The Borderlands of Twilight, Mist upon Tablets of Emerald. Alex, Michio, Shigure, Okari, Ninsei, and Kochige.
While Alex, Kochige, and Okari let Shigure, Michio, and Ninsei know that they were alive a bit after they recovered, Ninsei still made the trip upriver back to Toshi Ranbo interesting with his hair-trigger fireballs. He didn’t want to be assassinated.
Meanwhile Alex was drawing Jade Sigils all over everything that would hold still in the Fief, putting up various wards, having everyone wear bells to soothe his nerves, and otherwise indulging his paranoia. Okari spent his time researching more defensive techniques, and Kochige continued to investigate the mysteries of Void Magic.
Back in Toshi Ranbo, it was time for the Dragon Boat Festival – when the forces of Air and Earth which had dominated the winter would begin to give way to the forces of Water and Fire which would dominate the spring and summer. The ruler, or a suitable Shugenja, would be expected to address the Kami (unfortunately the available Shugenja were Alex’s semi-trained kid, a retired and somewhat senile priest, and Ninsei. Shigure decided to do it himself, and carefully stuck to vague generalities). The outcome of the climactic boat race was somehow – via peasant magic, tradition, and history – bound up with the balance of the elements for the next six months. If the Fire boat won, the year would be hot and dry, good for wild game and harvesting the products of the forests and marshes. If the Water boat won, it would be wet and damp, a good year for rice and the products of the river. Now, if a boat sank, or otherwise failed to finish, or caught fire, it was an omen or a disastrous year of imbalance. They set up tight security and double-checked everything. They didn’t need a disaster to start things off.
Unfortunately, there seemed to be multiple attempts at sabotage going on. Someone was sending minor spirits to foul up the peasant magic that was painted all over the boats and decorations, someone else was substituting the cheapest available offerings for the proper offerings to the Kami, there were people sneaking around the boats, and there were probably still assassins out.
Michio traced part of the problems to a crooked merchant and dealt with him in short order – but Ninsei traced the interfering air spirit to a group of mercenaries who’d taken over a village down the river a bit – and tried to take them out by himself. Fortunately, Michio quietly backed him up. The boy’s power and durability was impressive, but a group of mercenaries in close combat would have killed him easily without a little quiet help.
Fortunately the Merc’s magical backup consisted of nothing but a dabbler in air magic.
Back at Alex’s Fief, the jade-magistrate witch-hunters had finally shown up – and gotten Alex’s rambling explanation about Gaijin gods, accidental “sacrifices”, promises to local kami, acting without any kind of permission, being exiled by the Gaijin, and the vague implication that such horrible powers were still available to him.
They exiled him until he got rid of the horrific power he was still carrying (and hopefully got a bit saner) and took Okari and Kochige back to testify before the Jade Champion.
Back in Toshi ranbo, Asahina Shoushka had turned up to check on Ninsei – and, after an interview, a demonstration of his vast destructive power, and listening to the tales of his adventures, he decided to offer to recognize that he was, indeed, out and functioning as an adult. He’d be holding his gempukku ceremony, and presenting him with his wakizashi, as soon as practicable. Sadly, while the assassins were well-mannered enough to not interrupt, they tried to take him out as soon as the ceremony was over. This led to him picking a horse, demonstrating his mastery of fire magic again, and joining up with Michio to take out some sort of poisonous insect-swarm-demon-creature.
Out in the borderlands, Alex found that there were people – the descendants of exiles mixed with the occasional gaijin mostly – living there. He eventually divided to spend the remaining credit with the Elder Gods smiting those undead in the desert, and settled down to try and work off some of the madness he’d accumulated if he could find a Senpet-style priest to help him out.
Shigure started getting the peasantry organized: he wanted a causeway, better docks, warehouses for trade, magical precautions against the tainted walking around town (he thought that Alex’s Jade Sigils were a very good idea), and then nearly got taken out by an archer and another crew of assassins. Direct attack this time, he barely made it out with half his bodyguards despite the new school he’d been developing. Unfortunately, Shigure, Ninsei, and Michio all got called to testify before the Jade Champion as well. Fortunately, they only had half as far to go as Okari and Kohige.
Everyone made it to the Jade Champion despite cheap attempts to assassinate or frame them for associating with Fu Leng along the way – and then had to wait around for Alex to be escorted back. The Champion was not tremendously pleased to see them all again and wanted to deal with them all at once.
Regardless of their motives – and of whether or not they desperately wanted them wiped from their minds – the group had meddled with terrible gaijin magics of several kinds, traveled beyond the empire without imperial permission, meddled in gaijin affairs and wars, eliminated one of the great natural barriers which had protected Rokugan since its founding, tampered with the structure of time, visited the distant past to prophesy their own actions, disrupted the empire and brought gaijin into it, had been busily unbinding Fu Leng, and had been offered bribes by his servants.
Of course, they had also been working with the aid of at least one Celestial Dragon, one Celestial Kami, one Oracle, one Founding Kami, one of the original Seven Thunders, and an assortment of Celestial, Ancestral, and Ocean spirits, had sealed away much of Fu Leng’s power, had faced and destroyed several menaces to the Empire, had been the targets of numerous assassination attempts by Fu Lengs servants, and had intervened in a variety of unfortunate situations.
While it was obvious enough that destiny was at play, he was a guardian of the Empire’s stability – and few other groups in history had been quite so noisy about being disruptive. Sending them outside the Empire proper to deal with the problems they’d created seemed appropriate. It would take an imperial decree – but that was unlikely to be denied.
The border, and the nearby lands beyond, would need to be surveyed, outriders and outposts established, a scouting and warning system set up, detachments of troops would need to be set where they could relatively quickly respond to minor incursions and harass and delay larger ones, and – finally – the major passes and approaches would need to be fortified or – where this was impractical – have strongpoints established. While this would obviously require many years, the establishing of outriders and outposts should be underway within three at most.
Since such an effort would require a tax base, a recruiting center, a neutral meeting area for embassies to coordinate with the clans which held the current borderlands, and a fair degree of Imperial support. Since the group already held Toshi Ranbo under somewhat similar conditions, and had demonstrated their ability to locate and produce considerable amounts of resources when needed, this could be extended. Toshi Ranbo could be declared neutral territory under the imperial mandate and the normal Clan and Imperial taxes could be assigned to the support of the imperial outriders.
Finally, the inland gaijin lands and their magics – barring the Madness Magic of Senpet – would need to be investigated as well. They seemed to have changed since the investigations of the Unicorn. Given this collection of Shugenja’s tendency to meddle, they could be assigned to that as well, provided that they kept it outside of Rokugan and agreed to have the Primordial Tongue wiped from their memories.
Kochige could be assigned responsibility for the mountain passes to the north-west and Alex to the west, Michio to the hills and plains of the southwest – where there was plenty of room and winds for kites as well – Shigure and Ninsei (at least until he was older) to manage Toshi Ranbo, and Okari – well, first to being escorted back to explain things to the Fox, and to be married and cease provoking urgent communiques to half the priests of the empire – and then – since the reports of his activities indicated a remarkable skill at defensive magic – to supporting where needed.
Eventually it might be necessary to establish additional minor clans, but – at the moment – a few additional families seemed sufficient.
So it was decreed.
The first step – for everyone except Okari, for whom it was mandated – seemed to be getting in touch with their various families. Ninsei had definitely won the hide-and-seek, but his parents were doubtless worried (and he wanted to show off how much his powers – and his magical and self-control – had increased), Michio’s younger sister was getting married and he had to investigate the prospective bridegroom and come up with presents (and to send messages to the Scorpion Clan Champion about NOT trying to use a scroll), to check on the Yogo Council, Kochige’s wife had a nice spell-scroll present for him, and Alex had to explain to his own family – who had heard all kinds of horrific rumors about what he’d been up to and had been tampering with.
8/6 XP, Ninsei learns the Recondite Weave, Shigure invests in a School, Alex the desert undead plotline is scuttled, assorted imperial decrees and positions.