Valanda in a different xianxia
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There is an empire. A vast edifice of order, with mighty cultivators ruling from the peak, fighting every day to keep the barbarians at bay and protect the vast number of mortals underneath its aegis.

There is a province. The Emerald Fields, long fractious and fragmented, with dozens and more prideful bloodlines clashing, feeding the soil with violence, 'till they were brought to heel by the Bai.

There is a county. Ruled over by a single cultivator family, with a great many concerns to watch for, the privilege of the land's resources and the burden of keeping its spirits tame and harmless.

There is a village. A quiet place, far from anything of true import. They grow rice, like everyone does, but this particular village is also known for their cranberries.

There is a shrine, in which resides a particular placid, if gluttonous, spirit that watches over the many ponds and pools, bullying competition away and enjoying the frequent offerings of fruit and fish. It is a humble, if large, structure of stacked stones and a mossy roof, sitting at the edge of a still pool lined with tall reeds and grass and surrounded by trees and more waters, where insect noises sing out in a minor cacophony. A dirt trail wends through the drier parts of the surroundings, leading up to it. Wildflowers bloom, and the sweet scent of cranberries and flowers mixes lazily with the more usual faint filth and rot.

There is a portalsnake, dropping someone unexpected here.

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...Okay, not where he meant to be. He feels the empty air where something would be if this were just an illusion. He doesn't know where he is and doesn't want to be seen immediately but that might be a lost cause. Is there enough tall vegetation to hide in it?

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There is a lot of tall vegetation. Also a lot of bugs, some of which are trying to sting him. Also mud. Very much mud.

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He starts picking out the most annoying bug species and casting wards against them. Some of them are already within the very small bubble of personal space he wants to maintain right now but if they leave it they cant come back. He unfortunately can't target a category like "annoying insects" so this isn't an instant fix.

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It's not safe for you fragile things to go off the path, something whispers faintly, not quite in words but as a set of emotions and concepts. If you fall and drown I will not lift a single foot for your sake.

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Okay, there's clearly no point in hiding. He gets out of the reeds.

"I came here by accident," he says in Hari, figuring whatever this creature is might be able to understand his thoughts since they can clearly make him understand theirs. "I don't want to break any laws but I don't know what they are yet."

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You hear my voice, but know not what speaks to you. Amusing.

Come into the shrine and feed me cranberries so I don't have to get up, and I shall speak of laws so long as it amuses me to.

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Are there cranberries in the shrine? He checks.

(Ah, a shrine. This person is like Hylia. Or like Ganon.)

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There are two long tables along the sides, piled with various things, mostly a lot of food. There are a lot of cranberries in the bowls, also some fish and other kinds of fruit. There are shiny trinkets and the odd metal tool.

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Also this guy, with a head the size of an agerah, lounging in the water at the back of the shrine. A tile mosaic showing lakes and flowers and fruit lights up the rear wall.

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Okay. He can go carry some cranberries over to the very large person in the water. Sure.

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He has a large, toothless mouth. 

One or two handfuls at a time. I will savor them.

All law comes ultimately from power. I have subordinated myself to a higher power, in exchange for being left in peace and given respect and offerings. The Celestial Empire binds its people in structures of rank, called nobility. There is an Emperor, to whom all answer, and Dukes, who rule large regions, and Marquis and Barons and Counts, who rule smaller regions and answer to those higher in rank, and Soldiers, who follow the orders of the nobility, and the Commoners, who are subject to rule by all above them. However, even proud nobles are not free to do whatever they wish, for the Imperial Laws restrict them in some matters, just as they do for those who hold no rank.

Your interest is pragmatic? To know what demands must be followed, so as to avoid punishment? I do not have books or overmuch familiarity. There are a LOT of rules, most of which don't apply to me. I am just a frog. I tend the waters here, and grow cranberries, and my tax to the He Clan baron is one of service, to keep uglier, more primal things away. In exchange for this, and not harming any imperial citizen unless provoked, nor destroying the things others own, nor provoking or colluding with my less benevolent kin, nor doing evil magic of [death/rot/hatred/hunger], I am allowed to continue existing under their benevolent rule.

Surely I would have been consumed by something hungrier by now, were the Empire not present. I am a thing of growth, not fighting. The gardener can only practice his trade when protected by mighty warriors.

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He can provide cranberries at whatever pace this entity wants.

"Do you know how I might learn more about what is expected of travelers here and how I might avoid causing offense until I know?"

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Difficult. Bothersome. Boring. They fear the strange and powerful. They live in one great pack called 'the empire', and outsiders are suspicious. It's not safe for your kind to travel alone, so they will suspect you twice over of being infested by some hungry thing, or one in disguise. Name-stealers, baby-eaters, voice-thieves, corpse worms, beguiling lights. Stupid tadpoles, not even truly thinking yet, but dangerous. Those things are another reason you should not leave the path- It is protected from baby-spirits too small for me to bother squishing.

And yet you bear magical items, ones that do not sing with [qi]. Such things are rare. Incredibly rare.

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"Will you tell me about the hungry things and the name-stealers and baby-eaters and voice-thieves and so on?"

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I could kill you and get away with it, you know. You're non-imperial, and intruding. But that's boring. So boring. Random murder? Pushing everything around you down? There's a difficult strength in making things grow instead.

I think there are more important questions than the details of petty spirits. The ones that aren't tiny pieces of something grand are too simple-minded to even be called 'idiots', and the ones that are mostly cannot be trusted. Whereas I find you interesting and amusing and also I derive great value from being the kind of thing that doesn't do that, so they trust me. Does that make sense?

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"Yes! Would you tell me about the more important questions?"

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What will people do when they realize you're some WEIRD THING with WEIRD MAGIC?

That is a very important question.

It's probably going to be the least boring thing I've seen this century.

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"...Yeah, that sounds about right. Any idea what the answer is?"

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Hmm. It depends on which clan, I think.

I haven't looked into imperial politics since my old partner died and I retired here rather than assist his daughter. Ah, I miss Long He...

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"What do you think I should do?"

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Try to become strong yourself, perhaps? That you can hear me so clearly shows that you are capable of [growth/cultivation/becoming]. Not useless. Not a prodigy. You'd need expensive resources to make much progress... But would become like a little god yourself, if you advance far enough. It grants me perhaps a thousand years upon this land, if I am lucky enough to perish of the slow entropy of age rather than the fast entropy of violence.

Hmm... Ah, this is annoying... It would be bothersome to protect you from the hungry things at night. You're a tiny ember as you are now, and yet those wards on you... Things of invisible impossibility, paradoxes.

The village has good wards against petty and minor spirits. You would not be safe to sleep here, even if I tolerated it, but in the village you would. You do not make the same sounds as them, though.

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"The same sounds as in the way we normally communicate with people who can't listen the way you do? Is there a way I could learn their language?"

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Some treasure to impart the imperial tongue upon you in an instant? Perhaps it exists somewhere, but not here. I could translate for you... Whatever you end up doing will probably not be boring... Hmm...

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"What do you think you might like for translating for me?"

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The easy answer would be wards. But I shudder to have possession of something so perilously unique, and not even be the source of it. No, that is inviting trouble in.

Ah. I have it. Translating would require anyway that I be your ears and mouth. Witnessing what you say and do, that shall be my payment. Also, truthfully telling people who investigate that Croaks-in-Sweet-Waters of the He clan was the very model of a good, obedient imperial spirit. (Feh.)

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