Wei Ziying: A skilled poisoner and physician, with ties to the Relentless Corpse Sect, Wei Ziying is a disciple of the Celestial Plume Masters. He also has a longstanding friendship with Kuo Qingzhao, who wishes to know more about the poisons that killed his wife (poisons Wei Ziying knows the secrets of). Grudge: Ravenous Nun Xuanji (for the murder of Red Eagle)
Wang Haoyang: A master of stealth, Wang Haoyang is one of the Celestial Plume Master disciples. He has a lifelong friendship with Pei Ye of the Vermillion Bird Teahouse, but has attracted the affection of another member of that organization, Fan Zhen'er (he does not return the affection but wishes to avoid creating friction within the Vermillion Bird Teahouse, and possibly creating enemies). Grudge: Guan Nuan (for a duel he escaped, she feels she lost face because he was weaker than her and should have been an easy victory)
Hei Ling: A one-eyed chief in the Celestial Plume Masters, Hei Ling is the father of Li Liang, whom he wishes to cease practicing her Toad Style kung fu because of the physical toll on her body. He had Li Liang with Qixia the candied fruit in his youth and since then Qixia has grown hostile. He has a working relationship with the Wu Sisters. Grudge: Qixia the Candied Fruit Vendor (of Hai'an). Grudge: Qixia (many reasons related to their pre-existing relationship)
Iron Tiger: The newest member of the party, sent by Night Thorn to help them expand. He has a longstanding friendship with Iron Beggar Sun Kang, whom he wants to leave his lap of luxury in the House of Flying Lanterns so he can train with the Nature Loving Monks and improve his Kung Fu. Iron Beggar in turn wants Iron Tiger to leave the Celestial Plume Masters. Grudge: Pei Ye (he murdered her favorite client, Golden Cobra).
THE ENMITY AND DEATH OF SUN SHAONAN
The party was awakened by an angry shouting in the entrance of Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall. They came down to see a man, Sun Shaonan, the brother of Sun Shuxin, a woman killed by Wang Haoyang. He clutched a wooden pillar in his hands, and around him were strewn the slumped figures of Iron God Meng's guards. He demanded to face the Celestial Plume Masters so he could avenge his sister's death.
Wei Ziying came down and lied, saying that the Celestial Plume Masters had left days ago to the west. Sun Shaonan was persuaded and left the city, but Wang Haoyang used Stealth of the Spider Demon to follow. When Sun Shaonan took rest by a stream he surprised him and killed him. He searched the body and some money and the Bone Rattling Sabre (the prized sword of Master Xiong Sheng).
NEWS OF THE MARTIAL WORLD*
Hei Ling's plume-addled informant, Leng Ziying reported a number of interesting developments. The first news was that Boorish Drunken Sword of the 87 Killers decided to go forth and deal with the Jade Owl Bandits (a group who were recently in conflict with the 87 Killers), but mistakenly attacked the Heavenly Wind Cult, creating a new front in an expanding sect war. He then reported that Demonic Venom Sect had taken action in Mai Cun, sending disciples on a suicide mission to massacre people near Lady 87's residents.
FUNDS FOR THE WEDDING
Hei Ling realized he needed to pay Iron God Meng to make arrangements for the wedding and gave him what money they had then set out with his men to make some easy cash getting the bounties of wanted criminals. They learned about a group of bandits led by a woman named Rong E'hua, noted for her many facial scars.
They tracked her and her men down near Zha. Wei Ziying was able to poison them all. Rong E'hua agreed to go willingly with them and give Hei Ling 120,000 spades gained from their latest bank robbery, in exchange for her men to be spared. On the way to turn her in, Hei Ling decided to give her half the money back and form an agreement to free her if she agreed to work with him in the future. She assented and they went back to Tung-On.
THE ARRIVAL OF IRON TIGER
Iron Tiger arrived in Tung-On and went to the Wood Chip Teahouse to meet the party. He had been sent by Night Thorn to help with the expanding Celestial Plume operation. While he waited for them, he started robbing deliveries of food shipments to the Chattering Gourd, hoping to drive them to ruin so he could swoop in and buy the place.
The party returned and took Iron Tiger with them back to the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall to finish making arrangements for the wedding. As they waited for the wedding date, Wang Haoyang trained Iron God Meng's elite guards, Iron Tiger continued robbing the food shipments and Hei Ling continued making preparations.
They all agreed to a plan to take over the Chattering Gourd by contracting them for an elaborate meal (the Chattering Gourd is known for its expensive alligator dishes and prized wines). Shortly before the wedding Wang Haoyang and Wei Ziying broke into the storeroom at the Chattering Gourd and stole all the food, ingredients and wine, bringing them to a wagon outside manned by Iron Tiger. As Wei Ziying was bringing the last stack of goods through the back door of the kitchen a waiter spotted him and charged with a knife. Wei Ziying used a complex technique that failed, and the result of the failure made him vulnerable as the waiter plunged a kitchen knife into his back. He was seriously wounded but Wang Haoyang quickly dispatched the attacker, beheading him.
They put the last of the food into the wagon and fled, while Iron Tiger drove the wagon through the streets. Unfortunately he drove too slow and on his way he was stopped by a sheriff and some constables. The Sheriff said "Looks like I have finally caught you."
Iron Tiger replied with a bribe of 3,000 spades which the sheriff took**.
MORE NEWS OF THE MARTIAL WORLD
Leng Ziying reported important news. The 87 Killers had sent 40 of their top men to fight with the Jade Owl Bandits and surprisingly all forty were killed***. He also reported that Lady 87 had sent assassins to kill Northern Wind King of Demonic Venom Sect and had succeeded. Hei Ling determined that despite this one victory, their defeat at the hands of the Jade Owl Bandits was severe, and with 40 less men, they were quite weak.
DUELS AT A WEDDING
The wedding went as planned with a procession that led to the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall. There Fan Zhen'er and Wang Haoyang, now husband and wife, received gifts from attendees. Wang Haoyang also received his promised Dawn Sabre of the Yao Yun Sea.
As festivities were underway, Pei Ye, Wang Haoyang's good friend, and one of Fan Zhen'er's fellow Vermillion Stars, saw Iron Tiger and demanded he draw his weapon and face her so she could deliver justice for Golden Cobra, a victim of Iron Tiger and one of her good friends. The two squared off as guests and the couple watched on. Pei Ye launched ten blades at Iron Tiger with her Storming Daggers technique but he used a counter that hardened his body and made it impervious to the attack. Iron Tiger, not wanting to cause a problem with Wang Haoyang, attempted a choke hold and was able to knock her out (though she struck at him with her heel several times).
Art by Jackie Musto
Though Wang Haoyang could not discern it, a look of pleasure crossed Fan Zhen'er's face.
To that point, the couple had not agreed upon living arrangements, nor had it been decided if Fan Zhen'er would continue at the Vermillion Bird Teahouse. She expressed her wish to reside with him and leave the teahouse, which would require payment to Hua Yin.
Hei Ling decided to deal with the matter and asked for an audience with Hua Yin, who was at the gambling hall for the wedding where she had private chambers provided to her. He spoke with her and offered payment and/or service. She sized him up and said she doubted he could afford the 400,000 spades she wanted, so she would accept a smaller payment and two years service beginning with a task she already had in mind. Eventually he talked her down to one year, and she told him his first task was to find her son. She didn't know what he looked like, as she hadn't seen him since he was a baby, but he had a birthmark on his foot in the shape of a spider.
Taking this information to the couple, Wang Haoyan said he had heard that Night Thorn was her son, but over the course of conversation it became apparent that he regularly visited the Vermillion Bird Teahouse (so Hua Yin knew him) and he didn't have a birth mark in the shape of a spider. So they decided to table it and investigate further.
The next morning Hei Ling's daughter, Li Liang went to him (for she had been at the wedding) and gave him a gift of a spear that once belonged to a powerful Kushen King. Hei Ling had not yet revealed to her that he was her father, but she knew he had a background with her mother. What he didn't know was she had already found out who he was from the Temple of Ageless Wisdom. But before she said anything he said she was his daughter and that he would acknowledge her as such. He also explained the circumstances that led to him being her father and how much he hated her mother. She was very happy to hear this from him and eagerly called him father.
He also told her he wanted her to stop practicing her toad kung fu as it seemed to be destroying her body, and reminded him too much of her mother. She told him she could not give up her kung fu as her abilities had reached new heights. He then said "very well, if you are confident in your abilities you can demonstrate them to me".
The two went into the main reception hall and fought while Wang Haoyang, Wei Ziying and Iron Tiger all watched from the terrace. She very loudly said "Show me your skills father," so everyone would know who she was. It was an even exchange at first, with her countering one of his neigong abilities and causing it to deflect back on him with her Bloat of the Toad ability (this worked by expelling Dragon Energy from her body and forcing the energy he sent at her to redirect back at him). However he also managed to wound her. But the contest was ended when she squatted down like a toad and leapt into his with her head, knocking him back and bringing him to the brink of consciousness.
She laughed and said her Kung Fu was clearly as good as she believed and he should let her continue her training. Hei Ling countered saying he still had trouble accepting it and wanted to duel with her in one year. If she lost she would promise to stop training.
At first she was angry and felt she had already fairly defeated him. But after a moment of thought she said she would accept if he agreed to become her disciple if he lost the duel. He was surprised by this suggestion, and that outcome would certainly be humiliating. But he felt he had no choice and agreed to her terms. They decided to hold the contest on Boulder Hill. She said she would leave but return in a month to visit.
THE TAKING OF THE CHATTERING GOURD
Later the party went to the Chattering Gourd to enact the rest of their plan. They put the contract on the table before the head chef, Chang Bai, and pointed to a clause stating that if he failed to fulfill their order for the wedding then he would owe them ten times the amount they had promised to pay. Chang Bai was enraged but it became clear he had little room to maneuver, for it was also obvious the men before him would kill over the amount owed. He tried to explain that he had been robbed and his waiter murdered, but they said that was his problem. They offered to give him more time but at exorbitant interest, which would mean he would owe them one million spades by the end of the month. He couldn't' possibly afford this, so they offered to take the restaurant but keep him on staff. He reluctantly agreed provided they agreed to never change the menu. They agreed to never change the menu so long as he was head chef.
*These events were the result of the regular pre-session rolls on the Sect War Shake-up Table.
**I rolled a d10 to see if he was amenable to the bribe (high he would be, low he would not be). Prior to that, the player had failed a Ride Skill roll which resulted in him driving so slowly.
***This was a result of a sect battle roll