Disclaimer: This is a rough draft, guys. Take it in good humor. ;)
Her father, regal in his red and yellow silk, had already stepped out of his carriage and was inspecting the head of his white gelding. Guozhi, Bingwen, and Liwei waited for their own horses to be prepared, for they were old enough to attend the hunt as well. Chunhua wondered what it would be like to ride a horse and hunt through the leafy forest so full of music, of wild songbirds and buzzing insects, lucky crickets hidden beneath the foliage, but even when she matched her brothers’ ages she would not go. Women did not hunt, especially women like her. Chunhua used to think it unfair, but now she tried to look on her mounting brothers gladly, for at the end of the day they would be sore from their stiff saddles and tired from riding, and she would not be. A woman’s duties always became more refreshing when looked at in a different light. Still, Chunhua sometimes wished she had been born a boy.
Chunhua’s brush paused, leaving a spot of ink on the sandy parchment resting on her lap. She looked past the paper, seeing something beyond the stonework of her bedroom floor, listening to the faint sounds around her—the crackle of a dying fire to her left, the faintest clanking of practice swords carried on the wind, the muffled conversation of two serving women in the hall, growing louder as they reached her door, softer as they passed. The panting and buzzing of a cicada sounded from her window. A brave insect, to have flown so far, and so high.
“Chunhua!” the servant screamed, but her worry didn’t last long. Her fearful eyes looked up at Crow just as he reeled back and slammed his elbow into the side of her head. The woman’s eyes rolled back, and she collapsed at the feet of the first.
Chunhua nodded and, gripping Niu’s forearm, managed to get to her feet. She felt more or less steady, though her stomach rolled as though she had eaten soap, and the dim light—it came through a window in the hallway—made her head throb. She turned her head, trying not to look at the bodies of the men near the door, not wanting to identify them. Merciful lord, but the smell—
He released her, but Chunhua didn’t fight. He took a step back, and Chunhua clawed at the silk gag over her mouth, pulling it off in one, sticky peice. Sucking in a deep breath of air, she looked at the Zhizhu man and croaked, “I know you.”
He walked around the outer wall now, which was guarded heavily by Zhizhu in their mismatched armor, prepared for battle if any lingering Qizhongji soldiers decided to seek revenge or reclaim their honor. He thought of his brief meeting with Chunhua only days before. She claimed she could feel his emotions, but hers were harder to decipher. He had felt her fear when he grabbed her, understandably, and then her sorrow—or was it anger?—as she spoke of her father’s reign, and of his unquenchable debt. She had looked at him with such fire in her eyes, and for the first time since the siege, he felt like a criminal.
Few had come from Baishan, however. The differences in uniform were slight, but Chunhua knew where to look on the shoulder or collar to find the symbol of a soldier’s state or liege lord, even his rank. Most of the men were those stationed in Riluo State, and several from Guan State, but not the capitol itself. Nearly one hundred men had heeded the call of Jiang Pan and the Heir to Shengda. More would come, and more would wait on standby at their posts until Chunhua had need of them. The thought made her heart flutter like a moth in a cage of light.
What I learned:
- Apparently I never use the word "look" when I'm in Crow's perspective...
- I use this word too much! (I could have put SO MANY paragraphs on here...)