|"In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Phoenix in the Month of the Phoenix in the Tenth Year of the Bear since the since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the Tanzhe Plain
A Plot Has Happened
The party wakes at Tahiti to the sounds of a lot of noise downstairs. Investigating, they find that a dining room has been converted to a war room, under the command of Cao Cao's assistant. Cai Wen asks for the executive summary, which the junior butler provides. There have been clashes in various place, and mostly victories, but the House's forces are not crossing the red line yet. (On the other side of the red line is around the Temple of Eternal Dream and other temples and monasteries in the hilly southeast corner). The Dragon Army is moving south, stopping fighting as they pass. If they get to the red line before the situation has been dealt with, then it will likely still be considered part of the Plains of Honor.
There is a pile of paper labelled "The Log". Cai Wen dramatically reads it.
Takanata has been working on some new tarot cards, and potential backs for his deck. He lays out a spread, and contemplates it.
- "Lin Fortune is being held by the Dragon Army. Shanxi is near death and who knows where he is. Master Bao is in the Temple and being thwarted by something Butterfly, probably us. And Ezokin has Magpie over his shoulder." -Takanata
Lijuan also has a sketch. Those with Interpret Omens are confident that those are blossoms rather than flowers
Cai Wen and Kasumi ride to the command post in the Tanzhe - due to Horse's assistance, the trip is nearly instant. Izumi is running things, but says that there are two specific issues that are time-critical. She's putting together a strike team to rescue Lt. Fortune and his scouts - she doesn't want to attack the Dragon Army, but you can't leave people behind. Cai Wen says they'll find another solution. Izumi says there's also the issue with the Temple area - does he have any political direction there? Cai Wen says they'll find another solution for that too.
So... Izumi should tell them about this Lin Fortune guy. How is it possible that an interesting and competent soldier exists in the house militia without the party having noticed him? Is he secretly Lucky Chang? Izumi doesn't think he's Lucky Chang. He's come up through the ranks in the House, and he has a group of other soldiers he's kind of cliquish with, who became the other scouts under his command. He's also known for being something of an out of the box thinker. Cai Wen thinks his method sounds kind of like Fa Mulan, but surely someone would have noticed if he were her.
Back at Tahiti, Xiao Fa starts making new healing potions, and looks around at the possibly Ezokin-flavored chi. Really, the Tahiti chi is full of weird things. There's a giant spirit, a lot of sorcerers who hang out, water gates punching through to far away, a crazy playwright... if Ezokin is messing with the chi, it's at a level below the ambient level of chi noise.
Kuan-Xi scries on the Temple of the Eternal Dream, since she has been there. The door is barred, and two monks with brooms are guarding it. Most of the monks are sleeping, and Master Bao doesn't appear to be there.
Takanata asks Kui Daishu to see the books. Kui thinks he has been talking to the playwright and the cook, and is a little suspicious of a non-House member getting to go through them, but there is only so snippy she can be with someone of Takanata's immense status. The ritual investigators think that the strangely changed numbers feel more like like reading a magic ritual, rather than seeing the magical fingerprint of a ritual that has already happened. Or a thing that could be part of a ritual, but hasn't been invoked yet. It's... sort of like a chalk circle drawn around the house's finances. And Daishu has now drawn a yellow circle around the outside and a blue circle inside, both annotated to say the original white circle is invalid. None of it may be magical yet, but Takanata wouldn't want to do a magical ritual using a white chalk circle that had had all that markup added to it.
Lijuan wonders if whatever happened here might have happened to House Foon as well. Kui says that she can audit the Foon books - bring the accounts and the accountants and the invoices and financial treaties and so on, and she'll take a look. Lijuan isn't sure they have any of those.
- "If we don't have any of those things, are we okay?" -Lijuan
- "No. No, if you don't have any of those things, you are not okay. You should have your accountant talk to me at once." -Daishu
Hey! Examining the art some more, people wonder if that green ribbon in Lijuan's art the Sash of True Honor? Yes? Sort of? Inasmuch as the green ribbon is "the party's stuff", which includes the sash. The other things aren't related, and whatever the magpie is doing, the sash is a component, and he's doing it to his own nest. The sash isn't the target of the ritual.
Having poked at Ezokin's plot without discovering any new leads, the second wave heads to the command post in the Tanzhe.
The last known location of Shanxi's team was Three Seasons, so the party heads there. The locations mentioned in the log are searched, and some tracks indicate that Shanxi's team rigged up a litter and headed southeast. The trail heads to the red zone, and then comes back out, without the litter, and heads in the direction of the command HQ.
The party follows the trail into the Temple hills, where it leads into a town. The urchins of the town report that some guys came in with a guy on a stretcher, and wanted their friend helped, so they went off to "that healing temple that gives free healing for urchins". Other locals have a few more details, if somewhat puzzling ones. Some guys came in, carrying the body of the Xiao Fa. Those guys who started the war are going to be in so much trouble for killing the Xiao Fa. Anyway, they took him to the nearby temple of the Meihua Sannong (Five-fold Plum Blossom). The talk of "the Xiao Fa" is puzzling - the last time anyone was talking like that, it was the people over in New Rivers, on the other side of the Plains of Honor.
The party proceeds to the Five-fold Plum Blossom temple, which is in full-on hospital mode with casualties from the war, from both sides. The monk at the door checks them over for... something... but permits them to enter without comment or requiring that they leave their weapons outside. They are pleased to see Xiao Fa, and try to put him to work immediately with the difficult cases, but he wants to find out about Shanxi first. Shanxi was apparently taken straight to Sister Aiyu, but then Eldest Brother insisted on taking care of him personally. The party heads to the building set aside for Eldest Brother, but are stopped by an officious monk who says that Eldest Brother is tending to a case which requires both urgency and discretion, and he is not receiving visitors. Xiao Fa asks that he sends a note in saying that he is here.
Lijuan goes to the stables, and discovers that there are a lot of injured horses who don't seem to be high priority. She takes charge and gives them some better veterinary care.
Xiao Fa continues to poke at the door-guarding monk, and finds that he has specific instructions from Eldest Brother to keep him out. However, since the specific instructions don't include everyone else, Xian fast-talks her way past. The next room has one of Shanxi's guys, trying to write a letter to Xiao Fa, but he doesn't seem to be able to finish it - he can't find the right words to explain that Shanxi just exploded into a bunch of flowers. Poof.
- "That happens sometimes when you die, right?"
- "Well, I've only died once, but it didn't happen then." -Xian
On learning that Xiao Fa is right outside, he panics and tries to write faster. Xian keeps wandering, into the next room, which has a desk with a lot of reports on it. There are casualty reports from the war, but apparently no category for "turned into flowers." The final room appears to be a private meditation chamber set behind the office, which has a cot covered in flower petals, and a monk carefully adding drops to a vial. He adds three drops, shaking after each, and then jumps when he sees Xian. There is no sign of Shanxi, or of Master Changling.
- "I hear the Abbott is flowers? Blossoms?" -Xian
- "The inner mysteries of the temple can only be apprehended after years of study, meditation, and peace. But no, he is not flowers."
- "Is he alive?"
- "Of course."
- "And his patient?"
- "I'm certain his patient will recover."
Xian thinks the monk isn't lying, though the explanation is not all that explanatory. Xian says that she is looking for the patient. Well, then, she should go out to the commissary in the courtyard, have a hot meal and rest, and the patient will be transferred there when he recovers. When will that be? The monk would have expected him to have recovered already, but he expects it will happen soon. Xian wants to know what is up with the vial - the monk is testing for poison, but there isn't any.
- "You were testing just now? How does that work?" -Xian
- "The inner mysteries of the temple can only be apprehended after years of study, meditation, and peace."
- "So... since the temple is kind of in emergency mode, the guy at the door must not be a very good healer." -Xian
- "We each serve according to our abilities."
- "His abilities are to stop Xiao Fa from coming in?"
- "You know Xiao Fa? Perhaps we should go to the courtyard. Now."
- "I have always thought of the Meihua Sannong as an honorable forthright and good order. However, it is obvious that you are concealing something and giving me the runaround. I don't think that's appropriate." -Xian
A little chime sounds, and over the cot, there's a tiny explosion of peach blossoms, and a vial falls. The monk picks it up, and attempts to shoo Xian out. Xian wants to know why Xiao Fa can't come in. The monk frowns, and Xian promises that this will be the last question.
- "The last one? Promise?"
- "If you tell me the truth."
- "There has been some bad blood in the past, and I merely wished to... let me rephrase that, it has to be true. I wished to prevent any confrontations. You can share what you have learned, but as long as Xiao Fa doesn't step into this room all should be fine."
Xian goes back out, and the monk locks the door behind her. She tells Shanxi's guy that Shanxi isn't really dead, and everyone regroups in the courtyard. Both Takanata and Xiao Fa think that there has been enough stalling, and it's time to storm the meditation chamber. Xiao Fa informs the monk at the door that they are going in, and Xiao Fa's halberdiers come up and stand beside him ominously. The monk declines to fight the halberdiers, and the party heads in. Kasumi deals with the locked doors, and everyone stomps into the inner chamber, where Xiao Fa notes a large, roiling chi nexus.
The monk looks alarmed, as Xiao Fa wants to know if Brother Changling is in the chi nexus with his brother, and what is going on. The monk says that they will emerge naturally when Shanxi is healed. But why was Xiao Fa not permitted in? Well... the monk understands that there was some bad blood, and he can only do as he is bidden.
Xian adds some questions: If the healing does not complete, will they stay there forever? Do they need to eat? Does that mean they are trapped there until one of them dies? The monk says crossly that this is a healing nexus, he doesn't know what sort of nexus Xian is thinking of, and that the inner mysteries of the temple can only be apprehended after years of study, meditation, and peace.
Xiao Fa has a shtick that determines that some of what is going on has to do with the Imperial Succession, and also some of the "bad blood" is due to the succession as well. The shtick is unable to tell him why, though. Kuan-Xi notes that there aren't enough plum blossoms on the bed - there are a lot of other fruit blossoms, but not a lot of plum. It seems unbalanced.
Xiao Fa thinks that he could definitely disrupt the chi nexus and tip everyone out. Xian wonders if he can do so without causing the people in it to be damaged. Xiao Fa is less sure about that. Can the monk send a message to Brother Changling? No, he couldn't even tell Eldest Brother about the council. Wait, what council? The monk says that's a political thing, not to do with the healing nexus.
Xiao Fa asks Dragon if he should smack the chi nexus down, and Dragon supposes so. Xiao Fa warns everyone that he's about to do so, and everyone except for himself, Takanata, and Xian flee the room, before Xiao Fa disrupts the nexus.
- "Okay, who has some way to not be damaged by chi-splosions?" -Mike
<<Takanata and Xiao Fa raise their hands. Xian looks alarmed.>>
- "I thought when you stayed, that you had a plan." -Xiao Fa
- "You thought I had a plan? How long have you known me?" -Xian
The chi barrier unspools in midair, and the two people inside plummet out in an explosion of chi. Brother Changling manages to put a healing shield around Shanxi as they fall, but is himself injured. He rounds on Xiao Fa.
- "You. Are. A. Menace!" -Brother Changling
- "Esteemed abbot, we owe you an explanation." -Xian
- "But you will not give me one? " -Changling
- "He was fine, why were you still working on him?" -Xian
- "He will not be fine while he is under the influence of that one (pointing at Xiao Fa)"
- "Why weren't there enough plum blossoms?" -Kuan-Xi
- "I don't have to stand here and be insulted! Go away!" -Changling
- "When you figure out why there aren't enough plum blossoms, you should tell me." -Kuan-Xi
- "When you figure out why someone professing to be a healer is overthrowing his second country you come back and tell me." -Changling
The group heads back out to the courtyard. The door monk says that Sister Aiyu is indisposed, but said that Xiao Fa should be given this list (of the most serious cases left to be treated).
Xiao Fa stays behind to help with the healing, with Lijuan and the halberdiers as escort, while everyone else starts out towards Nan Yue, where the aforementioned council is said to be taking place. Cai Wen's message scroll writes a message from Izumi, which he answers.
The summit of Nan Yue is an empty meadow with five standing stones. Hm. The party was expecting more people, somehow. People begin to poke about with various chi senses, and different rocks appeal to different people. Eventually secret switches are found, which cause the stones to roll aside, and everyone proceeds down the paths (Takanata's path spirals, Xian's path wanders...) into a deeper cavern.
- "Who comes?"
- "Tokai Takanata. I owe Master Bao apologies and I wish to address the council."
He may pass, with Kuan-Xi and Cai Wen.
- "Who comes?"
- "Xian, of the Gentle Admonishers of Disquiet. "
- "Your order is not yet represented. You may pass. "
Those in the cavern are discussing the subject of the invasion, generally in one-on-one conversations. Cai Wen listens, and constructs a scoreboard - there are columns for the Arcade, the Plains, the Forest (greyed out), and Neutrality. At present, support is even between the Arcade and the Plains.
The argument is between surrendering to the new new conquering overlords, supporting the previous overlords, or trying to stay neutral. That last tends to just result in more fighting with both sides.
Kasumi thinks the discussion isn't very interesting, and looks for snacks. Much to her dismay, the council only has tea and rice.
Various monks are interested in Xian's opinion. Is one of the sides in need of admonishment? What wisdom does Xian offer? She admits that she knows some of the Arcade houses involved, but doesn't seem up to convincing anyone of the righteousness of the invasion.
A master from the Temple of Perfected Form is talking to Master Bao. The former thinks that since the Plains only held the Tanzhe for a month, they showed themselves as weak compared to the new conquerors. Master Bao says that those who have taken the Tanzhe aren't weak, but he is concerned about their future positions.
Takanata waits for Master Bao to be done with his conversation, and then takes his turn.
- "This was not what I had intended when I undertook your task." -Takanata
- "That is in many ways the crux of my fear." -Master Bao
- "We are touched by Butterfly, I will not deny that." -Takanata
Master Bao accepts Takanata's apology, but wonders if he has some way he wishes to make things right. Takanata says that he thinks the bandits from the Forest were but the trigger used against the Arcade, and there are more forces at work beyond that. However, he only seeks to make arrangements on the order of a few years until a final peaceful resolution is arranged.
- "A final solution?" -Master Bao
- "To make it less of a focus of conflict." -Takanata
In any event, it is most irregular to have one of the commanders of the invasion here to address the council. In order to speak, Cai Wen will have to be sponsored by a temple, and Master Bao cannot sponsor him, given the current situation. He suggests that Cai Wen should find the temple that most closely calls to his heart.
Others talk to Sister Aiyu. She says that she has been running the temple in the Tanzhe, because it is... farther from the temple in the Heights where Brother Changling is. But he was summoned here now, and as he is the Eldest Brother, everyone defers to him. She reminds them that Brother Changling's great work was going to be to expand the Peace of the Lake, but the Peace was smashed recently, leading to unrest. Everyone is a little unclear on the fate of his Great Work now.
Cai Wen chats with a Wandering Path monk, as that seems the most likely path for his own nature. The monk does approve of the lack of bandits, but she also notes that the bandits were a new problem, and the Plains were only newly come to control of the Plains, so it cannot really be said that they failed in dealing with the bandits. Cai Wen's position is that the sooner the matter is finished, the better for all. He can't promise perfect security, but he can promise that he is a diplomat by nature, and can head off future wars that way. And he can promise that when his house involves itself, they put great efforts into improving the conditions. He cites his recent refusal of tribute, instructing the elders to spend it instead of their own towns. The monk raises an eyebrow - how long will that continue?
- "If the House of Benevolent Oversight does not receive its +2 in the Arcade mechanic, it will not support you in this endeavor for long."
- "I see you have done your homework. "
- "This is hardly the first time the Tanzhe has changed hands. We understand how the process goes."
- "The other Arcade houses have allowed us some freedom."
- "I imagine that as long as they are paid, they will continue to do so."
She advises Cai Wen to talk to those from the Selfless Path as well, and bids him good day with "may you always return home".
Kuan-Xi chats with one of the Wandering Path monks, and notes that as a traveller, she likes to build water gates.
- "This would be a nice place for a water gate. I've already built a gate to the Shrouded Isle." -Kuan-Xi
- "I... don't think we've ever been invaded by the Shrouded Isle. That would be new."
The monk has been helping with the refugees fleeing the fighting; he doesn't care who is in charge but wants the war to be over.
Meanwhile, Xiao Fa has done what he can for the first round of the tough invasion casualties, so he and Lijuan climb Nan Yue as well, and find their way in.
- "Who comes?"
- "Xiao Fa, of the Meihua Sannong, with a message for Sister Aiyu."
The monk wants to know if the message is about the emergency. Well, no, but he wants to talk to her about Brother Changling. The monk suggests that he wait until the council is concluded, then. Xiao Fa manages to persuade him that he can enter, but the monk warns him that he may not speak for the Meihua Sannong.
Cai Wen chats with Sister Aiyu. He is here to persuade the council to accept the Arcade - if they do so, the war could be over today, as soon as the Dragon Army arrives. Ah, does the Arcade have the support of the Dragon Army? Well, no, but if they move in and the Arcade is already in power, they are permitted to remain. When they arrive here, they will either think the Plains still have it, in which case there will be further conflict, or they will see the Arcade is in control. Sister Aiyu wonders why they did not actually enter the hills, and Cai Wen notes that combat close to the Eternal Dream is injurious to their dreaming.
He would like the Council to accept the Arcade's administration and the movement of their forces through to the river. Sister Aiyu wonders what he offers in exchange. Well, the inconvenience that the Arcade is going through to avoid making things worse will not be an isolated incident, and the temples can advise them. They could owe the temples favors, or treat the temples as a voice that has to be heard.
- "And if our voice counseled that you withdraw your forces?" -Sister Aiyu
- "...If us being here would be a disaster for the Tanzhe Plain, then we would heed advice to withdraw. I don't want to fight battles that can't be won, or hold onto prizes with disregard for the consequences." -Cai Wen
Sister Aiyu says that she will keep his words in mind, but makes no promises as yet.
Lijuan talks to Sister Aiyu next, about the need for proper care for wounded animals. Sister Aiyu listens to Lijuan's advice, though notes that in part it is a matter of priorities.
Xian takes her turn to talk to Master Bao, and notes that the Gentle Admonishers of Disquiet owe a debt to the Temple of Eternal Dream for housing her sister in time of crisis. Master Bao notes that she has the ear of the Exuberant Interferers.
- "When it comes down to it, the Great Dream does not care so much what clothes or labels people wear, or how we shroud the land with our names. It cares about violence and discord. If you could find and propose a solution that resolves the situation without further bloodshed, we must look to the future." -Master Bao
- "Maybe we have a future dream that the discord will stop." -Xian
- "Not to be insulting, but no one ever conquers this land without the dream of holding it eternally."
- "Well, then, if the House of Exuberant Interference takes it, that would be a first."
Takanata talks to a monk from the Temple of Clarity of Sunlight, where Kiyasa spent her time. This monk's position is more that the individual shifts of politics don't matter - people will still have to rebuild their homes and plow their fields. One must move on to the next thing. However, she does recommend that he visit the labyrinth at the base of Nan Yue, which is more interesting than this meeting place.
Xiao Fa goes to ask Sister Aiyu if she would sponsor Cai Wen to speak. She notes that this would be something of an endorsement - so what would Cai Wen say? Xiao Fa thinks he would say that he has a path to swift resolution. Of those contending for the space, he cares most about the people who live in it, and being minimally disruptive to their lives. Does Xiao Fa support his plan? He does, and he trusts Cai Wen's intent, as well. Sister Aiyu also notes that while they have not discussed Xiao Fa's issues with Eldest Brother, it will cause difficulties. Is Xiao Fa willing to support her through that? He is.
Both Cai Wen and a representative of Gyong River are to speak; the latter goes first, and makes a stirring speech about how conflict over the Tanzhe comes and goes, but recently, they had a great breakthrough: the land was transferred from the Forest of Chin to the Plains of Honor without war.
- "For that brief moment we were united in our vision of peace and honor between both sides. Until this treachery, and a bloody invasion."
Cai Wen's points are more practical.
- The only way that the current war can end today is if the Arcade wins.
- Unlike many who have come, Cai Wen and his house do not believe that anything is forever. If the Council advised his house to leave, should their presence be a disaster, we would leave.
- The immediate plans of the house are to protect and nurture the prosperity of the land, and their ultimate plan is to change the nature of things to make the place's nature one of peace and prosperity rather than constant strife.
The speeches sway a few towards the Plains, but a few more towards the Arcade, so the council will accept the new conquerors.
Quite a lot of time has been taken in talking to monks of one stripe or the other, so the plan to rescue Lin Fortune devolves into "give Kasumi two Talismans and throw her at the problem". Putting both the Serpent Talisman and the Monkey Talisman in the Cartogramancer's bandolier, it begins to heat up alarmingly.
Twenty-nine successes can get her pretty much wherever she wants in the army camp. She finds Fortune and the other scout, who is unconscious but not dying, in a standard prisoner cage. Private Zheng is on a cot in a tent, but surrounded by guards.
She sneaks Fortune a healing potion and a note saying "Can you carry him? Wait for the distraction." He eats the note, and surreptitiously gives Private Kim the potion. Kasumi unlocks the cage, and sets some fireworks to go off around the tent, before heading to the tent with Private Zheng.
The fireworks start going off, and Kasumi runs out with Private Zheng, leaving Fortune and Kim to escape through the Dragon Army camp, under cover of fireworks.
Private Kim does manage to get out, as Lieutenant Fortune takes all the arrow fire to protect him.
Luckily, the Dragon Army is not currently inclined to leave their enemies bleeding to death, so he is tied to a cot while a doctor treats him. Kasumi sets the tent on fire and drops a smoke grenade inside, before managing to extract Fortune.
Takanata contemplates what Ezokin was up to, since no clues were found to his plan, and concludes that he didn't do anything during the run. Takanata pushes whatever his plan is one day further into the future, and calls it a day.
- chi nexi always roil