A Long Road Crossover Ficbit – Stabbable

A/N: Canny readers familiar with Valdemar may facepalm about what Huaisang has misunderstood here. Which is fair. Stories about magic passed through several hands across a whole swath of kingdoms and the Dhorisha Plains? Things get garbled!

“The Lan Sect are our allies,” Huaisang said steadily. “They need to rebuild their strength. Preferably with techniques Jin Guangshan has never seen before.”

Mingjue sat down again, picking up his polishing strokes. “Preferably.”

Oh good, his brother already had a suspicion where this was going. “And our contacts in the Plains say if you want to find true Bards,” such an odd word for musical cultivation, but outside the sects, who wasn’t odd? “You have to head north. To Valdemar.”

Strokes stopped. Baxia vibrated, annoyed. “Valdemar,” Mingjue said heavily. “Where they have a queen, and lords, and no sects. No righteous cultivators to stop demonic magic in its tracks. Where we heard rumors of an undead army, before the Sunshot Campaign.” Under the mustache, his lips thinned. “I always wondered if Wen Ruohan got the idea there. Or if he’d been working on the puppets… earlier.”

Huaisang didn’t hide his grimace. This was his brother, and everyone agreed contagious curses were the absolute worst. Fighting your own kin turned mad and lethal against you was more terrifying than the most murderous ghost. He still couldn’t grasp how other sect leaders seemed even more horrified by Wei Wuxian’s fierce corpses, now that the Wen were safely defeated. At least when Wei Wuxian used his resentful energy on a body that body was already dead. “Seven years, and I still can’t get a clear report of what happened up there. Our contacts talk to the Hawk Clan, but – well, you know.”

“Deer Clan and Grasscat,” Mingjue nodded. “They may trade with us, but only the Hawks take their clan’s horses all the way to Valdemar.”

“Still, they do talk,” Huaisang agreed. “And that war brought together Valdemar, Rethwellan, and Karse as allies – when Karse had been in skirmish-wars with Valdemar for at least a century.” He snapped his fan closed. “But they didn’t take down Ancar. All they were able to do was drive the King of Hardorn back over his border to lick his wounds.”

“Drove back and held back a demonic cultivator who can raise an army of the dead, in a land where the dead usually don’t rise on their own.” Mingjue stroked Baxia one more time, and sheathed her. “They’ll be looking for allies. People who know more about fierce corpses.”

Huaisang smiled. “And who knows more about night-hunting than Hanguang-jun?”

…He really didn’t deserve that look. Really.

“You want to send Lan Wangji on a diplomatic mission to Valdemar,” Mingjue said dryly. “Lan Wangji. Who has an almost Nie-like attraction to stabbing any problem that’s stabbable. Who’d rather spend a week on the road night-hunting than an hour at a banquet. Who sits through discussion conferences looking like someone’s torturing him to death.” His older brother frowned, considering. “No, he looks worse. I’ve seen him tortured.”

23 thoughts on “A Long Road Crossover Ficbit – Stabbable

  1. Well, none of that is wrong. I’m absolutely dying over it, but he is not wrong. And yup, see exactly what just happened there. We have our first major miscommunication and they haven’t even left the room. I must say, I also adore the Niè practicality over the corpses. Of course, they’ve had longer to deal with Wen Ruohan as a neighbor. It’s like having Ancar, Wuxia Edition.

    And of course they think that having Lan Wangji somehow involved will successfully lure out Wei Wuxian. Niè Huaisang did go to classes with them. Sneaky Headshaker is sneaky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Several miscommunications. *Amused* I’m picturing the facepalms when the cultivators find out Ancar’s army was just mind-controlled.

      And yes, you’ll get to see some of what Kerowyn dug up about the sects, which has its own set of errors….


  2. No cultivators, no. Just a bunch of quasi-horselike animal thingies, who are either archangels (if Groveborn) or the angelic dead come back to watch over the kingdom of their mortal lives.

    It’s been a while since my adolescent years and the ability to tolerate Lackey’s issues, and I haven’t read Mo Dao Zu Shi (wow, over 150 chapters?), so I’m not making the connection about the misunderstanding.

    Also, the wiki doesn’t go into why Jin Guangshan is a particular problem for Lan.

    I take it that this is during the 13 years when Wei Wuxian is dead?


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Technically, the Companions themselves are a variant of the reincarnation cycle, those that aren’t Groveborn anyway.

      And there are only 113 chapters in Mo Dai, the rest are, additions to, not necessarily required. Even chapter 113 is more of an epilogue, a resolution, then required for plot.

      But yeah, after the first few generations, the Groveborn Companions (the ones that were heavenly spirits) stopped and the born Companions were the spirits of Heralds come back. I figure that took probably about four or five generations post-founding to happen, given they are not allowed back when people they knew in life are around.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nope, this is before the mess at Qiongqi Path. Plenty of Bad Things have happened, but that particular escalating mess of killing Jin Zixuan is going to be avoided by way of Nie Huaisang’s desperate plotting.

      (Which also means I can avoid the whole “was there a second flute or did Wei Wuxian just lose control on his own” discrepancy between book canon and donghua/Untamed.)

      There are a couple of different misunderstandings at work here. (And if you want to refresh some Valdemar info, I’d really recc By the Sword and Exile’s Honor, they’re mostly what I’m drawing off for background.)

      First, the mess with the bards. Valdemar, bards-as-magic (using Bardic Gift): Basically empathic projection through song. Great for getting a crowd worked up with a particular emotion, not usually a weapon of war. (Though see the Shadow Singer in Vanyel’s time. And we have some canon evidence Wei Wuxian’s spirit-manipulation can cause similar effects.)

      Musical cultivation: Chords go BOOM.

      Granted, the Lan and others who use it can do multiple other things, including shields, putting souls to rest, talking to ghosts, etc. But while Valdemar Bards would be very, very interested in Lan music, it’d be hard to say how much of their techniques would be useable.

      Second misunderstanding: Ancar raised an “army of the living dead”. In his case, soldiers mind-controlled by blood magic.

      What the cultivators are thinking: Raised fierce corpses (as in actual walking dead) and/or corpse puppets, a contagious curse used by Wen Ruohan which had no cure. Fortunately that curse only affected cultivators, not ordinary people. (Fierce corpses can be anybody.)

      “No righteous cultivators” – well, that one’s a bit tricky. Heralds may not have Mage-Gift, but they do use energy in some of the same ways as cultivators. And Companions most certainly can manipulate spiritual energy. (This will be explored in more detail later.)

      As for Jin Guangshan… he’s a problem because he thinks now that the Wen are wiped out, his clan ought to be in charge of everything. Torturing the Wens (and watching all the other sects just stand by and do nothing) is one of the many ways he keeps pushing the boundaries on what he and the Jin Sect can get away with. Canon he and Jin Guangyao provided money the Lan Sect needed to rebuild, leaving them indebted; and with how many losses the Lans took in the Sunshot Campaign, they didn’t have the magical or martial power to stand against the Jins throwing their weight around. (There’s also the mess of Lan Xichen believing Jin Guangyao an honorable man and being horribly wrong.)

      Nie Huaisang wants to strengthen the Lan Sect so that they can afford to say no when Jin Guangshan pushes again. So the Nie aren’t the only sect trying to rein in the Jin.

      (The Jiang Sect has their own horrible set of problems. Including having over 90% of their sect wiped out by the Wen. And Wei Wuxian’s rep.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “My musical cultivation will break my enemies and make them cry out in agony!”

        “Yeah, I used to have that problem too. Don’t worry, keep at it and you’ll be a musician in no time!”


        Liked by 2 people

    1. I will confess I haven’t read the original story because my time on the internet is spent doing work-type stuff, and there’s no official translation.

      Either the animation or the live-action version is pretty cool, though.

      Is the first animation ep. You can find all of them subbed on YouTube.


    2. I would want to point out that the live action and animated series are both subject to China’s censorship laws in a way the anonymously-written novel was not, and both changed the plot in various ways to compensate. There is a surprising amount of discourse about whether the changes are for the better, but both adaptations do introduce plot holes that weren’t present in the original novel.

      I’ve also heard that the director (or maybe producer) of the animated series admitted in an interview that he’s a massive fan of one of the antagonist characters, and people have pointed out that said character gets a more sympathetic portrayal as a consequence, but I can’t speak for it myself since I haven’t watched it.

      (On the other hand, the first and most complete fan-translation of the novel definitely has some dodgy translation issues in its own right, and even the newer translations can be somewhat difficult reading if you aren’t accustomed to reading translations.)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. So I had a thought on why maybe the hawk brothers would want some trade with the sects. Mostly bamboo. Very abudant and strong yet light when used as building material. Since most clans live in tree houses this sounds like a great alternative to wood especially since they tend to move once they’re done cleansing an area.

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  4. Those are both actually good examples of the devaluing of music and poetry in modern culture. In most Indo-European cultures, the bard/poet equivalent is a prophet who can get and give answers from the gods, or have uncanny understanding of people, or create order from chaos and thus soothe people, the land, weather, animals, etc. in a shaman-like way. And China had the study of music as part of the study of Confucianism, or the Tao, or all sorts of other things, as well as real shaman stuff. (And even though poets sometimes got mistreated compared to other literary men, you couldn’t be educated or religious without studying poetry and being able to do a decent one.)

    The only exception I can think of are Irish satirists (who were supposed to point out injustice and embarrass people into stopping), who had a lot of offense tactics. They had one guy whose satires were so mean that they killed rats, and of course any satirist was supposedly able to bring a blush or a permanent blemish to somebody’s face. Satirists were encouraged to keep moving, because they were disliked and feared.

    If musical cultivators are doing powerchords of death (other than maybe killing monsters or pests), they are basically going against the entire purpose of music in most societies, including Chinese ones. Probably almost as offensive as necromancers, depending on the society. More offensive, in some cases.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah, I think that Lan Yi invented Chord Assassination to deal with dissidents? Lan Yi, the third clan head. (Which, wow, how cut throat were the Lan sect politics then? I really wish we’d learn more about that.)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The other side is that _just_ being a musician is often regarded as a low class job, like _just_ being a dancer or other performance specialties. (Having magic or working for the gods is probably the main difference, versus being slotted with jobs like streetsweeper or prostitute.)

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  6. Valdemar’s Bards are somewhat modeled after McCaffrey’s Harpers, so you get them being involved somewhat in government propaganda, law, intelligence gathering, and education. (And of course, the Harpers are based on Irish poets and their troupes of bards, because they were indeed putting out propaganda for their lords, but also gathering intelligence on what the people think and representing them to their lords. And their songs and genealogy/history knowledge was indeed oriented toward educating those around them, as well as pushing their king’s brandname.)

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  7. Just dropping a note, I don’t think this story is for me, but the person for whom I’ve had to delve into Valdemar recently made a remark to me that the Bard problem is everywhere. It’s less of a problem in Valdemar because the Heralds have the moral authority to tell them to shut it. Elsewhere they literally can get away with anything. Referenced a Tarma/Kethry story. So these characters shouldn’t need to go that far to find people with bardic gift.


    1. With bardic gift, no. Trained in an official capacity in a school? We don’t hear about that anywhere outside Valdemar. Cultivators put a lot of weight on official schools.

      But bear in mind Nie Huaisang isn’t looking for bards so much as an excuse to definitely pry Wei Wuxian out of the Burial Mounds. And that takes serious doing!


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