The Rise of Fu Leng Sequence: The Serpentine Way, Walkers In The Twilight, Voices from the Darkness. Kochige, Shigure, Tharil, Okari, and Michio.
With the Naga wanting both to gather information and get some diplomats into place, Ninsei and a delegation of Naga (including Tharil, a scout and replacement character for Alex – at least until he manages to return again), left for the imperial capital, whence he had to make some offerings, explain the Naga to priests, the Seppun guard, and the Jade Champion – who was not at all pleased at having only the small child in the group to talk to and started composing severely stern summonses. Unfortunately for Okari, he was almost back at the capital. Fortunately for Okari, he could quite truthfully claim that he’d been busy getting married, and had not been involved in bringing back the Naga.
Meanwhile, Kochige, Shigure, and some Naga tried to contain the dimensional rift – or at least the terrible reptilian creatures that were coming through it – via a string of investigations, fights, evacuations of the local civilians, and barriers. Afterwards, they took a secondary delegation of Naga to Toshi Ranbo, where there was a military-style assassination attack on Kochige (which he barely survived due to the unexpected aid of the Naga), and Shigure decided to start recruiting any mercenary who attempted to assassinate him as an aide. Since he didn’t trust anyone anyway, at least this way he’d be SURE that they were both untrustworthy AND unlikely to succeed at killing him. Such a “Ninja Reform Project” might get him some valuable agents.
With the Naga evaluating the imperial government – and not reaching especially favorably conclusions – Ninsei visited the Crane ambassador. Doji Fusae, a disconcertingly perceptive old woman. She – after a brief interview and some probing questions – called in some favors to get the Phoenix to promise to show him the Isawa’s Lore techniques, despite the fact that they were officially long lost. She felt that he would need them.
With the Naga in Toshi Ranbo to attract attention, Shigure started adding up what representatives had actually turned up for his court. Several of the minor clans had responded. The Fox had delegated one of the (several) clan members who served as local priests to represent them, the Tiger and Tortoise had both delegated clan members who were already present as representatives similarly, the Firefly had sent someone since the proposed canal would pass through their lands (and hopefully actually bring them some trade), the Cat Clan had sent a woman (with a variety of messages and scrolls of some sort) to supervise the local crime, the Panther Clan had sent his Brother (who expressed a great interest in dinosaur hunting), the Goose clan had sent an accountant, the Centipede had sent a priest, and the Squirrel clan were sending someone.
Of the major clans, the Mantis had already sent a trading representative, and the Crab were apparently sending one to talk about Jade. The Scorpion, Lion, Crane, Dragon, and Phoenix – as neighbors – had sent representatives (albeit no one especially important), and the Unicorn had (for some reason) sent three. Unfortunately, most of them simply seemed to be interested in trade. Still, it was a start.
Michio had actually had quite a bit of success training the army, establishing an officer corps and basic chain of command, and getting things organized. He, the Crane and Lion advisors, and Shigure’s nephew had also managed to avoid assassination somehow. Evidently Shigure’s nephew had been handling that.
Tharil’s recommendations were for more investigation, a temporary alliance with the Empire fro a major strike against the Shadowlands, and possibly an attempt to do something about undoing the damage the Kami had done to human society.
Unfortunately, at about that point there was a major magical disturbance at one of the shrines down near the palace gates. A destructive tainted fire spell of tremendous power. Ninsei was able to counteract it in short order – but not soon enough to save anyone who’d been near the center; there was nothing left but a lava pit.
Liberal use of magic reconstructed the source at least – a message scroll carrying a void-based linking effect. Something akin to the threads of the Recondite Weave. Fu Leng had found a way to transmit massive destruction spells through innocent-appearing message scrolls.
And he’d succeeded in taking out the Jade Champion and his bodyguards with it. While this had cured the man’s annoyance with the group, it wasn’t a method they’d have chosen.
Shigure received a similar death warrant, but – thanks to his impressive talents for escaping, managed to survive the ice-and-wind-based attack. Numerous members of his staff, much of his palace, and the youngster who’d been assigned as bodyguard to Alex’s apprentice were not so fortunate. The boy had been technically an Ashigaru, but he’d known his duty to get his charge clear: Shigure made sure he was properly honored for it. He also drastically increased security and had his advisors move into the appropriate clan palaces instead of his.
Meanwhile, the Seppun guardsmen were sending the Empress and the Emperor’s two young daughters into hiding with the Phoenix: only they could reliably detect an incoming attack channeled through the Void. The Emperors two illegitimate children who could possibly be acknowledged were already stashed out of sight with the Crane and with the Seppun respectively.
Ninsei and Okari got involved because they, through the favor of the Kami of Vacations, could easily and quickly transport them – so the recommended taking them to Mamoru Kyotei Toshi, where they could enlist the aid of the Demon Ninja Kitties and of Smoke Balamada, who had opted to join the ShadowCats.
They didn’t explain that part of their intentions. While, weirdly enough, the Demon Ninja Cats were more-or-less trustworthy in their own bizarre fashion, they were extremely difficult to explain. Besides, Ninsei rather liked getting to play with the Emperor’s daughters, and Smoke might be able to show them some interesting tricks.
So: they had three remaining black scrolls to hunt down, elder blood magic to learn, training to obtain, the Tournament of the Jade Champion to get involved with, weird stuff going on with the Scorpion, and numerous other projects.
Come to think of it, Shigure’s nephew was 13 going on 14, and was approaching his Gempukku ceremony – and they still hadn’t even tried to explain his existence to his parents. Shigure abandoned his research into the useful properties of materials derived from dinosaurs and went to try and explain. Interestingly, his sister knew an alchemist with a special talent for extracting essences, and he was creating drops of the Essence of Jade to use in making temporary weapons against the shadowlands. The group also had a conference with Shoshoru and found out just how many deadly secrets the boy was carrying around in his head: the organization, cyphers, and communications signs of Fu Lengs military and assassins, the secret passages in the imperial city and palace, details on the poisons, potions, and antidotes used in the Thousand Years of Darkness, a fair chunk of future history/current prophecy, and a lot of lore about Maho and the secrets of the Cat Clan. Enough to make every major power group in both the Empire and the Shadowlands want him dead. No wonder he’d been so discreet about it.
Kochige was considering entering the Tournament, and wanted to consult the Dragon Clan Champion about it… Navigating his supernatural library to find him was confusing enough – even if he did find some spells he could copy – but answering his questions took several days of meditation. It also led Kochige to conclude that he had enough responsibilities already: he would enter, but only to help eliminate unsuitable candidates.
Kasuga Nodo, of the Tortoise Clan, sent everyone invitations to the upcoming tournament. He had quite few motives – but the fact that he was seating them near troublesome groups and individuals about summed them up. Regardless, Shigure invited the heads of the nearby Lion Vassal Families to come along. He might pick up some useful information.
7/6/8 XP, assorted Dinosaurs are released upon Rokugan, Ninsei is invited to study the Isawa’s Lore Techniques, Shigure is invited once more to study at the Imperial Schools and acquires better armor, Kochige acquires various spell scrolls and some cryptic riddles from the Dragon Champions, Okari returns to play with some research accomplished, Tharil acquires skills in dealing with humans, Alex is located in Merenea. The Jade Champion is extremely annoyed and composes numerous harsh messages, all of which die with him. The Naga are discussion alliance with the Empire and numerous minor projects are carried out.