Sagacious Zu thinks that he is becoming part of the swamp sometimes. He beats at it, forcing it to go away.
The staff he wields is splintered in places and smooth in others. It's familiar in his hands, so much so that he sometimes expects ash to flake off his hands along with the wood when he catches the wrong spot. He needs to repair the staff. He needs to repair a lot of things, but right now he's punishing his captor.
He spins and snaps the staff, one end under his arm and the other lashing out at a stand of reeds. Reed-heads fly off into the marsh.
This is for joining the Lotus Assassins and letting them burn your hands.
He sweeps back and forth. More heads drop.
This is for not being there when the Empress was killed. For being too late. For not taking every single step correctly.
He kicks, imagining cracking enemy knees. The staff whirls.
This is for the blue light in that child's eyes, the same blue of the water dragon.
But that...he stills and sets the staff at his side, splintered end in the dirt. (He should wrap it with oilcloth in this humidity. He will do that after his exercises. Perhaps he will find some bandits to test it on.)
He cannot regret saving the child. For some reason that event has gotten tied up with all the regrets though. Maybe it's because he wonders why he's still here, subsisting off of fish and stolen rice. Maybe it's because his black hands accuse him every time he looks down. He refuses to cover them, though: he'll leave his arms bare to the elbows to show the scarred skin, because he will not hide what he once was. That would be unfair.
It would lead his enemies to think they had a chance at winning.
He gives another experimental swing and just brushes against the reeds, rattling the dry, hollow stems and sighing out a stale breath. He's not quite so sure when he's gone from fighting his prison to fighting himself.