Luck of the Dragon: House Rules© 2007 by Walter Reimer
(The Chang Brothers courtesy of J.T. Urie. Thanks!)
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
It turned out that her father and brothers were not waiting for them at the Grand. Shin emerged from the restaurant looking mystified and irritated and stopped as the front desk clerk waved at her. “Yes?” she asked. Fang just folded his massive arms across his chest, managing to look interested and threatening at the same time.
“Mrs. Wo?” the feline asked, and when the red panda nodded he seemed to relax. “I was told to expect you. You have a message,” and he plucked a small folded piece of notepaper from a pigeonhole and held it out to her. He nodded imperturbably to Fang and went about his business.
She took it and scanned it quickly, then smiled at the clerk’s retreating back. “Thank you. Come on, Fang,” and she and the tiger left the hotel.
“What was that all about?” Fang asked. “What was the message?”
“Father’s waiting for us at the Great Pagoda,” Shin explained, and the big tiger nodded.
The Great Pagoda was situated near the Old China Dock and had great repute as one of the finest (if not the finest) Chinese restaurants in the Pacific. The food was uniformly excellent and the two martens who ran it were obsessed with maintaining high quality. The Nis had helped the two brothers get started, and as a result the topmost room of the establishment was reserved for the family’s exclusive use.
It wasn’t used very often, which only heightened the Great Pagoda’s prestige and gave the Chang brothers enormous face.
They were expected, of course, which indicated that the rest of the family was waiting for them upstairs. Both Chang brothers were there at the door to greet them, spotlessly dressed and with the whole staff of the establishment at their backs.
Proper etiquette had to be observed, and after bows and properly polite greetings were exchanged the Changs offered to escort Fang and Shin up to the room. After a further exchange of polite demurrals and even more polite insistences, the red panda and the Manchurian tiger were escorted up the stairs.
The dining room was as Shin remembered it, a large space defined by a broad sweep of windows that allowed views from the north to the southwest of Casino Island. The view overlooked the main cruise ship anchorage as well as Main Island. The room was furnished in a minimalist style, but no expense had been spared in the actual furnishings. Because it was a private dining room there was a telephone connecting directly to the kitchen.
No need in having waiters standing around and possibly listening in.
Ni Hei turned as the door opened and gathered his daughter up in his arms as she ran to him, hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek. “Father! It’s wonderful to see you!” she said. She grinned at her brothers and sister-in-law, who had remained seated when she and Fang entered the room. Nailani stood and exchanged hugs with her sister-in-law.
“Wonderful to see you as well, Daughter,” Hei said as he pointed her to a seat and shook Fang’s paw. “You are here legitimately, I trust?”
“Perfectly, Father,” Shin replied with a laugh, and started to tell them about the team project that had been such a success. The others were laughing at her description of Nancy Rote’s reaction when her father abruptly held out his paw for her pass.
She gave it to him and waited meekly as he studied it through his pince-nez glasses, then gave it back to her. “Looks like excellent work,” he said, and smiled as her ears twitched in surprise.
“What did we do wrong?” she asked.
“Look at it for a while, and I’m sure you’ll spot any errors,” her father said quietly. Shin started staring at the paper as Hei asked, “Now, let’s eat, shall we?”
A menu of recommended specialties was at Hei’s seat, and after some discussion the red panda lifted the phone and transmitted the food and drink orders. Within seconds the first pots of green tea were brought in by the waiters.
After their food arrived Shin turned to her father and asked, “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
Ni Hei wagged a finger at her as he smiled. “Patience, Daughter,” he admonished. “Enjoy your lunch first.”
The young woman relaxed. It wasn’t bad news then, so she sat back and started talking with Nailani about her infant nephew and catching up on the latest gossip around the islands.
As the group ate lunch, Ni Hei took time to reflect on how fortunate he and Peng had been over the years, even after the massacre of his clan. Peng-wum and Nailani had already given them one grandchild, with the promise of many more, and when Shin graduated from Songmark there was the chance that there would be another branch to the family tree.
He also realized that he’d told Stagg the truth in one important regard.
He was proud of his children.
The others were teasing Hao over his arranged marriage, and to his credit he was taking it well, although his exposed skin was getting redder and redder.
Shin and Nailani were making asides in Spontoonie and finally Hao stood up. “I’m going to the bathroom,” he said in Spontoonie. “Hopefully you’ll stop by then.”
His sister giggled. “Hao, you should know better. If you keep doing that, you’ll lose all the fur on your paws.” She and Nailani started to laugh, and even Peng-wum and Fang grinned.
“You do know I carry a gun.”
“Try it, Little Brother.” Shin’s smile turned feral, and her brother just turned and walked off.
Shin watched him go, then turned to Nailani and whispered, “You know, I’ve always wanted to ask you – what exactly did you see in my older brother to make you want to marry him?”
“Apart from the obvious?” the rabbit chuckled, waggling her eyebrows. “It was those beautiful dark eyes of his,” she said, and both young women giggled.
Her father wasn’t able to follow the conversation, but the expression on Hao’s face prompted him to say, “Shin, you really shouldn’t tease your brother like that.”
“He blushes so easily, Father,” Shin said. “It’s fun to watch.”
“Shall I remind you of the first time you met Fang?”
Shin flushed as her husband started laughing. He good-humoredly fended off her slap to his face and hugged her.
Over an hour later Hei tapped his fork against a water glass and everyone at the table grew a bit more attentive. “I have a few pieces of news to pass on to all of you,” he said. “Hao?”
“Your mother and I have received word from the leader of the Hu family that they will be coming here some time in the summer.” He smiled. “You’ll be able to meet Hu Xiu,” and his smile broadened as Hao blushed and nodded, “and if the two of you agree, Hu Renmin and I will begin setting things up.”
“Going to be one hell of a wedding,” Fang remarked. “Think the Constabulary will allow us to have it here?”
“They didn’t seem to have any objections when you got married. Peng-wum? You and Nailani’s suggestion as to an appropriate gift for your son was approved. The Bank of Australia has opened an account, and will open new ones as needed,” he added with a wink that made the Spontoonie rabbit blush and snuggle a bit closer to her husband.
“Shin?” Hei’s voice lowered and his face grew stern.
“I seem to recall your birthday is next month.”
Her expression suddenly grew wary. “Yes?”
“I remarked to Hao that I was thinking of getting another plane to replace the Keystone,” Hei said, “but I was planning on buying you your own plane.”
Shin blinked in shock, half-rising from her chair then groping blindly behind her to regain it. Her mouth opened and closed but no sound emerged. Fang helped her by pulling her into his lap as Hei added, “I’ve been writing to several companies, and Sikorsky will build it to our specifications.”
Hao turned an envious gaze on his older sister. “Congratulations, Shin.”
His words seemed to snap her out of her trance. “Um, F-father?” she said.
Hei had lifted a morsel of food to his mouth and nodded.
“I – I don’t want it.”
The chopsticks settled to the plate with a soft click as Hei asked, “What do you mean, Shin?” He touched his napkin to his lips and added, “Getting any plane company to accept a single unit contract is a hard job. It took a great deal of effort.”
“I know it did, Father, and I do appreciate it, I really do,” Shin said. She paused, marshalling her arguments before saying, “There are two reasons. One, I really have no place for storing and maintaining it – “
“That one student you wrote home about – Bourne-Phipps, I believe – she has her own aircraft at the school.”
Shin snorted. “That plane requires hardly any fuel and next to no maintenance. The Tutors tolerate students bringing their own planes so long as the students bear all costs and allow all the other students to take turns flying it.” She grinned. “And you know how possessive I can get, Father.”
Hei nodded. “Your other argument?” he asked, his eyes half-lidded as he thought.
“As you know, the school stresses maximum self-sufficiency,” Shin said. “They wouldn’t want to have a criminal heiress’ father giving her gifts without working for them.”
The older panda lifted one eyebrow. “’Criminal heiress?’”
His daughter shrugged, ignoring for the moment the looks her siblings were giving her. “I heard someone refer to me that way last year.”
“And you didn’t cut their ears off?” Nailani asked.
“No. To their point of view, it’s true,” Shin replied, watching her father’s reaction.
Hei nodded and sat back. A slight smile twisted his muzzle as he said, “So they think you’re an heiress. Better not let any of that get back to Krupmark, Shin, or we’ll have to have twenty furs guarding you instead of two.” He looked down at his plate, the tip of his banded tail twitching back and forth before he said, “The plane will be acquired anyway, as the Keystone does need to be replaced. And I’ll want to see a copy of that business plan you have to complete before you graduate,” he added in tones that promised severe penalties if he didn’t get it.
With the argument over, the rest of the room started to relax and resumed eating their meals.
Shin breathed a sigh of relief as she and Fang returned to the Maha Kahuna after lunch. She had feared that her father was angry with her, but Hei had hugged her before heading back to the Grand. His smile told her that she had nothing to fear.
Nevertheless her schooling had kicked in immediately, and she found herself still considering contingency plans in the event he disowned her.
“Well, that was a good meeting, apart from your argument with Hei,” Fang remarked as they entered the small bungalow that served as their house. “What other plans do you have for the weekend, my dear?”
His wife put a finger to her chin and thought, then smiled. “I’m supposed to meet up with Brigit and maybe the others later today for the May Day festivities,” she said, “but until then . . . “
He followed her gaze to their bed, and started laughing as he scooped her up in his arms.