|"Never advise anyone to go to war or to get married."|| The run begins on the Day of the Fox in the Month of the Fox in the thirteenth Year of the Magpie since the Regency Council was formed.|
The run takes place in the Reflected City.
Yanyu gathers the other two members of her Triad together - she has not been able to find anyone who really seems suitable as a match for the Son of the Moon (as he is kind of stubborn and hot-tempered). Any of the three of them, as powerful Phoenix-aspected people, would probably be suitable, but neither Min Feng nor Kuan-Xi is interested in the job. Therefore, as Lord Takanata has directed her to deal with it, Yanyu plans to throw herself under that particular bus.
Her plan is to meet him at the winehouse in the Reflected City that he visits once a month, and to say that she hasn't found anyone, but hint subtly that there is something she's not telling him, and let him pry out of her that she might be appropriate. Neither of the others can think of a better plan, but they take positions as backup. Yanyu gives herself a makeover, bringing her charisma up to 22, while Kuan-Xi dresses down and Min Feng is particularly inconspicuous.
Xingfu Yin-Xiang (that is, the Son of the Moon) is sitting at a table with a cup of wine; several guys are nearby, not socializing but looking like minions. Yanyu heads in, and bows to him. He looks up, blinks in surprise at her. He hadn't expected to see her again - so has she found him the perfect match?
Yanyu apologizes profusely - she has looked, but it is very difficult, as he is such a unique individual, and she cannot find anyone who is sufficiently worthy. Her acting roll is sufficient to not push her flattery over the top, and to add a subtext that there is someone, but it is very embarrassing. He gestures her to a seat, and waves a serving girl over - why doesn't the lady have a drink yet? So... tell him of her searches.
She spins him a tale of various unsuitable women, and his mood darkens. He had not dared to believe her first claim that she could find him the perfect match... Yanyu drops some more hints, about something she doesn't want to say, and he presses her into "cracking", and she admits that her astrological predictions indicate that she would also be suitable, but obviously he wouldn't be interested. He looks somewhere between dubious and thoughtful.
Min Feng overhears Yin-Xiang muttering under his breath something about someone that his mother would approve of, and notes that there is someone else paying attention to the conversation other than she and Kuan-Xi. He's clearly a recurring NPC, but doesn't look familiar. Then the guy wanders up to the table to speak to Yin-Xiang.
- "Master Xingfu, I am sorry to intrude, but if you have an evening planned, perhaps it would be possible to deal with our more serious business first? My name is Li."
- "Shit." -Yanyu
- "Ah, no more cryptic notes, then?" -Yin-Xiang
Min Feng starts scribbling frantic commentary on one of Cai Wen's communication papers, on the theory that if she suddenly forgets things, someone will have a record.
Yin-Xiang looks somewhat distracted - this is clearly a meeting he has expected, but had not expected to happen right now. He invites Li to join them.
- "Are you sure that we do not wish to have this conversation in private?" -Li
- "No, no, if it's the evening for life-altering decisions... Lady Yanyu, meet Master Li." -Yin-Xiang
- "I'm familiar with Master Li's reputation." -Yanyu, with an air of "and he's not cool enough to have a conversation with us"
- "Normally I would not allow such mundane business to intrude, but if you are familiar with Master Li, you know his... pedigree... so a certain amount of indulgence is appropriate." -Yin-Xiang
Li is impressed - he is not used to people knowing him by reputation. Have they met? Yanyu says no. Li applauds her - that requires a certain amount of talent. The Son of the Moon nods somewhat proudly.
- "I do think that we should speak privately." -Li
- "You just want to talk to him alone so that he won't remember." -Yanyu
- "That is a point. Perhaps we should have this discussion under moonlight?" -Yin-Xiang
- "That's really not necessary. I assure you that it is well under control - there would be no point in having you sign up and forgetting that you have done so." -Li
He pats a green leather pouch, which Min Feng scribbles more notes about.
As he has mentioned in his letters, Li represents a small group which could bring immense power and authority to Yin-Xiang. Yanyu hits Li with "good listener" so he lets slip a few more things, such as some of the other members (the Obsidian Warlord and the Imperial Alchemist). They pursue a great quest to save the world, and he could be a hero in it. He is nearly as good at flattery as Yanyu, spinning it as "we are powerful individuals, but we have nevertheless come to you because we need your help."
- "Don't you mean your quest to subvert the world, because you guys are all working for a skinwalking shadow demon?" -Yanyu
- "No, no, our organizations' patron is no less than a Great Spirit, Spider." -Li
- "Why would he want to lose his close connection with the Moon and downgrade to Spider?" -Yanyu
- "The question is whether a unique connection with one who does not act very directly upon the world is of greater benefit than a close connection with one who does. Your mother does not often meddle directly in the world, but you could be a trusted lieutenant of Spider." -Li
- "A trusted lieutenant? He is too powerful to be a mere lieutenant!" -Yanyu
- "Well, I understand. If you prefer to let your girlfriend make all your decisions for you, then you are probably not an appropriate candidate for our organization after all." -Li
- "Now, wait a minute!" -Yin-Xiang
Yin-Xiang does want to know the details of what is being offered - in meta terms, Li says that he would change his aspect to Spider, get a shtick rebuild, become one of the great lords of the Empire, and end up with about a 30% chance of being the next Emperor.
- "Now we're talking." -Yin-Xiang
- "What he's not telling you is that he really wants that job for himself, and so does the Imperial Alchemist." -Yanyu
- "Hah! I am quite pleased that you have some limits to your information." -Li
- "Oh, so you want someone else to be your puppet?" -Yanyu
Yin-Xiang starts to look annoyed.
- "Look. The two of you clearly have some sort of history..." -Yin-Xiang
- "No, we've never met." -Yanyu
- "In my experience, people don't argue like this with total strangers." -Yin-Xiang
- "She is correct, though I have some suspicions. One of Lord Takanata's, is it? Ah, yes, one of them. I am surprised - I didn't think you would care for circus folk." -Li
- "Look, both of you, stop talking to each other, and talk to me. Li, why should I work with you?" -Yin-Xiang
- "Power, and the chance to become Emperor." -Li
- "Yanyu, why should I not work with him?" -Yin-Xiang
- "Because Spider is seeking to subvert all the other spirits under him - I imagine that includes not only the Cycle Spirits but probably the Moon as well." -Yanyu
- "Well, of course, we seek the upper hand, but why work with one who is not on top?" -Li
- "But you could choose which one to win!" -Yanyu
- "And which one do you prefer?" -Yin-Xiang
- "Phoenix, of course." -Yanyu
- "Huh. I had thought that you all were Dragon-folk." -Li
- "But Dragon isn't a Cycle Spirit." -Yin-Xiang
- "Exactly!" -Li
Both Li and Yanyu make their general pitches - work with Spider, get significant increases to his personal power, and a shot at being Emperor, including assistance with pesky bloodline issues. Plus, he gets to work with people who share a common enemy, as opposed to someone who works with his enemy. Yanyu's counter-proposal: He doesn't need these people to help him be great - he already is great, and need only decide his destiny. He can work for the good of all people! Plus, Yanyu's group is friends with the Moon's First Daughter.
Li decides that he's tired of competing against someone who's buffing her charisma while he's keeping himself incognito. He adjusts his collar and straightens his sleeves, and it becomes suddenly obvious to everyone in the bar that he's one of the Twelve Immortals.
Yin-Xiang suggests that they step out into the moonlight, as he has a request to ask of his mother. On the way out, Li remarks to Kuan-Xi, who he’s seen lurking nearby, that as a favor, he will not inscribe this particular incident, but one favor is all that is owed.
Yin-Xiang asks the moon if anyone has told him any lies this day. The answer is that no one has told any serious lies beyond the politenesses of conversation, but that both Li and Yanyu are misinformed on significant issues. Yin-Xiang decides that as they have both come in reasonably good faith, the decision must be based on who offers more. Does anyone want to increase their bid?
Li says he could arrange for one of Yin-Xiang's enemies to forget him entirely. Yanyu offers her hand in marriage and her talents as an astrologer for the rest of her lifetime. Li looks appalled. Yin-Xiang looks uncharacteristically thoughtful. He looks up at the moon, and then quickly away.
- "Yes, yes, I know."
Yin-Xiang says that perhaps they ought not take things too quickly - he thinks Yanyu may have become caught up in the moment (he says that with an implication that he is sufficiently awesome that this is not surprising). He proposes that they should have a courtship, in which they can both be convinced that they are worthy of each other. (Yanyu's sense is that she has definitely impressed him, but that he is not at present actually smitten with her).
Li shakes his head, and says that he will not be attempting to compete on that axis. But, if things do not go well (he smirks a bit, as if to suggest that he’s sure they will not), Yin-Xiang should feel free to contact him. He gives the Son of the Moon a golden leather thong, like a sandal lace, and says that he will know what to do with it. Then, he remarks that this has been fascinating, and since they are all under the peace of the Lake, he will return to the wineshop and have a drink.
Yin-Xiang says that he gathers from Li's reaction that Yanyu has brought several friends, nearby to protect her virtue in an emergency. Yanyu allows as that is true. He bends over her hand, and says that perhaps next time she will not consider that necessary, and to return when she is ready. Then he walks off along the lakeshore.
One More Conversation
The Triad regroups, chatting in their secret language - it's interesting that Li doesn't seem to know about Aku - and decides to poke Li some more. They head over to his table.
- "This has certainly been an interesting evening." -Li
- "Were you not aware that Spider has been replaced by Aku in Spider's skin?" -Min Feng
- "I was not aware that that was the story you were telling people, no." -Li
- "It was necessary, because it was not in Spider's nature to do what had to be done to enter the Cycle." -Min Feng
- "Spider was certainly uncharacteristically aggressive at the beginning of the Great Cycle, but he has settled back into his ways." -Li
(Elsewhere, the Butterfly Talisman gives a pained twitch, as an agreement made is broken, just a little.)
- "Dragon still speaks fondly of you." -Min Feng
- "I see. You speak to him often, do you?" -Li
- "We know people who do." -Min Feng
Li regards Min Feng a bit more closely, and then snorts.
- "Oh, 'you're going to be popular." -Li
- "So... do you think you will actually get him, or was that just a stalling tactic?" -Li
- "You're in conflict with his mother over the Bridge of Moonlight. You won't get him." -Min Feng
- "It's a minor conflict - she wouldn't care that much. More of a point of honor than anything else." -Li
- "He is particular about honor." -Yanyu
- "His own honor, certainly." -Li
- "It is curious that you're so much younger than your brother." -Kuan-Xi
- "Looks are deceptive, mine more so than his. Perhaps that is a thing that you will have to become used to someday - the rest of you need not worry about it." -Li
- "I suppose I will not be goading any of the three of you into attacking me, then." -Li
- "Not here." -Kuan-Xi
- "We're totally harmless." -Yanyu
- "I have learned just how harmless you three are. Congratulations - I have apparently failed in this mission, and will have to pay a price for that. I will be sending you the bill in due time." -Li
- "If you want to be a Dragon again, we can arrange that." -Min Feng
- "You can try. There is a long distance between the trying and the doing, but I suppose I have time to wait." -Li