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Yintales 3

Dec 1st, 2014
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  1. Within the ancestral home of the Ying kin hidden in the Valley of 18,000 Shades, Yin sits upon a silk pillow within the dining chamber located on the north side of the estate. The beaming sun casts its warm glow over the picturesque view of the inner garden on one side of the open-aired room and the Ying Shrine on the other. Though the flowers and artfully orchestrated landscaping around the estate were captivating, perfected over dozens of dozens of generations before her to be the envy of all who traveled to this place, it was not any sort of beautiful scenery involving orchids or plum blossoms that held the young mare's attention.
  2.  
  3. That honor fell to the the judgmental glares of an older pegasus with a long thin beard dressed in an elaborately designed black robe, dragons etched into the upholstery, and a similarly aged earth-pony mare with her mane done up in an intricate series of buns, not unlike Yin's own save for the lack of simplicity. Both shared the white fur coat and black mane of their daughter, but Long and Feng-shuan Ying also shared the intense feeling of tension that was eating away at Yin's nerves little by little with every passing moment. It had been several minutes since this 'family meeting' was called to order, mere hours having passed since the couple's arrival back home to the valley from serving the Emperor in the capital.
  4.  
  5. Her mother decided to break the silence first, Feng-shuan addressing her with a calm, but tempered tone, "How long has this been going on, Yin?"
  6.  
  7. The young mare tried to think back on the answer, a little unsure herself. "Well... I think I first picked up on the books when we visited Neighjing a few years ago..."
  8.  
  9. "A few years?" Feng repeated, "You did not tell us of these plans for that long, dear?"
  10.  
  11. "I didn't know I was going to make any plans when this happened," Yin retorted, "I was just taking Lien around the shops, I was excited to pick up some new books, maybe some magazines and actually find out what was happening outside this little time-capsule," a slight groan from Long emanated, and Yin decided to try that another way to avoid earning any more ire than she had already procured. "Er, the valley, I mean, dad. I was just looking into some new books, and there was this sale on marketing and entrepreneurship texts."
  12.  
  13. "And from that," Long interjects, stroking his beard with one of his wings, "You formed an astute opinion you knew your own destiny better than either of your parents or kinsponies, or even the mark upon your flank, and sought to sneak around our backs as you hastily construct plans for a career in 'business'." He gives a raised brow as he turns to Feng, "We are fortunate: that could have been a book sale on culinary arts, or laundry-detergent."
  14.  
  15. Yin didn't appreciate the humor, "That's weird, you know? I think if I was willing to go through all of this ‘plotting’, dad, you would assume I actually found a real passion for the subject matter and genuinely believe a future in the corporate sector is for me. But, no, go ahead: assume your own daughter's an empty headed balloon who just buys into the first thing she hears or reads." Yin gives a small smirk. "I mean, that sounds like something you would want. Would make for an easy job raising a head, huh?"
  16.  
  17. Long's stare turns sharp as he is about to bring his wing down on the table and give a trademark roar of authority, but his wing is halted by his wife's hoof as she shakes her head curtly. "No no, Long. I finally managed to put Mei-ling in for a nap, you aren't undoing my hard work." Long visibly grumbled, retreating his wing back into his robe as Feng looked back to Yin, "And you are in enough trouble as it is, young filly. I would cease the attitude."
  18.  
  19. Yin tosses up a hoof, "What am I in trouble for?! Making my own decisions for..."
  20.  
  21. "Lying," Long speaks up. "And the severe disrespect you have shown us, your parents, in keeping your secrets and plots hidden from our authority. You dishonor not only us, but every Ying engraved on the murals within our garden," the wing of the irate pegasus jabbed out towards the wooden structure highlighting the center of the exterior garden, the timeless Ying Shrine within which the names of every head and branch member of great renown were etched upon a myriad of metal, wood, and stone tablets. Yin lowered her ears as she looked out at the structure, but kept her resolve.
  22.  
  23. "I never lied, dad. I just never brought up my school work." Yin awaited the inevitable, aware of how weak the excuse was.
  24.  
  25. "You know that makes no difference, Yin." Her mother tagged in, "When were you going to tell us? Moments before you decided it was time to go?" Feng dragged her hoof over the opened letter at the center of the table: the acceptance letter for the Tang E. Orange School of Business in Manehatten.
  26.  
  27. Once the object of Yin's desires as she began her studies in secret to qualify for oversea tests and qualifications proving her education was suitable to grant her entry, Yin's prior inability to share these dreams with her parents had made it the subject of disdain for the young unicorn. "...A few months, I guess, would be closer to what I had in mind. The semester didn't start until the beginning of next year, halfway through the winter, so I thought if I had the proof I had made it in, it would be enough time to get you both settled into the idea."
  28.  
  29. Her father gave a stern glance. "Yin, your brilliance has always been our most heartfelt pride and joy. We bear no shame towards your strive to success. But you must have realized that keeping it secret would earn no small amount of disappointment from us. Refusing to share such important information when your future carries so much weight not only for yourself but for your family as well."
  30.  
  31. Feng nods in agreement. "And we are further disappointed you would not realize that, no matter the results of your tests, your father would not so easily be swayed from discharging you from your duties you were raised for, thus rendering the entire reasoning of your having lied to us a moot point. It does insult to that brilliance we loved that you had ever thought this was a wise course of action, Yin."
  32.  
  33. Yin could only give a low growl in response, but kept it quiet enough to avoid either parent hearing it. There was a point to their logic, but she defiantly retorted, "Thanks, mom, but something tells me if I had gone ahead and told you anyways, Dad would either burn my books or keep me so busy I could never study in the first place."
  34.  
  35. Long took a deep breath, remembering his promise not to raise his voice and disturb his youngest's rest. "You offer too many insightful ideas, daughter. Had I known you were so bored of your teachings I would have gladly worked you twice as hard to keep this nonsense in check."
  36.  
  37. Yin took after her father's book in this moment as she shouted back, "IT ISN'T NONSENSE!" Her mother shushed her, but Yin barely lowered the volume as she continued, "And I didn't take it up because I was bored of Mó-yĭng-xì. As shocking as this may sound, I was legitimately interested in living like normal, progressive horses of the 21st goddamned century and learning the trade of business."
  38.  
  39. "We are not 'normal, progressive' ponies, Yin. Our work is to preserve a timeless tradition that has dated back centuries, millenia even."
  40.  
  41. "And you don't seem to get that 'the past' has become just that! The past!" Yin holds up her hooves as though to count, "Shadow magic doesn't run our nation's trade, commerce does. Traditions older than dirt don't keep us up to speed with countries like the Griffon Kingdoms or Equestria, it's entrepreneurship. You see modern Chineighse mares wearing the old junk you expect me to put on almost every other day on anything OTHER than, like, one day a year? I don't! I think I would be doing Chineigh a great deal more service as a business pony than I think I ever would running this clan..."
  42.  
  43. "Ying. Yin." Long tempered his voice, ready to scream with rage as his wife kept up a stern glare to keep his shouting down. Though out of the corners of her specs, Yin could swear she could see a few of the shadows shifting in place around the meeting room. "You are deluding yourself. You find these prospects flashy and fascinating as a child does a new toy, but this is only because they are unfamiliar to you..."
  44.  
  45. "And who's fault do you think that is?! I am nineteen years old, and where have I been? Neighjing, a few surrounding areas, the Valley... that's it! I've NO real world experience because you keep me trapped here in a painting of the early Han dynasty!"
  46.  
  47. "You miss your father's point." Feng steps in again. "You are fascinated by a world you have no meaning being in because you seek change in your life. It is understandable for a girl your age, my dear," she moves a hoof forward from the side of the table to comfort her daughter's shoulder, "But you can't expect these to do more good to your family or country than being the head. We are timeless, the Emperor himself calls upon our services as do many distinguishable noble houses.
  48.  
  49. "Any pony can wear a modern suit and call themselves a business pony." Long adds, "But you are the only one who can become the next head of the clan. Your world will change rapidly sooner than you give it credit."
  50.  
  51. Yin looked away, brushing off her mother's hoof as she replies, "Yeah, any pony except me apparently... and I'll hold my breath on my world changing any time soon. I've watched you be head since the day I could walk and I've seen just about everything that comes with it. I'm not excited for picking up the act, Dad."
  52.  
  53. Feng looked to her husband for suggestions as the frustrated father only strokes his beard in agitation. After a few moments, he replies, "I am sorry you feel that way, Yin... but enthusiasm is an issue much more quickly and painlessly solved than passing the duty on to another who has not had nineteen years to prepare for it. It is a task that you and you alone are best suited for, Yin. It is your responsibility and honor demands you adhere to tradition and seek to fulfill that duty. If you wish you discuss whatever we can do to prepare you for this..." He grumbles a little at the end, leaving his mother to add the last bit that he himself was not so thrilled to give.
  54.  
  55. "Your father and I thought that, to make the transition easier, we would be willing to let you travel farther than where we have allowed thus far. Perhaps even visit other countries: we both agree it would be wasteful not to let you use your near perfect Equish and expand your horizons."
  56.  
  57. Long speaks up again, "But we will not fund or support any sort of overseas pilgrimage to take up your school. This is my final decision not only as your father, but as the head of all Ying." He stomps his hoof. "You will not dishonor your ancestors by shirking the job they have endlessly passed on in your wake."
  58.  
  59. Yin's eyes began to fluster with tears as she quickly blinked them back, refusing to show weakness in this trying moment as she listened to her father break her dreams of the past three years into the wood floor like cracked nuts. "Well... well, who says I ever needed your permission anyway then?"
  60.  
  61. Long and Feng-shuan both looked at each other like they had heard the single most outrageous proclamation either had heard in their entire lives. "Excuse me?"
  62.  
  63. "I’m not a minor anymore. I'm a legal adult and completely entitled to living on my own. Traditions of a single kin, even one as 'important and prestigious' as a family of shadow summoners, whose very existence is supposed to be kept on the down-low by the way? So we can do our less lawful requests in peace?" Yin gives only the slightest of grins. "Won't hold up against the law. I could just waltz out the door, find a flight or a boat there myself, and you can't do anything legal to stop me from doing it."
  64.  
  65. Long had just about had enough, wings jutting out as he shouts. "YING YIN!" The shadows Yin had saw quivering before were now fully mobile, the nearby shades cast by the sun on the walls and furniture and even her parents all stretching and folding to pool around Long's hooves as he stands up, the gathered darkness underneath him giving him an air of ferocity to back up his call. "Your childish defiance has long been tolerated as a courtesy of allowing you this independence you crave so desperately, but you would insult your father, family, and kin by abandoning them!? You would so brazenly humiliate us, betray the love we've given selflessly, for your foolish, selfish aspirations?"
  66.  
  67. feng could only hold her head at Long losing his temper completely, the act of gathering shadows to his whim an act she had seen him perform many times. Yin had as well, and most of the young mare's discomfort came not the sight of an enraged gathering of moving shadows, but from her father's screeching voice. Her ears nearly concaved from the sheer ear-rupturing she had just been given, her glasses nearly sent sideways by the vibrations of her father's scolding, but she straightened them and steeled her nerves as she shouted back at the darkened portrait of her father,
  68.  
  69. "If you wanted to look at it from an equally selfish, infinitely more narrow-minded point of view, then yeah, let's go with that Dad! Don't you dare accuse me of not loving my family: I'm willing to bet I show Mei and Lien more affection in a single day than I see you commit to them in a MONTH. I have taken every lesson, every lecture, every preachy speech about tradition and duty you've given me up until now because I loved you and wanted to make you happy... why the hell can't you want ME to be happy too, huh?! I guess I should have figured the prospect of making sure we're doing the same thing as you've been doing 50 years down the line is tons more important than your own daughter's feelings about the matter!"
  70.  
  71. "This isn't just about you or me, Yin! The clan consists of several branches, dozens and dozens of shadow-dancers, hundreds if not thousands of lives that have need of us. We've no right putting our own desires in front of so many others."
  72.  
  73. Feng stepped in, sighing to herself as she accepts the fact that Mei-ling would not be getting the nap she had been put down for. With his mate taking the lead, Long calmed his nerves slightly as the gathered shades began to slowly, but not completely, disperse to their places of origin. "Yin, think about this: what would you do in that scenario? You've no money of your own, no family or friends in Equestria, no resources we would be willing to provide. You don’t want to be in that situation. You've any sort of idea how much a trip to Equestria even costs, love?"
  74.  
  75. Turning her attention away from her infuriated father, Yin huffs and points at the letter. "I qualified for a scholarship, too: with just a little extra paper work my tuition and first year of housing are paid for, and they want me there so badly they're willing to pay for my flight out of Neighjing. I can find a job to cover living expenses..."
  76.  
  77. "My oldest daughter... A common Equestrian part-time job... perhaps serving lo mein noodles the way my luck has been lately. Perhaps at that chain that’s grown so popular there, what was it… Pea Hoof Chang’s?" Long growls, holding his face in his hoof as he relieves his mental headache. "You must know how ridiculous this sounds. You can't possibly want this."
  78.  
  79. She stomps her hoof, and turns back her horn mere inches from her father's snout, "All I wanted was your blessing and support in something other than what YOU picked out for me, but if I can't have it, then fine! I would rather wait tables that than stay here..."
  80.  
  81. A pitter patter of hooves rose among the escalated tones of the family as a little white unicorn filly with her mane done in ox-horns turned around the corner of the hall into the meeting room. "Mama...?"
  82.  
  83. Feng-shuan turned towards Long to give one more disappointed stare, giving a small tap of her own hoof, her own shadow magic forcing the altered shadows to be returned completely to their original placing as though nothing had moved them in the first place. She un-furrowed her brow and turned to the child as Yin and Long continued their face off with casual glances to her. "What is it Lien-hua? Mama and Baba are busy talking with your sister still."
  84.  
  85. "Um... it's, it's Mei. She woke up from her nap and now she won't go back to sleep, it's making studying kind of hard."
  86.  
  87. "I will be right there... perhaps I may have an easier time of it on a second attempt." Feng-shuan got up from the table and left her husband and eldest to whatever they wished to speak about as she followed Lien-hua, the young girl looking at her troubled sister with misty eyes as she slowly turned back and forth from spying on her and following her mother.
  88.  
  89. Long didn't have much else to say, however, as he got up from the table and left for the Ying Shrine outside in the garden. "I've said all I'm willing to say on the matter. You will not abandon your family. I will speak with you later over a different matter, you are to spend your afternoon re-familiarizing yourself with the Scroll of the 72 Phases. We will be going over shadow-shaping tomorrow morning at first light."
  90.  
  91. Yin lifted up her glasses to rub at her stained eyes once with her hoof, replacing them with her horn as she calls out, "But..."
  92.  
  93. "That will be all, daughter." Long cut her off with an expansion of his wings and soared out the open door to land at the steps to the shrine in a single bound, the wind from the takeoff blowing the letter off the table before Yin desperately clutches it in a field of telekinesis, holding it close to her chest as she bangs her head on the table.
  94.  
  95. "Damn it... DAMN IT," she quietly curses, horn nearly scratching the table as she picks herself up and looks at the acceptance in her magical clutch. "What the hell do I do now... "
  96.  
  97. "I think Baba and Mama have the right idea, Yin..." Yin turned away from staring at the wooden table and saw her little sister in the doorway, face forlorn and concerned. "We need you here. I need you here..."
  98.  
  99. Yin got up from her prone position and wandered over to her, "Lien, that's just not true. You're an amazing shadow-dancer, and would be a great head if I-"
  100.  
  101. "If you wanted to put all your needs first, right?" Lien huffed. "And what if I had another dream and wanted to quit too? Should I just put everything on Mei-mei just like you'd do to me? And what if SHE doesn't want to do it either, then you expect our parents to have a fourth child?"
  102.  
  103. "Lien, you're too little to understand." Yin tried to blow her off with a timeless classic: she was not in a mood to get in another fight with another family member.
  104.  
  105. "I am completely capable of understanding, thank you very much." Lien shook her head. "And I think I know how you feel, but we have to do things we don't feel like doing sometimes, Yin-yin."
  106.  
  107. "You know what?" Yin had had just about as much lecturing as she could stand for one day, "That's a GREAT philosophy, Li-li. Why don't you follow your own advice and do that when it's your turn to do it then, because I'm fine with being called whatever you want to call me if it means I get out of this. I don't care, I just don't, care..." she brushed Lien aside with a rough shove as she made her way to her room, Lien's face red and puffy as she gave a glance back at her.
  108.  
  109. Yin didn't do as her father demanded and spent the rest of the afternoon re-reading one of her business books instead (it wouldn't matter: the scroll in question she had practically memorized anyhow) and stewed in her room trying to think of what to do...
  110.  
  111. What she had thrown at her parents had partially been a bluff: she COULD make her way to Equestria on her own authority. The transportation, the housing, the job, it could all be arranged. But she was aware doing so would essentially make her dead to the rest of the Ying clan. She loved her mother, her sisters, even her father with all her heart, but she couldn't imagine doing this to them and expecting to be welcomed back with open hooves on New Year's, or birthdays, or special occasions. As outdated as they were, honoring one's parents and ancestors' traditions was a much cherished virtue in this valley and even the country at large. She doubted Long would ever even care to see her again after humiliating him in such a manner.
  112.  
  113. But what was the alternative if they wouldn't budge? Give up on her goals, her dreams, stick it out and hope things got better here, that maybe her destiny forced upon her wouldn't be so bad after all? Yin could only grunt at that thought. No, no she has come much too far and aspired too long to just throw it all in now.
  114.  
  115. Weeks passed, the final enrollment date for the semester growing steadily closer and closer with each passing day as Yin was worked to the bone on refining her shadow magic by Long's careful gaze and studying marketing and economics when he dared turn his head. Study, and preparation. She had made her decision, and was determined to stand by it.
  116.  
  117. She would leave the Valley on the next New Moon in the sky, when night was at its darkest and the shadows were rare with no light of Luna's celestial body above to illuminate the land. It had finally come, and Yin, heart still torn but mind too dead set in its goals to pay it mind, had finished packing up her last book in her saddle bag as she locked it tight, the black and white traditional carrier strung onto her back as she waited for everyone in the house to fall asleep. Goodbyes would be too painful and would risk swaying her away from the plan, and she feared what her father would do if she tried it in his presence.
  118.  
  119. Yin levitated a spare set of glasses into the bag, pausing as she looked at the pair of lens in the dim light of the outside lanterns reaching into the room...
  120.  
  121.  
  122.  
  123. Yin is a young filly again, 6 years old as she stares at herself in a mirror, or what she can make of it at least. Her vision had degraded quickly over the past few months and, tried as she did to make do without, the Ying family practitioner had sentenced her to life with nerd specs, no release for good behavior. She was not thrilled over the prospect, and now it has come to this, after an hour of telling a stallion 1's, 2's, better’s and worse’s in agonizing boredom, Yin's prescription was filled out and it was time for her to choose a frame.
  124.  
  125. Her mother was accompanying her in the shop as she grabbed a set in her teeth and brought it over Yin's face. "Oooh, what about these? What do you think, Yin, my mother wore a set like these."
  126.  
  127. The oversized, perfect circles over Yin's face made her think she was looking at a stupid looking owl with a horn. Her frown deepened, turning up to her mother as she asked sincerely, "Do I look dumb?"
  128.  
  129. Feng-shuan gave a slight chuckle as her daughter posed the question, failing to answer it as the innocent question and the skewed priorities of children amused her. Yin took the laughter the wrong way, upper lip of her muzzle trembling as she looked back at the mirror in an upset scowl. "I don't want to look dumb..."
  130.  
  131. Beginning to hear the slight, sharp intakes of air from a weepy filly, Feng tempered her laughter and leaned down to nuzzle her daughter's cheek. "Of course you don't, dear. Glasses don't make ponies look dumb, they make them look intelligent and dignified. You just need the right style, and maybe these have fallen a bit out of the times since your grandmother’s.” Still sensing Yin was not quite happy with situation, the earth pony snatched up the glasses on Yin’s face and adjusted them onto her own. “How about me? Do I look dumb?” She added with a goofy expression to accentuate the large specs on her face, causing Yin to finally release her downcast mood as she partook in her mother’s laughter.
  132.  
  133. “You look like a big goofy owl, Mama!”
  134.  
  135. “Hahahaha, well we don’t want you looking like that then, do we? Come on, let’s try this one instead…”
  136.  
  137.  
  138.  
  139. Yin kept staring at the glasses in her magical grip, putting them into the bag with a slight sigh as she remembered what a supporting mother she had, especially in the face with as demanding a father as she was married to.
  140.  
  141. With her bag filled to the brim with everything she thought would be necessary for the journey to Equestria for schooling, she tip-toed down the halls past her parents bed-room. For all his frequent roaring, Long seemed to also bear the ears of a bat, and Yin held her breath every moment she cautiously slid past lest she make an utterance and wake her parents.
  142. As she turned the corner towards the front entrance, she nearly tripped and caught her footing at a little stuffed lion on the floor, wincing as she fears if she made any noise falling over the thing. She recognized it immediately as one of Mei’s toys, once Lien’s, once hers.
  143.  
  144.  
  145.  
  146. Yin is eighteen again, a storybook in her magic levitation as her baby sister laid tucked underneath holding a stuffed lion close to her chest under a blanket as the short-haired filly listened with enraptured attention as Yin read aloud a bedtime story for the filly.
  147.  
  148. “’The sea, have you ever seen the sea?’ the turtle asked. ‘The sea is a massive expanse of blue. You can swim heading for faraway places and never reach them, you can swim down for days and never touch the bottom. During Yu the Great's reign, there was flooding for nine out of ten years, yet the sea barely grew an inch. During Tang of Shang's reign, droughts were experienced in seven out of eight years, yet the sea hardly shrank. Being unaffected by such disasters is the joy of living in the sea.'”
  149.  
  150. Yin smirked as she reached the end, “The frog, hearing this, was dumbfounded. He was so shocked he could only stare into the distance as the turtle bid him good day and went on his way. The end.” She closed the story book, and looked down to her youngest sibling. “Well? What do you think the frog learned, Mei-mei?”
  151.  
  152. Mei snickered underneath the blanket as she thought about the answer. “The frog learned to make the hole bigger so the turtle could fit in his well!”
  153.  
  154. Yin smiled, putting down the book as she tussled Mei’s mane. “Maybe. But the really important lesson the frog learned, Mei, is that we should have a wider vision of life than just our little well. He learned to keep an open mind and not dwell on his little personal heaven, but explore and understand beyond what he had.”
  155.  
  156. “Oh.” Mei yawned, squeakily tucking herself into the covers as she closed her eyes. “That too.”
  157.  
  158. Yin rolled her eyes, leaning down to peck a kiss on Mei’s horn. “Goodnight Mei.” She got up and began to leave the room, but was halted by a whispered hush from behind.
  159.  
  160. “Yin-yin, are we frogs?”
  161.  
  162. Yin turned back and raised an eyebrow. “Whuh?”
  163.  
  164. “We don’t leave the valley a lot more than the froggy left his well. Are we frogs?”
  165.  
  166. Yin was a bit surprised the lesson had taken to heart so quickly. “…no, Mei, we’re not frogs. We’re ponies, you silly-silly.”
  167.  
  168. “Oh!” Mei smiled and went back under the blankets, gripping her stuffed lion close as she gave another loud yawn. “Yeah, that’s right. Nighty night Yin-yin!”
  169.  
  170. “Heh…" Yin takes a quick moment to spark her shade to life, the dark aberration not taking entirely full form as it darts for the lit candles of the room, dowsing them before falling back underneath her hoofs to leave the child in a darkenend room. "Night, see you in the morning, Mei-mei.”
  171.  
  172.  
  173.  
  174. As she carried the stuffed lion in her mouth into her sister’s room, she placed the toy close to Mei’s bed as she watched her sleep. She was going to deposit the toy and leave immediately, but watching her baby sister sleep for what could be the last time in a long time brought a well of tears up to her eyes as she gently stroked her mane as she snored softly.
  175.  
  176. Leaving her sisters behind like this was by far the hardest part, with no loving hug goodbye or assurance of her return save a small note she left in her room. She had determined that there was no way of telling Mei or Lien without her parents finding out in turn, and if Long had known what she was planning, this would never be happening.
  177.  
  178. “I’ll see you again soon, Mei-ling, I promise…” she turned to the other covered up bundle across the room. Lien was fast asleep as well, as Yin silently walked over to say her farewells to her. Being the oldest child meant certain benefits of having her own room: poor Lien had been forced to share with Mei since she was born, but Lien never seemed to mind. The two sisters, even without Yin around, took to each other like fire to wood, so the shared space was hardly an issue save in instances where Lien needed to study.
  179.  
  180. Yin leaned down to kiss her other sister’s horn, and stroke her mane carefully so as not to wake her up. “You too, Li-li… I love you both so much. You’re free to have my room after I’m gone, okay?” She looked over on the wall behind the sleeping filly, and saw a long rope hung up on a hook.
  181.  
  182.  
  183.  
  184. Yin is 14, her shadow raised off the ground and gripping one end of a rope in her shady teeth as Yin took the other in her telekinesis, swinging it back and forth between the legs of a young, blank-flank Lien-hua as she hops up and down singing a (fairly broken Equish) rhyme. Feng, belly extremely heavy with Mei, observes happily from across the garden.
  185.  
  186. “'Fudge, fudge, call the judge, mama’s having a baby! Baba’s going crazy, how many foals will she have?' Yī, èr, sān, sì…” Lien didn’t make it past 'four' before her left rear hoof was caught along the rope, causing her to stumble and fall forward before Yin’s shadow leapt from its position and caught her in a dark grip of its hoof before her muzzle touched the ground.
  187.  
  188. Yin sighed as she let go of the rope, “Woooh, that was close! I’m sorry, Lien, I think I pulled that one a little too hard. You okay?”
  189.  
  190. Lien nodded her head as she looked up with wonder at Yin’s animated shadow up close, who helped her up before disappearing back to underneath Yin’s hooves. Biting her lip, Lien sparked a little bit of magic to her horn, popping out a violet series of small jolts of light like fireworks as she struggled to animate her shadow as well, but gave off little more than a fancy sparkler show as she concentrated herself into an exhausted stupor, falling back on her rump as she kicked the grass with her forehoof.
  191.  
  192. “Stupid horn…”
  193.  
  194. Yin nuzzled her sister’s horn, jokingly adding, “Ah, I think it’s a cute little horn. I think it’s you that needs work is all, not your tool.”
  195.  
  196. Lien’s mood worsened as she rubbed at her own shadow on the ground. “It’s not fair… Baba said you could do yours when you were seven. Why won’t mine?”
  197.  
  198. Yin ceased her chuckling, and rubbed her sister’s mane with her hoof. “Baba says a lot of things. Every pony is different, Li-li, you’ll be call up your shade like a pro when you’re good and ready. I was just an early bloomer is all. You know, I don’t think Baba could do it when he was seven either.”
  199.  
  200. Lien sniffled as she thought aloud, “And what if I never do… what if the reason Baba wanted another foal is because he was mad I couldn’t do it and wanted another daughter that could…?”
  201.  
  202. Yin took her hoof and wiped the tears away from her sister’s eyes. “Hehe, Lien, I promise I’ll explain it in more detail one day, but let me just straight up say foals do not work that way. You’re never going to be replaced, not by anyone. And you’ll be a wonderful shadow-dancer one day, who cares how early you get started?”
  203.  
  204. “But…”
  205.  
  206. “Nuh-uh, no buts about it. You have to have faith in yourself, Li-li.” She looked over to Feng, waving as they had their private conversation. “When the new foal comes, she’s gonna look up to you like you look up to me. You want to be a good role model to her, right? Step one is you stay confident not just for yourself, but for her too! You going to be a good big sister?”
  207.  
  208. Lien, choking back on tears of happiness, nodded her head wildly as she gripped Yin’s neck hard in a hug, causing her to nearly choke herself. “I will! I promise I will. I love you Yin-yin!”
  209.  
  210.  
  211.  
  212. “I love you too, Lien…” Yin whispered as she turned away from the rope, silently closing the door to her sisters’ room before continuing out the front door.
  213.  
  214. The moon in the sky was almost completely invisible as the planet cast a shadow upon it, the outer gardens of the estate completely swathed in darkness save for the scant lanterns lining the perimeter. Yin kept to the darkness as best she could, constant glances back out towards her home both out of a crippling regret and constant paranoia of seeing her father flying out keeping her distracted as she made outside the gate.
  215.  
  216. She was worried her declaration that she would seek out her higher education on her own would lead Long to requesting guards from other branches to keep the estate secure, but she met no resistance as she made for the long, dusty path that lead from the estate to the road system that would eventually lead towards Neighjing. She had thankfully enough allowance to afford a cab and food along the way, though that job would need to come as quickly as possible when she arrived. What would she do, she wondered… she had little to no culinary talent, her father’s suggestion of a noodle shop would turn out poorly. Maybe serving tables though, or find an internship that would both pay bits and accept a freshman?
  217.  
  218. “Going out?”
  219.  
  220. Her thoughts kept her distracted as she wandered down the path, but was interrupted with a shock as the sudden voice sent a chill down her spine and caused her to jump. Lit by a single lantern he suddenly pulled from his cloak hanging on his wing, Long looked at Yin with a glare that showed neither anger nor sadness, but a stoicism as Yin caught her breath and stared with horror at her father.
  221.  
  222. “I… uh… how…”
  223.  
  224. “The shadows warned me, Yin. Even in darkness such as this evening, shadows lie within larger shades. And I have been listening intently.” Long explained, his blank expression not yet changed.
  225.  
  226. Yin’s expression, on the other hoof, was wrought with emotion. “So… what happens now? Are you going to drag me back kicking and screaming if you have to, Dad?”
  227.  
  228. Long shook his head. “So that you may flee again? What point would there be? You are resourceful, daughter: any prison I could imagine for you would find itself broken sooner or later.”
  229.  
  230. Yin’s tension released slightly. “Then, why are you out here…?”
  231.  
  232. Long’s shadow came to life under the glow of the lantern, a long dragon-like appendage reaching out to hold something in front of Yin’s spectacled eyes: her treasured zhě shàn fan. She normally kept it in her mane’s bun as a personalized hair stick, reaching back with her hoof in stunned realization that she had somehow forgotten to see it was there before she left the house. Did Long take it at some point?
  233.  
  234. She looked back at the fan and the elongated shadow of her father holding it…
  235.  
  236.  
  237.  
  238. Yin is sixteen years old. She was still being severely punished by an extremely disappointed father and mother for having been caught drinking alcohol she had managed to procure discreetly from her last trip to Neighjing. Nearly making a fool of her family during a critical meeting of clients that had come directly to the head’s house, due to her drunken and uncontrolled antics, Yin’s stash was promptly disposed and the teenager punished with a month’s probation on reading material not directly tied to her teachings and play-time with both her sisters cut. The month’s punishment was nearly up, and Long was finishing up yet another lesson in controlling the shadows of non-living beings as Yin began making her way back to her solitary confinement.
  239.  
  240. “Yin.” The patriarch of the family called out to her, holding up a wing as he called her back. “Another moment.”
  241.  
  242. Yin sighed. “Baba, please, I’m tired… can I just go back to my room to sulk in peace?”
  243.  
  244. “After a moment.”
  245.  
  246. Yin grumbled. “What’s up?”
  247.  
  248. “Our contract with the Wongs. They have… decided they have no further need of our services, at least for the time being.”
  249.  
  250. Yin gulped. The Wongs were said clients at her embarrassing debacle that had earned her grounding due to underage inebriation. They were big ones, too.
  251.  
  252. “…damn it.”
  253.  
  254. “Language.”
  255.  
  256. “Fucking damn it…” Yin bowed her head, completely ashamed that her foolishness had actually hurt the family like this. “I am so, so sorry, Dad, I just… okay, okay I understand if you want to punish me for longer.”
  257.  
  258. Long shook his head. “I had no intentions of doing so, but that can easily change if you don’t clean up your manner of speaking. The only reason I bring it up now is I don’t care for what reaction you’d have if you heard it on your own.”
  259.  
  260. “What difference does it make?”
  261.  
  262. “The difference is that I am here to inform you not to cast blame over yourself like a shroud.”
  263.  
  264. Yin brought her head up from staring at the floorboard and asked, “Was it not my fault…?”
  265.  
  266. “I can’t say for certain. But regardless of what it was, I want you to know that – “
  267.  
  268. “What then?! Actions have consequences and now mine have helped screw us over? I’m an embarrassment as a daughter? I’m not worthy of the name ‘Ying’? Just tell me what, I – hrmph!”
  269.  
  270. She was cut off as Long’s shadow stretched up from beneath his robes to hold over her muzzle, stopping her rambling as Long asked, “Interrupting your elders is rude, child. Are you done?” Yin gave a weak nod as the shadow left her lips, where Long continued, “Good. I want you to know that neither I, nor any of our clan, hold you responsible in any way. To feel guilt over the loss of the Wong family is thus pointless, so I ask you hold your drama for something else. That is all.”
  271.  
  272. Yin stood dumbfounded, her father about to leave her be to return to her room before she pulled on his rob with her magic. “Wait, wait… you’re just forgiving me?”
  273.  
  274. “For drinking at your age? You’ll have earned your forgiveness in another week once you are no longer grounded. For the Wongs? I just finished saying there is nothing to forgive for you share no blame. I hope that answers the question.”
  275.  
  276. “I just… I’m just, amazed, I think.”
  277.  
  278. Long perked up a brow. “What is so amazing?”
  279.  
  280. “The clan is your whole life, Dad! I just… I’m sure I had a hoof in it, one way or another, that we lost their trust and I thought if I ever fu… messed up this badly even before I was a Head you would… I don’t know.”
  281.  
  282. “Neither do I.”
  283.  
  284. Yin, her anxiety completely relieved from the moment, afforded a small laugh. “Hate to be so melodramatic about it, but I guess ‘disowning me’ was what I was going for there.”
  285.  
  286. Long glowered at Yin, face furrowed as he moved closer to his daughter in an imposing manner. She was just about ready to back off when his wings came flying out of his robes’ sleeves at speeds she didn’t think possible, enveloping her in a feathery hug of affection she rarely seen from her father as his neck went around hers in a hug.
  287.  
  288. “You could destroy the entire kin single hoofed, and I would not stop loving you.”
  289.  
  290. Yin wasn’t quite sure what to say back. “Dad…”
  291.  
  292. “Never forget that Yin. You’ve the makings to be the greatest Head our family has known in generations, and will push you hard to realize your potential. But no matter how what I do to see it done, you own my heart and always will.”
  293.  
  294. Before Yin even had time to respond with her own love in turn, the usually stoic Long had already broken the embrace, leaving an awestruck Yin standing still as a statue as his wings once again dug into his robes, pulling out a small, beautifully ornate purple folding fan. “I… this seems as appropriate a time as any, though we were initially saving this for your birthday. I often notice you sweating when we practice outside in the warmer months. This was purchased to assist with that. It's authentic Ming dynasty, so take care of it.” Yin, still too moved emotionally to manage moving physically, only stared at it in dull recognition as her father moved forward to place it in her traditional bun. “It suits you well, Yin –“
  295.  
  296. Her response took him by surprise as she wrapped her hooves around his neck nuzzling his fur aggressively as she nearly broke her glasses holding her head to his.
  297.  
  298.  
  299.  
  300. The shadow holding the fan before her now slid back up behind her bun, sliding it into place before retracting to underneath Long’s robes. Yin’s head bobbed back a bit, adjusting to the weight of the fan. “It’s… heavier.”
  301.  
  302. “I had the inside of its paper edges replaced with a light, sharp sheet of metal from our clan’s weapon maker.”
  303.  
  304. “What?!” Yin looked back at the beloved fan, now weaponized by her father. “Dad, I … I can’t go to school with a weapon!”
  305.  
  306. “I did not want you going to school at all. There are times where you won’t be able to rely on your magic, and in those cases I WILL have my daughter defended. When those times come, if I cannot be there to kill those who would wish you harm myself, then they will feel the steel fang of Ying Long another way.” Yin was about to oppose, but was quickly cut off as her father picked up his lantern and began to walk back his way to the estate.
  307.  
  308. “I… I left a note.”
  309.  
  310. “I will be sure to read it.”
  311.  
  312. “…can you tell them all I love them?”
  313.  
  314. “I imagine they’d know from the note.”
  315.  
  316. Yin’s eyes glistened with one final collection of tears as she watched her father turn his back on her in the night, moving closer to give Long, her beloved father after all is said and done, one final hug. As she approached, he threw up a wing, fanning her off.
  317.  
  318. “You will return to where you belong from this venture soon. Your house will welcome you back readily. I will embrace you then… zài jiàn, Yĭng Yīn.” And without another word to her, Long took off in flight back for the Ying estate, his wayward daughter left below to continue her path unabated as he silently wept the entirety of the flight, praying to his ancestors she return safely to where she truly belonged.
  319.  
  320. Yin’s eyes had begun overflowing as well, but turned away from her retreating father with one more glance behind as she whispered to no one in particular, “You won’t regret this.” Sniffling one last time to get it out of her system, she continued along the cold, dark path to the roads using her horn’s magic as a light along the way, her shadow keeping her company along the journey.
  321.  
  322.  
  323.  
  324. Yin Ying is 19 years old, and is now upon an airship docked out of the Neighjing airport slated for Manehatten, Equestria. She has no family wishing her farewell, at least none in person, and her mind filled with dread, excitement, regrets, and hopes as she looks out the window from her seat watching the skyscrapers of the sprawling Chineighse metropolis beginning to shrink from sight as she double checks her saddle-bag under the seat to ensure everything is there and in one piece as she leaves her home behind for parts unknown. She’s dreamt of this day for years, to break free of her family’s chains and make out on her own to fulfill her own path in life, though this was among the farthest ideals of how she wanted to happen. She promised to stay in contact with everyone. She knew she was going to miss a lot in the coming years: Mei-ling receiving her cutie mark, Lien-hua mastering Mó-yĭng-xì, birthdays and anniversaries… the flight to and from Equestria was arduous, and to return home more than once a year on her own payroll would prove daunting.
  325.  
  326. But it would all be worth it. Her real life begins now, as the most prestigious school of future billionaires and the economic elite awaited an eager, brilliant filly striving to find a destiny she would be proud to call hers.
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