Jul 17, 2019 9:27 PM
tarinda uplifts avatar
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"I looked for information on spirits and the spirit world but didn't find very much."

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Blink.

"Your distractibility is not an excuse," her own face hisses at her. "You could have looked harder."

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"- I'm sorry. Perhaps you have suggestions?"

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The face blinks to a different woman, and the centipedal coils settle in closer around her.

"Let me tell you a story. Once, there was a world, fresh and pure, where life of all sorts flourished. Then the humans arrived. They were weak and small and few in number, and it seemed they would fade from the world as easily as they appeared. But a foolish few decided that they did not wish for that to happen, and so the humans were offered shelter on the backs of the lion turtles. There they stayed, festering, until they grew numerous enough that the lion turtles would not support them all. Rather than accept this limitation, they began to spread, casting themselves across the land, heedless of any who lived there before them. This would have been again their death, except that one among them found the great World Spirit, and bound it to their will, forcing it to serve their race above all others. The world was sundered, and the humans took the World Spirit with them into their world, leaving us here bereft, to weaken and die as the destruction they wreak upon themselves is reflected here."

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"Thank you for telling me that story."

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Blink. A man's face.

"And now you have appeared by yet another rent in the fabric of the world, with your body full of human thoughtlessness and your head full of grand schemes."

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"How do you know things about me?"

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Blink. Her face, again.

"I can smell it on your breath."

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"I'm afraid I don't understand."

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Blink. A child.

"You do not need to."

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"Is there anything you don't know about me but might like to?"

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Blink. A cat's face.

"I might like to know," they purr, "what it is you intend to do know that you are aware of a wider context for your actions."

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"I'll look harder for information on spirits, and I'll make sure that when things change spirit needs are included, because you seem to be people too."

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"And if your change is our death by its very nature?"

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"I don't think it could be, though maybe learning more will suggest otherwise, but maybe humans can go live on another planet instead of this one."

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Koh's face hisses, and they launch their body at her-

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-but she finds herself back in the familiar, cold forest instead of being hit in the face by several tons of face-changing centipede.

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It's probably good that this happened before she set her sword against it.

 

She tentatively goes home.

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She makes it there without further incident.

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She writes Eliko a letter.

Enclosed is a transcript of all of the conversations I have had with spirits, with accompanying descriptions of circumstances. It seems like it might be essential to my project to know more. Anything you could find and any directions of research might be useful.

At the same time, completely destroying my chances of success if something actually kills me seems like a bad plan. I'm going to invent a writing machine - your language is such that it won't be suited for words, so it will be a limited version mostly oriented around numbers - and then I'm going to write up a very long document with it made of zeroes and ones, plus a handwritten spec document describing the circumstances it needs to work. I'll send it to you in installments. It needs to stay safe until a thinking machine is invented, whether I'm still around or not, and then it needs to be run. This is a long shot and I'll try as hard as I can to stay alive but I think at this point it's worth the redundancy just in case. I will also send you your own typewriter so you can make copies in addition to the carbon paper version I will store elsewise, but it's very long and it might not be reasonable to expect anyone but me to type that much. Please let me know if you need anything to make it more probable that the document survives in the hands of someone who will run it when the thinking machine is invented.
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The first encounter sounds like a nekomata. They often prey on unwary travelers. The second was Koh the Face Stealer. He's supposed to be the oldest spirit, and not very pleasant, as you saw. The stories say that if you show an expression to him, he learns your face and your character. The face seems straightforward. I am less sure about what is meant by character, nothing is very clear. It might be a synthesis of thought and recent action, but this is speculation on my part. From your description, I would guess that you were pulled into the spirit world for that meeting. I have never heard of that happening and do not know how or why it did.

His story about the beginning of humanity was quite interesting. Lion turtles are extinct now, or nearly so. There has not been a sighting in centuries. They are recorded as being large enough to carry a village on their backs. The part about the World Spirit is in reference to the Avatar, who carries it through their reincarnations. I have never heard anything about it being forcibly subjugated. I will attach a list of titles that may be relevant. I was forced to abandon the few I had when I left. The bookseller may have reacquired them. For the others, you may not be able to find them easily, but short of visiting the archives at Ba Sing Se options are limited. Or Wan Shi Tong's lost library in the desert, since we are on the topic of spirits.

I will do my best to safeguard your documents when I receive them.
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Tarinda invents a typewriter in the time it takes for the mail to turn around. It does numbers and some number-related symbols for math and prices and suchlike, so copies of it will be useful to people other than herself.

She gets all the books recommended that she can find and suggests the bookseller write to his supplier for the others. She packs Eliko a typewriter and six pages of carefully page-numbered binary. She looks a a map for an idea of how much traveling she'd have to do to make a good go of looking for the library.

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The bookseller has about half the listed books. He'll see what he can do about getting the others, but can make no promises.

The Si Wong desert takes up a good portion of the southeast of the continent. It would be two to three weeks to get to the edge from where she is, and then however long it would take to search.

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Any of the books narrow the library down at all?

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Wan Shi Tong, He Who Knows Ten Thousand Things, is said to possess a library containing at least that many books. It lurks hidden within the sands of the eastern desert, and only those who bring a tribute of new knowledge are permitted to peruse its shelves. If a worthy seeker sees an owlcat flying in the desert at night and follows it, it may lead them to the library, for owlcats are favored of Wan Shi Tong.

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