Kindred of the East: Crimson Empires

12/15- Choose a Stick

The battered Wu passed the night in a wary vigilance, wondering if the Nine Tiger Claws would turn opportunistic and bury them alongside the human remains amid the vast fortune of gold. Hours piled upon hours, but when the sun set, it proved both sides to be bloodless. But peace was not in the cards for this Wu. Takeshi, tasked with keeping watch over the other Wu’s departure went silent suddenly. Obviously concerned, the wu investigated to find a rather flippant Bone Flower attempting to give lessons in humility. After a brief conversation, they agreed to travel together for a time.

Konda desired to return to the corrupt cave, but heeded the advise of his wise council and agreed that it would be best to return to the city and regroup. After loading the gold into the SUV, it became clear that with their mundane methods of transportation, it would take at least two more days to reach Lu Yang. Their enterprising new friend offered an alternative. He could open a gate into the Spirit World. Physics there would hold them less tight, and they would be able to travel at greatly improved speeds. It took little other goading for their psychotic mortal to sign off on the plan.

The Wu situated on the train track, conveniently enough also a potent Lay Line. After a rather death defying collision course with a bullet train, they successfully pierce reality and slip into the Spirit World. It was as if a cartoon made sweet, gentle love to a nightmare and their love child both wore bows and human entrails. The Spirit World is never a dull time.

A few clicks into their journey, the Wu encountered more of the boar spirits making trouble along the tracks. Boars and sentient trees fought a quickly overwhelmed flock of eagles. Almost unnoticed by virtue of its own absurd girth, a huge tentacle writhed along the track. The tentacle seemed to be indicative of the spirit world itself here. On one side of it, the spirits were healthy and hale. On the other, they were sickly and cannibalizing one another. It was an odd sight at the best of times.

Never ones to hesitate, the wu leapt into combat. Konda and Johnny closed for melee while the rest of the wu (perhaps wisely) used the plethora of new firearms they had commandeered. The battle was intense, but they were relatively unmarred by the end. Their vehicle was not so lucky.

Still, the battle was auspicious. Sacrifices were given to their Nushi, and the tribe of eagle gave the wu their first name: The Talon Cleansing Wu. Stuck in the spirit world without a vehicle, the wu was forced to take the remainder of the trip on a spiritual train.

As the umbral city-scape of Lu Yang approached, they were awestruck by the vast differences. The wilds were filled with lively spirits and near chaos. Growth moved nearly unchecked amid the healthy spiritual energy. The city however, was a mess of spiderwebs and constructed elementals. Certainly healthy from a certain point of view, the balance was clearly shifted in a more… organized manner. Even in the brief time that the Wu had been away, the city had grown darker. More gritty. Criminals seemed to dot the area and the governing agents felt more… oppressive.

They took some time to meet with their fence contact, LiWei Gen, a dirty repugnant man with an even less clean ‘housekeeper’. Bartering happened all around, but agreements were made. The fence would take the gold and liquidate it for a fair price. He would put them into contact with a man who could forge weapons. He would provide them with body armor and vehicles, all at his usual prices. The deal was struck largely thanks to the oracular ‘housekeeper’ who read their fortunes in chopsticks and found that business deals would be quite auspicious.

The night was coming to a close, but not before a final climatic moment. While their newfound Bone Flower was scouting the lay lines of the city to find some dragons nests and possible points of interest, their Tiger was ambushed in the van. Well… perhaps that is the incorrect word. Hundreds of miners, wraiths killed in various accidents or coverups, came to claim the wu’s rightfully stolen gold. The wu warily allowed the wraiths to do as they would, only to find them climbing into the gold and literally infusing it with their essence and life to make it real in the lands of the dead. Likely a fiery temper would have caused this to swing a different way.

Now the Wu is left to wonder what it is to do with this wraithly wealth, a city fallen to its own squallor, and a budding sense of responsibility and community.

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RobBennett

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