Dawnbringer

Chapter 2: Tinder and Treachery

Wherein a theft in Mihara is thwarted

The heroes finally arrive in Mihara, the first city along the major trade roads. This city is known for it’s textiles, artistry, and jubilant atmosphere. Recently the city has been revitalized by the hopeful reformist messages of Shindai Kyoukai, a sorority of women pushing the revision of inheritance laws and social mores about women, catfolk, and other groups taking on positions in business and government. Members are easily identified in a crowd by their masculine dress and enamel pins of the group’s symbol, a rising sun. Local SK members are gathered in the streets to get a glimpse of one of their leaders, Lady Chiyo Kirihara. Though not a real noble, Kirihara is the consort to the samurai lord Lady Reako Narihara, and has the guard retinue to prove it. Kirihara has inspired numerous urban legends and rumors about her talents in combating the supernatural and quelling angry spirits. Even those with no care for such things take an interest in her because both she and her lover are tennin women, revered as holy by many.

While watching this procession, Kazuo is suddenly chased down by a catfolk woman who tearfully embraces him, claiming to be his mother (much to Genbe’s confusion). Kazuo explains that Runya Umigiri is one of a group of catfolk women who raised him in a brothel after he was abandoned as a child. Runya now owns a classy inn called The Sunbathing Cat, which she insists everyone stay in for free. Before going there the party heads to the Hizashihime Shrine to meet the head priest Jun Furukawa and his apprentice Sora. Sora is the cartographer who has made the map for the heroes at Shiro’s request. Furukawa takes the party on a tour of the shrine, which houses the royal mirror, supposedly a gift from Ohirume to her lover Ashihide, father of the Phoenix Queen Hitomi-no-Tenka. In addition he conveys the story of the prince Mitsutaka-no-Tenyou who unified Nijii’s central island with help from the kami of fate, Kikonon. As they leave, the party notes that at Sora’s request there are many guards posted by the shrine, as he had an ill vision several nights past.

Runya runs her business fairly, and has even offered shelter to the onnin summoner Hiiro and her inugami Tatsuya. The party meets her at a fancy dinner being offered by Lady Kirihara, who offends Hiiro and offers to see to Kagari (who has become increasingly more ill and unable to eat with each passing day). Kirihara is ultimately little help, though she makes most everyone uneasy with her strange interest in Kagari.

In the middle of the night a large fire breaks out in the tenement district. Guards are vacating the shrine vicinity to go help; the party decides to join them, and helps rescue a family from their burning home. Suspecting the fire was a mere distraction, the party proceeds to the shrine, where Sora has already discovered Furukawa murdered by an intruder. This ninja is busy making off with the holy mirror until Genbe’s arrows fell her; the assailant is revealed to be a black-furred kitsune woman with no tail. Deeply saddened, Kazuo requests a moment alone with the corpse before Ren performs a burial for it. Sora exchanges last words with Furukawa’s spirit, which urges him to move on from the shrine and seek his true destiny.

The next morning the Blue Swords come to arrest Hiiro for the arson, and Kazuo vouches for her and provides an alibi to convince the guards to remand her to the party’s custody. Sora also joins the party, as he is convinced that the other regalia may be in danger of theft or sabotage. Runya reports that Kirihara left town just before the blaze started, and Sen and Kazuo find that Kagari has bleached all color from her futon during the night, which is causing her great distress.

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