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Tabris2k

Heart of the Garden - Unicorn Fiction

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26 minutes ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

Is how little I like Shahai by the end of it. And not in an "she's evil! EEEEEEEEVIL!" way, but rather in a "what did you think being a samurai entailed?" sort of way. She's a big ball of selfishness wrapped up in flimsy self-justifications. Reading this makes me understand her siblings' reluctance when Altansarnai suggested they make a dagger for her as well.

I have another perspective on her. She is an isolated and lonely teenage girl who now sees herself as hostage to what she sees as a hostile foreign power, and she is interpreting everything in the most negative light. She feels like she is betraying her Clan and family by sharing her family's knowledge with those who guard her Emperor. She feels distant from her half-siblings because she lacks Altansarnai's blood, despite Altansarnai seeing Shahai as one of them. She is falling victim to the idea that Daisetsu talked about "...what we believe is the truth becomes the truth." She believes she is a hostage not a guest so she acts like one. She believes she is betraying her clan to teach the Seppun so she refuses to teach.  She believes her siblings do not see her as one of them so she acts like they do not treat her as one of them.

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I'm not seeing where that differs with my assessment of her. She is a monumentally self-absorbed person.

 

Again, she isn't just acting like a sulky teenager but is, in fact, a teenager going through some rough stuff, but... understanding that doesn't engender much sympathy in me.

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44 minutes ago, HamHamJ2 said:

It seems bizarre to me that she apparently received no instructions on whether or not she is supposed to teach the Sepun or not. Like, this should have been a decision made way above her head.

Right?

 

Moreover...

 

"The Emperor Commands you to _____" > "But sensei said..."

 

She didn't volunteer. No one in her clan did anything but agree.

 

EDIT: Let me hasten to add, I love this story... but I don't like Shahai. There's well-executed pathos there, it just doesn't reach me.

Edited by Shiba Gunichi

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It's clearly apparent to me that, at least in part, a portion of the Empire's samurai hold little regard for Emperor or his authority, and only offer lip service. They keep it up for posterity, of course, but otherwise, the Emperor can go toss himself into a lake for all they care. I find it more interesting that way.

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1 hour ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

I'm not seeing where that differs with my assessment of her. She is a monumentally self-absorbed person.

 

Again, she isn't just acting like a sulky teenager but is, in fact, a teenager going through some rough stuff, but... understanding that doesn't engender much sympathy in me.

I'm more disagreeing with you on the idea that she is being selfish and self-justifying. I see her more as assumptive and pessimistic. She assumes that her trio of handmaidens are less her servants and more her handlers. She isn't throwing tantrums because she isn't happy with the situation, she is throwing well timed tantrums to interfere with "the Seppun stealing the secrets of the Unicorn's magic." She assumes that Daisetsu was practicing oratory taught by an ancient Seppun (rather than conversing regularly with a slightly older Crane). She makes several other assumptions (both major and minor) throughout the story.

The story ends with Daisetsu revealing to her that her assumed "dead end" was not one and that it also led to a piece of wild beauty in the very organized garden. It is a very daoist way to design a garden.

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51 minutes ago, Ultimatecalibur said:

I'm more disagreeing with you on the idea that she is being selfish and self-justifying. I see her more as assumptive and pessimistic. She assumes that her trio of handmaidens are less her servants and more her handlers. She isn't throwing tantrums because she isn't happy with the situation, she is throwing well timed tantrums to interfere with "the Seppun stealing the secrets of the Unicorn's magic." She assumes that Daisetsu was practicing oratory taught by an ancient Seppun (rather than conversing regularly with a slightly older Crane). She makes several other assumptions (both major and minor) throughout the story.

The story ends with Daisetsu revealing to her that her assumed "dead end" was not one and that it also led to a piece of wild beauty in the very organized garden. It is a very daoist way to design a garden.

See, still seriously not seeing where you're substantively disagreeing with my perspective....

 

No wonder Daisetsu plays her like a fiddle. She is, as he notes, highly predictable. Moreover... if the Prince sees what she's trying to do, others certainly do as well.

 

Which brings me back to the central question Shahai refuses to confront- what does she think her actions will achieve?

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I believe that was exactly Daisetsu's point, and exactly the point she needs to wrestle with coming out of this story.  She thinks tantrums will buy her more time to think of a better options or find an ally to help her escape her task.  When she doesn't think that will work anymore she think killing herself will solve her problem by removing her from the equation, which Daisetsu quickly points out is a false assumption.

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7 minutes ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

See, still seriously not seeing where you're substantively disagreeing with my perspective....

Because she is not being Selfish nor Self-justifying. She is not throwing tantrums for herself, she is doing so for her clan. There is also no self-justification. She is not performing actions counter to her beliefs and then justifying those actions after the fact. She isn't having tantrums and then justifying those tantrums to herself after the fact by saying she is preventing the Sepuun from stealing Unicorn secrets. She is performing premeditated tantrums based on the not assumption that the Seppun are going to steal the unicorn's secret knowledge of magic. There are no attempts to rationalize why a false assumption is right by self-justification. In fact the opposite happens: At the beginning of the story she assumes that her clan has abandoned her and that her siblings do not think of her as a sibling, but Daisetsu make her realize that assumption is wrong and that the knife symbolizes her bond with her clan and family.

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Just now, Ultimatecalibur said:

Because she is not being Selfish nor Self-justifying.

Except she patently is.

"My clan has been ordered to endure this. I drew the short straw and have to be the instrument of this unwelcome Imperial Command. I don' wanna. And rather than consider the potential consequences for my clan if I continue in my course, I'm just going to mope because I've been told things."

 

"I will do all I can," she says, thinking it's true, but it's a patent falsehood.

"Poor me, why me?" forms the vibe of her entire train of thought, as if this fate wouldn't be so bad if someone else had to endure it.

"People are avoiding me because I'm a hostage teaching magic nobody trusts." No, people are avoiding her because she's cultivated a hostile demeanor to keep everyone at bay.

"I'll sabotage my training techniques to keep these secrets, even though I wouldn't even be here if refusal of even this sort were even close to being an option."

"But I can't teach the Seppun because it puts their blade at the throats of the Unicorn!" Never mind that her stubborn refusal places that blade far closer, because it engenders far more suspicion. The Unicorn are earlier shown being quite cavalier about showing off their meishodo (witness the Crane's reaction in "Curved Blades"), but heaven forbid they let someone understand their magic to make it less creepy (the way the Iuchi talked to Kosori in the Phoneix story about it).

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4 hours ago, HamHamJ2 said:

It seems bizarre to me that she apparently received no instructions on whether or not she is supposed to teach the Sepun or not. Like, this should have been a decision made way above her head.

My impression was that there wasn't really time for her to consult with her father/daimyo before being sent off.  And once she was, she probably didn't think that sending a message would be prudent, because if it was intercepted, even asking what she should do would be indicative of a lack of loyalty to the emperor.

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It seemed to me like the Imperial showed up and told her dad "she's coming with us" then he called her in. Like, I wonder if Ide Tadaji maybe had a chance to send a courier, but it seemed pretty sudden in this story. Not like they could just text each other ya know?

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12 hours ago, Radix2309 said:

Well I am starting to see a future civil war considering how much better Daisetu is than the heir.

Indeed. The article accompanying calls it a follow-on to Smokeless Fire and A Most Suitable Teacher, but if you stack Heart of the Garden versus Wildcats and Dragons Teeth...yeah. If you're going to have a (potential) subplot of an argument over succession, then to make it workable in a society as bound by custom and rules as Rokugan, it's got to be blatantly obvious to everyone that "not the heir" is the far, far better choice and that going with the choice you should make is going to end in inevitable disaster, and sooner rather than later.

There's an awareness to Daisetu that's very important; both in managing to be reassuring and - let's be fair, talking someone off the proverbial rooftop ledge without ever once being discourteous - and at the same time, knowing exactly who and what he is, like his frank assessment of why he doesn't need protecting - because as long as it's known who he was with, if he dies the consequences are as unavoidable as winter.

Compared to Sotorii not even considering the possibility that....you know....he might actually be a really cruddy swordsman and people are letting him win.

 

 

Being prepared to look at new paths is dangerous, but so is complacency and abuse of the power you have. An prince who'd seriously consider employing a shujenga to ensure he'd always have good weather in his vicinity is someone who doesn't really care about the consequences of their actions provided those consequences don't happen to them personally.

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5 hours ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

I'm not seeing where that differs with my assessment of her. She is a monumentally self-absorbed person.

 

Again, she isn't just acting like a sulky teenager but is, in fact, a teenager going through some rough stuff, but... understanding that doesn't engender much sympathy in me.

Eh, it's what I like about the story. She's a teenager who's technically an adult now, and got responsibiities far outweighing her experience, while also ruining any plans she had. Teenagers gonna teenage. It's what makes the story interesting for me.

 

Daisetsu searching for words was also something I appreciated a lot. Also, it's interesting that he spoke much better with his bodyguard away. He may have an issue with public oratory?

 

That said, I do find it interesting that the Seppun chose.... a young, barely out of gempukku female to teach them, rather than experienced sensei. She is daimyo-blood, but that only means she's more important, but not more useful.

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18 minutes ago, Horvagab said:

That said, I do find it interesting that the Seppun chose.... a young, barely out of gempukku female to teach them, rather than experienced sensei. She is daimyo-blood, but that only means she's more important, but not more useful.

I'm pretty sure she's also intended as a political hostage. The fact that the Seppun feel they might need a hostage to get leverage on the unicorn is a bad sign for their feelings towards them, though.

18 minutes ago, Horvagab said:

Eh, it's what I like about the story. She's a teenager who's technically an adult now, and got responsibiities far outweighing her experience, while also ruining any plans she had. Teenagers gonna teenage. It's what makes the story interesting for me.

Indeed. A stereotypical teenage girl going "My Life Is Over!!!11!1!!1!!" is hardly unusual, and Rokugani still feel this sort of thing, they just try to suppress it. And when someone who's basically trained to seriously consider exemplary suicide as a credible solution to problems starts thinking that, what happened is not that unlikely an outcome.

3 hours ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

"But I can't teach the Seppun because it puts their blade at the throats of the Unicorn!" Never mind that her stubborn refusal places that blade far closer, because it engenders far more suspicion. The Unicorn are earlier shown being quite cavalier about showing off their meishodo (witness the Crane's reaction in "Curved Blades"), but heaven forbid they let someone understand their magic to make it less creepy (the way the Iuchi talked to Kosori in the Phoneix story about it).

Given that her major conflict seems to be a discontinuity between a vow to never reveal clan secrets and a duty to show the Seppun the same, it'd be interesting to compare his vows with hers.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Daisetsu is smooth af. "Don't kill yourself, you have very pretty hair." Though ToturixKaede is still best pairing until YasamuraxO-Ushi becomes a thing again.

I really hope they don't go evil. I'm going to feel bad if we have to kill them again.

 

I like how Shahai is torn between two conflicting duties. It's a betrayal of the Emperor and her Family to disobey him but it's also a betrayal of her Family to give away their secrets. So her temporizing tactics are the best compromise she can think of, but eventually the contradiction is too much for her and she decides death is the only way out.

 

11 minutes ago, Horvagab said:

That said, I do find it interesting that the Seppun chose.... a young, barely out of gempukku female to teach them, rather than experienced sensei. She is daimyo-blood, but that only means she's more important, but not more useful.

Yes, it's almost like the Iuichi are being set up to fail. Like they're going to listen to the advice of the Unicorn a chance, but they still kind of want to purge them so they'll maximize the chances of them screwing up.

Or, as was said above, maybe they see the Iuichi themselves as the true threat rather than their techniques.

Overall this plot line really highlights the 'otherness' stigma the Unicorn face in Rokugani society. It's not like any of the other Clans are required to disclose their teachings to the Imperials.

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Regarding several of the assumptions that Shahai makes, it's worth noting that they're pretty much in line with Ide Tadaji's thoughts about the arrangement from "A Most suitable Teacher."

 

Quote

 

Ah, yes. Shahai. The perfect candidate for a teacher—and a hostage. Was this Kaede’s doing?

A master stroke—if the Unicorn’s magic ceased to be acceptable, the clan would be forced to

cease immediately lest anything befall the daughter of the Iuchi

daimyō.

 

 

 

 

Quote

 

So they would take her away from her people, her father, her home. She was to become a

mere cog in the machinations of court and a traitor in the eyes of her people. Even if she had

been commanded by the Emperor Himself to do so, she would still be sharing her family’s

secrets, betraying its tradition to outsiders. She would never truly be welcome among the Iuchi

again.

 

 

Going back to a different story, in "Smokeless Fire," one of the things Isawa Atsuko saw in her vision was a carven antler, flashing silver.

That sounds awfully like Shahai's dagger to me.

Edited by Vlad3theImpaler

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7 hours ago, Shiba Gunichi said:

Except she patently is.

"My clan has been ordered to endure this. I drew the short straw and have to be the instrument of this unwelcome Imperial Command. I don' wanna. And rather than consider the potential consequences for my clan if I continue in my course, I'm just going to mope because I've been told things."

 

"I will do all I can," she says, thinking it's true, but it's a patent falsehood.

"Poor me, why me?" forms the vibe of her entire train of thought, as if this fate wouldn't be so bad if someone else had to endure it.

"People are avoiding me because I'm a hostage teaching magic nobody trusts." No, people are avoiding her because she's cultivated a hostile demeanor to keep everyone at bay.

"I'll sabotage my training techniques to keep these secrets, even though I wouldn't even be here if refusal of even this sort were even close to being an option."

"But I can't teach the Seppun because it puts their blade at the throats of the Unicorn!" Never mind that her stubborn refusal places that blade far closer, because it engenders far more suspicion. The Unicorn are earlier shown being quite cavalier about showing off their meishodo (witness the Crane's reaction in "Curved Blades"), but heaven forbid they let someone understand their magic to make it less creepy (the way the Iuchi talked to Kosori in the Phoneix story about it).

I think you have some serious misunderstandings about literary tropes, teenagers, and how imperfect the knowledge each character has in relation to the reader.

She is trapped in a problem with no correct answer, classic feudal conflict of duty to my immediate lord(and close family) and duty to THEIR lord. Those duties are in conflict with each other. Her family's tradition of keeping their magic secret didnt disappear when the imperial court demanded that knowledge. Likewise, any unicorn is going to cognizant of thier precarious position in the empire. They have little power at court and less social standing elsewhere.

Furthermore, the rapidly changing mystical and economic landscape is pushing normally conservative nobles and magicians to hasty actions and extremes. The situation in toshi ranbo could erupt into war at any time, upending an already abnormal political situation. How is she to know if the unicorn are about to be defying the emporers will in a months time or not? She is a hostage in more ways than one.

In short: cut the kid a break. Shes in a no win situation, whatever she does her family loses.

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