Chen Xiaoyan“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from dropping dung in your hair!”
The Dragon SeaAether Sign
Unfortunately, Chen’s Aether abilities are weak. The temple frequently warns its disciples that misusing Aether could lead to serious consequences and even self-destruction, and disciples are trained to only use Aether when absolutely necessary. The temple permits disciples to use Aether to promote harmony, keep peace, and to protect the community. As a result, Chen’s skills are mainly defensive and combative techniques are underdeveloped at best.
Light Generation: He lacks the power to produce anything bright enough to stun or blind. Even if he could produce powerful light, he also lacks the training to focus the light into beams or lasers that can hit an intended target, especially at long-range. However, he is capable of producing small orbs of light to be used as lanterns and can produce short flashes of light for flares. The lantern orbs will exhaust his energy over time and Chen has passed out from using it for too long before. The duration for sustaining light will vary depending on his current physical state and stamina.
Cloaking and Illusions: Chen can bend light to turn things invisible. The smaller the object, the easier it is to sustain invisibility for that object. In the past, the monks have cloaked the temple and some small communities around Xi’An to hide from attacks, but cloaking on that scale is impossible to achieve for an individual. Light illusions exhaust Aether immensely and several monks and disciples must work together to cloak entire buildings or villages.
He can also bend light to create minor, temporary color illusions. This could be temporarily changing the color of a piece of fruit or someone’s hair. Unfortunately, the bigger the illusion, the less realistic it will be. Sometimes, the color will flicker or change when the illusion is difficult to sustain.
Invisibility: Chen can make himself invisible for a limited time, but no more than an hour even when he is in good physical condition. His vision is weakened while he is in an invisible state. Everything becomes too bright and it feels similar to having the sun glaring in one's eyes.
Master Lao would describe Chen’s personality as bright and playful, although other monks have described him as brash, a bit of an airhead, and even sacrilegious. He is generally gentle and fun-loving, and has taken the monks’ teachings somewhat literally. He is an eternal optimist and strangers may be unsettled by his naivety.
He has some habits that are markedly related to his upbringing at the temple. He enjoys drinking tea, dresses in simple robes, and tries to find joy in small, everyday things. He also recites poetry and quotes from the proverbs of wisdom using incorrect characters and in the wrong context.
Chen carries a flute and has a deep appreciation for music. The temple’s teachings encourage temperance and abstinence but Chen has a weakness for pleasure and beauty, indulging in art, food and wine.
One early morning, the monks prepared to perform the Ceremony of Spring at Xiaoyan Pagoda near the temple grounds. When the monks approached the pagoda at dawn, they discovered an infant crying on the steps below. The monks decided to name him "Chen," the spiritual character for "dawn." They gave him the surname "Xiaoyan" after the place where he was found.
It was widely known around the land that the temple followed a tradition of accepting orphans into their monastic community. The monks would educate the orphans as disciples of the temple, teaching them ethics, science, math, arts, spirituality, the history of the Seas and Aruth, and about Aether. After their education was completed, the young disciples would be given the choice to stay at the temple or to leave and pursue an independent life.
Despite being raised by monks, Chen grew up to be a cheerful and high-spirited youth, often running around the temple and climbing the trees and pagodas, splashing in the lotus ponds, and playing with whatever he could find—animals, plants, sacred artifacts. He grew up to be healthy and energetic, getting along well with the other young disciples. Chen was never rebellious, but always a bit too curious and perhaps a bit mischievous. He had trouble concentrating on his academic studies because he would not sit still long enough to concentrate.
His mentor, Master Lao, tried his best to instill the temple’s values in the young boy—virtue, harmony, modesty, patience, self-control. Master Lao decided that it would be good for the boy to channel his energy into martial arts, and so Chen began training to fight with a strong focus on self-defense. The temple grounds did not permit swords or knives, so Chen began training with a broomstick, eventually graduating to a bamboo staff.
After graduating from his studies, Chen was the only disciple in his class who decided to stay at the temple to remain as a monk. He had rarely traveled outside of the beautiful and peaceful temple, and his disenchanting glimpses of the outside world had been limited to the dirty, bustling city of Xi’An.
So Chen began his adult life as a monk, tending the temple grounds and teaching young disciples. But Master Lao soon fell ill with a mysterious, spiritual disease. The head priest of the temple found an ancient scroll with instructions for making the medicine that would cure Master Lao, but the ingredients needed to be sourced from outside. This prompted Chen to leave the temple for a couple years. He traveled across the archipelagos of the Dragon Sea to acquire different ingredients from merchants, doctors, artisans, shamans, and even pirates. Through this journey, he heard incredible stories from around the world about exotic places and people. In particular, he was fascinated by the stories of Divers and their great adventures.
He returned to the temple in time for the medicine to be brewed and Master Lao was cured. Chen considered Master Lao his father and was deeply moved, but the journey had changed his perspectives. Master Lao had just smiled knowingly when Chen announced that he would leave the temple to explore the world.
Chen carries his bo staff and flute and wears a jade talisman on his belt. The talisman has been with him since he was found as a baby and he believes it’s likely to be some kind of heirloom related to his parents. Generally, he travels light but likes to collect and trade small trinkets and souvenirs, sometimes carrying them around in a small pouch that also hangs from his belt.