Crows make their first appearance in Chapter One. As Li Chao continues his journey through China, the crow plays a role only it is destined to fulfill. It's message, however, is not always easily understood.
In the high branches, two crows squawked so loudly that the next utterance from the man who handled the cart was unintelligible. After he’d vanished into the fog, Li Chao was left with questions.
(Ch. 1, page 10)
... Based on the well-known fact that crows are attracted to shiny objects, Li Chao theorized that, if caught and trained in infancy, a crow could scour the country for coins or jewelry. After expressing this fanciful notion, he continued. “Maybe even snatch bright things out of shops. Or, pluck gold nuggets straight out of the river sands. Think of it! A trained crow could make a poor man rich!”
A few eyes opened wider to actually contemplate the notion. (Ch. 2, page 20)
At this point in the story (ACT 1), it would be farfetched to believe that the crow (Li Chao's guide) would know anything about an ACT 2 . . . but if reason could be suspended for a time, by including the crow in the Heavenly circle, with its able wings, messages might fly farther into the future than we can clearly see.