The Magpie Leaves its Nest, Fleeing Winter
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It’s always a pleasant surprise to walk into the Capital of Tranquil Yin. Each trip taken is like stepping into a new world, the city growing with each visit in manners no God can predict. Farmland mix with wooden temples that reach into the Heavens, allowing prayers to reach Nandou Xingjun, the Deva that grants fortune unto the farmers and their crops. All rivers under Heaven connect at the center of the city, where the Great Palace is situated, resting upon the back of the great Dragon Turtle, protector of the Capital.

A new building has been built next to the Palace, rivaling its grandeur: The Great Royal Library. A construct of seven floors, a mixture of wood, clay and stone, reinforced with the finest bronze, hundreds of tiger statuettes protecting the temple’s balustrades, ensuring no evil destroys this temple of human ingenuity.

Inside the Library was every book known to man, and several known only to the denizens of the sky. The manuscripts occupied many forms, from treaties carved into the scapulae of oxen to a new art of recording history: The use of dried leather to carve matters of utmost importance. All these books have been acquired and then organized by the King’s scribes, a massive flock of all types of birds, gifts granted by the Devas.

The flock is divided into different species, each carrying a different duty. Cranes, with their great wisdom, organize the books in ways only natural to them. Owls, with their perfect memory, know where each book is located, and guide the patrons wherever that which they need is. The Great Falcons, beasts the size of houses, fly and carry the heaviest books wherever they are needed, oft accompanying officials in their trips, carrying their royal decrees. They also carry those who are too weak to climb the Library's many stairs. The Crows, malicious yet just, flock around robbers and those with impure hearts, barring them from the Library, acting as its royal guard.

A hundred thousand Sparrows fly across the King’s land, collecting stories that haven't yet been written, and relay them to a hundred thousand Quails, their beaks the perfect knives, transcribing tales into materials fetched by a hundred thousand Orioles.

Finally, the Head Librarian, the Magpie, is hardly ever inside the Library, flying all over the King’s land, searching for all text with the most value, exchanging riches of all kinds for clay tablets and turtle shells. The Magpie is always on the hunt for that which shines. She never falls for empty words and thoughtless script. One cannot barter with the magpie; if she does not approaches you, then your words have little value to the people of the Capital.

I have had many encounters with the Head Librarian these past ten years. She has promised to give me gold, silver, bronze, mercury, eternal life, eternal love, eternal fortune, reign over all four cardinal directions, reign over all stars over the sky, reign over all land under Heaven, and so fortth. All in exchange for the book in which I chronicle the tales of man. The book is still within my grasp, else these words would never be conveyed. The Magpie knows she cannot obtain that which she wishes the most, for the value of my writing is equal to the sum of all human culture, forever incalculable. And yet, she still tries, for the Magpie is stubborn.

As soon as I set my foot inside the Library, the Magpie appeared in front of me, ready for her next proposal.

"Allow the chronicles to remain, noble Tianhong, and I'll grant you a Mansion above, in the vastness of the firmament. The Mansion of the Scribe, situated within the Yellow Dragon; no other accompanies Him. You will rule alongside the King of Kings, all the universe your plaything.” The Magpie spoke. “What say you?”

“I have no desire in leaving the Earth. My place is not among the stars, but on this land, within this book’s grasp.” A simple response for such simple proposal.

The Magpie sighed. "I yield then. If I am unable to convince you on this house of wisdom, I will not convince you anywhere else."

"You will never convince me, I'm afraid." I told the Magpie, before handing her this book. "For there is no need to do so."

The Magpie stared at the book, then turned to stare at me. She spoke no word, shock plastered over her face.

“The book will not be yours, and it won't be your Master’s, but the words on it are the property of all beings under Heaven. You are free to transcribe them and keep the copies. Anyone is. These words are meant to be shared. I will not deny you their value."

The Magpie turns to the book one more time before breaking into laugh. "So I've been tricked."

“A trick implies deception. I never lied to you. You wished the book; you never asked for its content.”

"You could have told me about the transcript." The Magpie pointed out.

"I could have, and then you would have followed me, asking to take the book to transcribe it instead of waiting for me to come here." I explained to the Librarian. "Nothing would have changed, so I decided to offer up the transcription inside the Library, where you would need not to wait a single day for it."

"How thoughtful of you. I'm not content, for I would rather have the only copy, the one that truly shines, but this will suffice." The Magpie muttered before clapping her hands. Seven Quails fly up to her, picking the book, thus beginning the process. Thousands of years are contained within the pages of this book; the Quails finished transcribing in eight hours.

While I waited for the transcript, I decided to visit the Capital. While I gathered of men and women, the Magpie followed my every step, collecting stories of her own out of me, stories she would then relay onto her flock of librarians. It seemed as though she didn't want to waste a single second while I was here, extracting as much 'value' out of my words as possible. I did not mind, of course. The more people the words contained within this book reach, the better.

The day finally passes, and I prepared to leave. This book is returned to my hands, not missing a single page nor a single word. With the promise of allowing the Royal Library to make a copy of my works whenever I visit, and the hope that this house of wisdom will enlighten the land for ages to come, I took to the skies.

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It’s hard to believe the Town of Yin was once the Capital of all land under Heaven. It was once the City from which all roads came from, to which all rivers connected, where people from all Kingdoms came visit. Now, it's an abandoned town, home only to the ruins of ages past. Pieces of the many Palaces and Temples built throughout history can be seen scattered across empty fields, remnant of long forgotten battles. A mountain now stands tall where the Great Palace once did the same, the tutelar Dragon of Yin having long succumber, his body having turned into salt and stone.

For many years, however, the Royal Library remained, the last gem of a previous Dynasty. Even when the Capital moved, and everyone else moved with it, the Library remained. Five of its seven floors have disappeared, and yet what remained of the flock still carried out on their duties, transcribing texts just as they had at Yin’s apex, allowing any any wandering scholar to find a lesson yet to learn.

Now, nine hundred and thirty four years after its conception, it will be taken down, its content soon to become a pyre. The King of Qin has decided its fate, and the King’s word is absolute. He has become the Fire Ruler of Heaven, and has decided all history before him must disappear. The Royal Library is part of this history.

When I arrived at the location, I see a storm of feathers ascend from within the Library, thousands of birds flying into the sky, each carrying a text of some kind. I stepped inside, seeing more birds picking up all content, attempting to save all they can from destruction. Among them is the Magpie, who turns to meet me. Despite my consistency, unbroken throughout the centuries, she looks surprised.

"So it's been 21 years already." The Magpie spoke, exhaustion in her voice, like a willow twig that is soon to break under a harsh winter wind.

"So it's been." I replied, before pulling a copy of my journey for the past one and twenty years out my sleeve, giving her the book. She refused to take it.

"I don't want a copy this time, Tiantian. I want the real book." It was my time to be surprised, for she hadn't requested for it in centuries.

"You know my answer."

"I do indeed. You and the book will never be separated." She replied, taking my hand in hers. "I want you to come with me. We'll leave this unjust world, and find a new Library. A better one."

I couldn't help but feel pity for the Magpie. "I'm afraid I cannot go with you."

"You don't understand. You must come with me. We've found a Library that extends eternally, fat from the reach of Kings and Devas. A place where our work will not suffer because of men, nor will it be judged by Deities. A place where they'll remain past the time we become nil."

"I know of the place you speak of. It will keep you and the books here safe." I told the Magpie, taking her wings on my own. "But I cannot follow. My work does not suffer because of man; it exists thanks to them. To leave would be going against my Heavenly duty.”

"And is that a bad thing?!" The Magpie cried. "You'll be killed if you stay."

"I will not." I spoke with confidence, putting my work's copy in her hands. She begrudgingly accepted it this time. “And even if I am to die, it won't change my mind. To deny the cycle of Samsara is to deny existence.”

And so the Magpie's last attempt ended, with the bird shedding her last tears while on Earth, holding the book that signaled said defeat.

"So it's goodbye then." Were the next words she spoke. I shook my head.

"Goodbye arrives in a day." I told her, my hand removing the tears resting on her face. "Today, we spend the hours we have left, for this might be the last time we see each other. Wouldn't that be better than a goodbye?"

"Of course it'd be." The Magpie exclaimed. "But a single day will not erase our parting."

"It needs not to be erased, but remembered." I told the Magpie, taking her wing into my hand. "So let's make it worth remembering."

Following these words, we spent a fine day together. In truth, it was not worth remembering, for we spent the day like the many others we'd spent before. A forgettable yet unforgettable last day, the The last tranquil day of the Great Royal Library, and my last encounter with the Magpie.

Upon the day's end, I depart, but not before deciding to humor the Magpie by making a deal with her.

"I might not be able to bring you copies whenever you next go, so I offer a small token in exchange." I told the Magpie, producing a small wooden box where I kept brushes and hairpins. On its front now rests a crude drawing, a memento. "I'm no Apsara, or muse of the arts, but I hope it at least satisfies you. Keep it, so you remember me, through both smiles and cries."

The Magpie accepted it, embracing the gift. "I've never seen anything shine more. Thank you." She said, few words that meant many, many more.

The moment ended with an embrace, such that each of us could forever remember the warmth of a dear friend.

"I'll miss you." Said the Magpie.

"I'll miss you too." Replied the Celestial.

Then we both took off, our paths refusing to cross.

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