Crystal Constellations

Extroverts.... Oh No...

Waking up the next morning, after spending way too little time asleep in a bed that was… sad, to say the least, was not fun. Sitting up in bed like a betrayed blob, sad that the sun had risen and the day had begun, Lin Songmei swung her legs out from underneath the thin blanket, staring off into the distance while listening to the bustling sounds around her.

Im so sleep deprived its not even funny… Not even for a good reason either… Just those stupid forms…. My wrist still hurts too.

But today was the day! Aptitude tests! She just had to survive the morning inspection and then it was the moment of truth!

… Well the morning inspection was going to be an ordeal itself…

Stumbling her way towards the small cabinet in her room, one of her three furniture items, Songmei began to dig through her clothes, or, if one wanted to be accurate for some reason, flip through the three outfits she had.

But… Why was it so loud in the morning?

There was the head lady and her assistants waking up the entire apartment-like building, going floor-by-floor while doing what felt like their best rock band impression. Then, there were those that were up early, excited and loud, ready for the aptitude tests.

Well, the head lady did advise everyone to sleep early yesterday…

I just wanted to finish my forms though…. to escape this dilapidated place and go to the library…

Snapping out of her thoughts, Songmei began to put on her clothes, taking her time, hoping that would let her wake up and feel refreshed after the meager amount of sleep that she had gotten.

Is this one of those novels that some of the others like to read? Woke up as a zombie or something? It feels like that… Fuck, I didn sleep enough…

Done putting on her clothes, Songmei began to make her way to the communal bathroom. So, with a lurch, a stagger, and a few eye rubs, Songmei washed her face and moved through her morning routine.

But hey, tired or not, Songmei was still ecstatic after checking the mirror, there wasn a window outline still on her face! Victory! Gotta take what you can get and this was a massive, absolutely gargantuan thing to take.

Back in the peace and quiet of her own room, though, her room with walls definitely too thin—shed heard too much of her neighbors private life already—Songmei grabbed her self-reflection forms, the forms that she had sacrificed her wrists for, clenching them in her hand while closing the door behind her.

Click.

And so, she rushed down to the dining hall where the main lady had instructed them to meet.

———

Lined up in order by the room number they lived in, Songmei was planted right in the middle, between another person with the surname Lin and… another person with the surname Lin. None of them were related to her of course, it was just that those with the same or similar last names were put in rooms near each other, it was easier for the people who managed this ”Government Funded Public Home For Those Without Homes ”.

With an air of anticipation for the day to come thick in the room, this air also mixed with a touch of anxiety, the head lady walked in. The head lady, as always, wore a button up long-sleeve shirt and some business pants. Her brown hair was in a neat bun, one of the few things kept immaculate in this dilapidated place.

Averting her eyes, Songmei listened as the head lady began her count off, stalking her way down the line as she went, inspecting each and every single speck of every person.

”You! Why are you wearing that tie loose? Are you trying to be cool? You
e about as far as you can get with cool, its not cool to be a broke loser on the side of the street begging. Is that what you
e trying to be? ”

”N-No maam! I-Ill tighten it right this instant! ”

”You! ”

”You! ”

Standing ramrod straight, her hand holding her self-reflection papers shaking and sweating like a waterfall, Songmeis turn came around after the head lady finished grilling, barbecuing, and then deep-frying the person next to her.

”You! …Whats that in your hand? ”

Faced with the head ladys sharp eyes gleaming, as if ready to shoot out a stream of daggers at a moments notice, Songmei began to stammer, averting her eyes and shrinking back against the sudden onslaught of pressure.

”The… the… These are m…my self-reflection forms maam… ”

As a scowl surfaced on the head ladys face, the head lady leaned in closer, asking in a low-tone, ”I know you
e an honor student Lin Songmei, but you are aware that Ill only take them if all of them have been completed, right? ”

Her hand still shaking, Songmei grabbed her arm with her other hand, steadying it just a touch, like pouring a bucket of water on a forest fire, helpful… but not really in any broader sense. ”I-I… I have completed all of them m-maam… Here… here you go. ”

”I see. Next time don sleep so late. ” The head lady spat, snatching them out of her hand, ”I shall complete my duties accordingly, though. Good job. ”

Relief washing over her like ocean waves—something shed personally never seen because… she was poor—Songmei let out a long sigh thanking every deity that she could think of, every star in the sky, and every dirty speck on the ceiling of the dining hall.

I survived…

———

Zoning back in once the head lady had finished going through the line, Songmei followed the line like an obedient duckling, climbing onto the public bus that shed been assigned to, the bus thatd take her to the site where the aptitude tests would be happening.

And sitting on the bus, Songmei couldn help but ask, honestly, what the hell were cultivators and how did they function with society…

Like… honestly? It didn make sense.

Songmei didn know the specifics even after learning some of the basics in class growing up, but cultivators were… weird.

Society was modern! We were living on the cutting edge of innovation as many called it, but at the same time, many of the richest people, richest clans, had been at the top for as long as anyone could remember.

It was crazyyy, like… these cultivators just… live a long time and also do a bunch of martial arts. Their world, from what was revealed in interviews, blog posts, books, and more written by cultivators, was totally different from the life that Songmei was living.

She was just an honor student who spent all their time doing well in school since she had nothing else after all…

Even if its just a little talent, please let me have some, so I can at least live in the comfort that cultivators get to have…

And with that, as the bus rolled up to the test center that had been set up, Songmei crossed her fingers, hoping for a ticket out of the thin blankets, the old clothes, the creaky mattresses, a ticket into a new life.

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