Trail of Injustice
|"A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when true friends meet, but half a sentence is too much when there is no meeting of minds."|| The run begins on the day of the Early Spider in the month of Spider Rising in the first Year of the Spider since the Butterfly King was Poisoned.|
The run takes place in the town of Tranquil Endurance, in the Jade Taiga.
The last thing anyone remembers is dawn on the Day of the Spider, and being "scattered through the world" by Aku, the Great Spirit of the Spider. Yoshi and Kasumi try to grab their swords, which they had dropped in the Garden of Harmonious Contemplation - Yoshi manages to reach his, but Kasumi does not.
As everyone tumbles through the void, they hear Aku's voice: "Now that your friends are scattered, you can suffer my personal ministrations. Wait... what?" Then, with a thud, Yoshi, Kasumi, and Lijuan tumble onto a dusty road as the sun rises. Yoshi checks to make sure everyone is all right, and Lijuan starts doing some preliminary patching up with first aid, when some shouting is heard from down the hill: "That's mine! Give it back! Give it back!" Yoshi heads down to find out what's going on, leaving Lijuan to finish first-aiding Kasumi.
There are two teenagers, and a littler kid. The little kid is jumping up waving his arms, trying to get at the dog that the two older kids are holding over his head. Yoshi orders the two teenagers to put the dog down, and they do. The little kid says that that's his dog, though Yoshi is pretty clear that it's Ho. Yoshi eyes one of the older kids, wondering why he does what he does - the answer is that annoying Peacocks is his job. Hmm, that's somewhat inexplicable.
Lijuan and Kasumi catch up with Yoshi - the older kids note, as Lijuan arrives, that this is turning into Peacock City, and they leave. The younger kid, who says his name is Little Si, explains that he found the dog, so it's his now! He has always wanted a dog. Yoshi tries to get Lijuan to explain to him what a peacock is, but she doesn't know any more than he does. Lijuan does some veterinary first aid on Ho, who wakes up and woofs somewhat wearily.
Yoshi asks Little Si about the older kids. He says they're Blades, and he hates them. Yoshi asks what the name of the town is - Little Si is baffled - how can Yoshi not know? It's where everyone lives! Anyway, it's called Tranquil Endurance, which causes Lijuan to leap to the (accurate) conclusion that it's in the Jade Taiga, because it sounds kind of like Harmonious Endeavor.
Everyone heads into town (Kasumi following the other two stealthily), and Yoshi asks Little Si about the Blades. He says they're meaner than they used to be, since the little kids formed their gang, the Thorny Peacocks. Little Si invites Lijuan to join the Thorny Peacocks, which she does. Big Si, Little Si's brother, is the head of the Thorny Peacocks, and Johnny Tong is the head of the Blades. Lijuan, with her KS: Street Kids, thinks that's probably not his real name, just his official Gang-Leading Alias.
Inn of the Red Door
Yoshi asks if there's an inn in Tranquil Endurance - he says there is, the Inn of the Red Door. It has good food, and lots of rooms. When they get there, things are pretty quiet - there's a guy slumped over his rice wine in a corner of the bar, but no one else around other than the innkeeper (it being early morning), who comes out to welcome them.
Yoshi orders breakfast for four (including Little Si), and two rooms. The innkeeper briefly tries to overcharge Yoshi by multiplying the prices wrong, but Yoshi is not fooled. The old guy in the back starts to laugh - they're going to have to watch out now, with two adventuring parties in the same inn.
The party's ears perk up. Who is the other adventuring party? That would be a couple of armsmen of the Duke, and the mean one. Hmm, who is the mean one? The drunk eyes his empty wine cup meaningfully, and says he doesn't know anything. Yoshi takes the hint, and invites him over for breakfast in addition to another drink. The mean one turns out to be Reiko, who the drunk (called Old Hop) says was running the other two guys pretty fierce. He makes a face to demonstrate her "stern, cold eyes." He doesn't know why they're here, or when they're coming back, though.
The innkeeper doesn't know what the other group is after, either - they keep to themselves, no muss no fuss. They might be looking for someone or something, but he's not sure.
The innkeeper's wife, and his daughter Mei-Li, get the party's rooms ready, and run baths. Lijuan complains - does she have to take a bath? Yoshi says she does. Yoshi leaves word with the innkeeper to wake him up before dinner, and people spend the day sleeping.
Lijuan has a dream:
When she wakes up, she runs downstairs to tell Yoshi about it. He says he thinks it's because he was able to tell something about the Spider spirit/demon when it spoke to them at the end - Aku is responsible for people who want power for the sake of power, something Yoshi thinks is bizarre and unnatural and people wouldn't do if they weren't pushed to it by the Spider. Hmm, maybe Kibo was trying to communicate with Lijuan. Yoshi notes that he should try to talk to Kibo, too.
Lijuan and Yoshi remember to wake Kasumi in time for dinner as well. As they start eating, Old Hop arranges to sit at a table which will have a good view of both the three of them and the other "adventuring party", which seems to be expected soon.
- "With four sense motive, do I think he thinks they're coming imminently?" -Chris
- "With four, you think he's staggeringly drunk." -Mike
Yoshi goes out to get some fresh air. Lo, he spots Reiko and two other guys coming up the road, and nods to them.
- "What are you doing here?" -Reiko
- "That's actually a very long story. Something like Fate brought me here." -Yoshi
- "Interesting. Something like Fate brought me here as well."
- "She probably even knows where 'here' is." -Laura
Yoshi asks if she is here after the Blades, then? She's briefly confused, until one of the men whispers something in her ear. Ah, no, she's not after those pups, she's searching out more significant game. Yoshi inquires what the more significant game has done - she says that it is another link in the chain that will bring her to where she needs to go.
Back in the tavern, Hop tries to keep Yoshi's seat warm, but Lijuan objects to this, and ends up bringing over a different chair for him to sit in. She agrees to buy him a drink, which he nearly manages to upgrade into a bottle before she notices.
Yoshi asks after Reiko's pursuits:
- "Has destroying the links in the chain been successful for you?"
- "I take care to not destroy them until they have led me to the next one. I am confident that success will eventually arrive."
Yoshi notes that there are forces in the world which will reforge a broken link, but if you turn the link to a new purpose, this effect is countered. She is not convinced by this, but he says it has been true in his own experience. She says noncommittally that they shall see. Yoshi tries to persuade her that there are forces that thrive on destruction right now - she should not become one of them. She notes that she has a different goal in mind. He offers to come with her and help, and she thinks about that, and then tells him that if he wishes to make up for errors of the past, she would welcome his skill - but this time they'd do things her way.
He doesn't think the way to atone for death is with more death, but she doesn't think she has anything to atone for.
Back inside, Lijuan points out to Old Hop that if she's buying him drinks, he has to answer her questions. She gets a bit more of a briefing about the Thorny Peacocks and the Dark Blades. The Dark Blades have been around for a while ("always prowling the night in this town"), but the Thorny Peacocks are a more recent addition, giving the younger folks solidarity against the Blades.
- "Innkeeper, another round for my friend. No, wait, another drink."
Old Hop says that the Blades don't really have a "headquarters" per se. The Dark Blades hang out down by the crossroads at night - the Thorny Peacocks are probably all in bed by that hour. Kasumi asks how the Dark Blades got their name - Old Hop just thinks they picked it to be spooooky and intimidating.
Back outside, Yoshi turns his Sense Motive on the guys accompanying Reiko - they seem to be loyal to Duke Huang, and have been ordered to assist her. However, they're getting impatient with Yoshi and Reiko's conversation, so they head into the inn for dinner. Kasumi notes that the innkeeper and his wife leap into action to serve them quickly; their daughter ducks back into the kitchen.
Yoshi says he wants to help Reiko - and that he's discovered dark forces at work in the Empire. He doesn't know if they had anything to do with the man they rescued, or the bandits. What kind of dark forces, Reiko asks. Yoshi says he means those touched by the Spider. There is some brief confusion - does he mean the Shadow? No, the Great Spirit of the Spider. She doesn't know anything about that, and he doesn't know anything about the Shadow. Does she mean the Shadow of the Wall? No, it's a person, though she's been tracking his signs in the direction of the North wall, sort of. Maybe in the foothills of the Roof of the World.
It's interesting that Yoshi is hunting Spiders, though. What will he do when he finds one? "Rescue them from the Spider's clutches," he says.
- "Maybe that's what Yoshi will do. The rest of us will poke them full of stabbity bits." -Meg
Why does he favor those touched by the Spider? Yoshi says that its taint is particularly hard to purge.
- "You would purge them just for their nature?"
- "I think we may have a different definition of purge."
Yoshi brings up his mentor Shien - does Reiko remember her exploits? Yes, and those of her son as well. Yoshi wonders which she finds more admirable, and concludes "If I were facing the Shadow, I wouldn't have a hope of defeating it with darkness, only with light." That draws a reaction from Reiko - she suspects him of knowing something he's not sharing, now. Many sense motive rolls are made on both sides, but Yoshi doesn't actually know anything specific - he just believes it as a general principle. Reiko notes that "Even if extinguished in the darkness, the shadow always returns with the dawn," which she thinks is significant.
On that note, they both go back into the inn to eat dinner. Old Hop notes, disappointed, that he missed it all, and Lijuan briefs Yoshi on the intelligence she's gathered about the Blades and the Peacocks.
Reiko notes Kasumi with a start, and raises an eyebrow to Yoshi - there may be hope for him yet, she thinks. She also notes Old Hop hanging out with Lijuan, and asks how the old monk is related to all of this. Lijuan is intrigued - an old monk? Yoshi wonders if the old guy is going to collapse from all the alcohol he's been drinking, and realizes that it's rather surprising that he's as lucid as he is. Continuing her conclusion-leaping, Lijuan decides that Old Hop is a Drunken Master and thus should be recruited to the team.
- "What brings you here? Fate, was it?" -Reiko to Kasumi
- "Nothing good, I'm sure." -Kasumi
- "I like this one." -Reiko
- "I hear there's a dog shortage." -Kasumi
Dinner eaten, Yoshi, Lijuan, and Kasumi go for a walk, and Yoshi fills them in a little on Reiko. She's looking for a master criminal called the Shadow, connected with some murders in the Butterfly Kingdom. Neither Lijuan nor Kasumi knows anything more about the Shadow, other than the whole "don't be touched by the shadow of the Wall on midwinter" thing.
Yoshi gets a bit entangled in trying to explain what he wants to do, which is find the Shadow before Reiko does. Because Reiko wants to help the Shadow? No, because she wants to kill him.
- "We want to risk our lives protecting this criminal because it is the path of justice? No moral judgment, just summing up." -Kasumi
That's about right. Kasumi is a little worried about her ability to do any protecting without her katana, so they decide to look for another katana under cover of looking for a dog for Little Si.
- "We should see what might attract a criminal to the town." -Kasumi
- "Yoshi's here!" -Lijuan
- "Do they... flock to him?" -Kasumi
- "I'm going to ask questions about a dog, and slip in subtle questions about a katana." -Lijuan
The first stop for information-gathering is the Thorny Peacocks, from whom they discover that Peacocks love dogs and hate katanas. The Dark Blades are the people who like katanas, apparently.
Since the Blades hang out near the crossroads, Kasumi sneaks off to spy on them. They're talking about how they need a little more money for the shipment coming in tomorrow night - they should probably roll someone tonight. Not the scary out of towners, but maybe the new ones. They should see if they can get one of them to stay up and drink too much and then roll them before bed. There are only about six Blades there, but it sounds like there are more of them in total. One of the Blades tries to suggests a bake sale instead of rolling a drunk, but that isn't popular. After thinking about it for a while, Kasumi recognize that voice as Mei-Li.
Kasumi meets back with Lijuan and Yoshi and lets them know about the rolling.
- "Are we going to capture them and make them into good guys?" -Lijuan
- "We're going to talk to them. Wait, no, we're not going to capture them." -Yoshi
Reiko and her two men have left the inn at this point, and she isn't wearing interesting enough footwear to easily track her.
- "It's the First Day of the Spider. You don't wear boots after the first day of Spider, how gauche..."
It's time now to get friendly with the Blades, who are happy to turn it into a New Year's Day drinking party, since they were hoping to get someone drunk and robbable. Old Hop manages to score a few more drinks in the general camaraderie.
Yoshi chats with one of the Blades. It was a hard year - he's hoping it will be better in the future, once they have better weapons. He seems to have a general idea that if they get better at fighting, someone will hire them as mercenaries or guards.
- "Do you sell katanas!!!?" -Lijuan
- "What would a Peacock like you want with a katana?"
- "Wait, wait, is it just all the kids are in the peacock gang."
- "And they're your arch-rivals?"
- "That's what they say. We can handle them, though. Don't worry about it."
Everyone boggles at the idea of having two gangs separated by age rather than geography or family or what have you. Do you get promoted from one to the other when you turn fifteen? Yoshi tries to convince the Blade that he's talking to, not to pick on the Peacocks - "You looking to set up a Peacock protection scheme?"
Since the Blades are buying rounds for everyone, Lijuan brings her two drinks over to Old Hop, with a proposition.
- "Don't look now, but sometimes Yoshi gets in trouble. I'll buy you a whole bottle of this, if he gets in trouble when you're around."
She clarifies that she means if he gets in trouble and Old Hop helps him, rather than leaving him with incentive to see that Yoshi gets in trouble. Then she buys him the bottle, in advance.
Yoshi's Blade friend says they're hoping to come into some more money, buy some goods - and maybe even sell something to his peacock friend. Come find him later tomorrow night, and they'll hook him up with a nice katana.
- "I wonder if he's thought through that this is inconsistent with robbing me tonight." -Yoshi
But no, it seems like he's decided that Yoshi is a potential customer, so he should figure out someone else to rob.
- "Boy, are they going to be disappointed when they find that Lijuan's pockets are full of biscuits and not zhu." -Kasumi
Yoshi tries to get the pedigree of the katanas, so he knows they're good enough to stick around for. The guy explains some of the details of the make, but avoids mention of the source. Yoshi thinks they sound familiar, but can't quite put his finger on why. They'd want 1 li for a decent sword. Yoshi, hoping to head off any muggings at all, asks if he can get a discount if he pays in advance. The answer is yes, so he pays 80 zhu in advance, and then declares that he wants to pick which one he gets, so he should get to come to the meet. He's pretty persuasive, and the Blades want to keep an "investor" happy, so they tell him to meet them by the crossroads at sunset tomorrow.
- "I bought you a sword. We have to pick it up. It's at the plot." -Yoshi to Kasumi
Then, it's back to bed for everyone, since they've only had the four-hour nap after staying up all night to rearrange the garden and travel in the spirit world. That night, Lijuan has another dream:
Everyone is awoken around midnight by a piercing shriek. Yoshi, Kasumi, and Lijuan are the first to get downstairs - Mei-Li is in the common room, somewhat hysterical, and one of the Duke's armsmen is lying on the floor unconscious. At the corner of the bar, Old Hop appears to be asleep with his head on his arms. Kasumi heads over to Old Hop, and looms over him meaningfully. He looks up at her, bleary-eyed. She looks at the body, and back at him. He notes "You want another one? I'm going to need another bottle."
Mei-Li is explaining that this horrible man tried to force himself on her, but then when she screamed, something happened to him, she's not sure what. Lijuan first aids him ("If he wakes up, then we can capture him and turn him into a good guy.") Once he has awoken, Yoshi turns to him for questioning. Is this the sort of behavior that Duke Huang tolerates in his soldiers? Does Reiko tolerate this sort of behavior?
From the stairs behind Yoshi comes the question "Does Reiko tolerate which sort of behavior?" Yoshi explains. Reiko glares at the armsman, demanding to know if this is true. He makes some lame sorts of protestations, but Yoshi sees the cold anger beginning to rise in Reiko's eyes as she starts towards him. She takes one step forward, and suddenly falls to the ground.
Moments before, Old Hop has told Kasumi that she can owe him one, and slightly tips a chair near him. That chair tips into another, which falls into a third, and so on, until a chair falls with its back just under Reiko's foot, tripping her.
When she stands up again, she is more in control of her anger, and she glares at Yoshi.
- "Fine. It appears you have captured him. What will you do - what does he deserve?"
- "He deserves a chance to put his life to good purpose."
- "You think he hasn't already had that chance?"
- "It's never too late to make a new choice. We can't change the past, but we can affect the future."
Yoshi turns to the armsman, asking
- "Do you understand what is going on here? Do you understand that your life is in danger?"
He does not, in fact, appear to understand that his life is in danger. As the Duke's man, he says no one in this town is going to do anything to him. Yoshi asks Reiko if the Duke condones this sort of thing - she says the Duke condones behavior that gets him results, and, like many in the Twelve Kingdoms, he understands the importance of an end and may not ask about the means if the end pleases him.
- "Are we going to capture him too?" -Lijuan
- "I'm going to ignore that, and apologize later." -Yoshi
- "This is the world you walk through. These are the people you meet. What will you do?" -Reiko to Yoshi
- "We'll capture them and make them into good guys!" -Lijuan
- "I'm going to change people for the better. Not everyone takes that choice, and I recognize that." -Yoshi
Reiko tells the guy that his services are no longer required, and tells Yoshi that when her business here is concluded, she will ask Mei-Li if she has received justice. The other armsman looks like he wants to say something, but Reiko quells him, and then the two of them leave.
Ho and Lijuan help cheer up Mei Li. Ho is a pretty good cheerer and reassurer, and she manages to calm down. Over at the bar, Old Hop starts packing up his bottle.
- "Your little peacock was right." -Old Hop
- "Sometimes she is." -Kasumi
- "Well, I might not always be around, but if you need me, you know how to get in touch with me."
He picks up his bottle and leaves.
The armsman is tied up and taken to Yoshi's room, where Yoshi lays down the Great Hammer of Persuasion that life isn't a zero-sum game where you only win by taking from others. The guy does get rather persuaded, though his main issues have been that he doesn't really consider peasants as people whose feelings need to be considered, and that he's been lusting after Reiko for the past few weeks but is scared of her. Yoshi contemplates suggesting prostitutes, but decides that's not his line. The guy is, basically, not very much of a nice guy, but Yoshi does convince him that he's going to have to go and confess to Duke Huang.
Then, he goes downstairs again and offers to teach Mei-Li aikido, so she can better defend herself in the future. After some teaching, he thinks that she actually probably has a learning bonus in katana (due to being part of the Blades who have a group katana shtick), so after her sword comes in, she'll be a bit more confident as well.
Yoshi asks Mei-Li about Johnny Tong. It seems that they've been building a little "criminal underground", and it has mechanical requirements. For example, one thing you need to have is a rivalry, in order to buy gang shticks. So, they got the younger kids to form the Peacocks, and then they beat up Peacocks to prove that their gang is superior. And, sure, they've rolled some people, but it's not like they weren't getting rolled by individuals before. Now everyone gets credit for each one and there's actually less of it happening.
Johnny moved here from the Hon'eth Arcade last year. He was in one of the big city gangs, but then his stupid family moved out here.
- "Now he runs the biggest gang in town."
Yoshi takes advantage of their training montage to instill in Mei-Li a belief in not killing people because everyone has potential. If they're The Power in the town, he thinks they should do something good with their power, as opposed to just throw it around abusing people (like the duke's armsman). She does think that he ought to be punished, but is willing to accept that if he confesses to the Duke that will probably happen. Yoshi also makes sure to have the armsman beg her forgiveness before he goes off back to Duke Huang's lands.
Next errand - time to find a dog! After a couple of hours of searching, they do find a mangy street dog. Little Si is prepped with Lijuan's dog treats, and manages to befriend it. The dog is named Littlest Si, and happiness reigns in the Thorny Peacock gang.
Lijuan tells Yoshi about her most recent dream, and vows to watch his food for spiders in it.
Is there anything else to be done before the meet with the katana shipment? Is there an actual plan about what to do with the Blades?
- "If we give them to Reiko, they'll do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Which is better than doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. But doing no things for any reasons is even better." -Kasumi
Yoshi talks to Johnny Tong. It does sound like he was in a "real" street gang in the Arcade - selling drugs, running bets, enforcing loans, that sort of thing. Although he was just a low-level messenger who didn't get into the serious stuff himself yet. Yoshi tries to sway him around to the side of light as well: tough times are coming. Maybe in easy times, they could just run around with their swords being important, but in harder times, they have to have the people on their side. They can't do it with just fear, they have to win loyalty as well. Yoshi just wants to make sure that they're well situated, now that he's an investor.
Yoshi thinks if the drop goes well tonight, he's got them convinced, though investing a little more money might help solidify things.
Lijuan makes a similar attempt with the Peacocks, but with no successes, it's not clear that her version of the philosophy will have much staying power. She buys them lunch, instead.
Before sunset, Kasumi sneaks out of town in the way that someone might be coming from, but where she can still see the crossroads, and hides. Lijuan hides vaguely nearby but less well, and Yoshi and the Dark Blades wait at the crossroads. Eventually, a guy on a horse, leading a pack mule, arrives.
The guy and Johnny Tong confer, and then swap a bag of 500 zhu for a bag of katanas. Yoshi wonders why this guy does what he does - profit, mostly. He's a small cog in a larger machine, but he also hopes to be promoted if he opens up this new market here. The guy and his mule start leaving, and Johnny shows Yoshi the katanas, which he recognizes now as being Dragon Army issue.
Yoshi asks if Johnny knew he was buying swords stolen from the Dragon Army. He didn't know know, but he isn't totally surprised that they're hot.
Kasumi starts sneaking after the arms merchant. So does Lijuan, who is better at following a trail, so Kasumi ends up following Lijuan instead. After they get a ways farther, the remaining Duke's armsman steps in front of Lijuan and says "I was told to tell you you don't need to be involved for this part."
Lijuan nods, and says "Okay, I'll tell Yoshi, thank you." She heads back to the crossroads. Unfortunately, Kasumi was never really sure where the merchant was, so she has to follow the armsman at this point. He goes off to a pair of horses, where he waits. After a while, there's a horrible scream off in the distance; then Reiko shows up, mounts her horse, and the two of them leave. Belatedly, Kasumi kicks herself for not trying to pickpocket the 500 zhu, though Yoshi thinks that might have led to serious trouble with Reiko.
Lijuan declares that she should try to find the merchant, to see if maybe first aid will help. Yoshi had been hoping she wouldn't have to see the body, but agrees to accompany her. Sure enough, first aid will not do him any good now, and he looks as if he probably talked before dying quite unhappily.
Since the meet went well from the Dark Blades' point of view, they seem amenable to Yoshi's guidance. He convinces them to change their name to the Secret Swords (so they don't have to have their stolen Dragon Army swords visible). He invests 50 zhu more in the group, and they promise to not just bleed Tranquil Endurance dry.
Then, he gives them some katana training - they appear to have a group shtick in getting double levels of Katana skill for the points they spend.
Kasumi, as she is checking out, finds a bottle of Golden Palace rice wine in her room. She tries a drink, and finds that it gives her +1 Cha / -1 Dex for a while. Intriguing.
- Yoshi teaches the Secret Swords katana and aikido, and some of them learn Riposte and Protect.
- Yoshi visits Master Hwa's dojo on the way back to the Butterfly Kingdom.