“We are not using spiderwebs to hold stuff,” Su Ling said flatly, her arms crossed. “I will build you as many damn shelves as you could want if you really need storage that badly.”
“It is very convenient though, if the web has been treated properly,” Li Suyin pointed out tentatively as she put down the heavy box in her arms on the floor of their new home. Even if she was still nervous about returning to the residential area, she could admit that it was… nice to be under a proper man-made roof again.
It was strange though, to come back here for the first time in weeks to find many homes empty and the remaining inhabitants… polite. It spoke of how poorly behaved everyone had been in the beginning that the return of simple, basic courtesy was able to surprise her. With a few exceptions, they were not sneered at, pushed around, or insulted in the process of selecting a home. Li Suyin knew it was because of Ling Qi. She certainly hadn’t accomplished anything worth respect.
“Oi. Stop that.”
Li Suyin blinked, looking up to find Su Ling regarding her with a serious expression as she shifted the weight of the pack on her shoulders. “Stop what?” She asked, despite knowing what her friend was talking about.
“Doing that thing where you start beating yourself up in your head,” Su Ling replied gruffly, turning away to survey the empty room they were setting up as a workshop. “... You can put some netting up on the ceiling if you want. Just do it when I’m not here.”
“Ah, thank you.” She knew she often overthought things, but it was very hard to stop. “I don’t understand the problem though,” she added, managing a smile as she crouched down to remove the lid of the box at her feet. “I think the fuzzy ones are a little cute.”
“I shoulda never let you start hanging around that girl,” Su Ling responded in a long-suffering tone, shrugging off her own pack as she crossed to the other side of the room. “Nobody should be comfortable around things like that.”
“They aren’t much different than cats,” Li Suyin protested lightly as she began moving books to the shelves. True, she had been a little disturbed when she had begun studying under Senior Sister Bao, but the children of her mentor’s bound spirit companion were not much different in behavior from her own mother’s beloved pets. “I think I will request to be allowed to bind one when I fully break through.”
“When, huh?” Su Ling asked rhetorically as she began to carefully remove the wrapped package containing her pill furnace from the pack with a reverent care that Li Suyin didn’t often see from the other girl. “Well, it’s good to hear you being confident,” she grunted absently. “You should definitely reconsider your choice of companion though. Seriously. I’ll help you find something better.”
Li Suyin couldn’t help it. A laugh escaped her at Su Ling’s discomfort. It just seemed so out of place. Her friend was usually so rough in her mannerisms so seeing her behave like one of the girls she had interacted with at home was strange, especially over something so trivial. Su Ling would happily put herself elbow deep into a beast’s viscera, but she was nervous about creatures with a few extra legs?
Su Ling did not share her humor given the look she got in return but didn’t retort further, instead focusing on her task while studiously ignoring Li Suyin.
Li Suyin did the same after taking a moment to regain her composure. She began moving her texts to the shelf on the wall, falling into comfortable silence. Pausing as she reached the last book, Li Suyin found herself tracing the scuffs and scars on the cover with her fingers. Unlike many of the other tomes, it was a collection of stories collected from the early Empire, meant to teach the important virtues. It had been a present from her father, and she could fondly remember him reading to her from it despite how busy he was with his duties.
That bitch Xu Jia and her friends had trampled and ruined it like everything else they hadn’t stolen. Li Suyin had repaired the binding and pieced the pages back together as best she could, but looking at it still made her ruined eye throb. She grit her teeth and forced down the ugly emotion now bubbling in her chest.
She knew father would be disappointed with her for thinking such things, but she was not done with that girl. She hated the part of herself that had awoken that day, but in the end, it was a part of her. She could only accept it.
Senior Sister Bao understood as well, she thought. Li Suyin had found it odd that the older girl had seemed to take a shine to her. While she was careful and precise in her preparations, there were many others at the Medicine Hall of similar skill. It had only been after that shameful incident with that mean-spirited boy assigned to share her testing room that Bao Qingling had started to take Li Suyin under her wing.
Senior Sister Bao had showed her so much and hinted at more. Li Suyin would always be grateful to Ling Qi for helping her get through those early days when the urge to do something foolish and short sighted had been nearly overwhelming … but she felt unworthy of her. Ling Qi had started from a worse position than her, yet she still strove to be better, unlike herself. Su Ling was the same. The two of them were both good people in the way that she now knew she wasn’t. That didn’t mean that she couldn’t pay her friends back. She might be a petty, vengeful, and deceitful girl, but she could still be of use to them because of that.
Nodding to herself, she placed her precious memento on the shelf, carefully adjusting it to align with the others. Her first step would be to break through into the realm of Silver. She had put it off far too long, worried at the implications of doing so while scarred and crippled as she was.
“You doing alright over there?” Su Ling’s gruff voice pulled her from her thoughts. “You kinda spaced out.”
“Ah, yes. I was just lost in thought,” Li Suyin replied with a smile, looking up from her work to find Su Ling giving her a concerned look. It made her feel all the worse that she hadn’t been allowed to heal the wounds the girl had inflicted on herself in the aftermath of her breakthrough. Su Ling had refused her offer. At least she had been able to stop her friend from further mutilating herself, as she had been trying to do at that time. “So, once we finish unpacking, which perimeter formations do you think we should add first?”
Su Ling watched her then sighed. “The three layer alarm, I think. We can probably get that done in a couple hours. We’ll have to add ventilating formations to this room though, if we’re going to use it.”
Li Suyin blinked, the last of her darker thoughts fading away. “I suppose so. I forgot that this room would not actually be built for pill crafting already.” She shook her head, dusting her hands off on her smock.
They had quite a lot of work to do before they could call this place home.