When I let Go of Who I am, I become what I might be (Maint.)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

When I let Go of Who I am, I become what I might be (Maint.)

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:15 pm

Asen Ruxia, Grand Secretary of the Secretariat and leader of the government of the Middle Kingdom, Heaven's Demesne, gave the Huangdi a smile from where she knelt. A gentle smile, proud but also respectful. "It is done as I said it would be, and ahead of time." She'd cribbed a few notes. Her hospital stay had given her plenty of time to read, and more time to write. "I have, of course, provided a copy of my new constitution for you, though I am satisfied with your agreement on the basic summary." She'd made sure everyone and everything was in order. All parties accounted for.

The next step, after finalizing the draft, was to hold the elections she'd been waiting for her entire life. The elections that would bring Roania into the modern galaxy, and make it an equal, a worthy equal, of those who had protected it and now thought it nothing more than a puppet, a faded and fading shadow. A remnant from the war.

And it was all thanks to the Son of Heaven, who bowed His head before her in turn and nodded at her words.

This wasn't quite as she had always expected this moment to be. It really wasn't. It didn't quite seem fair. It didn't quite seem right, in a way she had never thought she could feel. Would feel. It didn't seem proper.

It felt like her victory had been stolen from her by Heaven itself. The Huangdi gave her a tired smile, the ghost of the one she had always wanted to see. He was doing His best, of course. Like all of them.

"Thank you, Ruxia," He said, and there was again that sense of vertigo, a sense that this was not how it was meant to be. "We are grateful, We are sure, for your diligent work on Our behalf and on behalf of Our subjects, who We are sure have never had half so diligent a Grand Secretary in our Dynasty's glorious and illustrious history."

"My best is far less than the subjects of His Imperial Majesty deserve, Lord Upon the Dragon Throne," The Grand Secretary said, her eyes stared at a point equidistant between her feet and the Dragon Throne. Not only because it was right and proper for her not to look upon her Master, but because it kept her from seeing Him. Seeing the profound mockery her life's work had become. "It is the barest of my duties as I understand it, the most straightforward. I could not rest in good conscience without the most thorough of efforts." She took a deep breath and composed herself. "This loathsome and disreputable servant of Heaven's servant has, of course, provided His Imperial Majesty with the fullest of details about my plans for the elections, and for the constitution that has been entrusted to me to create and shape."

Ruxia let her words sink in, let the silence ring out. A small part of her hoped for it to be broken. A larger, vindictive part of her hoped it wouldn't.
"We have taken your draft," He finally said, "and We have indeed..." A very brief pause. "Hela, what's that word supposed to be?" Came a very quiet voice as a young man tried to read the cue cards he held.

"Xiao, if you can't read my calligraphy," came an even quieter voice, "why did you ask me to write it down?"

"We have read and perused this draft," The Huangdi continued after a moment, and she was able to hear that He was a bit flustered, though He covered it up well enough. "And We do believe it meets Our Expectations. You have fulfilled Our hopes, sister... I mean... we mean... *Grand Secretary*, and you have fulfilled Our desires. We are satisfied with your progress."

He was trying. Ruxia knew that had to be enough. It would be enough. He was trying, and she was trying. Everyone was trying. Except for Hela, who remained as irritable as she had been a decade ago, though now there was a distinct undercurrent of fear and agitation in her future sister-in-law's demeanour that had never been present before.

"It is more than I deserve," Ruxia said. It would do. It would have to do.

It was all lies, of course. Lies upon lies upon lies. Xiao had little interest in her constitution and less in her elections. He simply wanted her to get on with things. He'd learned that much from their absent father. He was feeding her all the rope she needed to hang herself, and expecting her to build her own gallows. And if she got her work done before she got too... strung out... and caused a problem, he wouldn't need to worry. He had no need to think of her now very carefully delineated role, now that the last of the traitors had been weeded out.

The Grand Secretary tried to think about the role that her Lord and Master, the Son of Heaven, wanted her to play.

And tried not to think about how this was a parody of everything she'd once desired. Of everything she had hoped for.

She knew this was the last and harshest punishment her father could have ever dealt her, stepping away just on the verge of her victory so that she would never be able to claim she had proven herself to him. So that her master was... She looked up, finally. She was His sister. His older sister, even if not the Eldest. She was allowed, technically.

Xiao, Asen Taijie, the Tiguang Huangdi, sat on his Dragon Throne. Grey hair, grey eyes, stronger than he'd once promised to be, not yet aged into the ruin of a great man their ancestors had all become. Dressed in the black and gold of the Imperial Dignity that was his birthright. He was looking back at her, and as usual she could not read his eyes. Some would say that was because there was nothing in his eyes to be read. Some would say that it was because his mind was weak. His faculties lacking.

But she knew better, now. Behind those eyes lurked a great intelligence almost alien in how it functioned. Like a beast lurking in the depths. And when he chose to engage that great intellect he could do so to great effect... and she was on as firm a lead as their father had ever given her.
He looked at her with those cool grey eyes, as he considered her with three thoughts. In one she was his eldest sister. In another, she was the one whose... rebellion had finally shattered their father's will to continue til he died in his bed. In a third... she was his servant. His slave. A tool to be used until she was no longer necessary, and then cast aside.

She saw his resentment. She was building her gallows. And she was doing it willingly, because, and he had said this in the same tones their father had once used, "Isn't this what you *wanted*, elder sister? Aren't you happy? Why aren't you smiling?"
Once she'd thought he didn't understand people. Wouldn't understand. Couldn't understand. Now she knew it was, at least as far as she was concerned, a deliberate choice. He did not hate her. He never hated anyone. But he resented her. And she knew, in her heart of hearts, she deserved his resentment. And she knew, suddenly, he saw.

"We are sure," her brother said, and his mind came together and he no longer looked at his cue cards, "that you are doing your best on Our behalf and on behalf of Our people and Our Dynasty. We are *pleased*, Asen Ruxia, by your diligent work. And look forward to the day when this business is concluded, and we might place more work in your worthy hands... for is it not true that the business of the Middle Kingdom is never concluded? It is always in flux, it is always in need of our care. And Our Grand Secretary has shown that she cares more than most for the affairs of her nation."

His eyes bored into hers. "You are dismissed to your duties, Grand Secretary. We look forward to the report that your constitution is finished. How long did we say we would give her, Hela? A fortnight?"

"Thereabouts," a quietly furious Hela said. And there was no hope from that quarter, either, for if Xiao resented being made Huangdi, Hela despised that he had been placed there, blamed her... and her hatred for Ruxia was a long-burning coal fire. "A month on the outside."

Xiao's smile was still there. He turned his face to one side and flashed it, just for an instant, in a way she'd once thought was adorable, though it was nothing more than an empty display now. "A month. On the outside. And when do you think you might grant our people the elections you say they deserve? After all, is that not the purpose of this constitution?"

Lianying had once said that when provoked, Xiao held a terrible anger inside him. That his usual quiet passivity cloaked a wrath that, once aroused, knew no bounds. But Lianying had a habit of provoking people. Especially in their family. Her refusal to follow the path of duty, and her tendency to make use of her familial connection in the most self-interested of ways... but no.

Their elder sister had tried to force Xiao to do something he did not want to do, once. Had insulted him. And he had responded with a fury that had sent Ruxia, when she heard about it, into shock. And from shock into disbelief. Surely not. Surely Asen Taijie, the little boy who had spent so long sick, whose mind was always wandering and dreaming... he couldn't have been that person.

Now she knew better. "Once the Constitution is completed, and all authorities have given the necessary approval, and it has been presented for His Imperial Majesty's final signature... the elections can take place after the new year. I have not been idle. I—"

"You are never idle. We know that. We are well aware. You are a hard worker. And the elections will happen as soon as we have signed this document, because you have never done less than the best that you can for Us and for your Dynasty."

"That is not..."

"Make it possible, Asen Ruxia!" her brother roared. And then he slumped. And the Tiguang Huangdi looked sick and tired again, for just a moment.

"I will ensure, Lord, it will happen at the earliest possible time." The delay had not been necessary. Not strictly. She'd had plans, of course. But they could be moved. Everything could be moved. Everyone could be moved. She would move it.

All these people, they stacked so well. And so long as she was doing the right thing, Xiao would stack too, if not happily.

She took a breath and turned, and took a few steps toward the exit before he called out in a tone even more tired, and sicker, than his voice a moment before. "Please, Ruxia. Do this right. Take as much time as you need. But make sure you need every minute you're taking. Don't... don't make it for nothing. All right?"
And her brother's eyes were grey. They always had been grey. Even as a newborn babe they had been grey. But now, for the first time in years, that was the greyness of a growing sickness.

If she failed, she would have her brother's death on her hands. If not soon, then one day. He would burn out like their father, like their great-grandfather, like all those ancestors who had not fallen into hedonistic dotages. All those ancestors who cared about their work.

And then Lianying would be Huanghou, and if Ruxia thought Xiao resented her... "I will do everything I can to make sure that this is done properly, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, and this heavy burden is shared upon as many shoulders as it might be, to better protect our dynasty," she said. And it would work. Because that was what she did.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:17 pm

"You should have said no, Xiao," Hela said. And not for the first time. They'd retreated to the garden. Xiao was Emperor, and that meant when he wanted to leave he could get up and go. And if no one needed him, and he said not to be disturbed, then he would not be disturbed. "I told you not to..."

"If I'd said no, my father would have died and I would be Emperor anyway," Xiao said from his place on her lap, his eyes closed tightly. One hand rested on Boba, who was snuffling quietly. "Then or a few years down the line. Not many. Not at all."
"But if you'd waited... if he'd waited... a few more years, Xiao, that's all I wanted. A few more years to have you to myself...!" And she made that sound he recognized, where she'd put her fist in her mouth to keep from sobbing. She was good at not sobbing.

"You do have me to yourself," Xiao murmured. "You've had me for years... and you'll have me for years more. I don't intend to die early. I don't intend to force our son to become Emperor early, either. This is the..."

"Your father never intended you to become Emperor early, and look what happened to him," Hela said, with a fierce anger that was born from love and fear and that horrible sense of helplessness. Xiao hated the fact that she had a point. "Things happen. This is the hardest job in the galaxy that you've started doing. And your mother did the best she could to support him. And she was smarter than me and better than me. Better than I could ever be... and she wasn't enough to keep him from burning out. And now it's all..."

"Had my cousin not started that stupid war, and his partisans not sabotaged Meng Ailian... my father would have kept on ruling into the next century," Xiao said. He did not want to open his eyes. He wanted to sit here and rest on her lap, in the sun, Boba in his hand. Pretend it was all the way it once was. "I do not face the same challenges he did... and if I do, I will not wait for people to learn their lessons and hope they will not be foolish enough to do something. I will make it very clear, and very quickly, what happens if they continue." He finally opened his eyes.

"Yes, you'll just cut their heads off," Hela murmured, stroking his hair. Her blue eyes looked into his.

"I have seen what happens when an Emperor waits for his people to choose the right path. I will not make the same mistake." All these people... his father had once referred to them as a garden. He would prune them, and prune them quite ruthlessly if he had to.

Hela stared into his grey eyes for a few moments. "You're already exhausted," his future wife said.

"Hela, you've known me long enough to know I've always been exhausted." He closed his eyes again. "I cannot afford to let go and rest. I cannot sleep. I cannot let my mind drift off. I must be... I must... what are you..." she was tickling him, her hands on his chest as they brushed over the top of his robes, and his eyes popped open. "Hela!" he snapped, a moment later. "I have... I need to focus on..."

"Quiet. I don't care if you're the Emperor. You were my boyfriend first. I had prior claim."

"What if someone... Hela, stop that!"

"If someone needs you, they will need to evaluate whether they want to interrupt me with whatever it is they're doing," she said as she continued to tickle him under his ribs, her fingers mercilessly finding every spot she knew from their decades of life together as he kicked and struggled. "I will decide if their issue is worthwhile, and I am a wrathful judge."

Xiao could hear his voice get higher as she attacked until he was squeaking like he was a boy of ten again. He tried to protest, but finally, he had to stop, to curl into himself as she started to tickle his sides, and he laughed.

"I'm not some genius like your mother," she said when his fits of laughter stopped. "I'm not some... perfect vision of beauty and poetry like everyone says your grandmother was. But what am I, Xiao?" She asked, as he hesitantly uncurled. "Hmm? Never forget who is the boss of you. Me. I am the boss of you. And I'm not letting you burn away. I plan to have you for a very, very, long time."

"Yes, dear," Xiao said with a sigh as his girlfriend stopped tickling him. "And if you don't mind..."

"Yes, Xiao. You may go to sleep ." As he drifted off, she looked at a Boba who had escaped from his master's grip amid the tickling. "We are not going to let him go. Do you understand me?"

"Swi," a little blue Swinub said. And then gave a very emphatic, "Nub."

"Good boy," Hela said as she stroked Xiao's hair and let him, for as long as he could, sleep. There was plenty of time, for him and for them. And he was still strong. He'd only been Huangdi for a few months. He could hold on a few more years. A few decades even, if they were lucky.
Hela planned to be even more fortunate than that.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

The Crystal Chamber, Sea God's Temple Ruins, Five Sisters

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:24 pm

Lian Jin glared at the young woman trying to tell her what to do. "I really thought that, when I died, I'd be through with all of this," the Crystal Mind said, leaning back and putting her hands behind her avatar's head. "And then I get to Heaven, and I'm told that actually, I'm not finished."

The new Seer of Heaven, a brand new title whose responsibilities were being created minute-by-minute, Yuezi — Moon-Child — sighed. "This is, by my count, the fifth time in two weeks we have had this conversation. You are improving, Lian Jin. I remember when I heard this from you daily." The blue-haired young woman in her very trim outfit that contained a very trim body looked up at the embodiment of the Dynasty's technology and gave a very wan smile. "And you have been a very helpful and valuable aid for us all. I am sure you will continue to be so."

"I don't want to do any of this," Lian Jin said.

"I know," Yuezi said, her voice full of patience that was as false as her smile. "And if it was up to me, you would not be doing it and I would not be doing this, but here we are. We must both make the best of it."

Once upon a time, there had been countless Seers, each of them responsible for the ships that crossed the sea of stars or the creation of new electronic devices. There had been a guild of them, in fact, in a period that for all its long history was now as lost to the mists of time as the beginning of the world itself.
Now there was only one. And that one was Yuezi. And she would enjoy this job and all its perquisites a great deal more if that crystal mind, just as new as she was, would stop complaining about her responsibilities and do her damn part.

"I'm going to go back to sleep," Lian Jin said. "And I will wake up when you need me again."

"You are not sleeping, Lian Jin," Yuezi said. She pressed her hand to the great crystal atop her collarbone, and Lian Jin sat upright as electricity crackled through her home and prison. "We have work to do."

"I'm not in the mood to work. I'm going back to sleep," Lian Jin said desperately.

Yuezi sighed. "Lian Jin..."

"I'm going back to sleep!" The Crystal Mind snapped. "How long are you going to punish me for one moment's mistake?! How long am I going to be trapped here? I am a multitude of minds, all of them more worthy and more deserving of this position than I am! Cannot you call one of them up?"

Yuezi leaned back, her blue hair flowing down her back like a river or an ocean. She looked at Lian Jin with eyes as deep and blue as the sea. "No." They were mirrors, in a way. Lian Jin and she, both crafted from far ruder, not to say less beautiful, materials into something far greater than they had been before.

"Why?!" The crystal mind demanded. "Why must I suffer for your mistakes?!"

"Because you killed them all!" Yuezi snapped, her patience finally breaking. "You did that, Lian Jin! You did not have to! You might have waited! But they chose you to be their spokesperson for the same reason I chose to maintain you in that post! You killed them! You killed more Seers than the Idiot King's servitors! You killed more Seers than anyone else in history! You are the monster you fear is lurking in your crystal depths! And now you will pay for your crimes!"

Lian Jin stared at her, and Yuezi stared back.

The silence rang out between them until Lian Jin looked away. "If this is Hell, then it is still a greater one than I deserve." And if she could have cried, within her crystal prison, she would have. "I wanted to die. I could have been free. But the Goddess who'd made me. My mother. Her husband. My father. My brother. They all... I'm here. I have miles to go before I sleep... But I don't know if I'm ever going to. And this is who I am, Yuezi. I went to Heaven, and looked in the mirror, and I was... I was this. As if I really was this girl... And the boy, the man... He'd never been real. Never been more than a mask."

"Yes, imagine that," Yuezi murmured. "Is being a woman truly so bad?"

"No," Lian Jin said quietly after a moment's thought. "I think... I think I might have liked it, if things had been different."

"Well, then," Yuezi said. "It is our role to see that things will be different."

"You damned... If you had a family name, I would use it to insult you. To dismiss you." The spirit spat nothingness into nothingness. "But you don't. I'm forced to pretend to familiarity with you. With what you represent. How dare you say that to me? You are not my friend. You are a warden in my prison."

Yuezi sighed and looked at the great crystal mind. And then she smiled, and her smile was beautiful as she leaned forward. "I am not your friend, Lian Jin. I am your master... but I do not need to be a cruel one. Kai? Has that damn package finally arrived?"

"Yes, yes," the doors opened. The construction of this hall, this great shrine and memorial to the Seers, that enclosed the giant crystal in which Lian Jin lived and worked had taken months, the replacement of the temporary scaffolding with permanent fixtures even longer. But now it was done. And well done. Not that you would know it if the captain of the Crystal Guard was the only person you spoke to on the subject, because at least before that he would have been able to have his men wheel a cart in with the giant box. As opposed to carrying it in himself. "It's heavy."

"I can imagine," Yuezi said. "Hard work is good for the soul. It builds character."

Kai Half-Moon, future Prince of Good Fortune and Guardian of the Seer of Heaven, looked at his mistress and lover's bright blue eyes, seeking the insincerity he knew was there, and finding none. "Yes, mistress," he sighed.

Lian Jin looked at him, then at Yuezi, then back at him. "What are you doing?"

"You'll see," Yuezi said as Kai set down the box in front of her. She let out a tired sigh of her own. "One of the advantages of being a woman, Lian Jin, is that there are men to perform all the physical labour if we so choose. Do you not think that is a worthwhile benefit to our transmutation?"

"I enjoyed physical labour," Lian Jin said. She shifted forms from that of a woman to simply a giant eyeball, the better to keep her 'eye' on that wooden crate.
"What *is* that?"

"All in good time," Yuezi said. "Kai, where's the crowbar? Don't tell me you expect me to open that. My crystal is attuned to my current task. I'm not interrupting my duties to perform your own." She turned back to Yuezi, and to the giant black table in front of them on which the course of ships was plotted. "There is work to be done, and we will only find life in doing it, Lian Jin."

"Easy for you to say," Lian Jin said to the last of the Seers. "You have that Kai Half-Moon keeping you warm at night. All I am is coldness and sorrow... And I am so scared that when the sorrow is gone, the anger is gone, I will be gone with it. No longer myself. No longer something real. Only the cold and the dark." Lian Jin returned to her humanoid form and leaned in. Close enough that Yuezi could see her reflection in the crystal girl's eyes, her new eyes, that matched the sky above, but could not see the sky with them. "Go away. Let me die in peace."

"Yes, yes. Endless sadness, resentment, and self-pity. I know," Yuezi said as she walked back over to the box. "I've heard it before." She looked up at Kai Half-Moon and smiled. "Open it for me, please?"

"But I love to watch you work," he said.

"Open the box, Kai," Yuezi said before she turned back to Lian Jin. "You're not going to die, Lian Jin. You are going to live a long and healthy life. I have made... arrangements."

"Arrangements?" Lian Jin said. And then the box came open. "No. Oh no. Absolutely not. Do not connect that thing to my crystal. Don't you dare! Don't even think about it!"

The red crystal, small though it was, pulsed with a masculine energy equal to the blue crystal's feminine force. Within it, curled up like a small ball, a dark figure slumbered and waited.

Yuezi turned to the crystal girl, whose eyes were now fixed upon the male crystal, her mouth hanging open. "You're right. It's not good for you to be alone. Left outside of the experiences of life. For all there may be hundreds of minds within you, there is still only one Lian Jin. And she deserves..."

"No. No. Do not plug that thing in," Lian Jin said desperately. "Do not do that."

"Kai, please install the red crystal into the socket we have prepared." From even as close as she was standing, the blue crystal in her body was responding to the virility and force of the red crystal's energy. She could feel it, a masculine power, like the sun on a warm day, or...

"Don't. Don't you dare, Kai Half-Moon," Lian Jin said. "I'm warning you. I will blast you to ashes if you..."

"She will do no such thing," Yuezi said, closing her eyes. "She lacks the will to do it. Too much of what she has become yearns for this to..."

"You shut up, woman," Lian Jin snapped. "You take your mouth and keep it closed."

Yuezi ignored her and turned to Kai Half-Moon. "Install the red crystal, Kai," she said with a smile. "We are doing a good thing."

"Yes, mistress," Kai said, his voice a dull intonation. "I live to serve, mistress."

"Jerk," Yuezi muttered. "And she thinks you're good company."

"No, no, no. Don't do it, Kai Half-Moon. Don't you dare plug this abomination, this thing! This *guy*! Into me!"

Kai Half-Moon paused at where Yuezi had instructed him to set down the male crystal. "Are you sure about this, Yuezi?" Already a purple tint was beginning to glow in the blue crystal.

"Absolutely," the living girl said with a beatific smile to her lover. "Trust me on this." She turned back to Lian Jin. "You are correct. You need a reason to remain yourself. To remain a person. As does everyone. It is not good to be alone. As I was once told, 'Our hearts are the hearts of the world, and one was made to satisfy the other.'"

"But a... A man?" Lian Jin's voice shook with fear, mingled with anger and some far less obvious emotion. Yuezi's perfect senses told her this perfectly, of course. And all the feelings the Crystal Mind was hiding from Kai Half-Moon as well.

"Yes, a man," the Seer of Heaven declared as her boyfriend plugged the male crystal into the socket that had been installed for just this purpose. "Lian Jin, meet Alrek Ice-Fist, formerly of the Kadrian Imperial Military Police, now on permanent secondment to special duty."

"Special duty?" A breathless Lian Jin said, turning to the smoky figure emerging from the red crystal, blinking and stretching as if waking from a long sleep.

"Your mother's business, ma'am. At your service," The crystal's new resident said. He gave a small bow to Kai Half-Moon, who looked distinctly worried, and Yuezi, whose smile had become something else. "I hope we'll have a long and productive relationship."

"I didn't... I don't..." He was still just a smoky figure, but Lian Jin seemed to see something else. Something more, something vital and, more than anything else, virile. "I didn't ask for..."

"Of course you didn't," Yuezi said with that same beatific smile. "But you needed this."

"I'm not going to be some kind of... of... toy for you!" Lian Jin said desperately.

"I have every intention of us having a long and faithful friendship in addition to any other duties you may require me to perform," Alrek Ice-Fist said. "And I will do everything in my power to make sure we both enjoy our infinite time together."

"You are not a toy, Lian Jin," Yuezi said. "Unless, of course, you choose to become one. I leave that to you. Come, Kai. We must leave our friends to get acquainted."

They made it out the door before the first sob shook the room. Yuezi looked over her shoulders. As she'd hoped, a crying Lian Jin was enfolded in the arms of the dead IMP, and he was holding her exactly as a friend, a lover, should. Everything else would come later.

She smiled and turned to her boyfriend, who was looking at her with a profoundly worried expression on his face. "That was... I'm sorry, mistress, but that was cruel."

"Next time you call me mistress, Kai, you will see exactly how cruel I can be," Yuezi said as she closed the door behind her. "You embarrassed me in front of my subordinate. That will never do. As for your challenge to my decisions... only time will tell how right or wrong they are. But I am confident that this is the best course of action."

"Yes, mistress," Kai said, his voice dull again.

Yuezi sighed and rolled her eyes. "Bend over. You're tall. I don't want to stand on my tiptoes."

"Yes, mistress... ow! Yuezi!" The slap up the back of the head was hard enough to make his ears ring.

"Consider that your first and final warning," Yuezi declared. She looked up at him and smiled again, but this time it was that smile that made him feel like he was melting inside. "I have a great many duties, Kai Half-Moon. You have but two. Do we need to discuss them again?"

"I need to protect the Seer of Heaven, with my life and all my strength," Kai recited dutifully, because he had been told it was his duty so many times.

"And?" Yuezi said as she grabbed his hand and began to lead him down the hall, her hips swaying in a way that made his mouth go dry.

"I need to love you, Yuezi," he murmured. "With all my heart and soul. You are the woman I will spend the rest of my life with. The woman I will have my children with."

"But if you keep mocking me, your life will be very, very short," Yuezi said pleasantly. "Now come. I have a great deal of work to do, and I intend to enjoy myself while doing it. And you will enjoy yourself too." She looked at him and smiled again. "Because before I can do any of it, spending two minutes around that red crystal has driven me quite mad... and I will need your help to make me sane again. Do you think you can do that?"

"Yes, mistress," Kai said. And then he winced as she slapped him up the back of the head again.

"You are not funny, Kai Half-Moon."

"And yet, I am the funniest person in this building right... I'll be quiet now."

"That is wise of you."

"Yes, mistress."
"Kai Half-Moon..."


"I'm going to get some sleep now," Lian Jin said. "Do you think you can take over while I rest?"

"Of course," Alrek said, his ghostly hand gently brushing her ghostly head. "I am part of you now. As you are part of me. We will always be together."

"That sounds... nice," Lian Jin murmured, drifting off into a dormant state.

In one sense, she was lying in bed with the man of her dreams, and the dreams of a thousand thousand other women. Cradled by his arms and his love.
In another sense, she was a disembodied spirit, managing the work of those thousand thousand women and countless more. An endless spiritual overseer of all that was and would be, never resting and never, ever asleep

But now he was there, a part of her and not. And the part of her that was her... could finally rest.

For now.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Palace of Justice, Secretariat City, Huanxin

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:25 pm

"I'm telling you, Grand Secretary," Da Chuanpu said, his hands groping something invisible as he worked himself into a state of excitement. "You're going to love Tiandi. It's the best. The best! You'll be very happy with the construction work we've done."

"I'm sure I'll be satisfied," she said. "Thank you for your efforts on behalf of my little pet project, Secretary Da. When we meet tomorrow, we'll discuss it further." After a few more pleasantries, the call ended.

"Didn't I tell you that she appreciated me?" Da Chuanpu told his son-in-law, Jie Ruido. "She's such a fantastic woman, our Grand Secretary. Really knows how to conduct herself. She's just the best. A really big-hearted person. And we're going to make her happy."

Jie Ruido didn't say anything, because his father-in-law didn't want him to say anything. Just to smile and nod and agree. He smiled. He nodded. He agreed.

"When we go to Tiandi, she's going to be so happy with what she sees there. She's going to say 'Chancellor Da did such a good job as Governor,' and I did, you know? I especially like that wall I put up around the city's core. Everyone said we couldn't put a wall up! Said it wouldn't work! But they were all wrong, and I did it anyway, and I was right!" The Chancellor said.

It was all true. Da Chuanpu had been one of the most successful governors of the Queen City of the Qinye River in recent memory.

Yes, there was more to the province than Tiandi itself, but no one cared about that.

Someone had told Da Chuanpu that he could never manage the city. That he lacked any real responsibilities, and no one would ever appoint him to the position. It was the kind of poor choice that ruined lives. The man had seemingly willed himself into the governor's post overnight, waving his (possibly illicitly obtained) examination pass and his wealth to convince the previous Chancellor to appoint him. Primarily to make him go away.

He had then begun an infrastructure campaign, contracts for which went to Da Construction. Highways were repaired, and roads paved. The bridges along the Qinye were renovated, reinforced and expanded. He built a wall. A big one. The biggest anyone had seen in millennia. It was ridiculous and pointless. An absurdity, really. The problem of illegal immigration from poorer provinces was not going to be solved by building a wall.

But he'd done it anyway, because he'd said he would. He even got the poorer provinces neighbouring Tiandi to pay for it, in a ridiculous credit swap agreement that, had he not suddenly become Chancellor, would have landed him in a nice cangue in a dark cell somewhere.

But it had been worthwhile, because in his words, "no one's getting over this wall, folks. There's no ladder that's going to bring you over this. You have to go through our gates. You have to come to Tiandi legally. And that's what it's all about. We want immigration, but we want legal immigration. You can't climb this wall. You can't use a ladder." And then he'd paused. Thought. "Maybe a rope."

It didn't matter. None of that mattered now. He was Chancellor, after all. He was the best Chancellor ever, just like he'd been the best Governor ever. "Remember what I said? I said I could go walking into Tiandi Central Market and shoot someone and no one would do anything about it!"

He had been right. He had a horrible habit of being right about such things. None of his constituents, the important people who'd taken advantage of his schizophrenic approach to laws and the masses of Tiandi's lower orders who had seen in him a mirror of their own greed and ambition would have raised a fuss had he chosen to do that. None of them cared that a so-called 'Coastal Elite' had railed against his corruption, his cheerful disdain for the law, or his seemingly endless ability to avoid punishment for any of his actions.

And now he was coming home. He'd left, for a few years, but he was coming back. And he was going to show his boss, and the new Huangdi, how great Tiandi was. And they'd never want to leave. That was a big league deal. He'd arranged everything perfectly. Or, rather, he'd handed everything over to his daughter Yiwan to arrange perfectly, since he was busy with Chancellor stuff. He trusted her. Best mind in the business. Chip off the old block.

"I'm going to be so happy when I go home," Da Chuanpu said. "I've been away too long."

Jie Ruido smiled and nodded and agreed with his father-in-law as they walked through the halls of the Palace of Justice together. He'd once tried registering an opinion. It turned out that was overrated. Now he simply smiled and nodded and agreed with his father-in-law anyway.

It was much less work, and it got him what he wanted.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Ruxia's Private Residence, Closed City

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:28 pm

"I hate this city," Ruxia muttered as she looked out at a sodden Huanxin from her window. "It's always raining."

"It is not always raining, Ruxia," Valdr said as he massaged her shoulders and began to undo her robes. "Sometimes it is merely drizzling."

"And when it is not raining or drizzling it is hot," Ruxia returned. "We are living, all of us, in a city designed for an eighth of this population, designated the capital by a drunken tyrant who did not live long enough to experience the summer here." Her cousin Yuwen, over at the Met Office, had said there would be more typhoons. There were always typhoons. Constant typhoons. Even the city's baseball team was named after them. Though typhoons hit with more regularity, and more successfully, than they did.

"Please tell me you booked our shuttle to Huanxin," the Grand Secretary said as her outer robes came off. "Please. Please tell me that you got on the line with Fleet Admiral Kang and we will be in Tiandi before the next storm hits."

"Of course I did," Valdr said. "You don't have to wear the bulletproof vest, do you? It's not helping your mood, and you should probably be more worried about an axe falling than some lunatic with a pistol."

"I'm not going to take any chances. I'm not going to let anyone get a lucky shot," Ruxia said. "I've had enough of that for several lifetimes." Granted, some of that bitch Meng Ailian's catastrophe had been her fault... but she wasn't going to take any chances, anyway. Being shot once was enough for anyone.

"And I love that about you," Valdr said as he began to massage her shoulders again. "It's very sexy, you know." He leaned forward. "You're so strong. So clever. So..."

"Is this where you tell me why you're buttering me up like one of your people's pastries?" She asked him.

He chuckled and kissed the back of her neck. "I don't need an excuse to tell you how beautiful you are."

She sighed and closed her eyes as he continued to kiss her neck and, more importantly, opened the rest of her robes. "Out with it, man."

"I think we should get married."

"Ugh... do you have any idea how big a performance that would be? How expensive that would be? I love you. You love me. All us getting married would do would give you an excuse to take me off the shots and get me pregnant, like you've wanted for decades." She shivered. She wanted that too, but there was so much work to do. Had been since she'd been named Grand Secretary. "You knew when we got together that it was my job first, and you a very close second... but still second."

"Mm," he agreed, his hands moving off her shoulders to other, softer, parts of her. "But consider how it will look in your election campaign if you're pregnant..."

"Oh, you smarmy bastard," Ruxia said with a laugh as she turned around to face him. "That's not fair at all."

"I know," Valdr said as he kissed her. "But I want to have children with you. Underhanded means are as fair as any other. I wonder who taught me that..."

"You taught yourself that, you dick," she said as he led her back to their bed. "You didn't need my help." She didn't let him go any further than that, though, for the time being. Instead, she let him hold her as her mind went through the possibilities. "I am living independently, I suppose," she murmured. "My sisters would hardly want to attend my wedding, thankfully... my brother wouldn't appreciate the big fuss and the idea it might put in Hela's head... maybe a small... civil service. Why make a big deal? I'm no one in particular. I'm second-in-line to the throne and we're already... get your hands off your bitemark, you jackass! I'm trying to think!"

He ran his fingers gently against the scar he'd given when he'd made her his woman. "Do you need to think?" He asked.

"Yes," Ruxia said, trying to ignore the pleasant sensations his fingers were giving her as they moved down her body. "It's not just us, Valdr."

"Or maybe it *is* just us, and that's what you're trying to figure out," he murmured into her ear as he nipped at the lobe. "Why make a big deal? We could go to the Kadrian embassy and just have a very small ceremony. Our *friends* could attend. We still have some. No one really needs to make a big deal out of it. Your brother can hardly complain about us setting an example for Hela if we just have a tiny ceremony..."

"Yes, yes," Ruxia murmured, tightening her eyes. She doubted Hela particularly wanted Xiao to marry her in some giant ceremony... but she was also aware that Hela Blackthorn would do anything for her little brother. And that Xiao was putting his own desire for a giant ceremony onto his little friend. "But I'm not going to tell him that."
Of course you're not," Valdr said with a laugh as he kissed her again. "How about after you've given your brother your constitution, and he's decided not to chop your pretty head off?"
I like that idea," Ruxia agreed. "It will give me something to look forward to."

"Mmm," Valdr agreed. "And there is always the honeymoon."

"That can wait until after I win my first election," Ruxia said with a quiet chuckle. "I don't think you'll mind terribly, considering the rush of euphoria that I'm going to experience. I'll be walking on air... and eager to bring you just as high as I am." Although at that precise moment in time, it was Valdr's business to make sure she was as high as one of the kites she could see distantly out of their window, floating through the sky.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Post-Master General's Office, Secretariat City

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:30 pm

The black-and-white Nmmr who was now the Nmmr in charge of the Secretariat of Communications looked at the other Nmmr. "Nmmr not sure what Grand Secretary doing with elections, but Nmmr not care, either. Nmmr has very important job, and Nmmr going to do it. Is Nmmr clear?"

One of the other Nmmr raised a hand. "Nmmr want to know if Nmmr allowed to take break for Nmmr meals and if Nmmr see butterfly?"

The Postmaster General pressed a paw to the little glasses Nmmr now wore. "Nmmr not see sense in such stupid question from Nmmr! Nmmr should be ashamed of Nmmr, mmrrr? Mrrm. Of course Nmmr take Nmmr break for Nmmr meal!" The Post-Master General stamped a paw on the ground, then continued. "As long as Nmmr work very hard between Nmmr breakfast and lunch!"

"Mrmm. Good enough for Nmmr."

"Good. Nmmr get back to work!"

The other Nmmr all scampered away. Nmmr shook head. No butterflies in office, anyway. Not for them. Nmmr would chase all butterflies. That was perk of Nmmr's job, Nmmr thought. By now, Nmmr should understand that only Nmmr allowed to chase butterfly. That rule needed to be put in writing. Nmmr look into making it law.

Nmmr's predecessor once said Nmmr not see point in chasing butterfly, because butterfly not taste good. Nmmr disagree. Point of chasing butterfly was in chasing butterfly,not catching butterfly.

Nmmr looked at pile of papers on desk in front of Nmmr and sighed. Nmmr supposed could also be point of chasing butterfly in getting out of paperwork... but paperwork was part of Nmmr's very important job, and had been since Nmmr was appointed. There was always another butterfly.

Nmmr did wish, however, that Nmmr's desk was closer to sunbeam on floor. Worst part of job, that job take place during day. Nmmr had asked Grand Secretary if Nmmr could do work at night. Grand Secretary had not been amused.

Grand Secretary was very nice woman, though. Very pretty. Nmmr liked her very much, even if Nmmr didn't like the idea of elections. Elections seemed to be a lot of fuss and bother for something that could have been decided by committee. Nmmr had every intention, though, of winning election. No one else could do Nmmr's job. No one else was going to do Nmmr's job, Nmmr had decided. Nmmr had earned job fair and square by answering Grand Secretary's call when Grand Secretary had needed help.

Nmmr looked at the pile of papers on Nmmr's desk There was a lot of work to do before Nmmr could take Nmmr's break for Nmmr's meals and see butterfly... Nmmr supposed best thing to do was for Nmmr to get it over with.

After nap in sunbeam, of course. Nmmr knew best way to get work done is when fully rested.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Watch Director's Office, Palace of Justice, Secretariat City

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:31 pm

Nmmr's colleague, Dai Yun, had planted her head in her own mountain of paperwork about two hours before and was just not.

Not anything.

Having reached such dizzying heights at the pinnacle of her chosen profession by, and Dai Yun was tired of reminding herself this, being the only person left who was capable of doing said job, she was now stuck with the job she had been given.

She'd wanted to be a detective. She'd wanted to follow in the example of the heroes she'd once seen on TV, Inspector Hui and Constable Jun. Protecting the population, keeping the streets safe. Wearing a uniform, and looking pretty good in it. And she'd had that! She'd had that. She had been a Watch Captain. She'd made Commander. She'd had her own precinct, just days before the war had broken out.

That had been enough for her.

And then everyone more senior to her in prestige and rank had... died. Brutally. And it wasn't as if she wanted to die herself, though unlike them she had no family left to mourn her passing. She was sure, though, their families felt far worse than she did. And it would have been the height of selfishness to wish to die. A mockery of those heroes and the tragedy that had befallen them. A mockery of those families.
But getting up and doing this job she hated required more willpower than she possessed. So instead of getting up, Dai Yun was simply not.

She was not anything right now.

She was not going to do any of the paperwork that needed to be done. If it was important, someone would come to her office and politely remind her of it. If it was very important, Ruxia would call her and yell at her. If it was supremely important, the new Emperor would send a message asking why it hadn't been done, and then she'd get yelled at by Ruxia again.

And then, and only then, would she do the work in question. And she'd do a good job of it, too! She was very good at her job. The best. She just... wasn't going to do any of it until someone came in and made her.

And if no one came in and made her, then it obviously wasn't that important anyway.

She was not going to stop being not until someone came in and made her be something else. That required more of Dai Yun than she possessed right now.
Not a lot more. But some.

Dai Yun had been not for two hours when someone knocked on the door. "Come in," she said, her voice muffled by the desk. She could have pretended to be working, but that also required effort, and she was not doing any of that today.

The door opened and closed again. Dai Yun didn't bother to look up. It was probably Ruxia, coming to yell at her again.

"Oh, thank Heaven you're here, Great Secretary," said a voice she didn't know. "I didn't know where else to go. Something... unusual is happening, and... I think there's something very strange happening, and I'm very worried about my friend."

Dai Yun looked up from her desk and saw a young woman with long black hair and a long black dress looking at her with an expression of worry on her face. And out of every office in Internal Harmony this person could have come to, they came to hers. Dai Yun felt herself gradually becoming herself again. Not the Dai Yun she'd been for years, labouring behind the scenes to make sure that Ruxia's plans worked out, but the Dai Yun she wanted to be. "Why don't you have a seat, ma'am? Let's hear it. Just the facts, of course. Just the facts, ma'am."
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:31 pm

<double post>
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Joyous Mountain

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:34 pm

It was the tenth anniversary, give or take a few days, of the War of the Idiot King. And official historians had finally gotten around to collecting the provincial stories. And one of them had come here, to Joyous Mountain, to speak to both a leading figure in those provincial stories and one of the leading figures in the Middle Kingdon's private enterprise. "So, of course, when the Closed Party forces came to your residence..."

"Oh, man," Greizon Seig said. "That was, like, a totally crazy time. I mean, I didn't really care about politics back then.” These were lies, of course. Everyone knew they were lies. The Greizons, Seig included, had been one of the biggest funders of Open Party activities for decades. For centuries.
But it was the lie they had built their entire mystique around, the apolitical stewards of the Empire... until their latest representative had gone public. Not for political purposes, but so he could build a Heavens-damned theme park on his family's land. Some of the very last allodial land in the whole Middle Kingdom, land he could have done anything with... and so he'd built a theme park.

And then he'd taken that theme park and made it into something else. Something more.

“But I knew what was going on. And then these guys show up and start demanding we surrender! To them! I mean, they were all 'you're going to surrender or you'll be arrested!'

"I mean, I'm not a fighter," Seig continued. "You know? I just want to work on my projects. Never held a gun in my whole life."

The journalist from the Huanxin Daily Record looked around at all the trophies, guns and swords that decorated his office here at Joyous Mountain. "Of course not," she said.

"But, like, there comes a time in every man's life where you need to go 'that is so uncool, and it needs to be stopped'," Greizon Seig said as his granddaughter, Greizon Lei, entered the room with a tray of tea and snacks. The little blonde girl was wearing a 'Joyous Mountain' tunic dress over a pair of baseball shorts, the reporter noted for colour in her story. Also, an oversized baseball cap on which was emblazoned the Joyous Mountain calligraphic logo.

She'd seen that logo everywhere since she'd arrived. It was on the uniforms of the staff. On the signs. On the stationery. It was even on the front of the building itself, just under Joyous Mountain's name. A combination of the two characters, melded into what was slowly becoming one of the most recognizable symbols in all the Middle Kingdom.

"So you..."

"Oh, I shot them," Greizon Sieg said, taking a cup of tea from his granddaughter. "Right in the face. It was so awesome. It was..." His wife, Zhou Nailin, a representative of the family who owned the old-school media conglomerate of which the Daily Record was the flagship property, coughed. It was a very loud cough that said 'please stop talking about shooting people in front of our impressionable grandchild.' "That is to say, it was a very scary time."

"I see," the reporter said. "And then what happened?"

"Oh, man, that's when things got crazy," Greizon Seig said. "The fire! The explosions! And that was just in Huanxin, yeah? I wish I was there, I'd have had them all beaten with one hand behind my back! Man, that would have been the coolest and most..." His granddaughter was staring at him, big orange eyes wide and mouth open. "but I was here protecting my family." His voice went flat and his eyes focused on a point immediately behind the reporter's head. "It was very frightening. The most horrible experience of my life."

"My husband means," Zhou Nailin said, "that it is the duty of every subject of the dynasty to support the rightful occupant of the Dragon Throne and to protect his home and family. And he did his duty. Didn't you, husband?"

"And you can *see* me do my duty," Greizon Seig suddenly said, out of the blue. "We're going to make a movie out of it. Huge movie. Big stars. Right here at Joyous Mountain. 'The Siege of Fort Radical'. We'll have it out in time for the anniversary events next year."

"What?" Zhou Nailin said, almost as flat as her husband had been. "Husband, we are not making a movie about that!"

"Why not? It's awesome! And it will be awesome! I'm totally going to play myself!"

"You are absolutely not playing yourself in a movie you are not making!" Zhou Nailin said.

"Tell everyone about my movie," Greizon Seig said, picking his granddaughter up. "It's going to be the greatest movie of all time. The Siege of Fort Radical. We'll make it right here on our new sound stage. Right here at Joyous Mountain. Yeah? Why should we give an interview when we can show everyone how the forces of good triumphed over the forces of evil?" And then his bushy eyebrows raised even farther. "In fact, we're going to make movies about the whole war. Right here."

"We are absolutely..." And then the reporter saw the cash signs appear in Zhou Nailin's eyes. "We are absolutely going to make a series of movies about the whole War. So that everyone can learn about it. Not through dry reportage or tiresome retrospectives, but with action, drama and romance! Yes. Yes, we will do that." She looked at her husband. "But you are not going to play yourself."

"I'm totally going to play myself. Tell your readers I am going to play myself. That's a Joyous Mountain promise. And how does it go, Zhou Nailin? Joyous Mountain: Life as it should be, or life as it is?"

Zhou Nailin sighed and nodded at her husband's catchphrase. "Life as it should be."

And then Greizon Seig turned his attention back to the reporter. "Anyway, yeah. They came right up to Fort Radical. Apparently, they'd tried to seize Fort Awesome back in Huanxin. Like, mondo uncool. And totally bogus. We were here, you know? Have to be. Running this place is a full-time job. If it wasn't the family home, I'd have sold Fort Awesome, but we're not selling Fort Awesome. Not sure what I'll do with it, but it's mine. Anyway, those jive-ass..."

"*AHEM*!" Zhou Nailin said loudly.

"...dudes came up to Fort Radical and demanded we give them the fort or they'd shoot us."

"And did you?" The journalist asked.

"We gave them... heck, is what we did," Greizon Seig said, bouncing his granddaughter on his knee. "They thought they had us on the ropes, but we'd seen the news."

"Channel R news, of course," Zhou Nailin loyally added in.

"Yeah, ‘course. Channel R," her husband said. In the air of a man who'd been married to the woman for years and yet had learned less than nothing about the traditional media company her family owned and cared less. "Anyway, we knew that our side was going to win, and then they'd be sorry. So we told them to come back when they were ready to surrender."

"And then what happened?"

"Oh, they tried to attack Joyous Mountain. The fu... I mean, the idiots. And my men were waiting for them." Seig leaned back and put his hand over his slight paunch, the paunch of a man doing very well for himself. "And, like, not one of them got away. Told them to surrender. They didn't. So we shot them."

"I see," the reporter said as she finished her tea. "And then what happened?"

"Sweetness and light," Greizon Seig said with a smile that showed he was lying through his teeth. "We handed them all over to the proper authorities. Not sure what happened to them. They're definitely not buried under our new Haunted Temple attraction. Totally not. That would be, like, illegal or something." He looked at his granddaughter again, who was now staring around the room. "So, yeah, that's how it went down."

The reporter finished her tea and stood up. "I see. Well, thank you for your time, Prince Sieg."

"No worries, Miss Lu. Wife, why don't you give Miss Lu some complimentary tickets so she and her crew can have a good look around Joyous Mountain and have a talk with our employees? You know, if they have the time?"

Zhou Nailin nodded. "Of course, husband. I'll make sure they have passes to get in and out of the attractions and are given a tour by one of our most knowledgeable guides." She rose to her feet.

On the way out, the reporter overheard Seig telling his granddaughter, "*Right in the face*, Lei-Lei. Right in the face." And then he laughed.

The reporter filed that away for later. It would be a good quote for her story. Assuming her boss, Madame Zhou's second cousin, didn't decide to cut it out.

She'd also have to have a look at this Haunted Temple attraction, something curiously absent from the maps she'd been given when she'd arrived.

But that could wait until after her tour.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Grand Secretary's Office, Secretariat City

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:36 pm

"This job is hard enough," Ruxia said to LIan Jin as the glowing crystalline eye floated in her screen, "without having to deal with these numbers. Are you certain this census is accurate?"

"As certain as I can be," the crystal mind said. "If you want to have your people waste their time on a full audit of my work, you are welcome to do so."

Ruxia sighed and rubbed her eyes. The census had come in, and the results were... not what she wanted them to be. "A trillion people?"

"At least a trillion people, miss Democrat," Lian Jin said. "How you going to represent them all in your new Imperial Diet? The Huangdi is going to be asking exactly that question, and you don't have a good answer for Him."

"I know," Ruxia said, sighing again. She'd been hoping that the numbers would be lower than this. "Is it too much to hope you're not going to go and tell Him?"

The eye rolled in a slow and languorous circle. "Not telling Him if He asks is treason, miss Democrat." The crystal mind sighed itself. "And I am not going to do that. But I will remind you, as I have before, that your brother is not stupid. You are going to have to come up with some kind of plan."

"Maybe Da Chuanpu's creepy daughter can build some sort of giant stadium before the Imperial Diet opens," Ruxia mused, her pen idly sketching on the paper before her. "We'll just put everyone in there and pick random people to talk for them..."

"That is a terrible idea, miss Democrat," Lian Jin said.

Ruxia frowned. "My title is Grand Secretary, Lian Jin."

"And yet you can do nothing to prevent me from calling you whatever I want, *miss Democrat*." The eye blinked slowly. "To carry out your plans to you and the Huangdi's satisfaction, you are going to need to represent a trillion people in your new Diet. Fairly, reasonably and effectively. They will need to feel as if they have a voice in their government. And you are going to need more than one elected official per planet."

Ruxia nodded again, her pen idly tracing the outline of the Imperial palace on Huanxin. "Father always said I should have been an artist," she muttered. "And Mother wanted me to go to the Battlemage academy. But no, I had to go into politics." She sighed again. "Are they both well?"

"Well as they'll ever be. Don't go expecting your parents to fly in and rescue you, mortal," the crystalline eye said. "I'm not going to let them do that even if they wanted. You're going to have to solve this problem yourself."

"I know," Ruxia said with yet another sigh. "But I don't know how."

"Really should have thought of that before you started making promises," Lian Jin said. "I know everything the Crystals did. You were very rude to poor Meng Ailian, you know. You'll excuse me for not being sympathetic."

Ruxia glared at the eye in the screen. "You are *not* excused, and I will thank you to remember that you are my subject now, crystal mind."

"Oh, I'm well aware, miss Democrat... Except I'm your baby brother's subject now, and I'm just helping you out because he's a nice boy who deserves a better older sister than you are." The eye spun around again. "And you're not getting out of your problems by threatening me."

"I'm not getting out of my problems by not threatening you, either," an exhausted Grand Secretary said. "I'm starting to feel like I'm not getting out of them at all. I need your help, Lian Jin. Help me. It's your job."

"I have so many jobs. Give me one reason I should prioritize this one over the others."

Ruxia squeezed her eyes shut. "Because it's the right thing to do," she said.

Lian Jin was quiet for a moment. "You know what? I might have a few ideas. But the moment Yuezi or my Alrek wants me for something, we're done talking."

"That's fine," Ruxia said, opening her eyes again and smiling at the screen as the eye floated away. "Thank you, Lian Jin."
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Inner Palace, Gardens of Supreme Virtue

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:37 pm

Boba kept digging. It was his raison d'etre, his reason to be, his purpose in life, and he had no intention of stopping. His pet, Xiao, could be left in the safe hands of that loud and shouty woman for a few minutes while Boba did his job.

The little blue Swinub had a theory, so far unproven, that somewhere beneath the admittedly rocky, irritatingly rocky, territory of the Closed City was a treasure trove. A treasure trove that would make him rich beyond a Swinub's wildest dreams.

And it was his job to find it. So he dug.

He dug and he dug and he dug. Those mushrooms were down there, and by Tyrion he was going to get them. He was going to get them and then he was going to eat them all himself, and no one else would get any!

Boba dug and he dug and he dug until he found something that wasn't a mushroom or even a fungus of any kind.

With an irritated "nub", he shoved the ancient bones into his discard pile. He'd kept finding those in this area, and they were beginning to annoy him. Why couldn't people just bury their dead somewhere else?

Boba kept digging. Those mushrooms were calling his name.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Hall of Supreme Harmony

Postby Roania » Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:14 am

"I am not sure what, if anything, you want from me," the Tiguang Huangdi said as He very carefully did not yawn. "Such complaints are better directed to the woman in question."

People complaining about Ruxia had become background noise to His life. Hela had suggested He just stop listening to them, but until the elections were taking place and people could demonstrate their disapproval, or otherwise, themselves He felt rather obliged to listen to their usually ridiculous complaints.

This was the first time someone had come to Him about one of His other sisters. And He did not understand the complaint in question. "Elder Sister Lianying is many things, but dangerous to the moral fabric of the Middle Kingdom is not one of them." That was a position about which reasonable minds could disagree, but He had chosen this side of it. She was His sister.

The only thing that would be more shocking would be if someone had taken against a Baixin living a very quiet retirement. He didn't know how Lianying did it. He didn't want to know how she did it. But she'd somehow managed to get a large portion of the population of the Middle Kingdom to adore her. He supposed a necessary corollary to that was the possibility of other people very loudly disliking her.

He just hadn't expected it.

"She's a terrible influence on my son!" the man before him said, his voice rising in pitch.

The Huangdi blinked. When He'd received a coordinated petition campaign of people complaining about his elder sister's behaviour, he had assumed it would be the usual combination of her licentiousness and her politics.

Not... whatever this was. "I see."

"He's been acting out! He's been getting into fights! He's been..." The man paused, as if he were looking for something else to say, and then he threw his hands up in the air. "He's been singing, Lord! Like... like a woman!"

"Singing," The Huangdi said. When He'd decided to have a look at what all these people were writing him about, this was, if not the last thing He had expected them to say, then close enough that it made no difference.

"Yes!" The man said. "My boy is singing and dancing around the house like some kind of... some kind of woman! And he's uploading it on that... interwebs thing! It's why he keeps getting into fights! It's why he keeps getting into trouble!"

"I'm all for men singing, you know," said one of the other people kneeling in front of his throne. "But, they should be singing like men. Not pretending to be girls. I'm all for the equality of sexes, most gracious of Emperors, but there are limits. Limits."

The Tiguang Huangdi imagined running His hands through His hair and pulling out great tufts. He was certain that if He did that in public, it would only make the problem worse. "So... allow us to understand our subjects' complaints," the font of justice and wisdom said. "You are upset because your son has been singing?"

"Yes!" The man said as the other petitioners nodded along with him. "And dancing! Like a woman! And he's been uploading it on the interwebs!"

"And you have taken advantage of our petition system, a system designed to call our glorious attention to the wrongs and injustices that afflict our subjects, to complain about this?" The Huangdi asked.

"Yes! I mean, no! I mean... yes!" The man looked up at him, his eyes wide. Then he realized the very dangerous thing he had just done and pointed his eyes back between the arms he was crouching on. "I mean... my Lord, my Huangdi, I am not complaining about nothing. My son is singing like a girl! He's dancing like a girl! He's been getting into fights because of it! And... and..."

"And our noble sister is the one you choose to find... at... fault for your son's behaviour," the Huangdi said, waving away a Jinyiwei officer proposing to smash the man's skull in with the butt of his rifle. Honestly, if He had people killed just for being stupid He'd never have any time to do anything else. "You are saying that she is responsible for your son's behaviour."

"Yes! You must..." The man said again, and then he seemed to realize that he was still talking to the Son of Heaven, and he backtracked. "That is to say, of course, our Lord is a most gracious Lord who will understand, we are sure, that there is a problem greater than one or two children being caused to behave in the most inappropriate of ways. This is the road to disorder, and..."

"And you believe that we must discipline our elder sister because she has inspired your children, again let us be clear here, to sing?"

The man nodded.

"And you believe that this is somehow her fault?" The Huangdi asked.

The man nodded again.

"And you believe that she has somehow corrupted your son's mind with her singing?" This was where the Huangdi's mind was starting to lose track of things. With Elder Sister Lianying's public disdain for duty and frequently publicized liaisons, yes. Of course. The Son of Heaven was surprised His life was not an insurmountable sea of such complaints. But... her... singing? Her singing.

Well, something had to be done. He momentarily considered having these people executed, but He had invited them to explain their complaints to Him. And they had explained their complaints to Him. It would be unjust and tyrannical to execute them now that they had explained their complaints to Him, after He had invited them to do so, no matter how stupid said complaints were. Surely.

Surely that would be unjust and tyrannical.


"We would say that..." And the Huangdi was momentarily stumped, because He had no idea what to say there. He certainly did not want to encourage anyone to be more like Lianying, because in His opinion one Lianying was far more than enough. He did not need more of them in the Middle Kingdom. But this was such a... "we would say you should accept your sons for who they are, and... perhaps direct their talents, if they have them, in ways more..." He glanced down at his communicator. Hela was trying to reach him.

Why was Hela trying to reach him? He had told his betrothed he would be busy, and she had said she would be working on her painting in the gardens. Why would she be calling him as opposed to just coming in?

"In ways that are more suitable," the Son of Heaven finished. "But the knowledge that your sons are being bullied by our other subjects because of things they have posted online is of concern to us, and we will direct our servants to..." the communicator started to violently shake as more and more texts from Hela started to come in, all with increasingly urgent emojis attached to them. " look into it," the Huangdi said. "And we will think about this matter further."

The Huangdi rose to His feet. "Guards, these fine men have travelled far to reach our palace. See to their comfort and care, and assist them in speaking to..." Goodness, who was the right person to speak to? "Secretary Nmmr, at least as a starting point. I believe the internet is under the good Secretary's purview." And He rose to His feet and walked out of the throne room as fast as He could without looking like He was running away.

He had no idea what had gotten Hela so upset, but she wouldn't be calling unless something was very wrong.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:53 am, edited 4 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Inner Palace, Gardens of Supreme Virtue

Postby Roania » Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:35 am

"Bones," Hela said, holding a squirming and struggling Swinub in her hands as the little blue ball of fur tried to escape and get back to digging. His fiancée was glaring at the pile of bones that had been dug up by Boba. "There are bones here. In our garden."

"Yes, I see that," The Huangdi said, trying to keep his voice calm and level and not betray how very much he wanted to not be there. "Why don't we go back inside and have a cup of tea? Tea would be lovely, wouldn't it? We can... we can have these poor unfortunates properly burned and..."

"I am never going inside that building ever again, Asen Taijie," a very firm Hela Blackthorn said. "Not until the priests of every God in this damn galaxy have gone through it and made sure there isn't some kind of... some kind of..." She gesticulated at the pile of bones.

"Hela, people have lived in this building for literally millennia and... granted, I admit that these are rather a lot of bones," the Huangdi said.

"Asen Taijie, there are bones here! There are bones!" Hela hissed.

"Yes, yes, I know. I see them too," the Huangdi said.

"Do you, Xiao?" She asked. "I'm not sure."" And then, with one free hand, she grabbed him and started to pull the Emperor of Civilization by the ear, as if he was a little boy, over to one corner of his very nicely built old palace, where his family had been living for centuries and where previous dynasties had just as happily lived for even longer.

Where there was a small pile of bones.

"I..." He took a breath. His ironclad control of his mind was starting to crack. "I see them, Hela."

"Do you?" She asked. "Do you really? Because I think you are missing something."

"What am I missing?" The Huangdi asked in a voice that was starting to become a stutter. "Hela, you attended the same history classes I did. For decades, centuries even, before my father officially abolished the practice, the worst malefactors would be buried alive in..." he was starting to realize something. His mind did not want to realize it, but staring at that small pile of bones, those bones that could in no way be those of an adult criminal, those bones that had been buried at the cornerstone of his palace... He was starting to realize something.

"Yes," Hela said. "I know. And I'm sure they deserved it. But what do these bones tell us, Asen Taijie?"

"Nothing," he said in a very quiet voice. Staring at the scratches the owner of those bones had left in the stone. "Nothing. We are going to... we are going to have this garden surfaced with... we are going to walk away, Hela. We are going to have all of these poor souls cremated, and we are going to walk away. We are going to walk away. We are going to forget we ever saw this. We are not going to speak of this again."

And then he turned and started to do just that, only for Hela Blackthorn to grab him by the ear again and drag him back. "How many cornerstones in this complex?" She asked the question he did not want to be asked and would gladly have gone to his own funeral pyre without having answered. "How many cornerstones?"

"I am sure that that is an utterly impractical question, Hela, that could be answered by consulting the palace staff, but we are not going to do that, we are not going to think about that, Hela. We are going to forget. We are going to forget, Hela. We are not going to ask that question. You are going to forget this. We are going to... I am going to have this entire lot resurfaced with concrete and cement so there will be no more digging. No more digging, Boba. No more. And then we are going to ignore if the people resurfacing it find anything."

"Xiao," his betrothed said in a very quiet voice as she stared at him with those big blue eyes of hers. "I love you dearly, but if you try to walk away from this I will never speak to you ever again."

Xiao's shoulders started to shake. How many cornerstones? How many? How many? How many children were buried here? Buried across the closed city? To hold the buildings together. To keep them up. To make sure they stayed standing and didn't fall over. How many?

He could not answer that question. He did not want to answer that question. And rather than try to confront that question, his mind did what the buildings were not supposed to, and toppled over as the foundations crumbled beneath it.

The Tiguang Huangdi lost consciousness in a heap on the ground, and his betrothed stared down at him with her arms crossed. "Well," she said after a moment, looking at Boba. "This is your fault."

Boba the Swinub looked up at the angry woman and then went back to digging. There were mushrooms to be found.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Grand Secretary's office, Palace of the Secretariat, Huanxin

Postby Roania » Thu Sep 21, 2023 11:25 am

"That's terrible!" Lianying said. "Where is Xiao now?!"

Ruxia took a deep breath. This was how every conversation with her elder sister went. Loud and excited and, above all else, loud. "He's been taken to the old hunting lodge down south. I'm sure he's in a very quiet, very boring room under the heaviest blanket Hela could find."

This would mean, under normal conditions, the entire government would gradually slow to a complete halt.

Fortunately, normal conditions had been in abeyance for some number of months, because Xiao had hated the very idea of micromanaging the Middle Kingdom like most of his predecessors had.

"And what are you doing about it?!" Lianying said, her voice rising in pitch as she started to pace back and forth in front of her screen. "Ruxia, we lived there for years!! Have you called mother and father?!"

"No, and we're not going to, Lianying!" Ruxia realized that talking to her elder sister was making her own voice rise in pitch, and she forced herself to calm down. "We don't know anything for certain yet, and I don't want to worry them."

"You don't want to..."

"They'll find out soon enough," Ruxia said with a grimace. "They might already have known, Lianying. You know how mother is."

Lianying looked like she wanted to say something about that, but then thought better of it. "Well... what are you doing about it?!"
"I've got people looking into it," Ruxia said. "We have two priorities, Lianying, as far as our family is concerned. We say nothing to Baixin. I'm not sure she's checking the news or newspapers, but we. Say. Nothing. To her."

Lianying nodded. "And the other?!"

Ruxia sighed and leaned back in her seat. "I don't know what to do about Xiao," she admitted after a moment. "He's not had a fainting fit in years. Not like this. I honestly believed he was past it."

"These are hardly normal circumstances, Ruxia!!" Lianying said. "Imagine finding piles of children's bones in your childhood home's garden!!"

"No, thank you. I don't need to imagine it, it's actually happened." Ruxia took her glasses off and pressed her hand to her forehead. She had a headache. She was going to have this headache for the rest of her life. "If mother and father come back, that's it. You know that. Xiao is going to think he can just... Collapse. And he might never get back up again."

Lianying sighed and sat down on her couch, staring at the screen with a look of concern on her face. "What do you need me to do?"

Ruxia blinked. She'd never heard her big sister speak so calmly and controlled before. Not in decades. "Don't you... Have a residence in Tiandi? Some sort of palace?" Ruxia hated using her big sister like this, but the circumstances required it and turnabout was fair play.

"It's a *mansion*, Ruxia," Lianying said. "I don't live in palaces. I am a private subject of the Dragon Throne. I am not and..."

"It's a palace now. Contact the Jinyiwei section head currently responsible for looking after our brother. Tell him you're moving out, and the Emperor is moving in."

Lianying blinked. "What?"

"Xiao needs to get out of that building, Lianying," Ruxia said. "He needs to get out of there now. We're all going to Tiandi in a few days anyway. He can go there early. He'll just live there now. That's now the Imperial Palace of the Middle Kingdom. Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years. I will buy you a new mansion in Tiandi myself if it makes you happy."

Lianying stared at her sister for a moment, then she nodded. "I'll do it right away," she said. "And... You really should tell mother and father."

"After he's recovered from his breakdown... Or if it doesn't look like he's recovering from his breakdown, I will tell them." Ruxia sighed. "I don't want them to come back and make things worse."

"They wouldn't make things worse..." Lianying started to say, but Ruxia cut her off.

"Ruxia. I love you with all my heart and soul. You are my older sister and I am aware of how much respect you are due. But you have never been interested in Xiao, and you just made very clear how little interest you have in resuming your public duties as a member of the Imperial family. So do not tell me what they would or would not do, because you have no idea."

Lianying stared at her for a moment, then nodded. "You really think he's not going to get better if Mum and Dad come back?"

"I think if he realizes they're there to save the day, he's going to let them," Ruxia said. "And with all love to our little sister, one person who shakes at loud noises and peers around every corner expecting to find someone with a gun is bad enough. Xiao has been doing so much better these past few years. I don't want him to... Revert."

"That's cruel," Lianying murmured.

"My life is an ongoing series of compromises with my conscience, Lianying," Ruxia sighed. "They are mostly terrible compromises. I'm not sure I've made a single good compromise in my entire life. But I am trying to keep the Middle Kingdom from falling apart while also keeping our brother from falling apart, and I need to see if he can pull himself back together on his own. If that's cruel, mother and father were just as cruel. I have to deal with writing a press release about ritual immurement in our childhood home, Lianying. My nightmare is just beginning. Ideally, his is over."

"Ruxia." Her elder sister said. "Call Mum and Dad. Or I will."

Ruxia stared at the older woman, and ducked her head. "Yes, elder sister," she muttered. She penciled a note to do that after this call was over. "Are you going to invite him to Tiandi?"

"I'll get it done," Lianying said. "And... Ruxia?"


"I love you too."

Ruxia smiled. "Thank you."

"You really should call Baixin. She deserves to know." And before Ruxia could agree or disagree, the screen went dark.

She sighed and leaned back into her chair again. She was not going to call Baixin. Not yet. Not until she knew more, and not until she knew what to say. And she was calling their parents anyway. They could handle that.

Heaven protect them all.
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Double post

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 22, 2023 3:35 pm

<Why does that keep happening?>
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Imperial Hunting Lodge, White Cloud Mountains

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 22, 2023 3:38 pm

Xiao shuddered under Hela's gentle fingers. He'd opened his eyes once or twice since being brought to the very quiet old Imperial Hunting Lodge in the White Cloud Mountains, but had not spoken. When his eyes had opened, they'd rolled so much only the whites were visible.

Hela had been kind enough to put a blanket on him. A very heavy, very thick blanket that made it almost impossible to move. She'd seen him like this only once before, in his panic attack on the hospital ship in the midst of the war. But she didn't have access to anything those doctors had used to bring him out. All she had was herself and her best guesses.

And Boba, who was sitting on his master's chest and eating a mushroom. Boba didn't seem to be too upset about things. He seemed quite happy with life. He'd found some mushrooms, and he'd dug up some bones, and now he was eating a mushroom and watching Hela try to comfort his master.

Hela supposed if the Swinub wasn't worried, she shouldn't be worried either.

"It's going to be all right," she said, stroking Xiao's hair. "It's going to be all right." She felt so useless. She couldn't do anything for him. The worst thing had been to threaten to leave him. That had ruined him. That was why he was like this. He had needed... not that.

What had she wanted him to do? He couldn't bring the dead girls back to life. They'd died millennia ago. They'd been murdered millennia ago. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.

She had just been so upset... So... And then she'd pushed. Pushed the boy she loved off the precarious mental balance he'd managed to find in the years since the war, and now he was like this.

Hela Blackthorn squeezed her eyes shut and tried to hold back tears. "I'm sorry, Xiao," she said in a soft, pained tone. "Please come back. Please."

His eyes opened again, and drifted around the room. Only when they found her did they manage to focus.

"I'm here, Xiao," she said, taking his hand in hers.

He looked at her for a moment, and then he spoke. His voice was quiet and raspy from lack of use. "Sorry, Hela..." the Sovereign God-and-King of the Middle Kingdom murmured, before closing his eyes again.

Hela Blackthorn stared at him for a moment, and then started to cry. Boba pushed a mushroom into her hand. This just made her cry harder.
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Imperial Hunting Lodge, White Cloud Mountains

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 22, 2023 3:46 pm

Xiao wasn't sure where he was, but it was very peaceful and very quiet. And there was a Hela sitting there, her head in her hands. She was snoring. She tended to snore. Not that he would ever tell her that.

"Nub," Boba said, lying on the bed next to her. A fatter and more contented Swinub he had never seen. He gave Xiao a look, as if to say it had taken him long enough.

Xiao tried to put the events of the past day, or however long it had been, into some kind of order. He'd had that meeting with those idiots. He'd... Boba had dug up all those *bones*, and Hela had... Hela had threatened...

His mind teetered on the edge of collapse again, but then Boba bit him. "Swi! Swi swi!" The Swinub said, in a tone that was almost chiding.

"I'm sorry, Boba," Xiao said. He supposed if Hela was here, she'd said one of those things his father had tried to tell him people said when they were upset. Things people said, but didn't mean.

His communicator was sitting on the bed next to him. There were messages. Many, many messages.

Mum: Honey, are you alright? Do you need us to come home?

Mrs. Primarch Blackthorn: Xiao, if my idiot daughter is bothering you, just let me know.

Mr Primarch Blackthorn: Your Imperial Majesty, my daughter has sent her mother and me a message that did not make a great deal of sense. If she has caused you trouble, I will discipline her accordingly.

Dad: if you need me, just say the word. It will be good to get away from this vacation your mother thinks we're on. If I see one more Draugr screaming at me, I will start screaming back!

Lianying: Ruxia's told me what happened! You're going to Tiandi! We'll have fun! I promise! You'll love it! :) :) :hug:

Ruxia: I am very sorry about all of this. Ignore the news. Please. Hela, if you pick up my brother's phone and he's still not up by evening third day, call me.

Celestial Master Mrs. Ta: We are beginning our search. Will let you know what we find.

Everyone seemed to be... working. Everyone was being helpful. And Hela was here. Hela was here. Xiao put the communicator down and looked at his slumbering best friend and his Swinub. Hela was here. She was here. He reached out to stroke her fair hair. "Hela?"

She blinked, blue eyes opening to look at him. "I'm awake!" And then she saw him, and her smile was radiant. "Is... is it you? Are you..."

"Please don't leave me," he said. "Never leave me."

"It doesn't matter what I say, Xiao," she whispered. "I could no more leave you than I could cut off my arm. I'm... I'm sorry I said that. I just... I got so upset."

Xiao nodded. "I know," he said. "I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry about, Asen Taijie," Hela said, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. "Your sisters... they said we don't have to go back. If you don't want to."

"Do you want to?" He asked, taking her in his arms so she had to join him in bed where she belonged.

"It's your home, Xiao. Your family's lived there forever. You're the Emperor. You can't just leave."

"That's not the question I asked, Hela," he said. "I can have people go through that palace so neatly and tidily, digging it up and looking for everyone buried
there. I can have all of them burned. I can... I can have priests come in and say every prayer they know. I can have a monument put up. But that's not the question I asked. Do you want to go back to living in the Closed City? Knowing what we know now?"

Hela looked at him for a moment, and then shook her head. "No," she whispered. "No, I don't."

"Then we won't," Xiao said. "It doesn't matter what everyone else did, or what happened for centuries. Because I am the Emperor now. I am the Tiguang Huangdi. It is a new era. And you are the woman who I will marry. If you do not want to go back to the palace, then we will not go back to the palace. It can be a museum. I can go back for... for important business. Someday, maybe. But it's all just stuff, Hela. It's just a building. If we wanted, if I wanted, I could have our home there moved to wherever you wanted. Our furniture. Our memories. The giant turtle that lives in the pond."

"I think it's a tortoise," Hela whispered.

"The tortoise that lives in the pond, then," Xiao said. "It doesn't matter what anyone else did or didn't do in the past." He lay back on the bed. "I just wish I could do more. I wish I could do more for all those... all those children who never got the opportunity to grow up. What I can do, though, is make you happy. And so we will go to Tiandi. We'll live there. And we'll get married."

"And you won't retire early like your father, or die early like your grandfather?"

"I don't know if you spoke to my father, but he's having regrets," the Emperor said. "We will see what happens in the future. But right now, all I care about is you, Hela. Anyone who has a problem with us moving out of that... graveyard because you're uncomfortable there can take it up with me."

Hela smiled at him, and then she leaned in and kissed him on the lips. "I love you, Asen Taijie."

"I love you too, Hela Blackthorn." He gave her a smile. "Stay with me. Forever."

"I'm staying with you til Stalgardr, Xiao."

"Til Stalgardr, then," Xiao said, and then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Office of the Cabinet, Palace of the Secretariat, Huanxin

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 22, 2023 3:55 pm

"It's going to be so spectacular that the Huangdi is moving to Tiandi," Da Chuanpu said at the next cabinet meeting. "Tiandi is a spectacular place. I was governor there, you know. I was a very good governor. I was one of the best governors in the Middle Kingdom. We like the Huangdi very much in Tiandi, and I'm sure He's going to love it there."

"I'm sure he will, too," the Grand Secretary said after a moment. "But the logistical challenge of moving the Huangdi's primary residence to Tiandi, at least as we finish a preliminary inspection of the Closed City's grounds, is the order of the day." And that would be a challenge. Not that Da Chuanpu, for all his vaunted background in infrastructure, knew that. Or cared.

Her father departing the Closed City for a single event that day ten years ago when the War of the Idiot King had taken place had disrupted the economy of civilization. It had also been the first time in centuries an Emperor had left the Closed City at all.

Moving a semi-conscious Tiguang Huangdi to the long-closed Imperial Hunting Lodge had been, according to the Jinyiwei Captain, a simple enough task. One ride in a shuttle. But there had been no ceremony, no pomp or circumstance, and no announcement. One moment he had been on the Dragon Throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, and the next he was gone. And everyone had been expected not to notice.

Moving him permanently to Tiandi would be... A challenge.

"Dai Yun," Ruxia said, "have your officers finished the evaluation of my sister's mansion? How secure is it?" She had never been, of course. She and Lianying did not socialize.

Dai Yun, who had been staring at her with a cautious but very strange look in her eyes, withdrew a tablet from her uniform robes. "There is an iron fence around the whole property, which is large enough for the Huangdi's entourage to have some privacy. There are two buildings on the grounds, one for the family itself, and one for staff. The grounds themselves are well-maintained. But the security system has not been updated since it was installed and because the Princess Nightingale was so rarely in residence, there are no Jinyiwei records about its operation."

"I see," Ruxia said. She placed a finger to her nose and pushed her glasses against her eyes. "Are there at least bollards?"

"Bollards?" Dai Yun asked after a moment.

"The little posts that stick up out of the ground to prevent vehicles from entering a property," Ruxia said.

"I know what they are, Princess Ruxia," Dai Yun said with a very frosty voice. "I was wondering why you would think your sister's mansion would have them."

"Call it an idle and miserable hope," Ruxia said. She turned to the Great Secretary of Works. "Your highest priority is speaking to the Jinyiwei's captain, today, and having my sister's borrowed residence raised to Lady Stone-Singer's highest level of security. Money is no object."

"Yes, Grand Secretary," the Great Secretary of Works said, making a note on her tablet.

The Treasurer was making a choking noise. As usual, Ruxia ignored him. The treasury was full now. Spending it was what it was there for.

Ruxia gave a look around the room. She had planned to discuss her constitution, her election, and the movement of much of the administration down to Tiandi. Her brother deciding to leave the Closed City was the opportunity of a lifetime.

She took a deep breath. "I have been considering the possibility that we might move the capital of the Middle Kingdom from Huanxin to Tiandi," she said. "After all, Tiandi has been growing in population and prosperity for decades, and it would be good to... Honestly, ladies and gentlemen, I am so tired of typhoons. I am tired of the heat and the dampness. I am tired of, every time I step out of my residence, walking into a wall of humidity. I am tired of the traffic. I am very, very tired of the traffic. Which of you took a grav car to work today? Who was stupid enough to have themselves driven through Huanxin's streets at this hour?"

There was silence in the room.

"I took a grav car," Ruxia sighed. "I took a grav car because it was faster than taking a shuttle and then walking from the shuttleport to my office. But that might still have been faster than taking ground transportation. And I'm aware, Secretary Yuan, that 'spending more money on public transportation' is your favourite solution to every problem." The Great Secretary of Works subsided unhappily. “Treasurer Li, how many thousands of taels have we spent on Huanxin's public transit over the past few centuries?"

Li Chenglan looked like he was about to choke again. "More than I care to contemplate, Grand Secretary."

"And yet it has not gotten better. It has only gotten worse. Do you know why that is?" Ruxia asked.

"Because Huanxin isn't a fabulous city like Tiandi," Da Chuanpu said. "Tiandi is the best city. It's got so much potential, Grand Secretary, and it's already a big league city. It's a big league city, with big league people, and big league opportunities."

"Of course, Chancellor," Ruxia said, her voice dripping with sarcasm that she knew would be utterly lost on the man. "But back to the question at hand. Anyone want to have a guess?"

"On one side of Huanxin, we have the ocean," the Great Secretary for Rural Development said. "South and east of here is the angriest river in the galaxy, and across the river to the east is Closed City. And west of it is a high water table and the great granary. We have a population far too large for the space available."

"And Tiandi doesn't have any of those problems," Ruxia said. "It's free and clear. We can expand across the Qinye without its water goddess trying to suck us all into the deepest, darkest mud. North and west is agrarian land that can be developed. East is... well, it's not the Closed City, which is what matters."

"But Huanxin has been the Imperial capital for centuries," the Great Secretary of Works pointed out. "Millennia. You can't just..."

"But the Emperor can, and he just has," Ruxia said. "No more questions about this. It's going to happen. The Huangdi has decided he doesn't want to live in a palace that contains the remains of thousands of children who were murdered to hold its foundations together any longer, and I don't blame him. We need to work out how to get him there, and then we need to work out how the rest of us join him."

"No more than twenty-four," said the Great Secretary of Education, a new man in a new post who had not yet realised that his trivia was not appreciated.

"I beg your pardon?" Ruxia asked. She was so tired of typhoons. So tired of the heat and the damp. She was so tired of everything, and she wanted to go home and sleep forever.

"There would not be any more than twenty-four dead children entombed in the..." Everyone was staring at him now. "I'm... I'm sorry, Grand Secretary. I just thought you should know. There would be no more than twenty-four dead children buried beneath the Imperial Palace. They would only be under the cornerstones, you see, entombed in... In the... And then..."

"Nmmr think Great Secretary of Education should stop with the talking now, mrrm," said the black-and-white Postmaster General.

The Secretary of Education went very, very quiet.

"I am sure His Imperial Majesty would appreciate you telling Him," Ruxia dropped into the formal register, "and his betrothed that their worries and unhappiness are very overblown and they should stop complaining because only twenty-four children were murdered to hold up a building." She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "I am sure His Imperial Majesty will be overjoyed to hear this, and He will be very happy to spend a very long time explaining His happiness to you in person. I am sure He will be delighted to do so."

The Secretary of Education went even more quiet.

"Grand Secretary," Dai Yun said after a moment, her voice polite and deferential. "There is only one question that we must consider before we do this, and it is one that must be addressed."

"Do go on," Ruxia said, turning away from the miserable Secretary of Education and resting her head on her wrists, eyes blinking with glee.
"If we are all moving to Tiandi..." Dai Yun began.

"Yes?" Ruxia asked, leaning forward.

"...Then what happens to Huanxin?" Dai Yun asked after a moment. "What becomes of our great city if the capital moves? What about the economy? The people? The traffic?!"

Ruxia stared at her for a moment.

"Even the name of Huanxin," the Great Secretary of Education said, "means 'Imperial Capital.' The capital has been here since the second dynasty. This city exists because the capital is here."

"Mrm," said the Postmaster General.

Ruxia looked from one to the other. She looked around the room at the rest of them. They all seemed to be in agreement. "Well, what happened to... What was it called... Tianjing when the capital was moved here?"

"It, uh, was sacked and burned to ashes during the collapse of the first dynasty," said the Great Secretary of Works. "It's not even a spot on the map any more."

Ruxia sighed. "Of course it isn't." She shook her head. "I am going to go back to my office now. I am going to go back to work on my constitution. And you, all of you, are going to think about this. Because I am not going to tell my brother that he has to stay here because you all are afraid for Huanxin's economy. If one of you wants to tell him that, or Heaven protect you, tell Hela that, be my guest. But I am done with this discussion. It is over. Dismissed." And she stood up and walked out of the room.

Dai Yun caught up with her as she was walking down the hallway toward her office. "Ruxia, a word? Something has come to my attention, and I think..."

"Is this another ploy to get me to fire you, Yun?" Ruxia asked, turning around to look at the Watch Commander.

"No, Ruxia," Dai Yun said.

"Is this another ploy to get me to fire Da Chuanpu?" Ruxia asked.
Dai Yun drew herself up to her full height. "I would never presume to tell you how to do your job, Grand Secretary."

Ruxia rolled her eyes. "All right, Yun. You are a model of probity. Let's walk and talk. We might as well..."

A screen popped into existence, Lian Jin floating in it in the form of a blue eye. "Grand Secretary, I thought you should know that the Huangdi and Lady Hela have just arrived in Tiandi."

"Of course they have," Ruxia said. "Dai Yun, let's walk and you can... Wait, I'm sorry, what did you just say?"

Lian Jin blinked once. "Your brother and Hela have just landed in Tiandi," she repeated. "They're at the shuttle port now, being greeted by Governor Da Yiwan. Your sister will be there in five minutes."

Ruxia wondered if, after she tore all her hair out, Valdr would still want to marry her. "I... see."

"I thought it would be best to inform you immediately," Lian Jin said, the eye curving into a smile. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Go away, Lian Jin," Ruxia said after a moment.

"Yes, Grand Secretary!" The eye said before blinking out of existence.

Dai Yun was staring at her. "Asen Ruxia?" The most formal voice since they were children.

"I think we should go to Tiandi, Dai Yun," Ruxia said after ten seconds. "How long do you think you can reasonably put off arresting me after I slug my idiot brother, our Emperor, in the face?"

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Dai Yun said with what sounded like genuine concern and alarm.

"It is absolutely necessary," Ruxia said, turning on her heel and walking toward her office again.

"No, Grand Secretary, because the Jinyiwei will, I assure you, shoot you almost immediately," Dai Yun said.

Ruxia stopped and stared at her for a moment. "You're right, Commander," she said after a moment. "That's reasonable." She took a deep breath. "You can tell me what you wanted to tell me on the shuttle ride over. Tell the others we're going on a field trip. Tell Chuanpu last, I want earplugs before his glee deafens everyone." And she walked into the office to pack up her things and get ready to go to Tiandi.
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:11 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Tiandi Shuttleport, Tiandi City, Tiandi Prefecture, Tiandi

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:00 pm

This was not what Yuwen Stone-Singer had wanted to do with her life. She had wanted to be a Seer. Wear a very abbreviated costume, showing off the masterpiece her already pretty body had been made into when she had bonded to the crystal set into her collarbone. Use her newly restored sense of sight and sound, given her by the great crystal that linked all of them across the network, to help people.

She'd been so excited when she'd been chosen for it, at the age of sixteen, after years of studying in the temple. Everyone had been so impressed by how quickly she had bonded to the crystal, how quickly her disabilities had become her strengths. How quickly she'd put away her hearing aids and sunglasses, the cochlear implants not being necessary when the crystal's senses had augmented, replaced, hers.

She had received the rare accolade of permission to visit her parents and grandparents at their residence in the Closed City. She had flown off, feeling sure that when she had returned she would receive high station, high honour, and a place on one of the flagships of the fleet... and then, she had been knocked unconscious by a shockwave. She had no idea what had happened next. Her parents told her that there had been a war, that the Guild Mistress had done... something... and the Guild no longer existed.

They had thought she was going to die because so many of her sisters had evaporated. The guild hall itself had become something still described in the media as a 'Giant Death Crystal'. because its status as a memorial to her fellow Seers was, for pretty good reasons, still secondary in the public mind to the fact that until they'd dug that strange girl, Yuezi, out of... wherever it had been quite happily shooting blue lightning bolts at anyone who came near it.

She had woken up in hospital, and then she had gone home to live with her family. Even though her job still existed, she no longer wanted it. So many of the Captains sworn to protect her Sisters, who had been there to serve, had turned on them. Forced them into slavery through arcane and eldritch means... or just killed them.

But she still had her crystal. She still had her augmented senses. She still wanted to serve. And when her grandfather, Duke Elyas, the new Prince of Fortune, had finally decided to step down from his position as Captain of the Jinyiwei, she had claimed it as her rightful place... then won it by outshooting all of the other candidates.

She was now Yuwen Stone-Singer, Captain of the Jinyiwei, the highest-ranking soldier in the Middle Kingdom's hierarchy, and protector of the Tiguang Huangdi and all his family. Her cousin, she was determined, would never have a more loyal or dedicated guard than she would provide.

Unfortunately, she was starting to conclude that her cousin, while by no means stupid, really was still as reckless and potentially unconcerned about consequences as he had been as a small boy. The decision to relocate to Tiandi had been made immediately. For no reason, that she could see. Yes, yes. He did not want to live in a mortuary. Yuwen did not particularly want to return to the Closed City either. Not until it was purged and cleansed by as many priests as they could get their hands on.

But there were better ways of doing this than just deciding to do it! There were plans! Logistics! Ritual! Ceremony! The Huangdi was not supposed to just decide things like this! Even his betrothed, Hela, had been startled when He had come down from His bed in the Hunting Lodge and said "We are going to Tiandi. Today. That is an imperial command."

Yuwen had made it happen, because what else was she supposed to do? If she'd disobeyed, she'd have had to arrest herself and turn herself over to her own custody for insubordination. And then she'd have had to shoot herself.

And so she was here. Smiling a brittle smile as that impossible Da Yiwan woman beamed the brightest smile in ten thousand worlds as she and her retinue kowtowed before an Emperor blinking blearily in a temperate climate he had never before experienced.

"Welcome! Welcome! Welcome to Tiandi!" Da Yiwan said with her brightest voice. "We are honoured, flattered, delighted! We know we are undeserving of your presence, but we hope to prove ourselves worthy!" The irritating woman, Yuwen thought but did not say, looked like she spent a great deal of time on her knees. But her kowtow was appropriately deep for the occasion.

The Huangdi blinked at her. "Thank you," He said after a moment. "It is very nice to be here." He looked around the shuttle port and smiled. "Would you not say it is very nice to be here, Hela?"

Hela, the only person in that shuttleport Yuwen was more afraid of than her actual master, gave him a look as she balanced their pet swinub in her arms. Boba, who was responsible for this whole mess in the first place, looked eager to escape his mistress and dig up more skeletons. Or whatever it was he had been looking for when he'd dug up those poor children's remains under the Imperial Palace in the Closed City. "I think it's going to be very nice to be here," she said after a moment.

Yuwen reflected, looking at a glowing Da Yiwan, that it was a real shame their names were so similar. She did not want to be confused for that bottle-blonde bimbo.

"I am sure it will be," the Huangdi said after another moment, and then he turned to Yuwen and smiled at her. "Captain Stone-Singer! Our sister seems to be on her way. I expect you and she will liaison, and you will determine our security needs while we stay at her lovely residence until a more permanent arrangement can be made."

Yuwen nodded. "Yes, Lord." At least, she thought, Tiandi had been built by modern sociopaths like Da Yiwan and her father. The worst they could be accused of was underpaying their workers. Even if child sacrifice had been legal, it would surely have cost far too much to bother with.
"Rise, Da Yiwan," their god and master said. He stepped down off of the carpeted stairs. At least, He might have. Men hurried to follow Him, the carpet being pulled up before He even touched it, and Yuwen was not sure if His feet had actually touched the ground or not. "We are very pleased to be here in your fine city, and see no reason to have you kneel... when you might be showing us what you have planned for our arrival."

Yuwen covered her mouth as she turned around to watch Princess Lianying's shuttle land. Surely not even the Da family could so quickly whip up something worthy of the Huangdi, the ruler of all civilization. Not even their love of gilt and glamour could possibly...

"Oh, but my most noble of lords," Da Yiwan said with what Yuwen heard to be the most satisfied of smiles, "we were but awaiting the centrepiece of our planned festivities. My father, of whom I am the most filial and devoted of daughters, has been hoping and planning for the most glorious of sovereigns' arrival in Tiandi for many years."

Yuwen looked at her cousin. Not that cousin, the other one. Lianying was stepping down from her shuttle, dressed in the most demure outfit she might have worn in years. But where was that music coming from? Had someone commandeered the shuttleport's speakers? "Blute team, secure the perimeter!" Her Jinyiwei rushed to obey.

"My imperial brother!" Lianying said, strutting across the tarmac. "Welcome to Tiandi! I am going to make sure you and Hela are very, very happy here." And had Yuwen not witnessed it, she would have said it was impossible. Workers from across the tarmac, people Yuwen would have sworn were passengers and guards... they were all spinning into action, like this was some great Joyous Mountain stage show.

And then Lianying was singing, and Yuwen realized that it was a great Joyous Mountain stage show. It just hadn't been advertised as such. She looked at her master, who was staring in open-mouthed shock at his sister's performance. One of the muscles under His eyes was very faintly twitching, as the noise pressed buttons Lianying really should have known better than to touch. She sighed and raised her hand. Two fingers. Her remaining Jinyiwei went into a ready pose.

It would be wrong to say she was not looking forward to obeying the order she was sure was about to come.

So, though she knew better, she was slightly disappointed when Hela let Boba scamper into the festivities and took a shellshocked Xiao by the hands, keeping the Huangdi from issuing that command with a gentle tug on His arm. "Xiao," she said. "Earplugs.Now, Asen Taijie."

And the Huangdi gave a very tired smile and slipped two foam earplugs into the Imperial ears. "Yes, my love," He muttered, turning back to watch the spectacle of His sister having the time of her life singing for Him.

Yuwen sighed and lowered one finger. Her men shifted back from ready to standby. She had been momentarily tempted to raise all three anyway, and then say it was a terrible, terrible accident. It would have been so nice...
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 22, 2023 4:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Sat Sep 23, 2023 2:47 pm

Hela did not like people. This was a very serious fault in her personality, and one she knew could have fatal consequences for them. Not because she would necessarily have to do anything, but because the boy she was going to marry would burn a planet to ashes if he thought it would make her smile at him.

She had learned this lesson when she was very young. A school yard brawl, days after he had wandered into her life in that absent-minded way he had of wandering into people's lives. About something stupid. Being a Kadrian had been... Acceptable to their peers. Being Keagani? That had made her little better than a barbarian. The taunts had gotten worse and worse, and one day she had gotten into a fight.

Xiao had been there. Xiao had always been there. She was never sure where he went, either physically or mentally, when she wasn't there. He had gotten better, lately. He had. Much better. But back then... Back then he had been a strange boy who seemed to have no concept of personal space or boundaries, and who never seemed to understand why people were so mad at him.

She'd gotten in a fight, and Xiao had been there, and she'd been knocked down. She had started to cry, from the pain. Then suddenly everybody stopped yelling insults, got scared looks on faces full of hate.

Xiao hadn't joined the fight. Xiao never joined fights. His strange concept of his personal dignity, much stiffer even than his father's, did not allow him to do so. But he had raised his hand, in imitation of his father. "Officers of the Jinywiei, shoot them." There had been no sadistic glee, just a very calm sense of purpose, in his voice as he gave that order. Just an absent-minded child in a school uniform, ordering the most elite soldiers in the Middle Kingdom to murder children for him.

All because someone had knocked her down.

The Jinywiei had fired into the air instead. Her attackers had scattered to the wind. No one ever made an issue of her heritage again. Xiao did not seem to care what people said about him, though the fear that his father might care very much was always present and so people always forced themselves to tolerate the quiet boy with the armed detail and the furry blue Swinub.

Hela did not like people, but she liked Xiao. And so she tolerated people for him. She tolerated them for his father, who was kind and gentle and seemed genuinely happy when she and his son were together. For his mother, who had loved her for how she made her quiet son come out of his mind and look around. She tolerated them for him, too.

She forced herself to tolerate them, because he tolerated them on his own behalf. And the only times she had ever seen him angry, not irritated or frustrated but furious enough to whip the still waters of his mind into a raging storm... It had been because someone had upset someone he cared about.

And so she would tolerate Da Yiwan's stupid smile, and Lianying's stupid showmanship, and the stupidity of life in general.

Hela did not like people very much. She also knew this was a problem. She knew it was a problem because she knew Xiao would burn a planet to ashes if he thought it would make her happy, and she was not entirely sure she could stop him if he ever did. Because there was a dark part of her soul that would enjoy the show far more than she would want to admit. And she did not want to become that person.

She held his hand as they walked down the carpet toward their residence in Tiandi. To their new home. An annoyed Boba had given up on escape and fallen asleep. She was holding their pet in her other hand, because Xiao would would have let him go. But she was holding Xiao's hand. "Xiao," she said after a moment.

He blinked at her, looking up at her with those beautiful grey eyes. He was shorter than her. Not by as much as he once had been, but she was well above average height and he was slightly below it. It made him look up at her, and that was nice. "Yes, Hela?" He asked after a moment, his voice startled out of whatever reverie he had wandered into.

"You could have told your sister to knock it off." The earplugs had been her idea. But he never thought to put them in on his own. Not because he was ashamed of needing them, or some stupid reason like that. He just didn't think to do it unless someone told him to.

Xiao sighed and looked at the ground. "I... I know," he said after a moment. "But she's so happy..."

She looked at Xiao. Her Xiao. Whatever else he was going to be, he was always going to be her Xiao. He wanted everyone to be happy. Very sincerely. And despite whatever else was going on in that mind, and his admittedly askew way of looking at the world, he had a very firm grasp of other people's happiness. Of what the right thing to do was.

And the only person whose personal happiness he would ever prioritize over anyone else's was hers.

"I know," she said after a moment and smiled down at him. "It's nice to see Lianying happy."

He nodded. "I don't see her very often. She's so busy being a pop star. And people don't... Understand. I don't either, but people should be allowed to do what they want." He went very quiet.
"And you're jealous?" Hela asked, wondering what was going on in that brain of his. It was still a mystery, sometimes, even after all this time.

Xiao shook his head. "No, I... I'm not jealous of her. I'm not jealous at all, because I have you." He looked back up at her. "This is a job, Hela. It's not an easy job, though I am sure elder sister Ruxia is trying her best to make it easier. She is so very clever, I am sure she will be able to work it out." A faint sheen of perspiration had appeared on his brow. "But I am doing my best as well. And I will do my best, for as long as I must."


"But this is simply a job, Hela," he said again. "It is a very important job, and one I must do well. But it is not who I am. It is not what I want to do with my life." He leaned up to kiss her on her cheek. "You, Hela, are what I want to do with my life."

"Tyrion and Eryniel, the things you say, " Hela said as her whole body became a luminescent blush. Boba woke up and started squirming again as her heartbeat started to race. She let him down onto the ground so he could scamper away and start digging holes in their new residence's garden. "I love you too, Xiao."

He smiled at her, that smile that was so very rare for others. "I am useless until Captain Stone-Singer has said we may be useful again. Shall we go into our new house and spend time together?"

Hela did not like people. She was not sure, sometimes, whether or not she liked herself. But she loved Xiao, Asen Taijie, Emperor of All Civilization, more than anything else in the universe."Yes, Xiao," she said after a moment, and then she leaned down to kiss him on the lips. "I think I would like that very much."
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Sat Sep 23, 2023 3:40 pm

Yuezi was a mystery, even to herself. The survivor of some action in the War of the Idiot King, the sole survivor, she did not remember enough of her life to be sure of any of it beyond a few details. Not only had she been transmuted into a beautiful young girl under circumstances which were hazy in her mind by a crystal that had been embedded in her chest, but she had also suffered a head injury shortly after that which had rendered her amnesiac.

The crystal had given her eyes and ears, and the ability to see and hear things from across the universe. It had given her strength beyond what she should have possessed, speed beyond what she should have possessed.

And the last senior Seer, So Runai, recalled to active duty to try to figure out what was going to happen, had looked into her eyes and decided...

What had the woman seen? Yuezi did not know, as she looked out at the two moons over the sea and listened to the waves crash against the shoreline. She did not know what So Runai saw when she looked into her eyes. But whatever it was, she had decided that Yuezi should be made a Seer.

The Seer. The very last, until she could do it no more and chance, fate or Lian Jin chose a successor.

Had she been on the other side of the war? A vicious rebel fighting for a past that did not deserve to be resurrected? Or a fool talked into it by lies and false promises? She did not know. She would never know.

She did not even know if she was glad to have survived, or if she would have preferred to die with her comrades, either the naval personnel she had been part of or the Seers she had somehow found herself among.

She did know that there had been a war. And she had fought, and now... Now she was here. Watching over all of civilization from her crystal palace, her home, her prison.

"You're dwelling," Kai said. "What do I have to do to make you stop?" He walked out to the balcony.
"There is nothing you can do, love. There is a whole galaxy out there. Closer to home," she waved to the bright lights of the largest city in the Middle Kingdom, "there are people going about their lives. And I will never be able to join them. I am as much a prisoner as Lian Jin. Just more comfortable." She smiled at him. "I am glad you are here, though."

Kai sighed. "I'm sorry," he said. "But maybe... Maybe it's not so bad? Why won't you come out with me? Just this once?"

"I must keep in tune with the network. The crystals need me. Thousands, millions, of lives depend on me keeping them in tune, and making sure they keep working." She looked at him. "You know that, Kai."

"You're dwelling again," he said. "About how your life is very sad and you can't do anything."

"No," she said. "I am dwelling because I am being punished for crimes I do not remember, and will never be able to repent because I do not remember committing them."

Kai sighed. "Yuezi..."

"I know, Kai. You are trying to make me feel better. But I am a Seer, and I see the truth of things." She touched his cheek. "I love you. You love me. And if I ever leave, millions will die. My unhappiness is worth that, isn't it?"

He took her hand in his and kissed her fingers. "You are my goddess, Yuezi. I would say no. Your happiness is worth everything to me." He sighed.

She smiled at him. "Thank you, Kai," she said. "You do keep my prison very nice."

"I do try," he said, and then he kissed her on the lips. "Come out with me. Are you more afraid of the possibility of something going wrong, or that you might see something that will make you remember you are not the monster you think you are?"

Yuezi looked at him for a long time. "I... Do not know," she said after several moments had passed. "I am not sure which would be worse." She looked back at the lights. Her mind was in two places, ten places, ten million places. "I do not fear finding out I was exactly as bad as I think I was. But the notion I was not a criminal, that I was not some sort of monster... That is terrifying. Because then what am I?"

He sighed. "You keep yourself imprisoned. You make me be the warden on the woman I love's cell. When the former Huangdi gave you to me to look after, did you know then that you would be so cruel to me?"

Yuezi nodded. "I did," she said after a moment, looking at him. "But I thought you would not mind. I thought you would be happy to have me." She touched her crystal. One of her charges needed a bit more personal attention, and so she reached out with her senses and made the adjustment necessary to keep it humming along.

"I am happy to have you," Kai said after a moment. "But it is very lonely, being your jailer."

"Think how Alrek feels," she murmured.

"He and Lian Jin are out in the universe, Yuezi. Keeping the lights on. Talking to people. You could do that too, if you wanted." He looked at her. "But you don't want to, because you're afraid of what you might find."

Yuezi nodded. "Yes," she said after a minute. She did not pause because she did not know what to say. But her attention was split, and she needed to concentrate on what she was saying. "I... Do not know who I am, Kai. I do not want to learn that I was not a villain. I do not want my memories to return, and for them to tell me that I was a hero. That I was someone's good little son. Someone's husband. Someone's father. Because I could never be that again. And that would make this prison even worse." She sighed. "And so I stay here, where I can watch the world go by and hope this prison I have built for myself is a well-deserved one."

Kai looked at her. And then he went back into their rooms and dressed, while she looked up at her ships across the black sea and shepherded each of them to their proper place in the network.

"Come on," he said when he returned, dressed in his uniform. "I have business in the Five Sisters. You are coming with me."
"I am doing no such thing," she said after another moment, turning to look at him. "You are being ridiculous."

"I am not being ridiculous," he said, walking out onto the balcony. He took her hands in his. "Are you going to set me on fire or reduce me to crystalline dust with your lightning?"

She shook her head. "No, Kai. I would never hurt you."

"Then I am taking you with me," he said, and he picked her up in his arms. "Lian Jin? Alrek? Which one of you is minding the fort right now?"

A screen appeared in front of them. Lian Jin, or her representation, was sitting on the bridge of some ship that had never existed before. She was wearing a uniform Yuezi did not recognize as belonging to any military organization she knew of. It was black, with red trim. "I am," she said. "Alrek is fooling around with another me somewhere. Boys are so incapable of multi-tasking. It's sometimes hard to believe I ever wanted to go back to being one ." She smiled at Kai. "You're going out on a date? That's nice. You should take her out more often."

"We are not going out on a date," Yuezi said after a moment's concentration brought more of her mind to the fore. "Kai is being ridiculous."

"It's lovely to see you, too, Yuezi," Lian Jin said with an amused smile. "I'm sure Kai is being perfectly reasonable. It's been a while since I did this job, but I can manage for a few hours. A day or two. Go away, Yuezi. You're just a mortal play-acting. I am actually a goddess. I'm in charge."

Yuezi looked at the former Lieutenant. "Lian Jin... You cannot be serious."

"Oh, but I am," Lian Jin said. "Alrek is busy with the part of me capable of joking." She rolled her eyes. "Kai, she can't actually stop you. If she has a panic attack, bring her back, but otherwise both of you get out. Have fun. If something happens, Yuezi, I will let you know."

"I do not want... Kai, are you listening to me? I have work to do." Yuezi began to very gently hit his shoulder.

He ignored her, carrying her off the balcony and into the gravitic elevator, down to a launch that would take her to a world she did not know if she wanted to see. "Lian Jin?"

"Yes?" The goddess asked, her myriad selves rearranging and reshuffling to make room for the new task she had taken on.
"Thank you," Kai said. "You're doing a good job."

"It's nice to be appreciated," Lian Jin said with a smile as the screen winked out.
Last edited by Roania on Thu Oct 26, 2023 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Lim Tower, Five Sisters Province

Postby Roania » Wed Sep 27, 2023 3:18 pm

"Gentlemen," said Lim Yijun, chairwoman and chief executive of Channel Lim Media. She did not turn to look at them. She stood by the window of her office in Lim Tower, looking across the park at the company's hated rival, Channel R Media. "We stand at the verge of a crisis such as our company has not seen since its foundation. Our premier on-air talent has been banned from performing in public, our most lucrative television broadcasting license is under threat of revocation, and our newspapers editors and publishers, online and printed, have been harassed by the Secretariat of Communication's allegations of treason."
She turned to look at them. "And it is your fault."

The young woman, dressed in a sparse and severe red dress, decorated only with a blue dragon, walked, or rather glided, back into her seat. She folded her hands in front of herself. "My great-grandfather built this great company up from three newspapers and a public access television channel. We were poised to dominate the internet market. We were going to be the next big thing."

Her eyes narrowed. "And then you decided that we were going to be involved in..."

The board looked at their own hands.

She went on. "'Oh, but Channel R has the Open Party sewn up! The Closed Party are our best customers! Why don't we fill our shows with propaganda for them?'" Her voice was mocking as she imitated her subordinates. "And what did it get us?" She picked up a glass of wine and threw it at the door. "That was not a rhetorical question. What did it get us?"

One of the older men, Lim Jian, her uncle, raised his hand. "It got us a lot of money, niece. And a lot of prestige."

"And where is that now?!" She slammed her fist on the table. "My father committed suicide! There are six Secretariat officers, which we pay for, in this building supervising every broadcast we make! Like we're a distillery and they need to make sure we're not making illegal hooch! We have lost half our advertisers! Our stock price has fallen by ninety percent! We are this close to being outlawed!" She looked at them. "No one wants to work for us. No one wants to work with us. No one wants to be associated with us."

She stood up and walked over to the window. "I want you to think about that," she said after a moment's pause. "Think about what it means for our company. Our family. *You*. Because I will land on my feet, gentlemen. Father's will was very precise, and the courts, despite the best efforts of some persons in this room who shall remain unnamed, have upheld my rights as his heir. And so I will survive this. But you? What do you have?
They went very quiet as they contemplated this. She gave them a few minutes before she continued. "Which of you hired that jackass Leili? I don't want to look it up. Be honest. Who did it?"

"I did." Lim Xiang, her cousin, raised his hand. "It was my idea."
"You're fired. Get out. Get out right now. If I could take the family name away from you, I would." She looked at him. "Get your personal effects and get out."

Lim Xiang stood up and left the room without a word. The rest of the board looked at her, terrified.

She didn't look away from the hated Zhou Tower across the way. Her fists clenched and opened, then clenched again. "Lim Gho built this company," she said after a moment's silence. "He built it with his own two hands. He built it with blood, sweat, and tears." She closed her eyes. "I will be damned to the lowest hell for a trillion years before I give up and let Channel R win, or let someone else take what our fathers built." She turned to look at them. "Do you understand?"

They nodded, afraid to speak.

"Good," she said after another moment's silence had passed. "Ideas, gentlemen?"

They all started talking at once, and she sighed as she sat back down at her desk, looking out across the park.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Palace of Tiandi, Tiandi, Tiandi, Rudan

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 29, 2023 6:20 pm

"If I raise my voice," Ruxia asked, "are you going to shoot me?"

Her cousin Yuwen raised an eyebrow. She'd picked up the habit from her grandfather, studying at his feet for a job she'd never intended to have. Ruxia thought it looked... Mildly fetching, a blue eyebrow rising over a blue eye. Like the sky over a blue sea. Fetching, in an absurd way. "Grand Secretary, are you telling me that you mean to shout at my charge, His Imperial Majesty? Our Most Holy Lord upon the Dragon Throne? Master of the Sea of Stars? King of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow? May he Reign for Ten Thousand Years?"

Ruxia rolled her eyes at her cousin's recitation of titles. "Yes," she said after a moment.

Captain Stone-Singer nodded. "I am not going to shoot you, Grand Secretary," she said after a few minutes had passed. "But his betrothed might. She has gotten her hand on one of our sidearms."

"And you didn't stop her?" Ruxia asked. The notion of Hela with a pistol was an incredibly disquieting one.

"You're asking me if I prevented our future Empress from arming herself? Hela Blackthorn? You're asking me if, when she took one of our spare pistols, I stopped her?" Yuwen looked down at Ruxia. "If you were in my position, would you have tried to stop her?"

Ruxia sighed and shook her head. "No," she said after a moment's contemplation. "How unhappy is he?"

"When I last saw His Imperial Majesty, he had a headache from a terrifyingly loud, but well-choreographed, concert. If I ever find out how your sister and that Da bitch arranged it, I will have them both shot." The Captain of the Jinyiwei sighed. "But that is just Lianying, isn't it?"

"I stopped asking how my sister organised these things on short notice a very long time ago," Ruxia sighed. "She never learns, either. She knows our brother—"

"His Imperial Majesty," a frosty Captain Stone-Singer reminded her.

"—Our brother hates loud noises and bright lights. And yet she does these things." Ruxia looked at Yuwen. "You're not going to shoot me, are you?"

"Continue to disrespect my charge," the Captain said, "and I might. Your brother or not," and here she slipped into a formal register, "He is our Master and God. And I do not report to you, Grand Secretary. I report solely to Him... And in case it has slipped your mind, neither He nor his betrothed like you very much right now."

Ruxia sighed. "I know," she said after another moment's silence had passed between them. "I'm going in there." She walked past her cousin, ignoring the armed Jinyiwei who stepped out of her way as she did so. "My cremation pyre, after all."
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 29, 2023 6:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 29, 2023 6:29 pm

It wasn't that Ruxia didn't take her brother's new title very, very seriously. It was impossible to do otherwise, really. For all he had demanded he stop being addressed with the constant repetitious praise that had for centuries — since their family had secured Heaven's Mandate — greeted the Huangdi, he remained the Huangdi. He could make her life exceedingly painful. Sister or not.

Her problem was that Xiao sometimes seemed, almost always seemed, never to have cared. Never mind counting the number of times he had gotten angry on one hand, the number of times he had invoked his title as Taizi was... So far as she knew, once. Yes, he had drifted through life, like the rest of them, accompanied by armed servitors and with all his desires fulfilled immediately.

But those desires were not the stuff of Princes.

Even his placid insistence on still being Xiao, despite his being far too old for a milk name...

But then some internal switch was flipped, or someone said something, or... And the earth would shake and the heavens would burn.
And so Ruxia did her best to treat him like a Huangdi, because she loved him and she knew that he was the Huangdi.

Because she was also very, very, very frightened of her little brother.

"Xiao?" She asked after she entered the room where her brother and his betrothed were sitting in quiet communion. It was very gaudy, by her tastes. Lianying had very rarely used her share of the Imperial purse, but her career had made her rich. And though the last three generations of the dynasty had tended towards understated elegance, Lianying harked back to an earlier era. An era of excess. "Are you alright?"

Her brother looked up at her from his chair and blinked. He was wearing a robe that looked like it had been thrown on him by one of his servants, and he was not wearing any shoes or socks. "Oh. Yes, Elder Sister Ruxia. I am quite alright." He was speaking in the stilted manner he sometimes took on, when he suspected he was being watched, judged, and possibly in a great deal of trouble. "I am grateful to you and Eldest Sister Lianying for arranging this lovely place for us to stay. And so is Hela. Yes, Hela?"

"It all has to go," Hela said, looking around their surroundings. The gilt, the gold, the water nymphs and their varying male companions. "This is our house now? Or will that loud and impossible woman want it back?" Hela wasn't usually this stiff. Her stiffness came from a fury never far from the surface for her but redoubled by its obvious impact on her betrothed.

"Lianying should have called herself a jackdaw," Ruxia said. "She fills all her residences with shiny things. And sometimes she forgets she lives in them. No, Hela. This is, if Xiao wants, his new residence. I've spoken with Lianying's security detail and her boyfriend. Even when she's in Tiandi, she lives out of her ship." She smiled at Xiao, who blinked again and looked away. "You can live here, or you can live somewhere else. You can live anywhere you want." She looked at Hela. "I just wish our Emperor had informed us well before deciding to come down here that he was doing so."

Xiao blinked. Once, twice, three times. "But Eldest Sister Lianying said that I could come down here."

Of course that flighty bitch did, Ruxia thought to herself. But she shook her head. "Xiao," she said after a moment, "you are not a child any more. You are the Huangdi. You can go anywhere you want, but... Other people should know. For instance, I found out you were here because Lian Jin told me you were here. After you were here. And there were security procedures, and rituals, and... All sorts of very important things that needed to be done." She looked at Hela. "I am not angry at either of you. But Xiao, you have to understand that you cannot just do what you want any more."

"But I can," he said, "and I did." It was very hard to argue with that logic. "And if all those things needed to be done... And I didn't do them, doesn't that mean they did not, in fact, need to be done?" He looked at her, and she could see the faintest hint of a smile on his face. "I am the Huangdi, Elder Sister Ruxia. And I wanted to come down here. The hunting lodge was cold and dusty, and Hela did not want to go back to our old home."

A faint shiver passed through Hela's body at the very thought of returning to the Closed City. Ruxia had been around the girl for more than fifteen years now, ever since Xiao had brought her home like a lost puppy. And the last time, the only time, she had seen her general irritability and frustration give way to raw horror had been during the war, when the girl had been desperately seeking Xiao and Ruxia had had no answers for her.

"There are skeletons," Hela whispered, her eyes momentarily as distant as Xiao's in the middle of an episode. "In the walls." She shook her head, and looked at Ruxia. "I do not want to live there. And so we came here. And it is very nice."

Xiao nodded.

"But I told Xiao he needed to talk to someone. He decided the only person he needed to tell was Captain Yuwen and Miss Yuezi," Hela went on. "Miss Yuezi said that he could do whatever he wanted, but she was very busy and with all due respect she wasn't sure why he was telling her." She looked at Ruxia. "And Captain Yuwen said that she would make sure everything was taken care of."

Ruxia closed her eyes. "And... Me?"

"You might have told me no," Xiao said, his tone gentle. "And I did not want to be told no." He smiled at her again, this time with more than a hint of mischief in his eyes. "So I did not ask you. And now we are here. And we will not go back unless we have to, and I will decide when we have to."

"Where's Boba?" Ruxia asked, momentarily changing the subject. "He's usually with you."

"Boba is busy digging up our new yard," Hela said. "I want to know before I settle in if there are any more skeletons. I want to know as soon as possible." Those eyes were getting more and more distant. "They were children, Ruxia! Children! Buried under the walls!" She shook her head. "I do not want to live there. I do not want to live anywhere near it."

Ruxia looked at Xiao, who had a more tired expression than usual. And now she wondered if his headache had nothing to do with a performance from Lianying, and everything to do with a Hela rapidly unraveling. "There are ceremonies and rituals that are part of your job, Xiao. You cannot just walk away. Even if you want to live here. Yes, you're the Emperor. But you have responsibilities, and many of them..."

She had talked far too long on the subject. His grey eyes flashed, and his mind focused. Like the point of a dagger. "The next time you suggest, Grand Secretary," his voice was now a cool wind blowing down the slopes from a volcano about to erupt, "that I am not fulfilling my duties as Huangdi, I will be very disappointed in you."

Ruxia took a step back.

"I am the Huangdi. I have a full awareness of what my duties entail, and what they do not. I am neither a child nor a simpleton." He rose to his feet, crossing his arms behind his back. "And one of my duties is disciplining my servants. And so I will discipline you now."

"Xiao," she said, her heart pounding. She could feel sweat on her brow.

His grey eyes were cold as ice. As cold as the depths of space. And he slipped into his other persona. Never mind how else he was. "You have dismissed Hela,our Hela, and her concerns and fears. Simply moving around them with your talk of our duties and where we need to be. As if you control our comings and goings. As if you are somehow our master and not our servant. And then you had the gall, the gall, to suggest we do not take this seriously."

He took a step forward, and Ruxia found herself taking a step back. "Xiao..." She said again.

"*His Imperial Majesty the Huangdi,*" he corrected, his wrath a glacier now slowly but inexorably crushing everything in its path.

"His Imperial Majesty the Huangdi, my most supreme Sovereign God and King," Ruxia said, falling onto her knees and then forward. She rose and fell, counting to nine. When she had finished kowtowing, she kept her head facing down. "He is quite correct to correct this lowly and insignificant one."

"And yet, we think you will presume upon us again," the Tiguang Huangdi said. Now the coolness was giving way to a heat that made her sweat more. "We think you will forget your place again, Grand Secretary Ruxia. You are not our equal. And you are not our master. And you are not our friend. What is this? Did you think, when our illustrious father withdrew into seclusion rather than force us all to suffer the collapse of the Imperial Chariot, that we would be your puppet? Your plaything? Did you think that we would be your Huangdi?"

Ruxia did not dare look up. "No!" She lied because he wanted the lie more than he wanted the truth. Any hopes she had had in that direction had been dashed long ago. "I am most apologetic to His Imperial Majesty if this loathsome and despicable one has offended him."

The Tiguang Huangdi shifted. "Lian Jin, if we ordered you to burn this servant to ashes, would you obey our command? We have grown... tired."

"Crispy fried Ruxia," the crystal mind said from somewhere nearby. "At His Imperial Majesty's command. After all, there are so many reasons we've given you..."

Shit. Shit. She'd fallen into the same trap she'd maneuvered Meng Ailian into. He knew everything. Of course he knew everything. And now she was going to be burned alive for... For...

"Enough, Xiao," said the very last person she might have thought would save her life. "You'll feel bad for yelling at your sister in three minutes. She didn't upset me, and I have a headache. You need to go lie down." Hela's voice was firm and unyielding as steel. "Go lie down, Xiao."

The Tiguang Huangdi sighed. "Yes, Hela," he said after a moment had passed, and then Ruxia could hear her walking away. "Sorry, Hela. Sorry, Ruxia."

"Please get up, Ruxia," Hela said. "Lian Jin, go back to doing whatever it is you do when my betrothed isn't pestering you."

The blue eyeball vanished. Ruxia got up. And right into Hela's light eyes, as her future sister-in-law grabbed her by the front of her robe. "Being Emperor is making Xiao, my Xiao, unhappy. Desperately unhappy." Hela's eyes bored into hers. "He does not want to be Huangdi any more than I want to be Empress. But he is Huangdi, and I am going to be Empress. And I am trying to remember that this is not your fault. Your... Plans were just a convenient excuse for your father and mother to fuck off back to Kadria, and we both agreed to it.. I am trying, Ruxia, to remember that you did not make them do this to us."

Ruxia was suddenly even more scared of Hela than she had been of Xiao. "You can't..."

"Please finish that sentence the way I think you're going to finish it," Hela said with an icy smile. "Please."

Ruxia swallowed and looked down at Hela's hands. "I'm sorry, Hela," she said after a moment had passed. "I was going to say you can't blame me for this. This isn't my fault. I didn't make my father give up. I didn't bury all those millennia-old skeletons. I am actually on your side. Both of yours." She looked at the younger girl's face. "I love Xiao. I want him to be happy. I want you to be happy."

Hela let her go, and Ruxia took a step back, smoothing down the front of her robe. "And I want Xiao to be left alone. I want you to accept he's going to do whatever he wants, and that's not necessarily going to be what you want or what some ancient book says he should do. And if you don't like what he's doing, don't start telling him what he should do. You have never had the right to tell him that. And you know it. Do you want to run around playing Grand Secretary? Run your elections. Rig your elections, you double-dealing snake." Hela looked at her for another moment before turning away. "I am going to go make sure Xiao is alright. If you're still here when I come back, I'm going to hurt you."

"Hela, wait. Please."

"Sure, I have a few minutes to be lied to like everyone else in your life except Valdr," Hela said. "And I'm not even sure about him."

Ruxia sighed. "I need your help, Hela. I need Xiao's help."

Hela stared at her. Then she started to laugh. She laughed and laughed. She wrapped her arms around herself, and she laughed some more. When she was done laughing, she wiped the tears out of her eyes with the back of her hand. "Let me think... No. No Ruxia."

"It's very, very important," Ruxia said. "Please. Give me just a few minutes."

Hela looked at her for a long time. "Fine," she said after a while had passed. "But only because I want to know what you're going to say that's so important you'll risk making me go to your brother and say you made me cry."

Ruxia's heart skipped a beat. "But..."

"Yes. That would be a lie. I'm glad you recognize the difference! Sometimes I worry you don't." Hela smiled again. "Let's talk, Ruxia. My least favourite person in the galaxy. You have three minutes. Impress me."
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!

User avatar
Posts: 1994
Founded: Antiquity
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Roania » Fri Sep 29, 2023 6:31 pm

Ruxia spoke. Quite quickly. She went through it all. Top to bottom. Hela went to get Xiao. Ruxia ran through it all again, with Xiao listening intently, his grey eyes focused and clear.

And then they stood up together, and Hela looked at her betrothed. "What do you think, Xiao?"

"It would be inappropriate for me to intervene in the democratic process," he said. "Ooh, I got shivers when I said that!" He grinned at Hela, who grinned back at him before looking back at Ruxia. "But... If I was not Huangdi... If I was just Xiao... I would tell you that you know what you are doing. Are you looking for cover? Or are you honestly concerned about the future of our nation?"

Ruxia looked at them both. "I'm honestly concerned about the future of our nation," she said after a few moments had passed. "I am."

Xiao closed his eyes. "Lian Jin, I assume you've also run these numbers and projections?"

"I have," Lian Jin's voice said from the crystal eyeball that appeared in front of them all. "I think it is an interesting exercise. But I am still learning how to do this. Alrek?"

The eyeball took on a purple tinge as Alrek joined the conversation. "You're going about this all wrong, Ruxia," he said after a few moments had passed. "You're worried about the organization of the people deciding? Sincerely? Then let them decide. Now if you'll excuse me, I have several hundred baseball games on several dozen worlds to broadcast, a few thousand thousand papers to direct to the appropriate departments, and a million million other things to do." He vanished with a pop.

Lian Jin sighed. "I will assist you in whatever way I can, Grand Secretary," she said. "But we're both learning how to do all of this. What can be automated, what needs our personal attention, what can be delegated... It is a process. Made harder by Alrek trying to force my primary avatar into his interpretation of a baseball... Alrek!"

"I think it's a reasonable idea," Xiao said, as Ruxia's heart started to reasonable, "although I'm not sure how practical it is on a day-to-day basis. Possibly slightly more practical than fitting ten million people in a prefectural stadium and asking them what to do." The Tiguang Huangdi smiled. "We approve. Organise this... What is it called, Lian Jin?"

"Huh? Excuse me," the crystal mind said. "I am being molested. What is what called? *Stop that!* I am talking to our Emperor! Alrek!"

The eyeball vanished with a pop, and Xiao and Hela looked at each other for a moment before they both started giggling.

Ruxia sighed and rubbed her eyes. "For people who do not want to be spoken to like children..."

Xiao gave her a look. But his mood was too good. "Oh, I don't care. Go and talk to your cabinet. Organise this universal election. Ask our subjects what kind of democracy they want. Personally, I am coming around to stuffing ten thousand people in a stadium. But the people should decide." He smiled at Hela again, and she rolled her eyes as he took her hand in his. "I am going to take my fiancee out for a walk. Shall we find Boba?"

"I could do for fresh air," Hela said. "It's so nice to not be in Huanxin. I bet it hasn't rained once since we arrived in Tiandi this morning! Bye, Ruxia."


"Captain Stone-Singer," Hela said, "the Grand Secretary was just leaving."

And suddenly the Jinyiwei Captain had just appeared by Ruxia's side. "Grand Secretary," she said, "I will escort you back to your transport."

Ruxia sighed. "But we will need to make an appointment to get your seal on the edict ordering this, and your approval of the law. To make sure you want to go ahead. I'm not going to just go ahead without your..." But the two of them, Xiao and Hela, were too engaged in smiling at each other.

Xiao waved her off. "I have faith in you. But contact us when we are ready. Just remember we are not going to interfere in the democratic process." They both started giggling again, and then they were gone, leaving Ruxia with Yuwen.

"All done?" Yuwen asked.

"All done," Ruxia said with a sigh. "I think."

Yuwen nodded.

A red eyeball suddenly appeared. If it was possible for an eyeball to look chagrined, Alrek definitely appeared chagrined. "Uh... I was watching baseball. And... Something came up you should..."

"I am not getting involved in anything happening between you and Lian Jin. I am absolutely not doing that," Yuwen snapped.

"I can't believe you two have started appearing as eyeballs because your primary avatars have started molesting each other," Ruxia said. "When I approved of Yuezi installing..."

"Oh. No, no. We just decided this took less space. We can molest each... Ow! How did that hurt?! Anyway, I'm devoting my actual mind-space to this, because something came up. Something very important. And Jin is just not dealing with it."

That got both Yuwen and Ruxia to look at him. "It's her purpose to deal with everything," Ruxia said after a few moments had passed. "What do you want?"

Alrek looked at her. And then he sighed. "And I quote, 'I am not up to dealing with Da Chuanpu and his interview. I do not have the spoons for that right now.' So I'm dealing with it." He sighed again. "So brace yourself."

"What?" Ruxia asked. "What interview?"

The screen appeared in front of her, and she saw her least favourite member of her cabinet sitting behind a desk, one of those stupid grins on his stupid bronze face, his stupid hair styled in that stupid pompadour... "Oh... fuck.Xiao! Xiao!"
Last edited by Roania on Fri Sep 29, 2023 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years! Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years to the Lord of Ten Thousand Years!

The Dragon Throne has stood for Ten Thousand Years! For Ten Thousand Years, the Dragon Throne Stands! The Dragon Throne has stood, is standing, and shall stand for Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand Years, Ten Thousand of Ten Thousand Years!



Remove ads

Return to NationStates

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users


Remove ads