|"in architecture there is no *evil*, there is only opportunity."|| The run takes place in the the Month of the Late Bear in the Twelfth Year of the Bear since the Regency Council was formed|
The run takes place in the City of Spires.
Our heroes had just finished running around the City of Spires doing favors for regents. Afterwards, Min Feng invited Kuan-Xi, Xiao Fa, and Li Merit to join her at her brother's invitation to dinner, at his city townhouse, to talk about his spire issues.
People have been seated and offered tea, when the Black Duke's butler enters to introduce a visitor: the Pearl of the Taiga! She had a pressing message to deliver, on behalf of her Patron - the group will soon receive a visitor, and her Patron has asked that said visitor not be harmed. That is, she is not instructing you to not harm them, but she would appreciate it, incurring no obligation. She also has some other people to deliver the message to - although this group was high on the priority list. Then, she takes her leave and is gone again.
The servants start to bring in dinner, but then another visitor is introduced and they turn around again. This time, it is the Cryptomancer, who looks surprisingly perky.
- "Thank you for not disrupting things during the recent unpleasantness. If you need anything now, I and my ... spidery patron ... are totally at your service." -Cryptomancer
- "Do you expect us to need aid?" -Li Merit
- "Well, who knows? What are you working on now?"
The party is not sure that they need aid with dinner - and yet it is available, the Cryptomancer declares brightly. After some significant glance-exchanging, the butler brings another chair, and Merit whispers that there might be some more visitors.
The soup course begins to arrive, but sure enough, another visitor is escorted in: Ezokin. He notes that he has been tentatively hired by the Black Duke's architects as a financial wizard, but they said they had to run all hires by Min Feng, so here he is.
The servants make a brave attempt to bring the soup course in, but, of course, another visitor shows up. This is Bo Bolin, who wears a long hood covering his face. He says that his patron has sent him to make amends for some... unpleasantness... at the day spa, and he is here to regularize the relationship between allies of the Purple and Black Dukes. And thus, he offers his inestimable services.
- "I like inestimable services." -Cryptomancer
- "I can estimate services." -Ezokin
Surely now it is time for the soup course! No, it is time for another visitor: Huan Ken, from the Winter Academy. He says that he was delegated by Master Hong as part of a cultural exchange, but he came here in particular because of the Black Spire.
As a reminder, the Black Spire has six adjectives:
- High Status
- Money Pit
- Endlessly Expensive
The "Financial" adjective used to be "Financial Disaster", but that was ameliorated with a starmetal donation from Sunken Treasure - the starmetal has been built into the building now. The Black Duke notes that the Imperial and Mystical adjectives are apparently somewhat dormant. Financial is also somewhat dormant, though it isn't entirely clear what it means now either.
Kuan-Xi notes that if the group here was chosen to line up with the adjectives, Xiao Fa is Imperial, she is Mystical, and Merit is Financial. As far as the visitors go, Ezokin is not an expert about spires, but he is good at solving problems involving money.
Huan Ken opines that, as the Great Master wrote, in architecture there is no evil, there is only opportunity. So, if the Black Duke thinks that adjectives are a problem, then he can turn them into a solution - and then you don't have to get rid of them. Merit wonders if this is a linguistic sort of transformation, and the cryptomancer leaps in - yes, it's linguistic, but you also have to change the world such that the linguistics are noticed.
So, what does it mean that the adjectives are dormant? Huan Ken explains.
- "You can build a giant tower that is seen to all, and put the adjective Visible on it. If you do it right, it might be more easily seen than other towers of similar size. But if you take it and cover it over with cloaks, it does not lose its adjectives. "
Merit notes that the spire was Destroyed - is simply rebuilding it sufficient? Three out of four visitors shake their heads no, and Bo Bolin wonders what he's doing in the conversation. That is in fact a good question.
Xiao Fa looks at Bo Bolin, and realizes that he has the chi of ten chi-ful men, wrapped with a chi barrier holding it in. The core is his own chi, but the rest is something else. Not to mention, one of his shticks is "My chi is higher than yours."
As the soup course, as well as the rest of dinner, has now been concluded, it is time to visit the Black Tower, and the NPCs talk a lot amongst each other. Huan Ken thinks that while Imperial and Mystical were dormant, two of the financial adjectives were also dormant - but that doesn't make sense if it was sucking down money. Definitely if all three were to be suppressed, the financial adjectives would also go dormant. But High Status is active with a vengeance, and the Black Duke doesn't really want to turn it off. Ezokin is impressed - he's never seen a building so cursed by Magpie, though that is more of a rough approximation, and not actually Magpie. Xiao Fa thinks that you could probably activate a dormant adjective with feng shui, but it's harder to suppress something that way.
Kuan-Xi is pretty sure that the Black Spire is not at present currently a mystical Tower. It was burned out with fire, and its power vanished at that point. Huan Ken, on the other hand, thinks it is obviously a mystical tower. Well, maybe it is not a sorcerous tower, and that splits the difference.
As an aside, the Cryptomancer remarks that Ezokin's names are cryptomantically linked. Those who are in the know can look upon Ezokin and see Zi Kone. Ezokin gasps.
So... maybe they can turn Money Pit into Well of Good Fortune. That's sort of semantically similar, and less detrimental. Possibly Imperial can be activated by making the spire be the residence of someone in the Imperial family. There is a digressionary squabble about whether a not-yet brother in law to a would-be Emperor counts or not, and then a digressionary explanation about Xiao Fa's aspirations, which Huan Ken doesn't seem to have known about before, and the Crytptomancer may or may not know about but is emoting "Hmm, that's very interesting" regardless. Ezokin apologizes - he can't help with the Imperial part, as he has some other agreements that supersede it.
Huan Ken notes that it is not necessary to turn the good adjectives on in order to help ameliorate the bad ones. Of course, Ezokin thinks that non-performing assets are to be avoided, but if the good ones aren't on, the bad ones are less excited to be on, themselves.
Xiao Fa, struck with inspiration, suggests "Endlessly Expansive", which the Cryptomancer thinks is by far the best suggestion yet. Huan Ken thinks that this would allow the tower to be added to more easily in the future, and is a fascinating possibility.
- "Obviously it would be expensive. But it would bring returns." -Ezokin
The Black Duke likes the idea of the spire being able to endlessly improve, and it seems like it would be a better version of throwing money in in the long term (as well as being less "expensive"). The initial outlay could be significant, but Ezokin is pretty sure Merit can handle whatever it costs. Huan Ken is enthusiastic about his vision for the change now, and starts sketching in the air with his hands.
The group goes back to discussing the Well of Good Fortune. Leveraging it so that if someone throws a li in, they get 50 zhu of some sort of good luck, and the Black Duke gets 40 zhu of good luck, should provide some incentive. Maybe the good luck should be social-ish?
- "Cryptomantically, the status we're talking about isn't Status, it's merely status because the status isn't capitalized."
Ezokin offers to do his part in exchange for a formal cease fire in the Gate of Shen, but Merit is only willing to do so if Ezokin promises to not inconvenience any residents ever, and that bar is a bit too high for Ezokin to agree to.
The well will cost about 2.5 tael (plus an equal fee for Ezokin), and Endlessly Expansive is maybe 4.5 tael of restructuring and doesn't need Ezokin unless the expansive-ness is triggered by investment instead of quest or side plot. On the other hand, it's probably safer to give the Black Duke a money-based trigger - otherwise he'll be constantly off falling into dangerous plots to try to buff his spire. And it will make it look like he's still distracted by the tower, meaning the people who lured him into buying it will think their plot is still working.
Huan Ken and Xiao Fa both think the plan seems reasonable, though Xiao Fa thinks there's something subtly wrong that he can't put his finger on, and Kuan-Xi thinks that Huan Ken's style of feng shui is more needlessly complex than Xiao Fa's.
- "The actual cryptomancy is very simple - the trick is making it act on an ephemeral adjective on a stone tower. But the elegant bit is that when it is done it will be as if it always was constructed to be endlessly expansive..."
Merit wonders what the possible downsides are. The Cryptomancer might be able to sneak changes in, but nothing unnoticed, since Huan Ken can read the words. And Xiao Fa came up with "Endlessly Expansive" so it's unlikely to be the Crytptomancer's secret clever plan. If it happened to be an anagram of "The cryptomancer is awesome" there might be something he could do... But the main problem is that he is, of course, one of the Marked. So regardless of what he does, he'll have a very clear understanding of whatever it ends up as. Plus, there's probably going to be something Coyote-flavored, because how could there not be?
The final bill comes to a 3 tael gift from Min Feng, a 4 tael loan from Merit, 3 tael of the Black Duke's, and a 4 tael loan from the Purple Duke.
Because it is a ritual which combines sorcery, cryptomancy, architecture, and moneymancy, only magic ritual skill can be used (or else it's harder). However, Bo Bolin has a lot of chi that can be used towards successes in the ritual, so that should be okay.
Bolin talks to Merit quietly - how good is Kuan-Xi's self-control roll? He will have to take his hood off, and part of the powerup he has from the spa means that, well, women tend to attack him on sight, and not in the way one might like. Merit sends Min Feng out of the building, and then gives a leadership-based pep talk about staying strong to Kuan Xi. Unfortunately, this talk is enough to actually trigger Bo Bolin’s shticks and Kuan-Xi attacks. Bolin is prepared for Kuan-Xi's attack, and dodges, but is totally unprepared to be backstabbed by the Cryptomancer.
- "What we need now is Xian. I don't often say that." -Merit
After dodging for a bit, Bolin flees. Everyone feels a bit foolish that they didn’t realize the Cryptomancer might count as a woman, but they manage to subdue him once Bolin is out of the way. Bo Bolin then returns, wearing a different disguising hood. Happily, if Kuan-Xi (and the cryptomancer) doesn't think about it too hard, she doesn't have to realize that it's still Bolin.
With Bolin's chi on tap, everyone gets enough successes, though the Cryptomancer calls on his "double secret master" for the last two, preferring those to Bolin’s.
The Cryptomancer and Huan Ken wander off together to chat, after Huan Ken gets a signature from Min Feng for his "field trip" to give to Master Hong.
After the last of the bad guys is gone, Ti Jun shows up! He thinks maybe Fox let them know he would be coming by? He wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings about the "betrayal in the castle" - when he stole credit for healing the Queen Mother.He notes that he also has a lot of people he has to talk to today, and he and the Great Fox Spirit have... an arrangement for the time being. Then he too heads out. Oh well, it seems they were allowed to chop the bad guys, but no one really seemed interested in doing it, so all is well.