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  1. [16:50] <@Earthflame> Kowloon has been, for the past few weeks, safer than it has been in years. Perhaps even decades. It is not a city without crime, but it is a city without the Lotus. Indeed, the local criminal underworld actually had a major part in the cleanup operation, local gangs reclaiming territory from the now fragmented and weak Lotus, often ensuring their victory in the defeated mens blood. There
  2. [16:50] <@Earthflame> are few happy endings for those who chose the Lotus willingly.
  3. [16:50] <@Earthflame> For those who were their slaves, however, there is hope. Deep below the city, Sen and his people care for those who cannot be housed elsewhere, those in stable conditions who only need to be supported until they can be treated. Up above, the Resplendent Phoenix compound acts as a base for medical care, paying special attention to the lotus girls, the most afflicted servants of the dark
  4. [16:50] <@Earthflame> flower. Many doctors from elsewhere have been brought into the city, although the actions of a certain local doctor have drawn some notice for their effectiveness.
  5. [16:50] <@Earthflame> Assisting in this work, as nurses and aides, are many of those the Lotus kept in bondage. Less severe than the suffering they inflicted on their corrupted slaves, their indebted servants seem to take to it as an act of penance and redemption. One in particular, Midnight Rain, shows particular diligence, working all the hours she can to help do what good she may. But, this morning, all of
  6. [16:50] <@Earthflame> that seems like it may change. This is a day Kowloon was covered in red.
  7. [16:54] <@Earthflame> Red paper. It does not seem particularly foreboding. A red sky, or rain, or blood, or mist would all seem far worse. But, unlike these things, paper can carry words. And these words bode ill indeed. 'By Order, this building is scheduled for demolition in two weeks time. Please vacate the premises no less than one week in advance, as preliminary demolition work may need to be carried out'.
  8. [16:54] <@Earthflame> And, on this morning, the residents of Kowloon wake to find every building- Every extension, flat, partition and lean-to- marked with identical sheets of red paper.
  9. 06[16:58] * Len_Huang having no building of his own, Len is forced to read on with the crowd, picking up one of the many tossed fliers. He read it, briefly. Well, good! People shouldn't be living in squalor as bad as Kowloon. Len had to snort at the Two Weeks eviction. Two Weeks? Try two years! It would take months to move every soul in Kowloon.
  10. 01[16:59] <Shehou> Shehou is leaning against a wall, just staring at the papers littering the city. "...This can't possibly be legal, and not a soul with any sense would buy into it. Either somebody is playing a sick joke, or this is the first sign... somebody with power preparing to make their move..."
  11. [17:00] <He_Jiang> Almost too tired to move, Jiang likely would not have even noticed the paper were it not for Bao taking an interest in a thing that was bright and battable. "By Order..." A frown builds, as Jiang takes mental stock. They're declaring war on the whole city...
  12. [17:02] <@Earthflame> Amongst the citizens, reactions vary. Some laugh. Others shrug, and get on with their day. Others panic, and rush to pack their things, and still more walk quietly, their faces crossed with uncertainty and dread. They ask who is doing this, and who could have done all this in just one night, without a single soul being seen. Rumours speak of something worse than the Lotus, that is coming
  13. [17:02] <@Earthflame> to take their place. And wonder if any could stand against it. The more optimistic, or mournful, say that they have only two weeks to find out.
  14. 06[17:06] * Len_Huang decided a proper visit was over, and soon found his feet had taken him to He Jiang's tiny shop. Knock Knock Knock.
  15. [17:09] <He_Jiang> "Mngh. Come in." Bao's there to greet Len, Jiang resting on the couch.
  16. 06[17:10] * Len_Huang has fashioned a hat out of one of the red fliers, and holds another in his hand. "Have you seen all the paper around? Going to be good padding for weeks." He sidled in, giving Bao a pet on the head. "What do you think? There are no goverment seals on this. Plus it's too short."
  17. 01[17:10] <Shehou> Shehou drops into the shadows of a nearby alleyway from the rooftops and walks over, apparently preferring a method of travel that avoids the paniced mobs of people in the streets. "Hello."
  18. [17:12] <He_Jiang> "It's a threat, I'm sure." The doctor rises, pawing at an eye, the flier for Jiang's own shop resting on the floor for Bao to play with. Len and Shehou get polite bows of the head.
  19. 01[17:15] <Shehou> Shehou steps inside, not dropping her hood until she's away from the door. "The group the Lotus aligned themselves with perhaps? Whoever it is... I'm surprised no officials are scrambling to do anything yet about this, isn't that... you know, their job?"
  20. [17:16] <Len_Huang> "It's only been a few hours. Whoever they are, they move faster than the officials...Well, that isn't exactly hard, but, my point still stands."
  21. [17:18] <He_Jiang> "How do we even prepare for what's coming? We don't know who they are or..." A big yawn from the little doctor. "Or their methods..."
  22. 01[17:19] <Shehou> "...You make it sound like anybody with any official power in this city moves at the speed of a corpse... is that actually the way things are here?"
  23. 06[17:19] * Len_Huang gives Shehou a look. "...That's the way it works everywhere. Have you been in the mountains?"
  24. [17:20] <Len_Huang> "I'm sure they'll send a calling card. People like them are terrible like that."
  25. 01[17:21] <Shehou> "...Where I was raised, we all take care of our people, and everyone gets the help they need... That was priority one."
  26. [17:22] <He_Jiang> "It sounds like a nice place..."
  27. [17:22] <Len_Huang> "That is a very nice place. Welcome to the city. It's not that."
  28. [17:23] <He_Jiang> "Mrh." There goes the smile.
  29. 01[17:24] <Shehou> "It is... for somebody who has nothing, to be able to find the help to get back on their feet and live again..." Shehou sighs and pops her shoulder around.
  30. [17:26] <Len_Huang> "Have you found yourself well here, settled in?" Len sat down on one side of the couch.
  31. 01[17:29] <Shehou> "I find I don't need terribly much to live comfortably, but yes..." Shehou looks down, something weighing on her mind.
  32. 06[17:33] * He_Jiang bobs forward a bit, jolted awake by the sudden change of balance. "Is something wrong?"
  33. 01[17:36] <Shehou> "Just... thinking. Old memories, you know? The vague, fuzzy ones that poke at you."
  34. [17:36] <Len_Huang> "Ah..." Len nodded, and then shook his head. "No."
  35. [17:37] <He_Jiang> "Len. Be nice."
  36. 01[17:37] <Shehou> "No? I'm not following. Do you just have a perfect memory or something?"
  37. [17:39] <Len_Huang> "Suddenly I have the strangest case of Deja Vu. I did this exact thing to Shuxiang." Len perked up, as the thought occurred to him. "You must excuse me, the street does not give much entertainment and I, ah, must make my own."
  38. 01[17:40] <Shehou> "Right then... Now I'm just completely confused, and that's never good for me."
  39. [17:50] <@Earthflame> And then comes a knock at the door, although the knocker enters without waiting for an answer. Midnight Rain is a familiar sight to He Jiang, and Len might recognize her as a patient at He Jiang's shop. now, she wears practical clothing, her hair pulled back in a ponytail and a white armband marked with a red cross adorning her arm. She seems somewhat surprised by the occupants, but
  40. [17:50] <@Earthflame> doesn't let it deter her, looking towards He Jiang. "You're needed at the Phoenix compound. As soon as you can."
  41. [17:52] <Len_Huang> "Sounds important."
  42. [17:53] <He_Jiang> "A-ah, alright." Rising, Jiang bites back another yawn, bowing to Shehou and Len in turn. "You two are welcome to tea, but don't touch anything with a cork. Bao, watch things for me."
  43. [17:54] <@Earthflame> Midnight Rain looks at the two of them. "...If these are the people you fought the Lotus with, it might be an idea for them to come to. This isn't a strictly medical matter."
  44. 06[17:55] * Len_Huang that made Len look up from toying with the cat. "Now it sounds interesting."
  45. [17:56] <He_Jiang> "If they are willing?"
  46. 01[17:57] <Shehou> Shehou tilts her head, looking at the messenger with renewed interest. "Alright then, let's be on our way. I'm more than willing to come along, if I can help with anything at all."
  47. [17:57] <Len_Huang> "Always. It's a beautiful day and my plan is flexible." Len stood up, taking his traveler's staff from the door. "And good company makes a beautiful day a memorable day."
  48. 06[17:58] * He_Jiang nods. "Lead the way."
  49. [17:58] <@Earthflame> As Midnight Rain turns to lead the way, Shehou gets a clear look at a Lotus brand, upon her neck. She seems to have taken no effort to cover it up, ignoring it as if it no longer matters. "Hurry, please."
  50. 01[18:03] <Shehou> Shehou looks at her, a trace of sadness in her eyes, as she puts her hood back up and walks out to follow.
  51. 06[18:04] * Len_Huang takes no notice of the mark, instead taking in how much better Midnight Rain looked then the last time he saw her. She was doing well, that was nice. He whistled as his staff bounced along the road as they quickly made their way.
  52. 06[18:05] * He_Jiang follows the set of shoes in front, wincing a bit on the first brush of sunlight.
  53. [18:07] <@Earthflame> The phoenix compound seems to be bustling. Lots of girls run hither and thither, but Midnight Rain walks through the chaos without pause, leading them deep into the compound, to one of the audience rooms, where the Lady Phoenix, the mistress of the compound, and a couple of the more senior doctors wait. There is no formality or trivial talk, instead, she launches into a very direct
  54. [18:07] <@Earthflame> question. "Is it safe to move the patients? Could it disrupt their ongoing treatments?"
  55. [18:09] <He_Jiang> "A-ah..." A series of blinks to fight off those heavy eyelids. "Yyyes. It is safe. But they will need a nurse with them."
  56. [18:10] <@Earthflame> "One per patient? And for how long after the move?"
  57. [18:11] <He_Jiang> "Mh...n-no, one per fifty should be safe. For the duration of treatment, it's-it's a safety measure."
  58. [18:12] <@Earthflame> She nods, and looks to the doctors to either side of her, saying one word. "Go.". In moments, they're gone, and she seems to relax a bit. "...We're making preparations to move the patients, just in case. Now its begun, we have some time... Please, take a seat."
  59. [18:14] <Len_Huang> "You don't actually take these notes to have weight to them?" Len asked, looking concerned.
  60. 06[18:14] * He_Jiang picks the nearest seat, gesturing to the others. "Oh, these are...Len Huang and Shehou."
  61. 01[18:16] <Shehou> Shehou sets herself down off to the right of He Jiang, still looking rather distracted.
  62. [18:17] <@Earthflame> "We do." She gives each of them a nod. "We've had news from some of our people outside the city, with connections inside business and government. Many of our usual contacts have gone silent, or are loathe to tell even our most persuasive agents anything. The little we have gleaned is that someone has applied for permission to renovate the illegally occupied area known as the Kowloon Walled
  63. [18:17] <@Earthflame> City. And some fool has granted it."
  64. 01[18:21] <Shehou> "It's the true Lotus...or the one they've allied with that scared that splinter faction off. It has to be."
  65. [18:21] <Len_Huang> "Well, they can't even attempt to evacuate in two weeks. It would take years alone to evict and even begin construction." Len gestured with his hands.
  66. [18:22] <Len_Huang> "I can only conclude that the most nefarious things are under way."
  67. [18:22] <@Earthflame> Shehou gets a long look, and her eyes narrow slightly. "...Might I ask you to introduce yourself, Shehou? I would wish to know your stake in this, before I continued. Our enemy may have agents in many places."
  68. 01[18:29] <Shehou> Shehou lowers her hood slowly, and the look in her eyes has become quite focused and serious. "...The Lotus is a personal enemy of mine. They orchestrated the events that cost me everything... and now I'm no longer a defenseless child, forced to watch her own life be torn apart, and I'm going to dismantle them piece by piece, until nothing remains of that den of murderous bastards, and each one of them has felt the wrath of the millions of angered souls that lies squarely upon their heads!"
  69. [18:31] <@Earthflame> She raises an eyebrow. "How melodramatic." With that said, she looks to Len. "We feel the same way. An entire evacuation in a week is impossible. Which means they're here to destroy more than just the buildings. This is an attack". She sighs, and spreads her palms. "...And we are not sure what to do. Our people in the main branch are floundering, and... I am afraid for my girls, and those
  70. [18:31] <@Earthflame> poor patients...". She looks incredibly stressed, drained by the whole situation.
  71. [18:32] <Len_Huang> "We three may be fighters of an unmatched caliber, but generals we are not...are we? He Jiang, Shehou?"
  72. 01[18:33] <Shehou> "I'm not a particularly skilled general, no... I can fight, and I can sow the seeds of terror in my enemies, but lead an army, I'm not so sure."
  73. [18:34] <He_Jiang> A slow shake of the head. "But...I know that diagnosing a cough is a waste of time. We need to see more, before we can apply medicine... Defensive observation is the best I can think to do."
  74. [18:35] <@Earthflame> "It is not even a question of that, yet. Do we need an army? Should we fight or run? Do we fight to win, or to buy time to go elsewhere? And where else could so many people go?" She glances to He Jiang, and then nods. "You are right. We need to know more. Our people on the mainland will keep doing what they can, but we must act as if we are alone. And we only have a week before they begin
  75. [18:35] <@Earthflame> whatever they are planning."
  76. 01[18:39] <Shehou> "In that case, yes, strengthen the defenses of your facilities as best you can... If you have anyone skilled in the art of creating traps of any sort, anything that could thin their numbers or drive some of them back should it come to that, then begin preparations for such things as well."
  77. [18:39] <Len_Huang> "Then we must expand our knowledge on the situation." Len declared decisively. "The larger one is the harder one must hide, they threaten a city. Therefore they must hide something that can threaten a city.
  78. [18:41] <@Earthflame> "...They threaten a city, indeed. Which means they need demolitions equipment. Tools, machines, vehicles, and a lot of people to run them. We are trying to follow the money, of course... But if you could find them on the ground, before they ever reach Kowloon, you could cripple them."
  79. 01[18:41] <Shehou> "Len, would it be possible to create a tunnel system, leading down to the place Sen's people fear to tread into? I have a feeling the things that dwell there might be useful, if we could herd some of our foes into their grasp."
  80. [18:43] <Len_Huang> "Things, what things?" Len opened an eye. "Like, big rats and tossed away shoes?"
  81. 06[18:45] * He_Jiang just...looks at Len, too tired to be embarrassed for him.
  82. 01[18:47] <Shehou> "...No, it's far worse than anything like that. I went down in there, and even I was chased out of there...whatever is actually in there, it's... quite possibly something that has seen the border between this world and the world all manner of nightmares reside within."
  83. [18:47] <Len_Huang> "Ah, where man lays heavy, the world lies thin. If it is as dangerous as you say, then very few would want to build a path there."
  84. [18:47] <He_Jiang> "I'm hesitant to use such a thing as a weapon..."
  85. [18:47] <@Earthflame> "If possible, it is best not to agitate such things. If we could quell them before they ever reached the city... But if we cannot, then traps are a good plan. We will see what can be done."
  86. 01[18:50] <Shehou> "It was  simply a thought, for using the city against them. Perhaps also some strategic locations, narrow streets they could be herded into, for death to rain down upon them from the buildings above."
  87. [18:50] <Len_Huang> "We'd need men." Len pointed out. "And supplies. And a will. The will is the most important thing. Without will, there is no way."
  88. [18:51] <@Earthflame> "That could work... But their goal is demolition. If they tear down the buildings as they go, our ambushes will be rather neutered." She nods to Len. "Manpower... It is something we lack. But we do have allies, and hopefully they will send their aid. If any of you know of other groups who could help us, I would beg you to send word. And, if you do go beyond the city, if you could find
  89. [18:51] <@Earthflame> others to aid us, it would be greatly valued."
  90. 06[18:54] * Len_Huang looked uneasy, as if he were sitting on pins.
  91. [18:55] <@Earthflame> ...And apparently she notices this, fixing him with a focused look.
  92. 01[18:55] <Shehou> "I could perhaps see if my people would be able to send any aid... but I fear that might be difficult for them, beyond being able to shelter any people well enough to be sent there."
  93. [18:59] <He_Jiang> "...Len?"
  94. 06[18:59] * Len_Huang holds fast under the gaze, though looks a little rattled. "Well, then we must depend on the city to protect itself, and stir up aid where we can."
  95. [19:00] <He_Jiang> Hrrm.
  96. [19:01] <@Earthflame> "Hmph." She doesn't seem satisfied by the answer, but says. "Whatever you do, there is need to do it with utmost haste. Time is our enemy. We will do whatever we can do aid you, but we have our own affairs to take care of..." She pauses, and adds. "...If you need transport to elsewhere on the island, or to the mainland, your best bet is to talk to those pirates, distasteful as it may be.
  97. [19:01] <@Earthflame> We must cooperate with those sorts, in these difficult times."
  98. [19:04] <He_Jiang> "Mm." Jiang nods, a bit harder than needed.
  99. [19:07] <Len_Huang> "Troubling times." Len noted. "We must test the shores and waters, before the flood comes."
  100. [19:08] <@Earthflame> This seems to remind her of something, and she reaches into a pocket, pulling out a folded piece of white paper. "I was asked to give you this, Len. She didn't tell me who it was from, but said that you would know." She proffers it to him.
  101. 01[19:09] <Shehou> "Then we should investigate the surrounding area first, to see what we can find... That does still leave the possibilities of an underground or aerial attack on the city however... do you have any way to check both of those?"
  102. [19:11] <Len_Huang> "They'll go straight through the city Shehou, no fancy moves." He accepted the white scrap, unfolding it and reading it to himself.
  103. 01[19:14] <Shehou> "It's still worth a thought... Any strategist with half of a mind would know releasing some kind of chemical or poison into the city to weaken any resistance before invading would be an ideal plan, especially for a group that has intensive knowledge in drugs and poisons."
  104. 06[19:14] * Len_Huang suddenly snorts, holding a hand to his mouth.
  105. [19:15] <@Earthflame> The Lady Phoenix frowns "...I had not even considered that. But I cannot believe they would be so bold... If the toxin's effects spread beyond Kowloon-" She gives Len a look. "...Is something funny?"
  106. [19:17] <Len_Huang> "Oh, no, no. Just some...bad poetry." He quickly folded the lines. "We can depend on two friends so far. We should visit the pirates, after that...well, we shall see."
  107. [19:19] <@Earthflame> This gets her brow to crease for a moment, but she nods. "If there is anything more I can do, please say, but if not, go quickly. We all have work that must be done."
  108. [19:20] <Len_Huang> "We understand." Len nodded, wiping his brow.
  109. [19:23] <He_Jiang> Jiang might need a nudge. Seems the doctor just found the chair too comfortable.
  110. [19:23] <He_Jiang> "Zz~"
  111. 01[19:23] <Shehou> "Perhaps... Thank you, we'll return with any information and results we can gather, as soon as the opportunity arises to do so."
  112. [19:26] <@Earthflame> She nods, standing. "Good luck." With those simple words, she leaves the room.
  113. 06[19:26] * Len_Huang poke, poke. Wake up He Jiang you're drooling.
  114. [19:27] <Len_Huang> "You can depend on us." Len said as she left. "Well...more than any of us bargained for."
  115. [19:27] <He_Jiang> "Nnh--"
  116. 01[19:27] <Shehou> Shehou has, oddly, returned to seeming distracted again... "We won't fail."
  117. 03[19:28] * Earthflame is now known as EF_Crash
  118. 01[19:33] <Shehou> "So... guys... sorry about that outburst before..."
  119. [19:34] <He_Jiang> "The poisons everything around it. It's only right that you're angry." Jiang idly rubs the hidden lotus mark.
  120. [19:35] <Len_Huang> "We've dealt with the seed, now we must set fire to the mother plant."
  121. 01[19:38] <Shehou> "My people... they've been good to me, and my mentors were like a mother and father, but still... I can't rest until I bring peace to somebody important, and that mean we rip the Lotus up, burn it, and make sure it can't grow back..."
  122. 06[19:39] * He_Jiang nods slowly.
  123. [19:41] <Len_Huang> "Tragic, but a noble goal. You will fit snugly here." Len said strangely.
  124. 01[19:45] <Shehou> "Thank you... I'm not terribly used to dealing with the outside world, as our facilities are rather self-sufficient, getting those who are able back up on their feet, and teaching them useful life skills to return to the world..."
  125. [19:47] <He_Jiang> "It's a skill like any other. I'm sure you'll pick it up soon." A warm smile.
  126. [19:50] <Len_Huang> "Though mastering it, most of us have not done that." Len added, lifting his staff onto his shoulder.
  127. 01[19:50] <Shehou> "Mm... I do hope so. Some residents... worse off than myself, can never return to the outside world, not in any proper fashion at least."
  128. [19:55] <Len_Huang> "So , you were a, retreat? For the ill?"
  129. [19:55] <Len_Huang> *at
  130. 01[20:02] <Shehou> "...More like a refuge for those who have lost it all. The ones who run the place found me as a child, abandoned in the woods to die, with only the clothes on my back. The same ones I sewed into this robe to make the hood and patchwork."
  131. [20:16] <Len_Huang> "Well...that's something out of a fireside tale."
  132. 01[20:20] <Shehou> "It's more common than you think... some people delight in acts of cruelty toward children."
  133. [20:25] <He_Jiang> "I need to...go run the shop again. Yes." Jiang nods, wobbling after a stand.
  134. 01[20:27] <Shehou> "Would you like some help getting back?"
  135. [20:29] <He_Jiang> "That would be very nice. It's been very exhausting..."
  136. 01[20:30] <Shehou> "Alright, let's be on our way then."
  137. [20:31] <He_Jiang> "Take care, Len. Stop antagonizing important people." Jiang's eyes close even as Len gets a lecture, following Shehou.
  138. [20:32] <Len_Huang> "I don't antagonize! I?"
  139. [20:33] <Len_Huang> "Bah! They don't know good wordplay." Len decided, walking out alone into the hectic city streets.
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