A Note for You
|"Each of us is a Remarkable Wanderer upon this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Serpent in the Month of the Dog, in the eleventh Year of the Spider since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, in the Hon'eth Arcade.
The White Bridge
The group (including a tengu visiting Hiro, disguised as Hana) is still in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, contemplating where to go next (answer - it's not clear where they need to be, other than back in the Butterfly Kingdom by the Month of the Tiger when the circus heads out.) Their contemplation is interrupted by an urchin, who gives Xiao Fa a note for Master Deng:
The White Bridge - two hours
Lijuan asks the local urchins what they can tell her about the White Bridge - it's a bridge outside the city, but it's outside a gate that's closed for repairs, so no one uses it right now. It seems likely to be a trap, but why not go and see? Everyone heads to the White Bridge; one side is kingdom road, and one side is connected to a spur of an Imperial Highway. Initially, it appears deserted, but Cai Wen spots someone hiding under the bridge. Lijuan waves at the hidden guy, and he suddenly dumps out the contents of a sack into the river - red flower petals flow downstream. He then starts running away.
In the distance, the party can see a large wagon coming up the Imperial Highway towards the bridge. A minute or two after the red flower petals drift downriver, a bunch of thugs (like from a local tong) start coming up the river towards the bridge. As the wagon approaches, the one guy who was staked out under the bridge yells to it, "It's a Trap!" and continues fleeing. The two cart drivers start trying to turn their wagon around and escape.
Are they being ambushed? Are they an ambush for someone else? No one is sure. It does seem there are tongs involved, though, so Zhi-Hao thinks "chop them all" is a fine plan. Lijuan entangles one of them in her net arrow, and battle commences.Cai Wen searches around, and spots several other bags, like the bag of red flower petals, in a hidey-hole under the bridge. Xiao Fa investigates the other bags under the bridge - they have different colors of flower petals. One of the tong thugs finally recognizes Master Deng, and is upset, so the thugs are probably from the League of the Hidden Hand. One of the League guys tries to chop Lijuan, but Yoshi leaps in the way. Some of the tong members start to flee, which the party assumes means they should be caught and interrogated, or perhaps chopped more. Hiro tells "Hana" (the tengu) to spookify the area, and
Yoshi hops up on the White Bridge, as flower petals waft up in the breeze below him, and tries to convince them to stay.
- "There's no need to worry - We will protect you from these brigands!" -Yoshi
- "What's going on? This wasn't the arrangement!" -Cart guy, still turning the cart
- "Hmm. Is the answer just 'take them all out?'" -Master Deng
- "There's a company of Dragon Army ten minutes behind you! Get in here quick!" -Cai Wen
Cai Wen's bluff stalls the wagon a bit longer, while people mop up the tong force. As tong members get chopped to death, Hana appears, coming the other way through the door to the World After, but nobody realizes that this isn't still the tengu impersonating her yet. Hiro asks Hana if she can keep one of the dying tong members alive, on the theory that the real Hana has first aid, so maybe the fake Hana does too. Hana says she can, having picked up some interesting new abilities in her time with the Phoenix, so she bends down and does something very creepy to the guy, which wasn't quite what Hiro was expecting, except that he did ask for things to get spooky.
Anto wraps a tong member in his chain and then shackles him, so between that guy and the one Lijuan has netted, there are two prisoners amidst the carnage.
- "Hiro, what's going on?" -Hana
- "I'm really not sure, but Xiao Fa, or maybe Zhi-Hao, got a note saying to meet here, and it was a trap, surprising no one, but it wasn't a trap on us, it was on the people in the wagon, so we're being framed, but I'm not sure by who. Oh, and on the far side of the river is Imperial Highway." -Hiro
Cai Wen talks the cart guys into starting to unload, but they want "the li". One of them gives Cai Wen an action, but Cai Wen demands to see the goods first. They unload a couple of boxes of weapons before demanding "Give us the li, and we'll give you the rest."
- "I think we're going to have to change the arrangement, because you guys aren't in any position to bargain." -Cai Wen
The pair of wagoners begin to flee.
- "Hmm. Maybe we're the trap."
Zhi-Hao realizes that the two cart guys are disguised supply sergeants from the Dragon Army. But they're back on the Imperial Highway again, which means fighting them is likely to be particularly perilous should the fight be seen.
- "It's turning into 'get em!'" -Hiro
- "Best beloved of all the plans." -Xiao Fa
- "It was already a combat when I showed up, how is it not already 'get em'?" -Hana
Yoshi acrobatically leaps to stand in front of the cart, hoping that they will run him over and then he'll have an excuse to get em.
- "Gentlemen, I believe your punishment will be less severe if you turn yourself in to the city authorities, rather than admitting your misdeeds to your commander." -Cai Wen
The cart guys flip off their over-cloaks, revealing their army uniforms, and start to leave, up the highway.
- "You have won this round, but the League of the Hidden Hand will regret this day!"
The party declines to attack obvious soldiers on the highway, though Yoshi confirms that they're corrupt - it wasn't some sort of sting operation. The party holds the field, and now has a wagon full of Dragon Army weapons, which they roll off the highway to start searching. There are lots of plain "mook weapons", but there is one commander's sword, which is x4, with a sigil of the Dragon Army on the blade. This is basically enough to equip a captain and all the men under him. Master Deng really covets the commander's sword, but it would be both illegal and obvious for him to use.
Yoshi takes the extra bags of flower petals, for possible dramatic use later. Lijuan starts untangling the netted guy, and explains he will have to apologize to Yoshi. When the tengu returns ("Hana has saved the day!"), it becomes clear that there are two Hanas now, and the tengu jumps into the river in a huff. People begin to interrogate Hana about where she has been. No, she's not alive again (Cai Wen is startled to hear her admit that so plainly), though the Phoenix did tell her she could be reborn.
Yoshi talks to the two prisoners; he manages to bring one of them around to his point of view, using his tried and true arguing techniques for breaking Hidden Hand tong members. The sergeants were supposed to bring weapons - the League bosses arranged the sale. This guy was just supposed to bring the cart to the tong house - he can tell them where it is. They were just going to kill these two sergeants and take the cart - they didn't even bring money to pay them. He claims it's not that hard to find corrupt Dragon Army soldiers - like looking for water in a rainstorm. The League is buying arms because they're preparing for a big war with the Circle of Spite. Cai Wen wonders if they have any Arcade Houses in their pocket - no, nothing that big. There are corrupt people in the houses who they work with, but no whole houses on their side.
Zhi-Hao figures they should return the weapons to the garrison, and wonders whether he can finagle getting a x4 sword as a reward. He realizes that as an ex-army guy, he's not the right person to be asking for a reward, so Cai Wen gets made the spokesman. After Cai Wen tells the tale, the garrison commander does offer him a reward - his choice of 3 li for Cai Wen and 1 li for "each of his men", or double that but in Dragon Army equipment vouchers instead of cash. Cai Wen takes the vouchers, but sadly for Zhi-Hao, a x4 sword is more like 50 li than 22 li. Lijuan, Xiao Fa, and Zhi-Hao each take their 2 li of vouchers; the rest goes into the party treasury.
While the rest of the party deals with the prisoners and the reward, Hiro and Hana have a long talk about what Hana learned from the Phoenix and the fact that (as she now admits) she is a ghost. Actually, the Phoenix claims she's the most powerful ghost in the world. Maybe that's why she seems to be more of a full person than most of the other ghosts she's met so far? Hana isn't sure what happens to her after she's done with thwarting Mola Ram. Is that the purpose that binds her to this world? If she were to end up haunting something, it would probably be Hiro. Hiro isn't bothered by that idea -- it would be just like having Hana move in with him -- but Hana worries that it would be like moving in with him while not actually having a life of her own to live. Hiro thinks that while there are some things (like having children) that Hana can't do as a ghost, for most things her current state doesn't seem much different from being alive, so why can't she go on and be what she wants? Hiro thinks there's lots of magic in the world, and so if Hana wants to come back to life, they could work on finding a way to make that happen. Hana says she does want to live, and admits that there's probably a lot more out there, magically speaking, than she knows anything about, but she wonders whether it will turn out that coming back to life is one of those things that can only be done for a price the twins would be unwilling to pay (e.g. by stealing someone else's body). Still, it's worth looking into. Hiro asks Hana what she actually wants -- never mind about Destiny and How Things Should Be. Hana isn't sure: she's actually thought about this a bunch, having realized that the Geisha/Political Marriage path and the Magical Adventurer path are both compelling, but now it's all muddled with the Alive/Dead dichotomy. On that note, the twins wander over to join the rest of the party, who seem to have a plot to discuss.
A new messenger urchin arrives, this one with a message for Yoshi.
House of Enticing Vintage, Saddlehouse, on Mill Street. Come alone.
Yoshi goes, wearing the parrot amulet, he is followed by Anto, Kuan-Xi, and Lijuan, who hide outside the Saddlehouse winehouse. Yoshi is expected, and offered a glass of a strong vintage, which he downs in a gulp, having failed his check for dangerous food. It drops his Resolve, but he was feeling pretty cooperative anyways, so it probably doesn't matter much.
He's met by a man in a grey cloak, who says Yoshi can call him the Arbiter.
- "My master would need to know of your interest in this matter." -The Arbiter
- "What matter is that?" -Yoshi
- "I was sent to clarify a situation, but had not realized that the Secret Swords were involved."
- "What situation are you clarifying?"
- "The tong war between the Circle of Spite and the League of the Hidden Hand. You have involved yourself in that - is that your intent?"
- "What master do you serve?"
- "The Shadow."
The Arbiter is here to see that the conflict follows the proper forms for battles between tongs. Calling in the law on one's enemies, for example, is seriously frowned upon. Now, if Master Deng has been corrupted and is under Yoshi's employ, then all is well and this is simply an alliance between tongs. But the Arbiter had not realized that the Secret Swords were involved here, and invites Yoshi to clarify.
Yoshi notes that an "arbiter" would generally be a neutral party - is the Shadow neutral in this conflict? The Arbiter says that he is not on a side in the direct conflict, but while he is willing to give the Circle a chance, the Shadow will not allow the forms to be broken. "Where is the Shadow's interest, then?" Yoshi wonders. "As always, in the smooth flowing of business," replies the Arbiter. Wars are necessary on occasion, but it is unfortunate when they get out of hand.
In any event, to be clear: It appears to him that the Circle of Spite sent Master Deng after the League of the Hidden Hand. If this is true as described, then they have broken the code, and the Shadow will deal with that severely. However, if Master Deng is working for Yoshi of the Secret Swords, then it is simply an alliance of tongs and need not be acted upon. Yoshi, sensing that the first option will lead to a lot more blood in the streets if the Shadow gets involved, grudgingly admits that Master Deng is "one of his companions and allies." The Arbiter says, then all is well, and thanks Yoshi.
Yoshi asks how he would get in touch with the Arbiter again - the Arbiter notes that Yoshi's man Johnny can contact the Shadow, who might send him, or might send someone else if a different service is needed. What other services might be requested? The Arbiter notes that there is no simple price list, but nearly anything can be provided, for a price. Yoshi asks what sort of request would be taboo? The Arbiter hedges - there are no taboos, but not all things serve the Shadow's purposes. It is best to just ask.
Yoshi wonders why the Arbiter does what he does - basically, he's paid well, and he enjoys power. Then, the conversation comes to a conclusion:
- "It appears that those who follow me are about to assault those who follow you, so this meeting is at an end." -the Arbiter
- "Perhaps you could avert that?" -Yoshi
- "Would that I could, but I must be gone before she arrives."
Outside, the point of a sword appears between Anto and Kuan-Xi, and a voice hisses from the darkness.
- "If you wish to live, tell me what you know of this meeting." -Voice from the shadows
- "Very little. I'm just here to make sure my friend doesn't get hurt." -Anto
- "What does that one want with Yoshi?"
- "If I knew that, I'd be less worried. Or, maybe, more worried."
Planning a Duel
The Arbiter has left, so Yoshi heads out, but Reiko (for that is who it is skulking in the shadows) and the others intercept him. Yoshi explains the notes:
- "The first note came from the Circle of Spite. The second came from... dah dah dah... the Shadow!"
Reiko wants to know what the Arbiter said, but Yoshi says they have to talk somewhere else more private. Reiko grumbles, but admits she can likely find the Arbiter again at need. So they all go to the "party room", and Yoshi briefs the entire group on what he learned from the Arbiter, and that "due to his friendship with some youths", Yoshi is considered to be in a tong, and that he has claimed Master Deng as "corrupted into the Secret Swords tong."
Reiko is introduced as "a friend of mine I have known for a long time, who is hunting the Shadow." Reiko concedes that that might be true.
- "It's such a pleasure to meet you." -Cai Wen
However, while Reiko is a babe, to Cai Wen's judging eye, she's definitely not a moll.
Zhi-Hao tries to decide whether he minds being considered "corrupt" and part of a tong. On the one hand, it's not true, and it's disparaging to his honor; on the other hand, how much does he care what tong members think? On the other other hand, it's hard to have the underworld think something is true without anyone else learning it eventually - perhaps someone gets arrested and questioned, and then the guard knows...
Yoshi, however, really doesn't want the collateral damage that he worries will happen from a larger scale war. Hana dislikes the idea of the Circle of Spite getting to use Zhi-Hao and the party like that, but Zhi-Hao is happy to take any tong down, even on behalf of another tong. Not to mention, they didn't know who sent the note to begin with. Reiko glowers at Yoshi - he didn't know who sent the note, but went anyway?
Speaking of Reiko, what's she doing here? She says she's here to trace the Arbiter back to the Shadow, and discovered Yoshi's association with the Circle of Spite in passing. She hits Yoshi with a "why do you do this?" as well, and seems satisfied with the result.
Some of the party aren't even sure who the Shadow is. Well, for one, he's some sort of powerful criminal mastermind, but Yoshi also thinks that he's the last of the Marked of Aku. That leads to Reiko asking who Aku is - Yoshi answers that he's "a skin-walking demon who has designs on the Empire." Gosh, that's both true and unlikely to trigger people's disbelief. Reiko nods - if the Shadow works for or with a demon, that might explain some of his more tedious abilities, like vanishing into shadows. Wait, Mola Ram also vanishes into shadows - could he be a Southron? Takanata has checked if the Shadow is one of the Marked, and if Reiko is hunting a Southron, but while the answer seems to be no, people speculate that there could be something missing, and scrying anything related to the Eighth Marked is always fraught with misinformation. (Reiko herself seems to think the Shadow is not a Southron.)
The conversation turns to what to do about Yoshi claiming Master Deng as a tong member. They could stage a big fight in public - on a rooftop, Hiro adds, to pull in a plan from the Book of the Remarkable Wanderer - and Master Deng could thrash Yoshi to turn his reputation around. The traditional Beating of Chastisement is to 1 hit point, so perhaps that should be the plan.
- "Ooh, maybe you can redeem me." -Yoshi
- "Yoshi, don't you mind people thinking you're a tong member?" -Hana
- "Well, it did avert a tong war." -Yoshi
- "Plus, it sounds like it's true, and Yoshi is very big on the truth." -Reiko
- "She's got a point--actually, she's got two points there." -Hana
Yoshi notes that the Arbiter told him Johnny Tong can arrange to have one of the Shadow's lieutenants summoned. Reiko is intrigued by this, and notes that she will have to talk to Johnny Tong. Presumably also Yoshi might be able to send word to meet again with the Arbiter, and then people could Get Him, but that seems likely to cause the Shadow's wrath to fall directly on Yoshi and "his tong", which Yoshi might be willing to weather, but the Secret Swords probably aren't.
The battle plan laid out, Cai-Wen decides it's time for another series of posters.
Notice to all
Today at high noon
shall prove his
virtue and reclaim
upon the body of
- "Let's take the Secret Swords out, so then only the people who already think I'm in the Secret Swords will think that." -Yoshi
- "What would Uncle Takanata think?" -Lijuan
- "This one recommends that you do not think too hard about that aspect of the plan." -Xiao Fa
Yoshi suggests to Reiko that they work together to oppose the Shadow. Reiko is not as opposed to this idea as she was before, as Yoshi seems to be a bit closer to being willing to get his hands dirty.
- "When you founded this 'tong' I thought you were simply playing, but it turns out to have been a shrewd maneuver. I will have to revise my opinions." -Reiko
Hiro and Hana decide to soothe the tengu's wounded feelings by having Hana go around as Hiro for a while so the tengu can be Hana. Hiro and Hana-as-Hiro go back out to the river. Hiro does a tengu cry, and a little kid, or, at least, a tengu disguised as a little kid, runs up. He has a note to deliver to Xiao Fa, that he got from a different little kid. Hiro and the tengu swap disguises, and then they head back to the party's rooms, and the "kid" delivers the note. Unlike the other times, this time the messenger doesn't run off immediately, which everyone (except Hana and Hiro) think is strange.
Meet me in the Bazaar some time soon. I shall be waiting.
- "Wait, you get a note?" - Zhi-Hao
Most people think this is unlikely to be tong-related business - does Xiao Fa even know any tongs? Well, there is his brother, who might be in one.
Xiao Fa heads off to the Great Bazaar; Hana (dressed as Hiro), Hiro (dressed as an urchin) and the tengu (dressed as Hana), plus Lijuan, Anto and Kuan-Xi, follow along to go mango shopping. Cai Wen heads out to publicize the rooftop battle.
Xiao Fa spots Shanxi, who heads over to speak with him. Apparently, Shanxi has been "looking into it", and has a solution to Xiao Fa's memory problems. There's a guy in town right now, who Shanxi has convinced to give Xiao Fa some training, in things like figuring out the cost of an action before you do it, or seeing traps before you fall into them. It's all good stuff. Anyway, Shanxi has figured out that training Xiao Fa in something like that will bring his memories back. They can meet again tomorrow evening, and Shanxi will set it all up with the Arbiter. Shanxi says he doesn't usually mess around with people like the Arbiter, but Xiao Fa needs help.
- "Mangoes?" -Anto
Regrouping back at the party rooms at the inn, people try to press Xiao Fa for what the heck is up between him and his brother.
- "The story is not that long, because this one does not remember." -Xiao Fa
- "What is your brother's motivation here?" -Hana
- "He wants his brother back." -Xiao Fa
- "So, he thinks he's acting in your best interests?"
- "No, he wants his brother back."
Xiao Fa doesn't think Shanxi was involved in Xiao Fa losing his memories originally.
As it's getting late, people try to wrap up their business for the day. Lijuan drops by the garrison, and gets 1 li of army rations in a crate. She throws a party at the outskirts of the Great Bazaar, inviting all the urchins she knows and all the urchins they know, and the food is happily devoured. They tell Lijuan a story about the mean snake-lady and her sorceror friend. Apparently Shuyan and Yang have made names for themselves here as capturers of kids.
Yoshi wonders if Kibo should try to snoop on the Arbiter's dreams. Lijuan thinks that sounds dangerous, so Yoshi refrains from asking him.
"Hiro" (that is, Hana) swoops "Hana" (the tengu) off to look at jewelry at the bazaar. "Hana" leaps on the opportunity - it has been too long since Hiro bought her jewelry. She'll have one of those! "Hiro" takes care to buy something that Hana'll like later, back when she's Hana again.
The whole Hana/Hiro/little kid thing is really starting to confuse people, and people keep being confused by Hiro saying calm insightful things. So that the "urchin" doesn't have to go sleep in a barn somewhere and the party won't wonder why an urchin gets to come to the secret meetings, Hana and Hiro explain the disguises, and that it's apparently rude by tengu standards to admit you can see through a tengu's disguise.
- "Oh, it's etiquette! Do I have to wash my hands?" -Lijuan
- "Yes." -Yoshi
The party makes sure that nobody but Master Deng and Yoshi are on top of the building they're fighting on; other people get to be on top of neighboring rooftops. Most people crowd onto the largest nearby roof with a good view. As Zhi-Hao and Yoshi start their battle, Xiao Fa notices that some of the people in the crowd have crossbows hidden under cloaks.
Yoshi and Zhi-Hao pontificate at each other:
- "Master Deng, you are my friend and I recognize your right to reclaim your honor."
- "While you are my compatriot in other things, in this particular matter, you were mistaken."
- "While I believed my actions served the greater good, I wronged you, and I apologize."
Then Zhi-Hao attacks! Yoshi fully parries the first attack and attempts while the contest still appears even to convince the onlookers that despite appearances, this isn't a case where winning makes you right by definition (since Yoshi has already recognized Zhi-Hao's rightness). During the fight Yoshi just parries, but Zhi-Hao is certainly the better swordsman, and is able to get past his defenses.
Hana spots a third crossbowman, and Xiao Fa spots a fourth. This doesn't look good. Hana turns on Miasma of Fear, while Xiao Fa heads downstairs to get up to the roof where Master Deng and Yoshi are. Cai Wen tells Squeaky to do what he can. Lijuan tells some urchins to trip the crossbowmen when they draw their bows, and then run.
Zhi-Hao finishes thwacking Yoshi down to 1 hit point, Yoshi again acknowledges his trespass, and both reaffirm their continued friendship.
Then, over on the spectators' roof, Squeaky (who appears to have much larger fangs than usual, probably due to the miasma of fear) leaps at the face of a crossbowman, who promptly falls off the roof. His tattoo (the League of the Hidden Hand) is revealed as he falls. A bunch of kids trip a bunch of people all over the roof, making it look like some invisible force is felling a great number of people. Hiro uses Tongue of the Frog to grab a crossbow - it appears that his tongue actually wraps around the bowman's neck, half-strangling him, and causing the crossbow to fly through the air to Hiro's feet. Xiao Fa sets off a smoke bomb on Yoshi and Master Deng's roof to hide them from view, and Anto coaxes the wood of the roof to wrap up a bowman. Only one bowman gets his shot off, but Master Deng parries it, thanks to his present from the Queen.
Yoshi takes the opportunity to scold Anto's prisoner, but it seems like too much trouble to try to have him arrested, so they leave him tied up in an alley nearby. Cai Wen goes and collects the money he's won betting on Master Deng. Then, it's time for Xiao Fa's meeting with Shanxi and the Arbiter.
- "Was there an explicit come alone?"
- "There was an implied one." -Xiao Fa
Xiao Fa does agree to bring Ho with him, and Lijuan watches through the magic monocle.
The Cost of an Offer
Similar to the meeting with Yoshi, Xiao Fa is offered a cup of strong drink, but does not drink it, having been warned. He says he'll save it for later. Shanxi does drink his, though. Then, the Arbiter arrives.
He looks Xiao Fa over, and says that he does not normally do this sort of thing, but he has been extremely well compensated, so, what is it that Xiao Fa wishes? Xiao Fa says that he has heard that the Arbiter has tools that would let him regain his memories? The Arbiter looks a bit puzzled, and says he does not have anything specifically for that, but then Shanxi jumps in and says no, teaching him most anything will let him regain his memories. Both Xiao Fa and the Arbiter seem to think that this seems a little implausible, but Shanxi assures them that he's been "looking into this", and he's confident that it will work.
- "I can teach you to see the cost of any choice you could make." -The Arbiter
- "Including this one?" -Xiao Fa
- "Well, you can also find the cost of choices you have made, but you do have to learn to use it first."
Xiao Fa asks him how he would teach this, and the Arbiter starts to explain what sounds like a training montage, but then Xiao Fa unexpectedly interrupts: "Or I could just learn it now for half price." (Xiao Fa surprises himself as well.)
- "Well, that's a useful talent." -The Arbiter
Xiao Fa points out that "the last time something like this almost happened", he got a free use of the shtick first - and discovers that he does get a free use if he wants it. He wonders what the cost of buying this shtick would be - the answer is that it would turn him off of a very tedious, very annoying, very unlikely path to a destiny, and put him on the fast road to easy power. Despite the obvious appeal of this choice, Xiao Fa has decided that he needs to say no - at that moment, Ho leaps out from under the table to bark at a cat that seems to have wandered into the winehouse, and Xiao Fa manages to slip out while everyone is distracted by the dog/cat fight. He sneaks off and meets up with the others.
- "How did it go?"
- "Poorly. This one had to escape in the confusion."
Everyone (eventually including Ho) heads back to the party rooms to contemplate things, again. Shanxi does definitely seem to know more about Xiao Fa's amnesia plot than he did last time Xiao Fa talked to him. Xiao Fa thinks that it's possible that teaching him something he knew before would bring back his memories, "but it would take this one off the path that this one is fairly certain he chose." Xiao Fa was hoping that it was that the Arbiter had some particular memory trick, but it seems not. But it doesn't seem like Shanxi was changing his story around a lot - though perhaps he was leaving out important details.
Loose Ends and Talking Fish
There's a knock at the door, and there is yet another messenger urchin with a note - this time for Yoshi. Lijuan offers to teach the urchin Leaping Flame, though that mostly just confuses him.
Your ploy seems to have worked. The Tong War here is over, and the Arbiter is leaving town. He has recruited a new servant for the Shadow in the city - I will eliminate that inconvenience and pursue the Arbiter. -Reiko
- "Can you ask her not to do that?" -Xiao Fa
- "We should have a better plan than that." -Yoshi, dubiously
The possibilities are considered. Not having Yoshi's friend kill Xiao Fa's brother would be good. But warning Shanxi betrays Reiko, and it may be hard to persuade her out of going after a minion of the Shadow's, and Shanxi does seem likely to be working for him now as a result of the meeting with Xiao Fa having gone wrong. They might get a chance to do something, as the Arbiter probably won't leave town until he's spoken to the other tong leaders, though it's not clear if that includes Yoshi. Convincing Shanxi to break with the Shadow might be a possibility, though that leads to other problems.
- "Is being hunted by the Shadow a step up from being hunted by Reiko?" -Hana
Lijuan fails in her attempt to hint that if Reiko kills Shanxi she'll be easier to redeem. Yoshi points out that the last time he talked Reiko into not killing someone who she thought should die, he was mistaken and after that, they killed her family. Two of the most powerful beliefs she holds are that evil should be stamped out immediately when it arises, and most people are just bad. "She doesn't put a lot of faith in the power of redemption."
Nevertheless, Yoshi is more willing to try talking to Reiko than Xiao Fa is to try talking to Shanxi, as Shanxi is likely still angry. Lijuan heads off to deliver a note to Reiko inviting her to come talk to the party again. While doing so, she contacts the urchin messenger network and figures out how it all works. It's not actually that every urchin knows where every person in the city actually is, but there's a strong trade in messages, that they pass among themselves in order to get them to the proper location. So you pay one urchin and the message gets delivered, with the benefits eventually trickling down to the other urchins.
Back at the party rooms, Reiko shows up, out of the shadows, causing everyone to jump. Wait, how exactly does she do that, Yoshi wants to know. Was that Shadow powers? She demurs from answering in detail, but claims it is mostly just stealth. Hana and Hiro offer tea.
Yoshi explains that the individual who joined the Shadow's organization is known to them, and is Xiao Fa's brother. He has attempted, without success, to sway Xiao Fa into joining that lifestyle.
- "So, this is not one of your attempts to infiltrate them?" -Reiko
- "We hope that it might ripen into that situation, but it isn't there yet." -Yoshi
- "You hope, or you have reason to believe?" -Reiko
Well, actually, they have some reason to believe - Xiao Fa himself did used to be in Shanxi's lifestyle, but he has been redeemed away from it. Yoshi takes the opportunity to try to persuade Reiko away from her "people are irredeemable" belief - look, there's an actual example. Reiko grudgingly has to admit that perhaps some people can be redeemed, and perhaps there is possibility to suggest that Xiao-Fa-like people can be redeemed in particular. However, Reiko takes the opportunity to try to persuade Yoshi out of his "foolish" belief in peace: peace is a reasonable goal, but until you succeed, action is called for. Cai Wen throws a "no fortune for you!" shtick at her, so she doesn't get to roll as many dice as Yoshi did, but Yoshi is much more a persuader than a man of steadfast resolve, so she still beats him.
Reiko says that for the moment, she'll let Shanxi be, and they can continue their conversation some other time, when Yoshi's friends aren't throwing their powers at her. They both withdraw from Yoshi's redemption mechanic at one point a piece.
Xiao Fa sends a note to Shanxi, which says (in summary):
- Apologies, but that is not the path for this one.
- Please turn aside from your path; if you desire help in this, this one is happy to help.
- Invite him to tea to chat more about how we can be close again.
Hiro, as an urchin, goes to deliver the message, since Xiao Fa knows where Shanxi hangs out. Shanxi sends back a reply that he's had enough of dogs for tonight, but "he knows where to find me if he wants to apologize."
That night, Yoshi dreams of Kibo - does Yoshi need him for anything? If not, he's going to have to clear out for a while, because there are great big dreams coming. From where, Yoshi wonders? From Above. Yoshi makes little butterfly flappy motions, questioningly. Kibo shakes his head, and makes little scuttly motions.
- "Oh, and Lijuan says Hi." -Yoshi
In the morning, Yoshi warns everyone about Some Sort of Big Spider dreams coming. That's a problem - is there anything that can be done about dreams? People with dreamwalking contemplate the question - it's very hard to join together without some sort of dreamwalking shtick. But they're not going to get to the Temple of the Eternal Dream in one day's travel. Sometimes meditating and dreaming of the same place can bring people into the same dream, but it's very difficult without a shtick either on the part of the dream-sender or the dreamer.
Hiro suggests that everyone dream of a Talking Fish in a fish pond, as the place. Lijuan illustrates the fish, for everyone to concentrate on, and Hiro spends a karma to re-use the Book of the Remarkable Wanderer. After a bit of debate, Plan "Talking Fish Dream" is activated, and everyone meditates on Lijuan's talking fish drawing before bed.
That night, people have dreams.
- Hana and Zhi-Hao don't dream of anything particularly interesting.
- Lijuan dreams of a talking fish in a fish pond, which won't stop talking.
- Hiro dreams of a talking fish in a fish pond, which points out that it is Hiro's talking fish, which is particularly cool.
- Anto dreams of a talking fish in a fish pond, though then it says that Anto shouldn't talk to talking fishes, so it's not talking to him.
- Cai Wen dreams of a talking fish in a very nice Flower House, which seems to be interested in being his moll.
- Xiao Fa has a dream of a talking fish in a fish pond. Then, his dream grows darker, and dark waving tentacles descend from above, and he hears "You have defied me three times, so..." "I'M A TALKING FISH!" "... so now you will face my ... " "I'M A TALKING FISH!" "... face my wrath..." "TALKING FISH!". Xiao Fa isn't as scared as he might be, due to the talking fish's presence. But the message is generally conveyed. Xiao Fa has denied Aku three times and thus is forever cast out. He has made a powerful enemy this day.
- Yoshi has a dream - Kibo leads him far away from the fish pond, up a river and then up a waterfall, through the great gates of the Hidden City and into a room with a huge map. A man stands at the map, and then the room darkens briefly. A voice says "Another one has rejected us and must be dealt with. Send someone to kill the one known as ..." "TALKING FISH! I'M A TALKING FISH!" The man frowns, and says "I didn't quite catch that?" but the dream fades before he gets clarification. Yoshi wakes up.
In the morning, people compare their fish dreams, and are pleased that at least for the moment, some peril seems to have been dodged.
- Master Zhou, Cai Wen, Takanata, Xiao Fa, and Wei Han go wander around a section of highway in the northern Arcade.
- Cai Wen and Wei Han visit a tea house in the Port of Propitious Voyage.
- Some of the urchins in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival have started to call Lijuan "Master Lijuan". Or "Lijuan Sensei".
- Master Zhou visits with Master Rao She, an itinerant master, and travels up to Daizhou to confer with Master Lin and Master Tien.