Yintales 2

Oct 23rd, 2014
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  1. It is a late afternoon in the ancestral home of the Ying kin, the sun making its final pass around the mountain ranges surrounding the long reaching Valley of 18,000 Shades. The sun has nearly set behind the lowest peak at the far end of the tree filled valley, the shadows of the mountains at their longest and stretched to cover the entire Ying estate. The gardens and shrine and living quarters alike were all bathed in a growing dark as the day's light comes to its end.
  3. The all-encompassing cover proves to be a helpful assistance in the studies of the Ying daughters practicing in the gardens outside their home. Yin, 19 years old, stands watch over her youngest sister cheerfully splashing about in a small pool of water. Meanwhile, her next youngest stands attentive in front of the dim glow of a barely lit lantern on the gazebo built over the small stream passing through their estate, the calming sounds of the water underneath the wood paneling doing little to ease the strained expression on the child's face. Lien, a filly of 12, was being circled around by the head of the Ying clan and father to all three of the sisters: Long Ying, a robed pegasus well over a head taller than Yin with a frightening physique to match. His expression was furrowed, serious, stroking his long, thing beard with a wing studying Lien intensively as Yin kept Mei, the 5 year old toddler of the family, focused with a few tricks of her horn she had been practicing as she played in the water, dancing lights and sparks and the such.
  5. "Lien-hua." Long spoke out, "You will try again."
  7. The nervous filly, ox horns ready to come out of their knots in stress, nodded her head eagerly. "Yes, baba." The lantern's flame dying out, Long took out from the wing folds in his robe a small match that relit the lantern with a fierce glow, casting a powerful outline of Lien's shadow. Yin silently wished her sister luck in the exercise, a fairly simple one she had practiced countless times in her own beginning stages of tutoring. Shadow magic was a rare, difficult technique that the practitioners of the Ying had kept secret for generations, and the first step to any sort of shadow power was getting it to move as you willed.
  9. The goal was simple enough: Lien needed to move the stark outline of her shadow, outstretched and clearly silhouetted for ease, in an arc around herself like the hand of a clock with herself at the center. Lien casted a small purple arc from her horn, zipping along the air like a dragon before it impacted the stark outline lining the ground, dancing along it. The magic to tie a pony's mind and soul to a shadow Lien had trouble alone picking up, and now she strained as her mind raced to move the shadow forward ever so slightly, eyes closed for concentration as Long looked on in expectation.
  11. And move forward it did: Lien's shadow made the slow crawl forward as she willed, but it was slow and erratic. Long desired perfection, and shook his head as he spoke aloud, "You must focus more, Lien-hua. If you cannot even move your own shadow, how can you be expected to move the shadows of others? Much less the shadows of those that do not move themselves?"
  13. Lien grunted, her concentration faltering, "Yes, baba..." Yin snorted as she watched the proceedings, wishing father would ease up a little. Father had a bit of a rough edge to his teaching methods, for which he was fortunate in the case of when he taught her: Yin's drive to impress and succeed, not to mention her staggering pride, made the badgering an effective motivator. But Lien was a bit more sensitive, and she honestly wished Long would see that at times as the shadow hardly made any more progress in its revolution. Mei, the curious filly she was, was frequently distracted from Yin's distractions at her father's sharp tone of voice, to which Yin only patted her head and simply whispered, "We can watch Mei-mei, but Lien needs to focus, okay? You need to be super quiet." She scrunches up her muzzle for comedic exaggeration, to which the younger filly chuckled, covering her mouth with her hooves as she happily nodded, following Yin out of the stream and onto the wooden of the gazebo to observe.
  15. Minutes passed, and the flame of the lantern was already beginning to fade, with Lien's shadow just barely before the 4 o'clock marker as Long grunted in frustration. "Lien-hua, the lantern will soon be unlit. You have no more than 60 seconds to finish your rotation."
  17. Lien almost cried out, distressed, "I'm TRYING, baba."
  19. "Not hard enough."
  21. Yin sighed: this was Lien's and father's 12th attempt. Why he hadn't figured on a course correction by this point, Yin had no idea. As the flame began to slowly flicker out and Lien's shadow grow more and more unclear in the fading light, Yin stepped in after setting Mei down to offer advice. "Lien, there's such a thing as concentrating too hard, you know. Just relax, you're..."
  23. "Yin." Long gave a curt interruption, "Do not disturb your sister."
  25. "Dad, she's so stressed I can feel lines forming on MY face."
  27. "She will overcome it."
  29. "Not with you chewing her out every half rotation, she won't."
  31. "Yin!" he barks with more ferocity, "An jìnɡ!"
  33. Yin's glasses tilted a bit on edge with the force of that last shout to be silent. Long's name was certainly appropriate. Not only was his roars worthy of the ancient breed of dragon that soared over Chineighse horizons for which he was named, he was incredibly long-winded. Fixing her specs, Yin glared back at her father, clearing her throat as she recited, "The strong wind that fans a burning flame may also uproot the woods," smirking with a small sense of self-satisfaction as Long's expression softened ever so slightly.
  35. Long was a course a stubborn pegasus, but he had a soft spot for poetry and philosophy that Yin had picked up on in her years of tutelage under him. Hearing a bit of Conhoofcius from his daughter slightly tempered his sour mood, somewhere stuck between indigence at his eldest's attitude, and pride at the glimpses of philosophy she had taken the time to study.
  37. Lien had frozen in the exchange, looking on nervously as her father and elder sister stared at each other. She let her time burn out, literally, as the lantern once again faded and her shadow returned to normal. Long gave a small grumble, flapping his wings as he fanned Yin off and withdrew the match, somehow lighting it anew under his robes each time as he said to her, "Lien-hua, on this attempt, I will not say a word. Do as you feel you should, and nothing more."
  39. Yin couldn't help but make a quip, "I hear 13 is a lucky number somewhere?"
  41. Long did not chuckle, lighting the lantern again. "Begin. Calm yourself, and cast when you feel ready."
  43. Lien looked between her father and sisters nervously, receiving an encouraging nod from Yin and a long, hopeful stare from her father as she took one final breath, closing her eyes as she cast the violet spell of shadow summoning once more at her hooves. The arc danced, landing at the stark outline of the shadow in the lantern's glow as she calmed her breathing, forgetting the commands of both Yin and Long and focused solely on her instincts. Time seemed to have no meaning as she found herself in a Zen state of relaxation, mentally picturing herself and the shadow slowly passing around her. More accurately, she visualized the light of the lantern being moved as well about the unicorn, the shadow following it as the lantern moves in the full circle. Before Lien already realizes, the mental representation of the lantern (and the shadow it rotates) has made a full rotation, then two, then three... and would make more if not awoken by a shake, and a tight squeeze around her neck as she felt a familiar nuzzle.
  45. "That's my little sis! I knew you could do it." Yin cooed as she embraced her younger sister, Mei clopping her hooves excitedly and prancing about Lien's legs as she joined in on the fun. Lien opened her eyes, looking at the dim glow of the lantern and an approving nod of Long's as she looked about, confused.
  47. "What... what happened? D-did I make it go around?"
  49. Mei chirps, "Three times!"
  51. "No way... I really did it?!" Lien looks so happy peering into the reflection of Yin's glasses that she almost begins to tear up, rubbing her eyes as she starts to lightly bawl. "I can't believe it.. I thought..."
  53. "You thought wrong, Li-li." Yin patted her sisters mane, "I knew you knew how to do it."
  55. Long, not quite beaming with pride but looking quite satisfied, stepped forward, "Still behind Yin when she was your age..." with that, Lien's smile started to fade, eliciting Long a sharp look from Yin as she grumbled.
  57. "Sheesh, dad, don't go overboard with the praise, or anything."
  59. Clearing his throat, he takes out his left wing to wrap around Lien, holding her close as he bares a rare smile on his muzzle. "But well done, all the same. I am very proud, Lien-hua."
  61. Lien's smile returns, gripping her father around the massive trunk of a neck with her forehooves. "Xie xie, baba." She thanks him for his approval as she tightens her hug. The embrace does not last long, as the head of the Ying house places the child back down.
  63. "The sun is nearly set: I think that is all we need for this day. Lien-hua, take Mei-ling inside and help her clean up for dinner," he turns to his youngest, spotting the brown splotches along her perfectly white hooves. "I see Yin has been lenient with my decree she no longer play in the stream."
  65. "Oh, but daddy," his eldest protests, "She asked so cute! Go on, Mei-mei, do the face you showed me. Do the face, Mei!" Mei turned to her father, quivering her upper lip and casting her eyes wide open to give them shame to the bright glow of the moon as she doled out the charm against an unrelenting father.
  67. Long snuffed, recognizing his eldest's tendency for teenage rebellion when he saw it. "I won't repeat it, Yin. Stay, I need to speak with you for a moment. Go on, Lien-hua. Mei-ling." Looking down to her younger sister, Lien nodded eagerly and nudged her ear to get her attention, beckoning her to follow her to the path to the house as Long was left with his eldest on the gazebo.
  69. Yin smirked, "Really couldn't have hinted that moving the light was the key ingredient?"
  71. Long closed his eyes. "You seemed so pleased when you figured it out yourself. I did not wish to take that same joy away from her. She simply proved less receptive than you were."
  73. "Lien isn't me, dad: I took that pestering on as a challenge. But you know Lien's more sensitive than that."
  75. He opens his eyes. "Pestering. That was one issue I wished to speak of, Yin: you know better than to show such disrespect to your father, especially in a teaching. Lien and particularly Mei are at very impressionable ages, and you know how much they look up to you. What would others think if they spoke as you do in formal company?"
  77. Yin couldn't help but give her eyes one giant roll at that. "Gee, I'm sorry that pointing out a severe flaw in your teaching methods counts as 'disrespect', dad. I'll be sure to bow my head so low my horn scratches the wood next time so we can appease the, what? Dozen and half guests that come here a year?"
  79. "Ying Yin!" He spoke with more authority, making Yin jump a tad. That damn voice was so powerful she could swear that shouting was his real talent. "You are young. But youth is no excuse for forgetting the values I know your mother and I instilled in you as a foal: tradition, family, and respect for your elders form the strong foundation of any great kin. You must keep this attitude of yours subdued in matters where the Ying are expected to be upheld to a higher standard. We did not raise a rude and dishonorable daughter."
  81. Yin sighs, not really keen on being lectured once again what she would have thought should be praised as being an assertive, free spirit. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry, alright?"
  83. A grumble escaped his teeth as he calmly stroked his beard. "Weak, but acceptable for the moment." He puts a feathery grip on her shoulder, "Yin, you must remember that one day, the Ying clan will fall to your hooves as our eldest child. You have a tremendous responsibility ahead of you, my daughter. We only wish for you to be prepared for it, and you often seem to not realize how quickly that day approaches."
  85. Yin looks away, unsure about how to respond to yet another reminder of the load she carries as the future head of the clan. Her parents seemed to make a frequent point of bringing it up more often lately since she'd shown a bit more of that independence she'd established for herself, as though a constant anchor to weigh it down.
  87. She still hadn't told either of them of the test she had applied for the last time they were in the nearby city of Neighjing, nor the frequent studying and secret letters passed between the Equestria Study Abroad program for exchange students to attend their pristine universities that had peaked her interest greatly over the past few years. "Yes, dad. I understand."
  89. Long looks down at his daughter with a less furrowed brow. "That as well, Yin: you never seem to call me 'baba' anymore. You know it is the proper term to address me. I must admit, I grew endeared to it."
  91. Yin raises an eyebrow, confused. "Uh... it means the same thing, dad. Daddy, baba, father, etcetera, etcetera..."
  93. "Yes, the Equish term. Not the Manedarin. I've noticed you often sprinkling your sentences with it at times. I had not been aware you had such a peaked interest in it." Long cleared his throat, and attempted a sentence in the foreign language, "My-a equuishu isu not-oo so-oh god my-serf."
  95. Yin took every ounce of will-power she had to stifle a laugh, though she figured even Long wouldn't mind a chuckle at that butchering of the language. She took a quick breath to quell her laughter, and responded in a much clearer tone and accent of Equish, "'I have been practicing it a lot lately.'"
  97. Long smiled, once again gleaming with pride at broadened learning by his daughter. "So I can tell. And your Mó-yĭng-xì," Long repeated the proper term for their long guarded techniques of shadow magic," has not suffered in the slightest and continues to show great promise. So you have clearly been working hard to maintain your studies. It does not excuse your 'at-ti-tood'," Long knew the word in Equish for emphasis, "I fear you may be picking up from it, but multi-linguistics is a very good quality in a head."
  99. Yin casually brushes her mane, wondering if that was all before Long continues, "I had another reason for speaking to you besides a lecture: your mother has sent for me from the Emperor's palace." He pulls out a letter seemingly from nowhere out of his wing, a royal seal embroidered upon the envelope representing His Divinity's mark. "The branch-members we sent with her for the Emperor's task were evidently not enough. I intend to depart for the capital tomorrow, and leave the house in your care, along with Lien's lessons. You will be able to handle both? After your success this afternoon, I expect as much."
  101. Yin nods, a bit excited at the prospect of being in charge for a while and giving her some breathing space for her next response from the Equestria program: she had been diligent about checking the mail every day before her father could. "Absolutely, dad. Consider the property in good hooves. Bring me something nice from the palace, is everything okay with mom?"
  103. "Yes. It is simply an important and difficult task His Majesty requests of our techniques, and given it is the Emperor, I am honored to do it myself as the head. We should both return in a matter of days." He's about to turn on his hooves, Yin eagerly anticipating the feeling of dinner as they start to walk off the gazebo.
  105. "Though, that does remind me," he pauses, "Speaking of Equish and letters, Yin." Yin practically froze, as he pulled another letter from his wing. "One addressed to you came today. Heavy, from the weight." He hands the letter off to Yin, who takes a few moments to snap out of her daze before taking it in a magical field of levitation. She looked at the letter's return address: Manehatten, Equestria State Univeristy. She could feel her glasses slipping off as she took the letter in her horn, looking back and forth between her father with his passive gaze and the letter she had been eagerly awaiting. This was not quite how she envisioned breaking to her parents she had been making other plans than keeping on the Ying lineage.
  107. "Well? Will you open it?"
  109. Yin defiantly glares back, "I usually like to read in private."
  111. "Entertain me, Yin. I am curious."
  113. Yin, frustrated but aware of how impossible it is to move her father on this issue, relents and peels open the letter, revealing its content of several pages worth of a reply. Yin spends a few quiet minutes reading it as her father stoically observes her. Yin's enthusiasm and excitement would be immeasurable if it weren't for the present company. She looks up at her dad with narrow eyes shielded by her specs, and replies,
  115. "It's an acceptance letter... I made it into the Tang E. Orange School of Business at Equestria State."
  117. "...Fascinating." Long muses, his stern glare unfaltering. "And where is that?"
  119. "The hell do you think?" Yin sneers back a moment, but is halted as her father's nostrils flare up and the very vibrations of his lungs expanding, taking it as a signal to stop the sass. "Equestria. Manehatten, if you were wondering about a specific city."
  121. Long gazes at his daughter and the letter for some time, mentally processing the exact emotions he should be expressing at this moment. At his daughter's sneaking behind him, making different plans than she was obligated to fulfill, forgetting the importance of her position...
  123. "Gōngxi nǐ, Yin."
  125. Yin looked perplexed as could be expected. A 'congratulations' was not the first thing she would expect to come from her father's muzzle.
  127. "I understand that is a difficult school to gain entry. I knew it was well within your abilities. We will inform them that you are forced to decline due to prior obligations, but it is an impressive accomplishment."
  129. Yin's perplexity was slowly replaced with a slow building rage as Long dismissively turns away to continue to dinner. "I worked really hard to get this letter, dad..."
  131. "Hence my congratulations."
  133. "I'm not planning on turning it down."
  135. And at that, Long turned back to bark, "Yes, you are."
  137. "Dad!" Yin stomps her hooves, standing her ground, "Last I checked, I was old enough to make my own damn decisions, so excuse me if I don't take your suggestion to heart."
  139. Long glared daggers at his eldest. "You have learned much about Mó-yĭng-xì, and possess a talent rarely seen even in the main branch. But you still have much to learn about leading an entire kin of shadow dancers, Yin: there is no time, much less at this critical a stage, for a nonsensical pursuit of irrelevant interests."
  141. "'Irrelevant'? Dad, you think this is just some passing fancy of mine, you're fucking..."
  143. "YING YIN!" Long shouted so powerfully the wind nearly blew Yin's proper bun out of place and the glasses off her muzzle, some trees in the dark glow of the setting sun swaying heavily with her father's roar. One particularly part of Yin's attitude was a general and liberal use of swears, and she should have thought more carefully, in retrospect, to her choice of words despite the intensity of the conversation. That was one thing mom and dad didn't tolerate along with her tendency to drink underaged and a general haughtiness, so she adjusted herself and decided to try that again.
  145. "This is not just some stupid hobby I have a minor curiosity in. I started studying those books years ago. I lost weeks of sleep working on this. I think there's a lot to be made of myself as a businesspony."
  147. "A businesspony." Long repeats aloud, almost to accentuate the absurdity of what she was saying. "Our magic commands the shadow." In display, Long's shadow slowly climbs off the ground with having had no pre-existing bolt of energy to spark life within it, forming into a long, dark tendril that seems to grow with every shadow it connects with, even in the dim light of the setting sun. "Yin and Yang, light and darkness itself, the shadow is that which is found in all corners of all worlds. All living things possess them yet rarely remember they are there, and the tens of thousands of hidden wonders they protect, and the power they hold over their very owners, are limited only by one's skill and imagination." The tendril zips around the gazebo, lighting the testing lantern as well as a few others placed around the roof as the light of the sun begins to fade, providing him and his daughter with more light as the tendril slowly retracts to wrap around his body.
  149. Yin looked on in wonder at the display of shadow-mastery. She was not yet near her father's level, and truly had an appreciation for the art she had spent her entire life practicing and refining into the skillful mare she was today. But, all the same, she had her reasons for not wanting to be at that level. "And somehow, our clan has faded into complete obscurity despite how incredible we are, trapped in a valley no one ever visits, living in a way so old and outdated almost everypony else in Chineigh has forgotten it."
  151. "You will speak of our ancestor's traditions with more respect, Yin. We control the darkness best from within it."
  153. Yin moved on, "And while we hide in that darkness so that we can use our traditions for shows, or spying, or assassinations, or whatever small, meaningless request most ponies have us do with our powers," Long stayed silent for this part, though his frustration was clearly rising, "Other ponies manage to do even more good than we do. Without even needing magic! There are Earth ponies in Manehatten richer than the most powerful wizards to have ever lived across all of the planet in history, and they donate millions to making it a better place. It's a worthwhile cause."
  155. "It is a childish idealization of a corrupted concept. You would think riches and admiration from the public would provide you more than what being the kin head will?" Long growls, "Yin, you would cast aside the birth-right for which you have been raised, for which you were destined, for the sake of a building with our name upon it, besmirching the secrecy we have worked so hard to maintain?!"
  157. "Yin," Long points at her flank, "That is not a symbol of currency on your mark. It is not a coin, nor a building, nor a golden plague of a CEO. It is a shadow, Yin: you know your place is with the clan. You are the next head. That is not a fate you can simply forget, nor a responsibility you can simply forgo."
  159. Yin looks back at her cutie mark, figuring the subject would come up should this exchange ever arise. It was a persuasive argument: the living shadow adorning her flank was a clear cut sign of her skill as a shadow summoner, enforced by its appearance at a young age when she had perfected her first spell and played with the living shade of herself for fun. "It is a shadow... but cutie marks can be misleading as to what they mean. It could mean I'm supposed to be stepping OUT of a shadow. This whole kin, my whole life, this burden you forced on me since the day I was born?" She turns over to the rail, looking over it as she whips a few tears from her misty gaze. "It all feels like one big veil over me that I never had a choice to remove until now. Ever since I was a foal, you keep reminding me of what I'm expected to do, and that apparently my life's sole purpose is to perpetuate an ancient practice that has gone on for millennia before me and will last millennia after I'm dead. And, dad, please, you know I love Mó-yĭng-xì and my family with all my heart but... but all I can think of when I hear about being the head is just my bit role to keep the ball rolling until the end of time. To obey everything and anything I'm told like a servant and live in this valley for the rest of my 'oh-so-meaningful' life in a kin I never asked to be born in. And then, when you find some distant enough branch member with a low enough blood relation that you don't mind hitching him up to your daughter, I'll pop out a few kids and tell them the exact. Same. FUCKING. Thing..."
  161. Long let this particular swear go, seeing the pitiful state Yin was in. "I just want a choice... I don't want to be just some link in a chain." she finished.
  163. Long let her sob for a few minutes longer, moving forward to cast a wing on her shoulder, for whatever meager comfort it would provide. "No one asks to be born in any family, Yin. What lives we are given is not up to us. But that does not dissuade us from the responsibility that our position obligates us to uphold. And this does not need to be a burden, Yin: becoming the head means you have a chance to do a great good for your entire family, and your skills mean you can become a greater head than even I was. Perhaps even the greatest to have ever drawn breath. It's not just about myself, or yourself: it is about many others."
  165. "Great," Yin sniffs, "So basically you're just confirming that my whole existence isn't for making myself happy, but everyone else."
  167. "Such is the way of Ying, of Shadow: We humbly watch from our proper place out of the light as we serve that which we are attached to." Not noticing an improvement in her mood, Long adds, "What of your sisters, then? If you left, you know the responsibility would fall to the next child. You would push a 'burden' you dread so much on Lien-hua?"
  169. Yin often considered that: Lien had unfortunately stumbled upon her plans for greatness before her father did during an ill-fated drinking/study session (, and her reaction to being the next kin head was... less than enthusiastic. Could she really push it on her? "I... I just... Lien sometimes says she'd wish to be the heir, doesn't she?"
  171. "I would not place a great deal of faith in the whimsies of children."
  173. At this, a sudden crash erupted from underneath the gazebo, followed by a splash and a pair of crying voices. Yin popped up out of her stupor as Long rushed forward, tendril form of a shadow reaching underneath the gazebo out of sight into the part where the stream flowed through. Grabbing hold, the tendril retracted, carrying with it two very wet, muddy filly unicorns who were looking on at an outraged father like deers in the headlights. Mei was bawling her eyes out while Lien tried to stammer an explanation, sputtering out nothing but mumbles as Long lifted the two girls onto the dry gazebo.
  175. "Ying Lien-hua. I instructed you to clean your sister up for dinner. Was I speaking unclear Manedarin? Did you mistake my command to place you and your sister in a position to spy on your sister and I?"
  177. Lien could only gulp as Yin tried to hold the shivering sibling dry as Long attended to Mei. "N-no, baba, I'm so sorry... I just heard you shouting and, well..."
  179. "Waaaaaaaaaah!" Mei continued to cry, her muddied hooves making a mess of her white face as she tried in vain to wipe her tears, "Baba hates Yin-yin!"
  181. Long took his robe to his daughters messy face, cleaning her off as he almost shouts in his trademark howl of a voice, "I absolutely do not."
  183. Mei's crying ceased at her father's sternness, though still shivering in the cold night air of the valley as Long gave a long exasperated sigh. Lien looked up nervously at her older sister as she looked back with renewed mistiness in her glasses. "Yin. We have much, much more to discuss when your mother and I return. I expect you intend to remain at least that long?"
  185. Yin takes a few moments to register the question, requiring a prodding from Lien before she answers, "Yes.. yes, baba."
  187. It was Long's turn to pause, before continuing "Good. Both your sisters need a bath, and I require a change of robes before dinner." He finishes up what he can on Mei before drying up Lien. Yin looks at the brown mess Lien made on her as well, and decides a bath would actually feel pretty good. "Take care of them, Yin."
  189. Yin nods, "Sure thing... xie xie." She takes Mei up by her coat onto her back, and motions Lien to follow her inside as they take a path less traveled to the bathhouse to avoid messing up the wood in the main building. Yin wasn't sure how well this had went... though the thought that her father didn't hate her and may even still love her proved as comforting a thought as any as she planned her next explanation for mom's return while simultaneously answering questions flying at her from both siblings that would persist throughout the bath.
  191. Long watches his daughters move back into the house as he places his shadow back where it was, removing his dirtied robe on the gazebo and hanging it up to dry as he headed on in not too far behind them, trying to figure out what sins he had committed in a prior life to earn a punishment as cruel as seeing his little filly grow up so damned quickly.
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