LRF Contest | Follow the Stir Fry

“Have you ever considered using the door?” Vayne didn’t look up as she flicked her index finger, checking everything was working in the mechanisms of her gold wrist-mounted launcher. No fireworks were loaded yet but the happy little metallic ping of the porcine contraption meant that all gadgets were working as intended. “Nope!” Jinx’s head appeared in the window, her green fringe hanging upside down like a coloured curtain tassel, her bright emerald eyes wide and as usual, slightly manic, as she dangled from some unseen ledge above the window. Her large guns - “firework cannons” - dangled precariously off her back from the various sashes and buckles strapped to her red and gold qipao. “Hey, this thing open?” Her shrill, excited voice was audible even through the glass as she tugged it from the bottom with no success, resorting to rapping her knuckles against it persistently. “Heeeeellllllooooo?” She pressed her face against the glass and grinned. Vayne watched her pull faces for ten more seconds, and then turned back to her weapon, polishing the glittering surface until the golden pig beamed. She tapped her finger against its pristine snout fondly. A finely attuned weapon, designed with the upmost care and consideration for vanquishing the vile, malicious creatures hidden in the dark. Cute, too. As she flexed her other fingers in the bow, she finally heard the familiar click of Jinx’s grenade being armed. She opened the latch on the window with a practiced flick of a finger, pushing it open. The troublemaker grumbled as she threw the offending item over her shoulder and climbed into the room over the ledge. There was a brief pause as it whistled out into the open air before it burst into a cloud of coloured neon sparks, showering the nearby roofs with splashes of red, green and gold, blending in with the other bright early bird fireworks already popping off in the area. “I take it you’re not here for New Year's pleasantries?” Vayne watched as Jinx promptly replaced the missing slot on her belt with another grenade. Her eyes darted between the fireworks slotted in the quiver leaning against the work bench and the mechanical pig on Vayne’s arm, lighting up with a worrisome fervour. “Can I –“ “No.” “Awwww,” Jinx whined, throwing her head back, “Why would you make something that shoots stuff _and then not shoot anything with it_?!” “I _do_ shoot things with it,” Vayne shrugged, slapping Jinx’s wrist as it reached for the fireworks, “I just do not shoot _everything_ with it. If I applied your manner of chaos to my work, there would not be much left of any city.” “What is it with you people and cities?” Jinx blew a raspberry, holding her hand in a thumbs down sign. “Then shall we make you my first target practice?” Vayne raised an eyebrow, clicking the wrist-mount close around her arm. “Uh, yeah? Better than dying from boredom.” Vayne sighed. “Shouldn’t you be blowing something up somewhere else?” “Oh _yeah_!” Jinx clapped her hands together at the reminder. “Have you seen a pig?” Vayne narrowed her eyes, glancing out the window at the numerous amounts of pig illustrations, lanterns and balloons. “I mean what’s-her-face's pig! Big ol’ Pork Bun, the one she gets to ride!” “Did you lose Sejuani’s pig?” “’Lose’ is a strong word,” She shrugged, waving her cannon haphazardly, “More like...taken? And I love that guy! So I’m gonna go get him back.” She grinned expectantly at the Night Hunter. God, Vayne hated that grin. “Why am I expected to help you find a lost pet?” she asked, placing her hands on her hips. “I thought you liked shooting demons and stuff, and I’m pretty sure this giant catfish monster wearing clothes is the one that has taken and/or eaten Pork Bun.” Jinx pushed the window open. “So, let’s goooo! You can use my ride.” She grinned again and pointed to a giant, dragon head shaped rocket nestled comfortably on a nearby roof. The surrounding tiles are charred and smouldering. Vayne stared at the rocket, and then picked up her glasses from the workbench, slinging her new firework cannon onto her back. Her tinted glasses were halfway to her face before she paused and decided to stow them away in her pouch. Jinx hopped out gleefully as Vayne followed, planting her red heel on the window sill. “Next time, just open with the monster.” - Vayne pushed her glasses up her nose, adjusting to the vision it gave in the poorly lit riverside. A few red lanterns along the rocky pathway offered a dappled ruby glow, obscured by the overhanging leaves of the tall, drooping willow trees that lined the river. The leaves dipped into the water, drawing gentle ripples into the river as a breeze fanned through, bringing the smell of smoke and…stir fry? She dusted cinders off her black tights, the embers falling harmlessly to the ground as she inspected her red qipao for singed ends. Fireproof materials were a worthy investment. Jinx leapt up from the wreckage of their landing with a delighted whoop, yanking her deadly props free and flicking her long braids over her shoulder. “Thattaway!” She pointed down the river, and Vayne was once again reminded of why she worked best alone as Jinx sauntered along the pathway, rockets clanging and crashing. As they rounded the corner, a large golden pavilion came into view, sitting in the middle of the river. It was surrounded by jovial red lanterns and hanging firecrackers, elegantly carved dragons and lions decorating the roof and supporting pillars. Vayne’s eyes were immediately drawn to the sound of clinking coins, and the rotund, extravagantly robed catfish sitting amongst it all. Brilliant gold coins were piled around stacked plates of sizzling dishes: fried meats and vegetables, glistening with oil and spices; buns of all sizes, in circular bamboo containers; platters of steaming dumplings, round white bellies bursting with filling. Tahm Kench was a demon of old and his greedy reputation certainly preceded him, especially when it came to Vayne’s long, long list of targets. His long tongue swept out across the plates, a deep, throaty laugh erupting from his belly as he devoured half the dishes in a blink. The beads on his coronet clicked together cheerily as he tossed the empty plates to the side, new dishes emerging from beneath. There was a hearty oink from beside him, and Vayne sighed as she saw Sejuani’s giant pig on his haunches, digging into a plate of egg and tomatoes. His owner sat beside him, a large bun stuffed halfway in her mouth, her hair bouncing above her shoulders as she waved wildly at them. There were numerous empty glasses beside her, and she held a full one up as if to issue a challenge. Jinx was already halfway across the bridge. Vayne begrudgingly followed, a stealth ambush clearly out of the question as she eyed the demon catfish, still delightedly gorging himself. “Free food!” Jinx said, pointing helpfully – or at least that’s what Vayne thought she said through the mouthful of three or four dumplings. “You seem to have forgotten why we came here in the first place,” she said curtly, with a gesture towards the demon, her firework launcher aimed very casually at his maw. She smiled. “Not to rain on your parade.” Tahm Kench let out another belly shaking laugh and gestured to the feast in front of him. “The New Year is a voracious time of plenty, and as such I must ask you to partake in the overindulgence of your appetites.” “And who will you be sending that bill to?” she asked, raising her voice over the sounds of Jinx wrestling a chicken wing from the pet pig and Sejuani laughing uproariously. “Consider this an exquisite investment,” Tahm Kench adjusted himself over the pile of coins, “for a resplendent banquet in the future.” “It’s New Year’s.” Jinx waved a savoury pancake as if it explained everything. “Just be cool for _one_ night, and then you can kill the guy later!” As if in celebration of Jinx’s comment, there was a shrill whistling in the air, and then the pavilion exploded with colour, reflecting a trillion sparks in the sky. Fireworks burst into life in the dark night sky, raindrops of red and purple and blue swirling across the stars. Jinx whooped, eyes lighting up with the kaleidoscope of explosions. “Happy New Year, suckers!” After a moment, Vayne sighed and took off her glasses, dropping gracefully onto a velvet cushion. “It does smell good, I suppose.” “I knew you were not a coward!” Sejuani cheered, raising her glass and handing her a plate. Vayne spun a pair of chopsticks between her fingers and snapped them together. “Well, everyone has to eat before they work,” the Night Hunter smiled, holding up a gold coin in her other hand to admire the glint, “And I have a lot of work to do.”

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