A Long Road Chapter 4 Ficbit – Locals, Not Friendly

“Ha!” Spectral arms crossed, as the gray old ghost squinted suspiciously at Wei Wuxian. “Like I’d tell a bunch of foreigners my best trade stops!”

Wei Wuxian studied the misty form for any details that might help him sway the ghost to a better mood. The tunic had fine embroidery worked around its edges, but was obviously far too thin for even a warm fall day here. Given the ghost’s fingertips were still blue, Wei Wuxian was willing to bet hypothermia had killed him. Months ago, years ago; he couldn’t be sure. Though based on how coherently nasty this ghost was, he’d guess no more than a few years.

Very nasty. Whatever words the ghost had just used as he went on yelling, Betony hadn’t even known them.

Wei Wuxian tried not to roll his eyes, all too aware of the rest of the camp trying to make sure the horses were screened from the bare-earth traveler’s track of a road, put together a lunch stew, and distract two little seedlings who really shouldn’t overhear some of this language. Cousin Renshu had A-Yuan corralled with a familiar grass butterfly, but little Meigui was hanging onto Wen Qing’s leg with a mouth wide enough to catch flies.

At least the copper-haired girl was starting to perk up with new clothes, a bath, and a few days of decent meals. She’d get used to the ghosts. Eventually.

…Maybe sooner if he could keep Lotus Cloud from shredding this unhelpful old spirit. Ghostly fights could get bloody. The way the bride ghost’s fingernails gleamed like steel, she was looking forward to it.

He hummed under his breath a moment, low and soothing. Lotus Cloud hmphed, but floated back a pace, behind Wen Ning.

“We’re not traveling peddlers, we don’t want your trade routes,” Wei Wuxian repeated. “All we’d like to know is, are there any places near here that need trained healers? Artisans? Or a village that used to be settled, and isn’t now?” Calm. He was going to stay calm. Which would be so much easier if he wasn’t sure something was staring at them all the time.

65 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 4 Ficbit – Locals, Not Friendly

  1. Here there be vrondi and dang it aren’t they annoying.

    Any rescued kid who grows up with this bunch is going to have a very skewed since of what is weird.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Yes? And?”
      “What do you mean and? I’m a terrifying necromancer!”
      “No, you’re a polite neighbor and a still a damn nuisance, that’s what you are.”

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Plenty of RL stories of experienced travellers who weren’t quite as good as they thought they were ending up caught in bad weather that was “at the edge of the normal season”, because they thought “it’s fine, it _normally_ doesn’t start until next week/finishes last week”. Especially if they were also stingy and so were pushing the limits even of what they knew about the weather because they didn’t want to shell out the money for proper supplies.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. In Hunter’s Ed they warned us that the #1 thing in common for hypothermia in hunters was that 1) they were very experienced and confident, 2) DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s not so much “experienced and confident” as “not stopping and making a shelter/fire when it is time to do it, because I know I can push through. And I don’t need directions.”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. *Grins* Those are non-exclusive categories– add a third circle of “and remembered to APPLY their knowledge” and you remove the experienced, confident and not-hypothermia hunters.

        Helps that part of the point of hunter’s ed is to make sure “Everyone Knows” that when you’re a little hypothermic, your judgement goes, to try to build in “the other guy says this is a bad idea because hypothermia, I may be already suffering it” doubt.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. /Which would be so much easier if he wasn’t sure something was staring at them all the time./
    Hey look Lotus Cloud, there are some legit targets for you to shred.

    Herald: “Why isn’t the Truth spell working?”
    WW: “Oh you mean that summoning you just tried? None of the targets are near enough to answer, Lotus Cloud took exception to their presence. They were really annoying you see.”

    Liked by 4 people

      1. /Wei Wuxian has a plan…./
        And it might not even result in half the countryside getting set on fire this time.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Doesn’t the Fifth Law of Magic only forbid the binding/exploitation of the unwilling dead?

        From the way you’ve described it in the fic, at least one of whole points to the Ghost Path is to bleed off the resentful energy that keeps fierce ghosts tied to the world of the living, thus allowing them to pass on easier.

        That should at least be enough for a stay of execution, though Wei would obviously still have multiple Wardens around watching him like a hawk and with twitchy sword fingers.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. True, but OTOH, one of the things about using the unwilling dead is that they’re not “obligated” to use more than the barest minimum of their skills. (Same goes for the Fourth Law, which covers enthrallment of the living.)

        Some Warden Jenkins deciding to preempt the White Council’s decision, then getting their ass elegantly handed to them by one of WWX’s self-appointed bodyguards, should hopefully be enough to warrant a confused blink and then a less knee-jerk examination.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. *cackles*

        Also, so stealing the vague impression of hungry ghosts and ghost brides for a monster in husband’s world. Needed Something Hungry to scare the (mafia) bandits in the woods.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The last time Wei Wuxian had so much concentrated attention did not end well for him, so I imagine he is very jumpy right now. Oh. Huh. Do Wen Qing and Wen Ning have the same issue? Wen Qing wouldn’t be immediately obvious because she had eyes on her all the time, but the next person to startle her may get a needle somewhere unpleasant before she even thinks about moving. And Wen Ning kind of is magic right now.

    (And yes, I have great fun slotting him into place as ‘Companion, Undead variety, Chosen of Wei Wuxian. Great fun. Almost like someone got inspired by Companions but missed a few steps.)

    And that is a very good First Disciple attitude! “We want to move in without offending any neighbors. Where can we be useful/not have any?” (On man, I am getting major Mrs. Cake vibes right now. Where most religions in Ankh-Morpork hold that talking to the dead is heretical and she holds that it’s just polite. Oh dear. I can never I see that now. The kids are all going to grow up with that. (And now I’m thinking of a fic that actually references Lan Sizhui’s first encounter with a fierce corpse. He politely said hello. And when Jingyi talked to him about the smell and the rotting, “corpses are like that, Jingyi.” Dig Your Foundations Deep by John_Izhc. A very good take on post-canon Lan Sizhui trying to reconcile his whole life with his origins.))

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Everybody with any level of cultivation, and especially Wen Ning, is feeling eyes. WWX plans to deal with that.

      And hee. It’s a good thing Heralds are known to end up in the right place at the right time.

      (AKA the first time the Wen Remnant meets a Herald is chapter 5, and it’s going to be memorable on both sides.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. /(AKA the first time the Wen Remnant meets a Herald is chapter 5, and it’s going to be memorable on both sides.)/
        WWX: “I would like to state for the record, it was like this when I got here.”

        Liked by 5 people

  4. *random musing about GPS, celestial navigation, astrology, and fantasy worlds.*

    Pattern matching:
    1. Heralds are Chosen.
    2. Certain Exalted are Chosen.

    Bunnies: “oooh”.

    *head desk*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been a long time since I studied syllogisms, so you might want to check which conclusions are valid for the “All A are B; some C are B” forms.

      Like

      1. I actually understand logic most of the time.

        It is just that my mind pattern matches in a broken way, and I have a terrible weakness for trying to make stuff like puns the basis for a story.

        I also have an interest in extremely inappropriate sub flavors of Herald.

        One of my back burnered crossover messes, actually slightly on the serious side, is a Naruto fic, inspired by some of those long running pre-canon SI fics. Plan is that one of the MC’s team mates is going to get Chosen, and arrangements are made so that team mate can go be a Herald without being declared a missing nin, and a substitute will be recruited to fill the spot on the team. So, Herald Ninja, plus I’m hoping to rip off the Firestarting Order from Friends Across Borders. Goal is to pace things over the thirty plus years of story so it all seems very reasonable until you look at later events in isolation.

        I think making something where a Solar or Lunar actually makes sense as being recruited as a Herald sounds like an interesting challenge.

        In conclusion, right now I am crazy even by my normal standards.

        Like

      2. Anyway, today I learned how Celestial Navigation works. And spent time I shouldn’t have thinking about some of the slight differences with GPS calculations.

        On Royal Road, I’ve been reading this thing that is clearly based in Exalted, with serial numbers filed off, and some minor adjustments.

        So, of course, I found myself trying to think about designing an original Creation knock off where a positioning system could operate based on the magical influence of Celestial bodies decaying over distance, etc.

        Did I mention issues with how my pattern matching works?

        Like

  5. Ah, oh dear. I’d wondered about that. The Vrondi (it might amuse you to know my autocorrect keeps turning Vrondi into Bronco for some bizarre reason lol) aren’t supposed to bother anyone with mage gift with a Companion, and the two Nie have had their shields slammed up since they got to Valdemar, but WWX has PTSD like woah and that back of your neck something is watching me sense is very developed.

    It’s funny, but Vanyel didn’t actually intend for them to get this out of hand, even if they did turn out to still be useful. And he didn’t anticipate a bunch of ‘wild’ Vrondi showing up and deciding to play the same ‘game’ either. Now they’re harassing his descendants!

    Hope he figures out how to give them a gentle swat soon! (Gentle because other than being annoying in this case, Vrondi are shy and usually harmless) Do the sect lands know about them I wonder? The supposedly exist everywhere, but they might not know you can use them to compel the truth and as watch beasties if you feed them a bit of power as a snack? Because wow, would a truth compulsion spell be a useful thing for like, EVERYONE in the Sect Lands.

    Hah, can you imagine them using one on JGS? At least forty some odd years of dirty laundry that jerk has. Can’t think of a person that deserves it more, right now in the timeline.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Not only have they had shields up, they’ve been with Lan Wangji. So they’re not being bothered… as much.

      Of course, if they have separate lodgings….

      Wei Wuxian has multiple ideas, most of which are not swatting.

      And heh. Oh my, the main problem would be getting to use it without everyone killing you for the insult….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I figured the whole insult thing might be solved by surreptitiously handing the instructions for the spell off to Madam Jin? Then, well, JGS might have a sudden urge to enter full seclusion for the first time in his life. At the very least. Now that his wife knows where all his bodies are buried (not all his affairs, tho, because there were too many of those for him to remember)

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Hah, I figure a few had to be some kind of memorable? Like his most recent, and any where he had the women involved killed, or the resulting children. I figure in fourty plus years of affairs at least a few, especially in the early years, tried to use having his bastard as leverage and were silenced.

        Detail though? Probably not. Hmmm, thinking about it though, men like that do tend to keep some kind of record. Or someone keeps a record for them. So I’m thinking there’s probably a list somewhere, not of the random one off assaults maybe, but of the longer dalliances like Meng Shi who was a contracted brothel worker.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. The mess with Qin Su may not have been JGY fault, but I got the sense that he was nonetheless aware of her relationship to him BEFORE he married her. Is this impression incorrect?

        If it is correct, I would say he still bears a great deal of responsibility for what happened.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Qin Su was already pregnant, and far enough along that JGY knew that, and presumably would be difficult to abort, when Madame Qin told him. I kind of blame Madame Qin a bit for the mess? Traditional Chinese weddings take a LONG time, and there had to be negotiations taking place for a while before hand, so she had plenty of time to tell JGY long before it became practically impossible for him to back out. Hell, she likely could have prevented the engagement without needing to spill her secret? We do know her husband cared greatly for her and Qin Su, so if she told him she didn’t want Qin Su to marry JGY, he likely would have listened to her. She didn’t even stick around to help JGY come up with a solution? She just dropped the “hey, you’re marrying your half-sister” on him then left? Didn’t even give him any suggestions? I really want to know what Madame Qin’s thought process was. Did she think JGY, as a bastard, was an acceptable sacrifice, despite the fact that her daughter would fall from grace with him?

        It’s a horrible situation all around, and I’m not surprised JGY went through with the marriage while intent on never touching Qin Su again. He had no way to stop it without pretty much destroying both himself and Qin Su (who he did care about, remember it was a love match), and forcing himself into a fight against his father, which he would not win. He was making the best of a bad situation, and it’s not his fault both options were horrible. It would likely be better if he had just told Qin Su, but I understand why he didn’t.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I’d take “making the best of it” as an answer, except he then decided to have his son poisoned to conceal any incest-related weaknesses and used the poisoning to accuse a sect and wipe them out… so Xue Yang had fierce corpses to play with. Auuuugh.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. There were situations where marrying your half-sister was considered incest, and an offense against gods and men/family. I think Confucians are generally against this sort of thing. The Manchus were also against this sort of thing, and passed laws against it. (The Manchus were basically Mongolian-based, so yeah, they were well aware that marrying close relatives in a small tribe is a Bad Plan.)

        OTOH, there were Chinese cultures where it was normal to marry close relations, including in some imperial dynasties among the imperial clanmembers. Cousin marriage was forbidden under Manchu and Communist PRC law, but there’s still a lot of cross-cousin marriage in rural China, all the same. A lot of times, marriage was within the clan to keep property/money inside the clan, so….

        You generally weren’t supposed to marry your dad’s brothers’ kids, because that was incestuous and gross. But marrying your mom’s sisters’ kids, your mom’s brothers’ kids, or your dad’s sisters’ kids? Totally okay! It strengthened ties!

        So marrying your half-sister through your dad would probably be gross, but marrying your half-sister through your mom would probably just be edgy. Possibly even considered protective.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. A very interesting Library of Congress post on how degrees of kinship are traditionally counted in China.

        Your full sibling is a second-degree relative, in China.

        However, if the number of degrees between you, them, and a common ancestor is not the same number in both the maternal and paternal line, the LONGER number is considered your degree of relationship.

        So if you both are descended from Lord Bob, but your mom is Lady Noseintheair who is a second cousin of Lord Bob, and her mom is Totallyunrelatedchick, you would have one line where you are both second degree relatives, and another line where you don’t even have a common ancestor. So that would make you… relatives in no degree whatsoever, I guess. Legally, anyway. Emotionally, not so much.

        Even under modern 1981 Communist law.

        Holy crud, the Chinese have a very different culture.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Very different. Very different indeed.

        Was in an online ecological class with a student from Mainland China, who simply… couldn’t grasp that there were no expensive government brands of food, drink, etc. “How do you know they’re supposed to be safe?”

        The prof did his best to explain that in order to be sold in the U.S. at all, it’s supposed to be safe. She just couldn’t grasp it.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Okay… found some Chinese sources that said that your father’s sisters’ kids were (culturally, not legally) considered to be as close to you as your own full brothers and sisters, so you should not marry (although some classic novels have people yearning hopelessly after a paternal aunt’s kid, like the medieval novel, Story of the Stone).

        However, your mother’s sisters’ kids are considered totally unrelated (culturally), and as suitable to marry as total strangers. (And that’s who the guy in Story of the Stone marries, no problema.)

        Lots of room for conflict between law and culture, apparently.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Culturally, your father’s clan _is_ your clan, and your father’s relatives are your relatives that count. Your mom’s clan is basically a bunch of allied strangers.

        (Of course, this varied with historical period, area of China, etc.)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t been checking up here over the winter because I got a particularly nasty case of winter depression this time around. Usually I manage to avoid it with my visit to my only family during Christmas, no such luck this past year. I finally come back to a new fic with my favorite character in the fandom – what a lovely positivity boost!

    So can WWX feel the eyes on him because he’s paranoid and the Nie don’t because of their shields like Saj_te_gyuhyall says? Or is it because the Nie have their golden cores and WWX don’t? Or alternative three, of course, something none of us has guessed. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You know, if you grew up in a town full of nosy neighbors, the vrondi might not bother you at all (at least if you were in a town with known inhabitants). And clans are pretty nosy, so I assume sects are also.

    Liked by 1 person

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