As bells toll in alarm, the heroes race through the city towards the Temple District in an effort to reach the Emperor in time. Along the way they glimpse Seppun guardsmen engaging small knots of bandits while bystanders around them flee the chaos and bloodshed. Reaching the Temple District, they pass through its massive walls and under the first Great Torii, only to find more chaos.
The Court of Heaven is filled with wounded, dead, and dying Seppun Guardsmen along with several dead bandits and plenty of panicked bystanders. Beyond them, fires are burning in the area designated the Ten Thousand Shrines, as several shrines have been set alight.
A Seppun Guardsman captain attempts to reestablish order; Honsu approaches and informs him that they will help slay the bandits. The captain mentions several notable attackers – a samurai clad in steel armor with a hunting cat motif who led the attack; an earth shugenja who ripped up the very flagstones and hurled them at his men, killed many; even a priest who pretended to assist before unleashing Maho spells upon surviving guardsmen. Another guardsman mentions that they have heard something snarling and growling, stalking the area – but the only sign they have seen are the bodies of guardsmen torn apart. The captain has sent runners to the Heavenly Temple in an effort to reach the Shogun and his detachment of Emerald Legionnaires, but none have returned. The Ten Thousand Shrines are possibly crawling with bandits, and he is still trying to get the area under control. He also informs the heroes that not only is the Emperor within the Temple, but the heir is with him as well!
As the heroes prepare to set out, young woman comes running up to the captain, pleading for help as her family is trapped within a shrine by bandits. Kimiko, Brand, and Jerrin wish to help them, but the others point out that any delay in reaching the Emperor could have dire consequences for the Empire. Brand convinces Kimiko that they need her help, and she reluctantly agrees. The PCs opt to take the main path directly to the Heavenly Temple. Aramith recalls that the Temple is protected by magical wards that will prevent any spellcaster lacking a Temple Seal from casting any spells within. The party resolves to deal with the problem once they encounter it.
Halfway through the Ten Thousand Shrines, several bandits have set up a watchpost at a bridge that crosses a wide stream, with an adjacent shrine. Brand, scouting just ahead, notices two hidden monks as well as two ronin, four archers, and a priest. The monks spot him at the same time and the alarm is raised – the heroes charge to engage them.
- Kimiko, thanks to an Aramith-provided Haste spell, races up and fires an arrow at one of the flat-footed ronin, badly injuring him. His counter-charges leaves her injured and demoralized by the attack. One of the monks leaps down from the roof of the shrine and catches her from behind with a punishing kick that knocks her prone. Rolling to her feet she barely escapes, suffering further injuries in the process.
- Hida confronts one of the ronin – the warrior delivers a single respectable blow from his katana before Hida replies, pounding him into paste with four blows from his tetsubo.
- Honsu confronts the ronin who attacked Kimiko in a duel before slaying the man, deflecting an oncoming sword strike with his Crane-style martial arts before cleaving him with his crystal katana.
- Amelia confronts the monk who attacked Kimiko. The monk attacks, then leaps 10 ft. up onto the adjacent shrine’s roof… Aemilia follows with a jump of her own and continues the duel. The monk unleashes a barrage of blows that catch Aemilia several times before she twists aside and thrusts her sword into the man, killing him. His body rolls off the sloped roof.
- Brand confronts the priest as he unleashes several Maho spells. He attempt to catch the halfling with a Slay Living spell, which Brand only narrowly avoids.
- Frostwing unleashes a winter Sleet Storm on the bridge, injuring the priest and causing the surviving bandit archers to flee.
Between the heroes, the attackers and priest are dispatched. Brand loots a Temple Seal off the cleric for Aramith, along with a few other items. Master Fu heals the group’s injuries before moving on.
Not far down the path, the group finds the two escaped bandits shot full of arrows, lying before a torii that stands over the path. Aramith recalls his earlier readings in the Imperial library and surmises that a Zuishin, a type of guardian kami, is likely responsible – zuishin are good-aligned kami that respond well to offers of natural items. While Brand rides off to bring back water from the stream for an offering, Kimiko turns her attention to a nearby tree and begins to respectfully address it, beseeching an offering of one of its branches. A few moments later, a tiny Fukujin kami emerges, bows, and presents Kimiko with some of its leaves.
Taking the offering, Kimiko respectfully approaches the torii, addressing the zuishin spirit that guards the path. The kami appears and informs the party that it did indeed slay the bandits that attempted to pass through its gate, for they were evil men. Accepting the Kitsune’s offering, the zuishin offers the party safe passage through the Ten Thousand Shrines. Brand returns moments later with his offering of the water. The zuishin is puzzled by the halfling (having never encountered one), but accepts the offering and agrees to venture ahead of the PCs to ensure their path to the Temple is clear before it once again fades from sight.
With the zuishin’s assistance the heroes arrive safely at the Path of the Emperors, which leads to the Heavenly Temple. A second massive torii stands above the Path while ahead twin rows of statues stand on long, tall pedestals that flank the path, each one depicting one of Azeshouri’s previous emperors. The area is littered with several bodies of priests, temple defenders, and Seppun guardsmen. Waiting ahead are several bandit archers hiding behind stone lanterns, and in the middle of the path is a female earth shugenja. She offers the PCs the chance to turn back, and they naturally refuse. Several heroes spot two monks waiting in ambush, but Watari spots something more alarming – two large Foo Lions stalk the party – each Lion has some sort of paper strip affixed to its forehead, with kanji written in blood. Combat ensues.
- Aramith goes Invisible, and distracts one monk (who is quickly cut down by Watari) before using Dominate Person on the other monk. He commands the man to go after his former companions, which he does without hesitation.
- Amelia charges at the shugenja, who throws up an earthen wall to shield herself before summoning a large Earth Elemental. Amelia acrobatics onto the monster before jumping off its back in a rolling leap and coming at the shugenja – just before she reaches the woman, one of the Foo Lions makes a pouncing charge and grabs hold of the swashbuckler. Before she can extricate herself, Pryn is mortally wounded by the shugenja, who conjures a bo of earth and manages to nearly crush Amelia’s head.
- Frostwing summons a Huge Earth Elemental to engage the shugenja’s large one.
- Honsu, realizing the Foo Lions are being controlled against their will by Maho sorcery, uses his Crystal katana (and some help from Watari) to destroy the magical paper slip. Freed of the spell’s influence, the Foo Lion rushes to engage its companion, grappling him and holding him down.
- Master Fu uses his spirit companions to save Aemilia from death’s door with an infusion of curative water magics.
- Kimiko teleports behind the shugenja and hits her with a ranged sneak attack – the shugenja’s magical metal hat is all that saves her.
- Aramith dimension doors himself, Honsu, and Watari adjacent to the shuegenja. She flees via an earth glide following a grazing blow from Honsu’s katana, only to be hit with a force punch by one of Master Fu’s spirits and sent flying. Watari turns his attention to the enemy earth elemental and pulverizes it.
- Brand and Sorien, after narrowly avoiding a massive flying ball of solid stone, nearly finish off the badly injured shugenja before she is forced to flee, leaving behind her jingasa and a second Temple Seal.
In the end, the last remaining bandit surrenders, while Aramith maintains control of the dominated monk. The second Foo Lion is saved from the maho influence. With the shugenja gone, the party looks towards the Heavenly Temple – its two main doors have been splintered to pieces by boulders, leaving the way into the structure open.