I smiled as I gave Don Fluffles his carrot. He was a chonker of a snow-white bunny, big enough that I couldn't lift him with one hand. Didn't matter, I loved the little shit-dispenser anyway.
I gave him one more stroke behind the ears and placed him back into his cage. Don Fluffles was really smart. As in, smarter than most dogs and very likely smarter than my niece. I wasn't mocking her; the chonky bun-bun was really that smart.
He looked back at me with soulful ruby eyes as I booped his twitching nose one last time. The door wasn't locked but he knew better than to leave after the last time I dangled him over a soup pot by his leg.
Love. Emergency food supply. Same shit, right?
Shrugging, I picked up my food cart, just a rickety plywood thing with a flattop grill, a small section for open-fire grilling, and several pots and pans hanging from spokes on the roof.
"Lucky Bunny's Snack Cart," the sign on the red, canvas roof proclaimed.
I grinned and began to roll it towards the park near Hong Kong University. It was five in the morning and the sun was just barely peaking over the horizon. If I hurried, I could catch the early birds who were returning from a morning jog or going off to class or whatever they did.
That, and college girls in exercise gear.
Man had to have priorities.
I set up shop in front of the library and opened up the cooler for my supplies. "Hmm… What do you think I should make, Don Fluffles?" I asked.
He twitched his nose. He stared at me with his ruby eyes and thumped his foot once.
"Wonderful idea. Let's make some breakfast tacos."
"Are… Are you talking to your rabbit?" I heard a feminine voice behind me. I turned and stared, because… boob window…
"Hey! Eyes up here!"
"You have really nice abs."
"Uhh… Thanks. So, what do you sell? You don't even have a menu."
"Usually whatever I want. I'm thinking breakfast tacos. Egg, cheese, corn tortilla, protein of choice. Why, want one?"
"Sure, is he the lucky rabbit?"
I grinned. I reached for three corn tortillas and placed them in the coolest portion of the flattop to warm through. I then cracked three eggs and started to scramble them with a knob of butter. "Yup! He's the luckiest rabbit in the world."
"I've been traveling China with a food cart for months now, traveling chef ya see. Some old lady in a village gave me Don Fluffles and told me he's lucky. So I told Don Fluffles, 'You're the cart mascot now. If you can't attract a customer within the first hour of opening, you're going in the soup pot.' And what do you know, he's never done me wrong."
She gasped, trying to decide between outrage and laughter. "You're kidding. That's awful!"
"You're here, aren't'cha?"
"I-You-That's… You may have a point…"
"So, protein of choice? I got chorizo, bacon, and some Chinese sausage if you're an uncultured rube."
"You're in China," she deadpanned.
"Maybe, but this is a Tex-Mex street food. Chinese sausages tend to lean sweet instead of smoky and savory."
"You recommend something else then?"
"Chorizo. It's a Mexican sausage and I found my favorite brand the other day. The smoked paprika really comes through."
"Sure," she shrugged. "Wow me, Mr. Chef."
"Too easy. You want any scallions on that?"
"Yeah, and some onions."
"Pickled or raw?"
"What's the difference?"
I stared at her like she was stupid. I gestured to a jar filled with pink, shaved onions. "One's picked. Daddy must've paid a lot to get you in here, huh?"
"Hey, fuck you, you asshole."
"I can still spit in your food."
"I can not pay."
"Don Fluffles goes in the pot."
"You're a monster."
"You told me that story and you're a big enough ass that I think you might do it. You're holding your own rabbit hostage to make me buy your food."
"I know," I repeated smugly. "I'm a mastermind."
"These better be amazing," she huffed.
"Oh, don't you worry, princess. If there's one thing I can do, Luca Bailey can cook!"
It wasn't three minutes later that I had three steaming breakfast tacos on a paper plate for her. On each, I dolloped a small cloud of sour cream and tossed in a quartered lime.
"Wow… These look… way better than I thought," she said.
"They taste even better. Go on, stinky girl. Food's hot."
"I'm not stinky!"
"You smell like sweat and daddy issues."
She dug around in her purse for her wallet. "You're the rudest chef I've ever seen."
"That's not denial, ain't it?"
"60 HKD," I said, holding my hand out.
"Fine. Now let me enjoy my food. Or are you somehow going to hold Don Fluffles hostage for that too?"
"Of course not. Food is sacred. Enjoy it. Savor it. Delight in it."
"Right," she muttered. She put one in her mouth and groaned with pleasure. "Mnnnn…"
The fat from the chorizo mixed with the sour tang of lime, all backed by a slightly nutty corn tortilla. Breakfast perfection in a single bite.
I leveled the smuggest grin I could at her and waggled my eyebrows. "Eh? Eh? Worth the money now, stinky girl?"
She huffed and stalked away. "Shut up."
"I think she likes me, Don Fluffles."
I laughed and insulted my customers as I worked. In the end, the first jogger girl came back with some friends for lunch, though by then I switched to carne asada tacos.
This, this was why I decided on a cooking journey instead of attending some stuffy culinary college. Food was life. Food was culture. Food was people. To be able to share some of that? To gain experience from all the different regional specialties first hand?
Yeah, this was how culinary education ought to be.
It was late. I temporarily stopped cooking so I could go shopping, leaving Don Fluffles to guard the cart. Or really, I took him out of the cage and gave him a bunch of girls and told them they could pet him if they'd wait while I went shopping for more supplies.
Free security and eye candy. Dicks chasing chicks and all that.
I returned half an hour later, arms laden with shopping bags. Then I felt it, a rumbling so violent that it made the street tiles ripple like water.
"What the fu-"
A beam of light struck down onto the park with a deafening CRACKATHOOM. It knocked all of us on our asses and Don Fluffles took off like the coward he was.
Except instead of running away from the light, the stupid fucker ran directly towards it. Then the light faded and a dainty hand picked him up.
"Woah…" I gaped like a fish.
The woman who emerged from the light was stunning. No, there just wasn't a word to describe her beauty in mortal tongue.
"Hmm?" she hummed, her very voice entrancing. "What are you doing here, little one?"
Don Fluffles huffed and twitched his nose before thumping his leg on her arm.
"Oh? You're the mascot of the food cart over the-AND HE HAS YOU WHAT?"
She whirled on me with a look of indignant rage and I knew that somehow, my partner had sold me out to the bunnygirl.
I gulped as she stalked towards me, her ears flopping like war banners in the breeze. "In my defense…"
"I'm really good at cooking bunny stew…" I didn't even see it coming. The bitch kicked me so fast that the pain didn't register until I ragdolled on the ground. "Oww… Help…"
"Hey, what else am I supposed to do with a rabbit? Don Fluffles is alive, isn't he? I'm a traveling chef! Why the hell would some old lady dump the shit-dispenser on me?"
"You didn't have to threaten to eat him!"
"I wasn't going to! He's a bunny! Everyone loves bunnies. He always attracts customers and I always make them come back! That's how mascots work!"
"You dangled him by his leg over a boiling pot!"
By now, I had gotten up and marched over to the woman to give her a piece of my mind. Hottest piece of ass I'd ever seen or not, Don Fluffles was my rabbit, damnit!
We stared at each other, eyes locked and seething. Then, she drew back with a laugh. "Oho! You have spirit, brave mortal, though you mistake insolence and stupidity for valor, this noble Jade Rabbit shall provide you the chance to redeem yourself. Be grateful and kowtow to my feet, unworthy one!"
"Are… Why are you talking like that?"
"This one speaks in the noblest of tongues."
"No seriously. Stop that. You were talking like a normal person five seconds ago. What? You come back from the furry ren-fair?"
"How insolent you are. Yet this charitable Jade Rabbit shall grant you mercy. Indeed, the generosity of this most august self is without limit! Nay, my generosity shall be the arena for your execution!"
"I… Understood maybe three words of that."
"Ye prideful mortal! You take pride in your cooking so you shall cook this humble rabbit a meal. Should this one find but a single fault with it, this one shall strike you down where you stand!"
"Right… I heard cooking." I then looked down at her… outfit… Or really, the lack thereof. There was no way in hell she had a wallet in that, though I supposed people have smuggled cocaine in tighter places… "You're going to pay for your food, right?"
The her eyes started to glow. Wisps of blinding light gathered in her palm and formed a staff. At its tip bloomed a fireball. I knew it was no trick because I could feel the heat. "Insolent! You continue to court death with your arrogance! Your pathetic life is your payment!"
I raised my hands in the air placatingly. "Alright, alright, bunnygirl's got the munchies. Got it. You vegan or something?"
"I am not vegan!"
"Hey, how was I supposed to know? A chef takes care of all his customer's needs… even if they're freaky bunnygirls…"
"Well, I can eat meat."
"Right, eats whatever humans eat."
I turned to my cart and found that the gaggle of college girls who'd been fawning over my emergency food supply had left. Probably the wise choice. Traitors.
I looked over my paltry ingredient list.
"What are you waiting for?"
"I can make a burrito… You good with that?"
"Indeed, this august Jade Rabbit can lower herself to enjoying peasant fare once in a millennium."
I blinked. "You're really the Jade Rabbit?"
"This humble rabbit is indeed the Grand Alchemist, she who dueled the Great Sage Equal to Heaven for nine days and nights!"
"Isn't the Jade Rabbit a man though? Like, in the original Chinese folktale, he's a rabbit that the Jade Emperor stumbled upon. The emperor decided to test the mortals and pretended to be a hungry traveler. The monkey, fox, and rabbit tried to help. The fox stole a chicken, the monkey picked fruit, but the rabbit threw himself into the fire saying he had nothing else to give?"
"AND WHO'S FAULT IS THAT?" she roared. Gone was the dignity she tried to hold herself with. "DO YOU THINK I ENJOY BEING A WOMAN? IT'S BECAUSE OF HUMANITY'S INCESSANT FASCINATION WITH BUNNYGIRLS THAT MY MYTH CHANGED! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH CHANG'E LAUGHED AT ME WHEN SHE FOUND OUT I SWAPPED GENDERS?!"
"Okay, okay, look I'm making your food okay? No need to get grumpy about it."
"I'm not grumpy about the food, you imbecile, I DESCENDED TO VANQUISH YOUR INSUFFERABLE HORNINESS? SERIOUSLY, HOW IN THE EIGHTEEN LEVELS OF DIYU ARE YOU SOMEHOW HORNIER THAN ACTUAL RABBITS?" she huffed.
I decided to interject before she could really get started on her tirade. "Look, ma'am, I'm just the guy who makes food. How about I make you some food and you can get on with wiping out all the horny virgins of the world or whatever else you planned on doing… away from me…"
"Fine, know that you're alive because Don Fluffles says you changed his bedding last night."
"Joy, saved by shoveling shit…"
I started to cook. It was the most important meal of my life, quite literally my life on the line, and all I could make was a burrito. Still, she said she could eat everything humans could, so I threw in all the fixings. Carne asada, pico de gallo, fried rice, sour cream, and a hefty dose of guac.
Five minutes later, I was done.
"Here," I said, sliding it over with a wedge of lime. "A burrito with all the fixings."
"About time," she huffed. She wasn't even trying for that stupid accent anymore. She lifted the food into her mouth and took a big bite. "Mmfff, this is quite good for peasant fare."
"Glad it suits your tastes, o mighty goddess," I drawled.
She chomped down on it with gusto and I had to admit, seeing a gorgeous woman enjoy my food so much was positively delightful.
And then she froze before coughing.
Sighing, I handed her a water bottle. "Here."
A gulp and she went right back to eating. Sour cream and salsa splattered her cheeks as she tried to cram as much food as possible into her mouth. She even ate like a rabbit.
Then she froze again.
"What? Water's right there."
"This… I've been poisoned," she gasped as she clutched her throat.
"What the hell are you talking about?" I demanded, genuinely offended. I had my pride as a chef, damnit.
"Poison… Crafty human…"
"Oi, don't choke to death and cry murder you dumb bitch! It's a flour tortilla, beef, rice, tomatoes, onion, lime juice, sour cream, and guac! Normal food!"
"What? You gonna say you can't eat it? You fucking ate cow!"
"I can't…" She was really starting to turn green now. Throwing the food aside, she went down on hands and knees and began to hurl.
I panicked. She was a bitch, but she didn't deserve to die, right? "Oi! Oi! You're allergic to fucking avocados?"
"All rabbits are allergic to avocados!"
"How the hell was I supposed to know?"
"You have a rabbi-uurrppp!"
"You told me you can eat anything humans can!"
"I said I can eat meat!"
"What do I do?"
She hurled one last bit of burrito onto HKU's perfectly manicured grass and collapsed onto her own sick. "It's… too late for me…"
"You're fucking with me."
"To think that the mighty Jade Rabbit would be done in by a lowly peasant chef."
"You… You're really gonna be a bitch to the end, huh?"
I sighed. I had no idea what to do anymore. I didn't even know if this was real. Everything seemed so surreal that if it all turned out to be some fever dream, I wouldn't have batted an eye.
So, for lack of anything else to do, I reached fro the water bottle and soaked my apron before wiping off her vomit from her face. I placed her head in my lap and allowed her to drink.
Hey, if this weird rabbit-goddess was about to die because of some damn good Mexican food, then the least I could do was give her some water, right?
"Charity," she groaned. "I had forgotten its worth."
"What the hell are you on about now?"
"You speak like a barbarian but in you is a truly merciful heart."
"Sure, that 'merciful heart' was 32 HKD at the convenience store."
"Your name, godslayer," she gasped. "I would hear the name of my killer."
"Luca Bailey. Just gargle or something and go home."
"I give you the courtesy name of Yue Tianyu, the Heavenly Jade, for you have slain the Jade Rabbit."
"Right… Are you almost finished?"
"Your kindness has earned my blessing. Take it, and all the glory of my estate is yours."
Then she died.
I didn't think she was serious, but she fucking died on me. I prodded her. I grabbed her by the ears and yanked to see if she'd wake up.
THE BITCH ACTUALLY FUCKING DIED ON ME! FROM AN AVOCADO!
I was about to start swearing all over again but the body shimmered into nothing, scattering like a million fireflies.
"Okay, I've got to be high or something… Right…?" Don Fluffles hopped towards me and placed a comforting paw on my hand. "Right… I think I'm going to go home now…"
The world filled with fog and my eyes suddenly felt heavy. I tried to stand, but collapsed all over again. As my vision faded, all I could think about was how the vomit on the grass was still warm.
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! She died from HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA! By the Fates I haven't laughed this hard in millennia. Oh, you're just the most adorable little boy, aren't you? HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Well… That upjumped roadkill did say she bequeathed the 'glory of her estate…' She can't whine about this then…"
I groaned as sleep eluded me. My head was ringing worse than the time I chugged down an entire vase of baiju on a dare.
No, that wasn't my head ringing. Laughter. Phantom echoes of a young girl's melodic laughter rang in my head. A hazy picture, like the misty memory of childhood days tugged at the back of my mind. She was…
Who was she again?
I couldn't remember and that thought filled me with a deep sorrow. She was important. I couldn't quite remember why, but she was precious. A single meeting. A single promise.
But if she was important, why couldn't I remember her?
Pity, she sounded like a fun person. I could use more laughter in my life.
I sat up in bed and looked around. This… This wasn't my house.
For starters, the bed was almost twice the size of the dinky micro-apartment I'd rented out for the duration of my stay in Hong Kong. Not my cot. Apartment.
Yes, Hong Kong's housing crisis was that bad.
The sheets were silk, the blankets felt like a river of honey in my fingers, and there was a sprawling painting of a verdant riverbed done in the traditional style hanging above the bed. In fact, the whole wall behind my bed had been converted into some type of elegant, and likely extremely expensive, display case with books, scrolls, and porcelain vases.
I glanced out the window and I marveled at a view I'd never be able to afford. The Hong Kong pier made for a hell of a vista, especially in the evening light.
"Whoever brought me better have paid for the room…"
"Of course that's what he says, money-grubbing demon-chef," I heard a feminine voice behind me.
Turning, I saw no one. "Who said that?"
"Me, you incompetent buffoon!"
"Fuck you! I am a noble yaoguai! A guardian beast of fortune! What kind of name is Don Fluffles?" he shrieked.
"He was a glorious mafia boss who took over the Knights of the Blood Oath! Your name is a glorious inheritance!"
"Fuck you! I'm female!"
I didn't know that. I'd just been calling "it" a "he" all this time. Still, I felt the need to defend myself. "Don Fluffles is a unisex name!"
"It's not! I demand a more elegant name, damn you! I am not your pet!"
"The granny who gave you to me sure as hell called you a pet. I just helped her move her cart and she handed you over like a sack of radishes."
"Because you were deaf!"
"Actually… That brings up an interesting point… Why can I understand you?"
"Look in the mirror, you fuckwit," she growled.
This was too weird. Out of a desperate desire to make sense of the world, I rushed to the bathroom. Even the bathroom looked expensive but I didn't have the chance to gawk because the mirror caught my attention.
"WHY THE FUCK DO I HAVE BUNNY EARS!"
"You were pulling the Jade Rabbit's. What? You wanted them so much so it looks like Pandora gave them to you. Happy?" Don Fluffles had hopped her way into the bathroom. She jumped a good five times her height to hop onto the sink just to shoot me a smug grin.
This couldn't be real. I reached up and gave them a yank. "Ow!"
"Shut up, you emergency food supply!"
"Ah, but where's the fun in that? You're a Campione now, Tianyu. And that means I can finally tell you what an insensitive bastard you are."
"What the hell is a Campione?"
A change came over my pet rabbit. There was an air of seriousness about her that was impossible to deny and I suddenly felt as though I was in a lecture hall or a confessional with a priest.
"Listen well, Tianyu. This world is filled with mysteries and wonders your mortal mind has yet to imagine. The gods are real."
"Sure, is that what you call those 'superheroes?' Is that what this is? Some kind of duty to save the world or something?" I snarked.
"No, you idiot! The gods of myths are real and when they rebel against their myth, they sometimes emerge form the Netherworld onto the mortal plane. They go about doing what they can to change their myths, or just to fulfill their wanton desires."
"Oh, like eating a burrito and dying of avocado poisoning… You sure they're gods?"
"Yes they're gods! RRAGGGHHHH! How are you the single most infuriating human I've ever worked with?"
"You're a rabbit. You're like five years old. I'm the only human you've ever worked with."
"That's not the point now listen!"
"Okay, fine, fine. Go on, Don Fluffles. Impart upon me your sage wisdom."
She grumbled some less than flattering things about me but continued. "Magic is real. Some humans seek out cabals and form organizations dedicated to their craft. Others seek out enlightenment alone or under the tutelage of a divine beast such as myself."
"And others wear spandex and hop around like idiots?"
"… Yes… Humans cope with magic in different ways, some good, some evil. There are entire communities who believe they are the only mages in the world. Close-minded fools."
"Okay, fine, but what's a Campione? You said it like I'm something else."
"You are. A Campione is someone who kills a heretic god. When you do, a spell placed by Pandora grants you a part of their power, their Authority."
"And that's what turned me into a bunnyboy… Fuck me…"
"Not on your life. You're still the ugliest rabbit I've ever seen."
"I thought you sai-"
"I KNOW WHAT I SAID!"
I grinned. Somehow, annoying my pet rabbit made me feel better. It fixed nothing, but it warmed my cold, shriveled heart. Just a bit.
"Okay. I'm a Campione. And my Authority is… being a furry fetishist…"
"As hilarious as that would be, no," Don Fluffles huffed. "You killed a god. Granted, in the most unimaginable way possible, but you managed it. There is no way that red eyes and a pair of bunny ears are all you got out of this."
"Okay, so what'd I get?"
"For starters, all Campione are blessed with an unaging body. Congratulations, you are immortal. Unless you die in combat. Which is exceedingly likely by the way."
"You also stand at the peak of divine bodies. Normal humans and even magical beasts such as myself run out of mana. You do not, or not without extreme exertion. In fact, you are such a powerful source of magic that hiding is all but impossible. Anyone even remotely sensitive to magic will be able to sense you."
"That's… That doesn't sound like a good thing."
"It's not," she said with a vicious grin that befitted a lion more than a rabbit. "I suggest you get stronger. Quickly. You will be forever healthy and your body will sculpt itself to look like your personal ideal."
I looked myself in the mirror. "I mean… I spent a few years traveling the world. I'm in pretty good shape so I'm not sure how much of a benefit that is unless it can remove these ears for me…"
"No chance. That's part of your Authority. You're stuck with it. You will also receive an affinity for magic, languages, and other skills. If you spend time on something, you will learn the skill faster than most."
"Okay, that languages thing sounds much more useful. I speak four already so it'd be neat to pick up a few more. Anything else?"
"Killing a god means you're going to inherit a unique Authority related to their domain and mythology. Look within yourself."
"Lovely. Fortune cookie advice?"
"Okay, fine… looking…"
I breathed deep. She had a point. I wasn't really the introspective sort, at least not about anything beyond cooking, but maybe this whole Campione business could teach me something new?
And then I felt it. It was like a core of power, a seven-colored jewel that shone in black, white, red, blue, bronze, jade, and gold. It was describable in its beauty, a depth of raw potential that entire lifetimes would not be enough to comprehend.
Peach Blossom Alchemy (Authority)
Origin: Jade Rabbit of the Moon
Details: The Jade Rabbit is the Taoist god of charity, anointed by the Jade Emperor himself. He was so impressed with the rabbit's benevolence that he bestowed upon him the secret recipe for the elixir of life using the immortal peaches of the Queen Mother of the West.
Aria: Mine is the secret of the Way of all things. Unto my creations I impart the sagely treasures of the Queen Mother's garden. Peach Blossom Alchemy!
Effect: You may bless anything of your own making with 1 divine blessing pertaining to Yin, Yang, Fire, Water, Earth, Wood, or Metal. The effect can be elemental or conceptual, permanent or temporary.
I blinked. Knowledge flooded into my mind and slotted seamlessly. It was... It was perfect, as though I'd always known.
"Well... That was a thing..."
"Indeed. Now are you ready to go?"
"Where exactly are we?"
"You are in the Grand Lotus Hotel, a five star hotel held by the Lu family. Their young master, Lu Yinghua, found you and brought you here."
"Oh... shit..." Even I'd heard about the Lu family. They owned a literal fucking mountain as well as several franchises. And apparently this entire hotel. "Wealthy" didn't begin to describe them.
"Yup. You're fucked, but probably not for the reasons you think."
"What do you mean?"
"The Lu family aren't just stupidly successful, they're the primary subordinates of the Ruler of the Martial Realm, the Second Campione, or at least the second oldest one still living."
"And that's... bad? That's like my... older sister's underlings, right?"
"In a way. I'm glad you remember meeting Pandora."
"I don't though?"
"You called Her Eminence your sister."
"The second Campione is a she?"
She sighed. "Of course that's what you focus on."
"Is she cute?"
"So I've been told..."
"Okay, back to the Lu family. Why is this a problem? I can just have be on my way? Send my sis a fruit basket as thanks?"
"Campione do not mix. They don't share territory. When they do, they inevitably kill each other. And between the woman called 'Ruler of the Martial Realm' and you..."
I sighed. It was just like me to somehow end up in this bullshit situation. This wouldn't even be the first time, either. There was the wannabe triad idiots in Macau, some dumbass bint in Korea who tried to throw around her MEKA scholarship or something, and even a "superhero" who wanted free samples in San Francisco.
Wherever I went, I seemed to attract trouble. Truthfully, this "Ruler of the Martial Realm" or somesuch was just more of the same, only bigger… by a lot… and someone I couldn't just slap around with a frying pan…
I sighed again. I exited the bathroom and grabbed my coat.
"Well, Don Fluffles, let's go face the music…"
"Indeed. I shall delight in your suffering," she replied snidely.
I thrust my hand into my pockets and came across something that wasn't there before. It was… furry.
I pulled it out and stared.
Then I flinched as divine knowledge assaulted my brain. I knew somehow that this wasn't an ornament, but a key. It was proof of signage, the deeds to the land. It granted me access to the Jade Rabbit's Lunar Palace, a divine realm with prime real estate in the Netherworld. I knew in my heart that it'd come back to me if I ever lost it.
Key to the Lunar Palace (Authority…?)
Origin: Jade Rabbit of the Moon
Details: The Jade Rabbit is the Taoist god of charity, anointed by the Jade Emperor himself. He was so impressed with the rabbit's benevolence that he bestowed upon him the secret recipe for the elixir of life using the immortal peaches of the Queen Mother of the West.
Effect: The Lunar Palace, at least the section used by the Jade Rabbit, is now yours. Everyone, god and man, acknowledges that you are the lawful owner as the Jade Rabbit bequeathed her estate to you. You can open its doors to be available to others.
"Why do I have this? I mean… not that I'm complaining…"
"She gave you her estate. Huh, guess that's what this means. I thought that meant she'd give you a second Authority but I guess she meant it more literally than I expected."
"So… I have a palace?"
"No, we have a palace, buddy ol' pal. I've always wanted to see where the Jade Rabbit lives," Don Fluffles said, hopping onto my shoulder.
"Oh, so now I'm your friend?"
"Come on, I'm a rabbit spirit. She's the rabbit goddess. It's being invited to Buckingham Palace for you humans."
"I'm not British. Down with the monarchy," I drawled.
"You get my point."
"I do." I put it back in my pocket and headed for the door. "Let's go talk to whoever's in charge here."
"You're not going to check out the palace?"
I shrugged. "Why would I? You said that this Lu family serves my sister. She's probably on her-"
The entire hotel trembled. Then the roof burst open as the single most beautiful woman I'd ever seen crash landed onto what I now realized was the penthouse living room.
I had a fraction of a second to admire her beauty and that the dust did nothing to obscure her from my newly enhanced vision before she opened her mouth and ruined it.
"Ufufufufu. Rejoice, little brother, for you are blessed to greet this holy self!" she shouted.
Somehow, despite being at the epicenter of the crash, she was utterly unharmed. No, there wasn't the slightest speck of dust on her person.
Then I noticed it. Her presence. It could only be magic, a hum of power that seemed to pervade the very world around her. It sounded like a grand orchestra, an entire pavilion of musicians playing her very own theme song with countless traditional Chinese instruments.
I sighed yet again, third time in as many minutes. It was good to know that I could hear magic. I'd have to be even more careful of my surroundings. "You must be Luo Hao."
"Indeed, tis I, the Ruler of the Martial Realm. She who stands atop the Holy Cult of the Five Mountains! Little brother! I have come to congratulate your ascendance!"
"Umm… Thank you…?"
She frowned and looked me over. Then, reaching out a hand, she pinched my cheeks to open my mouth. Curiously, she grabbed my lop-ears and gave them a small tug.
"Ow! Knock it off, woman," I cried, slapping her hand away.
"Be still, little brother. I wish to take the measure of you."
She continued to poke and prod. First my shoulders, then my biceps. She started to fondle my chest and as her hand went lower, I backed away. "Okay, what are you doing?"
"You are no martial artist. You lack the musculature of a trained warrior."
"No shit. I could've told you that."
"You. Which mage association do you belong to?"
"I don't know? I've never even heard of magic until today!"
"Hmm… What a disappointment. I had hoped my youngest brother would be a capable warrior such as myself…"
"Well sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm a chef," I grumbled.
"Hoh? A seeker of the culinary dao? How did you slay a god with such mortal pursuits?"
"I…" I didn't want to admit it. It was like lucking into a lottery ticket. There was no achievement here, just an idiot rabbit who choked on guac. "Umm…"
"Well? Surely you have some redeeming qualities, little brother? This one refuses to be associated with incompetents."
"Hey! Cooking is a redeeming quality!"
"Oh? Did you somehow slay a god with your cooking?" My silence must've been answer enough because her eyes widened. "Truly, you must be a transcendent master of poisons! Tis not a noble art, but I suppose it is an acceptable one if it brings you victory."
"I'd never poison someone!" I yelled back, "… on purpose…"
I sighed, number four, and caved. I told her. I told her that the Jade Rabbit descended and I slew her on accident because… because she was allergic to avocados…
"Oh! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! You have to be jesting, little brother."
"I'm not. I wish I was, but I'm not shitting you. She died… by avocado…"
"Hahahahahahaha! Truly you are blessed with fortune! I had come to test your martial skill, but I see that you have none. And yet, perhaps you have received something from the god of rabbits? Besides your charming appendages."
I felt my face heat up. My ears weren't charming, damnit! "I think I became a better cook. You know, alchemy and stuff."
"Hoh, then this Luo Hao challenges you to a cooking competition! I myself am an accomplished chef, you know."
I looked at the petite woman. "You?"
"Indeed, though I have not cooked anything in seventy years." I almost choked on my spit at that. How old was she? "We shall compete! And should I win, you will return with me to Mount Lu where you shall become my personal assistant!"
"Uh… No thanks."
But she wasn't listening. She grabbed me by the collar, scooped Don Fluffles under her arm, and began to drag me bodily out the penthouse door. At least she was using the door this time… I was starting to wonder if they invented those things back when she was young…
"Yingua! Little Eagle! Attend your mistress!" she cried.
Surprisingly enough, he appeared. He was a typical Chinese boy of about seventeen with black hair and brown eyes, albeit unusually handsome. He wore normal clothes unlike his mistress(?).
"I'm here, your eminence," he said. Then, in a quiet mutter, he whispered, "Crazy old bat…"
Luo Hao's hand shot out in a blur that even I could barely see, landing a finger flick on his head that sent him rolling ass over teakettle until he buried his head into the wall. Then the hand was back so fast that I couldn't even begin to start falling.
"Come! Take us to the kitchens and we shall engage in glorious competition!"
"Why are we doing this again?"
"You shall demonstrate the pride in your art! Or are you a craven who poisons his enemies?"
She didn't. She fucking didn't. I stood and marched up to her. I loomed over the woman who could probably paint the walls with my blood and growled, "You're on, bitch. I'm going to give you the best thing you've ever put in your mouth."
"Hah! I shall show you Mount Tai!"
As we walked, I whispered to this Yinghua. "Why does she talk like that? Is she actually from the Han dynasty or something?"
"No… my lord… She's just a bit touched in the head," he whispered back, only to get flung across the room again. "Why only me?"
"Be silent, student. Have the kitchens prepared. Then go practice the Twelve Divine Palms of the Phoenix for six hours."
He grumbled but went off to do just that. I had a niggling sense that getting run like a slave while practicing exotic martial arts was basically his whole life. Poor bastard.
At least it wasn't me.
"Woah…" I gasped. I'd been in a few professional kitchens in my time, but this knocked every expectation out of the park. The Grand Lotus was known for a five star buffet alongside its top-notch accommodations and it showed.
Lu Yinghua, as the owner of the joint, just kicked everyone out and had some of his underlings hypnotize every patron into not raising a bitchfest.
It was honestly a little scary to see and I wondered if I'd been part of some magic coverup before.
"Now, are you prepared to suffer defeat, little brother?" Luo Hao said bombastically, thrusting out her chest with her hands on her hips and a proud smile.
My eyes glanced downward but if she noticed, she made no comment of it. It was like she had zero shame whatsoever. I almost envied that kind of devil may care attitude.
"Now hold up. You said you're going to drag me off to Mount Lu if I lose."
"Yes! You shall serve as my personal aide and messenger for a century. Fear not, little brother, for your time shall not be in vain. There, you shall learn the wonders of martial arts as we cultivate together. You shall rise at three in the morning to worship the coming dawn! You shall strive endlessly for martial greatness while learning at my feet!"
Every single kung fu movie I'd ever seen flickered in my mind and I shuddered at the thought of being put through that kind of training.
Truly, Yinghua had my sincerest pity.
"And what do I get if I win?"
"Hoh? Is not the privilege of competing with this Luo Hao a blessing in itself?"
'No," I deadpanned and took savage glee in the way she deflated.
"Very well, what do you wish of me?"
I rolled my eyes. This girl… "Your hand in marriage."
"Ohoho! What an ambitious wish. Very well, I accept!"
"What? That was a joke, you chuuni midget!"
"Oh? Are you saying this jade beauty is unworthy of your hand?" she asked. Her voice was pleasant, but there was an undercurrent of danger that sent shivers down my spine. Panic alarms rang in my bunny brain as I realized the hole I'd somehow dug myself into.
"N-Now that's not what I'm saying at all," I stammered.
"Then should you emerge victorious, I shall accept your proposal."
"I feel like I've been had… I should've asked for a better food cart or something…"
"Nonsense! A worthy competition deserves a worthy reward!"
"Fine. Whatever. What are the rules, sister?"
"You and I shall have access to the stores in this hotel. When we are finished, Yinghua will invite five guests inside to be served both portions. Then, they shall choose a victor."
"Who are the guests?" I asked. This seemed a bit too spontaneous…
"No matter, for this Luo Hao's cooking shall appeal to every palate. Or are you not confident in your skills, little brother?"
"Oi, it ain't about confidence! I just accidentally murdered a goddess because of an allergy! Learning about your customers is common sense!"
"Hmm… True enough. Very well, let us go select our judges then."
It turned out that by "select," she meant "hypnotize to arrive at the restaurant in two hours. She basically picked people at random, demanded to know their allergies, shook them like ragdolls until they spilled, then nabbed the first five that had none.
I sighed. Don Fluffles said to be a Campione is to be a divine existence, but I was now starting to understand that also meant "batshit crazy as an old-timey god" too.
I was starting to get the sneaking suspicion that Luo Hao was something of an idiot-savant when it came to martial arts…
She wore a self-satisfied smile as she beamed up at me. "There. We have acquired five judges who shall arrive in two hours. Do you have any further questions?"
"No… The judges are… impartial…" And they were… if only because I didn't think she even knew the meaning of deceit. I found it charming in its own, frustrating way.
"Very well. Time starts now!"
Our eyes sharpened as we took stock of the kitchen. It was about dinnertime so something filling would be good. Hypnosis or not, they would likely arrive with the expectation of a Grand Lotus-quality dinner.
What to do…
I gaped as I walked into the pantry. There was… everything. As expected of the storeroom of a five star hotel in one of the most international cities in the world, the pantry was expansive.
Eight. Eight separate rooms, all temperature-regulated for specific ingredients. There wasn't a thing I could name that didn't already exist here. Caviar? Done. Manuka honey? Of course. Picked cactus leaves? Obviously.
I could make anything and the sheer possibilities open to me paralyzed me.
I felt a sharp nip on my ankle.
"Get to work! You're falling behind," Don Fluffles yelled.
"Right. What to make…"
In the end, I found myself gravitating towards the familiar instead of the expensive. Not everything could be improved by dumping caviar on it. In fact, most of what the ultra-rich favored was a matter of exclusivity rather than any genuine addition to flavor.
All of my guests were Chinese. They'd come expecting something filling, but also probably something familiar.
But why not subvert expectations a bit?
I'd been on a Tex-Mex kick for a few weeks now and I was fairly sure I'd mastered the basics.
I quickly ran into a minor problem: The best foods in this style were marinated, smoked, and otherwise cooked for days. Brisket. Birria. Al pastor. Two hours wasn't anywhere near enough time.
I decided to improvise and my mind went south of the border, south of the continent. Brazilian gaucho-style steak. Ribeye for flavor without being too tough. A blend of pineapple marinade, spicy salsa, and chimichurri to cut the richness. Garnish with lime crema and a slice of avocado. All served on a telera bread that had been mostly cut in half to create a pocket.
As for the side, I'd stick to the classics. Chips. Salsa, standard and pineapple.
Yes, it was all coming together, but I'd have to move fast fi i wanted to prep everything.
For starters, I was unable to find telera, at least not quite the same as the one made by an old granny in Mexico City I remembered, but close enough. It was a type of yeasted white bread with thick crumbs and a hearty texture that would stand up to all the many sauces in Mexican cuisine.
I next began to mix the sauces. I threw together diced pineapples, garlic, chipotle peppers, and other herbs and lime to make something that looked blood-red.
I'd found something the hotel didn't have: achiote or annatto paste. It was mostly used to give food a rich, earthy color but in large quantities could impart a deep, peppery flavor that was hard to find elsewhere.
Groaning, I began to dig through the spice rack for anything that might do as a substitute. It wasn't quite the same, but in the end, I settled on Szechuan peppercorns, a quarter of a scotch bonnet, cumin, all-spice, and smoked paprika to get something that was hopefully closer to the Chinese palate.
"Well," I shrugged. "At least it looks like pastor marinade…"
Not having enough time, I mixed it with a bit of honey and drenched my ribeye in it before washing my hands and moving on to chimichurri.
This one, I wasn't terribly worried about. It was a tangy sauce used primarily to cut through the richness of meats and I knew the herbs could be found easily. As one of the most iconic sauces in Peruvian cuisine, it couldn't not be at an international hotel.
Sure enough, I found it in about two minutes, a bottle of the fresh stuff that some overnight cook had left to marinade. I dolloped some out for later and moved on.
I was in the zone. Cooking was my jam, my passion. It was why I went on a multi-year backpacking trip across the world. I'd been on every continent and went out of my way to meet some of the best local chefs around, all to learn from them.
But I'd never been in the zone like this.
It was almost a working trance, the kind of all-consuming focus that made everything around me disappear. I forgot about the five star hotel I was in. I forgot about Yinghua. I even forgot about Luo Hao and our gamble. All that mattered was the food before me.
I wanted people to smile as they ate my food. I wanted them to breathe a sigh of relief as they let go of their burdens. I wanted them to come in expecting a meal, and leave feeling like they'd met beloved family.
All their stress, all their worries, gone, so that they might, for a single meal, delight in the simple things.
Unbidden, words came to my lips as my chest swelled with power. "Mine is the secret of the Way of all things. Unto my creations I impart the sagely treasures of the Queen Mother's garden. Peach Blossom Alchemy!"
"Hoh? You resort to your Authority?" I heard Luo Hao say as she put the finishing touches on her own dish.
"Not against the rules. A chef does everything possible to make the best dish possible. That's obvious."
"So it is, little brother. Come! Show me your pride as a chef!"
And like that, two hours were over. As the five guests came, we each prepared six plates.
Luo Hao had made a type of braised fish with Beijing-style herbs and spices. Truthfully, it smelled divine. She clearly had not been lying about her own culinary background.
I set six plates of food. On each, I placed a steak torta. The steak was a perfect medium-rare, with the edges just slightly seeping in the pastor marinade. On two cups next to each plate, I placed extra pastor and chimichurri for each guest to serve as they liked. A side order of chips accompanied it all.
Wordlessly, we slid a portion towards one another. What good was a competition if you couldn't gauge your opponent directly after all?
I took a bite of the fish. It was good, excellent even. I was no expert, but the fish was flaky and juicy and the sauce had a unique blend of flavors I'd come to associate with Beijing, one of the eight Chinese culinary styles. It was a very ginger-forward dish, but also one that balanced the many flavors.
The food was served and we all began to eat.
"Mnnn! I admit you are exceptionally skilled, little brother," Luo Hao said. She spoke with her mouth full but somehow spilled not a single crumb. Was that too some kind of enlightened martial art?
"Your fish isn't bad either. Very ginger-forward," I complimented back.
As we watched the five hypnotized people eat their food, the result became self-evident. Luo Hao's dish was made for family, a shared table. Either that, or it was made for a grand feast.
The five judges were hypnotized entirely at random. They were all wealthy, as any patron of this hotel would be, but they didn't actually know each other. The food might have been great, but the high-quality ambiance she was going for was lost.
In contrast, they took a single bite of my torta and went back for more. My magic soothed them, warming them through and massaging their concerns away. Whatever they were burdened with ten minutes ago, they forgot all about it in the moment as they sampled all the different sauces on my plate.
Twenty minutes later, I had six fewer sandwiches and an idiot-savant who wore a defeated but delighted smile on her face.
"So?" I prodded.
"You… You are a transcendent chef… fiance…" she admitted with a coquettish smile.
I froze. In the heat of cooking, I'd forgotten just what was on the table. "Ah… You don't need to marry me?"
She daintily wiped her mouth and blushed. With a smile that lit up the room that was one part mocking and one part praise, she said, "Please cook for me again, promised one."
I felt my soul leave my body as the realization of what I'd just done struck me like a bullet train. I now had a fiance. No, not just a fiance, a magic, kung fu, godslayer fiance.
Was I being cursed for something? Did I wrong some gypsy grandma sometime?
I met her earnest yet prideful eyes. They were beautiful, just like the rest of her. The term "jade beauty" seemed to have been made just for her.
Perhaps things wouldn't be so bad?
"So… What now?"
"Now we head back to Mount Lu! There, I shall instruct you in the dao of the fist! By honing your body and soul atop the five sacred peaks, you shall reach your full potential as a Campione and become a man worthy of being my fiance!"
I winced. I was a chef, damnit! Going on to a kung fu training camp was not my idea of a good time, even if the hottest piece of ass I'd ever seen was at the end of that trip.
"Nope. No way. I'm not going to spend a century doing wax-on, wax-off or whatever you have planned, Luo. I'm a chef," I stressed. I had to get her to understand. I wasn't going to drop my cooking journey just so she could have a disciple or whatever the hell she was really after.
She frowned and I immediately wanted to cave. That pout had to be an Authority. "If you do not pursue the martial dao, how will you become a man worthy of me?"
She wasn't getting it. No. Rather, I suspected she hadn't been denied in a very long time… centuries, likely. Who could deny her? China was a highly traditional country that placed a premium on "face," a form of societal reputation that transcended a simple good name.
A woman who knew and likely instructed the very ancestors that this current generation revered? A woman of peerless beauty and strength who seemed to embody all the virtues that Chinese society upheld?
No, she hadn't been told no in a very long time.
Which meant she probably wouldn't take rejection lightly, even from her "fiance."
Which meant I had to speak her language.
I breathed deep and stood up straight before looking down at her. I met her eyes and gave her a bittersweet smile as I placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Luo Hao, we are both Campione. We have time. Whether this engagement lasts a single month or a century, it is immaterial to us. Why do you rush?"
She reached up and covered my hand in hers. "You just entered the moonlit world, little brother," she spoke with unexpected tenderness. "This world is a dangerous place and though a Campione is mighty, all Campione are destined to face great obstacles, for destiny demands greatness be met with greatness. Please become strong, little brother."
"I am growing strong, Luo Hao." I couldn't call her my sister anymore, not when she was also my fiance. Was divine incest a thing? I remembered the Greeks. No, of course it was. Silly me… "I will do it in my own way."
"And you believe the culinary dao is the right path for you?"
I nodded firmly. "I do. I pursue the culinary dao! You forget, Luo Hao, the Jade Rabbit was the Grand Alchemist who could brew the elixir of life. I shall become such a great master of the culinary arts that even the gods would beg me for a scrap from my table!"
"Hah, you are an ambitious one, Tianyu. Why are you so insistent on pursuing such a mundane path? The greatest families of China would happily offer up their fortunes for a single hour of my instruction and you turn it down so happily."
"Cooking is my dream. There's something special about food, you know? It's 'mortal' as you put it. Pedestrian even. But… Everyone needs it, even us mighty godslayers. There is something unique about food in the way it brings people together. It is an inextricable part of a people's history and culture. It is a story you can eat, a legacy passed down from ancestors long forgotten. What is unadmirable about that?"
"You have a silver tongue. I admit it sounds much nicer phrased this way."
"That's because it's the truth," I smiled. "That sandwich. Do you know where it all came from?"
She licked her lips. "I do not, only that it was delicious."
"Gaucho-style Brazilian steak. Peruvian chimichurri. Tex-Mex al pastor marinade with some Chinese substitutions to fit the local palate. A near-enough equivalent of telera bread from Mexico. Five countries. Three continents. That's what went into the sandwich."
"Hoh? Truly? You put such thought into a humble meal."
"You say humble, but I've been to all those places, Luo Hao. I learned how to make pastor from a Mexican ranchero who immigrated to Texas. I learned chimichurri from an old Peruvian granny. Everything I make, it's because I experienced a part of their culture. I can't be stuck in a mountain, no matter how splendid it is."
"I see…" she said, disappointment audible.
"Hey, think of it this way: When you see me next time, my cooking will be even better."
She brightened immediately and shot me a sunny grin. "That is true. Very well, little brother. I shall grant you my blessing to travel the world. Won't you at least visit the mountain once?"
I smiled softly. Surely I could grant a simple request like that? "Sure. I'd love to see where you live. I'm sure it's magnificent."
"Indeed! The peak pokes out beyond the clouds and the view of the sunrise takes my breath away even now." She took me by the hand in a grip like velvet-covered iron and began to drag me away. "Come! We shall leave Yinghua to handle affairs here and leave immediately."
"Uh… sure…" I sent of an apologetic prayer for the young master of the Lu family. Six hours of martial arts practice, only to clean up our mess. Poor fellow. I promised I'd make him something tasty the next time I met him.
"Good. Let us be off then."
"I still need my luggage. And my cart."
"Nonsense. I shall have Yinghua teleport them over."
One more thing I owed that guy for… Then her words registered. "Wait, you can teleport?"
She puffed out her chest proudly. "Of course! Your fiance is not only a peerless martial artist but also a mistress of the mystic arts!"
My eyes trailed up the Grand Lotus hotel to the penthouse with a noticeable hole in it. "Luo Hao… Are you saying you could have visited me without punching a hole through the hotel?"
"And you see nothing wrong with this?"
"Of course not. How else was I to fashion a grand entrance for my little brother?"
I let out an exasperated sigh as my palm met my face. Were all my "siblings" this insane? Or was I just lucky enough to meet the crazy one?
Beside me, my cute fiance let out an irritated huff. "I can tell you are thinking unflattering things about me."
"Luo Hao," I began, trying to phrase this in a way she could understand.
"What are the Confucian virtues?"
"Benevolence! Righteousness! Propriety! Knowledge! Integrity! These are the fivefold virtues of the great sage! Against such there is no law!"
"Right… And wouldn't it have been benevolent to take into consideration the work you are making for your disciple? The Lu family owns this hotel, right? That means Yinghua is going to have to hypnotize the workers, get everything repaired, and make sure things are as usual?"
"Of course. He is the young master of the Lu family. Caring for his estate is natural."
We continued to walk outside the hotel until we reached an empty park. "But Luo Hao, you've made more work for him by breaking something that doesn't need to be broken."
"I do not see why it should be my business to care. Tianyu, we are Campione. We need not consider the opinions of mortals."
"And is that benevolent?"
"Urk! You have a sharp tongue."
"Truth cuts like a sword. You made a lot of work for him and now he will be distracted from his martial arts training."
She slumped. "Very well… I shall reward him appropriately."
I was going for an apology, but she really didn't seem like the type to apologize. This was probably the best I'd get so I nodded and placed a hand on her head, giving it a light rustle. "That's good. I'm sure he'll be happy to know you appreciate his efforts."
She slapped my hand away lightly. It was still hard enough to make my bones creak. "I am not a little girl."
"Of course not. You're my beautiful and benevolent fiance."
"You… You are too good with your words."
"I travel. I have to be a fast-talker. Now, how about you teleport us home?" I wondered what teleportation would be like. Would it be a "pinching of the navel" like Harry Potter's apparation? Or would it be an instant, unnoticeable thing like something out of sci-fi?
"No. Running is faster," she huffed.
My thoughts screeched to a halt. That made no sense. How could running be faster than instantaneous movement? I wasn't sure I wanted the answer to that question, but I felt a bizarre need to ask. "Luo Hao?"
"How is running faster than teleporting?"
"Campione possess tremendous magic power. Setting up a teleportation spell that will not break at our mere presence is taxing with one Campione and nearly impossible with two."
"The only exception being another divine Authority?"
"Oh, so we're going to… run to the mountain? How? Where even is Mount Lu?"
She waved vaguely westward. "About 500 miles. Tis but a short hop."
"Indeed, close, is it not? Imagine my surprise when you managed to slay a god before I could arrive despite the distance."
"It was an accident!"
"Truly, your luck is comparable to an Authority all on its own."
I changed the subject. My luck was… something, all right… "So how do we get there?"
She answered with deeds, not words. She briefly stooped, placed an arm behind my knees, and swept me off my feet into a princess carry.
"Oi! Luo Hao! Let me down!" I flailed. We were already drawing plenty of attention purely off of Luo Hao's beauty, but this… I felt my face burn like the sun.
"How else are you to get there? You have no foot techniques yet."
"Oh no. Nonononono. No. You better not. Luo HHAAAOOOO!"
The view was as beautiful as she had bragged. The clouds shrouded the lower mountain even as verdant vegetation peaked out onto the peaks. Alas, I couldn't enjoy a single bit of it.
Luo Hao wasn't fast. Fast wasn't the applicable word anymore, not when every footstep slammed the air hard enough to send us skyward through recoil alone, not when each footfall sent thunderclaps ringing through the sky as if to announce a bolt from the blue.
Being carried in her arms was the single most terrifying experience of my life. And the scariest part?
I heard nothing because she was faster than fucking sound.
The only reason I knew she was somehow performing a drum solo out of thunderclaps using her feet was because the friction of the wind hammering into my ears was enough literally set my ears on fire.
If it weren't for the fact that they were literally god-given blessings, I didn't doubt they would have been ripped right out like plucking carrots from the ground. As it was, it felt like someone took a vegetable peeler to them.
I knelt on the ground, caressing my poor, abused ears.
Don Fluffles hopped out of my shirt, where the little bitch was snuggled safe and sound. She daintily stepped away from my sick and shot me the smuggest grin.
"They're sensitive, eh? Not fun when they're pulled, eh?"
"I will eat you."
"Cannibal! Cannibal!" she shrieked, squeaking and thumping her feet.
"No one else understands you anyway, you little monster," I grumbled. I got up and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck before depositing her onto my shoulder.
"Hoh? You understand the little spirit?" Luo Hao asked.
"I do… Trust me, that's not a good thing."
"And what secrets does she tell you?"
Don Fluffles leaned in to my ear. "She doesn't wear panties," she hissed.
I flushed an atomic red. "Shut up, I swear to god I'm brushing up on stew recipes."
Luo Hao tilted her head. "What is she saying?"
"I am curious now."
"Seriously, nothing but drivel. Forget it, please."
Don Fluffles jumped off my shoulder and onto Luo Hao's. "Hehehehe, pervert. Filth. What did you think she was wearing? I took a peak while she was cooking, you know. Want me to tell you?"
"God, I'd pay the Jade Rabbit to take these ears back," I moaned.
"She doesn't wear panties because she wears zhong qun. Pervert! Lecher!" Don Fluffles cried. She poked Luo Hao in the cheek. "He's disgusting. You should kick him off the mountain already."
"I swear to god I'm going to shave you bald."