Following his clan’s victory in Tosa province, Hashinara Katamoto met with the Ooeyama-doji and discussed the battle. Hoshikuma-doji was chosen to search for the missing Chosokabe Morichika, and found her soon after in the wastelands near the ruins of Nankoku, but she simply teleported away again before they could close. Torakuma-doji handled the negotiations with Katamoto, and the Oni army soon returned to the Mori lands to report to their Daimyo.
Once the political matters had been settled and the area scouted, Katamoto himself entered the ruined hulk of the city and made his way to a room filled with the remains of those who had fallen victim to the Chosokabe. Having his ninja stealthily bring the skeleton of the Ichinomiya princess he had claimed previously inside, he set about resurrecting her. When the risen Ichinomiya Karen awoke, Katamoto explained that he had found her in the ruins of the Chosokabe capital to the west, wounded but alive, and had healed her with magic. Acceding to her wishes to see her father, he promised to deliver her to Ise on their return to the mainland.
The Hashinara army sent Aotsuki Tsukamoto to Nishiuwa Matsutake as a messenger, and he was able to negotiate a truce despite the Daimyo’s previous apprehensions. The Nishiuwa clan agreed to keep an eye on Tosa in their absence as the Hashinara troops withdrew and prepared to return to Yamato province. As agreed beforehand, Motoyama Tsugutoshi took two squads of samurai and returned to Sanuki, where she would govern as a vassal Daimyo and attempt to rebuild her ruined holdings.
Tosa itself was quarantined as a dangerous area, with only a few squads of ashigaru left to guard it. Redevelopment was encouraged, but restricted to the eastern portion of the province, far away from the mysterious black rocks filled with void essence. Several of said rocks were broken into samples, to be returned to Wakigami for research.
Upon the army’s successful return to Yamato, Hashinara Katamoto oversaw the recruiting of two new generals to aid with the management of their new holdings. A seasoned trader and associate of Tsukijo Hanahane, Juntoku no Chukyo was chosen to act as Bugyo of Awa, and oversee its rebuilding. In addition, a woman of low birth, but unrivaled skill in the sciences, one Sarutaba Chino, was hired to be head of the clan’s research and development, starting with the containment and possible weaponization of the mysterious black void stones recovered from Tosa.
Katamoto himself then left for Ise province, Ichinomiya Karen in tow, to return her to her father, the Daimyo of the Ichinomiya clan. Upon arrival, he was halted at the gate by the head priest, named Matsumashita Daiki, and told that he could not enter with the Nue, which he had taken as a kind of pet, on his shoulder. Acceding, he passed the creature to Kamimusubi and entered with only himself and Karen.
To his surprise, Katamoto discovered that Ichinomiya Hachiro not only knew of his daughter’s whereabouts, but was haunted by her ghost, an apparition that only Katamoto and Hachiro could see within the chamber. This made him naturally suspicious of the creature that the Hashinara Daimyo had brought before him, claiming to be his daughter, and he ordered Daiki to banish it. By the use of some timely illusion magic by the ghost Karen, who had become rather infatuated with her other self, however, they were able to escape, and Katamoto was officially exiled from the province.
On his return trip, he discovered that the ghostly Karen had chosen to accompany him, having grown bored of only her father’s company for the past twenty years. Bemused by his new companion, Katamoto said nothing and allowed her to follow back into the castle.
When he returned to Yamato, Katamoto was told that an envoy from the Shogunate, sent to inquire regarding the Hashinara’s aggressive conquest of the Chosokabe, would be arriving later that day. A rather efficient administrator, who no one had seen around before but knew his job well, had already handled the arrangements for the envoy’s arrival and set up a series of checkpoints for his safe delivery to the castle.
Noting this, Katamoto decided to spend his time until the envoy arrived speaking with Vengeance, who was still incarcerated in the dungeons beneath the fortress. Vengeance was as recalcitrant as ever with his responses, and still refused to join the Hashinara, but seemed more sure of himself, and hinted at having a plan to bring Katamoto’s clan down, a goal which he seemed to see as his new purpose in life.
Worrying that Vengeance’s machinations may have something to do with the Shogunate envoy’s visit, Katamoto ordered Umashiashikabihikoji to remain in the dungeon with him, and to drain his ki regularly, leaving him on the edge of consciousness.
Later in the day, the envoy arrived at the city on time, and reached the first checkpoint, but failed to arrive at the second. Katamoto wasted no time in arranging a squad composed of himself, Matsumoto Ooawagaeri, Aotsuki Tsukamoto, Kamimusubi, the administrator who had set up the checkpoints, and Yoshiktaka Hitsuie for his tracking ability, and making his way to the noble quarter to investigate the man’s disappearance himself.
A search of the area and questioning of the nearby servants of noble houses revealed that the envoy had been seen in the area, and had left with an important looking group away from his predetermined route. Hitsuie was able to follow the retinue’s tracks down a side alley, at which point the group was attacked by a group of Igamono insurgents who had been waiting in ambush.
Already prepared for battle, the Hashinara generals fought off the initial attack and killed the enemy ninja after a brief struggle. The administrator, who revealed himself as an Igamono himself when he attempted to kill Katamoto from behind, was slain with an arrow in the forehead by Hitsuie, earning him some measure of respect from the other generals there. Rather than falling to the ground, the administrator disappeared in a rough blast of smoke, leaving no trace but the single arrow falling to the ground.
Fearing that even more enemy ninja may be lying in wait for them at the destination of the tracks, Katamoto called for backup over the clan’s neural network, and the group was joined by Ryuuzaki Sanosuke and Fujibayashi Nagato. Following the trail, they arrived at the Tsukijo family’s manor. Tsukijo Hanahane was away acting as the Bugyo of Kii province, but his daughter should have been still present, so the emptiness of the manor and her absence were troubling.
After some searching, the party found a trapdoor leading into an underground storeroom, and were there met with the bound and gagged form of Tsukijo no Yumeno in the back. Stepping from the shadows was a man dressed in the exact robes that Katamoto wore, with the same mask, and even the same voice. The mysterious impostor revealed that he had already met with the Shogunate’s envoy and had sent him on his way after telling him, in forceful terms, not to interfere in the Hashinara clan’s business.
The political ramifications, should the envoy return to Echizen province with the message, were obvious. Fujibayashi Nagato, striking from the shadows, was able to kill the Katamoto impostor with a single strike, causing him to burst into smoke and vanish as well. Yumeno, who had managed to get to her feet, stumbled toward Aotsuki in an apparent gesture of thanks, but something in her gait put the party on guard. Nagato noticed that rather than being bound behind her, Yumeno’s hands clutched a katana, and she seemed intent on attacking Katamoto when she drew close enough. This impostor was defeated as quickly, and once again vanished into a puff of smoke.
Before the group could leave, a larger group of Igamono burst from the darkness of the storeroom, and a short but bloody battle ensued. Ooawagaeri found himself surrounded, but was teleported to safety by a surprise appearance from Chosokabe Morichika. Aotsuki Tsukamoto was knocked unconscious, and, to the assembled generals’ horror, a surprise attack by one of the ninja cut Hashinara Katamoto’s head clean from his shoulders. Taking command, Ryuuzaki Sanosuke managed to control the situation and lead them to a bloody victory without any more casualties.
The real Tsukijo no Yumeno was found in a barrel, tied with ropes and gagged but otherwise unharmed, and explained that the Igamono had taken control of the estate and met with the Shogunate’s envoy in the cellar. Thanking her, the group informed Tsukijo Hanahane of his daughter’s situation, and returned to Wakigami.
Aotsuki Tsukamoto, upon his recovery, was sent to intercept the messenger before he could relay the false Katamoto’s message to the Shogunate, while Ooawagaeri retired with a group of bodyguards and Katamoto’s corpse to Isonokami shrine to the south. In a ritual lasting three days, he would be able to revive the Daimyo and return him to his previous undead state.
Meanwhile, Ooawagaeri found himself in a modest blacksmith’s shop in the trade quarter of Wakigami. Morichika, who had been staying here while in hiding, introduced him to a man named Masamune, the owner of the shop and self-proclaimed best swordsmith in Japan. The two spoke for a short time, Masamune taking a particular interest in Jigenmaru, until Morichika, having developed something of an affection for Ooawagaeri, if just to spite Chosokabe Kanetsugu, implored him not to divulge her location to the rest of the generals, a request to which he agreed.
North of Wakigami, Aotsuki caught up with the envoy from the Shogunate just as he was about to pass into Yamashiro province. The messenger, an unimpressive man with a mustache named Matsutada Tadamatsu, originally mistook Aotsuki’s intentions, and called upon his guard to protect him from the Hashinara thugs here to finish the job they had started in the city.
Accompanying Tadamatsu was a young woman in red clothing with a long blade at her hip and a strange, archaic accent. Once Aotsuki cleared up the misunderstanding, and informed Tadamatsu that he had been kidnapped by an impostor, she introduced herself as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a wandering swordswoman who had come across Tadamatsu and agreed to protect him for his journey back to Echizen.
Somewhat mollified, Matsutada gave Aotsuki his real message to deliver to the Hashinara Daimyo. According to it, the Shogunate had taken a dim view to their aggressive conquest of the Chosokabe, regardless of their reasons, but would be willing to overlook this if they lent their aid to the nearby Hosokawa clan. The Hosokawa had been forced out of their home in Osaka, Setsu province, by an upstart clan calling themselves the Ryuuzouji, an organization not recognized by the Japanese government.
The Hashinara were to meet with Hosokawa Fujitaka, the Hosokawa Daimyo, as earliest as they were able, and aid him in reclaiming Setsu. Aotsuki thanked the envoy, and began to take his leave, but, before he could, Yoshitsune called for him to keep a look out for a wanderer named Benkei, a servant from whom she had been separated.
Upon hearing the news, Ryuuzaki Sanosuke, who had taken over command in the absence of Katamoto, sent Aotsuki out once again to speak to the Daimyo of Yamashiro, in an attempt to gain his aid against the Ryuuzouji. He himself then traveled to Kawachi province to the west, and met with Tsuchimi Takasuke, who had been their ally in many fights in the past.
Takasuke was less willing to help in this instance, as the Ryuuzouji presented no direct threat to him, and the hypothetical scenarios Sanosuke presented left him plenty of opportunity to act if it proved necessary. He agreed to lend his forces to the Hashinara, but only for a price, albeit somewhat reduced from his normal mercenary rates. Thanking him, but uninterested in hiring the clan, Sanosuke returned to Yamato.
Aotsuki’s negotiations did not fare much better, as Harizono Yoshinatsu, the Daimyo of Yamashiro, saw little reason to actively engage the Ryuuzouji. The Harizono, he explained, had been tasked with the protection of Yamashiro, and he would guard it whenever it became necessary, from the Ryuuzouji or whoever else, but this duty did not include uprooting his troops and taking the battle to the doorstep of a clan that may very well not wish him any harm.
When Aotsuki and Sanosuke had both regained Wakigami castle, Ooawagaeri’s ritual had been completed, and he too returned with a newly-resurrected Hashinara Katamoto in tow. After being brought up to date on the events he had missed, Katamoto decreed that a contingent of the Hashinara army would travel to Setsu province and see this Ryuuzouji clan themselves. If necessary, they would then defeat them and report to Hosokawa Fujitaka, but Katamoto was open to other options depending on what they were to find. Preparations were made, and Ishikawa Goemon was sent to scout ahead, but was captured shortly after entering Osaka castle.
A few days’ march later, the Hashinara forces entered into Setsu province, and were almost immediately met with a samurai messenger. The man explained that the Ryuuzouji would defend themselves if necessary, but had no desire to fight the Hashinara, and wished to arrange a meeting of generals instead. Katamoto agreed, and took his most trusted subordinates as well as the Nue to the parley tent the Ryuuzouji had set up between their forces.
Waiting for them were two young women and a girl, all with what could only be described as lifelike cat ears sprouting from their heads. Attending them were several other individuals with the same ears and cat tails, a race of Youkai both Sanosuke and Katamoto were able to identify as Bakeneko.
The three introduced themselves as Ryuuzouji Masaie, Takanobu, and Matashichiro respectively. Takanobu, the smallest of the three, but apparently also the Daimyo, attempted to do most of the talking, but her mastery of Japanese was somewhat lacking, and she had to be helped at many points by Matashichiro, who proved herself quickly to be the most intelligent of the operation.
Meanwhile, Ryuuzouji Masaie spoke only rarely, and spent most of her time glaring daggers at Sanosuke from across the table. She seemed to harbor some real anger toward him, though Sanosuke could not guess why.
Takanobu, and sometimes Matashichiro, explained that the Ryuuzouji clan had been formed by Bakeneko from around the Osaka area and beyond in order to claim vengeance for the capture and trafficking of one of their own. Hosokawa Fujitaka, it seems, had taken one of their number, a girl called Ryouka, and hastily adopted her as his own daughter before marrying her off to Tokugawa Ieyasu in order to gain more political pull with the Tokugawa clan. Their marriage was to be scheduled for two months hence. Not seeing any way to fight the Tokugawa without an organization of their own, the other Bakeneko came together for revenge, and the Ryuuzouji clan was born.
The Hashinara present sympathized with the Ryuuzouji’s motives, and Katamoto decided then to aid them against the Hosokawa, the Tokugawa and, by extension the Oda, regardless of the political ramifications this may cause with the Shogunate. Takanobu and Matashichiro seemed relieved to hear his decision, though Masaie still did not seem to trust them. She continued directing anger at Sanosuke throughout. Matashichiro then made a point of returning Goemon to them, the ninja encased in a thick coating of ice, but otherwise unharmed when she was thawed out.
Together with the Ryuuzouji, Katamoto hatched a plan. First, they made it seem as though their meeting had gone awry and a battle had broken out between the generals, a task which the ghostly Ichinomiya Karen was all too happy to help out with using her illusion magic. Then, the Hashinara traded Ooawagaeri into the Ryuuzouji’s care in exchange for Matashichiro, who would be a faux hostage to bring before Hosokawa Fujitaka.
They would then convince Fujitaka to surrender, and possibly replace him with a more complacent version courtesy of Katamoto’s spells. This would take the Hosokawa out of the picture without overtly harming the Hashinara’s image in the eyes of the Shogunate. From there, the two clans could cooperate to face against the Oda and the Tokugawa.
Takanobu and Matashichiro were in favor of this plan, but Masaie raised a complaint. She would not be satisfied unless Fujitaka were killed, preferably in as painful a way as possible. Katamoto promised that her vengeance would be satisfied, and this mollified her enough for the plan to begin.
The group, now short Ooawagaeri but with Matashichiro in his place, traveled south from Setsu into Izumi province. They were met by a Hosokawa messenger before reaching Sakai, and were led to a meeting with the Daimyo inside the city’s main castle.
Fujitaka accepted Katamoto’s explanation that he had traveled first to Setsu province and put down the Ryuuzouji successfully, as evidenced by their prisoner. He said that he would send a squad of samurai to clear out any remnants, then move back to the province as soon as was convenient. In an attempt to dissuade him from traveling back immediately, the conversation continued, and talks soon turned to the subject of Youkai. It became clear that Fujitaka was extraordinarily biased against Youkai in general, and Bakeneko in particular, and made several references to them being subhuman and not worth his attentions.
Eventually it was too much even for the cool-headed Matashichiro, and she lashed out with her psychic power in anger. In an instant, Fujitaka and one of his samurai guards were transformed into glittering sculptures of ice, which then shattered, leaving nothing but a pile of quickly melting shards. The remaining samurai guard backed away in horror, but was quickly killed by Baby Huey, who bowed to him in a violent manner, his head smashing the poor man into a mush on the ground.
Thinking quickly, Katamoto asked the ghostly Karen, still present floating behind him, to craft an illusion to clear their names of the murder. Baby Huey, with his prodigious lungs, called out the alarm, and the room was soon flooded with ashigaru and samurai of the Hosokawa. There, they found Fujitaka (or an illusion of such) facing off against Crocodile, of the Igamono. Crocodile killed the unfortunate Daimyo with a single swing of his nodachi then, laughing evilly, cut his way from the room and escaped. A few samurai apologized to Katamoto, and a manhunt began for the strange, giant man who had killed Hosokawa Fujitaka.
Matashichiro apologized for her outpost, but Katamoto was not overly bothered, as the situation had resolved itself quite well. Satisfied, the group returned to Setsu province and traded the Nekomata back for Ooawagaeri, who was somewhat delirious from his day spent surrounded by doting catgirls.
As he was returning from Setsu, Katamoto received troubling word from Todaisen Nobuhara, who had taken it upon himself to become the clan’s information expert. The Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshitaka, had been killed by mysterious assailants. The inheritance ceremony for his next of kin, Ashikaga Yoshikage, would be held shortly, and all Daimyo claiming control of more than one province were invited to attend. This, of course, included Katamoto or, rather, Yoshiyuki-hime, and so he set about preparing the maid to pose as the Daimyo and, along with Aotsuki and an entourage of samurai, set out for Echizen province to attend.
The journey to Echizen took several days, and Katamoto arrived one day before the ceremony was to be held. Enjoying the sights of the capital, he arrived at the designated place the next day refreshed and interested to see who else would be in attendance. Several other Daimyo and their right-hand generals were in attendance, including Mori Motonari, of whom Katamoto had heard quite a bit, Hojo Ujiyasu, and Date Masamune.
Sitting apart from these was a huge, unpleasant-looking man in full armor who could only be Tokugawa Ieyasu, accompanied by a pale girl with black hair and a man who looked distressingly similar to Ooawagaeri, down to the hair and the mask. Aotsuki sat himself directly next to Ieyasu, which earned him a raised eyebrow and a harrumph, while Katamoto, taking his guise as Katsusada Shishauezaemon, socialized briefly with the other Daimyo as proxy for Hashinara Yoshiyuki.
Their interactions were cut short when an administrator in ceremonial robes took the stage with a stern-looking man with a regal bearing who could only be Ashikaga Yoshikage. Speeches were made, and Yoshikage promised to bring an end to the chaos that plagued the country under the rule of his predecessor. With a flourish, the administrator brought forth the experimental katana and seal, and presented them to the soon-to-be Shogun. As Yoshikage reached out to take them, sealing his place as military ruler of Japan, he sputtered and coughed out blood. A bright red blade, flames dancing around its edge, exploded through his chest, as a young woman stepped out from behind him, gripping its hilt.
While somewhat petite, she had an air of command and regalia about her that was only accented by the pair of long, reptilian horns which curled outward from both sides of her head. Dressed in a red jacked cut in the Western fashion and similar slacks, she pulled the blade from Yoshikage’s corpse, letting it fall to the ground, and raised it in the air. In an instant, the auditorium was filled with blazing fire which, when it cleared, revealed two ranks of battle-ready women, their auras flickering as though with barely-contained flames, and their weapons gripped confidently. At the same time, the masked man sitting with Tokugawa stealthily made his exit, while Ieyasu himself was teleported away with the dark-haired girl beside him.
The young woman on the stage introduced herself as Oda Nobunaga, new Daimyo of the Oda clan, and proclaimed that the chaos would not end. In the fires of battle, a new Japan would be forged, and only the strongest would survive to claim rulership over the Land of the Rising Sun. With that, she ordered her troops to attack, at the same time telling the assembled Daimyo to survive if they could, and exited through the back with the administrator held in tow, cutting an opening in the wall with her burning red blade.
In her place, the center of the stage erupted in a pillar of flame, revealing a hulking creature similar in form to a gorilla, but with a twisting, glowing red light under its dark skin as though it were filled with liquid magma. The creature beat its chest and howled in rage before leaping down and joining the advancing troops.
Hojo Ujiyasu ordered the general at his side, Hojo Ujimasa, to leave immediately and attempt to cut off Nobunaga’s escape, while Motonari did the same with Kobayakawa Takakage, who had accompanied her. As those two left, the remaining leaders took up their weapons and went forward to meet the Empowered forces, only Katamoto, “Yoshiyuki-hime” at his side, remaining seated in the back row, serenely enjoying a cup of tea.
Meanwhile, Matsumoto Ooawagaeri was receiving a message in his dreams. A tall, masked man, brimming with power and dark flames, ordered him to close the other rifts across Japan. Knowing instinctively that this man was none other than Matsumoto Jigenzaemon, Ooawagaeri’s esteemed ancestor, he asked many questions, but received only knowledge that the next rift was in Mikawa province, currently the seat of the Tokugawa clan.
Ooawagaeri confided in Chosokabe Kanetsugu, with whom he had become quite close (not by his own design), and by proxy Chosokabe Nobuchika. Upon hearing that there were other rifts in the country other than the ones that her mother had created, Nobuchika decided to pledge her allegiance to the Hashinara, in the hopes that she might prevent such suffering from afflicting others as it had her mother and her people.
Date Masamune was the first to engage a trio of Empowered Miko. His two massive blades moving almost too quickly to follow, a look of fierce enjoyment crossed his features as he cut down two of them, then countered an attack from the third with a fatal blow. More Miko moved forward to attack him, but it seemed as though they were practically throwing themselves upon his blades, each one lasting only seconds before falling to the ground.
Mori Motonari was faring similarly, her single katana wreathed in crackling electricity as it cut down an Empowered Bugeisha, before she gracefully sidestepped another attack and brought down that enemy too. As she fought, she seemed to become gradually quicker, her strikes dancing like lightning across her enemy’s bodies before bringing them to her feet.
In the center of the room, Hojo Ujiyasu and Aotsuki Tsukamoto stood together, facing off against a crowd of Empowered soldiers. Though they were easily outnumbered, the assembled enemies could not seem to wound either of them. While Aotsuki had been graced by the ghostly Karen with a crowd of illusory duplicates, which took blows for him before disappearing, Ujiyasu’s heavy armor and natural toughness allowed him to simply ignore the series of attacks which glances or scraped over his compact form without effect.
Ujiyasu’s heavy war axe glowed a deep red with gathered ki as he swung it to and fro and, though neither of them felled the Empowered as quickly as Masamune or Motonari, soon there was naught but a pile of corpses around them as well.
This left only the enormous molten ape, who had made his way to Motonari unleashed a torrent of blazing, liquid fire from his fanged maw. The Jigoku Breath washed through where the Oni Daimyo had been a moment ago as she stepped to the side, and beyond, splashing across the room and engulfing Katamoto and his maid. Katamoto himself was able to pull himself from the deluge, his natural undead toughness leaving him with little damage but a few burns to his robes, but the girl posing as Yoshiyuki-hime was less lucky, burning to death almost instantly, much to the horror of the assembled Daimyo.
The molten gorilla was unable to follow up with his attack as, under a hail of attacks from Motonari, he failed to see Date Masamune finish with his battle and come up behind the great ape. A series of brutal attacks from the Daimyo’s twin blades later, and the monster roared in rage as he disappeared in a column of flame, leaving only a charred spot on the auditorium’s floor.
When the fighting ended, the remaining Daimyo convened to discuss what had occured. Katamoto resurrected the fallen maid, then wasted no time in explaining that this girl was not the real Yoshiyuki-hime, but rather a double prepared for exactly this eventuality. While the other Daimyo were unimpressed that the leader of the Hashinara had not attended herself, they could not deny that the double strategy had served its purpose.
Motonari volunteered that one of her daughters had already seen to the protection of the next in line for the Shogunate, one Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Yoshikage’s younger sister, and could confirm that she was unharmed. At this point, Kobayakawa Takakage and Hojo Ujimasa returned, unsuccessful in their attempts to track down Nobunaga, who still held the seal and ceremonial katana. A single ninja, with long white hair and a red mask covering most of his face, also appeared and told Ujiyasu that there were no longer any traces of the Oda clan in the city.
With the situation as it was, the Daimyo could only wait for the next succession and ensure that it went more smoothly than this one, a course of action which clearly riled Date Masamune, but he had no alternative to. All four rulers agreed to stay in Echizen for the next few days until preparations were complete.
With that business handled, Katamoto sent a telepathic communication to Ryuuzaki Sanosuke in Yamato, ordering him to take Izumi province by force and to prepare for war with the Oda clan.
Having received the message, Sanosuke wasted no time in mustering a small force and marching to Izumi. Having lost its Daimyo, and with little in the way of a military, the province put up no resistance, and was smoothly brought under the control of the Hashinara.
At about this time, the Goemon Bandit squad that had been posted to watch the movements of the Oda in Omi province returned a report. A contingent of Oda troops were approaching with Hosokawa Gracia, intent on delivering Fujitaka’s daughter to Izumi so that she may assume leadership over the clan and her father’s holdings.
Sanosuke replied with an order to delay the Oda procession’s advance as much as possible, and sent Fujibayashi Nagato as a runner to the Ryuuzouji, to ask for their aid in ambushing Gracia’s force before they could make their way through Yamashiro.
So it was that three groups, one led by Baby Huey and containing only a squad of yumi samurai, one led by Chosokabe Nobuchika, and one formed of Bakeneko and Samurai from the Ryuuzouji and led by Ryuuzouji Takanobu and Masie, harried the Oda force toward the southernmost fortress in Yamashiro, captured and emptied by Baby Huey, and cornered them there for a battle.
Nobuchika’s group attacked from the northeast, while the Ryuuzouji struck from the northwest, and surrounded Gracia’s force. Gracia, accompanied by a magician known as Sen no Rikyu, as well as the burly molten gorilla first seen in Echizen, was not to be so easily defeated, however, and met their onslaught head on. She had with her a squad of samurai using firearms, henceforth unknown in Japan, and used them to their fullest effect, while she herself almost wiped out a squad of Bakeneko singlehandedly.
To the south, in the fortress, Baby Huey moved to join the fight, but was halted by the appearance of a spirited young woman leading a force of a hundred hastily-equipped ashigaru in a rebellion against him for his capture of the fortress. Surrounded by ashigaru prodding him with spears, Babs ignored the fruitless attacks and focused on the girl instead. Introducing herself as Tsutsumi Houzan, and attempting to place him under arrest, it quickly became apparent that Baby Huey was simply unable to land a strike upon her. By the same account, she was unable to wrest his weapon from him, despite her obvious skill and repeated attempts. After a few exchanges, the two separated and watched each other with a kind of wary respect.
Meanwhile, Baby Huey’s squad of bow-wielding samurai, henceforth to be known as the Tea Bucket Men, launched a powerful volley which, combined with similar attacks from the yumi miko to the north, succeeded in piercing Sen no Rikyu’s shields and piercing her body with hundreds of arrows. Rather than falling, however, her image began to blur and twist before vanishing completely.
On the edge of the conflict, Gracia was also running into similar difficulties. Though she had killed more than two score Bakeneko, seriously wounded Takanobu, and brought Masaie to the brink of defeat, she herself had been wounded by the cat Daimyo’s blade, and the storm of cherry blossoms protecting her from arrow attacks was starting to thin. Masaie, now without a squad to protect her, was brought down and killed by a squad of Oda samurai, sending Takanobu into a frenzy. The Bakeneko hissed and scratched and slashed at Gracia, but her opponent calmly retaliated with a brutal strike that cut through Takanobu’s leg at the knee, sending her to the ground in a spray of blood.
The two surviving Ryuuzouji troops managed to drag Takanobu to safety within another squad, but even missing her leg, the tiny Daimyo was in such a rage that she had to be physically restrained. At that moment, however, a piercing hail of arrows from the yumi miko shot through Gracia’s protections and brought her to the ground, impaled several times and clearly dead. With her fall, the only enemy left was Saru, the hulking molten gorilla who had been fighting by her side.
Tsutsumi Houzan, now aware that she would get nowhere in attempting to arrest Baby Huey herself, asked him who his superior was, and was directed, by a helpful Tea Bucket Man, to Chosokabe Nobuchika on the other edge of the battlefield. By the time she arrived there, the battle had ended, with Saru defeated and the rest of the Oda forces either retreating or being slaughtered by the newly arrived Babs. Nobuchika contacted Sanosuke, asking for his opinion on the strange young woman who wanted to arrest a giant undead Oni, and was told to bring her to Yamato, as Katamoto was always interested in meeting new and interesting people.
As the battlefield cleared, Sen no Rikyu reappeared in the center, looking around herself with an expression of annoyed disappointment. She managed to take out a crystal and store the fallen Gracia’s soul in it before being apprehended by Baby Huey. The Oni demanded her crystal, and any other shiny things she might have on her, intending to give them as gifts to Katamoto and the other generals and, not liking her chances against a fifteen-foot tall undead monstrosity, Rikyu replied, handing over four crystals, including the one glowing with the magic of Gracia’s soul.
Baby Huey then led Rikyu to Nobuchika, and, after meeting with the Ryuuzouji briefly and discovering Takanobu in no mood to speak, the group returned to Sanosuke in Izumi.
Meanwhile, in Echizen province, a day passed uneventfully. Motonari and her daughters kept a close watch over the soon-to-be Shogun, although Ashikaga Yoshiaki declined to actually meet with any of the Daimyo present, and ensured that she was unharmed up until the rescheduled ceremony.
The day of, Katamoto and his entourage entered the auditorium to find Date Masamune, a woman in a strange outfit with a pointed hat behind him, facing off against the bulk of Tokugawa Ieyasu, his anger barely restrained. Ieyasu mockingly informed the Date Daimyo that, as the Tokugawa did not have any hand in the previous debacle, any assault on his person would be an act of war. A steadying hand from the woman behind him mollified Date, and he angrily took his seat and fumed.
The entire group from before was present, with the new addition of a relaxed-looking, muscular young man with a mess of black hair sitting near the back. Aotsuki felt an immediate companionship with this individual, and sat across from him, accepting it when the man offered him a drink of sake from the gourd strapped to his waist.
As Katamoto and the resurrected maid took their seats, the ceremony began, with Ashikaga Yoshiaki and the same administrator from before taking the stage. Unlike the past attempt, the seal and ceremonial katana were handed over without incident, and Yoshiaki successfully became the new Shogun of Japan. After a brief speech, she declared that her first act as Shogun was to pardon the actions of Oda Nobunaga and the Oda clan as a whole, much to the amusement of Ieyasu and the fury of the other Daimyo. She then unceremoniously took her leave, stating that she had much to attend to as the new military leader.
As the new Shogun left, Ujiyasu, Motonari, and Masamune quickly convened to discuss what had occurred. They had hardly spoken, however, before Ieyasu loomed over their conversation, a twisted smile upon his face, demanding to be let into the fun as a fellow Daimyo.
Katamoto, who had been formulating his own plans, quickly cast a spell of control over Ieyasu, bending the huge man to his will. The magic was immediately canceled, however, by the same dark-haired girl he had seen teleport the Tokugawa Daimyo away during the first ceremony. She merely smiled at him, completely aware of what he had just attempted to do.
Gathering magic for another spell, he walked over and stuck out his hand in introduction, claiming that he wished to meet such a great magician himself. The girl introduced herself as Takenaka Hanbei, strategist for the Oda clan. As she did so, Katamoto channeled a spell through his hand, draining her of her intelligence. While he knew it was successful and not resisted, however, a spell that should have reduced a normal person to a gibbering idiot had no visible effect on her, and she took the opportunity to cast a spell of her own, magically scanning Katamoto and learning every detail of his physical and magical being.
His attempts frustrated, Katamoto broke off in time to see the Hojo, Mori, and Date Daimyo leaving the room, intent on returning to their own provinces to make new plans for the new situation. Before she left, Motonari pulled Katamoto to the side and informed him that one of her Oni girls was still in his mental network, and to contact her if he ever wished to speak to the leader of the Mori.
As the others left, Katamoto summoned into the room the corpses of six Empowered soldiers he had risen after the previous ceremony, and ordered them to surround Hanbei. The strategist seemed unfazed by the undead surrounding her, an almost taunting smile on her lips. Katamoto toyed with the idea of having them attack, but instead caused the corpses to simply fall dead once again at Hanbei’s feet. With a warning to her, Ieyasu, and both their clans, he took his leave and began preparations to return to Yamato.