Music swells and dips, the crescendo of trumpets followed by the poignant swan-song of a piccolo. You relax against the cool tile of the bath, listening to the celebration outside. Petals drift by you, floating on the hot water, scattered there by a 3rd-tier serving maid. Her blush matches their color.

It's a perfect moment. And certainly the most luxurious you've experienced - until this morning, you had never had a hot bath, let alone one in a room the size of your house. Nor had you heard the first-tier orchestra of Sinfonia, though you had dreamed of joining it as a child - not just for the prestige and pomp of playing cello for the greats, or the wealth and fine house and guarantee of a family, but for the sheer wonder of being surrounded by music every day. (Unfortunately, though you had managed to make the music course as a child, an inopportune cold had led to your fumbling the 10-exam and being eliminated as a musician candidate.)

This morning, you were merely an eighth-tier potter. Not prestigious, definitely not musically acclaimed, but content. Your house was small but sturdy, and your work at the wheel and kiln was moderately interesting. There was no need to regret the past\; you were thankful that you were not a 9th-tier factory worker or a 10th-tier sewer monitor. And as your thirtieth birthday approached, you'd finally earned enough social credit to be put on the match-list for a spouse.

But then, when you were shirtless, sunburned, and sweaty from firing the latest batch of pots, they'd come for you. 2nd-tier officials from the upper city, who would never lower themselves by stepping into circle 8. They'd broken the endless routine, and ordered you to come with them to the city - and to take a bath to wash the filth off.

Now, the washing pool bubbles soothingly, pumping in clear water from afar mixed with strange fragrances of spice and cool fruit.