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Takanata will take Master Zhou and Xiao Fa to Li Merit's Horse, and ask it to speak to the Boss.

"Hey, guys! Good job with the donkey there, and I guess the Imperial Alchemist didn't grab you? Did you find your lost friends? Nobody called me, so I assume it all went okay."

"I was not actually present, but I understand it went... as well as it could have, most likely. The Alchemist placed some strings, but did not take more aggressive action than that.

"I was hoping to speak with you again about scrying protections and their purchase, although I believe my companions may have other topics to cover. In the past, tagging a country for you has been worth about 16 horse points, two per person involved. Based on the numbers you were discussing when last we spoke, that would buy a day of protection split up over a week for some thousand people? Do I have that approximately correct?"

Horse rolls his eyes. "It has certainly been the case recently that some of your number seem to have decided that if I am not offering two horse points for each of you to do the smallest thing then I am being unreasonably stingy, but the amount I can offer is based both in how difficult the task is and how much it benefits me. Though, if I don't have to do any of the actual planning and setup, I can offer a bit more. What did you have in mind?"

Takanata smiles slightly. "And there we come to the first point that will reduce the number from a thousand people to something more reasonable. The method of demonstrating your importance to the Hidden City would be tied to the thing we want scry-protected, and thus, we will want your agreement not to discuss who was involved as part of the deal." He sighs, and adds "And if we do not come to a deal, then I will provide a Horse point for your silence on the matter."

Horse is willing to keep any deals made on the QT, and is also willing to be offered a Horse point for silence about the negotiation, to the extent that that does not break any previously-promised deals, which he thinks it probably will not but cannot promise with no loopholes.
(but this did not prove to be necessary)

[Assuming he accepts that, I'll go ahead and explain that we plan to hit the Imperial Treasury sometime in the next month or so, and how we'd tag Hidden City by leaving a Horse statue and making the rumors/complaints happen. We'd also want the scry protection to cover exactly where the statue came from, which I'm guessing cuts into the number of people covered more significantly than just "the statue counts as a person."]

"An ambitious plan, especially for people worried about the Imperial Alchemist being angry at them.
"One thing you haven't mentioned yet is covering the stuff after you steal it - if you can't see who stole it, but three days later you can figure out where all the loot is, that seems like it could be a problem, unless your plan is to destroy it instead of keep it.
"However, I have a thought. If you're willing to tag the Hidden City as a major tag instead of a minor one - and I really get the feeling that Spider is one of the guys you wouldn't mind seeing fall out, so why not have that as an option? - then I'll cover all of you, including a week of planning (though you have to tell me at the beginning of the week, not the end), cover five hundred more red herrings, and cover the stolen loot for a year afterwards. Plus I'll throw in ten percent extra coverage to be named later for whatever else you've forgotten."
(One way that Horse thinks you could expand it to major is if it became the case that people in the Hidden City bought little horse statues to protect their valuables, and the thieves' guilds at least kind of respected that, possibly if it was them who sold the statues. But however you wanted to do it would be okay.)

Takanata looks as if he's definitely interested in this deal, but glances at Xiao Fa and Master Zhou as if to say "Opinions, gentlemen?" before speaking.

Xiao Fa closes his eyes and turns his head a bit to the side, as if listening to something far off.

After a bit, he opens his eyes, bows in thanks and addresses Takanata, in rather formal style: "Dragon would prefer to keep the, ah, Hidden City for Himself after all is said and done. That said, however, Horse's offer is acceptable, and we offer no objections to considering it."

Bowing to Horse directly in the Pose of Profound Thanks (8 successes), he says, "I for one apologize for the stinginess of our comrades. You have always been straightforward, fair, and reasonable with us, and I appreciate Your continuing goodwill."

Horse whuffles in thanks. Then, with humor: "If you ever do break up with Dragon, do give me right of first refusal, okay?"

Xiao Fa laughs and bows again, smiling. "Should such a thing ever happen and I survive the experience, I certainly will."

Takanata nods. Hearing nothing from Master Zhou, he turns back to Horse.

"Very well. It sounds like we have an agreement, with some details to be fleshed out. We will arrange a major Tag on Hidden City along the general lines discussed in exchange for what you offer. I expect we will have some named red herrings we would like covered, and allow you to fill in the rest as you see fit. I have at least one idea for how the thieves guild issue could be arranged, if not, we will figure out another way to expand it to a major tag, possibly with further consultation with you. The first thing that springs to mind for the 'ten percent extra' would be this conversation and our last conversation, and a few other planning conversations we have had, although it sounds as if prior events may have to simply stand or fall on their own?"

"Nobody's listening to this conversation, but yeah, it's a lot harder to go back and guard things in the past, so things you've already done are on their own."

Takanata nods. "Then I believe we have an agreement, and are done for now. We will speak to you again when we have some idea who we want covered for the 500 extras."