|"You die, you fight, or you get out of the way... Oh, a doomhunter? Well, forget those last two."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Butterfly in the Month of the Dog in the eleventh Year of the Bear since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the House of Exuberant Interference estate of Tahiti
Cai Wen and Merit have declared that it is time for the official House Opening Party for the House of Exuberant Interference, but it is taking a little while for everything to be sorted out and set up. People note that Wei Han has a lot of Alchemist-marked items, and pester him to bury them at Takanata's stash site, but he has a lot of them and doesn't want to lose them. Kuan-Xi says they can go shopping for new stuff some time. Wei Han also notes that he should carry the Phoenix Talisman until it's returned. Perhaps someone should do that sometime soon, since the Butterfly Talisman has been returned to the party.
The fashionistas discuss the Deep Crimson propaganda campaign that Merit has drawn up:
The ideal subtle propaganda campaign would be to have a number of heads of state and equally high-status people (Takanata would count) wear some awesome gorgeous clothes, that are about 40% Deep Crimson as an accent color, to various high-profile events. Then have people one tier down (high status nobles, other famous people) wear some awesome gorgeous clothes with about 20% Deep Crimson accent color. Then have the House of Resplendent Decoration refuse to sell it to anyone with a status below 12, for at least a year, and only sell it in bespoke outfits for those particular high-status people.
Well, some of the party is pretty high-status, but so far no one else has been prevailed upon to wear Deep Crimson. As the group discusses this, the lights start to dim in a very odd manner - the sunlight and the lanterns and everything, all slightly dimmer, for a moment. Between magical analysis and the Orb of Light, it seems like the light is coming in more slowly, rather than there being less of it. Well... that probably has something to do with Speedy. (Xian has a sudden realization about how metatime works, but this is a difficult thing to explain).
However, while the signal is probably due to Speedy, there isn't anyone who can explicitly contact spirits. Anto has headed back to Bear Mountain, and Shen-Ji isn't around. Possibly the butlers can find someone suitable? They roll really badly, and find someone who can talk to snails, but that is insufficiently helpful.
Well... perhaps the group should return the Phoenix Talisman, and see if the Songstress can help them. With a water gate, that's a quick trip. (On the way through the Suzuki estates, Xian checks on Mondo - he is now sleeping comfortably, which is an improvement).
The Songstress takes her Talisman back with thanks, and asks if everything worked out. Yes, it did. However, they now need to speak to a spirit and lack the ability. Can she suggest anything? The Songstress wonders if there are any other spirits who they can speak to more easily, who might broker a deal. Well, they can speak to Horse. She thinks that Horse should be able to be a messenger, though she also thinks that an actual house spirit should be easier to communicate with than most spirits. Possibly it still needs the housewarming for that to work.
- "Is there anything we can do for you?" -Xian
- "If you could extend my apologies, and the apologies of my patron, to Lord Takanata, we would appreciate it." -the Songstress
Everyone boggles a little, and Cai Wen mentions that Takanata said he was unsuitable to hold the Butterfly Talisman any longer. There is some confusion at this - if he was acting on Butterfly's behalf, that shouldn't make him unworthy to hold the Talisman! Merit writes it off as weird guilt complexes, and there isn't much to be done about it now, in any event.
The group heads back to Tahiti, and considers the party mechanics. Normally there are five skills to compete in at the party; if one of them is "Spirits", then word may get around and spirit masters will show up. On the other hand, that would require waiting until the party started to talk to Speedy, so maybe talking to Horse would be faster. Merit, who doesn't like Horse, spends three karma to find an old buddy who was a spirit-talker. The old buddy draws a circle and lights a lot of incense, and finally the channel is opened.
- "Alert!" -Speedy
- "We hear you, Speedy - can you give us any more details?"
- "Wu Xing"
- "Unfortunately, the wu-xing is not available at the moment."
- "We have many and varied resources. If we knew the nature of the doom, perhaps we could solve it without the Wu Xing."
Those who have encountered Speedy before think that it is very uncharacteristic of him to not speak in complete sentences.
Merit recalls a lot of fictional stories about doomhunters, but one of the few things he is confident is true, is that it is the Alchemist's spirit enforcer. Often, the Alchemist will deal personally with spirits or demons who step out of line, but when he or the spirit in question is unavailable, he gives the Doomhunter a name and it catches up to the spirit and destroys it. It is not clear where the Doomhunter came from, and it is somewhat odd that the Alchemist would have found such a perfect match for his job requirement, but... there you have it.
- "Is the doomhunter after you specifically?"
It seems likely that the Doomhunter will be as substantial as Speedy is. Without the Wu Xing present, it will be hard to manifest fully, but if they can get Speedy partially into the Material World, they should be able to smack a partially-in-the-Material-World doomhunter with their swords. How will they get Speedy into the Material World, though, without the Wu Xing, etc?
The party is tomorrow, though, and the Doomhunter is due to catch up at sunset. Xian notes that they can have tomorrow happen before sunset, which confounds everyone, but she says she'll explain later, and eventually manages to beat around enough bushes to explain that sunset is in meta-time, rather than in-game time.
What does "sufficient" mean in this context, though? Well, spirits and demons observe the forms and rules of things, which include parties. So... does the housewarming party incarnate a house spirit so he can attend? Essentially.
Cai Wen draws up the list of Party Competitions, and reminds everyone how Arcade parties go: the partygoers receive tokens from the representatives of the major houses, and compete in various party games. The winner of each competition scores a win for whichever house gave them the largest token (useful in the Game of Houses), and earns a favor from the the house.
Any party can change one competition for free; beyond that, the more that a host deviates from the default, the more they will be perceived to be stacking the deck towards their own specialty, and the more their wins will be minimized and other people's wins will be maximized.
Kuan-Xi dashes out to get some Deep Crimson clothes - she picks up a sash for Min Feng and a wider sash for herself (so that they can still wear their magic clothes), and Cai Wen gets a +3 robe. Min Feng and Cai Wen's clothes are at the "20% Deep Crimson" level, and Kuan-Xi's are at 40%.
In addition to Fashion, what else should they include? Well, if they include Demon Hunting as a party competition, then chopping demons won't be gauche. Also, it will be considered polite to provide demons to hunt. Well, that's a second entry, then.
Merit gets his old buddy to broker a deal for contact. "Speedy can contact Merit if Merit can contact Speedy" isn't actually a fair trade, since it's actually "Speedy will provide the means for Merit to contact him, if Speedy can also provide the means to contact Merit." But building a fancy Speedy-shrine in the house will make it a reasonable deal.
Madame Song and Xie Xie arrive at the party early, and provide advice and other moll-like usefulness for Cai Wen and Merit, respectively. (It is a mark of esteem, Cai Wen realizes, for Madame Song to be his moll).
Merit checks to see who else is in town for the party.
- In addition to the Exuberant Interference house members, there are representatives from Benevolent Oversight, Gainful Protection, Judicious Increase, Beneficent Travel, and Resplendent Decoration.
- Madame Song and Xie Xie
- Blademistress Shai Zan (m)
- Ren Nitu
- Lady Darkeyes and Zi Kone
- Hsu Verity and Eternal Redoubt
- Commander Yao and his XO
- Sea Lord Milora (m)
- Autumn Rose (m)
- Mar Lang, the Dragon's Throne regent (m)
- "The Jester" (m)
- Some people waiting to see what the rest of the party competitions are
Xie Xie adds the "m"s to the list, but isn't sure why. Xian suspects "marked".
Merit visits one of his recruits among Zi Kone's sycophants. The sycophant is very jealous that Zi Kone is coming to Merit's party. This anti-art sentiment is just a phase, and eventually the brilliance of Zi Kone and others will inspire a new Arcade. Well, that doesn't really provide any clues about what Ezokin's nefarious plan is, but he might not tell his sycophants.
The final skill list settles out:
Cai Wen declares a House Rule that there is to be no fighting with non-combatants. That should make it (a little) more difficult for the Doomhunter to attack anyone who doesn't want to fight. People who want to fight demons at the party can take a demon-hunting token. As it turns out, most people take one, as not taking one seems to indicate that you're a wuss, but others like Scholar Turtle see nothing wrong with not being interested in fighting demons.
Merit tells everyone that the House's plan is to win exactly one contest; that's the most socially acceptable number.
- 0 is "Well, you're beginners"
- 1 is "Very good, you are playing fair"
- 2 is "Well, you're beginners, you got enthusiastic"
- 3 is "of course you set yourself up to win. Pfft"
- 4-5 is "okay, they don't get the point of parties, we shouldn't bother going in the future"
Lucky Chang (not the Blue Dragon) shows up, much to Cai Wen's unhappiness.
People begin to circulate. The representative from Gainful Protection (not the Doom Barrel division) wonders if he should have brought his own demons? The representative of Beneficent Travel dances with Min Feng. Sea Lord Miyora talks with Wei Han about whether ranged weapons are acceptable for demon hunting. Lucky Chang charms Kuan-Xi's lady in waiting. Zhi-Hao dances with Commander Yao's XO. The Jester proves able to say "ta-da" at the end of someone else's comedy shtick, add five successes, and then split the results.
Kuan-Xi and the Jester debate KS: Immortals, and the Jester notes that it is a pleasure to speak with someone else who remembers Li. Min Feng and Eternal Redoubt debate whether making spirits is a good or bad idea, and Wei Han tries to get the Sea Lord and Commander Yao to debate the army versus navy. They call in Min Feng (a captain in the Navy) and Commander Yao's XO to aid them. Xian debates whether there will be demons, with the Blademistress. (She brandishes her swords, which are still clean, remarkably getting to roll Int with sword skill.)
On that note, Speedy arrives. Lucky Chang breaks his hold to point at Speedy and call him a demon - that manages to convince most of the NPCs.
- "Chang, I am disappointed that you are so blind as to not tell the difference between a spirit and a demon. As you have sadly mis-estimated so many situations before, you have misestimated this one." -Cai Wen
The rest of the party leaps in to help Cai Wen persuade the other guests that Lucky Chang is mistaken and the giant supernatural snail that has showed up to the demon-slaying party is not, in fact, a demon, but was only helping procure a demon.
The Doomhunter shows up next - it has four chopping limbs, four running limbs, and chitinous armor.
- "A Shadow from Z'ha'dum, but each limb is an Alien" -Cael
Autumn Rose makes a bartender vanish just before he gets run over by the demon, and then does something intriguing to the demon. The Dragon's Throne regent orders everyone on his personal authority to attack the demon, which mostly seems to give him a tax on everyone's attacks. Master Deng chops the demon, and also taunts it, in the hopes that it will attack him instead of Speedy. (Instead, it just puts him on its list for later). Speedy flees at top speed around the room.
Kuan-Xi knocks the demon through the bar. The Sea Lord shoots the demon with a small crossbow. Commander Yao and his XO team up to stack their demon hunting abilities together, and the Blademistress chops the Doomhunter almost as effectively as Master Deng.
The Doomhunter, while chasing Speedy around, runs through Lucky Chang, who falls. The party considers checking if he has a demon-hunter token on him, and planting one if he doesn't. Various house representatives try to first aid Chang, and might be planting house tokens on him.
- "Can you not win if you're dead?" -Min Feng
Merit first aids him some more, and he gets up.
Autumn Rose used the Ladies choice dance number to whisk Shen Wei Han right onto the dance floor into the direct path of the Doomhunter. She apologises to Merit. Xian dances with the demon in the pale moonlight, moving Wei Han out of the being-run-through zone. Then she tries to convince it to take joy in life and dance for a bit, but it is unconvinced.
Two thousand points of damage later, Blademistress Shai Zan glows brightly while she turns one of her swords into a Sword of Light, doing x10 damage and the killing blow. People nod appreciatively. The Doomhunter vanishes again, back to the World Below.
Lucky Chang has been charming the house representatives that of course nothing should be done on his behalf, despite that he was the only person injured by the demon. Merit foists a lot of healing potions on him, on the theory that if he's not injured by the end of the party, it hardly counts, and Xian starts planting thoughts that Chang is laying it on a bit thick.
Master Deng chats with the Blademistress, and asks if they might meet up later. It is unclear to her whether he is asking her on a date or asking her to be a shtick source, and she doesn't seem terribly warm to either, but she does agree to dance with him and allows as they might speak later. Deng notes that she has one fewer sword than she started with - apparently the Sword of Light uses the underlying sword up.
Wei Han cuts in with Commander Yao and his XO, and notes that half of the bar has survived - they talk shop about the Northern invasion and the school Wei Han is founding.
Min Feng overhears the Jester chatting with Hsu Verity - he thinks Shen-Ji is onto something, and Verity should stop resisting his plan. Min Feng tries to study the Jester, but he trips and she studies Verity instead.
Then, the party concludes. The winners are:
|Demon-Hunting||Blademistress Shan Zai||Gainful Protection|
|Erudition||Scholar Turtle||Beneficent Travel|
Min Feng tries to study Lucky Chang, but has to flip a coin, and fails. She tries with another copy of her shtick and gets him. Autumn Rose says she will arrange to have the vanished bartender returned, with recompense for the inconvenience.
Before leaving, Speedy informs the party that in the next run that Master Deng is in, the Doomhunter will show up and try to kill him at sunset.
After Lucky Chang leaves, Cai Wen asks Malkoha what she thinks his plan was. Her guess is that convincing the other house representatives to sympathize was his backup lemonade-making plan after being taken out by the demon; he specializes in coming up with backup plans on the fly. His primary plan must have been disrupted by him being smote down in the combat.