After the encounter in the cherry tree grove, the group faces no challenges on the trail.
At nightfall they stop and set up camp. Busy at the task only ZABUZA (played by Q.D.), the hulking Crab bushi who had fought Mustachi, notices that a black bear has wandered into the middle of their intended camp.
The bear noses the group’s traveling packs while the group waits, weapons ready but not intending violence unless necessary. It is fortunate that Mustachi did not cut down a deer the other day with his seldom-used bow. That meat certainly would have invited the bear to stay for a meal. Instead, the bear loses interest and silently lumbers off into the heavy forest.
The camp is constructed. A bright fire struck to drive off interlopers, the group rests for the night. On first watch, Mustachi and Zabuza forget their rough introduction with pleasant conversation and drink. They think they spotted a tall, dark creature lurking near the camp. Their eyes might have played tricks on them.
On second watch, Yojira enjoys a warm, enjoyable night and notices nothing. Nobu and Daichi, on last watch, cannot confirm the report of movement in the woods.
Morning comes. The group is breaking down their camp and armoring up to travel when they are suddenly charged by a wild boar ! The creature bursts out of the underbrush at full speed, headed for Zabuza. Mustachi does a most impressive dive and tumble to scoop his unstrung bow from its lean against a tree.
Zabuza hits the boar, and the boar responds with what could have been a devastating hit but was instead restrained well short of killing the Crab bushi. Daichi swiftly enchants his axe with fire and strikes down the boar, killing it.
The shugenja determines that the boar was not evil or somehow Tainted by the Shadowlands. Therefore, those of the group skilled at Hunting spend an hour rending down the boar into strips and hunks of meat. Cured with smoke, it is ready to travel. It is food enough to last a week.
By noon the group is under way again. Two hours later the group finds that they have reached the end of this dangerous forest; the enchanted path has taken full days off their travel time. They enter open grasslands.
Looking back at the forest, the group sees a tall, dark, shaggy humanoid creature watching them from between the trees. When spotted, the creature waves farewell in a friendly fashion, and slips away into the woods. Whether a guardian set to their care by the shrine or just a benevolent forest entity, the group does not know.
Free of the forest, the group finds a road. It is the continuation of the road that led them to this forest from the way-station town. They resume it, watching the open fields for any trouble.
A sudden bolt of lightning strikes a hill up ahead. This is most unusual because the weather is clear and sunny.
The air above the road shimmers. From it appear two large, fearsome dog-like humanoids and their large, jagged weapons. They appear directly in the path of the group.
The group stops, not drawing weapons, simply assessing the situation.
The dog-like creatures focus on the group, eyeing each man in turn. They pause a moment at sight of shugenja Daichi, but mutter that he is not what they are after. Almost as an afterthought, these creatures Intimidate the humans. The group, shaken with fear, steps aside to let these formidable creatures pass.
Nobu, ever eager to uphold the decorum of bushido, offers the creatures a bow as they pass him.
This proves fatal. The creatures, instantly sensing weakness from the Crab bushi in his action, attack the group.
The fight is not evenly matched from the start. As the bushi and shugenja counter-attack, by a man at every turn, their party is diminished.
Hida Nobu is the first to be laid to earth; the jagged blade of the dog-like creature’s spear wounds him fatally. Nobu’s ghost flees his body.
Still injured and unhealed from the boar encounter this morning, Zabuza is first crippled and then slain outright by the other dog-like humanoid. Zabuza’s essence is given over to the land of wind and ghosts.
Kuni Daichi, quickly issuing spells to work down his enemies, honors his family name with his effort but ultimately descends to the place of his ancestors in a radiant blast of flame.
Yojira, having struck two significant blows with his tetsubo against the nearest creature, is loosed at the knees when struck down and beheaded, never to rise again.
Left alone but showering arrows upon his foes to the very end, Mustashi’s death comes by swift decapitation, ending his lineage.
The entire party has been killed (except Shosuro Yama, who was not present).
(end Part 4)