Our next chapter begins with Ruko setting the plans of Maribell’s suicide into action in Pine Acre. Part of the plan includes Alundra disguising herself and Maribell so they can ride off toward The Crossroads Hostel. That night, a horse comes riding into town, carrying the exhausted body of Akara Thunder. Ruko offers her assistance and takes her to Greasy Joan’s shop for the night.
The next day as the town begins to mourn the “loss” of Mayor Walter‘s daughter, a familiar man in a cowboy hat rides into Pine Acre looking for his wife. Disguised as an old man that looks oddly like Akara’s dead grandfather, Ruko leads Mustang Thunder to Greasy Joan and his wife. After a humorous revealing of his true identity, Ruko fills Mustang in on everything going on, including the recent events in Pine Acre with the demands of the Dragon Blooded from House Regara, Hyde. Mustang sends his wife back toward The Moonsilver Manse and decides to follow his friend Ruko.
Alundra and Maribell arrive at The Crossroads Hostel half a day before their Exalted companions. They meet up with the modest and boisterous proprietor of the manse, The Left-Handed Vagabond Who Travels With His Twin, better known as Lefty. He helps Maribell settle in, and Alundra tells him that she has other business she needs to attend to but will wait for Ruko’s arrival.
Ruko and Mustang eventually find their way to The Crossroads and meet up with Alundra, who is enjoying some whiskey from Nexus straight from the bottle. They are introduced to Lefty and take a bit of time to get to know one another. During their talk, Alundra informs Ruko that she has to leave on business, but she will return to check on Maribell and get the rest of her payment. Mustang provides the payment with money that he received by selling some horses to a caravan of gypsy travelers there at The Crossroads. They eventually are led to see Maribell. She is doing well, but she is less than happy to see Mustang and still holds ill will toward him for ruthlessly killing her lover Marin.
Mustang sneaks away from the awkward situation to “visit the trough” when he hears a commotion outside the gates of The Crossroads. Two men enter town dragging the body of a third. Upon closer evaluation, the body has been violently ripped to shreads. The body is taken inside the manse to a triage area where Ruko, Mustang, and Lefty take a closer examination. They find that the body was not the victim of an animal attack, and the killing wounds appear to have been made by a human. They are told that the man was found outside one of the cities of The Republic of Chaya.
Mayor Bruce Walters arrives the following day, and the heroes go speak with him and his daughter once again (with Mustang standing in the hall away from Maribell). They decide to use Lefty’s contacts to spread the word that Ruko has been sighted in the city of Larjyn, which is one of the twelve cities of The Republic of Chaya.
They then travel back to Pine Acre and question the archer that Ruko had once kept tied up above Greasy Joan’s shop. Mustang reveals that he his an anathema by showing his orichalcum hammer. The town guard freaks and rushes off, and they tell the fearful archer that they are headed to Larjyn, leaving the key to the cell within reach. The archer falls for the bait and sneaks out that night, taking off to warn Hyde about their soon-to-be-whereabouts.
They wait the next several days in Pine Acre for Hyde to eventually arrive. He does with only half of his archers, and they meet with Ruko, Mustang, and Lefty at the center of town at high noon. Hyde asks where the traitor is at, and when Ruko asks him what he means, he disregards his own comment and says this will be the end of the troublesome monk. He will have his revenge for the death of his brother Marin. The battle lasts little more than a few moments as Mustang breaks free the horses at the nearby stable, rides one forward and then lunges over the archers at Hyde. With his anima banner of a wild horse raging in golden glory, he proceeds to pound Hyde’s skull in. Ruko takes down one of the archers, and Lefty punches the ground, sending the rest of them tumbling off their feet.
The seven remaining archers throw their weapons down in surrender. They question the remaining archers to find out that their numbers were reduced when they made their way into the barricaded city of Larjyn to find its people ravenous and wild. They promise not to work with House Regara again and agree to try and spread the word around to other mercenaries.
Where will the heroes go now? Will there be retribution to pay for the second death of a member of House Regara? What is going on in the cities of The Republic of Chaya? Will the people of Jades seek their own revenge? What of Po Shiang? Find out next time.