By the time Gwen finished her tale, her lips were parched, and the duo was within Hangzhou’s city limits. She had told all, from her rebirth in the Forrestville apartment to her mind-meld with the old Gwen; to her adventures in Highschool, her awakening with the Void, then Edgar, Almudj, her Master Henry Kilroy, Gunther and Alesia, Mark Chandler, as well as her embroilment in the feud between Elizabeth Sobel and her remaining siblings-in-craft.
There was only one innocuous detail which she had left out.
Her original age.
A woman lying about her age was acceptable in any meta-universe, surely? Not even an elder God spawned from nether-space could blame her for that!
If Jun knew that a thirty-year-old broad with hardwired daddy-issues had been thrillingly calling him ‘Uncle’ this whole while, the cringe alone would prevent them from speaking ever again.
By her recount, she was a ‘graduate’ who had ‘just built her career’.
A fresh out of university 'adult' who had left home at sixteen and had lots of experiences while living a worldly life.
Her story had been acceptable to Jun, and so Gwen left it at that.
What followed were more cans of worms.
“What’s the other world like?”
“Was there Spellcraft?”
“What’s an iPhone?”
“What do you mean there are only NoMs?”
“You’re telling me humans have wiped out every other Demi-human race on the planet? You must live in utopia!”
"How does one destroy Nagasaki without Japan having a Magi retaliating strategic spells of its own? You said their Emperor was alive, no?"
"A bunch of 0's and 1's connected the whole world?"
"There's a library of all human knowledge for anyone - ANYONE to read, at any time, called Wikipedia?"
“Can you explain again what Global Warming is?”
"The Theory of Relative to what?"
"President Trump? Never heard of anyone by that name."
“This NoM-Science business sounds awfully sketchy, haha.”
Gwen struggled to explain the most basic concepts from her old world, especially the science. It was like trying to describe the colour red to a deep-sea dweller at a depth where long-wavelength spectrums did not reach. She had always been an Arts student, with scant interest in science other than math, and therefore lacked the nuance of knowledge herself. Had she known that she was going to be born again into another world; majoring in math, physics, and chemistry, as well as engineering, would have made excellent choices.
After several confusing bouts of jargonistic, nonsensical nomenclature, the conversation turned to the fact that she was the third officious disciple of Henry Kilroy beside the Morning Star and the Scarlet Sorceress.
"No wonder the Pudong Tower made it very clear that they wouldn't condone any interference with your studies." Jun slapped his thighs. "At least now we know why Pudong is so polemic."
"Would you mind if I joined the Pudong Tower?"
"As long as we won't be pitted against each other," Jun warned her, foreshadowing a most undesirable prospect. "You should always have a choice though. The Western Towers' employ free agents, unlike us military grunts trained and fed by the PLA."
"They gave our families everything we have after the Great Revolution, and again after the Purge during the Cultural Revolution. The entirety of Northern China would be ruled by the Undead were it not for the defence put up by the PLA in the 50s and again in the 80s."
Gwen wanted to ask about the Undead, but Jun interrupted her with a sudden chortle.
“I wonder what they will call you,” he snickered. “The Devourer? Gwen the Voracious Eater?”
“Why not Lightning Gwen, or something like ‘The Flash’?” Gwen fired back.
What kind of bloody moniker was the Devourer? Was she a terror at the buffet, the consummate consumer of roasts? The emptier of the oyster tray? If they're going with non-sensical names, why not something that sounded terrifyingly cool like The Lurker in the Void? The Tempest-tress?
“Well, usually its the most memorable aspect of a Mage that makes the moniker. Think about it. Gunther’s powers manifest as Radiance, so it goes to show that he’s the Morning Star. Your sister-in-craft is well known for her scarlet fire, and she always wears red, so she’s the ‘Scarlet Sorceress’. You, on the other hand, I don’t think anyone is going to remember your Lightning spells after one look at Caliban, especially if they see him eat. I don’t think it's possible ever to forget the sight of Caliban taking a meal.”
"Maybe something like 'Gwen of Light and Dark'?"
An approaching structure loomed in the near-distance.
It was a sentry gate; after which they would be within Hangzhou’s city limits.
As Liu’s manor was on the outskirts, they didn’t need to enter the city itself. Following the orbital ring-road highway around the estuaries that marked the city’s crawling watery progression was sufficient in delivering them to their destination.
“Gwen, your secret is safe with me, I am on your side,” Jun assured his niece.
“I know.” Gwen channelled her inner Han Solo.
“Great. You can tell me more about your world, at your leisure. I am very interested in this Science business. Though I am afraid, we're going to have to keep it to ourselves.”
“Sure thing, Uncle, of course. Should... I tell Babulya?"
To her surprise, Jun shook his head.
"No, Mother has enough on her plate. The shock and disappointment aside, it would drastically complicate your relationship with Father."
"Alright," Gwen replied, her voice a little hollow for the loss.
“On to a more immediate matter then. What do you think about this wedding business.”
“To be honest, I think it’s going to be a shit-show, excuse my French.”
“Aha.” Jun chuckled. “Go on.”
“Uncle Jun… I don’t know how well you know Dad - he is not a one-woman man. Qīn is the most feminine woman I have ever seen, and she’s very much in love with him, but that hardly compares to Dad's history. He’s a free spirit.”
“Why do you think he’s choosing to settle down?”
“God knows,” Gwen shrugged. “Maybe he is in love with the woman; maybe he wants to have a normal family again - I mean, I am a pretty shitty daughter.”
“It’s true. I am bitchy; I am ungrateful; I am judgmental. Dad couldn’t wait until I was out of the house.”
“Oh, Gwen, that’s not true.”
“Well, it's spilt milk now.” Gwen puckered her dry lips, wetting both petals with her tongue. “As I said, Dad likes women like I like food. I can’t imagine myself eating hotpot every day, no matter how spicy and awesome it might be, and Dad can’t f- SLEEP… with the same woman. It’s in his blood.”
“I imagine Father would have something to say about his blood.”
“That’s alright, keep going.”
“That’s it. Dad’s not a bad bloke. He took care of Percy and me, materially, minimally, and I am not unthankful for that. He’s the sort of a guy who makes a far better mate - that’s friend in our Aussie lingo - than he is a father or a husband.”
“I can see that, yeah.”
“What I am worried about, and this is what you should tell grandfather - is what happens when Dad sleeps with the maid? Or one of Qīn’s colleagues, or a female something with two legs, a gash, and happens to be in the local vicinity.”
That respect Gwen had for Hai made his eyes water.
"Father believes Hai is a changed man."
"Because of Qīn?"
“The House of Liu is an old family with strong ties to the CCP. We’re not Clanners, like those Sectarian Sword-Mages, the old Daoshis, or the Monks, just old families that have done well in the new China. The Lius are a decent Clan, as far as Power Progeny goes. A little nepotism in the ranks, but well within norms. The older generation is well deserving of their reputation.”
“That makes it worse, right?” Gwen felt a sinking feeling in her chest.
“Unfortunately, yes. I suppose we should be glad that Hai was married then divorced, to a nobody. Sorry, Gwen. On the other hand, Qīn is way past the usual age for marriage but is well regarded as Chief Physician. She is a gifted healer, certainly better than Sister Nen, Tao’s mother, and inferior to mother only by virtue of age and experience.”
“Wait up,” Gwen thought of an unpleasant projection. “Was Dad ever a mummy’s boy?”
“Of course, he was always her favourite. He’s extremely good at squeezing adoration and affection from her, you know.”
“Was Babulya famous for her beauty, her youth, her motherliness, her wonderful personality… classic Oedipal and all that?”
"Its when you... love... your mother, very much."
“That goes without saying, Gwen. We ALL love mother, right?! At any rate, Klavidya was the most eligible bachelorette in the CCP’s Medical Spellcraft Division! Probably more famous than you or Petra when she studied in Fudan. They called her the czarina from the Harbin Frontier!”
"Did the two of you get a lot of affection from Babulya?"
"Yes and no, she was working as much as Father. The military raised us. But, Mother used to shower us with affection every chance she had."
"Absent mother, huh?"
"Gwen, what are you getting at?"
“So DAD is marrying a HEALER who is soft-hearted, kind, beautiful, and dotes on him unconditionally…”
“Just like Babulya?”
“Ah~ classic Dad…”
Jun’s Adam’s apple bobbed a few times.
"Surely Dad won't cheat... on his mother?"
Jun's fist gripped the steering wheel.
“Is... this the 'psychology' you spoke of?”
"Don't... ever be a Mind Mage."
On the horizon, the quiet outskirts of Hangzhou came into view, a shimmering sheet of haze hanging over a mirage-like waterscape of dynastic terraces sitting over the city's tributaries and estuaries, wilting in the summer haze.
* * *
The same servant they had seen last time led uncle and niece into the courtyard.
Babulya was there, as well as Gwen’s grandfather, including Gwen’s aunty, Nen, which she had seen only twice. The younger generation was missing and likely would not be present until the wedding date.
Her father was present, naturally, along with the Liu brigade.
“Ash Bringer! Welcome back! Miss Song! I am glad to see you are safe!” Sumei, the Patriarch, opened his arms expansively and welcomed the two into his ‘abode’.
Not wanting to take her chances, Gwen curtsied expertly.
Jun bowed, then bowed again toward his parents.
Gwen quickly moved over to the other side of the aisle and dipped likewise.
“You look as lovely as ever, Gwen,” Qīn remarked.
Gwen wasn’t sure if her comment was a genuine compliment or yet another jab at her mother, so she took it with as much grace as she could muster, putting up a smile as synthetic and illuminating as the Day Light lanterns brightening the courtyard.
“Gwen IS very pretty, isn’t she?” Nen flattered her niece. “She’s famous in Fudan you know. Even I’ve heard about the Deathworm-Beauty of Guoding Road, hahaha! Tao and Mina has nothing but praise for you, Gwen. My husband thinks the world of you as well.”
“Thanks, Aunty.” Gwen played the coy waif.
“Gwen.” Her babulya made a come-hither with her hands. Gwen carefully approached, cute as a button and meek as a kitten.
The sound of the familiar voice gave her a start. It was deeper than she'd recalled, more mature, but also worn and fatigued.
Behind Guo was her brother.
“Percy! I’ve missed you!” she let loose a genuine yelp of jubilation before recalling how they’d parted last time, with unspoken bad blood. "How are you? The training is going well, I hope."
“I see you have done well for yourself,” Guo interjected before her brother could reply. There was a dull glow in his eye that suggested some sort of Divination; the effect was subtle, and Gwen had only noticed because each and everytime she felt ‘scanned’, the follicles on her arms and her legs broke out in goosebumps. “The trip has gone well?”
“It has, Grandfather,” Gwen replied in a decorous and careful manner. “Uncle Jun has taken great care of me.”
“As he should.” Guo inclined his head, his expression unreadable as usual.
When Gwen persisted in looking behind him, the old man annoyedly sidestepped. To Guo, the uncultured girl had no inclination that the protocol was to make small talk with the elders, asking permission to be dismissed. He wondered if she'd been raised by wolves, but then recalled that yes, she was raised by Hai.
“How have you been?”
Percy looked paler than Gwen recalled, though it was no surprise if he had spent his time indoors, training in his private gym. Even if the boy had lived a healthy lifestyle outdoors, the Chinese sun was piss-weak by Aussie standards. Shanghai especially was choked by mana miasma. The silver lining for Gwen was that her soft skin fared well so long as she wasn't stuck in a topless jeep for six-hours, affording her convenient summer attires like singlets, tank tops and sundresses. If she had remained in Australia, summer would have been an endless ritual of slip-slop-slap.
While the youngsters talked, the oldies moved to occupy more comfortable seating in the East Wing.
The manor was tranquil and beautiful, especially as subtle manifestations of Dancing Lights played across frond-filled ponds that surrounded the pagoda pavilions, joined by frog song and the sibilant trickling of water.
With the two of them left alone, Gwen attempted to thaw the ice.
“So, how’s the training.”
Percy looked sheepish.
“Coming along, I am filling up my second tier in Evocation. Grandfather hopes that I can concurrently train with another school, but learning meta-Schools Spellcraft is very taxing.”
“Oh yes.” Gwen nodded sagely. She vaguely recalled her ‘I am a Generalist’ days. Learning anything had been a chore until she had properly Awakened to Conjuration and Evocation, cognitively conjoining her Astral and physical bodies. “The headaches you get from mana burn can get pretty nauseating. Don’t push yourself too hard, hey?”
When she looked up, Percy had a sardonic smirk on his face.
“Do you 'really' have trouble with meta-School spells, Sis?”
“It’s only natural,” Gwen defended herself reflexively.
“Which School, exactly?”
“Well.” Gwen placed a few indignant fingers against her collarbone. “I would certainly struggle to learn Enchantment, for example.”
“But not Evocation, or Illusion, or Abjuration, or Transmutation, or Divination?”
Her next words became tongue-tied.
Did Percy think she was humblebragging?
In hindsight, the boy was right, what she had said was exactly that.
Of course, Percy would know the true extent of her Schools.
Her Grandfather had watched as she dissected Choi for his Illusion talent.
“So, how was the trip?”
“The trip? Oh yes, the trip! It was fascinating! Jun and I had many encounters with Wildland Magical Monsters. Ran into a Dragon-kin, the most intimidating Pangolin you have ever seen. Started shouting when we tried to kill it. Then there were bees. My God! So many bees! Bees the size of…”
Gwen launched into an endless tirade of relative half-truth, detailing what had happened on the mountain. She couldn’t possibly tell Percy about her harvest of Draconic-Essence, nor was she about to reveal the existence of Ayxin or Golos. Instead, Gwen focused on the hunting of the Dragon-carp and the Draconic-deer.
“So, did you manage to find a Core? or a Spirit?”
Ah, Gwen snickered internally. You sneaky little rascal. ‘That’ was the million-HDM question.
“Huhuhu.” Gwen puffed out her chest.
Percy’s breath quickened.
His face grew flush with crimson.
Gwen almost felt sorry for teasing him.
“NOPE!” She laughed, slapping his shoulder. “I got nothing! We did find a Core though, an earthen one. Gonna hawk it for crystals to pay for rent, haha.”
Her brother laughed awkwardly, from the looks of it, he rightfully doubted her story.
But there was one more thing on Gwen’s mind.
If Percy wanted to test her, it was only right that she prodded him back.
The information that Lulan had told her.
“Percy, tell me about the young man from the Huashan Sect called Pei Li.”
It wasn't a question.
Gwen wasn't going to let her brother off without at least twisting his arm.
Percy’s demeanour palpably shifted toward the defensive.
“He’s a classmate.” Percy was visibly sweating. The young man was too green! Gwen mused - though it was endearing that her brother immediately thought he was in deep shit. Their grandfather must have informed him that she’d made up with Lulan; if so, Percy should have expected that Lulan would have told her everything. From the looks of it, Grandfather was leaving Percy to deal with his cock-up.
“Are you close friends?”
“We’re acquainted.” Percy couldn’t meet Gwen's eyes.
“Did you ever talk to Pei regarding my circumstances? About things like…”
“About... you know... like...”
She could hear Percy audibly breathing now.
The boy looked as though he was being racked!
The schadenfreude was intoxicating, but she had to stop.
“... how PRETTY your sister is!”
Gwen wrapped an arm around Percy, pulling him closer until his face was against hers. She blinked her eyes coquettishly in a jovial and clownish manner.
“Are your friends at all interested in the infamous Deathworm Handler of Fudan?! I am rather infamous now you know. They say that Petra and I have become the most well-known faces around University Road!”
“Let me go!” Percy struggled feebly, caught off guard by Gwen’s aggressive body language.
Gwen kept Percy captive under one arm. Despite the growth spurt her brother had enjoyed, he was no match for her Almundj-Essence empowered body. Even without the Draconic-vitae, she was far sturdier than her lithe arms suggested.
The kinship felt good, as did the skinship.
It was the sort of thing she had done with Percy in the old world.
When Percy finally escaped, pressing against her with all his might, Gwen had to let go.
“Hey! You’re crushing my boob!”
“Am not!” Percy’s face had become scarlet pork-liver. "That's your rib!"
“Ah~, Boys, they grow up so fast. Did you get to know any girls from school? Xiangming Metropolitan is Co-Ed, right?”
Percy nodded, fixing his ruffled hair.
“So, you got a girlfriend yet?”
Percy shook his head.
“WHAT?! FOR SHAME!” Gwen scolded her brother. “Loser! Look at Dad! How can you continue the legacy of your Father if all you do is sit around on your ass NOT having a girlfriend?!”
“Grandpa forbade me,” Percy muttered.
“PUFFT!” Gwen spat out rancorous laughter. “Why?”
“He said that er… we need to preserve our… vitality, because of Salt.”
“What? Are you for real? You're celibate?”
Percy growled, looking as though he wanted to find a hole and crawl into it.
“Hahaha, you need to preserve your… hahaha.” Gwen slapped her thighs. “What kind of Fengshui logic is that?! If your father had done that from the start, we wouldn’t exist! Can you imagine Father having enough temperance for that sort of thing?”
“OKAY~ Jeez.” Percy shot her an annoyed look.
Gwen wiped a tear from her eye.
“Bloody hell, Percy, SO MOROSE. What are you, Vincent Price?”
“Ah, never mind.”
“So, what do you think about Dad’s wedding?”
“I don’t think," Percy muttered, his voice morose and affected. "It's not like my opinion matters."
Ah, that means he hates it. Gwen recognised the rebellious tone. Well, it only stood to reason. Their father was indeed having another child, and Percy was right to feel paranoid. Replacing the heir was unlikely though, Grandfather had gone to great length to set up his new grandson, and a bird in the hand is always better than two in the bush. She was confident that their patriarch wouldn't just give up Percy in exchange for the great unknown inside Qīn’s belly.
“Well, what do you think about your soon to be baby sister or brother?”
“My WHAT?!” Percy shot from where he'd sat as though a pin-cushion had materialised on the wooden bench. His already pale face took on a new shade of sickly paleness that rivalled Gwen's complexion.
OH SHIT! Gwen mentally slapped herself. He didn’t know?! Did no one tell Percy? The boy must have known?! Right? That's the bloody reason for the shotgun wedding!
“Well, it was a secret? Or I should say, an open secret? Can you pretend to have not heard?”
There was no salvaging the shit-show that had been unleashed.
Loose lips sink ships! Gwen berated herself.
Percy sat down.
Taking her brother's hand, Gwen felt his skin first boil, then rapidly cool until it was icy.
“Percy- seriously, are you okay?” she intoned worriedly, putting a hand to his forehead. Her brother's skin became clammy with sweat.
Percy looked as though he was intoxicated.
His eyes suddenly grew wide; then he doubled over.
“Percy! What’s happening?” Gwen tried slapping his back.
Then Gwen felt it.
That familiar aura of Jun, subsuming essence.
The Kirin Amulet - something was happening within the Kirin Amulet.
Not only that, her own Almudj's Essence was agitated.
“Percy, it’s the Amulet! What are you doing with it?”
“NOTHING! I’ll be fine!” Her brother spat defensively. "Leave me alone!"
“You’re not fine! You bloody idiot! Let me see!”
“NO!” Percy battered her hand away, jarring her fingers.
The audacious act filled Gwen with a sudden bout of righteous fury.
She felt such resentment and annoyance that any feeling of sentimentality became drowned out by a sudden wave of all-consuming vindictiveness.
How dare Percy refuse her generosity!?
“God damn it you little shit!” The words escaped her mouth before she could even think of them. “Don’t try to play with powers you can’t control! Let me see the bloody thing before you kill yourself.”
Even though the words had engendered from in her mind, she hadn't the slight intention of expelling them. That her diatribe had escaped her lips unbidden shocked the both of them into stunned silence.
Percy glared at her with a fierceness that made her flinch.
“Shit, Percy, sorry, look, I didn’t mean that.”
Percy clasped his Amulet protectively.
“I AM FINE!” He stood up, his neck throbbing with purple veins. “GET AWAY FROM ME!”
“Alright, alright… Jesus…”
Gwen backed out of the pagoda-pavilion. She wasn't sure how to deal with Percy's outrage. Not even in the old world had her brother ever screamed at her.
“DAD! UNCLE JUN?!” she called out. If Percy refused her help, maybe someone else can help her. "MR LIU? ANYONE?"
“SHUT UP!” Percy hissed at her. “SHUT UP! GOD DAMN IT!”
A few of the servants came running.
Jun and Guo materialised from the East Wing.
“What’s happened?” Jun turned to Gwen. Her uncle's face was a mask of concern.
“Percy’s not feeling well…” Gwen tried to explain.
“She wants my PENDANT!” Percy almost howled out his accusation. His face was a mask of blind anguish. "She tried to TAKE IT!"
When Guo stepped into the pagoda, Gwen felt the moisture drain from the air. As the old man held up his precious heir, he gave Gwen a cold and dangerous glare full of suspicion.
“WHAT! NO!” Gwen protested wildly. "It's a misunderstanding!"
She begged her uncle with her eyes.
Jun looked to be far more worried about his father, who appeared on the verge of popping a gasket.
“NO! I’d never!” she stated again. “He was in pain! I was trying to help! I gave him the amulet, why would I want it back?!”
“Gwen, we believe you,” Jun interjected. “Let’s all just calm down.”
“Grandfather…” Percy held onto Guo’s shoulder. "I don't feel well."
“Bring your Grandmother!” Guo snapped at Gwen. “Go now! She's attending to Qīn! The East Wing!”
Her heart felt as though it had been dashed on the floor and stomped.
Her brain was a jumble of mixed emotions; indignity, impotent fury, and wilting betrayal all mixed into a volatile cocktail.
Of course, she wanted the fucking thing, but she would never TAKE IT from her brother, GOD DAMN IT! She swore internally, gnashing her teeth. As she ran past the terrified NoM servants, her chest felt so constricted that the pressure against her ribcage felt rigged to blow.
Below her, the Koi in the pond began to boil, writhing as though they were trying to escape the water itself. A few of them became driven into such a frenzy that the fish started attacking each other.
SHIT! Gwen caught herself before the commotion spread too far.
She was LEAKING now of all fucking times.
Calm your tits girl! She chided herself as she activated Ayxin’s scale by directing her seething Essence toward it.
Harmony! She had to remain calm and collected.
She had to be placid like a summer Billabong.
An indistinct passage of minutes passed.
When she opened her eyes, her heart had returned to its usual cadence.
Her unruly essence was under control.
That and two dozen priceless Koi were dead, floating belly-up after tearing themselves to bits.
FUCK A DUCK!
IT DOESN’T FUCKING END!
Her zen shattered as the tranquil green water below broke into silvery fragments refracting the Dancing Lights hovering over the pond, hinting at the violent demise of yet more Koi.
She had to get out of here! She had to get somewhere where her 'leaks' wouldn't murder the pet fish Qīn had likely raised for a decade.
Gwen fled the sight of the carp-holocaust, only to run into her uncle coming the other way two pavillions away, catching her on the narrow bridge where there was no avoiding the anxious-looking man.
“Gwen." Her uncle was surprised to see her. "You try to find Mother, yes?”
Did she go and get babulya?
Of course, that had been the plan.
“You were gone for almost ten minutes. Mother found us by herself.”
“Where did you go?”
“I had a leak.”
“Mao! Did you get it under control?”
“Yeah, I mean, no, I-”
She couldn't continue because, in the next moment, uncle and niece were no longer alone. Her grandfather was accompanied by her brother, who was looking pale but otherwise restored, as well as babulya.
“Gwen, I had requested that you find your grandmother.” Guo’s expression spoke of one whose patience and kindness was running on fumes. “What did you do instead? Where did you go?”
“I was looking,” Gwen told the half-truth.
“I find that very difficult to believe.”
“Gwen,” her babulya tried to intervene. "Guo, let it go."
"Klavdiya! Stay out of this!" Guo growled at his wife, furious that even now she would take the ingrate's side.
Watching her babulya's crestfallen expression, something snapped inside of Gwen.
“Well, I did, Old man! What's so hard to believe?” Gwen riposted suddenly, her eyes vivid with barely contained passion. “Whether you believe it or not, I did. That's the truth, take it or leave it!”
The resultant silence was as though a magical debuff had descended upon the gathered throng. Not even the frogs dared to croak. Pressing terrified and vague fingers against her lips, Gwen wondered if slapping herself loudly and humiliatingly across the face would salvage the moment, though her grandfather’s demeanour suggested the situation had escalated way beyond that.
“Jun, with me. Gwen, do as you please.”
Gwen lowered her head.
The glower her grandfather gave to his wife and his son was enough to make their blood run cold.
“Jun, you have disappointed me. Is this insolence what you hoped to accomplish by risking yourself? Is this what you've been teaching her?”
Her uncle lowered his head as well. The transpiring act, in Gwen's eyes, became a physical pain stabbing at her chest.
“I am sorry, Father.”
At that moment, Gwen would have gladly tested the hypothesis of whether their grandfather could tank an affinity 6 Lightning Sphere to the face, and if her babulya possessed the ability to put fuck-wit McGuo back together again.
But her uncle and babulya were watching, and so Gwen held her tongue.
“I am sorry, Grandfather.” Gwen bowed deeply. It was all she could do right now.
Her hair fell over her face and shoulders, blocking her forward vision.
All she could see was the feet of those who shuffled past, each by each.
Then finally babulya.
An elegant pair of embroidered sandals stopped just below her eyes.
“Gwen, you don’t have to like your Grandfather, but you do have to respect him. Can you at least do that for me, Dear?”
“Yes, Babulya. I am sorry.”
“It’s alright dear. This is a sensitive time. You Grandfather doesn’t want to lose face in front of the Liu’s.”
“We’ll talk once this is all over, alright?”
The troop moved on. She was left alone.
Gwen felt sick. She felt more fatigued than for the entirety of her and Jun's Huangshan poaching trip, including her Golos-showdown.
The shriek made her flinch.
“GREAT LEADER’S GHOST!”
“SOMEONE KILLED THE KOI!”
“MISTRESS' FAVOURITE KOI?!”
"WHO WOULD DO THIS?"
That was the final straw.
She had run out of the necessary willpower to deal with even more shit after a world of shit had just descended upon her shit filled world.
Gwen incanted her Lesser Flight spell; she lifted herself into the air, then pointed her face toward the lights in the distance.
She needed a fucking drink, a quiet place to sit, and time to think.