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The Bandit Rodrigo
While the others travel towards Kyuden Kitsune, Hida Buruke, Toritaka Hideaki and Yasuki Kyoshi are charged to find the Bandit Rodrigo who has been attacking caravans in search of the Masks of Iuchiban.
They meet the Emerald Magistrate Shinjo Haruko and perform an Ujik-Hai Tea Ceremony with her. She explains that she circulated rumours that the Yasuki caravan they will be guarding has one of the masks. She hopes this will lure the bandit to them where they will defeat and capture him.
The heroes encounter a ronin village where the population is reluctant to speak with them. An old woman warns them of danger and gives them some poisoned rice balls.
That night the bandits ambush the caravan and after a brief but brutal fight manage to capture most of the guards. This leaves the heroes no choice but to lay down their weapons and surrender. 
On top of that, Kuni Raiden, the Kuni shugenja who accompanies them is a creature of the Lying Darkness.
The heroes are taken captive and get tortured for no apparent reason. At night the Ghost of Yasuki Kyoshi's forefather visits him trough dreams and is quite persistent to have Kyoshi swear fealty. Kyoshi resists but caves in after a couple of days and is granted powers of the darkness which he uses to escape and free the others.
While sitting in the cell, the heroes learn of the bandits plans to steal a shipment of Phoenix gold and use it to assassinate a Crane diplomat, they also learn that there is another traitor in their midsts and that the bandits have summoned two elemental terrors to stop and kill their companions.
They decide to send the remains of the caravan back to Crab lands who can then take care of the bandits while they themselves rush to warn their companions. They arrive too late when they see the Elemental Terrors of fire & air attack their comrades...

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Shinjo Haruko
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Kuni Raiden
 
 
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Shinjo Shirasu, head of the Emerald Magistrates and Daimyo of the Shinjo.
Our heroes meet Kuni Rashomon in the house of Magistrates. He briefs them on recent events and informs them about the mission. A band of emerald Magistrates is coming to the village and will accompany them to Kyuden Kitsune where the diplomatic meeting will take place. It is imperative that the Crab Magistrates keep their best face when meeting with them.
In light of recent events the heroes decide to guard their Dragon companions even here. even when this could imply that the Crab cannot protect their friends.
That night Kuni Shidjiro is attacked by a ninja who uses a poisonous blowpipe in a futile effort to kill him. It is suspected that Shidjiro's arch-enemy is behind this.
Meanwhile Kakita Yorito has his recurring dream once more, and after deliberating heavily he has an answer to the ghost of his forefather. He will pledge fealty to his cause and even when the ghost warns him that he must cut himself loose from the Celestial pattern, Yorito agrees. at that moment the ghost's face becomes an empty eggshell and he floats into his body. thereby enlargening the dark spot on Yorito's ribs. He feels invigorated and alive with new purpose.

The next day, at sunrise, the Emerald Magistrates arrive, headed by a band of Otaku Battle Maidens and accompanied by a small band of retainers and Ashigaru. Our heroes are somewhat taken aback by their strange, barbaric appearance and Gaijin ways. Nevertheless, they put on.their best diplomatic face and go trough the welcoming ceremonies with 
 honour. After the niceties the assembled magistrates discuss the events in the empire and the next course of action.

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Iuchi Karasu, Uichi Daimyo, Shugenja and Doomseeker
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Moto Gaheris of the Ujik Hai Tribe
The following day the adventurers depart for Fox lands, where they will meet diplomats from the Lion, Crane & Mantis clans. After a couple of days riding the travellers come upon a dilapidated hut with a large swath of burned grass in front of it. A quick investigation reveals that some kind of Maho-ritual too place. A summoning of some sort.
No other trace or clue can be found so the group ventures on yet after a couple of more days they encounter a massive air and fire kansen, bent on their destruction...

Elemental Terrors of Air & Fire