I meditated in the main yard under the plum tree, my eyes closed, listening to the approach of White Hare, the only one of my father's servants I'd kept after his death. The servant's footsteps rustled on the rice paper.
I gripped my left wrist with my right hand and bowed to White Hare. My eyes remained closed. His shenyi robe rustled and I knew he bowed deeper than my own. "I asked not to be disturbed."
"The ice has arrived."
"Leave it, like usual, in the outside yard." I waited, soaking the Sea Breath deep into my lungs, purging my annoyance at White Hare. He hadn't moved. My eyes flicked open. "What is wrong?"
"The one delivering the ice is not the usual man," White Hare said. "I thought you'd want to deal with him."
"You are right." I rose, my hands clasped in front of me, smoothly rising from my crossed-legs position, feeling a slight ache from this morning's tumbling.
The wagon-driver wore simple cotton and bowed when I passed the screen wall, I did not return the honor and the man's eyes widened. "Where is the usual man?"
"Sorry, Adept Do Chen. He is sick. I --"
"I left strict instructions."
"He is bedridden, he couldn't deliver."
"No ice is better than betrayal."
The driver retreated several steps, his shoulders slouching, his hands twitching at his side. "I'm only doing what I was asked to do."
"Unload the ice, and be gone."
The driver lifted the silk wrapped ice from the back of the wagon and moved to enter the secondary gate.
"Where are you going?"
"You'll want the ice in the main house."
"No. Leave the ice on the ground. The normal driver next time, or heads roll."
"Y... yes, my adept."
White Hare stood outside the secondary gate. A smirk touching the edge of his cheeks. "You are dismissed," I said. "Leave the house for a few hours."
I moved the ice into the main house, settling on the floor beside the paper screen. An image of a sinuous dragon was etched on the paper and backlit by the sun. I nodded, remembering my father's spirit. I could see him in the strokes of his art.
I cut the block into long rectangles and opened the icebox inserting the ice around Liu's head. The lips had turned blue, frost coating them in thin tendrils trailing towards the stump of Liu's neck resting on the ice. My father's killer's eyes moved slowly. The cold keeping him alive, keeping him slow.