"I-" Meg started. "Thank you, Akaiji," she said, wiping her tears. "Your gesture is most appreciated."
"I-" Meg started. "Thank you, Akaiji," she said, wiping her tears. "Your gesture is most appreciated."
"I know now why you cry, but... " The towering, almost mechanical form remarked. Even talking normally, his low voice reverberated in the soles of one's shoes. Often, it seemed as if the crustatean-thing was really just a suit of vast, hollow brass armour. More leaves dusted across his implacable form, but his eyes didn't flinch a milimeter within the confines of his helm. "But it is something I can never do."
He didn't seem to expect an answer.
Almost solemly, it just seemed to clamber away, back into the arid morning.
It was nearly a month before the group was once again brought before Yao.
"Hello again, Akaijishinkaminarikajioyaji, Humans," the Celestial Dragon purred with a nod towards each. Akaiji, Ganzorig, Megaera, and Myfanwy were there, as was some new woman - an extremely curvaceous older woman in a very revealing 'dress.' She was giving Meg a jealous dirty look as she, and it was kind of hard not to, noticed the Monk's backside while they kowtowed before Yao.
Hey, wait! Wasn't she the lady who won that tournament? Kicked Shun's ass? Hey, yeah! Ling, or something... Oh, and wait, where was Shun? I guess he was too weirded out by everything. Or too hung-over to show up. Yu, also, wasn't there. :(
"I have good news," Yao began. "I have been granted permission to send you all to Zhaoge, to look into Shang Lao and whatever connection he may have with that Hong woman you informed me of." The Dragon nodded and one of his Lionfolk guards distributed to each party member a small sack containing what was, given Yao's wordst he last time they met, presumably a 2500 GP advance for the job, with an additional and equal sum to be awarded on their succesful return.
"Additionally, the matter of the monolith you found is being handled. I am to understand that at least one similar artifact was found recently in Cao - before you found the one you brought to me. As a result, her august personage Zhen has elected to personally handle the investigation. She is far more learned and wise than I, for all her many flaws, and I am sure that she will be able to discover their nature and identify any threat they or their makers may pose." Yao seemed slightly annoyed when he mentioned Zhen, but he still seemed pretty chipper overall.
"Most of you already know eachother. Joining you shall be Lin Shao - I believe some of you know her from the tournament I recruited you all from. Seeing as how she won and how you all have already proved quite competant and reliable, I am sure she shall prove quite helpful." As the Dragon praised her, Lin's face was several different shades of "you're godsdamn right I'm fantastic!" She just gave a bow and a soft, slightly ecstatic, thank you, though. Probably because she wasn't entirely sure on what the proper way of saying "You're right! Keep going on about how great I am!" was to a Dragon.
"If there is nothing else, Xun shall see you all to the capital. I wish you all safety and thank you once again for your services. You do yourselves great honor in fighting for those who cannot do so for themselves."
Xun, still in his Spirit Dragon form, teleported the group to Zhaoge. Immediately all the nearby people kowtowed before him. "This is Zhaoge's Market District," he began towards the group, "when you have accomplished the task Wise and Mighty Yao has set before you you are to speak to Tong Wei at the Pagoda of Celestial Thoughts in the Imperial Gardens. He shall get in contact with me, and I shall then return you to His Profound Eminence, Yao. Good luck, Akaijishinkaminarikajioyaji, good luck, Humans." And then the Shen Lung was gone.
The capital was one of, if not the, largest and most densely populated in all of Zhaoge and the Market District was, in many ways, the heart of the city. There were countless throngs of people going about their business, selling their wares on streetside carts or stands, enticing people to visit such and such a shop or inn, promoting whatever the next big event at the Imperial Arena was, and countless other bits of city life and commerce all blending together in an almost overwhelming pulse of life and movement.
Before the group could even finish taking it all in, Lin turned and faced them, one hand on her hip, and a sassy Lin look on her lovely face. "Alright, I remember you," she nodded towards Myfanwy. "I kicked your ass." Oh, Lin. "You look like a lost farmgirl" she said towards Meg, before turning to face Ganzorig "and as for you, my face is up here. If you're going to stare you can at least give a girl a compliment or two, rather than admiring in silence." she finished with a wink.
"Honored one," she started at Akaiji, clearly feeling a little nervous talking to him, "please tell me this lot isn't as hopeless as they look?"
The crab made a noise when honoured master Yao refered to him by name. True, it was the dragon that had given that name to Akaiji in the first place, but it was nice to be reminded of the award.
This did rather send his thoughts swimming until long after he had left, however, and he found his bubble being burst by an obnoxious new primate. A new breed?... No, maybe a slightly older version of the more beige-pinky ones, maybe?...
"This one has often heard conversement about the uselessness of dirt. The uselessness of a rainy day. The uselessness of fecal matter." His rough, weighty voice ploughed right into unintended insult ville. "Yet without these simple, honoured things, one would become of death. All would become of death."
The crab just gazed at the oddly shaped woman for a prolonged period, completely silent, completely still. The way she talked and held herself reminded him rather of a dragon, so he thought he should be specific in his answer, just in case.
"...We have fought horrid things and this one has not become of the honoured death. They are most adequate in the skill of projecting the deaths elsewhere. This one has no complaints..." He eventually elaborated, upon getting a look of sheer confusion. "Unless you were questioning wither they were hopeless in another category, such as painting a masterpiece, this one supposes. Further investigation is required."
Another long, almost childishly inquisitive glare. You could see him struggling to avoid slapping the female-thing with his antenna in order to get a better idea of what he was dealing with.
"Despite the fact this one does not wear fabric clothes, it does have high-quality rope in order to make armour repairs. Perhaps I can assist the much-honoured female mammal in her glorious meat sack containment issues?"
This is going to be a long mission, Meg thought, brushing Lin's remark aside. "We should find Shang Lao quickly," she spoke. Megaera gave a modest bow towards Lin. "Honorable lady," she said as she rose. "Have you been to Zhaoge? Do you have anything to share?"
"Uh... um... thank you, no, uh... my breasts are fine, thanks. Well, I mean, they're perfect, but you know what I mean. I think?" Lin stammered back at Akaiji before finding her groove again.
"'Course I've been here before." Lin answered, turning back to Meg and the others. "I was here a few months back, even. Fought in the Imperial Arena, even!" She seemed quite proud of herself. "It was my second time. "I kicked an Oni's face in, even. Like, gave him a worse beatdown than I did that drunk guy back at the tourny where I kicked her ass." She gave a illustrative nod towards Myfanwy.
"Had a few boyfriends here, too. One of 'em even turned out to be triad! Worse, the fucker was married. So I tracked his ass down and kicked his nads in - I don't do married guys." Lin laughed when, a few seconds later, the pun dawned on her. "No pun intended. But, yes. I've been here before. I know this city. Hells, I probably have a few fans here, even, I bet." Oh, Lin. "Before you ask - no. I don't know any Shang Lao. I don't know every guy in this city - not even all the cute ones. What do you guys know him about him? He triad or something?" Lin took the oportunity to stretch, deliberately trying to show off her body for Ganzorig, but pretty much getting looks from every heterosexual male within visual range.
Meg rubbed the bridge of her nose, striking a by the ancestors shut up and get to the point already kind of pose. "We do not know anything about Shang Lao," Meg sighed. "What's the best place to start our search?"
"Shang Lao knows the muscular female dog with a mask." The crab responded, still as if he was being tested. "Her name is Hong."
Suddenly, he rapidly pelted Lin with his antenna, not dissimilar to being bushwacked, before quickly returning to complete activity.
"Apologies, honourable female Lin Shao. This one desired to know if you were actually a dragon. I do not think you are. One hopes he has not failed the test."
"One also wonders why you carry such a boisterous demeanour and a suspicious quantities of human-attractive features, even in the case that this one is correct."
Maybe she was one of those golden way types too? She seemed to attract the humales in the same way, if not more.
Myfanwy was not pleased to see this Lin joining the group. Partially because of the hurt pride from the previous defeat, but partially because Myfanwy had beat her in the second battle (though she certainly had not won the tournament.) She glared at the woman upon, biting her tongue hard to not make mention of it, seeing how they had more important things to do (she didn't know how long she'd be able to keep shut up.) She let go a slight laugh when their Crab-companion whacked Lin with his antennae, a fact she didn't attempt to hide.
"There may be any record of Hong or Shang Lao, you think, at the town hall? Maybe? Perhaps they have had difficulties with the law here in the past?" Probably not.
Lin shrugged at Meg. "It's not really much to go on. I mean, he triad? He sounds triad. Hangin' with pirates, and all. I mean, we could always go asking around some of hte local triad dives I kn-" Lin signed and turned ready to slap watever shithead it was that was grop- oh, it was Akaijis, uh... tentacles? feelers? Antenna?
"Um. What are y-" Oh. He thought she was a Dragon. She thinks? I mean, Akaiji's not the easiest to understand. "Oh... uh, no, I'm not, I'm not a Dragon. But, uh, thank you. You're sweet." Lin sounded uncharacteristically gracious to the crab-thing and gave it a pat on what she assumed was it's head. I mean, that's where the helmet was.
"I guess that idea works too?" Lin said derisively towards Myfanwy. "I mean, if you want to wait around for ancestors know how long. I mean, you do know how big this city is, right? Does Shang Lao know that we know he's involved? Dude's gotta know you all busted those pirates, right?" She gave a humorless laugh. "Fucker could already be out of the city."