Chapter 585 – At The Teahouse

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The teahouse, which for many long days served as our command center, while I and my previous incarnations worked to guard the members of the Oto Expedition from the potential catastrophe I feared that my husband had sent them into, is technically a figment of Fan Li’s imagination.

However, the imagination of a one-and-a-half-millennium-old cultivating scholar of Huajie is no trivial thing. When applying the talents of such an august being, it becomes an ‘inner world’, a tool of great utility as the private mental retreat for a mind of great spiritual power.

It’s also the seed from which an Immortal’s earliest Illusory Reality grows. Frankly, even for the majority of Immortals who successfully cultivate a path from the Mortal World through Ascension, such a seed never even appears until after they reach the Fundamental Realm. Only a rare few denizens of the Mortal Realm ever have such a thing, but Fan Li was a rare denizen indeed, even in her own world.

Immortals of higher realm can construct Illusory Realities out of anything. They can use scenes from the Mortal Realm, like the HR Manager creates, or like the place where Rhea brought Mother to meet with me for the last time. Although, I think Rhea was relying on one of the seniors, like Gaia or Eurybia, to pull that off. An Immortal of peak Fundamental Realm like Rhea is only able to turn their inner world into an Illusory Reality.

So this tea house, Fan Li’s inner world, could be thought of as my Illusory Reality. Although, only my Incarnations and the occasional goddess are able to visit it. Goddesses like Rhea can horn in on it by lending me their Illusory Reality power, but Mortal Realm denizens like Grandmother cannot enter.

A near-formless server poured tea into my cup, as I faced Fan Li, Sirth, Lhan and Lydia for the first time in what seemed like forever. Also present, the Itinerant Monk, the Enhanced Human, and the Quasi-Human, the last looking all the world like a Hollywood rendition of a Sasquatch or Yeti, except with four arms.

Kwelabi was seated cross-legged on the floor, lower arms crossed and upper arms cradling a cup of tea. The rest sat on normal, Huajie-style chairs that Kwelabi’s weight would have crushed.

Nobody spoke. Probably, like me, they were all busy in these first moments of reunion soaking up the many recollections of that last eventful day on Huade, before the pixies carried me into Sky Ocean. Their personas had been suppressed until now, unable to contribute their memories.

Just being here, in the moments after Immortal Mother lifted the suppression of my prior incarnations, I learned about entire portions of our story which I had been unaware of. They were all doing likewise.

I learned how Sirth, using an additional [Blood Effigy], followed Diur out of suspicion of his frequent absences and wound up helping instead to negotiate with Serera’s brother for fairy assistance. She had, like everyone else, found herself back inside my head after her effigy collapsed, striving desperately to slow the flow of the Spirit Core into my head in the Mortal Realm until Oranos and Immortal Mother could save us.

I learned how the male Incarnations, Daq, Rhugau and Kwelabi, had trained under Rhea to execute the plan that she had carefully fashioned to save me, that she had told me about in an Illusory Reality dreamland and then sealed inside my memory.

It was they who knew how to fight the flow. Rhea’s plan was to intercept and pull my soul and that of my daughters into the Spirit Core, abandoning my body but holding us in safekeeping while Gaia worked to find a way to restore us to life. Rhea and the other goddesses would keep proxies of themselves in my Core as well, to act as ties to anchor it to Huade. It was Lydia’s job to recognize that the time for them to act had come and prevent me from fighting it.

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Their efforts weren’t in vain, because I only survived long enough to reach Sky Ocean because Daq’s effort to prevent my body from dying protected it and my babies, and Rhugau and Kwelabi passed their knowledge of how to restrain the flow to the rest and they all teamed up to slow the Ascension process down so I could resist it. All Rhea’s preparations had been put to better use by Immortal Mother and Oranos.

I’m sure Rhea was frustrated that her carefully laid plans were coopted, though.

“She’s not the only one,” Lydia replied to my thought with a bitter frown.

Fan Li took a sip, then noted, “You should now have full knowledge of the situation, Lydia. No doubt, you are still absorbing it, but you should understand that no efforts, not even the goddess’s, were actually wasted.”

The hetaira frowned, staring down at her cup of watered wine. We could all feel her discontent, of course. She had been at the center of Rhea’s plan for saving me from the spirit energy cascade.

“Rhea is a peak Fundamental Realm Immortal,” I stated. “She is as far below Oranos or Immortal Mother as we are below her. It’s natural that they would weave her efforts into their own plans without sharing them with her. More than likely, they guided her to an extent. Or perhaps they simply saw her planning and tailored their own way to use it.”

Sirth scratched her hair and noted, “Maybe if the gods’d talkta each other more, our mortal lives’d be easier, but that’s how all the old stories go, right? Gods always gettin’ in each other’s ways?”

Rhugau scowled at her irreverent attitude, but said nothing. Even a devout monk would know she wasn’t wrong. His faith rested on a theology with a strong resemblance to the Hindu / Buddhist spectrum, and such theologies have many of those sorts of stories.

Lhan turned to me and asked, “So do we call you Sen or Lady Tiana now?”

I laughed a little, then touched my tummy. “The real Tiana is in here now, but the Tiana you folks know is me, with or without my memories. And my little girl here won’t wear that name again after she’s born. Heaven tasked me with completing her old life, so I’ll continue being Tiana while I live it.”

I looked around at the group before me. “Besides, Sen is all of us, right? I don’t have sole ownership of that name. This is, more or less, just a trick we’re playing on ourselves to use more of our soul than any one of us can. Ultimately, we’re all Senhion.”

Fan Li shook her head. “This humble one would dare to suggest that Immortal Mother’s purpose in gathering us here is for us to decide whether that is true.”

Daq stated, “Immortal Mother described our system as a ‘Dissociative Identity Architecture’. She meant the mental condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, but harnessed to give each Incarnation a thread of awareness, in order to utilize more of our total self than any of us are adept at using individually. In truth, we remain one person, and that person is the one named Senhion, to whom Immortal Mother gave birth.”

Kwelabi let out a rumble that caused little Lhan, seated next to him, to squeak in surprise. It was actually him letting out a ‘hmmm’, but a bit unnerving, in his extreme basso profondo.

“Apologies, little one,” he rumbled, looking down at her. “Often, frightened daughter, too.”

His daughter had been a human orphan he raised. She had certainly been smaller than Lhan at first, but grew to be a fairly normal human size. Lhan’s probably a fair average of that child’s heights as she grew.

“It’s okay,” she smiled at him, looking a bit self-conscious.

It’s weird to think that the six-limbed hairy giant and the little quasi-halfling are both me.

“A suggestion,” he rumbled. “Lady Tiana, Fan Li, use more awareness. They choose not to.”

He turned his shaggy brow in my direction and stated, “Use parallel thought, be yourself, many times if needed. We other personas, not suited for it. Tiana, Fan Li, suited.”

Kwelabi had been a poet and a sage in his lifetime, but expressed his thoughts by writing in clear language. Spoken words were not easy for his species.

Fan Li nodded. “Lady Tiana could simply be herself, in Sky Ocean, while also being herself in [Blood Effigy] form on Huade. After all, that’s exactly what she did while she was both Lady Tiana and Sen. And Senhion did it regularly, even to the point of creating autonomous copies of herself. That’s Kanon’s origin story, if you’ll recall.”

I felt a little queasy at that thought. “Trying to be me, in more than one place at a time? Honestly, I don’t want to.”

“The other choice is for us to act for you in your physical body while you take care of matters on Huade remotely,” Daq stated. “Who among us would be most suited to take over for you? Honestly, I would find having a female body confusing. Especially one which transforms.”

Rhugau frowned. “My vows make me quite unfit to live as such a carnal being.”

Kwelabi simply rumbled in what I recognized belatedly was laughter. Well, Rhugau wasn’t wrong, but in context, it was funny.

Sirth laughed too, for a different reason. “Lettin’ me loose amongst all yer cuties? You don’t wanna risk it, Yer Highness! I’ll ruin yer reputation! Robert would call me a fox in the henhouse!”

I suddenly grew fearful of letting her be with Amelia, and she grinned evilly in response to my anxiety…

Wait, she said all that on purpose, didn’t she? She’s pushing me to do it myself!

<‘Course I am!> she crowed in my mind.

Lydia shook her head while smirking slightly, but then declared, “My Lady, I would be happy to help you. I grew quite accustomed to assisting you on Huade. But you need to be in charge of your cultivation here.”

“This small one can substitute for you in cultivation when the timing is difficult,” Fan Li supplied.

“Also,” Lhan said, “We should send more than one copy of [Blood Effigy] to Huade. I could go back to the Kasarene Highlands so you can concentrate on Narses and Sky Ocean.”

“Is that okay?” I wondered. “That would put more stress on me, right?”

“Should not be a problem,” stated Immortal Mother, who was suddenly seated at the table. When did she arrive? “You’re in a better environment for it, here in Sky Ocean, and spreading your spirit out among more than one effigy will ease the spiritual pressure on you. Heaven’s Law would weigh upon you less with three or four effigies active.”

“I’d like t’head back as well,” Sirth noted. “Her Highness, Lhan and me make three.”

Growing uneasy with what the others seemed to consider a firm plan, I suggested, “As long as the others are going to Huade, I could just concentrate on my body here…”

Sirth laughed. “You, who’s been burnin’ to go back, take it easy here and leave it to us? D’ya really think you’ll do that, Yer Highness?”

I didn’t answer her, because she was right. Of course I couldn’t.

Setting that aside, I instead asked Immortal Mother, “How does this work, then? When I was both in Narses and the Spirit Core, Rhea’s barrier separated our thoughts essentially into separate people. This isn’t the same thing, right?”

“That’s right,” she nodded. “It can be, once you’ve learned how to send out proper proxies, but you’ll need to become more adept at expanding your awareness to Elder levels before you can do that. Fan Li could manage it, but her proxies wouldn’t be you. So, instead, it will work the way you work with your other Incarnations. The only difference will be, you are both Incarnations. You will be you, on two separate trains of thought.”

With a sigh, I accepted that I had to accept it. Not that I was ready to do so. But this still counts as progress, right?

Immortal Mother gave me a kind smile. “At first, I also suggest you allow Lydia or Fan Li to control your true body. Lydia when simply interacting with the others and Fan Li while cultivating. Lydia is intimately familiar with vampiric feeding now, as well. You can learn to be in both places at the same time later.”

I hadn’t considered the feeding part. “That’s the other problem. If I’m supporting more [Blood Effigies], I have to feed more. My real body here will need to handle that, right?”

“Your [Blood Effigy] image can feed, My Lady,” Fan Li stated. “It is an integral part of your blood core, after all. For the rest of us, our anatomies don’t possess the ability to feed, but both your image and the Senhion image naturally do. So you can use the effigy to continue re-bonding with your father’s Servants.”

What, seriously?

“I never felt the urge to feed in the effigy though?”

I felt neither vampiric urge nor libido, frankly.

“This small one suppressed them, Your Highness. It is a simple adjustment to remove the suppression. Your replica effigy is fully capable of both feeding and sex.” 

My hand had been subconsciously resting on my tummy, and I recognized why, now. Would I be able to stand not feeling the babies? I might worry to death…

“The [Blood Effigy] is not a true proxy, which is an autonomous temporary copy of your awareness, but rather, a second physical form for you to be in more than one place at a time,” Immortal Mother stated. “When you were an Elder, you used the [Replica] multi-mana technique for such non-autonomous copies of yourself. Your [Blood Effigy] is based upon magic from Fan Li’s world and has some advantages to [Replica]. The feeding is one and this is another. Your consciousness is not divided when using parallel thought, so you would still feel their connection to you through your main body. But for your comfort, Fan Li can adjust your effigy to ensure that you also carry a projection of their auras within a replica of their bodies that you will feel within your effigy’s womb.”

So not even that would serve as an excuse not to do this. Everything seemed to be settled. Well, that’s too strong a word. A consensus seemed to be congealing.

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I made up my mind. “Let’s spend one more day at 1000:1 so I have time to explain to Amelia and the maids what will happen. I don’t want you two trying to impersonate me to trick them. They are to be told who is in control of my body.”

Fan Li bowed her head. Lydia nodded and replied, “We know.”

- my thoughts:

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Sort of a retrospective to fill in the unseen parts of the final chapters of the previous volume. This basically closes this short arc. Although we will visit Sky Ocean from time to time, the story moves back to Huade during the next chapter.

I'm already doubting I'll close this story in one volume. I think we need to start thinking in terms of a volume 13. It has taken me roughly 20 percent of the volume just to get through what is essentially her rehabilitation from the last battle.

We'll see. No decision yet. It depends upon how long the next couple segments actually take in chapters.

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