Initialed Part 2 (Day 1 Late Afternoon)

Serena tried not to look too pleased with herself as she wrote small and neat, like she would between the lines of the paper Lyen would give her, making the two slanted lines of a V and the fishhook J, proudly turning it around to show him. “I used your real name ‘stead of Crew Chief on account of not everyone calls you that, and V’s are easier to make than C’s,” she admitted.

“Color me impressed,” Vas said proudly. “You got nice handwriting. You should ask Lyen to teach you Sumi-e. I think you might have a nice hand for it.”

“What’s that?” Serena asked, beaming as she picked up a second sheet of paper as if she was helping.

“Chinese calligraphy. Takes a steady hand, practice and creativity. It can take hundreds of times to perfect a single word and takes but the span of a single breath for a Master to paint it.” Vas explained with admiration of the art in his voice.

“Ohhhhhhh,” Serena said, impressed. “I don’t know that I have that much patience, on account of I don’t even like makin’ C’s. And a lot of words have C’s in it in my spelling tests.”

“Well, Sumi-e isn’t writing in Pinyin. It’s traditional style so you gotta memorize the character and even how you write it will change its meaning. It’s also murder on the wrist.” Vas said suppressing a shutter.

“Can you show me?” She asked, handing him back the pencil.

Vas chuckled. “Can’t, you need a special paintbrush, an ink stick, an inkstone, and a special type of paper made from rice. Maybe when we get to High Gate we can try and find some? I ain’t all that great to be honest … too… stiff. Or so I'm told.”

“Okay! When we get to High Gate!” She said excitedly. “I’m sure that you’re really good at it. And if Lyen can’t show me how maybe you can. I can practice it after we have trainin’ practice.”

“I make no grantees!” Vas warned. “Now that I think of it though I might be able to set up something to practice with … the monks during the war, there were shortages and they practiced in the sand. It ain’t pretty but I think we can pull something together, Lyen, or I can teach you the basics that way.” He honestly couldn’t help but indulge Serena, not when so many things were a first for her.

“I have sand!” she said excitedly. “I brought a whole jar of it from the beach on account of I wanted to keep it as a mementos. Maybe… maybe we can use that?”

“We sure can. Once things get settle and we dust off we got a long haul to Highgate.” He grinned at her excitement. “First Sumi-E next thing you know you’ll be learning swordplay.” Vas chuckled.

“That too!” Serena chirped, “only not if that means gettin’ stabbed an’ more stitches. Right after I bring Ms. Meadows and Doctor Charcoal lunch. Promise?”

“Well, how else ya supposed to learn.” Vas teased. “Don’t worry your pigtails off, I wouldn’t be letting you swing around a real sword … well see after Highgate.”

“On account of I might get to fight for real, like you said, right?” She asked bouncing on her toes.

“Yup. So were guna cram as much training in you as possible!” He said brightly. “It’ll be fun and if you get prize money! Less you’re taking a dive but you don’t need to worry yourself about that.”

“Can we use it to buy duck?” She asked, hopefully.
“When you win, it’ll be your prize money. So sure.” Vas said as the delivery folk started to leave. “Right, let’s get the straps and secure theses things tight. No wobbling. The warning pace was half a novel so we don’t wanna deal with any spills.”

“You got it, Crew Chief. We’ll make sure it’s super secure, and just so you know, I’m gonna buy you duck with my winnin’ money too, on account of I wouldn’ta won nothin’ wasn’t for you,” she said happily, resecuring one of the straps as she prattled on.

“Keep that duck in mind while we train. Nothing motivates better than Roast Duck as the reward.” Vas said with a sage nod and he tightened a strap. He was being overly cautious but that wasn’t a bad thing given the cargo. Do it right the first time and it would be nothing but smooth sailing after.

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