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Sep 26, 2023 7:29 AM
Getting possessed by a Brinnite is by no means the weirdest thing to have ever happened to a Megazomian

It is, finally the day. More than a decade, she's waited, studied, practiced, and been tested, hoping to, finally, truly join The Bank. It's been all she's really wanted since a few years after they took her to one of their orphanages and she had finally come to understand that a thing like this could really exist, was to become a cultivator and join The Bank, and never be alone or small again. She had never gotten close to her classmates, which she regrets on principle, but - a street rat can't trust a street rat, and the rest don't get it. And some of them weren't going to join The Bank, and be immortal. And she's not a street rat anymore, or at least, she's done everything humanly possible to avoid looking like it. So maybe she'll have a better time making real friends rather than mere acquaintances, polite or rude. 

She is lined up, along with the rest of her cohort who passed the exams and chose to join rather than strike out into the wider world without ties to The Bank, in a small room deep within The Bank's fortress-city. The orphanage matrons are looking on with warm pride, while a senior cultivator (of the 5th realm, the strongest she's ever spent an extended period in the same room as) explains her rights and responsibilities as an outer disciple of the sect, and the dread and awesome oaths that will be asked of them to ensure their loyalty in this matter. 

She's barely paying attention in her excitement - they're hardly saying anything she hasn't read or heard a thousand times, during her studies and preparations, but there could be one last test of their dutifulness, so she doesn't allow her attention to wander too far. 


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This body doesn't hurt.

That's the first thing Kedri notices as she comes back into awareness.

Oh, upon closer inspection there's a few tiny aches, the ordinary noise of an imperfect nervous system, but nothing compared to the pain she was in two subjective minutes ago. It's been eight months, at least, since she felt this well.

She grins, laughing with relief and delight.

In this moment, she feels like she could handle anything, as long as it was in a body that didn't hurt.


--then she registers the other sensory inputs and oh shit she's interrupting some kind of important ceremony, isn't she.

The alien laughter in Jasmine's throat abruptly stops, her face forming an embarrassed expression. Her eyes flick about the room, as if taking it in anew.


The ancient worn stone of the walls and floors, the banners on the walls and the first motes of dawning concern on the face of her cohort, all fade away under the background of the burning, overpowering sensation, conveyed through the sense that is no sense - 

You can't run, you can't hide, you can't evade justice, not my justice, you'll be hunted down like a fox in the woods 

- And then the man who was speaking is standing in front of her, having moved faster than she could follow, and she's bound in golden chains that appeared from nowhere. 

"What are you, little soul, to intrude on our sect?" He asks menacingly. Every other disciple is recoiling away from him as though his aura was a physical force, though the matrons seem to be doing a little better at withstanding it - and, oh look, they're drawing weapons as well. Did they even have weapons, before they drew them? It's not like Kedri had time to check.


What the shit.

What-- how did that even--

--magic?? Since when can humans (...are they humans?) do magic?? Since when can magic do this???


She wilts under the weight of the onslaught.

(There's still no physical pain, as such. But, uh, it's kind of looking like that might not keep being true for very long.

...and, for that matter, like these people might know of ways to hurt someone far worse than what anything as merely physical as cancer can do.)


"I-- I-- I'm sorry, I-- I can't-- choose where and when I land, I just happened to wake up here, I'd-- I'd offer to leave, but I can't--"

A small part of her mind manages to pipe up through the panic and point out that he didn't ask her to beg for mercy, he asked what she was.

There's a lot of words for different kinds of spirit in this language. None of them quite match what she's looking for.

"Um..." she gulps "...I'm-- I'm a-- refugee, from another world. When-- when we die, our souls-- wash up somewhere else, some other world, some other body-- never--" something that's almost a chuckle, but there's no relief or delight in it this time "--never been a world like this--"

(or maybe people who end up here are never heard from again, a soul cannot be destroyed but also chains cannot be conjured from nothing)

"--I'm sorry," she says, and somehow manages to wilt even further.


The man nods, apparently satisfied. The aura withdraws - it's still present, and terrifying, but it's no longer overwhelming. 

"You are, at least, not a liar. I cannot handle your problems and complete the ceremony at the same time." He turns to one of the matrons. "Please take her to a secure waiting room, for when I can discuss the matter further." 

He gestures and the chains will, not disappear, but rearrange themselves into manacles which are minimally obtrusive and uncomfortable, unless she tries to run or fight. One of the matrons will step forward to guide her out of the room. 


She does not try to run or fight. She meekly follows the person that she's supposed to be following.


What. The. Fuck. 

It takes Jasmine a bit to reorient to being kicked out of control of her own body. Being blasted by her senior's aura didn't help. Once the pointless internal protestations of her innocence die down, she can actually think. She's possessed, not by any of the things which she has been trained to deal with (which are few, because she's just a mortal), or even made aware of. At least they don't seem hostile? That's good. Probably.


... what if they don't let her join. The Bank is normally pretty reasonable about things which are totally beyond your control but being possessed by some random spirit seems like the sort of thing which disqualifies you anyway. What does she do then? Why couldn't this have happened, like, tomorrow, when she was already sworn in? She pushes that thought down - The Bank isn't stupid enough to let people attack would-be disciples before they're technically disciples and not treat that like an attack on thier disciples, even other sects, the stupid short-sighted ones, aren't that stupid.

She tries to orient herself. What can she do. Can she communicate with the spirit possessing her? 

"Uh, hey. Can you, like, leave? When the binding chains are gone, at least?" She thinks at Kedri, as loudly as possible.  


Ah. That'd be her host, then.

(Kedri feels a wave of...guilt, or reflected-emotional-pain, or something, at putting her through all of this.

In the heat of the moment, Kedri hadn't considered the threat to the host, but...those people, drawing weapons...would have killed them both if they hadn't liked Kedri's answer enough, wouldn't they.)


She fumbles around internally and...oh, that feels like a promising mental lever.

" --not under my own power, anyway. I...have no idea what the magic here is capable of, maybe y'all have exorcisms that *work*, but...normally once you land somewhere you're stuck there for the rest of the host's life. ...I'm sorry.

--oh, um, wait, can you move? If you can't move *that's* fixable, I don't mean that you're going to be stuck as a passenger forever, or at least I've never heard of anyone getting permanently stuck like that."

('But apparently I've never heard of a lot of things', she doesn't quite say, since that seems like it would just make things worse. Honestly it might be obvious even if she doesn't say it, but.)


"So. Um. My name's Kedri. ...and it occurs to me that if conjuration is real then maybe name-magic is real, but on the other hand if you take control of someone's body all of a sudden, probably you *should* immediately give them your true name as, like, a display of trust or collateral or something, so I guess I don't actually regret telling you either way."

(or at least that's what Kedri is firmly telling herself, doing her very best to tamp down on the surge of 'aren't I fucking vulnerable enough already' and 'what other dangers might there be, that I didn't happen to read fiction about')

"What should you?"


Well. That could be worse. Probably. She doesn't seem to have any control over her body for now, but she'll keep poking things until she does. Wasn't there a comital clan somewhere which did something like this, trading off control between twin souls in a single body? She wishes she'd spent more time memorising the peerage, now, but it made sense at the time and she can look it up. If she's allowed access to the archives after this. Probably she will be, even people who fail thier exams aren't kicked out immediately. Probably.  

Wait, she was asked a question. 

"I don't believe there to be any common techniques that target you by name that could not target you by any other unambiguous description, but I am not aware of every technique that exists. My teachers did not consider it a threat surface worth teaching me about, so it should likely be lumped in with other techniques which technically have targeting limitations but which in practice should be treated as not having any, at least when dealing with an unknown adversary, since techniques without such limitations also exist. You may call me Prudence-of-Measures Jasmine." There, she'd get full marks for that response.


...oh, her host is a tanyikai†, isn't she. That speaking style sure is characteristic of a barriered tanyikai.

Well. That's...very useful, but also kind of embarrassing to be implicitly compared to.


"Prudence-of-Measures Jasmine" sounds like it has multiple parts and as such Kedri suspects that there might be some standard way of abbreviating it for personal address, but she does not know what that way is. There's a reason Kedri left off her matronym (let alone her patronym) when introducing herself. But then, Kedri was expecting to meet aliens today (even if she was extremely not expecting these aliens), while Prudence-of-Measures Jasmine was not.

"Hello, Prudence-of-Measures Jasmine. I wish we could have met in a better way."


†"a person whose reaction to acute stress is to suppress all their emotions under a layer of cold calm, to be dealt with later after the emergency is over"


Both her childhood and her education at The Bank did indeed emphasize "Handle problems now, process emotions later" and in particular, came with many cases of needing to keep acting through a crisis no matter what. Her teachers likened it to walking on a broken leg - better than losing a fight because you fell over, but not good to rely on. 

"I wish we could have met a better way as well" she will reply. It seems polite. 


And then they will arrive in the secure waiting room. It is, in fact, a waiting room, and not, for example, a prison cell. It has two couches either side of a low table, of finely engraved and enamelled wood and upholstered in finely woven soft cloth, the walls are decorated with tapestries depicting various scenes of battle and heroism and strange magics. The tapestries are artfully arranged to reveal just a little of the runes inlaid into the stone behind them - just enough to make it obvious they're there. It is, in fact, a much nicer room than the one they left. There is a jug of watered-down wine sitting on the table, and small cups of porcelain. 

The matron's spear vanishes as suddenly and impossibly as it appears, and she gestures for Kedri to sit at one of them, and sits at the other. When Kedri sits, she will allow herself to express emotions, and ask. 

"My opinion on the matter will have little bearing on how my senior treats you, but, please tell me if my charge still exists in there, or if you have killed her in your desperate flight?" 


(As she looks around the room a little part of her starts trying to estimate the local tech level, then realises that actually she has no idea how to judge the tech level of a world with ubiquitous and still-largely-unknown-to-her magic. Maybe they're not wearing masks because they have disease-wards, who knows.)


"Oh, no, no, she's still here! She's still here, they always survive! We've been talking to each other.

I think she can't move right now, but that--

--I guess I shouldn't try to mess with things until your senior has had a chance to investigate, that might...look suspicious or something. But I should be able to start getting the hang of handing over control to her after...somewhere between seconds and weeks of practice, it varies. Probably towards the faster end, going this direction, with it-- being her body in the first place and all." She looks awkward and apologetic.


"... I am glad to hear it. It is never pleasant, losing one I have sworn to protect. If you are in fact as honest as you claim to be, I would not worry about taking actions in good faith. Orichalch Demon-Harrier is not going to mistake good-faith attempts to help for malicious meddling, not from a mortal. Do try not to break anything, I am fond of Jasmine and the room is expensive." 


That's. Not actually unprecedented, the matrons aren't prohibited from telling their charges that they genuinely care. But. It's still hitting her pretty hard.

She says nothing, though. 


Demon-Harrier is an extremely ominous epithet.

...although, to be fair, that indicator of scariness might actually be screened off by the amount of scariness he's already displayed.


(She also makes a mental note that her host's name can be abbreviated to "Jasmine", though it's not yet clear under which circumstances it's allowed.)


"Would that be...

...well, like I said, it's her body in the first place, and it might be harder to switch places going the other way. If I manage to give her control and then can't get it back right away when he wants to talk to me, is that...

...I guess she could interpret for me? Is that okay?"


After the words have left her mouth (...or, well, Jasmine's mouth) she wonders if perhaps she should have cleared the interpreting thing with Jasmine first, and if perhaps she messed up the phrasing and made herself sound overly reluctant to share control. Too late now.

(She misses when her problems were ordinary and slow and well-understood, and she could take pride in wearing them away. It would be such a relief, right now, to simply have a wall to scrub or a fish to butcher, and know that nobody else would have to deal with that dirt once she had taken care of it...

...but it's been a while since her problems were like that, anyway, even if the pacing has abruptly gotten much worse.

She takes a moment to reflect on the continuing absence of pain.)



"I do not expect that I will have trouble relaying your words.

Please give my body back, if only to prove that it is, in principle, possible, she does not say. 


"If your inability to return to control proves to impair our investigation, then we will be willing to allow however long it takes in order to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion." is the matron's response. 


Kedri nods.

She starts going through the mental exercises she was taught: it's helpful to have a variety of options, since sometimes one of them clicks better than the others.

Yanking herself backward doesn't work. She spends a few minutes with their eyes closed trying to gently detach herself from the front: maybe with enough practice it would work eventually, but right now she doesn't really seem to be getting anywhere with it.

Maybe something more like the communication mechanism...

She feels around in the back of her head, more carefully this time.

There's a feeling like reaching out and taking someone's hand, and pulling them forward--


-- and Jasmine has control of her own body again, somehow. She immediately stands up and starts stepping through a slow kata to test her control, and then stops again, because she is in chains.

"Thank you." 

"Matron, it's me, Jasmine." 

The matron does not substantially emote to what might well be an infiltrator putting its cover back together, in the scenario where Kedri is a cultivator spoofing her soulsight and Jasmine has in fact been eaten. Even if her soulsight isn't spoofed, she doesn't know how to distinguish healthy cohabitation of a body from destructive soul parasitism, never having seen examples of the former and having only rarely seen examples of the latter - for all she knows, the weird superimposed dual souls effect she can currently see is what partial assimilation looks like. 

"Good. See, that was not so much trouble. I'm sure we'll get this sorted out in no time." 

"My guest is claiming this will be permanent." 

"Even so. There are clearly many things she does not know." 


"Indeed I don't," she sighs.

(It would be so much easier to be excited about ✨magic✨ if it weren't thus far composed entirely of outside-context dangers.)

"If your people have a way to remove me from your body, I just hope it doesn't harm me in the process."

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