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LordTempest

You mother baka
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The image showing the annexation of Korea isn't tagged correctly, please fix that.

Also, i've been wondering for a while now why is your militancy so high?
 

naggy

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Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Or annexing them, as the case may be.

Everything will be better! Especially as soon as you open your first factory, and get 15000 craftsmen promoting for 10000 slots. :)
 

Tommy4ever

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You shall soon be able to civilise.

As usual this was a great chapter and I look forward to both your progression in game and in the story.
 

unmerged(219496)

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I think the best thing about writing AARs is getting feedback - but posting stuff is fun, too! ;) This'll be a quick edit to fix a few issues (gah, picture errors? I knew I was too sleepy to hand time-spatial awareness!) - but there should be a nice new update out tonight ALA time. :)

Alex: Thank you so much! No need to rush - when you get to it, you'll get to it. :) And much obliged to the line-break edict! Hopefully that'll make conversations more intelligible.

Enewald: I would'be been at about fourty or fifty now if the UK hadn't soundly thrashed my stacks earlier. :eek:o Prestige is a harsh mistress! But I'm cool with that, bwahaha!

Tanzhang: Fixed! :D Ah, and if you're referring to my militancy irl, well - it's not so much how I see me, as how the world around me/employers must see me. I'm very loud and boisterous and constantly bringing up things that I figure aren't fair for the rest of my coworkers. And I'm loud. I think I said that already, but it has to be seen to be believed. :p I consider myself polite, but so long as I know people without work, working in terrible conditions, or just being exploited, I suppose my personality'll probably cause headaches for any system or state it resides in. :p
But it really could be less, haha!
Edit: Oh wait, you meant my in-game militancy - I took every opportunity barring pop-loss to raise it in hopes of getting support for reform, figuring that suited the style of the Tianmen Emperor. And then... And then... That dang Mandate of Heaven event cut through my militancy like a knife through butter, rendering roughly eight years work down the drain! Curse you, divine right! ;)

Naggy: I love it when that happens. :) I heard minimum wage doesn't work in Victoria II, but in my head I shall be bumping it every other day. ;) Industrial goods, manufacturing might, and public works await!

Tommy4ever: Well, unless Russia and Britain decide to partition me amongst themselves- :rofl: just kidding, o'course! I'm excited to share what's happened so far!
 
Last edited:

unmerged(219496)

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The March of Time Beijing '55 Dalian '60 {1850-55}

Dear Mother,

I-



He threw the letter out and begin, trying to ignore the dueling voices inside his head, and some far-off part of him screaming against the injustice of it all.



I've heard about how Papa and Sylvester have been called to the front. I did not expect the industrial magnates on the coast to be so frightened by development in the South. I had thought an economy non-dependent on slave labor would have pleased Washington greatly. President Van Buren's war speech was uplifting, I'm sure, and -



Once again, the sound of crumpled paper cut through the room.


I'm scared, Mama, and I want to help you, I would love to leave everything and go search for Papa and Sylvester in the front lines, but I can't, I can't leave now, and it's too much to handle - it's just too much.


Clark slumped against his chair, fingers digging into his forehead. It was too much, for any one man to bear. He would have been glad for anyone's consul, but Yelu still had not returned home from the war effort - Clark had expected him back many months ago, but apparently some sort of minor Han sabotage had exploded onto the scene and forced many officers into peace-keeping duties. Now this, and he could do nothing! Well, shit. Sucks to be you, doesn't it? Ah, the first voice, whom he had begin to call Gentleman - both as an irony to his generally congenial attitude, and his paternal manner of speaking.

You can't do anything to help them - you've made your choices, and they know that. It's pretty much their fault for living in an area where there's a war going on, right? If they'd been smart, they would've come with you. Gentleman's patronizing was cut very short by a smart rap at the door. Clark shambled away from the desk, casting a glance towards the mirror to make sure he was presentable; although he was rather disheveled, it would have to do. The door opened and one of the court maidservants let herself in, hair up in ox tails; after a few moments of bewilderment Clark recognized her as Meng Chuntao. She bowed her head slightly, avoiding eye contact.

"Sir, the Emperor would like to speak with you."

Perfect; this would be just what he needed to get his mind off things. Uttering a word of thanks, Clark threw his battered jacket over his official suit, and left the room. Chuntao watched him leave, face wrought with concern. As usual, it looked as if he hadn't slept in days - and he desperately needed to change his clothes. She would have stopped him, but for some reason, the Emperor seemed to find this man's behavior tolerable, perhaps even charming. She just wondered what demons ate at him to cause such carelessness.

-

The Tianmen Emperor was waiting outside in the moonlight as Clark strode into the gardens. As usual, several guards and attendants were cloistered around him, and even more shadowy figures seemed to just out of Clark's vision. The Emperor was dictating something aloud to a scribe, the sound of the pen scratching against paper echoing throughout the courtyard as the shimmer of fireflies darted around the gardens.

1chap9.jpg

Private interest groups, as well as the coming benefits of fixed-font printing, will revolutionize industry.

The Emperor smiled as Clark stepped forward; and yet again, Clark reminded that he was talking with an Emperor. Perhaps one of the most powerful men in the world - and in official documents, if nothing else, the Son of Heaven. He lowered his head.

"You requested my presence?"

Clark's voice was strained, and he realized it even as he spoke. It must have been obvious that his thoughts were not focused on whatever task the Emperor had planned, but the Tianmen Emperor did not seem to be offended. Indeed, after an introspective pause, his smile only broadened.

"Please, take a walk with me."

Motioning for Clark to join him, the Emperor and his retinue began to walk. Clark followed, trying to keep in step with the moonlight flooding over the courtyard.

"It has been a long evening for you as well, I see."

Clark wondered how the Emperor could talk so naturally when an entire clique of servants hastened around him at all times, ready to carry out whatever task he could possibly need in the dead of night.

"Honestly, Sir, I have been fine. Besides some personal concerns which I am taking care of -" Clark felt his fists instinctively ball up, and willed himself to smile neutrally. "- and are of no further consequence, my only desire is to serve you and China. What did you have in mind?"

The Emperor of the Qing laughed - long and heartily, obviously amused. None of his retainers laughed, but Clark could make out a faint smirk on a few of the older attendants lips.

"Is it so hard to attempt to have a conversation before business? I didn't choose you to be another stuffed-shirt, Clark Osskisson. I chose you for the same reason that I was chosen to become Emperor. Neither of us were favorite in our family - my father chose me as the Crown Prince out of practicality. In his last minutes he realized that only I would pursue the paths needed to keep the Qing stable and turn us into a recognized Western power.

You left home to prove yourself, did you not? With the goal to prove your family had a right to be as good as and better than all others? To restore their success and good will? I have hired you as my assistant because I am trying to do the same thing with an entire country."

The Emperor's sigh cut through the evening as he gazed up towards the moon, and Clark bit back his surprise at how much he knew. Well, he's reading your letters, more than likely. It's an easy way to keep tabs on someone who could turn out to be a security risk - and anyone in your possession is one of those by virtue of drawing breath.

Yixin closed his eyes, and for a minute Clark was unsure of what the Emperor was thinking. After some time, he motioned for his attendants to leave. One by one, guards and servants scattered into the distance; and then there were none.

"Even a second without my guards is a gamble, Clark Osskisson. I am a deeply unpopular man; iconoclasm causes fear, rightfully or in ignorance. But it seems you will not talk unless there are no others around, and it is clear you need to speak."

Indeed, unfounded fear had gripped Clark. The warm glow of the fireflies had taken on a melancholy aspect as he stood alone with the Emperor. Several moments passed, and finally, Clark spoke - and when he did it came unbidden and without restraint.

"Yes- I'm terrified. Of loss, of death, of failure. Especially of failure." Clark grit his teeth. "There is nothing permanent in this world, nothing certain - and I want to create a world where stability is something those who have the strength, birthright, and noble character can claw for themselves. And yet - here I am, and as I work for you, my family falls. Ironic, isn't it?"

He hadn't meant to laugh so bitterly, but Yixin laughed as well, with a look of deep understanding reflecting from his eyes.

"Yes, it is ironic. But sacrifices must be made to fix things, and create the future we want. Your family and their pain now will guarantee their prosperity later. And the suffering of the Chosun dynasty has guaranteed the prosperity not only of their people, but of China - and solidified the reign of the Qing Empire."

2chap9.jpg

And in a roundabout way, they had come to the crux of the matter.

"Fortifications have been built in every region with a coast, and in every area of the Korean peninsula. They are to be manned at all times, and will constantly be used to suppress dissent, while at the same time denouncing neo-legalist ideals. There will be revolt and loathing in Korean lands - but after we have given them books, industry, and guns, they will once again be free. Now, imagine a future where Korea lay despoiled, picked apart by foreign powers and used as a springboard to tear into the heart of China."

The Emperor's face was clouded for a minute, eyes unfocused. But it passed quickly as a dream, and was soon voided by a confident smile. "What we are doing here is right, is it not? I wanted to ask you - I know you understand that great men are what drives history. The peasantry are unwilling to embrace change, and the middle classes are unwilling to support it. Just as we struggle for our right to exist, in Britain, they struggle to keep their advantage. Victory goes to the strongest - and we will *be* the strongest. So I ask you - is what we are doing right?"

Clark hadn't even needed to blink before responding.

"Yes."

"A thousand times yes. The United States was torn apart by a murder of politicians, bickering amongst each other while refusing to innovate - Britain has tried multiple times to pierce the Qing heartlands with it's auxillary regiments, and failed. But the Qing's star is rising - and we - and I shall ensure it does not fall again."

The satisfied smile Yixin wore was unmistakeable. His hands darted forth in a nearly imperceptible gesture, and his guards returned to him as if they had always been there. "You are a strong man, Clark. I am glad that you are working for me. Such ideals will be what transforms China, and fixes the mistakes the blind past. There is a new legation quarter opening up that shall serve as your offices. Go there and convince the people of the value of our newly acquired sovereignty. Ignore any and all distractions that may appear to tempt you from your path. We shall speak again soon."

3chap9.jpg

And with that, the two left their separate ways, certain of the rightness of their tasks.

-

4chap9.jpg

Shit. What a terrible way to start the day.

Yelu certainly hadn't expected his illustrious career to include being a glorified messenger but was now thoroughly convinced it was better than being in China's northeast. Jilin, straddling the border between occupied Korea and Manchuria, had exploded into a hotbed of violence. Although most of the foreigners had gathered around Dalian - which they called 'Port Arthur' there was a small community who had seen China's annexation of Korea as akin to spreading the peninsula open for business.

"Disgusting." Yelu spat as he walked up the newly-paved streets of Beijing. Carriages had become fashionable indeed, but he would be decommissioned before giving up his horse - although the time to put his confidant up for meat might be past approaching. Grumbling to himself, he opened the doors to the new consulate and was greeted by two members of the Portuguese clegy; one bowed his head exuberantly, nearly hitting his head against Yelu's chest. Dodging their further attempts at socialization, Yelu searched through offices until he found the name he was looking for, and stepped into it with a smile.

The one he got back was a sight for sore eyes, as Clark stepped over the mountain of paperwork he was working on and embraced his old friend. Yelu was amazed at how young Clark looked - he barely seemed to be a day older than the day they had first met. And Clark seemed to return a mirror of his surprise, concern creasing onto his face as his fingers felt Yelu's ribs and sandpaper-like skin. He masked it nigh-instantaneously - he'd gotten good at that.

"Yelu! Please, take a seat! There's always room for you here. Miss Chuntao, more coffee for my friend here!"

There was the sound of someone yelling something from far off, and Yelu helped himself into a seat, moving some of the freshly-printed pages onto the floor as he did. Titles praising the Qing's pacification of the dangerous rogue nation of Korea and European statistical analysis of the dangers it posed jumped off the headlines; a Prussian statistician was quoted as saying that Korea had been 'a loose cannon, a glass dagger: brittle and unstable.' Yelu felt his heart clench up, remembering the streets of Seoul, and looked at Clark, who was grinning vapidly.

"... And so, naturally, there has been an increase of the amount of data we have been able to handle. Of course, freedom of the press means that there are competing papers to worry about - but most are run by private interests, so it's really none of our concern. But tell me, why did you come to see me, old friend? Ah, thank you for the coffee."

A young woman dressed in what seemed to be a servants robe had stopped in with two cups of black coffee in the American style. Clark took his black, wolfing it down without a thought - Yelu left his untouched, the steam rising to meet his face.

"At first, just to see you. But there's been some new you might be worried about. Anti-foreign sentiment has been spreading like wildfire, and even all the new forts the Emperor have been building aren't going to do much to quiet them down."

Clark laughed nasally, then smiled apologetically and set his cup onto his desk.

"I can assure you, Yelu. We are well aware of such common problems and I am not in any danger here. Thank you for your concern however - but let me tell you something you may not quite be privy to; situations will change soon, that will eliminate common disdain for events should, ah - dissipate."

His chuckle was mirthless, but not without emotion. Yelu just couldn't tell which emotions lay within. Feeling very unsure, he finally raised the coffee cup to his lips and found it strong, but slightly sweet and tasting faintly of hazel and almonds. He grunted and lay back in his chair, staring back towards the half-open door.

"Didn't remember you being above my pay grade, laowai. Seems like you've risen up pretty fast, what with this nice office. Somehow, I didn't see you as the type to have a servant. What's her name?"

It seemed that Clark missed the edge in Yelu's tone, because he grinned proudly, preening somewhat.

"Ah, you mean Meng Chuntao. She was assigned as my messenger back at the palace and has become somewhat attached to me, in more ways then one. She's quite capable, if not a bit slow in the uptake, aha!" When Yelu did not laugh with him, Clark sighed.

"Honestly, Yelu. It's hard work taking care of official business, and a woman in the office lends an air of efficiency and charm to an otherwise drab job. And although I am sure you have your suspicions, my conduct has been nothing more than Gentlemanly-"

Yelu leaned over the desk, surprised when Clark leaned back, looking slightly afraid.

"Didn't doubt your intent for a second, although with that sort of reaction, wondering if I should've. It just seems you've become a completely different person. Look, Clark - just be careful, all right? I'm too old to protect you any more - and I'm going to be forced into retirement soon - one way or another. I don't want to almost lose another member of my family."

Clark's vacant expression vanished in an instant and it was his turn to excitedly lean across the table, expression animated.

"A--aaah, you've heard from Mei Ling? Not to sound improper, I do know that she has went her own way and have no intent to bother her in her search for whatever little things she is questing about for but could you tell me what you know? Quid pro quo with my reports, of course!"

Desperation oozed off of Clark's voice, but Yelu had walked in with the goal of talking to him; it'd be stupid to leave now, even if he had turned into some sort of bizarre functionary.

"Yeah. She's gone far afield indeed, though. You'll never guess where she is, ha! But better than me hinting at things, I think I've got something here for you-"

Beaming as he fondly recalled the letter he had received in red stationary, Yelu gently reached into the saddlebag he had brought inside with him, fingers clasping another such letter, still sealed with much care. He handed it across to Clark, who cradled it before laying it on the desk in front of him. He extended his hand across the table, and Yelu took it firmly; memories from a long time ago flooded through his mind, and for a minute Yelu felt as if he might begin to cry. Then the moment passed, and he was saying his farewells as Clark and he walked out of the building together.

5chap9.jpg

mandate1.jpg

The future wasn't so looking so bad after all - and maybe it wouldn't be so bad to retire...

-


Clark,

It's been a long time. As I'm writing this to you, I'm waiting for food and information in a cafe in Kyoto. The atmosphere in Japan is one of quiet arrogance; in some ways, finally setting foot in foreign soil tells me everything I thought I knew was correct; there is a huge sense in Japan that it is the rising sun which will greet the new dawn, not the Dragon throne.

But I cannot hate Japan blindly anymore, both considering my current goals, and some of the people I have met here. Though the government desires to throw off it's tributary status and become powerful, should I hate the child who pulls at my sleeves, asking for a story of China, or the old couple that talk to me as I walk past? A country and it's actions are not those of its citizens, I suppose. Oddly, I wouldn't have known that without meeting you. And in another case of irony, I've been working as a doorman at Hakubai no ki, a bar and teahouse catering to Han businessman in Japan.

... I probably wouldn't have been writing you if Yelu hadn't managed to track me down. I don't like talking to people I care about when I'm confused or alone, and it was a real effort writing down my thoughts like this. I, ah, kind of cheated in a sense - a traveling writer helped me think up some of the stuff I wanted to say. You'll see what I mean. Anyway, Clark - I know we left on hard terms, but I do want to stay in contact with you. I don't know if we'll see eye to eye on things - but I know you like writing letters like this, and I've gotten pretty good at English, I think. So write me back, all right?... Okay, here goes nothing-

6chap9.jpg

The autumn leaves fall
on the pond bright with moonlight
forever altered

Hongye piaoyi
Chi dianran yueliang
Yongyuan gaibian


Haha, pretty terrible, right?... Well, anyway. That's the best you'll get from someone like me. I can't wait to hear what you write back. The future is bright, isn't it? Even from so far away, I can still feel the world changing and can't give up the hope that China will change, too - for the better.
With all the care in the world,

7chap9.jpg

Hong Mei Ling

-

A few hours had passed, and he still hadn't moved from the spot. The scent of cold coffee mixed with the sweat of working on a long summer day. Papers had gathered around him in a tiny fortress, one from which he did not need to move; in it, he was safe from the world, time, pain, and change. He continued staring at the wall, daring it to confront him - anything to keep his mind from the letter. But it didn't matter, nothing mattered. He was right back where he started, and this time it wasn't a thread that could be cut by pride and station.

8chap9.jpg

Qing claim Sahaliyan! Japanese and Russian interests back down from conflict!

He began to tap his pen nervously against his desk, waiting for it to run out of ink or perhaps break against the wooden surface, coating papers in it's viscous sludge. The pen didn't break, however, and his thoughts continued to bother him as the other voice - the one he had named Moonwatcher in honor of both his sleeplessness and it's detached sorrow - begin to speak to him in her ponderous voice.

You can't run away from your family, Clark, and you can't run away from her. Perhaps you never moved from the spot - but apathy is just as much a choice as action is, and it's never the right one. You chose to fix things, and here you are wallowing in your self-pity.

9chap9.jpg

Manchu migrate to Korean peninsula, cultural ministry established within sight of Golmin Sanggiyan Alin!

"Damn it all! Shut up! I didn't ask you to give me advice, to continue your preaching inside my head like I'm, I'm some sort of puppet! I have more than enough problems without you - go away, and let Gentleman be the only voice whose ministries I hear!" Clark grabbed his chair and threw it at the wall - it bounced off with a very unsatisfactory 'clunk', leaving both the wall and chair undamaged. Clark slowly turned his face to the still-open doorway, where he realized with increasing terror that Meng Chuntao was watching in confusion and mild terror.

He begin to laugh and propped his chair up near his desk. "Ah, no problem. See, it's a game we do in America to take away from the boredom of bureaucratic work - just a game. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you please leave I think I need to be alone for awhile."

The last sentence came spilling out in a torrent, but amazingly the young lady seemed to comprehend with a clarity and courtesy he could not have been more thankful for. She smiled professionally and set another cup of coffee upon his desk before leaving the room quickly and quietly - and Clark could not have been more grateful. He slowly pushed papers that needed to be addressed off of his desk, and placed the letter in his pocket, where it would stay safe until he got back to his home. Then, he looked at another one of the headlines he had written.

10chap9.jpg

Tennant Creek expedition challenged, British botanists humiliated into junior status!

It was clear - the Qing had risen again. However, he felt the rising bile in his throat - none of this was right. More and more articles had surrounded him, their soulless titles already well on way to the printing presses. Tapping his fingers against the table, he began to look for something, unsure of what it was. He felt Moonwatcher rise unbidden and guide his fingers towards a half-crumpled paper from earlier. With shaking palm, he unwrapped the paper and began to read. The story reminded him so much of home; he began to feel slightly faint, and then - and then he smiled a recalcitrant smile. Perhaps there was something he could do, after all.

And with that thought, he sank back into his chair, and begin to write.

11chap9.jpg

Mining tragedy claims life of young girl - mining supervisor unpunished!

Smiling, he clutched the letter to his chest and continued to write as he took another sip of the almond-flavored coffee, the voices occasionally offering unwanted criticisms as the sun slowly drifted out of it's far-off sky.

-

meijistreets.jpg


Hong Mei Ling thanked the old couple as they bid her fare well, still stumbling over her Japanese as years ago she had stumbled over English. Why is it so familiar but so different? You'd think with the rise of trade, there'd be more road signs in Chinese, at least... Sighing, she left the inn with it's image of a white plum tree, and walked along the country road towards the house she had been renting. The autumn leaves were indeed falling off for another year; a year which had not been kind to them, she mused.

Feeling the crunch of an early frost against her feet, she pushed the raggedy door open and immediately felt on guard. The apartment had been ransacked, but carefully, with only a few misplaced objects to hint that someone else had been here. Dropping the bucket containing today's leftover food to her feet slowly, she sunk into a cautious stance and begin to search - finding nothing but the slush where frost-tinged feet had stepped perhaps an hour before.

Refusing to be intimidated, she took her dinner from the basket and began to eat - until once again she felt the sensation of eyes upon her. Whirling around she pulled her fist back moments before it slammed into the anemically thin man several years her senior, his brown eyes and smug smirk just as she had remembered them. He threw his arms up, skin and bones sticking almost comically out from the blue Japanese kimono he wore. "Come now, sister. I always thought that when we met again for the first time, it'd be a happy occasion. Don't you have a hug for your dear brother?"

-

Bonus content:

Mei Ling's problems continue:
spherejapan.jpg

spherejapan2.jpg


Whatever her secret mission is in Japan, it's not going to be any easier.

12chap9.jpg

I had meant to close the update on this somehow, but really liked the way this flowed, so left it here. Imagine Clark writing a witty headline if it helps - the Tianmen Emperor has plans for Tibetan markets, and specifically a nice, clean, border with the British.

bonuso.jpg

WHAT.

... So, I'm a bad guy and have now cheated to correct that abomination. I don't even know how it happened, but it happened before I had fully Westernized - Japan had never gotten into a war with any of the powers I was involved with, and it seemed to have good relations with America. Anyhow, Central America's Asian Escapades lasted all of one day. At least it wasn't a cool event in Mongolia that it wasn't story!time for yet. :p


Thoughts so far -

Whaaaa? A Letters update that's on time? I- I can't believe it! It must be something special in the air- hehe, consider this my 'I loooove you guys' update. Hopefully, the next few'll be this rapid as well, or at least with a three-day-maximum on the delay schedule. It'll also keep me reading and commenting on your lovely AARs, something I pine for in between the waking hours of life. Please don't be too harsh on Mei Ling's haiku - I'd actually planned to use Ci form at first, given as it's actually Chinese as opposed to haiku - but really liked how this came out, and figured that since Chinese poetry influence Japanese customs so long ago, in this AAR's timeline it wasn't too ridiculous to have the reverse happen as Japan is brought back 'into the fold'.

Plus I like how it turned out, sssh-. :p

Also coming in a post under this - A very special reader participation event!
And please let me know if this style was easier to read/understand, so that I can go and back edit those previous chapters for your viewing pleasure if it is. :)
 

unmerged(219496)

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Dear contractors and fellow members of society -

You have been chosen to assist with Qing industrial development due to your profitable ventures with the state in your countries of origin, thriving private businesses, and experience in growing industry in virgin circumstances. Although the industry you will find before you has already received a simple building plan, you have been cordially invited to suggest factories and avenues of growth to be met in the none-too distant future. Of course, more than monetary profits await - the Qing Empire has set aside a memorial plaque for all those whose suggestions are filed with our bureau, regardless of whether production quotas are met. An incredibly generous offer you won't find anywhere on the continent or in the Americas!

So please take a look at the accompanying industrial statistics and give your thoughts and feedback, as well as the name your monetary donations or lease of advice/supplies shall be known under. Thank you immensely for your interest in this program,

Clark Osskisson


factoryein.jpg

factoryzwei.jpg

factorydrei.jpg

factoryfier.jpg

factoryfunf.jpg

factorysex.jpg

factoryzeben.jpg

factoryoct.jpg

factorynoein.jpg


Addendum: So, what is this? Well, in the interest of building anticipation and also giving everyone something to think about, this is kind of a 'bonus' chapter. I'm not good at telling what'll be mostly profitable, so any help would be appreciated - and if you want, you can even get your name on a memorial!... Which may be involved in some events in-story. Hmmm! Don't worry if you *don't* feel like investing your time or energy in this; I'm sure I'll be able to scrape by just fine.
Also, I realize there are certain workings of my mind which are as confusing as a windy game of blank white cards. So! If you have any plot related questions, please feel free to ask for clarification! Mysteries could be revealed - such important information as why Yelu plays the Erhu, Mei Ling's family relations, Clark's neuroses, and just who that Demiurge punk is, anyhow!

... Man, I feel productive right now. :D
 

Enewald

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Whaaat? :D

Now get some tech that allows faster assimilation.
You need more Manchus.
 

MrVonDeathray

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Im terrible at knowing whats profitable i usually just build what seems like a good idea at the time XD

I bet your industrial score is going to explode in the next few years
 

Tommy4ever

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Ok here's my advice. Since you have a massive market we can assume that you'll do alright at selling most of your factory's produce (a common issue).

Cement is ALWAYS profitable, the factories are fast to build and are also the cheapest. Build lots of cement.

Steel is both useful and profitable I usually try to have a steel mill in all of my provs that have either coal or iron.

Textiles are a good route to go down for profits and for satiating consumer demands. Spam fabric, its a real money spinner, build lots of regular clothes to provide demand for your fabric. I see you've built a bit too much luxury clothes. I'm not sure about this one due to your unique circumstances. Usually lux clothes aren't profitable as silk is expensive (but for you its plentiful) and more importantly they fail to sell the majority of their output (but you have a huge market). I'd be more wary with the lux clothes until you've established how profitable its going to be.

Next its useful to build up strategic industry (arms and steamer factories). These can be very useful when you want to expand your military and will make war cheaper (and more profitable).

Drinks industries are another very useful place to go for the money and for satisfying your POPs. You seem to have too many glass factories and not enough liqour and wine. Build lots of liqour and slightly less wine.

My advice.

This update was again very good - I wonder how much deeper into madness Clark will descend. :eek:
 

LordTempest

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It's great to see you're westernised, now you can send botanical expeditions and use Establish Protectorate CBs against Tibet. It'll only be a matter of time before you start digging up Egypt.

As for factories, Cement and Steel are a definite bet no matter what faction you play. I'd build as many Steel factories as possible.
 

Alexspeed

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Wow, allready another update and what a plentifull one, and then also the chance to participate, thats awesome, thank you Irv! :)

Sadly there is very little to add to what Tommy4ever allready said, he gave very good advice!

Go with fabric & regular clotes, luxury clothes too but to a lesser ammount.
The basics must be covered, that means cement, steel, glass need to be built.

Dont neglect the weapons & army stuff, build at least one chain for arms.
Thats fertilizer, ammunition, explosives, cannons and firearms. (also steamers)
They might not be as profitable, but they are strategic ressources.

Some furniture seems profitable most of the time too, but be carefull with luxury furniture.
 

naggy

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1.) Stay away from Paper and Clothing. The UK uses up most of the dye in the world for decades (and dye factories suck once you get them) and overproduce clothing. Same problem with Paper.

2.) You want some canned food, artillery, and small arms for your military - thus when you go to war, you're feeding your economy and not Britain's.

3.) This kinda odd advice, but if you plan on going toe to toe with Britain now, consider some clipper factories, then spamming Man o' War. When you research steamer factories, build those in the same provinces, and once they finish, close and destroy the clipper convoys. Your workers will migrate to the new factory.

4.) Beware that since all your parties for the near future have State Capitalism, you're going to be eating the -10% output malus. It will be very easy to overproduce (since your factories will almost instantly fill up), and end up with factories that make just enough money to starve your capis and craftsmen.
 

Alexspeed

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The Contest has reached its end now, and is closed for further chapters!

Anything posted after this posting will not be taken in account from any judge.
You are also free to continue your AAR in any style and form that you prefer,
and arnt bound by any contest rules any more.

Thank you very much for your participation!

The final Overview Posting is here!

The judging is in progress, watch the contest thread
for the announcment of the scores as soon as i get them. :)
 

unmerged(219496)

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So many great comments - Thank you, everyone. :)

I'd meant to update yesterday - see my usual afterword for lame excuses, although I'm wondering if anyone had the same problem. Do let me know!

Enewald: Amazingly, my Manchurian population seems to have gone up fairly decently on it's own! Of course, given that I skyrocketed to Great Power status(?!) it might be to be expected. Also, the numbers could be inflated due to immigration - they've immigrated to most of Northern China now, given me a healthy stack of Manchu citizens in most provinces. :)

Twichy_boy: You can say that again. ;) Don't worry about not having any luck with it; neither do I. If it were up to me, I'd probably just end up building raw goods facilities, figuring they're the most important in real life. Luxury goods? Ppth. :p

Tommy4ever: I was laughing like a hyena when you mentioned Fabric being a money spinner. That was awesome. :) Your advice is much appreciated, too - I guess my goals to build a Neo-Legalist society where harsh drink is condemned will be destroyed, ah, no! Heh, and as a bit of a magical realist, I don't know if it's insanity so much as differently-sane-ishness. :rofl: That being said, I've written each chapter to (hopefully) be readable in one of three ways, one of which is that - well, his little breakdowns probably won't end here. :) More than that, I cannot say. Thanks again for the advice - you'll see the fruits of it soon enough! (er, not this update though. Most of the pictures are at the end of it. Blargh.)

Tanzhang: Steel and Protectorates? You've read my mind! :) One of my first moves has been to protectorate Tibet - after all, the Lamas were only independent for a while, right? :) It turned out to be very easy indeed, and gave me such a nice looking border that it inspired a few moves I plan to take down the road... I've been trying to write each temporal ruler of China as having different goals, and hopefully the Tianmen Emperor's goals make decent sense.

Alex (1): Thank you for the advice as well! It's really appreciated - I'm pretty wary of luxury goods anyhow, given that from an economic standpoint they only make sense if you're exporting a lot - from a self-sufficiency standpoint, they're fairly useless unless you have the resources to supply them to a large section of the economy. But I wouldn't have thought to expand the military economy, either - I wonder if I can get some sort of Industrial-Military thing going? :D

Naggy: I'm hoping to avoid a war with Britain for a few chapters more, but that might not be an option. Either way, I've decided to add a few Clipper yards to the coast - and will replace them when the time comes. As for the overproduction malus - if it means the wealthy and poor classe alike get a militancy boost, then it'll play into the story perfectly!... Man, I can be such a masochist. :rofl:

Alex (2): Thank you again, my friend. It has been an honor and a pleasure to be in this contest and I'm more than a little sad to see it go - I'm glad I'll be able to continue writing, and I do hope to continue seeing you around though - you are always welcome here. :)

But enough talk - have at this update!

Also - it seems that every attempt at posting I try to post this with, it tells me I need to wait roughly 15 seconds. Hrmn -

Woah! Did anyone else get hit with a bajillion updates? I swear, I waited a good ten minutes between my posts or so, refreshing the forums to make sure I didn't screw things up - but I guess I did anyway. Bleargh!
 
Last edited:

unmerged(219496)

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Dreams of a Butterfly Dalian '60 Beijing '65 {1860-65}

General Harney,

Your condolences were appreciated - as was your forwarding of this missive. I have made my way to the port at Lushunkou and shall be arriving in Union territory in several months. Again, thank you for your congratulations and sympathies in these trying times; but indeed, in these dark times it seems we are all under an incredible strain. For your convenience, I have listed several names I who might pose sympathies of the nature prescribed. In return, I will be carefully monitoring your assurances - and I assure you that I will brook no impudence in this matter. I do not expect to receive any more of these sorts of letters.

Cordially yours,

Clark Osskisson



As the early morning sun lifted above the seaport fog, Clark took another feverish sip of the coffee tainted with the faintest hint of almond; it was sickly sweet but he had grown accustomed to it. The gladstone bag he clenched so tightly between his gaunt fingers contained no letter so important as this one. Steam drifted from the mug into the unusually mild January air as dockworkers and international passengers stepping off foreign-purchased steamships chatted noisomely around him. Scratching his head in irritation - why must it ache so horribly at such a time? - he narrowed his eyes and tried desperately to find the face he was looking for; his vision swam for a second, and then cleared.

"Miss Meng!"

His voice swam over the crowd, and the anxious-looking young woman in the Western-style dress pulled through the crowd - and collided straight into an elderly Russian tourist. She apologized profusely, but the old woman seemed not to understand as Meng Chuntao made her way over to Clark, face creased with worry, words of regret already forming on her lips.

"I'm so sorry - I just received urgent news for you from a censor working here. It seemed terribly important, so I looked all over for you! I didn't mean to make a scene-"

Meng continued to burble apologetically, but Clark had already forgotten what she was talking about. The Lei zi - 'Thunderchild' - would be loving soon, and he did not want to miss it. No, he couldn't miss it! The consequences alone were too terrible to imagine.

Stop blaming yourself.

Moonwatcher spoke with a great deal of concern, the pain hidden all too poorly in her voice. You did what you can, and you made your own choices. It was you who decided on the life you've carved for it. Live in it, not in the past.

It just made his ears bleed.

Ignoring her consolations, Clark turned to Meng Chuntao, who had managed to compose herself and was looking at him in confusion - Clark realized he had been staring off into space, and turned a bright beet-red.

"S-sorry, you'll have to repeat whatever you said. I cannot say in all certainty that I am in a right state in any sense of the word right now, and apologize duly for any neglect I may have shown."

Clark tried to smile, but it must have looked awful - Meng recoiled, and Clark felt his morale sink even farther. He muttered something apologetic and inquisitive about the information she possessed, and she handed him a document in silver leaf with wording as official and somber as the two United Stats Government messages that that haunted his waking hours.

Clark skimmed the letter.
1chap10.jpg

This was unimportant to him - just routine minutiae, barring the details of local peasant flare-ups.

Then, he read it again; he must have misunderstood something.

Falling to his feet, the lacquer mug crashing into the ground.

His head felt like it would split open, and he didn't remember much after that.

-

"You know, you're not doing so well, dead guy."

Gentleman's snarky voice whistled through the air like a cartridge, catching Clark off guard. He instinctively reached for the pistol he had begun to carry with him - and not finding it there, whirled around to find the first voice, the one which haunted him so strongly. Instead, he found nothing but a neatly ordered chamber, built of the finest marble and looking like nothing so much as some sort of mausoleum.

"Am... I...?"

He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth and the bizarrely off-key laughter cut into his eardrums.

"You're pretty thick if that's automatically where your mind goes - what a cop out that'd be. It'd mean that we wouldn't get to have this little chat, so personal-like. I mean, we've known each other for awhile now, but as long as that ugly cow keeps talking to you, you and I haven't had a proper chance to get to know each other. You're here because you've had way too much trauma for any one person to absorb in a short time, and a lot of it involves death. That isn't my sphere or anything, but you've already met some people who know about it - so I guess that seeds a'growing in your mind."

Gentleman paused, tasting the desperation seeping out of Clark's mind - for a minute, it seemed to Clark that he could actually see it fully-formed, fluttering away on the rose-gold wings of a half-imagined butterfly. As he reached out to touch it with trembling fingers, the floor engulfed him, sending him crashing ever downward, wind tearing against him with no end in sight as Gentleman continued to drone on - sounding oddly worried.

"You need to start paying more attention. I don't particularly want to help you, but I don't want you to actually die or anything, either. Ask more questions. It'll help you, and if you're doing well, you're of more use to me. Got it? Shit - seems like that old hag found me out already. Well, this'll be our little secret! Enjoy your funeral!"

Laughing tonelessly, Clark suddenly found his body rocketing to a painless stop as a warm, silvery-blue light embraced him, reminding him of the moon and the stars and words unspoken that he should have said-

Why do you regret?


"... Smelling salts, they'll do the trick every time. It's rare to see a man faint like that though, they are usually so polished. Of course, every generation they are coming out weaker, you know. My husband is a colonel! But my son, ah. To look at him, you would think he is an artist! Such travesty! This young man, is he your boyfriend? He should eat more! He looks like my son!"

Clark groggily came to, the scent of almonds lingering on his lips and the scent of strong ammonia filtering into his nostrils. Meng Chuntao was doing her best to administer the smelling salts as a large crowd gathered around them in bewilderment - Clark recognized the tourist, who had begin to talk animatedly to Meng, who was doing her best not to smile.

The sun was heavy in the sky, and the fog was gone. He had been out for hours.

He jumped to his feet, startling some of the onlookers - offering a brief and very rushed apology, he turned to Meng, who was staring at him anxiously.

"I'm sorry - it was obvious you had fainted, but you wouldn't wake up until this very nice woman over here was so kind to lend me the smelling salts in her purse. It appears she learned Mandarin from one of her servants." There was no hostility in Meng Chuntao's voice - her good nature consistently amazed Clark. She continued to talk however, ignoring his dazed smile with a look of slight fear in her eyes - possibly about what she was about to say.

"... It's your ship. You've been out far too long. You missed it, and the crew were unwilling to wait for one bureaucrat. Mr. Osskisson - you aren't going to be able to go home."

Clark grit his teeth, but something inside himself steeled him against the comments, comments he had known - how? - would come. He tried to retain his composure as he spoke, finding it easier with every word.

"That's all right, Miss Meng. As it stands, I've been away from my family far too long - to them, I'm only half-real anyhow. They would hardly appreciate my presence at the funeral where my Mother will have to say her last words to both her husband and most beloved son. There is an event here that I must attend to, and you were right to bring it to my attention. Please inform the Tianmen Emperor that my services will still be his if he has need of them - and that I'm glad tragedies still bring sympathetic votes to the Yuan." So saying, Clark grinned and strode away, signaling for a carriage. Meng Chuntao watched the carriage roll away without a word as the crowd dissipated around them, the spectacle averted.

Only the colonel and his wife saw her expression as she watched. The colonel, who had bought two steaming pork buns for himself and the wife, couldn't help but comment. "Yulya - what a strange expression that young lady had. Shouldn't she be happy to see the young man off?"

Yulya 'hrmphed' noncommittally, watching Meng Chuntao with wizened eyes. She had wanted to dismiss it as some sort of lovers spat - but that expression... Well, it was none of her business, anyway. Taking a bit of the delicious baozi, the fleeting thought left her, and she and her husband set off to visit the Qing Industrial Exhibitation.

-

Mei Ling faced her brother for some time, watching him circle the room with alert eyes. She felt sweat trickling down her brow, and tried best to ignore it; that momentary distraction was all the time her brother needed to dart forward, snarling. Mei Ling stepped back, fist clenched, and sunk it hard into her brothers chest - or where it would've been seconds ago, as he jumped back, laughing.

"Such a violent little girl. Is this the sort of thing you've gotten into without your big brother around to watch over you? No wonder people avoid you, given how you act like such a deviant." He smiled widely, displaying smoke-stained teeth.

"Hong Minsheng. It's good to see you again." Mei Ling's voice was emotionless and neutral as she spoke as she cautiously met her brothers eyes. They stared at each other for some time - and then, unexpectedly, Hong Minsheng began to cry, dry heaving sobs as he walked forward. "I missed you so much, meimei. Where have you been?" Mei Ling unconsciously embraced the trembling wreck her brother had become - he continued to shake and cough for what seemed like hours. Finally, scratching the bridge of his nose, he looked up at her through bleary eyes and smiled so sweetly it nearly tore her heart in two.

"Did you come all this way to see me? I'm fine here - I've made a lot of friends. It isn't quite the life that I imagined - but it is a good life, better than being a dog of the Emperor. How is the Daoguang Emperor? Does anyone remember me, banished to this land of pirates and barbarians?..."

The desperation in his voice made it hard to hold back her tears - she remembered Yelu telling her how important was to be strong when others were weak, and smiled as brightly as she could. "The Daoguang Emperor is dead - and many people miss you, Hong Minsheng. I miss you, as well - I thought, perhaps, we could go back across the sea together."

Her smile fell as he began to laugh bitterly, his laughter mixing with his dry cough. "Ha - that'd be the day. That I grant anyone I know the dignity of getting a chance to apologize to me - they should live with the regret of what they've done. If they miss me so much as you say, that misery should be worth twice as much as setting foot in the same land that threw me here to rot."

Why do you always have to be so prideful? Do you really think that you're any different from anyone else?! The deluded airiness from before had crept back into her brothers voice, as he begin to scratch under his arms as well, looking forlorn. Coughing again, he raised a solitary eyebrow.

"Anyway, why have you really come here, meimei?... I do want to believe that you've missed me - and I do know how hard it must have been for you to come here. But there must be something else. Not much would make a hard-working member of my family willing to live in such a squalid apartment working as furniture for some ungrateful old devils." He gingerly walked over to the long-forgotten dinner she had brought with her and set it down in front of them.

"Let's walk together - you can tell me about your troubles, and I'll listen. Maybe your brother can help you out in some way." Laughing quietly, as if only to himself, he watched his little sister eat in silence. Then, the two of them stepped out into the cold February night.

-

A tiny bridge crossed the nearby river, the frost covering the ground not strong enough to freeze it's mild current. Mei Ling paced across it's cobbled surface as Hong Minsheng tiptoed across the railing, nearly losing his balance several times with a laugh - it reminded her of so many countless years ago, when her brother had been a headstrong cadet, and not a balding middle-aged man with deep scars against his nose and neck from where his fingernails had dug into his skin.

"... So, there's this guy who actually likes hanging out with a crazy kid like you, but he's an idiot who can't seem to vocalize anything and ended up going power-crazy? That's the weakness of men, if you ask me. Show a donkey a carrot, and he can't help but want to follow it." Chuckling, her brother jumped off the railing, his bare feet landing into the cool grass, bathed in moonlight.

"It's not simple as all that! If it was, I could've taken care of it myself!" Mei Ling snapped back, trying to halt the blush spreading on her cheeks. "You completely ignore the point about the Emperor becoming even more repressive and jumped into some sort of railing against humanity, when your description sounds pretty much tailor-made to fit yourself! I can't believe I was stupid enough to talk to you!" Folding her arms, she turned her head away - and narrowly avoided tripping over her brother's leg.

Laughing, the two continued to walk for some time, Hong Minsheng looking thoughtful. "Hmn... Well, if you're here to hire an assassin or something like that, I don't know if I'd be willing to assassinate this new Emperor - I always thought you'd like Western-style reforms like this, actually."

Mei Ling frowned. "I want to be proud of China - and I want reforms that work. Not Eastern or Western - those seem to be words the court throws around, more than anything. Besides hoping to meet you - I have a plan. And that's the real reason I'm here, not some stupid foreigner who values a few taels over good conversation."

Her brother snorted. "Out of all your dubious virtues, my sister, conversation is not one I would normally associate with you - I somehow recall you having the emotional range of a stone statue - barring the rage of a bull demon, that is." His laughter was cut off as Mei Ling realized they'd reached a destination, or at least her brother had.

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Her eyes widened as an attendant bade them welcome.

"How. Dare. You." Her voice faltered as she tried to spoke, the warm haze filtering out of the large building's open and inviting door dissipating into the night sky. Hong Minsheng chuckled, the sound distorted and mixing with the laughter of conversation from inside.

"There's that anger I was just talking about - you shouldn't hold grudges so long, little sister. People all deal with life in different ways, and this is just mine- Mei Ling? Hong Mei Ling!" She had already begin to trudge off towards home as a light snow began to fall, refusing to look back as her brother scrabbled behind her.

"I need this, meimei! You have to understand, it's the only thing I have left, besides you! And you weren't here! You weren't here!" His screeching, desperate cries turned to a familiar dry, hacking sob as she drew further into the distance - trying to hide her own tears as they cut through the powdery snow.

-

Clark had not expected Sariwon to be so picturesque. The carriage leisurely rode by farm after farm, although several Western-style glass and liquor manufacturies could be seen looming in the distance, belching with coal fires and the scent of brewing alcohol. He had heard tell of burnt out farmhouses and despondent peasants - but the quality of life matched up fairly perfectly with what the Tianmen Emperor had been describing to him. Another thing to ask him about.

Musing to himself on how to best handle the situation, a rapid bump announced that the carriage had come to a halt - thanking the driver, Clark stepped outside into the early May noon - a large crowd had gathered in the city center near the recently re-built university. Although the crowd was mostly ethnic Koreans, Clark could make out most of the sizable Manchu immigrant community - and although there was obvious tension between the two groups, what struck him most was that both seemed to be filled with weary, resigned expressions.

He ignored them, and headed straight to the jail. For once, the privilege of state worked to his advantage as the guards let him pass without incident, quietly taking the cue to spend some time discussing business amongst themselves. Clark headed inside the simple stone-and-wood building to the cell he'd been told to find.

Yelu smiled through the bars cheerfully as Clark stared at him, expression masked. "Heyo, Clark. It seems that I've found myself in a very strange situation, indeed. Apparently, it's possible to make everyone hate you, if you just try hard enough!... Heh, not that it really bothers me. Life was getting too stable for my taste, anyhow."

Clark continued to stare as Yelu yawned exaggeratedly. "You just going to stand there? I was kind of hoping you'd tell me how things'd been in the capitol, maybe let me know if there was any interesting news-" Clark cut him off.

"The guards have received orders to let you pass. No one will stop you. The people out there are broken, useless. They won't do anything to help themselves - leave with me, Yelu. I'm sure the Tianmen Emperor will forgive this readily."

Yelu's smile vanished in an instant. "Ah, Clark. I'm afraid that's not going to happen. I really appreciate the effort, but I'm here of my own will. It's precisely because 'those people' are what you called 'em - broken - that I'm here. It's one thing to win a victory and claim territory or prestige - but this is pretty much one of the most horrible things I've ever done."

The laughter escaping Yelu's lips didn't match up with the seriousness of the situation in Clark's mind - but his ease continued to stun him out of talking. "I'm a good soldier, Clark. I have no regrets for helping bring Qing rule to Chosun. But I don't like what I'm doing anymore, so I figured I'd resign. It's not too long until I get a forced resignation of one sort or another anyway - " He continued to laugh, and Clark dug his fist into the wall in frustration, ignoring the pain shooting up his arm.

"How can you do this? You're one the most stable people I've met, and to just abandon it all, for what - what did you even do? I don't understand, Yelu! No one will remember you favorably for this - to die aiding the cause of rebels and traitors is absolutely insane!" Clark's eyes pleaded for some sort of explanation, any kind - and sighing, Yelu gave it to him.

"Look, Clark. There isn't anyone left to remember me besides you and Mei Ling. I don't know what you'll think - although I hope it'll be to remember everything we've done together. I don't really have a family, you see- not anymore. And in a way, traveling with you... Well, I won't bore you. Even if it's only Mei Ling who remembers me, I know she would find what I did to be the right thing, and that is all that matters to me. The rest never has."

Smiling peaceably to himself, Yelu sighed contentedly. "Anyway, the guards are gonna be back soon. If you listen carefully, you can hear the tiny patter of their footsteps against the floor. Clark - our journeys together meant so much to me. I hope that one day, you'll be able to find what truly matters to you."

Clark began to panic, trying to explain how there was still time to leave, how he had what mattered to him, his family, his friends - how the guards shouldn't be coming, he'd bought their time! - but all his words jumbled together, lost amidst the look of peace and serenity on Yelu's face as the old soldier rose proudly to his feet. The guards returned, silently collecting Yelu and ignoring Clark as he jabbered at them desperately.

"You have to let him go, he's done nothing wrong! Everything is a mistake! Please, let me just talk to him for a little longer - damnit, I'm a servant of the Emperor! Listen to me!" As the guards and Yelu continued to march off, Clark stopped sputtering, pointing at their backs in a seething rage - and falling to his feet, tore at his hair. "I'll fix this. I'll fix this. I'LL FIX THIS!" His screams echoed around the cells, but there was no reply... And with glazed eyes, he rose to his feet and stepped outside, not noticing that the pain in his fingers had vanished within seconds of his fist connecting with the hard stone wall.

-

The scaffolding was extremely stable, as Yelu felt his feet creaking against it. It was reassuring, in a sense. One last grounding before reaching the sky or the earth. Smiling to himself amongst a crowd of dour faces, he ignore the half-hearted cries of 'Butcher' and 'Traitor' coming from the nebulous divisions of the crowd. The executioner asked him if he had any last words.

"A thousand years of the Qing! Long live the the Tianmen Emperor!"

The scaffolding gave way long before he had finished talking. The crowd had begun to stir from the apathetic silence it had lulled into - but as the gurgling began seeping into Yelu's words, the doldrums swept back over those assembled like a wave. Unable to watch, Clark simply listened until finally all was silent, and looking back, he saw Yelu's old body limp, like a puppet. The villagers begin to disperse - their apathy slowly giving way to an almost visible anger and frustration.

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The death left no one satisfied, and unease was thick in the air.

Clark stared mutely, until finally, he was allowed to collect the body. And just as mutely, he began to take the long ride home.

-

The funeral had passed quickly. Besides a slow stream of people Yelu had met throughout his travels - some of whom Clark had met - a few required state functionaries and former bannermen who had served with Yelu, there was no one Clark knew there. He had hoped against hope that Mei Ling would show up - but of course, that was impossible. Miao had, however, tears flowing freely from her shadow-laden eyes. He had tried to talk to her - but his unease at everything that had happened cast a quietness over his voice. So he said nothing, and soon the funeral was over, and Yelu had become a memory.

-

Meng Chuntao was glad to see that after a few months of whatever funk Clark had set his soul into, he seemed to have snapped out of it and gotten back to work. As she prepared his usual coffee, her mind wandered over why that man's death had gotten him down so much - the two hadn't seemed to be that close the last time they had been together, and he had been a traitor to the Qing - it seemed to her that no one had benefited from the rebellious old soldier's actions. The Chinese people - all of the Chinese peoples - were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, and it would be a shame to see it end so quickly.

Rapping sharply on the door that was half-open, she let herself in as the sound of Clark's pen dug into the paper he constantly wrote at, pages more jammed into the nearby press at his side. He gratefully smiled at her and took the coffee - indeed, he seemed content with his work as of late, proving in her mind that hard work was the great equalizer. He gestured to a paper on his desk as he raised the glass to his lips, smiling at the familiar flavor.

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There are some Manchu 'villages' if you can call them that, that still resemble slums. Can you believe it?

Shaking his head - which had began to ache again, full of the pressure that seemed to come every few hours or so as of late - Clark laughed heartily and pushed the papers out of his way as he leaned forward, smiling roguishly. Meng Chuntao laughed politely and handed him another letter - as well as a rather cumbersome parcel, labeled to be from another attache of the Cultural Ministry - some Karl, or Konrad, or something. Obviously trying to curry favor, most likely.

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It seems the Lama's have recognized Qing jurisdiction? Excellent. He unwound the string so taut around it's brown paper packaging-

mandalanah.jpg

- as he lifted a large wood carving out from the parcel, it's intricacies reflected in the rooms dim light.

Clark stared at the carving for some time, and then handed it to the young woman staring so dutifully at him. "Well, it's nice, but a bit gaudy, don't you think? It's yours, for being such a fine assistant. Go on, take it. It would suit the atmosphere of this office at all."

The look on his face hinted at something else, but likely something so enigmatic and buried away that Clark himself didn't dare to face it. As Meng Chuntao left, carrying the unwanted carving away with her, Clark stared at the latest and last of the bulletins he had received - one that seemed to echo ill portents of the future, because although a peaceful malaise had settled over the Qing as goods and services became commonplace, books and thoughts began to spread among the populace.
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The apathy that had gripped the populace could only last so long.

As he reclined in his ostentatious chair, Clark stared blankly at the ceiling, trying to have a conversation with the voices in his mind - to have someone's advice and words of praise, to know that he was doing the right thing - but with his head aching so terribly, all he could hear was a faint buzzing, and the wind whistling through the half-open window.

-

Not too long after, the same Mongolian nomads who had been accosted by Qing police forces began to agitate for independence. It had been a rough incident to quell, because there was no violence involved, no civil disobedience, but a long procession of Mongolian citizens demanding their rights. It was easy enough to arrest the leaders - some of whom were tribal elders, others who had been immersing themselves in books and the written word as the flow of information spread around China - but the demonstration remained clear: even as the rivalries between Manchu and Han Chinese had began to fade, modernization had made apparent the clear divide, between those who were free, and those who had nothing.

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He didn't want to admit how much he related. Thinking made his head ache too much, as of late.

Of course, the Tianmen Emperor had been one step ahead of things - he honestly believed that with education and institutions, the worst of these social maladies would vanish, and Clark was inclined to believe so as well. Just looking at the results of modernization - of how much more was produced, of how many more Qing citizens could find work in factories instead of fields - was enough to convince him. The China of today was nothing like the China he had walked through in the tantalizingly familiar past.

7chap10.jpg

The school program stressed Western values and a unified Chinese cultural identity.

His mind drifted back to the girl, so hopelessly young, who had died in a coal mine not unlike that his father toiled in - had toiled in, he uncomfortably reminded himself. He had expected it to raise a level of consciousness in society, and create people who were willing to work together and solve their problems.

Or had that been why he wrote it? Maybe, in his own cynical judge of character, he had known that it would cause the easily swayed aristocrats to throw their considerable clout behind the Emperor and his Court, and just didn't think about it clearly. You've been letting the Jealous one break you down, Clark. You were trying to do something to help - the world just didn't take your action the way you'd intended. Moonwatcher's voice was a welcome reprieve from months of silence -

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- although it did little to take away the realization that reaction to local food riots had turned out much the same way.

Moonwatcher! Nothing I do works! I don't even know what I want, anymore - only that I want to make things better. Yelu died for nothing, after trying to inspire a crowd that hated him. What was the point? People who have nothing, will never rise above their lot in life! So why is it that I even want to try? He stepped out of the chair, which had began to hurt his back, and paced angrily around his room, kicking papers to and fro.

Clark - you don't even listen to yourself, anymore. You need to listen to yourself. Soon, a time will come where you will have to make some significant choices, and I know you'll choose what you need to choose - as always, don't listen to me. I advocate a harder path, and you'd probably be happier if you just learned to ignore me. Her voice fell away through the corridors of his mind, and once again he was left introspective, enervated, and alone.

-

Yixin had been approached multiple times about choosing a more suitable Imperial Name, but had waved the opportunity away many times. After all, he reasoned - if the common people know that my name is as attainable as theirs, they will understand the value of hard work and upward mobility through it. It was the same this time as he brushed an anxious courtier away, mind already on the up-coming speech. His subjects had never been more jubilant, with the reclamation of Qing Tibet, and relations soaring with Western powers. Trade and relations with the West had begun to soar, and there was even talk of relaxing certain bans that had been in place for countless years...

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As he spoke of heavenly peace while avoiding actual mention of disbanding the military, however, he knew better. People were still adapting to change - he could not rush them. Everything was proceeding perfectly - and the Middle Kingdom was truly great.

He finished the speech and went back into the new Seasonal Palace from the balcony where throngs of admirers still screamed their praise and well-wishing. His French tutor had already left, having no more to teach the Tianmen Emperor. Next, he would start on Greek, he mused, to better understand the works of philosophy that the West considered so important.


He had already sent diplomats to several states closely aligned with the British - and while they were also there to spread good will and gain recognition from the World's most powerful country that the Qing, too was a world power, their primary mission was simple.

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Find out if more of Victoria's pawns were to be dispatched to the border, and make them amenable to Qing protection.

He took a look at the list of Orders and Bureaucracies he had created or revived by hand - ones that functioned and worked, some of which were even recognized with honors by Western society - and felt proud, a deep pride that the Qing worked, that it had become everything that it should be. There were flaws, yes - but over time, those too would become just a larger part of the tapestry of state he had woven out of wholecloth.

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The thought pleased him, and secure in his success, he let sleep overtake him.

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And in his restless dreams, the pattern began to unravel...

-

Hong Mei Ling paused, taking a deep breath. It had finally come this far. After making her way to the new 'Eastern capital' that the Japanese had promoted so endlessly to her, she had been allowed to make her appeal to the lesser court of the Japanese emperor Komei. It was grand indeed, although she couldn't help but feel it was a pale imitation of Chinese culture and architecture. Well-dressed Japanese sat around the circular chamber, uninterested in this brusque Chinese man and his complaints. She recognized she only had a small amount of time - so she had to use it well.

"People of the Japanese Empire. I respectfully request your attention to an urgent matter of statehood. The Qing Empire, your neighbor to the west, has come under ill auspice. Peace-addled and under the control of an Emperor who has turned it into a slave of the West, it will not be long before Qing ships land at your harbors to subjugate the Chrysanthemum Throne as they brought the Phoenix Throne into the fold so recently. Only by acting quickly and closing trade with China and declaring a state of war can you hope to avoid the inevitable."

Her blood boiled. This was so ridiculous - but if the Chinese people would not revolt, content with the new order that gave them the promise of more while stripping away what few rights they had left, then this was the only option she had left.

"You must listen to me!" Her voice rang deep and true around the room. "The Qing have changed, the future is changing. And if it continues on this course, none of us will know the path it follows. I beg of you! You must help me, help China! You must protect yourselves!"

It seemed like an eternity as she waited for a response - and it came, languidly. Slow at first, but building up into peals of laughter around the room. Words drifted throughout the echoing chamber, casually slung.

"What could he possibly mean? China has become very valuable to Japanese trade and pursuit of industry."

"Indeed, Emperor Komei despises the West - but to imply that His divine presence cannot fortell the way the wind blows?"

"Of course - if you look closely, she is but a woman - one far past her prime, at that - and who let such a cur into the lesser court? She could not possibly know of what she speaks!"

The laughter continued derisively until it seemed to come from all around her and she felt it ringing inside her ears. Taking a step back, she ground her feet into the floor. She would not give these men the satisfaction of seeing her run. Bowing in the Japanese style, she thanked them for her time, and walked out of the building, the laughter still hearty behind her.

As she left, her brother casually detached himself from the wall upon he had been loitering, his court diplomat clothes worn and soiled and an apologetic look on his face as he quickly dusted the pipe he had been smoking out, the stench of opium mixed with tobacco harsh upon the air, his fingers irritably scratching upon his neck. "... No look, little sister?... I'm sorry. I honestly thought -"

Mei Ling silenced him with a self-confident smile. "It was not a waste of my time to come here, brother. I found you, and if the land of the Wo will not help me, then I shall make my own luck. Change will come - and if no one else will be it's architect, than I shall." She inhaled deeply of the cold December air, then exhaled, her mind set and her smile radiant.

"Will you come back with me, Hong Minsheng? It would be wonderful to have some company on this long journey home. And although he has not written in some time, I know that old Yelu would be glad to see you." Hong Minsheng shook his head, smiling as well - somewhat bitterly, but with none of the malice of before.

"No, meimei. My place is here, and you are more than capable of handling yourself - more capable, perhaps, than I ever have been. I'm just glad - so glad - that you could bring yourself to forgive me." He turned away, shoulders starting to tremble.

"There is nothing to forgive, gege. Regardless of the choices you make you are, and always will be, my brother. I should be the one asking forgiveness - for hating you instead of just the pipe you smoked. Perhaps hate itself is the enemy here." Shrugging her shoulders, the two embraced tightly, and Hong Mei Ling turned to leave to the Edo Harbor, her goals unshakeable.

As he watched his sister leave, Hong Minsheng continued to scratch the bridge of his neck, leaving long, red marks upon his skin. The guilt in his expression as he watched her go never faded as a well-dressed man layered in a Western-style suit that obscured his features almost perfectly stepped out of the shadows and thanked him for his efforts before vanishing as quickly as he had appeared - and the brother of Hong Mei Ling left for the one place he could forget about the events he believed he had set in motion, mind already filling with a numb haze in anticipation.

Thoughts so far -

Tsch, sorry for the day-late update. I'd planned to get this one out yesterday, but for some reason got bumped out of Paradox and couldn't get back in. It didn't seem to be site maintanence - the site itself just lead to a 404'ish kind of page. Maybe it's my crappy internet? Ah, well. So, this is a pretty long chapter - if you're interested mostly in the gameplay elements, well, stay near the end of it. You can usually tell where they are due to the pictures.

Well, things just keep getting worse - people dying, getting older, nothing changing - man, you'd be hard-pressed to think of me as an optimist given the way I right things. But I am, honest! But we're only half-ish way through the story, so that's how it goes, I guess. I didn't linger on a certain character's funeral, simply because I meant it to be a fleeting moment - something that was quickly layered away under guilt and layers of repressed memory. But what do you think? As usual, comments are always appreciated.

By the way, how do you take your coffee? Me, I like it three ways - Coffee au lait, representing the beautiful future, coffee Americano, for the continent that holds my heart so dearly, and black as night - for it's entrancing, bitter quality. Next post, we'll talk about tea! As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of both. Say, almond is a pretty rare flavor for coffee, isn't it..? Hmn.

Happy Late Halloween!

After afternote - Please let me know if I've double-posted anywhere - it seems like the the boards enjoy regurgitated Communitarian!s. :p
 

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Woah! Did anyone else get hit with a bajillion updates? I swear, I waited a good ten minutes between my posts or so, refreshing the forums to make sure I didn't screw things up - but I guess I did anyway. Bleargh!

I was getting this also. Weird. By the way, I have to say that I have really enjoyed your AAR as of the moment. It makes me sad, as I feel like I could never write a creative/story AAR like this.
 

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Hmn, I should really be trying to squeeze in a few last minutes of sleep - but seeing this comment before I left really got to me. My instinct was to respond with 'NONONONONO' but I figured that wasn't really a productive explanation, so if you don't mind me borrowing a bit of your time and elaborating -

This comment really resonates with me. When posting this very chapter, I was torn in two over a bunch of things - whether it was 'good enough', tons of tiny minutiae, spelling errors, historical fact, enjoyability, character depth - and as usual, didn't want to post it. My excuse of the week aside, the real reason I'm so late updating is often a complete dislike - or perhaps, distrust - of what I have written.

Don't get me wrong - I love Letters! But anything I write, I tend to instinctively worry about being up to snuff. Then I start to notice a bunch of things that feel off-place, or the 101 reasons I'm a hack and it just feels like 'why am I even doing this'?.. It's an irrational fear, so it won't go away, but facing it does weaken it, and is in fact yet another reason I love coming here so much. Every chapter I post, every comment I make, it's a little bit of me testing the waters of things and learning. Occasionally, I *still* feel out of depth. Quite often, actually. ;) But the feeling of success, of actually having done something, even when mixed with those doubts and lingering suspicions by far overpowers them.

As much as I doubt my writing, though, even more I doubt my ability to draw. It's something I've always wanted to do, but can never manage except sigils and squiggles - and I honestly never feel good about those, either. :p But then, I started playing around with 1000 Blank White Cards - and even though my drawings are still terrible, the ability to entertain people with them removes some of that self-stigma - as does practice, and the miraculous discovery after a good two years that I can draw eyes!... Which makes said sigils and squiggles kinda creepy, but I digress. ;)

I guess what I'm trying to say, is don't let yourself stop yourself. There is no never, just doubt, and that doubt is responsible for more lost works of art, divine mistakes and unrealized inventions than anything else bar apathy(well, that one is my addition and opinion, so scratch it out and replace it with your own pet peeve. :p ). This is coming from an crazy pantheist, mind, so you're free to ignore or take dissidence with it, in fact encouraged to!...

But I really know and empathize with that feeling, and wanted to let you know that I regularly do the same thing - both with writing, mine and otherwise, and with your humor, for example. I seem to have to resort to smilies to indicate when I'm joking, most of the time, for example. :p Gah, there's one right now! Some people fight it with substances (which I've always found a bit silly - possibly due to the fact that so many people have approached various things I've done and gave comments such as 'neat, what drugs were you on' which always makes me sad, because can't a guy write or do weird things without drugs or booze? :/ but to each their own), some with soul-crushing depression and Byronic (Tee-hee, Byron) poetry, and I decide to not fight it and try to befriend the poor, lonely impulse. Does that even make sense?

... Anyway, I'd meant to take a moment of your time and have a really cool inspirational speech or something, but ended up TEXTWALLing and kind of jumbling my words, most likely due to lack of sleep and trying to simultaneously cook n' type. But it meant a lot for me to hear your compliment and your thoughts. If it helps, I find good conversation is both useful in dispelling such inclinations, and one of life's truly divine pleasures. :)

And thanks again for reading so far, bizarre forum teleportation matrices and all.

Edit: Gah, and it's even later then I'd planned to get up (why is it so hard for me to get sleep?) so I guess I'm out of here, folks. :( i'll be back pretty late, possibly with an interesting mid-update update for everyone. Involving my mysterious adventures. Stay frosty, AARland.
 
Last edited:

naggy

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I just want to say that this AAR really resonates. I love the format, and it's really telling a fun story within the context of the game.
 

Alexspeed

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Awesome update, thank you for sharing it with us :)

I was getting this also. Weird. By the way, I have to say that I have really enjoyed your AAR as of the moment. It makes me sad, as I feel like I could never write a creative/story AAR like this.

And i can only agree to what Communitarian! said, but i try to keep it alittle shorter :)

When you never try it, you allready failed at it! ;)
 

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