Chapter 3:

Chapter 3: First Assignment


The office was meticulously kept with pots, caskets, and containers holding all sorts of plants and flowers. Dominating the center of the office was a suspended pitcher of deep red-pink flowers. Yin Tao poured a cup of dark red pu'er tea for the both of them before unlocking a cabinet and producing a box of Lissian cookies.

"How did you get your hands on those," Fa Wen asked in amazement. The smell of the rich buttery pastries tickled her nostalgia for home.

"Professor Feng Hua is very well connected," Yin Tao said with a mischievous grin, "but truth be told she doesn't come to her office or even school much these days. So I get first dibs on all of her presents."

"Your Elvish is beautiful," Fa Wen noted abruptly.

"Aww, thanks. Your Elvish sounds adorable too," Yin Tao replied. "I'm guessing you didn't have many opportunities to practice your Elvish while living in the Aldehersian Empire."

Fa Wen shook her head, "The only elf I normally saw was my father and he was too busy with his job to teach me."

"Well, this might not be the upside you're looking for, but there's no better way to learn a language than getting tossed into it. That's how I learned Elvish. I stayed with a host family for three years."

"The language is the least of my worries. My Elvish isn't great. But it's manageable," Fa Wen said before standing up to show off her dress in its state after half a day of stress. "But no one will even talk to me except you. And I look like a freak in this."

"I think you look adorable," Yin Tao giggled.

"You're just saying that to make me feel better," Fa Wen pouted.

"No really! Granted, it's a little old-fashioned. But you'd look great at a ball or formal event," Yin Tao noted.

"But not here at school. I can't have my first week at school be.... this."

"You just gestured to all of yourself."

"That's right. I need to change all of myself.

Yin Tao leaned back and asked, "What would you like to wear?"

"I don't know. You have to know the fashion trends around here. You look gorgeous."

Yin Tao smiled gently before leaning forward and asking, "Why do you care so much about what others think about your dress."

"Come on, you of all people should get it. Look at your outfit. It's colorful and matches with you, the embroidery is detailed, and the whole thing is seriously on point."

"Did you notice a single other person throughout the school that looked like me?" Fa Wen paused. Most people had been in more or less the same type of qi pao or chang pao uniforms. Colorful - but typically the same shade of blue, red, and gold. Certainly nothing as vivid as the crimson pink or in the same style as Yin Tao's kimono. "I dress like this because I want to. Because it makes me happy. It reminds me of home. And I gave it a bit of a personal touch. You should think more about yourself than others."

"Won't that make me stand out more?" Fa Wen asked dismayed.

"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one, right?" Yin Tao asked before pulling out a sheet of paper, brush, and ink and began writing down something for Fa Wen. "In fact, let's make it official. Your first assignment is to choose a school-appropriate uniform that reminds you of something that makes you happy."

Fa Wen stared at the assignment in her hand a little dumbfoundedly as she sat on the carriage ride home. Her new home was in the capital city of Fancheng sat on the banks of the Han River. It wasn't exactly what she expected from a school that was supposed to teach her magic and the finer points of nobility - but she didn't want to disappoint Yin Tao who she already decided was her new idol.

As she entered the parlor room of her new home, she was greeted with the sight of her father and another elf. "There is my daughter. How was your first day?" As though he wasn't the one who had made it horrible.

But Fa Wen decided to temper her response in the presence of her father's guest. "It was quite exhausting. I have an assignment to get a new uniform. The one you got me is.... lovely - but a little outdated," Fa Wen replied delicately.

Her father was one of the highest-ranked ambassadors of the realm. His negotiation skills were impeccable and if he wanted to, he could render his emotions and expressions unreadable. Which made it all the more surprising that he visibly showed disappointment in front of not only Fa Wen but also their guest.

"Excuse me, ma'am, I don't believe I've had the pleasure of being introduced to you yet," Fa Wen said to the stranger in hopes of changing the subject.

"Ma'am! Hah - now that does make me sound regal," the elf laughed, "I'm your aunt. Last time we met you were just a little sprouting."

Fa Wen blinked. Her father only had one sister. "Aunt Fa Leng?" The legendary swashbuckling adventurer who sailed the three continents and five seas? She had no idea that her father still kept in touch with her or that she was even here.

"The one and only," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "Now, let's take a look at that hanfu of yours. First day at the Chen Institute huh? Your father and I were both students there once upon a time you know?" That must have been at least 400 hundred years ago. Fa Wen couldn't really comprehend the scale of change that must have happened. "She's right, brother," Fa Leng said as she circled Fa Wen, "Elves culture moves at a snail pace. But with the influence of short-life species in recent years, you can't go about walking in something like this during your day-to-day life."

"Fa Wen had never been home. I wanted her to have something that beautifully represented her culture and her family. Something she could be proud of," her father said almost wistfully. It was a melancholy side of him that she had never seen before.

"It is beautiful and I'm proud of it. But I'm also half-human," Fa Wen reminded him, "I want to be proud of that side of me too."

Her father smiled nostalgically. "Perhaps I've been a bit forceful in trying to reconnect you with your heritage. Yes, perhaps you should show off your Lissian uniform."

"I've actually had something else in mind if you think it would be possible," Fa Wen said before explaining her vision. Something that truly encapsulated both sides of her.

Her aunt smiled. "I love it. And I know just where to get it done. We can put a rush order. We'll get it ready by the time you go to school tomorrow."