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Found 22 results

  1. The night was dark, and full of secrets. Well, full of ninjas anyway, creeping along the rafters outside of the private bedchamber of the Empress of Long Guo. The masked figure was fairly sure there were other observers as well, hiding unseen in the eaves, but Sī Jīn was reasonably certain that any who could see her plying her art both deserved to and knew who she was anyway. She dropped, all but silent, onto Yu Yuè's balcony and glanced through the ornamental window, making sure the Empress was in the room before she slipped inside and closed the doors behind her. "Empress Yuè." she announced, inclining her head and removing her mask in the same motion. "It's time for my weekly report." she finished. This was, of course, true, but it was also a bit of a formality that the two had only really paid lip service to. Most weeks, the 'report' was superfluous, since the Imperial Watch would have informed the empress of any major issues that warranted her attention, aside from the odd attack, political or literal, on Lián. But this week it was even more of a pretense than usual. All but nothing had actually happened with regards to the prince, which meant that Sī Jīn's paranoia and anxiety had had no real outlets except to key her up about their favorite backup subject.
  2. Today had been a pretty typical day for the brown unicorn sitting in the semi-large office. Dox, or 'Rising Star' as his students knew him, had finished the day's classes at this point and was simply going through some assignments and having some office hours in case of questions. He looked between the papers, grading them rather quickly as his eyes darted around the pages, though he was somewhat distracted by the thought of getting back to that learning spell Rose had given him. He still had more he wanted to study about it, and he was eager to see what it would learn and turn into through the process. He enjoyed his meetings with her, they usually produced interesting results and he always liked the chance to compare notes with a fellow pursuer of scholarly pursuits. Soon enough, he was done with all the paperwork and pulled a book off his shelf to pass the time.
  3. It was raining like a monsoon… Too the shock of nothing, it was that time of year after all. Yet ‘Róngyù’ was still outside training. Every day for weeks she’s pushing herself to the breaking point and then past it. She had to give everything she had as so much was at stake. The fact she’d even be let in past the gates… the fact they’d even humor with an audition for Royal Guard status made every passing day feel like a week. All her paperwork looked over a dozen times, every soldier and fellow captain she named in her papers were spoken with again and again. Nothing can be left to risk, nothing overlooked. This moment was years in the making and even if a Yokai lives for a very, very long time… she truly did not want to waste so much time. This grand game and bet was far from over after all. And laziness on her part will not see her lose it so soon. The other soldiers at the base watched with slack jaws as her blade slammed in to the next dummy. Steel caved in, wood splitters as it was not cut in half but more blown apart from the impact. Her muscles hurt, hell all her body hurt. For all the years she’s used Bullbraker it was still a huge hunk of iron to swing about. And she’s never pushed herself this hard with it before as well. In a way she was thankful for the rain dumping on her head, otherwise she’d be overheating even worse. At least she can rest easy knowing her troops had a good show to watch…. She had one more week. She’d train for six more days, rest on the last and go over there papers again. Then early in the morning depart for Huangjing. ---- ‘Never stop until you pierce the stars!’ That was one line repeated over and over in Honor Quest. No matter what came, how low she was laid, the mare in that comic never gave in. never gave up. And looking up from the warn pages of the comic Róngyù watched the walls of Huangjing come in to view. She’d never stop, she came close one time. Never gain. Not until she pierced the stars. Putting away the comic she pulled out her papers, thick as a hoof and detailing everything she can think of to prove her merit. A few more hours… --- She took a deep breath. Everything was in order. Washed up, trimed, captain's armor polished waxed and detailed. She was rested and looked alert and ready. Another deep breath, if only she can look relaxed. Glancing at the monster of a balde strapped to her side she looked it over. Clean, polished and sharp as the thick beast can be… Well, this was it. She moved her cloven hooves and looked up at the towering gates of the Royal Palace. She’d not meet the empress, odds are she’d not even see inside the building. But she did get to go into the Courtyard to meet the one that will do her audition. She did wonder what he’d be like. He’d have to be a real hero, a true champion of this land! Oh she was so close! Stopping at the gates she looked up at them and wondered what she was supposed to do now. Nock? Stay put? She’s never even been this close to the palace's walls before and felt worried she’d do something out of line. They’d know she was coming, she was on time after all and some guards must have seen her walking up. So… “Hello? Captain Róngyù Rènwù, I’m here as requested for a meeting with Feng Yinhaitao for an audition.” She spoke up some, but did not try knocking on the wooden gates for the moment. She did her best to look relaxed, at peace, but stress was eating away at her every passing moment.
  4. The First Moon: that was the name the Long Sun gave to the very first lunar cycle of the year... the dawn of a New Year. For 15 days between the first new and full moons of the year, beings all across the Dragon Kingdom celebrated the First Moon with family gatherings, dumplings, firecrackers, pageants, and all other possible methods of expressing revelry. The venerable serpent dragons also celebrated these holidays, and so it was a common sight for the youth among their kind to fly down dance in the streets of Long Guo's cities along with the qilin and longma. While it was customary for many shops and establishments throughout the country, things were business as usual over at the Imperial Palace. From the windows of Empress Yuè's bedchambers, the sounds of festivities were but faint echoes from across the Forbidden Lake. Although the royal qilin had always marked the First Moon with the importance it deserved, it had been a long time since she had actually gone out on the streets to join in the partying; not since entering adolescence. Two weeks ago had been the closest Yuè had gotten to the action in many years... this time as Empress, standing on top of a lofty gatehouse overlooking the Imperial Square as to the cheers of thousands, she officially declared the First Moon to have arrived. ...That was typically the one time each year the average commoner could catch sight of their sovereign. Although tonight the First Moon would cultivate in a lantern festival that even the Palace servants partook in, Empress Yuè had more important plans. She had a very busy day scheduled tomorrow, but inconveniently the greatest and loudest fireworks were always reserved for the final night... this night. The Empress needed to wake extra early the following morning and so she wanted to get in bed right after supper, theoretically giving the mare plenty of time to fall dead asleep before the fireworks had a chance to boom and disrupt this process. A part of Yuè wished she could stay up longer to catch the show, but as empress, she was better than lamenting about such things. And so Yù Yuè, already undressed, was giving the twilight sky and rising full moon one final glance from her balcony before intending to retreat to her luxurious empress-sized bed....
  5. Name: Hou Shuren. Also known as Blight of Huangjing, Great Divider, Empire Feller, Hou the Soul Eater, Sorceress Eternal.....being over thousand years old, she collected lot of titles. Sex: Female Age: Extremely ancient, being older then alicorn-ruled Equestria. Biologically she's a young mare, keeping herself 'fresh' due to her soul-stealing MO. Species: Unicorn Eye colour: Orchid Character Colour: White Mane/Tail/Other: Midnight black and kept long. Shuren takes great care to grooming and keeping them clean. She also incorporates golden jewellery that she embrangles into her hair. Physique: Lean but athletic. At the same time Hou appears almost ephemeral, moving with almost nonchalant grace. Residence: Wūyún Island - which is known to move along the seas surrounding Neighpon and Long Guo. Occupation: Ex-Fenghuang Monk, alchemist and evil sorceress. Cutie Mark: Black and gold cobra, sitting in the shadow of mercury symbol. Unique Traits: Dark Magic: Hou is known master of forbidden arts of arcane and is counted among the 'Seven Shadows', a known practitioners of foul sorcery. While she is known to posses considerable skill in blood magic and necromancy, her true speciality is soul stealing and manipulating wizardry. By ripping out the souls of others, she's able to halt or even reverse her ageing, which is how she keeps her youthful appearance. The stolen souls can be also used to cast other spells, like the one that made Wūyún Island mobile, or the other that made it impossible to be set hoof on it by the unwelcome. Each stolen soul also empowers Shuren a little. Seeing that she consumed well beyond thousands of them over her unnaturally long life, her raw arcane powers rival that Sunset Shimmer or Starlight Glimmer, while being far more versatile then either. The capabilities of the individual reflects on the quality of the soul in question. While the sorceress isn't above gorging herself on the large amounts of them when giving the chance (She really likes old battlefields to give an example), these days she's valuing quality over quantity. When not enjoying herself on her island or plotting another scheme, she often goes on the trips, searching for exceptional individuals to add to her collection. Shuren is also well versed in curses - placing, creating and dispelling them. From time to time she offers her services in the later...at a price. On top of that, Hou is very skilled in illusion magic - being one of the world's finest - using it to mess with ponies heads, often in very nightmarish ways. When her dark arts aren't fit for the job, illusions are what she falls back to, alongside with flame magic. Stylish Clothing: The sorceress goes a great lengths in keeping her appearance respectable. As such she takes care in what she wears. She's equally comfortable when sporting garbs from both west and east. Hou especially prides herself in possessing leather longcoat made from the hide of long (rumours being that it comes from great grandmother of current His Most Heavenly Serpent King). Martial Arts Mastery: As a former monk from Fenghuang Monastery, Shuren is extremely well versed when it comes to martial arts and weaponry used in Long Guo. Unlike most monks however, she had many, many lifetimes to practice her craft, which makes her deadly adversary at all rages and able to engage even multiply opponents with ease. Also, she actively enhances her fighting skills with her soul magic, allowing her to hit faster and harder then expected from an unicorn and inflicting rather unpleasant effects on her opponents. Because of her longevity, it's very possible that she added other skills to her martial repertoire, however her secretive nature and tendency to avoid direct confrontations makes it hard to confirm this. Information Network: Hou Shuren has numerous agents planted around the globe at her disposal, some of them aware of their role, and some not. Shuren has gone extra mile and played eugenics, to create whole bloodlines of oblivious sleeper agents, before planting them all over the world. Neighpon Corporations? Manehattan Police Department? Imperial Watchers? She has moles in them all and many, many others. Alchemy: Shuren is also a incredibly skilled alchemist, which is actually her special talent. Seeing that she had access to both wealth and basically eternal life anyway, her studies brought her to find more...practical uses for this craft. Having all the time she needs, and lacking any moral qualms when it comes to experiments, allowed her to be far ahead in the field before anypony else. Hou also studied how to incorporate her dark magic to enhance her creations, making weapons, tools and poisons that are so much harder to deal with, because neutralizing them requires extensive knowledge in both arts. History: Like most of vile sorcerers, Hou Shuren didn't start as evil incarnate. Born during the the tail end of Long Dynasty, young Hou was one of many children orphaned by the droughts brought by Emperor's hubris. At first she resorted to mendicancy - but only ones who could help were Imperial Officials - and they turned the deaf ears on the plight of the population. Young Shuren however, was a survivor, and smarter then most kids her age. The crafty filly quickly moved from countryside to the capital city itself. Realizing that you can't ask for things - you have to take them for yourself - turned her towards thievery. Hou she became pickpocket, and very good one at that. However one day she tried to steal from quilin she shouldn't. The stallion in question caught her in an attempt with ease - for he was at the time, current abbot of Fenghuang Monastery - Li Jing, visiting Huangjing to try mending the conflict between the Emperor and the Longri La. While obviously displeased with what she has tried to do, Li recognized filly raw talent.. After prodding her about her life story, Jing realized that circumstances that tuned her to such life were beyond her control - or so he thought. Li took Hou to Fenghuang Valley, and made her another of his students. Because the monks refused to obey Imperial decree of withholding from contacting Longri La - their valley was spared from famine that plagued the rest of the Empire - and as such number of aspiring monks was higher then ever. Young Hou was grateful for this decision, and so dedicated her effort into the best warrior monk she could be. As years passed, it became clear that Shuren was a prodigy, more gifted in magic and intelligence the her peers. However her efforts to please her benefactor with her progress were taken as sign of ambition, a trait frowned upon in the monastery. Hou was often lectured about virtues of patience, that she was progressing too fast. Those talks left Shuren confused, and sometimes a little bitter - after all Li Jing was gaining on years. How else she could make him proud, then succeeding him when his age forces him to step down form his role as Abbot of Fenghuang Monastery? Desperate to prove herself before her teacher, Hou pushed herself to her limits in both mind and body - rigorously tempering her martial arts skills during the day, and studying the ancient scrolls during the long evenings. Hou appetite for knowledge was insatiable, but it wasn't enough. The only thing that could put her ahead of her fellow students were the contents of the Forbidden Chamber. The lessons form her early life still resounded strongly in her heart - if you denied something, you have to take it yourself. As such the unicorn began to visit the Chamber in secret. At first nothing seemed amiss. The elder monks soon noticed how wiser Shuren became in short order, and that her diligence was finally been tempered by patience - which only became more obvious by her fresh Cutie Mark - a cobra, which was interpreted as a symbol of grace, wisdom and protectiveness within Hou. And so she soon became full fledged warrior monk. In truth however, the dark tomes and scrolls in the Forbidden Chamber slowly started to poison young mare's mind. The writings left by such 'superstars' of evil like as King Direstius, Grogar and most important of all Tyrant King Faba soon changed Shuren's perception of her superiors. She realized that they both feared and envied her capabilities, her boldness towards reaching what they themselves wouldn't dare touch. It was in this private Sanctuary of hers that Huo first started to practice the vile magic she will in future be famous for.... Not only that, she started in secret turning the other young monks towards her way of thinking. The elder monks were obvious to this, blaming the unrest among their students on the situation in the Empire - which was truthfully not great. And so Hou gathered her future followers unopposed, still being viewed as a paragon of Harmonious Path - after all, former thief had to be a good actor. When Imperial Army came to the borders of the valley, to deliver retribution on the Monastery for it's contact with the dragons, this act sparked uprising in whole Empire. Most of the older monks left to protect border of the valley, along with the teachers of Tai Shi Academy, leaving only one fifth of their numbers among them the abbot Li Jiang. With only skeleton crew to oppose them, Hou decided to reveal herself, emerging from the Forbidden Chamber at dusk. Her Cutie Mark was now changed - the serpent on her flank becoming black and gold, and behind it alchemical symbol of mercury - another art frowned upon in the monastery. Renouncing publicly the Harmonious Path, Hou sicked her followers on their former superiors - with her ponysonaly confronting her teacher in a mortal combat. The old abbot fought valiantly, but was no match for his student's youth, raw talent and dark arts she came to wield. In the end Hou Shuren killed the stallion she owed everything - by ripping his soul from his chest - her teacher becoming her first victim. Hou's first order of business after her victory was leaving now desolated monastery, taking all contents of the Forbidden Chamber with her. Shuren and her followers were free to roam Long Guo, now plunged into bitter civil war. Fallen Monks took advantage of the many battlefields that ensued in the struggle, visiting one after another and collecting still lingering souls of the slain soldiers, while conscripting many bandits into their ranks. They even desecrated the tomb of King Shelong's grandmother. Their strength finally grew to the point that Shuren and her followers could attack the capital city itself. Her dark magic felled the city walls, and soon Hou added the soul of last Emperor of Long dynasty to her collection. Her triumph didn't lasted long however. The very same day the rebel forces lead by Leader Ye, aided by Serpent King Ao Shenlong and monks of Harmonious Path appeared. In ensuing battle Hou was forced to defend herself from the great dragon, set on inflicting punishment on Shuren for her vile deeds. Unable to focus on battle, Hou couldn't directly lead her followers, and soon Fallen Monks were forced to retreat from the capital. The battle was indecisive. Ye and Seprent King pursued the evil sorceress, eventually cornering her on Wūyún Peninsula. Aware that her soldiers are tired, and not numerous enough to break the envelopment, and that Shelong will soon receive reinforcements from the Longri La, Hou performed one of the most impressive feats of dark magic in recorded history. Using large part of souls collected in course of the war as a fuel, Shuren waved the spell the broke the Wūyún from the continent, turning it into wandering isle. The fountains of molten rock and aether from depths of the world shielded sorceress from further pursuit. Using spirits gathered from this engagement Hou cast another spell - one the made her undisputed ruler of Wūyún until both sun and the moon will fall from the sky, preventing undesirables from setting hoof, or even seeing the islands. Her deeds so terrible, King Ao and Ye - now Emperor - and new abbot of Monastery agreed that any records of Hou's schism and rampage had to be erased from history. to limit possibility of anypony else from following her hoovesteps. Shuren however - while not present in any of Empire's history texts - was constantly reminding others about her existance. Soon seas around Long Gou and Neighpon became almost completely devoid of any piracy. Any aspiring corsair had to be aware that he and his crew soon can become victims of the wandering island and it's inhabitants. But unicorn sorceress wasn't idle on dry land either. Seeing that now she all the time that she needed, Shuren started to build network of agents across the continent. One that steadily grew and is active to this day. Some centuries after her rampage, sorceress attention turned to the west. For years she ignored this landmass - the prospect of contesting it with it's chaotic overlord wasn't exactly encouraging. That is until it came to her ears that two sisters - one's who were a ponies unlike those seen before - stood against him. Seeing an opportunity to play something for herself, Hou traveled to Equestria, attempting to ally with those strange new ponies. Her hopes were soon dashed, for two mares turned out to be pillars of moral character. After a short confrontation Shuren was forced to flee - for despite holding her ground, she underestimated the strength of the siblings. The sorceress didn't however returned to her island just yet. Feeling that Discord's reign was soon at it's end, she recruited agents that would serve as her eyes and ears in the nation that will come after. Next, she traveled north, to the realm she knew was ruled by the other practitioner of the dark arts, King Sombra. Although wary of each other - and not without reason - the visit turned to be quite cordial, exchanging some knowledge about the arcane, and Hou even warning the king about Celestia and Luna. Hou was also somewhat involved in crisis presented by Tirek. Since evil centaur absorbing all magic would be more then inconvenient for her, this time she sided with the Royal Sisters. While Shuren didn't participated directly, she gave some precious advice about how to deal with some of Tirek's abilities. Since then news of Hou's activities only came periodically - she remained in shadows, steadily increasing her wealth, influence and power - only appearing to test both Long Guo and Equestria whenever it suited her - mostly to clash with Celestia for her own amusement. With the Royals Sisters gone leaving the Celestia's student in charge, and new Empress siting on the Dragon's Throne, the Great Divider plans to test the mettle of both young sovereigns.... Character Personality: Hou is often likened to a snake - slithering, scheming, ambitious and traitorous. But also having magnetic, almost hypnotizing presence, charmingly intelligent, and witty in the conversation. Cunning by nature, this mare is known for spinning intricate webs to ensure she gets what she wants. Learning long ago that direct confrontation - or even control - often result in opposite of what she aimed for, she prefers to be an invisible hoof that controls all sides. Hou also came to value patience and diligence, never taking more then she can get away with at a time - this trait allowed her to survive many meetings with Long Guo heroes, and even Princess Celestia herself. Shuren's experiences also made her more....pragmatic. Combined with her longevity, this made unicorn graduate from puppy-kicking evil long ago. Mind you, she will still strangle the foal in it's cradle - but ONLY if this serves some purpose. While not coward by any means, unicorn's calculating nature makes her rarely resort to direct confrontation, unless she's sure the odds are stacked in her favor. In combat or an stand-off the sorceress will pull every dirty trick at her disposal to get on top. Honour for her, is only something that she can exploit in others. Surprisingly for a former street urchin, Shuren is infallibly 'polite', possibly her only remaining trait as former student of Master Li Jing. The sorceress wouldn't be caught dead with profanity on her lips. However this image of affability serves to make her that much more creepy, and this doesn't save one from her sarcastic remarks. To go with picture of a cultured mare, she always makes sure to look presentable and chic. She would rather drink a vial of mercury then get herself seen in rags - especially since she knows all too well how it is to wear some, back from her childhood days. Hou isn't above working with others to reach what she desires, as long as the proposed goals aren't mutually exclusive. Even then, her untrustworthy nature makes her unfit for long term alliances. One should be even more wary when she's the originator of the possible team-up - Shuren will throw her 'partners' under the bus without the second thought, if it's pragmatic enough to gain some advantage by doing so. Character Summary: The vile Long Guo sorceress aiming to dominate the world as the shadowy puppeteer. Possesses incredible skill in arcane, martial arts, practically unreachable base of operations and many servants around the world.
  6. Morning court in Huangjing's Imperial Palace always begin the same way. As per tradition, the imperial monarch's courtiers assemble during most early mornings in the Hall of the Dragon Throne; the largest and most central structure within the royal complex. Inside is a tall and expansive throne room: every square inch inside is lavished with gold ornamentation and countless decorative motifs, while rows of pillars support the weight of the ceiling above. At the head of the great audience hall sits the fabled Dragon Throne; a gold-forged treasure raised above the rest of the room by a massive set of marble stairs, and adorned with depictions of majestic serpent dragons both on the chair itself and the enormous backdrop behind. Precious few ever get a glimpse inside the Hall of the Dragon Throne, but those who do and describe what they see never fail to add further fuel to the legends about its unearthly splendor. Truly a worthy throne room for an emperor or empress of Long Guo. Once the courtiers assemble on both sides of the hall (leaving a wide gap in the middle), the Empress finally enters to take her seat, flanked by the solemn brocade-clad guards of the Imperial Watch. All the gathered officials are expected to kowtow at this time, shouting; "LONG LIVE THE EMPRESS! LONG MAY SHE REIGN!" With proper reverence to the Heavenly Daughter of Dragons having been demonstrated, proceedings of court can finally begin. All those gathered must abide by the ancient rules of stately decorum: step directly in front of the stairs leading to the Throne when prompted by the Empress, always step forward (for the chief ministers who stood in front) or walk to the hall's center when commenting on the words of another, no outbursts of unchecked emotion, no gazing directly at the Empress unless addressing her, and NEVER use the sovereign's given name..... — The Empress herself looked radiant as an empress should. Decked in her finest diyi of red shimmersilk along with a delicate crown of great beauty, there was little doubt that the qilin mare looked the part of Long Guo's ruler. Her attention this morning was drawn towards a very important guest, standing in front but off towards the side. His presence meant that today's morning court would be a symbolically important one. "Before we move on to usual matters of state, there is a very important dignitary among us today who must be granted due attention. He has traveled a long distance, in the name of friendship between beings... of all nations. .....May the honorable Shogun of Neighpon present himself at this time."
  7. The only foot access to and from the Imperial Palace is a heavily fortified (if very aesthetically pleasing) drawbridge over the moat, connecting the palace island to the Forbidden Lake's southern shore. As far most people are concerned, the closest they'd ever get to the Imperial Palace is the gatehouse at the bridge's southern end: the Water Gate. An ornate tower situated upon a wall-like platform, the Water Gate is one of the most famous landmarks within Huangjing. Lying in front of the Water Gate is the Imperial Square; a massive plaza lines with statues of Long Guo's greatest rulers and heroes. On occasion, subjects of the Dragon Kingdom gather within the square to listen to an address by their emperor from reviewing stands atop the Water Gate's platform. For many, such momentous events are the only time they ever get to witness their beloved monarch. Today would not be such a day. Yet for a group of fillies and colts, something even more magical was in the works: a tour of the closed-off Imperial Palace itself! ------------------ It was a half-hour past breakfast, and Kaze fidgeted impatiently as she waited in the Imperial Square with her golem companion Mr. Twig and the rest of the kids in her field trip group. Aside from them, there was little activity in the Square aside from well-to-do denizens of the capital city's Inner Ward mulling about or the occasional official passing through the Water Gate on imperial business. The little sister of the Neighponese Shogun was now of age to start visiting the world outside her home nation. But rather than visit Long Guo in the company of her distinguished brother or even Daddy, they had somehow inserted the young ryuma into a delegation of young Equestrian children; the first Nations of Harmony initiative of its kind. Truly a historic day to be sure, but Kaze wasn't interested in all that. All she wanted to know was what was taking the Prince so long to get here. Gosh darnit, Kaze wanted to start exploring a forbidden palace that wasn't also her own home for a change..... *OOC: Sign-up thread is here. As of this post, two child slots are still available.*
  8. One fun part of being a kid: getting to go on awesome field trips. Especially to places that most people never get to visit! As part of efforts to link all countries with the magic of friendship, the Youth Council of the Nations of Harmony (ie. pony-UN) is granting an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for kids from all around the world to visit the Imperial Palace of Long Guo. Children who attend will be given a guided tour by no other than Prince Lián, brother of the Empress. Who knows, perhaps a personal meeting with Long Guo ruler itself is in the cards? It doesn't matter where your child OC comes from, all are free to sign-up regardless of where they come from. Children aged up to adolescence are all permitted. Five open slots will be available for the tour group, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Before I get the RP rolling, I'll also have to select one more responsible adult who'll serve as group chaperone for the little kiddos. Anywho, sign-up time: Tour Guide: Prince Lián Tour Guide's Assistant: Sī jīn Kid #1: Kaze Kid #2: Echo Kid #3: Apple Bloom Kid #4: Wind Walker Kid #5: Aspen Kid #6: Group Chaperone: Big McIntosh
  9. Cold scales lay on colder tile. Fur and feathers did little to hold heat against the shivering wreck that wrapped itself in loneliness and soft sobbing. Limbs, tail, and wings splayed, Qing was a right mess. The cool floor of the small bathroom down the hall was momentarily soothing to Qing’s aching stomach, but only just. The feeling of malaise lingered long after the offending allergen had been disposed of. Physiological ailments Qing could recover from. She had encountered many in officer school and while growing up. But the wounds which continued to weep and fester were not inflicted upon her body. She had failed in her service to the empress. Where a flawless party was to be planned and executed, she had let one thing after another derail her, resulting in the debacle she now had on her hooves. Then there was the matter of Discord. God of Chaos, Prince of Puns, Monarch of Mischief. Whatever he chose to call himself he had disrupted the proceedings with all the graceful elegance of a typhoon in a vase shop. Except the evening was not ruined by Discord. It was ruined by Qing’s failure to adapt. She could choose to blame the spirit for his antics. The court might even believe her. But in her own mind, she knew the truth. Her stomach rumbled one more time, but Qing was far too tired to move herself from where she languished. She would pick herself up and return to her apartment when she had gathered her strength. But until then, the cold floor was what she needed… what she deserved.
  10. Haungjing City; the political and cultural capital of the great Empire of Long Guo. Anyone seeking the key to this ancient civilization would have to start here, and many did. Artists, writers, reporters, traders, and ambassadors congregated here, meeting the voluminous streams of local inhabitants, pilgrims, supplicants, and travelers in one large cataract of a city. It could get a little wearisome for those not used to urban environments. Of course, Halvard of Clan Breen was fully aware than cities even more congested, bustling, and discordant existed, but he had never had to spend so long a time in one for any reason. Right now, however, he found himself significantly bogged down in trade and political negotiations. It wasn't that he couldn't understand the hesitancy on the part of the Long Guo Bureaucracy; after all, caribou did not exactly have the best of international reputations, and the New Direction his clan (along with some others) wished to follow under the new High King was... disputed, to say the least, by the more unreformed elements of Caribou society. Thus, after a long day of sweating over endless reams of paper in a dusty room, Halvard had left the confines of walls and streets for an evening stroll outside in the gardens and woods surrounding Huangjing. He sighed happily, shaking his blue-dyed coat to feel the sunset breezes. All adults of his clan had their fur dyed blue; it was one of the most recognized clan signs in Whitescar. Breen were the traders and guardians of the roads, those whose sails the other coasts dreaded not, for they brought goods to trade, rather than warriors to raid. Not that they weren't warriors themselves, gods no! They just had a tendency to fight more defensively, helped by the fact that their wealth from trade enabled many fighters to afford heavy armor. Halvard wasn't wearing his, currently, or anything much for that matter. Just a satchel, along with what looked for all the world to be a cross between a pickaxe, sledgehammer, and a shovel. It was technically a weapon, but could be used for work as well. *And honestly, if any peasant here desired my help, he'd have it. I need to do something after all this... sitting around!* Snorting at the thought, he continued, in search of something interesting, beyond tiresome negotiations.
  11. *OOC REQUIRED READING*: http://www.canterlot.com/topic/22604-lore-long-guo-mount-faba/ This should have been the crowning achievement of Dr. Merlot's career. No prize in the field of archaeology had been sought after more than the resting place of the monstrous serpent dragon Faba, the Great Tyrant King of the Ancient East. According to the lore of the Long Sun, King Faba and his army of serpent dragons were turned into terracotta statues upon their overthrow and buried beneath an unknown mountain. However, most archaeologists had come to the conclusion that King Faba's mythical tomb never existed, as no evidence could be found anywhere that the supposed subterranean complex was ever constructed. ...Until now. Dr. Merlot didn't believe it at first when word privately reached his ears via new "benefactors" of his that physical evidence of King Faba's Tomb had come to light. Apparently, a shadowy cult devoted to Faba managed to safeguard a millennia-old scroll detailing the exact location of Mount Faba; a desolate nondescript mountain on Long Guo's eastern frontier. Merlot's benefactors were suspicious of the discovered clue too, hence why they sought out the good doctor for his expertise. Believe it or not, the gentlecolt's examinations revealed that the artifact in question was indeed genuine. And now from a rocky vantage point flanking the excavation camp on Mt. Faba's western slope, Merlot took in his surroundings as he fidgeted with a new pin on his lapel. ...A pin depicting the black kraken of WRAITH. Despite partaking in the greatest archaeological endeavor since the discovery of King Mutt's Tomb in Diamond Dog territory, Dr. Merlot was not in a mood to celebrate. The stallion might have been the lead archaeologist of this expedition on paper, but in truth WRAITH was in charge... and without actual clues in their possession as to the actual entrance of Faba's mausoleum nor what was inside, WRAITH's goons saw fit to carelessly drill and dynamite the mountainside wherever they pleased. Dr. Merlot tried raising objections, but was silenced; they claimed the good doctor should be grateful he had an organization backing him with the horsepower and willingness to maintain absolute security at every cost. Tsk tsk tsk... at least Merlot would get to retire in splendor as the most renowned archaeologist of all time. And there would be nopony to stop him this time!!!
  12. Two Weeks Off Duty. It wasn't as if Feng hadn't dealt with such lapses in his guard schedule before; the Watcher's very zeal was often the cause of his involuntary vacations. Well, 'vacation' wasn't quite the right term; 'recovery leave' was more accurate. This time, however, things were different. This was an Empress-Dictated relief of duty, pursuant on certain lapses of decorum at a certain banquet with certain foreign dignitaries. In his defense, Feng would still maintain that it could have been poison! Some poisons looked very much like allergic reactions. Nonetheless, it had caused an unseemly ruckus, and he was hardly going to argue the point with Yu Yue. But the upshot of this break was, instead of being confined to his rice mat while his body healed, he was in full physical shape with nothing to do. This was a novel and somewhat distressing situation. Not having very many hobbies, he found himself working his exercise routines even harder, just to keep himself from going crazy. This led him to being hungry beyond the ability of his rations to satisfy... and therein lay the main problem. Normally, he'd head down to the kitchens, chat up the cook, and leave with a bundle of goodies. However, his friendship with Yanhua, the Imperial Chef, was under a bit of a strain since his allegations of poison had naturally thrown some suspicion upon her. The whole thing had been proven wrong, of course, but the distress caused to the innocent was real, and difficult for him to face. Eventually, after a few days, the emptiness in his middle grew too insistent to ignore, so Feng felt he had no choice but to stallion up and face the music. And so, after too many hungry nights, he allowed the savory smells down the hall, and through the steam-shrouded doors into the kitchens...
  13. *INNER WARD OF HUANGJING NEARBY IMPERIAL ACADEMY FOR MAGICAL STUDY* All around Yù Yuè was nothing but the serenity of trees, a crystal-clear pond, and a quacking pair of mandarin ducks swimming about in it. Even an Elder Long could be lulled to sleep by the soothing qualities of nature pervading the area. The Empress — garbed in a sparkling shimmersilk robe of floral patterns on red — looked just as scenic as her surroundings. A modest crown (by Long Sun standards) decorated the royal mare's head, her hair meticulously styled to accentuate the neckline. All in all, a creature of imperial elegance. The stallion currently privileged to stand beside Empress Yuè was one of the newer instructors at the Imperial Academy, a dutiful unicorn named Silverheart whom was personally recommended to the Academy posting by the Empress. A token band of hoofmaidens and bodyguards stood in silent vigil behind, ensuring the Empress and her companion enjoyed all the privacy they needed. Obstinately, Yuè had come to relay how pleased the Academy's headmaster was with Silver's performance so far... and to extend to the Equestrian an invitation to a palace banquet tonight. Yuè's brother — Prince Hēi Lián — would finally be home in Huangjing with his retinue a few hours from now after an extended stay in the Western realms. Doubtless Lián will be surprised to find a celebration in his honor ready for his return. Yuè missed him dearly. For one reason or another, the conversation between Empress Yuè and Instructor Silverheart meandered onto other topics. At the moment, the focus of Yuè's tangent were the mandarin ducks she was pointing out to the unicorn next to her; ".....They say in Long Kong that the drake and the hen make an odd couple, because their plumage is nothing alike. And yet the pair mates for life, all the same." Nobody could ask for a more serene moment. Only a being of pure chaos would wish otherwise.....
  14. In the middle of the Void, a qilin emperor spoke from his perch on the Dragon Throne; "You must honor our traditions, my daughter." The young qilin mare vainly attempted to reach out to the emperor; "Wait, Father...!!!" Too late: the Emperor withered away into ashes right in front of the horrified mare. CRASH! BOOM! The heavens roared with the fury of lightning and the roar of typhoon-force winds! The qilin mare screamed desperately as she hanged onto her plummeting sky chariot. Before her laid nothing but the maw of the abyss, and sharp piercing cold..... ----------------- With a great gasp, Empress Yuè shot up on all fours! She was on an icy mountaintop in the middle of an alpine blizzard, mere inches from a vertigo-inducing precipice. Startled, the qilin mare back away from the edge and took in everything around her to get a sense of her situation. Yuè's robes were in tatters, and bruises covered a good portion of her body. One foreleg even had a cut that was bleeding! No serious injuries though, that was fortunate. As the qilin exhaled, she was able to generate small puffs of flame which warmed the air around her, if only too briefly. Her ability to breathe dragonfire remained intact too. The memories of Yuè weren't all that clear though. She and the Shogun of Neighpon had been making a joint voyage to Longri-La via sky chariot. There had been a large serpent dragon spotted off in the distance... except it looked more beastly than noble. The next thing they knew, the entire retinue was at the mercy of a freak storm and the chariot drivers couldn't maintain altitude. No safe spaces anywhere to crash land in the Ancients' Abode, but there was a flat patch of snow on a mountainside. In a snap decision, the bodyguards must have tossed the Empress and Shogun onto the smoothest patch of land there was. As flight wouldn't have been possible under such conditions, the bodyguards would have gone down with the chariot down in the rocky chasms below. In front of Yuè laid an entrance to a cave... shelter! That must have been the other reason why she and Shogun Ryuichi were thrown onto the mountainside. Here was a place the royals could take refuge until a rescue party could recover them. But... where was the Shogun? The distressed empress cried out; "RYUICHI!!!" A couple more seconds later, and visual scanning finally found the ryuma stallion. It... didn't look too good for the Neighponese shogun.....
  15. *THE IMPERIAL PALACE: ROYAL BEDCHAMBERS* Curse the overdiligence of palace servants! Whereas a normal being would have been left to limp on following a sky chariot crash in the mountains, the Empress of Long Guo was confined to a world of rest and recuperation on the recommendation of the imperial household's wood synergist. As long as the healer Xiu deemed it necessary, Empress Yuè was kept a virtual prisoner in her own palace while she recovered from a bruised left foreleg and other minor cuts and lesions. Until the royal qilin's leg was fully healed, she wouldn't be permitted to go anywhere — not even to the washroom — without the assistance of a palanquin... and all its bearers. No expense was spared in maintaining the imperial sovereign's well-being. Although the Empress understood that her good health was of paramount importance to the Dragon Kingdom, it didn't make her recuperation any less frustrating. So many things Yuè could be doing to rule her nation, yet none of them feasible without constant interruptions from the many many treatments ordered by Healer Xiu each day. Between those and all the prescribed teas, the qilin mare was currently reduced to laying belly-first on her implausibly luxurious emperor-sized bed, not bothering to wear any garments. With the drapes surrounding the bed all closed, Yuè was at least free to waste the afternoon catching up on her anthology of historical Trottin Hoof ballads, all translated into Dragonese. Suddenly, Qing's voice from the entryway; "Miss Yuè, Mister Silverheart is here to see you." That news from Yuè's personal assistant elicited a smile out of the qilin. "Send him in," she authoritatively instructed. The silver-maned stallion from Trottingham never failed to be a good source of company; something the Empress could probably use right about now.....
  16. Greetings! While I’m no stranger to OOC threads, this is the first time I’ve done anything of this particular sort. So then, let’s cut to the chase; my newest OC is no other than Yù Yuè — the Empress of Long Guo — and I’d like to see plenty of relationships established between her and other characters. Since she comes from a new land we’ve just released, this will mean that in many instances, you fellow players will have to make new OCs entirely from scratch. However, for those who want opportunities to RP with the Empress and weave stories for our new Eastern realms, well this is your big moment! Here is a general list of the sort of relationships that I’d like my Empress to have. These suggestions are by no means the only ones possible, so lemme’ know here or through PM if you have something unique in store. Due to the unique nature of this thread, I encourage players to promote prospective characters that are not yet apped. ----------- The Imperial Secretariat - This body of five high-ranking ministers serve as Yuè’s personal advisers on all matters of state. Each of them would have served under her late father and are highly experienced at their administrative jobs. More likely than not, an adviser will likely question whether Yuè is fit to be an empress or not. Regardless of their feelings towards Yuè, they are expected to strictly obey courtly protocol and decorum in her presence. The five positions in the Imperial Secretariat are as follows: Chancellor - The chief adviser. A scholarly mandarin who would have needed to pass many imperial examinations and kiss up to all the right officials to earn a post in the Imperial Palace in Huangjing. Runs everything that’s not directly handled by the other advisers. War Adviser - A general or admiral of some sort who has participated in many campaigns. Oversees the armed forces of Long Guo. Revenue Adviser - Their accumulated wealth earned them this position. Responsible for collecting taxes and handling state revenues. Spiritual Adviser - A Master of the Harmonious Path; preferably from a branch that doesn’t promote asceticism. Highly skilled in dragonbreath magic and is a purveyor of mystic wisdom. Manages court ceremonies and diplomatic affairs. Most likely to approve of Yuè as the Empress. High Censor - Head of the Imperial Watch. Must be comfortable with issuing morally questionable orders when necessary, and keeps certain secrets hidden from the Empress herself (and her late father before her). The Imperial Family - Yuè already has a twin brother, but there are still plenty of other potential family members to be apped. Yuè’s mother is still alive, and there are plenty of older half-siblings as well sired by her late father (from a different mom). In one capacity or another, a half-sibling ought to legitimately claim greater aptitude to rule than their younger sister, although each would also have a fatal flaw that made their father reject having them on the Dragon Throne. I imagine that one or two of them REALLY want to become the next ruler... no matter what it takes. The Imperial Household - Hordes of servants are required to keep the Imperial Palace as a beacon of Imperial majesty; from artists and dancers, to hoofmaidens and guards of the Watch. Directly supervising them is a Chamberlain, a veteran at the job who enjoys closer personal access to the Empress than even the Chancellor. All Household members are also expected by tradition to strictly obey courtly decorum in Yuè's presence. NOTE: no servant should be an actual eunuch, although they are free to have the mannerisms of one. Prospective Consorts - It is only logical that many would want Yuè’s hoof... in marriage. She’s the most eligible bachelorette, after all. Likely, many who wish to seek the heart of the Empress will do so with less-than-noble intentions, although there are probably also a few with genuine unrequited feelings for their beloved Empress. High Society - The rich and famous who are lucky enough to be granted entrance into the Imperial Palace for select occasions. Most likely reside either in the Inner Ward of Huangjing or a posh neighborhood in Long Kong. Except for a few cultural differences, they highly resemble the high society of Equestria. Fellow Monastery Students - Yuè and her twin brother spent their adolescence learning with the Fenghuang Monks. Yuè would have gotten to know many students there. Older students may have acted as mentor-figures during her early days as an initiate. Younger ones may have had the honor of being mentored by Yuè herself. Anyone at Fenghuang would have gotten a positive impression of her. Monastery Tutors - Likewise, Yuè would have made a positive impression on the Masters who live as monks at Fenghuang Monastery. Perhaps one or two monks still keep in touch with the Empress. Childhood Friends & Acquaintances - Yuè didn't confine herself to the Imperial Palace in her pre-adolescent youth, so she would have met various Long Sun either in Huangjing or the secluded Fenghuang Valley village where her ex-consort mother moved to. Yuè would also be known to additional Fenghuang Valley locals once she became a Harmonious Path initiate. Enemies - As a new empress, Yuè will likely encounter opportunistic foes of all sorts. Frontier barbarians, triads, cultists, ninja, coup plotters... the list of potential threats goes on and on. Allies - Of course, the Empress will have to rely on all sorts of allies outside her Court. Serpent Dragons, characters who'd be right at home in a wuxia-inspired setting, even foreigners from across the sea... Yuè will need everyone she can get for the conflicts to come..... APPED CHARACTER ROSTER: ----------- I hope that didn't overwhelm you all, haha. But yes, tell me if you have a different sort of relationship with the Empress in mind.
  17. Roleplay Type: World of Equestria Name: Jiang Fēngbào Sex: Male Age: Adult Species: Longma Eye Color: Deep cherry Coat: Sangria reddish blue Mane & Tail: Berry blue Physique: Keeps himself in shape, tall and fit, with a presence and manner that show very well his royal upbringing. Residence: The Imperial Palace in Huangjing. Occupation: Prince of Long Guo, though one not as honored as others of the royal family. Cutie Mark: Storm clouds with a sword or jian overlaid on top. Unique Traits: Observant and with a sometime piercing sense of humor that can both bring as smile to the face as well get one to consider. Often sparking with an idea and with a swiftness in finding a solution to a problem. Can tell when a storm is ready to move in, whether it is thunder or just rain. History: Jiang doesn't discuss his mother or her side of the family with others, given the shame she brought and what she tried to do. He was just lucky that the Emperor didn't blame him for it she did, being so young, and allowed the colt to stay a part of the royal family. Despite this kindness, which he was eternally thankful for, it wasn't until later that Jiang will consider this being part of the reason why he was passed in becoming heir to the throne. Though he wouldn't learn the details of such until later, it was through pressure from her family that the young widower sought out the attention of the Emperor. This because of their desire to gain control of the throne. Yet they failed in removing him before, their plans of assassination coming to light before meeting fruition, and their punishment quite severe for their treason again the Emperor. Jiang was never able to see his mother again nor was he ever told exactly what happened to her. Jiang had no idea where he'd be, if it wasn't for having the Emperor as his father even if their familial connection with due to marriage. Though given all that had happen, colt when young found himself to be quite sensitivity to criticism, especially in connection to or mention of his mother. This was a flaw that couldn't be ignored, as such defensiveness and even upset came at the disapproval of the Emperor for such behavior even if he could see where his son was coming from. Yet time goes on and, understandably, the Emperor remarried and the royal blood continued. with Jiang admittedly finding himself at times jealous and frustrated with the lack of attention, though the colt understood that he couldn't take it out on his new sister in law nor her twin brother. Because of this, he at first tried to avoid Yù Yuè but then found himself drawn to her once she started getting a bit older. He try to keep serious and quiet but couldn't help but smile at times while watching her. Eventually, he even found himself playing with her and spending more time with Yuè as well at times even Lián. Taking up the role of an older brother to them and gaining a fondness for the young filly in particular, despite the them not being related by blood. Even though deep inside Jiang felt bothered by his situation, he didn't blame his younger siblings for such. He even took a more protective interest in Yuè, knowing how many desired the throne much more then he did and might do anything to gain such. As they grow older, Jiang take a more playful or teasing manner with Yuè and even joked around with Lián though usually when there wasn't many others around. More, he made it clear in little ways that he'd be there if she needs somepony to talk to or simply have some company, that the he'd provide a listening ear and friendly advise. That while he may good naturedly annoy her at times, he does it not out of ill intent but because he does cares. That it was his wish for her to be happy and to stay safe. That he'd come to show her kindness, becoming her friend and ally, as well offering protection from those who may try and do her harm. In how Jiang gained his cutiemark came at the surprise of both himself and others, during the night of a sudden and unexpected storm which came fiercely. Causing much damage and with many harmed. With the young stallion helping where he could in forming barriers and rescuing those in need, showing bravery and concern for those in danger despite how he had so often not involved himself or socialized as much as he could. Once the storm had past, with a few scraps for his trouble, and things had come down is when it was seen that his cutiemark had been gained. Though he was never admittedly as close with Lián as his sister, given the time he spent with their mother, the two did get along and Jiang would from time to time invite him to have a drink with him or hang out. Now that Yuè was the Empress, he keeps an eye on those seeking the throne, those who may be fair more willing to do anything to gain the throne. That when Yuè was chosen, the stallion was one of the first to bow his knee. One of the first to show his encourage and approval despite the surprise of many that the old Emperor made such a decision. Yuè was the Empress and he'd offer his quiet support, no matter where life may take them. Apart from the twins Yuè and Lián, the stallion really didn't have any friends or those that he felt close to except for the late Emperor. Jiang so often simply kept more to himself, being more approachable given his demeanor and of how the actions of his mother and her family effected him even into adulthood, yet if one approached him and offered their friendship the longma wouldn't turn them away. Instead he had focused on his education, reading and enjoying music, or keeping a watchful eye on his siblings. Personality: Generally calm and quiet, though he does have certain things that can set him off and show his temper. This largely being when discussion of his mother or her side of the family comes up, or if any speak ill of the late Emperor or his sister the current Empress. Still, he also tends to try and keep a smile on his face, with a light hearted demeanor. Not as serious as many of the royal family, given how the stallion feels he has little reason to try and stand out, the stallion is one more likely to get into trouble or mischief. More, he can reveal himself to be one who enjoys teasing and showing a more playful side around friends or family, but less open with strangers. Those who get to know him will learn that he is one very loyal to those he is close to and cares about, with a lot of passion often kept hidden. He takes enjoyment of music, literature, and walking the gardens or exploring the quiet or beautiful places of Long Guo when given the chance. His greatest motivation is making sure Yù Yuè stays safe and unharmed, to be a support to the mare.
  18. Sure enough the prince slept soundly. Lian was a quiet and peaceful sleeper, picturesque some would say. Though he was also a fairly heavy sleeper and at times was as difficult to wake up as a hibernating Long. This day however was not one of those days. The soft rustling of the curtain and the faint beam of light that slipped through coupled with the curious scent of flowers stirred the qilin awake with a soft yawn and a looooong stretch. Through the curtains of his bed he saw the familiar figure of Si Jin. Likely with breakfast, but was she wearing perfume? He didn't take for for the type. Rubbing the sand from his eyes, Lian exhaled and the curtains around his bed parted. "Ahhh. Good morning!~" The hoofmaiden's head jerks up quickly. "Aiya! Oh! Good morning, my prince. S-several matters await your attention after breakfast." she says, tucking the scroll behind her back and cursing her decision not to wear a robe yet. Her mane was already in the tight bun she used before she'd gotten her armor and clothing on, but she had neither as she'd intended to get dressed while Lian did. Ancestors take the timing of it all! The one morning Lian slept lightly. "I trust you slept well?" Lian gave a little nod and a smile as he grabed a brush from his bedside stand and began to comb. "Like a babe. But something is on your mind." he replied as he glanced over at his friend. "You don't usually jump even when I surprise you." The mare blushed a little and, not for the first time, wished she could use her Pearl to store or summon things for her own benefit rather than only for another's. "Some late mail is all, my prince." She said, regaining her composure. "I was not expecting it and it caught me off guard." Not technically untrue. "Oh? Well I certainly hope it was good news! I won't pry into your private matters though." Lian sniffed at the air once more and smiled. "I take it the smell in the air has something to do with the letter as well?" "It was perfumed, yes." She answers, distracted again but more at ease now that she knew Lian wasn't in a teasing mood. She wasn't sure she could handle that just now. Nor how much of Chiyo's inner workings were safe to reveal to him. Well, the clan's inner workings anyway, her own were hardly a mystery. "My waking thought was to ask when you started wearing perfume." he said with a coy little grin. "But I figured better to hold off on that." The prince finished with his mane and rose from his bed with another hardy streeeeetch! "I usually do wear perfume, you just prefer subtle scents. It's easy to lose it in the palace, my prince, with so many lovely mares trying to get your attention." She casts a glance at him from the corner of her eyes and nodded to herself, internally. She'd chosen a poor stallion to fall for, but she'd chosen a good stallion to fall for. The qilin chuckled. "Well should you change your mind on subtle, I'd not argue with a scent like this." Lian grinned as he sat about towards the washroom to brush his teeth and continue his morning routine. Si Jin sighed and wiped the sweat off her brow. She took the opprotunity while Lian was seeing to his ablutions to get herself dressed and the letter tucked away...in...seriously, what DID this thing mean..? She understood the message, but why now? And why was she being REWARDED for breaching the contract? She sat in front of Lian's uneaten tray and stared at the letter. It wasn't long before Lian returned. He always had this bad habit of forgetting his meal, brushing his teeth then having to eat and just repeat the process. "One of these days I swear I'll get this." he said with a laugh as he bit into the toast. He was silent for a few moments as he chewed and afterwards as well. "There's something more to that letter. Isn't there?" Si Jin shook her head and sat the letter on the empty tray. "Sorry, prince Lian. It's complicated and I'm not sure I understand, but it bothers me. The letter is from...well, who is not important, but they have the authority to reassign me. Which they have. I think they found out about your sister's...manuever." The prince let his toast clatter to the plate as he looked up at Si Jin. "You're not. Ahem, that is. Your reassignment. It's not taking you far, is it?" The hoofmaid frowns and gestures at the letter, explicitly granting permission for the princec to at least attempt to decipher it. She waits until he starts reading it, then says "The code should be simpler to understand knowing that it's a code. And that the inks are different colors." The prince reads over the letter, studying it quietly. Knowing there's a code does indeed help, but it takes him a few moments to decipher the meaning in his head. When he does though he breathes a sigh of relief. "If I read this right, you've been reassigned to me?" Si Jin nods and smiles , then frowns as she takes the letter back "It...shouldn't have happened though. My...employers don't work that way. It's important to know my original contract was for ten years, not five. That bit of code is a Kachinonai...well it's like an exile, I suppose. I'm not welcome in their village, even if your business should carry you there. That is...light, compared to what others would have received for not reporting a mission's outcome." Lian frowned and stayed quiet for a few moments. Si Jin had her secrets, and the prince was polite enough to never pry deeper than he felt the need. This was one of those times it was best to not ask too much. For now though, the qilin did something he hadn't ever really done before, and embraced Si Jin in a hug. "I am truly sorry if I am the cause of your exile..." Si Jin leaned into the embrace. This was one of the many things in which she was trained that she was more than happy to do with Lian even if she hadn't been. "No, it was a difficult situation, and it was my fault. I should have immediately reported the fact that the Empress had her own bodyguards and...and allowed myself to be reassigned. However things were not so simple as that and I let m- I acted with a complete disregard for the customs of my people." "You and my sister are alike in some ways you know. She too tends to disregard that she is a pony first and a figurehead second." the prince sighed softly. "This is one of those situations where I wish I knew more, but I respect you enough to not ask. Despite really wanting to ask. Regardless though. You are your own pony first and foremost." "Lian, there may come a day when you will know everything there is to know of Clan Chiyo, I truly wish that were today. What I can't tell you would fill an entire library of burned scrolls." Si Jin mumbled to herself, forgetting her inside-the-head voice for a moment. The prince chuckled softly and pulled back from the hug slowly, gently brushing a strand of mane out from Si Jin's face. "Prehaps another day then." She'd said that out loud. Ancestors preserve, she'd said that out loud. She pulled away and scanned the room quickly, straining her ears. "I'm...I'm sorry, that was-That was wholly inappropriate, and you shouldn't have heard that." she said, straightening herself up and glancing out the window as if she expected a kunai to come back through it. "Heard what?" he asked with an innocent face as he continued eating his breakfast finally. "The last thing was said was just me saying that you are your own pony." Lian smiled and drank his juice. There was a long, pregnant pause in the air while Si Jin calmed herself down. She wasn't used to being out of sorts like this. She was a Shinobi. Kunoichi of the Chiyo clan. She'd been trained to maim and kill with the barest of efforts and nerves of steel. And here this stallion was, able to waltz through her nerve and her defenses like she was the vapid little courtier she pretended to be. Kami blast her she even thought like them more often than not! "Hitomi." This was not tradition. This was not what "Chiyo, Hitomi." was trained for. But if she was going to really do this, she had to trust him sometime...right? "The new silk screens you ordered. They will need to go back, someone will have slashed a hole in one by the time it arrives. It will have been ugly anyway. And you have a poetry reading with your half-brother." "A lovely name." he said with a nod after finishing his drink. "That's a shame, they looked so delightful in the catalogue. But I suppose pictures can't do some things justice then. I've always loved those poetry readings you know? I've never been good at writing them as he has, but it's always a good time to just...relax and unwind and forget about the world even if just for a few moments." "Just a mare from a tiny diving village." Si Jin responded, cagily. Then she shook her head, "He does it to show off you know. 'See how much more creative and cultured I am than these pretenders?' Did we ever figure out if he was behind the bees or if that was your cousin?" "I'm sure she's more than that." he said as he sat about brushing his teeth again. "He does, yes. But it's a mask to hide insecurity. As for the bees? I'm unsure. I believe it was my cousin, but there's no proof one way or the other." "If there was we'd need to keep an eye on one fewer Feng..." Ahem, not counting Yu Yue's 'secret' suitor. "Regardless, you'll be there most of the day, which is when I'll address the woefully damaged screen. A shame someone ruined the poison." Lian looked up quickly, toothbrush hanging in his mouth. "Poison?" he questioned before rinse-spitting. Si Jin waggled a hoof. "I don't know who, and I think it would have just made you sick, unless they switched the poison. My...supplier mentioned that someone had bought out all of their stock. I was able to follow it to the silk workshop who's handling the screen. If it turns out the poison was used somewhere else I'll let them go through." The stallion arched a brow and shook his head. "I'll never understand why ponies feel like trying to poison me will avail them anything." "They want to hurt Yue. I don't let them find out about failed poisoning attempts so that they think no one else has ever tried. So everyone thinks they came up with the idea first, makes thwarting it easier." "Makes sense." the prince sighed. "I sometimes wish her and I had stayed with mother...This whole...royalty thing is so much more difficult than needs be." Si Jin blushed and stared out a window. "There...are some perks." she says, thinking about the idea of never having met the two of them. She'd certainly be less conflicted, at least. "Regardless, you don't need to worry about this attempt. Or any other if I do my job." "True, I'd not have met you." Lian rubbed his chin as he looked in the mirror. "Hmm, mane up or mane down today?" "Up, you're going to need to change outfits several times." she says, pulling out the spare set of armor she hid under Lian's armoire's base and setting about equipping it. "Joy, Dress-Up Lian, everyone's favourite." he said with a chuckle, pulling up his mane as he hummed to himself. "What is it the Prench say? Noblisse Obligé?" She pulled on the last of her armor and slipped a yukata on over it, silk and steel once more. "Besides, think of it as being one area where brother dearest can't hope to keep up with you: Style." "Oooh that is so so true. And his hoofmaiden isn't nearly as beautiful and deadly." he said with a nod as he finished his mane. "I think that eats at him just as badly." "Pfft. The fewer who know I'm not just a pretty pearl on your arm the better. It makes my job easier." she replies, bringing out a simple happi coat and hachimaki headband. "Dockworkers' guild first." "Well at the same time, if everyone knew, I'm sure no one would try." Lian replied as he got dressed to impress, while still remaining appropriate for the location. "I'm not immortal, my prince." Si Jin answered, making a couple of adjustments to the set of the coat. "I must sleep, and eat, and I can't be in two places at once. Some of us didn't get THAT talent." Her tone was somber, but not rebuking or reproachful. "And there ARE shinobi more skilled than I am. There are rules that can protect you, but only while I live, and only if I'm in the good graces of my mentors, which I remind you I am not." "Fair enough. But at the very least, were someone to try and harm you, let me remind you that I'm certainly not harmless myself, and would do my best to defend you, should the need arise." "I know, I just worry." she replies offhoof. She had to admit to herself it probably didn't sound like a professional concern, but her tones were always neutral and guarded, so it might pass for that. "I likely have more knowledge of electricity than any Kirin or Ryuma ought to thanks to your training sessions. We need to restart those soon, by the way, but the Watchers seem to have discovered our previous dojo." It was an empty quarry, Hitomi, don't act like it was in Longri-La. "It's hard not to be discovered when bolts of lightning shoot out from 'nowhere'." he said shaking his head. "I don't understand why they cannot just let us train in peace..." "Well, from their perspective, you vanish for hours at a time, doing dangerous exercises. And their job is to keep you and the palace safe. They just aren't as good at it as I am." "Dangerous perhaps to them or my siblings. But I didn't spend years at the Monastary making tea cozies..." "Another thing to consider, then. Their duties also require they protect your siblings." the ninja said, picking a loose thread off the shoulder. "Well it's not as though I go out of my way to harrass my siblings. On the contrary, I try to play nice with them to the best of my ability." "No, but politics being what it is..." Si Jin sighs and shakes her head. "I don't think there's anything else I can do for now. I'll have a few spare outfits for you through the day." "It's alright, thank you for everything. I'll do my best to stay out of trouble today." The prince said with a wink...pausing on his way out to give his friend a kiss on the cheek before making his exit. Si Jin stood still for a few moments with a hoof on her cheek, then hurried after Lian, summoning a fan from somewhere on her person to cover the blush. Today was shaping up to be a good day for an unexpected change.
  19. Feng chuckled, settling back on the coconut matting as he finished re-reading the letter from his sister. He'd been tired when it first arrived, so tired in fact that he missed over half the puns on the first go-through. It wasn't so much that they were brilliant in themselves, but bright beacons to happy memories, and a loved one far away. Of course, he could read between the lines of Yin's 'business' talk. He knew what business she was in. And it was tough, because the disciplined guard in him abhorred crime that had been allowed to grow to that level, and that feeling was allied to the brotherly concern of one who's little sibling was mixed up in undoubted bad business. But... there were other parts to him; the troublemaker was never far beneath the surface, and it understood too well a willingness to go against the limits of social acceptability. Deeper still, though, was that darkest part, that told him that if the whole attempt to be a Watcher ended in disaster, it would be no bad thing, from a practical point of view, to have a relative holding open the door to a new life on the other side... Feng shuddered, shaking off his bedsheet to expose himself to the infirmary air. He was getting restless, the shadows in his thoughts were catching up. He needed to get up, do something at least. His still-healing body was not quite cooperating yet, but he could at least write his sister back. As soon as he got some writing materials. Beside his bed was a cord connected to a set of chimes, to be pulled when he needed assistance. He pulled it, having a good idea about who would come to answer it...
  20. From the album: Elder's Flower Bed

    Empress Yu Yue? More like Empress Yu Yu-bae! (Somebody please put me out of my misery) Check out that ear! What a piercing she'll have, courtesy of your friendly vagabond peryton trash! Nothing like a friendly poke from Lucy.
  21. Elderflower

    Yun He

    From the album: Elder's Flower Bed

    Yun He, the ice-cold longma. (:
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