The Let's Play Archive

Jade Empire

by Doc M

Part 30: Creative Pursuits

Episode 28: Creative Pursuits

Last time, Sagacious Zu seemingly decided he wanted no part of our plan to infiltrate the Lotus Assassins' fortress, so he sneaked off while we were busy chatting up Silk Fox. The fortress lies at the far end of the Necropolis, but we're not going there yet because we've got sidequests to complete.

Oh, and before I forget again, here's the Imperial City version of the main menu screen, complete with stretched logos as per usual. You only see these backgrounds when you quit the game and return to the menu, you just get the default Two Rivers background when you boot up Jade Empire.

This is where we last left off. The first thing we're doing today is act in that play Incisive Chorus roped us into, so that should be exciting. We can just about see First-Degree Thespian Phong next to the pagoda to our left, so we'll go introduce ourselves.

You? You're the replacement? By the starry river, that is the best makeup job I've ever seen! We'll barely have to touch you up to play Lady Fourteen Flowers!

As Incisive Chorus mentioned last time, practically all the roles in these plays are performed by male actors and a woman playing a female character (without first dressing up as a man) is unheard of. Plays in Imperial China generally featured both male and female actors in lead and support roles, but apparently that isn't how theatre works in the Jade Empire.

Did they give you a copy of the script when they sent you over here?

Well yes, they did give us a copy, but...

I don't think we really want to show the original script to Phong since it's the one we're supposed to read from, so we'll lie instead. I don't think this dialog choice makes any difference whatsoever, but it makes more sense not to show off Incisive Chorus' script unless we have to.

The script's recently been revised, so even if you're familiar with the old version, read it again for the changes before you head on stage.

Who revised the script?

Well, a southern noble funded the location and travel for us, but wanted to make a few tweaks. We couldn't afford to miss the exposure. Our writer wasn't that happy, but we accepted the revisions and here we are. I'm sure your actor's guild told you that we have standard rates. We'll happily pay you the going rate for a lead, especially since this is short notice.

Ah yes, the guild. Sure, they said something about that. Absolutely.

I'm sure it'll go swimmingly.

That said, maybe we should make sure what actually constitutes ruining the scene before we get up there.

Now, read that script over. Come talk to me when you‘ve got it and we‘ll get you into final costume and onto the stage.

I'm still having a hard time believing that Thespian Phong actually thinks Wu is a male actor in costume, but never mind that. We've got the edited script, so we can now see how the lines have been changed from Incisive Chorus' original script.

Huh. Not exactly the work of a master satirist, is it? Let's put these scripts on the stand and compare them, then.

[It seems you have only a few lines for this scene. They are mostly reacting to the other actor. The scene reenacts a historical moment in the formation of the Jade Empire. There seem to be only six lines for you to remember, and on the scripts there are acting notes that should make it easy to remember the proper lines.]

[You examine the first page of the scripts, which covers the first three of your six lines]

[Read the notes for the first line.]

[Your line has you commenting that white banners are flying]

White banners. Got it.

[You are responding to a question about the time of day, and in Incisive Chorus‘ script, you speak of the heavens sending a message at dusk and the night is coming on fast. In the edited version, the time is mid-day, and you would speak about "the Flower Guardians," an obvious dig at the Lotus Assassins.]

Heavens send a message at dusk, night coming on fast. Right.

[As the acting notes direct, the key element lies in that a decision was reached on the edge of a great plain.]

The edge of a great plain. Okay then, let's see the second half of the scene.

[In the script written by Incisive Chorus, the theme of the heavens reaching out to Emperor Tien is explored again, and your character comments that seasons change from place to place. In the edited version, your character comments that warmth can hide an icy heart; this comment leads to a thinly veiled condemnation of the Emperor.]

More of that biting satire there in the revised version. We just need to remember that Emperor Tien gets a message from the heavens, and seasons change from place to place.

[In the script, the Emperor turned to the heavens themselves.]

[Read the notes for the sixth line.]

[The sixth line seems the same across both scripts. Your character comments on how a shooting star traces a border across the sky.]

Lovely. Let's get on with it.

I'm ready. Let's get the show on the road.

[fade to black]

Ah, looks like we've got some of the "Flower Guardians" in the audience tonight, ready to haul us (or at least Phong) off if we read the wrong lines.

We'll be fine, though. It's obvious which lines we're absolutely not supposed to say, the main challenge here is remembering our actual lines.

This guy's character is named "Fortunate Puzzle". At first I thought it was Phong himself playing the role and doubling as the narrator, but when we see this gentleman's face we can tell it's a different person. We don't know what the actor's name is, so let's just call him Puzzle.

And the crowd goes wild, or something to that effect.

The arable lands to the south, all the way to the useless jungles, which were left as nothing for the Monkey King, are fused into the mighty Jade Empire. To the east, Sagacious Tien has spread his light to the very waters themselves. And, lo, to the west he found enlightenment among the Hills of the Six Holy Scrolls!

Nice of them to namedrop the Monkey King there.

We've got a few options here. White banners is of course the correct choice, then there are a few wrong (but feasible, so hopefully you paid attention to the script and/or wrote down the important details) ones, and finally a comedy option. We're looking to get the best possible reward from this quest, so we'll stick with the correct choices.

Your arrival here is certainly welcome, as your kingdom is one of the most recent to join the Jade Empire. We have had word that the hostilities have ceased. Tell me, most gracious lady, when was this momentous decision reached?

We've got one of the lines from the revised script here. It says the Flower Guardians "would allow nothing else", and the response from Puzzle is that he hopes "emperors of the future will know better to trust flowers plucked by the hand of death itself!" Of course, we'll stick with the original script.

Phong seems to be excited even though we're not reading from the revised script. If that is him, anyway. We know how few character models there are in this game.

But surely the might of the Jade Empire is unquestionable, and our will to victory unswayed. And tell me, most gracious madam, when the final blow was struck, where was our noble leader? Deep in the wastes of the north?

There has been nothing but the gentle drafts of spring here in the Imperial City for weeks! With such chill in the air, was this some time ago?

"...You moron."

It seems to me that some part of your story remains untold. Do my questions block the truth? Tell me this, if nothing else, good lady. When the cry for peace rose up, who was it that our great Emperor turned to?

Blah blah blah heavens blah blah

Wait! What word is this from the front? The Emperor sends word of his return. The Horselords are unconquered? But our forces were undefeatable! What happened to cease the expansion of the Empire, dear lady?

Looks like somebody should've read that "Horse Lord Tactics" scroll we found earlier.

And that'll be it, I think.

And so our most noble Emperor saw a sign from the heavens. Our mighty armies poised to crush the Horselords and stretch the Empire to the ends of the earth, but we stopped. For now, even I see that there are limits to ambition, and overreaching those limits invites nothing but disaster! All praise the Emperor, for his wisdom is infinite!

The play's finished. Let's see what our audience thought.

This is the Lotus Assassins' reaction if we don't read the revised lines. If we were to read those lines, the Assassins would talk about making a bunch of arrests.

The crowd loved it! Fantastic performance! You managed to hit every line perfectly!

I guess Incisive Chorus put you up to this, because I know I gave you the new script to study. Good for him. I believe I owe you an actor's fee. Enjoy. I'm glad you were here to fill in. We would have sunk faster than a bottomless boat without a solid Lady Fourteen Flowers on hand.

The performance wouldn't have gone on without you, professional actor or not. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things I must attend to.

1000 EXP and 1000 silver is a decent reward, but since we performed Incisive Chorus' script we'll be getting a bonus from him.

I thought he was in the crowd shots, but guess not. Maybe those were just random scholars.

Fantastic! The scholars loved it. One's already asked for a copy of the manuscript. I'm sure there will be more. Perhaps as many as three! Here, I promised you this, and you should... er, have it! Yes. that's it. Enjoy, and thank you so much! Oh, so much to do. So many, er... copies to make! Yes! Ha!

Err, okay then. If you performed the revised script, the play was massively popular with the commoners (instead of the scholars) and Incisive Chorus is utterly furious his art has been dumbed down for the plebs. He expects the play to make "vast amounts of silver, each coin falling like a weight upon [his] heart", and that just won't do. He's an artist, you see. He also won't give you any rewards if you did this.

Now that we got our stage debut out of the way, we'll head on over to the Scholars' Garden where Creative Yukong is supposedly hiding.

"Kongyu"? Very subtle.

Huh, he looks exactly like the guy who played Puzzle in the play. Lady Rento did say Yukong was going to try out for the role, but I don't think that was him and this is just another case of reused character models.

Not that you would understand such lofty matters.

This is obviously Creative Yukong, and it should be easy to make him reveal his identity if we ask him about his scholarly pursuits.

Oh. Well, take it away then, Sky.

Very enlightening. Let's see what Sky has for him.

Does the shift towards more codified productions, with barriers established between the presented world and the actual environment, create a more immersive experience?

That's what I thought.

Where did *that* come from, Sky?

He's not the only one who's had to spend some time in hiding in this garden. I, however, did my research. This is clearly Creative Yukong, though I'm not sure he's earned his name.

There's a really dumb fan theory (is there any other kind?) about Sky being the real Creative Yukong. Apparently, since Sky knows so much about drama, has spent time hiding in this garden and says Creative Yukong might not have "earned his name", he's got to be Creative Yukong himself! I have no clue where this theory comes from and don't particularly care either. Anyway, if we don't bring Sky along for this quest, we need to grill Yukong with our questions until he's stumbled through enough explanations.

I don't suppose running would do me any good?

He really doesn't seem like a master con man in the slightest.

She agreed, but her husband flew into a rage when he found out, and now I have a death sentence on my head! It‘s not fair, and if you were a decent person, you'd help me get out of this city instead of taking me in. It's the only way I'll get clear of Lord Rento's wrath.

Not that anyone but Lady Rento will confirm that for you. Still, it should be apparent that I'm not some great confidence man.

Well, this man is an idiot and it is rather likely he... uh, got creative with Lord Rento's wife when the Lord was out of town, but hauling him off to the city guard seems a bit extreme.

He's pretty harmless, so maybe we'll just help him out.

Let's see how this goes.

However, if I disguise myself as a mercenary and sneak past him. I might just get away, but you have to help me by distracting him. Just tell him that I've already escaped, and I'll get away just fine. I can't imagine what might go wrong.

Surely nothing will go awry here, we've got this.

If we wish, we can still turn him in here. We promised to help him, though, so help him we will.

In the meantime, Creative Yukong is doing his best to get noticed by Captain Sen.

Despite Yukong's idiocy and the captain's promise of extra silver, we'll stick to the story.

For fuck's sake just walk through the gates already

I'm rather tempted to pick the middle option here, but nah. We'll do this properly.

And that'll be that.

Before we leave Captain Sen, though, there are a few questions we should ask.

Is there a bounty on this "Scourge of the South?"

Not as such. The Lotus Assassins want to deal with this traitor personally. I don't envy anyone who has attracted that kind of attention.

I wonder if we're being told the whole story. Could this criminal be justified in their actions?

There is no such thing. If the Lotus Assassins have identified a treasonous criminal, you can be assured that person is guilty of something or will be soon.

Justice will be served, I'm sure. That's all we can do with Captain Sen for now, as the other bounty target he mentioned is in the Necropolis and it'll still be a while before we head that way.

There seems to be some sort of commotion going on in the Market District, not to mention a bright yellow arrow atop that man's head. Clearly, we should investigate.

Everyone I send for disappears. There are powers at work here that are beyond my means to control.

I am Prefect Jitong. It's my duty to ensure that convicted criminals in the city are sentenced appropriately. But there are... complications with my current trial. I have in my custody a suspected slave trader, Chandler Ling, but one of the high ranking ministers is trying to get him released, and he wants me to convict another man. The man they want to accuse, Scholar Songtao, is a friend of mine... and I'm certain of his innocence. I need you to find proof so I can present it to the Minister of Justice.

All right... where should I start?

If I can't prove Ling's guilt, I'll be forced to sentence Songtao... to death. But every time I ask someone to discover the truth, they disappear, or turn up dead. Our best lead is Zi Bao, the last person known to have spoken with Ling before his arrest. But Bao knows me and my men; he won't talk to us.

Zi Bao? That name sounds vaguely familiar...

If you want to know more about Songtao, you should speak with him yourself.

Tell me about Chandler Ling.

Chandler Ling is a well-respected business man and merchant here in the city. Until recently, I had no reason to suspect him of any wrongdoing. When I investigated Ling‘s shop, I found a valuable knife that I had purposely entrusted to one of my men. A man who has since disappeared. Chandler Ling had a knife belonging to a man whose body couldn't be found. That was all the evidence I required.

What is Zi Bao's connection to Chandler Ling?

I have no idea. The two men were seen together before we arrested Ling. But I have no other information about Zi Bao. He spends most of his time in the Heart of the Empire Tavern, and he doesn‘t seem to have dealings with anyone else besides Chandler Ling. I know if I went to speak with him I would get nowhere, but you could speak to him without raising suspicion.

The Heart of the Empire Tavern is at the arena. We actually tried to speak to Zi Bao when we first came in, but he just told us to leave him alone.

Whoever is behind the slavers must have a great deal of power. To remain that... invisible is a hard thing to do.

I'll go find Zi Bao then.

Good... look for him in the Heart of the Empire Tavern, it's upstairs at the Imperial Arena. Don't scare him away... if we lose him, we lose our last connection to Ling.

Noted. We'll only threaten to break his legs after he tells us about the slave traders.

Here's another reason I brought Sky along. I thought he'd enjoy cracking some slave trader heads.

In the far corner of the market, we find the Gem of Foresight. This gem adds +2 to Mind and removes the focus cost for evading traps. It's nice enough, I guess, but not really worth sacrificing a gem slot for.

Well, here we are, back at the arena. Zi Bao's in the same spot he was before, so let's go say hello and find out if he's any friendlier to us this time around.

I'm a little busy right now. I've got a bowl of wine that needs drinking, so why don't you just find someone else to bother?

Right, doesn't look like he's going to be particularly forthcoming with information, so we need to use our inquisitive skills to subtly coerce him to let something slip...

Or we can just straight-up tell him to take us to the slave traders.

That goes over about as well as you'd expect.

Leave me alone! I have nothing to say to you, so why don't you just keep moving.

Welp, there goes the silver we got from Thespian Phong.

I might be able to take you there. You'll have to pay me now, and I'm not promising you won't get killed once we get there.

That's fine. Let's go.

It's your life, friend. No refunds either. Follow me.

Zi Bao leads us down to the creature cages. Not much of a secret hideout, I think.

Now there's an unknown quantity in this little meeting. Just who are you?

I think the boss of the slave traders has a unique character model, which I find a bit odd considering he only appears this one time.

Now that we are here, it doesn't really matter what we say. We're taking these punks down.

Zi Bao was a fool to bring anyone here. We can't afford anyone nosing into our affairs right now, and you‘ve heard too much.

Nice, we haven't had a fight in a little while.

Wu is the Silver Phoenix, the grand champion of this very arena, and has fought her way through a horde of demons and Guild assassins. A bunch of two-bit slavers aren't going to pose any threat whatsoever.

I have an eye for raw talent. That helps when picking slaves, but it comes in handy in sizing up potential allies. Who are you, and why are you here? You're clearly too skilled to be one of the fools hired by Prefect Jitong, so what business--or grudge--do you have with us?

You're better than that. You've just shown me your strength. Any poor wretch who had the discipline to fight like you wouldn't let themselves be enslaved. Someone like you deserves to work *with* me, not oppose me. I have a friend who could use your help, and I'm prepared to pay for it.

Seriously, why do these minor villains never shut up?

Let's show Cao Zeng how we handle slave traders. No, not with harmonic combos, those didn't seem to work on any of these guys. No, we've got another way to deal with this loser.

Now, I have mentioned that Storm Dragon is one of the best support styles in Jade Empire, and certainly one of the most broken.

You can change fighting styles during a combo, and Leaping Tiger and Storm Dragon are so fast that you'll stunlock enemies by tapping the A button and constantly switching between the two styles.

Cao Zeng can do nothing to stop us from doing this. I haven't been using this strategy because it kinda trivializes fights (which aren't that difficult on Normal in the first place), but I figured slave trader scum like Zeng deserved it.

Well, that should be the evidence we need to clear Songtao's name, but before we go hand the documents to Prefect Jitong we should take care of some unfinished business here at the arena.

Kai Lan's private chamber has of course been vacated recently, but his stuff is still in there. Now that we can freely access the Serpent's lair, we should see if we can find anything interesting.

Might still want to be careful, though.

Well, that last gem is a bit underwhelming, but Absolute Dedication (more EXP from human enemies but no powerups) and Gem of Irresistible Spirit (Spirit +2, Charm +2, Open Palm only) are pretty nice. So is Scales of the Serpent, a technique that adds +1 to Intimidation and +7 to health. That's all we can get from here, so now we can return to Prefect Jitong.

I spoke with Zi Bao and he took me to the slavers.

He... took you there. That‘s incredible... that's remarkable. Well. what did you find? Have you discovered evidence that exonerates Scholar Songtao?

I guess this must be Chandler Ling, and he's not doing such a great job concealing his ties to the slave traders there.

And you, Chandler Ling, will come with me for sentencing. It will be quick and harsh, I suspect. This sort of thing will not be tolerated in the Empire.

And here's Songtao himself. I think we could've talked to him earlier, but there was really no point.

They're not here of course. Come and find me in the Scholars' Garden and I will be glad to show you what I have. I'll see you there. Goodbye, and thank you again.

I guess we'll go see him in the Garden.

Sky, of course, heartily approves of our actions.

This quest is where you're supposed to get the Aura of Calm Gem, as we do here. However, you might recall that we already got one somehow when we were at the pirate lair. The gem we found there actually seemed to disappear from my inventory for a while when we got the "real" one, only to come back a couple of hours later. I don't know what the hell went on there because the Aura of Calm Gem is supposed to be unique and only obtainable through the slave trader quest, but I eventually ended up with two of these things.

Well, whatever. We'll just run back to the Scholars' Garden.

We'll get to Songtao in a bit, but first we'll need to talk to the Minister of Culture in order to mark the Outlander quest as completed and clear it from our active quests.

We are all in your debt, but the Ministry of Culture is particularly so. Please, take this token sum of silver as payment. You certainly earned it.

If we need to talk to this idiot to get rid of the quest we've already basically completed, he might as well pay us a bit of extra.

Heh. He said...

Ah yes, I see what's going on here.

Very clever, BioWare, thanks for this.

At least the rewards are all right. Speaking of rewards, let's find Scholar Songtao and check out those items of his.

Mostly generic trash gems, but Lucky Hand here is pretty cool. I don't buy it, though, because my current gems are more useful and we're not exactly hurting for money most of the time.

We have one more sidequest left before we're ready to go to the Necropolis -- next time, we will find out what's going on at the Black Leopard School.