"Tigress, I think it'd be best if you go and reassure people that things are finally over. They'll take the news better from you than they would either of us. In the meantime, Xin and I will speak to the Guard Captain and see if there are any other fires we can help quell before we leave the city."Tigress gives you a glare and seems to study you intently. It seems despite everything that occurred tonight she still had her misgivings about you. Though you're not surprised given her upbringing, you do find it rather unsettling how easy she is read despite the reserved and stoic demeanor she has about her. You are rather uncomfortable in admitting it but you think you see a lot of yourself in her and not just in the way she carries herself. Luckily, she gives you one last disapproving look and turns around to go do as she was asked. "Come on Xin. Let's go see what trouble we can get into." You say. Xin Lan remains quiet but you take some solace in the fact they jump on your shoulder and hide their lower half in your shirt as they cling to your neck. You slowly push your way around to find the captain, now in the very familiar situation you seem to see many people in power, surrounded by nearly a dozen people attempting to ask for direction and advice. You already know how testy someone in their position can be on a regular day so you choose to turn around and give it a bit more time. To be honest, speaking to the captain was rather secondary to what you really wanted and that was to simply have some private time with Xin Lan. Working your way back outside, you leap up and find a nice quiet spot on the station's rooftop in the space between two adjacent rooms where there were no windows. You sit down and adjust yourself into a somewhat more relaxing position then you simply wait. Neither of you two speak but you can't say that both of you were enjoying one another's company at the time. At best it was simply waiting around and at worst it was a tense silence as one of you was waiting for the other and the other simply didn't care.You pull the rabbit from your shirt and set them next to you. "Hey...it's over. You're safe now. No one else is coming for you." You say gently. Xin Lan remains silent though eventually they simply sit down and do nothing. You hope that this is a step in the right direction but you know that you'll need to keep proding them to get anything out of them.>What do you say?>Tell Xin about the others. Maybe that might help them settle down.>Talk to Xin about your meeting with the nobles. It could get a reaction out of them.>Mention your meeting with Madam Web. They might be able to explain a few more things about her.>Write in.
>>5618841>Tell xin about the othersAh, a wake up and a new thread, life be good.I'm hoping that news of the others will get their attention, and that we can aptly get across that nobody is gonna blame them for what happened in the library
>>5618841>Tell Xin about the others. Maybe that might help them settle down.I kind want to talk about all of those, but it feels greedy
>>5618841>Tell Xin about the others. Maybe that might help them settle down.
>>5619846>>5619033>>5619020>>5618953Sorry about that. Had to help someone with a sudden move. But we'll be helping Xin now. Writing.
Quietly, you reach out and poke the rabbit between the ears before gently petting them and ruffling their ears. "Everything is going to be alright." You continue. "We're in a bad spot but there hasn't been anything that we haven't overcome. This won't be any different." Xin Lan doesn't react and merely continues to look outward into the city. You stop petting them and pick them up. They don't do their usual surprised kicking and simply remains stiff in your hands as you sit them down on your lap and pull them into a hug. You can't remember exactly who but you think you vaguely remember Ming once telling you,The bunnies like being around you. They say you make them feel safe. I think it might be the only time in their lives they ever felt that way."Xin...it'll be ok. Really it will. Remember when we were stranded at sea? Just the two of us trying to live off of the sea with nothing but what merge things we could scavenge. Nothing told us we'd survive but we still held on to the hope that someone might find us? This is just like that. Ming came through us, just a lost girl only a handful of days away from home and she found us with nothing but the stars in the sky and a few hours of being taught how to use them to navigate. Now its on us to find the others. They're waiting for us and we have our own way." You dig through your pockets and pull out the magic compass. You were relieved that despite everything you went through tonight, it was still intact and none the worst for wear. "It was because of you that I found someone who showed me that everyone is ok. They gave me this. It lead me to you and it'll lead us to Ming." You say as you place it in front of the two of you. "Then once we find her, we'll go get your brother. Far to the north, farther than any map can show, he's there. He's got a funny habit of leading us to places no one's ever gone before. We can't just hide forever Xin. We have to go get them. They're waiting for us and even if the whole world is against us, I won't let them keep us apart but I can't lie to you. I think we have much darker times ahead and I'll need your help. Every since we've met we've done everything together. Every challenge we faced, ever problem we solved, every evil we defeated. You're my best friend little one and I don't think I've realized that how lucky I've been to have you every step of my journey until now. That's why I can't think of anyone better to have by my side as I face the coming darkness."
For a while Xin Lan says nothing still as the stone that you sat on but you wait. You wait patiently just as you said you did when you waited on Ming. Eventually they stir, only barely shuffling in your arms. "I hate them." Xin Lan whispers, their voice hoarse and, for the first time in your life, seeping with pure, raw, and burning rage. "I hate them all. They need to die, I want them to die." They continue as their hands curl into fists and their voice slowly grows louder. "They're not people. They're animals. People kill, they hurt, they maim but they do it for a reason. Food, money, revenge, even love but not them. Whatever goal they had, whatever orders they were following it was all secondary to just getting a kill. They didn't just want to burn down the library, they wanted all of us dead as well. Every single last one of us. Every day I think about it. Every day I think about each and ever one I let live because I had to help everyone else! And every day I want to go and find them and burn their home to the ground! They don't deserve to be happy! None of them do!" They shout, their chest heaving and their breathing ragged.You've never seen Xin Lan this angry before. Upset or annoyed yes but never this vitriolic rage. It was clear that whatever happened in the library had deeply affected the small rabbit. For the first time in their life they had seen pure evil with their own eyes and not through some veiled lens of their forced emotionlessness. They had made their real bonds and connections during their year there and had seen first hand their suffering. No longer a brimming light of hope that provided warmth and safety in the cold void of emptiness it was now burning hot, a roaring inferno that wanted to do nothing to consume everything around it before ultimately consuming itself in the end. >What do you say?>Write in.
>>5620808Damnit internet>Its right to feel angry, and even hate them. They acted completely evil, and we wont stand for it.>But they arent important. They are obstacles, nothing more. You shoulsnt focus your mind on them, when you saved everyone else. THEY are important. The innocents, the repentents, all the people who have been saved and are still in danger are who matter. The beasts who did this evil will be broken, then forgotten. Please dont let your hate distract you from all the good that can be done.Fuck the wifi. I also find it funny that he calls them animals, not people.
>>5621257I will add to this, [Same voter here], with>"You know that we saved a little boys mother today Xin? They were seperated in the fog, confused and lost. And we found them, saved them and reunited them.And we did that for hundreds of people. Hundreds of people who deserve to be happy will now get that because of what we did."Xin is really focused on their emotions, what with having new emotions, and it's important to vent. But we should keep pointing them to the fact that our actions keep bringing others joy, not that we have to let a few evil sods run around.
>>5621257>>5621479I have nothing else to add to that.
"It's alright to feel angry...perhaps even to hate them. They were evil and I doubt anyone in your position would feel different. But they aren't important. They're mere obstacles to our real goal and don't deserve to be acknowledged as anything but. Our true focus are the people we're saving. The innocents that can't fend for themselves be it ones born here or there are the ones that deserve our attention. Vengeance, revenge those aren't what we stand for. Those who commit evil and spread suffering will be broken not because we hunted them down specifically but because they made the choice to break themselves against us. That's the most important part Xin. No matter what, we need to offer them the choice. A real chance for them to change their ways. It's because of these chances that we're here doing what we do. Don't let your hate blind you to all the good we do. Imagine what Ming would think if she heard you talk like this. She was one of the first to give us that chance to prove ourselves. Now we have to be better and pay it forward." You say as you pat the rabbit's head. "You saved a boy's mother tonight Xin. Helped them find one another again. Don't forget that it's always the light in the dark that leads us and sometimes it's on us to show others where that light is." You stand up and tuck Xin Lan into your shirt again. They scurry around and settle on clinging to your back once more. With a small jump, you make it back into the busy court yard and start to look around for the guard captain once more. As before, you find them surrounded by people demanding their attention. Not surprising given the giant upheaval of the city's power structure for what could be the third time tonight. This time, you opt to just approach them and offer help rather than demand it. You push through the crowd and walk right up to them. "What's there left to do? There's still a bit of time before we must leave and we want to offer as much help as we can." You say as you idly shuffle towards the front of the captain and causing everyone to instinctively shift away. The captain gives you a tired look as they have undoubtedly have heard some variation of asking to be told what to do nearly a thousand times by now."Unless you want to start picking up trash and rubble or chase down straggling gang members. There's not much left to be done. Most of tonight is going to be making sure the city is secure and the remaining days will be going through enough paper work to drown all of China. Not to mention we'll need to find someone to pin this fiasco on otherwise heads will roll. So it'll either be me or the mayor if not both that will be hung out to dry."
"No doubt the public won't care that there are criminals in custody that you can blame." You surmise. The captain shrugs."The public only cares why things didn't happen the way they wanted it not who was behind fixing it. It's not which criminal was behind it, it's why didn't the guards prevent this or why wasn't the mayor doing what they could to fix all the crime." The captain says with a shrug. "Of course, it's not like I can do anything to fix that. People will be people. My only job is to make sure they live to be able to complain about it. That and sign the paper work." They add gruffly. You cough quietly."I see...well nonetheless maybe there's something I can do to help...alleviate the public's perception that you aren't doing anything." You offer."I mean you can always go find the mayor. He isn't here and honestly, knowing what the command structure of the city is will help speed things along. Otherwise we'll be spending the rest of the night looking for who to keep passing the problem to. Some kind of organization that doesn't make it seem like we're under martial law anymore would do wonders for civilian morale.">What do you say?>Ask if there is anything else that you can do. Searching for politicians isn't really your thing.>Ask where's the best place to look for the mayor. Where would be their first place to hide.>Go find Tigress and leave. You don't think there's much left you can do here that others can't handle on their own.>Write in.
>>5626304We offered our help.>Any ideas where to find the mayor? Any safehouses or nearby guard posts?
>>5626304>Ask where's the best place to look for the mayor. Where would be their first place to hide.
>>5626304>Go find Tigress and leave. You don't think there's much left you can do here that others can't handle on their own.
sorry about the lack of posts. Fell pretty ill these last few days. Pretty sure it was food poisoning. But time to get writing now that I can stand being able to get out of bed. We're looking for the mayor. Judging by the captain's comments they don't seem like the most reliable person. Writing.
>>5629006Bah, Sweat out this 3000 Gu poison Luo, It will make for a hearty tribulation!Wait, slightly wrong genre
>>5629026Don't worry, I used this as a means to cultivate my chi. A bit more and poisons will flow through me as water flows down a mountain into the great rivers...I think that's how cultivation stuff works.
>>5629028Body refiners maybe. Or those with a poison dao.But fuck it, "there is no right or wrong in cultivation, only results".
"Any ideas where the mayor would hide themselves?" You ask. "If they're not at their office or home." The captain lets out a mirthless laugh. "That office has only been used for whatever party of the week the mayor has decided to throw. If he were to hide, it'd probably in the wine cellar." They say. "If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say go check out the man's home. You'll find it in the northern district, closer to the west gate. That's where most of the nobility live. Old money as it were. Stories say that's where the city was founded before it expanded. You'll know which house it is. It'd be the one with the large jade statues...assuming they weren't stolen I suppose. I'd be impressed if they were."You nod. There was no point in prying into the mayor's personal life as you assumed the mayor was either voted in via nepotism or perhaps some other means that involved wealth. Truth be told, you had a mix of emotions thinking of the mayor. Your thoughts go back to the library's mayor and how she held you to task for disobeying the rules of the city. Thinking about it, it was the first time someone was...fair with your disobedience. She was disappointed in you but also saw the merits of your skill and diligence. She punished you in accordance to the law but also used the circumstances to make it appropriate. Your past mattered not, who you were wasn't important. Only the law and your reasoning behind your crimes mattered. It was disappointing that you now had to deal with someone who misused their position but it was also rather comforting that you could deal with something a bit more familiar. "We'll be going then. If we find the mayor, we'll bring them back here. Hopefully you can convince them to at least do their job properly. Perhaps this might be a wake up call for them. Either they get their act together or will be scared into allowing someone more competent into taking the job." You say though the captain seems unconvinced. You leap over the station's walls and jog towards the noble's district. You move in silence before you find yourself asking, "Xin...whatever happened to the mayor? Did she escape the library?" You feel movement on your back before Xin Lan pokes their small nose out and then the rest of their face.
"I don't know. She was adamant about staying behind to try and organize the guard. Wanted to do what she can to hold the city." They say quietly. "I think we actually had to have the Brotherhood order her to leave but I was too busy trying to hold back what I could to let everyone escape to be able to count up everyone who managed to leave. Ming is the one who would know. She's the one taking them to the Valley of Peace.""We'll have to ask her when we catch up to them then." You say as you move past the destroyed section of the the northern quarter where you fought against the cannons. The remaining buildings slowly grow larger and more ornate as you go deeper into the noble's quarters thought they are nothing compared to the homes of the nobility in the capital city. You look around for the telltale jade statues and find them quite easily. Two statues of what you assume to be the mayor's ancestors stand as rather laughable guards for the building's gates. Despite the chaos in the city, they don't look much worse for wear though they are heavily chipped and scuffed. Presumably, some of the more desperate gang members attempted to break pieces off for themselves and failed to do so. >What do you do?>Enter the building itself. Search the mayor's home for them.>Look around at the nearby homes. Perhaps the mayor opted to hide nearby as to avoid those who would search his own house.>Look around the grounds. Maybe the mayor has some hidden chamber or room to hide in. >Write in.
>>5629085>Enter the building itself. Search the mayor's home for them.
>>5629085>check the building itselff
>>5629283>>5629098searching the building. writing.
You make your way past the gates and into the building itself. The grounds would probably take longer to search than the main building itself given it's state. The main grounds were a mess with uprooted plants, broken branches, shattered ornaments, and various other ruined objects strewn about. You were surprised to see that someone didn't attempt to start a fire or something even more destructive. More over, you don't see anything that would indicate a struggle or a fight. "This place seems too barren." You mutter mostly to yourself but also to get Xin Lan's attention. "No sign of a struggle. You'd think someone like the mayor would have some guards nearby.""Either they abandoned their post or no one was ever here." "If they had abandoned their post then they still would have run into someone. The the only way they would have had a chance to leave preemptively would have been if they knew ahead of time what was going to happen in the city." You disagree."They could have been bought off.""Maybe. Let's check the inside. It could be that they fortified themselves indoors." You walk through the broken front doors of the large manor and see that the destruction had made it's way inside as well. Tables and potter lay broken across the ground and you can see empty patches on the walls where ornaments or paintings once stood. Presumably these objects have either been stolen by whoever attacked the building. You slow your pace and sharpen your senses further. You can feel the cool drafts of air coming from broken windows and every so often a busted door. Nothing seemed to indicate that any resistance was put up to stop the attack."You know..." You begin slowly as you push aside a fallen dresser while you search an empty bedroom. "It is possible the mayor might have fled before the fighting started. Given how many of the gangs were simply wandering around the city in the open, it's possible that the mayor could have abandoned the city at the first sight of so many gangs showing up. Any one of the guards could have told him about them.""Then it seems a bit pointless to keep looking for them. We should head back." Xin Lan points out.>What do you say?>Agree with Xin Lan. It's best if you just regroup with Tigress and head out. You might have a year to get your affairs in order but you don't know what might come up and you still need to find Ming.>Continue searching the grounds. Something is off about all this. Its just a gut feeling but you think you might find something here.>Look somewhere else. No reason to give up the search yet but perhaps the mayor is not at his home.>Write in.
>>5631436>Continue searching the grounds. Something is off about all this. Its just a gut feeling but you think you might find something here.>"We don't really have anything else to do, so might as well do a thorough job"
>>5631436my intrigue mind says something is afoot. But the option reminds me that we have a year. And someone else can handle this.>Agree with Xin, lets find ming.
Looks like a tie. Anyone want to roll for it?
Rolled 2 (1d2)>>5633403
We're leaving. Gotta focus on finding our friends now. Writing.
Loathe that you are to leave a job undone, Xin Lan might have had a point or perhaps your yearning for finding your friends was coming back now that the danger had mostly passed. Or maybe it was Xin Lan's sudden shift in demeanor that made you worry that perhaps Ming might have changed as well and perhaps even Renshu. That last thought made your anxiety spike even more. Despite his self control, Renshu was the most damaged by his upbringing and the thought of throwing him into the flames of war sickened you with worry. Not only by the thought of the madness of war consuming him but of all those he'd bring down alongside him.In the library, he had everything he wanted in life. You remember he once confided in you that his dream was to live a normal life. One where his only worry was over which man his little sister had chosen for a suitor. It was a simple, almost laughable, dream for someone who could perform feats that the average man would only hear of in old stories. Now it had been stolen from him and for all he knew his family lay among the dead of the library. If Xin Lan was teetering towards the destructive path of hate and prejudice, what was their older brother, who grew up only knowing hate and sadism, be like when everything he had was taken from him?"You're right. We should go." You say quietly. "Best we get back before Tigress thinks we've escaped." You joke as you try to settle your nerves."We should leave her." Xin Lan says as they poke their head out. "She'll just slow us down and we don't need her." You quietly pat the rabbit's head.
"Unfortunately, we do need her. If it wasn't for her we wouldn't be here. It's because she's with us that we've been allowed to look for Ming and Ren in peace. Not to mention that her presence with us gave us official permission to head north and fight the Mongols." You say. "Hien's family is taking a big risk allowing us to even do this with a chaperone. We don't want to betray his trust do we?""I don't need help destroying them." Xin Lan seethes quietly. "Xin..." You begin but you let it go. Perhaps someone as empathetic as Ming would be better at this. You know all too well what Xin Lan was feeling. The hate born of being so utterly hurt and betrayed that death and pain seemed the only possible response. Time only seemed to feed it and it was only the near death of someone close to you that managed to make you finally realize how far you had fallen. You didn't want Xin Lan to go through that. "...You really don't like authority do you?" You finally tease."... ... ..I listen to you." They say quietly after a long time, their anger falling and giving away to shame as they slip back into your shirt. You could tease them but instead you take solace in the fact that they do seem to be ashamed of showing that side of themselves to you. At the very least there was some remorse.---"We searched the Mayor's home and didn't find anything. Though we also didn't find any sign of a struggle or a fight. It was as if the place had been abandoned before all of the fighting started. How the mayor would have known an all out gang war was on the horizon I can only imagine but unfortunately I don't have any concrete evidence behind those ideas." You explain to the captain. "For what it's worth, I doubt he would have been much help with the situation if we did find him. Might be better for the city if people see what kind of person was leading them."The captain lets out a tired yet frustrated sigh, "Right. Well if there is nothing that can be done then so be it. We've managed to survive this long, we'll make it through with out him. Is there anything else?"
"Nothing we could note." You say. "It simply seemed as if there was no one there when the manor was ransacked. The vandals that went through it had no resistance. Unfortunately, we can't stay any longer to help. Tigress and I have a task we must attend to and we cannot afford to wait." The captain nods."You've done the bulk of the work anyways. If Master Tigress has business elsewhere then we can't keep her here." He replies. "If there is nothing else, I have to get back to organizing things back together."You bid your farewells and go searching the crowds for Tigress. You find her of in the corner of station's courtyard tending to her bandages. "Ready? It's time we move on." You say. "I think we've done all we can for the city and staying longer will only waste what little time we have to prepare." "Where are we heading next?" Tigress asks though she avoids your gaze.>What do you say?>Say you're heading back to the north towards where Madam Web marked where she last saw Ming.>Head towards the Valley of Peace. Ming was headed there and you can wait safely there for her to catch up with you.>Head somewhere else to prepare to your journey to the north before you meet up with Ming. (Where do you go?)>Write in
>>5633716>Say you're heading back to the north towards where Madam Web marked where she last saw Ming.
>>5633716>Heading northWe move faster than they can, and they are at risk already.
>>5633716>Say you're heading back to the north towards where Madam Web marked where she last saw MingShe was being followed
>>5633916>>5633806>>5633877Heading straight to Ming. Writing.
"We go to the north. I have Ming's last location on a map. Given how big the city was, escorting even a fraction of the population would slow her down immensely. We should be able to catch up in no time." You explain as you pat yourself down for the map only to find a small pair of arms holding it open from behind you. Xin Lan pokes their head out from hiding and gives it a quick look at it. "She's not far from where I left her." They say. "Something must have happened because she's barely covered any distance even for a group large she'd have to have gone farther.""I was told she was being followed. It could be whoever was after her has finally caught up to her." You murmur. "Well, even more reason to hurry and get going." You grab the map from Xin Lan and stuff it in your pocket as they dip back bellow your shirt. "Then let's stop wasting time and get going." Tigress says as she gets up and starts to walk out of the station.---"Are you gonna marry him?""...I don't know.""Will you at least lift him off his feet and kiss him deeply like two long lost lovers separated by an unknown sea?""...""Fine but the least you can do is tell him that sadly you've fallen for his younger, cuter, and far more flexible younger brother."You stop for a moment and look over your shoulder at Xin Lan's far too innocent face. Over the course of the last few days, Xin Lan had slowly come out of their shell. Though the blistering hate never subsided, it was at least hidden and had slowly given away to relief, then happiness, and finally the urge to make you feel uncomfortable. No longer needing to meditate, you could sense Xin Lan's feelings as clear as day and as easily as simply using your eyes to see in front of you. While you can feel that some of their emoting felt forced, you felt relieved that they had decided not to linger on their negative emotions even if they had to force themselves to be otherwise.You reach over your shoulder and pull the rabbit off your shoulders. With their slow emergence also came a willingness to leave the comfort of your shirt and recently they had taken their usual spot on your shoulders. "You know, for someone who claims they don't care about society's ideas of love and relationships, you certainly seem adamant on keeping me to yourself." You say with a brow raised.
"I found you first." Xin Lan says simply, arms crossed. "Finder keepers. You know I don't like sharing the things I like.""Technically, I think Ming found me first." You muse."And she lost you because she wasn't careful.""I think you're just happy I called you my best friend." You say."I better be. You're my husband." They reply stiffly. You sigh, ruffle Xin Lan's ears and place them back on your shoulders. You would give anything to be subjected to Xin Lan's teasing for the rest of your life if it meant sparing them from pain but that didn't mean you had to like it in the here and now."How much closer?" Tigress says through gritted teeth. Though she herself was not a frequent target of Xin Lan's teasing, it was quite obvious that their personality was rubbing her the wrong way which made sense given her more strict and reserved demeanor. Part of you thinks Xin Lan's change in attitude was partly because they knew it irritated her. Whatever the reason, the two had not come to blows or an argument yet but you could feel the tension rising.You quickly look at your compass. It had shifted slightly here and there in the last few days meaning that you were getting close enough that your speed would throw you off the trail quite easily and so you were forced to slow down and walk at a normal pace to maintain a stable course though such a path had lead you deep into an unmapped forest. The trees themselves had long blocked out the sun and the faint beams of light that managed to pierce the canopy were a welcome reminder of the time of day. You come to a stop and close your eyes for a moment. Reaching out with your senses, you search far and wide but find nothing. These past few days, you had come to realize how much more your ability to sense things had grown. What used to be the size of a small village now extended to was seem the size of the mountain the library used to rest on or at least from the base to the top.
You can easily feel Xin Lan with their amusement and affection hiding the smoldering anger on your shoulders, and Tigress who's irritation was fighting for control with her attempts to remain calm thus forming a small storm of emotions. What bothered you the most was that this was the only thing you felt and nothing else. No spirits of sprites of any kind. It was as if you were in a empty void with your companions and it unnerved you. "Nothing yet. We must still have a ways to go." You say as you tuck your navigation tools away. "Without the sun or other landmarks, it's difficult to tell how far we are on the map as well. Though navigation was more of Ming's expertise.""And so was food. I swear, when I'm the best cook here then we have..." Xin Lan's voice trails off and their ear perk up even more. Yours and Tigress's do as well as all three are immediately put on alert by that innate sense of danger you all had developed over the many years of combat training. None of you make a move for fear of setting off whatever had alerted all of you. None of you have a chance to speak or coordinate as a woman screaming shatters the silence. >What do you do?>Chase after the voice. It must be one of the lost library members.>Split up and triangulate. Sounds can echo strangely in a forest this dense not to mention anyone in danger would be running. By the time you reach the original source they maybe long gone from that position.>Break into two groups. One to follow the voice and the other to trail behind. If it's an attack the attacker must be nearby. This could be a chanced to ambush the ambusher.>Write in.
>>5635255>Split up and triangulate. Sounds can echo strangely in a forest this dense not to mention anyone in danger would be running. By the time you reach the original source they maybe long gone from that position.
>>5635255>Break into two groups. One to follow the voice and the other to trail behind. If it's an attack the attacker must be nearby. This could be a chanced to ambush the ambusher.
>>5635267It's this method I support. Best odds of winning, but keep in general proximty
>>5635795>>5635355>>5635267Had to do some immediate traveling. Couldn't get to a stable internet until now. We're splitting up to search for the person who screamed. Writing.
Quietly you lower the handle of the cart you were pulling behind you with your remaining hand and raise your free one to motion to the others. Using standard military motions, you indicate to the other to split up and form a searching perimeter. Hopefully one of you would find the source of the screaming even if the person behind it was fleeing. Xin Lan hops off your shoulders and runs off to your left while Tigress moves to cover the right. You quickly take the center and run right towards the direction your had heard the screaming. As you move, you keep an ear out for sounds of movement both friendly and hostile. You run a good distance from the cart before you slowly come to a halt. Other than a slight wind that rustled the leaves above you, you hear nothing. No movement, no more screams. You kneel and go low to the ground. At your speed, you would have run into anyone or at least heard some kind of movement of them leaving. You search the ground and nearby foliage to find signs of any disturbance but all you find are your own footsteps. You get to your feet and retrace your steps while searching the trees. It was incredibly unlikely but perhaps the person fleeing had done so via the trees. The only other explanation was that whoever you heard was not only faster than you, but was skilled enough to travel without leaving any trace. That or they could fly but even then, you would have at least seen some kind of bent branches or fallen leaves. You know know of two people who could accomplish a feat like this and those were the rabbits. It was clear that neither of them could be behind this and it suddenly dawns on you that this could be a trap of some kind.
It's only then that you realize you can't feel Xin Lan anymore. You reach out to see if you can sense either of them with more concentration but you find yourself alone in the sea of nothingness. You can feel neither Tigress nor Xin Lan All that comes to you is the small path that you traveled before which you can now astrally walk through which at the moment does nothing to help. You set yourself to automatically retrace your steps subconsciously as you've trained yourself to do and use your conscious mind to look around and study your surroundings. You are fortunate enough that everything is as it was before as stories of magical forests that would trap it's inhabitants with ever changing surroundings begin to creep into your mind. You banish those intrusive thoughts away once you reach the cart. A quick search of its inventory shows that its contents are undisturbed. You stand around anxiously as you try to find some signs of your companions. This time their phenomenal abilities were working against you. With no trail to follow, you were alone and so were they. The silence of the forest begins to feel more and more oppressive. Was it always this quiet? Or had it gotten even quieter? You're tempted to climb a nearby tree to look above the canopy but it would do you no good in finding the others. Even being able to see into the distance would give you no clues as to what is going on below the leaves. Just as think you come to a conclusion as to what to do you hear another scream. The same woman as before only this time coming from the direction that Tigress had just gone in.>What do you do?>Remain at the cart. With a bit of patience, the other will soon return.>Follow the voice. It is in the direction Tigress went. If she heard it then the two of you will eventually meet up.>Climb the Trees. You could be wrong and find some clue or perhaps the others might have gotten the same idea.>Write in.
>>5638209>Climb the Trees. You could be wrong and find some clue or perhaps the others might have gotten the same idea.Maybe Ming is using some spell to make tracking harder?
>>5638209lets not jump to supernatural conclusions. again.>Climb the trees.
>>5639233>>5638224We're climbing up a tree. Writing.
Reigning in your instincts to run after the screaming, you instead choose to try and get a better view of your position. Tigress was already in that direction and she would probably be the first to come across anyone. Even with her injured arm, she could still take care of herself. For now, it was best that you try and gather as much information as possible before you all moved on and hopefully be able to find the source of the screams. Still you could not help but wait for a bit longer just in case someone came back before you finally pulled your gaze away from where you all split off and dug your claws into the nearest tree. Such a simple feat barely takes any time at all and you soon find yourself looking over a vast sea of green. You weren't sure what you were expecting, perhaps some kind of temple breaking through the canopy or the ruins of a once forgotten city. Maybe it might just be that you're listening to too many of Xin Lan's wild tales. You slowly turn your gaze around you, shifting your weight around and slowly rotating through the branches of the tree to get a full 360 degree view of the forest. Though you weren't sure what to expect, something catches your eyes. Far off into the distance, just barely visible above the horizon and nearly mixing in with the clouds, are faint patches of grey just above the treeline. You squint and focus your eyes as much as you can but you're almost certain that the faint contrast of color is an indication of smoke and thus a fire. With no recent rains or storms, that could only mean that the flames were man made and thus a camp. You quickly draw your compass from your pocket and compare it with the direction you were looking. Your heart quickens and you force yourself to double check that the needle is indeed pointing at the direction of the smoke. You drop down from the tree and see that you are still alone with the cart though you hope that the others didn't come back and miss you. You doubt it as you were making quite a bit of noise moving around in the branches. Odds were that if your companions had returned they would have at least attempted to figure what was making all that noise in the trees. You soon find that you're forcing yourself to sit after to begin to pace impatiently around the cart. It didn't take you that long search and come back but you assume that the others had simply chosen to continue to follow the voice. You think about the situation to try and organize your thoughts.
The smoke was just barely visible on the horizon meaning you still had a ways to go. At your group's max speed it would certainly be at least a day or so of nonstop travel. For an ordinary person, assuming they walked in a straight line with purpose and didn't simply wander aimlessly, it would be several days if not a week of nonstop travel. So how unlikely was it that you and your group managed to find someone nearby if they were from that camp? More so, what was someone from the camp doing all the way out here? Did the get lost during travel or was it intentional? Maybe they thought they could make it out on their own, got lost foraging for food, or tried to slip away unnoticed?You didn't really like the idea of some kind of conflict causing the refugees of the library to split apart like that nor did you like the idea of the situation getting so desperate that people were willing to split off from the main group in an attempt to survive. You cross your arms in and furrowed your brow in concentration. You were told that Ming was being followed, could it have been some kind of group attempting to finish off what they started on the mountain? It was possible that the screams were a trap and that was why Xin Lan and Tigress had not arrived. They had gotten caught up. But that wouldn't explain why you could no longer sense them. Impatience was starting to get to you and so you stand back up. There was nothing to be done simply sitting around and waiting. You had to do something.>What do you do?>Go after Tigress or Xin. Surely you'll eventually run into one of them.>Continue to wait. Your impatience could simply cause you all to split up even more and the last thing you need is all of you searching for one another.>Set up a small camp. If you could see smoke from so far away, then the others could see yours or at least smell the smoke. It could help lead them back to you.>Write in.
>>5640362>You soon find that you're forcing yourself to sit after to begin to pace impatiently around the cart.Oops, typos. Meant to write, "You soon find that you're forcing yourself to sit after you begin to pace impatiently around the cart."Also>>5640323 didn't seem to add my trip which is weird.
>>5640363>Set up a small camp. If you could see smoke from so far away, then the others could see yours or at least smell the smoke. It could help lead them back to you.
>>5640363>Construct a fireWe don't need a camp, just a flame. Don't bother being quiet either.
You grab a few supplies from the cart. If the smoke can lead you to Ming then perhaps some of your own can lead the others back to you. You don't bother for anything more than a basic fire pit and begin to make a flame. It takes you a few minutes but soon you have a roaring flame going. Adjusting the rocks around the pit, you find yourself staring at the flames. There was something about them that seemed to put your mind at ease. Though your current anxieties and impatience were not banished, they seemed to be held at bay for now. The snapping and crackling of wood keeps you distracted long enough that you almost miss Tigress appearing from the trees. She raises an eyebrow questioningly at you. "You do realize we are searching for someone in danger?" She asks. "Perhaps you'd consider searching for longer than a few minutes?"You stare at Tigress for a moment. "How long have you been searching?" You ask."Only a few moments." She responds. "Once I smelled smoke, I had assumed whoever we were looking for had tried to build a fire or at the very least, you had found them and were attempting to build a shelter.""You've been gone far longer than that." You say. "I'd say it's been at least an hour or so. Given how fast you can move, you must have traveled quite the distance. Though I wasn't idle myself. I surveyed the area from the tree tops then I climbed down to make a fire. Even without the time I spent waiting, surely it must have been longer than how long you think you've been looking." Tigress says nothing but seems to contemplate what you say."And the rabbit?" Tigress asks after a moment of thinking."Xin Lan." You correct. "I haven't seen them since we separated. I had hoped they would have gone to meet up with you after that second scream.""Second?""Yes...did you not hear it? It had come from the direction that you had headed off too. Though that was quite some time ago." You say. "I stayed here in case someone had come running in this direction. That was before I climbed up the tree. Incidentally, that is why I built this fire. I think I saw some smoke rising from the forest about a days journey away. It's in the same direction as Ming's location so it must be them." You stoke the flames for a bit and watch it before speaking up again. "The forest is too quiet isn't it?"
"This far out, I doubt we'd run into anyone else." Tigress replies. "But even so..." Her voice trails off and you understood she knew what you meant."I've traveled in caves where darkness thrives and light dares not enter but even there it did not feel as oppressive as it does here. Almost as if the woods wish to smother us and envelope us." You say as you look around."You talk as if this forest is some kind of entity." Tigress says though her tone is not dismissive. It's almost as if she was trying to have you speak more. "The closest thing I've come across is a spirit of the wind that was angered but even that it was it's own being and not the woods itself. But ever since the attack on the library...well there haven't been many spirits out and about." You say. "Whether or not they have decided to remain in the other world or have been forced to stay there I cannot say but this doesn't bode well. The balance of nature has been disrupted in a way I don't think has ever happened before. I have no idea what will happen if things remain this way." Tigress remains quiet and so you fall silent as well. The fire nearby still does it's best to try and ward away the gloom that surrounds you but now it seems rather desperate. Like it was struggling to stay alive despite having plenty of fuel. "We can't stay here. I'm afraid if we wait any longer, we're liable to simply become lost in our own thoughts." You stand up and light a torch. "Best we figure out what to do now.">What do you do?>Continue onwards towards the smoke you saw. Hopefully Xin Lan can follow any tracks you leave behind.>Wait a bit longer and see if Xin Lan returns. Being the fastest of you three, it's likely they has simply traveled farther. >Go search for the rabbit. In your slight panic you had forgotten that you had the means to track them in your pocket the entire time. The compass.>Write in.
>>5641993>Go search for the rabbit. In your slight panic you had forgotten that you had the means to track them in your pocket the entire time. The compass.
>>5641993>Search for the rabbit.So immediate observations. Time is dilated, sounds can't be trusted and something voodoo is going on here
>>5641993Guess no fire spirits as well huh?
"Let's go find Xin Lan." You say as you toss another torch to Tigress. "It'll be dark soon and if it took this long to find each other during the day then who knows if we'll ever find each other should we wait til after tomorrow." You grab the cart and hold up your lit torch before going down the direction that Xin Lan had run off too. As the darkness begins to fall and it's shadows begin to attempt to crawl past the torch's dim light to claim you so too do intrusive thoughts begin to creep into your mind. Old children's tales of evil spirits and monsters that haunted old forests. Stories of lost travelers never to be seen again that you'd hear in hushed whispers as the other kids avoided you while you did your errands in town. Such stories would have to have some merit right? A kernel of truth that had kept them alive for so many generations. Had you been asked a few years prior, you'd had simply scoffed at the person and their weak will. But now, after so many interactions with sprites and spirits, you were not sure. If good spirits existed, then surely bad ones did as well. Evil magics and rituals that could create them could also exist although so far, all your interactions had been with good spirits more or less. Even the ones you had come into conflict had been wronged in some way and were only seeking justice for the crimes against them and their fellow elementals. So it could be possible that now you were face to face with one such evil. You shake your head and banish those thoughts.It didn't really matter or rather, it was simply another obstacle you would overcome. Your goal was to find Ming and the people of the library and nothing would stop you from accomplishing your goal. You set the cart down and look at your compass as you focus turning it to Xin Lan's direction. It spun around a few times before it lazily came to a stop in a different direction from Ming's. "This way." You say quieter than you had intended. Tigress doesn't reply though she motions she understood. She held her torch out and her attention seemed elsewhere as she kept watch. You turn your cart and begin to move once more this time you keep your attention more on the compass than on the woods around you. You allow your subconscious control your body and guide you around trees and roots. Even as you travel without thinking, you can feel that your making sudden turns and twists but you make sure you keep the compass arrow pointing forward. All the while it seemed like you were running in circles but you stubbornly maintain your course as you put your faith in your connection with your friends. Finally you come to a stop and call out. "Xin! It's us! If you're around just show yourself!" You stand as you hear your voice echo through the dark. Almost immediately you hear something rustle nearby and your body tenses up instinctively. Out pops out a familiar Xin Lan, a bit grass stained, but whole nonetheless.
"Have you been avoiding us?" Tigress asks. "No. I've been looking for both of you all day!" They say grumpily. "Of course you've been no help if you're moving all the stuff.""We've been following the compass. Surely, you'd have been able to track us following you. We've not been trying to stay silent." You point out."I haven't heard or smelled anything all day." They say as they scurry up your back to your shoulders. "This place is bad. Like that library remember? Like something is trying to keep up from traveling properly. Things are too quiet, isolated. Even trying to go back to marks I made is difficult.""Have you not heard any more screams?" Tigress asks."Nope. Pretty sure whoever made them didn't come my way.""Tigress hasn't heard anymore either but I have and they came from her direction." You say. "Well maybe someone doesn't want to admit they lost track of their target." Xin Lan says glaring at Tigress. You quietly swat at Xin Lan's arm. "It's obvious that someone or something has taken interest in us and is interfering with our efforts. Whether or not they're the reason behind the screaming is up in the air but we need to plan our next move if we're going to find Ming." You adjust your compass once more. "From what I saw, their camp is still a ways away but they seem to be well enough to make a fire.""Well then let's go. The sooner we get to them the better." Xin Lan says. "It'd be safer if we traveled during daylight." Tigress counters. "These things didn't start happening until the afternoon and have only gotten worse as the day waned. It's best we don't risk traveling when whatever this is is strongest lest we bring it along to the refugees as well.""Ming's been out here for a while. I'm sure she has a way to deal with this. It'd be more dangerous to even try and sleep here." Xin Lan adds. "I didn't say sleep. We must remain vigilant.">What do you do?>Agree with Xin Lan. The sooner you find Ming the better. She might have more information about what's going on.>Agree with Tigress. You don't want to draw whatever or whoever is doing this to the camp. It could be someone who followed from the attack on the library.>Try and head back to a nearby town. Someone living near these parts might have a story to share that could shed light on the situation though that means leaving Ming along even longer.>Write in.
>>5642242None that you can sense. Granted, sprites and spirits have been few and far between ever since you've descended the mountain but here you can't sense anything. Even your friends through no fault of your own. Your inner peace is fine.
>>5645465>Agree with TigressI agree. Lets see if daylight banishes the obfuscation effect. We can also relate that despite walking in a seemingly straight line, that our paths were twisting and turning subconsiously.I've a theory that the light and fire banish the effect, since the bonfire calmed us, and the sun shrinking has caused the effects to increase.We also know that SOMEONE is after the camp.
>>5645465>Agree with Tigress. You don't want to draw whatever or whoever is doing this to the camp. It could be someone who followed from the attack on the library.
"Tigress is right. It would be best if we wait this out away from the camp." You say."What?! You realize that we're here. In the dark. With something out there trying to eat us. I don't need to remind you that these bunny buns are for you only right?" Xin Lan says roughly patting your head with what you can imagine to be a very grumpy look on their face. "What happened to strength in numbers?!""What happened to only needing just the two of us?" You counter as you offer Tigress an apologetic shrug. "Besides, travel seems impossible now. Even as we searched for you it felt like the forest was twisting and changing to keep up from reaching out goal. Even if Ming could offer us some protection, we have no guarantee that we would reach her at all." Xin Lan remains quiet for a moment before letting out a very defiant, "Hmph!" before they lean forward and place their chin on your head and going silent. "Before we do anything we should build a bigger fire. Darkness seems to be our enemy and hopefully a bit more fire will grant us some more protection." There was no argument in that regard. You all work quickly and quietly to gather enough wood to make a decently sized campfire. It's size was normally meant for a colder night near the beginning of the cold months but you feel that in this situation the Gods will forgive your excess. Each snap and pop of the burning wood seems to put your mind at ease but simply looking at the edge of the flame's light reminds you of what it was holding at bay. Each flicker and ebb of the light made it seem like the darkness was throwing itself against your small safe zone as if attempting to shatter your small bubble of safety. A chilly wind blows through you all and though it can't put out your flames you can't help but feel a brief pang of panic that it might actually achieve the impossible.
None of you speak throughout your wait but the silence that had been present throughout the day was long gone. Off in the distance you can hear movement and the rustle of foliage as something passes through it. Sometimes the sounds of movement are extremely close, just at the edge of the light though you can see no indication of anyone there. Sometimes you think you see a pair of eyes in the dark only to realize it's the small embers of the fire. Even so you are never truly sure if your eyes were playing tricks on you. Xin Lan who had been passing them time by gently scratching your ears or swinging their leg, slows down and eventually goes completely still. Tigress was the opposite, sitting across from you and watching your back in a meditative pose she attempts to remain as still and collected as possible but as the hours go by her eyes begin to flick around more often. Her hands squeeze and clench as they tug at her sleeves betraying her stoic exterior. You poke the logs and readjust them allowing the new flow of oxygen to cause the flames to flare up once more. As if in response to your affront, the sounds in the dark seem to grow more aggressive. The movement in the dark becomes heavier and more calculated. The moving bushes and branches are replaced with snapping and breaking. All of a sudden you hear them stop as if they pause to survey the situation then run off. Moments later you hear someone else scream. Not the same female voice as before you can hear a voice cry out not to far from you. "Help! Someone help!" Another shriek and the sounds of two sets of feet running in the dark are heard. One fleeing and one hunting.>What do you do?>Go after the voice. Whatever has been following you seems to have found new prey.>Send someone else to go after the screaming while you try to draw whatever is in the darkness towards you and away.>Remain at camp. You can't risk going into the darkness not while you're so close to finding Ming.>Write in.
>>5647898>Remain at camp. You can't risk going into the darkness not while you're so close to finding Ming.Fuck off skinwalkers and wendigos
>>5647898My mind says that them dying doesn't matter. It also points out the possibility of it just being >>5648093 like they say.But in my heart. . . We can't just let people die.>Tell the others to stay here, Xin especially as they are our guiding light back to the fire. Then go after the cry.
>>5648152Ah fuck it, I'll change to support this.Can we try to light a torch too to carry it around?
>>5647898>Tell the others to stay here, Xin especially as they are our guiding light back to the fire. Then go after the cry.>bring a torch
>>5648152>>5648153>>5648580We're off to spooky central. Pretty sure the others will not be so open to you doing so. Writing.
You slowly get to your feet. Trap or not, illusion or not, you would never sit idly by and allow someone to die because of your inaction. Allow 1 person to die to save many more made strategic sense but you could save them if you could and that was enough to spur you on. You reignite a torch, "Stay here. I'm going to check out the shouting. I'll be back soon." You say. "What? No. You're sitting your butt back down and waiting." Xin Lan says as they cup their hands over your eyes though such a thing would not hinder you. "You're the dummy who agreed with fake Stripes's plan. Now you have to follow through.""We can't just leave them to die." You reply quietly. "I need you to stay here. That way I know how to make my way back to you.""No! I'm not letting you leave me again! You're staying here where nothing is going to happen to you!" Xin Lan shouts, stubbornly clinging on to you and tightening their hug around your head."Xin..." You begin but Tigress interrupts."I hate to agree with the rabbit but if you leave right now there's no guarantee we'll ever see you again. We don't know what we're up against and it's obvious that the screams are some kind of trap. If our opponent can control our sense of direction and time while we are here then it's not impossible for them to be able to make us hear voices." She says looking you straight in the eye. "Trap or not, I've never backed away from attempting to save a life regardless of the risk to me." You reply. "Then what about the lives of those in the camp? What about the lives of the people of China? You risked everything to simply argue with the Empress so that she would allow you to go to the north and prevent a war. Now you're so willing to throw that all away? What if you go out there and die? Who will go to the north then? Who will lead the refugees to safety?" She asks."You and Xin will." You say without hesitation."If that is the case then why are we even here? Why not ask one of the five to do it? Why not head to the north alone? Barring the fact you could have simply left a message with our Lord who could have easily convinced his sister, her Highness, you could have just as easily gone up north by your self. But you didn't. Whatever your reason, you chose to stay behind and find the others. Now, you wish to risk throwing it all away. It seems you're a liar on top of a murderer, a fact I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised about."
"I'm not lying. I'm not the man I used to be." You say."Then did you not swear to the Lord General that you would be willing to make the hard decisions? This is one of those and this is one of the many you will need to make once we leave the country. Risk the life of one for the lives of the many. You can't save everyone Tai Lung. You will need to watch some die and if you can't do that here then I can't trust you to make the right decision once we leave." Tigress counters as she angrily turns her gaze away, shame burning deep within her. It's clear she's not happy with her argument but you can see the logic she is attempting to bring to the table."Please. Big guy, for once in your life, make the selfish choice." Xin Lan whispers as they rest their forehead atop yours. "We can apologize if it was someone...just please stay here...">What do you say?>Try and convince the two to let you go. You just can't let things go like that. You can't.>Sit down. Tigress and Xin are right. You can't risk everything for a single person. You don't think you could face your friends in the afterlife if they knew you put the lives of everyone you and they cared about simply because you had to play hero.>Bring everyone along. If they won't let you go alone then they can come with you. At the very least you can all watch each other's backs. It might be attempting to split you all up again so it'd be best to surprise your opponent with a group of people.>Pull Xin off your head and toss them at Tigress. That should buy you some time to run off and go find whoever screamed. You don't think they'll chase you but you know they'll be extremely upset at you.>Write in.
>>5649610>You don't think you could face your friends in the afterlife if they knew you put the lives of everyone you and they cared about simply because you had to play hero.Or go into a coma and find an entire city ruined
>>5649610>Bring everyone along. If they won't let you go alone then they can come with you. At the very least you can all watch each other's backs. It might be attempting to split you all up again so it'd be best to surprise your opponent with a group of people.Maybe this is the wrong choice, maybe it's a trap, but I feel like we should at least try.
>>5649610>Sit down. Tigress and Xin are right. You can't risk everything for a single person. You don't think you could face your friends in the afterlife if they knew you put the lives of everyone you and they cared about simply because you had to play hero.
>>5649610If it wasn't for what happened at the library. . FUCK. Fuck fuck shit FUCK.>Sit down.We could save them. It's one person. We could do it. FUCK.
>>5649682>>5649922>>5650729>>5650793Way more votes than I expected. Nice. Didn't think sitting would be the winner. I'll write when I get back.
>>5651223Their arguments hit where it hurts
>>5651223I'll be honest, it was >>5649682 that convinced me.It was EXACTLY the same thing here, we put too much out for a small gain, and we fucked the city and our friends
You squeeze your hands closed and find yourself squeezing your eyes shut despite them being covered as you hear another scream break out in the distance. Everything screams to just run out and chase after the voice regardless if it could be a trap or not. If it's a trap then you'll dismantle it, if there is danger then you could face it but Tigress is right. You hate to admit it but she was right. You couldn't just risk Ming and everyone else's lives because you couldn't sit down and weight the risks. Maybe if you had more people with you, maybe if you could just be that more certain of what was going on.You stiffly turn around and sit while trying to ignore everything around you. The nervous tension in your camp had given way to oppressive misery and silence soon follows. Just like that, there were no more screams and no more movement in the distance leaving you alone with your thoughts. You had never felt powerlessness like this before. It was not the lack of strength nor the inability to do anything as you had gone through both in prison and neither deterred nor lessened your resolve. Rather it was the fact that you knew you could do something but were forced by circumstance to do otherwise. Even now, hours later, you wanted to argue that you were making the hard choice by going after the cries. That it was harder to risk it all and save everyone than just sit around and play the odds.But was that really an argument or were you simply attempting to convince yourself of something? Maybe you were still attempting to assuage the guilt you felt over the crimes you committed long ago or maybe attempting to make up for failing to protect the library. You do your best to push those uncomfortable thoughts out of your mind and remind yourself that you were doing this for Ming. This was to get back together with your family and by doing this you would help spare even more families from pain.
You continue this meditative repetition over the course of the night barely feeling Xin Lan's small hands gently scratching your ears and their arms hugging you tightly. You strain your ears for any kind of sign that you did the right thing, that this was all just some kind of trap or fakery but the forests remain silent as always. Eventually, you open your eyes and begin to see that new dawn's light slowly banish the shadows of night but the doubt still lingers. You will yourself to move once more and find yourself saying, "Come, we should break camp and begin traveling again." No one responds but you can feel some relief come from both of your companions as they now find themselves with something to occupy their minds. It only takes a few minutes before you were all traveling once more, cart rattling behind you. You keep your eyes on the compass at all times and though you tell yourself that it was to keep course, you didn't want to admit that you didn't want to see any signs of someone you had failed to save. Your route stays true and it seems that the forest tries to pull no tricks on you at this time so you all begin to speed up once more. The sun continues to rise and you continue your journey unabated even managing to have a few brief moments to eat a bit of food without disturbance but the lingering anxiety of things starting up again remains. The sun finally hits high noon and a brief excursion to the top of the tree reveals you're about halfway to your goal. Now the signs of smoke are plainly visible through the tops of the trees and with a bit patience, you can even slightly smell it. But high noon means that if your hypothesis is correct, soon your enemy's power will begin to grow once more and you're not sure if you want to camp so close to whoever is making the smoke.>What do you do?>Try and rush to the camp. Lift the cart and make a run for it. You're sure you can make it before nightfall by then but you'll not be able to keep an eye out for anything else as you do so.>Continue at your current pace. You might not make it by night fall as you cannot account for any tricks that will be played on you but if you're lucky, you might be able to reach the camp just as night takes over.>Stop here and make camp. It's better to ride out the night while still a decent way's away from Ming's location. If anything is following you then you still have time to lead it away should it seem too aggressive.>Write in.
>>5651624>Continue at your current pace. You might not make it by night fall as you cannot account for any tricks that will be played on you but if you're lucky, you might be able to reach the camp just as night takes over.
>>5651624>Rush the camp
>>5653187TL probably. We already died and came back once after all.
>>5651624>Stop here and make camp. It's better to ride out the night while still a decent way's away from Ming's location. If anything is following you then you still have time to lead it away should it seem too aggressive.
>>5653190>Impossible! I saw you die, Tai Lung!>I got better
>>5653187I just need to point out that a wolf with scythes (sickles are tiny scythes, right?) was thought up here first by anons, years before the movie. >>5652420>>5652063Looks like we won't be deterred. We're pressing forward.
"We should keep going." You say, finally breaking the silence after the long quiet. You look up at the sunlight cutting through the thick canopy of leaves. The day seemed fleeting and it felt like it as too soon for it to be half way over. But those were just your nerves talking. Only the Gods had the power over the sun and the sky. No sorcerer could ever be so powerful that they could usurp the heavens. The thought gives you a little hope knowing that your more powerful ally could not be corrupted nor manipulated. But even the sun had to obey the laws of nature and soon it would need to make it's descent for the day. Hopefully by then you'll be at the camp. You readjust your grip and head onward, perhaps a bit too eagerly this time as you hear a slight yelp and tumble from Xin Lan who was sitting atop the wagon's goods. You find yourself a bit more optimistic knowing that the small accident still made have to suppress a smile. Though the events of last night weighed heavily on your mind, it was good to know that you had not fallen fully to the gloom that the forest harbored. You pull your compass out as you and your companions continues onward. Just as you had suspected, or perhaps feared, the needle began two twitch and attempt to move away form it's original position. At this time, it was only a minor correction of course but as the hours began to go by the corrections had become larger and you would have to take longer turns to readjust your positions. Once or twice it seemed like you had simply walked so far in one direction you felt as if you went in a full circle. Nonetheless you stuck to the plan and continued to follow the compass. Even with your focus on the path ahead and your compass, you can feel it. The already faint sounds of the forest dimming and becoming quiet, the winds slowly dying down and the unnatural stillness creeping in.
Despite this, you remain focused on your task. Any distractions would only serve to slow you down and with the camp so close in sight, you'll only end up wandering in the dark. Shadows begin to infect the edges of everything and soon your find yourself glancing around more often, your ears flicking around at sounds that never come. You grab a torch and light it even though the sun had only just hidden away behind the trees. The sudden heat and warmth of the fire helps recenter your thoughts and you continue. It's after this that your group begins to pick up the pace. Now reaching speeds that one could argue was reaching a jog rather than a walk, a sudden smell breaks your focus and seems to intrude upon your senses.The scent of smoke permeates the air and brings you to a halt. This felt too real to be some kind of trickery. "Wood...smoke smells too thick for it to be natural." Xin Lan says as they stand on their tip toes atop the cart. "Definitely needs to be a man made fire." They smell some more. "There's a bit food in the air too. Someone cooked recently. We're definitely close.""Then we should hurry. Night is almost on us and we haven't heard anything suspicious. That in itself is cause for alarm." Tigress adds."Do you hear anyone?" You ask. Xin Lan shakes their head."No, but that might be whatever is following us. There's no doubt that we'd have heard someone at this distance even faintly." They reply. "Let's get going."You nod and grab the cart, this time lifting it up. There was no time to waste. You and the others now break into a run as you follow your nose and the scent of smoke. After a few minutes you too smell the faint traces of food in the air, soup to be exact. Seconds later, just as the last vestiges of light die behind the sea of trees you break through a tree line and find yourself in the largest clearing you've ever seen. Your ears are overwhelmed with the sounds of endless chatter that suddenly comes to a stop. Immediately after, your deafened by the scream of dozens of voices. Panic ensues and your attention is finally brought to the owners of the voices. People running away and pushing each other before a handful of others come rushing towards you, weapons at the ready and charging at you.>What do you do?>Write in.
>>5653604>come to a stop and Shout loudly "STOP! we aren't monsters, We are citizens of the great Library!">In the event they refuse to halt, disarm them, as gently as we can.
"Wait! We're not monsters! We're from the Library ourselves! We've come looking for you!" You shout as you begin backing away from the attackers. With your attention now properly focused, you not that their weapons and, what you assume to be armor, are mismatched. Some are finely made, others worn and old but well maintained, and some don't even seem to be of this country. You quickly jump back to stand next to the cart and to your surprise your attackers stop a short distance away. They brandish their weapons at you with those wielding spears standing at the front. Regardless, they are all visibly hesitant to get any closer. You calmly raise your hands and motion with your head for Xin Lan and Tigress to do the same. "We've just come to help my friend to help you on your journey to the Valley of Peace. Her name is Ming, you've must have heard of her right? She helped evacuate the city. I'm Tai Lung, I held classes outside of the gates with Xin Lan." You explain as you motion to Xin Lan. "Not to sound arrogant but I'm sure you've at least heard of us.""S-silence!" Someone shouts, thought the crack in their voice undermines their confidence. You wince as you come to the realization that you weren't speaking to a man in oversized armor but a teenager, a child. A spear waves in your face in an attempt to intimidate you."What do we do?" You can hear someone whisper in the back."I don't know...they're not supposed to get past the charms right?""M-maybe they stopped working or maybe they never worked to begin with.""Don't say things like that!""Listen, we don't want to cause trouble. One of the Brotherhood can verify who I am." You say gently. "If I can just talk to one of them.""We're not lying and we're not whatever is out there!" Xin Lan says grumpily. "Don't act like you don't know us. We're here to help. Now go and get someone who actually is of age and can make decisions before I really give you something to be afraid of! Either that or get Ming."Your "interrogators" flinch but don't move. "B-be quiet! You could be lying!" Xin Lan throws up their hands in frustration. "I'm gonna hit him." They say."I can vouch for them." Tigress says stepping forward slightly. "I'm Master Tigress, one of the Five, the Empress has charged me with making sure Tai Lung doesn't harm anyone. I can promise, on my honor, that you have nothing to worry about. I'm assuming that you're worried about whatever stalks the forest?" Some of the weapons angle themselves at Tigress's face."Lies!" Another voice shouts from the back. "My older brother always said that Tai Lung was an honorable teacher! He'd always put his students first!"
"Yeah! I saw him in the Library once! If the Exarch allowed him in the city then he must have seen something good in him too! Whatever you are, you're just trying to trick us!" Another shouts. This throws Tigress for a loop and she seems unable to comprehend that your name seemed to have rallied them together."Did any of my students make it?" You ask anxiously. "If I can talk to them then. Then I-""WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING?!" A voice shouts angrily. The kids infront of you stiffen visibly. From behind a few trees you see a familiar face limp angrily towards your group. They huff and pant as they stand on one foot and brandish a makeshift crutch at the adolescents. "How many times have we told you not to play as guards! Go put those weapons back!" The fox shouts angrily."We're protecting the city Rabten!" The teenager shouts back. "There's no one else left to! It's our duty!"Rabten. That was a name you recognized. He was on of your most veteran students. He was also one of the group that helped break up the fight when some of the husbands attacked Renshu's diner."From what? There's no one around for miles and now you're scaring off people looking for shelter?!" He asks. "From the evil spirits outside! The charms might have been destroyed!" The teen shouts back."Who told you about that?" The fox snaps and jabs at the nearest kid. "And the charms are fine! I helped the Exarch set them up this morning! Now go! Before I decide to tell your mothers that you're all so willingly ready to run to danger.""And what are you gonna do?" The teenager asks defiantly."You are going back. Nevermind what I'll be doing. You're all already in deep trouble seeing as the rest of the guard are looking for their gear. So congratulations, if we were attacked you'd all be dead and you probably would have cost the lives of many others because the actual guard can't get properly armed. Now go!" He shouts and begins to swing wildly at the group. The teens disperse and hurry away but not without lingering around, worry evident on their faces. One more glare and they finally vanish. Rabten leans heavily on their crutch. "Gods...is that really you boss?" He asks with a sheen of heavy sweat on their brow. You move to help them but they wave their crutches at you. "It's me." You say unable to suppress a grin."I hope so. Otherwise, I'm a dead man." The fox replies. "Idiot kids are right. There's something out there in the forest. It's taken a lot of good men and women from us. I'm only out here because I'm willing to be fodder. Plus I'm one of the few who knows the real Tai Lung and Xin Lan.""What's out there?" You ask.
"I don't know. Whatever it is, its learning to copy us. Sometimes we hear what sounds like a person out there...and if the nights are particularly cruel we can remember the name of the person it once belonged to." Rabten says shaking his head. "But it's never entered the camp. Not since we've set up protective charms.""If we are this evil spirit. Why are you telling us this?" Tigress asks. "If you are then we're all dead." Rabten gives you a tired smile. "Or maybe after all that's happened, I still have hope that the one man who can save us has returned. After all, for all we know whatever is out there can eat memories or maybe even shapeshift.""Have you seen it then?" You ask immediately."No. I don't think anyone has. People just vanished in the night never to be seen again only for their voices to ring out in the following nights." The fox replies. "So...if the Gods have blessed us. I'm going to need to ask you to prove yourself boss. Otherwise, I hope you're sadistic enough to allow me to ask my ancestors for forgiveness before you take me.">What do you do?>Offer to tell Rabten something only the real Tai Lung and he would know. Problem is...what would only the two of you know that no one else does? (Write in. Make up your own little factoid.)>Say that you won't move from this position. You're willing to be restrained and tested as they see fit but if it makes everyone safer, you'll reside at the edge of the camp.>Offer to show something from the Library. Even if whatever is in the forest knew everything about you, they wouldn't be in possession of something from the top of the mountain. (What do you show?)>Write in.
>>5655286>Our memory is much better than before the libarary, Recite our lesson plan and if we can, what specifically Rabten excelled at.
>>5655286>Offer to tell Rabten something only the real Tai Lung and he would know. Problem is...what would only the two of you know that no one else does? (Write in. Make up your own little factoid.)We can probably repeat one of our lessons word for word. We did lecture then on morality too, didn't we?
Also, it's really a skinwalker isn't it? I hate when my paranoia is right
>>5655538>>5655471Going through the archives for TL's nuggets of wisdom. Writing.
"A confrontation that is avoided altogether is also one with no collateral damages after all." You recite from memory as you remember that lesson so very long ago in the large grassy field near the large tree just outside the city gates. "But let us suppose that only you can help, any other is too far away or simply won't. In that event, there are three key words. Defusal, removal, defense. Defuse the situation however you are able without resorting to violence. Words and preventative measures are a more efficient and safe weapon than martial arts. Remove yourselves and/or the threatened party from the situation, through convincing them to leave, step back, just generally remove the causes of the argument and the potential victims of such. Force is still discouraged but may be required. Lastly is Defense. Minimum force required to ensure your own safety is to be used and nothing more. Minimum force may mean slapping them and running away in the opening. It may mean throwing them through a table to render them unconscious. But it will never amount to needing to kill nor brutalize someone. Of course, you'd probably know those lessons better than anyone. Given that you saved my partner's life when their diner was attacked. Or maybe we can reminisce about all those hours we spent eating there and sharing stories. Of course, I remember a lot of it was free given the fact you helped carry and sneak in ingredients after the other merchants refused to sell to us."Rabten leans against the crutch and lets out a long sigh. "Boss it really is you..." He says as all the tension leaves his body. He quickly motions for you to follow and heads back to a small line of trees. "We tried our best to make as much room for people to rest in but the bigger the area, the easier it is for there to be gaps. Eventually we've managed to strike a balance but most of us decided to stay near the center." He explains as he limps ahead of you. You pull the cart with you and cross the threshold of trees. Immediately you feel a sense of relief as if a weight is removed from your shoulders. Accompanying that sensation is the cool rush of a reassuring breeze before you feel the dozens of curious gazes from beyond mortal view. The small presences float around your head curiously before floating off to go do something else. "Welcome home boss." Rabten says and bringing your focus back to the material plane. He motions to the large abandoned temple that was surrounded and full of hundreds of people. Though it's walls were cracked and aged, and it's halls partially engulfed by trees, you can see that it had been cleaned up as best as possible. The flickering light of flames can be seen from within along with the silhouettes of people inhabiting it. "It's not much but we managed to find this temple. About the only thing large enough to house so many people. It also seems to be the only holy site in this evil place."
"So what, you're not gonna test us? I can tell you tons of things the big guy doesn't want to hear. Like this one time, when he and my brother were alone-" Xin Lan starts and you simply cup your entire hand around their head. Rabten shakes his head."I don't think there's anything out in the world that can match your energy Lady Boss. Besides, if teacher says it's you then it must be true. We both know he's enlightened beyond his years." He replies with a smile. Tigress makes a face as she attempts to hold something back. Rabten holds his fingers to his mouth and lets out a series of whistles everyone perks up to look towards him and several others begin to come forward. "My friends, people of the Library! There is no cause for alarm. We are still safe. Tai Lung has returned to us along with Xin Lan! Though we have suffered much these past few months, the Gods have blessed us by returning two of our own back!" A small crowd begins to form around you and you immediately recognize many of them as your old students. "Teacher is it really you?" One asks as he adjusts his injured arm in it's sling.."Boss, you're alive!""Sifu! I knew you'd come back one day! You'd never abandon us!"The chorus of voices rises more and more as they come closer before Rabten lets out another whistle for silence. He moves over to the group and puffs up his chest. "The Tai Lung school of Martial arts has something to say. Everyone!" The group stands at attention and everyone that could places their fist in the palm of their other hand as a salute before they all kneel and place their heads on the ground looking for forgiveness. "Teacher! We're sorry! We disobeyed your teachings and risked our lives fighting! You taught us that our training was for self defense only and not as a means to go look for fights but we couldn't sit by and allow our home to be taken! We took up arms and used what you taught us to protect our homeland! Many of us still suffer from the consequences of our actions but we wouldn't let our Teacher's friends and family fight alone! We accept whatever punishment you deem fit. Even if it means kicking us out of your school!">What do you say?>Write in
>>5656013>Give them a minute to settle.These poor fools, poor but dutiful fools. I'm not going to scold them too harshly, but they are right. They aren't guards.>"You're fools, these mongolians are elites, Trained and hardened on the vast plains and fires of a hundred years of revenge against us.What I taught you was never for something like that, Every one of you could have been killed and the injuries here are almost merciful compared with what could have happened!">"But it wasn't you who brought this conflict to the mountain, it wasn't you who brought flame and blade to the library. You all held no blame and no damage in this at all, and I am moved beyond joy to know that you have survived.Thank you for defending my family, and well done for defending your people.I will give you no punishment, I only ask that you look at what was wrought upon your fellows, and remember that this is the cost of war and reckless violence."I want to apologise, because TL probably still feels guilt about being indisposed. But now isn't the time. Not when they are all so earnest and relieved to have us back.
>>5656013>"I'll not punish you all in any way, the mere fact that you show remorse already is proof you took my teachings to heart. The attack on your home was a special case, of an enemy that wanted to destroy not only everything that you held dear, but your very souls. You did not seek trouble, but trouble sought you. I've been told of what happened while I was out, you attempted parley and talks first, and when the fight brought out, you sought to defend while retreating. All within what I taught you.">"But I'm afraid that the school will be no more either way. I came here to escort you all to the safety, so you can find a new home, and to be reunited with my friend Ming. After that I'll head north to Mongolia, to cull this evil by it's roots, and I'll stay there in exile.">"I'll give you all one last lesson however. The defense of one's home, family and friends is in fact the defense of the self. I always discouraged you from acting on it because the city was peaceful, and you were not trained to be warriors. In those circumstances, there was no true threat. But things have changed, and now you will have to brave a new world."
>>5656179The mongolians are elite and they weren't trained to fight is a better elaboration on what I mentioned in the last part, of the city being peaceful and they not being trained as warrior.I think we can merge both
>>5656180Yours is just a better write in in total. I'm gonna shift wholeheartedly to support this one over mine.Reads better and probably puts better. So slip the "these mongols" part behind "the city is peaceful"?Like>I always discouraged you from acting on it because the city was peaceful. Unlike you, these Mongolians are elites, Trained and hardened on the vast plains and fires of a hundred years of revenge against us. What I taught you was never for something like that, Every one of you could have been killed because of that difference and the injuries here are almost merciful compared with what could have happened!"