Fung led the Young Hero to a stall, to purchase some more wine. Rain followed amicably, smiling at almost every passing woman. A drunk and a womanizer, how young to be so sordid. ‘Then again, I am no better,’ Fung noted to himself with a smile. He picked out two simple fruit wines, much like the lychee wine that Rain had dropped. “A toast, Young Hero, to heroic actions.”
“No, no. No heroics. I feel bad about the young man. I went too far, too. Far. Easier to speak than to act.” Rain waved his hands, denying the toast. “Better to drink to something else. A toast, to alcohol, this sweet nectar of divinity.” He kissed the jar, and drank deeply.
Fung chortled and drank as well. An amusing fellow, this Rain was. He looked to be about 14 or 15 years of age, for him to call DuGu Ren, at 18 years of age, a ‘young man’ was laughable. He seemed educated, talented, humorous, and humble. Whatever family he was from had raised a promising young fellow. “Tell me, Young Hero, to which family do you owe allegiance?”
Rain continued to drink, index finger held up to Fung. After a long moment, he finally drew breath, exclaiming, “Delicious wine. Excellent choice.” He gave Fung a thumbs up before continuing, “I’m not from the city. Just a small village, doesn’t even have a name or anything, in the middle of nowhere.” He burped loudly and returned to drinking.
No name? Small village? Very few villages survived outside the cities. With the constant threat of Defiled and feral beasts, it was difficult to survive without the walls, or the constant patrols of the Imperial Army. No wonder the young man was so strong. Unfortunately, that meant he had no backing. Fung shook his head. No wonder Rain had terrible manners. No matter though. Fung had decided to help him, and help him he would.
“Young Hero, although I admire your actions earlier, I would caution you to leave the city as soon as possible. The DuGu family is not without power, and entirely without scruples.” Fung motioned for his guards. “Allow me to escort you out of the city. With me present, they would not dare to make a move against you. Escape now before they set someone to follow you.” It would be a waste for a young talent like this to end up in the DuGu dungeons.
Rain looked at him gratefully. “What a kind Young Master. If only more were like you.” He bowed, a full 45 degrees, hands clasped. So he had some manners, at least. “I thank you for your generosity. Your suggestion is appreciated, but I am unable to leave the city. I have responsibilities, and a certain goal to fulfill before returning home. If the DuGu family come after me, I will simply have to run.” He smiled, unafraid. “Young Master Fung has no need to concern himself with my well-being. I shall collect what I disperse.”
Excellent. Brave as well, and full of interesting, if rustic, sayings. Fung sighed. A shame. If he stayed in the city, he would likely die a dog’s death. Fung’s hands were bound, if Rain refused to leave. “Let us continue our chat at a more suitable location, my treat of course. Afterwards, allow me to escort you to where you are staying.” He liked this young hero, and being seen in Fung’s presence may be enough to dissuade the DuGu family. Perhaps Fung could convince his father to rope him in. Unlikely, for his father to risk upsetting the DuGu family over a promising youth with no backing, but still a chance. It would be a great shame should Rain die tonight..
“Ah, sure, that would be very helpful. Actually, I was separated from my companions, and don’t know the way home. If you could help me find my way back to my Teacher’s manor, I would be very grateful. His name is Taduk, he’s a rabbit eared healer. No wait, a hare eared healer. Don’t tell him I called him a rabbit. I actually don’t know the difference between the two. Don’t tell him that either.”
Fung froze, disbelieving his ears. “You are the student of Taduk the Healer?” Rain nodded. Fung laughed heartily. DuGu Ren had indeed made the mistake of a lifetime today. “Excellent, excellent. Let us head to the Golden Swan Pavilion, for some entertainment and drinks. My treat of course.” A youth like this, with his backing, had no need to fear the DuGu family. They would not dare move against him once they knew.
Rain followed along and tilted his head. “What is the Golden Swan Pavilion?”
Akanai sat still in the waiting room, fully armed and armored. The boy was missing. Where could he have gone? Did someone realize about his weapon? Impossible. One would have to actively attempt to bind it to realize it was unbound, and doing so while the owner carried it? It was tantamount to suicide. It had to be something else.
She scolded the two foolish girls in her mind once more. They had returned to the manor in tears, having lost the boy. Worse, they had searched for hours on their own before returning for help. They should have known better. They were both familiar with the city, and the rules they needed to follow. Rain was greenhorn, and a foolish one at that. The boy had the manners of a dog, and the sense of one to boot. She growled under her breath.
Taduk had cautioned her to remain at home. Charging off blindly would do no good, he said. That had been an hour ago. It was almost midnight now, and still no word of the boy. He could be dead by now. Robbed and beaten by thugs and thieves, or killed for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. These nobles and their shit pride, killing at an errant word. Akanai vowed to herself that if they killed Rain, she would burn the city to the ground, and salt the ashes.
Husolt sat nearby, drinking, looking unconcerned. The wastrel. If it was not for him and Taduk pouring so many drinks for the boy, this would never have happened. They had gotten him drunk, and now look. The boy had probably mouthed off to someone in power, or an arrogant noble. Mother knows, he has a sharp temper when drunk, scolding Taduk and Husolt throughout lunch, and his off-color jokes. Baatar would be so distraught, the poor little pup. He had finally found a disciple, after looking for so long. He would be inconsolable. It was her fault, she should have sent an escort with him. She chewed her lip.
Taduk walked in, looking grim. Akanai raced towards him. “What news?”
“There were some merchants who claim they saw someone fitting Rain’s description.” Taduk shook his head. “They claimed to see him assault and injure the youngest DuGu child, in the early afternoon.”
Akanai walked towards the quin pen. Taduk ran after her, yelling, “Stop! You cannot just ride into the DuGu Manor alone!”
“What would you have me do then? “ She snarled. “Pray for his soul? No, I will go in there, and bring him back, no matter if I need to kill every member of that household, even if just to bring his corpse out.” She marched on, sure of her goal. Husolt marched beside her with a grim countenance while Taduk continued to try to stop them. She moved him aside gently and whistled for Kankin. Her trusty mount leaped to obey, hopping the divider easily, landing before her. She sat atop him without a harness, and guided him forward and out the gate. Once there, she narrowly avoided crashing into a rickshaw, skidding to a halt.
“Hullo! Welcome back. O, no that’sh not right. Ah’m home!” Rain cheerily greeted her from the rickshaw. Akanai stared at him, and the passenger with him. They were both splendidly drunk and giggling incessantly.
“Where have you been boy? And who is this?” She was too angry to be relieved. He had been out carousing? His clothes were a mess and stank of perfume. There was lipstick on his shirt, and a gleam to his skin. First drinking, now womanizing? How quickly this one learned bad habits.
“Er, I can’t tell you that. Itsh a secret. This is my new best friend, The Wind.”
The passenger laughed uproariously, slapping his leg repeatedly. Rain joined him, and soon the two were gasping for air.
Enough was Enough. He was home, and safe. She grabbed both idiots by the collar and carried them into the manor. He still had his sword at least, did not pawn it for more prostitutes.
“You’re super strong.” Rain was grabbing her bicep as he was being carried. “It’sh like, redicadonk.”
The other one started laughing again. “Redicadonk.” He repeated between gasps.
Akanai arrived at the pond, dropping them both in. They sat in shock for a moment, before they started splashing one another, laughing uproariously. Idiots.
Husolt and Taduk were watching, smiling at the scene. Akanai glared at them. “Do something,” she roared.
Taduk shrugged, and spoke out. “Ahem, my boy, come out of the water. I need to have a word with you.”
Rain immediately stopped splashing about, struggling to get out of the pond. The other one tried to get out at the same time. They tried supporting one another and only managed to drag each other back down, laughing. Akanai rolled her eyes. She rode Kankin into the pond, grabbing Rain and throwing him out of the pond, none too gently. She did the same with the other one.
“Thank you very much, my Mentor’s Mentor. Much appreshiated.” Rain stood, brushing himself off, before turning his back to her and facing Taduk with a salute. “Student greets Teacher. Hello.”
Husolt snickered. Akanai growled once again, and he wiped all sign of mirth from his face. Coughing lightly, Taduk spoke to Rain, a half-smile on his face. “My boy, where have you been? We’ve been worried.”
Rain looked to the left, and then to the right. He leaned forward and whispered loudly, “I’m very sorry for worrying Teacher. I was with some lady friends at the Golden Swan Pavilion. And with The Wind.” The other one started laughing uncontrollably once more. “But not together. That would be weird. Alone. With the lady friends.”
“The wind? That is your young friend here?” Taduk motioned at the wet stranger on the floor.
The young stranger struggled to stand, saluting before saying, “Honored to greet you, Master Taduk. My father has spoken well of you often. I am the new friend of Falling Rain here.” The two boys began snickering under their breath.
A servant approached them, doing his best to not look at the scene. “Master Taduk, there are guards from the Magistrate’s house at the gate. They seek permission to enter the grounds.”
Taduk’s face fell. “Boy, the Magistrate’s guards? What did you do?”
The stranger giggled and spoke, “Only three of the finest the Golden Swan had to offer.” They both started laughing again.
Akanai had had enough. She leaped off her mount and clamped her hand down on Rain’s head. “Boy. Sober up, or I will tan your hide and use it as a blanket.” Her threat did not seem to work. He even looked happy at that. She tightened her grip. “I mean it boy. Sober up, now.” She needed answers. She could not slaughter the Magistrate’s guards without good reason.
He stopped smiling, grabbing at her wrist, nervous now. “Er, I’m going to need some tea, some food, and some time.”
Her words came out stilted. “Reach for Balance. Purge the alcohol.”
It took a few tries for the boy to succeed. It was evident when he did. His eyes widened in panic, right before he ran to a secluded tree.
Tense seconds passed, only the sound of piss hitting the tree to fill the silence.
Fuck. I’m in trouble.
Well, it can’t be that bad. All I did was disappear for an afternoon. I look up at the moon. Okay, maybe longer. Why do I have so much piss? This is a handy trick though, being able to purge alcohol like this. All the fun, with no hangover and no liver damage. I give it a good shake, still feeling a little drunk, and pull my pants back up.
Turning around, I’m greeted by the sight of Akanai glaring. One of the girls at the Swan had been blonde and tall like her. Not as toned, but gorgeous all the same. A former noble. She was very enthusiastic. No this isn’t the time to reminisce. I cough lightly. “Hello. Sorry for any worry I caused.”
“What did you do?” Akanai is quiet, tense. No one else is in sight, except Fung. He’s still standing around, giggling.
“Ah, well, I went er, drinking with Fung over there.” I point at him, hoping to deflect some of her anger.
“Not that, you idiot. I don’t care about your drinking and whoring! Why are the Magistrate’s guards here?” Dammit she heard about the pavilion. O well, not like it matters.
I shrug at her. “They’re probably here for him.” I mean, they are supposed to protect him. I think we forgot to bring them when we left. She looks venomously at him, and grabs him by the arm, marching him towards the gate. His guards are coming, Taduk leading the way, trying to covertly wave his arms at Akanai. It doesn’t work.
Akanai almost throws Fung at them. “Take him and leave. He is who you are here for, correct?”
“How dare you treat the Young Master that way!” Uh Oh. They don’t seem too happy. Akanai stiffens for a moment, before turning to look at me.
I shrug. Thankfully, Fung takes care of it. “Shaddup! How dare you speak to my friend’sh Mentor’sh Mentor’s …. Mentor like that? Have some reshpect.” O man, he is wasted.
O shit, was I that drunk?
He’s berating the guards, who stand there taking it like champs. Poor guys. I should speak up. “Fung, you shouldn’t treat them like that. They are only looking out for your safety.”
He turns and smiles at me. “You’re right, courtesy costs nothing.” He starts giggling again. “But I am young.”
I snicker, and the gates break, the both of us roaring with laughter.
Akanai grabs me by the head again. The woman has a grip like a vise. Poor Husolt. “Explain. Everything.”
Well, if she kills me, at least I won’t die a virgin.
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