Children of Heaven

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"Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way." It is a little while after the defeat of the Shadow.

The run takes place mostly at the Pagoda Not Covered In Ice

Previous Run

Retrieving an NPC

Before any new trips, Takanata and Yanyu and Ming Feng finish up their conversation with Kuan-Xi, who had been hanging around with Ando in the Roof of the World. Xian joins them.

"The Triad has to take on Wei Han..." -Takanata
"Wait... what?" -Ming Feng
" service to the Triad, to help move the islands back." -Takanata

Yanyu eyes Ando suspiciously - he's touched by the Spider. Takanata says he's been touched by the Spider as long as they've known him, but he's not actually part of the Marked conspiracy.

Min Feng notes that she's supposed to talk to the Countess when a month has elapsed since the Battle for the Ice Pagoda, and that month is up now. So they should head that way. Kuan-Xi says she'll head back with Ando and meet them later, but Yanyu says they need her to come with them. Ando gives Yanyu a look that Xian recognizes as "detect lie", but since Kuan-Xi is willing to be badgered into leaving, he doesn't press it.

"Don't start any wars." -Ando
"They already started the wars!"
"Fine. Don't start any internal wars. And thwart Shuyan for me." -Ando
"He's not very bright, is he?" -Min Feng

Kuan-Xi gives Min Feng a surprisingly fierce glare. There's clearly something odd up with Kuan-Xi, and Takanata and Yanyu both have some theories, but actually talking to Kuan-Xi is more than anyone is interested in doing, so the party settles for telling her that she has to come with them, and heads south for the Pagoda With No Ice.

Fellow Travellers

As they enter the Strand and get closer to the Pagoda with No Ice, Chochiro meets them on the road - she is also heading there. Yanyu confirms that she still has no aspect. Chochiro is hoping to get some guidance from the old woman who assigned her the quest, now that she is no longer trapped in ice.

"Oh, this is step two?" -Takanata
"The first twelve steps were a little bracing." -Chochiro

When they reach the Pagoda with No Ice, Chantou is there, knocking to be admitted. Yanyu notes that the "dark sorceress" is touched by the Phoenix, not a Fox like her sister Xian.

A little girl answers the door, and asks how the Pagoda might be of service.

"I have come to ask the Countess if she might use the Flame on my behalf, for I need an item that is not readily available." -Chantou
"The countess has just finished using the flame, but be welcome and stay for dinner."

The little girl asks how the Pagoda might be of service to Xian? Xian, puzzled by the unusual formality, just wants to say hello, but says that Min Feng has been asked to speak to the Countess. Xian's group is also invited in for dinner.

At dinner, Xian recognizes a lot of her older sisters, who were frozen, mostly recovered. Everyone is being served by the young girls that Xian doesn't know - this is definitely unusual, as normally everything is quite communal and casual. Min Feng eavesdrops on the girls' conversation, and whispers to the others that they're pretending to be servants, in order to fool someone else who is coming.

Takanata tells Chochiro that she should come and see Brother Han when she has a moment.

"He has something to discuss with you, that might help with your quests." -Takanata
"You mean, the next one?" -Chochiro
"The next one, or the one after that..." -Takanata
"Lovely." -Chochiro

Yanyu tries to clarify - seeing Brother Han might make things easier or more straightforward. But nobody is sure where Brother Han is, so perhaps Chochiro will need to quest for him. As dinner progresses, the general status of everyone in the room seems to be rising, except for Takanata, who is already ridiculously status-ful.

Chantou confers with Xian and the others. They let her know that the Shadow is dead, and the Shadow Keep is under new management (Reiko and Yoshi). Chantou has been spending some time investigating the Black Duke, and the Dowager Song, his mother, who indeed is the source of most of the trouble. She has a plan to take care of that - if the Countess can give her a reliable love talisman, she should be all set. Yanyu perks up - what is her plan exactly?

She thinks that the Duke's mother is meddling too much in his affairs, so Chantou plans to get her out of the picture. Everyone looks a little appalled, but she says that she's not the sort of person who goes around executing people - the best way is to get her into a different household. She should be able to get her married off if she can arrange a scandal with a lesser noble, someone with enough rank to press the issue but not enough rank to be a stepping stone for more trouble.

"Min Feng, are you okay with this?" -Xian
"If it actually works." -Min Feng

Yanyu asks more questions about Lady Song and how one might set her up. Chantou doesn't know her aspect, but she doesn't think she has any magical talent, so she's probably not a Phoenix. Yanyu says she is an actual matchmaker, so she should be able to pick out an appropriate household to try to match Lady Song with. Chantou says if Yanyu can do that, Chantou can set up the scandal. Yanyu thinks she can probably arrange things without scandal, to boot. Chantou looks a little dubious.

"Let me know if you're planning on setting her up with the Son of the Moon." -Xian

All conversation in the room stops.

"It was a joke!" -Xian

There is a sudden KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK on the door.

"It doesn't work that way!" -Xian
"Doesn't it?" -Takanata

A Last Visitor

Sure enough, it is the Son of the Moon at the door. The little girl who answers the door bows deeply, and invites him in: "You are expected, great lord." He is a bit surprised at this, but recovers his usual arrogance. Of course he is expected, and the girl will please convey him to the presence of the Countess. She says that she will send runners to tell the Countess to be ready for him, but in the meantime, would he care for refreshment? A whole flock of young girls carrying trays arrive, to offer him food and drink, to take his hat, to escort him to a comfortable place to sit. He tries to protest that he will not wait - the Countess must see him! But he curtails his impatience to add "at her convenience", but is clearly not happy to do so.

He is seated in the best corner of the room, and the room full of sisters chats amiably and cheerfully and as if they have not a care in the world. Xian and the others play along, though Xian wishes dearly that someone would have warned her what was going on.

The party goes back to talking about the plan for Min Feng's stepmother, though Min Feng decides to move to another table for plausible deniability, though she keeps listening and commenting, so her deniability may not be very plausible.

Yanyu says she can provide a love potion, which Chantou is quite pleased to hear. Min Feng warns that it's just temporary, but Chantou thinks that temporary is long enough to get a scandal started.

"What could possibly go wrong?" -Chantou
"Don't Chantou's plans always go wrong?" -Xian

Chantou thinks the quickest way to get people married that don't want to is a scandal. Yanyu thinks the best way is to get them to fall in love. But who? Maybe someone who needs the money? Yanyu does have a list of possibilities for Taiga candidates for marriage.

Just as the Son of the Moon is beginning to lose his patience, the Countess sweeps in. Xian's sisters whisper excitedly to each other - is that really her? Don't look straight at her! Xian continues to be unsettled by this very abnormal behavior, but plays along, whispering excitedly herself about the Countess's appearance.

The Countess, whose status is now quite towering, graciously thanks everyone for coming, and says that she must attend to several very important guests. She gathers up Chochiro, Chanto, the Son of the Moon, and Xian's party, and swooshes them all to... what seems to be a throne room. Xian is pretty sure it's normally a sewing room, but the sewing tables seem to be covered over with elegant fabric and there's a large chair, which the Countess seats herself in. The other sisters follow the group in, looking for all the world like courtiers attending on a queen.

"Bring forth the first petitioner!" -the Countess

Chantou comes forward, and bows with some grace and much confusion. She tries to whisper to the Countess, asking what she's doing, and the Countess answers in ringing tones that it shall be just as Chantou has said. Chantou is dismissed in confusion, and Chochiro is up next.

"I was told to come here with my spirit favors, and ask..." -Chochiro
"Excellent! We could arrange some sort of meeting. You will probably want three of those." -the Countess
"...Right." -Chochiro

Chochiro is escorted to the Chamber of Light, and Xian's party is called upon next.

"We are here to beg a small small favor, if you could grant us the blessing of being able to make some tiny imposition on your time at a specific future date, because of course it would have to be a future date, as in your wisdom you would know the auspicious signs, while I am not an astrologer..." -Xian

The Son of the Moon can take the torrent of words no longer, and leaps to his feet.

"Enough of this!"

Everyone gasps, but the Countess is the embodiment of graciousness, and invites him forward, to tell her why she is here.

"You are not going to get away with... bah. I am... here... to issue a formal apology." -Son of the Moon
"Oh, no, I am sure such an apology is not called for. Nothing you have done could be construed as inappropriate." -the Countess
"Nevertheless. I am... still sorry."

(It is a bit of a trial to get the apologies out through his gritted teeth, but he manages.)

"I have come to make amends."
"Amends? No, no, no amends are necessary."
"I'm afraid they are."
"What could you possibly propose?"
"I don't know. What is it you require?"
"I? I need nothing, I am entirely content."
"And yet, I am required to make amends."
"Does anyone have any suggestions?"

After a moment, Takanata raises his hand, and the Son of the Moon appears to recognize him for the first time. Takanata considers quickly whether he should ask to not be hunted, but decides that the better suggestion is that the Son of the Moon undertake to protect the Bridge of Moonlight from those who wish to move it.

The Son of the Moon is certainly surprised by the request, and the Countess gives Takanata an eloquent look, as if he has asked for something slightly too large, but aesthetic and appropriate nonetheless.

"Very well. I do think that that would be appropriate - those who seek to move it do not have the permission they should have required. Much as I did not have the permission I should have obtained. But I must make further amends." -Son of the Moon

The Countess tries to leap on that - no further amends are necessary - and sounds as if she is actually a bit concerned about the further amends, rather than this being part of her plan. But the Son of the Moon will not be deterred - those who were inconvenienced in "their little dispute" must also be compensated. They argue back and forth, until just before the Son of the Moon looks likely to lose his temper, and then the Countess acquiesces.

He starts with Min Feng:

"You walked in many perilous places during our encounter, and it does not seem right that one of your noble stature should be forced to endure such discomfort and danger - so you may walk always in moonlight thus as to be assured of your safety."
"Er, does that sound like a good thing?" -Xian
"That sounds like something you should thank him for." -Takanata
"Thank you." -Min Feng

Next comes Xian:

"You were instrumental in moving many from where they were to where they belonged - so you shall have a further boon from my Lady, to provide insight so that others might see as you see."
"I don't know, that sounds pretty awesome. You can do that? Excellent! How about that?" -Xian, still in wittering mode

Then, Takanata:

"Your participation was quite special, transcending even the bonds of this world. Please accept the boon of my Lady, so that she will watch over you in all the worlds where you must walk."
"I am most grateful for your offer, but..." -Takanata

The Countess signals one of the serving girls, who promptly trips and splashes a tray full of glasses full of wine, everywhere. Oh, dear. The Countess assures the Son of the Moon that Lord Takanata is most grateful, and she offers the comforts of the House of the Sun if her visitor wishes to stay while the room is returned to a more hospitable state. One of the little girls cuts herself picking up the broken glass, and everyone is promptly whisked out of the room.

The Countess and the Son of the Moon retire to another room, and Min Feng finds that her overhear shtick is being actively suppressed for a few minutes. Then, the front door slams, and the Countess reappears.

Everyone's status crashes back to what it was before, and the entire pagoda seems to relax. The little girls clamor to know whether they got it right, and she assures them all that they did beautifully.

The Countess apologizes to Takanata for the inconvenience. She understands his most justifiable reticence in accepting the "boon" at this time, but does wish to assure him that she thought most carefully and came to the conclusion that declining would be most unfortunate. However, she thinks that since they did not sincerely accept (though Min Feng said thank you, she was at the time in the persona of a Terribly Snooty High Status person who says an insincere thank you for everything), the boon is unlikely to persist for more than a single month. Takanata is curious - will the moon be watching everything he does for a month? Only in other worlds, she thinks.

"He was constrained to apologize, and forbidden from taking any interfering action against you, for the time being. Apparently, you have some task that his Lady would see done, and he is not allowed to interfere until you complete it. But as he was not allowed to act against his enemies, he was trying to make you new enemies, like the Moon, which you would have done had you refused Her gift regardless of who presented it." -the Countess

The Countess squints at Xian for a bit, and thinks that her boon is that when she spends a Yin to see through a disguise, she will also spend a Yang to dispel it.

Takanata considers whether he could walk somewhere particularly dark in the World Below, such that moonlight would come with him.

"Do you have such a place that you want to go to?"
"No, but I have a place that needs going to."

As for what plot the Moon would see done, she is not sure (but does not think that it is "Restore Dragon").

Yanyu broaches the idea of fixing the Son of the Moon up with someone else. The Countess thinks this is a fine idea, if it could be managed. Yanyu eyes Xian speculatively.

"No." -Xian

The Countess speaks a bit more about the Son of the Moon - he is not stupid or foolish, but he is volatile and easily angered. So it is dangerous to provoke him, or treat him in ways that might offend. She can arrange to have Yanyu meet him - she will send her an invitation to somewhere that the Son of the Moon is likely to show up without his people, as she can predict his movements if she puts some efforts into it. Yanyu says that she will want to speak to him privately - the Countess cannot really arrange a private meeting, but she can probably arrange for a meeting somewhere that Yanyu could put effort into securing a private conversation.

Xian grumbles that fixing the Son of the Moon up with someone who appreciates him really is rewarding him for being a jerk, which is not the sort of thing that her order normally does. But then, maybe he would be a better person if he were a happier person.

The Countess could probably help further if she were not obliged to use some of her power to figure out the location of a Spider Scroll for Chochiro. Takanata thinks Anto has one, so he might be able to provide that. But... why does Chochiro need a Spider scroll? Now that Chochiro has finished her twelve quests, she must convert all the boons into boons from Spider, with an appropriate Spider-type shtick. And all together, that would provide a great boon from Spider, which could prove very useful.

The Countess also agrees that giving Chochiro a Dragon aspect would be a good thing, though having multiple Dragons running around will make Dragon's plan more noticeable by other Great Spirits, and also Dragon's enemies. Takanata thinks there's just Xiao Fa as a Dragon so far, though Xian thinks that there's that Shan Tsu guy who might be a Dragon too. When would be appropriate to do this?

"I'm not certain, and I prefer later to sooner in that case." -the Countess

Chantou says that she doesn't need the Countess's help any more - she has everything she needs. The Countess looks a little skeptical, but wishes her luck.

As for what plan Takanata is on, the Countess thinks that she might be able to guide someone else's sight, without using her own ability. Looking into one's own future is dangerous, and without the blood of a spirit, using the Flame would be unsafe - but that means Min Feng might be able to do it. And, in fact, when Min Feng looks into the Countess's flame, her Sense Trap goes off, and she thinks that the jig will be up the moment Takanata finishes fixing the islands.

"In retrospect, that should have been obvious." -Min Feng
"That is often the way for those things hidden by the glare of the Sun." -the Countess

She has promised to teach Min Feng something - is she more interested in those things which are learned by the Gentle Admonishers of Disquiet, or those powers granted by the Sun? Min Feng would prefer the latter, but doesn't really have any good ideas yet for what she wants in particular. Well, she will consider it and come up with something to teach her. She will also let Yanyu know where to meet the Son of the Moon.

Xian asks for a working to rename a country - the Countess can probably come up with something, but will need to know who will be doing it, and what country Xian wants to rename. Xian briefs her on the party, and will think about which country.

Since everyone is asking for things, Takanata asks that the Countess ask the Southern Wall why she is letting a Southern God walk around the Empire?

"Probably because she's exasperating. It must be so much nicer to be dealing with the Northern Wall - he is much more stable." -the Countess

Everyone looks at each other. Yup, yup, Wei Han is definitely more stable.

The group segues to discussing Great Talismans and the possibility that they might be stolen.

"... and we know who carries Tiger." -Takanata
"Spend a Yin. That's not true." -Mike
"That's a problem." -Takanata
"So... why is setting things on fire in your tree?" -Xian
"I'm a match-maker!" -Yanyu