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(After Ting Ting's Gambit, Book 3 Run 10)

Takanata will seek out the temple of the followers of the Ways of the Three Worlds, and ask if there is a priest there who could provide him with knowledge and advice about the Great Spirits.

The monk who you first meet admits that "knowledge about the Great Spirits" is a well that one person can never drain, but suggests that you speak with Sister Dohna, who is most learned.

I will seek out Sister Dohna. Assuming she is free to speak with me:

"I am aware that, when Great Spirits quarrel, the wise man goes far away. But there are times when that which is being quarreled over is that which cannot be left behind, and so I seek to understand the quarrel as best I can.

"In the particular case I have in mind, which I hope to avoid describing in too much detail, so as not to draw you close to it, I believe I understand who the primary competitors are, but am given to understand that there are alliances on both sides that I currently know little about. In trying to examine these alliances, I am left considering this:

"A Great Spirit can touch the world on days strongly aligned with itself, or when invoked in proper ways. If one invokes a Great Spirit on the Day of another Great Spirit, must that involve at least the acquiescence of the Spirit whose Day it is?"

She shakes her head. "The Day of a Spirit provides resonance, provides harmony, to those things done which are in the nature of that spirit. But disharmony is not impossibility, and the Great Spirits are not constantly fettered by requiring the permissions of the other spirits for their nature to influence the world."

Takanata nods. "Very well. Thank you sister, it is better to know I have no data than to proceed based on a mistake."

He starts to rise, then sits again. "Actually, if you have time, there is one other question of the World Above that I have been curious about. Why is it that those spirits which are not great spirits can only have one ... contact? associate? ... here in the mortal realm? I am not sure of the right word, but they seem constrained in their contact with this world by rules, more than by power."

"To ask 'why' about something that *is*, is a difficult thing - why does metal bend and stone break, but water does neither? Why are there not six Great Cycle Demons and six Great Cycle Spirits?"

Takanata pauses at this, and says "Indeed. Do Demons also have a single point of contact, the way spirits do? I have encountered a lesser demon who seems to have forged such a point, but it is... warping his nature in a way I do not understand."

"Demons and spirits are the same in that way, yes. Certainly demons and spirits can be subtly changed by their interaction with the Material World, but you seem to be speaking of something more."

"The Demon in question is, or perhaps was, a baku. Now it has a name, and an associated person who is trying to convince it not to feed on dreams so much, or at least to do so in a more ... civilized ... way. Its I Ching indicated that leading it to do so would make it... not a baku anymore, but I do not know what it is that it is becoming."

"Interesting. It is possible that those spirits and demons who combine aspects of both the Worlds Above or Below, and the World of Dreams, may be more malleable, as dreams are more malleable than the material world, but I do not know."
(She gives a little nod, as if reminding herself to go and read up / meditate / spiritwalk / something about this later.)

[Always good to give the learned NPCs something to think about.  :-) ]

"I do not know. I have never had the opportunity to read another demon's I Ching. I would not have expected Nightmare to be more malleable than Greed, or Darkness, but perhaps it is so."

"No? I have not walked many times in the World of Dreams, but creation and change there seem to be as easy as thought."

He pauses for a second, and then adds: "Hmm. It seems to me that I am far more likely to hear of Spirits of things that exist physically, such as an animal or a place, and far more likely to hear of Demons of things that are more metaphysical. Is that an actual difference, or just a common perceptual error?"

"Some of both, I think. People have a tendency to assume that a being is a spirit, rather than a demon, if it does not seem actively malign, and refer to it as such, but this is in error. But also, the World Above has a slightly greater connection to the actual *substance* of the Material World, so those greatest features of the land are tied to spirits more often than demons."

"Indeed? How so? I was not aware of that at all."

"The spirits of the Jasmine, the Pearl, and the Summit of Fire are all spirits; the Forest is a demon. Those are generally considered to be the greatest four tied to the natural world. There tend to be spirits (and sometimes demons) of a mountain or a glade, rather than the whole mountain range, and so on. Further, spirits and demons in great numbers touch a single individual here and there, but only the twelve great spirits touch so many different people simultaneously, shifting the balance of the Empire's chi towards the World Above and away from the World Below, giving the spirits more sway in general."

"Ah. I had not realized there was a being tied to the Forest, let alone a demon. I had heard there was a powerful wood spirit tied to the bamboo of the Taiga, but I suppose I learned that when asking of spirits, particularly."

He pauses a second, and then adds "Was the Forest always a demon, or did a demon replace a spirit when the Wind Changed? No, I suppose that only changed the traveling spirits, not the spirits of the place..."

There has been a demon of the forest as long as it has been a great forest, certainly. (She doesn't seem to think that the mention of the wind changing is surprising).

"Also, are the sun and the moon lesser than those four, or are they not considered tied to the Natural World in the same way?"

"They are not lesser, but they are removed - one rarely encounters the sun up close, except actually *in* the World Above."

"Ah. I have heard rumors of one called the Daughter of the Sun. How does that happen if he rarely leaves the World Above?

She raises an eyebrow. "Did you think intimacy was restricted to the Material World alone?"

What does it mean to be the child of a spirit?"

"Any child will take after one parent, or the other, or both, as well has having aspects which are wholly their own. It is no different for a child of both worlds, save in scale."
(skipping back to the question about why spirits only have one associate)
"But it is said that when the Dragon created the Middle Kingdom, between the north and the south, between the worlds Above and Below, He made the space its own, (she pauses here and frowns a bit, but then presses on) not ruled by the others. There is connection, but it is constrained. The Great Spirits divide the world between them, but (for the most part) do not walk about in the world to instruct each of those with a connection - they stay at a great remove. The lesser spirits and demons are permitted to act more deeply, but at but a single point. I think, perhaps, if there were not these limitations, this world would be overwhelmed."

"The answer 'it is so because the Dragon made is so,' while almost certainly true, is also somewhat unsatisfying. 'It is necessary to protect the Middle Kingdom from the Worlds Beyond' is more satisfying. But while I like to think that beauty reveals truth, I am not convinced it does so quite so literally." He smiles.

"A pity the Dragon cannot simply tell us. Is there any lore on where He went, once the creation was done?"

"I have never liked the phrasing, but there are those who call the Great Spirits Shards of the Dragon, as if He invested some of himself into each, or gave them each a portion of His Authority. Most agree that the Dragon ruled the Empire directly at its founding, until He was satisfied and invested rulership in the emperors that followed Him. As to where He went, the World Above is vast and has many hidden places. Perhaps He watches yet, or perhaps He's moved on to other interests. There is certainly clear indication that His direct influence in the empire has lessened, as there are quite simply many fewer dragons seen in the world today than are reported by earlier sages."

"So what does it actually mean to be the contact point for a lesser spirit or demon? It allows them more access to the Middle Kingdom somehow, but how does that manifest? And does the person who is the contact point gain access to the World Above at all?"

"In this, as in many things, it depends on the nature of the spirit or demon. Some of these relationships manifest as friendships, or deeper, relationships; some will teach, or provide abilities more directly; some may enable spiritwalking in the World Above."

"Hmm. Is it possible to be the point of contact for more than one spirit or demon at the same time? I realize I know someone who is receiving training from a Tengu, and is likely that Tengu's point of contact, but I believe he has also been trained by another Tengu on occasion."

"Or is it that Tengu, and other minor spirits and demons, are even smaller than those who have one point of contact to the world, and so are even more free to enter this world and interact with it?"

"It is entirely possible [to be the point of contact for more than one]. The two Tengu might take it as a point of contention, but nothing spiritually prevents multiple spirits or demons from favoring a single individual. I have once heard of a case where four different spirits and a demon touched a person, but often such tales do not end well. The various influences in one's life are very difficult to keep balanced when multiple spirits or demons are involved. By their very nature, such beings tend to be very different from each other, and thus balance among them is a delicate thing to maintain."

"I will try and mention it to the student when next I see him.

"How does that need to balance the otherworldly forces interact with the focal person's aspect? Is it possible for a peasant to be a focal point?"

"It is possible, but it rare - and often if a peasant is interesting enough to catch the attention of a spirit or a demon, it will become apparent that they have an aspect after all - or that they will develop one - or perhaps those are the same thing. As for balancing - the Great Cycle spirits rarely intervene directly, the way the lesser spirits and demons do. If they did, though, they would overshadow any lesser being. Lesser spirits do not play games against the Great Cycle Spirits."
(back to the question of geography)

"I have heard, recently, that the Walls not only divide us from the north and the south, but divide areas of the Worlds Above and Below, and After, from their counterparts that the Northern and Southern Barbarians touch. Are those areas that the Great Spirits, or the lesser spirits, have any dealings with, do you know? Perhaps the Dragon has traveled to one of them.

"Or to the World After. Is that even where spirits go, if they die or are destroyed?"

No, I do not believe so. Spirits do not have... well, they do not have a spirit to move to the World Beyond when they are killed. They *are* purely spirit, so to destroy one, is to end all that could come after."
As to other lands of spirit and demon beyond the walls, she is woefully uninformed about them, though, like you, she does understand them to exist. The walls are far more than mere physical barriers. If they were such, the Empire would have been overrun long ago. They are great barriers of chi as well, effectively surround the Empire on all sides, even Above and Below, but she does not quite understand the details of this, as they do not really separate the world from the World Above, though they do defend it from threats from Above and Below in some sense. "Perhaps that is akin to what you refer to."

Well, if she is interested, I will tell her what little I know about the Southern World Above, which is mostly that "they have 'gods', instead of Spirits" and the names and realms of a couple of gods. Oh, and the fact that their gods seem to lay some claim to the person's spirit, such that it does not necessarily go to the world after, but somehow to the world above? Hmm. Charles doesn't actually remember what we know about that binding to Kali in the random Southron we captured, but it definitely continued after death, in a way it is not clear to me that Aspects do. Takanata will explain it as best he can, if she's interested, and see if she thinks that Aspects continue after death.

She is certainly interested to hear all this. And yes, people's Aspects continue after death, she is confident.

Takanata thanks her for her insights. And certainly has more to ask, but I think it's time to call this conversation over.  :-)