Wu Zetian

Empress VS


Fujimaru 1: Hopping mad right out of the gate!?

Fujimaru 2: Whatever it was, I'm sorry, Your Imperial Majesty!

Wu Zetian: Hmm. Well, for the moment, I commend you for knowing your place and apologizing with all due profuseness.

Wu Zetian: However, you are not the problem!

Mash: Wh-what's the matter, Wu Zetian?

Wu Zetian: It's outrageous! Abhorrent! Abominable! Just take a look at this!

Mash: ...A letter?

Wu Zetian: Is it not horrendous!? It's impertinent! Insolent! Inexcusable! Grrr, just reading it again makes my blood boil!

Mash: Um...this is Chinese, right? I'm sorry, but I don't know Chinese...

Mash: Oh, but you said you studied it before you came to Chaldea, right, Senpai? Can you tell what it says?

Fujimaru 1: (Uh, I took an intro class and this is not beginner's stuff.)

Fujimaru 2: (Even if I knew more, this handwriting is way beyond my level.)

Wu Zetian: I see. So you can't read it yourself then. You remind me of a small animal, with the way you are always cocking your head. I shall call you Pá Tù, or “little rabbit,” from now on.

Wu Zetian: ...Wait, does this mean I must read the contents of this dreadful letter for you myself!?

Wu Zetian: Grrr, how utterly infuriating! I cannot believe I need to waste my time like this!

Mash: I'm sorry for the trouble, but I'm afraid we don't have any other way of finding out what's bothering you. What does the letter say?

Wu Zetian: Translating the whole thing sentence by sentence would make me blow a gasket, so I'll just summarize.

Wu Zetian: It is a letter filled with the most horrid insults about me!

Mash: !?

Wu Zetian: It says I am a coward who fears ghosts, and a child who dislikes cats! Completely untrue!

Wu Zetian: It is not that I dislike them or get nervous around them. I simply do not care for them. Who does this writer think they are, ridiculing me in such a fashion!?

Wu Zetian: Grrr, I knew it. Just thinking about what it says makes me see red...!

Wu Zetian: And here is the real problem. It is clear that whoever sent this letter does not like me.

Wu Zetian: Evidently, it is not enough for the writer to insult me. They claim a desire to settle things with me, and include coordinates telling me where to meet them.

Mash: ...Are you going to go?

Wu Zetian: Of course! As an empress, I cannot let such grave insults pass. Whoever wrote this must be punished.

Wu Zetian: You will come with me, Master Pá Tù! In fact, I am here to collect you for this task!

Fujimaru 1: Me? Why!?

Wu Zetian: Oh, right. You could not read it, so you could not see that it explicitly says to come with you.

Wu Zetian: Perhaps they wish for you to attend as a witness to our duel.

Wu Zetian: While I am loathe to comply with the directions of this foul criminal, I cannot hope to exact justice upon them if I do not do as they say.

Wu Zetian: One must always sweat the small stuff before one can sweat the big stuff.

Wu Zetian: Oh, do not worry. Once the culprit is revealed, that will be the end of it.

Wu Zetian: By the time I am through punishing them for their unforgivable first-degree crime of “dissing” me...

Wu Zetian: ...they will wish they had never so much as thought to write that letter! Keh heh heh...!

Wu Zetian: Now, come, Master. You too, uh...Mash!

Mash: ...I guess I don't have any right to say no.

Mash: I just hope we can help guide this escapade somewhere peaceful, Senpai!

Wu Zetian: Oh! I was so furious I almost forgot. That little cat who goes around screeching “fou” isn't here with you, is it!?

Wu Zetian: If it popped up out of nowhere, I think my heart would sto–I mean, I might accidentally end up skinning it alive! (Sideways glance)

Mash: As usual, I'm afraid I don't have a good answer for you about whether Fou is a cat or not...

Mash: ...but now that you mention it, I haven't yet seen him today. He must be off playing somewhere else.

Wu Zetian: Good, good. If I never see that little furball again, it will still be too soon.

Wu Zetian: Now come, let us be on our way before that strange cat returns to this room!

Mash: (...It certainly looks to me as though Wu Zetian is afraid of cats...)

Mash: So...whoever wrote the letter told you to meet them somewhere inside Chaldea?

Wu Zetian: No, they did not.

Mash: Then...what are we doing here?

Mash: Given how upset you were, I thought we would be storming the meeting place immediately...

Wu Zetian: Then you thought wrong. I am neither impetuous nor impulsive.

Wu Zetian: I may be noble, but I am not like those other foolish emperors who have their nobility and nothing else.

Fujimaru 1: You always work so hard!

Fujimaru 2: You always try your best!

Wu Zetian:

B-be quiet! That is not what I am talking about!

Wu Zetian: I only mean that I am both calm and collected, as any good ruler must be.

Wu Zetian: The first order of business in any endeavor is to solidify your position...in other words, to gather information.

Mash: I'm not sure I would describe how you were acting earlier as “calm and collected”...

Mash: Anyway, I presume you mean gathering information about whoever wrote the letter?

Wu Zetian: Indeed. It would be the height of foolishness to enter the enemy's domain without a plan when we have plenty of time to prepare.

Wu Zetian: First, we shall discover the identity of this the letter's impudent author, or at least obtain a hint that may end up saving us some time.

Wu Zetian: If we should end up coming face-to-face with this villain while investigating their identity, well, that is quite all right with me.

Wu Zetian: After all, it is not a fight with this person that I desire. Instead, I want the quickest possible route to giving them the punishment they so richly deserve!

Fujimaru 1: So, where are we headed now then?

Wu Zetian: Keh heh heh. Between this style of Chinese from my original time period, and this handwriting I am unfamiliar with, this accursed letter is itself a veritable treasure trove of information.

Wu Zetian: As you know from how you could not make heads nor tails of it, there are precious few people here who could have written such a letter.

Wu Zetian: That, in turn, makes it very easy to narrow down our list of suspects!

Wu Zetian: In fact, we are heading towards the first of them as we speak. This letter was written with a brush, after all!

Katsushika Hokusai: Huh? A letter?

Wu Zetian: Correct! Now fess up! It was you who wrote that insolent, impudent missive, wasn't it!?

Katsushika Hokusai: The hell're ya talkin' about? What would I go and do something like that for?

Wu Zetian: So, you would feign innocence, eh. Well, if you think I am simply going to wait for you to confess, you clearly do not know how capable my Torturers are at extracting information.

Wu Zetian: Besides, everyone in Chaldea knows that you and brushes go hand in hand!

Katsushika Hokusai: Hah. You might be right about that, but my thing is paintin' pictures, not writin' letters!

Katsushika Hokusai: I'm a painter. That's what I do. I wouldn't go writin' a letter without a single illustration even if you paid me.

Wu Zetian: R-really? Then, you truly did not write this?

Mash: If I may, I can't imagine what motive Hokusai would have for writing it, either...

Fujimaru 1: Yeah, this seems like kind of a stretch.

Katsushika Hokusai: That aside...lookin' at this letter now, I might have an idea or two about who actually did write it.

Wu Zetian: You might!? Then hurry up and tell me who it is!

Katsushika Hokusai: What, I'm just gonna do that outta the goodness of my heart after you barge in accusin' me of stuff?

Katsushika Hokusai: I hate to sound like the hoity-toity merchants...but I ain't tellin' you that for free.

Katsushika Hokusai: You're an empress from way back in the Tang dynasty, right?

Katsushika Hokusai: You're a lot younger than I thought you'd be, but you got the posture and the eyes of a damn fine model.

Wu Zetian: You wish to paint me with that brush of yours? Well, I certainly commend your eye for beauty.

Wu Zetian: However...I regrettably do not have the time to model right now.

Wu Zetian: Here, I am willing to pay for your help, so just tell me who you think it is already.

Katsushika Hokusai: Heh, you're a real piece a' work, ain'tcha? If I wanted money, I woulda asked for it!

Katsushika Hokusai: Money disappears whenever you need to eat or drink, but a painting lasts forever!

Katsushika Hokusai: I also would've had to go a thousand years before the Edo period and get some monks to take me with 'em to China to have a hope of painting you when I was alive.

Katsushika Hokusai: Ain't no way I'm gonna pass up this chance now. If you ain't gonna let me paint ya peacefully, I'll just have to do it...er, unpeacefully!

Wu Zetian: Grrr! So you really are determined to paint me in the nude, aren't you!?

Wu Zetian: While understandable that you would be fascinated by my beauty, I cannot commend you for appreciating it in such a deviant manner! Help me, Master!

Mash: Did I miss the part where Hokusai said she wanted to paint you nude!?


Wu Zetian: Oh, so I didn't have to take my clothes off? Why didn't you say so sooner?

Wu Zetian: Kehehe, in that case, I suppose I could make time for that, as long as you finish in five minutes or so.

Wu Zetian: How is this for a pose?

Wu Zetian: Or would you prefer something like this?

Katsushika Hokusai: Ooh, that's good. I already got a pretty good handle on how to paint ya, but it sure won't hurt to do it live.

Katsushika Hokusai: All right, I'll go ahead and show ya the legendary paintin' speed of Edo's one and only Hokusai!

Katsushika Hokusai: Hmm. It ain't the be-all, end-all, but a little sexiness definitely goes a long way.

Katsushika Hokusai: Mind showin' off a little more skin juuust around the shoulders?

Wu Zetian: Hmm? Nyehehe, you are incorrigible, aren't you! Very well, just this once!

Mash: I'm worried this painting might end up veering past artistic nudity if we aren't careful. Let's keep an eye on the proceedings until they're over, Senpai.

???: ...


Katsushika Hokusai: Here, lemme see that letter again.

Katsushika Hokusai: Hmm... Well, I can't read Tang-era Chinese either, but I can tell you it's beautifully written.

Katsushika Hokusai: But the characters that are Chinese-only, not Japanese, look like they've been copied rather than written.

Fujimaru 1: Meaning...?

Fujimaru 2: And that means...?

Katsushika Hokusai: Whoever wrote this letter was born in Japan, same as me, and knows their way around a calligraphy brush.

Wu Zetian: Hmm? That is all well and good, but how much help will that be?

Katsushika Hokusai: Don't worry, it looks like Master here's already got an idea of who fits that description. It won't be long before we find 'em.

Katsushika Hokusai: But watch yourself.

Katsushika Hokusai: Lookin' at it from a painter's perspective, I'd say this letter was written by someone who's super strict and serious.

Katsushika Hokusai: ...Pretty sure whoever it is ain't gonna talk without puttin' up a fight.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: ...I have nothing to say to you.

Mash: So, it isn't that you don't know anything...it's that you won't say anything? Do I have that right?

Fujimaru 1: Yagyu...

Fujimaru 2: Ryu...

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: Master, I am fully aware that you are my current lord.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: However, I am bound by another contract.

Wu Zetian: Oho, you don't say.

Wu Zetian: What if it wasn't a request from Master Pá Tù...but a direct order from a noble empress such as myself?

Wu Zetian: Tell us why you wrote this letter. If you were compelled by another to do so, then tell us why they requested it, and who is responsible!

Wu Zetian: If you come clean and tell me everything right now, I am willing to be lenient with your punishment!

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: ...That's enough.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: On my honor as Tajima-no-Kami, once I have sworn an oath, there is nothing that can make me break it...not even the ruler of a vast country.

Wu Zetian: Keh heh heh. You have guts, I'll give you that.

Wu Zetian: Very well then...there shall be no holding back! Come, my Torturers, and beat the truth out of him!

Mash: Ah! Wait, Wu Zetian!

Mash: From everything I know about Yagyu, he's not the kind of Servant to come clean, even if you defeat him!

Mash: Can you please reconsider before... Never mind. It looks like I'm too late...!


Fujimaru 1: Okay, break it up!

Wu Zetian: (Huff, huff...) You're a resilient one, aren't you...! Why would you go to such lengths?

Wu Zetian: I am not trying to kill you. I only want you to tell me who ordered you to write that letter!

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: This is not a matter of benefit, but of honor. I am not one who rules, but one who serves.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: As such, I cannot hope to imagine what it must feel like to be the empress of a great country.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: But I also cannot imagine that you would easily cast away your honor. Would you?

Wu Zetian: Hmm? W-well...

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: That said, our Master is there with you. If [♂ he /♀️ she} wishes to make me speak regardless of the consequences, there are ways to go about it.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: I speak, of course, of those powerful charms... Command Spells, I believe they are called. If [♂ he /♀️ she} were to use one, [♂ he /♀️ she} could compel me to speak. However–

Fujimaru 1: I wouldn't resort to that!

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: I am glad to hear that.

Mash: Th-that's right. Senpai would never resort to coercing someone like that!

Mash: (Still...I wonder what Yagyu was going to say after “however”...)

Mash: (Since he's a samurai, the first place my mind went is “However, I will consequently have no choice but to commit seppuku.”)

Wu Zetian: ...Oh, forget it! It seems torturing you would merely be a waste of my time.

Wu Zetian: It isn't that I could not get you to talk, mind you. Only that it would be more time and trouble than it is worth.

Wu Zetian: I'm a busy woman, after all.

Wu Zetian: Whether I know exactly who sent this foul missive or not, it does not change the fact that I still have other preparations I must make.

Wu Zetian: The penalty for writing such insults about me may be stiff, but I can also dole out the necessary punishment just as easily once I return.

Wu Zetian: And as they say, life's greatest pleasures should be savored. Consider yourself lucky, ghost writer who is strangely skilled with the sword!

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: ...

Wu Zetian: All right, Master and Mash, let us wash our hands of this man and move on to the next suspect! Come with me!

Mash: Well, uh, I guess we should do that. I only hope she'll forget all about this once she gets back to her room!

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: Heh. I do not know if our Master is wise or foolish...but in time, [♂ he /♀️ she} will learn [♂ he /♀️ she} is lacking.

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: And it is through that lack that [♂ he /♀️ she} will find new paths open to [♂ him /♀️ her}. Now that I think of it, my old lord was not all that dissimi–Hm...?

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: ...Who goes there?

Yagyu Tajima-no-Kami: No bloodlust. Hmm... It seems I am not the only one who provided assistance...


Wu Zetian: By the way, Mash, it occurs to me that you have been Mash for far too long, so I shall give you a new name.

Mash: ...!?

Fujimaru 1: You always did like changing people's names.

Wu Zetian: Indeed. I grow bored of always doing the same things, or always saying the same things.

Wu Zetian: A ruler's view does not change much from day to day, whether she sits on a throne or remains in the shadows.

Wu Zetian: Of course, one could argue that such stability is the sign of a healthy country...but as the ruler, it can grow quite tedious and stifling.

Wu Zetian: As a result, I would often change the names of some of the most boring parts of my domain: eras, ranks, cities, regions...

Wu Zetian: Of course, nowadays, the only names I go around changing are yours. Hmm, what to do for you, Mash...

Wu Zetian: Hmm. Got it! I shall call you Zǐcài! “Zǐ” is the character for “purple,” so it suits your color scheme perfectly.

Mash: I see. So it's like a nickname.

Mash: I haven't had much experience with things like that, so this is kind of new for me. Thank you.

Mash: Can I ask what it means?

Wu Zetian: Oh, yes. In your language, the word for it is...

Wu Zetian: ...seaweed.

Mash: ...!?

Fujimaru 1: C-come on, Mash, seaweed is yummy!

Fujimaru 2: Hey, seaweed is super nutritious!

Mash: Y-yes, I guess that's true. And it does have a very unique ring to it.

Wu Zetian: There, that feels much newer and nicer.

Mash: By the way, where are we headed now? Didn't you say you had to get ready?

Wu Zetian: Didn't I tell you? I am doing a bit of headhunting for the proper personnel.

Mash: What do you mean?

Wu Zetian: The insolent author of that letter was not merely content to wait for me at the appointed time and place.

Wu Zetian: The letter also said they had placed obstacles along the way. Pure harassment, that's what it is!

Wu Zetian: It said the obstacles would suit a coward frightened of ghosts. That should tell us what to expect.

Wu Zetian: What nonsense! They misunderstand completely! I am not the least bit afraid of ghosts!

Wu Zetian: Yes, the mere thought sends shivers down my spine, and the idea that none of my torture instruments would hurt them makes me reluctant to go to the lavatory in the middle of the night! But nothing more than that!

Mash: I see... So that's why you were thinking of asking for help?

Wu Zetian: Indeed. Any good ruler must be able to convince others to do her bidding, and there can be no empress around who is better than my royal self.

Wu Zetian: In fact, I have already found the perfect person to help.

Wu Zetian: If I am being completely honest, I have been trying to keep my distance from her for various reasons, but now that I have no alternative, well...here we are.

Wu Zetian: And so, since I must fight ghosts, I require a monk. Come and help me, Xuanzang Sanzang.

Sanzang: Hm? Hmm? Hmmm?

Sanzang: ...Have we met before?

Wu Zetian: Aha, just as I thought. I cannot help but feel as though I have met you somewhere before too.

Sanzang: Really? Then I guess we actually are acquaintances. Hold on, give me a minute. It's riiight on the tip of my tongue!

Sanzang: ...Gah! I guess the fact that I can't quite seem to remember shows I still need to train a lot more!

Wu Zetian: Now, now, I do not blame you for being unable to remember. I have no memory of ever conversing with you before, either.

Wu Zetian: I most likely just happened to see you in my palace at one point or another.

Sanzang: Did you say palace?

Wu Zetian: Yes, in the city of Chang'an. I trust you are familiar with Emperor Taizong?

Sanzang: Of course. He was an emperor of the Tang dynasty, right?

Sanzang: The whole reason I headed to Tianzhu was because he ordered me to. At least, I'm pretty sure it was him.

Sanzang: I definitely remember him being thrilled when I told him I'd brought back the sutras. He was a nice guy!

Wu Zetian: Taizong was the emperor when I first became a concubine.

Mash: R-really? I had no idea you two had that sort of connection...

Fujimaru 1: Well, I guess they are from the same time period.

Fujimaru 2: Tang dynasty talk! Never gets old!

Sanzang: Huh, okay. So you're Empress Wu? And you gave birth to Taizong's son, Gaozong?

Wu Zetian: I am, and I did.

Wu Zetian: ...

Sanzang: After I got back, I was so busy with copying the sutras that I had no idea what was going on politically...

Sanzang: ...but I do think I at least heard your name before.

Sanzang: And now, here we both are in Chaldea. That's amazing! The Buddha must've had a hand in this, too!

Wu Zetian: N-nn, so you only think you have heard my name before? Normally, I would be furious at such an insult...but I suppose that sort of ignorance is to be expected from a monk so removed from worldly affairs.

Wu Zetian: And I do remember all the monks I used to know who were clued into politics being rather corrupt.

Sanzang: So, what can I do for you now? Anything I can do for a fellow Tang-erine, I'd be happy to!

Sanzang: If you want to hear all about my journey, or listen to some sutra chanting, I'd be glad to oblige!

Wu Zetian: Hmm, you certainly have a lot of energy and volume to spare... Zǐcài, you tell her the rest.

Sanzang: Zǐcài...? As in, seaweed?

Mash: That's me! It's my nickname!

Mash: Anyway, uh, I suppose your sutras might end up coming in handy for this. You see...

Sanzang: I see, I see. So you're trying to get somewhere, and you need protection from the ghosts you expect to pop up along the way?

Sanzang: You got it!

Mash: Wow, Sanzang, you didn't hesitate at all. Thank you!

Sanzang: Oh, but could I ask a favor first? See, it's a little different fighting ghosts than it is monsters...

Sanzang: So could you help me warm up and get my old instincts back first? It'd be a big help!

Wu Zetian: I suppose that is all right. We certainly would not want you to be unable to perform your job after encountering a ghost.

Wu Zetian: Go on then, let me see the vaunted power of the monks for myself!


Mash: All right, we've Rayshifted to the time and location the letter specified...

Fujimaru 1: Wait. Does this make me an ambassador?

Fujimaru 2: I've read about trips like this in history books!

Wu Zetian: Keh heh heh. That's right! Now that you are working for me, you are officially an ambassador!

Wu Zetian: I remember meeting with a group of ambassadors from Japan. They prostrated themselves to me on behalf of their country to request an audience.

Wu Zetian: Well, ambassadorial visits from Japan began with the Sui dynasty, and Taizong also held audiences with them...

Wu Zetian: At any rate, now do you finally understand how lucky you are to be working for an esteemed empress like myself? Hmm?

Wu Zetian: Go on, you needn't restrain yourself. If you cannot resist the urge to prostrate yourself before me and sing my praises...

Wu Zetian: ...or feel overcome by the urge to serve as my chair, I give you permission to do so.

Sanzang: Oh hey, what should I call you, anyway?

Sanzang: Empress Wu? Wu Zhao? ...No, wait, that's your real name, right? Probably wouldn't be proper if I called you that.

Fujimaru 1: What about Zhaoie?

Fujimaru 2: What about Little Wu?

Wu Zetian: Don't be insolent! A noble's name is not to be trifled with!

Wu Zetian: Hmph... Wu Zetian is what I go by now, so that will suffice.

Wu Zetian: Of course, I also have many other excellent names, such as Dowager, Empress Dowager, Empress Regnant, Holy Empress Zetian...

Wu Zetian: ...so you may use any of those as well if the mood takes you.

Sanzang: That's...a lot to keep straight...

Sanzang: They say the name makes the person, so it seems like having too many variations may be a problem.

Wu Zetian: That is exactly the point. Once you get a better name, you become a better person.

Sanzang: Oh, yeah, good point! That's a nice way to think about it!

Sanzang: Still, I think it'd be easier if I go with the same name everyone else is using, so I'll just go with Wu Zetian!

Sanzang: Otherwise, I might mess it up and call you by the name of one of the people I met on my journey to the west!

Mash: Um, I'm sorry to interrupt your conversation, but may I say something?

Wu Zetian: What is it?

Mash: Well, uh, I was wondering if you were doing okay, as we're going deeper and deeper into this cave where it looks like ghosts could pop out at any moment.

Wu Zetian: ...

Wu Zetian:

Why did you say that, you fool!? I was making idle chitchat specifically to avoid thinking about that, and you go and bring it to my attention!?

Mash: Oh, gosh, you're right. I'm sorry!

Wu Zetian: (Sigh) Now you've got me worrying about ghosts all over again, Zǐcài...

Wu Zetian: Now that you mention it, it is rather cool and damp in here. It reminds me of a grave.

Wu Zetian: There is no telling when a ghost could show up unannounced...

???: Exactly! Exactly, Chinese Empress!

Wu Zetian: Aaah! There's one now!

Fujimaru 1: You...!?

Nitocris: ...I am Pharaoh Nitocris, appearing before you in all my majesty as a goddess of the underworld!

Mash: Nitocris...?

Wu Zetian: Grrr! So YOU wrote that letter!

Nitocris: Just so we are clear up front: no, I did not.

Mash: Then...why are you here?

Nitocris: Well, to be honest, I was hired...because of reasons.

Nitocris: But don't think that makes me just another hired Servant!

Nitocris: I'm deadly serious about this, you know. That noble self-restraint... I was moved by their determination to grow in mind, if not in body...!

Nitocris: Oh, but right. I need to play my part as the queen of the dead right now.

Mash: ...?

Nitocris: Ahem. Empress of the Far East, it is the will of mine own dead that has guided you here.

Nitocris: Be warned that my realm will suffer no cowards who fear ghosts to pass.

Wu Zetian: G-grrr. You know nothing about me! I am not afraid! ...I am not!

Fujimaru 1: (Is it just me, or do I hear knees knocking?)

Fujimaru 2: (That'd be a lot more convincing if she wasn't literally shaking in her boots.)

Sanzang: Yeah, there's nothing to be scared of. I'm right here, and so's the Buddha's protection!

Nitocris: Hm? And you are...

Sanzang: I'm her travel companion! You know, it's a nice change of pace, me accompanying someone else for once!

Sanzang: Oh, I should double check. Um...I don't think I can do much about that cute little Medjed...

Sanzang: ...but it's okay for me to be harsh with the other kids, right?

Nitocris: Hm? So you still like to fight with your fists even though you're a Caster, huh?

Nitocris: Well, if you think you're up to it, you're welcome to try. Just don't expect me to make it easy for you.

Nitocris: If you try to “pet” my darling dead with your thousand-palm slap, I'll just call up another ten thousand spirits from my mirror of darkness.

Fujimaru 1: So you really are serious about trying to stop us!

Nitocris: Yes, I am. To be frank, I think Xuanzang Sanzang will have a tough time fighting alone.

Nitocris: Hmm. If you want to get past me...I think the empress herself might just have to pitch in.

Nitocris: She may hate dead spirits, but she is possessed of a powerful will. Casting her fears aside and standing tall is the only path forward.

Mash: (Why did she suddenly start giving us tips...?)

Wu Zetian: I-I... I...

Wu Zetian: ...

Wu Zetian: (...I can't help but be afraid of ghosts.)

Wu Zetian: (I am all too familiar with the pain of the dead lingering in the palace, their grievances so numerous they can't even begin to give them voice.)

Wu Zetian: (After all, I am the one responsible for their deaths in my ascent to the top.)

Wu Zetian: (It would be stranger for there not to be ghosts. Any grievance powerful enough to take form to kill the living is bound to not look kindly upon me...)

Wu Zetian: (And yet...and yet...)

Wu Zetian: ...

Wu Zetian: (Why did I go to such lengths?)

Wu Zetian: (...Because I was right! Why else?)

Wu Zetian: (It was what I needed to do to create a truly just country under my command.)

Wu Zetian: (And...)

Wu Zetian: (...one of my subjects is here as well.)

Wu Zetian: (Whether she realizes it or not, the fact that we were alive in the same time and place makes her my subject.)

Wu Zetian: (...Would a true empress let herself be seen cowering like a little girl in front of one of her subjects?)

Wu Zetian: (...No. Of course not!)

Wu Zetian: ...V-v-v-very well! I-i-i-if it's a fight you want, it's a fight you shall get!

Wu Zetian: I will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not afraid of ghosts! Come on! Bring as many as you like!

Sanzang: Wow, that's the spirit! Way to go!

Nitocris: ...Hehehe. Then get ready, because here I come!

Wu Zetian: What is so funny!? H-h-here goes nothing! My Tortures will make any spirit pass on to the next world!

Mash: You know, when you take a step back, this conversation really seems kind of absurd... Anyway, I think we should help out too, Master!


Nitocris: Oh nooo, you got meee.

Mash: If your wooden performance didn't give the game away, that smile definitely did!

Nitocris: I don't know what you're talking about.

Nitocris: By the way, you'll find the one who sent the letter up ahead...but they're pretty much a pushover, so feel free to go ahead and take a victory lap if you want.

Nitocris: Nailed it, Nitocris! You did an outstanding job, if I do say so myself!

Wu Zetian: (Huff, huff...) S-so that's it? There aren't any more ghosts, right?

Wu Zetian: Phewww...

Wu Zetian: Keh heh heh! Well that turned out to be nothing worth fearing! Now you know what happens when you dare get in her Imperial Highness's way!

Sanzang: Are you okay, Wu Zetian? Are you sure your knees aren't still knocking a bit?

Wu Zetian: O-of course not! Not even a tiny bit!

Wu Zetian: Now come, our final destination is lies ahead! At long last, this impudent slanderer will know justice!


Mash: Wh-who's that...?

Fujimaru 1: What the... What's going on?

Wu Zetian: ...(Sigh). Now I think I see what is going on here.

Wu Zetian: No need to spell it out for me, Zǐcài and Pá Tù. ...No, Mash and Fujimaru.

Wu Zetian: I am aware it is time to put my own affairs in order. Come, we will talk more once this is taken care of.


Sanzang: Hmm? What's going on here?

Sanzang: This strange medicine bottle dropped from that shadowy version of you we just defeated...

Wu Zetian: Just as I thought. I know exactly what to do with it.

Mash: W-wait, Wu Zetian. Are you going to drink that? Are you sure that's a good idea...!?

Paracelsus: ...There shouldn't be any problem with that.

Fujimaru 1: Paracelsus?

Fujimaru 2: What are you doing here!?

Paracelsus: My apologies. I took the liberty of following you here.

Paracelsus: It's not part of my contract, but as the one who made that elixir, I felt it was only right to see it through to the end...

Wu Zetian: ...Will drinking this do what I expect, Doctor?

Paracelsus: Yes. It will restore the memories erased by drinking a potion of forgetfulness.

Wu Zetian: Hmph, I knew it. Very well then...

Wu Zetian: ...Ahh.

Fujimaru 1: Um... Wu Zetian?

Fujimaru 2: Are you sure that's a good idea...?

Wu Zetian: Of course I am sure!

Wu Zetian: For that matter, I already remember everything now anyway. I'm the one who sent that letter!

Fujimaru 1: Bwa!?

Wu Zetian: Naturally I would recognize my own handwriting, so I employed someone else to write it for me, and even asked that Egyptian queen to help out as a villain.

Wu Zetian: Then, once all of those preparations were complete, I had that doctor there prepare both a potion to erase my memories and an antidote, and downed the former...

Paracelsus: That's right. I created an elixir to erase her memories with pinpoint accuracy, and an elixir to restore them...

Paracelsus: ...entirely at her request.

Mash: B-but...why!?

Wu Zetian: Well...I suppose because I thought it was long past time that I faced my weakness and overcome it...

Sanzang: Ohhh, you mean your fear of ghosts?

Sanzang: That explains why the Egyptian queen seemed so happy about losing.

Sanzang: She does seem like she'd be enamored with the idea of a king training to be a better king.

Sanzang: And you know me: I'm all about training, so I think this is great! Congrats!

Wu Zetian: Stop that! I did not do this so you could praise me!

Wu Zetian: ...I did all of this on a whim. A passing flight of fancy on my part.

Wu Zetian: You should be honored by the opportunity to join me on this adventure. I certainly will not be apologizing for dragging you along!

Fujimaru 1: No problem at all.

Fujimaru 2: I'm thrilled that you got over your fear of ghosts.

Wu Zetian: I see, I see. Well, there is no denying that this slight improvement has made me a completely perfect empress in every way.

Wu Zetian: No doubt this will be an historical event that you shall remember and recount for the rest of your–

Sanzang: Hm? It sounds like something's falling...

Fou: Fooou!

Wu Zetian: ............

Wu Zetian: Gyaaah! A caaat!?

Mash: Fou!? What are you doing here!?

Paracelsus: She also told me that ghosts alone would not suffice...so she planned to lure him here with the promise of ultra-premium pet food.

Paracelsus: She must have set up a pitfall on the upper layer.

Paracelsus: Although, given her extreme shock, it would seem the memory restoration elixir was imperfect. Or, perhaps she simply forgot about it. Hmm...

Mash: Whatever the case, it would appear she did not have sufficient mental fortitude remaining to face Fou.

Fujimaru 1: Do you think she'll be okay, running off on her own like that?

Ereshkigal: Ahh. Nice and dark, thoroughly damp, spacious while still feeling claustrophobic... It's just like being back in Kur.

Ereshkigal: This should be perfect for helping the Gallû Spirits stay in shape.

Ereshkigal: Now then, as the Queen of Kur, I suppose I'd better whip them into shape myself from time to time, or else they'll start to slack off something–

Wu Zetian: More ghooosts!?

Mash: That sounded like it was Wu Zetian screaming somewhere way off...

Sanzang: H-huh? I know she's still working on cats, but I thought she okay with ghosts now.

Paracelsus: I imagine her earlier resilience was most likely the result of endorphins being produced in response to her extreme situation, which is to say: temporary.

Paracelsus: Unfortunately...one's fears are not so easily overcome.

Mash: Well, uh...I guess we should go look for her then? We can't go back without her, after all.

Sanzang: Oh, then why don't you and Fujimaru go back now and let me take care of that?

Sanzang: Finding lost children is what we monks were made for! You know, besides the whole sutra thing.

Fujimaru 1: Okay then... Thanks, Sanzang.

Sanzang: Nooo problem!

Sanzang: Phew... We finally made it back...

Wu Zetian: (Huff, huff...) Why? Why did King Darius have his undead Athanaton warriors brawl in that cave, TODAY of all days...?

Wu Zetian: I even saw the giant wolf and headless man taking a nap there, and the creepy old mountain man in that corner... Why today!? I didn't hire ANY of them!

Sanzang: It must have been the Buddha's guidance! I think he's got a thing for piling on extra trials like that!

Wu Zetian: Well, I did not ask him for help, either! Hmph...

Wu Zetian: By the way, on a different subject...

Wu Zetian: ...now that it is just the two of us, there is something I would like to ask you, Xuanzang Sanzang.

Sanzang: Hm? What's up?

Wu Zetian: ...What did you think of my Tang dynasty while you were alive?

Wu Zetian: I know it was officially Gaozong's dynasty, but that is merely a technicality.

Wu Zetian: Even if you were solely focused on the sutras you brought back from the west, surely you must have heard something in the way of rumors.

Sanzang: ...Hmm.

Sanzang: I really didn't hear much more than rumors, but I think I heard you did some terrible things to people.

Sanzang: So as a servant of the Buddha, let me be clear.

Sanzang: One should never be cruel or unkind to others! For everything you do to them will be visited upon you!

Wu Zetian: ...

Sanzang: ...That said.

Sanzang: Sometimes, we try to do the right thing, and it still ends up turning out badly.

Sanzang: We are only human, you know.

Sanzang: Honestly...I'm not one to talk, since I'm still in training and make a ton of mistakes myself...

Sanzang: I can't be sure that what I do isn't making trouble for others, or isn't what others would consider to be bad. I still have so much training left to do...

Wu Zetian: ...I believed that what I did was right. I believed it was the only way to create a proper, just nation.

Wu Zetian: That is why I did it. That much is absolutely true. ...I am even willing to swear to the Buddha.

Sanzang: Okay. In that case...I don't think I need to say anything more.

Sanzang: Because...I can't give you the answer you really want me to.

Sanzang: I'm a disciple of Buddha first and a citizen of Tang second. As they say, only Buddha knows for sure.

Wu Zetian: Hmph. That is all I wanted to hear in response to that meaningless, throwaway question. It was inconsequential. I expected nothing from it.

Sanzang: Yeah? Well good, it all works out, then!

Sanzang: Still, I'll say this. Seeing you come all this way, thinking this much about who you are and who you want to be...

Sanzang: ...I think that's really amazing.

Sanzang: We're all just lost children doing our best to find our way forward. As long as you keep up your training like that, I think you'll be just fine!

Sanzang: Oh, and don't worry! If it looks like you're about to go down a dark path...

Sanzang: ...I'll be there to pound the Buddha's proper teachings into you with all my heart and soul!

Wu Zetian: ...Good grief. You enlightened monks are more trouble than I realized. I think I preferred the corrupt ones.

Sanzang: Haha... Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhisvaha...

Empress +

Women's Voices: ...Hoho, when did the palace start allowing any old mongrel off the street inside?

Women's Voices: Someone must have felt sorry for her. Just look at that mane of bristles she calls hair. I only hope her stink doesn't rub off on us.

Women's Voices: I heard she's from the Bing Province, of all places. Ugh, I can smell the dirt on her all the way over here. I'll have to have someone sweep up after her, to make sure she doesn't leave any yellow sand on the floor.

Women's Voices: It doesn't matter how ostentatiously she dresses up. She'll always be a peasant at heart. You know what they say, “Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.”

Women's Voices: She doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the emperor's favor... Hohoho...

Women's Voices: Haha, hahahaha...

Wu Zetian: Good morning to Wu!

Fujimaru 1: You're in a good mood today, Your Imperial Majesty.

Wu Zetian: Kehehe, but of course.

Wu Zetian: After all, a dynamic empire needs an energetic empress!

Wu Zetian: ...

Wu Zetian: Indeed, energy is absolutely crucial!

Wu Zetian: If you like, I could run around this room right now to show you just how energetic I am.

Wu Zetian: Of course, it would be an imperial crisis if my noble feet were to get tired, so it would have to be you doing the running.

Wu Zetian: But I am gracious enough to let you choose whether you will carry me via shoulder ride or piggyback.

Fujimaru 2: Morning, Zhaoie.

Wu Zetian: How dare you speak to me so casually! Are you looking for a bit of morning torture? Is that it?

Wu Zetian: Nn... Never mind...

Wu Zetian: ...Well, I suppose you did not know what you were saying, since you have only just woken up.

Wu Zetian: Normally I would torture you for your insolence, but in this case, I suppose I will just have to chalk this up to a slip of the tongue brought on by your overwhelming affection for me.

Wu Zetian: It would seem you get to live another day! Keh heh heh!

Fujimaru 1: (Hm? What was with that weird pause?)

Wu Zetian: At any rate, it is time we got down to business. Are you ready to leave?

Fujimaru 1: That was fast. Okay, just give me a moment.

Fujimaru 2: Aha, so that's what this is...

Fujimaru 1: I'll go get the necromancers.

Wu Zetian: No! Do not call for them! Er, that is not to say I would find their presence at all perturbing, but do not call for them nonetheless!

Fujimaru 2: Now where did Fou get off to...

Wu Zetian: No! This does not concern the cat!

Wu Zetian: Wait. Don't look under the bed! The little fur ball isn't hiding there, is he?

Wu Zetian: I checked thoroughly for signs of his presence before I came in, but I did not check under there!

Wu Zetian: ...Ahem.

Wu Zetian: As you know, I once came up with a plan to overcome the closest thing I had to something resembling a weakness.

Wu Zetian: Naturally, it succeeded brilliantly. Any fears I may or may not have once had are now completely gone.

Wu Zetian: Hey! I see the doubt in your eyes! I am telling you, my fears are now well and truly conquered!

Wu Zetian: Which is why today, we will be taking the next step in the plan.

Wu Zetian: Last time, we overcame my few weaknesses. Today, we will be improving my myriad strengths!

Wu Zetian: Worry not. This will not be nearly the ordeal that last time was.

Wu Zetian: We will simply be doing what is necessary to improve upon what I already possess.

Wu Zetian: It will be like reviewing for a test, or exercising to stay in shape...

Wu Zetian: While I am not usually in the habit of borrowing words from Xuanzang Sanzang, I believe we could call this “training”!

Fujimaru 1: Oh, then I'd be glad to help.

Fujimaru 2: It would be my honor to assist.

Wu Zetian: Good, good. I knew you had some sense.

Wu Zetian: That is a must, if you are going to rule this land alongside me.

Wu Zetian: I swear, [♂ he /♀️ she} is such a pushover if I just invite [♂ him /♀️ her}, so why do I... (Muttering)

Wu Zetian: No, never mind.

Wu Zetian: Now then, I already know which strength of mine we are going to improve first.

Wu Zetian: I speak, of course, of the element that is so synonymous with me that it is forever tied to my name:

Wu Zetian: Beauty!

Fujimaru 1: Beauty?

Wu Zetian: Indeed. Now, now, I know what you're thinking. How could I possibly need to be more beautiful than I already am?

Wu Zetian: I understand your confusion, but there can be no limit to the pursuit of beauty.

Wu Zetian: I myself would be willing to consume all of creation in if it would improve my complexion. Keh heh heh.

Wu Zetian: And since men are helpless in the face of beauty, one could say that men are also driven to pursue it endlessly.

Wu Zetian: And so, beauty is an essential trait for any empress.

Wu Zetian: Though I of course have plenty to spare now, I could always stand to have more... The more the better, in fact!

Wu Zetian: That is the essence of beauty!

Wu Zetian: Now, let us be on our way! I already have a teacher in mind to help with my beauty training!

Wu Zetian: It is I!

Cleopatra: How nice of you to simply drop in without an appointment!

Cleopatra: ...Oops. I responded in my public official mode purely by reflex. Well, never mind that now.

Cleopatra: If it isn't Master and the Chinese empress. I never thought I'd receive a visit from both of you at once.

Fujimaru 1: Hey there.

Fujimaru 2: Hope you don't mind us dropping in.

Cleopatra: Ah, but thanks to my frighteningly sharp intellect, I can guess exactly why you're here. Hehe.

Cleopatra: You came to ask about my beauty secrets, didn't you!?

Wu Zetian: Why yes, I did!

Wu Zetian: No wonder you once ruled over all of ancient Egypt! It seems wisdom truly is a trait shared by all empresses...

Cleopatra: As a matter of fact, I just happened to finish a beauty training session right before you called.

Cleopatra: It is not hard to believe, then, that my even-stronger-than-usual beaura leaked out from my room...

Cleopatra: ...and enticed one seeking to improve her own beauty.

Fujimaru 1: What's a beaura...?

Cleopatra: What do you mean? Surely you've seen it when I fight, haven't you?

Cleopatra: Especially when enemies are falling left and right in the face of the Pharaoh Fighting Style's sheer beauty.

Cleopatra: Though I suppose you might not have heard the term “beaura” before, since I coined it myself by combining “beauty” and “aura.”

Fujimaru 1: Ohhh, that. Okay.

Cleopatra: You may be surprised to know I train, but beauty is something that must be constantly refined.

Cleopatra: It is not enough to simply be born with it. You also need to work for it.

Cleopatra: The moment you begin to rest on your laurels is the moment your beauty begins to fade away.

Cleopatra: Every woman understands that, especially noblewomen who use their beauty as a weapon.

Wu Zetian: Well put. I could not have said it better myself.

Wu Zetian: The more I look at you, the more I see your beauty is the genuine article. An empress does indeed embody the truth of beauty better than anyone.

Wu Zetian: Indeed, and since we are both empresses, there is no one better suited than you to aid me in my Beauty Level Up Plan.

Wu Zetian: For the time being, I shall call you Měi-shé, for “Beautiful Snake”!

Cleopatra: Is that a nickname? Hmm, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Cleopatra: The only nickname I'm accustomed to is when Lord Caesar pulls me into his arms and calls me his little pussycat...

Cleopatra: Still...Měi-shé isn't bad. There's something elegant about it...

Cleopatra: Very well, I will allow you to call me by that name.

Cleopatra: Perhaps I will even call you Nite-Brite in exchange.

Fujimaru 1: So what sort of training were you doing?

Fujimaru 2: From the look of that towel and drink, I'm guessing you were working up quite a sweat.

Cleopatra: Oh? I guess you haven't heard about the cutting-edge training system I designed then, Master.

Cleopatra: I had Da Vinci set it up for me and she finished making it just the other day.

Cleopatra: This system makes it easy to stay fit and beautiful. It's so much fun! It feels like playing a video game!

Cleopatra: It's still currently in the testing phase, but I'm considering manufacturing and selling it on the open market if it goes well.

Wu Zetian: Oho, interesting. So you use that large screen up on the wall?

Cleopatra: That's right. If you wish to refine your beauty like I do mine, then I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Cleopatra: Okay, Nite-Brite, would you mind standing in front of the monitor?

Wu Zetian: Very well.

Wu Zetian: Now what?

Cleopatra: Once you begin the game, you will see beautiful things popping up on the screen one after another.

Cleopatra: All you need to do is match their beautiful poses.

Cleopatra: Here, it will be much faster and easier if you just see for yourself.

Cleopatra: Are you ready? Then here we go!

Wu Zetian: ............

Wu Zetian: Wat.

Fujimaru 1: ...

Cleopatra: I see you are so impressed you are completely at a loss for words!

Cleopatra: Indeed, this beauty training regimen is nothing short of perfect!

Cleopatra: This is the video game that can help anyone become beautiful simply by posing in time with the screen...

Cleopatra: The Pharaoh Fit!

Wu Zetian: I-I see. Forgive me, I was a bit taken aback. I never knew something like this was even possible.

Wu Zetian: So, you are saying I simply need to match your figure on the screen...

Wu Zetian: ...and that merely by contorting my body like a shrimp, showing off my back, closing one eye, and smiling...

Wu Zetian: ...I can become more beautiful than I already am...?

Wu Zetian: Hmm. I can see by the sheer confidence you radiate that the answer is yes.

Wu Zetian: I see, I see. We empresses may be fickle, but we are certainly not liars.

Wu Zetian: Very well then, it would seem this is exactly the exercise regimen I have been looking for!

Wu Zetian: From one empress to another, I salute you! Keh heh heh!

Cleopatra: I'm not surprised, since there is no disputing that my program is perfect, but I'm glad to see you understand nonetheless.

Cleopatra: I commend you for your keen eye! Hohohoho!

Fujimaru 1: (I'm surprised they're hitting it off so well...)

Cleopatra: You know, when I showed it to Lord Caesar in the hope that he would use it to slim down a bit, he told me...

Cleopatra: “Yes, I understand the gist, but since subliminal advertising is prohibited by law, I'm afraid this will never do.”

Cleopatra: Then he just left, bemoaning what a tragic shame it was that his respect for the law prevented him from using it.

Cleopatra: And here I thought he would be thrilled with the idea of an exercise game that runs at 60 CPS (Cleopatras per second)...

Cleopatra: I guess there truly is more to success than simply building a fabulous product...

Wu Zetian: Men who are able to truly appreciate the effort that goes into real beauty are few and far between. Never mind that they are the ones who most demand it.

Wu Zetian: There were scant few exceptions to be found even in all of China. The sooner you accept that that is simply how men are, the happier you will be.

Wu Zetian: At any rate, now that I understand how this regimen works, I think I will begin my training right away.

Wu Zetian: Oh yes, make sure you keep your eyes on me, Master! I want you to witness me growing more beautiful with every passing moment yourself!

Fujimaru 1: Good luck!

Fujimaru 2: Can't wait to see you pull off a dazzling Pharaoh Pose!

Cleopatra: Oh, I almost forgot to mention. The game tracks your score, so I recommend you try to beat your own personal bests as you go!

Cleopatra: You'll score extra points if you pose at just the right time.

Cleopatra: I doubt you will reach my high score, since you lack the divine protection of Isis, but I am willing to give you hints as needed.

Cleopatra: All right, let the Pharaoh Beauty Regimen begin!

Wu Zetian: What was that thing!?

Cleopatra: How rude! I'll have you know that “thing” was the beautiful Medjed!

Fujimaru 1: Seems kind of mean to spring it on players out of nowhere.

Wu Zetian: What I mean is, what am I supposed to do when it shows up?

Cleopatra: Heh, you truly need to ask? Your body should know what to do instinctively in the face of such divine beauty.

Cleopatra: That said, I suppose I can't blame you for your ignorance, as our cultures are quite different.

Cleopatra: Medjed is a bonus character. You can get lots of points when it shows up by kneeling and praying at just the right time.

Wu Zetian: How was I supposed to know that!?

Cleopatra: Hmm. I suppose that might not have been the most user-friendly feature.

Cleopatra: Very well then, I'll support you from the side for a bit.

Cleopatra: Though of course, you will remain the star of this show.

Cleopatra: All right, I'm going to unpause it now. After this, we won't be pausing again until the program runs its course.

Cleopatra: Now get ready to face an army of beautiful mes!


Cleopatra: That's it! Keep it up!

Wu Zetian: Hngh... Done, done, and done!

Wu Zetian: Smile, hold my head high, use my index finger to lift a man's chin...

Cleopatra: Very good! I can almost see the imaginary vassal gazing longingly up at you now!

Wu Zetian: Then I put my foot on the kneeling man's head! Again, and again, aaand kick!

Wu Zetian: And finally...I wrap him up in the rug!

Cleopatra: Oh my... That was perfect! I've just seen the birth of true beauty before my very eyes!

Wu Zetian: (Huff, huff) Y-yes, of course you have.

Wu Zetian: I was not empress of all China for nothing. This sort of exercise is...trivial... (Cough, gasp, gasp)...

Fujimaru 1: You did great. Here, I got you some water.

Wu Zetian: Oh, how considerate of you. Good work.

Wu Zetian: (Glug, glug)... Ahhh!

Wu Zetian: Well? Hm? Hm?

Wu Zetian: Do I look any different to you now that I have completed Měi-shé's beauty regimen?

Fujimaru 1: Um...

Fujimaru 1: I think...you might be more beautiful now...?

Wu Zetian: Keh heh heh! I see, I see! Not that I expected it could be otherwise!

Cleopatra: Hehehe, it does look like this program really works.

Cleopatra: Unfortunately, I haven't found many other players to test it yet...

Cleopatra: ...so I'm afraid it might be too difficult to complete without an empress's powerful will.

C:: Oh, I don't think that will be a problem. That's something for the customer to worry about, not the seller.

C:: Just put all that in some fine print in the manual and you'll be aaall set.

Cleopatra: Huh!? When did you get here!?

C:: Hiii! I heard you were working on a new product and just had to come see for myself☆

C:: If you decide to sell this product at scale, I hope you'll consider signing an exclusive contract with our association.

C:: It would be a terrible shame to have a good product fail just because its creator doesn't understand how to market it.

C:: Fortunately, we can handle that side of things and then some!

C:: For the TV ad, I'm thinking we get you and the Prince of Lan Ling together so we can cast our net as wide as possible...

Wu Zetian: Hmm, they seem quite preoccupied over there.

Wu Zetian: Well, I've done what I came here to do, so let's move on to our next task and leave them to it.

Wu Zetian: Until next time, Měi-shé! Excellent work today!

Wu Zetian: I shall have one of my Torturers bring you a reward later!

Cleopatra: Giving a pharaoh a reward? How dare you. That would be the height of insolence.

Cleopatra: But I will excuse you this one time, so long as you come to visit me again! Perhaps we could do tea next time!

Wu Zetian: Neehaha, very well then, tea it shall be. I will bring the dim sum.

Wu Zetian: Farewell! Oh, and one last thing before I go. I am an excellent judge of character...

Wu Zetian: ...and I believe you would do well to have your husband look over that contract before you sign anything.


Wu Zetian: All right, let's discuss our next task.

Wu Zetian: Now that I have refined my outer beauty, the next step is to refine my inner beauty.

Wu Zetian: I speak, of course, of intellect!

Fujimaru 1: So what's the game plan?

Wu Zetian: As an empress–the very pinnacle of the upper layer–I naturally possess a wealth of cultural skills fit for high society.

Wu Zetian: Those are what I will be refining next.

Wu Zetian: That certainly applies to the four traditional Chinese skills of a noble–namely, stringed instruments, strategical thinking, calligraphy, and painting...

Wu Zetian: ...but as a woman of culture, I intend to improve my skills in all the finer arts.

Wu Zetian: And once again, I already know who to ask to be my instructor. Come!

Wu Zetian: Mmm, there truly is nothing quite like the scent of ink. I have always enjoyed seeing it flow forth in graceful rivers from my brush.

Murasaki Shikibu: Oh gosh, oh gosh...

Murasaki Shikibu: Are you sure I'm really qualified to teach calligraphy to the empress of the Tang Dynasty...?

Murasaki Shikibu: Much of Japan's writing system was borrowed from China to begin with. If anything, I feel like I should be the one asking for instruction...

Fujimaru 1: It's okay, Shikibu. No need to be nervous.

Fujimaru 2: Don't worry. I know you'll be a great teacher.

Murasaki Shikibu: Thank you, Master. Hearing that from you does make me feel a little better...

Murasaki Shikibu: Oh, be careful not to slouch. Proper calligraphy comes from proper posture.

Fujimaru 1: Yes, ma'am!

Wu Zetian: Grr. I commend Master's initiative in asking to take this calligraphy class along with me...

Wu Zetian: ...but remember, I am the star of this show. Do not spend all your time looking over [♂ his /♀️ her} work.

Wu Zetian: Here, Zǐ (Chinese for “Murasaki”), I have finished writing the sutra you assigned me. Go on then, correct it.

Murasaki Shikibu: A-all right, let's take a look...

Murasaki Shikibu: ...This is excellent.

Wu Zetian: What!?

Murasaki Shikibu: (Flinch)

Wu Zetian: Yes, I am a great and august empress, so I can understand why you would be so awed in the face of my immense glory...

Wu Zetian: ...but I specifically chose you as my teacher because I recognize your talent surpasses mine in this regard.

Wu Zetian: I have always said I am an excellent judge of character. You do not wish to make a liar of me, do you?

Wu Zetian: This is a classroom. There is no need for flattery or formalities here. All you need do is instruct me like any other student.

Murasaki Shikibu: I-I see...

Wu Zetian: Set aside the difference in our stations.

Wu Zetian: This reminds me. There was once a foolish man by the name of Li Jingye who tried to lead a rebellion against me.

Wu Zetian: He spread essays denouncing me all around my imperial city. They were written extraordinarily well...

Wu Zetian: Indeed, his writing was so breathtaking as to make him seem to be the second coming of the great Luo Binwang.

Wu Zetian: I even remember unwittingly shouting at my retainers for letting such an immense talent go unnoticed all that time.

Fujimaru 1: So you give credit where it's due, even to your enemies, huh?

Fujimaru 2: That sounds amazingly open-minded of you.

Murasaki Shikibu: ...

Murasaki Shikibu: I apologize for my rudeness, Lady Wu Zetian.

Murasaki Shikibu: Though it is still hard for me to believe, I understand very well now that you hold my skills in high esteem.

Murasaki Shikibu: So I will do my best, such as it is, to live up to your expectations.

Murasaki Shikibu: I see now that it can be rude to be too deferential, so once again, I apologize for my behavior.

Wu Zetian: Oh, that is quite all right. The important thing is that you know better now.

Murasaki Shikibu: All right then, for what it's worth, I'll do my best to correct your sutra now.

Murasaki Shikibu: Let's see... This should be a little more like this, and this part will be better if...

Wu Zetian: Hm hm, I see, I see.

Murasaki Shikibu: N-now, um, as for this part, it...looks like it's substantially different from the source text...?

Wu Zetian: Oh, that? That is a little something of my own that I added in!

Fujimaru 1: What's it say?

Murasaki Shikibu: Well, in the middle of a verse that was carefully crafted to explain the teachings of Buddhism, it shifts quite suddenly to say...

Murasaki Shikibu: ...“The empress is as important as the Buddha, and should be respected accordingly.”

Wu Zetian: Oops. A bad habit of mine.

Fujimaru 1: Bad habit?

Wu Zetian: It all goes back to when I was talking to one of the emperor's advisor monks, before I became empress myself.

Wu Zetian: He said I lacked the foundation I needed to be empress, and that I would never be able to assuage the people's concerns if I remained as I was.

Wu Zetian: That was when we turned our eyes towards a certain set of sutras which detailed a beautiful woman's rise to power.

Wu Zetian: He then suggested that I become that woman myself, or rather, that I become something akin to Maitreya.

Wu Zetian: I thought this was a brilliant new interpretation on his part, so I quickly agreed.

Wu Zetian: But as I had him write down the sutra's contents, I started to believe that interpretation myself...

Wu Zetian: And soon, the new sutras we created had spread far and wide, thus securing positions for both of us!

Wu Zetian: And that has left me in the habit of unconsciously making myself a character in the sutras I copy...

Wu Zetian: Yes, that about sums it up.

Murasaki Shikibu: I, uh... I see...

Murasaki Shikibu: Well, I suppose that doesn't have anything to do with calligraphy, so I'll try not to pay it any mind...

Wu Zetian: That reminds me... I assume you are well acquainted with Chinese history and philosophy books, yes?

Wu Zetian: Then I would like you to instruct me in those as well, once we are done with calligraphy.

Murasaki Shikibu: I mean, yes, I've certainly read such books before...

Murasaki Shikibu: ...but that doesn't mean I have any business teaching them to the empress of the Tang Dynast–

Murasaki Shikibu: I'm sorry, but what is that harp sound I've been hearing?

Tristan: How delightful... I dove in here like a white swan to a pond because I was told my powers of poetry were needed...

Tristan: ...only to find a woman beautiful enough to make even Sir Lancelot's eyes sparkle in here whispering...

Tristan: “It's a bit noisy, but...what a beautiful tone...” (Strum)

Tristan: ...right before she blushes in embarrassment... Hehe... It seems like fortune has smiled upon me this year...

Murasaki Shikibu: So you're the one who's been making that sound!

Murasaki Shikibu: Don't you know you're supposed to be quiet in libraries, so as not to bother the other readers!? And I never said anything of the sort!

Tristan: Oh my... Then, did I imagine it all...?

Fujimaru 1: Hey, um, can I ask who called you here?

Wu Zetian: That would be me, of course. Right, right, I very nearly forgot.

Wu Zetian: Did you not hear me say I wish to improve all my high society skills? Poetry is the next item on my list.

Wu Zetian: And not only poetry. Any good member of high society should also know how to play an instrument.

Wu Zetian: I still remember how desperately I played so that the emperor would hear me back when I first joined the Inner Palace...

Wu Zetian: But enough reminiscing.

Wu Zetian: I will be ready for you shortly, musician. I merely need to finish my calligraphy training first.

Wu Zetian: That said, if you have nothing to do right now, perhaps you would play us a song or two?

Wu Zetian: I could use this chance to fine-tune my pitch before I begin my musical studies in earnest.

Tristan: Oho... Then I suppose I shall be a fixture in this library for the day.

Tristan: So be it. I shall be the bird who gives your eyes something pleasing to gaze upon once you and your beautiful teacher have exhausted them.

Tristan: My trilling could also serve as the background music for your reading.

Tristan: Very well then, just leave it to me.

Tristan: When you read a sad scene, I shall play you a sorrowful requiem. When you read a thrilling action scene, I shall play you some rock music that will truly have your pulse pounding.

Tristan: And in scenes with sweet nothings being whispered, I will serenade you with sweet whispers of my own...

Murasaki Shikibu: I just told you! Libraries are supposed to be quiet! There will be NO playing of the harp here!

Murasaki Shikibu: Listen to me. A library is meant to be a solemn paradise where readers can escape the din of the outside world.

Murasaki Shikibu: If readers are to fully immerse themselves in the worlds written on the many pages contained herein, the library must be a place where the only sounds heard are those of rustling pag–

Oda Nobunaga: Where goes the music, so goes the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven! That's right, it's Nobbu time, baby!

Oda Nobunaga: I heard someone say rock music, so Chaldea's next music festival must be taking place right here. Yeah!!!

Oda Nobunaga: Huh, I didn't even know we had a big underground room like this...

Oda Nobunaga: It's dark and gloomy, but also full of hopes and dreams... It's the perfect place for a concert hall!

Oda Nobunaga: All the more reason I can't sit this one out! Underground or not, my rock 'n' roll is gonna set this place on fire!

Murasaki Shikibu: No fire in the library!!!

Wu Zetian: Now who is this noisy one? I didn't invite you here...

Wu Zetian: Still... Rock and roll, huh. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for me to learn this new kind of music as well.

Oda Nobunaga: Wahahaha! That's what I like to hear!

Oda Nobunaga: 'Course, since rock is all about spirit, just deciding to play makes you a master!

Oda Nobunaga: That said, the guitar's a lot harder to play than it looks. Especially the damn F chord.

Oda Nobunaga: If you think you can pick it up just like that, you're welcome to try, Chacha-looking girl!

Wu Zetian: She and I are nothing alike! Our speech patterns and heights are just a bit similar, that's all!

Fujimaru 1: This is getting more chaotic by the minute...

Murasaki Shikibu: No library should ever abide chaos. Order is essential for both reading and writing.

Murasaki Shikibu: I am Chaldea's librarian, and so it falls to me to remedy this disturbance!

Murasaki Shikibu: There WILL be silence here, one way or another!

Fujimaru 1: Look out, Wu Zetian!

Fujimaru 2: Now you've gone and pissed off the librarian!


Fujimaru 1: (Gasp, gasp)... That was a hell of a thing...

Fujimaru 2: I can't believe even more of them showed up...

Wu Zetian: Neehahaha.

Wu Zetian: Yes, I forgot to mention I also summoned Hokusai to instruct me in painting, and Zhuge Liang to instruct me in strategy.

Wu Zetian: ...Now that I think about it, perhaps there was no real need to gather them all in one place...

Wu Zetian: At any rate, getting kicked out of the library did not stop me from completing all my classes outside it.

Wu Zetian: To think I would learn to play both the harp and the guitar... Sometimes, I even impress myself.

Wu Zetian: I suppose I will need to prepare a reward for that noisy skull woman too.

Wu Zetian: Her teaching style, such as it was, may have amounted to little more than shouting “Harder! Faster! More rockin'!” but I appreciate her enthusiasm nonetheless.

Wu Zetian: At any rate, this should take care of my cultural refinement quite nicely.

Wu Zetian: Putting aside the fact that Servants are already summoned in the prime of their lives to begin with...

Wu Zetian: ...I daresay I am more beautiful and knowledgeable now than I ever was before!

Wu Zetian: Indeed, even if I were to return to the Inner Palace as I am now–

Women's Voices: ...Hohoho. Hohohoho...

Women's Voices: It doesn't matter how much you polish yourself. What a joke to never receive an invitation from the emperor. You'll never be anything more than a country bumpkin...

Women's Voices: Nobody is on your side. Nobody will help you. You should just give up now, before you embarrass yourself even more...

Wu Zetian: ...I won't give up. I'll never give up. As long as I keep working hard, I'm sure that...that...

Fujimaru 1: (She looks so sad...)

Fujimaru 2: (She's holding onto my shirt...?)

Fujimaru 1: ...Are you okay?

Wu Zetian: ...I'm fine. I am fine. ...I am just a bit tired.

Wu Zetian: Just let me rest like this for a while.

Wu Zetian: ...?

Wu Zetian: Wha...!? I-I never said to give me a piggyback ride!

Wu Zetian: What's that? ...A reward for your efforts...?

Wu Zetian: I-I see. Well, I do appreciate your devotion, and an empress should not be so uncouth as to not reward it. Very well, you may carry me if you wish.

Wu Zetian: What? My next destination? No, I am done with training. Just take me home.

Fujimaru 1: And here I thought you'd be working on your poison next...

Fujimaru 2: And here I thought you'd be improving your torture next...

Wu Zetian: ...Maybe next time.

Wu Zetian: If I do any such training, it will be without you around.

Wu Zetian: Do not misunderstand me. I am not at all ashamed.

Wu Zetian: Poison and torture are necessary for the way I run my empire. I am proud to include them among my tools.

Wu Zetian: I simply do not feel like working on them now, is all.

Wu Zetian: ...Of course I am well aware that you would not enjoy seeing me deploy them.

Wu Zetian: That is why I did not include them in this recent batch of self-improvement.

Wu Zetian: What would be the point in improving something that only makes you uncomfortable? What I need is...

Women's Voices: ...She just doesn't know when to give up. I don't know whether to shed a tear in admiration or pity. Hohoho...

Women's Voices: I can't believe she keeps choosing that over trying to curry favor with us, or even with some other authority. What an idiot...

Women's Voices: The fact that she really believes the emperor will notice her as long as she tries hard enough just goes to show what a child she is...

Narration: You're wrong. You have to be wrong. Shut up, you silk-draped vixens. I don't want to hear it.

Narration: This is the emperor of all of China we're talking about. He won't fail to notice a star that truly shines bright. That's why the Inner Palace exists to begin with.

Narration: And for that very reason, the women who come to reside here should always focus on polishing themselves until they glow!

Narration: It might take a long time. It might not be an easy path.

Narration: But improving myself in all the aspects the emperor likes–beauty, intellect, calligraphy, music...

Narration: ...until I shine so brightly that he can't help but invite me into his inner circle...

Narration: ...is the only way I'll ever make my dream of being empress come true.

Narration: I know this is the way. I have no doubts or hesitations in that regard...

Wu Zetian: That's right. As my Master, I wanted you to think highly of me.

Wu Zetian: I thought I needed to refine the aspects of me that would make you proud to be seen walking around beside me.

Wu Zetian: Otherwise, there's a chance you might just...

Wu Zetian: Aah! Wh-what did I just say? I was completely spacing out!

Fujimaru 1: I'm sure you were just talking in your sleep.

Fujimaru 2: Don't worry. I won't tell anyone what I heard you saying in your sleep.

Wu Zetian: ...I see. Yes, that is right.

Wu Zetian: It is my own fault for being tired and getting sleepy. It is the fault of your rocking for being so comfortable.

Wu Zetian: And it is your fault for being so dense. So yes, I was merely talking in my sleep.

Wu Zetian: There are many different people here, just like in the Inner Palace. People who are waiting for you to talk to them.

Wu Zetian: I am sure that number will only continue to grow in the future, but...

Narration: I have no doubts. No second thoughts.

Narration: ...But even so, it still crosses my mind every now and then.

Narration: Working so hard, all by myself...

Narration: Waiting for the future I dream of, without anyone helping me...

Narration: I can't help but find it a little...

Wu Zetian: I want you to call on me more often. I want you to pay more attention to me. It is not every day you have someone as great as me join you, after all.

Wu Zetian: Not being called makes me feel...lonely.

Fujimaru 1: Don't worry. I have every intention of calling on you plenty.

Fujimaru 2: I won't let you feel lonely. I promise.

Wu Zetian: I-is that so? Neehahaha, indeed, why would you!

Wu Zetian: Ahh, what a relief... Though now, for some completely unrelated reason, I find myself feeling very excited!

Wu Zetian: Go on then, speed up! Run like the wind! Surely the honor of carrying me on your back is enough to propel you to run a thousand kilometers with a spring in your step, no?

Wu Zetian: Come on, keep running! I wonder who is faster, you, or Red Hare? Nyuhuhuhu!

Red Hare: Did somebody call for Red Hare? I'm Lu Bu, but maybe I can still help?

Red Hare: If this is one of those events where they hand out carrots for rewards, I would be willing to run at top speed. Shall we have a race!?

Fujimaru 1: Nope! I'm out!

Wu Zetian: Do not give up now! It is all about how hard you work!

Wu Zetian: That is the only way you will ever get what you want! Neehahaha...

Wu Zetian: (Zzz) Nnn... Nyuhuhuhu... Off to the torture chamber with you... (Hrm, hrm)

Fujimaru 1: (Good night, Ms. Hard-Working Empress.)

Fujimaru 2: (See you again tomorrow...)