Oct 28, 2021 10:44 AM
heavenly wish uninterrupted
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In the kingdom of Xianle, the Crown Princess, Xie Lian, is the darling of high and low alike. She is gifted with the sword, beautiful beyond words, a paragon of chaste virtue, devoted to her people. Everyone expects that before she reaches her full majority she will present herself to the Imperial Court in the southeast, and there she will be granted a boon, something for the glory of Xianle - some of the maidens who seek boons and become 神女 get selfish, trivial things, but not her, she'll do something for her country. It's not customary to treat girls like gods before they've sought their boons and racked up some heroic deeds, but that's not a real rule, and there are statues of her, covered in flowers and presented with bowls of food, like she's a god already.

Indeed, when she's seventeen, she and her most loyal retainers make the pilgrimage to the Imperial Court. All three of them make their wishes, and the statues of Xie Lian are amended to bear the white ribbon that is her magical weapon, and their pedestals are engraved with her wish, "I wish to save the common people!" She is seldom seen at the Xianle royal palace, anymore, skipping here and there throughout her country to rescue her people from monsters and bandits and disasters of all kinds. She's a hero, a goddess, a princess, a legend.

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Drought strikes.

Xie Lian can be many places but she cannot be everywhere. She has to divide her time between applying magic to crops, to rivers, to springs, and hunting monsters to replenish it. She's sleepless with intensity, ferocious with determination, and she can't keep the rice paddies wet, can't get her people enough to drink, can't kill enough monsters to bring enough rain with white-glowing divine favor -

She goes to court, begs for help.

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It's not useless - she is lent a magical hat, which allows the efficient capture and transport of rain, by one of the retainers of the 神女 called Rain Master -

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But even with the hat, the drought seems endless, and she must travel so far each time to find somewhere that can spare the clouds, must hunt so many monsters. Not that monsters are hard to find.

Her people are starving.

...some of her people are starving. Some of them have been relatively luckier. The capital city is fine.

Except that it's under siege.

The besiegers have to know that the Crown Princess of Xianle is a powerful 神女. they have to know this is hopeless, but they're starving, their children are starving, they're parched and desperate and have nothing left to lose.

(The witches feed, and feed, and feed.)

The rain hat can't stop a war. Xie Lian can win one, though. She gathers an army.

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The plague hits.

It's a witch, it has to be a magical plague, it's far too horrible to be anything else. It shouldn't exist even if it is a witch.

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The witch shows herself.

Witches are all different. But this one is more different.

The witch's face is white, smiling on one side, crying on the other. She doesn't hide in a barrier.

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And Xie Lian's sword can't touch her.

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The kingdom -

- Xie Lian's wish wasn't powerful enough to save it, after all.

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She is accompanied

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by her loyal retainers.

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And by her mother and father, who are not bearing up particularly well under the stress.

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Neither does she.

Her gem keeps darkening when she's not even using it. She has to spend more and more time hunting just to stay afloat. Her parents are hungry, and when she tries to earn money she dims faster, and when she hunts to heal her gem and comes home to her mother trying to cook wild mushrooms and gambling that they can be healed with magic if they turn out to be poison, she dims faster.

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Mu Qing leaves.

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Feng Xin has to be chased out.

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Her parents - go of their own accord.

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And the witch comes back. Xie Lian couldn't fight it running bright as the sun, and she can't do it now.

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The witch gets her gem.

The witch's plague pops up again, and this time, there's a cure. The witch is smart enough to make trades.

The witch will lift her curse from anyone who kills Xie Lian, and since Xie Lian is not her bleeding, mortal, agonized form, the offer is very open-ended. Xie Lian is her gem, and it -

- it's darker than it's ever been, but it doesn't go out and it doesn't go out and it doesn't go out, no matter how many times -

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Xie Lian comes around, eventually. There's life left in her gem, a little pathetic flicker of a thing. She wished to save the common people, and the common people - took what she gave them, after a fashion, and -

- well.

She moves on.

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She doesn't, always, give her filled-up monster seeds to the 孵化器.

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She makes her way back to court, eventually. She asks a favor of the Empress.

She walks away, black lines crisscrossing the ring on her finger. Gone is the easy, convenient telekinesis, gone is the white ribbon, gone is the transforming from princess to goddess and back in a flash of pure white, gone gone gone. She walks away. She doesn't have to hunt so much, like this. It's harder without her ribbons, but she's still very good with a sword, and when the sword needs patching up and she can't do it, she can beg passing magical girls.

She walks clean out of China. She goes east and east and east. She spends time in the occasional kingdom, on her way, a lifetime here, a lifetime there, dispensing advice, never quite learning her lesson about meddling - but so much smaller in how much harm she can do, now, and for that she is grateful.

East and east and east. By the time she hits the ocean, they've invented boats that can let her keep going. She goes east and east and east, with a lifetime here, a lifetime there. She hits the ocean again and stops.

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She collects scraps. Lives in the woods or in tents or in little cabins she builds for herself or in churches or in shelters, depending. Does odd jobs picking fruit or building apartments. Kills witches and turns in her seeds to the 孵化器, because there are always some around, if she looks.

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(She's harder to keep track of, like this, when most people don't recognize her as a 神女 at all, and a certain someone, caught in the borderline between magic and monster, too lost to juke one way and held too tight by her own wish to juke the other, looks, and looks, and looks, and looks.)

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