One day, a mysterious invite to a server showed up on her home page, an invite to server called "Daoist Discord" from a user by the name of "Transcendent Tourmaline Trapmaster".
Huh. Hailey wasn't sure she'd met this person before? But there wasn't much harm a philosophical (or maybe RP?) Discord server could do, unless she cooperated with some scam. All else fails, it was just another thing to walk away from. Might as well join.
Swoooosh. Lightning Gale just landed.
On entry, she took a look around to see if there was any kind of intro, rules, or explanation of what this group was talking about.
There's a rules page for the server that pops up, one of the standard isolation channels to try to make sure that the user reads the rules before going forward.
This server is supposed to be a more casual place to talk with fellow daoists from a wide variety of backgrounds and traditions and times, so the rules are going to be pretty light overall, though there's still a few things that need to be covered.
1) Be respectful of other traditions, clans and lineages - a little boasting is fine, and technical analysis is welcome (so long as you keep deeper dives in the appropriate #Sermon-Containment channels or hide the relevant content with discord's tools), but blanket statements about the strength and moral alignment of lineages will result in a temp ban - remember that there's always someone stronger out there, and there are as many ways to enlightenment as stars in the sky!
2) Keep not safe for work content in the containment channels - it's important to keep the logs clean for our juniors.
3) Any request for cultivation resources, duel preparations, techniques, weapons, talismans, formations, food supplies and tribulation oversight should go in #request-marketplace to avoid clutter and to best ensure fair dealing. Failure to live up to agreements made shall be rectified and punished by the resident seniors discretion, alongside indefinite bans from the marketplace. If you need to negotiate in private, feel free to contact an administrator to ensure the deal works out best for both parties.
4) If you have any questions about the modern world or the fundamentals of cultivation, please check the pins in #modernity and #resources respectively before asking - it saves time for everyone.
5) Don't forget to be kind to your juniors and pay respect to your seniors!
6) Please try to stay on topic here - digressions are fine, but make sure that you listen if the group asks you to move a conversation to a different channel, and remember we have the separate channels for a reason!
7) React to this message with a checkmark to get access to the rest of the server to show you've read the rules, and feel free to add your own pronouns, tradition, interest and DM status roles using the rolebot.
8) Contact me, Transcendent Tourmaline Trapmaster or Glacial Glaive Grandmaster if you want to get a realm role, so we can appraise you properly!
Okay, it was definitely reading more like RP at this point. The whole cultivator genre wasn't one she was familiar with, but new places and new scenes and new people, right? Pretty thoroughly in-character, looked like. Rules made sense though, so onward!
There's a bunch of reacts spaced apart onto multiple posts - it looks like it needed to be split apart to have enough room for everything, and a ✅ react on the rules themselves.
Most of them have about a dozen reacts, while there's 42 reacts on the checkmark and nearly as many for the crossed swords one, and significantly fewer then might be expected for the male and cross reacts.
There's a lot of channels, ranging from a general chat to seemingly an associated trade or tradition for each - ones on fighting in general, then specializations in melee weapon combat, ranged combat, and a speciality one for specifically swords, alongside #cultivation-techniques, #spirit-food, #alchemy, #forging, #talismancy, #divinations, #formations, #horticulture, #music, and #treasures, and a few more for some traditions, ranging from a taoist one to a buddhist channel.
Wow, there's so much! They've taken this so seriously and thoroughly. She started flitting through the channels, sampling the recent discussions in any that caught her eye — #spirit-food, #melee-weapons, #general, especially — and then suddenly stopped.
She hadn't done the roles. Back! Okay, right, gender was straightforward, and she giggled at how low the numbers were on the cross. She hadn't really put much thought into it, but she supposed calling herself an atheist was good enough for now.
Back to #general she went! What was in the pins, what were people talking about now, had they noticed her apparent "Swoooosh" yet?
She gets the role She/Her and Scholarly Faction from clicking through the roles.
The pins were full of a lot of inside jokes, mostly, but a few of them are weird, traceries that brought to mind silly little bounces and bright laughter and gentle kisses upon the cheek from friends and more-then-just-friends.
Beyond that though, there's a few half-rambling notes to self of the philosophy of a wide array of things - from diagrams about weird geometries with cute cartoons of swords and swordlasers in them to more mundand arguments about what 'is' earthen, really, to a few youtube playlists of videos of martial artists, seemingly added for at least as much mockery as serious analysis.
Right now, the channel seems to be talking about... delayed release mechanisms in pills?
Some of these messages were so well-written, or well-drawn, wow. They seemed to almost transport her. But how best to break into the stream of the roleplay? What would be her best option? Backgrounds varied widely, apparent clan-member cultivators mingling with freewheeling independents. Everyone seemed to be so deep in their characters' skills and abilities, the play of the expertise was so consistent...
Ahah. Best idea ever. Come at this like a new independent cultivator, trying out the disciplines for the first time. It's the most true-to-life role she could play, and would provide an easy explanation for anything she didn't know yet. The grace note of the whole plan would be that she could look through the guides and starter techniques they had, find one that looked decent (and in her style if they put that much thought and variety into their lore props), and then try the moves herself! She was athletic enough and agile enough that she could probably figure the moves out, and then she'd be able to talk from actual expertise!
It'd be great! What's it called... Method acting!
She set to tracking down information on how a newbie cultivator was supposed to start out, and then perusing through the options.
The resources channel has a lot of things - first off, there's a lengthy explanation of the cultivation realms that they were mentioning and the associated special abilities and status, alongside a typical age range - apparently most of the members of the chat according to their roles were on the 'young genius' side rather then seniors themselves, journeymen only somewhat independent and established. There's a warning that overly detailed descriptions and understanding of some of the higher levels can be hazardous if you don't have a sufficiently good 'cultivation base', but it still tells of cultivators who can walk upon the sky, create illusory realms with their thoughts, wore power-enhancing crowns of light and even resurrect the dead with the right preparations, techniques and materials.
The links ranged from several esoteric analyses that she can't make heads or tails of, a really long list of minor side effects of starting down the path of cultivation for things to watch out for, a fairly disturbingly detailed procedure for getting a fake ID, apparently for 'seniors who have been away from the mortal world for too long', and even a basic 'fist methodology' that was apparently designed to work for just about anyone called the "Twenty Four Flowing Fists".
And there's something weird about the image in the pin that draws her in further and deeper, some odd hypnotic moire to it that drew her in further.
Of course they'd have cognitohazards. There had to be cognitohazards, that made it even better. And she was very impressed with the research that went into that fake ID procedure. Serious dedication. She'd seen people actually get fake IDs with worse research and follow-through than that.
This looked like a good technique to start practicing with, a good way to really ground herself in this community. She pulled up an introductory diagram or something, attached as a pic in the pins. That image, though, something was so captivating about it...
She's drawn into the glistening patterns, 'til suddenly she's standing in a verdant forest clearing, the cool misty of air of fall brushing against her skin.
A firm matronly voice spoke, and hands pressed across her shoulders to let her breath sink to her core.
The shift in surroundings overtook her smoothly enough that she didn't realize what was happening. Her whole focus was on the flow of the air, the sound of the voice.
Hailey breathed, slowly and deliberately, feeling something shift and start flowing smoother inside herself in response.
The woman strides in front of her with each step coming in time with her breath, fox tails sticking out from beneath her kimono as she guides her hands to the starting pose and steps back herself to guide her through the kata.
Hailey found herself following smoothly through each motion, losing herself in the grace of the movements. The voice of the instructor carried such weight, such clear confidence, that it was easy to trust her and follow her steps and copy the kata.
(Something felt... surreal, deeper, dreamlike... about the process. So immersive and engaging, so bright and vivid, but out of sync somehow.)
But that barely registered, beneath the intense elegance of the motions of the kata, feelings changing and building as she completed each step.
They went through the dance, slowly, and when she reached closing, her hand reached out again, pressing gently against her chest.
And Hailey followed, and trusted, and found her attention falling further inward. Something unfolded out as she looked deeper — energy, motion, identity — an interconnected system of life filling her body, with some of the thrumming energy rising to the surface, and a void, a space, where something could be placed.
Gathering the energy felt like the natural next step, and with smooth motion it became a thread. And the only thing left to do was to slot it into place. She felt it settle and lock—
—and opened her eyes to her beat-up laptop that hadn't even dimmed the screen, despite however long she'd been in that forest.
She'd looked at a picture and gone on a vision. That was not merely mortal mindfuckery. She'd been acting in that vision like she trusted that instructor. She'd felt it. Not the usual "humoring you and checking for where you've misled me", but actual built-up trust. In a vision. Of a forest and a martial arts kata and making energy into a thread that she placed into her heart. Led by a (beautiful) woman with fox tails, who touched her and didn't get slapped for it.
Hailey snapped her hand out across her desk, grabbed her water bottle, and started draining it. She watched the chat out of the corner of her eye. Had the conversation even gone on from where she last saw it?
...Quick shower thought. Why don’t more alchemical pills use slow release mechanisms? It’s not like every pill out there is best taken all at once, and that just… doesn’t seem to be a thing, despite the fact that there’s already a tradition in mundane medicine of doing just that.
Yeah I wonder too! There’s so many pills that have that rush and it’s really a bit much, plus there’s some that you just sorta end up wasting ‘cause it hits you all at once.
Harsh pills are the maker’s fault. There’s no reason not to just dose and do things properly.
Yeah yeah, but it’s good to have pills that last through large ranges of cultivation, too? That can change the dosing considerations, from what I've seen....
It is, but you have to keep in mind that creating something like that would likely involve just dosing it properly for a set level, and then you are back at the original problem.
Oh that makes sense… But still! Suckling on pills is a bit silly.