The Leaves didn’t want me. The Tree died. Mila died. In the end, Owen died as well.
Why did Owen have to die? Why? Why?
I don’t have anything to protect anymore. I can’t return to the Tree either. What else can I do?
Right, I still have Cas. But I killed so many of the people that he loved. I-I’m his enemy…
“If someone has killed the people you loved, then he is your enemy. You need to take revenge for them… Because Big Brother said you have to take revenge. You must make your enemy pay with blood for their crimes. That’s why you need to take revenge.”
…Revenge! West, I will make you pay with blood!
“Owen and Mila’s biggest enemy was me!”
Cas was only slightly shocked after hearing Yin Qie Zi’s outburst. With a mocking expression, he said, “Oh, so you knew? If only you hadn’t destroyed that town back then, they’d probably be still alive. My brother too…”
Cas trailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished. Rather than wouldn’t, he couldn’t finish his sentence. The scorn on his face disappeared as he abruptly reached out and grabbed Yin Qie Zi’s collar. He pushed and shoved at the other, until the spirit binder’s back slammed heavily against the wall. Seeing that there was no longer room for Yin Qie Zi to escape, Cas leaned down and snarled, “Why did you destroy that town? Why?”
“I… I went insane!”
Yin Qie Zi gritted his teeth, but decided to explain. Cas had the right to know the truth; even if knowing the truth wouldn’t change anything.
“Back then, the Spirit Tree died. I was overtaken with immense pain and went senseless. I couldn’t control my own powers and ended up destroying that town,” Yin Qie Zi said.
Cas didn’t the show the slightest bit of surprise at Yin Qie Zi’s reply.
Was he already aware of this? Yin Qie Zi paused, then understood the reason. If Mila was aware of the specificities of the Leaf Tribe’s lifestyle and even the existence of the Flower, it was natural for Cas, who had been chasing after him, to know of it as well. Moreover, Cas even tracked him to the territory of the Servile Spirits.
Cas was probably the only person on this continent who understood him the most. Cas probably knew more about him than he did himself.
Cas moved closer to Yin Qie Zi, making the latter think that his time had finally come. But Cas only stopped beside his ear and whispered, “Did you really think that would change anything?”
“No, I never had that thought.” Standing so close together, Yin Qie Zi’s attention was caught by the scar on Cas’ left eye. The scar was light, almost the same color as undamaged skin. When standing some distance away, it wasn’t noticeable at all. However, with only a few centimeters of breadth between them, Yin Qie Zi could see that the scar was sunken into the flesh. Clearly, he had given Cas more than a little scrape twenty years ago. He could even see a line of red in Cas’ eye that lined up with the scar. It too was obviously the result of the injury he had inflicted.
Yin Qie Zi turned his head away, away from Cas’ stare, away from the scar on his left eye.
Although he knew it would be useless, Yin Qie Zi still held a tiny hope inside his heart that Cas would forgive him, but apologies never worked in the end. He didn’t want Cas to know that he still yearned for forgiveness, however slight a hope there was.
“Look at me!”
Pain exploded across Yin Qie Zi’s scalp. Startling out of his reverie, he found that Cas had grabbed onto his braid. He yelled, “Don’t touch my hair!”
Rather than loosening his hand, Cas tightened his grip. He yanked backwards, forcing Yin Qie Zi to his knees.
Staring at the other’s face, Cas asked in sadistic curiosity, “Does it hurt?”
Yin Qie Zi was in such great pain that he couldn’t even hold back his tears. He gritted his teeth and suppressed his screams. He forced out a reply, “Let go…”
Seeing the tears on the spirit binder’s face, Cas finally released his grip.
Yin Qie Zi was wracked with both pain and humiliation. He knew that the assassin was completely unscrupulous and would take any opportunity to harm him; however, he hadn’t expected Cas to seize his hair.
Was it a mere coincidence or was it on purpose? Seeing the lack of surprise on Cas’ face despite his agony, the assassin had probably done it on purpose.
Cas started laughing, howling like he didn’t have a care in the world. Yin Qie Zi stared blankly at him. He couldn’t understand why Cas was laughing, nor could he understand how someone could sound so sorrowful and miserable while laughing.
“I want you to remember this pain! In the coming days, you’ll have to live each and every day with this pain. That should be enough for you to repay your sins. Hahahahaha—”
If he hadn’t destroyed that town, Owen and Mila wouldn’t have died. Owen would never have killed Cedric, and Cas would never have turned out this way.
A slight shake of the hand and a billow of foul, grey smoke wafted out of the medicine jar in front of him. Yin Qie Zi frowned at the sight. He had messed up.
The process of making spirit medicine was precise and delicate. A slight shake of the hand could send ten hours of hard work down the drain.
Not only did a small mistake send time down the drain, it also sent down quite a fortune as well. The medicine he was making required all sorts of expensive special spirits. Fortunately, the rarest of the bunch was something he had in abundance―the hair of a Flower.
Staring at the jar that was still billowing smoke, Yin Qie Zi felt a bit helpless and tired. Obtaining a Flower’s hair wasn’t hard for him. He also had plenty of stores for the other materials he needed. However, the process of treating all of those spirits and combining them together was long and irritating.
Litelli peered over at him, a mischievous smile on his face. “Aha! Just now, you reminded me of your clumsy self when you first started learning. You broke so many jars and bowls just from making a simple healing potion.”
Yin Qie Zi started clearing up the mess in front of him. “That’s because I was having trouble moving around due to my injuries.”
He glanced around the room. Luckily, Prince Edward had made sure the room was fully equipped with all the tools he required. That should reduce the amount of time he needed to prepare a new batch of medicine.
Originally, he thought the prince would allocate him a normal room. Unexpectedly, he had been brought to a spirit binding lab. The lab was spacious and stocked with all sorts of tools used for spirit binding. The collection was so complete that it even contained extremely rare and odd tools that were almost never used. Additionally, two huge cabinets lined two walls of the lab, containing all sorts of basic spirits and other starting materials inside.
Spirit binding was a complex art that required many different types of starting materials. It would have been exceedingly difficult to compile this collection of basic spirits. The lab could not have been put together for him at the last minute. Prince Edward had probably driven out the spirit binder who had been working here to leave it open for him.
Yin Qie Zi was surprised that Prince Edward saw him in such a favorable light. Was it because Mila planned on getting married to him and the prince wanted to rope him over to his side?
It was an effective method. Yin Qie Zi couldn’t help but admit that he quite liked the lab.
“You were injured and had a bad temper,” Litelli reminisced. “You cried and made a fuss both day and night. You even flung things all over the room when you were angry.”
Hearing the stories of his past, Yin Qie Zi turned and glared at Litelli.
Litelli continued to mumble, “Ah, you were so adorable back then. The older you get, the less adorable you become. Ah! Children are indeed children, they cease to be cute once they grow up.”
“I look the same as I did back then. The concept of growing up does not apply to me!” Yin Qie Zi coldly retorted.
“I was talking about your personality! Personality!” Litelli shouted. He glanced sideways at Yin Qie Zi. “But you do look a bit older now. Could you still be growing?”
“I’ve only grown a bit taller.” Yin Qie Zi didn’t care much about his appearance.
“You really don’t spare a thought on your appearance,” Litelli responded unhappily. “Don’t you know how hard it is for me to grow even just a little bit? If you hadn’t grown that slightest bit, no one would have been able to tell whether you were a man or a woman. Rather than seducing the beautiful Mila, it would be more appropriate for you to seduce Owen!”
“I never seduced Mila!” Yin Qie Zi snapped.
“Oh, so you won her over without any seducing!” Litelli nodded in satisfaction. “That’s great! Then when you do start seducing people, you’ll have plenty of beautiful women to choose from.”
Yin Qie Zi decided to ignore Litelli altogether and focused on cleaning. He wanted to start remaking the medicine immediately, but the world was bent on interfering with his work. At that moment, the sound of knocking came through the door.
Although he heard the knocks, Yin Qie Zi had no plans to open the door.
“Coming!” Litelli was quite happy for the interruption. He leapt over to the door and pulled it open. A shadow immediately fell over him and he had to bend his neck until it was parallel to the ground to be able to see the other’s face. He cried, “Wow! You’re so tall!”
Yin Qie Zi paused in his movements and turned around to see Jin Qi Er standing outside. For a Danya who was above 200 centimeters and a Servile Spirit who was 150 centimeters at most, the height difference between them was like that of a father and a young child.
Despite being faced with such a laughable situation, Yin Qie Zi was incapable of laughing. Standing beside Jin Qi Er was Yan Er, the red-haired female Leaf he had met before.
Once Jin Qi Er stepped inside, the spacious lab instantly became a bit suffocating. As the Danya glanced at the piles of medicine littering the tables, a satisfied expression appeared on his face. He said, “I’ve brought the Leaf over to you. She should be able to help you out since Leaves make adequate spirit charmers. She’s already promised me that she won’t attack you or try to escape even with her fetters off. The Leaves live by their promises, so you don’t need to worry.”
I know she won’t attack me! Yin Qie Zi was a bit angry. Having a Leaf around would probably be seen as welcome help to any spirit binder in the country, but he didn’t need her help. He would only become distracted if she were around.
Yan Er stood quietly behind Jin Qi Er, occasionally stealing glances at Yin Qie Zi. She hadn’t spoken a word since entering the lab.
“She’s very beautiful.” Jin Qi Er stepped aside and motioned for Yan Er to come forward. “She also has a lot of energy in her. You’ve picked a good one. If not for the fact we that needed a blue-haired Leaf, I would never have used her to exchange with you. It’s hard to find an energetic Leaf like her anymore. The Leaves are becoming weaker and weaker with every passing year.”
The Leaves are becoming weaker? Yin Qie Zi shook aside his suspicions. He asked, “There’s a blue-haired Leaf in the peace offerings, wouldn’t that one work?”
Jin Qi Er sighed. “No, that one’s a male.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Litelli yelled, “Do Danyas enjoy bulling female Leaves? Your statures are huge while they are so small. Aren’t you afraid you’ll squish them beneath you?”
To a Servile Spirit, the Leaves who range around 170 centimeters would be seen as quite tall. However, to a Danya, “small” would be an accurate description with plenty of room leftover.
“Litelli!” Yin Qie Zi spoke in a warning tone. His knew his own reaction was a bit brash, but he couldn’t keep quiet upon thinking about the aftermath of those Leaves.
Standing by the side, Yan Er shuddered.
“Don’t worry about that.” Jin Qi Er glanced at Yan Er. “Most Danyas would never force the Leaves into that situation. We only want their knowledge on plants. We also need their cooperation to allow us to have good harvests. Everything else is secondary to that.”
“Only most?” Yin Qie Zi remarked scornfully.
“Only most,” Jin Qi Er replied lightly. “The way we treat the Leaves is better than how the humans treat them. You could ask her. Does she want to stay with the humans or the Danyas?”
Yan Er lifted an eyebrow and snorted. “I don’t want either!”
Yin Qie Zi frowned at her response. In his memories, Leaves weren’t supposed to be brash and loud-spoken. Then again, he wasn’t quite sure how Leaves were supposed to act. He had never interacted with them much and after all these years, his memories were already blurry…
At that thought, Yin Qie Zi paused in disbelief. Were his impressions of the Leaves already so faded?
Despite being shocked, it was only natural that his memories had been eroded by the passage of time. After leaving the Leaves, so many things had happened. Whether they were happy or painful moments, the memories were etched deep into his heart. In contrast, the years that he had spent underneath the Tree were peaceful and bland. There wasn’t anything that was worth remembering.
The only impression that remained from those years was the ceaseless loneliness he felt.
Jin Qi Er looked at Yan Er with curiosity and puzzlement. “You really are energetic. If every Leaf were like you, it would lessen White’s burdens. Maybe I should bring you back―”
“I want to stay with him!” Yan Er immediately hid behind Yin Qie Zi, as if deeply dreading that Jin Qi Er would take her away.
The Danya stared at her; he hadn’t expected to hear that kind of answer.
Litelli smiled and moved closer to Jin Qi Er. As if to curry favor, he said, “Isn’t my master amazing? If he wanted, thousand or tens of thousands of beautiful girls would throw themselves at him. Of course, that includes girls from every tribe!”
Jin Qi Er didn’t believe a single word of Litelli’s and responded with an offhanded “Amazing.” Jin Qi Er scratched his head and ultimately assumed the Leaf was scared of him because he was built tall and strong. He asked, “How far have you gotten in the medicine?”
“I’m still in the middle of making it,” Yin Qie Zi replied as he continued to clean up the mess on the table. He didn’t plan on telling Jin Qi Er that he had just wasted a Flower’s hair due a small mishap. In any case, the Danya wouldn’t understand what he was doing.
After tidying the table, Yin Qie Zi asked causally, “Why do you need a blue-haired Leaf? Is there a special meaning to the color blue?”
Jin Qie Er furrowed his brows, and responded simply, “It’s a gift for a friend. He likes the color blue.”
“A friend? Is he the same person you’re gifting the medicine to?” Yin Qie Zi continued to question. He was surprised by his own urgency. In order to hide his identity, he shouldn’t be asking so many questions, but he couldn’t help but to want to learn more about Indigo and Aquamarine.
“Why are you asking about that?” Jin Qi Er immediately put his guard up.
“I’m only curious about what will happen to the blue-haired Leaf that you had exchanged with me.” Yin Qie Zi forced himself to appear unperturbed. He added calmly, “She appeared to be on her last legs. If your friend is the type who likes tormenting others, then this red-haired Leaf would be more suitable.”
Jin Qi Er replied indignantly, “Indigo would never torment the Leaves. If news of anyone ever doing so reached his ears, he would never let them off!”
“Then why does it have to be blue?” Yin Qie Zi wasn’t willing to rest on the topic.
Yin Qie Zi’s relentless questions had made Jin Qi Er thoroughly wary. The Danya then noticed that even Yan Er and Litelli seemed curious about finding out the answer. Yan Er even came out of her hiding place from behind Yin Qie Zi. Her ears were pricked and she appeared to be listening attentively, afraid to even miss the tiniest detail.
Was it really only out of curiosity? Seeing the other two’s expressions, Jin Qi Er helplessly abandoned his wariness. He explained, “My friend is one of the Four Colors, Indigo. He and a Leaf had once talked about getting married. She had a head of blue hair. Eventually, she died.”
“Did she die because of poor health?” Yan Er couldn’t resist asking.
“No, she died during battle.” Jin Qi Er sighed.
That’s not right. She had died at the hands of a Flower! Yin Qie Zi lowered his eyes and started clearing away the clutter on the table. He didn’t want to know the reason for Aquamarine’s death; he knew better than anyone else how she had died.
“Danyas can marry Leaves? Can you have children together?” Litelli exclaimed.
Marriages between tribes were possible, but rare. After all, contact between different tribes was infrequent. The differences between lifestyles were also great. One also couldn’t count out the dissimilarities between body types and structure. An intertribal marriage would rarely result in children.
Jin Qi Er shook his head. “Of course not. If it were possible, we wouldn’t need to spend so much money procuring Leaves from other continents.”
“Isn’t Indigo one of the Four Colors? If he can’t have children together with the Leaf, why would he marry her?” Having traveled over the continent for years, Litelli was quite knowledgeable about the Danyas. He continued doubtfully, “A childless marriage could be considered a taboo among the Danyas. Not to mention, he’s one of the Four Colors. Wasn’t there anyone who was opposed to his marrying a Leaf?”
Yin Qie Zi glanced at him. Did Litelli voice out that question because he knew Yin Qie Zi wanted to know the answer as well? Perhaps he was thinking too much. Litelli’s curiosity was higher than an average person’s by two or three folds.
“Can you humans stop digging into things?” Jin Qi Er was irritated, but taking into account that Yin Qie Zi was making spirit medicine for him, he explained, “Indigo is very influential within our tribe. In addition, White also thinks highly of him. When Indigo had announced that he was going to marry a Leaf, nobody other than White would have been able to oppose his decision. White, however, didn’t care who he married.”
“You don’t sound like you approved. Then why are you gifting him a Leaf?” Yin Qie Zi felt the whole situation was strange. Jin Qi Er was a considerate friend and thought frequently about Indigo. Their relationship seemed better than that of brothers. But when it came to marriage, he was opposed to Indigo taking a Leaf as his wife… But now he was planning to gift a Leaf to Indigo. This was strange no matter how he looked at it.
Jin Qi Er said, “If he continues like this, forget about having children, Indigo’s going to die first! After Aquamarine died, he seemed to have died as well on the inside. Now he truly is on the verge of death!”
“He won’t die.” Yin Qie Zi placed a bottle in the Danya’s hand. “I’ve finished making the first bottle of the medicine, but you’ll have to wait for two weeks before it’s ready for consumption. Though after you return to Xiasha and finally give it to Indigo, two weeks would have long passed.”
“You’ve only made one bottle?” Jin Qi Er frowned. “Why didn’t you make all five at the same time?”
“I did make five!” Yin Qie Zi waved his hand in frustration. He was tired of dealing with Jin Qi Er’s never-ending suspicions. “The bottles are different in composition. I’ve written numbers on them. You have to make sure he drinks them in order.”
Jin Qi Er turned the bottle around in his hand and quickly noticed the “One” written on the glass.
“The bottles that are drunk later are more difficult to make.” Unlike usual, Yin Qie Zi made an effort to explain, mainly because Jin Qi Er had spoken quite a bit about Indigo and Aquamarine. “The fifth bottle takes at least two weeks to be completed.”
If nothing went wrong, he would only need nine or ten days to complete the fifth bottle. He was merely giving himself a buffer by saying it would take two weeks. He was thankful he did. The bottle he had just ruined earlier was the fifth bottle that would take the longest. Just a slight shake of the hand had cost him a day.
“I see.” Jin Qi Er nodded. Noticing that Yin Qie Zi was becoming slightly irritated, he quickly added, “Please don’t be angry. I’ve known Indigo since we were kids. He’s more like family to me than my actual family members. He’s also my savior. However, he’s in terrible condition right now, so I can’t help but to want to ask for more details.”
Yin Qie Zi was a little annoyed, but at the sight of Jin Qi Er apologizing to him, he felt like he shouldn’t be so petty. Besides, with his status as a high-ranking Danya emissary, Jin Qi Er had no reason to be humble to him. Jin Qi Er’s careful mannerisms also ascertained that he wouldn’t secretly sell the medicine for money, and would definitely make sure it reached Indigo’s hands.
With that thought, Yin Qie Zi nodded with satisfaction. He said, “I admire the friendship between you two.”
When he heard the spirit binder’s response, Jin Qi Er thought he had finally succeeded in melting a bit of Yin Qie Zi’s cold exterior. However, in the next second, Yin Qie Zi added, “If you have nothing else to say, then you can leave. You’ll be interfering with my work if you stayed here.”
The Danya almost coughed out blood in indignation. Although his status was below that of the Four Colors and the family leaders, it was still quite high among their tribe. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been sent to Zhan Yan as an emissary.
On the other hand, Yin Qie Zi didn’t hold the slightest bit of power. He wasn’t even part of the nobility, yet he was more arrogant than Prince Edward… No, he was more arrogant than the king! Even the king wouldn’t say a blunt “You can leave” to an emissary from Danya.
“I’m rather curious of how you’ve developed such a personality.” Jin Qi Er smiled despite his anger. “If you were faced with the king, would you still tell him ‘You can leave?’”
“Of course I wouldn’t say that to the king. But I would say it to Prince Edward, since he really is irritating.” Yin Qie Zi replied straightforwardly.
Jin Qie Zi burst into laughter. “This is the first time I’ve heard someone describe the prince as ‘irritating.’ I suddenly think you treat me rather well!”
Yin Qie Zi tilted his head. He decided that he wouldn’t tell the Danya that he thought of him as “super irritating.” Jin Qi Er was at least as irritating as Owen, and the two of them were only slightly below Litelli in the level of irritating.
“Then I’m leaving. I won’t disturb you for the next few days,” said Jin Qi Er. He turned to Yan Er and instructed, “You need to wait upon your master carefully. Don’t mess around with the medicine.”
Yan Er’s eyes held a thoughtful look for a moment. She replied respectfully, “Yes.”
After Jin Qi Er shut the door, Yan Er immediately looked at Yin Qie Zi. “Flower―”
“You’re not allowed to call me that!” Yin Qie Zi said angrily, “My current name is Yin Qie Zi. I’m not called Flower. I’m also not your Flower!”
“Yin Qie Zi?” Yan Er was shocked at the other’s behavior. She questioned, “Why is it Yin Qie Zi? That’s the Leaf Lord’s name.”
“Ah, it’s obviously an alias,” Litelli explained. “Master’s true name is Gong―”
“Litelli!” Yin Qie Zi cut in harshly with a face full of anger. He had already reminded Litelli countless times to not call him by that name, but Litelli never remembered… All it did was remind him on a daily basis that he once had another name.
However, the one who had given him that name was no longer alive. He only felt pain every time he heard that name.
“You can get out! And don’t bother coming back!”
Litelli stared at him in shock. Flustered, he said, “Master, I still have to help you make spirit medi―”
“I can make them myself!” Yin Qie Zi wasn’t willing to accept any excuses.
“Master, we are short on time! You also need to protect the Leaves in the palace. You don’t have enough time to do everything at once!” Litelli had never expected Yin Qie Zi to drive him out without considering the results. He panicked and yelled, “Master, don’t drive me out! Litelli promises that he will never bring up your name again!”
“You’ve already made plenty of promises,” Yin Qie Zi replied coldly.
At those words, Litellli knew that the spirit binder was serious. It left him as anxious as an ant on a hot pan. He contemplated left and right before taking notice of Yan Er. An idea flashed across his mind and he yelled, “Master, even if you’re not thinking of yourself, you have to think of her!” He pointed at Yan Er.
Yin Qie Zi stared at him, not understanding how Yan Er factored into the situation.
Litelli pulled on the spirit binder’s sleeves while shouting, “Master, think about how dangerous your tasks are! In those moments, do you really have the mind to take care of her?”
Yin Qie Zi understood. He also understood that Litelli was right. Unless he didn’t care about Yan Er at all, he had no other choice but to let Litelli remain with him… If he truly didn’t care about her, he should have given her to someone else right away. He could have given her to Owen or to Jin Qi Er, as long as she wasn’t here serving as a distraction to him.
“You can stay.” Yin Qie Zi surrendered in the end, but he warned harshly, “If you ever breathe a word about all the things I’ve forbidden you to mention again, you will leave immediately! And I don’t care what’ll happen afterwards!”
“Litelli wouldn’t dare,” Litelli vowed repeatedly. He didn’t forget to make himself appear as pathetic as possible. His egg-sized eyes were filled with tears, appearing quite pitiful. However, Yin Qie Zi was past the age of falling for those sorts of tactics.
“Get the spirits that we need for the fifth bottle ready.”
It was a tedious job, but Litelli didn’t dare complain. For once, he diligently ran up to the cabinets and began pulling out the spirits they needed.
Yin Qie Zi turned to Yan Er and said sternly, “You can never mention my true identity out loud. You have to remember that I am Yin Qie Zi right now. I am your master and you never knew who I was before this, understand?”
Despite not being used to the Flower’s manner of speech and behavior, Yan Er wasn’t as scared after seeing it numerous times. Instead of not knowing how to respond like before, she asked quietly, “What if someone asks? Would I have to lie? But I-I don’t know what to say…”
“Then don’t say anything!” Yin Qie Zi didn’t expect the Leaves to lie, but he couldn’t let Yan Er expose his identity. He took a step forward and threatened, “If you divulge anything about my identity, I…I’ll kill you! Do you understand? I will kill you!”
Even though she understood that the Flower was acting strange, Yan Er was still struck dumb by Yin Qie Zi’s threat. A bad feeling came over her and she asked, “Will you save the other Leaves? The ones who are still locked in the prison, will you save them?”
“Why do I need to save them?” Yin Qie Zi coldly retorted. He then ordered, “Go help Litelli. Aren’t you a spirit charmer? Even if you don’t know how to link spirits, you should still be able to help him find the materials we need.”
“You are our Flower!” Yan Er exclaimed in disbelief. “You should be protecting us!”
Yin Qie Zi’s thoughts were sent into turmoil by her words. Twenty years had already passed. He no longer possessed a Flower’s power. He had long stopped thinking of himself as the Leaf Tribe’s Guardian Flower. There was nothing wrong with that decision. But right now a Leaf was standing in front of him claiming that it was only natural that he should go save the Leaves in the prison. He felt…a tremor inside his heart.
The Leaves had abandoned him. Many years had passed since he had last seen a single Leaf. Plus, his mind was filled with thoughts of revenge. Despite adding everything up, he still felt a tremor!
Yin Qie Zi calmed his heart and snarled, “No! You had abandoned your Flower by the shores of the ocean. He walked back to the Spirit Tree and died alongside it!”
Seeing the other’s feverish expression, Yan Er was slightly scared. But she asked in confusion, “You’re still here. Why do you say you’ve died?”
Leaves were truly naïve and simple-minded. Yan Er couldn’t even understand the underlying ridicule in his words. Yin Qie Zi didn’t bother explaining. He coldly stated, “You can go help Litelli or you can go back to Jin Qi Er. It’s your choice.”
Yan Er hesitated, she didn’t want to give up asking him questions. But seeing Yin Qie Zi’s cold expression, if she pressed the topic further, she feared he really would send her back to Jin Qi Er.
“I-I’ll go help.” Yan Er finally dropped the issue. She walked over to Litelli and asked, “What can I help with?”
“Hah? You can look for this one, that one, and also…” Litelli immediately pointed at the cabinets.
Despite keeping busy and handling all sorts of spirits, Yin Qie Zi couldn’t focus on the job at hand. The other two’s conversation kept drifting into his ear. He slowed down his movements, or else he would end up destroying another bottle of medicine.
“Exactly which tribe do you belong to? Are you really human?” Yan Er’s voice drifted over to him.
“I’m a Servile Spirit! Aren’t I tall?” Litelli sounded rather proud.
“Servile Spirit? You mean that tribe of spirits that specifically serve physical spirits?” Yan Er voiced out her disbelief. “Did Flower…Yin Qie Zi allow you to follow him around?”
“Of course! I’ve received his permission,” replied Litelli in the same proud tone.
“Permission?” Yan Er was puzzled. “But why would Flower give you his permission? Aside from Leaves, Flowers would never pay anyone else attention. They also don’t have a deep understanding of the world. All they are capable of doing is protecting us.”
“Who said that? My Flower even knows how to link spirits!” Litelli sounded even prouder than before.
Those two… Yin Qie Zi gritted his teeth and turned around to scowl. “Don’t you hear how you’re referring to me? Are you not capable of understanding no matter how I teach you? Why don’t I just send both of you to Jin Qi Er?”
“Your name is Yin Qie Zi!” The other two lowered their heads in remorse. Yan Er quickly explained, “I’m sorry. I’m still not used to it. Besides, Yin Qie Zi is the Leaf Lord’s name. That’s w-why…”
Yin Qie Zi felt his anger deflate at her response. The Leaf Tribe was an honest tribe. If Yan Er started calling him Yin Qie Zi without any hesitation, he’d probably start questioning his own impressions of the tribe.
“If you can’t change the way you refer to me, then you need to stay silent when there are other people around! Do you underst―”
Before he could finish his words, a knock sounded from the door. Yin Qie Zi became even more irritated at the sound. He had been interrupted time after time while he was trying to link spirits. How exactly was he supposed to focus on his job?
He glared at the other two in the room to emphasize his warning. He then called out unhappily, “Who is it?”
“It’s me! Owen! Edward told me to get you.”
The prince probably wanted to discuss how they were going to protect the Leaves. Yin Qie Zi called out, “Wait a bit. Or do you want to come inside?”
“Oh… I’ll wait for you outside.”
Yin Qie Zi frowned and instructed Litelli and Yan Er to continue their tasks. He then picked up Nightclaw and walked toward the door.
“W-why are you taking a sword with you?” He heard Yan Er’s voice behind him. He paused in his steps, but he didn’t want to explain why he carried a sword―because he had lost his powers.
The Leaves might know why he lost his powers and even how he could regain them, but Yin Qie Zi couldn’t will himself to ask despite his deep thirst for revenge. He couldn’t stand in front of a Leaf and describe all that he had gone through before he had lost his powers.
To pour out his heart to a Leaf about all that he’d done and then describe his plans for revenge… He’d rather be killed by Cas.
Once Yin Qie Zi left the lab, he saw Owen standing nearby with ramrod posture and wearing a military uniform. He seemed more like a solider than usual. Owen had probably started paying more attention to his appearance since they were in the royal palace. Puzzled, Yin Qie Zi asked, “Why didn’t you come in?”
“Aren’t you in the middle of your job?” Owen scratched his nose and replied, “Edward had warned me beforehand. If you were making the common types of medicine, then there’d be no harm in me taking a look. However, the medicine you’re making right now is one of your special recipes. As a spirit binder, it would be one of your most important trade secrets. He told me to avoid snooping around and interfering in your job.”
Hearing his reason, Yin Qie Zi snapped, “Even if you were to look, you wouldn’t know what I’m doing. If Mila were the one here instead, she might learn something from me. But there’s nothing to worry about with you around at all.”
“Hey! I’m still a spiritmancer. Am I that useless in your eyes?”
“Spirit binders don’t think highly of spiritmancers’ pathetic spirit vision. What’s wrong with that?”
“…We’re going to be a part of the same family soon. Is there a need for you to be so mean to me?” Owen scratched his nose again. He felt his days of being bullied by his brother-in-law were just around the corner.
“Who’s going to be part of the same family as you?!” Yin Qie Zi retorted.
“Haha. Of course, that depends on who’s going to marry my sister.”
“Go! We’re going to find the prince.”
Yin Qie Zi had no desire to comment any further on the topic. He walked ahead of Owen despite not knowing where they were headed. But as the spirit binding lab was situated in a corner of the palace, there was only one direction they could walk. There was no worry of getting lost.
While walking, Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist muttering, “I don’t understand you two. My temper is horrible, yet both of you can’t stop plastering yourselves to me. And you won’t leave no matter how much I yell at you.”
Not only the twins, he couldn’t understand why Litelli wanted to stay with him either. No matter how difficult he made it on Litelli, the spirit just wouldn’t leave. However, that could be attributed to the special characteristics of the Servile Spirits. But exactly what was going on with Owen and Mila?
Despite wanting to get closer to Owen, he couldn’t lower himself to the level of showering Owen with praises in order to get into his good graces. Contrary to his expectations, Owen seemed to like his prickly behavior. He also hadn’t expected to start anything with Mila.
Owen was silent for a moment, but then replied, “You tongue is quite sharp. But after hanging around you for a while, I’ve noticed that you are actually quite soft on the inside.”
Yin Qie Zi tightened his fist and snapped, “As if! My heart is as sharp as my tongue!”
He heard muffled laughter come from behind him. Yin Qie Zi blushed, feeling that he was acting stupider the longer the conversation went on. He quickly changed the topic. “Is Prince Edward looking for me to talk about how we’re going to protect the Leaves?”
“Yes.” Owen walked in front of Yin Qie Zi and made a right turn. He said helplessly, “Edward won’t let me join. He said that although he trusts me, he can’t trust my father or my teacher. If either of them were to issue an order, I wouldn’t have any way of resisting. Because of that, he kicked me out along with Anselo and Gawain. All we can do is stay inside the palace and avoid making a fuss.”
Yin Qie Zi frowned and replied, “Is he thinking of using the three of you to control the forces behind your families?”
“Probably.” Owen scratched his nose and continued, “Edward is probably doing it as a preventative measure. He’s a very cautious person. I don’t think he would do anything to us. If he did, then all three spiritmancer regiments in the country would explode. That’s not something to laugh about.”
Yin Qie Zi paused and asked curiously, “Do you want to fight?”
Owen hesitated, but answered, “Promise you won’t tell Mila?”
Seeing Yin Qie Zi nod, Owen steeled himself. “I want to fight. When the Danyas invaded twenty years ago, so many of our countrymen had died. We still haven’t paid them back for that yet. The Danyas are a belligerent tribe in any case. Even if we don’t make the first move, they’ll bring the war to us sooner or later. If that’s the case, the one who makes the first move will take control of the war. Twenty years ago, we were caught completely off guard. If not for that, we wouldn’t have had so many casualties.”
Yin Qie Zi was silent. They continued their way to the prince’s study. Before knocking on the door, he said quietly, “The Danyas made the first move back then, but they lost the war.”
Proofreaders: Xuan, dinoj