Que Tzu took a deep draw on his cigarette, then asked his hostess, “So, what is it that you want me to do, exactly, Madam Cai?” He looked around the unkempt garden that abutted the earthquake tumbled house and added, “I’m a gi fighter, not a handyman.”
The older, taller woman, not that it was too hard to be taller than the national professional gi-champion, replied, “We both know that gi fighters are sorcerers by another name. You are recognised as one of the most powerful currently active, and you are an earth specialist.”
Que Tzu looked particularly disreputable as he mildly interjected, “I’m Hoshun. Earth is one of our elements, but I wouldn’t call me a specialist.” He added, “Ma’am,” and gestured somewhat decoratively with the smoking cigarette.
She looked at him repressively and replied, “Young man, I had not heard anything to suggest that false modesty is one of your faults.”
“Oh, it’s not,” he assured her cheerfully with a puff of cigarette smoke. “I’m more of a generalist in the Hoshun sphere of practice; I could give you the contact details for at least four people who are better with earth gi than I am.”
She nodded in acknowledgement, but said, “You, however, are here. You are also…in need of funds, or so my contacts tell me.” He nodded in acknowledgement of her point. “I need to get this site ready to rebuild upon. I’m sure you can tell that the house was derelict even before the earthquake, but the spring here in the garden is new and in the way of our plans. It needs to be gone.”
“I can’t help you,” replied Que Tzu. He drew in through his cigarette and blew out a long plume of smoke before adding, “It’s a spring. It simply doesn’t pay to mess with them. Haven’t you heard the story about Lei Feng Guan and the Ming Family Village?”
“I’ve never heard of Lei Feng Guan,” said Madam Cai tightly. “What has he to do with this matter?”
“He’s a powerful but foolish sorcerer my first Master used to tell me bedtime stories about,” Que Tzu told her between puffs on his cigarette, the smoke beginning to form a haze around him. “The Mings hired him to move a spring for them, and he shifted it about four times before half the village was swept away by mud and the other half slid down the other side of the hill on a sheet of underlying rock.”
“Can’t you just put things back the way they were before the earthquake?” Madam Cai may have sounded a little plaintive.
“I don’t know how things were before the earthquake,” pointed out Que Tzu. “If I simply block the spring off, then the water is going to work its way out somewhere else, and I have no idea where that might be. You could well wind up with a worse problem than you have now. Frankly, I suggest changing your plans to include a nice garden water feature that you can stock with lucky fish.”
“So, you’re not going to do anything for me?” Madam Cai was beginning to look angry.
“I’m not going to block up a spring for you,” corrected Que Tzu. “I am going to walk around town checking the water here isn’t coming from a broken water pipe somewhere. Just in case fixing your problem is really that simple.”
“That is…quite practical,” conceded Madam Cai. “A fishpond could be a desirable feature; I will think on it.”
“It could be worse,” pointed put Que Tzu, gesturing with his cigarette.
“How so?” She raised a delicately arched eyebrow.
He smiled. “Someone could be accusing you of stealing their spring.”
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