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May 28, 2022 9:18 PM
vanda nosseo meets the jianghu
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A new planet is discovered! It's an Earth. The people involved seem to be psychologically human-typical and non-reductionist. Their biology seems to be magical in some way; demons can't conjure any basement dwellers of the humans on this planet, even if they don't appear to be capable of using any magic. Magic users, called "cultivators," are strong and tough and can fly using swords and do assorted magical effects by writing things on specially prepared pieces of paper. Cultivators typically seem to form their own parallel societies which barely interface with the non-cultivator society. Their territories mostly but not perfectly match up with non-cultivator polities. They tend to match up better when the non-cultivator polities are empires and less well when polities are rather small; presumably because cultivators have fast travel and communication, their polities tend to be rather large. Magic users mostly spend their time dealing with assorted monsters, mostly dead people, who seem to have a remarkable tendency to arise from the grave and start killing people. 

A delegation is sent to the largest empire on the planet, China, and a second delegation is sent to the associated cultivation polity (called the "jianghu"). 

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The jianghu gets Nelen Utopia's newly formed team of five dispatched to whatever looks like their biggest enclave, where they present themselves politely.

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"Hello, Masters," says a boy in his early twenties with a forehead ribbon. "I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting you."

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"We're sorry to have interrupted! We are peaceful visitors from Vanda Nossëo, a federation of many peoples from other planets around other stars."

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Lan Sizhui immediately draws several mostly inaccurate conclusions about these visitors and kowtows. "This humble one apologizes for his unforgivable error, Blessed Immortals. Thank you for your condescension in visiting this useless house."

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"- error?" says Nelen, puzzled. "I - is my translation magic misbehaving, it does that sometimes, what did it sound like I said please -"

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He is so good at speaking from the kowtow position. 

"Blessed Immortals, this humble one's ignorance is inexcusable. If the noble immortals have traveled from another star, they must have extraordinarily high cultivation. In the books of the Lan, scant though their knowledge is, it has never been reported that any cultivator has even reached the moon."

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"- we traveled using non-cultivation methods. Different worlds have different ways of achieving supernatural effects," says Nelen uncertainly.

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"Blessed Ones, this useless one senses that he may be causing offense, and begs that the immortals explain how this slave may do them honor."

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"I would - like you to - get up off the floor and talk to us like peers?" attempts Nelen. "My culture does not do - being on the floor like that." He glances at the others.

"Mine does but only if you're being really dramatic," volunteers Natsuko.

"To me it looks kinda like you think we're going to kill you? We aren't going to kill you," says Zanro.

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Many people, having received this advice, would continue to talk to the powerful strangers the way that they were taught to talk to powerful strangers.

But Lan Sizhui has spent the past ten years of his life managing powerful rogue cultivators, representatives from hundreds of cultivator sects and clans from around the world, and the Yiling Patriarch, so he quickly reorients.

He stands and bows the way you would to a respected stranger. "I'm sorry if I caused any"-- not offense-- "discomfort. Etiquette is very different in different cultures, and I default to the polite way to welcome a powerful stranger in the jianghu." If it was Wei Wuxian he'd add "which is that they might kill you" but he wants to get more of a sense of them before he jokes. 

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"Thank you," says Nelen, visibly relieved. "Did my translation suggest that you had made an error or - anything, or is that just standard etiquette? It's good translation magic but sometimes it needs adjustment."

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"In my culture, it is usual to express great respect to people with high cultivation, and I had accidentally slighted you by treating you like you were people with cultivation similar to my own. --I understand that you don't cultivate, but I didn't realize that one could travel from star to star without cultivating. We have only traveled to space on our swords."

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"Ah. So far this is the only world we've discovered where cultivation is a thing at all."

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"I should like to talk about that. --But I'm being rude. How can I offer you hospitality? I don't know what your needs are." He thinks about this and decides to offer a safe default. "Ordinarily, I would send a servant to prepare tea and a comfortable room to sit and food if you're hungry, and rooms for you to stay in the evening."

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"We don't strictly need any of that but if it would be more comfortable to handle the situation more like a familiar one we won't object," smiles Nelen. He has too many teeth, on top of the bright red hair.

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He goes off to find a servant to make arrangements.

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And a small child approaches. 

"Hi! Are you from far away? Father says I shouldn't talk to people from far away because I will cause dip-lo-matic in-ci-dents but Daddy says that it's e-du-ca-tion-al and anyway it's very funny." To Nelen: "Why is your hair red? Do barbarians have red hair? I haven't seen any barbarians with hair like that before." To Zenro: "Why do you look funny? Are you a monster? Are you a demon? My daddies killed the Tortoise of Slaughter! It's the biggest monster in the whole world probably. People don't like demons but my papa is a fierce corpse and my papa is very nice. He gardens. So I think some demons are nice too probably." 

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"Awwwwww hi! My parents have red hair. Where I'm from most people have purple hair but some have other colors," Nelen says.

"I'm an orc," Zanro says. "We should check in about 'demon' translation when our host is back..."

"Yeah," says Nelen, beaming at the small child.

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"Are orcs a kind of monster? Do you come from dead people or alive people or dead things that aren't people or alive things that aren't people? Are you from the moon? Jing Xincheng said that Baoshan Sanren was from the moon but then I told him to shut his stupid face because no one is from the moon because it takes too long to get there and you'd get bored and then Jing Xincheng said that the immortals don't get bored and I said that Cangse Sanren wasn't an immortal and she would have gotten bored so there. Is it boring coming from the moon?"

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"Depends who you ask," says Zanro. "We're all alive except Cassiel, she's dead."

"Just a little," says Cassiel.

"We got here very fast!" says Nelen. "So it wasn't boring at all."

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"Are you going to bring presents?"

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"Yes we are! What kind of presents do you think would be best?" Nelen asks.

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"Second Uncle gave me a bow to practice with, and Third Uncle gave me brushes so I could practice my calligraphy, and First Uncle is very sad but he gave me a dizi so I could learn to play music like Daddy, and Fourth Uncle isn't even really an uncle at all, he's younger than Elder Brother, but he keeps giving me JEWELRY which is BORING. So I think you should give me a dizi or a bow or brushes and not jewelry. --But even Fourth Uncle is better than Great-Uncle, Great-Uncle won't even give me any presents because he doesn't like Daddy or Papa because Daddy married Father and made Papa be alive again even though he was dead and told Great Uncle the rules of the Lan clan were stupid. Also some other things I think." 

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"Okay. So you like practical presents and musical instruments," says Nelen, nodding seriously. "I'll keep that in mind when ordering inventory."

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Lan Sizhui returns. The guests seem to be enjoying Lan Su, so he doesn't apologize for her presence. "If you come with me, we can have some tea." He guesses based on Nelen's facial expression-- "Lan Su, would you like to sit in with us to watch, if our guests are all right with it?"

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