As Rakios brought the barge near the City of Resounding Bells, Little Rainbow Claw returned, wearing the form of a monkey. She briefly changed back to tell the heroes that she would lay low, awaiting a time to strike, for subtlety wasn’t in her nature. Then, disguising herself as a pet monkey, she clambered onto Shadow Edge’s back.
The guards at the gate found the travellers somewhat suspicious, but seeing no reason to bother the Dragon-Blooded, let them pass without difficulty. They entered the magnificent city between two stone gods, one male, one female, each holding a bell that rung in their arrival. Soon, their barge was on the Plum Leaf River, and from there, Ririka guided them to the Floating Market near House Penang.
This bustling market was a mishmash of canals and reservoirs, where foreign merchants brought silver and silk, and local farmers sold their valuable flowers, spices, and herbs. Rakios tied the boat next to a black-clad exorcist, who kept the port authority so busy arguing over his ghost-excising permits, that the Exalted heroes went unnoticed by. From here, they followed Ririka’s lead to the barge of Grandmother Koi, whose restaurant-boat served fried fish and vegetables.
Grandmother Koi recognized Ririka, and updated her and her friends on the affairs in Resounding Bells. A woman named the Star Jasmine Princess lay in the shadows of the city, claiming to be a descendant of the ancient and lost Queen of An-Teng. This Princess had kept herself secret, and spoken with few. She had conjured a demon by ancient magics, and with it, tried to slay a Dragon-Blood, but she had failed. Now, the Wyld Hunt sought her.
The Princess had only spoken with two individuals that Granny Koi knew of: Lady Fishhook, the rebellion leader, and one Jelang Keemia, matriarch of House Jelang, a booming merchant house. Neither were friends of the Realm. Fishhook, as the leader of the rebellion, would be most suitable to speak to; but Granny Koi explained, that she was very suspicious and would likely simply attack strangers on her turf unless they could prove their loyalty.
Two things were afoot that Granny Koi knew of: A barber named Kamui had been trusted to attend a Dragon-Blood, and was planning to kill him. Besides this, one of the best fighters in the Rebellion, one Kena Wai Kei, had been imprisoned and forced into servitude in the Perfumery for starting a fight. This was unrelated to the Rebellion’s efforts – she was simply very hot tempered – so the brawl had simply sent her to some months in indentured servitude, rather than death.
Rakios and Shadow Edge resolved to free this Wai Kei, as her brother was apparently quite close with Lady Fishhook. They left Ririka with Granny Koi, and headed through the streets of Resounding Bells just as the mid-morning prayer began.
The lazy guards were just beginning their shift as the heroes arrived at the great brick prison where the Perfumery slaves were held, and none had been let out yet. Seeing this, they devised a plan. Shadow Edge approached the guards, pretending to be a new recruit named Orange Chicken. He charmed the guards so thoroughly, that Rakios could cautiously approach the latrines behind the prison.
Here, he heard a fight in one of the women’s cells. As he suspected, it was Wai Kei, who had started a fight with a fellow inmate named Son Lai. She had just won the fight handily. Seeing this, Rakios greeted her, and easily ripped out the bars from the prison cell window, helping her out from the filthy hole full of beggar-women. Shadow Edge talked a man into going behind the house to the latrines, where Rakios knocked him out and took his clothes, for Wai Kei to wear in place of the ratty loincloth marking her as a slave.
“Orange Chicken” excused himself, and the three slipped away. Wai Kei thanked them, saying she would take them straight to her brother in Floodgate. He always paid her debts, and he would now too.
A crowd held them up at a bridge, for some great ruckus was afoot by the Lavender Garden, the splendid island in the middle of the river which commoners were forbidden to enter. The youngest Dragon-Blood was sailing away from it on a boat. She was Tengese, a whore’s daughter who had Exalted, and been adopted by House Cynis. Rakios recognized her as his childhood friend, Jaina.
Chilled, Rakios suppressed any emotion and pushed on towards Floodgate. Here they met Wai Kei’s brother, Kena Song Sei, and in short order also Lady Fishhook. Still suspicious, she nevertheless accepted the virtue of the heroes, perhaps because Song Sei persuaded her to; Wai Kei alluded her brother was quite intimate with the rebellion’s leader.
Rakios stated his desire to meet the Star Jasmine Princess, or in any other way aid the rebellion. Shadow Edge mentioned he might assist the barber Kamui in his assassination attempt. Nodding quietly, Lady Fishhook withdrew to make the necessary arrangements for both of these things to come to pass.
Rakios and Shadow Edge, meanwhile, waited in Song Sei’s company, drinking water and biding their time…