|"Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man."|| The run begins at night, shortly after the conclusion of the previous run.|
The run takes place in a number of implausible locations in the World of Dreams.
Cai Wen finds himself in a dusty saloon, with a piano playing a tinkling melody in the background. He is briefly puzzled by the odd instrument, but quickly distracted again by the girl on his arm, who bats her long eyelashes at him and complains that he's not paying any attention to her. Cai Wen says as soon as Old Lady Kibo arrives and he can conclude his business with her, he'll be free for the evening. However, Old Lady Kibo is nowhere to be seen, so the girl pouts prettily. Cai Wen buys another drink from the bartender, noting that all he seems to have in his pockets are strange round coins with no holes, and even odder pieces of paper, but the bartender seems willing to take them. However, he's out of whiskey - it was due to arrive here in Gila-Monster Gulch on the stagecoach this morning, but the stagecoach is late. Cai Wen, familiar with the name "Kibo", asks if Yoshi is around? The bartender says Governor Yoshi isn't in town. Nor is Eight-Legged Slick, another important politician, likely to be the Mayor soon.
Cai Wen asks his moll if there's any sort of gambling going on - she says there's poker in the back room, but Cai Wen is pretty sure he's supposed to meet Old Lady Kibo out here in the front. Still, she's nowhere to be seen, so he decides to take a look around the town. It's not large, and beyond the few buildings is a sparse-looking countryside, with odd plants that look like pitchforks and bushes that seem to roll around. It all seems pretty implausible, so Cai Wen figures he's probably dreaming. Other than the saloon, there's a hotel, a sheriff's office, a stable, and a blacksmith but no sign of any stagecoach, whatever that is.
Cai Wen goes into the hotel and asks about getting a room. He learns that Old Lady Kibo has a reservation, and Eight-Legged Slick has a room. Cai Wen rents a room, and goes upstairs, where his moll deals with the lock on Eight-Legged Slick's door and lets him into the room. On a desk, he finds two pieces of paper with lots of places and times listed on them--apparently schedules for the stagecoach and something else called a "train". One of the stagecoach stops and one of the train stops are circled.
Cai Wen heads to the stable, and asks for more details about the stagecoach. It should have gotten in at 11 am, after passing through Ambush Gulch at 10 am and Stillville at 10:30. That would have given its passengers plenty of time to meet the 2pm train, known as Old Reliable, which stops at the other end of town. It's about 12:30 now.
Cai Wen rents a horse (the guy seems happy to take his odd coins), and heads out to Stillville the previous stagecoach stop, and discovers a bunch of people, impatient to meet the stagecoach which hasn't yet arrived. Sighing, Cai Wen proceeds on to Ambush Gulch. Sure enough, at the height of the ambush gradient, there's a stagecoach tipped over, and an unhappy looking driver. Cai Wen remarks loudly that Here He Is To Be Ambushed and Wouldn't It Be A Shame If Anyone Leapt Out At Him, but actually, it turns out that the ambush has already been sprung, upon the stagecoach, and it isn't still waiting around to ambush Cai Wen. The stagecoach driver says that the bandits took Old Lady Kibo away with them.
Cai Wen heads back to Stillville, where he recruits the guys there into a posse (though his moll has to help him with the word), and they head out on the trail of the bandits. The trail circles around town to reach the railroad tracks, where a villainous man in black is tying Old Lady Kibo to the tracks, as the locomotive Old Reliable steams in. The posse and the bandits fight, leaving Cai Wen to deal with the moustache-twirling villain - he manages to convince the villain to gloat over his plans to eliminate Old Lady Kibo, and then as the locomotive bears down, Cai Wen (who has no skill with ropes and knots) finds a stick of dynamite, and lights it, threatening to blow himself and the villain up together if he doesn't untie his victim. His bluff is successful, and the villain unties her, grumbling.
Old Lady Kibo escapes from the rails just before the train passes, and pulls the villain's moustache off, revealing him to be none other than Eight-Legged Slick. She gives the moustache to Cai Wen, telling him "Give this to Governor Yoshi!" before everything goes somewhat cloudy.
Shen-Ji hears the doorbell ring, and answers the door to discover a man in uniform, with a clipboard. He has two packages to deliver - "Sign here, please." Shen-Ji confirms that there are, in fact, two packages for him, before signing. The first package has a strange box inside, which when a button is pressed, starts talking.
At this point, Shen-Ji tosses the box up into the air where it explodes.
He then opens the next box. It contains a lot of equipment, from scuba gear to a spear gun to a waterproof tuxedo. He kits himself out and heads to the waterfront. There are two boat companies operating out of the waterfront - Local and Knowledgeable Sea Guides, and Babes in Bikinis. Agent Shen-Ji hires a cruise from the latter company, and the boat heads out somewhat randomly vaguely in the direction of Dr. Arachnoid's underwater lair. It soon blunders into a section of ocean studded with mines, but Shen-Ji is able to use a magnetic projector (that is, his Manipulate Metal shtick) to send a small wrench out to bang one of the mines into another. It explodes, setting off a chain reaction of explosions, clearing enough of the mine field that the boat can proceed through.
The boat passes through the remnants of the mine field, to a sunken cave - the boat itself isn't able to fit in, so Shen-Ji changes into his scuba gear and tells the boat to wait for him. He swims through the passage, and is quickly beset by Sharks with Laser Beams on their Heads. As the sharks close in on him, he quickly analyzes the frequency of the laser, and scouts out a rock at the bottom of the passage which has the right refractive ability to affect the laser, and bounces the one shark's laser at the other, disabling it. He then manages to lasso one of the disabled sharks with the rope from his spear gun and rides it, rodeo-style, into the hidden lair.
Ditching the shark, Agent Shen-Ji climbs out of the water, and heads down a hallway towards a larger dome. He can hear some gloating (and muffled unhappy noises) coming from the space beyond, as well as a loud and ominous Humming sound. He pretends to be delivering pizza to the thugs guarding the door and after they open the door, shoots the first two with his spear hun. When the rest of the thugs come after him, he activates the local defense mechanisms, causing walls of iron to cut off the guards. Climbing into the drop ceiling, Agent Shen-Ji proceeds into the dome where he sees Ambassador Kibo tied to a table with a huge laser about to cut him in half. Shen-Ji runs to the control panel where there are two large buttons, one labeled "Off" and one labeled "Self-Destruct - Do not press." Agent Shen-Ji stabs at the second button causing Doctor Arachnoid to shout, "Fool! You'll kill us all!" Then, Shen-Ji pulls the gag off of Ambassador Kibo, who tells him to get Dr. Arachnoid's monocle before they leave, as it must be delivered to Prime Minister Yoshi.
Agent Shen-Ji unties Kibo and then closes on the evil Doctor Arachnoid. Arachnoid heads for the escape chute, but Shen-Ji convinces him to gloat a bit before he departs. This gives Shen-Ji a chance to grab the villain's monocle. The doctor, seeing that all is lost, hops into the escape chute and rockets away leaving Kibo and Shen-Ji to their doom.
Luckily, Shen-Ji pocketed the Shark Controller when searching the thugs he disabled, so he summons a pair of shark to swim them out through the underwater passage. They manage to escape just at the lair explodes and find themselves washed up on a beach. The very same beach where Shen-Ji's boat landed. Shen-Ji and Ambassador Kibo join the beach party in progress.
Off in the distance, Hiro hears singing: "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go," and heads in that direction. He finds the seven Tsien daughters, though shorter than he remembers them, and now sporting odd little beards, cutting wood and arguing about whose turn it is to use the axe. They are apparently chopping wood, as part of their construction project to build a Royal Palace for Princess Kibo. Hiro finds it a little too disconcerting to flirt with them when they have beards on, so he heads off in the direction they indicate the Royal Palace as being in.
He gets to a half-constructed wooden building, with a sign: "Royal Palace, Under Construction". Lying in the middle of the floor is Princess Kibo, holding an apple with a single bite taken out of it. Hiro is pretty sure that Kibo is behind this whole dream thing, so he shakes Princess Kibo for a while, telling the yumekui to wake up and take charge of the situation, but it doesn't seem to work. Somewhat confused, Hiro heads back to the seven dwarfettes, and asks if Princess Kibo is supposed to be lying on the ground like that. No, no, she is not. Everyone runs back, but the girls are no more able to wake Princess Kibo up than Hiro was.
Somehow it is decided that Hiro should go to the castle of Queen Arachnea, and see if he can't get an antidote. The girls pack Useful Items for Hiro - sandwiches, a stout bow, a katana, and four other unspecified useful things. And, also, the dwarfettes suggest that Hiro bring a pail of water from the well in back. He goes to draw the water from the well, and notes a shiny gold coin sitting on the edge of the well. Leaving it there, he lowers the bucket, draws up a pailful of water - and then the rope breaks, leaving him with a bucket of water. Hmm. He decides that a bucket is a little impractical for adventuring with, and pours the water into a canteen, declaring that to be another of the Useful Items.
Then, Hiro heads off along the path towards Queen Arachnea's castle. Out of the shadows of the woods along the path emerges an elderly woman with great big eyes and teeth. The old woman invites Hiro down to her house for lunch. Hiro, quickly determining that this old woman is some sort of wolf demon in disguise, tricks him into agreeing that since his disguise has been seen through, he is already defeated. Hiro declares that since the wolf has been defeated, he must come along with Hiro to Queen Arachnea's castle
to get a heart to eat up the Queen. The wolf complains that Queen Arachnea is very dry and bony, but Hiro says he'll get her wet first.
Next, two children wander out of the woods. They are apparently lost, despite having taken a loaf of bread with them to help them find their way back home. The wolf tries to get them to come back and taste his gingerbread house, but Hiro will have none of that - the children should definitely not go inside gingerbread houses unless explicit terms are quite clearly specified beforehand. Hiro says they can come with him until he can sort out where they belong.
When the party reaches the castle, the drawbridge is up. There's a guard up in a parapet - Hiro shouts up to him, asking to be let in. The guard says he isn't supposed to let any heroes in. Hiro claims that he's certainly not a hero - he doesn't do anything heroic at all. Nope, not him. With a bit of fast talk, he convinces the guard that it's okay to lower the drawbridge, and heads in - only to discover a maze of twisty passages.
This seems overly complicated, so Hiro looks around for a way to get up to where the guard is. The guard mentions that there is a staff only access door, but it's not for non-staff, and it certainly not for heroes. Hiro protests that he is still not a hero, and again fast talks the poor guard into letting him through the door, avoiding the death maze entirely.
Then, they head down the hallway marked Authorized Personnel Only, to the Throne room. The queen arrives. She's carrying the crown, but wearing a pointy black witch's hat.
Hiro claims to be a poison salesman, reassuring the Queen that he's not a hero - would a hero use poison? He admits that there was an Unfortunate Incident in a recent village, in which he was forced to drink some of his own antidotes, so he's come here in the hopes that he can get some replacements from the Queen. She's somewhat suspicious - that sounds like the sort of thing a hero would want - but Hiro assures her that he's here to barter for an antidote (unheroic and mercenary) rather than fight her (heroic). Well, that seems plausible. Hiro says he's got some Water of Youth and Immortality that he's willing to trade.
Queen Arachnea asks which poison Hiro needs the antidote for, throwing him for a loop - he doesn't know! It was a poisoned apple, but that might give it away, and surely it's not just "apple poison." Hiro improvises - he's not sure what the official name for it is, his family always just used nicknames, but - it's the poison that makes you fall into a deep sleep. The Queen is briefly suspicious again, but Hiro is very charming and anti-heroic, so she identifies it as, in fact, "apple poison". Hiro gives her the canteen of water, and the Queen tells him that the only antidote to apple poison is the kiss of a hero. Hiro allows as that's kind of a trick, since she's not trading it to him, but that's his fault for not being more specific in the trade.
She drinks the water, and then makes a dismayed face - this is wishing well water! Noooo! She starts melting and the the wolf promptly gobbles her up, leaving only her hat, which Hiro takes as loot.
Off the group heads, back to the Royal Palace - now nearly completed ("Royal Palace: Opening Soon") where Hiro kisses Princess Kibo. She wakes up, flutters her eyelashes, and tells him to "make sure to give the hat to King Yoshi."
Hiro decides there are more errands that need doing first, so he asks the dwarfettes if they know where the kids live. They do, in fact, know where the bakery is, and give the kids directions. The two kids head off, waving, and the wolf also goes home.
Later, Hiro decides to drop by the bakery himself, but the baker's wife tells him that the kids have been sent to get a cup of sugar from the neighbor. Hiro heads in that direction, only to discover the neighbor lives in the gingerbread house and is the wolf-demon. Strangely, the wolf has been locked out of his house, and is beginning to get angry:
- "Don't make me huff and puff this door down! I didn't have to use it on the drawbridge, so I can totally blow this door in now!""
Hiro glares the wolf into admitting that okay, he tried to get the kids to visit in his guest oven, before they locked him out. The kids say they were sent over to get a cup of sugar. Hiro thinks this shows rather poor judgement on the part of their mother, but they protest - that's not their mother, it's their evil stepmother. Well, that makes some more sense. Still, it seems like sending them home isn't the right idea. Hiro brings them back to the dwarfettes, and tells them they can be apprentice carpenters. They give the dwarfettes their bread in trade, sealing the deal. The dwarfettes as pleased, as a nice loaf a bread should come in handy if they ever encounter any death mazes...
Yoshi finds himself hiding behind a bush with another man, listening to ominous sounds off in the distance - a muted clanking. Off on the horizon, huge metal eight-legged shapes march forward, snatching people up and flinging them about. The octopods are everywhere - the other man tells him that they have to get to the White Mountains, to talk to Professor Kibo. It's on the other side of the Blue River and the boundary forest, so it'll be a bit of a trek.
After the octopods go by, the pair starts creeping forward. Yoshi finds he has a bag of Three Useful Items - the first one proves to be an inflatable life raft, possibly of use in crossing the Blue River. Unfortunately, there are several octopods standing on the only bridge across the river, and when the raft begins to inflate, their attention is quickly drawn. Yoshi launches the raft downstream with no one in it, and the octopods pursue it, leaving the two to cross the bridge in the distraction.
Similarly, the pair manages to get through the boundary forest by using another useful item from the bag to distract the octopods patrolling the area.
Then, they reach the mountain pass into the White Mountains, guarded by another two octopods. Yoshi pulls his third useful item out of his bag - a loud bullhorn, which he uses to trigger an avalanche, bringing down a pile of snow onto the octopods. After that, they can climb over and reach Professor Kibo's laboratory. Professor Kibo says that more octopods are coming - Yoshi needs to find the octopod controller device to stop them all. He gives Yoshi a pinging locator device, and sends him out again to find it.
Evading octopods along the way, Yoshi find a strange metal tent that the octopod controller locator is pointing too. Inside is a single figure holding a strange device. Yoshi sneaks up on the being (Mister Arachnus) holding the control device - the guy is basically man-shaped, but looks more like something with extra legs wearing a rubber human costume. Yoshi is out of useful items - but he still has a bag! He pops the bag over Mister Arachnus's head, and grapples with him, and ends up pulling off his rubber human mask revealing a spider underneath. Mister Arachnus gloats that he can still succeed as long as he has - and then Yoshi grabs the remote controller, and escapes back to the lab, sending the octopods stomping off to drown in the river with the controller.
At this point, Yoshi is drawn into the dreams of the others, and they give him their loot - the moustache, the monocle, and the pointy hat, which he puts in his bag with his remote controller. After this digression, Kibo briefs him.
After the incident with the talking fish, Kibo has come somewhat to the attention of the Great Spider Spirit. The Spider probably prefers to not act directly into the realms of dreams, lest the other Great Spirits start doing so too, but he has been leaning on the dreamworld, so that the default plots and settings tend to be strongly tilted against Kibo. This will likely continue, and the only way to really stop it is to convince the stuff that dreams are made of, that Kibo has already been dealt with.
- Cai Wen visits the Song family estates.
- Lijuan and possibly Anto visit the Hand of the Wind monastery. (Master Zhou and Xiao Fa are probably still there).
- Cai Wen, Xiao Fa, and Min Feng visit the Third Spire in the City of Spires.