Looking for People in All The Wrong Places
|"I look for my ring in the courtyard, because the light is better here."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Butterfly in the Month of the Spider in the tenth Year of the Bear since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in Tahiti and elsewhere
A number of plots have been postponed from previous runs - perhaps now is the time? Where is that orphan, anyway? Possibly Meilin knows where he is? Meilin is in Yanyu's tent, but Fin is not there. She says he went off to do training, with the choppy guys in jammies. She's not sure where that is - it's kind of hard to explain, but she can go fetch him. Meilin dashes off, losing Yanyu and Xiao Fa and his halberdiers, but still followed by Lijuan, who is pretty good at keeping up with unreasonably fast things. Lijuan follows her to Bear Mountain, but then her shtick is used up, and so Meilin and Fin return to the Tanzhe without her and don’t mention seeing her. Huh. Now Lijuan is missing? Maybe they should give her a few minutes to catch up. An hour later, Lijuan is still missing. Hmm.
Xiao Fa meditates on the spot where Lijuan and the kids vanished, and thinks that there was some sort of sorcery that pulled them into the water gate that used to be there.
Meanwhile, Yanyu goes off to visit the Hsu family, with Fin in tow and Xiao Fa's halberdiers just in case the aunt and uncle get too feisty about their missing nephew. They are pleased to see the runaway/kidnapped boy returned, and want to know what punishment was levied on the people who stole him. Well, no, they weren't punished - Fin was fine, really. True, he was sleeping with the horses and the dogs, but it was warm in the stable! They don't see the inherent awesomeness of sleeping with the dogs, so Yanyu tries another tack, and offers him an apprenticeship with the House of Exuberant Interference, to be trained in couriering and matchmaking. After a lot of promises to train him up and make sure he has a good job at the end of it, and an additional seven li as a broker's fee, she smoothes over the previous hard feelings, and takes Fin away as an eight-year-old apprentice.
Lijuan, who can water gate to Tahiti but not to the Tanzhe, meets up with Zhuai, who has come looking for her. He notes that he has some temporary Imperial Consort shticks, courtesy of House Sung. Hmm. That probably has something to do with the letter that they sent her a run or two ago. She’ll have to think about that.
Xiao Fa tries to interrogate Meilin about whether she is using water gates, but she isn't really clear on the metaphysical aspects of what she's doing, as she's only five. Does she know where Lijuan is? She didn't see Lijuan, though she can confirm that Fin was at the "pajama chopper" guys. Meilin and Fin run off to look for Lijuan back at Bear Mountain, shortly before Zhuai and Lijuan show back up at the Tanzhe headquarters.
Zhuai has brought the mail from Tahiti, which includes several messages for Xiao Fa from Master Tranh asking after his investigations into the missing Gi Su.
Lijuan, meanwhile, has finished some art.
- "Is that Bear Mountain?"
- "Which?" -Mike
- "... that one? (pointing at one of the moustache guys"
- "No." -Mike
So, maybe each of the stops on the trail is a missing person? Who else is missing? Well, Meilin and Fin are. And Gi Su. It isn't clear that Meilin and Fin being missing could be The Plot, though. How could the GMs have known in advance that they would run off?
- "The heir to House Sung should go on the list too." -Zhuai
- "Did you make them go missing?"
- "No. Should I have?" -Zhuai
The junior butler pokes his head in, wondering if Xiao Fa wants to talk to any of the people who wanted to talk to the Governor last run but got asked to wait. Er, who was that? There was a dark-skinned applicant for the Justicar position, there were some tax collectors, and there was the Five Sisters construction company, who wanted the contract to build the Governor's palace.
Well, Xiao Fa will talk to Sima, the Justicar applicant first. Sima enters, bows, and says that he trusts that Wei Han has presented his credentials and recommendation? Xiao Fa notes that Wei Han said he intended to write a recommendation letter, but then went off to deal with some missing students. (Ahah! More missing people for the list!)
Sima says that he has a deep understanding of the underpinnings of justice and wants to actualize them in this country. Xiao Fa delegates Merit to talk to him - can he provide references? None that Merit would know, but Merit gets kind of snippy and says that he'll fail the interview unless he gives a list. He names a couple of "count"s, and a maharajah, and a grand poohbah, whatever any of those are. Merit wants to know whether those are in the North or the South, and how he would get there to verify the references. Sima says that he really shouldn't explain further, as that little girl said she would smite him. Sima also notes that he has so far only reorganized justice systems, not instantiated them, so this would be new. However, he specifically seeks a position of authority in the law enforcement of this land.
Merit and Xiao Fa confer, and Xiao Fa has deduced that two thirds of his shticks are ineffective if he is not part of the authority of the law enforcement of the land. Judge Character says that he is driven for justice. Merit thinks that he would be a good fit for as long as he lasts, which would not be for all that long. His aspect is "Sword of Justice", more the former than the latter.
Can he say why he left his last position? He is afraid that he cannot. Why can't he say? He can't say that either.
- "Are there circumstances in which you could say?"
- "It seems nearly inevitable."
Hmm. Well, it seems likely to them that he has killed all his previous employers when they failed to live up to his ideas of justice, and thus they should decline his application. Though Merit thinks that "a good fit for as long as he lasts" would be a little suspect if it really meant "a good fit and then he kills you".
Anyhow, it's time to leave all these people still waiting for the Governor, and to head to the House of Quiet Concordance to ask about Gi Su..
Avoiding the Trail, One
Merit asks who is in town in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival regarding Gi Su's plot. Just Xiao Fa and Yanyu. Hmm.
Master Tranh says that Gi Su was assigned to check up on Petal Bay, and he was summoned to speak with the House of Benevolent Oversight after that, but he missed the meeting, and the subsequent meeting, and in general has not been seen since he went to Petal Bay.
Alas, the party does not have a water gate to the Butterfly Meadows, so they head to Tahiti to take a water gate to Bear Mountain, because that is easier to get to, and because if they are lucky, some of Master Zhou's apprentices will be missing.
(At Tahiti, the butler mentions that Master Fin left a message saying that he and Meilin don't think that Lijuan is on Bear Mountain, so they'll look for her somewhere else.)
On Bear Mountain, Yanzi says things have been quiet since the battle of the pagodas. Master Zhou enquires: Po has a nemesis now? Yanzi has to think about that for a moment, but then she says she guesses so.
- "Is he a worthy nemesis?" -Master Zhou
Well, first, worthy of her or Master Zhou, or worthy of Po? He is definitely not worthy of them, and... tempting though it is, she would have to say no, he is not worthy of Po either. In any event, he is Fung, a bandit leader, and he is in jail with Lord Yu now.
The group describes Fin and Meilin - has Yanyu seen them? She has, and they are around frequently, but Yanzi had not realized who they were. Master Zhou notes that Meilin might have her own watergate powers. Yanyu asks if she should try to intercept them the next time they are here. Yanyu requests that Yanzi catch them, and tell them that they are not supposed to travel unaccompanied. Master Zhou notes that they might be hard to catch, but Yanyu is pretty confident that she can catch a six year old, even if assisted by an eight year old.
Who is in town (Bear Mountain) regarding the disappearance of the Heir to House Sung? Zhuai, Yanyu, and Min Feng. That seems... not very enlightening, especially since no one is really sure of any further details of the heir's having gone missing.
Avoiding the Trail, Two
Well, House Sung is also closer than the Butterfly Meadows. So the party gates back to Tahiti, and rides for House Sung.
Is Sung Tai here? No, he was called to the Dragon's Throne. Lijuan notes that Zhuai had a feeling that he might be in trouble. Well, Zhuai would know, they expect.
So... about that. Lijuan would like to make it clear that she is backing Xiao Fa for Emperor. Might they ask why? Well, Lijuan says, because Xiao Fa wants to be Emperor. House Sung finds this explanation somewhat dubious. Xiao Fa raises a finger, introducing himself, and says that he doesn't want to be Emperor, he thinks he's obligated to be Emperor. Ah. Well, given his reasons, they think he must understand why they are similarly obligated to support Foon Lijuan.
Lijuan emphasizes that House Sung not do anything to get them in trouble with her companions. Ah. They understand. They will take care not to upset her "friends".
(Zhuai notes that Sung Tai went to the Dragon's Throne to investigate matters at the Imperial Archives. House Sung didn't think he was "missing", just "stayed overlong".)
Lijuan talks to the House Sung people privately, and they promptly offer to rescue her from her "friends". She says that she really doesn't think she should be Emperor, because her friends keep telling her that she can't do things that she thinks she can do. House Sung suggests that maybe she could come and visit them for longer, to be away from such people?
- "You do not want to cross these people." -Lijuan
Lijuan leaves Zhuai to talk to them, to see if he can sway their opinion and also find out what they think is going on.
- "I don't want House Sung decimated again, and certainly not by my friends this time." -Lijuan
House Sung makes Lijuan a bargain: If Lijuan promises to think about the fact that she is among scary "friends" who keep denigrating her, they will think about not rescuing her.
- "How many ninja houses have you destroyed by accident?" -Lijuan
- "By accident is different!"
Well, there isn't a plot here to investigate, as the trail seems to lead to the Dragon's Throne. But wait, there were some more missing people!
Who is in town in the House Sung lands, regarding the disappearance of the Winter Academy students? Maybe Min Feng, kind of a little. It's not clear this is helpful. However, the Winter Academy is also far and travelling is no fun. Can anyone think of any other missing people who might be standing behind a nearby tree? No.
Master Zhou finally turns his attention back to Lijuan's painting, and wonders what the first step is - that would be Petal Bay. Well, all right, perhaps they must go there after all.
Following the Trail
Several days of sea voyage later, the group arrives in the port of Petal Bay. Who is in town related to the missing Gi Su? Xiao Fa, and Yanyu, and Harbor Master Fukiyama.
The group heads to the Harbor Master's office. It's quite busy, and he appears to be the main person working there. Xiao Fa says he is looking for his apprentice Gi Su, who may still be on the island. The Harbor Master doesn't think the name sounds obviously familiar - he can try to see what he can remember, but he'll be rolling for 15s without anything else to remind him.
Well , perhaps they can investigate some first.
Lijuan asks around - the urchins remember Gi Su. Despite not being all that old, he was kind of snobby, and he didn't like pork buns. He only ate black noodles for lunch. Min Feng asks around after black noodles, and learns of the Noodle Palace, which serves squid ink noodles. They're the only place on this side of the island who makes them, but they have a master chef. Xiao Fa talks to the chef about the noodles, and mentions his apprentice Gi Su. Ah, the chef also remembers Gi Su. He came here for lunch every day, until the Day of the Fox almost a month ago. He would come down from the Wall, and have lunch, and then go back.
The group heads to the wall, the foundation of Xiao Fa's masterwork garden, and notes eight sculpture platforms showing bronze castings of plants, but only seven of them are occupied. That doesn't look right. Each of the castings shows the change of the bronze plant about half a season forward, but then the last is missing and derails the flow. Xiao Fa admires how the statues (or how they should be) add to the feng shui of the garden.
Xiao Fa checks in with House Nogi's foreman, who arranged to build the platforms and raise the bronze sculptures into place. The foreman also remarks on Gi Su having wandered off, but puts it down to the distractibility of the young. Every three days a new sculpture would arrive on the boat from the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, and they would go and put it up that afternoon. The last one was nineteen days ago.
The party heads back to Harbor Master Fukiyama with more details, and these prove sufficient to refresh his memory. He also remembers Gi Su coming in every three days to get his sculpture, but the last time he came in, when the harbor master went to the back room to get the crate, Gi Su was gone when he returned. Only one shipment went out that day, to the silk merchant Kinoze.
Xiao Fa takes the crate of the last bronze plant, and, with the Nogi foreman, arranges to put the sculpture into places, before the group heads back to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival.
The party heads to Kinoze's house of silk trade and demands to see Kinoze. Kinoze is uninterested in seeing them, according to his front office clerk.
- "Tell your boss that Li Merit is interested in finding our friend, and he is sure that anything that happened to him is an accident because we are currently in a detente." -Merit
The house goes into lock-down super-defensive mode, with archers and other potential security forces stationed in a second floor gallery, and there is a sound of chains rolling for some time, before Kinoze emerges from the back room.
Kinoze is somewhat dubious that the detente is defined as "we don't kill you, and you don't do anything to anyone who we might at some subsequent time claim as a friend", but Merit acknowledges that it was all a horrible misunderstanding, and no doubt their friend clumsily fell into a box before it was shipped. They are simply interested in where he went, and are sure that Kinoze keeps meticulous records.
Lijuan tries to give him two tael, but Kinoze is sure that he is not owed any money for silk. He is willing to take it as a gift, of course. She declines to give him two tael as a gift, and still owes Ezokin a debt.
Kinoze is also not initially willing to discuss where the box went - silk is such a personal matter, and his clients expect a certain level of discretion. That sounds more like an opening for negotiation, and Merit opens his mouth, but Kinoze says he'll negotiate with Xiao Fa - after all, it was Xiao Fa's apprentice.
- "We didn't say anything about apprentice."
- "I am hoist on my own petard, then. Very well, fifty li."
A suitable transport crate was arranged by the Monastery of the Dark Sun, in the Illuminated Precincts, and the shipping destination was a campsite on the back of Bear Mountain. Master Zhou has never heard of the Monastery of the Dark Sun in a martial arts context, and Merit thinks it's a really obscure sect of the spiral path found in the southern countries.
The group heads back to Tahiti, where the butler presents them with a note. Fin and Meilin are pretty sure that Lijuan is not in the Illuminated Precincts, so they're going to look around the volcano. (As you do). Yanyu issues some orders:, next time they show back up, tell them that Yanyu has found Lijuan, and they should wait here until they return.
The group takes a short trip to House Sakong. Do they know anything about the Monastery of the Dark Sun? The majordomo thinks it's a myth, and though he knows where it's supposed to be he doesn't think there's anything there Hmm. Maybe they should rescue Gi Su first.
Off, once more, to Bear Mountain, but this time they have a destination: to the bandit camp on the back side of the mountain. When they gate in through the White Pagoda, Meilin and Fin prove to be there, so they get to accompany the raid on the bandit camp.
First, Master Zhou asks Yanzi what she knows about the area. The local bandits used to be Tai Lung's, but not they haven't been so for a little while - which is why people like Fung have become active. Master Zhou asks for some backup on the mission. Do they want Yanzi or Po or some White Pagoda mooks? Well, it's bandits, so bringing Po seems the best fit.
Merit disguises himself as Gi Su, just in case it's helpful to make a swap, and the group sneaks towards the bandit camp. There are a bunch of bandits around a fire, and something that looks like it might be a pit with lumber stacked on top of it.
They send Po to sneak around to a dramatic rock to stand on it to call upon the bandits to surrender. Merit suspects that the most likely outcome is that Po will get spotted part way through. And, in fact, he does.
- "I wouldn't get him, if you value your life." -Lijuan
- "Fools! You are surrounded!" -Po
The bandits are quite distressed to see Kawaii - the party has a beast! Abandon hope!
There is a lot of fighting - Xiao Fa gets kind of mobbed (due to Master Zhou flinging bad guys across the map at him), and he nearly goes down. Then, the bandits nearly get the lumber off of the pit, but before they can finish getting the pit open, Po stands on the rock to Dramatically Highlight the Sunset, the thing in the pit goes to sleep, and most of the bandits manage to flee.
Two of the Bandit leaders have been taken down non-lethally and can be interrogated. One of them has a holy artifact, but Merit and others who examine it think no one is allowed to have it, so they leave it alone.
After some interrogation, the party determines that
- they have a Beast, and they cover themselves in sap from blue trees in order to keep the beast from eating them.
- They captured the beast in the mountains.
- They used Crazy Li as bait to capture the beast.
- The beast is very scary and eats people, but goes to sleep at sundown.
Wait, wasn't there some plot reason to be interrogating these bandits? What has the Monastery of the Dark Sun hired them to do lately? They wanted the bandits to smuggle some guy up to where the pagodas are, which they did. Then the monks took the guy away again. That was maybe a week ago.
The bandits think that maybe the guy was looking for some rock dropped in the battle at the Pagodas. They didn't find it, though, so they were kind of mad. Then they went away again with the guy.
This is all very puzzling. What sort of rock would they be looking for? Maybe one of the anchors? Lijuan notes that the missing Sankara Stone went missing around that time. Ohh. That makes sense for bad guys to be hunting for.
Since there are some human bones near the pit with the beast, the two remaining bandits are taken to be given to Lord Yu for justice. Po says that he'll take them down - he said he would visit Fung anyways. Master Zhou glowers at further evidence of Po canoodling around with an unsuitable nemesis.
Everyone else heads up the mountain, leaving Lijuan (and Kawaii) to deal with the Beast in the pit, which proves to be a black panda bear. She convinces it to head off into the mountains to eat deer, rather than eating more people, and also determines that the bandits were probably a little overly optimistic about the power of the sap of the blue trees - the panda would probably just have eaten them last, if it came to that.
Meanwhile, up at the Pagodas, Xiao Fa follows the chi downstream. He finds a spot where something got pulled out of the world, and went flying in some not-direction direction.
- "Should we follow it?" -Meilin
Xiao Fa thinks he needs to follow it, so from everyone else's point of view, Meilin walks up to Xiao Fa and the two of them vanish. Just as they vanish, Merit hears a splash.
Xiao Fa (and Meilin) pop out back near the Sakong secret shrine to Sam, where Lu Chu scolds Xiao Fa about not trying to do terribly dangerous and probably impossible things, which she has prevented him from actually doing. Apparently the Sankara stone is far to the south - it was trying to go back to Kali when it was dropped, but Sam managed to put a spin on it so it didn't quite go to the right place. But Xiao Fa was trying to go right to Kali. Sam and Lu Chu did deal with the Monastery of the Dark Sun, so it's empty now, but Gi Su has been taken to the south to look for the Sankara stone, now that they know, sort of, what happened to it.Min Feng can locate where Xiao Fa is, so the group water-gates from Bear Mountain to Tahiti to the Sakong estates, and they can catch up to Xiao Fa as Lu Chu finishes her briefing.