Fanfic Fanfare!

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Sun Fin
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Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread post by Sun Fin »

Thank you for sharing with us! Its an interesting crossover!
Have a question about a book or academic article before you buy it? Maybe I have it!
Check out my library here for a list of Chinese history resources I have on hand and my tumblr to see if I have reviewed it!
Rivvy Elf
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Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread post by Rivvy Elf »

Sun Fin wrote: Tue Jan 17, 2023 8:26 am Thank you for sharing with us! Its an interesting crossover!
Thanks Sun Fin! I already have 18 chapters and over 100K words written, so I hope y'all enjoy what I've been working on since last summer.

~~~

Chapter 1 link: https://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?p=623764#p623764
Chapter 2 link: https://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?p=623877#p623877

~~~

Author's Notes: This is a crossover of Water Margin and the works of JRR Tolkien (basically Water Margin in a Middle-Earth setting). I will be posting the censored version of my fanfiction here to comply with the PG-13 rules of the Scholars of Shen Zhou. After all, Water Margin is not PG-13 ( :pika: ). I will be... changing a lot of the characters in Water Margin so even if you know the events of that novel, prepare to be surprised and amused by some of the twists and turns I'll be taking. The major events will still occur though, worry not! Feedback, questions, and criticism is more than encouraged.

For the uncensored version of my fanfic, here's the links to the Fanfiction.net version of my work.

Fanfiction.net: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/14122835/1 ... Inland-Sea

~~~

Chapter 3: The Rise of Gao- The Power of Football (the Football that Involves Mostly Kicking) Part 1

Dongjing, Third Age Year 1924

"Speak! What exactly happened here."

For a moment, Wang Jin looked like a caught goldfish.

"Uh-guh-erm. (cough)" she responded. Blinking a few times she closed her mouth, lifted her chin, and walked over with confident strides towards the constable.

The constable tightened his hand around his truncheon.

She stopped momentarily and stated with head held high, "self-defense."

"Self-defense?" the Constable asked, raising his eyebrows.

Wang Jin unfastened her bag on her right hip and walked closer until she was within an arm's reach of the constable.

"Self-defense," Wang Jin stated more firmly, taking out a roll of iron coins, holding aloft the money. The constable held out his free hand, letting the roll fall into his fingers.

"Self..." the Constable's eyes shifted toward Gao holding trying to sit up. Then the constable looked at Yanny/Laurel (bloody mouth and all) vainly trying to put her two teeth back in. Nearby, the ruffian that was on his back was clutching his chest, struggling to get up. The constable's eyes shifted next to the collapsed peddler stall where a ruffian was trying to get out of the debris.

"...defense?" scoffed the Constable with disgust, as if Wang Jin just made a joke regarding disembowelment.

Wang Jin's mouth twitched for a second, but she retained her plain expression.

"Self..." she placed another roll of iron coins into the constable's palm.

"de-..." another roll was placed.

"-fense." Finally, a third roll was placed. The constable closed his palm with the three rolls of coins, placing them within a pouch attached to his belt.

"Aaah," the constable's eyes widened as if suddenly understanding, "self-defense," the constable repeated with an affirming tone, nodding at Wang Jin, who averted her eyes to the side with the barest hint of a smile, "off you go then."

And off she went, walking with long strides and a quickened pace.

Her tale of how she passed the Arms Instructor examination with flying colors, her first few years roaming from village to village training warriors, her rise to become Head Arms Instructor of the 80,000 Imperial soldiers, and how she trained the likes of Lin Chong, Shi Wengong, and Lu Junyi, shall not be told right now.

Instead, our focus shall move towards the person named Gao, as it was now his turn to answer the constable.

~~~

Gao gritted his teeth, salty tears blinding his eyes. There wasn't any reprieve at all! When he could finally breathe without hurting his midsection, the migraine would return. When the migraine went, his eyes burned. And when he could move again, stabs of pain continued to strike between his legs. It felt like he ran into a wall and the wall decided to tear off his jewels for good measure.

It was only intimidation! That street performer encroached on their territory so, of course, they were going to beat him up! They would've stopped... eventually. It wasn't as if they were going to kill him; they didn't have enough money to bribe themselves out of that. All the fighting his gang knew was from watching the staged fights outside of the brothels. Of course, Gao knew a little more about the martial arts, but why would he get his hands dirty when he had people to do his work? Everything went wrong once that tanned green-clothed woman ambushed his group. By the time Gao fully realized what was going on, his niece Yanny had bravely fallen trying to charge at the wild beast.

Needle-like stabs struck his groin again. Ugh, he was going to feel this for days.

The rest were disposable. But hitting his niece...that pissed Gao off. What kind of monster would hit a little girl, his niece in particular? That woman was probably a country bumpkin based on her tanned skin. Probably got kicked out for being a stupid, illiterate ruffian and decided to enlist in the army or something. She only beat Gao because he was enraged and didn't think straight. Dirty fighter too, no honor at all to kick someone's jewels. To be beaten like that in front of the entire crowd too. She ruined everything!

By the time Gao finally was able to wobble up, wincing in pain, the constable had begun interrogating Yanny.

"You there. Girl, speak, what happened here?" ordered the constable, bending over to better talk with her.

"They... that... that tanned animal... They punched me! My-my, it hurts talking... so much," Yanny blubbered, nasally snorting her snot in between placing her face on her pink sleeves.

The constable shook his head, "they, they, they? Who is they? What did you expect when you attack someone? That they let you beat them up?"

She shook her head vigorously, tears flying out of the corners of her eyes, "No no, that woman did it. They started-"

"Niece, let me talk to the nice fellow here- ugh" Gao cut her off, wincing in pain as he limped towards the pair.

The constable cast an annoyed sideways glare, then turned towards Gao. "I did not ask you to speak," he said flatly.

"Oh but kind sir, you want to ask me to speak," Gao, said, fishing out a roll of copper coins.

The constable mulled it over. Then, he gave a quick nod, taking the coins.

Gesturing towards Gao, the constable stated, "I want you to speak, what happened here?"

~~~

And now he was bankrupt. Great.

Gao could not let Yanny say that it was that Country Bumpkin's fault, as the latter was officially cleared of all wrongdoing due to "self-defense." Gao could always file the paperwork for an appeal for the magistrate to see, of course, but that costed more money than he had. So, he "convinced" the constable that Yanny and his beatdowns were punishment enough for the crime of attacking another person.

Then came the challenge of covering up the other members of his crew.

So Gao had to "convince" the constable that he was not responsible for the concussion his fellow member had ('tripped on a rock and fell backwards'), the cracked rib suffered by another member ('stunt mishap with a staff'), the property damage from his crew member being thrown into a peddler's stand ('practiced a cartwheel, three backflips, two front somersaults trick and botched the landing'), the strained arms from the two useless idiots who did not take the opportunity to leave the scene! ('I have nothing to do with them')

Then he had to hunt down the various artists that had, by this time, drawn a rendition of his private parts being punted like a football. They took most of his money as artists were well-respected. But Gao would rather be strangled by his intestines than be famous for Hero teaches Gangster Gao a Lesson in Football or Self-Defense Technique: The Ball Destroyer.

Finally, there were those gamblers he had to pay off to stop badgering him ("You threw the fight!" "You were favored by -4000 and a lock, screw you!"). He had to give them his favorite football along with the rest of his money.

His crew disbanded. Yanny wanted to stick by Gao but he flat out told her to not associate with him anymore, for her sake, and to get an apprenticeship with an herbalist due to her knowledge of flowers. Yanny cried so much that Gao wept as well. They cried so much that they were kicked out of the homeless shelter they resided in for disturbing the peace.

Thus began his search for a job...

~~~

He asked his father for a job. His father reported him to Dongjing's magistrate for being a non-government endorsed gang leader and Gao got logged 20 times (being hit on the back by log-like staves). Oh, and he was banished from the capital too. That jerk!

~~~

Dongjing, Third Age Year 1927

Gao spent the next three years in a gambling house. By that time The Emperor issued a general amnesty for everyone. Thus, Gao returned to Dongjing, finding himself surrounded by an overflow of unemployed people that would return back to jail (some voluntarily) within the next few years. Somehow, he found himself in a tougher situation than he was three years ago. But he decided to try his hand at an interesting job he heard of...

~~~

"I'm sorry, but after seeing you eat for ten days, you're not fit to be a competitive eater," Gao's now former employer concluded.

Seeing the absolute devastation on Gao's face caused the employer to hurriedly add, "but you are a good groveler. Here's a letter of recommendation to somebody I know."

Gao's face lit up in happiness. Then the grin quickly turned into a frown as he processed what his former employer said.

"Huh?"

~~~

Su "Dongpo" Shi would become a household name in a thousand years. He had quite a resume: Poet, essayist, journalist, economist, statesman, and possible inventor of Dongpo Pork, a luscious dish that would tempt many a vegetarian for years to come (even though he himself was a vegetarian). He had nothing to do with fish.

At this point in time, he was a disgraced ex-politician who was recently amnestied. Given that "common household work" was not on his resume, he was offering employment for the vacant "servant" job: Gao Qiu was among the applicants on this list.

The interview began; pleasantries were made. Then Su Shi asked,

"...and what do you think of Moriism, the School of Morinehtar that asserts the existence of a Central Path for both Elves and Men?"

"...Huh?" responded Gao in confusion, "I am afraid I am not an expert on foreign-sounding religions, master."

A silence followed.

Breaking the silence, Su Shi said, "...I would like you to write an essay analyzing a poem that I wrote. If you do well then you may stay as my servant, learning to be a scholar at the same time. If you do not do well, you may stay for a night and leave when the sun rises and the rooster crows."

With that, Su Shi handed the poem; along with a calligraphy set containing paper, brushes, an inkstick, an inkstone, red ink, a brush holder, a little water pot, a pot of sand, and a little spoon; to Gao. This is what the poem said:




"人生到處知何似,恰似飛鴻踏雪泥;

泥上偶然留指爪,鴻飛那復計東西。

老僧已死成新塔,壞壁無由見舊題;

往日崎嶇還記否,路長人困蹇驢嘶。"




This is what it said in Westron:




"What compares to humanity's life?

Migrating geese rest on snow,

Leave fleeting claw prints and

All fly away, some East, some West.

The old monk has passed away;

A gravestone was made for them.

The crumbling wall of their hut

Shows not our inscriptions there.

The road went ever on and on,

All of us tired, our limping steeds braying."

(trans. Shaohai Guo)




Gao spent some time digesting the poem, then put brush to ink and began writing his essay. As the ink was not easy to erase, he put his thought into every logogram, ensuring each character was pristine. Every stroke was precise yet reflected the language's beauty; even the periods were perfectly round. After he was done, he lightly poured sand on the essay to dry the ink. Once the ink dried, he blew the particles away.

Handing it to Su Shi, the ex-government scholar inspected the work. Every so often the scholar would briefly nod, as if in affirmation. His eyes would focus on certain terms, and he would pause at points as if to ponder a specific phrase or sentence.

Soon enough, Gao was handed back the essay. Noticing that there were no markings on the work, he looked at the scholar, awaiting the evaluation.

"Your work is quite beautiful and technically sound. Each stroke showed your attention to detail, I can see you put an ethereal amount of effort into this. Every character is clear and you created a fine work of art. I will not let this talent go to waste."

The praise filled Gao with joy as he respectfully focused his eyes on the floor, smiling.

However, Su Shi was not done speaking.

"I shall write a letter of recommendation for you to gain employment with an artist I know at a well-known brothel called the Brothel of the Wise. I wish you luck in your future endeavors, Gao."

Gao grinned, and he bowed towards the scholar in gratitude. But just as he was about to utter his thanks, he realized the full meaning of what Su Shi said, and he frowned, undoing his bow and looking at the scholar in disbelief.

"Huh?"

~~~

At least he finally got a job after that disaster of his essay-writing abilities, becoming an artist's apprentice at the Brothel of the Wise. Brothels were the center of music, dancing, culture, and wrestling. Not that Gao could really enjoy that in his workplace. It was a living, though not as glamorous as he thought it was going to be. He could not even use the money to obtain the premium services of the courtesans, let alone get an audience with the immortal beauty Li Shishi, whose artistic and musical abilities drew even The Emperor and the royal family to visit. The brothel banned relations between apprentices and courtesans for understandable reasons. It still continually bothered him though, in more ways than one.

His current job involved engraving words on stones, both precious and common ('My pet rock needs a name!'). As pretty as the final result was, the process was... more befitting for a dwarf laborer than Gao. Hammer and chisel lacked the fine elegance of the brush, after all.

Then one day...

"Well well Gao, my boy! I daresay it's your lucky day," boomed Gao's Master Artist. But Gao did not bother looking up, focusing on engraving the word for "rock" on a pet rock.

"Every day is my lucky day..." droned Gao, "what is it now, master? Another seal to mark?"

"Nonono, my boy! It's the Imperial Court!"

"Huh?" responded Gao in fright, "did I make a mistake?"

"Ha! If that meant retaining you then I wish it was. Buuuut," the Master Artist then moved closer, whispering the next words in his ear, "they like your engravings. They want you working in the court."

Gao gasped, chisel and rock dropped on the floor, "really?" he responded in utter delight, beaming ear-to-ear with eyes open wide.

"Yes! The next great court official! The next great eunuch."

"YES! YES! Ye- huh?"

~~~

There were three main ways one could join the Eastern Empire's Imperial Court. The first was being directly chosen by the royal family (this also included marriage, concubines, etc.). The second was through the rigorous Civil Service Examination, a long series of written tests on everything from history to economics to new policy suggestions/criticism (the few elves that chose this path mostly became scribes and court historians; the human Su Shi also took this test.)

The third was by removing your jewelry.

In the days before the reconciliation between Men and Elves, before the First Emperor of the Eastern Empire, the ruling kings had quite a few concubines (mostly female and occasionally male) most of the time, and they needed servants who supposedly would not be tempted by said concubines or by the ruler themselves. The kings concluded that reproductive organs caused lust, and so the eunuch was born. As the seeded fruit was on the outside, people with them were eligible to become eunuchs. Often times, criminals were punished with castration as well, except that the branch holding the fruit was removed too. People with internal jewels (the organ associated with most women) were ineligible as nobody survived the removal ordeal. Female servants did exist in the imperial court, but quite a few times they became concubines themselves.

The reconciliation between Men and Elves almost reversed due to the eunuch practice. This tradition survived the unification of the Eastern Empire and was still in place, though its actual practice depended on The Emperor. Elves abhorred castration, refusing to aid in any way towards the practice. Civil war almost broke out until a compromise was reached: only The Emperor could have eunuchs. Jewel removal became a capital punishment for everyone outside of The Emperor. Neither The Emperor, nor the consort, nor the concubines, if they had eunuchs, could not call upon an elven midwife to help with childbirth. This appeased most elves as they could simply ignore the imperial court and go about their business in and outside the capital. The realm was big, after all. As for why the empire made this concession...

Elves were just too good for the economy. Their skills as midwives and healers helped boom the population. More population meant more taxes. Also, they helped prevent anyone from poisoning themselves trying to drink mercury, lead, or arsenic to obtain immortality. Elves could spend days/weeks on end recounting all of their grief of every lost pet animal, pet grass, pet leaf, pet potted plant, pet tree, pet fungus, pet bow, pet anything-that-could-rust, pet mountain (erosion, likely made up), family member, friend, friendly rival, acquaintance, etc. in only 200 years. This sobered most emperors. The exceptions, unfortunately, were lost causes.

At this time the only elves in the imperial court were the scribes and historians. They had their own subtle ways to express their disgust, and perhaps their words would outlast them all.

Not that Gao knew much of the historical context, of course. He already lost his favorite football; he did not want to lose his euphemistic ones.

So, like someone accepting their execution, Gao made his way to the imperial palace. He went up the stairs, with the guards inspecting the recommendation letter, shaking their heads in pity, to enter the dwarven-made first gate. Then he climbed up another set of stairs to enter the stony second gate, with guards giving him more looks of pity. Then he crossed the Courtyard of Heavenly Trees and Flowers, ignoring all the butterflies and bees floating about, to reach the marble third gate where there was a single clean-shaven person garbed in the customary red government official dress in between two stone lion-dog statues.

"Aah~ You must be Gao! Come in, come in," the official with a high-pitched voice stated without even checking his papers. A little unnerved, Gao entered the gate looking at his surroundings.

In front of him was a walled palace having royal yellow sweeping gabled roofs. The corners of the roof each had an open-mouthed dragon. Trees, bushes, and other foliage hung out on the sides of the cobblestone pathways. The sound of running water could be heard as Gao imagined pools and rivers with royal fish swimming about. Birds sung their songs on the branches around them. In the distance, he could also hear some festivity going on.

The official spoke, interrupting Gao's surveying, "I am the Chief Eunuch. I see you're going to become one of us now. Ohohohoho~. Let us walk."

Gao's face lost all its color, remembering again what he was here for. Seeing no other way out, he reluctantly followed the Chief Eunuch.

"I have to be honest. It is a rather painful process, Gao," he continued, "we allow you a blindfold of course. The instruments are quite... unseemly. We cleanse them before the operation, naturally. No need for another one's dried blood inside of you, am I right~? Naturally, we put a gag or piece of wood in your mouth to prevent you from biting your tongue off or grinding your teeth. You would be surprised how strong teeth are! No need to lose your chompers as well~!"

Gao felt a little bit more lightheaded with each sentence he heard. He tried focusing instead on the birds tweeting, the wind blowing through the trees, the water running alongside like a river, the eunuch commenting about possible disgusting infections and quarantining, along with the growing sound of a football being kicked? The pair continued walking across a columned pathway next to a giant courtyard where a group of people were kicking around a ball. On either side of the courtyard were two raised hoops with fishing nets attached. Almost everyone had a green shirt on, with the exception of one person:

That person was clad in purple, having a dragon embroidered across the outfit. A grin appeared on his face each time he dribbled the ball, bouncing it up-and-down on his legs occasionally. He did not pout when the ball was intercepted, instead giving a soft chuckle as he gave chase. He appeared less than 20 years, having a thin body. His clothing appeared fresh, but his shoes had dried stains.

"...of course, we will reimburse your family should you die from the process; we do not have elven hands, unfortunately. Oh~, what a pity that they despise such a practice. Aah~, it seems you have seen the Crown Prince. Let us greet them."

Gao gulped, then he walked behind the Chief Eunuch. The group, noticing that new people had entered the courtyard, stopped their playing and waved at the newcomers. The person clad in purple waved as well.

"My Prince," the eunuch started, bowing deeply to the person in purple, "your servant would like to introduce, Gao, a soon-to-be eunuch."

The Crown Prince turned his gaze towards a certain part of the palace, muttering something under his breath, a momentary shadow on his face.

His countenance brightened, however, as he turned to greet Gao.

"Well met, Gao, it is a pleasure to meet you."

Gao immediately prostrated himself before the Crown Prince, touching his forehead upon the ground in obeisance (ketou or kowtow).

"Your insignificant servant does not deserve to be greeted by your Highness. Your servant begs forgiveness-"

"Hmm," interrupted the Crown Prince with a look of disappointment, "halfway there to enslavement already..." he promptly then turned around and picked up the football with his hands, as if finding a sudden interest in it.

Gao was unsure of what that cryptic comment and the actions meant, so he did what he thought any normal person would do in front of the second most powerful person in the East:

Slap himself.

"Your servant-ow! has erred-ow! and begs-ow! mercy!"

The Chief Eunuch, who had his eyes closed with an open smile, then opened his eyes and tried to stop Gao from hitting himself.

"Now now, the Crown Prince means that you are doing your job well already. Already becoming one of us; you learn so quick!" praised the Chief Eunuch, "now please, stop hitting yourself..."

At this point, the Crown Prince interjected, "Oh? The fault is not of yours, no. I was pondering a matter and deep in thought, you see," he turned around, seeing Gao still with his head touching the ground but no longer hitting himself, "you may rise, Gao."

After he rose, the Crown Prince, holding the football in his hands, continued, "When you were in the vicinity I could not help but notice you seemed interested in the game we were playing. Are you familiar with this sport?"

The Crown Prince raised the football with one of his hands. At this, Gao bowed, responding, "your servant has heard of and played this sport, but your Highness' knowledge is far greater than your servant's."

"Mmm," the Crown Prince nodded, then lobbed the football in the air directly towards Gao.

In a split-second, Gao considered his options. He could let the ball hit him, fall down and proclaim how strong the Crown Prince was. Then he would most likely be whisked away for castration. Or, he could...

What did Gao do? What would his choice be? To find out, read the next chapter...
Rivvy Elf
Tyro
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:17 pm

Re: Fanfic Fanfare!

Unread post by Rivvy Elf »

Chapter 1 link: https://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?p=623764#p623764
Chapter 2 link: https://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?p=623877#p623877
Chapter 3 link: https://www.the-scholars.com/viewtopic. ... 46#p623946

~~~

Author's Notes: This is a crossover of Water Margin and the works of JRR Tolkien (basically Water Margin in a Middle-Earth setting). I will be posting the censored version of my fanfiction here to comply with the PG-13 rules of the Scholars of Shen Zhou. After all, Water Margin is not PG-13 ( :pika: ). I will be... changing a lot of the characters in Water Margin so even if you know the events of that novel, prepare to be surprised and amused by some of the twists and turns I'll be taking. The major events will still occur though, worry not! Feedback, questions, and criticism is more than encouraged.

For the uncensored version of my fanfic, here's the link to the Fanfiction.net version of my work.

Fanfiction.net: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/14122835/1 ... Inland-Sea

~~~

Chapter 4: The Rise of Gao- The Power of Football (the Football that involves mostly kicking) Part II

Dongjing, Third Age Year 1927

In a split second, Gao considered his options. He could let the ball hit him, fall down and proclaim how strong the Crown Prince was. Then he would most likely be whisked away for castration. Or, he could...

With the spot between his foot and his ankle, he caught the ball as if his left ankle were a hand. Quickly lifting his left foot in the air, the ball rose airwards again. This time he moved his body as he headbutted vertically on the falling ball. The ball moved up again, its rotation slowing, and Gao angled his body so that it would flow down his back towards his right heel, like a marble rolling down a hook-shaped slope. Amidst the 'oohs' and 'aahs', once the ball reached his heel, he kicked vertically with his right heel, sending the ball skyward again. Timing the impact with precision, Gao spun 180 degrees and kicked the falling ball straight into the raised hoop's net.

Not once did the football hit the ground. Stunned silence greeted a very happy Gao… who became unhappier and more panicked with each quiet second.

He was about to prostrate himself on the ground and beg for forgiveness when the Crown Prince began clapping, a wide grin on his face. The football club also began clapping, and the Chief Eunuch himself clapped with the same grin, though his eyes were closed.

"Good... Very good! I am pleased to have met such a talented football player. It seems the realm has been blessed with your ability, Gao."

"My Lord praises me too much, for you are much greater than I," responded Gao, bowing again.

"Ha ha ha!" laughed the Crown Prince, and his facial expression became a little more serious, "though I do not think you are fit to be one of The Emperor's eunuchs... Stay your ketou! Before you ask for forgiveness let me continue.

"A eunuch would have let the ball hit them; you did not. Instead, you showed your supreme talent for football. I am impressed. So impressed that I would like for you, Gao, to be my retainer."

At once, Gao prostrated on the ground, forehead touching the floor, saying, "your servant is not worthy. Not worthy of this honor. For you are-"

"Please stand up and do not assert that I am generous and wise. We are not holding court right now and you do not need to practice the official decorum. The formalities can be ignored for what I would hope to be a prosperous friendship."

"Then what would you like your servant to do, my lord?" responded Gao, bowing.

"It is a simple action, really, one you can easily do," the Crown Prince said, "just say yes."

"Your servant accepts your gracious offer. Your highness is generous and wise," Gao squeaked, bowing again, "your servant accepts your lordship's offer, your highness."

"Excellent! (Though we do have to get you out of that practice.)" said the Crown Prince, clapping once. Everybody else clapped multiple times, including the Chief Eunuch, who still had a grin on his face but his eyes were still closed.

"There is one more thing," the Crown Prince said once the clapping stopped, "I wish to bestow upon you a new name. A given name, to signify the glorious day of our meeting that will be recorded in the annals of time."

Gao prostrated himself again, stating, "your servant will accept any name that your lordship grants me."

"That is settled then! Henceforth, your name shall be Gao Qiu. Your family name will be Gao, and your given name will be Qiu."

"Thank you, my Lord. Thank-"

It was at that point that Gao looked at some of the group who were trying to hide their sniggers, the Chief Eunuch who had his eyes closed but a twitching smile on his face, the smiling Crown Prince, seemingly unaware of the... entendre of the name, then the football itself.

Qiu (球) meant "ball."

Gao Qiu... Gao the Ball.

"Huh?"

~~~

After successfully convincing the Crown Prince to keep the name "Qiu," but to change the written character from 球 ("the character 'ball' has the word for king on the left.") to 俅 ("since your servant is a mere man, please use this written character, as the left part means 'man."), Gao Qiu felt vindicated by his new position. It took much longer than he wanted, three years since that bumpkin ruffian illiterate scumbag ruined his life, but finally, he had a job he deserved in the Eastern Empire. Though he knew that he was in the pit of snakes known as the Imperial Court, he was quickly understanding what to do and how to navigate the politics of the Eastern Empire.

His new residence was inside said Court, between the first and second gates. Perhaps one day he would obtain enough influence to become a magistrate, minister, or even the Prime Minister. No need to take the Civil Service Examination, so long as the Crown Prince was healthy. Much of his time was spent in the Imperial Football Club with the Crown Prince, which vied for contention among other Football Clubs in the Champions League of the Realm. There was no conflict of interest in having the Crown Prince as a Club member because The Emperor (when he was not coughing) said so. In Gao's spare time, he would converse with the Crown Prince on art and poetry, sharing ideas and opinions on their respective works.

Still, he could hear people on the outside, those insipid gossipers and urban riff-raff, whisper and call him "Gao the Ball." Eventually, this led to a most fortunate reunion...

"*muffle muffle* ...me in! *muffle muffle muffle*" a high-pitched voice said.

"I said *muffle muffle muffle*, Gao said *muffle muffle* you *muffle muffle muffle*" Gate Guard 1 responded.

"Yeah, what that guy said!" reiterated Gate Guard 2.

"*Loud screeching muffle* *muffle muffle*."

At this point, tired of not being able to understand what was going on, Gao slid the door open and exited his residence. A commotion was occurring outside the gate, interrupting his analysis of the scouting report on the Cangzhou Iron Lions Football Club. As he walked closer to the gate, he could discern more of the noise.

"You're the 5th person this week claiming relation to Gao Qiu. Nice try 'Lau-rel.' Now scram before we use force!"

"But I ammm related to Gao! I'm the real Yanny!" responded a very familiar high-pitched voice, "No! Unhand me; let go! Don't touch me!"

At that, Gao Qiu sprinted towards the gate, pushing it open, seeing two guards each holding on to one arm of a person he had not seen in over three years. It seemed the group did not perceive the gate opening. Yanny, his niece, had grown taller, losing much of the baby fat (malnourishment?) and appearing slimmer. Her hair was now in an elaborate bun with pink and white flowers attached to it. She had curled eyebrows and wore bright pink, her favorite color. Gao also happened to notice two missing teeth in her mouth as she was shouting.

So it wasn't baby teeth then! That bumpkin ruffian illiterate scumbag street peasant permanently mutilated his niece! If he had known then he would have told the gate guards to check for missing teeth (who now had Yanny pinned to the ground)!

"Enough!" yelled Gao before they could truncheon Yanny, "I will determine who this person is."

Of course, Gao knew who she was. He did not want to discourage the gate guards, though, as he also gave them each a copper coin for doing their job. He had other reasons though to not identify this person as his niece yet.

The pair walked through the gate, with Yanny catching up behind him, turning around to blow a raspberry at the guards, sleeves billowing as she ran with arms out.

"It's really-"

"No talking until we get to my house," stated Gao as his steps quickened. There was a pause, but he heard her follow him as they entered his residence.

Once he slid the door closed, he saw a pouting Yanny saying, "mmmph, don't you recognize your niece, Uncle?"

Gao folded his arms on his chest. "What are you doing here? How did you find me?" he bemusedly asked.

"Well, I was in the outlying farms, milking cows, picking herbs, and I heard a rumor of a person named 'Gao the Ball' entering the Imperial Court as their new football player. I knew of only one Gao who could-"

"Why are you dressed like this?" Gao asked, changing the subject and not wanting to be reminded of his new nickname.

"Eh?"

"Do you know that there have been so many men and women dressed as low-level courtesans waiting outside the Imperial Court?"

"Huh? What?"

"You could've been used up and thrown out like a rag after the officials were done with you. Seen it happen more than once."

"But... I just-"

Gao interrupted again, "this isn't the Imperial Court of children's tales, Yanny. There are wicked people here. Not as wicked as that country bumpkin (you know who I'm talking about), but selfish and greedy ones."

Yanny's mood instantly soured as she clenched her fists, "I'll remember that bumpkin for the rest of my life! We should go out and-"

"This isn't a safe place for you!" Gao barked as he slapped a desk with his hand, causing Yanny to step back. Gao closed his eyes, sighing, then he spoke with a little less haste, "I told you not to associate with me anymore. You will be in more danger the more you hang around here."

At this, she grew more animated, gesturing to her torso, "I'm not a kid anymore, uncle! I can take care of myself; I have been taking care of myself. It'll be like the old days but better since we have actual guards and soldiers now! Now everybody can and will listen to us. I will have all the shark fin soup and roasted geese that I could ever desire!"

"But Yanny, weren't you doing well for yourself in these 3 years?" Gao asked.

She looked at him as if he said the Earth was flat, "NO!"

"shhh, the walls have ears."

"No!" Yanny screeched more quietly, sounding like a bird, "I mean just look at me!"

"You look a lot healthier and hale than last I saw you," he commented. Yanny's cheeks were more angular, her torso a little bigger, and he could see good angles from her waist to her hips, "I daresay we can get a matchmaker for you now in a year or two."

"No no no!" quietly yelled Yanny, closing her eyes and getting redder in the face, "my fingernails! My hands! I still have blister scars on my feet! I'm tired of milking cows and grabbing up weeds, getting kicked by goats and pecked by mother hens. Why is it so hard for them to let me have their eggs?! Why do cats always ignore me! Why are cows never in the mood to give out milk? Why does it always rain when I don't want it to rain and it doesn't rain when I want it to? Why is it so cold in the winter and so hot in the summer?

"I'm tired of working in the fields, Uncle! I need to stay with you. Uh… huh… *sniff* uhooohooohooo."

With that, Yanny began audibly weeping, got on her knees, and ketoued towards Gao Qiu, "I'll *hic* do anything *sniff*."

Gao Qiu sighed, rubbing his temples. He turned around, pacing a little as he thought of what to do.

"There is a way," began Gao Qiu.

"What is it *hic*, Uncle?"

"You are to become my adoptive daughter. You shall be named Gao Yannei, and I can petition the Crown Prince to have you under my protection for the foreseeable future. What do you think?"

Yanny (soon to be named Gao Yannei) gasped, crawling towards her uncle (soon to be her new father), hugging his ankles.

"Yes! Of course, Uncle... I mean, Dad. Screw that other Dad anyways, loafing about, drinking all day..."

"Yes yes," responded Gao. There were tax advantages too for this, but he was not going to let her know that lest she misunderstood.

"Now... Gao Yannei, let me begin by telling you what to say to the Crown Prince. You must do..."

~~~

"It is good that you are adopting this Gao Yannei, Gao Qiu," the Crown Prince said, his focus on the Minister of the Treasury's report on the economic ramifications of paper money. The Dwarven minister (Dwarves were perfectly fine with the whole Eunuch situation as they hid their women and understood that not every human palace has a hidden cave system) had handed it to him for review before it would be sent to The Emperor.

"Your servant thanks you for your praise, Your Highness."

"Yet I was wondering why you have not sired any biological children of your own. There are more tax advantages to this, my retainer, as you may or may not know."

"Your servant sees that your wisdom is high indeed, Your Highness. But if you permit me to say that due to, and I apologize for my language, an attack from a dastardly... bumpkin... ruffian... illiterate... scumbag... troll-headed...maggot infested... stinky... street... peasant has rendered me infertile."

"Sad," commented the Crown Prince with a frown, who was circling the terms 'hyperinflation,' 'legal tender,' 'banks,' 'fiat,' and 'backed by valuable metals.' He paused and looked Gao in the eyes, stating, "well I do hope that you bring this person to justice eventually."

"Your servant humbly thanks you, Your Highness."

"And when will you speak to me like a normal person? Why not call me Zhao Ji, my birth name? Are we not friends?"

"Your servant wishes to do so, but the walls have ears."

"Indeed they do, indeed they do," conceded the Crown Prince.

~~~

Dongjing, Third Age Year 1934

And so seven years passed. The Emperor died at the age of 23 of an unknown and fell respiratory disease. Rumors were that he forgot to send the Birthday Gifts to the Agricultural (and thus, Calendar) God Mairon.

That deceased Emperor's name became Emperor Zhezong. Emperors only got their official names after their reign. After all, since there was only one Emperor, that meant that their name didn't really matter until a new one came along. He will no longer appear in this work. The Emperor is dead.

There was much sorrow. Everyone in Dongjing wore white, as white symbolized death. The streets were filled with weeping. the economy went down temporarily, and all labor ceased in order to observe the proper morning period for the ruler. It is said that the most remembered thing about him was that he coughed all day, was bedridden most of the time, and ultimately did not really do anything of note that was not done before.

The Crown Prince now became The New Emperor. Long live The Emperor. Everything went back to normal, laughter returned to the streets, and the Eastern Empire avoided a recession.

The Crown Prince's first decrees were the following:

~~~

"The Emperor has arrived!" proclaimed the Chief Eunuch towards the massive assembly.

Every important minister, general, and government figure prostrated themselves and touched their foreheads on the floor. They wore the traditional red outfit for the government official. Their red hats were shaped like miniature thrones on a cylinder, with rigid flaps extending from each side. The Emperor meanwhile, wore the traditional red and yellow embroidered outfit befitting an Emperor. His hat was similar, but the rigid flaps were longer.

To a person who never saw those hats before... they could also be used to distance themselves from other people.

"May the Emperor live up to 10,000 years... 10,000 years... Ten thousand 10,000s of years," the government chorused.

As always, the Elven scribe twitched.

"Please be seated," the New Emperor commanded.

"Thank you, your highness," the government chorused, each person taking their respective seats in the Imperial Assembly Hall.

"The Emperor has proclaimed," the Chief Eunuch said, pulling out a woodblock scroll, and reading directly from it, "that from today forward, so long as our ruling family remains on the Eastern Empire's throne, there will be no more new eunuchs."

Silence ensued in the hall as only the frenzied scribbles of the Elven scribe were heard, a smile appearing on her face.

"The Emperor has also proclaimed," continued the Chief Eunuch, whose expression was stony, "that due to the untimely death of our previous Grand Marshal. The Emperor has appointed Gao Qiu as the new Grand Marshal."

There was silence for a few seconds. Then immediately, there were whispers among the government officials. Among them, one of them stood up and walked briskly until he stopped at a distance directly from the New Emperor and prostrated himself, forehead to the floor. His beard was graying; wrinkles were appearing near his eyes.

"You may rise," the New Emperor said.

"Your highness, your servant would like to know the qualifications of this 'Gao Qiu' and why that person is now our new Grand Marshal."

"Objection!" shouted a fellow with a long beard, "you dare question our Emperor?"

"Now now," responded the New Emperor, "we will answer General Huyan Zhuo's question. Within only seven years since Sir Gao has been in my employ, Gao Qiu has proved their worth fighting corruption. Your new Grand Marshal discovered that the Champions League, the realm's football league, had a conspiracy of high corruption within all the clubs besides the Imperial Court's Club, which had none. They accordingly arrested each of the club's owners; along with every single player; seized all of their wealth, boomed our economy, and executed all the offenders combined with their families. After all, football, being a military sport originally, falls under military law.

"Does that answer your questions, General?"

"Your highness... this," began Huyan Zhuo, his graying eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

"Out of order! You dare disagree with The Emperor?" shouted the fellow with a long beard.

"Tong Guan, the military is a grave affair of the state. Decisions should not-!"

The New Emperor, nonplussed by the pair's disagreement, gave a friendly wave at the objecting general, "we understand your reservations, General Huyan. The affairs of the military are indeed the affairs of the state, but perhaps you may discuss this matter outside of this meeting. For we will begin our next item on the agenda.

"Chief Eunuch, please continue."

Huyan Zhuo hesitated as he stood up. Then he briskly walked back to his assigned seat.

"Ahem. The next item on our list is the economics report from the Minister of the Treasury," stated the Chief Eunuch.

"Please rise," the New Emperor stated, "and detail to us the current inflation rate and the updates on the value and collection of our various taxes..."

~~~

Thus began Gao Qiu's time as Grand Marshal, the head of all military forces in the Eastern Empire. He was answerable only to the New Emperor himself. His first action was to use his influence to have Gao Yannei be appointed as the Minister of Flowers.

His second...

"Give this man 20 log strikes to the back!" Gao Qiu ordered as the guards seized an older man who vaguely resembled him.

"Un...grateful... Un... ugh... filial... whelp! No... son... of mine," Gao Qiu's Father uttered, spewing out words after every strike. Soon enough, blood began soaking the back of his shirt and a red drool started pooling onto the ground below.

"I agree! Make that 40 strikes!"

The Elven scribe recording the judgment shook her head.

~~~

"You like food huh? Well, I command you to eat this mantou that may or may not be poisoned!" Gao decreed towards the person who rejected his competitive eating application.

The Elven scribe recording the judgment shook her head.

~~~

An old man with a cane, his hair and beard white as snow had appeared before the summons. It was Su "Dongpo" Shi, who once again got in trouble with the government and served time in jail. Time did him no favors, and the scholar was nearing the end of his life.

"Master Su Shi, time has not treated you well," Gao said, shaking his head in pity, "but I remember how you focused on the beauty of my essay, though the content may not have been to your liking.

"I will ensure you and the rest of your line will have every need paid for, and your family will never be in poverty. The Empire thanks you for your service."

Su Shi dropped his cane, and at once, shaking, went to his knees and did his best to prostrate before Gao Qiu.

"Lord... Lord Gao. This honor... I cannot repay," the former statesman said, bowing toward the Grand Marshal. Gao Qiu motioned for his guards to help him up (and return his cane too).

"The honor is the Eastern Empire's. Farewell!"

The Elven scribe had a quizzical expression on her face, unsure what to make of this.

~~~

"Old Boss. I order you to make me a family seal, made out of whatever material suits a Grand Marshal. You shall be compensated accordingly."

The Elven scribe recorded the proceedings without much of an expression.

~~~

Soon enough came the first mass military assembly meeting introducing the new Grand Marshal. The military had its own Assembly Hall fashioned in similar architecture to the Imperial Court's. It was on an artificially elevated part of the city where officials needed to climb multiple flights of stairs. Two lion statues, each crushing a baby lion in one paw and a football in the other, greeted the visitors as they entered the building. There was not much of a line queue as there were three entranceways. The only people allowed to carry weapons inside were the Grand Marshal and the guards.

Gao Qiu awaited all of the generals, army instructors, and head constables. Many of the generals had ridden in from abroad, so the new Grand Marshal was eager to make a good first impression. In particular, he wanted to meet with the Head Arms Instructor, Wang Jin, as that person's handwriting was quite deplorable and he could barely understand her reports. Regardless, she was widely respected so that was yet another person he needed to make a good impression on.

Gao Qiu was no fool. The military was not one he could bully about. For, even though the New Emperor was on his side, nothing exactly prevented an unfortunate "accident" requiring a new Grand Marshal.

Those thoughts went out the window when he saw her enter the building.

The back fist to the face… The hit in the solar plexus… The slaps to the face… The punting of his crotch… All the pain, the years of suffering and disappointment, rushed back to his brain in an instant.

He saw red.

Rising and pointing towards the middle entranceway at a wide-eyed Wang Jin, he yelled, "EXECUTE THEM!"

Will Wang Jin be executed? The answer lies in the next chapter.
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