The party arrives back at Rathess after the mission with Circus. Harold questions Yvonne about whether Circus destroyed all the technology, but Yvonne doesn’t really know, which flusters Harold. He goes to find Zeke, who is busy working with Scotty on his loot from the Bonestrider, and Zeke indicates everything was destroyed. Harold seems much happier and leaves in a hurry. Zeke finishes upgrading his weapon systems.
Wildflower is trying to pray but is interrupted by a visit from Harold’s agent, the Home Star. He tells her there’s a big competition happening out at the Sun-Kyo city, five days from now and they should go compete. Wildflower agrees but goes back to reading. A half hour later, the Home Star comes back and asks why she hasn’t left yet. When she asks what he means, he says the Sun-Kyo city is a five and a half day trip. Oops.
Wildflower finds Harold and asks about the Home Star’s instructions. Harold says he had tasked the Home Star with learning more about the Sun-Kyo and programs the Gips with coordinates of the Home Star’s previous trip. The Sun-Kyo people are little-known and mysterious, as is their yearly competition, so SWORD is tasked to go and make a good show.
The party hustles as much as possible (Yvonne is able to draw some gossamer while they travel but not much). They arrive at the Sun-Kyo city which is a First Age city similar to Rathess built on a large hill. The buildings are being maintained but apparently cannot be rebuilt, as gaps between the major buildings are filled with more conventional wooden buildings. The guards at the main gate are two unimpressive young men with sticks. The party finds out the competitions are already underway. Zeke stashes Scrap Iron underneath a magical camouflage tarp made by Yvonne, and the party heads in to the competition.
The door for entrants to the competition has two more unimpressive guards, one of whom states that registration is closed. Wildflower Dew activates her Dreaming Pearl Courtesan form to enhance her social standing and she and Yvonne persuade the rather weak-minded guards to let them in (Zeke helps theoretically, but it’s really more of a woman’s job…). At the registration table inside, a powerful-looking female soldier with light body armor, blue face paint and a stylish helmet over long hair indicates that most of the competitions have been finished and the halftime show is currently playing. The remaining competitions are the biggest ones: the Strongest Man in the World Contest, and the Strongest Woman in the World contest. Since Zeke doesn’t speak Foresttongue, Yvonne manages to make a subtitle screen for him, and he expresses interest in the Strongest Man contest, and asks if it involved combat.
The soldier explains the history of the city. It was originally a city in the First Age, but a Lunar by the name of Kyo drove all the original inhabitants out and make everyone believe the city was completely destroyed. She then set about founding a new civilization here with the help of the Purple Raksha. She had created the military as all women martial artists using paired war fans to honor her Solar mate who had been the Queen of Rathess and also used paired war fans in conjunction with graceful martial arts. Wildflower Dew is exceptionally excited about this and signs up for the Strongest Woman in the World contest. Zeke is disappointed that the Strongest Man in the World contest is merely a test of strength and endurance, but signs up for it also. Yvonne is asked if she knows the Purple Raksha, and she does, after activating her charm that creates dots of temporary contacts. She asks to go meet with him.
Zeke and Wildflower are directed to the men’s and women’s locker rooms in the stadium, while Yvonne goes up the stairs around the back to the top balcony of the stadium itself, where the Purple Raksha resides. There are two more guards there, and one excuses himself while the other confides in Yvonne that the Purple Raksha seems to be acting a bit strangely and he asks her for her help in figuring out what might be wrong. Yvonne agrees of course (3 of 4!) and goes in to meet the Purple Raksha. The Purple Raksha seems nice and friendly, but Yvonne can tell he’s having his behavior restricted somehow.
In the locker room, Zeke meets a strange large muscular man with magical boxing gloves and a big red luchador mask. This man identifies himself as the Strong Bad Man, claiming to have won the last five years in a row due to his magical boxing gloves. He challenges Zeke directly, which causes him to trigger some limit and go get Scrap Iron. Meanwhile, Wildflower asks the women in the locker room more about the story of the city’s founding. She finds that Kyo, the founding Lunar, died around 500 years ago, but her new incarnation, a Lunar names Liari, is now the head of the city. This excites Wildflower even further, though she’s more nervous now.
When the names are being read, Zeke’s is the last called, and he literally jumps, in Scrap Iron, over the wall of the stadium and into the arena. He lands with a big BOOM and the crowd goes nuts. The Purple Raksha initiates the contest, which involves him creating many huge grapes onto the men’s backs and creating more and more until only one man is still standing. Zeke is the obvious winner, as eventually even the Strong Bad Man is crushed under the weight of the grapes, while Scrap Iron can easily hold them with one hand. He jumps out after and is interviewed by the Announcer, and he states that he represents the Rathess empire and its leader, Harold. This is a key boost of prestige for the Rathess empire. Zeke also wins a silver trophy with a Lunar caste mark logo on it.
As the day wears on, the last event begins, the Strongest Woman in the World contest. The Purple Raksha creates a set of balance beams on which the women must balance. The rules are simple, the first one to lose footing loses. This is a test of skill and grace, and the golden trophy with the Zenith caste mark on it makes Wildflower Dew even more nervous than she already was. However, the tournament is a cinch for her, since she uses her Perception+Martial Arts to determine appropriate strategies, and her Second Martial Arts Excellency to boost her attacks. She dislodges her first two opponents with ease, and even the third goes down quickly, though she’s now at a mild aura. By this time, the sun has set and bright stadium lighting washes out her aura, though the other women at the bench notice it when she sits down.
The final round is against an extremely skilled opponent, but Wildflower does not fall for her feints and also scores 9 successes on her Dex+Athletics to keep her stance, which makes victory a foregone conclusion. This does, however, cause her to go to maximum anima banner. As she stands with her anima at maximum and a brilliant golden hummingbird swirling around her, a Harpy Eagle flies down to the balance beam and shapeshifts into Liari, her Lunar mate. Wildflower immediately feels the connection that has been formed and they briefly exchange words.
It’s in this moment that Yvonne, who has been monitoring the Purple Raksha, notices he is starting to do strange things. The Strong Bad Man and Liari both have tiny purple bands around their neck which have now expanded and are choking them into unconsciousness. Also, purple spikes are slowly descending to the ground all around the stadium. Yvonne attacks (MASSIVE head start on the join combat roll) and hits him with her Staff Grace boomerang. As it happens, the Purple Raksha had just started forming a Wyld zone around himself, so her attack becomes a Staff shaping attack that splits him in half. The two halves of the Purple Raksha fall to the ground and start reforming in a corner, while standing in his place is Ashe, Yvonne’s nemesis. She was apparently hiding inside him and using him, as she is now holding his Heart Grace (a purple gem).
Zeke, stranded outside Scrap Iron with no weapons, runs over to the Strong Bad Man to try and take his boxing gloves, but the Strong Bad Man suddenly grabs Zeke and then, in an instant, he is suited up inside Scrap Iron with his anima and hearthstone ready to go. A prayer strip with beautiful calligraphy is taped to his dashboard, which says “We will talk again soon.” What.
Wildflower carries Liari over to Bodyguard, then tries to figure out how to get up. Yvonne sees Ashe about to drop the Purple Raksha’s hearthstone off the balcony and manages a trick throw that snags it from her and brings it back to Yvonne. Ashe, annoyed, sets Yvonne on fire. Zeke then jumps straight from the arena floor up to the balcony, barely managing to grab the edge of the balcony, and then hauls himself up, severely cracking it in the process. Aveskzia is flying in at this point and Wildflower tries waving her down to pick her up and bring her up to the balcony, but she botches the ride check to grab onto the flying Unicorn and ends up grabbing its tail, smashing her face against the sand and the balcony before unceremoniously dropping her in front of Ashe. Yvonne douses herself with a bucket of water (after much internal debate about how to go about not being on fire).
Now surrounded, Ashe sets the entire balcony on fire, missing both Scrap Iron and Wildflower but successfully burning the entire side of the arena down and causing Zeke and Wildflower to take more bashing damage. Since Ashe, now in burn-everything mode, is standing atop the rubble, she is at eye level to Zeke, who manages to hit her with his spear for massive damage, and Wildflower charges up the burning rubble to hit Ashe with her war fans and bring her down completely. They both catch fire, though Wildflower’s anima prevents the fire from taking hold. Yvonne then conjures a massive bucket of water to douse Scrap Iron, which she manages to pull off before Zeke takes much damage (his Twilight anima power was saving him from the worst of the heat damage). Scrap Iron had already been rust-proofed but its electrical circuits go out, causing it to revert to toaster mode: “Howdy doodly doo! I’m Talky, Talky Toaster!” Zeke promptly removes the hearthstone. “Would aaaaaa—.” Yvonne jumps down and confirms Ashe’s death, then keeps some of her colorful sand remains in an hourglass.
Liari and the Purple Raksha are revived and gratefully thank SWORD for saving them. The Purple Raksha indicates that he could tell that Ashe and Venomous Dreams were part of a group of Raksha that had created some strange infection that only afflicted Wood-aspected Dragon-blooded and made them slowly become recklessly insane. No one here is wood-aspect, but Wildflower pipes up that McCoy is, and he has been doing strange, dangerous experiments. Liari and the Purple Raksha will accompany SWORD back in the morning, but first it’s bedtime!
Yvonne goes to the Purple Raksha’s freehold and, finally resting in a freehold for the first time in who even knows how long, refreshes her willpower and essence, and also collects a lot of gossamer from the locals. Liari and Wildflower spend the night with a sleepover at Liari’s room. Zeke gets a hotel room at the Boring Hotel, but once he gets there it’s not as boring as he thought it would be. A strange, ordinary-looking man is there carrying the Strong Bad Man’s boxing gloves. He says that the Home Star, Bubba, and the Strong Bad Man are all alter egos of him, and that they need to get back to Rathess ASAP. He thinks they were all baited here to empty out Rathess for some event, and Zeke agrees.
Most Badass Moment candidates:
- Zeke’s entry into the arena. ’Nuff said.
- Yvonne steals the Purple Raksha’s Heart Grace with a boomerang attack.
- Zeke’s landing on the balcony.
- Zeke’s massive damage to Ashe.
- Wildflower Dew’s double fan attack that brings down Ashe.
- Okay pretty much that entire fight was badass.
Funniest Moment candidates:
- Yvonne still apparently refers to Zeke as “Zekie”…
- Taylor: “I should have cross-dressed!”
- Taylor miming holding the grapes in one hand, and lightly chucking them back and forth was epic
- Leslie: “Can I make subtitles for Zeke?” This spawned quite a conversation….
- Wildflower botches to mount Aveskzia as she passes DM: “Okay, you take *roll* 1 bashing damage and *roll* 8 damage to your dignity”
- Leslie: “Wait isn’t she in anima mode, won’t that hurt Aveskzia?” Alejo: “Oh she’s just grabbing her tail though, wow the two bad things canceled each other out.”
- DM: “Okay Yvonne so it’s your turn and oh you’re still on fire!”
- Leslie: “No Ashe is a girl.” Alejo & Taylor: “Oh really?”
- Taylor: “Okay I’m gonna hit him with Hungry Tiger Technique.” Leslie: “It’s a her!” Alejo: “Aim for the tits so we’ll remember better.”
- Natalie: “No remember Scotty make Scrap Iron waterproof!” DM: “Ohhh yeahhh nice catch! Well, so it’s mostly fine, but…. There’s a big spark as something short circuits…. ‘Howdy doodly doo, I’m Talky, Talky Toaster!’” Taylor deliberately mimes grabbing the Hearthstone and yanking it out “Would aaaaaa—”
- Taylor: “See this is the kind of damage I do to low-soak targets!” Alejo: “10 soak isn’t low!” Taylor: “It is to me!” Alejo: “It is to your robot!”
- DM: “Yes Ashe is dead, she’s turning to colored sand.” Yvonne: “I want to keep some.” Alejo: “What like in an hourglass?? DO IT!”
- Alejo: “This hourglass holds the remains of my previous nemesis….” *Slowly turns it* “This is how long you have.”
- Leslie: “Oh man a freehold, it’s like a spa, I think I should get all my willpower back!” DM: “…. I can’t argue with that. Everything’s purple though, big surprise.”
- Natalie: “SLEEPOVER!!!”