Black and White
|"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."|| The run takes place in the Month of the Descending Bear in the Twelfth Year of the Bear since the Regency Council was formed|
The run takes place in Bear Mountain
Master Zhou and Takanata return from the The Mind Palace with Captain Huan Ken, who is deeply distraught. Xian takes him to his room, while Master Zhou explains to Master Hong how and why they broke the Winter Academy's siege instructor just in time for the War with the North. (Then Takanata and Xian head off, leaving Master Zhou behind to meet up with Wei Han and Shuyan.)
Academician Leung pops in - several of the students are about to head to the White Pagoda for the cultural exchange, but Master Zhou hastens to warn them DO NOT GO ANYWHERE, as there is something up with Tai Lung and the Black Pagoda. Perhaps they can all go to Tahiti and take a water gate in? That way they can join forces with the White Pagoda before acting.
Master Zhou suspects that for all his constant posturing, Tai Lung is probably actually scared of him (at least in conjunction with the rest of the party) at this point. So if he has a trap set to scoop some people up, it probably won't scoop up Master Zhou and his companions. Speaking of companions, Master Zhou invites Bian Li Ming to come along for what may be a dramatic confrontation with Tai Lung.
The journey to the White Pagoda takes place without incident - nobody is scooped up into any Black Pagoda. Master Zhou confers with Yanzi, and she notes that there has been a general drop in the number of petitioners, and some new students that were expected have not arrived. The students of the White Pagoda have passed along the trail several times scouting, but they didn't find anything. It is not that nobody has come in the past month - everyone would have noticed that - but fewer people have come. Master Zhou brings the Winter Academy students in for training, and thinks that they would almost certainly have been scooped up and not arrived. However, due to looking in the right direction in the previous run, this plot has been avoided.
Wei Han starts to follow the chi downstream, down the trail, followed at a distance by the others. He turns a corner that they don't see, and is welcomed to "the True Pagoda" by a muscular-looking student who Wei Han doesn't recognize. However, nobody else seems to have followed him around the corner. He asks the student where his companions are - the guy isn't sure, and wonders if maybe they need to meditate more in order to find the true path. Wei Han resists the urge to start the combat all by himself, and goes back down the mountain.
Master Zhou decides maybe some further consultation is in order, and he and Wei Han visit the Green Pagoda to speak to Quan Lo.
- "There is a difference between ease and effectiveness. You could, of course, take the White Pagoda, and go where you will. This would almost immediately lead to combat; you might prevail, but you might not learn much. Or you might choose to disguise your chi, and see what you might learn before the fight commences." -Quan Lo
Master Zhou decides he does want to learn more about the Black Pagoda, so Quan Lo provides him with six amulets that will disguise their chi. He also leaves Master Zhou with a final warning:
- "Not all those who are within have already been consumed."
Master Zhou wonders if what they need now is Po. Within moments, that worthy student has come to see what he might aid with. Has Po finished his training with Quan Lo? Not yet, he says. Soon.
- "Their tests are many and varied." -Po
- "What have you learned from them?" -Master Zhou
- "That the correct answer is not always right." -Po
Do Master Zhou and the others need Po's help? He is always willing to lend his right arm (and his left arm and his legs) to the cause of justice! Well... maybe he should stay and finish his training with Quan Lo. Yanzi thinks if Master Zhou is going in person, she should stay at the White Pagoda as an anchor, but she thinks that Master Zhou should definitely take Yue-Mei. So: Shuyan, Wei Han, Master Zhou, Yue-Mei, Academician Leung, and Bian Li Ming, in big enveloping cloaks and chi-amulets.
The party walks the trail again - this time, with the amulets, they turn the hidden corner and are all greeted at the gates of the True Pagoda. The student is happy to give them a tour, as the Master is still in the senchi chamber. One of the senior students, the Master's disciples, is conducting a class.
- "Fear does not exist in this pagoda!"
- "No, Master!"
- "Pain does not exist in this pagoda!"
- "No, Master"
- "Defeat does not exist in this pagoda!"
- "No, Master!"
- "Strike First! Strike Hard! No Mercy!"
The training is vigorous, verging on brutal, but effective. Tenets of the True Pagoda appear to be:
- If a training partner cannot stand against you, he must be eliminated. Mercy is for the weak.
- If a man stands against you, he is the enemy!
One of the students who fails to stand is taken off to the healing room. Academician Leung seems to find the whole situation interesting, while Master Bian is critiquing their form in her head, and Yue-Mei is looking ready to chop someone.
So... what is the purpose of the training here? The student giving the tour says that here is where they learn the self-mastery to command one's own chi. Once the newcomers have studied for a time, they will gain an audience with the master in the Dark Senchi chamber. (It seems likely that the Dark Senchi chamber is directly below the main practice area, architecturally speaking.)
Shuyan sneaks off into the infirmary to provide some extra healing to the student who was pummeled in training. He is trying to master the pain, and when some of it goes away, thinks he has succeeded! Shuyan whispers to him that there are other ways of healing, which he thinks must be a vision from the Master.
Now that they have seen what is to be offered at the True Pagoda, if they wish to stay as students, they can be assigned rooms and change out of their Huge Cloaks into training gi. Master Zhou is willing to pledge himself to a life of kung fu, but Wei Han is still dubious. The student thinks that just hanging around gawking indefinitely is not appropriate, but is willing to give him some more time.
The student says he has been with the Master for just over a year, but that many of his disciples have been with him for years. There are twelve disciples, four of whom are in residence now. And about two dozen students, about half of whom are injured.
Bian, Yue-Mei, and Master Zhou take their places on the sparring floor. Master Zhou grabs his opponent, but does not choke him as directed. The disciple chastises him for not truly defeating his enemy, and tells him that he must meditate on this further.
- "I am not sure I see the truth of these statements!" -Master Zhou
- "That's why you need to meditate."
- "Maybe you need to show me more of your so-called wisdom."
The disciple decides to teach him a lesson, but Master Zhou is perfectly able to block his strikes. Master Zhou switches between playing to the younger students, and mocking the disciple.
- "I'm sorry, are you one of the master's 'disciples'? Is this who we're supposed to be learning from? With his claims that pain is the only way?" -Master Zhou
- "Impossible! Who are you?"
- "I AM MASTER ZHOU OF THE WHITE PAGODA!"
- "Treachery!" -All the students
Master Zhou proclaims that the students have studied under a false master! But those who have suffered here are welcome to come and study under the true masters. Academician Leung pulls out a notebook to take notes on the fight that is sure to ensue.
The disciple declares that they know the way to attack Master Zhou is to attack his companions, but they really didn't mean Wei Han, who jumps in the way of an attack on Master Bian.
Then, Tai Lung rises up from the floor in drift, and gets in an un-dodgeable attack on Master Bian. She and Master Zhou both attack Tai Lung, but he transfers all the damage to one of the disciples, who promptly dies.
Tai Lung demonstrates an ability to punch Yue Mei in drift, but she is a Northern Battlemage, and can block in drift too. Master Zhou punches a bunch of the students, and then does an architectural strike to Tai Lung's pedestal. Yue Mei's strike on Tai Lung can't be blocked with kung fu, only dodged, so she gets some significant damage past his defenses.
Tai Lung tries to chop Shuyan, but Wei Han is still in the way, and some ripostes bounce back and forth. More punching follows, and Tai Lung and Yue Mei show off some more drift attacks, and Yue Mei starts preparing her greatest strike.
Finally, at the top of action 10, Tai Lung falls to the onslaught.
- "Father! You are avenged!" -Yue Mei
The Dark Pagoda begins to quake. Academician Leung notes that one way to fix it would be to attune the senchi chamber, which would be fascinating, but Master Zhou thinks having both the White and Black pagoda would probably be a bad idea. He shouts at everyone to get out, but Shuyan remembers the students in the infirmary.
Master Zhou can hold the senchi chamber from disintegrating, but it will cost him. He concentrates on doing so, while everyone else charges towards the infirmary - except Yue-Mei, who stabs Tai Lung a couple more time for good measure.
A few moves later, everyone is out, and the pagoda both implodes and explodes at the same time. In its place is the White Pagoda, and Master Zhou collapses. Shuyan and Yanzi run to him, and Yanzi says that his chi isn't in his body right now. Yanzi carries him into the White Pagoda's senchi chamber, where he will recover.(Master Zhou's spiritwalk shtick from the White Pagoda, and one of Yue Mei's battle mastery shticks, are both burned out for Book Eleven.)