"If our memories are left behind," Yu Huang Shang Ti asked the Tau'ri Colonel, "what reason will there be to oppose Anubis? To protect Earth?"
O'Neill set his jaw, and turned his head aside; but he did not fire on the emitter. He looked at the machinery that had sustained each generation of Yu's Royal Guard, the latest of which he had threatened to remove-- and then slid his finger away from the trigger and gave a short, sharp nod.
Yu narrowed his eyes as he watched the human turn to leave. It seemed they could be taught, these Tau'ri. Of course, it was for that purpose that he had brought Daniel Jackson to this world; but he and his compatriots had made every moment of their lesson a frustrating endeavor. They understood so little about the Goa'uld. About what they had been; about what they could become; about the dissimilarities in their methods. Even the most enlightened-- even Dr. Jackson, who claimed to have actually been an Ascendant for a time-- did not see, barely even tried to comprehend.
Did they not fraternize with the divisive ones who call themselves the Tok'Ra? Had they never wondered how the Queen of that degenerate branch of separatists came to segregate her children from the rest of their people? The wisest of the Goa'uld had always known that they were strongest in cooperation with their hosts, rather than constantly suppressing the mortal body's abilities. Ra had known it: this was the source of his long reign over the other System Lords. Ba'al knew it: it was the reason he'd left Ra's service during the Second Goa'uld Dynasty, and how he had survived, and thrived, to join the System Lords of his own accord after that betrayal. Yu had never been surprised that many of the younger, more impatient Goa'uld did not take the time to select a host on criteria other than beauty, or persuade their hosts fully to their cause; but he was surprised that the Tau'ri could not see the differences between them.
How else could Anubis have become an Ascendant, if what Dr. Jackson said of that perpetual thorn in Yu's side was true?
Oshu's ancestor had once said: "if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one." Yu had seen this at work: and it was not acceptable to him, that the current defenders of Earth-- of China-- risked such odds of destruction.
Yu had been many things to the people of the middle country over the millennia, but the one with which he most identified, the role he most chose to inhabit, was of the civil servant whose name he yet bore: the son of a noble who had spent thirteen long years saving his land from the flooding of the Yellow River, then became the ruler of Xia and maintained that rule for another forty-five years. Founder of a dynasty. Source of legends. He had departed for a tour of his other territories after that reign well pleased: the power of the Goa'uld had fed directly into the growing might of the realm that would one day be called China, and the managerial talents of the host had increased the efficiency of his larger domain several-fold.
It had been-- a very effective symbiosis. And in awareness of this, Yu had kept a close watch on other leaders among his host's people, looking for those-- like he himself-- who would bring additional potency to Yu's realm. Not to make hosts of them, also; that would have only given him additional competition, potentially more dangerous than any of the other System Lords. He'd merely wished to acquire loyal and talented weapons to wield against his already existing enemies.
The other Goa'uld had largely retreated from Earth by that time, restricting themselves to an occasional raid for new slave stock; Yu was able to travel frequently between the planet and his other territories without rousing suspicion, maintaining both his status as System Lord and his role in the development of his favored Earth culture as the centuries passed by.
He did not often take a central role again. But he'd remained the unseen power behind the nation: a word of advice here, an offer of power there, a poor ruler taken out of commission. He took only the tithes necessary to maintain his standing, and watched the people prosper under his guiding hand. For prosper they did: they grew, and they thrived, which was more than could be said for most of his enemies' subjects. And after a thousand years, and half a thousand more, his patience was rewarded: within a short span he met, one after the other, and collected those who became his four dragons.
Oshu's ancestor had been the first. A military general and philosopher whose strategies proved decisive for his masters: he had seen in Yu a ruler more powerful than his king, and a much larger stage upon which to enact his strategies. He had willingly and loyally bowed his head when Yu commanded him, and for this honor Yu had made him his First Prime: he who bore Yu's symbol in gold and wore the cloak that unified the primary colors of black and white. Yu did not subscribe to the superstitions of his subjects, but he did find them useful; to those who followed him, Sun Tzu's grey cloak had signified beginnings and endings-- a pursuit of balance, and the resolution of conflicts.
Next had come Kong Qui and Lao Dan: the sage called Confucius, and the man who wrote the Daodejing. They also championed the greatness of their society, though they were not soldiers. To them, Yu had appeared as the Jade Emperor; their teachings about the Mandate of Heaven and the desirability of keeping a people in a state free of desires had furthered the strengthening of their peoples and the flourishing of Yu's larger empire. To represent their service, Yu had given them his emblem in silver, as well as cloaks of blue and green: together Ts'ing, the elemental color of wood, of vigor, vitality and harmony. As necessary to success as the sword.
Lastly, his eye had fallen upon Ying Zheng: the first emperor of a unified China. He had undertaken massive public works on a scale worthy of a Goa'uld, and he was a force for strength and stability for his people like none but Yu before him. In his rule, he had identified with the color black, and the element of water; but when Yu had gifted him, as Sun Tzu before him, an expanded stage upon which to work after the first death of his body, he had cloaked him in red. Red was the color of fire: of warmth and strength, the missing element to balance out the other three. The mark upon his forehead was neither gold nor silver, but bronze.
The use of a sarcophagus had kept them with Yu for many years, serving him both on Earth and in his greater empire, until they had all died together in the exploration of the Ancient ruins on Kunlun. By that time, they had become more his children-- as the Tau'ri understood such things-- than any symbiote offspring; students, and servants, but never his foes. They believed in their nation as fervently as Yu's host had, when Yu had first taken him; and under their combined influence, China had become a jewel worthy of preservation.
Anubis had never understood him any more than did these insolent gate-traveling Tau'ri, if he had truly believed Yu would support him in his pursuit of Earth's destruction.
And yet, in his independent state, Yu could not act unilaterally against him; Anubis had technology and power Yu did not, despite the legacy of Kunlun, and the backing of the other, younger, more foolish System Lords. Only through inaction could he preserve that which his Royal Guard's ancestors had labored to construct; he would not fight when fighting was sure to bring defeat. Secretive action-- striking the snake's head with the enemy's hand-- had seemed his most elegant option.
Provided the enemy's hand would strike in the appropriate location, and with appropriate timing. He shook his head in irritation, then activated the rings and returned once more to the throne room. His Guard were waiting: not the original men, but the same forms, the same native abilities, the same strength at his command. He had no doubt Dr. Jackson and his associates had tried to convince them to turn against him, and no doubt that they had rejected their overtures without question.
Their next generation, the ones O'Neill had faced him over, would mature soon enough; steeped in their ancestor's teachings, as with every clone-generation before them. When that happened, these would journey to join their brother-ancestors as every quartet before them had done, learning and walking the modern soil of their homeworld: shaping China as Yu could no longer do in person. This latest move had lost them the services of Huang, the First Prime before Oshu; but Huang's own brothers remained, and the cycle would continue.
"My lord?" Oshu greeted him, concern in his eyes.
Yu permitted his First Prime a slight nod of acknowledgement. "O'Neill showed the fifth quality of leadership. The test is complete."
Oshu gave a slight bow; Lao Dan and Kong Qui made gestures of relief, though Ying Zheng still seemed discontent. Which was as it should be; the four members of his Guard were four different men, with four different viewpoints, each with his own faults and merits. As Kong Qui's ancestor had said, 'When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them.' No true ruler ever benefited from advisors who all said exactly what they divined he wished to hear.
"Then we must make ready for Anubis' coming," Zheng said. "The Tau'ri may be able, but they are foolish; we cannot rely on their actions."
"We can rely on them to protect Earth," Kong Qui disagreed. "They are sincere in their protestations of freedom, however misguided their attempts to spread their doctrine to others."
Lao Dan sighed. "It is in their hands now. By letting it go, it will all be accomplished."
Oshu nodded, but turned questioning eyes once more upon Yu. "Daniel Jackson said that there are no more dynasties in China. Are all our ancestors' teachings become meaningless?"
Yu snorted. "No. They govern themselves in other ways, now; but your ancestor's names are still honored, as mine is still spoken with reverence. You will see."
And was that not the true measure of a god: that his name and his legacy be endlessly renewed and honored? Oshu's ancestor had once said, 'Only after you are able to serve as your own marking cord, will you look at and know all-under-Heaven and not be deluded.' Yu had done no less. He was old, even by the standards of the Goa'uld, and knew his end would soon come; but his Royal Guard would maintain his rule even without him, as they had done for generation upon generation.
He had chosen them well; and though he maintained that O'Neill should be stricter with his men, in other ways it seemed that the Tau'ri leadership had chosen passably in him also. The Tau'ri had feigned disorder before, and crushed many an enemy who stooped to take the bait; if they paid attention to what they had learned, they would no doubt do so again.
A true master was ready to use all situations, and not waste anything. Yu had used this opportunity; now it only remained to await the result.
He moved to the Weíqí board, and began scooping the polished stones back into their glazed bowls.