The Mists of Paoru
Yuting - 30th day of the 11th month, 3458
Metal Day, 30th day of the Dog month, year 3458 of Heavenly Fire
I nearly killed Raktim today. The only thing that stopped me was the certain threat of retaliation from Sarjana had I done so. But he’s more trouble than he’s worth, and I won’t be so forgiving next time—consequences (and Sarjana) be damned.
First thing this morning, we had to reeducate him about the anti-magic fields. He partially redeemed himself by identifying the cairn stones as being a type of granite.
Around midday, we reached a cairn where all of the stones had eyes on them. They were yokai, of course, but Raktim’s first thought was to make sure he had enough acid to burn them. Sarjana at least talked him out of that.
I offered tea to one of the little yokai, who readily—if somewhat greedily—accepted. It popped out of the cairn, rolled to where I was sitting, and lapped/sucked up the tea. It started to doze off but perked up once I began speaking. I asked if it knew the yokai Heitou, and its (adorable) response was, “Father.” I heard Yun cover a giggle with a cough, and I’ll admit even my own heart melted a little. I might’ve smiled. But Raktim let out a full-on belly laugh—just the thing to offend a yokai, which is exactly what happened. It immediately rolled back to its cairn and popped back into place. Every single one of those yokai looked sullen and angry and hurt, and I didn’t blame them. After I showed Raktim the error of his ways, I apologized to the group of yokai, and we continued.
Later in the afternoon, Raktim was being secretive about something. It turned out to be a floating anti-magic field that was glowing and sparking as though a spell were cast into it, but only on one edge—as though it were bumping into a spell and bouncing off. That turned out to be a fairly accurate assessment, for as soon as Yun cast a detect magic spell, the wild magic field—which the anti-magic field had been rubbing against—exploded in a sparkly rainbow shower of sure-hope-Yuting-had-a-nice-life.
The explosion covered about an acre. Within about 30 seconds, we were surrounded by a lush, beautiful tract of forest—perfect for offending Heitou who has obviously been meticulous about keeping the grassland clear of trees; not to mention giving the Lady a backdoor into Heitou’s domain. Oh, and all of the cairns in the area were toppled as well.
On the other hand, destroying the trees would likely mean my doom, thanks to Raktim’s stunt a couple of weeks ago. Vasan asserted that the new trees had not yet formed spirits, which only made my decision easier. Within half an hour, I had dragon-fired, fire-walled, burning flashed, and flame-jetted the entire forest into a field of cinders and ash.
While I was working, the others wandered off. I guess they couldn’t take the heat. Raktim, pillar of knowledge and scientific prowess that he is, wandered straight into an anti-magic field. I think it was another of his experiments. All of his magical items crumbled to dust, and he became extremely nauseated. I’d call that an experimental success.
I rejoined the party as Sarjana was attempting to heal him. Strangely, her zhurdana healing actually hurt him. Vasan theorized that Raktim’s body was rejecting tianshi, which some scholars believe fuel zhurdana powers. Then he said something about void yokai, but at that point my grin was so big my ears were covered, and I couldn’t hear him very well.
We continued and later witnessed two more interactions of anti-magic and wild magic fields. We were eventually approached by a robed figure, a servant of Heitou’s called Shaofeng Feng. He had come for our intentions. To paraphrase, we had made a bumbling mess of things and weren’t being quite as inconspicuous as planned. I couldn’t help but think of our first meeting with the laoru.
Shaofeng is an insectoid-humanoid, about the size of a mao man. His arms are basically man-sized versions of a mantis’ front appendages. According to Vasan, he’s a “fully actualized” tianshi. Shaofeng forbade us from speaking the Lady’s name in Heitou’s domain. Here they call her Yanyanyixi de Lanhua, or “Lady of the Dying Orchid.”
As the apparent ambassador for our expedition, it once again fell to me to explain our mission and motivations—only this time, we had an ally who could back up our claims. Shaofeng seemed surprised to learn that Gongniu was still alive, not to mention that he had allied with us against the Lady. Shaofeng allowed me to cast a spell on him that let him speak with Gongniu directly, who verified our story.
By the time Shaofeng was done, Raktim had moved to the front of the group. Shaofeng hissed his surprise and apparent disgust when he turned back to us and “knew” (spiritually analyzed?) Raktim by placing his hand on Raktim’s forehead and concentrating. Whatever he learned, he didn’t share. He gave us a cream for our eyes—which stank from here to Chenmo but let us see clearly into Jing Jingjie—and led us on our way.
I’m still not sure entirely of the cream’s ultimate purpose. Several hours later, its effects still haven’t worn off. It doesn’t let us see the anti-magic or wild magic fields, although Shaofeng navigates among them deftly. Perhaps it’s so we can act more naturally with him by seeing some of what he sees. Or perhaps it’s so we can see the “mark of death” hanging over Raktim—a beacon for void yokai.
When we confronted him with this, Sarjana again defended the fool and spoke on his behalf. He had “reinforced” his body through “rigorous exercise” and “a mildly poisonous alchemical tea,” and part of this process apparently involved inviting Death to supper. I knew they didn’t train summoners in the Principalities, but I had always assumed they at least taught people VOID YOKAI BAD. To top it off, it finally came out that this “reinforcement” is why he was too ill to go to Gongniu’s cave with us.
I had always assumed I was going to kill him with fire. Now doing it with love seems much more appropriate.