Takanata will see if the Regent is available for calling on.
- He is, though it sounds like he will be off to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival by the end of puttering, to try to get a ship. (The Harbor seems to be a compromise, as both he and his honor guard think it is possible to take a ship from there to the Isle of Beauty).
Then Takanata is happy to stop at the Regent's tent (or house, or whatever he's using), and wait a time until the Regent is available.
- He doesn't have nearly as much line as he did in the Hidden City, so you can go in.
I will bow deeply, and say:
"Lord Ishii. I regret that I was not available when my companions first approached you regarding His Highness' request that you return to the Isle of Beauty. As a member of the Court of Distinction, I thought it appropriate that I make myself available if you have any questions about how things have been at court, either recently or in your absence generally."
He looks as if he may have more to say, but pauses there to see if the Regent has any questions.
- He does have several questions. He has not received any letters from his sister or the King in a little while; this is presumably due to the... court being in flux, Master Deng described it as. Anything more you can tell him about what is going on, and how his sister is, would be appreciated.
"Her Majesty is... upset. She was inspired to organize a large art exhibit for the Day of the Spinning Spider, with art created by Master Zhou of Iron Mountain. The exhibit drew an attack from a famous bandit from Iron Mountain with a grudge against Master Zhou, by the name of Tai Lung. Although he was driven off by the concerted efforts of those in attendence, Master Long was slain in the battle.
"In addition to her obvious distress at the loss of her friend, I believe Her Majesty regards his death as her fault, blaming herself and being unwilling to trust her inspirations any further. Indeed, I very much fear that Master Long was specifically targeted to achieve that result. She has been in seclusion since his death. There was also a curse which fell on the Master of Perfected Distinction at approximately the same time, causing even more disturbance in the Court, although I believe that curse to now be lifted.
"It is our hope that you will be able to restore Her Majesty's spirits, and her faith in herself and her inspiration."
- He also thinks that it is possible that some of the briefings he has received from His Majesty have glossed over some details. "For example, we have a court ninja now?"
- (He tilts his head as if to say "and the important question is, who have we been killing with our court ninja?")
Takanata smiles slightly. "I am not certain how much the other ninja believe that she qualifies for such a role, Your Excellency, but... The young lady has had training in that area, yes. She has largely been traveling, rather than resident in the court, and so far as I am aware, has been providing the services of some cross between a man-at-arms and a spy, rather than a ninja.
"As to other matters that may have been glossed over... I would not speculate on what might or might not be included in your briefings."
- Finally... he sighs and frowns. He had... thought that it was a longer journey home than it turns out to be. Perhaps it is simply that he is no longer a young man, and going home is always less epic than it seems to the young.
Takanata looks serious again. "It is my understanding, Your Excellency, that you left believing you would never return. I expect that His Highness' invitation seems at that point anticlimactic. I think perhaps you will discover on arriving on the Isle of Beauty that your journey home is just begun, not concluded.
"If you would like, I would be happy to read your I Ching to see if I can provide a further guide for that journey. In setting us on this task, His Highness suggested that whatever the reasons for your departure, and for the belief that you would not return, they were from so long ago as to no longer be important, but I fear he may have... suffered from an error of youth. We who are no longer young may wish to consider those reasons and their consequences more carefully.
He smiles briefly. "And of course the relocation of the islands makes the physical journey shorter, but I don't believe that is what you meant."
- "Well, no, that is exactly what I meant. The islands did move? How is that possible?"
- "I had been given to understand that not returning would protect the kingdom, in ways that His Majesty understands better than I. But that prohibition has been lifted - is the lack of protection what allowed someone to move the island?"
Takanata considers this quietly for a minute, and then says: "The Isle of Beauty has been under assault for some time, at least since the assassination attempt against His Majesty. Several of its protections have been damaged or stripped away. We have attempted to raise others. I suspect that the relocation of the islands is related to other protections than the one forbidding people from returning from the Hidden City, but I do not know for certain, and have not been to the Isle of Beauty to investigate the matter since the switch occured. I would not have thought such a thing was possible five years ago, but my understanding of what is possible has... expanded significantly since then.
"Your Excellency is correct, however, that allowing those who have been to the Hidden City to return removes another of the Isle's protections. Indeed, I am concerned that the dismantling of that protection may have been an underlying target of Master Long's death. I have not had the opportunity to speak with His Majesty about his understanding of the risks that we now run, and I do not understand them well myself. I confess that it is my hope that your I Ching might show more of the ways in which you, and by extension all of us, may now be dangerous."
- He looks thoughtful. "Have you read the I Ching of Their Majesties?"
"I have read His Majesty's I Ching, yes. Her Majesty declined."
- "What did His Majesty's say?"
"I would prefer to leave the specific details to His Majesty to discuss or not, as he sees fit. In general, it foretold that one of the other protections of the Isle was going to be lost, but that with effort, it might be restored."
- He smiles. "Forgive me - I have been too long in the Hidden City, where a promise to keep a secret often means only that it will be spent for personal gain, and I wondered. Well, let's see what it says."
Takanata again looks like he is about to say something, and then decides not to. He draws the reeds from his sleeve, and begins to cast them.
dice 10 7 15 Results are: 10 10 8 5 5 4 4 3 2 1 Target: 7. Natural successes: 3. Target: 7. Successes: 8.
As this starts to become clear, I memorize him, and use Analyze the Pattern. (Aspect, Specialty, Best Skill, Highest Shtick).
Takanata watches the reeds fall for a time, and then speaks.
"There is more here than I understand, but this I know to be true. Like most with the Aspect of the Great Spirit of the Dog, you are loyal and true. But you are also a line, hooked to both Butterfly and Spider, and either may be able to use you, and your loyalty, against the other."
- He frowns.
He looks up from the reeds, and continues: "What I say now, I do not see in the reeds today, but it is background that may help explain the reading.
"One of the causes of the assaults on the Isle has been a War in the Cycle. Spider attempts to seize power for himself, and Butterfly, among others, stands in his way. In this battle, the Isle is... aligned with? a proxy for? ... tied to, at the very least, the interests of Butterfly, and the Hidden City is similarly tied to Spider. By your position, you are tied to both the Isle and the City.
"At least one of the protections that the Isle has lost was lost by pursuing the interests of the Isle in a way that took after Spider, rather than Butterfly. You spoke a moment ago of having been in the Hidden City too long, and not trusting those who have said they will keep a secret. It is important to your work that you know and understand the ways of Spider, but if you bring those ways to the Isle, you will undermine Butterfly, and by extension the Isle, in ways that may not be readily apparent. That is what I meant when I said the journey home may be... longer than you realize.
- He frowns again, thoughtfully. "I would say that, among other things, when I came to the Hidden City, I was naive. [He opens one hand gracefully] It is not naive to trust, [he opens the other hand] but it is naive to trust prematurely, or... based on optimism rather than character. I can certainly avoid entangling myself in politics as I might have had I remained at home, but I do not think that I can... willfully blind myself to years of experience."
Takanata makes the smallest of shrugs. "It is not that a Spider Nature is wrong, or evil, in itself. It is not my nature, but it is a nature, and it is what it is. Indeed, it is not even your nature - as I said, you are touched by Dog, not Spider. I am certain that your experience dealing with those who share Spider's Nature is necessary for your work. But in the current circumstances ... it is experience which provides entrances for an enemy, who will, if he succeeds, change our Homeland beyond recognition."
He smiles slightly at himself. "I have been told several times recently that one cannot go back to the past, one can only make the future be as one hopes it will be. Your experiences make you the man you are, and you cannot return to the boy you were. But... if you remain a tool that can be used by either Spirit against the other, it might be best if you spend as much time as possible in Spider's land, where you are more likely to be useful to Butterfly, rather than in Butterfly's, where you may be more useful to Spider."
- He smiles, though with a hint of darkness in his eyes still. "Well, I had not been planning to quit my job and move home again."
"I believe that both Butterfly and Spider desire you to return to the Isle at this time. I am hopeful that means you will be able to successfully assist Her Majesty. I do not know what Spider intends your return to accomplish. However, I do not believe it will benefit the Isle if it occurs."
He bows deeply again. "I apologize if I speak out of turn. But I am not certain if His Highness realizes the danger his request presents for the Isle."
- "Do you think there is a Plan, as it were? Or simply a positioning? In a game of shogi, a piece pushed forward will strengthen a position, or it may capture another. Any player can predict a capture one move in the future, but even a master cannot say 'this piece will capture that one, thirty moves from now."
"Spider is a creature of Plans. I would be shocked if there is not one, although it is also his nature for those plans to have many levels. He has already established that it is permissible to return from the Hidden City, for instance, and anything additional that he gains from removing that protection is perhaps beyond what he truly expects from this event. But the signs definitely indicate that he wished you, in particular, to return, so I expect there is a thing that he hopes to make use of you for.
"Butterfly is a creature of Positioning. A thing happens, apparently by chance, and a result flows from it which happens to be something that makes Butterfly happy. I ... fear that one of the dangers before the Isle is that Her Majesty has previously been guided by Butterfly, but Master Long's death leads her to fear the results of her actions. I hope that your return will repair that, somehow. I... am reluctant to seek a Plan to accomplish that.
"But perhaps sharing an observation, which I am not certain if Her Majesty is aware of, would not be out of place. Master Long died in battle with the bandit Tai Lung. But the wound that killed him was a Spider bite."
- He steeples his fingers. "Perhaps you should tell me as much as you know about the death of Master Long. Your companions said he was assassinated, but provided few details."
Takanata shrugs slightly. "There is little to be told. Her Majesty determined that there should be a great exhibition on the day of the Spinning Spider, presenting the artwork of the great Master Zhou of Bear Mountain. Master Zhou is an enemy of Spider in this War in the Cycle, and many of Spider's servants attempted to interfere with the exhibition.
- You get the flicker of puzzlement there that suggests that Regent Ishii has not crossed the Wall.
"The final servant to interfere was Tai Lung, a bandit from Bear Mountain and one-time student of Master Zhou.
- And again, you think he's actually making a roll this time.
He appeared as if from nowhere, I believe with the assistance of Spider, while Master Zhou was performing a play. A battle broke out between Tai Lung, Master Zhou, Master Long, and another student of martial arts who was present. During the battle, a poisonous spider descended from the ceiling, and bit Master Long on the shoulder, felling him. The spider was slain by the Court's Blademaster, Master Deng, and just the poison spilled in that act nearly slew one of my relatives who was present. Once Tai Lung felt the exhibition was sufficiently disrupted, another spider descended from the ceiling and vanished with him, after he had said something like "I would kill you now, but I have my orders" to Master Zhou.
"The doctors were unable to save Master Long from the poison. Her Majesty withdrew into seclusion, and has largely not emerged again since."
- He sighs, and rubs the back of one hand with the other. "Thank you. Tell me - I have been involved principally with politics and governance, rather than chi and astrology, but I had understood it to be the case that the Great Cycle Spirits played their games against each other through the actions of those people touched by their nature. Not by... sending spiders and butterflies directly from the World Above. Is this more common than I thought?"
Takanata shakes his head. "Not common, no, although perhaps more so than you had believed. I believe Spider was only able to make this particular intervention because it was the day, month, and cycle of the Spider. But I am also concerned that the War may be... breaking some of the rules which previously kept Spirits from affecting our world so directly. At the very least, it is encouraging a number of spirits, Great Cycle and lesser, to press the limits of those rules as they seek advantage and opportunity in this troubled time."
- He gives a short ironic laugh. "Politics as usual extends even to the World Above, I gather."
Takanata smiles. "Spirits are not the same as people, but they are not so very different in some ways."
And I think with that, we can call this one done after some polite nothings, unless he has more.