While Michiko had been investigating Last Village and negotiations with the Yoritomo Mantis were made Tamori Yuriko had been making potions to distill the essence of the Kami, 2 of which she presented to the Mirumoto and the Hida saying it was the same effect as before and one extra to keep for herself.
Kitsuki Kanko, at this point hesitant to be a part of what seemed to him a tangential diversion and not part of his duty to the Emperor, made his excuses to stay and compose a report. He also suggests he may possibly even begin the journey back by going over the mountain, taking the Book of [name spelling needed] with him in spite of encouragement otherwise. At this the Tamori asked that he somehow take Yae with him along with a letter of introduction to her Sensei, Matsumoto Kasumi.
A quick arrangement happens between the Mirumoto and the Dwarru as he approaches with the heavily laden vests and his small pack. With a little bit of assistance from Giadayu he returns the garments and makes the Dwarves understand that they will not be proceeding further towards Hidden City with them at this time. In consideration for the supplies used, the distance traveled, and taking into account the expedient way they were able to get through the gate out of North Wall City they are eager to return all but half a koku of the 9 that were given earlier to their Matriarch and other business partners. Yonaka says “Tenk a-yu” but does not shake their hand after receiving the coins, after which he turns and makes his way to Haru’s house to get the promised map that the Phoenix Kakanomoto had left behind, after which the ronin Ohira (strange, that in a village where everyone has discarded their clan names we’ve singled him out as a ronin) escorts our group over the bridge and past the village gate.
Meanwhile Michiko has already been gifted with a translucent tube made of Salt Wolf bone from Shiuchi who wishes her well along with the words “I hope you find Hiditsugo!” and has made her way to the salt skiff and introduced herself to the third Yorimoto, a rude and callous red-haired coxswain by the name of Gendo. Compared to Gawain the purser and Minori the navigator he is the epitome of bad manners while he is alone with Michiko. He compares boat sizes and demeans her lack of knowledge of the salt flats as he brushes an oily substance on the skiff rudders and the shells that cover the Manta Ray hide and bamboo structure structure. However, after she mentions that her Mirumoto Lord has certain influences and “money” he shows her a basket and warns her of the pain that can come from the bite of a tiny Crystal Shrimp no bigger than a finger that can bore into your skin or the Salt Wolf which has a body shaped like a barrel lined with teeth at the opening.
But in spite of his cajoling Gendo manages to impart useful information about avoiding the salt flats at night, and brags that the Mantis are “The Eyes of the Emperor” as well as “Sons of the Black Lion” and that if they were to travel several miles West they would see the Salt Road (a bridge that rises above the salt flats?) that the Gaijin had taken many men and years to build.
At this point their banter is interrupted by the arrival of the other Mantis Skiffmen and the group of Samurai travelers, at which Gendo’s demeanor becomes suddenly pleasant in the presence of the Hida to whom he bows. Since there is no time wasted on luggage some quick advice about remaining completely still if a passenger falls off the skiff and lands on the salt, and to always keep one hand on the ropes of the boat and one hand for yourself. Yonaka, seeing how the Mantis do their work without shoes, takes his off in order to respect the Mantis’ boat as if it were their home before they help push the skiff onto the flats and set sail.
The Dragon and Crab shout and grin like schoolboys as they hang onto the ropes and avoid the swing of the boom as the Yoritomo weave the skiff through the crystaline terrain. (Other party members, especially the pair of new ashigaru, huddle closer to the center of the skiff and avoid the complications of needing to compensate for the movement of the craft.) The ever alert Mantis guide the skiff past nearly translucent bubble shapes that disappear into the salt as the craft goes by, avoids torpedo-like shapes that sometimes seem to keep pace, and angle over the wake left by the large Mountains of the Salt. Yonaka makes his way to each of the crewmen asking each of them to keep a single koku safe until the party is picked up later, hoping to encourage the Mantis to keep their word. Yoritomo Gawain points out the jetty that comes out from the rock and suggests building a signal fire at that location when the party needs to be retrieved, and tells the passengers to be ready to jump as they slow down and pass by.
The party jumps…