Late

I don’t live here.

I exist in Ancient China wearing my flowing silk robes.
Playing the guzheng at a local tea house.
My free time is spent practicing dance by the lake.
And before I retire to bed, I diligently paint characters with my calligraphy brush.

Visitors of the tea house would often get into poetry competitions.
A battle of wits, rhyme and word manipulation.
The brawnier of the bunch would get into fights.
I felt pity for the owner who’d often have to replace the broken tables and chairs.
But what can you do?
Such was the life of a tea house owner.

I’d half listen as I continue to weave magic into the air with my fingertips.
People come and people go.
My role is to comfort the weary travelers.
I have no interest in where they come from.
Or where they are going.

Once in a while,
a boisterous man would try to cajole me into leaving with him.
They would promise endless riches and status.
Servants and opulent homes.
I stare at them blankly.
Having no desire to become a singing caged bird.

One day,
an injured swordsman rushes into the tea house early in the morning.
There are slash marks and fresh blood on his worn out black robes.
He asked if we had any wound dressings.
And that he would need a room for three days.
I take notice of the four golden characters etched onto his sheath.

There was something different about this man.
He carried a certain air of honour around him.
He’d take place at a nearby table and slowly drink his tea in silence.
I found myself wondering about his story as I continued to play my instrument.

It was the eve of the third day.
He comes over to bid me farewell.
And asks if I will go with him.
I nod.
He turns to collect my guzheng.
I don’t need anything else.

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