The party needs a lot of healing.
Akihiro, Takeshi, and Kenshin are all wounded, in degrees from Crippled to merely Injured. Tensi is unconscious. All of their ponies are near death. The report on the jade mine has been made to the Crab scouts of Shinsei’s Last Hope – the party is now free to attend to its own needs.
Takeshi needs sleep. He returns to the barracks, dumps his armour and falls into his cot. Akihiro leaves the ponies at their barracks’s stables. He and Kenshin go to seek out treatment for them.
The first stable they visit has no vacancy. The next stable is much larger; the Crab Clan mounted regiments use it. Kenshin finds the nearest stable hand and, exerting his status as a soon-to-be affirmed member of a vassal family of the Crab Clan, demands that his ponies be brought back to health.
Kenshin is not familiar with Crab military ranks. He does not realize he has just demanded service from Taisa CHURA – a ranking Captain of the Crab military. The horrified bushi sincerely apologizes for his accidental insolence. The Crab Taisa is friendly and forgives the slight.
As Akihiro hustles away to bring the injured horses for treatment, Kenshin indulges Taisa Chura and confirms the rumour of having slain a Sea Troll with the story of how it happened. Kenshin receives two points of Glory from his narrative.
The bushi returns with their pitiful mounts. The ponies’ condition is assessed. The Crab captain expects that it will take eight days to nurse them back to complete health. Akihiro and Kenshin return to the barracks to rest.
The next morning, two notes arrive at their lodgings. One instructs Takeshi to armor up and come armed to a local Crab dojo. The other note, delivered with a monk’s robe, tells Kenshin to don the garment and come with his weapon to a temple.
The bushi do as instructed. They arrive to find that four days of intensive, specific training have been arranged to precede their eventual admission to the Moshibaru family of the Crab clan. Both bushi receive weapon training; Kenshin also receives training in skills such as Meditation and the Tea Ceremony.
During these days of training, Akihiro discovers the existence of a medical tent near the gates of Shinsei’s Last Hope, which offers free medical treatment to injured bushi. He visits it daily, to recover from his wounds.
Akihiro asks at the counting table and learns that a party of ronin archers and a shugenja recently turned in the head of a Nairu. This confirms the party’s suspicions. As well, no-one has seen the band of twenty mounted ronin and their charismatic leader for several days.
Later, the bored ronin observes an Iaijustu duel outside of a dojo, fought between ronin and resolved after the first, nonfatal strike.
Takeshi hears whispers circulating around him as he trains; people speak of “the Steel Wall”. He learns it was the name of a very special suit of armour worn by a Crab clan champion, until it was lost many years ago. Other trainees seem to think that Takeshi’s steel helm is one piece of that legendary armour.
When Kenshin and Takeshi’s days of training are complete, all three bushi visit the scouts again to follow up on news about the mine site. They are rebuffed in their attempts to discuss it with anyone. Akihiro hears rumour that a strike force is being assembled to attack the mine. As yet there are no details of when this will happen or who will be involved.
The party travels the next morning, to carefully investigate the site where the charismatic ronin leader had warned them to avoid. Takeshi believes the site may be a nest of the sort of creatures they fought at the ravine. Kenshin wonders if perhaps the band of twenty ronin met their end at that place.
While traveling to the site, the three bushi stumble upon an unprepared ambush group of sixteen goblins. A fight begins. One of the goblins, a shugenja, makes his retreat as his warrior minions surround and attack the human bushi. The goblin shugenja assails the bushi with stones and spells, until finally making good his escape. The party is victorious, slaying five goblins each and taking their heads.
The party turns back and returns to town. Here, Takeshi and Kenshin turn over their haul of heads to be cast into the burn pit. They ask no compensation in return.
Akihiro turns over his five heads, adding to his tally, and with his fellows out of earshot, claims credit for two more of his party’s haul of heads. The counting clerk believes him, and credits him the extras. Akihiro justifies this as making up for some of his goblin trophies that rotted away to nothing while buried.
The party stays the night in Shinsei’s Last Hope, then leaves again in the morning. Proceeding toward the forbidden zone, Kenshin and Akihiro become aware of something following them. Soon after, this mysterious shadow reveals itself before them. It is a Ratling. In a curious, high-toned voice, the creature questions them about their intentions here.
The Ratling seems very concerned for the party’s safety. It warns that there are many terrible enemies ahead at the dangerous place, and that death is all but certain should they chance to go there. It does not think that the group of mounted ronin, as described to him by the bushi, were killed at the site.
This Ratling scout reveals to the party that the goblin shugenja who escaped their last encounter is in fact the very same goblin shugenja who has led all of the goblin attacks on the party ever since these bushi arrived in the Shadowlands. The party pauses and thinks about this. Investigating the oni nest ahead is a bad idea. Going after this goblin shugenja would have many benefits. They begin to plan a way to find him.
(end Part 16)