Featured image art “The New Exalted” by Arute (@ast05water)
Hello, Arendelle! From far away, across the waves, on the mountainous slopes of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong!
Sinclair Manor, the mansion belonging to my fellow Exalted member Peony Sinclair, suffered an intense and unexpected battle with Harrison’s hired assassins and warriors. No thanks to the British colonial administration, which we suspect has been paid off by Harrison to look the other way! I’ll be having a word with my British counterpart, Vic, when I have the chance back in Europe. Harrison is getting away with murder, and I fear it won’t be just a figure of speech if he gets his way.
I had the most extraordinary day: Lady Kam, comprador of the Princely House and Kristoff’s manager of the ice trade in China, invited me to inspect her clandestine force of… how do I put it? Triads. These well-trained, well-built women and men are members of the Lotus and Crocus, a clandestine underworld group Kam formed for my sake.
For Arendelle’s sake.
I was taken by Kam to one of Bjorgman’s warehouses by Victoria Harbour, near the main offices of Bjorgman – only, it didn’t store ice. We had to go in the middle of the night, when day trade was officially over. It was a secret rendezvous spot for dozens upon dozens of triads, all equipped with deadly weapons that you’d only find in an Arendellian armoury: broadswords, deadly knives of all shapes and sizes, sharp-tipped throwing stars, pistols and other mobile firearms… I can put on a brave face, but I’d never been so intimidated and confused in my life. These brutal-looking, battle-hardened gangsters – I’m sure some of them must have killed people – all bowed before me in disciplined rows, hailing me as the queen from the north.
If only you could see Kristoff’s face with me. He looked as shocked as me, at least. But I guess this is what a comprador does, right? Kam will stop at nothing to ensure the prosperity and security of her employer, and her boss, Kristoff, has got to let her do her work if their professional relationship is to succeed.
I won’t sugarcoat it: Kam’s guys are gangsters and martial artists. They’re not law-abiding people. They live for the thrill of battle, carving out Hong Kong into their own criminal enclaves, and making lots and lots of money. Technically, they’re breaking both Chinese and British law – it takes a lot of guts to have both the Qing imperial agents and the British administration come after you!
Yet I can’t help feeling so grateful to them. They’ve given up all hope for a normal life just to devote themselves to Arendelle’s interests – I feel so torn and kind of guilty about that. I would never ask that of them; no one should have to give up so much for someone they barely know like me. But here they are, and they’re here for Kam and Kristoff. For me. And you.
If Chik-loei and I agree on one thing, they’re still far better than the Floodgate gangsters, who’ve thrown their lot in with Harrison and were behind the arson on Bjorgman’s Ice House Street branch and the attack on Sinclair Manor. And as Peony and Lady Kam have warned, the Floodgate thugs haven’t given up. They’re fighting open gang warfare with the Lotus and Crocus, and the British are discreetly looking the other way as Kam and Harrison tussle for territory on this island. I have to make sure the comprador’s efforts aren’t in vain, and get myself, Elsa, and the Exalted to Yixin as soon as possible. I need answers from him, and I won’t take no for an answer. Not when the stakes are this high.
Right now, we’re getting ready to travel up the map, set sail from the harbour, and set foot onto Qing territory. Once my entourage has had an audience with Yixin, we can start our journey back to Arendelle.
But before I head off, I asked Peony to give me a postcard that I could send back to Arendelle Castle. Gale brought it across a great distance to Kai, so that he could print and circulate it among the press. Many of you should have received a copy by now in your homes. It’s of the harbour of this bustling colonial territory, bursting with activity and ambition. There’s a lot of dodgy things happening here, no less the opium trade, and some of the things even Lady Kam does through her business and criminal proxies are… questionable to me, at the very least. But I’m in a very complicated society in a very complicated empire, so I’m going to stay cautious and learn as much as I can before I make a call on what to do.
It’s a lot for me to take in, as it surely is for even Kristoff and Colisa. They miss you all too, like me.
I hope you liked my postcard and I can’t wait to send you some more. Elsa and I will be back soon, I promise.