It is the first week of the third month; spring has just begun to crawl up the length of Nijii. Lord Tamura is readying various servitors, warriors, and adventurers for the spring Caretaking, and has put out a last-minute call for an additional, highly-skilled party. Answering the call are Sen, a druid of the mystery sect of Tsubaki; her companion Genbe, a cynical Kino fighter; and Ren, an itinerant “antiques dealer”. They gather at the Kinrei Temple where they meet Abbot Shiro and his student Kazuo. Shiro explains that there is a girl in the custody of the temple who needs to be escorted to Yukunya, a town on the northern island of Hyoubito (the Dragon’s Skull). This is at the request of the famous Lady Hayate, a cleric with talents in exorcism; because the girl is fragile, a driver with a cart has been arranged. The abbot advises that the party first proceed along the city roads to Mihara to pick up a map at a certain shrine, but he says dallying in inhabited areas for long would be bad for the girl’s health.
After accepting the job, the party is introduced to Kagari Ume, their escortee. A shy and serious girl of 16, Kagari is hesitant to speak to or touch the party and wears a large sunhat to avoid socializing with everyone but Kazuo, whom she already knows and trusts. Kagari is a bard of minor talent, and won’t offer up much more about herself. As the party progresses through the forest they find themselves surrounded by hundreds of kodama, which are peering down to get a good look at Kagari. Kazuo speaks to them, and finds that they regard the meeting as auspicious. Farther on, they find the central tree of the forest is surrounded by monkey goblins being organized by an oni who uses a magic hammer to shrink them so they may invade the tree to steal it’s treasures. After restraining the oni, the party shrinks down to enter the tree, where monkey goblins are already assaulting the kodama. On the way down to the root level Sen discovers that not only does touching Kagari cause her sharp pain and burns, but light sources in Kagari’s vicinity glow far brighter than normal. After offering to take over guarding her Ren finds that he is not subject to any damage from touching Kagari. The party confronts the monkey goblins in the roots of the tree where they are assaulting a single enormous kodama; in gratitude for the rescue this kodama offers each member of the party a special magatama as thanks, though Genbe finds himself conflicted about having offered a kami aid through violence. Kagari’s touch heals the kodama kami much to her own shock.
Outside the tree, the party discovers locals looking for their stolen hammer, a local artifact of religious portent, which they reclaim. They also take the oni into custody for punishment. As the party departs Kagari sings a small song to herself.