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Still Hour

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Li Mochou did not spend her newfound freedom smelling the grass and the snow, dipping her feet in cooling streams, or doing other, similarly childish pursuits. She went to the nearest town and saw a bridal procession weave its way down the main street. When the procession arrived at the groom's house and the couple were made to walk side by side, Li Mochou flew into the house, tore open their throats, and was out again before the first scream rang out. Her head cleared as she left the town farther and farther behind, the air flowing into her nostrils smelling very sweet.

Yes, Teacher, she said that night to the stars, as aloof and smug as minor deities, this is the right choice. Out here is where I must be. A woman is supposed to bloom, not sealed inside a tomb, her growth stunted until she emerges as nothing more than a perfect dream.

Her first sleep under the open sky was deep and soothing. In the morning, she struck down a foolish rabbit that tried to steal some warmth off her leg, turned it into a tasty breakfast, and then went on her way. This peace, she was certain, was the kind that her teacher would never attain for the rest of her years.