Conclave of Minor Houses
|"One cannot manage too many affairs; like pumpkins in water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Dog in the Month of the Phoenix in the Tenth Year of the Bear since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in Tahiti and nearby in the Arcade
The party is at Tahiti, when the junior butler informs Merit that he has a visitor: the noble Lord Nikoze. After some light-hearted greetings and sparring, Lord Nikoze explains that he was passing this way when his Majesty asked him to deliver some tidings to Lord Li. As before, please accept his congratulations on the successful campaign, and in recognition of your success, his Majesty has granted the honor of hosting the Conclave of Minor Houses to the House of Exuberant Interference. In four days.
This is, Merit notes to himself, one of the least-sought honors in the Arcade - it is more of an annoyance for the hosting house, though it is, technically, an honor. Lord Nikoze clarifies that the venue has already been prepared - the King has only now decided to give Merit's House the honor of hosting the gathering.
So far, those who have been confirmed to be attending include:
- The House of Transparent Purity
- The House of the Lotus
- The House of the Hidden Orchid
- The House of Continuous Sustenance
- The House of A Hundred Scholars
- The House of the South Wind
- A... few less mentionable houses (Lord Nikoze flicks his eyes towards Kasumi at this)
Finally, the House of Piquant Sapidity is not in good favor, and should not be permitted to attend. If Merit has any further questions, he should talk to his Majesty's factor in the Port of Propitious Arrival. And then, Lord Nikoze is off again.
Merit tries to find out what the deal with Piquant Sapidity is. No one really wants to talk about them - apparently, they are still protesting their innocence. They did not insult the King and Queen, but that was thirty years ago, and it's a different King, and a different head of House. But they are still not forgiven! They often try to attend the Conclave, but are always rebuffed. Protocol requires that their name be called during the procession, however, as they are a minor house of the Arcade.
The junior butler announces another guest - this one is dreamy. Shuyan goes to meet her, and she introduces herself as Jasmine Delight, from the House of the Lotus, where she was house-sister to Teng Hanako. She is most pleased to meet Shuyan, who is in fact who she was here to see.
At the Conclave, the House of the Lotus will be bringing several novices. The mistress of the Lotus would be interested in entering into an alliance with Shuyan's other house. If Shuyan would consent to teach them something, they would be more than happy to teach her those shticks at their disposal as well. Shuyan says that this is a charming offer, but she must consult with her patron, and manages to dismiss Jasmine Delight without making any promises.
The next guest is announced - Lu Yi, Blademistress of the Winter Academy, demands audience. Wei Han meets with her - she is an instructor he has not met yet. She says that she has been recently hired as an instructor in the martial arts ("the actual martial arts, not the unarmed kind"). She briefs Wei Han on the current faculty:
- Master Hong
- Sensei Bian Li Ming, unarmed combat instructor
- Colonel Lam Wai, tactics and strategy instructor
- Mistress Lu Yi, blademistress
- Pak Suk, logistics and traditions instructor
Master Hong is making progress on the apple orchard that he seems to have inexplicably decided to plant, but he says he needs greenhouse glass, so she has come to the Arcade to speak to the master glassmakers.
Wei Han takes her into the Combat Garden to spar - she seems talented at the sword, and particularly adept at fighting one or two, rather than fighting Master Deng's hordes. Wei Han wonders if any of the students are ready for independent activities, like guarding a Conclave of minor houses against unknown enemies, but Lu Yi disdainfully does not think any of them are up for it yet.
Meanwhile, Merit confers with the senior Butler, Shanxi, and the Cook. Obviously this is a Trap, but what should they do, or not do?
The cook suspects that the trap is probably related to do with the ninja who has been lurking around. The butler notes, with asperity, that the ninja is a guest who has not yet arrived, rather than a hostile party, and thus is not a problem. The cook thinks ninja are definitionally problems (Exuberant Interfering ninjas an exception).
The important thing is to keep Piquant Sapidity out. How might someone try to sneak into a party? In disguise, or through a window, or via a walking-through-walls shtick, or at swordpoint, or... Merit cuts off the cook's brainstorming to note that he wants to know how they are going to get in. She will see if she can find that out, though that's more difficult. Shanxi says that he can try to enforce invitations with names on them (though not permitting people to bring a +1 or an entourage will be difficult), or he can arrange to whoosh out one guest without too much notice.
Shuyan gets the next guest, in the person of Rusty Dagger, apprentice cabbage farmer. He explains to her at great and confusing length that red cabbage is not poisonous, and that he is trying to get help with putting together a propaganda campaign to that end. Shuyan has nothing against red cabbage, but isn't really sure why her house should be helping with this. Rusty says that he thinks it has to do with past relationships and the cabbage spirit, but he doesn't know the details - he's just an apprentice.
- "I don't know what you've heard, but it's not poisoned. It's just red."
Shuyan presses him for more details on the non-poisonous nature of cabbages, which leads to more confusion for everyone, but she finally gets out of him that there was... some point in the past, where two houses were feuding, and ... someone... was poisoned with cabbage soup. The details aren't clear. Well, one of the houses was Gainful Protection, which Rusty Dagger used to be a member of, before he stopped being a member. Well, that seems interesting. How did he leave? He was amicably fired, he admits. There was this thing where he was supposed to stab someone, but he didn't, and it was a thing. Some heir to some house, maybe the House of Shiny Glass, or something like that?
Shuyan still doesn't understand quite how this is a plot, but gets rid of her guest to report back to everyone else.
The next guest, Xie-Xie, is there to see Xian. She lets Xian know that Madame Song was hoping that Xian might be able to help - there is a pai gow player who has been unpleasant to the staff, nothing truly actionable, but it is not something they want to tolerate or have others tolerate. Could Xian set him straight? The man's name is Chen-Li, but that may be only his gambling name. He has been meeting with members of the smaller houses, and also with Lord Nikoze.
Xian asks after Chen-Li's manner - how is he different than other obnoxious guests? Xie-Xie thinks for a moment, and says that Chen-Li is sure that he can get away with his behavior, and that he has a more palpable aura of menace than a pai-gow player usually does. Meanwhile, Shuyan gives the junior butler some instructions in seduction resistance, so that he will be less smitten by the flower house visitors.
Merit and Kasumi go wander off through the gardens, to see if any ninja want to talk to them. A ninja decloaks to address them.
It is the understanding of the House of the Night Blade that the House of Exuberant Interference will be playing host to important individuals. There is one who is of particular interest to the Night Blade. This one owes a debt that has not been paid, but they need the payment. Since Merit and Kasumi have no love for his master, perhaps they can allow him to be disposed of, if they would but identify him.
Merit frowns, and says that there is to be no disposing of people at the party. The ninja presses again - it would keep Merit's hands clean.
Who is this particular person? The ninja explains that it is "a minor courier in the employ of the arch-fiend Ezokin." Merit warns him that anything they take from Ezokin, he will extract from them. The ninja thinks that since Ezokin owes it to them already, they are protected.
- "If he owes it, it is odd that he has not paid it." -Merit
- "That is what we wish to bring up with his courier."
- "Unless your debt is for "one courier", you are probably not protected." -Merit
In any event, the ninja believes that this courier will be conducting business at the party, but they do not actually know what he looks like.
Merit suggests that he might be able to arrange for the debt to be paid, though he does not go so far as offer to pay it. Well, if Merit wants to talk to the ninja again, he should whisper into the well in the Courtyard of Yellow Finches that he wishes to speak to Cai Wen's Bane.
Next, Kong Qiu arrives at Tahiti - he is interested in speaking with Master Zhou, who has studied at the House of a Hundred Scholars in the past.
Kong Qiu says that there is a particular window of opportunity opening, if Master Zhou might assist. His house would like Master Zhou's aid in using the power of the White Pagoda to visit and examine the intersection of the World of Dreams and the World Below. The opportunity begins at the Conclave - it will last for perhaps twenty-four hours, depending on the potency. The experiment they pursue will be the masterwork of one who wishes membership in the house, Li Kon.
Master Zhou suggests that they visit the Temple of Eternal Dream instead, but Kong Qiu says that - even assuming that they were permitted to use the facilities of the temple, which is by no means assured - they would reach the border between Dreams and Below, but with the demonic influence that they exerted in order to reach it. The path they pursue now would enable them to see the intersection in a less biased form.
In any event, a sorcerer's courier will be delivering the potion at the Conclave. Merit warns Kong Qiu that this is probably an attempt by Ezokin to trap the House of Exuberant Interference, and the House of A Hundred Scholars is being caught in the crossfire.
Kong Qiu asks Master Zhou to consider the request, and takes his leave.
Merit asks for a dossier to be put together on Li Kon, and sends his agents to determine who is in town for... Wei Han's glass-buying plot.
He finds that Wei Han, Lu Yi, Tsu Yi-Ju, Rusty Dagger, Chen Li, and Nikoze are in town directly related to the plot, and then things trail off into less connected people, like Jasmine Delight, Xie Xie, Shuyan, Kong Qiu, Master Fukiyashima, Cai Wen's Bane, and someone who it is too impolitic to mention.
Master Fukiyashima of the House of the South Wind arrives. He is interested in arranging a small exhibition to highlight the quality of horses of the Arcade (and perhaps in comparison with the horses of Master Shen-Ji). Could such a thing be arranged for the Conclave? Perhaps during, or afterwards.
Merit thinks that such a thing might be possible, but he will have to see.
That seems to be everyone who is likely to show up for today, so the party heads to the Conclave venue to check in with the people who have been planning the party.
Oh, and Shen-Ji has an old shtick that gives him hints about Ezokin's rituals, much to the surprise of the GMs. At present, Ezokin is trying to do something to the minor houses, in continuation of his ritual involving the books of the major houses, and so his courier probably has a potion for each of the houses, or at least six.
Shen-Ji writes to Yue to have her send up some horses.
Merit and Shuyan finalize the event planning roll, and everything seems in order.
Then, everyone disguises themselves (including buying some lesser armor for Wei Han to use as a disguise), in order to visit the House of Continuous Sustenance.
Merit chats with the cabbage guy about Rusty Dagger and red cabbage - the cabbage guy is not as excited about red cabbage as all that. The Large Cabbage Spirit isn't red, after all. Well, what about the politics of the Conclave? The cabbage guy knows a bit more about that.
Piquant Sapidity will try to show up, obviously. There is some political friction between the House of the Lotus and the House of Transparent Purity. And there is some political friction between the House of the South Wind and pretty much everyone, since their Thousand Li Horse triumph kind of turned into a political battleground and nobody is crediting them appropriately.
Hmm. Well, that doesn't make anything much clearer. The group heads back to Tahiti again.
A cartload of red cabbages has arrived - Merit delegates the cook into making an amazing cabbage soup out of them.
Xian wonders - has Wei Han actually checked that Lu Yi was hired by Master Hong? As opposed to just showing up and claiming to work for Wei Han? That leads Wei Han to wonder if the Winter Academy is planning on getting a potion, and he asks the blademistress if there are any strange goings-on having to do with potions. She thinks not, though then she is struck by a sudden thought - would potions explain Master Hong's sudden obsession with apples?
- "Apples give you strength." -Wei Han
Shuyan sends a courier to Precious Jade - they will be hosting a party, with several flower houses coming. Would Precious Jade be able to provide any advice, or perhaps an assistant? She uses spycraft to layer a message underneath that says "This is a Si Fan matter".
The background check on Li Kon returns - he appears to be a cipher who didn't exist until several months ago. He is active in the House of A Hundred Scholars, but does not have a life beyond that.
Merit writes Master Fukiyashima back, saying that there's room for a small horse exhibition after the party - perhaps it could be a teaser for a larger horse exhibition.
Merit also investigates whose idea it was to have the House of Exuberant Interference be in charge of the conclave. That isn't clear, but word from inside the House of Benevolent Oversight is that Lord Nikoze was against it. He tends to pick his battles and it is rare that he loses, but the King seemed particularly for it. The choice was actually made some weeks ago, and Nikoze has been stalling as far as informing the party, probably because he has some plan in motion that he expects the party will mess up.
- "Now it is our solemn duty to mess it up!"
- "We understand it so poorly, we should just start hitting people." -Xian
- "When Xian starts saying that..." -Merit
So... is Chen-Li really Ezokin too? The letters are different. That would indicate an alarming improvement in Ezokin's ability to change his name. On the other hand, when Ezokin is dealing in actual illicit goods, it's often someone else holding it, like his factor who was dealing in cursed silk.
Xian, Merit, and Kasumi head to the Hidden Orchid to play pai-gow for an afternoon. Unfortunately for their investigation, Chen-Li does not appear.
Merit talks to Xie-Xie on her break, and lets her know that there seems to be some sort of Ezokin plot that involves providing a potion to minor houses. Xie-Xie doesn't think the Hidden Orchid is expecting any potions. But she think that Chen-Li will be dealt with, as she has put Xian on the matter. Merit warns her that Chen-Li is probably being obnoxious deliberately, in order to provoke... something.
- "Hmm, so he is due more chastisement than we thought. We will send someone to instruct Xian thusly."
Merit says he will pass the message along.
Master Zhou uses his reputation shtick to get entry to the House of Transparent Purity’s head. The young noble is most please to see Zhou, Wei Han, and Lu Yi. When he put out a call for a bodyguard, he never expected such noble warriors to appear. For you see, his enemies are legion, and most skilled. The House of Gainful Protection unfortunately had to turn down his request for the bodyguard who saved him last time, but with Master Zhou in attendance to him day and night he’s sure he’ll get through the party unscathed.
That all goes off in pretty much one breath. Once anyone else gets a chance to speak, they clarify that while Master Zhou will be happy to protect him if he’s in danger at the party, they’re not really here to offer their bodyguard services, they are merely here to buy glass for Wei Han. Some shrewd negotiations later, Wei Han assigns Lu Yi to guard the man until the party, and in exchange will be able to buy all of the greenhouse glass he needs at just slightly over cost.
Before leaving, they do dig into the nature of his enemies a bit. It seems the head of house was only heir until fairly recently and has been attacked several times since. Most recently, an assassin came for him, but his body guard at the time Yang something or other saved him by defeating the assassin with a bowl of cabbage soup. The assassin escaped, the soup was ruined, but at least he was saved. Unfortunately, that previously competent guard was unavailable at this time. So he put out a call for stalwart defenders, and these three arrived!
Lu Yi protests to Wei Han as she thinks this is beneath her skills. Wei Han persuades her that you have to do demeaning things now and then to get the job done and there's nothing they can do about it. She recalls that the greenhouse is his fault, but this is clearly some sort of test, so she agrees.
A message arrives from Precious Jade for Shuyan: It probably won't come up, but be careful about the house of the Lotus. They're bad news, and have been trying to infiltrate the Si Fan.
Merit recruits a mook at the Hidden Orchid. Almost everyone is named, but he gets a groundskeeper.
A dossier returns on Chen Li - it's an alias for the private secretary of Lord Nikoze. Unlike Li Kon, he seems to have an existence outside of the most recent plot.
Master Fukiyashima returns Merit's message, saying that they will bring a couple of horses for show and one for a pulling competition with Shen-Ji's metal horse.
Messing It Up
So... the options seem to be to mug the courier, or convince all the houses to not take the potions. Well, they can start with the latter, and fall back to the former if necessary.
The group heads to the House of a Hundred Scholars, and finally meets Li Kon. Merit thinks he is in disguise, but is not Ezokin. Probably. Xian thinks she recognizes him, though (and in doing so realizes that the "Jester" from Doomhunter and "Maku" from Moonstones are also the same person). Merit talks about his project, and finally concludes that while he's good at worldwalking, he's not a strong scholar.
After Li Kon heads out again, Merit warns Kong Qiu about his using an assumed name, and also that Ezokin is up to ... something ... involving potions which will no doubt be bad for everyone. Kong Qiu is distressed - they have already spent significant resources towards the Tears - but Merit discovers that "significant resources" only means two tael. He gives Kong Qiu the two tael, and tells him to charge more for his services in the future.
A messenger arrives from Lu Yi, informing Wei Han and the others that a ninja attempted to kill Tsu Yi-Ju, head of the House of Transparent Purity. She drove the ninja away, but the young master insisted that she stay and protect him rather than finish off the ninja. She thinks the ninja was probably striking to wound, rather than kill.
The obvious conclusion is that Yi-Ju hired a ninja to attack him, in order to bolster his claim that people are out to get him. How nefarious of him! Xian speculates that perhaps the ninja was out to get a blood sample for something magical, like The Knife Returns (though that particular ritual is about finding your attacker, so the ninja probably doesn't need to do it).
Wei Han and Shuyan visit the House of Transparent Purity, and Shuyan heals Yi-Ju with the wand of healing. Yi-Ju is very impressed with Shuyan, and tries to convince her to come to the Conclave with him, but she says she has duties.
The others head to the House of the South Wind, bringing Merit's horse. The horse that will be in the contest of strength is named Twenty Stone, and is quite magnificent. Merit skips straight to the point: would they rather make a deal with the Great, er, Very Large, Horse Spirit, rather than using a potion of buffing? Master Fukiyashima is a bit surprised to have things cut to the heart so quickly, but is willing to make that deal, when Merit again offers to pay for the potion. They do not have it yet, but Merit asks that they see that it is delivered to one of Xian, Shen-Ji, Master Zhou, or Wei Han (none of the Exuberant Interferers themselves). They would rather not give it to Shen-Ji, given that he is their competition, but any of the other three are acceptable.
- "I'm not taking no potion. Give it to Xian." -Zhou
With a particularly dramatic summoning of Horse, a bargain is cut.
Shen-Ji trains with Master Zhou, and refreshes his Ezokin hint shtick: In theory it is possible for a single potion to affect two houses, if one house buys it and uses it on another.
Cook is assigned to watch over Tsu Yi-Ju to make sure he isn't poisoned, just in case he isn't faking the attempts on his life. Or maybe even if he is.
An emergency courier from Precious Jade arrives. Her previous message crossed with Shuyan's - do not make any deals with the House of the Lotus.
Before the party has begun, Kasumi notes that there is another ninja in the rafters. Merit announces that he has important information for nearby ninja, and wanders to a hidden corner of the room. A ninja decloaks to talk to him. Merit lets the ninja know that a sorcerer is doing a ritual by passing potions through minor houses, and if he has been contracted by Rusty Dagger to kill Lord Tsu with a potion, Merit recommends against it.
The ninja says that such a method will not be used.
- "Are you here as my guest?" -Merit
- "We have our own rules." -ninja
Merit asks that the message be passed along to Cai Wen's Bane as well.
Party guests begin to arrive, and Master Zhou watches for people in disguise. One of the servants bussing tables is in disguise.
Rusty Dagger and the cabbage guy arrive, and Xian makes a beeline for the apprentice. Rusty is just as happy to see Xian, and wants to know if it is all prepared. Xian hedges - she thought they just wanted red cabbage propaganda, not that he wanted back into the House of Gainful Protection. Rusty is confused - does he want back into the House of Gainful Protection. Xian explains that when people become desperate, they can be strung along by larger houses. Rusty, agreeing that he is desperate, begins to think that maybe his only option is to be strung along. Xian emphasizes that if Rusty doesn't want to be a patsy, there would have to be very good red cabbage, or he would have no prospects left. Rusty, suspecting that there is not very good red cabbage, despairs.
- "And never touch or accept the potion!" -Xian
- "What does the potion have to do with it? How do you know about the potion?" -Rusty
- "It won't count at all if the potion is used!" -Xian
- "Oh..." -Rusty
Xian mentions offhandedly that perhaps she could give Rusty the price of the potion. How did he get the two tael, anyway? He borrowed it from the House of Gainful Protection, under very "generous" terms. So he's probably doomed if he can't repay it. Xian agrees that he's probably doomed, and maybe someone should give him the two tael. However, as she has begun to suspect that she is accidentally persuading him into going back to the House of Gainful Protection after all, she wanders off again, leaving the cabbage apprentice very confounded.
Tsu Yi-Ju comes in with Lu Yi, dressed in a party gown. The blademistress shoots some glances at Wei Han indicating that she has not forgotten that he promised to tag team with her, several days ago.
- "Oh, I forgot to tell you. Tsu Yi-Ju might be asking you for my hand in marriage." -Shuyan, to Merit
- "Oh. Do you..." -Merit
- "No." -Shuyan
Merit assigns the Cook as Tsu Yi-Ju's "personal taster".
The two members of the House of the Lotus come in, and split up to chat with Wei Han and Merit.
Merit, meanwhile, has headed towards the servant in disguise.
- "Excuse me. I don't recognize you. You're fired."
Wei Han throws him out before anyone takes particular notice, and then confers with Lu Yi. Apparently, Yi-Ju's date was some sort of assassin, so the blademistress sent her away, and thus had to wear this ridiculous dress herself.
- "Your sacrifice is noted and appreciated. And it looks good on you." -Wei Han
He agrees to take a turn guarding Yi-Ju, though.
Shuyan finds a burlap pouch stapled to the bottom of the table where the disguised servant was. She calls Shen-Ji over to help investigate/defuse the pouch, and he carries it into the back. As it turns out, it's an empty hidden pouch, presumably a drop site for the potion, but there isn't a potion in it yet. They give the table a new tablecloth and some flowers, and put it back.
Merit talks to the Lotus member, suggesting that she is too smart to fall for a potion that would give Ezokin part of a great ritual leverage over her house. For two tael, she's willing to have it given to one of the non-Exuberant party members. However, she does still want to get the Si Fan "read character sheets" shtick from Shuyan, who is avoiding her. Oh, well, Merit knows that one too, having learned it from Precious Jade. He agrees to meet them after the party.
Lord Nikoze, Yang Tsi-Ya, and Chen-Li arrive; Chen-Li manages to be nearly everywhere at once as he starts looking for people to hand his potions to. However, that also makes him more conveniently pickpocketable by Kasumi.
- "Are we meeting pleasantly at a random party, or should I get my charge out of here because you're about to destroy everyone?" -Tsi-Ya
- "That's a good question. There might be some random firestorms descending from the heavens. That sort of thing does happen sometimes." -Shen-Ji
- "Message received."
Xian convinces Rusty Dagger to hide in a corner, away from where Chen-Li might hand out any potions.
Merit spots another disguised servant, and asks Lu Yi to throw them out.
- "You know, when Wei Han assigned me to Tsu Yi-Ju, it didn't seem likely that he could have quite so many enemies." -Lu Yi
She escorts the servant out at knifepoint, and Merit remarks "Piquant Sapidity" to the people looking alarmed.
Chen-Li fiddles with a table; after he leaves, Master Zhou puts two tael on it, and the tael vanishes rather than the potion.
Chen-Li proves unable to find the hidden Rusty Dagger, so he tries to give the potion to the cabbage farmer, but the latter is having none of it. Xian disguises herself as Rusty Dagger, and claims the potion instead.
- "A toast! To all things insipid!" -Master Zhou
Lord Nikoze asks Merit if they can skip to the list of house announcements, as his bodyguard is growing somewhat fidgety. As the party is still missing one of the potions, Merit stalls for longer.
Master Zhou questions Li Kon about how he worldwalks - he says he uses similar potions.
- "Do you wish to train with me?" -Master Zhou
- "You do me too much honor." -Li Kon
- "That is not an answer."
- "Who would not wish to train with you?"
- "That is also not an answer."
- "Very well. Yes, I would train with you."
- "This is something you desire?"
- ".... Yes? I desire training with you?"
- "You are wise to seek further training. I will consider whether you are worthy." -Master Zhou, walking away
Chen-Li notices that some of his potions are missing, and tries to figure out what happened to them. In any event, his plan seems to be going off the rails, as no one except Li Kon has been willing to take them.
Kasumi manages to overhear that the ninjas were hired to stab Yi-Ju and turn over the blood on the knife to the person who hired them.
Merit deduces that Chen-Li is about to escape, and sounds the Horn of Hornese to let the party know, while masquerading as a call to the Announcement of Houses.
The houses are announced - Piquant Sapidity does not answer, nor does Ornamental Vessels. Everyone else is there.
Shuyan grabs the potion that was stashed under the table.
Chen-Li makes his escape, which consists of walking out through the door, as no one is willing to be so gauche as to tackle him.
Merit confronts Li Kon, claiming that he is entitled to the potion that Li Kon has, since he paid Kong Qiu for it. Li Kon says it was bought in good faith, regardless of the source of the money.
- "Always pay with someone else's money if you can." -Li Kon
Merit picks his pocket. Li Kon turns to go, and then remarks over his shoulder, "It really will work better if he puts the karma in." Merit is spooked, as this suggests that Li Kon has noticed his pocket being picked but... is offering advice on using the potion?
Well, Merit's original plan was that only people not in the House should get potions, but the people who seem to have ended up with them are Merit, Shuyan, Kasumi, and Xian.
The contest of strength between Goldeneye (Shen-Ji's metal horse) and Twenty Stones is dramatic, but Twenty Stones wins.
Shen-Ji's initial examination of the potions suggests that they are not magical at all, but with more careful examination, it becomes clear that the (Transparent Purity made) vials they are in are magicproof, and block his detection spells (as well as resist the potion affecting them). The one he’s examining seems to be a combination of moneymancy and specialized water sorcery.
After much contemplation, a plan is devised: Xian carefully pours out one tiny drop of one of the potions, and Shen-Ji detects and analyzes the magic on it before it dissipates. It seems risky - Xian could accidentally douse herself with the potion, and if any of the potions are a deliberate trap, then Shen-Ji will get both barrels of it.
Nevertheless, they attempt one detection, and determine that the blue potion is a Potion of Equine Vampirism. Huh.