The Vanguard Party (先発上陸組 Senpatsu Jōriku-gumi?) refers to a group of assigned death row criminals (along with their assigned executioners) that have been tasked with competing with one another to retrieve the Elixir of Life for the shogun from a mysterious island. In exchange, one of the criminals would be given a pardon for their past crimes.
|Hōrubō †||Moro Makiya †|
|Nurugai||Rokurōta †||Tamiya Gantetsusai||Warped Keiun †|
| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
|Hōko †||Mei|| Yamada Asaemon|
| Yamada Asaemon|
Click here to see the legend of the symbols used
- †: the character is deceased.
- *: the character's status is unknown.
- ‡: the character is no longer part of this group.
The vanguard is a strong group, consisting of highly dangerous death row criminals and Yamada Asaemon who are well-known to be true masters in swordsmanship. During their time individually, the surviving expeditioners caused a stir on Kotaku after killing multiple Sōshin and one Mōnshin, feats that no past humans managed to accomplish. These actions caused Lord Tensen to see them as a threat they have not witnessed over 1,000 years and sent out three Dōshi to investigate.
Each survivor were presented to be unpredictable when engaged in battle. Although he was close to death, Gabimaru managed to fight on equal footing with Zhu Jin and forced them into their Kishikai, which resulted in them losing a huge amount of their Tao. He later learned how to wield Tao and defeated two Dōshi. Although the Tan pit was said to be inescapable by Lord Tensen, Chōbē managed to climb his way out, with his brother on his back, and fused with the Tao of the Waitanhua flower, gaining regenerative abilities in the process, and defeated a Dōshi. With the combined efforts of Sagiri, Yuzuriha, and Senta, Mu Dan was defeated despite his overwhelming ability to use Tao and killed by Shion after he experimented with how Tao works before arriving in Hōrai.
The first alliance was formed by Gabimaru, Yuzuriha, Sagiri, Senta, and Genji. With the help of Yuzuriha and Senta, the group managed to gain intel on the insects and the religious attributes of the island. As part of their agreement, Gabimaru took on the job of fighting against dangerous opponents. Upon their meeting with Hōko and Mei, the four gained a guide to Hōrai and a Tao user.
The second alliance was formed by Gabimaru, Gantetsusai, Fuchi, and Mei. The two criminals were strong enough to combat against two Dōshi while Fuchi obtained knowledge of the Sōshin's anatomy. As they travel to Hōrai, they also learn more about Tao from Mei.
By the time the remaining survivors formed an alliance with each other to defeat Lord Tensen, a couple grew in strength after their experience in battle and contributed to the cause:
- Gabimaru - learned and taught the alliance how to use Tao in battle, shared his knowledge of espionage and acted as their strategist.
- Yuzuriha - taught the alliance how to use Tao to conceal their presence and shared her knowledge of espionage.
- Shion - further understood how to wield Tao and led the alliance forward.
- Mei - provided knowledge of Tao, Lord Tensen, and Hōrai.
- Fuchi - acted as the alliance's medical specialist and Mei's interpreter to collect data.
- Gantetsusai - acted as Tōma's temporary teacher.
- Aza Tōma - a bandit’s insight and improved swordsmanship with the help of Gantetsusai.
- Sagiri - the ability to use Tao.
- Nurugai - improved swordsmanship with the help of Shion and her night vision.
After infiltrating Hōrai, Gabimaru gained the regenerative powers of Plant Tao, Gantetsusai successfully gained the ability to sense Tao, and Chōbē lended his assistance.
The vanguard party formed after a number of gathered death row criminals were tasked to reduce their numbers in Edo. Out of the several criminals that participated in the massacre, ten survived and were each assigned Yamada Asaemons as monitors. After making landfall, the criminals acted independently to compete for the pardon and were required to not only return with the elixir but with their assigned Asaemon as well.
With the remaining survivors agreeing to join forces, the vanguard party spilt into two teams.
Elixir Retrieval Team
Escape Route Securing Team
The first group of criminals that made landfall on the island were Warped Keiun, Yuzuriha, Moro Makiya, and Akaginu. While still departing at sea, Hōrubō attempts to kill Aza Chōbē before they land on the island, however, Hōrubō fails as he is instead killed by the bandit. With his assigned criminal dead, Yamada Asaemon Jikka travels back to Japan but is forced to land on the island due to the currents. After making a second attempt, Jikka manages to return home with a severed head of one of the Watatsumi blocking his path. Meanwhile, Yuzuriha makes a pact with Makiya but betrays him by using him as bait for the Paradise Butterflies and Centipedes, leading to his death. She then seduces his Asaemon, Yamada Asaemon Genji, into following her for protection. At the same time, Akaingu threw herself at her assigned Asaemon, Yamada Asaemon Shion, but is quickly executed for her transgression. After Gabimaru arrived with his assigned Asaemon, Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, he encounters Keiun who tries to kill the ninja in order to reduce the competition. However, Gabimaru manages to swiftly kill him, allowing Yamada Asaemon Kishō to return home with the monk's decapitated head as evidence. Later, Yamada Asaemon Eizen lands on the island with his criminal Rokurōta who wakes up from his nap feeling hungry. He is then instantly killed by the giant, leaving Rokurōta to roam around the island.
With Kishō's warning about the shogun possibly contacting Iwagakure about the mission, Gabimaru tries to kill Sagiri as to not worry about her monitoring him and quickly find the elixir but soon finds his resolve with her help. Sagiri looks the other way in Gabimaru's actions and allows him to continue his mission. Later, Tamiya Gantetsusai and Yamada Asaemon Fuchi make their arrive on the island and encounters a Mōnshin while Chōbē and Gabimaru are approached by a horde of Sōshin on their sides. Yuzuriha's group finds Gabimaru and Sagiri and decides to help after his head was seen caught by one of the Sōshin's tails. Yuzuriha then proposes that the two groups work in order to survive. Gabimaru becomes reluctant at first but agrees after she offered to present intel she gathered on the island. The two groups relocate to a cave for the night after Sagiri falls unconscious and review what they know and found on the island.
Yamada Asaemon Tensa tries to help Nurugai return to Japan given her situation. However, the two find wreckage of the samurai ships that tried to depart from the island. Tensa and Nurguai are then attack by a Watatsumi but manage to escape and return to the island by using Kishō's (who is found dead) boat.
The next day, Rokurtōta finds Genji talking to Sagiri outside and attacks him from behind. Gabimaru and Sagiri work together to fight Rokurtōta and manage to successfully kill him. Genji dies from his fatal wound and is burned to ash by the forest fire caused by Gabimaru. Once the fight was over, Gabimaru and Sagiri regroups with Yuzuriha and Yamada Asaemon Senta who are shocked to find a ruined village, possibly indicating that the Hermits that were rumored to be on the island lived. Before they could investigate, the four captures a girl named Mei who was spying on them and takes down a tree humanoid named Hōko trying to protect her. Hōko pleas to them to not cause any harm to Mei and offers to guide them to the village and tell them about the Elixir of Life. Once they entered the village, Hōko reveals to them how the island, named Kotaku, is separated into three separate territories: Eishū, Hōjō, and Hōrai. He then tells them that the elixir is located in Hōrai and shows them proof that he benefits from it by breaking off his hand and have it regenerate, however, he warns them that the elixir is heavily guarded by a group of seven immortal beings who call themselves Lord Tensen and will eventually kill everyone that has stepped foot on the island.
Later, Chōbē and his brother Tōma, who took the mission by impersonating as an Asaemon, approach two members from Lord Tensen named Ju Fa and Tao Fa. The brothers are quickly defeated and thrown down a pit of bloomed humans where they start the process of turning into flowers. Another Lord Tensen named Zhu Jin approaches Tensa and Nurugai and attacks. Shion manages to arrive on time to help assists them but are unable to do anything against Zhu Jin's regeneration abilities and mysterious powers. Tensa stays behind to fight Zhu Jin while he has Shion and Nurugai retreat, ultimately leading to his death. During the night, Gabimaru takes the opportunity to abandon his group and leave for Hōrai to find the elixir. After reaching his destination, he is approached by Zhu Jin and engages in a fight. Gabimaru causes trouble for Zhu Jin and causes them to resort to transforming into their Kishikai form were they almost manages to kill Gabimaru. However, Mei comes to his side and creates a crater leading them down a valley by unleashing her power. Sagiri, Yuzuriha, and Senta catch wind of Gabimaru's disappearance and decide to travel to Hōrai with Hōko as their guide.
Gabimaru eventually wakes up from his unconscious state and is suddenly met by Gantetsusai and Fuchi. Instead of engaging in a fight with Gantetsusai and Fuchi, Gabimaru offers to form an alliance with the two and tells them what he knows since coming to the island. After becoming interested in hearing about the powerful and undying Lord Tensen, Gantetsusai and Fuchi agree to cooperate with Gabimaru. The three are then shocked to see Mei mysteriously grown after waking up and are told about her power to use the life energy known as Tao. Meanwhile, Chōbē and Tōma manage to escape from the pit and are approached by a Dōshi who was sent by Lord Tensen. Chōbē defeats the Dōshi after awakening his Tao and gaining regeneration abilities during his time in the pit and forces the Dōshi to guide them to Hōrai. Gabimaru's group fights off the Sōshin surrounding them down at the valley and are attacked by two Dōshi who plan to retrieve Mei, a former member of Lord Tensen. With her help, Gabimaru awakens his Tao and defeats the Dōshi but he falls unconscious towards the end.
Sagiri, Yuzuriha, Senta, and Hōko manage to reach Hōrai and watches as the gate opens but are shocked after they see Hōko's head severed from his body. Mu Dan, a member of Lord Tensen, comes out from the shadows and prepares to capture them. At first, the group struggles with fighting against Mu Dan's Tao and regeneration abilities but succeed in killing him after Sagiri slashes through his tanden with her type of Tao. However, his body begins to bloom and launches a flower stinger towards Yuzuriha but instead pierces Senta after pushing her out of the way. Senta starts to bloom flowers after getting stung and Mu Dan transforms into his Kishikai form. Shion makes a timely arrival with Nurugai to save Sagiri and Yuzuriha and engages in battle with the monster. After receiving assistance from Sagiri and Nurugai, Shion kills Mu Dan but the group loses Senta due to his bad condition. They then enter a building in Hōrai to rest. Gantetsusai, Fuchi, and Mei take shelter in a cave after climbing halfway up the valley while carrying an unconscious Gabimaru. He then wakes up suffering from amnesia and can only seem to remember his past life as Gabimaru the Hollow.
The next day the group reaches the upper surface of Hōrai but are met by Chōbē and Tōma. Gabimaru fights Chōbē but almost pushes himself to the point of dying. Mei ends the fight by releasing her Tao to create a crater once again, causing Chōbē to fall down the valley. As a result, Gabimaru falls unconscious, Mei has a second growth spurt, and Gantetsusai and Fuchi takes Tōma and the Dōshi guiding the Aza brother’s hostage. After making their way to the Hōrai gate, Gantetsusai and Fuchi's group are met by Sagiri, Shion, Yuzuriha, Nurugai, and Hōko outside. Gabimaru then wakes up and makes everyone realize that he has lost his memories due to losing too much Tao. Sagiri helps restore his Tao by making physical contact and causes him to remember everything. Together, the group relocates to a cave and discuss what they know so far. Meanwhile, Chōbē is approached by Rien, the leader of Lord Tensen, and is quickly defeated and taken to the palace after the Tensen notices how special his Tao is. During the time that they spent, Gabimaru trains with Gantetsusai, Shion, Nurugai, and Tōma to understand Tao, Mei reveals the origins of Lord Tensen and reverts back to her child body after Hōko offers his Tao to her, and Gantetsusai trains Tōma how to become a better swordsman.
Later, Mei senses Shugen's group making their arrival on the island to provide support to the survivors, however, Shion reveals Shugen's dark past involving criminals and believes that he will not be willing to help them. Shion presents his plan to defeat Lord Tensen but Yuzuriha believes that at this point the mission was too risky and that they should find a way to escape. He takes her opinion into consideration and allows everyone to make their choice in whether they want to work together or follow their own path. After giving them time to think, everyone decides to work together in completing the mission and return home safely.
The group plans out their strategy in infiltrating Hōrai, how to fight against Lord Tensen, and split into two groups: the Elixir Retrieval Team and the Escape Route Securing Team. After completing their strategy, the Elixir Team successfully manage to infiltrate the palace and signals the Escape Route Team to move in. However, the group is ambushed by Lord Tensen who knew of their arrival with the help of Chōbē and reveal that they plan to secure them as sacrifices for their master. With no other choice, the survivors and Lord Tensen engage in battle. On the Elixir Team's side, Gabimaru and Yuzuriha faces off against Ran while having Sagiri and Mei run towards the Rentan Temple to retrieve the elixir but are unable to fight back against his power. Having no other choice, Gabimaru resorts to injecting himself with Plant Tao to gain regenerative abilities. Gantetsusai, Fuchi, and Tōma are approached by Ju Fa, Tao Fa, and Chōbē in the Bōchū Jutsu Temple. Chōbē betrays Lord Tensen and fights Ju Fa alongside his brother Tōma while Gantetsusai and Fuchi fights Tao Fa. Shion and Nurugai reunites with Zhu Jin in the Taisoku Temple and seeks revenge for Tensa's death. Around the same time, Sagiri and Mei encounters Gui Fa in the Rentan Temple guarding the ritual circle while Rien prepares to depart to Japan with the Elixir of Life and begin his plan of turning every human into flowers to harvest more of the elixir.
The battles then comes to there conclusions with Yuzuriha and Gabimaru killing Ran, Gantetsusai, Fuchi, Chōbē, and Tōma killing Ju Fa and Tao Fa, and Shion and Nurugai heavily damaging Zhu Jin but decide to regroup with the others. The palace then begins to shake as the Mōnshin led by Shugen breach the outer walls. The alliance comes into conflict with both the second landing party and the Dōshi.