The Crimson Gale hovers nearby, the desert sands blow familiarly around. Txori, however, is not comfortable, for she can hear the faint ticking that they were warned about. Chelsea had identified the artifact as a mechanical heart, that Naz-Pherat had warned them was used by the corrupt Telessandra to control her puppet to seek revenge upon the party. Everyone rapidly hops onto the Crimson Gale and they swiftly head back to the portal to Yu-Shan, with Sam talking down the Scarlet Empress’s obvious confusion and anger. The Scarlet Empress finally looks Sam in the eye and tells him, “As my descendent you will help me retake the throne,” which Sam is very quiet about afterwards.
Soon the ship is back at the portal, but Edelweiss is getting worried because the Crimson Gale certainly cannot fit in the portal. The sound is getting close enough that Txori can direct Chelsea to locate the approaching sound, and it’s none other than Ah Nold. This is exceptionally bad news, though news that only Sam, Txori and Grey recognize as such. The Scarlet Empress is becoming imperious and troubled again, so Txori scribbles a note that the Empress’s path back to the throne lies through Yu-Shan, so she immediately leaps off the ship and sets out to the portal. Everyone follows swiftly, and Edelweiss, waving goodbye forlornly, takes the Crimson Gale up high into the sky.
The Scarlet Empress walks brazenly past the Celestial Lions who are too dumbfounded to do anything, and the party keeps up, rapidly arriving back in Yu-Shan, meeting the Instructor and a dozen more Celestial Lions. Everyone is taken to a meeting room, including the Free Man and TJ, since apparently Grey’s messages got through and their names have all been cleared. The Scarlet Empress is very keen to get back to the Scarlet Throne, but Chelsea has done some examination of the engagement ring that Sam stole, and it operates by fundamentally altering the wearer’s worldview to one that the Ebon Dragon pleases. It is also synergistic with other forms of mind alteration, which fundamentally makes the Scarlet Empress very compromised and very dangerous. Sam bursts out that she has control over him with her ancestry, but the Empress silences him with a short bark. Txori offers to execute the Scarlet Empress, but she is instead brought down to a prison in the basement of the building they are in, under guard by Celestial Lions.
The Instructor is the last one to go, watching the party sit there in confusion, and he smoothly points out that he cannot condone executing the Empress, all the while insinuating that that is exactly what they should do. He leaves, bumping fists with the Free Man who gives the party a wink, and with TJ who also nods briefly at the party. Left alone, Txori decides she will use her diplomatic immunity to converse with the Empress, while Blake disappears into her shadow, and Chelsea accompanies Txori just to keep an eye on things. Grey stays behind with Sam in case the Empress has further control over him. Joshua decides they will need a distraction to escape again, and probably a patsy, so he goes to find the most dangerous one possible: Ah Nold.
Joshua briefly negotiates with the Celestial Lions outside the gate, warning them that something bad is coming, then steps through and finds Ah Nold pacing and furious. Ah Nold charges and Joshua barely manages to evade back into Yu-Shan, where Ah Nold pursues. Amidst the dodging and grappling, Joshua’s Magic Vision notes that Ah Nold has a yasal crystal socketed into his armor that holds a 1st circle demon within, so Joshua punches it back into Malfeas, leaving Ah Nold brutish, unskilled and minimally competent with his armor. Joshua is able to evade Ah Nold and lead him back towards the building.
Txori walks past several guards, including a Sidereal who notes that she is not fated to lose her diplomatic immunity nor kill the Empress. Blake, on the other hand, is now using a stealth charm that allows her to be completely invisible to fate, and is planning on doing exactly that. Txori arrives in front of the Empress, and the Empress’s admonishment that Txori help her escape falls on deaf ears due to Txori’s use of Sagacious Reading of Intent, that the Empress’s rise would lead to the downfall of Txori’s beloved South. They argue for a bit, then on Txori’s verbal signal, Blake leaps out of the shadow, dealing a brutally crippling strike to the Empress’s neck, leaving her blood-drenched and at her -4 health level. Chelsea, not hesitating in the slightest, immediately snaps the Empress’s neck. Blake returns to Txori’s shadow, and in the next moment, Ah Nold comes crashing through the walls, with Txori dodging through the hole he left, and Chelsea flying out on her telekinetic hoverboard.
The party regroup in front of the building and Joshua puts a big fist in his own face and lies in the rubble for a bit to evade any further involvement with Ah Nold, as Celestial Lions are now audible running him down. The party dashes for the exit, but finds their way blocked by a young girl who looks exactly like Blake – pale, blonde, raven feathers tattooed on her cheeks, and with the same face – and also a creature of darkness as obvious to Joshua. She claims the way they’re going is not safe and they should go with her. Lie detection shows her statement as half true, so on further questioning she reveals she is She Who Quests For Completion, with association with Professor Enriquez and Iselsi Kagami. Blake does not show up on this list, but possibly because Blake is currently invisible to fate. Kagami is apparently doing some dealing with the Underworld to enhance his network of spies, and that name is enough to convince Sam to go with this person. Everyone else follows suit, and the party heads out another portal from Yu-Shan. Next stop: the Raiton Academy, and a meeting about how to put Iselsi Samuel on the Scarlet Throne.