Zen Sinker Tour
|"Thank you! But our prince is in another castle!"|| The run begins just after the Day of the Grasping Spider in the month of Spider Rising in the first Year of the Spider since the Butterfly King was Poisoned.|
The run takes place in the Butterfly Kingdom and the Hon'eth Arcade.
It takes a little while for those scattered by Aku to return to the Butterfly Kingdom, but by mid-Spider, everyone has made it back. His Majesty Ti Lao is on the mend, and is beginning to make public appearances, though his strength is not what it was before his long illness. Ringmaster Te lets people know that the circus will be in rehearsal and maintenance during the off-season, and will not be traveling again for several months; spring is normally when it leaves. He urges those who plan to remain with the circus to work on their acts during the off-season. People are still welcome to gather at circus headquarters to practice, help out with the off season equipment mending, and drink tea.
Hiro, however, invites everyone over to the Tokai house as a more private headquarters for tea and gossip. While the party is chatting, Kuan-Xi calls upon them - she says that she has great news! Her new friend Li Merit introduced her to Ringmaster Te, and the Ringmaster agreed that she could hang out with everyone at the circus for a while. (She seems to be conflating "joining the circus" with "joining the helping-Anto part of the party", and it isn't yet clear to everyone what the continuing relationship with the circus will be.) She's also hoping to be introduced to someone named Cai-Wen, so Anto performs introductions all around. Kuan-Xi wants to chat in private with Cai Wen, and asks him to lunch. Anto looks worried and somewhat disapproving, but Cai Wen quickly takes her up on it before he can think of a reason to object. Hiro passes the Hunter's Map to Anto, and he sneaks after them to lunch to eavesdrop on their conversation.
As it turns out, Kuan-Xi is not actually interested in a date with Cai Wen, but is interested in his friend who works on the Ghost Ship. She and some friends of hers are interested in going somewhere that you need a really sneaky ship to get to, and she impresses Cai Wen with the importance of this. Also of the general importance of helping Anto if he needs help.
Satisfied with the conversation, Anto heads back to the Tokai house, while Cai Wen heads to the docks to see if the Moon's First Daughter (aka the Fog Ship) is docked. It is not. However, he does hear rumors at the docks that this is a bad time to be sailing, for it seems that half the ships on the sea are currently cursed! Really, any journeys by sea should just be put off until things calm down or go back to normal or something like that.
Those left behind at the Tokai house receive a message from Her Majesty to speak with her at their convenience. Hiro dashes off to tell Cai Wen about the summons, and then everyone proceeds to the Palace. They are shown into a waiting room with refreshments, and people are escorted in pairs to see the Queen.
Her Majesty expresses her gratitude to each of her visitors for their efforts both in retrieving the Tincture of Pure Respite, and their efforts to rescue His Majesty's spirit from the World Above. Now that they have returned, she has a gift for each of them as a small token of appreciation.
- A set of silks and tassels that can be knotted about the sword guard before drawing it.
- A shiny black dagger
- Xiao Fa
- an herb satchel
- A net arrow
- Cai Wen
- A pair of linked coins
- A book: Book of the Unseen
- A book: Book of the Remarkable Wanderer
- "Yoshi is going to love this!" -Lijuan
- "It's not for Yoshi, it's for you." -Ti Wren
- "But he's the one who cares!"
Master Deng is called in last, and by himself. Ti Wren explains that she is most grateful for his previous assistance, but that she has need of further assistance, and that of his friends, on another matter. As he may have heard, Ti Jun has not returned to the Butterfly Kingdom since the events of Ship of Gold. He has sent several letters assuring his parents that he is fine and learning about the world, but they would really prefer that he return home. She would like Master Deng to find him, and convey this message, which is the will of His Majesty. Zhi-Hao checks, delicately, to see if the mission is "capture the prince" or just "tell the prince" - she clarifies that they should escort him home, but they should not feel that they must "escort" him home. If a direct command and summons from his father is insufficient to bring him home, then she will be Most Disappointed. The most recent letter was received from the Port of Auspicious Voyage - he may not still be there, but it is a place to start.
Back in the snacks room, people are looking at each other's loot. Hiro is particularly enthusiastic about his book - incorporating elements of mad plans that the Remarkable Wanderer used into his own plans will make them more likely to succeed. Once Deng returns everyone retires back to Takanata's house, where Zhi-Hao asks Kuan-Xi to give them some discussion time. She heads back to her inn, letting them know where she's staying.
Zhi-Hao tells everyone about the mission the Queen would like them to go on, and finds that he has to provide similar clarifications: "The orders are for the prince, not for us to compel the prince." Xian notes that Ti Lao said he was looking for Ti Jun in the Tanzhe Plain when he was trapped in the spiderweb in the World Above. Those with more knowledge of the World Above note that the mapping of the World Above to the Material World is not exact, but borders do tend to matter. So the fact that he was looking in the Tanzhe Plain is probably relevant, but it is probably not possible to find a more precise location by figuring out where the border in the Dream World was.
Zhi-Hao briefly heads back to the palace to borrow some items of Ti Jun's that might be tracked later, and also is given 20 li to add to the party loot fund; then the group heads to the docks to book passage. There is some discussion about whether this is a Secret Mission like the last one was. Well, the fact that Ti Jun isn't in the Butterfly Kingdom is reasonably public knowledge. They can probably say that they're bringing a message to the Prince, though they should probably avoid saying that they're going to send him home because he's been running around without permission.
After some more discussion, it seems that bringing Kuan-Xi along is probably okay, given the not-very-secret nature of the mission; if Cai Wen does hook up with Kiri and the "ghost ship" it will be unfortunate if Kuan-Xi is back in the Butterfly Kingdom. Anto goes off to pass the invitation along.
- "She's a little power boost that follows me around." -Kurgan
- "Anto, you're such a romantic." -Eon
Kuan-Xi is intrigued by the idea of bringing a message to the Prince. That sounds important. Should she ask Zhi-Hao to let Anto do it instead? Anto looks alarmed, and assures her that that's not necessary - the group can share credit just fine, he doesn't need all of it. Before she leaves, she asks if she can leave her "little carriage" at the Tokai stable. People ask her how is it that she got her carriage here in the first place? She says she rode in it here when she escaped. Anto tries to get some more details on this, but she is busy keeping the identities of her "new friends" (who helped her against the bounty hunters) secret. Her carriage can travel from one place to another very quickly, but then it has to rest for as long as it would have taken to travel there normally. Since it was from one island to another, she isn't sure how long that will be, as that's not really normal. Hiro agrees to put the carriage in Takanata's stable.
Then, it's down to the docks to arrange for passage to the Port of Auspicious Voyage.
Choosing a Ship
There is some concern over Cai Wen's mention of cursed ships. Lijuan assures people that all the ships are cursed, so all of them are basically the same. Of the two ships scheduled to sail to the Port of Auspicious Voyage, the sailors on one claim to be cursed; the other ship claims to be fine, but will be leaving several days later. Hmm. Xiao Fa looks at the chi of the sailors, but is beginning to think that it is just a curse of all the sailors being incompetent and dropping things and leaving ropes untied.
Lijuan's street urchin friends tell her that "you can't get cursed if you stay awake" and Lijuan makes plans to stay awake for the three days of travel. Cai Wen deploys Xian to investigate - he chats up the sailors on the "cursed" ship. They're definitely unhappy, and have a tale of various things going wrong, food poisoning, and various accidents. The foresail just fell off! On previous voyages, the rudder broke, the steering wheel came unpinned...
- "The... ropey thing... came untied." -Mike
- "Halyard." -Heidi
- "They've been talking in nautical terms all their lives, but this sort of thing has never happened before." -Mike
They're hiring priests to do some sort of cleansing of the boats, but they aren't sure how effective that will be.
Where were the different ships on the New Year, anyway? The uncursed ship was in the Port of Auspicious Voyage as was the cursed ship. The uncursed sailors think that the sailors on the other ship don't know how to sail; they don't believe in curses. However, Xian is pretty sure that the sailors he's been talking to think that it's a curse. Maybe this is some sort of a battle between the Great Houses of the Arcade? Cai Wen thinks sorcerous curses are a little over the top for Arcade houses, but it isn't completely out of the question.
Anto thinks about what the best spirit is to propitiate for a good voyage. The Whale Spirit is one of the larger spirits of the ocean, but it isn't clear how you would call upon it. Lijuan buys a bag of dried shrimp, on the theory that whales might eat shrimp. Anto asks various fishermen about hunting whales - it turns out they are considered too large and scary and deep-diving to fish for, and quite possibly too large to eat.
The party disagrees about which ship to take - go earlier on the cursed ship or later on the noncursed ship? Some people are in favor of "earlier", and Anto likes the idea of saving people from the curse. Xian is the principal voice in favor of Not The Cursed Ship - he doesn't want to get food poisoning, or have the main mast fall on him. In the end, he is outvoted, and the party books passage on the cursed ship. Lo, they get a discount because of the curse.
Xiao Fa stocks his herb satchel with seasickness herbs, emetics, and staying-awake tea.
- "We're on a mission! Running away because bad things might happen is chickening out!" -Anto
- "That's the only reason to run away - because bad things might happen!" -Xian
Then, the ship sets sail. Lijuan and Xiao Fa both stay up all night; Anto and Hiro and Zhi-Hao take watches, while Xian and Cai Wen just sleep. While on watch, Anto notes that Cai Wen and Xian have had a change of heart, as they're both on deck for a while. In the morning, Xian discovers that some of his zhu are missing. The captain complains that his (magical) hat has been stolen - it was hanging in his cabin while he was sleeping. Hmm. Xian complains about having been (only partially) robbed. Lijuan convinces Ho to try to track the hat - Ho snuffles around the captain's hatstand, into Cai Wen's cabin, and to the open porthole. He growls at Cai Wen until Lijuan shushes him.
Anto asks if Cai Wen noticed anything while he was up in the middle of the night. Cai Wen denies having gotten up, as does Xian. Hiro confirms that he saw the two of them as well, though Lijuan didn't.
- "Okay, this is more mysterious." -Anto
People examine the porthole for slime or claw marks or other mysterious spoor, but there isn't anything to be seen. Nor is the hat caught on a twig growing out of the side of the boat, much to Lijuan's disappointment. What has happened is very puzzling, except to Ho, who keeps growling.
- "You think Cai Wen stole the hat?" -Xian
- '"Woof woof woof woof!"
Wait - maybe this isn't really Cai Wen, but an imposter! The Hunter's Map is quickly checked, but the real Cai Wen (or, at least, the Cai Wen that the map points to) appears to be in the same place as Cai Wen. (Well, maybe he's a level up or down on the boat, since the map is only two-dimensional).
Xiao Fa looks at Cai Wen's chi to see if there are any anomalies.
- "Do you remember when you asked if this one could determine if someone was cursed, and this one said no? This one was mistaken. He may also be cursed." -Xiao Fa
- "Boy, I'm glad we didn't wait three days for the other ship! Can you imagine how tedious that would have been?" -Xian
Anto looks at Cai Wen to see if he has any bindings on him, curse or otherwise. It looks like he was bound last night, but the effect is fading now. The best way to unbind him is to get him off the ship, though.
- "We have a skiff..." -Anto
- "No no no no no no! We are not putting me in a skiff and letting me drift off into the sunset!" -Cai Wen
- "You should probably listen to Anto. He has good ideas." -Kuan-Xi
Lijuan spends the afternoon hanging over the railing tossing shrimp in the water and trying to call to whales. ("Here, whaley whaley whale!"). She does see a very large shadow pass underneath the boat, but it doesn't surface or become clear, or obviously gobble up the shrimp.
So... is the answer not to sleep at all? Or take shifts watching people as they sleep? The latter sounds more feasible, except to Lijuan, who is still keen on the "three all-nighters" plan. In the afternoon, Zhi-Hao and Anto and Xiao Fa all take naps, while Hiro hangs out nearby, reading his book.
After a while, Xiao Fa gets up and gives two li to Anto, who nods and gives him a thumbs-up, and then both of them go back to sleep. Hiro, puzzled, wakes everyone up. Now, Anto has 5 li instead of 368 zhu. He gives Xiao Fa his 2 li back, but now he has 3 li himself. Wait, where did the 68 zhu go? It's a strange rounding error curse!
- "The curse of the arbitrage demons..."' -Anto
In case it's relevant, people ask the captain what his hat did. With some persuasion, he admits that it let him know where all the sailors are on the boat. Now they can slack off and he won't be able to tell, he grumbles.
- "Now Lijuan looks for sailors who are slacking off. That will keep her awake!" -Heidi
So, the question is, whether there is something or someone on the ship causing the curse - maybe a power source of some sort? Anto and Lijuan starts searching the ship. Cai Wen leaps in to assist Anto, as does Kuan-Xi, so Xian partners with Lijuan, and finds a secret hold with heavy golden cloth. He wonders if this is the same color that Kuan-Xi wears, in case that's significant. It's a more sumptuous fabric than she normally wears, he thinks, but it's a color that would look good on her and she has been seen in a golden silk dress.
As the others search, Cai Wen spots Anto untying a rope fastened to the anchor, as they progress through one of the holds. Cai Wen points this out, and finds a sailor who can come and fix it.
- "The sailor comes in and BINDS THE ANCHOR." -Mike
- "Oh, this has nothing to do with the curse, then!" -Cai Wen
Cai Wen checks around, but can't find anything else that Anto has put wrong.
Meanwhile, Xian asks Kuan-Xi about the golden silk. Does that color have special significance? She admits to liking gold, but isn't sure why it's relevant. Xian explains about the stash of silk.
- "The captain either knows about it or wants to know about it, so we should probably tell him." -Xian
Kuan-Xi agrees - Anto should tell the captain, since either it's the captain's private stash and it's been found, or someone is smuggling on his ship.
Xiao Fa examines the feng shui of the ship, and, as is no surprise at this point, determines that it's cursed. He starts wandering in the direction of the hold with the golden cloth. Anto, worrying that he's sleepwalking and under the effects of the curse, tries to wake him up, and distracts him before he is sure where the source of the curse is. But - it's likely in the room somewhere.
The group fetches the captain, and points out the golden cloth. He says that he's not smuggling - his ship is licensed to carry cloth. It's his own stash rather than House merchandise, bought in the Port of Auspicious Voyage, but it's legal. Anto tries to convince him that the cloth is cursed, and Cai Wen helps. He grumbles that he wasn't able to sell it in the Butterfly Kingdom while he was there. Anto suggests putting the cloth in the skiff and towing it behind the ship, but the captain worries that it will be ruined by the water or overturn.
The captain thinks that ships from both the House of Resplendent Decoration (his) and the House of Enticing Vintage (their allies) have had ships cursed.
On deck, Hiro is nearly flattened by a falling boom, but he dodges out of the way in time. He tries to figure out what caused the accident, and spots a loose and dangling rope. No one is near the rope now, but there's a dog's tail going around the corner. Hiro chases after, and catches up to where Ho and Lijuan are. Lijuan claims not to have fallen asleep, but there are 20 more zhu in her pocket, and she does seem less tired after her two days of no sleep than she did before. Or maybe it was Ho - he's been napping all day.
That night, people sleep in shifts with others watching them. The captain puts the golden cloth in his cabin - he's not willing to throw it overboard, it's his retirement investment. The sleep-shifts keep any of the party from doing anything odd with money, but other sailors are still being affected by the curse. There are several more acts of sabotage, but the ship does in the end make it to the Port of Auspicious Voyage.
The captain wants to go to yell at the merchant who sold him the cursed cloth. Anto and Xian head off with him to try to moderate things if the merchant had no idea about the curse, and also to try to figure out if he did know about it.
Lijuan tips a local urchin to recommend a really good inn, and heads there. She asks for rooms for "eight people and two dogs", and is quoted a price of 50 zhu. She gives him 5 zhu to let her sleep in the stable until her friends arrive, but since she didn't mention where she was going, it may be a while.
- "Did Lijuan just go to get an inn by herself? This is why we can't bring her along without Yoshi." -Hiro
Cai Wen looks for a good quality inn, and finds what turns out to be the same inn. He asks for rooms for "eight people and one dog." The innkeeper wonders if he means two dogs? Oh, right, Anto has a dog too. He pays the 50 zhu and asks where Lijuan is. The innkeeper summons a young servant to go and wake Lijuan. The boy gasps at seeing Cai Wen, and goes off - not actually to wake Lijuan at all, as it turns out.
At the same time, Zhi-Hao, Hiro, and Xiao Fa wander around the city trying to pick up any word of Prince Ti Jun. Hiro considers - he was just in this situation recently, having run away from overly protective parents, so where would he go? The main thing is, the last time the group saw the Prince, he was in tael. So, he'd probably have taken a room in the best inn in town. The little group heads there, but all the talkers have been sent in other groups. Zhi-Hao goes for the straightforward approach and tells the innkeeper that he has a message for the Butterfly Prince. The innkeeper apologizes, but they have missed His Highness by about a week; he left to stay at another House. He clearly knows more, but is fishing for a tip. Zhi-Hao, having no skill in bribery and no successes, gives him 3 li, astounding the innkeeper. However, the main other thing that he knows is that Ti Jun went to stay with the House of Enticing Vintage.
Meanwhile, Anto, Xian, Kuan-Xi, and the captain have reached the merchant's building, and the captain bangs on the door until someone answers. He demands to speak to Kinoze, the merchant, right now! A grizzled old man comes out, and Xian realizes (spending a Yin) that the shape is a lie - it is actually Ezokin the Sorcerer.
- "Oh, fuck." -Xian
The captain argues with "Kinoze" about the cloth while the others whisper together. Xian insists that they don't want to provoke a fight now, as Ezokin can wipe the floor with the three of them. They pull the captain aside, and confound him with a claim that maybe the cloth isn't cursed after all, and that he doesn't need to return it. The captain is confused, but is persuaded to leave. Perhaps he should just sell it to someone else and try to not take too much of a loss.
- "Don't sell it to a nice person." -Xian
He thinks maybe he can unload it on the House of Gainful Protection, and heads that way. Kuan-Xi thinks maybe Anto should go and defeat Ezokin, but Xian impresses on her that Ezokin is an EEEEEEVIL SORCERER and significantly powerful. Well, all right, they should find the others. Though where they are, these three have no idea.
Back at the inn, Cai Wen, convinced that the servant boy went off to inform his favorite ninja clan that he's once more in the Port of Auspicious Voyage, arranges his bed to put pillows under the covers, and then goes out to the stables to watch his room while Lijuan continues to sleep. Zhi-Hao's group shows up, since Hiro has the Hunter's Map, and are puzzled to find Cai Wen in the stables rather than a nice bedroom.
- "We have rooms, but they come with ninja." -Cai Wen
Having no better lead, Xian, Anto, and Kuan-Xi look for good-ish inns.
- "Anto, can't you look for someone who needs help? No, you'd just find us." -Xian
Happily, this is the same method that got everyone else to this inn, so they do find the same place, and they check with the innkeeper to see if the others are there.
- "We're looking for our friends."
- "Eight people, two dogs?"
- "No, five people, one dog."
- "I meant, in total.
They head up to the rooms, see the pillows in the bed, decide it's Lijuan sleeping and that no one else is there, and head downstairs again. The group hiding in the stables sees the shadows go in and out of the room, but decide that ninjas would be stealthier than that and wave down the last three of the party.
Finally united, Xian tells the others about Ezokin, and Cai Wen tells them that he remembers now, this is the city where ninja try to kill him. Perhaps the thing to do is to not be in the inn tonight. They all sneak away as carefully as possible, watching for ninja.
Pursuit of Targets
Then, everyone heads to the local compound of the House of Enticing Vintage. They tell the servant at the door that they are here to see Prince Ti Jun, as they believe that he is in residence. The butler says he is sure that they are mistaken, and does not know who such a personage might be, but he will fetch his master.
The group is shown to a small anteroom. Servants enter with food and tea, and then stand, watchful, along the walls. Lord Miyato enters, and Master Deng introduces himself.
- "Either this gets us past him [to see Ti Jun] or he's evil." -Zhi-Hao
Lord Miyato apologizes: the Prince is not in fact here, but he will take a message for Ti Jun when he returns. Zhi-Hao says that's okay, they will wait for him. Lord Miyato is a little taken aback, but recovers and offers them the hospitality of the house for a few weeks until His Highness may return. Oh, he is not simply out for the evening? No, after he helped them with a particular matter, he left, to the best of Lord Miyato's knowledge, to the City of Spires.
Xian and Cai Wen consider this with as much suspicion as they can bring to bear, but it does seem that Lord Miyato believes Zhi-Hao is who he says he is, and doesn't seem to have a reason to lie about Ti Jun being gone, or where he went.
How did Prince Ti Jun assist the House, Zhi-Hao enquires? Lord Miyato says that those are internal house matters. Would these house matters have anything to do with the problems that their ships are having? No, that would probably be the counterstrike to the maneuvers that Ti Jun assisted with. The counterstrike is having some... supernatural effects on their ships. Lord Miyato clearly believes that the supernatural is an inappropriate thing to involve itself in trade.
He says that priests are cleansing the ships, but that seems to just reduce the difficulties that they encounter, not eliminate them. Ah - the party can tell him more about this. The sorcerer who is causing them trouble is known as Ezokin, and he is currently in the House of Resplendent Decoration. That briefly causes Lord Miyato to be appalled, but Lijuan quickly interjects that he's in disguise, and they don't know it's him. Oh, that makes more sense. He's in disguise as a cloth merchant named Kinoze. Wait, no, Lord Miyato says that Kinoze is a wine merchant, not a cloth merchant. No, Kinoze isn't either, he's Ezokin, Xian points out.
- "Kinoze? Wait, is that an anagram?" -Anto
- "Of course it's an anagram! He's an evil sorcerer and needs to leave stupid clues everywhere!" -Xian
The group offers to help Lord Miyato deal with Ezokin. And, they figure, if they work together with the House of Enticing Vintage, they'll end up owed more favors.
- "It'll be like a buddy movie!"
- "...and two dogs!"
As far as favors go, the House of Enticing Vintage can give them a bunch of soldiers to help, or can give them a favor to drive him off without help.
- "We don't need their goons. What we do need is a Mad Plan to ambush him with talking fish." -Hiro
Driving him off is probably the best they can hope for, but Zhi-Hao would rather that he be gotten rid of forever and ever; can the locals deal with that, or will he escape? Or, should they just kill him?
- "The first step either way is to hit him as hard as possible." -Anto
Xian insists that the thing about only sorcerers being able to defeat sorcerers is a children's tale, so surely they can defeat him.
The group plots their ambush. Setting a cart on fire is a good plan from the Book of the Remarkable Wanderer, so they get the House of Enticing Vintage to ask for a shipment of wine and brandy to be delivered, so he will have to take a cart. They can hide along the path he will definitely have to take, and can prep the street with pitch to set it on fire when torches are thrown. Perhaps an ice chip of doom can be worked into the plan as well? Though then anyone fighting Ezokin will get frozen too.
Two carts are "borrowed" from the marketplace, and put in alleys so that they can be pushed out (two people each) to block Ezokin's cart fore and aft. Others perch on the roof, or ready to leap in from an alley.
A vintner's cart comes along, and Xian confirms that it's Ezokin. Anto tries to grab him with his chain, but Ezokin's staff blocks much of the grab. Zhi-Hao chops him.
- "I do 37 damage."
- "Are you in zhu or li?"
As it turns out, damage to Ezokin must be paid for or it will not go through - 1 zhu per point of damage, or rounding up to a li.
There is much Getting, and the cart is set on fire. Ezokin would probably flee, but he sees the hated Deng Zhi-Hao, slayer of his magpie familiar, standing right beside him. Much to Ezokin's displeasure, Zhi-Hao has no magic items to destroy, so Ezokin shapes his fingers into sharp talons and slices at him. (This damage can be blocked at a cost of 5 hit points per li.)
Then, ninja leap out through nearby windows. Cai Wen gives all his interesting loot to his ferret, and tells the creature to hide.
Anto, experimentally, drops his purse before hitting Ezokin. Unfortunately, those who are penniless cannot harm him, but it was a good thought. The heat of the burning cart starts causing the brandy to explode, spreading the flames. As they are his own property, they do not harm Ezokin himself.
- "We should have paid for the wine in advance." -Anto
Lijuan shoots her net-arrow at him, and tells him that it's not too late to turn to good! His cane blocks much of that entangle as well. He's not going to be leaving that square, but he can still attack those near him.
Meanwhile, the ninja surround Cai-Wen, who surrenders, baffling them. They give Xiao Fa an action to see if he's going to make trouble, but he doesn't. They tie Cai Wen up.
- "Hey! Let him go!" -Lijuan
- "And turn to good!" -Anto
Ezokin continues to try to kill Zhi-Hao, who returns the sentiment. Xiao Fa does his best to keep Zhi-Hao standing. The wine explodes further. Sadly, once Ezokin has taken a bit too much damage, he declares "You may have driven me off now, but I will not be defeated!" He turns into an invisible magpie, and flees, though he drops his cane in the process.
Cai Wen does his best to drag his feet, but the ninja are starting to escape, and pull him up onto a roof. Xian shouts at one of the ninja:
- "You are incredibly dangerous and have defeated us so easily, but if you don't defeat the rest of us, you will wreak the vengeance of... death baddy badness."
- "Okay, you can roll, but you don't get any style points for that." -Mike
But actually, Xian is trying to sway the emotions of the ninja into overconfidence - if he thinks that they're all idiots, he'll think it's easy enough to just finish them all off. So sounding like a goof actually helps with that. The ninja decides to fight them, so the group of them stop trying to drag Cai Wen away for the moment.
Zhi-Hao starts chopping the ninja, but this means several of them turn their attention to him in return. The other ninja attack whoever is convenient. Ninja start falling, but so does Kuan-Xi.
The fire continues to spread, to the two nearby carts. Xian realizes in horror that one of the carts has beautiful cabbages in it, and tries to push it out of the fire; alas, he is not strong enough to do so by himself.
Xiao Fa heals Kuan-Xi, and she tosses one of Anto's ice chips in the fire. This freezes two more ninja, as well as the cabbage cart. Lijuan and Zhi-Hao take out the last ninja standing; as he dies, he says, "Our clan will keep hunting Cai Wen until our honor is restored!"
The cabbage merchant arrives, with the traditional cry of "My Cabbages!" In addition to his cabbages and two ninja, Lijuan's net arrow is trapped in the ice block.
The party explains: "Ninjas attacked us and set this cart on fire! We stopped them with this ice!" They also explain that the ice can be melted with sea water. Cai Wen persuades guards it was all the ninjas' fault. The city guards will take them into custody, once the fire brigade has melted out the last two. Anto tries to get some new ice chips in the fire-brigade melting, but they continue to melt and he is unable to pocket any.
In the end, the party gets a favor from the House of Enticing Vintage; the House of Resplendent Decoration is favorably inclined, but does not issue an Official Favor. And, the group has Ezokin's Cane of Free Action, as well.
Cai Wen manages to get something of an explanation out of the ninja. They're not a very large clan, and their honor was compromised when their master (their only third-level ninja) was imprisoned after the fight with Cai Wen. They want to capture him and trade him for their master, to restore their honor.
- "I'm afraid I can find nothing graceful to say, so I bid you adieu." -Cai Wen
- Xiao Fa talks to Ringmaster Te about a new act.
- Cai Wen, Wei Han, and Hana visit the Hidden Orchid.
- Hiro, Hana, and Kasumi head off to the High Warlord Ze's court.
- Lijuan "borrows" some of Takanata's used shoes and boots from the butler.
- Takanata visits Wanakaru, and also Their Majesties.
- Min Feng talks to her patron about this secret conspiracy that she hears she's in.
- Li Merit does some experimentation with Ice Chips of Doom.
- Cai Wen takes Kuan-Xi out to dinner.