Chapter 168: Body Check
The Seamstress tittered. “Making clothes is my hobby, and for people like me we don’t simply like to make clothes for anyone. No, we prefer doing so for people with the proper physique. Those are our most appreciated clients. For a good tailor, a set of clothing is only as beautiful as the person wearing it. So for you, I’ve got a formal dress and a summer dress in mind. What color do you prefer?”
Zhou Qianlin thought for a moment. “Um… white?”
The Seamstress beamed. “Excellent. White suits you. It goes well with your pale skin, and sets off your blue eyes and black hair. I don’t believe it will need any ostentatious decorations or primping, either – just a few adjustments to really accentuate your body type. You’re already really very beautiful, you know. And nothing too fancy, that’d take away from your natural looks. Steal the show, darling. Redundant, no? Simple is best I think, yes.”
“I trust your judgment,” Qianlin offered.
The Seamstress continued speaking as she measured and recorded Qianlin’s measurements. Her voice dropped a few notches in volume. “Don’t you find it odd that the Driver would be here waiting for the Jewelry Master?”
Zhou Qianlin nodded her head.
The Seamstress continued her work while speaking. “Actually this store isn’t entirely mine. Part of it is owned by the Driver. That makes him part owner and manager, darling. He loves suits you know – obsessed – to the point where our store’s profits aren’t enough to keep up with his demand. He also likes to smoke his cigars and drink his booze here. He and the Jewelry Master are old drinking buddies. He heard two days ago that our young Jewelry Master would be stopping by, and stayed specifically to speak with him. Men, darling – nothing but smoke smoke smoke, drink drink drink. I’ve even developed an affinity for the damn stench.”
Lan Jue’s voice wafted towards them from beyond the curtain. “… 1985 Talisker original cask for the third bottle. It’s an old one, and I like the smoky taste…”
“Alright, so let’s pour you out a little more of this one.” They heard the Driver laugh as the third bottle’s cork popped away. “Then what do you think, hm? What order should we follow.”
“Stronger and stronger, naturally,” Lan Jue instructed. “The Bowmore would be good, and the last I think. A nice, strong taste without that disinfectant fluid finish. There are other things for me to do today, so this will be enough.”
Half an hour later, the Driver and Seamstress stood at the front of their store, wishing Lan Jue and his guest farewell.
“Take it easy, we’ll be back another time for more,” Lan Jue said, waving happily to the two behind him.
The Driver chuckled. “We’ll be here waiting. Next time no restrictions, I’ll have ten bottles of whisky waiting.”
Lan Jue responded with a hearty laugh of his own. “A few bottles over forty years old are enough. The Dalmore from a while ago was quite fine, if I remember. The one with antlers on the label. Find us that one.”
The Driver’s expression warped as he twitched. “No wonder the Wine Master hates calling you over. You’re a real bastard! Always the most expensive bottle!”
Lan Jue snickered sinfully. “Be glad I’m not asking for the 60th Coronation whisky. You could race for years and not have the money for one. So good.”
“Go, get out of here! I’m scared of you already.” The Driver grabbed the Seamstress and pulled her inside. He certainly looked like he had changed his mind about inviting him for another round.
“Ahaha!” Lan Jue’s carefree laughter rang along the street as he took Qianlin back to his shop.
He went directly to the back, Qianlin in tow, under the watchful and curious gaze of Xiuxiu and Ke’er.
After the door closed, Qianlin turned a skeptical eye unto her host. “You brought me back here for a body check?” 1
Lan Jue shrugged. “Yup, I’ll just do a quick check myself. Is there somewhere else you’d prefer?”
Qianlin was almost speechless, but replied all the same. “Fine, let’s get started then. Afterwards it’ll be time for me to go home.”
“Alright, then why don’t you sit cross-legged on the bed,” Lan Jue instructed.
“The bed?” Her eyes drifted to the furniture as a blush crept across her face.
Lan Jue finally caught the implication and spoke up hastily to his defense. “Sorry, no that’s not my meaning. Don’t misunderstand!”
Zhou Qianlin rolled her eyes at him, then plopped on to the sofa. “Here.”
She sat cross-legged on the sofa, her back perfectly straight. Lan Jue stood at her side, and from here he could spy her perfect neck, drawing a fine line down to her back. His eyes traced further, down her spine to the pleasant curve of her backside.
His depression and sadness had served to quell any interest in women, any emotion at all. But since meeting Qianlin, he found he couldn’t entirely suppress those feelings as he once could. In fact, every time they met, he had to make sure he didn’t look at her too much. He feared he’d forget himself, and imagine she was Hera again.
Zhou Qianlin waited for what seemed like ages with no sound or motion coming from her side. She turned her head eventually, and caught him gawking.
As Lan Jue met those sky-blue eyes, he shook himself from his stupor. He sat cross-legged behind her, reaching his hands towards her back.
He paused for a moment, and took a long deep breath. He took the time to stabilize the chaos in his heart before finally pressing his palms against her.
Even through her clothes, he could feel how soft and smooth her skin was. He stopped again to take a breath and ease his heart then slowly, gently reached out with his Discipline in to her.
The Soulcaller gem against his chest warmed.
In reality, Lan Jue had already checked her once when he’d stolen in to her house. This time was mostly so he could reconfirm, and remember.
After a moment Lan Jue retracted his hands. “I’m sure of it, you weren’t actually sick before. It was a symptom of your Discipline awakening.”
“Discipline awakening?” Zhou Qianlin rose to her feet. “I’m not very familiar with Adepts, but aren’t I too old for a Discipline to be awakening?”
“It’s not unheard of,” Lan Jue assured, “just rare. Strangely, though, I can’t pin down what your Discipline actually is. But whatever the case, this is a good thing. It means your Discipline won’t be terribly strong, but it’ll certainly make your body better. Would you like me to help you with your Discipline cultivation?”
She shot him a sidelong glance. “So long as it doesn’t take away from your bodyguard duties, sure.”
It was Lan Jue’s turn to roll his eyes at her. “You really take me for that kind of person?”
Zhou Qianlin’s face split in an impish grin. “Who knows?”
Lan Jue could feel it. There was something inexplicable, some feeling that sprang up instantly within him whenever they were together. There was a world of difference from now, in this time of peace between them, and when they were upset.
“Alright, I’ll teach you. We’ll start with some meditation techniques. Practice every day when you get home, and you’ll slowly start to feel the changes in your body. Later, if you feel as though there are some significant changes, tell me and we’ll adjust your cultivation schedule.”
They spent the next few moments going over the fundamentals of message. She was a smart girl – Lan Jue only needed to explain twice before she had it down. They practiced together a few times before she found her center, then he let her slip in to meditation for an hour before bringing her back.
“Time to send me back,” she said as she blinked her eyes.
Lan Jue hesitated. “Would you like to get something to eat?”
Qianlin looked at him. “If it’s as good as the last time, absolutely.” Of course, she referred to the Bluefin tuna she’d enjoyed at the Gourmet’s house all those days ago.
Lan Jue shrugged helplessly. “Unfortunately no. Compared to the Gourmet I’m not even worthy of being called an amature. Simply things are fine though. It’s already dark, aren’t you hungry?”
“What’s for dinner then?”
“Whatever you like.”
“You’re making it?”
“What,” Lan Jue contested, “do I not look like I know how to cook?”
Qianlin nodded her head without a moment’s hesitation. “Exactly right, you don’t. I won’t get poisoned?”
Lan Jue’s face twitched. “I won’t need to. I sorta feel more like strangling you, so what can we do?”
“Take your best shot!” Qianlin smirked at him, getting up in his face.
Lan Jue lifted his arms and made as though for her throat, but stopped an inch away and let them drop in bitter defeat. He stomped towards the kitchen.
“Wait a little while, should only be a minute. It may not be delicious but it won’t kill you.”
Qianlin covered her mouth as she giggled, ignoring him and trotting in to the kitchen.
“What do you have here?” She leaned against the door frame, peering in to the small room.
Lan Jue simply pointed towards the refrigerator.
She slinked over and pulled the door open. She gave its contents the once over before speaking. “Well, at least we’re sure you don’t have any rats.”
“Why.” Lan Jue grunted as he pulled a pot from a cabinet.
“It’d probably starve,” she muttered.
Lan Jue made his way over and, sure enough, less than eighty percent of his fridge was barren. A few eggs, some drinks, and a tomato. That was about it.
“Ehm… how about we go out for some food, hm? Of nothing comes nothing, am I right!” He spread his arms and shrugged sheepishly. He didn’t often go out for groceries, as that was usually Xiuxiu’s responsibility. He hadn’t been home lately, so naturally there’d be little in the house.
“Do you have noodles? Enough spices?”
Lan Jue winced. “I… actually have no idea. But! When I went to Taihua I thought we’d be munching on wild stuff, so I actually bought a fair amount of spices. Take a look.”
He swept his arm, and with a bright silver flash there appeared a bevy of items on the table. The light and items had come from Thor’s Promise.
He was pleased to find that he not only had all manner of ordinary spices, but also cloves and other more exotic fare. All were fresh and ready, kept so by virtue of their interdimensional storage.
“I think we may also have noodles,” he offered before pulling a bag of noodles from a nearby cabinet.
“We won’t need to go out to eat. You go out and wait.” Zhou Qianlin rolled up her sleeves, then shoved Lan Jue out of the kitchen.
- She’s on to you! ↩