|"Death is not a period but a comma in the story of life."|| It is the one hundred and forty-fifth day of the three hundred and fifty-second Year of the Magpie.|
The run takes place in the World After.
Waiting In Line
Takanata, Lijuan, Kasumi, Wei Han, Shen-Ji, and Xian find themselves milling around, heading forward in a strange grey area. There are a bunch of other people also heading forward, and several beings with robes and clipboards are trying to get everyone to form an orderly line. Also in the lines seem to be animals, and money, and a few toys. Lijuan, recognizing where she is, ducks behind everyone else, insisting that she doesn't want pumice. A lot of the people in line are a little confused as to where they are. Takanata chats with another man, who says he's from a little town near the City of Spires, though that doesn't seem like where they are. Takanata tells him that they're all in the World After. The man is a bit disappointed by that.
Another hooded being asks the party to stop clumping up, and to please form a more orderly line. Takanata goes first (identified on the clipboard as "The honorable Tokai Takanata, murdered by River Ford"), followed immediately by Wei Han, and then the others, a bit less enthusiastically. The clipboard guy recognizes Wei Han and tries to escort him elsewhere, but Wei Han says he's with Takanata and the clipboard guy says he won't presume. Everyone - including "Thien Xian" - seems to be identified as "murdered by River Ford", though they don't remember it. The hooded beings start to be surprised by this - is there a war starting? A new serial killer?
- "Who else was killed by River Ford? Please put up your hands."
Xian thinks it's implausible that River Ford would have killed them all - why would he want to? Not to mention, why don't they remember? The group is shown to a waiting room while this gets sorted out.
- "Talk amongst yourselves, but don't say anything you wouldn't want repeated throughout eternity."
Then, a small being (an afterlife page) arrives, carrying an offering. The clipboard guy protests - they just got here! Nobody would have built them any shrines yet. The page shrugs - there's offerings now. A note, on fine red paper.
This note should get to you soon after you're dead. If you don't remember anything - don't worry, that's to be expected, and being dead is part of the plan. We're using yellow bonesap, which is pretty much guaranteed to have no long term side effects (and again, don't worry, being dead shouldn't be a long term side effect), but apparently your soul comes detached from your body so gently that it leaves some of the recent memories behind.
So, point one is that before you forgot, this is all part of the plan, and you guys are on board with it. You're doing a favor for me - some World After paper shuffling - and I'm doing a favor for you: I've worked up a plan for you to lay in a stash of Oblivion for later, which should go a lot of the way towards covering our tracks in the later escapades we discussed previously, and I trust you have not forgotten.
The forms to be placed will be showing up next, and after that, the items you requested that we burn at the little shrine we've made for our departed friends. There are four of them, and they just need to go into the appropriate folders in the Room of Records, after being stamped with the appropriate seals in the Room of Authentication and Verification. You will need to use the Scarlet Ink of Truthful Insistence for that, to make sure it's convincing.
As for the Oblivion - the best advice I can give you is to not touch the stuff at all. They probably have tools down there for getting a good-sized dollop out of the Font of Oblivion, and for carrying it without getting it stuck to you. You can't bring it out with you, of course - that'll just get you dosed with it yourselves instead - but I've scouted out a good private ancestor shrine in the Hidden City, very popular among the nobility, and quite blessed itself after all this time of fancy offerings being burnt. There should be blessings from ancestors being sent out back through the shrine quite frequently. You can just swap the Oblivion into the package meant for the shrine, and it'll stick there underneath until you come and get it when we're ready to do the job - there are enough blessings on the shrine that the Oblivion won't leak out, though once it's been dug up, we'll need to use it ASAP.
The last step is getting out. Lucky you, you have an immortal with you - he's walked back from the World Below before. The last thing we'll be sending in are a set of Obligatory and Compulsory Accompaniment Passes - once you show those, you'll have to stick to the big guy, so I suggest not waving them around until the end when you're on the way out. Don't lose them.
And, as several of you have pointed out to me - such suspicious minds you all have - so far there's no reason for you to believe me about having agreed to the plan, so here's some verification.
Truth lies not in the mouth that speaks
Nor in the ear
But in the words.
Truth lies not in the hand that writes
Nor in the eye
But in the words.
Don’t believe him! Lies, all of it! Lies!
The poem is in Takanata's hand, and seems to be in his style as well, and the chop is twenty different ways of writing "Xian", which she made at some point for amusement. However, Takanata declares Shen-Ji's commentary to be the most convincing point in the note.
The next "offerings" are four documents to file:
- Declaration of Legitimate Descent: Chio Yasha, son and heir of Chio Wen-jiing
- Declaration of Legitimate Descent: Chio Wen-jiing, son and heir of Chio Xu-hu
- Declaration of Legitimate Descent: Chio Xu-hu, son and heir of Chio Sia-wai
- Declaration of Legitimate Descent: Chio Sia-wai, son and heir of Chio Jing Zhi
Six Notable Accomplishments
The bureaucrat with the clipboard comes back, and wants the first person to be processed. Again, Takanata goes first, along with Wei Han. The interviewer, another hooded figure, asks Takanata to describe his six most notable accomplishments. Pausing a few times to think, he lists:
- He is the author of Air, Rain, and Water.
- He was named "Herald of the Butterfly" by the Perfect Master.
- He is a judge of the Court of Distinction on the Isle of Beauty, previously known as the Butterfly Kingdom. (The interviewer finds this extra commentary somewhat interesting).
- He was chosen by the Sun as the messenger to arrange for the freedom of his daughter.
- He led the charge that drove back Kali's high priest on Midwinter.
- He is the father of the most recent child of the Jasmine River spirit. (Wei Han finds that particularly interesting).
Then - though the interviewer notes that this is just for the record, not that there is any doubt - he plucks a soap bubble out of Takanata's chest, and places it on a balance. On the other side, he places a large number of small objects, and records the final tally before handing it back to Takanata. He suggests that Takanata head for the moment to the Room of Calming Sweet Water, a lovely room with a soft fountain, goblets of sweet water, and comfortable cushions - they will have the Palace of Misty Repose ready in a short while. The interviewer also summons two pages - one should take the interview records to the Room of Records, and the other should take the note about the Butterfly Kingdom to the Room of Authentication and Verification.
Wei Han follows the pages, until they split up, and then he follows the page with just one paper, until he reaches the Room of Authentication and Verification, and leaves the note in the inbox. Then, he gets a page to show him back to Lord Takanata (the page is willing to do so), and tells the page to make sure that everyone murdered by River Ford be sent to Lord Takanata (the page says he'll put in a request).
Back in the processing area, Shen-Ji files to have all his records reviewed, as a stalling tactic. The interviewer agrees - once his notable accomplishments are listed, they'll have the full record on each of the deeds pulled. Shen-Ji lists:
- He defeated Mu the Mad.
- He has delved into the secrets of Northern Barbarian magic.
- He was briefly the designated agent of the Big Horse Spirit.
- He has added 'art sorcerer' to his concept.
- He has met the Phoenix spirit in person.
- He has a phoenix companion.
His soap bubble is weighed - a very small weight - and a page goes to pull the records requested. Then, there is a "Bong! Bong! Bong!" alarm, which repeats several times. The page showing Wei Han back assures him not to worry - it's an invasion alarm, but the guard will see to it.
- "An invasion by who, where?" -Wei Han
- "I could send someone to check the records of the invasion once they've been filed."
- "Never mind, take me to the guard."
The "guard" appears to be a number of sets of empty black armor, nevertheless heading in the direction of the alarm. Wei Han asks what is invading, and receives an ominous whisper in reply: "The North". He follows them.
Back in the processing room, it is Kasumi's turn. She lists:
- She helped save a village by defeating an evil chi master.
- She helped save Xian's sisterhood from being trapped in an ice pagoda.
- She helped save the King of the Isle of Beauty from poisoning.
- She's pretty sure she killed a kraken.
- "So... you're a wandering savior?"
- "I'm a ninja with the circus. We're here to help!"
- There was a super complicated thing with making the Ankara stone not be bad any more.
- She helped repel a Northern invasion from the Isle of Beauty.
Weighing Kasumi's soul, the interviewer takes a blue weight from the drawer and adds it to the collection on the scales. He says that she will need an abbreviated course in the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water (and details a page to escort her), as they don't want her climbing the walls. The interviewer sends some documents off to the Room of Records, and since he's not sure about the kraken, directs another page to go to the Room of Authentication and Verification.
Once they're out of the interview room, Kasumi hides from her escort to follow one of the other pages. Her escort looks around, pops an extra eye out of his head, still doesn't see her, and then reports in that he lost one.
Offerings of burnt personal items begin to appear - the pages are very impressed by the efficiency of everyone's relatives, to be making offerings at a shrine so quickly.
Wei Han follows the suits of armor outside, through a maze of hedges, to what seems to be the Northern Wall. There is a particularly tall hooded being, arguing with several shorter bureaucrats, one of them with a Northern barbarian in tow.
- "I am telling you - this man is required inside!" -Short bureaucrat
- "We are not letting any Northern Barbarians through the wall." -Tall bureaucrat
- "He has been summoned: Grezak, murdered by Yang Shen-Ji, must be admitted!" -Short bureaucrat
- "Stop calling me that! I am Grezak son of Mortak!" -Northerner
- "He has been sent as a servant of Thien Xian, murdered by River Ford." -Short bureaucrat
- "I am no one's servant!" -Northerner
Wei Han suggests that Xian be brought here - then her servant can stay on that side of the wall, and Xian can stay on this side of the Wall. The taller bureaucrat approves of this sort of "nitpicky textual solution", and sends a page to fetch Thien Xian, murdered by River Ford.
Xian is about halfway through her interview, and having some trouble, as she doesn't really keep a running list of her achievements. So far, she has come up with
- I eventually got around to saving the Ice Pagoda.
- I once saved a cabbage farmer from grave injustice.
- I once ate a peach from the garden in the Jade District of the Hidden City. It was good.
- I once called Tokai Takanata an idiot.
She's pondering over her options for achievements five and six, when several bureaucrats come in to fetch her. Her interviewer is cross - this is the middle of an entrance interview! The bureaucrats insist that Xian is needed at the Northern outpost. Her interviewer reiterates - entrance interview! On the other hand, "tenth-dan bureaucrat"! All right, all right, Xian can go, but she should remember to come back to Entrance Interview Room 168-32415.
The bureaucrats lead Xian out through a door marked "Authorized Personnel Only", through a hedge maze of a garden, and to an area where there are a bunch of empty black suits of armor, surrounding some other bureaucrats, Wei Han, and a northern Beastmaster who Xian recognizes as the guy who was haunting her hoop.
- "Thien Xian, murdered by River Ford, may I present your eternal servant, Grezak murdered by Yang Shen-Ji."
- "Grezak son of Mortak is no man's servant!"
- "She's a woman."
- "I'm still not happy about this."
Xian says, well, Grezak put on the hoop, what did he expect? Grezak doesn't think it's fair - you put on a hoop and you're bound for all eternity? The bureaucrat nods - sometimes it does work that way. Anyway... Grezak has travelled through the Desert of the Dead, through the Wasted Plains, past many demons and other peril, to bring Xian these three items (more of the burnt offerings). He's... not really sure why. Xian wonders if he remembers the stuff that happened while he was haunting the hoop - talking to snakes and such - but he doesn't recall it very clearly.
Meanwhile, Kasumi is sneaking through the halls of the afterlife, and follows a page into the Room of Records, which is huge. The page stands on an odd little footstool with handles, does a dance while holding onto the handles, and it floats upwards. When he reaches the top of the pile on top of the Inbox, he puts a piece of paper on it, and then he floats down again. He takes something out of the Outbox, and files it in a cabinet. Elsewhere, another alarm sounds - bong bing! bong bing! The bureaucrat nearby assures Takanata that it is nothing to worry about - they'll find the lost soul soon enough.
It's finally Lijuan's turn with the interviewer. Since she has been here before, what are her two most notable accomplishments since she last died?
- I got a panda. She's my best friend, and she's so fuzzy!
- And I got engaged twice to the same guy. The first time we killed his family during the wedding. The second time is going to be much better.
Like Kasumi, Lijuan is assigned some blue weights when her soul is weighed, and the interviewer thinks she should spend some time in the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water. Lijuan pleads for the Room of Colored Threads instead, and there is some disagreement as to whether she is supposed to be disobedient, or Monkey just likes her to be disobedient, but in the end the interviewer acquiesces and allows her to go to the Room of Colored Threads instead, to begin seeking remedial enlightenment.
Shen-Ji makes a bureaucracy roll to appeal Lijuan's judgement. The bureaucrats say that she should do that herself, unless Shen-Ji wants to be her eternal advocate. Being appointed as such would mean he has to stick with her for her introductory period, which shouldn't be more than a cycle or so. He wouldn't be condemned to the same punishments as her, but he would have to be in the same room, which is very similar. Shen-Ji agrees, and is issued a Pass of Obligatory and Compulsory Accompaniment, which he is required to keep with him at all times. The pair are escorted to the Room of Colored Threads, which involve visions of people struggling and overcoming obstacles in order to find enlightenment, but Lijuan quickly gets bored with that, and offers to teach one of the pages Rock Paper Scissors. The page declares that no scissors are allowed in the Room of Colored Threads - they can play with just paper and rock.
- "Okay, how about we play Rock Paper Paintbrush instead? Paintbrush writes on Paper, Rock breaks Paintbrush." -Lijuan
- "I don't think I have time to learn two games..." -the page
She wins the round, and convinces the page that that means she should be taken to the Room of Calming Sweet Water where Takanata is. Kasumi, still sneaking around, spots a tea service being delivered, and figures rightly that that must be for Takanata, and manages to arrive at the Room of Calming Sweet Water as well.
Back at the kerfuffle at the north wall, Xian and Wei Han are beginning to realize that staying there for eternity guarded by black suits of armor is not the best of plans. Xian tries to persuade the bureaucrat that her servant can stay arbitrarily far away, but it turns out that there is a rule about that, and with the wall involved, it boils down to each of them have to stay within twenty feet of each other, on opposite sides of the wall. But wait - Wei Han is the wall, so they just have to stay on opposite sides of Wei Han at all times. Wei Han objects - that means that wherever Grezak (son of Mortak killed by Yang Shen-Ji) is standing counts as the North, and he is unwilling to cede any land to the North. However, confiscating some of the Northern territory, using the hoop, is apparently acceptable, so they do that, and everyone gets to head back towards Xian's interview. She thinks of two more accomplishments:
- I installed a demon as a maitre d' in a very good restaurant in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival.
- I totally unmasked someone who was pretending to be the Wu Xing by pretending to be the Wu Xing.
- "Ooh, have you met the Wu Xing? I'm a big fan."
- "He's a good guy. Rash, sometimes. He likes getting on cursed ships." -Xian
After weighing Xian's soul, her interviewer thinks she needs to spend some time in the Room of Nibbling Fish Souls, and then move on to the Room of Meditative Continuance. Xian, not liking the sounds of that, says she thinks she was supposed to go to the Room of, what was it, Pleasing Rosewater?
- "Oh, I think the Room of Pleasing Rosewater is not for you. You did not list anything like that among your accomplishments."
Xian asks the bureaucrat to sell her on the Room of Nibbling Fish Souls. In his judgement, the thing that is preventing her from moving on is a preoccupation with small details, so she has no focus. The fish souls will nibble away the annoying details. Xian protests - Gou has convinced her that the details are what matters. The bureaucrat does like Gou, but notes that while he is an excellent musician, he does not subscribe to their philosophy of moving on from life, rather than staying in it forever.
Additionally, Xian's po-soul could be cleansed of things like curses, in the Room of Painful Dissolution. Xian is a little tempted, but thinks she deserves her curse, so avoids going there as well. She would really like to go to... some sort of room of nice sweet water where Tokai Takanata murdered by River Ford is. The bureaucrat thinks there are a lot of rooms of sweet water, and Xian offers to try them all. Maybe the Room of Pleasing Rosewater first? The bureaucrat still doesn't think that's really appropriate for Xian. Xian persuades him to let her try all the Rooms of Sweet Water - maybe it was Soothing Sweet Water, or Enticing Sweet Water. Luckily, the first that they try is in fact the Room of Calming Sweet Water.
A page delivers the answer to one of Takanata's questions - Shohag's grandfather is in fact in the World After, having demonstrated "several notable accomplishments, one of which is not objectionable." He has been through the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water, Room of Contemplative Dissolution, the Room of Granular Sulfur Sand, and is now in the Embassy of Eternal Conversion.
Papers to File
The group looks at the four documents that River Ford wants them to file. They aren't a current noble family that Takanata recognizes, and the names aren't traditional for the two Islands or the Savannah. But that still leaves a lot of possibilities.
Wei Han thinks that someone just closed the door to the room, but there isn't anyone who entered, nor is anyone nearby in the hallway. Xian points out a ninja, who says he is here to deliver the Obligatory and Compulsory Accompaniment Passes. Then, his errand complete, the mysterious ninja leaves.
The group ponders what they will need to do - can they convince the bureaucrats to do the stamping and filing, or do they need to steal the ink and the stamps?
Takanata claps his hands to summon a page - can the page escort him to the Room of Authentication and Verification to check on his sixth achievement? The page assures him that he need not go himself - the page will check on it and return. The page doesn't seem to think that Takanata is prohibited from leaving, but doesn't think he needs to. The page returns with a certificate of country name-changing - it has been stamped with the Scarlet Ink of Truthful Insistence, because on its face the claim is preposterous, but it is nevertheless true.
Wei Han pushes the page into letting him bring another couple of people to the Room of Verification and Authentication to submit more tickets about the names of countries having been changed. As they head there, they note that the pages in the halls seem to have up to four eyes now, still looking for Kasumi, but she still manages to stay unseen. When they arrive, the page rings a bell, and a bureaucrat in a grey cloak swoops up. Wei Han offers a memory that the names of the Butterfly Kingdom and Bear Mountain have been changed, which the bureaucrat takes it away to verify in the back office. While the bureaucrat is off verifying, Kasumi looks around for stamps, and finds a drawer with several hundred stamps in it. She gets the drawer shut again, just as the bureaucrat returns with the document.
Wei Han tries to submit more memories - the Dragon's Throne was renamed to the Hidden City - but the bureaucrat deems his memory (of seeing someone's map that had those names on it) to be insufficient proof. He tries to submit the claim that Aku is a demon masquerading as the Great Spider Spirit, and that is ruled incorrect.
The bureaucrat makes the mistake of saying that it has been verified that only two kingdoms have been renamed, and Xian pounces - that hasn't been verified. The renaming of two kingdoms has been verified, but there has been no verification that it was only two kingdoms. The grey bureaucrat swooshes off, and shortly afterwards, a taller black-robed bureaucrat arrives, as the grey bureaucrat has called for a supervisor. (There is more argument as to whether it is verified truth that Xian asked for a supervisor, but the bureaucrats appear to be pedants rather than logic-puzzle truthtellers).
Wei Han tries to escalate his claim about the Dragon's Throne being renamed, but he doesn't have the memory of seeing the map any longer, and the supervisor says it was insufficient. How about evidence for "Whale was once in the Cycle?" Can they submit evidence for that, at least, can they submit a minimal amount of evidence, just in case it's deemed insufficient? The supervisor bureaucrat says that all evidence must be presented. Takanata finishes a Connections reading about the renaming of countries, and submits that as evidence for six more countries. The black-robed bureaucrat leaves with it, leaving Wei Han with a bell to ring to summon back the grey bureaucrat. He carefully does not do so.
Left alone in the room, the group makes a beeline for the back office - but the door is locked. That proves to be a bit of a problem. Kasumi isn't able to pick it, and Shen-Ji thinks he can blow it up, but that will probably result in more alarms and attention. His minor control of metal will jiggle the handle, but doesn't unlock the locker. After a while of flailing about, Xian convinces Grezak to summon a ferret in a hat which is able to pick the lock. Once it opens, there is another alarm: bong bong-bong! Bong bong-bong! Shen-Ji dashes in, finds the ink, and stamps the four papers.
A squad of empty black armor stomps in, surrounding everyone, and one of the sets of armor picks up the ferret. The ferret squeaks out that it was commanded to open the door by the great master Grezak, murdered by Yang Shen-Ji. The armors declare that they will find this Grezak, murdered by Yang Shen-Ji, and stomp out again with the ferret towards the Room of Records, leaving the party again alone in the room.
Wei Han rings the bell and summons back the grey bureaucrat. He presents the bureaucrat with Takanata's Connections reading, and says that since this has been verified, he wants his memory of the map back. His memory is in the Room of Silence now, filed under "Not Verified", and a page will escort him there.
At the Room of Silence, another bureaucrat swoops up and takes Wei Han's receipt. If he will come in, he can have the memory back. Nobody else (including the page) has any interest in going into the Room of Silence. However, while Wei Han is inside, a page with five eyeballs spots Kasumi, and scolds her. Everyone has been looking for her! She has an appointment in the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water. Kasumi protests - she wants to stay with Takanata, as she was his servant in life, and they should ask Wei Han for confirmation too. However, when Wei Han emerges, he doesn't notice the kerfuffle, and heads to the Room of Records with Lijuan (and Shen-Ji) and Xian. The pages surround Kasumi and escort her off to the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water.
At the Room of Records, Wei Han tips the page some ghost money to leave him there without ringing the bell. There's a desk with an inbox, with a stack of papers towering towards the ceiling, and an outbox with a few entries in it to be filed, with routing slips. Takanata starts to burn some chi incense - lighting things on fire in the Room of Records rather worries the page, who suggests the Room of Meditative Continuance might be a better place for such things. Takanata allows the page to escort him back to the Room of Calming Sweet Water again instead, and asks about filing a complaint with the Complaint Department about the fact that people are renaming countries. The page takes his complaint off to the Complaint Department.
Meanwhile, in the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water, the attendants help Kasumi into a robe. She asks about the blue weights - they measure particular sorts of worldly encrustations on her po-soul.
- "What's a po-soul?"
- "You are."
The attendants assure her that she shouldn't worry if it's hard to get out - she'll be able to get out again when she's ready. Will it hurt? Oh yes!
- "Okay, I'll get in when I'm ready. I'm not ready yet."
- "How about now?"
- "Not yet."
- "How about now?"
The attendants suggest that it is best to get it over with, rather than concern herself too much with things like pain, which are ephemeral. Since nobody seems to be coming to rescue her, Kasumi steps in. It's very sharp and scrubby and generally painful. But after a while, it stops hurting, and she finds herself able to get out again. The attendants bring her another robe, and her "climb everything" psych lim is gone, though it seems to have been replaced by a mild belief that if she had to go through the pumice water, everyone else probably should too. Next, the attendants say, she should stop in the Room of Codification of Obligation. Kasumi asks if she couldn't go to the Room of Calming Sweet Water instead, but they don't think her record qualifies her for that. She tries to bribe the page who is supposed to be taking her to the Room of Codification of Obligation, but all she has is a potion of talking to dead plants. He takes it, a little nonplussed, and suggests that if she ever has any blessings to send out, she might let her descendants know that ghost money is never an inappropriate thing to send. Still, he takes her to the Room of Calming Sweet Water, where Takanata tips him with some actual ghost money, and he checks the Room of Codification of Obligation off in her file.
A high-ranking bureaucrat shows up at the Room of Calming Sweet Water, letting Takanata know that his complaint has been received. The matter is indeed of deep concern, and the bureaucrat suggests that Takanata use his accumulated adjudicated merit to craft and send appropriate blessings to his descendants to deal with the problem. Based on Takanata's own talents, the bureaucrat suggests inclining his blessings towards the artistic side, and gives him a shipping form. He can call a page to pick them up, or bring them to the Room of Alacritive Delivery.
- "Often a blessing is based on what they request, but not always, when you are enlightened enough to understand better than your descendants do what they truly need."
Takanata also asks after Tokai Kiyasa, killed by an Ice Wyrm. The bureaucrat checks on her, and determines that she is in the Palace of Wilful Harmony.
- "If you'd like, I could arrange to have the Palace of Misty Repose next door."
Takanata notes that moving his Palace is not necessary, but asks the bureaucrat to deliver a message to Kiyasa that he is in the Room of Calming Sweet Water. Additionally, he asks about the Room of Silence, which he has heard is useful for restoring lost memories. There are two memories in particular that he would like to recover, which were deliberately removed in the Middle Kingdom. The bureaucrat informs him that he can file some memory requisition forms, with proper verification. Takanata fills out forms for his trip into darkness in the World Above, and the party at Stone Drum where Machan Li was killed. He submits his memory packets for the second, and a Vision of the Past for the first.
Back in the Room of Records, Shen-Ji finds the index room, and pores through it. There seem to be different cabinets based on the importance of the people whose records are stored there. Peasants have the most cabinets, but the lock isn't very good. Merchants and other slightly important people are next, then nobles, then kings, then emperors. Having been defeated by a door, Shen-Ji finds it unlikely that he'll be able to get into a high-importance filing cabinet. He looks through the indices for the names in the four documents - he doesn't find the first two, but he does find the third name, a merchant who did well climbing from penniless roots. He files the three non-noble records in the appropriate cabinets, but the first one needs to go in a nobility cabinet (it turns out he was a duke in the Taiga, long ago before his line died out), so Shen-Ji attaches a routing slip to it and puts it in the outbox, second from the top.
Wei Han wonders if he can find out who his parents were and when he was born. Shen-Ji fills out an information request form and rings the bell, and a red-robed bureaucrat comes in. The request is quickly escalated to a supervisor (in a blue robe), but apparently the request is for restricted information (more so even than emperors!) and needs to be authorized by the Great Spirit of the Bear, the Great Spirit of the Crane, the Great Spirit of the Dog, and the Dragon Spirit. The party decides they won't be able to arrange for that at the moment.
A page comes in, files something at the top of the Inbox, then takes a form from the top of the outbox and files it. Then the blue-robed bureaucrat takes something out of the inbox, makes some notes, and puts it in the outbox with a routing slip. When the bureaucrat leaves, Shen-Ji swaps the party's form to be back at the top. Then, he fills out a form with a simple request, claps for a page, and asks him to submit it to the inbox. The page does so, then files the party's document from the outbox to the cabinet before leaving. Hooray!
Everyone meets back at the Room of Calming Sweet Water. River Ford's half of the mission is complete - now for the Font of Oblivion!
The group sits down for some more discussion. If they swap the oblivion in for an outgoing blessing, as Ford's note suggests, then someone won't get their blessing. That seems kind of rude. On the other hand, if they're doing Oblivion Delivery, can they send some to the Alchemist? Or the Obsidian Warlord? That way, they might think Li the Wanderer had zapped them, and go after him.
- "Because if they kill Li the Wanderer, there is no one they could replace him with that wouldn't be better." -Xian
- "Never say things like that." -Takanata
The blessings don't seem to be delivered straight to people's doorsteps, though, they go to an ancestor shrine. So they would have to know about an ancestor shrine that the Alchemist visits regularly, which might be a little unlikely.
One of the extra-tall tenth-dan bureaucrats enters and bows to Takanata. The request he made, for memory retrieval, touches on certain matters that are normally discreet, but given Takanata's position and the details of his record, they have managed to get him a dispensation. He may take this memory requisition form to the Room of Silence, where he will be granted these memories, on the Day of the Butterfly in the Month of the Butterfly in the Year of the Butterfly. For the World After, that's no time at all, really.
- "I lay my finger on the pattern to make sure Takanata is there!" -Xian
- "What? Do you really do this thing?" -Mike
- "I don't actually have that shtick." -Cael
- "Oh. I thought Takanata could have taught you, in a fit of bad judgement." -Mike
Takanata doesn't plan to be here for another eight years for the Year of the Butterfly to roll around, so he will need to figure out something else to do with the requisition. He writes a note to his sister, Tokai Kiyasa killed by an ice wyrm, and encloses some ghost money as well. He asks her to send the enclosed memory requisition form to him as a blessing. He hopes that she is content in the Palace of Wilful Harmony, and apologizes that he does not think he will be in the Palace of Misty Repose soon. But he expects he will see her at some point in the future, and he has made arrangements to have her shrine at the Roof of the World tended to, and he will be recording the information about what happened to her in the family archives when he next returns to the Isle of Beauty.
Wei Han summons another page.
- "I and my friends wish to view the Font of Oblivion. Is that permitted?" -Wei Han
- "Was your last shipment unsatisfactory?"
The page doesn't think it's a good idea to just wander in, but Wei Han leans on him some, and the page leads Wei Han, Lijuan, and Shen Ji to the great locked gates outside the Font of Oblivion. The guards on duty are perplexed - did Wei Han not get enough last time?
The room itself surrounds a giant pool of oblivion, bubbling and splashing. A bureaucrat comes in from the door on the right, with a long pole with a scoop. He scoops a little bit of oblivion into a bottle; then he tosses the pole into the oblivion pool and quickly scurries away with the bottle. Lijuan fetches a pole from the storeroom (which is not, thankfully, locked), and scoops up some oblivion into another jar, before dropping the pole. She thinks it splashes a little but doesn't notice any on herself. When she caps the bottle, some oblivion seeps out, and she wipes it on her pants. Wei Han wipes the bottle down some more with a torn-off section of his sleeve.
Lijuan hides, to prevent anyone from noticing her carrying the oblivion, but when the next page is summoned, he starts to panic - Shen-Ji has a pass of Obligatory and Compulsory Accompaniment, but he isn't with Foon Lijuan murdered by River Ford! She stops hiding, but the page does not in fact send up an alarm about the oblivion, and the oblivion expedition party heads back to the Room of Calming Sweet Water.
- "I'd like to do the other thing. The other thing would make me happy." -Takanata
- "This sounds like talking to my three-year-old." -Meg
In a miracle of inspired intimidation, Wei Han storms into the Records Room, pounds the table, and demands that the records be changed to list him as tied to the Shrouded Isle instead of the Isle of Beauty.
Takanata sends a page to the Room of Records to file his Connections reading, instructing the page to return it back to Takanata if it's already been filed. The page heads off, never to return.
To see how this whole sending a blessing thing works, Takanata attempts to craft a blessing for Min Feng to help her see through the disguises of the Marked, by creating a dream to send to her and then turning the dream into a blessing. Wei Han, Lijuan, and Shen-Ji head to the Room of Alacritive Delivery (followed stealthily by Kasumi), and request that the blessing be sent to Song Min Feng... um... hmmm... somewhere. Takanata takes the moment to auspiciously arrive, and tells the clerk to send it to the Tokai ancestor shrine on the Isle of Beauty; the routing code for the shrine gets written on the box and it gets put on a shelf to send out.
Kasumi, in a miracle of inspired ninja stealth, swaps the jar of Oblivion for a blessing destined for the shrine in the Hidden City. Now she has a blessing meant for a young man in the Ivory district, to find true love. Some research determines that the young man's father works in the Imperial Mint, so that could be an exciting connection for the future. After some discussion, Takanata fashions that blessing into a blessing for Qin Yanyu, to be sent to her at her ancestor shrine in the Illuminated Precincts, so maybe she will be in charge of finding the young man true love.
The two missions are done - is there anything else anyone wants to do while they're in the World After? Maybe Lijuan should talk to her parents about getting married? She decides not to - they're not going to approve. Figure out where Hiro and Hana are and help them? But they're probably not in the World After. Resurrect Grezak? But why?
- "I've figured out why you Southerners are so soft. Because your afterlife involves filling out forms. You have no incentive to not die." -Grezak
Takanata gets a quick briefing from Grezak about ice wyrms, since he has one to hunt down and kill - they're more common in the North. They breathe frost, and they tunnel, and they're immune to non-flaming weapons. No, they're not dragons, as far as Grezak knows, though he's not very familiar with dragons. They have a lot of Blood, but not much Life or Death.
In a miracle of inspired persuasion, Xian convinces Grezak that going to work for Hana is a good idea - she's working to make things better for all the Dead of the North. Xian turns him into a blessing, and convinces the Room of Alacritive Delivery to send him to Hana in the north somehow.
In a miracle of inspired bribery, Shen-Ji arranges to get an "expedited" request for records for a recently deceased metal sorcerer, who is now in the Palace of Ductile Negation. Shen-Ji pays a quick visit, though his page appears to have had to beat up a lot of other pages to get Shen-Ji's request in first.
Shen-Ji also sends off a records request about his parents, and Xian sends off a records request for the Bandits of the Double Caldera, but due to the confusion in the Room of Records, neither of them receives a reply before the group ends up leaving.
In a miracle of inspired investigation, Lijuan tracks down the head of House Sung who was killed in the attack by House Zhen, in order to find out who to hunt down for justice in the Middle Kingdom. The House Sung head says that since his passing, he has determined that both House Sung and House Zhen were manipulated by House Siew, so vengeance should be targeted against the current head of House Siew, that being Siew Zhuai. Lijuan is a bit taken aback by this, but swears that she will do her best to make House Siew no longer a threat.
A bunch of bureaucrats show up in the Room of Calming Sweet Water - there have been a number of reports of Deliberate Causing of Trouble in the Records Room, and they think a lot more people need to spend some time in the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water. Wei Han declares that everyone is leaving now, no time for that, look, everyone has a pass, and the bureaucrats, somewhat suspicious, herd them to the exit. They warn everyone to hold hands - they don't want a repeat of last time - and then as the group heads back out into the light, the black stickiness of the Oblivion that Lijuan and Shen Wei Han have on them spreads out among those holding hands and touches everyone.
Waking up in the Middle Kingdom, almost everyone recovers without incident, but Takanata and Xian are both rather under the weather.
River Ford, happy to see them back, asks them if it worked? They... don't remember. Curses! They must have touched the Oblivion! Ford fusses - how is he supposed to report back to the client now? Sho Fi, sitting off to the side, says she thinks she knows how it went - Lord Takanata wrote this nice little prophetic short story before they left, and she has been reading it.
She does wonder about some of the more miraculous incidents, though, and Takanata admits that he may have used some artistic license.
- Xiao Fa goes to meet Lord Hawk.
- Kasumi talks to Hirasoto, and stabs herself a lot.
- Yanyu talks to Horse, and a Matchmaker, and a Ninja.
- Takanata goes dreamwalking.
- Takanata, Min Feng, Yanyu, Wei Han, and Xiao Fa go looking for the missing Kuan-Xi.
- Yanyu buys a bunch of horses.