Scroll 01 - A Gathering of Remembrance

The Setting of the Adventure to Come

The realm is remote. There are river valleys, but also steep, wooded hills. Little flatland, until the south end of the province.

The main town of First Well is remote, in the west of the province, back against the mountains, far from the borders. In it is Castle Kung, where Lord Aoshi rules. His family claimed the province, lost control for some generations, but six generations back, in the Night of Bitter Scales, the previous clan’s head was killed int he Serpent War invasion. Kung Aoshi took the bull, and the province, by the horns, and took control back.

That ancestor prayed for a miracle, which led to a well and spring arose and bound the dark spirit, the Lord of the Serpents. The castle was built atop it. The Serpentine River flows from that well.

Around the castle is the town of First Well. There is also Dao Yen and Dao Min(?).

The Night of Bitter Scales is an annual observance of the provincial history. It’s a night of ill omen to some, a Passover kind of night. But in general it’s celebrated as the night the Kung family rose back to power, so they push it as a celebration.

Castle Kung – the gates are flung wide, and a trail of torches leads from the village to let villages into the courtyards and public areas, and tables of food and wine and treats are set up for the delight of the locals. There is a ritual, imposed by the Kung family on the local Abbot (or perhaps the other way around).

Elsewhere, villagers assemble in the forest, in the darkness, offering propitiatory offerings to keep the Lord of Serpents quiet and away from their province.

In the castle, the villagers are gathered. There is a party, a bit of ceremony, and everyone who’s anybody, and everyone else, show up. Rub up against those above your station. Music, food, dancing.

The wing chun, the wooden martial arts dummies, is done up as serpent warriors – wooden weapons, unarmed attacks, ring bells. Mostly kids doing it. Proper martial artists … pretty much later.

The Players Enter upon the Stage

Bao’s father is busy busy busy, cooking and directing the goodness in the inner courtyard. Bao has come to see Lei, who is there with Huigong, and Zheng is managing all the servants who are ostensibly off that evening. Zheng spots Bao, sends him off to deal with preparation of food. Thanks, Dad.

Peng Lan is there … but doesn’t want to be. Zemin enters. Over by the wing chun, and the erhu performers. Peng doesn’t want to be there, but is covering it out of courtesy. Peng wants to survive the evening. Does not want to see Gunlan. Just wants to be out.

Zemin wants to get Peng Lan into a room with Gunlan. Also to have a good time. Dispute together about the open bar.

Sky Daughter Shu … Zhi is obviously here, her brother. But she is not here with him, but because it is her proper place to be, as a courtier, a lady in waiting. Much more refined than him. And it is a beautiful party, so she will enjoy herself and the companionship. The culture and values to which all aspire. Even if she’s a bit of a tomboy on the side.

Silent Sun got a message to meet back here … from his wife, to come to this province (but why?). So here, but … Hey, I’m a stranger! (not really) And … hey, working to put people in the drunk tank is a find way to earn some coin! Working to be anonymous.

Everyone is there, having a good time. It’s not a festival, there’s a certain amount of dutiful celebration. But folk are still enjoying.

Events Progress in a Meaningful Fashion

Bao

Getting to the food to the table in a very … magically martial arts expeditious fashion. ==> 9 … spattering of applause, and it’s only then realizes it’s a bit of a show. Smile to the crowd, with success.

And then see … push focus to … Lei, and she’s doing a smile and applause … and then …

… grip on the arm. Zheng. He is not paying any attention to the performance, “Bao, he’s here!” … “Sun” … gesturing with ladle … directs gaze … but it’s this guy in travel robes and obscuring hat … “Reach out to them, subtly, let them know ASAP you are here to help …”

And see Lei leaving the courtyard, but is inclining her head, come-hither. INNER CONFLICT. But crowd sweeps in, “That was awesome, do the sour plumbs next!” Lose the opportunities, but get the XP.

Peng & Zemin

Zemin determined to get Peng through the crowd to where the more rarified circles of the castle are. But, “Courtesy dictates I greet Lord Aoshi.” But Zemin is all in to make that happen.

Peng is hoping Gunlan will be there … maybe … no … that would be bad, would want to hit him … but … one must not use fighting skills in anger.

[watch Legend of the Condor Warriors - Seven Freaks]

Zemin - But there’s a ritual thing happening later … and that means that the court is not formally accessible, but, hey, sure they will let him in, right? Study … rolling recklessly ==> 7. Walking with confidence, as if with a clipboard. And also set up when Gunlan was going to be talking with Aoshi, but also Gunlan asked Zemin to set up timing with Peng Lan. Even though Zemin is a sometimes lover of Gunlan …

In a big room, there are:

  • Kung Aoshi - quietly speaking with the Abbot, Ran Fu Tan.
  • Sister Jian - assisting the Abbot.
  • Kung Huigong - nearby to Aoshi, possibly listening.
  • Dan Lui - Textle merchant.
  • Kung Gunlan - chatting in quiet asides to Dan Tiao

Peng … Gunlan sees him before anyone else. Almost though he had been expecting him. Passage was full of incense smoke, since Zemin coughs loudly. Gunlan approaches. “I assume you came to pay respects to Father. It’s good to see you again, Peng.”

INNER CONFLICT … +Earth, to power past him to Aoshi ==> 5!
So … 2XP! And … he pushes through past Gunlan to Aoshi. Which is the sort of thing that Gunlan always got irked about so much. Maybe intentionally - Uncaring, Disdainful, walking straight through him, knocking him to the side.

Gunlan looks shocked, then hurt, then angry. Gunlan whirls, “Dammit, Peng, it was one night. They’re not even here any more!”

Dead. Silence.

Peng falters. Gunlan makes a step. Aoshi barks “No.” Gunlan pauses, opens his mouth. Aoshi: “Leave us.” Calls out Gunlan, Huigong, Abbot.
And everyone else empties the room.

Zemin steers Peng toward the open bar, putting a drink in his hand, and Peng has no idea how they got there.

Shu

Link to Sister Jian. A friend/acquaintance/mentor.

See Peng … shocking recognition, as he stands at the bar, by that neer-do-well Zemin. In the Food Courtyard.

Crowd around Bao doing something unnatural with the salted plums.

But the mental disturbance is not Peng. But in the greater courtyard, a group of nobles coming in, not local but visitors, escorts (bodyguards) for a woman (age 40s-50s) and her daughter, Su Wen. Very unexpectedly.

Double shot - both Su Wen, and also the shot of the past lives of Su and Peng. And she’s here.

Sun

Crap. Zheng spotted you. Pointing you out. Have seen Zemin, but hasn’t been spotted back, of course, chatting up some attendant. And here comes the entourage … with …

… Su Wen …

… and her mother …

… representing clan and province, officially.

Lots of zooms on faces, on eyes shifting, shock …

And things start happening.

Shu … there is room for formal engagement of Su Wen. Is she being properly greeted? Nobody of Shu’s rank. And the royal family is unavailable. Move forward to greet her mother, and her.
Curtsey, bow, formal welcome / inquiry of needs.

Mother, Lady Su Ning, cooly informs that there’s not been a greeting, would it be possible to talk with Aoshi, etc., peeved and expects satisfaction.
Shu escorts them to a space for traveling visitors to refresh themselves. Take charge and take care of them.
Impress + Water ==> 12!
Impress and convince … Create a Bond, Gain Favor with Su Ning, Bond with Su Wen. And Su Wen gives a very grateful look, and gets out of Dodge.

Su Wen flips up a fan and moves through the crowd, looking at everything, food and display and people and passes right past the front of Sun. With no greater attention, but drops a bit of parchment along the wood of the walkway to Sun’s feet.

Sun flips the note up, a prepared text: “Mother has found some way for me to marry one of the sons of Kung Aoshi. She is meeting with the Abbot after the ritual.”
INNER CONFLICT + Earth → 9
Puts the note in the cookfire by Bao.

And flees the scene! As Bao watches after him.

Where The Story Pauses

XP

  • Engaged with Entanglements: 1 XP per used.
  • Bonus if preferred Entanglement engaged: +1 XP

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As an exercise, I want to talk through Silent Sun’s thinking about his next move.

Right now he’s bound to uphold five types of relationships:

  • That of ruler and subject (he is the subject)
  • That of father and son (though this includes all parent-child relationships)
  • That of elder and younger brother (not applicable here)
  • That of husband and wife (he is the husband)
  • That of friend and friend (also not applicable)

Right now, Sun is in violation of the second: He let down his clan by abandoning his wife. He’s doing that because his duty as husband is to act with benevolence toward his wife. So he’s upholding what he can.

A child has a responsibility to rebuke a parent for moral failures. In addition, it’s possible that his responsibility as subject might oblige him to the ruler’s wishes about an upcoming annulment and remarriage. To protect Su Wen, Sun must act within this framework of duty.

What could trigger a divorce? Since we’re firmly in fictional territory already, and writing our story for drama, we can probably settle for Wikipedia’s understanding: a no-fault divorce (requiring the husband to write a note), or an annulment by the state if either spouse commits a serious crime.

So his options, in preferential order:

  1. Convince Su Ning that the new boy is no good (I mean, they’re not off to a good start, but she’s got a motive to break up this failed marriage, so this is an uphill battle)
  2. Interfere with the meeting between her and the abbot (not a permanent solution by any means)
  3. Reveal himself and challenge the annulment (highly risky, as he now has to account for himself)
  4. Kidnap Su Wen and run away (definitely the nuclear option)

This will probably push him toward Zemin, to help him cook up a scheme for option 1 with Bao’s help. The scheme would benefit Shu, and indirectly Peng because it keeps Zemin off his back…?

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What do I think is the real problem here? I don’t think it’s cultural homophobia (the book addresses that), but rather the selfishness of parents that paired their children for their own glory, not for their children’s happiness. In other circumstances, a matchmaker might have diplomatically let Su Ning know that her grandchildren would have to be adopted.

Why can’t Sun just take Su Wen somewhere and let her live how she wishes? It would be both disrespectful to both families and dangerous to Su Wen. Who would protect her? How would she make a living? What would be her social position?

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Finally I want to suggest the reason Sun is friendly with someone like Zemin to begin with: Zemin passes along news or letters or other evidence that Sun (under his original name) is still alive, to keep Su Wen from being declared a widow.

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From my own knowledge of the Qing code, most of the serious crimes that would lead to an annulment are done by the woman (anything from adultery to gossip), not the man. In which case the woman would still have to be punished. Of course, can hand wave fantasy world. But I’d still shy away from it when mutual divorce is an option (once you get past the parents).

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If I were the showrunner for this TV series, I’d be writing Su Ning like this: she’s tired of this frankly embarrassing situation, she wants out, there’s a legal way to do it, and she can marry her confused kid into royalty. She needs her daughter to look blameless in all this. So she cooks up some lies about Su Wen’s wayward husband doing awful things, and will use that to justify her plan.

In that case, Sun has to get her to rethink that plan by making the new guy even less appealing somehow.

Also, thank you for supplying that detail, and I hope you keep doing it :grinning:

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I am 100% behind this. Fits what I know of Zemin so far as someone who likes to be a part of/cooks up drama.

Also down with this plan for next session. But that means @doyce will need something to do with Peng and Shu. Less a mandate and more of an open question of “how do you wrap these two together in something given what was setup in session one?”

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I don’t think it’s been established which of the sons Su Ning is planning on hooking up her daughter with, has it?

If the (more likely?) younger son, Huigong, then Bao has a further way of getting sucked in via Huigong’s servent, his beloved Lei*. That pulls in Zhi, thus, perhaps, also Shu (though which way may depend on how Zhi feels about the potential marriage), and thus makes any involvement by Peng more fraught.

If the older son, Gunlan, then there’s an immediate entree for Peng to become involved (probably against, if concerned about Gunlan’s happiness in the marriage); ditto Zemin. It also complicates matters because Gunlan’s friends in the Dan clan are already enemies of Sun, But Dan Tiao is also a close buddy of Zemin’s, and they might immediately support Gunlan getting married (or, selfishly worried about losing a drinking bro, oppose it).

A lot of the above also hinges on knowledge about which way Su Wen swings, which is (presumably?) not public knowledge. And, of course, regarding Su Wen, Shu has a stake in this regardless of which brother is involved.

And depending on how one brother feels about the other, or about the family reputation, all of those strings could eventually be pulled whichever brother’s future wedding is at stake.

And, also, perhaps knowledge of this via Aoshi (or just by keeping his ears open) is why Zheng is sending Bao off to help Sun, with or without Aoshi’s knowledge.

Yikes.

*The Lei-Huigong relationship is not marked on the character map.

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For similar reasons–and also to remind myself later–here are some thoughts on Zemin’s immediate plans:

Things when bad with Peng Lan and Gunlan. Need to console Peng Lan (in progress, drinking at the bar), maybe perform a Comfort & Support or Hearts & Minds mode to encourage them to go see Gunlan in a more private venue. Maybe explain why Zemin is so invested in this (helps flesh out Zemin’s role and motivations in everything).

After that, make sure Zemin is free to help Silent Sun with whatever hijinks he needs Zemin to perform.

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Oh yeah, rope Gunlan and Su Wen into a potential marriage and you’ve got hooks into everyone. This could get things going full melodrama and quickly.

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Hopping on the bandwagon, though Bao’s next steps are a lot more narrow at the moment:

Dad said go lend assistance to That Guy (Sun), and I’ve been delayed in doing so by my adoring fans … but That Guy just burned something in the brazier I’m standing by and turned to go. Since Lei is no longer in sight (dagnabbit!), I will pursue That Guy, find him, probably call out his name, introduce myself, and, um, offer my assistance.

I’m sure that will all go well. Esp. when Zemin shows up.

(I don’t think, as established, that Bao currently knows Sun, but if I’m mistaken, let me know.)

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I think it could be better if he doesn’t. Though Sun may know Bao, through reputation if nothing else.

But this might just be me wanting to play into the drama more.

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Jotting down so I also remember and brainstorming out loud.

Peng Lan’s actions depending on the brother:
If Gunlan, he’s digging himself quite the pretty hole. Trying to make up with Lan while a marriage proposal is in the works is not going to cover himself with glory. So Lan would be perfectly happy to push into their duty to protects others (Su Wen), especially if it meant sticking it to Gunlan. Although this could also play out as Lan needs to help Su Wen, but would still really rather not to get within the same post code, let alone room as Gunlan.

If Huigong, then whatever ruckus we inevitably cause can draw in Two-Handed Zhi, which would put a whole new set of hooks into people. (Course he could come in regardless of which brother, I just noticed that he and Huigong are friends). And could also bring Lei back into the story (she is Huigong’s servant) which kicks up more fun.

I guess part of the question is which brother could Su Ning get Su Wen to marry, given her shameful situation (Regardless of how blameless Su Ning makes her out to be, there’s likely some cultural bias against a divorced woman). So would Su Wen really be able to marry the elder brother?

Course, this gets into the question of who’s going to succeed Aoshi, the charismatic, but less capable, elder brother, or the more competent but also more wall flowery younger brother. Would Su Ning know that Gunlan is less competent? (Just kinda tossing questions out because I’m also curious, though it seems likely its an evolving situation via inheritance/succession).

Also, make sure Zemin gets some kicks in the Inner Conflict. Either with Lei or Zhi.

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All roads lead to Two-Handed Zhi.

But few lead away …

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Let me spin a quick tale of melodrama that could be what happened (or at least how Zemin tells it):

  • Gunlan cheats on Peng Lan, leading to Peng Lan leaving to join the Snow River Sect.
  • Gunlan writes a lot mopey poetry about lost love. Just the worst poetry. This leads Gunlan to meet Zemin who just loves the passionate but untalented.
  • Eventually Aoshi says “Gunlan, you’ve moped long enough. You’re a bit of an idiot, so I’ve found you a spouse that is politically beneficial to our family.”
  • Gunlan is devastated but has to go forward with the marriage for familial duty. Zemin suggests that if Gunlan reunited with his old lover, Aoshi would have no choice but to call off the marriage.
  • Zemin convinces Peng Lan to show up at the festival for… reasons?
  • All this leads to what happened in session one.

Is this a good idea? Probably not. Is this going to cause some drama? Hell yeah.

I mean, I am also in favor of any idea that leads to a Duel between Zhi and anyone else.

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It has not, and it’s vital to Silent Sun that he find out.

Those who know her certainly know, but I also expect her family prefers it not be advertised. I imagine it would embarrass the family if this came up, because it would mean she’s not being a dutiful daughter and putting the family first.

I’m fine either way, but I’m more interested in knowing if Sun knows Bao as someone he can trust with his secret. If Doyce says that Sun already can trust his father, then great. But if not, Bao is going to need a plan to authenticate himself.

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Yeah this is the important line

Why do I get the image of Zemin as a shoulder devil?

Also does Aoshi know that this is their plan? Would he even agree to it?

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This analysis makes me happy in that it is broadly dead-on, but Su Ning’s actual plan is something that hasn’t been mentioned yet, which should make it a cool reveal.

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There are a few other things going on that should keep them busy.