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Three Drops of Blood in an Ebony Frame


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Xue Bai

His tea had gone cold.

Thoughtlessness, on his part.  He had let his fingertips linger on the china cup a bit too long, finding something of unusual interest in the newspaper article face up on the table beside his breakfast.  No one to blame, really, but himself.  Had he not noticed when the shimmer of steam in the air was too quickly curtailed, he might have left his fingers in place till the tea froze solid in its cup, like a great greenish ice cube.

Shen sighed.  He was, though it was distasteful to the core of his energy, to the element that made up the nature of his power, capable of using a spell to warm something.  He could have hot tea if he wanted it.  But the idea of using a spell for something so ridiculously childish made him cringe.  The tea still in the pot ought to be warm still.  He glanced about, and seeing no one nearby, tipped the cold tea into the vase which held two blooms of silk orchids.  Then he refilled his cup and sipped at the liquid, quickly letting it down so it might stay at its proper temperature.

His jianbing arrived a moment later.  Thankfully, the use of utensils kept it from chilling immediately, as he savored the delicious combination of savory and sweet flavors.  It seemed strange, a little, to eat what he thought of as cart or street food while sitting in a restaurant booth, the sort of ubiquitous mulberry-colored waxy vinyl cushions, the porous off-white table top, the laminated everything.  He supposed he looked very strange, as he had already noticed several people staring and quickly snapping away their attention when his own eyes glossed in a return direction.

Well, people had always stared, even when he had been nineteen and his hair was still a natural, normal black.  Now it was white, and long enough to brush the back of his knees, and his eyes, which had once been dark as well, were now two colors: the one an ice blue, the other blood red.  Politely, Shen ignored the stares and prurient glances, which only increased when he answered the waiter in Mandarin Chinese and continued a casual conversation over several minutes, amused by the charmed glimmer in the matron's eyes.  She thought she was old enough to be his mother, of course, and probably that he was some sort of entertainer.  The outlandish fashions of the musicians and idols of this era had done him a sort of favor.  At least he was no longer assumed to be some sort of ghost, as had been the case fifty years earlier.

What face would the waitress make, he wondered, if she realized he in fact, was old enough to be her father?

Outside a flurry of snowflakes shivered through the morning air and the accompanying breeze ripped bright red maple leaves from a tree, spiraling bright like blood drops on a square of linen.

Once upon a time, he thought, with some annoyance.

Being woken by true love's kiss was all well and good, he imagined, except that the son of a ***** was a demon and unconscious people, in point of general fact, cannot consent to being bloody kissed.

And now it was 3:33 and true to form, mister true-love-whether-you-like-it-or-not was late.

October 18, 2018 04:09 am
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