Session 48

Shakkō (5/6)

The next morning, Saeko leads the group to the marketplace to do a little shopping. She needs a healer’s kit, and is determined to find a length of chain and some manacles to replace the ones that got blasted apart in the fight with the red shadow dragon. The marketplace is still a wreck: shopkeepers are slowly cleaning up their stalls and city workers are hauling away dead bodies to be cremated. Nevertheless, she manages to find what she’s looking for.

While looking around, Miyo asks about the Golden Hornets. She hears confirmation of what they’d heard the day before: that the big boss is dead and his son, Tetsuo, is in charge. Luckily, she also finds out that the contract on them has been rescinded for the time being.

Next, the characters head to the Palace District with the intention of demanding an audience with the daimyo. First, they stop to see Watanabe Isako, the Captain of the Guard. She’s busy directing cleanup efforts, and while it appears that her wounds have healed, her armor tells the story of a fearsome fight.

She tells them that most of the ashigaru that served within the city walls died defending the city. She has had to recall the two units that patrolled the lands around the city in order to keep peace until new guards can be selected and trained. She also informs them that the daimyo wants to see them, and offers to accompany them.

The characters, accompanied by Isako, head to the palace. The gardens are completely destroyed, but the bodies of guards and zombies have all been cleared away. Isako leads the characters inside and takes them to the daimyo’s office.

They stop right outside the daimyo’s door, as they can overhear her yelling at her brother, lambasting him for failing the city, their family, their ancestors, and just about everyone else she could possibly list. The dressing-down goes on for a while, and Isako looks extremely uncomfortable that the characters are there to overhear it. Eventually, the yelling stops, the door slides open, and Fujiwara Juro leaves looking as low as a human can possibly look.

Isako leads the group in, and Saeko introduces the characters with a dramatic and ingratiating flourish. Kumiko extends her sympathies to the daimyo on the loss of her sister, and Fujiwara Rei invites them all to sit and drink tea. She thanks the characters for all they’ve done to protect the city and the lives of its inhabitants.

Kumiko tells Rei about the challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve discovered about the cult. The daimyo is riveted, and listens intently. She agrees that they need to face down the threat, and suggests striking at the heart of the cult in Mizuta.

Following a hunch, Saeko mentions the coded correspondence to Rei, and shows her an example of it to look at. The daimyo thumbs through a few pages before stopping and looking puzzled. She gets up, walks over to a desk, and pulls out a black ledger before handing both back to Saeko.

When Saeko opens the ledger, she realizes that the handwriting matches that of the cult leader who goes by the name of the Pheasant. It’s Nemoto Kakuzo, the daimyo’s Minister of Finance. Upon learning that one of the cult leaders is a member of the daimyo’s council, Miyo casts detect magic to see if they’re being observed. She sees a luminous orb hovering by the daimyo’s head, which she tries but fails to dispel.

Now that they know they’re being scryed upon, they realize that the Pheasant also knows that his cover is blown, and is probably going to make a run for it, if he hasn’t already. Isako alerts the guards to look for Kakuzo, and then leads the characters to his office, which is unoccupied by the time they arrive. Miyo casts detect magic, but finds nothing. Saeko searches his desk and finds a secret compartment in a drawer in which another sheaf of coded correspondence is hidden.

Suddenly, Isako yells to the characters that Kakuzo was just spotted leaving the palace. They all rush outside, where they see a lone figure hurrying across the ruined gardens. Kumiko steps forward and yells for him to halt.

He stops, turns around, and smiles. As the characters look on in horror, his body begins to elongate, his cloak twists into a pair of black, leathery wings, and giant tentacles sprout from his back.