A Long-Lasting Dream IX: Cadence and Cascade

Author: hsiwangmu
Published: 2018-03-01
A tale of an empire that was, or could've been.
A story about dreams, and waking, and death.

The story of the resurgent Qing Empire, but most of all, the people present within.

Part of the campaign:

A Long-Lasting Dream

Previous part:

Game: Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game

A Long-Lasting Dream VIII: Indiscipline

Images: 27, author: hsiwangmu, published: 2018-02-20

The air is colder here. Unseasonably cold. We weren't entirely prepared, but - so it is.

But the snow has proven an blessing in disguise.
Tracking units is more - has a simplicity to it, and the enemy doesn't particularly understand the value of covering their tracks, or perhaps they do understand, but are too disorganised to take advantage of it.

Quite a few sick.
Many losses due to attrition - terrible stuff.
I've thrown this letter out, several times, and started writing anew. I don't know what to say, and I don't want to talk abut anything.

What does that mean, Hiro?

I don't know.

Understanding any of it is just - it's a bit too much.
So I've resolved not to think about anything at all; and it's served me quite well.

The army is fighting well. The men are trained, disciplined, and firm in their defence of China. All seems to be going well, better than well, better than planned.

So - hopefully, I shall return home soon.


There's so much I miss.

But it all feels insubstantial; as if I'm dreaming. As if I never had a daughter, or a wife, and the sound of your voice was an illusion.

I miss your poetry.

And I know it isn't much, but I - I thought...

First fell the snow

so cold, and primal

reminding me of your smile

before I left.

Yet, what of the brightly shining sun

drawing shadows

across your eyes?

I tread the ancient steps

that long-dead lovers cherished

but only ghosts remain here

and only a greater purity remains.

Would that I could give

a thousand treasures

of brass, of silver, and gold

to recall the shape of your face

as we parted ways;

the shallow bridge I have crossed

has flooded

and I can only watch the tide.

Yet in this I do not despair

for the warmth


Pujie stared at the paper in front of him, and ground it beneath his fingertips.
There was a horrible beauty to all of it. The Japanese and their allies had entrenched themselves well, but it was not so long ago that all memory of the place was lost - and perhaps even if it had been a hundred years, or ten thousand, some part of his soul would've known it well.

But even with the help of sappers and turncoats, the Japanese had fought fiercely - if foolhardily, with little of their storied discipline.

And though the orders had been given to spare the ancient gardens and terraces and all the old architecture...
Pujie strode out from his encampment.

Morale amidst the rank and file was high; he did not think of himself as a good leader, but his men seemed willing to follow; many of the enlisted were from the far-western provinces, eager to prove their loyalty after having been saved from religious mania and the dreams of madmen.

Yet, if there were other Jurchen men in his unit, they did not speak Manchu nor bade themselves known.

... Not that it mattered.

He shut his eyes, removed his glasses, and rubbed at them - wondering if the heavy feeling against hi shoulders was what had driven great men to vice.

But the snow-lighted land swam back into focus as he replaced his glasses upon his face, and - he could write the letter later. And - he would.

The fire within him made it impossible to ignore the destruction around them; and though it was 'Manchuria' they returned to, the skepticism of Northerners proved that there was no great love for the Qing Empire here.

So even after all of this sacrifice...

Pujie sighed, and watched his breath freeze up against the air.

Only patches of discoloured ground hinted at the loss of life that had taken place here; frozen in time, for this moment.

Eventually, they would fade, and spring would melt even the memory, and the young fools who had fought to protect their own empire would be forgotten.

And perhaps that was the way of all wars; to be forgotten, in time.

"Sir. A diplomatic cable from the Premier."

One of his aides-de-camp cut through the unpleasant chill like a knife; and duty, Pujie found, was a wonderful balm against higher thought.

Somehow, he could almost feel Kung's nervous energy through the telegraph itself, but - there was more to it than that.

The rumours meant that Germany was failing economically as well as militarily, and with the collapse of the German colonial enterprise in central Africa...

One wondered what that meant for ambitious and weak powers, alike.

... Pujie wrote a terse response, and hoped that some degree of optimism - optimism that he did not feel - shone through.

Encamped, there was no privacy; and despite the fact that the common soldier was incredibly respectful, he felt as if he was being watched at all times...

Not helped by the fact that the Emperor had ensured that many of his men had only received basic training, making them little better than armed milita.

... But they were good men, and fought as their Emperor demanded.


Pujie rubbed at his forehead, and tired to figure out what the rest of it meant; but - there was one solace, if only one.

What might come -

It had been home, once.

And perhaps all was going well.
... None of it was going well.

Xianyu fumed silently and moved down the line; security had been tightened after the initial lapse, of course, but - the attempt against the Emperor had only served to make his reign stronger - or at least his personal popularity.

But that was where the good news ended; the crowd of marchers demanding an end to the war seemingly endless.

Inspired by the news of repeated Totalist triumph in all theatres of Eurasia, an uneasy mix of ultra-nationalists (who mourned the blood of even of China's sons), ultra-radicals (demanding piece by dint of blood), intellectuals (very uneasy in the presence of the prior groups), and disenfranchised 'new peasantry' mingled...

Surprisingly co-ordinated.

Thankfully, however, the desire for some kind of change was tempered by the fact that every soul in China could see the wretched state of the world outside; and though one of the most strongly echoed sentiments was that barely-Chinese land in Manchuria was not worth dieing for...

It was an opinion that was being voiced, and protested, peacefully.

Puyi had been - flexible, this time.
Of course, he'd always been the type to fold easily after even a slight victory...

Her dark-humoured chortle attracted no attention, and she continued to watch the crowd mingle; protesting, still, but also socialising.

And the more it became an 'event' the less it became a 'protest', until it faded and died, and the veneer of normalcy returned.
... But that wasn't the worst of it.
Of course.

A surprisingly large force from the International Mandate had gone to help fight in the Manchurian Theatre. A show of loyalty, perhaps; but foolish.

The Emperor'd recalled garrisons, gendarmerie, and in-training units alike - leaving the entirety of the Legation -

Former Legation Cities, entirely undefended.

Naturally, the Japanese Empire had seized on such an obvious opportunity, with a glee that had made her double down on her deeply held beliefs -

But whether or not people were awful, it had provided a wonderful, terrible opportunity for Puyi, and therefore - perhaps - for China.
Landings in Shanghai had been virtually unopposed, and indeed, the strictest orders of the Emperor to those privy to them were to stand down; and let the Japanese take what beachheads they could.

Caution overwhelmed the initially raucous and undisciplined Japanese forces, and they'd soon entrenched themselves in somewhat fortified locations along the coast - with many smaller landings too insignificant in number to have even made the official tally.

Panic had gone up amongst the international quarter almost immediately; despite the restrained behaviour of the Japanese soldiers and officers, wide-spread fear of looting built up around the are like a wildfire.

Even though the Japanese had chosen to play their best cards and put on their best face, peace and riches had bought loyalty, or at least a love of stability.
The wreckage of the USN Yosemite (Pacific Claimant) was still visible off the bay.
Occasionally, she went out to stare at it - and she wasn't alone.

Nobody had plans to clean the damn thing up.
It felt like nobody had plans for anything, anymore.

Popular opinion was that the Japanese had began shelling the civilian vessel after an attempt to barter supply, but it didn't matter whether that was true, or a persistent rumour; it'd turned the already festering tide against the Japanese, and before they'd had a chance to prepare, a different kind of tide had descended down upon them.
Entrenched and well-prepared for chemical warfare, urban combat and long periods of defence-in-depth, the Japanese forces weren't expecting near-endless retaliatory raids by the Airforce of the Cascades, complete disruption of the line of battle, and information warfare.

The Emperor, for his many faults, had been.

In disarray and disconnected from one another, each of the tiny Japanese holdings was assaulted, pushed back, encircled, and severed.

Several units were captured whole, and allowed to surrender; the terms given were generous to the point of foolishness, unless, of course, one placed great point of pride on ones humility...

After the first scheduled protest, the line of Japanese soldiers parading down crowded streets continued on for hours on end; for a far greater period of time than any one demonstration.



Xianyu murmured, quietly -

But there was nobody around to hear it.
Immediately afterwards, Puyi had dissolved the autonomy of the former Legation Territories; though with generous terms guaranteeing -

But what was a guarantee, really?

A promise, she mused.

A promise backed up by force -

And there was simply no power that could compete with the Qing Empire, anymore.

So the generosity was for show, and everyone knew it. But it almost didn't matter; compared to the horror stories coming out of nightmares erupting from the unquiet world, it was all fine, right?

Her heart craved another cigarette, but they hadn't been quite as satisfying as of late. Nothing had been, really.

Puyi'd been overjoyed, recently.
Had trouble understanding why she wasn't, why Pujie wasn't, why nobody else was.

Maybe that was the crux of it; he couldn't understand.


Maybe it was impossible for anything to turn out well.
The reflection in the mirror

was a river, unlike any other

and if the river was my heart

no dark soil would cloud her waters.

Your stifled whisper

still reaches to me

from the radio;

and as the sun falls through the clouds

so too do I say to you

that love does not drown, my dear.

And I will wade to reach you

until our fingers meet, once more.
Hiro finished writing, and stared at it.

... She'd never had the heart to tell him, or anyone, really, of course, but she didn't particularly care for poetry. It always felt - a lie.

Like wearing a delicate mask over a fine brocade, which of course all people did - in one way or another.

... But as his letters had died off, she'd known the reason why, almost as instinctively as she'd read the call for help in the one that finally arrived; and how it had spoken of a place where a river met its soul.

No guests came by, anymore.

Perhaps it was the Emperor's way of punishing her, though she wasn't entirely certain why. But she suspected it had nothing to do with that at all; that he simply did not understand, or could not understand, all that remained outside of his immediate sight.

... And though she held a deep-seated anger at a man that could choose to break so foolish a war over so peaceful a continent, and a man who could be so vile to his own brother...

It was more difficult to hold onto hate.
And - she'd share her complaints when Pujie returned.
As he would.
As she knew he would.

"... You know. Not certain I can actually get this to him."

"I know that. But even if I sent a hundred letters, and none reached him, I would continue to send them."

Huisheng hid behind her, and stared up at Xianyu with inquisitive, slightly distrusting eyes.

Xianyu coughed, and - laughed, a bit, quietly.

"... People like you... Hum. Well, I suppose I'll have to entrust it to a very reliable guy. And I know just the man."
The sky roiled around him; felt pleasant, really. Like an old lover, with a terrible temper and half her hair braced from a storm!..

But that was February in the north for you; miserable in the best damn way.

He had no idea how that crazy woman had managed to find him in Tibet, of all places; but one of the monks he'd been hounding had gotten the terrifying glint of recognition in his eyes, and -

Relayed a rather strange request.

So it was that Otto Ciliax found himself in a home away from his home, as the other fell to the ravages of war.

Up in the air, it was easier to think; you weren't dragged down to earth by your worries or cares.
He rather liked the idea of enlightenment, the more he thought about it. The idea of it, not the actual spiritual or worldly discpline, but...

"Year of the Dragon, is it. Bah!"

And Otto laughed, and the howling wind laughed with him.
Several stops later, despite the best intelligence that Xianyu had been willing to part with, he'd managed to track down the other brother at long last. And he felt bowlegged on the ground, as he always did, but that didn't stop him from striding over from the makeshift airstrip and bellowing out to the encamped soldiers -

Who simply stared at him bemusedly, having received clearance not to shoot him down in advance, of course.
... Rather deflated the fun of it.

One of the Turkoman - was that right term for it, damn China for being so huge - attaches glided over to him, and it took him a moment to recognise the damn wide grin and the damn familiar patch...

"You're one of my fellows?!"

Bellowed Otto (again), and he received only a shrug in supply.

"We've come a long way. I'd say you'd probably stand to learn a thing or two from me - "

"Don't you dare joke like that. I haven't met a plane I can't fly..! But this is important - "

"How important, damn important?"

"Damnit! I mean, yes! I need to see that idiot Pujie before his optimism gets him killed!"

"An optimist..?"

The peculiar look of a man who wasn't certain if he understood, let alone agreed, with something just said - it darted across the young pilot's face.

But he nodded.

"Right. Well, as you can see, we swept through the Japanese all too quickly. I'll take you to him, if you've a moment..."
Otto didn't understand the fine print of it; he knew enough to know that the Japanese grip on China had all but disintegrated overnight. Apparently, one of their puppets had held a change of heart - probably had always had sympathies, of course, but...

Pujie looked up, didn't seem to recognised him - then whipped his head back so quickly his glasses fell to the side and struck the floor with an audible crick.

... Was (damn) amazing how quickly an attendant could vanish in awkward moments. Maybe Xianyu'd been teaching everyone how to turn into fog, or whatnot -


And - and Pujie smiled, truly smiled.

"Otto, you... You, haha, crazy bastard?! I'd half-imagined you were fighting syndicalists above the skies of France, right now - "

"... A useless fight, that. There isn't a France, after all, anymore. Just Mosley's Atlantic Pact."

"O, oh. I haven't heard news from the rest of the world recently but - that sounds..."

Wincing, Otto, nodded and massaged the back of his neck. Damn, but he felt old - not too old to fly, or to fight, but - tired.

"... It is. As bad as you think, and worse. Felt I might as well die in a place I felt home, though. Hah! But enough of that. The Emperor's wolf gave me mail to give to you - "

"Oh... If my brother sent me more commands, I swear I'll... I'll..."

Pujie trailed off as he took the letter.

It was short; Otto hadn't glanced at it.
Rude, after all.

And he looked away before he could see how Pujie reacted; a man's private thoughts should remain his own.

... But, well, he might have smiled a bit himself.

"Good to be home."
Home had returned - and everything was well.

Puyi had been frustrated that his brother had managed to complete his increasingly impossible tasks one after the other, but his frustration could not stop him from appreciating competency; and the reality that almost all of it was his, that it'd almost all returned to the Empire...

He'd spent a great deal of his recovery in reflection.

Occasionally, Xianyu came by; she had the mercy to not speak, but to just spend time patiently writing, waiting for him to.

And he had no plans to - there was no room left for trust, even if he wanted, desperately, for somebody to understand and approve of it all.

But - she didn't approve, clearly. None of them did.
... And yet...

He'd heard in the various demonstrations a recurring refrain - why could the Emperor not accept peace?

Recently, two powers far tenser than Japan and China had been had managed to avert war.

Yet, they missed the point.

He watched smoke fade into dust, dancing around him.

None of this was for his benefit.
... And later, when he was gone - then...

Puyi inhaled deeply of amber resin, and stretched his arm; it felt good, and he felt good.

All was well.
... He'd even been approached by a diplomat from the Delhi 'Raj' - and as much as it was impossible for him to trust in the Canadians...

To know that they viewed China, that they viewed him as an equal...

And there was a beauty to it.

Spheres of interest, perfectly divided; clean, clear, crisp natural borders. He'd been gentle with Kung after having - lost his temper, admittedly, a few times too many.

Given him free reign to figure out how to win over the Canadians.

It wouldn't win back the man's trust, perhaps, but - as long as he was feared, he might as well be loved, too.

... Yes, that was certainly true...

And it didn't matter, really.
For it was all returned to him.
To China; to the dream of China.

... He might sleep again, and dream well.
In the fading hours of the war, many Japanese settlers desperately tried to figure out where they were safest - but Puyi had prepared for this in advance, had planned out his speech too many times to count; and without his brother in his way, it would be another one of his own speeches, without interference.

"All you displaced, who have settled in rightful Chinese lands; know that no man in China holds your parentage against you, or the land of your birth. I say to you know, as I will say to all others - that China welcomes all who call her land home..."

The radio address was widely broadcasted across the world, and he later heard to some degree of smug satisfaction that it had been dubbed the 'Gateway on the River' speech.

Nearly three hours long, he'd nearly collapsed at several points; even so close to his goals as he was, he wasn't a speaker, and such speeches tended to drone on.

But as long as he'd lived, he'd wanted it - wanted to feel at home.

Wanted to feel as if he'd had a home.

It was - the only time he could, and had, shown a part of himself to his people and to the rest of the world - a real part of who he was.

... And by the end, they had accepted it.
Of course, to contrast it to the terms foisted on the Japanese Empire...

His demands, he felt, were simple.

That Japan swear a pact that their emperor would forever be a brother-emperor under the protection of China; a return of Chinese lands and an end to Japanese imperialism.

A complete dismantlement of the Corporate-Industrial estates and the Japanese Army Cliques.

The return of 'Formosa,' Sahaliyan island, assorted island territories.

... And several other minor and unimportant demands.
An anti-militarist pacifist coalition swept through the Japanese Diet, helmed by social democrats and intellectuals - finally, Puyi mused, a good use for all of them.

Which left only one last matter.
The Bund was, of course, a familiar sight.

It had grown only more prosperous and more wealthy under joint stewardship; and even the abortive Japanese invasion had done little damage.

And it was the perfect place to meet with the 'German' diplomats, and Puyi made a point of mentioning how the Chinese Mark was now far and above the German original.

Oh, it was petty, and he knew!
But his blood sung!

... There were no guards with him; the Germans could no longer afford security, after all. There was nothing, he felt, that they could threaten him with - and so, even sickly and reeling, he felt as if he swaggered, and towered over the bureaucrats, so quick to kowtow.

"You know the demands of China, of course."

"We refuse."

Herr Rabe began, and Puyi felt his eyes bulge.

"... Unless you are willing to commit to the fight against syndicalism. Germany has called all her old allies to the fight; she needs China, Emperor."


Puyi lay back in the seat, and wondered if he should rely on courtiers more often; for it would've been nice to have somebody attendant to him. And yet...

"I've only one demand, then."

He shut his eyes.

"... Bring the old man over here. I want him to ask me, personally."


Hoarsely shouted a man at Rabe's right - but there was a strange inflection to it that Puyi could not place.

"... Oh, is it now? Is it so impossible for an Emperor to abscond with another Emperor? Well, it should be a pity for Germany to find herself at war on so many fronts...

But he'd misread the man, who was slumped in his chair, head in his hands.

And Herr Rabe stared at him, eyes almost blank.

"I'm sorry, Emperor; but the Kaiser passed on in his sleep, a week ago, God rest his soul."

He had been wrong; and even now, the old man had the last laugh.

Puyi crooked his neck to the table, and smirked, and laughed himself - and laughed until he felt he might retch, or strike one of the men before him.

... But, if that was the case...
"... Then there is no reason for my refusal. The Empire of China shall aid the Empire of Germany in her holy struggle against the dark forces of the world."

Peace had only lasted for a window of time - but if the world's destiny was to be at war, he would be remembered for having returned China to her rightful place -

And he would not be forgotten as the sky turned to fire around them.
Not that any of it mattered, right now.

For as unfair as the treaty had been, with it - a revelrous dream had gripped China, and all who truly thought of it as home - and the dream continued unabated, until the cold light of dawn forced the nation to awaken to what her Emperor had drawn her into...

Next chapter:

Game: Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game

A Long-Lasting Dream X: Sailor\'s Tale

Images: 27, author: hsiwangmu, published: 2018-03-07, edited: 2018-03-08

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