Part Two:
THE
OFFER OF LIFE


At the end of a street in one of the darkest corners of Mi Kin it sits peacefully as if the troubles of this world refuse to touch it. It’s quaint and decorated like it should be in the Empire, with gold and crimson paint that lavishes the entire store front, and a sign that reads out in black bold letters-

LADY’S
EXOTIC & SPICED
TEA HOUSE
EST. 1803

It’s quite something to behold. Inside trinkets and various tea flavours are stacked up against the walls. I doubt even Lady knows how many types of tea are in her shop. Lady herself is a small, elderly hunched woman who resembles a witch from the European fairy tales. She’s got a heart of gold though and as soon as I arrive she hobbles out from behind her desk, smiling with those big damaged teeth and gives me a hug. She smells of spices. Always of spices.

“Lady.” I nod at her and she goes in to the back to fix my usual.

I take a seat near the front window looking out in to the street. The shop is empty. I told her the night before to make sure it was cleared out by the time I got there. Once she returns she has in her hands a cup of Indian brew, with a hint of cinnamon. Delicious. The fumes calm me. My last. I motion for her to sit across from me and she does so.

“Mr Penn, how are you today?” She asks, still smiling.

“I’m fine thank you, Lady.” I take another sip. It warms me.

“So, why this meeting? Did you finally want me to send a letter to my neice, oh Mr Penn she would be so lovely for you!”

“No, my dear. As exquisite as I’m sure your niece is, I’m here on business.”

She looks confused. “Oh?”

“Yes. Final business, to be exact.”

“Are you in trouble?” She asks me, clearly concerned with my well being.

“Not yet. I will be though. And I need to ask a favour of you. The favour.”

She leans back in her chair. “Go on.” She says directly.

I don’t speak and simply take out the bag of seventy gold pieces from my belt. I slide it across the table and she slowly unravels the string on the bag. Once she looks inside her mouth drops open.

“I wish to buy this establishment from you. For a profit of course. I can imagine your family got this place for what? Twenty silver Yuan?”

She nods. I doubt she has ever seen so much money in her life.

“That much gold should buy you a new and good life some where else Lady. Take it to your niece in Hong Lin if you have to. Just leave this place. For it is to be ruin.”

She doesn’t know what to say.

“Lady, you have been ever so kind to me over these long, long years. Like a second mother you’ve cared for me, offered me a place to relax from the storm. And I owe you all the gold in this city. That however, is all I have. I would like it to be spent wisely and with good intent.”

“My dear boy.” She mutters. “What have you done to show such kindness?”

Her words strike me more than I’d care to show.

I don’t reply and shoot her a slight reassuring smile. “Just please, take this. It’s the least I can do for you.”

She gradually comes to terms with it and places the money bag in to one of her dress pockets. “Penn-” She goes to say but I hold my hand up stopping her.

“No need for good byes Lady. Be on your way now.” I order. “They will be here any minute.”

“Any minute?”

I look sternly at her. “Please.”

She smiles nervously and then stands, shuffling over to the back room. Minutes later she comes out with a sack of personal belongings and safe keeps. Lady stops as she gets to the door. I half expect her to turn to me but none the less she does not and leaves her little tea house for good. I look out the window and watch her clear the street just as representative of the Fěicuì lóng, Mao appears on the murky horizon.

Just on time.

Advertisements