In the castle, at the festival party …
Had just taken Peng Lan to the bar. Lan is looking pensive.
Bao is at the cookfires … and Sun just dropped a note into the fire to burn.
Shu is with Su Ning, who is veiled.
Zemin - Commiserating with Lan. Sappy poetry. Hash out the bad air between Lan and Gunlan.
Lan - He has had a chance to see me again. Since his wish is fulfilled, there is no need to continue. Yes, we have history. This was not an improvement.
Z - Enjoy tonight. Just tonight.
Won’t pressure you to do anything tonight. (Also, pressure him to see Gunlan)
… Hearts & Minds (Fire) → 6! draw on Bond with Zhi … 7!
Lan says yes, but … Lawless Kingdom.
Lan is … okay.
Bao watches the paper curl and blacken. “Excuse me, sir. My father said I should assist you!”
Sun - undercover as bouncer, deflects.
B - My father is Fiery Perfection Lung Zheng. (any reaction?)
S - ??? [Zheng was a cook for the Escort Company, which provided armed guards for escorts for cargo, passengers, prisoners against banditry. Brotherhood of a longer organization. So it’s loyalty toward the org.] What do you understand of the situation>?
B - (Food trends in the party)
S - (Ah, HIS kid) Come with me to the spicy pepper.
B - Looks Around. Study (Water) → 7! Most of the commoners are milling about, gossiping, etc. There’s an undercurrent of a church social, being in the Lord’s castle. Inner circle are drifting into the castle, into the Buzzkill Zone. And … there are castle guards who are looking at Sun. B lets Sun know.
S - Then come with me casually. (Heads toward Zemin)
Zemin and Lan (and Bao and Sun)
Z notices B approaching.
L notices the drinking rate has slowed.
Heading into the Buzzkill Zone with Su Ning. And Su Wen is following. Heading toward the Well Court.
Sh steers toward the reception building for higher-ups. The lady Ning questions her about the ritual, the roles of the different family members. She seems to know the abbot, and the lord. The sons, etc.
Study (Water) → 3! Yyyyeah, that whole tomboy rebel against the rigamarole of social blah blah blah is too much. Yeah, want to impress Su Wen’s mother, but don’t get the motivation, more the personality: it’s not good, or likeable, but she’s gossipy and ulterior motive and … unsavory vibe.
Spike Water, because this is the mother of the woman she loves.
Refreshments. Cleaning up after long travel. But no chance to deal with Su Wen (uncertainty! depression!).
Lan is put together well, but definitely martial robes. As Sun would note.
Sun notes Zemin’s friend is long-suffering martyr. Bows to Peng.
Zemin would recognize Sun, has been keeping things looking legit.
Z - You came to the festival. Didn’t think you would do this. S - drags him away.
B is brushing off his outfit.
S - Su Ning has a plan to work around things. I’m talking to you about it. Find out what it is.
Z - Sure. (Oh, damn, that was her who passed by shortly before).
S - And you’ve been consorting with my clan’s enemies.
Z - I consort with many people. And “consort” is very broad.
Internal Conflict (Metal) → 9!
Pressure! Hems and haws.
S - If you betrayed the situation, I would be upset. As would my clan.
Z - I will help with situation with Su Wen. Ah. No time whatsoever.
S - She’s speaking to the Abbot. But he’ll be tied up until the ritual is done.
B - Have you tried the dumplings. The sauce is exquisite.
L - I was waylaid before the food…
B - (outraged) (calls over someone, talk-to-the-help voice)
Comfort & Support (Earth) → 6! Bond with Zemin gotta look good! → 7!
Lan … bond with Bao.
Lan likes the dumpling.
A bell tolls. Summoning all to the Buzzkill Zone and the well.
Abbot speaking. Nun by to assist.
Ritual of the Bitter Scales
No sound, but the sound of the bell and the ritual. Silence is requisite.
(People will be removed if they make noise, and will have a bad year, under disapproval of the Lord. “A frown from the castle walls can be seen for miles.”)
Crowd seems off.
Gates opened to the well pavilion. Everyone is silent.
Many stay away.
Candles low about the well. Lanterns of blue and green. A very large bell.
Abbot is at the well. And Aoshi.
Gunlan is to the side and behind.
Huigong is back and well away, by the bell, with a huge mallet at his feet. As is Lady Kai.
Bao - How does this arrangement mean? Study (Metal) → 12!
What is the crowd reacting to? Gunlan has been put in charge of the flower basket, and Huigong is giving the speech at the reception. Huigong is being given a much bigger role than he should be as second.
Gunlan, with a ladle, has been displaced to the unreliable child’s role.
Is there a threat? The silence of the space gives the impression that the space is … listening. Waiting for a word. Something lying in ambush. A snake waiting to strike. It is very subtle, and few are aware of it, and understand why the silence is so … emphatically demanded. To make that word clear. It’s like a word or sound that might cause an avalanche.
That’s what this is.
Aoshi walks about the well, as part of the ritual, miming the event of the Night of Bitter Scales.
Lan - Not glancing at Gunlan, who seems very internalized, tight jaw. Watching the ritual.
Study the ritual, combat moves of Aoshi (Earth) → 8.
Anything different about the ritual? There are mimed motions, etc., but no sign of … a prayer?
Su women are along the wall, away from the commoners. Easy to see. Shu and Sun are nearby.
Sun - Watching Su Ning to see who is the favored son? Study (Water) → 10! She’s definitely … making eye contact with the abbot, and nod of acknowledgement from him.
She’s definitely assessing the sons and how they’ve changed positions.
Note: Divorce is a shame. Widowing allows some inheritance, but there’s dishonor for remarriage because it means lack of fidelity.
Sun can also see that Shu is passionately devoted to Su Wen. But does not know about Su Ning’s plan.
Leans over to Shu. Note to her …
“Su Ning intends to marry her daughter to one of the Kung heirs.”
Shu - Internal Conflict (Fire) → 8. Eyes flickering. Gasps. Steps into the shadows, then flees the scene, robes fluttering.
Sun follows discreetly.
Zemin - when Shu leaves, Z takes her spot in the crowd, close to Su Ning. Will get her attention, conspiratorial come-hither (“Come Drink With Me”)
The ritual wraps up, Aoshi steps forward as the Guardian of the Province. The bell tolls.
People file out.
Aoshi and the Abbot leave last, with Huigong (mallet left aside) just in front of his father, joined by Zhi. Lei in the background. Gunlan and, after a few moments, Dan Tian, head out through a back entrance.
… and we will start with the chat between Zemin and Su Ning.