1 1. The day before it all went to hell in a handbasket.
She swung her fist, slamming it into the trunk of the tree in front of her. Bark splintered, leaving an indention in the trunk.
"Why the fuck now, of all times?" She demanded, visibly angry.
Why the fuck did one of those stupid, fucking bitches want a 'celebratory feast' the day before the stupid tournament? Some minor princess wanted to show off her latest toy, and every noble in the city was required to attend. She had been making headway, studying how to more conservatively use both stone and ice together. And now this?
More pointless posturing. More strutting around like they had a tire iron shoved up their asses and with their fake, painted smiles. Their delicate laughs and secretly plotting about how to get their godamn face. She had never understood the concept of it, and as she had bluntly told Jein so may times, she didn't care either.
Shaking her arm a little, she continued walking, leaving the small enclosure behind her. When she had first came here, it was an open-aired space, probably intended to be a garden. Screw that, instead of throwing in every plant she could find, she had made it comfortable instead. She's left the tree standing, and instead put in a few chairs and cushions. Forget that meditating pose stuff. She just leaned back in comfortable, cushiony seat and got more done than any of the 'young masters' in the city.
Shadows washed behind her, as fast moving clouds above flitted through the air. They washed over the large tree, who's species definitely hadn't existed back in Canada, the two benches, sitting as unused as the day she had brought them, and her miniature throne, a shrine to cushiness and comfort.
She had here for nearly two years now, she recalled, running her fingers along the stone, as she strode inside. Oh, there had been a big huff and a fuss when she had arrived out of nowhere, but playing that smart had been her saving grace. She hadn't been able to speak a damn word, and by the time she learned, she was too smart to tell anyone jack shit.
So, here she was, living in a small villa at the edge of the Middle District. No visitors, no friends, just herself and Jein. She liked it that way.
She turned the corner, opening a swinging door and stepping into the house. Turning right, she followed the circular corridor wrapping around the meditation area to her own room. She passed the kitchen on the way, seeing Jein's tall, lean form inside as the old man worked the counter.
She flat out refused to eat what the people here had considered food. She had enjoyed various types of food back home, but raw was one thing she didn't touch. A little boost to Sol intake be damned.
He was hunched over, the giant textbook she had made open on the counter. On it's pages were hand drawn instructions for what simple foods she could remember. She grinned at his back as she remembered teaching him how to cook. It had been
...fun to say the least.
She ran a hand through her messy hair, ruffling it a bit further as she moved on. Was she ever glad for the things she had learned around the house at home. She grimaced, remembering her early teen days. Like every other girl she'd known, she had been a goddamn brat. Idly, she wondered where they were these days. Did anyone even miss her? Maybe her parents. Jess too. But that was about it. Everyone else she had known had been a social butterfly. They would have put on the grieving faces just long enough to not be seen as assholes, then just move on.
Whatever. Those days were dead and gone.
"This one asks if the mistress wishes anything."
"No, Jein, i don't. Actually, where did you hide my drinks?"
"This one cannot remember. This one deeply apologises, mistress."
"For fuck's sake Jein. You know i hate that 'this one' shit. It implies you aren't a godamn person."
"This one apologises for offending the mistress with his worthlessness."
"Jein, look me in the eye."
"Did you know, that back home, we had a single word to describe the most important thing in your society?"
"If the mistress wishes to tell this one."
"BULLSHIT. That is the only single word i can think of to describe the sheer fuckery of what happens here every day. EVERY DAY. THE SAME FUCKING SONG. Face this, face that. This one this, this one that. I'M SICK OF IT. I'M READY TO SMASH SOMEONES FACE IN."
"Okay, first of all, why the fuck are you apologising? You didn't do shit. Back home, I hated this. Dealing with prissy, stuck up bitches and little sissy boys who think their mastering some fancy ass 'form' and showing it off will get them fame. What. The. Fuck? Your society has some of the most stupid shit i have ever heard of. Your way of fighting sucks balls. The only reason anyone wins is because the other person has their stick analy wedged up further than they do.
Your fights are showing the same shit over and over and over. Everyone learns the same shit. Different sects and all be fucked. Everyone snickers and giggles over learning some old shit and trying to become the 'most august cultivator' there is. By reading out of old textbooks. Made by people who didn't become that. Want to know why your people aren't winning that war? Because the other side doesn't fight like that. They don't fight to show off, they fight to win. They fight dirty. And they have results. Has anyone ever thought, that, for a second, just maybe, using your fucking superhuman skills for anything but spinning a blade in a complicated pattern that's fucking useless in a fight? Anyone? Didn't think so."
"No, don't apologise, i'm just sick of this shit, and it's boiling over. Get my clothes, would you? The black ones."
"See, no more of that 'this one' shit. I finally got through to you.
She had elected to walk. She didn't have a mount or a crawler, and so she walked. The tiled stone, painted yellow and shaped like scales, passed underneath her armoured boots, falling behind as she covered ground with rapid strides.
Her armour clanked slightly, the plates impacting on each other as she passed shops, houses, stalls in the streets and beggars on the corners. She stopped occasionally, tossing a coin into a jar at random. Had more than enough, and loved doing this. It infuriated some of the nobles to no end, but they couldn't lift their hands against her. It wasn't the fact that they despised the beggar for having the coin, but rather, the actual act of her, an honorary noble ( a mistake on their part, that ) giving away their money freely.
One of the few things she had ever brought was the armour. She had gone through the city when she first arrived, and balked at the uselessly flimsy and showy pieces of armour on sale. A long, extensive conversation with a local blacksmith had acquired her own suit of armour, a comfortable and reliable mix of Drassavian plate and hardened Woxa leather.
She wore it everywhere. From the gatherings she was required to attend to actual business and training. Even on the field, though she had taken place in only a few expeditions.
The sun was setting, and torches being placed by guards in red cloaks everywhere she went. She didn't bother with a cloak herself. Where she was going, peacocks would be ashamed to thread.
Ahead the blue lanterns of the House Zeigong came into view, as well as their palace, one of the first in the Nobles district. The first and most fanciful. Behind her, the relatively clean streets of the Middle District fell away, the wall providing a very clear border between the slightly rich and filthy-as-a-hog rolling in dough. She was the only coming through from this side, the guards letting her through without question. Anyone else, they might have heckled, flexing their culto muscles a little, sneering at people and proudly announcing their rank and levels of skill, but not her.
They knew her name, face and not to fuck with her. Orders from on high. Being a guest had its perks.
Before her swept a parade of opulence, gleaming colours of dresses that could have fed half a city for a year, brought a thousand catapults for the war, or even a mercenary army. But, no, the cream of society didn't give a fuck as long as they were behind their walls and had their politics. She shook her head in disgust. She had tried to volunteer multiple times just get out of this damn city, but they had always found bullshit reasons to dismiss her.
'Too Short' seemed to be their favourite one. One of these days, she would hack down one of those godamn....trees at the knees and see him call her short again.
One day. For now, she satisfied herself with thoughts of revenge.
Taking a deep breath to clear herself, she strode towards the large, imposing gates of the House. Maybe she'd get through this without flattening a nose tonight. Maybe.