[- Imperial Palace - ]
Walking restlessly in front of the giant windows in the long corridor in front of her room, the Emperor's oldest daughter Ying watched as her personal palanquin rapidly moved away towards the Lotus Tea House as per her orders to collect Pò and bring the girl to her for a "Please excuse my sister for publicly denude you" tea.
Father had always pointed-out that just like commoners were nothing without somebody ruling over them to keep order, at the same time nobles (And Emperors) were nothing without the support offered by somebody under them; and while maybe she was overdoing with such a personal invitation, the young Heir that was still learning the way of the Rulers from her Father and the other teachers thought this was a fair exchange.
Of course the Emperor was informed of this meeting, and while occupied with the manhunt he personally was overseeing to catch the daring thief that stole from their family, the man saw this small thing come as a blessing to keep both his daughters occupied and distracted while he mercilessly hunted down this mysterious "Master Thief Silver Cat" that decided to start showing-off their talent as a thief by bothering him personally, of all people.
"Young Princess, are you sure it wouldn't have been easier just going there personally instead of calling her here?" one of the servants asked with her head held low.
"Probably, but I wanted to make it clear that she will be my guest, instead of me being a customer. And I have already organized everything in my bout of shame, calling everything back now that I almost calmed down would be...Improper, I believe." the young girl answered, dubious.
"Of course, your Highness. Please excuse my speaking out of bounds." the maid said bowing low.
"No harm done, besides, have my friends arrived?" Ying asked with a gentle smile.
"Yes, your Highness. Lady Feng Mian and Lady Zhi are already waiting for you in the guest room his Imperial Majesty has organized for your tea." the maid answered immediately.
"Bring me there then! And be sure the tea will be served as soon as young Fei-Dao will be escorted in the same room. Best manners, me and my little sister have ashamed her by mistake, and I want to pay back at least in part this unforgivable incident."
"Of course, your Highness. Please follow me."
A short walk done in complete silence and Ying reached the ample room her father the Emperor normally used to welcome important guests from outside the City; it was clear that in order to keep his oldest daughter happy, the man had done his best to appease his beloved 'Little Moon' in her moment of need.
"Here we are, your Highness. I will go instruct the others to start preparing tea." the Maid declared once opened the door for Ying.
"Very well, go then." Ying answered nodding and rapidly closing the door behind herself to let out a long breath.
"Still nervous?" Zhi asked while still looking around the luxurious room around them.
"We wouldn't be here if she felt at ease doing this alone." Feng answered while looking more interested in the huge library behind them and the giant collection of scrolls filling it to the brim.
"Exactly, I am learning the Arts of Diplomacy and Small Talk...But..." Ying started saying, unsure.
"But you know there is 'Small Talk' AND 'Small Talk'. And you don't know which one this little date will fall into."
"Sister Zhi! This is not a date!" the Emperor's daughter exclaimed in mighty embarrassment.
"You saw her naked, at worst, you are doing things backwards by having a date now after the show!" the giant of a teenage girl answered before letting go of a thundering laugh.
"Sister Feng! At least you, take my defence!" now showing a pretty blushing face, Ying begged her other dear friend for help.
"Please ignore Sister Zhi and her trash-talk, you do know she enjoys this type of banter. We are here to help you, but I am afraid this won't stop her from poking fun at you all the same." the minute girl answered while adjusting her glasses.
"Were them at least supple? Or big?" Zhi asked while still laughing herself into a stupor.
"Sister Zhi! Do you not posses any form of shame?!" Ying yelled, scandalized.
"Shame is not something a warrior should strive for! And you have not answered yet."
"Hn!" Ying simply huffed and looked away, while patting her smallish chest absent-minded.
"...Jealousy." Feng sentenced after a short pause of thought.
"Definitely." Zhi conceded with a nod worthy of a great sage.
"Not everybody can be as lucky as you two or her..." the Emperor's daughter muttered with enough venom in her tone to easily corrode a mountain down to nothing.
"Don't be like that, I assure you that they are just a bother. Bwahahahahaha!" Zhi answered while slamming her chest on the table with a loud, meaty slapping noise that made the sturdy wood whine under the stress of her weight.
"Please, you two, act like the High-Society Heiresses you are. Acting like spoiled toddlers because one of you developed first is not worth the arguing." Feng asked, sighing tiredly.
"Just kidding, just kidding. But maybe we should ask her to join us for a bath, just to see how much of a 'Rival' she can be for dear Ying!"
"May the gods give me strength..." Feng muttered with her eyes looking at the sky pleadingly.
"I assure you that everything is going to be fine, Sister Ying. You are not dealing with some dignitaries or influential generals, it will just be a simple tea between friends to forgive and forget a small incident! There were no deaths or battles, just a moment of embarrassment. If you need we are here."
"Thank you, Zhi."
"See? She can be serious and proper too."
"You are right, Sister Feng, it's a relief!"
"Oh, go jump down a cliff, you two!" Zhi said, looking extremely peeved.
"Your Highness? Your guest is here." one of the servants asked with a demure tone from outside.
"Ah!" Ying jumped in fright at the sudden intrusion, before clearing her throat and addressing the young woman outside with a controlled, formal tone.
"Let her in."
"At once, your Highness."
"...Good Evening, thank you for your kind invitation, I am not worthy of this." Pò said giving a deep bow.
"Uhm." Zhi muttered with narrowed eyes as she studied the newcomer's plain, yet elegant, clothes and the thin jade rods keeping her hair in a tight bun.
And the veil covering almost completely her face, this one pale pink instead of her usual white one.
"Zhi...Behave..." Feng whispered, having already figured out what was in the girl's head.
"Definitely better without that veil and bun, I want to see the face of who I am talking with." Zhi said smirking as she flashed behind Pò in a burst of Qi as soon as the door went closed leaving the servants that brought Pò and their tea outside.
"Sister Zhi!" Ying yelled, scandalized.
"Have no fear, at least between us girls she doesn't need that silly thing, I saw worse wounds than that tiny scar of hers." the giant girl replied uninterested while guiding Pò to sit at the table.
"You could have just asked..." Pò muttered growling, already cursing those three for using their supposed 'Godly Gift' for such a petty reason and putting her cover at risk.
"Details, details. Look, we already got everything set." Zhi answered smiling amused.
"Uh. Please allow me." Remembering the difference in Social Status, and fighting power, Pò gave a strong bite to her tongue to stop her vitriolic retort and silently served tea for herself and them.
"There was no need." Ying said with a tiny and gentle smile.
"Perfect manners." Feng muttered.
"It's her job, she has to be good." Zhi whispered back.
"Having a Princess serve tea to a commoner would have been improper, and I don't mind, I enjoy doing this." Pò answered while flashing her most convincing smile.
"And you never get tired of it? How many cups you drink in a day?" Zhi asked, amused.
"A lot actually, but since each of my 'Darlings' has a different taste, the numerous blends and the tales they regale me with give me enough variety to never get too tired." she answered, now giving the perfect image of a young maiden with a heart filled in dreams and heroic tales.
["God I hate tea, and I have to pee far too much between guests! And their stories! En! As if me and the others didn't know 90% of those are pure bullshit!"] Pò's thoughts though held another truth, one maybe a bit more cynical than what the pretty, air-headed face of her new body could suggest.
"Having to take a piss every five minutes must be hell then."
"ZHI!" Ying and Feng screamed with wide eyes while Pò simply choked on her own sip of tea.
"T-Those are details we usually don't talk about, Lady Zhi." Pò answered while still coughing.
"Please forgive her, her family generates great generals and warriors, but at the price of a more...Wild...Nature." Feng said sighing and shaking her head.
"No harm done, Lady Feng Ming."
"I am curious though, why 'Darlings'?"
"Darling is the term we commonly use with our guests the first time they visit us, to create a more familiar relationship with them, then if they so wish, we change it to another one of their choice."
"And you use?" Ying asked looking worried, and remembering a certain gold statue she was certain the girl had been coerced into modeling naked for.
"Nothing too extreme: Darling, Master, Beloved, Big Brother or Big Sister, Daddy..."
"Daddy?!" the Emperor's Daughter repeated shocked.
"There is a clear rule stating that Guests can watch but not touch, so a couple of them have to improvise, so to have their 'Fetishes' accomplished without incurring in the Wrath of aunt Xiao or Madame." Pò answered with a meaningful look on her face.
"So few of them like to think you are their daughter, and flirt with you?" Zhi asked with narrowed eyes.
"It's everyday business, luckily all of them have always kept their hands away. I don't mind."
"And the flirting?" Feng asked.
"It can be a bit bothersome when some Guests overdo, but as per our training, we never let this ruin our experience or the Guest's."
"And you can't tell us the names?" Ying asked.
"I am sorry, your Highness. Unless Aunt Xiao or the Madame give me permission, I cannot divulge our Guests' name or preferences so to not have it used against them, even to you. Only were His Imperial Majesty himself, your father, to ask me I would be able to answer without asking first, it's one of the few concessions your great-grandfather conceded to the Lotus when it came to be." Pò answered apologetic.
"I didn't expect great-grandfather to give this concession..." Ying said impressed.
"At the time the Lotus also worked as meeting point for secret dealings between enemies of the Imperial Family, so in exchange of the Lotus being left standing, the first owner accepted to intercept said meetings for the Emperor. We are 'Tea Girls', in the eyes of everybody, we are only a step above prostitutes...The only difference is that we do not concede our bodies. So we are easily ignored, since we are supposed to just sit there and look pretty." Pò answered with a weak smile.
"It does make a bit of sense, at the time any way to keep the enemy under watch was a blessing, and does that still happen?" Feng asked.
"Oh, gracious, no. By now we just hear about gossip, not a single military secret!" Pò answered mimicking an amused laugh.
"That is still juicy if you ask me. So? Spill it! Adultery? Incest? Bigamy? Tell us what you know!"
"Sister Zhi!" Ying exclaimed tiredly.
To the Princess relief, and quiet surprise, the hour she had planned to spend with Pò passed fast, and the commoner girl showed herself being well-versed in small talk, able to answer readily and even guide the talk into areas where Ying felt more at ease, actually surprising her with how deep her training went in that area.
In truth only part of Pò's talent came from the training Xiao gave her, most of it was the result of a new soul and mind residing in that body, the transmigrated Fei-Dao had been trained by her grandfather, a Master in guiding and directing things from behind the scenes so that she could still guide her family's multi-billion economic empire from the shadows while her idiot big brother was in the spotlight.
Soon their time came to an end, and while expertly hiding her relief, Pò showed a sad smile while re-wearing her veil as she prepared to leave.
"It was quite pleasant," Feng admitted.
"Lady Feng is always welcomed to the Lotus whenever she wishes, we do not only have male guests." Pò answered readily.
"Oh-ooh! Me too then, tea is not my thing, but I heard the pastries there are quite good." Zhi answered smirking.
"Then I shall prepare my best ones in wait for your visit."
"...You know how to cook too?" the bear-shaped teen girl muttered impressed.
"Dear Zhi is a prodigy in fighting, but anything outside that is a mountain she cannot climb, especially if it is something socially expected from a woman to accomplice." Feng answered, merciless.
"T-That is not true!"
"Your past disasters tell otherwise."
"Lies! All lies!"
"Just go, Dear Fei. It will take a while for them to stop." Ying suggested with an apologetic smile.
"Of course, your Highness. And thank you again for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Pò answered bowing deeply and turning around to open the door.
"I HEARD BIG SISTER FEI IS HERE! WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED!?" A younger voice bellowed in fury, making her words echo in the corridors strong enough to rattle the windows heavily.
"Oh, no...Jiang..." Ying muttered in despair.
"Little Miss Jiang, good evening." Pò offered with a formal bow.
"Big sister Fei!" the young girl said with a giant smile as she hurried to greet the Tea Girl.
Now, the floor of the corridors were covered in their middle by a thick carpet deep-blue in colour, leaving at both sides enough space for the palace servants to walk freely and leave only to the Imperial Family and their guests the 'honour' of walking on said carpet while the servants walked on the naked floor...Problem was, the Emperor's wife was a bit of a clean freak, meaning that the carpet had to be changed regularly under her request, that meant that normally there was actually nothing stopping creases from forming on it, and on one of such creases little Jiang managed to land one of her steps with outstanding precision...
"Agk!" and so, with a strangled and not very lady-like shriek, Jiang fell forward while wildly waving around her arms in desperate need for support.
[* Strap! Peng!*]
The incident was two-fold, Jiang managed to get a hold of the front of Pò's clothes, but still, the speed behind her fall still managed to push the commoner back, forcing Ying to instinctively grab her falling guest.
"En! You are a very forward girl, Sister Ying! I didn't know you had it in you!" Zhi exclaimed greatly amused.
"What do you..." Ying started saying before finally noticing the shreds of cloth Jiang still held tightly in her hands while sprayed on the floor, and the warm softness filling her hands and overflowing from them.
"Your Highness, can you please let go?" she heard Pò ask faintly while looking at her own chest.
And at the Princess' hands gripping her bare breast with each finger deeply buried in the flesh of both her mounds.
["...This is a curse...The Gods must have cursed me..."] Ying thought in dismay as she could already feel the first rush of blood threatening to spill out of her mouth, but her hands still clung to that heavenly-soft skin with no apparent wish of letting go.
"Big Sister Fei!...Stupid Ying, stop molesting her!" Jiang bellowed in anger while forcefully separating the two girls.
"I-It wasn't intentional! I am not molesting her!" the Princess answered immediately.
"They way you clawed her tits says otherwise,"
"ZHI!" the Princess cried-out, ashamed beyond belief.
"Twice I have met your Highness and her little sister, and twice I have been denuded, if this continues I will never get married..." Pò muttered sighing.
"It was not intentional!" Ying answered in great distress.
"You should cover yourself." Zhi suggested.
"Here." Feng answered returning her the shredded front half of her clothes.
"We can hear a grand commotion in our Palace, young girls together are always so noisy, no matter the stat..." As this was happening, the Emperor himself jokingly peaked out from the door next to theirs to see what the commotion was about before falling dead silent.
"Ah!" the girls shrieked as one.
["Boin!"] was the first sound that came in his mind when the old man's eyes zeroed on the jiggly flesh of his daughter's guest.
"FATHER! DON'T LOOK!" Ying roared angrily while forcing Pò to turn around to hide her chest.
"Y-Your Majesty!" Zhi and Feng added, scandalized.
"AH! W-We saw nothing! Nothing at all!" the man answered slamming the door closed so to hide in his studio.
"Father! I'll tell mother you were ogling!" Jiang said, furious.
"We were not! Emperors do not ogle young girls young enough to be their daughters!" the man answered distraught from behind the door.
"Daughter, our Imperial person never lies, you should know this."
"Does she have a mole on her right breast?" Ying asked with narrowed eyes.
"No, it was on the left one, why?"
"...If we send our personal tailor to fix her clothes immediately, will you please forget all this happened?" the Emperor asked with a sweet voice once understood the trap he fell into.
"Of course, your Highness." Pò answered.
"We appreciate the concession. Your name is Fei-Dao, are we correct?"
"Yes, your Highness. This humble nobody is honoured you know her name."
"A good Ruler should always know his people well."
"Perhaps are you planning of visiting the Tea House to know her better yourself, father?" Ying asked, growling.
"Sometimes answers are like the clouds, far away and swaying under the breeze of summer to go towards lands unknown..." the man replied with a sage-like tone.
"...He is avoiding the question." Feng said.
"Definitely." Zhi confirmed, nodding.
"Father!" both daughters yelled as one making the Emperor flinch minutely.
[ - One hour later - Streets - ]
"Stupid morons. Useless bastards, spoiled rotten by too much money! As if my dignity means nothing." Pò cursed lowly as she returned by herself towards the Heavenly Lotus on foot while wearing her hastily-repaired clothes, since the less extra time she spent with Ying or Jiang, the better she felt.
"Look! it's one of those..." a near woman, by the look of it a commoner, said in distaste from a deserted side street.
"Pa! Barely better than a prostitute and she struts like that." the woman's friend replied in equal bitterness while both walked away.
"Are you talking about me?" Pò asked with narrowed eyes as she followed them, already angry for her own reasons and thus not in the right mood to ignore it.
"Yes, why? You do not like me saying this? Are you going to cry?" the fat woman replied in challenge.
"Listen, you fat cow..." Pò countered while marching towards her.
"How dar-Ah!" before the woman could even finish getting offended by the retort, Pò's hands had already grabbed the front of her clothes to pull her forward, and at the same time, slamming her forehead on the woman's nose with enough strength to destroy it and turn her face into a mask of blood and broken flesh.
"H-Help..." the other woman tried saying before a slender hand holding an elegant handkerchief covered her mouth, soon making her eyes lose focus.
"You spend too much time with Big Sister Xiao, you are taking her same brutish mannerism." Xie said with an overly-sad tone as he used the pill form of the same drug to force the first woman too into unconsciousness.
"I am already angry for my own reasons, so I won't let a fat pig in women's clothing insult me just because she got so ugly even that useless sack of shit of her husband doesn't look at her anymore!" Pò answered defiantly.
"Yes, I can tell you are pretty worked-up. But I may have the right solution to this, and it's also why I was tailing you ever since you left the Palace." Xie answered nonplussed.
"There is a guy, a very unpleasant craftsman, that has just refused to pay me for the concoction that helped him sire a child. I managed a miracle and made that tiny shrimp he has between his legs lift its head long enough to do its job, so I DESERVE to get paid. Especially since he does have enough money. But I guess he prefers to anger me instead of paying me for that and my silence about his inadequacy as a man."
"So I have to steal from a moron that refused to pay for his erectile dysfunction?" Pò asked, finally looking amused instead of angry.
"I saw five-year-olds with bigger ones. It has been a chore to make him able to procreate so I want my money for that!...And..."
"And he is the one that had been tasked with preparing the masks for an upcoming spectacle of a famous traveling circus, the main attraction is a woman with a cat mask, and the Emperor has asked to our Target to create a ceramic mask as a gift to this woman. Steal that too and bring it to me, I will create a copy in 'Formless Steel' and cover it with silver, he may be a bad customer, but as far as design goes, he is a real master."
"So I will finally get my personal mask instead of that plain one? It was about time! But why the Emperor wants to make her a gift?"
"Nobody knows, voices are that the first time that circus came here, Princess Ying was five and suffered from some sort of trauma, and it was that very same woman to make the kid laugh again and return to normal thanks to her show, so his Majesty probably feels indebted towards her and wishes to pay her back, that is why every year, when the circus returns, he prepares a gift for her."
"I'll see what I can do. What about these two?" Pò answered.
"Pa! I will try few of my new concoctions on them and then ditch them somewhere, they will be so confused that even remembering their own name will take days, so what happened today will disappear from their minds."
"And what if they die?"
"Who cares? They are nobodies, everyday commoners disappear because took into slavery or because somebody needed humans for some experiments, if for once I do this, nobody will notice. You have the Lotus protecting you and I have the Emperor secretly doing the same...Them? They are not as lucky, this is a cruel world, the weak either get smart enough or they get eaten by the strong. No mercy." Xie answered shrugging uncaring and sending a messenger bird to his little brother to come collect the two women.
"Very well, I will go get ready."
"Good, I will meet you at the Lotus once done here to give you more details."
[ - 'Celestial Cloud-Chasing Boar' Circus - Artists area - ]
While muscular men and nimble young boys moved restless to organize the huge circus tent in the area the Emperor left free for them, in a more secluded part the various carriages of the artists were huddled together to form a small 'village' housing the various men and women taking care of entertain their beloved audience.
In the biggest carriage of them all, an old woman with long silver hair was sitting in front of a giant bronze mirror and brushing her locks with a sad expression, always missing her old raven hair of her past days and regretting the passing of time taking away her youth.
"Bu Wei? Can I come in?" a rough voice asked from outside.
"Come, come." she answered, sighing.
At that an extremely tall, outrageously muscular old man with tattered monk robes, dark skin and bald head entered her carriage with heavy steps that made the whole thing shake heavily at each movement of his, keeping his head and shoulders low to not hit the ceiling thanks to his absurd height.
"What do you need, Ah?" the woman asked.
"One of the Emperor's Eunuchs came to inform us, as always he has two gifts waiting for us: one already on its way and another that will be delivered before the show starts, tomorrow." the old and disgraced monk, Ah Fang, answered immediately.
"So a mask and a rare flower?" Bu Wei asked with a pleased smile.
"Of course." the monk replied with a dark smirk.
"Finally, then have dear old Pang-Pang prepare our own gift, this year he said we'll make an even better impression than usual."
"You know that he hates when you use that nick-name." he answered laughing.
"That is why I use it, after all."
"Other than that, please tell to our dear 'Ring Leader' that tonight I will go out first, this time I don't feel like waiting for our little Snake Girl to finish playing with her knives."
"I will tell him. Anything else?"
"Nothing much, just be sure to handle our gifts better this time, you need to control your strength."
"It won't be a problem, I will be careful as my beloved mother wishes." the old monk answered with a deep bow before leaving, and Bu Wei skillfully ignored how her carriage briefly leaned to the side as the giant of a man stepped out.
"Good, and do not slam the door again!"
"Yes, mother." the other answered closing the door of her carriage with a gentle push of a single finger, and still slamming it strong enough to almost tear it to pieces.
"...Sorry." the monk said sheepish before walking away.
"Kids these days...No manners." the woman said sighing as she checked the creases on her face dear 'Old Age' gifted her.
"Each year pass way too fast." she muttered with a self-deprecating sigh as a bright silver aura encompassed her body for an instant.
"Good thing dear Emperor knows how to pamper a lady." she then said with a sinister smile.
[ - 'Billowing Bamboo Forest' Wood Crafting Shop - ]
"There it is!" Pò said happily as she saw the delicate-looking mask sitting defenseless on top of the working table of the craftsman, still in the hands of the man that had fallen asleep clutching it once the need of sleep overcame him mid-work while he was giving the finishing touches to the Emperor's gift.
"You are no longer young enough to pull an all-nighter, you idiot." Pò chuckled amused as she gently lifted his head up.
"Now, breath in..." she then said taking out a small pipette to blow a tiny cloud of greenish powder in front of his face as soon as he breathed-in.
"One...Two...Three..." the woman counted up to twenty and then breathed a sigh of relief to pry the mask free of his hands.
"You will wake-up with a giant headache, but that is the last of my problems." Pò muttered pleased to herself as she left the same way she got in so to bask in the moonlight of yet another cloudless night.
["It may be a coincidence with my Qi being of the Moon Alignment, but standing like this under the moon feels nice."] she thought with a happy smile covered by the wooden mask instead of her old one.
It was then that she saw a lean shadow jump from a rooftop to the other while carrying a tiny bundle on their shoulder that looked strangely humanoid and that was moving around wildly.
"Uh?" Pò uttered confused as she saw another figure join the first so that both could move rapidly towards the area where the Circus was being erected.
"Now, that looks like trouble, thus...None of my business." Pò declared heroically before turning around to move in the opposite direction of the strange duo, her destination being Xie's lab for her mask to be created by copying the wooden one she just stole and was wearing.
[ - Xie's Lab - ]
Arrived at the secret entrance of the man's unofficial clinic, Pò opened the secret compartment hidden behind one of the bookcases of Xie's personal office to enter, and find Xie and Xiao going through a silent war of stares; the woman's furious frown being met with the disinterested stare of the disgraced doctor.
"Did I interrupt something?" Pò asked nonplussed, by now desensitized towards the love/hate relationship between the two.
"Nothing much, little sister Pò." Xie answered shrugging.
"I was asking if he took liberties with the young daughter of one of my customers." Xiao explained with a venomous hiss.
"Liberties? Does Big Brother Xie enjoy the supple flesh of underage girls now?" Pò asked with mirthful eyes.
"No. Neither do I borrowed her for some experiment."
"Then why she disappeared?!"
"I have no clue, okay?! Kids like her disappear every day, what's different about her?"
"She has parents home waiting for her, that's what!" Xiao roared in answer.
"...How long ago did she disappear?" Pò asked out of the blue.
"One hour, maybe two, she just disappeared while her father was not looking." Xiao answered.
["The time-frame doesn't match those two shadows...Unless..."]
"Did she have a friend between those homeless brats always running around?" Pò asked with narrowed eyes.
"You mean the kids of the orphanages?"
"Not to my knowledge, but considering that her father owns one of those places, it is highly possible. Why?" Xiao answered.
"Because maybe I have a clue. Coming here I saw two men move towards the Circus while carrying something that looked eerily similar to a small human, and kidnapping a girl with parents would attract attention."
"But kidnapping a kid from an orphanage would attract way less attention since one of them running away is nothing new, and the capital has dozens of orphanages filled in kids from either war victims or abandoned by uncaring prostitutes, one disappearing won't be noticed any time soon...You think she saw the kidnappers and is trying to save her friend?" Xie asked.
"It's a good possibility, since her father owns one such place, she may have befriended one of the kids. And as any stupid kid, she started chasing those men without thinking about alerting her father beforehand." Pò answered.
"I will go alert the guards then, probably one of those morons from the Black Order tried to enlist a new recruit. Can I count on you to find that girl?" Xiao asked.
"Why should I?"
"Please." The woman pleaded.
"...Fine." Pò conceded growling.
"While you go, I will work on your mask; contrary to Big Sister Xiao, I am more concerned about my work than about the trouble of people I do not know."
"Heartless bastard." Xiao harrumphed angrily before leaving.
"Love you too, Big Sister." he answered nonplussed.
"I will be going then. To think that I decided to wash my hands of this thing..."
"Karma works in mysterious ways." Xie answered.
"Is it your way to say 'Just suck it up and go'?"
"Thank you for the kind words of encouragement, Xie." Pò said rolling her eyes and leaving from the same hidden door she came from.
"Love you too, Little Sister."
"And me?" Xie's young brother asked hopeful.
"Just shut up and keep feeding the flames of the furnace and melt that Formless Steel, I didn't tell you to stop."
[ - Streets - ]
Climbing on the rooftop of a near blacksmith shop, Pò scanned the area for guards before covering her body in the faint aura of her Qi so to empower her body and start jumping from roof to roof towards the Circus area.
"This was the last direction they moved towards, so that brat should have followed them close-by." she said while retracing the steps of the people she saw once out of the craftsman house.
While Pò kept trying to understand where those two figures went, in the giant carriage of the 'Celestial Cloud-Chasing Boar' Circus Star, the old lady Bu Wei looked with a raised eyebrow at the two young girls that had been tied tightly, blindfolded and gagged as they kept squirming pathetically in front of her.
"Why two?" she finally asked while pursing her lips.
"The one dressed in rags is the 'flower' we were supposed to get, the other...Well...The Twins said that she was making a fuss about her friend being kidnapped, and they panicked." the old monk Ah Fang replied with a helpless shrug.
"They panicked." she repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"It happens." Ah answered with a firced smile.
"Toss her out and far away from here, after all, I only need one. The other can get back home for all I care, blindfolded like that she should not recognize us, so until she doesn't see the twins, nobody will know." Bu Wei ordered with a tired sigh.
"Of course, mother." the monk said easily lifting the small girl with a giant hand to take her away.
"And hands away from improper places!"
"...Of course, mother."
Watching the giant man walk away, the real Boss of the Circus walked towards the tied homeless girl still in her carriage to caress her cheek.
"Yes, perfect. This year's 'Harvest' will be plentiful, this little flower is really a cut above the ones I usually get." she muttered with a hungry tone that made the poor kid do her best to take distance from the scary old lady.
"Do not be afraid, soon you will take part to something really beautiful. Tomorrow night you will 'blossom' into a true miracle." she said with a motherly tone even too sweet to offer any sort of comfort.