Birds chirping. Cars driving.
As the world woke up, the sun rose, clouds drifted their way across the bright blue sky, and a gentle winter chill blew its way between buildings. Those who had jobs began to make their way to work while those in school enjoyed the beginning of their break, school wouldn start for another two months.
In one building, a building that blended in with the rest, its only distinctive trait being its dilapidated-ness, was Lin Songmei.
Songmei was wide awake. Waking up at the crack of dawn, she was bursting with excitement, her palms had kept sweating and her face wouldn stop smiling. She was going to be free!
Staring out her window, Songmei ran her hand across the peeling paint while gathering herself, the appointed time was almost here.
Songmei kept trying to tell herself that there was no need to be an overly excited child. Even if her younger self dreamed of getting adopted or fostered—something that obviously never happened, she was still in the orphanage after all—she should stay composed, make sure to thank the head lady before she left, make sure to bring all her possessions, make sure to bring Plum.
Humming along to a melody under her breath, the melody of a popular classical style piano piece that had risen to fame in recent weeks, Songmei stood up from the window side, crouching down in front of her bags, checking she had packed everything.
”Books. Toiletries. Clothes. Plum… pencil case… sewing kit. Wow, there isn much. ”
Picking up her two bags, Songmei pulled the door open with a creak, appreciating the half-attached doorknob one last time while etching her room into her mind. ”Goodbye… Forever this time. ”
Songmei nodded to orphanage workers she passed as she made her way to the head ladys office, they had always kept their distance, she had heard in the past that there were orders for them to keep their distance to avoid emotional attachment.
Walking through the snaking hallways, getting a few stares as she moved, Songmei pushed open the door to the head ladys office. Songmei also knew that no matter how her life changed, if she ever saw the head lady again, shed quake like a fish in front of a bear.
The head lady was scary, okay?
… Like a dragon in a building of bears.
”Oh? Lin Songmei?
” The head lady asked as Songmei made her way into the room,
”I just sent a person to get you. Seems you
e early though. Shall we make our way outside together then? ”
”A-Ah? S-Sure… sure… yeah. ” Murmured Songmei as she began to follow along behind the head lady. ”I just w… wanted to say thank you for taking care of me up until now. Even if you weren the warmest. ”
”I was just doing my job. ” The head lady shook her head, her tone freezing cold as always. ”No need to thank me. ”
Shivering a touch, Songmei wouldve sworn the temperature had dropped as the conversation dropped dead on the floor. In fact, if Songmei was a betting woman… which she was not, she was broke as hell, she wouldve bet that the head ladys freezing cold demeanor could single-handedly solve climate change.
The head ladys talents really were wasted managing an orphanage for people of a single-age group…
Walking through the double sliding doors, the head lady broke the silence. ”Goodbye, Lin Songmei. ”
Stammering out a reply as someone from the Starlight Lake Sect walked up, Songmei was then surprised beyond belief as a small but warm smile broke out on the head ladys face. ”Don come back, just look forward and enjoy life. Youve been a pleasure to have in the orphanage, Im sure you have a wonderful life ahead of you. Take care Songmei. ”
Not giving Songmei a chance to reply, the head lady nodded towards the representative from the Starlight Lake Sect before turning and walking back into the building.
… Did the head lady get replaced?
Songmei stood there frozen, clamming up as the Starlight Lake representative walked up. ”N-…Nice to meet you, Im Lin Songmei… ”
Coming to a stop in front of Lin Songmei, the slightly taller woman introduced herself with a flourish and a bow. ”Im Liu Xueli, elder and one of the two heads of the Martial Pavilion in the Starlight Lake Sect. Nice to meet you! You should recognize my face, I was one of the 5 who came to meet you last time! ”
Liu Xueli was familiar for sure, Songmei could easily recognize her. Liu Xueli was probably the second youngest person who came in that bunch, and was definitely pretty too, she seemed like she was just coming out of youth, like… not young young, but not old either. If Songmei had to guess, she wouldve guessed the cheerful woman was quite young, but cultivators had long lives so she had no idea.
Walking along with Liu Xueli, Songmei and Liu Xueli exchanged some small talk as they walked through the streets, making their way to a transport station. Through the small talk, Songmei learned that Liu Xueli kept her black hair short because… she looked better with short hair, and that Liu Xueli hated wearing the business suit she was wearing, preferring to wear cargo pants, boots, and whatever random shirt she could find most of the time.
Unfamiliar with Liu Xueli though, Songmei began to talk less and less. Songmei was doing her best to hold a conversation, but she really wasn one to talk much… maybe Mingqings extrovertedness wouldve helped.
Then again one had to go through about 50 layers of walls to get to that talkativeness…
”I don really know what to talk about, ” Liu Xueli confessed after sharing that she used a sword, ”I can give many details about important things since we might get overheard here, so just… don mind my random topics. Im hip! I swear Im still young, I can talk to you kids. ”
Songmei felt that was literally, exactly, what an old person would say, but she didn say that, instead, she decided to just ask some questions. Asking questions was an easy way to make a decent first impression right? ”So the sect is… north right? Like farther north than we are right now. ”
”A fair bit north, ” Liu Xueli answered, walking into the transport station with confident steps, the crowd parting in front of her, ”Not north enough that its always snowing, but right now in the winter, the lake in the center has frozen over and snow has fallen. But during the warmer months its quite temperate there. ”
Getting pulled out of the way of a barreling cart, Songmei thanked Liu Xueli as they walked into the VIP section, coming to a stop in front of a small vessel.
The vessel was… expensive, no doubt. Clean, gleaming, and almost sparkling under the sun, Songmei looked up and down what could only be called a private jet in shock. ”Thi… this is nice… is this the sects? ”
Snapping her fingers to let the door open and a staircase descend, Liu Xueli chuckled, walking up into the small jet while waving Songmei in, ”Nahhh, its mine! I just bought it with some treasure I found on an adventure I went on. Several other people in the sect have more extravagant ones, like actually massive planes, or massive flying boats. ”
Taking and storing Songmeis bags into a small storage locker, Liu Xueli patted Songmei on the shoulder. ”Is this all you have? ”
”… Yeah… ” Songmei coughed, a little ashamed in front of Liu Xueli and her obvious status as a person with an ungodly amount of wealth.
”Don worry! ” Liu Xueli reassured with an exuberant smile, ”A lot of us aren well off when we enter! If you come under me, this auntie… no… no no, Im young, Im hip, this older sister will take care of you well! ”
Again… Songmei wanted to tell Liu Xueli that saying one was young or hip was the exact way to sound like an ancient turtle thats been alive for several millennia.
Shaking her head with an exasperated but amused smile, Songmei listened as Liu Xueli gave a small tour, pointing out the lounge area, the storage area, and the restroom. Taking a seat in the lounge area as Liu Xueli melted onto a couch, Songmei jolted in surprise as she felt the plane take off in a second, blasting through the transport station and into the sky.
… Was… was there a pilot?
As if reading her mind, Liu Xueli explained, ”Its a perk of being a cultivator. This plane is an artifact, so I can control it with just my mind and some… Qi. ” Saying Qi, Liu Xueli laughed while flicking her fingers, sending an icy mist out from her fingertips. ”No biggie, youll be able to do it soon too~ ”
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