Agility = d10
Smarts = d6
Strength = d6
Spirit = d6
Vigor = d6
Charisma = -2
Grit = 2
Pace = 6"
Parry = 7
Toughness = 5
Fighting = d10
Throwing = d8
Notice = d6
Knowledge (English) = d6 [native is Mandarin Chinese]
Survival = d6
Shooting = d4
Riding = d4
Guts = d4
Deflection = d6 [cost = 2 PP; duration = 3 rounds (1PP/round after)]
[success = -2 to attacks against Xi; on raise, -4 to attacks
while active, missed ranged attacks allow immediate Agility roll at -4 (-6 for bullets)
to grab and throw projectile back at attacker, dealing Str + d6]
Armor = d4 [cost = 2 PP; duration = 3 rounds (1PP/round after)]
[success = +2 to Toughness; on raise, +4 to Toughness]
Quickness = d4 [cost = 4 PP; duration = 3 rounds (2PP/round after)]
[success = two actions per round with no multi-action penalty;
on raise, can discard and redraw any initiative card lower than 8 each round]
Hunted (Major) [Arcane Background (Chi Mastery) (PP = 20)]
Outsider (Minor) [add Deflection d4]
Poverty (Minor) [add Armor d4]
(human racial) Martial Arts
(5) increase Vigor d4 → d6
(10) Luck [one extra Bennie per session]
(15) Superior Kung-Fu (Tan Tui; kicks deal Str+d6, rise from prone at no move cost)
(20) Quickness = d4
(25) Counterattack [once per round, receive free normal Fighting attack (at -2) vs
enemy who failed Fighting attack against Xi]
(30) Agility d8 → d10
(35) Fighting d8 → d10 + Deflection d4 → d6
lariat (Agility trick vs. Fighting)
Success = -2 Parry
Raise = Success + Shaken + Prone
“I do not understand, Teacher. Why must we be so secretive?”
The Teacher looked back at Xi, his countenance serene as usual. “There are many without scruples in this land. Those who openly display their strength, or their wealth, risk having it taken from them by these unscrupulous men.”
“You mean the Reverend Grimme?”
“His is the greatest of the heads of the hydra, but he is far from alone. Any of them could devour us, especially when working together.”
“That’s why we only speak English out of doors?”
This finally drew a small smile. “You take your lessons well. The wise man shows his knowledge by the questions he asks.”
Xi took a deep breath, pleased at his Teacher’s response, and pulled at the surprisingly ill-fitting robe. It was splendid, but it had clearly been made by someone who did not know him. “I wish our secrecy was not so often enforced from within. I am nervous, Teacher. What if this woman I am to marry does not approve of me?”
“She is likely asking the same about you.”
An answer, yet not an answer. Xi went quiet to ponder the deeper meaning of his Teacher’s statement.
- * *
From the outside, the hall was festooned with blaring, cheap adornments, as if shouting to all that it was no place for any civilized person to pass their time. Yet within, the place possessed an austere elegance that added to the feeling of serenity Xi felt. He stood between his father and his Teacher, waiting to cross the room to where his bride waited, standing between her own father and a young man little older than Xi himself, probably her brother. All were strangers, but only the veiled woman frightened him.
“It is time,” muttered his father, as he and his counterpart both nodded to the priest at the center of the room, a woven mat at his feet. Xi and the woman approached the priest, kneeled on the mat.
“We are here to bring these two people together in marriage,” intoned the priest in perfect Mandarin, “to bind their souls together as one soul, forever. It is our long-standing tradition, our…”
The priest was interrupted by the sound of the doors being kicked open. A half-dozen rough-looking men entered the room, haughty, assured of their superiority, but still wary enough to have already drawn their sidearms.
The father of the bride spoke up nearly immediately. “How dare you intrude! To interrupt this most sacred…” His anger was cut off immediately by the sound of a gunshot, and his body crumpled to the floor. There was silence for a few moments.
“Well, then. Now that I have your full, undivided attention.” The oldest of the grizzled men spoke with a voice like gravel and soot. “Sorry to interrupt the special day, but it was the only way I seem to be able to find you, Ching-Chong.” Xi’s father stiffened, as did Xi himself at the callous corruption of his family’s name. His Teacher, of course, remained serene.
“Why are you here?” asked Xiang Tong, in a voice far steadier than he looked.
“Professor Carstairs says that shipment of herbs you promised him never arrived. He’s very unhappy about that, Ching-Chong.”
“His men collected the shipment from the docks, at his own request. Once the herbs were out of my hands, it was not up to me to protect them.”
“Ah, but that assumes that the jumpy little Chinamen who took them away from Carstairs’s men weren’t acting on your orders. A stretch, I admit, but you all look the same to me anyway, so I can’t say it isn’t possible.”
Anger rose in the throat of Xiang Xi, to shout down this ignorant, foolish man. Only the sight of his Teacher’s serene visage kept the words in his throat.
“So,” the grizzled man continued, “since finding the real culprits would take a lot of time and effort, the good Professor has authorized us to make an example of you. If you weren’t responsible, then the others should get the message and leave our shipments alone. And if you were, well, problem solved.” The grizzled man chuckled as he brought the hammer back on his revolver.
The Teacher then spoke, in far better English than Xi knew he could speak. “Your logic is flawed, my friend.”
“Huh? What’re you talking about, Chinaman?”
“Your premise is based on the thought that killing a guilty man would stop a crime from being committed, which is reasonable. Yet it also assumes that killing an innocent man will stop the same crime. One rock cannot be thrown into two pools. You do not see that the men responsible for the crime are bold enough to take your message as a challenge, not as a warning.”
“Aw, hell, just another Chinaman’s yimmer-yammering. Boys, shut this Chink up so we can finish our business.”
The Teacher’s last words were a short, urgent rush of Mandarin. “Flee. I will occupy them.” Everyone who could understand the Teacher’s words obeyed except Xi and his bride. Xi stood transfixed as he watched his master spring like a young panther into the midst of the enemy, his robes dancing, his limbs flying. His enemies fell but were only defeated, not killed.
The leader, however, was not so impressed. Seeing that his true prey had scattered, he fixated on Xi, bringing his sidearm up and aiming directly as the young man’s head. “Shoulda run, Ching-Chong. Now I use you as an example instead of the guy I really wanted.”
The shot rang out, but he did not fall. A blur of brightly colored robes passed before him, and his bride fell, rushing before him to take the bullet intended for him.
The room fell still. Time seemed to come to a stop. Xi knelt down in wonderment, reached out to his bride’s veil, lifted it up. Her face, serene, was beautiful, small, like that of a brave mouse who knew its children would live. At that moment, he knew that his father had been right, that this woman would have been his love through all of time. Xi looked up to the grizzled man, a surprised smile half-frozen on his unshaven, tobacco-stained face. After that, Xi’s memory became a blur.
- * *
Denver, the Queen City of the West. And the placards followed Xi even here. The likeness was laughable — no one would recognize him directly from the crude face drawn on the wanted poster. But he knew it wouldn’t matter. Two things guaranteed it.
First, though the likeness was terrible, it still had enough detail to identify its owner as Chinese.
And more importantly, the reward offered was so large that for all practical purposes, any Chinese man would be brought to the magistrates, just to be sure that a fortune wasn’t slipping away.
Xi still believed what he’d told his Teacher on the day he left California territory — he did not for a moment regret killing the grizzled man, no matter what punishment he had to endure. Yet at this moment, he felt the weight of that pursuit upon him as he almost never had before, fearing that no amount of distance would be far enough to escape, to spare his family from being tormented to reveal where he was hiding or to give him up.
He had no choice but to keep moving, farther out. Though he knew one day he would have to return.