Traps Within Traps

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"I don't want the cheese; I just want out of the trap." The run begins on the Day of the Late Phoenix, in the month of the Butterfly, in the thirteenth Year of the Magpie since the Regency Council was formed.

The run takes place in the Hidden City.

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At the House of Many Pleasures, where Cai Wen is staying, there is a gentle rapping upon the door - a message has been left for him at the desk, as the messenger has been turned away so as to not bother Cai Wen. It seems one of the circus hands has come to report that the Circus Competition has been advertised all over the Hidden City, so things are ready to go.

This seems worth explaining to the rest of the party, so Cai Wen heads to the circus dormitory in Copper to brief them. As part of the anti-bribery mechanic, there will be a competition for a new circus headliner, with No Bribing Allowed. There will be three qualifying rounds (with secret rules changes between them), and a final round at the end. The first qualifying round will be tomorrow morning.

A trio of brightly dressed people (two men and a woman) clap outside - they will be auditioning for the circus, and will need some equipment to be set up: giant trapezes, and optional safety nets. Cai Wen says he will make sure a suitable spot is available, and tells Akimoto to keep an eye on them. Akimoto is dubious - isn't this too similar to his act? The trio reassures Akimoto that they are great fans of his, and want to learn from the master, and persuade him that a multi-acrobat act would probably be more impressive.

A man in green and silver robes embroidered with dragons introduces himself as Huang Zhaojun - as they will be working together in the future, the party is welcome to call him Zhaojun. He is the master of a thousand puppets, and a master of the Dragon Dance, and wonders if he would be allowed to audition twice with two different acts. Cai Wen explains that they are only taking one act (though one act that can do multiple things is fine), and that pretending to be two unrelated acts is not necessary. The party thinks it would be pretty cool to have a dragon dancer, though.

Invitations arrive for Kuan-Xi and her companions to speak with the Municipal Sorcerer Pro Tem; as they get ready to go, Kuan-Xi spots a black magpie watching the circus, and Cai Wen also spots a small white bird watching Kuan-Xi. Hmm. Everyone suspects Ezokin of being up to something.

Kuan-Xi, Xiao Fa, and Wei Han head to the Ivory District, with a detour by the Ivory Tailors, where Kuan-Xi and Wei Han pick up the clothes they ordered, and Kuan-Xi and Xiao Fa speak to the tailors about ordering a dragon-themed stole to go with Xiao Fa's red Phoenix robes. The tailors think that the red robes are a little old-fashioned, but Xiao Fa resists the suggestion to re-tailor his robes. A woman picking up several boxes of silk leaps in to introduce herself as Bian Meiling, and offers to let Xiao Fa use her discount card before she sweeps off again. The tailors aren't quite sure what Meiling is doing with the silk - some sort of project that she says lets her fly.

Then, the trio heads to City Hall to see Shen Gao. He explains that he has made some progress on being able to get Shen-Ji and Ebon Brush back, but do they have two soul jars? That would be the best way of making sure that their souls can be brought back whole. Of course, if they had the Wu-Xing, it would be easier - then he wouldn't have to worry about not having enough power, only about being able to regulate it. Kuan-Xi says she happens to know the Wu-Xing, so it might be possible to get him to help. As for soul jars, wouldn't the Alchemist have some? Shen Gao winces and says that the Alchemist says he has only one available and it is currently being employed, but he will investigate where more might be acquired. What about Ming I?

"As I said, one of the soul jars is... already employed." -Shen Gao
Trap within a trap

(Elsewhere, as the group discusses this with Shen Gao, Takanata draws a picture.)

Shen Gao says that he should have something ready within a week; if they can get him the soul jars earlier, he’d be better able to plan.

Back at the circus, one of the hands asks Xian (who has been left in charge) to come up to the Gold District and deal with something. Apparently, someone has brought horses to the circus tent and they're all over the place. Xian heads up, and meets Murase Minako, who has about twenty-five horses, and has brought them to Gold because that's where the big tent is set up. Xian tells her that she needs to bring them down to Copper, but she's concerned that there won't be enough space. Xian is dubious - is she really going to ride twenty-five horses at a time? She says no, only a handful at a time, but each horse knows a different trick. She tries to persuade Xian to move the first round up to Gold so that they can use the large tent, but Xian thinks that would cause too much confusion for everyone else, so she agrees to have the judges come up to Gold to see the horse act. Minako tells horse number thirteen to round up the other horses, and they head out, to return tomorrow morning.

When everyone meets back up in the Copper circus tearoom, a circus hand comes in with a tray full of glasses of tea, balanced in a precarious stack of glasses atop glasses. He trips over Xian backwards and forwards, and staggers around, the tea-glasses swaying madly, until he stumbles, flings all the glasses into the air, catches them all, and puts them on the table. Then he bows and leaves, telling them to let him know if they need any sugar.

"Has he worked here long?" -Kuan-Xi
", that was another audition." -Xian

Xiao Fa is unimpressed by the tea, however.

An Ominous Location

Another visitor arrives, in shiny robes of black silk.

"I am told that what you seek is in the House of the Severed Spirit. If you wish, you may attempt to call upon them on the third avenue of the Obsidian district, second block."
"Hmm, we'll have to go shopping again to buy something there."
"No, you will not be buying anything there. If you are successful, you will be acquiring things."

Xian eyes him suspiciously, trying to determine if he wants a job at the circus, but he does not.

"Some just have an innate knack for theater." -Xiao Fa

This all sounds ominous and probably part of the Alchemist's trap - can they just skip the soul jars step in rescuing Shen-Ji? Could they store the extra souls in someone else's body instead? Surely Xiao Fa can do that. Xiao Fa notes with asperity that not only can he not shove extra souls into someone else's body, he is sure that doing so is a terrible idea.

So... what is the House of the Severed Soul, anyway? Cai Wen and Wei Han head up to the Obsidian district to ask around about it. After dropping its name a few times, they find someone who seems to have heard of them.

"Look, there's a lot cheaper ways to rub out your enemies. I'm sure I could do it for less. Who do you need taken out?"
"The Imperial Alchemist!" -Takanata, except that he isn't there

The House of the Severed Spirit is the high-end ninja clan of the Hidden City, "for when death is insufficient". The guy tells them how to contact them to hire them (drop money down this particular rat-hole), but tells them to contact him for lesser tasks, as he works for the Legbreakers.

Back at the circus, another performer, one Murakami Seihachi, shows up to talk to Xian. Is there a fee required? Xian declines to collect a fee, and asks if any props are needed. Seihachi is a contortionist, and needs no props of interest. Then, Gipeno comes in, looking a bit rumpled. He has been convinced by Qin Ying-na (who has a balancing-and-spinning) act, that they would do well as a joint act. Some people think all this using-social-skills on circus members seems like cheating and should be disallowed.

"I'm breaking the bribery mechanic. I'm not breaking the seduction mechanic." -Cai Wen

Cai Wen thinks there will be sufficient room to have a horse act, so he tells Xian to run up to Gold in the morning and instruct Murase Minako to head to Copper with her horses.

As everyone turns in for the night, Cai Wen receives a note, with passes to Obsidian, Ivory, and Jade, saying "See you tonight. ♥" so he heads to Jade for a date with Yanling.

Takanata, a bit worried about ninjas and Ezokin and the like, tries to get people to set watches, but everyone else would rather sleep, not to mention they probably can't see a magpie after dark, so he is persuaded to not worry about it.


In the morning, a bunch of new circus equipment has been set up. Wei Han checks it all out for possible nefariousness, but doesn't find anything particularly suspicious. Xian heads up to Gold, where she finds a bunch of very well-dressed horses ready to go. Xian tells Minako that she should head to Copper for her audition, and she panics. It takes a long time to get a herd of horses between the districts! Xian promises her several extra hours, and says they'll see her later.

Not including a bunch of uninteresting less-good performers, there are nine serious contenders on the list to audition, and Cai Wen notes that some of them already have some points. (The NPC circus acts get to give out points, as does the party, as part of the time-honored tradition of "the current circus gets to influence who gets hired").

Name Act Points
Qin Ying-na Balancing / Spinning 2
Huang Zhaojun Puppets / Dragon Dance 2
Tang Gui, Shikai, and Ping Triple Trapeze 1
Bian Mei-ling Silks acrobat
Zheng Dina Bird trainer
Qiu Mang Pratfall clown
Yanagi Tadashi Sleight-of-hand Magician
Murakami Seihachi Contortionist
Murase Minako Horse act

Everyone is suspicious of Bian Mei-ling - she seems to be rich, and she has something to do with silk, so she seems like an obvious candidate for working for Ezokin. When she let Xiao Fa use her discount card, might that have put him in Ezokin's debt somehow? Takanata ponders the deepest connection between Xiao Fa and Bian Mei-ling, but the answer appears to be that they both shop at the Ivory Tailors.

The acts begin:

  • The "tea guy" proves to be Qiu Mang; he does a lot of slipping, falling, and bouncing, ending with a pie spinning through the air. He gets 18 successes.
  • Bass drumming begins from somewhere, and Huang Zhaojun enters with a dragon dance. Wei Han thinks it's a lot like the one he remembers having seen, and when Xiao Fa asks Dragon about it, Dragon gives him three extra points to spend, as long as he spends some on Zhaojun. He gets 15 successes, but Cai Wen's shtick deducts a point for his having broken a rule somewhere.
  • Qin Ying-Na does an impressive spinning-and-balancing act, until she steps in a hole in the audition ground, and plates fly everywhere. Her 17 successes get a penalty of 12. Everyone looks at Cai Wen, but the -12 isn't a result of his "Civil Behavior" shtick. Wei Han doesn't think the hole was there before, either.
  • Zheng Dina demonstrates a falcon act, two magpies, and "bird juggling".
  • Murase Minako's name comes up, but she is not there yet. Xian says she has permission to be late, as someone gave her bad information.
  • Tang Trio Triple Trapeze Threat. They're pretty good - Akimoto likes their technique. As they're getting ready for the finale, the corner of their safety net snaps! Wei Han grabs the corner and holds it tight, so when the acrobat misses his grab, he bounces off the net instead of splatting on the ground. They take a -5 penalty for the miss, but Wei Han is enough of a showman that he provides +6 to make up for it.
  • Murakami Seihachi unfolds himself from behind the rock where he was, to everyone's surprise. He folds himself down into a tiny box and then out again, and then pushes his arm through a tube, followed by the rest of him. He gets 16 successes.
  • Bian Mei-ling starts her aerial silk act, with the silks apparently hanging from the sky. (People with good perception checks can spot the wires). There is a lot of rolling down and up and plummeting, and she gets 16 successes.
  • Yanagi Tadashi proves to be a straight-up magician, making doves appear and disappear, turning a bowl of fish into a bowl of flowers and back again, and so on. He gets 17 successes.
  • The uninteresting performers get seven to nine successes.
  • Then, just as everyone is about to break for lunch, the sound of drumming hooves is heard in the distance, and Murase Minako makes her last-minute entrance, introduced by Xian. She has a lot of horse tricks, including one where she rides three horses at once, and another where a small pony rides a larger horse. But each trick requires a different horse - she appears to have twenty-five one-trick ponies. She gets 14 successes.

Several of the NPC judges give points to Minako because Xian clearly screwed her over; Akimoto gives the expected two points to the Trio. Melina gives a point to Bian and abstains on her other point. Mondo gives two points to Huang Zhaojun because he wants to see the puppets.

Xiao Fa gives three points to Huang Zhaojun, two to Bian, and one to Qiu Mang. Wei Han gives three points to Huang Zhaojun. Cai Wen gives two to Bian and one to the contortionist.

Everyone is suspicious of Bian having used money, which might be sort of like bribery, and there's also the issue that Huang Zhaojun cheated somehow, but it isn't clear how.

Name Pre Score Party Total
Huang Zhaojun 2 15-1 3+2+3 24
Bian Mei-ling 16 1+2+2 21
Murase Minako 14 6 20
Qiu Mang 18 1 19
Tang Trio 1 12-5+6+3 1 18
Murakami Seihachi 16 1 17
Yanagi Tadashi 17 17
Zheng Dina 9+3 12
Qin Ying-na 2 17-12 7

Huang Zhaojun is declared the winner of the first qualifying round, and Cai Wen announces that for next round (tomorrow morning), the order of auditions will be determined by a KS: Circusing roll.

New rule: the order of auditions is determined by a KS:Circusing roll.

Wei Han checks out the safety net, and determines that just that one corner was frayed, and he's sure it wasn't frayed when he checked it before the performance. Takanata looks at the past in that area, and sees Tang Ping carefully fraying the corner with a knife. It was Tang Shukai who plummeted to the ground, so... either they're trying to look extra dramatic, or trying to kill each other. Cai Wen corners Tang Shukai, to try and determine which way the wind is blowing.

"So.. safety net optional?" -Cai Wen
"It was actually a little startling when I bounced off the net instead of the ground, and not nearly as dramatic. But Shen Wei Han seems to be a bit of a performer himself, so it was almost as good. The most dramatic way to play it is when the net fails at a crucial moment, but you bounce off the ground because you're just that good. Don't mention that to anyone else, okay?" -Tang Shukai

Wei Han corners Huang Zhaojun about the dragon dance, followed by Takanata, wanting to know where he learned it. He says that it's a trade secret, but is of course an ancient dance, telling the story of the coming of Dragon and the founding of the Empire. He makes another case for getting to audition a second time with puppets - how about, if he wins two qualifying rounds with two completely different acts, they can skip the final round?

"Round two is open for everyone who hasn't won. Which is everyone in the Empire except him." -Xian

Takanata tries to get a vision of Zhaojun's past, hoping to see something about where he learned the Dragon dance.

"You already used that shtick." -Mike
"No, it's two separate shticks. Visions on a place, and visions on a person." -Charles
"No, you already used this shtick." -Mike
"Argh! I hate that guy!" -Takanata

Forgetting that you have used a shtick is the hallmark of Stupid Li the Stupid Wanderer, so it looks like the first-round winner is clearly a lot more ominous than he seemed a moment ago.

"Yeah, puppet and dragon dance, he can do Spider and Dragon back and forth. Which one do you want?" -Takanata

This plot is definitely thickening - should they be worrying about the other plot, with the soul jars, at some point?

"We could just ignore the plot where we get a soul jar to save Shen-Ji with, but the down side is we have no soul jar to save Ebon Brush with." -Takanata

Maybe Precious Jade could get a soul jar somewhere? Or, at least, help get some more information on the House of the Severed Spirit. Cai Wen thinks Yanling can arrange that, and sends her a note.

Takanata, spooked by the potential spymasters, declares that he'll throw his points behind Minako if Horse can promise that she has no secret masters beyond him, and heads off to talk to Li Merit's horse. Horse says that Minako is a cute kid, but he's not allowed to have more than one guy, and his guy is Pho.

"Someday, Minako might be allowed to live in a world where she might be great - if only we could make that world come to be!" -Horse

Cai Wen talks to the old circus members, with a particular interest in what Melina has to say. Melina thinks Bian and Murasi are the two who do not have a hand on their shoulder. But also, she thinks that the goals are to have an honest affair, even if that's means you cannot choose the one you like best, and that if you know who a spy works for, that is something that you can turn to your advantage.

That night, Takanata dreams about Qiu Mang, trying to dream of the hand on his shoulder. It looks like there is a hand on his shoulder, from a man who has a hand on his shoulder, the guy behind him has a hand on each shoulder, and it goes up and up, to one person up at the top. But Mang is down here, having a good time - the pay is decent, being in the circus would be fun, so it's a good gig. So... he's more like a normal spy than something particularly weird.

Round Two

In the morning, Yanling reports - Precious Jade says that it won't be possible to buy soul jars from the ninja. Also, the first floor is entirely a trap, so don't go in that way. The soul jars are in a shrine on the third floor, but be careful, as they probably have people's souls in them already.

Hmm. Maybe Cai Wen can get the House of Night's Promise to steal them? How do they arrange to make sure that the House of the Severed Spirit won't be mad at them? Can they use the Oblivion for this instead of the Treasury robbery?

"Maybe you already got the Oblivion." -Xian
"I did not already get the Oblivion." -Takanata
"But how do you know?" -Xian
"Because I said it, and it wasn't false." -Takanata

Xiao Fa corners Huang Zhaojun (who has showed up to watch the second round) about his win yesterday. He drags him into a room to chat privately. There was clearly some sort of irregularity - what was it? Was there any bribery, or other chicanery? Zhaojun admits to no cheating, though Xiao Fa's good listener shtick gets him to admit that he only learned the dragon dance relatively recently, and Xiao Fa judges that he's pretty good at manipulation and intrigue. Xiao Fa asks if he can touch Zhaojun on the forehead, and the dragon dancer leans back, alarmed.

"You're going to chi me!" -Zhaojun
"Well, yes." -Xiao Fa
"If I win, you can chi me."
"If I don't chi you, you don't get to win."
"What, really?"
"Well, no, not really."

Zhaojun beats a hasty retreat, and rumors start to spread throughout the contestants that the monk is going to chi whoever wins.

Kuan-Xi identifies Yanagi Tadashi as a Phoenix; nobody else is.

The contests go about as expected; Zhang Dina has a more spectacular finale, involving birds flying her up to a trapeze platform, but many of the others have burned their fortune on the first round. The Trapeze Trio's dramatic surprise is a little less surprising the second time around, but more dramatic since Wei Han doesn't grab the net.

Takanata examines the closest relationship between Kuan-Xi and Tadashi: they both serve Kuan-Xi's mother, but he's better at it.

Akimoto and Gipeno give points to their favorites; Wei Han gives some points to the Trio, and Kuan-Xi gives a point to Bian.

Xian goes around to ask everyone if they have cheated. Some of the more interesting answers:

"Not according to the rules." -Zhang Dina
"Not successfully." -Qin Ying-na
"Look, I'm getting chi'd already tomorrow." -Huang Zhaojun
"No." -Yanaga Tadashi, lying

Everyone else says no apparently truthfully.

Xian presses Dina further. She says that she has a great respect for rules that will keep her out of the circus, and will not break them. But she does have a number of tricks of the trade she is willing to use if they are not against the rules. Xian does not manage to get her to admit to exactly what they are. Cai Wen rules that Bian's discount for Xiao Fa was more like a seduction mechanic and less like bribery.

Takanata gives points to Bian, as she nearly has silken wings, and Tadashi. Kuan-Xi gives two points to Minako, in support of another "unowned" contestant.

Cai Wen, who has begun to think that Ezokin is a scarier spymaster than Li the Wanderer, corners Zhang Dina to ask her some pointed questions about the Arcade. She admits to having once worked in Daizhou in the customs office, for Ando. So perhaps she is an Imperial spy.

Name Score Adjust Total
Bian Mei-ling 15 2+2+1 20
Zheng Dina 16 16
Yanagi Tadashi 10 4 + 1 15
Murakami Seihachi 12 2 14
Qiu Mang 14 14
Murase Minako 11 2 13
Qin Ying-na 12 1 13
Tang Trio 9 1+1 11

Bian Mei-Ling is the winner of the second round.

Round Three

So... there's some sort of anti-ninja mission that the party should be worrying about at some point? Can they trust the guy who told them to go after the House of the Severed Spirit? Who sent him, anyway? Xian continues to find the messenger in black Very Suspicious.

The group contemplates Takanata's picture of a mousetrap in a bear trap. A number of interpretations are discarded, until people with Interpret Omens decide that the mousetrap is being used to prevent the bear trap from slamming shut, not as a trigger for the bear trap. Kuan-Xi hires some omen experts, and thinks that the bear trap is the ninja house, and the mousetrap is inside the bear trap, so it's probably something like the soul jars themselves.

How do soul jars work, anyway? You can catch free-floating souls in them - most often when someone is dying - and you can open the jar to let the soul go. Takanata thinks that if the soul has unfinished business, it will probably try to finish it; otherwise, it will probably head to the World After.

"So... the souls come out and cause mayhem. Mayhem is always my best plan." -Cai Wen

But is letting possibly dangerous souls out a good idea?

"Somebody, whose judgement we may or may not trust, decided that they needed to be in soul jars." -Xian

Both Xian and Cai Wen think that there are some possible souls for which letting them out would be a very bad idea. Well, perhaps Crossroads will be able to point to which ones are worst, at the time.

Having resolved something, the group goes back to the audition grounds to judge Round Three.

Name Score Adjust Total
Murase Minako 21 21
Qiu Mang 15 3 + 3 21
Yanagi Tadashi 16 2 18
Zheng Dina 15 2 17
Qin Ying-na 13 3 16
Murakami Seihachi 15 15
Tang Trio 12 1 13

Cai Wen and Xiao Fa give points to Qiu Mang (the "tea guy" as the most consistent of the competitors). Takanata gives two to the magician, and Wei Han gives points to Qin Ying-na to get on Gipeno's good side. Both Qiu Mang and Murase Minako advance to the final round, which will be later in the afternoon, leaving one more round of spying.

Cai Wen gets Yanling to seize the moment and get another briefing from Precious Jade - Qiu Mang is a low-level spy for the House of Benevolent Oversight. Hmm. Lord Nikoze is in the House of Benevolent Oversight - that could mean that Ezokin could have influence over him.

Takanata and Cai Wen disagree as to whether a spy for Li the Wanderer or a spy for Ezokin would be worse. A spy for Ezokin would probably be extra-good at bribery, so Cai Wen is concerned about him, but Takanata is sure that Li the Wanderer is the worst thing ever.

The talkers are assigned to talk to the party's favorites (Bian Mei-Ling and Murase Minako) to make sure they don't try to win with bribery. Kuan-Xi wanders away alone with Bian. When they return, Bian is confident that trying to use bribery would be a bad idea. Xian talks to Murase Minako, and persuades her that if she doesn't follow the rules, she cannot win. She looks like she has an idea at that, but Xian heads off the "persuade other people to cheat" plan. In the end, Minako agrees to not try any shenanigans, but she says if someone else wins due to shenanigans, she'll hate Xian forever.

The final round has a rules change: you may give yourself a helper roll by discoursing on a surprising topic (as is the custom in the Hidden City).

Huang Zhaojun uses KS: the South as his surprising topic, and gets 20 successes. Murase Minako tries to use Grooming as a topic, but it's not very surprising, and she cracks and only gets 7 successes. Qiu Mang demonstrates some KS: Immortals and gets 14, and Bian Mei-Ling talks about the Language of Flowers, and (having saved her fortune) gets 20 successes.

The NPCs give out their last points: Artemesia gives 3 to Huang Zhaojun; Mondo gives 1 to Qiu Mang and 1 to Zhaojun. Min Su gives 2 to Minako, Kar Lo gives 1 to Bian, and Iron Shirt Jojo passes.

Cai Wen vetoes throwing enough points at Murase Minako to push her into the winning slot. Wei Han, Takanata, and Kuan-Xi all give 3 each to Bian. Xian gives her 3 to Minako, and Xiao Fa gives 3 to Huang (driving Takanata to fits of twitchiness). Cai Wen thinks that's too close, and gives another 3 to Bian. Now Zhaojun is 6 behind, which would be something like four tael in bribes to catch up, so he declares that beyond his budget and concedes. Bian Mei-Ling is declared the winner, and hired as a member of the Silken Wings Circus. True to tradition, she will provide 33 successes of aerial silks to the party when needed.

Name Score Adjust Total
Bian Mei-ling 20 1 + 3 +3+3 +3 33
Huang Zhaojun 20 3 + 1 +3 27
Qiu Mang 14 1 15
Murase Minako 7 2 + 3 12

Takanata offers Bian Mei-ling an I Ching reading "as a prize". She has already heard the rumors that she has to be chi'ed if she wins, so she's ready.

She is a butterfly who was raised by spiders, so her randomness is unfortunately constrained, but she will blossom to her potential on the island.

Takanata declares that it's finally time to worry about the soul jar plot, so any further talking to circus contestants can be done during puttering. Minako tells Horse 13 to herd all the other horses back to Pewter, but that leads to Cai Wen springing for rooms in Copper for all the finalists.

House of the Severed Spirit

Takanata, Kuan-Xi, Wei Han, and Xiao Fa head to the Jade district to meditate in the Chamber of Immersing in Virtue, to replenish fortune. They get no sleep until dawn. Meanwhile, Cai Wen goes for a stroll with Yanling, and also gets no sleep.

The group disguises themselves as less readily identifiable. Yanling accompanies the party to the House of Severed Spirit, and Cai Wen pulls in some general thugs from the Iron Keys for Hire illumineaucracy group. Bian Mei-ling can provide an aerial silk deployment of the party into a window, or onto the roof. Cai Wen considers where the plan will first go awry, and notes that the building's third floor windows aren't really windows, and that going through the roof will bring them to where most of the ninja are.

With all the mastery of 33 successes of silk deployment, the silks pick the lock on the window and deposit them all in a reasonable battle array on the second floor of the townhouse, in the ninja's sparring room. Several ninja startle.

People begin to run for the stairs, with the Iron Key thugs and Yanling fighting rear-guard actions. Takanata, with Eyes of the I Ching up, notes that the ninja have magic swords, and the thugs start to go down pretty quickly.

Wei Han engages several more of the ninja upstairs, and Xiao Fa manages to get into the room with the little shrine full of soul jars, labeled as "Eternal prison of our enemies".

He breaks the seal on one jar, and a soul swirls for him. Xiao Fa slams up a chi barrier, and the soul swirls away again, without causing any great carnage to the ninja. Hmm. Cai Wen takes the soul jar from the central table of the shrine, and breaks the seal, allowing the soul to possess him. "Vengeance is mine!" says the soul, and Cai Wen is suddenly quite a bit more powerful (five powerups). Cai Wen's thug declines to become possessed by a vengeful ghost, so Xiao Fa shrugs and opens another, letting himself be possessed by this one. He gets four powerups. Cai Wen opens yet another bottle; the powerups here include the ability to cloak and decloak like a ninja.

Meanwhile, Xian convinces one of the ninjas that this is all a confounding training exercise to test his high-level tactical thinking.

The ninja take Yanling down; Cai Wen appears beside her, burning three karma to use her skill, and wreaks vengeance on them before dosing her with a healing potion.

Takanata uses his auspicious summoning to get Shen Gao to appear; as a master of water gates, he is not too implausible to get into a combat.

Xiao Fa opens another soul jar, trying to point it at Wei Han, but Wei Han isn't affected by necromantic possession, so it fails and Xiao Fa gets a second new soul. At this point, both Cai Wen and Xiao Fa are close to their tao in vengeful souls, so they are still barely in control, but another soul would probably push them over the limit.

Shen Gao appears behind Kuan-Xi, and water-gates the two of them to the shrine. With Wei Han holding the door, these rooms are a bit safer. Then, he takes two of the smaller soul jars - they should be easier to cleanse - and vanishes. Kuan-Xi peeks from behind Wei Han to sploosh a ninja with a water blast, doing a lot of damage and knocking him across the room.

"'Sploosh' sounds a lot less harmless now." -Xian

Wei Han is still heavily beset by ninja, and Xiao Fa heals him, preventing the next two ninja strikes from taking him down.

Xian disguises herself as a ninja, just before Cai Wen the Ninjaslayer comes up the stairs.

"This was... not well thought out." -Xian

Xian sends another ninja to go and claim their reward for passing the test from the Grandmaster, before managing to convince Cai Wen that she is not actually a ninja herself.

Takanata examines the clan's meditation temple - he thinks it is used for shtick transfer, and covets it greatly. He tries to steal a ninja's shtick, but since the ninja is unconscious rather than meditating, it doesn't work.

Extra puddles appear all over the map, courtesy of Shen Gao, who seems to think that it's time for people to be leaving. Two ninja chop at Kuan-Xi, who is suddenly immune to metal, and who rusts their blades while they are at it.

The last of the ninja fall to Wei Han, Yanling, and the extra-scary Cai Wen. (Two have escaped due to Xian confusing them away). The party retreats, with Kuan-Xi helping to evacuate the fallen Iron Key thugs through the puddle-gates.

Xiao Fa realizes that he really really needs to perform a meditative cleansing, after which he can cure Cai Wen of his possession, before any further incidents occur. Shen Gao takes two soul jars (plus a spare) for the Shen-Ji ritual, and gives two more (empty and cleansed) to the party, just in case they need them. Xian notes that they would be better if the vengeful ghosts were still in the jars, but nobody else likes that idea, and Shen Gao is the one with the soul jars, and he's not returning them with ghosts.


  • Takanata talks to Li Merit's horse.
  • Cai Wen and Master Zhou visit Stone Drum to look for Kar Fai.
  • Cai Wen visits the Hidden Orchid in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival.