Chapter Twenty-One - A Maid's Uneventful Shopping Trip
Shen Hu was a constable for the Dolsrus guard force. He was a simple man who had a simple job: Keep the streets of one of the most prosperous cities in the Empire safe and clean.
Crime, especially crime committed openly on the streets, had a nasty tendency to muddle with the local economy, which in turn made the lives of the cultivators in the local sect and temple more complicated, which in turn made Dolsrus less safe.
It was a vicious circle, but one that could be stopped early thanks to Shen and his colleagues. Many of those stirring up trouble were foreigners, people from other parts of the Empire on the way to the badlands to train, or south to wage war against the barbarian hordes.
These were cultivators.
Worse, they were hot-blooded young cultivators who thought that they were the hottest shit to leak out from whichever crevice they were born in.
That was why Shen Hu and his companions were tough men, often working with the backing of the Jade Golem sect to bring the most irritating fools back down to earth.
When Shen Hu got a call speaking of a large disturbance in the shopping district, he expected to find two young idiots with bloody noses.
Not seventeen dead and one young... person in a pristine maid outfit standing above them all.
So he did the sensible thing and politely asked the maid if she... he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. Notably: What in the world had happened here.
My name is Alex, I’m four days old, and I’m a butler.
I work for my Daddy, who is made of bones and magic. He is very strong, and very stoic, but deep down he’s also very nice. I love him lots, and want to make him very proud by being the best butler he’s ever had.
Sometimes I think that I don’t quite work the right way. But Papa made me this way, so I must be okay.
Today, Daddy gave me two things to do. The first was to bring a lot of gold to someone who could change it into the local currency. That way it’ll be easier for us to buy stuff if we want to.
The other thing is to go around and shop for some stuff we need, and if I have time, for stuff that I want.
My dad is really quite generous that way.
So, my first stop today was to a bank, where I had to open an account, then I tried to deposit the gold I had. They couldn’t exchange all of it though, since they didn’t have enough currency. I kept what I could and, based on what the nice lady at the counter said, went to a jewelers to trade in some of the rest.
I also bought a nice purse to put everything in. See? It’s this one, with the silver clasps on the sides. It’s a very big purse, and I like the black lace along the edges. This is beds lace, it’s very well made. I think it’s cute, and I can fit all of our money in it. The jeweler gave me a very fair price for it.
So, with a lot of money in hand, I decided to get to the second part of my mission, to find some stuff that we might need on our trip, and then maybe buy a few things.
I actually found a really nice scarf for Test Subject Limpet. It has a white and red checkered pattern, just like her shawl. I think it’s quite nice, and the person at the shop found another, smaller scarf with the same pattern that the Test Subject’s dog can wear. They’ll match and it will be very cute.
Shen Hu raised a hand, pausing the maid’s story. He--Shen was pretty sure the maid was a man--mid way. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said. “But I was hoping that we could get to the actual, ah, important parts.”
Shen gestured to the street where a team of officers and some helpful lower-disciples from the Jade Golem were lifting bodies onto a pair of carts.
There were a lot of bodies.
The maid blinked twice, the little ears half hidden by a bonnet twitching. “Oh, yes. I was getting to that, officer. I just thought you wanted the full story.”
Shen glanced to his notes, which so far were not all that helpful. The suspect had purchased a purse and was carrying a large sum of money. That’s all he had really gotten out of that besides the maid’s name. “Perhaps we can move along, just a little?”
Things started to go a bit bad when I was crossing from the east shopping district to the south district. There is, as you likely know, a little road with a few drinking and dining establishments there. It’s a very narrow road, but it seems like the fastest way to get from one area to the other.
A nice shopkeep I met at a cabbage stall said that the best shops are all in the south section, so that’s why I wanted to go there.
I was minding my own business, as a good maid does, when I was accosted by three young men. One of them barred my path while his companions came up behind me. He asked me if I wanted to spend some time with him.
I told him that I was quite busy, working for my Daddy, and that I didn’t have time for that.
He asked me if I could give him a peek under my skirts, which I found very rude. Besides, I haven’t found suitable tights yet despite looking, so my legs are quite bare and that’s just inappropriate to show in public.
I wished the young men a good day and was on my way when one of them grabbed my rear.
So I dislocated his arm before moving on.
“Wait!” Shen Hu said. His hands were raised in the universal gesture for ‘one moment.’ “Could you explain that last part in more detail?”
“The leaving, or the dislocating?” the maid asked.
The moment I felt the material of my uniform pressing in around my rear I knew there would be some trouble.
I turned and found a grinning young man with an arm extending towards my backside. I grabbed his wrist with my free hand, pulled his arm straight, and slapped him right next to the armpit with my other hand.
It’s very easy to dislocate and arm if you apply the correct amount of force in the right direction, and it makes a very satisfying sound, like tapping a dustpan next to a trash can’s lid.
I decided to smooth things over with some good manners before leaving. “Please, don’t touch my person without permission. Good day, gentlemen.”
Once that was done and the man fell into the embrace of his companions, I returned on my trip towards the shopping district.
The cabbage salesman was quite right when he said the goods there were of greater quality. The increased prices matched that, but that is of little concern.
There I found a very nice shop filled with all sorts of dresses. I’m not too fond of the flowing garments the locals wear, but some of them have very nice materials in their construction, and you can tell that the people making them put a lot of effort into their craft.
The shop was set right between two stalls, one that sells very nice umbrellas, and another sells copper pans with all sorts of shapes and sizes.
It’s while I was speaking to a nice saleswoman about the quality of the imported silk they have when I noticed a commotion outside. A glance out the front of the shop revealed a large gathering of very strong looking young men. I counted eighteen in all.
“Hey, you,” one of them said. It was the young man whose arm I had dislocated. “Come out.”
I told the saleswoman to give me a moment, then I stepped out and asked the men if I could help them.
I won’t repeat the entire discussion, because they said some very rude things. As it turned out, the young man was well connected, and he had convinced his friends to take my Daddy’s gold to pay for someone to fix his arm.
When I told him no, he was very rude and threatened to kill me. So I decided that my duties as Papa’s butler took precedent. These men were trying to steal that from me, to steal from Daddy, so I killed them.”
Shen Hu cleared his throat. “Could you, ah, perhaps give more details there?”
“If you wish.”
The first young man stepped up to me and removed a small knife from his pocket to threaten me with unless I gave him all of my gold.
So, since I had the advantage of being atop the first few steps of the store, I used the high ground to my advantage, slipped my purse off my shoulder, and with a quick spin that I executed while stepping down, flung my purse into his head.
Gold is quite heavy, you see.
I don’t know if he died when the gold hit him, or when his head hit the wall of the shop on the other side of the street.
My purse will need some cleaning up. It wouldn’t do to walk around with something covered in brain matter. It’s very uncouth.
The young men didn’t seem to appreciate this, so they moved towards me.
If I’m to be honest, they really rubbed me the wrong way.
I’ll need to tell that one to Daddy. He likes that kind of wordplay.
Anyway. I picked an umbrella from the stall next to the clothing shop, used the tip to poke one man through the eye, then used the hook to grab another’s ankle before stepping on his knee. He started making quite a bit of noise, so I kicked him in the side of the head before stepping up into the middle of the group.
One charged me with a knife, so I pushed his arm out of the way and let him stab one of his companions in the throat, then I ducked under another man’s rather wild swings.
That was actually quite fortuitous, because the one who’d been stabbed was bleeding all over and I didn’t want to get my dress dirty. It’s still new.
The one who swung at me died when I caved in his ribs with an elbow, then I used his body by grabbing him by the collar and ramming his head into the young man with the knife’s.
I lost my umbrella when I stabbed it through the chest of a young man who tried to tackle me, which left me utterly unarmed against the eleven remaining opponents.
Some of them had knives and short swords, so I spent a bit of time ducking and weaving out of their way until I reached the stall with the copper pans.
They’re surprisingly durable pans. Very good craftsmanship.
I placed a cauldron above one young man’s head, then punched it and his head off. See, the cauldron kept the blood from going everywhere, which is good because blood can be difficult to clean.
I used a skillet to counter one very talented young man’s sword swings while I battered another with a wok. Unfortunately the wok broke after caving in his skull, so I flung it under the feet of one of the men trying to run.
He died when his head hit the corner of a stall. That was on him.
The swordsman went down when I grabbed a saucepan. Daddy made me omnidextrous, so fighting with both hands full is quite easy.
I think the last of the fight was very anti-climatic once I found suitable weapons. Skillets are a little blunt along the edge, but they make excellent battering tools, and blunt wounds don’t splatter blood all over.
I think there were eight men left by that time. They didn’t last all that long.
Shen Hu looked around in his pockets for a cloth, then looked up when the maid offered him one with a polite smile. “Thank you,” he said as he used the handkerchief to wipe his brow. “You said there were eighteen men?” he said.
“We counted seventeen,” Shen said.
The maid frowned, then looked back onto the street. “Did you look in the bin by the side of the street?”
“I don’t think so,” Shen admitted.
“Well, that is where trash goes.”
“Of course,” he said. “So, would you say that all of this was, ah, self-defence? A robbery gone wrong?”
“Good, good, that’s nice, nice and clear cut.”
The maid frowned, then raised a corner of his dress. “I could have done better. I got some blood on my apron. Lace is very hard to clean.”
“I can imagine,” Shen Hu said. He decided that the entire situation was entirely above his pay grade. “Well, that’s all the questions I had. If you could give us your address in case we have other questions, that would be appreciated.”
“Certainly. We’re only here for a few days, I think, then we’ll be on our way. Can I return to my shopping now?”
Shen Hu tried to smile. “Please do.”