Wind Over the Clouds II
|"Though the wind blows, the mountain does not move."|| The run takes place late in the Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in and above Hearthstone
In Media Res
Yanyu is hanging out at Tahiti, when suddenly, Meilin rushes in, shouting that it is an emergency and Yanyu has to go. Yanyu (channeling Takanata) grabs the emergency Senatali letter, and then stands where Meilin tells her to, in the corner.
Meilin sneezes, and then disappears, and Yanyu notes that the light is... different, somehow. Anto comes in, looks around, and seeing only Yanyu, opens a gate to bring her through various cloudy spirit realms, and leaves her standing next to Kuan-Xi on the Pillar of the Sun where the battle against the efreet rages on.
People are still scattered around the map, where they ended the previous round, (including Lijuan, playing dead next to Kawaii in the north corner) and the efreet has just appeared over the sky door to the south.
- "You may have defeated my minions! Now you will deal with me!"
Takanata does a quick Connections reading before the next speed roll:
- Toro is assisting Whale and the Efreet.
- One of the Signs of Toro is ' A hole in the world through which the stars fall."
- There is a hole in the world beneath the Efreet.
- That hole is surrounded by tiles marked with Suns.
- Toro intends to use
those tilesto fulfil his sign.
- We need to keep
the tilesfrom falling through the hole.
Hmm. Well, that supports the idea that watching out for stars and the hole is important, even if it's not the tiles.
Master Zhou declares that he is taking Yanyu's damage.
As the efreet laughs, the wind begins to pick up and batter everyone, but then a kindly voice from above declares "No", and pools of sunlight glow around the separate groups, and the winds die down again within the light.
- "This is not your place. You have exceeded your role here."
Yanyu puts the blessing of the Phoenix on the scene, and the efreet sends the north wind to batter against the pools of sunlight.
- "Are we just getting him, or should we try to figure out what's going on?"
- "We have no information, so just do things!"
Deng chops the efreet with the Sword of Fire (and discovers that the sun-tiles are also protective), and it proves to be too large to dodge. Takanata uses The Foot Turns, and it does lose an action.
Shen-Ji and Master Zhou hop several bubbles southward, staying in the protective pools of sunlight.
A fireball comes out of the sky and explodes, much to everyone's surprise, Takanata thinks this is sky-fire, but isn't sure at first where it is coming from. However, after a moment's consideration, he realizes that it is a falling star. Uh oh.
Master Zhou nerve strikes the efreet, and also gets a bit through.
Takanata looks at the past, avoiding Yoshi-ing himself as much as possible. He sees the same place, but long long ago. A kindly old man, who he identifies as the Sun, is standing over the empty hole, pushing something down through the hole. Meanwhile, someone nearby (the Moon, he identifies) is scolding him: "It won't work if we are this close." For a moment, he thinks that perhaps he is taking too active a role in the party - he may need to step back and advise more. (Apparently, the Sun and the Moon are larger than Great Spirits, and can still get a bit through his anti-Yoshi defenses. However, he spends a karma, and blocks the effect.)
Master Zhou peers around the area, but doesn't spot anyone invisible throwing fireballs.
Takanata's vision continues: The Sun holds up his hands in agreement, and rises up into the sky, leaving this place behind.
Shen-Ji burns all his once-a-run shticks to call down Wrath of the Phoenix on the efreet, for over five hundred points of damage. It doesn't seem to appreciate the damage, but doesn't come nearly close to falling. Xiao Fa throws in a chi blast, for good measure.
The wind whooshes again, and people in the pools of sunlight are lightly rattled, but those outside (Min Feng and Xiao Fa) take fifty damage.
Kuan-Xi calls down lightning on the efreet, and a moonbeam shines onto it as well, adding a hit point counter to the display. (It still has a lot of hit points.)
A wall appears, a swirling vortex of water and air. It's tall, though not infinitely tall - but flying over it will take some work. Yanyu attacks the wall with fire, and Master Zhou strikes it for structural damage, and the wall shrinks back somewhat.
The fireball goes out, leaving a hunk of metal behind. Starmetal?
Deng continues to fight the efreet one-on-one, and extends his swords flaming aura. A giant fist smacks down on him - hard to parry, without karma. Even after parrying, ninety points of damage get through.
Takanata ponders: will the group most effectively prevent a sign of Toro by
- Killing the efreet as fast as possible
- Turning off the falling stars first
Of the two, the first option seems more effective.
Takanata’s visions continue: Toro hides the Old Man of the Sea (Whale) and the efreet, who land from a flying ship and use this place as a base above the Shrouded Isle. Whale lays down some ground rules, and says that if they do not abuse the rules, the powers of the higher sky won't care.
Meanwhile, the efreet smacks his giant fist down on Master Zhou, as Master Deng proved kind of painful to hit. Master Zhou invokes his shtick: Attack nobody but me.
- "I demand what was owed! " -the efreet
- "Payment must be made, but Yanyu is also to be protected, and so the payment is partial."
The pools of sunlight shrink down to single-person size, and another wind buffet hits those outside protection. The efreet sends a roiling ball of lightning after Master Zhou.
Xiao Fa frantically heals the wind-buffeted people, and the sun-pools grow again.
Shen-Ji dispels one of the orbs, shrinking it quite a bit, but two more are rolling after Master Zhou now. He manages to deflect the small one.
Takanata trades his Auspicious Summoning shtick for the rest of the book to Phoenix, in order to help defend the sky door against the falling stars. (Phoenix appears on the map).
(Far far away, another shade of blue gets taken care of.)
A new round begins, and the targeting of the falling stars does not improve.
The efreet sends more balls of lightning after Master Zhou, who flees frantically across the map.
Takanata wanders auspiciously southward, though he isn't sure why. Sun-pools pick out the way south, keeping him from being too windswept.
Another fireball takes out the north wind, much to the dismay of the bad guys.
To the south, underneath the overhang, Takanata spots a doorway leading into the rock.
Master Zhou kites his balls of lightning through the pool of sunlight with Yanyu, Xiao Fa, and Shen-Ji, and Xiao Fa spends three karma to riposte it.
Another wall raises, this one of air and lightning.
Lightning and fire continue to fly in all directions, and Master Zhou continues to stay ahead of the balls of lightning chasing him, preventing the efreet from causing trouble elsewhere. The efreet decides to end this chasing of Master Zhou and sends a titanic lightning blast directly at him. But in the first round, it doesn’t quite have enough range to get him.
Master Zhou calls on Kuan-Xi to hit the efreet once more, doubling her dice, and it is enough to push him over the edge into defeat.
The efreet goes to one knee, and holds out one hand towards Phoenix.
- "Save me, my love!"
He gets 37 successes on his final plea, and Phoenix looks like she's wavering. The talkers jump to action.
- "Do not fall for his tricks, my lady. He came here to destroy you and our country, for Whale." -Min Feng
Yanyu considers - the efreet killed the Songstress (so Yanyu didn't have to deal with her, which is nice), and Phoenix might care about that.
- "I do not question whether he should live or not but he must be returned to imprisonment in the south."
Xiao Fa spends three karma to call the Voice of the Dragon:
- "Lady, this one built this so that if he lives, then you might still be destroyed. Listen to those of us who love you; you are more important than he, who has built his own pyre." -Xiao Fa
The persuasion does get through, Phoenix turns her back, and the efrit falls. (Master Zhou barely moves out of the way of the final lightning bolt with his action)
The day is saved! There is one more star to fall, but it lands far to the south. Min Feng starts to pick up star metal (there are five hunks). The sunlight begins to fade, and Takanata heads through the door he has found.
Inside is a map room - with a map of the entire world. The sky-door (and the sun, on the map) is directly above Hearthstone, and the room is filled with candles. There is a workbook, with a song, and Takanata notes that one of his mini-prophecies was of singing by candlelight. The song is "the song of the spheres" and while it won't close the sky-door, it will let them move it to elsewhere in the world.
Min Feng sketches the map, and Master Zhou peers at it with Worldwalking. Some points of note - where Greece might be in the real world, there is a large volcano. There is a land of endless ice to the far south, and to the medium southwest is a huge landmass.
Shen-Ji notes that this is the first magic item that he has ever seen which encompasses the properties that he is searching for: it is pure, undifferentiated power. There is no "yin" or "shadow magic" or any flavor like that, and it was created by the Sun.
Phoenix and Dragon finish their conversation, and come to speak with the party, looking human again. People pepper them with questions.
Would it be okay to close the hole? Closing the hole would be disrespectful, though moving it out of the Empire would keep it safer.
Why is there a hole? Well, one would not want the Sun to actually come down to the material world, but in days long past, it gave him access to the world of Spirits and the world of Mortals.
Dragon notes that from here, they can grant safe passage to anywhere in the Empire, but if they move the hole out of the Empire, Phoenix can't go with them.
Master Zhou asks Dragon about kung fu - Dragon says to fight twelve different masters of different styles, in different places, in public bouts. In each bout, he should take note of those tactics which are most effective, and which tactics are most impressive, and pay attention to the gap between those two.
Kuan-Xi uses Naval Cartography to make a copy of the ocean parts of the map, at least.
Shen-Ji suggests that Yanyu talk to Phoenix about her destiny.
- "The Songstress is dead. What would you like me to do immediately?" -Yanyu
- "Build the new Song for the spirit that takes my place as the youngest in the cycle.
I am sure he will need your help, just as I needed help. " -Phoenix
Is that something the rest of the Triad should be doing too? What is their task? Phoenix says that each of them has a destiny.
- "You each have a destiny. You have a new Song to build. You have an Empire to build. You have a destiny upon the waters."
Takanata wonders if Phoenix means just the youngest new spirit, or all the new ones? Phoenix thinks three would not be inappropriate, and that the youngest will always be the biggest target. But she is not telling Yanyu not to use her judgement!
Are the Marked the Spider's Song?
- "The Marked are perhaps Spider's version of the Song, and their influence shapes his dealings with the Empire. They make him more involved in the rulership of the Empire and less involved in matters of the Cycle."
How is the intra-Cycle negotiation going? It is ever ongoing.
Takanata asks about the War against the North.
Dragon says that the groups led by Dog and Serpent are doing the best. The group led by Tiger faces more difficulties from their collaborators than the other two. The group led by Bear is holding its own but generally fighting a different war - and perhaps has recently won it.
What is the nature of Bear's war? Leading Monkey and Phoenix against the influence of Whale and the depredations of the efreet. Oh.
- "Whale was providing assistance across all fronts in exchange for a certain amount of freedom here (Dragon gestures downwards) - but now the country is free to be shaped without influence. Just as, I suspect, the country you have adopted is free to be reshaped."
So... the party is concerned that the fight against the North will be damaged by the Dragon Army requiring their forces. Can Dragon tell them anything about how that would happen or how to make their fight secure?
- "Continue to make it secure by following the path you have been - even now your ally struggles to earn points. As for the Warlord's objectives - as he pulls units, he might be sacrificing certain tactical objectives, but it is he and his forces that will go up against the main force of the Beastmaster of Men, unless someone were to assist and/or intervene."
Will there be one final battle against the north, or three? (or four)? Four is more apt. Each of the countries, and the Empire, will have a battle. And the Warlord's plan will weaken the three countries in their battles, but strengthen the Empire.
- "A good Emperor will take the good of all his people into account." -Dragon
Takanata looks at Xiao Fa, raising an eyebrow, and notes that while Dragon wasn't looking at Xiao Fa, he was almost certainly talking to him.
Are Shen Dai Han and his bureaucrats key to the plan to seize the military? He is.
- "Regardless of his history, his time is past."
Is there a scoreboard for the Imperial level fight that Cai Wen could discern?
- "Yes, but finding the location where to stand to see it is the difficult part. As with many of you, he is not of the Imperium, so it is difficult for him to see."
Are Dragon and Phoenix okay with Shen-Ji's plan to become a god and leave the Empire, but still visit once in a while?
- "It would be novel for one of them to ask, for once."
Phoenix thinks Shen-Ji is good. Dragon thinks being a worshipper of Yama does not serve Shen-Ji well, and that selling Tsai Su-Yin's soul did not reflect well on his future. Also, there's this corruption he seems prone to.
Is corruption incompatibility between the magics?
- "When you break down pure magic into pieces and put them back together, your mortal nature is not large enough to encompass all things. Gods can encompass more."
So... back to where Cai Wen might look at the scoreboard. Takanata guesses that the Hall of Ultimate Supremacy or the Hall of Military Glory might work - is one better than the other? Dragon thinks it depends on the approach he takes. He must be attuned to purpose, and which he chooses and why will affect which is more effective.
Can they help Xiao Fa fix Shen-Ji's corruption? Phoenix, unfortunately, cannot help much, due to a disagreement with Lady Crane. Also, Dragon thinks it's an excellent learning experience for Xiao Fa.
So... back again to Cai Wen looking at the scoreboard. What if he was on the wall with Wei Han? Perhaps, but not if he were just standing there. He would need to dedicate himself to Wei Han's defensive purpose – that might work.
Could the group turn "beat the efreet" into a bunch of points for Xiao Fa in the Imperial Status Mechanic? Maybe Omens?
- "If he descended from a hole in the heavens and landed on the Imperial Throne, that would definitely be a omen, even if he gets arrested."
Well, that's something to work on. Maybe not the "being arrested" part.
Does Phoenix have any guidance for Min Feng?
- "To embrace your destiny is not to wait for there to be an Emperor. There are those who would tell you to wait, but you needn't."
What can Xiao Fa offer to get Shen-Ji to have more than visiting rights? Dragon says that is a question to address to Lady Crane.
- "Visitation Law will be up to the Emperor, and Dragon will enforce the law against those beyond the Emperor's ability, if he has a place."
Can Dragon tell them how to defend against the Beastmaster of Men? Dragon suggests that they talk to Dog and Fox, and notes that several of the party have already found ways to defend against the Beastmaster of Men.
Kuan-Xi and Yanyu help Xiao Fa dress appropriately, in the "Xiao Fa, he's the government" style.
Then, Phoenix delivers most people (including Lijuan) back to House Suzuki. Yanyu and Takanata navigate the sky-door (Takanata steers and Yanyu sings) to over the Garden of Benevolent Tranquility.
Xiao Fa steps through the sky-door, and descends into the Garden. It is a very auspicious omen.
Then, Takanata and Yanyu steer the sky-door to over the eastern ocean, and leave it there. Takanata leaves for the Golden Palace, and Yanyu goes to the moon.When the group returns to Tahiti, it is sunny.