“Could you be any less ungrateful?” the boy with purple hair chides. Thanks to his countless exploits in aiding the locals of Hong Zhou, along with his beautiful features and fiery disposition, he’s been bestowed many names and titles. But his real name is Shu, and he prefers to be called that.
“What? I never asked you to save it for me.” The boy with silver hair rolls his eyes, stretching his arms behind his back. Like his partner Shu, his beauty and deeds have earned him many names, but he too prefers to be referred as by his real name: Song.
“You say that now, but if I killed that Seeker by myself, you’d be whining about wasting all that time tracking it without getting any of the action.”
“Yeah, probably. So?”
“So I gave you the kill! The bet is off; that one didn’t count.”
“Shut up. You’re annoying,” Song says, unperturbed by his comrade’s outburst. The sight of the city’s most renowned meat store looms into view. Song nods towards it. “Hey, Shi Xian’s shop is just over there. Go make yourself useful.”
“I told you, the bet is off!” Shu is about to argue again, but remembering how stubborn Song can be, he sighs in resignation. He knows that if he doesn’t buy Song his meat skewers, he’ll be sulking for the rest of the week. “Fine, whatever. Wait here.”
As Shu jogs towards the building, Song looks up into the sky. Judging by the position of the moon, it should be eleven or so, four hours to midnight. The fact that the entrance of meat shop is closed proves it, but since it’s Shu, the owners will make an exception for him.
Song’s eyes glaze over his surroundings. Bai Hu, one of the oldest cities of Hong Zhou, has always had a soothing effect on him. The flat stone streets, the buildings with their straight inclined, gabled roofs with its sides curving up towards its apex, and the iconic lanterns hanging by the outside of each building－ these sights go on for miles with little change.
A lot of outsiders often express their distaste for Bai Hu’s old and monotonous architecture, but Song believes they just don’t understand the city’s charm. They don’t see it the way he does. Since young, Bai Hu has offered him the mental and emotional solace he needed to survive his training days as a Purger.
A Purger, huh…
Song’s attention turns to the passers-by in city square. The few people left about avoid eye-contact with him, ducking their heads and quickening their footsteps whenever his line of sight meets them.
Though his uniform is lewd, the people wouldn’t even dream of laying a finger on him. They even treat him with utmost respect, like they do with all Purgers. Only outsiders would make that mistake. Very, very distant outsiders. To these peasants, Purgers like him are heroes.
And yet, we couldn’t even save the ones who turned tonight. Some heroes we turned out to be…
“Shu sure is taking his own sweet time.” Song draws a yawn.
And speak of the devil, the double doors of meat shop part. The old couple of the store hands the boy his bag of skewered meat. Shu makes his way back to his partner’s side, his mask of annoyance still intact.
“There, happy?” Shu raises the paper bag up for Song to see.
“Yes.” A tiny smile cracks from the corner of his lips. “Come on, let’s go home already. I need a bath real badly.”
“Why? That smell of Seeker blood on you is actually an improvement, if you ask me.”
Song meets Shu’s smirk with a dagger gaze. He’ll have to remember to get back at him once they return to headquarters… and he knows just how to do it.
Several miles through the forest surrounding Bai Hu, the density of vegetation begins to thin. Song and Shu emerge through the wall of trees to a familiar sight. On an island surrounded by a wide moat is a citadel with moss covered stone walls serving as its perimeter. Sitting on top of the front gate is a stretch of double storey buildings with sweeping curved roofs that rises at its corners, lined by cylindrical tiles, with turrets of similar nature at the corners. A majestic yet strangely ominous sight indeed.
The Shadow Palace.
“Finally home,” Shu mutters.
“～Bath, water, steam～” Song hums to himself.
The both of them make their way across the stone bridge, dashing past the arch of the front gate. Though unseen from the time they took to cross the bridge, Song knows the sentries are at the upper levels of the gate and turrets. Should an outsider attempt to cross the bridge, he’d be shot dead before he could even cross the halfway mark.
The southern courtyard is devoid of life, a wide empty open area with torches placed at distant intervals, the flames dancing in the darkness as if welcoming them home. There’s always a tinge of loneliness whenever they arrive home late at night; Song wonders why their leader even made their home base like this.
“Had a good hunt?”
Song and Shu jerk from shock, whirling around to face the newcomer. Short brown hair, caramel eyes with his usual sweet, gentle smile that hides his vicious attitude－ it’s Yan, the stealthiest assassin of the Blossom.
“Mind your own business, creep,” Shu shrieks at him.
He really can’t keep his cool at all. Then again, when does he ever? Song sighs to himself.
“Geez... you and your temper like always.” Yan shakes his head, smirking. He then turns to Song. “How do you maintain the first maxim of the Purger Code with a partner like that?”
First maxim of the Purger Code: Intimate as lovers, cold as professionals.
“I think you should choke on dog crap and screw off,” Song says coolly, stretching his arms behind his back. Despite his calm demeanour, hot molten fury gnaws at his insides. While Yan has a point, it’s extremely offensive to mock a Purger’s relationship with his partner.
“Whatever.” Yan chuckles, turning back to the shadows. “You two have fun tonight, eh? Be seeing you tomorrow.”
Shu moves forward to give their antagoniser another good hearing, but Song grabs him by the arm drags him away.
“Are Lin and Mei the only decent people around here?” Shu mutters as they make their way towards the inner halls of the Palace.
“Probably.” Song shrugs.
Secretly, Song enjoys watching Shu fume about things, as long as his temper isn’t directed at him. It’s part of his charm. But sometimes, he’d intentionally make fun of Shu so he can relish in his flustered reactions. Just thinking about it makes Song excited about his plans for the night.
Intimate as lovers, cold as professionals.