L5R - Great Stone Bridge

Session 19
An Unwelcome Arrival

Real Time: 6 December 2016
Game Time: 6-7 March 1175
Location: Shorai no Kiban

With some difficulty the party manages to row out from the hidden island cove, through the rocky passage between the cliffs and out into the open water. Akiyama’s sailing knowledge and Utamuro’s brute strength are instrumental in saving them from being dashed against the rocks. Thankfully, the White Sparrow, alerted to something amiss by Akiyama’s signal arrow, waits just outside the passage with lanterns to guide the way.

The Mantis ship has clearly just finished fending off an attack of their own, and the crew is dealing with the aftermath (making minor repairs and sending two of their fallen to their final resting place in the water).

As the party debriefs the captain and first officer, they report seeing the passage of a large number of heavily-laden ferries from the Lion side of the river crossing towards the Crane town, followed by their return to the Lion side. When the white sparrow nears the dock, they note that only one ferry boat remains at the dock. The late hour and turbulent waters cause Moshi Chiroku to hold off returning to dock until the following morning, though she posts round the clock guards to watch for enraged water spirits and zombies.

Toshiro communes with the river and asks:
“Is there danger near that has made people move the boats from the docks?” to which it shows a blurry image of a yellow and blue samurai fighting
“When did this happen?” to which it shows an image of the sun directly overhead
“Was there blood magic?” it repeats the original image with sinister shadows far in the background

In the morning, the White Sparrow approaches the docks of Shorai no Kiban. Shosuro Soh’s barge waits at anchor significantly further from the docks than previous. As the White Sparrow passes, Soh’s half-masked female attendant fires a bow with a signal arrow at the deck of the White Sparrow. The arrow lands at Toshiro’s feet with a message tied around it. The note reads:

A once friendly shore
Left unattended for long
Turns quickly leonine

The party shoots back a message arrow in return
Thanks for not piercing
my heart with that long arrow.
How many ashore?

Scorpion stay away
From the troubles of others
We shall observe here

As the docks near, the party notices that only the beached kobune Dawning Moon, and a single ferry boat remain, with a pair of samurai guarding each. While tying up to the dock, they see a squad of armed and armored Lion troops patrolling the docks, with the usual dockmaster nowhere to be seen. Careful observation also shows a Matsu banner flying above multiple buildings along the dock, as well as a column of smoke rising from near the town center.

When the party attempts to disembark, they are halted by a group of the Lion bushi who order them to surrender and relinquish their weapons in the name of Daimyo Matsu Fubatsu.

Utamuro & Masataro take umbridge with the invoking the name of the Matsu.

The Matsu explains that her Lady has taken protection of the land after gross mis-management of the land. When asked to take the party to see their daimyo, they again laugh it off, but offer to take the party to her commander Matsu Genichi if they leave their weapons behind.

Masataro asks that in trade 6 of the lion remain on the ship unarmed. Masataro leads the party boldly off the boat, intending to shoulder past the Matsu.

Utamuro lays out the squad leader in one round, while Toshiro rebukes them. Byakuya skillfully disarms one of the spear-wielders in an intimidating manner, and Shoutaro follows up with the same. Masataro follows up with a blistering rebuke which further cows all but the last began to rage but Akiyama shot an arrow through his eye before the Matsu could attack.

When requested, the Mantis offer to guard the captured lion as long as a crane representative stays for legitimacy, as the Mantis are technically neutral in this conflict.

After the battle, the party notes a series of bills posted along the dockfront. These propaganda posters tell a scathing story of dishonor and betrayal, claiming that the Crane clan have failed in their duties to protect the region, and have unlawfully detained Matsu Umasu, the son of the Matsu Daimyo, and after his escape, infamous Daidoji Akiyama found him and shot him in the back, only to dishonorably dump his body on the Lion shores. At the bottom of the notice is an open warrant to arrest or kill Akiyama for crimes against the Lion Clan.

On seeing the captured Lion being hauled onto the White Sparrow, the two lion guarding the ferry react, with one running towards town and the other taking off in the ferry. Akiyama (after a few shots) severely wounds the ferry-operating lion, who starts drifting downriver. Akiyama directs the Mantis to set out in their ship’s boat to retrieve the ferry and offer “humanitarian aid” to the wounded lion.

Toshiro rushes to the far side of the White sparrow and invokes the air kami to knock the running lion into the water. The rest of the party fishes him out of the water, disarm him and force him to lead the party to the commander.

The bedraggled guard leads the party in towards the town center, increasingly closer to the pillar of smoke previously observed, which turns out to be a party of ~12 lion bushi besieging the barricaded off Crane Garrison. Near the front gate, a large bonfire has been set up, and a matronly Lion warrior, flanked by a pair of war lions (the animals) oversees.

Notable Attendees:
Matsu Genichi – Matsu Garrison Commander
Mantis Crew
Soh’s female scorpion attendant

Session Rewards:
XP: +4
Honor: +3 Facing down Lion incursion with grace
Glory/Infamy: All players receive +1 glory (or +1 infamy for Akiyama)

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Session 18
Takuji in Peril

Real Time: 7 July 2016
Game Time: 5 March 1175
Location: Shiro Katai (Mysterious Island)

Roused by sounds in the alley between the keep and armory buildings, the party emerges into the courtyard. One of the naga scouts stands with a bow drawn and Moshi Takuji appears between the buildings clearly severely injured and slumps against a wall, while one of the naga arrows pierces the ground at his feet.

The party rushes to Takuji’s aid, with Akiyama climbing to the roof of the armory for a better vantage. The party manages to hold off the Naga from directly attacking Takuji, though that is clearly their default response to the situation. Once she emerges, the Interfaces hisses “Do not approach him! He reeks of the foul,” and as the party gets closer, they can see that Takuji is drifting in and out of consciousness and is covered in blood, ragged cuts and blackish sludge. Just before passing out, his eyes flutter open and he mutters “Help… Attack…” and gestures weakly towards the rear entrance to the castle complex.

As all this is happening, a dozen naga can be seen rushing about towards the walls, appearing to take up defensive positions. The Interface asks the party to guard the north while her forces take care of the rest of the castle. Meanwhile, two forms stagger around the corner of the armory. One appears to be the other Mantis sailor, though he appears covered in an unnatural film water, and when is mouth opens to speak more water dribbles out in a sickening fashion. As the second figure steps into the light, the human form appears covered in black sludge similar to that seen on the Mantis sailor. Closer inspection also reveals a broken arrow protruding from the figure’s chest.

The figures stagger towards the party, groaning. As they gets close to the party, they swings wildly and begin to attack. With clearly otherworldly forces at work and the battle joined, Akiyama fires a humming arrow to attempt to alert the crew of the White Sparrow. A chance blow by Shoutaro revealed the second figure to be Domogu. A lucky blow by Domogu landed a minor blow to Shoutaro’s arm, but quick work by all with newfound Jade weapons and spirit-fighting spells made quick work of the tainted attackers.

While the party engaged Domogu and the mantis sailor, two additional muck-covered figures emerge. These new figures appear to be not just covered from head-to-toe in black muck, but instead formed directly out of it. Their unnatural composition, complete with shifting patterns of horrific sights, threatens the resolve of the party, and shakes Shoutaro to the core.

As all three assailants are damaged, they seem unaffected by their wounds until completely overwhelmed by them. Sword wounds are immediately filled in by the muck, allowing full functionality of their limbs until the whole thing falls apart as the surface tension of a water droplet being overcome.

As the battle concludes, the party sees that the naga have been fighting similar creatures at various points along the wall. A slightly wounded Interface appears to check on the party. The interface singles out Shoutaro (the only wounded party member) and quickly cuts off the arm of his kimono and dusts the wound with a powder which burns, but appears to remove the tainted portions of the wound.

The Interface then rushes forward to put Takuji out of his misery, but is stopped by Akiyama leaping from the rooftop to stand in the way. After some negotiation, Takuji is left in the care of the naga, who pledge to watch him, and do their best to stop the spread of any taint infection. After some tending, he comes to and groggily explains that he and his companion were startled when Domogu’s body fell from the cliffs, but it fell into the surf and was lost from sight. They debated for some time whether to remain with the boat or scale the cliffs in search of the party. The debate was cut short when Domogu’s arm shot up from beneath the waves and strangled the other Mantis sailor. Domogu and Takuji fought for a while before Takuji knocked Domogu back into the water and scurried up the cliffs to seek aid from the party. Briefly before Takuji drifts back into unconciousness Akiyama cheers him up with a fortunes and winds joke.

At the beginning of the battle, and again at the end, Byakuya is subjected to brief flashes of his previous mind-meld with the Naga group consciousness, helping to reassure himself (and the party) what the Naga were doing, and that they seem genuine in their promise to attempt to care for Takuji.

The Interface then summarizes that the boldness of this attack is alarming, and further underscores the urgency of the party’s task to retrieve the Void Stone which was taken by the “scented one in the colors of autumn leaves” who had previously invaded the island along with Domogu.

On the way out of the castle, an inscription over the sally port can be read “Set forth in strength and honor from Shiro Katai.” Byakuya recall that Katai is a vassal family of the Lion clan, which once had holdings in this region, but long ago retreated to the north. Various party members jump on this finding to assert that all of these issues are essentially due to the Lion clan failing to uphold their duty.

Just before leaving, Utamuro retrieves Takuji’s fallen kama and brings it back to one of the guardian Naga who seems to understand to deliver it to Takuji.

The ship’s boat was damaged slightly in the skirmish, but can be used to attempt to make it back to White Sparrow. As dusk turns into twilight the party embarks back towards the White Sparrow.

Notable Attendees:
Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis Sailor
The Interface – Naga speaker
Domogu – for the last time

Session Rewards:
XP: All players get 4 exp
Honor: All players receive 3 Honor for heroically battling the foe; Shoutaro recieves +1 additional honor for fighting through his fear and Akiyama receives +2 additional honor (5 total) because his starting honor was much lower
Glory/Infamy: All players receive +2 glory

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Session 17
Secrets of the Island

Game Time: 5 March 1175
Location: Mysterious Island

A large, serpentine form emerges from the shadows to the southeast and slithers to the mouth of the alley. This creature’s torso appears to be of more normal human-proportions and it appears to be a female. She temporarily pauses the mounting tension as she begins to speak:

“Human warriors, why do you trespass on this land with a servant of the Foul? Leave us to our watch and we may allow you to depart.”

When asked why Domogu was shot, she replies “All who have been corrupted must be cleansed of this world. The humans of this land have long since abandoned their duty. Do you claim to be warriors of the light?”

When Toshiro replies that they are warriors of the Crane, she replies with a seemingly earnest question “Does Lady Doji still rule?” The party is all aware that Lady Doji was the Kami who founded the Crane clan, and disappeared roughly 800-900 years ago.

Eventually, Masataro introduces himself, and the naga responds that she is “The interface.”

A hiss from one of the other naga causes her to focus on Byakuya and say “One of you also bears the scent of the Foul!” After his thorough spa treatment the previous evening, Byakuya realizes that she must be referring to the minor damage to his armor caused in the previous zombie attack. He begins to explain about their fight against the undead, when she interjects “Speak you the truth?!” and the Interface throws a pearl at Byakuya which flashes briefly, and causes him to have a vision of sorts, which he quickly shakes off.

Byakuya’s vision is as if he is in a room crowded with a thousand other murmering beings, where he picks up flashes of thought and sight and sound, including the sense of being in a great desert, the sense of being deep underwater, a glimpse of Utamuro as viewed from atop one of the neighboring buildings, and various other confusing thoughts. He also senses that his mind is briefly shared with these beings.

Something about this interaction seems to satisfy the Interface, and she turns south and beckons the party to follow. When asked where she is leading, she responds “to test your resolve”.

As the party passes an intricately carved stone building, the Interface blocks entrance to it and states firmly “You are not yet ready to enter the seal” as Toshiro tries to approach the southern door. However, even from without, Toshiro and Byakuya both are certain that the carved script has magical connotations, while Shoutaro notes that the style of these carvings matches one of the two clashing styles on the archway to the water temple at the docks.

The Interface, and a few naga guardians usher the party into the main chamber of the single story stone building, which appears to be an ancient dojo or training room, with decrepit training dummies and disintegrated tatami mats scattered about. She then addresses the party, saying: “You must all prove your worth to the great cause before we reveal further.” Each member in turn is asked “What skills do you bring against the darkness?”

Akiyama tells a stirring story about his archery exploits as he shoots the cloth off the Interface’s ceremonial spear.

Masataro uses his words to encourage Shoutaro, which initially seems to confuse the naga, but they eventually seem satisfied with the end result.

Shoutaro charges a training dummy and slices in in half with flair.

Byakuya skillfully demonstrates his swordsmanship by disarming the Interface. She then hands him a jade figurine of a snake, and then immediately snatches it back.

Utamuro offers that he brings a keen eye, strong arm and keen Ono. She challenges him to identify which scout fired the arrow which started this altercation. Utamuro identifies which one fired from the number of arrows in his quiver and a missing scale that was scraped off on the wall.

Toshiro elaborates on the benefits of his magical skills and duplicates himself using a spell. “hmm, yes, deception can be used against the servants of deceit.”

The assessment seemingly complete, she states “You have proven you have some skills, have you come to renew our partnership of bygone years?”

After some discussion with the Interface, as well as reading some of the inscriptions found on the stone buildings, it is revealed that this island sits atop a rift to the realm of Jigoku. A thousand years ago, Humans came to the island to find Naga standing watch over the rift. After an initial misunderstanding and battle, which distracted the Naga guardians, a series of evil spirits broke free, and both sides turned to fight them. After defeating these spirits, the Naga and Humans entered into an alliance where both sides provided guardians. Eventually the castle and seal were constructed to keep in the evil spirits and guard against their eventual encroachment. A few hundred years previously, the Naga went into hibernation, leaving the guardianship to the humans. Eventually the family of humans in charge of the castle/island died out, leaving the island unprotected.

Within the seal room is an elaborate carving in the floor worked with runes of warding, jade and crystal insets and dotted with pearls which all hum with power. At various points are symbols for the five elements as well as one gigantic (plate-sized) pearl. The symbol of void has been removed from the carving, which has weakened the magical wards and allowed kansen to sneak through and corrupt the surrounding area, especially the water spirits.

When asked about the missing piece of the seal, she mentions that humans broke in, stole the large black void stone and breached the seal. Unfortunately, since the human guardians of the island are now gone, and the naga were hibernating until the breached seal gradually woke them, they were not able to stop the incursion.

When asked about the humans, she will mention that the “Dead sailor, who smelled of fish” and “scented one in the colors of autumn leaves” both came to the island a few times and raided the armory and vandalized the seal.

At the mention of the armory, Utamuro returns the naga-sized naginata he has been carrying, and one of the warriors returns it to a back room beyond the training area. Within this back area are a number of familiar-looking crates of weapons which are clearly quite ancient. Some weaponry of Naga-size is also present. Most of the wooden weapon parts are very brittle, but the metal appears to be well preserved. The armory appears to have sufficient weaponry and armor to equip hundreds of warriors.

Adjacent to the armory rooms, there is a sealed inner room which the Interface brings Toshiro to. This smaller room appears undisturbed, and is filled with dozens of jade and crystal weapons and other tools to fight against the taint. To the best of the party’s knowledge, this amount of jade and crystal equipment could be as much or more than the entire Crane clan otherwise possesses.

The interface allows the party to borrow four jade weapons. Byakuya takes a jade katana, but makes him promise that the katana be used in defense of the land and returned at the end of your journey. Akiyama receives 10 jade willow-leaf arrows. Utamuro receives a jade Ono, Shoutaro takes a jade katana.

From a crate of very fragile scrolls Toshiro is given one which includes un-encrypted versions of the following spells:
Minor Binding
Jade Strike
Stone’s Endurance
Earth Becomes Sky (Jade)
Bonds of Ningden-Do
Purge the Taint
Strength of the Crow
Warning Flame
Ward of Purity
Witness the Untold
The Void’s Caress
Heaven’s Tears

Toshiro offers a vow that the Daidoji family will not again forget the alliance with the Naga.

Just as the party is gathering these new weapons, there is a commotion from outside the building, and they all emerge to see what is happening. One of the naga scouts stands with a bow drawn, Moshi Takuji appears between the buildings clearly severely injured and slumps against a wall, while one of the naga arrows pierces the ground at his feet.

Notable Attendees:
The Interface – Naga speaker
Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis Sailor

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
All players receive +2 for facing the naga and potential taint with bravery
Glory/Infamy
Misc
All – +1 Lore: Shadowlands, Local, Spirit Realms
Byakuya – +3 Lore: Naga; Enlightened Madness (Void) (TN: 20, stunned for 1 round); Touch of the Spirit Realms (Tengoku, +2k0 Earth vs Taint); Naga Ancestry

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Session 16
An Island Jaunt

Real Time: 29 March 2016

Game Time: 5 March 1175

Location: Docks -> White Sparrow -> Mysterious Island

 

On the morning of March 5, the party sets out towards the docks in the company of Moshi Chiroku and Yorimoto Masako, with their prisoner Domogu in tow.  Akiyama notes that three of his arrows appear to be missing, and he doesn't recall dropping them the previous day.  A thorough search of his room reveals no indication of a break-in.

 

North of the docks, the party can see the Dawning Moon kobune careened up on the beach with its scant crew attempting to start repairs.  Captain Shara greets the party and offers her apologies for not attending to their summons the previous night.  She explains that the damage to her vessel was greater than anticipated, and the water surged in odd ways on the way to port, causing them to strike a hidden rock.  Her men are working as hard as they can, but she asks for any assistance the party may be able to offer.  Toshiro confirms with the dockmaster that materials for the repair of the Dawning Moon will be provided by the Daimyo, using the party's magesterial writ as authorization.

 

As they approach the docks, they encounter Kuro (the young peasant who Utamuro had enlisted from the forest ambush) as he leads a group of a dozen other peasants up towards the bridge project to work.  They all stop and thank Utamuro profusely for the chance to add to the greatness of the empire.

 

As the party passes the Water Temple on the docks, Shoutaro and Byakuya stop in to offer some prayers.  Within the temple grounds a number of monks are seen practicing Tai Chi, led by the one-armed Brother Toketsu.  Both Shoutaro and Byakuya note that the forms being practiced by the monks are an unusual martial art not familiar to them.  Additionally, they note that the artwork and iconography over the temple entrance seems slightly off or unbalanced, as if a different artist finished a portion of it with a different style or something like it.

 

Observation of Soh's barge, moored just off the docks, reveals his masked female assistant walking along the deck, but without the limp she showed the previous night.  Additionally, there are muffled sounds of shouting coming from the belly of the vessel, though it is likely just deckhands shouting back and forth to each other.

 

Just as the party boards the White Sparrow, a living bird (also a white sparrow) flies unerringly towards the command deck, and alights on Toshiro's shoulder.  The bird whispers into Toshiro's ear the following message: "Magistrate, your message has been received.  Workers will be gathered for the bridge.  Investigate the darkness, but be wary.  Such cancers must be purged from the land and all memory.  Do not show weakness."  The Mantis crew view the arrival of this white sparrow to be a good omen and set out cheerfully.

 

Domogu guides the White Sparrow towards the northern end of the island in the middle of the river, and eventually points out a break in the steep cliff walls which is almost invisible to the naked eye.  Domogu insists that the passage is wide enough for the ship, though Captain Chiroku is dubious and recommends weighing anchor and ferrying the party in aboard the ship's launch.  Eventually, with the help of Akiyama's cartography and Utamuro's eagle-eyes, a carefully hidden path through the cliffs is observed.  Caution prevails and the ship's launch is set out with the party and Moshi Takuji.  The passage is indeed barely wide-enough for a full-sized Kobune, but it would have been a particularly perilous trek.  As it is, the ship's launch almost runs afoul of hidden rocks, but Akiyama directs the boat away from the rocks.

 

The launch pulls up against an ancient stone pier in a small hidden cove and the Mantis crew stay with the boat, while the Crane (and Domogu) ascend the steep trail up the cliff face.  After some minor difficulties due to the narrow path, the party makes it to the top, where they find an overgrown, but still stout 20' wall ringing the top of the island.  Eventually, they also find an overgrown set of doors through the wall.  When prompted for further guidance, Domogu claims that he only ever set foot on the pier down below, where he would meet The Master, and ferry him back to the mainland.  Toshiro then starts back down to the launch with Domogu in tow in order to stow him with the Mantis. 

 

Just after rounding the first switchback, the twang of a bow is heard from the top of the wall and Toshiro is nearly pulled over the cliff edge when Domogu falls, presumably to his arrow-impaled doom.   A flicker of motion atop the walls is seen, and the party quickly reacts to the attack.  Utamuro and the twins set up to breach the door, while Akiyama climbs the wall via a grappling hook and Toshiro lifts Byakuya using the power of the air kami.

 

Once the door is breached, the inside of the complex is revealed to be dominated by two buildings, and encircled with walls on all sides.  Directly opposite the doorway is a large single-story stone building, which on further assessment is unusually tall for a single-story building (~20').  Adjacent to this building is another taller, but more normally-proportioned 4-story building.  The taller building shows significant signs of aging, with collapsed walls and roof sections, while the single-story building seems to be largely in-tact and very stout.  Around the buildings, the rest of the island appears to be heavily overgrown, with waist-high grasses and shrubbery dominating the environment.

 

Once atop the wall, Akiyama is able to assess that the alley between these buildings has seen some recent foot-traffic, while the inside perimeter of the complex bears the signs of either animal tracks, or simply skilled hunter's tracks.  Akiyama is also able to step down from the perimeter wall via a collapsed portion of the wall pointed out by the twins, on which he finds a large reptile scale similar to that found at the hidden camp on the previous day.  Further south in the compound there appears to be a main gate in the perimeter wall and two further buildings, one of which appears to be surrounded by a secondary palisade.

 

Further flickers of movement are observed at the south end of these two buildings, eventually resolving into at least two large (15+') tall statues of half-human-half-serpent figures wielding naginata, and at least one similar creature hiding behind one of the statues.  A loud series of hisses is heard echoing eerily down the alley, and some of the party are able to make out what sounds like the words "Intruders" and "Stand" followed by further incomprehensible hisses.  Finally, a large serpentine form slithers forth to the mouth of the alley and begins to speak.

 

Notable Attendees:

Moshi Chiroku – Mantis Captain

Yorimoto Masako – Mantis Shugenja

Domogu – captured ferry operator

Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis Sailor

Shara – Ronin Captain

 

Session Rewards:

XP

All Players receive 4 XP

Honor

Glory/Infamy

Misc

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Session 15
A Well-Deserved Night Off

Real Time: 25 February 2016
Game Time: 4 March 1175 (Night)
Location: Thirsty Heron Sake House

In the aftermath of the fight with the drunken Lion guardsmen, the party briefly rests in the sake house. Akiyama, Utamuro and Moshi Takuji engage in a friendly game of fortunes and winds, during which Akiyama wins 3 bu, while Utamuro loses one.

Toshiro and the rest of the party sit for a time with Soh, with Toshiro trading barbs with the large Scorpion. Soh compliments Byakuya and Shoutaro on their skillful swordsmanship, but insults Toshiro’s lack of control, and similarly seems unhappy with Utamuro and Akiyama’s ruthlesness. After some time, Soh’s half-masked female attendant arrives, walking with a limp that appears a few days old, and whispers something to Soh.

Akodo Namboku (the Lion leader) eventually returns to the bar area, now fully clothed, and sits quietly at a back table with his remaining squad member.

Shortly thereafter, the peasant who was sent to summon captain Shara returns. He is clearly terrified that delivering bad news will end poorly for him, but soldiers on, saying that Shara is at her ship along the docks, but is too busy to come at present. In both reward and punishment for delivering this bad news, Akiyama gives the peasant a foul, low-grade sake favored by poor peasantry and Lions.

While the rest of the party heads south to the Genial Blossom tea house to meet with the officers of the White Sparrow, Akiyama stays for a while and continues to game with Moshi Takuji. Eventually Akiyama succumbs to his duties and retires back to the Genial blossom with the rest of the party, where he plays and handily wins one last round of Fortunes and Winds in the much less raucous company present there.

At the Genial Blossom, the party is warmly welcomed back by Ranmaru (the tatooed proprieteress) and quickly offered opulent food and drink. Masataro and Shoutaro goad each other into an epic drinking contest, much to the entertainment of many of the teahouse patrons. In the end, Shoutaro wins by a scant margin, and surprisingly both are able to walk away from the table. During the night, Shoutaro also makes note of Yoshi (Ranmaru’s guard) making the rounds, and notes that his stance and bearing show him to be a very skilled duelist with a keen eye.

Toshiro immediately swoops in to both flirt with and enlist the aid of Yorimoto Masako. She is found with another Mantis crew member studying what appears to be a map of the river with an overlay of magical symbols. Carefully guarding the map, she takes in Toshiro’s reports of their troubles with zombies and the like. Masako mentions that she has also sensed troubled spirits and agrees that everything must be done to address the issue. She sends for Moshi Chiroku, who emerges some time later from the other side of the complex and quickly agrees to offer the use of the Dawning Moon mid morning the following day. Chiroku does question whether or not the ship will be able to make landing on the island, but Toshiro uses the skill of Mantis sailing to goad the captain into accepting.

Before the captain arrives, Utamuro plays boastful wingman about Toshiro’s battle exploits, and Toshiro returns the favor. At the end of the night, Toshiro and Masako retire to a private path chamber.

Meanwhile, Byakuya enjoys a luxurious bath and spa treatment while a servant cleans and polishes his armor. Along the way, he falls into conversation with a Crab merchant who recently crossed from the Lion side of the river. During the conversation, the Crab comments on unusually heavy garrisons near the river on the Lion side and a grain shortage. The crab (and others in the bath chamber) mention exaggerated versions of the zombie attacks and mentions that they heard a rogue imperial legion fought off hundreds of zombies, but that Kuni witch hunters should be summoned.

The party gradually retires for the night to prepare for a mid-morning departure the next day.

Notable Attendees:
Akodo Namboku – Lion Leader
Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis Sailor
Shosuro Soh – Scorpion Diplomat
Yorimoto Masako – Mantis Shugenja
Moshi Chiroku – Mantis Captain
Ranmaru – Geisha/Tea-House Proprietor
Yoshi – Ranmaru’s Yoimbo

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
None
Glory/Infamy
All Players receive +1 glory for boasting about their previous accomplishments.
Misc
Akiyama receives +3 bu
Utamuro loses 1 bu

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Session 14
Drunken Lions' Pride

Real Time: 11 February 2016
Game Time: 4 March 1175 (Night)
Location: Thirsty Heron Sake House

On their way back to town, the party approaches the Thirsty Heron sake house shortly after dusk. Raucous noises can be heard from within, and just as the party is passing by the front door, a thoroughly inebriated Lion bushi emerges. He stumbles about for a bit before starting to pee on a bush just outside the sake house.

Masataro steps forward an sincerely warns him of his discourtesy and comments on his “small dragon” which slowly catches the Lion’s attention. He pauses briefly, staring at the party before pointing at Utamuro and bellowing “You!” drawing his katana, and advancing. This particular Lion is the overly aggressive bushi who Utamuro had previously wrestled with at the Genial Blossom tea house. Byakuya utters his own warnings before steping forward, and disarming the drunk. Unfortunately the man’s katana lodges in the bush he was using as a urinal, and he trips in exasperation, impaling himself on his own blade.

Moments later, summoned by the shouting of their companion, the rest of the Lion’s squad emerges from the tea-house and draws their weapons. Despite repeated warnings from the party (some less skillfully made than others), they see armed Crane standing over their fallen comrade, including the nearest one in the process of re-sheathing his bloody blade.

Continuing to attempt to diffuse the situation, the party is drawn into battle, with Shoutaro narrowly beating one lion to the punch and Byakuya striking at the same moment as the bushi attacking him. Despite a minor injury the Crane make relatively short work of the lion, with Akiyama killing one from the cover of a nearby tree, Utamuro decapitating one with his powerful ono, Byakuya, Shoutaro and Masataro incapacitating, but not killing two more.

Amidst the battle, Domogu makes one feeble attempt to escape, though Toshiro warns him against such action. Additionally, Shosuro Soh and Moshi Takuji are both also present amongst a small crowd of other customers, and eventually emerge to watch the fight. At one point, when Toshiro summons the wind to hamper some of the lion, Soh is knocked over as well and some of the party note something vaguely “off” about the way he falls.

Just as another Lion bushi emerges to join the fight, a young and charismatic Lion emerges from the sake house dripping wet and clad only in a towel. He quickly assesses the situation and calms the remaining Lion, and ordering her to cease hostilities. He introduces himself as Akodo Namboku and offers a clearly grudging, but seemingly sincere apology to the party about his squad’s inappropriate action and disrespect of their crane “hosts”. Before returning to the sake house, presumably to resume his bath or get dressed, he also chides the wounded Lion as not deserving to serve, and utters a small statement of respect over the two dead samurai.

As the battle ends, Utamuro and Akiyama greet Moshi Takuji and start up a conversation with him, going inside to rest and drink. When asked, he offers up that the Dawning Moon kobune, captained by the ronin Shara was in the process of pulling into dock a couple hours earlier in the day. At this Utamuro send a peasant patron from the bar to summon Captain Shara to the sake house.

The rest of the party also enters the sake house to wind down, with Byakuya and Masataro inviting Shosuo Soh to sit with them.

Notable Attendees:
Akodo Namboku – Lion Leader
Domogu – captured ferry operator
Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis Sailor
Shosuo Soh – Scorpion Diplomat

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Akiyama: -2 for using stealth to attack from hiding
Note: everyone else behaved very well, but since your honor ranks are so high, everything you did was in the “you’re expected to act that way” category.
Glory/Infamy
Akiyama: +4 infamy for role in the skirmish + bar-room talk of this afterwards
Shoutaro: +4 glory for role in skirmish + beating opponent to the strike + bar-room talk of this afterwards
Everyone else: +3 glory for role in the skirmish + bar-room talk of this afterwards

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Session 13
Back to Town

Game Time: 4 March 1175 (Late Afternoon)
Location: Bridge encampment & road to Shorai no Kiban

After a few hours rest to recover from the lack of sleep and early morning battle, the party gathers to return to town. Domogu has been cajoled into offering to guide the party to the island, but they need the services of a boat. Captain Shara and her ship, the Akenotsuki (Dawning Moon) are due to arrive on the 4th, and may be available to help.

The Otomo sisters ask the party to dine with them before leaving. As an expression of thanks, Otomo Mizhime brings forth a tea set she claims was used by the late emperor Toturi I and attempts to perform a tea ceremony for the party. She clearly is not particularly skilled at this act, but assistance by party members salvages some face, and the party manages to save face for her by acting as if there are no issues, although Utamuro doesn’t know his own strength and cracks one of the cups.

As the party finally leaves the encampment, Hachi also expresses his thanks and admiration for dealing with the zombie attacks. He suggests that Tomus may have something to do with the attacks, as “something just isn’t right about that one.”

Outside the camp, a peasant has piled up the zombie corpses on a pyre and lights it on fire. Before the party can object, he also douses himself with oil and jumps onto the fire. Brother Osen and Togashi You explain that the peasant wanted to ensure that he would not succumb to the taint, and would rather send himself to the afterworld in purifying flame than live on after handling the undead.

Akiyama brings Domogu into the command tent in order to determine whether or not Domogu and Tomus recognize each other and/or whether Tomus has anything to do with the attacks. This interrogation doesn’t reveal any connection between the two, but does cement the supposition that he may be a Gaijin. He speaks very poorly, and when pressed mentions that he’s from an obscure village in the north of Dragon lands, but mis-pronounces the name of his own village. The party does nothing with this supposition at present, though it may be useful information given the extreme xenophobia of the Rokugani empire, and the less than legal status of foreigners.

Mizhime also gives Akiyama a case of mapping supplies for his use on the island in the hopes of surveying it for the empire.

As the party treks back past the site of the Unicorn ambush, Akiyama notes that someone else has been by this way, disturbing the scene. The bodies have been burned, but there is also evidence of odd tracks, as if something (or things) had been dragged across the path. Further investigation reveals both that the weapons crate in the hidden valley has been removed, as well as tracks which appear to be of an extraordinarily long snake. Utamuro finds a large green reptile scale which causes Akiyama to recall a children’s fairytale about the races of old.

Akiyama recalls that the various children’s stories sometimes included mention of Kenku, a race of bird-men who were generally friendly, and Kitsu, a race of lion-men who were also generally friendly, as well as other races such as trolls and Naga. The Naga, a race of snake-men were an odd breed, as in some stories they were seen to swoop in and help fight evil forces, and other times they were an enemy of the Rokugani people.

The trail is followed until it disappears into the river, in the vague direction of the river island. Returning to the road back to the city, the party approaches the Thirsty Heron sake house (the first major building on the way back to town) in the mid evening.

Notable Attendees:
Otomo Mizhime
Otomo Megumi
Brother Osen
Tomus – Weird assistant architect
Domogu – captured ferry operator
Hachi – Imperial Yojimbo

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 2 XP

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Session 12
A Soggy Prisoner

Game Time: 4 March 1175
Location: Bridge encampment/hidden cove

In the aftermath of the zombie attack, as the party dispatched the last of the fallen foes, some began to notice a thick, oily sludge seep out of the bodies. This fluid then began to creep slowly, uphill at times, towards the river. Once the fluid stopped leaking out of each body, the corpse would cease its previous restless twitching. Utamuro grabbed a torch from the encampment, and held it against some of the puddles, which eventually caused the puddle to dissipate with a haunting screech. Others suggested he try to attack the puddles with one of the jade tantos, which he did to similar effect.

Following the zombies’ path back towards the river, the party rounded a copse of trees towards the hidden cove which Utamuro and Akiyama had previously searched out the day before. Waiting near a small rowboat was a man, seemingly waiting for someone to come round this very corner. Clearly a party of armed samurai was not who he was expecting, and as soon as he caught sight of the party he attempted to flee into the boat.

While most of the group charged forward to stop the man, Akiyama calmly loosed an arrow into the man’s shoulder, but he was undeterred. Closing the gap with the fleeing man, Toshiro called forth the wind to pick the man up from the boat. The air kami responded unusually vehemently, ripping the man from the boat and simultaneously throwing the boat into the air, to shatter on the river below.

Msataro begins to coax the man out of the water, and Utamuro drags him to the beach for questioning. As the questioning begins, some of the party members recognize this bedraggled, but fairly well-dressed peasants as the younger of a trio that they had altercated with on their arrival to Shorai no Kiban.

The man (Domogu), amidst much sputtering and stammering, claims that he was coerced by “The Master”, a cowled figure who has Domogu’s family held hostage, to ferry him to and from the large island in the center of the river. He says that the Master must have heard/sensed the party coming and run away instead of returning to the boat to make their escape.

During this conversation, at times the river briefly rises unnaturally before subsiding, and at at least one point Domogu attempts to run away, which prompts Utamuro to break one of his ankles, and at another point he pulls a knife which Byakuya deftly disarms. As he begins to answer questions, Toshiro summons water kami to heal Domogu’s hand and is surprised as the somewhat dirty-looking water practically leaps to the subject and heals him more effectively than usual. During the questioning, the party also searches Domogu for any tattoos, and does find one of the character for “water” on his right hip, which seems to match a fairly common practice of sailors and fishermen having luck tattoos for their profession.

In order to confirm Domogu’s story, Toshiro communes with the water kami, first asking why it seems so eager to help this man. The kami show him images of fishermen and dock-workers and the like dutifully making offerings at the water temple on the docks. When asked to show them the master, the kami shows an image of Domogu, and an indistinct, cowled figure approaching the beach in the rowboat (presumably earlier that night) and eventually the vision clarifies with the master’s otherwise indistinct face sporting vibrant inhuman eyes.

Byakuya notes that the pool of still water with which Toshiro is communing appears to be oily, rather than clear, and stabs at it with a jade tanto as the session finished. The pool of water reacts violently, spitting and hissing as if boiling briefly before dissipating.

The party then drags Domogu back to the construction camp for holding until they can find a boat for him to take them to the island. Hachi is surprised at his morning pee, but takes in news of the attack and this new prisoner in stride. He locks Domogu up at one of the construction huts guarded by peasants and organizes other peasants to burn the zombie corpses. Meanwhile the party retires to sleep for a few more hours.

Back at the hidden cove, Akiyama and Utamuro search for the tracks of the Master but fail to find them (despite finding tracks of the boat, Domogu and the zombies). It is possible that the Master’s tracks are obscured by some of the other activity in the area, but also seems possible that there was never another person there (Utamuro proposes).

Toshiro Importunes the Legacy of Kaze no Kami to send a message the 50 miles to the Daimyo regarding zombies and need for peasant laborers for the bridge. Akiyama asks Mizhime about maps of the island, but she mentions that they haven’t explored it because the sides are too high to dock at and the peasants seem spooked, but once the bridge makes it that far it will cross the southern portion of the island.

Notable Attendees:
Domogu – captured ferry operator
Hachi – Imperial Yojimbo

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Toshiro: +5 for aiding a wounded enemy
Byakuya: +2 for showing kindness (in not killing Domogu when disarming him)
Masataro: +1 for showing kindness in offering Domogu a fair hearing
Glory/Infamy

Misc

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Session 11
Bridge Ambush

Game Time: 4 March 1175 (Early morning)
Location: Bridge encampment
While the bushi prepare for a nighttime attack, Masataro is invited to chat with Mizhime and Megumi. During the discussion, Megumi primarily sits and meditates, while her sister prattles on about the bridge project. Through his Doji courtier training, Masataro is able to glean the following interesting information:
-While the Otomo sisters are part of the imperial bureaucracy, and thus of higher than normal imperial standing, their position does not appear to be rock-solid. It seems that the change from the previous dynasty to the new Iweko dynasty (a former Dragon) has put the historical imperial families into a weaker position as Iweko’s former clan grows in prominence. As a result, the Otomos took up this bridge project as a way to prove their use in advancing the empire. They are desperate to have the project succeed.
-In addition to occasional whispered conversation with Tomus that sounds unintelligible, there are various notations on the bridge plans which appear not to be of Rokugani script.

After setting a number of traps (with the help of the Otomo sisters’ troop of peasants) and establishing a watch for the night, the party waits for any sign of disturbance. Hours pass uneventfully before Shoutaro and Masataro catch sight of movement from the direction of the hidden riverside cove hazily illuminated by the light of a waning gibbous moon. Gradually, a half dozen or so figures resolve out of the darkness, slowly approaching the camp, and eventually coming into view. Shoutaro maintains watch as the figures slowly approach, while Masataro rouses the rest of the party. Six of the figures appear to be of nominal height, while one appears to be literally head and shoulders above the rest.

As the figures eventually come close enough to make out details, the party at first thinks they are a group of injured sailors before eventually realizing that they are clearly animated corpses, bloated from long rests in the river. This realization is first made as the wind changes, causing Utamuro to nearly retch at the foul stench of rotten flesh. It is further cemented by Toshiro communing with a very angry earth spirit, who confirms that the approaching figures are “foul ones” who brother water has brought forth. One the corpses’ true nature is fully revealed, each party member steels his will against the supernatural horror. While all struggle to various degrees, Akiyama and Toshiro have the most difficulty, with Toshiro eventually overcoming his terror, while Akiyama (boosted by encouraging words from Masataro) fights on despite his fear.

The party fights bravely, as the waterlogged zombies trudge towards the camp, heedless of the traps prepared to fight them. Utamuro makes quick work of some of the zombies by repeatedly knocking them down onto Akiyama’s punji stick traps, while Byakuya fends some off and Shoutaro, Masataro and Akiyama finish off the rest. Toshiro also uses the powers of the kami to both hurt and slow one zombie which makes it around the melee line.

While no one is hurt, Byakuya is barely saved from some damage due to deft defenses andhis armor, which bears a few gruesome scratches. The party notes that regular blows seem to be less effective against the creatures while blows to the head and using jade weaponry seem particularly effective. Additionally, the creatures seem to fight on regardless of severe wounds until they are completely destroyed.

The last zombie slips past the party, and heads towards the earth shrine, but stumbles into a series of Akiyama’s traps, and is dispatched before it can complete its journey.

Notable Attendees:

Imperial:
Otomo Mizhime – Architect
Otomo Megumi – Earth Shugenja
Hachi – Yojimbo
Tomus – Assistant

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
All: +2 points Braving the terror of the undead and/or fighting through it
Glory/Infamy

All: +2 points for dispatching supernatural evil

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Session 10
Peculiar Architects

Game Time: 3 March 1175 (Afternoon)
Location: Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

Finishing up at the site of the Peasant/Unicorn ambush, the party decides to send three of the peasant prisoners back to the town garrison withIuchi Yori, but only after ensuring that they are all securely bound. Kuro, the 15-year-old noncombatant who had surrendered is brought along for the time being in an attempt to help mollify the rebellious peasants.

As the party leaves the ambush site, Utamuro catches sight of a strange shirtless, tattooed man sitting in a tree about 20’ above the forested pathway. After some awkward and cryptic attempts at conversation, the tattooed man leaps down from the tree and begins following the party. The party quickly pieces together that this must be the Dragon clan monk who Daimyo Tanitsu seemed so interested in, and who some of them had seen previously perching atop a roof at the docks. His shirtless chest is covered in tattoos, notably a dragon clutching a phoenix, a hawk and a disturbing, black circle. While starting at the black circle Byakuya is momentarily mesmerized and very disturbed by the sight, while Shoutaro swears he saw the wings of the hawk tattoo flapping when the monk jumped down from the tree.

In brief, halting conversation the monk admits that he is here to watch and help ensure that balance is maintained, mentioning both an imbalance between earth and water, and an imbalance in the celestial order with the peasantry rising up against the samurai. As the group continues on towards the bridge encampment, he follows along a little behind the rest, occasionally being accompanied by Shoutaro and Byakuya. Toshiro communes with an air kami the monk had been breathing, which reveals his name as Togashi You, and confirms that while mystical in some way, he is not a shugenja, and is (in the opinion of the kami) a very trustworthy soul.

As the party approaches the construction camp, they see a partly-constructed palisade surrounding a large number of tents, and large piles of construction materials stacked about. A simple, stone altar also stands outside the camp. The altar is dedicated to the local earth spirits, and seems to have been disrupted recently (with the offerings scattered around instead of nicely placed). You immediately begins meditating at the shrine while Byakuya and Shoutaro attempt to re-present the offerings.

While the party spends a little time at the shrine, the earth trembles and a loud crack can be heard from the direction of the bridge. Peering intently, they can see a 5th island support slowly raise out of the river. Shortly thereafter, a well-dressed shugenja (Otomo Megumi) staggers back towards camp with the aid of a monk. Clearly exhausted, she immediately goes to the shrine and stops to pray, which seems to help her recover from most of her exhaustion. In fact her seemingly withered muscles seem to re-inflate as she meditates. Meanwhile the monk, apologizing for his exhausted companion, introduces himself as Brother Osen and the shugenja as Otomo Megumi (one of the imperial sisters). He also thanks the bushi for putting the shrine back together and mutters about this having happened before.

After a few minutes, now mostly recovered from her exhaustion, Megumi makes an attempt at a more formal introduction, accepting Masataro’s formal presentation of the party’s writ and names. She welcomes the party to the camp, and offers to introduce them to her sister, who is a bit more of the talker.

The sound of raised voices can be heard from over the palisade walls, and as the party approaches the gate, a faint stench of rotten fish can be smelled, large muddy footprints can be seen in the area and a man’s body is impaled on one of the palisade logs. Initial scouting by Akiyama shows that these muddy and smelly tracks lead towards the river to the northwest, rather than due-west to the bridge.

Just across from the encampment, the party can make out the bridge, which currently spans approximately 1/3 of the river, anchored at strangely uniform and evenly spaced islands. The first two spans appear to be essentially complete, constructed of stone, the next two spans are clearly in-work, consisting primarily of wooden scaffolding.

Within the camp, a gathering of peasants appears to be arguing with a well-dressed saumrai-ko, flanked by a bushi and a weasley-looking man. The peasants appear to be lobbying for greater protection, clearly concerned by the body outside the gate (one of a few over the last few days) and peasant/ronin threats and attacks. Masataro, Utamuro and Byakuya step forward, offering some mollifying words that the party is here to ensure the safety and success of the bridge project and that the peasants should get back to work.

As the peasants disperse back to their duties around camp, further formal introductions are made to Otomo Mizhime (Megumi’s twin) and their bodyguard (Hachi). When Masataro explains the recent peasant attack, Hachi immediately rushes off to ensure that the camp is secure, and that there isn’t another party of angry peasants looming around the corner.

Meanwhile Mizhime excitedly welcomes the party into the command tent so that she can show off her work. Once inside, she enthusiastically shows off a number of engineering drawings for the bridge and gives an impromptu lecture on arches and various other architectural concepts which go almost entirely over the heads of the party. A few party members note that the design seems unusual, and doesn’t resemble any construction that anyone has seen before. Additionally, every once in a while Mizhime says something but is seemingly corrected quietly by her quiet, weasely servant, and the more astute of the party think that these corrections may be in another language.

After an extensive lecture on bridge architecture, Akiyama eventually steers the conversation towards the recent disruptions. Mizhime admits that some of the quarry shipments have been delayed or missing, though she’s not aware of the pirate attacks, just that her stone is not here… She mentions that she’s sent letters to the Crane quarrymaster, and is on the verge of starting discussions with the Lion quarries further inland. She also dismissively reaffirms that there have been some kind of peasant disturbances as well as a few “distasteful” events such as the impaled peasant currently on the palisade.

Mizhime also mentions that there have been some disturbances of the bridge foundations. Megumi responds defensively to this criticism and explains that there have been disturbances of the earth shrine offerings that are required for her work, which have caused some minor tremors and failings in the stoneworks. Toshiro begins a conversation with her about possibly needing to balance offerings to the water kami with the current offerings to the earth kami, and Utamuro repeats one of the cryptic phrases uttered by Togashi You earier in the day. Megumi agrees that this warrants further thought.

Outside the tent, Hachi shares a bit more with the party about the recent attacks. He mentions that there have been three mysterious deaths, two like the one currently impaled on the palisade, and another closer to the bridge project that appeared to just be shattered. When asked about details, he does seem to recall rotting fish smells near each of these bodies. Apart from that, occasional peasant workers have gone missing, reported threats from other, local peasants, or mentioned armed peasants in the woods nearby.

The party agrees to set up at the encampment for the time being to keep watch and prevent further attacks/disturbances. In the last couple hours before dark, Akiyama and Utamuro follow the muddy tracks down to the river and find evidence of multiple muddy footprints (including one oversized set) seeming to come from the water up to the camp and back. Additionally, in a slightly hidden wooded cove, there is also evidence of a boat being pulled up onto the beach, though nothing is currently present. Along this path Akitama sets a few pongi stick traps.

Along the main path from the bridge, Akiyama also sets a rope trap and near the earth shrine he also sets some pongi stick and pitfall traps, while Toshiro adds some offerings to the earth shrine, attempting to make it more enticing.

Before dark, Utamuro sends Kuro back into town to round up additional peasants to work on the bridge. He is instructed specifically to find other peasants who might be on the fence about joining the rebels, and convincing them instead that gainful employment is available here. He works with Toshiro (and/or Masataro) to give him a writ authorizing this recruitment.

Utamuro and Akiyama also start to brainstorming a missive explaining the bridge project and requesting additional support for the project, to be sent to Daimyo Tanitsu. Utamuro suggests that sending further workers and supplies will result in an increased skilled work force which could then be used on other construction projects such as building roads, fortifications, and the (presumably) soon-to-be-growing town at Shorai no Kiban. Akiyama suggests sending this message back to the Daimyo with captain Shara and her ship the Dawning Moon, when it arrives in the next day or two.

Notable Attendees:

Imperial:
Otomo Mizhime – Architect
Otomo Megumi – Earth Shugenja
Hachi – Yojimbo
Tomus – Assistant
Gudeta – master mason
Monks
Brother Osen
Dragon
Togashi You

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Utamuro: + 4 Showing kindness towards Kuro and the rest of the peasants
Akiyama: 0 (1 for Following orders despite personal misgivings, -1 for “dishonorable” use of traps and ambush tactics)
Byakuya and Shoutaro: +2 for respectful actions at the shrine
Everyone else: +1 for appropriate interactions with the imperials
Glory/Infamy
+1 Rank for anyone who gained an insight level
Misc
All: +1 Lore Architecture (for free) from sitting through Mizhime’s lecture

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