Language is a funny thing. A powerful tool too often taken for granted, beautiful and full of intention. In Chinese, 浪人 means làngrén. Vagrant. Unemployed. Rather useless. But 狼人 means lángrén. Werewolf. So similar as to be mistaken for each other, especially when the writer doesn’t take the time to point their brush in the right direction. Bai Lin is the sort of wolf who is very careful which direction her brush, and her pack, point.
Langren is unique in New York. Where the packs generally find themselves high above the city in glass towers on dug into the trenches of the streets, Langren is both. It maintains connections with the Triad and the Tong, which help it keep control of the streets, and has a controlling interest in numerous hotels around the city all operated under a holding company named Kāihua. It effectively holds it’s territory in Chinatown by being both.
It doesn’t mean the pack has been without aggressors. Their alpha is a surprising choice, and Elodoth Boneshadow named Bai Lin.
“Have you ever heard the story of the Shaolin Werewolf?” Bai asks calmly, in perfect English, as delicate fingers wrap around the handle of a teapot. She is pale, with dark hair and crimson lips. Beautiful, even though her features are sharper and more angular than might normally be attractive. What’s most striking is how young she looks, especially considering how strong she is. How much power she holds.
And the brutality with which she earned it.
“Su was born in the mid-nineteenth century. Some versions of this story say that he was just a terribly hairy baby born in a time where no one believed in medical explanations for such things. They branded him a demon and abandoned him in the woods.” The tea pours from the spout and into the cup, steam curling into the air. “He was found by wandering Shaolin monks, who found no one willing to adopt the baby. They took him to the temple.” She pours her own tea and places the pot back on the table before taking a seat gently. The woman across from her bows her head, the gesture one of respect.
“Where most monks focus on one art, Su chose all of them. He learned over 200 empty handed techniques and 140 weapon types. He even learned the Dian Xue, that death touch made famous on Kill Bill. Even after being declared a demon, abandoned by his family, and refused by the people, as an adult he protected the Fujian Province coastline from Japanese pirates. The loyalty this earned from the local people caused the Imperial Government to mark him and the other monks as rebels. They sent a force armed with gunpowder weapons to put him down. But rather than fight, he and the monks took all the valuables from the temple, burned it to the ground, and went to live in the mountains.”
The glint in her eyes has taken on a sharper edge than before. “Can you imagine? Being willing to burn your home to the ground before letting it fall to your enemies?” The woman looks up, meets Bai’s eyes for a moment and then drops her head back down. The younger woman continues, a half smile tugging at her lips from behind the tea cup for a moment. The other woman lifts her own glass with a trembling hand.
“My favorite story though is about how he once walked into a meeting of the 12 Shaolin Masters, rather than bow to them he threw a knife into ceiling, and down fell an assassin. Su had heard 13 people breathing instead of 12.” Bai sets the glass down.
“Tell me Shao, how many people should be breathing in this room?” Bai’s voice is quiet. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out that you brought enemies into my home?” Shao’s hand trembles, tea spills out with a slosh, the door opens and two men drag in a third. He’s bloodied and unconscious.
Shao shakes her head and begins to beg in Chinese, “Give me your hand Shao.” Tears stream down the older womans face. Bai doesn’t ask again, reaching out to grab the woman’s wrist. She brings it down onto the table with force, bones cracking under the pressure as Bai’s hands begin to shift. Only her hands.
She uses her long claws to count Shao’s fingers silently, stopping at the pinky. She meets Shao’s eyes as she drags those claws swiftly across Shao’s pinky. “This belongs to me now. Next time you think to betray me, remember…I wont hesitate to burn my entire house down.” Bai nods to one of the men who entered, he steps forward to grab the screaming woman.
“Maybe we should kill him. Send a message to his pack.” He says.
“Dead men do not deliver very good messages.” She drops the pinky finger into the empty cup and takes a seat. Finishing her cup of tea with bloodstained hands.