Actually, I take immense pleasure in imagining that the Minister of Rites walks in mortal terror that Marquis Yan will give him a stern look or something, because Yan stepping back into court affairs has got to have everyone in the older generation running around yelling “Fear! Fire! Flood! OMG, we’re all gonna die!” behind the scenes, plus now he’s spent years studying ritual.
I also like to think, though, that Yu’s wife’s brother is still in charge of the Review Court and is making life a petty, picayune /pain in the ass/ at every opportunity, and god but Cai wants to throw him off a tower, and Shen is rubbing his forehead and reminding everyone that they’re supposed to be /civilized beings/ here, and Jingyan is acting like he totally wasn’t about to hand Cai a sword, annoyances, for the stabbing of, no of course not.
Plus, of course, the Minister of War was a supporter of the old Crown Prince and is /sure/ to be on the take somehow. So many lovely possibilities for military affairs to be fucked up right when a) they really need to be solid and b) Jingyan can’t go kick things into shape in person any more. *sadistic happy sparkles*
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The someone is, of course, Nihuang. Because Jingyan is too self-sacrificing for his own damn good and Lin Shu may not have quite /processed/ all the back-to-life implications. If Nihuang were from the US south, she’d be saying things like “god love ‘em” and possibly even blessing their hearts. As it is, she’s smiling the “I know something you don’t know” smile and looking forward to maybe making Jingyan snarf his tea by mentioning her knowledge at a tactically decisive moment. Just possibly in terms of expanding Lin Shu’s harem, if the opportunity presents, because a fine tradition of teasing Jingyan within an inch of his life should not be let to die.
Have I mentioned that I like Nihuang quite a lot?
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Cross-post from my archive.
Fandom/Arc: Nirvana in Fire, Alternatives
Characters/Pairings: Eunuch Gao, Fei Liu, Gong Yu, Jingyan/Shu, Lady Jing, Lin Chen, Lin Shu | Mei Changsu, Liu An, Meng Zhi, Mu Nihuang, Mu Qing, Nihuang/Shu, Xiao Jingrui, Xiao Jingyan, Xiao Liyang, Xiao Xuan, Yan Yujin
Summary: Lin Shu survives, and, with a certain amount of salutary brow-beating, finds a purpose in doing so that moves him to enter the world again, seek out his loved ones, and start walking a meaningful path forward with them.
Meta: Drama with Adorable Romance, I-3
( Black Turns to Blue )
For a long time, or what might have been a long time, he was afraid he'd failed, each time he woke. He woke weak, groggy, never able to rouse to full awareness, and he knew that sensation from a decade worth of illness, fought stubbornly against it, as he always had, to push his thoughts past the fog to grip on the world again.
This time, though, he could never force himself past the cloudy uncertainness of almost-dreams. And what did that mean, if not failure, to fall ill again before his last task was done?
Today’s writing snippet:
“Don’t challenge envoys just because they’re annoying me.” Sometimes Nihuang wondered whether she should move her daily work into an office of her own, if only to keep her little brother’s nose a bit further out of her business. The rustle of paper from his table caught her ear and she added, absently, “Read the whole thing, Qing-er.”
He gave her a hang-dog look and pulled back the report of crop plans that he hadn’t spent nearly long enough on to be finished with. Nihuang smiled down at her own table, which had almost certainly been her brother’s goal. He’d gotten more subtle about teasing her, this past year. Perhaps she would move to her own office some year soon, but there were compensations for staying here, for now.
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Which is to say, Lady Liu is developing nicely, as Lady Jing’s understudy. Also, I couldn’t quite resist the running joke that she prefers weak teas and doesn’t know why this seems to amuse all Jingyan’s relations.
“There’s a certain amount of risk in it.” Lin Shu took a sip of his tea and, for some reason, gave her a look of deep amusement before turning back to the matter at hand. “He will understand quite well that I’m forcing his hand, and if I then stand openly in support of you, his fear may overcome his good sense. Again.”
Her husband’s face turned set and cold, at that. The reminder of Prince Qi’s fate made An think of something else, though. Of a certain memorial tablet, and what her mother-in-law had never quite admitted to doing, to secure it. “Perhaps,” she said, words falling softly into the quiet between the two men, “that need not be a great concern.” At Lin Shu’s raised brow, she lifted her chin, hands clasped tightly in her lap. “You should consult with Lady Jing, who often has such influence over him.”
She didn’t think her husband knew what she was saying, but Lin Shu went very still for a long moment before nodding slowly. “A wise suggestion, Lady Liu. My thanks.”
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Apropos of which, today’s writing snippet:
“Come here and let me see,” she ordered, as she had when he or Jingyan or Nihuang had managed to injure themselves training. He smiled for real at that, and came to hold out his wrist, obediently. She nearly held her own breath, setting her fingers over the pulse point, hope and fear of what she might feel tangling together, but long habit composed her to quiet attention.
And his pulse beat, sure and steady under her fingers, no hint of the stumble and catch that would tell of poison, of a body on the verge of collapse at any moment. It was weaker than it should be in a man only just past thirty, but it was steady. “It’s true,” she whispered, for the rest of them, for herself, for xiao-Shu, because she suspected he needed to hear it again, too. The laughing and shoulder-clapping among the men gave her a chance to re-gather herself, and she added, more calmly as she tugged his sleeve back down, “Perhaps I won’t do anything too very dreadful to your friend after all.”
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2ql0zt9
I can make a half-decent stab at good meaning balances, for names, and I can handwave birthdates wherever they need to be, and Wiktionary helpfully mentions the root radicals of enough names to take a swing, but it’s all very fuzzy and as for stroke number I am lost. *grumps* I don’t even know if that degree of refinement was common round 5th C.
So I’ll risk Liu An (Jingyan’s wife) and Chen Wenqian (his mother’s pre-Palace name), but I still feel antsy about it.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2pJZxTj
Not least because, as a character, she’s nearly as demanding as Lin Shu. *she says, having gotten hauled through another 2K words while attempting to concentrate on learning a new LMS at work*
“Mei Changsu?” The Lady blinked at her, hand actually paused on her cup, seeming genuinely startled.
“I’m probably being foolish,” An murmured, looking down at the delicate, celadon pot as she set it down, carefully aligned in its corner of the tray. “You must surely have thought of all this already. I just… my lord…” Gentle fingers touched her cheek, and she looked up to find her mother-in-law smiling, affectionate and yet sad. So very sad, and An caught her breath on the realization of how deep that melancholy that often hung around Lady Jing like and old, faint scent must run. “Mother…?” she whispered.
“Be at ease, child,” Lady Jing said, softly. “There is nothing in that man that is capable of betraying Jingyan.”
An nodded slowly, still uncertain. She knew Lady Jing had greater understanding of the situation than she did, but this was so counter to everything she had ever heard of Mei Changsu. Her mother-in-law’s smile lightened a little with amusement, and she patted An’s hand. “Here.” She called one of her maids to bring her a stacked, lacquer box, and set it on the table before An. “Bring them some sweets, today, and watch a little. I think you will see.”
An straightened; this was a lesson, then. “Yes, Honored Mother-in-law,” she murmured, gathering her robes to take her leave, taking the box of sweets with her.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2pHbBoJ
Lin Shu in relation to Prince Qi was a hawk; he would have been Qi’s hawk, would have flown for him, but (the critical point about hawks) would never have been actually tamed.
Lin Shu in relation to Jingyan is a cat; he’s fully domesticated, if also a total asshole at times, given to deliberately shoving things off tables, and as far as he’s concerned the proper order of the world is that Jingyan is His Person, forever amen, interlopers can expect to be casually clawed, and Jingyan can expect to be yowled at if he doesn’t pay attention promptly enough.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2pt8YeX
As a kid/very young man, we know he was already brilliant. Favored pupil of the land’s greatest scholar, started taking command of military units at something obscene like 13, commands whole armies by 19–so, both militarily and intellectually, Lin Shu is used to being the smartest person in the room, where the room is “this country and probably all the surrounding ones also”. According to Yujin, Lin Shu ge-ge was also impatient with his younger cousins and didn’t take time to explain things, and probably made disparaging remarks (this in contrast to Prince Qi’s patience). We see Lin Shu freely ragging on his older cousin, Jingyan. So he was extremely bright, irreverent, and a little wild.
As an adult, having lost his physical strength, all his capability gets channeled into strategy, into words, into seeing the big picture and knowing what strings to pull to position him (and his people) to win. We see that he doesn’t willingly give anything away until he’s foreclosed his enemy’s ability to do anything with the information (hi, Marquise Xie!), but also that he’s more than willing to dance on the edge (strolling over to take a cup of poison), and is, let’s be honest here, made of Drama (hello, standing in a boat playing the goddamn flute to announce your presence, and that was just for starters). I think we can safely say that he’s /still/ wild, probably has zero actual reverence for anything but his dead, and is now kind of terrifyingly brilliant. Now, though, he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals. I think that’s probably one of the things that changed most, though he may always have had a certain streak of ruthlessness, born of being smarter than everyone around him. In those circumstances, it’s easy to start seeing other people as tools or game pieces.
Thinking about Jingyan, in comparison, we have someone who has been headstrong, probably from the /cradle/, but is not wild at all. Rather, Jingyan is thorough and careful. He’s also got that absolute, unbending sense of rightness, which he will not sacrifice for /anything/. And I think that immovability is the key to why it’s Jingyan who was Lin Shu’s best friend, the one he chose to hang out with and fight beside and, yes, tease. Jingyan was probably one of the exceptionally few people Lin Shu could never move at his whim. And when the source and root of that immovability is a firm sense of ethics… well, there’s Lin Shu’s assurance that he’ll never go too far. Jingyan wouldn’t let him. I have a personal theory that the reason Jingyan calls his cousin by a diminutive when he’s only two years younger (and does it until they’re on either side of twenty, and /still/ does it when they’re over thirty for god’s sake) is that he sees that wild, careless-of-regular-people part of Lin Shu as his childish side. The fact that he expects and wants his cousin at his side, though, also suggests that Jingyan is drawn to Lin Shu’s brilliance and respects it.
And, even when he doesn’t recognize Lin Shu any more, Jingyan /still/ won’t let him go too far, will be the one who grounds him, who provides the stability that his cousin’s brilliance sometimes misses. I think the difference is that, as an adult, Lin Shu knows exactly what’s happening–and welcomes it with awareness this time.
So, on the shipping hand, I’m thinking that Lin Shu would give way to Jingyan’s stubbornness unless it’s tipped over into pig-headedness, and Jingyan would still consider him in every way an equal, as a matter of fact. Because of course he is, don’t be ridiculous xiao-Shu.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2qZ3qJ6
Which led me to playing with her POV, naming her An, and deciding she must be, essentially, Lady Jing’s understudy. Which leads to today’s writing snippet:
She had not expected to be particularly noticed, that day at the monastery; he’d been seeing to his men, speaking to the priests, had spared no more than a glance to be sure she was not injured. Everyone knew Prince Jing was a man of action, so she hadn’t been surprised. But even here, in the outer rooms of the Eastern Palace, somewhere that should be a place of repose and even triumph for him… he was so stern. His eyes saw her when he looked at her, yes, but he only looked for a moment before turning distant again–courteous, but so distant. Intimidated, she spoke only formal words of pleasure, and he spoke brief, formal words of welcome, and then he was gone, striding out the doors like someone shrugging off a cloak, and An bit her lip.
Lady Jing’s arm settled warm around her shoulders, and when An looked up, the Lady wore a small, rueful smile, so she dared to ask, “Mother-in-law, is my husband-to-be displeased?”
“Not displeased, child. Simply… distracted.”
Men of the military families were taught to track the movements of armies, but women who were meant for the court were taught to track other things: the flicker of an eye, the passing word, the shift of weight that could say where thoughts marched. Liu An had learned her lessons well; she heard the delicate emphasis Lady Jing placed on her words, and her heart sank. She looked down at her clasped hands and murmured, “Is there another?”
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2r71nzO
(This is going to be so many layered perspectives, oi.)
Today’s (second) snippet:
It wasn’t until the girl whispered, “I should go,” that she managed to regain a small grip on her composure, swallowing hard and wiping half-angry palms across her wet cheeks.
“Rest the night here, at least,” she offered, husky. “You’ve come a long way.” And then she looked down, really looked, and saw the wet tracks on the girl’s own cheeks, the trembling of her mouth, even when the girl’s teeth closed on her lower lip, obviously trying to conceal it. Softer, Nihuang asked, “Are you Gong Yu?”
The hint of trepidation in her eyes, when the girl glanced up answered the question, even before she nodded slowly. Nihuang took a deep breath and smiled down at her. “Stay a while, Younger Sister,” she said gently, laying a hand on Yu’s shoulder. “We can talk.”
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2r3gcmS
Note to self: Lin Shu is fucking /relentless/ once he actually hopes for something. This should have been obvious, and yet.
Today’s teaser snippet:
Slowly, as days passed into weeks, he re-learned how to stand, how to hobble, at least, and sent Fei Liu out onto the mountain’s darkening green slopes to cut staffs for him to support himself on. Slowly, as the pines put out soft, new needles and the air warmed, things other than rice started to appear in his rice porridge. Slowly, as the white and pink lotuses bloomed in Langya’s wide, stone pools, his hands stopped shaking when he tried to hold up even the lightest book.
So very slowly. And for what, now?
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And now, let us all recite together the Great Law of Fandom: IF WE DON’T SEE A BODY, THEY AREN’T DEAD.
And, really, Lin Chen went along, so we totally have a plausible out, here, as other writers have noticed already, I see. So I’ll just be over here, with my pile of sodden kleenex, making notes on traditional medicine sketching out a timeline.
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from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2qPn4nN
Of course, I know, like, five words of the language by ear, as yet, so I'm having to rely on fanposts to pick out the /really/ juicy stuff. This intro, despite being brief, gave me two nice points to dig into.
For one, I do believe that what they're all calling Mei Changsu, translated here as the "Qilin Genius", is, indeed, a reference to the qilin, better known to anime fandom as the kirin, herald or portent of a ruler or great sage. Which is delightful purely on the symbolic level, in that Mei Changsu is exactly that, narratively, and also that the ruler he choses is neither of the ones who are so hot to secure him. But I am also giggling helplessly, because, if I'm not mistaken, Mei Changsu himself is the one who composes the message in which both the crown prince and Yu are told to seek him. And can't you just picture his glinty little smirk over that? On the one hand: arrogant creature. On the other... well, talk about calling your fate to you.
The even juicier concept that post gave me, though, was jianghu. Because my goodness but this makes so much sense (in narrative and genre terms) of Mei Changsu's choice in the end.
( Suppose I should spoiler-cut this )
Okay, that got rather lyrical, but it's wuxia after all, what do you expect?
ACCA is, first of all, a single-season show, so the plotting is very tight and moves along briskly, and, most importantly, does not leave you hanging with ep 12 howling "what do you /mean/ I have to wait a year for the resolve?!".
It's also gratifyingly subtle. It starts out looking a little like a police procedural, but takes an immediate turn into complex mystery and politics. The setting is a country (or, more accurately, a federation) divided into twelve districts with country-type autonomy. The regulatory body that keeps an eye on government and trade in this situation, is ACCA, of which our protagonist is a member.
There's plenty of lovely world-building, and there are times you might wonder if the story is getting lost in an exploration of the twelve (very distinct) districts, but all of that exploration turns out to tie smoothly right back into the plot. Which is that there is a plot afoot! There is, we hear, a coup detat in the offing. Who is behind it, who is participating, and exactly what our protagonist's part in all this is, is revealed only slowly.
The reveals are actually my favorite part of this show. Every time, there are red herrings that lead you to the wrong conclusion, but there are also clues provided just enough in advance for you to figure it out and have the pleasure of having guessed right when the truth comes out. In addition, each truth, while feeling solid and satisfying, only reveals another layer of the plotting.
My next favorite part is probably the romance. Because, while there's quite a bit of romance floating around, every single romantic relationship is either torpedoed by revealed genetic relationships or else explicitly identified as one-sided. You know the thing a lot of manga and anime do, where the epilogue is years later and shows you the romantic relationships neatly tied up in marriages? ACCA flips that. The last episode features several romantic pairs saying in so many words to one another "I know it's one sided, don't worry" or words to that effect. I grinned for a /week/ on the power of that alone.
By contrast, the most obvious slash pairing ends with significant hand contact, which did make my heart go pitter pat a bit, because really, you barely need your slash colored goggles with these two. My word, romantic pairings should /hope/ to see that kind of devotion.
And, of course, my thoroughgoing favorite thing is our protagonist, who is mild and unassuming and who you really, really do not want to make angry because he will, calmly and quietly and without collateral damage, raze your entire life's work, social standing, and political capital down to the ground. Such a delightful boy. One of the best twists of the whole story revolves around his nature, and it's his nature that makes the red herring so convincing. Wonderful writing.
This is definitely one I recommend watching, ideally on a weekend when you can marathon the whole series and delight in the unfolding of it all.
I mean, for one thing, the Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ do, in fact, kick all kinds of ass, despite the bouncing boobage. This is, in fact, a story of military strategy, with far too many bouncing boobs pasted on. It’s actually really interesting, if you can just squint past the fleshtones! Which should not be necessary, and is /truly/ annoying, but…
Because, see, this one also hits one of my bulletproof kinks, dead center. Our Hero, the unassuming minor noble who just happens to be collecting a harem of Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ with the prowess of his archery, is, in the very first scene, taken prisoner of war by Our Heroine (warrior maiden the first) and he insists on abiding by the terms and remaining her prisoner. Ally. But still her prisoner, even when they’ve taken the field together to defend his homeland! And she proceeds to call him her possession, throughout. And I really just cannot watch ep 5 without squeaking gleefully when, in the middle of a strategy meeting, Our Heroine’s second-in-command warrior maiden having appealed to Our Hero to please, for pity’s sake, talk her out of a single-handed charge on the enemy, Our Heroine demands of Our Hero who he belongs to (”Omae wa dare no mono da?”) and he replies, dead level and without hesitation, that he belongs to her (”Omae no mono da.”).
Yes, that’s right, her prisoner of war uses plain forms to agree that he belongs to her. They talk to each other like this /all the time/. What am I supposed do with this, I ask you?
So I can’t exactly call this a rec, because it really depends on your tolerance for gratuitous boobage this week, but… well it’s definitely bookmarked.
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