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Fei-Li

“You manipulated me,” says Fei-Li, anger underlit by prismatic lanterns.

“Yes,” says Lon Lao.

“You turned my ear with poisoned words and set me against the heart of the Mechanists,” says Fei-Li. “The only people I love, the guild that raised me!”

“Just so,” says Lon Lao.

The rooftop garden is filled with the hushing of tiny waterworks, marvels of brass and stone. Trees tremble in breezes only they can feel. The outlines of knives are just visible in Lon Lao’s jacket, but his hands are behind his back.

“So why,” Fei-Li demands, “haven’t you kissed me yet?”

Swan

Only men can join the Guild of Tailors. Only women can be Mechanists, and to trade their secrets is ugly death. When Swan binds her breasts and queues her hair each morning, and when her sister Fei-Li helps with the Automated Seamstress by night, they are playing with knives.

Most people can handle two blades. It’s juggling three that gets you cut.

Lon Lao is sharp and always laughing; Swan keeps him close, as one does with rivals. She worries when she feels his following eyes as they part at dusk.

Fei-Li’s eyes in the window follow him back.

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