The Tiger Generals, aboard the salvaged Underworld airship and accompanied by a pair of Cardinals, finally visit Ruby. The Cinnabrian capital is built in a series of mountain calderas. It’s a beautiful city full of hot springs and flowering trees.
They dock at one of the skytowers and set preparations for the ship to receive a full overhaul such that it can make the journey to Chalcedon without problems. With time to pass in Ruby, the Cardinals make the offer of hosting the Tiger Generals. A Kin alchemist and perfumer by the name of Mephrodisia offers to show Dr. Lupine around the various gardens, and a terra cotta soldier volunteers to play host to Rahatesh. Jae-Soon places himself at Gemma’s disposal, and she accepts, noting that she’d like to do some shopping.
Florentina rounds things out by taking charge of Valakar. She recommends the Chronomaison, a massive clockwork structure that houses numerous laboratories and classrooms, many of which shift their position and function as time passes and the gears turn. The Cardinal is unfailingly polite as she follows Doel for an entire day of his intense focus on the arts of artifice.
Jae-Soon takes Gemma to the grand bazaar, where the wonders of a continent full of artists await. The plainswoman is rather modest in her wants, though, selecting only a few simple souvenirs for her mother, some fine bolts of cloth, and a new outfit for the evening’s entertainment. They enjoy some street food, and then Jae-Soon proposes a visit to the capital’s coliseum and training grounds.
The Coliseum Without Equal has an excellent agility course set up. As they arrive and survey it, they note that it’s already in use; an acrobatic man who seems to conjure small whirlwinds from his palms is making his way through the course, as a woman with weights braided into her long red hair watches on. Introductions are made. The red-haired woman is another Cardinal, Delilah Crimson; the man an Exemplar visiting from Azuros, going by the name of Gyre. A bit of casual chat about their abilities leads to Gyre recognizing a kindred spirit in Gemma.
“So your powers come from the wind?” he asks.
“So you’re kind of an air elemental?”
He pauses. “Can you fly?”
Gyre throws up his hands. “Thank you!” Delilah rolls her eyes a bit at the protest. It turns out later that Gyre is a bit sensitive to assumptions about his Exemplar status, as he was a criminal before taking up the blue star and doesn’t know how to deal with people treating him as though he were a respectable hero.
Gemma and Valakar, along with their Cardinal hosts, Gyre and Delilah, meet that evening to visit an operetta. Dr. Lupine is still absent on his herbal journeys, and Rahatesh shows little interest in The Bandits of Blush. The operetta is in one of the more middle-class theaters, and the ushers seem quite surprised when a small group of paragons arrives. They take Jae-Soon’s instrument and Florentina’s parasol, clearly nervous at being entrusted with such treasures.
The performance itself is quite well-done, a fairly rustic comedy that has Valakar bellowing with laughter. However, partway through the ushers reveal themselves as robbers in disguise, pulling blastwands that were concealed as rope posts. One even takes a hostage on-stage. It proves to be as farcical an effort as anything the operetta could provide, as they are quite chagrined to discover six paragons are in attendance. Even with Florentina and Jae-Soon disarmed, Gyre causes a distraction which gives Valakar, Gemma and Delilah opportunity to subdue half the bandits and rescue the hostage before the others realize what’s going on. The affair is settled before the parasol and instrument are back in the hands of their rightful owners.
With the would-be robbers delivered into the hands of the constabulary, the Cardinals engage in a tradition peculiar to their order. They enact a performance for the crowd, a way of creating art to reassure that all is well. The Tiger Generals and Gyre find the tradition unusual but join in as good sports, and the gathered crowd is well and truly delighted.