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At the Tokai Estates

Xiao Fa has been checking on the health of Tokai Tetsuzan, the Tokai heir, when Wanakaru asks him to visit his uncle (Takanata), who had his chi damaged (he says this with a mixture of "I think this is the right phrasing but I'm not sure" and serious worry) in his recent adventure.

Xiao Fa bows and says, "I would certainly be happy to do so. If you would please, what leads you to believe his Chi has been damaged?"

"He is too injured to travel, but he bears no visible wounds. I do not know if it is his chi or his soul or his tao or something else that has been damaged, but I hoped you would know more."

"That...is odd. And indeed, concerning. He certainly did not seem so afflicted last I saw him. I do not yet know more, but I shall. Should I assume he is to be found in his new apartments, or should I search him out elsewhere?"

"No, he has returned here, to rest."

Since he brought it up, Xiao Fa will diagnose Lord Tokai en passant (Int with Medicine for 9s: 7 successes) just to make sure there isn't anything glaring there, and same thing with Yin (with half chi mastery, half medicine? for 9s: 8 successes).

He seems fine, both physically and chi-fully.

And with that, Xiao Fa will take his leave of Wanakaru after due niceties have been exchanged, assuming nothing alarming is found, and go see how Takanata is doing.

Xiao Fa is shown in to see Takanata by the Tokai servants.

Takanata is sketching, but gets up and bows slightly. He has the servants bring tea, and then dismisses them.

Xiao Fa bows in Greeting, with the pose of respect from a lesser to a greater, and responds: "Good day to you, Lord Takanata."

"I see my nephew is concerned. I regret that I do not believe a physician is the proper solution for my current difficulty." He pours the tea. "But please, be seated and tell me how the housewarming for the House of Exuberant Interference went.

(Xiao Fa does the de rigueur Diagnosis for 9s (Int with Medicine and Yin with avg of Medicine and Chi Mastery): 8 and 9 successes, respectively. And Wit +1 Yin with Psychology and Passive Per to be attentive to Takanata's reactions: 9 successes.)

Grace with Storytelling: 7 successes to provide a reading of the log that is informative and has suitable pauses for the listener to be engaged and ask for more information, or clarification, etc. Some highlights:

He nods and accepts a seat. Adjusting his robes about him in something reminiscent of a traditional tea ceremony way, he says, "Ah, the Party. Sadly, I was not in attendance, either. As I heard it, however, Speedy found himself the target of the Alchemist's ire, in the form of a Doomhunter that would arrive for him at sunset. As it turns out, if the housewarming party went well enough, Speedy would be able to manifest, which would pull the Doomhunter after him, which would of course allow the party to help. And to prevent doing so from being uncouth, they added demon-hunting to the list of party contests, along with fashion, dancing, charming, and erudition.

("Most distressing. I trust all was right in the end.")

"Lucky Chang was there, maskless and on a personal matter, and was run over by the Doomhunter. Many rush to his aid, to make sure he can stand again. Later on, he is heard to complain about being the only harmed by the demon, which some believe was laying it on a bit too thick. It remains to be seen whether he will gain much influence thereby.

(A smile at a jest well played.)

"There was an interesting character there, the "Jester," who in addition to having an (m) after his name (provided by Xie Xie, interestingly), commented to Kuan-Xi about remembering Li, and tripped, dodging Min Feng's attempt to study him.

("Do you believe he was another Immortal? Or a student of Li like Huang Zhaojun?")

"Kuan-Xi won fashion and dancing for Benevolent Oversight, Scholar Turtle won Erudition for Beneficent Travel, Xian won Charming for Exuberant Interference (placing the House properly in the one-win-playing-fair sweet spot, as it were), and Blademistress Shan Zai from the Butterfly Meadows won Demon-Hunting for Gainful Protection, by delivering the killing blow to the DoomHunter, thus beating out Master Deng. Perhaps this was part of the retribution we were led to expect, since she also had an (m) after her name on the list.

("That does not sound like retribution, merely success.")

"And your name came up while the party was returning a certain item of importance to Phoenix Talisman. The Songstress extends her apologies, and those of her patron, to you," and here he will rise and perform the Bow of Apology, with a turn at the wrist that suggests he is being a proxy for it (Grace +3 Yin with Expressive Gestures and Etiquette, 9 successes).

(He nods in acknowledgment.)

"As to your nephew, yes, he is concerned, lord. He realizes you are too injured to travel, though you bear no visible wounds. And so he wonders if it is your tao that is injured. And then he remembers that you occasionally travel in the company of a chi master." He smiles slightly. "And I was already in the building. And so I am here." Xiao Fa cocks his head to the side and his eyes unfocus a bit.

Coming back quickly, he says, "I do suspect that while something of your disquiet is likely to be written in your chi, and that I might be able to discern something of the disquiet's nature and direction, that you are perhaps less in need of a chi master than someone to whom you feel you can...unburden yourself.

"Obviously, that need not be me, although I am here and quite willing. Of course your own counsel should you keep on what is appropriate to share and what is not, but you need not be an island unto yourself."

And settles into the Pose of Waiting.


Takanata thinks about that, and lets you wait for a time while he finishes his tea.

When he is done, he looks around to ensure no servants are within earshot, sighs, and says "I often forget that none of you were raised properly as Noble Gentlemen. I will attempt to explain.

"On occasion, as with any concepts, duty and honor can come into conflict. There are means to recover lost honor, up to and including, for the gravest cases, Seppuku. They all require some form of acknowledgement and acceptance of the wrong, if not from the public, at least from one's liege. In the absence of such forgiveness, one remains Honorless, a condition generally akin to being Defeated."

He pauses to see if you need further explanation, but with a clear implication you should not. Assuming you don't, he continues:

"Butterfly is not always an easy Mistress. The wings that raise the Storm have difficulty surviving them. But when Her Majesty was injured in a similar way, Butterfly found a solution. Perhaps there is one here, although I do not currently see it. In the meantime, I have a comfortable home, and time to create art. You and the rest of our friends are welcome to visit when your duties allow." He smiles to himself. "Perhaps I can serve as a reminder both that high prices must be paid to do great things, and that some prices are too high."

He pauses again, and his face goes grim. "I do ask you to relay this word of caution, however. What has been done has been done to preserve and protect this island. If the more... impetuous... among you seek to draw me back, remind them of what Butterfly has said cannot be done. Actions that damage or destroy those protections, even accidentally, will drive me away, not draw me close."

A servant comes in to say that Lady Foon and the lady Arata are here also wishing to see Takanata.

Takanata throws a meaningful glance at Xiao Fa, but then says "Do show them in. I expect we will want more tea."

Xiao Fa looks as if he was about to say something, but catches Takanata's look and nods slightly.

Some Time Earlier

Lijuan receives a note from Takanata:

Lady Foon -

"I regret that I am unlikely to be able to visit House Xing in a timely fashion to fulfill your request. I suggest you speak to Brother Han, or perhaps Master Li, and see if they are willing to undertake it.

Tokai Takanata

Lijuan deduces that Takanata has been captured by pirates and begins assembling a rescue team. Does Kasumi want to help? Does Zhuai have any suggestions? Can Ho track him by the scent of the note? Butler-san is consulted for information on Takanata's last known location, as are any circus hands on the island.

Zhuai says that if this was a proper ransom note from pirates, it would have been clearer about payment, and if it was Takanata sending a coded message that indicated he was kidnapped by pirates but wasn't supposed to say, there would be a hidden message in it. He looks over the letter, and says that there is substantial subtext, but no actual secrets, so he doesn't think that there is a hidden message of that form.
Butler-san says that he believes that Takanata is staying in the Tokai estates in the north.
When you ask Enlightened Melina, she will read Lijuan's palm, as she has "lost Takanata" and needs help finding him. She starts out amused, as if this is Lijuan running about wildly for silly reasons, but when she reads her palm she grows more grave and unhappy.
"You have lost Takanata, but not because you do not know where he is."

I'll go get him back then. Are you coming Kasumi?

Lijuan, Kawaii, and anyone else who wants to join will head north to the Tokai estate.

To Cai Wen:
"Cai Wen, Kasumi and I are going to rescue Takanata." (Lijuan gives Cai Wen the appended note.) "Butler-San says he's on the Tokai estate in the north, so we're starting there."

"Ah..." Cai Wen looks at the note, and thinks some. "He seemed out of sorts last time I talked to him, but why do you think he needs to be rescued?"

There's subtext! And Melina says I've lost him.

I'm going to get him back. If we don't come back in a week, you know which way we went right?

Lijuan, Kasumi, Kawaii, Ho, Tabun and Boo arrive at the Tokai estate in the north of the Butterfly Fields and ask to see Tokai Takanata. Lijuan's hands are clean.

Wanakaru says that Kawaii, Ho, and Tabun must remain outside. (He does not mention Boo.)
Then he shows Kasumi & Lijuan into the family library(') to wait, as Takanata is currently consulting with a master chi healer. You will be shown in once they are done.
Lijuan actually has a little etiquette, so she recognizes that "wait in the library" is meant to be more polite and respectful than putting you in the more standard waiting-room-with-tea.

"A Chi healer? Is Takanata-sama ill?"

"Yes, my uncle has returned home to rest. It is my hope that the chi healer will be able ot help him."

Lijuan's plan is to go to the library and wait, with a side of attempting to wheedle information out of the servants.

The servants aren't very gossipy about Takanata, but they clearly respect him deeply and are very concerned about him, and they are of the understanding that he has come home to stay because he is too ill to travel. They are optimistic that the chi healer monk will be able to put him right as rain - hasn't he fixed Lord Tetsuzan's flu? Some of the servants know that Takanata is older than he looks, and wonder if his magic that was keeping him young has been drained.

Lijuan writes "Send Xiao Fa" on the duplicating paper for Cai Wen.

"You know Kasumi, you don't need to wait around here. There's some really good places to fish if you go toward the southeast hills, maybe a little to the right".

Kasumi says, "Sounds good! I'll go fishing out on the river instead of sitting in this boring place. Bye!"

Kasumi gets let out the front door and then sneaks back inside to look for Takanata.

Back in Tahiti:

The paper that Lijuan has the other half of says "Send Xiao Fa".
(However, Xiao Fa is not immediately around Tahiti or obviously findable, in this particular puttering thread.)

A servant returns to the library, and finds only Lijuan there.

"Lord Takanata will see you now."

The servant shows Lijuan in to Takanata's suite. Xiao Fa is there.

A conversation with an indeterminate number of people

Takanata stands and bows slightly. "Lady Foon." He gestures her to be seated, and pours a new round of tea for the three of them.

"I understood Kasumi had accompanied you? I hope she is not lost in the grounds somewhere." "I imagine she'll show up soon. I gave her directions"

Lijuan remembers herself and bows to Takanata and Xiao Fa. She says softly "I'm glad you're here Brother Han. I wasn't sure how we were going to rescue Tokai Sama all alone."

(Takanata raises an eyebrow at that, and looks at Xiao Fa. His face is an odd mix of resignation, amusement, and irritation. )

Lijuan sits and accepts tea. If it's not gauche, she'll delay drinking it until she's been reassured as to Takanata's safety.

Xiao Fa raises his tea cup in a comradely salute to Takanata's expression before turning to Lijuan. His expression is mild, but serious.

"Lijuan, I did not know you were also here on the Tokai Estates. I was here on another matter and was told Takanata-San was here, and came to pay my respects before I went on to my next stop."

He inclines his head towards Lijuan. "Bravo for caring enough to be ready to battle whatever to rescue him. That speaks well of your loyalty and your steadfastness."

And here he glances towards Takanata before looking back to Lijuan. "You are good friends. You understand well that friends help each other above all, and this speaks well of the strength of your friendship and of your character. It always has."

"However," and here he raises a single finger, "I hope that you can see that Takanata-san requires no rescue at this time. Please do not disrupt Lord Wanakaru's household. And while I do wonder from what you were expecting to rescue him, here at his family house, please do not even discuss it here. The last thing we should like to do is offer Lord Wanakaru offense by suggesting he would allow some harm to come to his uncle here in his own home."

And then addresses himself to Takanata again: "I fear I have kept you from your rest long enough, Lord. Perhaps it is time for us to go?"

(Takanata's shrug embodies a host's polite insistence that there is of course no need for you to depart so soon, but he finishes the last of his tea.)

And then to Lijuan: "Lijuan, Kasumi, would you please attend me? There are a few matters I would like your opinion on. Takanata has allowed that we may visit him later. Perhaps we should pay our respects and then go."

The irritation largely clears from Takanata's face, and his smile is more gentle and more fond. "When you return, Lady Foon, I should introduce you to my nephew Tetsuzan. He will be leading the Tokai forces that will be hunting for the ice wyrm once Brother Han declares him fit for duty again, and I think it would be helpful for you all to have met in advance."

Lijuan's eyes widen at this. She puts down her (untasted) tea, bows to Takanata, and follows Xiao Fa.

Xiao Fa opens the door for Lijuan and pauses for a moment or two, casting a sweeping glance over his shoulder back into the room in an unmistakable "are we all here?" glance, before bowing formally to Takanata one final time and withdrawing.

As Xiao Fa and Lijuan are going back out from Takanata's room, you see Lord Tokai heading in their direction at a fast clip, frowning. He bows to Lijuan. "Lady Foon."
He looks at Xiao Fa, less warmly.
"I am afraid that when my uncle introduced you, he neglected to mention that you are Lord Nogi's man. Perhaps he was unaware."

(Takanata's face definitely has an "oh now what?" look on it, but he does not immediately do anything.)

Xiao Fa recoils a bit, almost as if struck, but then recovers smoothly into a Bow of Respect (10 successes). When he straightens from it, his posture is very erect and formal, as is his tone. He probably met Lord Tokai's eyes at first, more in surprise than anything else, but when he comes up from his bow, his gaze is properly averted (though not downcast).

After three heartbeats, he says, "It is this one's privilege to be a feng shui practitioner of the House of Quiet Concordance, with whom House Nogi contracted to make some necessary, and, arguably, overdue, improvements to the feng shui of Petal Bay.

"As such, it is this one's responsibility, and, in fact, duty, to prosecute that contract with a level of skill and artistry that not only satisfies the client, but also brings honor to Quiet Concordance.

"Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, then, that confuses this one's joy in his craft with being Lord Nogi's 'man.' However, this one is no such thing."

And looks like he may be about to say more, but thinks better of it, and after a breath, settles into the Pose of Waiting. 7 successes.

Lord Tokai mostly continues on, angry, as if he was already at velocity and is not slowing down yet.
"When my uncle introduced you to my son, I had been under the impression that you were a monk of the healing orders, not... an interior decorator."
Then he pauses for two breaths, as if someone is saying "put in your claws, dear" in his ear, and his glower softens a fractional amount.
Then there is a clattering down the hall, and about half a dozen Tokai guards are running up at full tilt, with their swords out. Lord Tokai spends half a moment in a "what the heck" expression, and then he seems to come to the conclusion that the guards in motion know something that he does not. He puts his hand on his sword, and moves so that he is within a half move of both Lijuan and Takanata and can see both of them.

(Takanata's face gets even stormier, and he stands at Lord Tokai's side.)

Kasumi decloaks standing by the wall in the hallway, and starts to say "It's just me..." The guard captain spends a chi and a karma, and gives an action to two of the other guards in the surprise round. Captain, Guard #1, and Guard #2 draw and swing at Kasumi.
If Kasumi wants to do something in the surprise round other than finish her introduction, let us know.

So, where was Kasumi?

22 successes of stealth, 6 successes of perception.

Okay, you're successfully sneaking around, trying to figure out where Takanata is, when you overhear someone say "mumble mumble mumble Xiao Fa mumble mumble", and sneak towards that room.
There's an older man in there, well dressed like a noble, and a younger man, clearly subservient. The younger man is finishing up a briefing for the older one, about a bunch of garden renovations and such in Petal Bay. The older man kind of cuts him off with a hand gesture. "The garden is not important. What is important is that if Xiao Fa works for Lord Nogi, then I have made a grievous error in trusting him with the health of my son, and he is even now in with my uncle." He nods to the younger guy, who nods as if he understands an order, and the two of them head off in different directions.

Ooh, Intrigue! I follow the younger guy.

He heads to a Tokai guard room, and says somewhat brusquely "The healer is actually Lord Nogi's infiltrator. We don't know if Lord Takanata knows."
He nods to two of the guards. "He's with Lord Takanata now, but I don't think he's a combatant."
The guard captain stands, frowning. "I'm not sure about that. There's... something very dangerous going on."
The rest of the guards spring to their feet, and the original guy looks more alarmed.
They all start heading to Lord Takanata's room at a run, except for the guard captain, who is slower, as if he is trying to make enough per rolls to target something.

Oops, he is sensing me! I have to do that thing with Deng sometime to see if I am less noticeable if I leave all my pointy things behind.

I try to keep up with the guards so I can find Takanata's room.

The guard captain switches from moving more slowly to running as well, and draws his sword. "Assassin, I think." The other guards draw their swords, and the group switches from a slow jog to a sprint.
They turn the corner, and in the hallway outside an open door is Xiao Fa, Lijuan, and Lord Tokai. Seeing the guards rush up, Lord Tokai is in the process of switching from being angry to being genuinely alarmed; he puts his hand on his sword, and moves in what looks like a tactical step to be near Lijuan and the doorway.

Kasumi squeezes up against the wall, raises her hands over her head, and says "Er, it's just me. Not here to assassinate anyone. Just trying to make sure Lord Tokai is safe. "I mean, I hope it's just me and not some OTHER ninja the guard captain is noticing."

Kasumi looks around with a per roll to detect ninja -- 10 successes.

All Back Together...for now

Takanata does nothing in the surprise round, except that his face goes from stormy to openly angry in a way you have never seen before.

Kasumi finishes: "Not here to assassinate anyone. Just trying to make sure Lord Takanata is safe. "I mean, I hope it's just me and not some OTHER ninja the guard captain is noticing."

Guard #2 chops Kasumi for 26. Guard #1 chops Kasumi for 32. The guard Captain chops Kasumi for 70 with a soft touch. Kasumi does not go down, but does not look so good.

Kasumi keeps her hands up and stays silent.

Lijuan moves between the guards and the non-guard group, looking expressively panicked but ready to absorb any incoming damage.

Several people speak at once:

Xiao Fa steps forwards, gesturing in a "let's all calm down for a second" motion, and starts to talk: "The ninja is Arata Kasumi, once the Court Ninja for the Butterfly Meadows..."

Lord Tokai, at the same time, holds up a finger to the guards and starts to say, "Lady Foon, did you bring a ninja...?"

(The guards and the captain hold...)

Takanata holds up his hands, furiously bellows "ENOUGH!", and triggers The Foot Turns at an Inopportune Moment with seven karma. Everyone else in the hallway stands in stunned silence until he is done.

Takanata bows to Lord Tokai in the posture of abject apology, in full formal mode.

"My Lord. The girl is a rude fool, but it is likely she speaks the truth about her intentions. She has performed some services for me in the past, and if your investigation determines she has not harmed any here, I would beg that you simply exile her from Tokai lands, rather than having her killed or imprisoned. I apologize that I have brought this confusion upon our House."

Takanata nods to Xiao Fa, and while he does not seem angry at Xiao Fa, it is definitely a polite recognition of a business associate, rather than the more friendly greeting he received when he first arrived. "Brother Han - Thank you for your care for Tetsuzan, and your concern for my health. I will speak with my Lord Tokai at a more auspicious moment about the matter of Petal Bay, and hope that I can clarify his understanding. As it appears the warning I asked you to deliver was given too late, and too specific, please deliver a new message along with it: your companions, with the sole exception of Min Feng, will receive no welcome from me until further notice. If you have matters that truly need my attention, you have my permission to write." There is a definite distance implied by the "your" in your companions that was not there before.

He turns to Kasumi, and draws himself up to his full 20 status, and his anger is palpable. "As to you, girl, you have forgotten again the lessons Hirasoto has taught you on what it means to be a ninja. In the process you have abused my hospitality and brought me further dishonor. If my Lord Tokai sees fit to simply banish you, I recommend you adhere to that rule, for if I see you here again without invitation, I will rip you from your companions as I ripped Lucky Chang from his."

He then turns and stalks back into his room and slams the sliding rice paper door as much as is possible to do so for a sliding rice paper door.

One More Doomed Conversation

Everyone continues to stand in stunned silence for about a minute (seven karma).
After that, Lord Tokai mostly takes charge, though he is clearly rattled out of his game. The guard captain confirms that nobody has been chopped (other than Kasumi). The full-scale response was due to his noticing that there was someone very dangerous that he couldn't tell where they were. Lord Tokai declines to attempt to imprison or execute the Butterfly Court Ninja, but other than that, politely implements his uncle's plan of Everyone Was Just Leaving Now Thank You.
We will assume that everyone goes along with the Just Leaving Now plan. (However, once the party gets a few miles away down the road, Kasumi feels inexplicably inclined to dawdle for half an hour longer; Xiao Fa examines things and quickly can figure out that there was some Hand On The Pattern that had her out of the house and away as of an hour after the Hallway Incident.)

Lijuan blows her nose and says "Pirates would have been easier".

As they are dawdling about for an hour, Xiao Fa ministers to Kasumi's wounds, perhaps a bit more brusquely than usual at the beginning, but becoming more gentle as he goes on.

As he does so, he asks, frowning, "Please, I would appreciate knowing what you were concerned was going on there, and what your plan was for finding out, and especially, please, Kasumi, where were you and what were you doing throughout that?"

"Pirates? Did you actually suppose that pirates were involved? I am trying to understand your thought processes here."

Lijuan looks up, wipes her face, starts to speak, looks again at Xiao Fa, sighs, looks down and says:

"Takanata sent me a note that said he wasn't going to House Xing. That's all it said. So I knew something was wrong, but not what. And this is an island.

(Xiao Fa frowns a little in confusion at that last comment, but he doesn't interrupt.)

"So I talked to Zhuai who said probably not pirates, and to Butler San who said Tokai Estate, and to Melina, who said I'd lost Takanata. So I asked Kasumi if she wanted to come and told Cai Wen where I was going and got some magic message paper and came here.

Lijuan hands Xiao Fa a crumpled piece of paper on which is written "Send Xiao Fa".

"Then we got here and couldn't see him right away because of a chi healer, they didn't tell me it was you. So Kasumi went to see because what if they were whammying him right then? And you mostly know the rest.

Lijuan wipes her eyes again and falls silent.

Xiao Fa hands her a handkerchief and asks, "How did you interpret Melina's words when you heard them? What did they make you think?"

Xiao Fa glances at Kasumi, as if to say 'jump in here anytime,' but mostly waits for Lijuan's response.

"She said I'd lost Takanata, and so I figured someone had Got him. I thought maybe he was in trouble with the Prince or the Queen or something. But she said it like it already happened, so I figured I should hurry.

Lijuan uses the kerchief then asks: "Do you think the Jasmine River would help, if we asked nice? Or the Forest of Chin?

"I don't really have anything to add, Xiao Fa. Lijuan and I came to find Takanata and she was very worried, so I snuck in to make sure he was ok."

Xiao Fa nods and says, "This much now is clear. I was wondering if you had any additional insights to the actions of the guards, why they came tearing around the corner even before you showed yourself. Did they have some idea you were about, or were they coming for some other reason, and simply reacted to your appearance?"

He is making direct eye contact with Kasumi, which is still uncommon for him, even post having a Dragon aspect.

He does sit back as he waits, and his eyes, from making contact with Kasumi's, start to kind of abstract their gaze, and then he's sort of looking right past or through her...

"Oh, ok. When I was looking for Lord Takanata I overheard Lord Tokai talking to someone about you working for Lord Nogi and how this was dangerous, and he sent the someone off to do something.

"So I followed the someone, and he went to a guard post to tell them to go to Xiao Fa, and I think I triggered the guard chief's danger sense so he freaked because he couldn't see me, so he assumed I was an assassin. Unless something else did.

"Um, Xiao Fa, are you chi detecting me or something?...."

Xiao Fa:
"Hm? Yes, or something. Ah, so that answers that. A perfect storm of circumstance, folly, and temper.

"But while I have you both here, there is a thing I was bid by Takanata to tell you, and it is this:

"What has been done has been done to preserve and protect this island. If the more... impetuous... among us seek to draw Takanata back, it is important to remember that the King cannot know, and the Queen cannot know officially. Actions that damage or destroy those protections, even accidentally, will drive Takanata away, not draw him close."

Xiao Fa sighs. "There was also an open invitation that any of us could visit him whenever we had the chance, but as you both saw, that did not last the trip to the front door, and has been rescinded. I would not toy with that disinvitation in any way, either of you. And especially not you, Kasumi. While I might be able to defend you from the ripping that Takanata threatened you with (purely in anger, I hope) if I were standing right there in front of you, but I might on the other hand not be able to.

"Lijuan, it may be safest to assume you will not be going on the ice wyrm hunt, until such time as you are re-invited to attend."

He shakes his head. "I do not know what to tell you two. You both came from a place of regard for your friends and concern for their safety, and were ready to do what you needed to, to ensure that safety. This is a good thing.

"I am tempted to suggest that there were better tactical decisions that you might have made, Kasumi, but if the guards were going to come for me at any rate, it may be that you drew the ire that was otherwise meant for me, and it would be poor form to chastise you for doing so..."

"...But I also have concern for your safety and well-being, and while we do make sacrifices for one another, I would prefer that you know what you are about when doing so, and the potential costs. And that goes for both of you.

"At any rate, something for us all to think about."

Lijuan (frustrated colored by whiny):
"But what's going on? How am I supposed to know what I'm about if nobody tells me anything?"

Xiao Fa looks at her in some surprise. Then, briefly, he looks disappointed, then just tired. And he puts his head in his hands in a way that says unmistakeably, "I am not doing this now."

To Lijuan he says, "'What's going on?' is a lazy question, as I believe you know. But I am in a bad mood and tired and disinclined to argue with you at this time or go over once again why good questions are important, so: As a result of the ramifications of actions taken in Enemy of the State, Takanata's Aspect is in Flux. And perhaps he is somewhat depressed. He requires no rescue. Leave him be unless he calls for you.

"Your second question, however, seems like frustrated hyperbole to me, and sorting it out and addressing it will take more patience than I can currently claim to possess. Think about what, if anything, you really want to know about 'knowing what you are about' and 'getting people to tell you things' and feel free to ask me again later after you have done so."

Then he goes back to administering healing (somewhat slowly) to Kasumi, in silence. He seems to also be breathing in a very regular, somewhat pronounced fashion.

Kasumi attempts to look genuinely thankful. "Thank you for the healing, Xiao Fa. And the explanations."

Lijuan meets Xiao Fa's eyes, nods, and hands back his handkerchief.


"I'm going to look for the Jasmine River. Do you want to come?"

Unless someone stops her, Lijuan mounts Tabun and rides toward town.

(this message vanished, so now appears somewhat out of order)

Xiao Fa nods. "[Melina's prophecy] sounds to me much more like that was primarliy a social loss, not a physical one, that she was speaking of. Much clearer in retrospect than it was at the time, I am certain, but that can often be the way with any mystical pronouncements."

[To the suggestion of the Jasmine or the Forest]
Xiao Fa shakes his head and puts his hand, kindly, on Lijuan's head. "You should try harder to understand how Spirits work, Lijuan. No, I do not believe either one would help if we asked nice. I believe they might help if offered something of equitable value in trade. Leaving aside why you would even include the Forest of Chin in the list of spirits or demons to ask for assistance, it seems highly unlikely that appealing to their better sides, as seems to be at the back of your reasoning, will work. Spirirts are not people. And even the Jasmine, who might have a closer relationship with Takanata and therefore be interested in helping him, cannot do so on your suggestion without proper payment or trade.

"You would have to think far more carefully and responsibly about what Spirit would be advisable to have meddling with Takanata, and then think far more carefully about what exactly you thought they could do to improve the situation, and finally think about what you might offer them that they would take in trade.

"Lijuan, let's not go anywhere for a while until we can talk to more people, ok?"

"I don't need any more scoldings, thanks. And I guess I'm not good enough to get explanations.

"Maybe by the time I've found the Jasmine I'll have a better question, or Xiao Fa will have a better answer.

Xiao Fa:
"Not good enough-? Is this how you-? After years-? I am done here. You are welcome for the healing and what explanations I could provide, Kasumi. Good day to you both."

Xiao Fa gets up and leaves.