|"The matchmaker gets three cups of wine when she succeeds and three slaps on the cheek when she fails."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Butterfly 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 City of Light, in the Illuminated Precincts.
Takanata, Cai Wen, Master Deng, and Yanyu head to the Illuminated Precincts, with a plan to earn a favor from Willow's boss, the Revered Sage Shentu Guan, so as to have Willow think about the Emperor mechanic for them. The Precincts seem to be celebrating the biggest street party ever of "We Got The Southerners", and anyone in a Dragon Army uniform can have free drinks.
Cai Wen pokes his head in at Willow's office - she's working late, and says she needs to file several thousand reimbursement requests. Destroying a Southern Fleet is quite expensive, and the Dragon Army didn't pay for everything in advance - instead, they did a lot of borrowing and commandeering, but it should be possible to have those costs recovered. Cai Wen says that if all the paperwork isn't due tonight, he'll buy drinks. She puts the papers away very carefully in a lockbox, and heads out with him to a nice dinner.
Yanyu heads to the Exalted Library, which is less crowded than it often is, and heads to browse the Astrology section.
Takanata looks for a fancy party, with Zhi-Hao in tow. He burns his reputation to get an invitation to what is described as "Councillor Sima's rolling party" - rumor has it that the Sea Lord himself might attend later. The servants direct Takanata to the room where Councillor Sima is, and direct Zhi-Hao to the storytelling at the other end of the hall. Storytelling appears to be battle stories from the fleet battle - a captain is describing (with swooping hand motions) his fight with a flying Southern mage. In the other area, Councillor Sima welcomes Takanata and offers the hospitality of his house. Takanata tries to recall if he has met Councillor Sima before, and notes that he's surprisingly young for a Revered Sage.
Zhi-Hao thinks that the party, or, at least the part he's in, is surprisingly heterogeneous. It's not a commander and some lieutenants, or anything like that - everyone is from a different command, and there is no overlap or anyone who knows each other, as far as he can tell. Takanata, on the other hand, thinks that it is actually two separate parties - one with politicians and artists, and one with soldiers. This all seems somewhat baffling, and in particular, Councillor Sima does not appear to be enjoying his party.
Back at the library, Yanyu's assistant keeps trying to find books for her, but hints that if she wants him to find anything else from outside the library, he could do that too. She asks him about current events, and he gives her the Precincts view of the recent fleet battle, and the celebration parties. Sensing the intent behind his errand offers, she asks him to find the best party he can for her to attend. After some checking, he reports back that he can get Yanyu into the lovely party at the estate of one of the portmasters, but while the best party is Councillor Sima's, he can't get an invitation to that. Yanyu burns her reputation to get into the party as well, and Councillor Sima is particularly excited to see a matchmaker of her reputation. He shows her the fine selection of Dragon Army officers and nice politicians that he has invited, and urges her to let him know if he can be of any assistance.
Yanyu wanders into the army half of the party, where Zhi-Hao is egging them on. He explains to her about the two different parties, and they decide to try to go to the other one. The servants seem very confused by this, especially by Master Deng, but they straighten his clothes and adjust his collar, so he looks more like a noble from the Court of Beauty than a soldier, and they regroup with Takanata to ponder the weirdness of the party.
The main connection between Sima and Yanyu is that, other than the servants (who don't count), they are the only two people at both parties.
(Elsewhere, Cai Wen wonders if there are any good parties to go to, sensing that he's missing out on a plot, but Willow has other plans for the evening.)
The group of three tries to head back to the Army party, though the servants clearly think that Takanata would not find it interesting. Takanata falls back, and then starts chatting with Sima, drifting with him to the other party when he switches. As Takanata comes in, the current storyteller spots Takanata, and drops his sword. Takanata says jovially that he's here for the stories, and the soldier starts giving him a dry after-action report. Sadly, this mostly puts enough of a damper on the party that it begins to break up.
Yanyu tries to figure out the relationship between the people here. She thinks that Takanata is the only one with any sort of a love life, and that of the soldiers, the Dragon Army is the only thing they have in common. That... doesn't make things much more clear.
Councillor Sima encourages Yanyu to return again tomorrow, and she asks if she might bring Ringmaster Zhu, from the Silken Wings Circus? She kind of burns his "Ahead of the Game" shtick as if it was a reputation, and gets him an invitation.
In the morning, the group meets up again to try to gather more information. Rumor has it that the Revered Sages are paying more attention to Imperial entanglement and Imperial plots, after the renaming of the Hidden City to the Dragon's Throne.
Yanyu checks in with her mentor Hai-Ling, to tell her about the very odd party. Hai-Ling says that Sima is the youngest of the Sages, and there is some argument as to whether he is the youngest Sage ever - some records are not clear. Many of the other Sages believe him to be almost inappropriately Yang. Still, this sounds like something worth investigating - Yanyu should definitely go back to the party, and bring a spare love potion, just in case.
Cai Wen and Zhi-Hao visit Willow and her boss. He is a little unclear on why they are there, as is Willow. Cai Wen explains that they were hoping they could perform some service for him, and in exchange, ask Willow for some mechanics help. Shentu Guan ponders it, and thinks that their assistance might be useful, if they are willing to do some things that would not be approved of, if they came to be known. Cai Wen allows as they might be, if those things could be done subtly. Oh, yes, subtle is necessary. It would be useless were they noticed. Several Councillors are not behaving predictably, and he would like to get to the bottom of that. One simple way would be to scry upon the targets, but these things require focus and are time-consuming. If a couple of these little statuettes were already in their private studies, that would do the trick. Councillor Tuan and Councillor Sima are the ones who he would like to spy upon - they are both acting in odd ways.
Zhi-Hao wants to know what kind of "odd"? Inconsistently? Shentu Guan says that would require his being able to predict them correctly to begin with. They are doing things that seem to him random, such that he cannot predict their plans. Currently, Tuan seems to be on a security kick, and Sima is on a social kick. Cai Wen notes that his recent party was definitely very odd, and someone seems to have thrown a mechanic in on top of it. Guan will investigate that.
The Sage agrees that if they run these errands for him, he will let Willow consult for them on mechanics (though of course he would get a copy of any mechanics she devises). He gives them two small statues, carved from red stone, of cranes in flight.
Cai Wen and Zhi-Hao leave, and confer with the other two. The statuettes seem like some sort of focus for a diviner - but who might that be? Yanyu thinks about what she knows about the Precincts - it's not a strong haven of diviners, and the Sages tend to be more about history than magic. There is the Cryptomancer, but this doesn't appear to be his work. It might be plausible that a Sage would have a lower-level diviner on staff, rather than going out to a higher-level consultant to do his spy work.
The group considers their woeful lack of thiefly skills. They could... get a meeting with the Sages in question, and surreptitiously drop the statue? Put them inside other works of art and make gifts of them? (Hard to require that the gift be put in the study). Well, as a start, they can go to Councillor Sima's next party, and see if an opportunity presents itself.
Yanyu and Cai Wen (with Willow) show up to Councillor Sima's party extra-early. Sima is a little taken aback that Cai Wen brought a date, but soon gets back on track. Does Yanyu have any suggestions as to how to make tonight's party go better? Congenial foods? She asks about the guest list, and he escorts her to his majordomo's office to look it over. (Alas, not as easy as that).
She notes that of the guests, Takanata is the only "Tier 1" artist and Sima is the only "Tier 1" politician, and the other Tier 2 artists and politicians are definitely eligible, as far as Yanyu knows from her local expertise. The Dragon Army side is a little more male-dominated, and the politician/artist side is exactly as much female-dominated. It's... like he's trying to play matchmaker for the entire middle level of the Dragon Army, but he has no actual matchmaker skill, so he just threw a big party on the theory that they would pair up like magnets. But they don't seem to mingle well.
Yanyu advises Sima to put all the food in a central location, so that people have to mingle to the same room, and to set up private areas where people can go for more intimate chats. Also, the guards are instructed that they should let people back in to the secure area, if they're looking for space to go as an appropriately-paired couple. (Master Deng appears to be in the "Dragon Army" side, so he could pair up with someone from the politician/artist side).
As other guests begin to arrive, it's clear that Sima has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the guests on both sides. Yanyu starts noting people's aspects and matching people up by the best House of Harmony standards, and looking for a good Butterfly-aspected possibility for Zhi-Hao. She also gives him a makeover, bringing his charisma up to an 8.
Yanyu starts working the party, making introductions between people she thinks should be pairing up. She's effective, but it's slow going. Cai Wen and Willow try to assist, using pairs that Yanyu points out to them, and Cai Wen is certainly charming and persuasive, but Willow begins to be confused by the plot. Is this what Cai Wen wants her to do, make a matchmaking mechanic? No, no, this is separate. This is just... because there seems to be a matchmaking plot here that needs help, so they're helping.
Yanyu introduces Zhi-Hao to her pick, Lan Wei-Yan. She's an island portmaster, dealing with hundreds of smaller ports on the delta islands, and does a lot of logistics and mediation. He pours on the charm, telling stories about the logistics of moving elephants over the North Wall, and suggests that the story would benefit from some sketches. Perhaps they should find some paper? Off in the private wing?
- "They're looking for paper to diagram the elephant moving logistics."
- "Is that what the kids are calling it these days?"
Takanata ponders the strongest relationship between Sima and one of the guest. It is... what is the relationship between the director and his actors before anyone has written the play? But also, his guest.
Yanyu confers with Councillor Sima - what exactly was his plan? He had hoped that if the sides were balanced it would just work. Yanyu points out that matchmaking is an art, not a bulk process. And what is he trying to do? Well, he would be pleased if at some point in the future, the people here had fond and personal memories, such as having met their spouse at his party. Such that they might be grateful to him. After some hinting, it appears that Sima is willing to owe Yanyu a favor if she can make his plan happen.
She takes a moment to use her various information-gathering abilities on him. He's a Tiger, and the most important person not here who is connected to him is the Obsidian Warlord, in a sort of future potential sense. Takanata checks visions of both the past and future.
Past: Councillor Sima in his study. He has all sorts of spy reports coming in about the Dragon Army, and is mapping them out in a giant grid. He appears to be constructing the perfect orthogonal basis of Dragon Army middle management.
Future: The Sages sit in their council chambers, and the King tries to speak. Several people shush him. Sima makes a flowery speech, but someone tries to overrule him, asking "How do we know the Dragon Army isn't going to stomp all over us?" and Sima opens his mouth to answer.
Zhi-Hao and Wei-Yan wander into the private wing, but Zhi-Hao is stymied by the number of closed doors. The first one has a nice little sitting room, and the third appears to be the study in question. He grabs some paper from the study and they retire to the sitting room, where he decides that he needs Seduction as an inherent skill. After a while, he ducks out "to the bathroom", also known as "into the study to hide the statuette".
Back in the main room, Willow helps Yanyu implement speed dating, and, when she hears that Sima is hoping to get a favor from the Dragon Army at the end, adds that in as well. The party ends up surprisingly successful, and Yanyu expects that close to 75% of the guests will be married within a year. Sima declares that he owes Yanyu a favor.
The Other One
Well, that's all good, but what about the other Sage? Takanata contemplates putting a Hand on the Pattern to put Master Deng in Councillor Tuan's study at two in the morning the next night. Unfortunately, the easiest way to do that might be to have him be caught breaking in. Could Takanata dreamwalk to the study? Possibly, but not well enough to leave a physical object.
Yanyu, cutting to the chase, hires a ninja from the House of the Third Eye, and it is done.
Takanata asks Yanyu to look into who Xingfu Yin-Xiang is. After a lot of research in noble birth records and the like in the Exalted Library, her young librarian finds a book of supernatural creatures, that mentions the name as someone thought to be a son of the Moon spirit. She happily notes down his birthday and birth place, sufficient for a horoscope.
Zhi-Hao goes on another date with Wei-Yan, and they part with plans to keep in touch.
Willow examines the List of Emperor Qualifications, and agrees with Dragon that if you fulfill all nine qualifications, then you are Emperor. Many of the qualifications allow for a two point version, if you are playing for points instead.
- Support of the People
- Support of the Army
- Being a blood heir (2 points if you don't use the Book Mechanic - e.g. Lijuan)
- Support of the Regency Council (2 points if unanimous)
- Support of the Dragon (2 points if in the cycle)
- Omens of Thrones (2 points if it includes all the countries)
- Support of the Bureaucracy
- Support of the Nobility
- Support of the Imperial Consort (2 points if married)