A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Translation Error?

“Until the Son of the Sun stopped her priests from calling evil, the Furies roamed Karse by night,” Talia reminded her. “King Valdemar made a promise to the gods. It may sound silly to you, but Father Ricard has a point. If cultivators say they’re against heaven, we have to ask them what they mean by that.”

Kero straightened, eyes fixed on the glimmers of white-on-white and green on black and brown that had just come into view down the road. “My money’s on translation error. Just wait.”

Talia watched the cultivators and Kellen approach, putting out her hand to rest on Rolan’s nose as he clopped up next to her. She wouldn’t pry at their guests, this was a meeting in good faith… but she listened to her Gift.

Nie Zonghui felt the simplest; the familiar caution of a guard whose noble charge was out of safe territory. But only caution. No trace of malice. “Leave Huaisang alone, Zonghui won’t start anything.”

Kero nodded. “Good.”

Nie Huaisang felt almost familiar, given how many ambassadors and frontier nobles Talia had met over the years. Worried. A bit of nerves at all the strangeness of a foreign land. A touch of casual arrogance…. Wait. That last wasn’t quite the same arrogance as that of most noble heirs she’d met.

Then details resolved enough for her to catch the steel gleaming against Huaisang’s shoulder, and she had to bite her lips not to laugh. Over the shoulder? Seriously? “Alberich would-”

“Be very, very worried,” Kero muttered. “We’ll probably get them to agree to leave the sabers off for the audience. Damn it.”

Talia blinked. “I… thought that was the plan?”

“It was. Only now I wish we could give our Guards the obvious to see as a threat. If they can fight with those things they’re strong enough to strangle a man to death. Or break his fool neck.”

Talia swallowed, glad the cultivators were still too far away to make out faces. Reached out, brushing her Gift over Companion and Chosen.

Oh. He’s so lonely.

White-on-white clothing, filigreed silver hairpiece, black locks pulled back into an unmoving style. Lan Wangji reminded her of the Forest of Sorrows, dark leafless trees glittering with ice and snow. Every movement, every glance, every carefully blank expression; he might have been carved from Winter itself.

On the surface. Underneath?

Companion-warmth. Worry for allies. Longing, aching longing, for one-not-here. Hope, fragile as the first falling snowflake….

35 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Translation Error?

  1. “So when you say you ‘defy the heavens’ what do you mean?”

    “It means that every time we attempt something impressive, the Heavenly Tribulation sends down lightning bolts to destroy us. Since we refuse to die, we are defying the heavens.”

    “…”

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Nice done on dancing along the edge of creepy over-knowing (which telepathy usually falls into) and basically “one of those folks who is just really good at sensing body language.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In Shinto, not every kami is benevolent, so sometimes all you can do is put a pretty young miko in a shrine to flatter the monster and keep it happy enough that hopefully it doesn’t go out ravaging the land. (As mentioned in Shadows in Starlight.)

    On Velgarth, there are enough names of divinities that Thalhkarsh genuinely thought he could join their ranks and get diplomatic immunity to having paladin types come looking to kill him. If we take that as a thing that happens, only people who defy the will of the gods would then have been able to face him.

    Cultivators, in other words.

    -Albert

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In Shinto, not every kami is benevolent

      Akshully, this is Christian propaganda.

      Taira no Masakado is no more malevolent than Saint Nancy of Baltimore, Saint James of Pullman, or Saint Joseph of Scranton.

      Invoking Hecate, Izanami, or Tezcatlipoca is not at all a thing that can go badly, even if from a purely materialistic mental health perspective.

      /sarcasm

      Yeah, I guess this comment is a little bit inappropriate.

      Like

  4. Yikes, as strong as Huaisang and Zhonghui are, Wanji is even more insane. How many handstands do you think it takes to hold up a 1 ton coffin with one hand?

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Well, heavenly tribulation is supposed to be a test, not a smiting for doing wrong or breaking laws. So it would be more like “standing up to” the heavens, or “surviving the test.”

    But the whole heavenly tribulation trope is weird. It didn’t use to be a thing in old Chinese novels, and I don’t know where it comes from.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Partly test, partly punishment.

      The old Chinese novels were not written under the PRC, a regime determined to shit on /everyone/.

      Live under the PRC, you start expecting a very controlling and jealous bureaucracy, and this obviously extends to thinking about celestial bureaucracies.

      Thus, immortal cultivators are officially ‘bad’, because they aren’t born into the celestial bureaucrat families, and could compete if they prospered. It is like someone growing up a farmer or a merchant who trying to go into the bureaucracy and become an influencer, but more so. PRC isn’t to the degree of the DPRK’s three part system, but you had better believe that they are attentive to groups they do not like.

      If the Xianxia writers did not find something about ‘lightning strikes as punishment’ in Chinese folklore, they may have just ripped off Zeus.

      There’s a bunch of stuff in Xianxia that is clearly borrowing from electronics/CDs, without the thing of them being products of engineering, rooted in foreign philosophies.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But wasn’t the Celestial Bureaucracy of pre-PRC Chinese culture also labyrinthine, legalistic (to the point of being a parody of Lawful Good/Neutral), cold-blooded, and all about “the big picture” over any individual?

        I often say “culture trumps politics,” and the CPC has always struck me as acting more like “Celestial/Imperial Bureaucracy with Communist Paintjob” than “True Communists” (whatever those are). What I mean is, when the CPC took over, the political labels changed, but the *roles* remained mostly the same. The “mandate” is no longer based on bloodlines, but still has more to do with power, influence, and political maneuvering than Communist Ideological Purity, regardless of the propaganda.

        I wonder if anyone has ever done a serious analysis of how the power structures (real, as opposed to “official”) in the PRC compare to the old Imperial Court. My personal hunch is that the two would look *very* similar under the paint job.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Short version is that there are reasons in the taxonomic classification of socialisms that we can say that Zedong Mao and Jinping Xi were and are True Communists.

        The other three relevant bits are a) history of regime philosophies in China b) ways in which technology permitted modern states to do things that largely were not practical in premodern states c) the PRC’s ambitions wrt to use of the latest technology for monitoring, influencing, and controlling populations. I don’t have the tl;dr, for these at hand.

        So, communism is a destructive philosophy, and may be unable to create things not already present in the culture. The general observation about communism being the pre-communist authoritarianism with a red paint job may hold.

        The key thing is the assumption that “Communist Ideological Purity” was ever anything but “power, influence, and political maneuvering”.

        And the level of attempted surveillance really is quite astounding.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I have time now to expand on things!

        There seems to be differences in bureaucratic function between pre-modern states, and modern states. With modern mainly being industrial revolution or earlier. Forex, Napolean’s government is considered an ambitious early version of some of what showed up later. Tech changes that decrease costs of communication and transport make control over longer distances more feasible.

        Now, talking of any one of the techs enabling modern European states will get you a statement about the Chinese having those things also. One, there were a lot of dynasties, and tech claims aren’t true of all of them. When I studied this stuff, the Shang dynasty was the earliest that Western historians accepted as historical. The Zhou, who followed the Shang, were definitely Bronze age, at least in the beginning. Two, transport along the rivers, and records were pretty good, but they definitely did not start out with the level of control permitted by early modern bureaucracies. I cannot prove it, but I don’t think that their same tech level bureaucracies were so much qualitatively more effective than western bureaucracies that tech did not make later era Chinese bureaucracies more effective to a degree.

        On the historical dynastic philosophies, for all that the Confucians demonized the Legalists while maybe not having all that much practical difference, for all that I dislike most of them, they were relatively benign compared to the communists. The Confucians may have actually managed benevolence at times. For all that the Legalists were proto-Fascists, and the Qin Shi Huangdi the traditional Chinese version of Hitler, compared to the communists they are neutral.

        It comes down to functional definitions of communist. If Stalin and Lenin are not defining examples of True Communist, then they have never existed. Stalin and Lenin can be boiled down as using Marxist socialism to usurp the power of a state in service of one man’s sadistic appetites. Mao and Xi are doing this exact thing. To suppose that they are not communists is to suppose that Hitler is not a Nazi, because King Oberon of fairlyland is the defining example of a Nazi. Taking the will to power as being incompatible with communism is like, supposing that Oberon defines nazism, saying that Hitler was too anti-semetic and too wantonly destructive to be a Nazi.

        Totalitarian styles of government are only practiced in modern times, because the tech is around to support the enabling bureaucracies. Prior history is filled with extremely ambitious kings, who had great problems projecting their full power across the whole of their theoretical territory. So even the most sadistic of these kings had practical limits on the number of the people that they could torture. A large country would by accident have pockets of leadership who were less sadistic, destructive, etc. And cruelty for its own sake has practical draw backs.

        So, sure, the Aztecs were plenty evil. Look into the scale of that a little.

        A guy I mostly respect intellectually, the other day, linked to a think piece that argued that the cultural revolution was spontaneous. I do not think this argument sounds credible, and haven’t yet looked more closely at the article. I’m pretty sure Mao was deep into organizing it and setting it up. Not controlling every single atrocity, any more than Hitler was capable of running every gas chamber personally. But all the other fingerprints Mao put on crimes committed under his leadership make me fairly certain he had a deep level of involvement, and it would not have happened without him.

        Current regime is doing two things as part of trying to hold on to power. One, Xi is trying to have people convinced that he is the only thing between the Chinese and a return to civil war, portrayed as being worse than the status quo. Second, they want to use computers to set up a totalitarian state on a level that has never before been managed.

        There is a lot of awful in pre modern Chinese history. I’m not sure that there were very many events as bad and as wide spread at the Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, especially not carried out by the dynasty in power, and which stayed in power thereafter. Chinese dynasties were always jealous of political and military power, but the current degree of jealously of religious power, down to trying to stamp out all of the weird religious movements? Mao saw keeping everyone terrorized as part of the way to rule. During the Leap Forward, he was eating well while senior communist officials starved to death. His immediate successors may have been a little less nuts, but they remembered the utility of his techniques in managing the expectations of those outside the party.

        Chinese history makes things look big picture and cold blooded, because we are looking most at the central government, and the sheer scale aggregates things enough to make the petty business less visible. There were a bunch of regional powers drawing taxes directly to pay for regional projects. It may be like looking at the efforts of the Holy Roman Emperors to maintain control, and supposing that they had the control and apparent domestic spying apparatus of East Germany.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. It came from the Journey to the West. Sun Wukong had to avoid three tribulations: lightning, fire, and wind, or he’d die. He learned the 72 Transformations to avoid them.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Journey to the West has the Celestial Bureaucracy (and is probably where a lot of tropes about it originate)… but how effective it is… varies a lot. As does who it’s trying to coral. Certain individuals can just about get away with anything, several deities end up loosing control of their pets and those create problems for the main characters, (heck, many of the main characters *were* flat out gods before being reincarnated!)

        Long story short, if your Celestial Bureaucracy is based off of Journey to the West, there’s a lot of wiggle room for how concerned the characters should be about it (often depending on how strong the character is). It probably also depends *who* from the Celestial Bureaucracy they run into…

        Although a good part of that is based on the idea of making Taoism look inferior to Buddhism, so… there’s that to take into consideration as well for what the setting is based on.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ohhhhhh. But he actually did break laws and do his best to destroy Heaven, although it wasn’t all his fault. And that’s a Buddhist novel, in a world of suffering/desire.

        Taoists were just supposed to go with the flow of the universe for power, albeit that involved poisonous alchemy.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. If I’m remembering correctly, Talia can sense the emotions of the companions. You’ve already drawn subtle attention to the sabre spirits binding to their users being similar to a companions binding to their chosen. (In addition to Wen Ning’s and Wei Yings soul deep bond.) Can Talia sense the sabre spirits if she does more than a basic surface scan? Maybe even Bichen?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And the Niè probably have their saber spirits under the strongest defenses they’ve got. They just got out of a war against the person who fatally tampered with the previous sect leader’s saber. And that event happened in a diplomatic situation. Those sabers are going to be closely observed.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think that Talia is going to recognise that aching longing for one-not-there, given the whole situation with Dirk in Arrows. She should be well able to know an unacknowledged lifebond when she sees one.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And I just realized the rumours concerning the Yiling Patriarch’s concubines really might not have helped Lan Wangji cope with his unspoken love… As far as He knows, Wei Ying is very much straight, flirts with girls as easily as breathing and he even saw him once surround himself with ghostly beauties at an inn. Heck, at this point Wei Ying still believes himself to be straight too. Lan Wangji would never believe Wei Ying would kidnap girls and have them become his concubines, but the guy’s obliviousness and attitude really can’t help Wangji with thinking he even has a chance. Wei Wuxian really is that dense sometimes and Lan Wangji would much rather not say anything than burden someone else with “unwanted” feelings…
        The fact that this is only the tip of the iceberg with so many other problems (politic, family) really drives in the fact that it took one life and a rebirth with 13 years of grief in between for the two of them to actually figure themselves out.
        I so can understand Lan Xichen’s anger at Wei Wuxian when he figures out he kept teasing his little brother without having a single idea how he truly felt… From his standpoint the whole fiasco must have been unbearable to look at.
        I predict so many facepalms in the near future…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Honestly, I find that while Lan Xichen being upset with Wei Wuxian is a very understandable thing from his perspective, it still really isn’t WWX’s *fault*. Lan Wangji (pre-timeskip) is very bad at communicating with anyone who hasn’t known him from infancy. Just because WWX s better than most people at reading LWJ doesn’t mean that the onus is now entirely on WWX to interpret LWJ correctly.

        Also, keep in mind that WWX flat out had people around him *telling* him that LWJ didn’t like him at all. When everyone, both his friends and complete strangers, keep insisting that LWJ thinks he’s wicked if not outright evil, and LWJ never manages to spit out anything that contradicts that perspective, expecting WWX to magically divine the truth of LWJ’ feelings is absolutely ridiculous.

        (And while we don’t have any explicit confirmation either way, I’m fairly certain even LXC hadn’t known LWJ was in love with WWX until LWJ committed treason over him. As teenagers he encouraged what he thought to be his his brother’s first FRIENDSHIP, but beyond that we really don’t see any other chances for him to meddle or opine on what’s going on between them. But given the family history involved, I imagine that if LXC knew the depth of LWJ’s feelings earlier, he almost certainly have tried to intervene more directly. Ultimately, since it’s basically free real estate for interpretation, how that shakes out here in this story is completely up to our lovely author. But canon!WWX is not nearly as oblivious as a lot of people like to make him out to be.)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Talia so much. She’s such a good common sense character, good at reading people even without the extremely powerful Empathy gift!

    Hah, can’t wait to read Kero finding out that strength augmentation is one of the easiest and first tricks a cultivator learns. And even a flighty seeming too like NHS is nothing to sneeze at, martially.

    As for Father Ricard’s problem, does he not recall the many many dark gods and almost god creatures running around? I mean, Valdemar is very protected against that sort of thing, but even then stuff sneaks in.

    Just because (most of) the gods allowed in Valdemar don’t usually eat people doesn’t mean EVERYWHERE is like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *Wry G* I looked up the foot-pounds necessary in a bow to hunt deer, figured that would be a fair match to Wei Wuxian throwing the arrow back.

      …Works out to be about 3 times the momentum of a fastball. Oooouch.

      As has been remarked in several books – outsiders to Valdemar are shocked at how much they don’t know about Bad Things out there.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I wonder if the lack of sentient supernatural evil (such as Thalkarsh) in Valdemar is in part because of the very existance of the Companions. Anything smart enough to be conciously evil (rather than just angry-animal kind of evil) is going to want to stay as far away as possible from literal emissaries of the gods. … Makes me wonder if Rolan, because he’s Groveborn, might maybe have a kind of “smite-evil” power, lol. Sure the western and northern borders of Valdemar get things out of the Pelagirs but those seem to be mostly smarter than average animals with wierd abilities. The inner areas of Valdemar seem to be mostly devoid of anything but wholly human evil. And its non-magical evil at that due to the Vrondi watchers given it seems like most of the powerfully Gifted get Chosen before they have a chance to really become evil.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And WWX didn’t even have a Golden Core during that scene! He was likely augmenting himself with resentful energy (in the live-action, you can see resentful energy…eating, for lack of a better term, WWX’s blood off the arrowhead), but it’s implied that doesn’t work nearly as well as a full-fledged GC (he was definitely a lot weaker post-surgery, but he also had the strongest GC of his age group, so I highly doubt what he considers weak and what a normal person considers weak are remotely the same), so probably a cultivator could perform crazier feats than that…with LWJ in the Guanyin Temple, lifting a coffin, a statue, two bodies, and WWX with one arm being the upper limit. It’s stated that was a super impressive feat.

        Now, LWJ likely can’t do that in-story, he’s barely 20 instead of in his 30s, so he’s missing a thirteen years of strengthening his GC and body, but he’s definitely physically stronger than pretty much anyone else here.

        An aside, I have to say, that scene in the Guanyin Temple? WWX gets super distracted contemplating LWJ’s muscles during it, and has to manually redirect his thoughts. It’s great.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. As for Father Ricard’s problem, does he not recall the many many dark gods and almost god creatures running around? I mean, Valdemar is very protected against that sort of thing, but even then stuff sneaks in.

      Folks who scream to the sky that they are against HEAVEN, or even just generic “the gods,” are frequently …not all there.

      Think of it like a category error– say, “I hate spinach,” vs “I hate slimy, canned spinach.” For a very silly example. 😀

      It’s not a slam-dunk, BUT it is something to look at, and think about.

      Liked by 2 people

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