Session 36

Senshō (5/1)

As part of their community rebuilding effort — and because they realize that the Fragrant Fern is a prime target as long as they sleep there — the characters offer to reimburse Nakashima Soshu, the proprietor of the Fragrant Fern, for the cost of hiring a few burly fighters that he trusts to stand guard.

Having swapped out armor and weapons, and restocked their bags, the characters rush to keep a late morning appointment with Reiko, the chunin of the Jade Fist, at Matsunasga’s Noodles in the Chrysanthemum District. Reiko greets them warmly and treats them to noodles, then steers the discussion to business. She offers to buy the exclusive rights to the zombie poison they have recently encountered. She reminds them that, via Asami, the Jade Fist has access to the recipe, but are willing to pay well to prevent the characters from making the recipe available to others.

Kumiko, Saeko, and Miyo step away from the table to discuss the offer without Asami. They debate the merits of making a deal. Kumiko believes that no one should have access to the poison, but Saeko points out that the Jade First already has access, so they’d just be paying them not to proliferate it, which is what they were planning to do anyway. Her pragmatism overrides Kumiko’s idealism, and they return to the table in order to negotiate.

Reiko offers them ten thousand cranes, which they negotiate up to twenty thousand, and both sides seem satisfied with the outcome.  The deal concluded, Kumiko attempts to pick Reiko’s brain about the cult and the Golden Hornets. Reiko laughs, and tells them that the word on the street is that they’ve pretty convincingly got themselves on the bad side of the Hornets. She warns them to be careful, comparing Hiro to a blunt sick and Tetsuo to a sharp sword. Thus far, they’ve picked fights with the far less dangerous brother.

She also confirms that the man they saw in the warehouse was actually Ichiro, the big boss, and mentions that they should also be careful of another lieutenant that they haven’t met yet, Fumi.

Kumiko then conveys the evidence that the Golden Hornets are inexorably entwined with the Eaters of the Dead, and that, from her standpoint, she would be happy to eliminate them so that a more reasonable organization can take over. Reiko seems bothered by their involvement with the cult and intrigued by Kumiko’s proposition of a shift in the city’s power dynamic. Before the characters leave, Reiko agrees to pass a message on to the Golden Hornets that the characters aren’t interested in messing in their business directly.

The characters head back to the Fragrant Fern and split up to do some more investigation. Saeko and Miyo sit down to look through the correspondence and the ledger that they picked up from the raid on the Golden Hornets' warehouse. Saeko recognizes the calligrapher of the letter as the Raven. It contains instructions for transporting a set of goods to “the lab,” though it does not provide an address. They presume it was the sewer hideout that they already found. Miyo analyzes the list of goods and finds that they match up to the mundane ingredients in the zombie poison.

When they look at the ledger, they find that it has records of transactions for nearly every merchant in the city. They’re mostly transactions of mundane, cheap goods, but it indicates that the Golden Hornets are tied deeply into the city’s economy. Conspicuously, they find no mention of the blood meal - one of the components of the zombie poison, which they had found plenty of in the warehouse.

Meanwhile, Kumiko takes Asami with her to engage in a charm campaign with the daimyo’s advisors. She meets with Sagawa Sadako, the Minister of Shrines, at the Shrine of the Southern Wind. Sagawa-san is very interested in their latest discoveries, and vows to convene a council of shinkan to discuss the Mizuta problem. She also grants Mitsuhide control over the Frog King Shrine, now that it has been cleansed by the party.

They also meet with Nemoto Kakuzo, the Minister of Finance who they originally met at the Ondara Theater. They don’t get into a deep discussion, but they exchange pleasantries and update him on their findings and concerns. He agrees that they should talk to the daimyo.

After she finishes examining the correspondence and ledger, Saeko decides to meet with Fujiwara Shizu, the daimyo’s sister. Shizu provides a thorough overview of the city’s arts scene: who is doing what, what she’s doing to stimulate the arts, and what will play well during the Festival of the Banners. Saeko offhandedly asks about Suzuki Ichiro, and is surprised by Shizu’s answer. She speaks highly of Suzuki as a great patron of the arts - he is actively involved in the community and has even donated money to the palace to revitalize their gardens.

Saeko mentions that they are interested in becoming patrons of the arts as well, and are looking to buy a theater. Shizu excitedly points them to the Fukuda theater - a once great icon of the Dancing Fans district that has become a bit worn due to age and neglect. Saeko promised to check it out and then leaves to meet up with the rest of the group.

Reassembled, the characters meet with the Captain of the Guard and ask for the opportunity to talk to the Raven. She tells them that she’s glad they are here, because the Raven has stated that she’s only willing to talk to them. She walks them over to the prison and introduces them to the warden, Nakano Naizen. Nakano arranges for them to interrogate the prisoner, and leaves them mostly alone, confident that they can handle themselves.

The characters discuss strategy: since Kumiko tends to react to provocation by lopping off heads, she will wait outside the interrogation room. Saeko will take the lead, playing the part of Good Cop. She attempts to convince the Raven that her cause is lost, that the cult will fail, and that she should join the side of the righteous. It doesn’t go quite as planned. Instead of being contrite, the Raven challenges each of Saeko’s assertions. Have they lost? Did the characters really defeat her?

Kumiko stands outside, seething in anger at the Raven’s insolence. It doesn’t take long before Saeko throws in the towel and motions for Kumiko to join them. At seeing the young samurai draw her sword, the Raven smiles, says, “Goodbye Tokugawa,” and then disappears. Everyone is caught off guard. Miyo and Saeko both fail to identify what spell she cast. Simultaneously, a great commotion arises out in the prison. The warden appears, fuming. He informs them that Enari, the City Guard lieutenant arrested for her ties to the Golden Hornets, is dead, and several of the guards are missing.

Feeling bewildered and somewhat defeated, the characters head back to the Fragrant Fern to clear their heads. They are pleased to find five burly urokobito standing around trying to act inconspicuous, but looking completely conspicuous for their efforts. Nakashima-san informs them that they are the new guards, and their rate is 10 cranes per day (2 cranes per guard). 

Then, a messenger appears with an invitation requesting their presence at the palace the next morning. Kumiko’s charm campaign appears to have worked.

To celebrate, they decide to check out the Fukuda theater. Is is indeed run down, and they stay to watch a bad dinner show. After, they find the proprietor, Fukuda Hideo, an older human gentleman. They discuss their desire to buy and revitalize the theater, and eventually negotiate him down to 2500 cranes. He seems happy that his family’s theater will see better days