While Shiba Sagura worked to undo centuries of mistrust and poor treatment, aided in secret by Bayushi Mamoru, someone else worked behind the scenes to deny the young Phoenix’s efforts. Sagura’s efforts to secure Suzume Riko’s approval fell flat, though she did express an interest in seeing how truly he kept to his words of friendship and mutual respect between Minor and Major Clans.
Trouble reared its head when Yuzuki was declared missing: several servants had seen her run into the forest the previous night. Hitomi, Sagura, Mamoru, and Tatsuya grabbed Kitsune Toshiaki as a guide and set off into the forest to find her. Toshiaki turned out to be a poor choice of guide, and they soon became totally lost.
After several terrifying battles with predatory gaki, the group was pinned down by several shozai-gaki. Bloodied, beaten, and deprived of his katana, Sagura took up a tree branch and struck out at the hungry ghosts. In his hands, the branch warped into a naginata, glowing with unearthly might, and he drove off the gaki before collapsing from his wounds.
Hitomi and Sagura were wounded terribly, and had to be carried from the forest in haste, as more gaki smelled prey and chased after them. The group emerged on the opposite side of Kitsune Mori, into Crane lands, and sought sanctuary in the lands of Doji Hakura the Second.
After another harrowing adventure, this time involving a senile shugenja and a monstrous lord, the party spent three days circumventing Kitsune Mori. They arrived back at Kyuden Kitsune in time to see themselves enter the forest for the first time: the magic of Chikushudo had twisted time, making them arrive no later than they had first left.
As Court at last began, Sagura went before all the delegates together to request admittance as the Phoenix representative. The room was silent for a short while before Kasuga Kiyomi and Suzume Riko spoke with one voice: No.
Meanwhile, Yuzuki awoke in the forest, finding herself nude on a pile of conspicuously large feathers…