A Horse and His Boy
|"Choose a friend with the eyes of an old man, and a horse with the eyes of a young one."|| The run begins on the day of the Early Dog in the Month of the Tiger in the three hundred and forty-fifth Year of the Magpie since the forging of the First Blades of Deliverance.|
The run takes place principally in the city of Jabon, capital of the Savanna.
Naps in the Library
The circus travel people warn Ringmaster Zhu that the circus won't be able to get to Jabon by the Day of the Tiger, when the horse race is, (Plus the circus doesn't want to compete with the horse race), so Cai Wen designates Shuyan as the Deputy Ringmaster, and the rest of the party takes off for Jabon on fast horses. Well, except that they don't quite take off, because Xian seems to still be asleep. Merit goes to wake him up, and finds him holding the Horse talisman. Suspicious. He sends a runner back to the group waiting on horses to tell them Xian is asleep - the message is conveyed as "the trip is cancelled, and everyone should meet at Xian's wagon." Everyone hurries to Xian's wagon.
- "Silken Wings roustabouts -- seriously unreliable, yet highly effective."
Should they wake Xian up? Would it be bad to disturb him? Is he sleeping usefully?
- "He might learn something and then tell us."
- "Both of those are highly unlikely." -Merit
At Merit's direction Shen-Ji carries him to the library wagon (which will be going with them), and then Xian wakes up as Shen-Ji falls asleep, holding the horse talisman. Xian, happy to have a ride in a wagon instead of on a horse, starts reading Merit's books. Eventually, he is discovered when Shen-Ji doesn't return to ride his horse, and explains.
Xian says he had a dream, in which Horse made him a dramatic formal offer, in something much more impressive than Horse's usual cheery tone of voice. Perhaps Shen-Ji still hasn’t woken up because he is haggling.
- "Would you share in my power and glory and be my good doobie, blah blah, and then I stopped listening."
Merit hooks Shen-Ji's horse up to the cart and gets the group moving, finally. The group reaches Jabon much more quickly than expected, and Merit peeks in his library cart to find Shen-Ji reading a book about horses, and Xian reading a book about magic items.
- "A metal art sorcerer who learns fire will be Thomas the Tank Engine." -Cael
Shen-Ji explains - Horse offered him the same deal as Xian, but Shen-Ji listened to the words all the way through. Horse is offering him loots and favors to put him in the Cycle. Shen-Ji has said yes, but after some negotiation with Horse, he has a brief probationary period during which he can make sure the party is okay with it, after which he can renounce with no penalties if they aren’t. But he wants to make sure that this won't cause a problem. Xiao Fa points out that being "Horse's Guy" may make the relationship one more of allies than of the quid pro quo arrangement that seems to irritate people, and Xian wants to know what happens if he does think it's a problem. Does he get to say no? The group wanders into a discussion about doing distasteful things, or distasteful things that are advantageous, and what advantage an ethical person can take.
- "You can't just receive stolen goods and say, well, I didn't steal them." -Xian
Shen-Ji says he'll discuss it with the whole group after the horse race, and things can be sorted out then.
Arriving in Town
Cai Wen and Merit go to meet Lac Vinh, who briefs them on the current state of the horse race. There are six horses in the race - a couple of long shots dropped out - and a lot of the people Cai Wen invited have come, either for the race or for the gambling tournament. Lac Vinh is particularly impressed by Teva Blossom, a master gambler with shticks in being "prettier than your moll".
- Thousand Zhu
- Noodle Bun
- Revered Ancestor
- Lotus Eater
- Lost Emperor
- Returned from Beyond
The one thing that does need to get sorted out - Vinh wants to know what the weapons policy for the party will be. Old school, where everyone brings their own weapons? Or new school, where the party hosts provide weapons when needed - in which case they should be high quality, for a high quality party. Merit is appalled - why are weapons needed for the party? Why has nobody mentioned it to him before? Vinh explains that this is for the case in which duelling breaks out at the party, which is common. Merit continues to be appalled, and suspects someone has set him up somehow.
Shen-Ji goes to examine the horses in the main race - he determines that Noodle Bun is running under a false name, and someone is drugging Lotus Eater. His examination is interrupted by Takanata drawing some prophetic art:
Master Zhou thinks the image of Tiger attacking Horse is not quite literal - maybe Tiger attacking Horse's plans, or Tiger's minions attacking Horse's minions. Shen-Ji warns Horse, and Horse asks Shen-Ji to handle things for a bit while he goes off to... do something.
The group heads to Jabon's duelling quarter - where nobles and rich merchants send their sons to learn about duelling - and gets a briefing about honor duels. The old school way is to use your family's ancient weapons in an honor duel, bringing your family honor into it, and if your family happens to have a sword of slaying, well, then good for you. The new school thinks that your honor comes from your own skill and deeds, not your stuff. Anyhow, at a good party it is considered appropriate to provide a dueling ring, in case something gets out of hand - and at any decent party, it's going to. One can go old school without loss of honor, but if you go new school, provide good weapons, not cheap junk. And no ranged weapons, of course. The guy explaining this all to them, Master Tan, says he would be pleased to offer his services as Master of the Ring, to keep everything on the level, and Merit hires him.
Merit considers who is in town in the duelling plot - actually, there are tons of people, but the ones who seem most relevant to Merit are
- Dinh Thuy - the Hand on the Sword of All Clans (aka the King's Champion)
- Master Tan
- Yang Shen-Ji
- "Shen-Ji can't fight this guy... that's not going to work."
Master Tan notes that the extensive guest list suggests that the King will show up, so the King's guys will show up to verify the duelling ring. As far as "good" weapons go, +3 die weapons are certainly worthy. Merit sends Shen-Ji on a quick trip to Industrious Fruition to pick up matched pairs of +3 weapons, including cavalry sabres.
Friends and Relatives
Elsewhere, stable hands at the main stable come to Cai Wen and report that they have caught a horse thief. The young "thief" waves to Xiao Fa - it's Pho. But wait, why was he stealing horses? Pho explains enthusiastically. He had been having dreams about coming and talking to the horses, but then they stopped. So he thought maybe he wasn't doing the dreaming right any more? So he went to talk to the horses, and talked to a horse in the general stables, the one with the white fetlock, and it didn't answer and didn't answer and didn't answer, but finally the horse said that maybe Pho needed more time and experience and maturity. But when he was ready, the horse said he should go and talk to this other horse. Pho thought about it for a few minutes and decided that was enough time and he was ready, so he went to talk to the racing horse (Lost Emperor). The horse didn't want to talk to him with the other horses listening, so he was taking the horse out into the yard, when the guards grabbed him.
Takanata is intrigued by this talking to horses thing, and has Pho talk to his own horse - the horse wants apples. Hmm. Maybe Pho can only talk to horses that are descended from Horse? But what did Lost Emperor actually tell Pho? He says he's not supposed to talk about it to horses that aren't in the race. Whose horse is he, anyway? The group compiles the people who own the horses:
- Thousand Zhu: Chin Mei-sho, Master of Horse for Clan Jegal
- Noodle Bun: the Black Duke
- Revered Ancestor: Tokai Namokori, Master of Horse for Clan Seomun
- Lotus Eater: a horse breeding conglomerate of some kind - Shen-Ji's horse farm and an investor named Lucky Chang.
- Lost Emperor: Commander Sun, Dragon Army
- Returned from Beyond: Zhao Wu, Master of Horse for the Jade Taiga
Speaking of Tokai Namokori, Takanata decides it is time to call on his nephew. He explains that he has a birthday gift for His Majesty; Namokori says that the party would be an appropriate time for that. Well, it's... a wolf. Namokori is a little taken aback at that - an exotic caged tame wolf? Takanata says, instead, a loyal wolf. Namokori continues to be taken aback - an actual wolf? Well, it's not like that's illegal or anything, there's no real precedent for giving wolves to the King. Takanata says it was given to him by the Wolf, and Namokori says ah, he'll go talk to him to clarify his intentions. It is Takanata's turn to be stunned - he'll just... go and talk to the Wolf? Namokori nods. It was wise for Takanata to have left this in his hands - he'll just talk to Master Eto and sort things out. Oh. No, Takanata clarifies - not Eto the Wolf. The Wolf Spirit. The stunned ball is back in Namokori's court again. Is it... guaranteed safe and harmless for kings? No, it is not really safe and harmless, but it is loyal to the king and will not attack him or his family. Namokori has to accept that as about as good as it's going to get.
Cai Wen talks to Pho about getting him a smart horse. Pho is excited to be Cai Wen's horse-buying agent, and wants to know what their budget is. Cai Wen says a tael is probably good. Well, that won't afford the thousand-li horse, but it should get a good horse. Cai Wen writes Pho a letter saying he's an authorized horse-buying agent, lest the boy be arrested for obviously having stolen the tael. Pho goes off to find a good horse.
Cai Wen goes off in search of a moll, as he suspects there must be one in town, but he finds Teva Blossom instead, as she has moll-interfering abilities. He applauds her play, but asks if she could please turn it down - she claims it's natural. The two go out to dinner, and Cai Wen tells her about his history with Lucky Chang. She is intrigued - is Cai Wen gunning for him even now? She doesn't think Lucky Chang is directly going after Cai Wen, at least not at the moment, but he has some long range plan to "mess up some horse breeder guy". Cai Wen persuades her to have lunch with Lucky Chang tomorrow to find out more about what he's up to, and then meet Cai Wen for dinner to discuss it.
Meanwhile, Takanata and Merit call on the Black Duke, and offer him congratulations on having been created Duke. He says that he owes much of his ascent to Takanata and Min Feng and the others, and he is indeed grateful. Takanata wonders... why is he here, messing with the horse race? Well, he is somewhat concerned that if he does too many things, too close to home, too soon, he will find himself in one of the alliances of dukes, and he wishes to avoid that at present. So he's doing honor-bearing things for the Taiga, just not in the Taiga. But why is his horse running under a different name? Yuanjun is surprised by that - how did Takanata discover that? He admits that he heard it from a spirit. The Duke continues to be surprised - do the spirits care about things like horse races? In any event, a horse called "Noodle Bun" has been given long odds, but "Swift Wind of Destiny" might not have been so long a shot. If Takanata could refrain from mentioning that, he would appreciate it. (Nevertheless, as people discover things about the horses, their odds do change).
In the morning, Shen-Ji returns from Industrious Fruition - the pair of katanas he acquired is mismatched, but everything else is good. Merit hands the katanas off to Master Tan, who will arrange to find a better-matching +3 die katana.
Cai Wen lets Shen-Ji know that Lucky Chang is trying to mess with him somehow, but it isn't clear why. Maybe he's trying to thwart the Alchemist's possible recruit? Or because Shen-Ji messed up Ezokin, who was working with the Marked? Cai Wen, Shen-Ji, and Xiao Fa go down to the race stables to look at Lotus Eater. Xiao Fa thinks that Lotus Eater had been taking some sort of calming medication before now, but now he's in early withdrawal. By tomorrow, when the race happens, he'll probably be mean. Cai Wen tries to detective around to see if Lucky Chang left any coins in a saddlebag, or otherwise left a marker, but he concludes that Lucky Chang's involvement is more removed than that, and he has not been sneaking around the stable in the past day, but that whatever he's done, it's kind of a win/win situation for him no matter what happens.
Can Xiao Fa "turbo detox" the horse? Xiao Fa says that's more like re-toxing the horse, and whether it's bitey or listless and happy, both are bad for a racehorse.
Pho returns to talk to Cai Wen about his horse-shopping adventures. He's found a very underestimated horse, which he thinks is a real diamond in the rough. He'll be going back again to negotiate. Cai Wen wonders - how good a jockey is he? Well, he likes horses, and he's pretty good at riding them now, but he hasn't been in any real races. Is he good with particularly fractious horses? He thinks that's not too hard - you just talk to them and find out what they want.
- "Well, what if what they want is heroin?" -Cael
Perhaps they should have him take a practice ride, to see if he and Lotus Eater get along, but it might also be a little sketchy to suddenly pull your jockey from the race and put in a little kid.
Takanata and Merit go to talk to Commander Sun.
- "I trust this is about horse races, and not cataclysmic threats to the Empire." -Commander Sun
- "Well... no cataclysm this week."
Takanata briefs Commander Sun on the Southerners from last week, but assures him it's been dealt with. So... what's up with the Dragon Army horse? Commander Sun says that Lost Emperor is the champion horse of the Dragon Army, raised in the Savanna. The Obsidian Warlord even dropped by to give his blessing to the horse. This digresses into where the Obsidian Warlord is now, and where he has been; Commander Sun notes that while it's technically an army secret, the Obsidian Warlord, like most high-level commanders, can quickly visit his direct minions when he needs to.
- "He's left the Sea Lord to deal with the blockade." -Commander Sun
- "Oh, is the blockade still up? I had heard it was down." -Takanata, disingenuously
- "Oh. Had you heard that? As you know, I have been in the west recently, and I assume I will be briefed once I return. The Southern Island is technically part of my responsibility, but the Sea Lord was definitely in charge of the blockade while I was out of town."
Merit notes that there are people coming across the Southern Wall who are interested in trade - maybe there could be something done to allow that? Commander Sun says that's definitely illegal. Merit wonders - but what if the policy were to change? Commander Sun thinks that theory might suggest that sort of thing could be beneficial, but in practice it never really works out. He says he'll see them tomorrow, perhaps at the race but certainly later at the party.
At lunch, Cai Wen takes advantage of knowing that Teva Blossom is off with Lucky Chang, to wander through Jabon looking for his potential moll. The city is full of pretty women, like the Pearl of the Taiga, but then Cai Wen spots Willow arguing with a hotel clerk about her reservation. Her room appears to have been cancelled, so she might have to go home again, instead of staying to see the race. Cai Wen swoops in and invites her to come and stay with him.
- "What are you doing in town... as if I didn't know?" -Willow
- "I'm watching the awesome chaos unfold." -Cai Wen
- "And awesome it is."
Willow suggests having dinner to discuss things, but Cai Wen must admit that he already has a date for dinner. Willow frowns, and Cai Wen spends a karma to make sure Teva Blossom doesn't eject her from the city any further.
Master Zhou goes off to train Shen-Ji, and Xian and Xiao Fa retire to have a secret conversation.
Takanata, failing to find Xian around, goes to find the "dark sorceress" on his own. She says she's planning to take the measure of the Black Duke while she’s here. Takanata describes the encounter with the Shadow's minion. Chantou says she hadn't realized that the Shadow was such a big problem, but she will be looking into that and seeking Justice as well. Takanata checks - did she know the Shadow was a woman? She didn't know that. Takanata briefs her on the Shadow in general, and Chantou says that once the Pagoda has been fixed, she will have more resources. There is some discussion of whether Chochiro was included in Takanata's invitation to gather, but Chantou says she isn't related to this.
Pho returns with more news on his horse-buying. He says he screwed up, but it's brilliant - even he underestimated the horse! He's totally worth what they paid Lady Wing for him. She thinks she put one over on Pho, Pho thinks, but the horse is awesome. Cai Wen names the horse "Silent Tempest" - he's a "smart, underestimated horse", and once a run he can have whatever (horse-appropriate) adjective Cai Wen picks.
The group decides to test out Pho to see how good a jockey he is, telling him that if he does well, he can ride Lotus Eater in the BIG RACE. So he throws all his fortune in on the audition, much to people's chagrin. He does pretty well, though the horse is clearly somewhat cranky, and Pho says he wants the "good food". The group proffers tasty oats and carrots to the horse, but it's not impressed. Pho says he'll try to gain his confidence tonight. But what about Lost Emperor? Does he have Secret Knowledge that Pho could learn if they just get him away from the other horses? The party doesn't have permission to steal Lost Emperor (or all the other horses), but - could Xian convince Lost Emperor that all the other horses are gone?
- "No one else can possibly do this." -Merit, trying to buff Xian with flattery
But Xian doesn't speak Horse, which is a pretty big barrier to convincing anyone of something. The last time Xian tried to talk someone into something that he didn't speak the language of, he ended up spending a bunch of karma to get a haunted hoop. Wait... Xian has a hoop, haunted by a beastmaster. Which would probably let him speak Horse.
Cai Wen and Merit distract the stable hands and the guards, while Xian and his hoop talk to Lost Emperor. Lost Emperor wants to know what Xian's rank is - when Xian says he's not actually a soldier, the horse dismisses him as a bureaucrat, but Xian protests - he's actually a friend of the kid. Pho's report was... somewhat confusing, so Xian wanted to find out what was up. Lost Emperor notes that Pho will be going places, but not yet - he is marked by power, but it's probably best if the boy doesn't start out understanding the implications of that. Understanding is the path to truth. Pho may think he is ready, but that is a flaw of the young. Xian boggles a bit - this is the first horse he has encountered that appears to have "wise" as one of his adjectives.
- "So, why did the Dragon Army enter you in a race against non-military horses?" -Xian
- "I will hold up the honor of the Empire when I win." -Lost Emperor
- "What about the other honors, of clans and things?"
- "The honor of the parts is subsumed under the honor of the whole."
- "Are you racing for the honor of the Empire, or of the Dragon Army?"
- "Wheen properly run, they should be the same."
- "When duly executed authority speaks the will of the sovereign then it is for those under the sovereign to obey, and thus is the country preserved."
- "There is, at the current time, no properly identified sovereign."
- "The true sovereign exists; we just have to find him."
- "But until then, we cannot trust that everyone will carry out the will of the sovereign, despite their best efforts. And they won't find an Emperor before the race. So who are you racing for, the Dragon Empire or the Dragon Army?"
- "I perceive that it is my duty to race for both, on the idea that those interests are aligned, rather than race for one or the other, thus enforcing the idea that they are separate."
- "So, you would say that you are racing for that which is held in common between them?"
- "So... racing for the Dragon?"
Elsewhere, Xiao Fa feels a great disturbance in the chi, but cannot pinpoint it.
Lost Emperor agrees that Xian's phrasing would be one way to put it, but then notes that he has a lot to think about, so he should do that, and rest, because he has a race at 0800. Xian asks that if he has the opportunity to calm down Lotus Eater, that he take it - it's not Lotus Eater's fault, but he is physically unwell and trying to conceal it for the sake of his honor. Lost Emperor can understand that.
Xian heads back out of the stable, and bumps into Xiao Fa, who is looking for the weird chi disturbance, but Xian's northern corruption (from using his hoop) distracts him away from his pursuit.
The morning of the Day of the Tiger dawns, and Namokori checks in with Takanata. He has cleared the gift of a wolf, but should the wolf attack a member of the royal family, then Takanata will be in LOTS OF TROUBLE. Takanata understands.
Cai Wen finally gets together with Willow to talk. She offer to explain one mechanical difficulty to him. He chooses the Lucky Chang/Shen Ji plot. Willows looks around and considers. She thinks Lucky Chang has set things up so that no matter what the party does, two of three people will lose points against Lucky Chang in this transaction. No matter which they choose to save, those choices will will result in the other two being unsavable. The three people are Shen-Ji, Cai Wen, and the Obsidian Warlord.
Basically, if Cai Wen interferes with the race, then he loses. If Lotus Eater wins (and gets found out), or looks stupid, then Shen-Ji loses. If Lost Emperor loses, then the Warlord loses. It isn't clear exactly how all the combinations work, but it seems that events will conspire such that almost any way it works out, two out of three lose, but the party can choose which. The "scoreboard" is actually three separate contests:
- Lucky Chang v. the Obsidian Warlord
- Lucky Chang v. Malkoha's dupe (Cai Wen)
- Lucky Chang (Spider) v. Shen-Ji (Horse)
Hmm, they ponder what to do... They decide to let Cai Wen win (by not interfering with the race in any way) since this is his big masterwork.
Meanwhile, Takanata bets on Revered Ancestor, and Shen-Ji bets on Lotus Eater. Takanata also tries to drop a curse on the Obsidian Warlord (who he has sort-of memorized from seeing him from the Sun), such that if his horse wins, it is a victory for Dragon rather than Spider.
The great race is run, and it proves closer and more exciting than expected. In the end, the Thousand Zhu Horse wins; Reverend Ancestor is second, and Lost Emperor third.
After the race comes the party, at which there are tons of people - important horse-related people, master gamblers, and various other people like the King. A Savanna party uses Honor Rules, which involves some boasting, and some arguing, and the occasional duel.
The party begins with a lot of people boasting. Crazy Feng boasts that she knew the Thousand-Zhu horse was going to win; Shen-Ji boasts of defeating Mu the Mad, evil necromancer; Cai Wen boats of defeating ninjas from the House of the Night Blade three times; the King boasts to the Pearl of the Taiga about his prowess on the battlefield... and elsewhere; Merit boasts of cutting a deal with a powerful and shifty spirit to have the cavalry arrive in time to the town of Cedar Haven; Duke Song brags about becoming Duke; Commander Sun brags about riding with the Bearers of Swift Response in his youth.
Takanata checks the strongest connection between Dinh Thuy (the Hand on the Sword of All the Clans) and Zhao Feiyan (the Pearl of the Taiga). They both have Talismans, of course, but the actual connection is that the Hand has been tasked by his King to make sure that the Pearl's husband never has enough honor to challenge the King over his behavior with the Pearl.
Various people argue over assorted topics, and come to various conclusions which will be listed later. The King propositions the Pearl, and she politely declines, something that will be repeated a number of times over the course of the party.
Cai Wen insults Lucky Chang over sending the ninja, and Lucky Chang challenges him to an honor duel. A point of karma later, Cai Wen scores a scratch against Lucky Chang (first blood), and it is clear to all that Lucky Chang is out to get Cai Wen.
Takanata brags about saving his niece and nephew from Southerners; Sai brags about eating several tigersharks; Master Zhou boasts of being the Master of the White Pagoda, and holding conference with Bear Himself; Xiao Fa boasts of wrestling a mad necromancer and destroying his undead army; Bone Dicer brags of dicing with the Lord of Death himself; Lucky Chang boasts of sending ninja after Cai Wen; Xian boasts of meeting a spirit and a demon who were allied, attempting to underplay his first boast as he has missed the part that he only gets one.
Merit asks the Pearl and her husband to dinner, giving her a previous engagement in case the King asks again. Zhao Wu spends ten honor to get permission to move some troops at the border of the Savanna without provocation - the King, greedy for honor to spend on Zhao Feiyan, takes it.
Cai Wen gives Takanata's wolf cub to the king - "to match the fierceness of his clan".
There are a number of argument topics about war - the mood of the room is somewhat pro-war, though the failed invasion of the Isle of Beauty is deemed probably a mistake.
The King insults Commander Sun - his horse was useless! Commander Sun asks if no one will fight for the honor of the Dragon Army, and Master Zhou agrees to stand in for him. Dinh Thuy stands in for the King. Master Zhou chooses "no weapons", which is unusual but not quite frowned upon, and gets first blood in an epic high-numbers-of-dice battle.
Merit gets the King to agree to favorably look on the idea of trade through the Southern Wall, if it ever comes up, which seems unlikely.
Dinh Thuy insults Cai Wen's horse race - "you can race them around like they are little dogs, but when it comes to battle, racing horses are useless." Again, Master Zhou stands in for the challengee, but allows the Hand to use swords this time, and takes the first blood. (Dinh Thuy refrains from using any damage multipliers on his strike, though Master Zhou is pretty sure he has them).
Takanata asks Master Tranh if he knows anything about the monk who was on the quest for the King of the Arcade. Master Tranh says that he believes the monk, Liang Zongxia, has taken the journey back to the West, where he will attempt the Gate of Five Elements again, but Master Tranh fears that it will not work, as one cannot often repeat the same quest after failing it. And the King is honorbound to not pursue more fruitful plans until this one fails for good.
Shen-Ji offers Duke Song six honor for the opportunity to purchase star metal from him at a reasonable price, but the Duke is afraid he must decline. Master Zhou offers Dinh Thuy ten honor to train together, which the Hand accepts.
Dinh Thuy challenges the Jegal clan mistress of horse to a duel over the uselessness of horses. She attempts to attack in the surprise round, but he is having none of it, and proceeds to wipe the floor with her.
When the King makes yet another pass at the Pearl, Zhao Wu is obliged to insult the King's honor: he has been entirely inappropriate, and should apologize immediately. The King calls for his champion, but Zhao Wu is obliged to fight his own battles of honor so does not choose a champion himself. The two proceed to the dueling circle, and everyone follows, looking worried.
Master Tan, also looking worried, encourages the two duellists to be reconciled, and Zhao Wu says that if the Hand apologizes on behalf of his king, that will be sufficient. The Hand draws his sword - he will never apologize! Zhao Wu refrains from drawing his sword, and says he will wait for his apology.
- "My King's actions are above reproach, and I shall prove them upon your body." -Dinh Thuy
- "No, you shall apologize." -Zhao Wu
- "You tell him, dear." -Zhao Feiyan
The Hand seems unable to attack the Taiga horse master, but continues to threaten him and wave his sword angrily. Finally, he declares that he will not fight a coward who will not even attack him, and stomps off, and Zhao Wu is declared the winner. Everyone boggles and covets his shticks, though Cai Wen notes that that was probably the special power of the Fox Talisman, which the Pearl passed to him before the duel.
The King loses the honor of the challenge, and declares the party over. Overall, those things which the "mood of the party" thinks are true are:
- The Savanna should have a thousand-li horse.
- Whale, better than you thought.
- There really is something weird about the islands moving.
- The Dragon Army is protecting you from wolves. Wolves are bad.
- There should be a horse race every year.
- Tiger has too much offense and not enough defense.
- It was a mistake to try to invade the Isle of Beauty
- The Savanna should retake the Tanzhe Plain (extra-convincing)
- The Savanna should invade the Forest of Chin
- Blockades are not actually awesome
- There are lots of valid ways to fight, including on horses
- Gambling on horse races is bad
- Long Yue-Mei leaves on a quest assigned by Master Zhou.
- Merit goes to visit his new property in Iron Mountain. He finds a new puzzle.
- Xiao Fa visits Li Kao's spire.
- Li Merit sets up a pork bun restaurant in the City of Light.
- Takanata, Min Feng, Master Zhou and Kasumi meet Anto at Iron Mountain to try to catch up to Liang Zongxia.
- Shen-Ji hands off the Talisman of the Horse to Pho, and passes on being Horse's Guy.
- Lijuan talks to Pho.