of the kami’s worshippers appear injured. To this the kami replies that he does not know who they are. At this Yugiri reveals himself as an Onmyouji and declares that he would be willing to accept Yamamotosama as yet one more among the many kami he already worships. This appears to please the kami.


“…as yet one more among the many kami that I already worship.”

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Seventeenth Panel
Preparations
Hieiyama


(I proposed that the table switch game systems from Blood and Honor (B&H) to Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) because the former could not support the kind of game that the table wants to play. B&H is all about tragedy and has a strong Player vs. Player bias whereas FAE allows the players more freedom in exploring their respective characters. The table accepted the proposal and Erich provided invaluable help to our transitioning game systems.)

It is the first month of Autumn and the officers are deep in discussion about traveling to Mount Hiei and securing the iron sand that Takuma the blacksmith says he needs to forge the swords that Akari had commissioned for the officers. The iron sand is of such quality that an army equipped with steel made from it would be formidable indeed. Soichiro, the Karo, is noticeably absent from this discussion, and for some reason more and more of his paperwork seems to find its way to the desk of Kaisei who seizes upon this fact to excuse himself from the trip.

Yugiri, on his part, claims to have cast an augury that warns of doom and death befalling those who travel to the mountain. In spite of this, and after much pressure and even much more cajoling, both the Takumi and the Onmyouji are persuaded to go.

Takeshi, ever mindful of the condition of his childhood friend, decrees that Akiteru be carried in a palanquin on the trip. At this the Oniwaban declines and announces that he will concentrate on the disturbing reports that he has received during the Summer Festival and will send an agent in his stead. He proceeds to lock himself in his quarters. Not long after, a slender maid in a mask appears, presents her credentials as an operative of the Oniwaban, and introduces herself as Megumi. Takeshi is not fooled, nor is he amused.

Megumi


When the officers go off separately to prepare for their trip to Hieiyama, Akari seeks out Soichiro to apprise him of the situation and update him of the excursion to the mountain which is scheduled to depart the next day. The Karo updates the Oniwaban of the progress that Tenka is making with the sword in keeping with the wishes of the boy's father, Raijin.

At that moment Yugiri enters the room and announces that the young Daimyo should also know how to use the bow, of which the Onmyouji happens to be an accomplished practitioner who humbly offers his services and would be most eager to start giving the boy lessons the very next day. Soichiro, having learned about Yamamoto, the kami of the mountain, insists on having Yugiri go to find out what the newly-revealed kami wants. Forced to go to the mountain, the Onmyouji goes off to make preparations and loudly proclaims how he would like his remains to be disposed of when he dies on the mountain.

Kaisei enters shortly after to speak to the Karo about the growing mound of paperwork appearing on the desk of the Takumi only to be given a direct order to make allies of any stragglers who may be hiding in the mountain or to eradicate them. This is the first time the Karo has been so direct and the Takumi finds that he has no choice but to obey.

"Make them our allies…or eradicate them!"


The officers take steps to make sure that their respective areas of responsibility are in good order and they lay down contingency plans should anything happen in their absence. Kaisei has Keiko rearrange his calendar so that no sensitive talks or negotiations are held when he is not around and agrees to have her help Daichi, the barracks clerk, oversee the training of the ashigaru that Takeshi is leaving behind. To this end, Keiko is given charge of the sake ration of the soldiers.

Soichiro has taken back some of his paper work and continues to oversee Tenka's development with the help of Natsumi. Yugiri leaves behind eight weeks worth of auguries of auspicious days for his acolytes to administer, telling them not to grieve at his departure and comforting them as they go about their assigned tasks. He gathers up the books he has mastered and bequeaths them to Murasaki should she need to take over the shrine.

Akari, with the connivance of Setsuna, spreads the rumor that Akiteru the Oniwaban sits at the center of his web, meeting with his agents, and keeping an omniscient eye on the comings and goings of all things in Teishou. With all the preparation in place, and with an auspicious hour of departure chosen by the reluctant Onmyouji, the officers and their entourage set off. Everything proceeds smoothly except for the incident where Megumi scares Keiji into not touching her which Yugiri, naturally, interprets as an ill omen.

Just before departure


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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


End of the Eleventh Panel
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