Wang Shu was very impressed by the boy, Moshi Mataki. He seemed dedicated to Wang’s teachings and committed to learning. But Wang asked Wei Tai to follow him without being seen and to report back to the party as to what they saw. Wei Tai easily followed the small boy to a tiny apartment just off the Lane of Glory in the Pewter Quarter. There they found that Moshi had a mother named Shun Mataki and a little sister. Moshi’s sister cooked the food and cleaned the meager dwelling while Moshi’s mother sold her body along the other prostitutes of the Land of Glory. Wei Tai had a difficult time reporting back on this mission as the families situation hit very close to home for them.
The party discussed Shiatsu Koto’s offer and Kai Winding presented Shiatsu as a liar and one who had plans to wreak havoc in Satsujin prefecture. She said that she believed his boat ride to acquire specialized help a cover for hiring a ninja clan. Subotai was presented with the facts regarding the the forged travel papers acquired from Magistrate Lo Ban and the party convinced him that Koto’s scheme needed to be stopped before something terrible happened. Subotai was most preoccupied with meeting Lady Wuguan (wowguan) Ikari. As long as this little adventure with Shiatsu Koto did not keep them from their meeting, he would lend his help.
It was decided that Wei Tai would disguise themself as a dock worker and scope out the docks looking for which boat might be that of Shiatsu Koto. They spotted Midori Okima and Yorimoto Yusuke directing some dock workers to carry some heavy chests on board the ship and put them down below in the hold. The ship was named ‘The Wormwood’. The ship’s sailors seemed to be preparing it to set sail. They sketched a map of the docks and returned to share it with the rest of the party.
Meanwhile Moshi Mataki told Wang Shu that he had been approached by a pretty well dressed Soburi woman. She had told him that she wanted to meet Wang Shu and had some information for him that he would be very interested in. Wang had Moshi lead the party to the meeting (without Wei Tai who were scoping out the docks). The meeting point was a rather deserted part of the city near a large stone shrine.
The woman was indeed very well dressed and carried a beautiful parasol to shade her from the sun. She strolled right up to Kataashi Kikku, looked him in the eyes, and softly cooed, ‘Show me your tsukumogami.’ Kataashi smiled back at the beautiful woman and spoke in a strange language. Suddenly a strange metallic snake slithered out from Kataashi’s pant leg to float in front of him.
Then all hell broke loose as the party was attacked from all sides. The woman with the parasol cast a disrupt technology spell on the flying snake tsukumogami several times to try and knock it out, but the snake resisted. Kataashi must have been charmed by the beautiful woman because although he moved to protect the flying tsukumogami and fight back, he purposefully seemed to avoid fighting the beautiful woman. A Tanuki (panda humanoid race) Priest came running out from behind a closed door on one of the buildings. He carried a bamboo staff with a large gourd on the end of it. When he assumed his fighting stance Kataashi recognized it as the stance of the poisoned river – a powerful kung fu style. The tanuki spun the staff around his head and cast a faerie fire spell wreathing many in the party including the flying snake tsukumogami in light and giving advantage to all attacks against them.
A ninja looking woman on the top of the adjacent building hurled an enchanted kunai at the snake tsukumogami. Every time she threw it it would hit or miss its target but then magically return to her hand. She hurled the kunai 3 times and the enchanted blade cut into the mechanical flying snake. Pieces of metal and parts fell off the creature as it spinned in the air trying to avoid the hurled kunai. But the damage was too great and the creature was overwhelmed. It fell to the ground in front of Kataashi and broke apart into a few pieces. Wang Shu sprang into action by holding his calligraphy staff above his head and then whipping it forward towards the ninja on the roof. As he did so, crackling lightning whipped out of the staff and wrapped around the woman in black. She cried out as the lightning singed her body and then yanked her off the roof to fall 30 feet on to the hard cobblestone below.
A bare chested monk flipped out of an alley to land on the opposite side of the party. As he went into his fighting stance flames in the form of dragons began swirling around his body. Kataashi recognized the monk’s kung fu style as using the Stance of Fire’s Vengeance. It was a powerful technique that allowed the monk to erupt in flames and deliver fire in addition to his powerful physical blows.
Lastly a formidable female samurai with tattoos on her chest came running up behind Subotai Korusu. Subotai instantly recognized her as Nakeno Satsujin, a powerful samurai of the satsujin clan who had been disgraced by having an affair with a Korusu noble. She was cast out of Satsujin by her lord and never allowed to return on penalty of death. She tried living in Korusu prefecture with her lover but shortly thereafter in an effort to save face by the Korusu lords, she was cast out of Korusu as well. Nakeno still caries the Satsujin ancestral Katana but now is a Ronin – a masterless samurai who sells her sword to the highest bidder. Nakeno Satsujin clearly recognized Subotai as a Kuruso noble at the very least and seemed hell bent on cutting him down. An epic tow to toe battle erupted between the samurai and the ronin. At one point Subotai won past Nakeno’s guard and pierced her chest with Yabakuji. The blow was deadly and would have spelled the end of most people. But somehow Nakeno gritted her bloody teeth and fought on healing herself with the power of her ancestors and returning a deadly blow to Subotai who fell before her wrath.
The battle was fast and furious. Clearly the group of ambushers was trying to get a hold of the snake tsukumogami who was now lying in pieces on the ground. But Kataashi was standing over the creature and protecting it ferociously. She had somehow managed to avoid getting attacked but finally Kataashi managed to shake off whatever enchantment had bewitched him and unleashed some attacks against the woman. Suddenly her guise dropped as she revealed her true form. She was a fox hengeyokai – a kitsune. She suddenly had red furry ears and 5 bushy fox tails sticking out from under her dress. Every time Kataashi hit her with enough damage to bring her down one of her tails fell off and she was healed.
The battle was hard fought with people dropping on both sides and being brought back up by healing magic on both sides. But eventually some sort of turning point was reached when the ambushers called for a retreat. The bare chested Soburi monk cast some sort of spell that unleashed a torrent of steam and fog from his fiery forms. The fog cloud obscured the entire battlefield and allowed the ambushers to pick up their fallen comrades and make their escape.
The party did the same, but as Subotai carefully moved through the fog he stepped on something. He looked down and saw the kunai the ninja woman had been hurling. When Wang Shu had taken her out with his lightning lash it appeared the magic kunai had fallen out of her hand and on to the street not returning. Who ever carried her away had missed seeing it inside the fog cloud. Subotai picked up the kunai and tucked it in his belt thinking that he would give it to Wei Tai. They could make good use of such a weapon.
Kai Winding healed everyone and they went back to Kai’s hotel to rest and debrief after the attack. Wang asked Moshi to wait outside and will sat down and have some tea. After pouring the tea, Wang looked right at Kataashi with a very troubled look on his face and asked plainly, ‘Please tell me your story and explain to me what exactly what the mechanical dragon is.’ He was clearly not happy about what had just happened. Just then Wei Tai slipped back into the room. Before they debriefed on their mission, Wang pressed Kataashi for answers.
Kataashi took a moment to look each character in the eye. Everyone could see that the effort took a great amount of will, an underlying edge of fear seemed to pull at the edges.
Before he began to speak, Kataashi carefully removed the remains of Kinzoku’s still form from inside his robe. Everyone could see traces of leaking fluid and bent metal plates as he lovingly straightened the snake-like body. Kataashi reached into his backpack and pulled out a small cloth roll. He placed it next to Kinzoku’s body and carefully rolled it open revealing small unfamiliar tools and bottles of dark fluids.
As Kataashi spoke, he picked up a cloth to clean Kinzoku’s form, preparing to repair/heal it while he talked.
‘I have told some of my past. Everything I said was truthful. I was born with one leg. I was sold to Master Wei in the Hagane Budo Monastery. The monastery taught me and cared for me.’
“I did not receive my first prosthetic until I had been there for a year – I had important lessons to learn on my own first. I was three years old when I was first fitted. As you can imagine, a leg that fit a small child is quite different than what I wear today,” and he nods down towards his leg.
With the cleaning done, Kataashi took out a tiny set of metal pincers, like modified chopsticks and began to meticulously bend and re-align any bent metal.
“Each year, as I grew, the earlier prosthetic was removed and I spent a month with no metal support. Master Wei taught that one always had to be prepared for change and independence. After a month of very difficult training, a new larger prosthetic was provided that matched my size. Each time, the sophistication of the augmetic increased, seemingly in time with my martial and philosophical training.”
Kataashi then paused his story as he seemed focused on a particularly challenging task of repair. He removed a small jar of fluid and something like a stylus brush. He began to gently almost draw, or paint, the fluid in careful strokes at key places in Kinzoku’s form. The inky fluid quickly absorbed, returning shine and quiet flexibility with each application.
“On my seventeenth birthday, Master Wei gifted me the leg that I wear now. Though it’s sophistication and articulation far surpassed anything I had worn previously, it was as mundane as all the previous augmetics. For almost two years I learned how not just to use my augmetic, but I discovered how such a tool could become part of me, part of myself.”
Kataashi laid down the last tool and sat up straight, stretching his shoulders back. He then picked up Kinzoku looking at all sides from different angles. “Ahhh …,” he reached into one of the pockets in his roll of tools and pulled out a smaller strangely shaped piece of metal, almost like a small gear. He tapped gently on one of Kinzoku’s neck plates and it popped open. With an equally strange tool, Kataashi reached in and removed what looked to be a damaged similar piece of metal. Kataashi carefully replaced it with the undamaged gear, carefully closing the metal plate afterwards.
“Then for the second time in my memory at that time, the mists arrived. I was out gathering firewood when the mists appeared seemingly from nowhere. I was able to take a deep breath, believing that would help, before running back as quickly as I could. As I ran, my leg – this augmetic – began to feel different, began to glow. I made it back to my cell in time and sealed my chamber to wait out the mists, as I was taught.
“However, an unabiding pain in my leg began to grow, I began to feel like I was losing control. I tried to adjust the gears and dials, but I found them moving in strange and different ways. I was considering removing the leg when I became distracted by sounds outside my chamber. Looking out my small window, I saw a growing horde of bakemono swarming the monastery grounds. Then, to my astonishment, I saw Master Wei emerge from his chamber to fight them. He cut through their ranks like a scythe through wheat. And then the Oni came into view. Some of my brother and sister monks left their chambers to fight alongside our Master and I felt the heat of camaraderie in myself as well. I pushed on my chamber door to emerge and found it blocked though.
“As I watched, I could see that Master Wei was intentionally piling bakemono bodies to block my chamber door – he did not want me to emerge. Unable to help, I watched in agony as my brethren were decimated and Master Wei was wounded. And then the battle suddenly, inexplicably stopped. The Oni and bakemono retreated and I thought perhaps Master Wei had frightened them off. But I was wrong.
“An enormous Oni emerged from the mists, an Oni the like of which only exists in legend. Many of the remaining monks ran at his sight. I myself wanted to cower in a corner. His power was overwhelming.”
Tears began to course down Kataashi’s cheek as he spoke. He picked up a clean cloth and wiped them from his face. Then he bit down on some betel nut and spat right into the cloth as well. Rubbing the cloth together to spread out the orange-tinted moisture, he carefully laid the cloth over Kinzoku. With deft movements, he began to buff each metal plate, polishing with obvious care and love. With Kataashi’s story paused for a moment, he hummed under is his breath for a few moments while he worked on Kinzoku. After the third caress with the cloth, a subtle movement was seen from Kinzoku.
“And for a moment, I did cower, retreating to my bed with shame and fear. It was then that I felt a sudden surge of pain in my leg and a completely unfamiliar movement from within – and Kinzoku emerged for the first time. In my fear and surprise, I knocked it away. It flailed on the floor like a newborn, unable to understand its own movement. A moment later, after a strong spasm, it leapt into the air… and stayed there. It seemed as surprised as I was.
“It turned to look at me, seemingly frightened, and then looked for a place to hide. And so it quickly returned to my leg and the hidden recesses from which it was born.
“It was not attempting to hurt me and so my curiosity won over. I tapped on the leg, seeking for it to emerge again. But then I heard an enormous explosion outside my chamber. I leapt to my feet, Kinzoku forgotten for the moment. The scene outside was… terrible. Every one of my brothers and sisters lay dead, frozen in rictus from some terrible Oni spell. Master Wei, alone, stood and fought a brutal battle with the enormously powerful Oni. A moment later, the Oni caught Master Wei’s augmetic arm and tore it from his body. It was a mortal wounding.”
After each swipe of the cloth along Kinzoku’s metal form, Kataashi moistened the cloth further with his tears. And after each swipe, the metal form seemed to arc in rhythm, growing in strength. Upon the tenth caress, Kinzoku floated a few inches off the table – almost in stasis. Kataashi sat back and gave Kinzoku time to return to consciousness.
“Kinzoku was born, if that is what it was, amidst the dark mystery of the mists. I know that the mists are tainted with evil and corruption. And then there are those among us, perhaps even your young apprentice Wang Shu, who are born amidst the evil and corruption of humanity.
“Are there not humans born within the most honorable settings who fall to the depths of human depravity? Are there not humans who crawl out of the dregs of life, bringing joy and peace with pure hearts? Our birth does not define our path, nor does it lead us to honor or corruption. Each of us makes that choice ourselves…”
“Kinzoku is alive. Kinzoku is kind and inquisitive and fearful and brave and, at times, maddening. I suspect we could all name some in our family with similar qualities.
After a few moments of pure stillness, floating upon the air, a light slowly blossomed from within Kinzoku’s head. Kataashi’s gaze returned to Kinzoku and he smiled. With a purse of his lips, Kataashi gently whistled a lazy tune, drawing Kinzoku’s gaze to himself. Kin floated over and curled around Kataashi’s neck with affection. It then turned it’s gaze to everyone else in the room from the safety of Kataashi’s warmth.
“It’s ok, Kin. It is time you introduced yourself. For the moment, anyway, no one will harm you.”
With Kataashi’s permission, Kin then streaked around the room with precision, but curious movements, exploring each new person with sudden stops in the mid-air at different vantages. In some ways, it had the same air as a curious, yet cautious puppy, coming up close almost to sniff and then backing away if a hand moved in his direction. After a couple of moments, Kataashi whistled and Kin returned instantly. It looked one more time around the room at everyone and then re-formed, blending into Kataashi’s leg augmetic.
“If you do not trust Kin or I, I will leave you and make my own path with no ill feelings. You have done me the honor of listening to my story for the first time. I have never shared this tale before. So what say you all?"
Wang wiped a tear from his face. “Thank you for sharing your story, we all have hardship to bear in this world and I ask but one thing. If we are all going to continue to work together, to bring healing to Soburin, we must all be honest with each other.” He then looked at Kin, “How far away can it travel from you and can you communicate with it, like we do with the Myconid fungus?”
Kataashi nodded his head in thanks to Wang Shu. “To my knowledge, Kinzoku does not have a limiting constraint. But honestly, we have never tested it. Kin and I communicate through sound or speaking.” Kataashi whistled and Kin flies back to Kataashi’s leg.
A smile slowly began to grow on Kataashi’s face as he said, “That reminds me, do remember all the sleeping bakemono in our first couple of encounters? I was surprised no one connected my whistles with those seemingly mysterious events…”
Wang Shu laughed, “Ha, that makes sense my friend. It may be a welcome aid in our endeavors and easier to use now that we are all on the same page. Kai Winding, I have to ask..h.how long were you aware of this and were you keeping it a secret from me? Either way, if we are to work together we need to have an open line of communication as keeping secrets will make things complicated.”
Kai shrugged and frowned, “everyone here had previously noticed this charming little…leg snake?” Kai gestures at Kin. “You and I acknowledged previously Wang—that Kataashi was not being forthcoming with what he shared with us. I have no problem with his using an augmetic—it hasn’t attacked us, it does not seem evil—as far as i can tell, it is merely another form of life. I do not pretend to understand the Mists but I suspect that it is not what it seems and that perhaps it is not necessarily the polarizing evil we believe it to be. A more nuanced assessment may be in order. Until and unless it, or Kataashi for that matter choose to forgo defending the spirit of life, in whatever manifestation it takes, I will accompany them. However, Kataashi, and Kin, we need to find a better way to shield Kin from detection. We also need to learn more about this Ronin from my prefecture to discern her motives. I for one do not believe it has anything to do with Koto but the Mists seem to obscure more than just the howling bakemono.”
Kataashi turned to Kai, “I have spoken with ”/characters/michiko" class=“wiki-content-link”>Michiko in the past about how to prevent Kinzoku from being detected. Her only suggestion was a magic called ‘nondetection’…"
Through all Kataashi’s story telling, Subotai listened with great intent and focus on him. His body language was completely stoic, almost statue like. When Kin actually faced Subotai, his eyes narrowed, yet then he ever so slightly bowed. After the tale is over, Subotai asked, “Kataashi, I anguish at the fall of your monastery to the Oni. I now understand the blood feud between you and the Oni more fully. But you never finished the tale. You said your master was mortally wounded during the battle. Did he slay the large Oni? Did the mists take him? Did you see what happened? I am sorry for your loss, I truly am, but these answers may help you if you journey through the pain. We are here for you. I agree Kin is a truly mysterious creature. I thank him for the magic he was able to use against the bakemono in the beginning. But, it seems he is a creature of the mists and that gives me pause. He has done nothing to directly endanger me or us so I am not obligated to destroy him. But if he turns, like you could Kataashi, I am bound to destroy the evil. I pray to my ancestors daily that is doesn’t come to that. But I am cautious to the safety of us and Kin. Obviously those folk were after him. Why would they be Kataashi? Did you do anything in town that might attract folks who deal in augmentics? Did any dealer, who would kill to have Kin so to speak, see him? We need to find out who wants Kin.. . Might it be the authorities? I don’t think so, because they usually work in more upfront confrontations, not covert sting operations. It might also be our current target from Kai, but striking him doesn’t seem as logical nor as sinister as Koto would seem. So who else knows about Kin, Kataashi?” Subotai again focused on Kataashi with stern patient stoicism.
Kataashi turned to Subotai and nodded, "Subotai, your presumption that Kinzoku is a ‘creature of the mist’ is understandable… but I believe it to be more complicated than that. Yes, Kin’s ‘emergence’ seems to have been triggered by exposure to the mists. But one could just as easily infer that Kin’s emergence was triggered by the proximity to bakemono or Oni. Further, if you consider our recent unfortunate period spent in the mists, all of us, the humans in this room, were the ones at risk. Kinzoku was unaffected throughout that time. If Kinzoku were a creature of the mist, would he not be somehow further affected by exposure? Lastly, to your question of exposure, except for when I was charmed by that Kitsune, Kin never left my leg nor did I communicate with it. However, I did notice that we entered that tea house to visit with Kai’s nefarious contact, each of us was “sniffed” by that initial guard. After ‘sniffing’ me, he frowned and looked down towards my leg. At the very least, he suspected an augmetic. At worst, he somehow detected Kinzoku. Perhaps it was he who shared this information? I do not know that our attackers were tipped off by the false jade merchant Shiatsu Koto, but the timing is very suspect. I am concerned that perhaps they show up again while we are on our cough boat mission. If Wang Shu’s apprentice can effectively discover more without being discovered himself, I think it is to our benefit."
Wei Tai spoke in a woman’s voice: “I worry about putting the child in harms way. I would prefer not to endanger him or his family any more than we have already by being his associated with us.” Then in his regular voice Wei says “There is no honor in using children.”
Wang raised his voice and said, “I agree with you Wei Tai and am upset with the lot of you. It is all of you that put the boy in danger.”
Kai raised her voice in turn saying “Wang you are an obdurate fool!” Rolling up the sleeve on her kimono, and with gusto, she gave Wang a good slap.
Wang shrieked at the blow and yelled “You harlot! I am finished with all of you! Only bad things will come to you and those that associate with you. Do not look for me to help you further! Moshi come here immediately.” Wang Shu flung open the sliding door and pulled Moshi into the room. Holding the boy’s hand he cast invisibility and they both vanished.
After the dramatic display by Wang, Subotai sighed and shook his head. “I sure hope he knows what he is doing. Does anyone else?”
Wang Shu and Moshi Mataki ran through the city of Nagabuki to the Ryoshi Hotel. All the way Wang quietly lectured Moshi about being invisible. When near the hotel, they found a private place to become visible and then went inside. Wang gathered his belonging and then checked-out of the hotel. The two then leave. About half-way to Moshi’s home they find a shop and buy a cheap cloak and some dry noodles and meat for 2 SP. They find another private place and become invisible again. They then went straight to Moshi’s house and entered without being seen. Wang spoke with Moshi’s mother and asked her approval to continue Moshi’s training. He apologized for not doing this at the start and did his best to explain her son’s potential and how it could benefit the family. Wang gave Moshi’s mother the food and a gold coin and asked if this was enough to get her to stay home tonight. He urged her to stay home.
Shun Mataki, Moshi’s mother, was quite surprised by the arrival of Wang Shu and her son. When they appeared in her apartment, she was dressed in a very revealing sheer gown sitting in front of a mirror and applying make up. She quickly changed in to less provocative and more formal clothes and then busied herself with cleaning up and straightening the small apartment. She was quite thankful that Wang Shu had taken an interest in her son and thanked him for being his patron. She gave her blessing to train the boy. She accepted the food and coin and insisted that she be allowed to cook a meal for Wang and the whole family.
Shun did not go out that night but rather stayed home and watched Wang Shu teach her son magic. Moshi picked up the minor illusion cantrip quite quickly and was able to make an illusion of a marble. He followed it up with using the magic to make an illusion of a beautiful flower that he “gave” to his mother. Shun was very impressed and showered her son and Wang Shu with praise.
Wang went to bed early. But in the middle of the night, Wang Shu woke up suddenly to a loud banging on the door. Shun raced across the room to the door and opened it only slightly. Wang heard a gruff male voice say, ‘Where have you been Shun? Madame Tay Tay sent me down here to check on you. Why didn’t you come to work your shift at the brothel?’
Shun feigned a cough and replied in a low voice, ‘Tell Madame Tay Tay that I am not feeling well this evening.’ The male voice replied, ‘Come on Shun, you know Madame Tay Tay’s clients always request you. You are one of her biggest money makers. No one has your Baishunpu skills. Its amazing what you can do. I have heard the stories. Madame Tay Tay is not going to want to hear your excuses. You better be back tomorrow night or she will probably send Dendar to teach you a lesson.’
Shun coughed again and said, ‘Tell her I will come in early tomorrow and make it up to her. I promise.’ The male voice grumbled and replied, ‘OK but don’t try and tell me I didn’t warn you. I would hate to see your pretty face messed up by that brute Dendar. You would never be able to pay off your indenture then.’
Moshi and his sister were still sleeping quietly and did not seem to be awakened for the interaction with the man at the door. Wang heard the man’s footsteps fade off into the night. Shun closed the door and slowly turned around. Wang was standing right there in front of her. After a minute of strained silence Wang addressed Shun. ‘I am sorry if I caused any difficulties with your employer, that was not my intention. Please go to work early tomorrow and do what you can to appease Madame Tay Tay and this Dendar. Tell me what is the price of your indenture?’
Shun Mataki bowed her head in shame and did not look at Wang Shu. She exhaled slowly and said, ‘Please Wang Shu. I do not want to put you in any danger. This is none of your concern. I do what I must to keep our family together and safe.’
Wang Shu gently put his hand on Shun’s shoulder and in a very kind voice said, ‘I understand and only wish the best for you and your family.’
Shun froze in place and looked into Wang Shu’s eyes. She whisked some of her luxuriant brown hair out of her face with her hand and slid it behind her ear to keep it in place leaving her bright blue eyes locked with Wang Shu’s. The two shared a moment of silence, Shun Mataki’s face a beautiful work of stone. Suddenly a crack appeared in the stone facade and a single tear began to slowly glide down Shun’s perfect skin. Wang Shu reached out his finger and gently touched her face intercepting the tear. Her skin was so incredibly soft. And then the torrent soon followed. Shun Mataki began to quietly sob and threw her arms around Wang Shu crying into his shoulder. Her warm soft body pressed against Wang Shu. She smelled intoxicating.
Through her tears, Shun said, ‘I am indentured to Madame Tay Tay for the sum of 500 imperial gold coins. I have worked my way up to being one of her most expensive and requested Baishunpu. I work hard for her and make her much money in her most expensive brothel. But it has been 3 years working for her and I seem no closer to paying off my debt. What meager coins I take home with me leave quickly after paying the rent on this home, buying food for our family, and keeping us in decent clothing. Its all I can do to buy inks and paper for Moshi’s drawings. I don’t think I will ever be free of this debt.’
She sobbed quietly into Wang’s shoulder and pulled herself against him tightly. Wang held her tightly and then gently pushed her away to arms length causing a look of confusion to spread across her face. Wang Shu said, “Do your job and know that I will help you pay this debt sooner than later. Moshi is a talented young person and I would also like to teach his sister a skill that might help this family. Does she or you play an instrument?”
Shun wiped the tears from her eyes, her face beautifully shifting into a look of gratitude. ‘You are a good man, Wang Shu. I do not know how I could possibly repay you for your generosity,’ she said. But then the cloud of concern passed over her face as she continued. ‘But please be careful in your dealings with Madame Tay Tay. She is one of the most powerful Madams in the Lane of Glory with ties to the Botoku Gang. I would not want your concern for my family to get you into any trouble or result in any harm befalling you.’
After straightening her kimono she crouched down and opened a wooden cabinet. From within she extracted a beautiful old Sanxian. ‘This instrument used to belong to my father before he died. I have fond memories of him playing it for me when I was a little girl. I never learned to play but have kept it as a keepsake to remember him by. If you would be willing to teach my daughter and I to play it, I would be most grateful, Wang Shu.’
Wang smiled broadly and said, ‘your lessons will start soon. But for now we must go to bed and get some much needed sleep.’