Keepers of Brothers
|"Help thy brother's boat across, and lo! thine own has reached the shore."|| It is a little while after the defeat of the Shadow.|
The run takes place in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival.
Having leapt through a shadow gate near the end of the combat with the Shadow, Shanxi and Xiao Fa arrive in a shadowed room. Not long after, probably at the death of the Shadow, Shanxi slumps to the ground, and mutters weakly for water. Xiao Fa thinks they're in the back room of what smells like a bar, but there isn't any water immediately evident. He peeks out into the main room - there's a barkeep and some patrons, and some shady corners suitable for secret meetings. Picking up Shanxi's staff, Xiao Fa heads out into the bar and asks for some water. The barkeep says he can't recommend the water, but will have someone make spiced tea. Xiao Fa asks for very bland tea, gets a teacup and lightly brewed tea, and heads back for the back room. The barkeep warns him that he can use the back room for a few minutes, but to not be too long. Shanxi drinks all the tea, and seems to feel a bit better.
So... where do they go from here? Shanxi says he has a little money put away, and maybe they can head up to the Port of Propitious Voyage. Xiao Fa suggests going back to the circus, which Shanxi seems to find a ludicrous idea.
- "No, no, no. Circus? First, seriously? Second,, there's good reason to believe that the circus is not going to stay safe. And third that puts us back into the middle of the thing we just extricated ourselves from. Now we're free, we can go anywhere we want!"
Xiao Fa says he can't just wander off, he has things to do. Shanxi is dubious - like what?
- "Like help free Dragon, because Spider pisses me off."
- "You can't take these kinds of things personally."
- "Are you positive? Because I do."
Shanxi doesn't think that it's like Spider is a guy standing there, poking you with a stick. It's more like, Spider is a rainy day ruining your picnic, but sometimes you need a rainy day because the crops need rain. He did just go through the whole Dragon versus Spider changing-your-life thing, so he does get it. If he had been a Dragon, he probably would have joined the army. He would have ended up protecting people, and made a name for himself, and done a lot of good.
- "I protected people, except for you. I lost track of you. As a Spider, though, I did the same thing - I fought people, I kept my own people safe, including you, until you took off because of Dragon."
He doesn't think that Spider is the one true way, or anything like that, he's just saying, don't discount the value of a rainy day just because you get wet. Now he and Xiao Fa are together again, and Xiao Fa is Dragony and Shanxi is Spidery, but they're together. And it wouldn't have happened without Spider. Or maybe without Dragon either.
- "Being touched by Spider isn't so horrible, in any ways that make it worse than being separated."
Xiao Fa decides to move away from the high level philosophical questions about Great Spirits, and wonders what Shanxi would think if he said he isn't actually all that interested in staying safe, but he is interested in accomplishing those things that are important. And, at least staying in contact with Shanxi, if not actually staying together. Would Shanxi think that was unreasonable and hit him over the head? Shanxi allows as he wouldn't, at least not right away. He guesses Xiao Fa can make his own choices - just don't assume that his choices are the only right ones, because they both know better than that.
- "I will claim I have a middling to good chance of making good choices for myself, however." -Xiao Fa
- "Middling, probably." -Shanxi
- "So we have some basis for agreement. We just don't agree where we're going to end up. I would rather you came with me, back to the circus. You would rather I came with you..."
- "...to somewhere safer, and less... circusy."
Xiao Fa protests that the circus grows on you! Surprisingly so! As does the uncertainty, which is lots of fun.
- "You're looking for a life without safety..." -Shanxi
- "Way to twist it, bro!" -Xiao Fa
- "Without certainty. Because we Spiders are too planny." -Shanxi
Anyway, Xiao Fa thinks that the way to get the things done that he wants to get done is to go back to the circus. Plus there's the whole balance thing - if they're sticking to the metaphor, then Spider wants to make it a world of rain all the time, and that's no good. Xiao Fa wants things more balanced.
Shanxi says for the moment, at least, he's not going to beat Xiao Fa up to keep him safe, but only because there are more important things to do. Like getting his guys out of the danger that he and Xiao Fa got out of. Shanxi didn't care so much recently, because of the whole Shadow thing, but they are in trouble, and now he'd like to get them out.
- "The one thing we can't do is let anyone know..." -Shanxi
(Lijuan and Cai Wen step through into the shadow behind Shanxi, having convinced Reiko to let them follow the brothers to see if they were all right)
- "...that we're not actually going to be in the tong life any more."
- "Are you going to be a militia now?" -Lijuan
- "Agh!" -Shanxi
Shanxi actually thinks that militia isn't a horrible idea, but he's not sure that his guys would be convinced. He's more a lead-by-thumping sort, himself. He checks with Xiao Fa - are these new arrivals helpful? How about trustworthy? How about good at talking hardened criminals into joining militias?
- "Wait, you're taking that seriously?" -Cai Wen
A guy dressed in black pokes his head in, irritated to see people in the room. The barkeep placates him - the priest was just leaving.
Shanxi flips up the hood on his grey cloak, knocks his staff against the ground, and tells the group to follow him (though using his extra-deep voice makes him cough now). The guys outside are starting to grumble, but when they see Shanxi, they all stand in fearful silence until the party leaves.
Xiao Fa makes another stab at convincing Shanxi to run away and join the circus. There are guys who don't have to have acts. Like... the guys sweeping up after the elephants? Well, yes, and the ones who put up the tents, that sort of thing. Maybe the circus needs particularly tough bouncers? Maybe Shanxi could just take a little vacation with the circus, and have a lieutenant look after things while he was gone. Shanxi notes that putting a lieutenant in charge is what got his guys into the trouble they're currently in.
So.. how do they find the guys now?
- "Well, we could go to the marketplace, and proclaim that we're looking for them. Or we could subtly ask around and try to figure out where they are." -Shanxi, giving Xiao Fa a look
- "Well... we can do plan two, and fall back to plan one." -Xiao Fa
- "Lesson learned!" -Shanxi
Lijuan goes off to talk to urchins about the guys Shanxi is looking for, and Cai Wen asks around on the streets. Rumor has it that the Southern Park Demons are moving in on them, and they can't hold their turf any longer. They'll be at a particular seedy marketplace for a while tonight, but they won't be able to stay long, and there could be trouble.
How are these things handled, generally? Shanxi says usually, you get some reinforcements together, and take down your enemies when they attack. The party volunteers how they can help - Lijuan has a panda, and can shoot people pretty well. Cai Wen is less good with the combat side of things, but good with persuasion.
An urchin shows up to let Lijuan know that the guys she's looking for will be at the seedy marketplace, but that they're going to get smushed by their opposition, who will be there too.
Xiao Fa thinks that leaving for the Port of Propitious Voyage on the high note of a victory is better than fleeing before the fight, but how much mauling will they have to do to prove the point? Kawaii is pretty horrific when unleashed. On the other hand, telling the opposing gang to flee or face the consequences is not very compatible with ambushing them. Shanxi agrees, and notes that they can see how it goes, with an odd tone.
- "He sounds like he's going along with a doomed plan as an example to others." -Cai Wen
- "No, he's letting me double down." -Xiao Fa
- "The panda is a gift from my fiance's mother. Then she [the panda] killed her."
Xiao Fa picks up some tea to help Shanxi do the deep evil voice. Shanxi instructs Lijuan on how to hire some muscle: "Just have the panda growl when they raise the price." She should ask for a dozen guys for a heavy gig with no nonsense.
The tactic of having Kawaii growl on cue proves quite effective as an intimidating negotiation tactic, so Lijuan gets her crew for under budget and with very little mockery of the little girl hiring thugs. When they come out to see Shanxi in his grey cloak, the thugs decide things might be deeper than they realized; Lijuan tells them to keep the Southern Park Demons from hurting anyone.
Cai Wen goes to find Ayuki, and suggests a date interspersed by some after-dinner mayhem.
Once the extra combatants have been picked up, everyone heads to the marketplace. Xiao Fa tells Shanxi that he should tell the Southern Park Demons that they can walk away, and whatever happens afterwards is on their own heads. Shanxi reminds him that his staff doesn't have any serious mojo any more, but the plan isn't relying on the staff to do anything, so that's okay.
- "Are Lijuan's guys there to start with? Is the panda in a box, or standing out in the open? Or should we just wing it?" -Shanxi, giving Xiao Fa another look
Xiao Fa thinks that avoiding an ambush, and avoiding the panda mauling anyone accidentally, are all that are really required. Lijuan tells her thugs to "get 'em if they don't do what Cai Wen says."
- "If anyone looks like they're going to hurt people, then stop them, in the best way you know how."
- "Got it."
A couple of guys drift into the marketplace, and set up a little cart selling stuff; some shady-looking customers buy some of it. Xiao Fa sort of kind of recognizes one of them from before - Shanxi identifies him as Stickfingers.
A new gang shows up, and starts posturing threateningly at Stickfingers and the other guy. There's only two of them - maybe they had better clear out. Stickfingers whistles, and some more of their gang decloaks. Now they have eight guys, and the others only have six. But wait, there might be more of them too!
Shanxi appears on the rooftop, in his grey cloak and with his tea-deepened voice, and announces himself as the Adjudicator.
- "Attention Southern Park Demons. Your reign of terror is at an end. The South City Stragglers are under my protection." -Cai Wen
Neither gang is immediately impressed by Cai Wen, who looks more like a fop than a thug. Lijuan and Kawaii join him, which adds to the threat, though Lijuan looks kind of harmless if you don't look closely. Threats are slung back and forth about who is bringing order to this particular corner of the city.
Lijuan shoots between the feet of the Demon who's talking the most, but he panics and tells his guys to get them. They charge, straight into the line of fire Lijuan has set up, and take bunches of damage. Then they all flee. Kawaii roars, hoping to get credit for participation.
Lijuan's thugs are a little baffled as to why they are there, and are dismissed. They vow to never mock little girls who come into their bar again.
Stickfingers is impressed by the backup that Xiao Fa has shown up with, and agrees to send word to have everyone meet at the least blown of the Stragglers' safehouses. On the way there, Stickfingers pulls Xiao Fa aside, and warns him that it's not safe to hang with Shanxi any longer - he works for the Shadow. Xiao Fa says they have an understanding. Stickfingers is not reassured.
- "He was concerned about *you* guys, so he's here instead of with the Shadow. He's not involved with the Shadow any more, he's back here for you. So it's time to relocate, and find some new business ideas. " -Xiao Fa
The party explains that the whole show with the archery and the panda was to let the Stragglers leave on a show of strength, but now they can use their skills to help people. They are a little dubious about that. Well, helping people and making money.
- "Also, how do you feel about circuses, and the working therein?" -Xiao Fa
- "... oh! Hah! You really had us going for a while there. I missed your practical jokes, and this one didn't even have any spikes. Hah! Circus!"
Xiao Fa compromises - one of them will come with him on a vacation to the circus, and everyone else will relocate to the north and get into the legitimate protection business. The Stragglers go off in a corner and draw straws; the loser (Rubberlegs) returns and says he wants to join the circus. The rest of them will go with Shanxi to the Port of Propitious Voyage, and join the House of Gainful Protection, which is still pretty sparse there.
However, the House of Gainful Protection doesn't usually hire outright criminals. How are they going to manage that? Xiao Fa says he can probably arrange for a letter of recommendation, and goes off to the House of Quiet Concordance to talk to Master Tranh.
Master Tranh asks for Xiao Fa's evaluation of Gi Su. The boy does show promise, but Xiao Fa thinks he requires extra work. He's willing to keep teaching him, however. Master Tranh says he's doing actual homework at the moment - he must learn the forms, not just have an instinct for it. But he will send him back after that.
Xiao Fa says he has not gone into a great deal of detail about his own youth, for good reasons. Through the aid of friends, he has extracted his brother from what has been a career in crime. But, his brother's first thought was to get his "crew" out of danger. They might be able to start an honest life in the House of Gainful Protection, but there might need to be some amount of speaking for them first. Master Tranh asks if they are to be trusted. Xiao Fa says that his brother is, and he will keep the others in line until they learn new habits. Well, Master Tranh will arrange for the appropriate recommendations to be made and will send Gi Su to the City of Spires at the end of the month.
Xiao Fa returns to brief Shanxi and the others. So, he'll take everyone in the crew except Rubberlegs to the Port of Propitious Voyage, under the sponsorship of the House of Quiet Concordance.
- "And, no criminalizing." -Xiao Fa
- "Ri-ight. No criminalizing." -Shanxi
- "You have to say that so I believe you." -Xiao Fa
- "Don't make me come over there and put you down." -Shanxi
Off they go, and Xiao Fa starts to tell Rubberlegs about the circus. Lijuan spends a huge amount of money hiring every urchin in the city to find Cai Wen while he's off on his date.
- "It's you and a ninja and a romantic candle-lit dinner and urchins coming out of the walls."
Xiao Fa worries to Cai Wen that this is going to turn out badly, and he'll have to pay for it later. Cai Wen explains his new philosophy: embrace all blame.
- "I travel in the wake of the Storm Butterfly, and I fear no blame. Instead, let the blame fear me." -Cai Wen
- "... but what does that second part even mean?" -Xiao Fa