Meet Xun Jun
My father was an optimist, not a quality often found in Silicate-105 miners; when you expect to die of silicate-lung in your forties, why bother? But he wanted better for my sister Min and me. That’s how he got indebted to Liu Bai, the White Dragon of Zodiac Station.
My father named me Jun. He told me it meant “supreme,” “talented,” and “handsome,” which is funny because I am none of these things. My only talent is twirling the Tsa Lin, the spinning top. I can make the top dance like it’s alive, jump over obstacles, and knock chute-scurries out of the air. A waste of time, Father called it. He wanted me to apply myself to my studies, like Min did. But I always found studying a chore.
Father never shirked from chores. He worked twelve-hour days until the silicate dust rotted his lungs, like it had Mother’s. When Father couldn’t make the payments, Liu Bai was unexpectedly merciful, perhaps because of the fondness he had harbored for my mother. He didn’t cut off Father’s hands, or even his thumbs; he didn’t throw us off the station. Instead, he offered to settle for a different form of payment: my sister or me.
Father chose me.
My Tsa Lin danced for Liu Bai after that, up to the day he threatened to break Min’s arm for defending Widow Hu. That’s when I made the Tsa Lin fly right in his face.