Chapter 61: Inheritance

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The night the City of God fell
Was a night of silence and despair,
As our image of Paradise on earth
Was ground to dust under eight.

-Poem by unnamed Ten-Zuani poetess

***

Ten Years Ago

***

The party was loud, bright, and boisterous, as if to spit in the face of the gentle night. It was a night of wild celebrations, of feasts and games, of music and laughing. The people of Ten-Zuan were often considered by the world to be a nation of philosophy, a nation devoid of the baser pleasures of good drink and dance. It was true, yes, that in general, the Ten-Zuani didn't engage in rowdiness all the time.

But on a day of marriage, they knew how to throw a party. Oh, they knew.

Dai Lan let out a loud laugh at Xin Fan's joke, before taking another sip of wine.

"Dai Lan!" Great, the wife was yelling at him. What did Janyin find wrong now? She looked pretty in her plain dress, before she stormed over to Dai Lan.

"Yes dear?" Dai Lan asked. He had just been in the middle of telling the other three men at the table a joke, and while he wished to continue on with said joke, he knew that doing so would earn him a stern talking-to from his wife.

"May I talk to you for a moment?" Janyin said in a tone that distinctly meant she wouldn't take no for an answer.

"Yes. Excuse me," Dai Lan said. He rose from the table and followed his wife through the crowded banquet hall. He passed statues of venerated saints, all paused in contemplation, richly-embroidered tapestries giving them some sort of holy backdrop. Between them, pale white scrolls hung, revealing poems rendered in calligrapher's script; each symbol was an art piece on its own.

"What do you want?" he asked Janyin asked.

"Find your son for me," Janyin said, squinting at him in a way that let Dai Lan know she was angry at him. Dai Lan looked around the party. Surely, he'd be able to spot his son. After all, how many of the patrons had horns? Or scales?

Yet, as he scanned the crowd, he didn't see the familiar flash of gold light. Normally, he'd also look for people screaming about a demon, but this town was different. Here, Dai Lan always took his son down to the market when the compound needed the supplies they couldn't produce themselves.

At first, the people had reacted... badly. That was how he had explained it to the Enlightened Father. He didn't explain the shoemaker throwing a nice pair of boots at him, the blacksmith nearly jumping into his forge, the potter demanding Dai Lan perform an exorcist, and the baker taking swats at him.

But now, the shoomaker helped Laidu get nice boots that fit his oddly-taloned toes, the blacksmith was friendly, and the potter said he liked the kid. The baker always gave Laidu a honey roll, but Dai Lan suspected that was more motivated by guilt over generosity; she probably still felt bad about when she made the big, bad, scary child cry. To be fair, Laidu was nine at the time. Or nine-ish.

In fact, most of the kids there, once they got over the fact that his son had a snout, were eager to play with him. And while the acceptance Laidu found from other children warmed his heart, Dai Lan wished the kids made a bit more fuss at that moment.

"Where is he?" he finally asked his wife.

"He's outside," Janyin said. "Talk to him. He needs his father right now." He knew what that meant. She tried to help him, and, like a few times before, she couldn't.

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