SnCr 12

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What Chu Ran had neglected to tell him when he had said that his littlest sister would be staying over was that that event, for some inconceivable reason, would involve… construction.

Very noisy, all-day construction going on just beyond the screen separating Zhu Li’s apothecary from the rest of the courtyards of the home, that had been going on for about ten days in a row.

Why in the fresh hell was he needing to hear the bangs of hammers and grinding of handsaws all day long? Was the Pavilion not fully built? How did ‘my sister is coming to stay in my home big enough for at least six people’ equal ‘time for a massive building project stretched over as many days as is physically possible’?

The only exceptions to the noise were the nights, when the workers laid down their tools of calamity and went home. Unhindered nights, constantly hindered days — could this be what the ancients called, ‘being careful what you wish for’?

Zhu Li, a lover of peace and quiet, felt his head throb in tandem with every single jarring noise that came out the rest of the house. To be completely honest, past the third day of noise, he had taken to shutting the apothecary down completely and making himself busy outside the Pavilion for the first time since he had started living here. As per the rules, he always left tailed by bodyguarding Xin members, whose ranks typically included Xin Junyan, Chu Ran, or both.

(Honestly, he had only been asking Junyan to show him around Zhongling, as he had typically never stopped to sightsee when in the area before, yet Chu Ran had butt in on that. In fact, had Zhu Li not known better, he would have said that Chu Ran had been a little miffed that he was being excluded.

Honestly again, Zhu Li hadn’t been doing that on purpose. Junyan was purely easier to find, never more than a call away, while Chu Ran would just pop in and out of existence at his own seemingly-random whims, or unreachably hide out in the forbidden part of the house. He also didn’t mind Chu Ran’s company, nor the fact that he had pretty much invited himself on these outings (mainly because everything was being paid for from Chu Ran’s coffers to begin with, as neither of the other two would allow Zhu Li to pay for literally anything), but the way he had just sort of randomly come along with Junyan one day and then proceeded to monopolize almost every conversation with Zhu Li was at least a little weird.

Maybe Chu Ran didn’t like the thought of him being alone with Junyan, or talking to her too much? In that case, whatever. Zhu Li’s interest in being the ‘other man’ in any relationship was forever in the negatives for extremely obvious reasons, and he was uninterested in courtship in general for the foreseeable future due to the dire ending of the last one he had been easing into. Chu Ran’s presence never detracted from his primary goal of ‘getting away from the noise’, even if the guy had a tendency to talk a lot, so he couldn’t care less.


His attempts at trying to get the other Xin Sect members to join in for fun friend bonding had invariably ended in failure. Each of them had unique features, and he had managed to get most of their names, yet every time he had offered them to join in on meals or a chat, they had declined. One, named Xin Poyu, had patiently explained to him that the Sect Head had banned anyone on guard-duty from slacking off in any capacity, which included the leisure activities that Zhu Li had been forced to make his daily routine.

When he had pointed out that Chu Ran and Xin Junyan were speaking to him just fine, Xin Poyu had stressed that they were never explicitly on ‘guard-duty’, though they would absolutely take to defending him if the need arose. Zhu Li felt that that was an absurd distinction to make, yet there was nothing he could do about it; it, the fact that the Xin Sect members were never not on guard-duty when in the Pavilion, and the other fact that they lived somewhere unknown, meant that making friends with them was simply not going to work.

In any case, his repeated conversations with Junyan and Chu Ran had led him to another discovery — while her style of doing so was admittedly much different than Chu Ran’s, she was just as prone to being dodgy, giving vague or half-answers, and generally acting just as shady as him.

Zhu Li had previously asked her what was being constructed. She had answered, “You’ll see soon,” seemingly forgetting that he was banned from going into that side of the house.

He had also asked her what was so bad about the rest of the Pavilion, if only she, Chu Ran, and some random Xin members occupied it. “Ran is in charge of that stuff,” she had firmly half-answered.

He had asked her still why she was a part of a blind sect when she wasn’t blind, and her reply had been a simple, “I had extenuating circumstances,” followed by a not-at-all subtle redirecting of the topic.

It was a real shame that the Xin Sect was his only major ally right about now, Han Xingyu notwithstanding. He would love to have an information source that was not so selective about what it told him.

Still, this was step one to perhaps building enough trust with the others. Chu Ran had told him that he wasn’t telling him certain things for his own good, but Zhu Li had thought that over, then concluded that the man very likely didn’t trust him enough with whatever it was they were hiding, and had simply worded it that way to be nice. That idea had been compounded by Junyan also not telling him things that appeared to be inconsequential, or unrelated to the investigation.

Of course, such things could simply be destined to remain on a need-to-know basis, while he would be destined to remain in a does-not-need-to-know status, regardless of his friendship with them. At the bare minimum, he could say that he had tried, instead of just letting it be.

Outside of the sect and away from the investigation, Chu Ran and Xin Junyan were fairly normal, sociable people, which came as something of a shock to Zhu Li in the former’s case. Junyan was more reserved, careful with her words, and introverted, preferring to stroll around and look at scenery or go horseback riding somewhere in her definition of fun. Chu Ran was more liable to talk, at times even prattling on or saying too much, though he always stopped himself in the presence of people that didn’t need to overhear. His preferences were restaurants, food stalls, pubs, and gambling dens, though in the latter two, he much preferred to people-watch — people-hear? — and listen in than participate in anything. A fan of drama and gossip that had nothing to do with him, in other words.

Zhu Li had little to contribute in planning these outings, as his life for the past five years had consisted of travel and work that had left scant time for hobbies, and what little he had spared time for had been single-person activities. One hobby was documenting the various details of non-Reng ethnicities, which likely no one but him would find ‘fun’, but he found it pertinent to preserve such knowledge; the food and recipes especially, which had quite literally spiced up his boring commutes filled with non-perishable foods. Another hobby was reading the occasional novel in his downtime, something that had lessened in frequency from his childhood, yet had remained all the same.

Another childhood hobby of his, since abandoned, had been the guzheng. Those were not easily transported, to say the very least. Maybe he could still play, if he could get his hands on another one.

In any case, while he had no ideas for multi-person activities like the other two, he had discovered that they were very interested in the many tales he had collected over the years, as well as some from back in the Miasma Caves. Mostly, those involved his two eldest sisters, as well as his dad, some cousins, aunts and uncles, and miscellaneous elders.

(Chu Ran had tried to probe further into his family situation. Zhu Li had flipped the script on him by giving non-answers. If Chu Ran had been frustrated by that, he hadn’t let it show.)

The days of eating warm foods, hot soups, and an excessive amount of fresh gailan passed quickly enough, until the inexplicable construction was done. The second it was, Chu Ran proudly announced to Zhu Li that Chu Mei would be coming over soon, and as an added bonus, Zhu Li himself was also now allowed in the rest of the Pavilion.

Amazingly, Zhu Li was not at all honored, because that construction had obviously been for the sake of hiding something. Did he even want to go into that part of the home? Combined with Deng Xia’s concerning words, the answer was looking like a fat ‘no’.

A mere day after the aggravating noise was gone, and in the middle of his first day of reopening, Zhu Li heard that side-gate open again. Thankfully, he was merely making up the ingredients for a prescription at the moment, which he speedily finished, followed by him personally leading the man out so that he didn’t wander or see anything. Civilian society was odd and frustrating; there was no need to provoke the rumor mill. Who knew what absurdities it would make up about the Chu’s youngest daughter being here?

Once the gate was firmly shut and the door guards were told to hold people off for a few minutes, Zhu Li turned to look over his shoulder at the newcomer… or, newcomers plural, he should say, as he was seeing three figures near the doorway, not just one. They were obviously Chu Mei and her two maids, with one having pink and rich-looking garments while the other two wore plainer clothes while carrying luggage.

He waited until him standing there and staring was sufficiently awkward, but Chu Ran didn’t appear like he had with Du Lin. Were Chu Mei a girl of jianghu, he would have less apprehensions about simply walking up to her. For better or for worse, and for a variety of intersecting reasons with histories hundreds of years aged, jianghu rejected many conventional rules and societal norms, the strict separation of genders being one of them. It had caused him much friction before with female civilian patients, to say the least, though that was much less so the patients themselves, and much more so whoever had accompanied them, be it maids, brothers, or annoying husbands.

That was all a story for later. What was relevant was that he didn’t want to spook the young lady — who, according to civilian logic, likely had never even seen a man she wasn’t related to before — or make those maids angry, because being near a man that wasn’t related to her for half a second could damage her reputation or whatever. He had long given up trying to understand the intricate and absolutely arbitrary malarkey that constituted what was and wasn’t appropriate.

Since the girls had clearly noticed him as well, standing there stock-still, he decided to steel himself and approach them.

He stood about ten chi away from them after crossing the length of the courtyard, then observed them just as warily as they were doubtlessly observing him.

Chu Mei stood in between two maids, one her own age and one middle-aged, easily determined from them by her slightly fancier hairstyle — a low-pinned ponytail with a silver hairpin mostly hidden behind her head — and pink robes edged with silver thread. He noted that, in spite of the soft, peony-like color and floral embroideries, the outfit was in a distinctly male style of shenyi, as was the outer robe shielding her from the autumn cool — such a thing would not even register to him in a jianghu setting, but this was a civilian girl that had been confined to strict rules all her life. Perhaps fashion had changed yet again?

As for the maids, one was definitely a teenager around Chu Mei’s age; she was more tanned and less dressed-up than her, naturally, but obviously well-fed, and her plain blue clothes were of good material. The much older maid had streaks of gray in her black hair, with some lines of age and hard work etched onto her face. Presumably, the former maid was Chu Mei’s stand-in playmate maid, while the latter was her nanny or nursemaid, a stand-in mother maid. According to Chu Ran, with Chu Mei’s birth mother dead, older sister vanished, and nominal mother Du Lin not maternal at all, these two had likely been a necessity.

“You must be Yingliu’s little sister, Miss Chu,” he said, slow and soft, so as not to come off blunt or hostile. “I don’t know where he is, unfortunately. The array at the gate typically alerts him. If you’ll wait here for a moment, I’ll go see if I can find him.”

He caught an inexplicable sparkle in Chu Mei’s eyes. She inhaled to speak, only to be cut off by the older maid, who scowled viciously at him. “Who are you? You have the audacity to not bow to our Lady or introduce yourself! How dare you!”

Zhu Li arched a brow. “Surname Zhu, from ‘sugarcane’. Given Li, from ‘benefit’. Title, Doctor. Do forgive me, Madam; a bow for cultivators is something not given lightly.”

The woman turned a bit red with panic, then bowed her head. “Apologies, Cultivator. This… this lowly slave misidentified you. I deserve punishment.”

Misidentified him as what?

“Ah-Tan, how could you mistake him for a servant?” the younger maid asked, eyes wide with astonishment. “Look at how he carries himself! Look at his face! No servant at the Estate looks or acts like him! You should be kowtowing out of guilt!”

How he carried himself? …Servant?

He furtively peered down at his own outfit, which was a basic brown zhiju. Maybe he did dress a little plain, and his crownless bun wasn’t doing him any favors… but it was just so hard to justify dressing up for his doctor work with all the medicine and possible body fluids he worked with.

“Many apologies, Doctor Zhu!” the younger maid said to him, bowing with her hands overlapped in front of her. She spoke somewhat loudly and crisply, with a permanent tinge of excitement to her words. “Ah-Tan is wise in her years, but her eyes have aged, too! Please don’t take offense! The Eldest told us to introduce ourselves if we met you! We all share a surname with the Chu family; Ah-Tan is Chu Tan, and my given is Tao! Our Mistress Chu came to move over here on Lady Du’s orders!”

Chu Tan gave her a heated glare at the insult. Zhu Li knew that glare’s type well; it promised hell at a later time. The older woman was likely too embarrassed from having offended Zhu Li to chastise her out in the open, and he knew her type well, too; an enforcer of etiquette on her young, impressionable Lady. Uptight, but necessary for navigating society.

“Good to meet you. I’ll go get Yingliu,” he said blankly, turning on his heel to head back inside. He had no interest in seeing whatever squabbles or admonishments were coming next from the girls, and was prepared to leave them to it.

The instant he got to the screen that had separated him from the rest of the Pavilion, he hesitated for a split second, then moved it aside and headed in.

The very first thing that greeted his eyes was an unsightly wooden structure that ruined the scenery around it just by existing. In any other home with this layout, a garden or sitting courtyard would have taken the place of this shed-like abomination, whose walls left only narrow walkways around it. Traces of sawdust clinging to its sides and littering the ground betrayed that it was what had been being constructed all these days.

Xin Junyan did not immediately appear. Zhu Li called out for her, yet she didn’t surface — a highly abnormal event. In the apothecary, she would always come over, sans the occasion where she would have to leave for something. She always told him when she was leaving and who to call for instead, however, and hadn’t done so today.

Stranger still was that no one else had come running over in her stead. The Pavilion was not that big of a place, and cultivators had good hearing. There was no way someone even at the furthest point of the home hadn’t heard him.

He stood and listened for a while.

The cool autumn breeze slid down over the walls of the courtyards, gently blowing past. He couldn’t hear any signs of human presence; no talking, no cooking, not even the strum of an instrument or the flip of a page. It was much too quiet.

A bad feeling settled in his stomach. He wasn’t about to find dead bodies in these buildings, was he? That seemed overwhelmingly unlikely.

What was he supposed to do now? Go back out and tell the young lady to just hang around him, a strange man? That wouldn’t go over well. He should at least look, to make sure nothing bad had happened.

Starting left, he first ducked under the covered veranda to knock on and peek into the west-side wing. The rooms were all done up nicely yet impersonally, looking mostly unused. Servant quarters? There were no servants, though, and it seemed too nice to be designated for them.

He spotted a bookshelf with some medical texts on it. Specifically, they were the ones he had recommended that Chu Ran buy. This had to be Chu Mei’s new quarters, then.

Going in order, he went to the main building, knocked again, then went inside. He felt like a snoop, going through what was clearly someone’s lived-in home — the lack of visual decor and abundance of plants that had subjective beauty at best made him think that Chu Ran lived here — only to find that no-one was here. As fascinating as it would be to poke around and figure out how a blind man lived, he was too crunched for time to take in much of the scenery, nor ponder too much on it.

He passed through the building to enter and quickly walk through both floors the backside home, which was an odd mishmash of working rooms, hobby rooms, actual servant quarters-esque rooms, possible guest rooms, and storage rooms, as if the building had been haphazardly assigned roles based on need over time. There were odd construction choices all over the place, too, like too many pillars in one area yet not enough in others, or strange paneling on the walls. Again, were he not preoccupied with Chu Mei and the waiting patients outside, he would have thought on the strangeness more.

Coming back out and ccircumventing the central wooden abomination, he cautiously went into the the east-side wing. This one was less pristine, had a kitchen, and was clearly occupied by only one person — a woman, judging by the dudou left to dry over a screen, which he was going to act like he never saw. Upon also spotting a flute resting on a table, then recalling that Xin Junyan had said she played, he theorized that this was Xin Junyan’s wing of the courtyard.

Was it common to put girlfriends in completely separate buildings? Shouldn’t they be sharing the main one? Chu Ran was definitely the type to have zero regard for feng shui and traditional teachings, so maybe the man had chosen to ignore them both. Zhu Li himself, admittedly, had never actually asked after their relationship status, making it highly probable that he had read them completely wrong.

Well, whatever. What was unrelated to him was unrelated to him.

He headed back out, having found no dead bodies awaiting discovery, yet also having found no living people, either. Worry and slight apprehension gave way to a whole lot of acrimony — had they all just sodded off at the same time, completely neglecting to inform him? What had all that talk of ‘blah blah we’re here in the Pavilion to protect you’ been for if they left for extended periods of time without a word, leaving him alone in here? What if something happened while they were away? What a load of shit.

More pressingly, their absence left him with little idea of what to do with Chu Mei as a non-host. He had patients waiting outside the gate, she couldn’t

Slightly less pressingly was the baffling reality that the rectangular wooden eyesore looming beside him this whole time had no door, nor any windows, nor any means for entry at all. Its plain, light-colored wood was uninterrupted on all four sides, the low slope of its gray-tiled roof offering no clues. No signage decorated it anywhere. What purpose did it serve? Why was it so important to build before anyone not from the Xin Sect came in here?

Cautiously, he placed a hand on the wooden wall before him to probe inside with his qi. It was all immediately repelled by some unknown force — talismans, an array, or enchantments of some sort. Whatever was hidden in here was purposefully contained so that it would remain hidden.

Even if the rest of the Pavilion was open to him, Zhu Li knew for a fact that he was not going to use his new ‘privilege’ ever. Nothing that was going on here was anything he wanted to deal with.

Feeling rather awkward, he headed back out to the front courtyard, and was subsequently greeted with the sight of three humans nervously facing off against one pretty peeved horse. Guhui’s ears were pinned back, her tail was flicking, and she was throwing her head back over and over again, all while the two girls cowered away, with Chu Tan attempting to scare the horse off by waving her arms and yelling.

Guhui was a weird horse. She didn’t like anyone other than Zhu Li, not even other horses, and the humans she would tolerate versus those she would go on-guard against had never shared any characteristics; why she had never been on guard against Chu Ran or any of the random patients, yet had decided these three girls were a threat, was beyond his notion of understanding.

“Guhui,” he called out. The mare turned her head, unpinning her ears automatically, then quickly forgot all about the home-invaders to happily trot over to him. He gently pet her nose. “Be good. Go play with your ball.”

She huffed at him, but wandered off obediently in the opposite direction of the girls. He, contrarily, went towards them, stopping at the same distance he had before. Even though they all appeared to be shaken from the angry horse, they were all physically unharmed.

“Sorry for that,” he said, bowing his head a bit. “Guhui is not a fan of strangers, though she usually lazes about behind the bushes. She’s never violent, so there’s no need to worry in the future.”

“It’s okay, Doctor! She was behind them, but she came out all mad when Ah-Tan started talking! I think she might not like her voice!” Chu Tao innocently ridiculed her fellow maid.

Chu Tan went red, shaking with anger. She dared not say anything.

Sparing everyone the embarrassment, Zhu Li decided to not say anything more about Guhui. “In any case, I couldn’t find Yingliu, or anyone else. I don’t know where they are. I do know where your quarters are, though; pass through the apothecary, then head to the east-side wing. You should wait there for him to come back.”

No one offered any objection. It would be unsuitable for him to entertain them in any way, as even if he wasn’t an unknown, unrelated man, he still wasn’t the owner of the house or any sort of host. After thanking him, the girls disappeared into the Pavilion to settle in, while he proceeded to take in his next patiently-waiting patient.

From start to finish, Chu Mei had not said a word. In spite of her lively outfit that reminded one of spring, she herself had looked tired, her spirits obviously low. It wasn’t a look the pampered young daughter of a rich lady should have. With how abruptly the move had come, something must have happened over in the Estate to make her not want to be there anymore, but what? Did he want to know?

Not even a few minutes into the appointment, a slight commotion came from behind the screen, which he firmly ignored. Once the patient had been chastised about not eating enough fruit and politely booted, Chu Ran barged into the apothecary unannounced using a swift push-away of the screen. Zhu Li leveled him with an extremely unamused look, having long become immune to the sudden loud sounds of the man’s many unannounced entrances. Why someone that walked so quietly was so fond of slamming open doors and smacking things to get peoples’ attention was a mystery.

“Good afternoon, Doctor. Thank you for settling Mei’r in in my stead,” he started, ignoring the look for obvious reasons. “I neglected to tell you that we were going out, and I apologize for that. We had to distract my brothers and their servants, lest they try to physically stop those three from leaving, and it ended up taking a bit longer than I had thought it would… oh? Are you unhappy about not being told? I did mess up on that, truthfully. How about I treat you to seafood tonight? Shipments of live crabs came in recently, so some restaurants are making good stew—“



“I only want to be informed of what’s important. Mollifying me isn’t necessary.”

“Oh. Okay.”

A few seconds of silence stretched out. Chu Ran wasn’t saying anything else, merely standing there awkwardly. Zhu Li raised his brow, observing him, until the quiet finally made him acquiesce just a little, a hand automatically going to pinch the bridge of his nose out of exasperation. “We can still go eat crab stew… if you really want.”

“Of course I do!” Chu Ran answered, immediately brightening back up like the oversized dog he was. Satisfied, he turned tail and left… bringing the now-superfluous screen along with him, firmly tucked under his arm. Alright,then

Instead of seeing embroidered birds dancing around cattails, he was going to get a nice view full of ugly wooden wall. Hopefully, he would be able to convince Xin Junyan to hang nicer-looking curtains up in order to cover that travesty.

A few days later, Zhu Li’s work was interrupted by a little face he spotted peaking out from behind the heavy, teal-dyed curtains (which he had indeed convinced Xin Junyan to pick out and put up for him).

He peered over at the face discreetly, then proceeded to ignore it, continuing to see patients. Their numbers had been mercifully dwindling the longer he admitted them, at least, leaving him with some amount of breaks most days. He still had no idea why so many people flocked to him instead of other doctors with more relevant specialties.

During one break around an hour later, he exaggeratedly turned to the face in the curtain to let the one in question know that he was well-aware of her presence.

The figure jumped a little, after which she sheepishly came out from behind the heavy fabric, legs moving extremely slowly, a guilty look on her face visible before the quick bow of her head.

It was young Chu Mei, who he hadn’t seen since her arrival. Today, she was dressed in a light blue zhiduo, and had her hair piled on top of her head in an unembellished updo; another typically-male garment and simpler hairstyle than a rich household might allow. Even though she looked to be in a much less terrible emotional state now, her bowed head, meek posture, and obvious shaking betrayed her nervous nature.

Was she scared? Of him? Of being reprimanded? This was yet another behavior unbefitting of a young noblewoman, and more befitting an… abused, fearful servant.

Oh. He didn’t much like that connection, nor how he had reached it so easily himself.

“Do you need something, Miss Chu?” he asked softly, so as not to scare her.

“I-I-I-I asked… b-big brother… he s-said I c-c-could ask if… um, um… if I can… can…”

She sniffed, her trembling voice making it clear that she was on the verge of tears. Oh no.

“I’m not angry. You don’t have to be afraid. Do you think your brother would send you to speak to someone scary? Or that he would allow someone bad in his house in the first place?” he reassured her.

With a shake of her head, she began to wring her hands, the motion gradually calming her down. As she did so, he waited calmly, concerned over her rather dramatic reaction to speaking to him. It certainly wasn’t personal; did she not like strangers? Men? Or had she simply feared getting into trouble?

“Brother… um, Yingliu… said I should ask if I could, um…” Chu Mei started up again. She was much steadier, if still uneasy. “If I-I could watch you, to see how— how being a doctor is.”

Ah, was that it? She hadn’t exactly asked prior to going ahead and watching, but he wasn’t going to embarrass her. “I don’t have a problem with that. However, people talk too much. For both of our sakes, if you can disguise yourself as a boy whenever you do so, you can sit in as much as you like.”

Her head snapped up, eyes still glinting with unshed tears. Following a couple moments of bewilderment, she nodded so violently, her brain was surely rattling about in her skull, whereupon she turned and dashed back behind the curtains.

Zhu Li went on with some miscellaneous tasks, awaiting the arrival of either more patients or the doctor-hopeful girl. With the passage of some time, it ended up being the former, and he fell into a rhythm again.

A face appeared in the curtains again while he was diagnosing someone. Just like the time before, he let it slide until the patient was out of there, then motioned for Chu Mei to come out.

She slid out from behind the curtain, looking a little bashful and still nervous, yet a bit more brave. Her hair was pinned back in a bun that was as nondescript as his own, and she wore short, dark blue robes with matching pants, a good outfit for the servant of an upper-class family.

Why did she have those on hand? She hadn’t brought male servants with her. Hm.

“That’s a good disguise,” he complimented.

She shyly averted her eyes. One conversation was not enough to get rid of her apprehension towards him, which was not odd at all. Besides, if she was truly ill at ease about him, she wouldn’t have come back.

“Yingliu told me that you want to be a doctor, Miss Chu. Why?”

“Um… I-I like helping people. Zhongling doesn’t have many doctors, either.”

“I had a suspicion of that. I specialize in antidotes and treating poisons, yet most of my patients don’t come for that. Have you also considered all the work that goes into being a doctor? Civilian doctors only need to know medicines, diagnosis, and anatomy, while jianghu doctors need to know a completely different set of skills on top of that. There’s also the business aspect of it; even if you don’t do it for money, you still have to manage stock, a building, employees, and so forth. For me specifically, I had to learn to garden, barter, and travel. I don’t say this to scare you off, I just want to know if you’re aware of what studying medicine entails.”

Chu Mei blinked a bit at the information, yet looked unperturbed. “I want to try,” she said, her voice soft, and somehow determined.

He nodded. “Then that’s all I can ask of you. Bring a chair over so you can watch what I’m doing. When no patients are around, I’ll go over some basics. Ask any questions you have.”

She said okay, did exactly that, and watched him process his next patients, all the way until the apothecary closed.

Zhu Li never said as much, not even when she cheerily bounced away, but having a little girl watch him work was nostalgic, in a way that made his heart ache painfully.

His littlest sister had been about Chu Mei’s age when he had left. Five years had passed, meaning she was now practically an adult. He had missed her grow up.

How was she faring? What path had she ended up taking? Was she mad at him for leaving?

As he said goodnight to Guhui, his daily ritual, he looked up at the orange-painted sky, melancholy draping over him.

There was no one around who he could ask those questions and get real answers from, anymore.

The author says: +1 shop assistant!
(In the file I’m writing this in, the novel is already at over a hundred pages… damn… it’s only chapter 12…)

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2 thoughts on “SnCr 12

  1. Socialisation attempted
    Right so we have In House eldritch nonsense….
    Guhui is a good horse and deserves many pats.
    Chu Ran people like visual environmental enrichment goodness. And Miss Chu is a nice young lady (may their father be yeeted into the sun)


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