Cousin Renshu glanced down at the map; then back up, squaring his shoulders. “We don’t have swords, and we’re not strong. But some of us are cultivators. And this land doesn’t have any. If spirits attack us, we have the ghost whistles. If humans attack us – some of us have staves. Some have bows. Leave us a few talismans for backup. As long as we’re careful, we should be okay.”
Wei Wuxian tried not to bite his lip, turning to Wen Ning. “You trained them. I haven’t seen people here really fight….”
“We never wanted to hurt people.” Wen Ning met his cousin’s determined gaze. “But they can fight.”
Wei Wuxian nodded once, accepting that. If he didn’t believe Wen Ning, who could he believe?
Wen Qing traced her fingers over inked lines. “We should probably stick to what the locals call roads, for the elders. This says Nottaway has two; one heading north, one east.” She stared at them, and glanced where the peddler’s unhelpful ghost had been. “Which should we take?”
“Good question,” Wei Wuxian reflected. “Both of them head toward Haven. Eventually.” He slipped out one of the less local maps to compare the two; these kingdoms put north at the top, so odd. “The north road stays in the Pelagirs longer.”
Wen Ning drew a deeper breath, as if that took weight off his shoulders. “I’d like that.” He started, and ducked his head at their sudden looks. “It feels more like home? But….”
Wei Wuxian put a hand on his shoulder, relieved. “No, that’s important. We need someplace most people will leave us alone. You heard what our last ghost said about the Pelagirs; locals think this forest is monstrous. Spooky. And it’s not any worse than home!”
“Better.” Cousin Renshu rubbed fingers over a fist. “We haven’t met a fierce corpse yet.”
“But if we did, you could handle it,” Wei Wuxian said confidently. “We’re used to dealing with twisted dragon lines and yao. People around here aren’t. If we stick with the forest we’re more likely to find a place we can defend, that we can make safe – and that no one else will want.”
“In a foreign kingdom?” Cousin Renshu looked to Wen Ning. “What if they find us?”
“If.” Wen Ning smiled.
Oh no. That was Wen Ning expecting him to be brilliant.
A/N: It’s a good thing I have this chapter worked out, getting Gateway to Fiction finished, up, revised, re-upped, has eaten a lot of post-writing time. (Not to mention there was a plumbing leak Thursday, which is getting the last touches on fixing it today.) Hoping to get some more worldbuilding posts written soon, though!