A Long Road Chapter 6 Ficbit – A Question of Ethics

“I have,” Lan Wangji stated, very precisely, “a question on ethics.”

Dirk sat up straight. No wonder Elcarth wanted him here, if he’d suspected this. Teaching Fetching was his job, but ethics and philosophy were his passion.

“A war has ended. It was long, and brutal. But some of your enemy has survived. It is decided by the sect leaders that the enemy cultivators will be imprisoned in work camps, set the task of erasing all works glorifying their clan.” Lan Wangji’s stare was fierce as an eagle’s. “A hard punishment, meant to last their lifetimes. But not one meant to be fatal.”

“Harsh,” Dirk observed. “But I’ve heard of worse punishments laid on beaten enemies. Captain Kerowyn has a tale that’d curl your hair of what her grandmothers did to one rapist bandit. And how that almost killed them later. Sometimes death isn’t the worst thing you can do to an enemy.”

Lan Wangji inclined his head. “The main prison camp is not within your sect’s territory. The war is over, and you must rebuild. Your sect needs all of your power to mend what can be mended, and heal those who will never be whole again. Wen prisoners are not your concern.” He paused.

Bracing himself, Dirk noted. Oh, this is going to be bad.

“Months later….” Lan Wangji drew a breath. “You hear the prisoners are dying. That they are being murdered.”

Very bad. “In the camp,” Dirk clarified. “Which I imagine was guarded. And they weren’t killing each other.”

A fraction of a nod.

Dirk took a deliberate breath to match him; Lan Wangji was upset, he didn’t need Talia’s Gift to read that. Yet the man had been raised to keep his face still as ice. He’d appreciate an example of calm. “So… let me see if I’ve grasped the situation. They’re Wen, so they’re still your enemies – but they’re beaten enemies. The war is over. And the sect responsible for guarding them at their forced labor is killing them.” Another breath. “But it’s not your sect. It’s not your territory. If you go in to stop it and someone dies – and if they’re murdering prisoners they’re not going to stop if you just ask nicely – you might start another war.”

“What do you do?” Lan Wangji’s voice was rough, half-strangled. “What can you do?”

This is what broke his faith in his sect, Dirk realized. This is why he doesn’t want to go back.

32 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 6 Ficbit – A Question of Ethics

  1. Ouch. Ouch. The punishment laid out by Lan Wangji is harsh but fair. But I can see how that slid into what it did. Oh. bad words. And there couldn’t have been anything more perfectly tailored to stomp on Wei Wuxian’s buttons. I would not be surprised if he had Opinions on people (kids in particular) being blamed for their parents actions. (Thank you, Jiang Parents.)

    Oh. Whoosh. I can see why Lan Wangji is searching for answers.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. So in a what’s more horrible debate between Kethry and Tarma’s karmic revenge and what Wei Ying did to Wen Chao I’m not sure who would win.

    I think Valdemar actually has something like prison camps for convicted criminals but they’re farms, quarrys and I think mines sometime? Still the civilians put into the Jin camps would be a big no-no by Valdermarian standards.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually, I reread that portion of Tarm and Kethry’s story lately, and while my main problem is that they left a live enemy behind them, considering circumstances, I don’t have too many qualms. (In context. I would have problems if done in modern society, but they weren’t so, moot.) They were in the middle of a desert/dry plains area, they had two horses, had just fought a battle, and Kethry was drained from maintaining some very complex illusions even in her sleep. And that’s not counting the attitude of the rest of the survivors. They literally had no way to safely transport the traitor, who had a Mind Gift and could use it to escape custody. I like to think that this taught them not to play games with vengeance, but it was a fitting revenge for his victims. In the context of this fic, it probably helped sooth any lingering resentment from the dead.

      That being said, yeah, in a modern context I would have way more problems.

      And it’s worth noting that Tarma and Kethry both had a history with men like him, so they weren’t acting on their best logic either, even if they thought they were.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I start out salty enough about this sort of scam that I immediately hop towards “wage war against the JIn. ‘Peace’ with them has none of the utility of actual peace.”

    Which might not be what I would do after more careful reflection.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 1) The Jin demonstrate that they aren’t terribly concerned about keeping their agreements with other clan leaders, under certain circumstances. Jin Sect “loses” a point.

      2) The Jin demonstrate that if you engage in a war against them, you had best be-damned WIN! Because any sort of negotiated surrender is likely to be death, anyway. Jin Sect “wins” a point? Maybe?

      Does it make some sense in the context of brutal power politics? (Yes, I know, the moral framework is such that LWJ and WWX are presumably not the only two individuals who are disturbed by this behavior)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ouch. Oh honey, and you don’t even know the worst of it. Not yet, anyway. But thank God for Dirk and a nonjudgmental listening ear! I can only imagine his reaction when he hears the whole truth from Wei Ying…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m picturing the wreckage the Mindhealers have to clean up if the Heraldic Circle asks for mental evidence of the Jin camp conditions and what exactly happened when Wei Wuxian broke them all out.

      Wei Wuxian: Sure why not.

      Unknown number of traumatized Heralds later….

      The novel doesn’t cover all the details, so my mental image is Wen Qing searching through bodies in the rain from The Untamed. See this vid, about 0:16 on. (Warning, it’s a gut-punch.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh I know. And they get to experience it all the way WWX did….yep, many , MANY traumatized Heralds and absolutely no chance of them ever working with the Jin.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. …I can’t really sit still for TV, and live action tends to make me cringe in sympathy whenever something happens to a character, any character.

        But man, am I considering trying to watch that show anyway…

        Still. Don’t need nightmare fuel, either. Hmm.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Risk war, with the Jin. Who stuck their nose into the previous war late, mostly sent the dregs of their forces, made their sorry troops a burden on every other sect’s provisions, and so more or less came out of the war about as fresh as daisies- and not even a fraction as pleasant.

    Who have just shown that any loser against them gets a fate where death is a longed-for escape.

    And everyone else is hurting and tired of war.

    Yeah, that’d go well.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Which also explains why Jin Guangshan and his cronies were actively trying to undermine and isolate Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian is a massive power amplifier for whatever sect has his loyalty, to the point that they could consider standing up to the Jin. And once one is willing, they’re likely to have others back them up – to the point where the Jin wouldn’t have the option of threatening war in the first place.

        And then as an added bonus, once Wei Wuxian is isolated he’s easy to frame as a convenient Bad Guy Over There to keep the sects distracted and united under Jin Guangshan’s banner…

        Liked by 4 people

      2. By playing, “Let’s you and them fight,” the Jin made sure they were positioned to be the next Wen, dominating the sects for generations, and able to make sure no one could put together a coalition strong enough to oppose them for the foreseeable future.

        I need to clear my ‘to read/watch’ list enough to get to this franchise.


        Liked by 1 person

  6. Honestly my first instict is that this is a bus boy with a a silencer problem but they dont have bus boys or silencers. And also it’s low war which the Lan dont do. Sadly so is poisoning the whole power structure (also more collateral on that one). So my two solutions are out.

    Wei Wuxian really had the most viable solution. Abd the most ability to do it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. He just had a worse PR set up than the Jin. Or which I freely admit that I like precisely one, and he needed a bit of growing up. Oh, no, wait, two. Jin Ling is not just a Jiang. Sorry, forgot. Luo Qingyan (aka Mianmian) doesn’t count, she leaves. I’m sure that there is a possibility that the Jin have an equivalent of the Dafan branch, maybe, but since we never meet them…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The problem with the ninja/assassin solution is that cultivation makes you a lot less vulnerable to subtle killing. They can deliberately purge themselves of putrid influences by spitting up tainted blood, they’ve probably got a number of techniques for poisons and so on.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heck, something like the Equilibrium ‘gun kata’ ought to be possible at a fairly low level of superhuman performance: Notice when someone is about to pull the trigger, be familiar with how that particular model handles gun climb, know exactly where not to be to keep from getting all leaky, train to the point where that level of calculation is reflex. If a cultivation channel can be tasked to handle some of that, all the better. (Start with the one than helps catch arrows shot at you, perhaps.)

        I know I diverge into role-playing game enthusiasm too much, but this ties into why I hate the D&D approach to firearms, with is almost always to give them a high amount of damage and call it good. It’s fine for the wargames that D&D grew out of, where human troops had either one hit or 1d6 hit points, but it plays out like everyone above 4th level is tougher than Rasputin. Breaks my immersion hard.

        That said, even hedge mages in Velgarth can call up sparks, which ought to put paid to any notion of carrying around bombs to hold up next to your face, so that you can set them off and hope the shrapnel goes towards the enemy. Any hint that you’re carrying sparky boom powder and your supply train goes up in sparky booms, as does anyone carrying a powder horn or rocket. (And there should never be firearms development that reaches the Early Modern Era, given how many centuries of ‘this is a deathtrap’ you’ve got to get through to go from Chinese-style rockets to muskets.) Same for anything done with gasoline and nitroglycerin. Ranged sparks at will causes a lot of ‘controlled fire’ technology to die before it can develop into usefulness.


        Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, they could have done the “coalition of concerned elders” thing, or the “embarrassing songs about how some latecomers are really good at killing imprisoned babies,” but a lot of that would have required cooperation among several sects, and a lot of subtlety.

    And of course there’s no applicability to minority imprisonment, labor, rape, and death camps run by the CCP. Of course not. Pay no attention to the silly fantasy story.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Tangent: I’ve been watching Nirvana in Fire (in English) – and I’m really wondering how the production company got the comments about unfit rulers approved!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. of course the little red books full of quotes from wen mao handed out by the wens during the disciple internment camps have no political significance, none at all

    (seriously how much more obvious could mxtx be)

    Liked by 3 people

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