|"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."
|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Butterfly in the Eleventh Year of the Bear since the wind changed direction.|
The run takes place principally in a bath house in the World Above
Our heroes are lounging in Tahiti as usual when the butler brings Cai Wen a note. It reads "I can arrange it, but I'm working on other things - so you should arrange to have a mirror at least one and a half times as you are tall, and twice as wide as you are tall. That should be good enough." Cai Wen recognizes the hand as his demonic moll, Mei-Zhen, but is still a little puzzled.
The butler then walks by again carrying another piece of paper, and Cai Wen goes to investigate.
- "What do you have there?" -Cai Wen
- "More mysterious notes, sir."
- "Ah. Well, as long as it's going to someone, it's probably not my problem."
- "It’s for Master Speedy."
- "Oh. Huh."
The butler disappears deeper into the house.
People begin to wonder what is going on. Are there any events coming up soon they should be worrying about? Yanyu points out that she’s to be married soon, although the groom’s family is making the arrangements, so she doesn’t have a lot of details yet.
The butler then accompanies a guest to see Yanyu. It’s Pir Pir. He’s very excited to attend her engagement party and is very impressed by her bold choice of venue, but was hoping that the party might be able to help him out with transportation. Will there be a carriage?
Hmm... Transportation is not her forte, so Yanyu goes to confer with the rest of the party. No one knows where the engagement party venue actually is, (except perhaps Pir Pir, but no one wants to ask him), but Yanyu guesses it’s likely in the Moon’s garden as that’s where the wedding is scheduled.
Anto arrives and asks Kuan Xi if she’d like to accompany him to an engagement party. He gathers there aren’t any other mortals on the guest list, but he was invited as sort of an honorary spirit, being the Wu Xing and all.
OK, that’s not good. Yanyu goes to find out what’s up, and tracks down her fiance. She’s a bit miffed at not hearing about the engagement party. And not having any of her mortal friends invited. The Son of the Moon swears it’s not his fault, and he’ll go discuss it with his mother, and insist that she invite a bunch of mortals as well. He rushes off.
The rest of the party wonders about his rushing away and not leaving a bunch of details but Yanyu tries to calm them all saying:
- "Most people are people with spirit blood. He's more like a spirit with people blood."
Folks are not necessarily reassured, but it’s unclear what to do next. Kuan Xi and Shuyan decide the next obvious step is to put together a shopping trip and buy expensive dresses for everyone who might be involved. So, all of the women present, except for Xian, go dress shopping.
Xian, it seems, is busy as her sister Chantou has arrived at Tahiti and the two of them head upstairs to discuss things in private.
Over the next couple of hours, nearly everyone receives an invitation, exquisitely printed in a beautiful hand on a piece of beat up paper. It cordially invites them to the engagement party which will be held at the Aburaya Bathhouse at the next rising of the moon. Anto confirms that the Aburaya Bathhouse is in the spirit realms and mostly caters to spirits and demons as its main clientele. There’s also a brief note for Yanyu apologizing for some invitation issues and assuring her that “numerous mortals associated with you in the past and the future will be attending”.
- "Oh, lovely, the Marked just got invited."
As everyone regroups in Tahiti, Chantou comes down and asks about transportation to the event, especially when it will be leaving as Xian is still indisposed... A massive interrogation follows in which Chantou admits to drugging Xian (with her permission of course) but it might be a while before Xian returns from her dream travels and even longer before the effects of the drugs get fully out of her system. Travel is not recommended at this time.
Not pleased, the party is on the verge of dealing with Chantou once and for all when Xian does manage to come downstairs and explain. She looks a little wobbly physically, and perhaps a bit manic, but seems otherwise fine.
It seems she’s been conversing with the Countess in the world of dreams. Before explaining, however, she invites Yanyu to leave the room if she so wishes as she is about to explain some things her fiance is unaware of, and would rather they be kept secret. Yanyu agrees and departs.
Xian explains that she’s been told that the Moon has decided that if her son is to marry a mortal, he must become more human, both for his own sake and Yanyu’s. Or perhaps there was some external pressure applied, as it seems that the Sun himself is involved, and has instructed the Countess that Xian and her associates should be involved in the transformation.
The gist of it seems to be that the Son of the Moon is about to be given six challenges. Each one can only be solved by acting more as a human than in his regular spirit nature. If the party successfully completes them, each challenge should teach him a lesson about mortality. The six members of the party present (excluding Yanyu) will each have an opportunity to assist him in learning these lessons, and driving them home to various degrees depending upon their success (and optionally spending karma to really hammer the point in).
Unfortunately, Xian knows neither the details of the challenges, the lessons, nor which party member the Moon has chosen to enact each lesson. She can probably figure some of these things out (and she does, as detailed in the later table), but there will likely be a lot of improvising along the way.
That is all somewhat unexpected, and there's some discussion as to whether or not it is a good idea, But in the end, it seems like successfully ameliorating his spirit nature and giving him a stronger grasp of mortality will also have the side benefit of making Xian more accepting of the marriage and thus reducing party strife. Plus it will probably make Yanyu’s life easier in general, the Moon wants it, and nobody wants to discuss it with either of them. So that’s that plan.
Meanwhile, Cai Wen Has indeed arranged, through the butler, for the large mirror in the House of the Lotus to be available for the party’s use for the next day or two. With that settled, everyone gathers up and heads down to the House of the Lotus to see about the arrangements for transportation. Melina, Jojo, Kar Lo, and Mystic Mondo go as well, in addition to Pir Pir, Anto, and various other invitees (including Lord Te, Bobby Li, Wu Tianxu, and others).
Inside, Mei-Zhen is handling transportation to the spirit world through the mirror and upon stepping through the party finds lines of invitees from numerous different realms gathering up outside the bathhouse waiting to get in. There are separate lines for spirits, demon, and mortals. There’s also a special waiting area for people planning to sneak in without an invitation. Min Feng spots Renyu preparing to sneak and wanders over to him. She offers to let him in as her escort if he promises to not do anything disruptive. He seems quite surprised but demurs saying he can’t really promise that, and wouldn’t want to break his word here in this place.
Min Feng shrugs and turns to head in, but Lucky Chang arrives, greets her, and offers his hand.
- "Shall we?" -Lucky Chang
- "Sure!" -Min Feng
Min Feng takes his hand, and the two of them enter the party together. (Off the corner Xian bangs her head against the wall, and Cai Wen silently curses Lucky Chang.)
The bathhouse is quite impressive, with strange spirit servants scurrying to and fro serving various refreshments. The moon appears to have reserved one great hall in the center of the bathhouse. The guests are highly varied, including the mortals thus far noted, many others, and a large number of spirits and demons. Speedy is recognized as well as Carnage (Shen Ji’s patron demon). But there seem to be no Great Spirits in attendance.
There's also a hastily put up sign requiring the protection of mortals with some sort of pictograph language: "No disembowling, no chopping, no eating."
Cai Wen uses his shtick to get the special VIP treatment, so he gets special drinks and the like over in the reserved section along with such notables as Ezokin.
Yanyu, of course, is shown to a private table with all of her friends, and also shown a private changing/refreshment room in case she wishes to freshen up at any time or just get away from the crowds now and then. She uses the opportunity to give herself a special makeover and doubles her Charisma. All PCs, circus folk, ex-circus folk can visit Yanyu's special table. Everyone else can not approach without her invitation. Also, if she so wishes, Yanyu can have anyone ejected from the party by security, but she gets the idea from the servants that the Moon would find that disappointing. More and more so the more she does it. So Yanyu resolves to tough it out for at least a while and tolerate the various unorthodox wedding guests.
The apparent proprietor, a large schlorpy demon, greets everyone as honored guests and turns the floor over to their hostess, the Moon. The Moon greets everyone and thanks them for attending (some on short notice). She then gets ready to place her blessing on the wedding couple when some of her son’s men interrupt her. Heedless of the daggers being looked at him by his boss, the young warrior insists that they have a challenge! A formal challenge to prove his friend’s worth!
The Moon considers this gravely and then nods. She issue a challenge for the groom. He shall go forth and gather six moonstones. He shall bring them here to the party and lay them at his intended bride’s feet as a sign of his worth, and we shall then see if she accepts him.
Everyone cheers! The Moon’s son glowers, but then bows and heads out to find some moonstones. Everyone else gets down to some serious partying. Kuan Xi thinks about this, and determines that they’re all going to have to make sure the party doesn’t end until the Son of the Moon returns. If the party were to end, or break up, or generally get disrupted before he brings back the moonstones, that would prove a terrible omen indeed.
Yanyu agrees, “I'm sure he will be back soon. Just keep the festivities going until he returns.”
Cai Wen decides to check the score board:
Possible disruptions remaining: 12
Disruptions eliminated: 0
Disruptions in progress: none
Hmm, that’s ominous. After some more thinking, it seems that the party will be divided into rounds, and during each party round a new possible disruption will appear. The PC’s will have to keep each of the 12 disruptions from boiling over for as long as possible, at least until the Sone of the Moon returns. With that briefing in mind, the party gets underway.
The twelve possible disruptions, in the order they were scheduled to appear:
- Moll throw down
- Lucky Chang needles Cai Wen
- Wu Tianxu feuds with Lord Te
- Bobby Li and Meilin
- The Great Race starts
- Pir Pir fights with other Tengu
- The Great Race results
The party continues round by round with each disruption showing up in a round, and party members running around trying to prevent the disruptions from boiling over. If not kept on top of, disruptions from previous rounds flare up again as time passes. Some disruptions are serious enough to end the party themselves. Others must work together. If there are ever three simultaneous disruptions active, the party will end. Meanwhile, one at a time, Xian sends a party member off to help with the moonstone quests.
In addition to the disruptions there are many people at the party talking and negotiating in addition to partying. At several points throughout the party a mysterious stranger approaches one of the women in Yanyu’s entourage and asks them to dance. Identifying himself as Maku, he dances quite well. Shuyan is the only one who is able to outdance him, and he seems somewhat put out by that. Min Feng realizes that during the dances he’s doing some form of evaluation. Presumably it didn’t work on Shuyan. Yanyu figures out that his aspect is Spidery-spider-spider. In fact, he’s so spidery that Yanyu believes he simply must be one of the marked. But, other than trying to dance with everyone, the one called Maku doesn’t seem to cause any problems.
Each of the disruptions proceeded as follows:
Moll throw down: In addition to Mei-Zhen, it seems Kiri is also at the party. As Mei-Zhen was handling mystical transport for those close to Tahiti, Kiri was handling (with the Moon’s First Daughter), mystical transport for those coming from further away. Their jealousy over Cai Wen threatens to bubble over into outright battle in any round in which the two of the after left unattended and near each other. Much of the party is spent dragging one or another of them off to dance with, or talk to, and generally keeping them apart.
Interrogation reveals that the initial disruptions of the invitation process might have been due to their mutual enmity, as Kiri may have sabotaged the invitations Mei-Zhen was to deliver or vice versa, but the details are never quite worked out of them.
However, when separated, they are both valuable allies, assisting with distractions of Lord Te, Ezokin, and Wu Tianxu at various times.
In the end though, they do take a lot of time away from the PCs who need to get increasing numbers of things done, so later in the party Yanyu decides to take things into her own hands and ends this moll fight once and for all… (see next disruption).
Lucky Chang needles Cai Wen: Lucky Chang is having a good day. He enters the party hand in hand with Min Feng, he dances with both of Cai Wen’s molls in front of Cai Wen, and he gets an upgrade to his service equal to Cai Wen’s shtick. On several occasions, Cai Wen almost bubbles over and challenges him right here, but various other party members keep them apart, and calm Cai Wen down.
At one point Min Feng studies him for later use with her shticks, and Lucky Chang seems to notice. He comes back and bows before her. “I’m am touched that you have chosen to remember me for all time. Rest assured that I shall remember you as well.”
Eventually, Xian takes things into her own hands and has a long and confounding talk with Lucky Chang. She spins him a tale of Cai Wen’s greatest and most embarrassing defeat. Apparently, at one of Lord Wing’s parties, Cai Wen was bested in a bet by an utter nobody, a kid totally untrained who somehow stumbled upon Cai Wen’s secret weakness. Shocked by this revelation, Lucky Chang makes his excuses to everyone, and leaves the party. It almost seems that this disruption is permanently dealt with, but Yanyu pick up the ball herself to keep it going by needling Cai Wen more severely than Lucky Chang dreamed.
Deciding to end the moll fight once and for all, Yanyu steps in and uses her master matchmaking skills to scan the party for a good match for Kiri. As it turns out, what Kiri needs, as a sailor, is someone in touch with the ocean, and Yanyu’s gaze settles on Renyu… (see Renyu disruption).
Wu Tianxu feuds with Lord Te: As you might recall, Wu Tianxu is a master storyteller who appeared in run Odds and Ends In which he was involved in a bat with Lord Te (then Ringmaster Te). If Wu lost, he would have to stop embellishing his stories and always stick to the absolute truth. If Te lost, he’d have to give up circus life. After a drawn out struggle, involving many shenanigans, Wu lost, and surrendered his book of completely implausible stories to the Ringmaster.
It seems that since then, Wu’s fortune has taken a strong turn for the worse. It's apparently difficult for even a master storyteller to keep a crowd involved if you can't embellish, and his reputation has been suffering. He obviously blames Lord Te for this, and is hoping to get some payback demanding satisfaction here the party. He might even be able to get his storybooks back. Lord Te seems to think he’s a sore loser who attempted to swindle him out of his circus, and so has very little sympathy and even less desire to talk to him.
This of course has the potential to devolve into at least a shouting match, so several party members swiftly intervene in an attempt to keep the two feuding parties apart. Many dances are had with Lord Te, and not so few with Wu Tianxu. In the end, it seems the two of them were simply too busy interacting with various charming and diverting ladies round after round to even get around to having a good argument.
Bobby Li and Meilin: In this rounds, Yanyu looks around and discovers that Bobby Li is dancing with little Meilin. They appear to be having a great time, doing something they are calling the Ice Cream dance. There seems to be no reason in the world why this would be a noteworthy disruption to the party. Bobby Li is the best.
So, immediately moving to break this up, Yanyu and others manage to get Bobby Li to enter the Great Race…(see below). This breaks things up for a round or two, and throughout this period, Yanyu and others keep a close watch on Meilin. She still seems to be having a great time, but without Bobby Li keeping her dancing is indeed getting a little sleepy. A ha! Parenting skills kick in, and people realize it is well after Meilin’s bedtime and were someone to try to put her to bed right now, she’d probably completely melt down and destroy the party somehow.
So folks swoop into action. Shuyan whisks meilin into Yanyu’s private room for story time, and over the course of a couple of rounds, gets her settled down enough that putting her to bed does not result in the end of civilization as we know it.
The Great Race: The proprietor announces that there has been a challenge, and next round will witness the beginning of a great race between Speedy, the Snail of Speed and Time, and Mohaka, the demon of the Unending Race. Speedy thinks his chances are pretty good as he’s discussing it with various PCs and encourages them to get their bets in on his side before things start. Ming Feng and Xian both notice that Speedy seems to make these comments in normal speaking speeds without any of his usual characteristic pauses and delays. Perhaps something has messed up his speed control? They suggest that he’d better get that under control before the race, and manage to get the race delayed for a bit while Speedy searches for the Moon to consult with her about it. As it turns out though, no one at the party other than Yanyu can actually summon the Moon, so another round of delay is needed (luckily, there’s a new Entrant, Bobby Li!) for her to summon the Moon, and for Speedy to get his spiritual and temporal fu back in order.
Meanwhile, while investigating gambling opportunities, Deng and others start to notice that the bookies seem oddly overconfident of the outcome. Some investigation,a nd Deng’s weapon sense, note that one of their walking sticks is actually a wand of movement drain cleverly disguised. Hmm, fraud during the big race would almost certainly disrupt the party. Unfortunately for the bookies, Deng rather conclusively determines that wands of movement drain count as weapons as his disarm shticks seem to work just fine on them. After Deng knocks it to the ground, and then picks it up himself, none of the bookies seem keen on fighting the Great Master Deng for their walking stick, nor reporting him to security, so the threat passes.
But on the other side of the room, Cai Wen discovers that there is yet a third disruption planned for the race. For like, the bookies, the big bettors seem oddly over-confident as well. Embracing his Master Gambler nature, Cai Wen simply moves in and demands a piece of the action. They brief him on the plot. The have a Sun Sign, and apparently, that will guaranteed Mohaka’s victory, or make sure the race doesn’t actually end, or something like that. In either case, bets on Speedy and Bobby Li will never get paid, and no one has been betting on a demon who never finishes races.so the odds with the bookies are astronomical. Riches abound! Plus, so long as Moon never notices that they have a Sun Sign, there won’t be any party-disrupting fuss. What are the chances the Moon will notice!? Calling in support, Ming Feng assists, and between them, Cai Wen, and Min Feng handily pickpocket the Sun Sign and put an end to the third possible race disruption.
In the end, (All of these extra planned disruptions must be why the race appeared multiple times on the scoreboard.), the race runs several round late, but without any incident. While Bobby Li is just barely ahead of Mohaka the entire time, Speedy makes a dramatic last lap recovery and wins by an antenna! Cai Wen bet his Laundry Bag shtick with some bookies and generously donates his winning to the crowd. Everyone gets a one use shtick in pulling the right clothes out of thin air just when needed. (Though it’s not a very powerful shtick so the clothes will have a flaw in them.)
Pir Pir fights with other Tengu: Life is good for Pir Pir. He’s got power friend and allies, who occasionally pay him for their assistance, and on one occasion even manage to compensate him with some coveted Spirit Energy they acquired from somewhere. So, overall, he’s just doing better than all of the other Tengu, is more powerful than they, and at pains to point out that even while he is so far above them, he’s maintaining a humble attitude and not letting his excellence go to his head. After all, he remembers what it’s like being a pretty weak and useless Tengu like the rest of these guys, and wouldn’t want to get uppity now that he dwarfs them so in power and stature.
For some reason, the other Tengu take offense at this constant recitation of their many flaws (not thier fault of course) and Pir Pir’s many great attributes (just lucky I guess). Several party members must intervene with soothing diplomacy before the entire party is converted into a Tengu brawl. Kaun Xi, Shuyan, and several others take turns (and several rounds) calming Tengu or distracting Pir Pir from his own greatness in order to keep the party in line. The required diplomacy rolls get more and more difficult, but a pretty diplomatic selection of PCs showed up at this party, so while time consuming, it’s not really a problem for them.
Renyu: Given their encounter outside, Min Feng keeps a close eye on Renyu throughout the party. By the time his round finally arrives, he’s been so intimidated through repeated taunting and innocent seeming conversations, that he simply fails to do anything disruptive in fear of retribution.
Given his mostly calm demeanor Yanyu settles on Renyu to solve the Moll Fight permanently. She brings a vast amount of her matchmaking power to bear, and introduces Kiri and Renyu to each other in such a way that they hit it off. This completely sets off Cai Wen, whose first moll has just been stolen from him. He spends much of the rest of the party thwarting Yanyu when he can, just as he was trying to thwart Lucky Chang, and others in the group need to sit on him until he gets his feelings back under control.
Carnage: The demon Carnage is another case where disruptive peril was anticipated and partially dealt with long before it even appeared on the scoreboard. Early in the party, while looking for some assistance with demon slaying, Master Deng strikes up a conversation with Carnage. It turns out, that while he’s a demon himself, Carnage really excels at slaying, and would be happy to teach Master Deng a shtick in demon slaying in exchange for some appropriate favors. As it so happens, he’s even got just the opportunity right here at the party. You see, Carnage needs to conduct some business here, that is, take out one of the party guests. He understands that this could be quite disruptive, and while he’s sure nothing too bad will happen to him if the Moon finds out, it would be inconvenient. If Master Deng could manage to provide a big distraction later in round 9 when Carnage makes the hit, he’d really appreciate it. Deng thinks about that for a bit, and then agrees.
When Carnages disruption time arrives on the scoreboard, Deng manages to get the grooms friends into a raucous drinking song, that swells just as, on the other side of the room entirely, Carnage takes out one of the poor party guests. (No one Deng knows, of course; he asked about that.) The takedown is quick and efficient, and while not silent, everyone is indeed distracted by Deng’s most excellent drinking song.
Now though, there’s a dead body on the floor. Carnage seems to be quite efficient at execution, but not so good at cleaning up afterwards. He sort of kicks the body a little towards one of the tables trying to hide it behind it. Seeing this foolishness, Min Feng steps in and takes care of it. In just a round (with Deng keeping up the distractions, Min Feng makes the body go away, disguises all of the blood stains, and generally makes the crime scene vanish.
Carnage thinks this is the best thing ever! A distraction and a cleanup squad. If they are interested in another shtick, he’s sure he could work down his hit list faster and get even more people taken care of with such competent help. Seeing where this is heading, Min Feng quickly nips it in the bud and persuasively suggests that a bunch of one-use-only shticks were involved and she couldn’t possibly clean up a second crime scene at the same party. Carnage is a little dejected at the missed opportunity but heads over to pay off Deng for his deal without further protest.
There’s a little more negotiation at the actual details, but in the end, Deng signs a Hell Contract, and gets a shtick in demon slaying. He only has to sacrifice 10 hit points to Carnage each time he uses it! It’s quite a bargain. (Temporarily sacrificed normal hit points of course. Deng isn’t crazy.) Carnage tucks the Hell contract away, right next to Shen Ji’s as it turns out, and leaves the party quite satisfied with the day’s work.
Ghost: About midway through the party, Master Deng, decides to see if there are any ghosts present, and is quite surprised to find one hiding behind a pillar at the corner of the room. Some quick interrogation reveals that this ghost is a fugitive from the Land Beyond, who has escaped using his vast skills and power, and has absolutely no interest in going back. So, he’s just hiding out here at the party causing no trackable disruptions whatsoever. It should be fine.
Of course, when his appointed round arrives on the scoreboard, a bunch of very official, very stern looking bureaucrats arrive at the party. They flash impressive seals and documents at everyone had hold up pictures of the ghost asking if anyone has seen him. As it turns out most of the people at the party can’t see ghosts, so they start doing a systematic search of the room. Deng manages to tell people about the ghost, but then has to head off on the moonstone quest so it is left to others to deal with.
Cai Wen and Yanyu leap into action. Cai Wen convinces the poor undead guy to go hide in a back room of the bathhouse well away from the party. Yanyu completely thwarts him by convincing the ghost hunters to stop disrupting her main party and go take their search to the bath house’s back rooms. Gah! Calamity looms near, Cai Wen again starts an almost party disrupting rant about Yanyu and her constant meddling (she having recently pick up the mantle of Cai Wen needling from Lucky Chang (see above)), and needs to be calmed down while someone else deals with this. Several people start showing the investigators around the bathhouse personally, making sure they get to the room the ghost is actually in last.
Luckily, Deng returns around now and is sent to convince the ghost to turn himself in. Deng is not really the most diplomatic of people so doesn't make much headway just talking to him. But he has been studying under Master Fa, and now has a shtick called Stern Mercy, where he manages to beat the guy up just enough to get him to see the error of his ways. (Luckily Deng has a ghost affecting sword.) After Deng’s gentle admonishment, the ghost turns himself into the authorities and is escorted away without incident.
Ezokin: Ezokin spends much of the party biding his time and playing for points. He dances with Shuyan and uses some sort of shtick on her to figure out what the most valuable thing Yanyu owes her is. (Apparently his stick is situational.) Sadly for him, Shuyan doesn’t think Yanyu owes her anything at all.
When his turn finally arrives, people notice him passing out bathhouse coupons to various groups of party-goers. Investigating, they find the coupons are 50% off “the full treatment”. People seem to think that’s a good deal.
Xian corners Ezokin and tries to unravel the mystery of the coupons, but Ezokin doesn’t give anything away. He does complement Xian on how decisively the party has dealt with the Cartogramancer. Sadly, again, Xian has no idea what he’s talking about , as she hasn’t been in touch with people since the last run, and doesn’t realize the Cartogramancer is dead.
Unable to score any points here, Ezokin goes back to distributing his coupons. Yanyu decides that the party is almost over, and tells security to get get rid of him. He’s escorted out of the party before he can do anything else and is no more threat.
Intruders: The final possible disruption to the party is the most dramatic at all. A discrete alarm sounds and it becomes clear that security are all calmly moving towards the front entrance. Apparently there is a pair of intruders who insist of being admitted even though they have no invitations (and apparently have no intentions of simply sneaking in.) Cai Wen, having been talked down from arguing with Yanyu, and needing something to distract him, decides to deal with this one personally.
He heads to the front doors and there he finds several bouncers looking quite uncertain about their chances but grimly determined to enforce the rules and keep the interlopers out, whatever the cost. Cai Wen smoothly insinuates himself into the conversation and find himself confronted directly by Yama, God of Death, and his escort, Kali, Goddess of Chaos and Destruction.
Yama claims that they are coming in and can not be stopped while Kali looks like she relishes the opportunity to prove the truth of these words. Security claims that the Moon has left strict instructions that no one without a proper invitation may be openly admitted and they will unfortunately have to attempt to prevent it regardless of the likelihood of success. Everyone turns to Cai Wen to see how he will handle this.
Suddenly, at just this moment, Shuyan and Xingfu Yin-Xiang return with six moonstones and he lays them and Yanyu’s feet. She declares him a most worthy man and accepts his offering. (He looks a little uncertain considering the lesson of humility he just learned under Shuyan’s tutelage, but embraces her and the party ends on this happy omen.
With the party ended, the pair of Southern Gods depart.
- "I'm sorry, dear, it seems we missed it." -Yama
- "Next time." -Kali
- "Whew." -Cai Wen
Moonstone Quest Table:
|| An army of ogres guards the tent where the moonstone is kept
|| Thinking outside the box
|| The bachelor party with old friends and a good time
|| The humble monk holds the moonstone for someone worthy
|| Sometimes acting completely out of your nature
|| Cai Wen
|| Making other people's goals a priority
|| Min Feng
|| The Moon herself holds the moonstone
|| Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.
|| Equanimity in the face of mechanics you are no good at.
The bath house servants show Cai Wen to the door, and indicate the path he should follow. He heads along the path and over a hill, to join the Son of the Moon in front of a large building with a number of people gathered outside. The building is ornate, with a scales on the lintel with coins in one pan and a box in the other, and most of the people waiting to enter are well dressed in fancy robes, some of which are unfamiliar in style. The Son of the Moon says that it is an auction house - a moonstone is up for auction. He has two loots, so he should be able to buy it without a problem, but Cai Wen can help with any problems that crop up.
Cai Wen, pre-warned to be on the lookout for other people's goals, looks around at the people waiting. Most of the well-dressed people look generally pleased and anticipatory, but there are some who are less well-dressed and look more worried. He suggests to the Son of the Moon that they talk to some of the more worried people. They meet four scholars in green, who are conferring worriedly and trying to count up their money. When asked, they explain that they are from the Historical Research Library, and they are hoping to buy Volume Thirty-Six of the Great and Full History of the Twelve Kingdoms, to complete the series. However, their prefect failed to put the item for the purchase into this quarter's budget, so while they have a per-diem expenditure for this trip, they don't have a loot. They haven't eaten for three days to save up their per-diem, but it's not nearly enough. Cai Wen reassures them to not lose hope, and chats about history with them - they do seem very knowledgeable. The Son of the Moon is interested in the history of the Roof of the World; they seem to know a lot about the details of when the first Steward came to power, though not the Spider aspect behind it.
The building opens, and people start heading in to examine the items up for auction, each under a glass dome. There is an engraved golden chalice, and a glowing moonstone, and Volume Thirty-Six of the history, and a vial that looks reminiscent of the Tincture of Pure Respite, and a number of other interesting items. Everyone circulates for a little while to take a look, but Cai Wen also looks around for other potential people of note. He sees a woman dressed in the colors of the auction house, over to the side, looking at the vial with despairing longing, so he quickly heads over to chat with her. She is initially apologetic for having distracted him, but does explain that her husband is gravely ill, and the surgeons and healers that they can afford have not been able to help. The vial would cure him, but is well above her means as a cleaner - pretty much everything is bid up to about a loot. Cai Wen asks for more details about the auction mechanics. Basically, the collectors (the well-dressed people) will tend to bid against each other to a little bit under a loot, so if there is anyone who wants something particular, they can generally get it for a whole loot, and in the rare example when there are multiple non-collectors who want something, it can reach a loot and a half, but nearly everything goes for a loot or a little under. He tells her to not lose hope either, and goes to confer with the Son of the Moon, after asking around to confirm that there is no one else here who seems to want the moonstone.
Cai Wen suggests that since the Son of the Moon has two loots, he could use one of them to help the historians, or the cleaner. He's not really sure why he should do that, but Cai Wen explains that if you do a favor for someone, they will often be grateful enough to help you out later in unexpected ways. The Son of the Moon understands about bargains and favor-trading, and the historians seem like they could be helpful, but he doesn't see the point in getting a favor from a random cleaning woman, who seems unlikely to be useful in the future. Cai Wen considers the hidden opportunities - is there an opportunity present in solving both problems? Yes, very much so. Hmm. Cai Wen pushes for buying the vial and the book, and not buying the moonstone at all. The son of the moon is dubious - he really needs the moonstone, rather than other people's goals - but Cai Wen thinks there's something more going on that will make this the better path than just bidding for the stone, and lays on the charisma. The son of the moon finally concedes, though he says that Cai Wen will owe him two favors. Cai Wen agrees, as being in people's favor debt tends to work out well for him.
The son of the moon gives a loot to the historians, and Cai Wen notes that the thing they're interested in is the moonstone. The historians note that the moonstone is a fake - as historians, they can tell real artifacts from fake ones. Oh. Well, that makes not spending the second loot a lot easier choice, so the son of the moon gives the second loot to the cleaning woman. It turns out that she saw a new hire spending a lot of time cleaning the glass dome with the moonstone, and she can describe the imposter. Given that description, Cai Wen and the son of the moon can soon find the thief, still pretending to be auction staff, and the son of the moon promptly beats him up and recovers the moonstone when the thief tries to flee.
Victory! Cai Wen spends a karma to reinforce the lesson of "Making other people's goals a priority", and returns to the party.
The bath house servants show Xian to the door, and indicate the path she should follow. She heads along the path and over a hill, to where the son of the moon is standing in the cover of some trees and observing an armed encampment full of ogres below. He regards Xian with some dismay - he was really hoping for Master Deng to come help, as he thinks that between the two of them, they should be able to defeat the ogres - the moonstone is in the central command tent. Does Xian think she can help with that? Xian concedes that she is not as choppy as Master Deng. No, neither can she blast them with sorcery, nor sneak past all of them, nor fly over them. The son of the moon is somewhat disappointed - perhaps she should stay here, behind the trees, while he deals with the ogres? Xian thinks she could still be helpful, especially if the son of the moon is willing to entertain ideas about how to progress other than "chop them all".
Xian, not being a military expert, asks about the organization of the encampment. Based on the setup and the patrols, the son of the moon thinks that it's a defensive encampment, long-term but not permanent, and on guard for hostility from any direction but not in immediate expectation of being attacked. Xian suggests that they brainstorm for other ways to drive the army away - convince it another force is attacking, flood the valley? The son of the moon comes up with "send in false orders" as a possibility, but is unconvinced that if they pack up and leave, they won't take the moonstone with them. Plus it isn't clear that either Xian or the son of the moon speaks ogrish well enough to write orders. (The son of the moon sneaks down to a closer copse of trees to eavesdrop, and confirms that they do not, in fact, speak ogrish). After further brainstorming, which is mostly to the purpose of Xian trying to get the son of the moon in the habit of brainstorming alternate plans in the first place, Xian suggests trying to buy the moonstone. Since the son of the moon's two loots have dreamily regenerated since the first encounter, he is willing to try that, so they head down the hill and wave at the ogres. The son of the moon doesn't have a lot of expressive gestures, but he attempts to make it clear that he is offering gold for a glowy round stone that goes "mwowm", and Xian helps by planting the thought in the lieutenant's mind that he can go steal the stone and get the loot for himself. The lieutenant doesn't seem to think that's plausible, for whatever reason, but is willing to take a loot in exchange for escorting Xian and the son of the moon to the command tent (after gesturing that the son of the moon should leave his sword behind.)
They are brought into the command tent, where there is a much larger ogre behind a heavy camp desk; there is a lead box on a small table next to the desk, which probably has the moonstone. The lieutenant ogre takes his leave, and doesn't seem to mention the loot he's been paid. It doesn't look like there will be a good opportunity to pocket the moonstone and run, so Xian hands one of his sandals to the son of the moon, using "This is That" to make it look, to the ogre general, like a duplicate of the lead box. The general looks suspicious, and then opens it. Xian doesn't know exactly what a moonstone looks like, but with twelve successes on a tao roll, he gets his illusion close enough that the general is convinced. The general looks in the other box, which apparently looks similar, and continues to look suspicious. Xian gestures to explain that they are returning the true box. The general nods, and goes to get a reward for these enterprising heroes, but Xian waves her hands and tries to indicate that the box already in the tent is probably a trap. The general finds this plausible, and starts to tell his guards to deal with it, but Xian waves her hands again, and plants the thought of evil magic emanating from the fake moonstone to affect the ogres if they touch it but not the humans. The ogre general reconsiders, and directs an honor guard of ogres to escort the box-carrying humans to outside the camp, where they dig a hole and bury the box. Then the ogres wait until the humans leave, before heading back to the camp, whereupon the humans sneak back and dig the box up again to take the moonstone.
Victory! XIan spends a karma to reinforce the lesson of "Thinking outside the box", and returns to the party.
The bath house servants show Kuan-Xi to the door, and indicate the path she should follow. She heads along the path and over a hill, catching up to the son of the moon and some of his companions, approaching a bawdy flower house. They are heading in for a raucous bachelor party, and are a little surprised to see Kuan-Xi. But since she's there, the quest seems to have sent her, so they invite her to join them.
The son of the moon's companions are enthusiastic carousers, and the beer and wine flows. Soon his companions are encouraging the son of the moon to get in "one last fight" before he gets locked down and can't do what he wants. They suggest finding the biggest toughest other guy in the flower house, and picking a fight with him. Kuan-Xi tries to protest without being too much of a party pooper, but suggests that marriage will probably not mean that he will stop having opportunities to beat people up. But maybe he ought to beat up the most villainous person in the flower house, instead? That proves a better sell than "no random beatings", so the group looks around a little and finds a guy who is abusing the flower house staff, and the son of the moon thrashes him. This is not very satisfactory, as the guy is not much of a fighter, but the flower house staff is grateful, especially the geisha who was being particularly abused.
The son of the moon's buddies suggest to him that this is his chance to score with the "rescued damsel", especially since she's so grateful, and he won't have any more opportunities to play the field once he is shackled to his ball and chain. (The cliches come thick and fast from this particular group). Kuan-Xi can't really make the same claim as before, that marriage won't mean he'll stop having opportunities to mess around, but she does do her best to persuade him that in the middle of his wedding celebration is not the best time to make this sort of choice. Besides, wasn't he supposed to be looking for a moonstone? He admits that he had thought that this was a sort of intermission - was there a moonstone here? Nobody is sure, though Kuan-Xi thinks it is likely. In any event, Kuan-Xi manages to rein him in a little to just flirting with the geishas instead of going any further.
Finally, the friends suggest "before we leave, we should get really drunk and trash the place!" Kuan-Xi leaps in there - didn't the son of the moon just protect the place from a villain? What would be the point in trashing it now? That makes quite a lot of sense, so the son of the moon declares that he is obliged to protect the flower house from his friends, and beats them up, which gives everyone a good fight and only trashes the room a little.
As the party breaks up, one of the buddies decloaks, and reveals herself to be (dream-)Yanyu, who tells the son of the moon that she is proud of him, and gives him a moonstone.
Victory! Kuan-Xi spends a karma to reinforce the lesson of "Changing your nature
to another one", and returns to the party.
The bath house servants show Min Feng to the door, and indicate the path she should follow. She heads along the path and over a hill, down to where the son of the moon stands, regarding a large white pagoda, glowing faintly in the night. He says that it is his mother's house, and that since it is glowing, she is home. He supposes there is a moonstone inside, but he's not really sure what to do about that. Well, perhaps they can go and ask for it, Min Feng suggests.
The pair proceed to knock at the door, and the Lady of the Moon answers. Does she have a moonstone? Yes. Can the son of the moon have it? Well, she carries the last moonstone - does he have the other five? Er, he only has three. In that case, she cannot give it to him - it must be last, and giving it to him now is against the rules. Oh. Hmm. Well.
In the awkward silence, the Lady of the Moon invites them in for tea. The tea is very nice. So... could they please' have the moonstone? She is afraid not, it would be against the rules. Perhaps they could come back for it after they have gotten the others? Min Feng suspects that it will not work that way. She notes that she has not seen a moonstone - could she see it? The Lady takes out a pouch on a chain from around her neck, and takes the moonstone out of the pouch. Yup, that's a moonstone. Well... could they trade one of the ones that the son of the moon has already found, for this one? The Lady considers that for a moment, and allows that there is no rule against trading, so she trades moonstones with him.
Ahah! Now it is not the last moonstone any more, it is the second moonstone! Or maybe the first! Can they have that one? She laughs - nice try, but no. Oh well. Min Feng wonders - is stealing things not in spirits' nature? She has enough law and familiarity with the spirit world to conclude that there are spirits (and demons) for whom stealing is in their nature, but that "breaking the rules" is not in spirits' nature, nor is, probably, stealing from your mom, when you're the son of the moon.
Well, that suggests a course of action, though talking the son of the moon into it is a bit of a challenge. Min Feng is persuasive, though, and does make the fairly plausible point that since the Lady of the Moon set up the challenges, she is probably expecting him to steal it, even if she cannot officially allow it. He isn't happy about it, but does want the moonstone, so they "leave", and discuss the plan. The son of the moon can get into the Moon's pagoda, but the only time the Lady is likely to take the pouch off is to bathe. So they wait until there is the sound of servants carrying water, and then they sneak back into the house; Min Feng unlocks the bathroom suite door from the inside, and the son of the moon goes in to steal the stone.
Victory! Min Feng spends a karma to reinforce the lesson of "Disregarding the
rules, even the good ones", and returns to the party.
The bath house servants show Master Deng to the door, and indicate the path he should follow. He heads along the path and over a hill, to where the son of the moon is heading towards a comfortable-looking winehouse. He wants to know where Master Deng was earlier, back when there was an army to fight - it worked out okay with Xian, but it would have been simpler with Deng. Deng shrugs - this is when he ended up here.
There is a lot of laughter coming from the winehouse - it proves to be hosting an amateur comedy night, and the best teller of jokes will win the moonstone. Deng and the son of the moon head in as a woman finishes up her act - she is pretty good, with eight successes. The next comic is not as good, but people clap politely. The pair explain that they're also hoping to take part in the contest, so the're pointed to the performers' holding area, where they chat with the current front-runner. She points out another guy who also has eight successes - one of them might decide to go back and try again to beat the previous score, but there are risks in being the first one to try - audience members sometimes use a "that fortune you spent didn't work" shtick, and knowing what roll you have to beat can give someone an advantage. So it's a bit like a game of chicken.
The son of the moon, a little used to going out of his comfort zone, is willing to try stand up comedy, but he's really not very good at it, and gets two successes, to desultory applause. Deng, even worse, gets zero, and is met with stunned silence. However, since Deng is pretty sure that he has to be the voice of "equanimity in the face of mechanics you're no good at", he does his best to persuade the son of the moon that they should have another go at it. It's not clear to him how to best join the goals of continuing to be terrible, and actually getting the moonstone, but he figures something might become clear if he keeps trying.
The pair consider whether they can do a joint comedy act, maybe something like slapstick? The front-runner says that groups are frowned upon - they used to let people make helper rolls for each other, and then you'd have a whole mob of people going up to tell a joke.
- "Have you ever seen a single joke take ten people to tell it? It's really not funny."
Deng goes up again, doing some physical comedy - he's better at dex, but it's not the specialty of the house, so he's rolling for higher difficulty. Still, he gets four, which is an improvement. The son of the moon gets another two -- but discovers that the two is cumulative. There is something funny about being so bad at it, and going back again to keep trying - it's like a cat video where the cat keeps jumping into the wall. There is more laughter, but it is definitely laughing at the son of the moon, which he is not pleased by.
Master Deng sees how the game is to be won, and the son of the moon sees it too, but "suffer increasing levels of humiliation to win" is hard for him, and Deng has to talk him out of just killing everyone afterwards.
- "It is just a dream, right? They're not actually real..."
He does finally accrue enough small and humiliating successes to win the comedy night, and none of the better comics are willing to lowball enough to get cumulative points. The moonstone is his.
Victory! Deng spends a karma to reinforce the lesson, and returns to the party.
The bath house servants show Shuyan to the door, and indicate the path she should follow. She heads along the path and over a hill, to where the son of the moon is standing on a path talking to a monk.
The monk, as Shuyan expects, says that he will give the moonstone to someone who is worthy. Ah! An easy task! The son of the moon demonstrates his combat prowess, chopping swiftly at the air. The monk allows that he is very fierce fighting the air, but that is not sufficient. Can he land a blow on the monk? The son of the moon sheathes his sword, and takes a swing with it, and the monk smoothly sidesteps. Another blow fails to land, and another, and the monk says that he does not believe that the son of the moon is worthy.
He shows his strength by lifting a rock, but the monk is still not impressed. Grasping at straws, he also demonstrates that he can tell a joke quite badly, but that is also not sufficient to demonstrate him to be worthy.
Shuyan suggests that he ask what he can do to demonstrate his worthiness; the monk says that he cannot see into the son of the moon to see what makes him worthy and suggest it; he must judge what is shown to him. Hmm. The lesson Xian has told her is better than nothing, but it doesn't really tell her what the son of the moon should do, only that he shouldn't do the usual.
She tries to come up with a parallel to some of the old stories she knows, and eventually recalls a kung fu story with a cranky old master. The master asks the student "Do you understand?" and the student gives an answer. The master says "You do not understand and whacks them". The student tries again, only to get whacked again. Finally, the student says that they don't understand - and only then does the master agree that they can learn. Well, if that's what is going on, then maybe only by confessing unworthiness can he learn how to become worthy.
The son of the moon bows to the monk, and claims that he is unworthy - he cannot beat the monk in combat, or lift a heavier rock, and he certainly cannot tell a joke.
- "I am not worthy."
- "And now you can learn."
Victory! Shuyan spends a karma to reinforce the lesson of "Sometimes acting completely out of your nature", and returns to the party.