Creation of Water
|"Water is the one substance from which the earth can conceal nothing; it sucks out its innermost secrets and brings them to our very lips."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Tiger in the Month of the Crane in the thirteenth Year of the Magpie since the Regency Council was formed.|
The run takes place in and around the Hidden City.
Avoiding the World Above
The party (sans Anto) meets up at the Green Table inn in the Bronze District, after having been interrogated or possibly evaded interrogation instead. The group has taken all but one of the rooms, which was previously reserved. Everyone is beginning to relax and drink tea, when the doors burst open, and a spirit-glowing Anto strides in, and announces "Very well, it is time for your audience.". Then, there is a great wind, blowing through everyone and catching up their spirit.
Wei Han stands fast against the wind, and Shuyan ducks behind him, but everyone else falls unconscious, their bodies sleeping while their spirits head to the World Above.
Shuyan frets, and goes to examine them. Nobody seems to have fallen into a particularly bad position except Lijuan's bodyguard, who is awkwardly crumpled, and she straightens him out. She bats her eyes at Wei Han to do the heavy lifting, and he starts to carry people to rooms. The innkeeper, worried, shuts the door to keep anyone from walking in on the pile full of bodies. Shuyan assures him that they all appreciate his forbearance.
Wei Han puzzles over how to fit fourteen people in six rooms without breaking any rules of etiquette. Clearly Lord Takanata should have one of the larger rooms, but the larger rooms should fit more people... and who should he put in with Xian? Or Kuan-Xi? Master Zhou still refuses to be alone with her. In the end, Kuan-Xi gets given her own room, and everyone else gets roommates.
As Wei Han carries people upstairs, Shuyan overhears the innkeeper trying to fend off someone at the door. No, there is no Master Zhou here, and there is no Shuyan here, please go away. Shuyan hurries over, and recognizes Sai at the door.
- "Thank goodness I have found you, it takes a very long time to find anyone in this city and I have been looking for a long time. There is no time! We need to get all your fighty friends and go and save him! He has been captured!" -Sai
Shuyan goes and gets Wei Han, who tries to convince Sai to come in and explain things, but she continues to protest that there is no time. Wei Han is a bit unwilling to leave the unconscious party by themselves, but eventually calls in some Dragon Army reinforcements to keep an eye on things.
- "We should really offer the innkeeper a tip." -Shuyan
- "I will leave that to Cai-san." -Wei Han
- "But he's asleep."
- "He will wake eventually."
Shuyan gives the innkeeper a tip herself, feeling that an inn full of unconscious people and soldiers is not really good business.
Sai explains that it is time to go and rescue Huian. Wei Han and Shuyan look a little blank - he's her friend, the natural alchemist. It's a very important job, but he has been arrested! Shuyan and Wei Han follow her back up the street as she narrates the problem - what do you call the people who carry swords around and tell people the rules? They were arresting everyone who was doing things that were suspicious, but she doesn't think they were doing anything suspicious, they were just doing experiments. More precisely, they were climbing on a waterfall and investigating the source of water and looking for the place in the rocks where the water grew. They were writing things in the books and preparing to do the things where you push two data together but then Huian pushed her in the river and the people who carry swords around arrested him and took him away.
Shuyan demurs - she and Wei Han might not be able to fight all the guards to rescue Huian. Sai says well, yes, that's why she asked about all the other fighty people too. Sadly, they are unavailable. Wei Han guesses that Huian was probably taken to the guard post nearest to where he was arrested - so what waterfall were they looking at? Sai says they were at the waterfall at the top of the really big river. They walked up the river and then they climbed up the cliff.
- "Oh. Sai, there are really a lot of rules here. You probably don't have any keys or passes?" -Shuyan
- "Huian had a shiny yellow key..." -Sai
The group heads to the Brass guard post, in the center of the district. There are several people in line outside, so the trio joins the end of the line. After about five minutes, someone flies out the door into the dust of the road, and then a voice from inside shouts "Next!"
- "Er, Sai, why don't you let Wei Han and I do all the talking?" -Shuyan
Sai protests that she is good at talking and knows what happened because she was there, but Shuyan is persuasive in convincing her to let them do the explaining.
The next guy leaves looking unhappy, rather than being thrown out, but that's better than before. Once inside the guard captain tells Wei Han that they have rounded up all the troublemakers; if there's any evidence against his friend, he'll have a swift and speedy trial. Wei Han asks about the specific charges - he's currently charged with troublemaking. However, he can be released into Wei Han's custody, though he will have to show up with all his so-called natural philosophy tools at the trial, to prove his case. If it is as he describes - neither sorcery nor poison - then he will be free to go. The trial will be tomorrow at the court building in the Bronze district, and it is incumbent on Huian to show up before sunset, or he will be found guilty in absentia, and Wei Han will be guilty of breaking his custody. And then, Huian is released into their custody.
Sai hugs him.
- "I knew they would save you! We should leave this city and never return!" -Sai
- "Er..." -Shuyan
Wei Han explains that Huian is not out of trouble, just released into their custody, so if they flee, he will get in trouble. Huian says, looking at Sai, that Wei Han and Shuyan have been so helpful, he doesn't want to get them into trouble.
The group proceeds back to the inn, to consider the situation. Huian has been given back his personal effects: a hat, a long feather, a magnifying glass, and a brass key. He explains that he doesn't agree with un-natural magics - nothing like so-called sorcerers, chi and yang and things like that. He is trying to understand the natural philosophical underpinnings of the world - in this case, the philosophical underpinnings of sea water.
He has investigated sea water enough that he understands how to convert plain water to sea water (not just "salt water"). But since he needs nigh-unlimited amounts of sea water, he needs nigh-unlimited amounts of water. Now, water comes from two places: deep in the earth and up in the sky. He has been looking at sources of water in order to come to a deeper understanding of how water is created.
Shuyan, dubious, asks if anyone else believes in this sort of natural philosophy thing. He says he knows several. Three, in fact! One is in the Illuminated Precincts, one in Iron Mountain. The third travels as he does, so he doesn't know where they are.
Anyway, his notes and sketches and charts of the water table and so on are all back at the camp site at the waterfall. He does wonder if Wei Han and Shuyan know why the guards are arresting all sorcerers - Shuyan says it probably had to do with the use of sorcery and chi magic in the Jade Palace, and the chi in the throne room got messed up.
Huian tsks at the idea of "messing up the 'chi'".
- "It's that sort of superstition that is leading the people of the Empire astray." -Huian
- "But chi works!" -Shuyan
- "Yes, but foolishness about chi leads to elitism with "classes" like sorcerer." -Huian
Anyway, the camp is halfway up the waterfall. There are water gates out of the city, that lead to the docks on the Pearl River. Huian says that you have to climb up while keeping one hand or foot in the water, or you won't be able to see the city any more. Wei Han points out that because the chi got messed with, you can see the city now, but Huian is a little dubious. Shuyan offers to jump down into the river to check, and sure enough, she can see the city even from outside - she waves at the group on the docks.
Shuyan points out that from the point of view of the city guards, climbing up the waterfall is like trying to break into the Jade District. Huian protests that the waterfall is not in the city per se, but Shuyan thinks that "climbing up the waterfall" still looks a lot like "breaking into the city". She says she has a Jade key, though, so she's allowed to go in even via waterfall if necessary, if anyone complains. Huian is intrigued - can they go up to the overhang in Jade afterwards? He can probably see everything from there! Shuyan says that would be a bad idea.
The group starts climbing up the cliffs. Sai complains quite a bit that it was much easier last time (when she had a foot or hand in the water), but for everyone else, it is probably easier to climb farther away from the water. Shuyan can walk up the nigh-vertical crag, but everyone else gets roped together for safety. Sai botches her climbing roll, so Wei Han carries her on his back; Sai, who is slightly familiar with horse-riding, calls out things like "Giddy-up" to be helpful, but Shuyan schools her on how people are not horses and one should not use the same terms of encouragement.
When they get to the camp, there are the ashes of a long-dead fire, and a torn sleeping bag, but that's about it.
- "I'm not actually a horse..." -Wei Han
- "Well, yes, you're a people now..." -Sai
Sai hunts for her picnic basket, and Huian scours the little ledge for his notes, his backpack, their tent... this is a disaster! There seem to be a lot of tracks on the ledge, as if there was some sort of a scuffle, but Huian says that this isn't where the guards found them - they were up much higher. Did they tell the guards where their camp was? Well, not immediately, but once he was being interrogated, Huian pretty much told them everything.
- "I'm pretty sure no one uses this path except smugglers." -Huian
The group scours the ledge for more clues, and Huian finds a leather bracelet with a broken strap, which he thinks he's seen before. In fact, Jiangao the Snitch was wearing it! Jiangao was a fine young man he met who told him where the smuggling paths were, for a fee. He also recommended this fine campsite.
Huian sits down and meditates for a while, and then draws a very good sketch of Jiangao.
- "What aspect are you?" -Wei Han
- "I don't believe in astrology. I don't think that just because some spirit touches you at your birth, you can't still do other things. It's a matter of will and natural philosophy." -Huian
After he finishes his research into saltwater, he might want to start a project on spiritual research. Wei Han suggests that Huian talk to Takanata about his seawater project. Huian nods - he understands that Takanata was doing a similar project from more... fanciful... principles, and he did offer some advice when they last met.
Buyers and Sellers
The group heads down to Pewter, where Huian says that Jiangao the Snitch was. Word on the street is that Jiangao isn't actually around Pewter at the moment - he came into some interesting loot, and went up to Copper to pawn it. The group grabs some Copper passes, and heads to that district to ask around after pawnshops.
Shuyan asks around and finds a store: Bureaucratic Texts and Other Esoterica. A little copper bell rings as the door opens, and the shop has an old man with a very long beard and a high voice.
- "How can I be of assistance to you fine young students?"
- "Have you purchased any texts from this man?" -Wei Han, showing the sketch
- "Is he a fine young student? No? Then I am sure I have never seen him before."
Shuyan asks if the proprietor has any natural philosophical field guides? He says that he might be able to find some, but it would be very expensive. Even some notebooks with jottings? Anything would be useful. He says that maybe he can find some, but they will need to come back in the morning. They agree to come back in the morning, and then head outside again, where Shuyan hides to keep an eye on the shop.
After about ten minutes, the copper bell jingles, and the sign at the front of the shop switches from "open" to "closed", but nothing else happens. Shuyan dashes for the back of the shop, to watch there instead. Eventually, the shop keeper heads out the back, followed by Shuyan, followed by everyone else. He heads to a warehouse, and knocks a complicated knock on the door. He slips in, and then everyone else joins Shuyan.
- "There was a secret knock, but I lost it after about three or four." -Shuyan
Wei Han kicks in the door, and everyone in the warehouse turns to look in astonishment. There's a guy standing on a platform - there are folding doors behind him, and a number of people in front of the platform, in addition to two guards by the door and a number of crates in the corners. It takes a moment or two to figure out what's going on - it's an auction.
- "Jiangao, you have some items that belong to a friend of mine. We can do this the easy way, or I can whistle up my friends in the guard." -Wei Han
Jiangao looks intimidated; when Wei Han gives him an action, he babbles about how he's sure it's probably Wei Han's stuff, but he already gave it to the auctioneer. The auctioneer, on the other hand, is less impressed - he thinks the local guard knows not to bother this particular establishment.
Shuyan brandishes some terrifying-looking snakes at the door guards - two more guards who were behind the crates flee to the far corners.
- "I've served on the Wall more years than you can count. I didn't mean local guards." -Wei Han
But he doesn't have the fortune to succeed in a second Copper-class intimidation, and the auctioneer continues to be unimpressed.
Wei Han does summon some more Dragon Soldiers, and stations most of them outside the back exit to grab any auction bidders who might try to escape. The soldier at the front gets taken down by the remaining door guards, though, which means there will be little mercy for anyone in the room, but there is only one Wei Han and he is not Master Deng, to chop everyone at the same time. The battle is fierce, but in the end, the auctioneer and Jiangao escape, but the party has control of the warehouse, and Huian gets all his stuff back.
Now that he has all his tools and notebooks, Huian makes another attempt to persuade Shuyan to let him investigate the overhang to the waterfall in the Jade garden. However, since he hasn't had his trial yet, Shuyan and Wei Han insist that he put his tools into evidence with the guard instead. Wei Han gives the sketch of Jiangao to the guards, mentioning darkly that the auctioneer claimed to have the local guard on his payroll. Not that Wei Han is claiming that, but he just thinks they should know.
The group heads back to the inn, where they find that Kuan-Xi, Min Feng, Cai Wen, and Shen-Ji are all missing. The guards say they left, rather than were spirited away, so it's probably okay. Huian and Wei Han stay in the room with the unconscious Li Merit, and Shuyan takes the now-empty room that Kuan-Xi had.
Morning comes with no further incident, and the group proceeds to the Bronze district for Huian's trial. When they check in at the courthouse, they are instructed to have their bureaucrat deal with the paperwork. Er. They didn't bring a bureaucrat. The courthouse officials boggle.
The group heads off quickly to find Fen-Xi, and Shuyan hires him for the day. He doesn't think a trial in Bronze will be a big problem, and sure enough, he is able to convince the judge that natural philosophy is not in fact sorcery (since all the evidence did get entered in, rather than lost somewhere between Copper and Bronze).
- "Now can we go to the Jade sector?" -Huian
Wei Han puts his foot down - going out on the overhang is really not safe. And Fen Xi notes that the orders to arrest everyone doing "mysterious sorcery" started at the bridge, but now it's gotten as far as arresting random sorcerers; while natural philosophy has a precedent now for being Not Sorcery, not all the guards may be briefed.
Fen Xi suggests that Huian write a letter of request to Takanata to sponsor the mission; that might gain him sufficient status to not be arrested immediately. Shuyan says they can just ask him, but he's indisposed right now. Fen Xi seems to think this is a bit odd, and eyes Wei Han dubiously, but doesn't say anything else.Shuyan persuades Huian to linger in the city for a while longer; Sai declares that they should go and shop for tents and sleeping bags again (as the tent was very small and they should get a larger tent), except, hmm, their money was all stolen, so perhaps they should leave the city for the time being. He is worried about having Sai in the Hidden City long term, as she does get into trouble very easily. He will also write a letter to be left for Xian.