Once upon a time in a land not too far away, there lived two dragon brothers. The elder brother was strong and sure and dependable as the tides. The younger brother was wild and free and as energetic as the wind. Both dragons ruled over their lands for centuries, never truly getting along, but never really fighting either. Until one day the brother spied a beautiful maiden. Both dragons were immediately enamored by her grace and beauty. She was not a princess or even a lady of noble breeding, but both brothers were taken by her none the less. They both turned human and attempted to woo the young maiden, but unfortunately the woman was unable to decide and split her attention between both brothers. Each dragon was unused to sharing anything and became increasingly jealous of his brother. They began to attempt to sabotage each other until, eventually, they began to fight. The elder dragon created storms, dropping torrents of rain while the younger blew the storm around with his powerful wind. Towns and villages were destroyed as the battle raged. Until the elder brother called forth lightning and sent it into his younger brother’s chest, gravely wounding him. Ashamed over delivering a mortal wound to his brother, the elder dragon fled, never to be seen again.
Mondatta looked at his students as he finished his lecture. “Now tell me. What lessons are to be learned from this tale?” He asked his pupils, hands folding on the book.
“Jealousy leads to destruction.” Zenyatta said, synthetic voice rising above the murmurs of the other monks, human and omnic alike. People stopped to look at him, and Mondatta nodded, agreeing with Zenyatta’s perspective.
“Good. And what other lesson does the story attempt to teach?” Mondatta asked.
Another monk spoke up, “That interspecies relationships, or relationships with gods or humans are wrong?”
Mondatta clapped his hands together once. “Excellent. Now please discuss amongst yourselves which lesson should be the one to take away from this story and why that is so.”
Zenyatta listened to the quiet conversations for a while before he overheard someone speak. One of the few human monks at the temple. “It’s not that the lesson on jealousy isn’t important. It’s that the lesson on interspecies relationships is equally important.”
Zenyatta hummed, his orbs chiming softly as he floated over to them. “And why do you think that?” He asked. He was trying to keep a level head, trying to keep from assuming the worst. They were all here because of their similar beliefs after all.
“Because it comes down to sentience.” It was said so casually, that Zenyatta’s memory banks bristled, bringing up memories of other humans who claimed that their sentience wasn’t true sentience. That their souls were just a glitch in the program, akin to a virus. That they could not truly feel and think and want.
“How so?” His voice stayed even and calm even with the memories flooding through him.
“Well, plants are known to feel pain and try to avoid it right? That’s basic sentience. Above them are animals. They know their needs and wants, and although some can work together, most don’t care whether they do or don’t. Above them are people like you and me. Humans and Omnics.” Zenyatta’s fight response filed itself back away into his non relevant subroutines, and he almost felt ashamed for the snap judgment. He should have more faith in his fellow monks. “We’re driven by our wants more than our needs, and we are interested in working together, forming communities and taking care of each other. In most cases. We also fight over inconsequential things and are more than willing to destroy each other. Above us are gods like the Iris or those dragons. Just as it is wrong for one of us to have a romantic relationship with something of less sentience, it would be wrong for a dragon god to have a romantic relationship with one of us.”
“That is a fair point, but I believe the flaw in that argument comes from the fact that between animals and us there is a level of thought and intentionality to every choice we make. An animal acts on impulse without considering the possible consequences of their behaviors, even if given the opportunity to do so. Humans can have that forethought which is why I believe that the main takeaway from this lesson is not to be jealous, especially of a sibling.”
The conversation came to a slow end in the natural way that most ‘philosophical debates’ at the Monastery did, and though the ethics and morality lesson had not yet drawn to a close, Zen floated off to the rock garden to do some meditating of his own. He needed to think on his previous judgment and work to stop from making such harsh assumptions of his brothers and sisters. As his meditation went on, he found himself thinking about how with myths , such as the one Mondatta read, they were often rooted in truth. The idea of dragons though... it was as fantastical as it was exciting. Zenyatta knew that 200 years ago the idea of omnics , or robots even, was equally fantastic. So there was a possibility, a miniscule one, but a possibility nonetheless, that these creatures had existed at one time or another. It would be a most intriguing find.
The gentle chiming of his orbs helping him stay in the moment during his meditation and not drift off into daydream was interrupted by the deep bong of the monastery’s bell. It meant he had a job to do. As the other monks began to separate for their duties Zenyatta floated back towards the monastery to get his supplies. He was meant to go to the mountain and gather healing herbs for the village, so he needed a satchel and a set of pruning shears. Only once he was certain he had everything he’d need, did he begin his trek. The best herbs were either near the summits, in the mouths of caves, or near streams.
Zenyatta loved being in the wilderness. Nature had a peculiar way of continuing no matter what hardship befell it. Fire? New plants were growing in months. Not enough water? They appeared to wither only to flourish at the next rain. Too much water? They’d just cease to absorb it. A tree falls? It becomes food for the new growth. Zenyatta aspired to be such a resilient creature. Sure, his body was strong and his will was possibly even stronger, but he had faults. His past life had left him quick to anger, quick to defend himself and his omnic brethren. Children and animals too. He understood that peace had a steep price, though it seemed as if sometimes he was the only one who wished to pay it.
Once he had hovered far enough away from the monastery, he let his feet to the ground, enjoying the feel of soft grass on the pressure sensor array in his feet. He couldn’t actually feel the ‘tickle’ that humans often attributed to grass, but he could tell that some grass was more yielding and some grass was less. The air intake valve on his face plate registered compounds attributed to pollen, decaying plant life and various plant nectars. His aural sensors took in the chirping of several different species of birds and bugs, as well as the rustling of leaves high in the trees and the sound of a river or stream a mile or so away. His optical sensors took in the chlorophyll in the leaves and various other plants, the way the light waves curved through the atmosphere creating the blue sky, the pockets of condensation in the sky and the way they appeared to be soft and light.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
He enjoyed walking through nature like this. It reminded him of the simplicity and harmony that life could be. Sure, plants may not be as self-aware as omnics or humans were, but honestly, was it not better to not have anything to worry about? The human saying “Ignorance is bliss” could definitely apply to plants and animals. How often did he see an animal that was well taken care of be miserable?
As he pondered, he made sure to kneel and gather the various herbs and berries he was meant to. He dug roots here, picked leaves there, always careful not to harm the plant more than necessary, to never take more than he needed, and to not over harvest a single location. As he walked, he made it a point to try new paths, after all, there was so much nature to discover. However, even as he made it a point to seek out new locations along with the places he knew would have what he sought, he was surprised to find that there was what looked to be a dilapidated building next to one of the cave entrances. Curious, Zenyatta rushed over, examining it from every angle. He found that ‘building’ was too generous a term, as it was not, and had not ever appeared to be, completely walled in. It was too small to be a hut, and made with too neat of materials to be a child’s work... Perhaps it was a shrine?
He crouched in front of it, posterior plate nearly touching the ground, and peered inside. There was a nest of bees or wasps that would need to be moved before he could properly repair it. It would need new wooden paneling and a proper roof. He made a note of this in his log files.
“To whomever this shrine belongs, please know that since I have found you, you will not be forgotten again.” Zenyatta promised, “I will return and fix up your shrine, and I will leave offerings whenever I am able.” With that he rested a solemn hand on the roof of the shrine and stood again as a feeling of doubt washed over him. Was it internal? Doubting his own abilities to build a shrine worth having? Or was it external, coming from the shrine’s patron, someone who doubted he’d be back? Maybe it was both, though the likliest answer was that it was internal. Though Zenyatta knew the truth, that gods or god like entities were there, the probability that there were some invested in a tiny shrine in the middle of the Nepali mountains was incredibly low.
Still, it was a feeling worth exploring, but not now. Now he had a job to do. He said his goodbyes to the shrine, the bees, and whatever possible inhabitant the shrine had, before giving a wave and returning to his foraging.