Last time we left where the party, the head of our clan Two-Timing Cockerel (TTC) and the probably future clan head (his daughter, Yu Bijun) had summoned the fifth brother of the TTC, Bantering Peacock, to answer to our accusations of betraying the clan.
He did try to refuse. An actual peacock might have done a better job. I guess he didn't expect to be accused, and wasn't prepared.
(The GM rolled for his deceit the lowest possible result that's not a fumble. That wasn't the last time this night that the dice were showing a sense of dark and twisted humour).
TTC was quietly livid. I guess there's two kind of people he doesn't like: those who betray their family, and those that are more beautiful than him? That's purely my speculation, of course...
"So listen...those youngsters have a point..."
"Shut up! As I said, they have a point...and I've got an year to live. If you can, until then, find proof of your innocence, we'll forget about this. If you can't find proof of your innocence, I'm going to expel you from the clan. And if in this year they can find proof of your guilt, I'm going to expel you and then tell Da Su Su about you. I'm going to fight her for your sake, she's going to kill me, then kill you as well. Now go. You can go as well, daughter dear."
At the end, TTC managed to find a way to die fighting an enemy with stronger kung-fu, after all.
Then he turned towards me, and gifted me with my own ghost teacher. It's the ghost of a scholar in a calligraphy brush.
"I need to give it to someone, and Yu Bijun isn't much about learning. You're my hope for a good owner of that pen. He can teach you a lot about the classics."
I bowed to him, bowed to the ghost, thanked them both profusely for giving me the opportunity, and then retired at the sign of the clanhead.
My wife later told me that he gave her permission to learn the secret clan techniques. "You seem to hate Da Su Su, and you're family."
"I think she's a crazy bitch!"
"Great! Someone will need to avenge me, after you find the proof. Study the clan's secret teachings until you can do that! And someone will need to help Yu Bijun in dealing with the clan...I count on you and your husband for that."
TTC has really thought it through.
Later, we met and spoke. Deciding that we need to find one of the two letters he had prepared for Da Su Su, and compare with his writing, I went to the clan's archives and confiscated two letters written by Bantering Peacock.
Then I went to find the place the fence had lived with other losers. I gave away several spades, and received access to his place, and their help in searching the room. We found a letter under a floorboard.
"Give that letter to an agent of the bitch. She'll reward you."
Well, as we know, her agent had actually killed him (because "he seemed shifty"), but Bantering Peacock had already achieved what he was trying to.
Then I went home, and summoned the pen-ghost.
"I'm honoured to be in your presence...but before we begin the studies, can we try some real practice? Can you tell me whether these three have been written by the same person?"
After a short study, the answer was:
"I'd say they are, though he tried to change his writing in this one."
Bantering Peacock, I concluded, was only marginally smarter than Da Su Su. That was enough for her, but she had actually hired us...and that sealed his demise.
So we went back to TCC, and I prepared a report with uncle Bantering Peacock's transgression.
I also wrote a date...two days before TCC's 46th birthday, since he needs to be dead by then. Almost a year from now, and he can enjoy it, knowing he's going to have his "beautiful death": killed by a worthy opponent that's NOT a family member.
(Readers of the whole saga would know why).
That done, we tried to second-guess what has happened 15 years ago, with TTC's help. My wife posited that whoever has killed their master, had his sword, and tried to usurp his clan, would try to start his own school once it was clear they wouldn't succeed getting the command of the clan.
So we went to the same region where the clan has been located. We only had to scour the environs and the neighbouring provinces! No work at all, right?
I also had a back-up plan. At least one of those guys has been beautiful. I assumed he was used to, ah, female company. So, with us having a bordello, I decided to talk to other "brothers of the Green Forests"/members of LuLin (the community of the criminals - entertainers also fit there, according to the separation in Ancient China). Maybe someone had noticed a client like this?
It was worth a try...
Well, long story short, there weren't schools like the one we were looking for.
But while checking for the description of the three, a client commented: "huh, looking for the Bitch, The Con and The Stupid, aren't you?"
I presented myself as a historian (true) looking to write a book on this tragedy (I am considering this, given that I expect to know a lot by the end of my employment). He was willing to talk, once I offered to pay for the wine.
The man, in his 50ies or 60ies, said the Con (the beautiful guy) wanted the power, and persuaded the Three Stupids and his mistress to kill their master. And they were gullible enough to believe. (Much longer story, as it was told at the table). It was sad, because the master had been a righteous man...but the Con just used this to trick his other students into believing he was too weak to head the clan!
I agreed that's sad, alright...
And since then, Da Su Su, looking for her father's killers, had been involved with demons. The man claimed her agents are actually zombies, like hopping dead...who marry her knowing what's going to happen, and then serve her.
Being the administrator of the Silken Robe Bordello, I was outraged. "What? We offer chicks like her for 10 spades the night!"
"Well, no, not like her..."
"Maybe not quite...but compare the price!"
"Anyway. She's rather strong due to the dealing with demons. The best advice is to not fight her!"
"Too late for me."
He was impressed. I told it as it was - I'd cracked her a rib or two, and then reasoned with her.
"You reasoned with her? That's impressive! A hard-headed one, she is..."
"The cracked rib helped, I think...but the arguments helped even more!"
Anyway, the man was getting more and more melancholic. He even asked me whether I believe there can be forgiveness for the five killers.
"For killing your master? That's like killing your parents. Who can forgive that?"
"Yeah, I thought so as well...", he drank again.
"And I see you're still Unkept...Lion."
The Unkept Lion, the last surviving of the Three Stupids, leaned back, suddenly much less drunk.
"Smart one. I'd advise you not to go to Da Su Su or her agents with that news."
I looked at his pitiful figure, knowing he can't kill me...not without revealing his location to Da Su Su.
"Smart? Yes. But I'm not going to go to her. I'm going to offer you a deal...I'd say to Da Su Su I've found your grave - and I know which grave to show her - and you're going to help me find the other two and the sword."
No rolls necessary. We had a deal, and I got whatever info he had.
And then I added.
"But I can't approve of your deed, Unkempt Lion! So no we'll go in the backyard of this teahouse, and I'm going to show you my best kung-fu!"
"You can't punish me more than I'm punishing myself, boy."
Which meant, in short, that he had to keep me alive in this fight. I was under no such obligation.
Of course, he was almost as good as TTC, who's almost as good as Da Su Su herself. There are many steps towards the top of the mountain called "Martial Arts Mastery", and I had barely begun my ascent.
In practical terms, he stunned me at the very start, but waited for me to recover. I'd have stopped at this point, normally, but this wasn't a fight. It was punishment for his sins - before I could forgive him...or at least, forgive him enough to work with him.
And the punishment was to last as long as I could go.
Still, it was a chivalrous thing for him to do.
Granted, all I could do is crack some of his ribs, using some of my magic, and then stress them by locking his hand with Qin Na, which then allowed me to throw him on the ground, hard.
My Iron Body proved inadequate against his hits, which showed much higher mastery - as well as against his throws. Though I must note that his Techniques were just as useless against my attacks. He was just able to take my punishment and keep going.
I used the same combination of techniques as against Da Su Su, followed by a Total Success on Grapple. Overall, I delivered 4 Wounds before being taken out.
He brought me to my room, where I began my meditation. I had used every single technique in "overdrive mode", and I was hurting...
It was punishment for me as much as for him. For deciding to work with him, because he made me pity him, and because I felt he was punishing himself enough.
For those unfamiliar with WHoOG system, I'll translate it in D&D terms: I am 1st level still. He's about 8th or 9th, or whatever level you need before going on to fight demons and stuff as an equal.
I didn't stand a chance to win, but in WHoOG you can decide not to kill an enemy you defeat, by pulling your last blow...which he did with me.
Which means that I needed a couple hours of meditation to recover, and then to meditate until I go to sleep. Which I did.
IC, my wife approved strongly of the deal I had struck with the drunk guy, and showed her appreciation in ways that aren't to disclose outside the family bedroom. So this description ends here.
But he told me that the Con, who had been beautiful enough for our sect once, was no longer anything like this. It seems Da Su Su had scarred his face (and then forgot to mention it - I told you she's stupid, right?) He had even seen him, lately, in another inn. The Con had tried to start a school...but it didn't work, for some reason.
He also believed that the Bitch, as he kept calling her (he means the former lover of The Con, not Da Su Su), was probably keeping in touch with the woman that had married a magistrate, and was masquerading as her. (Da Su Su's agents had found her, but had realised she was a fake lead...for once). So we had two leads for our two suspects!
Next episode of "Stunning Beauty Chronicles":
We have to meet the guy we're looking for and working with him to save him! Watch us plan searching for the Scarred Beautiful Guy, his past mistress, and the sword he stole! Wonder when teaching kung-fu to the chief of my security would get me in hot water!
Expect soon, only on "Characters, Conversations and a Flashing Blade"!