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Well, plurality is coming along nicely-

But right now, all my would be capitalists become members of the aristocracy instead! Looks like building railroads n' factories later on might be fun, heheh- :cool:
 

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Hope to see an update soon, i am curious how your story will go on :)
 

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But right now, all my would be capitalists become members of the aristocracy instead! Looks like building railroads n' factories later on might be fun, heheh-
All your parties are State Capitalist, no? why are you worried about those Fertilizer factory-building idiots?
 

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Hope to see an update soon, i am curious how your story will go on

Hoping worked! :) Hopefully this'll be an enjoyable update; also, to the readerbase in general, I have several more chapters done content-wise but not writing wise and plan to update them more quickly for your patience. Is it okay that they're all one-year game segments? An event will occur soon enough that'll cause time to move faster... Maybe! ;) Just checking that it's cool that my AAR's gameplay frame is so glacial-

All your parties are State Capitalist, no? why are you worried about those Fertilizer factory-building idiots?

Now we're talkin'! :D And truthfully - building infrastructure (and factories, but mostly infrastructure) is what I live for. If only I could build libraries and hospitals too, I'd be set, hahah! ;P
 

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A Brittle Autumn Strength, Zhangzhou' 41 Huzhou '42 {1841-42}

Dear Mother,

You cannot imagine the beauty I have seen! Although your gracious correspondence and admiration of the lacquerware that I had acquired the family is much appreciated, you will of course understand how secondary it is to my discovery of the true wealth of China! At last I have began to glean how so much profit is to be made of so distant a land, so unattainable and exotic! Clearly, I was wrong to mistake the simple factories of the Chinese coast as industrial structures. True wealth, as the Osskissons have always known, comes from the soil! Or so Yelu tells me- we are setting out from Zhangzhou in the hopes of reaching Huzhou; Yelu tells me that therein lies the great opportunities I have been searching for.

Honestly, I began to tire of these long journeys and crave nothing more than the warmth of the fire and the grating banter of Father and Sylvester! Oh, how I do jest, Mother. Only in dreams and in these writings can I come close to arriving back home with the a smile in my eye and the wealth that will be trickling down - soon! -as of Manna from the Heavens. As always, with much love-

Clark



chap3luangprabang.jpg


An ancient Theravada establishment in Luang Prabang

A piercing note cut through Clark's concentration as the distinctive gentle humming of an erhu cut through the small encampment Yelu had prepared. Laying back against a tall cottonwood tree, there was an expression of serene concentration upon the old man's face as he plucked away with determination at the strings, filling the April air with a lilting melody. Clark had intended to say something cutting for being interrupted from his writing, but instead found himself slipping the letter into the somewhat battered pocket of his brown walking-coat, and similarly resting against the green grass. Minutes passed as Yelu played, finally broken by his rasping voice asking - "... You've got a question, don't you? Hah. You've been very patient, listening to an old man indulge his passion for music so. Ask away - then I might play for a bit more. It is a lovely moon, for music..."

Clark sighed and stared at the full moon hovering so tantalizingly in the spring sky. Feeling the barbs of his somewhat impressive beard, he began to wonder how Hong Mei Ling kept his face so clean; Yelu could only grow a patchy grey stubble, which he seemed to view as distinctive. Bracing himself, Clark risked one more glance at the moon, and asked his question. "Yelu - why does the Daoguang empire march to war, once again? Why so much bloodshed for such little gain?"

A haunting melody started up again, only to cut itself short, like a hesitant question.
1chap3.jpg

In January, the Qing Red Banner had entered Luang Prabang, and simply refused to leave.

Several moments later, the playing resumed, this time quick of tempo and energetic. "To ensure that the Qing retain the mandate of heaven." Yelu's words were jocular, but tinged with stale regret. "If you believe in such things, it's as important as Victoria's sunlit realm, or your own manifest destiny. If you put so much power into an idea, it becomes real." The tune reached a crescendo, and collapsed into silence. "And the military needs employment. Just keeping the peace isn't enough... You've seen that. Internal dissidents are too hard to fight, so the Emperor prefers to manufacture external enemies."

2chap3.jpg

The Dai Li garrisoned most of the streets and soon controlled the apparatus of state. Nothing changed.

Clark turned his thoughts inward as Yelu begin to play again - the song took on an incredibly melancholic note, and in the dim light of the moon Clark began to imagine a different Yelu, younger and less gruff, tending to some pastoral fields or fishing in the noon sun. He chuckled under his breath, but couldn't tell if it was because the image was humorous, or depressing. Oddly, he began to ponder how old Mei Ling must have been when whatever happened to his brother had occurred. Clark, old boy. Pull yourself together. You need to ask.

Getting together the last remnants of both his courage and his wakefulness, Clark waited for a singular lilt in the music as Yelu stopped to think of his next song. "One more question, my friend... But of diverse nature. Then, I shall let you practice your erhu in peace." Yelu grunted non-commitally, and began to play again; but the question escaped before his fingers could reach the strings. "How do you know Hong Mei Ling? And why are you bothering to take a.... a bother, like me, up to Beijing? I can only assume we're going up the coast with a purpose, and I very much doubt that it has anything to do with me."

Shoulders sagging against the cottonwood, Yelu opened his eyes and stared at Clark intently. "Mei Ling is like my own son. He is everything I would like to be, but am too cowardly to be. I would gladly put his life above my own. But I do not want to see Yama just yet - there is much I would like to see and do. And although perhaps, there are duties I should be doing, well... Is there some law that says a bitter soldier cannot travel the countryside with a wayward adventurer? To keep an eye on him of course!" Yelu seemed to find this highly amusing, and began to laugh raucously. "You know, you're right though, we are going to Beijing. But slowly. You will be overwhelmed when you see it - and at first, there are some other things I need you to see."
3chap3.jpg

You do not realize how soon everything will be gone, Clark. Neither does she...

The two were silent for some time before Clark spoke again with a sleepy drawl. "Thanks, Yelu. But, tell me... Who is this Yama fellow?" The air remained silent for a split second before Yelu begin to play again, a slight, toothy grin spreading onto his face. "The Judge of the Dead." And with another laugh, Yelu begin to play a cheerful song, one that seemed to celebrate the light spring air as Clark struggled to remain awake and failed, drifting into a deep sleep filled with a hundred exotic stories as his brother stared at him with slabs of coal wedged into his eyes...

4chap3.jpg

And in his dreams, he glided along rail-cart tracks to a shimmering land of marble and gold. Burnished red and black hair fell from the palace throne like a fountain...

The next few weeks were the similar slow days of travel that Clark had grown used to. Sometimes, they did not travel far at all, but simply explored the same place Yelu had decided to set up camp yesterday. Yelu explained to him the beautiful simplicity of things like a peach tree, and in return Clark began to find that he had stories of well - when little Ariabella was sick in bed, and the entire family cared for her, missing school and work and surviving on the grit of their teeth. Yelu had said nothing, but stared into the distance with a sorrowful expression; and the two had continued to move. As they made their way towards Huzhou, the next stop on their journey, Yelu had pulled him aside with the most serious expression Clark had ever seen. "Listen. No matter what you see here, Clark, you must understand - this is the source of half of China's wealth. The other we shall see in Beijing. If you know this, you can always abuse it. Everyone has always had that power, and that risk. The only difference is that now you know. Do you still want to continue your journey?"

He hadn't even thought about his response. Clark smiled self-confidentially. His family would never go for want again. "Of course. There's only one choice, isn't there?" Yelu nodded back, seemingly pleased with this answer, and they headed towards the main roads. Soon, a town - moderately sized, with wide streets bustling with activity - swam into view. Children ran along the paths, and the clatter of carts rang through the streets. Clark raised one eyebrow as Yelu led him into town; a middle-aged woman wearing baggy cloth and impossibly tiny shoes caught his gaze with her unreadable expression. She vanished back into her house as quickly as she had appeared, leaving Clark with too many questions - and a vague recollection of the fields in the south, where women had gone barefoot or in wide wooden shoes.

5chap3.jpg

His thoughts were cut short as Yelu led him through crowded streets and into a large pavilion, filled with wooden hoop-racks. Several men wandered about, eying them as they teemed with life.

"What is this?" Clark cried out as he began to distinguish tiny white worms contentedly munching the grass that lined the hoops. His loud outcry had the effect of causing a few of the worms to turn, quizzically, as if in response; but soon they went back to eating, ignoring the red-faced man peering over them inquisitorially. One of the cultivators said something under his breath, causing the ranchers to laugh - as did Yelu, who clapped Clark on the back, then pulled the younger man's hand back as he reached forward to touch the wriggling larvae.


chapter3silkworms.jpg

"Well, half of China's wealth, Clark. What do you make of it?"

After a few minutes to gather his thoughts and try to vanish into the wall for making such a scene, Clark managed to stammer. "Well, it's all well and good- but is that really half of China's wealth? It just seems rather silly to me that such a tiny thing-" Yelu cut him off, shaking his head. "No, not just the silk worms... Although where did you expect silk comes from?" Clark began to mouth 'trees', but Yelu was too quick. "What else does this scene make you recollect, Osskisson? Think!"

Toiling, in the hot sun of summer. Growing vegetables out by the shade, calluses on our hands; watching Mother through the window as Father told stories about the scars on his hands and knees, and how we'd never have scars like his. The first crop of summer gone to waste, Father going back to the mines. Sweat, and the scent of peppermint and lavender drifting through the garden.

"You're trying to make a point, Yelu. But it's not what I'm looking for." Clark's words were cold and sharp, the opposite of how he felt. But as soon as the words had left his mouth, they couldn't be taken back. Amazingly however, Yelu smiled from ear to ear. "Good enough for me! This was only half of my plan, anyway. Thanks for letting us stop by, Sheng. Please tell your wife hello from me." The target of Yelu's comment, a balding man with a careworn face and a belly that had grown to fill out his clothes, offered a recalcitrant smile, and Yelu motioned for Clark to leave. But Clark did not, still finding himself drawn to the tiny worms; they seemed so content with their lives, yet so unaware - but this fleeting thought passed as well, and Clark walked off, following Yelu to a large house wafting delicious smells and thick smoke.

6chap3.jpg

The same day, peace was declared - the first time that the Daoguang Emperor had sent a delegation to the defeated country in recent history.

The inside of the teahouse walls were thatched over, and several tables lined the floor, covered in colourful cloths. Several men loitered about, talking amongst themselves excitedly. A few were wearing the clothes of bureaucrats, and all had some manner of weapon on their person. As Yelu entered, one of the men rose and walked over, smiling and handing him some taels. "Gaige shi zai zheli!" The man was clearly excited, but Yelu nodded briefly and offered only a slight smile before going on to purchase his tea. Perplexed, the bureaucrat walked back to his group.

7chap3y.jpg

"Once again, things move too quickly for me to follow." Yelu mused as he sipped his tea.

Still confused by the day's events, Clark coughed, not having sipped his tea; to his tastes it seemed far too hot. His comments attracted another patron; with a faint smile, Hong Mei Ling jaunted over to the table, looking much better than the last time they had seen him. "What a surprise to see you, Yelu!... And you, Clark. I'd have figured you would have wandered off by now. Is Yelu boring you too much? He has a tendency to ramble, you know..." Mei Ling shot Yelu a sneaky grin, and the old man snorted as if to deny even the remotest possibility of that statement. "Bah! I had though that you were the one wandering around aimlessly, nursing a wounded pride. Not that I am complaining to find you here, of all places. What brings you to Huzhou, Mei Ling?"

Shrugging his slight shoulders, Mei Ling reclined back into a seat. "A sense of adventure, maybe?" Clark groaned and tried to vanish into his seat. "I think I liked you better when you were hitting me, boy. Why so chipper?" Clark was surprised at the ease he found himself offering a genuine smile. "Good news about your brother?" The faint smile on Mei Ling's lips widened into a smirk. "No, not exactly. But something almost as good - reform is here! They say the Daoguang Empire listened to the waves going through the civil service and the artisans. This Middle Kingdom will be bullied no more!" Yelu chuckled to himself at this, and drank another sip of tea; he then motioned to Mei Ling who refilled the cup without blinking. Mei Ling then gestured to Clark, who got the idea and filled Mei Ling's cup. The young man's smile was ecstatic.

8chap3.jpg

The knock of boots began to echo outside however, causing the assorted patrons to cast their eyes towards the door.


A group of finely dressed westerners, men of military age and stature wearing distinctive red uniforms. An officer obviously holding himself to be the leader was wearing a helmet dashed with a large white feather, which was drooping somewhat. The reaction in the room was mixed; a few of the bureaucrats seemed cheerful, while others edged towards handtrawls, aged pistols, or knives. The officer beamed from behind his moustache-sans-beard, and Clark felt a twinge of jealousy; the officer mistook the dour expression for one of solidarity and lumbered over. "Tally-ho, young fellow! What a surprise to see another foreigner on this misty morn!" Clark blinked, unsure how the current weather qualified as either misty or morning. The officer extended his hand; Yelu seemed nonplussed, but Mei Ling was glaring daggers. "Reginald St. John, of her Majesty's Chinese division. Whatever are you doing loitering about in a place like this, boy? You look like you haven't seen a razor for quite some time. What say you to coming down to the mission with us-"

Reginald had hardly finished his offer, to which Clark had began to listen to, when one of the patrons approached, smiling brightly, approached Reginald and begin to ask in very stilted English about reform. Reginald responded back eagerly about the joint-military ventures between the Qing and the British, oblivious to the growing unease of his men. One of the Chinese artisans began to leer at Reginald and his new acquaintance; and in turn a British soldier begin to nervously fiddle with the rifle at his side... Yelu cursed, and pushed both Mei Ling and Clark to the floor. The first shot seemed to be fire by accident, striking Reginald in the side and sending him toppling to the floor, a look of blank-eyed surprise on his face.

Then, the battle was an all-out melee. Clark peered from under the table and saw Yelu moving with fluid grace between the combatants, yanking a rifle from a man who could be no older than nineteen and snapping it across his knee like a twig before turning and catching an assailant in the back with a quick jab. He was not fast enough, however - the officer he had disarmed so agilely had seized the bayonet from his broken weapon and lunged forward, piercing Yelu's shoulder. Falling to his feet, Yelu remained motionless. Clark rose from the ground and rushed forward, but was pushed out of the way by a roaring Mei Ling; a sickening crack echoed throughout the tea-house as the British soldier's head twisted at an angle far removed from his neck.

Mei Ling was like a hurricane in motion; he did not bother to disarm his opponents, but simply hit them as hard as he could; digging his fingers into the soft flesh of his enemies as if it were clay. He did not dodge when a blow would have caused damage to the teahouse, simply taking it and countering with unbearable force- and before long the agitators had retreated; soldiers dashing into the streets, and reformists vanished. Reginald lay the only certain casualty, frozen in permanent conversation with no-one. Clark had been watching Mei Ling as if hypnotized, but could barely make out someone away from the teahouse, wearing a grey cloak; he quickly brought himself to his senses and dashed over to the prone Yelu. Mei Ling had walked over like a statue to the owners of the establishment; a middle-aged women with impossibly tiny feet looked as if she was going to burst into tears. Mei Ling said something inaudible, and Clark caught the flash of silver. The proprietress began to cry in earnest, and Mei Ling embraced her, then walked purposefully. Yelu turned his eyes to her, a shock of grey hair shielding one lid. "... Hah. I hadn't expected it so soon, Mei Ling. You fight beautifully." He begin to cough, as Mei Ling pressed a finger to his lips. "Sh. You're hardly wounded at all, Yelu. You must have suffered worse than this many times."

His voice delicate, Mei Ling moved a trembling finger towards Yelu's shoulder- and drew back blood. Rising to his feet, he stared at Clark with a pleading expression. "Can you help me move him? There is a local doctor here that he has been to before - please don't leave me." The comment was so sudden that the young man found himself shocked, but he managed his best reassuring smile as he and Mei Ling helped Yelu to his feet. "Really, Yelu! I say that red suits your shoulder; it makes you look even more dignified. Now, my brother Humphrey, he would cry if he even cut himself on grass..."

9chap3.jpg

As the two marched down the streets, Yelu supported between them, the Daoguang Empire looked to Tibet, and the West with a superstitious eye.
... And through those mountain passes, a figure in grey moved faster than humanly possible, crossing into British Burma by nightfall, it's first job accomplished.


-

Thoughts so far -

Aaaaw man, it seems like when I post, I kinda invoke the forum upgrade Gods. Is it really so much to ask that my insomnia and the forum's transformation sequence don't overlap?! xD Ah, well. Sorry for the wait, all. Like I said, the next updates are mostly taken care of, hope it's okay if they're fairly close to one another. It's amazing how well the game flowed with what I have in mind, especially in a certain close-by chapter. It's almost like... Victoria read my heart. :eek:o Bwahahaha! Jokes aside, some notes - in 1.1 humiliate is very powerful for uncivs. Cheap, effective, and fits roleplaying reasons well for those who like to get into the heads of their country. Infantry also beat the socks off of irregulars. But as we shall soon see, even a few levels of technology can mean the world...

Also, so good with date/time memorization that the date time was a year off, reading 42-43 instead of 41-42. I've been moving forward a year at a time. How hard is that to remember! :eek:o Also, 3000 words. Gah. How does this happen. I'll hang a jian on my wall with a post-it-note reading 'Cut!' on it to remind myself to keep things limited. :eek::
 
Last edited:

Alexspeed

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Hoping worked! :) Hopefully this'll be an enjoyable update; also, to the readerbase in general, I have several more chapters done content-wise but not writing wise and plan to update them more quickly for your patience. Is it okay that they're all one-year game segments? An event will occur soon enough that'll cause time to move faster... Maybe! ;) Just checking that it's cool that my AAR's gameplay frame is so glacial-

No problem concerning the timespan of the updates, it dosent matter if they span a jear or a century for the contest.
The only gripe i have that its over 3000 words, oh well, better then not enough words i guess ;)

Thank you for the update.
 

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oh the pretty prestige wars!
Dying For the Glory!
 

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Alexspeed - Cut this chapter like a knife through butter! It's a much more manageable 2070, if I recall! Next chapter'll be even more fishgutted, but still full of love and heartwarming goodness! ;) Thank you for the contest and the readin'!

Enewald - Alas, my time in the sun may have come to an end. As lovely a star as any that glisten in the sky, ma belle etoile seems to have deserted me. :eek: But who brought an end to beating up on smaller nearby states? Read on, and find out! :p
 

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The Anthesis of Spirit, Huzhou' 43 Hui'an '44 {1843-44}

My dearest Clark -

By the time you get this, I can only hope you have safely made it to the shores and are returning home, or perhaps to some other safe harbor; your father has sent you a sum of money to find safe passage. We need you back home, and more importantly - oh, my child! There is so much I cannot say this letter, for fear that it might be read by the wrong hands. I just thank my lucky stars that you're an Osskisson, and know that your natural tenacity and courage will see you through safely.

Humphrey wanted to go and find you, but we just couldn't scrape together the money to send two of our children off to distant shores. So instead, everyone folded together these paper stars at church, a little sea of blue and white- and I put some fresh soil in, too, so you'll have a little bit of home with you, no matter where you are. We're always thinking of you, Clark, and I always have Aribella set a spot at the table for when you return.

Caledonia


Caledonia Osskisson stood among the darkened kitchen as the snow grew heavy against the so recently verdant ground outside. Her tired fingers, calloused with many years of labor, ached as she wrote and she could feel the cold seeping into her bones as the door blew open. Mort Osskisson's barrel-shaped build stood in the doorway, nose red as velvet cake. Her husband was covered in the many furs he went out hunting in; he had confided in his family numerous times of their near-magical ability to draw out game - a tale that seemed to be fabricated until he gently lay the bodies of three rabbits on the table. The two embraced, and Mort asked the question that Caledonia had known he would. His voice cracked as he spoke in the Appalachian drawl Clark tried so hard to hide.

"He's not going to get the message in time, is he? Devil's child, nothing's gonna get through a storm like this. Caledonia... Our little baby bird..." The huge man fell to his feet, fists clenched powerlessly. His wife placed a tender hand on his shoulder, and the two shared their silent misery before returning to reality, and preparing dinner as the storm howled outside in the midst of December.

-

Mei Ling and Clark hobbled into a small stone building in the very north of Huzhou, carrying the wounded Yelu silently between them. At first, Clark had assumed that the building was some sort of kiln; then, his mind had hastily and with some terror expected it to be a morgue. His fears dissolved as he felt Mei Ling shouldering most of Yelu's weight; a silent gesture to keep moving and keep irrational fears from the mind. The inside of the building was lined with shelves stocked with bottles boasting every assortment of powders, spice and unguents, downy cots of the sort he had become used to, and an extremely tired-looking older man who was listening to the banter of someone - one of the reformists from earlier, Clark realized with a start. On hearing the tiny chime of bells, the older man and the reformist turned around, locking eyes with Clark and Mei Ling. The air was tense and awkward.

1chap4.jpg

Finally, the artisan left, an apologetic expression twisted onto his face.



"Ai, ni! Sìhū shi shenme wenti? Chule daliang shixue, na shì." Muttering to himself, the older man wandered over, eyes darting across Yelu's wound while phasing his other two visitors out entirely. His withered fingers danced across the shelves and soon he had aided the old Manchurian to a cot and was administering bandaging to his shoulder, while walking his new charge through a series of breathing exercises. In minutes, Yelu's breath had faded from ragged panting, to measured steps, to the calm, slightly raspy snore of sleep. Satisfied, the doctor begin to mix something that smelled strongly of mugwort. He blinked in recollection, and glared daggers at Hong Mei Ling (Clark dejectedly realized the doctor still hadn't even noticed him.). "Gun chu wo de zhensuo! Ni zong shi dai lai mafan, zhengjing de nuzi!" Biting his lips, Mei Ling bowed his head slightly. The doctor snorted.

"Clark - we should go for a while. Will you walk with me?" The hesitance in Mei Ling's voice was new, but Clark heard it's urgency... Time to get a chance to apologize. Anything to take my mind off the wait. The two left quietly as the doctor begin to heat a needle with the focused look of a professional at work.

A crisp January air had set in; too warm to snow but too cold to be comfortable. Mei Ling strode along briskly, worry etched into his face, and Clark followed beside him, unsure of what to ask.
2chap4.jpg

They passed a painfully thin, ancient woman with her hair in a mouldering bun.

Clark tried to look away, but Mei Ling pulled to a stop, pulled out of his reverie. Talking to the woman, who wore an odd jacket and pants far too large for her, in a soothing voice, Mei Ling motioned for Clark to follow. "This woman - wants us to go home and eat with her. Her family left to work at another trade, it seems... So she has no one to talk with. She'll want us to stay with her for awhile... And we need to stay near by. Serendipity?" The pain in Mei Ling's voice made his feelings obvious. Clark didn't particularly like this idea, but grinned chivalrously. "Of course! We'll hold a potlach for the find old dame." Mei Ling blinked, but smiled, mouthing a silent word of thanks.

3chap4.jpg

Over a truly fantastic dinner, the lady told stories of her homeland, Hui'an.

Her house reminded Clark of home; it was large from necessity, and had obviously been home to a huge extended family at some point. Now, it was quite barren except for himself, Mei Ling, and an old woman named Miao. Miao was scared; scared that her husband would not return. Scared of change, scared of the new Reformist Clique and their pro-Western policies, scared that she would not have anyone who remembered her. It made Clark want to hug the old woman - but this would've been inappropriate, so he smiled and laughed to Mei Ling's excellent attempts to translate Miao's stories of growing up, and how she was quite the dancer - in her day, of course. "Young man," Mei Ling began, barely able to keep a straight face, begin to speak in his best imitation of Miao: "Don't think that I would ever dance for you! I only dance for my husband!" Miao beamed, and Clark laughed so hard he thought he would cry.

But finally, clutching her jacket to her small frame as if to keep herself warm, Miao excused herself to rest for the evening. She had not asked them to stay - it was obvious they would. Still laughing, Clark and Mei Ling seemed to independently come to the conclusion the conversation had died down. The atmosphere became slightly awkward when just a moment ago it had been full of mirth.
4chap4.jpg

As such things are wont to do, the conversation turned to politics.

"The Daoguang Empire is building a huge new fleet. He's had the audacity to name it a New Treasure Fleet." Clark nodded, refusing to meet Mei Ling's gaze. A sidewise glance revealed that the usually implacable Mei Ling appeared to be a strange shade of red.
chap4newmodelfleet.jpg

"A-ah. I see. That's interesting!" Clark coughed, rubbing the back of his somewhat unkempt hair.

Finding it was now down to his shoulders, he shot a nervous glance away. "Ah, Mei Ling - a query -" But Mei Ling had darted up and out of the foyer, with it's several tables dotted with empty chairs and into the kitchen. Clark fidgeted for minutes until Mei Ling returned, holding glass jars of something the same burnished dark red as his hair, tiny particles floating around within it. "Hongchagu. It's a drink, Yelu always made it to ward off colds - he says it's an invention of the Russians, something about cultural infiltration, but I'm pretty sure that my grandmother's family has bottled it for generations. Funny finding some here, isn't it? Maybe Miao'll teach you how to make some tomorrow-"

Mei Ling's ever-hastening patter halted instantly as he locked eyes with Clark. "When Miao addressed me, she said young man, not young men. Perhaps I should've asked before, but..." He trailed off, and the air began to crystalize into another awkward silence. But before it could, Mei Ling cut it off, her irises firm with resolve. "Yes. I hope that wasn't your first clue, but I suppose it's to be expected from a bai chi like you." She laughed slightly, sinking into her wooden chair in resigned ease. "So now - you're going to go off on your own, horrified that you disgraced yourself by talking to me for so long?" Although Mei Ling's voice was cordial, the expectant lull in the question made it all the more poignant. Clark had expected that much however, and thrust his hands into his pocket.

"Growing up, my Mother had to wring the chickens necks, and we taught Aribella to be a crack shot as any man. Ruined her chance to marry out of that hell-hole; honestly a terrible breach of conduct on our part." Smiling at Mei Ling's stunned expression, Clark continued. "Anyway, even if I was utterly disgusted at your breach of character - which I certainly am, despite being slightly more miffed at having called you boy when we first met - I... I uh, still haven't apologized for words said, and more importantly, said unthinkingly. So it's I that owe you the apology." Bowing his head slightly, Clark looked up to see Mei Ling positively beaming. Her smile was radiant. "Apology accepted."

kombu.jpg

The two drained their cups as the moon shone through a window.

Mei Ling fell back into her chair with an obvious weight off of her shoulders, staring contently at the moon. "I've never hung around long enough for anyone to put the pieces together; well, anyone who keeps my company after that. It was Yelu's idea for me to dress like a man. He said I already acted like one, so it would be easy enough." She cracked a smile and nestled her head against her arms. "Tomorrow, let's get Miao some new things. No one should have to live like this; her children should be here." Clark nodded, suddenly reminded of his own family. The thought was bitter and nostalgic, so he pushed it aside. "Good plan - and I need to ask you how you got involved in all this reform business. It certainly doesn't seem to have been directed at improving the plight of the people."

Mei Ling shrugged. "Yelu'd chew your ear off about that one, and figure out some parable or someting - it isn't really growth if the plant is dying. I tried my best." Still grinning, she nodded thoughtfully. "I like the idea. We'll visit him, too. I feel like this'll be a short winter." Rising to her feet, Mei Ling stretched and smiled again at Clark. "Well, see you in the morning. Don't spend too much time in your dreams!" Mei Ling headed into one of the empty rooms and flopped into a cot; Clark did the same, and found himself drifting into a peaceful sleep, his dreams far less troubled... Although a faint figure in the corner of his eyes seemed to be whispering something almost unintelligible.
Remember me.

-

The first ships of the fleet began to dock at Danshui, in Taiwan-Fu. Admiral Salter coughed, the declaration perched neatly in his coat pocket. His double, the magistrate he had been sent to meet, smiled obliviously, obviously looking forward to a game of chess and discussion of the ties between Britain and the Qing. Salter, removed the document wordlessly and handed it to the magistrate.
8chap4.jpg

As of now, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Qing Empire are in a state of war.

-

Thought's so far -

Yeah, this should be much better than last chapter, word-wise. Hopefully you've continued to enjoy, dear readers! My computer can't manage diaclectic marks at the moment; as soon as I get my romanization support up and running again, I'll re-romanize the words. Any help with translation or pronunciation is always appreciated. :D Rights of Man is being researched at long last - but freedom of trade barely increased my income! Which brings us to today's Curse Corner - WHAT IS WITH THE EVENT TEXT FOR FAMINE UGH. Although it is indeed a surplus of labor that creates agricultural wealth, saying that it was division of labor that accomplished that gain kills me; as a farmer it was technological advancement and mechanization that created such huge surpluses of food. Sometimes, this was spurred by capitalist development and factory farming - although this was most prevalent in the early 1900's and had large consequences, vis a vis the Dust Bowl. In other areas, it was via individual or group effort, state grants or research, community planning, scientific organization or a combination of these (and more) factors.

Of course, saying all that in a text box'd probably be pretty lame for most people, so I understand. And not everyone is interested in the fecund, loving embrace of mother earth, hahaha! A bonus shot that didn't get included in today's update:

-

Bonus corner: Tibet laughs at China, Daoguang Empire cries himself to sleep

8chap4.jpg


In preperation for the deployment of British troops, the Daoguang Emperor asked the Chinese tributary of Tibet for military access. Having noticed troop movements and a pattern of Qing interest in renewing tribute, the Tibetans responded with a missive that consisted mostly of laughing as the British slowly moved their camps closer and closer to the Dai-Li outpost at Dali City. Cheer up, Daoguang Emperor! Your humiliate/demand tribute strategy can always be undertaken some other day!
 
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Enewald

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Raise the taxes, raise the tariffs!
Raise the serfs, rally the Banners!
 

Alexspeed

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A great update, very nice read, thank you very much :)

Also thank you for making it better fitting to the contest rules,
just one more chapter within the rules and then you can go crazy on writing ;)
 

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I hope to see an update soon Communitarian!

Its allmost a week, and i am eager to know how your Story will develop :)
 

LordTempest

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The British! Oh boy, if this turns out anything like my Dutch game...

Don't worry about your romanisation, i've never cared much for Pinyin's tonal marks. And [nitpicking]Taipei doesn't exist yet, also Taipei (city) is landlocked.[/nitpicking]
I hope to see an update soon Communitarian!

Its allmost a week, and i am eager to know how your Story will develop :)

Well, they take forever to read, so they must take forever to write!
 

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Pah. You're the middle kingdom! What's there to be afraid of? :)
 

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I am so sorry, everyone! Don't worry, the (mis)adventures of Clark and friends will continue! I have an excuse, although it's a terrible one - I'm not sure if it's the fever that's made my insomnia worse, or my insomnia making me feverish, but I've been in bed with bizarre, hallucinatory hallucinations (redundancy intended) for the last week or so. It's been... Fun, and I have no desire to repeat the process. :rofl: Although I'm not back to perfect physical shape at all - I actually had trouble taking the garbage out, ouch- my mind is good enough that I should at least be able to update this. Again, sorry for the delay!

Enewald - Everything has been raised! Unfortunately... Well, you'll see the fate of the Banners next episode. I was amazed at how effect my strategy proved this update, and how, uh, less effective it proved in close combat. ;)

Alexspeed - Yosh! Thanks a million! Er, again, sorry for the wait - but glad you liked the cutting! I think I did a pretty good job, and this chapter follows the same trend. It actually has a few less pictures, too, but that's because I couldn't find one I was looking for in my screenshot folder. Huh!

Tanzhang - Let's hope my tears only run deep enough to supply one well. :p Thanks for the comments on romanization - as a (very selftaught) amateur linguist, they get confused in my mind with IPA, and then I'm starting to write stuff that doesn't even make remote sense. Oooh, you're right though! Danshui was more prominent right about now, if I recall. So to address your nitpicking, I might just have to edit last post a bit~ :eek:o

Haha, and sometimes they come within thirty minutes or so- usually, it's about a good two hours to write, and two to four for fact-checking and such. Usually I miss quite a bit too. ;) But honestly, learning is part of the fun for me, and as long as the mistakes I make aren't too glaring, I'm very content.

naggy - Hell yeah! That's the spirit!

...

{When I sleep at night, I see queen Victoria in my nightmares. F'real.} :rofl:

Leviathan07 - Thanks a million! Human wave was my first strategy while I moved my reinforced, modern armies in as a backbone, figuring logistics'd take care of the British. We'll see how that turned out soon enough. And I'll keep that luck around - because you're very right about me needing it. ;)
 

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The Lion and the Dragon, Hui'an 43 Hui'an '44 {1843-44}

Mei Ling,

There are a few neighborhood kids that seem to be skipping out of lessons to tell me how much better I'm getting. The sentiment is nice, but they should really be studying. Knowledge is going to be very important soon. Besides, they keep trying to steal my things! It's enough of an insult to not be able to come with you too. Hope that a certain slow learner isn't causing you too much trouble - but it's important he finds what he's searching for. I'm more or less taking a gamble here, but old age breeds risk! That was meant to be a joke... I should probably write that down.


Yelu sighed, scratching his shoulder and wincing as he was reminded why that was a terrible idea indeed, jerking his hand back in a sudden rush of pain. The ink from his brush stained the floor of the hospice, and the old man sighed, massaging the bandages criss-crossing across his shoulder. As a pale moon filtered through the window, he began to write again.

It's important that Clark believes. If he doesn't believe what he's seeing, things will only turn out the worse for him. He's still at that stage of his life where a young man believes he is capable and destined for some great change in the world - and even if it's true, does stupid things to try to prove it. Try to keep him from that, if you can. As for the war... This invasion cannot go on forever. The Daoguang Emperor's recent stance that only domestic merchants and the Portuguese can traffic in Opium has put a huge cramp in British profits. They don't really want Yunnan. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the Emperor really is looking to win. Ha, if only I could explain my river-like thoughts and enjoy the company of your questioning, little Red. We'll meet again soon, before this all ends.


Waving over the attendant who darted from patient to patient like a moth, Yelu folded the letter carefully, eyes locking with the - suddenly visibly nervous - assistant. "Ah, you. How long is it gonna take to send this to some friends of mine, by horse? They can't have gone far if they've stuck to the route I've planned for them-" The attendent's nerves spilled over and he coughed with just the right hint of apology. "Mail? Unfortunately, all post services have been temporarily halted with the deployment of three additional banners to the front." Yelu leaped to his feet, ignoring the searing pain and the sudden wave of people staring. "Canceled, just because of the British incident? If you won't deliver it, then I'll take it myself!" Snatching his letter back and throwing his jacket on with a haste that amazed no one more than himself, he leap to his feet - and instantly regretted that as well.

Stubborn will won out over pain and caution, and Yelu gathered his belongings as the doctor pushed his tiny way through the crowd, glowering. "You should not be going. For all I know your shoulder will be so infected you'll lose your arm! You've waited a month, you can wait one more!" But Yelu had made it half-way to the door, and wasn't staying around long enough to hear anything else. The air bit into his shoulder like a wolf's fangs, and he could feel a light frost beneath his feet. One of the many military missions that had sprouted up was conducting some sort of drill in the distance. This would have barely been worth noting, except that a full stable of horses was pacing against the light chill - unguarded. Whistling to himself with a confident smile, the old man set off to procure himself a horse, and deliver the letter.
chap5militarymission.jpg

Yelu did not fail to notice the lone officer staring at him intently as he retreated.

1chap5.jpg

Then again, most missions had quickly turned into hotbeds of foreign espionage.

-
Rain splattered against the wooden frame of the European-style carriage that Mei Ling had hailed down. An innovation of the Daoguang Emperor introduced in a perfect example of bad timing, the carriages were meant to show the fledgeling steps taken towards a self-strengthened Qing Empire. Although the designs were meant to echo the Berlin coaches of Prussia with traces of Chinese iconography, the design - which had taken several imported designers and local artisans half a year to settle on - was largely lost on a populace hearing constant reports of devastation to the British. Clark was too busy being thrilled at a 'decent mode of transport' and his newly shaved face to care, however; although he had retained what he considered to be the pinnacle of a moustache. Mei Ling was reclining to his side, amusedly staring at the scenery as it dragged past.

"Isn't this perfect?" Clark gushed, leaning out the carriage window. "Fast, efficient travel up the coast - and to think, we're going to Hui'an! I'm thrilled that we're taking a bit of a detour. Yelu'd understand - we'll make it to Beijing eventually, and this way without much of a difference in time. I'm still a little confused as to why he wanted us to start off without him." Mei Ling shrugged, stretching her neck and shutting an eye. "Honestly?... He was probably worried about the British reaching Huzhou. It seems ridiculous, but apparently they've been besieging Tainan for some time now. It's only due to lack of logistics that they haven't completely broken through. As long as the port at Danshui holds out though, we'll be fine." She smiled at Clark, who smiled back and resumed watching the rain fall.

2chap5.jpg

He never noticed Mei Ling biting her lip, lost in thought.

The carriage hit a bump and the lineman driving swore profusely, calling out rudely about how if there had been more passengers, the road wouldn't be so coarse. Clark's head thudded against the carriage wall, and he winced in pain - only to feel it drift away as the sensation of soft, care-worn fingers against the back of his head. "That looked pretty painful." Mei Ling said cheerfully, obviously more amused than worried. "Your head just spun back for a second there. Probably what you get for staring out the window and not paying attention when someone's talking to you..." Chuckling, she withdrew her hand, eyebrows raised. "It doesn't look like you have a concussion or anything though. Pretty lucky."

Flabbergasted, Clark 'harrumphed' and gesticulated wildly with his hands, moment of confused bliss forgotten. "F-for your information, I, like all gentleman, always pay perfect attention. I remember what you were saying perfectly. About Yelu's reasoning and all that, and about the brave defense of Danshui harbor. Didn't the New Model Fleet sink three British galleons? I remember reading about it in the foreign paper at that last town we passed. Really impressive to see what technology and indomitable will can get you!"
3chap5.jpg

"Well, at least you try." Mei Ling answered lightly, obviously enjoying herself.

The carriage rolled on, trampling over ground wet with rainwater soaking down into the thick mud. It's tracks dragged through the mud, leaving a clear trail into the midst of the encroaching forest. The laughter of the carriage's occupants echoed throughout the trees around it as it tore through the night, time none the wiser.

-

Hui'an was everything and nothing like Miao had described it - although the return via southward carriage had held few novelties for Clark, the city of Chongwu was spectacular, it's view overlooking the bay as impressive as it's many walls. The large population was almost overwhelming to Clark, but he had began to learn the ways of dipping through crowds and finding good food, even without Yelu or Mei Ling to help him. His years had taught him much, although he was beginning to think himself a slow learner. Stepping out of the carriage with a yawn, Mei Ling rubbed the back of her neck, a smile drifting on to her face. "Hui'an... I used to hate this place." She gestured at a small procession of women of various ages walking by; their clothes instantly reminded Clark of Miao. "All the things I value - hard work, charity, honesty - I wanted to be as a young girl, the Hui'an maidens were renowned for. It took me awhile to realize that there was no one route to my cherished virtues." Her smile widened. "And now, I appreciate the differences and similarities between us all the more." Clark nodded in understanding. "Ah, and I suppose it was Yelu or your brother who taught you the rest of your, shall we say, unique mannerisms?"

Mei Ling laughed as Clark turned red and tried to hide it by walking over and staring determinedly at the sea. "No, not at all!... That's just me being myself. Yelu is more of..." She struggled for words, and Clark was suddenly reminded that they had been comfortably conversing in two languages for some time now. It was his turn to smile. "... My philosophical teacher? He's like a guide. We disagree on a lot of things, but he was there for me when no one else was. My brother would've been, but I've told you enough about that, haven't I?" Frowning, the young man folded his arms together. "Actually, it wouldn't hurt to know more. When you're comfortable with it, that is." Mei Ling was about to respond, when a courier's voice rang out across the square.

4chap5.jpg

Aomen tian hai! Zanmei huangdi!

Grinning from ear to ear, Mei Ling roared her support; she wasn't the only one, as the entire crowd seemed to be cheering. Clark felt himself caught up in the celebration, but also suddenly hit by a pain of homesickness - remembering what it had been to celebrate with his family and kin. The moment went by fleetingly, and he soon found himself punching the air and swept along with the procession forming out of thin air. Mei Ling drifted between revelers like a ghost, clapping Clark on the back. "Can you imagine? This'll teach the Portuguese for intervening with the Qing! Maybe the Daoguang Emperor is going to bring us back to greatness. Wouldn't that be something?"

5chap5.jpg

The Belgian relief force fared no better, although military advisers often question why they had sent a single ship.

Laughing as the clouds broke into another thick rain, Clark said nothing but held out his hand. Mei Ling seemed surprised, then broke into another grin - and the two dance as the rain continued to fall. Around them, peasant danced with landlord, farmer and laborer. It seemed nothing could go wrong, as if there was a divine mandate guiding the Qing back to some semblance of it's former glory; and the celebration did not break until late into the evening, with the revelers breaking into smaller and smaller groups as a tired Mei Ling helped and exhausted Clark hobble to lodgings for the night. Shaking her head, she signaled a very overwhelemd innkeeper for two rooms; the man behind the counter recognized her with a warm smile, and refused to take payment. Clark didn't remember much else, only a feeling of contentment he hadn't felt for a long, long time.

-

The rain was killing him.

Yelu wasn't dead yet, but his shoulder ached like it had been lit on fire, self-immolated in a display of devotion not at all his own. The riders in their dark wool cloaks had been chasing him for some time. At first, they had been content simply to follow him along the road, but something had caused the fourth rider to break into a frenzy, dirtied nails digging into the mostly-hidden flesh of his face, tearing out clumps of red hair and blood-matted flesh. Yelu and his stolen horse had ran for what seemed like ages, Yelu cursing for the lack of a gun, or better still, a bow. Finally, the riders seemed to have gone, but Yelu ached all over - tiny cuts and sores seeming to have materialized out of nowhere upon both himself and the animal whose ragged breath now hung heavy on the air.

Eyes opening and shutting, he felt himself lose consciousness multiple times. Finally, the faint patter of the rain was interrupted by the creaking of a wheelbarrow - an old woman, hair tied back into a messy and frazzled bun, was staring at him in a mix of horror and appraisal. As Yelu's eyes opened, she let out a nervous squeak, which quickly turned into her batting a plank of wood hefted from the cart at him. "Gundan, gunkai!" Yelu caught the plank, and put on his best sympathetic expression. "My apologies, most beautiful lady. I am not a demon, dead, or anything else besides in a great deal of pain."

chap5josspaper.jpg

"So please, return that paper to your cart. You're making me nervous."

Miao evaluated the stranger carefully - he certainly seemed nice enough, and reminded her slightly of the young couple that had been staying with her for some time. In fact, they had spoken of a friend, hadn't they? He'd be about this old, and had been wounded... Where? Her eyes widened in realization, and she grit her aged teeth. "I should be apologizing. I had been gathering mushrooms and heard a terrible cry." She raised her hand around her head to indicate how terrible it had been. "I felt it must be something horrible. But you... I know you. You're the friend those two nice young people going to my home mentioned. Ah, let me help you! You and your horse seem to have had quite an accident..."

With surprising strength and determination, Miao to help Yelu get to his feet, and use the plank as a makeshift splint. Yelu's new horse soon got to it's hooves, still sending cold breath into the air. Yelu smiled and bowed slightly. "My apologies for making a fellow traveler so worried. I think I know who you are talking about, however - a bit far from Beijing to be gathering mushrooms, aren't we?" Miao laughed, slapping her leg as thunder rolled around the forest. "No, no! I live in Huzhou! My home is in Hui'an, however. They visited it after my stories. So nice to have young people around, who listen." It was the old man's turn to look astonished. "So, they went to Hui'an?... Lucky for me. I can't have gotten very far at all. It'll be easier to catch them in the south, at this rate. I hate to impose... but could you give a traveler a place to rest for the night?"
Miao smiled. "As long as you don't ask me to dance for you, it would be my pleasure." All thoughts of riders and messages and worry drifted from Yelu's tired mind, replaced only by visions of a warm fire and company. He didn't see the fright reflected in the horse's eyes as they reflected something impossibly far away, something only there for a fraction of a second before riding back off into the night...

Thought's so far -

Long posting times, sickness, and general illness are terrible. Don't let your sleep schedule become like this, folks! We're getting more to the meat of things although I'm still terribly embarrassed at the time it took to post. You'll notice at some point that I was dogpiled, probably due to to Britain actually 'losing' at some point and other powers joining in to intervene. That's doubly painful due to the fact that Britain had hardly moved it's forces in yet, and then I had to contend with many other powers. Also - will be reading and commenting loads later tonight - first I need to have some rooibas tea and take care of a call relating to work that I've missed responding too. Also, not related to AARs at all, but definately to AARland - I missed you all, soooooo much. xD
 

LordTempest

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Oh boy..

Belgium, The Netherlands and Portugal?! As if Great Britain wasn't bad enough...

But none of that matters because The Qing have taken Macau! Wansui! Wansui!
 

Alexspeed

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Great update, thank you for that! :)

Glad you are back, and all the best to your health and that you get well again,
you dont have to hurry or worry now any more about updates (unless you choose to),
with this one you have the 5 that are necessary for the contest, so take your time :)