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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Stunning Beauty Chronicles, part 7 (WHoOG)

And there I am, writing our latest...exploits? Again, it's not a single session, I've got enough material to write that I'm not grouping them according to the sessions' start and finish (and sometimes writing more than one in a single update). 
Semi-mandatory link to the previous update. 

The boss approved the plan - he wasn't hot for Biggest Sister, but he recognised her as a worthy ally. More importantly, he recognised her as an woman...and hurting her emotionally by hurting her brothers? 
There's stuff you don't do when the Two-Timing Cockerel is about! Just sayin', in case it becomes relevant, ya know. (Fun fact: the same goes for my PC as well. I suspect it's time for the Yu clan to become matriarchal again: our women seem to be the pragmatic ones!) 
I talked with Biggest Sister, and persuaded her she should find a good man to marry, because she needs to continue the family line. The spirits of the ancestors have to be venerated by someone, even after she dies and joins them! 
She mentioned  Brother Wolf is "kinda a fan of TTC". I remembered it for future uses! We also had a long conversation about life, the universe and our places in it. She also mentioned Brother Wolf has a Sister Fox who's sick...they're former students of Old Raisin, it seems. 

So we left at noon, planning to get to Brother Wolf's fortress in the evening. Biggest Sister was leading us...she left when we approached a place with some guards' stronghold (I thought it's a small one, the GM didn't explain - not that it matters, given that we had no plans to fight). 
What the guards saw: 2 men and 13 beautiful women* were walking towards them. That's why they were still suspicious, but not overly so. 
What really happened: A combined number of 33 Qi levels were walking towards some people who had no Techniques. (My student should get to 1st Qi level soon, but isn't there yet). 
"Where you going?" 
"Towards the fortress!" 
"What do you want?" 
"A place to rest! We're traveling for our personal work, isn't your boss accepting guests?" 
"OK, we'll give you an escort!" 
They gave us a detachment of 20 men. 
We politely told them to stand between in the center. "It's safest there, in case anyone attacks us", as we explained. They thought us to be stupid, but obeyed. We brought them to the fortress safe and unhurt, and with that our obligations to them was fulfilled! 

There, we talked with the majordomo, because Brother Wolf was on a job of unspecified nature. The man wanted to give us...not the best rooms, shall I say. I just looked at him. (Of course I'm dealing with this: I'm actually the lowest-ranked Yu member in the group - even my wife is higher, because she's born in the clan, and I joined by marriage. It's a good thing they even listen to my "advice", isn't it? 
Well, I also get to talk to servants and other "small men" when there isn't an even lower-ranked person around). 
"Do you have any idea what's Brother Wolf going to do to you when he learns you put the Two-Timing Cockerel, whom he respects, in rooms like this? Seriously? Do you know who he is?" (I wasn't lying, remember). 
"I don't know..." 
"Shut up! Now you'll give us better rooms, and then I'm not going to mention it. Or else, I will, and Brother Wold shall punish you for offending someone he respects... You sure you want that?" 
A man who punishes prisoners by maiming? You don't want to make that one angry. The servant got green-ish in the face (but still, no detectable traces of orc blood - or for that matter, of any orcish presence in the setting). 
"Please, leave your belongings here for now, and we'll show you better rooms after dinner, if that wouldn't be too much of a bother for the respected gentlemen?" 
"It's acceptable", I allowed, bowing. "Our luggage can rest in any place for a while". 
"Very well, gentleman - you'd also get to meet Sister Fox, she's feeling better now. There's periods when she's worse, so please try not to worsen her state!" 
Us, worrying a sick person? Who do you think we are? 
(And yes, we can also rest anywhere, people. But we're in China now, even if it's Mythic China: if you don't demand respect, nobody'd give you any. People that deserve it, know to demand it as well. 
Respect, I mean! Shut up with the dirty sub-conscious already!) 

In the meantime, we got to meet Sister Fox. We asked the boss to do his Peacock routine...meaning, he should look the way he looked when courting his wives. He smiled and said he's always doing the same. 
I didn't tell him that I hope he gets reborn as a beautician. He'd like that, I think, but it's an ill omen to talk about someone's death before he dies. 
And yes, that includes the edgecases where you know the exact latest day when he'd suicide if he hasn't died before. 
Meanwhile, my wife was sneaking across the fortress. She returned with news that the basement has more guards than the walls, and never having seen the prisoners. 
On the other hand, she had found a weird room with a mirror. A mirror she recognised as stolen from the compound of the Yu family! 
Not only that: a boy with a body like mist got out of the mirror, and asked her what she wants him to look like - common courtesy, you know. And he proved he can mirror anyone he has seen... by becoming... the Two-Timing Cockerel. Whom he called "father". 
She tried to ask about his mother, but he didn't know the concept. At the end, she explained "like a father, but female", and invited him to our rooms to meet his "father". 
TTC was kinda surprised. And I could only think how he's such a peacock that even his mirror had become alive...trying not to chuckle the whole time. 
It was a happy family reunion, other than that. And it helped us to spend the time until dinner. (And of course, we call the supernatural one "Mirrorboy" now. Though maybe we should be calling TTC that - I mean, how much time do we have to spend in front of a mirror to get the mirror to become sapient?) 

So, there we were, charming Sister Fox who seemed kinda out of it, but was trying her best to play good host. We quickly confirmed that she seems both educated, and unable to harm a fly. She told us they'd been the students of Righteous Maiden (Raisin), and has no idea why they had to leave. She also volunteered that she's been struck by a poisoned arrow while they were recovering an artefact named "Life-Conserving Stone", which Raisin considered "evil" and wanted to destroy. The place it was hidden was a maze of traps, Sister Fox explained. Since then, nobody's been able to cure her condition, which seems to worsen at times... 
I felt pity towards her, but then we all suffer consequences for our parents and siblings' behaviour**, don't we? 
So I asked her when do we expect the other guests? 
"What other guests?" 
"Those your brother invited to stay in the basement of the fortress. Maybe we should go and open their cages?" 
"It's frowzy, fusty and wet there! My brother would put nobody there?", she was sincerely outraged. 
"All the more reason to invite them up here so they could get a respite, right?", I argued in turn, offering her my hand. "Let's go right now! We can't let anyone be unhappy with Brother Wolf's hospitality!" 
Oh, the irony that was wasted on her due to her drugged-up state! She just took my hand*** and let me guide her down, despite the objections of the servants. The guards, of course, didn't stop Sister Fox and me! 
The only one that tried to stop us was a girl with silvery hair and a single black strand, and bright clothes. She introduced herself as "Niece", so I assumed she's either Brother Wolf's lover, student, or both (if she was his wife, she'd have been introduced to us guests at the table). She tried to claim those people down are robbers and brigands. 
"Even the brothers of Biggest Sister?", I feigned my surprise. "Impossible - I know them and her! And why did he cut off the hand of one of them?" 
Sister Fox was nearly in shock, and she followed me. The Niece tried to grab her, but I intercepted her hand. 
"Don't you dare!", she hissed. 
"Stop me!", I hissed back, and kept dragging Sister Fox down. She looked in my eyes, and realized she's a cun**** away from death. 
I hate people that try to stop me from rescuing kidnap victims. And I wasn't alone. She was, though, and I knew that: her lover/master power depends on the kung-fu masters not even getting close - or they'd save their relatives. People who train Kung-fu would also be dangerous: a rival may tempt them with faster training. 
Consequently, she was probably the only Ranked Fighter. And if she was to call the army... 
Well, she saw in my eyes I'm going to kill her before they arrive and leave Sister Fox to lament her. And she didn't want Sister Fox to get upset, which violence would surely accomplish. 
"Now shut up", my wife petted the side of her face. "We can help her heal. That's ultimately why you need all those prisoners, right?" 
I looked at her and nodded. We were both thinking of a very powerful person with remarkable poison skills, that we were connected to. Only a poison user can heal poison! 

As expected, the dungeon was frowzy, fusty, wet and everything else you expect from the prison of such a person. Biggest Sister brothers weren't the only ones there - seems like kidnapping relatives was Brother Wolf's "trick for compelling obedience". There were also torture racks, there, and bloody cleavers. 
And well, that speaks volumes for Brother Wolf's character, doesn't it? 
His sister, however, almost went cathatonic upon seeing this. I couldn't even get her to order releasing the prisoners. 
"See what you did? You..." 
"We're going to cure her", me and my wife said more or less simultaneously*****. "Now call Biggest sister's brothers. We'll go up the stairs, and leave the other brigands behind. Obviously Biggest Sisters' brothers being here was a mistake, wasn't it?", I added. 
"A mistake...yes", she said and we let them free on the way out, leading Sister Fox away. In a way, I pressed as far as I could, and got less than I wanted. She accepted a minor loss, and order the brothers to be kicked out of the dungeon at once. 
In short, we both cut our losses, and smiled, hoping to gain more from continued cooperation. 
And I had a plan how to get Sister Fox's mind away. 
"Those people were probably brigands, judging by the treatment", I said. "If such people aren't punished, they would disrupt the basics of the state, and cause great suffering! But in doing so, one must be careful to address any mistakes of justice. I think we're in the clear on both accounts, now?" 
"Yes, yes, we are", they both confirmed (one of them - through clenched teeth, the other - sincerely actually believing it). 
"Great! Now, I must also apologize for the scene, but I had to take care of my host's reputation as a just person. The great teacher says a good guest defends his host's honour as his own, after all. You're familiar with the teachings, right?" 
And then we discussed the finer points of the guest-host relationship in the Dehua******, like cultured people, over tea. Sister Fox joined with delight: it seems she's reading a lot, since her health doesn't allow her to train any more. When I excused myself and returned with my "pen pal", she was delighted! 
The Niece felt kinda left out. Not only did she know less, she also seemed not to hear everything. 
Me and my wife looked at her irises, and concluded she's got the qi channel leading to her ear, disrupted. It was either inborn, or the result of kung-fu. We also concluded she'd need a Nei Gong master if she was to recover, but it was doable. However, I am probably the only guy with any Nei Gong skills in the Yu family! And my Qi wasn't powerful enough to even learn such a technique. 
...yet. But I was training for this very reason, wasn't I? 
It seemed, however, that she had assumed this to be a normal illness. 
So I promised that that if she doesn't find a cure before I get powerful enough, I'm going to come back and cure her. It was the right thing to do! 
And then we went to sleep, after Sister Fox became kinda tired - she's not big on the stamina thing, you might have noticed - and we didn't want to be nasty to her. The rooms were nice. 
And after a while*******, we even went to sleep the dreams of the righteous. How often does any xia get to save 6 young boys? 

The next day, we got to meet Brother Wolf. Just watching him move was enough to tell us one thing: his kung-fu is more powerful than TTC's, and about on par with Da Su Su! 
Cool. A potential ally, we thought in synch. 
He demanded to know what were we talking about. I mean, "that poison has no cure". 
"Somehow, she's alive. If she is, a real Kung-Fu master can cure her", we replied, following the evidence the whole setting provides. 
"I'm a real kung-fu master!" 
"But you're not a poison user", I pointed out, flattering******** him. "To fight poison, you need to know poison. Just like how your student has been hurt by a Nei Gong technique, and you need a Nei Gong technique to cure her, you need a poison user to undo what poison has wrought". 
"So what do you suggest?" 
"We suggest to get you in touch with someone as powerful as you, but who's an accomplished poison user: Da Su Su, ever heard of her?" 
Then we negotiated the price, but it was clear he'd accept. And it was true: "if she can cure my sister, I'd help her against that enemy you mentioned!", he promised. We didn't mention the name, of course - what use is it to him, if he doesn't believe we can cure his sister? 
I guess the discussion of poison made him think, because he started debating ethics. We debated why Raisin destroys Qi-using artifacts - she considers them "evil", a view he doesn't subscribe to: to him, power is power, it's your job to use it right. 
My wife agreed. I didn't tell him that if he's maiming kids to get their sister to serve him, he's failing the "use your power right" job. Hard. 
Instead, I merely stated that there are means to get power one doesn't use, and means that are fine. He told me I'm "still too young", which I conceded. My character is young, indeed! 
So I promised to search for him in 5, 10 or 15 years, if my views have changed, and tell him. He seemed satisfied, and I abstained from talking about cruelty and compassion. 
I mean, what do you expect of me? To argue with him when my wife is backing him? My character has been married to her for a while - he can't be stupid enough to make THAT mistake! 

So, we sent the grateful Biggest Sister to carry a message to DSS. While she was away, we had her brothers join our training*********, and with the blessings of TTC, decided to hire all seven of them as Yu Clan servants. We often life-long service, money and protection - as well as training, except in the family's secret techniques: overall, a ten thousand times better deal than the one they'd got from Brother Wolf. 
Actually, I wanted to make her my blood sister, making her part of the clan - it's not like all of us have to be the smartest, and she's honest and owes us already - but my wife and TTC vetoed it. None of them was beautiful enough to get in the Silk Robes Clan! 
Yes, there are appearance criteria for becoming Yu that are harder to cover than to achieve kung-fu mastery. Why do you think they call us "the clan of the beautiful people"? 

Meanwhile, me and my wife were taking care of the business. We hired workers with promises of training (followed by on-the-job instruction), and helped an unhappy woman to recover her kids that her mother-in-law had kept after she became an widow. She's going to be the round-the-clock herbalist in one of our establishments, now (with possible stints as an worker up for additional remuneration, if she decides to try)! 
Our most interesting find, as we were walking among the downtrodden? 
An orphan girl who had already mastered her Qi. It seems her mother was a herbalist-feng shui, but she tried and failed to heal the wife (or was it the mother?) of a local Big Man...and was consequently subjected to stoning. Then of course, the girl started practicing, imitating the cranes and monkeys in the environs, or something. (Or maybe she was just beating trees with her stick, imagining they are the Big Boss). It helped her make a leap. 
We have gone there to make her a business offer... but instead, we asked her to come and join us. 
I mean, come on...beautiful (that's why we were there - remember our line of work), knows Kung Fu, and has no reason to stay? Sounds like someone the Two-Timing Cockerel would love to woe! It's up to him if she'd fall in love, of course. 
Worst case scenario, we'd make her an offer. Or I'd get a sworn sister. But she seems just right for the Yu clan! 
So we went to see the Big Man. All three of us. There was no talking: we just beat his guards (I'd made my wife swear she wouldn't kill anybody), dragged him and his family out, beat him to an inch of his life**********, and burnt the house. 
Then we came back to our place (we were guests of the Brother Wolf). Two people have arrived: 
One was Raisin. I went to express my respects (and gave her a pause upon introducing myself as Yu). My wife was following her to see where she would go after that... 
We really want to be introduced to her disciples! 
The other was Biggest Sister. She accepted the offer to be hired, and said she was looking for a suitably tall husband - but had bad news from Da Su Su. 
"This poison is impossible to heal!" 
My wife had a crisis of faith. The "fuck that bitch, I thought she's good at least at something, but obviously - no" kind of crisis of faith (and yes, it's a quote). 
We had to decide now what to do. But it seemed logical that we should now go to Bone Kingdom as soon as possible!
Maybe we'd find an enemy on the way. We had just enough XP to get to 3rd Qi level, now, and had to test ourselves!
And meanwhile, we just might help Two-Timing Cockerel to get another wife, or three. He's got a countdown and an unfulfilled goal, remember?

*Me, my wife, my student, Two-Timing Cockerel, his 10 wives, and his daughter. Everybody in the Yu clan is beautiful, of course! 
**Remember: Mythic China, like in Mythic Europe, or Mythic Rest-of-Asia, "responsibility" is a group affair. 
***Not literally touching me, I assume. You don't touch anyone's sister, unless you have certain intentions...and even then you'd better be ready to survive the brother's assault. Granted, xia are often more relaxed: we touch people as a matter of fact, even if it's just in order to hurt them. Anyway, following me would be enough. 
****3,33 cm, figuratively: very close. "An inch from" would be the equivalent in other measurement systems. 
*****No dice were involved in this reaction being simultaneous. 
******Fantasy Confucianism. No dice were involved in this discussion, either: the GM just checked my character sheet and saw I have the required Knowledge skill. And she knows I know that kind of things, anyway, and actually wasn't surprised at me quoting Confucius. Yes, I assume that unless mentioned in the setting, there's no difference between "fantasy Whatever" and "the historical Whatever" when I play (or when I run, though that's irrelevant right now). 
*******You don't need to know more on that account. 
********In the system, you have reputation that applies to your friends, and reputation that applies to your enemies. Except if you're a poison user: then both your reputations are "poison-user"...friends know that they have a poison user on their side, at least. The enemies know they're facing a poison user - which is kinda scary. We haven't yet explored the fact that the name for Dian Xue is "poison hand" (and another name is "demon hand"). 
*********The youngest one is 6 or so, it's time to get him started! I hurry to tell you that at least, it's the oldest that's lacking a hand. He's been trained in some kung-fu already, and is slightly ahead of my own student. Two of his brothers have also learned to master their Qi. 
 **********We're lucky that nobody with a Qi level can kill by mistake: even with a sword, we always know we can make a telling attack merely incapacitating. Of course, what that says about my wife is up for discussions!