Light and Dark
|"Talk does not cook rice."|| The run takes place in the Month of the Descending Bear in the Twelfth Year of the Bear since the Regency Council was formed|
The run takes place primarily at Stately Foon Manor
A messenger arrives at Tahiti for Lijuan - it is from her new majordomo, Lucin Da, asking if it is acceptable to use the house resources to repel invasion, or if they should escalate to the king. Lijuan sends a reply telling her that next time she should be proactive, and instructing the majordomo that this sort of message needs to come with a briefing and not just a summary.
Lijuan is going through party loot looking for Invasion Kit, when the butler announces that there is another guest. This is Pak Suk, the military organization and supply specialist at the Winter Academy, who is looking for Siew Zhuai. Lijuan asks if he would like to go through party loot too, though Xian and Shuyan think maybe it should be censored for treasonous or cursed bits first.
- "Maybe we shouldn't still have this box of dead fish."
Lijuan speculates that it might be the Dark invading, though as far as she knows, they only have one guy and he's on their side.
The party (Xian, Shuyan, Lijuan, and Pak Suk) head out, and reach Foon Keep. There's a little tent outside the keep gates, with the flag of the Tanzhe waving over it. Lt. Lin Fortune comes out of the tent and salutes, and informs Lady Foon that the Justicar is inside conducting negotiations for the return of the prisoner. When everyone looks at him in puzzlement, he explains further - House Foon is currently illegally holding an escaped prisoner named Suk Bora, who led a jailbreak from the Tanzhe and the jurisdiction of Lo Xiao Fa.
- "How did Xiao Fa get a Lo?" -Lijuan
- "That's the family name of the Dragon Emperors." -Xian
- "Oh, so he just tacked it on."
- "I am sure someone had to do hundreds of successes of library research."
From inside, some raised voices are heard.
- "No, I do not want tea. I do not need more tea."
Unfortunately, Zhuai is not here, as he had to go meet someone from the Winter Academy to discuss supply tactics. Everyone heads in, and corners Lucinda. She agrees that Zhuai went to the Winter Academy - she'll send him a message that he should return. Why did Pak Suk go to Tahiti? Apparently Master Hong and Shen Wei Han thought Zhuai might be at Tahiti.
- "Is there foul play involved, do you think?" -Lijuan
- "Well, do you trust him?" -Lucinda
- "Yes. Well... hmm. He's my husband." -Lijuan
Lucinda notes that the invasion is very small - they can crush it easily. Lijuan puts her foot down - Lo Xiao Fa, lord and master of the Tanzhe, is like a father to her, and there will be no crushing of his invasions. So, why exactly is there an escaped prisoner here?
Lucinda explains - poor Suk has been put through a terrible time, and when he made it here and told his tale, he asked for sanctuary, and Lucinda gave it. Then these people (Lt. Fortune et al.) showed up demanding that he be returned for punishment, but there were only four of them accompanying the Tanzhe Justicar, so Lucinda had the gate guard keep an eye on him, and has been stalling the Justicar while Lucinda sent for instructions. Suk Bora is upstairs having a massage. Lijuan is startled to learn that Foon Keep has a masseuse.
Lijuan notes offhandedly to Lucinda that she hears that the Justicar is four times as powerful as Lucinda is. Lucinda seems vaguely offended, but is not drawn into argument.
- "Make there be snacks! And a tragic prisoner!" -Lijuan
Suk Bora is brought forth - he is immaculately groomed and is wearing silk pajamas. Lijuan tells him that she doesn't want to get into a fight with the Justicar. Bora, confused, asks who she is. She introduces herself as Foon Lijuan, and Bora throws himself down before her in gratitude.
- "Thank you, great liberator, for my life!"
Lijuan thinks he's just super grateful, but Shuyan thinks that while he's super grateful, he's also playing it up more than would be normal because he's worried. Pork buns are brought, and Bora eats them with the enthusiastic hunger that Lijuan is familiar with from urchins. Xian finds it very suspicious that he got a massage and a haircut before eating - were those his priorities, or Lucinda's?
Lijuan tells him to tell his story - it comes out somewhat haphazardly and a bit defensively, but he stole several li from a well-off lumber merchant to help rebuild his sister's house (destroyed in the invasion) and was caught and imprisoned for two months on a work crew. Storm season began, and he saw a death-storm (that is, a storm with a funnel cloud) approaching the prison camp; he yelled for the guards, but they ran to take shelter. So he led an escape. Then he went back afterwards to finish his two-month sentence, but they told him that for leading a prison break, he had a life sentence. So then he fled again. He thought he would be safe if he got past the border, but they followed him here (Xian thinks this is all essentially true.)
Did he know he would get a more sympathetic hearing here? No, he was just getting desperate. He was captured by Lady Foon's forces, and then the majordomo pardoned him and got him a massage and a haircut. (Lucinda clarifies that he has been pardoned for sleeping in the barn, not for his crimes in the Tanzhe.) Lijuan tells him to stick around and go fishing - or whatever he wants to do, just don't leave her lands.
Then they head to talk to the Justicar. Lijuan apologizes to the Justicar for her majordomo's behavior - Lucinda means well, but she doesn't really understand how things are done. Sima hands a sheaf of papers to Lijuan, but she waves over a servant to take them. He says that it is an extradition request with all the paperwork filled out. Suk Bora is charged with the crime of leading a jailbreak leading to the escape of thirty-five prisoners, known to be dangerous, as well as fleeing justice, resisting arrest, and crossing national border lines.
Shuyan asks Sima about the death storm. Sima nods, gravely. He has heard that story as well. If the death storm had killed the prisoners, that would have been a terrible tragedy, and Sima has also opened an investigation into the behavior of the guards at the prison, who will be punished if appropriate.
Lijuan thinks about what her responsibilities are in response to this sort of request. She is not at all obliged to obey - she's in charge of justice on her lands, not the Justicar from another country. If she ignores the request, it could get escalated to the High Warlord, and the judgement for that would probably depend on whether the High Warlord favored House Foon or not. Xian suggests sending him back with Sima, and then asking Xiao Fa to commute his sentence, but also finds it very remarkable that "40% of the weird people are involved in this plot". One guy fleeting a death storm doesn't seem like it is important enough for a full-on clash between Light and Dark.
Lijuan does note to Sima that she finds all of this overkill for a petty thief. Sima clarifies - it's the jailbreak that he is pursuing. Lijuan thinks the jailbreak was their fault. Xian notes that it's important to obey the law not only when people are looking (Sima nods agreement). But the fact that he came back should be taken into account. Sima says that the account is that he was recaptured near the prison, and then escaped again. The crime of escaping a second time might be sufficient to call for execution, but that would be Lord Lo Xiao Fa's justice to decide.
They go back to Lucinda, and show her the paperwork.
- "Paperwork'. As if the human spirit could be bound by paper." -Lucinda
- "But it can be." -Xian
- "Only if you let it." -Lucinda
Xian starts poking holes in the theory that Suk Bora is a good guy. What about the lumber merchant's family, who lost several li? Lucinda says that they are well provided for, according to Suk. Xian speculates that the Tanzhe probably doesn't have executions any longer, because Xiao Fa is nice. Lucinda counters that then it was probably good that Bora escaped before he was killed by the death storm - though maybe it wouldn't have hit if the prisoners were there. Lucinda admits that she doesn't know how the weather gods here work - they got rid of their weather gods in her homeland. Everyone else boggles - what are weather gods and what do they have to do with death storms?
- "What does 'god' mean?" -Shuyan
- "At its essence, it means 'unnecessary'. But a powerful being who controls the fate of humanity."
The conversation digresses into whether Kuan-Xi is a weather god. She can make it rain, but not make it not rain. Lucinda seems to think that makes her a cruel and vengeful weather god. However, since everyone else asserts that the weather has nothing to do with people (except when it does), everyone stipulates for the sake of argument that the storm would have destroyed the building no matter who was in it.
Lijuan says that Bora came here to be redeemed, so she doesn't want to give him back. Shuyan notes that if they let him go free, Sima will hunt him down forever. Speaking of Sima, can Lucinda explain him?
- "The thing about Darkness... hmm, how to explain it using your words. Darkness is the force that keeps you penned in and bound. It is only by extending the Light that you can escape your cave or your house or whatever. The Dark is about containment and oppression." -Lucinda
- "Order?" -Lijuan
- "Order. " -Lucinda
- "Darkness is about lack of information?" -Xian
- "Yes! The Darkness does not want people to know things. " -Lucinda
- "There's no 'want'. Darkness is just dark." -Xian
- "What is the light about?" -Shuyan
- "The light illuminates us. Gives us freedom and choice. Provides liberty. " -Lucinda
- "Is it different from unbinding?" -Lijuan
- "Unbinding! Yes!" -Lucinda
Lijuan says that they have an unbinder. Lucinda is excited to hear that, and would like to meet him. Oh, well, he might be dead. But maybe he got better. Shuyan gets better from dying, a lot. Lucinda is impressed by this - not even the chains of death bind Shuyan! Xian notes that death includes a lot of paperwork, which disappoints Lucinda greatly. Things have fallen here more than she thought. Everyone explains the intake forms to the afterlife.
- "If your actions here don't matter, then they don't have meaning." -Xian
- "When one makes a choice, one chooses to be bound by knowledge of the consequences." -Lucinda
Lucainda and Xian both agree that virtue isn't virtue if you are forced into it. It's only virtue if you choose it. Lucinda says, then, that she chooses to save the good man Bora.
Xian says that Sima is obsessed with control and wants to impose controls on their society, and Lucinda is similarly obsessed with choice and wants to impose choices on our society, and Xian doesn't like either of those options.
So, Xian notes that the choices are:
- Choice 1: leave the tragic prisoner here, bound by the consequences of knowing that Sima will keep trying to capture him.
- Choice 2: allow him to choose to return with Sima.
So, why did Lucinda come here, anyway? She says she is learning about infiltrating these governmental systems. She is only the attache to the ambassador Serafina, so it is for her to infiltrate smaller pieces of government. Xian is really not sure - is ambassador really the right word to use? Does she mean "spy"? Lucinda doesn't think "spy" is right - she's not just watching. What do ambassadors do where Lucinda is from? She says that they seek to improve the relationship with other peoples. So... improving the relationship would mean that things here would be better? Is she trying to make them into an image of her culture? Lucinda says that they would be instructing those here on how to make themselves, and that she finds that all peoples who embrace the Light are friends.
- "You are helping us in a secret clandestine way?"
- "I have done very little that is secret."
The party decides the better word is "missionary", which Lucinda is willing to accept.
- "So... what will you choose to do?" -Lucinda
- "Talk to the prisoner. " -Lijuan
Lijuan tells Bora that Lo Xiao Fa is like a father to her. So, she thinks that if they send him back, Lo Xiao Fa will be lenient to him. Or, he can stay here and hide. But if he leaves, they can't protect him. He perks up. If he stays here, they will protect him? Well, sort of, maybe.
Xian emphasizes that if he goes back and trusts that Xiao Fa is a compassionate person, it'll probably be okay. Bora is dubious - Xiao Fa is the person who invaded with his armies and smashed his sister's house in the first place. "Compassionate" isn't the first thing that comes to mind there. Xian says he should tell Xiao Fa that. Bora nods with the nod that suggests he thinks it would be safer to jump off a cliff.
Xian reminds him - think about how relentless Sima is. He is totally totally relentless. He will find you if you ever ever leave, ever. He's like a hunting law spirit. And Xiao Fa is totally totally compassionate despite being the leader of the invasion. Having his armies kill all those people was just a cover. He's a monk, after all. Bora protests weakly - couldn't Xiao Fa be compassionate while Bora is here? Xian pshaws. Why would Xiao Fa bother being compassionate if Bora doesn't even come back? Bora protests again. He did come back, and that just got him more jail time.
Xian doesn't seem to be having as much luck as she'd like getting Bora to choose the right option of his own free will, but she doesn't want to actually whammy him, so she gets 33 successes of persuasion to convince him that the best way to avoid jail is to go home and surrender to the prison guards. Bora agrees that that makes sense, and he'll do that immediately.
- "How did you get 33 successes with no shticks?" -Mike
- "Well, no shticks other than The Voice." -Cael
They throw in 16 successes of paperwork to instruct Sima to treat him well, and take Bora to turn himself in.
- "I choose to rely on the compassion of Lo Xiao Fa and go back to prison in the hopes that it will be the fastest road to freedom." -Bora
- "So that is how this works?" -Lucinda
- "Yes, that's how this works. Maybe not for everyone, but for him." -Lijuan
Sima bows - there is much honor in Lijuan. Lijuan checks - he will be treated fairly and not executed? Sima says that he does not have the authority to execute. And not tortured? Sima doesn't think there is anything they wish to know. Very well, then. He takes his prisoner, and goes.
Xian turns to Lijuan - so what's up with this "hiring foreign spies" thing? Lucinda is learning more about them than they're learning about the Light.
- "This guy's destiny was not the issue. You and Xiao Fa hiring people with very strange value systems is the issue." -Xian
- "What don't you like about how this ended?" -Lijuan
- "The fact that you think it ended." -Xian
The group goes back to talk to Lucinda again. She is pleased that Sima has left, at least. She doesn't think he is a good influence hanging around here.
- "If freedom were easy it wouldn't be so hard." -Lucinda
Lijuan wonders - does Sima have magical law and order powers to make things go his way? Lucinda shrugs. They went and talked to Sima, and then they went and gave him the prisoner and called it his choice.
- "The dark is implacable." -Lucinda
- "I figure that's why you better do what he wants until you can get around him." -Lijuan
Xian says she is in favor of good, and right - and if the law is a means to good, then so be it. Lucinda ponders, and thinks that she is perhaps more a missionary of "good" than a missionary of "light". She does not represent a political entity at all, while Sima represents all political entities.
- "I really hate to agree with Shen-Ji, but IT DOES SEEM WEIRD THE WAY EVERYONE KEEPS HIRING FOREIGN SPIES AND GIVING THEM MONEY AND POWER." -Xian
- "So you think the biggest obstacle to the good is you and Shen-Ji?" -Lucinda
There is a brief discussion into where to put the new rock garden:
- "Is there anything else you need?" -Lucinda
- "We're going to make a rock garden! Where should I not put it?" -Lijuan
- "Not in the indoor bedroom area." -Lucinda
- "See, that's what limits her. She doesn't know that the rock garden is not for growing new rocks. " -Xian
- "No, that's what I want to do. I'm growing new rocks." -Lijuan
Lucinda heads off, perhaps to put a rock garden in the bedrooms. Perhaps to ponder off of these new learnings. It is unclear.
- "Okay, it was only an invasion of Foon Siew lands, not of the Empire." -Shuyan
- "NO IT WAS AN INVASION OF THE EMPIRE! I HAVE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR AN HOUR." -Xian