The expedition to clear a path to Hiruma Castle Ruins is underway. Such a large number of troops has not been sent into the Shadowlands (and to their dooms, most would say) in a very long time.
The player characters realize that their journey is an all or nothing quest for the Eikisaku Bell, their only chance to salvage what is left of the Hiruma heritage, the only way for them to withstand the crushing power of the Shadowlands.
On the first morning, after a successful camping stint south of the wall, Togashi Natsuko is asked for a heading, so she performs a ritual prayer to the Jade Egg Kami, Maru. Together they sing for a long time, a prayer to Lady Sun herself. Within the Shadowlands, in the Morning, Lady Sun clears through the thick, smokey clouds and shines upon Maru, as if in a Zenith position. Maru then resonates, reflecting the light in the direction of the Eikisaku Bell.
Off their path to the bell, Hiruma Yagasaki (formerly Mirumoto Yagasaki) and Yasuki Saito spot a group of Dark Moto Samurai during a brief scouting stint: diseased men of the Moto family who have embraced the Dark Kami Fu Leng. The Dark Moto were quickly dispatched by the force at hand. They had captured two other samurai: Moto Michiko, who chose to commit seppuku upon being released when she was given the option; and Togashi Kokujin, a tattooed brethren whom the group chose to keep alive, in spite of his somewhat obvious taint.
When Togashi Kokujin asks to speak in private with Togashi Natsuko, she agreed. There, he reveals to her that he had been imprisoned because the Dark Kami wants to use his blood in a ritual: to use the Blood of the Dragon Kami, Togashi. The blood that flows in the veins of the Tattooed Monks and gives their tattoos power. With this information, Kokujin asks to be released so that he can find his way North of the wall, to the Monastery of the Fallen Chrysanthemum, where his taint can be cared for properly, and where he can also help others. Natsuko cuts the rope that held Kokujin and lets him go. Kokujin leaves, heading north.
The group returns to the main force of the Hiruma and there, they meet with the Daimyo, Hiruma Kage. Knowing that they must perform the prayer to Lady Sun each morning, due to the changing, shifting nature of the Shadowlands, and because the prayer causes a beacon to shine upon the Hiruma force, he realizes and shares with the group the inevitable: they must separate. He will lead the Hiruma, setting up waystations and hidden camps on the way to the ruins of Hiruma Castle so that they can setup a supply line, meanwhile the PCs and a smaller force will lead an expedition to retrieve the bell. They will be able to move faster that way.
They leave the main Hiruma forces; along with them are Mirumoto forces sent as a wedding gift, as well as three squads of Hiruma scouts, and two Kuni Shugenja. On their first day out, they spot a clash of goblin tribesmen fighting a large oni in the distance. Surprisingly, the goblin tribe wins. Yasuki Saito is visited by the frog spirit still, and he offers him insight in exchange for a drop of blood, to keep him from vanishing, his animal spirit nature unable to sustain itself this close to Jigoku.
They defeat the remainder of the goblin tribe, with few losses on their part. They keep a horn that the goblin warmonger general kept with him. Saito’s frog informed him that they had been known as the Oni-Killers among the goblin tribes, and that the horn was the horn of the first Oni they had killed, many, many generations ago. It could prove useful in the future.
Later, they settle a camp and sleep, all of them dreaming of the cold mountain they spent their winter protecting.