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Sep 21, 2023 5:14 AM
Getting possessed by a Brinnite is by no means the weirdest thing to have ever happened to a Megazomian
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aaaaaaaaaaaa

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She thinks back over her memories.

Orichalch...used...a weaker adjective...when describing how harmless the oath was...than he did for this.

For a moment, she is acutely aware of the collar on her soul.

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She really hopes it's not a bad sign that it was, uh...not beneficial, shall we say.

...or, at least, it didn't feel beneficial. But...if you took someone who had no concept of vaccination, and gave them one of those vaccines that makes you feel like you have an extremely mild flu for a few hours while it takes effect, they would think you'd poisoned them. They'd even find it much more subjectively unpleasant than someone who understood what was happening, because they'd have no ability to take pleasure in this proof of obtaining a new protection.

She hates being so out of her depth that she cannot even tell whether a quale was good or bad. She's looking forward to being the her of 127 years from now who knows what she's doing.

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Well. That happened. Hopefully she passed the security-related test, because she definitely failed the real test, the one where you get dumped into a pool of profound energy and either sink or swim. Not that she thinks anyone expected her to, but the default action they expect from her is failure, so does that even really matter? 

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After giving them a moment to catch their bearings, Orichalch will start scribbling in his notebook, and tell them the results. 

"Well, I suppose it shouldn't be any particular surprise to you, but I'm glad to announce that the two of you appear to be basically ordinary mortals! Jasmine, did you know you're about 0.2% frost dragon? Kedri, you seem to have a minor clan trait of a sort I haven't seen before - are you sure nobody on your homeworld was a cultivator? I'm not certain what the trait was intended to achieve, but I think it will improve your affinity for techniques relating to dreams, planning, precognition, that sort of thing."

He tears a page out of his notebook, covered in scratchy handwritten charecters and numbers, and gives it to Jasmine. "Give this to the archivists when you get a chance, it'll save them doing an analysis the slow way. They should already have Jasmine on record, but another data-point never hurts!" 

"Now, we should head over to the administration office and get you two sworn in properly, get your starting allocations and all that sorted out properly so you won't miss anything." He goes to leave the room. 

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"Ah, sir. So she's passed? I can join the sect?" Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. 

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"What? Oh, yes. Wasn't that obvious?" 

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Dragons: probably sapient.

 

She's glad she...passed? But, uh, he appears to be so relieved she's not a demon that he's forgotten to, uh, actually....explain anything.

"So, um, I don't know how to phrase this right, but it's starting to look pretty urgent that I learn what this sect is that I am apparently joining.

Like, I don't want to fuck up your life, and Orichalch seems to think I'd be a good fit, but also I don't want to go swearing oaths to something I don't understand."

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"We're joining The Bank! The greatest sect in the world, if you ask me - the oldest and most dependable of the ten imperial sects, which are the strongest and most impressive sects in the empire, which is the biggest and most powerful empire in the known world. Certainly the best place to begin your cultivation, unless another imperial sect better matches your intended specialisation, and even then, this one has accepted us and the others have not. Don't worry too much about the commitment - it wouldn't be weird to leave the sect after six months or ten years or a century, even if I doubt that it will be optimal for us to do so, rather than like, taking an indefinite leave of absence from our duties but not breaking ties.

"As for what The Bank stands for - it, we, stand for security into eternity. We're older than the empire, older than most gods. We're playing the long game, building strong deep roots and accepting calculated losses when we have to rather than risking everything every time some partiarch needs to step outside his meditation chamber. We sell vaults and bodyguards and index funds and every other form of security imaginable, all to the highest quality and a correspondingly high price. Our fortress-vaults are designed to outlive the fall of the divine emperor with the treasure and legacies contained within intact. That's who we are. That's the organisation that has trained me for a position in it since I was 12.

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That sure does sound biased. Well, that's what Kedri gets for asking someone who wants very much to join this place.

But if she's not swearing perpetual loyalty, that does help a lot. And...it does speak well of the Bank, that they choose to emphasise farsightedness in their propaganda.

(The "ascension of the Divine Emperor" was five-thousand-and-something years ago as of an event from twenty-seven hundred years ago, right? So the Bank is something like...eight thousand years old, minimum?

She chalks a data point up on the hypothesis that cultivators allow for more cultural continuity. Her homeworld was a very different place eight thousand years ago.)

This is her life now. She hopes it will be a good one.

she wishes she could tell her kith-nieces that dragons are real, they'd love that

she wonders if her baby kith-nephew will grow...grew...up to like dragons too

 

"It sounds like I have a lot of catching up to do, if you've been training since you were twelve. ...I'm not actually sure how old you are, but hosts of adults are never younger than fourteen and rarely much younger than nineteen, so it's got to have been years."

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"I'm 22, that's when the Bank starts teaching cultivation, some sects start teaching as young as 18 but it'd be foolish to start sooner, can you imagine giving kids write access to thier souls? As such, I wouldn't worry too much about your lacking education. They haven't taught me any of the things that really matter, either, and there will be entrants from outside the orphanage system, people who passed the exams or had a senior family member or got found by a diviner or stuff like that."

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She's not sure she wants to imagine giving kids write access to their souls. The whole idea of soul write-access is a scary thought. She'll reserve judgement on that until she learns more about the details, though.

 

...orphanage. The woman referring to Jasmine as her "charge" wasn't just talking about some kind of apprenticeship thing.

She has no idea what to say in response to that and Jasmine doesn't particularly seem to be expecting a response to it, so she doesn't give one.

 

"I'm thirty-eight, give or take: I'm not sure if your years are quite the same length, but the word doesn't feel *too* far off.

There's still the...general background stuff, that anyone from your world would know, but...well, the way to eat a rhino is one bite at a time, as the saying goes.

Speaking of which, who's the Divine Emperor?"

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"I'm sure there's a lot you still have to learn but you shouldn't be worried about it. Toojeon don't start cultivating until they're 40 for weird Toojeon reasons, even. Being good at cultivation is the most important thing, and you're not behind on that except in the sense where we both don't have any particular advantages and thus are going to start out at a disadvantage. Well, we have each other now. I think that can be a pretty big edge if we play it right.

"The Divine Emperor is the 8th realm who founded the empire in which we live, and whose mandate grants the right to rule to the current emperor and his family. He doesn't rule directly, though, he spends his time doing ... whatever it is that essence cultivators do to cultivate, it's not a matter of public record."

"Ah, you wouldn't know the realms. The first three realms - the cultivating realms - are where you're still essentially a normal person, but with magic powers, the second three - the crucible realms - are the ones where the magic and your Way takes precedent over your mortal needs, and then in the final three realms - the essence realms - you are self-defining and self-justifying and truly immortal, more like a force of nature than a person. The Divine Emperor is one of those, more like the spirit of the empire than like a person, seeking to grow by ... becoming the spirit of every empire everywhere, I guess? I can go into the realms in more detail when we have more time, they're important but also complicated."

"What did you do with your life, before this?

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"Ending up more like a force of nature than a person" is a failure mode of editing your soul that she had not even begun to consider.

(Although she will place it next to soul-editing-in-general under "potentially less horrifying than it sounds".)

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"...well, for the last few months of my life I spent a lot of it dying, as my body degraded into a competing collection of cancers rather than a harmonious organism.

In happier times, I was part of a fish cannery. Mostly butchering, but sometimes I was out on the fishing boats or cleaning equipment or so on.

I lived with my wife Tenida and our two siblings-by-choice and their children, to whom I was like a fourth parent. I was pretty formal-economy, rarely spent more than a few hours a day at home, but formal-economy-work is an important role to play and I did still have some time for us to be a family together."

 

(...is that an awkward thing to say to someone who spent the last decade living in an orphanage? Maybe. She hopes not. Jasmine did ask.)

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"It sounds like even cultivators who aren't truly immortal live a pretty long time, if the last person like me lived here for a hundred and twenty-seven years and only died because of a battle?"

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Jasmine will make a face, about the dying of cancer. 

"I'm sorry you had to go through something like that.

(She will make a much more normal grossed-out face at the butchering, but she doesn't have any strong reactions to the family thing.) 

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Ah, more technical information to convey, good. 

"A rough and largely incorrect rule of thumb that you could still make use of is that each increase in realm is a tenfold increase in power and a doubling of lifespan, though not many cultivators die in bed - most choose to spend their last years on a desperate gamble for enough progress to reach the next realm and usually that's what gets them.

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"Thank you," she says, trying as best she can to ignore a pang of homesickness. It's not as if dwelling on it would help. She's known this day was coming for a while now. She said her goodbyes.

 

"What sort of desperate gambles?

--I'm guessing the general question of 'how one progresses' is part of the important-but-complicated things for later."

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"Picking fights, going on risky expeditions, throwing all your wealth into alchemy, using techniques better left unused, attempting breakthroughs without sufficent preparation, abandoning your previous life entirely in search of a new angle on your problems, that sort of thing. Progression is indeed a complex subject and - one I haven't been fully informed on, to prevent me from trying to cultivate early, though I'm well appraised of the sorts of resources and strategic decisions involved. Suffice to say it's time consuming and expensive and you can still get stuck in ways neither time nor money can solve."

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Contemplating this, she nods thoughtfully...except the body doesn't respond. Right.

"I see."

 

What else seems high priority...

"Even if you don't know the specifics of *how* to obtain them yet, do you have a sense of what magical powers one can obtain early on?"

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"Yes but not in a way I'd want to try and communicate without having a full strategy meeting about it. Techniques are extremely diverse and there will be many theoretical and practical limitations at this stage. I suspect you will be limited by cost and power in your ambitions, not by what is and isn't possible, though I understand that's not a tremendously helpful thing to say."

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Oh wow, so she's looking at a very flexible magic system here.

On the one hand, options! On the other hand, she already had a lot to take in as it is!

"That seems sensible. It definitely sounds like something that should involve a notepad, for one thing."

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"That and privacy." She glances at the 5th realm walking alongside them. 

"Fortunately, we should be at the admin office soon.

They are in fact, nearly at ground level. 

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That's a good point: they'd probably both be in a better state of mind for complicated planning when not in the presence of someone who is generally very powerful and specifically did the whole aura-and-chains thing earlier.

(...that is what Jasmine meant, right? It's not that Orichalch could literally eavesdrop on their internal conversation, otherwise they wouldn't have had to do the relay thing, right? Right?

She doesn't ask for clarification. Just in case.)

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