A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Strangled

A cold breeze cut through them. Not as much stench as Arvil had feared; the nights had been near frost. But more than enough.

Master Wei breathed out. “Wen Ning. Be ready to grab those roots. Just in case.”

“Master? You think she’d-?”

“Her resentment’s all through this tree, it had to be at least a century old when it died, and strangled by resentful tree root is not the way I want to go.”

Arvil choked back a laugh. That… that was so much like the banter between Heralds before yet another interesting problem. “You’ve done this before.”

“Ah, well, actually… yes.” Master Wei’s smile was brilliant.

Arvil had to catch his breath. Damn, if he wasn’t head over heels for Embry that smile would have given him definite pause for thought.

Not just the smile. He’s risking his life for people he doesn’t even know.

And Embry was a Guardsman. Graya was going to snicker at him later and tell him he had a type. He could see the mischief in her eyes even now.

But a waft from the root-cave was enough to kill any laughter. She nudged Arvil instead.

Decades with his partner let him read that plainly, even if she hadn’t spelled out her question. “Graya wants to know what the plan is. We’ve never dealt with a… ghost.” Gods, he felt silly even saying it. But the chill down his spine wasn’t funny. At all.

“Never?” Master Wei’s eyes lit-

Wen Ning coughed.

“Right. We’ll have to talk later.” Wei glanced at the roots, as if suspecting they’d moved. “Right now, remember that ghosts are people. Scared, angry people. Who may not even know they’re dead. And we’re going to walk into where she’s been – existing.”

“While she’s asleep,” Arvil finished. Oh, wonderful. “Is there any way we could… knock? And ask to come in?”

The strange pair traded glances; Wen Ning shook his head. “She’s angry.”

And Arvil had had to issue too many rulings on deaths where the accused was hauled in weeping, they couldn’t have done it, never in their right minds would they have hurt anyone-!

“If something goes wrong, hit the ground behind one of us,” Master Wei said practically. “You and Graya are very,” he hesitated, as if trying to find the right word. “Very bright. She probably won’t hurt you if you’re not fighting her.”

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27 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Strangled

    1. The chiming of Companion hooves acts like ghost-dispersing bells, in this fic. WWX hasn’t had time to give the beginning lecture on ghost-hunting, so he’s simplifying the reality down to ‘clueless layperson’ levels.

      -Albert

      Liked by 1 person

      1. /Lots of spiritual energy!/
        So when are they going to meet a spirit/gribble that look at them and thinks ‘Oh good, diner is served’?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. /Wei Wuxian to ghost brides: “No, no, I know they look tasty, but no. We need Haven to be surprised.”/
        Highly annoying/rude local that has repeatedly insulted WWX and co: What is this, this concoction that your three abominations keep sprinkling on me?!?”
        WWX: “Chutney.”

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Ah, well, actually… yes.” Master Wei’s smile was brilliant.

    Arvil had to catch his breath. Damn, if he wasn’t head over heels for Embry that smile would have given him definite pause for thought.—-Meanwhile, back in haven–

    LWJ–Stupid Sexy Wei Ying sense goes off
    Kellen: Why does it feel like I’ve just been forced feed a whole jug of vinegar!???

    Liked by 4 people

    1. And Arvil hasn’t seen him with children yet. One look at Wei Wuxian with a seedling and Lan Wangji will want to hide him away until No One ever knows he’d be a great dad and try to get him for themselves ^^

      Liked by 2 people

  2. *giggles* Arvil’s ‘oh no he’s hot’ moment! Oh wow talk about awkward timing! I can almost hear Graya giggling. Does his husband know any of their sign language bc I find myself really hoping she can sidle up to him once Arvil is home and be like, ‘I got a story for you, friend.’ XD

    WWX’s intense moment of scientific interest when Arvil says he’s never dealt with a ghost before when where he comes from it’s what baby cultivators cut their teeth on is hilarious too. YOu can tell he want’s to ask ALL the questions.

    I am really loving the nearly identical way Graya and Wen Ning are acting as the common sense and focus of their respective charges!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. “Right now, remember that ghosts are people. Scared, angry people. Who may not even know they’re dead. And we’re going to walk into where she’s been – existing.”

    “While she’s asleep,” Arvil finished. Oh, wonderful. “Is there any way we could… knock? And ask to come in?”

    I… awwww. So he doesn’t know ghosts, but that’s a perfectly reasonable response to what he’s just been told, really, even if it won’t work.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m just imagining that exchange of looks meaning “Okay, so he somehow knows nothing about ghosts, but we’ve also just established that he’s listening and his first impulse is to try to be polite, we can work with this… probably.”

        Liked by 3 people

      2. They’d already gotten briefed from the Rethwellan ghost that most people don’t know about ghosts. But yes. “He may not know what he’s doing, but he’s not panicking, and he’s not assuming he knows better than we do. Give him the very basics, this should be relatively safe.”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. hahaha! Arvil taking a moment in the middle of a super-spooky ghost hunt to acknowledge that his new acquaintance is amazingly attractive!

    Now I’m wondering if Graya’s report on events will include an image of WWX that Kellen could identify as LWJ’s lifebonded – just from that smile, even! – without making any connection to necromancy.

    report from village with recently dead mayor: there’s a rampaging necromancer with a ghost flute coming!
    report from this village: there’s a very nice foreign priest coming!
    Kero: It looks like two different factions have followed this diplomatic group
    NHS: *shifty eyes*

    Liked by 5 people

  5. So the tree was old enough for the ’99 year spirit’ thing to start to happen, and the Pelagirs aren’t as messed up as the cultivator lands (likely because the Tayledras have been slowly unknotting the dragon lines, whereas the cultivators don’t touch that mess) but it’s still a source of power for any resentful ghost who can figure it out.

    Assuming WWX has been focused on the ghost, he may not have sat down and considered the effect of holy horse yao hooves on ghosts, given that Heralds are supposed to show up on circuit everywhere at least twice a year.

    A sudden thought: As much as I dislike centralization of political power, it attracting the corruptible (because it’s the sad truth that power is the acid test of character and one that many people fail), the Crown could stand to set up a bill of rights to act as a minimum standard for communities testing and proving their various ways.

    Sure, from Lackey’s perspective it would have defeated the point of Noble Heralds passing judgment on Stupid Normies, but in the real world elitists with power tend to end up grabbing underage ballet dancers as concubines and the like.

    -Albert

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Not surprised Arvil finds WWX hot. This is the guy managed to reach #4 on the most marriable young masters list based just on his looks and charm alone. After all, he’s ranked alongside sect heirs, and he, as a servant’s son, has zero prospects. He has to be drop-dead gorgeous and very, very charming.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As has been observed by a lot of the MDZS fandom, Wei Wuxian knows how to play the courtly game perfectly well. It’s just when other people go after him because they can, because he doesn’t have the status to be allowed to fight back – then he goes for scorched earth tactics.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True. Even as Head Disciple (and this isn’t something to sniff at) he was barely protected, probably due in part to the rumours that surrounded Madam Yu and Jiang Fengmian for years. Hurting and insulting him with both the rumours and his lack of status was safer than attacking the Jiang/Yu couple directly or later the young and hotheaded Jiang sect leader… Jin Guangyao was right when he said Jiang Chen made it too easy to turn Wei Wuxian into an enemy. His loyalty to his shixiong would have been Wei Wuxian’s sole shield by the time he turned to demonic cultivation, and obviously that shield broke fast.
        Charm at this point just didn’t cut it anymore. Scorched earth tactics would have been his only defense left: make people scared enough of him that they will think twice about hurting the people under his protection…
        But it’s true getting fourth place as most elligible bachelor of the cultivation world without status was pretty damn impressive.

        Liked by 2 people

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