A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Turned Turtle

“I was mindlinked to another cultivator once, in a combat situation,” Lan Wangji stated, wishing he felt comfortable enough to wipe his brow. “The Xuanwu of Slaughter hunted by sound. My – Wei Wuxian improvised a spell that would allow us to communicate. The results were similar to Mindspeech.” He paused. “Without that, we would not have survived to plan our ambush, much less kill it.”

Dirk straightened, a scholar’s interest stirred. “What’s a Xuanwu of Slaughter?”

“A failed divine beast. It was supposed to have been slain centuries before. We found out otherwise.” Carefully, Lan Wangji built the image in his mind; whipping snake-body, venomous dragon fangs, encrusted shell the size of a small island. He tried to leave out the flashes of pain and terror and I will die here, and never know if my brother escaped the burning

“Gods!” Dirk flinched, slightly green, Mindspeech reflecting back an echo of bloodied fingers gripping the assassination chord and fear for the companion he could not see in the depths of monstrous shell. “Kero told us lands south of here can turn up monsters it takes small armies to kill, but – he went inside that thing? How did he even breathe?”

Obviously Lan Wangji had to work on leaving out extraneous images. Hmph. “Underwater talisman. The Jiang are skilled in them.”

“So it had to be him,” Dirk concluded. “You wouldn’t have known it well enough.” He smiled at Lan Wangji’s look. “I teach Gifts, and we’ve all had to scramble through the records to find out how to deal with everything Ancar throws at us. Mage-Gift is a Gift, if the Chronicles are right, and Herald-Mage Vanyel knew how to use both. It takes concentration. Wei Wuxian had to keep that spell active and fight. You can’t split concentration between Gifts and combat unless you know them both cold.” He nodded once, almost to himself. “And I think that’s the problem. Or – not a problem, exactly? But why you have a strong channel for a Fetching Gift, and yet….”

A/N: My headcanon on breathing inside the Xuanwu of Slaughter: It’s not a talisman. Given cultivator-level enhanced physical abilities, and Yunmeng Jiang being centered around a ginormous lake with all its potential water ghouls, they train for breath control that’d make a Japanese ama jealous. But they tell people it’s a talisman. Primarily to keep idiots from trying it… but also to have an ace up their sleeves for a water escape. (Also, dizi players often practice circular breathing, so breath control is one of Wei Wuxian’s skills!)

47 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 5 Ficbit – Turned Turtle

    1. I can see the Jiang training for great breath control and not telling anyone it makes a great advantage.

      In regards to strictly novel canon only I think Wei Ying got extremely lucky as he was lodged in a spot with an air pocket since Lan Zhan had to strangle that the thing for 6 hours (even with spiritual healing I don’t know how his hands fully recovered the cords would have left marks down to the bone) .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. WWX was also holding on to the sword that would be later turned into the Stygnian tiger seal hearing all the resentful energy screaming at him. No wonder that he got so much sicker then LWJ.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. WWX also was waist-deep in centuries-old corpse sludge with open wounds (the brand and the arrow wound), then partway down the Xuanwu’s throat for six hours, on top of that. It’s surprising he got sick, his wounds were definitely infected. No wonder WWX was out for like a week after they were rescued.

        Liked by 4 people

      1. Hahaha that is very true. Also from the last snippet where he was so bothered by the different texture of the clothes I wonder if he’s having some sensory sensitivity issues on top of everything else?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. And this is a unique experience for Lan Wangji. People hearing what Wei Wuxian did and being complimentary without the complicated feelings about that. There is literally no jealousy, envy, lust-to-have-and-own *coughJinGuangshancough* that he encounters in the sect lands. Of course, they also don’t know about what Wei Wuxian did in the war. But still. It must be nice to have someone not judge him for admiring skills Wei Wuxian displayed.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Makes his request for diplomacy lessons even more on point, yeah? Beyond being something he can use back home, it’s indirectly showing him the levers and arguments they consider most effective. It’s a long way to the sect lands after all, just because the Heralds care about injustice and innocence, doesn’t mean they’d be willing to go so far out of their way.

        Man, is he going to be surprised when the counter rescue party shows up.

        Liked by 5 people

  2. Iirc, you can’t really strip emotional resonance and stray thought from mindspeech, at least not completely? Because human brains don’t work like that. You can pare it down, but LWJ will end up giving himself a migraine trying to get it completely sterile like he is.

    Part of the problem is he’s treating mindmagic like cultivation magic, isn’t he? And he’s trying to train it the same way. But that’s not gonna work. Magic and mindmagic are in the same family, but… That’s like trying to do macrame the same way a person would knit. Knowing one seems like it would help learning the other, and while they’re both technically just tying fancy knots, they’re completely different skills.

    Some of the base learning is similar enough to fool them tho I bet. Like meditation and grounding and centering?

    XD I love comparing different magic systems and making them meet! Especially when people take care to keep the Equal Opportunity Awesome. It’s another way in a long list that you never disappoint! ^__^

    I love the breathing headcanon btw! WWX’s father probably started breath training games as soon as his son could understand how to. And then, after they died, it might have helped while the kiddo was trying to survive on the streets.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That would make sense…and if WWX knew how to swim, as well (it’s implied YMJ disciples are taught to swim very early), he’d have whole new avenues open to escape.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Plus it would open up another avenue of food. If Wei Ying could swim, and hold his breath a long time even as a small child, he could fish and forage for fresh water shellfish and waterfowl eggs that he could eat raw. Maybe catch things like water rats, snakes, water birds, and other semiaquatic critters too, but he would have had to figure out how to cook those. He might’ve even been able to scrounge up things like coins or bits of jewelry to sell from people dropping things in the water.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. *Thumbs up* Exactly! The very basics of ground, center, meditate are pretty much the same. Everything else diverges.

      It’s going to take time for them to figure out how to make the two systems mostly compatible. 🙂

      And Lan Wangji’s annoyed less about the emotions, and more that he hadn’t meant to show that many details of the battle. Because he’s trying to keep a certain ghost-path cultivator on the downlow, for now….

      Liked by 2 people

  3. So from what you put here it looks like we’re about to get into the difference between cultivation and gifts in the way they are trained.
    You said that heralds are more like finding a river and making it deeper and cultivators dig a whole bunch of irrigation ditches and spread it around.
    It makes sense than that despite having a large “channel” for fetching, he may struggle with the techniques because his power is spread out through his meridians.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Given how WWX described feeling meridians, it sounds like cultivators work to wake their gifts when young and use them to create a general power source in the form of a golden core, which they then use to power their abilities. Which would make sense as to why some are stronger (had more gifts that ‘woke up’). Am I close?

    Either way, trying to use a gift that’s already been cultivated is probably like trying to take cogs out of a clock to use while still letting the clock run. Doable but very difficult and tricky. And likely requiring more fiddly hardware.

    Also probably potentially dangerous. Messing with something so intertwined with the body is bound to have consequences. Wasn’t there something about having one’s core crushed that made life extra difficult afterwards? And that was why JC was doing so badly? WWX didn’t have the same problem because his was removed instead of crushed, but I got the impression that he was able to compensate with resentful energy for whatever different issues he had…

    It’s probably a good thing Wen Qing is coming. And WWX – the pair of them will likely figure out the problem and solution in under a day. A week, maximum. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Part of JC’s issues were that he just…didn’t want to live post-melt. He believed that he couldn’t avenge his family without a core, and he decided that it wasn’t worth living if he couldn’t. WWX chose to lose his core, and was ready to live without it. And, in WWX’s mind, JC was more important than him, as the sect heir, and so needed the core more.

      The Jiang kids are really messed up.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Wonder how the Heralds are going to take LW’s title for the Xuanwu of Slaughter or just chalk it up to more translation artifacts:
    /A failed divine beast/

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Or they may take it as a failed attempt at a type of Companion. Like, say, if the summoner broke the divine bargain? What would happen if a Companion broke the divine bargain? It’s certainly a possibility! And sure to give Valdemarans in general and Heralds in particular nightmares. It’s a fair bit beyond even repudiation.

      Of course, Kero can compare it to Thalkarsh. And that is going to be it’s own special terror.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. lols, those kinds of things are supposed to be firmly in the distant if not MYTHIC past, huh. Not the kind of thing you hear a modern, first hand account about. Hearing that two grubby teenagers took it out adds another layer, no matter how skilled said teenagers were at the time.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Oh wow, yeah. Dirk’s not going to be able to look at it without picturing his own children, or the trainees he teaches regularly. He’s gonna have to lay down for a bit, lols.

        They were practically /babies/ and the had to fight a Kaiju. And then it got /down played/. It was literally a legend making battle, the kind of thing that gets a person Legendary Hero status and has their descendants mentioning it for generations! But it happened right before the nightmare war of the Sunshot Campaign, so it kinda got shoved out of the way. *shakes head*

        Liked by 3 people

      3. To the point even Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian don’t think that much about it, besides “thank goodness we survived that”.

        And in Wei Wuxian’s case, right after he finally woke up from that mess… bam, Wen Chao and Lotus Pier burned to the ground. With Madam Yu telling him it was all his fault for hurting Wen Chao’s pride in the monster-hunt.

        I imagine Wei Wuxian doesn’t like to think about the Xuanwu at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. *nods* it getting sorta kinda forgotten in the slide of awful events that immediately preceded it is understandable in context, really. And I’m sure that both LWJ and WWX were very much fine with that.

        It’s just morbidly funny to me that if it had happened at any other time, there would be epic poetry, paintings on silk fans, and bards of varying skill writing songs and singing about it. They likely would have had terrible titles given based on the fight. Been asked about the epic battle for the rest of their lives. It should have been the scariest thing they would ever have to face.

        Instead, it was brushed aside in the wake of worse, which, you know, sucks.

        Liked by 4 people

      5. /Bingo. Also the idea that someone still has to deal with them./
        Valdemar: “But why don’t you call on the gods for help?”
        Sect Lands: “How do you think the problem started in the first place?”

        Yeah the whole notion of ‘god-born things that can be 110% murderous+destructive resulting in we mortals having to go out and kill them’ is probably going to cause some issues with the local priesthood.

        Meanwhile the Companions probably won’t like the notion at all but now understand why the Cultivators are always so twitchy in their presence.

        Liked by 3 people

      6. Whether or not that’s how it started, that’s the legends they have – “immortals and demons went to war”. They honor a few gods, but as for solving monster problems? Yeah, no, we’ll rely on ourselves for that….

        I assure you once Kantor had the situation explained, he was a Very Unhappy Not-Horse. And plans to spread the unhappiness – and the fact that, “no, these guys are being practical, think about it.”

        Liked by 1 person

      7. O. M. G. This sounds like a job for Leslac.

        Leslac will come out of retirement and get those crazy kids their name recognition, you bet! A legendary kaiju fight would be right up his alley!

        Liked by 2 people

      8. I was all set to say, hah ha, thank goodness Leslac has probably been dead for ages (since Kethry was younger than him he she’s been gone for awhile now) before abruptly remembering this is a ghost story too.

        And the way Leslac was tied up in canon just might have lead to him having died stewing in enough resentful energy to linger! Annoying ghost bard from hell! Latching onto a new pair of legendary warrior heroes! *dies laughing* At least the songs he might write for WWX and LWJ would lack the creepy stalker ‘i can CHANGE you baby!’ edge he had with Tarma?

        Liked by 2 people

      9. Leslac (besides being a self-deprecating, other-deprecating injoke, and an excuse to have Frank Hayes sing songs on the album) was just really, really confused about what was going on. In the song about his marriage, he says he was basically a farmboy before he became a wandering bard, so there’s really no place for him to have learned the needed cultural information — although, to be fair, he also wasn’t terribly interested in finding out things that didn’t fit his preferred tropes.

        But yeah, it’s not like he ever got exposed to a shaman singing him a bunch of Shin’a’in teaching songs, or anything like that.

        The sad thing is that, if Tarma had kept her voice, she would have been in much more of a position to explain facts; but there would have been no facts to explain, in that case, and she would have been busy living happily ever after on the Dhorisha Plains with her planned husband.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Haha, Leslac actually mellowed out with age! One of the first Heralds/Trainees Talia meets in Haven is one of his daughters. Apparently there were quite a few of them, and he absolutely insisted all of them needed to learn at least one instrument. His marriage worked out very well and happily. Why, his wife wasn’t even upset about the song he wrote about his sister-in-law’s death! (A Dark and Stormy Night, in case anyone is curious.)

    Liked by 1 person

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