Crouching Cultist, Hidden Heretic
Hongzai Qu exists underneath Ta Qu places, due to the fact that Ta Qu, the original heart of Daxing Cheng before its rabid expansion, grew not only upwards but also often outwards from its peaks, stretching bridges that criss-crossed rooftops to become new streets atop which new buildings were constructed. Under official law, the domain of Ta Qu (and other Daxing Cheng districts) extends to all buildings whose foundations fall within its jurisdiction, but Ta Qu has tied together so many buildings with bridges and skyways that it is no longer clear which rooms are attached to which foundations. Thus, the division between Ta Qu and Hongzai Qu is often a matter of who has the guards to enforce their laws, and public order is certainly not helped along by the fact that the seawall intended to keep the flooding river back has failed and, due to legal grey areas involving who is actually supposed to be maintaining, was never replaced, meaning the streets are now submerged to a depth of anywhere from three to thirty feet.
In the case of Hongzai Qu, the answer is always nobody, although the Blade Dogs do occasionally make sure that absolutely nobody’s laws get enforced. Hongzai Qu, buried as it is beneath better real estate and rarely seeing the light of the sun, has an economy based almost entirely on theft and smuggling. Money from the outside, as well as vital commodities like food and fabric, comes in purely in exchange for things that are also brought in from the outside, but which can’t be legally sold in other parts of Daxing Cheng, principally opium and people. Everyone in Hongzai Qu’s paycheck, from the merchants who buy goods legal and non to the craftsmen who turn raw materials into clothes and tools to the Blade Dogs who steal from and possibly murder all of the above, are ultimately drawing that paycheck from the smugglers who bring in opium and slaves to be sold here, in the thriving black markets of Hongzai Qu, where you can find anything if you have the money, the patience, and the wit to avoid being pickpocketed, scammed, or mugged long enough to find it. The one exception is the fishermen who ply their trade from the river, feeding anyone too poor or (rarely) too honorable to draw their profits from the black market.
The Blade Dogs are not on friendly terms with anyone. While the Black Lotus maintains a far more class act of a black market in Guizu Qu, Hongzai Qu is home to the largest and most densely packed black markets, and the Black Lotus doesn’t appreciate the competition. The Little Forest Sect and Heaven Sword Alliance, who collectively control Ta Qu above, are constantly struggling to try and cleanse the abuse and exploitation of the poor and weak that goes on down there. Their most determined adversaries, however, are the Fire Doctrine. Which is certainly strange, in that the Fire Doctrine have a lot in common with the Blade Dogs, but a combination of proximity and perhaps the desire to differentiate themselves from one another has led to a fierce and bitter enmity between the two. Fire Doctrine raids on Hongzai Qu and retaliatory Blade Dog raids on Suidao Qu are a daily fact of life for the people who live below Ta Qu, and the only one who are still around are those ambitious enough to seek profit from the struggle, too stubborn to give up their homes, or all too often, too poor to move anywhere else.
Xuelin Gou is the “leader” of the Blade Dogs in that she is the biggest and baddest of them. She’s lived in Hongzai Qu her entire life. She wasn’t orphaned by war, famine, or disease, but by the negligence of her parents, who abandoned her in the slums. Some say they couldn’t afford to raise her, others that they lost her by accident during a Blade Dog ambush, and some that they were nobles so proud that they could not stand to have anything but sons. Even Xuelin herself does not know the truth (so far as she has said), but the streets made her rough and vicious from a very young age. Born in the darkness, raised by fear and anger, she is the most feared person in all of Hongzai Qu.