Tales From the Yellow City

Back to the River

Month of Libra and Virgo

Mu and Kai Leng plan an expedition to the Alon Tribe in Lamarakh to secure a connection with Mu’s second cousin and opium master Ni Lan I. Kojo unfortunately could not come with them, but lends them his boat as well as a map showing the optimal route to the place.
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Kesht Malaba later on introduces Dyuang to Kai Leng. Kai Leng tours Dyuang around the palace academy, who is pleasantly surprised by its vastness. “It’s like the bird hall,” he wonders aloud. “You mean, the place where they keep birds?” Kai Leng quips. “From time to time, they even let people in, to stare and marvel at the birds.” “What a barbaric practice!”

Kesht Malaba leaves parting advice. “Try not to kill students.”
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Dyuang goes on his quest to find the perfect Tea Bong. “It’s a strange barbaric practice”, Kai Leng mutters, appearing out of nowhere. Desperate, Dyuang buys an opium bong instead and attempts to smoke the Nyuang Sag tea there and there on the spot. Luckily, the bong works perfectly!

Kai Leng is fascinated. “Where, where can I source this wonderful tea?” “My, is this a business proposition?” Together, they walk off from the shop, deep in talk. They head to the laboratory at Rohan’s shrine.

Kai Leng takes a hit of the tea bong. Nyuang Sag feels similar to Caterpillar Sleeper. A brilliant idea: what if they market Caterpillar Sleeper as the Sughd variant? They try smoking Caterpillar Sleeper to check whether it can pass for the more premium product. It tastes like Nyuang Sag in the same way that poop can taste like corn. “ARE YOU TRYING TO HAZE ME?” Dyuang cries out in outrage.

They try out different combinations: Caterpillar Sleeper smoked, Nyuang Sag drunk, mixture of the two, smoked and drunk… the latter two are horrible. “Good morning!” the slug alchemist greets, as he enters the laboratory and into his work area. The slug, curious about what the others were doing, grabs the mixed tea concoction. “Let me have that”, he grumbles. One hour and one wave of alchemical expertise later, he brandishes a small sheet to the party. He holds up the sheet to the bunsen burner. The ashes are then mixed into water. Rohan, Kai Leng, and Dyuang taste it…and it’s good. So good, in fact, that it’s better than the two individual tea mixes.

They scheme, gleefully. If they find a reliable source for the Sughd tea…and if they launch the concoction at a hipster event with crab art exhibits…then they can make bank. So much bank. ALL THE BANK.
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Meanwhile, Rohan markets the Caterpillar Sleeper to his market adherents. Celine, however, hates its taste. “Ew, this tastes kind of like my sweat.” Rohan blinks. Oh right, he forgot he needed to ask about that. Uhm. Is there any good way of asking about sweat without coming across as creepy af? “W-where do you bathe?” he nearly asks. Wait. No. Scratch that. He’ll think about it later tonight.

Kai Leng sells the same Caterpilla Sleeper elsewhere, but at a higher market rate. “You can get the same product cheaper at the Con Rua shrine, though,” he advises customers, driving more converts to the shrine. Just as planned.
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With that, the month of Virgo passes.
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The Lamarakhi expedition commences. The party travels upstream through the God River. All is peaceful until the third day, when they are suddenly attacked by a humongous, man-eating arowana! Using teamwork, oars, and the power of Con Rua, the party was able to subdue and behead the enemy. Slicing the arowana open, they find…a bag of 160 gold! HOOOOoooly shit. They are minted with the iconography of the topaz dragon, but surrounded with Old Sughd symbols. Spoken aloud, they speak of the origin of the coins: a strange location called Alexandria. “Property of Alexandria,” it said. “City of Knowledge”.

The party preserve the arowana, pickling the meat. Hurrah, lots of rations for later!
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3 more days pass. Twilight approaches. Boats pass, but as darkness falls, they number fewer and fewer until eventually the party spot no more. They rest for the night.

The boat rocks.

Mu goes out to check, and is horrified by the sight. Men, with arowana heads, emerge from the water, climb aboard the boat and begin to corner her. She rushes back inside the boat. “We’re under attack!” she cries. Kai Leng and Dyuang waste no time barricading all portals. The men burst in, in the form of strange, half-amalgated dream forms of their worst fears. They crowd. They attack. They sandwich the heroes in a deadly squeeze.

Rohan prays to his god and sees the truth! It was fake all along. A deadly magic cast by an enraged Naga. “Guys, wake up, it’s not real!” “What do you mean, ’it’s not real’?” Mu retorts. “This is the God River, this is normal!” She was too entrenched in the illusion to see the reality.

Kai Leng and Rohan, followed by Djuang, fight the abomination, while Mu battles it out in the dream vision. Desperate, Mu jumps into the water, casting darkness at the area to debilitate the monstrosities. Breaking the line of sight breaks the illusion, and she finally sees the Naga attacking her friends. The Naga shouts in Lamarakhi, “How dare you anger a river spirit! You killed one of my most faithful followers!” “We’re sorry!” Mu exclaims. “It attacked us first!” “But you pickled the meat! The predator feasts on its prey, but then returns the remains to the river!” the Naga shrieked back. Survival of the fittest, it understood. Pickling, much less so.

Mu translates it for the party. Rohan and Djuang quickly act by throwing the rest of the pickled arowana back to the waters. The naga wraps around the barrel and submerges, disappearing from their view. Her anger was, at last, mollified.

And so the eventful first leg of their journey to the Lamarakhi concludes. A new day begins.

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