The Monkey King of the Pearl Sea
It would be a mistake to think that the Chinese community in London was a unified or even friendly one and such was most definitely not the case. There were feuds both minor and major that took place with much enthusiasm in the dirty terraces of the city, just as they did in the Middle Kingdom, and these disagreements were just as subtle and hidden here as they were there as well. Shen knew that, should he ever feel the actual need to leave the House of the Grey Dragon, there would be certain streets that it would be incredibly unwise of him to walk down if he wished to reach the end of them unscathed or even alive. Some of those streets were remarkably close to the House, yet all the Chinese expatriates knew exactly where they stood, and conducted their daily lives accordingly - with extreme care and caution.
Madam Wei however, despite ruffling the odd social feather here and there, had swum through the boiling waters that was Chinese society like a magnificent, sightly overdressed swan - with grace, serenity, beauty and an awful lot of hidden hard work. Not everyone had loved her with equal enthusiasm, it was true, but news of her death had swept through the community causing shock and anger which resulted in a rare sense of unity. Shen had been able to call in favours from people who would usually have cheerfully killed him without a second glance, such was the esteem in which Madam Wei had been held. It was not an understatement to say that practically all of London was being watched by Shen. They would be found.
His other major concern was what the attackers had been searching for in the first place. The gentleman had proved to be a more worthy opponent than Shen had anticipated, even when under the influence of both opium and a certain ancient blend of herbs that should have made him more open to suggestion and loose-tongued. Despite lengthy questioning, Shen had not learned what he had wanted to know, and had become a little irritated with the gentleman’s repeated requests to punish him as he had been a ‘bad boy’. Shen had an appreciation for a wide range of pleasures both refined and more… direct in their nature, but he had found the gentleman’s requests for punishment a little dull and pedestrian.
In the end, after exhausting his lines of questions, Shen had been forced to be quite inexcusably blunt, and yet this had gained him nothing and had only seemed to push the gentleman further into a dream that prompted him to slur repeatedly,
“I’m sorry Mrs Gorely-Smythe! Harder, yes, harder!” which had caused some of the attendants to titter in a mocking manner. Usually he would have had to reprimand them for their bad manners, but at that moment he had found the gentleman worthy of such mockery himself and had merely glared at them until they stopped. Even now however, several days after the questioning, he had heard some of the attendants calling each other Mrs Gorely-Smythe and even seen them presenting their pert behinds to each other for a smack. Shen had decided to retain his male dignity and ignore such behaviour for the moment.
With the questioning providing nothing of worth, Shen had decided that patience might prove to be more fruitful, and had assigned Huling to follow the gentleman. As such, Shen had learned much about the habits of the gentleman and after accessing the wider knowledge of the network he now had at his fingertips, now knew where he lived, where he spent his days and after only the smallest amount of effort had learned his name. Shen knew, as did the smallest of children who had been educated in the proper manner, that names had power, and he now wondered if another attempt at drugged interrogation would prove to be more successful if he employed Lord Durnleigh’s name with care and precision.
Curiously, despite the multitude of eyes and minds employed in the matter, and Huling’s not inconsiderable talents, no one had been able to uncover the identity of the apparently stern and disciplinary-focussed Mrs Gorely-Smythe. This both irritated and intrigued Shen in equal measure.
What Huling had uncovered was that the gentleman had begun to visit the British Museum, which was not in keeping with what else he had uncovered about Lord Durnleigh’s habits. The Museum was proving to be one of the more challenging places to infiltrate, but Shen had no doubt that a way would soon be found, and the purpose of Lord Durnleigh’s visits discovered.
In the mean time, Huling continued to watch the gentleman as closely as she could, and in the brief times when she had reported to Shen in person had complained most eloquently on the cruel and unusual nature of the fabrics used to construct the serving staff’s uniforms at Lord Durnleigh's club. Despite her discomfort, Huling persevered watching and listening, amused that she appeared to be effectively invisible to Lord Durnleigh, despite having served him just as attentively at the House of the Grey Dragon, albeit in serving him much less socially acceptable delicacies.
Shen took another sip of his tea, satisfied that all was proceeding according to the plan laid out by the Heavens, and that his own preparations were falling into place. He allowed himself a small, tight smile. Madam Wei would soon be revenged in a most satisfactory way.