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A simple exchange

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The stranger smiled. Or grimaced, perhaps; Huang Shaotian couldn’t exactly read his facial expressions from under the blue hooded cloak he wore, and a side view was difficult to read in any case. He took out a plain scabbard with slow, deliberate care, and Fang Shijing inclined his head.

Huang Shaotian’s breath caught.

He wasn’t the only one, either. All around the hall, knights and squires straightened from their food and boredom-induced stupors, even the ones sitting so far down the table that they could surely only see the back of a figure. The fire itself seemed to still, barely crackling under the presence of the sword – a magnificently crafted thing, he could tell, even from the poor angle. Not even the blacksmiths of the Excellent Court would be dismayed with such a weapon. For an instant the sword was too dazzling to look at, reflected firelight blazing off its edges, and when the traveller slid it away a great sigh of loss rippled mournfully through the hall as the spell broke.