One soul in many
Like a bee amongst the hive,
With Chiaki’s sacrifice the buzz in the city died down somewhat and the remaining magistrates were able to return to a semblance of normal, for at least a short time that is. The questioning of the prisoner went slowly for he had clearly been trained to resist interrogation. Eventually a plan was formed – to drug him with the powder Naruto had confiscated and simply see what information he revealed. Shin’ichi injected him with a substantial dose and proceeded to guide the conversation though much of it was useless. They learned that the man intended to break the cycle, for man to break free of the tyranny of the Kami by themselves ascending to godhood. He spoke of a great heresy in the mountains that had been covered up for centuries and of his intention to break the trust between the peasants and monks by revealing their complicity in the act. This was only one part of a greater conspiracy, of something called the Kolat and it was everywhere… or so he said. Having passed the information on the magistrates wondered whether the monk Terrel was in fact a Kolat agent, or merely being used as a pawn. His brewing rebellion was already playing its part in breaking apart the religious orders in the region and given the information that they had learned it appeared likely he would be heading towards the southern temple complex in due course.
Thoughts on how to deal with Terrel were derailed by a summons from Governor Saburo, a messenger had arrived bearing word that the Imperial Herald Miya Tomoko was at Lake Ishi and urgently required the presence of those in direct service to the Emperor. The magistrates were ordered to attend to the matter, alongside a mysterious Scorpion shugenja from the Yogo family. The party rushed off towards the Lake, with the exception of Shin’ichi who doubled back to the city at the last moment to investigate the Temple which the murdered shugenja Ki had led. True to his expectations he found a trapdoor leading down into the caverns below the city – it seemed likely that this temple possessed a seal and contingent of Naga much like the Thunder Monastery had.
Moto Shugeki, astride her warhorse, reached the village by Lake Ishi first and found not one but two familiar faces. The first was Soshin, the ronin they had encountered in the mountains and who appeared to have been responsible for the summons. The second was Miya Tomoko, who was knelt beside the water cleaning her blades over and over again. She spoke with a faint, ethereal echo – she bore the sins of a thousand upon her shoulders and sought the ultimate forgiveness. All she awaited was a second and Imperial witnesses. Shugeki, ahead of the others stalled – the witnesses would be here soon and when they arrived she quickly brought them up to speed. The more learned amongst them recognised the words spoken by Tomoko, they were those of Miya Ishi, the Imperial Herald of the Lost Legion almost 700 years before. Legend spoke that she had come to the lake and committed seppuku, with local ronin acting as her second.
They learned little from her beyond the need to atone for the sins of many and that the mountain and the legion were awakening. The new Shugenja proclaimed that the carried two souls in complete harmony and eventually the group relented. Shin’ichi stepped forward as second and when the time came his blade flashed true.
With the situation worsening the magistrates decided the best course of action would be to head towards the south peaks, with a short detour to the small Nameless Monastery on the Crab side of the mountain range. There they could question the monks before continuing on and hopefully arrive before Terrel did. They rode hard, making good time and within two days were only a few hours away. During the night Shugeki was visited by a now familiar dream, of her beloved being chased down the mountains by gaki, the hungry dead. As he neared her his shouts became audible for the first time. “Shugeki! Shugeki! WAKE UP!”
Thrown awake the nightmare did not fade as usual for the gaki were there in front of her, chasing the fog down the mountain in pursuit of her love.