So I go back to FMA vol 17, in translation; and here's May talking about alchemical transformation in Xin. And look look see! she's explaining what a Dragon's Pulse is too. 'The earth itself has an energy. Like a life force, the energy maintains harmony in the world. You could think of it as a river of power that flows in the ground like a pulse. By understanding the harmony of the pulse, it's possible to ride that flow and transmute something to a distant location.' At least there are no plate tectonics in FMA.
What there is, is a lot of 'feel bad and about to get worse' stuff that makes me reluctant to read further. Also another female general more-or-less (major-generals are superior to brigadiers and subordinate to full generals, is all I know.) My world is littered with female generals lately. Sumeragi's, Flora's Mamma, Peking Opera Wang generals, and of course Great Big Honking Spoiler which I will discuss under the cut. Granted it's a spoiler for something not generally (haha!) available, still. You have been warned.
General Dragon Gem, Youmi Henjo's dork-hero's 'cool boss', seen here on the cover of volume 2 being cool and muteki, halfway through vol 3 wanders into Daoist Heaven and is revealed to be the younger sister of a couple of Daoist Immortal ladies and the grand-daughter of the Western Queen Mother herself. This kerblonxed me on first read, because the reveal was so casual I wondered was I supposed to have picked it up earlier? As, say, when Dragon Gem was disporting hirself with the Dragon King's younger brother to the consternation of absolutely everybody? But no-- Dork believes hir to be a man right till the end of vol 3. Why Dragon Gem is down on earth in Chang'an in male dress and persona, being the Emperor's secret agent with orders to find and capture an Immortal which is what se hirself is all along, is not explained in any way I can make out. I'm *assuming* from some vol 3 dialogue that the Emperor knows se's a woman, but everything else is wrapped in profoundest mystery, including the identities of various Daoists who may or may not be Doing It with Dragon Gem, and what the source of DG's anger/ annoyance/ angst might be, and who the hell hir father is and why se's so pissed off at him, and-- well, everything.
The opacity of the action is one problem, but there's another, and to me a worse one. I went for two and a half volumes thinking Dragon Gem was a particularly snarky and seductive male, and after the reveal suddenly all I can see is a snarky and seductive female. The first vision of the character has vanished, and I'm not sure it's supposed to have. Because when Dragon Gem returns from Daoist Heaven and a trip down the River of Youth I-think-it-is (Okano does so love to show her characters floating on rivers for no particular reason) to kick some butt in Chang'an, back se is in male dress and mannerisms. Whose butt se intends to kick I don't know. Is it the Emperor? or Dork? The character summaries at the start of vol 3 show someone who turns out to be hir female avatar (on the page facing the General's rundown, just so you don't guess too early.) It introduces her as Dork's intended and informs us that she's given up on him because of his philandering ways. This is news to us the readers, until mid-book when female!Dragon Gem starts nattering about how se's training hirself a husband; but as of volume's end, Dork himself has not heard a word of this, which seems a bit secretive even for Okano. Indeed, a few pages from the end Dork is professing undying male love for his male General and declares himself ready to act the woman for (supposed) him.
I don't know what to do with this. I'd like Dragon Gem to go back to being at least an androgynous figure, a 'both-and' like paleaswater's Mao Weitao in her Yue opera roles. A kind of Platonic form that doesn't (usually) exist outside the work itself but within it is the only way to be.