The Great Protector

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"The country is in ruins, and there are still mountains and rivers." The run takes place in the early First Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.

The run takes place in the northern Arcade.

Previous Run


Contents

A Missing Town

The party meets up in Tahiti, still south of the Northern invaders. Xiao Fa assigns Kasumi some homework, as her “Sankara stones are great” psych lim is getting a little disturbing.

Lijuan draws some art, and Takanata (crashing the run) finds he has some as well.

Gate-of-shen.PNG Crash-art.JPG

Merit (not in the run) sends a quick briefing on the Gate of Shen. He hasn't been paying a lot of attention to it for a while, but as of before the invasion, Ezokin had managed to get the "art nonsense" down to a small art enclave, and the gate is running moneymancy again. The town council is still Captain Shan, the Gao sisters, Merit, and honorary town councilman Lord Nikoze. Merit abstains on everything since he's not there, and Nikoze doesn't have an official vote, but funds various public works in order to sway the council for things he wants, and the town has been growing. But then, the North invaded, and who knows what happened.

Kasumi briefs everyone on the last run, and the fact that there is a scoreboard now (according to Cai Wen).

N What Score Second Score
1
2
3
4
5 Encounter at Farpoint 5 of 5 Empire 4/1 Wolf/Magpie
6 Daizhou 3 of 5 Empire 2/2/2 Wolf/Magpie/Monkey
7
8 Gate of Shen difficult
9
10
11
12
13

So (she concludes), "something something Gate of Shen". Oh, and also (for those who haven't heard), Yanyu is a werewolf, as of when she died. Xiao Fa boggles. Min Feng wonders where Ezokin is, but doesn't seem to be able to find him. Hmm.

The group rides northwards to the front. There are soldiers from the House of Gainful Protection, who strongly caution them against going into the "disputed areas", but the party ignores them and proceeds on, attempting to ride sneakily. Riding sneakily proves difficult, and Takanata keeps coughing and causing Northerners to nearly notice them.

As they approach the border with the Steppes, the last of the patrols that they avoid is the Dragon Army instead of the Northerners. As they continue, Master Deng notes that he is pretty sure that they should have passed some farmhouses from the Gate of Shen, but there haven't been any. Not that there are burned out ruins or anything like that - just nothing.

Xiao Fa finds the chi in the area oddly peaceful, and when he meditates, he thinks that the chi is that of THE EMPIRE, as if Dragon just founded it. In fact, it's becoming less perfect even as he watches, because of the presence of the party. They head towards where the center of town should be, and this time they're sufficiently non-sneaky that they are surrounded by the Dragon Army.

Takanata draws on his status, and the warrant from the Lord of Benevolent Oversight. The patrol commander says that they can go back and report to the King of the Arcade that it is all under control, as this is a Dragon Army operation rather than a local operation. Takanata says that they were sent to investigate the Gate of Shen, and the patrol commander says that as soon as they have finished clearing it out, they can investigate.

Min Feng notes that she's a naval commander in the Dragon Army Navy. It's not clear what the Navy is doing here, but that's sufficient to get the interaction escalated to the local commander - Wong Fu Shen, attache to the Obsidian Warlord. The soldier is about Wei Han's size, and just as stony-faced. Oddly, though the army battalion is located where the Gate of Shen should be, the whole town continues to be not there.

Commander Wong says that the Gate of Shen has been taken, and to the best of their knowledge, it is the location of the Beastmaster of Men. The Dragon Army is planning to move in shortly, and cannot have interference, exuberant or no, with their mission. Min Feng claims that the party is experts in infiltrating missing towns, and has several chi masters, so perhaps they can help. Well, then, how would they infiltrate it? The group dodges the question by asking for more information. How is it known that the Beastmaster of Men is there? Four soldiers from the last sortie got out, and their intelligence suggests that.

The group heads to the medical tent - there are two soldiers in cots, and two sitting in chairs. The soldiers in cots look, to Xiao Fa, like people who had a lot of corruption points that were remotely detonated. They explain what happened - their strike team threw money in the basket and ran through the gate, and three of them went down immediately. Then they were surrounded by people - clearly mind controlled Empire citizens - who had appeared out of nowhere, who threatened to bring them to the "Great Protector" who would see to their fates. There was a lot of fighting at that point, and they got two of the fallen guys back through the gate, but the last two members of the squad didn't make it back.

The soldiers clarify the part about throwing money in the basket - the town was only there after they paid the money. There used to be a guy who explained the various rates of how much you have to pay, but he got killed in a prior skirmish. So they just dropped six tael in the basket and ran in. Given this, the party thinks it's likely that the Great Protector is actually Ezokin, not the Beastmaster of Men.

The group proceeds to the Gate - it is in fact the stone gate that is normally in the middle of the town, but there is no town surrounding it. There is a lot of Dragon Army surrounding it, though, and they are warned to not get too close.

"Is the chi here IMPERIAL because of the Dragon Army, or because of something with the Gate?" -Wei Han
"You have the tools to figure that out." -Xiao Fa

Wei Han rolls the Tao that can be Seen, and sees that the more the soldiers stomp around, the less IMPERIAL it gets. He can also see the border between Arcade-like chi and Steppes-like chi, as expected.

Min Feng overhears that the attache is waiting for the authorization to blow the gate and take the town. That doesn't sound good. She and Xiao Fa and Deng troop back to the commander, and warn him that it is not beastmastery, as far as Xiao Fa can tell. They agree to go through the gate and investigate and then come back. Xiao Fa also explains that the chi is IMPERIAL, not Northern. Well, the attache thinks that's an interesting theory, but if it's not northern, then the alternative is that it's a town in rebellion during time of war, as they have attacked the Dragon Army.

Takanata wanders near the gate, and sees a vision of the past. Rather than show how much money to put in, he sees a number of people doing a complicated ritual; part of it involves throwing money at the gate, and part involves water, and it ends with "Let the Lost Empire come forth". The more he thinks about the ritual, the weirder it seems. It was a full Grand ritual, but the only element was water. It was almost as if Phoenix wasn't involved. Maybe it was Whale, instead? Hmm.

"This would not be the first time Whale has disappeared a city." -Min Feng

Kuan-Xi agrees that that sounds unusual - since Phoenix is in charge of sorcery, how could you have a ritual with no Phoenix at all? Perhaps another Great Spirit is helping. Others recall that Three Piers, off of Whale's Ocean, is part of the "Lost Empire". So Whale being involved somehow does seem likely.

Inside

Kasumi loans Kuan-Xi and Xiao Fa a tael each, and then everyone in the party throws a tael in the basket, and heads through the Gate. Both Kasumi and Deng have corrupted shticks, and Kasumi has a Sankara stone, so both of them take a lot of damage and are at substantial disadvantages. A gate guard spots that they have been staggered by the gate, and shouts "Beastmastery!" and a lot of people start running over.

Xiao Fa does his best to persuade the incoming mob that they aren't beastmastered, and a nearby magpie starts looking at everyone. It caws once about Kasumi, but then spots Deng and sets up a clamor of cawing, and a lot of magpies fly over.

The gate guard demands that Deng and Kasumi hand over their weapons. Deng is really not willing to do so, and it looks like a fight might break out despite Xiao Fa's best efforts. Wei Han offers to hold their weapons for them, but that doesn't seem like a good compromise to the gate guard, given that Wei Han is their friend and not his.

Xiao Fa finally persuades Deng to give the guard his weapons (Kasumi broke her best katana in Daizhou, so she is less worried about it), and the group heads to Town Hall, where they are introduced to Lord Nikoze of the town council.

"Honorary." -Kasumi
"That was last week." -Lord Nikoze

So... where is Li Merit? The group admits he isn't here today. Lord Nikoze is contemptuous - he still hasn't bothered to show up? Li Merit is not the point - the point is that Ezokin didn't tell the Dragon Army about his little plan to hide the Gate of Shen, and attacked Dragon Army soldiers, so they're going to storm the town. The Lord of Benevolent Oversight sent the group to help out. Lord Nikoze says he'll write a letter saying that the Gate of Shen is under the direct protection of the House of Benevolent Oversight. That might help. Also, finding the missing soldiers and sending them home might help too. Captain Shan whispers to them that there has been some sabotage and assassination attempts in the town recently, which they think is probably the renegade soldiers.

Kasumi asks Kuan-Xi, deliberately loudly, what the party's fee for this service is. Kuan-Xi thinks getting into a negotiation about money with Ezokin is probably not the best idea, so she suggests that the fee should be to return the Dragon Army soldiers. Lord Kinoze points out, somewhat crossly, that they don't have any Dragon Army soldiers to return.

Takanata changes the subject, and notes that the gatekeeper was killed. What are the rules on entry? Lord Kinoze says that Imperial currency is required, and the entry fee is 2 * (level^2) in li. Takana also suggests that Lord Kinoze mention in the letter that the Gate of Shen can take refugees. Kinoze notes that they will only take uncorrupt refugees, and no, he doesn't have the ability to give a gatekeeper the ability to detect or cure corruption.

"This is all very impressive." -Lijuan
"I am glad someone noticed." -Lord Kinoze
"Where is Renyu, by the way?" -Kuan-Xi
"He isn't here. Why would he be here?" -Kinoze
"Whale magic." -Kuan-Xi
"Ah. Kiri helped." -Kinoze

People complain that it's not polite to blow people up just because they have corruption points. Look at what happened to Deng! He's still down dice!

Kinoze, cross again, points out that there is a difference between "corruption points" and "Northern shticks". Do they know how dangerous Deng is? Deng bows to Kinoze - he considers their history over and done with. Kinoze is glad to hear it, though he doesn't look entirely convinced.

"So - your contribution to the war with the North is going to be hiding somewhere safe?" -Kuan-Xi
"I AM PROTECTING AN ENTIRE FRICKING TOWN BY MYSELF. " -Kinoze
"Can we tone down the poking Ezokin? I don't think it's helping." -Xiao Fa

Takanata suggests some other political tidbits to put in the letter, along with refugees. Such as "not being in rebellion." That would probably be helpful too. Perhaps someone could go to the gate to talk to the Dragon Army attache after the attache pays a tael.

Lijuan, bored with the political discussions, wanders off, and meets the Gate of Shen urchins. It turns out that they are mostly part of the glorious resistance that the Dragon Army soldier has put together, and they will be having a party in front of Town Hall soon. Lijuan declares herself part of the glorious resistance as well, and says she will return with other comrades (such as Xiao Fa).

Xiao Fa looks at the urchin with some chi sight - yeah, there's a little bit of influence mojo there, but it's all coming from Lijuan.

Wei Han and Min Feng wander around the town looking for the Dragon Army soldiers and remarking loudly but it would be nice if someone contacts with them. Unfortunately, no soldiers pop out of the woodwork. Min Feng talks to a lot of people, but they're all town residents and recent refugees, who think Nikoze is awesome. People do mention that there is a bunch of stuff going wrong, like forge fires going out and grain reserves catching fire. So it seems like the soldier is working on sabotage, rather than trying to recruit "mind-controlled" locals.

Wei Han leaves some Dragon Army infantry symbols around; when he returns to one of them, a note has been left.

We dare not meet as either one of us could be a beastmastered pawn, but if you want to help liberate the town, there is a weapon storage facility near the gate - that's where you should start.

Wei Han decides to not liberate the weapon storage facility at this time, leaves a note of his own:

Whether or not you believe it, I am not beastmastered. The Beastmaster of Men is still north of the Wall. I will get you back to your commander.

Kasumi and Takanata go out again through the gate with a harmonious and non-combat-provoking arrangement of flowers and the letter from Lord Nikoze. As they could be beastmastered at this point, they are quickly taken prisoner and their weapons taken. As they are brought to the army attache, they see barrels of black powder being stacked around the gate.

The newest members of the glorious resistance, Lijuan and Xiao Fa, get told to go to the party in the south courtyard at the second bell. The group tries to decide what to do with the party - it's clearly going to be some sort of trouble, but chopping urchins is no good. Could they turn it into a parade? Move it to elsewhere in the town? It's a little hard to relocate a flash mob without knowing who is in it.

Wei Han starts following his nose for trouble, hoping to find the soldier, but ending up outside Town Hall.

Combat Time

The urchin flash mob gathers in the plaza to the south of Town Hall. About a third of them have heard the advertisements that there will be a parade and are excited about the parade. The other two-thirds have not heard about in the parade and are just here for the party. Lijuan shouts that it is time to start the parade, and starts throwing pork buns to any of the kids who are parading. Kuan-Xi helps persuade people to come along with some oratory.

"Oh no! She's beastmastering the kids!"

Wei Han, near Town Hall, looks for soldiers disguised as non-soldiers, and Deng tries to sense weapons, but if there are any nearby they're a little too far to tell where.

Meanwhile, inside town hall, Min Feng is hanging out with Lord Nikoze when there's a crash of broken glass as a Dragon Army soldier jumps through the window. Min Feng tries to convince him to stand down, but his ears are actually stopped with wax, to prevent the Beastmaster of Men from being able to convince him of anything. Min Feng shouts, and Deng and Wei Han run in from the steps outside. Unfortunately, at this point Lord Nikoze has been spooked by the soldier, and runs outside, where the sniper in a nearby tree takes a shot at him. Wei Han jumps in the way, but is poisoned. Kuan-Xi tries to block the sniper's arrow with a wall of ice, while Deng fights the soldier inside, and Wei Han shoves Nikoze back into Town Hall again.

"That's not beastmastery, that's pork buns! Go defend Nikoze, he's over here" -Xiao Fa

Min Feng starts writing notes to try to get through to the warrior, while Kuan-Xi water-blasts the sniper in the tree. Unfortunately, he is tied to the tree, so the knockback causes the tree to fling itself back and forth, splatting him against the ground. Xiao Fa heads in his direction, as this doesn't look good.

Inside, Deng disarms the warrior, and points at Min Feng's note, and then cuts the tension by taking Lord Nikoze prisoner while things get discussed.

Wei Han starts taking poison damage whenever he moves. Xiao Fa climbs into the tree with the archer and discovers that he was tied to the tree because he was seriously injured from he earlier encounter with the Gate, and his legs were not usable. So when he took the damage from the tree, he went down hard. Appalled, Xiao Fa does all he can for the archer, and keeps him from dying. Unfortunately, neither the archer nor the warrior has the antidote for the poison - the medic did, but he was one of the ones who got out.

Min Feng starts talking to smooth things over between the Dragon Army warrior and Lord Nikoze, but neither is impressed with the life choices the other has made. Nevertheless, it is finally agreed that nobody is beastmastered, and that the party can leave with the soldiers.

Meanwhile, back outside the Gate of Shen, Wong Fu Shen sends off a note to the Obsidian Warlord describing the letter from Lord Nikoze and asking for further orders. Moments later, another note returns - it has clearly crossed paths with the first messenger - authorizing the attache to blow the gate. He looks worried, as the orders are clearly a little outdated, but disobeying them is not acceptable, but then shrugs. They can just rebuild the gate again if it was a mistake. He starts to give the order to light the explosive barrels stacked around the gate, when Takanata summons an earthquake, stunning everyone for a round, and then invokes Impressive.

"Wait for the next note." -Takanata

This is when the party emerges from the gate, Dragon Army folks in tow. After some waiting, the second set of orders arrives, retracting the command to blow up the gate. The army accepts the status of the Gate of Shen, and will use little kids (0-level kids only pay a zhu to enter) as messengers.

Glass and Clay

The party returns to the Arcade Prince to brief him on the Gate of Shen. The Prince is intrigued to learn that Lord Nikoze is a sorcerer, and will put this all in his notes.

So, what is the next task?

"The House of Ornamental Vessels and the House of Transparent Purity are fighting, Eliminate the conflict."

Hmm. People consult their memories for what they can recall about these two houses. The House of Ornamental Vessels recently invented the ultra-shiny "yin-yang metal" which they have been using in some cases for decorative weapons. The House of Transparent Purity doesn't seem to have been up to anything in particular recently. They are both minor houses, which means that their monopoly is limited to one city. The House of Transparent Purity has a monopoly in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, and the House of Ornamental Vessels has a monopoly in the Port of Auspicious Voyage.

The group takes the little carriage to the Harbor, where Min Feng wanders around gathering information. The most interesting gossip is that the heirs to the two houses keep getting into duels.

The heir to the House of Transparent Purity is Master Doza, who everyone thinks is perfectly adequate. Every so often he goes to the PAV for a few days, and then a couple of days later there is a letter of formal challenge sent from the House of Ornamental Vessels, then he goes back and duels Mistress Lisan.

"We don't know they're in love - we just assume it because it's the Arcade, and they're behaving like ten year olds."

Off they go to the House of Transparent Purity, where Kuan-Xi presents her warrant. Master Doza says that the conflict has ended - he has delivered sufficient chastisement to the offending house and they will be pursuing the matter no further.

"You can tell His Benevolence that it's under control."
"There will be no return challenges?"
"Not from here. "

They try to find out what the actual problem is, but he turns bright red and doesn't say anything. Takanata offers to read hs I Ching, which, after a moment of consideration, he accepts.

Pawn in others' games.
His reflection is the same.
Power or happiness waits,
A short time will tell.

Takanata summarizes this to Master Doza as "a choice between power and happiness is soon to be resolved." He finds that interesting, but doesn't really know what to make of it. Takanata points out that the reading suggests that someone else is making the choice for him - does he know who that might be? Again, he turns bright red and shakes his head. Does he know who his reflection might be? He turns more red and shakes his head. This doesn't seem to be getting anywhere - clearly he knows something but he's unwilling to admit it even in the face of excellent listeners.

The group takes the carriage to the Port of Auspicious Voyage, and again brandishes the warrant in order to see Mistress Lisant. Everyone discusses yin-yang metal for a little while - she says that they have been working on interesting ways to use it, and while it is not the best suited for crafting for damage, it is good for charisma. She sells Master Deng a blade of +5 charisma for oratory. So, about Master Doza...? Mistress Lisant thinks he is insufferable and making a pest of himself.

"So he likes you and you don't like him?" -Kasumi

Min Feng thinks it's more complicated, and she's confused about her feelings about him, and tells her that she has a choice between power and happiness but she doesn't actually get to make it herself. This seems confusing - Mistress Lisant is happier talking about business, and sells some tea trays of negotation to both Xiao Fa and Min Feng.

What is the nature of the conflict with Transparent Purity? She turns red and shrugs, and seems unwilling to discuss it with the men in the room.

The group leaves again, stopping along the way to overhear things. The servants are discussing Mistress Lisant - they disapprove of the way she keeps leading Master Doza on, and then stabbing him. Apparently there was one time where she had to be physically restrained to keep her from running to the Harbor to meet him. Lijuan asks the local urchins, but they don't know much about this particular gossip. Wei Han goes to find the master of the arms house where the duel was held - he thinks that Mistress Lisant is better at the sword than Master Doza, but she's only won half of the duels because when she's really angry, she's off her game.

Min Feng tries to find out if Lisant's parents are trying to marry her to someone else for an alliance. Eventually they'll probably do that, but it would likely be someone else in the PPV, for political reasons.

Could it be the yin-yang metal doing this? That sounds like something that might cause a split personality, just from the name. Neither Deng nor Wei Han knows anything about the psychological effects of yin-yang metal, so Takanata and Kuan-Xi and Deng head to the City of Light to talk to Pai the Smith. She apparently has a new apprentice named Gi, a very buff young woman.

To Pai's surprise, they only want to ask about a "novel form of metal". She thinks it's very pretentious - it's basically just a chrome alloy. So... might it cause split personality in someone that was exposed to it? She thinks about this for a moment. Were someone young exposed to the smelting process, that would not be good for them. That probably wouldn't cause a split personality, though - it might manifest as dementia. But she also thinks it would be very unusual to have children working in a smelter. Still, this seems to make more sense as an explanation than anything else does, so they decide to run with it as a working hypothesis, and return to the Port to confer with everyone else.

Takanata draws some designs for tea sets, and he and Xiao Fa and Min Feng and Kasumi go back to visit Mistress Lisant to discuss the art.

"Given the quality of the art, I should charge you more, but since you're providing it, I guess I won't."

Xiao Fa scans her chi, and, much to his surprise, he sees not evidence of smelter-based brain damage, but a lot of magical remnants stemming from love potions and potions of rage. Neither is in effect right now, but they were definitely in effect recently. Well, that was unexpected.

Kuan-Xi thinks about where you might get  love potions and rage potions. Straight up love potions tend to be the domain of the House of Harmony.    Rage potions aren't all that common, but she thinks some of the alchemists that she has been talking to in the Illuminated Precincts might know something about them.   
Off they go, to visit the Creepy Cauldron.    They admit that they might be able to make some potions of rage if Kuan-Xi really needed them, but it would be pricey.    She uses her Good Listener shtick  on them to try and find out who they might have sold similar potions to in the past, but they really haven't made any lately.  Kasumi buys a 7d10 healing potion (50 li)  while  she's here, and Kuan-Xi talks to them about trading ultra-pure water for healing potions in the future.   While talking about it, it occurs to the alchemists that rage potions might be a side effect of trying to create a love potion and botching the ritual. 

Then, it's back to the Harbor to talk to Master Doza. Takanata, Xiao Fa, and Wei Han go to talk to him, since he seems to be embarrassed with women in the room. Takanata talks to him about telescopes, and commissions them to make a spyglass for him. Xiao Fa determines something interesting about him - he's detail oriented.

Wei Han asks if he would like Master Deng to give him some sword lessons. He looks uninterested, and thanks them for the generous offer, but he really is very busy. Well, if he's busy today, Wei Han says they'll come back tomorrow. He looks nonplussed.

Takanata checks his past, and sees a vision of dinner with the family, in which his grandmother clearly slips something into his soup, and shows him a small but surprisingly realistic portrait of Lisant. Hmm. What does Takanata know about Grandmother? When she was younger, she never really fit in to house operations because she wasn't staid and boring enough. In fact, she was once a well-known portrait artist.

Doza is still unwilling to talk to any of the women about this matter, so Xiao Fa is thrown under the bus. Doza is initially furious at the idea that Lisant has been love-potioning him (though that does explain a lot).

"If there were not a war on, I would make their house pay!"

Xiao Fa has to explain that no, it wasn't Lisant, it was actually Grandmother. Doza thinks that makes no sense, but given that she is from the PPV, and is currently out of town in running an errand to the PPV, there is some circumstantial evidence.

Then, the group carriages back down to the Port, where they find that Grandmother is in a tea house meeting with Lisant's grandfather (just as Deng has predicted). Takanata pulls status and crashes their tea meeting and confronts them with the plot.

However, rather than falling to pieces that their plot has been found out, they seem pleased to have someone appreciate what they are doing. Takanata tells them about the I Ching reading, and this seems to prove their point that power is within their grasp. So... the only difficulty is that they need better potions?

So... what is their actual plan? They want to know if they can count on Takanata's confidentiality.

"I should be clear that the House of Benevolent Oversight has asked us to resolve this tension between your houses." -Takanata
"Marvelous! This has come to the attention of the House of Benevolent Oversight? That means it's really working!"

Grandmother explains - most people don't realize this because it's subtle, but for historical reasons, the Arcade Hoses are very responsive to certain... forms of narrative. As an example, the great houses of Resplendent Decoration and Enticing Vintage have done amazingly well because of their whole "star-crossed lovers" thing. None of the minor houses have really leveraged that - until now.

The rage effect was unfortunate, but they were able to work with it. They expected the pair to be kept apart by their parents, because there is no political gain in trying to merge minor houses in different cities. However, they have a bigger plan than that as they want to merge to become a great house! As a benefit, the great house they would be able to form will have four Mil, which could be added to the war effort.

Takanata notes that there is the whole choice between happiness and power going on, but the grandparents don't seem to consider this a serious sticking point. Perhaps happiness is not their fate, but power does bring a certain satisfaction. They want to know if Takanata has a source for reliable love potions. He says he might be able to find something.

Takanata gets the birthdays of the two children from their grandparents and then he and the two Triad members head off to talk to Yanyu's mentor Hai Ling. It turns out that the grandparents have consulted with her already, and she advised that the pairing would not be good for the children but would be very good for the houses. She made a love potion while they were here and she now realizes that they watched her well enough for them to attempt to make it themselves. She's quite cross about that. Oh, and as an added bonus, most likely at least one of their children would be a Phoenix.

Takanata presses: the children would be unhappy? She says that they are not temperamentally well suited for each other as a love match. They could work together well, though. They are Magpie and Tortoise - nearly diametrically opposed, which is a strength in administration but not always in a family.

The women go to talk to Lisant. Like Doza, the realization that she has been being dosed with love potions explains a number of things. She's also quicker than Doza to pick up on the idea that it is her grandfather doing it.

"So I just have dose myself with a love potion and I'll be the ruler of a great house? That is not too large a price to pay."

The men go talk to Doza. So... his grandmother admitted it? She just wanted him to be happy? He seems to have interpreted the I Ching reading in the opposite direction. Xiao Fa explains that the match they were trying to make is good for the house and good for the war effort, even if it isn't very romantic. Unfortunately, he seems less excited at the idea of being the head of a great house. That sounds like a lot of work. He could probably do it, but then he'd never do anything else.

"Transparent Purity did not get where it is by aspiring to greatness."

He'll talk to Grandma, but he really didn't have daydreams of conquest. Xiao Fa thinks sometimes there are buses and someone needs to go under them.

The next day, when Grandma returns, they go off and talk. She comes back to report that her grandson is on board. Everyone looks at her suspiciously - can they hear him say that? He seems willing to admit to being on board, though rather grudgingly. He supposes that founding a great house provides its own satisfaction.

"It'll be fine. We'll be in love. For a while."

{{QQ|Aww. I just want to give him a hug.|Lijuan}

Takanata can get Hai Ling to provide a couple of love potions, though she does insist on her full fee, and she wants Takanata to use some curses to enforce that the grandparents don't try to make their own any more.

Min Feng thinks about what would make Doza actually happy. She thinks he would probably do okay on the administration side of things running a great house, but it's just not interesting. He needs something a little more like a puzzle with more complicated mechanics and maybe some intrigue. She hints that if he keeps the great house running, she can provide him with some very interesting side projects, but it doesn't sound like "secretly work for Min Feng" is quite the right sort of puzzle that he's looking for. Min Feng also warns him to watch for Lord Du

Finally, the group heads back to the Magpie Prince and tells him how that all turned out, but carefully avoids asking for another plot.