Night of Gates XI
|"This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far"
| The run takes place on the Night of Gates in the late in the Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in many places, though also notably standing in one place in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival
As the party has become quite adept at detecting astrology by now, they know that tonight will be the next Night of Gates. However, in the meantime, there are cookies at Tahiti.
Sei-lin bites his cookie, and rolls on the random cookie encounter table. The butler comes in, announcing the arrival of a visitor who doesn't want to come in. The visitor is apparently looking for "her", and is a young fellow. Xian figures it is surely for Lijuan, so Lijuan, Xian, and Cai Wen go out.
The visitor proves to be a kid, wearing a grubby tan cloak, mismatched boots, and one glove. Surprisingly, he is holding an ornate mahogany box inlaid with gold. Lijuan gives him cookies, and he gives her the box, telling her that it is from a mysterious old lady in the blue hat, who was behind the restaurant.
- "The lady said to mm nom nom nom and on the special occasion nom nom with the cooking."
After being asked to repeat himself three or four more times, it becomes clear that the instructions are: the box contains special cooking ingredients if they find themselves at a fancy do.
- "Come back anytime if you need more cookies, but I live in the Forest of Chin." -Lijuan
The trio heads back into the Tahiti tea room, and Shen-Ji opens the box. Health checks for everyone! Sei-lin and Xian are driven from the building by the stench - the contents of the box seem to be some sort of animal fat, maybe several days old?
Shen-Ji examines the box, and notes that it was constructed using a magical tradition he is not familiar with. It might have been part of a ritual in which chi was spent, but the magical properties weren't added to the box, they are more an innate part of the box. It might not be possible to dispel the magic without breaking the box.
- "Master Zhou, see if the box wants to train with you." -Xian
The Box is closed and more cookies are brought - these are an odd sort of gelatin-pastry - and another courier approaches. Since Xian and Sei-lin are still outside, they intercept him. This courier bears a fancy letter, to be delivered with maximum urgency, to Lord Tokai Takanata. Xian vows to deliver it if he is anywhere on the grounds.
- "He's not, by the way. So we should open it." -Sei-lin
Since the smell seems to have dissipated, the pair go back inside, only to be met by further investigations. Shen-Ji warns everyone to hold their noses, and opens the box again. With the box open, he can tell that the substance inside is non-magical. Is it... three day old bear grease? How odd.
Meanwhile, Xian is outside and gets another visitor. It's Lu Chu. She says that she is here as an official emissary to offer assistance from the powers beyond the wall.
- "This seems somewhat vague." -Xian
- "OK, fine. They can grant up to three karma points and 100 points of appropriate skill, when needed." -Lu Chu
Lijuan finishes her art.
Xian comes back in with Lu Chu, who explains again. The skill and such is for their quest. No, she doesn't know what their quest is. Xian brandishes the letter. This probably explains what the quest is! Who thinks they should open it? Sei-lin, definitely does.
Examining the envelope, Xian says that the calligraphy is proper old-school, not the newfangled stuff that kids write these days.
- "I've never seen snootier handwriting." -Xian
Business as Usual
Well, the maximum-urgency letter can probably keep for a while - the party heads for the Benevolent Operational Headquarters, to see about getting a mission. Maybe they can finish it before the night begins. Or maybe all the missions will be different! Who knows?
Ops HQ is in the middle of preparing for something. The party asks what they are expecting, and is warned that the Night of Gates is approaching, if they weren't aware. Lady Jin said to prepare for it.
Master Zhou figures they can get in a quick mission before nightfall, but Cai Wen is worried. The latter tries to figure out what the interaction between Night of Gates and the mechanic will be, and concludes that they are two different mechanics, running simultaneously. They have the ability to affect each other and are both in progress even now.
Hmm. Well, they're here now, so they had better go in and ask for a mission. The Prince is sitting in his office, with a lot of papers around him, sipping something from a snifter. He asks where they are planning to spend the Night of Gates?
- "Well, that depends on the mission."
- "Ah, of course, Duty first."
Does the Prince have a mission for them? One eye turns blue, the other turns a different shade of blue, and then he collapses. Um. Hmm. Master Zhou checks him, and thinks he's physically fine.
Master Zhou wonders if the Prince is involuntarily worldwalking, and finds himself offered the option of opening the doors to the White Pagoda. He does so, and concludes that the Prince is not spiritually traveling - he's awaiting spiritual insight that hasn't come yet.
- "Now there will be spirits running around in the White Pagoda all night." -Sei-lin
The party explains to the headquarters staff the Prince is trying to commune with the World Above. They should put him to bed, but keep someone with him at all times, and write down whatever he says when he wakes up.
So now what? There's usually a party of some sort, attended by or thrown by the Great Spirits, that the party gets to attend. So how do they get there? Don't they usually get an invitation?
- "Maybe we should open that letter to Takanata?"
Hmm. The Hub around which the Empire Turns? Where is that? People contemplate the question, and it seems like there are a lot of them.
- Financial: the Honeth Arcade
- Political: the Dragon's Throne.
- Spiritual: the Golden Spire
- Worldwalking: the Gate of Five Elements.
Of course, on the Night of Gates, possibly all the hubs are the same.
- "So we should go to the Gate of Five Elements." -Master Zhou
- "No!" -Everyone else
Master Zhou points out that the Gate of Five Elements is, like, right next door to the White Pagoda. Other people seem to recall that it is quite a journey, and are not sure they can finish before nightfall.
Since he is outvoted, Master Zhou sends a messenger to Tahiti to send someone through the water gate to the White Pagoda, warning them that the doors are opened and to be prepared.
The closest hub is the Financial hub - the house of the Master of Trade in the Bazaar. The group heads there, still arguing, and show the invitation to the butler. The Master of Trade's butler is in fact confused about what they are doing there, but then mists pour forth from the envelope and they find themselves in a different entry hall, welcomed by a strange looking man with his head crooked over sideways.
At the Hub
The crooked-over guy announces the group:
- "Presenting the Absent Lord Takanata, his advisor Zhu Cai Wen, and attendants."
A good-looking red-haired man comes over to say hello and introduces himself as Fox. Everyone rolls their eyes. They aren't falling for this again, and Xian in particular is irritated that Coyote seems to think they can still be fooled.
Nevertheless, the little fox spirits do seem to be following his orders, and they dash off to get snacks. "Fox" says he's glad to see that they're here finally, as he was beginning to think that he was in the wrong place.
Horse and Wolf both show up when their names are mentioned, and then some more guests are announced.
- "Presenting the absent Firelord, his advisor the Regent Kusuhara Romi, and no attendants."
Master Zhou, suspicious, asks Horse about the gift that he gave the party in the Sea of Shadows.
- "You don't believe it's me? Is that what's going on here?" -Horse
- "They're actually quite untrusting." -”Fox”
Horse takes Master Zhou aside and describes the saddle, so it is probably actually Horse.
- "Presenting the absent Obsidian Warlord and his advisor Shen Dai Han, with no attendants."
- "Presenting the absent Lisan Chochiro, and her advisor, the Dark Sorceress Chantou, with no attendants."
Interesting. Cai We checks the scoreboard - it has all of the Cycle spirits listed as "unassigned" and the bonus points unclaimed. So... can you reassign something once it is assigned? He decides that the intent is that they be assigned once, but these things don't always follow their intent.
Cai Wen goes off to freshen up. Lijuan tries to follow him, but is led by the little fox spirits to a different restroom. Sei-lin wanders around looking for things to pick up and is intrigued that everything is very clean - there aren't even crumbs in the corners. A fox spirit comes over to see if he needs help.
- "Is there loot in here?" -Sei-lin
- "Can I have it?"
- "< Shake head.>"
- "Can I see it?"
The fox spirit leads Sei-Lin down a hallway, past an armory, a treasury, a kitchen, to a room of Entertainment, and then brings out a strange string instrument, not very much like a guzheng. Sei-lin nods politely, and makes careful note of where the treasury is on the way back. On the way back, the doors seem to be in a different order.
Lord Whale arrives next, and looks around crossly.
- "Let us do this. I have places to be and things to accomplish." -Whale
Regent Kusuhara wants to know if Whale is in charge. He says no - he has been summoned and does not appreciate it.
Sei-lin explains to the Regent, who is deeply confused by all of this, that the Great Spirits are busy on the night of gates and need them to do things. Ah. She says that the Firelord sent a confused message - the Smoked Glass should not be used like that - telling her to go to the Imperial Throne Room, which she did, and then showed up here.
The guy with the crooked neck comes back to take everyone's dinner orders. He says that the host was to have arrived when the last of the four invitees arrived. Since none of them have actually arrived yet, it's... a little unclear. On further questioning, he says that he is a servant of the Alchemist until the meeting ends, and then he will be released.
- "Rather than waste time, let us start with some preliminaries..." -Fox
- "Dinner!" -Sei-lin
- "Not what I had in mind, but yes."
Sei-lin orders fancy stuff that comes in gold foil wrapping, and several desserts. Others are not quite so excited about dinner, and also worry a little about eating things that are dangerous.
"Fox" says that everyone is here to assign tasks of the utmost importance to those who will carry them out ably, with the assistance of these minor spirits: Wolf and Fox and, um, Wolf and Horse and Whale. He grins.
- "Yes, Sir." -Regent Kusuhara
Sei-lin writes "That's not Fox, that's someone pretending to be Fox" on a note and put-pockets it into her pocket.
So... the best way to pass out the tasks is to start by discussing the various strengths and weaknesses of the emissaries. Shall they start with the absent Lisan Chochiro and her advisor the Dark Sorceress?
- "Is this what we're actually doing?"
- "<shakes head>." -Sei-lin
- "Yes." -Fox
- "<Thumbs down>." -Cai Wen
However, Fox beats Cai Wen at charisma, so they're doing this.
Chantou says that her strengths are ability to envision atypical paths towards a goal and implement them with a series of backup plans that will allow success in the event of numerous single point failures. (Shen Dai Han writes that down). Her weaknesses are... that she is not always adept at predicting the responses of the common people to aspects of her plan that might be seen as unfortunate.
Cai Wen rolls status to have Shen Dai Hen go next.
For strengths, he says he has an Empire-wide information network. However, his weaknesses are classified military secrets that he can't release without the authorization of the Obsidian Warlord.
- "But we're all working together here!" -Fox
- "I want to tell you, I really do - wait, why do I want to? But I cannot." -Shen Dai Han
Cai Wen tries to persuade him that as the Obsidian Warlord's representative, he can authorize it himself, but finds that he's trying to defeat someone else's shticks with his skill roll, and fails.
- "Intriguing, tell us more." -Fox
- "I literally cannot tell you more." -Shen Dai Han
How about Takanata's little group?
- "We're good at stealing stuff, and our weakness is that we steal too much stuff." -Sei-lin
Cai Wen declares everything is out of order for Shen Dai Han's inability to participate fully, and gives the spymaster a demerit.
Then, the food is served. Sei-lin carefully unwraps his food so as to keep the gold foil.
- "Excuse me, but I haven't gone yet." -Regent Kusuhara
- "The parliamentarian declared it out of order. " -Fox
Fox explains more: there will be twelve tasks, in response to the need of... we great cycle spirits. He counts them off on his fingers and gets most of them. He seems to be vamping.
Sei-lin asks Wolf if there is any particular task that he should take? Wolf says he can't say. Well, how about tasks that he shouldn't take? Wolf admits that he could say, but that would put him on Sei-lin's team. Sei-lin is hurt - he's on Wolf's team, isn't Wolf on his team? Wolf explains that Sei-lin's group can draft a different "patron" for their tasks - that's all he means.
Finally, the doors fling themselves open and in strides the Imperial Alchemist.
- "Can no one arrive on time? These are serious matters that require ... serious..."
He trails off, staring at Fox, and then presses a hand to his forehead.
- "I do not have the time nor inclination to deal with this. Anyone?"
No one leaps forward to deal with "this", so the Alchemist continues. Each of the four emissaries may choose three of the twelve tasks, and choose the assistance of one of the non-great spirits present. Then they go forth and do the tasks. Then he frowns, gritting his teeth.
- "Someone deal with that? The Great Cycle Spirit Lord Fox cannot be in attendance in order to proceed." -the Alchemist
- "Am I to understand that this is not Lord... Lord? Fox?" -Shen Dai Han
Cai Wen makes a status roll to declare that the Fox disguise is out of order, and Xian goes to pull "Fox" aside and explain.
- "Here's the problem. Nothing can happen while there is a "Great Spirit" here, because the entire premise is that the Great Spirits are not here. But we are completely paralyzed by your presence." -Xian
- "So you're thinking I should go away and not participate? I'm happy to do that! But you'd have to agree that's what you want." -Fox
- "Does anyone think they can do the tasks without the assistance of a spirit?" -the Alchemist
- "Mere words cannot express the extent to which I have no idea. " -Xian
- "Why are you doing this?" -Xian
- "It's what I do!" -Fox
Shen-Ji uses his magical analysis on "Fox", and realizes that not only is Fox using the magical power of deception, but that deception is the one true magic, and the way to go. Also, Fox's magic is the same magical tradition as that of the box. Hmm.
The Alchemist grumbles - fine, he will banish this one. He snaps at Lijuan to give him her panda, but Lijuan refuses. Then Lijuan opens the box, and Fox shrieks. Where did they get that? How would they even know about that? He looks appalled at the contents of Lijuans box and sort of contorts, and where there was one “Lord Fox” there is now a gentleman several recognize as Coyote’s human form.
Now that there is no longer a "Great Spirit" in the room, the Alchemist proceeds. The twelve tasks are:
- Serpent: Hide a Great Secret of Power, with but one hint to finding it. Leave the hint where it shall eventually be found.
- Monkey: The Warlord’s Throne shall be Haunted for the Night of Gates.
- Magpie: Provide a prophecy to the Magpie Prince in furtherance of the fight against the north.
- Butterfly: Lead without leading, three groups, to the places where they must be yet know it not.
- Tiger: Strive with your last ounce of courage to fight an unbeatable foe.
- Dog: Right an unrightable wrong.
- Phoenix: Forge a destiny for a young one taken from one who has passed.
- Bear: Hold back the tide.
- Spider: When a murder is committed, it must be a mystery of surpassing deception, that only a master detective can unravel.
- Tortoise: Learn the true name of the Blue Stone Bear.
- Crane: Give prophesy to the Light and the Dark to lead them towards their battle.
- Fox: Conquer death with love.
Choices are made in decreasing status order, so Cai Wen, on behalf of Tokai Takanata, may choose first. The party goes to confer for a bit first.
Getting the name of the Blue Stone Bear would be useful, and setting the prophecy for the Magpie Prince is something they could do, by picking a return to something they know about. Master Zhou wants to fight the unbeatable foe, because that sounds fun.
The Shrouded Isle regent looks a little overwhelmed by the choices - how is she supposed to conquer death with love? -, so Cai Wen checks in with her. What does she actually have as resources? She has access to all five types of elemental sorcerers, and a lot of country resources, and (this is a secret) access to the Illumineaucracy mechanic. Perhaps holding back the tide isn't so hard, using an earth sorcerer and a water sorcerer. Cai Wen says he can also provide a good prophecy if she has a way to get it to the Prince.
- Cai Wen chooses Tortoise: "Learn the name of the Blue Stone Bear." Coyote doesn't look pleased.
- The Regent chooses Bear: Hold back the Tide.
- Shen Dai Han chooses Butterfly: Lead without leading, three groups, to the places where they must be yet know it not.
- Chantou chooses Monkey: The Warlord’s Throne shall be Haunted for the Night of Gates.
- Cai Wen chooses Tiger: Strive with your last ounce of courage to fight an unbeatable foe. (Shen Dai Han raises an eyebrow.)
- The Regent chooses Magpie: Provide a prophecy to the Magpie Prince in furtherance of the fight against the north.
- Shen Dai Han chooses Fox: Conquer death with love.
- Chantou chooses Spider: When a murder is committed, it must be a mystery of surpassing deception, that only a master detective can unravel.
- Cai Wen chooses Serpent: Hide a Great Secret of Power, with but one hint to finding it. Leave the hint where it shall eventually be found.
- The Regent chooses Phoenix: Forge a destiny for a young one taken from one who has passed.
- Shen Dai Han chooses Crane: Give a prophesy to the Light and the Dark to lead them towards their battle.
- Chantou chooses Dog: Right an unrightable wrong.
The lesser spirit that they choose as their patron can provide them with three (flavored) Karma, 100 skill, and one miracle in furtherance of these goals. (Hey, that sounds familiar).
Cai Wen thinks with True Minigames: what are Whale & Coyote getting out of this, and does using the resources matter? The only thing that matters from the true minigames perspective is how much of the favors provided by the Southern Gods are used.
Bonus points are scored if someone finishes their own tasks and then does someone else's before they do.
Cai Wen chooses Whale for the party's patron, on the theory that this will help with the name of the Blue Stone Bear. The Phoenix Regent chooses Horse, Shen Dai Han chooses Wolf, and Chantou chooses Coyote.
- "Go forth and do your tasks - I shall attend to the field of battle." -the Alchemist
And then, they are back in the Bazaar, in front of the house of the Master of Trade.
Standing in the Harbor
Whale is also there with them - passersby seem to be giving him a wide berth without really noticing him.
Oops, they forgot to give the prophecy to the Regent. Happily, he shows up in a moment, riding a magnificent horse. Cai Wen tells her to use "Recover the forgotten statue", referring to the statue of Lucky Chang left behind in Fort Chang. She thanks him, and rides off again.
So... for the name of the Blue Stone Bear, can they just make a really big KS: Spirits roll to know it? It probably depends on how protected the name is. Master Zhou takes one level of KS: Eastern Spirits from Whale to think about how hard it is. He concludes that it will take 50 successes to get it outright, 20 to get it in encrypted form.
Master Zhou spends a virtual karma to allow difficulties under 5, takes another 5 skill from Whale, and spends a Whale karma to break the stat cap, and, then, rolls 57 successes. The name is strange, because it's not meant to be said, it's meant to be sung.
The scoreboard ticks: Tortoise complete / 1 of 12 completed
The group thinks about the Great Secret. As always, the greatest secret they know is one they would really rather everyone know - that Spider is a skinwalking demon. Perhaps they should just have the clue be something like "Serpent can't figure it out ha ha ha?" and that will taunt Serpent into figuring it out? The more cautious party members remind everyone that while the Great Cycle Spirits seem to have trouble learning this information, they have also learned that if any of them do find out, there is likely to be war in Heaven.
So maybe they should hide the secret for real, instead. Can Whale suggest somewhere at the bottom of the sea? He offers to give them skill in KS: Shipwrecks or Oceanography, so they can think about that. (They get the feeling that while a more friendly spirit, such as Horse, might be a little more helpful here, Whale really doesn't like them and so it just doing his minimum requirements.)
A shipwreck does seem like the right answer, though. Sei-lin is sure that the right sort of shipwreck is one that has treasure, that hasn't been found yet, so they can pick up the treasure while they're there. He can loan his ring of water breathing to the endeavor.
Master Zhou thinks about notable treasure-having shipwrecks, and comes up with the Dark Rigger and the Crane's Flight. The first is difficult because there are very erratic strong currents nearby, and the second has a crew that is not at peace.
Xian and Cai Wen head off to the Butterfly Meadows to talk to Golden Flame. She gives Cai Wen a little bit of grief for not having visited in a while, but is certainly willing to help. The currents do sound tricky, but she doesn't have anything on hand to deal with underwater ghosts. Xian points out that she has a hoop of current assessment, which... is pretty much perfect for navigating through treacherous currents.
Golden Flame asks another seahorse rider to come along, and Xian and Cai Wen hop on behind them. As they start for the shipwreck, however, Xian turns into a horse... which is not nearly as good at riding on another (sea)horse as she was a moment before.
However, with a whale karma, she can montage herself to the shipwreck as a quasi-sea horse.
Cai Wen uses the elemental marker to write on the wall of the captain's cabin:
A demon walks in the name of the Great Spider Spirit and its name is Aku.
Looking around for treasure, the only thing of particular interest is a black sail, still affixed to the mast, which doesn't seem to have rotted in the sea water. Cai Wen spends a virtual karma to get it intact through these tricky currents while Golden Flame cuts away the sail.
Then, Golden Flame and the other seahorse rider head back to the Butterfly Meadows, and Cai Wen and Xian head back to the rest of party, still standing in the Harbor.
At this point, the scoreboard says that Tortoise, Bear, Magpie, and Butterfly are all complete.
Oops, Xian and Cai wen should probably have talked to Mondo while they were in Butterfly Meadows. Well, he can be summoned via the circus bargain.
The group explains - they have hidden a secret, and need to arrange to leave a good subtle clue so that it can someday be found. Mondo is pleased that they have come to a Riddle Master such as he for this task, and warns them that when leaving a clue, it is not wise to leave the question of who should discover it up to chance. Not that they have to pick a person by name, but knowing what they want in the discoverer. The descendant of a potential bloodline? An impoverished child with great potential? Having chosen the appropriate one, then they will know how to hide the clue for the Chosen One.
The group discusses this a bit. Xian still thinks that the best answer is "found by a great spirit" but the others aren't so keen on war in Heaven. On the other hand, if the party all dies, then the next party should be pursuing this plot, and maybe they do need war in heaven at that point! The argument goes back and forth a bit, and then Mondo steps in and asks if they know what they know - if what they want is for the next party to be pursuing the plot, then the answer to "who do you want to find it" is "the next party" not "a great cycle spirit".
Oh, yes, that makes sense.
Mondo thinks for a bit, then asks for a well-made knife. He separates the blade from the hilt, and asks them to inscribe the clue on the tang. Hmm. So, should the clue be just "Dark Rigger" or "The secret to save the Empire is on the Dark Rigger"? Lijuan asks Zhuai for an opinion, and he thinks that the second version of the clue needs more careful hiding because nearly anyone will look for "the secret to save the Empire" but fewer people will track down a random shipwreck just based on the name. "Dark Rigger" it is, then. Mondo takes the knife, and says that he will see that it is given to an appropriate fate.
The Unbeatable Foe
So... now for an unbeatable foe. Should they head somewhere in the North? Find abomination? Shen-Ji says that if they find something too big to fight, he can go fight it and get killed while everyone else runs away. Then he can use his shtick in Phoenix Rebirth to come back later.
Well, that sounds like a good plan, if they only knew where some Abominations were. Back to Ops Headquarters. In the map room, however, the maps all have to do with statues and so forth. Someone has clearly been searching for a statue that was left behind. And, in fact, there is a map leading to Fort Chang. Lady Jin is clearly running the prophecy, and the map room is configured for that, not Abominations. The party wonders if Lady Jin is in over her head, as Fort Chang is behind enemy lines, and maybe they should go rescue her. Well, she probably didn't just wander into Northern occupied territory without thinking about it at all, so she is probably okay.
(The scoreboard ticks: Fox has been completed.)
Aha! You know who would know about Abominations? Wounded soldiers. The party heads to the hospital tent, and talks to the soldiers who have most recently been brought in. One of the soldiers is clearly being written off by everyone else as delusional. Nobody believes him, he complains. It was horrible. It was the size of a mountain, and it was breathing fire. But then a giant dog picked him up and threw him to safety.
Well, that seems promising. Soldier is willing to tell them where it was, though he warns them that it was terrible and they really shouldn't go. Shen-Ji gives all his stuff to Master Zhou, and passes out potions of fire resistance, in preparations for his self-immolation.
Then, it is off to the north. They pass behind enemy lines, and far enough towards the wall that everyone is on squares. Alas for the people with Talismans.
The battlefield appears to be no longer a battle of soldiers, but of giant creatures. There is a huge horned monster, breathing fire, and three huge animals: a dog, a crane, and a magpie. (Squares are not to scale)
- "So the plan is to flee and leave Shen-Ji?" -Sei-Lin, fleeing
The exact plan seems to be somewhat underspecified. Lijuan starts shooting at Agrinja (the Abomination), pinning it in place briefly until it can take an action to break out.
Xian gives the Crane talisman to Lijuan, who now becomes very easy to notice. Master Zhou gives the Monkey talisman to Xian, who becomes easy to capture.
Agrinja fireballs Lijuan, and everyone suddenly remembers that they drank the potions of fire-proof just before coming onto the map. Lijuan shoots it in the foot, pinning it again. It breaks out again, and she pins it again. While she keeps it distracted, the other would-be combatants advance to within striking range, and Sei-lin hides in the nearest not-on-fire tree near the fight.
During drift, the spirits speak directly to various people, heard in their minds rather than their ears.
- Dog to Lijuan and Sei-lin: Flee, child, we will hold him off so you can get to safety.
- Magpie to Xian: What are you doing here?
- Agrinja to Cai Wen and Master Zhou: You will die even if these so-called great spirits delay me; I have marked you.
- Agrinja to Shen-Ji. Fool, do you think your puny firebird can protect you? She cannot return that which I have devoured.
Kawaii moves in front of Lijuan and cringes a little rather than charging - this may be the first time Kawaii is scared of an opponent.
Shen-Ji looks at Agrinja with magical vision, and is pretty sure that if Agrinja eats his soul, even Phoenix can't bring him back. Well, that makes the "everyone runs away and Shen-Ji goes out in a blaze of glory" plan a little more fraught with peril.
At the same time, Xian notices, first, that when Shen-Ji looks at Agrinja, Crane flaps her wings at him and covers him in a "light breeze of spiritual significance", and second, that the battle is too spiritual to be won by inflicting hit point damage on the Abomination.
- "Is it good or bad that we have your Talismans here? " -Sei-lin to Magpie
- "Do not go down, or be consumed by the beast while holding the Talisman. If that looks likely, drop it so it will go to safety." -Magpie
Continuing Lijuan's theme of decreasing Agrinja's mobility, Master Zhou shoots him with the wand of move drain.
Agrinja attacks Shen-Ji and Master Zhou, and Master Zhou pulls rank:
- "He must attack no one but me until either he or I has fallen" -Master Zhou
Agrinja pummels Master Zhou with a spiritual blast that seems to attack the White Pagoda instead. He has the option to leap in front of it, but doesn't dare.
Sei-Lin hides elsewhere in the tree and contemplates his options.
Cai Wen thinks about the most likely next tactical development - it seems likely to be that Agrinja will stop splitting his dice against Master Zhou, and will keep attacking the White Pagoda. But if someone looks likely to go down, Dog will leap in the way.
Master Zhou spends a karma and closes the doors to the White Pagoda with True Worldwalking.
Near Shen-Ji, Lu Chu asks if there's anything she (or the powers she represents) should be doing.
Xian plants a thought in Dog. "We're doing Tiger's thing, you have to let one of us go down." Dog's stat is Resolve, so it seems unlikely that she has convinced him, but she thinks he has heard, at least.
(Meanwhile, the scoreboard ticks again: Serpent is done.)
In Drift, everyone hears Dog's reply:
- "If that is Tiger's price, then let Tiger fall. Bring on the Wolf."
- "Woo hoo!" -Sei-Lin
Master Zhou unleashes a flurry of all his shticks, including Bright/Dark Cost of Imbalance and Beautiful Strike, and True Kung Fu. That makes Agrinja take notice.
Shen-Ji does some fire-based chi damage - it does a lot of damage, but Agrinja is pretty fire-based too, so is resistant.
Magpie swoops in and seems to be sheltering Shen-Ji, and Sei-lin gets ready to grab Master Zhou's body and run with it.
Shen-Ji gets Lu Chu to power him up with Yama's death power, and spends a karma to turn his iron arrow into "death arrow". That also makes Agrinja take notice, and he starts to shake off the "only attack Master Zhou" restriction. Master Zhou uses it again, hits Agrinja again, and then gets bitten and goes down. With a bunch of Whale-based death check skill, he fails to be completely dead, only dying, so Sei-lin grabs him and leaps for the edge of the map.
The scoreboard ticks: Tiger is complete, and Crane is complete. By the time everyone has escaped off the map, Phoenix is also finished.
Then, in a blaze of... something, Monkey, Spider, and Dog all get completed simultaneously by the same action, and Lijuan has the sense that somewhere far away, Zhuai is shouting "What is even happening?"
- "I love my sister." -Xian
Cai Wen takes the Shen Dai Han demerit from this messed up mechanic home for later use.Dawn breaks, and the Night of Gates is over...