The Benevolent Fist of Xiao Fa

From Dragon
Jump to: navigation, search
"Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way." The run begins on the Day of the Late Tiger in the Month of the Butterfly in the Tenth Year of the Bear since the since the Third Treaty of Houses.

The run takes place in the Hon'eth Arcade, in particular at Tahiti

Previous Run Next Run



People have been wondering about the red jade key that the Blue Dragon acquired. Merit has done some investigation:

A jade key is the key to the jade district, of course. Like all districts, it's sort of assumed that anyone who lives there will have a jade key. But not many people actually live in the jade district. Technically, in fact, there are only three classes of people who officially live there.

There are the Imperial Concubines. They traditionally do not have any keys, as a symbolic token of their status. They're not *supposed* to ever leave, and thus need never pass through the gates on the way in. They do, of course, as showing up to an event in the company of an imperial concubine is a great status boost, as it implies you have great pull with the emperor/empire. So, you provide them with passes when they accompany you for the evening, indicating that they are there dependent upon your largesse.

Then of course there is the Emperor. He needs no Keys, no Passes, no Permits. Ever.

So, since rarely do people live there, Jade Keys are more expensive status symbols than actual indications of residence.

The main exception to all of the above, the third class of jade district resident, is the Imperial Consort. She lives in the Jade District, but is not the Emperor. She's also not a Concubine and can come and go as she wishes. So she needs a key. But with all of the Jade Keys purchased by exalted Dukes and high Ministers and the like, her Jade Key might fail to convey her special status.

Thus, one of the Early Emperors presented his Consort with a Special Jade Key, made of True Jade, but it was Red. The Red Jade Key is now traditionally presented to the Consort by the Emperor, in a formal Keying Ceremony. They key was eventually lost or destroyed, and another recreated, perhaps multiple times. But, when the most recent Consort died, her Key was returned to the Imperial Treasury, awaiting a user.

Until of course it was stolen...

But that is another story.

Well, that's interesting. Min Feng should probably make sure to keep Lucky Chang from giving it to her in a formal keying ceremony. Maybe they could steal it from him and let Xiao Fa give it to her instead?

Or perhaps there are plots for this run to worry about. Perhaps they will announce themselves soon!

"Let's get the diagram started." -Cai Wen


The circus is packing up after a successful set of performances in the Tanzhe Plain. Melina tells Cai Wen that they'll be heading towards the Port of Auspicious Voyage next for some performances, and then some shows in the Precincts unless Cai Wen thinks they should head straight home. They're running a little early due to having kind of skipped the Forest of Chin.

Takanata emerges from his wagon, having drawn a five-part painting with the bottoms folded out, with space to put some sort of mysterious colored tokens on. Takanata feels that the art is incomplete until the tokens are placed, and that people will know where to put them.

5-Damsel.jpg 5-Dice.jpg 5-Dragon.jpeg 5-Diplomacy.jpg 5-Death.jpg

Lijuan also draws a picture:

Pentagon art.png

There is some complaint about the clash between "six people" and "five-sided pentagons", but everyone is pleased to recognize Tahiti as "the castle with a snail at the top".

The part where you have to put tokens on Takanata's art is more concerning, though. Master Zhou thinks that it is more along the lines of Ordination (that is, one is exerting one's will on Fate) rather than Prophecy (that is, depicting what Fate will come).

"They look at lot like Pai Gow sticks. It's hard to say what they are." -Mike
"That's very disturbing, since I have twenty levels of Pai Gow." -Merit

However, no one believes Takanata when he says that they will know where to put the tokens, so Mondo is summoned, as the expert in knowing things that should be known but aren't.

"What do you not know?" -Mondo
"What happens when you add something." -Merit
"If you want to know what will happen if you place a token, then place a token." -Mondo

Cai Wen speculates that the party is in some sort of mechanic and Speedy has messed with time in order to slow things down, and that the small grey figure is a trap or an intruder trying to get into the mechanic. After pondering this for a bit, he concludes that Speedy is doing something - maybe not slowing down so much as "providing some semblance of time", trying to make sure it doesn't all happen at once. Oh, and the grey figure is too much of a babe to be a trap.

Xiao Fa picks up the black token, and uses Symbology and Dragon's Discernment to suggest where to put it. Well, on the Dragon, of course. Once he places a token he then rolls a 7. Merit looks with the Orb, and thinks that the five panels are:

  • Death
  • Dice
  • Damsel
  • Diplomacy
  • Dragon

Takanata arranges for a cart to put the panels of paintings in, so they don't tip over.

Merit sends out spies to discover who is in town on the "interfering with the prophecy" plot. They return with the answer: Merit and Cai Wen. Hmm. That isn't quite what they expected.

Merit contacts Speedy (though the GMs claim to not believe that this power is canon).

"Speedy, you're doing something?" -Merit
"You. Are. Most. Welcome. As. Well. As. Correct." -Speedy
"The thing that I'm curious about is, what's going on? Something is interfering with Takanata and Lijuan's prophetic abilities. Do you know what that is? "
"I. Apologize. But. It. Seemed. To. Me. That. You. Would. Prefer. To. Deal. With. Your. Visitors. Sequentially."
"If it's you, I reaffirm my thanks."
"You. Are. Again. Most. Welcome."

Tahiti, first round

The party heads for Tahiti, with the art wagon but not the rest of the circus. When they reach it, there is an exceedingly fine horse in the stable.

The junior butler is at the door - he says that the visitor is distressed that they might be late, but she will be pleased to learn that they are in fact on time. The visitor will not give her name - she has said that she would prefer to negotiate without prejudicing you. In any event, she is here to see Xiao Fa. (People still paying attention to the art realize that who places the tokens is not about who you pick - it is about which of you gets picked. Xiao Fa placed a token and rolled a 7, so Potential Visitor #7 is here to see him. The "Dragon" part is still a bit mysterious.)

Takanata retires with his art to think harder about what is going on, with Merit to run commentary back and forth. Master Zhou places a green token on "Dice" and rolls a 2. Cai Wen starts making another chart.

Dice 2 Zhou
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa

LIjuan and Xiao Fa head in to see the visitor. She strikes them as faintly familiar-looking, but none of them can place her, nor does anyone think they have met her before.

She bows to Xiao Fa, and explains that the reason she is here is, unworthy though she is, due to interchanges of favors. After many and complex tradings of favors, she has been tasked to do a favor for Xiao Fa and his people. So: she is here to ask "what is thy will?"

Xiao Fa introduces himself as "Master Han Xiao Fa of the House of Quiet Concordance, of the Selfless Path, and Imperial Candidate". She looks confused at that last bit, and says that she was advised by her master that negotiations would be more harmonious if she did not reveal who she was at this time. She understands that Xiao Fa and his entourage are prone to certain suspicions regarding people of her background.

"Well, then she's just as unfortunate as we think." -Merit, loudly

She says that she specializes in doing things that Xiao Fa may be unwilling to - though she is a schemer, not an assassin.

Merit points out that by refusing to give her identity, she has already prejudiced everyone against her, and it's not going to work out now. Well, she will tell them who she is, if they will promise to control their emotional reactions. Lijuan leaves, figuring that she won't be able to manage it.

"I am the highly trained daughter of the one you knew as Machan Li. I should say the former daughter, because I was sacrificed before he died, to my master, whose services my father preferred to my own."
"Well, that's better than I was fearing. She's not the worst possible." -Merit

She admits that she is better at complex plots and schemes, and not so good at social negotiations. Xiao Fa says that he... desires a thing. How would she acquire it? Well, it depends on who holds it and how it needs to be acquired. She can come up with a complicated plot which, when enacted, causes the thing to fall out. She is not so good at punching someone in the face and taking the thing.

The butler announces a second visitor - Liet - and Master Zhou and Cai Wen go to speak with her. She has a message to convey from her house - something about the leader of the House of Enticing Vintage conveying to the House of Exuberant Interference her gratitude for the protection of the caravans and their support for such efforts in the future. But mostly, she needs Master Zhou's advice, because Myo is being such a stupid idiot! She rants somewhat less than coherently how Myo is being so difficult. Master Zhou listens to a minute of this, and then starts shushing her.

"You must explain using this sentence only. When Myo does ___ I imagine ___ and I feel ___."
"When Myo does... anything... I imagine him doing something else, and I feel like he should not be so much of an idiot."

After several rounds of requiring more detail, and some heading off at the pass ("Better is not a feeling!"), she manages to get to "When Myo stands in my presence he complains about his father, which makes me think he's got it good and why can't he get over it, after all, my father tried to kill my mother..."

This seems like a stressed teenage-girl meltdown, Cai Wen thinks, which is odd because she's normally more together than that.

"She just needs some reassurance." -Cai Wen
"What this needs is kung fu. We should train." -Master Zhou
"No, what this needs is tea." -Cai Wen

Since Master Zhou is the one who placed the token, she's here to visit him, so kung fu training it is. Merit agrees that Liet should train with Master Zhou - but come and talk to Merit before she does the homework.

Cai Wen puts a blue token on Damsel, so the next visitor (a young woman in armor) who shows up is here to see Cai Wen. Like Liet, she is instructed by the leader of her house to offer their gratitude, and... and then she bursts into tears. She confesses to Cai Wen that she was raised in the house of Gainful Protection, but she just learned that she was adopted and doesn't know who her real parents were. She's been trying to come to terms with this all day and hasn't really succeeded. (Cai Wen notes that the option to be a moll is definitely there, and has a lot of possibilities).

Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa
"I'm supposed to tell you that the Gainful Protection troops will be here shortly - and they... trust me with these messages, and I don't even know if I'm trustworthy!"

Cai Wen manages to learn that "Gainful Protection wouldn't be sending troops if they weren't happy with Exuberant Interference" - he's pretty sure she's telling the truth, even if that doesn't make a lot of sense. Merit sends his guys off to get a dossier on her.

Meanwhile, Master Zhou questions Liet while thumping her pretty soundly. Liet has been helping Myo with his projects, getting him to be more ambitious, helping him succeed in his various projects to gain him more standing in his house. But he's becoming ambitious instead of grateful! She also admits that she has been doing most of her help in secret, to protect his ego.

"AAAARRRGH. If (punch) you (punch) want (punch) Myo (punch) to (punch) understand (punch) what (punch) you're (punch) doing (punch) for (punch) him, (punch) tell him!" -Master Zhou, hitting Liet both literally and figuratively with a clue by four

For the briefest of moments, Liet achieves inner peace. And, as he realizes Liet's general problem, Master Zhou also figures out that she probably has a lot of things going on, but the one she's currently focused on is her "random personal plot" because Master Zhou picked Dice. So the lady in armor is focused on her damsel-in-distress plot, and Machan Li's daughter is focused on her favor for Dragon.

Xiao Fa asks her if "ferret out Lucky Chang's plans" is something she can do. Such as, bring his next three plans to get on the Imperial Scoreboard? She says that Lucky Chang is on a power level with her father, so is not trivial to ferret out. But she will find out what she can about a future plan, in time for them to thwart it, and return with word. Off she goes.

Orange Doom 10 Merit
Green Dice 2 Zhou
Blue Damsel 4 Cai Wen
Black Dragon 7 Xiao Fa

Merit puts his token on Doom, and rolls a 10, which means that the universe chooses his personal Doom to show up. He puts out tea, and pets his adorable fluffy creature. A voice from the darkness behind him greets him.

"Well done, my lord. I did not think you could circumvent Butterfly's defenses." -Kai
"Sometimes circumstances allow it." -Merit
"Is there something you wish to to discuss? Or something you didn't really want to know?"
"There is a prophecy sort of thing going on, that is causing things to come to fruition."
"You did something to choose unpleasantness, so I arrived."

Merit thinks Butterfly does something to shield the party from the ramifications of their actions, to keep them on the path Butterfly wants them to follow. But that's not sustainable. Kai agrees that that is true, but that he probably won't live long enough to have to worry about the unsustainability. Merit wonders if she is moved to tell him anything. She nods, and says that he will find it no great surprise, but both Liet and the Girl in Armor are traps. (Some more lines get filled in on Cai Wen's spiderweb).

She says that the mechanic they are doing lets them make choices to cut off options.

"If you choose to Doom someone, you can't Diplomacy them, until you solve the plot you have chosen to have incarnate."

Merit wonders if there is anything that he can do for Kai. Well, she wants what she wants, and he knows that, but she knows they are unwilling to help her. Merit agrees that they are still unwilling to help her with that.

Cai Wen suggests that the Girl in Armor head off with him to the Cup of Five Virtues to see what they can determine about her adoption, on the theory that it's blessed to run into the people you want to meet. They ride off on fast horses, and have tea for a while, until Cai Wen is pretty sure that if her parents were likely to randomly wander by, they would already have done so. Merit's spies are also here, asking questions about her, and the cabbage merchant is here as well.

Merit's guys return with a briefing, and a sketch of the girl (where Cai Wen has been torn out of the sketch). They think she could be from the Lei family, the one that used to run the House of Continuing Sustenance, before it was stomped out by the House of Gainful Protection.

Kuan-Xi picks Diplomacy, and rolls a 9, so she can pick one of Cai Wen's past molls. She chooses Willow, as one of the most generally useful that she can think of. Cai Wen senses a disturbance in the force, as if two competing molls are in the mechanic, but Willow is sensible enough to show up with a veil covering her face so that she can't be identified until she sees Kuan-Xi. Kuan-Xi sends Lijuan to tell Cai Wen to not come in.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa

Being summoned into a mechanic, Willow both takes the rules more seriously, and understands the rules better. She has been summoned for Diplomacy, so she explains the diplomatic side of things to Kuan-Xi.

"There are two plots, though that's kind of a lie. There's a large diplomacy plot involving the Houses of the Arcade. And there's a large diplomacy plot between Cycle Spirits. The number you roll determines which you get. Low is Arcade, high is Cycle Spirits, and really high is a choice." -{{{2}}}

The Arcade Diplomacy plot has numerous international ramifications, and is obviously a trap. The Cycle Spirit Diplomacy plot is not obviously a trap, though the party could certainly turn it into one if they tried a little. The pieces on the board are the House of Gainful Protection, the House of Judicious Increase, the House of Enticing Vintage, the House of Benevolent Oversight, the House of Continuing Sustenance; Wolf, Horse, and Whale; and 9 is player's choice and 10 is the universe's choice. This is round one; then the visitors will leave, and there will be a second round.

Kuan-Xi asks if Willow has any requests as far as the plots go. Well, for whatever it is that the Arcade houses are politicking about, she would prefer that it not discomfit the Precincts. In whatever the Cycle spirits want, she would prefer that it not discomfit her trying to keep track of nineteen-dimensional spiritual vector matrices. Also, please don't sink the Precincts into the ocean.

Cai Wen mulls over what he can recall about the old House of Continuing Sustenance, and why they might not have ransomed back a kidnapped child. His best guess is that it would have been "don't negotiate with terrorists" as influenced by "is more broke than public perception knows about." He also remembers to tell the captain of the guard that when the House of Gainful Protection shows up, they should not be engaged with, though neither should they be allowed to come in. The guard captain notes that fulfilling both of these may be difficult, but she'll do her best.

Cai Wen tells the Girl in Armor about what he's determined about probably being kidnapped. Would she prefer vengeance, or a new start? He kind of hints her towards choosing a new start, and she does. She's trained in military organization and logistics, so she would definitely be useful for anyone planning a military campaign. Having her work for Xiao Fa might be good, but since he's a member of the House of Quiet Concordance, he would probably need to clear that with Master Tranh, and Master Tranh might be curious about who they were about to start invading. So for the moment, the House of Exuberant Interference is a better fit.

The way to handle this without hard feelings would be for the House of Exuberant Interference to buy out her contract from the House of Gainful Protection; her contract would be worth about three tael, and if they were particularly grumpy to lose her, they'll ask for more. A messenger is sent, and returns quickly.

"The House of Gainful Protection is most happy to provide the House of Exuberant Interference with her services, and will sell her contract for a tael and a half."

She looks insulted, and everyone is kind of baffled by the price being low balled. Merit insists that the messenger bring three tael - that the House insists on paying what she is worth. The messenger returns: the House of Gainful Protection is most impressed with Merit's generosity, and supports him in his future movements.

Since everyone's diversionary plot is resolved now, Willow can answer questions about not-Diplomacy. So - what does picking Dragon do? That gets people who have had favors arranged for help in the Emperor mechanic.

At the end of the turn, the House of Gainful Protection's troops arrive, to be immediately organized by the Girl in Armor.

They provide +2 Mil for use in suppressing banditry.

Round Two

Takanata puts together a Connections reading on the assumption that the new Marked is behind the plot, but it melts down. He also wonders about the ramifications of unbalancing the art and not putting one counter on each option. Sadly, while he thinks there are probably consequences, they haven’t unbalanced anything at all yet, so hes not sure what kinds of consequences they will be.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa 6 Lijuan

Lijuan picks Dragon, and rolls a six. The butler arrives to say that a new visitor has arrived, and the young lady would like to meet outside. Lijuan brings Xiao Fa, to meet what proves to be Ni Chang. Her lord has sent her to offer Lijuan a favor, in repayment for favors previously negotiated. Lijuan says that Xiao Fa is the candidate for Emperor that she is supporting. Ni Cheng is not convinced by this (given that Lijuan is currently slightly ahead of Xiao Fa in the mechanic), but offers to... negotiate a marriage contract to Xiao Fa for her. (She seems to be having a hard time wrapping her head around the plan.) Lijuan politely declines, which Ni Cheng thinks is probably wise, and then Lijuan explains that if she becomes Emperor, the party will get mad at her. Ah, Ni Cheng understands this better - she can provide protection to Lijuan against the party, with her wolves. Lijuan doesn't think that's necessary either. It isn't immediately obvious what will be useful here.

However, Ni Cheng is also obliged to provide information that wolves have learned in fulfillment of former deals.

"As you know, the Beastmaster of Men escaped back to his stronghold to increase his power for the next season of war. His brother is still independent, because he has assistance from us. But the Beastmaster of Men is now a Necrobeastmaster of Men, so he will be more fearsome than he was in the last season of war."

What the party would like is a favor from the Queen of the Strand. But Wolf doesn't have one of those on hand. She could go to the Queen and offer her a favor from Lord Wolf in exchange for a tradeable favor, but this is a bit convoluted. They think about this some more, while preparing for another visitor.

Cai Wen thinks that the biggest hidden opportunity is that they know who six out of the ten numbers are, so if someone in particular should return, being able to cheat in mini-games could help with that. He also determines the current scoreboard for the Cycle Spirit plot.

7 Horse 1
6 Wolf 1
Whale 0
Dragon -1.5
Bear -0.5

Hmm. Dragon and Bear are presumably the ones footing the bill for the favors being granted by Horse and Wolf? So picking Dragon too many times will leave Dragon with a high bill - this may have to do with the cost of imbalance.

Takanata and Cai Wen determine that Machan Li's daughter is available as a moll if picked as a Damsel. That appears to be true, so Cai Wen picks her.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen 7 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa 6 Lijuan

The Lady in Black returns, now tragified about having been sold in slavery to Horse. There is some consternation and angst about whether they have made her sad about that when she wasn't before, but they conclude that the mechanic affects what plots the visitors are focusing on, not whether the plots exist at all.

In order to get her free from Horse, though, they'll have to negotiate with him, so they go to talk to Merit's horse. Horse admits that she's his scheme-maker - who do you think came up with all the plans he's been having the party do? Cai Wen offers that he personally (but not the party) will support Horse, but Horse doesn't think that's nearly as good. On the other hand, the Lady in Black is willing to work for Horse on a contract basis, so perhaps something can be arranged where that can continue. Or Cai Wen could go deep into Horse Point debt, such that he and the party can be leveraged into getting things done for Horse regardless of who is making the plans. This will have to be thought about more.

Lijuan figures out what she wants to ask for. The Forest of Chin ate a demon before - could Wolf arrange to get the demon of the Best away from Bobby Li, without killing him? Bobby Li is Lijuan's principal rival for Emperor of Children, so this is even Imperial as a favor. Ni Cheng agrees to do this. The deal is that Lijuan and friends will arrange to have Bobby Li restrained alone somewhere and then Ni Cheng/Wolf will show up and deal with the demon.

Master Zhou chooses Diplomacy, and rolls a nine. He spends three karma and picks Sakushi. Cai Wen passes out, so that the Lady in Black's moll-ness doesn't get blown away by the competition.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen 7 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi 9 Master Zhou
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa 6 Lijuan

7 Horse 1
6 Wolf 1
Whale 0
Dragon -1.5
Bear -0.5
Fox Zhou

Sakushi decides that are enough Foxes involved, and this is enough of a Fox plot, that she can explain what is going on in the Arcade Diplomacy plot. The House of Judicious Increase, the House of Gainful Protection, and the House of Benevolent Oversight are interested in using the House of Exuberant Interference as the front man / figurehead / fall guy in making the Tanzhe Plain a "protected trade zone" under the rule of the Arcade. They can provide extra House resources in making that happen, with the result that the House of Exuberant Interference will reap a lot of the bonus if it succeeds, though the others will of course profit too. If the invasion fails horribly, (or inevitably), then Benevolent Oversight will have to publically slap their wrists (rather hard) some for provoking a failed war. Sakushi could arrange to get more houses on board - or off board, as needed.

She also explains the spirit scoreboard - there is always a complicated set of favors between the Great Spirits. The ones that are being cashed in now arrange to get the cashers-in what they want, but the upstream favors being spent on it are being tracked as well.

Then, she says she'll wander away so that Cai Wen can continue his horse trading, but Master Zhou should snap his fingers three times if he wants her to come back.

Surprising everyone, including the GMs, Merit wonders - why not take the Tanzhe Plain? Takanata agrees: the party will need to be able to fight military battles on the way to winning against the Marked.

"It would piss off the Forest of Chin and the Plains of Honor, but if there are two countries I care less about, I can't think of them." -Merit

Back to the question about the Lady in Black and Horse - the group hammers together a rough bargaining position.

  • Horse releases her from her bound service, but she will keep working on plans for Horse when she doesn't have other tasks.
  • Cai Wen will cover her salary, and owe Horse some number (maybe 20ish) of Horse Points.
  • Kuan-Xi will officially accept the deal on Cai Wen's behalf, but Sakushi will do the haggling.

Xiao Fa puts another token on Dragon, rolls a 1, and another visitor arrives. This one is Lady Chow Niu-Niu, of the House of Judicious Increase.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou
Damsel 4 Cai Wen 7 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa 6 Lijuan 1 Xiao Fa

Xiao Fa and Lijuan (as the Imperial contingent) receive her. Lady Niu-Niu says that the House of Judicious Increase is informed that Xiao Fa is interested in a certain promotion. They can throw their support in his direction - or in Lijuan's, if he prefers - in exchange for certain promises, and the standard "no-smite agreements". They can arrange for 0.25 towards "Support of the Nobility" after a series of parties that Xiao Fa would attend, in exchange for a promise that after he becomes Emperor, the House of Judicious Increase would run the Imperial Mint. (It is not out of the question that entities outside of the Dragon's Throne would hold this sort of function - the Dragon Army training camps are in the Plains of Honor, for example.) Xiao Fa agrees in principle to this, and Niu-Niu commandeers the Exuberant Interference scribes to write up a contract.

Master Zhou snaps his fingers to bring Sakushi back for the negotiation with Horse. She says with some asperity that she will not be negotiating for anything that includes "horse points", which are Deprecated by the Cycle.

"We will be grateful." -Zhou
"How grateful?" -Sakushi
"The karma! And the thing!" -Master Zhou, indicating the "Zhou" on the scoreboard
"Acceptable." -Sakushi

A combination of "contact spirit" and "summon NPC" works to summon Horse again. Horse is a bit surprised to see Sakushi, and his normal salesman persona drops back to something much more respectful. He and Sakushi haggle over the details as proposed - the woman in black will need to provide a certain percentage of her time for Horse tasks, and the time she's asleep doesn't count. Horse tries to sneak in "favors from Cai Wen's molls", and Sakushi thinks that's a nice try but no.

The deal boils down to:

  • Horse will relinquish the perpetual vow of fealty that she is bound by.
  • Cai Wen will carry out two tag-sized favors for Horse, provide a handsome salary and a place to live for the Lady in Black, and subcontract most of her time to Horse until the end of the Great Cycle.

As an extra inducement for both sides, Horse says he would be willing to help them with their "trap" problem in exchange for their help with the "trap" problem. This is a bit baffling, but the Lady in Black whispers that it's a good deal, because she's already come up with a plan to take it. Both Horse and Sakushi are disappointed in this demonstration of disloyalty before she has been technically released.

It is explained that Horse's plan for a Great Change in the World is to move the Tanzhe Plain south of the Jasmine. Takanata frowns at this - has the spirit of the Jasmine agreed to it?

"The Jasmine is well aware of my ambitions here." -Horse
"Is she okay with them?" -Takanata
"Not yet, but we'll come to an arrangement." -Horse

Horse agrees that it is his responsibility to get the Jasmine's agreement, as long as the party doesn't try to discourage her from doing so.

Horse says that he can provide transport for the initial invasion of the Tanzhe, and change the impending visitor from a Spirit Visitor to an Arcade Visitor (the Benevolent Oversight representative) as long as they let him move the plain when he needs to (subject to the Jasmine's permission).

The party takes a moment to discuss whether they really want to invade the Tanzhe after all. Will putting Xiao Fa at the head of a conquering army make him into someone he isn't? Can they afford to make two countries angry at them? Will it change things too much from "Romping Around with the Circus" to "Waging Everlasting War"? The idea of having a cavalry in place behind the lines as a first strike is very tempting, though. That turns it into nearly a defensive war, which will have fewer casualties.

The second deal is concluded:

  • Horse will help them to the extent that they desire and permit to invade the Tanzhe, and will change Visitor 8 to Visitor 3 so they can talk to the House of Benevolent Oversight.
  • When Horse is doing the ritual to get into the Cycle, he has permission to move the Tanzhe as long as he also has the Jasmine's permission.


Kuan-Xi's visitor, thus, is a princess from the House of Benevolent Oversight.

Doom 10 Merit
Dice 2 Zhou 3 Kuan-Xi
Damsel 4 Cai Wen 7 Cai Wen
Diplomacy 9 Kuan-Xi
Dragon 7 Xiao Fa 6 Lijuan 1 Xiao Fa

She is there to talk about the implications of support for the current military plan, but she seems kind of depressed. Her social stats are all quite poor (sub-3), and she would rather stay in her room and deal with the family's ledgers rather than go along with this stupid arranged marriage her father has in mind for her. And while it would be good if the party fell into her father's trap, she's not really very good at talking people into things.

Kuan-Xi thinks that she can sort out the princess's father, if she can just have a private meeting with him.

Merit is intrigued by the idea of a master ledger-wrangler, and talks to her some more. She cares about numbers, rather than profit per se. She likes error bars but doesn't like units, so you can get her to figure out a plan to make this column of numbers bigger, and that column could be profit, or it could be number of mice in the basement, and she'd be able to come up with something - but it might increase these other numbers, like "number of servants eaten by giant mice" and she wouldn't really care, because it's all numbers to her. So she's very competent and useful, but would need a lot of oversight too.

Merit is keen to hire her, so Kuan-Xi goes back with her to the House of Judicious Increase (Port of Propitious Voyage branch) to "carry Merit's reply". This (with his daughter's help) is turned into a private meeting, at which Kuan-Xi whammies Lord Chow into thinking that his daughter doesn't need an arranged marriage. However, he does stand fast as far as being hired by Merit - she'll actually need to join the House of Exuberant Interference with a proper rank, rather than being a hired accountant. It's demeaning to her position otherwise. Merit is willing to do so, so the deal is cut and her "random plot" is solved.

Lady Niu-Niu finishes her proposed contract, and Merit speed-reads through it. His 26 law successes are sufficient to tell that it is better-written than he could have done. The "standard non-smite agreement" is the most problematic of the clauses - it means that Xiao Fa and the House of Exuberant Interference (members and obvious proxies) can't deliberately thwart the House of Judicious Increase, or vice versa. This doesn't mean that before fending off bandits one needs to carefully determine if any of them are HJI members, but it does mean that people in HJI livery (or who are otherwise obviously HJI members) are doing something that the party would normally find thwartworthy, they can't just leap in. This is a legal agreement rather than a spiritually binding spirit contract, but it has about as many teeth as a legal contract can have. Similarly, if Xiao Fa becomes Emperor and then decides to smash the House of Judicious Increase rather than giving it the Mint, it's hard to really thump the Emperor, but there are about as many social and legal penalties as it is possible to have.

Merit is impressed with her work - if she ever needs employment, or exuberant interference, please let him know. She finds it unlikely, and politely declines a dinner invitation. Merit recalls that the only time that the party has met her before, Liet hired the House to embarrass her at a party.

Now that that's sorted out, there is also the matter of the Tanzhe Plain. The House of Judicious Increase was most impressed with their timely intervention for the caravans. If they continue their efforts, the House would supplement their efforts, in exchange for insurance guarantees. Merit is willing to make that deal, and she heads off to commandeer the scribes again.

Cai Wen's final plot map

The ex-Benevolent Oversight princess also has a message about the Tanzhe Plain. If the House of Exuberant Interference declares itself to be enforcing an official policy of Benevolent Oversight's to make the plain a protected trade zone, then Benevolent Oversight will not have to take official issue with sending armed troops into other people's countries.

"If you undertake to do that, then we will not thwart you in doing it, and it will have to go well, so we won't have to disavow you later. Us. We won't get disavowed. Something like that."

She and Merit will run the numbers on an invasion - it should be doable.

By any chance, did she happen to have a message about assisting Xiao Fa in becoming Emperor? (Dragon didn't get picked here, but if all the plots were possibilities, maybe she knows what it would have been...) Well, her grand-uncle is good at the becoming emperor sort of thing. But she's not in the house any more, so she probably can't provide a useful introduction any longer.

Similarly, can Sakushi offer a favor to Xiao Fa in exchange for the assumption that Dragon will owe her one? No, it doesn't work that way. She's open to a reasonable discussion of what people want to do for her in exchange for her doing something for them, but you don't get the Dragon favor without picking Dragon. (Diplomacy is a free fallback, but the other axes aren't.)

Chow Niu-Niu returns with the legal contract specifying the Official Jumping Into the Trap; the House of Judicious Increase will provide +2 resources for use in jumping into the trap, and the House of Exuberant Interference will jump into the trap.