Golden autumn leaves
Fall like tears from heights above
For whom do they weep?
With their presence known the headman of the village expressed his desire that the shugenja Naruto and Chiaki finish the ceremony to remember the dead. Given the lowly status of those being remembered this was a bold request, but one to which the two agreed while Shin’ichi stayed at the back of the assembled village, watching. He quickly spotted one individual that seemed particularly nervous, constantly shifting in his position and paying little attention to the ceremony.
Shugeki and Hotaka returned from the lords mansion in time for the end of the ceremony and were waiting outside as the peasants departed the longhouse. Shin’ichi took the opportunity to grab the nervous individual, who almost fainted on spotting the samurai assembled outside. Questioning him they quickly discerned that a few months prior he had apprenticed at the destroyed monastery, hence his scare when foreign samurai had arrived in the village and confirmed that the villagers had mounted an attack on the order of their lord Shinjo Yatada.
Inside Chiaki and Naruto were beginning to fill in the gaps in the story. The headman told them that three days ago the elderly monk Komatsu had descended from the monastery and entered the village offering to fulfil his duty of service. He had been welcomed as a guest by the Yatada and spent some time providing religious instruction to the samurai’s daughter before guiding the peasants in more practical matters. The next morning both he and the young samurai were missing and her desecrated body was found not far from the base of the mountains.
Needing to see the evidence for their own the magistrates, guided by a member of the village, went to investigate. They found two cremation piles, one properly prepared and cleaned while the other was a crude bonfire. The peasant with them informed them that the first was where Shinjo Jun had been found. The elder Yatada had ordered her body cremated where it lay, directing two eta in the process. Once their duty was complete he had cut them down lest they themselves had become tainted by contact with the body. The villagers, fearing such a possibility, had constructed the crude bonfire as best they could before being led to attack the monks on whom they laid the blame.
Chiaki, drawing forth the vision of the kami discovered a small bundle not far from the site. Monks robes wrapped around a set of surgical tools, hints of blood still on the blades. Naruto questioned the few water kami in the area, revealing a vision of the face of Komatsu that contorted and shifted into that of a young man. Questioned further the kami showed him donning a kimono bearing the Scorpion mon before riding away on a pony.
The group were halfway back to the village when the servant from the house ran up to them. Prostrating herself before Moto Shugeki she hurriedly apologised and let them know that they were urgently required at the manor. It appeared that Yatada had been angered by her refusal to let them enter earlier and had sent a boy out to find the samurai visiting the village, unaware of the presence of the Crab warriors. Learning of the mix up she had rushed out to find the magistrates, fearing that her lords anger may boil over at the mistake. Shugeki took the lead, rushing back on her steed and arrived in time to see Yatada being flung backwards through the door of his own house by the Kaiu Kichi. While the Unicorn samurai bore his katana the Crab warrior was unarmed and unarmoured, neither of which appeared to have limited her ability to deal with Yatada. Intervening Shugeki learned that the young Hida Chiyoko had let her temper boil over once again, drawing the ire of the grieving Yatada to the point that he drew his blade in an attempt to defend his honour. With neither following the proper tradition for duels Chiyoko had intervened while Jimunsha restrained the shugenja before she summoned the destructive magics she knew.
Shugeki, positioned between the two parties, was able to get both to back down and over the next few hours made their conclusions known to both Yatada and the Crab. The monks were innocent, with Komatsu dead long before his ‘appearance’ in the village. The monk that had appeared was an imposter who had succeeded in laying blame at the feet of the monks and who had almost triggered another war between Unicorn and Crab. They chose to omit his apparent use of magics or that he had departed wearing the mon of the scorpion, knowing that information drawn from the kami was not considered a reliable source. All that was left was the matter of the insults thrown by both Chiyoko and Yatada. With neither willing to back down Jimunsha was stepped in as the shugenjas champion. A more skilled duelist he ultimately lost to the Unicorns driven attacks, which were crude but relentless. Those with a more astute eye for the art of the blade might have come to a different conclusion, with the elder Crab appearing to step into the blade of Yatada as his own attack went wide.
Having concluded their business the magistrates departed and a few days later Shugeki and Chiaki took the solemn duty of burning the body they had carried with them. As the flames engulfed his clothing Shugeki caught a brief glimpse of a tattoo upon his chest, a phoenix in the style of the Togashi monks. Outside of the Dragon such tattoos were rare if not unheard of.
The search for Terrel ultimately proved fruitless, the monk having disappeared once again into the mountains. With her official betrothal date approaching the group returned to Shirayama Toshi. Over the following weeks tragedy befell a second monastery, with the monks reportedly disappearing in the middle of the night. Peasants openly voiced their building distrust of the monks while they became a regular topic of gossip amongst the upper echelons of the samurai class.
And south of the city, at the foot of the mountains he called his home the samurai Shinjo Yatada committed seppuku, despite his daiymo refusing him permission to do so.