The Mists of Paoru
19th day of the Pig (Fire Day), 3458
That was not the day I was expecting. I had guessed that even if this tribe decided not to kill me, even if they recognized I was still a Person, they would consider me odd enough that they would want me gone on my way.
Instead, the chief offered to adopt me as his daughter. Maybe if I hadn’t just lowered my expectations dramatically after believing myself to have failed in convincing them I was an honorable person, I would have been in a more clearly analytical mindset, but I was not.
Having to perform the story ceremony unprepared, being sure I had offended enough elders to sink any positive prospects, then being offered adoption as the chief’s daughter. I felt like I had been hit with one of those dazing spells Yun likes to throw around.
Yun and the rest. Mixed feelings to say the least. Even if Raktim is not, and apparently has never been the person I thought he was, the past friendship means I owe him his safety. I went to see if I could convince Yuting to teleport him to safety, but Bai intervened and asked to get help from the chief to mitigate his condition. While there, I explained that I had been made an offer to join the tribe, the declining of which would be likely taken as a high insult, so I had accepted. Tenn wished me well, but Yun and Yuting showed no interest in my staying or leaving whatsoever.
Typical, I suppose. I should be thankful to Bai for her rant this morning. I am not sure what she was trying to accomplish, but she managed to make me think clearly in about the future in a way I had been trying to avoid. Long-term, the only way I could go back to the Principalities is if Urvi had no motivation to make me disappear, which her secret plots for me indicate is unlikely. My position in society is so precarious that a far lesser political enemy could destroy me, let alone a prince. When Bai asked me to articulate my long-term goals, that crystallized in my mind, and the only way out I saw is to guess that the thrust of the plot was to slay the evil Yokai, succeed in that in a spectacular manner that would be undeniable by all parties despite happening in the middle of nowhere, and come home with such heroism that I would be politically untouchable.
As I said that, I figured it was much more likely that the Eo would simply kill me and dump me in a ditch. I have heard saner plans than the one I proposed coming from first year Iracavati students who drank the wrong potion. It was all I had though. And that assumed that Yuting would not simply decide she was too annoyed to let me live and kill me over a minor slight. Yun would probably just shrug and laugh. He has always been a callous joker, but lately it seems Yuting’s knee-jerk kill-it reaction has taken over. Raktim would probably splutter but do nothing useful. Bai might step in. So I was basing my future survival on the goodwill of Bai, the only one who would probably stop them from carrying out an end-of-mission order to kill the crazy alchemists and come home safe with all forgiven. Not happening. Bai has her own agendas, and after my experiences with the Eo of Chenmo, the Emperor’s faction is just one more place I would always be watching my back.
I know both Yun and Yuting were positively itching to kill Raktim, and given their often voiced opinions of me, I doubt either would blink at killing me if my death became convenient to them. I can deal with that, but I know where I stand with it as well – a disposable non-person.
And here was my chance to become a Person again.
I was cheered. Public approval for the first time I can remember since I graduated from apprenticeship. It came with a reminder that I was returning to a more openly brutal culture. Truly, seeing Chen Wa gasping for breath after I dragged him through the fire made me question what I was getting myself into. That said, I can do brutal. He called for a fight for the death and he got one.
Maybe I am rationalizing it. Maybe I am making excuses. But as Bai made me realize, my relationship with the Principalities was transactional. From when I had no legal options, to having only one legal option, to serving the military, to joining this mission, every benefit I gained from the Principalities came at a cost. I was constantly made aware that I was not a real part of the nation, much as Yuting and Yun strive to denigrate my contributions to the party. If they want to continue on for their country, I wish the best of luck to them. But I will not return to a nation who will likely stick the knife in one last time.
The substance the chief gave for Raktim seems to be helping. If he comes out of it enough, he can make his own decisions, problematic as they may be. I will recommend he return, or at least press his father for the real reason for the mission so he can be prepared.
Batukhan has suggested I wait to change sleeping arrangements until we reach the village. It is a little awkward staying with this group given the circumstances, but it shouldn’t be too bad.
20th Day of the Pig (Stone Day), 3458
I’m keeping an eye on the unconscious Raktim while the rest of the traveling group goes to meet Senlin Wang. I believe they’re going to teleport him home later. I think that’s probably best for him.
This will leave the Principalities without representation on the trip. For a moment I wondered if I should feel bad about that. But no, next time don’t send us out under false pretenses with rigged equipment and still expect us to play straight.
I’m sure the Imperials will go on to be snappy secret policemen, or whatever super-secret society Bai is really part of, and be very happy. Right until the intrigue catches up to them and they simply disappear one night.
I hope it works out for Tenn. He seemed like a nice guy who didn’t expect what he got himself into. Kinda like Vasan for that matter.
I’m wracking my memory for the right social cues for being in a place like this again. Even if I remembered everything perfectly, things are so different here. Different in a good way though. Hopefully Batukhan can give me the information to avoid further faux pas.
I think everything’s going to work out ok.