Creation of the Law
|"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself."|| 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.
Towards the Mountain
Anto begins the day very busy - he is running all over the Hidden City doing... somewhat indeterminate things. He talks to some people, he gets some things and puts them elsewhere, he beats up some people, but nothing he will be able to describe precisely later.
Everyone else meets up at the Green Table inn in the Brass District, after having been interrogated or possibly evaded interrogation instead. Kawaii (the panda bear cub) has been left in the Jade district with the imperial gamekeepers. The group has taken all but one of the rooms, which was previously reserved. Everyone is beginning to relax and drink tea in the common room, when the doors burst open, and a spirit-glowing Anto strides in to announce "Very well, it is time for your audience.". Then, there is a great wind, blowing through everyone and catching up their spirits.
A gentle breeze lifts Lijuan and Master Zhou out to a grassy plain, where Anto is standing, glowing with his Wu-Xing arrows. There is, however, no sign of Bear. In the distance are several mountains, so Lijuan declares that that should be their destination. Anto takes the lead.
- "This is my fault..." -Anto
- "Yes." -Master Zhou
As the group walks towards the mountains, there is some discussion about whether Lijuan is "actually" married. She probably isn't, since all the Imperial-wedding bits got countered, but Lijuan remarks that maybe marrying the Siew boy would fix their curse.
- "We went through a lot of trouble to have you not marry this guy if you actually want to..." -Anto
- "You should not marry this man!" -Master Zhou
But - what if Xiao Fa were to turn him into a Dragon? Then he would be a good guy, right? Master Zhou sighs very loudly.
- "Then he could totally be Emperor! That would be awesome! Er, excuse me." -Laura
Though the group keeps walking, the mountain grows a bit closer but then no closer. Master Zhou has a vague feeling that he has been here before, and remembers telling someone "There's a reason it's named Bear Mountain."
Anto contemplates what the appropriate thing to do to get an audience with Bear. On the other hand, that's not the right question to ask, as they have been granted an audience already, but that's not the traditional way the stories go. Should they climb the mountain? Ask permission? Hunt a bear? Lijuan looks for bear tracks beneath the mountain, but they are all old and washed away, and nothing seems to lead anywhere in particular.
Anto faces the mountain, bows respectfully, and says he has come for his audience.
- "You are here." -the mountain
Anto drops into a deep bow, not quite as deep as a full kowtow to an Emperor, but close.
- "Great Bear, I beg your forgiveness for my presumption, to negotiate with you in a situation of dire need. I will be a pawn of no one, but I will be willing participant with those who I respect. I hoped that if we could speak after your task was complete we could know each other better." -Anto
- "Your hesitance was understood, but while it is proper for the Wu Xing to be careful, he must not be timid, or none of his goals will be achieved." -Bear
- "I hope and believe that both of our goals were accomplished yesterday, and I would speak with you of other goals we might share."
- "Yesterday was not a good day..."
- "Sorry!" -Lijuan, interrupting
- "...but some things did come to pass."
Anto asks if he should present his companions; Bear suggests that if they wish to speak, that would be appropriate. Anto says he trusts them to speak for themselves; Bear notes that he must know them very well, in that case. But he has observed Lijuan, and he is already acquainted with Master Zhou.
- "I am pleased that you have decided to join us again, though of course it is regrettable that Spider committed the affront to you that brought you forth. As I know it is not your way to forgive such affronts easily, I wonder if we might find common ground based on that, as I and my companions find ourselves at odds with Spider quite frequently, and know that he has committed other affronts while you have been sleeping." -Anto
Bear growls that while he does not approve of many of the actions Spider takes, the actions he takes with his people are his to make. Anto presses - what about with Bear's people, or other things that are his? Bear says that that is a different story - keeping him from his daughter was a mistake, but he has paid for it.
What Would Lijuan Do?
- "Thank you for coming!" -Lijuan, interrupting
- "I would not have missed it. But I do not think you accomplished your purpose if you wish to be married."
- "I'm not married!?" -Lijuan
- "Not as the great powers understand the term."
- "Am I married some other way?"
- "There are many among your kind who call themselves married who have done less."
- "I don't think it's fair that I have to be married when we didn't finish and stuff."
- "Then you are not."
Lijuan asks what Bear wants her to do - she could help Horse and Whale, for example, she'd be way better at it than Renyu. Bear notes that it might be tricky to help both Horse and Whale at the same time, so she decides she'll help Whale because everyone else helps Horse.
- "You approve of Whale?"
- "I like him. I don't think it's my job to approve." -Lijuan
- "You have learned wisdom."
Bear says that if Lijuan chooses to help Whale, he will neither stop her nor object. Lijuan sidetracks into worry - Crane told her to ask questions, but she doesn't entirely understand the Children thing.
- "Crane is concerned with the children..."
- "Thank you!" -Lijuan, interrupting
Lijuan continues on to discuss Kawaii. Bear doesn't seem to think his permission is required to let her associate with a panda bear cub, but he does say that she does have the ability to learn to prevent Kawaii from killing people that Lijuan doesn't want killed. She spends her two Bear Points on the ability to buy panda-based shticks as "taught".
Anto decides to step in next, hoping to trade information about Spider to Bear, on the theory that Bear has not been paying attention.
- "Forgive my lack of understanding of the doings of great ones such as yourself. I gather you have been inactive - maybe you don't know all of what Spider is doing, and we could work together against him." -Anto
- "My presence is felt in the world. I do not *flaunt* my presence, but I have been keeping track of what occurs."
However, Bear notes that the first part of Anto's training is near complete, and if he does wish to work with Bear, Bear could arrange for the second part of his training. Anto demurs - Master Koji hasn't told him yet what the second phase of his training might entail.
- "I fear whether I have gained the wisdom that he hoped for me to gain, but I feel that I am to be involved in the doings of those greater than myself regardless, and thus I wish to be as ready as I can." -Anto
- "That is wise. It is not a matter of gaining the wisdom your master hopes for you - the question you should ask is whether you have gained the wisdom you need. "
- "It is hard to know what wisdom I need if I do not know what is before me. That lack of foreknowledge is why I have learned to be somewhat cautious."
- "Caution is appropriate, but do not expect your actions to be guided by foreknowledge. It is a gift bestowed on a few, and often it is a curse."
- "When I don't have foreknowledge, then I rely on my instincts."
- "Then you must train your instincts to serve you. Or is it foreknowledge you ask as your boon?"
- "I want to know what I must do to reach my full potential. I don't think I need to know exactly what will happen to me. I think that would be one of the curse parts, from the stories I've heard."
- "Then, when you are ready to begin the next phase of your training, you must speak to the one who bears my Name."
Master Zhou whispers that the one who bears Bear's name is Quan Lo.
- "I should probably know who that is..." -Anto
Edging back to the "So, about this Spider guy..." conversation, Anto notes that, as far as shared goals about Spider goes - if Bear plans to bear a grudge against Spider, then Anto and his companions know things that spirits do not, and can do things that spirits cannot. Bear agrees that there are many things that mortals can do that Great Spirits cannot, but he believes that as far as attempting to keep Bear from the wedding, that Spider has been properly chastised for it.
- "What about your mountain?" -Anto
- "That was an affront. Do you offer to redress it? If so, what do you ask?"
- "I hope at some point to have the ability to do that." -Anto
- "I would look kindly upon one who repaired what I cannot. It was done fairly..."
- "Was not!" -Lijuan, interrupting
- "...so I cannot simply redress it myself."
- " What was done by mortals must be undone by mortals?"
- "Spider totally cheats." -Lijuan
- "It is his way."
- "How is that fair, then?" -Lijuan
- "Would it be fair to force him to act against his own nature?"
- "Do you say that because it is true or because you wish it to be true?"
Lijuan bows, defeated in argument.
Master Zhou goes back to the idea of fixing the affront - it is his hope to undo the renamings that have already occurred. Bear says he would look favorably on the White Pagoda should Master Zhou accomplish it.
Lijuan asks about her "shticks that she doesn't know about" - Bear explains that they are how Crane has attempted to interpret her legacy, in attempt to support Crane's goals. However, once bestowed, they are Lijuan's to do with as she wishes.
- "That's what everyone says." -Lijuan
- "There are worse things than having forces loyal to you."
- "Do you think he meant Crane?" -Lijuan
- "No." -Master Zhou
- "Urchins?" -Lijuan
- "Yes." -Master Zhou
- "Also killer pandas." -Anto
Lijuan protests - urchins and killer pandas aren't Crane! Bear explains that Crane can interpret Lijuan's legacy, but not rewrite it.
- "So you get urchins instead of vast armies. Many people would see that as a step down!" -Anto
Anto asks for a story - how did Spider come to power and come to be in the Cycle? Anto thinks that he has an extra clue that Bear doesn't know that might pay for the information. However, Bear thinks that the past is "easier to relate and not as costly", and is willing to give an overview without asking for repayment.
- "The entire story is long in the telling, and I believe you understand many of the details of the process. The essence is that Dragon created the Empire with our aid, but he was the lawgiver. When he chose to allow the replacement of Whale, replacement became the law, though it was not so in the beginning. It was not obvious that while replacement was now possible, it could also be done from outside - but that was the law."
Anto asks for clarification. Dragon didn't have to do the whole Cycle-changing ritual to switch Phoenix in for Whale? Bear allows as Dragon had to do a version of the ritual "particular to him". When Spider came to act, Spider gathered mortals to aid him. The defenders of the Dragon did not realize their danger, for Dragon's nature is such that the plans of Spider are easy to overlook. By the time the danger was realized, Spider's allies had perfected a technique and put it into action. The lesson is to not set the precedent by which you do not wish to be bound; because of this, that is why Bear says Spider's approach is one that he disapproves of and finds distasteful, but given Spider's nature, the approach is not necessarily inappropriate. So while he will aid where aid is appropriate, he will not demean the law as Dragon laid it down.
Anto asks what the law allows Bear to do and to not do. Bear lays out the options: he can act where he is directly concerned, such as recent events. And he must act to pay debts he justly owes. And he can act more tentatively to support those things he has chosen as his. But the Law was designed to prevent things like conflict between the People of the Bear and the People of the Spider, for that does not serve the Empire. If the people touched by one Spirit attacked the people of another wherever they found them, then eventually the Empire would lose one of those two qualities entirely. Thus, so long as Spider obeyed the forms in his ascent, while Bear might not desire that ascent, he will not throw him down.
Anto tries to ramp the discussion up a bit - would the forms allow the ascent of anything other than a spirit? Bear says no - Dragon separated the World Above from the World Below, and from the other worlds as well. No demons, no people, no ghosts, no dreams. They are not southrons or northern barbarians, to do such things.
Then a passing cloud shows up. Anto continues to talk for a while, and then the cloud disappears again. Anto's conversation, whatever it was (perhaps about the ascent of demons?) seems to have left no impression on Bear or even himself and his companions.
The party confers amongst themselves - what sort of ability do they have to tell Bear something that cannot be told to him? Perhaps they could tell him that Spider is being sneaky and hiding things, but Anto thinks that that will come as no great surprise to Bear.
- "I think that there are things that Spider is keeping even from the other Great Spirits, which he seems to have put a great deal of effort into hiding." -Master Zhou
- "It is his nature."
- "If Spider acted in his true nature then I think he would not have the allies that he does." -Master Zhou
- "Then perhaps you must cause him to do this."
- "We're tryyyyyying." -Lijuan
So as far as the not having your guys fight the other guys - what about spirits like Whale and Horse and others, who don't get along so well. But they fight indirectly? Bear notes that those who are not of the Order of the Empire are not allowed to touch so many lives.
- "If all the Whale's people fought all the Horse's people, it would be an epic duel. If all the Crane's people fought all the Bear's people, it would be a civil war."
Master Zhou asks after his last time in the World Above, when he was, he believes, captured by Spider. In his escape, he lost much of what he was, and many of his memories of who he had been. He believes he may have sought an audience with Bear before then, but cannot recall it now. Bear does recall - Master Zhou consulted with him before his final test in the White Senchi Chamber. Bear also thinks that Master Zhou hoped to consult him on the day he encountered Spider, but did not do so.
- "Direct knowledge of what happens in another spirit's realm is difficult. If you challenged Spider and gave him reason to take from you what he did, then there is little you can do but move on. If, however, he did this thing to you without such cause, then he owes you a debt."
Master Zhou notes that if it is difficult to know exactly what happened, then it is hard to know which is the case. Bear agrees that it is difficult, but emphasizes - it is the Law that the Great Spirits may act only in areas that directly affect them, or in payment of a debt - but they must act in payment of those debts. So if Spider does indeed owe Master Zhou a debt, then that is a thing that Master Zhou can require at the appropriate time.
- "That doesn't sound safe." -Lijuan
- "Most assuredly not."
Master Zhou doesn't think he would have been foolish enough to attack Spider - but he was a tiger back then, so perhaps Spider tricked him into attacking. He begins to get a general sense about Bear's outlook when he talks about the Law. He does not like Spider, and that much is clear. But he is not looking for a loophole. If they can show him where Spider has transgressed, then he will act, and he is even encouraging of such a thing, but he is not interested in edge cases or insinuations. He does seem to have a stricter self-imposed obedience to the spirit of the law than many spirits which the party has met.
- "Well, he'll be really pissed when he finds out..." -Lijuan
- "Yeah. It'll be awesome." -Master Zhou
One way to alert Bear to when Spider is deliberately transgressing is for someone to spend a Bear point to invoke his attention.
However, since they're there, the subject of Spider being Bad is raised again. For example, the party asserts that the servants of Spider want to do more than bring him into the Cycle - they seem to want to put him atop the Cycle in a way that Dragon never was. Bear disagrees - Dragon was, in the beginning. That surprises everyone - did that change? How? Bear says that Dragon honorably stepped down when he cast out the Whale.
- "Why did Dragon kick him out? Was he all sulky, or was that after?" -Lijuan
- "If you are the ruler, and you have decided that you must sacrifice one of your subjects, do you choose the one you don't like, or do you choose your friend?"
- "The one I don't like!" -Lijuan
- "Dragon had a different view. But, Whale - or so Dragon explained - was also the one of us who had the most options. But I do not believe Dragon understood the depths of Whale's attachment to what we had built."
Lijuan declares that she wants Whale to be happy, and Bear gravely says that if that is what she wishes, then that is what she should do. Lijuan worries - won't Crane be mad?
- "Why would Crane be mad?"
- "Crane had all these interpretations - maybe she wants me to do something, maybe I just don't understand how spirits work." -Lijuan
- "All Crane has asked you to do is protect the children who..."
- "I try! There are a lot, but I try. Thank you." -Lijuan, interrupting
- "Perhaps it would be useful to allow Bear to explain things more." -Master Zhou
Bear decides that it is perhaps unwise to place one who is herself but a cub, in such a responsibility. Is there one who she would have stand in such responsibility for her? Lijuan isn't sure what he means - to protect her? Bear clarifies: to teach her what it means to not be a cub.
- "You mean Xiao Fa?" -Lijuan
- "You wish Xiao Fa to be your guardian?"
- "Tokai-sama is my guardian."
- "I do not mean the laws of man, I mean who will stand in my place when you are among the world. I cannot be there to protect you myself, and you have no other kin."
- "Isn't that Kawaii?"
- "Kawaii is not "kin"."
- "But she's fuzzy!"
- "...Definitely a cub."
Master Zhou, in a move from left field, tries to throw the Huntress under the bus as a teacher of Lijuan. And there's Yoshi, except for the part where he's vanished and also possibly bad. So they're probably out. Lijuan reassures Bear that all her friends take care of her.
- "Do they understand the responsibility of this?"
- "We go to some lengths to keep Lijuan safe and to guide her when we feel it is necessary. " -Master Zhou
- "To be fair, she did get kidnapped recently." -Anto
- "Hey, I worked very hard for that!" -Lijuan
Bear is persuaded that Lijuan is trying to learn more about what it means to be grown, and that she must be permitted to make her own decisions. Bear says that it is his nature to take his responsibility to his cub seriously, but he is restrained from acting directly in most situations. But it is good to know that there are those who will be looking out for her.
Discussion turns, once more, back to Spider. If Spider's servants try to make it the Empire of the Spider, is that in keeping with the laws? Bear agrees that it is not without precedent. How about funneling all the chi of the Empire into himself? Bear swivels his ears forward - how is he attempting to do that? They explain about the roads, the tael, the conduit through the bridge of the Jade garden, and so on. Bear listens carefully, and then opines that channeling that power to himself would be inappropriate before he ascends. It would be easier to justify if he succeeds, however. But as he has not done so, it would only be appropriate to channel the power to his servants, not to himself directly. The party protests - the gate was directing the power to his stronghold. Bear agrees that was true, but that from there it was sent to his eight servants. But that flow has been disrupted. The party swivels their ears forward - did that get disrupted when the gates of the Hidden City were broken? No, Bear clarifies - with the destruction of the ritual in the the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
- "It was long the tradition that the chi flow would be directed to the Throne, and from the Throne and the Emperor back to the Empire in endless cycle. Since the Regency Council has decided to redirect the chi flows without an Emperor, I cannot particularly object. But were Spider to attempt to use the chi of the Empire strictly for his own gain without the other eleven, that we would move against. So he uses it for his servants, who spill it back out into the Empire as if they were shadows of an Emperor. This may changes if he succeeds in his plan."
Anto notes that the servants of Spider use this chi with Spider's goals in mind, but Bear does not consider that this is the same as Spider using the chi himself.
So... where is the chi going now? It is very disturbed. It goes back into the Empire, as all chi does, but not in any sort of orderly fashion.
Speaking of the other eleven, which of them would seek to aid Spider in ascending? Bear thinks that it would be difficult to find aid in ascending at this point. Several aided him in the steps getting this far, but the final steps would put him in a place none of them would appreciate - that is, over them. They know about the possibility of Spider making the attempt, but they cannot act beyond their restrictions.
Master Zhou suggests that information from Dragon indicates that Spider is not merely trying to take over Dragon's role, but is attempting to make the Cycle spirits his servants. Bear notes that even when Dragon was above all, they were his subjects, not his servants. Master Zhou counters that that may have been Dragon's way, but it may not be Spider's.
- "That would be unappreciated."
Anto wants to know which spirits helped, exactly. Bear says that that is not simply a matter of history, so that information has a price. Anto declares that if he is to be thrown in the middle of this conflict, he needs to know where others stand, so he will pay for the naming of names (and spends a Bear point).
Pointing Fingers at the Cycle
- Magpie aided Spider because it is in Magpie's nature to do the things that bring him gain; Spider paid well.
- Tortoise aided Spider because it is in Tortoise's nature to wish to push the edges of what can be done. It was not clear it was even possible at the time.
- Monkey aided Spider because he is Monkey. (Bear puts a surprising amount of scorn in that.)
- Others such as Crane, Serpent, and Tiger did not aid Spider; they merely stood and watched.
Of those who were opposed:
- Bear did not act, so long as Spider acted within the rules.
- Phoenix was bound not to act.
- Monkey opposed Spider.
- Dog was vociferous in his opposition but was greatly weakened when Dragon was taken.
- Bear believes that the group is well acquainted with Butterfly's brand of opposition.
(Bear seems to have forgotten Fox).
And, of course, Whale aided Spider for reasons of his own. This is not to say that any of these spirits are loyal to Spider, but each acts according to his nature.
- "Did anyone come to regret their part in it?"
- "It is not in our nature to regret. We, by definition, act according to our nature."
Are any of the spirits involved acting differently now? Not in the way that Anto means, though Bear notes that, for instance, while Magpie was offered the riches that are his desire, he has not received his final payment yet for his participation. It is unclear that he will do anything further, given those circumstances.
- "Do you think he might be subject to a counter offer, given that?"
- "Magpies are always subject to counteroffers."
Bear notes as well that one of the things they will need if they wish to add Whale or Horse or whoever to the Cycle, is his permission or proxy. This is something that Lijuan can provide; he trusts she will choose wisely when choosing who is to be replaced by whom.
Might Tortoise and Monkey help Spider ascend to see what would happen or because they're monkey? Bear says, with deep scorn, that Monkey might do anything. Tortoise might want to know what would happen, but is not so far gone as to put one in power over himself just to see.
Master Zhou notes that one of the paths he is on is to seek a greater understanding of kung fu, and how it is practiced by those of different aspects in the Empire. Bear agrees that that is one way to approach his quest. Puzzled, Master Zhou tries to helpfully remind Bear of his quest - the quest of greater understanding of kung fu. Bear nods - how kung fu is practiced by those of the Empire is indeed a way to approach his quest.
- "How are you defining my quest?"
- "I believe Tortoise rescued you, not merely so you could understand how kung fu is practiced, but so you could perfect it."
- "Ooh! Two pieces of information!"
Master Zhou asks if Bear could provide him any understanding into how kung fu is practiced by those of the Bear. Bear agrees, and swats him with a half-a-mountain-sized paw. The inexorable power of kung fu hits Master Zhou like a great wave, and the understanding flows through him because it can do nothing else.
- "I've always wanted to do that!" -Lijuan
- "I heard that." -Master Zhou
Anto asks after the Pass of the Five Elements, which is on Bear's mountain. Bear clarifies - it is always somewhere in the Mountains of Heaven. Anto wonders whether Bear could help him to use it more easily, or if that is something that he needs further training for. Bear says that the training will aid him, but points out that the Pass of the Five Elements is not solely a bridge to the Worlds Above and Below - though that is how Anto tends to interact with it.
- "At its heart it is a pass out of the Empire, where that leads depends on where you intend to go."
- "Can it go anywhere?"
- "It is the start of a journey to anywhere, but it does not end everywhere."
- "Oh! Like the ocean!"
- "The ocean is more like the endless plain, where the Pass of the Five Elements is like the road."
Anto wonders - if you don't go through the pass, is there something on the other side of the Mountains of Heaven? Bear says if you don't go through the pass, you can never find out.
- "There isn't a way to get there?"
- "There *is* a way, it is the pass."
Does Anto have a final question to ask of him with his one remaining Bear point, or would he prefer to wait? Anto says he wants to go to Bear Mountain, to decide whether to take his offer of training and what that will entail. Bear nods - then there he should go. Anto may tell the others to whom Bear has a debt that they may claim their boon by saying what they want and what they offer in the presence of the panda, and if the offer is accepted it will come to pass. (Bear will not be talking out of the panda cub or negotiating the way Horse talks out of Merit's horse).Then, a warm breeze comes down off the mountain, and everyone wakes up again, in the bedrooms they have been dragged to by Wei Han and Shuyan.