Surfacing from trance, Dirk blinked. There weren’t a horde of people trampling his feet, not yet, but there were plenty of Trainees, Heralds, palace servants, and stray nobles around the Collegium, more of whom were looking up every second. He could hear the crowd growing.
:You might want to come down soon,: Dirk called. :Before one of our elderly noble ladies faints.:
Ah. Talkative as ever. Maybe a little friendly jab was in order. :It’s too bad Nie Huaisang can’t fly,: Dirk mused, almost innocent. :He’d have the ladies throwing their daughters at him.:
A long, dry silence.
:Wait,: Dirk murmured, suddenly worried, even as Lan Wangji touched gently down and sheathed his blade. :You don’t mean….:
“Nie Huaisang is heir to Qinghe Nie,” Lan Wangji said plainly. “He can fly.”
“I am going to filet him,” Nie Huaisang breathed through his smile, as he and Nie Zonghui finally disentangled themselves from yet another flutter of noble ladies who’d somehow strayed from their capital shopping trip into the Nies’ path.
Nie Zonghui might be hiding a smirk. Maybe. “Temper, young master Nie.”
“This is me. Keeping my temper. I only want a few bitty Lan cutlets.”
A few steps behind them, grizzled Father Gerichen rescued a last tiny kitten from adoring coos and returned the tawny fluff of claws to its basket with the rest. Skipped a step to catch up, long wool robes and all. “We must have patience with the flaws of our fellow man, young lord.”
“Flaws?” Nie Huaisang groaned. So far this priest of Valdemar’s Lord of Light had been surprisingly good company, but the walk that should have taken less than half a local candlemark was stretching out much, much longer. “Hanguang-jun can go months without saying a word, and he has to say that?”
“Well….” The priest drew out the word; almost as if he had his own fan to hide behind, instead of a basket of fluff. “It will bring you plenty of interested offers for yourself, being unmarried? And for your brother, of course.”
Nie Huaisang threw up his hands, uncaring of the street crowds they stalked through. It was daylight, he couldn’t sense more than the usual wisps of resentful energy that roiled any city, and he and Nie Zonghui were the only cultivators in qi-sensing range. So long as none of the civilians got too close, that was all that mattered. “Da-ge doesn’t need someone who flutters! He needs someone patient, and kind-”
“Someone who can out-stubborn a mule.” Nie Zonghui kept perfect pace. “Patiently. Kindly.”