Blog, The Fantasy Realm

A Fantasy Realm Tale: Immortal Guardian

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*The following is a transcript of a WHUS Radio FM broadcast aired on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 from 1-2 PM along with the music used to accompany the story*

IMMORTAL GUARDIAN


{Legends of Azeroth (Main Title) – Tracy Bush – World of Warcraft}

Good afternoon, traveler. You have stepped into a portal here on WHUS Storrs and are now in The Fantasy Realm. Welcome. I am your guide, The Sage. Today, we travel to the isle of Buxiu to begin your journey as a cultivator, a person who trains in martial and mystical arts to become far more powerful than they already are. Perhaps, you will even find yourself a master who can train you. For your enjoyment, I recommend creating a character to follow along. Do you prefer the physical arts, such as judo or jujutsu? Or are you more interested in the art of the mind, such as meditation or ancient philosophy? You get to decide, and best think quick, traveler. Your story is about to begin.

{The Name of Life (Spirited Away) – Salome Scheidegger – Salichan: The Ghibli Album}

A tangerine rolls down the train floor and gently nudges your left foot. The sun of early afternoon puts a spotlight on the tangerine from behind you, just over your shoulder. The train is running smoothly over the tracks through a long, carefree meadow.

You pick up the tangerine, feeling its smooth skin in your palm. You can close your whole fist around it. You look up. There are only a few passengers around you.

There is an old man with a hat over his snoring mouth and face. There is another man, a younger one, with a briefcase tucked safely under his arms. A woman pats on her baby’s back as she coos the baby to sleep, and a young girl with a striped shirt and a hamster on her shoulder sits by the window across from you kicking her feet idly.

The last passenger is an elderly woman with a picnic basket of fruit, and she’s shuffling toward you now.

“Sorry, so sorry. The train tracks aren’t so smooth as they seem.”

You hand her the tangerine, and she adds it to her basket of fruits. She takes a seat in the same row as you, just a few seats down.

“Is this your first time visiting the isle of Buxiu?”

You nod yes as you glance out the window and see the train tracks going over a calm ocean.

“Oh, I love the isle of Buxiu. I love traveling there too. As I always say, a day of traveling will bring a basketful of learning. I go there every summer to sell my fruits. Oh, those cultivators do love a nice dragon fruit for a summer day.”

You look to her as she starts to peel a dragon fruit to eat for herself. You ask her what she means by cultivators.

“Cultivators are people who train to become powerful and ultimately, immortal. They’ll learn martial and mystical arts to increase their longevity, improve their health, and to cultivate qi to make that all happen. It’s not that simple obviously. There are stages, levels, rankings, all these layers to cultivation. Becoming immortal can’t be easy, or everyone would do it. When cultivators hit a wall in their training, they reach what’s called a bottleneck. They’ll have to get additional aid or do harsher training to breakthrough, or to get past the bottleneck and get to the next stage. Cultivators also have magical items, like weapons and tools. Most cultivators I’ve seen have flying swords. They ride them through the skies. It’s fairly common on the isle, but still always impresses me. There aren’t just cultivators on the isle. You’ve got alchemists who make medicinal pills and elixirs, and you’ve got magical beasts, some so powerful they can even speak in human languages. Then there are the immortals, the cultivators who have great magical powers and a close connection to the natural world. The next step up from those? Gods. You won’t meet many, if any at all, but they’re out there. Cultivators can become gods with unbelievable power, but like I said, it’s rare. Oh, there’s so much more even I don’t know. I’m just a fruit vendor, but I like being a fruit vendor. It makes me happy, and that’s all I need.”

She offers you a tangerine, and you accept it. The subtle sounds of lazy ocean waves soothe you as you begin to twirl the tangerine in your hand as you contemplate the idea of being a cultivator. Hearing all this peaks your interest in cultivation. As you begin to peel the tangerine, the sun warming your hands, you then ask how one can begin a cultivation journey.

“Well, from what I remember, you can become a disciple and learn under an already trained cultivator. You can walk with me to my spot in the market and meet a few cultivators. I’m sure they’re just waiting for my dragon fruit and tangerines. How can you resist some fruit on a hot summer day? Besides I’m not a cultivator myself. I’m sure you’ll learn more once we get to the isle. We’re almost there.”

{The Journey Begins (Score) – Joel McNeely – Mulan II}

Outside the window, seagulls swoop down into the ocean and up they fly again with silver fish in their yellow beaks. The shimmering waters turn the whole scene outside the train into a turquoise paradise. The blue of the sky blends with the blue of the ocean, creating an ombre of blue hues as far as the eye can see. Soon, the blues turn to indigo, as if a shadow is slowly wrapping itself around the train. You look back to your tangerine and hear the sounds of the waves outside become muffled.

You look out the window again and see a large eye. You jump back. The eye sluggishly blinks, and slowly moves away. As you see a long fin, a whale song penetrates the train walls. Your heart pounding, you sit back down. All the other passengers seem unfazed at being underwater. Before your heart has a chance to calm down, the train pops out of the water, and you feel an instant shift in your chest, telling you this is not the world you were once in.

Before you lies the isle of Buxiu, an archipelago of green, mountainous islands all linked by train tracks. In the middle sits the largest island with the main village on it. The train glides over the waters in between the main island and the smaller island to its right. All across the waters, sampans ride the rivers, sending ripples across the perfect reflection of the ancient temples sitting right at the edge of the islands.

The train reaches its final destination, and you get off with the elderly woman who is happy to escort you to the market.

Walking through the island, you see fisherman with poles across their backs that have fish hanging off them, farmers with rice hats traveling with chickens clucking by their side, wives with soiled aprons preparing meals in massive pots, and children running around playing jiju or flying kites.

Gongs of ancient temples scattered across the island echo across the treetops. As you get closer to the village, dirt turns to uneven cobblestone pathways leading to the village’s center. Homes made of large rock slabs dressed in foliage start to appear more and more, until skinny alleyways create a labyrinth for you to get into the village. In the distance, tall pagodas tower over the green leaves of the natural world.

Traversing through the stone buildings, you end up in the market. A sea of people flood the marketplace. Forming a lopsided oval, the vendors form a fortress around the open area. Each vendor is under a makeshift canopy with their goods piled on top of tables that are low to ground. Buyers haggle with their vendors, chatter bubbling to a boil in this place. Men roll carts filled with crates of goods across the cobblestone ground. Women in elegant wear stroll through the market with parasols shading their skin from the sun.

“Here we are! My little corner of the marketplace. Now, go on and explore. I’ve got fruit to pile up if I want to sell anything today.”

{Singapore – Hans Zimmer – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End OST}

“I know why you are here.”

An elderly man leaning on a wooden cane stands before you with an intrigued smile. Wrinkles spread like wings from the corners of his eyes. His dark gray hair is slicked back while his bushy white beard is frayed, just like his eyebrows. His gravelly voice carries over the sounds of the market.

“Your eyes reveal all. You are here to become a cultivator. You seek the power it can grant you. This is no easy journey you seek, but I can help you. Today is a day of fortune for you. My name is Feng Mu Shen, and I am willing to be your master, for I seek a disciple.”

Looking at his frail stature, you ask him why you should choose to be his disciple.

“I can show you my strength and prove my power.”

You ask if he can fly with a sword, thinking back to the elderly woman of the train.

He chuckles. “I can do something even better.”

With the swift motion, he tosses his cane to the side. He propels himself forward, sprinting toward a vendor’s table. He uses a light step with his pale cotton shoes onto the table and heaves himself into the air. You’re ready to catch him as he falls, but instead, he ascends into the air with nothing but his body keeping him up.

He flies without a sword! Up in the air, he soars like an eagle, banking left and right as he dodges the tall chimneys and trees around the village. His clothing flaps in the air as he picks up momentum, and soon, his laughter fills the air.

You run to the other end of the marketplace, passing by a few vendors of incense, jade jewelry, and calligraphy kits. As you run, you collide with another person. You quickly apologize keeping your eyes on the flying elderly man, not noticing this person give you a curious look from the hooded cloak.

You jump onto a barrel and climb your way onto a building with a ceramic-tiled roof. From here, you have a better view of the elderly cultivator that flies with no sword under his feet.

He flies high into the clouds, touching the white fluff that adorns the sky. With a backward dive, he allows himself to freefall. Wind whooshes with fury past his ears as he falls with no flight in his arms. He closes his eyes to feel the intimate closeness of adrenaline inside his body. Opening his eyes, he sees himself close to the ground.

With a humph, he lifts himself up and hovers slightly before flying off again, a bird never wanting to touch the ground again. Like a carousel, he twirls in the sky for the fun of it, the sinking feeling in his stomach addictive as he keeps flipping his body again and again in the air. Exhaustion starts to creep in, so he stops and floats in the air. Like a feather, he sways down toward you with his arms behind his head.

A smile is plastered on his face, all his teeth showing. “I can do so much more,” he tells you.

Off he goes again, in flight to a new destination, but this time, he is a wasp ripping through the air toward the other side of the isle. He crosses one of the rivers, and from your roof, you can only see him a white sparkle in the sky.

However, a thunderous crack booms across Buxiu. You hold onto the ceramic tiles as the earth shudders underneath. The thunder continues, and soon, you see a cloud of dust billowing around the island across from this one. In the faint parts of the debris, you notice the mountain is being reshaped, although you’re not sure how. The dust builds until the thunder ceases. Feng returns and kneels next to you. The dust disperses, and you see that the mountain has been carved into the shape of a sword.

“Is this enough proof for you?” He says, his intrigued smile back on his face.

With a gaping mouth, you nod. You are now the disciple of the cultivator, Feng Mu Shen.

{Brothers (Fullmetal Alchemist) – Taylor Davis – Gaming Fantasy}

The sun begins to set, and he invites you to his home at the edge of the island. Just across a red bridge with hanging glowing lanterns, under which more sampans drift serenely, lies Master Shen’s home. It is a beautiful wooden home with wide tiled windows, brown pillars, and curved roofs. Behind his home, there is a natural sanctuary. Small paths curve their way around the green grass which is enriched by white boulders resting freely. An ancient garden pavilion made of gray pillars and hazel adornments with a cocoa-colored roof rests in the far corner of this sanctuary, bathed in the hazy glow of glowing lanterns.

Entering the home, you remove your shoes and follow Master Shen through his abode. Smoke flows out of a dragon statue, the incense releasing a delicate aroma into the air. The walls are somewhat thin, the sound of crickets chirping excitedly outside filling the space. There is a skinny, curvy tree reposed in the center of his home. As you look at its small leaves, you feel a sense of life that it brings to the home. Its energy balances that of the human world with that of the natural world.

Taking a right from the tree, you find yourself in a spacious library. A sliding door leads you to the garden outside, but it is now closed, and only lets in the moonlight that is now rising from the horizon. On the shelves, ancient books and scrolls are piled up. The worn edges of the books mark the age of this place as far older than you can even imagine. Alongside the books are a few trinkets, such as worn candles with ashy-black wicks, displayed hand-carved tiles of Mahjong, a bonsai tree or two asleep in their dark corners, as well as some figurines of magical beasts.

In one far corner is a desk. On it, there is a scroll with some calligraphy on it, an inkwell carelessly left open, and a teapot next to a teacup recently emptied of its tea.

Master Shen leads you to the other end of the room which is a mess compared to the rest of the library. This corner is dedicated to the art of alchemy. Jars and vials litter a table stained with spilled potion remains. A small cauldron rests over a lit fire in the middle of the table. Right next to it, there is an open book, propped up, and a dirty mortar and pestle. On the bookshelves behind the table, there are countless ingredients in cotton bags, glass boxes, and ceramic cups.

“I am in the process of creating a powerful elixir. It has been my ambition for several centuries now. I have had troubles with concocting this elixir, but I intend to see my ambition through. If you help me, you will be able to officially begin your cultivation journey.”

You look at the book and notice that it is a book of potions, opened to a page with a recipe on it. Scraggly handwriting takes up the edges of the page, notes hastily written. You ask Master Shen how it is you can help.

“To complete my elixir, I am in need of Flaming Soul Fruit. I have searched for this ingredient far and wide, and I have not once crossed paths with it, until I heard that the twins possessed one. Buxiu is home to many alchemists and potion-makers, but the best are the alchemy twins: Lo and Li. I have been quarreling with the twins for centuries now. I have offered them all I can, but they refuse to get me what I need. I no longer have the time to stand by idly, hoping I will come across this fruit elsewhere. If I go after the soul fruit, they will feel my cultivator aura. I am sure I will be poisoned before I even realize it, if they were to feel my aura near them, knowing what it is I am after. I need you to go and steal this very important ingredient for me. It is the only way I can finish my elixir.”

As the disciple of Master Feng Mu Shen, you feel you have no say in the matter. Tonight will be a night of thievery.

{Going to School – John Williams – Memoirs of a Geisha OST}

The moon blesses the isle with its light, but the treetops block its magnificence as you travel through a forest not too far from the village. Here, as leaves crunch underneath your feet, the night feels tense. It has the energy of the tiger crouching, eager yet patient to attack. Per the instructions of Master Shen, you follow a path of fireflies through the forest toward an old apothecary. Lo and Li have lived here for ages, but they often get easily distracted, focused only on the boiling water inside their cauldron.

After walking a bit more, you finally find the apothecary. It is a small cottage tucked away in between two trees with massive trunks. The straw roof and cobblestone walls show humility along with the crooked front door. However, fireflies hover underneath the roof of the cottage, embroidering the small shack with unique beauty.

You crouch underneath a dusty window. With a nudge, you open it ever so slightly to get a peek into the apothecary.

A strong fragrance of mixed spices and ingredients rolls out of the window. Inside, you see rows upon rows upon rows of square cupboards labeled with unintelligible writing. Round and rectangular tables crowd the room with all kinds of bottles, vases, jars, and vials filled with unrecognizable contents to your untrained eye. The lighting is dim here, the only source of light coming from a shrine of candles.

Two tiny elderly women wearing ancient, plain robes work at their stations. One, with hair just slightly darker than the other, hums quietly to herself as she stirs what is in the cauldron.

On the end of the table beside the window you are under, there is a thick open book. Next to it, there is an oddly-shaped, red fruit, but between you and that fruit, there is a fortress of glassware in your way.

The elderly woman at the cauldron turns to her right to grab one of these small jars. You duck down. After you hear her feet shuffle, you slowly lift your head up to the window again.

So, what will you do, traveler? How will you steal the Flaming Soul Fruit?

The elderly woman continues to hum, and then says, “Lo! Lo!”

“What?” Lo asks.

“Go get me the herbs of dew. I need them,” Li says.

“All right, well, you’re going to have to give me a sec, I gotta go get it.”

“Oh, hurry up.”

“All right, I’m going.” Lo shuffles over to one of the cupboards. She opens it up and grabs some herbs of dew. She brings it back to Li. “All right, here ya go.”

“Oh, thank you.”

“The herbs of dew that you wanted.”

“Thanks, thanks, thanks.” Li shakes the bottle for bits of herbs of dew to drop into the cauldron. “Okay, I think it’s ready! We have to do the incantation now.”

“All right, I’m coming!”

“Are you ready? Make sure you close your eyes. You always forget to close your eyes.”

“I know, I know,” Lo sighs.

“All right, ready? Here we go, here we go, give me your hand. Come on.”

“All right, all right.”

{Lullaby (IV) – Wu Rung-Shun – The Songs of the Puyuma Tribe, The Music of the Aborigines on Taiwan Island, Vol. 4}

{Procession of Gods – Joe Hisaishi – Spirited Away OST}

“Okay, Li, what’s next?” Lo asks.

“Let me check, let me check.” Li flips through the pages of the book next to the cauldron. “It says here we need the final ingredient: The Flaming Soul Fruit. Go get it!”

“What do you mean? I – I put it right there!”

“What do you mean what do I mean?! It’s not there!”

“I clearly put it there. What do you mean it’s not there anymore!”

“Well, it’s not there. You probably put it back.”

“No, I didn’t! I grabbed it!”

“I’m sure you put it back.”

“No, I remember I grabbed it, I placed it right in front of you –”

“Listen, you are as old as our old mommy when –”

“You are as old as me! We literally came out at the same time!”

“I – I came out before you; I’m smarter than you.”

“No, you’re not!!”

“Yes, I am,” Li says defiantly.

“No, you’re not!”

“Yes, I am. Go get the soul fruit!”

“I already got it! It should be there!”

The two sisters bicker like old women, each pointing the finger at the other, until both are fed up with one another. Li shuffles away, ignoring her twin who continues to look for the soul fruit.

You have successfully stolen the Flaming Soul Fruit, traveler. Tucked away safely in your bag, you turn to go back to Master Shen.

Walking again under the shadows of the forest, you feel an intense aura surrounding you. Your skin feels raw, as it does when one is vulnerable with nothing covering the body. You feel the piercing eyes of someone, or even something, solely concentrating on your every move. It is an unnerving sensation. Look around you, traveler, what do you see?

In the shadows, you notice something creeping toward you. In the bit of moonlight that pierces through, you see a qilin, a mystical beast. It has the head of a dragon with thick eyelashes, a mane, a beard, and carp fish whiskers. The body is shaped like an ox, with the front half of golden fur and the rest of it with scales. It also has cloven hooves and antlers, and it has a voice like the tinkling of wind chimes.

Despite its other-worldly charm, it looks angry, so you scurry away, clutching onto the fruit. It leaps over your head and blocks your path. It lowers its head, as if warning you that running is a bad idea. You take one step back, but you stop once you see a young woman pop out from the shadows.

She gives you an odd stare, as if she knows you, and yet she doesn’t.

{Becoming a Geisha – John Williams – Memoirs of a Geisha OST}

“What is your name?”

You tell her your name.

“Why are you here?”

You explain that you have begun your cultivation journey as a disciple, and your master has given you a task you’ve just completed. You are on your way back now.

She gives you a good, long look before asking, “Has your master taught you anything yet?”

Admittedly, you answer no.

“If you are not in a hurry, I can show you a few things.”

This being the first time it has been offered, you accept.

She gives you a kind smile. “What you must first understand is that all life is about balance. Light and dark. Old and young. Death and life. Yin and yang. Opposites complement, and there is the balance, and with balance comes harmony. If one is imbalanced, then one cannot achieve harmony. One must understand this duality if one is to begin cultivating, for one must understand the nature of the universe before one intends to defy it. If one truly understands this, then one does not defy the natural world. Instead, one becomes far more connected with it. To begin understanding it, we begin within, by learning to control our qi, the vital energy within us, within everything in the universe.”

She invites you to sit cross-legged with arms on your legs and with eyes closed. “Find the energy within you. Feel it. Breathe deeply to feel its power.”

You close your eyes fully and begin to meditate.

“Now, let us stand.”

As a patient, yet demanding instructor, she begins to teach you the basics of martial arts.

“Martial arts are not just for defense or to prove your worth. It builds discipline in the body and in the mind. It prepares you for the challenges the world will throw at you. With the proper discipline and confidence, a true master of any martial art will know that stepping aside may be the better solution over throwing a punch.”

Without warning, she shoves your shoulder. It is a gentle shove, but it is enough to knock you off your feet.

She chuckles, “You’re imbalanced and have a horrible stance. Let me show you.”

She helps you up, and soon, you are thrust into the world of martial arts. She teaches you a proper stance with your feet and how to move with a defensive bearing. After a bit more training, she shows you how to punch and kick, and most importantly, how to do it with confidence.

Your body starts to feel sore, but you feel invigorated. Energy builds up in your core, and even with this short amount of time, you feel more powerful and capable than you ever have before. Your breathing is different, as if the qi inside you has lined up and balanced out. You now have control over this body, for you are now aware of the lively energy within it.

Within moments, you are trying just a little bit of everything. You are striking your opponent with an open hand, sweeping your leg to knock her off her feet, and striking with elbows and knees. Along with the offensive, she teaches you the defensive side of fighting, with various evasion tactics and stable stances. Your feet firm up, and your hands get more comfortable as fists. You become more aware of your surroundings even with your eyes closed. All the while, you practice footwork that allows you to maneuver through a fight.

“You’re a natural,” she tells you. She offers you some water, and you take a generous gulp from the waterskin. “You still have much to learn, of course, but I would take you on myself as a disciple if I were seeking one. Who is your master? I must speak to them and convey to them your potential.”

You reply that you are the disciple of Master Feng Mu Shen.

Her smile falls. Her eyes narrow, and her body gets tense. Even the qilin laying on the ground far from you feels the tension in the air, as its head perks up to look at her. She merely stares at you.

Realizing how late it is, you explain you must really be heading off now. Though it’s awkward, you thank her for her lesson, and you walk off.

After walking for a bit, you decide to look back to see if she’s still there, but she’s not. She’s gone.

{Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts) – Taylor Davis – Gaming Fantasy}

You get to Master Shen’s home from the back, crossing through the garden. The garden is enchanted with inexplicable magic, and for a moment, you pause. You look up at the stars, remembering the journey out to the isle of Buxiu. This place is nothing like home, but a quick look to the night sky reminds you that though the world may seem boundless, it is in fact very small, for all of the night skies of all the worlds and realms resemble each other. I do not think that is a coincidence, but perhaps it is. Perhaps it is meant to be.

Master Shen walks outside to join you in the garden. His hand shakes as it grips onto his cane, and his walk is fidgety as he shuffles excitedly out to you.

“Did you get it? The Flaming Soul Fruit?”

You tell him you did, and you hand it to him.

He laughs and kisses the fruit. He examines it carefully, moving it about to make sure it has no lesions or leakage.

“Well done, young disciple. I knew you would succeed. I never doubted you. Not once,” he tells you, not once looking away from the fruit.

Memories of your training with the mysterious woman of the woods flood into your mind. You’d like to continue that kind of training rather than carry on Master Shen’s personal and questionable tasks. You ask him what the next step is in your journey of cultivation.

“Oh.” A wicked smile creeps onto his lips, “it involves a long, long sleep.”

He knocks you out with an instant strike of his cane to your face. You go unconscious, the last your eyes see being the stars shining above.

{Mulan’s Decision (Score) – Jerry Goldsmith – Mulan OST}

You wake up with the warmth of a fire in a cave. A cauldron is burning over it, and you smell a metallic odor in the air that irritates your nose. As the blurriness from your eyes becomes clear again, you see a figure with its back to you.

“I lied to you, young disciple. I lied, and your gullible nature believed me. Naive mortal.”

Master Shen stands to pace around the cauldron.

“I have been a cultivator for generations. I have dedicated my life to my journey, and so I have been rewarded. If it weren’t for all my training and learning, I would not be standing here with you now. For a mortal like you, I suppose you would see me as an immortal. I’ve lived through the centuries you read about in books and scrolls. However, I am not a mortal, and so I know that I am not a true immortal. Cultivation requires constant training and dedication, but even cultivators as skilled as I can find a block in our path. I have been on the path to become a true immortal. With true immortality, I can begin my path to godhood. That is the treasure I seek, but it seems the universe disagrees with me. I am at a bottleneck, and I cannot breakthrough unless I concoct my elixir. I have known this for centuries, and for centuries, I have hunted down the ingredients for it, save for the Flaming Soul Fruit. In my search of it, I wasted much time. I am now on my 500th year of my life-span, and it is my last year to live. This is why I am so frail, despite my power. I wasted my life! I was desperate, ready to risk my aura with the alchemy twins, until I met you. I was fortunate to have found you. I detected you were a mortal. Not just any mortal, but a mortal from a completely different realm than this one. I wonder if the universe was testing me, having me prove my worth by waiting and waiting all these years. What would have happened if I had given up? I dare not think it, and I do not have to. I have you.”

He walks over to you, his left hand twirling a dagger on his right finger. His smile is deranged, twisted unnaturally on his face. His eyes have a glimmer that haunts you. You pull at your hands and for the first time, you realize you are tied up against the wall of the cave. Rope burns your wrists as you try to break free.

“I lied to you, young disciple, because the final ingredient for my elixir is not the soul fruit. It is mortal blood from another realm. In case your naivety is far more dominant in your head than I expected, it is your blood that I need for my elixir. All of it.”

{The Dragon Boy – Joe Hisaishi – Spirited Away OST}

Panic overrides your body as Feng approaches you with the dagger ready to strike. Your breath hastens, and you squeeze your eyes shut as he’s about to grab your neck. The steel is freezing against your throat, and a tear manages to escape.

A roar shatters your eardrums. The qilin has pinned Feng to the ground! It growls at him, saliva drooling off its teeth onto Feng’s face.

The mysterious woman from the woods runs to you and cuts the rope off your wrists. You thank her in disbelief and ask the name of your savior.

“I am Yun Bai Shi, and I am an immortal guardian.”

Feng shoves the qilin off him and stands. His face is scrunched up in fury. “Who are you? Speak your name!”

“My name is Yun Bai Shi, and I am of the true immortal council. I am a protector of mortals who have fallen prey to cultivators who try to exploit them and who have lost their way.”

“You are here to rescue this miserable mortal then?”

“Yes, and you would be wise, Feng Mu Shen, to let me do so.”

“I need their blood! You will not take it away from me!”

“You are a miserable fool, Feng Mu Shen. Life is best lived in the pursuit of what makes one feel whole. It is a waste when one seeks immortality by vices when virtues are far more powerful and honorable. One will never find immortality if sought out simply for the sake of hiding from death. Immortality is achieved when one finds a noble reason worth living for.” Yun stands proudly over him, her confidence casting a shadow over his impudence and his despair hidden under his vexation. Feng takes his cane and breaks it in half with his knee, pointing the splintered ends at her.

Yun’s eyebrows rise as she stares at him in disbelief. Yun scoffs. “You dare challenge a true immortal?”

“Yes, I do.”

{Way of the Monk – Russell Brower – World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria}

Yun lifts her arms and with eyes closed, she whispers into the air. The fire is snuffed out as winds begin to pick up around her. Leaves encircle her as she continues her enchantment. Her hair waves around wildly as the winds get more powerful. The winds crack the top of the cave, and with the force, it pries the cave open from above.

The winds begin to pick up Yun. She is lifted into the sky as a tornado of leaves propels her up. Her eyes flash open as she ascends, and they are coated with a shield of steadfastness. She glances down at the miserable old man, and the look in her eyes is unforgiving.  

“Come, face me then, fool.”

Feng flies up to her. As he flies, he puts his hand over the blade of the dagger. The dagger shines a golden light and extends into a steel longsword. He heaves it over his head, soars over her, and is about to slash her head when she calls the leaves to form a shield. The shield blocks the sword. She uses this to kick him in the stomach, flipping backwards, as she pulls out her jade quarterstaff off her back.

The leaf shield flies back to her, and she is fully armed. With a howl, Feng flies to her, and the two weapons clash. In lightning speed, the longsword and the quarterstaff bang and clank against one another, sparks flying off their weapons. Yun flips from side to side, trying to get a hit on his shoulders, but he is too quick. Despite his old, frail body, Feng is a nimble fighter, using every muscle in his body to avoid every hit. As Yun fights, at times, she holds her quarterstaff in one hand while the other keeps close to her chest pointing her index and middle finger, helping her keep balance. Unlike Yun, Feng fights with desperation on his brow, so again and again, he miscalculates, and the two push and pull each other across the sky, waiting for one to find the upper hand.

Yun flings her quarterstaff up. With a backflip, she prepares a fireball in her hand, and in facing Feng again, unleashes it onto him. He blocks it with his longsword, but knowing this, she launches ice bolts at him and hurls him across the sky. He crashes into a tree, birds flying frantically away.

With an angry grunt, he pulls another dagger from a strap on his shin and chucks it at her. She flies away in time, but he manages to fly at her fast enough and gets a small cut on her left arm. Blood soaks her left sleeve. Her eyebrows furrow as she grips tighter onto the quarterstaff, and the two are in their dance once again.

Feng uses his longsword again and again over his head. Yun sees this pattern. She sees him lift it overhead once again. Just as it comes down, she flies away just in time for the longsword to get wedged into a tree. As Feng tries to yank it, she strikes his back, and he yelps at the feeling.

Forgetting the sword, he turns around and grabs hold of the quarterstaff. For a moment, the two are simply yanking it back and forth. Eventually, Yun chucks it up and hits Feng’s chin, the bottom of his skull cracking at the force. She then brings the quarterstaff down on him and pushes him to the ground. He falls for a bit, but the rage has been simmering for a while, and now it begins to explode.

With a red face, he throws himself at her, and the two fall all the way down, crashing and diving into the water between the islands. You hear splashing in the distance and see nothing until the two are back up in the air again, this time Feng with the higher advantage.

Yun has lost her quarterstaff, and she is losing her grip on the battle.

{Being Patient/Beifong’s Sacrifice – Jeremy Zuckerman – The Legend of Korra: Original Music from Book One}

The silence around a battle matches the silence of one holding their breath. There comes a moment when the battle seems to slow down, not in the movements of the fighters, but in the anticipation when one sees an opponent gaining advantage over the other, and in the fear that the losing opponent is fighting their last fight.

Feng and Yun are trapped in a battle of martial arts, legs and arms kicking and punching at each other’s limbs. Yun’s face is stern as she blocks Feng’s open palms, but eventually, he breaks through her defense. His palm strikes her stomach. Her back rounds as she heaves a hefty breath, and he uses this chance to kick her stomach, then her chest, and then up through her chin. She flies backwards in a curved trajectory.

For a moment, her eyes are shut, lost in pain, but in the freefall, she jerks awake. She flies up toward the sky, and she pulls out a talisman. Hands wrapped around it, she closes her eyes and whispers an incantation. Light covers her whole body, and the talisma gives her back stamina and strength. Refreshed, she gives Feng a hard look and puts her hands up again in a fighting position.

Feng flies away, and with his heated anger, he yanks his sword from the tree. He pulls the sword back with his arm and uses his hand to cover it in a golden light again. He throws it into the air, and he forms a circle with his hands. As he forms his circle, the golden longsword replicates and multiplies into ten solid longswords, all in a circle pointing at Yun. He crosses his arms across his chest, building energy with his breath. He then bursts, screaming as he expels the swords at her.

She tries using her magic to call the leaf shield again, but she is weak from using so much of her power, and so she tries to fly away. She manages to miss most of them but, it is not enough.

Feng’s swords get to her. The first glides right past her ankle, harming her left foot. The second gets to her lower right arm. She clutches onto it as the blood comes out. The last flies right between her hair and her neck. Blood now oozes out of her collarbone, and she has no energy left.

Her breathing is shallow as the qi inside her becomes stagnant in her body. There is no balance, and the harmony is gone. Darkness, weakness, and coldness invades her body, yin overpowering the yang. Her body gently floats in the air as she tries to regain power and control, but the imbalance is too much for her to handle. Feng kicks her again and flings her across the sky, a smug smile on his face as he watches his opponent begin to contemplate surrender.

She is vulnerable in the sky, alone, facing a terrible man who feels no remorse, and yet you are on the ground, unable to do anything. Feeling powerless, you only stare at the inevitable end of Yun Bai Shi.

{Greatest Change – Jeremy Zuckerman – The Legend of Korra: Original Music from Book One}

It has once been said that admitting your fears is the first and most difficult step in overcoming them. You are no cultivator, traveler, but this does not mean you are nothing. You are not worthless compared to these great beings. You are never worthless. You are powerful, and you are mighty. These great beings can move mountains with bare hands, but it is far more difficult to move mountains between people, and you have done this before. With friends, with family, with colleagues, you have moved mountains, despite how fearful you were in facing them. It does not matter if one is immortal. What matters is if one has dedicated their life to a life worth living.

You look up to see the woman who inspired you with a session of training under the moonlight, now crumbled into worthlessness. She must also face her fear if she is to overcome it: her fear of failure.

Looking down again, your eyes rest on the smoldering sticks of the fire. One is poking out, untouched by the flames. You grab hold of it and notice how much it resembles a quarterstaff.

Your eyes widen. An idea popping into your head, you look around for the qilin. It is moping on the ground, tears forming on its enormous eyes. You walk up to it and show it the smoldering stick. You tell it you want to help her, but you cannot do it alone.

The qilin nods. With a shake of its body, it gets back up and bows, inviting you to climb onto it. You do, and within seconds, you are soaring through the skies toward Yun.

You ignore Feng who is cackling on his own far from here. The qilin hovers next to her.

You hand her the stick, look into her eyes, and you tell her that failure is not worth fearing, for it is inevitable. The only true failure worth worrying about is when one surrenders.

She nods, and for a moment, you see her eyes flicker with determination again. Light in her hands, she uses the energy to transform the stick into a true quarterstaff with both ends flaming. She straightens herself, and with head held high, she announces, “I am a true immortal, and I will defeat you, Feng Mu Shen.”

As he laughs hysterically, she twirls the quarterstaff in her hands. At first, it is slow, but it goes faster and faster until a ring of fire forms. She closes her eyes, deepens her breath, and with a powerful force, she casts the ring of fire at him. It is such a powerful force, it debilitates him immediately. He is consumed by the enchanted fires, and he lets out a blood-curdling cry into the air. A surge of energy pulses through her, and once again, she feels like a true immortal, all powerful, but most importantly, she feels like herself again.

Like a small insect, he jerks about, pain radiating through his body. She approaches him, and she looks down at him with pity. “You have betrayed this realm and the legacy of our immortal journeys. It is time you pay for your pride.”

She puts her hand on his chest and sends enchanted fire through his skin into his heart. He breathes his final breath feeling what the energy of a true immortal inside his heart feels like. He dies with the opportunity to understand what he never understood in life: what it truly feels like to be an immortal being and what an immortal being is truly all about.

Unbearably weak after all the energy Yun’s used, she simply nods and says, “It is done.”

{Merry-Go-Round (Howl’s Moving Castle) – Salome Scheidegger – Salichan: The Ghibli Album}

“Thank you for your courage and strength, traveler,” Yun tells you. “We immortals have great power, but I do believe mortals often possess more power than even we do. Still, a mortal in a realm of immortality is not wise, so I believe it is probably best for you to go back to your realm. The isle of Buxiu may not be the right fit for you. If you choose to continue your journey as a cultivator, you should find a master elsewhere. Like I said, I’d take you as my own disciple, but I’m not currently looking for one. Perhaps I shall see you again. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be on a flying sword.”

Yun takes you back to the train station. After a final farewell, you board the train to leave the isle. You find the same seat in which you came, only to see the elderly woman with the basket full of fruit also sitting there.

“I sold so much today,” she tells you as you sit down. “Those cultivators really do like their dragon fruit. How about you? How did your visit go?”

That is the end of our tale for today. Thank you for joining me, but it’s now time for you to step back through the portal to WHUS Storrs. I hope you join me next week for another adventure. Until then, fairfarren, traveler.

THE END

Fairfarren, Friends

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