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Law never rests, but the lawyer has to

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Liyue, the harbor of trade, was never short of business. 

After all, this was a nation built and blessed by the god of commerce himself, and merchants from all over the world were eager to get their share of profit here in Liyue. Problem was, Liyue was also a nation of contracts and, well, paperwork. Many times the ignorant or careless merchant could get into serious trouble for neglecting a few rules or submitting the wrong form, and the consequences of that could range from a hefty fine to a permanent boat trip home. 

And yet, as much as the Liyue governance liked things in order, sending merchants packing all the time was not exactly good for the economy. Thus a little initiative was born, and every new merchant would receive a guidebook upon their registered entry. And, at the law segment of the guidebook, were three golden rules that saved the life-savings of countless merchants. They were: 

  1. Do not break the law 
  2. Do not make any contracts you cannot keep 
  3. If you fail any of the above, contact Yanfei 

Mentioned in the third rule was the best (and only) law consultant of Liyue. She was also known for many other unique traits, like her quirky pointed shoes that were two bells away from circus fashion, her striking antlers that sometimes forced her to walk horizontally through narrow alleyways, and her unrivalled ability to put anyone to sleep within the first 5 minutes of reciting Liyue’s law. As the only person who remembered every detail of Liyue’s laws clearer than the Tianquan who wrote then, Yanfei was the hope and savior for many merchants who had a close shave with the law. 

As a result, she was well sought-after. As long as law and trade never rest, neither will Liyue Harbor's famed legal adviser. Thus, even on this beautiful and perfectly sunny day for a break, yanfei opened her planner to a full schedule. 

“Hmm… let’s see here…” As she put on her sleeves, Yanfei squinted at the scribbles on the page dated 28th July. People were booking different slots for today since two weeks ago, and her schedule was full all the way till dinner hours. And yet, no one enquired about a slot before 10 am. So somehow, on this seemingly eventful day, Yanfei had a relaxing morning. 

But now the day of work had begun, and her first appointment brought her to the Wanwen Bookhouse. That place was arguably one of Yanfei’s favourite places to visit at the harbor. Though the more she visited, the less surprising it became. She was an exceptional reader afterall. In fact, so efficient was she at reading, she had caught up with the titles the bookhouse had to offer in a matter of months. She did suggest the bookhouse expand their collection, but was often declined with the same reason --- for the general public, at least, the collection was more than plenty.

Yanfei did not argue. After all, it was only natural she studied the fundamentals of economics and business to become the top (and only) legal consultant among the merchants of Liyue. Importing new titles just for a single client was, in many ways, impractical and expensive. So here she was at the bookhouse, 10 minutes early as good professional practice, and browsing the old titles on the shelves as she waited for her clients to show up. 

“Maybe if I give her a discount for our next consultation, Lady Ningguang would let me browse her personal library…” Mumbling to herself, she picked out a random book from the row. Oh, <Confession of a Tax Evader>, one of the thriller fiction she quite enjoyed reading. Though the details related to law were not exactly accurate -- In fact Yanfei was pretty sure she recorded her thoughts and corrections on the book content somewhere in her house -- it was still quite the engaging read. 

Holding the book in hand, she was ready to browse through it for nostalgia sake when another thought hit her. Oh no... Lady Ningguang’s personal library was in the Jade palace, wasn’t it? Did that thing not crash straight into the sea? Was any part of the library collection salvaged? Man, what were the chances that any of those books were printed in that water-proof ink mentioned in the Historia Naturalis Liyue? Now too busy mourning the loss of some great books to the battle against Osial, Yanfei sighed and placed the book back on the shelf. 

She was approached by two merchants just a moment after that, and the shopkeeper of the bookhouse helpfully explained the situation to all parties involved. 

“Mr Francis and Mr Gilbert here are merchants from Fontaine, they specialize in the export and sales of printed materials.” Explained the shopkeeper, Jifang. 

“That is right. We are keen to bring specially curated top quality titles from Fontaine to your bookhouses right here in Liyue. But Miss Jifang here said it is not a simple matter she could arrange. Thus, we require your assistance.” Francis replied. 

“Ah… importation and sales of foreign publications. Of course of course. You see, according to the “Commercial Law of Liyue," Chapter 22, Section 3, Article 6, to distribute foreign publications in Liyue in a commercial manner, you first have to….” Naturally, Yanfei went off and stated the segment word for word, watching with the usual amusement as these formal terms translate to confusion in the common folks’ eyes. That’s right, that’s what she was here for! To bring law to the people, and to help everyone abide by and reap the benefits of it. 

“In simple terms, you have to submit an application for a sales permit. And then, you will be required to hand in a list of titles you wish to distribute in Liyue, as well as a sample copy of all the titles. The contents will be reviewed, and only then will you be able to sell them. As for what kind of content is prohibited in Liyue…. Well it’s not a very long list but I’d prefer another appointment.” Yanfei explained, paused, and added. “Finally, in the case that everything goes well, your revenue will be subjected to some taxation. Which…” She folded her arms and did some mental math. “Would cut about 40% of your revenue.” 

“40%-- Did you get that all down?” Francis, who was lost at the application part and never caught up, turned to look at Gilbert. 

“Yes, do not worry.” Muttered Gilbert, who was still busy scribbling in the notebook he whipped out mid-way into the talk. Yanfei raised a brow. 

The two of them then excused themselves for a moment and mumbled something among themselves. When they returned, it was Francis who spoke again. “Thank you for the advice Miss Yanfei, it was most helpful. We will consider the cost and procedures before we decide how to proceed. In the meanwhile….” 

The man looked at Gilbert, saw him getting distracted by a kite in the sky, and discreetly elbowed him. Gilbert reacted immediately this time and gave Yanfei an envelope and a neatly wrapped item. 

“As agreed, here is the money for the consultation. Please also accept one of the best titles we have brought with us from Fontaine, I believe you would enjoy it.” As Yanfei accepted the items, Francis explained. He spoke significantly faster the moment Yanfei seemed to hesitate about accepting the book, and was pretty much shoving Gilbert at the end of his sentence. 

“Thank you, bu-” As expected, Yanfei had begun her polite refusal. 

“Oh will you look at the time! We most certainly must go now. Enjoy your day Miss Yanfei, see you!” Francis shoved Gilbert even faster, and before Yanfei could make her proper decline, the two had hurried off into the crowd. 

Holding the book in confusion now, Yanfei looked to Jifang for help. The latter pretended to suddenly be busy with a stock check, and Yanfei took it as her cue to leave with the book in tow. She unwrapped it in a deserted alleyway (which she walked horizontally into) just in case it was something she had to destroy on the spot, and was instead pleasantly surprised to find a copy of the famous <Record of anarchy - Fontaine’s most vicious criminals>. It was a book she had been trying to get a copy of for weeks, and now that it miraculously came into her possession through rather legal ways, she decided not to think too much about the rest. Keeping the book safely in her bag, she went on to her next appointment. 

But the book (and those strange Fontaine merchants) were only the beginning of her strange and rather lucky day. Her next appointment was with a jade seller whose customer claimed had sold fake goods to them. But she was barely there for 10 minutes (just enough to explain the related law chapters to them) when the customer came running in to explain it was an error on his part and the charge was dropped. Yanfei was sure that would turn the situation against the customer for defamation, and yet the two of them just dropped the case altogether. In the end she had a good chat with them about tips on examining the grade of jade, and by the end of her appointment, she had walked out with 3 pieces of beautiful Noctilus Jade on top of her payment. 

The same happened to her other appointments, where supposed problems (which, to be fair, were pretty straightforward matters) were resolved with little effort, she got paid, and somehow left with some kind of gift. By the time she arrived at the Wangshen parlor for the final stop of the day, she was carrying an entire box of varied gifts from the clients she met today. The box, by the way, was also given by a client when he noticed she was carrying so many things. 

“Maybe today is be-nice-to-your-lawyer day.” Yanfei mumbled to herself as she waited for the parlor door to open. 

“Indeed, it is time Liyue’s calendar receives some updates.” Her mumbling was met with a polite laugh as the door opened to reveal the parlor’s in-house consultant. He took one look at the large box in the small lawyer’s hands and helped her carry it instead. “Welcome to the Wangshen Parlor. Please, come in.” 

“Mr. Zhongli.” Yanfei smiled, albeit a little embarrassed that her musing was heard. She thanked him as the tall man carried her box of loot (?) for her, and the two made their way into the parlor. “Thank you for inviting me, Hutao said you have something to discuss…?” 

Which was frankly, quite the surprise. After all, Zhongli was a consultant himself. Though in regards to title he would specialize in the rites of afterlife, but he was vastly knowledgeable in practice, and Yanfei easily felt like a student in his presence. There was also the fact that this man had a really strong grandpa vibe. Yanfei had no idea how to explain that. He did not look old for sure. In fact, she recalled he made it to the recent top ranking as most handsome bachelor in Liyue. Then perhaps it was the way he carried himself to be calm and composed regardless of situation, and maybe the fact that she found him oddly familiar, as if he had been around for an exceedingly long time. Regardless, he was a wise and familiar figure to her. Thus, though a little clueless as to why she was summoned, Yanfei comfortably looked forward to the conversation. 

“Yes, it is not quite often that Liyue Harbors an individual who knows the law as well as, in fact, possibly even better than the Tianquan who wrote them.” Zhongli started, stating the fact as it was with his leisure yet steady tone. 

Yanfei swore she was listening, but also considered herself guilty for spending too much time wondering if the pun was intended. 

“I have been looking forward to hearing a second opinion on the development of Liyue’s law, as well as possible room for improvements. Thus, I have asked our director to invite you here for a small chat. As for the compensation, hmm…” 

“Oh, no, it’s ok.” Yanfei spoke up before Zhongli could bring out the numbers. She had heard of the man and his… unique judgement in mora and value. If he was going to put a price on the evaluation of law then whoever was paying it would have to live a thrifty life for a while. Besides… This felt like extorting money from grandpa just for a little chat! She can’t do that, she’s a lawyer not a robber. “A discussion with someone as knowledgeable as you is most beneficial to me too, as such, it shall not be classified as a consultation, and no fees will apply except for…..” Her gaze scanned the room before locking in on the tea set on the table. With a little cheeky grin, she continued. “... A nice cup of tea?” 

Zhongli laughed. “Why of course, no good discussion is complete without a decent pot of tea. Please, excuse me.” 

“Oh! Me too!” As the grandpa moved, so did Yanfei, who naturally tagged along and listened to Zhongli talk about every step of the tea-making process. 

Though the first impression many received from Zhongli was a serious man who talked only facts and business, Yanfei found it to be quite different. Rather, his was a sense of humor so refined and carefully crafted, it simply did not stand out. And yet the longer one converse with him, the more interesting they would find him. Thus they settled with a fresh brew of the Parlor’s best leaves (which Yanfei suspected was curated by Zhongli anyway), and began their discussion about the legislations of Liyue. 

A discussion between two individuals both well-versed in the written law was no doubt filled with jargons and quotes by the chapters, and if anyone else was listening they would have been lost 5 minutes in and overdosed on tea by the 10th minute. But Yanfei was having the time of her life. Finally, someone who wouldn’t fall asleep by chapter 2 of legal codices! And he had insights to share!! Zhongli was fast becoming Yanfei’s second favourite senior citizen of Liyue. 

“All in all, I believe Liyue’s law and system is very well functional and actively improving. However, I believe a lot of the emphasis is placed on trade, wherein law pertaining to civilian life and safety could receive more attention.” After nearly two hours of intense discussion dotted with unintended puns and passionate rambling, Yanfei concluded. 

“And your course of action?” Sitting with a cup of tea in hand, Zhongli could not look more like a proud guardian figure. 

“Naturally, to book a feedback session with Lady Ningguang.” Yanfei grinned, and Zhongli drank his tea in approval. 

“I have to say, though you may be the opposite of your father’s solemn personality, you certainly share his traits of commitment and kindness.” The guardian figure smiled, and now Yanfei felt like she just got complimented by her school principal. 

“Now you are just being too nice, Mr Zhongli.” With a little sheepish laugh, Yanfei thanked the man for his compliments. There was a pause, followed by a small realization. “Mr Zhongli, you know my father?” 

“Ah, we have worked together before, indeed. You could consider us old friends. However, I will leave explaining the details to him.” 

Which was to say, there will be no follow-up to that, for Yanfei had no idea when her parents would return from their retirement trip around the world. But that gave all the basis Yanfei needed to justify this sense of familiarity she often picked up around the gentleman. Perhaps she had simply seen him before when she was very young. 

“And shall he return one day to see how much you have grown, he would most certainly and rightfully be the most delighted father of Liyue Harbor. Until then, if ever you require any assistance, do not hesitate to find me.” His smile, now most certainly that of a guardian figure, brought an excited grin on Yanfei’s face too. If she had to describe this feeling as accurately as possible, it’d be the joy and relief of a scholar in her last year finally finding the perfect mentor for her graduation thesis. 

Their chat continued a little more when they both agreed it was time for dinner. Inviting Yanfei to walk with him, they made their way to the Liuli Pavilion. Yet, as soon as they stepped into the premise, party poppers went off on both sides of the door frames. The culprits, Xinyan and Xianglin, greeted Yanfei’s surprised look with a grin. “Surprise!” 

On cue, the other guests came out of their hiding behind the silkscreen. Xingqiu and Chongyun set off another set of party poppers, Hutao gave Zhongli two thumbs-up for the perfectly timed entrance,  Keqing, Ningguang, and Ganyu came forward to stack more boxes of gifts in Yanfei’s hands as she walked in with growing confusion, (all of which Zhongli helpfully took and placed on the table by the entrance) and Madame Ping walked over at last to hold Yanfei’s hand and lead her to the dining table. 

Only when everything had settled and all guests seated, did yanfei finally realized what this was. As everyone wished her a happy birthday, Liyue’s best (and only) lawyer thanked them with a bashful chuckle. 

As long as law and trade never rest, neither will Liyue Harbor's famed legal adviser. Thus, on this special day every year, the friends and colleagues of Liyue Harbor’s best (and only) legal advisor took it upon themselves to celebrate her birthday with her. 


Omake: 

A certain Vigilant Yaksha was also invited to the dinner. However, not too fond of most human food and social gatherings in general, he spent his night sitting on the roof of Liuli Pavilion, listening to the party downstairs.  And that was how Yanfei almost jumped when the party was over and a shadow just landed in front of her in the middle of the night. Xiao said nothing and simply shoved her a container of almond tofu before leaving again. 

That night, Yanfei spent hours agonizing over whether to eat the tofu hot or cold.