Emerald Magistrate Keiko, impressed with the manner in which the companions addressed Haruki’s problem, deputises them as her yoriki and tasks them with visiting a nearby Scorpion daimyo who has requested the aid of a magistrate. She tosses a bag in the middle of the newly-minted yoriki and it is picked up by Ashiro. Keiko informs the group that Ashiro will be in charge of this investigation.
En-route to the estate of Bayushi Mako, daimyo of Red Heron House, the companions encounter a confused Scorpion patrol led by a man who introduces himself as Bayushi Rin. Oddly, the patrol members are all dripping wet, despite the fact that these lands have seen no rain for several weeks. Also, Rin believes he is in Crane lands, which would have been true until recent political manoeuvrings and shifting of borders, largely at the expense of the Crane. Kayishi notices that the patrol bears the mon of a daimyo who died six generations ago. These ghosts are from an ill-fated Scorpion invasion of Crane lands that was washed away in storms and mud slides that buried hundreds of the invaders. When the bodies of the lost Scorpion are revealed by rains, their spirits are released back into the world to try and continue their missions. Discovering the bodies of Rin and his men reveals that something (or someone) has disturbed their resting place, thus allowing the ghosts into Ningen-do. The bodies must be pulled from the mud and cremated, but not by noble samurai!
At Red Heron House the companions introduce themselves to Bayushi Mako and advise him of their encounter with the ghosts. The daimyo sends his Shugenja to investigate and organise the local heimin to deal with the remains. Meanwhile the yoriki enjoy the hospitality of Red Heron House. Whilst carousing they encounter three interesting individuals:
- Bayushi Minzhang, the young and fiery daughter of the daimyo;
- Doji Chikako, a delicate young maiden who is currently a guest at Red Heron House; and
- Bayushi Daitaro, the recently promoted, and nervous, Captain of the Guard.
Ashiro talks with Chikako and realises that she is not a willing guest at Red Heron House and is happy to have another Doji around, if only to discuss poetry.
Kayishi learns that Chikako’s father owes money to Bayushi Mako and so the Scorpion is holding Chikako captive whilst the debt remains unpaid. She also learns that the former Captain of the Guard committed seppuku over his failure to capture a notorious local bandit known as Red Eagle, hence the nervousness of the new incumbent.
The next morning Bayushi Mako asks the PCs to investigate reports of bandits operating in the area around his estate. As a nephew of the Scorpion Clan Champion, and a man of no small political ambition, the fact that bandit attacks are taking place in his area is very distressing for him, potentially causing a huge loss of face. Mako, asked Isawa Keiko to look into this matter discretely, as a personal favour. The following information is learned by the young investigators, some directly and some pieces by implication:
The bandit leader is known as Red Eagle and he wears a mask, an irony not lost on Bayushi Mako;
Only the daimyo’s tax convoys are being attacked;
Red Eagle and his bandits have not killed anyone. The guards have always been knocked unconscious;
The guards describe Red Eagle and his men as poorly equipped and shabbily attired, even by bandit standards. This is odd given the proximity of a town, which could easily serve as an unknowing resupply depot; and
This estate, so close to the new border with the Crane, is very prestigious from a political perspective and Mako, aims to use it as a springboard to greater power and influence. An unrestrained bandit gang making a mockery of him and his men is the last thing he needs. Hence his need for a neutral third-party to take care of this matter on his behalf.
Ashiro, Hiroyuki and Jubei decide to investigate the local town, whilst Kayishi remains at court.
Passing through the fields, they see that the lands are blessed with exceptional productivity, well maintained roads and everything one could wish for, until they arrive in the town itself, where everything looks like it has been unpainted and minor repairs neglected recently, except for the shrines, which have been completely despoiled. Venturing along the town’s main street, the yoriki are assaulted by children wielding sticks and wearing plain porcelain masks. Hiroyuki and Jubei make short work of these diminuitive foes, onlyh to realise that the entire town is occupied by mask-wearing zombies. Adhering to Akodo’s philosophy regarding the relationship between discretion and valour, the companions withdraw to Red Heron House.