Our protagonists form Otomo Kurou's personal staff, his trusted advisors and investigators, called yoriki.
Hiruma-san keeps up her surveillance of the situation surrounding Usagi Akiko, while everyone else is taking a slow morning.
At lunch, Ujina-dono addresses everyone and thanks everyone for their cooperation and shows himself impressed by how well everything has been going and how productive this meeting has been so far. To truly renew and cement the alliance between the two families, he proposes a set of marriages, including him marrying Usagi Akiko. Otomo-sama agrees that these marriages would serve well to connect the families more closely.
As lunch is about to end, a servant runs in, bringing news of a bandit attack on a nearby village! The original messenger is brought inside to provide more insight into the attack. Daidoji-san asks about the number of attackers, but the messenger cannot answer that definitely, but there were some samurai with the attackers. Kitsuki-san then asks whether one of the attackers was carrying a nodachi, as he is worried that the samurai might be the ronin that were sent away earlier. Indeed, one of the bandits was armed with one.
Getting to the village will take a few hours, so the yoriki and any allies will have to leave soon, in order to be able to track and catch the bandits. Bayushi-san decides to stay with the daimyos and Otomo-sma. The others gather the available forces and divide them into four groups. Three groups, lead by Hiruma-san, Kitsuki-san and a local bushi with scouting experience, will attempt to track down the bandits, while the fourth group under Bayushi-san will ensure that the Usagi manor is not undefended. The hunters are split into three groups in order to maximize the ground that they can cover.
The daimyos are satisfied with the plans that the yoriki are forming and leave them to it, while they finish the negotiations. As the last preparations are made and the horses are assigned to the groups, Kitsuki talks to the armorer and borrows a set of light armor as well as a katana for the upcoming battle.
While the rest of the yoriki ride out to confront the bandits, Bayushi-san stays behind to observe the negotiations and ensure a smooth end to the discussions. However, her presence is barely required, as Otomo-sama manages to keep everything going smoothly.
When the subject of the political marriages comes up again, Bayushi-san tries to subtly dissuade Ujina-dono from marrying Akiko, and suggests that a yearly commemorative festival would be a better idea to regularly remind people of he value of cooperation. The daimyos agree that this is a good idea, particularly when combined with the marriages.
By the evening, the negotiations are essentially done.
In the meantime, the expedition force reaches the village that was attacked. Two houses have been burned down and it is obvious that the villagers are still dealing with the aftermath. Kitsuki-san asks a villager where the bandits went and starts looking for tracks in that direction with Hiruma-san and the scout's help.
They find the tracks easily, leading west by south west. The tracks suggest that there were roughly 15 bandits, a force comparable to the one led by the yoriki, but with far fewer horses. They yoriki follow the tracks deep into the forest, until their scouts can hear noises of a camp before them.
The camp is hidden behind a little ridge and Hiruma-san is sent up to the crest to scout out the lay of the land and where the camp is exactly, while the rest of the expedition force is hidden behind the ridge. Hiruma-san stealthily finds a good vantage point from which to observe the bandit camp. It turns out that there is a little lake nearby, which provides the bandit camp with a natural defense from one side, but also cuts off their escape route. There seem to be roughly 16 bandits, 10 of which look like armed peasants with 6 samurai. They seem to have 3 archers, one of which is an ex-Mantis. There is a Lion with a nodachi, as well as a Dragon who seems likely to use the Niten4 style, while a Crab ronin carries a tetsubo and a Scorpion carries a naginata and the rest are all armed with swords.
Daidoji-san and Kitsuki-san create a battle plan, where the main force approaches head on, to give the bandits a chance to surrender, while the archers cover the flanks and counter the enemy archers and strong targets. The signal to attack will be Kitsuki-san drawing his blade.
The archers, including Hiruma-san, get into position while the main fighting force forms a line and marches up to the bandit camp. The bandits spot the approaching force and form up as well and it becomes clear that the ronin bandits are not the ronin that the yoriki have dealt with before. Kitsuki-san lists all the crimes they committed to give them a last chance to repent and surrender, but the bandits only jeer and joke and taunt them.
When one of them boasts that perhaps they'll add killing a dragon to their list of accomplishments, Kitsuki-san responds "There will be a dead Dragon, but it shall not be me!" and draws his sword.
Hiruma-san and the archers open fire, wounding the Mantis and killing one of the other archers. At the same time, everyone assumes their stances and then the combat is joined.
The Lion ronin decides to teach the Dragon courtier a lesson and slices Kitsuki nearly in half with one blow from his nodachi, before focusing on Daidoji-san.
Ide-san calls the kami to aid Daidoji-san, who takes up the Lion's challenge and fights him in an impromptu duel. Meanwhile, the archery duel is won decisively by Hiruma-san, who begins to support the main fighting line.
Kitsuki-san has gathered his wits again after the devastating blow dealt to him and performs a textbook kaeshi waza5 on an ashigaru who thought him an easy target.
Daidoji-san proves the superior swordsman in the duel with the Lion, landing a heavy blow without getting struck himself.
One archer hid from Hiruma-san and tries to stop Ide-san calling upon the kami's aid. She responds with proof that she can defend herself just fine, pinning him to the ground with an expertly thrown yari6.
Together with Kitsuki-san, Ide-san then faces the Scorpion who has just taken down one of the Usagi samurai. One blast from the Tempest of the Air throws the Scorpion down to the ground, opening her up to attack from even a wounded Kitsuki-san. She surrenders after that.
The Lion continues trying to take Daidoji-san down and lands a hit but Daidoji-san simply shrugs it off and kills the Lion with his next strike.
It's slowly becoming clear that the forces of the Hare clan and the yoriki are winning, but the Crab samurai is still fighting and has already killed several opponents. Hiruma-san concentrates her fire on him and brings him down after Daidoji-san joins the fight against him. Still, the Crab is unwilling to surrender and keeps attacking Daidoji-san, even as badly hurt as he is, failing utterly before collapsing and being disarmed.
The wounded are taken care of and Daidoji-san ensures that the bandits are captured, not killed, so that they can be brought before the daimyo, judged and executed in the proper way.
The Crab comes back around and requests to be allowed Seppuku, which Daidoji-san, who defeated him, grants. The other ronin are simply arrested with the rest of the bandits.
A cart from the camp is used to transport the few wounded who cannot walk, and Kitsuki-san remembers to gather the daisho of any dead samurai, so that they can be returned to their proper clans later.
Then the squad makes their way back to the Usagi manor, while a storm is brewing in the sky.
At the Usagi estate, dinner has been served, and Bayushi-san tries to figure out if Ujina-dono will be a good husband to Akiko. Probably not that great, but not outright terrible. Still, she wants to get an opportunity to set him straight and begins flirting with him, to which he is very receptive.
He arranges a private tea with her and requests not to be served by Usagi Akiko. Instead they are served tea by the woman who was previously seen tending to the gardens. The conversation quickly evolves into something rather more intimate, even though both Bayushi-san and, seemingly, Ujina-dono, develop a headache. However, when there is a light disagreement on how to proceed, Bayushi-san doesn't insist and retreats to her room, where she quickly falls asleep despite the headache.
A short while after that, the expedition returns and is welcomed by Usagi-dono. Kitsuki-san returns the daisho of the fallen samurai as well as the equipment he was allowed to borrow. While everyone else deals with the wounded and getting themselves settled back in, Kitsuki-san goes directly to Bayushi's room, to update her on the expedition, since she apparently didn't come up to greet them herself.
He finds her sleeping very fitfully, without waking up. When she doesn't wake up even after he tries waking her up, he quickly goes to fetch Ide-san, who diagnoses her as having been poisoned. Unfortunately, the kami don't respond when she calls upon their aid to purge the poison from Bayushi-san's system.
Leaving Ide-san to help Bayushi-san, Kitsuki-san realizes that she probably wasn't the only target and goes to Hiruma-san for help with finding any more victims. Hiruma-san immediately suggests than Ujina-dono, who was missing from the welcome party might be another victim and they go to his quarters to check on him. Indeed, he is in similar shape as Bayushi-san and Hiruma-san goes to fetch Ide-san.
Ide-san, in the meantime, has asked around for a doctor or herbalist and is told that indeed there is one in a nearby village. She informs Otomo-sama that she wants to go, but is called to Ujina-dono first. She and Kitsuki-san both realize that some calming medicine would be helpful, but only Kitsuki-san realizes that the opium from the inn's back room might be helpful.
Daidoji-san sends someone off to the herbalist, while Ide-san organizes getting Bayushi-san into the same room as Ujina-dono, to keep an eye on both of them.
Kitsuki-san grabs Hiruma-san and Daidoji-san as well as some ashigaru8 to get to the inn and get some opium with no discussions. Hiruma-san disapproves of bringing more people, as that would slow them down and surely three samurai are more than enough to deal with the innkeeper. When Kitsuki-san orders the ashigaru to arrest all the opium users after acquiring what they need, she feels that this was his plan all along and that he lied about his motives. Kitsuki-san is too preoccupied with helping Bayushi-san and Ujina-dono to pay her too much attention, however.
Thankfully, the opium does bring relief to both of the victims and Ide-san gets a chance to commune with the kami, gaining more information about the poison. It is from a plant called "Black Lotus" and should normally kill quite quickly, suggesting that the dose was too low for two people. She also gets the impression that the poisoner was small, a woman perhaps.
Hiruma-san realizes that Akiko is missing and tells that to Daidoji-san, including her suspicion that she might be the poisoner. They go and search for her, but she isn't at the estate! All the horses are accounted for, however, so she didn't flee that way. Daidoji-san discovers that she left shortly before everyone arrived and that she would often go to a teahouse in the town with one of the samurai from the house. Hiruma-san realizes that he is missing too and they go to the teahouse to investigate there.
Indeed, Akiko and her presumed beau are at the teahouse, not even trying to hide. With a bit of help from Daidoji-san, Hiruma-san manages to convince the couple to come back to the estate before anyone comes to suspect them.
When they return, Daidoji-san tells the guards to prevent anyone else from leaving and agrees with Hiruma-san that the young couple probably isn't hiding anything.
Once the herbalist arrived, she was able to help Ide-san and together they kept both victims alive until the poison passed from their system.
Kitsuki-san found that dealing with opium while a thunderstorm is going on7 wasn't the best idea, and had a panic attack, running to his room and cowering under the blanket. Luckily for him, everyone else was too busy with other stuff to pay him much attention.
In the morning it was discovered that the gardener left, despite the guards' efforts.
Three days later, the bandits were executed, which the daimyos took as a good omen for their renewed cooperation. After all, a joint effort eliminated this menace.
Like the first session, I enjoyed this a whole lot. Bayushi's player unfortunately didn't get a lot to do, but that was due to his own actions, and he said he didn't mind.
The roleplay was cool, from the moment where we all shifted from "we have to protect Akiko" to "a political marriage is just fine" to planning our battle tactics. The battle was scary, and I'm lucky the Lion / the GM didn't just cut me down with a second strike. On the other hand, Ide-san's spear throw and my counterattack on the ashigaru were awesome.
What with the blog, the session logs and the podcast, I think it might be time to step down as main GM of the group, and let one of the others take over that duty. As much as I like playing and running GURPS, I really, really enjoy the world of the Legend of the Five Rings, and our GM did, in my opinion anyway, a great job, so I'd quite enjoy continuing to play Kitsuki Shinichi! :D
Priest-Mage: The Shugenja are religious figures who perform rituals and can speak to the Kami, the elemental spirits making up the world. This allows them to cast spells, which are, in-universe, prayers to the Kami. ↩
Magistrates are a mix between police and administrators, some stay in one place, others move or are sent to various places. ↩
Two-Sword style, which uses the Katana and Wakizashi at the same time. ↩
A block and counterattack. There are good videos on YouTube, look for men kaeshi men. ↩
Which he is afraid of! ↩
Peasant soldiers. Some of them were part of the assault on the bandits, too. ↩