298 Chapter Ninety Eight - How her mornings begin

In a certain, small hut, beneath a nest of pillows and blankets, a person stirred.  After a moment, two delicate, white hands poked out of one edge and began to tug the embroidered blankets downward, revealing a mess of dark curls.  There came a groan from the unruly locks, the familiar tones of one who has awoken from sleep, but wanted to linger within their dreams that much longer.  However, not the type to be able to fall back to sleep once the dreams had faded, that person could only admit defeat and rise.

With none of the more feminine brightness that she usually projected, the girl flopped out of bed with a sulky attitude, scuffling over plush, fur rugs towards a small metal stove, which she opened, tossed in some wood and a spark of fire to fuel it. 

This metal stove was a new addition to the hut where originally there happened to have been a clay stove.  That old thing had worked well enough, but occasionally hot ashes had floated out of it, dirtying the tiled floor and worse, setting alight the original wool rug she'd decorated the floor with.  Seeing the innovate metal stove with its small door to hold tight the burning wood and ash had her commission one as well.  Her sister too had liked it and done the same, it had even become a fad for several more students with abundant external wealth within the inner and outer alchemist schools.  Some stoves were stupidly and unnecessarily ornate and large, becoming another display piece of status.  Really silly.

The small hut warmed as did the kettle of hot water placed upon the stove.  In the meantime, Maimai had shimmied out of her silk chemise and picked a simple top to pair with flared silk trousers, ignoring the piles of dresses within the interdimensional chest at the bottom of her bed.  After picking out a fitted jacket of complimenting colour, the water began to boil and she poured some into a bowl for washing and the rest into a teapot.  She did not add tea.  She was well aware of her tea making abilities, so never drank her own concoctions, but it didn't usually stop her from practicing her 'skills' on others.  She could only say that she really didn't mean to poison people.

She washed with a soft cloth, then bundled her curls upon her head into a bun, before looking over the dresser.  A copper mirror dominated the small space, though she didn't bother to gaze at her appearance reflected in its sheen.  The rest of the wooden top was covered in bits of jewellery, charms and the like that she hadn't bothered to put away in one of the dresser's drawers.  Running her fingers this way and that through the silver and jade, she finally chose and enamelled hairpin with peach blossoms decorating it and a pair of similarly coloured gemstone earrings.

Refreshed and ready for the day, she glanced at her books with the tiny notes written this way and that and at her cauldron and didn't feel the want to practice making all the pills that she wasn't good at, nor churning out the ones she was quite able too.  Perhaps it was due to her nature, but she had become quite good at producing combat pills.

It was the weekend, there were no lectures or expectations.  She had no outstanding requests or tasks to do.  She decided she wanted company, but not her sister.  Today, she wasn't in the mood for dressing up and acting like a filial relation with the older girl.  So narrowing down everything, she decided to visit her best friend.  Sure, that other one would not welcome her presence, but it was not as if she cared about his opinion!

She dug out a thin coat and headed out of the door.  Although it was spring, the mornings were still on the cooler side, the wind could be exceptionally bitter.  The sun was beaming through the branches of the trees in some abundance as the leaves upon them were tender and small, not yet large enough to create a thick canopy, so it was not long before Maimai felt some warmth upon her back.

Contented she hummed a cheerful ditty to herself, striding over the muddy ground without care, when she came across an unexpected figure.  That man was wearing quite the frown, but catching her footfall, he glanced up and beamed with relief.

"Miss Maimai!" He called out, jovially.  Maimai couldn't help but smile back.  Really, this one and Pike had such potential!  The tall figure did not have Jin Li's bamboo stature, willowy and overly flexible, also did not have Pike's heavy set body and muscular physique.  It was better to say he had a tempered look, obviously masculine, yet not overwhelmingly so.  His aura was approachable as well and his personality was friendly from the outset, though she didn't know him well enough to judge him deeply.

"Bowyer," she greeted back.  "What brings you to the outer alchemist school?"  Actually, there was likely only one reason he was wandering this neck of the woods.

He looked a bit sheepish.  "Actually I was looking for Leon's place, I need to speak with Jin Li about something and I got a bit lost."

"Easy to do," Maimai admitted.  It was especially difficult whenever Leon decided to add a few more of his charms within the surroundings of his home, though fortunately, it had been a while since he'd carved new 'decorations' to set in the trees.  "Follow me," she offered, "I was heading there anyway."

He looked grateful, but Maimai didn't think it was such a big thing.  Anyway, this man could accept Jin Li's sharp wrath instead of herself when they intruded on his and Leon's lovey dovey time!  She did hope that there was something to interrupt!

Discreetly, she scratched her nose.

The scent of tender, herb seedling delicately drifted on the breeze as the gardens about the old hut had begun to sprout.  The scent became stronger as they approached the gates of the courtyard property.  The gate was unsurprisingly locked, but that was never an obstacle to those with good martial arts.  Maimai didn't realise that she had caught Bowyer unawares when she easily leapt over the tall gate beside him, though. 

A low yowling sound came from the stable, but it ceased a brief moment later when her scent was caught by the two coeurl.  She smiled to herself, pleased that the beasts liked her enough to let her pass.  She would be devastated if she knew that Wu Ye was just too lazy to deal with her 'weak' self.  It did consider testing Bowyer for a bit, but it's stomach then rumbled and it decided to deal with it once it's lazy human brought its breakfast over.

Numerous pots had begun to fill the courtyard, the fresh scents of herb seedlings came from them and mixed in the air with the smell of clean soil.  Maimai's eyes briefly wandered to that small greenhouse building and sure enough, there were flecks of green within pots lining its shelves and tiled floor.  Leon was always thinking of how to reduce expenditure for himself when making pills, it was not surprising that his garden was already being developed for this year.  The school provided much, but if there were rarer herbs involved in the recipe, if none were available, they'd have to source it themselves.  For their low level, though, they shouldn't find themselves with this issue, but Leon liked to plan ahead.

Maimai knocked on the sturdy wooden door of the main building.  "Leon, it's me!  Oh and Bowyer came for Jin Li!"  She didn't try to open the door.  Jin Li would not have left this unlocked either.

"Don't unlock it," she heard the commandeering drawl from within the building, clearly not making any attempt to be discreet.  "They can see themselves out."

"Jin Li," Leon's voice chided, softly.


The sound of the metal bolt being moved echoed from inside.

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