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The mini-party (Yoshi, Lijuan, Hiro, Wei Han, and Merit) troops northwards, listening for news that might be of Reiko, or that might be of the mysterious Shadow. Reiko seems to be leaving a wider trail than the Shadow is, that's for certain - there are several other cases where there's been an unpleasantly messy death attributed to her, or someone who looks like her. For the most part, uninvolved people don't seem to be very upset about these deaths, because they tend to be quite unpleasant people doing the dying - there are no indications that anyone she's killed has been much of an innocent, or that anyone is interested in pursuing the matters.

Some likely candidates: the deaths of a smuggler and his thug lieutentant, and a guy who ran a protection racket are ascribed to Reiko; additionally, a quartermaster in a Dragon Army garrison has Mysteriously Died, and Merit suspects that that's tied to the stolen swords that turned up in Tranquil Endurance. Wei Han can throw his weight around a bit in the garrison and strong-arm some of the guys stationed there into admitting that yeah, the quartermaster might have been suspected of letting some boxes of swords fall off a wagon now and again.

You don't find anyone who is willing to talk to you about the Shadow with anything that sounds like real knowledge. Dropping the name in various seedy establishments does on occasion get a flicker of recognition and attention paid to you, but you get the impression that the people who know something are closer to "local boss" than "random goon", and they don't conveniently wander off alone to be captured and interrogated. However, the impression you get is not that Shadow is their boss - more like someone they don't want to make an enemy of.

Hiro spends a lot of time making friends with various cute girls; Ho seems to think that one of them in particular (nicknamed Feather) smells interesting, so everyone else pays a bit more attention to her as well, and Merit gets the feeling that she's one of the people who's had his smuggler briefing ("Calling it 'Bear Mountain' is a good way for smugglers to get caught by the authorities. Don't call it that.") passed along to her, though she's not someone he met. With some charm and persuasion, it's possible to find out that she's an "unofficial courier", and she's sort of looking to get out of the business, for Yoshi to offer a new life to. She's not miserable per se - she's made a decent living, and has a reputation for not prying and keeping her mouth shut, which is useful when you're carrying secret messages - but the thing about the job is, you can't just quit, because then everyone assumes that you're going to rat them out. And things are getting hotter[1] up north, and she doesn't want to end up dead in a crossfire. Really, what she wants is to start over with a legit courier job, far away where no one recognizes her - maybe the Arcade? She hears they have a lot of use for couriers there. She's not interested in selling out anyone else for safe passage, but she's willing to be a general point of reference[2] on how this area part of the underworld works, in recompense.

  1. There's a trouble with the Northern Barbarians, leading to disruption among the northern clans; the herds wander to different places, so the herdsmen end up in other people's territory, there's clashes there; other peasants end up dispossessed and burnt out, and turn to banditry. Bandits are worse, inter-clan fighting is worse, barbarians are worse - just generally more trouble.
  2. She doesn't know much [about the Shadow], just that he's someone that even the bosses think it's a bad idea to cross. And some of the bosses are pretty bad-ass themselves. That and he can see into your soul, so he knows if you plan to cross him!