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Thank Heaven, Not Everything That Happens Is About Me
Master Que
This follows on from I Manage To Cause Contention. It runs to 2,926 words. (There are over 182,000 words of Nai written....)

When I got home Master Que was very interested in the conversation I’d had with Wang Shuai.  “He’s worried about a forced eternal attachment?  I admit that I’d never considered that the members of the Solar Court weren’t where they were and where they are of their own volition.  Interesting.  I’ve never heard of this Xi Tan Li, but I’ll make enquiries through the Hoshun Association.  You should enquire at that library you showed me at the University.”  He gave me a wide grin. “If we can’t find anything, perhaps you should write to the esteemed members of the investigation committee and see if they’ve heard of the book or its author.”

I looked at him very hard and asked, “Master Que, why do you think that would be making mischief?”

“Not mischief, precisely,” he told me with a half smile, “but the esteemed members of the investigation committee are people it would do you no harm to stay in contact with because they are both influential persons in gi circles and scholars who might help you advance your studies.  Besides,” he gave me a pious look, “I’m sure that they are much better moral influences than I am.”  Then he added, “Also, I’ve never heard of Wang Shuai, Xi Tan Li, or Shao Lun before today, but I have heard of Kuang Mao Sou.”

He didn’t continue, so I prodded gently, “And?”

“He was an infamous sorcerer during the Hao period of the The Three Rivers Kingdom.  Fireside story infamous when I was a child, so he must have been quite something for the stories to have lasted sixteen hundred years.”  Master Que added, “If reincarnation is a refining experience for the soul, as I’ve heard some say, then perhaps what he learned from being Kuang Mao Sou is that he doesn’t like being that person.  Or the notoriety.”  He sighed.  “We can hope.  I’ll finish getting the vegetables ready for dinner while you organise yourself, then we can do a half hour session before we eat.”

“Yes, Master Que.”  I gave him a bow as I got up from my seat at the kitchen table.

“If you are going to be associating with the reincarnation of a notorious soul stealer and spirit binder,” said Master Que, “it behooves me to keep an eye on the situation.  Especially as I don’t believe that you can steal someone’s soul, which would mean that he was doing something else entirely.  If he was doing anything,” he added.

I went up to my room and laid out the work I needed to get through that evening.  Then I went back down to the practice room to spend half an hour going through my basic move sets with Master Que.  Frankly, it scratched an itch I hadn’t known I had, and it cleared my mind of the aftermath of arguments and disagreements.  Thus I ate Master Que’s dinner of steamed fish, stir-fried vegetables, and steamed rice in an indefinably better mood than I’d arrived home in.

After dinner I studied: reviewing and clarifying my notes; going through the assigned readings; working on my assignments; and practicing my new character vocabulary.  By the time I went to bed, I was satisfied with my day.

I woke in the morning to the dulcet tones of Madam He from next door.  This morning her listing of He Ban’s deficits was cut short by the sound of emergency vehicle sirens.  One on, I assumed, Kung Tao Street, wasn’t enough to stop her but then at least three of them went down our street towards the park and Zhouzhang Boulevard beyond.  By the time I reached the kitchen, Master Que was also up and listening to a portable radio that I hadn’t seen before.

“Good morning,” he passed me a cup of tea and a bowl of food to place in front of the family altar.  “There’s a big fire on Bai Cun Road between the junction with Kung Tao Street and Zhouzhang Boulevard.  They’ve had to close Bai Cun Road along that stretch, alter some bus routes, and they’re warning that close by areas might lose water pressure.”

“Did they say whether that includes us or the university?” I waited to hear his answer before going to propitiate our hosts.

“They didn’t, but they may not know,” pointed out Master Que.  “It depends on how the water supply was laid out and connected up when the city installed things.  If it was done all at once to a plan, and they still have the records, then they should know.  If it was done piecemeal, had to incorporate private networks, or something happened to the records….  Well, who knows?”  He made an expressive gesture with his hands.

I saluted the Lao ancestors and returned to the kitchen for my breakfast.  I also made sure to leave early for class because I didn’t know whether the fire’s effect on traffic was going to change my walk to the university.

It didn’t affect me very much, aside from more people on the footpath after the Bai Cun Road intersection.  The Lotus Pond was open, possibly from the previous night, and had a hand-written sign out the front advertising tea, breakfast dumplings, and vegetable pancakes at reasonable prices.  The clientele inside included a lot of people in their night attire – I assumed that they were residents who’d been evacuated from too near the fire.

The bus stops were more crowded too, with the Bai Kun Road buses being diverted down Kung Tao Road and people not sure whether the normal Kung Tao Road buses would also get them as close to their normal stops as they were going to get today.  There were more people walking in the direction of the university than I was used to seeing too, but I didn’t see anyone I recognised.  My biggest problem was that the traffic lights outside the university gate weren’t working.  It didn’t seem to be related to the fire, but there was a policeman on points duty regulating traffic and pedestrians with hand signals.  Two police motorbikes parked next to the crossing showed how he’d gotten there, and I soon saw that his colleague was busy ticketing the usual jaywalkers.  As well as the drivers who thought that they could cut off buses pulling out of the stop.

I did get to my Geology tutorial on time, but Ling Wei’s partner on bench six, a girl named Lin Wu, turned up five minutes late and dressed in the jacket of her blacks over pyjamas and slippers.  She bowed apologetically in the doorway and said, “I’m sorry for being late, Scholar Tay and classmates, but the building opposite our apartment is on fire and we were evacuated at four this morning with what we were wearing and could grab.  The authorities were afraid that some of the factory’s supply inventory was going to explode.  I believe that they still are.  I came into class because otherwise I would be sitting around doing nothing and being anxious.”

Scholar Tay looked at her feet and said, “I have a pair of suitable shoes you can borrow, Miss Lin, and I believe that the fit shouldn’t be too bad.  Please wait here while I fetch them.  One of your classmates may be able to lend you a pencil and some notepaper.  The handout for today is waiting on your bench for you.”

The shoes were fetched, and Lin Wu took her place beside Ling Wei.  I passed her some paper and a pen, it was the bench in front of mine after all, and we got on with our work.  This time there were no problems with the equipment and we achieved our tasks without injury.  At the end of the class I told Lin Wu to keep the pen and paper, and invited her to join Wang Guai, Bao Xing, and me at the tea shop near the Introductory Philosophy and the Arts lecture rooms.  She thanked me but declined because she wanted to see if she was allowed back into her flat yet.  I completely understood – even with a jacket and decent footwear most people don’t want to do wandering around the city in their night attire.

I did grab Gou Jian to come with us, so it was four of us across two tables which seemed like a more equitable use of the space.  Wang Guai and I bought the tea and cakes, Bao Xing charmed the waitress, and Gou Jian explained a point in one of the Statistics textbook readings given out in the previous day’s lecture far more succinctly than the learned author. 

Professor Chiang Xin continued to thwart his admirers by continuing to only take relevant questions.  After the lecture one of the young men I’d given author details to after our first lecture stopped me and asked if I’d read any of Wu Jen’s work beyond Thoughts from the Floating Mountain.  His tone was insultingly condescending.

“I’ve read four of his books,” I told him with a smile, and I tried not to make it as superior and smug as his tone.  “Thoughts, of course, Breezes on the Celestial Plain, Sails Across the Eternal Sea, and Starlight in the Darkness of the Moon. Have you found another?”

“When did you find time to do that?”  He sounded rather indignant now, as if he was annoyed that I wasn’t following the script in his head.

“I spent a lot of time on trains this summer, travelling between gi tournaments.  There was a lot of potential reading time.”  I gave him another smile.  “Not that I spent all of it reading philosophy.  There was history and some trashy novels too.”

He flushed so much that I could see the red on his scalp under his close-cropped hair.  “A superior person would have concentrated on improving their mind.”

“Firstly,” I said with some asperity, “you are not the arbiter of my legal and proper behaviour.  Secondly, your idea of a superior person sounds rather boring.  Thirdly, I don’t believe that my gi teacher would let me get away with making an ass of myself in such a fashion.”

He looked at me as if he was about to tell me that I couldn’t talk to him like that.  I just looked back at him.

It wasn’t precisely a staring contest, but he broke off first, turning to join his friends without another word to me.  I shrugged and went to find somewhere to eat lunch.

After I’d finished eating, I took myself back to the Energy Faculty offices to find out if there were any more messages for me.  That was how my first introduction to the Energy Faculty academic staff was the sight of Associate Professor Pu Guang in a black and gold dressing gown, with matching slippers.  He was being admonished for his dress, at the time of my arrival, by a woman with greying hair who was using words like ‘unprofessional.’

He gave up trying to get a word in edgeways, and simply spoke over the top of her.  “Administrator, despite being turned out of my apartment at four in the morning by firefighters, I am here for our meeting.  I am wearing the only clothing available to me.  Hopefully it will not turn out to be the only clothing to my name by the time the fire gets put out.  You were the one who insisted that this meeting is vitally important.  If you want to call it off because of the way I’m dressed, then there are other things I can be doing with my time.  Make up your mind.”

I could see the lady he was speaking to mentally change horses.  “I’m sorry,” she said contritely.  “Have you had breakfast?  Are there any household members you need to look after today?  There are staff emergency provisions we could activate for you, particularly if you can’t return to your apartment tonight.”

“Thank you, Administrator,” he inclined his head politely.  “Now, will we go to my office for our meeting?  If you feel uncomfortable being alone with me while I’m wearing night attire, we can leave the door open or we can find a chaperone.”

The receptionst and I exchanged looks.

“Associate Professor Pu,” said the lady administrator, “I agree that it would be wise to leave the door of the office open in order to preserve your reputation, and because I would prefer that it not be rumoured that I had taken advantage of your current distress in any way.”  She smiled sharply.

On hearing his name and title, I assumed that he was the Associate Professor Pu I was trying to arrange to meet because it seemed unlikely that there would be two of them in the same small faculty.

“You want to move part of my budget and give me more students.  That already sounds like you’re taking advantage of me,” replied Associate Professor Pu as he ushered the lady towards the faculty offices.

I stopped being able to hear their conversation at that point, so I turned to the lady receptionist.  “Good afternoon,” I smiled at her.  “I came to check if Associate Professor Pu or Professor Wu had set a meeting time, and whether Associate Professor Yan has replied to my first message.”

“Professor Wu has been in,” replied the receptionist with her aunty smile, “because his messages have been cleared.  I don’t think he’s put out replies, but I’ll check.  Associate Professor Pu, whom you’ve now seen, has been a little busy and distracted this morning.  Associate Professor Yan is meeting with postgraduate students and sponsorship committees all this week and I don’t think he will find time to consider your note until then.”  She added apologetically, “There’s been an unexpected development in a partnership with a Northern university and he’s part of our team that’s trying to get everything back together again.”

“My request is a minor consideration,” I acknowledged.

“Thank you for being so understanding.”  I got the aunty smile again.  “If I may ask, why did Professor Hu refer you to these staff members and how did you even meet him?”

I chuckled.  Well, I hope it was a chuckle and not a giggle.  “Professor Hu apparently got confused about when lectures started and began giving my orientation group the first lecture for the third year Cosmological Astrophysics course.  He put up an energy diagram that was very like one I’d already encountered in my gi studies, and I took advantage of his offer to discuss courses in his office after our scheduled presentations.”  I added in a detached tone, “One now doubts that Professor Hu was at all confused, and if one were told that he is a very cunning advocate of advanced physics studies, one would be unsurprised.”

“Well,” said the receptionist, “I wouldn’t disagree with you.” 

She was checking the message slots for me when a conversation wandered out of the faculty offices down the hallway towards us.  “But Ma Ke’s survey of background radiation suggests that the structure and content of the universe has evolved since its inception and is probably continuing to do so,” said a voice I didn’t know.  “How does that affect your harmonic theory?”

“It complicates it,” admitted another voice.  “That’s why I’m proposing that doctoral candidate Fu Ji here studies the harmonic resonances of stars of known age.”

As the speakers came into view, a third voice said earnestly, “But Professor Fei, as I explained to Associate Professor Nei Li, my interests are in the properties of light.”  The speaker was obviously the youngest of the three.  All of them were wearing blacks, and one of the older men was wearing an open white lab coat over the top.

It was the man in the lab coat who asked mildly, “How do you know that the harmonic frequency of a star isn’t linked to the nature of the light that it produces?”

“Stars are complex systems,” protested the younger man.  “There’s not enough time in a normal thesis period to devise a measurement system, obtain results and analyze them.  I can’t afford an extended degree period.”

“A valid point,” agreed the man in the lab coat.  He turned to the third man, “Associate Professor Nei, is there any assistance for such cases?”

Somewhere to the south of us, in the general direction of my house but not as far away as that, someone used a lot of gi very quickly.  It was not Master Que, and I didn’t think that it was anyone I had ever fought – the afterscent of burnt strawberries was quite distinctive but not unpleasant.

There was the sound of an explosion in the distance.

We all of us looked in the direction it seemed to have come from.  It lined up with the direction of the gi usage I’d felt earlier.

I was the one who asked, “Could that have been the fire on Bai Cun Road?”

“That we can hear here?”  That was the third member of the group, who I assumed to be Associate Professor Nei Li.  “I pray Heaven not.  If it is, then we may need to help Pu Guang find a bed for the night, and he will not be the only one who needs help.  If it’s loud enough to be heard here, then I imagine that there will be an additional emergency response.  Depending on the degree and location of the damage, and the number of casualties, there may be disruption to university activities.”

This is now followed by Disrupting Arrangements.

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Aaaah the last post of the year is a cliffhanger! Aaaahhhh!

It seemed a good place to break things.

More has already been written.

excitement cat is made of excitement

Nai's foresight in purchasing a largeish house may come in handy.

I can see her heading home with the idea of "since the furniture is still there we're gonna make use of it and if they wanna yell, let 'em" all over her face and Master Que has already started setting up barracks and conscripting neighbors who are suddenly very compliant for some reason. He would not influence them, of course, but I believe his aura would just wipe out any idea of nonsense in such a matter.

These are interesting thoughts.

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