Ling: From a Long Dream Woken

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Operator Record
From a Long Dream Woken
Ling icon.png

From Jiangnan[note 1] to Saibei,[note 2] to this anonymous pavilion at Shangshu's summit, a thousand spans, a hundred worldly ways, are all no more than an intoxicating dream.

Unlock conditions

  • Raise Ling to Elite 2 Level 1.
  • Have at least 50% Trust with Ling.
Characters
Bitey icon.png
Ink Spirit
Yanese Villager Male icon.png
Stonemason
Male Yanese icon.png
Tavern Assistant
Grindstone Waregeist icon.png
Waregeist
Backgrounds
Shangshu Teahouse
1
Shangshu Pass
2
Painted World Landscape
3
Desert Mountain
4
Eighteenth Peak B
5
Mountaintop Pavilion
6
On first arrival in Shangshu, a half-drunken Ling comes to the summit's pavilion, seeking a place to nap in seclusion.
<Background 1>
[A waiter hands over a bowl of noodles to a patron.]
Tavern Assistant Here you go, bud! One piping hot bowl of shredded meat noodles!
Stonemason Hot-hot-hot!
Tavern Assistant Miss, there's only half a jar left of the Guixing reserve you wanted, and it's gotten pretty strong. We've got some new Husong in though, just out of the cellar this morning, if you want to give it a shot.
[Ling enters the tavern.]
Ling Hm...
Ever has patron chosen drink; when does drink choose patron? The ways of Shangshu do take rather differently.
Tavern Assistant That's, uh...
Ling Might this new wine quench thirst?
Tavern Assistant Absolutely. Husong's light, sweet, and goes down easy, lingering on your palate for—
Ling Might it make drunk?
Tavern Assistant Any wine can—depends how much you drink.
Ling I know not if, once you see myself intoxicated, you may retract that.
Stonemason (Hey. She's not a local, is she?)
Tavern Assistant (With how she acts, has to be some aristocrat touring the sights. She's here in Shangshu to kill time.)
Stonemason (You know, I've been having the same dream every night lately...)
Tavern Assistant (Yeah? Well, last night I dreamt I got married to Xiao Hui!)
(Eat your noodles already, or you'll be late to work.)
Ling Allow me to hear.
Stonemason Eh?
Ling The dream.
Tavern Assistant Uh, no, we were just chattering, Miss. Sorry to bother you while you're drinking.
Ling Drinking lone does stifle. I bid you wine with me. Tell of your dream.
Stonemason Are you one of those... dream interpreters? I've heard people can make a living with that, in some parts of Yan.
Ling ......
Stonemason Well, if you're bored, then sure, why not?
These last few days I keep dreaming that Catastrophes are striking nearby, everyone's panicking. All these different orders come flying out of the Tianshi Bureaus, and they make me chief constructor, in charge of rebuilding Shangshu's nomadic city.
I'm carving stone when a Messenger finds me and—
Ling Rebuilding?
Stonemason Yeah. I'm sure you noticed when you arrived that our city isn't built like anywhere else.
Ling To posit ranges upon migratory platforms would be unimaginable elsewhere. The nomadic city of Shangshu may rival even Heaven in its craft.
Stonemason Which means our load-capacity's many times higher than usual. Making it that much harder to get enough drive.
I mean, thank Heaven for smiling on us, and the city for all its amazing people, and the Catastrophes for coming so rarely, but we haven't exactly put the "nomadic" part to the test just yet. And who knows if it'll survive when we do?
Ling Yea, your point is well taken.
Stonemason But in the dream though! I find a solution!
The problem keeps gnawing at me after I'm chief constructor... until it suddenly hits me as I'm brewing tea.
All of Yan's rivers connect. Hundreds and hundreds of them, all linked to the sea too. The waterways are completely open. They're *natural lines* for nomadic cities to travel on.
And you know what say: "water keeps a boat afloat." If you combine the rivers with a nomadic city's own movement systems, it solves the lack of mobility from bearing all that load.
Just imagine. A Catastrophe bursts out, and this age-old mountain city turns light as a feather and shoots down the rivers like an arrow.
The people sit safe at home boiling tea, the only sign being the wind tossing up the occasional wave to splash over the Three Mounts and Eighteen Peaks. A burst of rain from a clear sky, and suddenly they realize they've gone a thousand li without even noticing.
Just like that, Shangshu is free from the fear of Catastrophe, and her people safe.
Ling A fine and spectacular dream! Would that my sister were here to immortalize its contours in ink.
Tavern Assistant Hahahah, the only realistic part's when you're carving the stone!
Stonemason Who says the rest can't happen?
Tavern Assistant Rebuilding a whole nomadic city... Like you'd ever be a Tumu Tianshi.
Stonemason ......
Ling Nay, I see no harm.
It is from such dreams, one imagines, that the Tumu Tianshi begin their very work.
Stonemason Who wants to carve stone their whole life anyway? What, you wanna serve noodles 'til the end of time?
Tavern Assistant (Shh! Careful, don't let the boss hear that.)
It's not so bad! Customers come from all over the country, so it's never boring. While it can be rough being on your feet all day, the boss treats us right whenever a festival comes around.
If I keep saving, maybe in a year or so I can get hitched to Xiao Hui after all.
Stonemason You'll want to hurry, then. Sure, her house is only average, but with those looks? I hear she's already gotten proposals.
Tavern Assistant Dumbass—think before you speak.
Stonemason Hahahaha!
Tavern Assistant You've got a good shot at becoming a Tumu Tianshi, though, really...
If that dream of yours comes true, then say goodbye to the trials of Shu's paths; they'll be wide open. We'll be able to sell our mountain city's carvings and tea all over Yan. No, more than just Yan.
Stonemason Come to think of it, I completely forgot to get your take on my dream. It can't be normal, having it night after night...
Ling Never did I say I could explain dreams.
I am merely a frequent dreamer of my own.
Still, if you want for it, I may yet try...
Stonemason Then—
Tavern Assistant Come on, you should've started work ages ago. Pay your bill and get moving.
Stonemason Oh!
Shoot! I left in a hurry today and didn't bring my—
Ling Add it to my wine bill. Hardly could I hear your dream for free.
Stonemason You're too kind, how can I—
Ling I'll ask one thing further. Of the Three Mounts and Eighteen Peaks, which is most remote, most befitting of 'the trials of Shu's paths'?
Stonemason What's your plan?
Ling Once I've drunk my fill, I'll want for a quiet place to sleep. I may even dream a dream as fascinating as yours.
<Background 2>
Scholars dream in hairpins wrought to flowers gold, beauties in red peonies by bridge's other end, and those who "dream" as common folk, in matters devised, in feelings aroused. So in this nature does that stonesmith's dream lie.
The dream is fine, yet you believe it to pertain to fortune's scale. 'Twas dreamed however wanton, yet you do not dare interpret it however wanton.
Dreams, at the close, are merely dreams. The past, and future, always arise by themselves.
[Ling walked through the pass...]
Ling Why should you be here?
[...as she noticed an Ink Spirit nearby.]
Ink Spirit Gkh...
Ling Did Dusk send you to meet me, or could I be away in her painting by now...
Ink Spirit Gkh, gkh...
Ling Or, perhaps... I am simply drunk?
Waregeist Where was I just now?
Ink Spirit You said you envied me.
Ling So you little things know how to speak.
Very well. If the Husong's proven itself of such good effect, come next time I should try the Guixing reserve.
Waregeist Ink, I think you're the only one like me in this whole world. But in the end, you're so much freer.
Ink Spirit Where's this coming from?
Waregeist Housewares are dead things, no heart or soul. We just happened to be touched up by Ling, and made into geists.
A teapot with a broken handle and no lid becomes a geist with broken legs and no arms. Anything of thin celadon can't even take a few hits...
A geist's form and will are confined by its true nature. We can only be however our body is.
Ink Spirit All the same, we exist only in Dusk's scrolls, and aren't even necessarily "living things".
Waregeist Dusk's scrolls are a whole different world... You might be of brush and scrawls, but you're from Dusk's imagination, along with the paintings' limitless sights.
"Imagination" is the freest of all. With it, a leaf is a boat, rivers fold in waves, dead trees flower, gray hair is again lustrous, Heaven and Earth invert, and all things become hazy.
Ling Where did you learn such words...
Waregeist Even when without form, when ink makes no splash, and brush halts and leaves empty, that itself has meaning.
Dusk's imagination is ceaseless. As the scroll is unfurled, so too are you eternally free.
Ling ......
Truly your envy runs deep, from the sound of it.
Ink Spirit Gkh-gkh, Ware, I would think you're the one worth envying.
Waregeist Oh?
Ink Spirit To be free at ease isn't all good.
I ask you. There are several Ink Spirits here. Can you distinguish which were painted when Dusk joyed, and which when she grieved?
Waregeist You all look roughly the same...
Ink Spirit Correct. Not even we know what mood she had in painting us. Perhaps it was only done... emotionlessly.
But you, while your body is brown, your belly is deep black, stained by a dozen years of boiling tea. I could smell its scent, your scent, before you even approached.
Geists of the fine arts are snobbish. Geists of weapons of war indulge in violence. When a geist is impervious, we know its body has been tempered by heat and flame.
You're born with a basis, something to abide by. You're restricted, but that doesn't have to be your end. That is your meaning.
In a Waregeist, you can see the ware itself, and even moreso the one who used it. Even when one dies, the ware itself remains.
Ink Spirits though? We're a rootless gust. We breeze by and we're gone. Depending on Dusk's mood, she may even tear a scroll apart. What of the scrawls on it?
Ware, do you still envy this freedom without root?
Waregeist I still do...
Ink Spirit How about this? We won't convince each other, and Ling happens to be right here. We'll let her be the judge.
So long as she shows no favoritism.
Ling And so you finally remember me... Do you not thirst from your debate? Some jugs of Husong yet remain, to quench oneself with.
Ink Spirit (Glug-glug)
Waregeist (Glug-glug)
[Ling stops the Waregeist from trying to spit out the wine they drank.]
Ling Nay, spit it not!
Waregeist I can't do it, I can't swallow it. It's burning my throat. I beg of you.
Ling Dusk drank not wine, fearing a dreamful slumber... Thus should you too be unable to partake, Ink Spirit?
Ink Spirit (Glug-glug)
The opposite. I think it's quite delicious. Clean, sweet, and smooth, with a lingering taste.
I'm all dizzy, like Dusk's flipped the painting over... No wonder it's said the Yanese have a love for this.
Ling Hahahah, and fine a thing it is.
Much do I love wine. The peach-plum brews of the south I have drunk, the fierce knife-edge of the north I have drunk, yet the Waregeists of my own detailing can take not even a mouthful of it.
While the alcohol-abstinent Dusk draws Ink Spirits who amusingly consider it of exquisite taste.
Might you have thoughts on why?
Waregeist & Ink Spirit ......
Ling Indeed you are our creations, attaining from us some elements of form and spirit. But just as some elements are mine, so naturally some are not. The two do differ in the end.
Waregeists are no wares, Ink Spirits no ink. Tell, you two, are you not yourselves?
Waregeist & Ink Spirit ......
Ling Further, just what defines "free"?
Do you feel whether Dusk and I are free?
Ink Spirit Ling, you are naturally free—
Ling Is that so...
Waregeist Could you not be?
Ling I know not myself.
The truly free know not why they are free.
The fiercer your arduous struggle, the less you find release. You are free beings by nature, so why agonize yourselves so?
Waregeist & Ink Spirit ......
Ling You still do not understand?
Ah! As you do not, you may well then disperse. Out of the way.
[The Ink Spirit and Waregeist vanishes.]
Ling You've wasted some mouthfuls of my wine...
Often do they speak of "the trials of Shu's paths" and so it holds water. They circle and twist, rise bared to the clouds, and as one pass turns, it is yet into another.
Be it so. By the time I reach the summit, a good sleep shall await.
<Background 3>
Another poets' gathering, it seems.
White porcelain cups descend with the current, their wine and the springwater of miscible hue. By whom the cups stop, so must they compose three phrases. Those whose vivacities seize not, accept the cup prostrate, and so form this "stream party".
The wine is peach-plum eve's brew, picked of early-blossoming peach buds, together pounded with stored evening plum into a liquor, cold and pure and sweet, mouthwatering within the mouth.
This wine's flavor, supremely sublime.
The girl of laketop song casts a pocket of water chestnuts into the vessel's hold, but carelessly kicks the oar flying, out and away. Crisp cries and hollers travel out for li and li beyond.
The rain twixt spring and summer still falls half a month hence, the fog from striking flagstones as fine as smoke. The neighbors, separated by rain's curtain, grumble for when the hall can dry.
Tea's lovers contest with tea, wine's with wine, angling's with angling, the wealthy with gold and jade, the poor with chirruping bugs...
Oh, lest we forget, the lantern festival. Far livelier than a party by a stream, each lantern unto its own style, lit from street's head to tail, and over the celebration extinguishing not even through the night.
In each step taken is earned a phrase, in each sight seen is earned a verse, and so in those poets' gatherings have never I lost.
In river water's mist a lotus sits; wine calls to deepest parts rinsed clear by waves.
Lay down yourself to west mount's climbing jade; wake 'pon this vessel in your thousand years.
The world's ways softly charm. Now drop inebriate; what harm is feeble blood, diminished mood?
??? Is your heart content?
Ling My heart is so.
......
So it is content, but only content too easily.
??? Tire of one thing, and so a hundred things become fresh. But when these freshnesses reach their end, you still tire once again.
Ling, you are not at an end here.
What say you listen to me, go further out and take a look.
Ling To the place where "spring's breeze never comes"?
??? To there.
Ling What difference does it make?
??? You will know once you go.
Ling Is that where I'll be at an end?
??? I know not myself.
A stream's gathering of poets may be a Ling more, a Ling less. But the place I bid you go—needs you.
Perhaps there, you will finally be able to write—new verse.
<Background 4>
That nomadic city.
That nomadic city laid before the desert.
Though it was centuries ago, I still remember the shock when first I saw it. In this instant, I find myself once again stood atop its tower gate.
The desert unbroken for endless li, sandstorms hanging heat in waves, mist vast and far. I can feel as the water departs from my skin.
So as to occupy a water source, its construction takes not into account the occupation of strategic terrain. It treats mountain ranges as barriers, and approaches the meadows and lakes.
And so, the dry wind sweeps the wide open desert, fluttering against the city walls. It seems a lone titan, towering through Heaven and Earth's interstice, its body unyielding.
The banners roll free. The sun sets long upon the river.
Outside the gate, the soldiers are porting the corpses of their brothers fallen yesterday in the cause, piled clean row by row. In turn I pass them by, closing each of their eyes.
One's ears hear still the bloody battles of yesterday. Arrows shadow out the sun, the sky as if night, the sounds of slaughter as if tearing silk. Continuing, uninterrupted.
Torches are lit beneath their bodies. Not a one weeps, for a new battle is near. Smoke rolls, but the wind soon blows it into the boundless desert.
......
Poetry and wine have already helped me forget so much I once hated, yet before such a scene, and before I come to my senses, I have already grasped my armaments again.
For every soldier and command by me has grasped their own.
We cannot let those fools approach the Yan at our backs. It is their home. Home of their loved ones.
Stood long, before this desert without end, is not the titan that is the nomadic city, but its soldiers.
A lone city to hear the drums of war. The Years are not asked. Heroism is let unabated.
Who spake that generals willed to die—old bulwarks birth new willows year on year.
Ling He was not wrong... I was meant to come here.
<Background 5>
Ling And you've come too. I see this truly has been dreamed.
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling Howl not. I only just drank some jars of Husong; my head spins.
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling Escape? I need not. I am not Nian, nor Dusk.
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling Fine, yea, fine, then I shall ask you.
You covet this Heaven and Earth, but know you even what lies between it, vast as that is?
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling Know you even whether new teas in watered fields should be picked in March, or April?
Know you even when bitter cold descends on the desert night, the songs often sung, the wines often drunk?
Know you even...
"Sui-Xiang" ......
Ling That of this Heaven and Earth, you know nothing.
Of course, you are but me...
For naught we brag of lives of centuries upon centuries, and still there are far too many matters not yet learned, not yet heard; too many states not yet interpreted, not yet known.
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling And once, like that stonemason in the tavern at mountain's foot, did I worry and grieve to dream. Or perhaps like that little sister of mine, I dared not even dream.
And once, like the Waregeist and Ink Spirit, did I feel I was bound to myself, and bound to the realm, never free.
These creations of our lived centuries on centuries disdain the common people with spans of decades, ridicule how ignorantly they live. Ultimately, still more foolish were we.
"Sui-Xiang" ......
Ling From the south to the north, to this Shangshu summit—in my own regard, it has been no more than an intoxicating dream.
Truthfully, since far antiquity, the times passed, the places been, the millennia and the myriads, have been but a dream even more grand and farcical still.
With this farcical dream concluded, I finally know who I am—
"Sui-Xiang" (Wordless roar)
Ling Never you mind. Even spoken, you do not understand.
And even so, still you do not leave?
As you are my dream, you are for me to interpret, for me to intoxicate, for me to awaken.
<Background 6>
Ling And once I awaken, where will you be?
The Strategist's Melancholy.png
Awaken.
The wine is run dry.
A fine dream.
What did I see?
The setting light blazing through the clouds midair. Three mounts and eighteen peaks. The endless paths of Shu. The tentacles that are haze. This scenery never before put into painting, nor into poetry.
What did I see?
A poets' gathering at a stream, porcelain cups stopping before one person after another. A long pavilion upon the desert, and in the lone smoke, centuries of people beating the drums of expedition.
I saw both the me contented and unfettered, and the me who sought all solutions, not their details. Dreams are but dreams, for my sake I am, and I am pleased.
Though I am clearly at Zuanjiang Summit, vacant and nameless, it is like I can see the whole of Yan. Nay, the whole of far antiquity, the length and breadth in all directions, all as if the wind flitting past my side.
To see mountains yet now question of stone, to near pools yet now forget of water; such is primality. Perhaps this place should be named the "Field of Forgotten Water", then.
......
It is as if... I have seen Nian and Dusk too. Heh. Though we have met not in dreams, I assume out of them we very soon will meet again.
Ling Hah... The sun is through, and water runs yet long... while snowfall flows through vacant moonlit sky.

Notes

  1. Hanzi: 江南, Pinyin: jiāngnán; referring to the historical Jiangnan region.
  2. Hanzi: 塞北, Pinyin: sàiběi; lit. "northern frontier." A historical geographic term composing of the steppes and deserts north of the Great Wall, hence the name.