Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with an half-elf member of anb imperial assassin clan.
It’s early in the afternoon in a empty tea house in the corner of the Floating World. I beckon to a young courtesan and her half-elf apprentice, who approach with sensual grace.
Though they appear demure—well, the courtesan does—I know they’re members of the imperial spy clan.
I swallow hard. Even though I outweigh both of them combined, either could probably kill me with a pinkie.
It’s the latter I’m here to question, since she’s head of the cell embedded in the Floating World. They don’t know who I am or what I already know, just that their clan has ordered them to answer all of my questions. At my invitation, they bow their heads and take a seat.
Greetings, Miss Jie. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. Please, have a seat.
<looks around> The clan commanded I give you my full cooperation. Still, this is highly irregular.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
My father abandoned me at the Black Lotus Temple when I was just a baby. He probably thought, just like you are thinking now, that they train the best accountants and scribes in the realm.
I shouldn’t be telling you this, but here’s a little secret: we’re actually the emperor’s secret spies and assassins. So yes, we did learn reading, writing, and accounting, but we also trained in stealth, acrobatics, and combat. There were nights I just wanted to die: my muscles ached from stretching, every nerve fired torture resistance training, I was vomiting my guts out from testing poisons, or my head hurt from trying to remember eighty-nine items.
It sounds harsh, but my fellow clan sisters and brothers were family. We had time for fun, like dodge blades or pin the knife in the traitor.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
YES! Every initiate’s most treasured memory is receiving their first real throwing star.
What do you do now?
Utterly wasting my talents. You see, while some of us go on dangerous missions to safeguard the realm, the most beautiful of us get assigned to the Floating World to entertain rich men and learn their secrets. My cover, as the only known half-elf in the world, is as a courtesan-in-training. The deployment was supposed to last just two years, but it’s now going on four, because Floating World conventions dictate a Blossom can’t be Plucked until the flower with Heaven’s Dew.
Yeah, I don’t like all that flowery language, either. Thankfully, my best friends Lilian and Wen are here, and we train in secret with other clan sisters almost every day.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Whispers between the sheets suggest there’s a rebellion brewing, so I’m trying to find out more.
What did you first think when you were ambushed?
I knew my cover was blown. The question was, did they know about me, or the entire cell in the Floating World?
What is the scariest thing in your missions?
I’m always worried that one of my clan members will get hurt.
What is the worst thing about the Floating World?
Entitled men, silly traditions, the posturing and backstabbing among Blossoms, the gossip. Oh, did I mention entitled men?
What is the best thing about it?
There’s always a lot going on. Gambling dens, theaters, tea houses, shrines and temples… short of the imperial palace, it’s probably the most vibrant place in the empire. And, the assignment really isn’t as boring as I let on: secrets proliferate here like bamboo after a spring rain.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Lilian and I grew up together in the clan. I’ve been there longer, and am three years older, so I’m her Big Sister. However, we’re in the same House in the Floating World, and she’s already a full-fledged Blossom—the Corsage of the House, in fact— so I’m her Little Sister there. She’s never been particularly skilled at stealth, combat, or planning, but she is observant. It makes the Floating World a perfect assignment for her.
Any romantic involvement?
<Looking over her shoulder at Lilian> Uh, no one.
Who do you hate?
I really dislike Lord Ting. He’s Lilian’s patron and abuses her. Sadly, he’s a clan asset, who is helping to keep an eye on rebellious lords, so I can’t arrange his death.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
My favorite drink is yinghua flower tea—it’s good at turning men into even more babbling fools than usual.
But what is your favorite drink?
Whatever makes you happy 🙂 Don’t be surprised to find some yinhua flower extract in it.
I’m almost afraid to ask about colours.
<Pulls out a paint swatch> Blood Red and Bruise Blue
I should’ve guessed. And pastimes?
Between lessons and chores in the House, and training with the cell in secret, there really isn’t much free time. Though I guess it’s kind of fun to pick rich men’s pockets.
What does the future hold for you?
The local fortune tellers say I have a lot ahead of me, but here’s a word of advice: don’t trust fortune tellers, soothsayers, Diviners or Geomancers. They only find fortunes in other people’s pockets.
(In this, Jie is wrong, she does have a lot ahead of her: she’s the glue that connects all of the author’s series. She’s the star of Scions of the Black Lotus, the sidekick in the Dragon Songs Saga, and a major character in Masters of Deception and Crown of the Sundered Empire.)
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I’ve already revealed more than you should know about me and the clan. If I told you more, I’d have to kill you.
You’re kidding, right?
All right, how about this final question: what do you really want in life?
<pause> Wow, no one has ever asked me. I’ve never thought about it.
Love? Respect? Riches?
I want nothing more than to serve the clan and the emperor.
You look convinced. Is that just your training?
<leans in> Off the record, all right?
No one will ever know.
<voice barely audible> I want to find my father and ask why he gave me up.
Now here, take a sip of this tasty tea.
JC Kang‘s unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories.
You can find Jie on the pages of Thorn of the Night Blossoms.
Join us next week to hear from a young woman at the point of clash between the natural world and the paranormal. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.